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Dinner with Shitan
By Arcana
Deus ex Machina: The Xenogears Tale

Presented by: Xenogears: God and Mind

[Author's note: No debate about the title here! Okay, there might be the occasional spoiler tossed in here and there but it shouldn't be anything that'll totally ruin your enjoyment of the game.]
[Started sometime in November 1998, finished October 1999]

~~

     On the streets of Bledavik, there are those who are gloriously rich, generously adorned, and are endowed with good fortune. Ever since the republic, as declared by Bart Fatima, was established, the country prospered. Its citizens enjoyed their new-found freedom and the power that they had through their elected representatives.
     All throughout Aveh, the economy boomed, making this year the best ever to date. Once again, record-highs in the stock market were being hit, especially in technology and computer manufacturing. It seemed that everyone was getting rich.
     And it was all thanks to one man, the brave hero who fought in the Deus War.

~~

     "Spare change? Spare change, please?" said the one-eyed man, holding out an empty hat. "You, would you please spare some change for a war veteran?"
     The busy Bledavik market bustled around the filthy beggar, but everyone ignored the blonde-haired character.
     "Spare change?"
     One person was kind enough to drop a gil coin in his hat. But this was a once-an-hour occasion. If only a better social structure had been implemented, he thought bitterly. He would vote for those socialists the next time elections came around.
     One person eyed him with contempt before passing on. A second kept his daughter away from him, pushing the child's shoulders away fearfully, as if the man was dangerous.
     "Damn it, if I only would have passed that health care bill, I wouldn't be here right now!" Bartholomew Fatima cursed, throwing his hat on the ground and letting the three gil coins clatter on the pavement. He wandered into a back alley and faced the tall wall of bricks. "I can't believe it. I should have passed that bill. No, better yet, I shouldn't have ever given up the monarchy. I'd be KING right now. You hear me, KING! And I'd be rich and powerful and I'd be able to execute you all for being mean to poor people on the street!" Bart groaned. Every time he felt a need to curse, the wall was always there to listen to him. He used to talk to other people on the street, but every time he did that, he was either beat up by someone or the cops came and arrested him.
     Bart headed to the entrance of the alley and slumped down on the filthy floor again, gathering up the few coins that he dropped. Sensing another person step towards him, he held up his hat again.
     "Spare change?"
     "Bart? Is that you?"
     "Huh?" Bart asked, looking into the robe of an elegantly-dressed man. The hem of his pants were sown in golden thread. He scanned the man up from the golden shoes, seeing the golden buttons, the golden bracelets, the golden rings, the golden necklace, and the very expensive golden ornamental sword on his gold-plated belt. Finally, as he reached the face of the tanned man, he saw the long, wavy platinum hair held back in a golden hairstrap, the gold-rimmed eyepatch covering his left eye,, and the single green iris.
     "Lil' bro! It's me, Sigurd!"
     "S...sig?"
     "Yeah. Remember?"
     "Yeah, I remember...." Bart said, his hat still held pathetically toward the man.
     "Ever since you lost that last election, I was worried about you," Sigurd said. He extended a hand out to Bart, who took it and hoisted himself up. Sigurd had to hold his breath as the smell of urine and alcohol came to his lips. "You ran away with no warning. We've been searching for you for the last two months."
     "Well, I always wanted to rule Aveh," Bart replied. "I guess..."
     Sigurd patted the young man on the back. "Don't worry, Bart. I'm trying to get that health care system into place."
     From behind Sigurd, a rough voice spoke up. "Prime Minister?"
     Sigurd stopped. "Do not worry, Hendrickson, this man's with me."
     Bart sighed deeply as Sigurd let Bart climb into his limousine.

