Rise of the Savior: Acolyte of Truth

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Chapter 13

Jamie wakes up in a desert, fully healed and extremely hot. He stands up, looks around, and sees sand in every direction and a sun so bright he has to look down at the ground. He notices clothes next to his feet. W-where am I?

“Welcome to the home I’ve created. Are you feeling overwhelmed yet?” Chigaru floats above him with his legs and arms folded.

“A little bit. The air is almost too dense to breathe. My body feels heavy, and the heat is overbearing.”

“If you can survive here, you can survive anywhere. Take your clothes off and put those clothes next to your feet on.”

Jamie strips and puts on the shirt on the ground. He instantly begins to slouch, and his knees buckle. “Why did you want me to put this on?” He then puts on the pants. They’re equally heavy.

“The fact that you were able to heal at all in this condition shows your resilience to death. It did take five days, though.”

“Wait, days? I need to be home so I can monitor my son. Take me back!”

“Calm down, boy. A year in this dimension equals a day in your world. You can do the math on that. So, instead of griping and moaning, how about you take advantage of this time and train? I can’t fight alongside someone I have to worry about dying in the middle of battle.”

“Why do you care about what happens to me? You don’t seem like the caring type.”

“Because if you die, who knows when the next acolyte of death will be reincarnated? It gets boring sitting here alone in this world. It feels good to go back to Earth and stretch my paws out. But enough questions. Let’s begin walking. We have a long way to go before we reach my house.” Chigaru begins floating forward.

Jamie takes a few steps, then falls. “I won’t make it far like this.” Black fibers come from his golden bracelets and begin to quickly create Jamie’s black cloak around him, starting with the hood. His muscle mass and definition increase with the cloak on. He begins to walk easily. “Now, this is more to my liking.”

“Power down. In order for you to become stronger in that form, you must first become stronger in your basic form.”

Jamie powers down by removing the black cloak. “Either you make it to our destination like that, or you die right here and now.”

He struggles to stand and begins walking. “How did you create all of this?”

“I’m a god. No further explanation needed. Every deity has created their own plane of existence. I created this one because I enjoy the sand and hot sun.”

“I learn something new about you every day.”

“From this day on, you fight to kill. Your human emotions must not exist if you want to be successful. Human bonds and connections are what have brought you to this point. Get rid of those and become stronger.”

“That’s easier said than done. I have a son, so I can’t abandon all emotions.”

“Then you’ll stay weak. The acolytes of death from the past became stronger from pure hatred.”

“It’s impossible to hate and love at the same time. I’ll still get stronger, and no acolyte will be able to stand in my way.”

“Pick up the pace, boy.” Chigaru begins to float forward a little faster. “It’s time to get a deeper understanding of your powers. Your kundalini awakening unlocked six chakras within you, which sprouted spiritual arteries and veins called ‘nadis’ throughout your body. When you placed those links from your kundalini on yourself, you began to cypher prana from him, and that’s what’s going through your spiritual arteries and veins right now. That’s also why you’re able to use his powers. Your spiritual arteries and veins are no different than your regular ones. The more you work out, the more they dilate, and the more they dilate, the more prana goes through them, making your simpler attacks even stronger. Plus, the prana you have flowing through you enables you to launch stronger, newer attacks, and more prana means more stamina to perform more frequent attacks without getting drained. You can achieve this by training your mind and body, and that’s what you’ll be doing here.”

“Can those sisters do the same?”

“Yes.”

“I’m sure they’ll be training to defeat me. I can’t let that happen for my son’s sake.” He continues dragging his feet across the hot desert sand.

***

Morning comes, and Amanda jumps out of sleep screaming. She looks around and sees that she’s on a stretcher. Kid is beside her, his feet propped up on a chair, reading a book. She looks at his robotic arm, then looks down in shame.

“It’s like dejá vu, right? The only difference is I have a fancy robotic arm now.”

“What happened to Jamie?”

“Oh! Is that his name? He got away.”

“So, is anyone going to go and get him? His name is Jamie Connor, and I can show you where he works and everything.”

“I’ll tell Richard, and we’ll get him. Don’t worry.”

“It’s my fault that happened to you. If I weren’t weak and useless, I—”

“You being weak has nothing to do with what happened to my arm. That acolyte’s power caught me off guard and unfortunately cost me a limb. Strength, technique, or battle experience couldn’t have prevented that from happening. Stuff like this is what you sign up for. It’s a part of the job.”

“And you want me to join a job that involves losing limbs? What if you had died from this mistake? Your death would have been for nothing, and everyone who loves you would be mourning, but this agency would just replace you. So why? Why do this job?”

