Summary: It's one thing when a god whose existence is debatable makes rules and lays them down. It's another thing when a god who quite obviously exists lays down rules and someone breaks them.
"You're lucky I don't have anything else to do right now."
Megiddo slowly opened her eyes to see the flames being doused quickly and efficiently by a certain man in armor. "Nereus?"
"Lord Nereus, if you please," the god corrected. "You do seem to get yourself into worse and worse trouble, don't you?"
"Leave me alone," the priestess grumbled, pushing herself to her feet and hissing in pain as her skin came in contact with more acid. The hissing quickly turned to spluttering as Nereus directed a high-pressure stream of water at her, nearly slamming her into a pillar.
"You need to wash all that acid off of you," the god stated calmly before picking up the red container once more and spraying more of a white powder at the flames, a spray of water following to clean the acid away. "Hurry up and finish this, would you?"
"Yes, yes..." She looked around to see that Uriel had already turned Fourmi to dust and now seem to be waiting for Araignee. Papillon was struggling to move under the weight of her soaking and destroyed wings. "Sara!"
The girl crawled out from a nook under the throne. "Y-yes, big sister?"
Megiddo tried to smile. "I think we'll be going against that guy soon, so why don't you try and find earth to use?"
"O-okay." The girl moved on wobbly legs and the priestess felt a pang in heart. 'Well, at least she knows that reality isn't like stories,' she tried – and failed – to console herself. She sighed and shook head before walking over Papillon, saber drawn.
The creation glared at Megiddo balefully, much of her face eaten away by the acid. "Do you have any last words?" Megiddo asked, tapping the creature's neck with the blade of her sword.
Papillon said nothing, only glaring.
"That's fine, too. Rest in peace." She swung the sword, lopping Papillon's head. The body slumped to the ground.
"Megiddo, a little help over here!" Uriel called. The priestess turned to see the priest jumping backwards, dodging repeated attempts by Araignee to impale him from above.
Megiddo ran over, sword drawn. When Araignee dropped down once more, the priestess sliced through the fibers on the creation's back, forcing her drop to the ground completely.
With a hiss, Araignee swung one sword at Megiddo and followed up with a thrust from the other one. The priestess dodged quickly, slipping on the now-slick floor. The creation took advantage and swung both her swords at Megiddo in an X-shape, hoping to catch the priestess with at least one of them.
As the blades closed in on the girl, however, Araignee suddenly withdrew them, limbs flailing as she cried out in pain. Uriel, from behind, began to trace out the same crest as before and, within seconds, there was nothing left of Araignée but ashes.
"...You know, it took me a long time to build my bodyguards." Megiddo turned to see that Verite had abandoned his work. "They've been my best friends... you killed my best friends..." he continued, voice lowering to a growl. "You all... I'll kill you to take vengeance for them..."
"It's not exactly our fault," Uriel pointed out. "You sent them to kill us in the first place. It's only logical that we'd do whatever it took to stay alive, given that we aren't suicidal."
"I've been trapped in here for so long," Verite whispered brokenly. "I don't know what's going on outside... every time I tried to leave, some kind of force kept me from getting out. What is this place? Is it supposed to be my crypt? I know that I died... or I was dying, at least. Why didn't I stay dead..." His head bowed, hiding his eyes from view, and his hands began to clench. Megiddo glanced behind him to see Nereus standing there, watching the other god. After a moment, he disappeared.
"Tell me why... Why am I still here?!" Verite roared. Toxic liquid seemed to seep out of his hands and mold itself to form katars. With another roar, he lunged toward Megiddo, bringing the blades forward.
The priestess quickly brought her blade up to block and the katars crisscrossed like scissors. Instead of separating the blades to attack, the god instead began to push Megiddo backward. She hit the wall behind her, her muscles straining to keep his weapons away.
Without warning, Verite twisted the blades of that katars and then squeezed the handles, forcing more blades out. Her saber was now caught between a total of six blades and the god was trying to twist the katars once more – to break her blade. With no other escape, she quickly dropped to the ground, bringing her sword down with her. There was a loud screeching of metal against metal as Verite's blades slammed into the wall just above her head, breaking through the plating. The god's katars were caught, and while he tried to yank them back out, Megiddo scooted out from under him and tried to get a safe amount of distance between them. "Uriel?" she called. "Any ideas?!"
"Working on that," Uriel replied, working with Sara to try and pry off some of the plating.
Whatever they were planning, however, Verite soon changed the equation by managing to loose his blades. There was a faint purple glow, and that was the only warning the trio got before the god pointed his katars at them and sent twin streams of acid. Luckily, they all managed to dodge, leaving the acid to eat through the metal plating.
