~Gods, Power, Destruction and Destiny~

"There was no need to bring us here."

Marron's tone was sharp and his words to the point, but this didn't shift the look in Monbran's eyes nor the light smile from his lips. He watched Marron without paying attention to him, fingers of one hand pressed against his lips and those of the other tracing circles around the rim of his glass. He laughed softly and took the glass to his lips, looking away as he replaced it on the table.

"You're still in Facade, are you not? It's a long way out here, Marron. I thought that you and your friends could do with a little rest."

Monbran spoke Marron's name in a rather precise fashion, his eyes darting up for a moment during. He couldn't be faulted in his intention, it had been a long way to travel and the others - Carrot especially - would be glad to turn in for the night, but while the others had agreed with this suggestion wholeheartedly and had found Panna Cotta's hospitality very becoming, Marron had remained deep in thought throughout the encounter. Big Mama had sent them to that region with her usual ambiguous directives but Marron had had a certain feeling from the moment she'd announced their destination, one that was only confirmed once they got there and discovered Monbran waiting for them.

It's been so long...

He'd greeted Marron and Carrot like old friends and taken them back to his dwelling, one quite sizeable and comfortable considering the arid landscape and that it was only he and Panna inhabiting, but that was beside the point. Carrot had been reluctant to trust Monbran at first, but on seeing Panna all of his doubts were laid to rest, or at least sharply kicked to one side. Monbran had been raised in Hordic also, if he was at the destination point then surely that meant that he was another Sorcerer Hunter sent to assist them? It was true that the three of them hadn't got on well back in the day, but that had been over a decade ago and Carrot's eye was very easily swayed by the presence of a pretty girl. Tira and Chocolat hadn't been around when Monbran had still lived in the village and of course Gateau had no knowledge of such things and so nothing seemed suspicious. They settled for the night in preparation for the mission objective in the morning and the others by now were asleep, but Marron had sat awake knowing that Monbran would come for him, as he did once the house fell silent around them.

"... My brother believes you've been sent to aid us."

Monbran laughed again, a small breath of amusement. Marron narrowed his eyes.

"... You're our enemy, aren't you." It wasn't a question.

Monbran only raised an eyebrow, casually swirling his drink before looking back up at Marron once more. "Very perceptive, though I suppose that has to be expected of you. I was only surprised that you came here with those four behind you... there's not a lot for them to do here."

"You're not all we're here to deal with."

"Oh, you insult me. And here I thought you'd come just to see me again...! How long's it been now, Marron?"

"It's been two years since Master Hourai's death."

"I know that much. Two years of biding my time, waiting for the time to be right... and I think it is, now. What do you think?"

"I think you're mistaken."

A long pause as Monbran drained the last of the honey-coloured liquid from his glass. He smiled as if about to laugh once more, but the expression lingered over his lips before he pressed them together, more pensive than amused, then looking up at the ceiling with something between regret and nostalgia. He leant his arms against the table and stared at Marron with a sober look in his eyes.

"I've known for a long time that this day was coming, Marron. That someday I'd have to fight you. Because... because that's how it is. Because Tenrinoh is inside you and I can't live unless I've proven myself against that... because you have that unfair advantage. And that's nothing to do with you, only with the thing inside you. The thing that made you stronger, more powerful, the thing that made you Hourai's favourite--"

"Master Hourai. And it's no gift, Tenrinoh's power."

"I bet it's pretty damn useful in a pinch, though."

Ignoring the comment, Marron continued. "It's more than just 'power'. There are... things that you wouldn't understand. Complications. Matters beyond our compre--"

"Because the Rebirth King is destined to destroy the Destruction God, right?"

Marron stopped dead at this, unable to reply. Monbran smiled again, "And it is said that Tenrinoh Yakusha shall slay his own brother, isn't that what we were told? It makes sense, I suppose. After all, what comes after destruction but rebirth? Which is more powerful, the urge to destroy or the urge to create? The two most basic drives, not even of humans but of the universe, they both come together between you and that brother of yours. We've known that all along, haven't we?"

"... I won't let that happen. We won't let that happen. We won't let my brother become Hakaishin and I won't ever visit such harm upon him."

Monbran stood up from his chair and walked slowly around the table to where Marron sat, noting the flat yet determined note in his voice and the way his knuckles whitened against the force of his fists clenched against the wood. Clearly a touchy subject, but any subject involving Carrot always seemed to be. It had been so then as it was also now; Monbran smiled, some things never change.

