Megumi No Megamibr As told by Megumibr br Chapter 4 - Graduationbr br We settled down to socialize for a while, and soon established our customary relaxed, intimate, and pleasant mood. Tonight, for some reason, there seemed to be an undercurrent of romance in the air. I found I had my arms around my seatmates, Mara and Belldandy, and their arms were around my shoulders too. The others in our household were similarly affected. Keiichi observed that tonight seemed to be a fine opportunity for an orgy, and we were all invited. Naturally, I was ecstatic. No more mean old incest taboo!br br This might be a good time to explain that like marriage, orgies are very different in Heaven than they are on Earth. Among mortals, orgies are occasions of lust, sensuousness, promiscuity, and some exhibitionism thrown in for spice. Can you imagine demure, proper Belldandy in such a scene? Among the gods, with their capacity to love several others simultaneously and open marriage traditions, an orgy was simply an occasion when people who loved each other did together what they would have done separately otherwise. Its purpose is to facilitate growing closer and strengthening bonds of affection-to maximize pleasure by sharing. Sometimes a person tied by affection not strong enough to be considered love would be invited, as was Mara in this case. Strangers and casual acquaintances were never br It didn't work out as simply as you might expect. Mara didn't feel comfortable in a hetero group scene, so she elected to sit this one out. I didn't want her to be alone on this special night, so I offered to stay with her while also attending the orgy. Keiichi made three additional replicas of himself so he could give individual attention to the three goddesses and me. All of us in Keiichi's room were in telepathic rapport with each other. The copy of me who was staying in our room with Mara was linked to Mara and to everyone in Keiichi's room. If this sounds complicated, it was. Let me continue from the point of view of the Megumi who was staying with br We were sitting on my bed with our arms around each other and listening to the orgy participants. I felt just slightly uneasy because I was aware that I was cuddling with a lesbian, and I wasn't really sure how I felt about it. I had come to like Mara, and I cared about her a lot, but I didn't think I loved her yet. Of course Mara sensed how I felt through our telepathic link, and it's a sign of how much she had changed that she didn't try to pressure me. When my other self lost her (our? my?) virginity, I was delighted, then I began to giggle. Mara knew what I was thinking, but she didn't understand why it was so br I'd realized that, depending on which body vanished when I stopped bilocating, I'd have my choice of either being or not being a virgin tomorrow. I could have sex every night and remain a virgin forever by using bilocation and a little care. What a ridiculous concept! I just had to giggle. Mara couldn't understand what was so wonderful about being a virgin-it seemed like a damned nuisance to her. I explained that it was funny because of my mortal upbringing. Most human cultures placed undue value on virginity, especially the patriarchal societies like Japan. I wasn't being amused by the value of retained virginity, but rather by the patent absurdity of my br In the other room, Keiichi was in his element-he had found something else to teach. He had once been surprised to discover that female sexual enjoyment had to be learned, it wasn't hard wired. That's why women's magazines have articles on how to have better sex, while men's magazines at most have articles on how to have more sex. Naturally, Keiichi wanted to know all he could about this fascinating subject. Could male enjoyment be improved through training? Yes, but it wasn't easy. A challenge for the world's greatest teacher-and the lessons were so enjoyable. The man making love to me in the other room, while arguably the best lover on the planet, was certainly the best teacher ever and we cared for each other very much. I thought it doesn't get any better than that. I was wrong-it does get br I was becoming quite aroused from the amorous activities of the couples in the other room, but I didn't know what I could do about it. I wasn't sure if I wanted to make the first move, or how to do it if I did want to. To our surprise, Urd-replica joined us to make us a threesome and to show me how to go about doing the girl-on-girl thing. It seems that Urd was more experienced than any of us had realized, and she had sensed my predicament via our link. Urd started gently until my comfort level increased, then she (and I!) gradually got wilder. Soon all three of us were having a very good time. Urd and Mara discovered they had a lot in common and they became very close friends as well as br After the orgy, as we were settling down for the night, Mara said, "You know, Meg, demons have sex but you guys make love. I never realized how significant the difference is. I'd heard you all say how rewarding it is to give pleasure to others, but I'd never really grasped