You resist the urge to wipe your right palm on your cloak, as the gods await your judgement. What you decide here could not only affect Root Beard and Despair’s Last Gasp, but every other god in the area.
Root Beard grips his beard tight and stares at his feet. His case was simple compared to the River Goddess’. Illegal worship was punishable by dissipation and disbandment of the cult. Or was it just disbandment of the cult?
Fuck. You wish you paid more attention to the lecture on Veneration Laws. The Owl warned you this day would come. Now you had to pass judgement on Root Beard and not fuck it up.
You take a deep breath. “God of the Southeast Potato Field of Wong Farm, you admit to accepting worship from the children of this village.”
Root Beard attempts to defend himself one last time. “It was only songs.”
“Songs are a form of worship,” you remind the field god. “You will cease accepting worship outside of your festival. You will attend today’s festival with your fellow potato gods.”
“If we have to wear silly clothes, so do you!” Root Hair interjects. The other potato gods nod in agreement. Blind Grace hushes the field gods.
You continue. “For the next century, you will under the guidance of…” You observe one of the potato gods pick a booger out of his nose roots and flick onto the ear roots of the other. “Root Hair.” Out of all the potato gods, Root Hair seems the most competent.
“Ha! You have to do what I say!” Root Beard giggles.
“What?!” Root Beard falls to his knees and grovels. “Please have mercy, Chosen of Jupiter. I will search my field for Boll Weevils.”
“Boll Weevils don’t live in Potato Fields.” Root Hair corrects.
Root Beard tries again. “I will pick every rock off my fields.”
“The farmers already do that with each planting.” Root Hair says.
“Shut up!” Root Beard stomps his foot. “Why do you have to ruin everything!?”
“Root Beard,” you call. The field god turns his attention back to you. “If I find out you have been recruiting children again, I will strip you of your domain. Do you understand?”
“Yes, Yes, Yes!” Root Beard grovels again. The log bobs in the floodwaters. “But what about my fields?!”
“I’m getting to that.” The River Goddess flexes her claws as she watches your judgement on Root Beard. The River Goddess’ situation was more difficult. The penalty for first offense of Human Sacrifice was loss of domain. You do not remember what the penalty was for attempted human sacrifice, if there was one. “Audit, Audit!” you remember Akachi’s peacock feathered clad secretary shout down the hallway. “When in doubt, always audit!”
You meet the River Goddess’ angry eyes. “Receded the waters from the potato fields and I will see you get a fair audit.”
The River Goddess frowns and makes no move to pull her river back within its banks. “If you do not receded your waters, we will dissipate you.” Chiyoko draws her sword and ignites it with orange flame.
The River Goddess closes her claws and the waters drain from the fields. “My Potatoes!” Root Beard jumps off of his log and begins gathering potatoes to his chest.
Mei Mei barks at the potatoes still floating in the River. “You need to return all the potatoes.” You remind the River Goddess.
A wave laps unto the bank and beaches the potatoes on the field. Eyes burning with rage, the River Goddess asks, “Is there anything else?”
“Your auditor will not look favorably upon upsetting the field gods.” You warn the goddess. Despair’s Last Gasp smirks and leaps back into her river.
The crowd begins to disperse. “One more moment,” you announce. The Gods give you their attention once again. “The monk at the temple will be retiring soon.” You will have Akachi arrange this. “The new monk will know what occurred here today. Anyone taking advantage of the temple’s lax enforcement will have until the new monk shows up to clean up their act. “
On that last warning, you nod and the gods fade away. Soon only you, the Dragonblooded, and Blind Grace stand in the field.
“Jupiter chose well, Champion.” Blind Grace tips her bamboo hat to you. “You uncovered the truth and showed mercy when needed.” Music drifts from the village. You glance up at the grey skies and notice the rain as stopped. “Come,” Blind Grace offers. “Join us for the harvest festival.”
You open your mouth to decline the invitation, when Chiyoko speaks up. “We will be honored to join your village’s harvest festival.”
“Come to my temple to wash up and for dry clothes.” The village goddess frowns at you. “Chosen of Jupiter, you may stay in that barn until your anima fades.” She points out an old barn with peeling brown paint. “I doubt the mistress of secrets wants her champions to become well known.”
“Thank you. Blind Grace” you say as the goddess fades away. Arcane fate should take care of your involvement in this situation. Yet it does not hurt to be extra careful.
Large bales of hay hold the wide barn doors open. You find an enclosed stall, slide down the wall, and sit on the floor with your eyes closed.
“Are you okay?” Masaru asks.
You are tired and hungry, but you don’t tell Masaru that. You remember his earlier comment about Sidereals. What did Chuzei Enki tell your friends? “I’m fine,” you say, without opening your eyes. “Go up to the village temple. I’ll be there in a bit.”
Masaru knits his brows and frowns. “Are you sure?”
“Come on,” Aiko stands by the barn door and stares out at the fields. “We left our horses by the potato god’s tree. If we are staying, we need to stable them at the village.”
After Aiko and Masaru leave, Chiyoko sits down next to you. You grab her hand. She flinches, but then squeezes back. “I always forget your anima doesn’t burn.”
“I wish it was brighter.” Your anima was dim compared to elemental beauty of Chiyoko’s.
“It suits you,” Chiyoko traces the line of your anima, her fingertips brushing your skin. You shiver. “It’s… It’s like mint in the kitchen garden. You pass it by every day and you don’t realize it has a scent until you finger the leaves.”
You open your eyes and stare at Chiyoko, clad in armor. Hair flat against her head from the rain. You finally have her alone. No Aiko with her snide comments on the other side of the dorm. No Masaru and the reminder of his awkward future with Chiyoko. Just you and her. You pull Chiyoko closer and kiss her.
She winces and breaks off. “Fucking armor.” She turns her back to you. “Can you help me out of it?” Your fingers fumble with the straps of her chest plate. You watch as she slides out of her armor and sets it aside. She runs her fingers though her damp hair. The earlier rain soaked her woolen undershirt. “Is there something wrong?”
You shake your head and remind yourself to leave an offering to Venus for this moment. “No,” you smile. “Everything is going right for once.”
Chiyoko sits down again and kisses you. You caress the line of her spine though the thick fabric of her undershirt. Chiyoko takes your hand and guides it under the hem. Your heart races as your hands explore the unfamiliar terrain beneath Chiyoko’s shirt.
You hear the deep rumbling sound of someone clearing his throat.
What do you do?
- That rumbling sound must be thunder. Continue what you are doing.
- Break off and see who cleared their throat.
- Jump away from Chiyoko and pretend nothing was going on