Chapter 9: Tenuous Bargains and Terrible Prices

All right. So. I am not dead, even though I kind of wish I were at this point. The past month or so has been absolute hell for me, for a variety of reasons. In the middle of my Thanksgiving break, I was unexpectedly transferred to a project that was set to launch at New Year's Eve. A project that really should've been started at the beginning of the year was suddenly condensed into one month. But when your boss says 'work' and you really need your job, you have no choice but to work your ass off.

So pretty much all of December was one shitfest after another, with me pulling around three all-nighters a week and living almost entirely off black tea, Mt. Dew, and fast food. My team and I finished the project with four days to spare, turned it in, and proceeded to sleep for the next day. For about four hours, we had the fastest supercomputer in the world.

And then Intel called and said that they'd wave all the fees if we buried it.

Needless to say, my team and I were pissed. When we showed up the next morning, our boss told us to forget the whole thing and Intel guys came in to take all our stuff. Our one consolation was the overtime pay we got. So when I tried to return to writing my lovely stories, I decided to take a step back and cool off for a bit before continuing after I found myself writing an honest-to-God torture scene for UtV.

I am not dead, just mildly pissed off.

On the bright side, my boss gave me off until the 21st after he realized I might strangle him otherwise. So… yeah. That's where I'm at now.

Oh, and fair warning, this chapter hasn't been beta'd because I wanted it to get out in time. Sorry, Chessru, but I needed to get this one out after I logged in and realized I had several PMs saying 'R.I.P'.


É͏r̵̨ŗ̴̵͏̸o̵̶͠҉r̸̶͟͞:҉̵̧̢̛ ̷̨̨́͠R̵͡é̢̕͜҉ḑ͝͞͠a̸͟͜͝c̶͞t̵̴̕e̵̢̕d̴̨̨—Unrealized future event

Time: Unknown

Location: The crater in Naskapi

Report begin.

"Are you sure that this is the right place?" I asked skeptically, glancing around at the empty beach. Before me, the Sea of Red crashed.

'Positive. This is the exact scene I had in my dream, except that the Red Man was right next to you.'

"Except he's not."

'Well no shit, Sherlock. Even if your Sight doesn't work, that doesn't mean you're powerless. Try something.'

I raised an eyebrow. "Try what?"

'I don't know, just… do something.'

I sighed, letting my gaze wander. The largest structure around was the giant tree in the middle of the lake. Other than that, it was all just water and other random bits of shrubbery. "Lots of options, here."

'Hey, you know my Divination isn't as accurate as yours is. I just know bits and pieces, that's it.'

"That still makes no conceivable sense." I deadpanned. "How—"

'Because I'm Batman. Now shut up, the sunlight won't be in the right spot for much longer.'

I grimaced, returning my gaze to the tree. I threw a small burst of lightning at it, just to see what it would do. Nothing seemed to happen, but it mysteriously vanished just before it hit. I tried again, with a bigger bolt this time. Only now, the water itself rose to swallow the bolt whole.


I gathered power into my hand, focusing on creating the largest lightning bolt I could. I threw it, watching as the entire lake rose to devour the magic.

"Would you mind not setting my Tree on fire? It's a loan from a friend." The familiar voice made me whirl in shock.

(Dreams of the Fallen)
[M̷̵̧͘͠ ͢͏&̛͜͞%͘͜͜͜͡^̶̵͘͟͠#̷̶̵̡͠ ̴̛͢͝͠ ̶̸̨^̶̸́͠͝_̡̡̢́=̨͠4̵̵̕͘0̸̢͠r̵͘Y̴̡͠͡]
[Lv. ]
{Status: Distortion (Severe), Severed Magic (Severe)}

I stared for a moment, not believing my eyes. 'Severed magic? He can't use magic?' A wild grin spread across my face. 'I guess he really isn't all-powerful. That wave-thing must've taken a toll on him. If that's the case, then…'

I pulled Gaé Bolg from my Gem, darting forward and aiming at his neck. His hand blurred, catching the spear. "Was that supposed to hurt me?" He asked rhetorically. "I'm only here to ask what you wanted. I recognize you, albeit vaguely."

I ignored his jab, pulling my spear away from him without much trouble. "Would you mind dying for me?" I asked harshly.

He raised an eyebrow. "What on God's green earth did I ever do to you? I've never met you before in my life!"

I blinked, abruptly realizing that it was true. To him, this was our first meeting. "You're not supposed to be here." I informed him, trying to misdirect his attention. Red was more than intelligent enough to figure out something was off, and I wouldn't put it past him to realize I was a time traveler just from that slight slip.

His eyes widened, and he took a step back. "I see. And you seek to correct the mistake?"

I frowned internally. It seemed that he was taking me more seriously. "Yes." I tried, my voice stern. "You're an Existence Outside the Domain.

He blinked, seeming honestly surprised. "I see. Are you here to correct the ERROR, then?"

"…Yes." I decided, hiding my confusion. "I'm a God of Fate—"

He snorted. "Oh, you have to hate me. With all the fucking around I've been doing with the timeline, your job must be hell."

I shrugged, deciding to put my Acting skill to good use. "I'm kind of new, actually. I'm just here because I accidentally let you in when I first used my powers. Normally I wouldn't have bothered, but you've killed enough people to fill a small country and the world considers you a terrorist."

"I killed monsters." He corrected calmly. "And I'd do it all again."

I raised an eyebrow. Apparently I was a monster to him, then, back when we first fought.

…All right, that's fair.

"You don't regret killing?" I asked instead.

"No." He stated simply, with the finality of an executioner. "The Fate of this world must change, and I'm the only one with the power to change it. The End is coming, a force beyond anything anyone here has ever known. If I didn't try to slow the advance of the Khaos Brigade, they might've already succeeded in killing the Dragon of Dreams."

The madman spoke casually, as if he were commenting on the weather. He apparently expected me to know what he was talking about. I filed the name 'Khaos Brigade' into the back of my mind and forged onward. "I hope you understand that I have to correct my mistake." I ventured, forcing myself to seem unconcerned.

He snorted. "Oh, please. You and I both know that a drunk kitten could take me out right now. I'm only maintaining this spell with the help of my Reality Marble and a few extra Gems."

I shrugged, saying nothing.

He sighed, looking up into the sky. "Was it wrong of me?" He murmured. "To try to make a difference? To live a life free of suffering?"

I thought back to little Millicas, who had generously taken Shirone under his wing. "No. It wasn't. Another in this realm is in the same boat as you, and I left him alone because all he wanted was to relax and spend time with his friend."

He raised an eyebrow. "Another Distortion? Wow, that's… statistically impossible. It was only by sheer dumb luck that I landed here instead of back when the cavemen smashed rocks together."

I hid my smile. It seemed that Red shared my sense of humor, at least. "His name is Millicas Gremory." I told him. "The peaceful one, I mean."

He blinked once, then burst out laughing. "Pfftahahaha! Oh, God, you're serious aren't you? Jesus, I didn't know that Senjutsu was that effective at concealing things from Gods!"

I frowned. "What's so funny?"

"N-nothing." He chuckled, shaking his head. "Will my corpse be a problem?"

I let the previous subject go in favor of the new one. "Possibly. It would be best if your body were obliterated." I paused. "…Something might use you to slip through the cracks." I added the last bit as an afterthought, hoping he bought it.

He groaned, shaking his head. "Well, I suppose I can understand that, at least. Then feel free to destroy my body. I give you permission or whatever."

"Of course." I agreed smoothly. "That would be simplest."

He hesitated, reaching into his pocket. "But, um… before I go… please. Give this to whoever succeeds me."

I blinked in confusion. "Pardon?"

"The Red Man is a title, not a person." He said matter-of-factly. As if it were an indisputable facet of the universe. "This isn't my real face, my real voice. I doubt I'll be the first to use it, or the last. Whoever steps up to fill my role… please. Give them this." He handed me a package, smiling softly. "I don't know who they'll be, but whoever they are, they'll need the help."

I took the package, noting how light it was. It seemed to be a box of some sort, though I didn't know what it held. "All right. Is that all?"

He nodded, stepping back. "Yep. Feel free to fire away. Smite me, almighty smiter!"

I rolled my eyes, holding up a hand. I activated Attack Magic, pulling more and more power until I was confident it could vaporize the grinning idiot. Then I shot a single bolt of lightning, which blazed so brightly I could see nothing else for a moment. Then it faded, leaving behind only a smoldering pile of cloth and a few fluttering red hairs.

'…I cannot believe that just worked.' Instinct said in disbelief. 'All that for… this? Really? We trained under that douchebag for months, and we get this?'

'Hey, I'm just glad it worked.' My eyes fluttered shut, and I exhaled in relief. 'It seemed like he knew full well what he had done, too. He didn't regret his actions and accepted his punishment like a man. In his eyes, he probably died in a fitting manner.'

'Yeah…'Instinct trailed off. 'What should we do with the box?'

'Exactly what we promised to do.' I turned, activating my Clairvoyance. 'If someone shows up as the new Red Man, we'll give them the box. It's the least we can do.'

'All right, then.'

I activated Step, vanishing from the place where the odd magician died.

'Maybe now I'll get a little peace and quiet.'

It lasted three days. Three days before someone came knocking. I would be annoyed, if not for the fact that every headline in the Underworld was currently telling of the Red Man's demise at the hands of a blue-haired boy in a black tracksuit.

I sighed to myself, setting down my cards. "Just skip me for now." I told the other players.

Vali nodded, reaching for the dice. "Should I play for you?"

I nodded. "Try to get me Park Place if you can."

She nodded. "Of course, my lord."

Kuroka's voice faded away as I left the room and started down the stairs, but I still made out something about fish and cards. No matter.

I opened the door, smiling pleasantly. "Hello, there—" I froze, recognizing the form in front of me. Just to be sure, I scryed him.

(The Red Man)
[Se ͢͏%͘͜͜͜͡^̶̵͘͟͠#̷̶̵̡͠ ̴̛͢͝͠ ̶̸̨^̶̸́͠͝_̡̡̢́=̨͠aN]
{Race: ? ? ?}
[Lv. ? ? ?]
{Status: Grief (Severe)}

I blinked. "Ah. You must be his successor, then."

The man before me, a dead ringer for the one I had killed, nodded once. "I never knew him personally, but he helped me out when I was in a tough spot. I owe him more than he would've ever known."

I squinted at the warped text. 'Se- something-all Le-something-an. Wonder who that could be.' "Er, right." I said awkwardly. "So… I'm not sure how this is supposed to go, but here." I handed her the package, which I had been keeping in my Storage Gem. "He left this for you."

He took the brown paper package almost reverently, holding it close. "Thank you. Did he… say anything to you?" He asked hesitantly.

I shook my head. "All he said was that someone else would arrive to take his place and that I should give them that. His magic was shot from everything he had done, so he didn't bother running. I tried to make it painless, but you never know."

"I see." His eyes sharpened. "Why did you kill him?"

I grimaced. My Sight hummed to life, warning me that though I would survive a fight with this guy, it would likely cost me quite a bit. He fought mainly with Ice Magic, but he could do some frankly terrifying things with it.

Seriously. Who knew that you could turn someone's blood to ice like that?

"He was an error in the system." I began cautiously. "You might say that he was my responsibility to remove, since I was the one who let him in."

"So that was enough reason for you to kill him?" He challenged.

My gaze shifted. "At this point… I really don't know."

The Red Man stared at me for a long moment, before sighing. He shook his head, turning around. "Watch your back, Blue. I might not want to start anything today, but one day karma's going to come calling."

I tensed slightly, watching as he began to walk away. 'If that wasn't a threat, then I don't know what is.'

'King. Remember the thing about the Khaos Brigade?'

'Right, I still need to look into that. Damn.'

I turned, closing the door behind me and—

D̢͘͜͝d̛͟͏̕ȩ̢͟͟R̛͜͢g̀҉́͞t̛͘è̶͠͝r̷̡̛͞3̴̡͠͞4̸̡R̵͘͢͟͡F̀͘d̷̀w͞e͟͏̡r҉̴͞g̶͡y̴̶̧t̕͏d̸͟͢҉̴e͠҉̴̸̛s̴̨͜͞s̶̢̕ ̛͞

"You killed him." Hazel eyes gleamed with madness, staring into my soul.

Kuroka swallowed. "S-Shirone? Are you—"


I watched as her head rolled off her shoulders, eyes widening. This wasn't the kind, cheerful girl that I remembered babysitting. This was closer to the beast I had first met in the forest.

The girl wore torn clothing and she was covered in her sister's blood. Now that I took the time to look, I could finally see what was wrong with the girl. Her magic was no longer the pure white of Senjutsu, but rather a putrid black. Her eyes weren't empty, though. No, they burned with pure, unbridled rage.

"K-Kuro-nee?" Rin whispered.

Shirone's head swiveled, eyes regarding the Grimoire. Then, she smiled.

And Rin shattered.

I watched as the girl broke apart, falling to pieces in an instant. Shirone's arm darted out, picking a small book from the remains. She looked me dead in the eye, smiling cruelly, and began to pour corrupt Chakra into it.

The book screamed.

"One left." Shirone whispered, smile remaining in place as the book in her hands slowly broke apart into black ash.

Vali charged forward, screaming a battle cry—and she, too, was killed. Without mercy, without pause. A single stab, and the girl was nothing more than a corpse. A Shade's one weakness—a blow to pierce the heart.

"And now… you." Her eyes burned. "You… you were the one who killed him."

I took a step back, gritting my teeth. I don't know why I couldn't attack her, why I couldn't stop her from tearing through my friends like paper. I couldn't activate a single one of my powers, no matter how much I tried. It was as if I had forgotten how. All I could do was watch as she approached.

No longer a little girl. No longer a simple child. This was a killer, dead set on getting revenge.

