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“Okay, now what the hell is going on?’ I demanded.
The pair of us were outside of the school at this point. I didn’t see Mr. Smith as we left school, which was probably for the best considering how we had parted. Mary had taken me directly to a nearby park, and I was now sitting on a bench as she stood nearby, watching me with her arms crossed. She seemed to be considering something, but after being left in the dark, my patience had finally run out, and I spoke.
“I’m afraid to tell you too much.” She responded after a moment of silence.
“Afraid? Why are you afraid?” Trying to keep my voice from sounding too aggressive, even though I still felt very agitated after that encounter with my teacher.
She bit her lip, and as if finally making a decision, she gave herself a nod. “You deserve to know everything. However, before I return your memories, I want to tell you my story.”
“Your story… as a goddess?” Even mentioning such an absurd notion was difficult for me.
How could gods and goddesses be a thing? The only evidence I had was her words and Mr. Smith’s strange actions. Admittedly, he did seem to have some strange hold on me for a second, but that didn’t mean anything.
“A long time ago, when humanity was still young, human beings were basically animals.” Mary started to explain. “They were driven by one predominate impulse. They needed to survive and procreate. A certain god arose. You’d best understand his nature by the name, Harem.”
“Harem, the god?” My ears immediately perked up, especially considering the story my mother had said once before.
My mother’s status as a shrine maiden was possibly the only real reason I was even listening to this story. The other reason was the sincere look in Mary’s eyes.
“Yes… Harem, the god. But shortly after Harem’s birth came a goddess, you can call her NTR. She is the goddess of taking the ones you love from others. For many years, this became the way the world works. Men would try to play around with as many women as their status allowed. When a man saw a woman someone else had that he wanted, he’d do anything to obtain her. Women were treated like things, commodities to be passed around.
“Then, as society grew more civilized, I was born.”
“And you’re Marriage?”
“That is the name I associate myself with, although some call me Matrimony.” She nodded in affirmation. “You must understand that we represent a concept, and a name might not always perfectly encapsulate said concept. While it’s easy to see Harem as the God of Harems, he isn’t. It’d be more accurate to say he’s the god of gathering many lovers, or something to that effect.”
“Okay… so then what happened?’
“I… fell for Harem. It was hard not to. He was a charming God. He was manly and courageous. Many women fell for him. If they didn’t, he wouldn’t be Harem. However, I was the first woman that he loved back.”
“You and Harem were a thing?”
She smiled and nodded, looking like she was thinking about something from a long time ago. “We used to be close. I showed him the beauty of love, unity, and monogamy, and over time, we became the concept of traditional marriage.”
I frowned. “That doesn’t sound very healthy. I mean, Harem doesn’t go with monogamy.”
Her smile turned slightly bitter. “And therein lay the problem. It’s a problem that exists to this day. Men and women cheat on each other constantly. Men still have that drive to love a group of women, and even women find themselves looking elsewhere in otherwise unhappy marriages.”
“That’s caused by you?”
She sighed. “It isn’t like that. Society reflects heaven, and heaven reflects society. You could just as say we’re like it because society is like that. There is no cause and effect when it comes to the gods. We’re simply the personification of ideas.”
“Okay…” I shook my head. “Where does NTR come into this?”
“At the time, I blamed NTR for the reason we couldn’t be happy- his cheating, and my discontent, I thought they were because NTR introduced them into our relationship. So… I tried to bring her down. Over the years, I have turned NTR into a dirty word. She was broken apart. Her power distributed into three forms. I even put an edict in heaven… one that prevents her from reforming into NTR. Recently, that edict began to crack.”
“What changed?” I asked, frowning.
“You did…” She sighed. “I could tell you what you’ve already experienced, but it’d be better to just break the lock on your memory. Please, close your eyes and open your mind.”
“Okay.” For some reason, I trusted this girl.
She had always been kind to me and had never really gone out of her way to lie. She had protected me from Mr. Smith, and she was only looking out for my best interest. I closed my eyes.
“One last thing.” She said. “When your memory returns… I’m sure NTR has said many things about me. That is why this may be the last time you want to talk to me.”
“That’s impossible. Are you saying I was on NTR’s side?”
“Although we had never met, you probably didn’t have kind thoughts about me. So, I would like to ask. Can I kiss you?
“This might be my last chance to do it.” She responded. “I just wanted to try kissing you once, now that you are grown up. In case things go sour and you decide to send me away. I will restore your memory with a kiss.”
“F-fine…” I blushed, feeling a bit strange about giving a girl permission to kiss me.
As she leaned forward, pursing her soft lips, I completely forgot to close my eyes. Our lips pressed together, and I felt passion ignite within me. Just as I was about to wrap my arms around her, memories came flooding back in.
