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This Roleplay is not a freejoin. If you want to be in the Roleplay, you must ask on the talkpage first.

Rules

  1. Zero tolerance for god-modding (excluding plot-specific exceptions).
  2. Do not troll or harass other users.
  3. Sexual content is prohibited. Kissing, flirting, etc. is an exception.
  4. Keep swearing to a minimum. Excessive swearing will be censored.
  5. Stick to the plot. This Roleplay has a beginning, middle and end, and they will be followed in a logical order.
  6. Introduce your characters in a sensible manner. For example, do not have them fall out of a tree for no reason at a random time and say "Hey, what's up". Bring them in at a believable time in a believable way.
  7. Surround out of character talk in ((double parentheses)) to distinguish it from dialogue and actions.

Invited Users

Smash the Echidna

Numbuh712

Banzai123

NoraKouba

Characters

These are the main characters of the story who will appear several times throughout it.

- Fire Users
- Water/Ice Users
- Earth Users
- Wind Users
- Lightning Users
- Poison/Plant Users
- Light Users
- Shadow Users

Heroes

Ichiro Keiken the Komodo (E-113:Xi)

The Masters of the Orochi Clan (E-113:Xi)

  • Homura the Crocodile
  • Eiji the Dragonfly
  • Shogai the Blind Snake
  • Mutoh the Komodo
  • Yamori the Gecko
  • Hebi the Python

Burst Pyrite (E-113:Xi)

Paroi the Guardian (Banzai123)

Mia the Magician (NoraKouba)

Smash The Echidna (STE)

Splice The Hedgehog (STE) 火 水

Kyle Tyris The Hedgehog (STE)

Keela Tyris The Hedgehog (STE)

Crystal The Fox (STE)

Gizmo The Cat (STE)

Kitty The Cat Chao (STE)

Thunder The Hedgehog (STE)

Zap The Hedgehog (STE)

Pyra "Inferna" Fireheart (Numbuh)

Shade "Tendril" Nightwing (Numbuh)

Terron "Quake" Subrock (Numbuh)

Aero "Cyclone" Atmos (Numbuh)

Lumina "Flare" Lightbeam (Numbuh)

Vine "Growth" Oakwillow (Numbuh)

Pyro Oceania (Numbuh) 火 水

Luna the Hedgehog (ProtectTheShadows)

Static the Hedgehog (ProtectTheShadows)

Statyx the Hedgehog (Kagi)

Fou the Phoenix (Kagi)

Neutral

Thetis the Wolf (Banzai123)

Savant the Goetian - Ryu

Aquella "Tsunami" Oceania (Numbuh)

Aqua the Hedgehog (ProtectTheShadows)

Summer the Hedgehog (ProtectTheShadows)

Villains

Demon Yamato the Wolf (E-113:Xi)

The Followers of the Void (E-113:Xi)

  • Minister 全て
  • Ceres
  • Konan
  • ???
  • ???
  • ???
  • ???
  • ???

Minor Characters

Karakal the Watcher (Ryu)

Gabriel Aungel (E-113:Xi)

Moral Shigai (NoraKouba)

Mei MaJikku (NoraKouba)

The Teams (Parts 3 and 4 only)

Team One

  • Homura
  • Hebi
  • Yamori
  • Mia
  • Thetis
  • Savant
  • Splice
  • Pyro
  • Static
  • Zap
  • Thunder
  • Keela
  • Crystal
  • Ichiro

Team Two

  • Mutoh
  • Shogai
  • Eiji
  • Burst
  • Paroi
  • Smash
  • Tendril
  • Inferna
  • Aqua
  • Statyx
  • Fou
  • Gizmo
  • Tsunami
  • Kyle

Plot Overview

For years the members of the Orochi Clan have worshiped Yamata no Orochi, an ancient spirit who is said to bring unity to the world upon its revival. However, all is not well as Demon Yamato, an emeny of the clan, plans to prematurely revive Orochi for his own chaotic needs. Demon will spread war and anarchy to the world of Mobius as he pits the wielders of the elements against each other in an all out battle of the forces of nature. It is up to the remnants of the Orochi Clan and a select group of heroes to put an end to his heinous scheme.

Prologue

In a far corner of the Dragon Kingdom, two Mobians waited in the underground cellars of Poppy Village. One paced madly while the other attempted to keep him calm. "Would you please sit still for five minutes, Homura. All this moving about is starting to make me nervous."

Yamori the Gecko, one of the Masters of Poppy Village's Orochi Clan, stood propped up against a stack of wooden crates while Homura the Crocodile, another of the Masters, quickly walked back and forth staring at the door. "I have every right to be impatient. Whatever news Hebi returns to us, good or bad, shall be significant to the clan's survival," Homura replied. Growing impatient as well, Yamori walked over to Homura and placed a hand on his shoulder, halting his pacing. "We have suffered through worse," he assured, "Even if Hebi tells us that... that the Followers are planning an attack, we will be fine."

Following the sound of a door flying open, Hebi slithered down the steps of the cellar with intense urgency. "What have you found?" Homura asked. Hidden by panting, Hebi corrected, "Not what I have found... What Eiji has found." Yamori had suddenly found himself just as worried as Homura was. "Spit it out, then," he demanded. As if somebody had been listening in on them, Hebi gasped, "The Followers are planning an attack!"

Meanwhile, high atop Mount Stormtop, Eiji the Dragonfly was spying on a seemingly private meeting. It was a meeting of the Followers of the Void, a group dedicated to the destruction of the Chaos Force via Vortex Magic, its equal and opposite. Their discussion was confusing but their intentions seemed clear. Many of the Followers were enemies of the Orochi Clan, and there was talk of an ambush on the recovering Poppy Village. "So it is agreed. We will make our journey in three cycles," one whispered. "The High One should be given enough time," added another. As the group dispersed, Eiji fled back to his home as quickly and quietly as possible. The Masters would need to be together to prepare for what was to come. . .

Part One: Opposing Intentions

It was evening across the western continent of Northamer. It seem like a peaceful time, but that was only its apparent state. A national news broadcast said otherwise.

"This is Channel 6 Evening News, I'm Cecelia Tyrran. Today's top story - a rivalry the way nature intended it. Several hydrokinetics have banded together over the last couple of days in Seaside City, home of the ancient Ocean Palace, and have declared some sort of war on pyrokinetics and fire users of any sort. The homes of many pyrokinetics in the area have been attacked as well. Notes were left on the scene with threats of further damage unless the resident pyrokinetics agreed to the terms of the battle. They have called out all fire users to meet them on the Grounds of the Ancients at Mount Mobius in three days to prove who is truly the strongest. More on that story tonight. In other news..."

A lone brown wolf was watching the news through a shop window. "Such unnecessary conflict. No doubt more people are going to get involved for no good reason. Makes me wonder why I came to Seaside City anyway." He turned away from the TV, unable to stand the stupidity of it all, and continued walking down the street.

The same report was broadcasted throughout Station Square and Green Flower City. A blue echidna watched the news from the comfort of his home. "what." He flatly said aloud. "are you serious..." He shook his head in disgust. "What the heck is WRONG with people these days!? First there was the Jelly Donut Protest, and now THIS!?"

"I dunno, Smash." His sister shrugged, watching from behind the couch he was sitting on. "It seems like the world just keeps getting crazier every other month."

"I mean, How do you go and declare a war against any person who uses fire? Pyrokinesis is one thing, but are you going to attack anyone who just so happens to have a Fire Elemental Ring, or a lighter for that matter!? What if you were trying to camp out, or just put on the fireplace in the freaking winter time? This isn't even racism. Heck, it's not even stupid. It's beyond stupid."

"Maybe they have some sort of reason for doing this?"

"What on earth would they possibly declare a war against fire users for if they had any sort of common sense?"

"Beats me. I'm just kinda throwing ideas out there." Pearl shrugged. Smash sighed and turned off the TV.

"Well, Whatever the case, they're causing unnecessary trouble." Smash said. "If innocent people are losing their HOMES because of this foolishness, it's serious."

"Are you going to do something about it?" Pearl asked, raising her eyebrows.

"Heck, I WOULD if I knew where Seaside City was." He stood up. "And I will in a minute." He walked out of the room, heading upstairs into his bedroom.

Meanwhile, in Seaside City, more trouble was brewing than anyone could have predicted. The hydrokinetics walked the streets with a strange sense of pride, but that would soon end. Two pyrokinetics blocked their path, looking quite angry. "Three days? What, you're too chicken to fight now?" one protested, "Ya, we'll take you on any day," added the other. They two groups brawled for a mere few moments before they were stopped. A mysterious figure jumped down from the rooftops. He wore a black robe with a conical straw hat. "Please, please, save the fighting," he said in a sinister way, mainly directed to the hydrokinetics, "We don't want them dead before the big day. But, if they're so eager..." In a swift motion the figure threw his hand from within his cloak. It was rapped tightly in bandages and now pointed at the pyrokinetics. Before anyone could react, he had shot a bolt of violet energy at the two, leaving them alive yet lifeless. They collapsed simultaneously as the figure concealed his hand once again. He turned to the hydrokinetics and ordered, "Go. Cause no more unnecessary trouble," to which they silently obeyed. Hoping back up to the rooftops, he disappeared from sight.

Back in the Poppy Village, the Masters of the Orochi Clan watch the news report with mutual disgust. "If Sato were still alive, he'd have a fit," Hebi commented. Homura left the room with several reasons to be outraged. Outside, he met with Ichiro Keiken. "What is it, Master Homura?" Ichiro calmly asked. With a brief hesitation Homura answered, "Go to the west. Some sort of balance is upset there, and I need you to at least find the reason behind it. Take this warp ring and return as soon as possible. We will need all the help we can get to defend against the followers." Ichiro silently accepted the task, took the ring and left. He, too, was aware that trouble was brewing, but the truth was something more than he could even imagine.

Rather far away, an odd-looking being wearing a tattered traveling cloak and hood had witnessed the destruction of many homes belonging to Pyrokinetics and Pyromancers. He did not bother himself to stop the carnage; he merely watched, his lip curling in disdain.

"Barbarians," he muttered, his red eyes surveying the damage laid out before him. He then turned and left, towards Station Square, which would be quite a walk for him.

Back in Seaside City, a cream colored hedgehog surveyed the movements of several pyrokinetics. "Pity. They could be out doing something useful." she said to herself, her voice wistfully light. She pulled her navy blue cape up into a cowl and dropped down from the roof she was sitting on, heading back home.

One of the pyrokinetics spotted her. "HEY! That girl looks like, eh, she's with them hydrokinetics!" he said. The others agreed and advanced on her. She turned around; they were quite loud. "Hello," she said pleasantly. "What brings you here?" One of the pyrokinetics snickered. "Look at her, acting all clueless. Let's get her!" The hedgehog raised an eyebrow. "Are you absolutely sure?" When they didn't stop, she shrugged. "Your choice." She thrust her hand out and one of the pyros went flying. With a clutch of her fist, another grabbed at their throat for air until they fell unconscious. She made a gripping motion and one began to float in the air. A jerk of her arm and he went soaring into space. The last one attempted to run, and the hedgehog made a waving motion. The last one's eyes turned glassy. "Tell whoever is your leader to leave Luna Astrid alone." The hedgehog commanded, and the pyro ran off into the distance. Luna tsked and turned heel to leave.

As Luna turned, she was stopped by a figure cloaked in black suddenly standing right behind her. "Luna, is it? I'll be sure to remember that," he began, "It joys me to see that even the most insignificant pawns in our plan can... fire them up. A word to the wise... we want them alive for the big day." In a flash of blacklight, he disappeared as if here were never even standing there.

Luna bit the inside of her cheek, considering what the cloaked figure said. "Hmm... something dark is happening, and I don't like it, I have a feeling I'll meet him again soon."

Back at Smash's house, Smash was sitting on the couch, packing some bags. Pearl came back into the room, holding the house phone. "Thunder said he'd gladly take you." She said.

"Great. I'll be ready to leave soon then." He said. They then heard a knock on the door. "Could you get that, please?"

Pearl walked past the couch and looked through the peek hole. She opened the door seconds afterwards. "Hey, Splice." She greeted.

"Hey Pearl. Did you hear the news?" The multicolored hedgehog asked.

"Yeah. Smash was pretty steamed." She said, looking over her shoulder towards her brother.

"I have every right to be steamed!" He called back.

"Heh, Who doesn't?" Splice added. Pearl stepped aside and let him in. "So what do you think? Is it just some random squabble between a buncha fools or is there or is there more to it?"

"That's what I'm going to find out." Smash said as he stood up, slinging his bag over his shoulder. "The people back there are in a lot of trouble if they're losing their homes and even lives because of this nonsense."

Splice's eyebrows shot up momentarily. "I should have known you were going to step in. In that case, I'm coming with you."

Smash nodded. "Great. Meet me at the docks in an hour." He said. "I've still got a couple more preparations to make.

"Got it. Leaves me some time to prepare as well." Splice headed out the door with a wave. "See ya later."

When Splice turned back outside, he noticed a familiar face coming down the street. It was a terrakinetic who live a few blocks over. "Hey Splice, good to see ya. Would you mind helping me spread the word?" he asked politely.

"Oh hey, man." Splice waved. "What's the word? Is it about Seaside City?"

"Kind of," he replied, "Some buds of mine heard that the toxikinetics and gaiakinetics were getting ideas from the whole mess up there, so we want to get together all the terrakinetics we can to teach them some manners. You and Smash seem to get around a lot, so I was hoping you could help spread the word to any other earth users you might see."

Splice nodded. "I'm gonna be outta town in a little while, but if I see one I'll let em know." He said.

Deep in the candle lit, stone halls of a known villain's hideout, a blue hedgehog with cyan streaks is seen, looking to be in her late teens. As she passes one room, the white snake within notices her and asks, "Where are you going, Aquella?" Without stopping or turning, she replies, "To train alone. I'll be back when I feel like it." Since he's been training her for over a year now, the snake understands that it's futile to try to change her mind about anything, and goes back to sparring with his assistant.

The hedgehog jumps up and out of the hole in the ground marking the entrance to the lair, deep in a forest not too far from Station Square. She walks off in the direction of the city. Soon she has arrived and finds herself walking alone down the streets of Station Square, a blank look on her face.

Hands extended from the shadows of an alley and pulled the hedgehog in. "Shh!" Luna whispered urgently. "I need your help with something."

"Why should I help you?" she replies.

"Let me explain, then you can decide. There's an ongoing conflict between hydrokinetics and pyrokinetics." Luna explained. "They seem to want to have a huge battle on Mount Mobius in three days. I want to pacify as many as I can before then to minimize casualties. Will you help me?"

The hedgehog remains silent for a moment as she ponders the offer. She decides that this would at least give her the chance to test her skills. "Fine," she anwers, "I am called Tsunami."

Luna nodded. "Thank you, Tsunami. I'm Luna. Let's go." Luna grabbed Tsunami's wrist and teleported then to Seaside City.

Tsunami looks around silently, her expressionless face never leaving her.

Early Morning - The Next Day

Ichiro Keiken walked the streets of Seaside City. The sky was still dark and lit with stars; it was only around three in the morning. Traffic was next to nonexistant, so he stepped out into an intersection to shorten his trip, if only slightly. In the middle of the street he was stop, but not by oncoming vehicles. Four figures in violet cloaks jumped out from the shadows, and made it clear they wanted trouble. Ichiro summoned his staff Moonriser, and took a battle stance. All at once, the four figures attacked him with blasts of water. He turned in place and twirled his staff with blinding speed, blocking each and every shot. When their bombardment had ended, Ichiro faded into nothingness, only to reappear behind one of the figures and knock it to the ground with the blunt end of his staff.

Though it appeared Ichiro was indeed fighting these attackers, it was merely a complex illusion. The real Ichiro stood at a safe distance, invisible to the naked eye thanks to his photokinesis. As he scanned the situation he became trouble. He saw only three figures when there was once four. One of his foes was smarter than the rest. It saw through the mask of his powers and attack him from behind, pinning him to the ground with shackles of water. He struggled to get free, but these powers of water were uncommonly powerful, stronger than most he had seen. Ichiro calmed down and waited, praying that his life's mission would not end this day.

But then a large gust of wind attacked the foe freeing Ichiro from its grip. Then a young human girl came to Ichiro's side and helped him. "Long time no see Ichiro! Seems you got yourself some trouble," said Mia.

"Mia?!" Ichiro said in shock, "What are you doing out of Hayashi?" Back on his feet, he took another fighting stance while his illusion was still in battle.

"Well, long story short, I was given a vacation and went to see what a city looked like!" explained Mia as she also took a stance.

The rest of the figures finally caught on and began to circle the two heroes. "Well catch up later," Ichiro decided, "Right now, I think we have a problem to solve."

As one of the figures advanced, a burst of psychic energy pushed him back, making him skid a few feet. Luna landed next to Ichiro and Mia. "Hello there. It seems like you need help."

"Much appreciated," Ichiro replied. The cloaked figures stopped circling and made their move. Each attacked one of the heroes, while Ichiro's illusion held one back to make things even.

Mia used wind magic and created a powerful vortex blowing one of the cloaked figures away.

Luna doesn't need to defend herself, because right as one of the figures attacks, Tsunami appears between them, blocking the attack easily and looking just as bored as before.

Luna, who had her hand raised to counter, gave an amused look at Tsunami. "Really? That one was mine."

"If you say so," Tsunami replies. She vanishes, reappearing in a crouching position in front of one of the other attackers. She brings one leg up, slamming it into his chin and launching him high in the air.

Ichiro fought back his opponent, unsure of how to feel. "All of this is so unexpected," he said. Luckily he was able to get behind the cloaked figure and pulled it to the ground. It's hood flew off revealing a female face with strange, glowing mark on her forehead (空隙). "No!" Ichiro gasped, "It can't be!"

Mia turned around, "Ichiro! What is it?" she said, but then her opponent got back up and kicked her in the face knocking her down. Mia got up, and then blasted her opponent with another vortex causing him to smash into the wall.

Tsunami and her opponent are still nowhere to be seen.

Ichiro backed away from the downed girl, with a distinct look of fear on his face. "It's... it's the mark of the Void. We have to flee, now!" Using his photokinesis he created a blinding flash, affecting only the cloaked figures, and giving the heroes a chance to escape.

Mia quickly makes a gap using space magic, "Hurry everyone in!" said Mia as she jumped into the scarlet hole.

Luna aims another psychic push towards her opponent and follows Mia.

A loud crash is heard, kicking up a cloud of dust nearby. When it clears, Tsunami has reappeared with her opponent unconcious, having just been slammed into the ground headfirst. Tsunami strides casually toward the heroes

Seeing Mia and Luna safe inside the rift, Ichiro was about to follow them, but stopped when he noticed Tsunami, "I'm not sure what your intentions are, but if you want to come with us then I suggest you hurry," he said with urgency. He stepped through to the other side as the figure Tsunami attack stood up once more. His hood had fallen backwards to reveal another identicle mark.

Tsunami ignores the figure and follows the heroes through the rift.

Mia holds up the gap till everyone made it through, and then with a clap of her hands it vanished. "Space magic, handy when in a jam," said Mia, but then she looked around, and walked towards Ichiro "I don't know how far you needed to get away so I just teleported us to the other side of town, if we need to go somewhere else I can do that," said Mia, but then she notices Tsunami but doesn't say anything.

"Getting far away wasn't the concern," Ichiro replied, "It was getting away at all." He stopped for a moment to think, muttering some things to himself. It was mostly incoherent, but the word 'void' came up at least a couple more times. "Those people attacked us with water," he said, "I had a feeling that the fiasco with the hydrokinetics was more than it seemed, and now it appears my suspicions have been proven. We should lay low for now, but later today I would appreciate all of your help again with investigation."

"Hydrokinetics..." said Mia, but then she trailed into deep thought.

Luna thought for a moment. "Hmm... To think I never thought a challenge coming from nowhere was suspisious... Yes, I will help you."

"Excelent," he replied, "I trust you will accompany me as well Mia. As for you... Tsunami, is it... Hmm, I'll let you make that decision on your own. Hopefully we will be able to find others who are willing to help. We will need all we can get."

Luna scribbled something down. "This is the radio frequency I use to communicate. Find a radio and call me when you need me to come back." In a flash of light, Luna was gone.

Mia just blinked, "Where did Luna go?" She scratched her blonde hair, "Oh well, I'll accompany you of course! Ichiro!" said Mia as she straightened the bow on her chest.

Tsunami remains silent for a moment, then replies, "Fine. I suppose it would be more beneficial for me to test my abilities against a greater number of opponents. Seeing as your team seems to be vastly outnumbered, I will assist you."

Ichiro was unsure of how to reply to Tsunami for a moment. "As blunt as that was... you're absolutelty right. We are outnumbered and outclassed, but hopefully not out of luck."

Later that day

It was just an hour after sunrise before a white ship appeared on the horizon. At the edge of the ship, Smash stood watching the island come into view. "So..That's the Ocean Palace..." He said softly.

"Woww! Look at that place! It's really beautiful!" A young silver haired fox said from a few steps over. Smash turned around, slightly taken by surprise.

"Well, good morning Crystal." He greeted. He then saw Splice come out of the cabin, yawning and stretching. "Mornin', Splice."

"Morning." He mumbled as he rubbed his eyes. "I fell asleep too late."

"Heh, well, Don't say I didn't warn ya." Smash grinned.

"Yeah, yeah..Say, is that where we're going?" Splice asked, pointing off to the Ocean Palace on the horizon.

"Yep. We should be there soon enough." A voice said from behind. A yellow hedgehog wearing a sailors outfit stood just outside the cabin door. "Nice to see you all up bright and early!"

"Good morning, Thunder." Crystal greeted.

Thunder smiled at the girl. "Good morning." He looked up at everyone. "Zap's currently in there making sandwiches for everyone. By the time we're finished eating, we should be ready to dock."

Meanwhile, near the docks in the city, the fire users in the area were up bright and early. A rally had begun not to long before to discuss how they would go about the battle. Many people showed up, some of them were not even fire users. They were just there to observe. "We have two days left to build our numbers and gather our strength," the rally leader called out, "Those of us here are indeed powerful, but our true pontential shines as a whole." The fire users in the crowd were mutually in agreement over the matter. They hung on the rally leader's every word, cheering their support.

From atop a high building, the brown wolf from earlier was observing the rally. Thetis was listening intently to the rally leader's words. Although he was neither hydrokinnetic nor pyrokinetic, he was curious to hear their reasons for this conflict.

Luna was sitting cross-legged on a nearby building. "While separate, chaotic, and when together, admirable." she murmured. "Fire users are quite interesting."

Tsunami is standing beside her, her eyes fixed on a single member of the crowd, a blue hedgehog with orange streaks who appears to be lost in thought.

Another black-cloaked figure was scanning his surroundings from atop the tallest building of the Ocean Palace. His gaze was fixed on the rally in the city, but it slowly turned to the vessel approaching on the water. A second figure appeared behind him, who wore a robe checkered in black white with a tailed hood. "You have everything under control, yes?" the first figure asked. "You worry too much," replied the second, "My abilities are not to be doubted. Know that patience is the key. The high one's plan will succeed, regardless of how long it takes or who may stand in his way." As the white ship carrying Smash and his comrads approached the docks, it was slowly greeted by several citizens who strayed from the rally. They watched silently, wondering what else could possibly go wrong in the city.

Deep in the crowd, Tsunami's target finds himself lost in thought. Man, how is this going to play out for me? he asks himself, How will it work, with me being a user of fire AND water? A single burst of flame and all the water users will be after me. Showing the slightest control of water will bring all the fire users to me. Not to mention the fact that the entire Water Realm military is already hunting me down. I don't think I can afford this many new enemies. In any case, I should probably listen to what they're planning. If I can manage to stay out of the way of their plans, I might not have to worry. He snaps out of his daze and immediately senses the four beings on rooftops. He slowly turns his head in Tsunami and Luna's direction. Oh no. Don't tell me that's....

Luna narrowed her eyes and did the universal 'I'm watching you' sign to the pyrokinetic. Then she turned towards the docks to see Smash and company's boat. "Oh boy, this really isn't the time for a vacation..."

Tsunami silently nods her agreement, glancing over at the ship.

Thetis had noticed the ship slowly dock, and immediately recognized some of the faces. What are they doing here? It's illogical to get involved in this conflict without reason. He scratchet his head, thinking hard. "If trouble does brew up, should I risk getting involved and help them? Or do I stay up here and remain anonymous?"

The ship stopped, and lowered it's ramp to let the passengers off. Smash and Splice stepped down together from the ramp, soon followed by Gizmo. "Look, guys. All the fire users have gathered up here and are banding together." Gizmo said, looking at the group.

"Yep, it's serious alright.." Smash said, looking at the group as well. Thunder began to walk down the ramp behind them. "Do you really think it's just some war that sprung up?" He asked. Crystal and Zap followed behind him.

Something soon caught Smash's attention at the corner of his eye. His eyes cut to the side towards the rooftop where Tsunami and Luna were sitting. "...No. There's definitely more to it than that." He said, somewhat quietly. "Something else is going on here..."

One of the figures who was approaching the dock was a familiar face. Upon seeing Smash and his companions step out of the boat, he broke into a jog and called out, "Hey Smash! What brings you here?" It was Burst Pyrite, who had fought along side Smash on a couple previous adventures.

"Heyy, Burst!" Smash waved. "I didn't know you lived up here."

"'Sup, Burst?" Splice greeted with a grin, which lasted only momentarily. "We're here 'cause of the whole feud between the Fire and Water users."

"I know, can you believe it," Burst replied, "I can't believe they have the nerve to think they're better than us. Just two more days, then we can show 'em a thing or two!" It was clear now they he didn't exactly share Smash and Splice's opinion of the matter. "But anyways, yeah, I live around here. Nitropolis is only about half an hour away. Did you guys come up here to help?"

Luna didn't notice Smash noticing her, and she had turned her attention back to the speech.

"Something like that." Smash said, shifting his weight to the side. He glanced over to the group behind him, attending to the speech, and then looked back at Burst. "We're really here to look into this matter a little more closely." He said, lowering his voice a bit.

Burst grew a bit confused as he began to head back to the crowd, gesturing for Smash and his friends to follow. "Look in to it? I don't follow," he said. He seemed to only be paying half his attention now, listening to the rally leader's words once again.

Smash walked with him. "Something about this doesn't seem right to me." He began. "At first I was just too outraged to even think it through properly, but while I was coming here, I realized that something about this seems off." He glanced over at the speech, and then back towards Burst. "For starters, Why on earth would the hydrokinetics just randomly start something like this? They seemingly had no reason. What is there to gain? What is there to lose otherwise? Doing this just out of spite doesn't cut it for me. I know there has to be something else going on here..." At the corner of his eye, he glanced quickly over at Tsunami before looking back at Burst. The others in his group were walking behind him. "I'm not sure where I'm going to start investigating, but I suppose we should listen to the rest of this guy's speech."

The words of the speaker continued, and they seemed to grow more biased as time went on. "For too long have we been subjected to such ridicules as these wielders of water give to us now. For too long it has been 'water douses fire', but no more!" he proclaimed, "Though dormant, Mount Mobius is a volcano, and it's terrain will provide us a significant advantage should we use it properly." He went on with more battle strategies and talk of honour for some time. Up on the Ocean Palace, the two figures still watched. Eventually the one in the checkered robe said to the other, "We've let them talk long enough. What do you say we put on a show?" Back at the rally, things turned to chaos. The nearby sewer grates erupted with water, and the purple-cloaked figures from the night before reappeared surrounding the fire users, now in greater numbers. "Of all the dirty tricks... It's an ambush!" the rally leader called out. The many fire users in the crowd shielded themselves from the water spouts and prepared themselves for battle. "Ha ha, what fun!" the figure in the checkered cloak said to himself.

"What the heck!?" Splice jumped back, startled at the sudden attack. Crystal cried out in fear, and Thunder and Zap stood in front of her to shield her.

"I knew something like this would happen," Thetis said to himself. "Jumping in without observing first would be foolish. The others should be able to handle themselves. Afterall, they go through things like this almost on a weekly basis."

One look at the cloaked figures, and Smash felt a pang of worry. "Are these guys really the hydrokinetics that are causing this war..?" He said quietly to himself. They seemed much more sinister than he had imagined. He grunted, shoving the thoughts out of his mind as he readied himself for battle.

Near the center of the crowd, Pyro stood, fearful of what was happening. Oh no! he though in dismay, This is exactly what I was afraid of! I'll have to fight back, but the best way to defend myself from water would be to use my hydrokinesis. But if I do that, it'll tip of the pyrokinetics that I'm an hydrokinetic too.

A brawl quickly began between the fire users and water users. Though they were currently outnumber, the water users seemed to have the upperhand in both strength and agility. Atop the nearby building, Ichiro appeared behind Tsunami and Luna. "Now would be a good time to help if you're going to," he suggested. Leaving them little time to answer, he jumped down from the rooftop and joined the fight, assisting the fire users at the moment.

Smash took advantage of being in the sidelines and began attacking the hydrokinetics from behind. Splice charged in head first, completely covering himself in flames as he barrelled through the hydrokinetics. Gizmo stayed back, pulling out a small, compact gun. He aimed carefully, and sniped the hydrokinetics with small, electrified needles which could paralyze a normal person. Thunder and Zap stood by, standing in front of Crystal to protect her. Though Thunder wanted to protect both of them.

Tsunami immediately appeared between the two sides, fighting of water users, while defending herself from the fire users behind her.

Mia jumped in to help Ichiro, she created a vortex that started to pick up debrise that not just blew away the hydrokinetics, but cutting their skin in different places on impact.

One hydrokinetic turned to find Luna's boot in his face. As he fell, she grabbed him and used him as an hydrokinetic-shield to protect her from the collective blasts from both sides. Luna tossed the unconsious water user down and sent a psychic blade at the hydrokinetics.

Ichiro was pleased to see so many people helping, but if they were to help successfully, they would need instruction. "These hydrokinetics are being controlled!" he explained, trying to talk over the roar of the battle, "Fight back as much as you need to, but don't hurt them!" Still watching from above, the figure in the black cloak said to his companion, "It's Keiken and his friends from before. Now would be a good time to get serious." The second figurew was silent for a moment then replied, "I suppose giving them a taste of what they are truly up against wouldn't hurt."

Back at the battle, the hydrokinetics all became surrounded in strange barriers (excluding Tsunami and Pyro, of course). Though the fire users continued to try and fight, they had no success. "What the heck is this?" one of them cried out in frustration. Now with no distractions, the hydrokinetics removed their hoods to reveal the glowing marks on their foreheads. They each raised a hand into the air and called out in unison, "Vicious Gale: Soul of the Void!" Ichiro barely had any time to shout, "Everyone get back!" before a powerful wind began to stir. Those who were in its direct path became encased in a strange purple ice, uneffected by common flames. Those who were not in it's directed path, yet still within it's reach, felt the cold air slashing against their flesh.

Mia quickly clapped her hands and created spacial hole in which she took Ichiro and herself in for safety. She created two more to protect Tsunami and Luna.

Tsunami fell back into her rift. Pyro burst into flames that consumed him. In another burst of flame, he reappeared out of range of the attack.

Smash and Splice retreated the moment they heard the attack starting. They stopped by the rest of their group, and Smash began to feel sudden slashes all over him. Splice felt the coldness as well, but he remained unphased. Suddenly, a large barrier surrounded their group. Somewhat confused, they each looked around, wondering what had happened, until they noticed Crystal was the one powering it. The young fox held her hand at her chest, and her body was glowing softly. The barrier protected them from the attack.

"How long does this attack last?!" said Mia as she stared through a small gap far from the attack,

"To be completely honest, I'm not sure," Ichiro replied, staring as well at all the poor fire users who didn't make it away, "These hydrokinetics are getting this power from the Follower who's controlling them. I've seen some hold onto a spell for hours. This doesn't seem like something they would take too seriously, though, so it shoudn't be much longer." He was tempted to go back through the space gap and help, but he knew that he could do little more against the attack than the others could. Instead he waited with Mia, hoping that no one would suffer fatal injury.

Smash watched as the fire users struggled against the attack. "We gotta do something." He said.

"But what?" Splice asked. "That barrier is preventing anything from reaching them, just like ours."

The wind did subside after merely another minute of blowing. Once it did, however, the hydrokinetics were gone completely, along with the two cloaked figures from atop the Ocean Palace. Many of the fire users were either frozen, shivering, or unconscious. Those who could ran for shelter while some stayed to help their fallen comrades. Ichiro stepped back through the space gap and surveyed the damages. "Smash?" he said upon noticing the familiar blue echidna, "It's certainly been a while. I must say I'm somewhat relieved to see you here helping." He then directed his attention to a frozen Burst, and struck the ice with hammer of his staff. It shattered, and Burst was freed. "Mind lending a hand with these folks?" he asked to anyone within earshot.

Pyro summoned a staff and began trying to free some of the other frozen fire users.

As Crystal let the barrier down, the group hurried to help anyone in need. Smash looked over at Ichiro, and was rather surprised to hear him say his name. He looked closely at him, trying to recognize him. "Wait..Hey, I know you. You're Ichiro, we fought in the World Hero Tournament." He said. "I'll be more than glad to help you guys out."

Splice helped the fire users by lending them the heat from his own fire abilities. He unfroze some by absorbing the ice, while at the same time trying to warm them up. Thunder and Zap helped by using the same tactics Ichiro did--Breaking the ice and freeing them. Crystal went across each fire user and began tending to their wounds. Her body glowed as she used her power to heal them.

Mia let every out including herself. She looked around with a sad expression. "I take visit to the world outside the forest and I encounter something like this... I guess one way or another I gotta do my job!" moaned Mia as she brushed back her bangs. But then she spotted Ichiro talking to Smash, "Hey isn't that?" Mia went up to the two.

Once the fire users were freed they fled like the other, save for Burst who stayed behind to help. Ichiro turned to see Mia approaching, and quickly deduced that she had met Smash in the past. "While we have a free moment, I suppose you'd like to know more about what's going on," he sighed.

While they spoke, Tsunami strided over to Pyro, who had stayed behind. Sensing her approach, Pyro turned to face her, only to find her on her hands, the bottoms of her feet connected with his chin, sending him high up into the air. She then performed a midair combo, finishing with an axe kick to his stomach just as he hit the ground.

Smash nodded. "Yes, I would." He said. He rose an eyebrow when he saw Mia approaching them. "Hey wait a minute. Aren't you Mia?" He asked, rather surprised to see her.

Splice ran over to Tsunami and Pyro. "Hey, What're ya doing!?" He exclaimed. "He's not one of them!"

Ichiro looked over to the sudden comotion, and decided it would be best not to intervene. "I'll explain once everybody's calmed down," he said, letting out another sigh.

Smash glanced over at the sudden commotion as well. He nodded in agreement. "Yeah, that would be best." He said.

Pyro looked up at Tsunami, clutching his stomach from the force of the hit. "Tsunami....we meet once again...." he said. Tsunami stared down at him with a blank look on her face and replied, "And again you fall before my power....brother."

Splice stopped, his eyes widening. "Uh..." He took a few steps back. Maaybe I shouldn't interfere. He thought.

"Hello Smash, yeah it's me. I know its weird finding me in a place like this, but I'm taking a vacation... well, at least I thought I was..." said Mia, and she also turned her head towards the commotion.

Smash nodded. "Shame to hear your vacation's being held up like this." He said, frowning.

Thunder walked over to the group. "You must be friends of Smash, correct?" He asked. "My name is Thunder, Captain of the Thunderbolt. If you need a quieter place to discuss this matter, let's talk on my ship."

"Sure," said Mia as she followed Thunder.

"That would be excelent, thank you. It's a pleasure to meet you Thunder," Ichiro replied, "Anyone who wants to learn more of the matter, follow. Tsunami, I suggest you settle your own matter out here first."

"The pleasure is all mine." Thunder said, smiling politely as he lead the group onto the ship.

