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"Now, bro and I had both gotten stuck in between an angry goddess and a group of pissed off FBI agents, so the only thing we could do was detonate the bomb on the Hollywood sign," Max unwrapped her hands from Herah's back briefly so as to mimic an explosion, "Boom. The letters came tumbling down, working as the perfect distraction for the pair of us to get away."

Herah held back a snort of fire so as not to burn Max's hair, as the duo ducked into the treetops while flying towards the Oni base. They had been flying for about twenty minutes and Max had decided to tell Herah a bit about some of the things the two had done before Norwe had forced them to take part in Recompense.

"Haha!" Herah took one of her hands from around Max's waist to wipe away a stray tear, "So you're telling me that you and your brother went around your country, just destroying national monuments."

"Accidently," Max emphasized as Herah flew out of the treetops once again to make sure they were heading in the right direction, "We have the weirdest of luck when it comes to monuments and us. But it really bothered bro, it was the first monument we ever destroyed and marked us as terrorist, so my bro's dream of being a movie actor went out the window."

Herah smiled a bit as they pair swerved around a tree, asking a question that had arisen from Max's statement.

"What is a movie actor?"

"You don't know what a movie actor is?" Max asked, sounding appalled at the question.

"Nope," Herah answered frankly, tucking her wings in and performing an aileron roll to avoid a particularly narrow space between two trees.

"TRAVESTY!" 

Herah winced at Max's scream, nearly hitting a stray branch as a result.

"Sorry." Max apologized, now much quieter.

"No problem Max," Herah replied, going back up through the treetops once again to check and see if they were heading in the right direction. As Herah flew above the trees, the youngling looked down at Max, the human wearing an apologetic look and said,

"No problem, just watch the shouting it sounds like an explosion going off in my head."

"Really I'm sorry," Max repeated, "I just find the idea of your world not having actors and movies strange."

"Oh don't get it wrong Max," Herah said, now looking back up and once again within the treetops, "We have actors, just not what you call movie actors." 

"Oh," Max began, sounding a bit happier, "What kind of actors do you have?"

"Voice actors, for video games," Herah said while dodging out of the way of a thicker than normal tree.

"So you have video games, but not movies. What your world has and doesn't have is weird," Max responded, sounding extremely confused. 

Herah just rolled her eyes, her focus being spread between holding Max to her and not hitting the passing trees.

"Speaking of things you don't have," Max began, "Sorry about the lack of underwear, I couldn't find any when I reached into your backpack."

"Oh, you dressed me," Herah said surprised, "Thanks. And I don't wear underwear, I see no point."

"Oh," Max responded, clearly surprised, "Never?"

"Nope."

"Periods must be a bitch."

"What's a period?"

There was a long pause, the only noise either of them hearing being the rushing wind and the occasional brush of Herah's wings with some leaves and twigs. 

"You lucky bitch." Max responded, sounding vastly jealous of Herah.

"Why am I so lucky?" Herah asked, extremely confused.

"YOU DON'T-" 

Herah let out a curse as the pair veered left, nearly hitting a tree. The youngling glared down at Max, causing the human to give her an apologetic smile.

"Sorry about that, but you don't bleed for like a week straight from your, you know, bush?"

"What?"

"You know, your cooch," Max said, placing emphasis on cooch.

"What are you on about?" Herah asked, greatly confused.

"Your cockpit?" Max tried once again.

"What the fuck is that?" Herah answered, now even more confused.

"Your love button?" Max seemed to be becoming frustrated.

"I don't have one of those," Herah responded, now weirded out.

"Your garage?" Max's voice began to rise.

"Do I look like a house?" Herah asked, lacking in amusement.

"Your goop chute?" Max begged Herah.

"That sounds disgusting."

"DO YOU BLEED FROM YOUR NETHER REGIONS?!"

Herah had to force herself to stop, so as to not crash into any trees. While just floating under the treetops, Herah raised her left hand to her ear and came back with blood.

