Romance of the Moon

There was great fallout in the east, not just from the nukes, but from Cheng’bai, both from his onslaught and the void caused by his sudden disappearance. An aura of fear existed surrounding word of his possible return. One of the countries to suffer in this way was a kingdom on the Nippo-Nawarian axis: Chandrama. The Kingdom of the Moon, a strange place which swore that strange things can happen, like the birth of life, the defeat of dark kings and miracles. Holding the strange sacred is what made the city-state a cousin to Incandessa, to Nyx.

“Go where I cannot.” Jiemba had shown them that that’s what Amazing had said. Live, go, love and topple evil. Help others. So even before the UN had mandated that the Orion Alliance begin dialogue with the Crowned Moon Prince, Deepak had already talked to everyone about going to Chandrama, to help, to be Orion, to be human, to uphold what Amazing had protected, and in the name of all those who were still to come. So that when Sem would finally enter the world, they couldn’t have known that it would be Orion’s ideals that would be her solid foundation, her rock. It’s like the M-42, all the members of Orion promised in their school and hospital visits- to every fan and idoliser- they had to be their best to be human. To be Hero.

Michael was determined to meet Solace again. She had cursed him in their last confrontation, saying no light could pierce her heart, because that was how people became filled with fear, by giving in to hope. But Michael wanted to show her she was wrong, that by accepting hope, even if it was fragile, that’s how people learnt to be brave and grow strong. That was why Michael followed Deepak, why they all did, because in all his meekness, he was the bravest of them all.

Maybe Deepak was particularly eager to help Chandrama because he shared in their culture and faith. In lightcatching. In the absence of the country’s king who had fled, believing that Cheng’bai’s assault was imminent, the people learnt to govern themselves and developed their culture such that they found themselves joining the Deepa Wali, the row lights, believing in rising skylights and stars which elevated angels, in kites, as prayer ribbons sprinted. And stories- stories which kept fires going – secrets true – secret keeping became a tradition in the East Asian nation. Tales of the moon – moons, the skylights were moons where a hare dreamed of the world and a princess protected it. Do you know why the moon is important? It showed him the way, it showed Amazing the way to the world- for it was the moon which was courageous and kept light and promise in the dark, just as they knew in Newar of the Deepa Wali.

Cheng’bai was not from the Moon Kingdom, but the country remembers being at his feet, and as a part of the row of lights, the country saw him in a way no other nation could. Chandrama did not cower at the soldier-tyrant’s fury, nor despair at the extent of his darkness, no, instead it lit lanterns and offered candles. They say that the Red Weed’s presence alone destroys the world, so the Moon Kingdom’s answer was to create and bring new things into the world, that’s why it was a poet-singer who became Sovereign. Sovereign reminded the people of the things they held dear, the things they could still hope for and could cherish, and then she sung of him, the destroyer, she sung of Cheng’bai with empathy and understanding and she called him by name and taught the people in her song with microphone and eyes closed and crying high and loud that there was a way to be brave before what they feared most. They made this singing girl, their new leader. They would sing many versions of her song, some said she never even intended to sing about Cheng in the first place. I myself can’t help but wonder, but I think she wanted to tell Cheng’s human story, what he was behind the myth. If I can use Sem as an example, everyone thinks they know her, but few people know how angry and cynical she actually is, to the extent that her personality probably has more in common with Julian than Deepak.

Origa sung of a harmed soul, who breathed and breathed to fill his lungs but could not fill them, so sucked in the air of the world to live again. She spoke of reaching out to the soul with a candle, to show him that he was in the world and could still breathe, and give him stories, give him stories that he may remember the world. Chandrama embraced the storytelling tradition of secret keeping. People from around the country would write and record and tell and talk and bring, carying it heavy, send it to the Moon Cathedral, because it promised, Origa promised that they mattered and that no matter what awfulness took the world, their precious things would endure and that maybe they could even sway Cheng’bai and remind him of being human, that he may join them in story. They would give him the beating of their hearts so that his could start again. They would sing and tell and make light. This was the Country of the Moon.

