Duty

“Ademia.” A soft voice – gentle and serene rang out within the pristine marble walls. A huge contrast to the pinkish-white blur that immediately shot straight into the throne room through its many open-arched windows. Soon enough, it materialized itself at the foot of the throne as a Cupid kneeling down with her head bowed down reverently. 

“Yes, Goddess Eros?” Ademia asked. 

“Do you feel it, my child? The empty sorrow that has befallen many of our children? That puerile Poseidon and his tantrums.” The furrowing of Eros’s brows though minute spoked volumes about her displeasure. 

“I do, my Goddess.” And felt it she did; the crushing weight within her heart as a hundred people trapped in the rubble prayed for the well-being of their loved ones or to see their faces one more time. 

“Go to them, my child. Mend their hearts. Help them to find their beloved.” She was gone the moment she received permission to assist them, never hearing what else Eros had to say. Such was her devotion to her duty that even Eros herself could not fault her for her transgression. With a tired sigh, Eros went back to focusing her strength towards reinforcing the thread of fate that linked the victims and the survivors. For so long as she could use their love for another to extend their life, Atropos’s scissors would break. But for how long until before love is depleted and turned into grief however, rested on Ademia herself. 

Eventually, she felt Ademia’s presence disappear as she flew down from Olympia towards the affected city. 

____ 

Ademia had no trouble pinpointing the specific city which she was tasked with. After all, very few cities dotted the coastline with how temperamental Poseidon could be at times. And even fewer was as badly affected as her target had only been recently founded in honour of a crowned king she couldn’t be bothered with. Had the king done something to displease Poseidon? Had he forgotten to whom he owed his crown to? Meaningless questions which did nothing to ease the suffering of the common people was all that Ademia could come up with as she neared her destination.  

Upon catching sight of the city, Ademia made her presence known by flying low. After all, it was unheard of for scavengers such as Harpies and the like to exploit such situations. Her arrival easily lifted the spirit the mood of citizens, the tangible grief in the atmosphere dissipated into hope upon her arrival. Upon being sure that her presence was known, she quickly took to the skies again. 

Circling around the city allowed Ademia a good understanding of the situation. Her unparalleled view allowed her an easier assessment to the devastation wrought by the flood and help direct resources towards areas which took a harder hit. But that’s not all she saw. 

Through her powers as a disciple of Eros herself, Ademia could easily see the threads of fate which linked families and loved ones together. More than that, she could see the gentle glow as Eros herself blessed that very link. 

With this, she easily directed the relief efforts towards the countless victims trapped in the debris and inwardly beamed with joy as they became reunited, the threads glowing brighter as a result. 

As the last few survivors were being rescued, the sun had begun to cast a long shadow as the village elders debated and finally agreed to hold a feast cum funeral to honour the departed and to praise Eros for answering their prayers. One in particular was adamant that she even participated. Not wanting to cause a scene and sour the mood, Ademia agreed to join the feast in Eros’s name. 

And praise Eros they did. All except a small child who had barely seen a dozen years at most. The only person to have unfortunately become an orphan as help came too late. Even as the child tried his best to disappear from the crowd and hide his presence, it only served to make him all the more noticeable to emia who was sensitive to the emotions of those around her. If anything, it made him stand out all the more. Perhaps it was due to the warm atmosphere emitted by the thankful villagers or the fragile heart of a child that made his sorrow all the more poignant to Ademia as she gazed upon him; A wilted flower in a blooming garden. A broken heart.  

“Mend their hearts.”  

Eros herself had said that alongside something else she failed to hear. Her very purpose, the literal reason Cupids were created was to help others find love – to fill it with joy and devotion. Untold centuries she carried it out dutifully to the point that it was all she knew. Day in and day out to care for others and help them fix their hearts. What other purpose was there for a Cupid who could not fulfill the very reason for their existence? And so, as if controlled like a puppet, Ademia went ahead to fulfill her duty once more without hesitation. 

Excusing herself from the crowd, Ademia made to approach the boy. However, if a person was trying his best to stand out from the crowd – to go unnoticed, it stands to reason that they would be all the more sensitive to people keeping an eye out on them. And just as Ademia made the first step to the boy with her eyes firmly locked on him, the boy immediately took a step back as his instincts directed his gaze on her. 

