The old Demon woman watches the Ragnarok warship land on the planet, then patiently waits for its passengers to approach the entrance to the Throne Of The Universe.

It’s quite an unusual assembly of gods, Demons and mortals. Hades is walking in front of the rest, and the old woman bows politely.

-Lord Hades. I am Vice, the current Lady Of All Demons. I have called the assembly of the Nine Gods as you have requested, although Zeus and Ra have not answered my call.

No matter. Are Ereshkigal and my sister Hera present?

-Yes, Lord Hades.

Then we shall begin immediately – the god of the underworld cuts her off, walking towards the building. Athena and Tyche follow him without saying a word, while Torn stops before her.

-Lady Of All Demons. The Dragon Tomb has been destroyed as you ordered – he tells her, kneeling in her presence, presenting the energy scythe. She gives him half a smile in return.

-The Soul Reaper is yours to command, Torn. I have been told that your sister has escaped.

-Yes, my Lady. Once again, I have been unable to carry out her execution.

-We’ll discuss the matter another time, Torn. Now I believe you should introduce me to this young mortal that has been courteously waiting for us to end our formalities.

-Ma’am. I am… – Noriko starts to answer, but the old Demon stops her.

-I know who you are, Slayer of Gods. My kind owes you a debt we may never repay, but it is within my power to revoke the banishment issued by my predecessor: you are free to come to Hell at any time and claim the title of Infernal Countess.

-I’ll keep that in mind. No offense, but I don’t have many positive memories of Hell.

-We’ll change that. Now if you’ll excuse me, you know how impatient gods can be.

Vice departs, leaving Noriko confused: she’s different from Oblivion to say the least. When Vesta notices that Noriko isn’t moving towards the building, she asks:

-Are you sure you can do this? You’ve been through a lot.

-After what I’ve done to be here now? I wouldn’t miss it for anything in the world – Noriko answers, clenching her fists and moving towards the building. She looks confident, though Vesta notices she’s scratching the point where the prosthetics on her left arm touch the real flesh.

 

The Throne Of The Universe

The place is as intimidating as the first time. Nine thrones surrounding an open space, right beneath a dome showing nine galaxies; they’re in the shadow of the much larger throne of Kronos, the last Emperor of The Universe, whose vacant seat still stands behind them.

Noriko keeps her hands in the pockets of her jacket, and not because the Winter King’s presence makes the air cold. But because this moment is everything she’s worked for, and yet it could easily end very badly for the entire galaxy.

Hera is on her throne, whispering to Enyo; the warrior goddess has removed her black helmet and stands at attention. Poseidon is next to them, near the empty throne of Zeus, and by his death stare he’s not exactly pleased by Athena’s presence.

The Egyptian gods seem to be the least interested. Ra isn’t even there; Isis and Nepthys don’t speak to each other. They’re so still they look like statues.

The Sumerian gods are more engaged than the first time. Marduk is talking to Inanna, though she’s definitely staring at Noriko. She can’t tell if she wants to flirt or start a fight.

Ereshkigal is an enigma. Her skin is so black that it masks her real expression, and yet her glowing red eyes don’t seem reassuring. Hades stands up and begins speaking:

Esteemed divinities. During our last assembly, we voted to grant mortals in the Olympian Galaxy the privilege of becoming vassals of my brother Zeus. Ereshkigal issued a challenge: she would cast the deciding vote if the Slayer of Gods delivered the Dragon Tomb to us. Then tell us, Noriko Null, have you been successful?

-I have – Noriko answers, taking a step forward. She leaves a Drylon device that only vaguely resembles an hourglass on the floor, at the center of the room, and then takes a step back.

Impressssive, but the device isss damaged – Nephthys immediately notices.

-I was not required to deliver a working device. You should’ve thought of that – Noriko replies.

-She’s got you there – Inanna snickers.

How can we be sure this contraption is the Dragon Tomb? We have no proof – Isis objects.

-I have several divine witnesses. Athena, Enyo and Hera can confirm where I took it; just as they can confirm that I killed Tiamat with my own… I mean, by myself.

Is this true, sister? – Poseidon asks Hera.

-Absolutely not! This is not the Dragon Tomb, but a Drylon device called the Time Mover. Furthermore, I firmly deny that this mere mortal truly killed the Celestial Dragon! – Hera answers.

-I was there. I absolutely confirm this mortal is telling the truth – Athena replies.

-Are you accusing the Queen of Olympus of being a liar!? – Hera raises her voice.

-Esteemed divinities, it is clear that Hera has an agenda against this mortal. Surely you all have felt the death of Tiamat? – Athena says, addressing the Assembly.

-Because my daughter Enyo, Goddess of War, killed her right before my eyes. Is that not a more believable explanation that the ridiculous suggestion that a mortal could kill a Primordial?

Did she use this “Time Mover” device? – Isis asks to Hera.

-She did not! A true goddess doesn’t need tricks. The Time Mover was simply what prevented Tiamat from escaping from the Dragon Tomb, but it was not the tomb itself!

-Then this trinket is of no use to us. The mortal has failed and the Olympian Galaxy will stay under divine rule for as long as it pleases us – Marduk comments.

-Sorry, child. You should have paid more attention to our words – Hera mocks Noriko, clearly enjoying her humiliation in front of the Assembly.

-You knew the Dragon Tomb was a planet. You were there when Tiamat was imprisoned: you knew it would be impossible for me to bring it here – Noriko tells Marduk.

