B4 — 26. The Devil


1. Rachel Park (Our Lunar Hare!)

Recap:  Hoh-boy!  We met Wolfgang, and … We got a villain on our hands, ladies and gentlement!  Probably one of my favorites that I’ve made.  Snap, he’s so good (CALM DOWN!).  We got our look at Yseress … Basically, for the ATM fans out there, we got Bathin on our hands!  A real devil.

We’ve got some frightening things ahead!

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Rachel walked up the stairs with Grace close by her side, but her gaze wouldn’t leave the devilish female creature walking behind them.  Gisele had flipped around on Rachel’s shoulders to keep a close eye on her, and the Rabbit Gang kept a tight triangle formation.

“Uh … So, what are we going to do when—you know, she stabs us in the back?  She’s totally going to…”

Yseress giggled, keeping both hands on her purse as she followed.  “Would you rather it be in the chest?  I could strip you naked and let the fiends have their way with you.  You’d be surprised how many men and women on various other Earths took great pleasure in it the first few days—to die in such a manner typically takes quite a long time.”

“Eww.”  Grace’s nose twisted, speeding up a little to further distance herself from the demoness.  “Are you a succubus or something?”

“Aww, cute,” Yseress said, lifting a little into the air as they made it into the wide hallways, “but I am far more sophisticated than a simple pleasure seeker.”

Rachel glanced back, ears folding forward a little while studying the woman; her perfect, silky black locks flowed around her as she increased her speed to hover behind them.  A malleable, pitch-black neck-guard reflected the dull light of the hallway, and her intricate tattoos were clear to see across her arms and upper chest.

Something was unnerving about the sounds her body made, yet Rachel felt an unusual uneasiness inside the alluring entity’s voice that made her think she was testing them.  However, the hint of restlessness wasn’t directed toward them, which had Rachel’s mind working in overdrive.

She’s powerful without a doubt, and if Xazzos is a class below her, then I doubt she was even trying to hurt me; Wolfgang said she doesn’t like to get her hands dirty when it’s even necessary for her to take action.  There’s something more about her that I’m missing.

“Enlighten me,” Grace mumbled, eyeing her appearance with distrust.  “Ya can’t tell me ya don’t got that succubus look that says you’re about to strip a man and milk him dry.”

Rachel’s eyes widened when Yseress faded into wisps of red smoke before appearing ahead of them, hands clasped behind her back with her tail holding her bag.

“Hmm,” she giggled, rose lips tilting with her head.  “What do you know about me?”

Grace and Rachel slowed a little as Gisele squawked and jumped up to flip around, flapping above their heads to glare at the demoness.  Hayan, Coral, and Rose hopped forward to surround her again.

Rachel’s lips fell.  I couldn’t track her movement at all, and nothing warned me … I need a better sense for unnatural phenomena … Misfortune Detection I works, I suppose.  Xazzos wouldn’t have been able to catch me off-guard if I had it.

Returning to an average pace, Rachel looked into the woman’s bright bloody eyes.  “Nothing.  Why don’t you tell us about yourself?  I find it odd that a demon would have tattoos.”

Yseress brought around her hands while floating back through the next hall that would lead them outside.  “Relics from a time long past—when I was still human.”

“Hold up,” Grace rubbed her arm as a shiver ran down her spine, “you were human?”

The woman shifted her tail to the opposite side while studying the symbol on her left hand; her purse weaved with the swift motion.  “How do you suppose Demons and Devils are fashioned?”  Her gaze lifted to Grace.  “Hades forges those that enter it; Xazzos was another kind of monster that happened to be drawn into Hades when his planet was dragged into the First Ring.”

She was human once, but how much of that is left?  Before I expose Scarlet to this woman, I need to know more about her … She must be plotting against Wolfgang.  He has to know that, too; it’s common sense.  The issue is her actual goals.

Relica was currently chastising Scarlet for her brash behavior and trying to heal her bone injury while Fiona and Benedict took to the air, using the Pixie’s illusions to study Armand from the sky.  She threw down a few Ice Spears, but the gigantic beast didn’t even seem to feel them.

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Spotting the front entrance of the school down the next junction, Rachel asked, “What are your goals?  If it’s not simple pleasure, is it preparing the world to be pulled into Hades, like Xazzos’s planet?”

“Ooh!”  Grace nodded, pointing at her.  “Yeah, that’s totally out of the devil’s handbook!  She serves that Abraxas dude, right?”

