"You know, before this I was just an ordinary girl going to college in and moving in with the boy I liked... I was just planning out my life and gliding on by while everything was normal. Now I'm here, one arm less, and wondering who I'll have to kill next before we can finally put an end to all this." Niki spoke aloud with a sigh as the group sat around the table in the living room, though I sat the farthest away, listening to their stories while I monitored the battle just in case things went south.
"Magnus already had his plans for the future all lined up... he knew exactly what he wanted to be, and he was willing to support me while I searched for what I wanted as well." She continued, "I'm sure you all know already, but talking about it makes me feel like those days aren't as far as they really are. He was going to be a lawyer you know... and now not even the law can do anything about monsters like us running around. What dominion does human law have over this kind of power?"
"I just wanted to get my English Major, and move on... and yet..." She looked down at her right arm, the slightly red tinted skin betraying its false nature as always, her red Tau mark lighting up briefly for a moment. "Now I'm stuck with this... despite how natural the power comes to me, at the same time it doesn't feel like it's a part of me. It just suddenly came into my life, and I was forced to use it. I had to put up with it in order to survive, but I didn't really accept it."
"Who would? I didn't want this fighting, and I didn't want to kill people." She said this with a grunt, balling her hand into a fist. "Yet if I wanted to cling to even the tiny bit of hope Gaia offered us of returning to a normal life, I had to. I dreamed of it, being able to put all this behind us. When this first started, no one died. It felt like something out of a show... we scared them away and went on with our lives, like superheroes. The powers actually felt good then... but then the fighting escalated and escalated, and more people started dying. Then Allen..."
"After that, I didn't really accept it anymore." She opened her hand then, red sparks dancing between her fingernails before flowing off her fingertips and coalescing into a rifle in her hand instantly, which just as quickly broke apart into fading red particles drifting toward the ceiling. "It was something I had to take seriously, to use to actually take and save lives, and couldn't just use as a tool to make my life easier. It became a responsibility that I didn't want. No one wanted this."
"If I can comment..." Bookman picked up after her, after listening to her story intently he raised his hand to gain everyone's attention. "I think Allen did."
"I... had a life too. We all did, you know? I had a girl I was dating, we were really going places... she even asked if I wanted to move in with her." Bookman revealed, and eyebrows rose at this revelation. "Surprising, right? I never told anyone... all you knew is that I had become busier on some days rather than keeping up contact, thanks to her. Thanks to Page... but didn't we all? We all had lives, we all had careers to pursue, we all had something we wanted to do while always keeping in mind the day we'd meet again."
"Except... him." Bookman turned his head at this, as if averting his eyes though no one could see them to begin with. "Allen... I don't think he ever knew what he wanted to do. He was never very interested in the world, it's people, or it's events, unless it was something relevant to things he planned to do for himself. He only did what made him happy, and many of the world's mortal pursuits never did it for him."
"No matter what we talked about, he never really had something in turn to talk about... he just listened and commented, but rarely talked about things. He was always available... it was obvious after a while that he didn't have much to do." Bookman continued, "I always watched out for him and tried to inspire him, but he was never interested... did you see, though? Once he got his powers, he got so eager. He was alive for the first time. He had something he could do, and he wanted to do it for all of us."
"I just wanted to pursue my business, open up a little shop... eventually expand, support myself and page with the proceeds. You know, expand on the work I had started at home, word of mouth trading and what not. Allen had nothing... until now. Now, with these powers, he can pursue any dream he desires and can attain anything. Now more than ever, he is alive and I think he enjoys these powers more than anyone else." Bookman said this with a chuckle, shoulders heaving as he shook his head and sat upright.
"So if anyone is enjoying this situation, it's him. I could feel the sinister air coming from him... he's truly cast off his humanity. The only thing remaining of it now would be us... we are the only remaining anchors tying him to the human world." He finished, smiling faintly as he crossed his arms. "...At least he found something he's happy with, while we struggle to return to our former lives. What will I tell Page? I haven't spoken to her in months... and I still don't dare to lest Cronus try to use her against me. My entire life has been forced to wait until I can kill that man."
