Thursday, April 30, 2015

Blue Nexus #22 -- Magus Forest

             Kyle peered up at the Moon while water cascaded down upon him. It shone bright over him. There, on the Moon, rested a woman he loved as well as his own allies, though none of them knew what happened. He clenched a fist.
            “Hey, Blue Nexus!” shouted someone from below. “Hey, did you take care of the monsters?”
            Kyle continued to stare up at the Moon. The water stopped coming down on him and now small rivulets slithered down his cloak and face. A bead of water warped around his eye before moving down to his lips.
            “Blue Nexus!” many people shouted. “Blue Nexus, when did you get here? Did you beat them, are we safe?”
            The blood began to drip down from his finger tips down to the lake which was still dealing with massive ripples caused from the sinking Squid. He looked down to the blood. It was red, dark red, and thick on his hands. It also rather sticky. His eye twitched, and he removed the glove that was covered his right hand.
            The blood was gone, but there was a red stain on it. Kyle stared down at the stain, then let the glove dropped. It dissipated once it breached the outside of his aura, reappearing over his hand instantly, only now it was clean. Kyle flexed his hand.
            The people were gathered in greater mass than before. He gave them a quick glance, then turned his whole body upward and shot toward the Moon.
            He was at the Zanderia base in moments, much quicker than before. He stopped at the opened doors, then stepped into the air-locked base.
            Brenda was unmoved on the table, but her appearance had drastically changed. Her hair was a lighter shade of red and her skin was nearly as pale as Lalay’s. Had her body also thinned out?
            Slowly, Kyle made his way down the stairs. His footsteps echoed around the base. Riko and Lalay looked up to him, though without a hint of shock in their eyes. Kyle’s face remained stoic, his eyes unwavering as he kept them locked forward and his feet guided him down.
            Riko noticed and approached Kyle.
            “We’re not picking up disturbances in the area, I’ll assume that means you defeated whatever it was that plagued the town?” he asked.
            Kyle, absentmindedly, nodded.
            “Was it that difficult, should we have asked for back-up?” asked Riko. “I’m sure Phoenix had have been able to help.”
            “No,” Kyle finally said. “I handled it.”
            Kyle kept walking past Riko, continuing toward Brenda. He placed a hand gently on her arm, then on her neck. Her pulse was faint, and he could barely sense any strength coming from her. How was her condition getting this bad?
            “Blue Nexus, what happened down there?” asked Riko.
            Lalay turned around to face them, crossing her arms. Kyle looked up at her before turning to face Riko.
            “There was a monster there that was somehow given power to kill people then reanimate them as a darker version of themselves,” Kyle explained. “Their life force was directly connected to the monster, so I had to put it down and…”
            “All those people returned to being dead,” Lalay finished.
            “I killed them,” Kyle breathed.
            “No, you didn’t,” Riko said. “Something else did, you avenged them.”
            “Why couldn’t I help them?” asked Kyle. “He was there, he talked to me, he tried to help me before he turned into one them.”
            Kyle fell back, bracing himself against the table. Brenda’s body shook but hardly budged from where it was on the table. Riko helped him stand back up. Kyle’s mindset was quickly beginning to unravel as panic swept over his body. Riko held a tight grip on his arm.
            “Blue Neuxs, hey, listen to me,” Riko urged.
            Kyle couldn’t, his eyes darting around everywhere. Why couldn’t he save them, why couldn’t he use his powers to try and save those people?
            “Hey!” shouted Lalay, and a gust of wind smacked Kyle across the face, knocking off his hood and sending a shiver down his spine. “Riko, let him go.”
            Riko released his grip. Kyle nearly sunk to the ground. He was still braced against the table, supporting his own weight.
            “You did everything in your power to help those people,” Riko said. “You’ve been trained in your abilities for a very long time, you know your limits. You knew that this was the only way to really help those people. How many more would have fallen if you hadn’t been there?”
            “But, I was too late to save all of them.”