But for a man who has little but money and power, such things are invisible, the Crowned Prince – Giao Giao returned to Chandrama and performed a coup, putting the Sovereign under house arrest in the Moon Cathedral, terrified that if he killed her the people would rise up. Nonetheless as the boy’s petty rule fumbled over the mouths and eyes of its citizens, conflict was stirring. Human rights organisations were denied access and the UN was thrown out. Orion was sent by the UN as emissaries, hoping that they might be able to reach the Prince through reason. Pandef’s Super Black was also dispatched to the country in secret, with support from the Tylor, then still Secretary-General and mentor to Yeon, under the auspice that they would find evidence of human rights violations. But really, team Super Black, was sent to arrest Giao by force and keep an eye out for Raindance activity. Yeon hoped she could encourage peaceful resistance via Heibaraki’s principles and with secret help from Tylor, she and her team entered the country. But like Super Black, Yeon had an ulterior motive, she would never forgive Julian for what he nearly did – what he did to her country, she was sure he’d make an appearance and she would destroy him, for the world’s sake. Nervously the world’s militaries kept an eye out for Dusklight, they were nowhere to be seen.

Part of Super Black’s mandate was to discover who or what had aided Giao into power. They found out quickly, two individuals who accompanied the Prince wherever he went- a young man in a motorcycle helmet and lab coat- Egor, leader of the machine faction EVIL of Incadessa, had left the city shortly after Lovecraft’s final confrontation with the Owl. His motivation was a mystery. And the other – a sea battered man wanted by Pandef for attacking ocean liners and refugee ships- known only as Soulless. Super Black didn’t know this but Soulless attacked ships and cities with his incomprehensible might and immorality and seeming ability to summon storms because he was trying to frighten the world off of the sea, which he often declared was no longer safe, that the ocean had declared war on humanity and was full of dark titans. That too was only part of it- Soulless, or as Pandef knew him – Crautacia Lo, just wanted be left alone with his loneliness out at sea and to kick about and curse the world if ever they got near him. There were horror stories, that city ships that crossed courses with Soulless would be left houses of horror, no survivors. Just ghost ships. He was a fragment whose ability was a similar type to Solace, where she drew her strength from ‘fearlessness’, he drew his mysterious fury and invulnerability from ‘immorality’.

Maybe that’s why Soulless protected Giao, to curse the world in Cheng’bai’s place whom he was determined to face one day. But why Egor, whom Agent Greasy Muffin of Super Bluck was convinced had to be somekind of genius prodigy child fragment or something or other something- why had he aided Giao by giving him weapons and technology and a machine army was a mystery. Maybe he was just bored, him and that turquoise skinned person that followed him around in the tank top.

Super Black had been created originally to locate and neutralise or arrest Dusklight. It is beyond classified as to whether they couldn’t find Isa and the others or if opposing them was simply impossible. Maybe that’s why Muffin and his team had suddenly become so zealous, eager to oppose Julian, or ‘Cosmos’ as he was now known and his Raindance. In truth, Greasy didn’t trust Deepak, or ‘Awesome’ as the people now knew him either. Fragments were an anomaly with an unnatural ability to affront the freedom of others. The Agent who was dubbed Greasy Muffin of the United States of the New World was helpless in his youth but to watch Sirius slowly burn the world alive, and then couldn’t contribute one way or another to Deepnight and Lostday’s blood feud across the planet. As a single man he couldn’t do anything about Cheng’bai and could only quake in fear as the Purusartha ate the waking world. He felt just as futile joining the FBI, the CIA and no matter how much he trained his body, he realised it was futile before the power of fragments. He joined Pandef, to protect the world his small town was in. Then he had a shot and took it, at Lostday. Gunmen under Big Bad’s influence tore Greasy apart. Minutes left of life left, he was saved by a strange metal which replaced most of his organs excluding his heart and stomach. He had become one with an extraterrestrial, a friend of the Brave- affectionately dubbed Platinum, a being of pure power and technology. Platinum developed a psychic bond with Muffin and through their link, Muffin gained the awesome power to manipulate the terrible and great flying saucer- Ricochet.

With that, The Maldivian, a mysterious figure charged by Pandef with putting together Super Black, dubbed Greasy Muffin as UFO- Unmatched Fighting Operative. The Maldivian would recruit Commander October of Rossiya and the terrible Rigor Mortis of the Middle Kingdom, the Sino Cooperative Republic. October was born with a strange condition. She began each year a relatively normal person, but as time passed, she became increasingly stronger, before peaking with incomprehensible strength in October of each year until November. Her year would begin again in December. She has the ability to jump herself to his ‘October’ self at the expense, it’s suspected of some of her own life span, depending on how long it is from October at the time. When asked by the people she’s saved from where she received her strength which could rival Solace’s and Soulless’, she’d answer from chopping wood. It’s believed the significance of October lies in the accumulated ‘intention potential’ collected in Rossiya focused on that month, dating back to the Bolshevik revolutions. Will and fury.

