The Beast that Shouted "I" at the End of the World


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2nd of April, 1973

Somewhere in the caverns underneath Stargard, Poland

"Daniel?" Natalie Asheworth asked, moving slightly closer towards Daniel. She made her grasp on his hand a little harder, correcting her long, blond hair with her other hand, and smiled.

"Yes?" He answered, snapping out of his trance. He always had a tendency for that, but she didn't fault him — the beauty of this cave system was something truly to behold. She didn't need to be as vulnerable as him to admit that the self-initializing rituals were beautiful.

"What do you want to do when it's all over?"

"Huh?"

"You know — our and Nowak's ritual goes well, we summon what we summon, and we can live together peacefully forever. No more running away from the Foundation, no more wars — just peace. Forever." She paused, scratching her head. "What do we do then?"

He loudly exhaled, putting aside the texts in Fae he was supposed to use for the ritual he was holding. "I don't— actually, you know what?"

She raised her eyebrow.

"I want to find a place, somewhere at the edge of the universe, where no one can reach us. I want to build a home there, together, and live there until we grow old. And maybe even have a dog." He smiled.

She smiled back. "Yeah, I like that plan."

She came closer, encompassing him with her arms. For a second, her green eyes met his gray ones, and she could see happiness in them. "I love you, you know?"

"I know, Nat." He embraced her too, forgetting about everything else — in that very moment, nothing else, aside from her, mattered. It was only he and her, forever. "I love you too."

For a brief moment in time, they understood each other like nobody else on the planet ever had. He felt like they were a unity — their thoughts and dreams combined, forming into one emotion, one feeling. He looked her deeply in the eyes, and she replied with the same gesture — and, in that very moment, they knew everything the other did, seeing everything the other one was in the eyes of the other.

"Now, let's make that plan a reality."

* * *

10th of September, 1985

Overwatch Command, 75 kilometers north of Kraków, Poland

"W-Why? Why?" Daniel Asheworth sobbed, looking O5-9 directly in her eyes. They were no longer emerald green, instead replaced by a sickening red. He could no longer feel love and warmth of the person she had been ages ago, prior to the possession — all that was replaced by fury and hunger of the Beast, festering within the soul of the woman he'd once loved, forming an unholy amalgamation of both. "Why do all of this? Why even bring me here, if you know how to undo those chains? To make me suffer?"

She grinned widely, continuing to chant the spell that would break the final Seal from within the Kodex Tenebra laying before her. Her eyes, carefully following the instructions written in the tome laying between herbs, chalk, dead blue spiders, and other magical apparatus before her, were excited like they had never been, filling with more and more Red by each second the final ritual was closer to completion. The crimson tendrils filled with runes previously encompassing only the Overseer now extended towards Asheworth, grabbing him and linking the two in the ritual.

The thaumaturge fell down on his knees, giving in to the magic — sobbing, even if he could resist, he was too broken to even realize he was able to withstand her. With each second, Daniel was pulled in closer and closer, until he was so close to the host of the Beast she could grab his face with her hand. Now with Asheworth encompassed in the thaumaturgic circle on the ground, the woman looked down on him, and answered. "Because you're the final ingredient I needed. And you fell for everything I did, taking the line and sinker."

Jessie Rivera was too shocked to even react. Paralyzed with a mix of fear and confusion, she stood near the entry of the room, too afraid to confront Nine. She knew it was wrong and that she should save her closest friend, but, at some fundamental level of her soul, she couldn't even move her fingers.

"Do you… not recognize me, Nat?" He asked, returning the stare. "Do you… not remember everything we've had together, all the moments we spent with each other?"

All she replied with was laughter, starting to cough with blood halfway through. "Oh, I do — I simply do not care," she said, wiping it from her chin. "I'm no longer your little thaumaturge whore — I'm someone that's so, so much more."

He didn't answer.

Seconds later, which felt like literal decades, he could subconsciously feel the ritual was over — but one didn't need to be an expert thaumaturge to know that — the overwhelming smile of Nine was a good enough indicator on its own. Five circles forming a larger circle around them burst out with a red liquid, which quickly transformed into an even larger circle around them all. It glowed with a bright, red light, and, with an almost silent hiss, the fabric of reality near the Overseer was cut by some invisible force as if it was diety's knife, forming a circular portal near her. Even if Asheworth didn't see it, he knew where it lead — wherever Father held the Beast at bay with five Seals locking the dimension for countless eons was no longer a prison.