He peeks up from the book, sees the brooding expression on her face, and closes his book. “If I died doing this job, no one would know except the people at ATRA. My parents are dead, and so are my siblings.” He gets up, grabs an emesis bag from the wall, hands it to Amanda, and sits on the bed with her. He clasps his hands together and looks down with a pained expression. “I guess you could say I have nothing to lose, right? That I have a death wish, and I fight these monsters hoping one could kill me one day because I’m scared to do it myself, right? If you think that, then you’re absolutely right. The reason I was preaching to you about getting stronger to protect the ones you love is because I was too weak to do that. Everyone I cared about was wiped out by a raging acolyte.” He slams his hands on the bed in frustration, making Amanda jump. “All at once!” He looks dolefully at Amanda. “I hope you never have to experience the pain of having your loved ones brutally shredded to pieces. The pain is unbearable, like a rock being dragged over your brain over and over again. This Jamie guy… maybe he’s the one who can actually kill me. He already took my arm; maybe he can take my life too.”

Amanda puts her arm around Kid. “Don’t say that.”

“Well, I’m not going to make it easy for him. I just look forward to the day I can see all my loved ones again. I heard there’s life after death. The girl I was talking about, Ana—she told me she’s seen it. My own personal reason for wanting you to see Ana is to tell me if she’s lying or not. That would bring me peace of mind.”

“Kid I don’t—”

“Amanda, are you scared to die?”

“Of course I am. I’m not ready to die, and I don’t want you to die. I didn’t know you’d been through all that, and I’m sorry I said all that stuff. I didn’t mean to reopen any old wounds.”

“You didn’t. That day replays over and over in my head every day. Seeing their limbs flying around is hard to forget. So, you want to know why I do this? So I can prevent what happened to me from happening to other people. That includes you.” He taps her on the forehead. “I know I can’t save everyone, but it doesn’t hurt to try.”

She hugs him. “Thanks. I always wanted a big brother.”

Kid smirks. “If you make me proud, I wouldn’t mind calling you my little sister.”

“Little sister!”

“What, did I say something wrong?”

“Where’s my cell phone? I need to call my sister. Everyone is probably worried that I didn’t come home!”

“It’s on the nightstand.”

Amanda grabs her phone off the nightstand and looks at it. “Two missed calls from Saira and twenty from Mom. She must have really been worried about me.” She puts the phone to her ear and listens to the voicemail.

“Dad is dead, and I’m next. Call me back,” Saira says in her monotonous voice over the cell phone. Amanda slams the phone on the bed. Tears flow from her eyes as she grieves silently and lies back on the bed.

“Is everything o—”

“No!” Amanda yells out. “I-I’m too late. I couldn’t protect someone because I was weak. I should have taken his offer. Maybe it’s not too late. Maybe he can bring my dad back, and things can go back to normal!”

“Amanda, what are you talking about?”

“Jamie said if I helped him steal children, everyone I love would stay alive.”

“Don’t be ridiculous.”

Amanda sits up in bed. “Then what am I supposed to do about my dad? He’s dead!”

“I don’t know, grieve? Not do something stupid.”

“Of course you don’t know. All you care about is some stupid urban legend about me becoming some type of savior. No one here thought about how this would affect me. My dad is dead, and business continues for you guys. I never should have gotten in that car with you. I can’t believe I trusted you.”

He places his hand on her shoulder, but she throws it off, summons her guns, and points one of them at his head. “Don’t touch me.”

“Amanda, you’re not thinking straight. You’re upset, and your thoughts are all over the place. I understand you’re upset because your dad is dead, but if you don’t come to your senses, your sister will be dead too.”

“You know what? This is all your fault. If you didn’t stick your nose into other people’s business—”

“If you really think this is my fault, then shoot me!” Kid uses electromagnetism to pull Amanda and the barrel of the gun to his forehead. “If you think this is anyone else’s fault but your own, then take your frustrations out on me and pull that trigger. I’m ready to die! Do it!”

Amanda lets go of the gun, then hugs him tightly. “That was my daddy! He needed me, and I wasn’t there for him!” she bawls.

Kid holds Amanda. “I know the pain hurts, but there’s someone else you have to be there for right now. You need to find your sister.”

Amanda lets go of him, grabs her cell phone, and wipes her nose. “You’re right. I need to call her.” She dials Saira, trying to regain her composure.

“Hello,” Saira says.

“Hey. What’s going on?”

