Cindered Babylon

Hashmal was alone before the ascent again.

To his right, an enormous and shadowed form.

Ultima could sense that awful aura of dread once more, the putrid stench of poison and toxicity—it was none other than the mad Cuchulainn.

"Hashmal, I come with rather interesting news," Ultima said, still entranced by the shadow.

He was silent, his back turned he whispered something. The mad Cuchulainn took a step forward, then another, and so on until it stood before Ultima, lit up by the outside sunlight in all of its horrid glory. Its skin had taken a strangely blue hue, riddles with scars and a host of infections that would kill legions of men. Its body was much more full now, much larger, wrapped in festering and shredded cloths that surely would be impossible to use if they were to ever fall from his form. Yet, the most terrifying of all was nothing else but the head upon his shoulders.

Upon it was an enormous and twisted grin, something almost reminiscent of Zalera's evil face. However, this expression amazingly looked almost even more warped than anything Zalera could ever make. The rotted and decrepit teeth emitted a stench that also surpassed Zalera—this beauty had turned into a creature that's disgusting and revolting form long (and much to Ultima's disbelief) surpassed even the Death Seraph's.

"Wh-what is this device betwixt its jaw?" Ultima asked, still in complete shock.

Through Cuchulainn's head, and out the bottom of his lower jaw, was a shimmering purple spear of sorts. It was stained in blood—no doubt Cuchulainn's and perhaps whoever bequeathed it unto his head.

"It is a seal, to essentially keep the toxins within him," Hashmal answered, his back still turned.

Ultima put her hand to her mouth, this was truly repugnant.

However, deep down Ultima felt a strange joy. A device of the Gods had broken down and fallen to pieces, a piece of the Undying had died—yet they claim that their rule is absolute and justified? She is not mad, no they are truly the mad ones. The feeling was sickening almost, but it somehow gave her a twisted pleasure. Its suffering, Cuchulainn's suffering was a sign that the end was near for them.

"My, how innovative. Were you the one to bestow this upon him?" Ultima replied, still covering her mouth.

Hashmal bowed his head briefly, before turning and gazing at Ultima.

His face was not joyful, it was not emotional at all, it was simply a blank surface. His eyes broadcasted a piercing glare that made Cuchulainn look almost infantile. He was clearly very upset, what had driven him to do this?

"Unfortunately. It is a seal engineered by the same who put the Mist-Syphon—Omega Seal upon Zodiark," he said, glancing over at Cuchulainn.

Ultima's eyes widened; saying the name of the banished one was strictly forbidden, but even more interesting was Hashmal finding such intensely powerful magicks. The Gods themselves had decided to banish Zodiark to the nether, but it was celestial smiths that carry the very smithing bloods of the Undying themselves that made the seals—they also made the same seals to cast away the Hell King, the Dragon Lord, and the destroyer: Machion—Yiazmat. Rumor had it they also were involved in binding up the Cloud of evil, Famfrit. It was very fascinating that still so little was known about them, even stranger that some are claimed to be Scions of light—their counters.

"I see," Ultima said, a faint smile appearing upon her face.

In an instant Hashmal was before her, "Is this comical to you Seraph? Your own brother, shackled up and deformed before you and all you can do is smile? Inform me once more on what is so entertaining!" Hashmal growled, staring down at Ultima through fiery eyes that even Belias may not be able to combat.

"Relax Protector, I simply marvel at yours and the Undying's ingenuity. Now as for the news—"

"I wish to hear nothing of your nonsense, leave," Hashmal replied, turning back to the ascent. Cuchulainn still remained quiet, beaming that sickening grin.

"Oh you do Protector. Exodus and Zeromus are interested and are participating," Ultima said, her smile getting even larger.

Hashmal stopped, his muscles tensing up.

"What madness. . ." he murmured.

He suddenly turned once more, "You speak lies."

Ultima continued smiling and shook her head, "No Protector, this is legitimate. Observe," she said, pulling out the piece of Suncryst.

Hashmal's face darkened, his teeth gritting with an intense anger as well as confusion. No one but him was allowed to even see the Suncryst, let alone take a fragment without facing him. The only others who had such a thing were the judges—

"H-how," Hashmal stuttered, "Is this reality. . ."

