During Majin Sesami’s third cycle of life, she was introduced to the concept of the multiverse. She had spent the previous cycles wandering aimlessly through the dark of space, searching for any living things she could turn into taffy, her favorite candy, before returning home to sleep for hundreds of thousands of years. Hers was a lonely existence, so when a group of her kind approached her and bid her to join them on a pillaging party, how could the demon refuse?
She had interacted with other Majins in previous cycles, but who ‘they’ had been, she could not for the most part remember. Sesami recalled the glowing red eyes of the elders, and a Majin Forash came to mind. She knew he was long dead, and with him, those memories. Anything more specific eluded her.
Elhim, a soot-grey Majin, was the leader of the group. Old and emaciated, he was nevertheless the most adept warrior in the team. He had put in the request for her to join them (it wasn’t for another two cycles that she learned why). Next were the crimson and midnight blue Shemash and Hamash, a pair of aged warriors whose cruel gazes made her uncomfortable. Then there were Simbari and Simbara, who, judging by their identical violet skin, smooth faces, and body-length head tentacles, were twin brothers. And there was Walu, who was a medium purple color, taller than Sesami, slightly bulkier, and calm of face, the only other female amongst them; with her was coral-colored Salubi, a short and stocky Majin who was broad in the thighs; beside him was Maanutar, an eight-foot-tall behemoth sporting a shrimpy green head tentacle that was barely long enough to flop about when he moved.
Lastly, Majin Hocus was introduced. She was surprised to learn that he was two cycles old. Her first responsibility was to look after the child on the journey ahead, not that she had a choice in the matter. Walu, a five-cycle-old Majin, was the warrior tasked with watching over her and the kid. She approached the girl, somewhat wary, though not entirely unfriendly in her mannerisms. Perhaps she had been worried that Sesami would attack. She was not that kind of Majin. Often, she would let her throat burn before she gave into hunger. She did not always need to consume or cause chaos.
They were not the entirety of the Majin species, but they were amongst the most formidable groups in the universe. Not a moment after she had finished introducing herself and Hocus had been stuck by her side, Sesami was instructed by Walu to huddle around Elhim. The others did likewise.
“Let’s go hunting… somewhere new.”
Hamash was the first to speak up. “Where new?”
“Look what I learned to do last cycle.”
With a toothy grin, Elhim rose into the air. She was touched that they had brought her into their ranks before going on their hunt, though she could not express gratitude, lest she appear weak. Feeling confident, Sesami could hardly wait for the fun to begin.
The man began to scream. Nobody moved. Her ears throbbed; the cave walls shook. Without warning, a gash appeared before them, hovering in the air, through reality itself, presenting a slew of open portals.
“What are they?” one of the twins asked.
“Other universes. Ones that haven’t been picked clean.”
“Take us there, boss,” demanded Maanutar.
“When we get there, take whatever you want. If strong ones come for you, return to me. Remember the words of the Life-Eater: rampage and rest!”
“Harumph!” they declared, beating their chests and sticking out their tongues. Sesami and Hocus were late to mimic their companions.
His body turning almost to liquid, Elhim sucked himself into the nearest portal–the fourth one from the left–and they followed him in with ravenous shouts. Her legs felt restless.
Once she had made her way through the portal, nothing appeared to be any different than what she was used to. The void was frozen and bare, no matter which universe they occupied. She wanted to find a planet and feast already. Walu and Hocus were with her, so it was the older Majin who decided where they went. Everyone else split up into predetermined groups.
The others’ life signals grew fainter as they drifted apart.
Finding their first victims did not take very long. Sesami sensed the planet’s natives some minutes before they arrived, and thus did her mouth water. Hocus too was starving. On the one hand, it was nice to be with her own kind, but on the other, she had to share with them. Taking only a third of a planet’s population, as opposed to what she was used to, would not satiate her.
They landed in the middle of one of the larger villages. Those yellow-beaked bird-folk were only a step above savage animals. It took little effort for Sesami to aim her tentacle and turn them into bright-colored taffy. Hocus followed suit, transforming those he could into gumdrops. Walu’s prey were turned into small pieces of chocolate, which she scarfed down greedily.
The demons ravaged that world, eradicating its native population in less than a day. Afterwards, Walu led them to another, and then another, and another. Days turned to weeks, which turned to months. Nobody seemed to be coming for them–until one day Elhim contacted the trio telepathically.
“Walu, return to me. Simbari was murdered. We must avenge him.”
His words were vague enough to make her shiver. She wanted to learn how to do that.
Walu’s voice broke her out of her thoughts. “One more planet, then we go back.”
From then on, she knew Walu was good.
Two days later, they returned to their boss. She was not as good at sensing as Walu, who carried both her and Hocus as she flew back at great speed. It was good practice, though. After the first day, Sesami began to make out Elhim’s reading. It might have been because she had hardly known the Majin that it had been so difficult for her to locate him. She could not be sure. All she knew was that, by the time Walu had reached their patient leader (their little group being the last to return), she had improved her ability to sense other beings tremendously. Even now, she could sense half a dozen nearby worlds with tempting native populations.
Shemash’s face was drawn up in a nasally scowl. “What killed Simbari?”
Simbara replied, “No idea. We were exploring a ruined world when we found this thing in the middle of a swamp that was glowing gold. Simbari tried to reach it, but when he got close, it attacked him with waves of energy. It turned him to ash!”
Enraged though the man was, he held himself in check.
“We go there now,” Elhim said.
They roared and followed, and once more it was only due to Walu carrying them that she and Hocus were able to keep up. The boy didn’t have much to say; as long as he got his gumdrops, he was happy. She wasn’t sure if that would be possible where they were going. She perceived some overstepping by Elhim and the company with this action, some raging greed disguised as revenge that had rotted them of sense and reason. Although Sesami had no choice but to follow, she would rather be off elsewhere than defending the honor of some Majin she hardly cared about.
There was a tense mood amongst the company on the flight over. They didn’t stop for snacks. That was grave cruelty in her opinion, for the journey took them almost three days. It didn’t take long for her stomach to start aching. Hocus must have been faring worse. He never spoke a word about it; his arms were wrapped around her leg, his grip growing fiercer and fiercer as time wore on.
Arriving on the boggy world, Sesami was disappointed that she couldn’t sense any life. Simbara had been greedy to leave them nothing. She would not forgive him. Nobody else seemed to care. The Majin led them to where Simbari had fallen. That place did not look much out of the ordinary from what she had seen of the planet so far–it was covered in mucky, bubbling, tar-like goo, with a forest of gnarled, leafless trees rising around them like leering onlookers, many of their grey roots exposed. Countless gnats buzzed about, their orange wings fluttering through the fog, giving the place a little color. The only difference here was the gleaming dot of gold hovering over the mire ahead of them, and a circle of grey-black pillars, inscribed with the squiggles of some language, surrounding it some two hundred meters away.
There was no sign of anything sinister about, but the mud inside the area marked by the pillars was slightly darker than the mud outside.
“There,” Simbara said, pointing at the dot. “If you approach it, you’ll be attacked by an overwhelming power. I’ve seen it with my own eyes.”
