Chapter 54, This, Too, Shall Pass
I do not own anything relating to either series. Seriously. What a shocker.
Sorry it has taken me so long to come back around to this story, but I'm here now. No more tears, only stories now.
So, without further adieu, let's get back into the Apocalypse!
Lilith watched with a frown as her father paced the gallery within the Velvet Tower too and fro anxiously, one arm clasped atop the intricately decorated eye patch he wore over his missing eye while the other was held firmly behind his back. He was far paler than he had been two weeks prior, even directly after his battle with Hades, and he often appeared to stare into space for hours on end before randomly scrawling what could almost be confused with Runes upon whatever surface he was nearest to. Entire bookshelves were now lined with journals so thick they could be considered Grimoires, all filled to the brim with his inhumane etchings.
Sometimes, the youngest Dragon God could swear she could hear strange uttering in the back of her mind if she stared at the script too long, something she was loath to bring up in front of either of her parents.
It was for this very reason that his office had to be sealed away from anyone but himself, Nyx and Ophis, as they were the only beings capable of shrugging off the cold chill that his strange written language brought along. It was as if his vast spiritual presence had been contained within the script and amplified, twisted, in a way that did not include or induce the natural calm that his darkness usually brought her.
Lilith could not say she enjoyed the last two weeks of her young life, as it felt as if her world had been turned on its head and violently relieved of its lunch money.
Another strange addition to his already large repertoire of artifacts was a silver goblet equally covered in Runes as his favored weapons, the Anti-Longinus and Ars Moriendi, one that he would trace the rim of with a single digit for a few moments before withdrawing into himself with heavy thought. Lilith would watch his brows knit together in confusion before said expression would clear up into enlightenment, denoting some form of understanding from whatever it was he was doing. It was an object he pilfered from the Land of the Dead after his fated battle with the now deceased Hades, apparently a copy of the Graal that acted in the same capacity as the original.
She didn't know much, but she knew that having a copy of the Holy Grail, of all objects, was perhaps not something the world at large should be made aware of. As the God of Death, her father had an unbreakable connection with the dead, yet with his newly acquired Longinus-Class Sacred Gear, he now bore a connection with the 'Concept of Life', as he so claimed. She had no idea what such a thing might entail, but the changes in his internal energies had become more and more obvious as the days went on.
This change was antithetical to his own nature, and Lilith could feel his almost limitless life force get weaker and weaker as the seconds ticked by. If he did not either reverse or remove said traces of the 'Concept of Life' now taking root within him, his own conceptual nature as Death could potentially be overridden or cease to exist altogether.
Lilith and Ophis were the only two to know this fact so far and it was something they kept close to their chest as they tried to work out a way to prevent the inevitable from coming to pass. Every day they dawdled, the worse the changes became, and Lilith feared that her father's preordained battle at the End of the World would come to pass before a solution to their problem could be found.
Activity within the halls of Hells Keep had been hectic to say the least, crawling with Sable, Devils, Fallen, Valkyrie, Einherjar, Human Wizards, Knights, the Fey, a large contingent of female Vampires and no small shortage of Youkai. All factions that have willingly joined the Grand Alliance, as the official name had been ratified after the conclusion of Hades incursion, remained on standby for what is to come while aiding in the immediate reconstruction and restructuring of Hell.
The inclusion of the Carmilla Faction had been rather hasty but the many female Vampires belonging to the Houses of Carmilla, Karnstein and Vordenburg seemed far too eager to include themselves for the process to go anything but smoothly.
Kuoh had been blanketed in the heaviest fog to hit Japan in centuries as a result of so many Vampires congregating within the city, yet with the chaos that has engulfed the world as a result of Deus's actions and the revelation of Trihexa, the citizens body has welcomed any who would act as protectors before the day of Armageddon finally arrives.
