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HALT

Owen was currently seated, being forced to multitask as he watched over both Herah’s and Alex’s dots, the pair jerking around sporadically within their separate battlefields, Jeffery who was darting across the entire projected map at such speeds that it gave Owen a slight headache, String who seemed to be partially tracking Alex, and the numerous bodies that Moon was running across the entire forest.

RIZZZZ!

“What the-”

Just as a completely new dot representing Moon appeared on his projected map, the ground a few feet behind Owen burst open as a Moon shot out of it with his left arm transformed into a massive drill. Flying a few feet into the air, Moon quickly morphed his arm back into its normal state before landing in front of a very surprised Owen.

‘Oh shit! Oh shit! Oh shit!’ Owen thought, scrambling to his feet as Moon morphed his other arm into an axe and began to walk towards the gnome. For some strange reason, Owen immediately noticed the tears tracks on Moon’s face with the saddened expression he wore being the second thing Owen noticed.

With greats amounts of fear and terror filling Owen, the gnome held his left arm down to his side as his hand opened wide and a purple square with yellow runes of celestian filling it. Before Owen could make another move, Moon spoke.

“Norwe told me to tell you that the moon has completed its phases.”

Owen felt a fleeting sense of worry at Moon’s words.

‘He is a part of this too?’ Owen asked himself before shaking his head and calling upon magic from the Goddess Reese to fill the spell he was prepping. ‘If I can convert his kinetic energy into potential I should be able to halt him until I can signal someone to hel-‘

Owen found his thoughts cut short by Moon’s axe hand appearing in front of his face before he could react. Moon lowered his blade until it was under Owen’s chin and used it to tilt Owen’s head up to look at his own.

Owen’s breath began to come in rapid, short bursts as his pupils dilated and fear filled his entire being. His body quivered as tears began to drip from his eyes at the thought of what was most likely to happen to him.

‘Is he going to kill me?’ Owen frantically thought, as he barely noted the strange feeling of his left ring finger heating up, ‘Oh Lady Grey, let this not be my end.’

Owen watched unable to move from his own fear as Moon moved his other hand to his mouth and bit down on his left pinky.

CRUNCH!

Owen’s eyes widened further as he slowly watched blood fly into the air and splatter partly on Moon’s face. Before Owen could even think another thought, Moon flicked a single drop of blood onto his face.

As soon as the blood drop touched his cheek, Owen’s body froze and his mind halted any and all thoughts to just focus on the speck of blood that now tainted his face.

‘Blood. Blood. Blood. Blood. Blood. Blood. Blood. BLood. BLood. BLood. BLood. BLood. BLood. BLOod. BLOod. BLOod. BLOod. BLOod. BLOOd. BLOOd. BLOOd. BLOOd. BLOOD. BLOOD. BLOOD. BLOOD! BLOOD!-

BLOOD!

Owen could think of nothing else as Moon walked past him while saying,

“I’m sor-” There was a brief pause, “No. I need to stop apologizing for what I do. This is for myself and my people.”

Owen paid little mind to Moon’s words, his body paralyzed and all of his attention still being held by the tiny droplet of blood that now ran down his face. He did not move when Moon’s footsteps stopped, or when he heard the priest shift his feet around as he readied the strike that would end the battle in the favor of his people, nor did he move when the smell of smoke greeted his nose.

It was only when Moon swung at the tree that Owen moved, though not willingly. Before he even realized it, Owen’s left hand shot up and forcibly turned his body to face Moon. Mid-turn, a bunch of smoke began to billow from Owen’s left ring finger just before a sharp click was heard, quickly followed by one phrase.

La Gloutonnerie.”

VRRRMMM!

By the time Owen’s brain had caught up with his body, Moon was completely gone from the clearing and a soft burp came from his finger.

Dix minutes avant que ma nourriture soit digérée.

Owen looked down to his finger and towards what Herah had handed him right before leaving for battle in shock.

It was a ring.

More accurately, it was a small dragon that was made of jade and had multiple joints covering it. Its entire tail wrapped around a third of his finger starting at the base of the digit, while the rest of its body covered his finger with its four legs slightly wrapped around his finger and its wings folded-in laying atop its back. The dragon’s head sat atop the top of Owen’s fingernail and was just a bit larger than it. There were also wisps of smoke pouring from the dragon’s mouth, nearly making Owen cough when it flew into his mouth and nose.