They hovered over the foul-smelling wetlands in silence. She couldn’t speak for the others, but she little believed his tale.
“Show me.” Elhim’s eyes had narrowed.
Simbara was unwilling. “Too dangerous.”
“Go just inside the perimeter. When it attacks, return to us.”
Steam poured into the misty sky. “Too dangerous!”
There was a great gnashing of teeth and some level of grunting back and forth before Elhim overpowered Simbara, kicking him into range of the light. Shaking, the younger demon didn’t look back. There was little for him to do but go for it, or he would be turned into candy. She was beginning to understand the dynamics of Elhim’s crew. When Simbara entered the area, he dropped to the ground, as if losing his ability to fly. A screeching synthetic siren echoed through the swamp, and not a microsecond later, a wave of golden energy unleashed from the dot in every direction, moving with great insistence. The violet Majin grimaced and went to flee, but his feet were stuck in the mud. The energy washed over him, exploding as it touched his skin, and sending him flying out of the area. At once, the second wave of energy, which was in hot pursuit, dissolved away and a calmness returned to the land.
Panting, Simbara rose into the air, his shoulders slumped forward. “I couldn’t fly in there.”
“Go in again. This time, try your other techniques.”
His eyes widened and he shook his head. “I can’t. Simbari only survived three waves.”
“Then so can you.”
Saliva dripped from the corner of his mouth. His face grew sullen. There was no loyalty inside the Majin–and why should there have been? What had he done to deserve a death sentence? He gave his boss a look she would never forget. There was something in how he silently pleaded that made her empathize with him. In the gloom of those ancient ruins, Elhim stood firm. There was no other way. Floating in light, the object pulsated, its aura contracting and expanding as if feeling him approaching once more. Even so, he went on. She admired him for that.
Once more, Simbara dropped from the sky as he entered the perimeter; and once more, a wave of golden energy rolled outwards from the object, blanketing the land in boiling ki. He tried to fire an energy beam at it, but nothing came out of his hands. The first wave washed over him, charring Simbara’s flesh. He attempted to create an energy barrier as the second one approached, but nothing happened. Panicking and bleeding, the Majin struggled to retreat. Stuck in the mud, he moved slowly, and though he stretched himself out to dodge the next incoming attack, he was not fast enough.
Simbara was consumed; his life reading vanished as he was reduced to a cloud of dust.
Elhim cracked his neck, descending to the ground just outside the boundary. “Interesting. Can’t use energy, but maybe… yes, there is a way. Of course.”
Impetuously, their leader threw himself into range of the strange object. Shemash and Hamash let out cries of surprise. The golden wave bore down upon Elhim. For some reason, the bog was slowing him, almost to an unnatural degree. Fortunately, the man was a nimble runner, his boots squelching and sticking as he went. He was sweating and huffing and making some progress, but he didn’t get anywhere near the object before the first wave hit.
The old Majin weathered the attack better than Simbara had. His shoulders smoked and he moved onwards, his legs caked in dark liquid. He let the second wave of energy hit him as well. Sesami didn’t understand. Did he think his durability alone would save him? He wasn’t even halfway there.
Immediately after the second blast had shook through his body, Elhim punched the air, stretching his right fist outward with all his strength. Before another energy wave formed, his hand had found the golden dot and grabbed whatever was inside.
The light faded away, the pillars shook, and he was able to fly again. He returned to them with a smug look on his face. “See? Not very hard.”
“What is it?” asked Hamash, approaching him.
“I don’t know,” replied Elhim. He held up the tiny device in front of his face, studying it. It was metal, shaped like a pill, and was no larger than a tooth. “It doesn’t do any–”
As if moving on its own, the object shot itself into his mouth, and his eyes shone the most delicate shade of gold. Coughing, Elhim looked down upon his body, gripping and releasing his fists. He exhaled pleasurably, falling from the air to the mud, breathing loudly, slobbering, a new golden aura encasing him briefly before disappearing.
“Elhim? You okay?” Walu asked. “What happened?”
She knew what he would say before he said it. The bite was acidic. “So much power… I feel invincible!” Getting to his feet, he bared his teeth and beat his chest, and it was all she could do not to attack him then and there. That thing, whatever it was, radiated heat and force from within him; it would be an understatement to say she coveted it dearly.
For now, Sesami could only watch and wait. She was not one of the more powerful Majins in the group, so it was not her place to lay claim to such things. She did not deserve the artifact. And yet…
There was a look on Elhim’s face, a feeling of serenity or satisfaction, that she craved to experience. She could not tell them, not even Walu, how much it strained her to see him so. Young as she was, it was not the easiest thing in the world for her to remain steadfast.
Soon, their leader ripped another tear in the multiverse, and they were flying through it. Every time she closed her eyes, she saw it again–that golden, energy-encased sliver of raw power. She could not sense any change in her leader, but merely looking at him confirmed that something inexplicable had occurred. That look in his eyes sent shivers down her spine. It haunted her till she succumbed swiftly to slumber some several hours later.
It was Majin Walu who broke her from her dreams. This awakening was particularly hard for Sesami. Not every Majin slept for the same duration. She was still so very tired. Wanting nothing more than to nap for another ten thousand years, the girl was forced by her friend to return to Elhim’s crew, for had she given in to exhaustion, she would not have been allowed to go on extra-universal raids with them ever again.
They were huddled around a six-foot-tall carving of the World-Eater (who was the god who had created them). Elhim did not acknowledge her. Her eyes were ever on him. There was little talk amongst the crew, not that she minded. Only to Walu did she feel any strong sense of attachment, although the young one, Hocus, was not her least favorite. The Majins burned ki as an offering before leaving. With their pillaging of a fresh universe, they would enact Amoon’s sacred will.
Cracking his neck, Elhim tore a multiversal hole through space. She noticed that nobody had replaced poor Simbari and Simbara. Perhaps there was nobody to replace them. She didn’t sense anyone else on the planet. The other Majins could have been hunting off-world, she supposed, but there had always been a few dozen hibernating at any given time during previous cycles. When last she had slept, there had been more than one hundred living members of her species. Surely, they couldn’t all have died during her last hibernation.
Elhim addressed the warriors before they jumped through the portal leading to the second universe. “Rampage and rest!” A thin smile spread across his lips. “We feast tonight, Majins, for the Great One in the sky!”
That was all it took to rouse them. Walu, Sesami, and Hocus were on their own again, left to pillage and murder as they saw fit. Appetence drove them. She did not know precisely if their hunger was as uncomfortable and motivating as hers, but she assumed so.
The planet they went to was nothing special. Turning so many weaklings into salt water taffy had become almost an instinct for her. The sweetness of ingesting them brought her relief, some small respite from her basest feelings. There was more to it, of course, but that hardly needed mentioning. Hocus had his gumballs, and Walu had her chocolate. They never spoke during the onslaught. They never exchanged emotions. When they fed, they forgot about each other.
When it came to dividing up the spoils, Sesami and Hocus’ rapacity was fairly standard. Not only did they eagerly hunt down mortals, but they indulged upon their candy with great pleasure. Walu, on the other hand, viewed those desires as trite. She too had her candy, but she expressed little in the way of enjoyment when it came to stuffing her face. Was it due to her age or her temperament that she was so different? She could scarcely tell.