The swordswoman picked herself up. "If I run into this guy again, I'm making sure that I have Evangeline with me," she snapped, mostly speaking to herself.
"Yes, well, let's hope that we don't need to run into him again," Uriel replied curtly, setting Sara back on her feet. "Do you think you can work with that?" he asked the little girl, nodding over to one of the acid puddles.
Sara looked thoughtful for a moment before nodding. "I think I can!"
"Need to do a little better than 'think'," Uriel told her before throwing more oil at the god. Verite paused to wipe the oil off.
"I'll do my best!" Seeing that Verite had stopped in an acid puddle, Sara concentrated, then clapped her hands. "Terra Burst!"
On her command, the ground beneath Verite exploded upward and outward. The god was blasted off of his feet and into the air before landing on the ground a few moments later. The god sat there for a few minutes, dazed and confused from impact.
Spotting his confusion, Megiddo lunged forward and stabbed him with her sword, the blade sliding all the way through his body and coming out the other end. The god grunted, but there seemed to be no other reaction. For a brief moment, deity and priestess stared dumbly at where the blade had penetrated, before Megiddo was shocked back into action. She yanked the sword back out, wincing at how easily it was removed, and backed away from Verite, keeping a close watch on his reaction.
"Why... why..." he began to mutter, one hand touching the wound Megiddo had inflicted. "Why can't I just die?! I just want to die!!!" Snatching up his katars, he jumped and took a swing at Megiddo, attacking her rapidly in a blind rage.
The swordswoman countered the god as best she could, throwing in her own attacks when she could, but it was almost as though the man didn't have a backbone. He was able to dodge each and every blow and return with an attack of his own, sometimes bending into nearly impossible positions to do so.
"Stupid! Freaking! Poison users!" Megiddo hollered, punctuating each sentence with another thrust, slash, or block. As she stepped back again, she heard a splash and a hiss and realized that she and Verite were standing in another acid puddle, which meant...
The priestess managed to leap out of the way just before the earth erupted upwards once again and sent the god back into the air. She dropped onto the floor, but with much less force than there would have been if she had gotten caught in the blast.
"Sorry, big sister!"
"I... just..." The priestess shook her head. "Never mind!" She shoved herself to her feet and lunged toward Verite, aiming a slash toward his neck this time. Once again, the god failed to move out of the way and…
His head rolled a bit on the ground, ending up with his face in the dirt. The body slumped to the floor.
Megiddo stared. "What... just happened?" she asked shakily.
"You killed him?" Uriel seemed to be in just as much shock. "What kind of sword is that?"
"Nothing special," the priestess replied, continuing to stare at the corpse. Stunned as she was, she missed Sara moving toward the body until the girl was next to it. "Sara?"
The girl gave the head a little tap with her shoe before her face suddenly paled. She turned tail and headed to the throne, stumbling to its opposite side. Then there was the sound of loud retching.
"Sara..." Megiddo moved to go to the other girl's side, but Uriel caught her arm and kept her from moving. "What?!"
"Let her deal with it herself for right now," Uriel advised, not relinquishing his grip. "We have a slightly more important issue to take care of." He indicated the headless body of the god.
"How is that more important?" Megiddo snapped. "Because we need him alive? For all we know, he isn't even really dead! His creations don't seem to like staying like that, at any rate."
"Those things were already dead," Uriel pointed out, sounding as though he were explaining something to a particularly slow-witted child.
The priestess responded by tossing her sword up to grip the blade and then proceeded to smack Uriel in the head with the hilt again. "And gods are supposed to be immortal!" A sudden movement to the side caught their attention and Megiddo stifled a scream.
Verite's body had sat up and was now feeling around him, presumably for his head. "Let-me-go-let-me-go-let-me-go!" Megiddo squeaked, yanking her arm out of Uriel's slackened grip and backing away from the moving corpse. The priest watched the body with an unreadable expression, though he didn't seem surprised about what was happening.
At length, the body found its head and stuck it in place, shifting it slightly from side to side. There was a loud crunching and squishing noise while the head was healed into place and the god finally removed his hands, gingerly stretching out his neck. "...Ow."
Steeling herself, Megiddo moved into a ready position. She glanced to the side to see that Sara had stopped throwing up and was now clinging to the side, body shaking. 'I have to finish this quickly,' she thought, drawing the blade back to deliver her first strike.
To her great surprise, Verite held up one hand, the other one busy rubbing at his neck. "Hold your horses! I'd rather not get my head chopped off again, if it's all the same to you," he remarked. Shoving himself to his feet, he walked over to the stone slab and hopped up to take a seat, the body already on it being shoved out of the way. "Not a clean cut... ow..."
