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An Oh My Goddess fanfic by Mike Breslau

Warning: this is book 4 of the KMT trilogy. If that makes no sense, stop reading right now and read "Keiichi's Magic Trick," "Megumi No Megami," and "Lord of Benevolence" first.

Caution: This story contains somewhat darker emotional elements than the typical OMG story.

In this story, read this as emphasis, and "this as speech." All characters appearing in this story are copyrighted by their rightful copyright owners and are used without permission, but with gratitude. Don't sue me, I haven't got enough to make it worthwhile.

Chapter 1 - Death


Megumi, age 210,000 years:

Urd and I were in the study of our home, gazing out the window and fondly watching the children flying over the front yard. My son Locke and his half sister Chimelle were three years old (equivalent to five-year-old mortal children.) The young God of Information and the Goddess of Knowledge were playing aerial tag and having a wonderful time. Most three-year-old gods can't fly under their own power, but then most young gods don't have the brown and gold markings of Star Class gods. Urd smiled happily.

Urd's son Terrben was sitting in the yard and keeping a watchful eye on the youngsters. The God of Surprises was a century older and well into puberty. It would be more than a thousand years before he reached full adulthood. He could be a little capricious and willful at times, but he loved the youngsters as if they were his own children and wouldn't allow them to come to any harm.

When Urd had asked me why I named my son Locke, I had answered, "I didn't choose his name. Kei-sama and I asked our kids what their names were before they were born. The children chose their own names."

Urd had responded, "Oh, I see. I named my son Terrben by combining my mother's old and new names."

Urd and I thought the kids were perfectly safe. A containment field kept them from flying too high or too far away, so they wouldn't wander off. What danger could there be in Asgard? Unfortunately, we were wrong.

Kami-sama appeared behind us, looking very solemn and subdued. "Where are Keiichi and the rest of the family?" he asked, "I have important matters to discuss with you all."


Keiichi, age 13,000 years, flashback:

I was standing in the study admiring my latest creation. Floating in front of me was the image of a new galaxy I had designed, a little more than two meters in diameter. I had taken up designing galaxies as a hobby, something interesting to do in what little spare time I had. After many attempts I'd finally designed one that I was really proud of. The balance and proportions were just right, the colors of the stars were brilliant and properly distributed, and it would retain its charm as it evolved into old age.

Kami-sama was standing beside me, radiating his approval. "You're developing into quite an artist, Son," he said.

"Thank you, Father. This is the first one I designed that I actually like enough to want to build. I've picked a location where it could be seen to best advantage. Kami-sama, may I have your permission to put this up and make it real?"

A mischievous twinkle appeared in his eyes. "You have my permission, Son, under one condition: you may not build it using any power drawn from either the Demonic Source or the Divine Source."

I was puzzled. The only other source of mana that I knew of was mortal magic. Mortal magic had served me well for thousands of years, but it obviously wasn't adequate to make a full-sized galaxy. "I don't understand, Father. Is this some sort of challenge?"

"You're perfectly capable of doing it with your own power, Keiichi. I should know; I designed you. Give it some thought, and remember Rule Two. I'm looking forward to seeing this galaxy in full scale, shining by its own light."

He had me there. Rule Two said, "Nothing is impossible." If Kami-sama thought I could do it, then I'd have to figure out how it could be done. "Okay, Kami-sama, I accept the challenge. Give me some time to think about it."

I reviewed what I knew about magical energy. Gods and demons got their power from the Divine Source and the Demonic Source. Both Sources acted as filters and gateways, selectively drawing their energies from the same multidimensional Reservoir of power. Nobody had been able to determine just how many dimensions the Reservoir had, or whether it was truly infinite. It seemed that I'd either have to construct a new Source or figure out how I could tap directly into the Reservoir without using any Source.

Both alternatives were dangerous and risky. It would be like trying to extract a little air from a fully inflated balloon without bursting it. The problem was that the Reservoir was infinite. If I lost control the resulting flood of energy would wipe out the entire universe, and probably more besides. I'd have to be more than merely cautious; I'd have to be infallible.

