Happy Michael Myers day! (10/31)
"No thank you!" Yang yelled as she fired a slug from Ember Celica at the stranger's face, but it passed through him like he was a hallucination, "I'm just fine with staying human!"
"Oh darling, it's not even a relevant species." the stranger said with a patronizing laugh, "There are scores of emerging life on other worlds more complex." He glanced at what used to be Ruby. "Your malleable biology, such as it is, stands alone as anything even remotely noteworthy.
The monster came charging at Pyrrha, swatting Yang out of the way and sending her smashing through a brick wall, and kept going after Pyrrha, evidently intent on killing only her. Pyrrha, still marred and immobile from earlier, could do nothing as she was stabbed over and over again with Myrtenaster, Yang suddenly came back and tackled the creature off of her.
"I won't let you take any more of my friends!" Yang cried as her semblance exploded to life in her anger. She struck the creature with an uppercut, hitting it so hard that it let go of all three of its weapons and was launched into the air. As if uninterested, the creature didn't react as Yang then jumped up and punched it again, sending it straight into the ground below and causing the concrete to crack apart. The creature got up, staring down Yang as she landed. Perhaps deciding that she was becoming a nuisance, it rushed forward and brought its arm down like a hammer. Yang took it straight to the face and she was smashed onto her back like a huge boulder had been dropped on her from above, but when the creature raised its arm, she sprang right back up and kept going with even stronger punches. Now fed up, the creature delivered a blow to the torso, this time with some actual effort. Yang flew backwards, bouncing over the concrete ground several times before smashing through a stone wall, but she got up and just ran back in complete disregard of her injuries. With her hair burning bright like the sun, she punched the creature with so much force that the buildings behind it were knocked over and reduced to rubble by the massive shockwave. She had the power to draw additional strength from the damage she took, and her wounds had already reached the point of becoming fatal. The creature was blown away like a watermelon hit by a shotgun blast, but then it instantly pulled itself back together in midair.
"I… feel… g… o… o… d…" the creature groaned in Ruby's voice, "It hurts… it hurts… I am… H… A… P… P… Y… it's not right, not right…" It landed with a crash, lunged forward, then clashed with Yang again, resulting in them pushing against each other in a mutual test of strength. The two wrestled in place but it was clear that the creature was still easily the more powerful. Yang had never endured anywhere near this much damage in her life, but no matter how much of the creature's strength she turned against it, it just kept drawing even more out of a seemingly limitless pool.
"Sis, Blake, I will end your suffering! I will! I will!" Yang shouted as blood seeped between her teeth. The creature roared before severely tightening its grip. Yang let out a cry of pain and fell to her knees as she felt her hands being crushed into pancakes. A fiery beam suddenly hit the creature from the side, burning a huge hole through it that didn't immediately heal. It turned its 'head' to see Pyrrha lying in a pool of her own blood, pointing the stone-like lance at it. It roared, let go of Yang, and went for Pyrrha instead. Yang stared into her bloody, shaking palms and watched as Ember Celica crumbled apart, falling off her deformed hands and onto the ground. "Dammit, not like this… not this easily…" Yang croaked as she tried to get up. She watched as the creature tore through the heaps of metal Pyrrha threw at it with her semblance. A second hole was burned through its chest, and it roared in outrage as it slowly drew closer to Pyrrha. Running out of stuff to throw at it, Pyrrha launched her javelin forward only for it to be swatted upward, causing it to flip through the air before plunging into the ground like 'the sword in the stone' right next to Yang. The beam-lance was dropped with a clang as the creature grabbed Pyrrha with one of its appendages by the neck in a chokehold, which was then suddenly sliced off by Yang using Pyrrha's javelin like it were a sword.
The creature let out a deafening roar, and Yang responded with a sobbing war cry of her own to show that she still wasn't backing down. The creature swung its other appendage, which Yang dodged and ducked around before counter attacking again and again, until a part of its hide suddenly hardened and Pyrrha's weapon shattered to pieces against it. All determination drained from Yang's face as red metal shards rained down from her sight, and she fell on all-fours in defeat. Perhaps thinking it was finished with her, the creature turned its attention back to Pyrrha, but Yang sprang up and stabbed it yet again with a now-broken blade. The creature turned back at Yang and impaled her through the stomach with the beam-lance it still held. It raised her up, holding the lance vertically with Yang crowning the top of it.
"AAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHH!" Yang screamed with fury, chopping away at the creature's face again and again and again with the broken javelin, wailing madly like she was a psychopath herself, until suddenly its head rolled off and landed on the ground. The creature let go of the lance and dropped Yang to the ground as it stumbled backward.
"Hmph. The lot of you are beginning to bore me." the stranger grunted with a hand to his face, "I can't be mad at you though. I've driven more families to kill each other than you could imagine." The creature grabbed its own head, put it back on its shoulders, and just like that, all of Yang's efforts had been rendered meaningless. It turned back at Yang and shambled toward her.
"Look at you! I'm your sister!" Yang croaked with her mouth filled with blood, "Look what's happened to you, Ruby!" Not seeming to hear her, the creature stood over her and pulled the lance out from her torso.
"Moment in life that caused her to break from reality! State of arrested development! What made her like this, doctor?! Hahaha!" the creature laughed. It raised the lance then brought it down, driving the tip straight at Yang's face for the kill.
"Enough!" Jaune shouted, coming out of nowhere and running into the creature. He didn't tackle it. He didn't attack it in any way. He hugged it. The creature just froze and stared down at him. Jaune let go and looked over his shoulder at Yang, whom was bleeding out. "Nothing anyone could say would get through to Ruby, cause she can't hear us." he said and looked back at the creature, "Right? There's someone else behind those eyes… erm… face?" The creature grumbled in response. "Yeah, let's go with fa…" Jaune trailed off, then remained silent for a moment. He sighed. "Look, I know you're tired of all this. You let my friend kill you because you wanted to move on so badly, but something in your gut just wouldn't let you, and then you just sort of surfaced again."
"It hurts… hurts… hurts… Jaune… I feel g… o… o… d… I hate it!" the creature hissed.
"I know." Jaune said and stroked his hand along the creature's face to comfort it, "Thanks to that freaky hive mind stuff, I can feel what you feel; makes it easier to piece together why you're so crazy about me." He shook his head. "Not that I'm bad looking but… I just remind you of someone else, don't I? That's all there is to it. Someone you had also danced with and… 'shagged it up' with." He made an awkward grimace. "You see your old life when you look at me."
The creature seemed to be breathing hard in response, reminiscent of hyperventilating. "Not Miri… not Ruby… not anyone now! No one!" it shrieked.
"Yeah, you're a confused mix of different people and you can't think straight now."
The creature's hyperventilating sounded more and more like sobbing, and then became an enraged growl before it lunged at Jaune violently. Perhaps having seen it coming, Jaune caught the creature's arms and stood his ground against it, remaining calm and focused as it tore at his flesh and took bites out of him. He grabbed the creature's head and upper body with both hands and pulled with all the strength he could muster. The creature roared as it tried to resist.
"I could use a little help here!" Jaune shouted, "I know you two are watching!" He made a fierce, determined look as he wrestled with the creature as an equal. "Ruby, Blake!" he cried as the creature started to gain the upper hand.
Pyrrha watched with confusion from where she sat. At first she had assumed Jaune meant her and Yang, which was absurd given their wounds, but to hear that he was calling for Ruby and Blake seemed even more ridiculous. She then realized that Jaune was ripping off the portion of the creature she had once described as a cesspit. The rest of the creature, which brimmed with the essence of red petals and black fog, seemed to assist Jaune in forcing it out. The creature screamed an unearthly sound akin to a death-cry as Jaune tore off the 'cesspit' portion and threw it to the ground, where it squirmed like a fish out of water and hissed like a snake set on fire, until it fell motionless. The other half of it just flopped backward and reacted as if it had just barfed. Jaune turned his attention to Pyrrha, calling out her name as he ran over to her.
For a few moments there was only rain and the sounds of the creatures above, which all seemed to ignore the town below and were heading in the direction of the city of Mistral. Slowly, the disgusting mound of flesh that made up the still-living half of the creature crawled over to Yang. The girl with golden hair lay there battered, stabbed, and broken, having taken on something she never stood a chance against and refused to give up. The creature reached over with one of its appendages and just… touched her hand.
