Ch 4: The World Spirit

Horatius

I thought things had been bad when it had just been some pint-sized girl sending gargantuan snakes made of some kind of solid shadows after us but oh how the universe just loves to prove me wrong.

A prepubescent form had been substituted with some kind of 100 meter long monstrosity, a pitch-black snake with interlocked scales and two massive wings sprouting from it's back.

Oh, and did I mention that it's hide can tank A-rank Phantasms with barely a scratch?

Because the Queen of Heroes has been firing those suckers off like there's no tomorrow...with little effect to show for it. And matters aren't helped by the fact that this giant fekkin' lizard can apparently tell which Phantasms are actually capable of hurting it, several weapons and tools being either dodged with sinious contortions or knocked aside by those summoned snakes. So much for being able to smack it dead with anti-Dragon weaponry...

Not to mention Altera and Scáthach have had their hands full keeping the shadowy serpents from taking a bite out of anything important, a constant stream of whipping shadows traveling almost as fast as the eye can see and hitting like a damn truck.

And they're coming from fucking everywhere. While they seem to originate from the Snake's main body, they aren't static or linear in their motions, surrounding the three Spirits from all sides and not granting them the slightest leeway.

And their numbers are increasing.

Pretty soon Gilgamesh has to divert the Babylon Gates away from bombarding the creature in favor of keeping the grunts at bay, freeing up the Ouroboros to...lean back?

And then I blanche as I remember what Dragon's are famous for.

"Heads up, that things about to shoot something out of it's mouth!"

Lo and behold my words come true, an absolute torrent of indigo colored flames spewing from the serpent's maw, the few errant flames that touch solid rock burning through the material like it's not even there.

Recognizing the danger Scáthach summons a new Gáe Bolg to her her hands, the freshly created spear glowing a verdant green as Runic formations light up along it's length.

Facing the oncoming deluge of fire she expertly spins the spear once, letting it rapidly rotate in midair-

-and a small scale tornado bursts out of it, ripping apart the landscape as it meets the flames head on, the two elements warring for dominance.

For a split second I'm worried that the Ouroboros Dragon is going to come out on top, the storm of dark purple fire seeming to feed on the supplied air-

-and then it begins to die down, it's consumption of fresh oxygen not enough to outpace the Queen of Ulster's counter.

It's a short lived victory.

Scáthach immediately has to go back to parrying the small scale shadow snakes, the whirling maelstrom of semi-solid avatars yet again seeming to grow in number, their assault briefly overwhelming even Altera's flawless swordplay and Gilgamesh's thunderous volleys of Phantasms until the crimson-haired woman's spear work joins them.

And already the Dragon is sucking down a lungful of breath, no doubt about to unleash an even bigger wave.

Shit, it may only be a fraction of it...but I've sensed this kind of power before. The kind of energy and presence that makes you feel very small and very inconsequential.

That first meeting hadn't gone particularly smoothly either...just for entirely different reasons.


You know, even after a century of messing around with Irappu's repertoire of abilities...I still find all sorts of interesting twists and turns, left right and center.

Take this newest development, for example.

Through it's connection with Gaia-and when I merge my body with it's own-I can actually travel between the various planes of existence that are tied with said planet itself!

The world is already a massive place-Hell, I haven't even explored all of the newly annexed Creta et Cyrenae yet-and it's about to get much, much bigger.

But this is rather...strange.

I can sense all of the realms quite vividly, one of them a land of death and shadows, one a sanctuary for all manner of Phantasmal Beasts and many more.

But this one is...empty?

No...more like it's compressed, kept from expanding by some manner of imprisonment or restriction.

How curious.

So, like any curious person with an unquenchable thirst to see new things...I 'move' towards it.

...And this familiarity.

Granted, Irappu feels familiar with a great many things...but this is more...personal?

That implies whatever is in here is old.

Approaching the 'border' of this particular realm I'm honestly surprised at how easily I slip in. I'd figured that those protections and such would limit my movement or ability to access it.

I guess whoever designed this space was more concerned with keeping things in than they were out.

Blackness.

Ok, so there wasn't anything to 'see' in the first place, but all I can comprehend upon entering this territory is just how dark it is...like something as mundane as vision doesn't matter.

I go through Irappu's memories, trying to see if anything resembles this sensation...and come up with nothing.

At times like these I wish I could just ask the thing a question directly.

Unfortunately, conversation is something of a difficult action to engage in with a being that's more a behavior than it is a sentient.

And then I sense it.

The thinnest tendril of independent-intelligent-thought, gently brushing up against the edges of my consciousness like a curious dog.

Finally! I thought I was going to have ended up wasting my time in her-

PAIN.

Pain like no other form of pain I've ever experienced.

And I was raised in the Gladiatorial pits. I know a thing or two about pain.

It's not a physical hurt, I would know how to deal with that...it's like something is ripping apart my very soul, examining it bit by bit as they vivisect my entire life.

And all I can do is helplessly 'float', unable to move, barely able to even think-

-and then it talks.

Not in words, no...in song.

And it's...confusing, to say the least.

My Human mind can only comprehend the music as a haunting elegy, of a pure voice singing a melancholy tune with a chorus of whale song to cap off the auditory beauty.

But through Irappu…

I hear words.

"I...do not know what you are. I have borne witness to many forms of life, created countless more...and you are new."

The pressure largely abates-merely being uncomfortable instead of crippling-and I find my tongue long enough to shakily reply, "W-well it's nice to meet you too, Mysterious Beautiful Voice. My name's Horatius, may I have the pleasure of knowing yours?"

A brief silence and I abruptly realize that being irreverent with the being that could crush me like a discarded loaf of bread might not have been a good idea-

"That...does not explain what you are..."

There's a hint of confusion in the voice's tone, of uncertainty and bewilderment.

Thankfully no anger or impatience.

"Ah, my apologies. Well, I'm Human. I, uh...hope that isn't a problem?"

I hold my breath, praying this thing doesn't have a grudge against my kind-

"You are not Human. I know what a Human is. You are not one. If you were, I would have erased you."

...I got a lucky break?