the concept before. It's a very undemonic idea, after all. Tonight I experienced it for myself, and it's much better than anything in Hell. If I get invited to the next orgy, I'll probably accept. Thanks for linking me in."br br "Mara, it was a pleasure for me to do it. I'm glad you enjoyed yourself. I know I did."br br hr br The next day Donner's friends lost no time asking him what he had seen and heard during his visit. He tried his best to report accurately, but often words were inadequate and he had to resort to telepathy. The credulity of his listeners was sorely strained. Keiichi had reformed a demon without using any magic at all? Preposterous. He could conduct multiple classes simultaneously in different locations? Unbelievable. His bedroom was bigger than the entire building? Absurd. The stories were soon spreading to all the gods in Asgard. It was clear that a revolution was brewing and nothing would remain br Tomasu gathered a small contingent of senior gods to bring their concerns to Kami-sama himself. That's when something really unbelievable happened: Kami-sama laughed! He roared. He held his belly and shook with mirth. No one had ever heard Kami-sama laugh before. When he calmed down, Kami-sama wiped away a tear and tried to reassure the concerned br "Do I understand that you're afraid of a man who treats his worst enemies with kindness and love, a man who possesses less magic power than the least of the gods? You should be ashamed of yourselves. I've followed the career of young Kei-chan quite closely for several years, and I can assure you he is no threat to me, nor to anyone else in Asgard or on Earth. In my opinion reforming demons and teaching improved magic techniques aren't wicked, but praiseworthy acts. I eagerly await his arrival here; he and his sister will be great additions to our team. I might even enroll in some of his classes myself. It's true that everything will change, but it's going to change for the better. The more flexible you are the more comfortable you'll be during the transition. Now go home and tell your friends to stop worrying and to practice smiling."br br The committee of elder gods noted his use of "Kei-chan," and went away quite bewildered. Kami-sama thought to himself, "I only regret that I didn't invent them earlier. It will be so nice to have some real friends and fresh ideas for a change."br br hr br Later that same day Keiichi was a few minutes late for our class. We could see that he had already begun Mara's lessons and wondered what was delaying him. Then Skuld nudged me, pointed to an approaching figure, and asked "Meg-chan, is that you over there?"br br I examined the oncoming young woman closely. She looked like me, but her glossy black waist-length hair was worn in a style similar to Skuld's. Her outfit looked like something I might wear. Then, with a shock, I recognized her. "That's not me, it's Keiichi! Look at her aura!" I exclaimed. The goddesses were momentarily br "Hello girls," Keiichi said as she joined our group, "I'm sorry I'm late, but I had to learn how to walk all over again and it delayed me. My balance and proportions are different now. Guess what we're going to study today?"br br Belldandy asked, "Kei-sama, iwhat /i have you done to yourself?"br br Skuld added, "And why?"br br I thought to myself that what he/she had done was pretty br Keiichi raised her hands. "Believe it or not, one of my motives was to become a better husband."br br Urd observed wryly, "If you think that girls make better husbands than boys, most of us are going to disagree with you."br br Keiichi shook her head. "I don't expect to remain a girl unless I like it a lot, which is improbable. I just wanted an authentic female experience; to feel the way a woman feels and to think the way a woman thinks. I wanted to walk a kilometer in the other person's sandals, as the saying goes. It would help me to understand and communicate better with half the population of Heaven and Earth."br br "If you put it that way," Urd remarked dryly, "then I think it should be mandatory."br br Keiichi responded, "I'm glad you feel that way, Urd, so you won't mind being a man for a day or two." Urd looked br Mara sauntered over to our group and gave Keiichi a brief examination. She smiled appreciatively, winked, and returned to her own sensei without saying a br "So the four of us will become men for a while," I began, "It should be an iinteresting /i experience. Are we going to have kinky sex too?"br br Keiichi gave me a sharp look. "That's not in my lesson plan, and I want you to refrain from discussing it during class. However, after dinner anything goes. I hope we do mix it up a little, because it will be an educational experience." Then Keiichi launched into the preamble to the day's br "It would be easy enough to wrap my male brain in a female body. Body morphing is simple to do, and we'll cover the technique in a few minutes at the start of the lesson. However, it would be an interesting but inauthentic experience. Male and female brains differ slightly in many ways, shaped by the prenatal influence of