I recalled everything. My suicide attempt, Netori, Netorare, and Netorase, my sister, Akiko, Gina, and even more. As it all flooded back it, I was finally putting pieces together that hadn’t seemed to make sense for months. Even things I hadn’t thought much about suddenly made all too much sense. My eyes shot up to Mary. As she reached out for me, I pulled away without thinking about it. A hurt look appeared on her face, but she didn’t say anything as she put her arms carefully on her lap.
“So, you remember everything now?’ She asked quietly, looking down instead of at me.
“Yeah…” I responded, feeling choked up with emotion. “That was a lot of pain.”
“I’m sorry… I wish I could have left you without that pain,” she responded cautiously.
“It was Degenerate who took Netori?” I demanded, after a few moments of silence.
“It was…” Mary nodded sheepishly.
“Purgatory…” She answered quickly. “It’s a realm between heaven and earth. You’re probably familiar with it as the white light people see as they die.”
“Bring her back,” I demanded.
She looked away. “Even if I was willing, I’ve promised I wouldn’t.”
“Promised?” I started to feel some anger. “You’re the reason she’s in this mess! You got rid of her just so you could start to manipulate me yourself?”
“I-it’s not like that… maybe I wanted to get back at her, but I came here for you!” She responded tearfully.
“Ah… that’s right, you love me, for some reason.” I sneered. “Like I’d believe that! Did you think I’d be so naïve as to fall for you just because we went on a single date?”
“N-no…” She responded weakly, looking defeated. “It’s complicated…”
“Not for me. Netori is my goddess, not you! If you want to claim you have any feelings for me, you can start convincing me by bringing her back.”
“You’re poison! Aren’t you the one who wrecked Harem? Ms. Monogamy? A tyrant who turns men into your slaves?”
“I-is that really how you see me?”
“How else should I see you? Actions speak louder than words, and you’re still leaving her trapped.”
“You don’t get it! I can’t! I made a promise! A goddess’s promise is the law! I wouldn’t be able to do it no matter how I tried. Doing so would destroy me!”
The more my suppressed memories came bubbling to the surface, the angrier I got. It wasn’t even that Mary had done anything specifically wrong. I was just angry that I had been used. I was angry that Netori was gone. I was angry that my girls had been left suffering and confused for months. Perhaps, that all could have been dropped on Degeneracy, but it was Mary who was in front of me. The sisters all hated her, and I could feel it bubbling deep inside me from Netorare and Netorase now that the curse had been lifted.
Perhaps the thing that angered me the most was that this all could have been avoided if I had just taken the sister’s advice several months ago. She offered me a power called Godless. At the time, I had thought I needed my powers to succeed. However, I just didn’t realize that Netori’s protection wasn’t enough. Then again, would Godless even have worked? If Degeneracy could tear apart Netori’s defense, what hope did the Godless skill have? The only person I could ask right now was Mary, and I was in no condition to do that. My eyes ended up narrowing on her, causing Mary to shrink back a step.
“What game are you playing? What is your ploy here?”
She bit her lip, shaking her head slightly. “What did you expect? That I’d be some evil hag? Did you think I would be cruel and malicious? I represent the sanctity of marriage and love. I hate NTR, but can you blame me? She represents the destruction of the unity I desire. I was wrong for trying to be monogamous with Harem, but that was partially his decision as well. Believe it or not, I don’t hate polygamy. That’s just how things turned out.
“It turned out Harem isn’t the right god for me. His concept is too old and dated. It depends on a primordial need to spread his seed. He’s the Harem of old, a harem for sultans and cavemen. He’s tried to fill the role of Harem, but he’s ultimately failed and become a husk of his former self.”
“What are you saying?” All this talk about concepts and gods is difficult for someone like me to grasp.
“I’m saying that a new concept must be made. A new harem, one that is willing to adapt to a new world. That is what I want. Harem and NTR, they’re relics of a world that doesn’t exist anymore. You and I, we’re the future.” She reached out to grab my arm.
“We? What do I have to do with this?” I pulled away and avoided her grip.
“Didn’t she tell you? Netori? She didn’t tell you her grand plan?”
“What plan?” I demanded.
Mary shook her head, just a hint of anger on her face. “That woman… she’d actually go this far, and she wouldn’t even tell the truth.”
“What truth!” I nearly yelled as I reached out and grabbed her shoulders.
Mary looked up at me in the eyes, a strange look on her face. “Hakaru, cracking the seal and putting NTR back together is only part of Netori’s plan. The other part is you. She selected you since before you were born. You’ve been heading on this path your entire life.”
“Stop acting coy, just tell me!”
“You’re not NTR’s incubator. Rather, she is yours.” She responded. “Everything she has been doing, this game, it has all been to serve one purpose. Netori is trying to turn you into a god. You’re not here to defeat Harem. You’re here to become him!”