Trials of the Junsuikaoni: The Lament of the Dead (Book 3)

Noah has finally embraced his role as leader of the Elite Junsui Hunter Force and together with his team, they've been cleaning up the streets of Hokkaido City and eliminating rogue Bakemon. They've become quite acclaimed and popular, but due to the dangers they faced just six months ago, which resulted in the destruction of much of the Wakaba Prefecture, they've become very exclusive and private, not letting outsiders enter their circle. As they help get the city back on it's feet, their newly accepted ally, Ouran, is hard at work helping Lady Simone build a nation for the newly liberated Reapers all while trying to balance normal life and newfound existence as the Reaper God. The Reapers are finally free of heaven's command, but now the protection they had is gone. This causes unrest in the underworld and once again Noah and his team find themselves facing danger as they help Ouran defeat a new enemy and answer the Lament of the Dead. This is the third chapter of Noah's journey.

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4. The Game is Set

“So how does this whole familiar thing work? I mean, when you said familiar, I was thinking it’d be some spirit or something, but Arias is a full-fledged lesser demon right?”

            “I’m right here you know! If you want to know, then ask me directly!” Arias shouts.

            Noah is apologetic and says, “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to ignore you. So are you?”

            She frowns. “I don’t feel like explaining myself to idiots, so just let master tell you.”

            Noah rubs his head in discomfort, he can tell she’s going to be a difficult one to handle.

            Ouran chuckles and then says, “don’t take it personally Noah, she’s just like that with people she doesn’t know yet. She’ll be less aggressive once she gets used to you.”

            Noah just laughs nervously in response and then says, “so, may I ask you then?”

            “Yea of course. We’ll be riding on this boat for a few minutes, so might as well pass the time somehow. Basically, familiars are any supernatural beings that have sworn their loyalty to another. They can be spirits, elves, imps, anything you can think of, even humans in certain situations. Their masters may also be anyone, but to actually form a bond with them, contracts must be made. These contracts have conditions attached to them and are completely binding. Once a contract is made between two beings, they cannot be broken without certain severe consequences to both parties. You see, familiar contracts are not those of paper, but of the soul.”

            “So that means that once you’ve contracted a familiar, your souls are bound forever? So then…does that mean you’ll die if either of you break the contract? Is there no way to end it?”

            “Well, it’s not necessarily forever. It all depends on the terms of the contract. Some contracts are forged in blood, in which they will take the lives of those who break it, but there are others that are set based on conditions. For example, a master could form a contract with a familiar for the sake of getting revenge on someone. The terms would probably be that the familiar must help the master get their revenge and once that’s complete, the contract will be voided and both parties will be free to go on their way. The contracts are not required to be eternally binding, they offer a lot of flexibility in their terms. It’s all about give and take.”

            “I see. That’s really interesting actually. So Arias and you have a contract between you?”

            “Yes that’s correct. I’ve been contracted with her ever since I started at the academy. I had her spy on you guys and tell me everything about you. Your weaknesses, strengths, fears, everything. It was all a part of my plan to take you all down, but then that ended up going in a totally different direction as we know. I hadn’t used her after that until the night I came to save you guys and it was my first time using her as my tool, but I respect her as my friend too.”

            “Yea, I remember that you called out Arias when you summoned your scythe and rod, so that was her. How does that work though? If she’s a demon, then how could she become your tool? Is that part of her ability too? But then, humans can’t do things like that can they?”

            “No, that aspect has nothing to do with her abilities. She’s a normal lesser demon with the standard demon abilities, but once a being has been contracted as a familiar, as I mentioned, they are bound by soul to their masters. That means that they now will have access to their master’s powers and can manifest those powers through them in any way that is within the means of their master’s powers. Since I’m a reaper and even more so because I’m a god, I can use more advanced powers than other reapers. A normal reapers responsibilities are typically just to respond to where there is new death and collect those souls, sending them off to the place they deserve. They do so by siphoning out the souls of the deceased and then the souls pass through the underworld. However, most will immediately move on to heaven or hell, never entering its gates. Even those that are undefined and require judgement don’t stick around long, as Hades has some system that accesses their entire lives and ultimately decides which way they will go. Only lost souls or those with unfinished business will actually enter the gates and remain for a time, or even forever.”