"Ruby? That's you now, right?" Yang choked out, unable to even raise her head, "You're better now…"
"You think I can't go crazy on my own?! That it must be someone else's fault?" the creature babbled as it grabbed the top of itself and clawed for non-existent hair to pull on, "No less crazy! Not any better!"
"You're not as confused."
"More afraid… don't want to be alone! She didn't… I don't either… I'm afraid, Yang."
Yang suddenly gripped the creature's appendage tightly and pulled herself upright in an astounding show of resolve. "Then don't you dare leave me behind!" she shouted fiercely, "Wherever you're going, promise me you'll take me with you!" Pushing herself this way took its toll, and she fell forward as life faded from her eyes. "Let me… be your…" The creature caught her in its arms…
But things in life will rearrange.
Friends come and go.
Don't ever doubt, don't ever fear,
I'm always here and you know.
I will cling, I will clutch,
I'll hold onto you, I won't turn away.
I won't leave, I won't go,
I will stay with you all our days…
Ruby Rose, with her ordinary attire, innocent face, and silver eyes, slowly stood up and stared down at a puddle of blood half mixed in rainwater. "Just like that…" Raindrops fell and ripples echoed through the puddle. "A weak sendoff and everything keeps going like it wasn't worth thinking about." Yang's body was neither on the ground nor in Ruby's arms. Like Blake, she was nowhere. There was also… "Oobleck!" Ruby cried in realization, "He was good, he was wise, and I killed him!" With her head oddly clear for the first time in what felt like ages, other names came to mind. Velvet, Winter, even Mercury and Emerald, all pointlessly killed off… because they were just insignificant mortals. "It's all my fault." Ruby said despondently, "I'm running out of people that mean anything to me." The stranger suddenly grabbed her arm tightly. She turned her head to face him, startled.
"The meaning of a human life is what you choose to give it, and you are too sentimental for your own good." the stranger said, sounding rather benign.
"Yeah well, we all got people that matter to us!" Ruby yelled back and tugged her arm away.
"Oh, I'm not talking about you. I was talking about your kind." the stranger said with a smirk, "Your minds, while already fragile, cannot handle these emotions that at least do not burden lesser beings. A cockroach cannot morn the loss of its brother. Cthulhu would acknowledge the loss of his offspring, but would not be pained by it."
"Just leave me alone!" Ruby yelled before looking away, "It takes a puny human to understand a puny human. What Yang was to me can't be explained by a science."
"Yes, the stars will weep for her." the stranger said, actually sounding sincere, "Just kidding. I'd have forgotten her name already if I wasn't all-knowing."
Ruby gritted her teeth. Were it not for this 'guy', whatever he was, things for her would be just bad instead of horrendous. She walked over to where she had dropped Crescent Rose, intending to reclaim it, but hesitated when she saw the black blade. "I should never have touched that stupid book…" she muttered.
"You, the human, should have left it behind." the stranger said, "But you, the adventurer, chose to penetrate the unknown."
Ruby spun around with her scythe and sliced the stranger clean in half. He fell apart, revealing the pharaoh underneath as if shedding a costume or a shell. Ruby had no doubt that it wouldn't have happened if he didn't want it to. "Damn it… am I stuck with this guy forever?" she huffed as she put the scythe on her back. She didn't care what this guy was, but what did he want? After all this time, she still knew so little about him, only that he had yet to speak in the form of a question.
"The truth can be worse than not knowing." the pharaoh said, evidently reading her thoughts.
"Whatever you're trying to say, I don't want to hear it." Ruby said with a harsh glare, "All I really want to know is how to get rid of you!"
"Very well. Lets play a simple game then. Just guess my name and I will leave you be."
Ruby squinted at the pharaoh, but as always, there was no facial expression for her to read. "Okay not-Rumpelstiltskin." she said dubiously, "This isn't like those unwinnable bets the grim reaper is supposed to make with people, right? Do you even have a name?"
"Find relief when I say that countless others, on this world and on others, know it." the pharaoh said in an eerily friendly tone, "I'm in a generous mood today, so I'm making it easy for you. I wont even give you a time limit," he raised his index finger, "but you have only one guess."
