The King’s radiance seemed to flicker, and even if just for a fraction of a second, the assembled zodiac gods and the two mortals all saw something baffling in his expression.
This was the creature who claimed to know all, took great pleasure in fact, in reminding his subordinates frequently how lowly they were in comparison to his astounding power and omniscience – but now there he was having to mask why he knew nothing of the assaults against the former Goddess of Fate and the God of Scorpio.
“So not even you know,” Scorpio dropped, sounding disgusted.
“What does that mean?” Yuka whispered quietly at Leon’s side.
“Only one person has ever been able to dupe the King,” Partheno said sourly.
“The Dark King is dead,” the King declared, full confidence returned to him, and Leon nodded – after all, he’d been the one to do it.
“Yeah?” Scorpio sniffed, tipping his chin irritably. “Then who else did you piss off?”
“Long list,” Ichthys muttered under his breath.
“The perpetrator did not target me,” the King pointed out, but Scorpio remained defiant and confrontational.
“Maybe they should.”
“Why didn’t you just kill the God of Scorpio?” Eridani asked, his tone tinged with disgust.
Miho, however, was unimpressed and unmoved.
“Do you want them to kill you?” Pavo sniffed, eyeing where Miho sat with Mieke’s head in her lap, idly sliding her fingers through the other woman’s hair.
“Do you want me, to kill you?” Miho enquired flippantly, leaning her head back a little before lolling it to the side in a languid gesture.
Both Pavo and Eridani shifted uneasily.
Like Mieke, in the end they had chosen to follow Miho rather than the Dark King, and as a result had survived. They knew she was powerful and only growing more so, and that for all her plotting and planning, her deep running rage made her unpredictably dangerous: even to them.
“When this is done,” Miho announced, answering the original question in her own, damned, time, “the Heavens will remain intact, and I may yet have need of powerful gods.”
“Scorpio? Powerful? He wasn’t even born a god.”
“Which made it all the more impressive he held the position he did,” Mieke sniffed as she lifted her head a little – then she smirked. “Past tense.”
“You gave them once before,” Miho said sadly, not yet touching him. “You weakened yourself for a goddess who, even owing her mortal life to you, chose another lover.”
Huedhaut did not move, but watched her. Surprised as he was to see her, her reappearance, her line of conversation, made the culprit behind Yuka and Scorpio’s star-theft clear.
And now she’d come for him.
“And you know what the King did when your goddess’ precious humans were in peril?” Miho continued, drawing closer still. “Not a whole lot, and then he punished you for doing what you did for the one you loved.”
“I am not giving you my stars, Miho,” Huedhaut told her plainly.
“Don’t be like that,” she smiled, knowingly. “There must be a festering mire of vengeful anger bubbling away beneath that cool exterior.”
“Are you sure that isn’t just your reflection you see?” he posed, and Miho snapped, sweeping forward and lifting him from his feet.
“Do not resist,” she hissed, her upper lip peeled back over her teeth, and though there was some initial defiance, Huedhaut’s body fell slack within a few seconds. “I thought you of all gods, would understand.”
“I understand,” Huedhaut croaked. “But I refuse to become a monster in order to defeat one.”
The tree’s skeleton shattered as Miho’s body connected heavily with its trunk. Splintered, smouldering white shards fell with contrasting grace into the murky water that ultimately cushioned the goddess’ inelegant landing; Krioff glared balefully as Miho sat up.
“So it’s you,” he dropped, a caustic sound flaring with anger. “How could you? We were your friends once.”
“Once,” Miho growled as she dragged her sopping body up, hair sticking to her face. “You know what it’s like to be an outcast, Krioff. Well me too. Total. Abandonment.”
Even as she spoke, the flames encircling Krioff’s right hand grew, leaping from his skin in wrathful curls, but over its rumble and hiss a deeper growl sounded.
The monstrous grey hound pounced on the God of Destruction, knocking him down and clamping jaws around his blazing arm. Though momentarily the creature seemed to sizzle, a sudden shower doused the inferno, and though Krioff willed the flames forth once more, he found his power suppressed.
“I understand why you still struggle,” Miho exhaled, stepping up to the divine form of the Goddess of Canes Venatici who held Krioff down, placing a gentle, loving hand against her wet fur. “It’s why I, still struggle.”
“You’re seriously going to make us cook for ourselves?” Krioff scowled at Leon.
“You were stupid enough to get your stars stolen,” Leon smirked haughtily.
“Why isn’t this water getting hotter?!” Scorpio shouted in frustration.
Hue, sitting in the corner of the kitchen, just calmly shook his head and returned to his book.
“Leon,” Krioff reasoned, which was something for him. “You didn’t hear Scorpio screaming at the potatoes the last time he tried to cook.”
“I will kill you!” Scorpio threatened… the pot of water sitting on the unlit gas stovetop, while Karno patiently tried to explain the igniter and the dangers of too much gas.
“What’s all the yelling?” Ichthys quipped, joining the growing melting pot.
“Clearly this is another example of the Punishments Department falling short,” Leon snickered, and Krioff really ruffled.
“Press this and turn that,” Karno explained, but even he was now shaking his head.
“Heh,” Ichthys grinned, discreetly clicking his fingers.
At a sudden rush of heat, both Karno and Scorpio jumped back from the stove, as the water in the saucepan bubbled and then exploded in flames.
Slowly, Hue lowered his book a little and raised an eyebrow.
“Scorpio burns water?”
“Punishments,” Leon snorted, extinguishing the flames in a snap and shooting an infuriating look of superiority at Scorpio. “I rest my case.”