~~

     "I need a way to get rich quick," Bart announced. He had just had a haircut from Sigurd's professional barbers and managed to get his first good shower in two months in Sigurd's executive bathroom. Now, they were sitting in Sigurd's first-class dining room in Fatima Castle.
     "So how's Marguerite?" Bart asked casually.
     Sigurd smirked. "Oh, Margie's doing great! Even though she's the Great Mother of Nisan, she certainly doesn't act like a holy woman when she does that little move with her..."
     Bart held up both his hands. "Look, Sig, I don't really need to hear it."
     Sigurd's face drooped. "But I thought you liked those kind of..."
     Bart shook his head. "No, really."
     "Right, I'm sorry about Margie... I didn't really think it would happen, but after the time she thought Billy was having sex with you, she just..."
     Bart lifted a hand and drew it across his throat in a cutting gesture.
     After a momentary pause, Bart leaned forward on his elbows and inquired, "Hey, so, Prime Minister Sigurd, is there anything you can do to help me out here? It's tough not having a home... Fei's in for a rough time since the mortgage on his house ran out, and Billy... well, I refuse to ask for help from him after that... incident. So you're my only hope, Sig."
     "Normally, Lil' Bro, I'd give you cash, but it wouldn't look good on my ratings if I gave cash away like it was nothing."
     Bart smiled slyly and winked. "Oh, come on, Sig, think of it as... jump-starting the Health Care system... helping people on a one to one basis." He crossed the table and placed an arm around his brother. "How ‘bout it?"
     "Sorry, Bart, I can't do that."
     Bart's brows knitted together. "Really." He simply stared at Sigurd with his good eye, letting his gaze pierce the tanned man's skin.
     Sigurd, undaunted, looked back with an emotion-free face. "Bart, you don't quite look as scary as you used to."
     "Right, I don't have a weapon."
     "You're not also in your gear. I remember when we used to be young, and you'd grab your gear and try to play tag with me when I wasn't equipped in anything at all."
     Bart's eyes narrowed even further. "This isn't a..."
     Sigurd blinked, wiping a tear from his face. "Damn it, Bart, you didn't know how much it hurt to be tagged by a gear! I had no chance! I always had to rely on Shitan to help me out! I... I always wanted you to stop, but..." Sigurd began to sob violently, sputtering his words between gasps of air. "...you wouldn't listen! I was thrown like a stick over entire forests! You managed to chase me through trees and..."
     "So, now you want your revenge?" Bart asked, leaning back and crossing his arms over his chest.
     "DAMN RIGHT!" Sigurd roared, leaping over the table and grabbing Bart's throat. Immediately, the bodyguards rose up and pulled the Prime Minister off of the beggar. "I can't believe it! You played tag in a gear! Hired me as your loser first-mate! Threatened not to share the kingdom..."
     "I declared the kingdom a republic."
     "You should have kept it for yourself and gave half to me! Let me finish.... you got all the women..."
     "No I didn't. YOU got all the..."
     "SHUT UP! You got all the women, drank all the wine..."
     "You don't even drink."
     "I said, SHUT UP! Guards, get this man out of my house!"
     The bodyguards rose and picked up Bart by the arms. "Hey, wait," he said as he was dragged out. "Sig, let me explain, eh? I mean, there was a good reason why... AUUUGH!"
     Bart lay in a heap on the palace steps. He pulled his leg from behind his neck and stretched a bit before rising. He sighed deeply, then mumbled, "JERK. It's a good thing I didn't give him away as a porn star in that gay strip club to raise funds for his presidential campaign." Bart grumbled. He glanced around the courtyard, listening in on the occasional discussion.
     "Oh, that Shitan, he's SO hot! Oh, I love him!" said a woman in her late teens with blonde hair.
     "Oh, no doubt! I'd love to have him in my bed!" The red-haired woman swished hair out of her face vainly.
     "You're so right. After you're done with him, though, I want him!"
     "Oh, I think I'm feeling horny now!"
     "I love his hard muscles."
     "No, I like his _hard_ muscle!!"
     Bart did his best to keep from retching. Why was it that Shitan always got the girls? And if it wasn't Shitan, why was it Sigurd? He swept his hair back, then stepped toward the two girls in a casual swagger, shaking his hips. "Heya babes," he said, winking with his one eye and pointing a finger at them. "I ain't no Shitan, but I sure as hell am a lot better than he is. He's old. He's almost thirty-two. But me, I'm a lean, mean, love-making machine. Do you know who I am?"
     The women leaped back. The redhead jumped back behind her blonde friend in fear, while the blonde scrunched up her face. "Eww, who the hell are you?"
     "Fatima. Bart Fatima," he said, trying to lower his voice a half-octave.
     "Get him away from me!" the redhead screeched. "He's gross!"
     "Run away! Run away!!" The two girls dashed off away from him in the other direction. One of them tripped on the fountain's ledge on the way out and fell in, throwing water all over the place, before being helped out by her friend.
     Bart sighed deeply. "What the hell can I do.... Shitan... man, what's with women and Shitan..."
     Suddenly, the lightbulb went off above Bart's head. He leaped into the air, then made full-tilt toward the nearest phone.

~~

Two weeks later

~~

     "Okay, Shitan, are you ready?"
     "Just remember what I taught you!"
     "Do not worry, we are here for you!"
     "Geez, Doc, you're really sweating hard..."
     Shitan looked back at his friends, then peered slowly around the curtain. "Guys, I'm not sure I want to do this..."
     "DAMN MAN!" Bart screamed loudly. "We didn't slave by you for two weeks for you to cop out on us now!"
     "But..."
     "GET THE HELL OUT THERE!" Bart hissed. "I'm going to get the producer to start up the theme song now. Okay! Go get them, tiger!"
     "I don't think I want..."
     "And TODAY, the Bledavik News Network presents the brand new.....
     "DINNER WITH Shitan!!!!!"
     The music started up. Shitan thought it was rather aggressive, and too loud with brass to be a proper theme song. He walked out onto the tiled floor, waving and smiling at the stands. Through the screaming and the loud cheers and whistles, he could hear a young man in the crowd scream, "Hey, you stole that from Kartia's battle theme!"
     Immediately afterward, a woman snapped back, "Shut up, Toxa, I want to hear!... no, see!"
     Shitan stopped in front of the counter set out for him. All he had to do was remember the script. Yui and Maria had taught him everything he needed to know. All he had to do was to...
     "I LOVE YOU Shitan!!!" screamed a young woman as he was about to read from the teleprompter.
     "Shitan! I brought you some roses!"
     "Take my underwear, Shitan-darling!" shouted a sorceress who had a curved curtain rod with a cloth draped over it as a dress and many funny-looking red tatoos.
     "No, Shitan, take mine!" screamed another woman dressed in a blue button-up sweater.
     "Uhhh... W...welcome to..." Shitan started up, trying to read from the prompter. The person manning it was laughing so hard, though, that he leaned in front of the screen, covering his lines.
     As Shitan scanned his audience again, silk panties landed on his face.