"This is our lives now." Python spoke up now, clearing his throat after attention had been called to him, "As much as I support optimistic thinking, do you really think we're that lucky? Do you think it'll end with Cronus' death? It won't. The man who bound us to our chains will be gone, but there are just as many other chains still shackling us to this fate of bloodshed. Why do you think the "gods" were so willing to accept his offer?" As he spoke, his voice gained more of a hiss that soon became a growling in his throat, "It is because they think the same as him."
"His death will only be the necessary elimination of a contender, and just as quickly they'll turn on us to remove his scattered remnants and wipe out his lineage. The other gods won't play fair, and neither will Cronus. We can't escape this... unless the war stops entirely. Unless we win, and either force them to surrender or kill them all... this is our lives now. We could live a thousand years, which we probably will with these marks, and the problem would never go away." He planted a palm against his chest with that, Burgundy mark sparking against his hand.
"We have no choice to keep fighting, unless you're willing to lie down and die. At this point, that almost seems tempting, as only more suffering lays ahead with the longer this conflict is drawn out." His tail whipped against the floor with that comment, and he leaned back in his seat, legs still tucked up to his chest and talons digging through the pillow beneath him. Tabrias could fix it instantly so he didn't care for it.
"If there's even a little hope of returning to normalcy, I'd rather not die." Magnus sharply responded to him, "...Besides, even if I can't I don't care. I have what I need, and with these powers... I can do something else. I can make a different life; I can make a better life for myself and for Niki. Cronus did it, and you can see how far his influence reaches. I can do the same, right? I'll make a new life."
Niki looked at him as he pat her leg, turning his hand over and clasping hers as she set hers on his and gripping it tightly. "These ancient fucks adapted and so can we. You never know, Bookman. I mean... what if Page is a mark bearer? Even if she isn't, maybe you can make her understand. You could live without hiding what you are."
"A little too optimistic." Python grumbled, "We talked about this, didn't we? To normal people, we're freaks. Monsters... some literal, some not, but all of us are looked at the same because of our powers." He then coiled his tail around himself, growling as he wrapped his scarf around his head again and hiding his nose in the process, "Those people will never accept us, humans do not have the capacity to accept that which they cannot control or do not understand, and we are certainly not human to them anymore. Media exposure can be thanked for that."
"Having hope isn't a bad thing, but Python is right." You stated flatly, scratching the side of your head, "There's no way we can integrate into normal society if people know we are mark bearers. For now, there's no way anyone will know since only mark bearers can tell each other apart... but... if you were to ever show Page your powers, she would just be terrified of you. I don't think that's going to work out, Bookman."
"...Yeah." Bookman looked at Tabrias, and then looked down at his hands, fiddling with his thumbs as he sat in a half lotus, the outstretched leg hanging over his seat. "...I'll keep believing in her, and hope she understands, but I can't deny that the possibility is there. All I can do is hope..."
"Hope is all any of us can do." Tabrias continued in his dull tone, tapping his chin, "Hope we survive. Hope we can win; Hope we can rally the forces to fight even with Sankou's assistance. Hope is all we have right now, and we've gotten lucky this far. Allen survived, Zags survived... and we continue to grow stronger by the day. I'd say putting our faith in hope is a good bet by now."
"...Do you want to fight?" I asked Tabrias, and he gazed at me momentarily while sitting his chin on his knuckles... and then shrugged.
"I'm in different to it. If you ask me, I'm a little like Allen, I guess. Very few things in the mortal world interest me. Ever since I've been young I've been trying to find ways to bend it and break it. Look at me now... I'm creating whole worlds I can twist at my will. I'm one step closer to breaking things in the outside world too. I don't enjoy the fighting... but I'll do it as necessary. It's not something I care for. It's just the removal of obstacles as I advance, and advancing brings me closer to my own desires."
"I had some plans, pursuing a physics degree, researching theories I had thought up in my youth on a whim likely due to influence from my dormant mark, but those can all go out the window now. I don't need some long and drawn out or contrived plan to pursue my own success now that I'm already over halfway there." Tabrias waved a hand at this notion, "Neither do any of you. We are capable of doing anything we desire now, whether or not it disrupts the flow of the mortal world."
"...Yeah." Niki spoke up now, as she leaned over, resting her head on Magnus' shoulders. "We always say we can do whatever we want if we try, pursue whatever goal... but it's not true, is it? There's always someone else trying to put us down, trying to step on us and tear us apart and keep us from getting there with red tape, hurdles and all sorts of ridiculous contracts and paperwork, taking more of our time and effort to try and make us quit. That's all gone now, isn't it?"