They devastated that world and brought about another species’ extinction. The thought of it was enough to sustain her. Their bellies were full, and the girls were feeling lazy. Hocus wanted to move onto another planet; Walu wanted to let her food settle. Before it broke out into a fight (as it was about to), Elhim contacted the Majins via telekinesis.
“I’ve sensed a power like the one that killed Simbari and Simbara. We will find it and claim it for ourselves. Wait for me. I will join you momentarily.”
They hastily scarfed down their remaining treats. He was upon them seconds later, his speed taking her breath away. The boss had not been this quick when he had taken them to Simbari’s grave. Jealousy coursed through her veins, but she swallowed her pride as best she could.
And with him came Shemash, and Hamash, and Maanutar, and Salubi, and before long, they were howling soundlessly through the void. She did not have what felt like an adequate amount of time to register where they were going before they arrived.
The air was dry, the lands barren and brown, and naught but a single tower rose from the dunes to give any hint of life springing forth. She sensed nothing inside. This world was a skeleton, in Sesami’s reckoning, already having been picked clean.
“Nothing’s there,” Shemash growled.
Hamash agreed. “Take us somewhere else. I want to eat.”
Elhim pointed to the tower’s tip, where blue windows shone off the reflected sunlight. “Up there. Can you sense it?” They grunted in the negative. He narrowed his eyes, as if not understanding. “Great power resides in there. Follow me.”
A thin trail of steam rose from Hocus’ shoulders, but it was not for him to decide.
The Majins flew through the glass, shattering it with their auras, and landed inside the small room at the tower’s apex. There sat in meditation a plump three-foot-tall alien with navy blue skin and ears twice the size of Sesami’s hands. The alien was irked by their brazen entrance.
“Who goes there?” it asked. She thought the voice sounded masculine, but it was an alien, and from the species she had encountered, had turned into candy, there was no way to know for sure.
Elhim landed before the rest. His shoulders held high, he said, “Give it to me.”
“You’ll have to be more specific, I’m afraid,” the alien replied, raising an eyebrow.
They could not have ignored the golden light emanating from the center of the room if they had tried. There was a faint heat radiating from it, and the more she squinted, the better she could see the little metal device, shining like onyx, hovering in midair, surrounded by a bubble of that same golden light. Excess energy seemed to be slowly evaporating off of the bubble, much of it running down a hole in the floor on the far side of the room, away from the alien and the demons.
She could sense nothing inside the aura. Seeing it was one thing, but the supposed device and the energy surrounding it had no ki signature. Confusion polluted her veins. Walu stared at the thing with her mouth slightly askew, her irises reflecting gold. All of them wanted it, whatever it was, though it appeared only Elhim understood its true value.
Was that because he had taken the artifact from the fourth universe? She could not know. But she did know one thing: Elhim had already had his fun. This artifact was for somebody else–for her. She would do whatever it took to acquire it. Sesami would never forget the look upon the grey man’s face after he had swallowed the device. Her belly ached for something more than candy.
He pointed to it without looking, his scowl growing ever more impatient.
The alien chewed on a thought, then drew himself up, cracking his knuckles and stretching his shoulders. “That is the Heart of the Dragon. Do you know what it will take for me to relinquish possession of it?”
“I don’t care. Give it to me, or I’ll take it from you.”
“That’s the idea. You’ll have to get through me if you want it. I am the artifact’s keeper. At the peak of this tower, I await any challengers who believe themselves to be powerful enough to defeat me. Tell me, warrior, how did you learn of this place, of the Heart of the Dragon?”
He began chuckling to himself. Hamash and Shemash couldn’t help themselves, but the rest remained resolute. The Keeper cocked his head to the side, not understanding.
Hocus stepped forward, asking in his high-pitched voice, “Does every universe have one of these?”
“That is correct, young one. Not all are guarded by a Keeper… the Heart of the Dragon is assuredly the most powerful of the devices, and as such, requires special protection. But yes, every universe has been graced by the presence of Zalama, and thus he has left in each of them at least one of his divine artifacts.”
It was Walu’s turn to interject. “What do they do? I can’t sense anything.”
Finally the Keeper showed some emotion. A thin smile spread on his lips. “Each of Zalama’s artifacts grants its user divine energy. Each one also grants its user certain powers, but it is not my place to tell you what those are. Every artifact has its pair. The other half of the Heart of the Dragon is located in the twelfth universe, for example. Should you come into possession of both halves of any artifact and combine the two, you will unlock additional abilities–abilities that will become known to you as soon as you ingest the devices.”
“I took the one from the fourth universe,” Elhim boasted, his chest heaving as he tried to steady himself. It was evident in his posture how desperately he wanted to murder the Keeper. “I could sense this one once I came to this universe.”
“I’m impressed, warrior. You have acquired one half of the Wings of the Dragon. It is rare for any of the artifacts to fall into mortal hands, though it has been known to happen. Once that mortal dies, it is the responsibility of each universe’s God of Destruction to retrieve the missing artifacts and return them to their homes. You seem to be able to travel between universes rather easily. That will be a headache to deal with. I feel for the gods who must track you down.”
“All will become mine. This one next.”
“Mmm. You will have to fight me for it, as I said. I am this artifact’s keeper. I will not let it go while I live.”
That pleased their leader. “Your choice.”
“You lot are unusually powerful. It has been a long time since I have faced this level of competition. While I admit the security guarding the artifact in Universe 4 is not as robust as it is here, you have gained my respect. Regardless, I will take on the eight of you at once if that is what you wish.”
“Kill! Kill! Kill!” Salubi bellowed, flipping his head tentacle back and forth.
“You may try, but I think you will find me to be unlike any foe you’ve encountered before.”
Elhim’s tentacle twitched forward. “Turn into bubblegum.”
The Keeper moved in the blink of an eye; Sesami found herself unable to follow what was happening. She could not sense this being’s ki signature, either. Was that because of the so-called divine energy? In that case, she would like nothing more than to know what it felt like to kill a god.
Her compatriots shouted battle-cries, their head tentacles pointing to the Keeper. Not one to be left in the dust, she joined them and fired. The thing about Majins was that every one of them had their own favorite sweet, so whichever piece of candy the alien turned into would reveal who had landed the killing blow. That fact had been most useful during her time marauding with Walu and Hocus. While she was faster than Hocus, Walu got the better of her more often than not, even when Sesami swore she had fired her Transfiguration Beam first.
Every shot of energy, some hot pink, some blue, some green, some crimson red, some light as lavender (as was her own), missed entirely. The bloated man flipped in midair, landing on his heels, spinning again, and fired three waves of cobalt energy at them. The first, they were able to block. The second cracked Hocus’ guard, and singed Sesami’s forearms. The third sent the feeble boy flying out the open window, and broke the rest of their guards, allowing for the Keeper to hone in on Elhim and engage him in hand-to-hand combat.
Their fight was blindingly quick, but even Sesami could see that her leader was on the back foot. He hardly managed to get a punch in. It was only his speed that saved him. She felt a sinking feeling in her stomach. How would any of them land a blow if Elhim, with his divine energy, could not?
