"Alright, so, hold it like that" Cempe's tone was starting to wear on me, doing it's best to keep my confidence high. But it had long since crumbled. The Colus wasn't just being finicky anymore, picking and choosing when to work and when to fail; with our hours of working on it, hours of trying to fix the problem, it was having a hard time staying around at all. Instead of giving out after a hours of work, it gave out at the slightest nudge. One hit.
Lurching in the full colus form, my head remained pointed at the ground, brain stumbling, trying to think. The only motion running over and over was that I had to leave. That staying there, around other demons, other elder spirits, I was putting them in jeopardy. If i stayed, we'd have a repeat of Greece, my stubborn actions would completely cripple hell's systems. Cempe was working on pure desperation now, trying to keep positive; I didn't doubt she knew full well how bleak the options looked too.
"Hey!" She barked at me, waving the weaponized Decempedia around like a giant yardstick. "Pay attention. C'mon, try and attack me!" I raised my heavy brows, looking through the monstrous form with a downtrodden sigh. I had to leave. I had to protect them. I had to keep this virus, this condition, this screw up; i'd have to keep it with me. I couldn't spread it to everyone else, like Adonis had done to the entire local populace. Frowning and dredging together my scattered energy, I charged for her, only a few strides away. We worked indoors, inside the moirae estate in her room, which was essentially just a giant battle ground. Cempe was never much for sleeping or sentimental things like that.
Narrowing my gaze I lurched for the weapon, putting whatever scraps of hope i had left that we might be able to pin this condition down, might be able to understand it and fix it. Like the Grecians hadn't done the same thing, like they stood there and watched lives crumble around them without trying anything. Teeth out, neck stretching for the weapon, the predictable happened. Immediately touching the Decempedia, I fell out of form. Now well-versed at the result, i rolled back into a stand like I planned for it, groaning out loud. Cempe looked at her weapon, letting it dissolve into the air with a despondent grin.
"Maybe it's the weapons. Just try and attack me next time, maybe our weapons are clashing. "
"Cempe..." I grumbled, looking out the door before back to her.
"What? Don't give me that bullshit" She shoved my shoulder hard enough to push me a few strides away. I didn't bother to raise my voice or fight back in the least. "No, we're not just gonna let this happen without figuring out why. You're still able to at least conjure up the form, so it's not completely gone yet."
"Yet" I replied lowly, annoyed, "Every time I bring it up, it works less and less. Maybe I should just stop doing this for a while and figure it out without exasperating my abilities" Something hard and flat hit me in the side of the head, blunt edge smacking my face around. I grumbled and looked back at the retreating decempedia, shadowing over a frustrated and overall worried Cempe.
"Fine. Let's attack this another way then." She dropped her weapon, assuming the thinking pose. I tiredly looked back at her, happy with just staring blankly at nothing while my brain told me I had to run away from this problem too. It was only her enthusiasm, and fake enthusiasm at that, that kept me around. "Maybe Perseus had something to do with it?" Raising an eyebrow, i crept a tired glance back at my sister.
"That fuck-nut doesn't know enough to pull something like this." I said angrily, walking closer to the wall to lean against it. " There's no point looking at that empty well of information"
"Still. This started happening right after you started fighting him, right? That can't be all coincidence" Cempe smacked my shoulder in excitement, trying to rally my determination. "Let's go and beat the shit out of him for answers" I grinned a little with that, thinking on something.
"He hasn't been back in a while." I said , looking around the room like something would tell me how long it's been. Best I could tell, it'd been about a week since he'd returned. A week of talking with other elder demons, a week of trying to figure out why my ability to use the colus was slipping out of my grasp. I was due to fight St Michael later today, a fight that I was obviously in no shape to win. Mike would probably be sympathetic and able to put off the attack for at least a little while, until i figured out what my problem was. I just had to go there and explain; hell, he might even be able to figure out why. I frowned, thinking on something, "Either he's taking my advice, or he's planning something"
"He's planning something." A voice said from the doorway, both fate-bound heads snapping back to a whiny looking assistant standing there, very happy with himself. I groaned out loud as Cempe hit my arm, leaning over, spitting out native Castillian instead of English.
