His time in the ring was not something Pit was happy to revisit. Sure, the eternal darkness and bleep on his consciousness were a big deal, more so when he added into the fact that his dark double was just as useless to the world, but it so happened that his body without all his angelic-ness, went rampant, and though Palutena would obstinately refuse him a number, he knew he killed and killed a lot. Underworld monsters were dark clouds given forms; what he had done was mutilate beings with souls and sent them adrift long before their time.
Suffice it to say, Pit hated himself for that.
He tried not to think about it, and maybe Palutena helped on that front, because he rarely ever did. He thought of it as a sort of double-edged sword: On one hand, he wasn't tortured by the guilt, but on the other hand, did he deserve to be guiltless? Palutena said he did ("It was your body, but not your spirit. You yourself would never harm humans.") and Viridi seconded it ("Those stupid humans would've killed themselves anyway—they should be glad they had a divine warrior do it for them!") but things…didn't…sit right with him to this day.
"We're coming in on the city now," said his goddess as she guided him over the bleak mountainside.
"Alright, but, Lady Palutena…"
"You still didn't tell me where we're going," he said, finally voicing his worries from the last dozens of miles. He wrung his hands around his staff anxiously as he pressed on: "I mean, I trust you and all, but I don't get why you wouldn't say." Her silence was even more nerve-wracking. "Lady Palutena?"
"It's the city you found your body in a while ago," she finally answered tonelessly. His heart sank all the way back down to earth, and if she hadn't been controlling his flight path for him, he would've plummeted right alongside it. "Pit, it'll be okay, I promise," she said, but the tremor in her voice was not too reassuring.
"I'm still going," he said firmly. She hesitated. "Whether they like me or not, I'm not gonna let them get killed by Hades' troops. I wouldn't be able to sleep if I did."
"That's my angel," she said proudly. "Now, there's nothing down there that you aren't used to, but in case something happens, I have the Centurions on call. The city is coming up now." As she said so, he saw the city come into view, Phils flapping about high enough for him to discern immediately. However, with a few shots from his bow, they were returned to the dark.
"I've got it from here, my lady!"
"May the heavens be with you, Pit." The power of flight upped tenfold, doubling his speed until he was whirling with wind drying his eyeballs out. He slowed as he reached the rocky outskirts of the city and felt his wings shrink back to their usual size before he touched down against the ground. He noticed a few Belunkas swimming sluggishly in the air above the city and decided that they needed to be taken out first, but he couldn't hit them from his distance. He started off in a trot, wings tucked tight against the arches of his shoulder blades.
There wasn't much he couldn't handle, as Palutena said—Miks, Monoeyes, some Boogitys, a handful of Octos, one really ugly Monomiknose—but the real kicker came as he shuffled into the larger midtown area that he found Magnus in. A quivering skull bound by heavy blue chains resided there, shuddering and snapping a link every few seconds. He sighed, decided he better get it over with now, and with a few shots of his arrows, the Clubberskull emerged.
"I'm gonna clubber you! Oh, well, I meant clobber, but…you get the point!" Not that the soon-to-be-clobbered Clubberskulls ever understood Pit's witty banter, which was a damn shame in his book. (Viridi never appreciated it either, but she was Viridi; if her naming scheme for her creatures was anything to go by, she didn't much understand humor…or common sense. Not that Pit would ever say it to her face and risk death by dandelions or something.)
He took to the air as the Clubberskull struck down with a heavy fist where he was standing. With a jump, Pit was high above its head, and spreading his wings, he slowed his descent to charge a focused shot at its eye. It let out a pained roar and staggered forward, bringing down another fist as he approached the ground. He snapped his wings in and dodged to the side, but the ensuing shockwave from the attack caused him to stumble, and before he could recover the Clubberskull knocked his bow from his hand and sent it flying across the street. Distracted by the sight, the Clubberskull's next punch landed him on the other side of the avenue and into a large fountain, where his head greeted the metal spout.
"'m fine," he mumbled, righting his laurel crown as the dented pipe showered him. Once his double vision wore off, he saw the Clubberskull making a drunken circle before its eye focused on him once more. It charged, but by that time Pit was back on his feet and quickly in the air, gliding over its head and doing a somersault before he touched down behind it. He ran forward, dropping into a skid as the Clubberskull caught up and swung, and fell to his belly to grab his bow—also, the ripe yellow pear that appeared next to it. Even though I like chocolate better. Palutena sighed.
"Seriously Pit, one day you'll turn into a chocolate bar yourself with all this junk you eat."
"I mean, I've been turned into a piece of tempura often enough—at least I'll be something I like to eat." He drew and held an arrow as the Clubberskull turned, then let it fly to its eye. It roared in pain and came up short, allowing him to release a stream of arrows without pause. Doing so drained a fair bit of his energy, but by the time he finished, the monster had burst into Hearts. And bloody entrails, but yeah.
"Ick! I'm gonna be soaking in hot springs for a week to get the Underworld stink off!" he complained, returning to the fountain to douse himself. Palutena's chuckles echoed in the back of his mind as he cleaned himself off as best he could. When he was done, he took up his bow and jumped back into the fray.
"You're doing very well," Palutena said as he quickly took down an Eggplant Wizard. "It looks like you'll be back at the temple before the sun sets."
"I hope so! I have one more zone of Sonic Mania to beat."
"Ah… We don't talk about that game. It's not property of Nintendo like you and me. Sonic is sort of…the black sheep of the family."
"But…he's not a black sheep. He's a blue hedgehog."
"You're so cute, Pit."
"Uh…thanks?" He made his way to the center of the city, trying to keep his eyes forward as surroundings became increasingly familiar. Sure, they were a bit revamped from the last time, but he still remembered the buildings perfectly, both through the dog's eyes and through Magnus's. It made him slightly nervous, like the Chaos Kin would return and transform him again. It was a silly fear to have, sure, but he'd be lying if he said the incident still didn't unnerve him. "Lady Palutena," he spoke up over the uncomfortable tangle of his thoughts. "Which of Hades' creations is at the center? Twinbellows? The Hewdraw? A dissatisfied intern?"
"I have no real idea, but the evil has reached me even in the heavens." She paused for a moment and Pit knew she was biting her lip, something she did only when she was truly at a loss. It didn't exactly strike courage into him. "Whatever Hades has released here, it is on a different level than his other monsters."
"Like…level two?" At this point he was making jokes to console himself, and he was sure Lady Palutena could tell. She may have responded, but he was abruptly caught off-guard by a chill running down his spine, one that made his feathers stand on end. His base instincts wanted to beat a (tactical) retreat, but his intent to do good forced his feet ahead. The Underworld's Army thinned to a few Nettlers here and there, and those became even weaker as the streets widened into the plaza. All he saw were empty buildings and empty streets all around. "Lady Palutena…where are the people? They weren't…"
"They weren't all killed," she said quickly. "They're only hiding. The monsters' appearance had them quite terrified. And not only that…I think they also sense something is wrong, if only instinctually."
"I see…" He realized he was drawing closer to the amphitheater where he fought Twinbellows and swallowed. The unsettling feeling grew stronger the closer he got—it didn't take a genius to know where the source had to be. On the other hand, he was certain he didn't want to know what the source was.
"I am right behind you, Pit. —Well, not literally, but I think you get the picture."
Her voice soothed him and he straightened his shoulders as he came face-to-face with the amphitheater's doors. He took a deep breath and stepped backwards to give himself a running start, his foot lifting to kick the heavy doors open.
Pit didn't know what had happened at first, only that his world had dissolved into murky streams of color and his stomach had somehow switched places with his brain. He dragged himself from the ground with a pained moan and raised his eyes to the street. The first thing he saw was a sizable chunk of wood, then he saw several more chunks, and after a moment he realized they came from the doors—or were the doors. And standing in the doors' place was Twinbellows, looking very much worse for wear.
There were no big plumes of fire following him this time, just his skinnier than normal body and snapping heads with thick ropes of grey saliva dripping between its teeth. As he watched, the saliva darkened to a sickly greenish-black, pooling like tar on the pavement. Pit shuddered at the sight.
"That…is not…normal." One set of eyes landed on him and that head started growling, catching the attention of the other. It leapt forward, its gait unsteady, and Pit regained his wits and rolled away at the last second. It hit the ground with a slide and spun around just as he got to his feet, both hands clenched around his staff.
