'Your plan sounds perfect, I should be done with Ècaralte and on my way by the time you need me. Herah out.'
Owen let out a nervous sigh before turning to Max and getting a much less nervous smile in return.
"So," Owen gulped, "I should probably get ready for my part of the plan, huh?"
Max lost some of her visible nervousness and put on a brave face before bowing down to Owen and patting him on his shoulder with a comforting touch.
"Don't worry I'll keep us safe."
Owen nodded to Max with a nervous smile of his own before meekly saying,
"Okay, why don't you get us started?"
Max's smile widened as she looked away from Owen and said,
"Moon thinks he sees Herah flying away from the battlefield. Moon feels compelled to pursue what he thought he saw with all available resources. We're invisible to Moon."
Owen looked at the map still projected by the silver skull he had created earlier, finding that Alex seemed to have gotten halfway to his target and that every dot symbolizing Moon had essentially disappeared from the map.
'It should be safe for us to move now, though I can't help but worry that I might screw this up somehow.'
"Okay Owen, get your hat," Max told the gnome, while tying her coat closed and popping up her collar.
Owen jolted out of his thoughts and responded with a nod before thrusting one of his hands into the air and mentally calling for his hat to shrink. Within seconds, the blue hat was snug atop its owner's head its normal size.
Which also meant that the pair no longer had protection from the rain.
"FUCK!" Owen shouted as rain pelted him also causing him to shiver, "I forgot about this weather."
"Yeah," Max said, holding her coat tight around herself while letting a shiver run through her body, "It freaking sucks."
"Well," Owen said, his nervousness returning as he looked to the side, "Why don't you get us to where we need to be."
"We're where Herah and Moon were battling."
Owen flinched as both the scenery around him and his footing changed within an instant. Looking around with Max, the gnome found himself filled with awe at the sight that greeted him.
Owen and Max now stood within the epicenter of the biggest crater the gnome had ever seen with the edges of the crater seeming to be a mile away. The crater was burnt deeply into the ground with scores of black soot and ash filling all of it, nothing else seeming to have survived the flames that had undoubtedly been the result of Herah. The crater itself was also surprisingly warm and comforting, like his home in fact.
'I've only been away a few days, but I find myself rather homesick already.' Owen thought to himself as he looked around, the heat of the crater making the cold rain a bit more manageable, 'I'm pretty pathetic when I think about it.'
"How large is this?" Owen asked no one in particular, saying the words to distract him from his own thoughts.
"It's nearly twice the size of Monaco and you could stack about thirty-three Disneyland's on top of each other to get out of it," Max answered, not sounding the least bit impressed by the wreckage she saw.
Owen gave her a surprised look that she seemed confused by for a moment before hastily saying,
"When you create as much destruction as my brother and I do on a regular basis, you learn how to gauge destruction in general very well. The crater we're standing has a surface area of 9712 acres and it's around 6700 feet from its deepest spot to ground level." Max began to distance herself from the center, trudging through the ash with slight difficulty, "Throw your hat out already so we can get back to safety."
Owen nodded to Max's word, following her in her ascent.
'I hope this plan we cooked up works, because if it doesn't both of us are de-' Owen shook his head, 'Don't even think about it Owen, the mere thought just might cause you to freeze.'
The gnome once again jolted as he turned to face a worried looking Max, who briefly gained a look of sadness before switching back to her worried one.
"I called your name three times, are you okay?"
"Yeah," Owen responded not sounding too sure before shaking his head and nodding it, "I mean yeah, I'm fine."
Max didn't look convinced, but she said nothing further on it. Instead, Max wiped some rain from her eyes and asked the same question she had before.
"I was asking you are we far enough yet?"
Owen looked back towards the center of the crater in surprise, not realizing the sizable distance the two had crossed at this point. Shaking his head with a hasty yes, Owen took off his hat and threw it into the air with the mental command to grow.
Owen stumbled slightly as his blue hat grew to the point that it would've been encompassing three clearings the size of the one that he had been protecting before landing just in arms reach of himself.
"Owen and I will be teleported away when the situation turns fatal."
Owen looked back to Max, who now was pulling out the goggles that she had had with her when her and Herah had returned from their attack on the Oni. With the goggles now on, Max gave Owen a nod and he placed his hands upon his hat.
"Ready?" Max asked, her voice tense and on edge.
'Of course not Max, I've never even been anywhere close to a battlefield!' Owen mentally shouted at Max within the confines of his own mind before shaking his head and thinking, 'But my readiness doesn't matter right now. Winning does.'