Not dwelling on that, the other Majins flew up to the ceiling, where the two were dueling. Their foe released an explosive wave of ki, which stalled them, then backflipped away, gaining space.
“It was unwise of you to come here.” The Keeper took a deep breath, composure befalling his form. “You stand no chance against me. It is too late, now, to leave. Sovam will be your grave.”
“Shut up!” screamed Maanutar, suddenly appearing on the alien’s left, above him, his hands cupping a forming beam of energy.
He had plenty of time to react, but chose not to. The warrior pressed his attack against the Keeper’s cheek and released it, causing a tremendous explosion to rock through the tower. It was a wonder the room wasn’t melted in the blast. Nonetheless, once the dust had settled, the Keeper was looking up at the hovering Majin, unblemished. Without a word, he gripped Maanutar by the neck, his fist glowing ice blue. Her comrade’s head exploded. With a shrug, he dropped the body and faced the rest of them.
“This will be over shortly, I’m afraid. Thank you for returning the Wings of the Dragon to me. I will be sure to let Lord Iwan know, so that he may inform the fourth universe’s Destroyer. Now then, it’s time we end this!”
The fat little fool had no clue what Majins could do. That was a good sign. Ideas for how to exploit his ignorance raced through Sesami’s mind. When Maanutar rose again, his head popping back up from his neck, fully restored, the warrior was taken aback. Led by Elhim, the six joined their fellow and set themselves hard upon the Keeper.
He was much stronger than any one of them. Sesami managed to hit him only because he was distracted, though the bastard didn’t flinch. Her fist throbbed. She was growing doubtful of their chances.
They got their hits in, a smattering of ki blasts blanketing the Keeper’s body. He was certainly slowing, but their attacks were doing no more to him than before. Elhim, with his agility, was able to keep the alien’s attention, and that was gradually wearing him out. The boss’ speed seemed to be a tad greater than his foe’s, but not by enough of a margin to press an advantage. Despite that, he was forcing the Keeper to inefficiently expend his energy. No longer dodging as much, the alien began picking his moments to lash out at the most powerful of the Majins, which was leaving him wide open to the rest of them. Whittling down his stamina, even at a snail’s pace, was no small thing the longer this fight went on. Her hope was rekindled.
Perhaps realizing this, his focus shifted from Elhim to the others. Their leader went in for a high boot kick, but the alien flinched not. Instead, he raised a palm at Salubi and hurled a shining purple ball of ki at him, saying in a deep, commanding voice, “You’re destroyed.”
The energy hit him in the chest, coating his body in what looked like a synthetic, gloppy aura. He didn’t have time to scream before he dissolved away. Everyone fell silent, even Elhim, who was hovering above them and charging up an energy attack. They waited for Salubi to re-form, but he didn’t. She couldn’t sense him anymore. He was gone. The blow struck her hard, though Sesami had not considered him to be a close friend.
How had a single energy blast done that? It was not right. Majins were not so easily destroyed.
With an exhale of steam, their leader tossed his energy upon the Keeper and then threw himself at the bastard. The alien created another such purple ki ball and aimed it up at him, but the Majin was able to coolly dodge to the left. The energy connected with the ceiling, vaporizing it instantly. At once, the heat of the planet’s star bore down on them, and Sesami started burning through her stamina at a more worrying pace.
As Elhim rolled aside, the Keeper’s attention once more turned to them. Shemash punched him, but he caught the warrior’s fist, his own palm glistening purple. With a shudder, a zap of that horribly fatal energy snaked its way up Shemash’s arm. He managed half of a choked bark before disappearing forever in a sizzle of light.
Before anyone could retaliate, the Keeper kicked Hamash and Walu away, isolating Maanutar. Another ball of purple energy formed in his hand. Bewailing, his eyes growing large, the Majin retreated upwards, as if the sky were his protector.
He wasn’t clear of the tower before the energy reached him, overwhelmed him, and ended him.
Solemnly, Elhim landed next to Hamash and Walu. She regrouped with them. Majins had perished today who could not be replaced–mighty warriors who had nearly reached the pinnacle of their species’ potential. Young as she was, Sesami was not on the others’ level. She could do little to help. It would be her duty to attack first and distract the alien. She would likely die in the attempt. Elhim gestured for her to make her move. The girl couldn’t stop herself from quivering in terror. She exchanged a silent, desperate look with Walu. There was no time for anything more.
She was part of this team, and she would fight for their survival any way she could. Whether her assault served as a momentary distraction, useless or otherwise, was unimportant.
Letting out a scream, she created a lavender beam of energy in each hand and dashed at the Keeper. Gathering up all the power she had in her, Sesami barreled down upon the murderer. How she hated him, how she wanted to see him suffer–there were no words for it. Lightly, steam leaked from her shoulders.
As she was preparing to raise her hands and fire her final blasts, the Keeper jumped at her, seized her by the head tentacle, and threw her aside. Her tentacle ripped off, splattering blood on the silver-shimmering wall. Carelessly, she fired her attacks without aiming; he hopped over her sailing ki without so much as breaking a sweat. Exhausted, Sesami sat up against the cold metal. She had nothing left. She noticed her friends behind the alien, launching themselves in one final charge, and knew they wouldn’t get there in time.
“Be gone,” whispered the Keeper. He raised his hand to her face and released the destructive energy.
It was numbingly paralyzing, chilling her to the core of her being, and for a fleeting, but overwhelming moment, she felt nothing.
Then came Hamash and Walu and Elhim. The Keeper took to the air to greet them, his fists brimming with deadly energy. He threw his first swinging left hook at Elhim, but the man ducked under him; his right hook pivoted onto Hamash, who was barely able to roll out of the way. Chasing down Hamash, the Keeper pressed the issue, forcing the Majins back. They could not touch him when he was like that. Walu supported her brethren by laying down a barrage of ki blasts. Unfortunately, that did little to improve the situation.
Hamash feinted right and came in from the left with both feet stretched out, kicking the Keeper across the face. However, in so doing, he had left himself unable to immediately escape. As the strike had not so much as fazed the rampaging alien, he only needed to lean forward and tap his knuckles against the Majin’s stomach for him to disintegrate before their eyes.
Elhim was trying his best, but it wasn’t enough. He too was tiring out. At least the Keeper’s speed was gone. The Majins were able to snipe at him with ki blasts and elastic punches. It was odd that the Keeper never retaliated in turn. He seemed tickled by the attacks–bemused even.
His fists darkened to a deeper shade of purple. The bastard preferred to pound them into dust. Once more he came for them, and once more they fell back until their backs were up against the shattered remnants of the window they had so eagerly burst through not fifteen minutes prior. They had seen what had happened to Maanutar. If anything, they would be more vulnerable in the air. Elhim went to meet him, but was forced to teleport-dodge to the right when the man’s ki-drenched fist shot his way. Alone, Walu stood in the Keeper’s path. She flung more ki balls at him; the man didn’t bother batting any of her puny attacks aside.
It was now or never. She had to try one last attempt.