"Keep your wits about you, Pit."
"Gotcha. I'm cool as a cucumb—hothothot!" he wailed when Twinbellows breathed a wild stream of ash-grey fire at him that he barely managed to duck away from. He hopped from one foot to the other as he pinched away the smoldering tips of his under feathers. "Jeez, guess that hasn't changed…"
Twinbellows growled and changed its stance. Pit noticed its legs were shaky and pressed on to his advantage. He dashed forward, then lifted his feet to drop into a quicker glide, cocking his bow and firing a rapid stream of shining arrows to its right ankles. It howled mournfully when its right knees buckled. It spewed dual streams of fire as it fell. Pit caught an updraft that sent him several dozen feet in the air before tucking his wings in and angling his body downwards. As he drew closer to Twinbellows' furry belly, he snapped his bow apart and aimed the swords at flesh. The blades drove deep through its skin and muscle with his weight behind it. He held the position for a few seconds before he was sprayed with that black liquid from the wounds.
"Gross!" he cried, yanking his blades as hard as he could, but they were stuck as the goo solidified, also pasting his hands to the handles. It didn't truly bother him though, not until the stuff created a tingling sensation where it touched his skin, which soon escalated into severe pins and needles. "H-Hey, Lady Palutena!" he called as Twinbellows began to stir.
"Something is wrong… My powers can't reach you," she said, her voice clipping in and out of his hearing. "Moreover, this residue shouldn't be, not if Twinbellows is sustaining itself with Hearts. Hades, what are you doing…?"
Twinbellows abruptly rolled to its feet, leaving Pit dangling from its chest by his glued-on swords. It shook itself with dual whines before dashing forward, leaving him flailing helplessly from its movements. His fingers went numb around the handles and he realized the sticky tar substance was the only thing keeping him from becoming a skid mark on the street.
Swinging his feet to gain momentum, he planted them on Twinbellows' belly and flapped his wings as hard as he could. The goop started separating with a series of gross squelching noises, although the numbness didn't abate and worsened if anything. His left hand popped free just in time for Twinbellows to stop, the momentum loosening his other hand and launching him into an highspeed somersault that he couldn't fly his way out of. (Outside of Palutena's power, he was useless with tight maneuvers.) The world whirred by in a field of color for a couple seconds, then he was acutely aware of his left palm hitting the ground, sending bolts of white-hot pain up to his shoulder. He gasped and rolled over as his blades clattered beside him, cradling his broken arm to his chest.
"F-Fine, I'm fine," he said through his teeth, although he felt anything but. Twinbellows seemed to have moved on from him—and right to the many buildings in the district. It still left a trail of black sludge as it stalked around and spat a broken rhythm of fireballs to its side, setting the stone ablaze. Not hearing any screams, Pit supposed the humans had long abandoned the area, but if it kept moving further into the city…
He rolled to his knees and flexed his wings, fumbling to reattach his swords with only one hand. There was a burst of golden light above his head, then a magenta urn clattered in front of him, wobbling and splashing drops of golden liquid inches from his feet. "You need to drink this before you go any further," she said sternly.
He reached for the nectar, but his fingers still weren't cooperating, and he toppled the urn over instead. The liquid spilled over the pavement and his feet, hissing and steaming where it met Twinbellows' residue. He lost his balance and fell forward into the drink. It scalded his skin and he leapt back as quick as he could, but as he watched, the goo left on him was steamed back into a liquid, sliding to the ground. It helped the numbness a little, but it freed his movements, even if he still had just one hand to work with.
"Thanks, Lady Palutena," he murmured, pushing himself up. She made a displeased noise as he went for his bow.
"I want to extract you right now. You're badly hurt, and we still have no clue what you're really up against. Just being near Twinbellows weakens our link; it'll eventually break, and you won't even have a chance of being pulled back to Skyworld."
"I don't run from a battle, especially when there are lives in danger. I'll come back alive," he said, breaking into a run. Twinbellows had already progressed far into the city, a trail of stomped and burnt buildings in its wake.
"Pit, no, you can die out there." She said it quietly, but it struck him as if she was shouting. He stopped cold and stared at the wreckage in the distance. "…I'm pulling you out."
"N-No!" A beam of light shone down from Skyworld, capturing him and spreading his wings without his assent. He was quickly dragged from the earth outside of his power. "No! Stop!" The city continued shrinking below him, but it wasn't until he heard a scream—a human's scream—that he got a fresh burst of adrenaline. His wings ceased flapping and he dropped a few feet before thrusting himself forward and from Skyworld's grasp. At the same time, he seized the fibula on his shoulder and tossed it down to earth. Palutena's protests were cut off and so was he.
I'm sorry, he thought even though she could no longer hear him. A gust of wind kept him aloft and he rode it to where the scream originated from.
Twinbellows had progressed to where the large commercial buildings condensed into clean lines of one-storied houses. One such house was trampled under its front paw. Pit saw a person trapped under the rubble. Twinbellows growled and one snapping head leaned towards them—
With a drop-kick worthy of Dark Pit, he slammed the head away and caused Twinbellows to stumble to the side. The action cut his momentum and he hit the ground hard, but his adrenaline allowed him to push any injures aside as he rushed to the human's side. It was a young woman with long black hair, and her left leg was buried under a mass of broken stones. Her eyes were wide and glassy from shock as she looked at Pit. He gave a reassuring smile.
"Don't worry! I'm Pit, servant to the Goddess of Light, and I'm here to help."
He started pushing away the rocks and using his blades to cut through the larger ones. She was free in less than a minute, and the first thing she did was scream again. The sound threw him off guard and he stumbled backwards as she made to scramble away, but her leg was heavily bruised and paper-white from lack of blood flow. Once the shock wore off, he moved towards her, however she screamed again and threw her hands up protectively. As if he was the one to be feared in that situation. He hated to admit it, but it was a bit annoying, and he had to help her before Twinbellows came back around.
"Look, ma'am, I—"
He saw it, he finally saw it. The left shoulder of her toga slipped down to reveal a nasty scar crossing from her upper arm to her chest. It only took half a second to recognize the depth pattern and movement of the cut—he inflicted hundreds just like it on the training dummies in Skyworld.
That scar had been wrought by his own hands.
Only the sound of Twinbellows' roaring brought him back to the present moment. If not for that, he would have been lost in the nightmares brewing in his mind. He spun around to see Twinbellows preparing to breathe a stream of fire across a yet untouched neighborhood, and even from a distance, Pit could see the humans rushing to escape its range. He didn't need his brain to think it through thankfully; he got a running start and notched three arrows in his bow that fired and sunk deep into Twinbellows' right head. It slammed into the other head and they fired wide in confusion, giving Pit enough time to jump ahead and slash at its faces. Its paw came up before he could move, crashing into him and slamming him to the ground. Pain zapped through his spine into the rest of his limbs but he fought past it to wiggle free, launching a quick stream of arrows into its front legs. The humans finally had time to escape the danger zone before it fell forward into the buildings ahead, throwing up a cloud of dust and rock fragments.
"Okay…okay…" He took a moment to catch his breath, his arm burning worse than ever and his head spinning like a merry-go-round. He saw Twinbellows stirring and, steeling himself, rode the next gust at high speed, slashing at its hide every which way until it reeked of that black goo. No, seriously, that stuff smelled like Hades' armpits, if Pit could imagine what they smelled like. When he was certain it wouldn't be getting up again, he pulled up short and slowly lowered himself to the ground. As soon as his feet touched the earth, someone roughly grabbed the bow and yanked it from his grip. He was dimly aware of it hitting the ground a distance away before a fist collided with his face, sending him down along with it.
"Damn angel! Now you have Hades' demons doing your work for you?" His head was swimming but he recognized a man's voice. He slowly raised his eyes to see a guy about Magnus' age, his clothes awry and dirty with a severe gash on his cheek dripping down his face. His expression was livid and his knuckles were bruised where they hit Pit. It took a minute for his words to process.
"Whuh?" He pushed himself up only for the man to advance and strike at him again. Pit caught his fist this time, but he couldn't react against his boot, which buried itself in his stomach.