"Dammit Max!" Herah shouted, ire flowing through her voice.

"Sorry." 

"And to answer your question, no. Why would I even bleed down there?"

"Oh, so you get that one!?" Max asked, the human irritated by how long that part of their conversation ended up being.

"Answer my fucking question!" 

"To rid yourself of your unfertilized eggs. You know, after your body has done the preparation for pregnancy and then realizes it did that for nothing so it decides to be petty and tells you to go fuck yourself." 

"My family stopped using their ovaries to create eggs after their 9 millionth and 8 millionth generations for my father and mother respectfully," Herah then paused, a thought coming to her mind before continuing, "Though there was a chance I could have still done the same since my father was born about a million generations before that happened with his bloodline."

Herah began to fly once again, shooting up through the treetops and finding that they were much closer to the purple beacon, it being about only a mile away.

"So how do your people reproduce then?" Max asked, the two now traveling at a faster speed than before.

"You saw my horn right?" Herah asked Max, the human answering with a yes, "They're the closest things to actual eggs that we have."

"Isn't it kinda a bad idea to wear your eggs in the open like that?" Max asked.

"They're the closest thing to eggs, not the actual eggs themselves, and the only way these horns are coming off my head is if I shed them or if something with the force of a meteorite entering the atmosphere hits them."

"One, that's weirdly specific. Two, you shed your horns?" Max asked, greatly surprised by this statement.

"Yep, I shed them every quarter cycle since they've fully developed, they usually take about two weeks to grow back. I can shed them sooner if I'm ready to have a child, but only if."

"What're the specifics of how a new, umm, Cedreux is born?" Max asked Herah, the pair now flying much closer to the forest floor.

"Why are you so curious?" Herah asked, looking down at Max with a curious look.

Max looked back up to Herah with a happy smile and said, "One of my favorite things to learn about is how different things reproduce. Like plants, bacteria, and in your case, an extracosmostrial pretty dragon lady" Max gained a passionate look to her eyes, "I think that that reproduction is a beautiful thing."

Herah smiled at Max, the youngling gaining a bit more respect for the human that was held in her arms. Looking back up, Herah said, "Ok, I'll tell you."

"Yay."

"Ok. So the way we normally reproduce starts off with us shedding both of our horns. Next, the horns are grounded into dust. After that, the two parents will add a handful each of their blood to the dust. Then, with a single breath, the fire is ignited." 

"Huh, sounds like you use blood magic to reproduce."

"You mean hematology."

"I'm sorry?"

Herah let out a frustrated sigh,

"You meant to say "sounds like you use hematology to reproduce". Just like earlier you're mixing up magic and science."

"Wait Herah," Max asked, an idea apparently coming to mind, "What does magic mean where you come from?"

"The textbook definition is, and this is a long one, the intellectual and practical activity encompassing the systematic study of the structure and behavior of the physical and natural world through observation and experiment." Herah droned out, sounding as if it was remembered by heart.

"Why do you know the textbook definition?"

Herah gained a disturbingly intense look on her face as her answer was delivered in an equally intense and disturbing tone.

"The day right before I was expelled, I took a test on the differences between magic and science. I stared at that damned definition for two hours straight just I so could remember it."

"Oookaay," Max said, a bit weirded out by Herah's serious " So, what is the meaning of science?"

"Why are you asking these questions?" Herah asked, sounding extremely bugged.

"I'll tell you after you answer the last one." 

Herah let out an annoyed sigh, rolling her eyes as her answer flew from her lips.

"The textbook definition is "the power of apparently influencing the course of events by using mysterious or supernatural forces." Herah formed a small frown, "Will you answer my question now?"

"It seems like the meanings are flipped between our universes," Max answered.

"What do you mean?"

"Where I come from, magic means science and science means magic."

"What?" Herah asked, her lips becoming tightened from her frustration at how confusing Max was being.

"Don't worry about it," Max paused for a moment, "Where were we?"