            “No, we were too late,” Riko said. “We didn’t pick up on the disturbances in time. You can’t blame yourself on any of this.”
            “Where did this monster come from, where did it get his ability?” asked Riko. “Now we have to find this out. And, look, we have to seriously find some help for Shindari.”
            The three of them peered down to Brenda. Kyle’s heart leapt. He could hardly stand to see her like this, let alone knowing that her condition was only going to get worse.
            “Why is she like this?” he asked.       
            “We assume it’s because she’s lost her connection to her magic,” Lalay said. “Eclipse came by and gave her a scan. Her magic protects her body, and apparently soul or something, from some trauma she’s seen in the past that took some toll on her. Without, it’s like it’s all coming back to hit her, and hit her hard.”
            “Which means we’re running out of time,” Riko said. “Eclipse has done as large a scan of nearby planets, including the Earth, on any magical intelligence.”
            “And of course nobody wanted to listen to the strange voice in their head,” Lalay said, sounding rather disappointed as she leaned over onto the table, folding her arms.
            “But there has to be a magical resource here on Earth,” Riko said. “I mean, there have been various mages on Earth before.”
            Kyle nodded. “I still don’t get how we aren’t able to pick up on it, or at least, why I’m not…I don’t know if you guys can.”
            Lalay sighed. “No, neither of us can.”
            “But aren’t your powers magic based, too?”
            “Not quite. Besides, I never got proper training as a little girl, unlike Brenda apparently. As a prisoner of one of the Twelve Kingdom Planets, you tend to have a lot of spare time on your hands waiting to die. Lends itself to meditation. You seemed to pick up on the whole sixth-sense crap quick, but, you’ll never, ever sense magical energy.”
            “Because it doesn’t exist. Magic isn’t a form of energy, it just, I don’t know, is. I can’t really explain it. Magic is like a force.”
            “And energy isn’t?”
            “Only mages can sense magic within another person,” Riko said. “It’s why Eclipse went out looking for people. The abilities that we, with the exception of Brenda, have aren’t magical based, they were either a part of us at birth or given to us, such as the Nexus. And the Nexus has dabbled in magic but never fused with it.”
            “So basically we’re totally lost looking for someone that may know how to restore Brenda’s magic?” asked Kyle.
            “Basically,” Lalay said. “That doesn’t mean we won’t find someone, but…”
            “Whoever it is might purposefully be hiding themselves and therefore won’t want to help us. Mages also aren’t a friendly bunch, unless they’re a force for evil. Any mage we’ve fought alongside has acted alone. Just look at Brenda,” Riko pointed out.
            Kyle did so, observing the frail figure of a once-powerful woman. He reached out and grasped her hand. If she’d been with him, maybe she could have found a way to bring those people back with her healing abilities.
            “That means we need to keep looking as best we can,” Lalay said. “For now, though, just get home and let everyone know you’re okay. You’ve been gone for quite a while without telling anyone where you are, plus you have school tomorrow.”
            “How can I help if I’m at school?” Kyle asked.
            “There’s always time after school,” Riko said. “Between whatever else it is you do. Get going.”
            Kyle nodded, squeezing Brenda’s hand before sprinting away, blasting away from the Moon base toward his home. He’d gotten so used to flying back down, especially at night, that it felt like just taking the walk to school.
            Everything was dark around Adelita. Kyle noted the extreme similarity it held to Plymdale. A part of him wished there was a lake there, or nearby, for everyone to go swimming in from time to time. All they had was a crappy community pool…almost literally in terms of crappy depending on who was there and how old they were.
            Only one or two cars silently moved about downtown by the grocery store. Their lights were out completely. Kyle, floating down without his aura on so to not attract attention, noticed that the lights were still on at school despite it being very late into the morning. He wondered why, then it was blotted out by his house.
            His feet touched down lightly. He strode behind his shed, swiped his finger across the bracelet, and was finally back to normal. Kyle looked over the corner of the shed before stepping out into the open again. He pulled his phone out of his pocket and checked the time. Only midnight. Dang, he thought, it felt much later than that.