"You didn't think we'd forgotten, did you?" His tone was like acid as he fisted his hand in Pit's chiton, bringing him up to his face. "For half a year you roamed the city, killing anything you felt like, and you come back and traipse around like we could forget."
"I…I…" He couldn't seem to find his words, not that it mattered—the man steamrolled his weak protests.
"You took my wife and unborn child from me." The words were each a punch ten times worse than what he'd just been given. Pit couldn't do anything but gape as the man let them sink in. "I will never forget."
A young woman with short black hair stepped forward. Her red himation hung loose around her right shoulder. "You took my arm," she said quietly, but her voice pierced him all the same. "Chopped at it until it was hanging by strings."
"My eye." A small girl inched from around her mother's legs and glared at him with her remaining eye, the other obscured by a patch. A strangled sound came from his throat at the sight of her.
"And after all that, you still think you can walk around here with your beast in tow?" the man continued. "You aren't getting off so easily."
He wanted to defend himself, but…he didn't deserve it, did he? He could see the damage he caused, he obviously deserved it. He was tossed to the ground hard on his broken arm, getting a pained cry from him, then the man pressed his foot into Pit's chest hard enough that his ribs ground together.
"You and your cursed goddess can rot in the Underworld," he almost growled, his voice was so low. A bit of strength returned to Pit then, and his wings thumped against the ground as he created a draft that sent the man stumbling backwards.
"L…Lady Palutena's not…bad…not her," he wheezed, pushing himself into a sitting position. His arm was kicked out from under him and he toppled back to his side with a cry. Blows rained down on him from then, making it hard to distinguish any one injury from the bursts of pain fouling his senses. He closed his eyes against it and weakly raised his good arm, not that it made a difference.
Maybe I do deserve this. No, no maybes about it.
A bang! sounded from somewhere in the distance and one of the humans cried out in pain. The rest pulled away and Pit came to with a groan, swollen eyes searching for the source. A dark blot appeared against the grey sky momentarily before another bang! came, leading to a splatter of blood inches from his nose. He cringed away as the woman stumbled back.
"Is this all humans can do? Pick on the weak?" Air whooshed overhead, ruffling his hair, then black sandals hit the ground in front of him. Pit dragged his eyes up the pale-skinned, dark-clothed form until he was staring at a set of black-feathered wings. The man, having regained his bearings and swiped the blood from a bullet scrape on his shoulder, moved forward again.
"Outta the way, unless you're with this murderer?" The Silver Bow was out in an instant, blocking his way and glinting menacingly with the blade held out.
"I don't know who you're talking about, but it's not this moron over here." Dark Pit twirled the bow in a smooth movement and rested the lower tip against the pavement, the other leaning into the crook of his arm. "And I won't ask nicely for you all to leave him be."
"Blood for blood, angel boy," he said, mouth curling into a snarl.
"Blood for blood…" He cracked his neck and his wings spread overhead. "Pretty accurate. I'd leave him to get his ass kicked since it doesn't affect me one way or another, and he doesn't seem too willing to dodge it, but I have blood to repay. So, I'll say it one more time, then things are going to get ugly: leave him be."
The man swung at Dark Pit this time. Dark Pit, with a sound that was more excited than disappointed, reached for the Dark Pit Staff slung around his back. He looked cool on the outside, but Pit imagined he really wasn't very happy. Pit knew how seriously he took the "blood for blood" thing—he had gone into the Underworld itself to save Pit's life—and he'd be damned to let Pit get seriously hurt, even if he had to kill to prevent it. Pit's hand snapped out to grab his ankle, causing him to flinch in surprise.
"Don'…hurt 'em," he muttered, his swollen lip making it a little hard to talk. Dark Pit's wings bristled and he dodged the man's punch, kicking his ankles out and bashing the top of his head with his bracer.
"You're a freak," he retorted, sidestepping the man's limp form as he crashed to the ground. "These people are going to kill you."
"That's…well…" He averted his eyes, although he could still feel Dark Pit's stare burning into his face. "Don'…ya think I maybe…?"
He continued silently staring until another person moved forward. "My child was taken from me by that angel," a woman said, her voice cracking on the word angel. "The only child I had after years of fearing I was barren. Whatever goddess you two serve cannot be a benevolent one."
"I serve no one but myself." Dark Pit took a step back, putting himself closer to Pit. "And this idiot serves the goddess of light. The thing who wrong you and the rest of you humans out here was the Chaos Kin. He wouldn't hurt a human even to save his own ass."
Pit began to protest when Twinbellows suddenly stirred, raising a head and sweeping it across the area. Dark Pit grabbed Pit under his arms and darted backwards in time to avoid its jaws. Two humans weren't so lucky, and they were eaten whole. Pit cried out and the others scattered. "No, you have to help them!" he said, thrashing in Dark Pit's grip as he ascended from Twinbellows' reach.
"You'll bleed out unless you get to a hot spring." Pit gripped the chest of his chiton and felt how soaked it was.
"It doesn't matter!"
"Really," he said matter-of-factly. "Wait, where's your fibula?" He turned away and Dark Pit scowled. "Ugh, that's why your goddess hasn't plucked you up yet. Seriously, Pit, do you have macaroni for brains? It's obvious these people don't want your help."
"But…hafta…protect…" The struggling sapped the last of his strength and he turned to dead weight in Dark Pit's grip, causing his flight to dip for a couple of seconds. "Hafta…protect humans…my job," he panted.
"Idiot…" He sighed heavily and adjusted his grip. Pit was already mostly gone by then, but he was certain of his next words: "I can't protect you if you go searching out a death warrant."
Pit woke up because he thought he was drowning. Seeing Dark Pit bandaging his arm didn't help.
"Is this some kind of afterlife dream?" he said, wincing a little at a stinging pain in his lip that also slurred his words. He blinked around the early evening sunlight filtering across a white and gold-painted room—his room. His free hand rubbed across his silk sheets and he decided he was on his bed, which meant Dark Pit was sitting next to his bed. He tried turning his head and decided yup, that hurt enough not to try again.
"Please," he scoffed, finishing his bandaging and setting Pit's hand on his stomach. Pit noticed he'd been stripped down to his tank top and shorts.
"Where's my chiton?" Dark Pit looked regretful for a split second, then it was back to his usual apathetic expression.
"Idiot, it was covered in dirt and blood." Pit stared blankly until the memories came rushing back to him. He pushed Dark Pit away and swung his legs around.
"How long has it been?"
"Some hours." Pit pushed himself to his feet and immediately slouched over at the all-around pain in his body. He didn't let that stop him as he reached for his bow at the foot of the bed. His left arm was thickly wrapped and slung against his chest, but he was a better shot with his right anyway. "And where do you think you're doing?" Dark Pit didn't move to stop him, instead skirting out of his slow-going way.
"Back to the city…I hafta beat Twinbellows." He leaned heavily on the bow to take some pressure from his legs. Dark Pit shook his head and flapped his wings hard. The sudden gust threw Pit off his tenuous balance and he flopped backwards onto the bed.
"Hey, if you want to get your ass kicked so badly, you don't need to travel so far—I can do it here and now. Other than that, I suggest you keep said ass still so I can finish." He sat down again and grabbed a soaked towel from a bronze basin, wringing it out before slapping it onto Pit's forehead with clear annoyance. Well, at least the drowning sensation made sense. Pit picked up the edge of the towel.
"Is this hot spring water?"
"It is." His words were clipped. Pit's wince had nothing to do with pain.
"You just don't understand…"
"Okay, enlighten me. Please, I want to know what makes the humans so valuable that even if they trample you, you'll kill yourself trying to help them." Vitriol dripped from every word and Pit flinched away. His wings fluttered before wrapping around himself.
"I think they deserved a little payback, a little… I'd been wrecking that city for so long…"
"You didn't do a damn thing. That was the Chaos Kin." Folding his arms across his chest, Dark Pit stepped closer until he stood between Pit's knees, glaring down at him. "Nobody around here'd say you'd go on a massive killing spree if you had a say in it."
"E…Even if it was the Chaos Kin, someone has to pay, right?" he insisted, trying to push himself up again.
"You paid." He reached out and pinched the tip of Pit's longest primary feather. He let out a long breath and closed his eyes. He didn't wear his heart on his sleeve like Pit did, but they were one and the same; he could read Dark Pit's subtle despair easily. "With your life. Isn't that enough?"
