For five minutes, Herah and Max sat in silence as the human braided the youngling’s hair with the only real sound of notice heard being the scribble of Herah’s pencil on her sketchpad. Jeffery was laying in Herah’s lap, their creator rubbing their spine with the hand that wasn’t holding the pencil. Herah herself was chewing on her bottom lip, not paying any real attention to her drawing. Max was whistling to herself a merry tune, her earlier grief now seemingly gone.
On the surface level, anyway.
“So, how long have you been awake?” Max asked as her fingers danced through Herah’s red locks, taking great care with each strand of hair that flowed through her fingertips.
Herah stopped chewing on her lip and looked up from her drawing and towards the sky, noting that the planet’s red star was not too far from where it should’ve risen in the south. Looking back down at her sketchpad, the youngling provided a reply.
“Dammit, I wish your problem was something I could physically interact with, then I’d just kick its ass and be done with this. I really don’t want to be blunt right now, it might just make my job harder.” Herah told Max, her expression crinkling up in annoyance.
Max paused in her braiding to give Herah a confused stare.
“Herah I asked how long you’ve been awake.” Max spoke in an amusement.
Herah’s nostrils flared as twin puffs of smoke shot from them before rolling her eyes, and irritably responding,
“Two hours Max, that’s how long I’ve been awake.” The youngling then turned to face her human friend with a curious/annoyed look before deciding to ask her own question.
“Why do you ask?”
“Just making smaaall talk,” Max responded playfully while smiling at Herah innocently.
Seeing Max’s look, Herah’s left eye twitched before the youngling just threw both her hands into the air (which was immediately followed by a barrage of images from Jeffery making their anger very clear) and exasperatedly stated,
“Fuck it. I’m just gonna do me.”
“What’s wrong lava tits?” Max asked with a worried smile and tilt of her head.
“That fucking smile for one! It seems pretty authentic but I can’t see it as genuine!”
“What are you talking about lava tits?” Max with the same worried smile and her head still tilted.
“Stop.” Herah spoke with curt and angryily, twin puffs of smoke shooting from her nose in irritation.
“Stop what, with the nickname?” Max asked, now speaking with a combination of confusion and embarrassment, her head having tilted as her face contorted in confusion as well.
“Stop lying.” Herah responded with the same tone from before, her glare deepening and causing Max to flinch slightly.
“What are you talking about, I haven’t spoken a single lie to you.” Max was now just sounding immensely confused, her still confused expression in addition to her slight fidgeting with Herah’s hair showing no visible deceit.
“I meant lying with your body, your tone, your expressions.” Herah’s speech grew steadily louder as her anger grew, causing her to lean towards Max until just a few inches were between their faces. “You’re acting like you aren’t at all bothered by what you did last night, when not ten minutes ago you were balling your eyes out about it!”
“Lava tits, I’m perfectly fine.” Max said, backing up while raising up both of her hands with a smile on her face, “After talking with-”
Max reached up to her reddening cheek, complete and utter surprise upon her face. Herah herself still looked pissed but had to hold back a wince as pain spread throughout the palm of her left hand.
“What the fuck Herah?” Max mutely asked, her mouth now slightly agape and her eyes wide.
“You just lied to me.” Herah spoke back, her voice had returned to its curt and angry tone from before as her glare deepened.
“Come on,” Max opened her arms up wide and used her hands to point towards herself, “Look at me lava tits, do I give any indication that I’m anything but a bit irritated?” Max asked, her smile having gained a slight grimace with an annoyed twitch in her eye as company.
Herah continued to glare at Max in silence for a few moments before bluntly asking,
“One of the passives of your gift is to make your lies indiscernible from the truth, isn’t it?”
Max just smiled at Herah for but a few moments before turning away from the angry Cendruex and looking towards where her brother recided with a frown.
“Bro told you this, didn’t he?” Max asked in a disgruntled tone with her left fist clenching tightly, before continuing sounding immensely betrayed, “Sometimes I hate the fact he cares about me so much, his lips tend to loosen when my well-being is involved.”
