Sunday, May 20, 2018

Blue Nexus - Dark Soul Pt. 5: Dark Soul of Man

Previously in "Blue Nexus - Dark Soul": Kyle and Brenda uncovered a mysterious entity that has the power to reset the world known as the Dark Soul. Brenda was flung to the far future to see what effects this would ultimately have on the world, and the destruction it brings, and Kyle was shown what horrors truly await in the Halls of Penetanon. Meanwhile, the world in the present has reached a boiling point for magic, led by the nefarious Mystic Sven mage Corbin Alkeste, who seeks the Dark Soul to end the modern era. 

            A beautiful blue sky hung over Washington, D.C. Sandy held her bow and walked along the rooftop, obscured by the bannisters around her. She looked down upon the Capitol Building just a block away, where a crowd gathered. Several hoisted up signs and chanted things about how poorly the mages of the world had been treated, were being treated, and how they feared they would be treated.
            In the crowd, Sandy spotted, stood the Sentinel, wearing a silver jacket and sunglasses. He had a slight aura of combat magic around him; he was ready for a fight. Two others in the crowd did, too, but they were real Combat mages. Sandy counted twenty total mages in the growing crowd, but ten had their auras suspiciously suppressed.
            She knelt, tapping her bow against the bannister. Phoenix was across the way, on another building, in his costume. Thankfully, though, his suit had a cloaking device on it. Sandy looked back to the crowd. Policemen formed perimeter around the Capitol Building, ensuring that nobody got in, and nobody got out.
            Sandy’s joints and muscles groaned when she shifted. It hadn’t been that long since she fought the Silver Guardians in the Halls of Penetanon. Andreus had to be sent away kicking and screaming so the Zanderia could take control of the fresh situation happening in D.C.
            Everything just seemed to be happening so fast. First they discovered the Halls of Penetanon, then going in there they found some of their toughest enemies. Now Kyle and Brenda vanished for God knows what reason and then the mages began piling up on Capitol Hill. Did they know that Kyle and Brenda had gotten in?
            Phoenix suspected that the ringleader for all of this was the guy Corbin Alkeste, the one responsible for opening up the Halls of Penetanon. If that were the case, he’s surely know that Kyle and Brenda got in, and he was probably looking to push his endgame much closer. But what was it? What’d he want?
            “Anyone see him?” Sandy asked.
            “Seems like we’re still waiting around for something, or someone,” the Sentinel said through the communicator. “Just gotta wonder why there isn’t more heat around here.”
            “Well that’s what we’re here for,” Sandy said. She adjusted the bow in her hands. “We can play containment.”
            “The three of us against this crowd isn’t good odds,” Phoenix said. “But I wouldn’t expect anything too crazy to go down. We’re not so much playing containment as we are scouting this out.”
            “Phoenix, we need to take this guy in, nobody knows what he and the Mystic Sven could’ve done in the Halls of Penetanon,” Sandy said. “He’s literally the one guy we need to be focused on the most.”
            “And he isn’t even here,” the Sentinel said. “Are we sure he’s coming?”
            “Pretty damn,” Phoenix said. “Apparently a mage was spotted headed into the Capitol Building, with a whole gaggle of people with him.”
            “A gaggle, really?” the Sentinel asked.
            “A whole bunch, how’s that?”
            Sandy weaved her fingers from the dock of the bow to the string and a purple arrow from the magical ether materialized. She scanned the crowd once more, which came to a hush. It did the same over the communicators. The Sentinel turned toward the Capitol Building, where a man flanked by three men in suits walked down. They weren’t mages, they were, what lobbyists? Politicians?
            The man had black marks running down his arms, revealed when he held his arms up to silence the crowd after they’d cheered his arrival.          
            “That’s him,” Phoenix said. “Corbin.”
            Sandy raised her bow and drew back the arrow, getting a direct shot at one of his legs. Corbin lowered his arms all the way down and grinned.
            “Good afternoon,” he said. His voice was cool, and echoed off the walls of the nearby building. “I’m glad to see so many faces at this demonstration. We’ll be moving down by the White House soon enough, I promise. I just wanted to have a small talk with…”
            The wind roared overhead and a helicopter zoomed in from behind Sandy. She ducked down, trying to stay out of its view and trying not to let her hair whip all over the place.
            “You’ve got to be kidding me,” the Sentinel muttered.
            Sandy held tight to the bowstring. “Well that’s definitely not something we needed. Sentinel, anyway you can get closer for us to hear what Corbin’s about to say?”
            “I’ll try,” he said.
            Sandy peered over the side of the building again and watched him slink his way through the crowd as casual and nonchalant as he possible. Corbin spoke up, making his voice barely audible over the ripping and roaring of the news helicopter. More reporters started to filter in. A few of the mages had their phones out to record the event.
            “Some Congressmen,” Corbin finished. “We had a little chat about the state of things. How we’ve all been treated lately, how we should be treated. These gentleman to my left and right have decided to see things my way.”
            “They’re hexed,” Sandy said into the communicator.
            “And once I let them in on a little secret I have about where the new mage capital of the world is, they came to understand that mages are going to have a nice foothold on the world soon.”
            “Damn it,” Sandy muttered. “He told them about the Halls.”
            “And that we are not to be trifled with so easily,” Corbin continued. Sandy got back to standing all the way up and pulled back on the bowstring again, regaining her aim on his legs. The gusts of wind from the helicopter made her shot a bit more difficult, and she couldn’t just give herself away by enhancing her magic yet. She was just going to have to eyeball this one.
            “It would also seem like our trusted superhero team, the Zanderia, have tried to shut this capital down, and make it so we cannot anything to call our own,” Corbin said. “Even though they have their own mages.”