"Not for them," he murmured. Dark Pit scoffed and pulled away.
"Screw them, then. —But I guess that's not an option for you," he said when Pit opened his mouth to protest. "Fine by me. Just sit there and let me help you, and when you're all better you can go and let them send you straight to Hades if you want. It's your job to protect the humans, I understand."
"You do?" He adjusted himself so he was lying under his sheets. Dark Pit picked up the towel with a nod.
"Anyway, it's not my job to lecture you. I'll leave that to your goddess."
Pit could only imagine the amount of head-biting he'd get from her. His wings tightened around his body. He looked up at Dark Pit as he started cleaning smudges of mud from Pit's laurel crown. "Why are you sticking around? I know Lady Palutena had to have brought me here since you can't fly anymore, and you could've just left me with her."
Dark Pit gave him such a withering look that Pit was going to drop the question altogether, then he said quite clearly, "I was worried." While Pit was reeling from the admission, Dark Pit set the cleaned crown on his nightstand and stood. Right on time, because Pit's door slammed open when Palutena came running in.
"Pit, you're alright!" She skidded to a stop at his bedside and wrapped him in a tight hug. Besides the blushing and stuttering induced by being hugged by his Lady, let alone a lady, it hurt.
"L-Lady Pa-Palutena, owwie."
"Sorry," she said, but held onto him for a few more seconds before gently setting him to rest. He saw her hair and clothes were a little askew, and there was a suspicious redness in her eyes and nose. The thought of her crying in worry over him made him blush harder. He looked up in time to see Dark Pit going through the door, but Palutena distracted him. "I was losing my mind when you ended our communication. I could only see Twinbellows wrecking the city for the longest time, then Dark Pit was praying for me to bring him up, he recovered your body." His wings fluttered again and he tightened them against his back to hide his unease.
"Well I need to get back down there."
"No you do not," she said with a surprisingly stern tone. "I've sent the centurions to keep Twinbellows contained until Viridi and Phosphora intervene."
"What? Since when does Viridi care about if humans die or not?" he cried in disbelief, then groaned and grabbed his suddenly aching stomach. He started when Palutena's smaller hand rested atop his.
"She wasn't singing praises at the idea, but once she heard of your condition, she went along without much of a word. I know, right?" she smirked when Pit's jaw dropped. "Your job as of now is to rest."
"Rest," she insisted, taking his shoulders and lowering him back to the pillow. Truthfully, the whole thing had sapped his barely-restored energy, and he couldn't help his heavy eyelids.
"Pittoo…he…" he murmured, falling silent when Palutena's hand rested on his forehead. Warm…
"I'm grateful for his help. I'll make sure he sticks around, alright? Now sleep."
Magnus' body was way heavier than his own, and although Pit didn't really understand the concept of corporeality, it felt solider. Not that he was looking to get comfortable even without Magnus' irate voice warning him against it; he wanted to get back to his own body and pronto, and he wanted to figure out who the heck jacked his body in the first place.
Pit directed Magnus' body to an open amphitheater and skidded to a stop when he heard the very familiar sound of wings beating. A very familiar face landed a few feet ahead of them. "Hey, that's my body!" he cried, stepping forward and taking a fighting stance. Pit's body was impassive as it readied the Palutena Bow.
"We've got to take him down—without killing him," Magnus said. Pit was inclined to agree because it would be very hard—however cool—to work a dead body.
He went at it with the moves he was starting to get accustomed to, Magnus' heavy strikes and slow swings that would probably leave some terrible bruises and aches for the morning, but Pit's body was as agile as ever. Eventually, he managed to get his body on the ground, and Pit reached for the ring with a sigh of relief—
His body snapped back to alertness, draped on the concrete as it was, and picked up its bow. Pit frowned and glanced over his shoulder—and his heart stopped when he saw the little girl he'd possessed standing at the top of the stairs, glancing around in confusion. He called Magnus to pick up his ring earlier, maybe he called her too? He didn't have time to wonder as his head snapped back to his body as it notched an arrow.
"No—!" With a strangled cry, Pit attempted to leap forward, but Magnus' body seized up on him. He blinked in confusion and found himself staring at Magnus from his own eyes—and staring down the sight window at the girl. His own hands were around the tail of the arrow, and he felt his fingers go slack to let it fly. "NO!" he shouted in his own voice, attempting to intercept the projectile, but the beating he had laid as Magnus took its toll and he couldn't move quickly enough. The girl turned in time to see the arrow pierce her little heart. "No, NO!"
"Shh, Pit, you're dreaming."
I know that voice…I know that v…Lady Palutena?
Pit blinked a few times and turned his head into a pleasant warmth. He felt a hand loosely combing through his hair and he sighed.
"Are you awake now?" Wait, that was Lady Palutena. So he was… Pit opened his eyes all the way and realized his head was in her lap. His cheeks burned and he tried to pull away, but she gently pushed him down with a chuckle. "It's alright. How do you feel?"
"Better," he said softly, rotating his left arm. It was still very sore but not nearly as painful as a broken bone. He turned his head slightly to see she was kneeling at the edge of one of Skyworld's hot springs, Pit's legs draped across the lush grass. White columns set around the circumference held up an arched roof that blocked the sunlight and kept the space nicely cool.
"What did you dream about?" It was an innocent question, but his throat tightened at the thought of answering. He simply shook his head and she frowned a bit but didn't press. He enjoyed the sound of the wind for a moment, wishing he could glide across the currents while knowing he wasn't quite one hundred percent yet. Palutena spoke up again in a level voice. "Viridi has Twinbellows restrained in her domain. We found instead of simply Hearts, it was revived using a mass of corrupted Souls—humans given a painful death to feed its life. That was the residue it was constantly dripping, and the reason why it sapped your strength and damaged our connection."
"Oh," he said softly. "That's…good. That it was stopped."
"Pit, what's wrong?"
"Nothing." She sighed above him.
"I know you wanted to protect the humans yourself, and I'm not completely over you throwing away your fibula, but what's done is done."
What's done is done. He shivered at the memory of his dream. He so clearly remembered cocking the arrow, hearing it slice through skin and muscle and bone… Palutena questioned him worriedly and he managed to shake his head in a single jerky movement.
That one errant thought brought on a slew more, and his imagination went haywire picturing the women and children and babies he must've killed in three years. Palutena always denied him a number, but that city was big, and the Chaos Kin certainly didn't stop there. There must have been more cities, more lives to have fallen by his hands, more blood on his conscience, more pain he owed the humans for the suffering he inflicted—
"Pit." Palutena's voice was calm compared to the maelstrom of thoughts, and she shifted her hand down to his face, gently brushing her thumb against his cheek. He hadn't even realized he was crying. "You aren't alright. This isn't just about not being able to protect them. Pittoo didn't elaborate on the human-made bruises left on you, but I can figure what happened."
"I'm no hero, Lady Palutena," he whispered.
"Pit," she began, but he had already tuned her out.
Dying wails filled his ears and blood soaked his hands. Bodies fell one by one by his arrows and blades, and he passed them without another thought. Just an empty figure whose sole purpose was to take. Man or woman, child or infant, there was no distinction, no mercy. He soared high above their heads like an angel of death, only descending once he found his mark…
Pit began to refuse Palutena's power of flight, which made it infinitely harder to descend to earth. He could glide fine enough however, and he savored the biting wind lashing at his face as he struck at Hades' airborne army. Once his air ran out and he was mere feet from crashing, he was extracted without a word.
Moreover, he no longer used the Palutena Bow. It hurt him somewhere deep inside because it was the first weapon ever crafted for him and by her power alone, but now every time he so much as picked it up…
Blades meant to slice through the rugged hides of Underworld monsters against human skin: it was child's play. Cutting through flesh and bone like paper, severing limbs and heads in a single swipe. His chiton and wings were stained with the backsplash of gore, splotches of crimson against what was once pure and holy.
How fitting that a goddess who had gone rogue had an angel willing to paint himself in the blood of those he once swore to defend.
He couldn't even do that much after a few weeks when he discovered he was shedding feathers at an alarming rate. Palutena pointed it out once and he blew it off, thinking it was her over-concern, and it wasn't until he could compare his wings with Pittoo's he realized it was happening. Losing feathers wasn't so much a big deal when going from winter to spring—it was natural, even—but this was more random, and the feathers that grew back were thin and bent and entirely unsuitable for even short-distance airtime.
