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60 Moving Forward

    I sit upon the provisional throne, exhausted. The ritual took a lot of blood and just about all my mana. I stand and crack the bones in my back and neck.

    Glancing down at my torn and bloody clothes I begin to remove them. My progress with removing blood from fabrics has been little as the process is still trickier than one might think. I toss the clothes to the ground and again collapse onto the throne. Removing a hot towel from my storage ring, I start to clean my body to a presentable state.

    I've been in the god space for a while, and it's very draining, but it was a good opportunity to experiment with my new weapon. As I wipe my body, I go over what I've learned in my head.

    The hilt, shaft, or more accurately the snath seems to be made of tempered blood, while the inside is an assembly of crystalline blood, hardened bone marrow, and some kind of network of neurons. It reminded me of a computer made of flesh. Anyway, the inside is typically not visible, but I was able to find out the internals when I intentionally broke the scythe open while experimenting.

    When wielding the scythe, you can feel a pulse from within. If I puncture or crack the outside, it expels a large amount of blood that seems to be a mix of my own and that of a night demon's. It doesn't seem to be usable as a source of blood, or at least it just felt like I was drinking water when I tried it.

    The blade that connects to the snath is thick and connects via bone made from the fangs. The bone can 'break' on command and goes from a war scythe to a more traditional scythe when broken. The blade itself is shaped similarly to that of a half-moon, which is a bit different than what I expected. Anyway, in its default state, the blade runs in the same direction as the snath extending the scythes length further, which is to be expected of war scythes. Excluding the edge of the blade, it seems to be made of some kind of red gemstone similar to the crystalline blood inside of the snath.

    The edge of the blade is made of black bone, and a mix of metals likely extracted from the blood. I chipped the edge of the blade at one point and watched as it slowly regenerated on its own.

    "Most never realize how versatile blood can actually be." I say with a laugh.

    Still the most important thing about this blade is that when the cosmic mana stream returns, it will not be added to the system as a simple item with a grade, but something more akin to a sentient creature. Basically, it'll have its own scaled-down version of a leveling system, one that  is unique to living weapons. As for the voice, it hasn't spoken since the ritual.

    I sigh and toss the towel to the ground and hold the scythe. The red moonlight reflects off my body and the scythe. I push back my white hair and stare out over the endless universe. Feeling the weapon I know I'll be spending a lot of time with from now on, an odd feeling of accomplishment and loss hits me.

    'I've taken some steps toward my goals, I've made some mistakes, there were situations I could have handled better, and things I would change if I could, but I'm alive, and I'm growing stronger all the time. A weapon like this is something I needed to take the next step. However, knowing how the night demons died it really stings my heart, but there's nothing I can do about it. At least through this weapon, they'll survive in some way.'

    I flip the scythe over. On the bottom of the snath are ten rings connected to the scythe blood network. The rings look like two long fangs placed end to end. Through the middle runs a ring of red metal which the pieces of titanium turned in to. I grasp the lowest of the rings, and with a crack, I break it from the scythe, causing a small amount of blood to leak from the scythe.

    I hold the ring up toward the blood moon and stare through it.

    "System, I haven't utilized the 'Follower' aspect of the system all that much. Wasn't there something in it about sending gifts?"

    [Yes, Host. With an essence cost, but the cost will be low if the Host is thinking about gifting the rings.]

    "Okay, well, can you send it for me? If I'm not here? I want to throw the others off my trail a bit. Especially Eden, who is by far the most suspicious of me. I've almost had slips of the tongue to her a few times now."

    [If the Host places the ring with a drop of blood and three essence per ring, this is possible.]

    "It's only three essence?"

    [It's a small ring without many magical properties as of right now.]

    "That's good. Then if I can do that, hmm, can you bring up everyone's loyalty or faith? With everything that has been going on, I haven't checked it in quite some time. Oh, and all I need is their name and loyalty. None of the extra stuff is necessary."

    [Understood, but please remember that loyalty is to the Goddess and not directly toward the Host. Loyalty will be expressed in terms of 'faith' or 'belief' due to this.]

    Name: Eden Groth

    Loyalty: Bound by Angel's Blood - Semi Fanatic

    --

    Name: Aponi Williams

    Loyalty: Marked with Goddess's Seal - Loose Believer

    --

    Name: Terry Allen

    Loyalty: Marked with Goddess's Seal - Loose Believer

    --

    Name: Sam Abramson

    Loyalty: Marked with Goddess's Seal - Loose Believer

    --

    Name: Jimmy Nolan

    Loyalty: Marked with Goddess's Seal - Skeptical Believer

    --

    Name: Bryan Godfrey

    Loyalty: Despised by the Goddess - Heretic

    --

    Name: Audrey Hennington

    Loyalty: Skeptical Believer

    --

    Name: Annie Miles

    Loyalty: Pious

    --

    I stare at the list with confusion, "I didn't expect Audrey to be on there, but what's much more surprising is Annie. What is she even doing there, especially with that high of faith! That's just crazy! I need to figure out how this happened!"

    I stand and nearly leave my god space only to remember I'm still in my underwear.

    "Oh, yeah. Oops. I also need to set the rings up, and I'll do the scythe while I'm at it as well."

    I change into a new dress and make sure the dress is long and runs to my ankles as well as my wrist. I do this to cover any wounds that have yet to heal fully. The dress is white with red stripes running the length of the dress. It's a pretty simple dress, but Eden bought it for me on the Moonlight, so it's better than expected. It also comes with a big white sun hat that doesn't fit the current climate, but I'm going to wear it anyway because it's cute.

