That frog just kept growing... I'd bring him food and drink and he'd have his fill and just continue to grow, eventually losing his legs and expanding his reptilian body into that of a serpent with a cobra's fins, hissing at rodents it'd see outside. Eventually I allowed him to go and he'd spend the greater portion of the day hunting, returning substantially larger than he had when he left. No one around complained about mice and rats anymore, surely, but I was aware that something like that alone would no longer be able to sustain him. He had become massive enough that it was actually becoming difficult to keep him in a single room. How he got around without anyone seeing is beyond me.
That was about the time he began acting on his own again. Just before he left, he had taken on a human form again... the one he had been familiar with so long as if nothing had happened, remembering everything that had happened and completely in control of everything he did, even in his animal-like nature of the previous forms. His eyes had changed after that... when I looked into them I saw not the eyes of a human or an animal, but something else entirely. A predator that fed even upon humans, something higher in the food chain than mankind itself.
Merely a week after the appearance of Cronus' enlisted mercenary forces and their gradual spread through territories owned by him, that man had already begun making his move. I could not tell you all, as requested by both him and Sankou formally... though calling him 'that man' at this point is rather pointless isn't it? You and I know who it is, that white-haired man who should have been dead, carved in two by the one called Lucifer and burned away in a light hot as the sun. The man called Allen.
Whereas you were all deciding where to act next and how to get around his elite forces, he already had plans on where to strike and how. He had sought me out, using the charm I carried, in order to be able to contact Sankou without the risk of exposing his existence sooner than intended. You know, I had planned on giving you this charm that day I met you all, so that you had at least something that remained of that man... but I guess he had a completely different purpose for it that didn't allow me to let it go. I guess you were all too distraught and distracted to ask about it.
I appeared where he bid me to, and Meiya and Sankou would follow. He was obviously suspicious at first. Could he truly be sure that the man that stood before him now was the real Sigma bearer who had they had one considered enlisting as an ally? It wasn't until I explained the story of his gradual regeneration that he began to believe the incredibly unreal story of this man's revival, something even gods were hard pressed to call a feat of theirs. Coming back from the dead on one's own and being revived by another were two completely different issues.
Then he made a completely outlandish demand.
"Would you lend one of your soldiers to me? The one there, with the monster lurking beneath that chest of his... I can smell that mark of his, as I'm sure he can mine. I could use someone like that."
"Lazarus? Why would you need one of my soldiers with abilities like yours?"
"I have incredible abilities, but just three men would not be enough for the mission I intend to carry out. I do have numerous pawns spread out amongst Cronus' men, but they won't last long once their existences as the living dead are exposed."
"It's exactly how it sounds. Many of them have been hollowed out by me, their bodies' vessels to my will, with only their minds remaining. It's the same as being dead... just puppets for me, and they don't even notice. No one does. I can make their bodies seem as human as I like from the outside and inside, with no one realizing it's far from that."
"Why do you need Lazarus? I imagine if you're making such requests you already have a plan in mind."
"Yes, quite... to be frank, I'll be taunting Cronus. I wonder just how long his patience can last?" At this point, Allen had begun to laugh, sitting legs crossed and a hand under his chin as he leaned forward to gaze at Sankou. "With each attack, he introduces an angle to frighten back the Coyotes hounding at his flock, and it has worked. He's almost entirely assumed control as very few are willing to fight those organized men without sufficient numbers."
"Do you plan on fighting them?" Sankou could only ask in a tone that seemed to only rise with ease from it's formerly grave tone at the request Allen had made, the man with blue hair, dressed in a formal business suit now, falling back into his seat and sighing while pulling his hands from his lap and instead putting them on the arm rests of the chair. "I'd be very pleased if you said yes."
"Seems you're out for blood too." Allen could only muse, grin spreading wider, "That puts us in a similar position then, doesn't it? While I don't deny that Cronus' men suppression other forces is quite advantageous, I imagine you want to avoid as much death as possible unless it'll make a god's head roll."
"We've hardly spoken and yet you already speak like you know me so well... yes, I've been hoping for an opportunity like this. If it came down to it, I'd have fought the PMC's, the Private Military Companies, myself in order to minimize the damage. I'd be happy to hand the burden over to you and focus on other things if you'd be willing to take it, however. If your powers are as frightening as they say..."