~~

     Bart groaned from backstage. "We're ruined. I swear, we're done for. All he had to do was one freaking special episode. I mean, it was a foolproof plan. Women like Shitan. Women watch cooking shows..."
     "That's a sexist comment," Billy interrupted. "As a man of God, I can't allow you..."
      "And he already screwed it up," Bart continued, ignoring the priest. "Damn it, I thought the guy was married. He's not supposed to freaking BLUSH like that! Damn damn damn damn...."
     "Bart, they're going to hear you out there," the priest warned, keeping his voice down. "Come on, we can still make this good. You may not be able to see through those silk panties, or that nylon pantyhose. But I'm sure that..."
     Bart started at Billy strangely. "Billy, how'd you know those things thrown on Shitan's shoulder were made of nylon?"
     Billy's mouth opened, but he closed it again and turned beet red.
     "I don't know what to do," Bart said, complaining to no one in general. "I was supposed to make this big. I was supposed to get a ton of royalties. As Shitan's manager, I..." He cursed and turned toward the brick wall.
     Maria and Rico stepped up to Bart, who was repeatedly slamming his head into the wall. Maria smiled and tugged on his sleeve. "Should we get Shitan out of this mess?"
     Bart looked toward the doctor, who was still buried under a pile of women's underwear. He didn't even WANT to see what the audience looked like now.

~~


     
     Shitan reached up and peeled the three sets of wonderbra that seemed to suction themselves to his shoulder. "Umm, I do appreciate the... warm welcome," he started hesitantly, trying not to sound too nervous. He averted his eyes from the audience now, not realising how many girls actually attended. He swept the range top clean of panties. "Okay," he said, trying to recite what he knew of the script. The teleprompter guy was still laughing too hard, and he was sprawled over the machine, covering the words. The cameraman was now officially checking out the women in the room. He wished that Sigurd wouldn't mock him like that, and he wondered why Fei was checking out the audience when he had Elly. "I'm here to... cook today!"
     "Dinner tonight, Shitan, but I want breakfast tomorrow morning!" Alana screamed. Toxa groaned loudly beside her, leaning back on his chair with a huge frown.
     Shitan tried his best to ignore the shout, trying to think only about his wife, Yui. "I... am cooking... uhh.... STEAK! That's it. Big chunk of beef."
     Celine, the one dressed in the curtain rod, replied, "I want YOUR beef, Shitan-darling!" Shitan deliberately looked away from her... assets... and turned around, deliberately trying to take his time in finding a knife and a fork.
     "When it's red," he said, back turned to the audience, "you can't eat it. It's raw and it won't taste really good."
     When he turned around, he found, that to his delight, one of the teleprompters was uncovered. He also spotted Elly chasing Fei around with a nasty looking steak knife. "To start, we shall pepper the state properly," he said, reciting his words from the machine, relieved at how he now had a different focus. "I shall get the peppercorns and the Montreal Steak Spice now. It's good with steak spice." He paused, then looked back up again.
     "It's good with steak spice. It's good with steak spice." Shitan stared at the image again, watching it flash over and over repeatedly. He groaned.
     Sigurd burst out laughing again. Shitan smacked his hand against his forehead.

~~

     Billy bandaged up Bart's head as he lay moaning. There was a gigantic welt on his head that seemed to be size of his nose.
     "I hope you have a plan to save his rear," Billy said to Maria, who was looking eagerly at the stove and the sink.
     Maria shrugged. "Hey, it's Shitan's show. He deserves some glory. Hey, Billy, why don't you take a peek here? I think half of the audience is naked."
     Billy's eyes narrowed. "I'm not into that sort of stuff."
     Rico stepped over and patted Billy gently on the shoulder. "Right, she must have forgotten."
     Billy rose, dropping Bart's head unceremoniously on the floor. "Damn it, I'm NOT GAY!"
     Both Rico and Maria stared at Billy with astonished looks on their faces.
     Bart cursed. "Damn it, would be a BIT more careful with my head? Come on, Billy, we know you're not of our type. I mean, you were prepared to sell yourself back then, right?"
     "Hey, that was BEFORE! I'm rich now! I don't need to do that!"
     "Denial is the first stage."
     "WOULD YOU SHUT UP?"
     "I mean, who was the only male on the ship that didn't hit on Elly?"
     "SHE was taken!!!!"
     "No she wasn't, you just don't like women!"
     "I do too!"
     "Do not!"
     "Do too!"
     "Do not!"
     "Why don't YOU go to Margie, then?"
     "DAMN IT, she went crying to Sigurd after you said you were sleeping with me!"
     "She was flirting with me and I wanted her off of my back..."
     "YOU told her that you were having sex with me??"
     "Wait a second, I just didn't want her smiling at me like that... I was having a difficult time resisting temptation! I was almost ready to succumb!"
     "So you started this big rumour in order to reject her??"
     "I didn't reject..."
     "WHAT? So you used her like a rag doll and then... I'll nail you one, Billy-boy!"
     Bart cursed and lifted a fist, but Rico reached him first as he cuffed Billy over the head with his immense palm, smiling in satisfaction as the priest swayed and toppled over on the floor in a large heap.
     "Gosh," Bart said, blinking, lifting a hand to his crown as if he felt the blow. "I didn't think you'd side with me."
     Rico grinned. "That boy bugs me."
     Maria glared at them from just around the curtain. "Damn it, guys, the entire audience can hear you! Shitan's wondering what the hell you're all doing! You already know he's going to wimp out on us! I think we need someone out there who TRULY knows how to cook."
     "That's not me," Bart said. "Geez, all I wanted to do was to make a quick buck. Host a Shitan Cooking Show, sell some Shitan dolls, some Shitan peppered steak, some Shitan cutlery... we'd make millions, but..."
     "Damn it, I'm going out there," Maria said. "He just poured motor oil into the frying pan."
     Bart started to bang his head against the wall again.