"Hey, feather-brain, how's it flying? Oh, wait, you're a flightless bird now, aren't you?"
"W-What? Viridi? Get out of my head!"
"Ha, fat chance. Palutena's promised me a little something to give you a good talking to, and there's no way on earth I'd pass that up from her! So, spill your guts out. Come on, you know you wanna."
"There's nothing I want to talk about. I'm fine."
"Obviously not! Don't forget who stepped in to help when Palutena was out of commission. I do care about you…just a tiny bit. I don't want to see you fall."
"Well, too late. I've already fallen about as far as I can. And without my wings, I can't get up again."
He took a mission while his wings were still in decent shape. He bowed to Lady Palutena as she wished him luck like usual, pretending not to hear the cracking bit of concern in her voice, and dashed to the weapon's room. There, he let his eyes sweep past the Palutena Bow and instead activated the Aurum Orbiters.
As he ran down the long hall to the doors he'd fallen through for years, he spotted a moving shadow along one of the walls. He skidded to a stop with raised brows. "Pittoo?"
Dark Pit had been hanging around an awful lot since he recovered Pit from the city. That wasn't to say he'd been super buddy-buddy or anything—most of the time Pit didn't see hide nor feather of the guy, just hearing from a centurion that he was lounging on a roof on the other end of Skyworld. Pit couldn't decipher why, but he supposed that was part of the mystery of his darker double.
"I heard you're back on the scene," he said, pushing away from the wall and walking in the opposite direction. "Good. I was getting tired of pulling your weight."
"You were helping in my stead?" Pit's jaw dropped while Dark Pit scoffed.
"I didn't have anything better to do, so count your lucky stars."
"Aww, Pittoo—!" Pit went towards him with his arms out, where Dark Pit leapt back with an even paler countenance.
"Hey, quit that!" he snapped, wings puffing up in distress.
"Come on, Pittoo, I'm grateful."
"I hear you loud and clear. Don't touch me, dammit!" When Pit came too close, he jumped into the air, landing a few feet away. There were marks on his cheeks that looked suspiciously like blushes. "Aren't you in a hurry? Go!"
He grinned at Dark Pit before kicking through the doors, spreading his arms and wings to the breeze. The brief exchange left him feeling more buoyant than he had in a while, and he savored the taste of the sky as he sailed across a strong breeze to the land ahead. Now that Palutena wasn't controlling his flight pattern, he could take his time coasting, but it also meant he had to be aware of his destination. For all she and Viridi joked about his intelligence, he was pretty good at dead reckoning—a "bird thing," Viridi once called it.
The Underworld army was sparse that day and he didn't have to put too much effort in shooting them down. The process was so methodic and every day, he just about forgot his issues. "Your target isn't the Underworld army, however," Palutena said a bit glumly.
"What? Well, who is?"
"Humans have begun to repopulate the Reset Bomb Forest area. They've built a dam there the Forces of Nature are chipping at as we speak. Should it break, the valley and their homes will be flooded with no time for them to escape."
"The Forces of Nature are? Viridi!"
"I'm not a saint, angel boy," Viridi said unapologetically. Pit fumed and flailed his fists.
"C'mon! I thought you really had some character development since Chapter 11!"
"Well, what's done is done. And for your information, my babies act on my will whether I tell them to or not. Since I'm the one hauling your weight, why would I make more work for myself?" she grumbled. Pit frowned and went silent until Palutena spoke up again.
"What's done is done indeed. For now, we seek to repair the damage. Have I mentioned how happy I am to see you back in full-force?"
"It's good to be back," he agreed. He sensed himself getting closer and folded his wings in, diving through the cover of clouds to the dark mountainous area where he once witnessed nations warring over the Wish Seed. He caught a draft that coasted him southwest, past the massive ball of vines and tree limbs caused by the Reset Bomb, and to where nature had forged a river like a divide in the land. On its opposite side, many little human dwellings had been built, and past the wooden water wheels they made, a stone dam was being regularly beaten by a flock of Nutskis while several Bumpety Bombs waited on the sidelines.
"Ooh…this doesn't look good."
Pit descended further until his feet hit wet dirt a good way's away. There, he tried to concoct a battle plan: he could deal with the Nutskis quickly enough, but the Bombs needed more finesse, lest he just aid their destruction. He shuffled his feet and his wings fluttered from unease.
"Pit?" Palutena asked, not bothering to mask her concern. He felt she was inches from calling in Viridi or Dark Pit, and he was tired of people "hauling his weight." He was the captain of her guard, he should be protecting the humans, regardless of his stupid hang-ups. Because why did he exist otherwise?
"I'm fine, Lady Palutena! Just thinking of a plan…"
"You, thinking of a plan?" Her voice was a cross between teasing and genuine surprise. He pouted.
"I do that sometimes too." He shuffled around the other end of the river to stand behind the Forces of Nature, then he fired at a Nutski. The shot just clipped its wing and it spun around, single eye flitting around to catch the source. He waved an arm to catch its attention. "Hey, nuthead, check this out!" Aiming the Orbiters at his side, he launched a stream of blades that both burned and sliced apart the earth and rocks in a jagged line ahead. As he thought, the creatures turned their attention from the humans. Good. Well, bad overall, but in this situation, good.
"Really, Pit?" Viridi said sourly.
"'s'all part of the plan!" he said, hopping backwards with his wings aiding him as the Forces of Nature pursued him. He wanted them to follow him away from the humans, but a movement from the corner of his eye distracted him. Two Nutskis barreled into him like bullets, knocking him to the ground and causing a wing to bend painfully under his back. He snapped back to his feet instantly and watched a Bomb totter off towards two small children, one boy and one girl. A basket of water lilies was thrown a few feet from them and she clung to him with wide eyes full of fear.
"No!" he cried, moving even before Palutena's prompting. He dashed backwards while his Orbiters took aim and sliced through the Nutskis with pinpoint lasers. Their bodies burst into smoke and Hearts dissipated from the remains. He ran through the cloud and let the Orbiters fire at the other six, cutting them down before they had time to react. The Bumpety Bomb did have time to react, flashing white as it angrily rolled towards Pit. He waited until it was close and soared into the air, executing an overhead somersault and throwing his hand out towards it. The Aurum Orbiters aimed and shot straight through it, and Pit was already dashing away when it exploded.
"Hurry!" Palutena called as the Bomb began flashing white in quick succession. The little girl screamed and clung to the boy tighter, who was staring with a scarily grim expression. Pit raised his arm and his Orbiters buzzed to life again. He took aim at the Bumpety Bomb—
—his aim strayed to the humans.
He didn't know how or why, but his reaction was instantaneous: he pulled up short and his Orbiters deactivated and fell to the ground with twin clatters. Maybe the resurgence of his memories also included bodily ones; killing humans was something he had been doing for three years, so although he didn't recall, it was muscle memory.
The sound of the Orbiters hitting the rocks caught the boy's attention, and his eyes widened with first shock, then terror. Not from the Bomb, but from him. The Bomb slowed as it neared the children and its flashing increased its tempo. They turned away; Pit couldn't stop staring. And then in the last second he was struck with a thought like a blow: I couldn't protect humans all over again.
Light sliced down between the Bomb and the children nanoseconds before it blew. Pit recoiled, expecting to see their pieces flying across the rock, but as the dust cleared, he realized the three of them were alright, protected by a purple energy shield.
"Hurry," Palutena said to the kids. They turned and ran without a second thought or backwards glance. Once they were far enough downstream, she marched over to Pit with the shield fading, and he turned his head away from her. Her hands went on his cheeks and turned his face up to hers. "You're not alright," she said softly. Her thumbs brushed away the sudden wetness under his eyes.
"I'm not alright," he whispered. "I almost…Lady Palutena, I could've…I'm no…no worse than…"
"Shh, Pit…" The rush of adrenaline faded and he felt dead on his feet. He let himself fall forward and his face hit the cold metal of her medallion. She rested an arm on his shoulders as the familiar musical tune of the extraction light hummed around them.
"Lady Palutena…I'm a monster, aren't I?" He took the wrist of the hand that was still on his cheek and pried it away.
