Contrary to the impression Ryan had gotten during his visit, nanoverse staging areas weren’t the only way to get to Empyrean Provocation, or even a particularly common way. While the club was designed by dieties and meant to allow their kind to have their fun, other beings from across human mythology spent their time here – Angels, Demons, Aesir, Daeva, Fae, Vampires, Nephelem, and Magi were just a fraction of the beings that wanted a place where they could get drunk without mortal shoving their noses into things.
Since it served such a diverse clientel, Empyrean Provocation had found the need to provide additional means of ingress for those that didn’t have access to their own personal universes for travel. As such, a variety of clubs bearing the same name had been established across the world. If a normal mortal went to one, they’d be allowed in through one door that lead to a perfectly bustling club venue. If a mystical being went, they would be allowed in through the other door, to the “VIP Area.” Those doors lead to the actual Empyrean Provocation with it’s permanent view of the Crab Nebula.
Ever so often, a mistake would be made, and a normal mortal would find themselves here. Said mortal would typically be found hours later, drunk out of their minds, raving about dancing under the stars with inhuman beings. The next day, once they had sobered up, they would typically conclude someone had spiked their drink with a hallucenogen of some sort or another and that would be that.
The doors that lead to Empyrean Provocation on the mortal world were the ones that opened and closed the most, and rarely drew much attention. No one really cared who showed up next, unless they were looking for someone. (This also meant it was hard to sort out where mortals who stumbled in had come from, so if you ever hear of someone going on an legendary bender and waking up in a different city or continent with no idea how they got there, the most common cause was stumbling into the wrong door.)
The exception was the Gilded Doorway, the one established for nanoverse staging areas. When that opened, beings noticed, because a god or goddess had arrived. Most of the beings who frequented the establishment were dangerous in their own right but not on a divine level. If a diety that held a grudge against them wandered in, it would behove them to make an exit before they were noticed.
Crystal didn’t have any grudges, and frequented here often enough where the welcome became warm once she walked in. She waved at a few entities she recognized as she headed up to the bar. “Two Umbral Kicks,” she said to the bartender, who nodded and turned to get her drink.
The Umbral Kick was the most potent drink offered in all of creation. It was fermented manna mixed with the honeydew Xanadu, then aged in barrels made from dead branches of Yggdrasil and tended to by Sidhe craftspersons. And that was just the part of the brewing process that was known. It was rumored to be two-hundred and fifty proof, and no one wanted to try and explain how it could have a higher alcohol content than its actual volume allowed for. A mortal drinking Umbral Kick, if they survived, often ended up becoming prophets or oracles since it got them so transcendantly drunk they could see through time.
For a goddess, it just a good way to skip the annoying steps of tipsy and buzzed and get straight to the important buisness of getting actually drunk.
A voice to Crystal’s left spoke up. “Two Umbral Kicks? I didn’t think things were that bad.” Crystal turned to the speaker.
The woman was of Chinese descent, wearing a green dress. Her hair was hanging straight save for the small mirrors that had been threaded through it. Crystal smiled as the drinks were placed in front of her. “Dianmu! It’s been…was it the Shang Dynasty?”
Dianmu returned the smile brightly. “You left when Wu Ding was coming to power. Said it was time to see what the rest of the world was up to. Promised you’d be back soon.” She had her own drink, something less potent than Crystal’s order, and took a sip of it. “If you came back to China during the three thousand years since you left, you certainly didn’t stop by.”
Crystal winced at that. “I did a couple times, love, but was usually in a bit of a rush.”
“Innan,” Dianmu admonished. “You never got along with the rest of our pantheon. You don’t need to pretend.”
“It’s Crystal now, actually. And…okay, fine, you have me there.”
The reluctant admission got a laugh out of the other goddess. “Think that’s the first time I’ve ever heard you admit to being caught in a lie.”
“Don’t get too used to it, yeah? I’ve got a reputation to protect.”
“Of course. Crystal.” Dianmu said the name slowly, like she was testing it out, and then gave a nod. “I like it. It suits you.” With that, Dianmu finished her drink in a single gulp and grabbed th other Umbral Kick. “Surely you weren’t planning on drinking these both alone?”
“I mean, I bloody well was, but that’s before a better offer came along.” Crystal held up her glass, and Dianmu reached over so they could clink them together gently. They both took the drink in a single gulp.
“I got your message,” Dainmu said, taking a seat as they waited for the Umbral Kick to do its work. “Is it really the End?”
Crystal nodded, already starting to feel the tips of her fingers go numb. “I’ll fill you in, though I probably won’t be able to get to the end before I’m well past sober.”
“Good. I always did enjoy your drunken storytelling.” Dainmu settled her chin on her hands. “So…” she prompted.
“So I set up a website to help me find the bloody Eschaton when he or she popped up…” As Crystal told the story, the Umbral Kick did its work, and by the time she got near the end she was swaying in her seat. They both had ordered more drinks to keep their intoxication up. “And then…and then he makes the sword. An, an exact copy of the one I was. That I was. That I had. And it – you probably can bloody guess – it had a Californium hilt.”
Dianmu howled with laughter, kicking the bar slightly as she did. “Oh you did not. That’s why there’s so much fuss! Because you made him nuke himself?”
The nod Crystal gave her had that overblown emphasis only the truely drunk could manage. “And Ryan, he popped a hole in the top of the bubble. So instead of blowing up, instead of…nuking us! Instead of nuking us, the bloody wanker buried himself!” That elicited another round of laughter from Dianmu.
“What’d you do about his, his nanoverse?” The other goddess asked, once she’d gotten her laughter under control. She smiled at Crystal, and after a moment Crystal’s grown frown registered for her. “Crystal? What…did I say something wrong?”
“No, it’s just…I shouldn’t talk about it. Here. I shouldn’t talk about it here. It’s…it’s secret.” Crystal held up a finger to her lips and tried to make a shushing sound. It was supposed to come out a quiet whisper, but instead came out closer to a raspberry.
“Well…can we talk about it somewhere else?” Dianmu looked around, almost like she expected to find half the club was now listening in.
“No. Not…not yet. I don’t wanna bloody think about it.” Sober Crystal, who had been frantically treading in a sea of booze for the last hour, tried to point out how sullen she sounded, but another wave of alochol buried that objection.
“Oooookay.” Dainmu gave her a lazy thumbs up. “So…what do you want to, want to think about?”
Crystal didn’t want to think anymore. She didn’t want to think about the end of the world, about whatever Moloch and Bast were up to, and especially about the posion that was eating at her nanoverse and her mind. “I wanna dance. C’mon.” She grabbed Dainmu’s hand and hauled her to the dance floor.
Dainmu didn’t object. Maybe she was just too drunk herself to do so, or maybe she sensed that her old friend needed this.
So they danced, and the laughed, and they drank more. They spent the rest of the night doing everything they could to feel alive.
They were so intent on enjoying themselves, in fact, neither of them noticed the figure that spent the entire evening doing nothing but watching their every move.