Author's Note: Initially inspired by a friend who lives in Japan. Excellent idea, EC.

Leonid's father urged him into the brass hallway with a rigid, lifeless shove into the shoulder. The boy had reservations about this moment; anxieties, mortification that gripped him. It was a custom of his people, that much he understood, yet he wondered that if the other boys had also felt so very claustrophobic walking down the hall, gripped on both sides by delicately-carved imagery of mankind fostering their rule on their world. Had they felt normal, as if tradition alone was enough to dispel that core-sinking strangeness of losing one's virginity to a goddess?

On and on his father Titus, at Leonid's side, spouted about how the boy was a burgeoning man. He told happily about the great things he was soon to learn, what mystic and ancient understandings would be given to him from the great tessellate libraries, or what pleasures he was soon to receive as a member of the greatest society that ever existed. Yet Leonid remained obstinate, offering his loquacious father the responses of all those attempting to ignore another: mhm, yeah, okay, a nod of the head, a grunt, anything to keep him from realizing that his words held no weight.

"You know why they're here. This is your birthright as a human being. It's revenge, my son Leonid." Pure gravel came from the mouth of his father, towered over by a booming and prideful cadence. Somehow it stung to know that his father's conviction was so unwavering; something in Leonid's stomach coiled at each elegant yet boisterous syllable. He wondered if his grandfather had the very same hubris, and passed it on to Titus-and furthermore he brooded over how he reacted in such an utterly distinct manner to the praise of his civilization. On and on his father went, boasting, singing.

Sweat formed at his palms as he remembered again why he had come here. The constant affirmation from his father didn't help quell the booming thud of his heartbeat. It certainly did nothing to fade the anxieties he had about sex in general. Anticipation shuddered his whole form as his mind began to race. This goddess would be the first of his most intimate interactions. He had always held the conviction to please his first mate, but was there any point to fussing over pleasing her, if she was a slave to humanity? What form would she take to please him? How would she know? By the grace of mankind, he prayed that he hadn't any need to inform her specifically. He'd have to swallow the lump in his throat; tell her to look like Asui, to put a golden-laced bow in her hair. . .

It wasn't long before Leonid noticed that he hadn't been breathing. A brief but forceful exhale pushed a stream of caught air out of his lungs, and following it a cycle of palpitating, shivering breaths. It was far too much to bear to imagine her, lying there among silk and velvet sheets, cornered by luxurious jade and gold, the slopes of her robust body forming an arch in the bedding upon which she laid lazily, waiting. These erotic visions twisted inside him, churned until being subsumed by guilt and shame. A second voice, the one he trusted, called to him that he was perverse, a dishonor to his ancestors, but most of all that the thoughts were immoral, an objectionable manifestation of his inner subconscious. His seeds of primal instinct pounded his heart beneath his robes, wrought the fantasies of Asui beckoning him softly from across-

Hail mankind, he was nearing the door. Ten paces would meet him with it; the impossibly bright jade portal adorned with every story of mankind inlaid in gold. Beyond that door, that pompous work of man's greatest crafters, was a being that would satisfy each primordial want within him. It would take his body and mind and soul and remake them into the body, mind, and soul of a man, tightened with the confidence of conquest and power. She would touch him in places he had never been touched, make his body convulse from the very thought of the pleasure. He would own it, this creature captured for pleasure, mold her into a doll of his love, sweet Asui, and toy with her, fondle her, destroy her. And she would coo and burble happily at each demoralizing action, each strike against her that rooted her in her pitiful human form.

All of it against her will. Somewhere in there, beneath the image of Asui's naked body, she was there, screaming across a thousand multiverses in a voice so beautiful as to reform the stars. Screaming for it all to stop, for her brothers in arms to come and rape humanity, just so that her humiliation, her cosmic depression, her useless, endless existence could all come to some terminality. Somewhere in there, crawling wretchedly in Asui's skin like a formless shadow, there was Kosafaradelos, the third prize of the War for Man.

A step more, and he could travel no further. His father bent to the side and grinned proudly. Leonid's wet eyes could not help but meet with his father's stern glare.

"Your anxieties are obvious, my son Leonid. Fear her not, for she is inert. She exists only for you, do you understand?" Titus said, clasping his dark hand around his frail son's chin so that their eyes may meet. Only a fearful murmur came in response as the boy sobbed breathily.

"Tut tut, my boy. What is it, then? You must want this; you are a young man. So where is this fear you seem to have found? Where has it come from? Only the depths spawn fear in man, my son Leonid. And you are standing on the cusp of the greatest height. The greatest achievement our kind have ever furnished." Titus's tone changed as the boy wept harder. Snot dribbled from his nose; his body feebly convulsed with each doubtful murmur of horror. He didn't want to do this. He could only think of Asui, could only think of their time spent wandering the sunset-caked Gardens of Khadabb. The way they would simply exist with one another, ignore the terror of their society's power and instead relish in that beauteous garden together, as one.

It would be a sin against her, against her kindness towards him, to take this opportunity instead of one given to him by Asui herself. Yet also it was a sin against the goddess, that innocent creature, the animal backed into a corner by cattleprods of magical barriers and spells. Leonid's arms and legs straightened as he wept. Titus rose his voice and Leonid straightened tighter.

"You do not mean to disgrace our family, do you, Leonid?" The grasp on Leonid's chin strengthened, each fingertip like a clammy vice.

Leonid turned his reddened gaze downward and shook his head.

"Then go. You deserve this as a seat of the Byrinkars, and as a member of the human race." Titus said.

Leonid couldn't bring his body to move.

"Know well that she deserves it more, boy. This is your duty." Titus said, speaking with a resolve that showed he was clearly finished. His imposing, rotund body rose slowly above, a deathful stare continuing to blaze on the top of Leonid's head. Leonid rubbed dampness from his eyes and cheeks, pensively throwing his gaze towards the door. No one would see what he chose to do within. He didn't have to follow his own traditional role. What he feared most was a sensation that crept into his thoughts, the burbling arousal in his belly, warm and anxious to break free; he feared it would take hold of him in the presence of the goddess, and that no resolve or morality in him could free him from it. Titus waited. Leonid shambled forward, and as he went onward, heaved open the doors of jade.