~~

     "Okay, after you add the oil," Shitan said, "You can put it on the... what the..."
     "Hi everyone!" said face that seemed to float just above the counter. "My name's Maria, and I am Shitan's helper! As you can see, it's really tough to cook when you're surrounded by silk panties, so I'm going to help him out!"
     Shitan leaned over to whisper to her. "I've got things covered here..."
     "Bend over more, Shitan! Give us a better..."
     Shitan jolted upright and folded his hands behind his back. "That's right, Maria," Shitan started, smiling at the audience and helping Maria climb the countertop. She reached for the frying pan, but as she was about the snatch it, the entire metallic dish exploded, sending thick clouds of smoke all over the room and setting off the fire bells.
     "That was the motor oil combusting," Maria hissed as Rico and Fei ran forward with fire extinguishers. She jumped on top of the counter and waved. "Yeah, Shitan sure makes this place HOT, doesn't he?"
     The women all raised their voices in accord.
     "Well, anyway, when you cook steak, just put it on the frying pan... oh, good, it seems that Rico and Fei got the fire out. Let's give them a hand, girls!"
     There was a light applause, but when Shitan stood back up and adjusted his glasses, the applause rose into hoots and cheers and whistles. On his way out, Rico whispered to Shitan, "Don't you worry about those women. They're all demented yaoii freaks."
     "Wha..." Shitan started, but the large man was already out of earshot as he headed backstage.
     Maria's clear voice rose up again. "Well, we're going to need a new frying pan. Okay, let's clear some of this underwear off of here..."
     Shitan lifted up a bra. "Hey, this one's Calvin Klein."
     Maria snatched it away from him. "Shitan! You should be ashamed!!"
     Shitan flushed, then turned around to grab a new skillet.

~~

     Bart let out a deep breath, then stacked another playing card on top of Billy's chest. "It seems things are under control. I think I should commission some Maria dolls too."
     Rico shook his head. "Don't bother. Maria's cute and all, but I don't think she'll sell."
     Bart nodded. "Right, that's for Billy." He placed one more card on top of his growing castle, but it was suddenly toppled and the plastic deck went flying as Billy grabbed the front of Bart's shirt.
     "I heard that."
     "Billy! You're a Holy Man, now..."
     Billy pulled the former king closer to his face. "Try me," he sneered.
     The priest was knocked unconscious again, this time with a dead trout. Rico blinked, almost in apology. "Sorry, Bart, nothing else was within reach."
     Bart shook his head. "It smelled rather fishy in here..."

~~

     "And there you go, fresh steak and salad! And now, we get to sit down and eat it! Umm... I need a table." Maria scanned the crowed for a moment, then she stepped forward and grabbed a young green-haired teenager who was in the front row by the hand and pulled her forward. "Shame on you, Emeralda!" Maria whispered. "I didn't know you were into this ‘Stripping for Shitan' business..."
     Emeralda's face dropped. "I sorry..."
     Maria shrugged. "It's okay. We'll get that skirt back from that pile of underwear. Okay, we need a table... can you.."
     The girl nodded, leaned over on her hands and knees, and immediately turned into a table.
     One of the women in the crowd shouted. "I'm jealous of that girl there!"
     "The little one or the green haired one?"
     "The green-haired one... she got to BEND OVER right next to..."
     Maria's voice rang sharply through the crowd. "Umm, when you eat Dinner with Shitan, you have to really watch..."
     "I want to EAT Shitan!"
     "...your manners," Maria concluded. She stared up at the audience. "When you eat, you have to use the cutlery properly. Make sure you handle the shaft of the knife like..."
     Elly gave a shrill whistle. Maria moaned and closed her eyes.
     "Look, really, Maria, it's okay," Shitan said. "When you eat at my place, you can be really casual about it," he said, raising his voice. "I mean, at home, I eat with my hands sometimes, you know, just to be cool. Yui.. my WIFE... yes, you've heard of Yui? She's my WIFE..."
     The audience suddenly went dead silent.
     And Bart, from the side, could be heard swearing.
     After a brief, deadly silence, Alana stood up and cried, "I don't care!"
     The women in the stands all rose with a loud cheer. Only Toxa was seated, beating himself on the head.
     Maria gasped as she lifted her salad fork, then jumped up on Emeralda's back and shouted, "I can't believe you women!! You're all sick! You're all demented! I don't believe you'd actually sacrifice every last bit of decency for one dumb man! You are all..."
     A murmur rose through the audience, and glares were starting to be given. One woman stood up and crossed her arms over her chest. Celine rose her staff, which was glowing red. Alana lifted her sword, face in a frown.
     "And... Emeralda, get up, you're too close to Shitan for comfort!"
     Emeralda reduced her form into a small ball and rolled away. Maria fell over and shouted, "DAMN!"
     Elly laughed.
     Maria rose, running toward Elly, face red. She rolled her fist forward, nailing Elly with her small hands. "Yay!! Monkey power!"
     Elly looked down as the bubbles flew from Maria's small hands, flying forward and striking her Solaris uniform and popping into nothingness. Elly shook her head. "What a prude!" she said, turning around to face the audience.
     Shitan rose and stepped toward Elly, snatching Maria back before something happened to the little girl. "Oh, what do you know, look at the time, we're done for today, and hereby ends the special of DINNER WITH SHITAN! We'll be back to the normal programming... auugh!" As he saw the wave of women descending on him, he dropped Maria's hand and ran toward the backstage, running into Bart as he stepped out.
     "Jerk!!" Bart yelled at Shitan as he knocked elbows, but he turned back around to see the stampede of half-naked women heading toward him. "Oh... no...."