"W-who did I kill?" I managed. "Why did you do this?"

"Who?" She tilted her head, almost smiling. But not in mirth, no, in something distinctly worse that looked a lot like rage. "Who did you kill? You killed my Light. You killed the one I loved most of all." Her eyes flashed, and black flames burst to life in her hands. "You killed the only one who didn't betray me, the only one who would never betray me. You killed him, you took advantage of his kindness and tricked him into letting you- letting you-" She choked on the words, shaking her head. No, it wasn't just her head that was shaking. It was her whole body, trembling in rage and grief.

"…Okay?" I tried, reaching for Time Pause. She was obviously mentally unbalanced. "Whoever it was, I might be able to bring him back."

"Liar." She hissed, eyes darkening. Her white hair was almost completely black now, stained with the grudges she carried. "LiarliarliarLIAR—" She broke off, taking a deep breath and extinguishing the flames in her hands. "No. You don't deserve a simple death. You deserve to forget. To forget everything you ever knew and loved. To forget how to live, to breathe, to exist."

I took another step back. She was beyond reasoning now. I felt her begin to summon her power, taking a deep breath to speak.

I serve but one Master,

For I am his alone.

He is the one who saved me.

I blinked at the warped words, trying to make sense of them. They carried a sense of finality, like she was carrying out a sentence.

Little boy, living in a house

where a name meant nothing

could take you to distances—

I stepped back, frowning in confusion. My mind was becoming oddly muddled, and I could no longer feel the Curse suppressing my emotions. What was going on?

Reaching past the towers of Babylon

turning solar systems into symbols

causing comets to collide.

I glanced to the side, noticing the fallen body of a white-haired girl. Wait, when had that gotten there?

They turned to one another

not knowing what to make of the boy

trying to calculate

the distance between madness and genius—

I tried to force myself to remember, to think back to when the fight had started, but it was like trying to grasp smoke.

In truth, it is but an illusion.

Fight? We were fighting? Was this a fight? I glanced at the cat-eared girl, confused. I opened my mouth to ask my question…

Forever lost, always there,

But never Forgotten.

And I stopped. How was I supposed to speak, again? It had something to do with air and my vocal chords, but I wasn't quite sure. Wait, what was I even going to say?

I blinked, trying to grasp at information around me. Long blue hair traced down my shirt, too long for a typical male. Did that mean I was a girl? Even looking down at myself didn't reveal much, my eyes going blurry as I continued to wander through the endless mist without purpose. Was there more that I needed to remember? What else could I possibly remember? Did I have a home? Where was I from? Who had put me in this terrible place?

Step into my realm.

Speak of what you desire.

Allow your dreams to manifest.

Let them fade like the forgotten past.

I was starting to get tired, but my feet continued their needless journey, trudging along without any form of enthusiasm. I didn't even know why I walked, just that I was walking for a reason. An important reason. I had to stop… something.

For all the terrible struggles.

For all the unattainable dreams.

We lay them all to rest.

Thoughts began to drain away from my mind like a sieve, barely able to even hold the most important information about myself. Gone were such useless pieces of knowledge like education, friends and family or age. Birthdays of friends and other important dates were thrown out of the window without worry and the name of my home was completely lost without issue. It was barely able to recall the basic ability to walk, how to count and use the strange spells it had at its disposal being way more disposable. Words were left to drift away on the wind, thoughts becoming gibberish as they refused to be materialized, all of the languages gifted to it fleeing as if they were in a war zone. What was this place? There was certainly a lot of… no, what was it? Why was there a lot of it?

I sing alone, my Requiem for a Dream.

My world dissolved into blackness, and the being known as 'me' ceased to exist.

Report complete.

Error #!%#: Fixed

Restarting from last known point of reference…

Across from me, a red-haired man sat with his chin resting on his folded hands. His blue-green eyes danced with mischief, and his smile was invitingly friendly. He wore rectangular glasses and a pure white lab coat over a shirt with hoodie. "Hello, there," he said cheerfully.

I raised an eyebrow, my Eyes unable to pierce the obvious disguise. "If you're going to mimic the Red Man, at least make your eyes less friendly. His were a portal to pure madness, not shallow pools of interest. Nice try, though. You're a perfect replica of his image, even if you don't have the same Aura."

He shrugged nonchalantly. "Well, I gave it my best. What do you think?" He rose, giving a dramatic twirl.

"I think there's only one kind of magic in this world that my Eyes can't pierce." I told him, beginning to draw on my power in case I had to make a quick getaway. "So tell me… what kind of deity are you?"

The unknown god smiled.

It was not a nice smile.

Yet… for some odd reason… I felt that I had seen this somewhere before…

"I'm not sure why, but this form seems remarkably hard to hold." The unknown god remarked, sitting back down. "Couldn't tell you why, though."

"Existance outside the domain." I remarked drily, shaking off the odd sense of déjà vu. "It means your Domain is effectively useless against him. It's fine when he's six, but it gets really irritating when you're fighting a neigh-immortal terrorist who has no reservations against ending your life."

He winced, his form shifting and stretching. "I see." His voice warped, becoming deeper. "That would explain quite a bit. I meant to give you a bit of a surprise, but it would seem my plan has backfired."

He brushed off his suit, no longer even remotely childlike. No, now he stood wearing a fine, forest-green suit with his midnight hair slicked back. He wore no armor or symbols of power, but an air of nobility exuded from him. Yet all of that was ruined by the fact that he looked exactly like Tom Hiddleton.

"I see what you did there." I remarked drily. "Gathering faith from the masses using a disguise?"

He shrugged. "It worked just fine, actually. And you'll find that the best roles take place when the character plays the actor, not the other way around. Like Stark, or Deadpool."

"Fair enough." I glanced around the antique-looking room. It was rather large, but held nothing but the table the two of us sat at. "Is this where you reveal to me your plan to destroy the world?"

He blinked. "Why on earth would I want to end the world! If anything, I have a grudge against my own pantheon for all their tomfoolery and false press regarding me." He shook his head irritably. "I mean honestly, who the hell fucks a horse of the same gender as them? And I was never married, no girl would come near me after Thor's 'popular kids' gave me a bad rep." He shook his head, sighing. "No, I much prefer the mortal world. In the realm of the gods, they look down on those who take another face and act in a different manner, calling them tricksters and cowards. Here, they call them actors, lawyers, or politicians."

My lips twitched. "I take your point. The mortal world treats you better than the Godly realm. Now, why did you divert my teleport?"

He smiled. "Two reasons. One, I want to know where you got that lovely set of eyes. Two, I'd like to propose an alliance."

"An alliance." I repeated, ignoring the first part. "Why would I ally myself with you?"

He shrugged. "Well, as you might have gathered, I'm not a war god. My combat abilities are negligible at best, and what little I can do is limited to trickery and general persuasion. But." He gave me a secret smile, putting a finger to his lips. "I know things. I've lived since the dawn of time, and unlike my foolish cousins, I've travelled quite a bit. You're a young god, whose abilities are yet to fully develop. Yet I can smell Chronos's blood on you, which means you're at least a decent fighter. I propose a trade—I become your advisor of sorts, and you protect me for the duration of my tenure."

I raised an eyebrow, feeling his Authority bash ineffectively against the Curse of the Wendigo. "Okay, first? If you're going to make up a bullshit story, at least add a bit more truth. I could tell you weren't even trying with that one. Second, I want something a bit more substantial than a vague offer of information. If you want an alliance, we need a solid contract with defined rules and consequences if we break them. I can hardly judge you for what others have made you, so I prefer not to let my preconceptions cloud my judgement. So. Again, from the top. No bullshit."

He shrugged. "Well, you can't fault me for trying. I've never Charmed a Wendigo before." He cleared his throat. "So. I can see from your mind-body duality that you've figured out Aspects, at least. I don't doubt that you're discovering the trials and tribulations that come with that. But what you have to understand is… eventually, one side or another is going to get more power. As stories are told of you, one of your traits will always be more dominant than the rest."

"Leading to a power play." I guessed.

"Exactly." He confirmed. "Especially so in my case. See, my cousins' tales of my cowardice and treachery eventually backfired on them as my believers shifted from honest pranksters to genuinely dangerous rebels. I obviously preferred not to deal with whatever stories they had cooked up, and just created an Aspect to deal with the issue while I whiled away my days at the palace library. But as tales of my childish pranks were replaced with crueler and harsher versions of the same stories, as my occasional spat with my siblings became something more sinister, the Aspect I had made to absorb all that power became just as the legends had told of him. Vain, prideful, arrogant, and cruel to the extreme."

I winced. "I can see where this is going."

"Indeed. One could very easily see the literal manifestation of Treachery stabbing you in the back, so I struck a bargain with him while he was still weak. We each took half our power, and went our separate ways. Nowadays I'm a harmless Trickster, while he's a power of Treachery vile enough to corrode even the whitest of hearts." He snorted. "I doubt my senile old father even noticed as he took over my position in court. Or even when he lost his shapeshifting powers and focused more on magic."

I thought back to what I knew of Norse myths and nodded. "Sounds about right."

He chuckled, stepping back. "Well, that's my story. I'm just a trickster who's trying to escape his alter ego. He might have all the magic, but I've got all the knowledge."

I glanced over him, briefly utilizing Time Pause to let my Scrying go unnoticed.

(God of Mischief)
Loki Laufeyson]
{Race: Divine Spirit}
[Lv. ?]
{Status: Desperate, Cursed (Weakness)}

"There's something you're not telling me." I remarked, eyes narrowing. "I don't take well to lies, Mischief. I may be young, but I hold the power of the Titan Chronos. If there is something you're hiding, you'll find this alliance will quickly sour."

He held up his hands defensively. "I hide nothing that I have not shared with you save for that which the All-Father has sworn me to secrecy on. I swear it on my Name."

There was a thrum from the world around us. I blinked. "That's new."

"Quite old, actually. Name-bound oaths are my favorite kind, since they invoke no power outside of yourself." His lips twitched. "If you break it, though, you are forever Nameless until the day you die. It's… not a pleasant way to go. One can't say 'I like green' or 'I dislike pork' because to do so would be to Name yourself. You become less and less human until you're just a raging beast harnessing a god's power. Then every other god in existence pretty much joins together in ripping you apart."

"That's… nice." I remarked drily. "But you're avoiding the question. You're desperate right now. Why?"

He spread his hands, looking sheepish. "Well… you may have gathered that my other half doesn't take kindly to a 'fake' such as myself. I do hold half of his power, after all, and every time he tries to gain more I respond by making another one of my personas famous. Add in the fact that I hold all the arcane knowledge he needs in order to attempt a coup, and suddenly I'm his number one target."

"I see." I tilted my head. "So when you left me to assume your other half was after you, you left out the bit that he's after you right now."

He blinked. "Well… I mean yes, but I had my reasons for—"

"Don't care." I interrupted. "Let's say I help you get your power back. What will you do with the Aspect if you get him back?"

He hummed for a moment. "Well… see. We both want the same thing. To remain separate. We cannot kill each other, so we plan to recombine and take the other's power. Then we will eject the, for lack of a better term, 'husk' back into the world. While we are the same entity, we share thoughts, memories, and ideals. The dominant Aspect has the ability to force these ideals upon its' lesser, which is what I plan to do. There are many places he could blend in with the mortal world to practice his lies and falsehood while doing minimal damage. Lawyers, for instance. Or salesmen. He would be happy, and I would make sure he didn't regain power."

"You plan to re-separate, then?" I checked.

He frowned. "Well, yes. I quite like being able to hold a decent conversation with my business partners without having the compulsive urge to stab them in the back for no reason whatsoever. If I never kept a bargain, no one would ever bargain with me."

"Which is why you're bargaining with me, the newest kid on the block." I remarked, raising an eyebrow.

"That's not it at all." He assured me. "I just noticed your birth due to some followers of mine reporting it and wished to find you before something nastier did. Rest assured, no other god knows of your existence. Tartarus did an excellent job of shielding your, ah, 'signal'. Like when you take a cell phone underground."

I nodded, leaning back. "Well, I have to say, I'm impressed. In this whole conversation, you've only lied twice."

He stiffened. "Excuse me?"

I waved a hand, golden light forming in my palm. "I might not be able to wield Touki, but I can still borrow the power of Nature to suit my needs. What do you think my Aspect was doing this entire time?"

"Of course." He murmured, examining me more closely. "No wonder you're emotionless. You gave them to your counterpart. Impressive way of skirting the Wendigo's emotional suppression, I must say."

I shrugged. "It functions. That's all I really care about. But for now…" I reached into my Gem, pulling out a pad of paper and activating Time Pause. 'I trust you have a contract written up already?'

'You know me too well. Give me control for a sec.'

I forfeited control, sinking back into my mind and opening my Sight to its' fullest. It seemed that Loki was actually genuine in his intentions, or at least he was in all the versions of the future that I Saw. While it did grate me to trust someone that made his name by playing nasty tricks, I much preferred being trained by an actual god rather than trying my fate with a possibly insane six-year-old that I couldn't See. Better the Devil you know than the Devil you don't.

'All done.'Instinct reported. 'I even added a few… 'personal'… twists you might not've thought of.'

I smiled, swapping places with my Aspect. 'Thanks. Remind me to get you some ice cream.'

'I don't know how you can stand it in that restricting form of yours…' Instinct grumbled. I ignored him, unpausing time.

"Here." I slid the paper across the table, internally smirking at the shaky handwriting. 'I see why you're so pithy. You suck at fine motor control!'

'Oi, my control is fine! I'm just… not meant to exist in your world. It's weird wearing your body when I'm so used to the mindscape. Here, I just push my will and it becomes reality. It's your world that sucks.'