Rigor Mortis, or Kei Yu, is a boy who will not age for reasons no one understands. They say he had met Cheng’bai in his youth, not merely witnessing the destruction of his home city, but seeing Cheng, face to face, looking into his eyes of bottomless despair and became frozen forever in time. Perhaps not too different to Solace after she had witnessed Nightmare. Yu was recruited by Pandef after he led agents which he somehow tracked down to Cheng’bai’s place of sleep. Only he returned to tell the story. He demanded to join Pandef in their search for a way to stop Cheng, but he was refused. He was a child. He turned down their attempts to help him find a new life and travelled to Incandessa, where he somehow on his own subjugated an Anchor of Night – Jiangshi. A giant, hopping vampire with a seal on its face instead of a soul, draining strength from its enemies and increasing its own. He was certain that in reality, he was more powerful than Greasy. Maybe Greasy knew it too. Where the Shards were governed by ideals, Super Black and the other six ‘World Snakes’ were governed by power and maybe that’s why they would never truly understand what it would take to bring peace to Chandrama, why Origa had been named Sovereign or why amber charcoal lit stars. But then how could anyone who had never seen the brightest corner of the Road of Lights until then.

When the Crowned Prince had brought Egor with him, and Egor had brought with him EVIL. The machines filled the skies and the waters and the land and the moon was blocked out by the humming of prison ships which littered the air, discharging violent gasps of thunder and cloud. Human culture itself was quashed by the robots, the country of his birth, the Crowned Prince had turned it into an endless night, a giant prison, but he didn’t care, Egor kept his promise. The country was Giao’s agan. He would never know how hard people fought to remember butterfly pancakes and songs and rice lit by ghostfires which sizzled stars and told stories to the moon. People persevered, they sought life, peace and no number of prison ships and squads of mechanical wardens with EVIL on their chassis would change that.

He took her voice away. Egor, the strange boy in the helmet knew who she was. Sovereign had escaped the convoy that was taking her somewhere, away, away from the moon, from her country. She didn’t know how she got away, she only remembered that she had to and so she did, somehow, seemingly not a machine or gunman on her tail. So she walked, without a moon to guide her, only the cruelty of a long path and the darkness and the cold. And as the sun began to rise, the machines, spewing smoke and rage found her and believing her to be just another victim in their reign of fear for fear’s sake, they took her aboard a floating hell. Where something insane waited for her and took her voice. She cried and screamed for a time, but with the return of the moon, she taught herself to speak again with those with whom she shared cold walls and in six months, she had taught herself to sing again. And they knew who she was. The country was dying, not because of the machines or the Prince’s tyranny but because he had succeeded, she had vanished, worse than had he executed her- no, that would have merely caused an uprising, but the one the people had called Sovereign was merely gone. And yet, new prisoners brought whispers of the machines, weapons and gunmen still searching for her. It meant for some reason, Egor had not told Giao that he had her. It meant her people still had hope and that meant there was still hope. That meant she had to get out, she needed to be at the minaret of the Moon Cathedral, the moon palace at the star plateau, for all her country to see.

She tried speaking to the guards, to the ship which she knew was also conscious in some way. And she said she wanted to speak with Egor. She would receive no answer, but she understood, there was only a slim chance he would speak with her and there was the simple likelihood that he just wasn’t on the ship anymore, he probably hadn’t been for months. What had brought him to her remains unclear. So Origa did what she could, she sung, and sung until the machines could hear her too, until the ship could hear her too and the bots came to sit by her cell to listen to her. She didn’t have her microphone or her electric guitar, but she sung still. She sung of her country, the country they had suffocated, of butterfly pancakes and autumn leaf tea, of song and winter flowers, of roads and ghostfires and rice, of autumn charcoal and stars and the crescent moon towers of the cathedral.