Ultima could feel the conflict within him, the sheer confusion and uncertainty boiling up to the surface within him. She couldn't blame him, the laws he so loved to follow and enforce were crumbling around him, his idols falling from the sky, anyone would be under turmoil. She loved it, she loved this chaos. She had never truly seen this side of her before but deep within her core, perhaps within Eschaton even, there was a the deepest lust for more, the deepest lust to bring all unto the same uncertainty and unrest. Her smile only got larger as she brushed away a bit of her golden hair.

"It is reality because it is truth Hashmal. Come now, you didn't honestly think they would fret at the chance to not only claim what's there's—as you should as well, but also take to the ground the corrupted beings who oversee all things—"

"Those corrupted ones are our makers Seraph!" Hashmal yelled, a burning fury in his voice, but also a deep and penetrating hurt. It was clear, Ultima had pierced something deep within him.

"They are our creators! Our fathers! They brought us into this existence, unto these many planes! They bestowed upon us our abilities and minds! How dare you have such audacity to even speak of them so purposely and twistedly! You, you are—you are. . ."

Ultima simply continued staring, Hashmal was fumbling. He had nothing.

Inside him, she could see him breaking down.

"You said it yourself Protector, freedom—the freedom and authority you so love will be all yours. The thrones will be ours, the rule and justice will be ours. My holy and true light will shine upon all things below us and light up our future! Do you not see Hasmal? We are the true and destined future. I have spoken this before and I will say it again, we are next in line and rightfully so," she said, confident and beaming with holy light, Eschaton buzzing the chorus of infinity.

Hashmal face was shadowed by Cuchulainn's form as he turned around once more. He had nothing left to say.

"Join us Protector, let us go unto our rightful path," Ultima added.

Cuchulainn swung a mighty arm and Ultima quickly dodged, rifting back to the entrance.

"What madness? You dare attack me beast!?" Ultima said, Eschaton humming louder than ever.

Suddenly she realized she no longer had her Suncryst fragment, Cuchulainn handed it off to Hashmal, who turned and faced Ultima once more. His face had an expression of resolve, but it certainly was nowhere near complete—this would still take time.

"Very well, I will be by everyone's side. This is not something I want to do Seraph, your twisted mentality has nothing to do with my will," he said.

"Oh?" Ultima said, crossing her arms.

"I am doing this for our brother Cuchulainn, I am doing this for me, and I am doing this for the better of Man—that is all," Hashmal added.

Ultima smiled once more, "That's all I need Protector. Thank you," she said lightly bowing.

Hashmal scoffed, and turned back to the ascent, "Get out."

Ultima glanced at the warped Cuchulainn once more and turned back to the cataract.

The sun shined so brightly, yet she felt a peculiar aura of darkness around her. At first she was somewhat confused, was this Zalera's work? Yet as time passed she saw no sign of him, no sign of evil. She could feel the sun's rays, she could see her glow lighting up the shadows and structures around her, where was the darkness coming from? She ignited Eschaton and even still, a dim and dingy shade loomed over the area.

Was it her?

Was it within her? Could she sense her own corruption?

Ultima went limp, her arms curling up to her sides. Was there darkness inside her? Was evil emanating from her like Zalera and Cuchulainn? What was this madness? She gazed at her hands, her wings, her dress—all so holy and perfect, where could darkness hide inside of her at? No, surely this was insanity. She is the High Seraph, the Masterpiece of heaven, there is no place for corruption with her perfect form. Yet as she felt her glimmering and golden wings on her ascent back to the heavens, she felt something looming upon their glow, she felt doom.

If she was descending into madness then she was running out of time tenfold now. There was no time left to waste—Famfrit and Chaos needed to be found and gathered. The final war was upon them, their last obstacle.

Hashmal had to lie to understand his reason for betraying his beloved creators. She knew deep within her, deep within her reading of his intentions that he was only lying to himself, that deep down he simply lusted for the power. While his affection for his brother—their brother, Cuchulainn may be true, he only wants the authority in the end.

Ultima smiled, "Simple child."

Child or not, all extra services were needed, she couldn't complain. It was time to rally the final pieces.