Loki finished looking over the document, glancing up. "This is fairly comprehensive. I can spot a few flaws, but they're workable. But I must ask. Why does the non-violence clause use the phrase 'no lasting harm'?"


'I see what you did there. That could be useful for Memento Mori.'

I shrugged. "Let's be real here. One day one of us is going to snap and punch the other. In this case probably you. Plus, if we had to, we could pull a 'betrayal' stunt where you literally stab me in the back." I tapped the pad of paper. "This way, we don't get the full brunt of the contract for minimal or accidental harm."

"I see." He clapped his hands, and the air rippled. From nowhere, a long piece of vellum formed and stretched until it fit all the text on the page. "This should suffice, then."

I took the vellum sheet, looking it over with my Eyes. It said basically the same thing as mine did, albeit in more flowery language. At the very end, a new clause stated simply that 'If both parties at any time come to a mutual agreement in dissolving this Accord, it shall be null and void with no penalties served.'

"It looks good." I decided. "Where do I sign?"

He shook his head. "You don't sign, per se. It's Olde Magick, drawing on ancient governances set by gods long dead. There will be no sharing of True Names, so verbal consent as an oath will suffice."

I nodded once. "All right, then. I swear on my Name that I will uphold the terms of this contract."

The oath felt like… well, it's hard to describe. It felt like someone had run a finger over the source of my magic. Not the human magic, though, which made me grin. If I ever broke my oath, I could easily just go back and fix it with my Eyes.

"Your turn." I told him.

He nodded. "I swear on my Name that I will uphold the terms of this contract."

There was another shift in the world, and the vellum dissolved into dust.

"Great." I muttered, staring at the dust pile. "So… what now?"

He gave me a wide smile. "Well, I would suggest we move to somewhere more private. It's time I taught you some basic skills to being a god."

He clapped his hands, and our surroundings changed. I blinked, glancing about. We were now in a large parlor, overlooking the sea in a cliffside view. The walls were almost entirely glass, with only the faintest shimmer of magic tipping me off to their otherworldly properties. I shifted, glancing down at the plush couch beneath me. "Nice décor." I commented.

He shrugged, reclining in his seat. He swirled a glass of what looked like brandy, taking a sip. "Well, having a base is the most important part of being a god. If you establish your Domain around you within the country that grants you the most faith, you're practically invincible within its' walls. Chronos survived having his front sliced open and having several gods jump out, and then he regenerated after being chopped to pieces with his own weapon. This place?" He gestured about. "Is a tapestry of illusions the likes of which has never been seen in the mortal realms. If I hadn't allowed you in, you never would've found it."

I nodded slowly, glancing around. "So… what am I doing here, then?"

He set his glass on the small table beside him. "Well, if I'm to be teaching you, I'd rather know a bit about you first so I know what I'm working with. Clause… two, I believe, of the contract we signed stated that we keep each other's secrets." He gestured to the room around us. "This place is neigh-impenetrable, and none know of it but me. You can speak in full comfort knowing that your secrets are safe with me."

I raised an eyebrow, deciding to keep my 'marker' back before I had left my mansion for now. If this backfired, I would know to go back and try again without Loki. "All right…" I said, tilting my head back. "Where should I begin?"

"Try your Domain." He suggested. "You start at when you discovered it and work from there."

"Okay." I hummed for a moment. "Well, to start with, I'm a God of Fate. I can see the fu—" I heard a spit take, and glanced over at Loki. "You all right, there?"

"I-I'm sorry, but did you say fate?" He spluttered.

I blinked. "Um, yes?"

"You're positive?" He checked. "It's not something similar like Causality?"

I shook my head. "Nope. It's Fate. I have control of Time and Death in equal measure."

"You must keep your Authority secret from everyone, even your most trusted companions." He urged, suddenly glancing about as if we were being watched. "Gods of Fate are treated as proof of absolute power. The head of a pantheon always has at least one at his beck and call. They are exceedingly rare and extremely powerful. Tell me, what limits do you have to your power?"

I blinked. "Limits?"

He nodded. "Yes. The Fates of the Greeks have only one eye, which they share between them. The Norns of my kind can only define one's time of death and are incapable of interfering elsewhere. And in all cases, it's always multiple gods with each seeing either the past, present, or future. So do you have two others hidden somewhere safe?"

I raised an eyebrow. "…No, I'm all three. Retrocognition, Clairvoyance, and Precognition all fall within my Domain. And I don't really know what my limits on defining Fate are quite yet, but I already have a priestess, so I should know soo—"

"You have a priestess!?" He interrupted, eyes wide. "In this age?"

I shrugged uncomfortably. "It just kind of… happened."

He nodded slowly, considering. "I see. Gods of Fate don't tend to have religious sects, but you're an Aberrant God, so you're a bit of an exception anyway."

"Back up." I interrupted. "Aberrant God?"

He waved me off. "It's what we call gods that don't belong to a religion. The Christian God was once one as well, before the whole mess with the Israelites. But as I was saying before, priestesses are a sign of growing power. Even at the height of my power, I only ever had a few. And if you already have one before you've even gotten started… that could be very dangerous."

I felt my stomach drop. "Explain." I all but ordered him.

He held up his hands defensively. "I understand you are concerned, but please remember that I'm a noncombatant."

I blinked, noticing my Presence for the first time. "…Sorry about that." I muttered, pulling it in.

"Not a problem." He assured me, relaxing slightly. "Many younger gods have issues with their Presence. With time, you'll be able to keep it in check."

I frowned. "Wait, Presence is a skill that all gods have?"

He nodded, focusing. I felt the air… chill slightly. A feeling like I was standing on the edge of a razor slammed into me, making my paranoia ramp up to holy-shit-run levels. I forced it away, making the elder god chuckle. "Yes. All gods have Presence. It's the emphasis of their Authority on the physical world. But please, back to the topic at hand. Your priestess is likely untrained, yes?"

I shrugged. "Depends. What do you mean by 'trained'?"

"Has she felt your Presence before?"

I nodded. "Yeah, several times."

He nodded, as if he had just confirmed something. "Then at least she knows what to reach for if she's in danger. The first time she tries to use your power, you may feel a slight tug, but you must let it happen. Once the connection is established, she can use your power to cause miracles in your name. As a God of Fate, her duties will likely revolve around healing the sick and similarly changing the course of destiny. It's ultimately up to you, though."

I considered that for a moment, but decided to wait for now. I could hash out the details with Valiant when I next met her. "All right, then. So how do these 'miracles' work?"

He shrugged. "Well, it's essentially just you using your power to impose your will upon the World. The more people who believe in you, the more 'weight' your will has, and the simpler it is to edit what's already there. Nothing much to it. You just…" He waved a hand, and a second chair appeared. "Do it."

I glanced at my hand. "I don't think I could do that."

"Of course not." The chair dissolved into particles, leaving nothing but air. "I was recognized as a God of Magic, so I can use magic as I desire. You're a God of Fate, so your power would lie more along the lines of redirecting an existing chair into this room. Perhaps it falls through the ceiling or the like. But creating something out of nothing? Not in your job description."

"I see." I muttered. "Is that it, then? Just… work on what I have?"

He shrugged. "Well, I could show you how to extend the range of your power…"

"All right, Rin. Are you sure you want to come with?" I checked one last time.

She made a face at me. "I can fend for myself, thanks. Father made sure my form could survive a point-blank nuclear weapon when he was designing me. Even if I didn't have any magic, I could still take anything he threw at me."

I raised an eyebrow, glancing at Kuroka. She gave the smallest of nods, smiling. I took that as confirmation of Rin's words. "So do you want to go with, too?" I asked instead, tilting my head at her.

"No thanks." She replied instantly. "I'd rather stay here and take care of the mansion." She gave Rin a fond look. "As much as I love the girl, Rin doesn't know the first thing about decoration."

'And you do?' I bit my tongue before the words could leave my mouth, turning away. "All right, then. Let's get going."

I tucked a binder beneath my arm, stretching out a hand and concentrating. A magic circle flickered to life, gleaming dully. I grimaced. Spatial Magic was never my thing, and I doubt I'd ever be as good at it as a true practitioner. It still functioned somewhat, though, and that was what mattered. Rin and I stepped into the center of the Circle, the world dissolving around us to reveal the living room of Loki's mansion.

"Good morning." Loki greeted slowly, eyeing the papers I held. Rin slipped off to the side, sitting in a chair. "What are those?"

I held them out to him. "Well, yesterday you just kind of dropped this whole thing on me, so last night I made a list of things I wanted to ask about."

He blinked, taking the list as I offered it to him. "Of course. Well, let's see." He glanced over it, flipping pages. "This is quite a lot of questions."

I shrugged. "I prefer to be prepared."

"I see that." He turned back to the first page, clearing his throat. "Well, I'll take these one at a time. First, it is absolutely possible to perform resurrections. However, unless you expend nearly all of your life force in order to forge a 'link' between you and the afterlife, you must first go to the Afterlife to retrieve their Spirit."

My eyes narrowed. "The Afterlife?"

He nodded. "The afterlife of the Pantheon you're a part of. For me, it would be Hel. I would have to not only reach that frozen wasteland, but also convince or defeat Hela before gaining access to the land of lost souls. I would have to fight off every damned being that wished to return to the Living, all the while searching for one faceless entity amongst many. Even if I spent a thousand years hunting, I might not even know the Spirit I sought if I were right in front of it."

I grimaced. "That sounds… disturbing. Is there any chance that my Pantheon or whatever won't have that problem?

"Finding an afterlife that made all its' inhabitants comfortable and happy while allowing them to retain their freedom?" He snorted. "I think you'd have a higher chance of besting the Great Red in single combat."

"Great." I sighed, rubbing my eyes. "So how might I find my 'Pantheon'? You called me an Aberrant God before, doesn't that mean

"Not at all. In fact, it makes it even more likely." He began smoothly. "For instance, if I were to come to existence as an Aberrant God of Trickery, another would come into being as the Aberrant God of Truth. Our Domains would gradually grow as our power did, until they met in the middle. Perhaps I would gain Domain over Death, and my other the Domain over Life. The Balance maintains itself in this way, and it's not inaccurate to say that it's impossible to form a Pantheon without a counterpart." He gestured vaguely upward. "Even the Christian God eventually had his child betray him and become a pseudo-god with the Domains of Evil and Debauchery."

"So you're saying that somewhere out there I have a counterpart that's my complete opposite?" I considered the idea. "You know, I actually believe that. Every power I've gained so far has had an equivalent drawback or price, so I can see Divinity being the same." I glanced over at Rin, who had been silent thus far. "Any ideas?"

She held up a hand, the emblem of the Author glowing to life. A gleaming '幽霊', something I knew meant 'spirit' or 'ghost'. "Perhaps you weren't the first of your kind." She said softly.

I blinked. "Wait, so you're saying that the Author—"

"No. He's not a god." She interrupted. "Not now, at least. He wants to become one, yes, but that will take some time."

I nodded slowly. "So the Author gained a Domain, or some equivalent, and thus one of his Grimoires fell into my hands."

She nodded. "I was never supposed to leave his side. It was supposed to be impossible for the spell hiding me to malfunction, yet it did so in such a way that I was casually tossed into the recycling on the exact day that the paper plant was picking up the Maou's trash. My Father doesn't believe in coincidence, and neither do I."

"Huh." I grunted. "Chances of him holding the Afterlife in our Pantheon?"

"One hundred percent." She said immediately. "It's a Reality Marble that holds the Spirits of those who have unfulfilled dreams."

I blinked. "I'm… honestly not that surprised by that. That just sounds like him. So he's, what, the pseudo-god of Madness and Dreams?"

She nodded seriously, apparently not getting the joke. "Yes."

I made a mental note to teach the Grimoire what humor was. "Well, if he's Dreams and Madness, what am I?" I asked instead.

"Illusions and Forethought." She replied easily.


"Pardon me." Loki cut in irritably. "But I feel I'm missing some vital information here."

I blinked, turning back to him. "Ah. Right. Um, the Author is a being of unknown power that wrote a series of four—"


"—three Books, all of which have since evolved into Grimoires."

Loki's gaze shifted to Rin. "I'll admit, I was wondering about that. What's your name?"

"I was Titled 'A Dream Unfulfilled' by my Father." She said proudly, puffing out her chest."

"And your… sisters?" He tried.

"Rikki, Tikki, and Kuroyukihime. Or, as they are Titled, 'Universal Forces' and 'Black Testament'." She shrugged. "I don't know what knowledge they contain, though."

"I see." His eyes narrowed. "Does this… 'Author' deliberately create Grimoires?"

"Oh, no." She shook her head. "Father didn't want us to ever Wake, because he didn't want to be responsible for creating sentient life. But they started Waking once I did for some reason. They're not completely awake, and only Hime has access to the mana needed to Evolve. Right now they're just Books waiting to Wake. But they still have enough of themselves to create personalities, and that's what counts."

The old god blinked, seeming just as confused as I was. He decided not to press it, though, probably electing to avoid further confusion. "Thank you for your explanation." He said politely, bowing his head to Rin before turning back to me. "Now. You say that the Author is your Counterpart?"

I nodded once. "It sounds like it."

"All right. That makes things easier." He levelled me with a sharp look. "Listen to me, Dee. Whatever you do, never face him in combat. Your Counterpart will be able to counter you in every conceivable way possible, because his powers will mirror yours. I only ever managed to kill my Counterpart by tricking another god into doing it for me."

I blinked. "Wait, who—"


"Ah." I considered his words for a moment. "All right, so my best chance of beating him, should we ever fight, is to get someone else to do it?"

"Pretty much." The old god agreed.

"Wonderful." I mumbled. "Juuuust wonderful."

"Indeed." Loki glanced back down at the all-but-forgotten list in his hands. "Now, for the second item on the list…"

I sighed. This was going to take a while.