            “Wow, that sounds so complicated. So basically, a typical reaper is more or less meant to collect the souls and deliver them to the underworld. Then Hades sends them off to where they need to go. So if Hades is the open who’s responsible for judging those souls and just generally sending the souls to their proper place, why is there a need for a reaper god? No offense, but you pretty much do exactly what Hades does the way I see it. I mean, you basically did just that on that night. You used your scythe to judge those souls and send them where they belong. If we’re talking gods, wouldn’t Hades rank superior as he’s been around longer? He’d be a logical ruler.”

            Arias becomes enraged. “How dare you compare master to that monster! I’ll-.”

            Ouran holds up their hand silencing Arias. “That’s his argument exactly Noah, good job.”

            “I hope you don’t take that as me saying you have no purpose; I was just thinking is all.”

            “No, it’s totally fine. I appreciate your logical thinking. I have to admit; I can almost agree with that idea. Hades can do all the things I can do, so we are essentially both Gods of the same ideal. The only real difference is that I’m a reaper and he’s not. It’s a matter of being. However, it can also be said that’d it be only natural for a Reaper to govern other Reapers, which was why Lady Simone was nominated. She wanted me to be the leader as she felt it was the most logical and right thing to do, but I’m the one who refused. I didn’t want the burden and even now, that hasn’t changed. I just want to live a simple life in the background. I don’t want to be a god; I don’t want to be king. I just want to be Ouran and live how I want. Nothing more or less.”

            “I can definitely understand that idea. With my father and Tahno going on about how I’m destined for some prophecy and that I’m a chosen one, it’s all just annoying. I mean, you’d think I was a god with how much they worship me. I just want to be Noah too. I want to be free from this curse and if it means that I have to die to do so then so be it. I’ll do whatever it takes.”

            Ouran is silent and Jove and Arias look to them, waiting to hear their response. Ouran finally says, “destiny definitely is a buzz kill and makes you feel like you have no control, but I’ve also learned that it can’t be escaped no matter how much you want to escape it. I don’t want to rule, but I would if it came down to it. I’d do whatever it took to keep Hades from taking the throne. If Hades was truly a god of life and death the way he was meant to be, then I’d have no reservations of giving him the position, none of us would. But the problem is that he’s not. He’s evil and cruel and wants to keep as many souls here to suffer as he can for all eternity. He enjoys seeing these poor, innocent souls suffer, preventing them from moving on even when they want to. He’s had the underworld in a bit of unrest for a while now, but we never got involved. I came here to get Lady Simone back, but I can’t help but think that somehow fate has pushed me here. In an answer to your question, I’ve always wondered what my purpose was, and now I’m starting to wonder if just maybe this is it. Maybe I’m meant to stop Hades’ reign of terror once and for all and liberate all the suffering souls. I never intended to do so, yet here I am. We have freedom of will Noah, but I’m finally realizing that regardless of that, when you’re destined for something, it’s going to happen, no matter which path you may take to get there. Sadly, we can’t choose what we’re born as, but we can decide what sort of person we will be, be it good or bad. Prophecies aren’t certain, but the one thing you can always count on is yourself, remember that.”

            The boat goes quiet as Noah reflects on what Ouran just said. He’s not sure he can believe in such an ideal, but he appreciates Ouran’s opinion. After a few more seconds of silence, Noah finally says, “so if I may ask, what type of contract did you form with Arias?”

            Ouran’s expression becomes a bit uncomfortable and they look at Arias, as though they are waiting for her approval to say. Arias finally says, “You can tell him master, it’s ok.”

            Ouran feels a bit sad, not wanting to open her old wounds, but realizes this may also be a good step in helping her overcome them. Then maybe she’d be able to trust others more. Ouran turns to Noah and finally says, “Well, I first met Arias when I was still wandering and after 2 years of it, I was just about at my breaking point. After that mysterious voice told me to go to Wakaba, I started my journey there and on the way passed through a slum town. It was there that I saw Arias; she was put on display as some kind of circus act. She was HeShe Demon as they liked to call her, because she looked both like a girl and boy. However, unlike me, she has a body of a complete female, but she’s not very well endowed, is tiny and can be aggressive, making her seem like a male. The fact that she had an interest in other girls just the same as guys didn’t help her case either. Then of course she was also a demon. So this town made a mockery of her and then left her chained up, cold and hungry outside once the show was over, constantly abusing her and calling her a freak or monster. They’d apparently been mistreating her that way since she was very young, since her parents abandoned her. Naturally, this hard life made her quite guarded and resentful, to the point she didn’t trust anyone and was aggressive.”