Distracted and tired, the round-bellied guardian hardly noticed as Sesami’s head tentacle crept up behind him, flinging itself into the air and morphing into a web of lavender goo that expanded rapidly until it covered him completely. More paralyzed than shocked, his energy left his fist, detonated on the floor, and try though he might to haphazardly tear the slime off of him, it was only a few seconds before he was swallowed whole.
A sandy wind blew through that colossal wreck of twisted metal and broken glass. Sesami re-formed before their eyes in a brilliant flash of light. Her body had become shorter, slightly more rotund, her head tentacle elongating somewhat more, and her face had rounded out. Now she wore the Keeper’s armored silvery-black shirt, though her pants remained the same.
Walu ran over to her, cackling wildly. “Nice trick, Sesami!”
A ripple of revulsion towards her friend shivered through her body. That wasn’t right. That wasn’t how she really felt. She buried the alien thought deep inside, silently cursing the Keeper for influencing her mind. No absorbed being should be able to do that. She was weak to have allowed a single one of his thoughts to make its way into her consciousness. Embracing Walu, she spotted Elhim staring at the Heart of the Dragon with lust in his eyes. He slowly approached the golden bubble, his fingers outstretched. She could hardly contain her fury.
“Get away!” Sesami was there in a blur, her newfound speed astounding her. “Mine.”
Elhim’s face scrunched up in a pout. His voice shook with authority. “Mine!”
“I absorbed him; I deserve it.”
“If I want it, I’ll have it.”
He shoved her aside. Steam poured from their bodies, forming a cloud overhead. Even so, she was not threatened. Elhim was weary. Having been pushed to his limit, there was not a chance that he remained more powerful than her. Sesami had no doubt that with the Keeper absorbed, she had become the strongest Majin in the multiverse. She feared no one anymore, especially not her tired leader. He could not and would not stop her. A fight akin to a sixth grader beating up a third grader ensued, and in the end (roughly thirty seconds later), it was her, not him, who plucked the device from its golden bubble and swallowed it.
She would never forget how the color left the room when she took the device, how the golden energy dissipated into nothingness. When she swallowed it, the feeling of power was not immediate–at first, it was as if nothing had happened, and she grew anxious–but then, in a slow, building rumble, she felt it, perceived it, and understood what she had become. Sesami exhaled, raising her head to the sky and closing her eyes. This power was something different. Her body felt light and sharply-attuned, as if she had effortlessly unlocked a transformation of uttermost potential. Candy was nothing compared to this.
With divine energy coursing through her, Sesami could sense the true extent of Elhim’s power. He had been so much stronger than them after ingesting the fourth universe’s artifact. Now she was strongest, and that felt right.
All was quiet on Planet Majin. She sensed no one else when they returned. Maybe some Majins were scouring through one universe or another, but she was finding it harder and harder to believe. One small bit of fortune from that calamitous affair had been finding Hocus alive out in the desert (unconscious though he had been). Still, there were but four of them, and the boy was not ready to fight in other universes, least of all if they were to continue collecting Zalama’s artifacts.
“Hocus can’t come with us next time. Too dangerous,” Walu told them.
Elhim grunted in agreement. “He will remain here. We will explore the second universe after we wake.”
“There is nobody else left,” she found herself saying. “Who will look after Hocus?”
“Because they warred themselves to death. I told them that would happen. Nobody listened. The Law of Majins is clear. Breeding must be rare, controlled, and overseen with care. We could not allow another outbreak to occur, like what happened before either of you were born. After that crisis, our numbers were always going to be few. The multiverse cannot sustain even a thousand Majins. Most of our kind cannot be trusted. Most must be put down before they reach adulthood. It’s pathetic. While we were gone, the birthers, the weak, the young destroyed themselves in war. Savages! They let their emotions rule them. I was lucky to find nine warriors with decent potential before you could kill one another in petty squabbles. What happened was inevitable. The elders are gone; I am the only one who remains from that time. Nobody kept the weaklings in check while we went to other universes. That won’t happen again. When we repopulate, it will be done under my terms.”
The cave was riddled with craters, rubble, and burn marks. It was in far worse condition than she had at first realized. She must have been so sleepy when Walu had woken her that she hadn’t noticed what had happened before they had left for Universe 1. A chill went down her spine. “There must be some left… some group like ours off in another universe. Someone has to be out there. They can’t have all killed each other.”
Elhim shook his head. “When you woke, Sesami, we were the only ones left. The birthers and weaklings murdered each other while most of the team was hibernating. I executed the survivors. They could not be trusted. Hocus is our future… or we could begin the repopulation efforts.” He eyed the girls, posing dominantly in a last-ditch effort to woo them. She remembered what had happened with Universe 1’s artifact. She would not mate with this foul beast, at least not until the situation became more dire. “Hmm? You like?”
“Not now,” she replied.
“No children for me,” Walu said with a scowl.
“You will change your minds when you wake. This is not about you or me. We must maintain the Majin race.”
“Will I? And if I don’t, will you force me to produce with you? I would rather self-destruct.”
“I could easily create a female from my own material. I don’t need you, it’s just more convenient.”
Walu folded her arms. “Create your own mate. We’re not open for business.”
Sesami agreed. “You don’t need us. One Majin pair could sire a thousand offspring in a day if they wished. We don’t need much time to restore the population.”
“If anyone did that, what happened before will happen again. We will go about this carefully. We must groom the recklessness out of the young ones soon after they are born. All in due time. The Majins will return to ruling the multiverse. No one can stop us.”
“Until that time, why must we continue to pillage other universes?” Sesami asked. “We could die. Are we not too valuable for our race’s continuance to risk our lives for more of these artifacts?”
She thought she knew the answer, but she wanted to press him. Her opinion on the matter was not likely to be different from his.
Though he was about to fall asleep, Elhim couldn’t help but giggle. Old as he was, he had never outgrown Majin immaturity. “You know why. You have one. You’ve felt its power. Be honest, Sesami. Not having it… would that be enough for you?”
“What do you mean?”
“Candy. Is it enough? Or do you desire something more? You’re young. You don’t understand. I’m old. I have slept and pillaged through countless cycles. There must be more to life than that. These artifacts… the power they grant… something tangible exists in them, something more than there was before. It feels good, doesn’t it?”
“Yes,” she whispered.
He nodded deeply, suppressing a yawn in the same motion. “We will collect every last one of these artifacts, and maybe then I will be at peace.” He looked off to the caves. They each had their spots, but it had never felt so empty as now. Sesami’s tunnel (she liked to burrow deep beneath the rocks so that she would not wake early, for she was a light sleeper) was covered in a thin layer of rubble. “Go, get some sleep. When you wake, we leave.”
Hocus, having sat down next to them, and having been bored almost to tears, had fallen asleep. Sesami slung him over her shoulder.
“And what of you, Elhim? Will you sleep?”
“The older I get, the less I need. I will, soon. First there are some things I must do.”
Half of her wanted to ask him about his cravings, if they were as acute as hers, or if they had dulled with time. The man was very tired, so she didn’t press him.
