“Are you sure you’ll be all right, Chosen?”
The old man’s eyes were filled with worry. No, it’s not over her sake. He’s worried about his own faith, his own beliefs. With the worlds reunited, with the world no longer needing its Chosens, its goddesses, what did he have left to believe? What was his purpose? The Church of Martel would remain as it always has. But she could see the question lingering in his stare.
“I will be all right, Father. I’d just like to pray for a little while if that’s okay.”
He wanted answers, he hoped for answers, but Colette had none. Strange being on the other side of things like this. She remembered how often she looked to the priests for hope.
“Ah. Such a kind and dedicated young woman, even after everything.” There was guilt in his voice, a tiny twitch in his gaze. Even though a failed Chosen stood before him in a reborn world, it seemed to give him comfort. Like the old ways weren’t so wrong after all. Like he still had something to believe in. “I will be in my chambers for the night, resting. Please do not hesitate to knock if you need anything, Chosen.”
“I won’t,” Colette said politely. She would not need him. Not anymore. She felt no ill-will to the man. In fact, she even felt a small kinship with him. But at the same time, the memories before her journey swirled around at the sight of his robes, even in his cloudy eyes. It was difficult. This was why she came so late. She wanted to be alone.
He nodded to her, slowly making his way upstairs. Maybe Colette should have helped him up. A pang of guilt rang in her chest. She didn’t want to see him anymore. It was selfish of her, she knew. But after surviving her journey, she couldn’t help but feel selfish.
Colette sat before the statue of Martel as she had always done countless times in her life. She pressed her knees down upon a small cushion, keeping her head downward, averting the statue’s gaze.
It was a strange feeling, bowing before the ‘Goddess’ Martel. Colette knew, she had seen with her own eyes what Martel was, and what She became. She felt it even for a brief time.
So then why?
Why did she choose to pray to Martel? Martel was no goddess. She could not hear anyone’s prayers.
But something still stirred inside Colette’s chest, and her hands clasped before it. It was a yearning, a wanting, a needing. Goddess or no, Martel’s spirit still had inhabited her, had it not? Goddess or no, Martel was a woman who wanted nothing more than peace for this planet’s inhabitants, did She not? She truly did love everyone, did She not?
Sometimes, Colette just needed to fall back into her old routines. On these nights where sleep hid from her like a terrified pup, where questions nipped at the back of her mind, Goddess Martel soothed her. Colette could be herself with Martel, Colette could tell Her anything.
In her prayers, she could tell Martel how afraid she was. How so utterly terrified she was. How sometimes, the fear was so much, she felt her heart would burst before she could even make it to the end of her journey. Wouldn’t that have been so typical of Colette? To die to cowardice before she could even die in the right place…
But Martel was always here. Martel was always listening. She always cared. Where Colette could tell no one her feelings, there was always prayer. A warmth, just like those nights before, filled her chest again.
Colette dared to look up at the statue, her symbol of worship. The woman she willingly gave her life to.
Somehow it was still accurate to the real thing. Her tall slender body, the way Her hips curved, the soft hair draped at Her back. Colette had met the actual Martel after all. Or… something… like Her. She still wasn’t quite sure.
That Martel was beautiful. Just as beautiful as the statue. Just as beautiful as the Goddess in her mind. Colette felt a hitch in her breathing. It was so wonderful to see Her alive. To see Her just as stunning as she had always dreamed. The fear gnawing at her thoughts melted for the first time in her life.
The Goddess was real. Martel was real. All those days and nights praying, they weren’t wasted. She truly was here, She truly was listening, She truly cared.
And unlike Colette’s prayers in the day, her prayers at night, in her bedroom, were hers and hers alone. There, the Goddess Martel did not care how Colette prayed. There, Martel only cared for Colette.
Just like those nights, her mind swirled, her body was overburdened. Colette removed the clunky overcoat, breathing out a sigh of relief as cool air hit her skin. The statue did not mind. Martel, like always, accepted Colette. Martel understood all her burdens.
Pray for me however you like, Colette, she would hear the Goddess’s voice say. She heard it now. Was it just her own thoughts? Or was it really Martel? Did it matter?
Maybe it was a little risky to just be in her undershirt and pants like this in a public church. But it was late. The doors were locked for the night. The priest, like always, would be long gone to slumber. If there was one thing she knew with the priests, it’s that they were very methodical. They did not surprise her; they did not step out of line. They walked their path rigidly, never changing.
Colette would be safe. Martel was watching over her. Martel would protect her, like She always had.
She clasped her hands before her chest again, noting the softness of her undershirt, the thin fabric pressing against her lightly. It was times like these she could feel Martel’s love the most. It had been so long… Colette hadn’t prayed to Her for ages, afraid of nothing.