Ruby just stared back with a stupefied look. She didn't have the faintest idea what this thing was called, but she was not going to squander a chance to be free of it. Her mind ran through every word she could remember it saying to her, searching for any clue that it might have dropped. She had nothing to go off of. "Could you… uh… give me a hint?" she asked nervously.
For the first time, contrary to everything that came before, it actually felt like the pharaoh's expression drastically changed, like he was suddenly very exited. "I'd love to." he said menacingly.
"No wait! I changed my mind!" Ruby cried with immediate regret. The pharaoh spread his arms out and everything around them became warped. The two of them were suddenly out in the vacuum of space, but Ruby could still breath and she remained standing on ground she could not see. An illusion? Magic? Something there were no words for? "This your idea of a hint?" she whispered. To her left she could see a planet, her world, Remnant, appearing as a big mostly-blue and somewhat-green ball. It was so big that any evidence of it's countless inhabitants could not even be seen from all the way out here. "I don't quite follow." she said.
"You will soon." the pharaoh said. Everything quickly became smaller… no, their view was zooming out.
"Why are you showing me this?" Ruby asked. Now, she could see the solar system with its massive sun at the center. She knew there were planets orbiting around it, but they were so small and so far away from each other that she could no longer even see them. "Never mind. I don't want an answer." she added. The view zoomed out even more, reaching the point where the stars no longer appeared as balls of fire, and became a solid stream of light that made up the massive swirl that was the galaxy. More than one-hundred-billion stars made it up, but from here they seemed like glowing particles of water in a steam cloud. Still not finished, the view zoomed out even further and further until the massive galaxy was just a spec in a sea of empty blackness, then suddenly an uncountable amount of other tiny galaxies, coming in a wide range of different shapes and colors, came into view. There were so many, even more than there were stars in any single one of them. Each was bigger than she could imagine, yes so small and insignificant from this perspective. Despite the unbelievable distance between them, each was like a tiny grain of sand that made up a desert that stretched on forever. "Stop it! It's too much!" Ruby cried, falling to her knees and clutching her head in agony.
"You've only begun to see." the pharaoh said, raising his arms as if making a declaration. The view continued to zoom out.
"No more! I don't want any hints!" Ruby screamed. She turned her head, but she could still see it. She closed her eyes, but she could still see it. The entire universe, made up of so many galaxies that a new number would have to be invented, became nothing more than a dot, then it was no longer even visible. The view still continued to zoom out even further with everything remaining completely black for some time, until something new came into view. To the right, Ruby could see a fleshy wall of… something… far away from the universe she knew. It was formless, moving, alive. The view zoomed more, revealing this 'wall' to be just one side of a massive creature, which could only be described as a big ball of eyes, teeth, and tentacles. From it echoed an elegant but twisted music-like sound.
"I told you before that I am a servant." the pharaoh said.
"Of… that?!" Ruby said, completely overwhelmed by the sight.
"Him?" the pharaoh said with great amusement, "No, not this one!" Yet again their view zoomed out tremendously, to the point where this monster, which made the whole universe look like a single-celled organism, now seemed tiny. From this perspective Ruby could see more… many more beings of equal size, though no two looked anything alike.
"Aaaaaaaahhhh!" Ruby shrieked in horror, unable to blink or look away for one reason or another. Now, she could see the whole picture. There were trillions of these ridiculously huge beings orbiting around a far, far greater monstrosity that easily put the rest to shame, like ants swarming around an elephant, ants that were ceremoniously playing a bizarre music that was, for a welcome change of pace, not maddening, but soothing in a way that made Ruby feel sleepy. The mere sight of the thing in the nucleus kept her astir however.
"Should they stop playing for only a moment, my master Azathoth would awaken!" the pharaoh proudly proclaimed, "Everything would immediately end, for all of existence is his dream!"
At that moment, it was like Ruby's mind had been completely eviscerated, and so soon after recovering from seeing Cthulhu. Her mind was destroyed again, light-years worse than last time.
"Gaze upon him, mortal!" the pharaoh bellowed, "Gaze upon him and despair!"