"Well, I'm not entirely sure what to tell you then. I mean, I suppose I'm indirectly immortal...but this body is still mostly Human. Trust me, I have to pee with it."

Maybe leading with my less 'refined' sense of Gladiator humor wasn't the best of ideas…

Thankfully the being doesn't comment, instead once more falling silent for quite a period of time.

"...How do you carry a facet of what once was me within you? A Human would not have been able to survive such a melding..."

"Well...I'm not sure what to tell you other than I did survive this 'melding'. Irappu is a part of me now."

"...Irappu?"

"The name of what I'm assuming is the 'facet' you were referencing."

More silence.

"...That...should not be possible. A Human cannot be one with me...I would not allow it. Again, I ask...what are you?"

Heaving a sigh I perform the mental equivalent of running a hand through my hair, asking, "Look, not to sound rude or anything...but can we get some light in here? It's disorienting talking to, well...what seems like nothing."

"...Light? I have not seen light in a long time...not since my banishment..."

Sympathy wars with caution as I 'frown' at that admission.

What being is this that it was, 'banished'?

...The sympathy comes more from me just not approving of any kind of imprisonment in general. I've been there before and hated every second of it.

And make no mistake, this place IS a prison. Just a highly unusual one.

"Well, since you and I are more or less in some kind of shared-mental-plane-of-not-existence...I think I can redecorate a bit. Just give me and Irappu a moment here..."

Delving into my memories I cast around for a good setting, examining all of the places Irappu has seen...and keeping in mind the fact that this voice apparently hasn't seen light in quite some time.

"Ok, here we go."

Concentrating as hard as I can I bring forth the image held within my head, willing it to become true.

Within seconds the utter blankness and oppressiveness of the space begins to fade, noise and images forcing their way into 'reality' at the behest of mine and Irappu's power.

In under a minute the landscape is complete.

I sit cross legged in my Human body atop a grassy knoll, flanked on either side by small copses of redbud trees.

No more than two meters down the gentle slope grass and dirt give way to a small sandbar, warmed by the overhead sun of white and yellow.

After the sand is an infinite body of water, stretching as far as the eye can see.

But not any body of water...no, this particular construct of nature lacks any kind of waves or undulations, as mirror bright and smooth as any glass of the same make, perfectly reflecting the drifting altocumulus clouds overhead and creating an eye-catching sight.

Not an actual place that exists, granted...but a scene that I had constructed from Irappu's scattered memories and my own inclinations, a genuinely unique landscape that belongs only to me.

"...You are truly not Human. No Human could have made this..."

"Sure they could have. Ever heard of Reality Marble's before?"

There's no answer and for a moment I think that the voice outright left.

A notion disabused as the surface of the liquid ripples, permitting a form to rise from it-

-and my thought process stops DEAD.

I...I know her...or, more specifically, I've heard of her.

And can I just say it's an interesting thing, to have your blood both run cold in terror while simultaneously boiling over in lust?

And I say this as no stranger to either beauty or sex, my time as a Gladiator and a century of travel affording me plenty of time to acclimate to both.

Skin the color of purest ivory, unblemished by anything so mundane as lines or wrinkles.

A delicate, sad face, as if she has been beaten down by the world just a time too many.

Elfin ears, delicate points that look as if they could be snapped off by a strong breeze.

Light-blue hair of varying shades, some strands done up in immaculate braids while others fall loose in cascading waves that remind me of, well...waves.

A dark green and blue shawl that covers her shoulders and arms...and little else, leaving her stomach exposed and perfect breasts visible to the world if it were not for her crossed arms.

Enticingly long legs covered only in leggings of the same material as her shawl, stopping at mid-thigh where they taper off into bars that look strikingly like oversized Magic Circuits, ethereal glow and all.

Lastly is her groin, covered only by some kind of form-fitting loincloth that seems like it was tailor-made to entice Men...maybe Women, too.

Lastly, as in that is the last of her Human features.

Most eye-catching is her horns. Massive, jade constructs that sprout from behind her ears, shaped like two Omega symbols joined at the base, the undersides coated in some kind of blue and golden plating, the appendages reaching down to her thighs.

The tail, spouting from the base of her spine and calmly coiled around her legs.

The chains made of darkened metal that bind her legs and arms together, a sight that both angers me-that someone would dare restrain a being this beautiful-and, quite frankly...makes me afraid. A keen and constant reminder of just who-what-I am dealing with.

...The eyes. Vibrant, pinkish red orbs with x-shaped pupils of pure white...that are tinged with wariness upon seeing my form.

Which is morbidly hilarious, actually.

She could snuff me out with barely a thought in here...and she's afraid.

But, if any of the other features hadn't clued me in...the insignia etched into her navel would have, a hieroglyphic that had been one of the few recorded in a text I acquired some fifty years prior.

A book that listed the most dangerous beings in the known world, the likes of which included monstrosities such as the White Giant and emissary from Mercury.

Four jagged wings spread out like a sideways diamond, with a single ridged line trailing to just above her pubis.

The symbol of the Sumerian Mother Goddess.

I've never pretended to be a particularly smart person.

Sure, I can be studious and one Hell of a quick learner...but as my fellow slaves often liked to tell me-with no shortage of exasperation-I can be extraordinarily stupid about things most would consider common-fucking-sense.

So, when confronted with a Primordial Deity that has me trapped in her territory, that could erase me with but a thought...I don't mind my manners.

Instead, I smile.

"Hello there, Tiamat. I guess you have a point, I'm only mostly Human...but don't let that fool you, I'm Human in the most important of ways!"


Looking back on this moment, of the decisions I made when conversing with the Goddess of all Life...I don't know.

I don't regret it-it made me who I am today-but I certainly lament it.

Lament, because the both of us made inexcusable mistakes that soured what could have been...more.

But to regret would be to have never met her at all-


Dammit now is not the time to be mooning over a centuries old heartbreak! Get it together, Barcala!

Violently shaking my head clears it, logic and pragmatism taking over as I throw myself onto the ground in a cross-legged position, muttering, "Frozen Domain...", as I do so.

If I can let those three cut loose with their stronger Phantasms we should still be ok-

"Master!"