"Come on, guys." Smash called out to the few people in his group who weren't paying attention. Splice and Crystal soon hurried over to catch up. Once they boarded his ship, Thunder lead them to the other side, where a table with a few chairs and a parasol were positioned. It looked like it was meant for relaxing outside with a drink, rather than having any kind of real meals. "Okay, so I understand you have some information to share?" Smash asked, looking at Ichiro.

Ichiro sat down and took a deep breath. It seemed as if he didn't want to share this information, but he did anyway. "All of this is the cause of an organization known as the Followers of the Void. They work to repair an evil essence with the potential to destroy this entire universe. They are still far from their goal but that does not mean they aren't dangerous. The hydrokinetics you saw back their were under their influence, and I fear the same can be said for the rest of them. I don't know what they are planning, but I believe it has something to do with the battle in two days. I would appreciate all of your future help in these matters. The Followers are identified by their black cloaks. If you see them, do not engage them." After the explaination he remained silent, giving the others time to let the information sink in.

Smash was silent. I KNEW there was more to it. I just KNEW it. He thought. Just what is it that they're trying to do...? We don't have too much time. Two days may seem like a lot, but...time flies.

"This is serious..." Thunder said, in an unusually serious tone. "I had a feeling Smash was right about coming here, but I never imagined that such a plot was underfoot."

"So," Gizmo started. "If we see them, we can't engage them." He said. "Why is that? And what do we do instead?"

"If you engage them," Ichiro began, "They will kill you, no questions. They won't just get it over with either. They will toy with you and torture you. The Void grants them a dangerous ability known as Vortex Magic. The ice spell you saw earlier was a smaller scale of it. When you see them, you run. They won't give chase unless you give them a reason too." He paused again, giving much thought to the potential consequences of the Followers' actions. "Oh Smash, I was wondering something," he continued, "You live in Green Flower City, right?"

Gizmo held his chest, somewhat frightened by the thought. "S-scary..."

"Yeah, We all do." Smash said. "Why do you ask?"

"If you live there, then why come all the way up here?" Ichiro asked, "You do know that the battle is taking place at Mount Mobius, don't you? If we are to carry out a more thorough investigation, we will need to go back there."

"That's a good question." Smash said. "I came out here because I figured some of the water users were still here, and I could catch a glimspe of their intentions." He said. "I didn't think that anyone would be at Mount Mobius yet, seeing how the battle starts two days from now. Also, I wanted to see how the fire users were doing."

"We were right to come here anyway." Splice said. "After all, we did find you guys and a lot of information."

"As before, if we do come across hydrokinetics, I can use my magic to escape, unfortunately it uses up alot of my energy depending the usage..." said Mia as was going into thought,

"Well, your thoughts are all in the right place," Ichiro said, "I thank you all for what you've done so far, and for what you may do in the future." A certain thought crossed his mind just then, and his newfound calmness was virutally erased. "Unfortunately, come the time of the battle, I cannot be here to help. One of my masters heard word of an attack on our village planned for that very night. I must be there to help. I will be with you until then to provide any necessary information or reinforcement. I hope that is enough."

And so the day went on. The fire users quickly recovered from any injuries they had sustained in the brawl. The cloaked auqakinetics did not reappear, and no more trouble was caused. Late in the day, several fire users and water users alike began their journeys to Mount Mobius, ready to defend their honour at any cost. The following day was rather quiet. Ichiro remained in Seaside City to patrol for his last few hours in the west, as the others returned to the south. The day of the battle finally came, and it was definitely a sight to behold. Fire and water users from as many as four continents gathered in the Mount Mobius area to aid their own kind. Though their paths did often cross, they saved their strength for the battle in the evening. It now looked as if this fight would indeed be taken to the next level, but it's outcome would be left up to fate.

Luna stood on a ledge, her navy blue cloak replaced with a faded purple one. She now had something that looked like a card holder strapped to her waist, and she was shuffling the cards. "Remind me to thank Dusk..." she said to no one in particular.

Elsewhere, mother and son argued. "Summer. I want you to stay out of this." A blue hedgehog said to a different hedgehog, an ashen color. "No! I traveled through a couple different worlds to get here, and I'm not going to leave just because you say so!" Summer said, his voice rising slightly. Aqua, the blue one, crossed her arms. "You do realize we're on different sides. I'm going to give it my all." Summer huffed and turned the other way. "Consider it payback." Aqua sighed. "Your choice." The two turned to go to their respective groups.

A safe distance from the actual battlefield, Smash stood watching the opposing armies arrive. "This is it..." He said to the rest of the group with him. Splice, Gizmo, Thunder, Zap, Crystal, and two other people had come. Two cyan hedgehogs who appeared to be twins had joined the group. "The battle is about to begin."

"Are we really going to just sit here and watch...?" Splice asked, sounding worried.

"Though we may be on the fire users side, we still have nothing to do with this. This is their problem." Smash reminded him. "After all, the reason we're here in the first place, is because we know that something else is going on." He folded his arms and looked forward towards the battlefield.

"I guess..." Splice sighed.

Thetis watched the armies gather a safe distance from the battlefield. A familiar blue figure dressed in green and red appeared next to him. "So you came to find out what's going on too huh?" Thetis asked Paroi. "Yes," he replied. "I have a feeling something bigger is afoot. This is all to big and public for random gang violence." Paroi then turned to face Thetis. "And I thought you never got involved in conflict unless you had a reason," he said to him. Thetis shrugged, then sighed. "This is all so pointless. I was hoping I cold find a logical reason for all this, then ignore it, but now some people I know are involved. I'm not sure if I should help them or remain neutral." Paroi made what souned like a soft chuckle. "Well, it's up to you to decide."

Up above all the commotion, the two figures who always seemed to be watching stood at the peak of Mount Mobius, looking down upon the Grounds of the Ancients. The one in the black and white robe was awfully calm, compared to the one in the black cloak who seemed to be ill at ease. "My apologies, Minister, but I'm absolutely sick of waiting," he complained to his companion, "There are enough of them here already." Minister hesitated for a moment before responding, "No. We cannot take any chances. If this is to fail the high one will be furious. They all need to be in one place."

From behind, a male figure in a purple cloak approached them. "What do you want?" Minister asked without even the slightest turn of his head. The third figure removed his hood, revealing himself to be the rally leaded from two days before. Like the hydrokinetics, he had the very same mark on his forehead. "The fire users are growing impatient," he said, "Should I do something to calm them down?" Minister chuckled to himself and replied, "No. Let the get... fired up. Your opponents are far more numerous, and the fear we struck the other day should be more than enough to keep them in check." Their gaze remained fixed on the world below, as the clouds kept them hidden from any wandering eye.

Tsunami was standing out of the way, watching the two groups prepare. Her mind was racing with thoughts and questions: Should I try it? Should I try and face both sides at once? I do have quite a bit of power, even without the Curse Mark. I may be able to take them. On the other hand.... She continues to ponder her options, trying to come up with an answer before the fighting begins. Standing beside her was Pyro, also thinking about the battle, though he had a much different question: Fire or Water? Fire or Water? Who do I join? Do I just stand here with Tsunami and risk another hit like before? Or do I go out there and join one side? And if I join them, which side should it be?

Mia views the mountain from the skies watching the pyrokinetics and hydrokinetics gather. "I have a bad feeling about this, but something is hidden in this plot, and like always, nothing can stay hidden from me..." said Mia as she was speaking her thoughts. But then she flew back down to the rest of the gang.

Luna caught Smash's group out of the corner of her eye and teleported over to them. "Hello. I don't think we've been introduced yet." She thrust her hand out. "My name's Luna. Luna Astrid."

The first one to notice was Splice. He turned to her, somewhat surprised at her sudden appearance, but shook her hand anyway. "Nice to meetcha. I'm Splice." He said.

Smash turned around to see the two shaking hands, and his eyebrows rose. "You...I saw you two days ago at Seaside's docks." He said. He was going to ask what she was doing here, but he realized that would be a stupid question.

Luna raised an eyebrow. "Really? Man, maybe I have to lose the cloaks."

"Hm. Well anyway, My name is Smash. Smash The Echidna." He introduced. "These guys here are all my friends. Thunder, Zap, Gizmo, Crystal, Kyle, and Keela." He said, motioning his hand towards each one as he spoke their names. "What's your name?"

Luna blinked. "Didn't I...? Hm. I'm Luna."

Smash's eyebrows rose. "Luna, huh?" He said. "...That's interesting...Anyway, nice to meet you." He held out his hand to shake hers.

Kyle smiled politely at Luna, then turned his gaze towards the battlefield.

Meanwhile, Burst sat and waited at the train station. Like Pyro, he was beginning to have second thoughts about his place in this ordeal. Being a fire user, he had a strong sense of pride and would defend it at any cost... but morals were standing in his was. He repeatedly snapped his fingers, lighting and extinguishing a flame as if here were playing with a lighter. Should I fight, and try to stop whatever's behind those crazed hydrokinetics... or should I wait with the others, and get to the bottom of things first?

Thetis spotted Smash's group in the distance. Paroi followed Thetis's line of sight and saw them too. "Friends of yours?" he asked. "Sort of," Thetis replied, "Helped to defeat Nusquam a while ago." A transluscent white glow enveloped Paroi's body. "Why don't we stop by?" he asked. "Sure. We were probably going to cross paths eventually." With a snap of his fingers, Paroi transported himself and Thetis to the other heroes' location.

Luna sat on a nearby rock as the rest as the pyro/hydrokinetics got ready. "Any idea when they'll start? I'm looking forward to training."

"I have no idea." Keela said, in response to Luna's question.

"It's troubling me." Kyle said, frowning. "The Followers of the Void...they have been waiting for this moment. I fear something terrible is going to happen..."

Smash whirled around to face the new group of people teleporting next to him, his body tensing up from being startled. He calmed down when he saw who it was. "Hey, I know you." He said. "You're...Thetis, right? Been a while."

"Hello," Paroi interrupted, "my name is Paroi."

"Yeah," Thetis said unenthusiastically, "so, I'm guessing you're here about all this." He gestured with his hand to the future battlefield. "I'm assuming something bigger is afoot."

Smash nodded. "You assume correctly." He said. "Something much bigger, and far more dangerous. I don't know what all these guys are capable of, but they're dangerous, and they cannot be underestimated at all costs. As far as I know, they're called "The Followers of the Void"..."

"I suspected as much," Thetis replied. "So, are the pyro and aqua kinetics being manipulated by these guys?"

Smash nodded. "Yes." He turned to look at the battlefield. Both sides appeared to be growing impatient with waiting. "The Followers of the Void are secretly trying to repair some essence with the potential power to destroy the universe. Though they're far from their goal, this is quite possibly one of their steps towards it." He folded his arms. "The thing I don't understand though is, what can they gain by doing this?"

Thetis nodded. Now he had a reason to get involved in the conflict. "I don't know. Then again, with these kind of things, you never know what they're trying until they succeed. So, what's you're plan?"

Smash closed his eyes. "...I don't know." He said. "Ichiro told me that we can't encounter these guys head on. They have this strange "Vortex Magic" that we've already witnessed a portion of back on the docks of Seaside City, and that was bad enough. Right now I'm just trying to keep an eye out and see what happens..but I know I'll regret it."

"So, let me get this straight," Paroi started, "there's this evil organization that's trying to destroy the universe by getting to different groups of people to kill eachother, and we can't do anything to stop them?"

"Hey, man. This is all I can tell ya." Smash said, shrugging. "Ichiro's the brains in this outfit, since he's the one who filled me in. And I haven't seen him all day..."

In the Dragon Kingdom, the members of the Orochi Clan prepared for the attack they heard word of days ago. Ichiro was with them, being one of the most powerful members of the clan. As the hours passed, it was shortly after midnight when trouble began to stirr. A black-cloaked figure walked the streets of Poppy Village in an obviously stealthy manner. Upon reaching an intersection he was stopped by a wall of stone followed by a blinding flash, several percise slashes and mild shocks, and a sudden loss of air. The next thing he knew, his head was surrounded by an idle cloud of toxic gas, and six figures were surrounding him.

"Only one of you? How uncharacteristic for the Void to try and distract us," the tallest one said. The intersection was suddenly illuminated to reveal the figures as the six Masters of the Orochi Clan. Shogai and Hebi were loosely wrapped around the cloaked figure, while the others stood circling him. Yamori lifted the figure's hood to reveal the face of a pitbull. "Ceres," Eiji began with disappointment, "Of all of the Followers to send alone, why would Minister possibly think of it as a good idea to send you?" Ceres only laughed and replied, "You fool, Minister is no longer the high one. He doesn't call the shots." Homura stepped forward and sternly explained, "Hebi can release this gas and any moment and kill you, so I suggest you do not lie. Tell us what's going on!" With much more laughing, Ceres answered, "The new high one has indeed sent me as a distraction, but not from what you think. There is a much bigger plot at hand, and there is nothing you can do to stop it. The world as you know it will soon be gone!"

Back on the western continent it was now early evening. The fire and water users were gathering at the Grounds of the Ancients on Mount Mobius, and several news helicopters hovered overhead to get live coverage. Several large screens on the buildings of Station Square were set to broadcast it, and people gathered in the streets to watch. The battle was about to begin, and it would be something that everyone would want to see.

"Just sitting here waiting for the bloodshed is painful," Paroi complained. He was sitting atop a small rock, elbow on knee, chin resting on his palm with a stern look on his face. "I'm sensing a large amount of negative energy coming from both groups." And a little of something else. "They're all pretty riled up aren't they?"

Luna was now dozing on the same rock. She opened up an eye and asked, "They done with the preparations yet?"

"Looks like they're going to start soon," Thetis said. "Are you sure we can't do anything?"

"Ichiro said we must not fight them.... This is their battle... But..." said Mia, she started to get tense as she stared at the the top of the mountain.

Smash glanced over at Mia, and then up at the mountain peak. He couldn't quite make out to top, due to the many clouds surrounding it. But seeing her tense up made him feel uneasy. "What is it?" He asked.

"I'm sensing something, from that mountain... I can't tell what, but it's not good..." explained Mia as she brushed her bangs back.

"I can fell it as well," Paroi said, "although I'm not sure what it is. It may be worth checking."

Meanwhile, the cloaked being from earlier had finally approached Station Square, less than half a mile from where the heroes were gathered, his keen hearing allowed him to detect their faint voices.

"Hmm...I wonder what's going on here," he muttered to himself, starting to approach.

The crowds in the streets were now awfully thick. People from all around were now in one single place, silent yet lively. The fire and water users were almost completely gathered at the Grounds of the Ancients, forming two enormous groups standing opposite each other. Down in the city streets, Burst approached Smash and his friends and called out, "Hey guys, I think it's about to start."

He stopped and watched near the back of the crowd, towering a good foot-and-a-half over almost everyone else, his sharp eyes surveying both opposing teams.

"Is this how these Mobians settle their differences?" he said to himself. "Through petty scuffles? Sad...I pray they're not all like that..."

Smash's gaze left the mountain as his attention was drawn to Burst. "Hm, alright." He said.

"Are we really going to do nothing?" Thunder asked, sounding unsure.

"Got any better ideas?" Smash asked, raising an eyebrow at him. At that moment both of his eyebrows rose. "Then again, the mountain..." He glanced back up at the mountain. "Mia and Paroi sensed something from up there...I'm not sure if we have the time to check it out, though."

Tendril and Inferna, who had followed Burst through the crowd, followed Smash's gaze to the mountain. Tendril turned to Inferna and asked, "Cera picking anything up?" Inferna paused for a moment, then replied, "She doesn't seem to be picking up anything specific, but she does sense something out of the ordinary."

Taking everyone's attention, like flies to a bug zapper, the screens on the surrounding buildings cut to a close up of the battlefield; it was finally ready to begin. High above, unseen from the vantage point of the news-copters, Minister and his black-cloaked companion still watched. "And now the fun begins," Minister muttered to himself. Back at the battlefield, both sides were silent, waiting for their elected leaders to call the attack. The water leader, one of the cloaked hydrokinetics stepped forward. The fire leader, the speaker from the rally, did the same. They met eachother face to face, paused, and passed eachother. They waited again, now facing their opponents, and gave a simultaneous nod.

As one, they waved their arms, and all hell broke loose. The water side was engulfed in and immense flame, and the fire side erupted in a torrent of water. The two elements wrapped around eachother in a spiral of opposing powers, stretching into the sky and causing the newsfeeds to fuzz with their radiating energy. The civilians down below watched in shock an aw, waiting to see what the outcome of this mess would be. The cloaked being with the large ears raised an eyebrow in mild interest, continuing to watch. He had no intention to stop the fight, or even help his fellow Pyrokinetics, since he had the ability to manipulate fire himself.

"W-What the HECK!?" Smash exclaimed. "D-Did they just..."

"They didn't even give any warnings!" Splice exclaimed. "They just attacked! What's going on here!?"

Mia grew tense as she saw the fight, but then she sliced the air horizontally with her finger creating a gap, in it held a airborne view of the whole fight, but from a safe distance. "Things are looking nasty...." said Mia, she clutched her fist hard for her inner desire to stop this madness, but she wasn't going to let it get the better of her.

Closer to the battlefield, Tsunami watched silently, still trying to decide whether or not to charge in and test her abilities on the fighters. Pyro, however, had decided against fighting them. He could tell that even Tsunami might not survive a war like this, and that meant that he would most likely be obliterated soon after he started.

Smash soon noticed the cloaked hydrokinetic, "Wait a minute...Is that guy one of the Followers?" He wondered aloud. "If that's the case, then...this is not good."

From the top of the pillar came mounds of smoke and mist, darkening the clouds that had already shrouded the sky. The newsfeed had finally cut out completely, leaving only static on the screens. Out in the middle of the street, a warp ring appeared for Ichiro to urgently arrive through. He frantically searched for his comrades, happy to find them in generally one place. In a mad dash to the other heroes he called over, "This is bad... very bad!"

The cloaked creature crossed his arms and gazed up at the towering pillar of fire and water. "Impressive..."

"Ichiro!" Splice exclaimed as the rest of the group turned to look at him. "What the heck just happened here!?"

"I'm not overly sure," Ichiro replied, "But it appears as if they've harnessed the elemental energies of both groups." The dark clouds above began to flash with purple lightning, showing that things were only getting worse. "I'm having trouble myself imagining what this might accomplish."

"I'm scared..." Crystal whimpered. "All those people are getting hurt. T-they might even die!"

"I believe this whole thing was a trap." Smash said. "Not just for the fire users, but the water ones as well. Both armies got together to fight, but whatever's happening now was what they were really brought here for."

"But..why?" Kyle asked.

"Who cares why or how they were brought here!" Splice exclaimed. "I wanna know what's gonna happen if we don't stop this thing! And HOW we're gonna do it!"

Ichiro sighed and said, "Everybody calm down, adding more panic to this will only make things worse." He was referring to the surrounding crowds, most of whom were scrambling to get to shelter. "I've seen them do things like this before, but never on such a large scale," he continued, "Those fire and water users are in a lot of pain, but they will be fine. And Kyle is right to question their means. Clearly this is something big, but we can do nothing to stop it if we don't know what it is."

By now nearly all of the crowd had dispersed, leaving behind Smash and his friends, as well as that strange, tall, cloaked being, who continued to gaze up at the pillar with an intense, piercing glare that would make lesser men cower.

"Something is seriously wrong here." Smash said, his eyes still on the battlefield ahead of them. "If I'm not mistaken...I THINK that the leader of the water users' groups, is one of the Followers." He said, furrowing his eyebrows. "Even if he's not, Going over the facts, I have reason to believe that both leaders are in cahoots."

Mia shut the gap closed when a flash of purple lighting hit nearby. She grew even more tense, she looked up at the cloak being as well, she grew upset but she made sure she wouldn't fly after him or her. He didn't seem to notice Mia, however.

Luna whipped a card from one of her decks. "Light Type: Reflective Haven!" A shield of light enveloped the heroes, protecting them from a stray flash of lightning hit it. When the shield faded, so did the card. Luna stared at the clouds. "That was going to hurt."

"Ichiro," Thetis said, "you know a lot more about this than we do. What course of action do you suggest, because I do not want to be some bystander in all this."

"At the moment, I don't think there is anything we can do to stop them directly," Ichiro responded, "For know, work on getting the rest of the civilians to a safe--" He was cut off by something frightening, something awful, something he knew all to well. A maniacal laughter, almost a cackle, rang through the ears of everyone around. It was deafening and sinister, and it brought with it a feeling of pure evil.

Luna glanced around. "That can't be good."

The laugh made quite a few people jump. Zap's first response was to grab onto Thunder's arm and hide behind his back, as was Crystal's. Splice and Gizmo's eyes widened, and Smash just looked highly disturbed. "Oh lord." He said, flatly.

The cloaked being's head shot quickly to the side, his ears perking up.

Tendril and Inferna froze. Tendril slowly scanned the area, trying to find the source of the sound. Down near the battlefield, Tsunami almost lost her emotionless expression from the shock, but managed to regain her composure before anybody noticed. Pyro jumped and looked around, almost frantic. The whites of his eyes changed to cyan and the pupils to dark blue.

Mia stood fast, she had no clue who this person was but she wasn't getting a good vibe...

The static on the screens slowly faded to reveal a menacing face, masked by a white bandana and black hood; it was the source of the laughter. "Citizens of Mobius," he began with a sinister yet playful tone, "Allow me to first assure you that you are not slipping into madness. I have indeed gained a manipulation of every network satellite in orbit." Ichiro stood below with a mixture of shock and rage on his face. He muttered the being's name under his breath, "Minister..."

Luna took a step back. "Maybe we aren't slipping into madness, but you seem to have a few screws loose..." she mumbled.

Splice, and all the rest of the group looked up at the announcement. "I knew this was bad, but..."

Smash overheard Ichiro muttering the name. "Minister?" He asked. "Ichiro, who the heck is this guy?"

Taking Minister's chuckle-break as a chance to speak, Ichiro explained, "This is the high-one of the Void... or at least, he was. As far as we know, somebody else has taken charge." Regaining his concentration Minister continued, "As much as it pains me to say this, your way of life is in peril. Nature has been thrown into anarchy and the various elements can no longer coexist... that includes their weilders."

Smash was just about to make a snarky comment about Minister's "pun", but the following statements caused him to stop. Now seeing worlds being destroyed and dimensions getting screwed up was bad enough to him. But fatally screwing up Nature Itself? "...What." Smash was so taken back in surprise and completely baffled by the statement, that was only word that his mouth could produce.

"And I suppose you're the cause of this?" said the cloaked being as he approached the screen, leering up at Minister.

On the other hand, everyone else in Smash's group were nearly frozen with shock. "W-Wh-WHAT!?" Splice cried out.

"No longer Coexist!?" Thunder exclaimed.

"Including their wielders!?" Zap yelled, surprisingly out of character. "B-But that means..W-what does that mean? What's gonna happen to us!?"

As any television program would, Minister paid no mind to the cloaked figure and instead continued his speech. "To those of you in the western hemisphere, this battle was only the beginning. I am officially declaring the beginning of an all out war, spanning far and wide. The great will stand tall as the masses band together... and destroy their natural enemies! The elements of lightning, water and wind. Fire, shadow and light akin. Earth, poison, one and all. Now is the time that nature falls!" Upon the end of his rhyme, the pillar of fire and water faded, leaving the fire and water users either unconscious or very weak. With another burst of laughter, his face faded from the screen, once again leaving behind static.

Splice clutched his chest, seemingly in shock from the whole thing. His pupils shrank, and his heart was beating rapidly.

"I...I'm at a loss for words..." Kyle said, blankly.

"You're not the only one." Smash said, giving a very disturbed look towards the fire and water users on the ground.

"This is...not good," Thetis said.

"What shall we do?" Paroi said, turning to Ichiro. "I doubt we can simply go and confront this Minister, but there must be some way we can hinder his plans."

Ichiro was lost in thought. "I... I just can't put it together. What could they possibly be doing?" he said to himself. Suddenly picture returned to the screen, showing a very frantic newsroom. "The outcome of the highly anticipated battle between the fire and water users has left many in shock," the news anchor began, "The effects have even been felt as far as Seaside City, the origin of this even. We now go live to our roaming reporter to give us the inside scoop."

The image switched over to a very rainy Seaside City, and a very disgruntled male reporter. "The storm which apparently originated over Mount Mobius has spread all the way here, and has brought with it a torrential downpour." Without any warning whatsoever, the reporter was cut of by a deep roar in the backround. He turned with a jerk as the camera panned to the left, focusing on a strange mass snaking in and out of the clouds above the Ocean Palace. With the rain and fog obscuring the view, it was impossible to make out what the mass actually was. The roaring continued as an equally unusual phenomenon occured. The bolts of purple lightning centred on a single building of the palace, then redirected towards the mass. After a bright, violet flash and an even louder roar, the mass was gone.

The camera cut back to the newsroom, which was now haulted with ah. The streets below shared the same silence. Unfortunately, that silence was cut short by another roar, this one from the skies above Station Square.

"This has officially been the worst day of my life." Luna proclaimed. "Even worse than when Summer cooked."

The cloaked being looked at the monitor for a few seconds, then looked away.

"Madness," he muttered to himself. "Nature is no fragile thing. He would have to be a deity..no, a god to pull off such a stunt..."

"Unfortunately...This is what we're up against." Smash said, his eye twitching from the insanity. "The whole world is in chaos, in less than a few hours."

Zap was visibly shaking with fear, his eyes welled up with tears. He couldn't even bring himself to say anything, but he was most definitely frightened. Crystal stood beside him, completely stunned. Thunder looked as if he wanted to say something, but he couldn't find the right words. "I don't understand..What do you gain from something like this?" Keela asked.

Smash shook his head. "I don't know, but for something like this I can't see anything to gain out of it." He said. "Some people just aren't looking for anything logical, like money or power. People like this, they can't be bought, bullied, reasoned or negotiated with. Some people just want to watch the world burn."

"I can't believe such people, I know there were corrupt beings from where I came from, but none that would bring such a chaos upon the world..." said Mia, she then out of pure anger tossed a wind arrow at a nearby tree slicing it down.

Ichiro stared up at the sky. All of the pieces were falling together. With another roar, a strange sight emerged from high above. Like on the news report of Seaside City, a strange mass began snaking in and out of the clouds. This one however was firey and brought with it an orange glow alongside the purple lightning. The only word that Ichiro could bring himself to say was "No," and he said it several times over. "No no no no NO!" The look on his face was uncharacteristic, because for the first time in his life, he was absolutely terrified.

"What...is that thing!?" Thetis said with fear and confusion in his voice. Paroi stood with his ars folded, a look of shock on his face, but he kept his composure. "I've never seen something like that before," he said. He then saw Ichiro's fear, and he realized just how bad things were.

Inferna took a step back, staring up at the mass. Tsunami stared as well, and for the first time since she joined Orochimaru, she found herself unable to hide her fear. Tendril glanced over at Ichiro. Seeing that he was also afraid, he asked, "Do you know what that thing is?"

"What the HECK is THAT!?" Smash exclaimed, staring at the mass with wide eyes.

Burst put his arms around Inferna in a protective way, whispering to her "Don't worry... it... it's gonna be ok."

Ichiro was still stunned, but he managed to get out another word. "K...K-Ka... Ka," he stuttered.

"Ka-What?" Thunder asked, desperate to get an answer.

"What...on earth..." Kyle said, quietly. "...can we do...?"

"...I don't feel so good." Splice said, faintly. He keeled over and flopped onto his back. He stared blankly into the sky, feeling completely overwhelmed with shock.

"H-hey! Splice!" Smash exclaimed. Splice didn't even glance at him.

"S-Smash..." Ichiro began, "D-Do you recall my dragon illusions... from the World Hero Tournament?" he asked. Everyone glanced at him, immediately. Smash began to actually look frightened, now. Without waiting for an answer he continued, "You are about to witness... My inspiration."

Part Two: Beginning of the End

The sky was dark, filled with a purple glow from the lightning, and an orange glow from the fiery beast above. It's roars shook the earth, and struck fear into the hearts of all who witnessed it. "Ka..." Ichiro muttered, "The Flame of Orochi."

"...Hoooly crap." Smash's face looked pale, now. "A-Are we gonna have to FIGHT that thing!?"

Thunder's face went blue from shock, and lack of oxygen. He was so shocked that he ended up holding his breath with his mouth gaping wide open. Zap and Crystal hid behind him, too terrified to even look. Gizmo, who hadn't said anything in a while, just broke his silence by letting out a loud scream. "WHAT IN THE WORLD IS THAT!?!?" He cried out.

The cloaked figure stared up at the Flame of Orochi as well, looking uncharacteristically shocked. Not since the Harbinger that had devoured his home planet had he seen such a monstrosity. He growled and shook his head like a dog, trying to regain composure.

Mia stared at the thing, "Oh my gosh... What is... this...?" gasped Mia as she looked at the creature in the sky.

Luna just stared. "I'd say to run, but civilians don't seem very capable of saving themselves..." She was shivering as bad as the others. "So, ah... basically, we're fighting the embodiment of fire?"

"In a way, yes," Ichiro answered, forcing himself to calm down, "Ka is one part of Yamata no Orochi, a spirit of nature. Legends tell of him being defeated long ago, and his soul being split into eight parts. Those parts were sealed within the warriors who fought along side him, and passed down to their descendants." He hesitated, fearing the mostly likely reasoning behind this cataclysm. "The fire and water users were used to summon Ka and Mizu, the souls of fire and water. The Followers must be trying to revive Orochi."

"Revive Orochi?" Smash repeated. "Does that mean that Orochi...is that evil essence they're trying to repair!?"

"So this Yamata no Orochi is an evil spirit of nature?" the cloaked figure interrupted, suddenly standing behind Ichiro.

Still staring up at Ka, Ichiro replied to both of them, "Of course not. The Followers are working to repair the Void, which will take decades still. Orochi is the deity of my clan, a spirit of unity. To be completely honest... I do not know what will happen if his power falls into their hands."

Luna put a hand to her chin. "If he is a spirit of unity, will Ka attack unprovoked, or does he have an alternative purpose more important than us? Maybe will he try to avoid combat?"

"Isn't Orochi suppose to be a giant eight headed snake?" said Mia as she crossed her arms.

Ichiro sighed, "I haven't seen anything like this before... so I cannot tell you what Ka will do. And yes Mia, Orochi is, or was, and eight-headed serpent. Ka is merely one piece of his soul, with seven others like it." He paused, then continued, "The one seen on the news report was Mizu. The rest still reside within the masters of my clan."

"So...What's it doing here?" Smash asked.

"Whatever it's here for, it's definitely not here for the scenery." Luna was trying desperately to overcome the wall of fear the surrounded everyone with some humor. It was actually quite obvious it wasn't working.

Several thoughts raced in Ichiro's mind, trying to determine the exact consequences of the Followers' actions. This is terrible. Ka could cause so much destruction, especially under their control. And what became of Mizu? He was flying above Seaside City just as Ka is here, and then nothing. His silent pondering was interrupt by a lightning strike nearby. It came down upon Savage Skyscraper, the tallest building in the city. To everyone's surprise, a figure was standing on top of it. He wore a black cloak like the rest of the Followers, but also a conical straw hat. Upon closer inspection, the figure was seen to be... Demon Yamato?!

Demon stood perched atop the skyscraper's lightning rod, eying the beast up above. "At least do me the honour of a face to face encounter, Ka!" he shouted. Coupled with another roar, Ka's upper body penetrated the base of the clouds. He had short arms and wings, with a menacing, draconic face. The massive, firey serpent opened its jaws, and shot a blast of flame down towards the building. His attack was unfortunately for naught, as Demon obliterated it with a beam of violet energy. Just like what was shown on the news report, several bolts of the purple lightning centered on Demon's location, focusing into his orange samurai sword. He then pointed it towards Ka... and fired. Within moments, the Flame of Orochi was gone.

Thunder gave a blank stare at Demon, standing on top of the skyscraper. "...Did he just...kill him? With one hit?" He said in a flat tone.

"No wait," Smash said, now giving a serious look. "That's the same thing that happened in Seaside city...but the question still stands. Did he kill him? What happened?"

Tendril's mind was flooded with thoughts and memories, the most significant of which was Demon's appearance in Sandopolis a few months before. During this encounter, Tendril had seen something similar to what he had just witnessed now. Not just the purple lightning, but the way Demon seemed to absorb a being of fire into his sword. He began coming up with ideas, possible explanations of what was happening. But being unsure of the accuracy of his guesses, he decided not to speak up.

Ichiro stood with a mixture of shock and disgust in his expression, staring up at Demon. He had no answer for Smash and Thunder's query. The wolf now had two orbs of light slowly circling him, one orange and one blue. To himself he recited, "So begins my quest for power, no longer shall the weak annoy. Now is nature's final hour - Ka's flame, Mizu's flow: Soul of the Void!!!"

As if responding to his call, a massive bolt of purple lightning struck the building, demolishing it in one fell swoop. The windows shattered floor by floor and the structure collapsed upon itself, throwing mounds of debris into the surrounding space. The heroes' view was obscured by a thick cloud of dust, but the intense crash spoke a thousand words. Savage Skyscraper was gone.

"Look out!" Kyle cried out, fearing that they were in immediate danger from the explosion. Reacting upon instinct, Crystal held her hands above her head, creating a crystal shaped barrier around the group.

The cloaked creature was standing a bit away from the group, and a large hunk of concrete and steel was hurtling his way. Gazing intently at the massive projectile, his eyes suddenly glowed, and he held out both hands, which glowed as well. Soon the chunk of building was surrounded by the same glow; the being was using Psychic powers. Looking up at Demon, he concentrated, and in a burst of Psychic energy he made the chunk of building shoot towards the villain like a bullet.

The boulder of rubble flew through the cloud of dust and landed on the other side, hitting nothing. The cloaked person looked only slightly annoyed that he had missed his mark, however. After a few more moments the building was completely demolished. The thick cloud hovering around its former location continued to obscure the view of the heroes, but those who were able could feel something incredibly powerful on the inside. "Mia..." Ichiro called, "... Blow away the dust." He hesitated, but seemed sure of himself. Above the incredible fear held within him was confidence.

"What is this incredible power I am feeling from there?" Kyle asked with concern.

"We're about to find out, I think." Smash said.

"If I may, I'll do it for you." Thunder offered. He rose his palm slightly as he said this, as a gentle breeze drifted by them to emphasize his offer.

Ichiro was silent. His lack of response was an indication that he didn't matter who did the deed, as long as it was done.

Thunder then gently held his hand out in front of him, soon blowing a large gust of wind towards the dust. Soon, the dust cleared up.

Mia pouted a little, just losing what hope she had of being useful for once...

Now they could clearly see what was left. Where Savage Skyscraper once stood, there was now a crater filled with rubble and debris. In it's center, a horrible sight. It was Demon, yet at the same time, it wasn't. He knelt down in the crater, wearing violet, draconic armour. From his right hand came a small spire of flame, and from his left came one of ice. He stood slowly, waving the two around like a new pair of blades. "We... are one," he said to himself. Ichiro stood his ground, waiting, watching.

Smash's eyes widened at the sight. "T-they...fused...!" He said, softly.

"Incredible..." Gizmo whispered. "What does he plan to do with that power, though..?"

"Can't be anything good." Keela said, glaring down at Demon.

Mia took a step back, she never saw anything like this before. She started too take out her Graf Besn (Broom shaped wand) out.

Pyro and Tsunami's eyes changed color, the whites turning cyan and the pupils dark blue. Three dark blue triangles appeared in each Pyro's irises, one just above the pupil, one on the bottom left, and one on the bottom right, with the points of the three triangles touching one another. The two summoned their swords, Tsunami's made of solidified water, and Pyro's a forced fusion of solid fire and water. Twin shadow blades materialized on Tendril's arms and Inferna summoned her sword of solid flame.

Burst coated his arms in metal, focusing his flames around them. The others were up for a fight, and he was willing to back them up, no matter the challenge.

Kyle and Keela simultaneously drew their swords. Kyle's sword glowed brightly upon being unsheathed. Gizmo whipped out his Hand Cannon, and inserted his arm through the back of it. Smash equipped a couple of steel gauntlet attachments on his arms. Splice soon rejoined the group, now giving a look of determination. Thunder looked down at Zap and Crystal. "Zap, Take Crystal and get out of here. Get as far away from here as possible."