"Don't let him know anything about this , alright? Avoid a conflict at all costs." Rolling my eyes, I shook my head.
"I wasn't planning on it' Switching back to English, I spoke for the pain in the ass assistant at the door with the slightly baffled grin. "Out of the house, you two-bit hack." I threatened tiredly, standing back up with clenched fists. The assistant didn't move an inch, still standing there, grinning fully.
"You invade our property like this, then you've got to deal with both of us this time" Cempe jumped into her larger, demon horse-ness with the fiery pupils. The grin wiped from the assistant's face, but he only took a step back, maybe two. Something was at play here, Cempe picked up on it too, "Your boss isn't there at your side, eh? What's your intention?" She rumbled out, baring her teeth as the assistant took another step from the doorway.
"As the new tenants, we're evicting you." He said smugly, "You lost the dual, you relinquish the seat, you're done. We gave you a week to collect your things, out of the great forgiving mercy that is Perseus, Supreme Demon Lord." A pause, silence. Looking back to one another, both Cempe and I spit out a laugh at his proposal.
"You've lost far more duals. You and your Superlord. " I took a few steps closer, back to business, relying on my very thin, very transparent anger and bluff my way through another confrontation. "I'm not giving up my seat because I tripped mid-fight."
"Was that a trip, oh demoness?" My grin immediately dropped as his words spoke that he already knew. " Why don't you bring out your weapon, go ahead, show me that was an accident. Here, I'll even give you a clear shot at my neck" He had to know something. He had to be aware of something we weren't. I dropped my front just like that.
"Alright you little shit, what do you know? What did you do?!"
"Nona!" Cempe snapped at me, splaying out one hoof-hand between the two of us. "My sister does not take kindly to lucky accidents, we've been training here all week to prevent another one from happening. Though you seem to think you know more then we do?" She said slyly, looking back to the assistant as his eyebrows only perked up more.
"I do know more then you do. In the simple fact that the Supreme Demon Lord is so powerful that whatever power he doesn't have, he absorbs." He turned back to me as Cempe dropped back into a human form, " As is the case of your pathetically weak Excelsis here."
"Absorbs?" I stepped around the hand, grabbing at the collar of the Assistant before he could spit out more lines of rehearsed bullshittery. Snarling, I pressed his stupid self against the wall, hearing something outside. "You trying to tell me that half-brained jackass as the power to absorb others' energy?" The assistant's terrified face looked to both of us as the sounds outside grew louder, grew into a chant, of my name. He slowly grinned, looking once to the door outside of the estate. Turned to it, I dropped the man from my grasp, walking towards the exit like I was magnetically linked to it.
"Nona! Wait! Don't!" Cempe called out, blocked vainly by the assistant in the doorway. I walked like an empty soul towards the entrance, thinking back to the golden era, the golden times of life. When people chanted my names out of happiness, when I could walk through rows of people that all supported me, that believed in my strength, in my power and prestige That were eager to shake my hand, that babbled and rambled when they talked to me, and I'd sit there, smile, and enjoy that limelight. A distant, happy smile swept across my face, even though in the back of my mind, i was well aware the people today were not chanting for the same reasons.
Before everything went sour. Before rivalries and disputes rose up, when life and death were just starting to gracefully step around the other, to dance that rhythmic song, to work together and feed off of one another, that's when things were good. Before it went to my head, before this seat became something desired and fought over, existence had been beautiful. Simple.