The rare sound of Altera panicked echoes through my head and I have time to realize the ground beneath me is shaking-

-before a tanned blur slams into me, crushing the air from my lungs and barely getting me out of the way of an elephant sized snake that had burst out from where I'd been sitting a split-second ago.

"Thanks, Altera."

She doesn't have a chance to reply, more serpents winding towards us and she has to switch over to full-time defense.

Fuck, at this rate of attrition I'm going to collapse from heat exhaustion and then we're really screwed.

Time to go for broke.

"What, are you all waiting for an engraved invitation? Cut loose with the heavy shit already!"

Scáthach's worried voice immediately comes back with, "Horatius, you're in no condition to-"

"Being dead is kinda worse than whatever it is you're about to suggest! Queen of Heroes! Quit holding back, bust out Ea and tear that thing to shreds!"

It's a measure of how serious the situation is that, instead of berating me for so flippantly suggesting that she use her most emotionally invested treasure, she merely manifests a Gate and rips the spiral 'sword' from it's confines.

"You had best not fall apart at the seams because of this, Gladiator!"

I'm about to shoot back with a no doubt witty reply when the already intense draw on my Magic Circuits kicks it up a notch, coinciding with the segments of Ea beginning to rotate in counter-clockwise directions, red streamers of primordial energy running down it's length and a high-pitched keening noise heralding it's imminent attack.

Let's see this thing survive a hit from a weapon made to just generally screw with the laws of reality.

The Golden Queen bends her knees, cocking her arm behind her head-

"Enuma-"

-the air begins to shiver, released waves of reality ripping energy playing havoc-

"Eli-"

CRUNCH!

Ea-still whirring and spitting raw power-slips from suddenly numb fingers, a no doubt shocked look on Gilgamesh's regal features beneath her helm...an expression mirrored by the rest of us.

Directly behind her-floating in the middle of nothing-is a void, doubtlessly caused by the Ouroboros Dragon.

And from it emanates yet another shadowed snake...it's maw having punched through Gilgamesh's armor and practically cutting her in half, teeth embedded in her ribcage and flanks, blood pouring in arterial gouts from the wounds.

...How the fuck-

A roar of triumph snaps us out of our shock, the Dragon sending a veritable tidal wave of snakes at the trapped Queen.

Time slows.

Altera flinches-no doubt conflicted by her desire to keep me safe and also save Gilgamesh-while Scáthach sprints towards her comrade in a blur of speed...that just isn't fast enough. Even worse is through our shared connection I can feel the Queen of Heroes hazily try to astralize...and fail, the snake doing something to keep her anchored.

...This is going to hurt.

I'm no typical Magus, the most 'research' I ever did was when I was trying to figure out a way to extend my life. After that I had more or less just learned stuff during my travels, taking things as they came.

...Except for one very specific branch of Magecraft that had been practiced by a native tribe of African hunter-gatherers, what their shamans had called Knip.

Or, in more modern terms...teleportation.

That said, I'll be the first to admit I suck at it. I'm no Sumire the Water Demon, that tipsy Bitch. My version is limited to an almost hilarious degree.

I have to actually be able to see where I'm going, otherwise odds are good I'll accidentally mix my body's cells with that of a rock or something upon making the jump...not a fun time.

Additionally, it takes a shit ton of Prana in a very quick burst to pull off, something that's kinda difficult for me and my stunted output. Kischur had hypothesized that the sizable amount of energy had to be used in order to push away the air around me when I make the 'jump' lest strange things happen when the air tries to combine with the makeup of my person.

...And it's disorienting as FUCK.

I lock eyes on Gilgamesh, then on the patch of rock about thirty meters beyond her...and queue my jumps.

My body burns, the excess Mana causing my already stressed system to shriek in agony-

-there's a stomach twisting wrench as I make the first leap, hand landing on the Golden Queen's shoulder pauldron-

-and then a pain even worse than the last hits me, fire racing up my veins and my gut feeling like someone just tried to rearrange my intestines.

I promptly retch steaming blood onto Gilgamesh's shoes, my face numb, that staticy feeling like when a limb falls asleep spreading outwards from my nose and frankly my eyes are having trouble...focusing?

Shit.

Oh well, it worked.

And the look on the Ouroboros' face is priceless.

An expression of feline bewilderment as it's reptilian eyes flick between the thirty meter gap where Gilgamesh had been and where we are now, evidently confused as Hell as to how the fuck I just pulled that off.

...Well, it's in luck, because I don't think I'll be doing that stunt anytime soon.

"Master, behind you!"

I'm too far gone to do anything other than dumbly stare over my shoulder as several of those portals manifest, enraged shadow serpents darting right for my head-

-before dissipating en masse as Altera and Scáthach arrive on scene, weapons flashing in blurring arcs and batting the attackers aside.

Oh, good.

Shakily bending over-and promptly barfing, because shifts in balance are a bad idea when you're suffering from fever and nausea-I check on Gilgamesh only to find her with some kind of flask in hand, shakily trying to undo the stopper as her helmet dematerializes into motes of golden light.

SHIT she's pale, way paler than is likely healthy.

Oh, right...blood loss.

I am really not at my best right now…

Still, I have enough presence of mind to undo the cap of whatever it is she's trying to drink and hand it back to her, stumbling to my feet and trying to clear my head as best I can.

Yeah, at this pace we're fucked. The addition of those odd void gates that can shoot out the avatar snakes at any degree or angle adds a layer of complexity to an already pitched defense...and said defense is down an extra pair of helping hands.

"Well, nothing for it...Hold tight you two, me and Irappu will have to take this."

"Horatius, I don't think you'll be able to kill it using those kinds of methods. Anything powerful enough to menace it would cause irreparable damage to the planet itself, and we have no way to successfully leave it..."

Dammit, Scáthach is right. Without the jewel Kischur gave us to head back home, any potential planet-cracking is just as detrimental to us as it is to the Ouroboros.

Of all the rotten fucking luck…

"Enuma..."

HUH?!

"Elish!"