Afraid of the response being nothing that is. The feeling of nothing. Much like on her journey. When she felt herself turning into nothing. She felt nothing but Martel during those times.
She had clutched desperately onto the Goddess. It was all she had. It was the only thing she could feel. And against all the nothingness, against all cries of fear screaming in her skull, she felt Martel’s love, Martel’s embrace.
Colette could hardly understand. That voice inside her, that feeling inside her. It yearned to be heard, yet also despised its own existence. As if Martel knew what it meant to be heard. To be heard meant to silence another. Martel never wanted that.
So, She held onto Colette. She did what She could do for Colette. Even now, Colette felt Martel’s warmth building through her body, Her mana trickling across her legs like a warm river through a humid forest.
Martel was still here, wasn’t She? Even though She had come back, there was still a part of Martel inside Colette.
I’m here for you. It’s okay.
And like those nights, years ago, Colette had found her hands unclasped before her chest. Her fingers, just as before, between her legs, to the warmth, to that safety. Martel’s love enveloped her, quelled her fears of blasphemy, of self-doubt.
Martel’s body had always intrigued Colette. What other choice did she have? She spent what felt like a lifetime before Martel’s form, studying every part of Her, memorizing Her. Sometimes, her eyes wandered, sometimes her mind wandered…
Martel did not shy away from her gaze; She did not anger. She welcomed the chance to be free. That was what She wanted, right? To be free, to be awake, to let everyone know the same love She felt. Colette often, although ashamed, imagined the Goddess without Her robes. What did a Goddess need such trifling things for anyway?
Colette let out a tiny noise, breaking the spell of prayer. She kept one hand at her chest at least, clasping under her shirt, clutching the warmth, at that love inside her. Martel whispered through the wind, easing her worries, cooling her burning skin.
It was just too hot.
Colette removed her undershirt, tossing it in a heap with her other bulky clothes, along with her bra. She left herself bare before the Goddess, hoping, still hoping to be accepted for herself, for everything that she was.
Martel, Her kindness never faltering, held her close. Colette felt the kisses in the wind, in the mana across her exposed chest. Her fingers worked faster, her needs growing and growing, her selfishness rearing its ugly head again.
But Martel refused to let Colette worry over selfishness, offering selflessness instead. Her touches tingled across Colette’s body, reminding Colette of Her love, of their closeness. Something pushed Colette back gently. Maybe it was her own lust taking over, or maybe it was truly Martel, but she easily laid back against the cushion.
Her legs splayed outward towards Martel in such an indecent manner. Colette continued to work on herself, small hungry moans escaping her mouth. At some point she must have pulled her underwear down as she noticed it hanging loosely around her leg, in a haste to feel Martel’s love even faster.
It was overwhelming. But nothing like before. It wasn’t overwhelming fear, it wasn’t overwhelming nothingness. It was overwhelming love, overwhelming pleasure. She was sure that Martel was watching over her as she worked wet fingers against hungry lips. She could feel Martel in the air, in the mana, Her soft chest, so full of life and joy, pressing against Colette’s. Her fingers slipped inside easily, buzzing with the mana of the world.
Colette wouldn’t hide anymore. There was no need to. Her breathing came out in lust-filled gasps, her hands absentmindedly trailed over her nipples. Even as a blasphemous sweaty mess, Martel still held her tightly, still kissed Colette’s gasping lips, filling them with pleasure and light.
Like those long nights before, Colette came suddenly, her body bucking against her own fingers, her hips needing Martel’s. And Martel always, always, held her close, always kept her warm through it all.
Remnants of mana lingered between her fingers, a refreshing breeze blowing against hot sweat. Colette’s fingers still worked slowly, unashamed in her desires, even after finishing. Martel would not judge her, Martel was happy to receive Colette’s true self after all these years, after all this time. She could finally be Herself. She could finally be free.
When her eyelids felt heavy, and her chest, still so warm, slowed into relaxed breathing, Colette allowed herself a small rest, held by Martel’s embrace. She knew it couldn’t be forever. She knew day would come. But for now, she felt content to lay naked on the cold stone floor, the mana in the air rippling pleasantly through her, the wind whispering its sweet lullabies as she slept.
And just as before, the same winds also woke her up, shook her free of those forest filled dreams, of Martel’s kisses. It would be dawn soon. It wouldn’t do for her to be caught down here still praying. Of course, Martel didn’t mind, but She didn’t want Colette to suffer any undue embarrassment.
In the distance, early birds began their groggy chirping, rousing from their slumber, just as the rest of the world surely would. She quickly gathered up her things and dressed in a rush. She couldn’t believe what she had just done.
But it was okay. Martel was here. She was still watching over Colette. Even if she was still unsure of it all, she felt something in her chest, something beating with her heart. Whatever it was, she was glad she didn’t lose it.