"The birthing of my people," Herah answered back, a questioning frown still upon her face.

"Oh yeah, so after you ignite the ash is that it?"

"Nope," Herah responded, "After the fire is lit, the parents must maintain that flame for a quarter cycle and after that a newborn has been born. In all their scaleless, toothless glory."

"Didn't you say that your people ingest metal to strengthen their bones?"

"Yep."

"So how does a baby get their daily dose of metals, if they're toothless?"

Instead of responding verbally, Herah took one of her hands from around Max and squeezed her own breast.

"What, you have very metallic breastmilk?"

"Cendreux are lactose intolerant." 

"Then if milk doesn't come out, what do you lactate?"

"Magma."

There was another long pause, with the only sounds Herah heard being the passing wind and what the youngling thought to be noises from the Oni base. As they got closer, Herah used Rompu on her nose as to avoid the rotting smell that would be especially pungent in the Oni base. Now relying primarily on her nose, Herah heard the sound of wood being carved, the grunting noises that Herah knew to be the Oni communicating with each other, and the sound of flesh striking flesh as the Oni, presumably, sparred amongst themselves. But Herah found her attention more focused on the sound of metal striking metal, the clanging music to her ears as her brain immediately recognized what that sound was: a blacksmith at work.

"Herah?" Max said, breaking Herah's attention on the smithing at work and bringing it back to Max.

"Yes?"

"I nickname you lava tits."

Herah made an expression before responding with, "Why?"

"Because you have breast that can spew out lava. Which is freaking cool!" Max said, Herah able to hear the sly smile on her face.

"You're weird Max, but it's nice to know someone other than me sees how wonderful my body is," Herah began to slow in her speed as their objective came into sight, "We've reached the Oni's base." 

Herah swooped up into the top of one of the trees near the edge of the forest, and set the pair down on a branch that could hold them without too much of a problem. Herah furled her wings back into place, and then slung herself under the branch. This allowed both Herah and Max to both near the edge of the branch, so as to overlook the Oni's base, with Max standing atop of the branch and Herah hanging under it with a single arm.

"Great," Herah began, not sounding too happy, "It's a Flamme-damn fortress we're attacking."

"I didn't even know these things could get as large as cities," Max added, in surprise.

A fortress was exactly the best way to describe what the pair looked upon. Two massive rocks, only half the size of the trees and partly slanted like slabs, functioned as an entrance to the Oni's home, a pair of the creatures standing in front of it. Many of the structures were made of stone, that was most likely taken from the mountain that sat to its right.

Herah was sure that the place had to at least cover 200,000 acres. To the left of the entrance, Herah found the origin of the carving noises. What looked to be thousands of Oni were surrounding a pile of logs so large, that it took three minutes for one of the logs to knocked from the top to the bottom. 

It started with a group of 4 to 5 Oni, all with massive muscles, moving their log of choice down the enormous stack it sat upon. Once fully removed, 10 to 20 Oni, this group composed of much thinner and lankier than the group before, would descend upon the logs and began carving into them with small, sharpened stones. Once a mask was carved out of the log, the Oni wa=ould place it into a vat of suspicious looking white liquid. After a quick dip in the liquid, a  completely different Oni takes the mask from its creator and over to one of the many large empty spots that existed between the groups of working Oni. The mask is then placed onto the ground, and after a second or two, the mask shoots out multiple black tendrils that gradually take the form of an Oni. 

The end results seemed randomized, with the Oni that formed from these mask ranging in stature, build, and color. Herah watched as a recently placed down mask took the form of a lithe and feminine looking, yellow Oni, while another created an overly buff, red Oni. The only thing that the two shared in common were what all the Oni had in common: their mask.

Even from the distance that was between them, Herah was able to notice that each and every Oni had the same exact mask covering their faces. They were just like the one Herah had a close up look on, completely white with black eyes and a gaping maw.

Not too long after being born, the new Oni were greeted by another, who would began to grunt at them. After a brief exchange, this new Oni would be handed a shirt and shirts that looked very similar to the Oni that Alex had interrogated. The shirt and shorts were both covered in bark.