"...Not at all." Bookman chuckled, "The human red tape, conspiracy, control and obstacles are all gone... but it's still there. The gods still obstruct our path, and control what way we take, and attempt to destroy us if we oppose them. Just like everyone else... just like everyone else. Nothing has changed."
"After all, even if they call themselves gods... even if we call ourselves gods and monsters, even with this power, we're still just humans. Just as worthless as the rest of the species." Python added on, laughing to himself while swinging the end of his tail against the arm of his recliner. "Even with all their power, they cannot escape human nature. Even the earth mother, Gaia, merely uses it to advance her own goals and crush opposition. Nothing has changed. We've merely moved up one ladder to the next."
"Even something like getting through accounting courses seems so trivial now." Python mumbled while closing his eyes, tapping his tail with the tips of his fingernails. "All of that is just too far gone now."
"...All we can do from here is keep going forward, then." Magnus chimed in now, rubbing his neck. "Looking back won't do us any good... as much as I hate to say it, that life seems dead and gone now, as long as the gods remain. We could run, we could go into hiding, we could try to pretend it never happened and go back to the way things used to be... but we'd never really be at peace. Not with ourselves, and not with others. They'd find us eventually... all we can do now is keep marching forward, and win."
It was fortunate that the attack of Cronus' private soldiers had driven most people from the city or into hiding thanks to the destruction, or the death count of this battle would have been much higher. The army had already quarantined this place, even bombed it before, but the damage was negligible, and this was seen all over the country by now. At this point they did nothing to act, on the warnings of Cronus' that their conventional weaponry would do no good. They simply helped ordinary citizens to escape as best they could.
That made fighting freely much easier as Medea chased Allen through the air, twisting the miasma of her body into countless blades, thin droplets of corrosive poisons and acids vaporized and collected at her fingertips carving through metal and armor alike with incredible ease. It even burned and cut at his shape shifting body, so he remained on his guard, springing back and weaving through strikes as the twisting miasma was hurled in long threads at him, twisters rising from her sleeves and tearing through the remains empty office buildings while attempting to carve into the once dead Sigma mark bearer.
The building fell apart around them with each strike, like a deft sword stroke with each movement of her arms- but by now he had learned how to fight back. Even if she could make her body into gas, there was a way to fight it! As he twisted inwards toward her, a cutting twister of the deadly miasma burrowing through his left shoulder, his right arm rose encased in violet flame. The geyser of flame jetted out of his hand, immediately igniting the miasma which twisted away from the flames and snuffed out those flames with its rapid movements, the woman reforming with a hiss as her mark shone in opposition to his.
I knew why he hadn't attempted to absorb her body by now. The molecular movement of her gaseous form was too extreme and scattered, she could detach any infected part with ease and recover and attack all at the same time while he attempted to retreat. He had learned that the hard way and took quite a wound from it. It had healed by now but it was a merciless attack regardless. He wasn't going to make the same mistake again.
He sprung from the building as the miasma reared back around her, howling as it formed a massive twister over the building and dove down, a massive maw swallowing the building hole and reducing it to rubble and ash. Fortunately, Erkz was there to catch him as he fled- the flying machine, the Vimana, that he had inherited catching him on its bow as he sped past, escaping the ever expanding tornado of deadly miasma that circled Medea as she snarled at her escaping prey.
"I had not expected you to still be alive, but that is of no matter. Gaia has deemed that you children are unable to defeat Cronus, so she will take to the winning side while she still can. I shall snuff out those faint embers of your life!" Medea announced before the cloud of miasma came tearing after them, breaking apart every building that crossed it as it darted after the machine of gold and gemstone, animated by an otherworldly force that let it move through the air as a boat would water.
It was only diverted when a jet stream of white flame came searing from between the buildings, nearly scorching the Vimana in the process but saving them from imminent destruction as the massive miasma cloud was burned to a more manageable size before the flames were extinguished, Medea hissing at the crouched form of Cobalt, the tiger-form Divine Armor that Zags piloted crouched upon the remains of a collapsed skyscraper. It vanished in a blur, white flame rising around its position to blind the enemy as he darted away.