A second passed as they continued staring at one another. Another step forward was soon met with a step back. Ademia may have been no Atalante when it came to running but who needed to when you could fly? But was that really the way the comfort a grieving boy left to fend for himself in an age as violent and fickle such as this? If anything, seeing a creature of Divinity flying straight at you would only promote further fear which the people were still recovering from. She needed a new plan; a different angle. A trap then, something subtle. To corner the boy and approach him from there. 

And so, turning her back towards the boy, Ademia walked away, disappearing from view but still focusing the inner turmoil within the child as she waited for the fires to fade and the feast to die down as the people retired for the night.  

Lady Tyche had blessed her with good fortune that night as it didn’t take too long for it to happen. A combination of emotional and physical exhaustion would easily take its toll on any mortal. 

Letting her senses guide her, Ademia made her way towards the boy’s new residence. With a gentle knock, the door was soon opened by a rather drowsy looking individual. From the wine or from sleep, she knew not but what she did know was how the person – now identified as a familiar old man – the one who was oddly insistent on her taking part in the feast, stiffened upon seeing her ethereal beauty up close. Only the privileged few – the landed elites, for example, had the time to maintain their appearance. That and divine entities.   

With his widened eyes and straightened posture, Ademia could easily see the similarities between him and the boy. For starters, they shared the same uncommon eye colour. An extended family member perhaps. Either way, the first step was for Ademia to fulfill her duty and to do that she first needed to gain access into the house. With a picture-perfect bow, Ademia introduced herself out of etiquiette. 

“A very good evening to you, sir.” Followed by her standing back up, her gentle yet empty eyes resting on his as she made to open her mouth and give her name before being interrupted.   

“Y-yes, a good evening indeed. Forgive me Herald of Eros but I was about to go sleep.” He uttered a reply. A bit too quickly she noticed. Was he intimidated? Nervous? Not often will a mortal meet an extension of the Gods they venerate.   

“Ademia. Please, call me Ademia.” she gently offered her name, tilting her head and adding a small smile as she did so to appear as innocent and safe as possible to the man.   

“Ah, y-yes,” he answered in a sheepish tone as if realizing he made a mistake, “N-Nikolas. My name is Nikolas. Can I help you with anything?” He asked 

“Yes. I understand that you are looking after a boy.” While she still had control of the conversation, Ademia subtly moved closer to the door leaving Nikolas to move out of the way on reflex as she made her way in. 

“Boy? You mean Demetrius?” 

“Demetrius.” She thought to herself, curious to see how the name would sound like if it rolled off her tounge. It was a regal name considering how it was based of the Goddess of Agriculture, Demeter. 

“Yes, I’ve been informed that he is in your care?” A pointless question but one asked to prevent rousing any suspicion. Now that she’s inside the house, she needed to meet the boy; Alone preferably. Much easier to achieve the latter if Nikolas was comfortable with her presence. Face to face, she could easily detect his lingering apprehension. 

“He is Lady Ademia… My grandson to be precise.” He confirmed before supplementing the fact that he was his grandfather when Ademia raised her brows as if asking him to explain further. 

Hmm… perhaps we should continue this conversation somewhere more comfortable?” Standing a full head taller than the man, it would make him all the more comfortable if the man didn’t have always turn his head up, she reasoned, noticing how the festering fear within the man’s heart was starting to diminish upon her suggestion. 

“Of course, of course. I’ll prepare some water for you.” A meaningless proposition for the natural mana around them was enough to sustain her. Experience however had taught her how easily humans would be awed yet frightened by their supposed immortality and so, she played along. 

It took a few minutes for the pair to settle down in the dining area. The silence as Nikolas prepared to host his guest was appreciated as one took the time digest what had happened thus far while the other planned her next move. 

Just as Ademia finished making herself comfortable on the seat, Nikolas approached her with a pair of mugs on one hand and a pitcher in the other. Taking the seat opposite of her, he poured both cups before facing her. 

As Ademia was trying to find a good angle to start the conversation, Nikolas already had something to voice out as a sombre mood overtook him. 