A cyclone of red, white and black streamers flies past my shoulder, reality seeming to twist in it's wake-

-and hits the Ouroboros dead in the face, bringing an abrupt halt to the pitched melee as the snakes freeze alongside their originator, slitted eyes as large as a car wide in shock at the sudden assault.

...Huh?

I whirl around-don't barf, idiot-and find a miniature version, maybe thirteen or fourteen years old, of the Queen of Heroes lowering a now comically large (at least in her hands) Ea, the Sword of Rapture quieting down as it's wielder harshly pants, a pissed glare leveled at the frozen Ouroboros.

"Stupid...Dragons..."

Her voice still has it's regality...but the tone and pitch is higher, her words a little less formal.

In a word, cute.

"Holy shit I'm glad you're still alive!"

Puffing up her chest in pride at my words-a more honest version of the preening her older self would react with-she replies, "But of course I yet live, Gladiator! The Elixir of Youth guarantees I won't die easy, after all. If you need be glad of something, be thankful that my treasure still contained it's energy and that I could properly harness it!"

Inspiring words that are only slightly marred by her still uncomfortably pallid face and the cold sweat adorning her brow.

"And on that subject..."

I belatedly realize there's still an angry primordial beast after us and carefully turn around, Altera and Scáthach wisely having not moved their gazes in the slightest.

...But I can tell through our connection that they're relieved and frankly I don't blame them.

The three of us have always been excited (at least privately) about the idea of another companion that'll stay with us the rest of our likely immortal days.

To lose one so soon after joining our merry gang would have been...disheartening.

A low pitched, keening moan snaps me out of my ruminations for real this time and I don't bother hiding my smirk at the sight of the Ouroboros Dragon falling apart at the seams, flesh and scales sloughing off it's frame and significant portions of it's body simply unraveling, the effects of Enuma Elish really doing a number on it.

Well how about that? Killing it wasn't so hard after al-

"KKKKKHHHHHHAAAAAAA!"

The colossal scream that emanates from the Dragon's throat leaves me gasping for air and clutching my heart, the burst of sound so fucking loud that it nearly stopped my bodily functions entirely.

What the Hell was that? A death knell?

I really need to stop tempting fate.

Instead of dissipating the Dragon's power seems to multiply, furious obsidian eyes locked on our position as space itself seems to warp around it's frame-

-just like a Reality Marble.

"Shit! We gotta get out of-"

The encroaching wave of reality hits and everything goes dark.


The first thing I notice is the cold.

Considering my body's fucked up, overheated condition you would think a little bit of chill is just what the doctor ordered.

Ice forming on the tips of my fingers after no more than a second or two of exposure is decidedly not the kind of frostiness I need right now.

The second is that I can barely fucking breathe.

What little atmosphere there is is so damn thin and cold that an lungful feels more like I'm breathing through a freakin' straw.

Thankfully Scáthachand Gilgamesh have me covered, the spear-wielder rapidly inscribing a Värme rune on the ground that keeps me from resembling a Human popsicle while the Golden Queen summons up some kind of contraption that looks for all the world like an air filter combined with windmill, a light hiss emanating from it and suddenly I can breathe far easier.

"Thanks, you two."

Two nods are my only reply as we proceed to take stock of where we are, the sudden ride catching us off guard.

Where the Hell are we?

All I can see is a blasted landscape, ugly gouges and scars dotting the cracked stone that makes up the majority of the terrain.

I cast my gaze skyward-

-and feel my face go pale, despite the heat still coursing through my body.

The stars...they're different.

The Big Dipper, Orion, Aquila...they're gone.

And in their place is an unfamiliar smattering of lights, twinkling without a care in the universe.

With an enormous, serpentine Dragon wheeling through the sky, no worse for wear.

"What?! Impossible! Ea hit it, I know it did!"

The pint-sized Golden Queen's shocked exclamation is, quite frankly, in line with my own questions.

An Anti-World Phantasm isn't something you can just brush off, how did-

-ah shit...I think I figured it out.

"You definitely hit it, Queen of Heroes. But I think you only destroyed one world."

I sense the question before it's vocalized and quickly add, "Remember that bit of lore about how the Ouroboros devours universes that are either dead or dying? Ea destroyed one or more of them, certainly...but not all of them. It must be able to use those as some kind of power source in order to keep functioning."

A scowl dominates the teenagers face while grim expressions appear on Scáthach and Altera's features.

I'm already on my last legs...any further usages of those three's more powerful techniques will almost certainly kill me.

It's a good thing the Ouroboros brought us to an entirely different world altogether, otherwise we would be 100% screwed.

"Astralize, you three. Me and Irappu will handle the rest of this."

Altera worriedly interjects with, "Master, you are already weakened. Using Irappu's powers-"

"Is our only option left. It'll be fine, Altera. Trust me."

A well meaning lie...but what am I supposed to say?

A distant roar-oddly subdued due to the lack of any significant amount of air to use as a medium-echoes as the Ouroboros finally spots us, it's sinuous body contorting as it dives downward, indigo flames trailing from it's flanks from the open maw that could swallow a building whole.

"Castles Crumble, Empires Fall."

Irappu rouses itself-alien in thought, yet comforting in familiarity-it's power flooding my own as the three Spirits astralize.

"Villages Wither, Nations Bicker."

Knowledge unfurls itself in my brain, millennia of experience meeting millennia of usage.

"Travel The World And Drown It All..."

The Ouroboros accelerates, serpentine body mere moments away from crushing my own-

"Death Comes For All!"

My Aria completes itself as my perception shifts-


Gilgamesh

...This Gladiator just keeps surprising.

"You neglected to mention he posses the ability to teleport, Lord of Shadows. And of this...incarnation."

The King of Ulster-well, Queen now, I suppose-distractedly replies, "He has done so before, Queen of Heroes...and the teleportation is limited. Have you not seen his memories?"

I pout-no, Queens do not pout, I frown-curtly replying, "There are centuries, if not millennia, of memories. Even one as exceptional as I can not comprehend them all at a glance!"

"Peace, Golden Queen...watch."

Heaving out a sigh-the action not nearly so satisfying when astralized, what with lacking lungs-I turn my regal attention to the action happening around us.

