Chapter 93:

Hé-no and the Great Water Snake

Elyon - Gods among us

After traveling for several hours along the vast Lake Ontario, they finally glimpsed some majestic and gigantic waterfalls. The size of these falls was so immense that the gods seemed like tiny ants in comparison. Rodrigo gazed at them in awe, having never witnessed such a spectacle before.

The young Tannin recalled Epona's words about wanting to live in Vinland with him in the future.

—If I ever wanted to live somewhere, it would definitely be right here— he thought.

—Wenabozho told us that behind this grand waterfall, in a cave, we would find Hé-no— Anpiel remarked.

—When he mentioned a waterfall, I didn't expect something this massive— Tania expressed with concern. —I don't think I can divert all this water with my current power— she added.

—Don't worry, Tania-san, I'll handle this— Susanoo assured as he pointed his katana towards the waterfall. With a swift slash in the air, he created a reflective gash in the waterfall, albeit a minuscule one. The waterfall remained undisturbed.

—Nothing happened— Rodrigo observed anxiously.

—The power we've lost is more devastating than I could have anticipated— Susanoo lamented.

—Rodrigo-san— the Oriental deity said, turning to face the young Tannin, —if you were to swim from the bottom and ascend this waterfall, you might transform into a gigantic dragon—

Rodrigo gave him a bewildered look as he noticed Susanoo laughing in a peculiar manner. The deity placed his hands on his hips and chuckled in a slow, monotonous fashion. Everyone stared at the god, realizing why Susanoo seldom joked.

—Swimming up the waterfall doesn't sound like a bad idea— Tania interjected, eager to move past Susanoo's awkward humor.

—But wouldn't it be like what happened in Nitassinan, where we nearly drowned if not for Sedna's help?— Anpiel questioned.

—I must admit I never learned to swim because I never needed to— Susanoo confessed.

—I can swim a bit— Rodrigo admitted. —Not much. I've swum in small rivers, but never against a vast lake like this—

—I know how to swim a little too. Living in Ibiza, I had to learn in case someone drowned— Tania shared.

—Yes, during my missions in the human world, I also picked up some swimming— Anpiel added.

—Well, mina-san, the idea about swimming over the waterfall was just a joke— Susanoo said, slightly embarrassed.

—No, but we can swim beneath the waterfall and look for that elusive cave— Tania suggested.

—It's possible that the water pressure won't affect us like it does humans. Perhaps that's why a god hid there— Anpiel reasoned.

Tania then stripped off her winter clothes, leaving her in a simple shirt and trousers. She stood by the edge, ready to dive in.

—Wait, Tania— Anpiel interjected, —are you sure you've swum enough to reach the waterfall? If you get tired and drown, not even ambrosia will heal you—

—If I don't try, I won't know if I can— Tania replied. With that, she dove deep into the enormous lake at the waterfall's end.

Rodrigo, with fear on his face, began to undress, but Anpiel stopped him.

—You don't have much swimming experience, Mr. Rodrigo— he warned. —This requires a lot of skill—

—But if she drowns, we need to be nearby— the young Tannin countered.

—If that happens, I'll retrieve her— Anpiel vowed.

—Don't worry, Rodrigo-san— Susanoo interjected, —I can manipulate the waves with my katana—

The Oriental deity pointed his weapon at the part of the lake where the waterfall ended and began to control the current. Tania's dive was flawless, but even for her, the current was powerful. Fortunately, Susanoo made her swim easier. As she approached the waterfall, the force became even stronger.

—I hope this goes well— Tania thought. Like a dolphin, she dived beneath the enormous cascade. Emerging behind the falls, she thought: —There must be a cave here, but its exact size and location on this stone wall is beyond me— She spotted stone steps and a vast grotto near the waterfall's center.

—That must be it— she thought.

—I've found the place!— she telepathically communicated to Rodrigo, Susanoo, and Anpiel. Thankfully, she could communicate within a hundred-meter radius.

—Excellent, Tania! We'll stay in touch if anything goes wrong— Anpiel replied and closed the connection.

Tania, drenched, climbed the stairs. Inside the cave stood two men with spears. They were bald except for crests atop their heads. Their faces bore black and red lines, and dark feathers adorned their scalps. They wore bone necklaces, skin ribbons, beige trousers, and leather moccasins.

—What brings you to this sacred cave?— one inquired.

Tania indicated she didn't understand the local language, so the man repeated his question in the divine tongue.

—I've come to see the god Hé-no— she responded, grateful for the simple name of the god, as Anpiel wasn't with her.

—And who are you to disturb him?— the other man challenged.

