If Katsuki had to be subjected to this bleating for a moment longer, he’d search for a way to set the glen on fire. It’d be a shame for this to happen though. Stretching for miles, in the meeting point of three mountains, this plateau was home to local farmers, their cattle, and all sprites and satyrs under Katsuki’s protection. It had the greener grass and pristine rivers around Arcadia, making the forest god proud for that accomplishment. His agitation wasn’t really against the nearby sheep.
“Where is he?” Katsuki asked through gritted teeth.
Eijirou scratched a spot near his right horn. “We came early, my liege.”
Katsuki huffed as a response. The soles of his hooves scorched from standing on this boulder. He tried to fight off his boredom by drumming the edge of his shepherd’s crook against it. Vines sprouted from beneath the rock’s root.
“You don’t have to do this every single time,” Eijirou said, untangling his goat legs from the overgrown vegetation. “I’ll be fine.”
The drumming stopped. “I know. But can’t have any of these losers enter this place whenever they want--as if they own it.”
Shadows had grown longer as the sun was vanishing behind the nearest mountain. There was only a slice of it left on the horizon when the light flashed brighter. It dazzled them for a moment before a man appeared a couple of steps away in its place. His lean build had never amounted to a threat for Katsuki. That didn’t mean he was a total fool. Power ran among his golden locks, often manifesting as a golden aura around him; like the sun he reigned over.
“You’re here, again ?” Denki whined. “What have I ever done to you, Pan?”
Katsuki jumped down from his perch. “Your presence alone is enough.”
“In case you haven’t noticed, my presence is everywhere during the day. Can’t my partner and I have some privacy for once?”
“I lost count at how many times I had to clean up after your failed affairs. You should be grateful I’m still letting you set foot here.”
Denki placed a hand on his chest, offended. “I promised this time is different!”
Before Katsuki could object, Eijirou stepped between them. “It’s alright,” he said, locking gazes with him. “We’ll be fine, okay?”
Only a few of his subjects could speak to him in that tone and even less didn’t feel intimidated by him. So Katsuki knew when he had crossed the line.
“Yes. But if anything happens to him.” He pointed his shepherd’s crook at the sun god. “Let’s say your immortal life will be most miserable.”
“Fine! Now go on your merry way and stay out of our business.”
Katsuki scoffed and turned to leave. “Can’t boss me around on my turf, hatchling. I don’t wanna see your public displays of affection anyway.” He felt rather than saw Denki’s annoyance as a heat wave rippled against his back.
“Please let him be,” Eijirou’s voice traveled over the open field. “There isn’t much to do around here.”
“We shouldn’t be his only source of fun!”
The rest of his words died out when Katsuki entered the forest. He didn’t agree with his satyr. Angering the sky gods wasn’t some sick hobby. If anything, deep down it worried him whenever any of them got close to his subjects. They were ethereal and untouchable; bound to break mortal and immortal hearts. It made him sick to his stomach knowing they’d abandon their duties to pursue the next fleeting relationship.
Oh, how they have fallen.
Messing with mortals for their own entertainment would have been unthinkable during the war. Before they came to be called Gods, they had been God Killers . Katsuki still remembered when beings tougher, stronger, more powerful than them had existed.
The world had been young, barely a handful millennia old but still so promising, so full of new life. Then the old man and his cronies took over, enslaving every creature that knew of thought and speech. Mortals had struggled worse than them all. Powerless in the face of overwhelming power, they forgot how to hope for something more than this misery. It had been the duty of the immortals to wage war for a better tomorrow.
“Why do we fight, Pan?”
So future generations could sing their praises. For the glory of overthrowing the Titans’ tyrannical rule.
“And after that? Will there be something left of us when this is over?”
For such a pathetic whelp, Deimos sure loved to ask tough questions. In the trenches of volcanic ash, where they survived each day as it came, he’d stare at the colorless sky and wonder aloud about everything. Considering the current state of Olympus was his fault, Katsuki couldn’t look past the irony of it all. Deimos drowned his sorrows with alcohol to forget. Katsuki chose to stay isolated in the woods and remember.
Birds chirped around him. It flooded Katsuki’s senses, phasing into screams and growls; swords clashing; claws scraping against horns. The noise grew louder and louder, and louder until he couldn’t take it anymore.
“SHUT UP! ”
His roar exploded into a shock wave that swept everything in its path. Branches snapped under the strong winds. Animals scurried or flew away. Katsuki’s breaths echoed thunderously in the aftermath. While sweeping sweat from his brow, he noticed that a path had opened up between the nearby shrubs. Music was coming from that direction as well. Curiosity and maybe the promise of a distraction, made Katsuki follow the sound. It led him at the foot of a hill. There was an opening of sorts; a pitch black mouth ready to swallow the remaining purple hues of twilight. The soft tune was coming from within its depths. Intrigued further by this mystery, Katsuki left his staff outside before entering.