She knew better however. Zags would not escape her so easily, snapping his head aside in surprise as walls of miasma came flowing through the rubble like foam, washing over his Divine Armor and carrying him away, eating away at it with every second it remained in contact before carrying it into the air. It attempted to spawn white flame, but the incredible winds turned up by the rushing miasma overwhelmed them before they could even hope to get started. Then came the metallic screeching as metal tore, Zags' eyes opening wide as a leg was torn free of Cobalt.
At that point he could no longer afford to hold back, the Delta mark on Cobalt's faceplate shining in a blinding light as countless gold triangles began to appear in the air all around it's body, even overlapping upon it as if they were being warm, over its arms and legs and neck and torso- and he spun them, twisting the machine's entire body and using the triangles as his guide as he used them to force the machine to move. He was fighting Medea with every step, but it became easier as the energy composing the triangles cut away at the Miasma with every turn. In turn the miasma ate at them, and he could feel himself growing weaker and weaker as he was forced to maintain them.
Just before he could feel the armor around the cockpit tear apart, at last Cobalt came into his control again, and he roared as white flame erupted from its body and he tore free of the Miasma, twirling like a top through the air covered in golden triangular blades, only managing to right himself and cease his spin before he crashed back first into half of a collapsed building. As he continued to soar his foot met the ground and he attempted to balance upon it, but the weakened claws tore and broke upon the ground, his balance soon lost once the armor's foot sank below the surface of the street and the wounded Divine Armor collapsing onto it's back, throwing it's leg over its head and rolling onto its front as its slide finally came to a stop.
She was already upon him by then, cackling as she stretched out her arms and the miasma engulfing her wove itself in turn, twisting like drills and burying itself into Cobalt's form, drilling at the head, the torso, and the remaining limbs in an attempt to destroy them. More and more power fled from Zags as he attempted to maintain the triangles of light against this onslaught coming from numerous directions, forced to make more and more as the intensity of the assault increased.
Her attention was only drawn as a black fluid suddenly shot in a stream toward her, the miasma withdrawing to defend her and vaporizing it instantly on contact... as the fumes washed past her nose, she laughed. "Poison? You're using poison against me? Child, I have had these powers for thousands of years, your immature abilities cannot hope to match up against mine!" Then moving to returning the favor, she swung her hand and the miasma twisted, solidifying into a violet acid that washed down the road as a tidal wave, melting all it passed toward the Divine Armor in the distance.
This Divine Armor might seem familiar to some due to its snake-like helmet encasing it's featureless mask of a face, but the similarities ended there, as fur ran down it's fins and wound around it's shoulders, encasing it's back and sides and leaving a 'scaled' appearance only upon the front of the torso, even the arms coated in what seemed to be fur and scales only covering the clawed hands dripping with poison. It's mask flattened out as its mouth sealed shut after spraying that poison, bounding out of the path of the melting wave of acid and continuing to distance himself from it as the rubble he would have stood on to escape it all melted away.
This gave Zags an opportunity, roaring as white flame rocketed from his arms and struck the miasma cloud yet again- but she had been expecting this, parting the massive cloud and allowing the flames to past through almost completely harmlessly. This gave Zags room to escape, as the escaping flames propelled Cobalt backwards- and right past Erkz and Allen, who now rocketed straight at that dark cloud. Allen still stood upon the bow of the strange flying throne, arms extended at his side as black matter twisted and tore itself all around himself. A massive shift was being prepared, and he was waiting until the last moment to unleash it.
He dove straight from the flying machine as it suddenly turned in an entirely other direction, arcing away from Medea as she gathered her miasma cloud. Allen still approached however, the momentum of the machine and his leap carrying him straight toward her, arms still outstretched as the black mass tore from his arms and expanded into the air. It formed around him in an instant- his Divine Armor- like a massive metal cocoon, it's layered strips winding around him as a black bubble encased him as it's cockpit, protecting him just before he directly collided with her.
He smashed into her with incredible speed and force, the round machine carrying her down into the Earth, and immediately spinning upon itself like a drill atop her once they had reached the ground. It only retreated once the miasma threatened to gather upon it again, the metallic cloth-like strips composing its round form suddenly creating vents upon its sides aimed straight down at Medea. A single powerful burst of violet light from those jets formed upon it shot it straight into the air and away from the miasma, where the cloth unwound and instead floated in a static form, the only form maintained being the carefully crafted cocoon encasing the cockpit.
