Hannah’s gaze was moist as she felt light and freed of a crushing weight for the first time since Kaden’s death. Carrying his death on her shoulders had been crushing her, but carrying his life in her hands was something she could manage. Regardless of how many thorns were on that path.
That light hearted feeling caused by hope was short lived though as Luna turned her head to the side drawing Hannah’s attention in the direction of her gaze. Appearing almost out of thin air, Tael stood around 10 meters away from them.
Hannah’s stomach turned. Even without realizing it her breathing had become ragged and it looked to Luna and Tael as if she was having trouble breathing as she stared at Tael with a look of hatred that she hadn’t bothered to try and mask.
Tael merely gave Hannah a glance of contempt before looking back in the direction of Luna without directly gazing at her. “I apologize for just dropping by, but I believed it would be only polite of me to pay my respects in person.” Tael said as he gave a slight bow in their direction. Clearly the action and the respect he was conveying was aimed at Luna and not Hannah.
“Fine. If there is nothing else, you can leave now” Luna said while clearly conveying his presence was an unwelcome interruption.
Hannah’s death mana started to agglomerate in her hands as her emotions seethed as she barely constrained herself from rushing at Tael at that very moment. The smallest most rational part of Hannah’s brain was telling her that it would be a death sentence but that same part was also telling her that now she had a god who was interested in her.
“Surely she wouldn’t just let me die so easily would she?” Hannah thought as that self-control was whittled away as even her logic was failing her as a reason not to attack the monster before her and get revenge for Kaden.
Inside of Hannah’s head Luna’s voice reverberated like a cold bucket of water splashing directly on her thoughts, “He can kill you in an instant and I won’t choose someone who would do something so stupid. I also won’t waste my previous life and time to kill him unnecessarily for you. Someone I have just met and who hasn’t agreed to be my chosen, much less rendered any merits.”
The instant realization that she had no protection. Nothing at all, made the small string that had been on the verge of snapping in Hannah’s mind stop. Even so, Hannah couldn’t reign in her mana and emotions. She could only stop herself from taking that first step forward.
“I was wondering whether you wanted me to take that girl over there off your hands.” Tael said with a nonchalant expression that made the veins in Hannah’s forehead bulge “Why the hell would I do that!?”
Tael’s original intent had been to take revenge on those that had angered his pets. Who are an extension of himself as they are his. Once he had met Daichi his intentions had changed. While he couldn’t go back on his word, there was no reason for him to not seek them out. In reality he was looking for entertainment and they had proven mildly entertaining.
He had even sent them down to this level of the forest… Where he knew there was an area restricted even to the gods, and a god itself passing through. Tael had merely hoped to see whether they would insult him too. Moreover he wanted to see what Hannah would do. Whether she could get past her hatred of Daichi, or whether he would be heartbroken by her possible betrayal. They were a drama waiting to happen in a forest that was generally devoid of entertainment.
What he hadn’t anticipated was that Hannah would be able to kill Daichi. That she would do so, so soon after he’d sent them down. That she would come into contact with the god in the area, and that it would take an interest in her. That Daichi would barely survive only to commit suicide and enter the mist. Every thing that had happened after he had sent them down this area had surprised him.
It was the entertainment he had hoped for… Except now he knew that this girl was, if only presently, on good terms with this god. Even if all the gods had lost their godhoods, Tael would not be so stupid as to offend any of them unnecessarily. He still didn’t know which god this was, as they had lost their bodies. Yet he could tell based on the divinity it exuded alone, that before the cataclysmic event that occurred it had not been a weak or ordinary god.
Without so much as looking at Hannah, Tael explained himself “You see, I wronged this girl just days ago. I didn’t expect that you would really take an interest in any of these children when I had them come down here. They slighted my pets so I wanted to play with them. Now that you have taken any interest in this one… I would like to offer my services and give you the service of taking care of this other one. She has been afflicted by my mana. I am not quite sure why this other one wasn’t… But when her companion’s life essence was being released to heal them, so was my mana and the seal within. This one has been badly afflicted and without my help she will die.”