His hooves clicked against the stone floor. Several steps later, the entrance turned into a tunnel. Its low ceiling and narrow walls were restricting for his height. The downward slope forced him to descend in a manner similar to a human baby learning its first steps. Moss covered the walls in patches. Katsuki’s fingers struggled against it to keep himself steady. The lower he traveled, the more humidity he encountered. By the time he stepped outside of the darkness, his back and tunic were damp from it. Katsuki shook off the droplets on his legs and tail before taking in the view. At the end of the tunnel, there was a massive cavern. Stalagmites rose from the ground like temple columns. Together with the stalactites, they formed a wide arch over his head, disrupted only by a large hole in the ceiling. Moonlight poured white over every nook and cranny of the cave. At the center of it all stood a lake, slightly obscured by a large boulder. Katsuki approached with calculated steps, trying to remain silent. There wasn’t any splashing which ruled out any Naiads. But the lack of this particular sound puzzled him. Katsuki rounded the corner and his jaw dropped slack.
Someone was dancing on the lake--floating centimeters away from its surface to be exact since the woman’s feet didn’t touch the water. Fine translucent fabric trailed behind her as she hopped from one spot to the next, landing with grace and precision every time. Ripples formed on the lake’s surface, reaching the shore in tune with her steps. Katsuki realized she was humming the melody he had been hearing all along. It echoed crystal clear around them. Everything--the walls, the air, the water--seemed to hold their breaths as if to bask at the joyful sound of it.
Katsuki had met many women in the centuries of his existence; nymphs and goddesses alike. This overpowering aura definitely belonged to a goddess. Her skin gave off a faint white glow; as if the light of the moon radiated from her instead of reflecting on her. Even the crescent-shaped diadem, perched on top of her chestnut hair, sparkled with a light of its own. All divine immortals had this and yet, something felt different about her. Maybe it was the carefree way she danced. Like the world around her didn’t seem to matter.
Without realizing Katsuki stepped forward, kicking a couple of pebbles out of the way. They rolled and dropped loudly in the lake. His first instinct was to hide again but not before catching a glimpse of her startled expression. The moonlight dimmed and a loud splash echoed inside the cavern. Katsuki glanced warily back. The goddess was trying to stand again after the disgraceful drop in the water. Her light pink peplos defined her elegant curves and chubby hips like a second skin. Warmth doused Katsuki from top to bottom as if he had jumped into one of Hestia’s hearths. He rested his back against the boulder, letting a little hiss. It was icy cold in comparison.
“W-who’s there?” She asked; her voice timid like a baby bird.
Of course, he could pretend he hadn’t entered uninvited into her personal space. Even better if he made it seem he wasn’t there in the first place. However, the great god Pan Katsuki may be many things, but he wasn’t a lying coward.
“Pardon me, Kore. I lost my way and stumbled in your presence,” he said.
The goddess remained silent. It made him wonder for a moment if she heard him at all. His voice had echoed loud and broken enough for Katsuki to quickly regret this decision. Fighting the urge to sneak another glance, he waited for a reply.
“How?” She finally asked. “The entrance is well-hidden.”
Katsuki felt his shoulders tense. He couldn’t explain that his distinguishable war-cry led him to the entrance without revealing his divinity. Fellow gods don’t spy or sneak up on each other, and they certainly don’t embarrass them without a proper greeting beforehand. If this incident reached the other Olympians--especially Apollonian Denki--they won’t let Katsuki live it down. The mockery wouldn’t end for another century.
“Are you perhaps a hunter?” Small waves washed on the bank as the goddess made way through the water. “I can smell grass and dirt on you. There is some… unfamiliar tang too.”
Immortals had keen senses. He wouldn’t possibly fool anyone who had spent a lot of time in the mortal realm. Fortunately, for everyone involved, Katsuki had stumbled into a plain sky goddess and she had given him a way out of this mess.
“It’s the fur of my hunting dogs ,” he said. “They keep me warm during long nights at the great outdoors. My garments are full of it.”
“Dogs!” The goddess squealed in excitement. “I’ve seen many roam about in mortal settlements. They are loyal companions, are they not?”
“They are akin to wolves in ferocity too.” More often than not, some random mortal had declared these sacred woods as his personal hunting grounds. So Katsuki had to fend off a lot of dogs. They always went for his goat legs, leaving him with neutral feelings over them at best. “They’ll protect their masters, no matter what.”
Unless said masters were transformed into deer, like how Artemisia preferred to punish wayward hunters. Katsuki had learned to favor treating mortals with brute force instead. They couldn’t spread his warnings if they were dead.
“Is that so?” Her voice sounded too close for comfort.
Katsuki slid deeper into the boulder’s shadow. “Yes. But they also chase everything that moves so it’s hard to keep up with them on hoo-foot. That’s how I got lost and reached this place. They are probably out there, still looking for me.”
“That’s so sweet. I’d love to meet them!”
“Their poor mortal eyes can’t handle your godly form.”
“You can’t either,” she said with a laugh. “I’ve heard that all it takes is one look and any mortal would be reduced to ashes.”
“Blessed be the Gods,” he grumbled, his face aflame.
“My powers aren’t that strong right now though. Maybe that’s why you’re still alive.”
“I didn’t see anything!”
She giggled; a sound so full of joy, Katsuki wanted more of it.
As the waning moon started disappearing from the opening, the light inside the cavern got weaker.
“I have to go,” said the goddess sorrowfully. “It was a pleasure talking to you, Hunter sir.”
Her shadow flickered irregularly on the wall as she floated away. Growling greeted her just when the goddess passed through the opening in the ceiling. Although barely audible, her sweet words seemed to soothe the creatures. Katsuki watched in a daze as two midnight-furred bears pulled her silver chariot into the sky. She disappeared into a flash of light, leaving him behind with a million questions and no answers.