            Kyle reached the door, when a siren suddenly blared out. He gripped the handle tightly. He was finally home, too.

            He didn’t even want to bother stopping by his house. Seven hours of crime-fighting. He wanted to just head straight to school and deal with things there. Seven hours of crime-fighting. Each criminal segmented right into another. He actually found himself fighting crime out of state by the time he was done, coming across an extremely low-grade super villain who thought he stumbled across some high-tech device that was basically nothing more than an iPhone that had an unreleased upgrade.
            His grandparents were still asleep by the time Kyle ran inside to grab his backpack and unfinished homework. He worried more about waking them up rather than the homework he had yet to complete. Besides, he didn’t have that much time to chat with them, anyway. It was around seven and school was going to start soon.
            On his way out the door, he snagged his skateboard, threw it on the hill, and jumped on, hardly retaining his balance. Kyle stooped, feeling out the rhythm of the board, and flew down the hill. Luckily, there was nobody else on the sidewalk for him to run into.
            He hardly slowed up until he reached the school, where he came to an abrupt halt. If he had very little control of his board, it would have come clean out from beneath him straight into the knee of someone else, probably hurt them pretty bad, too.
            Kyle kicked the board up, taking it into his hand. The sudden stop stunned him before he felt his vestibular system make his body sway. He blinked twice, trying to keep his composure. His stomach roared and he found himself struggling to keep his eyes open.
            He sighed and entered the school, using one arm to swing open the door while holding his board in his other hand. It was too big to fit into a locker and Kyle only just realized he would have to carry it around all day. He remembered why he never rode his skateboard to school anymore—because it was rather annoying to carry with him.
            Kyle was at his locker and lazily going through it. His mind was dulled from being up all night chasing and punching people while also dealing with certain police officers that were not all too kind to him. Apparently that petition to see Blue Nexus out of Adelita was reaching slightly into out of the area, perhaps even the state. Though if they knew what Kyle knew, this would definitely not be the case.
            He stopped as he had to try and think hard about his class schedule. He bit his lip, strumming his fingers on his backpack, looking to his locker then back to his backpack constantly wondering what it was he needed to grab.
            “Oh, hey Kyle,” a calming, friendly, and very familiar voice called out.
            Mira approached Kyle almost immediately, walking toward him from the entrance of the hallway. Kyle took a moment to process her appearance before shutting his locker, and dropping his backpack.
            “Ah, dang it,” he muttered.
            “Long night?” she asked, patting him on the back.
            “Something like that,” he replied.
            “I noticed,” Mira said. Kyle froze, then looked back up to her.
            “How so?” he asked.
            “Oh, just that, you know, we were supposed to get together after school and get something to eat before you help me with my project, due Monday,” Mira said.
            Kyle stared at Mira, as if trying to see if she were really telling the truth. She leaned against the locker, casting her hair over her shoulder as she waited for a response.
            “Damn it,” Kyle said.
            “Now you remember, right?” she asked.
            “Yeah, shoot, sorry, I just got really busy,” Kyle said. “My friend got in a really bad accident so I went with them to the hospital and I stayed there for a while and I just wound up hanging out there, you know?”
            “Kyle, the hospital doesn’t admit non-family visitors past eleven,” Mira said. “Are you just trying to make up an excuse?”
            “No, really, my friend got in an accident and I stayed with them all night. I mean, I did have to go out and do something else later on, but, yeah…”
            Mira raised an eyebrow. Kyle shrugged. It was really all he could come up with, given he was running on fumes. Mira clenched a fist, then immediately loosened it up.
            “Well, okay, when can you help me out? I’m pretty much done with it already but I would like a second set of eyes to make sure it looks good, and you did promise me you would help.”
            “Okay, uh, well I suppose since today’s Friday I can try and swing by sometime on Saturday?” Kyle asked.
            Mira nodded. “Try to keep a level head, too. Everyone on the lacrosse team says you’ve been acting a little weird lately. Are you sleeping, like, at all?”