“That doctor has powers. He killed Dad by turning him into dust. Then he chased me down the street, trying to kill me, but Boop saved me. Now I’m just hiding in a hotel room I didn’t pay for. I need to be picked up,” she says casually.

“Text me the name of the hotel and room number. I’m coming to get you!”

“Okay.”

“See you soon.” Amanda gets out of bed in her hospital nightgown. Her phone dings—it’s a text from Saira with the name of the hotel.

“Alright. Let’s go get your sister,” he says.

“First, I need to apologize to you. I’m sorry. Second…” She grabs the emesis bag and vomits in it. “I feel so much better now. Let’s go get my sister and then we can go and see this Ana person so I can get stronger and keep the people I care about alive.”

“You’re close to understanding your role in life, but you’re not quite there yet. You’ll be soon, though. Let’s go tell Richard what you know, then get your sister.”

***

Though Jamie’s body is in Chigaru’s realm, his mind is somewhere else. Blazing heat beats against his black cloak and the golden crescent in the middle of his forehead. Pieces of skin are missing on the right side of his face, showing bone

There is no sand or heat in his kundalini’s world—only a desk in the middle of a white void that he is sitting in, facing Grim.

“You’ve come a long way in these six months. You’re stronger and faster, with a bag full of new tricks. You can do more, but your emotions are holding you back. You must conquer your own fear of death in order to awaken and unlock some of your greatest powers,” Grim says.

“No one can do that. Everyone is scared to die.”

“You’re not everyone. You’re the acolyte of death and shouldn’t be afraid to die. Unfortunately, the way I set your powers up involves you not being afraid to die and not having a preference about whose life you take. You have to die someday. You might as well do it and get it over with.”

“That’s the craziest thing I’ve ever heard!”

“If you’re scared to die, just agree with me on the other half. No one is off-limits. Not even loved ones can avoid death. When you’re able to take the life of someone you love, you’ll be able to unlock more power,” Grim says.

“You’ll be waiting a long time for that to happen. I only care about one person, and that’s my son. I have no parents, no siblings, and no grandparents—they’re dead already. Even if they weren’t dead, I wouldn’t kill them. I’m satisfied with what I’ve achieved here, so there’s no reason for me to die or kill loved ones.”

“Until you have nothing holding you back, you will not be able to access your full power. But as of now, you’ve reached your limit on what you can do. Although you may die, the gates of death can’t hold you. Now, go back to your world, and let your name strike fear into the hearts of many.”

Jamie gets up and walks through a brown door, and he’s back in Chigaru’s world. He sees Chigaru leaning against a pyramid and summons his scythe, which has a blade on both ends now. He swings his scythe, and a purplish-black slice of energy slices through the pyramid, making it slide toward Chigaru. Chigaru catches the piece of the pyramid that’s getting ready to fall on him with one hand, then floats into the air with it and throws it at Jamie. A purplish-black glow surrounds Jamie’s skeleton hand, and when he raises it, a large, wide purplish-black ray of energy shoots out and consumes the large rock, decomposing it into dust. The wind carries the dust away, and some falls to the ground. Chigaru floats toward Jamie.

“Those are the same moves as last time. Did you not learn anything new?” Chigaru asks.

“I’ve reached my limits for now.”

“For now?”

“I can’t unlock any more power until I prove I’m not scared to die.”

“So, what’s next?”

“Take me home. It’s time to permanently heal my son.”

Chigaru opens up a portal, and they both jump through it, ending up in Jamie’s bedroom. Jamie quickly transforms back into his human self, covering any exposed bone with black fibers from his bracelet. Chigaru turns into a small dog.

Jamie hears his son playing in the living room. He turns his cell phone back on and sticks it in his pocket. He walks out of his bedroom and sees his son sitting on the floor, watching TV with another child. “What’s going on, here?”

“Oh, hi, Dad. Didn’t hear you come in!” Lucas gets up and hugs Jamie.

“I thought I said no visitors while I was gone.”

“I know, Dad, I just get so bored.”

“I know, son. This is the only time I’ll let this slide, but you’re being punished next time you disobey me.” He rubs his son’s head.

“Okay, where are you going now?”

“To get you some medicine that will permanently heal you. I just have to make a phone call, and I’ll be right back.” He walks into his room and pulls his cell phone out of his pocket. He notices he has a voicemail and listens to it.

“Hey, doc, I wasn’t able to latch onto that girl. I don’t know where she is. Call me back, I guess. Or you can just let me go, so I can enjoy my life. Or—”

He hangs the phone up.

“I don’t have time for this shit. Of course Jacob didn’t latch onto the girl.”

Chigaru yawns while lying on the floor. “What are you going to do about it?”

