Chapter 125:

Xólotl, the king of the zacatecos

Elyon - Gods among us

After walking for an entire day, they finally arrived at the walled city of Tlacuitlapán, the royal seat of the Chichimeca kingdom named Tzacatetl. This was the domain of the Zacateco ethnic group.

Even though the group had traversed the entire Zacateco territory, they hadn't actually seen much civilization around. The Zacatecos were more of a semi-nomadic people who moved their homes following the animals they hunted, such as deer. However, unlike the rest of the region, the city of Tlacuitlapán was bustling with commerce, artisans, temples, workshops, and bureaucracy in general. One could say this city was home to the elite of this warrior tribe.

Although Tlacuitlapán wasn't particularly special compared to places like Chaco or Cahokia, Tul was excited to see it and its circular houses with grass roofs. The city was built next to a hill, where, atop its peak, a massive fortress stood, where the god of this warrior tribe ruled as the absolute monarch.

The fortress in question was a gigantic pyramidal palace adorned with various columns painted red and white. To reach the entrance, one had to ascend a huge set of stairs. The soldiers gestured for the gods to climb these steps, to which they complied.

On every floor of the unique stepped pyramid were groups of soldiers looking at them disdainfully. These soldiers wore only loincloths and headdresses for protection. At the peak of the massive pyramid, the gods noticed that the mountain separated two different communities. This was evident because the architecture of the town on the other side of the mountain was distinct. Without wasting much time, the gods entered the unique palace.

Inside the building, they met a man wearing a terrifying jackal mask, seated on a red stone throne, with several attendants beside him. The king was guarded by numerous soldiers, creating a perimeter between the gods and him. Besides his curious mask, the king donned a headdress of green leaves, looking like they were made of emerald. His skin was painted entirely black. He wore a loincloth and a white blanket over his shoulders and chest with a shell painted on it. His hands and feet were shielded by jaguar skin gloves and boots that featured large claws. Even though one couldn't see his eyes, there was a palpable air of impatience and hatred about him.

—You must be the great Zacateco king, Xólotl— Anpiel remarked with a bow. —It's an honor to meet you—

—How did he know this person's name?— all the members of Orniskem wondered. However, Xólotl neither moved nor made any gestures.

The soldiers, using their bows as a threat, ordered the gods to bow before the king. Reluctantly, they did so.

—I could... make these barbarians' brains explode— Loki commented mentally to the group, but he was completely ignored.

—If you did, I'd kill you myself— the man on the throne responded. Everyone was shocked that he could pick up on their mental communication.

—Why should something like that surprise you?— Xólotl asked the gods who were still prostrated before him.

With a hand gesture, he signaled them to rise.

The Orniskem members stood up, and Anpiel tried to say something, but before he could, Xólotl, with a flick of his finger, pushed him away, while electric shocks emanating from the angel's body.

Anpiel fell backward near the palace entrance, unconscious. Epona quickly rushed to check on him, while the gods looked at the Zacateco king defiantly.

—You must realize you're not guests but prisoners— Xólotl remarked. —And then, on top of that, you try that diplomatic crap with me—

—In that case, there won't be any remorse in us ending your men right now— Loki retorted, causing all the soldiers to drop, victims of his mental power.

Yet again, Xólotl moved his finger, and Loki was thrown out of his sight in a dark lightning bolt. The Norse god lay unconscious at the feet of the gods. Freyja quickly checked on her companion and found him still alive.

—You couldn't even defeat Nanahuatzin, and you dare challenge me?— continued the god with the jackal mask, as his men rose, now fully recovered.

—If we're just prisoners, then why have you brought us to your presence?— Menrva asked, irritated.

Xólotl then pointed to Rodrigo.

—I'm aware you're not Ehécatl or any of his relatives, right, boy?— the Zacateco king questioned.

Rodrigo looked back defiantly, preparing himself for a fight, but then the king removed his jackal mask.

Everyone was taken aback by Xólotl's face. It was identical to Rodrigo's, albeit a bit older, with a terrible scar running from his left eye to his mouth. Moreover, his only remaining eye, the right one, was brown, not green.

—It's... the same face as yours, Rodrigo— Tania exclaimed in surprise.

Ana was rendered speechless, while Epona looked into the distance, uncertain.

—I can tell that the rumors were true— Xólotl commented. —That a man with a face identical to mine was wandering the northern regions of CeAnáhuac—

Rodrigo then removed the mask of his totema. Indeed, the faces of the two gods were nearly identical. Nevertheless, Rodrigo continued to regard him defiantly.

—Are you, then, the brother of the king of Tula? The former king of Tula?— Rodrigo inquired.

—King of Tula? If you mean Yayauhqui, then yes, he's my stepbrother— Xólotl replied with what seemed like a smile, though it was difficult to discern on his scarred face.