            The crowd didn’t go into an uproar, thankfully, but did not. Several of them had to be Mystic Sven, already making them terrorists, but some of them could’ve been mages from around the area. It hardly mattered, though, since the reporters coming in and setting up their own microphones and shoving them into Corbin’s face would just broadcast his message to the entire world soon enough.
            “So I think it’s fair to say we’re on our own for this one,” Corbin said. “Therefore I’ve decided that we can no longer take any risks and must earn the respect of the world the hard way. Much as I disagree with Rafael’s sentiments about unleashing magic upon the world for all the world to have, I must admit that magic is going to play a vital role in making sure the corrupt and villainous of this Civilization are given justice. And it starts with those heroes, the Zanderia. They want to hog it all for themselves and stop the mages of this world from having a fair life!”
            “I’ve got the shot,” Sandy said through her teeth. “Give me the go-ahead and he’s going down.”
            “Relax, Violette,” Phoenix said.
            “For you see, I’ve got a little demonstration to put on, with the power I’ve attained from our new home,” Corbin said, and reached into his pocket.     
            “Going!” Sandy and the Sentinel exclaimed at the same time.
            Sandy adjusted to the wind super quick and then let the arrow fly. It bobbled in the air but still headed for Corbin’s arm nonetheless…until it was caught, mid-flight, by another Combat mage. Sandy enhanced her magic, exposing herself to any trained mage on the ground, and loosed another arrow. This one was knocked just off-course by the same Combat mage but still cut Corbin’s shoulder, forcing him to drop whatever was in his hand.
            The crowd dispersed, and the Sentinel made a break for Corbin. He got a few steps up Capitol Hill before he was bull-rushed and taken down. Sandy leaped off the side of the building, scaling it down with ease until she hit the ground and rolled forward into her sprint. She ducked beneath a bolt of Combat magic and knocked aside another mage who came rushing at her.
            Corbin turned to her and held his arm aloft to unleash Demon magic upon her, but something ruptured just in front of him. A gale of wind knocked Sandy back, but she retained her feet.
            Some sort of tear in the fabric of reality, a swirling vortex, had appeared. From within Sandy saw two tiny silhouettes getting bigger and bigger, until finally they burst free in a brilliant flash of red and blue light. The vortex closed, and standing in the crowd of Mystic Sven were Shindari and the Blue Nexus.

            Brenda sighed, happy to no longer be feeling the constraints of the time-travel, but also felt a strike of déjà vu as she got a glimpse of her surroundings. Washington, D.C., though thankfully this one was not ravaged by the Dark Soul. Instead, quite the opposite to before, she was surrounded on all sides by mages…
            Who were none too pleased to see her. She stepped back and bumped into someone: Kyle, with his Nexus form already ready to go.
            “Shindari, Blue Nexus?”
            The voice, somewhat familiar, came from a man standing atop the steps leading up to the Capitol Building. Both Kyle and Brenda turned toward him, the Demon mage.
            “Corbin,” Kyle said.
            “Great,” Brenda said. “This makes things a whole lot easier.”
            “Not quite,” Kyle said, but speaking directly to her. “We need to get to the Halls of Penetanon right now.”
            “No, we need to stay here,” Brenda said. Her mind filled with the bleak wasteland she’d flown over before. “The Dark Soul is going to show up here.”
            “Indeed!” Corbin exclaimed, and reached once again into his pocket, and this time brandished a sharp black stone. “This is the Dark Soul, given form, given true form! The weapon that will end this Civilization, and it will be remodeled by the mages all of humanity has looked down upon!”
            “Trust me, it won’t go the way you think,” Brenda said, and took a step toward Corbin. He lowered the stone, as if it were a weapon against her, and she just swiped it aside with a barrier. The stone skittered away. “And don’t even with that. Did you think anyone would fall for that trick?”
            “Was that really just concentrated Demon magic?” Kyle asked, and grinned. “Corbin, you have no idea where the actual Dark Soul is, do you?”
            “You do?”
            Brenda stepped between them. “Enough of this. You’ll never get your hands on the Dark Soul, Corbin. If you do you’ll unleash a monster a thousand times worse than the likes this world has ever seen. You’ll end everything.”
            “No, he restarts everything,” Kyle said.
            “I know,” Brenda said. She sighed. “I’ve seen it. Brother Time sent me to the future.”
            “I don’t care if you’ve seen the future or not, the future is mine to attain,” Corbin said. “You can’t keep it from the mages of the world.”
            “I’m not trying to keep magic away, I’m trying to save it,” Brenda said. She glowered up at Corbin. “You’re the one who puts it in danger.”
            “We don’t have time to waste here, we need to leave, trust me,” Kyle said.
            “No, this is something we have to do,” Brenda said. “Corbin can’t be allowed to stay here. If he does he’ll attract the Dark Soul, or whatever it is you’re talking about. We need to remove him. I think this is how we change everything.”
            Kyle stepped next to her. “Fine, but then we have to make a break for it. Got it?”
            “Got it,” Brenda said.
            She noticed the ring of mages surrounding her: ten, not including Corbin, all with various magics. She recognized the brands on their bodies: the Mystic Sven.
            “Are these more of your henchmen?” Brenda asked with a sneer.
             “These are my brothers, the ones who discovered the great halls beside me,” Corbin said. “And they will crush you and usurp the power of the Dark Soul alongside me!”
            “I’m sure,” Brenda said and flicked her wrist.
            A massive barrier slammed into three of them and sent them flying down the street. Kyle’s aura flared and he caught a fist that was about to land square in Brenda’s cheek. She flicked her wrist again and formed another barrier, blocking a bolt of Demon magic.
            She swooped her legs to hit the Deception mage that was about to reappear in front of her and created a force-field around her to mar the effects of a distant Reality mage. Kyle vaulted over the walls and attacked the Reality mage, leaving her to deal with two Combat mages and a Power mage.
