Chapter 38:

Declaration of war

Elyon - Gods among us

It has passed two weeks on the planet Pallas, where the days were extremely short due to its size, lasting only about twelve hours. As a result, their training sessions had been shorter but constant compared to what they would have been on Earth.

Rodrigo and the others had continued their training without interruption, resting for only two hours and training for the remaining ten. The overwhelming heat of Pallas made Rodrigo long to give up, but he couldn't morally do so. He had to become stronger to protect Ana, Epona, and Tania.

However, Tania had become increasingly distant, even with Ana and Epona. There were times when she didn't return to their room and wouldn't speak to anyone. She didn't greet or smile; she seemed lost in her own world.

Rodrigo felt guilty, as if this whole situation was his fault. Although he had also barely spoken to Ana and Epona, both of them would come back to the room looking almost dead, only to sleep.

—I think I'm making progress— Ana said to Rodrigo one day during a meal, in response to his question about her training. Rodrigo felt bad about the situation.

—Could it be that I didn't know what to say to Ana when she talked about her past?— he wondered that day. But then he reconsidered when he saw Ana fall asleep at the table. The lack of sleep and the exhaustion from training must have been killing her.

Rodrigo didn't engage in physical training himself. Instead, he meditated every day, trying to align his chakras to control the power of Kundalini. However, Ana and Epona endured a violent and brutal physical training in the blistering heat of the planet. It seemed that Rodrigo was the only one feeling overwhelmed by it; perhaps they were accustomed to different temperatures throughout their lives.

That morning, Rodrigo was training with Asclepius when a malakim arrived, informing him that there was an emergency meeting and that Rodrigo had to attend. Both of them agreed, and they flew to the palace of Athena and the other leaders. On the way, Rodrigo also encountered Ana, Epona, and Tania, who were accompanied by their respective mentors: Myrddin, Mithras, Sol, and Nabu.

"What happened?" Rodrigo asked Ana.

"I have no idea, but I assume it must be something related to Anpiel," Ana responded.

"Perhaps Lel has already contacted Athena," Epona added.

Tania remained lost in her own world, as if unaware of their presence. The goddess also covered her face, concealing the wound that none of their companions had noticed.

Finally, they arrived at the palace and hurriedly entered the room where they had first spoken with Athena. Inside, Athena and Horus wore somber expressions. Athena had her right palm covering her face as she sat in her chair, while Horus stood with his arms crossed. Next to Athena, on the table, there was a crystal sphere.

—Your Majesty, Athena, what happened?— a startled Asclepius asked.

—Lel is fucking with us— a disheartened Athena replied.

—Why? What happened?— Nabu inquired.

—Show them— Horus said to Athena.

The goddess nodded in agreement.

Athena touched the crystal ball, and a video projected in the air. It showed two decapitated heads inside a dark room. Suddenly, the god Ares appeared between the heads, holding them in his hands.

—Hello, big sister— the god of war said. —Do you remember me? I am your little brother Ares, and I have been entrusted by Lel to get your attention—

An uncomfortable silence fell in the room.

—Do you recognize these heads, don't you? They are your Malakim spies that you had in Lel. Anath always knew about them but kept them working to wait for an opportunity like this. She has allowed them to give you all the information they wanted. Did you think you could deceive her?—

—You can verify that it's them since I'm using the communication crystal they used to communicate with you— Ares said, mocking laughter filling the video.

Rodrigo watched as Athena bit her lip in anger, drawing blood.

—Rikbiel, Samyaza— Nabu whispered with an enraged expression.

—But we have a Malakim in our possession, a friend of those three goddesses who recently joined you. Don't worry, we haven't killed him, but we've done everything to prolong his suffering since we captured him— Ares continued in the video.

—Anpiel— Epona sighed, tears welling up in her eyes.

—If you want to rescue him, come to the planet Mars within twenty-four divine hours. It is the planet next to Earth. Although, of course, you'll most likely be mere spectators to his death because at that time, we will execute him— the god of war continued.

—You wretches— Ana said angrily.

Rodrigo could see that Tania was trying to look away from the video while remaining silent.