How would I go about tapping a balloon without bursting it? First, I'd apply a patch of tape to the outside of the balloon to locally reinforce it. Then I'd attach a small valve to the center of the tape so I could reseal it when I was done. Only then would it be prudent to puncture the balloon through the center of the valve.

Could I apply the same principles to tapping the Reservoir? My mysterious question-answering ability supplied the answer. I knew how to do it! Why hadn't I realized it earlier? I just hadn't asked myself the right questions before. Kami-sama had told me that he'd given me powers and abilities that he didn't trust himself to wield. I had just found one of my hidden abilities, and I found it because he'd deliberately prodded me in the right direction. I was scared and excited. If I was right then limitless power was mine for the taking. If I was wrong, or if I goofed, then everybody in the universe and I would be very dead.

I had to find a safe way to learn how to use my new ability. I spawned a couple of replicas of myself to carry on in case I destroyed myself beyond healing. Then I tapped a small amount of energy from the Divine Source and used it to create a pocket universe as far away from my home universe as I could manage, and teleported myself inside it. Then I constructed a two-stage spell that tapped both the Divine Source and the Demonic Source and used the resulting flood of mana to make the strongest shield/containment field around myself that I could manage.

I paused and considered. Was there anything else I could do to limit any possible damage? Probably not. I might be releasing an infinite power, and even the Ultimate Force would be of little use if the worst were to happen.

I calmed myself, almost to a meditative state. I cautiously attuned myself to the Reservoir. To my surprise, it felt friendly. Friendly? Rule Two, I suppose. I carefully opened myself to the contents of the Reservoir. Mana began to flow into me, slowly at first, then faster. I could control it! My body began to glow brightly-I had become a living, sentient, Source. I created a planet, then another, then a star, then I completed the solar system. I created a star cluster in less than a minute, and I was still just beginning to explore my new potential. I was exultant! What a glorious, intoxicating feeling! Was this what Kami-sama felt when he created the universe?

I paused and took stock. I certainly didn't want to get carried away. When I calmed down I destroyed all that I had created with a single blast of power. I felt that I could safely control much more power. I created a thousand stars in a single burst, then ten thousand, then a million. Yes, I could do it, and I could control it. It was intoxicating, perhaps even addictive.

Then I remembered why I had avoided having great power before. Absolute power corrupts, and I didn't want to be corrupted. Reluctantly, I removed all that I had created with a wave of my hand. I shut down my connection to the Reservoir, and then I thanked it. It might have been illogical, but thanking the Reservoir felt like the right thing to do. I was relieved to see that I could completely shut off the power flow because I didn't want to go around with so much energy. Finally, I removed my containment field, teleported back into my home universe, and closed down the pocket universe.

I resisted the urge to begin construction immediately. I was too excited to be in full control, and I didn't want to botch the job, so I went home to calm down and relax with my family. After a while immortals learn to be patient.

Skuld had matured into a beautiful young woman. She took one look at me and exclaimed, "Kei-sama, what happened to you?"

"What to you mean, Skuld-chan?"

"Look at your aura, Keiichi. I've never seen anything like it!"

I examined my own aura, which isn't an easy task. It was quite impressive. I was surprised because I didn't feel that I had changed. "Look on the bright side," I thought, "At least people won't confuse me with Kami-sama anymore." Instead of being the resident of Asgard with the least magical power I was now the one with the most. I wasn't at all sure I liked it that way.

I replied, "It's an interesting story. I'll tell you all about it over dinner."

At dinnertime I told my family about Kami-sama's challenge, and what I had discovered as a result. When I finished, Belldandy asked, "Do I understand that you're a Source now?"

"Yes," I answered, "I should be able to do anything the Divine Source can do. And I'm adaptable, so I can even do things the Divine Source can't do."