‘This ring saved us all.’ Owen thought to himself before shaking his head and reaching for his amulet.

‘Herah!’

‘Owen!’ Herah mentally shouted back sounding a tad happy, ‘Glad you checked in when you did, I’m about to begin my counterattack and I still need your help locating each of the Moons. Especially because half of them are now somewhere not attacking me.’

‘Before any of that, I have to say thank you.’

There was a brief silence on Herah’s end before she responded.

‘While I will never need a reason for someone thanking me since I’m just so fucking great,’ Herah’s slightly pompous tone switched to a more modest one, ‘It would be nice to know exactly what I’m being thanked for.’

Owen quickly wiped away the blood on his face doing his best not to think about it.

‘Your dragon ring saved us all.’ Owen thought, sounding immensely grateful, ‘Moon had appeared and almost destroyed the tree. He was only stopped thanks to your ring.’

‘It’s a Cendre ring, I don’t know what a dragon is,’ Herah said sounding a bit confused before shifting to a more cheery voice, “But I’m glad both you and the tree are safe.’

‘Anyway, I need to get Max over here with me real quick before I check back in with you. Let me know when you need me.’

‘Okay then, Herah out.’

As soon as Owen felt Herah leave his mind, the gnome gained an expression of shame and disappointment, as he thought about what had just occurred. A single tear sliding down the side of Owen’s face, as he voiced a thought that bothered him down to his core.

“It’s only thanks to Herah that he was stopped.”

ONI

“This isn’t looking good,” Moon said to himself as his central body let out a grunt of irritation at what had just occurred. Just before the body could destroy the Donneur de Frêne, it got swallowed into what amounted into a void and had been flayed to the point of non-existence. He had only gotten past Owen’s surveillance system by digging around and just out of its thirty-kilometer radius until close enough to get in with little issue. The sudden loss of one of his bodies had also caused for Moon to redraw 23 of his bodies attacking Herah and to immediately send them towards Owen and his hat. That was until he lost the 23 he had still attacking Herah before half a second could pass, which was then followed up with who Moon only assumed to be Herah completely shredding his 23 other bodies before half a second more could go by as well. Jeffery had also had a drastic increase in speed, ridding the world of his 3 bodies gathering extra mass before completely blitzing the ball of mass that Moon had worked so hard to create.

Seeing all of this, Moon sent a finger to his mouth and bit it off. Right after chewing it for a bit and swallowing the end of his digit, Moon let out a sigh and said,

“I didn’t want to do this, but it seems I’ll have to draw on my last resort if I want to win this.”

Moon then raised the same hand he had just bit off of and waited for his finger to regrow. Once done, Moon initiated his last resort with a single action.

SNAP!

ONI

“FUCK YOU ALEX! I THOUGHT WE HAD SOMETHING FOR A MOMENT THERE!”

BOOM!

String, now fuming in rage, directed the snow wave she was surfing on just out of the way of another falling tree as she also shouted her head off at Alex. The Keijo had spent the last four minutes dodging around the copious amounts of trees that had been falling from the sky.

Each and every single one of them courtesy of Alex and Max of course.

The rain that blanketed the battlefield had drastically increased in its fall to the point that String could no longer visibly see anything more than a foot in front of her. Muddy craters, huge chunks of the trees that had previously been floating in the sky strewn across the ground, broken and unbroken arrows, and muddy snow now covered much of the battlefield. Several tornados were still moving across the ground in an intricate pattern that had nearly caught Alex several times, and arrows and trees would regularly fall from the sky, though String found that the tree she had just dodged had been the last of those.

“You sound as bout as hurt as you look String,” Alex responded with his unlively voice, “This isn’t looking too good for you at the moment.

String’s current state of wear could not disagree with Alex’s words, with her clothes being filled with rips and tears from several near collisions with the falling trees and some very well timed rock shots from Alex. Blood and bruises also now covered her body, with much of the bleeding being non-threatening on its own but a serious danger altogether with the bruises being much of the same case. This didn’t even account for String’s very much still detached ear.