Nine inhaled deeply, feeling newly found power run through her veins. She reached towards the dimension with her mind, awakening the forever-dormant deities within. The Beast felt her call, and, within the blink of an eye, the two connected, filling the Overseer with potential beyond what she imagined. She was now full, no longer a mere host of a part of the Beast's soul, instead allowing for the full scope of its destruction to enter her being.

"It's over," she said, with eyes as red as the monster that festered within her and a smile as wide as the divide between her and Asheworth. "You've lost."

And, for a brief second before the bonding of the two finished, Asheworth felt something, deep within him. He didn't know if it was reflex, his training kicking in, or the last cry out for help by the part of Father's soul that was within him — all he knew is that he suddenly realized there was still a chance.

"What are you—" Nine tried to say as he rushed head onto her, grabbing the woman by her waist and throwing her, alongside himself, wherever the portal led.

And then, for the second time this evening, reality stopped existing as the portal closed behind them.

* * *

He opened his eyes to reveal nothing — nonexistence was the only thing he could see or hear, no matter in which direction he looked. He felt, subconsciously, that the only thing within the entirety of this universe were the two deities, confused at the situation as much as he, ready to strike, but oddly unable to react. They filled the null skies above with Red and Blue, mixing together to form all of reality. He wasn't sure, but if he had to guess, the human element was alien to this reality, somehow blocking the two from doing anything.

He suddenly felt a pain in his chest, similar to a cardiac arrest, falling on the nonexistent ground beneath the nonexistent him. It felt like the part of Father that was inside him yearned to meet the rest of its being, pulled towards the everpresent god like metal towards a magnet. He let it go, and, for a brief second, felt he was no longer a host of the entity.

"Daniel?" His ears were suddenly filled with a gentle voice rippling through spacetime around him like a skimming stone across water. He turned around in the void of the imaginary world, only to notice, nay, feel, a short woman with blonde hair, gazing at him with her emerald eyes.

"This is where it ends," he shouted, drawing forth a weapon of pure magic, ready to strike Nine at any moment. He could feel fury and rage boiling within him, giving power to his moves as he approached the woman with each step across nonexistence.

"Nine is gone, Daniel. It's me," she answered calmly, coming closer to him.

"W-What?" He said with a weak tone, stopping his walk.

"You had to give up Father's soul to exist here. She did the same with the Beast, no matter if she wanted it or not."

"N-No!" He shouted as tears went down his face for the second time this evening, backing away from her. "You're dead. The only thing you are now is Nine, you…. you!" He lost his words.

"She's now gone too. But, frankly, so are you," she looked around herself in a curious manner. "The only thing here is us, Daniel. Two hosts devoid of their parasites."

He stood there for seconds of pure eternity, looking at her, trying to understand everything that just transpired. He wasn't sure if time worked differently here, but if he had to say, he'd argue there was no way that moment felt so long.

"What… what was the promise?" He asked quietly, staring at the ground beneath them. "If you're Nat, what did we promise ourselves?"

"What?"

"The day before you…" He paused, not having the mental strength to finish the sentence. "What did we promise ourselves we'd do after it was all over?"

She smiled with a sadness palpable within the gesture. "To build a home, somewhere at the edge of the world, and live there until we get old." Tears started going down her cheeks.

Asheworth didn't reply, instead practically running towards her. He hugged her, sobbing. "Never leave me again."

They sat down, together, silently gazing at the end of the world before them. It didn't feel like there was anything after this reality, as if they were standing at the edge of the universe. She gently grabbed his hand, coming closer.

"So, what have you been up to these past… what, ten years?"

"Twelve. I… not much, I don't think," he sighed. "Got employed by the Foundation, found Nowak again, came back to the Library, and… ended up here."

She chuckled. "Slow down, slow down. Let's start with something simpler: did you get a dog like we planned?" She smiled.

He looked down. "I… yeah, yeah I did. His name was Sparky, and…"

And as they continued looking into the stars, filling the night above them with lights of eternity and their struggles, they told themselves everything.