            “I mean, yeah, at night.”
            Mira nodded again, then took a step back. “I’ll see you around, Kyle, don’t hurt yourself.”
            Kyle smiled and then looked right back to his locker, banging his head against it to try and wake himself up. He pushed himself off of it before he was pushed back into it.
            “Gah, damn it, what the hell?” he asked no one in particular. He turned around.
            Sandy was behind him, backpack slung over one shoulder. She also had pigtails for the first time in a long time, Kyle noticed. She was smiling kindly, as if she hadn’t just given him an inevitable welt on his head.
            “Thought I’d try to help,” Sandy said.
            “You’re hilarious,” Kyle muttered, rubbing his head.
            “No, I’m trying to help, but if humor works, then that’s okay, too,” Sandy said.
            “What do you want, Sandy?” asked Kyle.
            “I just noticed that you seem to be pretty out of it, I wanted to see what up. I noticed you had a long night, the news couldn’t stop mentioning…uh, you know. What went down all night.”
            Kyle fell back against the lockers, keeping his legs out so to remain standing. “Yeah, one thing sort of just led to another. Right after I fought a giant squid monster and let a bunch of undead people die again and Brenda lost all of her magic to Gargador.”
            Sandy blinked. “I didn’t really follow all of that but it sounds like you have had one heck of a long day. Not to mention you blew up the baseball field.”
            “I didn’t…you know you’re really not helping me right now.”
            The bell rang overhead. The students in the hallway snapped and began moving to their classes while Sandy and Kyle didn’t move. Sandy sighed.
            “Still feels a little like jail,” she muttered, and started to walk.
            “Good talk, Sandy,” Kyle called after her. “Thanks for waking me up, or something.”
            Sandy smiled quickly. She reached the end of the lockers, then turned around, pointing to him.
            “Hey, meet me back here after school, I want to tell you something that might help you out,” she said. She then mumbled, “If I heard you right.”
            Kyle was once again left alone at the lockers. He sighed as his exhaustion slowly settled back in. A taller boy approached the lockers, and Kyle stepped to the side. Sandy was gone, leaving behind just a question of what it was she was going to tell him.

            School ended and Kyle wanted nothing more than to take a nap. He almost did while he sat against the lockers in his hallway waiting for Sandy to show up. His backpack wasn’t a great pillow but it was far better than the desks he had in his classrooms. Mr. Evart was really one of the only teachers that didn’t even notice, while the teacher from his first period snapped at him the second he put his head down for just a second. Probably because they disagreed on the status of Blue Nexus around town.
            Kyle felt his eyelids slipping and drowsiness overrode him like a tidal wave. A sudden burning burst in his leg woke him up. He jumped up, banging his head on a fire extinguisher overhead. Someone gasped nearby.
            “Oh, crap, my bad, didn’t think it would hurt that much, or that you were sleeping,” Sandy said, approaching him.
            Kyle gritted his teeth, tightly gripping his backpack. He pulled himself up while Sandy reached up to rub his head. He pushed away her hand.
            “Thanks a bunch, again,” he growled.
            “Yeah, well, you might thank me for real this time,” she said. “I think I have a way to help Brenda get her magic back.”
            “What?” asked Kyle. “That’s impossible, not even Eclipse could find any ways.”
            “That’s because I’m betting the Zanderia doesn’t know too much about magic,” Sandy said.
            “Oh, and you do?” asked Kyle.
            “I might,” Sandy said, stubbornly. “I have magic, remember? Purple blasty arrows?”
            “Yeah, how’d you get that again?” asked Kyle.
            “Not the point.”
            “Now it is.”
            “Hey, I’m well aware of the fact that someone without magic is in serious condition, you don’t have time to be wasting.”
            “Then why make me wait until after school?” Kyle hissed.
            “Oh my God kiss already,” a teacher moaned as she opened up her classroom door to head home. The two of them waited until she was gone.