“Your brother mentioned nothing about your gift,” Max turned back to Herah in surprise, “I just figured that all gifts came with passive abilities sense both his and mine have their owns.”
“You know bros passive ability?” Max disbelieving asked Herah.
Herah nodded with her lips set in a thin line before saying, “It’s not too hard to figure sense your brother pretty much told me when we first met. “Just know that I’ll know when you’re lying to me.” It doesn’t take a genius to figure that one of Alex’s passives is to discern whether or not what someone says is the truth, isn’t it?”
Max shook her head yes before cautiously asking with a slightly abashed look, “What’s yours?”
Herah gave Max a brief one over, her stare critical and deep. It was almost as if the youngling was attempting to stare into Max’s soul. After a few seconds of this, Herah loosened her glare and allowed for it to become just a stare before saying in a plain and simple tone,
” 2.3e+28 protons and electrons make up your body and 1.8e+28 neutrons make up your body.”
“What?” Max blinked owlishly at her scarlet colored friend.
“One of my passive abilities allow for me to discern what makes up anything I view down to the subatomic level utilizing all of my senses.”
“Wow.” Was all Max said in response, still blinking and letting her jaw hang just a bit with what Herah assumed to be genuine awe coming from the human.
“Yeah, it’s pretty neat,” Herah said, clearly not feeling Max’s awe, “And it’s thanks to this passive ability and a gift from your brother that I was able to pick up on your lie.”
“What gift are you talking about?” Max asked her now sounding quite curious.
Herah merely raised her left hand as if offering it to the human, and soon afterward a ball of light floated up from within it and hovered just above the palm of her hand.
“Your brother gifted me with one of his light orbs from the Brigade of Enlightenment, this one is the one named Dope. Though I wasn’t told for what purpose, I now figure that it was to deal with your passive ability.”
“So it made you see through my lie immediately, huh?” Max didn’t sound too happy about the information that was just given to her, in fact the human sounded a bit scared by what Herah had just said, which surprised the youngling.
‘Guess they don’t share shit like that with each other. Wonder why that’s such a scary thought to her.’
Herah shook her head no and said, “Nope, they seem to just cancel each other out. I wouldn’t have noticed if I wasn’t specifically looking for something being wrong or off inside your body and even then I could only pick it up due to my particular gift.”
Hearing this Max breathed out a sigh of relief, before whispering to herself, “Then I still got time.”
Filing away those words for later, Herah began speaking to Max again.
“Now that you know that, it should be rather clear that I’ll see through every lie you try to pull over me. Uuh, I’m gonna have tell Alex thanks for that now.”
Herah took the orb back into herself just as Max rose from her position on her knees. The youngling then watched in total silence as Max walked to the edge of the clearing and leaned her head against one of the outlining trees with a look twinged with jealousy.
Herah frowned at the sight and sound of Max’s bitter laughter against the tree, but still spoke not a word. After about a minute, Max finally got control of her laughter and turned back to the still seated Herah. Seeing the youngling’s frown, Max provided an answer to the unspoken question.
“I just find it funny how all it took to get you and my brother all buddy-buddy,” Max spat the last words out with venom, “Was me killing 2 million innocent people.”
“It took you killing two million people and feeling absolutely terrible about it actually.” This got Herah a flinch then a glare from Max that the youngling matched with her own before continuing,” Plus there is no friendship between your brother and I, ash, I know for sure neither of us likes the other. We just have a better understanding and a bit more respect for each other now.”
“So what, you’re attempting to help me because you’ve reached an understanding with my brother?” Max asked with snarkiness, her smile just as snarky. Which got a slight twitch from the Herah’s eye.
“Alex also ordered me to help you.” Herah bluntly stated, her expression resuming its plain stare from before.
“Oh, that’s even better.” Max said, her smile turning into a frown at Herah’s words.
“Of course neither of those reasons are primarily why I want to help you, just additions to give me even more incentive.”