Yseress’s nose twisted.  “Disgusting … I am no pawn of Abraxas.  You have no idea what comprises Hades’s hierarchy and world destruction?”  Her expression dulled, looking at the horrific rituals that had been done around the school hallways.  “When you’ve been through your second apocalypse, these sights and actions turn … droll … much less your seventh.”

Grace hugged her arms, rubbing them while staring at the men pinned to a board by nails through their finger joints, wrists, and skin to keep them attached; symbols were burned into their flesh with what appeared to be car cigarette lighters.  “Seven … where the whole planet looks like this?”

  “This?”  Yseress snickered.  “This isn’t even an equivalent to toddlers playing with blocks!  No, I have thralls to do all of the menial platitudes … I’ve been through dozens of worlds, and the slow corrosion of society tends to be what I enjoy.  The younger crowd can relish in their mindless anarchy.”

The more she talked, the more Rachel became certain this devil was no joke; lies and deception were what she loved—the leisurely fall of humanity into depravity.  It wasn’t about sexual pleasure but the erosion of morality at her gentle whispers, yet she was powerful enough to manhandle a demon of Xazzos; she was a cult leader.

Making it outside, Rachel grimaced.  “More bugs are on their way…”

Yseress turned around, sitting in the air and crossing her legs to see a small swarm of flying insects heading their way.  “Do you want to fight them?”

“No?”  Grace mumbled, calling Jim to jump on his back.

Yseress turned to put a finger on her lower lip, studying the cowgirl as Rachel monitored the situation, trying to put a finger on exactly what was drawing her attention about the fiend.  “If you let me ride behind you, I’ll send them away.  What do you say?”

Grace grinned, replacing her pistol with her smaller rifle.  “Guess we’re shootin’ our way through!”

“Afraid of a little contact?”  Yseress teased.  “I assure you, I won’t bite!  It has been ages since I’ve ridden a horse; they’re a rare treat in Hades.”  Cupping her cheek, she sighed, “So few survive the transition.”

“No!”  Grace flatly refused.  “You’re not comin’ … H-Hey!”

Yseress vanished in red smoke to appear beside Grace; her fingers were already stroking the animal’s muscular neck before brushing against the girl’s hand.  “Animals love to please me…”

“S-Stop!”  Grace mumbled, maneuvering Jim away from her while slapping her hand away, but the creature almost stumbled and fell after pulling away from her touch.  “What did you do to … to … Don’t touch us!”  she growled, rubbing her fingers with her thumb and pressing a hand against her head.  “That’s … I’ll shoot you…”

Rachel passively watched every playful twitch the woman made; Yseress’s expression curved into a mysterious smile while bringing her pinky to her lips and sampling it before her glowing irises moved to stare at her.

It doesn’t matter … I can’t sense any killing intent from her … Another test?

Grace was fumbling with her small pistol; her heart was racing as her shaking arm seemed to trace the devil’s figure.  “D-Dang it!  Rachel, what are you doing?!  She’s—she’s attacking us!”

The girl let off four shaky shots that passed by the devil’s side, shoulder, horn, and through one of the holes in her wings; for the first time, Grace missed.

Gisele took a deep breath and released a ray of Moonfire once Grace fired, and the Rabbit Gang jumped to hit her.  The Lunar Phoenix couldn’t seem to aim her blast, tracing a small outline of sparkling lights around Yseress, and her Rabbit Gang was attacking the air for some reason.

She’s playing with them … Everything Yseress is doing is for some kind of complicated test.  Her focus isn’t on Grace; it’s on me … She’s more dangerous than Armand and Asher … Wolfgang brought a real devil into our world, and if I’m reading this situation correctly… This is Wolfgang’s misfortune.

“Rachel?!  I can’t hit her…”

“Stop,” Rachel commanded; her instincts were on high alert, and this creature couldn’t even be compared to Xazzos.  Not only from how she talked but the presence she brought and the unnatural pulse in her breast.

Is it Moongmor’s influence on me?  Before entering this nightmare, I didn’t have this misfortune-sensing passive, and it’s so much stronger than the skill should be.  Something unnatural is happening, and it doesn’t seem to be a part of the System.

Gisele and the Rabbit Gang instantly ceased their attacks; her Lunar Phoenix flew down to land beside Grace, comfortingly patting her back with her wing, and the Rabbit Gang took up another formation around her.