I glanced sidelong at my grandfather, who looked to be a middle-aged man in his 40's with dark silver hair and hazel eyes. He looked almost unnervingly like my father—


—but I decided not to hold that against him. No, what disturbed me was the bottomless and creepy aura he exerted at all times. Even though he had been nothing but polite and helpful, I still found myself avoiding him whenever possible.

"My dear, what seems to be the issue?"

I blinked, shaken from my thoughts. "A-ah… nothing, grandfather."

"Well, good." He smiled, but the effect was ruined by the murder in his eyes. "I wouldn't want you to get too… uncomfortable… while you're here."

I hefted my suitcase, glancing warily up the long staircase that supposedly led to my new room.

I found myself wishing that Dee was here.

But still… there was something I needed from the old creep.

"Where's the maid who's going to be teaching me?" I asked quietly.

"Ah…" Rizevim hesitated. "My dear… are you sure you want to—"

"Yes." My grip tightened on my bag. "Yes I am. I want to learn to be a maid."

"If I may ask… why?"

I smiled faintly.

"…You could always be my maid." Dee commented.

"I have my reasons." I stated, locking my eyes with his. "Let's just say I owe it to someone."

His gaze hardened, but he didn't press. "Then of course. You are my precious granddaughter, after all, and after hearing what happened to your dear father… I'd be happy to help."

Sure you would, you old bag.

Sure you would.

I'll be sleeping with my door firmly locked, thank you very much.


I glanced at the stack of programming manuals. "So let me get this straight. You think my Scrying will be able to get more information if

Loki shook his head. "Not quite. See, Scrying is a delicate art due to its' very nature. Scrying will tell you everything about an object or phenomena, but it has to have a way to fully express itself. If the medium doesn't allow for the fullest extent of the information gathered, then it simply won't display all of it. That's why most divination specialists choose to Scry in dreams, since a dream is only limited by your ability to interpret it."

I blinked. "So… if you know only a part of a language, you can't speak it effectively."

Loki snapped his fingers. "Precisely."

I glanced at the manuals. "And you think these will help me use God's Eyes better?"

"I do."

"All right." I picked up the first manual, labeled 'Learn Java in Ten Days'. "I'll get started on that now, then."


I opened my eyes, squinting up at a light above me. Cold stone pressed against my back, a familiar sensation. I sighed, my eyes fluttering shut.

"Ah, you're awake!" My grandfather's delighted voice called. "Now that you're—"

"You're going to torture and/or experiment on me, aren't you." I deadpanned.

He paused. "…Well, yes, but—"

"Knew it." I shut my eyes, sighing. "Well, I'm afraid I'm not going to be a willing participant."

"My, my, how polite." The man taunted, still outside of my field of vision.

"A maid's manner reflects upon her household." I quoted immediately.

"Ah, yes, your maid fixation. I'll admit, it got rather old after the first day." He snarled. "Gah, a mighty Lucifer serving as a common maid? What was my idiot son thinking having a wench like you?"

"He wasn't." I smiled politely. "I was an unplanned pregnancy. He made sure I knew that. I was an unwanted danger, a smear on the family name. So please, try something that hasn't been done before."

"Oh?" He was amused now. "Where did this newfound spine of yours come from? I never saw this when I was trying to activate your Sacred Gear."

"You repeatedly beat me senseless." I deadpanned. "And I don't even know if I have a Sacred Gear, let alone how to activate it."

"Of course not, you useless—" He broke off, taking a deep breath. "Well. That doesn't matter now. You might be a disappointment, but at least you have a working body. I can use that, at least."

I froze, my body turning cold. I had thought he might get close, give me the chance to fight him off. But from the sound of it…

"It's a simple plan, really." The old Devil continued, sounding incredibly smug. "I'm shocked I didn't think of it earlier. See, there's a lovely ritual that allows one to draw power from the deceased Spirits still clinging to this realm. A trifle thing, really, an ancient spell not often used because of the consequences. But see, people misunderstand the usefulness of this spell."

My back was cold from the stone beneath me, but that wasn't the reason for the chill down my spine.

"Whenever a caster fails to take the proper precautions to keep themselves safe, whenever they lack the fortitude needed to keep back the Spirits, they become overwhelmed. They become possessed by them in both mind and body." Rizevim continued, his voice moving as footsteps sounded. "But the genius part is… the spell calls on all Spirits, not just the free ones. That lovely Sacred Gear of yours is a part of your very soul. A direct line into its' new body." He chuckled. "Other Spirits will attack as well, yes, but pitiful remnants can't compare to the might of a Heavenly Dragon. When you rise once more, you will be nothing but a memory."

My eyes widened. "You assume that any Spirits you summon would be evil. What if you get a hero like Siegfried instead?" I asked, a bit desperately. I strained at my bonds, immediately realizing they cut off my magic. Damn.

"Please." The Devil dismissed. "Any Spirit who answers the call is one with the intent of trying its' luck possessing you. And any Spirit twisted enough to take your form must first destroy your mind. Evil is just a matter of perspective, though, and they'll just be trying to survive." He paused. "But yes, they will most likely be evil. Serial killers, rapists, the worst of all men and Devils. They will fill you for a time, but fear not. The Dragon slumbering within you will be awakened as well, and your suffering will be short."

I realized with a start that this was my grandfather's twisted idea of 'mercy'. That he thought it was a kindness to be killed quickly. "You think I'll just stay here and take it?" I spat, trying to keep the panic from my voice.

"Yes." He said bluntly. "I do. Csaergnin." I hissed as the shackled tightened against my skin, Holy power burning into my flesh.

The Devil began to chant, even as my struggles increased. I felt my skin dissolve, my blood spilling as I tried against all odds to escape my bonds. Colored lights flickered to life above me, a red angry whirl of hatred and malice. They flashed and burned as they began to taper into a funnel, like water into a drain. Then they touched my skin, and I felt myself begin to scream.

And the world went black.

Pain ripped through my skull, furious and agonizing. I crouched down, curling into myself, awayawayaway from the pain, holding my head in my folded arms, leaning against… something. I was hiding, I knew that. I could hear the sounds of a great battle behind me, the clash of hideous entities ripping each other apart. And so I did what a little girl should… I hid.


A deep growling voice spoke to me, but I couldn't bear it. I buried my head deeper into my arms.

"Girl… wake yourself. There is much to be done."

I opened my eyes briefly, and glanced around. I sat against the belly of a large white dragon, with large feathery wings and a deep blue underbelly. It didn't just have scales, no, it had fur. It… he… was a truly monstrous being with blue eyes and two gold horns, easily dwarfing the mansion I knew my body rested in. But glimmering chains bound its' form, shifting and clanking as it moved. The chains wound around me as well, telling me all I needed to know.

I continued to look, taking in my surroundings with practiced ease. I was in a dark dungeon, one that was eerily familiar. Stone dug into my legs and the scent of rot filled my nose. There was no light, but my night vision let me see perfectly well. The battle continued to rage, but it was clearly on the other side of the Dragon. I instead continued to observe, noting one structure that was visible even from where I lay. A statue of Dee, calmly holding out his arms for an embrace. It was of white marble, the only bright part in the world of darkness. I dared not move towards it, for fear of announcing its' presence to the attacking monsters.

"Girl. Listen to me. You must fight, conquer your fear and rise above it." A deep rumbled harshly. "Like it or not we are bound together, and these beings feed on your darkness. So rise above it, and take up arms."

I shivered, curling tighter into a ball. I wasn't a warrior. I never even lifted a blade. The one time I won was when Dee saved me. What little courage I had came from him, and not even he could help me now.

"So what, you'll just roll over and die?" The Dragon snorted. "Even a little girl can fell a giant. Even a peasant with a blade can kill a king."

"But I have neither." I protested quietly.

"No. You don't. But your claws are sharp and your bite is vicious. We are in this together, girl, and until these demons are destroyed we must work as one."

I clenched my fists. "I didn't ask for this!" I screamed. "I didn't want any of this! I was happy until you ruined my life!"

Maniacal screams of delight reached my ears, and a wounded roar came from the Dragon.

"So take it out on me later!" He snarled, rage filling my skull. "Once we win this, we can tear each other apart! Now fight, girl, fight like your life depends on it because it does!"

But I couldn't. Memories came to me now, tormenting visions that showed thousands of different lives. Rizevim had been right… no creature fighting was one that deserved to live. I could see the live of a serial killer his kills the bodies he had stacked upon his conscience, the deaths he had caused. A sorcerer wielding a cursed blade that took a kingdom by storm, killing some by sword and others by magic. I saw each and every memory is crystal clear detail.

A voice boomed through my mind. "YOU MUST FIGHT IT!"

"WHY WOULD I?" I screamed back.


And in that moment, the battle paused.

"Yes." I whispered, closing my eyes. "Yes, I do."

I took hold of my own memories, drawing strength from the long hours spent speaking with the kind god. The boy who smiled, even though he knew more of the terrible world than even I. The boy who offered a future, a plan, a hope that I might one day be able to stand by his side and smile along with him.

I forced my leaden limbs to move, the wrath surging through my bones becoming mine as well. And with the strength given to me by my fondest memories… I stepped out to look upon my foe.

Before me stood a great army of demons, wielding various strange and outlandish weapons. A simple rope whip with a spiked metal ball the size of my head attached to the end, a huge meat cleaver like blade as broad as himself, a curved and spiraling pitchfork, a huge curved scimitar, a tri-bladed broad sword… the list went on. They and the demons that held them were utterly uncountable, if one were to try by the time you finished, if you ever did, they would have changed so much in color, shape, weapon or position that you would be unsure if they were even the same one.

But three stood out from the crowd, black skinned and massive. They towered over the group, giving orders in a strange confusing language that I was sure would drive people mad if they listened too long.

"I…" I whispered, trembling. "I don't know if I can…"

"I will aid you in this fight, but you must help me." The Dragon chained to my side rumbled. "For without you, this battle cannot be won. So flex your talons, young Dragonling. Your time comes near."

I nodded once, taking a deep breath, and stepped forward. With my hands curled into claws and my nails impossibly sharp, I charged. The glorious white dragon let loose a vicious roar, giving me the courage to keep charging even as I faltered. The hoard matched my charge, their forms surging forth in a mass of pure destruction.

My hands ripped through demon after demon, the Dragon at my side cutting through their flesh like paper. Few stood for more than three seconds, barely one of them blocked. No one could match us as we cut a bloody path through the horde. I didn't pause to question how, I didn't dare doubt my impossible strength. As long as I could keep moving, I would live.

And then came the first challenge, the first black demon.

It was roughly humanoid, though massive easily twenty feet tall, if not taller, its claws were grotesque, bits of rotting and green skin clung to them. From its great drooling mouth dripped black saliva. Its eyes were a simple black and two antler-like protrusions, the color of stained teeth, sat atop its head.

Its' clawed hand reached down for me, but I rolled to the side. I tore into his legs, biting and clawing like a rabid beast using knife-like teeth and razor claws. It screamed in agony and pulled away, but I continued my berserk charge. I ripped at its' legs, avoiding its kicks as it tried to get rid of me, and the white Dragon flew forwards and covered the demon's chest with sharp ice fragments. Soon the demon was dropped to its knees, its' legs unable to keep it steady as I tore the muscle from its' bones.

Jumping up onto its thigh, I ran up and let my claws tear into its chest. The demon screamed and tried to crush me with its' hand, but I stabbed it again before rolling down, avoiding the beast's claws. With speed that surprised even myself, I ran behind the demon and ripped into its' spine, leaving large gashes in its' flesh.

It tried to fall on me, but I used the opportunity to climb onto its' form as it crashed down onto the ground. It swiped repeatedly at me, but the Dragon kept it busy as I charged up its' broad chest and up to its' hideous face. I wound back and, in a single move, rammed my clawed fist right into its eye socket.

The demon wailed, then faded into black gooey liquid.

I paused for but a moment, chest heaving. The Dragon landed, several wounds visible on his form. I gave him a single nod before rising, flexing my claws once more.

We continued our rampage through the horde, never tiring, but the demons were just as uncountable as before. I somehow knew that the only way we could truly win was to defeat the three biggest demons.

One down, two to go.

The next one we found was similar to a cat in shape, only closer to the size of a mansion rather than a common housecat. It had pure white horns that were flat and spiraled, pointed up like two towers upon its head. Its' teeth were pointed and blackened, and its' claws were a dull silver.

This one the Dragon wasted no time on. He sunk his claws into the great beast and flew up, up, up, then allowed the struggling beast to drop. The ground shook as it landed, and I charged in for the kill. My talons ripped through the creature's windpipe, and I watched as it melted like its' predecessor into black goo.

That was when the last and final black demons reared its head.

The white Dragon roared, stumbling, as a pair of ivory teeth sunk into his neck. He lashed out, tearing the beast away and flinging it down. It was shaped like a cobra, only with thin long arms just under its hood. Dull gold horns, like those of a bison, were atop its head.

It struck down, and I barely dodged around its' bite. Acid poured from its' teeth, and the ground burned and sizzled violently.

Acid. Lovely.

Its' hands groped about blindly for me, but I cut at them whenever they got to close. White ice speared down on the serpent, but it surged upwards, slamming into the flying dragon with its horns and sending him crashing to the ground.

Then it turned its' black gaze back to me.

I met its' eyes, defiantly glaring at it. "Come on." I hissed, flexing my gory claws. "Come get me."

It lunged.

I rolled to the right then sliced at its' head, ignoring the burning feeling in my feet as I slipped in acid. Quickly jumping out of the pool, I ran backwards to survey the damage. The serpent reared up, screaming horribly at the large cut that smote through its left eye. I smiled.

And then the cut bubbled and roiled, the missing eye regeneration in a heartbeat.

Oh. Well. Fuck.