Urd gave a low whistle, and shook her head. Skuld looked amused and awed. "Three impossible things before breakfast," she said, "It's been nearly two full days since you astonished us, Kei-sama. I was afraid you were loosing your touch."

Megumi managed to laugh. "No danger of that happening, Skuld-chan."

"Hey, give me a break," I said, "After all these centuries you girls are getting harder to impress."

The next morning I couldn't wait any longer. I teleported out to my chosen location, which was already quite empty. I wouldn't have to remove any clutter before I began creating my galaxy. How do you go about making a galaxy? I made mine from the inside out. First, I created a black hole at the center. That took less than half an hour.

...AND DARKNESS WAS UPON THE VOID...

Then I created the nucleus of the galaxy. I used 320 billion stars orbiting around the black hole, a little dust and gas, and some magnetic fields. It took an hour and a half because I was carefully placing each object in its correct location. I was getting better at this. The core of my galaxy shone brilliantly.

...LET THERE BE LIGHT...

Now it was time to create the spiral arms. I made 380 billion stars, with more gas and dust than in the core. They formed alternating bands of brightness and darkness. Two hours had elapsed.

...DIVIDED THE DARKNESS FROM THE LIGHT...

Finally, I created the galactic halo. It was larger, but much less dense. It took another half-hour. I spent the rest of the day examining and tweaking my creation, stopping only when I found myself adjusting the continents on one of the planets. "Come off it, Morisato," I thought, "Do you have any idea how many continents there are in a galaxy this size?" I should know the answer; I had created them all. I gave my galaxy one final inspection.

...AND IT WAS GOOD.

I didn't bother creating any life forms; chemistry and evolution would take care of that for me. My galaxy was quite young, and I could afford to wait. I headed home, feeling elated and quite proud of my achievement.

At next Thursday's social gathering, Ben observed, "If the Lord of Terror had seen you with this aura he wouldn't have even considered attacking you."

I responded "Perhaps, but it would have made my reeducation task harder if we hadn't had our little contest first."

I really don't enjoy being more powerful than Kami-sama, but I guess I have to live with it.


Megumi, age 15,000 years, flashback:

I was sitting at the table, deeply engrossed in doing Sensei's latest homework assignment. On the table lay a gold ring. I was assembling a delicately balanced symmetrical web of magical forces around it, somewhat like building a house of cards. Suddenly, Urd's voice broke the silence, "Hey, Meg-chan, what are you doing?"

My concentration broke, and so did my half-assembled spell. There was a soft implosion, a small flash of light, and the table was bare.

"Oops, sorry," said Urd.

"Not really your fault, Urd-chan," I said at last. "If I'd realized it would be this complicated I'd have been working somewhere else, or put up a privacy spell." Then I noticed that my ring was gone. "Urd, did you see where my ring went? That was my favorite ring."

"No, I didn't notice. Let's take a look around."

We both searched the room and found nothing. Urd offered, "I'll scan the past and watch it happening." After minute she looked crestfallen. "It's worse than I thought. It isn't here anymore; it took off on a random tangent in space-time. I couldn't follow it."

I thought for a moment. "I guess I'll need help in finding it. Urd-chan, please round up our sisters. I want to try something."

Soon the four of us were gathered around the table and the problem had been explained to all.

"Listen, gals. I want to do a search-and-retrieve spell, but I don't know where in space-time it went. If we can all go into rapport and pool our skills we'd be able to find it anywhere in the past, present, or future."

"An interesting idea," said Skuld, "I don't think we've tried anything like that before."

Urd observed, "Skuld-chan, we didn't get along with each other well enough before to be able to work closely together. It should be much easier now."

The four of us went into close telepathic rapport. I think we were all surprised to discover just how well we fit together as a team. It was almost like being one person with four brains. We designed and built a searching spell that would scan an ever-increasing sphere in space-time until it found my ring. We keyed the spell to the ring at the moment before it disappeared, then launched the spell. It found my ring four kilometers and two weeks away, and brought it back to us. I'd never have found it if I'd used a conventional search.

