The Unstoppable Foe
So dumbfounded were Sage and Aiko that they could come up with nothing to say as they gawked at Jaycee’s clone. But as aghast as those two were, Jaycee was far more at a loss. She had begun to tremble and was rapidly shaking her head.
“What is this?” Jaycee asked her friends. “What do you know about this? If you know something, tell me.”
Sage and Aiko were unable to look Jaycee in the eye.
“Why won’t you answer me? What is that thing?”
“This just isn’t your night, is it, Jaycee?” asked Alenia. “First, you watch your friend hurled off the top of a building, then you learn the truth about your parents’ death, now you come face to face with your exact double. What more could possibly happen to make this night any worse than it already is, hmm? Care to find out?”
“You two know something about this, don’t you?” asked Jaycee.
“She’s a copy Shadow Kahn made of you,” said Sage. “She was ordered to kill James and take the Sword of Heaven. When she refused . . . Shadow Kahn killed her.”
“What?” gasped Jaycee.
“Why prolong this?” asked Alenia. “You can kill them now.”
“I’m sorry, Jaycee,” said Sage, “but you shouldn’t watch this.”
The false Jaycee summoned her staff, which was glowing a bright blue. She then wasted no time in beginning her charge toward the group.
Sage readied himself for battle. But it came as a shock to him when the false Jaycee bypassed him and continued toward the girls.
Realizing who the target was, Aiko began shaking Jaycee, who was in a trance-like state. “Jaycee!” exclaimed Aiko. “Jaycee!”
The false Jaycee had quickly closed the gap and was now within striking distance. “Look out!” screamed Aiko, pulling Jaycee out of the path of the oncoming staff. The false Jaycee had missed her target but quickly followed with another strike. Sage thrust his sword into the weapon’s path, thwarting the attack.
“Stop this,” said Sage. “We’re your friends. Try to remember.”
With weapons locked, the false Jaycee began pushing on Sage’s sword.
Looking deeply into his foe’s vacant expression, something occurred to Sage. “Her eyes,” he thought. “Is she under a spell?”
The false Jaycee pushed Sage away with enough force to knock him to the ground.
“Jaycee, you have to snap out of it,” exclaimed Aiko, once again shaking her friend. “If you don’t, then we’re going to die! Jaycee!”
The false Jaycee approached the girls. Before she could unleash another attack, Sage charged. He was stopped in his tracks, however, when the false Jaycee thrust her arm out and shot an energy that sent the young swordsman back to the ground with tremendous force, leaving him unable to get up and continue the battle.
“Sage!” shouted Aiko.
The false Jaycee raised her staff, and when she did, Aiko stood before Jaycee. “I’m not going to let you hurt her,” she said. “I’ll protect Jaycee with my life!”
There was no attack from the false Jaycee. But Aiko’s show of bravery was not what had stopped her. What had stopped the false Jaycee was the appearance of James, who was hovering off the far end of the roof, gray wings spread majestically.
“James,” whispered the false Jaycee.
“Just what I didn’t need,” said Alenia. “You,” she shouted to the false Jaycee. “I gave you an order! So stop staring at him and kill your enemies!”
The false Jaycee ignored the order and continued to gaze at James.
“James,” whispered Jaycee, who had also noticed his appearance.
“What’s he doing here?” thought Aiko.
“Kill them!” exclaimed Alenia in as loud a voice as she could muster. There was then a prolonged silence on the rooftop. “I should have known better not to trust her,” whispered Alenia. She then summoned the Sword of Hell.
“James,” said the false Jaycee, eyes now full of life.
Alenia appeared behind the false Jaycee and slashed her across the back. The false Jaycee screamed a horrible scream as Alenia’s steel tore through her flesh. Unable to support herself, the false Jaycee fell into Alenia.
“Don’t feel bad,” said Alenia. “Had you succeeded or not, this was still going to happen. For old wounds are so difficult to heal, we have to find some way to make ourselves feel better, and this was the way I chose.”
Jaycee and Aiko were left in a state of disbelief of just how far Alenia would go to quench her insatiable thirst for revenge. “There’s nothing this woman won’t do,” thought Aiko. “She really is crazy.”
James showed no change in his demeanor.
“You want your friend back?” asked Alenia, lifting the false Jaycee over her head with only one arm. “Then take her!” And with that, Alenia hurled the false Jaycee at the girls. Her limp body skipped across the roof before coming to a stop at their feet.
“What do you think of your precious little Jaycee now?” Alenia asked James. “I bet you never thought you’d see her like that again.”
James lowered himself to the rooftop, where he took a long look at Jaycee and then the bloodied replica. A vicious wind then swept across the roof. Its strength was nearly enough to take the others off their feet.
In the event that a hasty retreat might be in her best interest, Alenia took a few steps back, moving herself closer to the edge of the roof.
James then wrapped his wings around himself.
Jaycee timidly placed her shaking hand on her copy’s shoulder, prompting the injured girl to open her weary eyes.