"Huh, so that's how they're born." Herah said with admiration, from her place beneath the tree. "What beautiful mask they create, they're all masterfully crafted."

"I agree the mask are beautiful, but what a wonderful and articulate process of creation," Max responded, her voice enthralled. Still covering her nose, Max pointing to the right side of the fortress, "But that over there is our objective." 

Where Max had pointed sat a variety of buildings, some looking like houses made of stone while others looked liked hotels. No matter the look of the building, however, Herah could tell that they were all teeming with life. From these building, Herah was able to hear the steady breaths that functioned as the telltale signs of slumbering individuals, and the irregular breaths that functioned as the telltale sounds of awake individuals. And outside of these buildings were streets and roads, full of what Herah figured were the nocturnal bunch of the Oni. Some seemed to be conversing with each other, while others looked as if they were celebrating. 

It looked like a full-on functioning society.

"Those are the homes of the Oni," Max gestured towards herself and Herah, "We're blowing those and, sadly enough, that lumber up so that when they attack, their numbers are much more manageable."

"I mean, I could take these guys on by myself, no problem." Herah said, confidence oozing throughout her words as a prideful smirk came over her face, but on the inside Herah wasn't too liking of what they were doing.

Max looked down at Herah and chuckled at the younglings words, getting a dirty look from her in return. In response, Max laughed even harder, a growl of anger coming from Herah at the thought of being made fun of, even as the youngling picked up on the slight deliriousness in the laugh.

It seemed as if Max wasn't too liking of the idea either.

"While I don't think it would be too hard for you to take on 2 million Oni by yourself, it would be much easier for the rest of us if their numbers were a bit smaller," Max said, clearly attempting to placate Herah.

"I was going through with it, either way." Herah said, her face scrunching up in irritation.

"Really?" Max asked, surprised by Herah's statement.

"Of course. Why make something harder when it doesn't need to be?" Herah shook her head in amusement, happy at her ability to surprise Max, "That's just time-consuming." 

"Huh, Owen told us about how your people conquered other planets," Max made an embarrassed look, "I kinda figured that-"

"We dropped in screaming "We here to convert and conquer! All those who don't submit will die!" Herah interrupted Max, getting an embarrassed nod in return.

Herah allowed a small chuckle to exit her lips, shaking her head in amusement again as more words left her mouth.

"That is a terrible way to spread the will of La Flamme, I'll tell you how after we get back. I get rather passionate when speaking about the Nettoyant and their quest to spread the will of my mistress." Herah looked back out towards the Oni base, her eyes narrowing as they came upon the center of the area, "While I can't see past that huge building, I hear the sounds of smithing. Should we stop by their and fuck up their weaponry?"

"Yeah," Max answered, the human made a hmmph sound before continuing, "It's kinda weird that they have a cathedral in the center, don't you think?"

"Don't know what a cathedral is, don't care," Herah swung her self up onto the branch behind Max. 

The twin turned to face Herah, a playful smile on her face.

"Soooo," Max said, dragging out the o, "I bet you're wondering how we're supposed to get rid of our objectives since we quite lacking in the firepower department?" Max asked, her tone tinted with sadness.

Herah noticed this and decided that since Max was her friend (after that hour long flight there was no way they weren't), it was up to her to cheer up the sad human.

"Lacking in firepower?" Herah asked, raising her left bicep while pointing at it with her right hand, "What do you call this?"

"A sexy bicep." Max said with a wink and a slight giggle, the human sounding a bit better.

"Yes my arm is very sexy, but what can it do?" Herah responded, a small smile on her face.

"Be even sexier."

Ther was a brief moment of silence between the two before it was broken by a giggle from Herah. After that, the dam seemingly broke and the pair collapsed onto the branch, laughter filling their bodies. After a few moments of their laughter the two trailed off into to giggles then comfortable silence.