hormones. I wanted a fully female brain to obtain my objective, but I couldn't reshape my own brain while iI /i was the one doing the magic. There'd be a very good chance that I'd lose control and permanently damage myself. My initial idea called for constructing a robot surgeon spell that would rewire my brain while I was unconscious, with triple backup copies of my original brain and checksums and failsafes and so on. This would work, but it lacked the elegance and simplicity that I strive for. Then after the orgy last night I realized that I'd been walking around with four identical functioning copies of my original brain. Bilocation was the key to the simple and elegant solution I had sought. All I had to do was to morph the pattern of my duplicate before it materialized. The extra me could be anything that I could shape the pattern into-a girl, an elephant, a cactus, or even a cloud. My original self would remain unaffected, so the danger would be minimal."br br Keiichi established telepathic linkages with us and the lesson proper br That evening the dinner table had to be expanded because there were now eleven of us: male and female versions of everyone except Mara. Our replicas were still a little uncomfortable in their new br Otoko-Keiichi (male) began by asking each of the new replicas how they were doing. "Urd-kun, how does it feel to be a hunk, instead of desiring one?"br br Otoko-Urd looked like a California Beach Boy with his tall muscular body, bronze skin, and short, near-white hair. He was bare-chested and rather attractive. "It's different, that's for sure. Now I can go topless without raising eyebrows. These muscles are making me restless; they seem to demand action. I wonder how I'll be able to sleep at night."br br Keiichi nodded and turned toward Otoko-Belldandy. He was handsome in a movie-star way, and dressed with typical Belldandy elegance. Otoko-Belldandy said, "My thoughts keep going off in unfamiliar tangents, and I've trouble getting in touch with my emotions. My body isn't giving me much trouble, but I'm disappointed at how insensitive it is." He stroked his forearm lightly with a finger and br Keiichi projected an image of two bucks battling in a forest, with a doe in the background. "Imagine that these males are equally matched in size and strength, but one is as sensitive as the doe while the other is less sensitive. Which one gets to breed?"br br Otoko-Belldandy said, "I see. It goes with the territory, doesn't it?" He looked down at his lap. "Even there?"br br "Yes, even there. It's exposed instead of protected, so it has to be less sensitive."br br Otoko-Belldandy managed to look mournful and sympathetic at the same br Keiichi continued, "Belldandy, don't feel sorry for us-sensitivity isn't everything. You've shared my experience and know that I don't lack for pleasure. Besides, if men were as sensitive as women are then we'd finish even sooner than we already do and our women would be even more frustrated than they sometimes are now."br br Keiichi turned to Otoko-Skuld. He was a slender adolescent boy, about 17 years old, with short wild black hair much like Keiichi-kun's. "Skuld-kun?"br br "Besides what Belldandy-kun mentioned, I'm having a problem thinking about anything except sex. Is it always this bad, Kei-sama?"br br I noted the incongruity of these remarks-for years Skuld had had a very low opinion of sexuality and considered it "disgusting." Obviously, her attitude had changed considerably in recent br Keiichi considered. "No, in about another year it gets even worse, but then it peaks and declines to manageable levels. Many women find it hard to deal with boys in this phase, some of whom act like animals. Now you know why."br br Next Keiichi addressed Otoko-Megumi. "I'm not sure if you're my brother or my sister, Megumi-kun, but how are you making out?"br br My male self looked very much like Keiichi-kun, but he was more than four centimeters taller. He was careful not to dress like Keiichi because their auras were similar and confusion could result. "Most of my issues have already been aired, Onii-sama, but I feel an unfamiliar urge toward belligerent or aggressive behavior. I notice that if you feel these impulses, you seem to conceal it exceptionally well."br br Keiichi agreed. "I do feel those drives, but I seem to have escaped the worst excesses of testosterone poisoning."br br Otoko-Megumi blushed before continuing. "I now understand why men are so sloppy in the bathroom; this thing doesn't go where I aim it. And it sprays up!"br br Keiichi nodded. "That's why urinals were invented. The urethra runs along the bottom of the shaft and jogs upward to the centerline just before it exits, so the final portion is slanted upwards."br br "I'd always wanted to pee standing up-it's convenient-but now I'm not sure it's worth it." Otoko-Megumi shook his head, bewildered. "I never expected two streams from one nozzle."br br "Yes, that happens sometimes. There's a reason why men are shaped that way; curiously enough, it's the same reason women have to pee sitting down."br br "There's a reason?" asked