"I don't need an answer," he interrupted softly. "I already have one."
He once thought it a blessing that he served such a brightly-shining goddess, one who could bestow upon him the gift he wasn't born with and aid him should he ever lose his feet in battle. Now, though, all her power was gone from him, and instead he ran on something entirely otherworldly, something primordial and dark that made his skin crawl at the mere memory. His every movement felt heavy and his thoughts were sluggish and progressed in broken streams. He couldn't have fought back if he wanted to.
"Goddess Palutena, please have mercy on our souls!"
The last of them knelt around a cracked marble statue of the goddess of light. They were bloodied and scarred and two were simply bodies, yet they continued to pray for the forgiveness that would never come, for the benevolent goddess and her loyal servant were no longer with them. There was only chaos, and there would only be death to follow.
Pit's bow was true as he took aim and fired. The last of the city died that day.
The nightmares were getting worse. He could admit that to himself just fine, but not to Dark Pit or even Palutena. He was constantly exhausted, so much so that the centurions and Viridi had to pull all his weight in keeping the Underworld army at bay, and he hadn't the strength or sense left to gripe about it. The only times he had life were when terror sparked in him, and it was usually when Palutena presented him with a mission. She still tried now and then, not at all pushy and very much good-intentioned, but facts were facts: his wings were wrecked, his movements were sloppy, and he was losing strength from too many missed meals. He couldn't fight for her in his state, and so what purpose did he have left as her angel?
He hid away from the world with his patchy wings curled around himself as a last defense. The centurions and Phosphora visited him, tried to revive him, but they weren't too successful. Arlon came too and even Viridi stopped by, unpleasant attitude and all, but he didn't budge. Lady Palutena was last to give up on him, but she did, and soon Pit was alone.
No, not alone. Never alone.
His door was kicked open and glossy black feathers were strewn on the ground as Dark Pit stormed in. "I'm gonna kill you," he said, going right up to Pit's bed and grabbing him by the chest of his chiton. Pit took a closer look and realized Pittoo looked pretty banged up too: there were shadows above his sunken cheeks, and his feather count seemed sparse as well.
"Come on!" he interrupted, quite literally dragging Pit across the ground until he could scramble to his feet. Dark Pit's steps were long and angry, nothing Pit could keep up with in his state, and he soon became breathless as he clutched at the dark angel's wrist.
"Leggo, I'm gonna—I'm gonna—"
"Shut it." Dark Pit marched him down the corridor to the exit doors, which swung open without protest as if sensing his ire. He stepped onto the ledge and tensed his shoulder before swinging with all his weight as momentum. Pit had no leverage of his own, and he went flying out into the blue sky.
"PITTOO!" he shouted into the wind, staring up at the shrinking Skyworld with watery eyes. Dark Pit followed soon after with wings spread and arms extended.
"Viridi!" he yelled to the heavens. Pit heard an indignant scoff echoing in his ears before those black wings were shining with bright light. He flapped them a few times to get his bearings, then dove down and snatched Pit by his wrists. Pit's shoulders were jerked so violently he thought they'd be dislocated.
"Ow! What's your problem?" he snapped, the warmth of rage blooming in his chest like nothing had in…how long has it been now?
"I should be asking you, idiot!" Dark Pit was practically growling as they shot through the sky, dipping down through the cover of clouds and in view of rolling hills colored all shades of green. Pit rarely flew without there being an imminent threat, so he enjoyed the view…at least, as long as he could with the guy dangling him thousands of feet above ground with no way to fly on his own. He didn't have his fibula either, that or his arm bracers or even his sandals. He didn't need any of that to wallow.
"What the hell are you moping about?" he said, enunciating each word clearly. Pit stared at his bare feet swaying back and forth.
"You know. I hurt—"
"That's not it." Pit stared at him.
"What do you mean, That's not it?"
"I mean I know that's not the issue here." He released one of Pit's arms to let him hang by only one. "We're mirror images. I know you, and I can tell something deeper's eating at you. There's no point in trying to lie when I'm just as affected as you are."
"…Let go of me."
"Really?" Dark Pit said dryly. Pit remembered they were high above ground level—not that he forgot—and gritted his teeth.
"Okay. Land, then let go of me."
"Okay. That's a no."
Pit let out a primal, angry noise before swinging his foot up to meet with Dark Pit's face. He grunted in shock and pain and pulled away, releasing Pit's arm in the process. Pit fell in a rapid spin for several seconds, watching Dark Pit regain his bearings before folding his wings in and diving to catch up. He reached a hand out to grab Pit again and Pit grabbed his arm first, pulling him close to bury his fist in Dark Pit's face this time.
"Ugh! So that's how we're playing it," he said darkly, blood spiraling from his nose and into the wind. Grabbing Pit's fist, he brought his knee up into the other's stomach, causing him to choke and gag. Pit tangled his leg with the other's before he could pull it back and he tipped his balance in the air, causing them to go a series of wild head-over-heel spins. The centrifugal force threw Dark Pit away further below Pit, and as Pit knew from experience, it was very hard to fly in that state. "Seriously!" he called up at Pit, still trying to stop his spinning. "This won't stop me!"
"Leave me alone!" he shouted back, crashing into Dark Pit all over again and getting into a grappling match with him. At that point, Pittoo had the obvious advantage in strength and stamina, but Pit's stubbornness overruled the sorry state his body was in. They traded short blows as they heedlessly fell to the rocky cliffs below, getting black eyes and bloody noses and large splotchy bruises.
"Seriously, you two fight like alley dogs," Viridi piped up a second before soft green light surrounded them, bringing with it the scent of wet earth and crisp leaves. Next thing he knew, they were rolling across the clean marble of Palutena's temple still mindlessly punching each other. "Ugh, you're such a handful." An iron grip clamped around Pit's waist, lifting him in the air with an undignified squeak on his part. "Thanks, Craggy."
"Stupid Cragalanche," Pittoo muttered. Pit glanced over his shoulder to see their mediator was indeed Viridi's overgrown pet rock, and he also had a very annoyed Dark Pit restrained.
"Dark Pit?" Palutena said softly yet unsympathetically, arms folded across her chest. "Care to explain why you took Pit for an impromptu skydiving lesson?"
"That's all on him," he said unabashedly, glaring at Pit. Pit scowled and looked away.
"Pit?" she prompted, frowning at him. Pit was busy studying his feet.
"C'mon, Palutena, you're not getting very far with your doting mother routine," Viridi said with a groan. "Pittoo was on the right track with his thing, radical as it was. You and I both know we haven't seen Pit as driven in a long time."
"Yes," she said with a frown. "But this wasn't the way to go about it, both of you."
"Well, what is?" she said derisively, throwing her free arm out and slamming her staff against the ground. "Coddling him isn't doing anything, and I'm tired of his whole woe is me, feel sorry for me routine. It's not my job to fight off Hades' army, nor is it tall-dark-and-feathered over there, it's Pit's. My job is to maintain nature and even my almighty powers can't manage both at once. Someone has to pick up the slack, and it's not going to be me."
Palutena and Viridi fell into their own argument while the subject of said argument was still being suspended in midair by Cragalanche. Dark Pit wasn't getting any closer to escaping his grip either since he had the foresight to pin his arms and wings.
"So, are you going to talk?" Dark Pit said suddenly as if they weren't both being restrained like wayward puppies.
"There's nothing to talk about." Pittoo's expression was an indecipherable hotchpotch of emotion.
"I know about the strong, silent act, and it's well and good if you want to try to emulate it from the best, but here's the thing: our psyches are tied. The same way I lost consciousness when your soul was turned to a ring, your fears are backlashing onto me. And I'm going to go out on a limb in saying the reason why you don't want to talk in the first place is because you don't want to burden anyone…whatever that means. Well, guess what? You're burdening me," he said bluntly. Pit flinched back as he hadn't no matter how many times Dark Pit punched him, then his shoulders slumped.
"You are sorry. And above all else, that's the one thing you're not supposed to be."
"So what do you want me to do, Mr. I-have-all-the-answers?" he snapped, but there was no real heat in his voice. Dark Pit sighed and shook his head.
"I don't know what you should do, but I can tell you what you shouldn't be." He caught Pit's eye and gave him a look that reminded Pit exactly why they were doubles. "Giving in."
