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Moon leaped from behind the altar and down towards Herah, the youngling rolling under and stabbing him through the chest with Jeffery before slamming him into the marble floor with the pencil pinning him to the ground.

“That really, puff, fucking hurt!” Herah grunted out at Moon as pain filled her mind.

In response, Moon broke his body down into tendrils before traveling up the length of Jeffery and Herah’s remaining arm before reassembling himself behind the youngling with his left hand reared back in its claw form, ready to cleave her apart.

SNIKT!

There is a firebomb inside your back.”

“There is a forcefield around me.”

Max then sent one of her cards straight through the firebomb that was buried in Moon’s back.

BOOM!

A fiery explosion engulfed all four individuals beneath the steps of the altar, fire lashing out wildly as it spread.

“Max are you, puff, okay?” Herah asked, looking around as smoke filled the air. Herah pulled Jeffery from their bizarren sheath, labored breaths leaving her as her body was wracked with the pain of her recently cut off arm. Herah then unfurled her left wing and with a single flap cleared all of the smoke from around her.

Herah stood still in front of the steps of the altar, a few tiny fires covering the scorched floor around her. With the smoke now cleared, Herah found Max lying on her back unconscious. The human had a few singes on her clothing and had a bit of blood marring her black hair, but was otherwise ok.

Walking over to her companion with slow shaky steps, Herah poked Max with the butt of Jeffery a few times.

“That is the fifth time I’ve done that.” Max said after the sixth poke, a groan of pain following shortly afterward as her body awakened along with her mind.

Herah flipped Jeffery over and held out their tip towards Max, the human grabbing onto it so Herah could pull her up. With Max back on her feet, Herah looked to see what was left of Moon.

Which was nothing, not even ash was left in the spot Moon had stood, just a massive scorch mark.

“Well that’s, puff, that.” Herah said, turning towards where they had originally come from. “Didn’t really, puff, need you, puff, Jeffery. My, puff, bad.”

Jeffery gave Herah no response, which immediately set Herah on alert. Jeffery only went mute on Herah when the youngling believed a fight to be over when it wasn’t.

Which meant Moon wasn’t dead.

Herah did her best to push the pain of from her severed arm to the back of her head, the youngling utilizing all of her senses to check their surroundings (Herah having immediately used Reunir to get the functions of her nose back), finding the issue quickly.

The first bench on the right aisle had been broken down into tendrils and was taking the form of what Herah guessed to be Moon.

Max noticed this as well and said, “Herah come on let’s get out of here, we don’t need to-”

“Oh, but you do!”  A familiar voice laced with excitement that filled everyone, sans Jeffery, in the cathedral with dread.

Herah spun around, twirling Jeffery above her head before attempting to spear whatever was behind her. Sadly for the youngling, a spike of pain shot through her body just as her spin was finished causing Herah to go wide with her stab.

“Oh, oh, oh!  It seems my dear Artist isn’t feeling too good. Well, she can fix that in a hurry” Norwe the Log said, his voice as gentle as always.

And yes, Norwe was currently in the form of a floating, perfectly cut, average size log.

“I’m not going to even say anything,” Max said as soon as her eyes glimpsed the Log Maker, the human just shaking her head in shock.

“Good! Then we can get straight to what I want to happen.” Norwe the Log responded with greats amount of cheer and excitement, before spreading his Presence all across the room. Everyone was set on edge as soon as they heard the sound of a giant lock being locked where the cathedral doors were located.

Herah’s breath hitched just a bit as her Maker’s presence engulfed her, the feeling not as threatening as when first subjugated, it was just a bit unexpected. On first contact, Norwe’s Presence made Herah feel as if the Maker Log was an older relative who had paid her surprise visit after being gone for a while (which wouldn’t work because all of Herah’s relatives were dead excluding her parents). But this feeling quickly passed and allowed for Herah to get to the deeper roots of her Maker’s presence. Which in short terms, could be described with one word.

Chaos.

Herah felt just how unrestrained, unfocused, and wild Norwe was at their core. The Maker’s presence didn’t wrap around her like Max’s, engulf her like Jeffery’s, or weigh on her like her father’s. It just struck Herah at random, as if it acknowledged her existence as something to poke and prod out of interest.

Not a welcoming thought considering whose Presence this was.

Herah, now using Jeffery as a makeshift crutch, looked over to Max and found the human’s reaction surprising. Max looked peaceful and calm, a far cry from her earlier sad and slightly frantic state, looking over to Moon, Herah found the same thing to be true for him.

“Now, my dear Liar.” Herah turned back to Norwe the Log, “Since Moon was nice enough to tease me with the idea, I’m gonna run with it. If any of you want to leave this building alive or otherwise, you must have an extremely entertaining fight for me. And by that I mean want to see even more blood, tears, and effort placed into it.”

“I also want to see some tactical thought, Artist that was a jab at you. I know you can do better.”  Norwe the Log said, sounding like a teacher that was disappointed with their students’ performance in whatever subject they taught because they knew that student could do better.