—Yayauhqui is the king of Tula, the man without a leg, right?— Rodrigo asked. —Then you must be the one he told me was assassinated—

Xólotl began to laugh, and at the same time, he signaled for all his men to withdraw. When the room was empty, leaving only Xólotl and the gods in front of him, he shook his head.

—The true king of Tula was my twin brother, Quetzalcóatl. Yayauhqui was also his stepbrother—

—If that's true, then why are you here and not in Tula?— Menrva asked, intrigued by the story. —You'd be some kind of prince or something, wouldn't you?—

—Both I and my brothers, or Nanahuatzin, who you encountered when entering my territory, are natives of the city of Puh, or as it's known today, the ruins of Teotihuacán— the Zacateco god explained.

The gods then began to listen to Xólotl's story, though still with a cautious look.

—Over three centuries ago, the city was invaded by a very powerful enemy, so we decided to create suns as weapons, but each sun could only be created through the sacrifice of a deity— the Zacateco god began his tale.

Tania then recalled how Heshuka, the hawk god they faced in Cahokia, could harness the powers of a sun at the cost of significant human sacrifices.

—Something similar must be what this guy is talking about— the Punic goddess thought to herself.

—Nanahuatzin sacrificed himself without hesitation to become a sun. But the second individual, Tecuciztécatl, hesitated and caused the weapon to be incomplete— the deity continued.

—That's why that guy had fire powers— Ana thought to herself.

—Enraged by the failed sacrifice, the gods demanded that more deities be sacrificed to create another sun. So a man was sent to assassinate me for something I never agreed to. That's why I fled and took refuge in this village— the Zacateco god said.

Xólotl then touched the enormous scar on his face.

—The man who attempted to kill me and left me with this horrible wound was the owner of that wretched teotonli: Ehécatl— Xólotl commented, then pointed with his clawed hand at Rodrigo.

The gods then felt the immense threatening power of the Zacateco king and prepared themselves for a confrontation. At the same time, Xólotl got to his feet and walked toward Rodrigo, once again covering his face with his jackal mask.

—I decided to save you from being sacrificed by Nanahuatzin just so I could kill you with my own hands, whoever you may be— Xólotl continued, bringing his face very close to Rodrigo's with a look full of anger.

—Rui... I mean, Rodrigo has nothing to do with your vengeance— Ana shouted angrily. —He only received that totema as a gift from that guy you mentioned—

—If you want to kill Rodrigo, you'll have to deal with all of us— Epona said defiantly, approaching as well and activating her totema in the form of the Reaper of Death.

—Wait, Epona— Rodrigo said as he activated his fifth chakra, shining like a bright star. —If this guy wants a fight, then I'll be the one to defeat him. After all, I doubt he's going to let us pass through his kingdom peacefully—

—Rodrigo, remember that Susanoo jeopardized our lives because of his pride— Tania interjected. —We'll help you—

—Yes, Rodrigo. We're a team— Menrva added.

—Honestly, I'm not a big fan of this teamwork thing, but I've decided to do it while I'm with you all— Freyja added, transforming into her feline deity form and turning her spear into a huge golden staff.

Susanoo also unsheathed his katana, while Tul prepared to retrieve something from her bag. Meanwhile, Anpiel and Loki remained unconscious on the ground.

—Even if you defeat me— Xólotl commented, laughing. —There are more Chichimeca kingdoms around—

Xólotl then turned his back on Rodrigo. —Did you see the village on the other side of the mountain?— he asked.

Rodrigo nodded nervously.

—That was the realm of the Caxcanes, and their queen is so powerful that not even I could ruffle her feathers— Xólotl answered himself.

—So, are you implying that if you don't defeat us, we'll die later?— Menrva asked.

—Indeed, if you want to proceed, go ahead— Xólotl commented. —But this guy you call Rodrigo will stay here— he warned.

—We won't leave him, and we'll all fight alongside him,— Epona and Ana shouted in unison. The other gods nodded in agreement.

—Very well, friends of the false Ehécatl— Xólotl replied. —I want to see what you can do against the god of the Star of Darkness—

Xólotl then raised his hands, emanating fire from his left hand and electricity from his right hand, while his body radiated dark energy.

—Is he... using three elements?— Menrva asked in astonishment.

—I've never seen anything like this before— Tania replied, surprised.

—I'm not sure if that's a sign of strength, but I'll fight with all I have!— Rodrigo shouted as he teleported right in front of Xólotl.

Esfera de Venus— Rodrigo yelled, attacking the Zacateco god before he could react.

The back wall of the grand temple was destroyed by the powerful attack, and the roof collapsed, but none of the gods were affected by the falling debris. However, Xólotl, who had been launched into the air by the attack, absorbed the sphere of sacred energy with his hands wrapped in dark energy and made it disappear. He floated in the air above the mountain where they stood.