The only good thing to occur to String so far was another electrical charge being gained.

Alex was currently riding atop a mound of unstable shifting mud and dirt, with a makeshift suit of rock covering much of his body that had quite a few arrows and bits of the wooden debris from the now wrecked trees stabbed into it. Most of the arrows had struck weak points within the gear that Alex was wearing and only a few had actually drawn blood from the human, the most damaging being one that had cut a gash into his cheek. Arrows were all Alex was attacked with now, since boulders had proven to be more fuel than weapons against in regards to Alex.

Speaking of which, String sensed an incoming hail and began preparing herself for her attack. Just as the sky darkened even more, Alex raised a single hand and pushed towards the arrows. A large chunk of the ground condensed itself into a massive boulder and was launched towards raining steel. String made this a futile effort, however, by creating several drafts of air that diverged all the arrows in seemingly random directions before setting them all on a crash course with Alex. The human immediately flipped off of the ground he rode and hunkered down before throwing both his arms out and clapping them over his head, creating a dome of rocks around himself. String ended up making this a moot point as well though, by creating several drafts of winds that worked as pressurized drills that easily tore into Alex’s dome. This, however, didn’t do String any good since Alex had burrowed underground at this point, the arrows only striking the area he had originally stood.

“Dammit,” String grunted out, her eyes but more her mind scrying the ground in search of any shifts or movements that would betray Alex’s position. “Where the hell are yo-”

The ground beneath the snow that String surfed upon exploded as Alex shot out of it and through String’s snow until right next to her. With Nike in hand, Alex made for swipe to String’s head but the chieftain leaned just out of the way of his attack and struck him with her own weapon right on the tail end of one of the arrows that had just lightly stabbed Alex’s left shoulder. String then followed this up by slamming Alex towards the ground with a heavy down current of wind.

“That was impatient of you Alex!”

Before impact could even occur the ground beneath opened up to swallow Alex, so String hit Alex with a gale of wind going sideways that launched him towards one of the nearby tornados String had created. Before Alex could reach the tornado, he raised one of his hands to his shoulder, used some of the rock covering him to cut off the end of the arrow String had hit, and fired it out of the draft pushing him.

CRAAAK!

A bolt of lightning struck the area between the battling duo just as Alex was caught by the tornado String had launched him into. This tornado just so happened to be filled with hundreds of arrows and wooden shards. String watched as more and more arrows and wooden shards began to chip at and stab into Alex’s protection. Alex, in his turbulent spinning, managed to stick one hand out and make a gesture upwards. A gigantic hand of mud and earth emerged from the ground and wrapped around Alex before pulling him towards its origin. String cut this short with several mini-tornados being created and sent through the base of the rocky hand. With the hand of land now destabilized, String created heavy downwards and upwards draft that slammed into each other with the hand caught in between the two. The hand began to flatten under the pressure of both currents but just before it got to a surely fatal point for Alex, the ground once again shifted as two more massive hands of land came up and (somehow) gently wrapped around the mass of dirt that Alex was held within.

“Oh no you don’t!” String shouted before increasing the pressure of her currents tenfold, causing the hands to lose their stability and to flatten the dirt and mud that Alex was trapped within.

When no immediate response to String’s last attack came, the chieftain found herself instantly on edge. Making sure to not stop her snowy mount and placing a large amount of her focus on the ground beneath her, String used several drafts of wind to rip the gigantic dirt/mud clump apart.

As the Keijo ripped away at the mud and dirt, she noticed that it got steadily redder and redder until-

“Oh shit!” String said, as her eyes widened at what she found in the dead center of the clump.

Alex’s very, very damaged corpse.

The first thing that String really noticed was just how flat Alex looked. He couldn’t have been more than an inch or so thick, with much of his body soaked in his own blood and several of his organs having exploded out of several very visible holes. The next thing that drew String’s attention was the fact that his eyes seemed to have exploded with only a bloody grisly mess being left in his now much tinier but wider sockets. The last thing that really captured String’s attention was how even in death, Alex’s flattened head held no real expression.

