Why a mortal was aware of them without their own power allowing them was a mystery for the ages. One that simmered inside of Forgiveness and nowhere else. In which case, perhaps Life’s recent statements simply came from this and nothing deliberate. Perhaps she had always wondered these things, but now that a mortal tagged along with her she found a voice to speak of it with him?
He and Life probably shouldn’t have talked as much, but that would not stop them any time soon.
“She says many things. She does so like to talk about you.”
Forgiveness was obviously thrilled to hear it, even if it couldn’t have been shocking news. “You like talking to her?”
“It doesn’t have to be about you,” Death said mildly, before having to take it back further. “I talk with her. I like it as much as I like talking with you, which is to say, in various degrees.”
“You like talking with me?”
Childlike, honestly. “You can be amusing some times. Just as you can at times be not.”
Still, Shu-fang had had them show up at random times so often in her life that she always expected one to show up. It was how she ended up talking to herself on many occasions. And then also not speaking out loud to herself on others. It depended on what she was okay with another person perhaps eavesdropping on her hearing.
Offending the gods was one thing though. Getting away from them was another.
Now, in the library, Shu-fang began her research. There were all of the things she knew, but that had the problem with specifics being buried under the mountain of things she knew. Then there were the many things she did not know. Searching her memory for those things would not help. Searching the records here would give her a starting point.
She made a chart of every place every god was ever mentioned in. It was a lot of places to go through, places that in many ways no longer existed. At least not in name or in shape. Shu-fang had to determine where those places were now. She pulled out a map in order to figure it out.
Many sticky notes later, she finally found a selection of places that didn’t show up in any of her memories, any of the stories. Places that the gods were not known for.
It was time to go.
Forgiveness thought about it for a few moments, before appearing to draw a blank. “What did Mom say?”
Mother Nature indeed. “There’s only so close one should look into mortals, unless they were helping us with our jobs, you know.” Which meant plenty of mass murderers, genocidal leaders and successful hunters under his purview. And corals. Which usually shortly after Life had been with them.
His words didn’t appear to enlighten Forgiveness any. Did they really not understand what it was Death was saying?
When had Life begun to pay so much attention to the lives she gave? There were too many, too much, and such little time to really invest in them while they were alive. There was a lot more to be said in DEATH.
The angel continued to not understand. Life’s odd new interest in questioning in the lives of mortals, perhaps it may have been a question raised by her newfound ability to spend time with one – one who had lasted longer, one who saw her and treated her as they treated everyone – but Forgiveness might not have done this on purpose. After all, Death remembered the first time he had seen them. As mortal as anything else. They had not expected to see him. Not expected him to be what he had presented himself.
Forgiveness beamed at him. At Death, that was. The angel was like that, as if they were close. Metaphorically of course. Even if the angel seemed to come closer than they should. Death was very careful to make certain they retained that distance. Forgiveness didn’t seem to understand that they would very well die and belong to Death, whether he wanted it or not, if they came too close.
That wasn’t true. Death knew that Forgiveness was aware of this. Yet they always tempted fate. Death couldn’t imagine why, though he spent a great deal of mental power trying to figure it out.
“You shouldn’t be out here,” Death tried again, mollified a little when Pup returned to his side. Almost instinctively he reached out with a finger to his side to tap Pup’s rib.
“Hello,” said the angel. Happily. As they were.
“Causing more trouble, are you?”
Forgiveness tilted their head to the side, confused. Death snorted.
“I don’t know what you’re up to, angel, but you’re not fooling me.” Even if they weren’t doing it on purpose, though that seemed to be unlikely. How could the angel do as they did without realizing at least part of the effect they were having on the unchangeable around them? “Giving the gods strange thoughts. The last time I spoke with Life, she told me some strange things. Strange things which came from you.”
The glimmer of fascination that the gods had held over her once had long since disappeared behind that veil and flashlight. The gods were just as petty and dumb as mortals were. Maybe even more so. Because they lived forever and Shu-fang expected them to know better.