“It’s time to shake up their world and make them come to me. I’m going to do what I do best, and that’s make a deal.” He makes a phone call.

Nancy picks up the phone. “Hello?”

“I need you to do me a favor. Do you know where Jacob lives?”

“Yes.”

“Good. I need you to introduce yourself to the neighbor who lives to the left of his house.”

“Which left?”

“Damn it. If you’re facing his house, that left.”

Nancy hangs the phone up.

“What the—hello? It’s hard to find good help around here.”

***

Back in the city, Amanda and Kid are in the process of checking in at the hotel. They receive the key cards to the room they requested and take the elevator up. Amanda is feeling anxious, twiddling her thumbs. They arrive at the top floor, and Amanda runs to the room her sister is in. She unlocks the door, bursts into the room, and looks around. “Saira!”

Saira opens the closet door and peeks out of it. She comes out when she sees her sister. “Hi.”

Amanda runs over and hugs her. “I’m so happy you’re okay.”

“Dad is dead,” she says, unfazed.

“I know. I need you to tell us everything that happened.”

“Us?” she asks.

“Yep.” Kid walks through the door. “This is Kid, from the agency. He controls electricity.”

Saira shakes his hand. “Aren’t you a little too old for that nickname?”

“It’s not a nickname. It’s my real name.”

“It’s not your real name. If I had to guess, you were adopted by Filipinos at birth, and they gave you the name ‘Kidlat,’ which means ‘lightning.’ When you were older, you shortened it to ‘Kid’ to make yourself seem cool. The fact that you actually control electricity is a coincidence.”

“You’re actually right about all that. How did you know that?”

“Because she’s smart, annoying, and my baby sister.” Amanda holds out her hand for a high-five from her sister but is ignored.

“I have many questions I have to ask you,” Saira says.

“Maybe later. Right now, you’re not safe. We need to get you back to the agency,” he says.

“And what are you two going to do?” Saira asks.

“Amanda’s about to go and get some special training from a friend of mine to get stronger,” he says.

“If she’s going, then I’m going too. I want to get stronger, and I want some answers,” Saira says.

“I can’t. The person training her is very picky.” Kid’s phone begins to ring. He picks up. “Hello?”

“Bring them both to my office, now!” a female voice says, then hangs up.

“That was Ana. You’ve officially been invited, so you can come with your sister. We just have to leave now,” he says.

A portal opens, and Ameena comes through. “Mind if I come along?”

Kid rubs the back of his head. “I don’t think you will fit. So, no.”

“That was a rhetorical question, shrimp. Of course I’m coming.” She sticks her nose in Kid’s face, then licks it.

Kid wipes his face off with his T-shirt. “That was gross.”

She licks his face again. “She’s obviously not safe with you, puny guy. I’m never leaving her side again, unless I’m hungry, or sleepy, or need to use the bathroom.”

“Stop! Why do you keep doing that?” Kid wipes the slobber off with his sleeve.

“So I don’t hurt your feelings after insulting you.”

“Wait, if you knew I was in trouble and can just pop up as you please, where were you when I was getting beat up by Jamie?” Amanda asks.

“If I’m watching, I can see everything you do, but I didn’t see that part. I was probably sleeping. You must have bad luck to get beat up while I was napping.”

“Noted. I’ll try to time when I get attacked according to your sleep schedule. Can you turn into your smaller form so you can fit in his car?”

Ameena turns into a normal dog.

“Ladies, let’s go. You get distracted so easily.” Kid opens the door for them to exit the room. They all walk out.

“Did something happen I should know about?” Saira asks.

“Just some small stuff. I was stabbed by a kid and almost bled to death,” Amanda nonchalantly says.

“This guy stabbed you with the sword on his back?” she asks.

“No, I’ll explain in the car. He always carries that sword on his back to look cool.”

They all head down to Kid’s car. Once inside, Saira sits in the back with Ameena, and Amanda sits up front with Kid.

Saira looks over at Amanda’s deity, which is nibbling on Kid’s leather seats. “Amanda, your dog is chewing on his seats.”

“Really? This is why I don’t like deities in my car!” He looks over at Amanda. “Are you going to tell it to stop?”

Amanda turns around. “Hey, stop!” Ameena bites some of her hair and holds on to it. “Hey! Let go of my hair!” She plays tug-of-war with her hair until some of it comes out and she’s released. “Bad dog!” Ameena begins to growl at Amanda, and Amanda growls back.

“This is ridiculous. Hey, girls, I’m trying to drive here. Flailing your arms around is very distracting.” Boop appears and puts its hands around Kid’s eyes. “What the hell are you doing?” he shrieks.