My body was torn from the earth, my ribs screaming from the terrible blow. I decided it must've been the creature's tail that hit me, since I didn't feel any acid. The I hit the ground with a sickening crunch and bounced slightly, only to hit once more. I groaned, trying to find my feet. An ivory flash was my only

I stood, trembling for a moment as the fang landed mere millimeters from me.

"Dragon?" I shouted, backing away. "Help!"

"I'm a bit busy!" He called back. "Help yourself!"

"HOW?" I shouted incredulously, ducking behind a rock. "I'm fighting a giant snake demon with my hands! How on earth do you expect me to win?"


I blinked, lowering my arm. No claws adorned it, no scales protected it. It was just my arm.

I felt my teeth grind together in frustration.


I rose, curling my hands into claws.

'Damn snake.'


'Damn demons.'


'Damn DRAGON!'

I shouted a battle cry, charging angrily towards the giant snake. It lashed out at me, but I met its' charge with my own.

"…You're keeping me from my JOB!"

The snake seemed genuinely confused as my clawless hands tore through its' flesh, but it quickly stopped being confused and started being dead.

I dropped to the ground, spitting out a clod of black sludge as the remains of the demon rained around me. The horde around me b


Only to be stopped where they were as the Dragon's voice echoed through the battlefield.

"That spell was clever, I'll admit…" I swiveled, watching as the Dragon took to the air. He flew higher and higher, the chains between us stretching and clanking. "But all it managed to do is PISS ME OFF."

And the world turned white.

I stumbled, vision obscured for a moment. Screams, evil, ungodly screams, echoed throughout the landscape. The other demons slowly fell back into their multicolored blood, and faded into the landscape. I stood, panting, as the darkened world returned to its' choking smog.

I froze, immediately noticing something odd about my new situation. The chains, which I had grown accustomed to fighting with, were gone. And so, I suspected, was my treaty with the Dragon.

"You would be correct." A menacing voice rumbled from behind me.

I whirled, only to look up at the fearsome visage of an enraged Dragon. I swallowed, stepping back. "Um… hi?"

"Hi." He greeted. "I'm going to kill you now."

I froze.

"It's nothing personal, I assure you." He continued. "I just despise the idea of being at a filthy Devil's beck and call, and I've been waiting to tear my bearer apart for the better part of an eon now. You're just the one unlucky enough to actually be faced with my wrath."

"…I see." I said faintly, taking another step back. "I don't suppose you'll give me a head start?"

He tilted his head, considering the idea. "…Why not." He decided, a feral grin crossing his wicked teeth. "I could do with a nice chase."

I turned and bolted, glancing frantically around. The only structure in the featureless dungeon was the statue of Dee, so that became my destination.

I made it all of twenty meters before the Dragon pounced, laughing as he swept me off my feet and sent me bouncing across the uneven ground. I skidded to a halt, forcing myself to my hands and knees to cough up a clod of blood. A pair of talons came down on either side of me, ready to cut me to ribbons.

"That was fun." He mused, his whip-thin tail cracking. "I want to try a different game, now. It's called 'run faster'. Care to play?"

I forced myself to my feet, my wounds dripping blood. "Do I get to say no?"

"See?" He chuckled darkly. "You're catching on already."

I bolted, this time taking care where I stepped and weaving in an evasive pattern. His tail slammed down a few dozen feet away, accompanied by an amused snort. "Ah, I seem to have missed." He called mockingly.

I gritted my teeth, only running faster. I could feel the ground shake as he moved after me, his smugness only adding to the demented situation. I continued to run until I finally felt another blow, this one harder than the last. I skidded sideways, the sharp stone slicing up my legs.

"Aaaand, now I'm bored." A weight crashed into me, the ground cracking beneath the force of the strike. "That got old fast. I guess I'll just kill you, now."

I tried to rise once more, only managing a half-crouch. "Dee…" I whispered shakily, looking up at the statue in the distance. "I-I don't know if you can hear me now…"

"What are you, praying?" The white Dragon asked incredulously.

I glared back, spitting out another spray of blood. "Yes. As a matter of fact, I am."

"PAH!" The Dragon snorted. "You think your gods will help you?"

"Gods?" I repeated quietly, forcing myself to my feet. "I never counted on any gods to save me before. I'm not asking the gods to help me. I'm asking my friend."

He grinned, fangs sharper than any knife. "Cute."

And with that, he lashed out once more. I twisted, flinging myself sideways—


I gasped, feeling bones snap. The Dragon raised his tail once more, bashing my fallen body into the ground. My ribs shattered instantly, becoming mere powder beneath the weight of the Dragon's might. My lungs could no longer draw air, so I tried to make my thoughts as loud as possible.

'Dee…' I thought desperately, closing my eyes. 'Please, help me. I can't do this alone.'

"I told you, girl." The Dragon growled in amusement. "No god can save you now. It would take a miracle larger than the Christian God in his prime could manage for you to even stand a chance against me. I may be weakened, but you are pitiful enough to be destroyed by a single blow. Try again in your next life."

His tail lifted slightly, allowing sweet air to fill my crushed lungs.

I closed my eyes, the cold weight of fear filling me.

This was it. The end of the line.

I was going to die.


I sighed to myself, flipping the page of an old book. It was undeniably helpful, but incredibly dry. I glanced briefly at the title at the top of the page. 'The Ways of the Seventh Son'. It was a philosophical treatise on the idea of a mortal becoming a god. Similar books littered the table before me, all written by former humans and containing useful hints on how to make the best of the change.

Across from where I sat, Loki flipped the page of his own book. The man had done good on his promise to teach me, and though his methods weren't as extreme as I had been expecting, he still did a fantastic job of teaching me how to hide myself from the other gods. I privately suspected that he had learned how to do that during some kind of illegal venture, but I kept my suspicions to myself.

Several months have passed since we moved to the mansion in the middle of nowhere, and no one has bothered us yet. I eventually managed to explain to Rin exactly why I should have a separate bedroom from them, and though she still didn't quite get it, she still split the top floor into two parts.

…Predictably, Kuroka proceeded to sneak into my room every night and try to sleep with me anyway.

Personal issues aside, I can honestly say that things have been going quite well. I've been making the occasional stop to a surrounding city to pick up new food, but when my Eyes tell me exactly who the serial killers or rapists are, it's easy to find the ones who need to be eaten.

Loki's evil half hasn't shown himself yet, but the god is certain that he's still being tracked. He taught me to see through almost every illusion he could cast, something that my Kangeki made incredibly easy once I figured out how to use them right.

All in all, life's been going pretty—

I paused, a screen forming unbidden before my eyes.

The {FATAL FATE} that [Valiant] is about to meet has been suspended due to the Authority Fate Plunder.

Through the acquisition of a Divine Miracle in the defined time, it is possible to avoid the {FATAL FATE}.

I sighed, rubbing my eyes. I really needed to learn not to tempt Fate. "Hey, Loki?"


"What's this?"

He glanced up. "What's what?"

"Something about the 'final fate'."

That got his attention. "You said you feed your power through that screen as a medium, right?" He demanded.

I nodded. "Yeah, my mental protections protect me from everything, even things I need."

"Then your screen is likely interpreting input from your Authority." He told me urgently. "Your priestess likely needs your intercession."

I sighed irritably, activating Time Pause and pulling him inside. It wouldn't do to mess up due to time constraints. "Well yes, I got that. But how do I do that? I've never done a miracle before. I've given a Blessing completely by accident, but I don't have the slightest clue how to work Miracles."

He hesitated, something uncharacteristic for him. "I… honestly don't know. It depends on the Pantheon, really. My Pantheon was never really good at Miracles, we're war gods at heart and most of the others look down on those who 'cheat' using their power. There's a chance yours doesn't allow for Miracles at all."

"Shit." I cursed, Instinct giving the mental equivalent of a shrug at the old god's words. "I… let's assume that's true. How could I do something about it?"

He hesitated once more, muttering something in Old Norse that my gift of tongues translated to something about eggbeaters. I blinked in confusion for a moment before deciding to ignore it. "I could try to grant you temporary access to my Miracles." He finally offered. "The Nordic System isn't too powerful, but it might work."

I paused, genuinely touched. "You would do that for me?"

"You're my apprentice, boy." He told me, smirking faintly. "Your actions reflect onto me, and if your priestess dies because I did nothing, it's as good as shooting my credibility in the foot.

'…So it's because of pride. Heh. Typical Loki.' I chuckled to myself. "Well, whatever the reasons, thanks."

He scoffed. "Please. It's only temporary access, and this is a one-time deal. With any luck you'll have access to your own System next time." He rose, brushing himself off, and strode over to where I sat. He extended a hand, glowing softly with power. "Just don't abuse this privilege, young blood." He warned me in a grave tone of voice.

I nodded once, rising as well and taking his hand. The results were immediate.

{The System has been breached.}

{The [Akashic System] granted by the Author is incompatible with the [God System] taught by Loki. Which would you like to keep?}
[1. Akashic System]
[2. God System]

I glanced at the frozen god before me, feeling my mana slowly drain. 'Huh. Did the System trigger my Time Pause automatically? Damn, this thing is getting smarter and smarter every day.'

I turned back to the screen, hesitating for a moment before choosing. On one hand, taking the new System would likely overwrite the first. On the other, I should be able to replace most of the lost powers with Miracles.

But how powerful is each System comparatively?

[1. Akashic System—EX]
[2. God System—B-]

Oh. Wow. That's handy. But B minus? That's… really shitty, actually. Damn.

"Can't I try to merge them?" I asked no one in particular.

{Skill activated: [Where There's a Will, There's a Way].}

{You are attempting to merge two Systems. Failure to succeed could result in:}
[Shattered Core {Severe}]
[Severed Magic {Severe}]
[Mental Pollution {Severe}]
[Distortion {Mild}~{Severe}]

I sighed, glancing over the debuffs. Honestly, I wasn't all that worried about it. None of them seemed to actually affect my Eyes, so I could just go back and try again if it failed. I pressed the mental 'accept' button, and the screen dissolved.

I crumpled on the spot, feeling my ever-present mental Curse shatter like sugar glass. 'SSSHIITT.' I hissed mentally, feeling like boiling lead had been poured into my brain. I reached for my stats, trying to see what the debuff was.

Name: Dee
Title: Genius Within Madness
Race: Wendigo (*)
Level: $#%$#

-Mad Perspective
-Mad Wisdom

I gritted my teeth, trying to remember what the two buffs did. Something about boosting the chances of success when conducting insane experiments?

{Prime conditions have been created. Chance of failure: 72%}
{Effects of title have lowered chance of failure to: 27%}

{Would you like to proceed?}

I stared at the screen for a moment, before sighing deeply. "Well, this is going to suck." I closed my eyes and took a deep breath. "All right. Let's do this."

{Proceeding with System merge…}

{Loading available textures…}

{Consulting greater directory…}

{Connecting to directory [A Dream Unfulfilled].}

{Connection made. Assimilating knowledge.}


{Attempting to reconstruct missing concepts…}

{Operation failed. Initiating backup procedures. Searching for secondary directory…}

{Directories found.}

{Searching for equivalent skill…}

{Connection required!}

{Would you like to route connection through a server?}
{Servers found: 2}
Dreams of the Fallen: The Protection of the Lost]
[Requiem for a Dream: An Eternal Dream, Never Fulfilled.]

I frowned. "Servers? The hell? I know I ate a bunch of programming books so the System could communicate more, but now I don't know what the fuck it's even asking." I eyed the two names, uncertain which to pick. "I mean… I think the first one was the red-haired boy's title. Does that mean this is how he slipped through?"

The System was unhelpful for once, simply displaying the same screen the whole time.

Eventually I chose the first option, just because I knew more about it than the second. The screen dissolved, and the next screen's text was in an entirely different font.

{Connection made!}

{Dialing administrator to request access…}

A presence pressed against my mind, and I hesitantly allowed it through. The world around me dimmed slightly, and a cacophony of whispers began to fill the air around me.


W̧͆ͧ͊ͯ͂̂ͮh̷̪̓ͨ̎ͩ̋̔́y̲̚ ̀ͧ͂̍̉̓̔͏͍͇ḥ̰̆̇͆ȁ̡̰̭̯̲ͬ̊͑̚v͍̰͙̺̍ͦ̈̋̐́̉e̵͙̦̣̳͈̻ͬ ̜̩̩͂ẏ̴ͤ̌̆ͣ̈ő͖̗͎͎̯̱̘ͮͯ͠u̱̮͇̻͛ͭͫ ̪̩̩̥̳̜͌̓ͤ̍̓̈͟ċ̢̥̖̓ͥ͐ͫͦͥà̢̼̀ͤ̾́l̤̂̔́͂͋̆̀l̠̝̈́ͮ̈́e͔̼̰̓̅ͭͅd̰̣͍̱̠͛̉ͥ͐̎̆ͧͅ ̬u̼͚̮̱p̳̹͍̣̜͕̥̉ͩ̔̽͆̚͝o̦̫̭n̵̻͓̣̣ ̩͍̯͔̻̩̔͌̒t͈̳̗̬͇ͅh͕̳̪͉̔̓ͪ͂e̷͓̺͇̳͙̍ͅs͙̗̘̖̃̔̈́͋̃ͅè̸̺͕ ͉̭̜͈̠̂ͮḎ̹͔̖̦̙̞̑̃ͣͧ̊͛r͋ͮͤ͑͂̓͞ě̌ͥͪ͡a̸̪̭̪̲̩ͪͫ̋̈͆ms͈̦̜̹̯̩ͣ́ ͚̤̠̆͒̃͢oͮ̾̅̆f̙̟̣̠̩ͦ͂ͬͯ̃̌͛ ̞̽̆̌̈́tͪ҉̹̬h̜ͨ̉̎ͣͮȩ̹̮̞̿ ̘̞̙̹͙̗͎ͧ͒̑͂̾F͚̼̞̂ͯ̃̿͌͋̍ã̱͚͉̙̪ͨ͟l̫̱͚͉̖̖ͧ͊͋͛́l̋̾̆ͤe̤̪̺̪̞̰̿ͤͦn̗͍̣̓?̵̺͆̏ͦ̆͌̽ͭ


I blinked as they spoke, my mind struggling to comprehend the words.