“Another thing, I want a fight that lasts and has an actual impact. That means no cop-outs for any of you, especially miss reality warper over here.” Norwe the Log said this as if Max was a common offender of this exact thing. “And finally, try to throw some curve balls. They don’t have to surprise me, though I’d prefer if they did, but I would love to see surprise run across each of your faces.

“Also, for added motivation to do exactly that, I’ve added to your stakes. So if my conditions aren’t met, these three will cease to exist in any form or shape, not even as memories will they live on.”

Three blurry images appeared behind of Norwe.

One unblurred and revealed Alex sitting with his back against a tree while having an animated discussion with Owen. Both were smiling at each other and seemed to be enjoying each other’s company. Max lost her composure and let out a sad whimper, her eyes tearing up at the realization that her brother’s life was in her hands.

The next image to unblur was of who Herah guessed to be Diavolo, it showed the same extremely muscular and green-skinned priest from the earlier painting, smiling and waving at Moon. Herah bristled uncomfortably at the choked sob that came from the priest, the sound of tears striking the floor really leaving Herah feeling like even more of an ass than before.

The final image to unblur erased any uncomfortableness Herah felt and replaced it with fear and anger. It was of her father, Orange, and it revealed him sitting on his daughter’s bed meditating. Herah let a small smile come to her face at the sight of her father showing his worry, since that was the only reason Orange would ever meditate. Then Orange opened his eyes and looked towards his daughter, surprised aquamarine met even more surprised emerald before Orange stood on the bed and gave Herah a heartwarming smile and wave.

Herah waved back with a pained expression before watching as Orange noticed her current state, his happy look switching to a panicked one. Orange then looked at Norwe the Log, recognition flashing in his eyes before his expression turned pained. The father looked back at his daughter and mouthed a heartbreaking apology before all three images abruptly faded.

“RAAAWWWRRRRR!”

The cathedral was filled with the sounds of Herah’s agonized roar, tears freely flowing down the sides of the youngling’s face as her head was turned up to the ceiling.  Herah turned back to Norwe, utter contempt towards the Maker Log filling her as tears continued to flow down her face. The youngling pointed Jeffery at Norwe the Log (the pencil stopping its silence to fill their creator’s mind with sweet thoughts) while baring her teeth and said with a low and hate-filled voice,

“I. Despise. Your. Existence.”

“Aah. My dear, dear Artist.” Norwe the Log’s voice rung with absolute delight, “Don’t despair just yet, just entertain me. Plus, I have that said to me so many many different times.”

The Maker Log floated up to Herah’s face, and said with an extremely out-of-character tone of foreboding and, even more surprising, desperation,

“What are you going to do about it?”

Herah was stunned into silence, that last bit of emotion that the youngling picked up completely throwing her for a loop.

A translucent meter gauge appeared in front of each of the three mortals in the room with five distinct values on each of them.

Zero percent.

Twenty-five percent.

Fifty percent.

Seventy-five percent.

And one hundred percent.

Each of their gauge’s had a tiny white number showing the exact value hovering just above them and all were set at a different value. Moon had the highest, his at sixty-eight percent with Herah’s being at thirty-eight percent and Max’s being at forty percent.

“If a single one of your gauges reaches one hundred, the doors will automatically unlock. However, if the other two leave without their gauges at full it will automatically reduce to zero. Once a gauge reaches zero, I will erase whichever of those three I showed before you care about most after two minutes and then kill you.” Norwe the Log spoke, their voice back to its gentle yet excited tone.

Herah watched as both Max’s and Moon’s gauges faded from her sight, before asking Norwe, her shaky breath’s returning,

“Why, puff, two minutes?”

“Thanks for asking Artist, this is because I am not without mercy so I’m gonna tell you each your own separate condition that you can meet to automatically set your gauge at one hundred percent, here it is now.”

Herah blinked in confusion for a few seconds before letting out a wince at the feeling of something invading her mind.

‘End Max, that is all you have to do.’

Herah glared at Norwe the Log even harder while thinking back,

‘Do your rules mean NOTHING to you?’

‘Not really, I tend to enforce them whichever way and whenever I want.’ Norwe replied with a nonchalant tone, ‘However, you wouldn’t be breaking my rule.’

Herah let a disgusted grunt leave her.

‘That’s a lie and we both know it.’

‘Oh my dear Artist, you have yet to differentiate between the truth and the lies.’

With those cheery words, the Maker Log floated up and disappeared, but not before leaving the three with some parting words, their joyful and expectant tone making Herah hate them all the more.

“Let’s do this in one take. SHOWTIME!”

Moon made eye contact with Max and Herah, all three looking shook up whether by the alternate condition or the primary conditions Herah knew not. Then together they all wiped away their tears and nodded their heads. Though Moon was their enemy and they were Moon’s, there were no hard feelings at all coming from either of the two groups toward each other.