onna-Urd, her eyebrows br "Keiichi has an explanation for everything," observed br "The interior of the vagina is very inviting to all sorts of microorganisms-yeast, bacteria, and such. It's warm, dark, moist, and contains easily available nutrients. Female anatomy evolved to make it harder for these critters to enter. To some extent, it cleans itself every time the bladder empties. The urethra is also designed to keep the bugs out. In males it isn't designed to be neat or controllable, but to be sanitary."br br This observation struck a chord in me. I'd had a yeast infection once, and it was no fun. I had a suden insight. "That explains the function of the hymen."br br There was a short silence. Finally, otoko-Keiichi addressed onna-Keiichi (female Keiichi), who might be my temporary new sister. "Kei-chan, you've heard the male complaints. Can you give us the female counterpoint?"br br Onna-Keiichi paused before answering. "I can't do justice to female grievances, because I haven't gone through puberty, monthly discomforts, childbirth, menopause, or the mistreatment of women in many mortal societies. I find it's easier for me to do some things and harder for me to do others. I'm short as a man, so my height isn't an issue. I'm not as strong as my male self, but the difference isn't as great as I expected. My peak effort is reduced, but I can sustain it longer than I could as a male. I don't think I'm more emotional than I used to be, but my emotions are more accessible and better integrated into my thinking then they were before. Creating new magic spells is now more difficult than it was. I find it a little harder to navigate my way around, a little easier to verbalize, or to remember things. I feel a greater need to socialize, or connect with others. I used to have no problem spending the morning alone doing lesson plans, but now I'm not sure I'd like it as much. I got into this because I wanted to experience otherness, and I seem to have gotten what I wanted. It's been a strange trip, that's for sure."br br I noticed that she was still using male vocabulary. In Japanese there are certain words reserved for use by men and others reserved for use by women. Some habits are hard to break-having to switch back and forth would be br Onna-Keiichi reddened slightly and continued, "I'm having more trouble than I expected getting comfortable in my new body. The jiggle of my breasts, which my male self finds so distracting, keeps distracting ime /i. If I wear a bra it's confining, and if I don't I bob up and down."br br Onna-Urd said, "You'll get used to it in time. I have, and I'm bigger than you."br br "Yes, but your body evolved gradually, Urd. I passed through puberty in an instant." Onna-Keiichi removed her shirt. "I think I've found a solution."br br "It looks like a sports bra," I observed. Then I took a closer look. "It's not an ordinary fabric-every part has its own carefully engineered thread density and direction."br br Onna-Keiichi looked proud. "It gives me gentle support without feeling unnatural." She put her shirt back br I made a mental note to get one of those for br Onna-Belldandy asked, "Keiichi, do you get distracted by moving bosoms?"br br "Absolutely. Bell, eyes are engineered to be especially sensitive to moving objects. It's a survival thing, to help avoid predators and find prey. Almost any animal will stop moving when it wants to remain undetected. Besides, the inimitable jiggle of a woman's chest is a very distinctive motion, and it's hard to ignore."br br "'Inimitable jiggle,' huh? I like that," mused onna-Urd. "Is that why guys are turned on by bigger breasts?"br br "There's a different reason for that. A male needs to find a mate capable of bearing many healthy children in order to pass along his genes to his progeny. A girl with a full figure is most likely to qualify. That's why guys prefer gals with an hourglass shape. However, some men go to extremes. An exceptionally large bust is a handicap, not an asset. Urd, I think you're okay, but don't get any bigger for my sake. I belong to the 'more than a handful is wasted' school of thought."br br We giggled at the 'handful' remark. There was a short pause while we digested this. Onna-Skuld gave onna-Urd a superior smile and flashed a brief "victory" sign. Urd sniffed br Otoko-Skuld broke the silence. "So, are we going to have a kinky orgy, or what?"br br "My 'brother' has a one-track mind," protested br Onna-Keiichi spoke up. "I'm not in the mood for an orgy, but I'm tempted to seduce Keiichi-kun. After all, I'm one of the few girls he hasn't bedded yet."br br Otoko-Keiichi blushed. "That would surely be a unique experience-but you'll have to ask me nicely."br br Onna-Urd wailed in mock despair. "I thought I'd already had every conceivable experience, and then this young upstart comes along and suggests one I never even thought of."br br "Urd, you have to stop being so hard on yourself," I said, "He's Keiichi, but you're only a goddess." At the time I said it I was kidding. Really!br br Otoko-Urd gave onna-Urd a hug and tried to comfort her. "It's not too