String let Alex’s body fall gently to the ground as she took herself down and allowed for the snow she rode to stop in its movements. Walking over to Alex’s corpse with the tiniest bits of trepidation filling her, String made sure to never stop in the spinning of her chain whip. After reaching his body and giving it a few nudges with her feet, String backed up and struck it with her whip. The next three seconds were completely uneventful, with the only thing that really happened being a decrease in the downpour around String.

CRAAAK!

The bolt of lightning struck Alex’s corpse incinerating what remained and leaving only ashes that were quickly diluted by the rain. Looking around, String found both Nike and Tara a few feet away on either side of Alex’s body.

“I- I won.” String let out a small chuckle, that rapidly divulged into full out joyful laughter, “I fucking won!” String’s left hand went up to cover her shade-covered left eye as she leaned over laughing even harder, “I took the bastard down!”

After a few more moments of laughing, String got herself back together and scrawled a quick message before C.C. of the good news. Letting out a breath, String dismissed the several tornados she still had going while also prepping for her advancement towards the Donneur de Frêne.

“One down, two more to worry about.” String said to herself as she took a single step, “Hopefully I can just get in and take out the tree without running into either.”

cri-CRACK!

SHLUK!

A very much alive Alex shot out of the ground in front of String with Nike slashing upwards, cutting a deep gash into the left side of String’s face that went right through her shades and left eye.

“GAHH!” String shouted in pain as she stumbled back just a bit, though not too far so as to save herself. The chieftain then used a strong current of wind to slow Alex’s ascent and flip him over causing him to unwillingly cut at her face again. However, a slight miscalculation had been made by String so that instead of Alex just lightly nipping her on the right cheek he ended up cutting a twin gash to his earlier on String’s right side. Unlike before, String held in her shout and instead created a draft of wind that slammed into Alex’s chest with such force that he was shot away like a bullet with blood spittle being all that he left behind.

Sailing over 50 feet away before bouncing off the muddy ground a few times, Alex finally stopped after an ungraceful slide through the mud. Rising to his feet with a bit of effort and standing on unsteady and uncertain footing, Alex quickly shed his rocky armor, redrew Tara, and stabbed himself with it before putting it back where it came from. After the subsequent reversal of damage occurred, Alex stood up straight and firm with his arm raised towards String with Nike tight in his grip. Crimson liquid dripped from the blades edge, causing String to mentally bemoan the fact that it was hers.

“How-” String, now physically blinded in both eyes, wiped away the blood pouring from her face, as her breaths came in much harder and her mind began to fog up, “Did you, puff, pull that one, puff, off?”

“When the pair of hands wrapped around me, I immediately descended into the ground leaving behind a muddy look-alike of myself that I used my gift to make into a carbon copy of me. After that, I used my connection with the earth to sense your movements and waited for you to start heading towards Owen and the tree before making my attack.” Alex said this all while looking completely expressionless, before reaching for his nose and tapping it a few times and asking, “By the way, you purposely made me cut you twice with Nike. Do you know what she does?”

“That dagger, puff, decreases the luck of, puff, whoever you cut with it, puff, by an extreme degree, puff, until you cut them with, puff, it again.”

“Hmmm,” Alex paused in the tapping of his nose, before saying, “It’s kinda unfair just how much knowledge Norwe gave you on us, though it probably balances out with how much more powerful my group is in comparison to yours.”

Hearing this, String couldn’t help but to scoff as thoughts ran rampant in her head.

‘Shit! That might’ve not have killed me, but that last attack of his sure as hell did some major damage.’ String looked towards the sky, a buzzing sound now coming from her weapon and her hair rising to stand on end. ‘At least I gonna get my final charge, though I’ll need Alex within two-meters if I want to hit him.’ String returned her focus back to Alex, ‘He’s a fair distance out of range.’

String threw the end of her weapon into the air.

CRAAAK!

Just as all the previous times, a bolt of red lightning came down from the sky and disappeared into the wooden hilt of String’s chain before a feeling of energy began to course through her. Unlike before, String gained a purple shroud of energy and her eyes (even being the mess that they were) turned green with visible yellow arcs of electricity coursing across her body. String also felt her pain bleed away and her mind uncloud.