            “Just shut up and listen,” Sandy said. “My grandma always used to mention this place some of her family members would go to if they were looking sick and would come back looking much, much better. She tried going there but couldn’t get in. She brought me there once, and I was able to go into the forest, but she called me back because she got afraid of what I would find. I’m willing to bet there are other people with magic in there, probably protected by their own magic. It would explain how Eclipse couldn’t get in, right?”
            “Where even is this place, how do you know it wasn’t something else?” Kyle asked.
            “I know that you know that it’s impossible for people to sense magical power, unless they are a magical person,” Sandy said. “If Eclipse couldn’t sense it, and he could probably sense that weird negative energy crap that the Black Nexus had, what the hell else could it be?”
            Kyle looked directly toward Sandy, who seemed pretty dead-set on this place. Why hadn’t Brenda mentioned it before, did she even know about it? Perhaps she was keeping it from Kyle all this time to protect him. If so, that time had passed and now he needed to help her in any way possible. Even if it were by force.
            “Okay, I’ll check it out. Where is this place?” Kyle asked.
            “Forest, upstate,” Sandy replied. “It’ll look pretty small, off of the interstate. Once you get there, if you can even get in with your powers, you’ll know it really isn’t that small.”
            Kyle nodded. “Great, thanks Sandy.” He held up his backpack. “Can you hang onto this for me? Don’t need my homework getting torched while I’m on my field trip.”
            Sandy agreed. Kyle thanked her once again, then briskly walked down the hallway, keeping his eye out for any cameras. He walked outside, overlooking construction workers on break, then looked up. There was a camera, but he was out of its sight.
            Nimbly, he jumped over the stairs, swiped the bracelet, and used his space speeds to blast away, turning north and creating a large gust of wind as he did so.
            He was soaring over the interstate in seconds. He slowed down gradually so he could spot any forests. More than anything he just wanted to be able to sense this place out. There were a few forests, but, the interstate was cutting through all of them. It wouldn’t make much sense for a group of forestry mages to plant their little civilization right in the middle of a highway.
            When he exited from a forest, he continued flying onward, continually getting closer to being out of state. Figured he had to be pretty upstate, then.
            A small speck of green forced him to stop. With enhanced vision, he saw a tall clump of green trees huddled together off of the interstate, and pretty far off at that. Deciding to test his luck, Kyle turned and shot toward the forest.
            Just as he was going to be over the tree line, he ran smack into an invisible wall, dropping down, his body stunned. He crashed, his head whipping back as he landed. His lights were out just for a moment and he had to take in a large gulp of air to recover.
            Kyle rubbed the back of his head as he stood up. It looked like any normal forest, and he could even see through to the other side. Either this place was just an illusion, or these people were trolling him by throwing up a wall. Either way, force was now required.
            An energy ball formed in his hand. Kyle punched at the barrier. He felt it shake as the ball exploded and blue dust filled the area from where it hit, but still, the barrier remained unchanged. Kyle took a step back, then fired off multiple blasts in ten seconds. Still, the barrier was there. He placed a hand on it, then swiftly delivered a knee.
            A tremor greater than before. Kyle smirked. Ah, physical strength rather than strength of energy would break through, eh? In that case…
            Kyle brandished his lance, spinning it around before jabbing at the barrier to no avail. He sighed, turning the lance behind his back, then slashed at the barrier and punched. Nothing.
            He tried it again, this time slicing as fast as he could before delivering a powerful kick at the epicenter of where he was slicing.
            There! A much darker and denser, forest appeared as if through a cracked piece of glass that was slowly recovering. Kyle took the brief moment to jump through, his cape barely making it through all the way, before the barrier closed.
            Everything was quiet around him. Quiet, and darker. It was almost as if there was perpetual feeling of nighttime overhanging the area. The shock from the barrier woke him up immensely, so this feeling was nothing risky on him.
            What was risky was the thickness of the air. Kyle’s aura appeared around him, but it actually made things worse. Kyle dropped to his knees, hardly able to suck in an air. The aura disappeared, and while it was a little better, it was still pretty bad. A crazy thought came to mind, and Kyle followed through with it by swiping his finger over the Nexus bracelet.