            Ouran continues. “When I saw this, I was pretty disgusted, especially since I knew just what she was going through. My two years spent wandering across the wastelands alone was filled with pain, abuse and isolation. I had no one I could depend on and I was completely alone. No one cared if I lived or died and it hardened me and is ultimately what lead to me despising humans the way I had. To me, they had done nothing but caused me pain, betrayed me and would never see me as more than a freak. It was through this shared experience that we could connect. I saved her from those dreadful people and gave her the freedom to do as she wished. I didn’t intend to make her my familiar, but she’d decided to serve me on her own, as payment for saving her, though I told her it wasn’t necessary. She ended up in Tourer with me and after learning more about myself and about the process of contracting a familiar, I decided that if she was going to serve me anyway, why not make it mutually beneficial. So we made our contract.”

            Ouran finishes by saying, “as for the conditions, well those weren’t as intense as you might be thinking. I decided to make her my familiar, but she wasn’t my slave. So I offered a simple deal. If she would serve me as a familiar and do whatever I needed her to do for me for as long as I wanted, then I would give her my divine protection and access to my power, so that no one would ever be able to hurt her again. I swore I’d never abandon her, even if the day where I release her from the contract were to come. I would be her friend and she’d always be mine.”

            “Wow, I’m sorry both of you had such shitty experiences. Humans can be seriously disgusting sometimes, but if it means anything, there are some good ones out there. My mom and brother were a couple of them. I had a great childhood thanks to them, but I can understand the type of hatred you feel towards those who wronged you. That’s the same way that I hate the Junsui and why I’m determined to destroy them all. The only thing that makes me feel some sort of peace is knowing that my mom and brother, Caleb are in a better place. I couldn’t stand the thought of them being trapped in a place like this for all eternity. They wouldn’t be though. Anyway, I can understand you much better now Arias and I won’t hold anything against you.”

            “I didn’t ask for a pity party. I don’t need your sympathy, so save it for someone else.”

            “Arias…come on now. Don’t be so rude, he was being genuine. Try a little too, ok?”

            She huffs and turns her head away, but also seems sad that she was scolded. “It’s no big deal, she can warm up to me whenever she’s ready, or never. I don’t care much either way.” Noah turns to Jove who’s been quiet all this time. “What about you Jove, do you have one too?”

“Yea I do, but not like Ouran. My familiar is more of the companion type and so isn’t much use in battle. I can summon him and show you him later, but not here. It’s dangerous.”

            “Yea that’s fine. I was just curious more than anything. Kind of makes me want one.”

            “Well I’d be happy to show you if you’re serious Noah, though you always seemed more like a lone wolf to me. Anyway, it looks like we’re here.” Ouran points forward and they all turn to look just as the metal gates open and the boat passes through. At the entrance on either side, are statues of cloaked figures meant to represent death, but are not the same as that of Reapers.

            “Wow, this place looks like hell itself, are you sure that it’s not?” Noah’s in awe.

            “Trust me, I’m sure. It’s sinister, but still heaven compared to hell. Even I was scared.”

            “Wow, so you’ve even been to hell huh? You really are a globetrotter. I kinda envy you.”

            “I’ve only been there once and I don’t want to go back. It was a special job, I did them from time to time in between helping Lady Simone. I may not choose to keep active all the time, but in the profession of life and death management, there’s always a job to do, especially for a god. Anyway, let’s get off of this thing, it always makes me uneasy.” Ouran and Arias stand.

            They step off first, each carrying their “tether”, holding them securely so they won’t fall. Jove steps of next and finally Noah stands, lifting Gunther as he does. “Geez, you wouldn’t believe it when he’s full clothed, but Gunther is seriously ripped. I feel like I’m lugging a hover car over my shoulder he’s so heavy.” He carefully steps out the boat and on to the cracked, coarse ground and once he’s securely standing, he sets Gunther down with a huff. The others have also placed the others down. “So, when are they going to wake up?”