Sankou paused there, baiting the man, and Allen eagerly took the bait. "I believe you won't be disappointed. I'd happily carve into a few of them to further your goals as well as mine... after all, both our goals center around my family."
"Family... not blood related yet like siblings, they have not stopped mourning you yet. Nor have they mourned the loss of..." Sankou's voice trailed then. He couldn't get a chance to finish, as the man with the delta mark, Zags, stepped forward, his gold mark briefly lighting up as he gave a salute to Sankou who then looked back to Allen and grinned wide.
"So your powers are the real deal... the realm of the dead, huh? Well, I'll lend you Lazarus and his power for that cause then. On your side, I have no need to fear losing him. At this point..." Sankou snapped his fingers, and one of his two bodyguards, the short-haired one called Kin, stepped forward with a bottle of wine and two glasses on a tray, pouring both glasses and handing them to Sankou and Allen. "I don't regard those soldiers as humans. They look at us like aliens and would happily exterminate every last one of us, and then keep those powers for themselves. Soon enough, they'll start kidnapping injured mark bearers for their blood..."
"So you want me to put the fear of god in them before they step too far, huh?" Allen mused, softly twirling the glass in his hand and spinning the contents. A moment later, Kin had returned with glasses for Meiya, Zags and I, though I was less focused on the drink than the conversation.
"God? No, No. Our job is to kill gods, after all." Sankou chuckled while raising his glass to his lips, "Put the fear of hell in them. Make them believe the devil is real, and that their sins will have very powerful repercussions. After all... Hell is very real. Just as your Tabrias made a world of his own to call home, there exist many others. Yomi, Sheol, Gehenna, Naraka... the lands of the dead exist, in one form or another."
"It just so happens that Lazarus here is an envoy of Yomi..." Sankou began, and Allen grinned wide.
"Then I'll send them to meet Izanami soon." Allen laughed as well, before tipping his head back and pouring the whole glass down his throat, licking his lips and pulling them back to expose his blade-like teeth in his grin. "I'll show them a fate worse than death!"
"素晴らしい (Wonderful)!" Sankou cheered in turn, reverting to his native Japanese for the briefest moment in his excitement. Downing his own glass after, he sneered as he brought it down, his mark burning brightly. "Cronus will soon learn that even the most carefully laid plans will fall apart with the introduction of the unknown!"
The plans were laid and were to be made effective immediately. The four man group of Allen, Erkz, Lazarus and Zags were to strike out at the most dense collection of soldiers so far, collected at the last known positions Bookman and I had been seen at, and garner attention. Once that attention was gained... they'd slaughter them.
Sankou wanted you all to watch. That was why I appeared to you all again so soon. Magnus and Niki were fast asleep when arrived, and Python was casually watching television while Bookman meditated and you, Tabrias, were examining the realm for any sign of a certain delta mark bearing man's remains. You still could not understand how they disappeared, not aware of Erkz's treachery on that part. I could not allow you to spend too much time searching however, as the answer would appear before long.
"Do you think you could wake up Niki and Magnus?" I asked Python, who looked at me confused, cocking an eyebrow. "It's... a little important. I have something Sankou said you all need to see."
He'd depart shortly after, heading up the stairs and knocking on their door while I disturbed Bookman's meditation and approached you as well, staring blankly out the kitchen window as you tried to make sense of loose ends. When I returned with you, a clearly unamused Magnus had seated himself on the couch, with Niki tucked up against him with a pillow fastened against her chest, dressed in loose clothing for pajamas while the other just sat in plain shorts.
"I hope this is important..." Magnus groaned, rubbing his eyes. "Decent sleep isn't easy to come by in these hectic times."
"Sorry, but Sankou really wants you to meet this person." I then explained, looking to Tabrias and taking out my phone, opening the psuedo-GPS application designed to track the landmarks he had scattered throughout Europe. Greece, where this all began, in the 'God's land' (Γη του Θεού) just outside of Athens, had the least dense spread of them... solely because it was crawling with Cronus' soldiers by now, but that was exactly where we were going. I zoomed in on a specific landmark, in a densely populated city area. It was only about noon now, so there'd be plenty of people out and about but it couldn't be avoided.