            As if the noose was loose from his neck, Kyle sucked in the slightly thicker air, able to breathe again. His face turned back to a normal color rather than completely red and the veins on his forehead slowly vanished.
            He returned to his feet, looking forward. There was a dim light ahead of him, just straight ahead. He looked around, wondering if anyone were watching to try and choke him out, then continued moving.
            Something snapped. Kyle looked down, seeing no twig.
            Suddenly, two large logs swung down from the trees. Kyle barely dodged them as they crashed into each other. Their bang triggered a large batch of logs to come falling to the ground from way up high. Kyle sprinted forward, feeling his foot get caught in something. He dropped straight to the ground, and rolled as two darts flew over his head.
            Once the two darts dug into the tree, the tree in front of him lashed out with its branches. Kyle reached out, forgetting he was not in his Nexus form, then was smacked three times by the tree. He rolled away, looking forward before a foot slammed him on the back.
            “Guh, damn it,” he muttered.
            “You would trespass into our wood and next expect punishment?” asked a deep voice. The foot moved up, closer to Kyle’s neck.
            “Kinda,” Kyle squeaked.
            “You’re lucky you have an audience expected with the Grand Elder, otherwise, I would not have allowed you to live,” the voice said.
            Kyle was yanked up. He looked behind him. Like something out of a history book, a tan boy with tattoos all over his body was pushing him forward toward several huts in the clearing of the forest. He had a wooden sword mimicking a scimitar on his belt, and his hands were glowing in blue as he pushed Kyle forward. A mage…warrior? His hair was cut short at the back of the middle but longer on the sides. It was an odd look.
            They entered the clearing. Light shone down from the opening of the canopy. Kyle squinted before his eyes adjusted to it. The village was just as it appeared from a good distance away. There were only twelve huts in total, and few people were walking around. Each of them had different hair styles and looked different. None of them carried weapons, but every person there was particularly muscular, as if each of them were bred to be soldiers. Kyle noticed that there were also no children.
            There was a hut in the back corner that nobody was going near. An old woman stood watching them. Her eyes were closed and she held a hand out toward Kyle and the mage guiding him into the village.
            “Welcome,” she said. “You know, all you had to do was knock? I don’t understand why you felt the need to try and harm my barrier?”
            Kyle looked around, confused. Was he in trouble? Her tone came off as nonchalant, so, was it something he should really worry about? If this was the Grand Elder, then she probably knew the correct ways of making his intestines spells his name with magic.
            “Uh, didn’t really think about it,” Kyle said.
            “You humans rarely do,” she said.
            “You’re an alien?” asked Kyle.
            The Grand Elder smirked. “You may leave us. Reset your traps if you wish, I shouldn’t expect anyone else to come by here for quite some time.” She turned toward Kyle. “Come, let us walk inside.”
            She took Kyle’s hand and guided him inside. Kyle reluctantly followed.
            The hut was covered in a wide variety of colors, but mostly variations of those from the rainbow. There were no seats and only a small pond of water on the side. It also wasn’t a particularly tall hut, Kyle noticed, as he could probably reach up and touch it if he were standing on his tippie-toes.
            He realized that she was still holding his hand, rather tightly.
            “Excuse me, do you need me to—”
            “I’m not blind, if that’s what you’re thinking,” the Grand Elder said, turning around and letting go of Kyle’s hand. “It’s just too bright outside, I have to squint my eyes. I’m getting to old, see?”
            “Oh, yeah, of course.”
            The Grand Elder glared at Kyle, who put up his hands in defense.
            “Don’t worry yourself. You’re very tense. Relax, Nexus wielder, you’re in good company.”
            “How’d you know I’m with the Nexus? Could you sense it pulsating through me or something?”
            The Grand Elder pointed to his wrist. Kyle’s face turned red. The old woman smiled. She began to levitate, then crossed her legs and floated down to the ground. She laid her arms on her crossed legs and remained floating about six inches off the ground. Kyle continued to stand where he was.