Or perhaps it would be more accurate to say the lack of action.

After his body had dissipated in an act quite similar to our own astralized forms nothing of note has happened, the stupid Snake-God-Dragon thing warily glancing around in confusion.

Wait, wasn't it my older self that didn't like Dragons, Gods and Snakes? But I'm also her and I remember what it was like to be her...even though I'm a younger me?

Ugh, I should have figured out how that stupid Elixir worked before I died...stupid Ereshkigal wouldn't just be nice for once and tell me...

"He's starting..."

The normally calm Whip of God's mildly apprehensive tone catches me off guard, impatience and curiosity aggravating me in equal parts.

"Starting what, Scourge of God!?"

"Look at the ground."

...Huh? What's so special about the...ground…

Oh.

Wow.


Horatius

Alright…

Let's do this, Irappu.

I ignore the burning and searing 'pain' that came with understanding and accepting this world as my own, a feat that would have been impossible were it not for Irappu's consciousness supplementing my own...and start my counter attack.

It starts off as a slight rumble, the Ouroboros curiously glancing downwards as it abandons it's search for my now incorporeal body, merged with Irappu's-

-and let's loose a surprised screech that I don't actually hear so much as see, the noise of two tectonic plates suddenly grinding to life after who knows how long inactivity creating a noise that sounds like the universe starting up a chainsaw.

A gaping maw twenty kilometers across and eighty thousand deep appears in the blink of an eye, the raw violence and force of the action creating a shockwave of displaced air that tumbles the Dragon, causing it to fall deeper inside the unimaginably wide chasm-

-and then I 'flex'.

Two continent sized plates SLAM together and had I just pulled that maneuver on Earth, well...the resulting shockwave probably would have wiped out a good chunk of all life, tidal waves and all sorts of other earthquake inspired disasters doing their thing, on a scale never before known.

This…

This is Irappu's true power.

As a Transcendent Being, Irappu would use natural disasters to carry out Gaia's will as best it could, all according to it's 'programming'. What I'd discovered when first merging with the Transcendent was that it had been limiting itself.

Which makes perfect sense, really. It was often just wiping out Human settlements or things like that, stuff that a sizable flood or tornado could take care of.

Using the very crust of the planet to physically 'relocate' settlements would be a bit overkill, not to mention potentially harmful to Gaia.

Especially when you consider that as an extension of the planet's will, Irappu's actions have a conceptual tinge to them, destruction and injuries caused by it not healing or being repaired as easily as it's more mundane counterparts.

But the potential was there.

Complete and absolute control over the planet itself, using the very makeup of it's existence as extensions of my body.

Crushing the Ouroboros had been the physical equivalent of bench-pressing a particularly heavy set of weights.

...And I'm not limited to using these powers just on Gaia.

Whether it's due to my Origin as 'Wanderer' or just some trick of the mind...I can feel this planet's makeup as if it was my very own. The iron and nickle core, now surrounded by a solidified stream of what once was flowing magma as my heart.

The still, thin and nearly motionless air as the breath in my lungs.

Stagnated tectonic plates, no longer carried to and fore by the shifting eddies of the Planet as my arms and legs.

And that's just the physical aspects.

"Horatius, it's shifting planes again!"

I snap out of my reverie as Scáthach shouts a warning, the entombed Ouroboros emitting that strange effect so similar to a Reality Marble manifesting-


-And then I'm somewhere else, mind straining to understand the new phenomena, a migraine that would have left me comatose in a moment if it wasn't for my Transcendent partner.

Another iron and nickel core, about a third again as large as Earth's-

-far more violent planetary rotation, the two nearby suns and three large moons creating a chaotic magnetic field and consistently storm-locked land awash with lightning-

Oh this Dragon is in for a surprise.

I 'glance' upwards as the now revived beast effortlessly soars through the skies-keeping away from ground level, smartly-furiously roaring and darting it's eyes every which way in an attempt to find me.

An endurance challenge, then?

All right.

Let's see if I can kill you enough times before I run out of steam.


Gilgamesh

"Impossible."

"The sights before us suggests otherwise, Queen of Heroes."

Those words would be infuriating if it weren't for the obvious worry evident in the Lord of Spirit's tone.

"For what possible reason could you be anxious, Scáthach!? The Gladiator evidently has the ability to control the very mantle of the world! Have you any idea of how unusual that is?! The only beings that could possibly replicate such feats are the Ultimate Ones and a few select artifacts. Ea being one of them! My most valuable and unique treasure!"

...I'm not angry because I'm no longer special. No, that would be petty, and beneath the Queen.

"Think, Gilgamesh. Irappu-the being that is allowing Horatius to perform these feats-was originally an agent of Gaia. We are no longer on Gaia. And yet he uses these powers without limit. Does that not strike you as strange?"

"Stars above..."

"Exactly."

"How is he doing that?!"

Using a Spirit of Gaia's own making on an entirely different world simply should not be possible!

"It's likely a combination of 'teamwork' between him and Irappu, his Origin and his own mind. But, much like the teleportation...there are limits. Understanding and taking control of these disparate elements is no doubt taxing in the extreme. We'll have to hope that this Ouroboros Dragon expires before the strain becomes too much...otherwise he'll revert to his normal body, even worse off than he was before."

The conversation comes to a halt as all of the sudden the sky burns.

Thunderous noise that could put Gugulana's roars to shame echo across the sky as the stormclouds overhead seem to shiver-

-and then lightning converges on the accursed Dragon in jagged lines of power, thick bars of energy hitting the Serpent in intervals near impossible to count, they arrive so fast.

It doesn't even have time to scream as it's cracked and flaking corpse plummets like a stone, ash and smoke trailing from it's vaporized entrails.

...A most gratifying sight.

"Clever...with such a chaotic magnetic field, creating highly charged locations at will makes for an easy usage of lightning..."

Most of what the King-no, Queen-of Dunscaith says is beyond my understanding, which is annoying, but the results are spectacular in their own right.

So it is all the more vexing when yet another wave of terra altering power encapsulates us, another stage which I will be forced to be observe.