After a few moments, “He isn’t lying. You can either leave her with him or she will likely die.” Luna spoke the words directly into Hannah’s mind as Hannah reeled.
Every single event in the past few days had left Hannah feeling powerless and out of control. Nothing had gone her way and now she felt like she’d been sucker punched yet again.
“How… How can I possibly leave her to him..? After what he did? He’s a monster! I can’t trust him! I won’t!” Hannah screamed the words in her mind to stop herself from screaming them aloud.
A grin slowly appeared on Tael’s face as he seemingly thought of something… “Oh… I suppose there’s also something you didn’t know… We will likely never meet again so it would be cruel if I didn’t share with you now” the grin spread across his face as a cruel light appeared in his eyes “When I turned your brother into my puppet, I had to do so with a seal and my mana. It is a particular skill of mine… Since he was so weak, once my mana faded away, in minutes or hours or days. He would have died. In essence, your brother was dead the moment I used my skill on him.”
Tael finally turned his full attention on Hannah. He was offered his help as a token to the god before him and done his service. On the other hand, Tael had a bit of a daredevelish streak within him. The more Hannah had continued to stare daggers at him, the more he wanted to tease her. Then the thought struck him “What if I turn this meritorious service into entertainment as well? Two for one? How much would she loathe me if she had to give up her friend to the only person left to direct her hate towards?”
Hannah heard the words but couldn’t focus on them as her whole body weakened. The mana surrounding her hands dissipated as her mind reeled. She stumbled forward a step without even realizing it as once again she’d been blind sided. She felt like a small crack had suddenly appeared in her mind…
Luna only observed as she had still not chosen the girl with her lineage. If she wasn’t smart enough to make even the most basic life or death decisions, then she wouldn’t choose her after all. It was clear to her that the logical option was to let her friend go with this demigod before her. Regardless of the pain and hatred she was experiencing. “He’s telling the truth. Both about what he did to your brother and about deciding to save your friend’s life.” Luna spoke to Hannah, there was no sympathy or room for coddling in her words.
Luna told Hannah the exact truth without pretending to give her an alternative, however cruel it may have seemed, “He means what he says. If you want her to live then let her go with him. I won’t save that girl. I have no obligation too. So decide what you want to do”.
Hannah’s body began to shake uncontrollably as she was cornered yet again.
“How can I just let this go”… Hannah thought as she tried to wipe away the new stream of tears, as her trembling knees felt too weak to support her any longer and she collapsed to the floor. She felt that crack in her mind spreading a little bit further.
“I… I killed Daichi and now I don’t even know if I was wrong… A-nd…And now I have to let that monster… That monster take Ava! The monster that killed my brother. I-i just… I don’t know anymore.” Hannah finally gave voice to her thoughts aloud. The crack in her mind now spreading in more directions.
Finally overwhelmed by everything, her emotions and events. Hannah felt an emptiness appear inside of her.
Devoid of everything for a moment, Hannah’s body finally stilled as an eeriness formed by her aura seemed to surround her entire body.
Devoid of anything any more. The moments ticked by as that void within Hannah slowly began to fill with her hatred for Tael. Hannah was staring at Tael now but her left eye was twitching uncontrollably, her gaze focused on Tael but not him but the idea of him right in front of her. Everything he suddenly represented.
A slow smile spread across Hannah’s face as she stared at the cruel grin still hanging on Tael’s lips.
A longing to rip his face to shreds with an equally strong regard for patience. Patience to nurture her hatred was spreading though Hannah. All the anger and weakness she’d felt before had been turned into hatred within Hannah. Finally for the first time in her life, she’d given way to a small part of herself she’d kept bottled up her entire life.
Her mind slowly coming to a resolution. A resolution to give vent to the hatred that seemed to be the only thing keeping her together. Hannah spoke in her mind with the intention of Luna understanding her… “Then let her die… I would rather her die than see him take her… Let her die… And I will bring her back. I would rather bring her back no matter how she comes back then let him take anything else away from me.” Hannah replied to Tael smiling at him with a genuine beauty and ease that made him sober up.