A blinding white light then burst from James. So bright was it that no one in its proximity could look upon it. The brilliant display lasted for only a brief moment, and when it was over, it was discovered that a most startling occurrence had taken place. Now wrapped around James were wings as black as the night.
“I don’t believe it,” said Alenia.
“Jaycee,” said Aiko. Her friend had become oblivious to everything not involving her or her replica, leaving Aiko’s voice to fall upon deaf ears.
James’ wings then spread to reveal the most startling revelation of all. James had returned to the form of Shadow Kahn.
“No,” gasped Aiko. “It can’t be.”
Alenia let out a boisterous laugh. “So, the old master has returned,” she exclaimed.
Shadow Kahn made his way to Alenia. “It was good of you to hold onto my sword for me,” he said. “Now return it to its rightful owner.”
“What?” gasped Alenia. “This sword belongs to me. It chose me as its master.”
“As your master, you must obey my orders,” said Shadow Kahn. “Now hand the sword over, or prepare yourself to face the consequences.”
“To hell with you,” exclaimed Alenia. “This weapon symbolizes power. And I won’t give up that power to anyone!”
A ball of blue light was rapidly growing within the palm of Shadow Kahn’s hand.
The false Jaycee began fading away. “Jaycee,” she said. The false Jaycee then placed her hand on Jaycee’s cheek, creating a blue glow around both girls.
“What is this?” asked Jaycee.
“My power is now your power,” said the false Jaycee. “You must live. Use this power to protect the others. Please save James.”
“Power? What do you mean?”
Tears began to fall from the false Jaycee’s eyes. “I’m glad I got the chance to meet you. Goodbye, Jaycee.” And with that, the false Jaycee disappeared.
“Pay for your disobedience,” said Shadow Kahn, hurling the ball of blue light at Alenia. The crackling orb hit its target, creating an explosion that shot into the sky.
“Why are they fighting?” asked Aiko.
When the smoke cleared Alenia was revealed to have been left unharmed by Shadow Kahn’s attack. “You stubborn fool,” she said. “You no longer have dominion over me. I take orders from no one. Especially not from a failure like you!”
“So, your power is equal to mine,” said Shadow Kahn. “Then you must have struck a deal with the king of the demons.”
Sage had recovered enough of his strength to get back to his feet. “Damn,” he said. “Am I really this weak?”
“Of course I did,” said Alenia. “And now look at me.”
“Even I was never foolish enough to believe I was my own master,” said Shadow Kahn. A lengthy silence then ensued as the two stared at each other. Much to Alenia’s surprise, Shadow Kahn turned his back on her.
“Do you really take me so lightly that you would turn your back on me?” asked Alenia. “I hope that you know those wings of yours signify a loss of power. I’m now your equal. You are only half of what you once were.”
“I grow tired of this,” said Shadow Kahn.
“What was that?” asked Alenia. “Don’t think for one second that just because I once bowed down to you that I won’t hesitate to strike you down!”
“Someone once told me something that lives with me to this day,” said Shadow Kahn. “He said that one should never let their emotions cloud their judgment. A battle can be won or lost before the first blow is ever landed.” After wrapping his wings around himself, Shadow Kahn was swallowed up within a blinding white light. After the light faded away James and his gray wings were back.
“Damn him,” whispered Alenia.
Before he departed James took a long look at Jaycee, who was on her knees staring at the ground. It was apparent that everything that had transpired between he and Alenia was missed by her, which was the best thing that could have happened.
Alenia then floated into the sky. “Before I leave, I have something very important to tell you,” she told Jaycee. “The magic that your replica possessed had two purposes. Number one: it was a weapon, and number two: it was insurance.”
“Insurance?” asked Jaycee.
“I knew there was a possibility that she would turn out disobedient or even traitorous,” said Alenia. “So her power came with a very heavy price. She was given only a certain amount of magic. And when that magic ran out she would die. But now that magic is yours. And with it comes all the stipulations.”
“What the hell is that woman talking about now?” thought Sage.
“So go ahead and use your newfound power. Because once it’s all been used up, your wretched existence will come to an end.” A swirl of black smoke then appeared around Alenia. “Try to have a good night.” And with that, Alenia disappeared.
“Don’t worry about what she said, Jaycee,” said Aiko. “Nothing’s gonna happen to you. We don’t need magic to beat her.”
The silence that had been consuming the rooftop was broken when Sage’s sword fell from his grasp and hit the ground. “It has to be a lie,” he said, body trembling and eyes bulging. “It can’t be true. There’s just no way.”
“Sage,” whispered Aiko.
Alenia, now in the form of Vice Principal Takagi, was seated at her desk in her darkened office. Tears of black were flowing freely from her eyes as she held Ai’s powder blue ribbon in her trembling hand. “If the tears of those creatures were as horrible as mine, then they would do their best to never have to shed them, either.”
The vice principal then slammed her fist onto her desk. “I have nothing left,” she said. “So I have nothing left to lose.” Vice Principal Takagi then began breathing so heavily that her body heaved visibly with each breath that she took. “Which means much more drastic measures need to be taken.”