They were all just fighting for what they loved, and they all could never be angry at someone for doing exactly that.

Three massive tendrils shot from Moon’s back, each piercing three benches before breaking them down into even more black tendrils. Moon then slammed his hands into the ground before him, the marble cracking and breaking apart as hundreds of beams of red wood shot towards Herah and Max.

In response, Max sent out ten of her 50 remaining cards and said, “There is a diamond wall between us.”

The beams thudded uselessly against the red diamond wall ‘s jagged surface that appeared in place of Max’s cards.

Max turned to Herah, who had returned to using Jeffery as a crutch while breathing heavily, and looked at the youngling’s bleeding stump. The remaining limb was gushing so much blood that a large puddle was beginning to take shape beneath the youngling’s feet.

“That wall is ten feet thick, Moon won’t be getting through any time soon.” Max pointed at Herah’s arm, “I can fix that for you Herah.”

The youngling shook her head before taking a deep breath and saying, “I’m gonna need the blood for this fight.”

Max gestured towards Herah’s  profusely bleeding wound and shouted in worry, “But at the rate you’re losing blood, you’ll bleed out before you can do anything!”

Herah shook her head once again and replied, “The only way, puff, to kill a, puff, Cendruex is to eliminate, puff, the fire that, puff, burns inside, puff, of us.” Herah took a deep breath, “The biggest danger this wound poses to me is leaving me blacked out from either pain or blood loss.” Herah took another deep breath, “I can mitigate both of those issues however.”

Herah closed her eyes and took another deep breath before letting it out. Herah then repeated this three more times, with each breath let out causing the pain to lessen and lessen until it eventually just felt like a slight tingle.

Herah stood from leaning on Jeffery, her breathing no longer labored and struggling and opened her eyes once again. This got a surprised yelp from Max, who pointed at Herah and said,

“Your, your eyes. They’ve changed.”

Herah nodded at this, the youngling already knew that her eyes had lost their pupils, irises, and sclera. Now they were replaced by a mess of red, black, yellow, and white. The colors arranged themselves in a way that it looked as if flames had been painted on the surface of her eyes.

Renaissance à son Sommet, that is what I named this state of being. The name is in honor of a period time that was all about revigorating love for La Flamme, to be more specific I’ve named it after the point in time which could be considered the movement’s apex. Not only does this state make all pain I suffer a slight tingle, but it also pushes my body to the max, no pun intended,  for five minutes straight while forcing my body to function no matter what for those five minutes.”

Herah picked up Jeffery, the pencil sending Herah images of a clock counting down from 5 minutes. The youngling then walked towards Max and set Jeffery aside, leaving the pencil to just float alongside her once again. Herah dipped her right fore finger’s claw into the pouring blood from her stump before raising it to Max’s neck.

“Max, I’m gonna use my blood to tattoo something onto your neck, your skin is the best canvas I can access in short time for my gift. Is that okay with you?

Max thought for a second before nodding yes.

Herah began to drag her finger along Max’s neck with keen precision. This allowed for the Cendreux to draw an incredibly detailed tattoo of blood-red welding goggles with red tinted lenses and a red strap around Max’s neck without causing the human any pain and within seconds.

Herah tapped Max’s new tattoo causing Traduire to activate, and cause for the tattoo to glow for a spilt-second before poofing out a real-life version of the same goggles, removing Max’s tattoo in the process.

“Those goggles will allow for you to keep up with both Moon and me as we fight, optically anyway. Moon apparently isn’t a normal Oni so you need to fib again to hide from his sights. Also, can you find a way to move around quickly?” Herah’s words came out serious and slightly on edge, the youngling on high alert for Moon’s attack.

Max nodded yes before saying, “Moon can’t perceive me, anything I do or my cards. I have a hoverboard.”

Herah didn’t even blink when a slender, red polyester board appeared next to Max, the youngling taking note of the two cards that disappeared with Max’s lie. This left her with 38 cards. Herah nodded at the board before ordering Max, “Stay as far away from the fight as you can unless I call you back to myself so I can draw something else on you, otherwise just hit Moon with fibs from afar.” Herah took off her backpack and handed it to Max, who put it on her own back. “Hold this for me, I won’t be able to do too much with it in this fight.”

Max nodded before jumping onto her board, the hoverboard floating the human up towards the ceiling.

Herah took another deep breath, making note of the fact that Jeffery’s counter was now at 4 minutes and 5 seconds.

‘I know you hate handing control over to me, but thanks for letting me use you Jeffery. Sorry this couldn’t be more entertaining’

Herah got the image of herself shaking her head and a puzzle that Herah had not quite figured out when younger. Herah shook her head with a small smile as her right hand twirled Jeffery once again in preparation for whatever Moon was planning on doing. Herah also took note of the fact that her gauge had gone up to 45%, most likely due to the simple plan that Herah had set up with Max and how the human was to deal with the speed.

Herah swung her bleeding stump in front of herself creating a bloody arc in front of herself. Herah looked at the wall of diamond then at the arm that Moon had cut off, making note of the fact that two of her fingers had turned to paint.