After years of fighting for one god, then being snatched up into the services of another, it had all become the same. Shu-fang was more likely to serve the god that gave her the most to do, or the most interesting thing to do. Sometimes that was the underdog. Sometimes it was the morally reprehensible one.
It was thinking about this yesterday, with her bottle of Dynasty Wine, that she had come up with the idea of retirement. She was tired. Tired of doing dumb things for dumb people. Of having lost her morals, her morale, and all of those other important things that started with the letter ‘m’.
“I don’t care if I offend them anymore,” she said to the empty room, waiting for a god to pop out and ask what she was talking about.
They didn’t do that. Often, anyway.
On the way, he found someone who should not have been there.
“Angel. Isn’t this past your bedtime?”
Forgiveness looked up at him. Death noticed what had their attention. A small burrow, with life still inside. Four mice, the only creatures in the vicinity who had survived the skirmish around them. Who had survived Death’s personal touch in the area. Death kept his distance. They were not injured, they were not sick, they were not his. Yet.
The angel smiled, not worried in the slightest that Death might kill them, or the other mammals nearby. Their complete lack of reverence over his presence, especially when they were much more aware of it than even the most observant of mortal creatures, occasionally annoyed him. They waved.
“What are you up to?” he asked. Perhaps he treated the angel like a child, but compared to him every living being on earth was a child. And Forgiveness certainly acted like one, even by mortal standards.
Pup bounded over, happily greeting Forgiveness with no awareness of decorum. Forgiveness laughed, patting him, and the mice in their burrow skittered away. Death watched them go with partial attention, most upon his hound.
“Behave, will you?”
That only got his hound to bound over to him. Death was glad he hadn’t made Pup with the ability to put slime all over him. For a canine type appearance, that would have certainly been what he would have done had he hidden within a mortal form. Pup had that ability, though Death hadn’t let him know that yet. Death wasn’t certain how he had managed that one, after all. He wasn’t sure why he would need it, either. Pup would probably just become more insufferable, with skin and hair.
Simplicity in the changing notes
Original in one’s own mind
Never to bloom in physicality
Growing instead inside
The hound that he could touch. The only thing “ALIVE” in his reach. The movement of the hound only was matched by the wind. The wind Death was certain was trying to spy on him as it carried his looming messages to those around. By the scent of him, the sound of him (or lack thereof)… what a deceitful wind. Death didn’t like it. There were times he thought it was funny, but right now he had taken himself out of the mood by paying attention to the few things he had to him.
Pup would have had his tongue lolling out of his mouth if he had had a tongue.
“You probably wish I gave you one of those, don’t you?” Death reached inside of Pup’s mouth, wrapping his fingers around a tooth and pretending to wiggle it.
The rest of the hound’s body thrashed, though his face remained still. Death scratched at the roof of his mouth, causing a shiver to run up Pup’s spine – something that was obvious when no flesh concealed the bone. Death blew a breath into his mouth and pulled back in time for the hound to sneeze.
“You don’t have anything that would allow you to do that, you weirdo,” he told his hound.
Death was done here and there was always more to do, but sometimes he couldn’t be bothered to be prompt. Not when he knew the inevitable. He would keep doing as he wished, but in his own way. He moved on from this battlefield to the next bunch of dying that he would save from their twisted torment.
It was Shu-fang’s fault the gods were so interested in her. She remembered it as though it were hidden behind a veil, where someone was shining a flashlight through the other side and into your eyes and you would tell them that wasn’t how it worked, that they needed to give you the flashlight so you could at least make out shadows, but the other person was insistent this was how it worked.
Meaning to say, Shu-fang didn’t remember the details, it had been a while. Plus, a whole lot of it blended together, like the weave of said veil.
The battles of mortals had all been the same. Fighting them had seemed important at the time, before she realized something important.
Mortal battles were sort of dumb.
There was a time she had thought they mattered. A cause that she believed in, a belief she shared. Maybe Shu-fang would have done better creating her own kingdom and fighting for herself, but the thought had never crossed her mind. Shu-fang didn’t think an immortal would make great choices for the rest of mankind. The gods were immortal and they sure didn’t. And despite everything, Shu-fang still considered herself human.