Arcadia VII, 25.000 light-years from Earth

Strife’s blood is still raining down the sky, after Torn has literally blown the creature to pieces. Vesta, Naiad and the Winter King look at him in astonishment: Strife survived three attacks massive enough to create the 60 mile wide crater they’re standing on, and Torn managed to kill it with a single stroke of his sword!?

A slow clap distracts them before they can ask any questions. It’s coming from a woman standing on the sidelines, a woman who wasn’t there a second ago.

Her body is the epitome of female fitness, with a tight blue dress that highlights every single muscle and curve. A body that has been recognized for thousands of years as Artemis, Goddess of the Hunt, but whose shining purple eyes are a giveaway for the entity that’s possessing her.

-Eris – Vesta says through her teeth, barely keeping her hatred in check when she shoots a fireball towards her. The Winter King remains detached, but he joins her throwing an ice javelin.

Both attacks dissolve against a shield of golden light. Eris smiles, adjusting the long white hair to make the nasty scar on her right eye more visible.

-Took you guys long enough. I was beginning to think you wouldn’t conquer the galaxy for me.

What are you talking about, witch? – the Winter King asks.

-You mean your friend Scribe didn’t figure it out? Not even Null? You see Vesta, that’s what happens when you put too much faith into mortals – she says, gesturing towards the group.

The blood on the ground rises, rebuilding Strife cell after cell, organ after organ, from the inside out; everyone ready to defend himself, but the creature doesn’t attack.

-You seriously thought a biological freak of nature could defeat a goddess? My own power flows within Strife’s veins: since my essence thrives on divine power, all Persephone did was feed it.

-Only a mortal spilling its blood could defeat it – Torn understands.

-My ruse was a success, fooling even the God of Tricksters himself. Hermes saw my weakness as an opportunity and overstepped his boundaries, as it is in his nature. You have defeated all my enemies; in exchange for that, a fair goddess would grant you a quick death.

Strife’s body dissolves into blood, flowing towards Eris: the force field around changes from golden to purple, and the madness in her eyes becomes clearly visible.

Unfortunately for you, I am not a fair goddess.

-Hit her with everything you’ve got!!! – Vesta orders, releasing a jet of white hot flames.

-CUT OF A MILLION DEATHS! – Torn shouts.

Honorable Reaper of Infinite Coldness! – the Winter King shouts.

-MURDEROUS TYPHOON!!! – Naiad screams.

“I really have to think of a cool thing to say” Vesta thinks.

Every single attack is at least as powerful as what they used against Strife; if they hadn’t already leveled the nearby city, this would’ve had a similar effect.

The force field is intact: they didn’t even scratch it. Eris holds out her hand: the energy of the field solidifies into a bow, ready with an arrow pulsating with power.

My turn – she threatens, raising her bow. She prepares to shoot an arrow, then suddenly aims for the sky before she releases it.

There’s no time to react: the arrow flies at the speed of light, reaching its target in orbit. The nuclear explosion is still powerful enough that they can feel the heat in the air.

-The Dark Pyramid! Noriko!!! – Vesta screams.

You want to see your friend? Look, she’s over there… and there… and there… – Eris laughs, pointing at the many trails of debris falling from the sky.

Something snaps, and Vesta is literally on fire.

You’ll pay for that!!! – she screams, flying towards Eris faster than the sound of her own words. Her punch breaks the sound barrier… and her own bones.

She retracts her hand, wincing in pain. Eris didn’t move an inch.

Oh my. I didn’t know you had it in you, aunt Vesta – she giggles, transforming the bow into a couple of sickles connected by a chain, using the latter to immobilize Vesta in a chokehold.

Torn, Naiad and the Winter King continue their assault, but nothing they do can get past her shield.

You just don’t get it, do you? I am the daughter of Nyx, Primordial Goddess of the Night, and Zeus the Omnipotent Lord of Olympus. I. AM. FU##ING. COSMIC. ROYALTY.

You are a spoiled CHILD – Vesta retorts, headbutting Eris. The sudden brutality of the reaction is enough to surprise Eris, allowing Vesta to break free from her chokehold.

You are possessing the body of Artemis. No matter how much energy you’ve absorbed from Persephone, you can’t sustain this power output for long.

Then I suppose I will just have to kill you quickly – she threatens, twirling the chain sickles.

-You just said you wouldn’t – Torn objects.

There’s a moment of silence, the only sound being the sickles cutting through the air.

What? – Eris asks, but everyone else is thinking the same thing.

-You said only a fair goddess would kill us quickly, then you said that you’re not a fair goddess, and now that you’ll kill us quickly. Make up your mind.

Are… are you mocking me? ME!? I am the Cursed Daughter, the Alluring Abyss, the Angel of Darkness! I can kill you all in a thousand billion ways!!!

-And I suppose one of them is monologuing us to death?

The answer didn’t come from Torn: Noriko Null has arrived. She’s not alone: Lysia is here, teleporting with her Quantum, Scarab, Ulysses and even the Scribe.

Not your smartest move, kid. Everyone I need to kill to take over the Alliance is right here.

-Her sanity decreases exponentially whenever her power increases, doesn’t it? – the Scribe asks.

-Yeah, I was thinking the same thing. Anyone with half a brain would’ve figured out that we’ve already won. But I guess… – Noriko replies, moving her fingers to summon the Genius Guns. She twirls them dramatically, cocks them, and they hum with power.

-…even a goddess can be a natural born loser – she concludes, smiling devilishly.