The insect demons were making their descent, hovering around them in a wide circle; Rachel could see their confusion, yet there was an unusual resonance beating in Rachel’s chest that drew her focus away from Scarlet and everyone else.

It can’t be Nia’s influence; she’s knocked out.  I just know it, though … This she-demon is posing as a lower class than she really is … and there’s no possible way for us to fight her.  Whatever perfected ritual Wolfgang talked about allowed her to slip through in this guise … Was he guided to it by the other demons … A devil possessing a devil?  Is it possible because the vessel used to be human?

Walking forward on instinct to stand before the woman, saliva gathered in Rachel’s mouth; the more she studied the fiend, the more layers were peeled back to reveal something hidden at her Core.   “Let’s cut the bull, Yseress; you could kill us all without batting an eye … You’re far more powerful than Wolfgang let on.”

“Oh?”  Yseress’s tail shifted a little, slowly removing her finger from her lips.  A curious gleam brightened her eyes.  “Yet … I still sense the burning intensity within you to fight me.  Wolfgang severely misjudged you, Rachel … You are the most curious creature I’ve met since coming to this universe.  Of course, he could only see the surface of your Core and not what’s hiding beyond it.”

Grace threw up her hands.  “What?!  Oh, okay, great!”  She turned to Gisele, gesturing at Rachel.  “Can you believe this?  I’m totally off the tracks here, Ms. Bird!  So, she’s sayin’ we’re basically screwed, so we should just give up … Wait, what?  If you want to fight, punch her in the face!  Gah!  First Relica’s creepy-face and now this…”

Yseress’s amusement fell in an instant, and warning bells exploded in Rachel’s ears to her tail, not that she could do anything about it.  A crimson effulgence preceded a radial pressure that compressed all of them into a vice that froze Rachel’s lungs—the demonic insects imploded into paste.

Out of the corner of Rachel’s vision, she saw the entity fade in red vapor to appear in the air before the cowgirl; reaching out to place a hand on her cheek, the devil’s voice sharpened.  “Relica … The Sorceress is inside the barrier…”

Rachel’s mind struggled to bypass the numbing force sinking into every pore of her body and spirit, but for once, her brain was paralyzed; all she could do was watch and listen to what happened in the moment.

In the next instance, the devil was in front of Rachel with a musing smirk in her slitted gaze as she smoothly lowered to stand in front of her, reaching out to press her soft fingers against Rachel’s petrified face; the pressure against her cheeks was like live coals and straight adrenalin pumping into her skin.

Rachel’s mind washed away with the world while staring into the woman’s searching eyes.

Blinking, Rachel found herself in a white space, surrounded by complete darkness; it had been what seemed forever since her eyes couldn’t penetrate the black, and Yseress stood behind her, slowly spinning to examine things Rachel couldn’t.  Lying on the glistening floor to her right was Nia, fast asleep with her mouth open.

Did we…

“Enter your Core,” Yseress answered.  “Fascinating…”

She smoothly moved to the edge of the platform, looking down.  “You’ve been touched by a divine entity … I could taste his lingering presence in the air.  Oh, this world is far more intriguing than the others I’ve been to … Mmh?”

Her tone turned lilting and curious.  “Who’s calling … Who’s out there?  Come find me, if you dare … Yes, there you are … Is that right?”

Yseress brushed back her long black bangs, turning to face Rachel again, and for a moment, her seductive red eyes flashed a burning orange, showing a hint of the true fiend underneath.  “It’s not safe to stare too long, dear.”

Rachel added a forced smile.  “So … In the end, Yseress said serving Abraxas was disgusting because she serves you.”

“Perceptive,” the creature laughed, once again taking her seat in the air while looking at Nia.  “What an alluring child you’ve bonded your spirit to … How generous of you to give her a place within your Core to rest.  You do not understand the significance of that action; she can now grow with you beyond her previous limitations.”

Rachel folded her arms; the misfortune was clear as day from where she stood.  “You want my help to free yourself from Wolfgang.”

The woman’s smiling eyes narrowed while resting her hand against her cheek.  “To think such an opportunity would arise … I am more than willing to cooperate with you, Rachel; in fact, I’d like to take advantage of a particularly succulent caveat that will greatly benefit us both.”