            “As soon as Arias kisses them again. Her first kiss is the kiss of death. If she kisses you again, it’s the kiss of life, same as if I were to do it. Of course, we can control that, so kissing someone as a lover won’t kill them…unless we wanted to of course.” Ouran laughs deeply at their own joke, but Noah and Jove just look at them a bit creeped out. “It was a joke of course.”

            “I thought you said the living can’t come down here? Is that only specific for humans? Cause last I checked I was alive too and I’m not a reaper like you two, so I’m still a bit confused on how I can be here as I am.” Noah decides to ask, the mystery disturbing him to no end.

            Ouran looks surprised and at a loss for words, but finally gets some out. “It’s not living things, but humans that can’t come here alive. You’re not human, so it’s fine. I said that.”

            “Well yea I guess you did, but you also said the living can’t come here. In fact, you said even you two can’t technically come here without a tether, so it should be even harder for a non-reaper right? You said the underworld takes both humans and Bakemon, so how am I any different from any other Junsui? I just feel like things aren’t adding up and you know why.”

            “Noah….” Ouran is finally at a loss of what to say, but before they or Noah can say anymore, there’s a flash of light and suddenly, a man in a red cloak with red hair appears.

            “Well! Looks like we’ve got quite the mystery on our hands. Let’s get Sherlock down here! Oh that’s right, he’s already lost. He got too curious and that killed the cat.” He smirks.

            “Hades!” Ouran practically snarls the name and shouts, “I want Simone! Give her back!”

            “Hello to you too Ouran. I’d be happy to give her back, but then I guess that means you’ve made your decision? When should I show up for my swearing in? I need ample time.”

            “You don’t need to show up anywhere because you’re not going to be our ruler. I’m here to get her back and I’ll do anything I must to do so. So quit while you’re ahead and give up.”

            “Wait, so I’m not getting the position. I was so sure my interview was perfect though.” His joking attitude quickly becomes one of annoyance. “So if you’re not here to congratulate me, then just what are you doing? You say it’s to save her, but I’ve already said that she was mine until I got what I asked for. If you’ve decided to take over that’s fine, but she stays here.”

            “I’m not taking the position either. That post is meant for Lady Simone alone and I’m going to make sure she gets it. I’m here to stop your reign of terror once and for all, so that we can finally be at peace and grow our nation. We’re not going to be oppressed by gods or their underlings anymore! If you want to win, then fight for it fair and square. Don’t be a coward!”

            Hades becomes enraged, his hair becoming enflamed. “I’m no coward! I’d happily smite you down where you stand if I could you maggot! But as we’ve already established, as two fellow gods, we cannot kill each other, so fighting would be pointless. Instead, I’m targeting you in a way that I know will hurt you, figuratively at least. I know despite how much you love her, she’s not your “heart”. Sadly, I’ve yet to find that, but any logical god would know not to make it so easy to find. If you continue to test me however, I will make it my mission to find it.”

            “You’ll never find it Hades; I can assure you of that. However, I wouldn’t get so confident because I think I may just know where to find yours. So don’t test me.”

            “Nonsense! I don’t have one, it’s as simple as that. I thought you were smarter than that.”

            “Neither do I, yet here we are discussing our non-existent hearts. We’re both liars then.”

            They stare each other down for an intense few seconds, until Hades finally breaks the connection. “Ok then, I’ve got a new challenge for you. If you can find my heart in your remaining five days, I’ll give your lady back to you and let you all go on your merry way. However, if you fail, I’ll send you and your lady back, but then I’ll need a fair trade.” He looks at Noah. “I think he’d do quite nicely; wouldn’t you agree? It’d be a trade among us gods, deal?”

            Finally understanding the situation, Noah objects. “Hey Mr. Flame, don’t barter me without even consulting me first. I’m not up for sale or trade. I’m not offering myself or any of my team for that matter. However, I’m here to help Ouran and so I will do whatever it takes to stop you. We’ll find that heart of yours for sure, so no need for us to offer anything in return.”

            “Mr. Flame? Well, isn’t that original. Noah is it? I’ve heard much about you. Though you don’t seem to be a timid as I believed you to be. Well, I guess 8 years does change things.”

            Noah is confused. “What the hell are you talking about? Who’ve you been talking to know what I was like 8 years ago? Was it Tahno and that big mouth of his? Or that prick Judas?”