late, Onee-sama. Consider the possibilities."br br Onna-Urd brightened and kissed him. She said, "If that's a proposition, it must be one of the strangest that I've ever heard."br br Otoko-Urd looked worried, and sent a thought to Keiichi-kun, b::/bSensei, could I have that stamina spell you developed?b::/bbr br Keiichi replied, b::/bNo problem, here it is,b::/b and sent him the instructions. b::/bDon't use it before you have to, or you'll miss the authentic male experience.b::/bbr br Mara looked at onna-Keiichi and said, "Keiichi, I could offer you a good time. After all, I owe you one for all you've given me."br br Onna-Keiichi quoted, "That would surely be a unique experience-but you'll have to ask me nicely." We all had a good br The next evening I resolved my problems in deciding what to wish for. I had come to accept that, as good as I was, I lacked the creative spark and unique perspective that had made Keiichi so special. I'd become very fond of the three goddesses and looked forward to being their peer. Finally, I'd been deeply affected by Belldandy's wedding scene projection and realized that I wanted something similar, but modified to suit my own br I approached Belldandy. "Bell-chan, can I make a wish now for something to happen at a specific time in the future?"br br She must have sensed that I had made up my mind, because she looked pleased. "Of course you can, Meg-chan. Wishing for something at an unspecified time is risky, but I doubt you'd make an unwise wish."br br On hearing this my remaining doubts fled, and I removed the self-censoring spell that prevented me from accidentally making a wish. "I want to become a goddess on the day after I graduate from Nekomi Institute of Technology, and I want a wedding ceremony similar to the one you projected too, but with some specific changes. For example, those metal-edged wing feathers look tacky and have to go..."br br We talked for a while longer, then I phrased my wish as exactly as I could and spoke it aloud. It was promptly granted. Nobody had warned me that wish granting involved fancy special effects. I was impressed. Unfortunately, it hadn't occurred to me to specify that I wanted no decoration at all on my wings. Always be careful what you wish for, you my get br Two weeks later Mara admitted that she had been considering how she could reform some of her demon friends. She thought it would be easier while she still wore demon markings, because as a goddess she wouldn't be welcome in Hell. Keiichi had a long talk with her about this subject after br "Mara, I won't try to stop you, and if your plan is well thought out I'll even support you. However, I'm nurturing a plan of my own that may be better. Remember the Lord of Terror?"br br "How can I forget? He was the ruler of Hell and commander of all demonsfpr a while. Hild has taken over since then."br br "I was part of the team that took him out. Actually, the three Norns did most of the work; I hadn't learned to do magic yet. Being possessed by the Lord of Terror was an important part of my magical education."br br Mara looked at him with awe. "You four eliminated the Lord of Terror? I should have known-who else would be up to the task? Kei-sama, if anyone else had been possessed by the Lord they'd need intensive mental care for a decade. You just wrote it off as an educational experience and got on with your life. That's incredible."br br "Mara, I regret that we had to kill him. We were greatly outmatched and on our own, so we had to use whatever means we could. Things are different now. I'm planning to go back in time and save his life."br br Mara was incredulous. "You went to all that effort to get rid of the Dark Lord, and now you want to resurrect him? Why?"br br "Because if he could be reeducated as you have been, then he'd be a great asset to our side. What demon would dare to disobey him? Imagine the Lord of Terror as a force for good."br br Mara looked at him. "You really have thought this through, haven't you?"br br He nodded. "I'd prefer it if you didn't tell anyone else. If ithis /i secret got out it could ruin a unique opportunity. Since I have to use time travel to get him back, it really doesn't matter how long I take to get ready. I won't move until there's no way I can fail. With Kami-sama and goddess Megumi backing me up, even the Lord of Terror would know he hadn't a chance."br br Mara warned, "Keiichi, you'd need god-level power in a confrontation like that and you don't have it."br br Keiichi smiled. "Mara, do you really think that I can't tap into the Divine Source that supplies mana to the gods, even without the aid of god markings? I might even draw enough energy from the Demonic Source to leave the demons stranded."br br It had never occurred to her. "Then why don't you do it?"br br "Because I don't want it and don't need it. I'd lose my edge. My magic would no longer need to be so precise or economical. The qualities that make me special would be endangered. Of course, for the Lord of Terror I might make an exception."br br Mara realized that Keiichi must be the only person who sincerely believed that becoming