"Hiding in plain sight, huh?" Tabrias chuckled, tugging at his collar nervously. "I hope Sankou knows what he's doing..."
Half an hour of preparation later, we were dropped off on the fifteenth floor of a hotel, Magnus going in first to scout and then the rest following with you exiting after me last from the portal. A rift floated from your finger and up into the vent above, and a moment later, another rift opened and deposited the landmark sitting there into your hand. You needed it close just in case you needed to escape back into his pocket dimension- after all, you couldn't stay out for too long.
I led you all to room 1507, where the guest of the hour was staying, and let them go inside before me before stepping in and closing the door after us, saying, "I guess we're all here then, right?"
"Yes, I guess so." As soon as he spoke, a heavy pressure filled the room. A low growl escaped from Python and Magnus' armor immediately formed over him, coat trailing on the carpet after him as he crossed the room toward the man sitting by the window, spinning his chair around as soon as he reached him. He shuddered when he saw the face of the hooded man sitting there.
The Sigma mark on his chest burned brightly as he grinned at the man in gold and black armor with a smile, peering into the green visor with no fear, his predatory eyes softening at the sight of a familiar friend. Rather, at the smell. I could see his nose moving as he picked up each scent, happily smelling the air and closing his eyes, letting out a happy sigh as he said, "Why so hostile, my brother? It's been a while, hasn't it?"
"...You're the real thing, aren't you?" He asked, while reaching down, at first seeming as if he was going to place his hand over that violet mark, its expanded roots stretching far unseen across the man's chest. Instead, it seized the collar of his coat, snapping up the man with white hair trailing into black by his collar and yanking him up to his feet, his hood falling back to reveal his face entirely. Allen could only grin wide, even as Magnus lifted him off the ground.
"...You... you're..." Magnus started as his helmet peeled back, exposing his face red with anger, teeth gritting. "You're really him, aren't you? You're really... Allen. I know this feeling better than anyone... that little bastard who tormented me and bothered me and teased me all throughout my youth. You little shithead..." He hissed, his hand gripping the man's collar beginning to shake.
An instant later there came a loud booming as his other fist collided with the white haired man's cheek, sending him nearly tumbling back off his feet, but he managed to maintain his composure and briefly examined his torn jacket now. Magnus hissed as he clutched the torn piece in his hand, gripping it with the other to stop it's shaking.
"You bastard... why didn't you tell us you were alive!?"
"...I couldn't." He started.
"That's bullshit! You could have told us at any time!"
"Carefully laid plans." He then spoke back in a louder tone, "I literally could not have told you I survived my encounter with Lucifer. Truly, I only did so because of her." He then revealed, pointing to me, at which point everyone gazes fell upon me, though only briefly. Niki placed her hand on my shoulder though, holding it firmly as if to keep me from escaping.
"...After my untimely 'demise'," He began, turning on heel, "I came to realize just to what extent my powers had developed thanks to my desire to live. If even a small piece of the whole remains, I survive, and rebuild... feeding on my surroundings to reorganize myself. The process was made much quicker, as she took care of me, fed me, fostered the growth of my new body... and after that, I moved quickly."
"How long have you been whole again, then?" Python asked, tail whipping uncomfortably. Allen twisted his neck at that answer, a loud popping produced from the odd angle it came at. Two monsters in one room... they had to adjust to each other, both men sniffing the air as if to ascertain from scent whether one or the other was dangerous.
"At least a month now. As soon as I revived, I came into contact with Erkz and Jon... no, Zags, who had left your group, and began making plans. I began to infiltrate various groups, using some powers I did not entirely know I was capable of until the day Lucifer 'killed' me, creating sleeper agents, laying careful plans... and inciting reactions from you with his death." He continued to explain, "I thought more of you would have adopted a more anti-human mentality, but it seems only Python caved in."
"He died on your orders then!?" Python began to hiss, a growl rising in his throat- and he ducked aside as a whip like object shot across the room at his head, ducking low beside one of the beds as he watched the scaled tail return to Allen's side, coiling back up and vanishing under his coat, which flattened out. It returned to him as if it were never there.