“Boop, stop,” Saira says, then plucks a feather off Kid. Boop turns around, and a long tongue comes out of its mouth and begins licking Saira’s face.

“Never again. Lesson learned. No more deities in my car!”

Amanda, her crew, and her dog walk into a brown office building, Kid leading the way. They head toward an office door with a sign on it reading, “Knock before entering, or else!” Kid prepares to knock, but Boop shows up and opens the door before he can.

“I really wish you hadn’t done that.” Kid slaps his forehead.

They walk through the door and see an albino woman with red hair looking out the window. She quickly turns around. “Can’t you read? It clearly says knock before you come in!” the woman yells.

“Everyone, this is Ana,” Kid says.

“Why do we have to knock? Kid said you’re always watching him, so you should have seen us coming in,” Amanda says.

A purple grimoire appears in front of Ana, and the pages begin to flip. A bright light shines from inside the book. She focuses on Amanda, then shushes her. Amanda’s lips disappear. “Disrespect is not welcome in my place of work. Do you understand, or should I remove the nose, too?”

“Ana, stop this right now.” Kid places his hand on his sword.

“I apologize for my anger, but sometimes it’s better to put a problem in check in its early stages. I’m going to assume there’ll be no more snarky responses from you.” The pages in her grimoire begin to flip, and a bright white light shines in Ana’s face. Amanda’s lips return. “Take your hand off that sword. You couldn’t strike me down if your life depended on it. Remember what happened to your crew last time you attacked me? Don’t make the same mistake with these girls!” Kid takes his hand off his sword and relaxes.

“Come in and have a seat.” They sit on a white couch. Ana’s face begins to vibrate rapidly, and many faces that look like they’re in agony begin to appear from her like holograms. She stops, grabs a pair of glasses off the desk, and puts them on. She walks over to Amanda and extends her hand. “So, are you Amanda?” Ana puts a genuine smile on her face.

Amanda shakes her hand. “Yes. What just happened to your face?”

“I’ve absorbed many spirits from human and non-human things, so I have to shuffle through them to find the knowledge I need that’s best for the situation. Whenever I do that, they try to break free, which is why they look like they’re in pain.”

“What? When I asked that question, you almost killed me!” Kid complains.

Her smile is replaced by a glower. “Because I hate you for what you did, and I have to refrain from killing you for the time being.” Her glower turns back into a joyous smile. “But anyway, nice to meet you, Amanda. My name is Ana, and I’ll be working with you today. Would you ladies like some tea? It’s unbelievably delicious!”

“Um… sure. I’ll take some, I guess.” Amanda’s unsure whether she should have any because no one else has said anything.

“If you don’t want any, you can say no. I promise I won’t bite. Sometimes my friends in me can be overdramatic, but I’m a lot nicer.” Ana begins to prepare the tea.

“Okay, I’ll pass on the tea,” Amanda says.

“I don’t want any either,” Saira says.

“I’ll pass too,” Kid says.

Ana turns around and stares at all of them. Saira raises her hand.

“No need for any of that. Just treat me like a regular person,” Ana says.

“I noticed you had a grimoire, but no wand, and I didn’t hear you say any incantations when you cast your spell. How did you do it?”

“You should never tell anyone about your powers, unless you trust them, and the information is needed for tactical purposes. Otherwise, the information could be used to exploit a weakness and kill you. However, I’ll tell you my powers and my weakness.” Ana’s face vibrates at a fast speed, and many different voices can be heard coming from her, telling her it’s a bad idea. “Everyone, shut up. I know what I’m doing.”

Amanda side-eyes Kid and Saira. “Am I the only one worried right now?”

“Don’t worry, my loves. No need to be worried. This isn’t Harry Potter. As long as I have my grimoire in front of me and my eyes to see, I can cast spells. You can try to cover my eyes or blind me, but that will just activate my third eye, which doesn’t require sight to see. Then, you’ll be in a worse predicament. Now, let’s not dilly-dally on my powers. Amanda, since you appeared, it’s clear the cycle has restarted, and it’s only a matter of time before the destroyer you have to stop appears again.”

Amanda begins to laugh. “Me, stop a destroyer? I’m not even strong enough to defeat Jamie.”

“I’m aware of that. Let’s discuss the real reason you’re here. You want to become stronger, right?”

“Yes,” Amanda says.

“Why do you want to become stronger, Amanda?”

“I’m sorry to interrupt, but why do you care if she becomes stronger or not?” Saira asks.