And then one day, a bot timidly walked up to her cell, unlocked it and left, as though he wanted to save her country. All it said- all he said, was that Giao was going to destroy the Moon Cathedral. Sovereign went to the command module and told it that she believed it was alive, that whatever Egor was capable of, he had mad consciousness possible in machines, these things weren’t strange to her people who believed in the life of stones and wind and fire. These creatures too were alive, and had only they had time to talk, the people of the moon and the machines could become fiends. She had prepared a song for them too, she called them lightning bloods. The ship landed and released all the prisoner. Sovereign went to give a name to every machine on board and offered them to join their march to the Moon Cathedral. But then he came- the machine General – hooded and screaming with shrapnel – the Rust King. He demanded an explanation from the Ship, who was now named Fei. A battle broke out between the machines Origa had befriended, the prisoners and the Rust King. Sovereign begged them to stop, men, machines and fire and bullets as the Rust tore through every living thing he could find. EVIL on his chassis and cloak. Then silver, silver- no, platinum and monolithic, it chased the Rust King away. Super Black had arrived, they explained who they were to Sovereign and that they were to escort her into United Nations and Pandef protection and that they would help these people cross into a refugee camp. Origa refused, saying they had to march on the Moon Cathedral, they needed to stop Giao. Super Black seemed to agree, that they would help them. But that night, Origa was awakened by one of the bots that had chosen to stay with them, saying that something terrible was coming. She knew it was true, she had terrible nightmares of far away things, of a sunflower field and a young man smeared in darkness. It would never be revealed to the public, but Giao, unwilling to to make Origa into a martyr, was going to orchestrate her ultimate disappearance by handing her over to Dusklight, Isa viewing her as a poison to her people as all hope is. Super Black was going to use her as bait. She knew she had to get away and she also knew that the darkness would not come for her people, just her.

She was confronted by Muffin, saying that they would protect her. She said that she couldn’t die, the moon country needed to survive, that the Moon Cathedral needed to survive. Muffin told her, her country was already dead, at the whim of a greedy child with a monster at his side and an army of machines to do their bidding. Why risk her life for it? Origa joked that she expected more from an American. Her country had to survive, the moon cathedral had to survive. Rigor Mortis of demanded to know why. Sovereign answered that the Moon Cathedral is the great skylight on which stories took light and soared and only those stories could reach Cheng’bai and save the world. The Rigor Mortis ordered that Super Black let her go. His home had been destroyed by the Red Weed, he would take any chance necessary to bring an end to him. It was at that moment that Sovereign’s nightmarish vision leaked into the world, a being of whirling, leaping madness appeared, dreadlocks and power in every muscle, intangible and unknowable, invulnerable. It took UFO, Commander October and Rigor Mortis to keep Atrocity at bay and make it possible for Origa to get away with a handful of people with her.

Origa would later realise that those who had insisted on coming with her were of the Raindance. They rendezvoused with the Raindance vanguard, with Julian himself and the core members at his side. Julian said that he would liberate Chandrama, but he would need her safe and out of the country. Sovereign told him that she had seen the way he ‘liberated’ Antarctica and did not want his help. He tried to justify that it had become as bad as it did because of the conflict with Heibaraki. It was in the days of these talks, that Yeon would also make her appearance, she demanded that Sovereign not listen to Cosmos. But Origa wasn’t convinced that Heibaraki was much better than the Raindance. Yeon explained that Orion could not save the day this time, that Deepak was having to be an envoy for the UN to Giao , to try and reason with him. Ultimately, to prevent Sovereign from going alone, Yeon and Julian agreed to put the Raindance and Heibaraki aside and accompany her as individuals to the moon cathedral. Solace would later ask Cosmos why he didn’t just force Orgia into going into exile and Julian answered that using his ‘understanding’, he knew that doing that short of killing her was useless. Like Deepak, somehow the laws and probability of the world wrapped around her in her favour, in other words, as long as she had a will, she would find a way. Opposing someone like that was pretty much useless, theirs was a truly human and incomprehensible power.

So it was, that Orion kept record of human rights violations and bore witness to the country’s suffering, Heibaraki covertly delivered humanitarian aid and the Raindance organised civil resistance; the core members were ordered to stay out of the matter whilst the three leaders took things into their own hands. Yeon and Julian accompanying Origa to the moon cathedral, scheduled to be destroyed in a matter of days whilst Deepak did his best to quell the avarice of a mad boy. None of them were even sure what would happen, what they would do when they got there, but Julian somehow knew if he was ever going to be Deepak’s equal in their wager for the hearts and minds of the world, he needed to draw strength from the same place Deepak did, from the same place Awesome did, from faith. From Hope.

