Idols of All Kinds
The archangel Gabriel, for once in a long while wearing the guise of a human, bowed her head and clapped before the ruddy red offertory box before her. Her wavy black hair drooped past her shoulders into the box, and she quickly brushed it out and stood up. She turned to her friend, Xana, who had been watching and waiting behind her.
“Well, I’ve made my wish. Do you want to?” Gabriel offered, holding out a palm’s worth of 100-yen coins she’d earned from a day of collecting donations. Xana looked at the extended hand, then at Gabriel.
“I don’t really want to,” Xana said. “I’ve already had my wish granted. Besides, how do you know it’s going to turn out the way you wanted? This sort of thing could be just like the Aura Gate.”
Gabriel chuckled warmly. She kept her arm extended, though she noted that doing so was tiring — human muscles were generally not fond of such posture, something only Uriel had truly gotten used to. “It is much simpler than that, Xana. The Aura Gate has a specific, enormous power that drags in poor, lost souls with no resource than to wish for catastrophic change.”
Gabriel thought for a moment. She decided that she would lower her arm before walking over to Xana’s side, so as not to appear awkward. From there, she pointed out various parts of the shrine — the lanterns hanging over a booth of face-down paper fortunes with its own offertory boxes, the well-trimmed shrubs and trees, and the piles of a autumn leaves swept from its main path.
“Tell me, does this place at all resemble the world from which you come? It is disorganized just so, despite all best attempts. It is beautiful, but imperfect — fundamentally, it is human. Though watched over by deities large and small, it is no trap for the weak-willed as the Aura Gate is.”
Xana put one lip before the other, narrowing her eyes slightly. “The Aura Gate isn’t a trap. That’s just how it is. I don’t love it, but I think I understand its purpose better than you.”
Gabriel considered those words during a brief silence. Yes, it was likely that Xana was right — but she worried that Xana may have missed her point.
“But you’re right,” Xana soon said. “Whatever wish you make here, no one’s going to do it for you without some coins. Even then they might not do it. Some demons are seriously unreliable.”
“Yes, indeed,” Gabriel agreed, her smile once again blooming on her face like a flower in mid-spring. “That is why I patronize specific shrines, where their gods have proven to be virtuous and reliable.”
“‘Virtuous’?” Xana thought back to the summaries of the Bible she’d read on the Internet, and bits and pieces of history she’d learned from various sources. “Aren’t they more like false idols to you? I’m surprised you’d pray to anyone.”
“Ah,” Gabriel said, her smile shortening to something tighter, bounded towards the centre of her face. “Those stories serve as mere warnings, both to humans and demons. Once, we fought desperately to establish the Lord’s will in this world. Now, however, that war has changed. We have allies, those with whom we have reached an accord of peace.”
“Like Dx2s?” Xana surmised.
“Yes,” Gabriel said, “and many of Japan’s deities as well. There is no need for us to fight when we have so many common enemies. You have seen a true false god, haven’t you, Xana? The one known as the Demiurge.”
Xana tapped her foot, recalling the event Gabby mentioned clearly. “Yeah. It was a lot easier when everyone there realized it was a sham and they’re not helpless. Besides that he was just any other demon.”
Gabriel considered those words, as well. If the Demiurge had been “any other demon” to Xana, what about Gabriel herself? Surely not, she thought, as she seamlessly continued the conversation.
“At any rate, I wished for luck during our time together,” Gabriel explained to Xana. “Luck is one of those most useful assets that any being can have in the human world, and it is easily pooled from many sources. Any god might grant a bit of luck within their domain.”
“And what about God? Your God, I mean,” Xana asked. “Does he grant luck?”
Gabriel shook her head, though only slightly. “There is such a thing as providence, but His way is much closer to what you would call planning than to luck. There is little whimsy in it; if something is needed, his servants strive to see to it before that time comes.”
“Hmm, okay. So God really can’t do everything.” Xana peered back at the offertory box, and turned her attention away from Gabriel. “Alright. I’m going to try using this. Only one coin, though. I’m trying to save up…”
Despite Xana’s admittance that she was, ultimately, going to take from something Gabriel regarded as not unlike a tithe, Gabriel still gave her the 900 yen she had offered her a moment ago. Xana took it, and approached the shrine.
“Okay, gods,” Xana announced aloud. “I wish for things to be interesting. For me, Newbie, and everyone else.”
Gabriel stared. This process was just sacred enough for her not to interfere, but… was a wish like that truly going to be okay?