"Ah, but it's not about you, is it? You have your determination, and very noble it is too. However, if Hakaishin ever does visit this world, then that won't be your brother anymore. And the soul inside is something separate to you, too. You don't want to hurt Carrot, but Tenrinoh will kill Hakaishin. Perhaps there needs to be destruction as much as there needs to be life, but if you can't even subdue basic chaos then what will the world be left with? That thing inside you will do something because it has to, it needs to, it's destined to. It's something bigger than you, than Carrot, than all of us. You're only a vessel, Marron. It won't be you making the decisions when he's wielding the sword."

Marron slammed his hands abruptly against the table, "I won't let that happen--!"

Monbran, however, didn't even flinch at this. He kept his smile, slowly pacing around the table and around the chair until he stood behind Marron, sighing deeply as he draped his arms over Marron's shoulders, feeling him recoil and tense but ignoring that. Marron tensed and didn't invite the touch but didn't pull away from it, so too as was that as something that never changed. Monbran smiled again, a smaller, private smile in the knowledge that Marron couldn't see it. He leant his head against Marron's shoulder, leaning up to talk softly into his ear.

"I know you won't, I know you won't. Though it's not up to you, I know you'll try your hardest. Because you always do, don't you? It's always for Carrot. Everything, it's always for him. All 'I won't forgive the person who hurts my brother' and visiting an arguably unforgivable justice on those who do... because you kill, don't you? You kill people who hurt your brother. You kill them. Because of that. Because hurting Carrot is more unforgivable than murder. Because you think that if you protect him that much then maybe, just maybe, it might justify it all when you're called on to kill him. Oh, I'm sorry, when Tenrinoh kills him. Hakaishin, I mean. Inside your brother. Because even if Tenrinoh does that, you'll know that you did everything in your power to protect him. That's the justification, isn't it? That's why you act like you do?"

Monbran knew that his words made Marron angry, and that was why he said them. A different anger to the impulsive outbursts, those momentary flashes of I won't forgive--! and all of those other reasons. The words made Marron angry, but what could he say to them? Agree to them? Disagree? Which would be the lie? Either way, lying was impossible and Monbran still knew him so well, even after all this time. Even now that Big Mama had sent her Sorcerer Hunters to this region to kill him.

(That would wait until the sunrise.)

The lust for power was a usual one, though one that overtook Sorcerers (who had access to such things) more often than it did Parsoners. Still, even if it wasn't the natural magic a Sorcerer was born with, Eastern magic was still a type of magic and like that, Marron knew that he and Monbran were in a strange, unspoken kind of limbo between Sorcerer and Parsoner. And that Monbran would be too so consumed by this need for power was annoying and yet not entirely unpredictable. There was an evil in the region that didn't originate here, something deeper than Monbran's presence and yet this want for power had taken him but not changed him. He was still now as he always was, yet with a different logic. A logic that, twisted as it was, almost made sense.

"... And you do realise that, if I defeat Tenrinoh once and for all, that'll mean that you're free... don't you? Tenrinoh won't destroy Hakaishin and you won't have to hurt Carrot. Don't you see what I'm trying to do...?"

The Peer Gods represented balance in the world and if something happened even to one of them, then Hakaishin's power would be unleashed. The last battle with Sacher Torte had proved this, though clearly Monbran had got an idea in his head fuelled by that which drove him. Perhaps he was convinced he had the power to destroy a Peer God, perhaps he was convinced he had the power to destroy all Gods in existence. Perhaps he thought any number of things but Marron knew that just as anybody under the influence of some higher power, Monbran was either deluded or deluding himself, his own justification.

And yet the idea was so very seductive. A silly dream of the five of them unfettered by things like Gods and power and destruction and destiny. Just the five of them living a normal life, the kind that normal people lived. A thought that Marron had considered more than once, as useless as it was. As much as he hated it.

Monbran's whisper in his ear was equally as seductive, "... I could have been a far better brother to you, Marron."

Perhaps Monbran intended that comment to stir some kind of anger also, but Marron only smiled, closing his eyes as he leant back against Monbran's shoulder. As he felt lips pressing against his neck, soft at first and then harder. Before the high arguments of the Gods above and within came the everyday domestic battles, the small grudges that had escalated over the years, the things that had never gone away. The real reason behind all of Monbran's actions, the real reason why he wanted to be strong. Why he wanted to be stronger than Marron.

What's the point if you're always the one protecting him?! What kind of older brother is he, anyway?!

(He's my older brother. That means I have to protect him. That's all.)

Marron gently reached up with one hand, tucked two fingers under Monbran's collar and tugged his face down until their eyes met. He smiled that smile he knew that Monbran could never resist and spoke with a tone to match, "... You don't need to be my brother, Monbran."

The blush that dusted Monbran's cheeks said enough (and then he carried on). The battle proper wouldn't begin until the next morning but already, Marron knew that he'd won.