"Yes. However... just like I have returned, so has he." Allen said with a chuckle, extending a finger to his side. "He's two floors below us now, watching television with Erkz. You can see him as soon as you'd like." He then looked over his shoulder at Tabrias, who just nodded his head.
"So that's where the remains went... I see. You reassembled him... the way you had done with Magnus and Bookman the time before." He revealed, "But they had not completely died yet."
"Neither had he." Allen explained, turning around- and driving a finger into his own skull, Magnus stepping back somewhat as the blood gushed out from around the man's finger while he twisted it. "You see, those like me, or under the influence of my power... become much more difficult to kill, now that the flaws of the human biology have disappeared. My body... is very different from yours at this point. However, Python's has become quite similar to mine..."
"Just to be sure, I kept a piece of him within my own body as well, and used it to reassemble him. You could say he was controlling the body you saw remotely, while his consciousness itself was retained with me... that power is something well within my ability now. I can detach any part of myself, and control it from anywhere..." He then sneered, eyes glowing as a toothy grin spread itself into his expression, "I have a power even the gods can only dream of having, and can even twist life and death to my will."
"...So you made us think he died!?" Python could only hiss in turn, growling at Allen as the pupils of his eyes dilated. "You fucking bastard... I don't care what your reasons are, that's just too cruel! That we had lost two of us, and you...!" He dug his claws into his hands as they balled into fists, hair rising like hackles as the growling rolled in his throat again... but just as quickly, it settled, and he fell into a seated position. The will to fight simply... left his body. He couldn't be angry anymore.
"...Even so, I can't help but... be happy, I guess." He laughed, setting a hand over his face. "No one had to die after all..."
Magnus gazed at him in silence, but I could see from his expression that he felt the same way, his heavenly armor dispersing into gold particles and leaving the cowboy hat wearer back in his ordinary outfit, looking at Allen with a solemn smile.
"Don't do this again, okay?" He said now with a deep exhale, shaking his head, "That was... pretty messed up, alright? I know you had plans and all... but I don't think my heart could take another something like that without becoming like you guys. You and Python..."
"...Don't worry." Allen nodded his head in his response, "I won't. I'm back for good this time."
At this point, Niki felt Magnus was no longer volatile enough to be approached, and released my shoulder while walking past you to reach him, taking his hand and looking up at him while he looked down at her, both then looking at Allen. She then said, "Can you take us to Zags, then? If he's really alive, then... I want to see it for my own eyes. Proof of this 'power' of yours."
"I'd like to see that as well." Bookman spoke up as well, crossing his arms. "If he's really still alive... and yet, I can feel him from here. Something tells me there's no need to ask, but... I need to know anyway."
"...Well, sure, but..." Allen chuckled then, "Even with all my power, I couldn't do anything about his attitude."
"Hm? Oh, yo. I was expecting Lazarus." Zags non-chalantly called with his legs up on the table against the wall, the remote sitting in his lap. "Finally dropped the act, huh? Seems we'll be working again after all, friends." Zags calmly noted with a two fingered salute, leaving the group in silence.
"...So he's alive, huh." Bookman began, entering the room, turning his head in Erkz's direction and seeing him beyond the bandages over his eyes. "I imagine you knew as well then... if Allen's explanation holds up, after his desire to survive allowed him to possess two of Lucifer's allies, he and Issa approached you."
"Yeah. I did some things I'm not proud of." Erkz admitted, "I'd wanted to avoid killing people, but he really believes he can kill Cronus if we all work together... so as much as I'm against killing, bringing down the source of the problem is necessary above all."
"Yeah, sounds about right." You admitted now, looking at your hand as edges of your nails fragmented and broke apart, vanishing into red and blue pieces like pixels as they faded away. "Guess I can't hang out much longer... I guess we've seen what you needed us to see?" He asked me, and I nodded.
"Welp, nice to meet you all." Allen said with a laugh as he clapped his hands together, "I hope we can all work together and prosper!"
"Don't talk as if you just met us." Erkz spat, shaking his head. "Jeez, living with this guy sucks you know?"
"Yeah, tell me about it." Magnus grumbled, "I put up with him for over twelve years."