Max gave the straight-faced Herah her own glare before stepping away from her tree and distrustfully asking, “Then why? Why do you want to help me?”
Herah looked down at Jeffery (the pencil had been giving her a tirade of images that continued to show their displeasure throughout her conversation with Max) and mentally told them to go bother Alex. When asked why, Herah had a simple response.
“Because you’re both assholes, now go make shit together.”
Luckily for Herah, Jeffery remembered that their creator had recently got out of a hairy fight so they just erased the top of her right pinky before disappearing with a burst of speed.
Setting aside her sketchpad and pencil, Herah watched as a small flame appeared on the top of her pinky and burned until the digit was back to it’s normal state. Herah then rose to her feet and turned to Max, breathing out a ring of fire that bound her still unfinished braid in place. With that done, Herah shoved both of her hands into her pants pockets and returned her attention to Max. The human stood up straight with her hands at her hips, an untrusting look on her face, and still only a trench coat covering her modesty.
“Max, I’m going to be frank.” Herah said still going on in her blunt voice, “I owe you a great debt, and both my parents and mistress teach that the greater the debt the greater the repayment owed.” Herah walked up to Max before kneeling before the surprised human and said with a voice filled with thankfulness, “Not only were you instrumental in saving my own life, but you are also the reason why I still have my father.” Herah then rose to her full height and slapped her arms down to her side and her legs together, making her body as straight as possible with a look of upmost seriousness on her face.
“What are you-” Max began but stopped once Herah breathed out a wisp lantern, reached out with her right hand and crushed it, and then slammed her fist into her chest. This caused a shroud of blue flames to engulf her. Herah’s tone became loud and proud as her next words were spoken.
“As both a devote follower of La Flamme and the child of Orange and Rouge Hej, I plan to repay this debt by helping you with your grief. Anyway I can.”
Max opened her mouth a response on the tip of her tongue but then paused with a thoughtful look on her face. The human then began running her hand through her hair while mumbling to herself. After a few seconds of this, Max snapped her fingers and looked back at Herah.
“So you want to repay your debt, correct?” Max asked sounding surprisingly cheerful while looking up at Herah with a lecherous smile.
“Yeah, and what’s up with that look? It’s just like my mother’s after a successful date with my father.” Herah said while leaning back a bit with a slightly disturbed look, her flame shroud having now dissipated.
“Lava tits, let me be honest here. You’re not the best person to try and talk with me about this. Both you and I know that you’re rather out of depth on this subject.” Max said to Herah, a bit of an apologetic look on her face.
“Yeah you’re right,” Herah said somberly, a small frown forming as a sigh left her lips. The youngling then pointed towards her sketch pad and said, “That was the main reason I grabbed my sketch pad in the first place, drawing helps me think of new ideas.”
“Well wipe that frown from your face and think no longer, because I already know how you can repay your debt to me.” Max cheerfully told Herah, causing the youngling to look at her in surprise.
“Yep, and it’s very action based. Hell, the only words you’ll have to say is my name,” Then Max raised her left hand and turned in from side to side, before quickly adding “And maybe a few oh my gods.”
“And this will help you?” Herah asked, giving Max a stern glare.
“Not only will it help me, but it’ll help all of us in our merry little band. Plus, it will be a very enjoyable experience for the two of us.” Max answered, her body just shaking in giddiness.
“Well if the thought of it seems to make you feel better, the actual thing must be great.” Herah said, before giving Max her own small smile and asking, “So, what do you want me to do?”
“I want you to sleep with me.”
“I’m…. I’m sorry?” Herah asked disbelievingly while giving Max a confused stare. Seeing the youngling’s expression, Max let out a sigh and shook her head while facepalming. The human then looked back at Herah and tiredly said,
“Ok, I guess that term only has its literal meaning where you come from. What I meant was-”
“I KNOW WHAT THE FUCK YOU MEAN!” Herah shouted at Max, causing to human to jump back in surprise. The youngling looked now extremely pissed, with her left eye twitching in irritation and a snarl on her face. Herah then took in a few deep breaths before allowing for her expression to settle in a mildly irritated state. Herah then glared at Max while biting her lip, before speaking with clear ire and annoyance.