            “What brings you here, boy? We’ve never had someone of the Nexus here before, this is interesting company. Good company, I can tell, too.”
            “Thank you, Grand Elder…right?”
            The old woman nodded. Kyle mentally congratulated himself for guessing that correctly.
            “Okay, I’m here because I heard that this forest once helped some mages that were sickly and you guys would fix them up. So, I was wondering if you could help me out with a mage that I know.”
            “The alien girl?” asked the Grand Elder. She rubbed her chin. “Interesting that she is sick. I’ve noticed her magic is quite faint though I thought that was due to her being off the planet. Give me a moment to try and pinpoint her.”
            The Grand Elder closed her eyes. A blue aura appeared around her briefly before it went away as she sighed and opened up her eyes again.
            “Yes, she has been severely disconnected from her magic. If it were for natural reasons it would be much easier to treat, but because this is an artificial reason her body has reacted in a far worse way. Almost as if it shut down its magical core so to not spread any more infections within it. Still, it’s not an impossible treatment. Her Shield magic would eventually heal itself but I fear that there is indeed very little time for that.”
            “Why? Is she sick from something else?”
            “No. She will be needed, for there is something very dark and ominous that I’ve been sensing for the past few days, headed this way.”
            “Dark and ominous in a magical way?”
            “A powerfully magical way. It’s well hidden, masking itself amongst the normal humans, that I can assure you.” The Grand Elder looked up to Kyle. “You’ve fought one of this force’s monsters recently, haven’t you?”
            Kyle nodded. “I think whoever it is has been around longer than a few days. Do you have any idea who this—uh—dark mage could be?”
            “No,” the Grand Elder said flatly. “I’ve only few mages who have given into their Demon magic and none of them reside on Earth…well, they did, but I can assure you that they are well beyond dead at this point because of their magic. This threat, though, is reminiscent of them in a very bad way.”
            “Whatever it is, if it’s some sort of demonic magic, it has a pretty large spectrum of abilities. It turned people into monsters.”
            “As I feared it might. Dark mages are relentless in trying to expand their horizons, testing their boundaries on the defenseless. What I also fear, is that the monster you fought was nothing more than a pawn, or even a small test, of this dark mage’s true power.”
            A shiver ran down Kyle’s spine. The Squid, while not one of his more formidable foes, did have quite the army at his disposal. If that was only a fraction of what this dark force could do, then they would definitely need Brenda. Both for numbers and intelligence. She knew a heck of a lot about magic, a lot of which Kyle hadn’t even been told, and since she had healing magic, perhaps it could negate those abilities.
            “Well, then, how can I heal Brenda, how can we make her recover quicker?” asked Kyle, a desperate tone rising in his voice.
            The Grand Elder noticed this, and waved her hand. A blue mist appeared around Kyle. He breathed it in, and instantly felt himself relax again.
            “Clear your mind of your troubles. As I said, you are in good company here. The alien girl is a fellow mage, and I will never turn down a good mage in need. All you need to do is place this in her hands.”
            A red sphere appeared in the Grand Elder’s hands. She tossed it and Kyle caught it. It faded into his hand.
            “It’ll reappear near the mage and will kickstart her body’s natural healing processes. She’ll be on her feet in no more than a day, trust me. Get this to her as quickly as possible.”
            “Great, thank you so much Grand Elder!” Kyle exclaimed, and turned to leave. He spun back around. “How come the pressure was so much greater when I entered with my Nexus powers, and not when I was out of them and exposed?”
            “That was just us messing with you,” the Grand Elder said with a smile. “Next time, as I said, just knock. And, go out the back way. You won’t run into any traps that way, between you and me.”
            Kyle smiled faintly, then nodded, dashing out of the opening and into the dense forestry again. His right hand felt slightly heavier thanks to the added magical power within it. It was a strange sensation, as if something were on his hand but he couldn’t quite shake it off.