~~

     Shitan suddenly realised what war training was meant to do. It was meant to protect yourself from women.
     He pumped his arms and strode over the ground at a fast pace, moving past the mob of women who were behind him. He figured that, despite his bumblings, the show was a complete success and that Bart would, in fact, succeed in his quest to make some money.
     It all seemed good... but Shitan would now be mobbed day and night by beautiful, buxon, desperate women who wanted something from him.
     The good doctor couldn't help smiling at that thought.
     It didn't seem too long before he was running across the suspension bridge and up the hill to his cottage outside of Lahan. He threw the door open and bolted it behind him, leaning against it. "Yui, YUI!!!"
     Yui came out from the kitchen, wiping her hands with a rag. "Shitan, you look absolutely spooked!! What in the world is wrong?"
     "Yui... I..."
     Thud, said the door.
     Thud, thud.
     The thudding slowly turned into pounding, and behind the shouts, Yui could hear them.
     "SHITAN! I NEED YOU, SHITAN!!"
     "Shitan, you're the only one!"
     "Shitan, if your wife dies, I claim you as my own!"
     "No, I'll KILL your wife so you'll be mine!"
     "In my Xenogears fanfic, I deliberately killed Yui in the Shevat crash so you'd be MINE forever in my fantasy world!"
     Yui's eyes narrowed slowly, then looked up on the wall. "Shitan, your katana, please?" she asked evenly, but she did not wait for a response and grabbed the weapon from its place over the mantle, where it had sat unused for almost three years. She held the weapon reverently by its scabbard and stepped toward the door, gently pushing Shitan out of her way. She unbolted the door, then leaped outside, brandishing her sword at the first woman she saw. She immediately kicked over the person by the porch (who happened to be Emeralda) and immediately, the place turned into chaos.
     Yui's eyes were flaming red and her mouth was curled in a sadistic smile as she slashed at anyone who even came close to her doorway. "Hssaaah! Take that! You! Keep away from my man, you hound!"
     "Auugh! Goodness gracious darling, she's foaming at the mouth!!!" shouted Celine.
     Yui poked the katana into Celine's rear. "THERE! You deserved that you harlot!"
     Someone tried to strike Yui from behind, but she spun, twirling Shitan's sword like a living being. The flash of light and the snick of the blade was expert, and a contrast to Yui's flaming rage.
     Within a few minutes, the yard was relatively clear, but Yui looked down at the torn-up sod and frowned in disgust. "Well, Shitan, we're relatively safe now... Shitan?"
     When she went back into the house, the doctor was cowering under the kitchen table.

~~

     "Adulteresses! You whom all love Shitan shall be damned to HELL where you all belong!" Maria rose her small fist in anger toward her small audience. She was standing on top of a little crate, reading from a thick book. "And so says the Lord, who damns all evil-doers, all who strip indiscriminately, who undress for men for no reason other than SEX!" She thrust a finger toward the Bledavik market, where a large banner over the middle of the street said, "Some like it green."
     A little pink creature was leaning against the wall, only absentmindedly listening to Maria as she scribbled a letter. She looked up at Maria, squeaked a snicker, and rose. "It's such-u shame that Maria doesn't like Shitan. I think che was dropped when che was little." Chu-chu headed toward the Bledavik market to enjoy the first say of the Shitan carnival.

~~

     "Damn it, another obsessed fan letter.. oh my god, this one's from..."

~~

A week later

~~

     "And you all who fawn over him will not live to see the great gifts of the Lord! And Krelian, the Lord's Angel, will never forgive you! He watches down on you with contempt, upset that his noble sacrifice has done nothing to teach mankind a lesson! And..."
     Chu-chu jumped up on the crate, pushing Maria to one side. "Chu shouldn't listen to her, che's insane! I like Shitan, I send him letters every day!"
     The people surrounding the crate cheered, and the cheer expanded into the marketplace.
     Maria stood back up, throwing a punch at Chu-chu, but the pink furry animal spun out of her way. "This chu-chu is a damnation to all our kind! She has slept with others of her race, and now seeks to foul Shitan with her immoral ways! They should all be damned to hell along with anyone else who seeks to destroy Shitan's pure body with your impure actions!"
     "Oh, I'd violate Shitan ANY day of the week!"
     "Me chu!"
     "There should only be one man for each woman! And you adulteresses will be thrown into the Lake of Fire, where you will be eaten by the great snake that dwells there..."
     "Chu right, Shitan's great snake!"
     "And filth, disgusting filth like you will not be able to revert back to the goodness of virginity, when you can, as God's good people, devote yourself to only one man as God has meant it to me..."
     "I chu-se Shitan as my ONLY love!"
     Maria whirled on Chu-chu, eyes raging, and raised her fist. She shouted, "SEIBZHEN!!!!"