"Better?" Herah asked.

Max smiled and began to reach down to her side, before her face became puzzled. The human began to look herself over and seemed to realize something was missing. Looking back at Herah with an embarrassed smile, Max said,

"I seem to have forgotten my coat," The twin reached up to run her hand through her hair, "And the scrunchy that bound my hair." A nervous laugh came from Max's mouth, " Let me get those back real quick."

"In my right hand, I hold a scrunchy. In my left, I hold a trench coat." 

Even before her second sentence finished, a scrunchy filled her right hand. After her second sentence was finished, Max was holding a brown trench coat in her left. After putting on both the coat and the scrunchy, Max also said,

"The pockets of this coat are linked to my original coat."

"Is that your gift?" Herah asked, a smirk on her face.

"Yeah, I named it Fib. My gift is going to be the main component behind our taking down of the Oni base." 

"What exactly does your gift do, I'm not really too sure." Herah said, a slightly puzzled look overtaking her smirk.

"Oh, it's the direct opposite of my brother's current gift. I can lie to the universe."

"What exactly does that mean?"

Max began to run her hand through her now ponytailed hair, Herah waiting for Max to find her thought. After a few seconds, Max made an ah-ha sound and said,

"I can warp reality."

Herah tilted her head and asked, "To what extent?"

Max smiled at Herah, her eyes taking on a glint that Herah was a too familiar to the youngling.

Max had the eyes of a maniac.

"Color has inverted," With that single sentence, Herah felt a suspiciously soft and pleasant Presence wrap around her. The Presence was so pleasant in fact that Herah closed her eyes in pleasure at how wonderous it felt, and it even made the youngling want to just keep her eyes closed. 

Herah forced her eyes open, as Max's presence faded, and saw that the human's skin had begun to darken until becoming black. Her hair, on the other hand, became bleach white.  Max's white shirt became black, with the DO YOU WANT THE LIE becoming nearly as red as her eyes. The twin's trench coat had even become violet.

Herah looked at herself, finding that her scarlet scales and skin had changed their color into aqua. Her yellow shirt had become purple, the wisp lantern it also inverting in all of its colors. The youngling's cargo pants were now green and black. 

Herah began to look around and found that the sky had become white with black stars. The tree the pair stood in now had green bark with red leaves, and the shadows of the leaves were now white. Herah turned to look down at her own shadow, finding that it was also white.

Color had truly inverted itself.

With Herah realizing this, the Cendreux also realized something else. Something that Herah found to be much more terrifying than the universe swapping its color palette.

Max was the second, maybe the third, most powerful thing Herah had ever met.

"What the ash are you?" Herah asked, the youngling poorly hiding her terror at what had happened.

"Don't freak out Herah," Max said slow and deliberate, her attempts to sooth Herah falling to sooth Herah falling to deaf ears.

"I'm not freaking out!" Herah shouted, very clearly freaking out. The youngling was looking left, right, up, down, wherever possible to find something that told Herah what the youngling was seeing wasn't real.

"I know this is really weird but everything will back to normal," Max paused, "Now."

And with another blink of the eye, everything was back to normal. The night sky was once again black with white stars, Herah's scales and skin had returned to their scarlet hue, and Max had returned to normal.

"See," Max said, a peppy smile on her face, "Everything's back to normal."

Herah let out a relieved sigh while saying, "So it isn't for long, that's good." Herah nodded her head, "That's good."

"Actually," Max began matter-of-factly, "Unlike my brother's half-truths, my lies are permanent. Bro just picked up on my lie, so his gift kicked in."

"What're you talking about?"  Herah asked, already not liking what Max was saying.

"I'll tell you when we get back," Was all Max said, getting a grunt of annoyance from Herah.

"We will talk about this later," Herah placed special emphasis on will while pointing towards Max. The youngling then let out another sigh before asking, "So how are we using your gift?"

Max gave another sly smile, drawing two cards from her pockets

"Well you see,"


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Thomas Loud
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