“I bet it will be,” Rachel glanced back, testing the thoughts that passed through her mind; this was her Core, whatever that meant, which meant she had control over it if she took it.  An armchair from her parents’ house appeared behind her, and she took it, forming a bed for Nia to sleep on nearby.  “I believe I’m getting the hang of this … So, what’s your goal?”

A charming laugh shook the devil’s chest while shifting her bag to her lap and hugging it to her body.  “I have taught Wolfgang much in regards to the human Core, prompting him with visions through the small portals to Hades that these fools have barely managed to scratch the surface of.  My goal was as simple as having what you might call … he-he-he, vacation time.”

She gestured toward her.  “What I discovered was a power I have yet to see; a seed of such worth that it could hardly be measured … Although, it came with a problem that, frankly, many of the deities and other such creatures have discovered.”

“Which is?”  Rachel asked, crossing her legs and resting her hands in her lap; never in her wildest dreams did she ever consider speaking to an actual devil, but circumstances had become extreme since entering this nightmarish plane.  “You can’t expect me to believe you aren’t trying to double-cross me?  You’re practically lying and deception incarnate.”

“Hmm … not entirely wrong,” she giggled, looking to their left.  “Although, there is one way you can know me to be telling the truth … Moon Moon, darling, are you always this shy?”

Rachel’s brow furrowed as a blinding orange, pink, and white light collected into a bunny that was no bigger than her tiny buns.  “Moongmor…”

“Moon Moon,” he laughed, vanishing and reappearing around them, in the air, on the floor, upside-down; it didn’t seem to matter.  “He-he-he-he!  Such a funny little nickname from you, Izanami.”

Rachel’s ears stood straight up; even she’d heard of the Japanese goddess that had been killed in childbirth.  “You’re Izanami?”

The woman’s gaze returned to her with mirth.  “The stories you humans tell are most amusing; there is little truth to such a tale, but a degree enough to make me laugh.  To humans, I was once a deity, you could say, yet Hades’s energies can twist even a seventh-dimensional being into … what I have become.”

Moongmor scratched his ears, appearing beside her.  “Eostre was so sad to hear what happened to you.”

Izanami’s vision moved to the hyperactive rabbit.  “If that is so … Why don’t you ask her to join our little gathering.”

Moongmor vanished, hiding behind Rachel’s chair.  “Oh!  Oh!  Umm, you have become scary, Izanami!  I liked the little one you’re using a lot better.”

A welcoming smile brightened Izanami’s face.  “I am ‘she who invites’, Moon Moon.  Could you please go be the little messenger you are?  She has taken an interest in Rachel, after all.”

“Okay!  Okay!  Good death day, Izanami!”

Rachel kept her focus on the fallen deity.  “So … You honestly want to make a deal with me … I can’t say I’ve ever dealt with an actual god or … goddess?”

“It matters little,” she said, looking up at the bright pillar of light overhead.  “I will answer whatever you want, Rachel.  Surly Moon Moon’s influence in your life has shown there are forces at work far greater than you can handle on your own.  In fact, many will make such plans as I am proposing … Twilight has certainly made her presence known, which has helped keep the rabble in check.”

Folding her fingers together, Rachel took a deep breath.  “We can start there … Who is Twilight?”

Izanami gave her a casual shrug.  “Who can say?  She certainly is above seventh-dimensional beings, and that should frighten you.  I’ve seen the birth and death of entire universes, yet she terrifies me.  Next.”

Twilight is the one keeping these insanely powerful creatures in check … Why is everyone so fascinated by The Oscillation?

“It’s quite simple, really,” Izanami replied, casually reading her mind while lifting her bag to inspect it.  “That seed inside of you can grow infinitely, yet its base state begins in the third dimension, which means it is incompatible with all of those powerful creatures you’re thinking linger around.  Which means?”

Rachel tucked in her lower lip.  Which means they’re trying to advance us to the point of being able to take it … The Crystals?

“Mmh, off track on that one, darling,” Izanami muttered, looping her tail around her bag again to set it on the ground.

“These ‘Crystals’, as you call them, are very powerful gateways that could even allow one to travel to a ‘new’ Hades, which is … quite a frightening prospect that has shown possible in a few higher dimensions.  Nothing huge, as of yet, but the possibilities are there for an upset unlike any seen in the structured rings—there’s also a few unknown entities in the mix that are … concerning.”

Utterly lost in the context, Rachel shook her head.  “There is more than one Hades?”