-And you should have known better. No mortal can fool the gods – Hera again mocks her.

-Yes. I should have anticipated this kind of trickery – Noriko concedes, lowering her hand in shame and turning her back to the nine thrones.

-Oh wait: I did – she then reveals, taking the hand out of her pocket and holding up the object she’s been carrying… a rock. The size of her thumb.

What is that? – Isis asks with an accusatory tone. But that’s addressed to Hera, not to Noriko.

-This is the last remaining part of the Dragon Tomb: Tiamat destroyed everything else. I’ll admit it’s just a small part, yes, but you didn’t specify I had to bring the entire thing.

-This is outrageous!!! We should renounce our sovereignty for a pebble!? – Hera shouts.

-You should have known better. Even gods should think twice before trying to outsmart Null.

-Is that really part of the Dragon Tomb? – Inanna asks to Marduk, who reluctantly nods.

-Oh, and another thing – Noriko adds, taking her N-Phone from her pocket and activating a hologram. Which clearly shows Hera and Enyo flying away from Tiamat, before panning to Noriko leaping towards the dragon to unleash her finishing blow.

-I had cameras everywhere. As we speak, the footage is being shown to worlds in the Mortal Republic, the Winter Kingdom, the Tyche Empire and the Athenian Federation. If you hurry, maybe you’ll be able to block the distribution to the Hera Dominion.

-Such insolence cannot be tolerated!!! – Hera practically screams, standing up and shooting an arrow of blue flame towards Noriko. It doesn’t go far before a wall of darkness stops it.

Ereshkigal has raised her hand. Her voice carries a lot of weight: the other gods don’t dare interrupting her, even though they have a lot to say about Noriko and Hera’s antics.

You have my vote. Enjoy your galaxy, mortal: the darkness will be waiting for you.

The Queen of the Night disappears into her own shadow. Noriko feels her legs are suddenly too weak to let her stand, but she refuses Vesta’s help and powers through when Hades speaks:

By the will of the Nine Gods, the mortals of the Olympian Galaxy are hereby recognized as vassals of almighty Zeus and are allowed to rule themselves in the name of their god. Will you speak in their name, Noriko Null, daughter of Bob?

-The mortals will speak for themselves, electing their own representative to Olympus.

You renounce the power of a goddess? – the Winter King asks her.

-I’ve never wanted it in the first place. All I wanted was to save people and go home – she answers.

 

 

Myridia, 50 light-years from Earth

This was as close to Earth as Null allowed Hades to take the Ragnarok; there are already way too many gods that know its position. And the warship is fast enough to reach Earth in minutes.

Max Black a.k.a. Quantum knocks on the door. When he doesn’t get an answer he knocks again.

-Can it wait until we get back to Earth? – a voice asks him from the other side.

-Five minutes. C’mon, I even knocked this time, didn’t I?

The door unlocks automatically. He finds Noriko leaning against the window, watching the stars fly past the ship while keeping her back to him.

-I wish I could get drunk – she says. Given her voice, it’s obvious she’s been crying.

-That didn’t work out so well the last time you tried.

-I don’t know if I should celebrate liberating half the galaxy or drowning my sorrows because I had to dump my boyfriend to do that. Getting drunk would serve both purposes.

-Listen, I heard about you and Todd. If you need somebody to talk to…

-I appreciate the gesture, Max, but I’m fine.

-You shot your clone in the head yesterday. You’re definitely not “fine”.

-Maybe it’s for the best, you know? Todd deserves someone better. Someone who can… – she says, holding her artificial arm tighter. Now she’s definitely crying.

-I wanted to love him. I don’t know if I did. I don’t even know if I can love.

-C’mere – he tells her pulling her closer, to cry on his shoulder. Or his chest, given her height.

-This is so freakin’ stupid. I just saved the galaxy, and here I am crying like a schoolgirl.

-Well, you kinda are. You’re twenty years old.

-Actually, we’ve spent so much time inside the time dilation field, I’m technically twenty-one.

-Happy birthday. Now can you please not almost die for a whole year?

Somehow this makes her laugh. She wipes away the tears, looking a little more relaxed.

-You want me to talk to Todd? – he asks.

-Please don’t. We’ll figure this out on our own. And if we don’t… – she looks out of the window again, her mind a million miles away -… perhaps some stories don’t deserve a happy ending.-

She leans against him, holding his arm while still looking out the window.

-Hm, Nori? You’re giving me some mixed signals here, y’know?

-Max?

-Yeah?

-Stop talking. Let’s just watch the stars and appreciate what we’ve saved today.

-Alright.

They stay like that for a while, appreciating the wonders of the universe without a care in the world.

For about thirty seconds.

-This is so freakin’ boring. I’m gonna go run some tests on the Heaven-Slayer to see if I can figure out how Hephaestus forged it – she says, her silver eyes reflecting on the window’s glass.

-You named it “Heaven-Slayer”? I was sure you were going to call it “Null Sword”.

-I’m saving the name for when I create a really cool sword. I have some ideas – she says, hurrying to put on her boots. He can’t help but smile at her eagerness.

-You always do – he replies, helping her put on her trademark green leather jacket as well.

-Thanks. Want to join me?

-Sure, why not. But I get to name the next planet or cool alien weapon we find, okay?

-Keep dreamin’, Max, keep dreamin’.



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