* * *

Millenia after millennia passed as the couple sat underneath the sky at the universe's end. They talked, danced, loved, and smiled as one century passed after another, once again filling their lives with true purpose they haven't felt in more than a decade. Two parts of one feeling, lost for so long, now once again reunited. She thought what he thought and he thought what she thought. They were again together, forever united.

"Daniel?" She one day asked, standing with him at the border between existence and irrelevance.

"Yeah?" He replied, turning towards her as he extended a hand.

"It's time," she said, rejecting the offer and staring into the ground beneath them.

"What… What do you mean?"

She came a little closer, revealing her forearm from underneath her shirt. It was fading, like dust dissolving at wind, removing molecules from her by each decade he looked at her. She looked at him, sadness in her eyes, with a faint smile visiting her face. "I'm fading, honey. It's time for you to go."

He grabbed her arm, panic in his eyes. "What do you mean?!"

She looked into his soul. "I'm nothing more than a memory at this point. I'm nothing, only existing here as a circumstantial paradox brought to life by us both."

"No, no no no no. You're real, I know you are, you—"

She shushed him. "We both know that's a lie." Tears started going down his face again. "But that doesn't mean it's the end, Daniel."

He looked at her in confusion, sadness filling his very being.

"There's an entire world out there. An entire world you can fix. Just… promise me you'll change things, alright? Remember what you promised her. Promise that to me, too." She gently touched his cheek. "I swear we'll meet again."

"I… I promise," he cried out, as he hugged the fading memory of the person that had once been Natalie Asheworth. He could feel her turning to dust in before his eyes. "Please, don't leave me. Swear you'll meet me again. Please. Please. Please."

"I promise," she smiled as last pieces of her turned to dust, leaving nothing in his arms. "And every time we meet again, just… remember one thing, please: I love you."

And, before his eyes, she turned to nothingness, as if she had never been there.

* * *

He sat on the nonexistent ground where, just seconds ago, both of them sat, sobbing into his arms. He didn't think he'd ever recover, not after everything he'd gone through, so he cried. He cried like the five-year-old boy he hadn't been for over twenty-two, letting everything he had within him out of his system. And, after a while, the sorrow stopped coming. He didn't know if it should stop coming, but it did, eventually turning him into nothing more than a husk, devoid of emotions, staring into the void around him. He could once again feel the two deities above him, observing each of his movements, trying to take control, but unable to. He knew it was time to go.

And so he stood up, filling the fabric of spacetime with a ripple once more. Like an endless wanderer he was, he took the first step across nonexistence, eventually followed up by another one, until he could feel his legs moving on their own accord. He walked and he walked, until he lost count of the time he'd spent that way as moments turned into hours, hours into days, and days into months.

Eventually though, he knew he was there. He knew it was here that he and Nine entered into this prison, realizing there was a way out. He inhaled, reaching out into the space between realities, finding that way, like an underground tunnel, opening it for himself. He didn't know what would happen if he'd leave this realm — there probably was a non-zero chance he'd cause another end of the world by doing so, but, if he was honest, he was too tired and empty to neither realize this nor care.

He looked around himself, one final time observing the end of the world. Gazing at the skies, he noticed the two entities, furious he's leaving, furious he's not going to make either win, furious he's stopping this never-ending cycle of creation and destruction. And, before he turned his sight to something else, for a brief second, he could swear the sky above the two beings blinked happily, smiling at him with its emerald eyes.

He smiled back, shedding one final tear, and, for one final time, he let go.

* * *

When he opened his eyes, the only thing he saw was night. An endless night above him, filled with countless stars blinking at the Earth beneath them, illuminating it with a million stories left untold. He smiled, knowing he found his way back.

He stood up from the cold ground, scratching his back, and realized Overwatch Command was back, albeit snapped into two parts. Around it, countless corpses laid, filling the night with an absence of being. Around them, numerous Fae and Children of the Night walked, trying to find at least one person still alive.

Looking beyond it, he noticed Cornwell and Rivera standing somewhere in the distance, taking care of someone that looked like Tier'ney. He didn't come closer, instead beholding the valley of death he stood in as the skies got darker with each moment he didn't move. And, eventually, one of them noticed him. Rivera, shock in her eyes, looked at Asheworth, showing the rest he's there.

"Are you fine?!" She shouted, running towards him. "W-What happened?!"

