Miko's Heart, Beyond Lawful Good (Part 7)

I have traveled through the day, and the words of the fiends weigh heavily on my soul. I know that I need guidance now, some reference to myself. The Twelve remain silent to my prayers. It is the setting of the sun that things suddenly change; the world seems to swirl around me. Have I been betrayed once more? Are the fiends no better to their words than the others? It seems my fears are unfounded, however, for I find myself above the clouds without having even walked the winds.

There is no one around me, but I recognize this place. I was here before I was raised, alone as now. It seems my mount has not accompanied me. But I am not dead. Why am I here once more, left alone as before? I hope the answer comes as a beautiful winged creature appears, flying swiftly from the horizon. It speaks, and it seems as though the air itself tinkles with beauty, “Miko, Miko, Miko, what are we to do with you?”

I blink in confusion. I do not know this creature, though tales of angels are not unknown to me. I make my demands, “Why are you here? Where are the Twelve if I am in the heavens?”

The creature pulls a board of wood with some documents and leafs through them while speaking again, “I am your case handler, Miko. With so many dead after the battle of Azure City, I was unable to reach you. We were backlogged for days! I gained special permission from all the deities of Good and Law to make an exception and appear to you now.”

There is some sense in the creature’s claim…but why did I not then see all the other dead? “Because of my special purpose?”

The creature sighs, “Yes, Miko, but not the way you mean. The Twelve are keeping me from saying certain things, but they wanted you to know that your atonement is personal. No one else can do it for you. They asked me to relate a familiar proverb to you, ‘The loving parent cannot do their children’s learning.’ I am only permitted to say that they hope speaking to me and another acquaintance will help you.”

I feel the tears in my eyes, unbidden, “Then the Twelve still love me. How could I have doubted it?”

Case Handler smiles warmly, “Because you are mortal, Miko. Doubt leads to greater faith, just as encounters lead to levels…but there is always the danger of death. Now let us review your life.”

I shy away from this forward creature, uncomfortable despite its clear good intentions, “My entire life? Must we?”

I cannot escape the motherly and friendly aspect of this creature, “Yes, Miko, we must. The trouble with your case is that it hangs on the border between Lawful Neutral and Lawful Good. There is no doubt at all to your Lawfulness…you value and live by honor, the legal code of the Sapphire Guard and Azure City, and duty. They drive you forward. The trouble is that so little of your paladin work falls straight into the ‘good’ bin. And that’s ignoring your disturbing time after meeting the Order of the Stick.”

I cannot believe this insolence! “You must be joking, I undertook more than any others among the guard! I smote evil all over the world, defended the city valiantly, did my duty for the good of the people!”

The creature shakes her head sadly, “Yes Miko, you did more preemptive striking than any other. But attacking creatures who tend to be evil without provocation is a neutral act at best. The defense of others is certainly good, and your attitude and attempts to do so are very high marks in your favor. But most of your paladin activity is very strongly Lawful and only weakly Good. You’ve shown far more devotion to the letter of Law than its spirit, Miko, and that screams ‘Neutral’ in these parts.”

I contain my fury, for I now know this creature is not the cause. Striking the messenger is dishonorable! I must…must ask…myself? Who I’m really angry at? I speak slowly, “I…think I understand. That part. But I brought in criminals to see justice fairly! I slew a traitor!”

The creature sighs again, “Do you hear yourself Miko? You brought in prisoners fair trial, but denied that trial to an old man, and very nearly killed one…no, at least two adventurers for the same reason. He was unarmed and being taken into custody, Miko.”

I slash my verbal fury, “I have heard this argument before! How can that traitor not have deserved death! How can he be in paradise?!”

The seraph shakes her head, “Miko, his personal failure to you is a mitigating circumstance, but only to a degree. You passed summary judgment without looking at any other evidence, in ignorance of the laws in Azure City you were sword to uphold. Even if the laws he himself enacted or change counted as illegitimate authority, Soon’s original laws about justice remained largely intact. It was this consideration and Soon’s personal request that has given you this shot at redemption.”

The tears come once more, that kind and powerful Soon believed I deserved this chance. But he himself told me what redemption took. How rare and precious, how fragile and tenuous, how difficult and heartbreaking the road can be. I must….I must accept his words. I mumble in defeat, feeling so very tired, “I understand. Why haven’t you passed my application on then? You don’t seem to believe I belong on the Celestial Mountain.”

Now the seraph’s smile is warm and comforting, “Miko, I am not and cannot be like that. I just needed to help you see yourself truly. You are trying, Miko, so very hard. That itself means more than you can possibly know. I know you don’t agree with Shojo, and I certainly find his methods undeserving, but he also tried as hard as he could to be good, not evil. He has faced his purgatory and pain, and come through to his deserved afterlife.”

I hear all of my knuckles pop with the force of my clenched hands, trembling with fury, “He stole me from my home and left me to rot without a care.”

I feel the seraph’s empathy, “I know, Miko. His mistake is inexcusable. But inexcusable does not mean unforgivable. Any more than your own destruction of the Sapphire is unforgivable. Think of your own laws, Miko. It may not seem so, but he has paid his debt. We are not asking you to forgive him, Miko. Only to understand and move on. Did not your own training teach you the value of not letting one thing consume you?”

I choke past my tears, feeling as lost as that first night away from the monastery, “…yes.”

The seraph cups my face, wiping the tear away in a motherly fashion, “Miko, we know it’s hard. That’s why the rewards are so high, because we know your struggle are so very hard and your toil so very long. For now, though, a certain friend of yours is rushing down the mountain this very moment…”

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