I took my first step outside the doorway of the estate. I started to take another before I stopped, distantly watching my happy, fuzzy memory evaporate into reality. Started to realize every crack and crevasse of hell's walls was covered in demons. Those shovel-faced, flying demons crowded the air, the lazy, half-collected demons gripped onto whatever free space of rock that existed. That people, demons, animalistic and human, packed the moirae 'yard'. There, dead in front, was Perseus, sword in hand, rallying the demons around him, turning back with that stupid, flat mask as it grinned in victory, in celebration. The enire viewable area churned with activity.
I looked around in a sick, deadened sort of wonderment. Even at my best, even in the golden ages. I never rallied this amount of demons. Never got together that sort of following. I directed, i lead from afar, I delegated duties and kept a close circle of friends. My influence was an implied thing, it was a rule, it was just what you did. It wasn't hands on like this. And it certainly didn't come together in a reletively short amount of time.
"Perseus is willing to grant your sister immunity if you vacate the seat right now" A voice spoke behind me, the Assistant, surveying the crowds with a very happy, smug grin. Wide eyed, I looked back to him, Cempe just behind him, still inside. We were both utterly shocked, surprised at the crowds at our door. "We still need someone to manage this place, Perseus just wants your head. Not hers"
"Nona, don't you even dare. We can do it, we can teach these little shits a lesson, like old times!" Her tone aimed for vigor, for good ol' fashioned vengeance. But even that rang out with an awful warble of fear. I gasped a little, looking back before back to her. Cempe's eyes went even wider. "You god-damn coward, don't you dare! You can't be serious!"
"Sister..." I switched back to Castillian, talking over the noisy little parrot below us, " You know as well as I do how bad this is."
"I know it, but i'm not going to just give up! Aisa said she'd be back tomorrow, she'll help us fight them off" Cempe leaned a little from the door, "You can't just let these people push you out!"
"I don't want to..." I stopped, lowering my head and gasping for air. I couldn't seem to fill my lungs fast enough, "I don't want to infect you too. I don't want this to spread. "
"You're only thinking about that damn superstition?" She yelled as I yelled right back " What about all you've worked for? What about your livelihood?"
"I don't want to become that person again!" Our shouting subdued the crowd a little, even though they didn't understand a word we were saying, " I always said that after Greece, i never wanted to be that kind of asshole leader, i never wanted to slip into those old habits. I have, i started to. I can't let it go on. I refuse to become that person any more!" I quieted down a little, starting to break. Being self-centered and self absorbed were bleak, dark days. I never wanted to feel like that again.
"I can't keep deluding myself that this problem's going to go away. Even if he wasn't here, even if that dickbag didn't gather the people that hate my guts..." I spread a hand back to the crowd as they picked up on it, roaring out another cheer for blood. "I can't ignore this, Cempe. I can't just make decisions based on my own goals."
"They're only being lead on by an idiot!" She struggled, snarling once at the assistant as he didn't pay much mind to her threats, " People are only doing this because they think they know all about what's going on here. They don't! They're running on a stupid mob mentality, and if you can just cut off the head of the snake, the rest will fall back in line!"
"With a small group, yes. But when it's the majority...." I looked around, grabbing at my head in panic, just a little, "If I could still use the Colus, I'd disperse this crowd just like that. But I can't. I'm stuck. "
"I don't care!" She defaulted back to English, barking out a snarl that was half anger and half confusion, " You're not weasling out of this job!" I could easily pick up on the lie in her tone, that she didn't honestly think I was trying to weasle away from her. Like her pleas against my 'vacations' , she knew underneath everything how dearly I loved this job. How it fueled my soul, how it made me the person I was, and it made me happy. Her angry scowl faulted, letting a bold, true emotion of fear and regret slip out. I smiled a little, lowering my head to turn away.
"Nona! Don't you dare!" She reached a hand out to try and snag me from the assistant's back, a blue, warbly barrier now trapping the moirae spirit inside the house. She threw a shoulder against, it, looked around in panic as i conjured the Colus up, slung it over my back. The angry crowd around me backed off, just the tiniest bit. "You asshole! Don't you dare leave! Don't leave me like this!" Her angry ranting slipped more into sadness, trying hard to keep being mad as her hand reached out, inches short. I tried to grin, keeping my eyes to the floor. I couldn't bear to look her in the eyes.
