They arrived in Tatelo again. It was morning, since they had spent the night at Enner's house. Looking to the north, suddenly, they saw a gigantic panash of black smoke rising from the horizon. They rushed northward, but quickly realized that the smoke was not coming from Malutelo, but from Majala. They hurried to the subway.
Majala was covered in soot and ashes, but there was no smell of fire. They were next to Sewi, and the buildings were all covered in a thick layer of black grey dust. The cloud was coming out of the center of the lake. They took the boat, and swam down.
Even under the water, the smoke was rising. They reached the bottom, and went through the gate.
The flooded heaven was different. When they had been there before, the space had been eerie, but it wasn't threatening. Now though, touches of dark red tinted the clouds, and the water was dark, murky, cloudy. Filled with ashes. The platforms, that had formed a clear path before, were now swaying, in movement. Carefully, jumping over gaps, climbing pillars, they advanced to reach the Dust.
Overall, they were the one that had changed the most. Whereas the Dust had been formless, unspecific, they were now shaped like a human heart, its surface covered in wings the color of dried blood. A certain radiance was emerging from behind, and cross-like spears were drawing a dark blood from the heart. The ashen smoke was coming from the heart.
"Dust ?" called out Melissa, her voice flimsy. "You... finally came..." answered the Dust, with a whispy voice coming from far, far away. "Give me... the swords..." it ordered.
-The, the swords have been fused. There is only one sword now." answered Jhin, like you would talk to a senile old hag.
-Fused... ? I remember something like that...
-What... what are you doing ?" exclaimed Melissa, shaking.
"Hm ? Oh sorry. Almost got lost for a bit," the Dust answered with their usual voice "I am in the final stretch of my plan. For that I need the last sword. This is for the good of everyone."
"What plan ?"
"I guess you won't be making it out of here anyway, so I might as well indulge a little and explain. Over the last two centuries, I learned something. I learned how to make a ghost."
"To make a ghost, you must kill something with fire. When a living being burns alive, its soul is also burnt, and the ashes that result make a ghost. But such a ghost is weak, and cannot have an impact on reality. To make a ghost corporeal, you have to mix the ashes with water.
"Two hundred years ago, a gigantic explosion reduced a majority of the angels to ashes. Over the following centuries, the angel land in which the ashes resided filled with water. Over the following centuries, the ghost that was inside developed.
"I learned something else, over these years. It's that ghosts have seen beyond. They have seen death, experienced it. They have seen that death... is peace. Calm. But they have been brought back to reality. And they suffer, like everything else in the world. But they know what it's like.
"Ghosts seek one thing. They only want one thing. To reach that peace. And the only way to reach it... is to destroy everything. Not just destroy, but annihilate. Reduce everything to nothingness.
"After We're done, not even dust will remain."
That wouldn't do. How can you protect a world when it doesn't exist ? Melissa, without warning, shot the heart. It blew apart, but the dust converged again. Jhin rushed up close, and punched it with great strength as soon as it reformed.
But the wisps of ash converged and coalesced again. Formless.
Melissa shot constructs at the heart. It blew apart, but reformed easily. It seemed to always reform in the same place, so Jhin got an idea.
He rushed to the heart, and unleashed a strong crack in reality. Melissa understood and launched a giant construct at it. The cloud of dust blew away in a very large circle. Jhin rushed to where the cloud would reform, but wasn't fast enough. The cloud reformed around his arm that wasn't holding the sword.
He felt a sharp pain. Their shoulder escaped the grasp of the cloud, and he tried to grab Deicide with both hands. He couldn't. He tried to launch a construct with their free hand. He couldn't. He looked at their shoulder.
Nothing. Not even their sleeve. He collapsed. Melissa rushed in, but the veil shrouded Jhin's body like claws protecting a prey.
Jhin opened his eyes. All around, there was darkness, and an ashen, strangling smell. A smell like something old that couldn't let go. Like an old grudge. Do you see now ? The smell shifted, going from an old grudge to an unshattering pride. Jhin felt as if their body was floating in water. In a deep, deep lake. Do you remember ? Images flooded his mind.
Images of the sky, a deep blue dotted with clouds. Wings on either side, pushing forward. Of a forest in winter, black and white trunks and the white-blue-white snow on the ground. Monochrome streaks on a monochrome ground.
Of countless bodies, bodies of light and wings, all skewered on deep lances. Of the forest, black ashen trunks on a grey-white-grey ground. Not snow, but cinders.
Images of flames and blood. Fear, terror. We shall not perish. We shall survive and overcome. The darkness lit up, illuminated by a great net. To survive, we must destroy all that threatens us.
And we did.
Flames, blood, flowing in the streets. A hole in the universe the size of a desert. The moon distorted in all directions by waves from all dimensions. Great towers between worlds, funneling souls.
And even in our ranks, they fear. They flee. We catch them or kill them. The Great One fled. They bait us, in our own domain, in our testing field. We catch the Great One back. We make them pay. A great white light from the heavens. They shall pay. They shall pay. We will protect what is ours and destroy what hates us.
Do you not agree, Jhin ? After all of this, do you see how we thought we were righteous ?
But then, we died. We saw the great beyond. We saw the nothingness. After life, there is nothing. The void. Not even souls to think with. Nothing. Forever. This, is the greatest peace. Death. We were brought back. Our eternity shattered back into the eternal suffering.
We want the best for everyone. We want everyone, everything in this world to reach this peace. This nothingness. We will destroy. Not to protect what we don't destroy, but to protect what we do destroy.
Do you understand ?
Yes, Jhin understood. But didn't agree. To destroy everything at once was an impossible act. In the end, the very act of destruction would bring about war. Instead, you should protect what you wanted to protect. Jhin vowed that he, would bring peace. He would protect the world, and destroy what wanted to destroy it.
The Dust stared at Jhin, tears in its eyes. Was it wrong again ? It had vowed not to falter, it had vowed to accomplish its end. But now it couldn't. Was destroying everything only going to cause more pain ? Yes, it was undeniable.
It was laughable they had ever thought otherwise. Of course, getting caught up in such a war would only accelerate the cycle, and not stop it. Nothing could stop it.
Melissa was banging on the black veil. The Dust had completely stopped after swallowing Jhin, and had closed off completely. Deicide was still inside, in Jhin's hand. But then, the veil began to disperse.
Jhin was laying on the stone, in a puddle of their own blood. His left arm was missing.