RIZZZZ!

Herah felt the vibrations from beneath her feet just before leaping back, but not soon enough because Moon burst from beneath where Herah had been standing with a hand in the shape of a drill and one in its normal form. Using the normal hand, Moon grabbed the youngling by her left leg and then throwing her at the red wall of diamond.

CRACK!

Several fissures appeared at Herah’s area of impact, the youngling falling to the ground and landing on her knees while letting out an annoyed grunt at the tingle that was felt from her back and wings due to her impact. Herah looked down at her recently created arc and added a bit more blood to it since it’s shape was messed up by her landing.

BOOM!

“Herah look out!”

Herah spat out flames covering her arm just before raising her head and her arm (having dropped Jeffery after hitting the wall) just in time to block a hypersonic punch from Moon.

KRRSHHH!

The red diamond wall shattered, filling the air with diamond shards and dust, as Herah was launched through all ten feet of it. Just after managing to steady herself in mid-air, Herah noticed Moon sailing towards her through the air and activated Traduire.

“ACK!” Moon shouted in pain as Herah’s red arc from earlier smashed into his back and shattered. Herah then mentally forced each of these fragments to rapidly form into a ball before smashing them down onto the priest’s head, causing marble fragments to fly into the air as Moon’s cranium smashed into the floor. Herah herself bled off most of her speed by flipping through the air, but still ended up slamming into the floor feet first. The youngling sent marble fragments every which way, leaving two twin gorges in the floor before skidding to a stop just before the cathedral doors.

Looking down at the leg Moon had grabbed, Herah spat out a ball of normal fire to burn away the black tendrils that were beginning to reach her stomach. Herah looked back at Moon and found the priest rising to his feet. Before the youngling could do anything, Herah heard Max shout and found the priest frozen in a block of ice. This was quickly rectified by Moon himself, the priest having sprouted a multitude of drills from his body that broke the ice surrounding him. Letting out a low whistle, Herah summoned Jeffery back to herself. This caused for the sentient pencil to blow a hole straight through the right side of Moon’s head, grey matter, blood, and black skin flying from the priest’s head and into the surrounding area.

Snatching Jeffery out of the air, Herah held the pencil behind her back with his tip to the floor as her eyes observed how Moon (now soaking wet and missing the right half of his brain) seemed stunned for a second before moving towards a bench that sat in a row to his right, and breaking a bit of it down so as to patch up his skull. Herah noticed her gauge go up to 50%, letting out a slightly pleased breath at her progress.

‘So Moon doesn’t need his brain to function, but damaging it causes him to be stunned for a moment. I can use this.’

“Max!” Herah shouted, causing the one in question to jump a bit before looking at Herah gesture for her to come here.

The human shot down from her place near the ceiling and began to float on Herah’s right while on her board.

“Yeah Herah?”

“Raise your shirt.”

Max blinked in surprise.

“I’m sorry?”

Herah said some curses under her breath before glaring at Max in annoyance and asking with equal amounts.

“I need you to raise your shirt all the way up, your neck and head don’t have enough room for what I’m about to create.”

“But I don’t have a bra on, and we’re in the mi-” Max attempted to explain.

“Max!” Herah shouted, clearly out of patience.

“And this shirt is going up.” The human in question said, giving up in her explanation.

Max lifted her shirt over her head, while Herah dipped the same claw from earlier into her blood geyser once again before sending Jeffery out towards Moon to keep him at bay while her work was done, causing a split in attention that Herah handled with little difficulty.

The pencil shot through Moon’s head once again, the priest then used a bench to heal himself, which was followed by Jeffery blasting through his head once again. This began a vicious cycle that left a lot of blood and brains on the surrounding benches and floor before Moon eventually stopped attempting to heal himself and instead focused on combating the speeding writing utensil known as Jeffery. Luckily for Moon, Jeffery could only go as fast as Herah perceived when under her control, which meant that after a few strikes that Moon was able to predict and counter the pencil’s attacks.

After Herah attempted to spear Moon through the stomach with another mental command from Jeffery, the priest leaped atop of the tip of the pencil and tried to break it down by transforming his legs into tendrils and attempting to pierce into Jeffery. Herah had a  quick response to this, however.

WHRRRR!

“Nani!?”

CRACK!

Jeffery had begun to rotate at ridiculous speeds, causing to two to form something akin to a demented rotating hoe. This meant that Moon’s head and a good portion of his upper torso were repeatedly being smashed through the marble floor, which caused a lot of marble dust and fragments to drive into the nearby walls, pillars, and benches.

Herah let a glad smile come to her face, her gauge had begun to decline when her attacks became overly repetitive. But now, with her idea for Jeffery and Moon to spin the way that they were, Norwe seemed to find it entertaining. Herah’s gauge was at 75%. Herah checked with Jeffery (the pencil a bit miffed about what Herah was currently doing with their body) for her time and found it to be 3 minutes and 20 seconds.

