Falling out of the air, Cro landed feet first on the ground and collapsed. Heavy, shaking breaths gripped his body as he closed his violet eyes and grimaced. Digging his fingers into the mixture of snow and concrete dust beneath him, Cro's body spasmed in an attempt to rise.
"Shit..." he hissed through gritted teeth. "Might have used a bit too much..."
Across the yard, Cro could hear the sound of crunching snow and panting gasps as Ava ran towards him. At least he assumed it was her. His head was heavy and his hearing muffled. Ink crawled across the corners of his vision, blotting out patches of the scenery.
Feeling her hands on his shoulders, Cro looked up and smiled at Ava. As he did so, his secular vision swept across the ruined boatyard.
The Hechatonchires was gone, he was certain about that. And that meant he had time. How much, he wasn't sure. What he did know was that the biggest threat had been neutralised.
Grinning weakly, Cro leaned to the side and gently pressed his lips against Ava's. "Thank you... Just... Glad you're safe."
Slapping him sharply across the face, Ava wiped at her red eyes and inhaled deeply. "Don't you ever scare me like that again!"
"I'm sorry..." Cro cast his eyes down at the ground and held her close to him. "I didn't mean to be so reckless. I just wanted you to be safe..."
"That doesn't mean that you should throw yourself at death like that!" she shouted, returning the embrace tightly. "He could have killed you!"
When he replied, Cro's tone was somber and low. "I don't die so easily..."
Nat ran through the wire mesh gates that bordered the yard, his feet skidding across the icy ground. Clouds of smoke steamed from his lips as his panicked breathing sped up.
He had no idea what the man had done to Briareus, but the instant it happened, he had felt his connection to the giant sever.
Fumbling with his keys, Nat had made up his mind by the time he reached his car. Gilgamesh needed to die.
It was the only way that his boss would forgive him for losing the Hechatonchires. Eliminating the corporate leader would be a huge step forward in their plans. Enough so that the loss of his puppet would likely be forgotten.
Out of the corner of his eye, he spotted a squat black pickup truck. Half hidden by a road sign, it was clear that the owner had parked in a hurry.
That must be his car... Nat thought, squaring his jaw and changing course mid-run.
Circling around the truck, he reached inside his large overcoat and pulled out a stout black object. The silver surface of the switchblade glinted viciously in the moonlight as the blade snapped out into open air. Less than a minute later, two of the large tires were left slashed and deflated.
Turning back onto his original route, Nat lifted the keys in his left hand. The headlights of his car flickered, slicing the night as he unlocked the doors and prepared to flee the scene.
Fire lashed across the side of the car, scorching the metal. The pungent scent of burnt hair fizzled into the air as the few strands that clung to the back of Nat's hand caught light.
Amy Matsu stood, illuminated by the fire that cloaked her arm, just through the gates to the docks. The snow under her feet had melted; the pools of water rippling and glinting from the light thrown by the flames. Supernovas blazed from her eyes.
"You're dumber than I thought, if you think I'm going to let you just run away," she spat out, gripping Nat in an unwavering stare.
"Amaterasu." Nathaniel straightened his back and turned towards the Nippon goddess.
"Amy," she corrected, sharply.
"You're not really planning on attacking me, are you?" Nat asked, cocking his head to one side as the corner of his mouth slipped into the beginnings of a smug smile. "I thought you were smarter than that."
"Oh I'm much smarter than you think," Amy retorted. "Force is only substantial if you apply leverage. And the leverage you had on me just vanished in that flash of purple light. Your Hechatonchires is gone. You have nothing to threaten me with. So now tell me... In my position, what would seem like the smarter move to you?"
"Honestly? Running. Far far away from me. At least that way you'll get some time before He comes looking for you. Time before I end you."
"I always knew you were arrogant," she said. "Truthfully, I couldn't stand you. But now I can see what you really are. Delusional." The flames swallowing Amy's left arm roared even fiercer as she trained her aim towards the man. "I've seen the extent of your Influence first hand. Your hold over Briareus was tenuous at best."