            “No, I’m afraid I’m not familiar with either of those people, but the boy I’m referring to knows you quite well. You could even say he’s your brother from another mother.” He smirks.

            “What are you…?” Noah suddenly has a realization and his chest feels heavy. “You can’t mean….” He clutches his chest as he starts to shake. “Don’t you fucking mess with me!”

            Hades puts on a sinister grin. “Perhaps I should let him speak for himself. Why don’t you come out and join us? I’m sure you’d like to catch up with your brother, wouldn’t you…Caleb?”

            From a small cavern, a figure slowly emerges, coming more into view with each step. A young man in tank top, only at the physical age of 15, with chestnut hair and eyes, comes in to view. There is a scar across the length of his face diagonally, where a deep gash had been. As he finally reaches Hades’ side, Noah can see the familiar eyes of the one brother he’d always cherished, now hollow and distant, as though they were the eyes of a stranger. “Ca-, Caleb…?”

            “He doesn’t talk, despite what I said. His tongue was ripped out. He’s a mouthy one. It took me quite a while to break him and turn him into my loyal slave. He serves me now.”

            “Ca…leb….” Noah is stunned. “Why…how…? You shouldn’t be here! Why are you?”

            Hades answers in his place. “He’s here for the same reason all the others who’ve been here this long are, he wasn’t ready to leave. If I recall, he mentioned something about seeing the light, where his mother was waiting, but then realized he wanted to live after all. He thought about how much HIS mother loved a son that wasn’t even hers more than she loved him and decided he didn’t want to spend an eternity in eternal happiness with her and desperately wanted a way to go back. Hence, he ended up at my doorstep and I welcomed him with open arms.”

            “Bullshit! I don’t believe that for a second. Caleb would never think that. He knew that mom loved both of us the same and he was ready to move on with her. You’re lying!”

            “Are you sure you were his brother? I thought you’d know him better than that. I see what’s in people’s hearts, I can see the things that bind them here. Don’t believe me, ask Ouran.”

            Noah turns to Ouran who looks sad. “Ouran, he’s lying right? Please tell me he is!”

            Ouran looks down. “I’m sorry Noah, but he’s telling the truth, though it wasn’t quite as cold as he makes it seem. Caleb always had resentment in his heart over the fact that your mother favored you, even if she did love him too. That resentment manifested itself on his journey to the afterlife and turned to rage. He felt it was unfair that you got to keep living, while he, as always, got the short end of the stick. He loved his mom, but he wasn’t content with staying happily by her side in heaven while you got to live. He wanted to do so much more, to become better than you. All of these dark feelings caused him to become unrested and sent him here. Though I’m willing to bet Hades twisted those feelings even more to make him into what he is now.”

            Noah’s knees suddenly feel weak and he starts to hyperventilate. He manages to make his way over to Caleb and places his hands on his shoulders and rests his head against his neck and starts to cry. “I’m so sorry Caleb, I didn’t know. I never realized you felt like that. If I had known, I would’ve told mom to pay attention to you more. I wouldn’t have let her dote on me as much. I thought we were all happy. I thought everything was perfect. I’m sorry. I’m so…sorry.” Noah continues to rest his head, slouching down over his big brother who was always taller than him, who has now become his little brother who is shorter than him. Yet it feels the same.

            Caleb is unmoving, almost lifeless and makes no acknowledgment of recognition. Hades cuts in. “You’re no better than a stranger to him now Noah. His past memories are essentially erased and so I’m sorry to say, but there will be no touching reunion moment today.” He laughs.

            “You, you monster!” Noah charges at Hades and attempts to make a slash at his neck, but to his surprise, his claws didn’t come out, nor did he change in the slightest. “What? Why…?”

            “Didn’t I say it already? This is my domain. No one uses magic in my domain unless I want them to. Your elemental powers won’t work here and you won’t be able to transform either since that also takes magic. Even if you could transform, you could never hurt me. Not one bit.”

            “Noah, calm down. I know you’re angry, but that’s not going to help us. The best thing you can do for Caleb now is find Hades’ heart. We can’t hurt him other ways, but if we find that, it’s game over and we’ll be able to free Caleb then. I swear I’ll help you liberate him from here, so please help me find his heart. That’s the only way to truly kill a god.” Ouran pleads intensely.