“Annnd, done!” Herah said, once completed with Max’s new tattoo before taking a moment to give it a loving stare.

It was of a chain with hands the size of normal ones going up and down the sides. Two hands were on either side of Max’s flat abdomen, with two more on either side of her rib cage, and the final two atop both of her breast.

Shaking the admiration for her art from her head, Herah tapped the hand on Max’s left breast. The human was blushing deeply at Herah, and began to blush even harder once Traduire brought the hands and chain to life.

A soft jingle was heard as the chain that ran from Max’s neck down to the center of her abdomen took form on the human’s skin, the only thing keeping it from falling off being the six actual red hands that now grabbed at Max’s entire torso. This didn’t last for long, however, since the hand Herah had tapped broke off from the chain and leaped onto its creator’s hand before using its fingers to crawl up to her elbow and turn itself back into a tattoo that disappeared shortly afterward. This same thing happened with the rest of hands, each crawling onto one part of her body before turning back into a tattoo and disappearing.

“What was that all about?” Max asked, pulling her shirt down in hopes of returning some semblance of modesty to herself. The human wasn’t exactly quiet during Herah’s tattooing process, and not a single sound made was of discomfort.

“Those hands are going to help when I’m fighting,” Herah nodded towards her own gauge, “My gauge is at 75%, how’s yours?”

Max let out a wince and responded with, “It’s gone down actually, my gauge is currently hanging out at 25%. I don’t think Norwe is too liking of your hide on the ceiling strategy and helping from there, it’s pretty boring after all.”

Herah let out her own empathizing wince, before saying, “Do you have any way you can think to raise it?”

Max thought for a few seconds, before asking Herah, “What was your next move?”

“I was going to engage Moon in close-combat as a distraction while I planned on you taking out all these benches around us. Do you have a way to eliminate all of them, preferably in one fell swoop? Anything less and Moon might try to counteract us.”

Max went into deep thought, running her hand through her hair for just a second before snapping her fingers.

“Herah, how do you feel about being naked right now?” Max asked, her tone completely serious.

“I would prefer not to, but if your plan involves it, I won’t bitch,” Herah responded with an uncaring voice.

Max nodded before floating off and into the air above while speaking in a whisper, for some odd reason, “I’ll do it once Moon is fully distracted, go on.”

Herah nodded before redirecting her attention to Jeffery and Moon, the latter having been flung off and into a pillar. Nodding to herself once again, Herah unfurled both of her wings and flew towards Moon while also summoning Jeffery back to herself. Herah and Jeffery met halfway towards Moon, allowing for the youngling to furl her wings back up and spin through the air like a sideways spinning top while spinning Jeffery counter-clockwise to her own spin, around her body.

As soon as Moon rose from the pillar that had stopped his flight, the priest had Herah sail over his head with Jeffery erasing a good portion of his skull as they spun around Herah’s body. Stunned, Moon was not prepared for Herah to land behind and spear him through the chest with Jeffery’s tip. This did, however, bring him out of his stupor and caused for Moon to sprout hundreds of spikes all over his body, causing Herah to step back while dragging Jeffery through Moon’s side by the tip of their eraser. More blood sprayed across the marble as Moon let out a gasp of surprise before morphing his right arm into a whip and launching it into a bench.

“What the ash!?” Herah shouted in surprise, diving to the side as another Moon (created from the bench the original had struck) drove a black sword that had replaced the forearm of his right arm straight through the chest of his creator in an attempt to do the same to Herah. Herah then launched herself away and towards the altar with am unfurl and flap of her wings, the two Moon’s following on her heels.

“Max! Anytime now!”

There is a wave of lava rushing towards you.”

All three turned towards the front of the cathedral and the Moons let out startled cries, a massive wave of lava rushing through the cathedral towards the trio. One of the Moons shot his left hand out (having morphed it into a massive version of itself), quickly grabbing and chucking a single bench into the entrance hole Moon had created earlier before using the same hand to cover the hole. The other ripped the one who had saved the bench in half, taking their right side and breaking it down then transforming it into some type of black armor that covered their body. Two full seconds later, the wave of lava crashed into the three and the altar.

Herah stood her ground, not moving an inch as the wave crashed into her. Bright orange was all Herah could see for but a second before her vision quickly cleared and revealed the cathedral’s makeover. The floor was covered in 3ft worth of lava (something which would be no problem for Herah to navigate through), the air had become extremely humid, and the marble pillars were beginning to break apart. While most of the benches were gone, a few were laying in the lava slowly burning and sinking into it. Herah also noticed the fact that her gauge had risen up to 77%.

Before the youngling could look around anymore, the sound of something cutting through the air behind her caused Herah to duck and roll through the obscenely hot floor.