Alex took one look at String and said,

“You better hope that whatever you get from that new look of yours isn’t stopped time, because if it is I’m going to brutalize you.” Alex did a quick twirl with Nike, “Nothing against you personally, it’s just that stopping time is a crime against nature I will always willingly punish,” Alex did a quick tilt of his head, “Unless it’s Max, I’ll just punch her.”

“Why would you even think that was what I could do?” String asked, giving Alex a bemused stare.

“Don’t worry about it,” Alex responded, “Though something tells me that your range is two meters with whatever you can do, so I’ll just be staying out of range of you until I see the perfect opportunity to take you down, which should be in about 10 minutes. If your wounds are anything to go by.”

String flinched at Alex’s words, the question leaving her mouth without a thought.

“How did you know about my abilities range?”

“Max likes comics and media surrounding them,” Alex pointed towards himself, “I like manga and the media surrounding it.”

“What?”

Alex just shook his head and began to back away from String.

“Don’t worry about i-”

BOOM!

“The hell!” String shouted in surprise as Alex and a significant amount of area around him was suddenly engulfed within an explosion that launched a wave of snow and mud twice as tall as String towards her. Just as the wave reached her, the Keijo crouched down to the ground and quickly shoved her arms in a diving gesture towards the ground with the back of her hands together and spread them apart. This caused the incoming wave to split in halve and around String, with the work being done by twin diverging gales. Just as the mud passed by her, a thought came to String’s mind as to what had just happened.

‘Moon must’ve done that pollen shit of his.’ String’s eye-sockets widened, ‘Which means that I should be able to close the distance between us without issue now.’

String, using just the smallest bits of the energy that now flowed through her, quickly rushed forward, with the smoke clearing just as she made it to the 60 foot deep crater that Alex now laid in, a smell that was both pungent and pleasant emerging from him.

Sliding down a bit until she was just a meter away from Alex, String looked down at her opponent. What she saw was Alex’s entire body covered head to toe in burns. Starting at the top of his head, all of his hair had been burnt off and his scalp was black and charred. Moving down to his face, the right side of it was a mishmash of pink and red while the left was entirely blackened with his eye sealed shut while the right one was burnt away. Moving down to his torso and arms, Alex’s left arm, elbow down, had been blown away with a blackened stump being the only indication of any previous extensions. His right arm was burnt to the point that the skin covering most of it was gone with only bits of skin covering burning bone. Alex’s torso was shown to be a colorful array of red, pale, pink, white, tan, and black, his shirt and jacket having been burnt away entirely. Though String did notice that the amulet Alex wore remained with little issue. Moving down to Alex’s legs, his pants and underwear (if he had any) were reduced to ash as well, with his right leg much like his left arm and his left leg much like his right arm.

“Ooh,” String said, wincing at the condition of Alex’s crotch, which was completely blackened, “That must hurt like a bitch.”

“No shit Joseph.”

String flinched when she heard Alex’s croaky voice respond to her.

‘If his lungs still work he can use Enlightenment, I’m gonna need to hit him quick and hard.’ String took a deep breath before beginning to spin her chain high above her head and thinking, ‘Alex, it’s your time to die.’

Tachiagaru!

HALT

‘The fact that I can tell that the power of that explosion was just over 2 tons, really says too much about how often this has happened to me.’

This thought passed through Alex’s mind alongside the (what many would consider anyway) to be mind-numbing pain that he felt throughout much of his body. Alex was unable to see anything at the very moment, with one of his eyes unwilling to open and the other not showing anything even when he was sure he opened it.

‘I’m more worried about the numb areas than anything else really,” Alex thought to himself as he relinquished the grip his Principles orb had over his mind and whispered, “I’m aware of the area around me.”

Suddenly, Alex’s mind filled with a complete 360 few of everything within five feet of him and of his own body.

‘Well I look like shit.’

Then String appeared in all her purple glowing glory, sliding into his radius of awareness before stopping about 3.3 feet away from him.

‘I have the strange feeling that you’re not going to help me out on this, are you String?’

“Ooh, that must hurt like a bitch.”

‘Your deductive reasoning skills astound me String,” Alex thought to himself, ‘Truly only a great mind like yours could make such a conclusion.’