“I’m sorry, but I was talking to Amanda, not you, little girl.” Ana switches through spirits, and the words “rude” and “die” can be heard. Her face stops vibrating. “As you can see, there are a lot of spirits in me that want to kill for the smallest of reasons, but as of now, my will power is stronger than theirs. I’ll answer your question for you, young lady. I’ve been handpicked by Shen to recruit a team I think is suitable to stop the destruction of the world, whenever that time comes. Although this wasn’t done the last two times the Earth was threatened, different times call for different measures. Shen believes Akuma is up to something that involves purgatory.”

“Purgatory? Where souls go to be purified?” Saira asks.

“Exactly. The past acolytes were strong enough to take this threat on alone, but Shen must be really worried if he thinks the acolyte of truth will need more help this time around—a lot more help, from what I’ve seen so far. My first pick was Kid, and it turned out to be a good one, considering the fact that he was able to save Amanda. Amanda is my second pick—can’t save the world without the acolyte of truth. I don’t know anything about you, little girl. What type of acolyte are you?”

“I’m the acolyte of transcendence.”

“You’re hired,” Ana immediately responds. “Now, please, no more interruptions. Amanda, answer the question. Why do you want to become stronger?”

“I need to get stronger so I can stop Jamie from trying to kill my sister.”

“That’s all you want?”

“Yeah. What else am I supposed to want?”

“Wanting more power is understandable. But if that’s all you want, you’ll most certainly go mad in the process of obtaining your destructive powers. You already know you’re the chosen one deemed to save humanity, so I’m not going to bore you with a conversation about what you should be doing with more power. I’ll just tell you what to expect when you unlock the yin side of your powers. It’s easy to forget who you are and everything you stand for. In other words, it’s quite easy to become evil without even knowing it. These powers have negative effects on the brain and can make someone delusional to the point where they can’t tell the difference between right and wrong,” Ana explains.

“Maybe that’s what’s wrong with Jamie! He unlocked the yin side of his powers, and he can’t see that what he’s doing is wrong. Is there a way to bring him into the light or make him see the wrong in what he’s doing?” Amanda asks.

“Only if he wants to. Anyone can be convinced about anything. Once again, back to you. Although history says you’re supposed to take a specific path, you could easily take the opposite and become the thing that destroys the earth. Having a broader goal than your own selfish desire can help keep you from succumbing to the negative side effects that comes with the yin side of your powers. If—” Ana is cut off by the sound of Amanda’s phone ringing.

Amanda quickly reaches in her pocket, pulls out her phone, looks at it, then silences it. “I’m sorry. I should have put it on silent.”

“No harm done. We’re all adults here.”

Then, Saira’s phone begins to ring. She takes it out of her pocket and puts it on silent. Ana’s spirits reappear, some screaming, “Kill!” and others yelling, “Don’t do it!”

“It’s getting hard to control myself over here!” Ana snaps.

Kid’s phone begins to ring. He reaches in his pocket and grabs it. Ana’s face begins to vibrate nonstop. Kid picks up the phone. “Hello? Well, they’re not missing. They’re here with me. I’ll just take them back to their mom. Really?” Kid sighs and looks doleful. “Oh, shit. Alright, I’ll take them there now.” He hangs up his phone. “Alright, so apparently your mom thinks you’re both missing, and the police are looking for you.”

“You should have told them we were fine,” Amanda says.

“Also, your mom was in a bad accident and is in the hospital. We have to go now.”

Ana’s faces stop vibrating, and she scowls. “If you succumb to the evil side of your power, I’ll kill you myself,” she rages with a haunting new rasp in her voice. “Anyway, there’s no reason to have you around when there is no one to stop me. Maybe I should just get rid of you now and take the crown as the savior of the world. I care about the humans more than anyone in this room, and there’s no one more equipped than me to get the job done.” The pages in her grimoire begin to flip.

“Shit, she’s lost it. You two get out of here, now!” Kid screams, tossing Amanda the car keys.

Amanda’s deity transforms, grabs Amanda and Saira, and carries them out the window to Kid’s car. Amanda finally listens to the voicemail from the unknown number. It’s a message from the hospital, saying Amanda’s mother is in the ICU. Amanda panics and rushes them to the hospital.

Once inside, the sisters rush to the ICU desk and ask about their mother. The nurses inform them she’s in room fourteen. Amanda, Ameena in her normal dog form, and Saira run into the room. Amanda is crying a river, only to find Jean in perfect condition. She’s looking out the window, staring at a golden eagle sitting on an air conditioning unit on the roof.

“Mom! What happened to you? They called me and left a voicemail saying you were in critical condition,” Amanda says.