"But..." Zap protested. "What about you?"

"I'll be fine. Take her and run! Now!" Thunder ordered. Zap nodded slowly, and looked at Crystal. She nodded understandingly at him, and the two ran away from the scene.

Ichiro began to glow brightly as a suit of samurai armour appeared on his body, and his staff 'Moonriser' in his hand. Demon chuckled slightly, amused that his to-be opponents thought they might stand a chance against him. "You still want to fight, after all you have seen and heard?" he asked rhetorically, "So be it. I will destroy you all here and now... Have at you." With blinding speed Demon charged forward. The blade of ice was held forward and the blade of flame behind him. He went for Smash first, swinging around both arms to slash at him with flame sword.

Smash held up his arm to block the sword with his steel guard. He quickly countered with a punch aimed for his chest.

The punch collided with Demon's armour, leaving him open to thrust the ice sword at Smash. Ichiro turned around, hardly able to keep up with Demon's movements, and shouted, "Smash, be careful!"

Thetis suddenly rushed to Smash's side and, using his telekinesis, managed to at least slow down Demon's sword before it damaged Smash. "Get out of there!" he shouted.

Knowing better than to ignore his warning, Smash quickly backed away before the attack hit him. Kyle swung his sword at Demon's side multiple times, and ended with a thrust towards his side. Simultaneously, Paroi generated six glowing white holy orbs, and sent them all charging at Demon.

{C}Demon easily blocked each of Kyle's slashes with the flame sword, and slashed with the ice sword to create a wall of ice to slow Smash and Thetis. Burst shot a blast of fire at him from a distance, but that combined with Paroi's attack barely made him flinch. Demon retaliated by charging towards Burst and grabbing him by the throat with his left hand, the ice sword now retracted. "You like the fire boy?" he whispered, "Well then feel the burn!" With that he thrust the flame sword through Burst's stomach, and tossed him to the side.

"Burst!" Inferna called out in fear. Enraged, she immediately charged at Demon despite knowing she was outmatched and slashed at him with her sword.

Demon raised his left hand towards Infena as his gauntlet took the shape of a dragon head. "Weapon Style: Icewater Cannon!" he shouted. The dragon head glowed blue and fired a powerful beam of ice and water, aimed directly for Inferna. At the speed the two were travelling, it would be awfully hard to avoid.

Inferna didn't even try to avoid the stream. Instead, she held her own sword out in front of her, calling out, "Weapon Style: Flame Guard!" Immediately, flames sprouted from the end of the sword, creating a spiked shield of fire covering her entire body. The intense flames caused the beam to evaporate while she continued charging at Demon, this time prepared to impale him on the spikes of her shield.

Then beam haulted, turning back into his ice sword. He was slightly impressed by the power of the barrier, but it was nothing that couldn't be dealt with by the spiritual embodiment of water. Raising his left arm, Demon slashed at Inferna, effortlessly tearing through the shield with his newly applied force.

"My turn!" said Mia, and then she clapped her hands together and vanished into the wind but in her place a powerful vortex was created and thrashed itself at Demon!

Splice leaped into the air, and threw himself towards Demon as a blazing fireball. The flames around him burned even harder as he accelerated.

Thunder moved to Demon's side, making sure to keep a safe distance between them, and held both of his palms out towards him. He blew a small tornado crackling with electricity towards him.

Inferna paused for a moment when her shield left her, then continued her charge, her sword encased in glowing flames. Tsunami ran toward Demon, stopping when she passed Burst. She glanced back at him and held her hand up in the air where a small sphere of deep blue liquid materiallized, which she tossed at Burst. It popped as soon as it came into contact with him, covering him in the blue liquid, which then begins to glow brightly, absorbing into him. Soon, the wound on Burst's stomach began to close. Without staying to watch him heal, Tsunami continued toward Demon.

The healing water began to work its magic on Burst, but for some odd reason, the metal on his body seemed to reject it.

Demon pulled both of his arms in, then flexed them outward as the heroes simultaneously approached him. He released a blast of powerful fire and water energy, then disappeared from sight. Ichiro looked all around for him, calling out, "Keep on guard everyone! He could come from any angle."

Splice landed on the ground, relatively unphased by the attack. The flames around him died down immediately as he stood up and looked around.

Smash knew this trick all too well. He just needed to concentrate, and he could catch him before he got hit. He stood by Gizmo, who was charging his Hand Cannon with plasma energy. Thunder rushed towards them, feeling that he had to guard Gizmo as he was the most vulnerable one aside from Burst. Kyle and Keela stood back to back, looking all around them.

Inferna took the opportunity to dash over to Burst and kneel by his side. "Burst..." she muttered under her breath, "Please be alright...." Tsunami and Pyro simply stood motionless in place, eyes closed, while Tendril carefully walked over to Inferna, keeping his eyes out for any sign of trouble.

"He can't get past my eyes..." said Mia as she was still part of the wind so her voice echoed. Mia released the power of her eyes and tried to search for Demon.

Burst struggled on the ground; he was barely conscious. The metal on his body rippled, trying to keep the healing water out of him, but to no avail. Burst sat up, at a loss for words after what had just happen. Suddenly, he burst into flames, though it wasn't exactly a surprise to him. Slowly he transformed into his fiery, demonic counterpart, Blaze. "Ugh... I hate it when your friends do that to me," he said to Inferna.

In a flash of blacklight, Demon reappeared behind Mia and dealt a veritcal slash to her back with the flame sword. Ichiro only saw him at the last moment and could merely shout, "Mia, look out!"

Mia reappeared from her hidden wind form however she only managed to dodge so little, ending up with her arm being sliced off. Mia fell to the ground unconscious...

Tsunami suddenly appeared just above Demon, bringing her sword down on him from above.

"MIA!!" Smash cried out at the top of his lungs. Thunder and Gizmo gasped in shock, and could only watch as she fell to the ground. Seeing her getting taken out so easily made all of their hearts jump. But it did a little more than that for Smash. A blast of energy exploded from Smash, forming into a fiercely flowing skyblue aura as he transformed into his high tension state. He glared at Demon, now enraged by him taking out another one of his comrades.

Demon jerked around and met Tsunami's blade with his ice sword. "Mizu senses your power... but you are no match for me regardless," he grunted. Ichiro ran over to Mia to help, and inspected her wound. The flame sword had burnt its edges, which brought back awful memories of when he lost his tail. He feared that Mia's wound, like his, would not heal this time.

Mia slowly opened her eyes, "I-Ichiro?" whispered Mia, she regained consciousness however she was still missing her limb, "Ichiro, if you can get my arm, I can reattach it..." said Mia,

Smash launched himself into the air with a blast of energy under his feet, reaching Demon in only a matter of seconds. He threw a powerful punch towards his back, strong enough to shatter a normal person's spine and possibly puncture their body.

Relieved to see she was ok, Ichiro nodded and turned his head to see her arm on the ground a few feet away. Demon saw this as well and shot a blast of fire in an attempt to incinerate it. Ichiro acted fast and dove for it, shielding it from the blast. He then quickly tossed it back to Mia and ran at Demon, Moonriser at the ready.

Because of the burns, it took a little longer for it to heal back together, but Mia managed to reattach her arm. She got back up on her feet and clapped her hands together, "Okay, now I'm mad!" she said, and then a large gap appeared in front of her right at Demon. "WIND TUNNEL!!!" she shouted and an all destroying tornado was blasted from it!

The cloaked being, however, was watching the fight, calculating the best time to strike. His red eyes were glowing faintly as he readied a PsycheOrb, aligned with IceFire, in his left paw.

Ichiro swung the blade of Moonriser at the gap and called out, "Mirage Laceration!" A beam of light flew from the blade, spinning like a boomerang. It combined with the gap to power up the tornado with light energy. Demon tried to block with his flame sword, but it proved difficult since his other sword was still occupied with Tsunami. He was forced to disappear again, leaving the heroes in suspense once more.

Mia closed the gap. "Shoot, where did he go now?" she said, and due to what happened last time she wasn't going to rely on her Eyes of Truth to find him.

Smash landed on the ground and immediately began looking around. He stopped before he could get himself too worked up, and was relieved to see Mia back on her feet again. He closed his eyes, and began to concentrate.

Demon reappeared high in the air, his arms raised into the sky. Both swords slowly turned purple, an awful sign. The two blades radiated with energy as Demon shouted, "Viral Flame, Vicious Gale: Soul of the Void!" Ichiro barely had time to shout, "Everybody RUN!!!" when Demon swung his arms down. An intense wave of violet fire and wind shot down towards the heroes, engulfing a major part of the street. Some of the heroes would likely recognize the wind as the spell that the hydrokinetics cast two days before, only this time it was on a much larger scale.

"URRGHIII!!" Smash screamed at the top of his lungs. He let out another blast of energy, but this time it was used to propel himself away from the blast area. Thunder grabbed Gizmo's arm and ran as fast as he could away from the area. Kyle and Keela quickly scrambled for cover. Splice looked almost as if he were about to have a heart attack and ran faster than anyone in the area.

Much farther away from the group, Zap and Crystal watched in horror as they saw the attack being unleashed. They both wanted to help, but they both knew that they would only get in the way.

The cloaked being, however, used his Psychic powers to divert the violet fire and wind around him in a sphere.

Pyro and Inferna released bursts of flame to lift up into the air and fly out of range of Demon's attack. Tendril sprouted wings of shadows and followed them. Tsunami simply vanished, reappearing at a safe distance seconds later.

The violet fire and wind crashed down upon the cloaked figure's shield, tearing it to pieces. Ichiro looked back and shouted, "Savant, no!" The Vortex Magic quickly drained all the energy supported the shield, and proceeded to do the same to the figure. Avoiding this would be near impossible.

Savant had not been expecting this to happen. His eyes widened as the violet flame quickly closed in on him, the sudden dispersal of his Psychic shield sending a bolt of agony through his head. The Vortex Magic then engulfed him.

Mia summoned gaps that took in the rest of the heroes into safety like last time, just right before they got hit!

Luna, being the way overconfident person she was, tried the same tactic as the cloaked figure, now deemed Savant. With a flash of lightning, someone zoomed in, grabbed her collar, and with one more flash, appeared farther away. The new figure glared at Luna. "Can't you take hints? I wouldn't advise trying a shield against an attack that just obliterated another." Luna rolled her eyes. "Yes Professor." The figure growled. "Don't call me that. It's Static, remember?"

Demon stared down at the street, disappointed that he had missed so many targets. Savant was quite satisfying, however, as he had much energy to give. Unfortunately, Mia's space hole managed to take him to safety before he could be finished off, so Demon slowly hovered back to the ground. Both elemental blades were now purple, matching the colour of his armour and the Vortex Magic. Ichiro was now worried, for he had hoped that Demon would hold back for longer. Using his photokinesis, he projected a message into the minds of the heroes: I'm afraid blocking his attacks is no longer an option. Do whatever you can to dodge, and only attack when you are absolutely sure you can score a hit.

Pyro glanced over at Tsunami, who then nodded at him. He immediately lifted his sword up into the air and stabbed it into the ground, calling out, "Weapon Style: Searing Surf!" A hot geyser of water gushed from the hilt of the sword, directed in a scalding flood at Demon.

Smash's group began to regroup together. "This is not good." Thunder said, looking at Demon.

"If I can just get a good shot at him...All I need is time and precision!" Gizmo said, still charging his cannon. "That's all I need...So cover me!"

Without even turning his head, Demon held out his fire sword to block the Searing Surf, and the geyser was completely absorbed into the purple flames. Ichiro listened well to Gizmo's idea, and thought of one of his own. "I've got it! We need to keep both blades occupied, then strike him at once," he explained, "Why didn't I think of this before?"

"I can give it a go," Paroi said, appearing next to Ichiro and generating his holy orbs once more. "I'll see if I can pin him down with my spells. I doubt I'll hit him, but it should keep him occupied for a while."

Pyro kept his own attack going, constantly bombarding Demon with a flood of steaming hot water. Tsunami was now on Demon's opposite side, her own sword in hand. "Weapon Style: Wave Cutter!" she called out, and began slicing rapidly at the air in front of her. Each slice sent a razor sharp wave of water at Demon.

Almost directly after Tsunami's attack, Paroi extended his arms in front of him and shouted, "Meteor!" Rocks rose from the ground around him, and ignited in intense flame. The flaming boulders then fired off in Demon's direction.

Seeing all of the attacks coming at him from different directions, Demon knew he needed to be more cunning. He spun both of his arms in circles, creating two violet portals to nowhere. Each absobed the bombardment of attacks just as his firesword did to Pyro's previous one. "It won't be that easy," Ichiro grunted in frustration, "We have to do something different. Mia... I need to do something a little 'risky'."

Pyro and Tsunami both kept their attacks going, despite seeing that it was pointless. Paroi did the same, shooting multiple blasts of non-elemental magic at Demon.

Mia looked at Ichiro with a little worry, "What is it?" she asked, despite her worry, she was determined to do whatever she needs to do.

Ichiro hesitated, feeling quite awful to put Mia in such danger. "...Fodder his attacks... then try to trap his blades within a spacial gap," he explained.

"Got it!" said Mia, and then she used her magic to counter the portals, and then summoned two gaps that engulfed each of the blades. Just to make sure, they are latched on by shikigami arms. Mia then decreased the size of the gaps till it was impossible to remove the blades from them.

Demon was surprised, having been so easily captured. He struggled to escape until he became quite frustrated. "Violet Vortex: Soul of the Void!" he roared. A purple glow began to eminate from within the gaps, and they slowly began to stretch as he pulled against their sides. "Quickly, attack him at one!" Ichiro called out to the heroes.

Pyro and Tsunami ceased their attacks. Pyro breathed out a jet of flame at Demon, while Tsunami rushed him, Chidori in hand. Tendril charged up a Chidori of his own, except it was purple instead of light blue. Once it was charged, he rushed Demon from the opposite side as Tsunami while Inferna added her own flames to Pyro's.

Mia took out her hat and placed it on her head, it started to pump her up. All of a sudden the winds started to surround her into a powerful vortex. It hit into the skies and then came back down even more fierce, as a tornado which she then tossed at Demon, "Eternal Winds- Destruction of the Monsoon!" she chanted, her most powerful wind spell.

Savant had been inches from what could possibly have been his death before Mia rescued him. He looked around, bewildered, his head still aching from having his Psychic powers interrupted.

Splice and Thunder placed their hands on Gizmo's hand cannon, and began channeling Fire, Ice, and Lightning energy into the cannon. It began to glow brightly with power, as he was nearly ready to fire. Kyle came up behind Demon, and attacked him directly. As he approached him, he chanted "Oh Gems of the Gemblade, Lend me thy power...!" He then proceeded to throw everything he had at him.

Static cracked his knuckles. "Watch and learn, Luna." He held his hands up, concentrating his energy. "Eye of the Storm: Indignation!" Energy sparked across his fingers and was unleashed in a single tricolored bolt hurling at Demon.

Blaze burned brightly as his flames grew in power. He held his hands forward towards Demon and called out, "Firestorm: Chaos Inferno!" An intense spiral of heat and flame shot from his hands and joined the other fire attacks.

As the attacks barreled towards Demon's location, Ichiro leapt high into the air. A holy glow eminated from his body while he shouted, "Hikari of Orochi, with thy light, give me the power with which to smite!" A beam of light shot from Moonriser, meeting Demon simultaneously with the other attacks. The result was a mighty burst of energy, harmless to the heroes but quite painful to Demon. When the light of the explosion faded he was kneeling on the ground in his normal form, panting heavily. The two souls of Orochi floated around him as orbs once more. Ichiro landed on the ground in front of him and claimed the orb of water, but Demon was quick. Still with much energy left, he drew his sword and slashed at the orb of fire, absorbing it back into himself. He then jumped into the air, and disappeared in a flash of blacklight. "Gone..." Ichiro muttered following his departure.

Pyro collapsed to his knees, panting heavily from having to use so much energy at once. Sustaining the Searing Surf as long as he did had taken quite a bit of power on it's own. Tsunami stumbled a bit, but quickly regained her composure, trying to hide the fact that she was also panting softly. Tendril shut off his Dark Chidori as soon as the explosion occured, yet still found it difficult to stand afterwards, indicating that the move still took a lot of energy to use.

Mia fell down backwards, she used up alot of her magic in the last attack, but she smiled as she panted that Demon lost this round. "We did good, right Ichiro?" said Mia, right before she passed out.

Savant glared at the spot where Demon had disappeared, then spat on it contemptuously. "Coward," he growled. He also cursed himself for not getting a chance to attack the villain.

Ichiro ran to catch Mia, just before she collapsed to the ground. "Yes Mia... you all did very good," he said softly.

Gizmo clicked his Hand Cannon into "Power Save" mode, and lowered it. Kyle lowered his sword, panting after using up so much energy. He soon stood straight and returned his sword back into it's sheath.

"So, did we win?" Thetis asked, slightly out of character.

"I highly doubt he won't return," Paroi said.

"But for now, it seems like he's done." Smash said. "Still, Keep your guard up. He may decide to jump back at us when our backs are turned."

"MIA AND ICHIRO, SITTING IN A TREE! K-I-" Smack! "Yow!" Static had whacked Luna on the back of the head. "Your first impression is thoughtful and detached, and then you open your mouth." he scolded. Static was leaning on his tesla sword, feeling drained like the rest of the group. Splice gave Luna and Static a weird look before turning to meet back with the others.

Zap and Crystal ran back to the group. "Is everyone alright!?" Crystal called out.

"I'll be alright," Pyro replied, "I'm just.....low on energy."

Mia managed to wake up a a bit, but then she brought up a good question, "Will we fight more enemies like this one?"

Despite being somewhat distracted, Ichiro answered, "I cannot say for sure. If Demon manages to get his hands on the other six souls, we could be in grave danger... I must return to the Dragon Kingdom to protect my masters." He helped Mia back up to her feet, then stepped off a few feet to the side and pulled a warp ring from within his pocket.

"Okay, but what do we do?" Thunder asked, walking towards them.

"Yes," Thetis said, running towards the others. "What can we do to help with all this? Right now it feels like I'm just sitting on the sidelines."

"Perhaps..." Ichiro began, "Perhaps if you all accompanied me to Poppy Village, the masters and I could figure out a way for you to help." He hesitated, and then asked, "You may be putting your lives in danger... but will you join me?"

"When is it not in danger," Thetis said sarcastically, "and our lives will be in danger anyway if these guys are left alone."

"I agree," Paroi said, "we'll be in danger anyway, only we have a chance to do something about it."

Pyro rose slowly to his feet. He was still panting, but he seemed to have recovered a bit. "You can count me in," he said, "I'm not going to let the world fall into the hands of these guys." Tsunami shrugged and replied, "I might as well come too. They appear to be very powerful opponents. The perfect people to test my abilities on."

"I believe I speak for everyone when I say that we'll go." Smash said. "Like they said, We'll be in danger anyway and only we have a chance to do something about it. We've faced threats like these before, this is nothing new."

Splice nodded. "Yeah. What he said."

"Yeah, I'm always going into danger when doing my job, so what else is new?" said Mia as she gave off a confidant smile.

Savant crossed his arms.

"I may as well..."

Static nodded. "We'll come." Luna nodded in agreement. "Hopefully we can be of some use."

Ichiro smiled, happy to see he had so much support. "I truly appreciate all that you are willing to do. Poppy Village awaits your presence. Rest well tonight. Tomorrow, we will meet at the train station, and I will take you all to the village. There we can formulate a plan of action, and become better acquainted with our allies." He put the warp ring back into his pocket, nodded, and then faded away into the sunlight as he walked off.

"So..." Paroi started, breaking the silence, "we are we going to stay? Unless we plan on sleeping on the streets."

"Well... maybe some sort of inn?" Luna suggested weakly. "Any of those around here?"

"I wouldn't know," Paroi said, "I only recently arrived."

"If you all need a place to stay, you're welcome aboard my ship." Thunder offered. "That's where I'll be. Come down by the docks if you're interested." He then left, taking the two kids with him.

The next morning, Ichiro arrived back at the train station in Station Square bright and early. To his surprise, Burst was already there waiting for him. Before Ichiro could even get a word out he said, "I don't have much to do other than these 'save-the-world' gigs, so I just stayed around here." Ichiro was silent for a moment, then replied, "Alright then. Now we wait for the others."

Paroi suddenly appeared in a flash of light, arms folded and an impatient grin on his face. "Ready to go," he said. Thetis walked in a few moments later, looking as unenthusiastic as ever.

Static was next to arrive, in the typical zoom-flash. He had latched on to Aqua, the latter of the two looking dazed from the sudden speed boost. "Luna's not here; she's escorting Summer back home." Static said, standing tall. "This is Aqua, my wife." The still dazed blue hedgehog didn't respond, causing her counterpart to sigh.

Tendril and Inferna landed nearby, Inferna on jets of flame and Tendril sporting his wings of shadow. Pyro landed beside them as Tsunami suddenly materialized, reclining high on the wall of the station.

Savant then arrived, flying, and landed silently a few feet away from the group.

"So, are we ready to go?" Thetis asked.

Static did a casual look around. "We're missing Mia and Smash's crew. Should we wait?"

Soon, the group heard a motorcycle on it's way. At the same time, they could see Thunder's ship coming into view from the beach beside the hotel. Thunder, Zap, Kyle, Keela and Crystal were all aboard the ship, meanwhile Smash was riding his motorcycle towards them from down the street. They could see Splice running beside him, and Gizmo sitting behind him.

Mia came walking in from a spacial gap while tightening the green bow in her hair, she gave off a rather confident smile. "Sorry I'm late," she said as she shrugged,

Smash drifted right past the group, swerving around to park next to the staircase. He stopped just before hitting it, and got off. "Sorry 'bout the wait." He said as he got off with Gizmo right behind him.

Ichiro looked back and forth at the small army that gathered before him. "It seems we have everyone," he commented, "Anything else before we depart?"

"Actually, yeah." A mysterious voice called out. To most it was the voice of a stranger, but to others it was quite familiar...

Without even turning his head, Ichiro responded, "And you are?"

"Whoa, voice out of nowhere. It'd be creepier if it was night." Static commented.

"The heck? Who's there?" Smash asked, looking around.

Savant didn't seem so shocked at this mysterious voice. Now what? he thought to himself.

A loud, brief whistle rings through the air, bringing attention to its source. "Over here people!" the voice said.

Savant brought his cold gaze over to the source of the whistle.

Smash walked towards the source, wanting to get this over with quickly.

Still looking at the heroes and not the mysterious new figure, Ichiro called to him, "Making such an entrance seems quite unnecessary. Why not just join us and explain your motives like any regular person would?"

The source of the whistle was a green hedgehog with yellow stripes across his body, with a tan muzzle and vaguely bolt-shaped chest. His eyes were blue like electricity. His attire made it clear he wasn't rural, as he wore black arm-braces over his forearms, and gloves with yellow stripes along the fingers. His shoes are bright green, with yellow stripes running parallel with sky blue florescent details running down the middle. The expression he wore was difficult to read as he looked at the crowd. "The name's Statyx." he said as he introduced himself. "And I'm far from "any regular person". Then again, I don't really believe anyone is "regular"." Statyx said, smirking.

Savant quietly observed this newcomer who called himself Statyx, those cold yet intelligent eyes watching intensely. The hedgehog had a fighter's aura, that was for sure, and a loyal heart; he was a bit too cocky and confident for the Goetian's liking, however.

"Merely a choice of words," Ichiro commented. He then turned to Statyx and asked, "Now, would you mind telling us why you decided to disturb us when we were just about to leave?"

The green hedgehog turned his attention to Ichiro. "Cause I was supposed to be here a long time ago."

Ichiro chuckled for some odd reason. "That doesn't exactly answer my question," he stated.

"Well then, how's this:" Statyx started off. "I'm an elite G.U.N. agent who was sent in to deal with the fire n' water riot. Unfortunately I got lost, and by the time I got there everything had gone to Hell."

This time Burst stepped forward and responded, "G.U.N? What're they sending new agents for? They already had guys on the inside." Ichiro hushed him and ask, "If you are with G.U.N, then you must be on our side. Will you join us on our quest?"

Aqua, who had finally steadied herself, began biting the inside of her cheek. "Whenever the government gets involved, you know the situation is bad."

"Seriously..." Smash agreed, frowning uncertainly. "I'd prefer not to have any interactions with the government, period."

"Well," Statyx said, crossing his arms and looking at the group. As far as he could tell, it was a rag-tag group of strangers brought together entirely by coincidence. In other words, a video-game group of heroes set in reality. "what exactly does this quest of yours entail? If it's in line with my mission I could help, but if it happens to have different goals, I'll have to decline. And if it directly conflicts against my mission...." Statyx raised up his right hand so it was level with his face. Out of nowhere, his hand was covered in crackling electricity. "we can take care of that here and now."

Ichiro paused for a moment, contemplating Statyx's proposition. "We are going to my village in the Dragon Kingdom," he began, "My clan has rivaled with this enemy for decades. With the greatly generous services volunteered by these folk, we will plan out our method of combating them. The fate of existence as we know may depend on our success, so we need all the help we can get."

Static tilted his head. "You look like a kid, but your energy's been around a lot longer than that." He frowned. "You practically radiate electrokinisis. Very powerful." Static's hand began sparking with his own electricity. "But know that you aren't the only one here with that power."

Smash glanced back and forth between the two electrokinetics. "Hm. Well that makes four of us, if I'm not mistaken." He said. He then looked to the side, seeing the rest of his comrades walking over. "And here's the other two right now.

Thunder stopped once he and the rest of them made it over. "Good morning, everyone. I hope we're not late." He greeted. Zap stood right by his side, while Crystal, Kyle and Keela were behind the two.

"Heh," Statyx smirked, speaking to Static. "you have no idea what I'm capable of. Fortunately, it seems that you guys aren't my enemies... for now." The green hedgehog released the electricity, and dropped his hand to his side.

Ichiro pulled his warp ring from his pocket and said, "Excellent, I believe we are finally ready to depart. I would appreciate the help of anyone with teleportation powers, as transporting so many people requires more energy than a single warp ring can provide."

Static, with a parting glare at Statyx, turned to Ichiro. "I could teleport about two people to take the stress off the ring's power, but I'm not sure if I could amplify it."

Statyx gave a gentleman's bow, only further displaying his cheeky attitude. "Would an adept and experienced user of Chaos Control be what you're looking for?" he jokingly asked, looking up at Ichiro with a cheeky grin.

"I might be able to, considering I teleported here," Paroi said.

"You would all be more than acceptable," Ichiro replied. He then held out the ring and said them, "Grab onto the ring, if you please."

Gizmo seemed rather irritated with Statyx' cocky attitude, but Smash just shrugged it off. Zap on the other hand, was pouting. "I-I thought we were going to ride the train..." He said quietly, feeling rather disappointed.

Burst chuckled a little, then said to Zap, "Don't worry little buddy, there's way more fun than riding a train where we're going."

Savant simply glared at Statyx, all previous thoughts about the hedgehog vanishing. The Goetian wasn't capable teleporting more than 5 feet, however, so he'd be virtually useless for this task.

"Um..." Mia started up, "My space magic allows transportation, I can get multiple people anywhere!"

"So, can we go now?" Smash asked, beginning to feel impatient. "I think we've wasted enough time around here. Let's hurry things along, shall we?"

"Yes, Lets." Thunder agreed. The group began to gather around Ichiro, leaving enough room for the ones helping with the warp ring.

Static put his hand over the ring, allowing electricity to flow into it. Soon he stepped back. "I've done my part."

Statyx walked up nonchalantly, looking at the Warp Ring. "If I recall, Warp Rings run off of Chaos Energy, so I imagine a good dose of that might be more helpful than filling it with a mesh-mash of different powers that could do who-knows-what." The green hedgehog looked up at Ichiro. "Got any other Chaos users around here?"

"I thought you said you could do it yourself." Smash said, frowning.

"I'm sure that in such a large group there are at least a few," Ichiro answered, "But for now, I doubt we will need many volunteers to provide the power needed to transport all of us."

Gizmo shrugged and walked over to the warp ring, removing his glove and replacing it with another one. He placed his hand on the warp ring and gripped it firmly. The glove he had put on was darker than his previous one, and had a small crystal fragment on the back of it--which began to glow as he powered the ring with Chaos Energy. "It's not much, but it should be enough." He said.

Statyx looked at Smash and simply shrugged. "I could," he said bluntly. "but then I wouldn't get valuable information like who the other Chaos users are around here and how powerful they are." The green hedgehog crossed his arms and smirked. "As far as I know we're on the same side. But that's 'as far as I know': I don't intend to be caught off-guard in case I'm proven wrong."

"Hm. I suppose you have a point." He responded. "Anyway, that should be enough, right? Let's get going."

Ichiro spun the warp ring in his hand, and it expanded to become a large portal. "I'm fairly certain the energy provided will be more than enough to sustain the warp for all of us," Ichiro assured, "On the other side is Poppy Village in the Dragon Kingdom, my home. After you." He gestured in a mannerly fashion to the warp ring, signaling the others to go through.

Tendril and Inferna stepped into the ring, followed by Pyro and Tsunami.

Gizmo walked through next, soon followed by Splice. Smash glanced over at the rest of the group before heading inside. Kyle and Keela then headed through the ring, interested in the new village they were about to visit. Thunder took one last glance at his ship, wondering if it would be alright by itself, before heading inside. Zap seemed hesitant at first, but Crystal gave him a little nudge and lead him inside.

Static gave a slight bow and gestured for Aqua to go in first. "You're such a gentleman." she frowned, then walked in. Static snickered and followed.

Mia straightened her hair bow and then walked into the ring...

This form of travel intrigued Paroi, since he had never heard of a warp ring before now. We walked into the portal with an almost childlike look of interest on his face. He was immediately followed by Thetis, who simply walked into the portal without showing a single shred of emotion other than impatience.

Statyx tapped his foot with his arms crossed, looking in the direction he had come from.

Savant then walked into the ring as well.

Before following the others into the ring, Ichiro turned to Statyx and said, "We don't have much time. If you're waiting for something, perhaps it would be best if you met up with us at a later time."

"Can't afford to leave who I'm waiting for on their own that long. Especially if he doesn't know where I'm gonna be." the green hedgehog answered, without turning his attention to Ichiro.

Ichiro paused for a moment, and then replied, "Well then, I'll see you on the battlefield." With that, he stepped into the warp ring, letting it close behind him.

The heroes' destination was Poppy Village, which appeared... rather unappealing. Nearly every building in sight was undergoing some sort of repairs, some more than others. Those that were intact had walls of bright-red with golden roofs. Not a single person was in sight, but the faint sound of a distant hammer could be heard, signifying that there were indeed others here. Ichiro stepped through the warp ring, and once it had shrunk back to normal size he placed it back into his pocket. "Welcome... to my home," he said with a slight reluctance.

Smash stared at their surroundings, looking somewhat concerned. "Whoa, what happened HERE?" Splice asked in surprise.

"This...wasn't really what I was expecting..." Gizmo said, uneasily.

Thunder took note of Ichiro's discomfort, and flashed him a sympathetic look.

"It's because of this war, isn't it?" Smash asked, beating Thunder to the question.

Ichiro sighed and answered, "No, not quite. Years ago, Demon Yamato led an army to attack our clan. The entire village was destroyed in the battle. We've been slowly working to repair it ever since, but nearly all of our people left to other parts of the world. There are a few who return on occasion to assist, but it is usually just myself and my masters." He then gestured to one intact building in the distance, far larger than the rest. "The sanctuary is just down the road. We will meet my masters there."

"I see, and that's why it's still like this.." Thunder said, quietly.

Thetis had no comment about the state of the village, although he did have a rather sullen look on his face.

Kyle closed his eyes, faint memories of his own village in the same state were beginning to return to him. His thoughts were interrupted when he heard Gizmo say "We should hurry. We've wasted enough time as it is."

Ichiro nodded, then turned to face the sanctuary down the road. "Come," he said as he began walking, gesturing for the others to follow.

As Mia followed Ichiro, her heart ached from the sorrowful sight of the village, causing her to worry about her own home back in Hayashi.

Static took in a deep breath. "Destroyed or not, this place is infinitely better than my home. You never got a breath of fresh air around there." Aqua just looked around in concern and followed along.

Zap looked troubled. This was far from what he was expecting. He began to think about just how serious this really was. Crystal noticed his gloomy face, and rested her hand on his shoulder for comfort.

I'm beginning to wonder how everyone else is holding up... Smash thought as he walked with the group.

The heroes quickly reached the gate of the large building. Ichiro tapped the knocker once, and the doors slowly swung open. Inside, it looked like the foyer of an esteemed manor, though it was rather empty. "Master Yamori, I have returned." Ichiro called out. Suddenly, a grey-robed gecko appeared in a puff smoke, standing in front of the group. "Ah, welcome," the gecko began, "I am Yamori Kage, shadow master of the Orochi Clan." He quickly eyed the group and continued, "It seems that Ichiro has gathered quite a fine band of warriors. I thank you all in advance for your accompanyment and cooperation."

"It's an honor, Yamori Kage," Paroi said, bowing, with Kyle and Keela following along.

The gecko smiled and replied, "Please, just Yamori is fine." He walked off to the side and gestured to a slightly oversized doorway, then said, "The guest quarters are just down this hall, please make yourselves at home."

Burst smirked at Yamori's suggestion and said, "Make ourselves at home? I like the sound of that." He then took hold of Inferna's hand, and gestured down the hallway. Ichiro simply shot him a harsh glance, wanting to make sure he behaved himself.

Inferna gripped Burst's hand and smiled at him. Noticing Ichiro's glance, she said, "Don't worry, I'll try to keep him under control."

Splice smiled a bit, taking a look around. "Nice place ya got here. Really makes up for the state the rest of the village is in." He commented.

"I'm going to take a look at the guest quarters, and put some of my stuff away." Thunder said. "Thank you, Yamori." He walked towards the doorway, gesturing for Zap to follow.

As the heroes headed off to relax, Yamori walked over to the staircase in the middle of the foyer, and stomed thrice on an odd looking floor-panel. "Care to join the land of the sociable, old man?" he called downward, "Our guests have arrived." After a moment of silence, an elderly male voice responded from below, "I'm coming, I'm coming." The floor panel opened up to reveal an entry to the basement, and a hoary cobra emerged from below. "Now, where is everybody?" he asked, looking back and forth repeatedly.

Splice and Kyle were one of the few who hadn't left the room, yet. They both looked over to see the new person coming out of the basement. "Oh, hi." Splice greeted in a carefree manner.

Kyle bowed his head towards him. "Good afternoon, sir." He said, politely.

Ichiro smiled at the new presence and said to the remaining heroes, "This is Master Shog--" He was cut off by the cobra, who snapped. "I can introduce myself, young man! Shogai Kanden, lightning master of the Orochi Clan." Shogai slithered up to Kyle and thoroughly surveyed him, though he appeared to be staring off into nothingness. "Ichiro, introduce me to your friends!" Ichiro sighed in exasperation and named off the others who remained in the lobby ((I haven't checked to see who all's still there ^^;)).

Meanwhile, those who headed off to the guest quarters found a large room at the end of the hallway that appeared to be a lounge. Four sofas were arranged around an ottoman in the centre, and a few other chairs sat around the perimeter of the room. On the far wall was a large, stone fireplace with bookshelves on either side. Another doorway stood in the far corner, leading off to a hallway similar to the last. In the corner to the right of the entrance was a spiral staircase, leading up to a balcony on the second floor. The ceiling was open with several similar balconies, and one could see all the way up to the base of the roof. Burst was the first in the room, and he immediately ran with Inferna in tow to snag a seat on one of the sofas.

Inferna sat next to him, with Tendril sitting on the other side of her. Tsunami leaned up against the wall and remained silent, while Pyro took a seat on the sofa across from Burst, Inferna, and Tendril.