Many cities west of Moscow have been beset by the spawnlings of Trihexa, leaving not only the civilian Human populations to suffer tremendous casualties within Europe, but Supernatural beings as well. The fighting in Europe was moving further east and south as the armies of the united continent continued to fall beneath the might of The Beast, even when only faced with mere fractions of the beings forces. If not for the valiant actions of those associated with the Pagan Faction, an amalgam force created by the admixture of the native Slavic and Germanic pantheons, both western and eastern Europe alike would have fallen to the churning chaos that Trihexa has cursed the surface of the Earth with.
Lilith was ripped from her ruminations when her father finally deemed himself ready to speak with his family, those closest associate with the Protogenoi gathered around him as if that day were to be his last.
"I..." Minato started to speak for the first time in a few days to his large family, having just vacated the large ritual chambers within Holle Behalten an hour previous to return to Kuoh for rest, "I don't know how to say this. I don't even know where to begin..."
He seemed nervous, his lips pursed into a thin line as he slowly lowered the hand covering his missing eye before turning to face those seated before him. His body trembled slightly before settling down, his arm instinctively twitching upwards to clutch at his face once more before he forcefully fought it back down to his side.
Asia rose from her seated position first before taking a small step forward, her brows furrowed in concern as she extended a hand in his direction. "Whatever you have to say can wait a few more hours, can it not? You need to rest, you've pushed yourself hard enough."
Xenovia was right behind her, as was Bennia, the three Sable Sisters having grown closer and closer over the past few weeks to the point they were nearly inseparable.
Minato immediately shook his head in the negative, perhaps too quickly as the fringe of blue hair that covered the wounded portion of his face parted just enough for those gathered to see the sickly black veins that stretched from beneath the eye patch he wore. Multiple gasps rang out as almost everyone stood at once while attempting to rush forward, only for Minato to halt them with an outstretched hand after clasping at his face once more.
"Please don't start, it's probably not what you think it is." Minato tried to assure them, though his voice was far from evenly toned as it usually was. There was something else within his voice, an inflection or perhaps even emotion that was hardly perceivable to those who didn't know what to look for within the apathetic beings facial and body language.
His body trembled once more before settling, though it wasn't quick enough to be hidden from the watchful eyes of those that called Minato family. He was scared. Whatever it was that he'd seen during his countless rituals absolutely terrified him.
"I think it can wait." Koneko didn't mince her words as she took a few steps forward, only stopping when she was an arm length away from the minutely shaking God of Death.
Minato attempted to nod, only to frown as his legs started to shake far more heavily, "As soon as I..."
He didn't get to finish speaking, instead falling limp into Koneko's outstretched arms as his only visible silver eye rolled into the back of his head.
The panic that came afterwards was nearly palpable.
Minato awoke to soft murmurings and the steady thrum of a heart monitor, his mind refusing to comprehend the strange noises and light that filled his ears and eyes for quite a few seconds. It took him nearly a minute to grasp his bearings well enough to attempt to rise, though he found it to be futile. There were pick lines in his arm that seemed to be feeding him an elixir of sorts, a strange admixture of what appeared to be a pearlescent blood and something else he couldn't quite identify by sight alone.
"You really never learn, do you?" Came a voice Minato found all too familiar, though it took him a few seconds to recognize who was speaking.
"Azazel, where-" Minato wasn't able to respond further, instead leaning forward to cough heavily before laying back into the bed he was resting in. "Oh... I, do not feel well."
"I don't even know how you're alive, let alone complaining about not feeling well." The stern tone in Azazels voice caused Minato to pause slightly as he attempted to reach up to grasp at his forehead as he had almost constantly the past few weeks.
"Why do you say that?" Minato questioned after a moment, his voice slightly more steady than before as he allowed a small healing spell to wash over his body at the slight cost of Mana.
The sound of the older being scoffing echoed loudly through the room before suddenly, Minato found the front of his loose white garb balled up in Azazel's fist. "You keep playing stupid and I'm going to knock your new eye straight back out, God Damnit."