Herah rose to her feet and to the sight of Moon covered in some type of black armor. It wasn’t large by any means, quite form fitting actually, and seemed to exist as a single piece. The armor also seemed organic, Herah noticing how it seemed leather-like with tiny tendrils occasionally appearing on the surface. Herah took note of his left gauntlet, it being black with spikes on each of its knuckles. The other gauntlet went a slightly different route, with the hand being replaced with the same claw Moon was using earlier in the fight. Atop of his head, Moon now wore a completely black helmet that had a little visor, blocking his eyes from view. The only part of Moon that Herah could still see was his eyes, the silver still looking dull and sad.

“Your wound hasn’t cauterized,” Moon said, his soft voice carrying a ring from within his helmet.

Herah looked down at her still profusely bleeding arm, before looking back up at Moon and casually saying,

“I can’t be burnt.”

Moon looked towards the window which immortalized Norwe the Log before saying, with a deeply somber tomb,

“I’m sorry I dragged you two into this.”

Herah shook her head, calling Jeffery back to hand before holding the pencil behind her back with their tip pointed to the ceiling. The youngling then bluntly stated,

“Don’t be, you were just doing what you felt was needed.”

“You’re quite understanding towards someone who is actively trying to kill you.” Moon responded with a slightly joking tone.

Herah chuckled lightly, giving the lava a soft kick before telling Moon, with the same tone of voice,

“Yeah, well I spit in the face of your offer for peace. By my standards, we’re both assholes in this situation.”

Moon responded with his own chuckle and apologetically said,

“Well, by my standards at least, I’m about to be an even bigger asshole in a second.”

“What makes you-”

Moon raised his left hand and snapped.

“Aaaah!”

Herah’s eyes widened in shock as Max fell off of her hoverboard, the human covered in flames, and towards the molten covered floor. Thinking quick, Herah threw Jeffery at Max just in time for the human to land on and tightly hold onto the sentient pencil. Herah then turned to Moon, who had reared his right arm back to launch it towards Max, the limb having taken the ship of a ship with a claw at the end. The youngling snorted out green flames that were sent to cover her remaining arm, which Herah then used to punch Moon squarely in the face. This punch sent the priest into the altar, the object being destroyed in the process of all of this.

“What did you do to her?” Herah growled out at Moon, as the priest shakingly rose to their feet.

“I just ignited the pollen that I had stuck to her body from earlier. When she had walked over to the two of us after our brief battle in the courtyard, I had my shield release a bit of the stuff.”

The priest then launched himself towards Herah and tried to hit Herah with a jab. The youngling didn’t move in the slightest, even as his fist neared her head. Just before contact, one of the red hands that Herah had created earlier appeared on her face and gave Moon a fist bump that completely halted his attack.

“Nani?”

BOOM!

The pair were engulfed in a fiery explosion, that began to burn away at Moon’s armor. But that was the least of his worries since Herah delivered a brutal uppercut to his chin with her still flaming right arm. This time Moon was launched towards the ceiling, crashing right into the blank spot that was supposed to depict his current trial.

After a second, Moon fell from the ceiling towards Herah with both of his hands now claws and ready to pounce. The youngling looked up at Moon but didn’t move, waiting for just the right moment to deliver her next attack. However, someone else had other ideas.

A minivan is about to hit Moon!”

HONK! HONK!

A red minivan appeared out of nowhere, before ramming Moon straight into the wall beneath the window art of Norwe the Log.

I’m not on fire right now.” 

“Max your okaaayyy…..” Herah turned to get a good luck at the human and winced, “Ish.”

Max, who was standing atop of Jeffery looking extremely pissed off. The girl had several burns of varying degrees all over her face and her hair burnt to the point that a ponytail was now no longer required. The human’s legs were missing much of their skin, with large pink and black areas covering the length of the limbs. Her arms weren’t in too much better of a condition, the limbs mostly black. Max’s torso took the worst of it, however, her abdomen completely pink and both of her breast black and charred.

Max’s clothing wasn’t in the best condition either. Her cargo shorts were just gone, leaving the girl in a pair of red boxers that had been burnt to the point that they almost resembled panties. Max’s coat wasn’t in a much better state, with the trench coat having the bottom of it burnt to the point that it now reached to right beneath Max’s chest and its sleeves were completely gone. Max’s shirt might as well have been none existent due to the fact that it was essentially just a hole-filled rag that was held together by unstable cotton and miracles.

“I am in so much pain right now, but that isn’t important. Let’s fill up our gauges and get out of here. I got a brother to save.” Max responded, sounding both pissed and determined.

The human leaped off of Jeffery and onto her hoverboard just as Moon knocked the van away from himself.

Herah nodded yes to this before calling Jeffery back to herself and going on the offensive. With a boom that created a shockwave that in turn created another wave of lava that went opposite of herself, Herah launched herself towards Moon and attempted to spear him through the chest. The priest dodged around Herah’s attack and tried grabbing at her arm with his left, only finding a high five from a disembodied hand and another explosion for his troubles. Following this up, Herah used Jeffery’s eraser to once again rid Moon of part of his head, this time the entire right part of his head from his cheek to his hair. Max, having moved to hang over the pair, dropped two cards and said,

Those are lightning bolts that will only hurt Moon.”