Thetis calmly walked up to one of the sofas and jumped into it, lying body length along the sofa and looking quite relaxed. Paroi moved to a corner in the room, sat cross-legged on the floor, and meditated.

"Well, this is certainly a cozy little area." Smash commented as he walked into the room. He took his time taking a look around, while Thunder took a seat on the sofa near Pyro. Gizmo sat on the floor, setting his backpack in front of him to open it and go through it's contents, while Keela sat on one of the sofa's, letting out a relaxed sigh as she got comfortable. Crystal hopped onto the seat next to her, looking around the room with an innocent smile.

Zap on the other hand, was standing somewhere away from the group, writing something down in a notepad. He occasionally paused to take a brief look at his surroundings before continuing.

Thunder glanced around the room. "Hey...Where'd Zap go?" He asked.

"Hm? I thought he was by the window." Smash said, with a shrug.

"Nope, not there." Thunder said. "He's not in the room anymore."

In his distraction, Zap had wandered down the next hall. Sunlight leaked in from the offshooting rooms, but it was otherwise quite dark. The lounge was now a fair distance behind him, and a corner ahead. In the light shining on the corner from what appeared to be a torch, a long shadow slid by. What cast the shadow was unknown, but it was clear that it was approaching.

After jotting down a few more notes, the boy looked around the hallway he was in. Hm? Uh oh, I didn't mean to go too far away from the others... He thought as he looked back. He couldn't even see the entrance to the room anymore. Maybe I should turn back..? He wondered. Something then caught his eye; a shadow moving towards him. Someone was coming. Startled, he gasped softly and took a step back. He couldn't quite make out who or what the shadow was of, or if the thing was friendly or not.

Slowly from around the corner, a figure slithered into view. It was a python, carrying a torch in his tail. "Hmm? And who might you be?" he asked upon noticing Zap.

Zap didn't answer. He stood staring at him, wide-eyed. His legs started quivering with fear. S-s-sna-aake...I-It's a giant s-snake... Even the voice of his thoughts were trembling.

The python stared quizzically at Zap for a moment, until a realization dawned on him. "Oh, you must be one of Ichiro's guests," he said with excitement. "I am Hebi Dokugu, poison master of the Orochi Clan. It's a pleasure to meet you, young man."

I-it's a giant...talking s-snake... He thought. He gulped loudly, and tried to calm down a bit. He took a good look at Hebi, not quite sure what to think of him, or how to respond. ...He seems friendly, though... Despite that, he made sure he was a safe distance from him, watching him cautiously. He simply nodded slowly at the snake's introduction, but stayed silent.

Hebi chuckled a bit, noticing Zap's uncertainty. "Well then, why don't you come with me, and we can meet up with your friends," he suggested. With a smile he slithered passed, the torch flickering behind him.

Knowing that he would feel much more comfortable around his friends than alone with a giant snake, he hurried back towards the lounge.

Back out in the foyer, Savant was staring idly out the window. Yamori gave him a quick glance, but then turned his attention back to the others, not wanting to impose. "If you'll all follow me, I'd like to direct you to the garden," he announced, "Mutoh, another of our ranks, should be there already." Strangely, Ichiro turned away at mention of the name Mutoh. It seemed to make him uncomfortable, but he went on like nothing was wrong.

"Sounds good to me." Splice said. "Lead the way."

Mia took notice of Ichiro's action, however something was bothering her. She merely stared at the window and sighed, she was thinking of her home in the forest, what state it's currently in. But she shook her head and followed the others.

Yamori gave a nod and led the heroes to a large door behind the staircase. Slowly, with a loud creak, it opened to reveal a short hallway. At its end was an identical door, and behind it was the garden. It was a large square courtyard with a beautiful fountain in the centre. On each side was a door like the one they came through leading to the various wings of the sanctuary. Rows of flowers lined the perimeter and drew out pathways along the ground. The sun shone down from the mid-western skies and illuminated the garden with a deep-yellow glow. Next to the fountain, sitting in a meditative pose, was a being who looked an awful lot like Ichiro. He was much older, however, and wore a more traditional Yurashian outfit. The approach of the heroes did not bother him, and he remained sitting perfectly still.

Splice tilted his head slightly, and looked back and forth between the man and Ichiro. They look pretty similar...no, Very similar. Are they related, I wonder?

"Is this man the one you called Mutoh?" Kyle asked, softly.

Savant walked outside to where the heroes were gathered, looking upon the meditating elder with curiosity and a look of instinctual respect.

Yamori nodded to Kyle and answered, "Yes, this is Mutoh Keiken, light master of the Orochi Clan." Mutoh opened his eyes and stood, giving the heroes a silent bow. Just then, Hebi came through the door to their right with Zap still following. "Excelent, Yamori. Introducing everyone, I see?" the python began, "Have they met Homura yet?" Yamori paused briefly and replied, "I actually have not seen Homura since this morning... No matter, they will meet him at dinner."

Paroi then appeared at the door, apparently looking for the others. He stopped when he saw everyone gathered around. "Am I interrupting something?" he asked.

"Not at all," Yamori replied, "I was actually just about to let you all off on your own. The sanctuary is free to explore. However, I do ask that you refrain from entering the basement. That area is off limits to visitors." He started off towards the far door and continued, "Within the next hour or so, I wish for you all to join us in the dining hall through here for dinner. During, we will discuss our plan to combat the Void." Following a brief bow, Yamori entered the door and disappeared into the darkened halls of the sanctuary.

Static cupped his chin. "The basement? Interesting." Aqua shot a glare at him. "Don't you dare." Her counterpart held his hands up. "Hey, sorry! I'm nosy, I admit. Nothing stupid. Promise." Even so, Aqua continued to glare. "What, are you trying to freeze me with your eyes? Don't answer that."

"The sanctuary is free to explore?" Paroi said, scratching his chin and looking into the sky. "Looking around might actually be fun."

"Yeah." Splice agreed, folding his arms behind his head.

"Maybe we should be getting ready for combatting this Void," Thetis said as he emerged from the doorway. He walked next to Paroi and turned to him. "Besides, you've gotten a little slack with your spellcasting lately. Maybe you should train."

"Me?" Paroi replied, laughing. "My magic is as strong as ever. However, a little practice wouldn't hurt."

"Well then, I suppose I'll leave all of you to do what you wish," Ichiro said, "If anyone needs me, I'll be upstairs in the south wing." On that note, Ichiro walked off as well to do who knows what, leaving the others truly free to explore.

Come evening, the heroes began to gather in the dining hall at the west wing of the sactuary. The dining table was long with a place laid out for each of them. The masters moved like clockwork in and out of the kitchen, slowing filling the tabletop with various dishes. As they neared completion, Ichiro entered the room with a large, grey-brown crocodile following close behind him. The crocodile was easily at least six feet tall, with a muscular build and a very serious expression on his face.

Seeing the two arrive, Burst gave Yamori a nudge to get his attention and asked, "Hey, who's the big scary guy?" Yamori chuckled and replied, "That is master Homura. Do not be afraid of him, under his rough exterior he can actually be quite kind." Homura stood at the end of the table, with Ichiro at the seat next to him, and tapped a glass with his claw to get the attention of the room. "Greetings everyone. I am Homura Iwa, earth master of the Orochi Clan." His voice was deep, monotonous, and focused. Had he not be an ally, it would have easily stricken fear into those who heard it. "As you all know, we are here to plot our counterstrike against the Void and its Followers. However, as our journey will most definitely take all of tomorrow to complete, we have prepared for you a feast, to ensure full energy on the field of battle, and to welcome you to our village." Ichiro was the one to continue, saying, "If you haven't yet you may take your seats, and please help yourselves to anything we have prepared for you."

Spread across the table were countless dishes, including soups, fish, rice, and various finely sliced meats. There were also many horderves and several jugs of sake. In a dull flash, many of Ichiro's illusion doubles appeared around the table, ready to act as servers for the group.

Smash sat down someone in the middle of one row of seats, with Kyle on his left and Splice to his right. Keela sat next to Kyle, while opposite to them were Thunder and Zap. Upon seeing the illusions appearing, Kyle looked rather surprised. "My. What service!" Smash, recognizing those illusions from some time ago, just chuckled slightly. Kyle looked around at the Masters, and nodded his head. "Thank you all for your hospitality, and for accepting us into your village." He spoke for everyone.

"Yes, thank you," Paroi added. "You have been very kind to all of us thus far, even though someof us have only just met." He concluded his statement with a humble bow.

"Yeah, thanks," Thetis said as he moved towards the table and took a seat. Paroi followed in tow.

Tendril and Inferna sat beside one another, with Tsunami and Pyro sitting across from them. "So, what is your strategy?" Pyro asked the masters. Tsunami chimed in too, saying, "I was wondering the same thing. How exactly do you plan on combatting these 'Followers'?"

Burst casually hopped into the other chair next to Inferna and added, "That's a good point since, y'know, hitting these guys head on isn't exactly an option."

"Indeedly so," Yamori commented, "However, there is another option, possibly the only one we have. As you already know, the Followers plan to revive Yamata no Orochi by collecting the eight fragments of its spirit. Being the masters of the Orochi clan, we house those spirits within ourselves. Ka and Mizu, the two you saw in the city, were once housed by masters Nanda and Sato, who fell in battle years ago. As a result, their spirits were released, making them available to the Followers."

A brief silence fell upon the group before Homura continued, "In order to safely secure the spirits, we must seal them in the eight elemental temples, one on each continent." He paused there, leaving it to the others to comprehend their general task.

"Temples? In each continent?" said Mia, trying to make sure she was getting all this.

"Precisely," Ichiro answered, "Long ago, temples were constructed by the early masters of our clan for an occasion such as this one, when Yamata no Orochi needs protecting. We must travel to each continent, with the help of the teleporters among us, and seal away the spirits of Orochi." Hebi took the opportunity to add, "There is also the matter of recovering the lost spirit of Ka from Demon." Ichiro gave a nod and continued, "What we need to determine is how to go about sealing the spirits. One by one would take far too long, so perhaps a split is in order."

Smash folded his arms, running the information through his mind. "A split, huh..." He muttered.

Thetis sat there with a confused expression on his face. He was trying his best to wrap his head around what was being said. "Okay. I understand that we have to go find and lock away eight spirits in temples all over the world. It sounds a bit like a crazy fairy tale, but I if it's all we can do..." Something just occured to Thetis. "Wait. If you guys have spirits inside you, then wouldn't the Followers come here and try to, you know, get them?

"The village is protected by a magical barrier that renders Vortex Magic useless," Homura explained, "The Followers do not dare set foot within these walls anymore."

"That explains a lot." Splice commented.

Mia went into thought, however hearing the words "magical barrier" awakened a long forgoten memory inside the depths of her mind. "Wait, I... It's been many years so I can't say for sure... But my master told me of a temple inside the Southern Border, I don't know if it's the same kind we're talking about, but if there's one in each continent, there's a good chance it's one of them," said Mia as she clutched her hair stressing to remember something over a 1000 years ago.

"Wait," said Savant. "Demon was that fellow who was at the city earlier?"

"Indeed he was, Savant. A long time enemy of the clan, he is," Yamori answered. Ichiro took note of Mia's comment and replied, "Southern Border... of Hayashi? Yes, I believe that is in fact the location of the Light Temple." He then turned his attention to Mutoh, who gave a nod of confirmation.

Mia began to relax a little, "Yeah, now I remember. When I was little I was told stories that before the Southern Border became the prision it is now, a temple existed there... I don't know much about it, but I know one thing, only two people in the whole world can access the Southern Border, and one of them is me!" she said, her once rather relaxed self became serious as if bringing up a subject she loathed.

Aqua seemed to be in deep consideration. "If Hayashi's Southern Border houses the Light Temple, would the other temples be nearby to their corresponding elements? Like, the Ice Temple in the icecaps and the Fire Temple near a volcano?

"In a sense, yes," Hebi answered, "The temples are essentially located within their element, but with a deeper meaning, so to speak. The Thunder Temple is deep within the forests of Northamer. The Water Temple is on a glacier in the Southern Tundra. The Earth Temple is in the deserts of Downunda. The Poison Temple is on a small island in Eurish. The Fire Temple rests in the planes of Efrika. The Shadow Temple is hidden in the Great Rainforest of Soumerca. And the Wind Temple is located atop a mountain in the Northern Tundra."

"Oh God," Thetis complained, "this sounds like a lot of work when you list them like that."

"Not quite," Ichiro assured, "We've taken the liberty of calculating certain things, and it should only take us a mere couple of hours to reach each temple. That includes possible resistance from the Followers."

"Okay then," Thetis said, still not convinced. "You suggested that we split up into groups to find each temple, right? If so, who are the groups?"

"To find these temples," Paroi said, "Would it be wise to send people with elemental affinities to the corresponding temple? For instance, sending a fire user to the fire temple?"

"That sounds logical enough." Smash agreed.

Mia heard this, and she put on a rather disgusted face. "If that's so, then being a wind magician I have to go to the wind temple, but only two people can open the Southern Border..." said Mia, but then she made a large sigh, "But I happen to know the other person who is a light magician..." But when Mia said that her face darkened with hatred.

Paroi noticed a change in Mia, and briefly glanced in her direction in curiosity. He then turned his attention back to Ichiro.

"The matter is not that simple," Homura explained, "For the time you all have been here, we have been observing you to get a better grasp of certain... compatibilities. The final decisions will be made tomorrow upon our departure. Know that the groups will be as balanced as possible, with all details taken into consideration."

Mia sighed and began to relax in relief...

"You've been observing us?" Thetis asked, a slight shudder runningn down his back. One of his pet peeves was being watched. "Are you sure? we haven't been here for that long, so how much can you tell about us? Will we at least have a say in these decisions?"

Paroi subtly elbowed Thetis. "Show some respect Thetis," he whispered.

"Yeah, I'm curious on how exactly you've been "observing" us..." said Mia as she crossed her arms.

Zap suddenly looked very nervous at the sound of that.

Gently, Yamori confessed, "That would be myself and young Ichiro. You see, Ichiro has the unique gift of seeing people's thoughts and memories. With all respect to your individual privacies, he has provided us with information on strengths, weaknesses and personalities, so that we may group you together in the most efficient way possible. Using my own ability to manipulate shadows, I further confirmed the details during your time here. I greatly apologize if you feel we invaded any boundaries." Ichiro merely hung his head, somewhat shamed for what he had done.

Splice bit his lip. He didn't have anything to hide, but he did feel that his privacy was violated.

"Wait, you used the shadows to learn about us?" Tendril asked, "Huh.... Strange that I didn't know until now." Inferna nodded agreement and added, "Me too.... I should have been able to... sense any intruders in our minds...."

Ichiro rose his head, though he still looked rather apologetic. "Please do not see it as an intrusion. I merely glance at minor details, names and such," he said in a heavy tone. Shogai, however, had a more playful response to their queries. "Never underestimate the abilities of a master," he chuckled, presumably to Tendril, "We know tricks that you've likely never even heard of before"

Mia raised an eyebrow, however she was quite unfazed about this intrusion of privicy due to past experiences she had many years ago. "So, how are you going to group us up then? I mean, who's going where?" she said.

"Our most likely decision will be to spilt the entirety of us into two groups," Homura explained, "Each group will travel to four of the temples. As we do not currently have all eight spirits of Orochi in our posession, exactly which temples we travel to will be chosen with time."

"I see." Smash said. "Well, I guess we'll just have to wait until tomorrow, eh?"

"Anyone else as excited as I am for this?" Burst called out enthusiastically, his mouth full of food. Homura let out a what seemed like his version of a lighthearted chuckle, and was then approached by one of Ichiro's copies. "Master, there appears to be two unexpected guests in the cellars," the copy whispered, "I assume you would like to deal with them yourself." Homura nodded and stood from the table, saying, "If you all will excuse me for a moment, there is business I must attend to." On that note, he left the room.

  • *

Shortly, Homura reached the cellar. The massive doors, sharing the appearance of all others in the sanctuary, swung open to reveal the large, dark room. To the untrained, it would seem as if nothing was out of the ordinary. Homura, however, was able to pick out a faint sound coming from the far corner. He took two steps in and clapped, turning on the lights that hung from the ceiling.

In the Cellar, Homura saw a green hedgehog with yellow stripes, blue eyes, and black arm-guards, and a young phoenix with dark-red markings, a blue vest, and grey arm-guards. "Hey. You the owner of this place?" the hedgehog asked with a mouthful of food.

"As a matter of fact, I am. One of six," Homura answered. He took a moment to examine the two, his blank expression perfectly hiding the rage he felt towards their thievery. "Judging from your appearance, you must be Statyx. Ichiro mentioned you," he said to the hedgehog, "I am surprised you found this village. It is not on any of G.U.N's maps."

Statyx swallowed before sucking the remaining flavor and crumbs off of his gloved fingers. "Which is exactly why it took me forever to get here, which in turn used up a lot of energy." the green hedgehog replied, "It was just lucky coincidence that we ended up here." Statyx said, having the gall to actually grin.

"Rather than continue to raid our food supplies, would you care to join us for dinner?" the crocodile suggested. Before continuing, he turned and headed back out the door. "I trust you will be joining us on our journey tomorrow." he said, not waiting for an answer.

"Wouldn't it be better to take a few days to test the powers and compatibility of the people you've gathered, to maximize synergy and team-work?" Statyx asked nonchalantly.

Still within earshot, Homura replied with a chuckle, "Already taken care of."

"Fair enough." Statyx said, getting up and walking out of the cellar. The little bird noticed this, and after gobbling a few more sweets, quickly followed in-turn. "I'd much prefer some time to get to know your team though." Statyx said, his fingers intertwined behind his head.

"You have the rest of today and tomorrow morning," Homura replied, "Then... our quest shall begin.

  • *

Back in the dining hall, the heroes continued to enjoy their dinner.

Thetis was busy stuffing his face with the assortment of food before him. He was now on his third serving of food. Paroi, in stark contrast, was eating slowly and taking the time to enjoy the food. Once he had swallowed his mouthfull of food, Thetis faced the others and asked, "So, who do you think's getting paired up tomorrow?"

Inferna reached over, jabbed a piece of meat on Burst's plate, and popped it in her own mouth. Tendril turned to Thetis and replied, "No idea. Though it might be best if Inferna, Tsunami and I were part of one of the teams. We've always worked well together, or at least, before Tsunami joined up with the demon snake who wants her head." Tsunami sat silently, seemingly unaware that there were others in the room. She appeared to be lost in thought, staring blankly at her plate while she ate.

Burst reached over and tapped Inferna on the opposite shoulder, and while her head was turned, he snatched up a rice ball from her own plate. When she looked back, he shoved it into his mouth and flashed a chubby grin.

Smash was enjoying his food, taking a little bit of everything that looked good. "I dunno either, but I hope I'm paired with someone I know well." He said.

"Same here." Gizmo agreed, before taking a sip of his drink. "I feel more comfortable alongside the guys I've known for a while. No offense or anything."

Kyle and Keela both exchanged glances, and then looked back at everyone. "I feel that the two of us work together very well." Kyle said. "So I am hoping that our team will not separate us." Keela nodded, as her mouth was full of food.

Splice leaned back in his chair, rubbing his belly. "I'mma just go with the flow." He said, lazily.

Thunder looked around at the group, and shrugged a bit. "I think that I'll be fine with whoever I team up with, but I'd prefer if my little brother stayed with me." He glanced over at Zap, who seemed to feel a bit uncomfortable around so many people. "Just to keep an eye on him, you know?"

Zap managed to crack a little smile at Thunder, but soon looked at Crystal when she began to speak. "Um, I wanna be with Zap, too." She said. "After all, he was the one who invited me to ride on their ship before all this happened.." Her voice trailed off, as if she wanted to say more but couldn't find the words.

"I guess it doesn't really matter who I'm paired up with," Thetis said, putting more food on his plate. "I don't really know any of you that well, aside from Paroi. I just wish we had more of a say in this." After a few forkfulls of food, he stopped and asked, "Hey, is there anyone you don't wan't to be paired with?"

Tendril glanced around the room, scanning the faces of the others. "Not really," he answered, "I don't know most of the people here either."

Smash shrugged. "All of you are fine in my book." He said. "If there was one of you that I REALLY didn't want to team up with..."

Suddenly, Homura returned to the room with two new figures following him. "I found these two snacking in the cellar... so I invited them to dinner," he said with a hint of exasperation.

"Speaking of people I don't want to be paired with", Thetis whispered quietly to himself. "Hey, you're Statyx, aren't you?" Thetis said, an impassive look on his face once he saw the hedgehog. Although he didn't know him well, his first encounter with the hedgehog didn't really leave him with a good impression.

Smash glanced towards Statyx and the other person at the corner of his eye. Both of his eyelids lowered. ...it'd probably be him. He finished in his mind.

Mia looked at the two, before taking a bite of her food. She had a look of curiousity but she was mute.

Thunder looked at Statyx, equally as curious, wondering what he was doing here.

Savant, who was quietly enjoying his soup, looked up upon mention of Statyx's name. His lip curled in a disdainful sneer, but he said nothing.

Static raised an eyebrow. "Hm. Snacking in the cellar." Bringing his arms up in a shrug, he returned to silently eating his food. Aqua tilted her head, silently observing the two newcomers. "Well... I guess any of you would be fine to work with." she said finally, trying to bring the conversation back up.

"Yo." Statyx says, casually raising a hand to head-level, calmly waving slightly. He was actually acting like everything was completely normal, and he wasn't just found pilfering food.

The young bird that had been trailing Statyx and Homura finally caught up, stopping beside Statyx to look at the group. After a while, Fou tapped Statyx's leg, who leaned down to listen to whatever Fou had to say. After whatever Fou whispered, Statyx returned to an upright position, a somewhat uneasy expression on his face as he now looked across the group. Rather reluctantly, the green hedgehog pointed at Ichiro. The young red bird noted the direction Statyx pointed, and trotted over to Ichiro, coming to stand next to where Ichiro was sitting. After a bit of sizing up the reptile, Fou inhaled deeply and said...

"SHAME ON YOU!!!" he yelled right at Ichiro. The normally calm and almost uncaring Statyx watched the display with wide eyes and shrunken pupils, followed by a hard facepalm.

Startled by the sudden noise, Static was sent back in his chair, resulting in him toppling back. Soon, the hedgehog flashed back up, eyes a blazing crimson red. "Who's in trouble?" he snarled. After a few seconds of getting him to calm down, Static's eyes reverted to green and he relaxed. "Well, what's with all the commotion?"

"What the heck?" Smash exclaimed in surprise. He had no idea what the kid's problem was, let alone who the kid was.

Ichiro was a little stunned at Fou's exclaimation. After he regained himself, he gently said to the bird, "Why, whatever do you mean?"

Fou pointed to Statyx, whose palm was still becoming acquainted with his face. "You asked a bunch of strangers to help you when they had absolutely no reason to! Statyx offered to help you as well and when he said he needed to wait for someone, you left him high and dry!! You didn't even leave a portal thingamajig open or anything, so he had to teleport all across the country to find this place!! Do you know how rude that is, to just abandon someone after they offer help!?" Fou got on his tip-toes, pushing his beak farther into Ichiro's face. "And if you had been polite enough to ask, you would have known that he was waiting for me, an eight-year-old kid!!! So that makes it even worse!!" Fou continued to stare down Ichiro after he had finished his little admonishment. Anyone who looked at Statyx for an explanation or intervention just got a face-covered shake of the head.

Ichiro was flabbergasted. Still, he tried to explain himself to the young bird as calm and clear as possible. "I believe you misunderstand. The foes we face are far too dangerous for us of the Orochi Clan to take on alone. I recruited these people because we were in dire need of their help, and I fully gave them the option to decline. As for your friend Statyx, leaving him with the warp ring would have been a very bad idea. There are only two belonging to the village, and we need them in case of emergency. And I knew that you were the one he was waiting for, which is why I didn't want to leave an open portal to the village to attract the danger of our enemies." Ichiro took a deep breath, hoping that Fou would understand.

"Then Statyx and I could have hi-tailed it through and closed the ring!! Or we could have just kicked their as-"

"Fou!! Language!" Statyx snapped, finally intervening. Fou winced like a scolded child- which he was. "S-sorry Statyx." Four apologized, his tone and expression actually befitting his age. But right after apologizing, Fou whipped back to look at Ichiro. "We could've kicked their butts!" he finished.

"No, no you couldn't have," Homura interjected, "Knowing who's side you are on, the Followers of the Void would not hesitate to agonizingly murder you. Should you try to hold your own against them, you will suffer a long and painful defeat. They are fast, they are strong, and they are dark beyond all comprehension. Alone... you two stand absolutely no chance."

There was a tense pause after Homura made his statement, where Fou remained absolutely still. After several moments, Fou suddenly turned and made a mad dash right at Homura, no hesitation whatsoever. The young bird jumped, and launched a kick right at the master's face.

A look of shock feel upon the faces of all others as Fou launched his attack. However, Homura was more than capable of defending himself. In one swing of his torso, he deflected the kick with one arm, and pinned Fou to the table with the other. The force of the slam knocked Homura's own plate flying to the floor, and rattled most others on the table. "It would be wise if you keep control of your words and actions. They may get you into trouble," Homura snarled. He then lifted Fou by the stomach and set him back down on the floor next to Statyx.

However, right after Homura let go, Fou grabbed his forearm. Using the grip, Fou flipped forward onto Homura's arm. The small bird dashed up the appendage. Twisting around, the metal sole of Fou's show glowed red hot. The bird thrust his foot forward, and Homura found himself with a concentrated explosion hitting his snout.

The explosion created a small puff of smoke, but one it clear Homura was revealed to have not moved an inch. The crocodile grunted, blowing the remaining smoke from his nostrils, and glared angrily at Fou. Almost instantly, Fou became encased in dense stone, leaving only his head free. "That was your first mistake," Homura growled, "Make another, and I leave you to the Followers." With a light smack, he let the newly made bird statue fall to Statyx's feet.

Fou struggled and snarled, indignant at the treatment he had been given. When Homura made his comment, Fou's eyes widened in anger and fury. The young bird struggled more wildly in the stone containment. Soon Fou was shaking and struggling so much it looked like he was going to tip over. But as he kept shaking, Fou's eyes began to glow and a red aura began to emanate from his small body.

Statyx, who had been simply watching up to this point, calmly walked up to the struggling bird. Placing a hand on Fou's head, which caused the bird to immediately stop spazzing. Statyx's expression and tone changed to something completely different, as if a father comforting his son. "Calm down Fou," he said, "you've been beat. You're tough, but size, experience, and the elements are all on his side." As Statyx explained the situation, Fou looked up at him, the glow in his eyes and the red aura dissipating. When the green hedgehog saw this, he smiled gently. "Now Fou, remember what I taught you."

"...Right." Fou nodded, "Concentration over power..." The young phoenix closed his eyes and inhaled deeply. Fou then released an explosion of fire from his body, breaking apart the stone encasement. Unfortunately, this also sent debris everywhere.

Most of everyone shielded themselves and their food from the scattering debris. Smash shook his head in irritation, upon having his dinner interrupted and almost ruined by these two. "Was all this really necessary?" He groaned, resting his face in his palm, while he impatiently drummed the table with the fingers of his other hand.

One of the shards of stone was now floating in mid-air, caught by Savant's telekinesis. Casting a jaundiced eye towards Statyx and Fou, he let the shard drop harmlessly to the ground.

Personally, I'm more worried about group dynamics than dinner, Thetis thought to himself after witnessing the entire incident.

"Don't worry," Ichiro said calmly, "With everyone now present, I'm sure we can finally finish in peace."

And they did indeed. The dinner finished with no further interruptions, and the heroes shortly afterwards retired to their rooms in the guest quarters for the rest of the night. A great adventure was waiting for them tomorrow, one that may decide the fate of the world, and they would surely need their rest...

Later that night

((Xi - The following are two scenes restricted to only a few users. If you have not been told otherwise, please refrain from editing in the next two scenes.))

Mia woke up from her sleep, for some reason she couldn't rest easy. And so she began wandering the place, but the whole area was confusing to her and she became rather lost. She tried to go back to her room, but she was too lost. Standing there with nothing but a flashlight, she groaned.

Down the shadowy hall, Mia could see that a door up ahead was ajar, letting in a sliver of the moon's azure glow.

Mia raised up her flashlight a bit to see if anyone was there, but she saw no one. She carefully walked up towards the door and nervously clutched it the side of it and peaked inside.

Through the door was the garden, and in it was Ichiro. He stood next to the fountain, performing some sort of Tai Chi. The scales of his bare back glisened in the moonlight, as his shirt hung over the edge of the fountain. This also revealed a cover of tattered bandages wrapped around his waist. He pivoted in a graceful motion, only to stop upon seeing Mia in the doorway. "Mia? What are you doing up so late?" he ask with a faint hint of shock.

"I couldn't sleep, I think its because I'm homesick or something, I don't know..." said Mia as she rubbed the back of her head. "Also, why are you up so late too?" she asked, as she went up to the fountain.

Ichiro sighed. "In times like these, I always tend to have trouble sleeping." He took a seat on the fountain's edge and stared up at the moon. "I came out here to relax, rather than lay ill at ease."

Mia sat next to Ichiro, "To admit, this is the first time I ever left the forest, even though I have lived over a 1000 years..." said Mia as she too stared at the moon, "Everything feels different, but the same as well... like the moon is different but looks the same as the last time I saw it at home..." said Mia as she closed her eyes re-visioning memories of home.

"I understand how you feel," Ichiro said, "Years ago, after the village fell, I struggled with my decision to leave. The first while was very hard on me, but with time I realized what good can come from adventure." He took his attention away from the moon and continued, "In my travels I've accomplished many things, and made many friends, like Xi ((the character, not the user)) and even you." For a brief moment he paused, and let out another sigh. "The Followers... I can hardly bear to even think about the destruction they bring to the world. I would never forgive myself if they were to harm y-- anyone on our journey." Distress clouded his expression as he though of the consequences time would bring.

Mia bit her lip, "If the Light Temple is in the Southern Border, then Hayashi could be in danger... But then again, there's only two people in the world that can get through the sacred field. I just hope that witch won't allow them, I know Kori keeps saying she's a good girl but I just can't trust that demon witch!" said Mia, she then grew a little pale from a unpleasant thought that she brought up upon herself. "Ichiro, did you have anyone that you loved? Like a family member? Or a dear friend?" asked Mia, however her eyes darkened a little.

Ichiro hesitated, knowing his answer but having trouble bringing forth the words. "My master... Master Sato," he said weakly, "He mentored me personally from the day I began my training. He was like a father to me; my parents and I were never close. To the finish, he was by my side... he died defending me from Demon." Fighting back a tear, he continued, "W-Why do you ask?"

"I too had a Master..." started Mia, "Master Haku, he taught me everything about magic. When I was a little girl, I was orphaned and everyone didn't like me for my eyes... However Master Haku took me in and treated me like his daughter. But, he died at the age of 105... He had a good life, I saw it in his smile while his life faded away from me.... Ever since he died, I hid myself from society, never wanting to lose someone like him again... I was just wondering, if I wasn't the only one who felt such pain.. Not so, alone..." said Mia, she had a few tears but she brushed them away.

With a smile, Ichiro replied, "I never realized it before, but we have quite a bit in common." He looked back up at the moon, with thoughts filling his head about the following day. "Though darkness awaits us on the horizon, perhaps our hope and will may guide us to the light within."

"Yes. And I hope that this war will be over soon, even though death cannot grasp me, its the ones around me that I worry about," said Mia as she began to grow a smile on her pale face.

"I share your worry," Ichiro sighed, "But my fear... is that death may be too good a fate for the Followers to deal." He stood from the fountain and picked up his shirt, slipping it onto his back once more. "I am going to try and get some rest. Good night Mia... and be safe." In the glow of the moon, Ichiro faded from sight, off to his room once more.

((Xi - Thanks for your help, Nora. The scene's over now, so I hope you don't mind waiting with the others until the next is finished.))

Meanwhile, the house was utterly quiet, not a sound being made. The loudest thing one could hear was the subtle breeze of the wind scraping against the outside walls. But within, a single shadow creeped through the building. Utterly silent, the shadow stalked throughout the halls, seemingly searching for something.

Rounding the corner came a faint glow. Hebi was patrolling the halls with a torch in the grasp of his tail, just as he was doing during the day. He sensed movement up ahead, and waved the torch in front of him. "Who's there?" he faintly called out.

Silence. Nothing moved. Nothing answered Hebi's question. Not even a breath could be heard. But Hebi could sense someone was there.

"Hmm, not going to show yourself, eh? Well, I have ways to get around that," Hebi taunted. He lifted the torch in front of his face and blew a strange gas into it, which carried the flame across the hall like a glowing cloud.

A brief sight of green fur could be seen before the hidden being quickly backflipped out of the range of the cloud; whoever the stranger was, they had at least some physical ability. They also clearly didn't want to be seen.

The cloud quickly dispersed, and Hebi chuckled. "You can come out now... Statyx."

Statyx remained hidden in the shadows for a while longer. "Crap! Just my luck to get caught by one of the higher ups in this place..." he thought. Statyx attempted to feign ignorance, asking "Who are you?"

"Hebi Dokugu, poison master of the Orochi Clan," the python answered, "We met at dinner, I believe. Normally I wouldn't mind a little nighttime stroll, but your desire not to be caught leaves me suspicious."

"Sorry," Statyx answered, "A lot of people were there, so I didn't see you. And it's not that I don't wanna be found, it's that I don't wanna disturb anyone."

"Is that so?" Hebi pondered, "Well then, care to tell me why you're wandering around the sactuary so late at night?"

"Curiosity and bowel movements." Statyx answered.

Hebi paused for a moment, and then waved the torch in the direction he came from. "Head straight down the hall. Lavatories are three doors from the first left," he directed. Casually he slithered passed Statyx, taking one last look back. Statyx however, had already disappeared; literally. No shadow, no footsteps; it was as if he hadn't even been there in the first place.

"Well I'll be..." Hebi whispered to himself. After a brief glance across the hallway, he began to breath another gas. This one acted as if it were mud tossed in a pond, revealing any unseen presences. However, the gas failed to catch anything within its cloud.

Meanwhile, Statyx had already made a quick escape from the Master. Unfortunately, he was also lost once again, now in a large room with several different exits. "Crap..." Statyx thought, cursing his- as usual- bad luck. He knew he should have done more than attempt to memorize the layout of this place. "But 'Noooo; taking a map is too risky. You might get caught with it.' Better than getting lost in this damn place." Statyx thought. Giving off a sigh, he took a look around the room, hoping to find a hint as to where he needed to go.

"Find those lavatories yet?" a voice called from behind. It was Hebi, who had managed to find Statyx once again.

Statyx sighed, not bothering to look at the Master as he spoke. "What would you call the luck of someone on recon who not only gets lost, but runs into one of the most powerful residents of the subject location?" the hedgehog asked.

"Fortune can remain on your side, should you choose to cooperate," Hebi replied, "Just tell me why you are here, and I will not be forced to teach you some manners, like Homura nearly did to your young friend."

"My, such an aggressive attitude," Statyx said calmly. "then again, with your clan on the brink of extinction, it makes sense you'd be wary of interlopers."

Hebi couldn't help but chuckle at Statyx's remark. "You speak of us as if we are a people, but you are right to assume our caution none the less," he commented, "I'll ask you once more, just tell me what you are looking for. Perhaps I can help you find it."

Statyx lifted his right arm up to the ceiling while gripping it by the bicep with his left hand, as if stretching. "Well, it's quite simple really. I mean, the sudden release of powerful beasts with supreme supernatural powers would put anyone on edge, wouldn't it?" the green hedgehog said cryptically, hinting at his motives.

"I think I'm beginning to understand," Hebi said, partially to himself, "But what do you hope to accomplish? Only the other masters and I can stop this. If you do anything to hinder our progress, you will only be promising the world its doom. Surely that cannot be what you are after, can it?"

"Oh, of course not." Statyx replied. "However, that's only based on the assumption you guys aren't culpable in all this..."