[Skill required: Distortion {Mild}]

I felt my head clear slightly as I accepted, and the next box popped up.

[Duration of [Distortion {Fake}]: 5m 23s]

I cleared my throat. "Um… sorry. I'm trying to learn how to perform Miracles. You wouldn't happen to know how those work, would you?"

For what reason do you ask?

The voices whispered in unison. Not judging, not demanding, merely lightly curious.

I coughed. "My priestess is in danger, see…"

And so you wish to save her?


Is this your Dream?

"…I guess so, yeah. I want to be able to keep those I love safe."

It was silent for a moment, seeming to consider my words.

Very well. We are here to grant unattainable Dreams, and for this reason we shall aid you. Listen well, for few living beings have this knowledge.

The Miracles of this world are five in number.

The First, which governs the forces of absolute creation and destruction, is what began the universe.

The Second acknowledged the possibility of free will, and the alternate worlds that would stem from those possibilities.

The Third governs the soul. It gave 'life' to the universe, and allows for the creation of new souls.

The Fourth realized the element of chance in every action.

The Fifth began the march of time, and then the world began.

I blinked. "Er… I understood maybe half of that."

Worry not. If you understood the WAY, there would be no need for our aid. Now. What do you wish of us?

'It was definitely amused that time.' I shrugged in response, trying to recall the exact words. "My System said I needed authorization from the administrator before I could patch through your server. Do you understand any of that?"

We do. Is this what you wish?

"Yes. Yes it is."

Then fare thee well, young Divine Spirit. May your Dream be fulfilled. Come again anytime.


The presence departed, the world around me returning to normal.

{Connection made!}

{System accessing greater knowledge base [The Root of Akasha].}

{Knowledge accessed!}

{Forming parallels between Systems…}

{The System has been upgraded!}

{Launching the Akashic System…}

{Launch complete.}

{Saving progress…}

{Aborting incomplete procedures…}

{Exiting Command Prompt.}

The world around me returned to normal, Loki's voice working once more. "—n't be a problem, though."

I snorted. "Buddy, I'm already done."

He blinked, taking it in stride. "Oh. Well. Okay then. Care to tell me what your screen says?"

I glanced down at the waiting screens.

{Skills learned!}
-[Connection to the Root]
-[Server Connection]
-[Power of Belief]

{Race changed!}
{Racial skill gained!}
-[Marble Phantasm]

I shrugged. "I… really don't know what I'm looking at here."

Loki leaned forward excitedly. "Well? Did the procedure work?"

I pulled up my stats to check. I blinked at the mess of screens that greeted me. No longer was the text light and spidery, now it was all hard lines and willowy curves.

{Upgrade complete!}

{Analyzing components…}

{For completing the merge of two incompatible Systems, you have gained the following statuses.}
[Severed Magic {Severe} (Negated by Race)]
[Mental Pollution {Severe} (Negated by Wendigo's Curse)]

Name: Dee
Title: What Doesn't Kill You Hurts Like Hell
Race: Divine Spirit

-Curse of the Wendigo (PERMENANT) (Negates all mental inhibitions and influences, both positive and negative)
-Wendigo's Freezing Chill (PERMANANT)

/Stats//Talent Values//Miracle System/

I stared at the odd 'tabs' for a moment. 'Well that's certainly different.' I clicked on 'Miracle System' curiously, immediately being taken to a different screen.

/You have successfully unlocked the Miracle System!/

The what?

/Miracle Points: 50/

/Prayer Log + -/

/Sacrifice Log + -/

/Current Miracles:/-N/A/

{Welcome to the Miracle System, the System that taps into the Root of Akasha on your behalf! Would you like to create a Miracle?}

I clicked 'yes' without hesitation.


{Recipient found!}

{[Valiant] is in need of a Miracle!}

{Possible Miracles:}
[1. Grant access to full Priestess abilities for (1m) (1d) (1w) (1mo) (Permanent) for (1p) (5p) (10p) (25p) (50p)]
[2. Grant absolute protection for (1d) for (30p)]
[3. Grant use of one random skill for (10p)]
[4. Grant inspiration for a new technique for (1p)]

I sighed, finally finishing the lengthy text. "Loki, how much power would a 'Miracle Point' have?"

He shrugged. "Try causing a very small Miracle." He spread his arms. "Turn my clothes blue."

I focused on the random idea, trying to make the suit turn green by sheer force of will.

{Would you like to grant the Miracle 'Color Change' for (1m) for (1p)?}

"Well, that helps at least." I decided, glancing back over the list of possible Miracles. "It seems that it doesn't show me the options I don't have the points for. Do you know what granting 'full Priestess abilities' would do?"

He nodded. "Most Priestesses grow into their power. They start out with a, say, direct line to you, and start from there. If they were to take the full brunt of your Divine power all at once, it would likely vaporize them. I would assume that this would be temporary?"

I glanced over the list once more. "…Not necessarily." I said vaguely. "It could be permanent."

He blinked. "That would make her incredibly powerful right off the bat. She would be able to make use of some of your more powerful abilities at a reduced level, with almost no cost at all."

"I see."

I weighed my options once more, deciding against playing roulette with the two random options. And whatever 'Absolute protection' was, I wasn't sure that it would actually help all that much. It might work for a day, but then what? I clicked the first option, deciding that if I was going to do it I was going to go big.

{Miracle granted!}

I sighed, feeling my mana beginning to run low from sustaining Time Pause for so long. "All right." I muttered, dropping the ability and flopping back into my seat. "That should do it."

Loki smiled, walking back to his own seat. "Wonderful. You should be able to relax, now."

"I doubt it." I deadpanned. "I really do."


A bright light shone, scorching my retinas even through my eyelids. I cringed, knowing this was probably my death.

But no new pain arrived. Quite the opposite, really. My ribs weren't hurting anymore, and my breath came in even intervals rather than pained gasps.

"…What?" The Dragon's incredulous tone marked the end of the light, his voice sounding oddly… baffled. Like he had seen the last thing he would ever expect.

I cracked open an eye, noting the absence of any more brightness. I easily slipped out from the white Dragon's tail, turning to follow his blue-eyed gaze.

The statue of Dee was no longer stone. No, it was pure diamond, gleaming in a light from within. The eyes of the statue gleamed a brilliant gold, shining like fallen stars and bathing the dark land with its' rays. Its' hands were no longer empty, no, it held a weapon out as if offering it to anyone who might take it.

I blinked. The Dragon blinked. We turned to each other.

"So…" I began. "It looks like my god—"

"Don't. Just… don't." He growled back. "You do not want to be that guy right now."

"…Do you mind if I get that?"

He grinned cruelly. "I do, actually."

"Oh." I took a step back. "Well. Can I at least get a head start?"

"No." And with that, he lashed out at me with a wickedly sharp claw.

I turned and bolted, pouring power into my legs as I—


I stumbled back, rubbing my face. My nose made a disturbing crunching noise as I felt it snap back into place and the pain lessened. I idly noted that I had just smashed headfirst into the statue for some reason.

The Dragon paused in visible shock, now halfway across the battlefield from me. "How? That should've killed you!"

I shook off my daze, not questioning the sudden burst of speed. Instead I reached up, carefully lifting the statue's prize. The item was exquisite, a clockwork staff that was made of pure gold. It chirred and clicked, infinitesimally small gears ticking in complex patterns. I rested the pointed tip on the ground, and hand curled around the shaft by my side. Ridged grooves perfectly fit my grip, and lines of power gleamed beneath metal plates.

And with that, something clicked.

Knowledge filled my head, power I had never before used yet knew so intimately that I might as well have used it all my life. Before my wide eyes, the world itself was laid bare. It wasn't really seeing, per se, it was more like I was just observing everything at a higher level, perceiving the natural flaws in the world with a precision I never before had. The lines had no particular structure, instead looking like multicolored zigzagging scribbles all over the world, even within the air itself. They looked almost like cracks, cracks in the fragile reality before me. Even the Dragon had them, moving and shifting as his form did.

"Oh." I murmured, blinking once. "Is this how Dee sees the world?"

Because that's all these lines could possibly be. Fate, given form. I could see it now, how striking one of the black lines would shatter the rock while hitting the pink one would send it the furthest possible distance. The lines twisted and wove, incomprehensible and ever-changing. A weave of Fate, giving the world form.

As I watched, glowing numbers began to form above the places where the lines intersected. They were, I somehow knew, the representation of the real world upon itself. The air was shifting in a now-visible breeze, and the rock was being pushed by precisely sixteen point seven four five units of pressure.

"Divide!" The Dragon's voice boomed, returning me to reality.

Instantly, the world seemed… less. The Lines faded, some vanishing entirely as they lost their light. I cursed, forcing myself back to reality.

Because that tends to happen when a Dragon is hell-bent on killing you.

"Divide! Divi—"


I blinked. All the Lines had frozen, held in place by a wave of golden power. I realized with a start that the world itself had stopped, with only the ticking of the staff remaining active. But it didn't come cheap. My strength was rapidly draining, a single second almost bringing me to my knees. I released the mental catch that led to that particular ability, gasping and choking.


Oh. Right. Him.

I forced myself to move, my feet steadying me. I tensed, shifting my stance so the pointed end of the staff was handy. Then I charged, shouting a battle cry.

"Divi-AAAGH!" He roared, my golden staff suddenly sprouting from a black line in his scales. The scale had shattered like fine china, black blood spurting from the impossible wound.

I flinched back in shock, skidding almost half a mile as my impossible speed kicked in. The Dragon continued to rage, even as its' scale fixed itself and the blood disappeared.

"You fool!" He raged, eyes burning. "We cannot die here! One of us must devour the other if we wish to become the owner of this soul!"

My eyes narrowed. "What do you mean?" I called suspiciously.

"You try to become a Shade knowing only this much?" He asked incredulously. "You are either the dumbest mortal alive, or the most suicidal."

"The ritual wasn't done by choice." I explained, shifting my grip. The Lines were almost invisible, but I could get a few more hits in before I lost track.

"Hmph. You think I care?"

"I'll tell you what." I tried. "I'll answer your question if you answer mine."

"…Very well." He growled. "A Shade happens when a foolish spellcaster tries to draw power from lingering Spirits and fails to hold them back. The soul of a being is composed of one Soul, and one Spirit. A Shade is a being that bends that rule slightly. The many evil Spirits of men descend upon the Soul of the spellcaster, absorbing his Spirit and taking over his form."

"…Okay, then." I muttered, making a mental note to look up some of those terms later. "So the reason we have to fight is… because you want my Soul?"

"…Yes." He blinked. "God, I sound like a Devil."

"Yeah, you kind of do."

"…Whatever. My turn. Tell me, where did you get that power?"

I glanced at the staff in my hands. "Oh, this?" I tensed slightly, disguising my stance with my words. "I got it from Dominion, the God of Fate."

And with that, I charged.

"Well?" The Dragon boomed, casually batting aside my most recent attack. "Weren't you going to do something?" His gaze narrowed. "COME ON!" He bellowed in rage, lashing out and slicing a deep gouge in my stomach. "FIGHT! This is my first real battle in centuries, and you can only dance around like some demented bird! GIVE ME BLOOD! GIVE ME GORE! ENTERTAIN ME, LITTLE DEVIL!" His last word was punctuated with a backhand, sending me skidding back into a defensive crouch.

'I can't beat him.' I thought, a tad desperately. 'I don't have the power. I can only hurt him, and he heals back right afterwards. I could use that time freeze trick again, but I don't have the mana to sustain it. He's toying with me, and we both know it.'

The Dragon must've heard the thought, because he smiled cruelly. "Yes. I am. Because for a moment there, for a brief instant, I actually thought you were a threat."

"So why are you wanting a fight, then?" I growled helplessly. "You know I can never touch you if you actually try. You've just been beating me around for the past hour!"

"Simple really." He purred. "To prove a point. To prove to you that all you are, all you've ever been, is a little morsel for me to enjoy at my leisure. Your grandfather was just the fool who decided to sacrifice you to me. You were the one who thought herself my equal." He paused, tilting his head mockingly. "Ah, wait, sacrifice is something you should understand well, being the Priestess of a godling and all. What did you cut off to get that? Did you sell your soul? Someone else's? Half your remaining lifespan? Gods don't sell power cheap, and I'll admit, I'm curious."

I tuned out his implications, something about his words ringing a bell in my mind. Sacrifice. I needed to sacrifice something in exchange for power. A soul, Dragon said, would have to be the cost.

A soul… or perhaps, a Spirit.

"I don't know." I began, beginning to gather my strength. "Sometimes gods accept promises."

The Dragon blinked. "Oh? So you promised your grandfather's soul then, or your own once you win."

"Not my grandfather's." I stated calmly. "Not mine." I pulled the mental muscle that led to the time stop, slipping out of his scaly grip and leaping into the air. The power left me as I landed on his face, raising the pointed end of the staff. "YOURS!"

And with that, I swung the golden staff into the surprised Dragon's eye.

There was a sudden jerk—the world seeming to pause for a moment—before the Lines across the Dragon's form began to shine brighter and brighter. He tried to open his mouth to speak, raising a ridged claw to shred my stationary form… but it crumbled. White scales turned grey, the life draining from him and slowly turning the mighty Dragon into nothing more than a pile of dust.

