The holy capital of the cult of Ubu, the most important city in the world, a sacred place where the world's rebirth began anew, was in ruins. Buildings had been toppled over left and right, and the inhabitants of the holy city wandered haggardly among the ruins, an empty look on their face, barely aware of their own existence. A sickly white fog covered the city.
To the end of the city opposite to the entrance, a tower rose, its end hidden in the clouds. They went toward the tower, determined.
The tower was a tall, thin, inverted pyramid. It stretched high above the clouds, the top lost in it. A few meters above the ground, an opening in the tower served as a door. Large stone stairs went up to the opening, like stairs to a titanic temple.
They went up the stairs, but a great bright light flashed behind them when they reached the top. Melissa had just the time to turn around, when Jhin jumped toward her and pushed her down a few steps. Just as she did, a great beam of light shot out from the ground where she had been standing. Jhin had also narrowly dodged it.
Behind them, an angel was floating. It was a great angel, tall of at least two dozen meters, its numerous wings arranged in a symmetrical design. At the core of the design, a small sphere colored by the color of the end of the world held two fetuses, inverse of one another, like a biteless ouroboros. The Metatron.
The sphere within started to shine bright again, and circles of light appeared at Jhin and Melissa's feet. Quickly, both rushed out of the circles, and just as they did, pillars of light emerged where they had been standing.
Melissa had watched the Metatron intensely during the exchange, and saw that two of its wings had disappeared then appeared again. She held out her hand, and Deicide came in it. The circle appeared at her feet, and just as before, the Metatron's wing disappeared and appeared again, blinking in and out. She readied herself, stepped out of the circle, and just as the pillar of light appeared, she sliced it in one motion.
The Metatron cried out, in a baby-like wail made by a hundred thousand babies in unison. Only one of its wings appeared again. The other was truncated, white smoke bleeding out. A few dozen circles appeared near Melissa, and one after another, she sliced the pillars one after another. One after another, the Metatron's wings disappeared, replaced by white smoke.
The angel recoiled. Half of its wings were missing. It coiled the wings it had left around the fetuses, and a warm glow came out of the resulting sphere. Melissa let the sword lift her in the air, and she stabbed it deep, up to the hilt. A sharp ray of light came out of the wound, then another, and another, and countless other, and finally the Metatron blew up in a mass of smoke.
They went inside the tower. The space inside was deep and wide. It was devoid of form, devoid of shape. It also felt very familiar. They floated to the top. The more they rose, the more the smoke around them seemed more and more like mold. A light appeared on top, and a platform of light appeared beneath their feet. Then, they noticed they were at the top of the tower. Stone walls slanted to form the inside of a wide and low pyramid. Embedded in the ceiling, large blocks of glass let the sunlight in.
Moss covered the floors and the walls, as well as streaks of white filaments. Mold. Mold covered the floor. And in the middle, sitting under the apex of the pyramid, a black icosahedron. The shape was about 3 to 4 meters tall. It stood impassively. Jhin got close to it and tapped the 20 sided shape with Deicide.
A great voice rang out from it. A voice that commanded respect and awe. A voice that seemed to love you for yourself, but also to reprimand you for your sins. A voice that knew all about you, from whom you could hide nothing about you.
The voice of Ubu.
"HERE YOU ARE... HEROES OF THE MALL. I HAVE WAITED FOR YOU, HAVE LET YOU IN MY DEN.
-Why let your enemy into your own den ? That seems a bit... shortsighted" remarked Melissa.
-I COULDN'T LET MY GUESTS OF HONOR IN THE RAIN."
The sun cut a delicate lattice of shadows on the floor. Spores danced in the light.
"BUT PLEASE, DO TAKE A SEAT. I WANT TO KNOW WHAT DRIVES YOU."
Melissa thought about it. She didn't really know anymore. She was a bit tired of always fighting. She wanted to settle down, maybe at one of the fallen's farm. The flower farm was the one she had the best memory of. But before she could talk, Jhin stepped forward.
"We... We have travelled this world. We have seen everything. We have seen the ugly, we have seen the beautiful. We know how this world works. We also know how this world worked before. We lived there, in the past, and we were robbed of it.
"And we think... that what this world needs isn't another war. What the world needs, what everyone needs, is acceptance. It's to be given the time to mourn the world before and to rebuild the world after.
"And so, that's what we want. We want to let the world rebuild itself at its own pace."
Ubu was silent. Melissa took that chance to slash the Icosahedron in half. She felt the blade cut it, she felt it falling apart, but when she stepped back, it was whole again.
"I SEE. AND THAT WORLD WOULD NOT NEED AN OVERSEER. DO YOU REALLY THINK THAT THE WORLD AS LOST AS IT IS RIGHT NOW, COULD REBUILD ITSELF WITHOUT GUIDANCE ?"