Hebi's expression turned serious. No longer was he in a joking mood. "Blissful as it may be, your ignorance is unwelcome. Why, for any reason, would we want to bring about a disaster such as this? The only way for the spirits of Orochi to be freed is for ourselves to fall, so we have nothing to gain from it. We have no grudge against Mobius that would call for such destruction." In a flash he slipped around Statyx, ending right in front of the hedgehog as he continued, "I suggest you get your facts straight before making any other assumptions, especially in a situation such as this one."

Statyx took the snakes sudden movements with absolute calmness, not even fazed at the master's speed. The green hedgehog brought his arms back down to his sides, just letting them hang there. "As I said, that's why I'm here. If you guys aren't at fault, then all's good and done, and you've got nothing to worry about. Well, nothing else, anyway. But..." Statyx went on to say, "if I happen to come across something that says you're at fault, I have no choice but to take action and call in the whole of G.U.N.'s military might." Statyx explained this shocking information without any sort of urgency, as if what he was saying was what you'd hear in a day-to-day conversation. But Statyx continued. "One more thing though..." he said, closing his eyes.

Hebi was starting to become frustrated. A particular thought sat in his head that he had to bring up several times in the past; Orochi warriors eat G.U.N soldiers for breakfast, but he restrained himself. Instead he simply said, "I'm listening."

When Statyx opened his eyes, it was like an entirely different person was standing before the Master. His expression was calm yet intensely focused. His blue eyes were no longer those of a relaxed fool or an arrogant braggart: they were ice cold, yet it was obvious that behind them was a raging storm, ready to be unleashed. One thing was clear: the person standing before Hebi was an experienced, cold-blooded killer. A murderous predator, baring its fangs. "You're fortunate that Fou picked that time to freak out, otherwise..." Statyx's fingers flexed and clenched, albeit not quite forming a fist. "I don't care how strong he is or what element he uses: every bit of my power would have gone into putting him down, permanently. And the same will go for all of you, should I find out you're a danger to the people I care about." The hedgehog's tone carried no jocularity or arrogance: he was cold and serious, fully prepared to act on his outrageous threat.

Hebi remained completely unfazed; the hedgehogs sudden change of tone meant little to him. I sense a great power in this one... best not to take him lightly, the serpent thought, Still, he seems to underestimate our ranks. "No need to get so agressive," Hebi spoke up, "You may do whatever you must during your time with us... provided, of course, that it does not delay our cause."

"Good to know." Statyx said calmly. "But since my cover's been blown, I don't have much reason to try and sneak some secret info out of this place. And considering that dawn's creeping up on us, I might as well get the sleep I can. Count yourself fortunate." The green hedgehog said the last sentence with an unnaturally chilly tone, as if he already had a blade of cold steel aimed at the Master's throat. All of a sudden, a smug grin crept across his face as he raised his hand. "Adios." the green hedgehog finished, snapping his fingers. Upon doing so, a familiar green light flashed around him, and Statyx was gone.

The next morning

((Xi - I greatly apologize for such a delay. I didn't expect those to scenes to go on for so long, and I hope to find some way to make it up to you all later in the roleplay.))

The sun gently peaked over the mountains lining the eastern horizon, filling the sky with a faint golden glow. The heroes were grouped together in front of the sanctuary, with Ichiro and the masters lined up before them. Joining them this morning was Eiji Geiru the Dragonfly, wind master of the Orochi clan. He often travelled on reconnaissance and was unable to be present for dinner. Unlike the other masters, he appeared quite young, roughly Ichiro's age if one had to guess. Like the others, however, he wore an equally serious expression.

"The time has come for us to depart," Homura began, "For most of today, possibly even leading into tomorrow, we will be on a journey of great challenge and danger. As a precautionary measure, I ask that anyone without full dedication to our cause please say so, and you will be escorted back to your homes." He paused, waiting for the impending responses, or lack there of.

"We're here 'till the end." Static said, putting his arms behind his head. Aqua nodded her assent. "We wouldn't give up now."

"Heh. As if we'd give up before it even began." Smash scoffed. He stretched a bit, and wound up his arms, loosening up for the journey that awaited them. "Anything this journey can dish out, I've seen worse. So bring em on."

'Well, I'm already here, so might as well continue till the end," Thetis said, casually. Paroi simply nodded.

"I may be a simple guardian, but I'll do my best!" said Mia who at first sounded shy suddenly became confident.

"As am I." Kyle said, in reference to his title as Guardian of his home village. "We will restore peace to this world."

"And teach those Void followers a thing or two while we're at it!" Splice added, confidently. "Whether we stop their plans or just plain beat the crud outta them, They're going to know just what we're made of!"

Thunder looked down at the two kids beside him, Zap and Crystal. "I'm a bit hesitant to let these two come along, but..."

"We really want to go." Crystal finished for him. "We'll help as much as we can! Promise!" She looked up at him, hoping that he wouldn't boot them off the team. Zap gave him a serious look, one he knew all too well.

Thunder sighed. "Alright, I trust you. Just be careful." He said, soon smiling down at the two.

"By the way.." Gizmo started, looking towards the masters. "Um, Who's going with who? You said we'd find out right about now, and I think that's the question on everyone's mind now."

"Good question," Homura replied, "Myself, as well as masters Yamori and Hebi will lead team one. Masters Mutoh, Shogai, and Eiji will lead team two. Ichiro, if you please." Ichiro stepped forward and proceeded to list off various names. "Splice, Pyro, team one. Inferna, Fou, Burst, team two. Static, Zap, Thunder, team one. Statyx, Gizmo, Tsunami, team two. Thetis, Savant, team one. Smash, Tendril, team two. Keela, Crystal, team one. Kyle, Aqua, team two. Last but not least, Paroi on team one, and Mia on team--" He was cut off by Homura, who whispered something into his ear. "Strike that last bit," Ichiro continued, "Mia on team one, Paroi on team two."

Smash simply rose his eyebrow at the revision. He also noticed that he missed someone. "What about you? Who're you gonna be with?"

Ichiro briefly looked back to Homura, and then answered, "I will be on team one. That way we will have an even split of fourteen."

"I see." Smash said. He began to smile a little. "Well, looks like we're going to go our separate ways. Good luck, man."

Zap and Crystal smiled at eachother. "Hehe, We're on the same team!" Crystal giggled happily.

"As am I." Thunder added, sounding a bit more relieved. "Let's all do our best."

"Right!" Zap and Crystal agreed.

Kyle watched the three as they rejoiced, and then looked over at Keela. "It looks like this will be the last time we see eachother for a while." He spoke, softly.

"Yeah..." Keela began to imagine just how long this journey might be. "I wish you the best of luck."

"You too." Kyle shook her hand, and soon pulled her into a hug. "Be careful out there..."

"I will." They pulled away, smiling at eachother one last time before heading away to their respective teams.

As Mia went to her team, she looked at Ichiro with curiousity as to why she suddenly had to change teams, but she sighed and shrugged it off.

"It appears that we'll be separated again for some time," Paroi said to Thetis. "Try not to do anything foolish."

"You know me," Thetis said, "I never do anything stupid." With a brief wave, they both went to their separate teams.

Static and Aqua quickly hugged before separating. "Don't go running off again." Aqua warned. Her counterpart laughed. "Don't worry. Be safe." He put a hand on her shoulder before they headed off to their teams.

"Well, looks like we're all on a team." Statyx said from behind as he slapped his hands onto the backs of Smash and Tendril, surprising them. "Please," he said with a confident grin and smug tone, "don't slow me down too much." This snide comment was followed by a cocky chuckle of amusement; it was like this was just some swashbuckling adventure to him.

Smash frowned, looking at him at the corner of his eye. "I wouldn't worry about that." He muttered. This is gonna be a looong journey. He thought. As he finished thinking that, Splice, Gizmo and Kyle walked over to him.

"Well, Smash. This is it." Splice said. "I won't be seeing you guys for a little while."

"Yeah. Try not to get killed out there, okay?" Smash said, jokingly.

"Haha, Who do you think you're talking to?" Splice grinned confidently. "It'll take their whole gang to take me down for good!"

"That's the way!" The two gave eachother a high five. Splice turned to Gizmo, and they did the same.

"Good luck out there, Splice!" Gizmo said.

"You too, Giz." Splice turned from him and looked over at Kyle, who held out his hand to shake.

"Good luck, my friend." He said, smiling kindly. "Please look after my sister while I'm away. She is a great companion to have, to be sure, but I worry about her sometimes."

Splice nodded. "She'll be okay. Same for the rest of us." He assured. "I'll watch her back for ya."

"Thank you."

Aqua seemed to be thinking, chewing on her lip and staring into the sky. "I wish we were travelling under more cheerful circumstances." she muttered, half to herself and half to the others. "It would make the sights more enjoyable."

"You can still take in the sights," Paroi replied, suddenly appearing next to Aqua. He looked at her and smiled. "You should always take the time to look around."

Mia sighed as she waited for everyone's good-byes to be over. But then something popped up into her head, "Wait, which temples are we going to first?" she asked,

"Team One will go to the Thunder Temple in Northamer, and Team Two will go to the Water Temple in the Southern Tundra," Homura answered, "From that point forward, we cannot be sure who will go where."

Thunder smirked slightly. "I think I see why I was chosen.." He said, lightly.

On the other hand, Smash shuddered. "I don't know why, but hearing "Water Temple" makes me feel reeaally skeptical for some reason. I don't think I want to go there."

"Wonderful." Statyx groaned. "Water. Lots and lots of water..." he complained.

"Northamer," Savant said quietly to himself, resting his chin on his claw. "It sounds...verdant."

Aqua smiled. "What, does a little water scare you guys?" she teased. Then she frowned. "...just as long as there isn't puzzles. That's Static's thing."

"Haha no. I actually probably wouldn't have much of a problem once I'm there." Smash said. He turned his head and muttered under his breath "That doesn't mean I'll enjoy it, though..."

Aqua put a hand on Smash's shoulder. "That's fine. Hopefully it won't be too long of a visit."

"I hope so." Smash said, lightly.

"I, on the other hand, am not thrilled." Statyx chimed in. "Of course when you're pretty much a living electric generator, you prefer to avoid water."

((Xi - Savant doesn't know what Northamer is? It's a whole continent, one that the story partially took place in back in part one.))

((I didn't know that was Northamer. -Ryu))

((Xi - That's alright. The mistake is completely understandable.))

"Chao-cha meow, mew rreow chao Meow!" Kitty said, pointing towards his chest.

"Kitty said; "Don't worry, if anything happens you can count on me!" Gizmo translated. "He's a good swimmer."

"Well, if everyone's ready," Ichiro chimed in. "Mia, I need you to open a spacial rift as close as you can get to the Great Forest in Northamer. Paroi, Statyx, you're going to have to work together. Paroi's powers can achieve the distance and mass needed to transport the lot of you, but Statyx's Chaos powers are required for the location: the Southern Tundra's Zolan glacier."

"Impressive, you really have done your research," Paroi said.

Glacier? Oh, great. It's gonna be cold there too? Smash thought. Swimming in the cold water...hoo boy.

Statyx waved a hand. "Nah, I can handle it just fine. I can teleport anywhere on this half of the planet without a sweat; I can handle a few passengers."

"He's right!" Fou chimed in, smiling in admiration. Savant resisted the urge to roll his eyes.

Paroi did the same. "It's not a contest," he said, sounding rather annoyed.

Smash just shrugged. "As long as we can get there and move on." He said.

Aqua nodded. "It doesn't matter how we get there, it just has to be quick and efficient."

"No, it does matter," Ichiro argued, "If Statyx were to use Chaos Control to perform a mass teleport, it would surely draw the attention of the Followers. By simply using Chaos energy to aid in Paroi's teleportation, it will leave a much smaller energy signature, virtually undetectable by regular means."

Mia breathed in deeply, and made a large sigh. "Okay, far distance will take a minute for me to find the location..." said Mia, but then she went into a pose with her arms stretch forwards and her hands clapped together making an arrow shape infront of her. She revealed her eyes which were searching beyond the land, beyond the horizon. After a moment she closed he eyes and began to seperate her hands causing a gap to form, stretching along with her hands as if she was opening a door. The gap grew larger, and larger, and then finally the gap was big enough for the team to get through. At first it was filled with nothing but scarlet mist, but then a image of a building began to reveal itself inside the gap. "Okay, this is taking up alot of my energy so everybody better get in quick!" groaned Mia, her inhumane gaze focusing on the gap.

Keela waved back to everyone, mainly Kyle, before leaving through the gap. Thunder, Zap and Crystal headed towards it. "Farewell! Until we meet again!" Thunder called back.

"Bye bye!" Crystal waved. She then noticed that her chao, Krysi, was gone. "Krysi? Where'd you go?" She called out.

Krysi had flown over towards where Gizmo and Kitty stood. Kitty flew up from Gizmo's shoulder upon seeing her. Gizmo looked up, curiously, and was somewhat surprised when he saw the two suddenly embracing, when before he hadn't even known Krysi was there. The two chao whispered soft, gentle words to eachother, possibly wishing eachother luck and telling the other to be careful. After a moment together, they parted and flew back to their respective teams. Gizmo looked up at Kitty. "Hey...She'll be alright." He said, considerately. "She's got a whole team to look after her."

Pyro stepped over to Tendril, Inferna, and Tsunami. "Well, it looks like I won't be seeing you guys for a while," he said, "Good luck out there, and remember what I taught you." He turned and began walking toward the rest of Team One, looking back only once to say, "Oh, and Tendril. Keep an eye on my sister. We don't want her killing anything innocent." Tendril smiled back. "I'll make sure she stays out of trouble," he replied with a chuckle. Tsunami silently rolled her eyes and looked away.

Homura stepped forward to usher Team One into the gap. Ichiro stayed back for a moment to say one last farewell to Eiji. "Be careful out there, and make sure they don't do anything naive," Ichiro said. "Same to you old friend... Be safe," replied Eiji. Following the rest of his team, Ichiro entered the rift, gesturing for Mia to come with now that they were all through.

After giving their farewells to the other team, Smash looked over at Paroi and Statyx, wondering if they had gotten their portal up yet.

Statyx just shrugged. "Fine, if that's how you guys wanna go about it." he said, "But personally, I'd prefer to notify them. Then we can take them out first thing rather than after we're tired from traveling."

The threads of Savant's patience were on the verge of snapping. "Shall I save you the trouble of explaining once again the direness of our situation?" he asked as calmly as possible, looking at Ichiro as he said this.

Ichiro simply shook his head, annoyed at Statyx's false confidence but also very worried for him. Clearing his throat, Eiji commented, "Statyx, Paroi, whenever you're ready. Time is of the essence."

"Ready when you are," Paroi said to Statyx. The green hedgehog shrugged at the comments he got, raising a hand and snapping his fingers. As if lit by unseen friction, his hand ignited in green flaming energy. Statyx turned to Paroi. "You set up the means, I'll set in the place."

A white glow enveloped Paroi's hand. He extended it toward's Statyx. "Take my hand." Statyx did as requested, putting the flame-enveloped hand in Paroi's glowing one.

"Now, just decide on where you want to go, and I'll use my powers in tandem with yours. That should transport our entire group there." He then turned his head to the rest of his group. "You should stand close to us. My teleporting radius isn't that large."

Savant quietly walked over to the two, keeping his expression apathetic.

Gizmo, Kyle and Smash all exchanged glances, nodding at eachother before heading towards the two.

Tendril and Inferna walked over, followed by a slightly hesitant Tsunami.

Aqua seemed to think for a little before going over and standing near the two.

"Ready Statyx?" Paroi asked.

Statyx shrugged nonchalantly. "Yeah, let's get a move on." he confirmed. "So, anyone got specific coordinates?" he asked, turning his attention to the others.

"Just keep the Zolan Glacier in mind," Eiji replied, "We cannot teleport straight to the temple, as it's energies interfere with such methods of travel."

"You know where that is?" Paroi asked Statyx. "This world is still pretty new to me."

"Just give me as close as I can get, and I'll handle it." Statyx responded confidently.

"All right then. If everyone's ready to get going..." A white aura enveloped Paroi's body. It extended and enveloped Statyx as well. "You might want to put in your energy about now," he said to Statyx. Statyx nodded and did so, wanting to simply get a move on. With a bright flash, Paroi, Statyx and their entire group vanished from the area, heading towards the Southern Tundra's Zolan glacier.

And so the heroes were off, off on a journey which could decide the fate of the world. Though apart, they worked towards the same goal, and it would take everything in their power to defeat their enemies.

Part Three: Leveling the Playing Field

Team One arrived through Mia's spacial rift into a grassy field; they were in Northamer. Behind them was the skyline of an unknown city, glowing under the light of the westerly moon. Ahead of them, resting upon the horizon, was the Great Forest. That was their destination.

"The Thunder Temple is deep within the forest," Ichiro explained, "We must move quickly, we've no time to waste standing around."

Mia bent down on her knees and was panting; holding a rift big and far as the one she used took up much of her energy.

Static glanced at the wind magician. "Even though we can't waste time, give Mia a moment. It'd be no use to have her tired out when we start, and have her near collapsed at the temple." He looked at the forest. "Looks foreboding to me."

Crystal walked towards Mia, giving her a look of worry.

"No no no, I'm okay, besides going into a forest would be good for me. Due to the large amount of life, there's tons of mana in forests. Other then getting my energy back, I should also become a little stronger..." said Mia as she got back up on her feet.

Ichiro looked to Mia with guilt. "I'm very sorry. I had no idea mass transportation would take so much out of you," he said, "I want you to try and rest until we have to move out to the next temple. If we are forced into battle, conserve your energy."

Savant looked at Mia from the back of the group. His normally cold expression was absent; instead was what appeared to be a look of mingled sympathy and respect.

Thetis had a neutral expression on his face. While he did feel sorry for Mia, he really wanted to get a move on.

"Hate to be the pushy one, but are you ready to go?" Thunder asked, after a few moments.

"Yeah, yeah... Sorry didn't mean get you all worried, but I'll be just fine, its just normal exhaustion..." said Mia as she brushed back some of her hair revealing a face that was ready to go.

"Good, now let's get moving," Homura said as he started off towards the forest. All of a sudden, he was stopped by a spontaneous bolt of lightning striking the ground in front of him, bringing with it a familiar laughter. "Why the rush, everyone? Can't you spare some time to stay and... chat?" Within the thin layer of smoke left by the lightning stood the menacing figure of Minister. His eyes glowed a bright ivory colour in the night, as the tail of his hood blew in the faint breeze. Ichiro and the masters stopped dead in their tracks, their motionlessness signaling for the others to do the same.

Oh, shoot... Thunder thought. 'It's that voice..it's that same voice from earlier...' He was completely frozen in place; not even finishing the step he was about to make, which caused him to balance on one foot.

Zap was too afraid to move, now. Crystal hid behind him, and Krysi hid behind her. Keela instinctively put her hand on the hilt of her sword, ready to pull it out if needed. But seeing the reactions of the masters, she knew she'd be in over her head if she actually challenged the person in question.

It's that guy, Thetis though to himself. I don't see any of the masters preparing to engage him. That's not a good sign. He took a few steps back, not wanting to be the first one to get into trouble if anything happened.

Savant merely glared at Minister. Although he knew full-well how powerful Minster and his people were, he had seen things far more abominable and sinister than them.

Minister chuckled, happy to see that his enemies were well-informed of his capabilites. "You all don't need to be so frightened. I've just come here for some practice," he said, he meaning relatively unknown, "Hebi, you can summon, yes? Mind if I have a quick spar with a few of your Venom Spawns?" The poison merely hissed in response, to which Minister replied, "Touchy, touchy... Fine, I'll just pick one of your friends instead." Looking over the group of heroes he continued, "Who wants to test their might?"

Pyro remained where he was. Though usually eager to train so he can face his real enemy, he knew better than to challenge someone that even the masters aren't willing to fight.

Thetis was weighing his options. How my telekinesis would fare against this guy? he wondered, then changed his mind once he realized how cautious the masters were behaving. If they're hesitating to fight him, even with their combined strength, then how can we possibly hope to beat him?

Thunder didn't dare move. He stood in front of the two kids, protectively. Keela wasn't sure what to do. What were they supposed to do?

"Whaddya tryin' to pull!?" Splice demanded, stepping forward.

((Xi - Feel free to charge in there, guys. He won't bite... hopefully ^^;))

Mia was nervous, but knowing she could handle injuries the most, she went ahead and stepped forwards with her heart racing but her face had a horrid scowl that could scare a demon.

((Xi - And so it begins... oh dear.))

"Mia, stay back!" Ichiro warned, but Minister was way ahead of him. "Oh goody, fresh meat!" the villain said cheerfully. With a swift wave of his arm, he drew Mia in close and fast with his telekinesis. Levitating her awfully close to him, he stared deeply into her eyes and whispered, "Immortality won't save you now, witch." Ichiro stepped forward, naively wanting to help, but before he could do anything Mia had already been tossed high into the air, with a blast of ice shot immediately after her.

((Ryu-Should Savant deflect the shot of ice, or do you want to let Mia do it?))
((Xi - He can try, but that'll only get him in as much trouble as Mia is right now.))
((Ryu-Minister's not the only telekinetic on the field.))
((Xi - Oh, he's much much more than a just telekinetic.))
((Ryu-A Cryokinetic as well?))
((Xi - Omni, actually. *trollface?*))
((Ryu-O.O No wonder the Followers are so feared. Hmm, well the only thing Savant would have to REALLY worry about is Earth-aligned attacks or Void Magic; with Talos in his possession, he's like a tank.))
((Xi - He can try it. Only time will tell how "tanky" he is when compared to the likes of Minister.))
((Banzai - There's another psychokinetic on the field as well ;) ))

"God dammit!" Thetis cried out, extending his arms and using his own telekinesis to try and pull Mia out of the way.

At the same time, Savant used his telekinesis to try and deflect the ice blast.

Static disappeared from sight, right before reappearing near Mia. "Tell me this works downwards." he sighed. "Velocity Dash!" Grabbing Mia, he once again moved back towards the ground at a blinding speed, using Thetis's telekinesis as a rubber band effect. "Woo!" he cheered. "It does work down!" Then the hedgehog looked up. "That isn't homing, is it?"

Minister held Mia in place to render Thetis and Static's efforts useless, then shot blindingly fast beams of energy at the two of them which would fully paralyze them on contact. As for Savant, he succeeded in deflecting the ice blast, but was met with a pillar of earth rising from beneath him. "Trying to save the little abomination, are you?" he said, simultaneously taunting all four of his opponents, "You can try, but you won't be stopping me. I know all your secrets!"

The goetian's eyes widened slightly as he quickly teleported out of the earth pillar's path.

Thetis noticed the beams at the last minute, quickly using his telekinesis to push himself out of the way. "Somehow I doubt that," Thetis said, rather matter-of-factly, a small aura of green energy enveloping his hands.

"Don't I?" Minister replied, "Tell me, is this your Psycho Scalpel, or perhaps are you entering into your Awakened State?" Had he not been wearing a bandana over his face, a long smirk would have been crystal clear.

"...Okaaaay.....so maybe you know our powers," Thetis said, taken a little off-guard. "However, 'what we can do' and 'how we use it' are two different things."

"Considering your opponent... nothing," Minister answered, rather smugly.

"Whatever. Whether you know what's coming on an exam or not, there's still a chance you might fail, if you don't study properly." The energy surrounding Thetis's hands extended slightly outwards, forming a blade of energy over his hands. The blades then doubled in length, now about 3/4 the length of Thetis's arms.

A sudden burst of energy escaped from Mia, the air became heavy as Mia glared up wth her demonic eyes... "What did you just call me?" hissed Mia, growing highly agressive. Under strong magic pressure, she broke free from Minister's psychic grasp. However she continued to float in mid-air. Mia flew right towards Minister with several Wind Arrows right behind her. "Don't you DARE call me such things! I'll rip you apart! LITERALLY!" roared Mia.

Static used Velocity Dash to get out of the way of the beams of energy. "Huh... So he can use all powers. Well, fine then." Static stuck his sword into the ground, a summoning glyph appearing at his feet. "Let's mix things up." A small stone appeared in his hands.

Keela drew her bow and arrows, wanting to help her team. She aimed for Minister, but held her fire. She began to wait for the right moment. Splice stepped forward, glaring up at him. He was actually rather intimidated by him, and Mia's outburst, but he hid it behind his scowl. He as well wanted to help the team, but wasn't quite sure how.

"Master Homura, what should we do?" Thunder asked.

((Sorry, I got left behind. =/ ~Smash The Echidna~ Smash_life.png 05:14, February 10, 2012 (UTC) ))

((Xi - No need to apologize, Smash. You haven't missed much, just everybody about to get the living s*** beat out of them.))

Homura looked to the ground, a hint of remorse in his expression. "For now... we must sit back, and hope that they survive,"

Minister dashed to the side, allowing Mia to reach the ground next to him. He then took control of her Wind Arrows and sent them towards Thetis, Static, Keela, and Splice. With a snap of his fingers he conjured thorned vines from the ground to hold Mia in place and said, "Keep still for a moment, would you? I want to find the alien." He was referring to Savant, who he had not seen reappear.

Splice quickly rolled out of the way of the arrows. Keela had to hop out of the way, just barely making it without firing her arrow.

However, Mia easy broke free of the vines and took back control of her wind arrows, she was pulsing with anger and her mana flow even became a visible green glow. She began to summon paper-like hands form spacial holes in the air to attack Minister.

"Miss me?" came a sudden voice from behind Minister. Should he turn around, he would be met with the business end of a massive metal flail.

Thetis sat back trying to plan his next move. The Minister's words ran through his head and, oddly, gave him some hope. It' may be just a hunch, but he needed confirmation on what technique I was preparing. So he knows what we are capable of, but maybe not exactly what we can do. He looked to his comerades, trying to think of a possible way to work together and stand a chance against the Minister.

The flail was blocked by a spontaneous wall of light, and the paper hands were immediately set ablaze and destroyed upon approaching Minister. The Follower himself seemed completely unfazed, and looked passed his opponents to see the master rendered unable to stop him due to their own fear of him; the thought was rather amusing. "Homura, may I have your opinion on something?" he asked nonchalantly, "Shall I finish these fools off now and save you the trouble of babysitting, or would you prefer I give them a false hope but ultimately make their defeat more grueling?" Again a smirk stretched across his face, concealed by the white bandana.

Mia's anger grew more, in fact, her charm began to rip. This was the charm that allows her to control her space magic, without it she'll end up creating a black whole sending everyone into a realm of chaos. However Mia's power was slowly destroying it. But Mia became blind as her "demon-eyes" shined, she swiftly flew towards Minister with a exorcism needle and thrust by it, if it did not do a direct shot, it should at least tear some clothing.

Contrary to what was expected, the needle simply bounced off of Minister's left shoulder, doing no visible damage. He took the opportunity to firmly grasp Mia's wrist, his hand glowing with a violet aura that burned hotter than the whitest flame. Again he stared into her eyes, more intrigued by what was now staring back at him, and he used his free hand to take hold of her deteriorating charm. He seemed to caress it with his ebony glove which glowed with the same aura, then with a malicious chuckle he tore it from her chest, effectively destroying it.

The sudden snap caused Splice to freeze in place. He looked up at Mia, and gasped at what he saw. He remembered Smash telling him about a horrifying experience due to her losing that charm. "Ohh, noo...."

Mia's eyes dimmed and the earth began to rumble... Chaotic red sparks began flying, a formation of a spacial disturbance was forming in the air above everyone. Due to Mia's extreme release of magic, she had no control over the forbiden space magic. The Mia's eyes continued to grow dim as all her mana began to be sapped away from the formation, its hunger for magical power continued as it started to use black mana, sucking the life away in the area. Finally when it was full, a giant spaciel hole appeared in the sky, unlike the scarlet waves of color usually seen in Mia's gaps, it was a black and white misty void inside. All of a sudden, it began to suck in everyone in the surrounding area with unmeasurable force.

"W-What on earth!?" Keela cried out, accidentally letting her arrow fly. The arrow was immediately sucked inside, as she grabbed hold of the nearest heavy object.

Thunder turned around and held onto the two kids, crouching to their height. "Don't look, just hang on!" He said. The two were far too terrified to even think about looking.

Splice screamed, and tried to run and grab onto something sturdy.

"Not so fast!" Minister shouted as he tossed Mia aside. The others around him were held down with his telekinesis, but even the ground began to lose itself to the spacial rift. Minister himself, however, seemed completely uneffected as he raised his hand to the sky and cried out, "Violet Vortex: Soul of the Void!" Homura grunted, realizing what Minister had planned by enraging Mia. A mighty bolt of violet energy shot from Minister's hand, striking the rift dead center. After a few moments of chaotic flashes and surges of energy, the rift seemed to disappear within the beam, which retracted into Minister's hand. He looked over to Mia with a chuckle and said, "Thanks... I was well overdue for a little boost."

Mia said and did nothing, her eyes blank. She was in a current "death state". However tears were noticeable from her grey eyes.

"Mia!" Keela cried out. She and Splice rushed over to her aid, but Splice stopped and whirled around to look at Minister. He gritted his teeth, realizing that he had just gotten even stronger from that.

Crystal ran out from behind Thunder and towards Mia. As Keela tried to get Mia to wake up, Crystal knelt down next to her, with Krysi flying over to catch up. She ran her hand across her face, and gasped when she felt her cold, lifeless body. Desperate to try and save her, she outstretched her hands, and created a crystal shaped barrier around them. Her whole body was glowing as she used her power to form it. She then pointed her palms down towards Mia, as the atmosphere inside seemingly began to sparkle. "Revitalize..." Her soft voice echoed within the barrier. As she spoke, the very atmosphere around them seemed to convert to powerful healing energy, of a sort. Even though it was aimed at Mia, She, Keela, and Krysi could feel it as well.

Splice stood outside the barrier, watching Minister's every move.

Even though Mia was healed out of her death state, she was still unconscious...

Minister looked back and forth at Splice and Crystal. Keeping his eyes on Splice, he raised his hand towards Crystal and fired a violet beam. He didn't call out the name of the spell this time, but it seemed to do the same as the Violet Vortex, as the barrier was completely eliminated. He stopped at that, as if to taunt Splice.

Crystal was already letting her barrier down, but the sudden force of elimination caused a strain on her. She clutched her chest in pain, just barely catching herself from falling over. Splice looked over and gasped. "Crystal, are you alright!?" He asked frantically. She looked at him and nodded, still somewhat in pain. She then noticed Zap rushing up to her, wondering the same thing.

The masters still stood back and watched. Ichiro was absolutely furious that he could do nothing to help, but Yamori rested a hand on his shoulder and gave him a look that said to try and calm down. "This is not good," Homura started quietly, "He isn't holding back his magic anymore. If they keep giving him a reason to continue, he will surely use it on them."

Savant had already pulled the flail away, backing up a bit. Not even multiple attacks in multiple directions overwhelm him, he thought to himself.

Static looked over to the stone he had previously been holding. It had rolled quite a distance away, so he began to dash towards it, deciding against Velocity Dash due to low energy.

Savant glanced over to Static, noticing what he was running after. He then looked over at Minister.

Minister stretched one arm outward and let out a sigh of relaxation. "Well, that was a nice workout. If you're all finished pretending you stand a chance, I really must be off. The Void doesn't like to be kept waiting," he said while feigning fatigue.

"If that's the case, then why'd you attack us in the first place?" Thetis said, sarcastically.

Splice glared at Minister, but he didn't dare attack him. After seeing what he was capable of, he knew he couldn't stand up to him.

Mia moaned as she tried to regain conciousness. She murmured fague words, "Space... god.... uncontrollable... no one.... tame.... power.... no... one..."

Ignoring Thetis, Minister turned his attention to Mia and said, "Oh that's right, I almost forgot." In a wisp of blue flame, another charm appeared in his hand, which flew over to Mia. However, unlike her old charm, this one had the mark of the Void printed on it. "You'll need this," he warned, "We can't have that spacial magic running wild, now, can we?"

Splice and Keela watched as he gave the charm to her. "Can we really allow him to...?" Keela whispered to Splice. "What if it ends up harming her even more...?"

Splice shook his head. "I don't know..."

Static, finally reaching his stone, raised his foot and stomped on it. It cracked under the pressure, sending lightning bolts out in multiple directions. In a spark, a second Static stood, this one with crimson eyes. "You needed me?" Blitz said, the entity inside the stone shifting on his feet.

After making sure she was okay, Zap stood in front of Crystal, glaring up at Minister. He was angry that he attacked Crystal, but knew it wasn't a good idea to try to attack him again. He stood on the defensive, watching his every move. Thunder immediately grew worried about how close the two were, and slowly began to walk over to them.

"Stay alert." Static said, glaring daggers at Minister. Blitz raised an eyebrow. "You called me here so that I should stay alert?" His counterpart sighed. "Just get ready." Both tensed, ready to fight.

Mia began to wake up, her eyes cringed as she tried to escape the void of unconciousness. When her eyes finally opened up she looked around for a moment but then noticed the new charm on her chest. Noticing symbol on it she tore it off imediantly!

Minister glared at Mia for a moment and snapped his finger, causing the charm to repair itself. "Ichiro," he called to the infuriated komodo, "You're fond of this witch, yes? Be a good boy and make sure she doesn't lose that. Her control over that spacial magic won't last long enough for her to get another of her own charms." With that, he turned his back on the heroes, raising a hand to show that he had not let down his guard. "Now, I really must be off. There are others on their way, so I promise you that you won't be starved of action." Snapping his fingers a second time, he disappeared in the same fashion he appeared, leaving no trace other than a thin cloud of smoke.

Mia once again tore the thing off her chest, "Idiot..." said Mia as she started to undo her hair ribbon. "All magicians must be prepared for anything..." And then Mia took a pen out of her skirt pocket and began writing strange characters on the hair ribbon. After a small chant, the markings became bold and Mia tied it up into the shape of a bow and placed it on her chest.

Once he was gone, Splice let out a sigh of relief. "Is everyone alright?" He called out, looking towards the rest of the team.

"Yes. I'm okay." Keela answered. Zap and Crystal nodded in unison, while Thunder waved to signal that he was fine.

Blitz growled, sheathing his sword. "Pathetically paranoid!" he spat at his counterpart before returning to his stone form. Static sighed and picked it up, the stone fading to light. "Well, that went relatively better than expected."

"I beg to differ," Thetis said. He was quite annoyed with the entire situation, especially about the fact that the Followers knew so much about each of them.

"Okay so, this really isn't good, even if he is gone for now." Splice said. "The Follower guys are probably already inside the temple." He looked over towards the masters. "How are we supposed to beat a guy like that, anyway?"

"We don't," Homura answered. "Part of our strategy is to use their underestimation of us against us," Yamori explained, "We can only hope to accomplish our goal by avoiding as many encounters with their higher ranked underbosses as possible. Some encounters, though, may be impossible to avoid. It is then that battle carefully and wisely."

Ichiro walked over to Mia to see what Minister may have done to her. He saw the scraps of the Void Charm on the ground which, unlike the first time it was torn, disintigrated in a wisp of violet flames. "Mia, I don't mean to alarm you, but..." he began slowly. Carefully he reached for her left sleeve, and rolled it up over her shoulder to reveal the mark of the Void glowing on her arm. "Just as I thought," he continued, "The scumbag made sure you couldn't walk away without some recognition of his presence. It shouldn't cause you any harm, but will still need to be careful... I don't quite know what he means for it to do."

"Argh... Well, whatever it is, it can't kill me..." moaned Mia as she held her hand over the mark. Her eyes once again glowed their demonic green color.

Static sighed before turning away from the group. "Advice taken. Let's get to that Temple as quick as we can." He began to stride off.

Splice nodded, and followed behind. He began to wonder about what would happen at the end of their quest. Thunder, Keela, Crystal and Zap began to head off too, but Thunder stopped to look at the Masters, first.

Homura began to walk off towards the forest, not saying a word. Ichiro helped Mia off the ground, then followed suit. Yamori and Hebi went afterwards, gesturing for Thunder to do so as well. Time was of the essence, and Minister's interruption served to waste much of any spare time they may have.