"Why, because you'll kick my ass to Hades yourself or something?" He shook his head without breaking eye contact, and his next words meant all the difference.
"Because Pit never gives up. He's still in that shell of yours—I know because it was his foot that planted in my face. Under your doubts and fears, the hero survives."
The Palutena bow had another arrow notched and ready. Several dozen feet away, a boy and girl skipped across the grass, giggling and throwing flower petals from a basket everywhere they went. One clean shot would strike through both heads in a second. One clean shot would add two more tallies to the list.
"You're not gonna kill anybody."
Pit clamped his hand on his body's wrist, throwing its aim off and sending the arrow flying into the heavens. It turned a scathing look on him and he stood his ground, chin up and back straight. "This is my body, so I can't claim an exception for what's been done with it," he said, his voice quiet and strong. Then Pit yanked his arm and tossed his body to the pavement, diving down to straddle it and twist its arms behind its back. The bow went skidding across the stones far out of reach, and although his body let out a guttural roar, it was stuck. Pit's mouth skewed as he tightened his grip.
"But you won't be doing this anymore, not on my account."
Pit's head felt fuzzy and grey, a far cry from the usually sharp clarity of his nightmares. He sat up with a yawn and stretched his arms and wings overhead. He immediately grabbed his left wing and pulled it straight for inspection. He'd been feeling a little sick and off-balance from the loss of feathers lately, but he could see the damp tips of new feathers poking through his skin, pushing out the useless ones. It wasn't much, but it was a beginning.
It had been a week since he last saw Dark Pit and Pit couldn't decide if he should say "good riddance" or "darn it." He had had a good soak in the hot springs after to heal himself, but that didn't stop him from wincing at the memory of pain. He slept with his bracers and fibula on again in case he tried that again, but nothing came of it. Although he couldn't lie about how nice it felt to be "back in uniform," like sliding into a chair with a personalized butt-groove. With that, he no longer felt like lying in bed, so he stared walking the halls of Palutena's temple with no clear location in mind. He eventually reached the archway to the garden where he'd laid on Palutena's lap, and he spotted Dark Pit seated next to the spring. Taking a deep breath to steel himself, Pit went over and plopped down next to him.
"Sorry for kicking you in the face," he blurted. "…Among other things."
Dark Pit could've gotten mushy, but that wasn't his thing. Yet he understood Pit wasn't generally one to hand out apologies and especially for attacking others, so he didn't just walk away from the situation. "You need some practice. Learn drop-kicking from the master," he said with a smirk. Pit grinned breathlessly and lightly punched Dark Pit's shoulder.
"Only if you learn how to play Yoshi from the master."
"Yeah… You can keep that lesson to yourself."
"What's wrong with Yoshi?" He turned to fully face Pittoo as he scoffed and rolled his eyes.
"Come on. He's a dinosaur that lays eggs—a boy dinosaur."
"So? You're a, a…" Pit pouted and folded his arms.
"Hey—!" He leapt to his feet and immediately swooned from moving too quickly. Dark Pit was up as well and caught Pit's arm, keeping him from pitching into the water.
"Take it easy," he said. Pit stared at his feet for several seconds before bursting into hysterical laughter.
"I can't even stand up right! This body really bites. Through no fault but my own, I guess."
"Pit?" Pit's laughter died away and turned to a frown. He looked at his free hand and flexed the fingers absently, then raised his eyes to Dark Pit's.
"Are you going crazy?" he said flatly.
"No, really, hit me." Dark Pit must have heard the conviction in his words, because he gave a world-weary sigh and released his arm. His fist went flying to Pit's face—and was quickly caught in his palm. Dark Pit seemed just as startled as Pit himself. "Reflexes are still good," he observed.
"They don't waste away as easily." His arm fell back to his side and Pit quickly shook his head, moving backwards a bit.
"Hit me again." This time, Dark Pit took a stance before throwing a stronger right hook. Pit leaned to the side to dodge it and used the momentum to snap into his own punch, which landed on Dark Pit's cheek. His head moved to the side a bit but he wasn't too fazed. He continued throwing punches and a few kicks into the mix, and though Pit's heart started pounding from the effort, he continued to dodge and occasionally return blows. It wasn't like their fight in the sky that was fueled by anger and dissent—in fact, this was more…therapeutic.
"What you said earlier," Pit said between breaths. Dark Pit was still going strong, but he was winded too.
"The hero survives. That thing you said earlier."
Pit threw one last punch that was easily deflected before he collapsed to the grass. Dark Pit, in trying to catch him, was pulled down as well, and they landed in a heap. Their feathers fluttered overhead, blinding white and glossy black. Pit blinked and smiled a little at the sight.
"I thought you were bullshitting me at first." Dark Pit's head was right next to Pit's since they were still tangled together, so he didn't have to move much for Pit to see his jaw dropping. Pit sent him a snarky grin in return, then Pittoo laughed.
"Your goddess won't smite me for corrupting you or anything, will she?" The smile melted from Pit's face and he looked at the sky again.
"I'm already corrupted."
"Huh?" He pulled away from Pit and sat up next to him. Pit didn't explain.
"Can you ask Viridi for the power of flight? You haven't used it today yet. I wanna…" He trailed off, not that Dark Pit really needed the rest. He knew as well as Pit what flying meant. Dark Pit considered it for a moment, then stood and walked to the edge of the floating island. Pit followed him, and they stood at the drop-off watching the clouds roll pass.
"You didn't finish your thought earlier," Pittoo said.
"I thought you were bullshitting me, then I really thought about it and realized you're right." He raised his chin and straightened his back, standing firm against the wind trying to blow him back. "The hero survives, and I'm still trying to find him."
Dark Pit watched him for an uncomfortable amount of time, then he closed his eyes and fell forward, disappearing into the clouds below. Pit let out an indignant noise and almost stumbled forward before pulling himself up short. "H-Hey, Pittoo, what are you doing?"
He resurfaced at eye-level, wings spread with blue and green energy radiating from them. He folded his arms and said quite calmly, "If you want to fly, you'll do it yourself, birdbrain." Then he folded his wings in and fell through the clouds and out of sight once more. Pit growled in frustration and dropped to his knees, catching the dirt in a death grip.
"You know I can't!" he shouted, but either Dark Pit wasn't listening or didn't care. Pit clenched the earth until his knuckles turned white. "I can't…I can't…" he repeated under his breath.
But by the gods, he didn't know if fighting with Dark Pit brought it out, but the urge to fly with his own wings was so poignant it hurt.
He didn't think, only jumped. And he heard Palutena's intake of breath as her power surrounded his wings. His wings expanded with feathers rapidly growing to replaces the patches, filling them until he could feel their strength. He shot towards the ocean below with loose feathers and his worries trailing behind him. There was him, there was the sky, and there was flight. Nothing else existed.
His wings flapped to jerk him from a nearly vertical fall to gliding inches above the cool blue water. His fingers skimmed the surface and he felt a giddy laugh bubble up from his chest.
"Pit! Pit, are you alright?" Palutena was saying. Pit stopped laughing but was unable to wipe the smile from his face. He felt…lighter.
"I'm fine, Lady— I'm better than fine, Lady Palutena. I'm free."
He alighted on a cliff overlooking the water and simply stood there a moment to appreciate the view. A noise to his rear distracted him, then long-honed instincts kicked in and he dove aside, just missing the tackle of a Monoeye. "The Underworld army never takes a break, do they?" he grumbled, reaching to his back before he recalled he had no weapon. The Monoeye spun around and lunged again, striking Pit in the chest and sending him skidding backwards. He only narrowly managed to keep on his feet, and the impact stole his breath and left him shocked.
"The bow!" A flash of light burst into existence, then a familiar figure was falling towards him. The Monoeye, in the meantime, warmed up for another strike. Pit raised his hand to catch the bow and stared at it for half a second. Palutena started to sputter in surprise before he automatically notched an arrow and cut straight through the monster mid-attack. It faded into smoke and Hearts that quickly dissipated in the sea breeze. "Pit?"
"This is my best weapon," he said slowly, running his eyes over the Palutena Bow. He clenched the handle hard to still his shaking hand, but it was still a far more composed reaction than he'd given it before. "If the Underworld army's around, I need to be at the top of my game. Thanks, Lady Palutena."