“I’m not surprised you’re here to be honest. Lots of stories surrounding people like you; people saying things like how you can feel a person’s true heart and emotion. Guess they’re all true, huh.” He finished with a weary smile. 

Ademia’s interest was piqued as she leaned slightly towards him with brows furrowed. What was the man implying? If anything, it sounded as if he was happy that she was here. Was her initial assessment of her divinity being the root cause of the man’s fear and doubt incorrect then? Was he actually hoping that she would come to him? 

With a heavy sigh, he began talking. “This body of mine isn’t as spry as it used to be with all that’s happened. My children and their children were swept away in Poseidon’s rage. At the twilight of my years. How could I take care of a child so young an age?” On and one the man ranted as he let go of his worries and fear. By now the man was resting his forehead on both of his palm as he bore his gaze onto the wooden table, expecting it to give him an answer to his problem. “I doubt anyone here would be willing to take care of him when everyone has their hands full this coming harvest.” 

And there was the crux of the issue Ademia realized.  

‘- anyone here’ 

Ademia had an inkling of what the elderly man wanted. He wanted her to take care of Demetrius in his stead. All of this… the funeral, the feast and his peculiar request that she take part in such activities… all to take care of his grandson 

Her duty was to mend the hearts of the broken after all. But how would taking care of a child even mend his heart? The boy wanted his family but they were gone. She had initially thought of offering the boy to another family as an adopted child but if what the man before her said was true, that would mean that no one was willing to adopt him ergo she would have failed her duty as it resulted in an orphan with no place to go.  

She could just reject him of course. Nothing was stopping her from listening to his request. She had time to find an alternate solution for the boy. Someone else could take care of Demetrius. A different village perhaps in need of an extra hand or perhaps a priesthood in need of more followers. Some of the Gods were greedy after all but they would have made him feel welcomed and accepted. 

But it didn’t take a genius to figure how devastated the man would be if she did reject his plea. Once more, it meant that she failed her duty if she rejected him. She wanted to scream at it all. At being forced into such a difficult and unfair position. Mend the heart of one child and forego the others or vice versa? It left a bad taste in her mouth as neither was favourable. 

Clicking her tongue in annoyance, she made her decision. 

“I want you to take care of Deme-” Nikolas had continued, unaware of the turmoil Ademia went through. 

“Fine.” She interrupted. She didn’t even elaborate except for that one single word. If Nikolas had detected her irritation from such an answer, he didn’t show it. Instead, he gave his own reply back. 

“Thank you. Truly.” He told her. “It would take a while before the sun rises and Demetrius has had a long night. I have a guest room for you if you’re so inclined to use it.” Nikolas offered as he went back to the role of a host. With nothing left on her agenda, Ademia accepted the offer. Retiring to her room, Ademia closed her eyes and let herself drift into unconsciousness as her favourite activity had finally come. An activity where she could finally let everything go and worry about nothing. 

Hours later, it wouldn’t be the excited laughing of her sisters in Olympia or the beautiful chirping of Gaia’s children that would wake her but instead, a beautiful aroma wafting from the kitchen if memory served her well. Washing her face with the basin that was provided, Ademia followed the scent to sate her curiosity. 

Find herself in the kitchen, Ademia was greeted to the sight of the dinner table already prepared for two. More curious however was the sight of countless bread of different shapes and sizes in a basket. Following the breadcrumbs on the floor, she rested her eyes on Demetrius himself as he was mixing some batter in a bowl before resting it on the table and opening the oven beside him. 

Tentatively with his leather gloves, she saw him pulling out a tray filled with even more bread. The steam that came from the oven confirmed her suspicion as if it wasn’t obvious enough. He was the one responsible for all this. With a pair of tongs, he began to place them on a separate wicker basket before placing a piece of fabric over them. It was only when he turned around that he spotted her. 

“Ah.” That was his elegant response as he stood there rooted to the ground from shock. 

“Hm…” That was her equally elegant reply as she wondered how a boy so young could bake so well. 

“W-Where’s grandad?” He finally mustered the courage to ask.  