Walu chose a sleeping spot within half a kilometer of Sesami, which was closer than usual. She set Hocus up in a chamber three kilometers away from her tunnel, leaving him in a sitting position, a snot bubble growing in one nostril and almost popping with every exhale. The boy was not so bad, she thought. He was mellower than most.
She returned to her lair, admiring the dark and light streaks of brown and bronze and grey running through the rocks. Most Majins did not enjoy company while hibernating. It was a personal thing, this type of sleep, even for the best of friends, the closest of siblings, the most passionate of lovers. Reaching her spot, tension rose in her belly. The girl felt at odds with herself, with reality, and though she was deathly tired, she could not bring herself to burrow quite yet.
An underground stream was running through the passageway, cutting it in half. Making her way to the cracked shoreline, she took a long look at herself in the reflection of the moving water. She had calmed, her diction had grown more formal, and she was less enthralled by that which she had swallowed when compared to Elhim. Maybe that was a difference in their personalities or their ages.
She didn’t think so.
Nobody saw her hock that loogie. Nobody saw her kneel next to the comatose Keeper, covered in brain slime, and wrap her head tentacle around his neck. She watched the poor noble idiot struggle to breathe, his fingers moving slightly as he, unconsciously, attempted to break out of the paralysis and breathe. It would be a few hours before it wore off. Neither of them had that much time.
Sesami was pure again, empty though it felt. She still had the artifact–that was not a trivial point. She would be able to stand up to the old Majin if it came to blows. If only she knew what it had done to her. That was the only bit of anxiety creeping into her mind. Elhim had grown faster, had gained some level of divine energy. She had divine energy as well. That was obvious. But what else had she gained, if anything? She was more powerful, but she could not specifically hone in on her new abilities. It was a maddening feeling.
The Keeper had said the Heart of the Dragon was the most powerful, most alluring of Zalama’s artifacts. If only that were the case, she would be alright.
When they arrived in the second universe, through a bleeding tear in space, Sesami perceived the artifact. It was distant, but unmistakable. Its power signature was unique, probably due to the godly energy it exuded. Nothing else felt anything like it. Others, farther off, possessed divine energy–living beings, assuredly. Their life readings were not similar to the artifact’s, which was not to say that they were weaker.
“You sense it, Elhim?”
“Our universe doesn’t have one.”
“I think, many cycles ago, a Majin took ours to another universe. He must have died, stranding the artifact there. We’ll find it in one of these places. Now, take my arm. This won’t take long.”
The journey was like the last, a blur of color and motion, and it was over before she expected it to be.
They landed on the side of a snow-covered mountain near the southern pole. The planet was predictably devoid of life. Upon its peak lay a circular cluster of ruins half-buried in the snow, grey-black and metal and covered in the script of some ancient language. The pillars were of the same design as those on the swampy world in Universe 4. Five of them had fallen, while a dozen or so others had been pock-marked by what looked like energy damage, some severe enough to leave noticeable chips and cracks.
The ruins encircled an area no larger than a medium-sized room. The artifact was situated in the middle, hovering about half a meter over a cylindrical metal pedestal. Like the others, its aura was radiantly golden. No snow had landed on the pedestal, as if by design.
Walu stepped forward, as was her duty. It was up to her to level the playing field. She alone amongst the group did not possess one of these mind-altering devices. Although Elhim had desired this one, she had protested his greed. Her friend deserved to know what it felt like to have one of these items. The old man hadn’t wanted it to come to blows, so he had relented. Letting each of them possess at least one artifact wasn’t asking too much, Sesami thought. He had made no major sacrifice by backing down.
Snow was on her shoulders. She was confident enough, though she kept her guard up. As Walu approached the artifact, a column of light erupted around it, its aura expanding five times in size. A bolt of lightning shot out from it, landing on the frozen turf before her. The light faded to its previous intensity. In the smoking crater appeared another Majin Walu–a being of a mirrored image.
“Get out of here!”
The mirror looked at her with a blank expression, then laughed. Without warning, it thrust a fist at Walu, hitting her in the chest. Reeling, the Majin back-flipped away to regain her breath. Her opponent pursued. Closing in, the faker continued its assault, putting Walu on the defensive. For all her worth, she held her ground, parrying and shifting her feet. She fought back with remarkable vigor.
Stretching her arm across the mountaintop, Walu struck her mirror. The fiend retaliated with an elastic punch of its own, which tore through the Majin’s chest. Hastily, she closed the gap, ignoring her wound, and instead engaging her foe in a close-range brawl. For a minute or two, she put the mirror on the defensive. Her form was solid; she unleashed her punches and kicks in a fluid sequence. Sesami thought she had it. Then, the mirror blocked a punch, destroying her rhythm, headbutted her, and went on the offensive.
In a matter of seconds, everything fell apart. Where once the Majin had matched the mirror’s level of movement and power, now she was struggling to stay in the fight. She was on her back foot. Sesami was surprised at her friend’s lack of stamina.
They each got in several good punches. It was not enough. Battered, leaking grey-lavender blood from the corners of their lips, the two were locked in a stalemate. They were perfectly able to bloody each other up, but finishing the job was another matter entirely. After another ten minutes, Sesami knew. It was an unpoetic struggle, a struggle lacking in technique and cold-hearted determination.
She gave herself up soon after, back-flipping out of the ruins, and landing beside them. Walu fell to a knee, her breath frosting before her mouth.
“Not hardly. I’ll deal with her.”
Elhim entered the ruins, brushing snowflakes out of his eyes. The mirror, having not moved since Walu’s escape, shifted its attention to him. At once, its skin rippled and undulated before settling on a grey color. Growing in stature, its body slimming down and showing signs of aging, the mirror took on the form of the old Majin. Unhurriedly, he approached it, cracking his neck.
“I’ve taken one of the artifacts before,” Elhim said. “You will not stop me. Give up and hand it over. You wouldn’t want to be humiliated in front of the girls.”
It had nothing to say; when he flung himself at it with a double flying kick, however, the shapeshifter fought back with equal determination. They got into it above a fallen pillar, spinning in the air, each trying to grab ahold of the other, parrying errant punches, not going all-out. Despite that, it was obvious that the mirror had gained power since Elhim’s arrival. Its pace was equal to his own. That would have been impossible had it still possessed Walu’s strength.
Did its strength mirror the strength of its challenger?
If so, this would be the most fearsome warrior Elhim had fought since she had subdued him, albeit with that Keeper absorbed into her being. That was no longer the case, so if he couldn’t beat the mirror, it wasn’t like Sesami could, either.
He struggled greatly with his opponent. Sesami sat in the snow, her legs crossed, feeling like taking a nap. She was having trouble following the two, for they were moving so fast. Being able to sense them helped somewhat. If they had gone to ground, at least she could have tracked their footprints. In her shame, Walu had nothing to say. There would be nothing for them to talk about until this was over. Judging by how difficult Elhim was finding his battle, though, the woman should not have felt so bad about her failure.
The boss crashed into the ground, sending snow flying. Though he was able to rise to his feet, he barely dodged the mirror’s double flying kick that had followed him down. Moving to the left, he circled his prey, gritting his teeth. Suppressing a yawn, Sesami’s mind began to wander. She tended to become a little more reckless, a little more daring, when she was tired, and so she began spacing out while trying to half-heartedly keep up with the fight.