"Don't let them screw up my room." I said quietly, turning away as she ranted and thrashed against their barrier, something Perseus must've put up with my energy, i guess. Taking a few steps to the edge of the stairs i stopped, the assistant just next to me. "Immunity. Right?" He looked up at me, then back to Cempe, less of a chiding mood then he had been in.
"For her. Not you." He said quickly, looking over the crowd as I nodded grimly. "They're going to tear you limb from limb. I hope you know that."
"I know that" I said quietly, re-adjusting the grip on the Colus. "I ain't new to this party. I know how this works." Lowering my ears, narrowing my eyes, i took my first steps from the top steps, walking quietly down the stairs as the crowd's ravenous cries for my blood escalated with a tumultuous, happy cheer. Perseus remained as he was, that same black mask staring at me, sword out, ready to attack as I put the Colus close to him, just over his head. The demons alongside my path closed it off as I walked from the Estate, forming a bubble of air in a sea of bodies. Half the crowd chanted something for memorial to those who had died on this field at my cruel hand, the rest mostly chanted about what a horrible person I was.
I stood just in front of Perseus now, flanked by a hoard of demons at least forty people thick on all sides. The assistant stood next to me, ready to say some words before I guess they chopped my head off, or whatever festivities they had planned.
"Excelsis Demon Nona has vacated the throne!" The assistant suddenly screeched to the air, followed by a roar of triumph that made my eardrums rattle in concussive force. The walls of hell shook, the demons perched on the walls flapped thier wings in happiness, the entire cavern was a flutter with joyous celebration. Looking around, i focused back on Perseus, bringing the Colus around.
"I wanna see it for myself." I said lowly, dropping the Colus to bundle only a small amount of energy; I held the glowing wad of strings in my hand, looking back up to the usurper tiredly. He looked at it, then back to me, suddenly putting out his one hand confidently. Before handing it over, I looked up at him. "You won that dual last time on a lucky break. I hope you realize that. You're gonna have to fight every single person who thinks they've got a lick of sense more then you, and if you can't fight back, then you'll send this whole realm into chaos with constant hand-changing." Perseus looked to the energy in my hand before back to my face, flopping his hand a little more adamantly that he didn't much care for my advice, that he just wanted my metaphorical crown of energy, bundled into my hand. I held it close, reluctant.
The exchange of energy between souls, normally, was a very intimate, very close thing. My exchanges with Paul, and even Raziel towards the end of his stint, those sparks, that connection, was energy. Two souls, two paired souls, they represent two halves of a whole human soul, in some respect. Separated as an individual, each person took a charge, negative or positive. When distanced from each other, to reunite, drew a kind of charge to equalize it between each other. A spark.
But someone that fed off of another person's energy, to absorb it like that, was a mutant to the situation, was a leech. If this was true, he was bastardizing the system. Nulling it. If he taught everyone to absorb the energy and powers of one another, while being a hell of a powerful weapon, would drive everything back into chaos. Utter chaos.
Holding that energy close, he switched the position of his hand, holding it out in front of him. Looking up to him, then back to my hands, I watched in disbelief as it siphoned through my fingers, drifting through the air, and absorbed right into that usurper's palm. Gagging out in surprise, I looked back at him, lowering my eyes angrily.
"You teach that shit to anyone else, you're going to break the system, you little bastard leech." I snarled as Perseus tilted his head back and forth a little, showing how happy and proud of that trick he was. Something else struck a cord. "All the times fighting previously. You were stealing that energy, weren't you?" Expecting some sort of coy meandering around the question, i was a little shocked to see him nod up and down , just as happily. Growling out loud, I leapt at the man; Perseus jumped to the side, pointing and snapping at his assistant as they brought out a big, stone slap to cut my head off on. Two demons at the edge of the circle grabbed me around the arms, holding me there.
