An Intruder in the Garden of Eden

Two ladies in fashionable swimsuits were calmly lounging about the shores of the Gihon river, in the Garden of Eden.

It was a long, hot summer day in Tokyo, with temperatures exceeding forty degrees celsius. Typically this would be a prompt for the Liberators to seek out and fight some extremely heat bearing demon of the moment.

However, Xana is not a Liberator, or a human. A fact which is quite convenient for Gabriel, the overseer of the Garden of Eden. On orders from up high, she cannot let any children of Adam and Eve into the Garden. Xana is no such thing, which made Gabriel and Xana’s plans to take time off from the insufficiently air conditioned hideout all the more easier.

Xana was in a primarily black two piece with short sleeves, green highlights, and green straps circling about above her belly around the top. This was a compromise that Shiori Koden helped her settle on between Xana’s desire to go for a swim suit fitting her elven look, which could show off, and the need to avoid showing too much.

Gabriel was in a beautiful one piece, a frilly beige top with visible straps underneath and a necklace flowing into a copper dress from the torso to her thighs. Though Shionyan registered concerns that it might be a little too fancy compared to her summoner’s choice of dress, Xana enthusiastically approved of the attire as “not so nun-like” and Gabriel was too hot to ask the not so necessary follow up questions.

The two were left swimming about in the shade of the greenery, with Gabriel dutifully pulling out a sun umbrella on the occasion that Xana wanted to walk out in the light. It was unclear if Xana could get sunburnt, but Xana still had a preference for places as dark as the room where she’d spend her many hours playing Final Fantasy XIV.

As for the quality of their swimming, Xana was able to dog paddle. The land of the hollows didn’t have particularly deep bodies of water and Xana was reluctant to attempt any professional diving unprompted. Gabriel had been fond of flying, but at her summoner’s urging, would sometimes swim elegantly at a pace that didn’t exceed Xana’s own.

Snuggling within the privacy of the garden was easy. Kissing in the water was less so; both ladies determined that particular gesture was not as fun in real life as it looked in movies.

While the two were collecting sea shells in the water, a twig snapped in the distance.

Xana looked in the direction of the noise. White pillars marked the background between the greens, with flora and fauna both familiar and otherwise visible.

“Hey, Gabby. Does the garden have any giant… black… crows?”

“Not as far as most of God’s creations are concerned. Though…” Gabriel’s face changed its expression to one of irritation. “I’m aware of one oaf who might partially fit that description.”

A giant black wing was visible from behind a white pillar, looking not unlike a child who found an almost perfect hiding place on account of being unable to see their subjects. Gabriel called out to the form.

“MASTEMA! State your presence in this sacred realm.”

The black wing flew above to reveal two wings, attached to the figure of a gray man, donning a rectangular mask and a particularly fake looking halo, in black swim trunks.

“Archangel Gabriel. I was doing the Lord’s work of observing the stranger from a distance, to ensure that they were free of Sin.”

Gabriel’s tone remained formal. “Xana is with me, Mastema. She is a summoner with a righteous heart, and the mind to do what is necessary for our cause.” Xana looked up at Gabriel with an approving glance.

“Her presence here, as a life form that is not an offspring of Man, is none of your business.”

Mastema took a moment to parse Gabriel’s words, stroking his chin and crossing his legs in an inquisitive pose. “Interesting.” Mastema sized up Xana.

Gabriel was still unamused, physically putting herself between Xana and Mastema. “You’ve done quite enough of that. Is there something you would like to ask Xana?” Mastema looked a bit nervous at being called out. “Or,” Gabriel continued, “would you prefer to be introduced to the fastest way out of the Garden, at my command?”

“Hold on, Gabby.” Xana cut in on the conversation where she until now had little agency. “Isn’t this Einherjar’s silent yoga pants man? The tengu wannabe that dresses up like an angel? That slowpoke with the crow wings?”

Mastema was visibly flexing his arms and abs to try to make up for his deflated ego. “I… you must be mistaken, little one.” Doing Arnold curls with two stones he picked up by the water, he continued. “I am Mastema, the angel of persecution and hostility. A commander of demons, like yourself.”

Xana was not entirely unresponsive to Mastema’s posing, but remained as suspicious as Gabriel. “I suppose that’s kind of impressive. Did you come here to hit on me?” Xana crossed her arms.

Though he had considered himself a master manipulator and an angel in need of a promotion, Mastema hadn’t really thought through why he chose to spy on Xana and Gabby in the Garden of Eden. “I was considering, have you thought about becoming an angel?”

Both ladies could not contain their groans. Xana took point.

I’m already going through that process, thanks. And I don’t think I’d trust a lunk like you to check every box and dot every ‘i’ as well as Gabriel.”

“Alright, I see then.” Mastema considered an alternative approach. “Would you be receptive to spending time together?” As Xana mouthed the word “why”, Mastema kept going, “If we are going to be part of the same circle of divine, celestial beings, we might as well get to know each other.”

Gabriel turned to speak with Xana. “This one’s an unreliable messenger. Do not take him at his word.“ Gabriel’s expression changed from a stern, frosty face to a complexion of mild concern.

Xana put up a finger to her lips. “Hmm.” Contemplating Mastema’s face, his six pack, then back to staring straight into his eyes, she spoke, “You’re not as clever as you think, but you’re not dumb enough to be that threatening.” With hands at her sides, she continued, “Gabby says you’re a bad person, right?”

Mastema took offense. “I am showing people the way of the Lord in their own ways. Is that a sin?”

“Oh, that sucks. I really like bad boys.”

Mastema’s ears perked up. Gabriel frowned. Xana gave Gabriel an inquisitive look, then continued.

“Anyway, what I really want is to spend time with Gabriel right now. We’re busy doing pointless things. No boys allowed.“

“Understood.” Mastema saw the faintest hint of an opening. “Would you like to spend time tomorrow in Shamim?”

“Oh, we’ll sort out the details later. Here’s my phone number.” Xana took out a sharpie and messily scribbled it on his hand. “Call me next week, when the weather’s better, and maybe I’ll be in a better mood.”

“We could sort it out no-”

Losing patience, Gabriel struck Mastema with a red bolt of lightning. Xana turned to Gabby, “Is he dead?”

“Don’t you worry, Xana.” Gabriel gave a confident smile as she patted Xana’s head. “He’s been teleported to Ahrqa, a land far opposite from the Heavens. It should take him at least a week to get back to Earth.”

Gabriel was accounting for the amount of time it would take a lesser archangel to fight through the world of Makai before finding a way back to human lands. She had sufficient faith in his abilities.

“Well, nevertheless.” Xana crouched down to pick up something that caught her eye. “Oh, I think I’ve found one of those seashells that are rare on human beaches… this is called… the ‘Tiger’s Claw’?”

“Close! That’s the ‘Lion’s Paw’, yes. Perhaps named from the life of St. Jerome.” Xana’s empty stare reflected that she had been behind on her Bible studies, leading Gabriel to continue, “The Saint who once pulled a thorn from the paw of a fearsome lion. A chivalrous act that earned them a lifelong bodyguard for their valor.”

Xana speculated, “Mmm. I suppose shady folks could make for underrated companions.” Gabriel was not amused by this particular interpretation of Biblical events.

Xana continued, “But you’ll always watch out for me, and I’ll watch out for you. Is that right?”

Gabriel expressed a sigh of relief, then gave her a big hug. “Absolutely certain.”