~~

     "Bart... Bart..."
     "Damn... leave me alone..."
     "Bart... Bart!"
     "Urrgh...."
     "Bart, you're rich, you..."
     The blonde-haired man bolted upright in bed. "I AM??"
     "I knew that'd get you up."
     Bart saw the white walls and plain ceiling of a hospital. He turned his head left and saw Margie sitting on a stool. "Mother Marguerite... what are you doing here?"
     Margie shrugged. "I just thought I'd check on you. Shitan was really concerned about you... since you helped him become famous, but he had to go to a photo shoot and so he couldn't keep by your side."
     "That's really nice of him... even when he's so popular."
     Margie nodded. "I'm glad you're all right, Bart. You've been asleep for almost a week. You were trampled over by almost one-hundred women chasing Shitan after the pilot show. But Sigurd passed the health-care law two days ago, and so you get the treatment for free..."
     Bart nods, slowly. "That's really nice of him..."
     Margie nodded. "Yes.. I had to do some... convincing... before he'd pass it for you." She lifted her skirt up her leg just a bit and winked suggestively.
     Bart groaned and looked away. "Aww, Margie... geez..."
     "I'm sorry, Bart, but I just had to tease you!!"
     Bart shook his head. "When do I get to see the cash?"
     "Well... Rico's now his manager, and although you've picked up a lot of royalties... your source of income is now finished."
     Bart glared at Margie, then lowered his head into his hands. "From hero to..."
     "Zero," Margie finished. "Maria's now locked up in a mental institute. She got so vehement about speaking out against adultery... damning the world of sin and demanding that the fire of God strike out against anyone who dared to be unfaithful to any one man. When Chu-chu started to chime about all sorts of naughty stuff, Maria snapped and called Seibzhen. It goes without saying that the result wasn't nice. The judge said that she was suffering from mental instability and so..."
     "Gosh, I feel sort of bad... wait, how big is that cheque in your hand?"
     "It's half a million dollars."
     "Hot diggidy damn! Who cares about Maria! I'm rich!!!"
     Margie rolled her eyes. "You're cold."
     "I'm made of cold cash."
     Margie snickered. "Hate to say it, but Shitan's pulling in way more cash than you are."
     Bart shrugged. "Oh well... I have my money..." He yawned. "Say, I'm fine, right? Let's go out drinking, Margie. Now."
     Margie's eyes widened. "No... no, I'm a holy woman, I can't touch..."
     "Alcohol, but you can tough Sigurd?"
     Margie giggled. "You're not jealous, are you?"
     "JEALOUS? I'm not jealous of you!!!"
     From the door, a loud voice cried, "I KNEW IT!!!"
     Both Mother and Beggar turned to the doorway to see Priest Billy standing in the frame. "Bart, I always KNEW you had something for Sigurd! Knew knew knew!!!"
     Bart shook his head and massaged his temples. "Billy, now's not the time for it... Where's Rico when you need him..."
     "See, you always LOVED Sigurd and..."
     Bart raised his voice. "Oh YEAH? I saw you at the strip bar when Sigurd was dancing there!!!" He reached into his pocket and pulled out a photograph and thrust it toward the door. "Look at THIS!"
     Billy turned red, and he ran away from the door. From the hall, he could hear the echoes of sobs. "There, that taught him," he commented to Margie, dusting off his hands.
     But he looked up and saw that her fists were clenched at her sides and that her face was flushed with anger. "Sigurd? A *stripper*?? HOW many other women... MEN.. has he had...? BART!!"
     "Uhh..."
     "He told me he was pure... oh, I'm going to get him now...! SIGURD!!!"
     Bart blinked as Margie leaped off of her stool and dashed out of his room. "Gosh..." He leaped out of bed, walking on wobbly, but otherwise healthy legs. He was surprised that he wasn't in traction... all he could recall from the trampling was the pain all over his body. He tucked the cheque into his pocket, patting it reassuringly.
     Bart was changed and walking out of the hospital casually in a few minutes, with no one noticing his absence. A street vendor came up to him with a sly smile and a toothy grin.
     "Hey, man, want to buy a pelt? It's of the finest fur..."
     Bart took a glance at the man. "It's... pink. And it looks sort of... pressed..."
     The vendor's face tensed. "Well..."
     Bart pushed the man out of the way. "Please, step aside for Bart Fatima, rich-beyond-dreams, and founder of the Shitan craze."
     As he walked down the Bledavik market, he was amazed at what he saw. There were no more traditional fruit stands and weapon shops... those trades had been deemed unmarketable. The first stall he passed was selling "Official Shitan Merchandise", marked with "Shitan's Seal of Approval". There was a costume, a Shitan twelve-inch figure, a Shitan costume, and a full set of Shitan cutlery.
     Beyond the stall, there was a new line of eyeglass frames, "Shitan's Sight". Bart frowned as he realised that someone had spraypainted an ‘a' between the two words.
     Beyond there, there were some t-shirts, cooking utensils, toys, and in a dark corner of a magazine rack, he even saw "The Bad Boy Side of Shitan". Bart immediately pulled his eyes from that one, wondering if the doctor had really decided to go that far. Oh well, if he did, it wouldn't have been anything new... his own good brother Sigurd had decided to do it too.
     As he passed the magazine articles, he noticed that some of the other cast members had become increasingly popular as well. There was Rico merchandise, Fei merchandise, and even a personalized line of Van Houten lingerie. Bart took a peek toward the store, but shied away when he realised Fei was inside, wearing nothing but a tiny set of lace panties and posing in the mirror.
     "That was scary," Bart murmured to himself. But he cringed even more as he spotted Ramsus, the Solaris ex-commander, heading toward the same store, muttering to himself how his speedos were getting a bit too constricting for comfort, and that perhaps Fei could help him out now that he found out they had something in common.
     Bart decided to get out of town after that.