"Yup!" Owen shouted back, fear and nervousness filling him once again as he readied himself.
"Moon is in the hat."
Owen flinched in fear and surprise as his hat suddenly became stuffed with hundreds upon hundreds of Moons, every single living cell of the priest crammed within the hat.
'Please Lady Walters, let me not fail in my endeavor.'
And with that thought, Owen activated Nexus, the sound of Max speaking another fib being ignored.
Within an instant, the gnome felt a link (one that he believed impossible to describe) emerge from the palms of his hands, travel through the cloth of his hat, and establish itself within the priest he was only separated from by a very thin piece of cloth. This link then began to branch itself out, linking everything that was of Moon together. Just as this process completed itself, Owen found both himself and his hat safely back in the clearing with the Donneur de Frene.
There was just one little problem, and Owen shouted it clearly while freaking out.
"Oh shit, Max isn't back!"
"It's weird being only slightly surprised by this turn of events."
Max said this to herself as she was currently surrounded by a literal horde of Moons that were all, surprisingly enough, not attacking her. All around the human, rain hit and dripped down the invisible barrier that she had summoned around herself, her copper shoulder pad still glowing and Herah's goggles on her face.
"Hello Max," The Moon directly in front of her said, his voice surprisingly calm and peaceful, and his expression much happier than when they had previously met. This Moon was very different compared to the rest of them, being that for whatever reason he had green knees and fingers, "I did want to speak with you if given the chance."
"Same," Was Max's muted reply, the human looking down and away from the Keijo before her, "You go first."
"I originally wanted to apologize to you."
"For being the main catalyst in causing you to bomb my people."
This got a flinch and a bitter chuckle out of Max, tears dripping from her eyes as a feeling of anger and regret rose within her suddenly before quickly crashing down and leaving only regret. This feeling was tempered and lessened thanks to Herah's own feelings of assurance, but the regret still remained.
'But I will still thank you for what you've given me lavatits, it's better than being left alone with these feelings.'
"Why do you chuckle Max?" Moon asked, the speaking body tilting its head in confusion with a curious look on their face.
"Don't worry about it," Max said waving him off, before giving her own curious look, "So why do you want to talk with me now, you said apologies were your original intention."
The speaking Moon gave Max a slightly worried look that put her off slightly before saying,
"Before I can say that, tell me why you wanted to speak with me."
Max felt sadness and regret well up within her, as she looked Moon with a pained expression and said,
"Because I wanted to apologize for I di-"
Max blinked at Moon, completely shocked by his words. This got her a small chuckle from the priest, which was followed by more words from him.
"I know it's weird coming from me to be told not to apologize, but that's because I had a realization recently thanks to a long needed talk."
"And what was that?" Max asked, sounding a bit miffed.
Moon looked up to the sky with an expression heavy with regret.
"To spend life constantly sorry for what you've done, no matter how big or small it may be, is truly a life wasted." Moon looked down to Max with a small grin, one that wasn't really happy but accepting, "And coming from someone who's spent most of their life that way, I can attest."
All Max did was look away from the priest, irritation beginning to slowly fill her.
"So what do you suggest I do huh? Just accept what I've done, just live with it." Max's words came out strong and bitter, feelings of hate beginning to brew within her as well.
"No," Moon said with a shake of his head, "You should learn to forgive. Not just those you blame-"
"I blame no one but myself." Max cut in sharply.
Moon shook his head with a sad smile.
"Me, you, Norwe, and Herah all know that's not true."
Max flinched at these words before looking at the speaking Moon with a glare, that only got her an understanding look in return.
"As I was saying, you must forgive not just those you blame but yourself." The speaking Moon pointed at Max with one of his green fingers, before saying, "Only then will life once again truly become meaningful."
Hearing these words struck a chord in Max, but she pushed down any feeling they made her feel and instead gave Moon an even deeper glare.
"Why are you even doing this? I'm your enemy."
Moon gained a small frown before letting out a sigh and looking away from Max.
"Partly because as a priest, one of my jobs is to rid those filled with despair and regret of such troubling emotions. And partly because I truly wish no ill intent towards you." Moon looked back to Max with the most serious expression she had ever seen on his face, "And I would hope that no matter the outcome of our battle that you find peace at the end of life, whether that be today or years into the future."
Max tried to maintain it, but looking at Moon and hearing his words, she couldn't help but to lose her glare and instead gain a pitying expression while shaking her head.
"You don't deserve the fate that is soon to befall you."