            She weakened the walls to let the Power mage slam the ground beneath her feet and shatter it. Brenda took to the air, taking hold of the particles with her magic, and launched them down at the Power mage in the form of a fist, blasting him across the way as well. She landed between the two Combat mages and blocked one’s attack with the barrier before catching the other’s fist and slamming her elbow into her chest and then slamming her to the ground.
            The other Combat mage spun around the barrier right into Brenda’s fist, and the Shield mage finished her with a swift kick to the gut. The Power mage barreled back toward them. Brenda threw up a single barrier that they broke through, so they picked up speed. Brenda intensified her magic and formed a double-layer barrier that the Power mage rammed into shoulder-first and bounced back. Brenda brought the barrier down on him and sealed it when he tried to punch out, instead of letting the force of the blow bounce back against him.
            She turned back to Kyle, who’d already finished with his leaders of the Mystic Sven. Corbin screamed and leaped down at them, unleashing waves of Demon magic before he hit the ground. Brenda swayed to the side and Kyle blasted through it, skimming Corbin’s shoulder, leaving him wide open for Brenda to sweep around and slam him in the back with a barrier.
            Corbin roared when he hit the ground, and Brenda kept him bound there, then pressed down on the barrier with her foot. Corbin’s breathing slow as the adrenaline began to settle down and finally his body went limp from exhaustion, and he was out.
            “Glad we got a warmup in,” Kyle said. “What comes next ain’t gonna be as easy. Even Aequitas struggled against this guy.”
            “Aequitas?” Brenda asked. “What the hell are you talking about?”
            “I was sent back to the Second Civilization, I know what’s coming,” Kyle said. “And I know we have to get to the Halls of Penetanon right now if we’re going to stop it. Corbin probably started to let him out and we cannot let him out of the Halls because if he gets out and finds the physical Dark Soul, it’s game over for everything.”   
            “Then let’s go,” Brenda said.
            “Mind if you get a little help?” a voice from above called.
            Kyle and Brenda both swirled to see Phoenix landing behind them, a little grin of pride growing on his face.
            “This might be too much to handle,” Kyle said. “I think if it’s just the two of us, we’ll be okay.”
            “No, he’s right,” Brenda said. “The Zanderia are supposed to get wiped out by whatever comes from the Halls. The two of us stand the best chance against it, anyway.”
            “Even if I don’t come along?” Sandy asked. She emerged from the thinning crowd.
            Brenda shook her head. “If I go down and don’t come back then you’re the only thing that can save everyone, Violette. Right now we need to make sure that all of the people around here are gone. If Corbin wakes back up and whatever that’s in the Halls of Penetanon get out then…” She felt some color leave her face. “Then, yeah, it’s all over.”
            “Well I disagree that we’re not any help down in Penetanon, but we can do crowd-control,” Phoenix said. “If you get in trouble, though, let us know right away and we can teleport in there.”
            “I doubt it,” Kyle said. “There’d be too much magical interference. You’d be able to teleport outside, but, that kind of defeats the point.”
            Phoenix nodded, and placed a hand on Kyle and Brenda’s shoulders. “Then you better not mess this up, right?”
            “Right,” Kyle said. His aura flared and Brenda expanded her own magic. “Let’s go!”
            They took off at top-speed from the get-go. Brenda struggled to keep up with Kyle, who she’d never quite seen so shaken. What was beneath the Halls that frightened him so? Was it that monster? They’d defeated that, hadn’t they? Even if it lived, the two weren’t going all-out against it last time so it wouldn’t be too big a deal.
            They cut across the beautiful blue sky toward the remains of Magus Forest. Brenda managed to push herself forward and catch up with him, keeping her magic focused and centered on moving at the absolute top speed she could manage.
            The two swerved closer to the ground as a plane emerged in their vision. Some trees lost several leaves as they neared the ground and a few shingles came off some roofs. Brenda saw the wreckage just up ahead and began to peel back on her power. She created a barrier in front of her and then yanked it beneath her feet.
            She let the momentum carry her forward and she coasted down to the ground, to the entrance of the Halls of Penetanon. Kyle cut off his aura and landed next to her, taking a knee to observe it.
            When he stood, he shook his head. “It used to be a castle, you know.”
            “Magus Forest. It was all one giant castle called Penetanon. The thing we’ve found? It’s just a part of it.”
            Brenda’s eyes widened and she tried to imagine the sheer size of the building. There wasn’t anything like it on this world or nor any she’d visited during her time on the Zanderia. Must have been truly something.
            “What civilization did you say you went to?”
            “The Second, the one where magic cemented itself onto Earth,” Kyle said. “Where the Dark Soul really makes its claim. And that’s where Uruk is.”
            “Uruk? This is the guy we’re worried about?”
            “Yeah. I think he’s got the ethereal Dark Soul with him, and if he does we might not stand a chance.” He paused, taking a moment, then, “If that’s the case we need to make sure he can never get out, or never get found.”
            Brenda grimaced. “Doesn’t sound too hard.”
            “We’ll see.”
            “But if he doesn’t have the Dark Soul?”
            “Still won’t be easy, at all. I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s been absorbing magic all this time, too.”
            “Why didn’t She tell us about him when we were down there?”
            Kyle shrugged. “It’s possible she knew one of us would meet him when we traveled back in time. I’m just curious why She didn’t recognize me.” Kyle knelt down by the hole, staring into the gaping maw of pure darkness. “By the way, her real name is Abalin. She’d probably forgotten after being in the dark all this time.” He chuckled. “Literally in the dark.”
            Brenda took a step toward the entrance. “Shall we, then?”  
            Kyle nodded. “Yeah, let’s make it happen.”