And so the heroes advanced into the Great Forest. Shadows stretched all across the ground, making for a very ombinous atmosphere. Yamori, however, seemed to feel quite at home. Not a sound was to be heard other than the heroes' own footsteps, and the faint breeze blowing through the trees. In general, it was quiet... perhaps too quiet.

Splice looked around, walking in the front of the group. He'd never seen a place like this before. It felt kind of strange to him. Keela looked around as well, but was more focused on spotting anymore enemies that might stall them.

Yamori wasn't the only one who seemed to be at home in the forest. Savant's normally cold expression was replaced by a quiet look of ease and wonderment.

A small sound, the fluttering of tiny wings, joined the breeze close by. A small, pure white butterfly had floated out of the forest and was now flying around the heroes' heads.

Mia who was tired and worn before, has started to walk tall and proudly with a smile on her face. The forest's large amount of life gave off alot of mana that has quickly healed Mia's power and maybe even boosted it a little. However it was revealed that the pleasant look on her face was just a facade when she held her hand over the mark on her shoulder.

Thetis strolled leisurely, hands behind his head. His relaxed calm masked his uneasiness and fear of the current state of things.

Pyro watched as the white butterfly fluttered around them, something about it striking him as being vaguely familiar.

Static's eyes followed the butterfly's flight. He blinked and turned his head away, murmuring something quietly to himself.

Thunder felt uneasy about the whole thing, walking slowly at the back of the group. It was pretty clear that the situation was troubling him, but he didn't say a word.
Crystal looked up at the butterfly, and smiled broadly. "Oh look at the pretty butterfly.." She said, happily. She gently held up her hand towards the butterfly, hoping it would land on the back of her finger. Zap watched curiously, wondering what kind of butterfly it was.

The butterfly, obviously not afraid of the heroes, calmly landed on the back of Crystal's finger. Another one soon floated out from behind a tree, followed by two more.

Savant finally took notice of the butterflies well. It was strange how unafraid they were of the group.

The sight of all the butterflies calmed Thetis. He really appreciated the beauty of nature and its creatures. He extended his index finger, hoping one would land on it. However, he couldn't help but feel a bit curious as to their fearlessness of the group, plus the fact that butteflies do not usually travel in groups...do they?

Ichiro looked cautiously at the butterfly. As graceful as the insect seemed, something about it seemed to bother him. He kept his distance from it, unsure of what was so strange about it.

Another of the butterflies landed calmly on Thetis' finger. More and more butterflies joined the rest, the size of the group gradually growing to the dozens, maybe even the hundreds. One of the butterflies flitted down onto Ichiro's shoulder.

"Uh...Doesn't anyone else think this is kinda alarming?" Splice asked uneasily, almost covered in butterflies.

Thunder was busy trying to shoo them all away, wondering where they all came from.

"Everyone stay calm," Yamori said, trying to keep everyone under control. Ichiro looked over at the butterfly on his shoulder, and noticed something very odd about it. The butterfly seemed to be made of paper, "What in the world?" he muttered to himself, before realizing what was going on, "Oh no. Everyone! These aren't normal--" Ichiro was suddenly cut off, as the butterfly unfolded into a regular piece of paper and matted itself to his face, sealing his mouth shut.

All of the butterflies suddenly began unfolding into sheets of paper and attatching themselves to the heroes. The one one Crystal's finger wrapped around her hand, trapping it, then slammed into the nearest tree. The sheets of paper seemed intent on covering the heroes from head to toe, keeping them from moving an inch.

Crystal cried out in pain, trying to free her finger from the tree. Zap tried to rush over to help, but ended up falling over when they trapped his legs together. Thunder swatted them away, but they only latched onto his arms. "What the heck are these things!?"

Savant tried to pry the paper butterflies off of his body using his Psychic powers; it didn't do anything. Thetis tried to do the same using his telekinesis, but to no avail.

Keela drew her sword and slashed away at them, but Splice was already completely covered up. Suddenly, a large column of flames erupted from his body, in an attempt to incinerate the papery "creatures" on his body. Pyro tried the same thing as Splice, but the flames seemed to have no effect. Once they died down, the sheets of paper were still there, not even singed. The only parts of the heroes that weren't covered up by paper were the heads. "Gah...W-what are these things!?" Splice exclaimed, now rather frightened.

"I-I don't know..!" Keela cried out, now immobilized by the paper.

Once each of the heroes had been rendered helpless by the paper, some of the stray sheets still floating in the air began to collect into a single area, constructing a living being; a blue, female hedgehog in a dark cloak, large white wings of paper sprouting from her back.

"W-wh-...Who are you!?" Splice shouted. "Let us go!"

The sight of the woman caused something to click in Pyro's mind. He finally remembered where he had seen the butterflies before. "Oh great, not you again!" he called out in dismay. The woman seemed to ignore him, and glanced over at Splice, her face vacant of expression. "I cannot have you interfereing with the High One's plans," she said, waiting as three orange-furred beings stepped out of the shadows behind the trees; one a squirrel, one a bear, and one a human. The three flicked their wrists, causing a long pole made of a dark grey metal to extend from each wrist. Each of them aims a pole at one of the heroes.

Ichiro threw himself to the side to avoid one pole, unable to dodge due to the paper trap. The masters were still able to use their own powers, despite being restrained, and proceeded to attack the four enemies with Earth, Shadow, and Poison.

Splice just fell backwards, landing on his back and avoiding the poles. He wasn't sure what he was going to do now. Thunder just barely managed to hop backwards and back up against a tree. Crystal managed to form a crystal shaped barrier around herself and anyone near her. Zap fell down on his bottom, though close enough to be protected by the barrier.

A wall of paper, held together by the woman's mere concentration, blocked the multiple attacks. The squirrel broke the poles off of his wrists and bent down, placing his hands on the ground. Summoning circles materialized with his hands at the center, then released clouds of white smoke, which soon cleared to reveal a large, three-headed dog. The dog split into three, each one having a single head. Each dog then strided over to one of the three masters and slammed their clawed paws into the masters' heads.

The three dogs were suddenly blocked by Ichiro... and Ichiro, and Ichiro. Three copies of Ichiro appeared in a dull flash of light to fight off the dogs, and the real one still struggled to free himself from his binds.

The dogs barked at the sudden appearance of the Ichiros, then lunged at them, fangs bared.

Splice struggled to get up, but had no luck. "Crap..What do we do..!?" He growled to himself through his struggles.

Mia struggled with the butterflies, but she was getting angry and threw herself into a rift. However she was grasped by two paper arms which kept her aloft, while two more appeared and acted as her own hands. "Trying to make me immoble is a waist of time" she said.

Ignoring Mia's disappearance and Ichiro and the masters' attacks, the three orange furred beings approached their targets once more and aimed their weapons at their chests. However, just before they had the chance to stab, a strong gust of wind ripped through the clearing, tearing the sheets of paper and freeing the heroes. A white hedgehog with bright green streaks materialized on a tree branch above the paper woman, who was clearly surprised that her hostages had been so easily freed.

"Cyclone!" Pyro called to the newcomer, "Perfect timing, man. Just like the first time."

Static, freed of his papery binds, withdrew his tesla sword. "Let's chat later." He sweeped the blade sideways, sending a wave of lightning towards the paper woman.

Keela hopped back to her feet and grabbed her sword. Thunder and Splice managed to stand back up and both got into a fighting stance.

The human in the group dashed between Static and the hedgehog, blocking the attack with his metal poles. Curiously, despite having just taken an electric attack, the man was still alive and seemingly unfazed. The squirrel handed his poles to the woman, then summoned three massive centipedes. The unusually large insects reared up, towering high above the treeline, and attempted to body-slam some of the heroes.

More doubles of Ichiro fought off the centipedes, the real one now lost among them after being freed. After a quick glance at Cyclone, one Ichiro explained, "This is... Konan, one of the more unique Followers. Everyone stay alert."

Static tapped his sword against his hand. "Either you can use electricity or you have absorbtion powers. In any case..." He reared his hand up and slammed it into the ground, causing his own summon glyph to appear. "Let's even the odds! Oh razing bird of the heavens, hear my plead! Cover the skies with fire!" In a whir of fire, a giant pheonix appeared behind him. His sword flaring up with fire, Static grinned and rushed the man.

The squirrel matched Static's summon by summoning his own bird; a very large bird with a drill-like beak, four wings, and three legs. The orange-haired man raised one pole in defense, then used the other to stab at Static once he got too close.

However, a small rift appeared consuming the tip of the pole before it reached Static. Mia came out, freed, and rather tense. "I don't like my friends getting hurt...." she said, and then she created a small tornado with several needles inside of it causing any flesh that enters it to be torn and stabbed. The man, too close to Mia to escape, found himself caught in the center of her tornado. Once freed from it, he fell to the ground, seemingly dead. The bear darted forward, picked up the body, then ducked back out before anyone could turn on him. Several of the squirrel's dogs leapt in between the heroes and the bear, just to make sure nobody followed him.

Cyclone, remembering the last time he let that bear escape with a corpse, couldn't let him do it again. He leapt into another tree, then another, continuing that process and following the bear closely, his distance from the ground the only thing keeping the hounds from pursuing him.

Static waved to Mia. "Thanks." Sending his hand out, he commanded his pheonix to attack the other bird. He then went after the squirrel, hoping to take advantage of his unarmed position. The squirrel extended another metal pole from his wrist and held it out defensively.

Shifting slightly, Static used Velocity Dash, and ended up next the that squirrel. He arched his blade sideways towards the back of his opponent's head, the fire on his sword flaring up.

Several sheets of paper began attaching themselves to Static's sword, smothering the flames and robbing the blade of its sharpness. The hedgehog woman tugged her outstretched arm backward, forcing Static's sword to slow down, giving the squirrel a chance to duck under the blade and stab his pole up at Static.

Growling, Static threw out his hand. "Electroreflect!" The barrier blocked against the squirrel's strike, and Static sheathed his now useless sword. "I hate paper."

Suddenly, an arrow shot right toward's the woman's stomach. Keela had withdrawn her own sword in trade for her bow. Meanwhile, Splice was charging up a fiery attack, benefitting from the pheonix in front of him. Thunder held his hand up towards the sky, as clouds began to form overhead. Suddenly, a large bolt of lightning shot down towards him, and right into his palm. The electricity coarsed through his body, completely energizing him.

The squirrel narrowly managed to block the arrow with his hand, ignoring the pain of having it shot into his palm. He pulled it out and stepped closer to Konan, whispering something in her ear. After a moment, she nodded. "I must be going now," she announced, "My other friends have located the Temple." With that, she flapped her huge paper wings, then turned and flew off, vanishing into the forest. The squirrel, alone now, glanced around the clearing at the heroes, noting those who were on the verge of attacking. He knelt down and placed a hand on the ground, waiting for the right moment.

Deeper in the forest, Cyclone stopped in a tree close to where the bear had finally stopped. His eyes widened at what he saw in the center of the small clearing, the bear's hand on its side. His shock at what he was looking at prevented him from sensing the presence coming up behind him until it was too late. He whirled around when he realized there was someone there, only to meet the heal of the man's foot. He fell out of the tree and landed heavily on the ground, where the bear grabbed him by the throat, lifted him off his feet, and pinned him against a tree.

"We can't let her get to the temple!" Ichiro shouted. "Everyone give chase, this one is of little importance," Homura added, referring to the squirrel.

Pyro glanced around at the others. "Dang it, where'd Cyclone go?" he asked in frustration, "He'd make it a lot easier to stop her from getting away." The squirrel simply watched the heroes, waiting for the right time to make his next summon.

Splice, hearing the command, quickly switched plans and used the fire to give himself a burst of speed. He ran after her, holding his hands out behind him and using the flames as jets. Thunder kept an eye on the squirrel, as he made his way over to Zap and Crystal. "Are you two alright?" He asked.

"Y-yes." Crystal nodded, letting down her barrier. Zap stood up and faced Thunder.

"Hurry. We'll catch up!" Zap told him. Thunder didn't bother protesting, knowing that he was right. He nodded and and ran off in the direction of the others, with the two kids following behind.

Thetis understood his priorities and ran off in the direction of the heroes as well.

Savant ran off in the direction Konan went, and then leaped into the air, spreading his own wings and flying off after her. Pyro followed as well, despite his disappointment at Cyclone's disappearance. The squirrel immediately reacted to the heroes, two huge clouds of white smoke billowing out from beneath his hands. The smoke soon cleared, revealing two massive creatures, an ox and a rhino. The two stampeded after the heroes, followed by the pack of hounds and the drill-beaked bird.

Hearing the stampede of summoned creatures behind him, Thetis turned and gaped at the plethora of bests following them. In an attempt to slow them down, he used his telekinesis to pull against one of the ox's front hooves, in an attempt to trip it and slow the other creatures.

The ox tripped as expected, but slid for several yards before actually stopping. The rhino then tripped over the ox, being thrown even further and putting the heroes at risk of being speared on its tree-sized horn. The hounds, however, simply bounded over and around their fallen comrades, and the bird just flew over.

"Uh oh," Thetis said, seeing the impending danger of the rhino. Using all the telekinetic force he could muster, he tried to push the rhino to the side, safely away from the heroes.

Splice zipped past everyone else, not looking back. "I don't think I wanna know what's going on back there!"

Thunder just barely made it a safe distance away from the charging animals, but he was still not out of danger yet. Meanwhile, Keela lead Crystal and Zap down a different route to lose their trail.

The rhino moved to the side as the ox managed to get back to its feet. The rest of the creatures kept coming for them, the hounds snarling and barking at the heroes. Soon, the heroes followed Konan right into a small clearing. Konan kept flying, ignoring the three beings already in the clearing. The human stood at the entrance, while the bear stood off to the side, clutching Cyclone's throat and holding him against a tree. Cyclone, his face uncharacteristically filled with fear, simply gaped at an unseen horror behind the bear. Cyclone was frozen in what seemed to be terror and could not seem to remember how to escape.

Mia saw the bird coming in fast! She jumped into the air into flight and created a whip out of green magic energy and whipped it around the bird's wings causing it to stop flying, but then Mia powerfully swung the whip and with a gust of wind as a boost, smashed the bird into the tree knocking the whole thing down.

Splice skidded to a stop in the clearing. He looked at the bear, seemingly strangling Cyclone, and then back at Konan. He hesitated for a few moments, but then decided to help their savior. He ran towards the bear and leaped above his head, bringing down his foot covered in a sharp block of ice for a powerful axe kick.

The bird, unable to maintain its form in the onslaught, vanished in a puff of white smoke. Just before Splice's attack struck, the human that Mia had killed rushed in and blocked the kick with another of the metal poles. The pack of hounds soon reached the clearing and lunged at the heroes still on the ground.

"I don't think so!" shouted Mia, and then she threw several wind arrows at the hounds, each with a piercing needle inside.

Savant was still in the air. He looked around at the fight happening below, and then at the orange-haired human. Eyes narrowing, he dove steeply at him, both of the Goetian's bone-blades resonating with darkness.

((Xi - Sorry about the delay everyone. I just needed to clear some things up.))

Ichiro's copies continued to fight off the various enemies, the real one still lost amongst them. Hebi and Yamori did their part to aid the heroes as well, while Homura went after Konan. As she flew, many of the trees ahead of her began to slowly collapse in her way, threating to knock her out of the air.

Each of the hounds that was struck by the arrows simply tore in half from the sharp needles, and each half of a hound quickly regenerated into a full hound, doubling the numbers of the pack. The ox had just managed to get back to its feet, and charged into the clearing, aiming its horns at Savant in an attempt to prevent his attack from hitting. Meanwhile, Konan simply dissolved into dozens of sheets of paper, each of which then folded into a paper airplane, flitting off through the forest with even greater speed and agility.

"Just great," Thetis said, seeing the enormous stampede of creatures heading towards them. His hands became enveloped with green energy, which then formed into a misty blade-shape around his hands. The energy blades then doubled in length, roughly the length of his forearm. Recklessly, he darted towards the pack of hounds, swingin his energy blades and aiming at their ankles.

Savant looked out of the corner of his eye at the ox charging at him. Getting an idea, he quickly teleported 5 feet to the right, putting the orange-haired human in between the Goetian and the charging ox.

The man, unable to escape from the beast due to his pole still locked with Splice's heel, simply watched in fear as the ox grew closer to him. At the same time, the ox's momentum was far too great for it to simply stop without still hitting the man. Not knowing what else to do, Splice held his hands forward and unleashed a blast of flames to thrust himself away from the man. The squirrel, however, despite not having seen what was going on himself, instantly knew his comrade was in danger. He snapped his fingers, recalling the ox back to its world, leaving only a puff of white smoke behind.

"Dammit," Savant growled, his lip curling in frustration. At the same time, the hounds were leaping up and over Thetis' blades, only a few of them taking any of the hits. The rest leap up at him, biting and clawing at his neck and upper body.

Splice skidded back through the grass, after getting away from the man. Thunder finally made it to the clearing and stopped beside him. "Thunder, Where are the others?"
"I don't know, but there's no time right now..!" He responded, through heavy panting.

Mia summoned a rift and several paper arms came out each one wrapping around a hound. Without knowing any other way to get rid of them, she began dragging each one into the rift where they will be sent to oblivion. The squirrel, unwilling to let some of his best summons be destroyed, recalled them as well. The hounds vanished in puffs of white smoke just before reaching the rifts, leaving only the rhino, still struggling to get to its feet, as the only summon left.

Static swiped his blade, charging it. "Let's end this." he growled. Thrusting out the sword, a twi-colored bolt of lightning flew at high velocity at the rhino. "Indignation!"

Thunder, having already charged electricity from before, helped along by unleashing another powerful bolt of lightning towards the rhino.

Unable to handle the sudden rush of electricity, the rhino vanished in the same way as the ox, hounds, and bird. Now all that was left to keep the heroes at bay were the bear, still distracted by holding Cyclone in place, the human, guarding the bear from the others' attacks, and the squirrel, who was now rushing to the other side of the bear for extra defense.

Splice dashed towards the trio, his hand brimming with ice energy. Once he got to them, he aimed his attack for the human. He threw a punch towards his chest, where icicles would grow on impact, as the spot he struck at would begin to freeze, and soon shatter and spread out in every direction.

Thunder turned and ran towards the trio to back up Splice. He attempted to ram into the squirrel before he could do anything against Splice's attack.

Thetis charged towards the squirrel as well from a different direction, his psychokinetic scapels charged with energy. Once he was close enough, he swung his arms in an X-like formation. The blades' special properties would seal of the nerves of any point it struck, rendering it immobile.

The human could do little to avoid Splice's attack without leaving the bear open to the attack. With no other choice, he allowed it to hit, while the squirrel dropped to his knees, pressing his hands on the ground once more. The bear released his hold on Cyclone's throat and grabbed what was left of the human's body, then dashed backward, out of the way of Thetis and Thunder's attacks. As soon as the bear and the human were far enough away, another sudden burst of white smoke billowed out from beneath the squirrel's hands, covering himself, Splice, Thunder, and Thetis, obscuring them from the rest of the group.

"HA!" Mia summoned a gush of powerful wind to blow all the smoke away! Standing where the white smoke had been were four orange-furred Mobians; the squirrel, accompanied by a wolf, an echidna, and a tiger. The echidna picked up the squirrel and the wolf, then tossed them both toward the bear on the other side of the clearing. He then dashed through the gap between Splice and Thunder, also making a run for the bear. The tiger then raised his arms to his sides, creating a sudden outward force, pushing the three heroes back.

"What the-!?" Splice and Thunder were both startled to see even more foes appear before them. They both were shoved down to the ground, face up.

Yamori's blade began to glow grey, and he dashed towards the tiger. With great speed, he dealt a shadow-laced slash, continuing far passed the tiger. The Ichiro duplicates moved their focus to the bear, surrounding him and the others he had with him. They all began to spin their staffs, creating a makeshift barrier of light around the strage beings.

The tiger attempted to side-step Yamori's attack, but wasn't quite fast enough. To avoid being struck by the attack, the tiger raised one arm in a defensive position, a rod of dark grey metal protruding from his wrist. The squirrel, weakened from his many summons, stepped back with the bear, while the wolf and echidna stood between the heroes and the squirrel, bear, and the limp body of the human.

"Argh..." moaned Mia, knowing she had to let her friends through, she summoned a powerful wind energy around her and flew up high, she then shot down tackling the wolf with great momentum!

Just before Mia reached her target, the echidna stepped in front of her, stopping her progress with his hand, a loud, metallic clang ringing out when she struck him. Despite her momentum, the echidna didn't move an inch from taking her attack.

Mia withdrew herself and tossed several needles in the air taking on Wind Arrow formations. Mia quickly tossed all of them at the echidna, but while doing so she began to charge something. The arrows simply bounced off of the echidna, having very little effect on his seemingly metalic body. He stepped back next to the wolf, who was watching the tiger intently. At the same time, the tiger was focusing his attention on his comrades guarding the bear.

"Alright, I've had enough of this." Thunder stood up straight, facing their enemies. Splice nodded in agreement, rather irritated himself. Thunder held his hand up in the air, and shot a bolt of lightning into the sky. Dark clouds began to form overhead as he folded his arms, closing his eyes. "This'll teach you to mess with us." He suddenly rose both hands into the air, pointing upwards with his first two fingers. "Thunder STORM!!"

On his command, several bolts of lightning struck down to the ground, aiming specifically towards the group of enemies that stalled them so.

The orange wolf stepped to the head of the group and held his hands up in the air, a transparent dome formed around him. The lightning bolts struck the dome and were almost immediately absorbed through it and into the wolf's hands.

Seeing the wolf step out in front, Splice already knew what he was up to. He charged towards him as fast as he could, pulling out both daggers in the process, and lunged at him just before he could create the barrier. The wolf sidestepped at the last second, allowing the echidna to reach in from the side and catch Splice by the throat. Instinctively, Splice slashed at the echidna's arm from both sides, threatening to chop it off.

Seeing that his attack wasn't working, Thunder was now very frustrated. He ran towards the echidna holding Splice, and prepared to punch him in the side with a fist laced in lightning.

The echidna placed one arm on top of the one holding Splice. Two panels opened on the arm, and a blade popped out of each panel, each one blocking one of Splice's daggers. At the same time, the wolf dropped his barrier and jumped in the way of Thunder's attack. He caught his fist and began to slowly drain Thunder of his power.

Splice struggled to get free from the echidna's grasp. He tried to force his hand off his neck, while lighting both hands on fire to burn his arm.

Thunder quickly countered by kicking the underside of the wolf's arm, hoping to free his hand before he lost too much energy. The wolf released Thunder's hand and dashed to the side, leaving room for the freshly restored human to charge in with another of the dark metal poles, in an attempt to stab Thunder.

Thunder had to act fast in order to dodge it. He sprung to the side on one foot, falling to the ground and rolling a safe distance away.

The tiger held his hand out toward the wolf, who then released Splice. The tiger created a sudden gravitational force between himself and Splice, pulling the latter toward himself. One more pole sprouted from his opposite hand, which he raised and positioned to stab Splice should he be unable to escape the attraction.

A powerful telekinetic force pulled Splice in the opposite direction. Thetis concentrated much of his power into saving Splice from the tiger. Splice looked back in his direction, and ran as fast as he could to reach him.

The echidna raised his right arm and aimed at the heroes. Several panels opened up on his forearm, revealing a large array of missiles, which he proceeded to fire at Thetis, Splice, and Thunder, until a sudden burst of wind knocked them off course. Cyclone dashed at the human, grabbing the metal pole he tried to stab Thunder with, and using it as a handle to throw him in the way of the tiger's pull.

Mia in the air grew extremely aggresive! "That's it I had it!" she shouted, and then finally waved two fingers into the air and a rift formed between the echidna's torso and legs. Mia then sliced the air with her fingers, the rift to close up, causing the echidna to be cut in half.

Unable to retaliate to the previously mentioned attack, the echidna split in half and collapsed to the ground. However, despite the massive gap between his legs and his torso, not a single drop of blood spilled out. The echidna, somehow still alive after that, tore off what was left of his dark cloak. Hidden beneath it were four more arms, making six total, and a long sash around his abdomen, looking like a long, metal tail with serrated edges, much like those of a saw blade.

"Excellent, keep hammering him!" Cyclone called to Mia, "He is the most dangerous of the six, take him out quickly." He then turned to Thetis, Splice, and Thunder and continued, "The tiger is the second most dangerous, but the wolf and bear are higher priorities. Get rid of the bear first, and don't bother using any kind of energy on the wolf. He'll just absorb it."

Mia summoned a rift under the echidna to be taken to a in-between world, just to be sure there were no resistance Mia summoned many shikigami arms to take him down. But just to make extra sure Mia did a strong downwards kick from the air sending both the echidna and herself into the world and the rift shut behind them. However there were slight sounds of fighting. After a moment another rift opened up dropping a heavily beaten up echidna and Mia who was dusting herself off.

The echidna rose back onto two of his lower arms, for the most part fairly in tact. "I forgot to mention, the echidna is made almost entirely of metal. It's going to take a lot of work to finish him," Cyclone told her. The echidna rose one of his right arms and aimed at Mia. Several panels opened up, revealing another array of missiles inside.

Mia stood there however a unaturaly strong wind blew from behind her sending the missiles back to the echidna. The echidna, unable to get out of the way fast enough due to not having legs anymore, took the full force of the missiles' explosion, rendering him unable to continue fighting. The bear attempted to run in and help, but Pyro jumped in his way, attacking the bear with bursts of flame, just large enough to do damage to the target, but not enough to cause damage to the trees surrounding them.

Mia sighed as she finally finished off the echidna, however she turned towards the wolf. "So the wolf can absorb energy eh? Is it energy created from lifeforce?" said Mia.

"That I'm not sure of," Cyclone replied, "All I know is that he absorbs energy-based attackes. The best course of action would be to overwhelm him with physical attacks. The squirrel seems to have weakened himself due to excessive summoning, so he and the human are virtually defenseless. You guys focus on the wolf and the bear, I'll keep the tiger distracted so you can take them out."

"Hmm, I'm no good at physical, but I can try something.... or someone!" said Mia, and then she took out a paint brush from her dress apron and somehow it seemed to be painting a symbol without paint. Mia continued to make a circular symbol on the ground and finished. She then placed her hands on the symbol and began to speak another language, "Ego Vocare te Moral Shigai!" The symbol began to glow.

Cyclone nodded and kneeled to the ground as well. He placed a hand on the ground and closed his eyes, focusing on the stone beneath him and the heat from Pyro's attacks on the bear. Soon, Cyclone was surrounded by a sudden flash of bright light. When it faded, his white fur had gained a glassy sheen, while his light green streaks became a light tan. He opened his eyes, revealing his previously light green irises to now be a deep red-orange. His transformation to Glass Form complete, Cyclone turned his attention to the tiger standing on the other side of the clearing.

After the glow died down, at first it looked like nothing had happened. But the smirk on Mia's face towards the wolf was intemidating. By a snap of her fingers, something came up from the ground under the wolf, it appeared to be an arm however the skin was stitched with both flesh rotten and fresh. The hand started to burn the wolf a with a dark power.

The wolf attempted to absorb the power, but appeared to be struggling with it. Cyclone silently noted the struggle, then turned his attention back to the tiger. He charged at his target, who lifted one arm aimed at Cyclone, emitting a powerful force in his direction, aiming to push him back. Cyclone, however, had other ideas. He vanished into thin air, reappearing almost instantly directly behind the tiger. After a quick glance around the clearing, he confirmed that all of the other orange creatures had their eyes focused on something or someone else. He wrapped his arm around the tiger's throat, then held one hand in front of the tiger's face. Thick, black smoke billowed out from Cyclone's palm, obscuring the feline's vision and forcing its way into his lungs.

With the wolf held down, it was a good chance to attack. But neither Splice nor Thunder really wanted to get close to the zombie like hand. But thankfully, they didn't have to; A stream of arrows came flying at the wolf from behind, some charged with electricity. Keela had finally made it, with Zap and Crystal behind her.

((I think we should wait for some of the others to edit before we continue, Nora))

((Sorry about my late edit guys. This battle kinda overwhelmed me eventually.~Smash The Echidna~ Smash_life.png 19:31, March 30, 2012 (UTC)))

Cyclone smiled; his guess had been right. The wolf, unable to see the arrows coming at him, could do nothing to even attempt avoiding them. They all found their mark in his back, killing him as well. Now all that was left were the defenseless human and squirrel, the distracted tiger, and the bear, still dodging Pyro's attacks.

Mia went up the hand which appeared to be struggling, she grabbed it and pulled it out. A young girl came from the ground, however she was rather repulsive with her stitched skin of both fresh and rotten flesh. However Mia didn't flinch from her looks and said, "Thanks Moral," The girl gave a sweet smile. "Now Moral, I'll still need you're help okay? Just follow my movements!" said Mia who then got ready to attack the human and squirrel!

The human, seeing the two coming, stepped in front of the squirrel, who turned to face the other direction. The tiger managed to knock Cyclone and the smokescreen back for a split second, but Cyclone quickly grabbed him again and kept the smokescreen up.

After grabbing his daggers, Splice and Thunder charged towards the bear together. They both leaped at him and struck him at the same time; Thunder punched with his fist crackling with electricity, Splice stabbed with one dagger that was shrouded with his icy power, and his other hand slashed at him while covered in flames. Keela carefully aimed and fired an arrow at the squirrel.

The bear, overwhelmed by so many attacks from so many directions, found himself unable to avoid them. The squirrel, seeing that the bear was no longer able to help them, knelt down and placed his hands on the ground. His ducking when he did allowed him to narrowly dodge the arrow, while at the same time using the last of his energy to resummon the drill-beaked bird. The human dragged him on top, and the bird took off, flying the two away from the heroes. the tiger managed to blast Cyclone back again, but instead of attacking, he pushed himself up off the ground and followed his comrades.

Splice and Thunder followed up with one last team attack; a blast of both fire and lightning together, which blew the bear to the ground as they backflipped away from him. Seeing that the rest were retreating, they looked at eachother and gave a high five. "That was pretty good, Thunder!" Splice complimented.
"You did well, yourself." He replied. The two looked on over at Keela and the two kids, who were coming towards them.

"Is everyone alright" She asked.

Mia sighed in relief, "Finally, that was some fight..." However Moral just stood there looking at her.

((Wow. Looks like I seriously missed out :\ Possibilities are Endless - Banzai123 00:13, March 31, 2012 (UTC)))

"I suppose so," Thetis said. he had chosen to stay back during the final moments of the battle, seeing the others had everything under control and to conserve his own power for later.

"That was significantly more difficult than last time I faced them," Cyclone muttered, letting his Glass Form fade away.

"Now, let us continue towards the temple," Hebi said, "Homura may need our assistance dealing with Konan." Meanwhile, Homura continued to chase Konan through the forest. They headed down a steep cliff, and eventually reached another clearing, illuminated by the light of the moon. Within it stood a very old-looking structure, bearing resemblance to a cathedral of sorts. It was built of marble, with blue and yellow stained glass windows glistening in the moonlight.

The paper airplanes stopped a short distance from the temple, then unfolded and reformed into Konan. "So, this is the Thunder Temple," she muttered to herself, her eyes carefully scanning the structure.

"Magnificent, isn't it," Homura said, standing behind her, "Unfortunately for you, you will never live to see its interior." Suddenly, Ichiro appeared in a dull flash in front of the doorway to the temple and added, "You can tell your superiors that they will never control Yamata no Orochi. We will make sure of that."

Konan responded by compacting some of the stray sheets of paper around her into a pair of angelic wings on her back. She flapped them once, lifting up into the air, the faint surprise on her face returning to her normal cold, expressionless gaze.

Soon, the rest of the team arrived. Thunder, Splice, Zap and Keela all lined up in front, ready to engage in combat. Crystal stood behind them, ready for any needed support. Thetis, wary of Konan's abilities, kept his distance, but still stood close enough to be of use.

Wasting no time, Yamori leaped up into the air, dealing a flurry of shadow-laced slashes to Konan. Ichiro created another duplicate which jumped up and did the same, using light instead of shadow. Thunder and Splice ran to either sides, firing bolts of lightning and sharp icicles respectively. Keela drew her sword, and held it back. Zap grasped the blade, and gave it an electrical charge before stepping back. Keela then charged forward, ready to stab Konan with her electrified blade. Meanwhile, Thetis used his telekinesis on Konan, in an attempt to impede her movements.

Several of the stray sheets of paper floating around Konan quickly condensed into a sphere around her, defending her from most of the attacks. A few of the slashes and icicles managed to get through her defenses, but she managed to replace the damaged sheets without leaving herself vulnerable for too long.

Mia quickly took Moral's hand and spun in a complete circle while tossing Moral right at Konan! Moral's body was consumed in a dark energy that rotted the papers as she instantly grew closer to Konan.

Konan, sensing her papers deteriorating from Moral's power, separated into several sheets of paper and quickly scattered out of Moral's reach. She reformed a few feet from Thetis and attempted to impale him on a lance made of compacted sheets of paper.

Ichiro dashed towards Konan and parried her lance with the blade of his staff, then followed through with a swing of the hammer end aimed at her midsection.

Surprised by Ichiro's sudden attack, Konan found herself too slow to avoid this one, and stumbled back from the force of the blow. She doubled over in pain, while trying to regain her breath.

With her defense down, Zap tried to punch her from behind, with his fist laced in electricity again. Konan, unable to defend herself due to being out of breath, took the punch and staggered forward.

From behind the group, Homura crossed his arms and stomped the ground hard, causing a pillar of earth to rise up beneath Konan as she fell forward, while Thetis used his telekinesis to force Konan's body into the rising pillar. Konan finally managed to catch her breath, but too late; she took the full force of the attack.

Mia managed to fly up and catch Moral before she fell face first into the earth. Mia then took out 10 needles and form them into a line which fused to each other by magic. A green glow rose from the fused arrows giving off a appearance of a spear. Mia let go of Moral to the ground, who went "Umph!" when she hit the ground, and then Mia raised the magical spear up high and with powerful wind magic swirling around it, she tossed it right at Konan as she was hit by the pillar!

Right as Mia formed and then threw the magical spear at Konan, Savant formed and hurled a PsycheOrb at her as well.

Overwhelmed by the large number of attacks all at once, Konan was unable to avoid being struck by them. When the last of them finally made contact, she dissolved into a swirling mass of paper, all of which began forming into small airplanes and flying off into the forest at top speed.

Ichiro was about to run after the paper planes, but was quickly stopped by Yamori. "She's retreated, Ichiro. Chasing her will only waste our time now," he said. Ichiro gave a nod, and then head back in the direction of the temple entrance. He stood to the side as the three present Masters gathered in front of the large doors, and began to glimmer with a strange energy. Soon the doors began to do the same, and slowly drifted open. "Come," Homura said bluntly as he and the other Masters entered.

Splice was about to start cheering for their victory, but the Masters already went inside. He pouted slightly, putting his hand on his hip. "Gee. Talk about stiff."

"Can't be helped. Let us go before something else decides to distract us." Keela said as she walked ahead of him. Thunder exchanged glances with Splice before they both shrugged and followed behind with Crystal and Zap. Thetis also followed suit, without question or comment.

Mia quickly followed along, with Moral tagging behind her. However Mia told Moral to return home, and so Moral made a small chant and disappeared in a light filled with darkness. Mia looked at the temple and tilted her head in thought a little. "This isn't what I expected the temple to look like, then again temples and shrines at home may be different than others...." said Mia as she crossed her arms.

"I wouldn't have known what to expect in the first place." Splice shrugged. "Never been in a temple before."

Thunder looked around, somewhat interested but rather disappointed. The interior of the temple was little to marvel at. It was rather empty, with only a large altar standing in the center, ombinously lit by the moonlight shining through the stained-glass windows. Atop the altar was a metal spire, crackling with electricity. Hebi was the one to move forward, slithering up the steps of the altar to stand in front of the spire. Barely loud enough to hear, he began to chant, "Yamata no Orochi, hear my call. Join us here in your hallowed hall. Deliver to us Kaminari's rain, and never let it leave again!" Answering his call, a powerful bolt of lightning materialized within the temple and struck the spire, filling the structure with an intense light. As soon as it began, the phenomenon ended, leaving the spire with a faint glow. Homura had already started out of the temple and said, "If you are rested enough, Miss MaJikku, we are heading to Downunda next: the Dark Mesa."

