Raising a Hero–chapter 19

Important Author’s Note: Soooo, I can’t figure out how to get this site to change it’s font. In the original manuscript, Nehcor’s voice was in a different font in single quotation marks ‘ ‘. Since the font doesn’t transfer over and because wordpress is either complicated or fontist (think racists, except with fonts), his voice is only going to be in the single quotation marks. Ex: ‘I’m a fantasy loving ginger, but you can’t call me a dork because I’m a god.’ I hope that doesn’t make this too hard to read. My apologies.

The priest who opened the door for us was dressed in a white robe trimmed in gold. I had half expected a priest to be wearing the loose, one layered yukata I’d seen Nehcor wear, but this multi-layered visage made me think more of catholic priests, funny little cap included.

He smiled at first, opening his mouth to greet us, only for that mouth to close into a frown on seeing Gus. I looked over to see Gus with his eyes to the floor.

“Welcome to the temple of Necor,” said the priest, his gaze still on Gus. “I’m sorry, miss, but are his eyes red?”

“Of course not. They’re maroon,” and before he could say that was the same thing, I said babbled on like a stereotypical airhead desperate for salvation, “This is the main hall opened to all worshipers, right? Oh, I do hope so, I haven’t had the chance to petition god since I left my country and my family died and I’ve come all this way to feel his succoring grace, my only lifeline left—please, you do understand what I’m saying, don’t you? I did try my best to learn the language before bringing myself to this holy place.”

He took my pause for breath as a chance to usher me inside, his frown back to a twitching smile.

“Of course, of course, young sister. God’s arms are open to you.”

“Thank you, thank you so much, god bless. God bless, yes, you’re so kind, sir.”

I kept up a tirade of platitudes until the priest had turned and scrambled away to a side hall, where I could see gold-leaf doors dotting every several feet or so. Graceful pillars and arcs held up the floors of the second floor, left open to the pantheon-like-ceilings. Murals of the heavens, chubby cherubim and angels included, covered the expanse, lit up by the clear glass windows so high, high up.

“Wow,” I said, annoying practitioner act forgotten. “That’s really nice.”

Gus snickered. “Well, are you desperate for some succoring grace of not?”

“Something like that.”

Benches, made of a curling, beautiful white wood, lined the mass majority of the great hall. Worshipers sat in these, some with their heads bound, others reading tiny books that I assumed to be scriptures, others more murmuring to each other in whispers. It gave the gorgeous room a heavy, reverent air. 

But the focus of said giant room wasn’t the vast ceiling covered in murals, the glittering walls, and random gold leafed trim and highlights. It was the pure white, giant statue of a man, standing at the end with his arms held out, expression as condescending as it was gentle and regal.

I came to a stop in front of it, not daring to go up the steps to the alter at its feet, which was burning with incense, candles, and a large white-leather book.

No matter how hard I looked, it looked nothing like him. For one, it didn’t have that sly, mischievous slant to his eyes, and the statue had a beard. Last I’d seen him, Nehcor was clean shaven, and even had a bit of a butt chin—excuse me, cleft chin. His ears had also stuck out the side of his head. This statue had flowing, wavy locks down to his elbows like a girl.

Gus’s elbow to my side brought my gaze back down. He jerked his chin towards the side, where another priest was watching with a funny look on his face. He was younger than the one who had greeted us at the door, and he didn’t wear a hat. Not that it mattered. I’m pretty sure I had a very disrespectful look on my face.

“We should sit down,” whispered Gus.

“Oh. Right. Yeah.” Why was this turning into more of an educational trip for me than it was him?

We both scuttled to a second bench from the front. I was oddly pleased to find the set of the bench perfectly curved to my rear. At least it was comfortable. Though what if someone had more of a square butt?

No, stop, holy thoughts, holy thoughts. We’re here for a much needed talk with the man. And in ‘talk’ I mean ‘interrogation and accusation session that should end in a refund.’

I couldn’t look at the giant statue as I focused my thoughts, so I closed my eyes. If I looked any longer than I already had I might laugh.

So…how to start this…was it like any ordinary prayer?

“Um…” probably should keep this too myself. I’d try a silent, in the brain prayer first. Dear heavenly brother Necor—

‘About time.’

I flinched.

“Lilly?” asked Gus.

“Just a chilly,” I said vaguely, even as I thought, ‘Is that you or did I just become schizo?’

The echoing laughter through my head was answer enough.

I, on the other hand, was not amused.

You could have told me it would be this easy, you…you dinglehopper. Because calling god an asshole, even if he was my brother, probably wasn’t the best thing to do.

‘And you’d be right about that,’ came the voice in my head. ‘I still am an all powerful god. And I said you’d have to be in tune on the right plain to hear my voice, didn’t I? I’m surprised it took you so long to get here.’