            He stood and the two, together, leaped down into the hole. Brenda carefully created a thick barrier overhead as they flew down the tunnel, to the large drop that led to the stone pathway they both remembered. Brenda touched down and her footsteps echoed all around. She and Kyle brightened their auras to see the grand hallway around them, revealing the ancient markings.
            “This is it,” Kyle muttered. “One of the main halls. I recognize the architecture, the engravings.”
            Brenda felt familiar chills run up and down her body. The ancient magic slithered all around then, unattainable by both of them without serious strain on the body. She glanced ahead to the doors, already open, and already with a figure standing there.
            Kyle and Brenda approached, walking in step together. The figure didn’t seem to notice them until they were close enough to make out features on them. They were robed, and looked quite old, haggard.
            “About time,” they said, and Brenda felt her heart momentarily stop.
            Brother Time, pale, wrinkling, and thin turned to face them. He was supported only by a staff he had, cracked in half somehow.
            “What’s happening to you?” she asked.
            “The strain on my body has been too much, I’m afraid,” Brother Time said. “This is the end for me until your task is complete.”
            “Even if we lose, you survive?” Kyle asked.
            “If you lose, destiny awaits,” Brother Time said. “There has been but one path that has led you to victory, and I’m sure it came at great sacrifice to you both.”
            Brenda felt a pang of pain hit her heart. Brother Time hadn’t been all that kind in showing her the future, but it was a necessary move, one to show her how important this coming battle was. Kyle, likely faced a similar path when he was back with the Second Civilization. A tear slid down his face, and Brenda had to hide her shock. What had happened to him back then?
            “But now I understand it all,” Brother Time said. “The nature of magic.”
            “And the Dark Soul?” Kyle asked.
            “The Dark Soul is merely a catalyst,” Brother Time said. “The true mechanism that ends Civilizations as we know them. But the true engine of it all, the thing that will always drive us toward the end, toward the Dark Soul? It’s magic, and it’s the power it gives us, and makes us crave.”
            “What?” Brenda asked.
            “In the First Civilization there was no magic,” Brother Time said. His voice was but a husk of what it’d been. “Then there came the Dark Soul and the mages who created it. Then came the Second Civilization. Magic corrupted those in power and those who lusted power.”
            “Uruk,” Kyle muttered.
            “And in the Third, magic would come to lay claim to the world in the form of its grand overlord, Rafael,” Brother Time said. “And now?”
            “Uruk is back,” Kyle said.
            “And the mages are all over the world again,” Brenda complemented.
            “The Dark Soul is merely the great equalizer, meant to keep balance in this world,” Brother Time said. “But when fueled by malice, its power becomes too great and overwhelms the world. Hatred drives the Dark Soul as much as magic.”
            “And that hatred has the power to destroy everything,” Brenda said. She looked to Kyle. “It even dwarfs a War God in power.”
            “And if Uruk gets his hands on the physical shred of the Dark Soul then he’ll have all that power and hatred to himself,” Kyle said. “And he’ll be able to reshape the world as he wants it; a world without hope.”
            “Which is why we have to defeat him and destroy the Dark Soul,” Brenda said, but Brother Time held a hand up.
            “Now you must fight,” Brother Time said. “And you must fight together. Only the power of magic and Nexus can defeat the monster that lays dormant, waiting for eons for its chance at revenge.”
            “I’ll gladly give it to him,” Kyle said.
            Brother Time stepped aside. Brenda stared down the long hallway of destroyed Silver Guardians, with a small door of pitch blackness awaiting them on the other end. She took a step forward, before Kyle could, and walked toward destiny.


            Kyle and Brenda reached the end of the hallway together and moved through the cold doorway into the sloping corridor. The deeper they got, the colder it became, though this time it was far more frigid than before, and the darkness had a thickness to it all that hadn’t been present before. Kyle’s aura was far more suppressed.
            “There is magic here beyond even my comprehension,” Brenda said. “The Second Civilization must have been something.”
            “It was,” Kyle said. “Though, it wasn’t all that different. The Mystic Sven were still around, only instead of Corbin, they had someone who could back up his talk.”
            “What was the castle like?”
            “Like I said, humongous, and really, really gorgeous,” Kyle said. He smiled to think of it, but frowned when he looked around and saw nothing but darkness. “It’s a tragedy that all of this happened here. That…that I did this.”
            “You did?”
            “I had to trap Uruk down here,” Kyle said. “Abalin, too. I had to, Shindari, or he would’ve gotten a hold of everything.”
            Brenda placed a hand on his shoulder. “I would’ve done the same. It doesn’t change what we have to do now. It’s time to fix past mistakes, and change the future.”
            “Right,” Kyle said, and patted her hand. Her presence always soothed him. Going in to face Uruk with Aequitas he was confident, but going in to face Uruk with Brenda and he was assured. He just felt right.
            The corridor ended and they stepped forward into a void, where a white circle lay far ahead of them. Their footsteps stopped making noise and they just moved forward into the darkness, the silence.
            The white circle brightened as they approached, and a figure stood in the center of it. Kyle looked around at what he could. This was the room he confronted Uruk in last time, where Abalin had been. The circle he stood in was likely the same that Abalin stood in to cast her spells.
            Kyle and Brenda stopped. The figure rose its head up, but was marred in shadow.
            “You’ve returned.”
            Uruk. Kyle clenched his fists and powered up to Wave 2, illuminating a fraction more light than normal.           
            “What have you done to this place?” Kyle asked. “And why are you waking up now, why not before?”
            “Before I was not ready,” Uruk said. “Before the Dark Soul was not ready. However, my dear descendants have done more than enough work for me now. The Dark Soul is ready to be merged with me, young Nexus.”
            “Not happening,” Brenda said, stepping toward Uruk. “I’ve seen the terror you thrust onto the world, and I will never let that happen.”