“No shit Joseph.”

Watching String flinch at his words would’ve brought a smile to Alex’s face, if he still had lips anyway.

‘Though, something tells me I’m about to find out just what exactly she can do with this powerup of hers, and I’m ninety-nine percent sure it’s probably fatal. I should heal myself fir-‘

Tachiagaru!

Alex’s perception of time slowed to its absolute limits, a third of a nanosecond, but even with him being able to perceive anything that occurred within that span of time he still wasn’t able to perceive over 10 thousand dart-sized holes filling his body until after they had all been made. 4 of these holes had been made straight in Alex‘s throat, severing his vocal cords.

‘You smart bitch!’ Alex thought to himself, as his perception of time returned to normal, ‘Guess our battle is about to reach its end a bit earlier than I expected.’

String had gotten out of Alex’s perceivable range within the first second leaving him, for the last two seconds, with his body and the crater he laid within being the only thing he knew.

CRAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAK!

A bolt of red lighting came down from the sky and struck Alex’s body, lasting for a total of five seconds before dispersing. Though Alex knew none of this, having lost all of his awareness within the half first second of the lighting striking him.

Alex knew not.

Alex thought not.

Alex was dead.

HALT

“So that ring Herah gave you swallowed the Moon who had tried to take out the tree?” Max asked Owen, having just teleported herself into the clearing to find Owen holding on to his amulet while looking gravelly ashamed and disappointed.

“Yeah, I was completely useless throughout the entire encounter,” Owen responded, looking away from Max as he spoke.

“Don’t be like that Owen,” Max said with care while crouching down to place her hand on his shoulder, “You’ve already done all you’ve needed to help us get through this. Hell, our survival actually hinges on these-”

BOOM!
BOOM!

Both Max and Owen were engulfed in explosions of their own, with Max’s engulfing the entire clearing while Owen’s only engulfed half of it. Before falling to the ground, Max saw that Owen had been completely incinerated by his blast with his clothing, ring, and amulet being all that remained of him. Max herself knew that her clothing had actually suffered no damage from the blast thanks to Orange’s work on them, though her body had been considerably and fatally damaged by what she knew to be Moon’s attack. Especially since there had been another much smaller explosion within her throat, this one having completely roasted her vocal cords.

‘You’ll see Owen, you saved us all in the end.’

Max and Owen knew not.

Max and Owen thought not.

Max and Owen were dead.

HALT

Herah felt drunk on power as her body and mind moved faster than they had ever done before. Combining the effects of Renaissance à son Sommet and the Gaashbenirium armor together had done exactly what Herah had wanted it to do, allowing her to completely eliminate all but one of the Moon’s bodies before even a full second could pass, with Owen keying her into the position of those who hadn’t been in her immediate vicinity.

Standing within an area completely uprooted of trees with no life around her at all, Herah looked towards Moon’s final body. Herah found that the ball of black they held above their head looked to be over 100 meters in size at this point, though it was rapidly shrinking in size thanks to her use of Jeffery.

‘It’s about time I join them up there I think,’ Herah thought to herself as her wings spread out behind her and a single flap was performed.

A sonic boom shortly followed her swift departure from the ground and towards the priest, a crater and cloud of dirt being left in her wake.

‘Let’s get this battle over with.’

But just as Herah’s claws were inches from the priest’s throat, everything went wrong.

BOOM!
BOOM!

Two explosions simultaneously went off in Herah’s ears, completely driving her deaf and stunning her to the point that she lost control of both her own movements and that of Jeffery. This was then followed up with the ball of black, shifting tendrils that Moon held above their head breaking apart and revealing thousands of Moons ready for battle. Before Herah could even get a grip of herself, all of these Moon’s descended upon her with a barrage of attacks that slammed her down into the ground much deeper and quicker than when Moon had knocked her back down from space earlier.

BOOM!

This time the hole Herah was in was five times as deep as before, but Herah focused less on this and more on this grand feeling of loss and emptiness that filled her as Max’s emotions completely disappeared from her mind. Though Herah’s attention was drawn from this feeling when something else began to fill the hole that had been dug with her body.