a god would be a step down. Her sensei must be truly unique. She asked, "You're really planning to convert all the demons into gods, aren't you?"br br "Not exactly. I'm planning to let the Lord of Terror take care of that, with my help if needed. And to tell the truth, I don't care if they choose to remain in Hell or move into Asgard, as long as they become friends instead of foes. If we can reduce our rivalry to the level of chess tournaments or Olympic games, and work together on things that really matter, I don't care what the former demons call themselves."br br Mara shook her head and chuckled appreciatively. "Kei-sama, If you ever got a License it would have to read 'Morisato Keiichi, the Something of Unlimited Audacity.' No one else could even conceive of such a plan, but iyou /i could bring it off. In your benevolent way you'll do more damage to the status quo than the combined forces of Hell could ever dream of doing, and you'll make everyone thank you for it too. I'm glad you let me in on your plan. I've never enjoyed myself more than in these last few weeks. But, Sensei, I doubt that you'll be able to disarm the Lord of Terror with kindness, the way you disarmed me."br br "No, I have a more potent tool for that purpose."br br Mara raised an br Keiichi answered, "Love."br br That evening at dinner, Mara asked the question that none of us had been bold enough to ask. "Kei-sama, nothing in your mortal history suggests great creativity, but in recent weeks you've astonished us again and again with ideas of extraordinary boldness and originality. Can you tell us how you do it?"br br Keiichi smiled and answered at some length. "A year ago I was a shy and awkward college student. I was experimenting secretly with tiny amounts of leftover mana. A few months later I cast my first real magic spell, and within an hour my world and my life had been shattered forever. I'd suddenly gone from being a mere engineering student to probable sensei to all the gods in Heaven. The Norns were treating me with awe and respect. Everything was the reverse of what it had been only an hour before. Every assumption I ever had was questionable, and every certainty became doubtful. Even my own identity was taken away, for suddenly I was neither god nor mortal, but something unique. I'd become the Eternal Outsider, the Stranger in a Strange Land. I thought all I had left was my name and my gender, but a small voice kept asking 'Are you sure about that?' I briefly became very insecure. I didn't realize it until later, but the old Keiichi had died and been replaced by a brand-new me that night."br br He continued, "I soon realized that there were some things I could rely upon. Belldandy loved me and would be with me forever. My destiny was to become sensei to the gods. These facts implied certain consequences. I must be a rather special person, and it would be good to start thinking and acting like one. Fortunately, I soon became comfortable with my new situation and realized that nothing could ever hurt me. At that point the destruction of everything I thought I knew liberated me, freeing me to ask questions no one else could ask. I don't know how long I'll be able to keep this up, because I may become complacent or form new assumptions as time goes on. I hope that doesn't happen soon. Mara, you should be experiencing a similar liberation yourself. Your own life has become almost the exact opposite of what it was, and you're gaining confidence and adjusting to your situation. Try it yourself-think bold thoughts, ask silly questions and see where it leads."br br Then Urd spoke up. "As long as you're explaining the inexplicable, could you tell us how a couple of mortals came out of nowhere and started beating us gods at our own game, and by such a wide margin too? It still seems remarkably improbable to me."br br Keiichi smirked. "I thought so too, at first. But now that I know more about the situation, it seems iinevitable /i to me that sooner or later mortals were going to overtake gods."br br The goddesses were outraged. I was waiting eagerly for an explanation; this was going to be br Mara was amused. "Kei-sama, one of these days you're going to astonish me by saying something that idoesn't /i astonish me!"br br He explained, "In his wisdom, Kami-sama gave mortals the gift of death. Now before you tell me that this is a gift that you can do without, consider that death is an indispensable part of Darwinian evolution. Death drives mortals to achieve while they still have the chance, but immortals can take a more leisurely approach. Humans continue to evolve because they're mortal. They're also numerous, with many different constellations of abilities-another evolutionary necessity. In contrast, gods 'know' they're living in the best of all possible situations. They become very conservative, afraid that any change could only be a loss. What a recipe for a static society! Why if it weren't for the stimulation provided by demons, most gods would have died of boredom millennia ago. In a race between static gods and evolving humans, the humans are certain to