As the dust began to flow towards the statue, I saw the dark dungeon around me slowly begin to crack, bits of light shining through. I closed my eyes, feeling my consciousness begin to slip.

Slowly, the battlefield crumbled away, and everything faded to black.


{Priestess [Valliant] has made a Sacrifice!}
[1 soul]

I blinked. 'The hell do I do with a soul?'

[Convert to 30000 Miracle Points]
[Return to Priestess as Favor]

I choked. "Holy shit. What kind of soul is worth thirty thousand Miracle Points?"

Loki blinked. "Pardon?"

"Vali just Sacrificed something." I told him absently. I hesitated for only a moment before deciding on the second option.

[Return to Priestess as Favor]

I chose the second once more. Whatever she had just killed, she needed the stat boost more than I did.

{Favor granted!}

{Priestess [Valiant]:}
{Favor: 30000}
{Devotion: MAX}
{Loyalty: MAX}

I breathed a sigh of relief, dismissing the screen. "It seems that the incident is resolved."

The god nodded, picking back up his book. "Excellent." He gave me a stern look. "Now. Tell me. Have you finished your reading?"

I turned my attention back to the thick stack of books beside me, and the rush of satisfaction I felt promptly turned to dread. "…Fuck."

I seriously considered strangling Loki as he began to laugh.

Valiant Albion

I opened my eyes, blinking up at my grandfather's excited face.

"Red eyes…" The man whispered. "I've done it! I've brought back the Heavenly Dragon!"

I casually sat up, the chains on my arms snapping like thin reeds. I wound back, swinging my hand in the same way I had within the other world. Flesh rent, blood spurted, and the man stumbled back in shock. "Not quite." I growled, slipping off the table.

"V-Valiant?" Rizevim whispered in shock, clutching the bloody stump of his arm. "How? How could the likes of you hope to match Albion himself?"

"I had a little help from my 'imaginary friend'." I mimicked Albion's cruel smile, finding it incredibly easy. He was a part of me now, just as all the other tortured Spirits within my form. "You know, the God of Fate?"

"Impossible." He dismissed, taking a step back. "I would've felt the birth of a new god, let alone one of Fate."

"Well, then." I reached out, grasping my golden staff. It fitted perfectly into my grip as I lashed out, slicing a deep gash across his chest. "Explain this."

He didn't even flinch at the new wound, finally seeming to return to reality. "Well, it doesn't matter how you managed it. This experiment is a failure." His remaining hand snapped its' fingers, and a glowing blue magic circle surrounded me. "I anticipated some manner of resistance… but to have to use lethal protocol…" He sighed, shaking his head. "It's a shame. You were such a lovely test subject, too. You developed flawless immunity to Angel blood in under a week, and I designed you to have the perfect form for combat. Such a waste of resources."

"Designed?" I asked carefully.

"Yes, of course." He smirked. "I haven't been sitting idly these past weeks, you know. The Angel blood that made you so sick was only the beginning. A certain… benefactor… of mine was able to supply me with a wide variety of substances by which I sculpted the perfect form befitting a returning Dragon. I hoped to assuage his wrath at a female form with the knowledge of its' peerless beauty, but… well, I'm afraid all my efforts will go to waste. This spell might take a moment to charge, but it's guaranteed to kill even a Heavenly Dragon."

A faint bit of knowledge surfaced, a faded remnant of Albion's bleached soul. "Oh?" I smiled, sharp teeth pressing against my lips. "Don't you know, grandfather? I'm sure you've heard."

He examined me for a moment. "…No." He eventually said. "I haven't heard. And I never will, now that the spell is ready. Skauthr."

Even as the magic circle below me began to shine, I started to laugh. "But grandfather!" I shouted in amusement. "A Shade can't be killed by magic!"

And with that, my skin turned translucent. Black lines and misty trails of blood-like power were shown to the world, my mortal form no more. An explosion of my unspent mana rocked the basement, shattering everything around me and throwing Rizevim back. The Spirits under my control rushed eagerly away, tearing me into countless pieces and rushing out in all directions. Some followed the path of least resistance and exited the basement by the dim stairwell, while others flew up, up, out through the stone ceiling and into the free air.

I felt myself swirl into a lazy spiral, Spirits travelling with ease as I began gathering them back together. I ignored the pain, beginning the long process of forcing the thousands of parts to slowly piece 'me' back into one whole.

This… would take a while.


"I'm getting tired of going zero to sixty to zero." I grumbled, flipping a page.

Kuroka sighed, glancing up from her own book. "I take it Loki sprung another surprise attack on you just to stop at the last second?"

I frowned. "No. Well, he does do that with alarming regularity, but this is something similar."

"I'm starting to think he enjoys taking the rug out from under you." She teased lightly.

I shrugged. "That might well be the case. He is the God of Mischief, after all."

"I see." Her laughter faded, and she leaned against me with a small smile. "I'm glad you're getting more comfortable with your powers. I'll be honest, I didn't really trust Loki at first, but he seems to be doing all right with you."

I shrugged. "I still have my respawn point set to… well… that night. If he stabs me in the back, I'll just return and start again." The flutter of annoying déjà vu returned, but I ignored it. It was probably just my imagination.

Kuroka scowled at me. "I wish you'd stop thinking like that. I don't like you thinking of dying as acceptable. What if your ability just stops working one day?"

"Then I'll know." I replied simply. "I've been putting more and more effort into refining God's Eyes, and even if they failed, Instinct would still warn me."

She sighed, changing the subject. "Didn't you say you got some new skills from learning to use Miracles?"

I nodded, internally wincing. I had… carefully avoided… mentioning exactly why I had learned to use Miracles.

(I most definitely did not see the word 'yandere' in Kuroka's status. Nope. That never happened.)

"Yes. Several, actually." I scratched my chin absently. Kuroka's ears were tickling me. "I asked Loki about them, but he only knew what a few were. 'Server Connect' is likely a way to return to the midpoint between us and the Root, whatever that is."

"Why would you want to do that?"

I shrugged. "Well, do you remember what I told you about the Pantheon thing?"

She nodded hesitantly, ears brushing my jawline. "Yeah, I think so. Something about how every religion has a source called a 'System', and that sometimes multiple gods can draw from the same System."

"Exactly." I confirmed. "Well, Loki thinks that my Eyes automatically followed the path of power into my System. What it interpreted as 'servers' might've been other gods' Domains. See, Gods of Fate have traditionally been allowed into different realms due to their peaceful nature…"

"…And you think you might've reached one by accident." She finished for me.

I nodded mutely. "It's my best theory. I don't know which one I reached, but I think it's something close to the God of Dreams. Rin hinted at the Author being something like that, and if our Pantheon is following the central idea of dreams…" I shrugged uncomfortably. "I'm fairly sure that the other 'server' is likely the God of Nightmares. I couldn't be sure, though. Loki says that every Pantheon is different, and ours might be completely unrelated to dreams."

"Hm." The catgirl yawned, snuggling into my chest. It's at times like this that I almost forget her… possessive… tendencies. "And what about the other skills?"

I smiled down at her, raising a hand and beginning to stroke her silky black hair. Her ears were soft beneath my hands, and she soon began to purr. "The others were 'Power of Belief' and 'Marble Phantasm'. Loki thinks that they both have some sort of relation to my Miracles, since they came directly after I learned to use them."

"Was that it, then?" She asked absently, leaning into my hand.

I frowned. "Well, there was one other one that Loki couldn't explain. It was… 'Connection to the Root', I think, and he thinks it's something unique to my Pantheon. I couldn't grant Miracles until I connected to the Root, so it might be the source of our power or something."

"The source of your power?" She asked in surprise, her purring stopping abruptly. "What could it be?"

I shrugged. "I really don't know. The Author never explained, and Rin refuses to tell me when I ask. My Sight goes blank whenever I try to See it, and I can't seem to reach it by any other methods. I'm planning on activating the skill later under controlled circumstances, just to be sure it's nothing too dangerous."

"Why later?"

I frowned at her. "Because you seem to be enjoying using me as a pillow."

She froze. "Um… sorry?"

I shook my head. "It's fine. I'm used to it. I have all the time in the world right now, so do what you want."

She relaxed, settling back down. "So… if you have free time right now, then why not try it now?"

I raised an eyebrow. "Are you sure you want me to? It might have some dangerous side-effects."

She waved me off. "Please. If I protect myself with Senjutsu, none of your God-based abilities can touch me. Plus Loki taught you all those barriers that you could use, if you're really that paranoid."

I considered for a moment more, then sighed. "…All right. I guess it would be best if I had someone to watch in case something goes wrong."

"Good!" The Nekoshou straightened, seeming almost smug. "Get to it, then."

I settled carefully on the ground some ways away and cast multiple shield spells around me, just in case it had some sort of backlash during activation. I glanced at Kuroka, who was prepared to hit me with a spear of Hellfire if anything went wrong. "Ready?"

She nodded once.

I took a deep breath, closing my eyes. "Connection to the Root."

In the next instant, the world changed. Suddenly my own eyes weren't enough to fully see, and my own form wasn't enough to truly experience the world around me. I wasn't sitting still anymore, I was flying, being tugged along by some force. I quickly stopped being in a single place, and suddenly the force pulled me in every direction at once.

The things that it showed me were not something a human mind was made to understand. It was just too vast, alien, strange, unnatural, yet it was more than natural. It was how the World viewed everything. Good or evil, right or wrong, live or dead, ancient or new, it was all equal to the Root. It was like… looking through a kaleidoscope. Every time it showed something, it was new and different, every vision different in perspective and size. Not the best or most accurate analogy, but you get the idea. Even now I can't fully make heads or tails out of it.

What I knew was that I saw and knew everything. I knew how many people there were, how many animals, how many insects, ants, spiders and other critters crawled on and under the surface of the earth. I saw the cavers, the creeks, number of gems, metals, and minerals in the soil. The planets, the stars, asteroids, meteors and space itself, it gave me information about them. I was even able to see the core of the sun and stars themselves, see what the gas giants looked like inside, feel the comets as they blazed past solar systems in a second and even feel the tiniest dust particles and feel the void between the systems themselves.

My lungs were solar winds. My eyes were the stars themselves. My skin was the vastness of space, my breath the heat of galaxies. I dared not speak, for fear of destroying the careful balance I saw. I dared not think, for fear of causing some cosmic disaster. The things I saw, the worlds I experienced, they never should've been seen by the likes of me. They never should've been heard by mortal ears, seen by mortal eyes. And yet, somehow, they were.

There was just too much. So much that, even if it was recorded into my [Infinite Archive] and broken down into understandable chunks by [Unforbidden Concepts], the sheer amount of information was just too much for my brain to handle. The Root didn't just start everything, it was everything. The beginning, the middle, and the end. Past, present, and future.

It was for only a moment that I glimpsed that terrible sight, yet it scorched my very soul. My mind, once as human as I could make it, warped and twisted under the sheer information the Root provided. For that brief instant, I knew everything. I was everything. I breathed air from billions of lungs, all the while being the air in my lungs. Time was meaningless, space only a concept a fool designed. I was everywhere, in everything, yet absolutely nowhere at the same time.

In that instant, I truly feared for the first time.

Blinded by pain, screaming in agony, my soul tore itself away from the beautiful monstrosity of everything. I pulled away, leaving behind the damaged part of myself, a warped mockery of what I had entered with. I inhaled, sweet air filling my lungs and clearing my mind.

Then I opened my stinging eyes, seeing only what was before me as if for the first time. It was… less. The colors less crisp, the lines blurred. The limited vision of a mortal. But I didn't care. If that was omnipotence, then I would stay ignorant for the rest of time.

'King, I don't know what you did, but whoever this new guy is, he's creeping me the fuck out.'

'New guy?' I asked tiredly, blinking as I vaguely recognized Kuroka's concerned face.

'Yeah, the blank-looking guy who's staring off into space. I swear his eyes are staring into my soul, though. It's really creepy.'

"I think I just accidentally created a new Aspect." I told Kuroka with a wry smile. "And he's apparently creeping out my other Aspect."

"Are you all right?" She asked, worry clear on her face.

I hesitated. "I… don't know." I shook my head. "No, more like I don't remember. I refuse to remember. That's probably what formed the new Aspect. I can't…" I hesitated, trying to explain. "Loki once quoted his father when he was trying to explain why so few gods had omnipotence. He said that 'You can either know the nature of the universe or influence it. To know everything is to lose the will to change.' Honestly I wouldn't have touched the Root if I had known… that… would happen."

Kuroka frowned. "Um… Dee? Are you okay? You seem a bit…"

"I'm fine." I mumbled, stumbling to my feet. "I'll be fine."

{System restart in progress…}

I exhaled in relief. Slowly the comforting balm of the Wendigo's Curse settled around my mind, my fears and worries blowing away like smoke in a cool breeze. I was fine. Now that I knew what I was doing, I could make sure I never made that mistake again. This was a learning experience, to be sure, but nothing too bad. I survived with life and limb intact, so I could take my time and reconstruct what had been broken. I would survive.

{System restart complete.}

{Wendigo's Curse has reactivated.}

{Wendigo's Curse had negated status effect 'Distortion (Severe)'.}

{Wendigo's Curse has negated status effect 'Shellshock (Severe)'}

{Wendigo's Curse has negated status effect 'Mental Burnout (Severe)'}

{Skill 'Connection to the Root' has been permanently locked.}

{Skill 'Power of Belief' has been permanently locked.}


I closed my eyes, ignoring the scrolling notifications. 'Instinct? You alive in there?'

'Uh, yeah? What the hell just happened? I was minding my own business and trying to sort out some old memories when this thing happened. Then I wake up with this glowing golden dude in front of me with eyes like mini solar systems and start feeling creeped out because he HAS NOT BLINKED. EVER.'