~~

     The trip was amazingly tough for him, but when he saw the small cabin approach, he let out a breath of relief. Bart trudged over the green grass under the moonlit sky, hoping to give his last regards to Shitan before he found some island he could retire to be surrounded by grapes and beautiful women. He especially wanted grapes... those seedless kinds, with a good mix of the green ones and the purple ones, even though the purple ones were jucier...
     As he passed the front lawn, he saw Emeralda curled up outside the doorstep, sleeping peacefully, almost like a cat curled up around itself. He smiled down at her, not really realising how beautiful she looked until today. She looked more like Elly than he had initially imagined. Bart felt the jingle of Shitan-earned money and grinned to himself. He knocked on the door.
     When the door was thrown open, Bart let out a scream as he saw someone dash out at him, swinging a long, sharp sword overhead. He toppled backwards, accidentally stepping on Emeralda and falling over her.
     "Oh, Bartholemew, it's you! I'm sorry!" Yui cried out, sheathing the katana and reaching out for his hand.
     Bart removed his face from Emeralda's chest. "No, really, it's all right... gee, hello Emmy!"
     Emeralda smiled sweetly and batted her eyelashes at him.
     "Gosh, I'm not Shitan, you don't have to look so cute for me," Bart replied, but he couldn't resist giving her soft cheek a pinch.
     Emeralda's eyes went downcast and he gave her a puppy-dog look, but Bart rose off of her, smiling the whole time. She yawned and then curled up again, going back to sleep.
     Yui commented as she led him inside, "I'm sorry about the greeting, it's just that I've become accustomed to chasing people away from the front door like that."
     "Yeah, don't worry about it," Bart said. "I guess I shouldn't be coming around so late at night with no advance warning. I'm planning to get away from civilization..."
     "Oh, yes, you might like some peace and quiet," Yui said. "Well, Shitan's here today, so I'll wake him. Did you know, he's been SO much better in bed lately? Ever since this incident, he's been so much more receptive to..."
     Bart rolled his eyes. "Spare me the details, Yui."
     "Right, sorry!"
     In a few moments, Shitan advanced downstairs. He showed absolutely no indication of having been woken up from bed. "Greetings, Bart! How are you?"
     "I'm fine, Shitan. I'm doing well."
     Shitan nodded. "I really should thank you... I am making more money that I ever dreamed. Once, I think Sigurd tried to assassinate me because he was jealous of my net worth."
     Bart grinned and ran a hand through his hair. "Don't mention it..."
     Shitan's eyes turned hard. "But it's also been extremely stressful. I thought that once Fei finally found his brain again, that I would not have to babysit him... that I'd be free for the rest of my life."
     "Fei's sort of twisted in the head. He wears panties. Elly's panties."
     Shitan shrugged. "Darn, and he was looking so hopeful, too." He shook his head. "Must've picked up a thing or two from Ramsus. Anyway, I thought I'd be all free for the rest of my life after a mere war or two... but now, I have hundreds of women trying to hunt me down every day..."
     "Umm, well, Shitan... I thought I..."
     "Emeralda... she used to be such a nice girl, and now, she's reduced to sleeping outside my doorstep in hopes that I will adopt her or something. She was always so sweet and innocent... but you know how she is with copying people."
     Bart nodded. "Right... Emeralda's acting really naughty, but when your adopted dad dresses up in his wife's line of lingerie, I don't really blame her."
     Shitan let out a deep breath. "Well... Bart, I guess, in the end, I'm not all that grateful to you. You've caused me an extreme amount of stress and forced me to go through an amazing amount of temptation..."
     Bart paled. "What are you saying..."
     Shitan's eyes narrowed, and he stared at Bart coldlyl, lifting a fist threateningly into the air. "Yui, may I have my sword? I think you've been enjoying it too much lately."
     Yui glared at him and held his katana away from him possessively. "MY sword!"
     "No it's not, that's my weapon, Yui."
     "But Shitan, don't you remember, I was the first person who beat you in a duel when you trained in Solaris! I think I deserve..."
     "Yui, I'm not kidding... I have to strike down this man before..."
     "Look, Shitan, who's been protecting you from those women? Without this sword, what will you ever do? Without ME, what will you ever do? Look... HYUGA..."
     Shitan stepped toward his wife, motioning for his weapon, but Yui lifted her sword up at him and he reeled backwards in fear. "Woah! Look, Yui, if you're going to do that, I know a LOT of other women who'd be more receptive to my touch than..."
     Bart decided that now was as good as ever to escape from the homely cottage outside of Lahan's humble boundaries.
     As he tiptoed outside to the front porch, he collided directly into Emeralda again, who had somehow managed to appear from nowhere right in front of his face. He felt something soft hit one of his outstretched hands and immediately pulled it back, blushing profusely. "Emeralda!" he hissed. "Don't *do* that!"
     Emeralda let her mouth turn into a circle. "I sorry..." she crooned, reaching for his arm.
     Bart smiled and patted her on the shoulder. "It's okay. Well, I'm out of here!" He could hear the shouts between Shitan and Yui heighten, and at one point, he heard the sound of something heavy hit the ground, as if Yui had cut down a wall or something.
     "Are they fighting?" Emeralda asked as Bart started to scurry down the hill.
     Bart replied without looking back. "I don't know."
     "Does that mean he's going to have a divorce?" she shouted after him.
     From inside the cabin, Bart could hear Yui reply to Emeralda. "He's not going have a divorce, isn't that RIGHT, SHITAN my dear??"
     Bart couldn't hear Shitan's response as he scurried down the hillside, but he tripped over a rock and nearly rolled the rest of the way down. He was unable to stop himself before the suspension bridge and happened to topple into the canyon.