Nat's smile now gripped his entire face. His previously heavy breathing was level and calm. Eerily so. "And you think this gives you free-reign to, what? Dispatch me?"
"You've gotten far too arrogant for your own good."
"Oh, is that what this is about?" Nathaniel chuckled slightly under his breath and took a step towards the Goddess. "Sorry, but whatever you're selling, I'm not buying. Wanna know what I think? I think this is about that man back there." He pointed into the deep set destruction that had been wrought behind Amy. "You've fallen for him, haven't you?"
Despite her best efforts not to react, Amy's face ticked.
"Do you want me to let you in on a little secret?"
Now striding forwards, his gaze fixed her, Nat's demeanor changed. Pocketing his keys, he pulled out a cigarette and slipped it into his mouth.
Amy flexed the fingers of her outstretched hand and prepared to launch another blast of fire at him.
The Amaterasu froze. A dominating force lashed onto her, fixing her in place and freezing out even the most minute of movements. Her onyx eyes opened wide in horror.
Lighting his cigarette on the flames billowing from her arm, Nat again donned the eerie smile.
"The only reason why my Influence over Briareus was as weak as it was, is because a Hechatonchires is not a God. Divine, yes, but it isn't a God. The most I could do was seal and restrain Briareus' powers. An Influencer's power isn't to control Divine beings... It's to force Gods' hands... And compel them to answer our 'prayers'."
Amy ground her teeth together as she tried in futility to move. To break Nat's control over her. Her brain screamed at her limbs to move, however she couldn't even so much as twitch one finger.
"Do you still think this was the smart choice?"
A shot of fire erupted into the ruined skyline, flashing light across the tops of smashed shipping containers.
Feeling the heat from the blaze, Ava turned away from Cro to gaze upon the fire. Warm air, from the blast, cascaded into her face and melted the falling snow into a veil of rain.
As he too laid eyes on the flames, Cro felt his breath hitch in his throat. "Amy..."
"She's okay, right?" Ava asked, worried.
His arm slung over the shoulder of his partner, Cro attempted a step forward before feeling his leg fall out beneath him. All of his weight collapsed onto Ava, causing her to stumble.
"We need to hurry..." he choked out, a prevalent fear clinging to his voice.
They arrived at the entrance to the boat yard to find Nat gone. All evidence of both him and his car, on the snow, had been cleared away by the searing heat of the fire.
And laying in the centre of a vast pool of clear water, was Amy Matsu.
Planted in her chest, like a perverse flower, was the stubby handle of a switchblade. Blood trickled from her nose and the corner of her mouth.
"Amaterasu!" Cro shouted, in panic. Lurching forwards, he pulled himself off of Ava's support and staggered through the pool.
As he crashed to his knees beside her, he barely made out a weak voice whisper a single word: "Amy..."
"Okay. Okay. Amy. Amy, stay with me."
Cro's hands fumbled clumsily as he reached out and tore her coat open around the blade.
As Ava reached her side, Amy's eyelids began to flicker weakly. Her breathing started to slow.
"Amy! Amy!" Cro's voice was more panicked now. Purple sparks fizzled from his hands before sputtering out and vanishing into the water beneath them.
Ignoring his frenzied attempts to seemingly save her, the Nippon Goddess turned her foggy black eyes onto Ava. A weak smile plucked at the corner of her bloodstained lips. "Hell... Of a guy... You got..."
Words died in Ava's throat. She couldn't bring herself to speak. Shock gripped her like a vice.
Still trying in vain to help her, Cro's trembling hands sparked purple static. The flicker of violet light lapped at Amy's milky skin and glimmered over the surface of her eyes. The irises morphed as her pupils dilated, turning from their original godly onyx to a dull and human brown.
The Nippon Sun was swallowed by darkness.
Amy Matsu died, staring up at the moon.