A rumble shook the room. The floor fell apart, and the walls too, like pieces of cardboard. The space around them shifted. The Icosahedron floated high, and fell apart, revealing its contents. Within it, spurning mold was squelching, rotting the world around. All around, the smoke took shape like mold. And then, figures emerged.
"AS YOU CAN SEE WE ARE COMPLETELY OPPOSITE. I AGREE THAT WE SHOULD LET THE WORLD MOURN, AND I HAVE DONE SO FOR THE PAST TWO HUNDRED YEARS. BUT, REBUILDING IS NECESSARY. LEFT ON ITS OWN, THIS WORLD WITH ROT AWAY, DROWNING IN ITS OWN TEARS."
The anatomy of mold is interesting. Often believed to be very simple life forms, molds still present an anatomy more complex than a shapeless cellular mass. Rhizomes attach the mold to the substrate, be it a surface, other molds, or a biofilm. Then, the hyphae swath around, composed of cylindrical cells in continuity with one another. These filaments will form the real "body" of the mold. Finally, when the conditions are right, the reproductive organs develop. These organs take the shape of small spheres lifted up above the hyphae by the filaments. The spheres contain spores that, when ripe, will spread around, carried by the wind.
Just as Ubu was a mold, it too had a rhizome, the ark, grounding it to reality. It too, had a swath of hyphae, its dear followers and it itself. And it too, had a way to spread itself around, to create more hyphae : the angels.
All around them, in the mold-smoke, high structures rose. Shaky pillars of mold, with a translucent sphere at the top.
"Wrong. Just like a widow eventually dries her tears after losing her lover, the world will stand up."
In each translucent sphere, high above the ground, at the ideal height to be carried by the wind, were embryos. Shapes of embryos, with half formed wings, half formed eyes, swishing around in the rot juice.
"BUT, JUST LIKE SOMEONE WHO HAS LOST HALF OF THEIR BODY NEEDS HELP TO REEDUCATE, I WILL GUIDE THE WORLD."
Melissa threw Deicide in the air. It flew high, and then, like a bolt of black lightning, it cut through multiple of the angel eggs. Their contents spilled on the floor, like otherworldly viscera. Jhin took a deep breath, and let a wave in all directions, then at the crest of the wave, like seafoam, cracks in reality ripped and destroyed the filaments around them.
Melissa charged an I.T construct, but just as she was ready, someone grabbed onto her. Then someone else, and someone else. She looked over her shoulder, and saw a crowd of followers, all dressed in the clothes of followers, but with mold growing on their face, on their arms, on their legs, on their bodies. People, who once had been like her, but who now had forfeited everything to Ubu.
"LOOK BEHIND, DO YOU NOT SEE MY BELOVED FOLLOWERS ? DO YOU NOT SEE HOW HAPPY THEY ARE, HAVING FORFEITED THEIR ALL TO ME ?" Ubu had spoken from everywhere. Melissa could not believe it. She was disgusted by Ubu. She would destroy it. Jhin jumped behind her, and Deicide flew down to their hand, and with a slice and a wave, the crowd fell to the ground. Jhin ran toward them.
"These... people are barely conscious. Can you really call them happy ? Can you really even call them people ?" Jhin ran toward the crowd, before swerving at the last moment, Deicide in hand. The crowd followed. "I RETURN THE QUESTION TO YOU, SCORPION. I KNOW WHAT HAPPENED IN THE MALL. I KNOW WHAT YOU ARE."
Jhin jumped up high, and with the sword stabbed some of the spores. They switched around in mid air, and just before crashing made a downward wave, slowing their descent. Someone tried to grab him, he shook them off and started running. "Then you should know what we did. And honestly, if given the choice ? We would do it again."
He jumped again, and slashing Deicide in the air, prolonged tears in reality toward the eggs, like arcing electricity. "AGAIN AND AGAIN, YOU TRY TO DESTROY THESE. BUT DON'T YOU UNDERSTAND ?" Jhin fell to the ground, into the crowd. He couldn't move, grabbed from everywhere. Deicide was taken from their hand, and thrown away. "NO MATTER WHAT YOU DO, DESTROYING UBU ENTAILS DESTROYING MUCH MORE THAN ALL OF THESE REPLACEABLE SPORES. NOW, SURRENDER."
"I may not be in a good position, but she is."
Melissa had been focusing during all that. She had been focusing on one single I.T construct, which had grown huge. Its blue light flickered, lighting the mold a bright cyan. "HUH ?"
She sent the construct on Deicide, which had risen high in the air. And, resonating with a deep sound, a blue light engulfed everything.
Ubu was laying on the ground, a putrid and amorphous mass of mold. They approached the mass. "YOU... CANNOT WIN..." Ubu declared with a tired voice. "I... HAVE ALREADY FUSED WITH THE EARTH... I'M NOW... STRONGER... THAN EVEN TH-"
Melissa stabbed the mass with Deicide.