“Mmh…”  sighing, the devil cupped her chin with her left hand and created a few flat plains with her right.  “There are nine rings of Hades, which operate to rules of their own; I reside on the seventh, yet it grows ever more extreme as you go down.  How many are there?  One in each multiverse.”

Rachel’s eyebrows drew together; the longer she looked at Izanami, the more her features changed.  Her wings filled in, becoming black and more demonic; black locks were replaced by silver, her ears pointed, and the tight clothing she wore shifted into a slit black dress and heels.

Large, curved obsidian horns extended out of the side of her head, and an extravagant stone throne appeared underneath her.  Succulent red irises turned an ominous flaming orange that held mirth at the situation they were in.

Izanami was undoubtedly enticing from her shapely figure and partially opened front, revealing the center of her ample breasts.  Soon, Rachel could see the fallen deity in place of the devil she used as a vessel.

“Multiverse?”  Rachel whispered, hands tightening around her abdomen.  “So, you have no idea where these seeds came from?”

The woman’s voice somehow turned more lovely, which contrasted her terrifying beauty.  “Not the faintest clue; however, what I do know is that, given the right circumstances, and by actively working with those these seeds have chosen, we can grow with them.”

A lovely voice released a sad sigh as a radiant rogue-haired woman stood between Rachel and the fallen deity.  “Izanami … It has been quite some time.”

The woman was accompanied by a few rabbits and wore a surprisingly revealing spaghetti-strap light red dress with flowers circling her head.

“Eostre,” Izanami chuckled.  “My, you have grown.  I find it quite suspect that you would have marked this human.”

Rachel turned to the unhappy goddess.  “I’d like an explanation.  Is that why Moongmor has been manipulating events around me, and I have various deity names for my branches?” 

Eostre gave the fallen deity a light glare.  “You always did love your tricks and drama…”

“Is it not an honest question?”

The fact two powerful beings were somehow visiting her inside her Core was somewhat perturbing to Rachel, but she shoved the feelings down to get answers.  “You manipulated things for me to get Nia and my bunnies—Gisele’s transformation?”

Moongmor popped up in front of her with a short bow.  “That would be me!”  The orange, pink, and white-furred rabbit vanished soon after the admission, appearing beside the goddess.

“Indeed … Moongmor has his likes, and he’s taken a shine to you, Rachel.”  Her green irises shifted to the bobbing rabbit.  “He has been pulling you toward and granting you an enhanced focus in the Misfortune skill to allow for a smoother path through this … mess you’ve stumbled into,” she mumbled, vision darting to the smiling devil.

The woman’s flaming orange eyes didn’t falter.  “He’s been a little naughty rascal, providing bits of help here and there, I see, but I cannot say I am surprised.”

“My thoughts with you, Izanami,” Eostre said, adopting a crisp tone.  “To be precise, the only reason you want me here is to provide an environment without lies so you can convince Rachel to allow you to grow inside her—with the threat of spreading rumors.”

Figuring it would end like this, Rachel posed her question to the goddess instead of the fallen deity.  “How likely is it that we can handle Asher, Armand, and Wolfgang?”

“None,” Izanami snickered, responding before the disgruntled goddess.  “And you still need to deal with Yseress; she can be a handful to get motivated but far stronger than any of the pawns surrounding you.”

Eostre turned a soft smile to Nia as the girl groaned, turning to her side and snuggling further into the sheets Rachel created around her.  “I’m afraid she is right, Rachel … Nia and you have come a long way, yet as you feared, Xazzos still lives, and nothing you can do will pierce Armand’s fur.  He has taken tens of thousands of lives to make himself immune to nearly all means of harm on this planet.”

Izanami’s smiling wave drew her eyes.  “Which is why you will need me.”

Rachel clicked her tongue.  “I’ve been feeling this pulse inside me … What can you give me, and be clear with me, Izanami, what price will it cost?”

The silver-haired woman shifted her legs the opposite way while licking her lips.  “Hmm … I knew I wasn’t wrong about you.  What can I give you?”  Her orange irises turned to the goddess.  “Hades energy that mixes with your Lunar energy.”

Eostre folded her arms under her bust, a frown on her rosy lips.  “Basically … You will gain access to the Hades Moon; although, you still need to fill it up, which will slowly filter through Yseress’s bond with you.”

“Yseress … not Izanami?”

