The first blow shattered the world.
It took Crystal a full minute to regain her senses after that punch. When she did, she barely had time to cancel out her momentum before impacting the green star that Shadoth had orbited. Where she had stood, there was a debris field, filled with rubble and the corpses of the Sur-nah-him.
With a snap of her fingers, Crystal restored the world and all life upon it. Rage welled up, sprinkled with a healthy dose of fear. What the hell is going on here? Beings of this power shouldn’t, couldn’t arise within her nanoverse. It just wasn’t possible.
But there they were.
“Who are you?” Crystal asked. In the vacuum of space there was no sound to carry her words, so she wrote them into the fabric of reality, a voiceless demand that made a question into a divine mandate.
They appeared around her, their armor unscathed by the explosion of Shadoth.
The first of the figures extended her hand towards Crystal. “I am the emptiness that awaits at the end of power; I am all that you need, the gnawing need for more that you can never satiate.” From those extended fingers, she hurled a supermassive black hole at Crystal. It took an effort to unmake the black hole before it consumed her. “I am Inedia.”
The second gestured now. “I am all that you lack, all that you could have been, your squandered opportunities.” That gesture shattered time, and suddenly Crystal was forced onto a battlefield in four dimensions, each of her opponents able to attack her from different epochs. “You may call me Litura.”
Crystal tried to force time back into a single line, but the fabric of reality had been broken and didn’t just snap to her whims like it was supposed to – and the third was speaking. “I am all that you will be, the ultimate fate of your arrogance and this very corruption that will remake you.” She gestured now, and Crystal found herself assaulted by spatial anomalies try to rip her apart, fragmented shards of force without mass, gravity without matter. “You will call me Potentia.”
Inedia and Litura joined in on the assault – or with the way time was fragmented, they had joined and will join and were joining in the assault, trying their best to shatter reality around Crystal. She saw what they were doing, saw the implicit shape their designs were taking – they were going to cut her off from her nanoverse, excise her like a cyst on her own reality.
The attack on Crystal endured was nearly impossible to describe. Inedia wrote into reality a deconstruction of the nature of being – I think, therefore I am not – and bludgeoned Crystal with that falsehood. Litura wove a nihilistic dirge into reality and sent that song of Nothing to coil its way into Crystal’s ears. Potentia took both attacks and amplified them by making them into autopropagating memes, horrendous thoughts that crept into Crystal’s thoughts and began evolving by the picosecond to find her weakest fears and use those cracks to change the battlefield into her own mind.
“You held true power in your hand and you brought it here to shatter it like a coward!” Inedia shrieked as Crystal brought her hands and inserted them into her own eye sockets, already gibbering from the assault. “You could have had anything you wanted, and you chose fear.”
“We were spawned from your weakness magnified by Enki’s hate,” Litura intoned in a much calmer voice, “that will that fused two nanoverse together could not be so simply dissipated.” As they watched, Crystal began to now tear at the back of her neck, trying to get at the thoughts that assaulted her mind and in the process beginning to crack through skull.
“We could have worked together. We are shards of Enki’s will, yes, but we are interpreted through you. There is nothing in us that you do not desire.” Potentia’s voice was calm and reasonable, like they were having a discussion, and not like Crystal was already throwing aside flecks of skull like bits of eggshell. “Oh well. Once you’re done destroying yourself, we’re going to take your body and become you. Then we’ll set ourselves to gaining this power in Reality. We will finish Enki’s grand design and we will escape to face the God of our reality.”
As those last words finished manifesting in the fractured fabric of the universe, Crystal shattered her own skull completely, a headless corpse in the broken fabric of reality.
“That was quick,” Inedia whined. “I was hoping she’d put up more of a fight.”
“Be glad she didn’t,” Litura spoke, again dryly. “I don’t know how long we could have held out against her here.”
Potentia reached up to remove her mask as she put reality back in place, showing the face beneath it – Crystal’s. “It doesn’t matter anymore. We will finally be real. And she has access to six nanoverses – once we merge and slay the others, we’ll be unstoppable.” The others removed their masks at the same time, to show the same faces.
“Yeah, that’d be a bloody shame.”
The three whirled. Standing behind them, her head decidedly intact, Crystal waved. “Hullo, loves. Nice bit of theatrics there, yeah? I even had me convinced, and I knew I was messing with you lot.”
“How?” Potentia asked, her voice cracking.
“Oh, it was damned clever, I’ll bloody give you that,” Crystal strode across the empty space, ignoring Potentia’s question. “I mean, the only way to kill someone in their own nanoverse? Yeah, you would have to get them to do it themselves. Of course, that entirely depends on them not realizing your plan before you begin it and, because they were ready for you, creating a conceptually perfect version of themselves so she could get a feel for your powers. Which, incidentally, is what I bloody did.”
They charged her again, assaulting her with concepts made into reality again.
Litura went first this time, lashing out with a whip woven from the forgotten sorrows of Crystal’s existence, the traumas she had erased over the millennia. Crystal raised her wrist and let the whip wrap around it, and yanked Litura in to embrace her. “You called yourself Litura, love. My weakness. I no longer fear weakness, because I am not alone. I welcome you back.”
And, before the other two’s eyes, Litura screamed and began to melt, flowing back to merge with Crystal. Inedia screamed in rage and lashed out with claws forged in the sweet call of apathy. Crystal let her bury those claws in her chest, and wrapped her arms again around her attacker. “Inedia, my hunger. You always were a bitch. But I welcome the hunger, because it reminds me I am not a ghost – that I am alive. I welcome you back.”
Potentia’s chest heaved with deep, panicked breaths as she watched Crystal absorb Inedia back into herself. She took a couple steps away as Crystal took a few steps towards her. “This won’t…this won’t change anything! We are a symptom of the corruption, not the cause! You cannot cleanse this!”
“Oh, Potentia. Dear, dear Potentia. My power. I’m not going to cleanse it – I’m going to fix it. And you told me how, so thank you for that. Now” Crystal held her arms out for an embrace, and although Potentia tried to pull away from it, Crystal drew her back in. “I welcome you back, you twit.”
With that, Potentia dissolved.
Crystal took a few moments to collect herself in a less literal fashion than she just had. With a wave of her hand, she undid the lingering damage the three had left on reality. One million years old, and you still get to see entirely new things every now and then.
She smiled and headed back towards Shadoth. Over a century had passed while they battled, which meant Ryan was probably wondering where she was by now. Alright, then. Let’s see if you’re right about this, love. If you are…well, turtles all the way down.
Chuckling at the joke only she got, she approached the city of the Sur-nah-him.