            “You have no power against me,” Uruk said. “I have infused myself with this castle’s great magic, and turned it into my darkness. I may not even need the Dark Soul to end the world.”
            “Where is Abalin?” Kyle asked. “She was here before.”
            “The girl?” Uruk asked. “We exist in separate realms, so I have never been able to find her.” The white lights around Uruk brightened, revealing that same man that Kyle fought thousands of years ago, but with more markings, and more power. “She has what I need, and yet she remains hidden despite her bindings.”
            “Sounds like you’ve just been doing a whole lot of nothing down here,” Kyle said.
            “I’ve been waiting, as I said,” Uruk said. “That man, Rafael, is he gone now?”
            Kyle and Brenda exchanged a glance. Uruk chuckled.
            “Then he and that woman’s seals have been lifted, and I am free to leave these halls,” Uruk said.
            Kyle braced himself. So the Grand Elder had known about the Halls of Penetanon and was keeping Uruk sealed all this time. Even Rafael had to keep him locked away. Uruk took a step away and the white light faded.
            “But first I shall destroy those in my path!” Uruk shouted.
            Kyle powered up and prepared to launch an attack, but time slowed all around him, almost to a halt. His body still moved, following through with the attack, but a white-outlined young woman appeared next to him, haggard and exhausted.
            “Nexus,” she said.      
            “Abalin, what are you doing here, you need to leave!” Kyle exclaimed, though it seemed as if his voice projected from his thoughts over anything else, since his lips weren’t moving an his body was still super-slowed down.
            “I am here to remind you, Nexus, that you will soon face a choice,” Abalin said. “Just as your predecessor, the Dragon Warrior, did. You must choose to destroy the Dark Soul or to preserve it; you must choose to prolong the age of the Fourth Civilization beyond any knowable end, or allow the world to continue in its cycle, in its given nature.”
            “Abalin, if Uruk gets the Dark Soul, what happens?” Kyle asked.
            “The Fifth Civilization will come to collide with the Fourth and humanity as we all know it shall cease within one hundred years,”Abalin said. “As has been theorized. Uruk must be stopped.”
            “And then what?”
            “And then you choose,” Abalin said. “But do not worry about me. You cannot harm me, and neither can he.”
            “Abalin, I’m sorry for what I did,” Kyle said. “For trapping you here, with him.”
            Abalin smiled and touched Kyle’s cheek with a cold hand. “I’m safe so long as you both protect me.”
            She began to fade and time started to speed up. Kyle’s attack went through but was snuffed out in an instant and he was blasted in the front by some wave of magic and sent flying through the layers of ground until he popped up into the room with the Silver Guardians. Brenda slid next to him, blasted by the same attack.
            Nimbly, she whirled around and created barriers behind the large double doors, and pulled. Uruk leapt up from the darkness and landed before them, wreathed in shadow, standing at a monstrous height. The doors shut and filled the room with a booming echo. Brenda sighed and returned her attention to Uruk.
            “You will not seal me away, fools,” Uruk said.
            “But we will defeat you,” Brenda said.
            “Damn right.” Kyle blasted toward Uruk, who didn’t move, just slammed a massive shadowy fist down toward Kyle. Kyle swerved out of the way but couldn’t dodge the massive wave of black magic energy that slammed him from the side. Kyle recovered and blasted back, but was swallowed in an instant by Uruk’s next attack.
            A red barrier stopped Kyle from facing it all head-on, but he still felt some of the aftershock and stumbled back into the wall. Uruk howled with laughter and lurched toward Kyle, slamming him with an elongated leg right in the chest further into the wall.
            Brenda summoned another barrier and sliced away the shadows, then forced him away from Kyle. Their magic collided twice more before Uruk finally overwhelmed her and knocked her aside. Kyle clambered out of the rubble and flipped over one of Uruk’s attacks, then slammed his fists together and launched a stream of energy down at him. It hit him against the face, but it did little more than cock his head to the side.
            “Is that all, Nexus?” Uruk asked.
            A red barrier then came from the ground and knocked him up into the air. Red lightning crackled off of it and Uruk grunted from the pain. He landed on his legs, with two shadow tendrils shooting out of his back to keep him balanced. Brenda rose back to her feet and Kyle landed near her.
            “Nexus and magic together,” Brenda said.
            “Right,” Kyle said.
            “Nexus and magic will not be nearly enough,” Uruk said.
            Kyle raised a hand and Brenda did the same. “Shut up,” Kyle said, and launched a ball of energy at him.
            Uruk swatted it aside, but the red barrier appeared right after that to lock his arm down. Kyle held his hand out and his spear formed. He launched toward Uruk, and cast the spear at him. Another red barrier knocked it into Uruk’s arm, slicing clean through it. As Uruk cried out in pain, Kyle rammed his leg into Uruk’s shadow face and shot him into the adjacent wall.
            Still, Uruk shot his arm out, caught Kyle’s leg, and slammed him to the ground. Kyle’s vision went completely dark again, but he managed to rip free of Uruk’s grip as Brenda began her own assault and Kyle held his and out to recall the spear. He gripped it tight and watched Brenda block Uruk’s wave of dark magic. Kyle slammed the lance into the ground and summoned a small force-field of Nexus energy around himself to block the magic from hitting him. He slid back a step, then ripped the lance free to explode it around him in blue mist.
            Brenda slid back after a failed attack attempt and Kyle caught a quick glimpse at her crackling red hand. She was starting to go all-out. Kyle grimaced. He’d been going all-out the entire time and he hardly seemed to do a thing against Uruk. He roared and the back wall exploded into more darkness, which he just swallowed up without a thought.
            “I am already so done with this guy,” Kyle said.
            Brenda sighed and nodded. “Let’s just try and finish this as fast as possible, then.”
