6:30pm Friday Evening.
Keiichi took advantage of the beautiful weather to go out to the garage and perform some much needed maintenance on his motorcycle. This was the first chance he had in quite a while to get his hands dirty fixing and tinkering with his trusty BMW. Besides the recent rainy weather, he was busy with temple chores, working as a mechanic at Chihiro Fujimi's Whirlwind motorcycle shop as well as taking the occasional part time job to pick up extra money on the side. Chihiro regarded Keiichi as a pretty good mechanic, and she tried to pay him a decent wage. But it wasn't quite enough to take care of all the maintenance of the expansive temple grounds, and the care and feeding of three goddesses took its toll. Skuld loved her ice cream, she devoured the premium brands by the pint, and Urd drank only the best sake. And that stuff wasn't cheap by any means. Add to the fact that Belldandy like most Japanese homemakers, went shopping every day for the freshest fruits and vegetables and only bought enough supplies to cook for a day or two at a time. So it was important that a steady flow of cash came into the household.
There were times in the early days at Tarikihongan, that Keiichi and Belldandy stared at the back of an empty refrigerator. But it always seemed that when the couple were at their bitter end, something would happen to get them by. Like the time when Keiichi's younger sister, Megumi came in from their hometown in Hokkaido, to apply to a college on the mainland. Keiichi wasn't too thrilled that his little sister had crashed the temple at a time when he and Belldandy were just getting to know each other and he was even less excited when Megumi told him that she was applying to his school, the Nekomi Institute of Technology. But the 40,000 yen she was carrying with her courtesy of their parents, father, Keima and mother,Takano softened the blow somewhat. Since then, Keiichi and Belldandy had always found a way to keep the temple running as smoothly as possible despite the occasional dust-up between Urd and Skuld.
Keiichi decided to adjust the bike's valves as well as top off the oil and give the BMW a good cleaning. Keiichi came from a family of mechanics and gearheads. Megumi was pretty good with a wrench in her hand, and his father, Keima despite being a glass blower by trade could find his way around a motorcycle better than some pros. While he was working, he thought about the adventures he'd had with this old Beemer. It was this bike that he used to find a new home for him and Bell when he got kicked out of the dorm. When Keima and Takano visited the temple from Hokkaido, he and his father continued the series of races they had since Keiichi was a young boy. He had to remove the sidecar and rework the suspension in order to make the bike safe for solo use. He had never been able to best his father, but this last time, he drew even. He vowed that one day he would beat the old man. Even though the Beemer had the propensity to break down at the worst times, it was still a fairly reliable old classic that took him and Belldandy anywhere they wanted to go.
Keiichi had just finished adjusting the valves and was just about ready to check the oil when he heard Belldandy call him from the porch.
“Keiichi, Dinners ready.”
“Ok, Belldandy. Be right there.”
He wheeled the bike back into the garage, and hurried into the Tea Room which doubled as the communal dining space, as well as Belldandy's room. He washed his hands and sat down at the low table just in time to see Belldandy bring in the large pot of fish stew she had made. It smelled heavenly. As did all of Bell's cooking. She put the steaming pot on the table and hustled back to the kitchen to prepare the tea. Darjeeling, Bell's favorite. Keiichi ladled some of the stew into a bowl, spooned some rice into it, and tasted. Of course, he knew that it was going to taste good. This is Belldandy's cooking after all. But even he didn't expect the explosion of flavors that erupted in his mouth from that first spoonful. The marriage of ingredients was perfection. The fresh seafood cooked just right, not rubbery or flaky. The vegetables picked at the top of their freshness. Even the spices added just the right amount of zing without overcoming the delicate flavor of the fish. Keiichi had many great dishes since Belldandy came into his life, but this simple stew was head and shoulders above the rest.
A perfect meal served by a perfect goddess.
“So Keiichi, how is the stew?”
Keiichi looked up to see Belldandy sitting across the table from him, an inquiring look on her face. Her porcelain skin perfectly complementing the sundress. Not a hair out of place, the 3 strands rising from the top front of her head like a fountain. Her deep ocean-blue eyes, her dainty lips. That vision coupled with the magnificent stew emboldened him. He wanted so bad just to touch her, to hold her and to look into those eyes and kiss those lips. He started to lean over the table reaching out his arms to embrace his goddess when a familiar and very unwelcome screech shook him from his reverie.
“KEIICHI, STOP OGLING AT MY SISTER LIKE THAT!!!!”
Damn you, Skuld!
Bell's younger sister, Skuld came bounding into the Tea Room upon seeing this latest assault on her big sister's virtue. A Goddess Second Class, First Category, Limited License, Skuld made it her mission to keep Keiichi and Belldandy apart as much as possible. It was an outbreak of heavenly bugs: eight-legged rabbit-like creatures that brought the petite raven-haired goddess to earth. She, Urd, and Belldandy had a hell of a time trying to get rid of the constantly multiplying bugs. And it was only after the use of some of Skuld's outlandish inventions as well as Urd's command of lightning coupled with a lecture or two about singularities, black holes and how multi-dimensional beings can be visible to 3 dimensional humans, that the trio were able to send the bugs back to heaven. Skuld decided to stay on earth to keep an eye on Keiichi and Belldandy to make sure that the bugs didn't come back. But of course, that was also the perfect excuse to meddle in Keiichi and Bell's business.