“Was stuttering a family trait?” Ademia thought to herself before replying to his question. “In bed I’d assume. He invited me to take care of you.” Answering the question Demetrius most likely had. 

“Why did you bake so much?” Ademia questioned. It was enough to feed a small family after all. 

“It’s for the neighbours… Mom always said that everyone loves a full stomach. I thought I could thank grandad for taking me in. I didn’t know what he liked so I baked everything Mom taught me.” Was the reply that came as he made his way towards the table to place the rest of the bread. 

“And the one in the basket?” It seemed a bit weird for him to place them at the side when all of the food was already on the table and that there was still space. 

The silence that followed diverted Ademia’s attention away from the food and towards him. Where he once he stood confident as he baked, to being nervous upon noticing her, he was now in a different stage as he began fidgeting and mumbling to himself. 

“….”  

Even with her divine attribute, she could not hear him. Approaching the boy, she kneeled down on one knee and placed a gentle hand on his head. “Speak up, Demetrius. Your parents blessed you with a beautiful voice and it’d be a shame if people couldn’t hear it with how soft you speak.” 

The use of his name and the compliment startled the boy for he did not know that she knew his name nor was he used to being complimented. However, it did the trick. “I-It’s for you. As thanks for helping us out with everything that’s happened.” Refusing to meet her eyes as he spoke louder. 

Now it was Ademia’s turn to be speechless. Through all the decades if not centuries, not once did she recall ever being gifted or thanked in appreciation. It filled her with a peculiar feeling. A feeling she first felt when she helped her first human. A sense of joy and fulfillment she would never forget. She couldn’t stop the smile that broke out by itself as well as memories of a beautiful past. A past where she laughed merrily with the humans. A past where she helped others and was helped in turn. A past where her smile and enthusiasm was greeted in kind. A past she had long forgotten as she went through the pace trying to fulfill her duty – her only purpose in life. The nostalgia caused a tear to trickle down. 

For poor Demetrius, the smile of a Cupid left him in awe. The once ice-cold shell broke to reveal why she was truly an angel of Eros. Just being around her was enough to make him remember the love his parents gave to him. 

Just as she was about to thank him for his generosity, Ademia noticed a red thread hanging limply on the floor. Her attention was completely fixated on it enough so that even Demetrius turned his head towards it. 

“What’s wrong? You don’t have to worry about the mess. I’ll clean it up later.” Demetrius explained hoping it would ease Ademia’s increasingly concerned expression. It didn’t. Rather, it did the complete opposite as she immediately bolted out of the room, alternating her attention on the floor and in front of her. Following her impulsively, he noticed that she was headed towards his grandad’s room. As soon as he caught up with her, it was to be greeted with a sight of Ademia placing a delicate hand on Nikolas’s still chest as he lay peacefully on the bed with a content expression.  

Breakfast was soon forgotten as the neighbours helped with the requisite arrangements and everything soon became a blur. By nighttime, it served as an impromptu dinner for young Demetrius. Ademia was never far from his side. Night soon turned to day and Demetrius soon found himself by his grandad’s grave. Many questions filtered through his head as he tried to find a reason.  

He gave up looking for one when Ademia placed her hand on his head again and the dam broke for Demetrius as he desperately clung onto Ademia. The only adult left that he knew. Unbeknownst to him, Ademia herself was having trouble finding ways in trying to comfort the bo-… No, trying to comfort Demetrius. She had a duty to fulfill and a promise to keep. But strangely enough, this new sense of purpose had invigorated her.  

Once upon a time she was just as enthusiastic and proud to serve as a Cupid of Eros. Overtime however it became monochromatic as people went and go only praying for her when she was needed. Demetrius however still remembered her deeds after the event and took the time to thank her on a personal level. The least she could do was to raise Demetrius up properly. Demetrius reminded her that there were still people out there worth helping. Once, she did only because it was the only thing she knew to do. Now however, she was helping someone because she actually wanted to. Not out of duty or a sense of purpose but simply because. 

“Come, let’s go back home.” She told Demetrius, kneeling down as she did so. Expecting her to hold his hand, Demetrius was instead shocked to find himself being carried bridal style by the Cupid as he let out a yelp. 