“I’m just a bit, uuh, confused on how, umm, FUCKING YOU will help any of us!”
Max put a bit more distance between her and Herah while giving the Cendruex a pained and scared smile with both of her hands raised to placate Herah, any and all traces of her earlier happiness now gone. The human quickly and nervously spoke,
“Well you see, the way this helps us is that one, you get a pretty great lay if I do say so myself.”
“I don’t care.”
Max nodded okay at this, backing up a bit more as Herah began to advance on her with a glare. This caused for Max to give an even quicker reply.
“It’ll make me less of a liability.”
“How so?” Herah asked with a growl, having now backed a frightened Max into the tree that was recently used to rest her head. Max looked up at the angry Cendruex with a sad smile before meekly saying,
“As of right now, I’m severely limited in the use of my fibs.”
Herah blinked at Max in surprise before angrily asking, “What do you mean?”
Instead of replying, Max looked down and away from Herah. The youngling growled at this before slamming her right fist into the red-wooded tree right above Max’s head, her fist creating a hole not too much larger than itself. Still, Max just flinched and continued to look down. Grabbing the human by her chin with her left hand and lifting it up, Herah leaned down onto her nose and Max’s met. Emerald met green, one pair of eyes filled with anger, the other filled with shame and fear.
“What. Do. You. Mean?”
After a few seconds of no response from the human, Herah let out a sigh and let go of Max’s chin. The youngling then turned around and began to walk away from the human towards her sketch pad and pencil. After picking both objects up, Herah turned to Max with a plain and stony expression and began to speak in a blunt cold tone.
“Max, I want to make this clear to you. I want to help you not just because I owe you a debt, but because I consider you my friend. And at this very moment, I only have three. But I can’t help you right now or ever if you won’t tell me what’s wrong. Until you can do that, I’m going to go sit in our clearing and think of some other ways to help you.”
Herah then began to walk towards Max, who had put her head down once again. The youngling passed by her human friend in total silence, the soft treading of her bare feet through the grass being the only sound heard. Passing the newly damaged tree, Herah paused for a moment to look back at Max.
The human in question just stood still with her back to Herah, her trench coat hiding her naked body and her hair still in its frayed state. Standing still for a second more, Herah soon heard and saw silent tears hit the ground in front of Max. But not a word emerged from the human, so Herah turned away and continued on.
The youngling paused midstep before turning back to face Max, who was already facing her. The human was still looking down slightly with Herah only able to see the twin tracks of tears rolling down her face, the nervous nibbling of her top lip, and Max’s droopy hair. Lifting her head up fully, Max looked at Herah with slightly reddened eyes that looked absolutely begging.
“What Max?” Herah asked, still sounding cold and blunt.
“I want your help. I can fake being happy and cheerful and unbothered all I want, but it won’t change the fact that I’m not.” Max rubbed her eyes while giving a quick sniff before continuing, “I need some help, and right now you’re the best I got. So please stay and I’ll fill you in so you know what my problem is. But,” Max looked away from Herah with a grimace before quickly looking back at the youngling, “There is one thing I need you to do before I say a word.”
“What is it?”
“I need you to promise me that you won’t tell my brother a word of what I tell you unless I tell you it’s okay. That’s all I ask.”
Herah looked back up at the sky, noting that not a lot of time had passed before looking back at Max. With twin puffs of smoke leafing her nose, Herah walked back up to Max and crouched until at her height. Leaning her head against Max’s, Herah breathed out a sliver of violet fire that flew around her head twice then back into her mouth before flying down into her lungs and finally stopping at the flame that birthed it. Herah then softly whispered something to Max.
“A la flamme qui brûle dans ma poitrine, je te jure. Je jure le silence de vos paroles à moins que vous ne les accordiez vous-même.”