Jean turns around. “I’m so happy to see you two!” She gets up and hugs them. “I was in critical condition. With everyone missing, I went out looking for you guys this morning. When I got back home, there was a woman in a mime outfit standing outside my door. When I approached her, she rushed toward me and stabbed me twice. I don’t know how I got to the hospital or anything. The next thing I remember is having this crazy dream with the same doctor that worked on your father. He looked weird and was a different color, but I still recognized him. Then I woke up in here, perfectly fine.”

“Mom, I don’t think that’s a good thing. There’s something I need to tell you,” Amanda says.

“And what’s that?” a male voice says from behind Amanda.

Amanda and Saira both turn around and see Jamie standing in the doorway. Saira steps behind Amanda.

“What are you doing here?” Amanda asks as she backs up.

“Just doing my rounds, checking on your mother. I didn’t mean to interrupt. All I want is your sister; then I’ll be out of your hair forever,” he says.

“You must be infected with rabies if you think I’m going to let you have my sister!”

“There’s no difference between us. We’re both monsters,” he says.

“We’re nothing alike. I’m no monster. I’m not the one going around killing kids.”

“If you stop me from saving my son, you’ll be responsible for killing one. A kill is a kill no matter how you do it. There’s no winner in this situation. Someone has to die, and I refuse to let it be my son. Your actions caused this to happen to your mother, and what you do next will determine what happens to a lot more innocent people.”

Jean walks in front of Amanda until she is eye-to-eye with Jamie. She hears a large church bell ring, then rubs her ears. “I don’t know what’s going on here, but you need to stay away from my daughters.”

“Get out of my face!” Jamie screams.

“No! You need to get out of here right now,” she screams.

“Poor choice of words. Anyone who owes me a favor can never say no to me.” He smiles slyly.

Jean’s skin rots away instantly, followed by her muscles, then her bones. She turns to dust within seconds.

Amanda stands there slack jawed, tears rolling down her face. She begins to huff and puff. “Jamie!”

Jamie’s bracelets form his black cloak and thread away the skin on his hands until nothing but bone shows. Chips of the right side of his face fall off, revealing bone, and a golden crescent appears in the middle of his forehead.

“Amanda, if you’re going to do something, you’d better do it now,” Saira calmly instructs.

“I won’t let you get away with this!” Amanda snarls.

“Ameena, kill him,” Saira commands.

Ameena does a front flip and transforms into her standing form, then launches toward Jamie, her hand glowing with pink energy shaped like a blade. A portal opens, and Chigaru jumps out and grabs her wrist before she can make contact.

“Get this dog out of my face,” Jamie orders.

Ameena’s tail quickly grows and engulfs Amanda and her sister in a ball of fur. Chigaru punches Ameena’s forehead, sending her flying through the wall and miles into the city, where she crashes through buildings and stops in a pile of rubble.

Ameena shakes off the rubble and undoes her tail. Amanda and Saira come out unharmed. “You girls should run and hide.”

“I agree,” Saira says, getting up from the ground.

“I want him to die. Give me the power to kill.” Amanda grinds her teeth and digs her fingernails into the palms of her hands.

“You can’t beat him,” Saira says.

A shadow covers the girls and Ameena. They look up in the sky and see a giant golden eagle the size of a pterodactyl in the air. The bird dives toward the girls.

“Oh, boy. That’s a big bird. Well, do you ladies want a wing or a thigh?” Ameena asks.

Saira looks straight and sees Chigaru barreling toward them, quickly approaching.

Ameena clenches her fists. “Saira, get out of here with your deity and try to escape that bird. I’m with Amanda on this one. That jerk punched me on my forehead, and it really hurt. He needs to be taught a lesson.”

Saira gives Ameena a thumbs-up and begins running away. “Boop, if you can hear me, keep me alive.”

“Die!” Amanda shrieks, stomping her feet in rage.

“If you’re asking me for destructive power, that’s a negative. Just protect your sister and run,” Leyna says.

“He must die,” Amanda says.

“You need to be able to activate your yin to kill, and you don’t have that ability yet, so you can’t kill him. I could take over your body and forcefully activate it, but I don’t recommend that. To successfully and safely activate your yin, you and I must sync our minds and spirits together and see eye to eye. We haven’t reached that point yet. If I try to activate it on my own, I’ll be consumed by that evil instantly, becoming something else. Every yin has a small light of hope in it. Without your light, there’s nothing to stop me from being consumed by the evil completely, and once that happens, you’re gone. There’s no turning back. No one will be safe, and eventually the energy in this body will burn out, and it will become a useless corpse. Then who’s going to protect your sister?”