Moon looked briefly surprised by Max's statement before gaining a suspicious look.
"What do you mean?"
Max stopped shaking her head and gave Moon an apologetic stare.
"Do you know what Owen did to you?"
Moon blinked at Max in surprise before frowning and saying,
"No. Norwe said that Owen wasn't really anything to worry about so they never mentioned anything about him or what he could do." Moon began to look worried, "What did he do?"
"He made sure that what happens to one of you, happens to all of you."
"What do you mean?"
Mac just shook her head and said,
"You'll be too surprised to do anything."
Max found her sight of the Moon she was speaking to suddenly blotted out by the naked body of Herah, a shroud of orange flames covering her. Though, this didn't stop Max from seeing the holes appear in the chest of all the other Moons surrounding her, each one falling over paralyzed.
"H- How?" The only standing Moon asked, as he looked up at the youngling who had her hand through his chest.
"I told a fib just as you arrived that made Herah invisible to us until she attacked." Max answered, sounding pained by her own words, "And the link that Owen created between you and all of your bodies is one that makes you share any damage suffered."
Max let out a sigh before turning away from the only standing Moon and Herah. Looking up to the sky, tears once again pricked her eyes as she said,
"Thanks for the advice, and I'm sorry. But this is your end."
Moon stared at Herah with blurry vision, his breathing coming out rough and shaky. There was a cold empty feeling flowing from a small part of his chest, while warm blood rain down from where this feeling was located. But even with such a grievous wound, Moon could only look at Herah and smile.
"For someone who's about to die, you look rather peaceful."
"I'm- I'm just," Moon was forced to spit out a bit of blood that hit Herah's face, "Sorry about that."
"No problem," Herah told Moon, wiping away the blood with her other hand, "What were you saying?"
"I was saying," Moon took a deep breath, his vision getting blurrier, "That I'm just happy to see how I might finally complete a goal my father set out for me."
"Are you talking about Diavolo?" Herah asked, sounding a bit sad.
Herah's blurry figure let out a sigh before turning her head away from Moon.
"What is this dream your father had set for you?"
"To rest within," Moon let out a few coughs, the edges of his vision beginning to blacken, "Palo Santo."
"Is that the afterlife for the Oni?" Max asked out of Moon's sight.
Moon shook his head, before pausing to think on how best to describe it.
'Nirvana is the closest human concept, while Allumage is what the Cendruex would call it.' Norwe whispered into Moon's mind, their tone rather soothing.
"It's more akin to Nirvana for humans," Moon let out a cough, "Allumage for Cendruex."
"How does dying help in this?" Herah asked, her voice getting harder for Moon to hear.
"It's the last step I need to pull off to achieve this state."
"What happens when you do achieve this state?" Max asked, or at least Moon thought it was what she said, her voice was getting harder to hear as well.
"I become a conduit for Norwe's expression, that's all I know."
"Hmm, I wonder what that means......"
Moon felt his head snap back as something burrowed into it and oblivion embraced his mind.
When Moon came to once again, he found himself standing within a meadow with only a lone tree right in front of him. The tree itself was just like that of any of the others that filled the forest that was his home, with red wood and green leaves. The only real difference was just how young the tree happened to be, its trunk nowhere near the size of those that he normally saw.
"Hello my son."
Moon turned around and found Diavolo standing in front of him with a thankful smile on his face. The green-skinned Keijo then reached out to his son and embraced him, Moon returning this hug furiously as silent tears poured from his eyes. After a few minutes of hugging and with no further words said between the two, Moon let go of Diavolo and walked towards the tree. Once he reached it, the Keijo rested his palm against the tree.
Several branches suddenly sprouted from the tree and began to wrap around Moon's form, slowly pulling him in and melding him into the tree. Just before he could completely sink into it however, Moon heard one last thing from Diavolo.
"Good luck Moon, and thank you."
When Moon's eyes parted once again he found himself lying atop a branch in a rather surprising looking tree. Looking at himself, Moon also found that he had gotten a physical pallet swap. All throughout, Moon felt Norwe's Presence coursing and traveling and filling every fiber of his being.
It filled him with a feeling of randomness.
It filled him with a feeling of disregard.
It filled him with a feeling of chaos.
And all these feelings made Moon feel at peace.
With his hands folded behind his back and his legs crossed lazily over each other, Moon smiled up at the strange, glowing leaves as a single tear fell from one of his eyes.
'Damn that demon is crazy powerful, I thought only that Max bitch could pull something like this off without problem.'