"I see..." Minato clenched his jaw slightly as the spike of anger he felt originated in his core raced through his body like the sparks of his blackened electricity. "So you know."
"Know what, that you slaughtered the Fates and stole their eye?" The way his tone twisted towards the end let Minato know how one of his closest associates felt about the actions he took. "What the fuck were you thinking?!"
"I was thinking of the future, of course." Minato shrugged almost casually, the many pick lines in his arms choosing to remove themselves from his body at once as he did so. "The future of my family, my friends and this world."
"So you just casually remove the heads of your sisters and leave them on pikes for the world to see?!" Azazel all but roared, both of his hands flying towards the skies in anger as bits of his internal energies began to bleed out. "You didn't need to desecrate them to steal their eye!"
"I did no such thing." Minato's tone did not rise like Azazel's, instead dropping an octave and gaining a tremendous weight, "I laid them to rest as if they were sleeping."
Azazel dropped his arms and locked eyes with the blue haired being before him as best he could, the one eye of the Fates still hidden behind bandages. The stare down continued for some time before Azazel eventually nodded and slid into the large, plush chair sitting next to Minato's bed.
"I take it you didn't nuke Olympus either, did you...?"
"Someone nuked Olympus? And it wasn't ME?"
To say things were tense on Earth would be the understatement of the century. The ripples from the events that transpired in Hell had reached every Pantheon and every continent, even those that were hidden under miles of ice.
One did not simply ignore the return of the God of the Bible, tremendous as his presence was, nor did you ignore The Beast he had brought with him. To declare war with what seemed to be the entire world was foolishness at best, forcing those who had been mortal enemies only a day before to turn their weapons away from one another and towards the skies in defiance. The situation in Heaven was far worse than it was on Earth, to the point that Civil War had almost broken out amongst their ranks for the first time since Lucifer himself had resided behind the Pearly Gates. It had taken everything in Michael's and Gabriel's power to prevent such an event from occurring, and as a result, Azazel found himself tending to entire legions of newly Fallen who knew only the Sin of Wrath.
It was easier to cast the dissenters down than slay them, especially for the two most peaceful children of YHVH.
Protests had erupted outside the Vatican in Rome and the Holy City had taken extreme measures to crack down on dissenters and ill speakers. Every Church and Cathedral across the planet became targeted with just as much ire as the heads of the Abrahamic faiths, though those keeping true to their religion were quick to take up arms in defense. Minato wanted nothing more than to stop the protests, as the actions committed by Deus did not reflect the beliefs of the Major Three, yet the protestors were not his own and thus his ability to control the situation was nil. Those of the Sable Church had maintained a strong image of support for those whom sought protection within their walls, no matter the God or Goddess they answered to.
There was nothing more he could provide for his comrades, strained as their relationship had become since the revelations of Deus and Trihexa tilted the world on its axis. Instead, on the dawn of the twenty first day, Minato stood before the Pearly Gates with as much dignity as he could. Saint Peter had announced his presence loudly, not as an enemy, but as a lost Son returned home. It made him even more hesitant to return to Heaven's doormat than ever before, and for that reason he refused the kind man when offered to be shown inside the wondrous Kingdom Come.
Saint Peter seemed to understand, his large smile never once falling from his face despite the disappointment clear as day in his eyes.
Finally, when Gabriel came, it was as a niece and not an ally, something that Minato couldn't quite reciprocate as the sudden hug the beautiful blond gave him was far too affectionate to be anything but familial.
"It is nice to see you again, Minato." Gabriel greeted him with a radiant smile, not referring to the blue haired being in a fashion she likely felt more appropriate given recent revelations, "I'm glad you've come Home, even if only for a brief visit."
Minato didn't refute Gabriel when it came to referring to Heaven as his Home, as he knew that was likely where she felt he belonged, instead remaining focused on the task at hand. "It's good to be here, thank you for the warm welcome."