"Wha- asshole!" Allen hissed, Magnus just laughing at his outburst. "Jeez, I guess you haven't changed much either."
"...Anti-human, huh." Python mused, rubbing his neck, "You don't seem so very anti-human to me. Then again, you never seem that way around people you like... recalling, you were the first to get your mark, so I guess you assumed that people who thought like you were more likely to gain monstrous tendencies, right?"
"Yeah, something like that." Allen admitted, "It was a sketchy idea... but it produced results. I guess I'm onto something, at least."
"So what do you plan on doing from here?" Niki would be the first to ask, the question I was sure was on everyone's minds.
"Well, we're in such a dangerous place for a reason. We're getting Cronus' attention." Allen revealed, lifting a hand, the veins of which bulged before the tips of his nails became encased in violet flame, like the one he produced before striking Cronus so long ago. "He showed others something they want. Now I'll show him something he wants."
"I knew it was only a matter of time before you children appeared. Gaia had predicted your return some time ago... after all, the earth speaks."
I saw her before anyone else did, but at the same time I was too late in seeing her. By the time her voice filled the room, everyone else was already reacting- Tabrias throwing his arms around my shoulders and yanking me with him as he dropped the landmark, a rift appearing and pulling us both through back into his pocket dimension called home as a black cloud tore through the windows against the wall and blew open the curtains, revealing a woman covered head to toe in violet robes floating there.
I could not see her with my power. I could not focus on her- which meant she was a being of legend and importance, someone whose name was passed down on even today. I didn't know then that she was Medea, once lover of Jason.
Once we had passed through and the rift closed, I immediately projected myself, my mark burning bright as I homed in upon Allen and watched him then, seeing the man extending portions of himself and attaching them to his allies as the violent seething miasma tore into the room, shredding apart everything it came in contact with and causing it to dissolve. Master of medicines and poisons... this came from Medea's abilities, and her mark, passed down to her as the granddaughter of Helios. The mark 'Zeta' burned brightly on her chest beneath her flowing robes.
"To send me to deal with children like you... Gaia must not take me very seriously, yet she was so kind to take me in, so I shall humor her this time." Medea announced, just before the black cloud bellowed and launched further in, rolling through the room- and the rest of the hotel, all the windows upon that floor bursting open as the destructive and corrosive gas flooded through, occasionally wine red sparks rolling through the ghastly entity as it spread to higher and lower floors one after another, tearing the building apart from within.
Then out of the ghastly smoke came four figures, tails of their coats kicked up as they flew past her. One with white-into-black hair and a Sigma mark dressed in white and black, one with brown hair and a Delta mark dressed in white and blue, the third with the Sumerian 'An' branded to his chest beneath his thin gold plated armor, and the fourth bearing an Asian mark, the kanji for 'ten thousand' against his brown and gold uniform.
Immediately they scattered, white flame encasing the Delta mark bearer as he darted to the west. A strange flying device, crafted of gold and gems, moving with no propulsion ordinary men had ever seen, appeared with the man of Sumerian descent, the machine shooting north. The man with the Sigma mark became encased in a black cocoon, odd living strips surrounding it immediately shaping into great black wings, and taking it east. The last continued toward the ground, the man with blond strips streaking his black hair spinning as he fell and lashing out his sword, it's blade extending and expanding like a whip, and snapping around Medea.
With a single violent yank, she was snapped out of the air with him, and his swing slammed her against the street, crushing an empty parked car beneath as he landed above her, legs spread around her body and his blade coiled around her body. Lazarus hissed down at her, reptilian eyes dilating as his own expanded mark glowed in its dirty gold color, and told her, "Go ahead. Call all your friends. I can wait."
"I don't need to." The woman hissed in turn- the cracks edging her mark and stretching along her chest lighting up violet as her body burst into the very miasma bleeding from her sleeves, Lazarus immediately coiling up his blade and springing aside as the car he stood upon was torn to ribbons, the woman reforming amidst the smoke with her black hair floating about her exposed face. "I wouldn't waste her good will on children."
A moment later, the cocoons encasing the rest shattered, leaving them all sitting in the kitchen within your pocket dimension.
"W- Send us back!" Niki would hiss at you, but I shook my head.
"...No, I think they've got it handled."