            Kyle braced himself and before he could even move, or think of his next attack, two massive waves of darkness engulfed them both and crashed upon them. Kyle slammed into the ground, losing his grip on the spear and feeling nothing but cold engulf him. He gasped all the air in his legs, and then was picked up and flung against the back double doors.
            He and Brenda collided against them and opened them just a slight amount. Kyle was just about to hit the ground when another wave knocked him into the ground. Blood sprang from his mouth and nose. Kyle roared in anger and tried to pick himself up, but it was of little use against the suppressive onslaught.      
            “Finish what as fast a possible?” Uruk shouted. “If you wish to speed things along, perhaps I’ll slow your torture a bit more!”
            “Brenda, slow him down,” Kyle grunted, unable to move.
            Brenda broke free, having protected herself at the last second with a barrier, and shot toward Uruk on her own. She cut across the room in a sprint, ducking through all of his attacks in a beautiful display of agility, then leapt at him and slammed his entire body with one massive barrier before summoning another one, this one with the crackling anti-magic spell she stole from the Shield Pillar, Clarke.
            Uruk’s dark aura around his body wavered upon contact with the magic. It gave Kyle just enough leverage to break free and make his own assault. Brenda forced Uruk forward and right into Kyle’s punch.
            Kyle dug the Nexus energy into his body and Uruk screamed once again. Dark blue light filled the room, but Uruk managed to overpower them and knock the two of them back. Kyle rolled along the ground, barely able to feel anything in his body, and Brenda hit the ground face-first. Kyle shot several Nexus bolts at Uruk who brushed all of them aside and punched Kyle square in the chest, then slammed him overhead with an elbow. Finally, he caught Kyle’s arm, and with a single crunch, Kyle felt all the bones in his arm shatter like dust.
            He couldn’t even scream, he could only open his mouth agape and let the tears stream down his face. Uruk blasted Kyle back again, and this time, Kyle opened the door further, enough for Uruk to be able to pry the doors open. Kyle bounced back several dozen feet into the main corridor, where the light poured in, filtered by Brenda’s red barrier.
            Brenda leapt back and knelt next to Kyle, trying to get him up, but she was lanced through her side by the shadows and dropped back. Kyle just shut his eyes and tried to get up, but had no strength left to do so. All he could feel was Brenda’s hand on the back of his foot.
            “Just as you buried me here, I shall do the same for you, little Nexus.” Uruk’s voice echoed around the open corridor. Kyle had strength enough to look up, and when he did, his adrenaline poured out of his body and he screamed from the pain of a shattered arm. More tears poured down his eyes, blood ran down his lips and his arm began to turn beat purple from the swelling and bruising.
            “You lose,” Uruk said. “But in a way, you win. Now you understand the futility of resisting the Dark Soul.”
            Kyle tried to push himself up, but felt a searing hot pain through his shoulder. Blood dripped down his arms and onto the stone beneath him. He saw shadowy legs in front of him, massive, foreboding. The aura consumed him in sheer cold for a moment before it passed through and Kyle dropped to the ground again, face-first.
            “Stop….resisting,” Brenda muttered.
            “Silence, witch,” Uruk said, and she screamed from some attack Kyle couldn’t see. “You should have brought more friends, this was far too boring. A few scratches and bruises? Nothing compared to the torture of patience I had to go through.”
            Kyle bit his lip to the point of bleeding and shut his eyes tight. Something warm washed over the back of his leg, and blinding light exploded in front of him. His body went limp. His head lulled to the side.
            Uruk stopped walking, and he chuckled. “About time.”
            That light washed over Kyle’s entire body, and he felt his left hand twitch. Pain ran through his arm, as well as something else. Some force, some sort of magic. Kyle grimaced and squeezed his hand again, shooting pain through him again. His heart rate soared and the adrenaline pumped through his body again.
            He slammed his fist onto the ground and his aura exploded around him. Brenda squeezed his leg one more time, and then a red explosion filled the room. Kyle flipped into the air, but managed to catch himself as he expanded his aura around his own body. His right arm flapped about at his side, utterly useless. Brenda also twirled into the air on the opposite side of Uruk.           “Ah, a second wind,” Uruk muttered.
            “How little of magic do you know?” Brenda asked.
            “I was aware you were healing him,” Uruk said.
            “But you have no idea that the Nexus also has healing properties that can be sped up by Shield magic, right?” Kyle asked.
            “I think I speak for both of us when I say thanks for showing us your tricks,” Brenda said. “But we’ll take things from here, Uruk.”
            “I’m already at my destination, there’s nothing either of you can do to stop me,” Uruk said. “Your arm is useless, and you’re running out of magic.”
            Brenda held a fist up and it crackled with red lightning. “My magic.”
            “You’re a fool,” Uruk said.   
            “And you’re not going anywhere,” Kyle said, and his Wave 2 aura washed over him again before he launched into another assault. He held out his left hand and the lance reappeared.
            Uruk tried to launch a wave at him but a red barrier protected Kyle. Uruk attacked Brenda, taking his attention off of Kyle. He slammed the lance into the ground and vaulted over the barrier, appearing right over Uruk. He blasted energy out of his feet and rammed head-first into Uruk, knocking him to the ground. Brenda knocked him aside, almost off the walkway.
            Kyle stumbled to stay on his feet. Uruk used the shadows behind him to create another massive attack, this time riddled with sharp weapons.
            Brenda made a double-layered barrier to block most of them. Some got through, and the two weaved their way through, together. They cupped hands and launched a bolt of anti-magic Nexus energy at Uruk, who took the attack squarely on. Kyle beat Brenda to the punch, kneeing Uruk in the gut and slamming in the side with his elbow. Brenda brought the rest of the combo down on him with a barrier, knocking him into the darkness.