And on the way, Origa told them of the things they cherished in Chandrama, of stories and butterfly pancakes and silk charcoal. Word spread that the Sovereign was on her way to the Moon Cathedral – towns and villages lit their path with kites and skylights. Julian thought the row of lights, that the Deepa Wali was proof, proof that the world was fighting; its nations and people had been reborn from tragedy and had brought light into the world. Yeon wished he’d just call it what it was, hope, something she would always have as long as Isa was in the world. Something she had to have. They reached the Moon Cathedral unopposed and climbed to its summit where Giao waited with Soulless and Egor, the turquoise Homunculus at his side. He had wanted Sovereign to walk right back to him. Giao attempted to explain himself, that he had come not to enforce tyranny over Chandrama for his own gain, but to make it strong, in case Cheng’bai ever returned. Sovereign beseeched him, that what made a people strong was their culture, their hopes and dreams, the Deepa Wali was proof of this, that they had survived the Pursuartha and become amazing. Giao was infuriated, saying that kites, lights and pancakes would not stop the smoke of Cheng’bai, that the world was different now, or rather, it had always been dark, now they just needed to realise it, the discovery of the Eclipse King was proof, the age of culture and humanity was over, he said the natural order was war. That was why he needed Soulless, because a man with no morals may have the strength to defeat a man with no life, to defeat Cheng’bai, leading Egor’s machines. Giao demanded that Sovereign sing for him to bring the people on to his side, but she refused, he declared that she was weak and that he would not be seen as weak. With that he revealed a beaten and tortured Deepak. It was only this which caused Julian to take his eyes off Egor, whose incredible ability he had come to deduce.

Julian and Yeon moved, confronted at first by the Homunculus, who agile and powerful leapt off of wall and ceiling, striking the two quickly in beautiful motions of dance, not an ounce of malice in her movements, like poetry. Yeon, frustrated, blew a stream of flaming retribution, which Homunculus caught in her hand, where it burst and cascaded in all directions. Julian saw this as an opportunity for strike, only for Egor to get between them, enveloped by an incredible machine which exploded and unravelled into existence seemingly from nothing- Julian, Yeon and Egor breached the cathedral and soared into the sky. Yeon’s plasma armour and Julian’s armour of understanding, seemingly evenly matched against the incredible technology of Egor’s engine. Deepak, gentle and representing the world had refused to fight back as he was tortured, but now stood before Soulless as he approached Origa, a firefly by his side.

Egor’s machine powered by a hyper-dense micro-star played with gravity, swinging Julian and Yeon in all directions, crushing them against invisible walls and discharging wave after wave of radiation which Yeon tried to absorb. Julian quickly realised they needed to think differently if they were going to win, Egor was using the weight of the star to bend space-time; he was manipulating time and predicting their movements. Had anyone been watching, I think it would have been beautiful, synchronised almost, a fire god, a silver knight and a star boy dancing, cascading into the stars, leaving streaks of iridescence in their wake.

And then they stop, all three of them as they see it- as they see them down below, in droves and swarms of a billion colours marching to the cathedral. It echoes across the mountains. It was an uprising, people had answered Sovereign’s march with their own, singing which rung over the sky and songs which coloured them. People, the people, had answered Sovereign’s resolve, they had come to the moon cathedral and had risen up across the the moonlight. In songs and butterfly pancakes and charcoal and tea and flowers and kites and lights, they were bringing their stories. Egor knew it was over. They landed back in the cathedral, Cosmos mending the ceiling as they land. Soulless lay on the ground, unconscious and the Crowned Prince stood shaking, pale and covered in his own vomit. Egor announced he was withdrawing his forces, nothing could quell an uprising not even a massacre, and besides, his machines didn’t kill and he had what he needed. Julian alone knew exactly what it was that Egor had been after by helping Ciao, and he alone let him go without questions.

“Some of my family are in that crowd.” Egor said referring to the bots who had come together with denizens of Chandrama to celebrate life. The did it, they had won. The people were free and everything was song.