The priestess flushed a little in embarrassment and indignity. "Well, it's not like I'm trying to make bodies easily reparable when I try to kill people," she said angrily, taking out a cloth and beginning to wipe any traces of blood off of her sword.
"Yes, well. Was there something that you wanted? Of course there is," he continued, not waiting for an answer. "You wouldn't have come all this way otherwise. Now what is it?"
"Er..." Megiddo was a little stunned by how different Verite's personality was now. "Your, um, dolls. They're sort of causing trouble for the town nearby here?"
He shook his head. "Oh, no, that can't be right," the god responded easily. "My dolls are under strict orders not to kill anything; they only take the bodies of those already dead or dying from disease."
"Well, then... I don't know what's going on," the priestess said, looking over at Uriel for help.
"Well... regardless, if something else is causing the deaths for the town nearby, as the resident deity, isn't it you responsibility to protect them?"
Verite paused. "A deity, huh? So that's what I am..." He was silent for a moment. "Well, at least now I know who's responsible for my predicament. In any case, I don't mind lending my protection to the town, but I'm afraid they're out of my reach."
""Out of your reach"?" Megiddo repeated. "What do you mean?"
"In the first place, I can't leave this place, as I said earlier," he explained. "In the second, while my realm of influence does reach out of here, I still don't have a very long reach. It's within the confines of the forest, at least."
"Right." Megiddo remembered what she had felt in the forest so many hours ago. "It's because you're sealed in here, right?'
The god gave her a confused look. "Sealed? I am? What does that mean?"
"Er... Well, Ne – Lord Nereus said that someone trapped him in the lake so he couldn't move out of it. Maybe the same thing happened to you?" Megiddo thought the matter over.
"I've been stuck in this place ever since I came here," the god told her. "I'm not sure what you're talking about."
"Just hear me out. Do you have a statue around here somewhere? Made of gemstone?"
"Take me to it," Megiddo commanded. "Uriel, you take care of Sara and make sure she's all right."
Verite raised an eyebrow at her tone, but shrugged and hopped back off the platform. He walked over to an apparently solid wall and gave it a tap. The wall groaned and screeched as stone and metal ground against each other, the section of wall sliding upward to form a doorway. The god made a gesture to the priestess for her to follow him before disappearing into the darkened hallway.
As Megiddo started to follow, she heard Sara's faint voice. "Big sister? Are you sure you're going to be okay?"
Megiddo turned and smiled at her. "Don't worry about me. I can take care of myself." She glanced over at Uriel and gave a nod toward the little girl before walking after the god.
Luckily, the corridor was only dark in comparison to the body preparation chamber that they had just left and, after a few minutes, Megiddo's eyes adjusted. After that, she was able to pick out Verite's shape and followed him through the twists and turns that seemed to plague his entire temple.
At length, they finally ended up in a round chamber softly lit with violet light emanating from the globes around the room. In an odd way, it reminded Megiddo of the first room the group had entered in the temple.
However, instead of a large hole in the ground in the center of the room, there was an elaborate statue. As Megiddo had guessed, the statue was made of some kind of gemstone – amethyst, she would guess, though her knowledge of gems and crystals was admittedly lacking. The statue had been carved and polished into the shape of a fox, six tails fanning out behind it. As Megiddo stepped closer, she felt the familiar magic – the magic that she had felt off of the bricks outside of the temple and the same magic, she now realized, she had felt from the statue sealing Nereus in the Lake of Illusions.
There was a pull now, between her and the statue. Everything else was reduced to unimportant shadows, and the voice in her head spoke louder than ever.
Touch it, release it, free it, accept it... It's such a thrill and it makes me feel so WHOLE, it's the proof that a divine being exists because only a god could fashion something so superb!
Just as with the other one, Megiddo placed her hands on the statue. The magic immediately began to swirl about her, practically begging to be let free. It was so different from what she had felt from the seal in the lake. That had pulled in on itself, determined to hold and close itself off to the rest of the world. This one seemed desperate to be broken apart. It wasn't long before the magic synched with hers and the seal split open, her body flooding with wave upon wave of magical energy, absorbing it and twisting it, shaping it into something else before the magic vanished.
When Megiddo regained consciousness, she was lying outside of the temple in the bright light of morning. She flinched automatically, bringing a hand up to shadow her eyes. "What time is it?" she mumbled, not expecting an answer.
Therefore she was understandably startled when she received one. "Sometime around ten in the morning, I would guess," a familiar melodic voice answered.
Megiddo jerked into a sitting position to see that she was outside of the temple entrance – she could now see that the temple was in some pyramidal shape – along with Uriel and Sara. Nereus and Verite were standing together off to the side, and from the look of things, they had been discussing something when Megiddo had woken up.