"Everything."

* * *

They sat underneath the night sky contrasting with the once-again existing building of Overwatch Command in silence. He looked at the ground, staring absentmindedly, playing with a stick, solely to kill time, not wanting to talk about anything. He knew he had to open up at some point, but it didn't feel right. Not now, at least.

The tranquility was suddenly interrupted by Rivera's phone calling, filling the night with the sounds of the notification. She sighed, picking it up, and smiled apologetically. She gave a couple of answers Asheworth didn't listen to, but noticed with each of them she turned visibly happier.

"The Council is back on," she said, turning her head towards him. "They know about everything."

"That's… good," he answered quietly, avoiding eye contact. "How's Cornwell?"

"He's fine. Nothing more than dimension-travel-induced sickness. Seems you somehow avoided it, heh. Should be back to work in two days max."

He didn't answer.

"You'll have to tell me what happened eventually, you know?"

"I… I know."

She inhaled sharply. "Alright. At least you're fine and everything's over. That's all that matters."

Staring into her phone for a couple more moments that felt like hours, she blinked twice, gently rubbing her eyes. The night sky was dark, and the contrast of the device's bright screen was quite trying, if she was honest.

"So," she began, standing up from the ground. She extended a hand towards Asheworth, who looked back at her. "What the hell do we do now? I mean, there's so much to do. I can't even imagine what a mess 120 must be, let alone Esterberg, and there's still like a million other things that need to be brought back to normal, and—"

She was cut off by Daniel accepting her hand. He looked her deep in the eyes, and answered.

"We try to fix things."








































































25th of September, 1985

Site-120's Park, 5 kilometers south-west of Częstochowa, Poland

REST IN PEACE // ROT IN HELL

Natalia Lilia Asheworth // Damian Tomasz Nowak

1949 - 1985 // 1937-1985

The late afternoon was cold. Probably the coldest this year had been this far.

Daniel Asheworth sighed, inhaling the cold Autumn air around himself. Realizing he lost count of how long he'd been sitting near the two graves buried in the park near Site-120, he suddenly felt a bone-deep cold in his hands. He put on his gloves — altered to fit the temperature of the season — and continued sitting in silence, looking at the two names and contemplating the last couple months of his life.

"Daniel?"

He snapped out of the trance, woken up by the approaching Jessie Rivera. She smiled slightly, taking a seat next to him on the bench. She followed where his eyes looked, inevitably meeting the names written in Polish on the tombstone. She grimaced almost unnoticeably.

"I'll never understand why you chose to bury them here. Or why you buried him at all," she said, looking at Nowak's memorial.

"He was a piece of shit. But nobody deserves what happened to him. Even he deserves to finally rest. Or, at least, rest as much as he'll be able to down there," he added, smirking slightly as if he knew something Rivera didn't.

She raised her brow, but didn't ask; some things were better left unsaid. She looked at the names again. "Two memories so different bringing them together feels wrong."

"If I chose to bury my past, then I shouldn't choose which parts of it to bury," he sighed. "I… I can't believe it's over, you know."

She moved a little closer to him.

"I know."

They sat together in silence as the clouds above started to leak, bringing almost unnoticeable rain upon them. The atmosphere got colder, and both slightly shivered. Just as Asheworth was about to say something, Rivera's phone suddenly rang, which she answered with an apologetic smile,

"The Esterberg Restoration Council delegation is almost here." She stood up. "Come on."

He came along, putting his umbrella up as a response to the rain increasing in speed. "Will Overwatch attend? I'm farily certain Four wanted to oversee it personally."

"Eh, don't know." She shrugged. "Even if repairing broken bonds with a city will be difficult and probably would need him, I sincerely doubt O5 will care. Oh, but before I forget," she smiled. "The 5890-1 elimination method you proposed is working. O4 said they eliminated like one hundred instances today alone. It's going well."

"And the man in the red suit? Did O4 find him?"

"Gone with Nine. No one calling him for duty bound him to the mortal realm anymore, I'm guessing"

He didn't continue the conversation, instead smiling slightly at the horizon. The sun was almost setting in the distance, slowly but surely making its way towards sky's end. He turned to Rivera, looking directly in the eyes, and, for a brief moment in time, they understood each other like nobody else on the planet ever had.

And then, she smiled back.








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