There was a moment of celebration as we disentangled ourselves. Then Belldandy observed, "Megumi, that was a four-dimensional spell that we just made; three spatial dimensions and time."

"I suppose it is," I said. "Haven't you ever done that before?"

"Not really," answered Skuld. "Usually we need to limit our spatial coverage when we look through time. I don't think any of us has made a truly four-dimensional spell before."

My mathematical sense of curiosity was aroused. "I wonder if we can generalize what we just learned to make a spell in four spatial dimensions?"

After a few weeks of trying, and some coaching from Sensei, I could work fluently in four dimensions. The Norns were also able to work in four spatial dimensions, but they found it more difficult to do than I did. We all put it aside, for it seemed at the time to have no practical use. We all continued to use three spatial dimensions plus time spells whenever they were needed.


Megumi, age 210,000 years, continued:

We had gathered in the study at Kami-sama's request. Keiichi and I, the three Norns, and the Lord of Benevolence and his wife Mara were there. Mara was a lesbian, but Ben was Urd's mother (and Mara's grandfather) so it was an interesting marriage.

Kami-sama began his explanation. "The day I had hoped would never come is now upon us. This universe faces a peril so great that I can't prevent it from being utterly destroyed. Nihil is coming." There was a pause as this sunk in.

"Who or what is Nihil?" asked Keiichi.

"Nihil is the devourer of universes. Think of it as an eight-dimensional black hole with the mass of thousands of universes. It was created a long time ago by the energetic collision of a dozen higher-dimensional universes, and has been growing ever since. Every once in awhile it appears to grow sated, and it rests for a few million years, but now it's awake again and is heading our way."

It was easy to see why Kami-sama looked so worried. "Can anything be done to stop it?" asked Ben.

"Almost every universe in Nihil's path has sent one or more Champions to try to stop it. Usually the Champions are those who originally created the universe, or beings of equal power. Many of the Champions have been stronger than I am. To date, every Champion has failed, and only a few Champions survive. Most of the Champions have been three-dimensional beings, like ourselves. Any conceivable three-dimensional force is useless against Nihil. Even the most powerful six-dimensional attack would be less than a pinprick against it. It's unlikely that I, even with the aid of the remaining Champions, can stop Nihil."

After a short silence, Keiichi asked, "If the situation is hopeless, why are we having this meeting?"

"I didn't say the situation is hopeless. Unlike the others, I've designed a Champion who may be able to do what the other Champions couldn't do. My Champion is extremely powerful, very inventive and creative, and able to work in higher dimensions. I've spent a long time designing and training my creation, and we might be able to prevail."

"You're describing Keiichi and me," I exclaimed. No wonder we were more powerful than Kami-sama. I'd never understood why he had designed us to be so strong.

"Not exactly. The two of you working together would be a powerful team, but we need a Champion who is much stronger than that. I'm afraid I must ask you both to make the ultimate sacrifice, and give up your very selves for the common good. I've told you that you were given complementary strengths and abilities, and I know that you can form a very close telepathic rapport with each other. What I haven't told you is that you two can completely merge with each other to form a composite being far greater than the sum of its parts."

"Like two gametes fusing to form a new embryo?" I asked in a hushed voice.

"Yes, that's a good analogy. I expect that you'd retain the memories of your separate identities after fusion, but you'd no longer be separate people-my Champion would have his own personality and identity. Keiichi and Megumi may never exist again. I'm really sorry it has to be this way, I deeply love you both, but it was the best plan I could come up with."

Keiichi said glumly, "I'm familiar with that feeling. Sometimes the best solution I can devise still has distasteful elements. If I ever needed Rules One, Two, and Three, I need them now."

I said, "I don't see that we've any choice, Onii-sama. If we don't try it together, we'll surely die separately. Neither of us has ever failed to give his best effort when the need is great. Kami-sama, what do we have to do, and when do we have to do it?"