"That's it?" Splice asked, scratching his head. "That was...also not what I was expecting."

Mia nodded, she clasped her hands together and began to concentrate. It took her a minute to lock-on the location, but she managed to open a large rift that's big enough for everyone to enter. Mia kept a hold on the rift spewing red mist from it, after a second a faded image took form in the rift, revealing the next location. Unlike last time, Mia seemed to be having a firm grip on the rift. "Okay, its ready, everyone jump in!" she said.

"We're leaving already?" Thetis asked as he casually walked into the spacial rift.

Splice shrugged, and walked through. Thunder gave one last look at the building's interior, before following through.

"I'm glad that we were successful." Keela said, as she lead Zap and Crystal inside.

Ichiro was the last one through the rift, making sure that Mia was able to handle transporting so many people. On the other side was the vast desert of Downunda, and just before the horizon stood the Dark Mesa, a massive rock formation shrouded in the shadows of sunlight. Homura took in the warm desert air, feeling quite at home but uneasy at the same time. "In there... the Earth Temple," he said firmly.

Mia got through the rift, she was panting hard but wasn't as tired as last time. "Is this... a Desert?" she asked, "Sorry, its just I never saw one before..."

"A desert? Seriously?" complained Thetis, who was already sweating through his thick clothes in the heat. "Could have at least told me before hand so I'd be better prepared."

"A desert's perfect," Cyclone said, "Plenty of wind, plenty of stone, plenty of heat. It'd only take me seconds to access my Glass form here."

"Yeah?" Pyro replied, "Well here, there's almost no moisture in the air. Which makes my Ocean Eye virtually useless."

"A desert, huh?" Splice folded his arms behind his head. "Just so long as no Void guys start comin after us again, this might actually not be so bad."

"Indeed." Keela agreed. "I'm somewhat used to traveling and fighting in the desert, so do not worry about me."

"So hot..." Crystal groaned quietly. Her head hung low and her hair drooped over her face. Krysi was sitting on her head, rapidly fanning herself with her hand. Zap looked over at her with worry, but he was also feeling the heat of the sun get to him already.

((Xi - Just so everyone's clear, when I say desert, think Nevada desert, not Sahara desert.))

"The temple is on the inside of the mesa. We will have to travel through a network of caves to reach it. Move quickly, and don't fall behind," Homura explained, already starting ahead. Ichiro followed close behind, while Hebi and Yamori herded the others forward.

Pyro followed them, glancing around cautiously. "Don't be so worried," Cyclone said calmly, "Remember, I can sense changes in the air. We don't need your Ocean Eye to tell us if someone's coming."

"Yeah, I guess," Pyro replied.

Mia looked around for a moment, feeling a bit uneasy. "I wonder who's going to be in the way this time, or hopfully this will be a straight walk," she said, however she shook her head trying to prevent such a thought running in her mind.

"Who knows? We might be lucky this time," Thetis said, knowing for a fact that they wouldn't be.

Splice shrugged. "Well, no use worrying about it now, when nobody's here now. Let's just try to get there as fast as we can and keep an eye out for trouble."

"You speak like you have a chance in this matter," echoed a familiar voice on the wind. A warm gust blew across the gritty plane, whipping up a thick cloud of dirt. From within the cloud, Demon appeared. Still he was clad in his draconic armour, however this time it was a solid red colour, and his left hand no longer had its sword of ice. "This desert shall mark your journey's end, for you will not defeat me a second time."

"Figures he'd appear after I had the last line." Splice groaned.

"Persistent little worm, aren't you?" Savant remarked, glaring up at Demon with his cold red eyes.

Upon seeing Demon, Pyro immediately activated his Advanced Ocean Eye and took up a defensive stance.

Mia sighed as she took out some exorcism needles from a rift, "The length of a journey can never truely be determined by the distance of the path..." she said as her eyes bega to glow with a demonic green.

Static sighed. "Oh brother..." He unsheathed his sword and held it in a ready position.

Keela drew her sword and stood in the frontlines of the group. Thunder stayed in front of Zap and Crystal, defensively. Splice stood next to him in a battle stance.

Thetis got into a fighting stance as well, his hands glowing aqua green.

"Oh, how amusing," Demon chuckled, "Homura, surely you aren't going to allow these foolish warriors to walk into certain doom, are you?" The crocodile merely stood in silence, staring down Demon with a fierce rage in his eyes. "And Ichiro, you must have something to say as well," Demon continued, "Have you no objections to the slaughter I am about to bring forth?" Ichiro had to muster all of his strength to avoid naively lunging at Demon in anger. Yamori and Hebi both felt the same way towards Demon, but to a much lesser extent, so they were able to contain themselves with relative ease. As the tension rose, dust began to stir once more across the desert floor, ominously circling the group. "Well, what say you? Have none of you the valor required to face me?"

Cyclone stepped foward. He could see the hesitance in the others, and had already figured out the meaning behind it, but he didn't care. Somebody had to stand and fight, and if it wasn't them, it would be Cyclone.

Mia held her needles in her hand, however she was reluctant to strike. She began to wonder if she bring out 'her' if things are going to be harsh, but it is possible it may go too far! Mia struggled with inner conflict, but finally she managed to erase her hesitant state of mind and tossed the needles into Wind Arrows at Demon!

"More like a simple desire to see you die," said Savant, a ball of Psychic energy floating idly in his outstretched hand. With a flick of his wrist, the ball shot towards Demon; it would explode in a concussive burst upon any impact recieved.

Demon's immediate response was a smirk, followed by a series of actions which seemed to happen in a flash. He thrust his left hand forward, meeting the Psychic blast with a beam of Vortex energy and obliterating it. Then he swung the blade of fire on his right hand, shooting a wave of Vortex energy plowing through the Wind Arrows and heading straight for Cyclone. Ichiro acted quickly and pulled Cyclone out of the way, letting the energy wave fly by and fade off in the distance. "Everyone stop!" Homura roared, "You cannot fight him like that, if at all." Amidst a chuckle Demon replied, "The old man is right, but you're all welcome to try anyways." Homura glanced back and forth between Demon and the heroes, debating his next action and hoping that no one would do anything foolish.

Splice gritted his teeth. "I knew something was up.." He growled. "He wasn't bothering to take the initiative...What's he plotting?"

"I do not know.." Keela said, still focusing on Demon.

"Light Spear: Heaven's Lance!" A light projectile soared its way towards Demon. Static turned to its source, seeing a smirking Luna. "What?" she said, drawing another card to attack.

"Luna, no!" Ichiro yelled. Demon, however, was quite happy with this turnabout. He stopped the light projectile in the same way that he did Savant's Psychic blast. Pointing his blade of fire at Luna, he shouted with great gusto, "Violet Vortex: Soul of the Void!" On his command, a bolt of violet energy shot from his blade and struck Luna, rapidly draining the life from her.A devilish grin stretched across Demon's face as the others could do nothing but look on in horror.

As Luna hit the ground, Static's eyes flashed red. "LUNA!" he screamed, red electricity coming off him in streams. "I'll kill you!" Static withdrew his sword, ready to charge at Demon.

Mia knew from the beginning that her Wind Arrows wouldn't do any good, Mia was still in conflict with an idea that's beating in her head like a drum. But she calmed down and began to think, even though it will give them a possible chance it was risky.... But she none of the less remained silent about it.

Static was stopped abruptly by four walls of stone rising around him. Homura had stopped him from doing anything that could have him share Luna's fate. As the bolt of energy faded from Demon's blade, Luna was left as nothing but a lifeless shell of what she once was. Demon drew his arm back, chuckling in satisfaction. "Ah... how good it is to take the life from someone of worth," he said, "I certainly hope for your sakes that you take this little example to heart. Never cross the Void."

"L-Luna..!?" Splice immediately rushed over and knelt down by the girl. "Hey..H-Hey! Wake up!"

Static slammed his sword against the wall. "I'll kill him! I'll rip him to shreds! Let me go!"

Crystal rushed over and tried to use all of her power to heal her. She formed a small barrier around her and Luna, using it to maximize the healing power.

Mia finally came to a desicsion once and for all that she will do it! She quickly made a rift and put her arm in it looking for something, and finally she takes out a large and heavy looking book from it. She went over to Luna with the book, when she opened it a light aura was seen coming from it. Mia chanted some words from the book, and made the current of mana inside the earth to flow into Luna giving her life.

"Not so fast..." Demon muttered. He then charged at Mia, his blade emanating a violet light. Ichiro ran out in front of Mia and held up his staff. Demon's blade stopped briefly against it, then cut right through, slashing through Ichiro's shirt and leaving a significant cut on his chest. Homura then raised another wall of stone between Ichiro and Demon, this one strengthened by shadow and poison energy from the other two masters, and pulled Ichiro and Mia away. "Enough of this!" he yelled, "...Enough."

Mia quickly returned to the rest of the group, upset being of no use in helping poor Luna, however she flipped pages in her book and chanted another spell on Ichiro healilng the gash on his chest. But as she did, there was a small voice trying to speak up from the book, only Mia was able to hear it clearly but she just closed it shut after healing Ichiro's wound.

Pyro gave a confident smirk, saying, "So you can nullify energy based attacks, huh? Let's see you nullify this." closing his left eye, Pyro stared right at Demon with only his right. "Kamui" he muttered as the space around Demon began to distort, spiralling inward toward a miniature black hole at Pyro's focal point, which happened to be on Demon's forehead.

Demon looked up at the small anomaly and gave it a flick, ridding it from his forehead. "You know..." he began, "On another day I would have killed you for that, but clearly you're too moronic to be worth it." Yamori stepped forward slightly and held one of his swords out in front of Pyro, gesturing for him to cease his actions. Demon walked out from behind Homura's wall and surveyed the group of heroes once more. "Now Homura... give me what I want." The earth master remained silent for a moment before replying, "You may have the earth spirit... on two conditions. You spare them all... and you pry it from my carcass." Ichiro looked at Homura in shock, unsure of how to respond.

Mia too, was startled by Homura's words, was there really no hope for them? The book began to glow and rattle, but Mia managed to hold it down in her arms. Mia was obviously sweating, but not from the heat, her guardian instinct was telling her to do it, while she knows better and must stay back. Pyro, unable to comprehend how Demon had just forced him to look away from him, simply stood there.

Static glared at the walls of his stone prison. "Someone open this. I hate stone." He looked at his tesla sword. "Hmph..." The hedgehog sat, beginning to think.

"Master," Savant stammered, looking mortified for the first time. "Surely there must be another way...?!"

"Y-Yeah! You can't go now! We've still got so much more left to do!" Splice cried out.

Crystal stood up, with her barrier disappearing. She used up just about all the power she had, but Luna still remained motionless on the ground. She put her hand to her chest, trying to catch her breath, and gasped lightly when she saw that her power had no effect.

Homura looked to Hebi and Yamori, then to Ichiro, and finally back at Demon. "I must do this... for the sake of our quest," he sighed, "Go now, to the mesa. Demon will not block your way again." Demon snickered at how honourable Homura thought him still to be. The master was somewhat correct in his assumption, however, as Demon lowered his sword to let the heroes pass.

((Xi - I'm really sorry for sort of putting this part on "auto-pilot" for the last little while. I try to avoid taking full control of things as much as possible, but sometimes I have to to make sure the story stays flowing nicely. I can't thank you all enough for your cooperation thus far, and I'll try to get the story back to a more accomodating point asap. Also, is anybody interested in seeing how the fight between Demon and Homura turns out? As of now, I just plan to skip it, and follow the heroes for the rest of this segment.))

(I think we should skip it for now, but you can go back and add to it later. It'd be pretty interesting to watch/read.~Smash The Echidna~ Smash_life.png 04:37, June 19, 2012 (UTC))

"Master Homura..forgive us.." Keela lead her side of the group past Demon and to the temple. Splice looked torn up about leaving him behind, but knew they had no choice. Thunder took the hands of both Crystal and Zap and hurried past him.

Mia was a bit hesistant, but she followed the others towards the temple while avoiding Demon.

Savant looked quite furious. He stood there and glowered at Demon for the longest time, before finally turning and following the others towards the temple, his cloak swirling about him.

Thetis, although reluctant to leave an ally behind, was a bit glad that someone would be able to distract Demon for a while. Grudgingly, he turned and followed the others.

Pyro glanced over at Homura, just as hesitant as Mia. After a moment, he deactivated his Ocean Eye and headed for the temple, followed by Cyclone, who made sure to keep an eye on Demon as they walked past.

Ichiro was the last to leave Homura behind, following the others as their quest continued. The master of earth stood face-to-face with Demon, knowing full well what may happen next. He only hoped that the time his actions would buy would be enough for the others.

Not long later, the heroes reached the Dark Mesa, a rock structure standing tall amidst the barren desert. "The Earth Temple is deep inside, protected by a maze-like network of caves," Hebi explained, "Stay close, and be alert." Directly ahead of them was a large opening that led underground, down beneath the mesa. "I sense more Followers nearby," Yamori muttered softly, "We must work quickly."

Mia knew that even if she tried to use her space magic to go directly to the Temple, it would be no good for it would take too long to "search" every single cave. She sighed, just now realizing she was still holding the book in her arms, she quickly tossed the book into a rift and closed it.

"How do we navigate a maze quickly?" Thetis asked.

"Unfortunately, Homura would have been of great assistance in that field," Hebi answered, "With our abilities combined, we could have easily found the quickest route to the temple. Now we may have to improvise, or risk wandering." He paused for a moment as the group continued forward. "Vibrations. We need them created and concentrated."

"I can help there," Cyclone said, "As an aerokinetic, I can send and sense vibrations in the air."

"Same here," Pyro chimed in, "As long as the air is moist, that is."

Mia went into thought of how she could help too, she being a wind magician can sense wind currents no matter how small they are, however she could try something that could be more effective. "Master Hebi, I'm wondering does this thing we're trying to retrieve, emit a type energy? More specifically, a life energy? I'm not suggesting as if its a living creature, something that's part of life," asked Mia.

"I might be able to help as well. While my telekinesis works best at close range, I can still kind of mentally 'feel' around the area, to gather my bearings," Thetis added.

Thunder and Splice exchanged glances, and shrugged. Neither of them really knew how to help. Thunder had a pretty excellent sense of direction, but even he was unfamiliar with this place.

"Hmm... It's a long shot, but it may work yet," Hebi muttured. "Cyclone, Pyro, I need you to send vibrations as deep into the cave as possible, and try to sense a large structure, similar to the one from the forest. Thetis, I'm going to need you to focus hard and help to make the vibrations more apparent. I will lead the way, and hopefully be able to lead us to the temple." Ichiro and Yamori exchanged a quick glance, then followed along as Hebi slithered forward.

"Sounds like a plan," Pyro replied, following Hebi and once again activating his Ocean Eye. Cyclone nodded silently and followed as well, the air around him already beginning to vibrate, though not in a high enough frequency to be heard.

Thetis nodded, and closed his eyes. When he reopened them, they were glowing a bright neon green. He then proceeded to follow the others into the maze.

Mia shrugged and followed the others as she straightened her dress bow. However, she glanced at the mark still on her shoulder and held it tightly with her hand.

As the heroes descended, they travelled through countless passages and corridors. Eventually they reached a point where the cave walls seemed smoother, as if they were carved by hand. The atmosphere was dark and ominous, their only light source being Ichiro's staff faintly glowing under what little light powers he had. At last they reached some sort of marker to show they were on the right path: a chamber lit with torches atop four pillars, and three seperate ways to go.

"I can't quite feel it anymore..." Hebi muttered, "The maze it too extensive from this point forward. Without Homura, we're travelling blind from this point forward." Ichiro stepped forward and examined the three passages carefully. "Any ideas?" he asked the group.

Mia thought for a minute, but then she had an idea spark in her head, "Well, I happen to have a friend who I can summon who specializes in the powers of the earth, he can even talk to the earth if needed!" said Mia, hopeing she can bring some light to this dark, dark place.

While the others discussed what they should do next, Cyclone stuck to the plan they'd already settled on, silently sending out vibrations through the air in an attempt to find the correct path.

Static continued to sulk behind the rest of the heroes. Looking between the passages, he told his idea. "This is more of a last resort, but splitting up is also an option."

Cyclone thought over that plan for a moment, then said, "I suppose that could work. We do have multiple people who can help us navigate this labyrinth. And if each of us uses a different type and/or frequency of vibrations, we shouldn't become confused by each other. Down side is, if the Void are already down here with us, splitting up may drastically decrease our chances of winning a fight. Especially in a confined space such as these hallways.

"And once one of our groups finds the correct path, and Mia is currently our only method of instant transportation, how does the successful group inform the others of where are?" he turned his head towards Mia and continued, "Unless Mia can somehow split her consciousness between multiple bodies, there is little chance she will be able to bring the other groups to the temple once it is discovered."

Mia rolls her eyes... "Yeah, only I don't specialize in such forbidden magic..." she sighed. "But still my friend should be able to get us to our location in no time, but..." said Mia but she went into thought as she looked at everyone. "I'm unsure, despite his great ability to communicate and use the earth's energy, he lacks combat experience... You know, if we run into any Void followers, he is harder then any metal but what he doesn't have is great offensive abilities."

"Sounds like he's got a great defense though," Thetis joked, still telekinetically feeling his was around the cave, trying to look for any indication on the correct route to choose. "I don't suppose there's anyone here who can walk through walls? That would make this maze thing a whole lot simpler."

Part Four: Invitation for War

Team Two arrived following a flash of white and green in the Southern Tundra. The sky was lit with the violet glow of dusk, and clouded with the powdery snow that fell around the heroes. The Zolan Glacier stood tall ahead of them, rising high up like a massive mountainside.

Burst shivered, unable to light his own flames due to the snow. "Dammit, why I have to get stuck coming here?" he said to himself. "Complaining will only make things worse," Shogai snapped. "He's right," Eiji added, "The more time we spend bellyaching, the easier it will be for the Followers to beat us to the temple. Now come on, let's move everyone."

Aqua smiled, digging her boots into the snow and ice. "Right in my element!" She happily began the trek.

Fou trotted right up to Burst, completely unaffected by the cold ice for some strange reason. "Why are you so cold? Aren't you a fire user like me?" he asked, tilting his head obliviously. Statyx meanwhile, was apparently out of sight and already gone.

"I'm not pyrokinetic," Burst replied to Fou, "I just make fire, I can't do much else with it. Even that little trick gets shelved when I'm wet... Hey, where'd your friend go? With his track record so far, I don't think it's a good idea for him to be wandering off. His ego might get him hurt."

Smash stepped forward, looking at their surroundings. Let's make this quick. He thought as he began to walk after Aqua.

"Stay close to me." Gizmo said, noticing Kitty shivering. He held the chao in his arms, to keep him warm, and followed behind.

Kyle appeared to be in deep thought as he walked forward. He had been silent since before they even arrived.

Tendril, Inferna, and Tsunami followed as well. Tsunami remained silent and stayed in the back of the group, a few paces behind the others. Inferna stuck close to Burst and Tendril to help them keep warm.

((Ryu - The location of the portal (where Karakal would be) is in a valley; should the group pass through it?))
((Xi - No. The glacier is dead ahead. The exact size of it, however, is unstated. Perhaps the valley could be between two of its cliffs.))
((Ryu-Okay. Just let me know when they arrive at it))

On the cliff side in the near distance, small explosions became visible through the light veil of snow. Looking closer, a few figures could be made out near the source of the explosions. "Damn, looks like they beat us here," Eiji grunted, somewhat to himself.

"What?" Smash quickly moved closer to Eiji and scanned the area near the explosions. "...Oh, I see em." He growled. "Well Now what?"

"Everything's gonna be fine." Fou said as he walked up next to Eiji and Smash, his hands casually interlocked behind his head. His expression was surprisingly calm and relaxed; absolutely no tension.

Smash looked down at the boy, still frowning. "Well yeah, I know we gotta keep positive and all, but.." He looked back towards the figures. "We're not supposed to fight them right now, right? Avoiding them is gonna be tricky...." He leaned forward, squinting his eyes at them. "....Come to think of it, what exactly are they doing, anyway?"

"Probably fighting. That's the direction Statyx went when we got here. Probably meant to scout out the area." Fou answered simply, as if what he said had little to no importance in it.

(Kagi: XD I swear I meant Statyx to go to the mountain before I knew the bad guys were gonna be there. Just chalk it up to Statyx's bad luck.)

"Fighting..Statyx.." Smash's eyes widened. "Oooohhh crap."

"You mean Statyx is probably fighting with The Followers?" Gizmo asked, looking shocked.

"This can't end well," Paroi said.

Kyle slowly rubbed his temple with his two fingers. "I thought it was important that we stayed together..."

"Don't worry; Statyx is the best of the best." Fou said matter-of-factly. "There's no way he'll lose to these guys."

"Oh course he is," Paroi said, rather sarcastically.

"He is." Fou said sharply at Paroi, glaring.

Ah, the blissful ignorance of a naive child. Were Smash's thoughts as he shook his head. Why do you think the whole team was supposed to avoid them? He looked towards Eiji, hoping he had a plan ready.

Eiji turned his attention to Mutoh, who signed the word fire. "Just as I suspected," Eiji said, "This team belongs to a Follower named Ceres. They're gatherers, and rather low leveled, so they shouldn't be here on Demon's mission; probably just searching for shards." He stopped on a gasp, realizing a possibility of what occured. "If Statyx engaged them, he's been captured already. Ceres is a sucker for torture, and he'll have made sure Statyx knows he's outmatched."

"So, are we going to help him?" Paroi asked.

Up at the cliff side, Statyx grinned as he stood near the ledge in a battle stance, facing the group of followers. Several of them were already splayed across the ground, unconscious. "C'mon!" Statyx said as he grinned a cocky grin. "I'm having fun, but gimme more of a challenge. I need more than cannon fodder to get a workout."

Upon close inspection, Eiji noticed that Statyx had already engaged the enemy. "Dammit, Statyx!" he said angrily, "Everybody move in. I have a plan, and we need to make sure he doesn't get himself killed." Eiji and the other two masters began a dash towards the cliffside, assuming the others would surely follow.

Paroi sighed. "If I remember correctly, they did say time was of the essence, correct?" he asked no one inparticular. Generating five, glowing white, basket-ball sized magic orbs around his body, he followed Eiji otwards the cliffside.

Smash, Gizmo and Kyle hurried after them, the latter two drawing their own weapons.

Tendril and Inferna ran after the group. Tsunami, however, seems to have disappeared.

Aqua stood at the cliffside, hand glowing with teal energy. "Don't get hit." she muttered, as she charged the healing spell.

Up on the face of the glacier, Statyx was faced by many Followers, most of them penguins, but also included sea lions and such. They all donned violet cloaks, just as the hydrokinetics did. One of the penguins moved onto the attack, raising a pillar of ice around Statyx. Another jumped up from behind and shot a blast of Wind energy down upon him.

Statyx looked up and thrust up a hand, vibrating the air with electricity to form a shield that blocked the wind blast. Grinning, he formed an orb of electricity in his other hand and thrust it upward to fire a powerful beam of electricity towards the wind user.

Unopposed, the pillar of ice closed around Statyx, blocking the beam and holding it with the icy trap. The wind user landed on the other side of the pillar, and turned to watch Statyx's next move.

The beam dissipated as Statyx stopped futilely burning energy. Trapped within the pillar, it seemed he had already ceased resistance. But within moments a glow started emanating from his location within the pillar, growing brighter and brighter until it completely filled the pillar, the light almost blindingly bright. With a thunderous explosion, electricity surged out and broke through the ice, knocking Followers away with both the shockwave and debris. Stepping out of the ring of rubble that was the base of the pillar, the green hedgehog grinned. "Next." he said smugly.

The Followers that stood around him began to glow with a violet aura as the marks on their foreheads seemed to burn brightly. They were about to attack Statyx again, when one pointed out the approaching heroes on the ground below. About half of the group jumped down to apprehend the heroes, while the rest stayed to combat Statyx.

Statyx turned his head to look at the Followers jumping down to face his allies. Turning his attention to his remaining opponents, a smirk spread over his muzzle. That smirk turned to a grin, and that grin became dark and almost psychotic. Raising his right hand up into the air and clenching his fist, which glowed and crackled with surging electricity. The green hedgehog then gave a yell similar to a war cry, and clammed his fist into the ice. Electricity surging through the solidified water, Statyx jumped as the ice went crumbling down in a massive avalanche descending upon the Followers. Landing on solid ground, he turned and shouted to Aqua, "Yo! Don't waste your time here, I'll be fine!" he shouted out, grinning. "Just make sure none of our allies end up crushed by little surprise!" With that, Statyx turned his attention to his remaining enemies. "Now... who's first?" he growled out intimidatingly, his open hands crackling with lightning.

The chunk of ice fell towards the the other Followers, but not for long. One penguin in the back of the group turned to face the oncoming ice, and thrust his hands out forward. The ice crumbled into smaller pieces before him, and he cryokinetically threw them down at the heroes. The other Followers charged towards Statyx, their weapons (melee weapons of ice, water, etc.) glowing with the violet aura.

Paroi immediately darted forward and crossed his arms in front of him. The chunks of ice exploded into a fine, harmless powder, while Paroi ran towards the battlefield to fight the Followers.

As the others rushed in to fight, Gizmo stopped, and aimed his Hand Cannon at the Followers. He then shot two blasts of fireballs towards them, and began to charge the cannon with plasma energy.

Aqua rolled her eyes. "Alright, whatever." She turned and leaped off the edge. "Gravity!" As she landed safely next to the rest of the heroes, she began to charge support spells for them.

One Follower stopped the two fireballs with a water attack, then continued forward. A handful of them shot out a bombardment of ice attacks. Two stayed back and began to charge some sort of azure energy. The rest dashed forward to attack directly with a variety of ice and water weapons.

Slipping, sliding, and side-stepping, Statyx dodged the glowing weapons as they were swung, jabbed, and thrust at him. A good time and easy prey had done nothing to ease years of experience. That violet aura must do something, he thought, backflipping to avoid the thrust of an icy glowing spear. problem is, what does it do? The green hedgehog analyzed where the spear had just been thrust, eying how the Follower pulled it. It didn't do anything to the ice, so that leaves out burning or acidic properties. It obviously not defensive if these people are using it on their weapons as well. That more or less just leaves two possibilities. His right hand glowing green, Statyx swung, releasing a Chaos Spear that flew towards the enemy group. Poison, and....

With a swing of an icy claw, one of the Followers blocked the attack and absorbed it into himself. Another jumped out from behind and fired a counterattack; a beam of violet energy very similar to the Chaos Spear.

Vampirism! Statyx mentally exclaimed as he jumped back, avoiding the energy attack. So that means that these guys use some sort of attack that absorbs energy.... "....And the hedgehog made 75% out of energy given solid form is facing these guys at more than 10-to-1 odds." the green hedgehog said to himself. "Point 1 goes to luck. Let's see if I can't tie up the score." His hands crackling with electricity once again, Statyx swung his hand like a blade, sending a crescent-wave of electricity dashing forward at the enemies. Now, let's see.... he thought.

As he charged with Smash, Kyle rose the Gemblade in the air in front of him, and the ice attacks heading towards them began to redirect towards the sword. They all soon disappeared into the blade, which glowed an icy blue color. With the projectiles out of the way, Smash made it up to the group of Followers and attacked with all he had. From higher up, Gizmo fired at them again, shooting two large plasma blasts.

All the while, Aqua sent orange, purple, white, and crimson spells to her team, each supporting them in a different way.

Tendril and Inferna ran to opposite sides of the group of Followers. They each dropped to a crouching position, calling out "Collaboration Technique: Dark Furnace!" Tendril then stood, raising his hands and bringing the shadows of the heroes and Followers up into a black dome around the Followers, making sure to keep all of the other heroes out of it. Inferna then stood up as well, raising her arms and causing a sudden blast of white-hot fire to flare up within Tendril's shadow dome in an attempt to broil the Followers alive.

The Followers on the ground seemed incapacitated by the intense bombardment of attacks, leaving the way to advance open for the heroes. "Let's move," Eiji called out, "Statyx may need our help, and he's on the way to the temple." Meanwhile, Statyx himself wasn't fairing quite as well as the others. None of his energy attacks were doing any damage to the Followers, and they were slowly advancing upon him all the while. Suddenly, another Follower appeared on the cliff up above, his face shrouded by the hood of his black cloak. "Cage him!" the new Follower yelled, "If anything, he could make for a valuable bargaining tool." Responding to the command, the Followers raised their arms up, summoning a cage of violet energy around Statyx. It crackled with power, threatening to harm him if he even attempted to escape.

Statyx growled angrily; he was NOT going to be someones hostage! "Sorry bub, but that is not going to happen!!" Leaping into the air within the confines of this cage, Statyx curled into a ball and spun rapidly while in the air. Statyx then fell back to the frozen ground, where he quickly burrowed through the ice below him. For a few moments it was silent... when the icy floor below the Followers began to glow a familiar, blinding light. But before they could do anything, a large explosion from below sent the Followers flying in all different directions, while sending cracks through the ice that threatened to bring forth another avalanche.

The green hedgehog stood within the epicenter of where the explosion occurred, looking up at the cloaked Follower. "I don't care who or what you are, what you're doing, or where you're from. But let me give you a piece of advice..." Statyx's eyes flared as he took a step in the direct of the figure, stomping down his foot firmly, his hands glowing and crackling wildly. "The Ultimate Guardian does not go down so easily!!!"

As Smash and Kyle made their way to the cliff, they noticed a few of the Followers falling down from Statyx' explosion. Smash leaped up into the air, and footstool jumped on one of their backs to make it up to the top. Kyle simply watched him, as the Followers landed on either side of him. He had to look for another way up.

Paroi had stood back from the fight for a while, recharging his magical energy and also taking the time to analyze his enemies' abilities. Interesting. These Void followers may be a challange after all. Once he was ready, he quickly got rid of his holy orbs. "Those won't do. They'll probably just absorb them." He then charged at the Followers, his hands glowing with magical energy. He had a plan that he wanted to try out.

The hooded Follower chuckled at Statyx's remark. "Of course you don't," he replied. With a swing of his arm, the entire cliffside became engulfed in violet flames. They didn't burn like normal fire, but instead caused an intense weakness of body and mind to all who they lay upon.

Tendril charged toward the cliffs, planning to join the fight. Inferna caught him by the arm and held him back. "Hold on," she said softly, "There's something wrong here. Those aren't ordinary flames, and they're not darkfire either."

Smash saw the flames right after he gained his footing on the cliff. "Oh, CRAP!" Without a second thought, he dove back off the cliff, only slightly affected by the purple fire. He landed hard on the ground below, but shrugged it off and stood back up quickly. Kyle quickly turned to him, "Are you alright?"

"I'm fine, I think." He replied, brushing himself off a bit. The two looked back up the cliff, "So much for that idea."

"Indeed." Kyle rubbed his chin. He knew the flames had to have been the Vortex Magic. How should they counter this? On top of that, was Statyx alright up there?

Gizmo watched from farther away, trying to devise a plan. "There must be some way we can attack them without them absorbing our attacks.." He lowered his Hand cannon, trying to think of what to do.

As the Follower observed the sea of flame he had created, he heard an overly loud yawn from behind him. "Nice try bub, you almost caught me with those nasty vampiric flames of yours." The speaker was none other than Statyx, who was casually sitting on a chunk of ice. "But don't underestimate years of training and combat. And, y'know, a little Chaos Control."

Aqua sighed, looking down. "How could we..." her eyes trailed from the snow to the glacier. "No... that'd drown us..." she mumbled. She looked at the fire. "Hmh..." Closing her eyes, Aqua thought. Her eyes met her feet. "Hey..." she scooped up some snow. "Technically, you can't absorb snow, can you?"

"Well, I doubt the solution would be that simple," Paroi said, strolling towards the other heroes. He could sense the energies of the people on the cliff, and so far the situation didn't seem to be in their favor, although Statyx had put up more of a fight than he had expected. The Followers' abilities were quite formidable, and he was pondering how to get around their powers. He had a few theories in mind, and was itching to test them out. He closed his eyes, and crossed his arms in front of his body, palms facing downwards. Silvery whisps of energy formed around his hands as he built up magical power. After a approximately 30 seconds, he opened his eyes, and the wisps vanished. "All set." He looked up towards the cliff, now more prepared to face the followers. He then vanished in a flash of light, going to join the fight.

Kyle and Smash watched as Paroi prepared before leaving. Smash stroked his chin, wondering what he was up to. "I am at a disadvantage." Kyle admitted. "I never would have imagined it. The Gemblade, has finally met it's match. I cannot use it's magic against them..."

Smash frowned, folding his arms. It was true, the Gemblade drew power from six elements; and they'd all just be eaten up by the Vortex Magic. "Well...there's one thing you can use it's magic for." He said, lowering his arms. Kyle rose an eyebrow, curiously. "Gimmie a boost!"

Kyle nodded, "As you wish." He held his sword with the tip facing the sky. "Gem of Wind, lend me thy power." He chanted. Smash turned around, and coiled up his legs. Soon, a small whirlwind formed around him. "Now, Smash!" On his mark, Smash leaped up into the air. The whirlwind grew higher as it blew him upward, allowing him to make it up to the cliff.

((Xi - Ok, where is everybody getting the idea that the heroes are at the cliff already? Statyx should be the only one there right now. The farthest the others should be is climbing up.))

((Well I kinda got lconfused with the geography of the area lol. Possibilities are Endless - Banzai123 19:14, March 2, 2012 (UTC)))

((Xi - Assuming that's everyone's problem: The glacier is like a small mountain. Heroes began on the ground, a fair distance from its base. Statyx went ahead and ended up on a cliff quite a ways up the side of the glacier. The heroes have advanced, and are now at the glacier. The farthest they should be is starting their climb.))

((All right. Thanks for the clarification. Btw what about Paroi? considering Statyx is on the cliff he should be able to teleport there. Oh wait, I forgot about the flames. Possibilities are Endless - Banzai123 19:58, March 2, 2012 (UTC)))

((I didn't think that the cliff was that large. I had Smash climb up with a boost. So I guess I should erase that part, then?~Smash The Echidna~ Smash_life.png 00:02, March 3, 2012 (UTC)))

((Xi - Do what you want. It doesn't really matter that much as long as it's fixed now.))

((Is the entire cliffside englufed in flames? Or is there some way for people to still travel there? Possibilities are Endless - Banzai123 04:51, March 4, 2012 (UTC)))

((Xi - The flames were temporary. The heroes should be fine to keep moving.))

"Chaos Control, hmm?" the hooded Follower muttered, "So you must be Statyx. I've heard much about you. It will be pleasing to see you defeated by the hands of the Void." He snapped his fingers somewhat inconspicuously, causing the chunk of ice which Statyx sat upon to explode in a burst of the purple flames.

"Oof!!" was what Statyx said as the sudden explosion from below put his butt in the air, and his face in the snow and ice. Gravity brought his legs back down to the ground. Pushing himself up from the ice, Statyx stood up and began brushing himself off. "Geez, if there's a cheap move I've ever seen, blowing up someone's seat sure is one. What's next? Throwing a flaming knife at my crotch!?" The green hedgehog said. "I mean seriously, that ice is f--king COLD man! Artificial or not, I still have sensory organs, thank you very much!"

The hooded Follower glanced briefly at the approaching heroes, then turned to face Statyx. "Not so tough when you're on the receiving end of a move, hmm?" he chuckled, "Oh, you've got a little something..." The Follower quickly wave his hand, creating a small ember of flame to melt one last bit of snow on Statyx's forehead. "Much better."