If only they had been prepared. If only they’d known that below a mountain a Jester, a Muharej clad in the darkness of space who was there and yet was light years away approached a sleeping god deep in the deep.

“Of all the places you could have chosen to sleep Cheng’bai, you chose the Kingdom of the Moon.” It grinned as she always did. “Were you really so pathetic that you found comfort in the songs this country made about you? Well it’s time to wake up again. Can you hear them? They’re celebrating, with their songs and their hands. We need to put a stop to that. So wake up Red Weed, White Immortal, by order of the Eclipse King, Naenamh the Far God decrees that you rise again. Rise again and kill every fucking thing.” Muharej laughed with the grief of a billion dead stars and Cheng’bai opened his lightless eyes.

Fog, in a less than a day, the celebrations had been halted by word of fog from which nothing could be redeemed, which changed things into secrets forever, forever lost. The people knew this fog, it was in their history, it was in the history of all Asia. Deepak could feel him and Julian knew, but he didn’t want to believe it, they just weren’t ready, they weren’t ready. Soulless stirred in confinement and upon awaking, declared that ‘he’ was here. Somehow they had attracted or awakened Cheng’bai, he was in the eastern mountains. Sovereign gave the call for her people to evacuate to the west. She scrambled to build a fledgling administration with the help of Orion, but the government in exile couldn’t help the people on such search notice, the crisis was now and they were in Newar. Deepak agreed to gain permission from the Middle Kingdom to allow Chandrama citizens to evacuate there if necessary. But Super Black approached Origa and stated what was obvious, unless they stopped the White Immortal, there would be nowhere to run. Rigor Mortis then made known Pandef’s position, that they were willing to work with anyone, even the Raindance to get past this crisis.

Orion, Heibaraki and Raindance mobilized with Super Black and Soulless to confront Cheng’bai. What they find is fog, they can’t even get close, the world shatters, cracks and dissipates, becoming nothing, becoming fog which spreads the devastation. Julian couldn’t help compare this to the effect that storm giants’ antimatter bodies have on the world.

“I can do this.” Deepak said. “Get me close, and I can stop him.” He had already begun gathering moon and starlight into a spirit orb. Julian and Yeon activate their most terrible armour- slashing and burning their way through shattered world-matter to get Deepak close. Yeon’s light and fire kept the fog at a bay as much as possible whilst Julian pushes it back with swings of barrier-creating blades. It wasn’t working, the fog was going to consume them. Awesome unleashed the firefly and the fog dispersed in an instant, blown away by the very iridescence of Awesome’s power. They find themselves in a landscape obscured partly by deep darkness. Not because of an absence of light, but as though the darkness itself had consumed parts of the world in blackness so perfect, that the moonlight could not penetrate. And there he stood, in the strangeness of it all.

“Have you come to die with me?” Said Cheng’bai.

Butterfly pancakes with autumn leaf tea, songs with winter flowers, roads lit at night with ghostfires, ember rice cooked with autumn charcoal, kite flying and lightcatching and rock and roll. This was her country, her people and Sovereign would not let it all vanish from the Earth. Origa acted. With the help of a bot holding cake and a flower, Origa manages to reach Egor. With him were his lieutenants, the bizarre Homunculus and the terrible Rust King.

“I didn’t kill you all, but that doesn’t mean I won’t change my mind human.” Said the strange boy. “So keep your distance, we’re out of here.”

“But Egor…” Said the small bot that had taken Origa to him. “…what will happen to this country?”

“That’s not our problem.” He said. And in that instant, Egor was bombarded by a symphony of questions and pleas from his family, from his bots who had fallen in love with Chandrama, with cakes and flowers and rock and roll and the moon.

“She accepted us Egor, after all we’d done. No one’s done that before.” Said Homunculus. Egor turned to the Rust King.

“It’s your choice Breath Giver.” Answered the mighty bot. Egor took off his helmet to reveal he was even younger than he appeared.

“What do you want me to do.” He said to Origa.

Sovereign asks him to make their stories into an object, so she could give it to Cheng’bai, the saddest person in all the world. She knew he could do it. Somehow he did it with consciousness, he made it material and gave it to the machines, that’s why they called him Breath Giver. Just like he did with her voice when he took it away, he made it into an object and took it.

“Please.” She said. “And I swear, you and your family will always have home in Chandrama.”