He answered solemnly, "Look inside yourselves, my children. You already know the answers."

We looked, and we knew. I overheard Keiichi thinking bitterly, "We were never real people, only pieces of a weapon waiting to be assembled when needed." I thought he was overstating the case, but there was some justification for his mood.

"Who'll look after our kids?" I asked.

"I volunteer to look after the youngsters. It's the least I can do," offered Mara, "I wouldn't be much help in a battle like this; it's clearly out of my class." It seemed like a good plan. The kids were fond of "Aunt Mara," and she wasn't likely to have children of her own before ours were grown.

"Can I be of any assistance?" asked Ben.

"What about us?" asked Belldandy, speaking for the Norns. "You don't think you could leave us behind."

"You're welcome to come along," replied Kami-sama gravely, "But I warn you it may cost you your sanity. We'll be working outside of any universe, in a realm without any space or time at all, and you goddesses of time may not be able to cope with a time-free reality."

There was a minute of silence as we digested this news. Clearly we were all going to be tested more than we ever had been before. This was no easy assignment, but there was no way to refuse it.

Keiichi said, "Give us an hour to say goodbye, then Megumi and I should be ready to go."

The next hour was very painful. My brother and I used bilocation and time dilation so we could say farewell to everyone and put our affairs in order within the hour.

We visited our parents in the afterlife and explained the situation. "Do I understand that both of you are going to die to save the universe?" asked Keima.

"To try to save all the remaining universes," clarified Keiichi.

"It's not exactly dying," I explained. "We'll still be alive, but we won't be ourselves anymore. We have to become something new and truly unearthly."

Keiichi and I said goodbye to our mortal and immortal friends. We left the hardest part for last. How do you tell your young children that they may never see their parents again? Is it better to not tell them? They had no concept of death, or immortality either, because they were young and the subject had never come up.

I took my son Locke aside, and hugged him with tears in my eyes. Of course, he knew that something was terribly wrong. "Mommy, what's the matter?"

"Locke-chan, I have to go away to do something very important. I won't be able to come back, and I don't think we'll ever see each other again. Aunt Mara will take care of you, and she'll be your new mother." My voice broke, and I couldn't continue.

"Is Daddy going away too?" he asked, sounding confused.

"Kami-sama will be going away with me, but I hope he'll come back soon. I wish I could come back with him, but I won't be able to."

"Mommy, I don't want you to go away!" His eyes began to fill with tears.

"Oh my dearest child, I don't want to leave you but I have to do this. I do have a small gift for you." I held out my hand and materialized a small transparent cube, with a hologram of myself in the center. "This is a present for you, so you can always remember me."

Locke took the cube and looked at it curiously. "How does it work?" he asked.

"Just touch the top surface, Locke-chan."

He did, and the image moved and spoke clearly. "Dear Locke, remember that it's not your fault that I have to leave you. I'd much rather stay here and watch you grow up. Always remember that you are a good person, and I'm very proud of you. Always, always remember that I love you very much." I was trying to spare him as much trauma and separation anxiety as possible. This was the best I could do on short notice.

Our time was up. I brought him to Mara and walked away without looking back.

Keiichi's farewells to his daughter Chimelle and his son Terrben were equally painful. I didn't ask for the details, his emotions were plain enough without them.

We all gathered together again at the appointed time. Mara was bilocating; she had a replica with each of the kids and another in our group. This time it wasn't possible for Keiichi and me to save ourselves by bilocating, as we had done so often before. The two of us disrobed and moved to the center of the room where we stood back-to-back. Our minds melded together seamlessly, then our bodies liquefied and flowed together. Some mortals refer to orgasm as "the little death." By that standard, what we experienced could be called "the big death." With cries of rapture Keiichi and I disappeared forever. If you've got to go, it's a good way to go.