Herah then gave a small gentle nip to Max’s nose drawing blood and a mild wince from the human, before swallowing the blood and completing her contract. Rising back up to her full height and backing up a bit, Herah looked at Max’s agape mouth and wide eyes with a small smile and chuckle that caused Max to shake her head to rid herself of her shock.
“What- What was that?” Max asked, looking down slightly while also raising a hand to rub the small scar that had appeared in the wake of Herah nipping her nose.
“Me making the promise you asked of me.” Herah replied as if it was just a simple action.
“You’re- Not going to ask any questions?” Max asked, now looking up at Herah while making eye contact.
“You obviously don’t share everything with your brother and him with you. So I’m perfectly willing to not tell him anything you don’t want me to.” Herah then gave Max a small grin, “Plus my personal pettiness also makes me want to have something shared to me by Alex’s sister that isn’t even known by him.”
This solicited a chuckle from Max, who now had a small smile on her face.
“Thank you Herah.”
Max then sat down cross-legged right next to damaged tree from earlier and patted the ground in front of her. Getting the message, Herah sat down with her legs crossed as well. Except only Herah’s left leg was fully touching the grass-covered ground while her right sat above it with only its foot on the ground, and both legs were bent at the knee.
With both now sitting and ready to talk, Max asked Herah one final question.
“Are you ready to listen?”
And Herah responded with a small smile and a wink before saying,
“Only if you’re ready to talk.”
Max took a deep breath and then let it out. Then Max took another deep breath and let it out. The human then repeated this process five more times before finally speaking.
“Ok so first I’ll start this off by saying one thing. The whole me not considering the words of someone who wasn’t with me when I did something anything less than talk is bullshit that I’ve led bro into believing for years now.”
Hearing this, Herah gave Max a surprised look and open her mouth to ask about it, but Max was already providing an answer.
“My reasoning for it is because the actual reason I never spoke with bro about Dallas would’ve broken his heart and I knew it.” Max sighed and looked away for a moment before turning back to Herah and saying, “I’ll tell you the reasoning when I get to the situation involving it. Right now I have a question for you, is that cool?”
Herah held back her own question and waved Max off saying, “Of course, ask away.”
Nodding at this Max looked down for a moment then back up at Herah and asked, “Does your gift come with any limits or price you have to pay when using it or if you overuse it and if it does can you tell me?”
Herah nodded yes before responding with, “Yeah. Whenever I use Traduire, depending on what I make, what it’s made with, and how detailed what I make is I lose a bit of myself. If what I make is on my sketch pad, there is very little cost to me no matter the creation. I usually just lose all the saliva in my mouth for some reason. However if what I use to create my art isn’t really harmonious or if what I create has a large scale effect, parts of myself will begin turning into paint.”
Herah tapped her left arm with her right, which caused Max to flinch.
“That was what happened to my disembodied arm in the cathedral. After creating those exploding hands and those goggles, a good portion of the arm had been converted into paint while the rest got washed away in the lava wave of yours. Good idea by the way.”
Max gave Herah a thankful smile and a nod before speaking once again.
“Well, my gift and I’m pretty sure bro’s didn’t come with any sort of limit when our old ones got replaced.”
This made Herah give Max another surprised look before it quickly turned into a questioning stare.
“What do you mean, when your old ones got replaced? You talk as if you had a different gift before.”
Max nodded yes to this before rubbing her arm and saying,
“Originally my brother and I had two gifts each, I could breath life into anything and create illusions while bro could control and condense light while also being able to reduce anything to its most basic form. These gifts had their own limits and for the many years that we grew up in our home orphanage we got into a lot bullshit and trouble because of them. We had our own little crew with bro, me, Artemis,” Max said the name with a bit of an uncharacteristic harshness, “And the two other guys Abigail and Sarah. Man, we were some little bastards.”
Max chuckled to herself and made a wistful smile. Herah, believing the human to be recalling fond memories, said nothing allowing for the two to sit in silence for a few moments. When the few moments were up, Max got right back to talking now sounding a bit sadder than before.