—So, what will you do? Will you come, or do you want to see your friend's head just like these filthy Malakim?— Ares taunted.

The god of war then took the angel heads and slammed them to the ground, causing an explosion of blood. He then stomped on them.

Athena turned away, unable to witness such a repulsive act. The pain on her face was evident.

—Let's hope his head doesn't end up in such a dreadful act... or yours. We'll be waiting here. If you want to come earlier, go ahead. But in exactly twenty-four hours, your dear friend will be dead. Good luck, big sister!— Ares concluded as the transmission closed.

—So, in conclusion, two of my friends were killed to save one of yours— Athena said, touching the crystal ball again, causing it to go dark.

Ana and Epona didn't know what to say. They understood the indirect message perfectly. Both lowered their heads and fell silent.

—Your Excellency, Athena— Nabu said. —Although this act was grotesque and repulsive, I regret to say that I can't do anything about it, and I will have to leave for some time to handle very important matters."

Athena looked at him defiantly, but Nabu stared back without blinking.

—Oh, just go, you're useless in a fight anyway— Athena responded angrily.

—Miss Tania, I apologize, but we won't be able to continue our therapy today. Please rest as much as you can— Nabu told Tania, holding her shoulder.

Tania nodded, not paying much attention.

Nabu left the room, leaving everyone in silence.

—Yeah, teacher Athena, we're sorry for...— Rodrigo tried to say.

—Sure, Richard. Tell me how devastated you are after losing two friends and how that bitch just played with your plans— Athena sarcastically replied.

—Their mother and friends died!— Ana shouted angrily.

—Humans die all the time, Ana— Athena responded.

—And are their lives worth less, then?— Ana retorted with an angry expression.

Athena fell silent, resting her head on her right hand.

—Fine, I'm upset. I apologize, Rodríguez— the goddess said.

—If you don't want to fight, I understand, teacher— Ana said. —But we will go to Mars and defeat that bastard—

—Yes, we'll leave immediately— Epona said determinedly.

—You'll come with us, right, Rodrigo?— Epona asked.

Rodrigo nodded.

—Are you both insane? They are war gods, and they are excessively strong even with their totemas dead. You won't be able to win on your own, let alone being accompanied by that boy who doesn't even have a totema— Horus said while scolding the girls.

—I don't care— Ana said defiantly, staring at the Egyptian god.

—If we can't save a friend, then what the hell are we good for?— Epona said, also looking at the Egyptian god challengingly.

—You are valuable assets to this group. Do you think you can leave Pallas and go anywhere without our authorization?— Horus replied.

—Of course!— both goddesses responded.

—Listen, girls, saving a Malakim I don't even know has cost me two of my dear friends— Athena said as she stood up.

—We know— Epona said.

—It's simple math, girls. We won't risk more personnel to save a Malakim— Horus said.

—That's right— Athena said.

The two goddesses lowered their gaze in frustration.

—That's why I will personally go with Horus to kill that bastard and avenge Rikbiel and Samyaza— Athena replied.

Horus was surprised by her words. For a moment, he didn't know what to say.

—What? Why me?— Horus asked angrily.

The two goddesses were stunned, and Rodrigo couldn't help but smile.

—Because now it's a personal attack against us, you idiot. Don't you care about the lives of our comrades? Are you going to explain that to their families? That we just watched Ares smash their heads on the ground and said, 'Oh well, that's life'?—

—But you said you wouldn't risk...— Horus started to say in a whiny tone, but Athena interrupted him.

—Don't tell me, Horus, do you think those little war gods can defeat you?— the goddess asked.

—No— the Egyptian god responded.

—So?— Athena asked.

—Fine, but who will protect Pallas?— Horus replied, still annoyed.

—Let the council take care of that. Don't you trust their abilities?— the Greek goddess asked.

—We will protect this planet if you withdraw to Mars— Myrddin said, and Asclepius nodded.

—See?— Athena said.

—M-Miss Athena... We, we also want to fight— Sol said very nervously.

—Sol, Mithras, this will be very dangerous for you. Stay in Pallas— the Greek goddess replied.