Herah blinked as two bolts of red lightning struck both herself and Moon, crackling filling her ears as Moon began to twitch like crazy with Herah suffering zero damage or effects. Taking advantage of his extended paralysis, Herah struck Moon in the chest with leg a covered in red flames which launched him away from herself and through one of the already breaking pillars. Landing next to one of the burning benches, Moon used a part of it to heal the damage that Herah and Max dealt to him.

Max snapped her fingers, causing her remaining 23 cards to engulf Moon in a whirlwind invisible to himself that added small all over his body, his crimson lifeblood beginning to boil as the heat of the lava reached it. With his entire body covered in cuts, Moon broke the rest of the burning bench next to him down into tendrils before layering them atop of his armor and slamming his fist together.

CLANK!

The metallic ring of his now metallic gauntlets filled the cathedral as the cards began to just bounce off his armor. Hearing and seeing this, Max redrew her cards back and Herah unfurled both of her wings before giving one mighty flap in front of herself that launched a wave of lava at Moon. Before the wave could even reach him, Herah shot towards the priest with a boom that created another wave of lava in the direction opposite of herself. Using the wave as a cover, Herah shot through it with Jeffery in hand spearing Moon once again in the chest. After spitting out a glob of blood that sizzled as it fell into the lava, Moon attempted to grab Herah by her neck, but found his hand stopped by another red hand that slapped his away and then blew up in another explosion of fire.

“Herah! Move!” Max shouted to the youngling.

The youngling tore Jeffery out of Moon through his head, once again spraying blood, grey matter, and gore into the air before leaping away and back towards Max. With Herah out of the way, the human launched two cards towards Moon that flew just over the surface of the lava and said,

Those are lava swimming sharks that only eat Moon.”

Two massive sharks appeared in the liquid floor, attempting to devour Moon by jumping up from the lava and diving through the air towards him.

“Suck it, you nice asshole,” Max said, clearly struggling with consciousness.

As if to just spite Max, Moon’s stunned state faded, and the priest used both of his claw hands to pierce both sharks and break them down into tendrils. Moon then used the tendrils from the sharks to create some type of black tree trunk with many holes in it next to himself.

For a moment, Herah just stared at the tree before noticing that the lava had dropped an inch in height.

“How the ash?”

“Two hundred years ago, my people found a tree just like this one. It was useless for making mask, but had a peculiar property that allowed for it to ingest lava. I broke it down and still remember its genetic code to this day.”

By the end of his explanation, all the lava that had covered the cathedral floor was now gone. This left a cracked and hot floor of marble in its wake, and everyone in the cathedral (save Jeffery) were on their last leg.

Herah’s time was at 1 minute, Max was going to pass out from her burns soon, and Moon was all out of things to break down.

I won’t pass out in the next thirty minutes”

Ok, only Moon and Herah were on their last leg.

Realizing this Herah looked at Moon who was back in his normal clothing, the priest having broken down the mass from the armor and stored it somewhere else. The youngling also so that, for some odd reason, his eyes were now glowing silver and steam was pouring off of his shoulders. Herah didn’t put too much thought into this before checking her gauge and finding it at 88%. Herah wasn’t too liking of the number but figured a bit more fighting would fix it. And if not…..

Herah looked at Max, the human now floating next to her and looking back at Herah gave the youngling a firm shake of her head and a small smile. Herah looked back at Moon and shook her head.

That wasn’t even an option.

Everyone was back in their original position before the fight had started and all were geared up for the fight to end. Moon was standing where the bench that had made him his first new body used to be, his tree to his right and the giant hand from earlier covering the hole in front of him. Herah and Max were once again in front of the steps leading up to the most definitely destroyed altar.

Herah unfurled her wings, Max called all of her remaining 20 cards to surround her, and Moon looked ready to pounce.

Herah made the first move, launching herself towards Moon with a boom, that just destroyed the floor even more, and readied Jeffery to erase the priest’s head. But just before Herah could reach Moon, a problem occurred.

SNIKT!

Something shot through the youngling’s forehead and burrowed straight into her brain, causing Herah to suddenly lose control of her wings and crash at Moon’s feet.

“Herah!”

The youngling refurled her wings, rolled onto her back and looked up at Moon in innocent confusion and asked, “What… Did…. You… Do?”

The priest looked down at Herah with a sad smile and said with an extremely apologetic tone, “When you passed over the hand covering the hole, I shot a bit of into your head and it has now pierced your brain. In about fifty seconds, I will have complete control over your body and once that comes I will use you to kill Max. Because while I can’t perceive her, you can. The only way to get rid of it will be by destroying your brain, but that would kill you. I’m sorry, but I win this one.”

PING!

The sound rung throughout the entire cathedral which quickly followed by the sound of the front doors unlocking, meaning that Moon was the first to reach 100%.