            Kyle leapt over and followed, swelling his aura around him before Uruk attacked through the darkness. Kyle managed to cut through most of it before he could take hold of Uruk’s face and slam him into the wall. Uruk rammed Kyle into the wall, right along his right arm. Kyle grunted but used the pain for power, knocking Uruk away. Uruk left Kyle for dead down there and tried to blast his way up. A red wall formed in front of him.
            Kyle jetted up to Uruk, ramming into his underbelly to bust through the barrier. Uruk suspended in the air for a moment and Brenda punched him in the face, then opened her palm and let an anti-magic forcefield engulf him and cling him against the side wall. Uruk roared and ripped through it. Kyle felt a bit of magic hit him in the side before Uruk took hold of his entire body and flung him through the walkway into the shadows. Kyle slowed his fall with a beam of energy, then used that momentum to fling himself into the open air.
            Brenda used two barriers in either hand to block another onslaught of the shadows. Uruk attacked Brenda head-on, who had to sacrifice her own body to preserve her magic. She let him hit her across the side, but a quick glance up to Kyle told him to attack now. Uruk saw Kyle and knocked him away, letting Brenda use her preserved magic to send him flying back, toward the broken double doors.
            Brenda and Kyle attacked him together, punching him in the chest back through the double doors. Uruk shoved back, and they reached a stalemate. Kyle used his aura to propel forward, but Uruk resisted and Kyle slipped,  flying down to below the walkway again, leaving Brenda to take him on all alone.
            Two flashes of red light and one explosion later and Kyle saw a streak of black headed for the entrance, unabated. Kyle shot across the darkness and then rose right up, cutting Uruk off.
            Time seemed slow. Kyle had both hands together, energy writhing within, and Brenda had a massive barrier erected behind Uruk, who didn’t see Kyle coming at all.
            Kyle let the energy loose, almost everything he had, and it beamed Uruk across the entire body. Just as he regained balance and was able to control it, Brenda came from behind and slammed him with a wall of magic. Uruk roared and all the shadows along the wall broke him free. Kyle hit the ground and Uruk made one last effort toward the exit.
            “Brenda” Kyle shouted.
            She threw up one more barrier to stop him, and it slowed him just enough. Another platform formed beneath Kyle, who used it as a propeller to shoot into the sky, pulling his left fist back. Uruk turned just in time to see Kyle launch his fist forward, crashing into Uruk’s body, and with the propulsion from Brenda’s attack, rip through Uruk’s shadow form and break through the barrier to burst into the open air.
            Kyle crashed to the ground with Uruk’s shadowy corpse slamming next to him. Kyle rolled along the ground, scrambling back to his feet. Brenda leapt up from the darkness as well, landing in the ashes of Magus Forest while the shadows along Uruk’s body seeped back into the ground, into the hole leading to the entrance, and sealing it back up, turning to dirt and dust along the way.
            When it was complete there was nothing but a withered corpse of a several millennia-old man there, a mere husk. Kyle sighed and dropped to both knees, bracing himself with his one good arm. Brenda sprinted across the way, sliding on her knees, and embraced him tight. She made sure to keep a hand touching his right arm, and a small arm healing aura formed around it. He let tears roll down his face, but a smile also touched his lips.
            “Thank God,” he muttered, and she just nodded.
            “It’s not over yet,” she said, her voice filled with somberness.        
            “Almost,” Kyle said. “Just one more push.”
            He reached up with his good arm and touched Brenda’s ear, activating the Zanderia communicator. “Hey, whoever is on the Moon base, do me a solid and send somewhere. Shindari and I have something to take care of.”

            When they arrived from the teleportation, Kyle felt a little more feeling returning to his arm. He looked around at their surroundings, spotting the familiar hills, now with a few more towns and roads scattered around them. A shrine lay in front of him, one that was rather small and had just a small symbol of a man and a dragon engraved into the stone.
            “You’re sure?” Brenda asked.
            “Yeah,” Kyle said. “This has to be the place.”
            Kyle reached down and touched the engraving, and it flashed blue before the stone sunk into the ground and a long spiral staircase opened up where it’d once been. Kyle, still braced against Brenda, nodded, and they began their descent.
            “Aequitas would’ve been the last one to spot the Dark Soul, to know its location,” Kyle said. “It’s only natural it’d be here, right?”
            They reached the end of the staircase and blue torchlight ignited down a long hallway all leading to a massive skeleton and a pedestal. The skeleton couldn’t have looked more familiar to Kyle: Mogul, Aequitas’s closest ally.
            “Is that a dragon?” Brenda whispered.
            “A dragon with the power of the Nexus,” Kyle said. He grinned ear-to-ear. “It’s awesome.”
            They started down the hallway. Kyle and Brenda limped together, though she healed much faster than he. Most of her magic was gone, and most of his energy had been placed into those final two attacks. Flying to this place would have been impossible, but he trusted the Zanderia enough to never speak of this, since it was such a treasured secret.
            They walked up the stone steps to the pedestal, which housed only a tiny black egg-like object. Light filtered in around it, not on it, as if it were some sort of shadow.
            “Incredible,” Brenda muttered.
            Kyle nodded to her and she let go of him, allowing him to stand on her own. They stood on opposite sides of the pedestal. Brenda sighed and raised her hands, allowing tiny crackles of magic to sputter out.
            “Brenda,” Kyle said. “Shindari, wait. If we do this, we have no idea what can happen.”
            “Everything will end if we don’t,” Brenda said.
            “We don’t know that,” Kyle said.
            Brenda kept her arms there. “Kyle, listen. If we don’t destroy this, everything will go away. Everything will decay and the world falls to ash.”
            “We’ve already changed the future, Shindari,” Kyle said. It was odd to say her true name, but, he had to. “What if we left one thing the same?”
            “Then we can’t change and the cycle continues, right?” Brenda asked.