A foolish move, as the miasma had not gathered upon her, but instead followed him. It locked around those strips, gripping them and pulling them apart- she knew they were his limbs, free form and changing to his will, and so she was going to tear them. She would rip them apart... if only their nature allowed. In the grip of the mist, they even then changed form, coiling upon themselves into huge drill-like turbines. This was his opportunity! They immediately began to spin, not forcing out the Miasma- but drawing it in! He was absorbing every last molecule, the limbs and cocoon beginning to bloat up as the black fog was sucked into it, Allen sneering as he gazed down to see Medea.
She was grinning right back. She wiped the blood from her face as she floated from the crater, her robes torn from the injuries sustained- but from them more miasma flowed, from in her wounds, past her lips, in her sleeves. More and more endlessly escaped from her, and she laughed. Thousands of years of power collected in one body... she had all the energy and more she needed to keep producing more and more of this miasma until she could finally wear them down and destroy them. Even worse... her control was absolute. It rushed up to meet the man as the last of the former Miasma cloud was absorbed- and immediately, it became a liquid.
A massive pool of gelatinous acid that immediately attached itself to his armor- his body, by extension, and began eating through it with ease. His face immediately showed panic, as he twisted and shook- finding to his horror that it wouldn't be absorbed. It refused to be absorbed, and ate more of him the more he tried to consume it! The most he could do was try to discover the composition and brace himself against it, but then as he did that it continued to eat, dissolving the cocoon and the cockpit's surface cracking as the corrosive slime tried to crush him within.
White flames struck the slime at the same time as numerous lances of green light came piercing through the air, punching through the miasma encasing Medea- and nearly striking her before she became one with the miasma itself, only reforming after the Vimana had rocketed past, the cannons upon its surface still glowing green. She turned back to Allen, moving to strike again before Erkz could recover- but she was forced to flee again as green appeared in the corner of her eye, breaking apart into gas atoms and scattering before she could be completely obliterated by the green beam that passed.
The Vimana had transformed in an instant, the living throne going from flying device- to Divine Armor, the golden armor's thick veins composed of glowing gemstone, the golden faceplate shining with the 'An' mark as it's body gained various shades of red and gold, the cannons it had been firing with now combined into one large rifle it held in both hands while dropping back to the ground. The jets lining the back of its legs fired up just before it landed, ceasing its ascent, then ceased, allowing it to land gently without ending up waist deep in the ground.
It fired again, Medea scattering again and again in order to avoid the green beams tearing through the sky, while Allen instead descended to the ground, eyes alight with a black flame. He knew the composition of that poison now... which meant it would no longer work. He gave a mental thank you to Zags before his wounded ribbons-like limbs drove themselves into the earth, absorbing all the matter they could reach to repair the damage that had been done to him. It was something that very easily could have killed him... he wouldn't let it get the best of him again. It was time to return the favor.
He broke apart, as if he had turned to dust. Then, the next time the miasma gathered, so did he. As Medea formed, his Divine Armor was instantly there beside, the woman spinning to face him in surprise as trillions and trillions of atoms broke apart and reassembled in the blink of an eye. Erkz held his fire as it struck at her, vents opening all over the surface of the machine as it wound it's ribbons around her, and attempted to vacuum in both her and her miasma.
The response was expected, a large deal of the miasma turning into slime as it was absorbed and bloating up the spherical machine as it transformed within it, but the clogging was enough to allow her to escape at least momentarily. However, not for long... it was absorbed through the surface instantly, and then Allen was gone. It became a goose chase, the man reassembling wherever she appeared- Erkz pushing her in the direction best desired to force her to confront Allen, getting to a point of annoyance with her.
When she formed again, this time she was on the offense- already encased in a slime bubble of a new color, instantly melting the limbs of Allen's Divine Armor upon contact as the bubble instead lurched toward him- and the instant he backed away from it, it turned upon Erkz. The surface rippled and a small pellet of the acid shot from its surface right at the man, who saw it just an instant too late as it tore through his rifle, both his arms, and the side of the golden armor's torso with a hiss as the melted areas smoked and steamed.