The fallen deity chortled.  “I am in a very restricted form that allows me to manifest myself on this Earth; the instant I try to access my powers, I will be dragged back to my dimension, which means Yseress will be my proxy.  Basically, she’ll be a roommate to the moon child,” she said, gesturing at Nia.

“That is not all,” Eostre grunted, her arms tightening around her core.  “Lunar Hades Energy is extremely volatile on humans…”

“Which she is not!”  Izanami interjected.  “Rachel is a Lunar Hare with a molding spirit; Yseress’s energy will be absorbed by the seed and incorporated appropriately.”

Eostre shook her head.  “We cannot say that; it’s manipulative to suggest that’s the case when neither of us knows how it will affect the seed.”

“Asher is an example,” the devil pointed out, “although I do concede that he was initially changed to accommodate that aspect.  Still, it shouldn’t be a problem this seed cannot handle.”

Rachel breathed out a long breath as the two studied her.  “So, what you’re implying is that I can’t use it for long periods of time … Will it affect Nia?”

“He-he-he, of course,” Izanami gave her an incredulous look.  “She is connected to you, and in a manner, I will be temporarily tethered to you, as well.”

The goddess cut in, her tone cautious.  “For what purpose, though?  You could reverse your death and escape Hades by my influence on the seed, but I don’t see you giving up this … new side you’ve built your life around now.”

“Hades isn’t all that bad, old friend.”  Grin turning mysterious, Izanami rested the back of her hand against her cheek.  “I can make a pact with Rachel in your presence, Eostre…”

Rachel could feel the ominous waves pulsing off the fallen deity.  “Rachel, I swear, I will cause no ‘direct’ trouble to earthlings, nor will Yseress, unless given explicit permission as guests within your world—excluding certain parameters that need fulfilling, but, heh, I cannot see Relica or Wolfgang claiming your empathy.”

“Humanity?”  Eostre asked.  “I don’t need to be dragged into your devilish schemes, old friend…”

“Come now, I have no thoughts for humanity as a whole,” Izanami scoffed, “other than the minor entertainment value they can occasionally grant me.  No.  My ‘only’ objective in this union is to slowly siphon off the seed within you that is far stronger than anything I could hope to run dry; in fact, I do not believe it is possible—the more I draw, the more it will grow.

“By the way,” she gestured at the sleeping bunny girl, “this option is only available to me because of what you did with Nia.  Yseress will be able to squeeze inside the bond that is ‘still’ taking place.”

Rachel’s gut tightened.  “Meaning Yseress will be a permanent part of this union … That seemed important to mention.”

A huff shot through Eostre’s nose.  “Not necessarily; Yseress will slowly weaken and eventually dissolve her energy into you—Izanami will kill her subordinate to build this power she seeks.”

“You act as if that’s unexpected of me,” Izanami giggled.  “I didn’t mention it because ultimately, it wouldn’t matter, as Eostre stated.  There might be a way to save her—who can say, but I’m not concerned.  So … will we have a deal?  You may call upon me whenever you wish, and I’ll be nothing but honest while you can use Yseress until she is a withered husk, so far as I am concerned … Heh, if you can manage to motivate her, that is.”

A rumble shook Eostre’s throat while glaring at the smug devil, and Rachel looked to her for her view.  “Be warned, she wants this because it means that union will be sealed, and she doesn’t have to think about answering your questions anymore.  Once Yseress is absorbed into the seed, she has access to feed off of it, and you can feed off Hades.”

The devil shrugged.  “I cannot deny it; it is a win-win.”

Eostre shifted her hips to the opposite side; dealing with Izanami appeared to agitate her to no end.  “True, Yseress would allow you to come out of this mess you’ve dove head-first into … Izanami will not harm you now or in the future, but she will hitch a ride on your progression for … whatever purpose she has, which might not affect you, but will cause others to mark you as a target.”

Rachel scratched her arm before looking at Nia.  It wouldn’t be fair to force a roommate on her without getting her approval.  There’s also the fact Demi might not be considered humanity…

“Smart,” Izanami snickered, “which Eostre was no doubt waiting to spring as a counter-argument.”

The goddess’s lips tightened.  “I was waiting to see if you’d bring it up.”

“Of course you were,” Izanami mused.  “You wish to siphon off a little of the hare’s energy yourself, so don’t act so noble.”