—Sacred techniques, that reminds me so much of my brother— Xólotl commented as he returned to face the group of gods.

—He could withstand Rodrigo's technique as if it were nothing!— Epona exclaimed in shock.

Xólotl raised his left hand and shouted: —Tliltlatekuinalotl—A dark lightning bolt shot from his hand, which the gods barely managed to dodge.

—He's combining elements!— Tania yelled as she moved around the room, avoiding the various electric rays that the Zacateco god was unleashing.

But Rodrigo teleported above the god and, clasping his hands together, yelled: —Tlapopolistli Ejekamalakatl

A gigantic tornado emerged from the young Tannin's hands, completely engulfing the Zacateco god and simultaneously destroying the pyramidal fortress they were in. The soldiers who had been inside hurriedly fled to avoid being buried by the collapsing structure.

The enormous tornado struck the mountain, splitting it in half, while the phenomenon lost strength and dissipated. Xólotl was nowhere to be seen.

—Rodrigo is undoubtedly very strong— Menrva commented in amazement.

—Of course, he's the best!— Epona replied with a smile.

But Xólotl emerged from the rubble caused by the mountain landslide. The god looked tired and disoriented.

—Listen, Xólotl!— Rodrigo shouted. —My name is Rodrigo, and I'm from the kingdom of León. I have nothing to do with Ehécatl, even though I bear his totema—

—That was one of Ehécatl's best techniques, and you dare to say you have nothing to do with him?— Xólotl shouted furiously as he increased his power, darkening the sky.

—The day is always contrasted by the night, and this night will be your descent into Mictlán— Xólotl said. —And your life now belongs to death—

At that moment, behind the Zacateco god, a group of black dogs, emanating fire from their bodies, appeared. Additionally, above him, a group of dark axolotls, emitting electricity, floated like clouds over the god. Emanations of bluish fire began to originate from the ground.

Xólotl then shouted: —Mikistli Nahui Ollin

The dogs and axolotls sped toward Rodrigo at lightning speed, and although the young man tried to attack them with his spheres of sacred energy, his attacks had no effect. As the dark creatures attacked him, Rodrigo's soul could be seen being dragged away by these infernal animals, while his body lost color.

But before Rodrigo lost consciousness, Epona, using her scythe, destroyed the infernal dogs and electric axolotls. This caused Rodrigo's soul to return to his body.

—While I'm protecting Rodrigo, dirty tricks like sudden death attacks won't work!— Epona shouted.

Rodrigo's face returned to its normal color, and he regained his energy as the sky returned to normal. Xólotl then smiled.

—Well, I thought you were weaker due to your fight against Nanahuatzin, but I see you're quite formidable— the Zacateco king said.

Tania, Ana, Menrva, Susanoo, and Freyja gathered around Rodrigo and Epona. Tania sported her Manticore transformation, while Ana held Excalibur. Menrva had her golden lance in one hand and Bellona's lance in the other. Freyja remained in her feline form.

—If we fight together, this guy can't defeat us— Tania said enthusiastically. Everyone nodded.

Rodrigo then began charging his 'Esfera de Venus' power, but something very interesting happened. Tania's fire power, Epona's earth power, Ana's dark power, Susanoo's wind power, Menrva's electric power, and Freyja's combat power began to be absorbed by Rodrigo's technique, creating a gigantic multicolored sphere filled with powerful energy from multiple elements.

—What's happening?— Ana asked in bewilderment.

—It's like Rodrigo's power is taking our energy to fight— Menrva exclaimed.

—Rodrigo, how are you doing this? This elemental absorption far exceeds mine— Epona asked, equally surprised.

—I don't know... I'm just doing it— Rodrigo replied, also with a look of surprise.

—This is inconceivable... it reminds me a bit of what my brother mentioned, but it can't be him— Xólotl thought, astonished.

Rodrigo then unleashed his multicolored technique with all his might, but Xólotl quickly reconsidered.

—No! It must be a coincidence, but I can't let these individuals keep growing! I'll stop them right here!— the god muttered to himself as he shouted: —Tlapoyauaktecuhtli

A massive sphere of pure darkness emanated from Xólotl's left hand and hurled toward Rodrigo's multicolored sphere. However, the dark sphere quickly destroyed Rodrigo's sphere, causing a powerful explosion upon collision with the group of gods that shook all of Tlacuitlapán.

When the explosion dissipated, the gods were all unconscious on the ground, having received the full force of the powerful attack. Only Tul remained standing, as she hadn't participated in the battle, and the rabbit goddess trembled in terror.

—You're one of those rabbits from Mayapán, right?— Xólotl asked the frightened goddess.

—Yes, I am one of the rabbit goddesses of the Kaansaj Ixchel!— the goddess shouted in anger.

—Very well, Mayan goddess— Xólotl replied. —I've decided to spare your friends' lives if they can pass a test first... a ballgame—