~~

     "Bart... Bart!"
     "Damn... not again..."
     "Bart, this treatment's going to cost you twenty-thousand gil... per day. We've given you extensive surgery to restore your broken bones and to reconstruct your face after that fall."
     Bart jolted upright in bed, patting himself over, suddenly conscious that he was still alive. "Huh?" He looked up at the woman speaking to him. It was Margie.
     "Margie?"
     Margie nodded. "Yeah... I said I'd be in charge of finding your finds. If you still have that half a million gil cheque on you, that would suffice."
     "But what about Sigurd's declaration of health care...?"
     Margie shook her head. "Well, we got into a bit of a fight over the ‘Sigurd was a stripper' thing and... umm, well, he said that despite the way I stroked his..."
     "Margie!!"
     "Oh, sorry! Well, basically, he withdrew the health care bill. Anyway, the Senate is rather annoyed at all of this. I'm thinking of running for President now."
     Bart wondered if there were stars floating around his head. "So I have to pay for my..."
     Margie nodded. "Yep. Sorry, Bledavik law."
     Bart cursed, then reached into his pocket and withdrew his chequebook. "Jerk! That Sigurd... he told me he wouldn't even lend me a few thousand to preserve his public reputation, and then he decides to revoke a law just because his wife..." He grumbled again. He glanced up at Margie "HOW much is it?"
     "Four-hundred ninety-eight thousand and fourty gil."
     Bart winced. "How the HECK did it cost that much?"
     "Sigurd decided to boot up the cost of medicare... you know, to prevent people from smoking and stuff anymore. He figured that if medicare was REALLY expensive, no one would want to get ill!" She tittered. "Oh, we also used nanomachine treatment... and it's to compensate Emeralda. She was your organ donor."
     "Organ donor??"
     "Emeralda tells everyone that you lost half of your brain." Margie grinned. "Frankly, I think you lost it years ago. She donated a lung and a kidney."
     Bart stared blankly at the wall for a moment. "Emeralda... saved my life?"
     Margie nodded. "The girl must really love you a lot. I know I wouldn't donate anything to you."
     Bart's eyes narrowed. "Great, that makes me feel wanted, Margie."
     "She's also getting two-hundred thousand of your cheque..."
     "Really..." Bart smacked his hand against his forehead. "Damn it... I don't even have enough to buy a good HOUSE now, let alone an island... no wonder she was trying to act all nice to me..." He paused, then glanced outside of the window. "How's Shitan?"
     "He's divorced now. He left Yui because she was being so possessive..."
     "Damn..."
     "...and he's received over three-thousand proposals in the last ten days."
     "DAMN."
     "You know, I think, deep down, that Shitan's a sex maniac..."
     Bart narrowed his eyes at Margie. "Why do you think THAT?"
     Margie shrugged. "I mean, those glasses... he probably all gave everyone this image of being this hunky doctor and so people thought that he automatically doesn't like sex or something... hey, look at me, just because I'm the Great Mother of Nisan doesn't mean I don't like giving a good..."
     "THANK you," Bart snapped. "There's your cheque. See that it gets to the hospital... or Emeralda."
     Margie's eyes lit up. "No problem! You're free to go!"
     Bart grumbled and headed outside once again, glancing around the Bledavik Market. Now, among the "Some like it green" posters, he also noticed, "Emeralda Organ Donor Day".
     Bart shook his head sadly, then looked around the market. He had made Bledavik this popular, this full of people, with loads of money to spend... he had revived the tourist attraction, Shitan. And people flooded to the town like crazy.
     Bart sat down beside one of the stalls and held out his cap. "Spare change? Spare change, please?"
     And within ten minutes, he had coins in his hat.

~~

     Bart's reserves had dwindled down to nothingness in almost no time; food had cost him a fortune, and water cost him even more, but if he went anywhere else, he wouldn't have been able to make a living begging. Damn Sigurd for suddenly destroying Health Care. He sincerely wished that there was a way he could guarantee Margie a win in the campaign.
     If he had only been a bit more careful with his Shitan stunt, he wouldn't be here right now. Maybe next time, he'd...
     "Oh, you know that Sigurd? The Prime Minister himself? He's SUCH a cutie!"
     "You think so?"
     "Oh yeah, look at this picture! Doesn't that big muscular meat make Shitan look shameful?"
     Bart looked up and saw two girls fawning over a photograph. "Sigurd...?"
     "Oooh, this old pirate costume of his, it shows off that MARVELOUS stomach!" The black-haired girl stared at the sky and sighed deeply.
     Bart stood up and smiled. "Hey, ladies... I've got some connections to..." and he lowered his voice, "nude pictures of Sigurd." He patted his coat pocket. "If you have a bit of..."
     "NUDE?" The black-haired girl breathed, stepping forward and wrapping her arms around Bart. "I'll... I'll give you... ANYTHING... for those..." She touched him on the nose suggestively, while her friend frowned behind her.
     Bart smirked. "Well, in fact, if I'm lucky, I might be able to get Sigurd in strip bars again. Did you know the Aveh Prime Minister used to strip in the ‘Bad Boy Pirates' night club? If we reveal his scandalous behaviour, he'll get booted out of office, lose everything he owns, and then he might have to start stripping again! If you help me with a small investment, we'll be able to start spreading the message and later on, you might find him when he's..."

~~

     THE END

~~

[Tune in next time for "Sigurd, Stripped!" not ever coming to a computer monitor near you!]
[Credits for this fic go to A***a, C***s, A***r, and the Y******** P******** group for their contributions, inspirations, and volunteering of strange humour!]

 

~ End ~