    After dressing, I break the remaining nine rings from the scythe and set them up for the system to summon when needed. I only need four right now, but I can't walk around with them attached to the scythe, or it'll be suspicious. Additionally, I set up a separate summon for the scythe. It would be suspicious if I suddenly had a brand new scythe, so when the time comes, I'll bring it out along with the rings. Otherwise, it would be strange if I suddenly had a brand new weapon when I've been using weapons made from blood magic.

    Putting on my shoes, I hop up, "Anyways, let's investigate Annie. I need to figure out how this happened."

    I concentrate and soon find myself standing back in the stairwell. I exit and see everyone, excluding Sam and Terry, is still sitting around tasting blood.

    Aponi looks at me, "Hey, Eira. Did you change? That dress looks good on you."

    "Thanks!" I smile and do a spin.

    I sit between Aponi and Eden. Seeing Aponi with a shot of blood I take it from her hand and toss it back.

    "Eira, wait! That was nothing but plasma." Aponi shouts.

    **cough**

    I open my mouth and let the plasma drip from my tongue to the floor, "Sweet so sweet! It's like drinking a cup of sugar with a t-spoon of water."

    Eden and Aponi laugh, causing me a bit of embarrassment.

    I rub the back of my head, "Anyways, Eden. I wanted to ask you something. You are pretty close to Annie, right? She seems rather attached to you."

    "Yes, she'll talk to me a lot, and her brother usually just asks where you are."

    "I don't care about the brother!"

    Aponi chuckles, "We know you don't like him. But why are you asking about Annie?"

    "Yes, that guy is a weirdo. Back to Annie. What do you usually talk about with one another?"

    "I'll often talk about the Goddess, and sometimes we talk about you."

    I blink, "...about me?"

    Eden nods, "Yeah, about you."

    "What do you say about me?"

    "Nothing much."

    "Nothing much? You know what, forget it. Tell me, what is Annie's opinion on the Goddess?"

    With a bit of disappointment, Eden continues, "Annie seems to like the Goddess very much. She hardly even speaks when I talk about her. She just listens very intently."

    "She doesn't ask questions?"

    "No, she usually just listens," Eden replies.

    "Hmm. Aponi go get Annie for me."

    "Okay." Aponi gets up and leaves.

    It's only a few minutes later she returns with Annie.

    Annie smiles and quickly moves toward Eden, "Hello, Eden!"

    "Hi, Annie. How was your food?" Eden asks.

    Annie's smile cracks, "It wasn't very good, but I ate it." Annie replies.

    "Well, I'll try to get you something better next time. Anyway, Annie, Eira wanted to ask you something."

    "Hello, Annie," I say with a smile.

    "Miss...I mean, Eira." Annie answers reluctantly.

    "Let's jump straight into things. Annie, tell me. What do you think of the Goddess?"

    "The Goddess? I like her very much."

    "Why?" I ask.

    "Because when Eden talks about her, I sit and listen, and it sounds very good." Annie answers cheerfully.

    I look at Annie with confusion, "Is that all? What about her specifically do you like?".

    Annie nods enthusiastically, "I like how much the Goddess cares for her people, and I like how she always seemed to help the weak become strong. She never stopped thinking about her people no matter what, even when all that bad stuff happened. It makes me want to be one of the Goddess's 'people,' so she'll care about me that much too."

    "R-really?" I sit and think for a moment, "...Eden, tell Annie some more about the Goddess."

    "Oh, okay. Uhm...."

    Eden begins to talk about the Goddess recounting some of the stories I told her in the past. I listen very carefully to Eden. The more I hear the more I realize this isn't going anywhere. That is until I look up and stare into Eden's eyes. I notice that Eden's blue and red eyes seem to have a small glow to them. Annie has stopped talking altogether as if in a trance and simply listens to Eden's words with big focused eyes.

    I look at Aponi, and she only seems to be half-listening. It appears whatever is happening doesn't have as much effect on vampires? Or is it adults? Either way it seems Eden has some kind of ability to influence or inspire. Is it because she's an angel or because of her talent? Maybe both? I do recall some angels had a special ability that allowed them to rile up someone's faith, but never inspire it.

    'I need to test this further. It's interesting. Really interesting. I can probably use this.'

    As I sit thinking, the building suddenly shakes under the sound of an explosion and immediately the sound of gunfire follows.

    I smirk, "Ah, it seems the Crawlers have finally made it here. Even better. Aponi and Billy..."

    "It's Jimmy."

    "Right, Aponi and Jimmy, I want you two to spread the word among the hospital and camp. Tomorrow we'll be hosting a service in the Hospitals Chapel for those in need of spiritual guidance and hope."

    Just then, Sam bursts through the door, "Hey guys! I got the last steak before everyone evacuated to safety!"

    "Great, you're just in time." I store the steak away in the storage ring.

    Sam stares at his empty plate with his mouth open, "My steak!" Sam cries.

    "You two are in charge of scouting the Blood bank next door and the military's movements. Oh, and make sure you're there for the service tomorrow." I say.

    Sam looks at me with his mouth open. "What are you going to do...!"

    "I'm gonna go take a nap," I say.

    "No! I mean..." Sam tries to continue.

    I wave, "See you guys later."

    As I leave the room, I hear Sam yell, "What! I don't care what you're doing. I just want to know what you're going to do with my steak!?"
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