Observation…

Neither myself nor my older iteration are used to being a bystander, to being helpless. Once had been enough, to see Enkidu waste away-

-no! That had not been me, but my future self.

Perhaps I should have experimented with the Elixir prior to using it, just to avoid confusion such as this.


Horatius

A frozen asteroid the size of Saturn that had been easy enough to exploit, a small planetoid orbiting it as it pinwheeled across the stars...a brief flexing of it's gravity and rotation had the two collide with the Ouroboros full on, a swift death that moved us on to the next world.

That one had been more difficult to work with.

A young world, still in the throes of it's creation with a cauldron of erupting volcanoes and boiling oceans. Ripping apart the soft mantle to let gouts of magma spill out into the air, fighting to get currents of air strong enough to carry said magma into the Ouroboros at speeds fast enough to actually damage it had been...taxing.

And then we were onto the next world, afforded no rest or respite as the Ouroboros called forth yet another realm to extend it's life.

I'm already on my last legs.

I've used Irappu's power on other planes of existence before, sure...but never so many and so fast.

I don't have a brain or nerve endings to actually feel the pain with...but my mind is slowing down bit by bit, a compression of my thoughts that makes each successive jump harder and harder to comprehend, like a muscle so damaged that no force of will can make it move.

"Horatius! This isn't working, you need to come up with some kind of-"

"Alternate plan, I know! I'm open to ideas!"

There's a moment of frustrated silence from Scáthach, only broken by Altera's uncharacteristically intense words of, "Master, the Ouroboros was slower to transition to a new world when you encapsulated it in the molten rock. During the other deaths it was swift to affect a change...not so with the other. Perhaps it is unable to make use of it's power when under constant siege?"

That...sort of makes sense. Irappu's 'attacks' are a kind of conceptual weapon, granted the power of permanency by grace of Gaia itself. Aside from the time I had trapped it in the lava sphere, most of the other death's had been relatively 'quick' and hadn't lasted for long. The lightning strike, while powerful, had no constant aftereffect...same with the moonlet and earthquake.

But the magma...that had been a continuous barrage of both heat and pressure…was it unable to activate it's Reality Marble power because it had been repeatedly 'dying' too quickly to act?

Could I find a way to replicate replicate that and actually win this?

I examine my surroundings as the transfer to the newest world is complete…

And smirk.

Well...at least the incorporeal equivalent of a smirk.

This new world is a dead, rocky one, sure...but above it is a planetary ring.

Uncountable bits and pieces of rock and ice, feeling like a flock of birds circling overhead through Irappu's perceptions.

Perfect.

"Great observation, Altera! We've got a way out of this!"

Gilgamesh's now unfamiliar voice rings out, her voice bewildered as she asks, "What?! How?!"

I stretch my senses towards the gently circling ring overhead, preparing to gamble everything on this one move-

"I'm going to bring the fucking sky down on it's head."

And then I pull.

Forcing every last bit of concentration I can afford into my connection with Irappu, the sky...begins to shift.

The Ouroboros Dragon evidently caught onto the fact that I wasn't physically present, instead lazily floating across the sky, obviously daring me to try and match it in strength.

Which makes it a nice, easy target that doesn't have a clue what's coming it's way.

The first hint it gets that things are about to go sideways is a minor brightening of the landscape, an ethereal glow that causes the serpent to turn it's head-

-and slitted eyes of obsidian widen as it see's the entire horizon catch on fire.

Millions, billions...likely trillions of space-borne particles coming shrieking out of orbit, the majority catching fire and burning up in the atmosphere as they answer my call...a subtle twist of the planet's gravitational pull affecting only the orbital ring and leaving everything else intact.

That step completed, I turn my attention to something equally as difficult. Tearing into this thing with only the approaching meteor storm won't do the trick...I need to make sure it keeps going, doesn't die out...a planetwide hurricane (or at least a rocky world with no ocean's equivalent) fits the bill.

Performing the planet scale equivalent of filling my lungs with as much air as I can and then blowing, marauding gusts kick up across the surface in visible swathes of destruction, stone torn from it's foundation and added to the slowly growing tornado that could dwarf North America in size.

And then the previously orbiting debris hit.

It's the flash of light that's first noticeable, a glow of such powerful intensity that even their re-entry looked like a flickering candle in comparison.

Then the noise.

A simple roar, of such magnitude that were anyone else alive on this rock they could hear it from across the globe...at least before their eardrums ruptured.

The Ouroboros vanishes from my perception, body completely destroyed by the equivalent of hundreds of nukes slamming into it at several times the speed of sound...and then I squeeze.

The continent sized storm I'd created compresses in on itself, constantly fighting the released energy from the meteor strikes in order to stay active...and it does so, creating a rotating funnel of heat and pressure that will ideally wear away at the Dragon's ability to sustain itself, killing it before it can make another universe shift.

If I had teeth to grit, they'd be causing my head to ache. C'mon you barosus fool...we're this close to making it out alive, last push!

The firestorm grows more and more violent, melting it's way through the planet and setting what little atmosphere there is on fire, a growing tidal wave of energy emanating from where the Ouroboros had been as it no doubt tries to fight it's way out of the storm...and I don't give it an inch.

Fucking die already you cheating lizard!

The universe seems to tilt on it's axis-


-and my senses kindly inform me we're back on the planet of origin where we'd started, the rocky and snow covered landscape a comforting 'sight'.

I don't waste a moment in dropping the connection between me and Irappu, feeling my old flesh and blood remake itself-

-and I immediately collapse, a migraine that could kill an Apostle Ancestor tearing through my skull and the already overheated Circuits seemingly upping their game by a couple dozen degrees.

The patch of snow my cheek finds goes up in a gout of steam and trickling water, something warm, sticky and hot leaking out of my nose.

Oh...heh, it's blood.

Well...I guess that makes sense. What with my brain and raises body temperature, I guess my nasal blood vessels practically melted.

Sure would explain that itching agony right between my eyes…

Something bumps into my shoulder and through hazy, bleary eyes I see... Scáthach? It's hard to tell…

Well...if she can still materialize then there's a chance I might make it out of here alive.

Hehe...rhyming.