win."br br Now Mara was outraged. "Are you saying that demons provide a useful service for gods? If you can prove it there will be a lot of neurotic demons!"br br Keiichi was amused. "There's a saying among mortals, 'the wolves keep the deer healthy.' Predators cull the sick and the weak, leaving the surviving prey fit. Having to respond to the challenge posed by demons is one of the things that keep Asgard functional. Without demon challenges, the only source of new ideas in Heaven would be youngsters like Skuld, but they're few and far between and get little respect."br br On a tightly shielded link, Mara sent, b::/bKei-sama, if you reform all the demons then who'll provide the challen... Oh! Of course... iYou're /i going to do it yourself.b::/bbr br Keiichi sent a mischievous grin, followed by, b::/bEveryone will be enrolling in my classes to learn improved magic techniques-my methods are irresistible. But they'll also be learning how to laugh, be creative and spontaneous, and how to have fun. There's going to be a certain controlled amount of chaos and mischief in Heaven and in Hell when I get through. There will be better times and worse times, but by learning from experience, the trend will be toward better and better times.b::/bbr br Skuld verbalized what the rest of us were feeling. "Kei-sama doesn't just isay /i outrageous things all the time, he backs them up. After he says something astonishing he explains it so clearly that it seems obvious and logical, and then you wonder why you didn't think of it yourself. He makes me wonder if anyone else has ever thought about anything before!"br br "Of course I think about things-I'm an engineer. And a Sensei is supposed to have answers. Why are you surprised?"br br I tried to see if I could stump him. "Onii-sama, which came first, the chicken or the egg?"br br He didn't hesitate. "Oh, that's easy. Dinosaurs were laying eggs long before their descendents evolved into chickens. The first chicken hatched from an egg laid by a not-quite-chicken. Obviously, the egg came first."br br I was humbled. Skuld gave me an "I told you so" look. I remembered that she had seen his future, so she knew Keiichi better than I knew br As it turned out, Mara was able to reorient two of her demon friends, the twins Deiko and Phoko. Soon everyone in Hell knew that Mara had defected. A group of senior demons tried to stop her and were shocked to discover that Mara now seemed to be invulnerable and invincible. They were just as surprised when Mara made no move to harm them. After that all demons avoided her like the plague. The twins joined our motley crew for a few months. Keiichi did a "create space" spell and Mara moved into her own room to be with her friends. They made rapid progress because Sensei was now experienced at dealing with former demons. All three of them passed their goddesses exams and relocated to Asgard about a month before my br Before leaving Mara said goodbye to us all. "You've been exceptionally kind and generous, and I wish I could stay here, but you guys are out of my class. I couldn't be happy living with the level of astonishment that you've gotten used to. It's just too interesting here for my taste."br br Belldandy understood, and Urd asked them to come back and visit us whenever they had a chance. Skuld found it amusing that our family could tolerate a level of novelty high enough to unnerve a demon-after all, demons were supposed to thrive on br My graduation day (from NIT, not Keiichi's tutoring) came at last. Our parents arrived late the night before, tired from their travels but happy and excited. They'd been invited to Keiichi's wedding, to be held the day after my graduation. We had insisted that they stay with us in the temple, as there was plenty of room. Indeed, there was ample space, for it was nearly empty. The Norns had moved out three weeks earlier and gone to Asgard with Keiichi-replica and Megumi-replica to take care of the many details that our moving there would involve. Only my brother and I remained behind. Keiichi had removed most of the more conspicuous spells so the temple now appeared more like an earthly residence than a heavenly one. We didn't want to freak out anyone br On graduation morning our parents awoke to a delicious aroma wafting from the kitchen. When they entered the kitchen, they were surprised to find Keiichi and me finishing preparing breakfast. Takano raised an eyebrow at me. "You let ihim /i cook?"br br "Takano, Keiichi is an excellent cook," I replied. "He and I have been taking lessons from Belldandy, who may be the best cook in the world. Taste this and see if you can tell which of us prepared what."br br Keiichi chimed in, "Belldandy says that if you have enough love in your heart then anything you make will be wonderful. Besides, it isn't fair to make Meg-chan do all the work on her graduation day. I know it isn't traditional in Japan, but where I'm going soon things are done very differently, and you might as well get used to it."br br After sampling several dishes Keima observed, "Judging by the taste you must both have plenty of