We, age zero years:

Where our two progenitors had stood there was now a new composite entity. We stood nearly two meters tall, and had a slender, androgynous body with a golden complexion and delicate features. Our cranial capacity was more than twice that of a human. Our brain was a new design, with four major lobes and many new connections. Everything that Keiichi and Megumi had been was there, but there was much new potential too. At one level we had three coexisting personalities, which you might call Keiichi, Megumi, and More. On another level our four brain lobes could act independently or together in various combinations when needed. It was clear that we could never refer to ourselves in the first person singular.

We looked around at our friends, who were standing there with expressions of shock and awe. We weren't surprised to notice that we could see on all sides of ourselves simultaneously. In fact, we had no eyes, ears, or hair, and had transcended most mortal senses.

"It's all right guys," we said, "Fusion has been accomplished." Our voice was deep and resonant.

Urd said reverently, "Look at that. Their aura is four-dimensional."

Belldandy released the breath she was holding. "They're beautiful."

Skuld asked, "Excuse me, but what can we call you?"

It was a fair question. We answered, "You may call us 'We.'" It wasn't the best choice for a name, but we didn't have time to choose a better one.

Kami-sama was sad, but proud. "Are you all ready to go?" Everyone nodded. "Lead the way, We-sama," he said. He rarely used honorifics, so his use of -sama was significant.

We teleported the assembled company into Noplace.

It's not possible to describe Noplace accurately. Noplace is the void between the universes, where neither space nor time has any meaning. The most distant universe was nearer than our thumb, and the nearest was no closer. You can get a small idea of what it was like by overprinting every word of this narrative in the same spot, each word in a differently colored transparent ink so that they are all visible at once, and then trying to read it. We'll describe the events that follow as if space and time existed because otherwise we wouldn't have any proper language to use.

There were about a dozen Champions there when we arrived. We've given them suggestive names because their real names are untranslatable. Kami-sama knew some of the Champions, and he made the introductions.

Snowman appeared to be composed of myriad transparent crystals. Salamander seemed to be a living flame. Wisp was insubstantial and hard to see, but there was no mistaking the tremendous power that he radiated. Medallion was thin and metallic in appearance, a dull bronze color.

The oldest, and most interesting, Champion was Creature. Creature was a five-dimensional orphan. His appearance continually changed, the various parts of him didn't always seem to be connected to each other, and it was hard to focus on him. All the universes that could accommodate him had already been destroyed, and he had nowhere else to go. He had survived this long solely because of his desire for revenge.

Nihil was there too. It was massive, black, and moved as if alive. We'd be tempted to describe Nihil as very large, but nothing was larger than anything else was in Noplace.

"Hello, and welcome to our club," said Snowman.

Wisp added, "I hope your tolerance for frustration is high enough." It seems that he was a cynic.

Noplace was too weird for Skuld. She closed her eyes and muttered, "This place is madness incarnate. What am I doing here?" The others of our company weren't in much better shape.

Medallion offered to tell us the history of all the things the Champions had already tried. It was a long story, but we needed to hear it. There was no point in repeating previous failures. We won't go into the details here; suffice it to say that everything a three-, four-, or five-dimensional Champion could reasonably be expected to do had already been tried without success. Anything put into Nihil only made it more massive, and thus, stronger. Anything pulled out of Nihil eventually fell back in because if its enormous gravitational pull.

It seemed obvious that we'd need to work with at least seven or eight spatial dimensions. That would be very difficult, and none of the previous Champions had succeeded. We began by considering the "easier" option, seven-dimensional spells.

A seven-dimensional construction would be to Nihil as a planar surface would be to a three-dimensional person. That suggested enclosing or confining Nihil, slicing it apart into smaller pieces, or some sort of gateway that Nihil could be pushed through. Confining Nihil would only buy us some time, and there was no time in Noplace. Slicing it apart would leave the pieces near each other, and they might rejoin by flowing around our spell. As for a gateway, We couldn't think of anywhere to push Nihil into except the Reservoir. We might be able to build a reverse Source, one that would let Nihil go in but prevent power from leaking out. Suppose Nihil polluted the Reservoir, making it unusable. Worse still, suppose it fed upon the power in the Reservoir and grew stronger. We decided to put these ideas aside for a while.