It was left unsaid, but his appreciation for Michael and Gabriel was not insubstantial, especially given the fact that they remained more or less ambivalent to his continued existence, considering the state of his Soul being called into question after the revelation of his status as a Messiah.
"So what did you wish to speak about?" Gabriel questioned after a few moments of silence elapsed, though not uncomfortable, "I get the impression you aren't here to exchange pleasantries, are you?"
"I'm afraid not, this time." Minato agreed, despite wishing nothing more than for the opposite to be true, "I will be receiving a summoning for a so-called 'World Council' meeting scheduled for a few days from now."
The future tense of his statement was not lost upon Gabriel.
"I see..." Gabriel murmured thoughtfully, bringing a hand up to curl a strand of flowing, blond hair between her thumb and index finger, "Do you know whom the attending members shall be?"
"I'm assuming the top twenty in the rankings, depending on how the next few days play out." Minato shrugged lightly to show that he was either unsure or uncaring of the attendees of said gathering, "I am here to make sure that Heaven will not be appearing in said meeting. Please ignore any and every invitation you receive."
"Why?" Gabriel tilted her head in confusion, not growing angry by the request but rather confused, "Would it not be wise to hold an audience during such trying times?"
Minato pursed his lips lightly but did not respond verbally at first, shaking his head in the negative in a muted fashion. The look in his one visible eye was one of sorrow. "There is no point."
Gabriel understood at once, her smile becoming watery as she once more engulfed him in a hug that he reciprocated at once. He was no longer cool to the touch, his body instead being almost feverish and slick with sweat. She could feel the incomprehensible darkness within him churn uneasily as the effulgent dawn continued to broaden the blackened horizon of his soul, a dichotomy that couldn't continue to exist lest one eventually engulf the other. A war was currently being fought within him, one that Gabriel feared he wouldn't and couldn't win. Whatever energy he had called upon during his fight with Hades seems to have acted as a catalyst for further changes within his already multifaceted soul, changing its shape to one more aligned with the Almighty rather than the Abyss.
So she wept, as she did for all who were dead or dying.
The chatter that filled the inner chambers of the largest temple dedicated to Shiva in Angkor Wat was enough to give Minato a headache, having only arrived at the so-called 'World Council' meeting some twenty minutes prior alone. At his behest, the rest of his family within the Protogenoi stayed behind in Holle Behalten where they would remain safe for the time being, the blue haired Primordial not daring to bring them along for his meeting with the top twenty existences on Earth. It wasn't until the Jade Emperor of China finally arrived to take his place beside Shiva, Brahma and Vishnu, the three representatives of the Hindu Faction, did the chatter finally become adjourned.
"It pleases Us to have Our ally join Us on this day, Huangtian Shangdi." A red garbed woman with palms and soles as crimson as blood stepped forward, her face remaining unseen beneath her hooded garb, "Om Tian Namaha."
"Om Tridevaya Namaha." The Shangdi acknowledged the crimson garbed woman with a response but did not glance in her direction, instead keeping his attention focused exclusively on Minato. "So you've decided to accept Our most gracious invitation, jiu de?"
Minato turned his attention towards the Jade Emperor after peeling his gaze away from the crimson clad woman that seemed to proceed the Trimurti, ignoring the familiar woman and the feeling of deep sadness that radiated outward from her Soul. "I see no reason to not attend, Shangdi, or would you prefer I call you Tian?"
"We would prefer not having to speak to such a lowly creature, jiu de, yet Our current plight demands it," The Huangtian Shangdi sniffed disdainfully, "You may refer to Us as My Lord, if it so pleases you."
The blue haired God of Death refused to give the Chinese God the satisfaction of a reaction, instead just staring deep into their eyes with no discernable emotion allowed to shine through the single silver orb exposed to the world.
Eventually, the Jade Emperor scoffs and turns his attention elsewhere, allowing Minato to do the same without appearing weak.
Something told Minato this was going to be a long meeting, and it wasn't the insight provided by the eye of the Fates.