Tael gazed at Hannah who now exuded a surreal beauty in her features and smile that was absurdly out of place. A discomfort spreading through him that ruined what little entertainment he’d been having. “Do you want me to save her life or not?” he said as obligation to do what he had offered deterred him from simply leaving.
“She has decided she would like to proceed without your help.” Luna replied for Hannah.
Tael did not hesitate to linger any longer. The mood had been spoiled by Hannah leaving him with no pleasure from their interaction “You know best what this means so I won’t say any more. I will take my leave.”
Turning out around and walking away, as walked forward and through the trees he disappeared from their sights completely leaving the area.
Still smiling at the area Tael had left from, Hannah turned to look at Luna with the innocence that only a child could possess as she asked in a soft voice “How strong will I need to be to take everything and everyone he cares about and turn it all to dust? How long will I have to wait before I can make him experience a pain that even I did not feel? What do I have to do in order to make him my plaything like what he did to me?”
Luna looked at the smiling Hannah and returned the smile, utterly pleased with the one she’d chosen. She was everything that Luna was hoping she would be. If properly nurtured, she might turn out similar to herself she thought as she felt content with Hannah at the moment.
“Tael is a demigod. It will be a very long path, but I will guide you down the path best suited for you to achieve all of your ambitions. You will become strong, strong enough to kill him if that is your desire. Strong enough to gain the ability to resurrect your brother if that is your goal. Strong enough to complete the task I’ve now set before you, if you choose that responsibility.” Luna said with the tone of a mother speaking to her young child as she felt the first twinge of endearment towards Hannah.
Hannah looked at Luna with determination but looking past her, there was a slight flicker of emotion that passed through her gaze before disappearing into emptiness as she’d seen the mist behind them.
Luna’s perception was that of a god and there was no way she would have missed that flicker of uncertainty. Luna gazed at Hannah solemnly, “He is dead. Think nothing more of it. That mist is a chaotic space. It is a place no god can freely enter. Only the previous God had attained the full enlightenment of Chaos. Something that exists outside of our realm of existence, outside of this universe. It is something no one other than him could touch and understand. Your friend is dead. His corpse, even if it were still in existence could never be retrieved. He is forever lost.”
Her gaze returning to that motherly look of love, Luna’s demeanor changed instantly almost as if at the drop of a dime again, “Now take care of what you have to do so I can give you the protection that only a god can.”
Hannah tilted her head in confusion at the words, but followed Luna’s gaze to Ava. Understanding clicking immediately. Hannah had already made her decision after all. Looking around, Hannah stood up a little clumsily, her balance slightly off as she walked over to the sleeping Ava and reached dow and stroked her hair again.
Hannah stared at Ava almost lovingly as she saw Kaden in Ava at the moment. Instead of seeing Ava’s scarred throat, her sleeping face, her companion, her friend, she simply saw one of the most important people she still had left. Igniting the feeling of death throughout her entire body, Hannah willed that feeling into her hands as she agglomerated mana and triggered her Death Follows skill as she continued to stroke Ava’s hair. She felt Ava’s life fade away almost instantly and as she did, she willed that same mana into her ring as she pulled Ava’s body into the same space as Kaden.
“Now he won’t be so lonely until I bring him back!” Hannah thought as she smiled and turned back to look at Luna who was close enough to touch and looking at her approvingly.
Luna reached down and placed a finger above Hannah’s heart and a light revolved around her as it seared into Hannah’s entire body. The light looked golden, blinding and eye catching to Hannah but to anything and anyone far enough it looked like a grey aura of death as darkness swelled around the entire area taking life from everything around them. The grass, trees, leaves, and roots around them, anything that contained life was turned into a sea of decay as Hannah was branded and changed.
Protected by her new patron god, Hannah was now becoming one of the first chosen.