"Bravo, bravo," the dark god commented, venom dripping from his voice as he clapped. "I never would have expected you to make it so far so quickly. How many of your own did you have to sacrifice to get here?"
"This just gets better and better," Duo muttered. "Now he wants to talk."
'Yeah, it does get better and better,' Heero thought to himself. 'That didn't sound entirely like Duo. Looks like I might get to meet Shinigami soon after all. Damn, I hope -'
"So you finally decided to reveal yourself, Vritra, instead of hiding behind your demons." He had to resist looking over his shoulder at Amaterasu. He'd never known Usagi's voice could sound so... forceful. Even Hekate had never rivaled this.
"Come out from behind your godlings and face me as Serenity intended, Amaterasu."
He heard her step up to him and felt her hand touch his arm. "Do you think we're going to win?" she whispered.
In the back of his mind, he heard Duo asking almost the exact same question and his own answer: "I'm a pessimist. That's why I'm always pleasantly surprised when things turn out all right." He'd been about half-kidding, trying to lighten the American's usually somber mood, but at least part of him had been completely serious. More often than not lately, he thought none of them were going to make it through this night. And with about eight remaining demons each for him and Duo, he had to wonder what the others were up against.
::You're not giving up?:: Kuzanagi scolded in his mind. ::You're going to help me finish my mission, aren't you?::
Was it possible for a weapon to know him well enough to know to use that word on him? "We'll win," he replied.
"Good. Shinigami, you feel the same?"
There wasn't even a pause. Duo immediately replied, "Shit, yes."
"Then we will win." She glanced around at the demons. "I promised Selene I would keep you two safe, but I believe you can handle these creatures. I shall... handle Vritra."
"He's all yours," Duo savagely responded. "We'll take care of these guys."
She nodded once. "Very well." Hard blue eyes locked on Vritra. "Let's go finish this."
As one, the two super-powered beings vanished into thin air, and the demons turned back to face them. Duo stepped up shoulder-to-shoulder with him, a familiar maniacal grin on his face. "Eight each. Vritra must be underestimating us."
"Guns don't work. Does Shinigami have anything that might even the odds a bit?" He certainly didn't want to admit he couldn't handle this on his own, especially not with all these demons around.
"Shinigami alone will even the odds." Duo sounded a little hesitant - or maybe concerned was a better word. There wasn't any other choice though. "Let's hope for the best."
The shadows in the hallway swirled and blocked the American from his view. A flurry of feathers revealed him again a few seconds later. Duo had been right: they did look a bit alike. The hair was the same, if unbraided, but his eyes were glowing a bright purple, black lines like tear tracks ran down his cheeks, and huge white wings extended behind him. Those endless eyes settled on Heero, and he found himself swallowing nervously. The demons looked thoroughly cowed for the moment, so he took a brief moment to ask, "Shinigami?"
The other god rolled his shoulders as if trying to loosen some tension then smirked at him. "About time you guys let me help out. You trying to kill me with boredom, 'Ro?"
'Yep, Duo with powers for sure, smart mouth and all,' he decided to himself.
"Well, we certainly wouldn't want you bored, now would we?" If anything, Shinigami's grin grew. "Do you think our demon friends there can help entertain you?"
"Sure." Shinigami held out a hand, and energy formed in it, growing and expanding till it took the shape of a rather familiar scythe. "Let's have some fun."
* * * * * * * *
It was the calm before the storm. Quatre was sure of it. Since they'd split into groups and Amaterasu had left with Duo and Heero, he hadn't seen a sign of a single demon whatsoever. He certainly hoped, though, that this didn't mean they were going after the others.
"It's too quiet," Hotaru remarked, vocalizing his thoughts into the stillness. That it had also occurred to the small death goddess - and apparently, also the taller one, as Setsuna was nodding her head in agreement - did nothing to reassure him.
The shadows on the wall started moving. "Quatre-san, Hotaru-chan." Setsuna's voice was little more than a barely audible whisper, but it conveyed more warning than a shout. "Something's coming."
"I'm ready," Hotaru replied in kind. Her glaive appeared before her, along with a wicked-looking curved sword, almost like a scimitar but not quite, which she shoved into his hands. "You'll need this, Quatre-san."
The shadows shot away from the walls, resolving themselves into individual forms. A brilliant yellow light, like a flash of a noonday sun on the desert, exploded from him and revealed the shapes as demons.
* * * * * * * *
Lightning tore across the sky, illuminating two figures on the roof of the main building of Thanatos' estate. "Your godlings are not fairing well," the male finally stated, his voice echoing in the silence. "They will not succeed in defeating my demons."
"Is that why you betrayed your kind and joined the demons?" she countered. "It was easier to join them rather that beat them?" He shrugged, and a harsh look settled on her face. "You were an Elder God, hand-picked by Queen Serenity herself! How could you abuse her trust like this?"
"Amaterasu... Selene... You have not even lived out one human lifetime yet. I've watched friends, comrades, and lovers die over the two thousand years I've been alive. Can even Serenity blame me for wanting to remake the world?"
"Into the image of the demons? Yes, you can be held accountable for this!"
A silver ball of light formed around her hand then pushed away to surround him. He batted it away easily. A crackling noise, almost loud enough to be thunder, filled the air, and the roof where he was standing gave out, collapsing beneath his weight. With a push against the weakened material, he jumped back up onto the roof, landing on a sturdier portion of it.
Vritra sneered at her. "Vicious, my dear, simply vicious. Who taught you to behave so?"
She looked momentarily ill, and in that split second, the girl whose body Amaterasu was possessing shone through. "Hyperion! Do you remember him? Do you remember when you killed him? That's why I'll never forgive you!"
Icy blue eyes glinted. "Nice to see you're still in there, Usako. I just cannot believe you would turn down a change to make a perfect world. You saw Crystal Tokyo, after all."
"That is not what you're trying to make, Thanatos. A world of demons with you as its god... That's not the utopia we were shown. You insult the king and queen to imply that." She threw another silvery sphere at him. This time he dodged, and a chimney behind him stretched and changed shape before shattering like glass. "Quit moving!" she cried in frustration.
"Did you get spoiled as Sailormoon?"
She rolled her eyes and replied sarcastically, "At least I didn't throw around roses, Tuxedo Kamen. Mamoru..."
10 September 2004
So... How many people had not yet guessed Thanatos/Vritra's identity? Raise your hands please?
I'd been thinking I was dropping enough subtle hints that everyone would figure it out, but for a while, I was getting email after email asking who Thanatos was. ^.^;;; So I guess I didn't do such a great job with the hints - or people ignore hints unless they're blatant (which I thought the whole "Usako" thing over and over was, but...).
Once again, you can find an image of Kuzanagi's new look at:
Only a few chapters left to go - so now comes your warning. Not everyone's going to make it through this alive.
Let me know what you think. I live for reviews.