The best eight-dimensional approach we could think of would be to pull Nihil apart into manageable pieces and somehow prevent it from recombining. Could we convert the extracted material into something indigestible, or put it into a really distant orbit?

The problem was that Nihil was too massive. We might be able to get enough power from the Reservoir to destroy Nihil, but the side effects of such a power flow could be disastrous. Imagine a ricochet or splashback with enough power to destroy a hundred universes. If only some way could be found to turn Nihil against itself...

"Has anybody tried a virus?" we asked. We were met with blank stares of incomprehension. We tried to explain. "Picture an eight-dimensional spell that sucks material out of Nihil and converts it into energy. Part of the energy fuels the spell's own operation, and the rest is used to make additional copies of the virus spell itself. It would keep reproducing until Nihil is all gone, then it would neatly self-destruct."

Medallion considered this suggestion and said, "It sounds as though it might work." Even his voice was metallic.

Creature asked, "How are we going to make an eight-dimensional spell? I can't even make complex six-dimensional spells that work reliably."

We responded, "Creature, can you fold a four-dimensional spell into a five-dimensional shape?"

"I can, if it's geometrically possible. Nobody can fold a plane into a sphere without stretching it horribly."

We continued, "We propose to use a four-stage transdimensional spell casting. The first stage, initially four-dimensional, can be folded to five-dimensional form. It will cast a six-dimensional second stage spell and so on until the fourth stage is the virus spell itself."

There were cries of astonishment. Wisp summarized the reaction of the Champions succinctly: "Impossible! That would need more power and precision than anyone is capable of."

We agreed. "Perhaps no one could do it, but we aren't one; we are many!"

Kami-sama said nothing, but he grinned broadly.

We took some "time" to design the virus spell launcher. When the plan was complete, we attached a summary description and passed it around for review by our companions. We particularly wanted Skuld's opinion of the mechanisms involved, Creature's opinion of the dimensional aspects, and Urd's biological perspective on the spell's reproductive behavior.

Skuld offered the best suggestion for improvement. "Why not make each spawned virus copy a little larger and stronger than its parent? It would slow down the reproduction rate slightly, but you'd make it up in volume."

We thanked her and the other contributors, and then made the necessary changes in our spell design. When all was ready we calmed ourselves and reached out to the Reservoir. We cast the first-stage spell as an empty framework and checked it carefully for errors. When we were satisfied, we increased our power draw significantly and charged the empty spell with energy. The spectators were astonished-no previous Champion had ever exhibited the power level or precision that we were displaying. Finally, we released the spell into Creature's care. Creature carefully folded it into five dimensions and activated it. There were a few muted cheers. Kami-sama beamed proudly.

The virus launcher spell worked as intended. The fourth-stage spell retained enough energy to draw material from Nihil and process it as planned. "Soon," the first second-generation virus appeared, and it too began to eat into Nihil's substance. There was a louder cheer.

Have you ever watched exponential growth in action? After ten generations there were 1,024 active viruses. Only one was of the most powerful tenth generation size, nine were at the (nearly as powerful) ninth generation, and the original virus spell was the weakest one, still cranking away. Most of the viruses were in the moderately strong intermediate generations. After twenty generations there were 1,048,576 of the virus spells. The watching Champions began to feel stirrings of hope.

There were 40 generations of viruses when Salamander noticed that Nihil was becoming more active. It looked as though it was beginning to boil, or perhaps writhing in pain. At 42 generations we became aware of a sound like a mighty whimpering. We were puzzled-the sound was unexpected and inexplicable.

Tragedy struck at the 44th generation. Nihil began to fight back, sending tremendous blasts of destructive energy at the viruses and the Champions. Powerful beams of blue-white energy seemed to be everywhere. All the Champions were unprepared and unprotected, and considerable damage was done. Even if we had been forewarned we couldn't have defended ourselves; the best shields we could make would be five-dimensional and the eight-dimensional destructive blasts would have easily gone past them.