While Urd and Belldandy were fully fledged goddesses capable of wielding tremendous amounts of magical power, and having a high degree of command over their goddess abilities, Skuld was just coming into her power. It had only been since a boy her age named Sentaro came into her life and befriended her, that she was able to muster even the lowest levels of power. Skuld's strengths lie in her inventions. She had this innate ability to create complex contraptions seemingly from out of nowhere. Most of the time her inventions worked, but not always as she expected them. She also had the ability to perform highly complicated math problems that would leave her sisters guessing. Belldandy tried to convince Skuld in her own way to rely less on her inventions and more on developing her magical powers, but that approach only provided mixed results.
But now, Skuld was intent on making sure that Keiichi didn't get his grubby paws on her beloved big sister Belldandy. She reached under her blouse to grab a Skuld-bomb and pitch it at Keiichi when the oldest of the goddess trio floated into the room.
Long flowing platinum hair. Skin like milk chocolate. Dressed in a skintight miniskirt with enough cleavage for ten women. Urd was the complete antithesis to Belldandy. While Bell was even-tempered, thoughtful, stable and kind, Urd was moody, had a Machiavellian streak a mile wide and very unpredictable. Belldandy always made sure that she dressed in a manner that balanced her femininity and her modest conservative nature. Urd was an honors graduate of the “If You Got It, Flaunt It” school of fashion. There was very little in her wardrobe that wasn't too short, too tight or too low cut, and a good bit of it was all three.
Urd believed completely in the ends justifying the means, however she sometimes got so wrapped up in the means that she lost track of the ends. She was fiercely protective of her sisters. It was because of that desire that she refused elevation to Goddess First Class despite showing clear evidence of having the power and the ability to control that power required of a First Class Goddess. Urd had a tendency to lie. And she believed that sometimes it was necessary to lie in order to protect Belldandy and Skuld. And Heaven forbade First Class Goddesses from telling lies. So Urd was content to remain a Second Class Goddess.
On the whole, Urd could be quite charming when she wanted to be. But there were times when it was difficult to determine what her agenda was. She came to earth in an effort to jump start Keiichi and Belldandy's relationship. Urd had always maintained that Keiichi was not being aggressive enough in moving the relationship along to a more “adult” level. And she had used her vast knowledge of potions to manipulate Keiichi and Belldandy's libidos more than a few times, but they never seemed to work. Keiichi was especially resistant to Urd's charms. It just seemed that Kei and Bell were going to move the relationship along only as fast as it suited them, and there wasn't anything that anyone could do about it. But that didn't stop Urd from trying.
Urd floated into the room. “Skuld, put that away. No one's in the mood to put up with your bomb throwing today” she said with a hint of boredom in her voice.
Skuld put the bomb down with a little more force than was necessary and with an indignant look, said “Humph, You're just mad that I beat you in Goddess Poker!!”
Urd retorted “How hard is it for YOU to win in a game that YOU invented, and in which YOU kept making up the rules as we went along?”
She had a point, but Skuld refused to back down. “ That's no excuse!! If you can't adapt, it's not my fault.”
Urd was about to respond, but Keiichi interrupted “ Ok, you two, can you please settle down and carry your argument elsewhere?, it's dinner time, and I'd like a little peace at the table.
Both sisters looked at him with a hint of anger but decided not to pursue the matter further.
Urd took a sniff at the stew and said “ My, Belldandy really outdid herself today. It smells yummy!”
Keiichi said “Yeah, it's great.” through a mouthful of fish.
Skuld piped up “ You say that about everything Belldandy cooks.”
“And it's true.”
Urd went over to the liquor cabinet and pulled out a bottle of sake. She popped the cork, took a long pull out of the bottle, and said, “Well, can't have a good meal without a drink to go with it.” She grabbed two glasses and poured a shot for her and Keiichi.
Belldandy asked once again about the stew “ Well, Keiichi?”
He looked into her eyes and said “ It was absolutely perfect. just like you.” And he reached across the table and gave Belldandy a very big hug. Skuld stared daggers at the couple and Kei could literally see the smoke coming out of the little goddess's ears, but he didn't care. He was in the arms of HIS goddess and he wasn't going to be denied. As he held Bell, he felt both their hearts beating as one, in perfect unison. Her touch was so soft, her warmth completely enveloped him. Keiichi could actually feel Bell's goddess powers simmering within her. He wanted to kiss her, but he just couldn't bring himself to do it.
And that was his frustration. Beyond holding hands and the occasional hug, he was not able to become more intimate with Belldandy. He knew that Bell was not ready to take the relationship to a sexual level, and he respected her feelings on the matter. He just wished that they could move from the “elementary school” level of romance to a middle ground between full-on intimacy and their current state. What was stopping him? Was Bell ready to move along and she was just waiting for him to take the lead? Was he afraid that she would be offended and accuse him of moving faster than she wanted if he took a more aggressive approach? Either way, this paralysis by analysis was getting him nowhere. And Bell could feel it as they released from their embrace. She looked at him with concern. “Keiichi, is something wrong?”
Damn, Keiichi thought, she's too good at reading my aura.
“No, Belldandy, nothing's wrong. This stew is wonderful, just like everything you make.”
“Thank you, Keiichi. I'm so glad you liked it.” And then she reached over the table and gave Keiichi a kiss on the cheek, which cause him to blush a very deep red.
Skuld looked at Urd and asked “What was that all about?”
Urd responded “ I have no idea.”