love in your hearts."br br "We do!" we agreed. Takano observed that she could feel the love radiating from us, and it made her very br Keiichi asked, "Did you sleep well last night?"br br Takano beamed. "I had the best night's sleep that I've had in years. That was the most comfortable futon I ever used. I feel like a younger woman this morning."br br Keiichi smiled. "I'm glad you like it. It's one of my inventions. If you want it, you can have it-I won't need it anymore. You'll find that it never needs cleaning or maintenance, and will always be as neat and fresh as it is today."br br Keima took note. "So, Son, you've been inventing things. You could easily make a small fortune with an invention like that. Is that why you and Megumi haven't needed any money from us this year?"br br "Actually, Keima, inventing has been one of my sidelines. It may appear that I don't have a job, but that doesn't mean that I haven't been busy or productive. My main occupations this year have been tutoring and research."br br "I see," Keima said, "well, whatever it is that you do, it seems to pay well enough. You lack for nothing here."br br Shortly after breakfast was over, Takano made the observation I had been expecting. "Keiichi, I'm astonished at how much you've grown since last year. You used to be timid and hesitant, awkward almost to the point of clumsiness. Now you radiate confidence, you're as graceful as a dancer, and act as if you own the world. I sense much the same from Megumi, but it's less obvious for her because she was always so lively."br br I sent to Keiichi, b::/bI told you so!b::/bbr br Keiichi answered obliquely, "Takano, do you know what maturity is? Maturity is when you know who you are and what you're good for, and are comfortable with it. Last year I hadn't found myself yet, I didn't know who I was, so I was insecure and unsure of myself. Now I know who I am, and I love it. Meg-chan and I are fortunate, for not only do we know ourselves and our destinies, but we're delighted by that knowledge."br br "So just what are you, Keiichi?" asked br "You'll see for yourself soon enough," he replied with an enigmatic br Graduation was like any other graduation; I won't bore you with the details. Mother wept a bit and Father nodded off for a while. My grades were good, but I didn't graduate with any significant honors except a scroll from the Computer Science department for my outstanding grades there. Well, what did you expect? After all, I was the Mortal of br Keima wanted to take us all out for dinner afterwards, but we persuaded him that we'd rather eat at home. The restaurants would all be crowded today, and besides, our food was better than any restaurant. Keiichi and I whipped up a Belldandy-style banquet (literally-Belldandy was consulting via telepathic linkage). Takano was impressed at how well the two of us worked together, moving as if one mind coordinated both our bodies (which was indeed the case).br br Halfway through the meal, Keima conceded that we were right to want to eat at home. "This food is heavenly," he br "It really is," we agreed in chorus. If only he knew how right he br Takano spoke up. "Not just the food, but the whole temple is so welcoming. Temples are supposed to be places of tranquil serenity, but this one radiates love and harmony and all sorts of positive emotions. I wish I could live in a place like this."br br I gave Keiichi a questioning look, and he nodded in reply. "Would you really like to live here?" I asked. "You can, you know. The day after tomorrow the temple will be empty, and it would please both of us to have family living here. We can't sell it to you because we don't own it, but we can give it to you. There's no rent, and no heating or cooling charges because it's comfortable all year long. We can even arrange to have your stuff moved into the temple at no charge if you'd like. If you don't want it, we could offer it to cousin Kenji."br br Takano brightened. "Do you really mean it? You would give this place to us? Megumi, you're so kind and generous you must be a Megami!"br br Keiichi and I tried hard to stifle our mirth, but failed. We both cracked up. Naturally, Mother and Father didn't get the br "Did I say something funny?" Takano br I answered, "Takano, I said those exact same words to Belldandy when I first met her." I added quietly, "...and I was right, too."br br Keima asked, "How could anyone live here rent-free?" It seemed like a quite unusual arrangement in Japan, where housing is br Keiichi answered with a straight face, "It's a special dispensation from Kami-sama." Keima wasn't amused. Keiichi continued with a warm smile, "I don't want to seem evasive, but tomorrow you'll understand everything that's puzzling today. Think of it as a Zen mystery until then."br br hr br br Authors Note: C & C welcome." Be gentle it's only my second time. I'd like to acknowledge the following fanfic authors, whose work has entertained and inspired me: Ed Sharpe for "No Mere Mortal," Brett Handy for "Oh My God!" Sean Gaffney for "Proposal/Wedding/Honeymoon," and Fred Herriot for "A Remarkable Destiny."