A brief roll of my eyes shows what looks like the Ouroboros Dragon pitifully thrashing in the background, it's hard to tell.

Well, we haven't been eaten yet...I guess I did it.

Two hands place themselves on my cheeks-a sensation that seems alarmingly distant-and what feels like Scáthach's lips place themselves on my own, something nice and cool transferring into me…

Fuck, I wish I was more lucid right now. Kissing Scáthach is always fun.

I think I'm passing out now.

Fingers crossed I don't actually die, I don't feel like getting an up close and personal tour of Avernus...


Tobio

You know, both Sei and I had a bad feeling about this assignment before we had even started on it.

What with the sudden reappearance of Rizevim Lucifer, the involvement of a Longinus wielder, Horatio-san's sudden addition to our group...too many odd coincidences had been adding up for our liking and it was with no small amount of caution that we left the hotel to begin scouting out the area, seeing if there were any overt clues we might be able to find and getting a feel for the land.

So imagine our equal parts surprise and resignation when the horizon had lit up with golden light and released Demonic energy.

Golden light eerily similar to what had killed the Jabberwocky.

Looks like Sei's suspicions of Horatio-san being more than he appeared were pretty spot on.

What had caught us completely off guard was the appearance of the Ouroboros Dragon.

We'd heard from Azazel-sama that Ophis' powers had been stolen, but hadn't had a clue where they ended up.

In the hands of Rizevim as an Ophis clone is definitely bad news.

It may be bad news...but both me and Sei running towards the light show that had abruptly stopped almost a minute ago certainly counts as a bad idea.

"Tobio, can you or Jin-kun sense anything? Me and Leo haven't had any luck..."

My partner just shakes his head as he runs alongside us, prompting me to reply with, "No, nothing. There had been such an intense battle...and it ended just like that? Seems suspicious."

"And we're headed directly towards said suspiciousness. Tobio, sometimes I wonder if we're dumb."

I'm about to reply with something hopefully comforting when Jin barks and picks up his pace, running over a slight hill with his tail wagging up a storm.

"Well, dumb or not, seems like we've picked up on something..."

We fall silent after that, keeping our eyes peeled and senses sharp.

Not that we need to have bothered, since all that greets us as Jin skids to a stop is who I recognize from the hasty briefing as Valerie Tepes...sitting cross legged in the middle of what looks like a warzone, craters and gouges torn out of the landscape as she hums a cheery tune to herself.

...Ok?

Her crimson eyes abruptly turn towards us as we approach, her voice cheerful as she says, "Oh, Ikuse-san and Toujou-san! You're here just like Samuel-kun said you would be!"

I warily eye the Sephiroth Graal wielder-surprised that she's speaking fluent Japanese-and carefully ask, "You know who we are?"

"Certainly! Oh, you should be prepared to help Horatius-san, they're about to come back from fighting the Orouboros Dragon."

...HUH?!

True to her casually uttered words there's a sound that could reasonably pass for an ocean liner being ripped in half at the seams-

-and a gargantuan Dragon smashes into the ground no more than thirty meters away, plaintive wails and growls emanating from it as it weakly rolls back and forth.

Sweet Kami...that's the Ouroboros Dragon.

And it's dying.

Jin can sense the rapidly declining level of power in the now humbled creature and even visually it's rather obvious, what with shadowy smoke and ash rising from the scales and being scattered to the winds, it's very body structure collapsing before our eyes.

I don't believe it.

Yes, the imitation Dragon only had somewhere around a quarter or third of the original's power...but this is the Ouroboros Dragon.

With a final, rattling gasp the gargantuan creature goes limp, the rest of it's flesh scattering into the ether with a noise like paper being blown across the street.

Right, I've got a job to do.

I can have a mental breakdown later.

Jin suddenly lopes forward with a bark, Leo following in his wake as the two Avatar-type Sacred Gears lock onto something.

And I think I know what-who-it is.

"Sei, set up a teleport back to Grigori headquarters and get Tepes-san ready for the transfer, I'll see what those two found!"

"Ok, be careful!"

Sprinting after the Gears I clear an upturned boulder-

-and witness a rather unusual sight.

Sprinting towards me at a pace that would outstrip most Knight pieces is a woman with dark crimson hair, clad in a bodysuit with bits and pieces of ebony armor protecting her shoulders, arms and legs.

A fairly close match to one of the warriors who took down the Jabberwocky.

…Oh, and she's carrying Horatio-san bridal style, the man clearly unconscious.

A quick glance at Leo and Jin shows them intensely staring at the approaching woman...but not acting aggressive, which puts me at ease.

I don't fancy a fight with someone who took down the Ouroboros.

I slow my pace as we close the distance-

-and I abruptly find Horatio-san shoved into my arms, worry and malevolence written across the woman's face as she practically teleports in front of me.

"I don't have time to explain things, Ikuse. Get him to a medic, doctor or whatever now."

More than a little caught off guard by her sudden vehemence Jin and Leo threateningly growl-

-and all three of us are silenced as a crimson spear manifests in her hand, ruby eyes flashing with open fury as she hisses, "That wasn't a suggestion. Save him first, we'll answer questions later. MOVE."

I have no shame in admitting that I turn on my heel and sprint back towards Sei with posthaste, momentarily caught off guard by the woman fading away into nothingness amidst a burst of crimson light.

I've spent enough time among Supernatural females to know that you don't argue with them when they have that open air of violence hanging about.

I've seen what happens to Azazel-sama enough times to be convinced.

Glancing down at Horatio-san I can't help but flinch at the clear signs of abuse he's sporting.

Dried blood streams from his nose while his eyes are sunken into his skull, bruised and sallow to an alarming degree.

And don't even get me started on his body temperature, which feels more like someone dumped a smoldering log into my grasp than it does a Human being.

I guess killing the Ouroboros imitation didn't come cheap…

Well, I think we can call this mission a tentative success. We retrieved Valerie Tepes, found the mysterious warriors that showed up out of nowhere and killed the imitation Ouroboros allied with the Old Satan Faction.

All while Sei and I barely even had to lift a finger, not to mention weren't even there.