—I am a goddess from across the ocean— Tania answered. —I was told the only way to cross lake Ontario was to slay a massive serpent dwelling there, and we wanted to assist—

—Let her pass— a voice echoed from within the cave. The men nodded and stepped aside, allowing Tania to enter further into the depths.

—How ironic, this god lives in a cave just like I do, but mine's prettier— Tania mused as she continued through the vast stone tunnel.

Eventually, she entered a vast chamber inside the cave. There was only a large red carpet adorned with geometric patterns on the floor and torches lit on either side. Sitting on the carpet was a man smoking tobacco from a long pipe.

—Welcome, young warrior. I am Hé-no, god of thunder— the man said, tapping his pipe and blowing small smoke rings.

—Pleased to meet you. I am Tania, and I wanted to speak with you— said the Punic goddess. Noticing the Iroquois god gesturing for her to sit, she did.

He then offered her his pipe. Nervously, Tania accepted and took a puff. Having never smoked before, she began coughing and promptly handed it back to Hé-no.

Though the god didn't seem old, his entirely grey hair, parted into two braids resting on his shoulders, hinted at age. His tanned, slightly wrinkled skin accentuated his face, giving him an aura of wisdom. Atop his head stood a white feather with a black tip. Like the men outside, his face was painted with black and red lines. His toned, bare chest was complemented by a yellow skirt, beige trousers, and leather moccasins. Hé-no usually kept his eyes closed, always wearing a warm smile.

—By sharing this pipe, we can solidify our friendship, young Tania— he said.

—I appreciate your hospitality— Tania replied, still coughing slightly.

—I am more pleased by your arrival, young Tania. Tell me, why are you interested in battling the giant serpent of Ontario?— Hé-no inquired.

—My companions and I are heading south, but Ontario blocks our path. The god of the northern lands, Wen... Wena... Well, he informed us we could only pass if we slew the serpent— she explained ashamed that she couldn't recall the god's name.

—I see, you speak of the great Wenabozho. So you've come seeking my assistance— he acknowledged, taking another puff.

—If possible, we'd like your support— Tania requested.

—Understand, Tania, this immense serpent emerged only recently. Even with my power, I've been unable to defeat it. I've settled here to hunt it, but each clash proves my inability to subdue it. This is no ordinary snake— the thunder god cautioned.

—I understand. That's why my team and I are ready to fight and defeat it— Tania declared.

—Very well, accompany me— said the Iroquois deity, standing and picking up a bow and quiver.

They left the chamber, Tania trailing behind.

—Lord, shall we join you?— both entrance guards simultaneously inquired.

—There's no need; this young woman will accompany me today— Hé-no replied.

Upon exiting the cave, the god gestured, parting the waterfall; a feat that amazed Tania, given their prior inability to move it.

Beneath Hé-no's feet, clouds emerged, shaping into solid-looking stairs. He began ascending, a sight that puzzled Tania. She remembered Wenabozho's ability to float and how the king of Tula had flown to them.

—These gods must have mastered more divine tricks by dominating the anti-deity barrier for so long— she speculated.

—Do not worry, young Tania. These clouds are solid— the god assured. Nodding cautiously, Tania began her ascent.

After some time, Tania realized they stood atop the massive waterfall, with expansive views of both Lake Ontario and lake Erielhonan.

The god showcased a cloud path he had created, bridging across the lake to Iroquois land. —If you continue along this cloud bridge, you'll safely reach my territory and can proceed southward as desired— Hé-no pointed out.

Looking upwards, Tania spotted Rodrigo, Anpiel, and Susanoo. The first two were signaling her, confirming their sightline.

—I can't. I promised we'd defeat the serpent, and I intend to keep that vow— she declared, looking back at the thunder god.

—I admire your bravery and honesty— Hé-no responded, conjuring another cloud ladder leading to where Rodrigo and the others stood. Nervous, Rodrigo began ascending cautiously, while Anpiel and Susanoo ascended with ease.

—You must be the god Hé-no. Pleased to meet you; I am Anpiel— greeted the angel, bowing slightly.

—And I am Susanoo-no-Mikoto; it's an honor— the eastern god added with a deep bow.

—And the friend still ascending is Rodrigo— Anpiel remarked, noting that the young man had barely made it halfway due to his evident fear. Hé-no pointed at Rodrigo, and a cloud enveloped the young Tannin, bringing him swiftly to their elevation. The sheer height and his inability to fly there made Rodrigo terrified.

—Do not worry, young Rodrigo. This place is safe... for now— the thunder god assured, noting Rodrigo's evident fear.

—It's... it's a pleasure— replied Rodrigo. —My name is Rodrigo— said the young man, who, due to his terror, forgot that Hé-no had just mentioned his name.