Elhim curled himself into a ball, his legs oozing into place, almost liquefying in how they bent up behind his back. With a snarl, he launched himself at the mirror. Though it tried to block, he punched a hole clear through its forearms and chest, shooting upwards before crashing down on it again in the blink of an eye. The gashes and holes in its body would have been enough to kill almost any other alien, but still it stood, wavering slightly, not so much as falling to its knees.
Their leader hit it again and again and again. She lost count of how many times in a row Elhim landed a blow. For some reason, the mirror had only tried to defend the first attack.
Finally, the Majin landed, preparing a beam of pinkish light in each hand. He was going to vaporize the faker in one go. The mirror’s mouth was agape. It was not focused upon Elhim as it wallowed in pain, its shoulders shuddering, smoky goo dripping from its open wounds. She believed in the old guy. His martial prowess was something to behold.
And so he sought to make an end of the artifact’s guardian. He blasted it with twin energy beams, not waiting for the mirror to recover.
Only after Elhim’s ki was airborne did his foe look up, grunt, and regenerate instantly. Even for a Majin, that had been skillfully done. It braced itself against the impact, not daring to block. It threw its hands out and caught the energy. In a single push, the mirror returned the beams to him. So surprised was the man that he was barely able to dodge the attack hurtling back at him.
His energy exploded against a pillar, doing no damage to it except to melt away the snow.
Chest heaving, weak trails of steam rising from his head, the Majin looked to Walu and Sesami before conjuring his aura around him and dashing through the air towards his opponent, preparing a left-fisted flying punch. The faker caught his hand and threw him back. Incensed, Elhim retaliated with an onslaught of elastic punches. He refused to close the distance between them.
They went at it for some time. Elhim pressed, and his foe defended, blocking every punch, every kick. Despite his ungodly speed, unusual swiftness, and quick thinking, the mirror matched him at every level. It had not been so powerful when it had faced Walu. Had the mirror shown this level of speed and strength against her, she would not have walked away from that fight.
Yawning, Sesami realized what was going on. It made her skin stand on end, recognizing what her comrades hadn’t. The artifact’s defense was a clever thing, but it was not unbeatable. Elhim, certainly, was going about it the wrong way. As he thrust himself, with all of his energy, upon his enemy, she became aware that his chances at winning were already gone. He could have had three times as much stamina in reserve, and it would not have mattered. There was no chance he was knuckling his way through that wall.
Pride kept him in it for too long. Walu, at least, had grace.
When at last Elhim conceded defeat, battered and leaking pinkish blood, agitation colored his face. “There’s no way through.”
“Let me try.” Getting to her feet, Sesami began to retch.
‘Out of the question. You’ll die.”
“I know how to beat it.”
“No you don’t.”
She shoved him aside. “Watch me.”
He didn’t put up much of a fight. As she spat out the glob of purple biomatter, he recoiled and stepped away. If it had been up to him, perhaps she would have thought better of him. As it were, Elhim was exhausted. Even in her current state, she was sure she could kill him. He was lucky to have gotten out of there with his skin. She was massaging his pride by being so vague. Enough of that. She would not babysit him any longer.
Setting foot into the ruins, the girl dropped the mass of biomatter into the snow. She observed the mirror change, without hesitation, into a reflection of herself. It was as she had expected. It grinned and provoked her with subtle movements and facial gestures. Having witnessed this routine twice already, she would not fall for the bait.
With one hand extending five meters to her foe, she casually slapped the false Majin before following up with a left hook with her other. As it stumbled, she lunged, kneeing the bastard in the belly. That pissed it off. Flipping away, the mirror gained enough distance between them to comfortably create several teardrop-shaped balls of ki. Dodging them was not difficult, but it put her on the defensive, which let her foe close the gap and pressure her with a ferocious barrage of punches. She could tell instantly that this creature, whatever it was, was as strong as her. Its fists hurt, even though she could block them, and the faker wasn’t moving any faster or slower than her. They were equal; she couldn’t slip up for one moment, like Walu and Elhim had.
She needed to hold on for just a little longer. Her stomach twisted in a knot. At least her jaw didn’t feel heavy anymore.
The mirror used her own form, and thus it was difficult for Sesami to break through. Deconstructing the flaws in her fighting style was not so easy to do when being pressured in battle. Transfiguration Beams were exchanged, dodged, and the fighting resumed. She was able to poke a few elastic punches in between the mirror’s attacks, though often as not, she received a lashing in return for not recovering fast enough. It was the only way. She had to get some damage in if her strategy was going to work.
For the most part, all that was required of her was to block and to remain aware of her foe’s movements. The mirror went at her at maximum power, burning through its stamina. Its effort was not enough to push through, so long as she remained focused. Every time Sesami’s muscles slackened, or her mind wandered, she was punished. She got worn down badly every time the mirror broke through. It proved to be nearly impossible to regain control of the fight after those momentum swings. Landing unexpected hits was the only way to stall her opponent and slow things down again.
It went on like that for some time; like a candle at the crack of dawn, the mirror’s stamina was inexorably waning. Going on the offensive against Sesami had required a tremendous investment of energy–more for the attacker than the defender, even with her slip-ups taken into account. Though the Majin had also tired, she was not close to being spent.
With a well-timed kiai, the demon stunned the faker, cutting its assault short, and ran back to the lump of biomatter she had left at the edge of the fighting area. Flicking her wrist, she brought it into the air and stopped it in front of her face. Then did the biomatter drop away, sucking itself back into her body around her chest and neck and cheeks. Once she was whole again, all that remained was the sliver of metal known as the Heart of the Dragon. She opened her mouth, and without asking, it flew in.
Thence, her aura was tinged in gold. Sesami threw herself at her foe, her stamina renewed, her powers heightened, her resolve keen and unwavering. Her opponent was drained; it could not match her anymore. This was a parlor trick, she admitted, not exactly a brilliant strategic move, but if it got the job done, who cared? Acquiring the artifact was all that mattered. Elhim and Walu had failed. She could not let herself perform as poorly as they had. If she were to be beaten, she would be beaten at her best.
With the artifact returned to her body, a sense of tranquility descended over her. She had weathered the mirror’s onslaught. Her chance to counterattack was laid out before her. Sesami was not one to waste such an opportunity. Elhim had chosen her for his team because of her killer instincts.
The girl performed her Meatcleaver attack, wherein she punched a hole in the mirror’s stomach and released a viridian ball of energy deep inside its chest. The beast dissolved before her eyes, moaning wordlessly.
Golden energy was leaking out from around the floating artifact. Her mind was blank, her body numb. Seeing was enough. It felt like an eternity as she stared on, drinking in the alluring power of that pill-sized sliver of metal, savoring the anticipation of what it would feel like.
Her fingers clasped around it, and the light went out. It was warm to the touch.
“No!” Elhim’s shout was gruff, but it masked none of his emotions. Distress was plain upon his face as he flew over to her and grasped her wrist, not letting her swallow the metal device.