Ruby cried out so loud that her lungs popped as tears of blood flooded from her eyes. This amorphous blight of nethermost confusion, blaspheming and bubbling at the center of all infinity… the boundless daemon sultan whom gnawed hungrily in inconceivable, unlighted chambers beyond time and space amidst the muffled rhythm of a vile, accursed tune. It was too much for a mortal. Too much for a mortal, and things so far beyond mortals that Ruby couldn't even begin to imagine them. All she could think about was ending her own suffering.
"Don't look at it, Ruby!" shouted a new voice.
Ruby suddenly felt someone in front of her hug her tightly. "What?!"
"I'm here sis." Yang said warmly, holding Ruby against herself, "I'll always be here…"
"Y… Yang?" Ruby gasped in disbelief.
"Let me be your strength." Yang whispered. The cold, empty blackness they were in became filled with a warm light. Don't you worry about the dark, I will light up the night with the love in my heart, I will burn like the sun, I will keep you safe and warm.
"I wish…" Ruby sniveled, "I wish things were how they once were. I miss… all our days…"
"Shhh… just focus on us." Blake said as she joined in, hugging her as well.
"Yang… Blake…" At that moment, Ruby forgot all about that horrible thing Yang and Blake were shielding her from. Being with her friends, no matter how unimportant they were, would always mean more to her than the biggest supreme being. With a deep, sobbing breath she smiled and cried real tears.
"You begin to tire me, Ruby Rose, so I will give you a more obvious hint." the pharaoh said.
"No need." Ruby said calmly, sitting on her knees. Yang and Blake were gone, but she was back in this dumpy village in the middle of Mistral's swamps again. Slowly, she stood up and walked over to that disgusting mound of flesh that Jaune pulled off of her earlier. She picked it up with one hand, fusing with it, and searched through what it knew. The pharaoh, whom wielded the promise of knowledge that, when revealed, only brought fear, terror, and apprehension… "Nyarlathotep," Ruby said, "You are Nyarlathotep, the messenger of the Outer Gods." She disconnected herself from Miriam and dropped her onto the ground.
Nyarlathotep clasped his hands together as if pleased. "You can see I was not lying, when I described this game to be simple and easy." he said sounding friendly, "Hei! Aa-shanta 'nygh! Treasure your humanity while it lasts and pray to all space that you may never meet me in my thousand other forms. Farewell, Ruby Rose, and beware, for I am the Crawling Chaos." At last, he turned his shoulder and was suddenly gone. He didn't vanish. It was more like realizing that he was never there in the first place, if that made any sense.
"Never been more happy to say goodbye to someone." Ruby said with a sigh of relief. She had forgotten what it felt like to relax. Considering who that nefarious being was and what he could do, her time around him could have been so much worse than it was. Ruby had a feeling that he had gone easy on her, either because he enjoyed her company or he wanted to torment her very slowly.
"Ruby, are you… good now?" Jaune shouted over to Ruby, approaching with Pyrrha limping beside him with her arm over his shoulder.
"I'm doing better." Ruby said with an easygoing tone.
"It's not like we could stop you if you were faking again." Pyrrha said. She turned her blind-folded head upward at the portal that had been opened above the town. The creatures coming out were all headed off into the distance in the same direction. "So uh… why are those things ignoring us?" Pyrrha asked, "I thought we were done when I saw them rain from the sky."
Ruby looked up at the portal as well. "They didn't notice you or Yang because there's a whole city of food next door." she said.
"You're talking about Mistral!" Jaune said in alarm, "Can't we doing something about that?"
"Not fast enough," Ruby said and shook her head, "If that portal doesn't close on its own, those creatures will keep pouring out forever. All anyone can do now is run away."
"Is there any way to close it?" Jaune asked.
"Not that I know of." Ruby replied.
"Know anyone that could tell us?"
"Just the guy that opened it."
"What about that nega-bible he read from?"
"He took it with him. Besides, nothing good can come from it."
Jaune stared at Ruby for a while. "Are you really back, Ruby? You're so calm about this." he said with concern.
"I am?" Ruby's gaze fell to the ground and she gave a subtle nod. She wasn't bottling up her emotions like before. She wasn't even numb. She felt sad, incredibly sad, but she was by no means debilitated by that sadness. Somehow it seemed easy to keep a level head without needing to shut anything out. "I don't feel calm at all." she said.
"I would've thought you'd show more concern for a whole kingdom." Jaune said sharply.