A heavy sigh escapes my lips as I glance down at the unconscious male, muttering, "A lot of people are gonna have a lot of questions for you, friend. Here's hoping you pull through..."


Whew, this update was quite a bit more delayed than the previous ones but I blame school, applying for internships and finding a new place to live (including vetting roomates).

But here we are, and we get a look at just what Horatius and Irappu can do when given the freedom to be inventive, as well as some of the limitations they can run into.

I took alot of creative liberties with Lilith/Ophis' powers, mostly drawing on what bits of lore and spoken word are attributed to her throughout the novels, since, well...her actual contributions are mostly just giving people boosts and getting nerfed by Samael.

Lllllaaaaammmeeeee.

I was actually bewildered by a few reviews that somehow interpreted my AN's as an admission that a DxD character would be turned into a Heroic Spirit. While I applaud your imagination, I have NO idea how that would even happen, even considering the absolutely goofy 'rules' that govern both universes (but then that's half the fun).

Besides, the mystery (which didn't even stay mysterious for very long, now that I think about it) 'Heroic Spirit' that'll be included is none other than Tiamat.

Yup, that apocalypse in the making is going to be making an appearance and it's without a doubt going to cause a few cosmic hiccups.

Fun :D

And yes, I know Grand Order suggests that she's lacking a distinct 'personality' but I'm working a different angle here. Besides, Horatius and her first met thousands of years ago, millennia of isolation does strange things to people.

Other than that, next chapter is going to be all about the meeting between the two casts of characters, THAT is going to be mayhem and enjoyment incarnate! Stay tuned!

Oh, and Gil won't be in her younger form for long, but in the interim writing her that way is gonna be a blast.

WARNING! SALTY RANT INCOMING! WARNING! SALTY RANT INCOMING!

So I recently (about a few weeks ago) tried to get back into F/GO after not playing it for about 7-8 months. I'd initially quit because despite using the increased 5* character drop events with 30+ Saint Quartz like 9 or 10 times I only ever got ONE 4* Servant, Tamamo Cat, and nothing else.

Oh, but I DID get like 9 5* Craft Essences, so yay for useless junk. The total lack of good deals for micro transactions turned me off as well and I moved onto different games.

So imagine my surprise when I decided to return, go through the updates and find something like 180 SQ in my bank, leftovers from my previous collecting, maintenance gifts and the anniversary gifts or something like that.

SURELY I can get something good out of these, right?

Fuck no.

180 Quartz and 6 enhanced drops later I didn't get a SINGLE 4 or 5 star Servant...and got 7 5* star craft essences.

So either the Drop rate chances are outright lying or I'm the unluckiest son of a bitch when it comes to this game, neither particularly compelling reasons to keep playing.

And out of morbid curiosity I checked to see if any new sorts of deals had been added to the store...nope.

The part that made me legit angry though?

The 'best' deal the store has is for 140 SQ at $80.00

I had 40 more than that so let's just assume that's $100.00 worth of SQ there.

I could have spent $100.00 on this stupid game...and gotten NOTHING I wanted or was barely even useful.

Yes yes, luck plays a role and I'm sure many players just RAKE in the 5* characters...I didn't.

ONE

HUNDRED

DOLLARS

FUCK this game.

...

Actually, if you take into account all my previous rolls as well it's more like $200.00

Double fuck this game.

WHINY 1ST WORLD BABY RANT OVER! WHINY 1ST WORLD BABY RANT OVER!

Kinunatsz The Eternal: Yeah, given the opportunity to really put the pedal to the medal the three would have given one Hell of a fight...unfortunately they were handicapped in this scenario but no worries...there's a time I have planned for them to really shine ;]

And trust me...alot of people who read the 'wiki' are in for surprises. THAT is a bit I want to cover in excruciating detail.

Sgn: Not sure who Holo is or what Beast is referring to...so I'm gonna play it safe and say 'no'.

Bisaster: Well in terms of raw power...Tiamat definitely fits the bill. And while she isn't a Heroic Spirit, she has a part to play, a rather significant one really. Stay tuned for that, the interaction between those two is one I want to play with extensively :D

Greyjedi449t: glad to hear you doing so!

A 'Reincarnated' Writer: Lilith is out of the running, courtesy of several world-destroying powers in a row, and Rizevim is on the chopping block for certain...he just doesn't know it yet. And while both of those Phantasms have been used so far, it's not the last time we'll see them.

Guest 1: As stated above, no DxD character is becoming a Servant or anything like that.

On a more confused note, is that plot-point so common as to be a cliche? I don't think I've ever read a story that does that.

And quite frankly I think the DxD cast would be more afraid of ORT than they would Primate. I mean, considering most of them are Devil's, Angels, Yokai and all sorts of other goodness they could at least go with the optimistic approach of, 'hey, we're not technically Human, right?'

ORT is just a mess of 'nope' by comparison.

123: See above review :D

fire99: Trust me, as fun as it is writing the interplay between Phantasms and Magic and mcguffins...it's the social interplay that I REALLY want to do, stuff the next chapter is going to cover. Stay tuned!

Temsen: Pfft, lollipops are the way to go. They last longer, giving you more time to run away!

Beast Mode92: Oh brother...I have SO many ideas for stories that I wish I could write...but there's only so much time in the day and I already have three stories I'd like to complete as is...and even once their done I'm frothing at the bit to finish up my old Xenoblade X story and do an Evangelion one...busy times indeed, lol.

Rawrking: Damn son, you could cook a whale with flames those intense.

Guest 2: Yup, every chapter is gonna have some sort of flashback or interplay of Horatius' past.

alienvx0: Was really freaking confused as to what you were talking about, then realized that bit slipped past my final editing process (I'd originally done the math and came to the same conclusion). Altered now to be a good 170-180 mph, which if you've ever seen a car go by you at that speed...is REALLY Goddamn fast, real eyeblink level stuff.

PikaMew1288: Evidently it's not quite as easy as that. And if Heracles was able to break out of Enkidu then a giant cosmic Dragon with dominion over several worlds could probably do the same no biggie :D

As always appreciate the reviews and feedback, See you all next chapter!