Beauty Divine, Pain Be Thine Part 5

Chapters 36-39 of Aphrodite's journey on Earth.

Sorry this one's a little shorter, guys. I've had limited time for writing.

Chapter 1

Chapter 36

By the time they got back, Aphrodite's bruises had already turned blue. Luckily, they were mostly covered by her clothing. Ky had deliberately hit her in the most susceptible places on her torso and legs. They carried in the new supplies they had gotten, including new dummies and wooden sticks for practicing basic weapons technique.

Upon seeing her, Dom, Shea, and Tristan came over to assist with the armload she was carrying. She tried not to show it, but she was grateful to have the weight taken off of her very sore ribs. Dom caught a small wince, though, and looked at her in both confusion and concern. She gave him a look that said, Don't ask, we'll talk in private. He seemed to understand and nodded.

Aphrodite headed to the kitchen and grabbed a small snack. She'd missed lunch, but it was mid-afternoon, and all she wanted to do was sit down until dinnertime. Shea and the boys followed her to her room, then. She flopped down onto her bed, stretching and groaning.

Tristan snickered, "That's the most human thing I have ever seen you do. You're getting good at this."

Aphrodite let out a wry laugh, "I feel almost human right now. I don't think I've ever been this sore. Even when I was helping to fight wars. Just my presence has often been enough to overwhelm people. Besides, I'm the Goddess of love. It's never been very hard to bend people to my will when I use my powers. Gods and demigods being the exception. I never had to work hard."

"Ah, that explains it," Dom chimed in jokingly. "I'm just a mortal man under your spell."

Aphrodite looked over at him seriously. "Never. I haven't used my powers at all since I met you. Well, in a very long time, actually. They're useless in Olympus, and I haven't been here in 150 years before this. It would be incredibly stupid to use my powers right now. The moment I do, anybody with the blood of a god will be able to sense my presence. I can't risk it. Whatever you all feel for me, you feel all on your own."

Dom smiled, lowering himself onto the bed beside her. "Good to know, " He said, kissing her nose.

Shea cleared her throat. "So are you going to tell us what's going on at any point today? It's no coincidence that Ky decided to take you out on a 'supply run' today, and you look sore. Like 'I got hit by a big truck' kind of sore."

Aphrodite sighed. "Kyboclus has decided that I need more intensive training, every week. In the words of you modern humans, I got my a$$ handed to me today."

Tristan snorted, "That sounds so weird coming from someone as old as you." He picked up a loose rock from the cave floor and started tossing it up in the air and catching it.

To which Dom asked, "Yeah.. come to think of it.. exactly how old are you? I mean, thousands of years could mean anything."

"Well.." Aphrodite responded, "I'm one of the youngest of the Olympians. But I'm older than the human species. I was born out of the smallest spark of affection and kindness in the gods. The Titans had no concept of love, only power and greed. My beauty came from the beauty of the feeling of empathy and compassion. Love evolved as I came into my powers. And then, it became a part of what the human species depended on to survive. Without those feelings, humans were killing each other faster than they could reproduce. I suppose, without me, none of you would exist."

There was a shocked silence in the room, aside from the clatter of the rock Tristan had just dropped. "So more than a few millennia then.." He finally said. "I guess we should have guessed as much."

Aphrodite cringed inwardly. "More like... a few million."

Dom let out a long breath. "Wow. You are way out of my league."

Aphrodite burst into laughter at that unexpected response. They all laughed together for a minute. She finally stopped laughing and spoke again. "You're wrong. Older doesn't mean wiser. My misery has caused human misery. I've been selfish and lazy with my powers, relying on just my existence to keep people happy. But there is so much pain and greed in this world. It's corrupted to a point that I can no longer control it. My powers only do so much to help the evolution of human beings. I can influence people in small groups, control their hopes and desires, but my true power is in drawn out evolution worldwide. I have been selfish, greedy, and vain. It's reflected on human beings. I'm sorry. Even if I change for the better, those bitter feelings still exist. Bettering myself will ultimately better the world over time. But corrupt people will always exist."

"You're very hard on yourself," Shea said quietly. "You've been put through so much. And you're not the only god that's full of greed, or rage. Hera is the goddess of mothers and marriage, for heaven's sake. You think that their feelings don't affect how people are? I have news for you, it is not all your fault. The gods affect human beings on a collective level. I'm grateful for you. I'm so glad that love and compassion exist. Like you said, if it hadn't, the human race would have died off long ago. You need to give yourself more credit. Because even through your misery, you still held on to love. Your memories are your strength, not your weakness. Everyone makes mistakes, even gods. I can't speak for the whole world, but I forgive you."

Despite the stabbing pain it caused her, Aphrodite sprang up, crossed the room, and hugged her best friend. Tears sprang from her eyes as she said, "Thank you."
She was grateful for a Sunday to relax. Ky had made it so that her whole body was tender in the morning. Sparring with her Shea and practicing on dummies was straining her enough as it was, but Ky was taking her training to another level; the level where if you made a slip, you paid for it in pain. She knew it was a good method, conditioning her to respond to her instincts by treating it like a real combat situation. She was sure that if she had more time to learn, he wouldn't be so hard on her. After breakfast, Aphrodite decided to spend a day with Shea, Tristan, and Dom, just enjoying each other's company and conversation in her room. But there were a couple of times that she had the distinct feeling that something was off.

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