"Immunity!" I shouted back at the assistant and Perseus. " For Cempe AND Aisa! Got it?" The crowd began to rile up again, excited to watch me be killed and torn limb from limb. Cempe continued to screech out her anger at me from the barrier's limits, now back in her demon horse form, ramming the side of the estate fruitlessly.
"Immunity. Fine." the assistant rolled his eyes, commanding a big, gnarly looking demon to move the stone just a little bit closer. I looked down to it, then to the people holding me, narrowing my eyes with a devious little snarl.
" I take it you're not doing last requests?" I grinned at Perseus as he looked back to his assistant, which looked back to me. The superlord tilted his head just a little bit, like he was considering it. I grinned, "Take off your mask so i may bask in your hideous voice." Perseus reached out at me, smacking the sword on the ground to show how little he appreciated my humor. Someone from the crowd punched me in the back of the head for that as I turned around, making fun of their swing that they did it incorrectly.
"Now. Nona. Do us all a favor and accept your fate" The assistant pointed to the open slab of stone dutifully as I grinned.
"What? No showy displays? No fancy verbal footwork from you? I'm disappointed"
"Oh, we've got the fancy footwork, but we're saving that for after your head's been cut off. " The assistant pointed again as i rolled my eyes around in my head, considering it, readying myself in the last calm moments I was sure to have for a long time.
"Yeah." I nodded, looking back as the two of them were confused. "Yeah. no." I rammed my head back into the demon behind me, bucking my elbows out to catch another two groupies that way. One foot to the stone slab I leapt straight up, jumping into that monstery colus form just over everyone's heads in a twirl of smoke and strings.
As we found out with Cempe, if I touched anything, or hit anyone, the form would pop out. But if I could manage to get to the surface, if I could manage to get away, then I'd at least have a fighting chance to keep living on. I at least wanted to keep doing that.
I got one wing-beat in, brushing the heads of people I immediately popped out of form. Before I even dropped an inch, i jumped back into it while the rushes of the crowd escalated, as demons threw whatever they had in their hands, whatever was around, even themselves; the demons with wings launched into the air to attack me. I got another wing-beat in before I dropped out of form again, popping back into it only to have a brick sail through a wing. Struggling, fighting on, I flapped unevenly, shallowly, gaining tiny bits of distance. With one eye back to the estate I caught sight of Cempe grinning, cheering me on, another glance below me of both Perseus and the assistant frantically trying to organize a quick attack to follow me. Bellowing out a roar, i got a solid flap in, pushing myself faster, higher above the crowds. A shovel-faced demon rammed against my side as I hit the rocks hard, popping out of the demon form to grind my fingernails down on the rock, scrambling for a hold. I managed to push off away from those snapping jaws, hopping back into form to swoop just over the crowd, gaining speed.
Falling out of form another five or six times, I managed to get towards the end of the plot, starting to pull away. The vertical opening for the estate was just in front of me, for the surface at the top of this enormous climb. I swept around the bottom of the cavern rocks with a trail of snarling demons behind me, desperately trying to keep this form together. Finally straight up through a blaze of darkness, there was a pinprick of light swallowed up like a distant star.
I worked hard, pushed on, the smaller demons were more maneuverable then I was. My one wingtip hit the side of the wall as I fell away again, landing hard on a shovel-faced demon just below me. The creature bucked and thrashed, still flying straight up as I tried not to get bitten, riding on it while I gasped for air. Other demons noticed I wasn't some forty feet tall anymore, swooping around to try and knock me from the one's face. Ducking, two of them crashed into the wall, the third hit the demon I rode and knocked them both out of commission. Hopping straight up again I saw a clear path, jumping into that monster form and booking it straight up with every errant strand of energy i had left.