Okay then. If nobody minds, I will kill everyone now – Eris replies calmly.

The sickles become battle axes, each large enough to cut a truck in half, and they grow six blades each. The chain that connects them covers itself in spikes. Dark flames emerge from her own shadow, the sky becomes bright red, and black lightning strikes the ground ominously.

-We have a plan, right? – Vesta asks, swallowing nervously.

-Are you kidding me? I have her exactly where I want her – Noriko boasts, connecting the two Genius Guns. The two weapons change form, rapidly, forming a single barrel.

-GOD… – she inhales, her silver eyes as bright as ever.

Eris doesn’t look like Artemis anymore. Her true form is shining through, a murderous monster that thrives on human suffering and destruction.

-…Sniper!

The shot hits Eris right between the eyes. When it does, all the energy around her vanishes: her weapons disappear, the sky returns to normal, and Eris is utterly dumbfounded.

What… what did you… – she says, looking at her hands. She can’t summon a single sparkle.

-Your turn – Noriko answers, separating the Genius Guns and making one of them disappear with a flick of her wrist. The challenge in her stare makes Eris even angrier.

You think this is a game!? I haven’t even started… aack… – she stops, clasping her hand to her breast and looking very, very much in pain.

-I wasn’t talking to you. Artemis?

Eris screams at the sky, her body engulfed in golden energy. She shoots a dark, purple smoke from her eyes and mouth, which rises in the air. The Scribe snaps his fingers: another Dark Pyramid de-cloaks in orbit, creating an energy bubble that cages the purple smoke.

-Care to tell us what the heck is going on!? – Quantum protests.

-Eris can’t possess gods; she was able to control Artemis only because the God Restrain that she was wearing prevented her escape. I built that device, I can disrupt its effects – Noriko explains.

-But it’s a temporary solution at best: Eris is notoriously difficult to control. Fortunately, we were able to come up with a solution – Ulysses explains, pointing at a small box just teleported here.

Artemis falls to her knees, coughing heavily. The dark cloud twists and turns inside the energy bubble, trying to break free. Despite its efforts to fight the process, the cloud is condensed and poured directly into the box next to Ulysses.

During all this Artemis is still trying to get her bearings. Noriko walks towards her; she transforms the Genius Gun she’s still carrying into a hilt, from which a laser blade emerges.

-This is for Beijing, bit## – she says, thrusting the sword in the right eye of the goddess.

Artemis screams in pain, repeatedly. She grabs the sword’s hilt with both hands and painfully removes it, exposing the hole that’s replaced her eye.

-That hurts – she says through her teeth, crushing the sword in her hand.

-Good. Consider it a warning: threaten my planet ever again, and I will take out the other eye.

The coldness in her voice is chilling. Quantum even wonders if it’s Null or Void talking now.

-If I wasn’t this weak from months of possession… – Artemis growls.

-But you are. You are in no position to make demands, Artemis. On the other hand, I am.

The goddess looks up to meet the girl’s gaze. Artemis is still on her knees, blood still flowing from her wounded eye, her spirit crushed. She looks down and asks:

-What do you want?

-Surrender sovereignty of your kingdom on this side of the Arcadia Nebula to the Alliance. You will keep the rest of your territory to act as a buffer against any attempt of invasion from Apollo.

-You want me to stand against my brother!?

-You want to stand against me? I have killed Demeter and Hephaestus. I have outsmarted Hermes and humiliated Eris. I am Null, the Slayer of Gods. You do not want to be on my bad side.

Artemis considers resuming the fight. She’s never felt so weak, but Null is so close… it wouldn’t take much to break her spine like a twig. But her eyes… her silver eyes…

-I accept your terms. I surrender – she says, looking down in shame.

-Damn sure you do – Noriko gloats. For a moment her eyes go black, too fast to notice.

At a moment like this, only Ulysses has the courage to interrupt her.

-Null, if you’re done gloating, we’re ready here.

Noriko scoffs at his remark, joining him in front of the box where the Scribe has transferred the essence of Eris. He opens it, revealing its content: an extremely confused five year old girl, with short black hair and purple eyes.

-What… what did you do to me!? – she complains in a high-pitched voice, looking at her body.

-When the Empress of Shadows created Strife, she didn’t use all the cells you left behind after your possessions: she saved a few samples. She gave them to me, and I gave them to Talas Khanos.

-That is impossible; you would never work with either of them! – Eris protests.

-You’re right, but you never considered the possibility that I would deliberately create an alternate personality that would do just that. Khanos was able to manufacture a new body from the samples: not exactly a clone, but the closest thing possible for a goddess. Your essence is 100% compatible with the genetic structure of the body you’re using, so you won’t burn out. And you have a new God Restrain right inside your brain, so good luck switching to a different body.

-I am going to kill you for this!!! – the child shouts, running towards Noriko to hit her. Artemis moves faster, grabbing Eris by the leg and lifting it like a prey from her latest hunt.

-A personal request, Null. Let me have this wretched harpy so I may torture its pathetic soul for the next few thousand years. I find her newest form… tantalizing.

-I can’t see why not. Just don’t let her escape. In fact, I never want to see either of you ever again.

-Likewise – Artemis agrees, vanishing in a flash of golden light.

Everyone is silent. After months of anticipation, everything went so fast it’s almost surreal.

-Sooo… we won? – Quantum asks, hesitantly.

She wants to laugh so badly. Her enemies defeated, her power unchallenged. Do gods feel like this?

-No. We triumphed – Null answers. After all… this is just the beginning of something wonderful.



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