Herah doesn’t have whatever Moon put in her head, in her head!”

For a split second, Herah felt Max’s presence take hold and start causing something to happen, but it was quickly put to a stop by a pulse of someone else’s presence.

“Dammit Norwe, what the fuck did you do to my gift?” Max cried out in what Herah thought to be uncharacteristic rage, the human almost sounded like her brother had when they had first met.

“Sorry Liar,” Norwe the Log’s voice rung throughout the building, not at all sounding apologetic, “But I’m not going to let you rob my False Priest of his victory, the only way Herah’s getting out of this one is if she has an even better, even more, surprising plan.”

‘No. No. No NOOOO!’  Herah screamed in her mind, despair quickly overtaking it, ‘I can’t let this happen, if I lose now not only are me and Max fucked but so are Dad and Alex. I am not letting them get baisée because I couldn’t entertain this piece of shit Maker! Think! Think! THINK!’

Herah’s eyes widened once again, an idea coming to her mind. It was a stupid, but it would definitely surprise Norwe.

Herah hoped at least.

The youngling gave the control back to Jeffery and asked them for a favor. After hearing her favor, the pencil sent Herah an image of herself and a dunce cap but complied in the end.

“Max!” The youngling shouted, “Give me….. What Owen…… Gave me…… Earlier!”

Though Herah was unable to see Max, the youngling knew that the human was confused.

“What?”

“I’m hungry Max! Feed me!” Herah shouted, hoping that human understood her.

“I get it! I get it!” Max shouted back, giving Herah even more hope, “I don’t know what you have planned but here you go.”

Herah watched as Moon’s eyes widened in shock before a dome of black surrounded the two.

“I’m sorry Herah, but I can’t allow for you to do what you have planned.” The priest said apologetically, small tears forming in his still glowing silver eyes.

” Stop…  Apologizing…. Asshole.”

This is in Herah’s mouth.”

CRUNCH!

Herah bit into the half sphere of platinum that Owen had made for earlier, chewing and swallowing it before signaling Jeffery.

The pencil shot through the rough of the black barrier Moon had made and straight through Herah’s brain before shooting back up and through what remained of it.

For a few moments,

Herah knew not.

Herah thought not.

Herah was not.

But after these few moments, a great and powerful violet fire shot from inside of Herah and out of the pores that covered her skin. The fire then wrapped around her body before exploding outwards, immediately incinerating Moon’s barrier, Moon, his tree, and all of the ashes that they left behind. From this fire, Herah’s body repaired itself, using the flames to regrow her brain, her brain’s surrounding skull, and her arm. Each part coming back scaleless and extremely sensitive.

Herah opened her eyes and sat up in shock, before laying back down and letting out a groan of pain. Looking at her gauge, the youngling saw that it had filled up to 100%, meaning that her father was saved and that leaving the cathedral would no longer end in death for herself.

“Ahahahahaha. I’m gonna have to kiss Owen when I see that little fucker again.” Herah laughed in joy, tears rolling down the sides of her face. Max soon stood over Herah, tears rolling down her face at the sight of the Cendreux being alive.

“Oh shit! I thought you were dead!” Max said, joy also filling her voice.

“I told you, the only way to kill a Cendruex is by snuffing out the fire in our chest.” Herah looked up and saw Jeffery floating just above Max’s head, “Thanks Jeffery, you’re the best.”

The pencil just sent Herah the same image of herself and a dunce cap, followed by a thumbs up. Herah looked back at Max and said,

“Now let’s get out here before any other Oni arrive,” Herah looked back at Jeffery, “Can you carry us? I’m gonna pass out soon from that healing so I’m not a reliable flyer right now.”

Jeffery sent Herah an image of another thumbs up and gestured for Max to put her on them. Max complied, losing her smile in the process. Just as Max got Herah onto Jeffery, Max asked in a voice laced with bits sadness,

“Jeffery, do you know what Dallas is?”

The pencil sent Herah an image of herself shaking her head yes.

“They said yeah. Why the ash are you asking them this?” Herah said, a bit confused by Max’s current behavior.

“Don’t worry about it Herah.” Max jumped onto Jeffery behind Herah, wrapping her arms around the youngling’s back while putting her still burnt face to Herah’s back. The human then asked, “Can you tell me when we get out of the blast radius of a nuke, if you know what that is, that can take out a city like Dallas?”

Herah got the same response.

“They said yeah to both, what is up with these questions?”

Max gave Herah a small, but painfilled smile and somberly said,

“Herah, I only got my gauge up to ninety percent.”

Herah’s eyes widened in shock, before the youngling hurriedly said,

“Max, how are-”

The human in question raised one of her fingers to Herah’s lips, the digit completely black and shushed her with a soothing tone of voice.

Herah, you’re falling asleep.”

Herah’s eyelids began to grow heavy, and just before sleep overtook her, the youngling heard Max say with a tone filled with resigned determination,

“I have a condition to meet.”

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Thomas Loud
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Author Works

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