WHIRRR!
WHIRRR!
WHIRRR!
WHIRRR!
WHIRRR!

Hundreds of thousands of rounds of black bullets were now battering Herah even deeper into the ground. It would only take 4 seconds of relentless fire for the youngling’s armor to break, the gear exploding and dispersing as the bracelet reappeared on her arm.

“GAAHH!” Herah shouted as the agony filled her body due to the overstressing of it and the continued pelting of it with Moon’s bullets. With her mind now blank, Herah didn’t even know where anything or herself was until hearing Moon’s voice talking to her.

“Herah,” The youngling’s eyes managed to come into focus just enough that Moon’s face was just a tad blurry to her, as his left hand was wrapped around her neck with his right being positioned just over the pocket in her chest that stored her inner flame, “The battle is over.”

Herah’s response to this was just a weak shaking of her head, her mind being drawn to the feeling of Moon’s tendrils spreading throughout her body from the numerous bullet holes that filled her. This didn’t stop her from seeing the frown that came to Moon’s face as more words came from his mouth.

“Alex, Max, and Owen are dead.” Moon said, sounding surprisingly cold to Herah, though the youngling was able to detect the barest hints of regret in his voice, “And you’ll be joining them very soon. You’ve lost.”

“Phase, huhh, three, huhh, is about, huhh, to, huhh, begin.”

Herah watched as Moon’s eyes narrowed at her before the priest shook his head and softly said,

“You shouldn’t die in denial, Herah. It’s a terrible way to go.”

“I’ll be, huhh, right, huhh, back,” Herah said, a look of steel in her eyes.

Moon gained a pained expression as his hand began to push into Herah’s chest, his cold façade breaking when his next words left him.

“I’m sor-” Moon paused and shook his head before looking back at Herah with his own look of steel, “No more apologies.”

This got a chuckle from Herah and these words.

“Finally, huhh, you’re not acting, huhh, like such a, huhh, bitch.”

Moon then completely shoved his hand into Herah’s chest and wrapped it around the youngling’s flame, snuffing it out after a few seconds of burning. Herah felt her body begin to break down and return to her species namesake, before losing touch with herself and everything around her .

Herah knew not.

Herah thought not.

Herah was dead.

The Oni had claimed victory.

ONI

String, having lost her shroud and reached the edge of Alex’s crater heading towards her home, directed just a bit of her attention towards Alex’s ashes. The remains were rapidly being washed away by the rain that still beat down upon the entire battlefield, with some remorse filling String as she watched it occur.

“You know Alex, I think I would’ve liked to get to know you better. If to just answer some questions you left me with.”

String then made a half step forward before her fatigue from her wounds nearly made her fall. Halting in place, String instead decided to rest while standing and allowed for attention to drift over to Owen’s hat and found the burnt corpse of Max and the ashes of who she presumed to be Owen just resting near a remarkably undamaged Donneur de Frêne.

“Moon will handle that. Speaking of which,” String allowed for her focus to drift towards where Moon had been battling Herah and found-

“Of course you’re doing a rights thing,” String said with a groan as she found the thousands upon thousands of Moons bowing before a pile of slightly shifting ashes that had previously been Herah with a single one of the Moon’s saying some type of prayer. “Welp I’m gonna head home and tell everyone the good ne- THE HELL!?”

A massive pillar of violet fire suddenly emitted from Herah’s ashes engulfing many of the Moon’s within the area.

“What the fuck is going on-”

I have cells in front of you.”

SHURK!

“Ack!”

Pain exploded in String’s abdomen as she hurriedly brought her focus back to her own body and found a completely restored and nude Alex standing before her with Nike buried in her gut. Making sure that her face was looking at Alex, the chieftain let out a choked sound before asking,

“How?”

Alex reached up to his amulet and tapped it.

“Within the center of this amulet previously sat a copper cross. When the one who wears the amulet dies, the cross will break and the power of the Goddess of Life from Owen’s world will resurrect them. It’s a one time deal though, so I can’t ever use that to cheat death again. Now,” Alex took his left hand and used it to tilt String’s head up before withdrawing Nike from her stomach with his right hand and placing the blade at her throat, “While your efforts were valiant, they, in the end, were ultimately-”

SHLUK!