            “It’s not the Dark Soul that does this, though, it’s magic,” Kyle said.
            “But we’ve never lived in a world with magic without the Dark Soul,” Brenda said. “The two can coexist. Look at us, you and I. Look at you and your friends, at me and the Zanderia. People can coexist with magic, people can learn to overcome their differences. We need to give them a chance.”
            Kyle stared at the tiny little object. “Nothing but a reset button, a constant reminder…” He nodded, then looked to Brenda and nodded again. “Together.”
            He held his hand out and energy swirled. She reached over and they touched fingers. Kyle felt that same assurance fill his body, and the two turned their hands toward the Dark Soul.
            “For a better tomorrow,” Brenda said, and they unleashed what energy they had left.

            Mind and memory left Kyle until he awoke in the hospital bed sometime later. He was not home; that much he knew. He was somewhere in India, but had familiar faces surrounding him: Phoenix and Riko were there, smiling down upon him.
            He sat up, and bits and pieces of the in-between exploded before him: a brilliant white light, the temple coming down, and Abalin appearing, somehow, outside of the Halls and in this temple. Then it was all blurs of red, blue, and finally, green pasture.
            “Glad to see you awake,” Riko said.
            “And with some bones in your arm, finally,” Phoenix said. “Still broken, but, healing.”
            Kyle tried to speak but words failed him. Riko put a finger to his lips and just shook his head. “Rest, now. You’ve done the world a great service.”
            “But to let you rest easier, yeah, we put Corbin away,” Phoenix said. “He’s in the Cube.”
            “Brother Time?” Kyle asked with a dry mouth.
            “Back, safe and sound,” Phoenix said. “We’re keeping him on the Moon base in a containment area, per his request. He’s gonna be out for a little bit.”
            “What about…demonstration?”
            Riko nodded. “We feared that Corbin’s demonstration would have painted another negative stigma on the mages of the world, but, after seeing you and Shindari fight together, stopping him, and apparently saving Congressmen—that were on Corbin’s side but are pleading that they were mind-controlled—several people have calmed down. For now, we have unity.”
            Kyle leaned back, resting his head against the soft hospital pillow. Exhaustion started to come over him again.
            “We’ll be back later today to transfer you to a hospital in the States,” Phoenix said. “Make sure not to do anything dumb, got it?”
            Kyle nodded himself off to sleep, where his dreams came in dark blues and torchlight and…
            He looked around, confused. Was he in the Nexus? Kyle took a full look of the room until he sensed another presence near him, and turned back to see Aequitas, in his old form, standing there with a smile on his face.
            “Good to see you, old friend,” he said.
            “Aequitas, how did you pull me in?”
            “A bit more strain on my part,” the Sentient said. “And I’m sure I’ll be reprimanded for it, but this has been a day I’ve long looked forward to.”
            “What, the day I finally destroyed the Dark Soul?”
            “The day you changed destiny,” Aequitas said. “All great Nexus do this in their lives. You’ve done something, Kyle Raiden, that few could dream. Now the Earth will make its own destiny. The nature of the Dark Soul was the nature of fate.”
            “So why didn’t you destroy it?” Kyle asked.
            “I couldn’t,” Aequitas said. “The Earth was too young, it needed magic. It needed life. But I overestimated what that could do, and from here watched as it burned itself to the ground throughout the Third Civilization. I knew our hopes lay int his, the current Civilization, and I am proud to say I personally know who was the one that did it.”
            Kyle grinned again. If he were in his real body, he’d be blushing all over. Such praise from Aequitas, the greatest of the Nexus! He would’ve been crying in his real body, too. A great Nexus…
            What would Mom and Dad think of him now?


            Brenda stood amidst the rubble of Magus Forest, kneeling down to pick up some of the dirt and let it cascade down her hand and through her fingers. Her magic stores remained rather depleted, but being in the presence of at least some pure magic helped lift her spirits and restore some semblance of energy.
            A gust of wind blew through the countryside. Brenda held her hair from getting all in her face and blocked some dust from getting in her eyes and mouth.
            When the wind died, another woman stood across from her. A beautiful girl in a white satin dress with a cloak draped over her shoulders. A peculiar gem hung around her neck too, a pure white stone that glistened in the waning sunlight.
            “Shindari, Shield mage,” the girl said, and bowed.
            Brenda’s eyes widened. “Abalin. How?”      
            She’d been there at the Nexus temple, when it was collapsing around herself and Kyle. She saved them, protecting them and giving them a means to escape. All with Divine Magic, too, the same impossible magic Rafael had attained.
            “Because magic is free, now,” Abalin said. “And thus, I am free. The great force and beauty of magic is no longer shackled by the Dark Soul, thus I am unbound and can walk the realms once more. So long as there is pure, good magic in this world, I shall be here.” She touched the gemstone and smiled. “After all, such is my role as the Light Soul.”
            Brenda felt her jaw drop a bit and Abalin just smiled. Another breeze swept through, this time with waves of light that temporarily blinded Brenda, and Abalin was gone once more, but her voice carried over the wind,
            “As I watch over, you must watch over them,” she said, her voice sweet as an angel, “You are the greatest mage this world has, Shindari, in both heart and power. I trust this Civilization to you, now.”
            Brenda raised her hand to her heart and clenched a fist. She raised her face, stifling back tears, and nodded.
            “I won’t fail you, great spirit,” Brenda said.
            The wind died and Brenda felt her power mostly restored. She checked it and let her aura overflow, returning pools of magic back to the area that once gave her life, and gave her purpose. Now that area was the entire world; she was its protector, and its friend. Brenda took to the skies, looking out across the wide landscape, and touched her ear to the Zanderia communicator.
            “Anyone need a hand?” she asked. “I’m all ears.” 

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