            He dodged a tree, then found a straight line toward the exit. He was stopped, however, when he ran through a shadow. A freezing sensation took over his body. Kyle dug his feet into the ground and turned around.
            Standing next to a tree was indeed a shadowy figure. It was as if their arms, feet, and hair were like black flames while the rest of their body was normal. They had no face, either.
            “What the heck, I thought there were no more traps?” asked Kyle.
            “I’m unrelated to the people of this forest,” the shadow said. “I’ve come to test your abilities for the coming battle.”
            Kyle gulped. Great, first the Grand Elder was giving him premonitions, now this guy.
            His eye’s suddenly widened.
            “Are you the dark mage the Grand Elder was talking about?” asked Kyle.
            “I am no mage,” the shadow said. “Simply a bit of darkness in the light.”
            “Then how does this upcoming battle effect you?”
            “In the long run? Dramatically. Now, I want you to come at me with all of your strength, Nexus wielder, to see where you stand in terms of your enemy.”
            “Can’t do that.”
            “Why not?”
            “The forest won’t let me—”
            The shadow approached Kyle faster than Kyle realized he was coming at him. He placed his hand on Kyle’s chest, and suddenly, they were back outside. Kyle stumbled back as if the shadow had simply give him a push.
            Kyle rolled back, swiping his finger of the bracelet and transforming. The shadow remained where he was.
            “Full power, huh? Okay, but you had it coming.”
            Kyle breathed in, then exerted all of his force and ascended into his second wave of power, reaching as far as he could to try and show off. Wind was gusting from his newly expanded and very bright blue aura. His power radiated off of him. It felt quite refreshing.
            “Attack me now,” the shadow ordered.
            “Alright!” Kyle roared. He leapt back, then rocketed toward the shadow.
            Kyle pulled back a fist, then launched it the shadow as hard as he could, even with an energy ball surrounding his fist. The resulting collision created such a large gust of wind that multiple branches from the surrounding trees broke right off and a crater formed beneath the two of them. Dust billowed everywhere.
            “You asked for it,” Kyle said.
            The dust cleared because of the gusts of wind from Kyle’s aura, revealing that the shadow had only put up an elbow in defense and wasn’t even moving.
            “Hmm, you’re more powerful than I expected,” he said. “But it’s still not nearly enough.”
            The shadow pushed back his arm. Kyle flew back to the edge of the crater, landing on his butt and skidding back. He growled, getting back up, ready for more.
            “Just who the hell are you, how did you take a shot like that just fine?” Kyle roared.
            “I told you, I’m nothing more than a shadow,” the figure said. “One whose importance is not yet necessary.” Slowly, he began to fade. “Know this, powerful Nexus: there is but one way for you to get strong enough to defeat your enemy, and it is to enter the Nether.”
            The shadow faded, leaving nothing but Kyle alone in the crater. He turned his head and spit, catching his breath while he did so.
            “Doesn’t sound entirely promising,” Kyle muttered. “Parents always told me never to listen to strangers anyway.”
            He faced the sky above. The Moon was hidden, but Kyle knew where it would be. And he had the way to heal Brenda. Only problem was, he couldn’t stop thinking about that shadowed man. And about what the Grand Elder said. If his strength wasn’t enough, and this was the limit he’d hit for so long, then how strong would they need to become? Could they even become that strong?

            Kyle squatted, then flew up into the sky. Also like the shadowed man said, it wasn’t important right now. Kyle could help Brenda, that was the key now. 

In August: Brenda's healing process begins, and Kyle knows he must begin some training if he can compete with the dark force prophecized by the Grand Elder. But, why does Gargador keep appearing, and does Boomer have a new ally to prepare an attack on the Nexuses? Find out in "Blue Nexus #23 -- Something Wicked...Is Already Here?"
Next time: Leaping back a few months, it's time to look into a harrowing tale Kyle and Brenda found themselves in as they race to find six ancient shards that have enough power to destroy planets, and find that in deep space, there are few who they can trust. Check it out in two weeks in "Blue Nexus: Solar Survivors Pt. 1"

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