            Noah is livid, but he also realizes that he’s powerless in this position, which makes him even more pissed. “The game is on Mr. Flame.” He returns to Caleb. “I’m gonna free you from this place Caleb, I swear. So just wait for me, ok? I promise I’ll set you free. Just wait for me.”

            Noah returns to Ouran, who says, “You better not have hurt Simone Flamehead. I swear I’ll take extra pleasure in destroying your heart if you have. Oh and by the way, there’s no deal. We will find your heart and when we do, we’re going to destroy it and you. If you want to stop of us, you’ll have to kill us…oh wait….” He smirks and Hades grimaces, knowing he’s caught.

            “Ok then Mr. Shemale, if we’re going with nicknames, I’ll play this game with you. Try as you will to find my heart, but you’re going to fail. I’m not even going to try finding yours’ because that’s how certain I am that you will not succeed. When your five days is up, I will take pleasure in torturing your precious Simone and your beloved brother to no end as you both watch. However, as a penalty for coming into my domain uninvited, each day you fail to find my heart, one of your comrades will stay. I may not be able to do anything to you, but I can certainly keep those four here, as your little kiss of life will only give them a life-like state. However, we both know they will still be technically dead until they leave this place. As long as that’s the case, they are under my influence and I hold their cards. So be sure and remember that you two. You play with fire and you’re gonna get burned. This is my game now. This is how I play. As a handicap, I’ll give you an exemption for today. So starting tomorrow, you’ve got four days.”

            He laughs sinisterly and then with a flash, he and Caleb are gone as fast as they came. Noah turns to Ouran. “Ok, so I know I said we’d find it, but what exactly is his heart? I thought you said true gods don’t have hearts? Also, please tell me you have some leads on his heart.”

            “It’s true, gods don’t have hearts, but that doesn’t mean they don’t exist.”

            “Huh? Ok, you’re losing me. Just get to the point already, we don’t have time for this.”

            “I know we don’t have time, but you won’t understand unless I explain properly.”

            “Fine, but make it quick. Oh and maybe you could bring them back already.”

            Ouran turns to the others. “Oh right, I’m sorry. Arias, if you would be so kind.”

            Arias is surprisingly compliant, giving no sass. She trembles slightly and Noah realizes she must have been unsettled by Hades’ presence. Noah thinks, so she can feel fear too.

            After she kisses each of them, a few seconds pass and then one by one, they gasp for air and then sit up. “Woah, that was a wild ride. Are we there?” Nik asks this drowsily.

            “Lili, are you ok?” Gunther leans over to Lili, his voice full of concern.

            She sits up and rubs her eyes. “Gunther…I’m fine, but how long where we out for?”

            Mai is the last to sit up and says nothing, but everyone notices her rage face and instantly become terrified. She turns to Arias, who’s looking at her devilishly and with a motion quicker than any of their eyes could perceive, she punches Arias dead in the face, sending her flying across the cavern. She stands and with a piercing tone says, “don’t ever kiss me like that again!”

            Everyone gasps and is stunned, except for Ouran, who has an amused expression. Noah understands her reasons, but still feels the need to condemn her for hurting Ouran’s precious partner, especially now that he knows her history. “Mai, even if you’re mad, you can’t just-.”

            “It’s fine Noah.” Ouran cuts off his sentence with a raised hand. “She’s got nothing to apologize for. I’ve always told Arias that mouth was going to get her in trouble one day if she used it on the wrong person. She should understand now. Don’t you Arias?” She gets up.

            “Yes master, I understand really well now, but I’m sorry. I’m sorry because I like her even more now. I can’t help but appreciate a pretty girl with a strong arm. Forgive me master.”

            “Don’t apologize to me, apologize to Mai. I hope you understand what you’re getting into. Not even I can protect you from her wrath, so I’d be careful if I were you.”

            “yes master.” She smiles cheekily at Mai, who looks away in disinterest and annoyance.

            Noah and the others just look at each other and then shrug their shoulders. They know things are going to be interesting over these next few days, in many ways. Noah then says, “well, welcome back guys. We’re here in the underworld and now Ouran’s going to explain these god hearts I’ve been hearing so much about. So listen up. It’s all you.” They give their attention.