—Are you all ready?— the Iroquoian god then asked, looking out over Lake Ontario.

—Ready, to fight?— Tania asked, puzzled, and the others seemed equally bewildered.

—Indeed, I will provoke the Great Water Serpent to attack us— Hé-no declared, manifesting stones in his hand that began to produce electricity.

—Wait, we're attacking it here?— asked Rodrigo, still grappling with his vertigo.

With that, Hé-no threw the stones into Lake Ontario, and upon impact, they caused immense electrical explosions. After this onslaught, there was a moment of absolute silence and calm.

—Prepare yourselves, here comes the fearsome serpent. The abomination named Djodi'kwado— Hé-no announced.

Suddenly, a whirlwind emerged from the lake, and out of it, a monstrous horned serpent with a bluish hue and red eyes began to rise. Its size was so vast that it reached the altitude where the gods stood on the clouds. The serpent glared at them with eyes full of rage and malice, then lunged with its gaping mouth at the group.

—Anpiel! Get out of here!— Tania yelled.

—Go on, guys!— the angel shouted as he quickly descended the bridge to a safe location.

—Remember, serpent venom is lethal; if you touch it, you will die!— Hé-no shouted as everyone dodged the attack, except for Rodrigo.

The young Tannin, seeing the imminent danger, momentarily forgot his fear of heights. Transforming his arms into scales and enveloping them with sacred power, he powerfully struck the serpent's head, sending it back into the water.

—I forgot to mention, but Rodrigo is also a snake god— Tania stated as she gracefully landed on another part of the cloud bridge, with the others following suit.

—A snake god with sacred power? That's genuinely remarkable— Hé-no exclaimed excitedly.

The Iroquoian god then nocked an electrically charged arrow to his bow and unleashed a torrent of lightning bolts at the serpent as it tried to recover from Rodrigo's attack. However, the electric onslaught had little effect on the mighty creature. Rising rapidly, it lunged again, only for Tania to strike its face with her fire-imbued claws from the left and Rodrigo with his scale-covered, sacred-powered fist from the right.

The serpent let out a shriek and plummeted into the lake once more, destroying part of Hé-no's cloud bridge in its descent. Once more, Hé-no retaliated with another burst of lightning. But the serpent rose yet again.

Susanoo enveloped his katana with water powers and lunged at the serpent's neck, shouting:
Mizu no Kiru!

However, upon striking the monster's neck, he was repelled by its hard scales. The colossal serpent attempted to bite the Oriental god, but Tania blocked its advance with a fierce strike to its face. Still, their attacks seemed ineffective.

Hé-no released another electrical barrage, pushing the serpent back, but it retaliated with a powerful blast of venomous water, destroying much of the cloud bridge. Rodrigo, landing on a solid part of the bridge, swiftly jumped and kicked the serpent with his foot, imbued with sacred energy, sending it back into the water once more.

—We can't hurt it, unless Rodrigo strikes it, but we don't have the strength to sever it— Tania expressed in frustration. The snake once again showed no signs of injury and prepared to strike anew.

— Hé-no-sama— Susanoo said. —I have an idea—

—Sama?— Hé-no inquired.

—In his language, it means 'Lord,' I believe— Tania explained with a hint of boredom.

—Yes— Susanoo confirmed. —I'd like you to strike me with your lightning just as I'm before the serpent's neck— he said, pointing to a spot just beneath the monster's jaw.

—What are you planning, young one?— Hé-no asked.

—I'll use your lightning to sever the ryujin's... serpent's neck— Susanoo explained, drawing his katana in a battle-ready stance.

—Are you certain? I see you possess water powers, and my electricity might severely harm you— Hé-no cautioned.

—Do not worry about me, please do it— Susanoo yelled, leaping towards the serpent's neck. Hé-no released a burst of lightning that Susanoo channeled through his katana. For a moment, he transformed to the electrical transformation he used on his battle against Ogun on Mars.

With his sword charged with lightning, he cried out: —Kami no kaminari!

With a clean cut, he severed the massive serpent's head from its body. After the blow, Susanoo's transformation faded, and he plummeted towards Lake Ontario. Hé-no quickly conjured clouds beneath Susanoo to cushion his fall. However, as the serpent's head separated from its body, it exploded in a torrent of blood.

—Shimata!— the Oriental god exclaimed, realizing the imminent danger of the venomous blood.

Hé-no had anticipated this and swiftly moved Susanoo's cloud platform away from the blood shower. Finally, the monster's lifeless body collapsed into Lake Ontario, its severed head sinking to its depths.

—That was close— Susanoo sighed in relief as the members of Orniskem celebrated their victory.