I couldn’t help but open my eyes to glance up at the ‘majestic’ statue wryly.

Is that how you see yourself?

‘Hey, I didn’t come up with that, you know that. Stop it, you’re embarrassing me. Close the eyes, it’ll make this easier.’

And it did. Having my eyes open had softened his voice to almost a whisp of wind.

Very nice hair you’ve got, your majesty. Pity they don’t know you’re a ginger.

‘I’m impressed you were able to see that already. Usually it would take more purification. But aside from that, you wanted to talk to me? Something about scolding me for the awful state you found your boy in or him not being young enough for you? Do you know how creepy that makes you sound?’

Shut up, you’re the one that promised babies.

‘Correction, I said you could have babies, if you wanted. You’re going to need a man for that, which, by the way, you’re going to need any way if you want to raise the babies our father’s holding on for you. It’s one of those hoops I mentioned in passing.

I almost popped open my eyes and mouth then and there to start swearing a storm, right there in that holy chapel. 

Excuse me!? Did you seriously just—you just told me whatever to get me here, didn’t you?

‘Not so. A god can’t lie. I just didn’t mention particulars because I knew you weren’t ready to hear them.’

Well I’m damn ready now, so talk.

‘Ah, swearing at a god, not the greatest way to get what you want. But, to make it short, father isn’t going to let his children, who have already made it back to him, go to a single parent. The optimal situation for the healthy and happy rearing of children is with both a father and a mother. If they’re going to be happier with Him and their heavenly mother…well, there’s that. Not to mention gods come in pairs.’

What does godhood have to do with parenthood?

‘Well, everything. Parenthood is, in a word, a practice in godhood on the mortal plain. But, this and that aside, I’m not going to stop you from your dream of adopting every orphan you set your eyes on just because you’re not married, but you may find it quite a bit difficult to do that without some sort of help, husbandly or otherwise. Kids need to eat.’

Yeah, you better not be. Because what the fu…I stopped myself and breathed.

My sigh must have been invitation to Gus to squeeze in his two bits.

“Lilly, do I have to pray too? Can I go back outside?”

“Bow your head and pray,” I said, just a might too impatiently. Where were we?

‘You threatening an all powerful god,’ said the much too amused voice.

Yeah. That’s right. So…where was that big long list of things I had to ask him again?

All I have to do is help him grow up and I can leave this world, right?

‘Grow up into the man he wants to be, if you want to then, yes.’

That’s so vague. I need a number.

‘That all depends on you and him. What he wants to be is going to be what saves this world in the end. You’ll probably get a better estimate from just asking him.’

You’re a freaking god, why can’t you just tell me?

‘Because that will ruin the natural flow of your relationship. I may be all-knowing, but you sure aren’t. And you’re already dropped one too many hints about your origins. No one is to know I sent you. Do you want to deal with all the crap that will follow if they do know? I sure don’t.’

Okay dad, stop lecturing me, I get it. I’m sorry about what happened in front of the temple I’ll keep quiet.

‘That includes dropping hints about this mysterious country you keep dropping. Hal and Milly may be adults enough to not sniff into it, but you’re talking to a child here, there’s no way he’s going to not be curious.’

Well what am I suppose to say? Sorry, I’m just a freak? I don’t want to tell you?

‘A wise man knows when to keep his mouth shut. Sometimes the best thing is just not to say anything at all.’

I sighed, letting my forehead press against the back of the bench. For some reason, this conversation was exhausting me. More than a conversation should. Like, literally, in a few minutes I’d be asleep with a permanent dip in my forehead from the pew in front of me.

‘That’s because major spiritual exchanges wear on the mortal body. There was a scripture back on earth, ‘the spirit is willing, but the body is weak.’ It’s something like that.’

So wrap it up, will you? Preferably in wrapping paper decorated with apologies and something to make up for the grief I’ve been through for this. You pulled me up from a nice restful death after all.

‘Of course. Anything for my favorite little sister.’

“Um, pardon me.”

I wearily looked up to find the priest that had been giving me funny looks from behind the statue. He had the cleanest mop of blond hair I’d seen, probably because I’d been on the poor folk side of town for too long. His face was perfectly hairless, giving him a boyish charm that probably masked his true age. The light dust of freckles across his nose didn’t help.

He was also wringing his fingers.

“This…this may sound a little…forward…” he said. “But would you terribly mind if I give you a blessing?”

‘Consider him UPS,’ came the fading echo of Nehcor’s voice.

“Oh,” I could only blink. “That’s nice. I mean, that would be nice.”

Besides me, hands folded in prayer like a good little boy, Gus snickered.

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