Eostre looked away.  “Yes, well, not in the same invasive manner, and providing a guiding hand to help her realize her growing abilities is adding far more than you’re offering.”

“I beg to differ, old friend.”

It was like watching bickering old women that had the power to break galaxies apart.  “A great exchange this has been,” Rachel sighed.  “Since you’re both so kind as to invade my thoughts, would you tell me the answer before I agree?  And I’ll need Nia’s approval, as well.”

Izanami’s legs straightened as she rose to her feet, spreading out her large wings in a stretching manner.  “Wonderful.  I give you my word with Eostre as a witness; by no means will I or anything commanded by me harm anyone you care for nor wish my interference on—let me be crystal clear in this regard—directly or in so much as I can negate indirectly, I am on your side.  My sights are set much higher than a simple universe.”

Pointing at the heavens, Rachel saw a burning globe of radial energy with an occult symbol etched into its surface.  “You take power from the moon?  Allow me to provide a link to Hades for the power you can gain no other way.”

“To be clear,” Eostre growled, generating two others, “a Hades Moon is not a Blood Moon or Solar Blood Moon.  You’ll find the force she grants far more damaging to yourself than any natural Lunar source.”

“Aren’t you interested in learning how she’ll react to a Hades Moon?”  Izanami asked, and catching Rachel’s expression, she snickered while offering a hand.  “We have no idea how you will react.  Will you allow fear to block you or dare to test the unknown?”

Lunar Pride gripped her chest at the taunt.

“Cheap trick,” Eostre growled.

Rising to her feet, Rachel walked around Izanami’s outstretched hand to Nia.  “Is there a way to wake her?  I’m pressed for time with my friend captured.”

“On the contrary,” Izanami returned to her seat, dropping into it and adjusting her dress, “inside your Core, I have accelerated your time relativity through Yseress.  Less than five seconds have passed on Earth.”

Eostre joined Rachel; she wore a fond smile while studying the sleeping girl.  “Nia is such a precious spirit … I can recover her stamina and … Izanami is right, by marking you, I am drawing a trace amount of the seed’s unique energy and accelerating your progress in doing so … I can modify your Lunar Step ability to be used without the sight of the moon, but I can only tamper so much with the seed without causing unintended results.”

“What about my Lunar Pools?”  Rachel asked, looking over at her with an edge of hope.  “Can you fill them?”

Izanami made a resonating hum in her throat.  “Look at you, Eostre; you’d best not let any of the others learn about this little meeting and your ‘direct’ interference.  You know how temperamental some of them can be when someone breaks a covenant.”

“Worry about yourself,” Eostre grumbled, reaching out her hand over Nia’s head.  “Rise, little one…”

Nia shivered and bolted up in bed, ears darting left and right in a short panic.  “W-What?  Uh … Rachel?  Why … I’m in a bed … where … I can have a bed now?!  Who are these people?!”  She jumped up on her mattress, jabbing a finger at Izanami.  “It’s another succubus lady, Rachel!  How’s she in … How’s everyone here?!”

Eyes spinning, she jumped off the bed and ducked under it to stare at them.  “Hey!  Hey!  This is my room!  You guys need to—to knock!  It’s rude!  Oh.  My.  Gosh!  Rachel, it’s a break-in!  They’ve breached the walls!  Call the guards!”

Rachel walked around and knelt down to brush back the girl’s spiked-up ears and hug her.  “It’s fine, Nia … I have some things to ask you … How would you like a lazy demon girl roommate that you can play with while I do stuff?”

Nia seemed to instantly accept the evolving situation, looking at Izanami.  “Her?  The creepy lady?  I don’t know…”

Izanami gestured to her left, and the confused demoness appeared beside her, red irises sweeping the scene.

“Lady Izanami?”

Nia’s mouth dropped open upon seeing her.  “Rachel … She’s a bad girl!  She has tattoos!  Yeah!  Yeah!  I want her to stay!  She can teach me how to be a bad Nia!  He-he-he!  Nia will be the terror of the worlds!  Can I get a tattoo?!”

Glad she was on board, even without knowing all the details, Rachel sighed.  “I guess she’ll need a nickname … She really does come from the Underworld.”

“Really?!”  Nia’s eyes sparkled as she rushed over to grab the confused devil’s hand.  “Welcome to the Hidden Society of Denier!  I’m the Supreme Leader of Hearts, Newbie … Oh, Lunar Abyss!  Lunar Abyss!”