Nike was swiftly drawn across String’s throat, blood rapidly pouring from the new wound as Alex let go of her and allowed for her to fall onto her back.

“-pointless.”

With her death rapidly approaching and her strength fleeing her, String didn’t even bother attack Alex, assuming that it would be a waste to attack someone who very much would expect such a thing. Instead, the chieftain hurriedly diverted all her attention to a single area. She used wind currents to scrawl a quick message for C.C. explaining what had just happened to her and passing on the mantle of chief onto her. Tears poured from String’s destroyed eyes at the sight of her close friend falling to her knees and crying before her message, but the Keijo dared not stop in her actions and instead quickly scrawled out another message that read: And if you fall, the sins of our forefathers shall be our last line of defense. Whatever you do, do not fall. Our species might not survive our last resort.

With that now done, String returned her attention back to her dying body. Alex hung over her, studying her very closely, not saying a word a single word. Seeing this, the chieftain raised her right hand and tried to touch Alex’s face but found the task not within her limits. Realizing this, String spat out a glob of blood that struck Alex right on his forehead.

Watching as the human reached up and rubbed away the blood, String was somewhat surprised when she heard him say,

“You’re a spiteful one aren’t you?” Alex said before twirling Nike a few times in his right hand and bringing it down.

SHULK!

And on that day, at that very moment; String Kujo, the third chieftain of the Penance seeking Oni, died at the hands of Alex, a gifted participating in Recompense.

HALT

Alex shivered slightly from the rain pouring across his nude form as he pulled Nike from String’s corpse, no real feeling towards her flowing through his mind.

Instead, Alex reached up to his amulet and got back into touch with his allies.

‘How is everyone doing?’

‘Death is terrible, I never want to do it again.’ Owen quickly replied, sounding rather stressed at the moment.

‘You’ll have to do it again eventually Owen,’ Alex responded, before quickly adding, ‘Hopefully no time soon though.’

‘Thanks,” Owen said, sounding rather ungrateful, ‘I needed that.’

Alex rolled his eyes as Max was the next to respond.

‘Not too bad to be honest. Dying has so far been the least worst part of my day. Though the break in connection and reestablishing of connection with Herah was bit jarring, especially since I’m feeling a lot of motherly fear from her right now.’

‘Glad you’re okay sis,’ Alex said, ‘Though a bit surprised by your response. Dying was an… Unsettling experience for me.’

‘Maybe I’m just more resilient than you in that way, brother,’ Was all Max said in response.

Alex felt a bit surprised by Max’s response, but chalked it down to her just being irritated at him still.

‘Death wasn’t too bad for me, since I got to talk with La Flamme for a bit.’ Herah spoke sounding on edge and worried, ‘Though one of the effects of it is really fucking with me right now.’

Alex let out a groan before asking Herah, in a severely irritated tone.

‘Will it interfere with phase 3 of our plan too much?’

‘It will interfere very much,’ Herah said, now sounding a lot more worried than before.

‘What happened Herah?’ Max asked, sounding just as worried as Herah.

HALT

Herah stood within a massive crater lined with hundreds upon hundreds of Moons that looked down on her with very surprised and confused expressions. Herah herself had all of her clothing now gone and her hair down once again. The youngling also had a little something new held to her chest. Jeffery floated protectively above her, with control having been handed back, the writing utensil on just as high alert as their creator at the moment.

“Dah, dah dah, dah, dah, dah.” A very young and blissfully ignorant voice called from with Herah’s gasp.

Herah looked down to what filled her hands, tears of joy and fear falling from her eyes at the sight that greeted her. In response to Herah looking at them, they stared back up at her with a small giggle leaving their mouth as they reached up with their stubby and short arm, pulling at a stray lock of her hair.

“Dammit!” Herah shouted at herself more than anyone else as a matching pair of slit, emerald stared into her own, “I wanted to wait way longer to complete this part of my list.”

‘What happened Herah?’ Max asked, her worried voice sounding wonderfully soothing to the youngling, who could only respond with a single sentence at the question asked.

'I'm a mother now.'

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Thomas Loud
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