"…I truly envy your heart, Pit," she said in awe. He laughed a little but not exactly from humor.
Following the trail to the forest ahead, he shot at Hades' monsters with a crisp accuracy only slightly dulled by time. His arm grew sore as the grass below him turned to dirt and pine needles, but he pressed on to destroy every creature he saw. The broken streams of light coming through the canopy made it a little difficult to see, then again Hades' army was never particularly subtle. He followed their trail until he reached a small clearing where the head of a Clubberskull lay partially buried.
"Heh… Déjà vu, huh, Lady Palutena?" he murmured with a bitter laugh, stepping closer. Something about its head shape was a little weird—not that Pit ever took Monster Biology 101, but when he clobbered them enough on a daily basis, he could catch oddities fairly quickly. He moved closer with a wary frown and noticed a ring of uneven chunks taken from its temple as if it was hit by a baseball bomb. None of his weapons left that sort of damage either, so it wasn't his fault.
"Lady Palutena, what do you think of th—"
Pit hit the ground hard with his fibula popping off and rolling off somewhere. He felt the pain first, and it brought a guttural scream from him as he rolled to his stomach to lessen the pain. Not that it stopped the copious amount of blood that ran down his back and trickled to the ground. He couldn't feel his wing anymore and didn't dare try to move it or even glance at the severity. Footsteps crunched behind him and he fought not to throw up as he raised himself to his knees.
"Whaddaya know? Hurts th'angel good as th'beast." The man was tall and broad shouldered, wearing a heavy jacket over tight-fitted combat wear like Magnus'. Slung over his shoulder was a slim weapon much like his staffs but made of flimsy-looking wood. Pit coughed and got a spray of blood across his hand digging into the earth. "Ah, yer still kickin', ain't'cha?" He produced a folded square of cloth from a pocket and poured the powdery contents into a compartment of his weapon. "Hadda come up wit' someth'n' ta catch those damn beasts since ya weren't. Didn't know I'd getta use it on the turncoat 'imself."
He glanced down and saw his bow was only inches from his hand. Grabbing it, he twisted his body around and slammed the flat side against the back of the man's knee. His leg buckled and he folded in on himself, his next shot blasting into the sky. Pit raised his arm and sliced the weapon's barrel off. The black powder poured onto the man's shirt and he started at the sight, giving Pit enough time to push himself up and into a run.
His wing continued to throb with every rapid beat of his heart and the hole in it continued gushing more blood than was healthy. He needed to be pulled out but couldn't go back for his fibula if the man remained—Pit feared he possessed more of his weapon. He also knew even if Dark Pit was in the area, he couldn't track Pit from the skies with the thick map of leaves blocking his view. He walked in an aimless path until he could walk no more, and his knees buckled and he tasted dirt.
"Lady Pa-Palutena…Viridi…anyone," he whimpered, curling up from the pain. It hurt worse than getting kicked in the ribs—it hurt worse than getting punched by Dark Pit. If the humans had weapons like that in store, how could he think of getting near them ever again? They would blow him into pieces at the thought. Moreover, did they really need him for fighting monsters if they had such weapons at their disposal? The thoughts came to a boil in his feverish mind and did nothing to alleviate his pain.
Pit was inches from passing out cold when he heard more footsteps, but lighter—a child. "Angel," a girl's voice said. Her face came into view when she crouched on the ground, part of it twisted by three long slashes he recognized as his Hedgehog Claws. Other than that, she had super thick brown hair and wine-colored eyes that matched her toga. She was carrying a wooden bucket that sloshed water as she set it down.
"Get…'way…" he said, his voice slurred by pain and exhaustion. He just wanted to sleep…
"You're different," she said after a moment, then he was distracted by the sharp sound of tearing. Part of the cloth falling around her legs was separated and dipped into the water. "Not the one who hurt me. You're a different person."
"Whuh…?" She wrung the cloth until it was only damp then set it against his wing. Hissing in pain, he was unable to turn away as she dug into the crevices of the jagged wound, dipping the cloth now and again until the water was fully red. Then she tore more of her toga to bind the injury tightly, earning a long whine from Pit. She let out a huff when she was satisfied and sat back on her heels. She dragged a hand across her cheek, leaving a smear of his blood right above the claw marks, and he sighed. "I'm sorry," he said.
"Why?" She cocked her head to the side. "You didn't hurt me, dummy." Then she picked up her bucket and rose to her feet. "'sides, you help people." She balanced the bucket on her hip and her eyes set on something behind Pit. She waved excitedly and called, "Nessa!"
A girl closer to Pit's age came from behind him. Her hair was short but the same shade as the first girl's, and her eyes were calm as she bent over and held out a cracked jewel—Pit's fibula. He accepted it with a shaky hand and his fingers clenched it as the two girls smiled and turned away, running back from whence they came. Pit realized after a moment that Palutena was trying to talk to him.
"—new weapons are extremely dangerous, I should've foreseen this—"
"Those girls…" He stopped mostly because he couldn't understand his own train of thought, but the encounter left him unequivocally warm inside. He giggled uncontrollably and Palutena hummed in distress.
"You need a hot spring ASAP." The extraction light glowed around him and he felt himself lift from the ground and ascend through the treetops. As soon as he surfaced in Palutena's temple, she rushed to his side and lifted him into her arms. He leaned into her grip, fatigue finally pulling him under.
"I'm glad," he admitted into her chest as her feet tapped against the marble. "Not about…being shot 'n' all…but there's hope…"
"Pit, you're delirious. I can't hear you."
"Hope," he repeated softly as his eyes closed.
The hero survived. Pit wasn't the same as he was, but he supposed it was only fair—the people had changed, so by the laws of the universe, he had to change as well. He could take the power of flight again, although his time limit was temporarily cut to give his body time to heal, and he worked on clearing Hades' troops from the skies with his strongest weapon, the Palutena Bow. And with the addition of guns to human warfare, his troops were mighty plentiful, giving him purpose again.
Dark Pit caught him one day while he ran from Palutena's room to the doors. They met eyes, then they were running together, and as they burst into the sky, they went their separate ways. Dark Pit didn't say a word the whole time, but he was genuinely smiling.
"Finally, he can stop babying you and get back to my busywork," Viridi loudly complained, but it lacked her usual edge. He thought she was happy about it as well in her own Viridi-ish way.
He wanted to thank Palutena for sticking with him even when he became unbearable, but she told him saving lives was the only compensation she would take. Of course, it wasn't the first time he wanted to show her gratitude, but now he threw himself headfirst into things. More than simply expressing his gratefulness, he had three years' worth of sins to make up for, and he would do it all out there in Overworld. He would do it for the humans even if they hated him for the rest of eternity because protecting them was an integral part of who he was.
"Some hell of a hero I'd be if I didn't save them," he said happily, but it caused Palutena to wince.
"I wish you'd drop that speech, however…"
The weight of his burden overwhelmed him at first, but now it was something he could carry with a straight back. And instead of labored, he felt stronger for it. It helped that he had always had others behind him, looking out for him as he stumbled and strained to move forward, and now that he could do so on his own, he really realized what sort of family he had waiting for him.
"Alright, Lady Palutena!" Pit said after he was briefed on his mission. He lowered himself into a bow and hopped back to his feet, but he stopped short of turning away. Then she let out a little gasp as he collided into her with his arms around her waist. "Thank you," he said softly.
"Pit…you're always welcome." Her fingers combed through his hair and righted his skewed laurel crown. "Now go. The people need you."
"Right." He pulled away and sent her one last bright smile before dashing down the hall. There was no shadow waiting for him this time, nor did he expect Pittoo's special treatment to last, but Pit knew he would be back on his own time. He reached the doors and leapt ahead into the clear blue sky, watching it twist around him as he fell. He didn't get nearly as much freefalling time as he pleased before Palutena hit him with the power of flight, but his wing was still incredibly sore, so he didn't really gripe about it.
What makes a hero, a hero? Lately, Pit gave that question a lot of thought. Palutena could easily call him that all the time, but what did it really mean? He was seeing things in greyer terms and it sometimes made everything hard to understand, but with a weapon in his hands and air under his feathers, the world slipped back into place. He had all the time in the world to figure things out, but presently, he had a job to do.
Now go. The people need you.
With a mighty flap of his wings, Pit soared into the horizon.