Jacob, the most recently born Keijo of the Oni, had finally made it to his objective. With his mask now gone, the red-skinned Keijo showed himself to have a rather young looking face with his eyes being pupilless like all Keijo. Unlike the rest, however, they were two separate colors with his left eye being gold and his right lazuli. Other than that, Jacob's only other new addition was the wielding of Sam's tachi and Lucy's katana on his sides with his own kamas now strapped to his back.
'After running through that burning death trap of yours and avoiding all of those stray fireballs and craters of your making, I finally get to see you again.' Jacob thought as he stood on the edge of the biggest crater he had seen so far today.
Down near its center, the demon stood with her hand through Father Jashin's chest, appearing to be trading words with him while Max stood behind her looking sadly up to the sky.
'And it looks like I arrived just in time too,' Jacob thought as he held his right hand out in front of himself. A long, thin, and bone white fragment erupted from Jacob's palm, a bit of blood being released as he pulled it out with his left hand.
'Yes,' A familiar voice rung out in Jacob's head, this voice having guided him through the dangers that he had to surpass to get here, 'You know what to do with your mask shard.'
'Yeah, yeah I got it Log,' Jacob thought back as he took aim at the back of the demon's head, 'The Oni got one last wind in them.'
Jacob then threw the mask shard, watching it blur from his sight towards the demon.
"Let's hope I hit my mark."
She leaned her head out of the way, and it struck Moon straight in the skull completely removing his ability to think.
The demon stared at Moon's corpse for a second, before letting out a huff of breath and gently setting it within the center of the crater. She then let out a single indigo breath that reduced his body to ash on immediate contact, causing for the rest of them to follow suit. With that out of the way, the demon then took a sniff of the air before letting out a growl.
"You," Her voice was still filled with same disgust that it had been filled with when they had first met, "What is a bitch like you still doing alive?"
"Turn around and look at me, and you might just find out why," Jacob said back, no fear leaving him he stared down upon the demon.
"I told you if you wanted to die by my hand you needed a reason to fight." The demon turned to face him, looking back up with an expression that started out disgusted but quickly changed into something else. Something more respectful, but not yet there. "So, do you have something or am I just going to have to let Alex kill you?"
"Yeah I got something bitch," Jacob said unsheathing Sam's and Lucy's tachi and katana respectively and pointing both at the demon, "I'm fighting for vengeance, and that's what I'm going to get."
The demon gained something akin to a grin, her claws elongating to ten inches before stopping as her eyes loss the messy look and turned white with emerald, slit pupils.
"Okay, I'll finish the job I started earlier."
Jacob grinned back at Herah, before chuckling quietly and telling her,
"Well, it's not going to be as easy as you think."
The demon titled her head in amusement as she stared back up at Jacob, Max looking up at him as well with an even sadder expression and tears in her eyes.
"Now why is that?"
"Because you'll be dealing with both Father Jashin and myself."
"Shit! Max, we need to move!" The demon shouted as she grabbed Max before flying away from the center Moon's ashes. Then a pillar of light shot into the sky and cleared the clouds away from the entire east side of the battlefield, with a flash of light blinding Jacob shortly afterward. Once vision was restored to his eyes, he was greeted with a sight that truly brought a smile to his face.
A massive tree had sprung up from Moon's ashes, filling the entire crater and causing for a flood of shrubbery, young trees, and grass to washed over the land as well. Looking around, the land looked restored, with the only remaining damage from the demon being the crater that the tree had sprouted up from.
Speaking of the tree, it was a grand and beautiful thing. Its bark was a smooth, golden texture with the trunk of the tree being as thick as five of the redwoods that filled the forest Jacob lived in. The tree, even from its low start, managed to tower over him, blotting out the now clear skies. Though no large shadow was cast by this tree, this due to the glowing white leaves that sprouted from its massive branches, Presence just radiating off of them.
Looking up to the branches of the tree, Jacob saw a figure throw their legs over the side of one branch, causing him to back away slightly. With that bit of distance, the figure fell from the tree and gently landed right in front of Jacob.
With his black skin now white, his white robes now black, his eyes dull silver eyes now glowing gold, and his saddened pain filled expression now a smile so happy and satisfied, Father Jashin looked right at Jacob, patted him on the head, and said,
"Thank you my son, for you have made two dreams come true today. And you just might be the reason for our people's salvation."
Jacob smiled back at the priest and simply said,
"To be honest father, I'm only here to do two things, and two things only. Kill the demon that took away my friends, and end the bitch that killed my girl. Nothing more, nothing less."