—We want to prove that we can fight, Miss Athena— Mithras said determinedly.

—Y-Yes, that we are... strong— Sol responded.

—Besides, we want to fight alongside our... disciple Epona— Mitras said.

Epona smiled.

—I believe both of you will do great, Athena— the goddess said.

—Alright, but don't get yourselves killed— Athena replied.

—Agreed— they both responded.

—Good, we will meet in the main garden of the palace in... damn it, I hate having to do time conversions— the Greek goddess said as she tried to calculate how many divine hours equated to an hour in Pallas.

—Isn't this woman the goddess of wisdom?— Epona sarcastically thought to herself.

—Horus, if I want twelve divine hours to pass, how many hours is that in Pallas?— Athena asked the Egyptian god.

—I've already told you to do a simple proportion— Horus said.

—I hate math!— Athena responded petulantly.

—It's approximately 24 hours in Pallas, teacher Athena. They use the same second time as Earth, right?— Epona said.

—See? It was a very simple operation, useless birdbrain— Athena said to Horus.

—Well, you should have done it yourself— Horus replied annoyed.

Epona was amazed that they couldn't do a simple proportion.

The gods in Lel used a standardized system of measuring hours and days. Unlike humans, who based everything on a base-60 numeral system, they used a base-10 numeral system, which always caused trouble when converting divine hours to normal hours. Therefore, in Lel, a day had 10 hours, and each hour had 100 minutes, and each minute had 100 seconds in their standardized numeral system. This means that one hour in Lel would be equivalent to double the time on Earth or Pallas.

—Well— Athena said, —We have been given a whole Earth day to travel to Mars, so let's meet in the central garden in twelve Earth hours, or approximately one day in Pallas. Okay?—

—Agreed— everyone responded.

Everyone began to disperse, and Rodrigo approached Ana in the meantime.

—What a hassle with those time conversions— Rodrigo said.

—And that's just because you've never seen time conversions elsewhere, Rui. In my land, days are 7 hours long, and we count them with a base-7 numeral system, although it equates to 36 human hours for those seven hours— Ana said, patting Rodrigo on the back.

—No, I'm not capable of knowing how many hours that is— Rodrigo thought to himself.

Tania walked behind them, lost in thought.

—I have to kill Rodrigo, in twelve hours I'll have to decapitate him. I'll lose my friend Ana, but I'll save hundreds of lives— she thought as she watched the boy walk alongside Ana.

—Besides, he's... a tannin. You have to do it, Tania, you have to do it, be strong. You've killed innocents before, it won't be hard for you to do it again— the goddess said to herself.

—Are you feeling alright, Tania?— Epona approached the fiery-haired goddess from behind, and Tania, out of reflex, tried to attack her.

—What? What the fuck is wrong with you?— Epona asked, frightened.

—I... nothing... I'm just nervous about the mission, sorry, Epona— Tania said as she retracted her fiery claws and continued walking.

—What the hell is going on with her? She's been acting really strange for days. I wonder what's happening to her— Epona thought.

Outside the palace, Asclepius and Myrddin approached Rodrigo and Ana.

—Listen, both of you— Myrddin said. —I want you to rest today so you can replenish your ichor—.

—We have very little ambrosia, and it will be difficult for you to carry much, so your ichor needs to be at its maximum— Asclepius said.

Rodrigo nodded slightly to both of them.

—Thank you for your training, even though it was brief, I'll do my best— he said.

—No problem, and remember to win— Asclepius said and left with Myrddin.

—Do you think we can win?— Rodrigo asked Ana.

—With my teacher Athena on our side, this will be very easy— Ana replied with a smile.

Tania exited the palace, followed by Epona.

—Tania, Epona, would you join us in our room?— Ana asked both goddesses.

—I'll join you— Epona said.

—I... I'll stay— Tania said, still with her vacant gaze.

—Alright— and the three of them flew away.

—Forgive me, Rodrigo; forgive me, Ana... Baal Hammon, I will show you that I can protect lives, unlike you, cursed monster— Tania said to herself as she sat down in the garden.