“Anyway, one day Abigail had this bright idea. You see, he had a gift he called Synergize that allowed for him to merge things together as long they would produce a new product. So he wondered what would happen if he merged bro and I’s gifts. Bro didn’t want to do it, so I did it first and I got my gift fib. It was a few months later when bro got his enlightenment.” Max stopped and refocused all her attention back onto Herah, asking, “Are you still following?”
Herah gave a thumbs up while scratching an itch under her shirt and said, “You and your brother had different gifts before your current ones and went on many adventures with your friends. One day one of your friends, who was also gifted, merged your gifts together and gave you your current ones, which don’t have any built-in limits or cost.” Herah then gave Max another questioning stare before asking, “I just want to know one thing. Before it sounded as if while you didn’t have any limits or cost to your gifts at the time, that your gifts do have them now. Is that true?’
Max smiled at Herah thankfully before saying, “Good. And yes. The first limitation to my gift actually came when my brother acquired his.”
Herah tilted her head, a small frown on her face.
“What do you mean?”
Max took a deep breath and said, “Bro’s gift naturally counteracts mines. I tell lies, he tells truths. Bro’s main part of his current gift has a passive and an active part to it. His half-truths require him to speak them and only last for a few minutes, while his actual truths are passive in nature and activate once he realizes that something is amiss. Bro’s gift is all about preserving the natural functions of the universe, that’s what he said anyway, which means his gift makes him immune and also able to reverse anything that goes against that. Stopping time, inverting the functioning of gravity, and reality warping are just a few examples. As long as bro is aware of any fib I tell, his gift will undo it. Just not the effects.”
Herah was once again shocked and was now rubbing her chin at the thought of what Alex could do. After a few seconds of contemplation, Herah nodded to herself and asked Max another question.
“Are those the only limits you have?”
Max shook her head no before letting out a pained sigh and gaining a crestfallen expression. The human then looked down at her hands and clenched them into fist before taking another deep breath and letting it out, her fist unclenching once done. Looking back up, Max began talking to Herah with a dismal tone.
“And that brings us to what happened in and to Dallas.”
Herah picked up on Max’s tone but still found herself curious and decided to ask her question.
“When you ask Jeffery about the nuke you dropped you mentioned that Dallas was a city. What happened to it?”
Max let out another sigh and looked up to the sky for but a moment before looking back down and at Herah with an expression filled with regret and sorrow.
“I caused it’s destruction. About 1.5 million people died because of me,” Fresh tears began to flow down the sides of Max’s face as her next words were spoken, “It’s believed by the general public that some type of massive terrorist attack occurred there, with much of the city being rubble and fire.” Max began shaking her head with a frown with little sniffles as company, “But that’s not at all what happened.”
Herah frowned at the now crying Max, rubbing the back of her head awkwardly before asking, “What actually happened then?”
Max let out a few more sniffles before rubbing her eyes and her nose with the sleeves of her coat. Once the tears had stopped and Max had calmed down, the human said to Herah,
“It’s about time I tell you about how I managed to destroy Dallas.”
Swallowing a gulp before letting out another sigh, Max looked Herah dead in the eye and said,
“More specifically, how I met my first and I hope my last, Abyss Walker.”
“A group of beings that are to me what you would consider family.” A gentle but serious, masculine voice emitted from right next to the sitting Herah and Max.
Both snapping their heads to the right, the pair found Norwe floating above the ground. But not in the form of sloth, no, the Maker had taken their form from earlier. The form with the six arms with stars on them that had all but one of their limbs folded across their chest, with the top left one stroking its chin. The form that now had a supernova occurring in the center of their stomach that was wiping out the surrounding galaxies. The form that now looked upon them with black holes for eyes that still had their welcoming sense to them from before, but now also held a scary amount of seriousness. The form that told the pair something that surprised and deeply scared Max.
“And they like destroying universes.”