I winced. 'Sorry about that. I tested out a new skill and didn't know what would happen. Do you think that new guy can hear us?'

'He never responds when I try to talk to him, so I don't know.' The Aspect reported irritably. 'Do you mind if I shove him in a corner somewhere? He's really creeping me out.'

'Sure, whatever.' I shook my head, sighing. "I think I need a nap."

A distant ringing noise gave us pause, preventing the catgirl from commenting.

"Who could that be?" I muttered, confused.

Kuroka stood, rubbing her eyes and assuming a more serious expression. "Will we need to fight?"

I shook my head, rising as well. My Sight refused to work, my aching head unable to focus enough to See ahead. "Shouldn't need to. We're technically living on Chronos's territory, and I claimed his land rights when I killed him. We're legally sound and we don't need to pay any taxes. It's more likely that someone just got lost and needs directions."

She relaxed slightly, nodding sheepishly. "Yeah, that makes more sense. Sorry."

I shrugged. "Doesn't matter." The bell rang again, making me sigh. "Well, we'd better go check on it."

She followed as I slipped down the stairs. It wasn't long before we stood before the large front doors, the most recent ring still echoing through the atrium. I pulled open one of the doors, tensing in case the person on the other side was hostile. The sight of a familiar face, however, made me pause.

Snow-white hair, stretching to her waist. Pale skin, matched with her small stature to make her look like a small doll. Perfect features, sharp and defined save for the smooth cheekbones. Blood red eyes shyly looking up at me. Stark naked, but that didn't—

Wait. Blood red? That was different, at least. No matter.

I tilted my head. "Vali? What are you doing here?"

She perked up, eyes gleaming with excitement. "Dee!" She paused, taking a deep breath and schooling her features. "I-I am here to apply for the position of maid." She told me formally, flushing.

Kuroka continued to stare at the doll-like girl. "Dee? Who's this?"

I sighed. "Right. I never… Valiant, this is Kuroka. Kuroka, this is Valiant, my priestess."

(Priestess of Fate)
[Valiant Albion]
{Race: Shade}
[Lv. 900]
{Status: Charmed (Severe)}

'Holy shit.' I thought in shock. 'Nine hundred? Shade? What the hell happened?'

'She might've absorbed that soul from before.'Instinct offered.

I nodded to myself, finishing my inspection. "So… what brings you here?"

She smiled. "I came to be your maid, like you asked me to!"

I felt Kuroka's gaze burn into the doll-like girl and I sighed. "All right. Do you have a uniform?"

She proudly held up a blood-soaked uniform. "Right here!"

I didn't react to the blood, instead mentally calculating how many wash cycles it would take to get it out. "I see. Well, I can't really pay you right now…"

"I don't care." She said forcefully. "I want to be your maid!"

Kuroka's glare intensified. Valiant seemed clueless, determinedly staring at me with red eyes. I had to choke down my laughter at the sight. "All right. Come on in."

She beamed, slipping through the doors. I led the two up flights of stairs and into the library, where Rin was usually found on break days. Kuroka's burning gaze was set firmly on the pearl-haired girl who was shyly following in my shadow. I sighed quietly, spotting the little Grimoire curled into a beanbag and sketching something on her glass pane. "Rin!"

She looked up, jumping slightly. "Master?"

"Rin, this is Valiant. She'll be a maid here from now on." I introduced.

The girl perked up, rushing over to throw her arms around Valiant. "Hi Vali, I'm Rin! I love drawing and eating Master's cooking!"

Kuroka's glare intensified at the sight of the cheerful reception Valiant was getting. I activated my Senjutsu, glancing at her and activating God's Eyes.

[Empathy Check: Pass {130/21}]

Kuroka is currently angry at the home-wrecking whore.

I winced. 'Ouch. Methinks those two need some time to talk things out.'

"Hey, Rin, would you like to go start dinner with me?" I asked pointedly, stepping back.

The little girl beamed, bouncing over. "Sure! Let's go!"

I turned to Kuroka. "Would you mind teaching Vali the ropes, then?"

She smiled, a dark aura forming around her. "It would be my pleasure." She purred.

I nodded, leaning close. "Don't hurt her, okay? She's been through a lot." I murmured, careful to keep my voice low.

The Nekoshou nodded imperceptibly, still wearing her unsettling smile. I left with Rin still buzzing with excitement. As soon as the door to the library shut, however, she spoke. "That was smart."

I shrugged, beginning my walk to the kitchen. "I don't know what you're talking about. I just went with the flow without questioning too much."

The Grimoire rolled her eyes. "That was the kind of move Father would've made. You forbade her from harming Vali, which meant she had to have a 'talk' with her instead."

I eyed her. "You're more perceptive than you look, huh?"

"Yep!" She chirped. "How do you think Kuro-nee and I survived as long as we did?"

I chuckled, saying nothing as we reached the base of the steps. I headed over to the fridge, pulling out a few random items while looking through to see if there were any leftovers.

"I'm kinda surprised you left those two alone, though." She continued. "Normally you'd at least stay close to make sure Kuro-nee didn't snap."

"I have my reasons. Important ones." I told her seriously.

(I most definitely did not see the word 'yandere' in Kuroka's status. No, I'm not in denial. You're in denial.)

"Okay. I trust you." The Grimoire told me.

I smiled, finding my prize and pulling out a pizza crust. Rin spotted it and cheered, rushing over to the freezer to grab the cheese and pepperoni. "Yaaay! I get to make pizza!"

'For all her intelligence, she really is just a little girl.' I thought fondly.

Valiant Albion

As soon as Dee left the room, both of our expressions slipped. Kuroka's tail lashed, her expression more a sugar-sweet promise of murder than a smile. I didn't doubt that my own smile could scare small children, not that my apparently blood-red eyes helped much.

"So." The black-haired girl purred, tilting her head. "Let's talk."

I sighed, knowing where this was going. "You're his girlfriend, aren't you?"

She froze, a blush dying her cheeks a bright red. "F-fiancé, actually."

I paled. If the Spirits' memories had taught me anything, it was that the Underworld took engagements very seriously. As in, 'I will rip you to shreds' seriously. "I don't want to be a wife." I blurted. "I'll be a mistress."

The cat-eared girl blinked, mouth falling open. I shifted in the uncomfortable silence for a moment or two, only to jump as she spoke. "…Really? Just like that?"

Albion's instincts rumbled jealously, but I stamped them down. "Dee wants you." I said firmly. "I'm just his maid. If he wants more, I'll be happy to give him more. But until then, I'll just be happy with what I have."

She stared at me for a moment, making me flush slightly from the intensity of her gaze. "W-what?" I mumbled, brushing my hair behind my ear self-consciously.

"Oh, nothing." She gave me a softer, gentler smile. "You just… reminded me of someone, that's all." She reached out, ruffling my hair. "If you're going to stay here… then feel free to call me Onee-sama or Kuro-nee. I'd prefer not to fight you if possible."

I shook my head seriously. "I would never. I just want to be his maid, that's all."

"Of course." She agreed. Then, after a moment, she spoke with an odd tone in her voice. "…Out of curiosity, how would you feel if some other hussy tried to take him?"

I blinked. "…What's a hussy?"

She gave me a pitying look. "It's a term for a demanding, self-centered, hateful bitch with no morals who only wants to use others for her own gain.

My chest burned, and I felt my lips curl into a dangerous smile. The idea of having Dee led along by some self-serving monster like father did with mother… "I would tear her apart." I growled. "Piece by fucking piece."

Her answering smile both made chills run down my spine and promised an incredible friendship. "Well… I have a few tips if you'd care to hear them…"

I listened in wide-eyed fascination as the elder girl began instructing me on the most efficient way to use a safety pin. This definitely seemed like the kind of thing maids did for their masters.



By the time Rin finished the pizza and I had stuck it in the oven, Kuroka was leading a blushing Vali downstairs by the hand with a wide smile on her face.

I Scryed her, just to be sure.

(Priestess of Fate)
[Valiant Albion]
{Race: Shade}
[Lv. 900]
{Status: Yandere (Mild)}

I paled. 'Oh God, they're multiplying.'

"All right, she's all set!" Kuroka chirped brightly.

"Great." I muttered, gesturing vaguely towards the pizza. "Dinner's on, I guess."

A better man would've dealt with the issue. A smarter man definitely would've. But I was still exhausted from my earlier foray into the vastness of the conceivable universe, so I let it be.

"So…" I began instead, tilting my head. "You're a Shade now."

Vali paused, lowering her piece pizza. "…Yes. Is that a problem?"

I gave her a once-over. "Well considering your hair isn't red and you don't look like a pile of rotting flesh, I can safely assume that you're still you. I just wanted to know what happened."

She considered for a moment. "…Let's just say that my grandfather is a jackass."

"Huh." I took a bite of my own piece, deciding not to press that particular issue. "You're lucky. Many Shades have been formed through the ages, but most Shades self-destruct shortly after creation. Shades that survive the volatile natures of their formation are rare."

She grimaced. "…I see. I think I can understand how they might blow up. The host form can only hold so much strain before bursting, after all."

I tilted my head. "…Out of curiosity, how many of you are there?"

Vali shrugged. "I honestly don't know. I only managed to win by killing off the main three and letting Albion level the place."

I blinked. "That doesn't sound good."

"It really wasn't." She shuddered slightly. "I… well, it was a complicated thing. Lots of blood and demon guts."

Rin raised a hand. "Question! Did you eat any of said demon guts? And if so, how did they taste?"

I choked. Kuroka facepalmed. Vali looked confused. "Um… I tasted a bit of their blood, I guess… and it tasted acrid. Why?"

"I'm doing a study!" The Grimoire chirped cheerily. "I'm making a guide to literally anything that's able to be eaten, for future generations of—"

"Rin." Kuroka hissed. "Please."

The Grimoire pouted. "Fiiine."

I finished my last bite, sighing and shaking my head. "Well… for better or worse… welcome to our crazy home." I reached out, ruffling the doll-like girl's hair.

Vali's eyes widened, and her cheeks flushed a light pink. But her smile was bright enough to light the room, red eyes shining with unshed tears.



Aaaand, that's it. It might not be the best, but it's what I have. Truth be told it's a pretty huge chapter for this fic, but I didn't want to give you guys a cliffhanger after such a long wait. I might post again soon, but I'm a bit busy catching up on some of the things I missed while I was on my work craze.

Side note, did you know that Hellsing Abridged finally finished?

I'm… not sure how I feel about that.

Anyway. I hope you liked the chapter, and thanks for your time!



Millicas is strong, yes, but he's still bound by time. Only a few select beings can escape the 'reboot', and I'd prefer to keep those cards close to my chest for now.


Look. Buddy. If you don't like it, don't read it. It's not an orgy, and it's not even a harem yet. Give it time, and I'll show you where this is going. Judging an entire storyline by a few lines of text is hardly the way to go. Wait and see, or look elsewhere.


Rin isn't bi, or a harem member. That will be a future plot point, but not for a while.


Thank you very much for your glowing review. After seeing a bunch of baseless ranting about my apparent lack of any redeeming qualities, your simple review meant a lot. So thanks, man.

Hashirama 1710:

Heh. I'm glad you liked it. I've always wanted to write a story from two perspectives at once, and I figured I might as well crank it up to eleven while I'm at it. As a certain AI once put it, "Everyone creates the thing they dread. Men of peace create engines of war… and invaders create Avengers."


Thank you for you concern, and I hope your kindness is repaid through an act of random anime karma. Let the foxgirls be with you.

I believe Dee is ten at the same time Millicas is six, if that helps any. Rin is physically two years younger than Dee and Kuroka, due to Kuroka's desire for a little sister, so… um…

Issei is one to two years older than Millicas, Millicas is age six, so Issei is seven or eight… Rin is eight… so I think Dee is ten while Issei is eight. I hope that helps some.

As for the rest, you shall have to wait and see :).

Guest 2:

*Evil grin.* Issei with a harem of Grimoire girls? Psssh… that would just be ridiculous. Sairaorg should get at least one, right?


Next chapter, man. Next chapter. The fox girl shall rise!


No civilians were harmed in the making of this chapter.

I think.

Dammit, I think she learned how to mind-wipe me. I'll get back to you on that.


In the vision, Dee wasn't the one Rin was with. He was seeing the future of his precious people, not just his future waifus.


Same universe. The idea here is that Dee and Millicas created one another through their desire to bend the world to their whims. The Balance will always prevail, even if it has to create a paradox to do it.

prof. fukin' oak:

First, 11/10 on the name. Kudos to you.

Second, Rin's awakening sparked the conception of their own interfaces. They're not Grimoires quite yet, but if you'll recall, even Books are somewhat self-aware. If they're ever given a host and enough mana to grow, they will awaken, but for now they're just the half-formed thoughts of an inanimate object.


Apparently having a protagonist that literally hunts down and eats other people qualifies as 'dull, spineless, and boring'. If this were Tokyo Ghoul I'd agree, but Dee actually had to work to get his shit together.

And no, this is not a SI story. Neither is UtV. If I ever write a SI, I will make it known that it is a SI. End of story.


Thanks, man. Really. I usually delete blatant flames like that guy's, but I'm glad someone else cares enough to defend my story from trolls. World-building is a delicate art, especially when you're only uploading one chapter at a time. You get plenty of people who judge the half-formed characters before they even get the chance to form, leading to that kind of rampant flaming.

And no worries about the tone, really. You took the time out of your day to write the review, so I'm not going to judge how it sounds.

Have a nice day!

Guest (Smith guy):

Why yes, yes it was. I'm glad you caught that, I figured it might've been too subtle.

_ _ _ _ _ _
lI'm alive.|

I am terrible at making text signs, lol.

But yeah, thanks for the concern. I'm a bit wiped, but otherwise all right. I hope you like the chapter!