            “Well, there’s really not that much to explain, but I’ll try to be thorough. Let me just reiterate, true gods do not have hearts. They don’t have hearts like most beings do. The physical organ that beats in the chest and is vital to life. This is simply because gods are eternal beings. They are not alive, but they are not dead either. They just are. They are beings that are very difficult to comprehend, which is why religion is such an uncertain concept. No one can prove the existence of gods outside of blind faith and only the chosen few ever are graced by their presence. We are everywhere, yet we are nowhere. This lack of a true form is what makes our existences so fragile. You see, gods are eternal and will never die, but they can die with the right circumstances. One is to find their heart, which I’ll get to. The other is to make them forgotten.”

            “Make them forgotten? How does one do something like that? Wipe their memories?”

            “Not quite Nik. I mean, you could wipe out all the memories of their worshipers, but that would only stop them temporarily. Soon enough, more will start to believe in them again. This is especially true for gods of important desires like money or war, and so on. However, for certain gods, like myself for example, who have a very limited worshiper base, if I were to lose the faith that my fellow reapers have in me, I’d disappear forever. I can only exist because the reapers need me to do so. The reapers were oppressed and needed someone to save them. It’s these times where gods are born. I’m not sure if there were reaper gods before me, but I’m here now and it’s because the reapers needed me and I delivered. I liberated them, which has only made me stronger because now they believe in me with no doubt. Now they need me for their troubles.”

            “Wow, so you’re basically just like god, but specifically for reapers?” Lili asks this.

            “Yea, I guess you can see it that way. However, if they ever started to believe they no longer needed me to help them, I’d slowly fade away until no one remained. At that point, I would simply vanish and the world would go on as always, until a reaper god is born again.”

            “Wow, that sounds kind of cool and depressing at the same time. To depend on the faith of others for your survival. I definitely wouldn’t want to be a god.” Gunther shakes his head.

            “Yea, it’s not fun, but it’s the job. Anyway, as for our “hearts”, we don’t have them in our chests, but they take a different form. They can be anything or anyone. Objects or people. We don’t choose our hearts, that’s left for destiny to decide. When a god is born, their “heart” is formed and it’s said that the heart will always find its way back home, no matter what.”

            “Wow, that sounds like some corny sci-fi movie or something. It’s weird too.”

            “Well it may be weird, but it’s not any less true Noah. As I was saying, these “hearts” are formed and that is the only sure fire way to kill a god in their current incarnation. If the demand is there, a new incarnation of the god will be born, but the person who represented the previous incarnation will be gone forever. It’s kind of like resetting the god game and hoping for a better outcome the next time around. So basically, if I can find and destroy Hades’ heart, I’ll be able to erase him for good and hopefully the new Hades born to replace him will be a better person.”

            “That’s a pretty risky game. You’re placing all your bets on the hope that the new god will be better than the last. However, couldn’t they also be worse?” Mai speaks practically.

            “You’re absolutely right, but it’s a chance I’ve got to take because it’s the only way to not only free the reapers once again from our new threat, but ensure the integrity of the underworld and its purpose remains fair and untainted. Souls should be judged fairly always.”

            “Ok, so now we know the what and the why, but what’s the how? How do we find it?”

            “Well, I’m not certain of what his heart really is, but I do have a hunch. I’ll start there. Hearts are usually a god’s most prized possessions or loves, so finding out Hades’ will help.”

            “So we’re acting on a hunch? Seriously? I thought you had something more concrete.”

            “Mai, calm down a little. I get you’re in a bad mood, but don’t take it out on Ouran.”

            “It’s ok Noah, she’s right. It’s unfair of me to ask you all to do this for me, but be unable to give you more information. I wish I had more to give, but I don’t. Even still, I was desperate. I’d understand if you all no longer wish to help me, especially now that your lives are at risk-.”

            “Wait, what? What do you mean our lives are at risk? Did I miss something?”

            “Oh sorry Nik, I hadn’t mentioned it yet. Hades’ is going to make one of you stay for every day that we fail to find his heart. But don’t worry, I swear I won’t let that happen.”

            Everyone is silent, but no one protests either. They came down here to help Ouran for Noah’s sake and so regardless of their concerns, they’re going to do just that. Ouran says, “I appreciate your willingness to stay and I also swear I won’t let Hades win. I will do whatever it takes to bring him down and save everyone. We’ve all got something to lose, so we will fight.”

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