Statyx's expression was rather straight as he looked at the Follower. "Well, while I'd love to continue this little exchange of banter, I'm afraid I've gotta prioritize whatever these guys are planning over a verbal argument. In short..." before he finished his sentence, Statyx was gone. He had completely vanished from sight. But it was only for a moment- in the next his heel was inches away from the Follower's face as it was in the process of swinging at him in a super speed roundhouse. "You, have to go!" The green hedgehog finished as he launched the surprise attack.

The Follower took the hit dead on, but he seemed rather unfazed. The force of Statyx's kick threw him into a backflip down onto the cliff that Statyx once stood on. His hood was thrown back into the air, revealing the face of a Mobian pitbull. Upon landing, he engulfed his hands in flame, and charged at the cliffside. He dug his hands into the ice, and it exploded under the intense heat, causing the ground Statyx was on to collapse beneath him.

As soon as the Follower's face was revealed, Inferna blinked and squinted at him, trying to make out what he looked like. Something in the back of her mind told her there was something familiar about him, but she couldn't figure out what.

Statyx didn't miss a beat either. Using the falling rubble as platforms, Statyx leaped from ice chunk to ice chunk down towards the ground. On the final boulder of frozen liquid Statyx pushed off, launching himself into the air, landing behind the Pitbull and skidding back slightly as the ice crashed down where he had just been. "Sorry, was that supposed to do something?" Statyx said through a cocky grin. "I believe I already tried the "blowing people up from under their feet" shtick today; try and find some new material."

"Oh, were you still up there?" the pitbull asked playfully, "Sorry, I was looking for something." Out of the rubble dropped a small purple gem, which the pitbull quickly picked up off the ground. It glowed brightly in his hands, as if it was meant to be there. "Now... you were saying?"

Just as the pitbull had finished mocking, a spark of electricity flew threw the air too fast for him to react, striking the gem and knocking it up into the air, where Statyx grabbed it out of the air behind him. What was most bizarre was that Statyx was "standing" in mid-air, parallel to the ground. "Dunno what this is," he said, examining the jewel before he turned his attention to the Follower. "but if you want it, probably means you shouldn't have it in the first place." Not waiting for an answer (or attack) Statyx used the free hand to create a thunderous boom, launching himself away from Ceres and over the cliffside, where he proceeded to fall down to the ground at high speeds.

As Statyx fell, the gem did something that no one but the Followers could have expected. In an instant, it released an intense burst of Vortex Magic, completely engulfing Statyx's rocketing body. "You'd best be careful handling those," the Follower said looking down over the cliff's edge, "They can be dangerous in the wrong hands."

On the bright side, he wasn't feeling the intense pain of being burned alive. On the down side, the way his energy was being sapped made Statyx wish for the uncomfortably familiar sensation of burning skin and fur. But hearing the Follower mention the gem's danger in the wrong hands just pissed Statyx off. While his strength was being sapped, he still had enough to throw the gem down towards the group. He made sure not to aim for anyone specific though, angling it so it would land closest to the Master. "Do whatever you need to with it, just don't touch it!!" he yelled out as he threw the gem. Using the momentum from his throw in his free-fall state, Statyx spun about 270 degrees, then used another explosive boom to send himself crashing into the glacier. He hoped that the sudden change in speed, the cold of the ice, or being smothered would do something to the draining flames.

With the pitbull focused on Statyx, Paroi decided to make his move. He appeared behind the Follower in a silent flash, a pure white ball of energy in the palm of his hand. He then thrust the orb into pitbull's back as hard as he could.

The gem ceased its burst of energy upon leaving Statyx's hand, and landed near Eiji who, unlike Statyx, had no problem picking it up. "Nobody let up!" he called out, "That's one of the Followers' underbosses. If he engages you, try not to fight him for too long, and just keep advancing!"

The pitbull ducked to the side to avoid Paroi's attack and retaliated by shooting a blast of fire at him. He then jumped down the cliffside after Statyx, while more of the grunts began to circle Paroi.

Half expecting a retaliation of some sort, Paroi brought his free arm in front of his body, creating a hexagonal shield of translucent white magic, guarding against the flames, but he was still pusehd back by them. Doigna quick somersault in the air, he landed on his feet, only to notice the gang of Follower surrounding him. "So, you'd rather fight the hedgehog?" Paroi said. He eyed each of the Followers around him, and shook his head in disappointment. "And here I was thinking I finally had a challenge." He opened his hand, and a blue-white orb appeared in his hand, long tendrils of white extending from it. "Absorb this: Seraphic Star." He flicked the orb at the follower directly in front of him. As the orb travelled, it gathered energy fron its surroundings, growing bigger as it approached the follower. Paroi hoped that, if the Follower tried to absorb it, the orb would simply absorb energy from the Follower in turn, locking him in a stalemate. After shooting the ball, he turned and fired a pitch black orb of energy, the size of a basketball. The second orb exerted a gravitational force, pushing away anything that got too close to it with powerful repelling force.

Aqua leaped up small platforms of ice she created, scaling up the side of the cliff. Vaulting up, she landed next to Paroi, bringing her sword down into a battle stance. "Here to help."

"Good," Paroi replied. "You have a plan?"

Aqua scanned around. "I can cast supporting spells that enhance abilities. If you use that white orb again after I use one of those spells, maybe it can affect all of them at once, and then we can follow up with an attack." Her hand glowed with orange energy and she tossed the spell over to Paroi. "Let's hope that works."

"Hm, a black mage and a white mage on the same team? We should be unbeatable then," Paroi remarked, a sly smile on his face. He felt the power of Aqua's spell flowing through him. "Now, what does this one do?"

The grunt target by the white orb held up her hands, each surrounded by purple energy, after a brief struggle, the white orb disappeared, but the grunt fell to the ground as well. Many of the others jumped out of the way of the black orb, and continued advancing upon Paroi and Aqua.

Paroi waved his hand, and fired a large, almost metallic looking orb of energy at the Followers, with four smaller similar orbs orbiting around it. This spell was the opposite of the previous one. It created a powerful gravitational force, only this time it drew in any Follower that got within its range, which was significantly larger than usual thanks to Aqua's spell.

"It's a spell enhancer. Cast any spell and it'll have double the effect... or it would if I casted it properly." Aqua smiled. "I changed it a little. It should be triple the effect and double the range now."

"Excellent," Paroi replied. Unable to do much against the gravity attack, the grunts were all pulled into the metallic orb, and most were rendered incapacitated.

"Alright!" Aqua swiped her blade in an arc. "Frigid Gust!" An icy wind swept towards the incapacitated Followers, aiming to throw them off of the cliff. Smash then reached the two, wiping a bead of sweat off his forehead.

"Sorry I'm late. A couple more of them blocked my way back there." He explained quickly. "You two alright?"

"Yes, although you're missing out on the action," Paroi said to Smash, a smile on his face.


Inferna, having given up on trying to see the pitbull clearly from this distance, held one arm out to Tendril. "Launch me up there," she said. Tendril glanced over in surprise. "Launch you?" he repeated with a hint of worry. "Don't worry about me," Inferna replied, "Just throw me up there and follow as quickly as you can." After a brief moment, Tendril nodded and took her outstretched hand. He took a few steps forward, then threw her in the pitbull's direction, using the shadows inside her to push her toward her goal with more accuracy.

The pitbull landed upon the ground a short distance away from Statyx, and saw Inferna approaching him. He quickly raised a wall of fire to stop her, and then took a closer look. With a look of surprise he said, "Pyra Fireheart? My, it's been a long time... your majesty." He gave a small bow, looking formal but meant to be mocking.

Inferna stopped herself with a burst of fire and landed just a few feet from the pitbull. Realizing who he was, her eyes widened and she took a step back, a mixture of surprise and slight fear catching in her throat. "C-Ceres...?" she managed to ask softly.

Unfortunately, the pitbull was interrupted. By a giant blast of raw electricity as broad as the face of a house fired right at him from behind. The raw electricity sent ripples and heat throughout the surrounding air as it roared directly at the Follower from behind with the speed of a bullet train.

The wall of flame extended to cover the Follower from all directions, growing purple in colour like the ones from before. The electric blast forced itself against the wall, only to be slowly absorbed. Soon it enough, it simply exploded into nothing.

But while surrounded by the wall, the Follower was treated to a very unwelcome surprise. Namely, a spindashing hedgehog bursting up from the ground right below him, aiming right for his kisser while traveling at supersonic speeds.

The pitbull raised his hand, catching Statyx's spindash in a violet, firey claw. "Do you mind?" he asked impatiently, "I'm trying to speak to my former queen."

While spinning, Statyx extended a leg out, the result being an axe kick aimed squarely at Ceres' skull. The kick hit its mark, but only caused Ceres to growl in frustration. He tossed Statyx away in a fireball, throwing him through the wall of violet flame.

Within seconds however, a green flash from behind alerted Ceres to Statyx's present. A few seconds before Statyx stabbed at the pitbull with a conical blade of electricity surrounding his hands.

Ceres roared in pain, twitching as he looked down at the energy-blade piercing his stomach. He forcefully grabbed it with his hand, still burning with the purple flames, and absorbed its energy. "Enough!" he shouted as an intense wave of violet energy burst from within him, flying in all directions but only seeming to affect Statyx. The barrier around him changed from a wall of flame to a solid sphere of energy, encasing himself as well as Inferna. "I will have no more interruptions," he growled, "Let me speak to Lady Pyra in peace, or die trying to stop us."

Inferna froze and looked around frantically. It was quite obvious that she didn't relish the idea of being trapped with this guy.

Kyle looked towards the large barrier, somewhat disturbed by it. Gizmo, still watching from a distance, gasped in surprise. "What is that...?" He looked over at Kitty, who was staring in fear. "Do you think we should go down there?" He asked. Kitty nodded, and the two got up from their spot and hurried down the small hill they stood atop.

"Good, now that we have a moment in peace..." Ceres began. He then swung his arm forward and grabbed Inferna by the throat. "Now, your majesty, I'd like a word about my last day in your realm. I must say I'm not pleased."

Frightened enough just be finding him here, Inferna was absolutely terrified at this point. She attempted to escape, but found herself unable to move due to both fear and his iron grip.

"Inferna, no!" Burst shouted from the back of the group of heroes. He tried to run up and help, but Shogai stopped him. "That would not be wise. He is far out of your league," the snake explained. Burst tried to protest, but he knew the master was right.

Ceres chuckled, seeing Inferna's fear. "Oh how the mighty have fallen," he gloated, "You chased me down like scum, when all I did was fight back against the hellhole you put me through. Now... I finally have the power to take you down. What a wonderful coincidence that it happened to be this day."

"C-Ceres," Inferna muttered, finally finding her voice, "P-please, don't do this. If you do, the others will tell my soldiers it was you.... You won't be charged with just murder, but high treason too...."

"But you don't understand, Lady Inferna," he chuckled, "Back then I was nothing but a lowly Fire Being. Now... I'm so much more. The Void has awoken in me unimaginable power. Your army doesn't stand a chance."

"It won't be just one army," she replied softly, "It will be ten. My friends, the kings and queens of the other Elemental Realms, they'll want to avenge my death.... They'll all attack you at once, not even you can beat ten whole realms...."

"Lady Inferna...!" Kyle knew that if nothing was done, Inferna would be killed. But what could he do? The barrier was most likely formed out of Vortex Magic. He couldn't imagine what negative effect it could have on the Gemblade. Just then, Gizmo and Kitty both stopped in front of the barrier. "Gizmo, Be careful."

Gizmo knelt down in front of the barrier, pulling out a small, metallic gadget. "I hope this works.." With a push of a button, the gadget whirred to life. He gently placed it against the barrier, in an attempt to have the machine completely neutralize and disable it. Upon contact, though, the barrier let out a shock of energy, completely short-circuiting the device.

Ceres laughed again, this time out loud. "Ten or ten thousand, it doesn't matter. The Void will destroy them all eventually," he growled. Meanwhile, Eiji was thinking hard of a way to hopefully save Inferna. He then looked at the purple gem shard in his hand, and decided to try something risky. "Gizmo, stand back!" he called out.

Whatever Eiji was planning was interrupted by the sound of loud crackling. Statyx, who had been standing by idly trying to figure out a way into the barrier, had decided to throw a hail Mary. His right hand was roaring with what seemed to be Chaos Energy. But rather than sway and curve like flame as Chaos Energy usually did, it crackled and crashed like electricity. "This "Vortex Magic" crap or whatever you call it likes energy, right?" the green hedgehog questioned the pitbull inside. "Well then, allow me to give it a full-course meal!!" The energy turned into a spinning disc floating in front of Statyx's fist as he charge headlong at the barrier. Pulling his arm back, Statyx threw a punch disc-first at the barrier. When his fist made contact with the disc, the result was a powerful point-blank blast of ThunderChaos.

"What are you--" Gizmo gasped as he realized what was about to happen. The sudden boost of energy Statyx fed it, caused the Force Phaser he was using to overload. Smoke spewed from it, as it began to overheat. He didn't waste another second, as he now had every reason to move. He grabbed Kitty and dove away from the barrier.

The contact Statyx made with the barrier caused a devastating backlash. Vortex energy surged all around the barrier, draining all within its vicinity as Vortex Magic normally would, except for Ceres. He seemed to be "recharged" by it, the wound in his mid-section healing from the new energy gain, "Dammit Statyx," Eiji grunted, "This better work now, or we're all in serious trouble." With a little hesitation he threw the purple gem at Ceres' barrier. Upon contact, it seemed to do the opposited of what Statyx's ThunderChaos did, dulling the energy surge. Within the moment, the gem shattered from an overload of power, and Ceres' barrier did the same. "What?!" Ceres shouted. Cursing under his breath, he tossed Inferna to the side and prepared for the worst.

Immediately upon hitting the ground, Inferna scrambled to her feet and darted away from Ceres, coughing and massaging her throat. She ran and ducked behind Tendril, who was already gripping the hilts of his twin Shadow Blades, glaring unforgivingly at Ceres.

Gizmo and Kitty looked up at the the barrier, only to see that it was gone completely. He brushed the snow off of his face, not sure if the Force Phaser actually worked or if something else happened. Kyle on the other hand, took initiative. He held his sword behind him, chanting silently to draw power from the gems of the Gemblade. In seemingly an instant, he appeared on the other side of Ceres in a flash; his back facing him and his sword outstretched infront of him. Several delayed reaction slashes then struck at Ceres from all directions.

Statyx had tunnel vision at this point. Drained of energy and trying one of his best abilities, only for it to backfire in his face. Literally. Skidding back but still standing, the green hedgehog made a full-blown sonic boom as he charged right at Ceres, jumping at the last minute and curling into a ball to compact all that energy for an even harder hit.

Ceres turned to try and block the attacks, but he was unable. Statyx's spines scraped across his chest, and Kyle's sword cut at his back, tearing up his robe. With a significant struggle, he grabbed Statyx by the sides, his hands still glowing with violet energy, and threw him away, now able to avoid Kyle's assault. "Followers, retreat!" he called out. The grunts from up on the cliff, now able to function again, jumped down and uses their powers to cause an intense flurry of wind and snow. Using the distraction to their advantage, Ceres and his grunts disappeared.

Kyle stood up straight, swiped his sword to the side, and withdrew it to it's sheath after a twirl. "We have won..for now." He announced.

Statyx uncurled and landed on his feet, growling. "Dammit...!!" he cursed, clenching his fists as his quarry got away. He was far from done with that mutt.

Gizmo stood up, smiling broadly. "We made it!"
Smash looked down from the cliff at the others. "Is everyone alright down there?" He called out.

"Alive, but mocked and humuliated." Statyx called back before grumbling. A red blur dived down past Smash, nearly throwing him down the cliff with the force of its tailwind. Fou swooped down and landed in front of Statyx. "Sorry Statyx, I spent all my time keeping an eye out for more of those guys, and I didn't end up helping at all..." the young firebird said sadly.

Smash managed to hold his balance, though he was caught off guard. "Hey, watch it!" He called back.

"With the Followers clear of the area, we are free to move on." Kyle said, looking towards the Masters. "Though we must be cautious; There's no telling when they might decide to strike again." Inferna swallowed hard at the unpleasant thought of possibly running into Ceres again.

"You're right, Kyle," Eiji agreed, "But cautious or otherwise, we must advance. After we scale this cliff, a guide will be waiting on the other side to lead us to the temple."

"Good. We could always use some extra help." Kyle nodded.

Statyx just growled, still looking in the direction Ceres had gone. In a flash of light he teleported to the pile of rubble he had created in a foolish attempt to free himself of those draining flames. The Ultimate Guardian staggered, already beginning to feel the aftermath of his power release. Maintaining his balance though, Statyx leaned down and grabbed his black arm-braces, putting them back on his arms. When the braces clamped back on, Statyx shuddered and sighed as he felt the power within him contained and stabilized.

Aqua looked over the cliff on her knees, waving to the others. "If we lose, might as well do it with a smile." she murmured.

Paroi made a small smile over their little victory. Plus, he got a chance to have a little fun for once. Tendril turned and allowed his Shadow Blades to dissipate, then kneeled down in front of Inferna. "Hey, you alright?" he asked quietly. Her only reply was a small nod while she continued gingerly massaging her throat.

Kyle walked over towards Inferna, and knelt down beside her. "Are you hurt, Lady Inferna?" Inferna glanced over at him and smiled slightly. "No, I'm okay," she replied softly, "Just a little bruised...." Tsunami stepped up, not bothering to kneel or ask her condition. "Who was he?" she asked instead.

"He's a criminal from the Fire Realm," Inferna replied. Tsunami went silent, now deep in thought. Aqua, finally reaching the bottom of the cliff using her ice platforms, jogged over to Inferna preparing a healing spell. "Are you ok?" she asked, allowing the turquoise light to flow from her hands. "Here, let me heal you."

"Thanks," Inferna replied with a slight smile. Tendril's irritated countenance softened a bit at Aqua's kindness.

Smash hopped down after Aqua, looking around at the group. "Hey, everyone okay over here?" He asked, with a hint of concern. Paroi appeared next to the group, looking at Inferna with concern, although unsure of what to say.

((Allow me to revise my edit. With the way I've been struggling to stay active here, I couldn't really find the time to edit this part much, and forgot about Inferna's condition.))

((No problem, I suppose I can understand not having motivation. Only difference is that I don't have enough motivation in school, but plenty of it on RPs))

"Alright everyone, we've established she's alright, now let's keep moving," Eiji called to the heroes, now a fair distance up the cliffside. Granted, many of the others couldn't fly like he could, but that was hardly an excuse. After his talking-to from Shogai, Burst finally made it to Inferna's side, and lifted he up into his arms. "No way I'm letting you climb after that. You need some rest, and at a time like this, this is the only way you're gonna get it," he said.

Inferna smiled and wrapped her arms around him, thanking him softly. Tsunami snapped out of her thoughts, then turned and began walking up the side of the cliff. Tendril created wings out of the shadows on his back, then used them to fly up after her.

Aqua nodded before beginning to scale the cliff again through her ice platforms. Smash went back up the way he came down, with Kyle following behind.

Gizmo put away his Hand Cannon, and instead pulled out seemingly a different type of model of it. He aimed it at a higher part of the cliff, and fired a grappling hook towards it. The hook managed to cling onto a piece of the cliff, and began to retract; pulling him up towards it in the process.

Statyx just continued contemplating what a massive mess that fight with the pitbull had been. But with little else to do about it, he sped out of the crater he had made and up the side of the mountain of ice.

In time, the heroes reached the top of the cliff. Stretching out in front of them was a massive valley of ice, followed by more glacier. The peak could be faintly seen through the clouds, but that was thankfully not their destination. If one looked closely across the valley, the face of a building could be seen protruding from the icy wall of the glacier: the Water Temple.

The altitude the heroes now stood at brought with it a thicker snowfall. Eiji glanced through the vast white, searching for the guide he had mentioned earlier. "He should be nearby," the dragonfly muttered, waving his hand to blow the nearby snow away with a gentle gust of wind.

((Xi - Now's your cue, Ryu. Bring him in.))

"A timely arrival, Eiji," came a sudden voice. A pale figure with black hair and two pairs of black feathered wings, walked slowly into view. Its body was swathed in a multitude of bandages, with a bloody cloth wrapped over its eyes. Between its horns floated a large, glowing eye.

"Ah, excellent. Everyone, this is Karakal. He will be leading us the rest of the way to the temple," Eiji explained. Mutoh gave a slight bow to the figure as a way of greeting, while Shogai just stared off in the direction of the temple, lost in thought.

Paroi and Kyle both followed Mutoh's example and greeted the strange Karakal with a bow. He bowed in return, however, his floating eye did not shift position at all; it continued to stare intently at the group.

Smash rose his eyebrow at the creature before him. It was kind of disturbing to him, but he could tell it was a decent person, whatever it was. "Er....Hello." He said, more awkwardly than he'd intended.

Gizmo as well looked disturbed by it's appearance. Kitty however, was downright terrified by it, and hid behind Gizmo's head

Karakal didn't seem at all offended by Smash and Gizmo's obvious unsettelement.

"Greetings," the being said softly to Smash. Although his voice didn't sound like more than a whisper, everyone could hear him perfectly fine. The eye floating above his head roved around to look at everyone else.

"Is everybody ready to depart?" he asked.

Statyx barely even registered the new stranger. Karakal, his name was? Between G.U.N. operations and other paranormal crap, Statyx was hardly fazed. Besides, he was still more focused on his own thoughts and issues with the recent defeat.

"I don't think ready is something we have time for, so let's get moving as quickly as possible," Eiji answered, "Lead the way, Karakal."

Smash nodded in silent agreement. If they had just encountered the Followers here, they may have already been too late. They couldn't afford to waste any time here.

Paroi nodded in agreement, eager to get going.

"Excellent," said Karakal. "We depart at once." Turning around, he suddenly lifted into the air and floated towards the temple, his wings hardly flapping.

"What an interesting character," Paroi silently remarked to himself. However, seeing Karakal float away, Paroi turned to Eiji and asked, "Does he expect all of us to fly to the temple?"

"Not exactly," Eiji answered, despite flying slightly off the ground himself, "The valley of ice ahead of us is treacherous, and straying from the path Karakal shall lead us upon would not be a good idea."

Paroi clasped his hands together, and muttered,"Blizzaga." The ice below his feet separated from the ground and floated into the air, allowing him to fly on the platform of ice. "Does anyone else need a lift?" he asked.

"I'll be fine." Smash assured, walking down the path normally.

Kyle hopped on, "Most appreciated, Paroi." He said with a smile.

"Kitty and I should be okay, too." Gizmo stated. "If the path gets back, we have our own means of flight." He nodded at the chao, who was already flying above his shoulder.

Seeing the others more than ready to proceed, Eiji began to follow Karakal. "Remember everyone, flying or not, stay on the path," he warned once more.

Meanwhile, Ceres and one of his grunts stood on the cliff which held the Water Temple, completely hidden from view by the falling snow. "Sir, are you sure one of us can't go in with a shard and just get it over with?" the grunt asked. Ceres remained silent for a moment, then replied, "The Void wishes for it to be done by I alone. For that reason, we must await their arrival so that they may open the doors." The grunt nodded in reluctant agreement, but Ceres went on to continue, "I do share your impatience, however. The longer they go on undefeated, the hotter my blood boils. Such insolent do-gooders, they are. The mere sight of them alive makes my gorge rise." He bared his teeth in frustration and swept his tongue across them, emphasizing his desire for bloodshed.

The heroes advanced over the valley of ice, taking many turns over the path which was unmarked but apparently there none the less. The closer they got to the temple, the more harsh the weather seemed to become. The snow fell on a scale just short of a blizzard, with a noticable wind blowing it about. "Ugh, it's too damn cold here!" Burst complained, holding his arms across eachother and shivering like mad.

Inferna stepped closer to Burst and allowed him to share the small bubble of warmth she had summoned. However, due to the intense cold of the environment, she was unable to make the bubble large enough for more than two people.

The cold also began to get to Paroi as well, and, due to his method of travel, he couldn't even create a fire to warm himself.

Karakal didn't seem the least bit hampered by the bitterly cold wind and snow, however. The wind whipped his jet black hair, feathers and bandages to near horizontal positions, but his movement was unhindered otherwise. He moved at a slow and steady pace, however, so the others could keep up.

Gizmo held Kitty in his arms, trying to keep him warm. He was shivering slightly, but the cold didn't affect him as bad as the others. The snow and winds were making it difficult to see; he ended up having to move his goggles down over his eyes.

Kyle put his hand on his sword, though not to unsheathe it. "O Gem of Fire, lend me thy power." He whispered. The red gem glowed in response, and began to heat up the blade. He and Paroi could both feel a warmth like a heater from it.

Smash was probably having the roughest time out of them all. He was freezing cold, and could barely even see where he was going. He kept marching forward, doing his best to follow the group. Bah, Are we there yet!? I'm gonna catch a cold out here! He thought, impatiently.

A hand suddenly grabbed Smash's forearm roughly, and began to almost drag him through the snow. "Move it, you're falling behind." said a familiar voice, albeit in a short, no-nonsense tone. Barely able to see a few feet ahead himself, Statyx just followed the myriad of lights and distortions that came from the others' powers. Stomping through the snow, he didn't seem the least bit bothered by the blizzard. Rather, it seemed he was too deep in thought to notice his fur and quills partially icing over. And considering he was squeezing Smash's arm hard enough to almost cut off circulation, they apparently weren't pleasant thoughts.

"Get your hand offa me." Smash growled, yanking Statyx' hand off of his arm. "I don't need you to tell me that."

The eye floating above Karakal's head briefly swiveled around to gaze intently at Statyx and Smash, before turning to face forward again.

Through the white veil of the blizzard, the Water Temple slowly came into view. It was a very old-looking structure protruding from the icy cliffside, bearing resemblance to a middle-age cathedral. Its marble walls were white like the snow upon it, with blue and green stained-glass windows. "We're here," Eiji stated, "Mizu's temple of Water."

"Sir, they're here," the grunt informed Ceres. The pitbull softened his perpetual growl to reply, "I am aware. We strike at once; go swiftly and surround them." The grunt was silent in confusion for a moment, then questioned, "Strike at once? I thought we needed them to open the door." Ceres clawed at the grunts violet cloak and nearly tore it from his back. "I gave an order, and I expect you to follow it," he barked. The grunt nervously nodded, and then disappeared into the snow.

Shogai slithered to the front of the group, ready to get a move on. However, he was held back by Mutoh who closed his eyes in concentration. After a brief moment he quickly pulled Shogai away, as the ground beneath him erupted in a burst of snow and ice. The same occurance happened all around the group, as they quickly became surrounded by more of the Void's grunts. Ceres jumped down between the group and the temple and laughed, his cloak blowing violently in the wind.

Karakal's eye turned towards Ceres, his head following soon after.

Smash gasped, looking all around them. "C-Crap! It's a trap!"

"They have us completely surrounded.." Kyle drew his sword, which began to melt the snow around him from the heat it was generating. Gizmo extended his Claw Gloves, holding Kitty protectively in his arms.

Paroi's ice platform disintegrated, and he landed softly on the snow, hands glowing with magical energy.

Statyx looked around, with a calm that he had not previously shown. "....When I give the signal, everyone jump as high as you can." he said to the others, just barely loud enough for them all to hear.

"May I ask why?" Paroi whispered back silently.

Ceres chuckled, feeling rather pleased with his ambush. "The Water Spirit, hand it over!" he demanded, "And while you're at it, the other three you're carrying as well." He thrust his right paw forward, clenching his fist as it crackled with the violet flames of the Void. "If you don't do as I say, everyone here dies."

"You are Ceres, are you not?" Karakal asked, looking straight at him, his eye staring intensely.

"Yes, what of it, Watcher?" Ceres growled in response. The surrounding Followers readied their weapons, preparing for the worst.

"You've certainly changed, child, from being poor and homeless to becoming an underling." The Watcher smiled slightly; was he trying to agitate Ceres?

Ceres chuckled, his rage disappearing for the most brief of moments. "Your words mean nothing to me, putrid beast," he stated firmly, "I have moved on from that past. My future is in the hands of the Void, and it shall be glorious."

"You trust that this...Void, won't dispose of you once it believes you've exhausted your purpose?"

"The Void would never rid of its most powerful and loyal of Followers!" shouted one of the grunts, a small macaroni penguin. "Silence, you speak only when spoken to," Ceres barked, "The Void's decisions are the wisest of ones. Never would I misplace my trust in its word."

"Even if its decision results in your death?" Karakal continued.

"Speaking of death..." Statyx started, looking up into the sky. Just then, a rain of fireballs hailed down, many of them hitting the surrounding Followers and bathing them in powerful flames.

The sudden bombardment caught many of the grunts off guard, having not expected an attack from above. They quickly became engulfed in the fire. Ceres, however, seemed unphased by the attack. His cloak only blew more violently from the added gust created by the attack's impact. "Hmph, care to try again?" he scoffed.

"Let me try," Paroi snarled, and raised his hand to shoulder-height. Suddenly, all the ice and snow around the followers erupted, obscuring them in clouds of white. Half a second later, many of the followers were frozen solid in bright, lovely crystals of ice.

As quickly as the grunts became frozen, they had thawed under Ceres' power of fire. "Anything else? I grow bored of your feeble attempts," he said with a mock-yawn.

"Yeah," Statyx said. "JUMP!!" he shouted towards the others, before proceeding to do so himself. Paroi simply levitated high into the air.

Karakal ignored him; although there was some sort of orb in his hands...

Aqua gave a yelp and leaped up.

((Xi - Still waiting on people to jump. This part really needs to get moving faster.))

((Should Paroi just lift everyone into the air? Y'know, in case some people are falling behind Possibilities are Endless - Banzai123 22:37, May 29, 2012 (UTC)))

((Xi - Y'know what, do it. This is taking too long -_-))

((So sorry, I haven't been able to get on at a decent hour, and I've been trying to focus on my own things too.~Smash The Echidna~ Smash_life.png 18:59, June 4, 2012 (UTC)))

Smash sprung high into the air, expecting some kind of explosion or otherwise ground covering attack below. Kyle leaped into the air as well, chanting another spell that would let him float. Gizmo jumped up higher than most of everyone else, and activated the Magic Wings. Kitty simply followed him up, as he was already flying.

Tendril jumped into the air, flapping his shadow wings to stay airborne. In the interest of not melting part of the glacier, Inferna jumped up, holding her arm toward Tendril, who pulled her up as well. Tsunami leapt up as well, but simply floated there in mid-air.

As the heroes jumped, the flaming outline of a bird, starkly contrasting the torrential winds of snow and ice. The flaming avian, wings stretched out wide, soon lifted after diving towards the ground, flying towards the Followers. With the heroes up in the air, the firebirds wide flaming wings cut through the remaining Followers, scorching them. As it closed in on Ceres, the firebird pulled in its wings and began to spin, turning itself into a tearing drill of flames flying directly at Ceres.

Ceres watched his grunts fall like dominoes with virtually no fear. "Annoying bird, I am the great Ceres!" he barked, "May your flames die as you soon shall as well!" He thrust his right hand forward, a wind of violet flying to meet the firebird in its charge. Suddenly, the flames surrounding what was revealed to be Fou vanished, and Fou himself was stopped dead in his tracks. "You've wasted far to much of my time, all of you," Ceres growled, "It's time I finished this. Flames of Cerberus: Soul of the Void!"

Upon his cry, Ceres became engulfed in a massive pillar of flame. A faint silhouette of his form could be seen within, growing. The pillar expanded to encompasses his changing mass, but slowly began to reveal his beastly tail, followed by hulking forelegs. With a powerful howl the pillar disipated, revealing Ceres in his Fire Beast form: a massive, three-headed wolf-like creature, with a fiery violet mane. His eyes were filled with malice and animalistic rage; the real Ceres was now lost somewhere inside, leaving this monster free to hunt.

"This is not good." Kyle said, after landing on the ground.

"It looks like he's gone berserk.." Smash said, keeping his guard up. "Which means we may be able to outsmart him somehow, but I don't think we'll have enough time to plan anything out!"

Inferna took a step back, staring at the beast standing before them. "Fire Beast Form..." she muttered under her breath, "I've heard it was possible to choose what someone becomes and how, but I thought only the Royal Family could actually do it...."

"Apparently not," Tendril replied, "But that's not going to stop me from taking him on." He flew back down and deposited Inferna on the ground below. "Back me up. I'm gonna see if my Shadow Beast Form can help here." Inferna nodded and stepped in front of him. Tsunami simply remained in the air, watching Ceres silently.

Before the other fighters could react, a green blur barreled through the snow, slamming Ceres' lower legs with the force of a truck in an attempt to knock the beast off-balance. Skidding to a stop behind Ceres, Statyx called out mockingly. "Yeah, make yourself a bigger target, real good idea! Do you not know that saying about size and falling? Then again, I'm sure you know it now."

Ceres leaped high and far to avoid Statyx's attack. Landing on the opposite side of the heroes as where he once stood, he turned to face them again with a snarl. His middle head let out a mighty howl, as the other two spewed twin jets of violet flame, aiming to both surround and engulf the heroes.

As the violet fire approached the heroes, Karakal crushed the gray orb in his hands, and a translucent, gray cube expanded from his hands, roughly 15 feet in diameter. Everything within the cube became grayscale in color.

"His power's increased dramatically," Paroi commented. "I cannot say the same for his intellect though."

Statyx was watching the display from a distance. He was tired of these Void people making him look like a fool; the time for fun and games had long passed, and he was preparing to put all of his experience to lethal use. Knowing of and recognizing the capabilities of the Balance advanced element, he knew the other fighters would be unharmed. Instead, he took the time to closely analyze Ceres' frame and body structure, carefully observing muscle mass, weight distribution, stance, and movements. The green hedgehog also analyzed the display of Ceres' new power, while looking for any new possible weapons or methods of attack.

"Make use of the time I am giving you," said Karakal, his eye glowing intensely as he focused on maintaining God's Realm. "I cannot keep the barrier up forever."

Gizmo took this chance to fly up high above Ceres with the Magic Wings. Like Statyx, he was analyzing the beast as well. But more for the purpose of finding a possible weakness, and if anything he had would even effect him.

"Don't worry. That's exactly what I'm doing," Paroi said, floating in a meditative position, gathering magic energy and preparing several spells for on-the-go use. Then he noticed Statyx staring intensly at Ceres's new form. "So, what have you discovered so far?" he asked, trying to make conversation.

Kyle stood right under Paroi, preparing a spell of his own. He had to think carefully of what he could do, knowing that just about anything the Gemblade could do against him would be ineffective due to the Vortex Magic.

Smash stared intently at the beast before him. He knew he was the main one here with the best physical attacks. But even though he felt that would be most effective on him, he knew it would be the most dangerous to try and pull off. Getting near this guy was practically suicide. Maybe if I can get the jump on him...Literally. He made his way around Ceres, trying to find a way to get up high.

Ceres' fire breath collided with the grey cube, creating a violent reaction. The meeting energies surged in a burst of plasma, and seemed to cancel eachother out. Ceres growled in frustration and charged forward, lunging at Karakal with his burning claws.

Karakal did not try to avoid Ceres; should the Fire Beast enter God's Realm, he would be subject to the Watcher's whim. At least, the latter hoped so; he had very little knowledge of Vortex Magic.

Tendril stood behind the others, absorbing nearby shadows as quickly as possible. He had almost absorbed enough energy to enter Shadow Beast form, but it would still take some time before he was ready. Inferna was watching Ceres, wondering if she should try going up against him herself. She was a Fire Being, after all. She didn't know much about Vortex Magic, but she knew how to fight Fire Beasts. Besides, he was a Fire Realm criminal, and she was the Fire Realm's queen. Didn't that make it her duty to at least try and take him down?

((Xi - Uh, Ryu? I think you may have missed something in my last post. Ceres' attack and the God's Realm cancelled eachother out, meaning they were both stopped.))

Aqua slashed through the air, sending crescents of water at Ceres. "I really hope water is still strong against fire!" she yelled out mostly to herself as she continued her barrage.

Paroi had finished charging his spells, and was now ready to attack. "I hope this works...Gravitify!" Paroi's hands became enveloped in a black aura, as he attempted using gravity based magic to pin down the beast, making him immobile.

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