Pushing herself into a sitting position, she felt the brush of unfamiliar cloth against her body, along with a notable absence of other clothing, and realized that 1. She was wearing Uriel's cassock and 2. She wasn't wearing anything else. Her sword was by her side. "What in the name of Our Lady of Ends happened?" she screeched, pulling the cassock close as though hoping to lessen her feeling of nudity.
"You passed out," Verite supplied helpfully. "I brought you to the others and then Lord Nereus showed up and brought us out here."
"Why don't I have my clothing with me?" Megiddo demanded.
"Your clothes were covered with plague and chemicals. If you walked into town like that, you would have caused an epidemic the likes of which haven't been seen in centuries," was Nereus's answer. "If you can't guess, that means that your clothing required swift removal and destruction."
"You took my clothes!" the priestess shrieked, looking for all intents and purposes as though she were about to strangle the both of them if amends weren't made soon.
"Technically the priest took your clothes. Which would be why you're wearing his," Nereus replied, seeming unconcerned about the prospect of imminent violence.
Which may or may not have been a good thing, considering that Megiddo saw red at Nereus's pronouncement. She immediately stomped over to Uriel and kicked him in the stomach. "You perverted bastard!" she shrieked, seemingly ignorant of his muffled cry of pain. "You say you're a priest, but then you take off my clothes and see my body?" She moved to deliver another kick, but the priest quickly caught her leg and pulled it out from under her, unbalancing her until she fell over.
"I'm the only one, other than Lord Verite, that could touch you without the possibility of getting infected," he explained with more patience than the girl deserved at that point. "Also, I didn't really look. Sara helped with that."
Megiddo curled up on the ground, tugging the cassock down so it would definitely cover everything. "Whatever. Can we just go back to the town already?"
Uriel stretched out on the warm grass. Sara was fast asleep beside him. "Technically, no," he responded finally. "We haven't figured out the source of the disturbances, if it isn't Lord Verite, even though we may have found a solution."
It was then that Nereus spoke up. "If you want to find the source of the disturbances, you'll have to look elsewhere."
The priestess sat up. "You know who's causing the disturbances?" she demanded. "Who is it? What are they?"
There was a shrug from the armored god. "They are nowhere on this planet – in this universe, for that matter. As for who they are, well, I've been told that you've met one of them before, though that was all."
"You are the least helpful god ever, you know that?" Megiddo said though gritted teeth. "How is that supposed to be any help?"
"You'll have to help yourself," Nereus said in response. "Those are the orders. Sorry."
"I'm sure you are-"
"Lord Nereus," Uriel interrupted, "If it's all right with you and Lord Verite, may we return to the town now? I’m sure that Sara's parents will be worried about her and the priestess and I need to get some proper rest, among other things."
"I've no complaints," Nereus answered. "Verite?"
"No complaints here, milord!" the other god responded quickly.
"Then I'll send you to your rooms," the dragon god said. "If you want to the bottom of all of this, I suggest you visit the holy forest of the tree nymphs. There is another goddess sealed there that can be helpful to you, but if you wish to gain her aid, it will cost you a high monetary value, so you need to be prepared."
The priestess chewed her lip. "I should report back to the convent, " she said nervously. "These are two missions that I probably won't be able to collect payment on, so I... Well, I probably won't be allowed out again for a while..."
"So don't go back," Nereus said simply.
"What? What shouldn't I? I don't want to be kicked out of the order!" the priestess exclaimed.
"Haven't you realized that the order is a lie? The entire religion is a lie. Nothing more than the thought experiment of a pair of goddesses with too much time on their hands."
Megiddo jumped to her feet. "You take that back!" she hollered, picking up her sword and waving the hilt at the god. "Blasphemer! Don't give me your lies!"
"I'll blaspheme as much as I think is necessary, I am a god after all. In any case, I'm only telling the truth. It's your choice whether you choose to believe me or not."
"I don't," she replied, crossing her arms. "You can't break me of my faith."
The dragon god shook his head. "Whatever. If you're ready, I'll transport you now."
"W – "
Before another word could be said, Megiddo and Uriel found themselves in their room at the inn with Sara nowhere in sight.
Megiddo immediately headed for the door. "I need to check on Sara. She's probably at her house, right? So I'll just – " Uriel grabbed her arm and flung her onto the bed in one easy motion. "What are you – ?!"
"You're exhausted, I'm exhausted, Sara's exhausted, and she's probably going to be chewed out when she wakes up. The same goes for us. We might as well get some rest while we can." He flung himself onto his own bed, burrowing into the sheets. "Good night."
"But – "
"Good NIGHT, Megiddo."
The priestess rolled her eyes. She did feel a little tired, though, and the sheets were so soft and clean… Before she knew it, she had drifted off into a deep sleep.