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Kind & Cruel

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Everything goes quiet, like time is coming to a standstill... odd, considering the chaos of the battlefield and the significance of the moment.

Zeus looks around, notes the deified mortals around him, the figure of a defeated and dying Odin at their feet, and the body of the tragic Loki to the side. Takes it all in as he waits for whatever is coming, because no world takes a deep breath like this without a good reason; it's a strange feeling even for a God like himself. Hades, quiet but dutiful Lord of the dead back home, is more intimately familiar with it. Not so long ago Zeus had 'died' himself and while waiting to be brought back spent some time lingering at his brother's side while watching events pan out in Orochi's conjured world. He'd learned that the destination for those who died in such a place is not so simple a thing to work out. There are no specific afterlives attached and thus no specific deities to sort things so it really depends on the origin world, the bonds that soul has and, well, whatever or whoever happened to be around.

Because he is connected to Hades Zeus had been able to go to his side quite comfortably for a brief stay. Odin and Loki, well, their homeworld is gone and even deities have to go somewhere if their lives happen to be snuffed out.

“Hello, Priestess,” he says eventually, quite unable to help the flirtatious tone even in this critical moment. “Have you come to take me away? I can't make it a permanent visit but I'd happily spend some time in your embrace.”

“Ah, dear me, I would love to... but I already have company to keep. Perhaps another time?”

Zeus had not thought Okuni anything unusual at first. She'd been another welcome member of their forces with unusual competance in battle for one of her position but, well, what was 'unusual' here? Why spare a thought about that when she could dance so well? There's barely been time to rest in the period he's gotten to spend with the humans but on the rare, precious occasions they've stopped to feast and recover it's been important to appreciate the fun. A beautiful, flirtatious woman who enjoys dancing and is talented at it to boot is just the sort of thing Zeus welcomes in his life.

Now, though, the understanding of what she truly is comes to him. It explains why he's the only one here who seems aware of her in this precious moment without being the direct subject of her attention, because it's the moment when the life of a God comes to an end, and his status and power give him the privilege to be here.

(Or, well, a witness is needed and he'll do; Zeus would prefer not to think he'd ever be chosen just because he happens to be around).

Odin, of course, is aware of her, because he is the subject of her attentions. Okuni of Izumo, a dedicated and loving guide for the dead, is walking slowly up to him with her parasol up and a warm smile on her face. No doubt she's come for his soul which means that she is right now the full focus of Odin's fear; for a being that is so afraid of death he'd wipe out all other existence to avoid the possibility of it, that beautiful sight has to be the most horrifying thing he's ever known. His one eye is fixed on her, expression frozen in open terror as he struggles to pull himself up. How... sad. Okuni kneels down as she reaches Odin and gently strokes his hair with her free hand, ignoring his futile attempts to push him away.

“Shh.” Her voice is a little strange, both the same as it always and completely different, laden with odd power that even Zeus himself can't quite identify. “It's okay... it's alright. Time for you to come with me to Izumo.”

“Begone, you fool, I...”

Odin trails off, lacking the energy to finish but perhaps too frightened to do so anyway; Zeus looks at Okuni, who has now cupped Odin's face, and wonders there and then if this delightful being isn't just being kind, if this is also some kind of harsh punishment. That wonder becomes certainty by the time Odin finally falls to the floor.

“You are something to fear,” Zeus says with a laugh, walking over to help Okuni stand up again. “That, just then... crueller than anything my wife could ever do, and all with a smile!”

“I'm sure I don't know what you mean,” she responds, smiling, but that peculiar power is lingering in her voice and she's still not looking at Zeus himself. “I would very much like to meet your wife one day, though. She's very beautiful, isn't she? Very strong too... ahhh, I am sure I could never compare.”

“You'd be an incredible team, I know that much.”

Honestly, the thought is almost delightful. Something to ponder on later, when this is truly all over. Right now, though, Okuni has walked over to Loki's dead body and is leaning down; she touches it briefly, something in the air shifts, and though Zeus cannot see it he knows something important has just passed him by.

“I take it you have a kinder fate for him?” Probably a redundant question, something the wise and powerful Zeus already knows the answer to, but Loki has at least earned that much mercy. “He's been waiting a long time for someone like you to give him some peace, and what better than peace in the company of radiance as powerful as yours?”

She laughs again, and this time Okuni looks over to Zeus, meeting his gaze directly.

“We'll walk arm-in-arm, side-by-side, through the river and across the desert, right to the gates of Izumo.”

It's said like a promise, in a tone so achingly beautiful it hurts to hear, and Zeus understands immediately how serious and profound Okuni is behind her dazzling smile. She knows and understands something even he fully can't, and in that moment he has to acknowledge just how little he truly knows about the nature of their universe, how little even Odin himself, a deity possessed of profound wisdom beneath that all-consuming fear, had known.

How humbling... though, of course, one might say the greatest wisdom was found in the understanding that you couldn't know it all.

“Maybe I'll reconsider letting you carry me away after all.” Zeus smiles, a little more softly than anyone else has ever really seen, and offers her a short bow. “Thank you, Priestess.”

“We'll meet again one day,” she says, bowing her head in response and offering a simple wink; the world finally exhales, everything finally catches up and Okuni is no longer present. That was ominous, wasn't it? Or perhaps not. Zeus can't allow himself to become another Odin, so as he turns to congratulate his allies he lets the brief note of fear slide away. If he ever has to die permanently, well, it won't be so bad.

Walking at the radiant Okuni's side on that long journey might even be fun.