“I thought we were just going home!” Demetrius exclaimed as he hugged Ademia tightly. 

“We are.” Ademia replied matter-of-factly her face maintaining that professional demeanor when he first saw her in the feast. As soon as she finished speaking, Ademia unfurled her wings and took to the sky – towards Olympia. Only when they found themselves alone did Ademia turned to face him. And with it, the heavenly smile that caught him when he offered bread to her. The angel he saw back home was back. 

“Your new home. That’s where we are going.” This time replying warmly, smiling at him as she did so. Ademia only hoped that Eros wouldn’t mind having a guest for an indefinite period of time. If anything, she planned to head straight to her to prevent any misunderstanding and receive her approval. 

Unlike the flight before, this one felt short as she had a companion to spend the time with. Soon, Ademia found herself flying into Eros’s throne room ignoring the whispers and giggles of her sisters as she did so. A sense of déjà vu assaulted here once she made an abrupt landing by the foot of the throne. 

She was greeted with the sight of Eros sitting nonchalantly holding a sickeningly dull thread of fate on one hand and a bright, healthy red on the other, observing both with interest. Setting Demetrius down, he followed Ademia’s example and knelt down as the Cupid addressed her Goddess. 

“Goddess Eros. I-” 

“Granted.” Was the reply that came before she even realized it. 

“M-My Goddess?” Ademia uttered, chastising herself for picking up Demetrius’s habit of stuttering when in an unusual predicament. How? How did she know what she wanted to say? That was the question Ademia wanted to ask. 

“My child. I am a Goddess. I see everything.” Eros herself replied as if discussing an everyday topic, not knowing how the weight of such words was affecting young Demetrius who was being overwhelmed by such information if the slight quivering was anything to go by. Not missing a beat, Eros continued, eyes still fixated on the thread by her hands. 

“My handmaidens will see to his accommodations. You can follow him soon after, Ademia. For now, I wish to speak with you.” She spoke in a tone that left no room for argument. 

Sure enough, a pair of Cupid’s in far regal clothing that Ademia’s escorted Demetrius through the door and towards the living quarters. From where she was, Ademia could see Demetrius’s nerves returning the further he was from Eros. And how he was casting pleading gazes towards her. He clearly wanted to be with her instead. 

As the door closed by itself, Ademia turned towards Eros who now fixed her attention on her. 

“If you really saw everything, you would have saved them. Prevented the tragedy. So how did you really know?” She asked, still kneeling. 

“What do you see, my child?” Eros replied, lifting both threads on either hand so that Ademia could understand what she was referring to. 

“Threads of fate – They represent everyone’s lifespan. A blessing allows us to understand the hearts of others through these threads. Love, emotions, passion, these are all things which can further strengthen such these threads and let humans live longer.” She answered, giving the textbook explanation ingrained in all Cupids. 

“Indeed.” Eros reclined back in her seat before continuing. “Once upon a time there was a person who neglected themself. Blinded into doing the only thing they knew what to do because it was the only thing they knew to do. It worried me, really.” 

This felt familiar to Ademia. Where was she going with this? 

“Imagine my shock when I see it return to such a beautiful shade filled with such joy. The last time I saw such a shade, she just began her duties and found joy in helping others. When she first stepped into this world and saw its many wonders. It was what fueled her. What made her happy. To see others happy and to see the very same people returning the favour.” 

Ademia didn’t need any other clue as stood up in realization. She knew who Eros was referring to. 

“It is a beautiful thing indeed to love and help others, my child. But promise me that you’ll love and help yourself just as much as you’d do the same for others? Otherwise, you’d only up killing yourself… Not alive yet still living.” Eros requested with a pleading expression. 

Ademia nodded. “I promise mother. I won’t lose sight of myself again.” 

“Ah” Eros’s thought to herself. How long since she had referred to her so casually. 

“Go then, enjoy yourself. For humans, every time is precious. And I’m sure young Demetrius would like to spend his with you.” 

“Of course, mother.” And with that, Ademia went back to her room looking forward to what the morrow might bring with the young boy. She still had yet to taste his bread freshly baked after all. 

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