We ourselves were mortally wounded, and in great shock and pain. The extremities of our arms and legs had been burned away. Our internal organs were singed as badly as our external surfaces, because the attack had been higher dimensional. The only reason we could still function at all was our experience operating without a body during our contest with the Lord of Terror.

We heard a heartbroken wail nearby. Belldandy, who was badly burned herself, was crying and cradling the remains of Skuld's body. There were only a few identifiable fragments of Urd's body. Five Champions died in that first retaliation. The remainder of us were all severely injured. Nihil was a formidable foe indeed.

Nobody had anticipated that Nihil was self-aware or had a sense of self-preservation. We might have been attacking a living creature, which was entirely against our principles. The battle might have been lost at that moment-we would probably have given up and died-but we fell back upon a resource even Kami-sama hadn't anticipated. Both Keiichi and Megumi were mothers of young children, so we had the strongest motivation of any living thing-maternal instinct.

We vowed, "You may be able to get us, but you won't get our kids!"

Our connection to the Reservoir was still open. We reached out for some energy to perform a healing spell, but we got more than we expected. The Reservoir spoke to us! In a voice like a mighty church organ, it said, "I am with you." The Reservoir had never spoken before, and it never spoke again.

The Reservoir was "with us." There is no proper word for the relationship that was established. It did not become a member of our composite selves, and we did not become a part of it. The Reservoir became somewhat like a symbiote, somewhat like a partner, and somewhat like a shadow. It was almost like a resonance, almost like a geometrical congruence, almost like a marriage. We were distinct, yet inseparable. The Reservoir was "with us," and both the Reservoir and we were greatly enhanced.

We healed ourselves and then the surviving Champions and onlookers. Nihil was still raging, and continued to lash out, but now we could block its attacks. The Reservoir enabled us to work directly in higher dimensions. We fought back. We created eight pairs of opposing wedges of eight-dimensional force, which converged at its center to divide Nihil into 256 pieces. We built a nine-dimensional enclosure surrounding Nihil and the virus spells, to separate them forever from the rest of Noplace. The power levels we used were so huge that our incandescent physical body was being continuously destroyed and recreated by the energy flow.

Nihil screamed in agony. It was the most awful sound imaginable. The shell we had built around it (him?) muffled the sound, but not enough. If we had had ears, covering them wouldn't have helped. Traces of the echoes of that scream became the seeds of every nightmare anyone ever had. If you've ever wondered where bad dreams come from, now you know. Finally the screaming ended. The battle was over. We had won, but the cost had been great.

There were many casualties, but there was no time in Noplace and the usual rules didn't apply. We could reach out "before" the deaths to do protective and healing spells. First we saved Urd and Skuld, and then we tried to save the Champions who had died, even the ones who had died "before" we arrived in Noplace.

A few Champions refused our aid. For example, Creature said, "Leave me alone, I prefer to die now that Nihil is destroyed." Only later would we really understand how he felt.

Perhaps we should have felt triumphant. We had done what no other Champion had been able to do. We had defeated the toughest opponent anyone had ever faced and saved all the remaining universes from destruction. We felt no thrill of victory, no pride of achievement. After all, we had only done what we'd been designed to do. Unfortunately, we had killed a self-aware, possibly living, entity of enormous potential. Our progenitors had lived thousands of centuries without killing or hurting anyone, but we had bloodied our hands only a few days after we were "born." Some of the Champions felt jubilant; some showered us with adulation. We only felt tired, ashamed, and disgusted.


Author's Note: This is book four of the KMT Trilogy. How can a trilogy have four books (actually, there are five books in all so far)? Blame Douglas Adams. Besides, "Keiichi's Magic Trick Pentology" just doesn't have the same cachet as "KMT Trilogy."
Mike