“Yes?”  Rachel asked, folding her arms and smiling as Nia pulled the woman in front of her to present her idea.

“I’ve got it!  She’s Infernal Abyss!”

“I … have a name?”  Yseress mumbled, glancing back at Izanami that just gestured for her to play along.  It was a little strange seeing the demoness’s flustered expression as she saw Nia’s big, pleading eyes.  “I suppose I’m … Infernal Abyss?”

Nia cheered, jumping around in circles with Eostre’s bunnies.  “The Secret Society grows!  Oh!  Umm, yeah, that’s your code name when you’re in public!”  she earnestly stated.  “Understand, Newbie?”

The woman glanced at her master before returning to Nia.  “Yes?”

“Mua-ha-ha-ha!  The world will end by the abyss!”

Nia’s ears turned to Eostre before her head followed.  “Uh … Who’s the pretty lady?”

Rachel shot forward and caught Nia as her eyes suddenly drooped, and she fell to the ground.  “Oof … I’m guessing you only temporarily restored her?”

Eostre nodded, following Rachel to the bed.  “There’s no way around it; Nia’s Intelligence is what is exhausted, and that needs proper rest.”

She nodded, looking at a very confused Yseress.  “You take care of Nia; I’m now your master, understand?”

“Not in the least,” she mumbled.  “Master, what am…”

Izanami cut her off.  “Plans have changed, Yseress, and unfortunately, Rachel, she will need to return to the outside world; I will provide her instructions on how we are to proceed … We have much to do.”

“Alright, but first … Eostre?”

The goddess smiled at Izanami.  “You knew this was coming; I crossed a line today, which means I am going to make sure you don’t mess things up for me … old friend.”

Rolling her eyes, Izanami rose to her feet and held out her wrists.  “Bind me, then … My word as a bond, freely accepting the terms offered to Rachel; a sword to my Core upon my oath broken.”

“M-Master?”  Yseress trembled, dropping to her butt in disbelief.  “I do not…”

Her jaw snapped shut at the fallen deity’s withering glare.  “We will speak, Yseress.”

Two golden ringlets formed in Eostre’s hands, and she put them on Izanami’s wrists.  “Now, allow the blade in,” she said with a devilish smirk unfit for a goddess.

“If I didn’t know any better, I’d say you had a grudge against me,” Izanami grunted, shifting uncomfortably while completing whatever ritual the two were performing.  “There … It is done.”

Eostre stepped back.  “I’m surprised you actually went through with it … I suppose you are playing the long game.”

Izanami examined her new jewelry.  “Excellent work, as usual, Eostre … Sometimes you need to dare to take the risk in order to gain everything you desire.  Now, it’s time to go, Yseress … much needs to happen for you to escape Wolfgang.”

Her gaze returned to Rachel.  “I look forward to working with you.”

The two vanished, leaving a strange burning sensation in Rachel’s chest.  “Well … This has been an experience.”

Eostre folded her hands across her front, glancing toward Nia.  “I cannot support you like this again, Rachel; Moongmor will do what he can from the shadows, but this will draw unwanted attention for your group.  Ask Izanami how to further advance their seeds through other routes … I must go.”

Knowing they were all taking and giving in this relationship, Rachel nodded.  “A partnership … I can pass you, though,” she grinned, feeling the empowering knowledge fill her soul.

“In time…”

The goddess lifted her hand, causing rays of orange, pink, and white to shine throughout the entire area; she blinked, suddenly staring at the horrific area she’d seemed to leave from what seemed twenty minutes ago.

“She’s cracked…”  Grace cried, pressing her hat down on her head with a moan.  “I can’t believe I jumped into this mess!”

“Heh, Grace … you might be right,” Rachel mused, feeling an enormous amount of power fill her breast, and her hair took on an even three-by-three split between her lunar colors.

Looking up at Yseress, she found the woman sitting on the ground in astonishment; it seemed she couldn’t process the information her master was giving her.  “Well … Let’s get this show started.  Grace, we’ve got a plan.”

“Uh-huh … Can I know the plan?  ‘Cause I’m kinda freakin’ out here!”

Rachel stretched out her neck and jumped on the back of Jim while Yseress hesitantly explained as they made their way to Scarlet; it wasn’t as complicated as Rachel expected and would be very satisfying in one particular area.

SME’s Request:

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