The ripple surfaced again, and two reacted in turn to it instantly. As three more acid balls shot free of the massive ball, two walls opposed it- a wall of spinning triangles, summoned by Zags and launched with all his power, massive in size and power, and violet flame encasing the twisting form of Allen's Divine Armor, it's remaining limbs and body whirling about. Neither were enough, the bubbles smashing through the shield and then ripping through the flames and armored body on a path toward Erkz- but substantially smaller and weakened by each wall nonetheless, neither hit the cockpit and only veered off course, the three only continuing to damage the body.
That let him escape, immediately bursting out of the cockpit in time to avoid a fourth shot, using all of his available strength to avoid the machine gun spread of acid pellets being shot at him from Medea's new bubble. For a moment, he found relief, as Lazarus sprung in the way and whipped his sword about, the living blade snapping around and striking each acid pellet out of the air. Though a moment later, he saw his blade melting before him- and instead immediately threw up his arms defensively, the faceplate of his Divine Armor ripping open to spray it's poison at the incoming pellets yet again in an attempt to divert them, its own protected body barely enduring them as they struck it, melting plates along the surface.
In the next instant she was upon him, Lazarus leaping back as arms of the corrosive slime whipped out at him, striking his leg and immediately burning through it- another swing smashing through the side of the head and leaving the remainder melting away. Hissing, he unleashed another poisonous spray before leaping away, the wounds upon his Divine Armor healing themselves as his mark lit up... only to continue melting, the man gripping his head in pain as he felt the damage being done to it from within. That acid wasn't fading easily!
In the next moment, as the ball of acid with Medea within came lunging at him again- Allen's Divine Armor collided with the bubble, causing it barrel aside and collapse from the massive force against its gelatinous shape. Instantly, his armor began to melt- but he ignored that, the cockpit instead launching out even as it began to melt and sending him colliding directly with Medea yet again, his own body melting rapidly as the cockpit shattered. However, he had seized the opportunity.
They came shooting out of the acid, with the half melted man screeching as a black ooze seeped from his wounds and wound up his body- his fingers immediately digging into her arms as he clutched her, and an ear splitting screech escaping from her as every vein in her body suddenly expanded and inflated irritably, stretching against her skin. Already, his blood was within her, tearing her apart from within, and with every second more and more took control of her body, wrenching control away from her and leaving the woman unable to change of fight back, barely able to move let alone use her powers.
She fought regardless, Allen hissing and screeching at her as she slammed her palm against his face, acid bleeding out from under her fingernails and melting away his face even as it attempted to regenerate, while he pumped even more of his blood into her- it was being fought against by her own poisonous blood, his own blood attempting to rapidly adapt to it.
"I... will conquer you!" He screeched, "A dog of Cronus cannot-!" He could not finish, as a hook of light tore through his throat- and numerous more sank through his body, ripping him apart and ripping him away from Medea, who immediately rolled onto her back within the crater they had created on and violently vomiting. Every last ounce of black blood was being purged from her... leaking from wounds and the holes left in her arms by his fingers. As she finished puking, she glanced over her shoulders and saw the glow of wings.
Not one pair, but many. Many men, like Seraphim, descending with six wings glowing behind them with Hebrew marks printed upon their chests. They gazed not at her or the wounded men strewn across this battle- but at Allen, who had begun to absorb the earth to rebuild his melted body, screeching at none other than Lucifer as he descended with spear of light in hand.
"You damn roach..." The fiery haired being roared, as he leveled his spear upon landing on the ground, eyes flaring up with a white flame as he grit his teeth, his six wings seeming like a roaring fire as they expanded. "I'll extinguish you again and again for every time you return!"
"Sure, come on then Lucy... give it a shot. You failed once, why not try again?" Allen snickered, his own eyes glowing with a black fire in the pupils as the irises expanded, completely overtaking the black sclera.
"I guess all that remains from here on is to keep fighting." Niki mumbled, hiding her face against Magnus' arm as she angrily mumbled.
"Yeah..." Magnus sighed in agreement, sitting back and rubbing his neck as my expression suddenly became grim. Python noticed this and tapped me with his tail, turning his head aside inquisitively.
"...As much as I hate to say it, you all may be fighting again soon." I spoke up now, raising my head. "My father just arrived."