“Nothing’s working!” Yeon cries out, flaring and burning at the ‘nothing’ spewing from Cheng’s body, hurtling through the air to avoid it as it shattered the very air. “All we keep doing is running from that fog he keeps making!”

“We have to pull out!” Muffin yelled.

“If we do that, this whole country is finished!” Protested Julian. Yeon couldn’t believe her ears. Julian fired again with his cannon of ‘misunderstanding’, only for the blast to dissipate before reaching Cheng.

“Guys I don’t know what to do!” Deepak roared, hoarse. “I can’t get close enough to him and I don’t think I have it in me to make another orb!”

“We’ll call in a nuclear strike, we don’t have a choice.” Rigor Mortis uttered.

“Trust, me that won’t work- NO!” Julian fell to his knees. Deepak rushed to his side. “…it’s, it’s…” And before he could say it, from the nothing walked a skinny boy from Turkestan and the three nightmares he called friends.

“Isa…” Yeon was shaking.

“Dusklight! Goddamnit!” UFO cursed.

“Don’t be afraid Julian.” Isa said and to all their horror, the fog parted for him. Cheng looked in his direction. “Cheng’bai.” Isa turned to the white god. “Would like to join us? We’re going to create a world where we can be left alone, I know that’s what you want.” Cheng’bai didn’t respond. “Come with us and I promise you peace.” Cheng merely stared at Isa, both their lightless eyes meeting. There was silence, just complete silence. It lasted an aeon. Then Cheng turned to something in the sky. All the combatants did the same. It was the Rust King, he was carrying Sovereign, they landed.

“Cheng’bai!” Origa cried. “Please stop, please, I have something for you! I know you chose to sleep in our country for a reason, our songs, our stories, they reached you, didn’t they? I just wanted to tell you don’t have to destroy this country, you can stay, you can stay- here, take this. She held out her hands where a moon flower rested. It’s our stories, all of them. From everyone in the country.” With palms outstretched she stepped towards the Red Weed.

“She’s lost her mind!” Julian got up to stop her but Deepak got in his way.

“Wait.” He said.

“I know you’ve been lonely, and I know the world took Harsha away from you and made you fight and I’m sorry, I’m so sorry.” She was a mere foot from him. He looked down at her. “But you don’t have to fight any more. You’re welcome here. So please, take this flower. It’s everything we have.” And she smiled at him with all the gentleness and might of the moon. And breath escapes everyone there as the White Immortal, scourge of Asia and enemy of humanity raises his hands and brings them towards the flower. He was quivering, like a frightened child. And Sovereign smiled with all her might.

“Welcome home.” She said. And all collapsed in disbelief and relief.

“Okay.” Isa said. “Guess you’re not one of us. Shame.” The world goes dark in a flash of blackness and Cheng’bai was gone.

“No…” Sovereign quivers, then gags, then weeps. For all tragedy that ends in tragedy, she weeps.

“Isa…” Deepak utters. “What have you done…” Julian was shaking so hard he couldn’t stay standing. Super Black, terrified, retreated in an instant. Yeon just stands there, not knowing what to think or feel.

The boy from Turkestan declares he is no longer Isa, he is something else now, he is Angra Mainyu. He doesn’t turn to Sovereign who grips the flower with all her power and knows she will never be able to grieve enough. No one dares comfort her. Without looking at her, Angra merely says that she was right, she had proven so by freeing her country against impossible odds, through culture and song and will and hope, through humanity. Yeon reaches for him, but he turns away.

He says that ultimately, it will not be enough, that human things can solve human problems, but that the world is still doomed before something like the Eclipse King, the Enemy. Giao was no enemy, he was a petty, scared boy and Cheng’bai with all his strange powers may well have been swayed by the gift of stories from Chandrama, but such things would not stop Naenamh. It would take darkness. Isa disappears, in the blink of an eye and without a trace, off to face the Eclipse King himself, leaving Dusklight without their leader and Yeon with a broken heart. So for him, for her, Origa sings, for all that was worth hoping for and believing in. And the lyrics spread across the country and all wish in unison.


Once, darkness fell upon the world and in hope and despair we prayed. All that we were heard all that we hope and an angel came to answer us, a spirit made from our hearts, guided by our songs through the infinite blackness. Our heart showed him the way – the moon, a lamp on which an angel caught light, soared and was Amazing.


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