“I arrive to find bickering children in the place of noble goddesses. I can only assume that little Yola is the source of the squabble. You two must learn to put that mess behind you,” Gabriel says with a mocking sneer. He does not try to hide his enjoyment at scolding the proud and elegant goddesses. “Zaria feels pity toward Yola’s fate and Uli is angry about the mess that Yola left behind. After all these centuries, I would think the two of you could laugh about the entire debacle. Grudges are disgusting wounds that immortal beings should strive to heal before they fester.”
“The last creature in this planet world that should to warn me about the dangers of holding a grudge is you, Gabriel,” Uli declares, crossing her arms and smiling. She can hear Zaria barely stop herself from giggling at the comment.
“Fair enough. Now, may I ask why we are meeting?” Gabriel politely asks.
“We are concerned about the devotees that are in your hands,” Cessia answers before the other goddesses can reply. She shoots them a stern look before returning her kind, warm gaze to Gabriel. “We know that they are essential to your plans and that you have been nurturing them to the best of your unparalleled ability. It is that this prophecy has a history of . . . going wrong around the time the champions find each other. So, you can understand why the three of us are very concerned.”
“One of my greatest followers is involved in this as well and I am determined to see her through to the end,” Gabriel says, his dark expression becoming amused and bright. “I promise that everything will work out this time, especially with your help.”
“You have said that before,” Zaria interjects. She steps away from Uli and approaches Gabriel, growing in height, so she can lock eyes with her ally and rival. “How do we know that history will not repeat itself or that worse events will not occur? I understand that you are the forger of all destinies, but this game becomes more dangerous every time you play it. I fear that this time, he will win again and have the strength to return.”
“I am sure you are terrified of him more than the rest of us, Pure One,” Gabriel whispers, enjoying the flash of rage in the goddess’s white eyes.
“This is not the time and place for your quarrel,” Uli states. She approaches Zaria and gently guides the red-headed goddess away from Gabriel. “All we want to know is that the repeated problem of the past has been removed this time.”
“An agent has dispatched that problem,” he promises with a cruel smirk.
Zaria cries and lashes out at Gabriel with a fist of force. The spell hits Gabriel in the chest, sending him skidding along the ocean until he crashes into a distant tidal wave. The ocean freezes under Zaria’s feet as she pushes Uli away and storms toward the stunned god. Gabriel moves to draw his longsword when Cessia appears between them. The luck goddess blows a kiss toward Zaria, creating a shower of silver coins that spin through the air. Zaria stops as the coins hover around her and release a rainbow mist, which plunges the raging goddess into a trance. Uli quickly catches Zaria before she falls into the revived ocean.
“You enraged her on purpose,” Uli angrily accuses Gabriel.
“There are many cruel things that I would do to Zaria, but antagonizing her is not one of them. I simply used the wrong word to describe the situation,” he claims, gingerly touching the large dent in his ebony breastplate. “I will apologize to her when she wakes up.”
“I am awake now, Lord of Hell,” Zaria weakly growls.
Gabriel glares at the redhead until Cessia softly tells him, “She called this meeting, so I thought it unfair to make her sleep through it. I think it’s best to get our business tended to and go back to our duties, little god.”
“As always, you are the sense and stability of the gods, Cessia,” Gabriel says. He cautiously eyes Zaria and creates a magical shield in case she attacks again. “My agent did not kill our problem child. She is merely asleep and out of the way until it is time for her to be brought into the game. Unfortunately, this means that she is in the hands of our enemies, but there was no other way.”
“How do you know she will not be your downfall again?” Uli asks.
“I have faith in our champions. This crop has a few extra tricks that will make a repeat of the past much more difficult,” Gabriel proudly declares. He lets his shield down and reaches out to gently stroke the mane of his unicorn. “Still, it will be months before they come into contact with her. The two unaware champions have yet to step onto the path and the three who are together are too weak to revive her. This makes me wonder what the real purpose of this meeting is. The girl cannot possibly be the reason for your concern because we have never let her join the champions until the first five are gathered.”
“As Cessia said, we are concerned,” Zaria states, her voice shaky and low.
“I already told you that the children will be fine. Our enemy does not appear to be as ruthless and impatient as before,” Gabriel responds. He flexes his fingers until the knuckles pop, the noise loud enough to be heard around the globe. “He may have become bored with the game always ending so quickly. Maybe he will let events play out until he takes to the battlefield himself this time.”
“It is not only the champions that we are concerned about,” Uli says, averting her gaze from Gabriel’s prying, green eyes. “Do not stare at me like that.”