“Give it to me. It’s mine. I’m in charge. I decide who gets the artifacts, and I want that one.”
“I beat its guard,” she scoffed, pulling her hand out of his reach. “I earned it.”
His voice dropped to a harsh whisper. “Give it to me. I won’t ask you again. I want it.”
“I won it. It’s mine.”
“I don’t care.”
“Elhim, control yourself.”
“Or what?” He caressed her neck and shoulder. His movement speed was still quick enough to worry her.
“You were weakened by the guardian. It would take very little for me to beat you. Back off. Do not tempt me.”
She swallowed the little thing and slapped his hand away. The man could barely contain a howl of disgust; thick trails of steam rose from his head and shoulders, and his eyes were nearly bulging out of their sockets. His lip quivered, plasma sparks dancing around his fingertips.
“Insubordinate bitch! Give me the artifact.”
“Try to take it from me if you dare.” Sesami was no longer tired. The jolt of energy, warm and golden, that was surging through her had alleviated all her pains and worries. She had never felt so powerful and so relaxed in her life.
The sallow-faced demon stood opposite her in the snow. Walu was shouting for them to stop from across the fighting grounds. Neither heeded her. A gust of wind frosted them. She closed her eyes, feeling his ki signature. Robust though it was, it did not begin to approach hers. If this was how he wanted it, she was not going to stop him.
“You’ll regret it,” she said as he reached her, in one last attempt to dissuade him. Unfortunately, he was boiling mad. There was no changing his mind.
“Give it to me, or we leave you here.”
“Is that really how it’s going to be, boss?”
“Yeah. It is.”
She was caught watching the swirling snows when he sprung upon her. Elhim’s speed was god-like, but his stamina had been worn out. It took thirty seconds of dodging for her to tire him completely. Then, she grabbed his fist, pulling it into her palm, twisted around him in midair, and pinned his arm behind his back. She held him there for only a moment before liquefying and throwing her body over him. He was too slow to react. She landed in front of the man and fired a pair of finger beams into his eyes.
“Damn you! I should have never let you join my crew.”
A pink explosive wave cooked her to bits. In reflex, ignoring the pain, she released an explosive wave back at him, amplifying the damage output several times over. The temple area went up in a blaze of fire, a tornado of flames passing through, rocks and snow vaporizing on contact. The metal pillars, however, were not so much as scratched by the attack (though losing their soil base was enough to send almost all of them tumbling over).
Lightning cracked in the air. Steam rose over the split ground; a cloud of ash, which blew away in the biting wind, was all that remained of Elhim, the Ancient One. A silver pill-like object fell from the cloud, landing on a split rock, over which what remained of Majin Sesami hovered in torn violet pieces.
Much of her had melted away from Elhim’s final dastardly attack. As soon as the fires quenched, her pieces coalesced into a purplish, gooey mass that made up her head and spinal cord (not that a Majin needed one). Nothing else remained. She gasped and coughed, her face half blown-apart, as she struggled to regain the stamina to heal herself.
Walu reached her. Words failed her. It was rare to see a Majin so damaged, to see a Majin in mortal danger. They had already borne witness to enough of their kind dying to make them atypical for their species. Sesami’s body pulsated with life, her body sluggishly re-forming before her friend’s eyes, but not quickly enough to show awareness. Seeing that, the woman crouched down and plucked up the Wings of the Dragon from Elhim’s remains.
“Drop it,” Sesami muttered from behind. She descended to the ground, her body regenerating fully.
Startled, the demon did as she was told. “Sesami, you’re alright!”
“Steal it, and I’ll end you, too.”
The older Majin got to her feet. There was a sad, strange look upon her face. She bit her lip, opened her mouth, and closed it without speaking. A minute or two passed by before she was able to get the words out. “I… I don’t care about it, Sesami. It’s yours. Take it. You know you don’t have to worry about me, right? I’m not Elhim.”
Sesami’s eyes shone golden as she took possession of the artifact. Not pausing to wipe the ash off of it, she threw it into her mouth and swallowed. A column of shimmering golden light, which generated enough heat for Walu to feel, emanated upwards from the girl. She returned to her feet, beckoning her fellow Majin over. Being that they were the only two left, Walu was acutely aware of her vulnerable position. Majins could be vengeful, petty beasts, and it would not be out of the question for the artifact-wielder to have some fun by beating up her companion. She was expecting the possibility, at least.
With a yawn clenching up in her jaw as she spoke, Sesami said, “Give me your hand, Walu. We’re going home.”
“Home? We’re stuck here. Elhim’s dead. He was the only one who could tear through dimensions.”
“I’ve been watching him. I think I have it figured out. It shouldn’t be much of a problem.”
“It will hurt,” Walu said in a grave voice. “It always hurt him.”
Sesami was not, as one could put it, a pessimist. She went for it without apprehension.
It had taken much more energy than she had anticipated. Her throat stung worse than ever. She spat blood as she touched down on the surface of Planet Majin. Sesami craved her tunnel. This had been the most exhausting trip of her life. Walu was behind her, holding her tongue. She had wanted that artifact, but she had not earned it. They were friends, so Sesami was always going to feel some measure of guilt about what had happened. Still, she was not about to give the other girl such a valuable prize given the circumstances. Walu had not contributed whatsoever in acquiring the last artifact.
Tall as a stalagmite, a female Majin came rushing from the cave entrance, a dozing Hocus in her arms. Her skin was a swirl of grey and pink, and her head tentacle was shorter and skinnier than most. Sesami had never met this woman before. Judging from her pitiful life reading, she was no threat.
“Elhim? Where’s Elhim?”
She stopped in front of the girls, her surprise morphing into confused analysis.
“Why do you care?”
“His son, Majin Buu, has been born. Where is he? He cannot sleep yet. He must teach the boy to not be as reckless as those who came before us.”
Walu walked up beside her. “He’s not sleeping, he’s dead.”
“He’s gone forever,” said Sesami in a cheerful tone.
“You killed him? How could you?” the man’s wife screamed, dropping the boy (who did not wake). “You… bi–”
Sesami raised her left palm and blasted that sorry excuse for a Majin out of existence with a simple lavender energy beam. Silence returned to the rocky world.
The woman blew air through her lips. “Keep killing them and soon there will be none of us left. Will you murder me next if I steal one of your candies?”
“Relax, Walu. We have the boy and the babe.” She grabbed Hocus by his head tentacle and slung him over her shoulder. He was snoring softly, which gave her an unusual amount of comfort. “It will be many cycles before we need any more, and by then I’m sure you will have gotten over your solitary mindset.”
“If we survive another universe. Tell me, Sesami, are those artifacts really worth the risk?”
“They’re everything. Maybe you’ll earn the next one, and then you’ll understand.”
Awkwardly, her friend ignored her and asked, “Where to next?”
“First, we check on the newborn. Then we sleep. Then we hunt down another artifact from either the third or fifth universe. Your choice.”
She found it a little odd, in a way that scratched at her brain from an uncomfortable angle, that her friend had chosen five instead of three. Most likely, it wouldn’t make a difference. Walu had only a slim chance of earning an artifact. That was fine in Sesami’s opinion. More for her.