"Do you want me to overreact or something?" Ruby asked with irritation, "Look, I don't like it either, but those things are going to eat not just every human and faunus, but every living thing on the entire continent," she said with a wary shrug, "not that Cthulhu wasn't already going to do that. On the plus side, those creatures can't survive being outside their natural environment for very long, so they probably can't reach the other landmasses. All Mistral's people have to do is leave," she looked directly at Pyrrha, "and when that happens…"
"Say no more." Pyrrha said with her free hand making a 'stop' motion, "You're going to suggest making me like you and Jaune."
"It has its ups and downs." Ruby reluctantly admitted, "You don't age, you don't get sick, you're way tougher, 'Cthulhu and friends' won't outright kill you, but you have to keep a steady supply of humanity." She couldn't believe she was saying this, but ascending just didn't seem so bad now that she saw the bigger picture. "Do you remember those monsters that attacked Vale? That's what it looks like when you run out."
"I remember you from only a few minutes ago." Pyrrha murmured.
"You don't need to decide today." Ruby said, then looked to Jaune, "Jaune, just take her far away from here, where she'd be safe either way… erm, safer."
"What are you talking about?" Jaune said in disappointment, "You want to split up already?"
"There's something I gotta' do." Ruby murmured stubbornly. She walked over to where Myrtenaster lay on the ground and fell to her knees before it. Slowly, respectfully, she reached down to take Weiss's weapon with one hand below the handle and the other below the end of the blade. She stared down at it for a while. "It won't take long. I promise." She looked back at Jaune and Pyrrha. "Jaune, I can find you again no matter where you go. Just head to Vacuo if it's still there or whatever."
"What's wrong with Atlas?" Jaune asked.
Jaune made an expression of shock, then looked crushed. "Oh… I see."
Ruby fastened Myrtenaster to her belt. "No use in thinking about how bad things have gotten or what's on the 'bright side'." she said candidly, "Things are the way they are for better or worse, and we're still around to choose what we want to do in the middle of it all."
"Caring too much is just part of what makes us human, Ruby. It's a double-edged sword." Jaune said.
Ruby grinned before saying, "Yeah… it has its ups and downs."
Pyrrha tugged on Jaune's arm. "C'mon. We better get going." she said, wary of what was still above them.
"Just be careful about getting too 'close' to each other." Ruby said, fiddling her index fingers together, "You see, if the two of you were to 'do it', it would infect Pyrrha and make her one of the Ascended." She shrugged awkwardly. "I mean, nothing bad would happen if Jaune and I 'did it' but…" She noted the bewildered look on Jaune's face. "Argh, I'm gonna stop talking now."
"Ruby, how do you know all this stuff?" Pyrrha asked.
Ruby shrugged. "Just someone I ate and puked out…" She stepped away from her friends and walked over to the beam lance. It had broken in half when Yang had been stabbed with it. It was useless now, so Ruby left it where it was. She brought out Crescent Rose, switched it to its scythe form, and inspected it. Even though the pharaoh had gone, the blade was still as it was, cold, pitch-dark midnight remade into metal. From the look of things, it was her's to keep. She didn't want it, but she didn't feel right about dropping it on the ground where anything could pick it up, so she switched her weapon back to its compact form and put it away. She looked down at her belt and eyed Myrtenaster one more time.
"The meaning of a human life is what you choose to give it. You are too sentimental." Nyarlathotep had said to her.
"We all got people that matter to us." Ruby whispered, as she was filled with determination. After all she had been through, it was amazing how focused she felt… not to say that she could take on the eldritch abominations out there, she couldn't, but she at least felt like she could finally live with knowing that they were out there. Thankfully, she could not remember what the pharaoh had shown her, only that she had seen it. "I don't care if mankind isn't anything special." she said fervidly, "Even in death, my friends will always matter to me more than the most terrible monsters."
To be continued…
The thing about writing a story is that it becomes more and more difficult to do properly the longer it gets. It's not that you get a creative burnout, but that the range of ideas that would fit keeps getting more and more narrow. It's part of why so many stories on this website go unfinished.
I'm spent, this is a good stopping point, and I got things I need to do. Taking another break.
Edit: Or this will be yet another one forever doomed to remain incomplete…