Closer, closer the light became, turning into a tangible, practical goal. The shovel headed demons started to gain momentum around me as my wings pumped endlessly, swooping and trying to hit my tail as I kept it as curled up towards me as I could. Closer, closer, the star became more like a far away moon. Grinning, I suddenly fell out of form again, this time not touching any wall, or any demon at all. Great. So now it was just...randomly doing that. Growling out in frustration I kept on, form-dropping more and more frequently as I got towards the surface. Instead of having to hit something, I fell out of form twenty wingbeats in. Then fifteen. Fifteen became thirteen, which turned into twelve, which lowered by one number every time I fell away. The demons soon began to catch up with me, knocking me out of form as I landed hard on another, hopping from demon to demon in human form as a break. I was going to lose it. Not only was I losing the ability to control the colus, i was losing the colus altogether. No, no, couldn't dwell on that now.
Back into the monstery form, I flapped as hard as I could, put all my energy into getting there, to that hole, now resembling a peg of light. Gasping for air, I kept on. Ten wingbeats. Seven. Four. Two. Please! Please keep it together! Just to get to the surface! I was so close! The hole now the size of the moon, just a few flaps away as I howled into the open air, at the sunlight within my grasp, body juggling and lurching to get anywhere. Constant form shifts were incredibly tiring, they were disorienting when you get to see a half second of one vision, and a split second of the next. Whooping, scrambling for that beautiful white, pristine sunshine, something bit onto my tail. Shovel-faced demons began to drag me back, drag me down, away from that surface world. Fighting, shoving to push them away the current of demons backed up behind us, crashing hard against the walls to suddenly shoot from the hole, rocketed into the field that Michael and I usually fought at. Speaking of...
"Nona?!" Michael screeched out in surprise as I tore ass away from that hole, a swarm of demons hot on my trail as the landscape around us was redefined by mountains of demons crashing hard into the ground, some blinded by the sun, some others still quick after me. At least as a human, like this, the form was constant. Digging my claws in I headed straight for the saint, barely a few steps in front of the demons as their teeth grazed my back.
"RUN" I shouted, deviating from the path a little to side up next to him, the two of us running side by side for a moment. I don't know why he didn't use his wings.
"You're late!" He punched me hard in the shoulder as I bellowed out loud, trying to shove him back, but too far away to do so. One demon bit into my arm as the saint was quick to chop it off. "What the hell happened?" I looked back at him in a single moment of calm, spliced in between demons biting up my arms and legs. The joking facade on the Saint dropped.
"Save yourself." I said quickly, splitting off from him and taking the majority of the swarm with me. He kept there, unsure, looking around like this was some sort of prank. I turned halfway back to him, belting out the rest of my message. " GO!" This amount of demons, against him, he wouldn't stand a chance. If the supply of demons was cut off, then maybe, but this many, at this rate, no one would survive that. The saint ran for a few steps more, opening those massive wings to shoot back for the heavens with a powerful column of light, tearing a hole into the clouds. The exit swept like an atomic wave- doing so would kill off a few of my attackers, and he knew this. Grinning, watching the demons around me wretch from the intensely bright light, I focused back on the world ahead of me, on trying to get away.
"We will find you, Nona!" the assistant screamed a couple acres back, bellowing out with what seemed like a small crowd of people that rode the shovel faced demons to the surface. " We will not stop until your reign of terror is over! Until you're bleeding, begging for mercy from our Superior demon Lord Perseus. We will find you! YOU HEAR THAT?!" He screeched to the open air, a rally of voices behind his threats as I gasped for breath, still running all out.
Admits all this, I couldn't get the thought out of my head that I really should've killed them both off the first time i attacked. That I shouldn't have let them go. That it was my kindness, that so-called mercy, that screwed me over so effectively.
Another demon swooped low, biting into my horns as I shook the little bastard off. Concentrating, focused ahead, I ran for my life away from everything I had built.