“I don’t care. I want to kill him! He killed both of my parents. I want him to die. Switch with me and kill him!” Amanda yells out.

“Oh, boy. Well, whatever you’re going to do, you’d better do it. The doggy is getting ready to attack,” Ameena says.

Chigaru appears in front of Ameena in the blink of an eye and wraps her completely in bandages. Two pink blades of energy that look like buzz saws slice through the bandages, cutting them in half, and knock the front piece toward Chigaru. Chigaru quickly knocks it out of the way, but Ameena is already inches away from stabbing him with her pink energy blades. Chigaru catches both blades with his hands, which start to bleed. The pink blades begin to extend, pushing him back.

Chigaru’s eyes glow black. “Gods that have been damned by my wrath, rise!”

Two sarcophagi come out of the concrete street. The sarcophagi open, and two tall, muscly men in jackal masks come out. Ameena makes her blades disappear and dashes backward.

“It’s been a while since I’ve seen my own blood.” Chigaru looks over at the identical men. “Well, let’s kill her before the boy kills that weak girl over there.”

One of the muscled men claps his hands, creating a strong wind that blows Ameena back. The other reaches her before she can regain control and uppercuts her in the air through some buildings. Chigaru laughs and flies toward the building Ameena was hit through. When Chigaru flies into the air, Jamie approaches Amanda, whose eyes are full of rage.

Slowly, something that matches the skin of Amanda’s kundalini begins to grow from her back—but instead of looking like a white film negative, it now looks like the inverted version of one, matching the yin side of her powers.

Jamie reaches Amanda, swings his blade, and hits Amanda in her stomach, then lifts her up in the air.

“Did I break you? If you had given up this easily earlier, maybe your parents would still be alive. I took pity on you again. You have time to bargain and join my side before you bleed out.” Jamie frowns as he notices she’s not bleeding. He looks down at the end of his blade and is shocked to find it isn’t piercing her skin but is being held by a pair of large black kundalini hands sprouting from her back. Jamie’s hand begins to glow a purplish black. “Nice tricks, Amanda. Let’s see if you can survive this.”

His legs are kicked out from under him as he lets a huge blast of purplish-black energy into the air. He falls to his back but is quickly picked up by his leg and slammed back and forth on the ground like a rag doll. He kicks Amanda in her face, then falls to the ground and gets up.

“Amanda, what did you do to yourself?” He stares at Amanda as her skin is covered with the black skin of her kundalini. He breaks his scythe in half, slices the air in front of him, creating two black slits.

“Amanda’s not here. Leyna’s in control now.” Amanda lets out a roar as her skin becomes completely covered with the black kundalini skin. She now has two extra arms coming out of her back, with hands the size of baseball gloves. She’s a few feet taller and has thicker, more toned legs, large feet, black static eyes, and white pupils. She lets out another roar, letting out a large red blast from her mouth. It goes through the black slit Jamie left, and he barely dodges the energy blast by sliding into the slit above him and disappearing. The red blast hits a building, creating a huge explosion and completely destroying it, killing everyone inside.

Jamie carefully exposes the skeleton part of his hand from the black slit in front of Leyna, preparing to touch her, but she grabs his hand and slings him onto the ground. He recovers and begins dashing backward, but she instantly rushes forward and punches him, sending him flying through the glass of a building.

That thing is quick and reckless. Her hand should be useless after touching mine, he thinks to himself. He quickly stands to his feet and begins twirling his reversed scythe around, creating a circle of slits within the lobby of the building. The scythe with the regular blade begins to glow purplish black. Jamie looks up and sees another large red blast coming toward him, and he hides in his slit, barely avoiding the blast. The entire building is destroyed, killing everyone inside.

Jamie peeks through one of the slits and sees the monster looking around for him. Jamie is in complete darkness and can only see light from the slits he’s left in the air. He moves over to the next slit and sees the back of the monster. He takes his scythe and swings it out of the slit, creating a purple blade of energy that hits her in the back. She turns around and quickly attacks the slit, but her hand just goes through it. He peeks through a different slit and sees her back.

This doesn’t make any sense. She should be rapidly decaying after that hit, he thinks to himself. He begins to appear from multiple slits, unleashing the same attack to hit her. He peeks through a slit and sees the monster barely starting to decay. Making progress with this dumb beast. If I stay relentless with the attacks, I should be able to win this easily.

Leyna does the ritual to bring out her rose-gold guns and thinks of a bullet that could go inside the slit, then shoots one into each slit. From inside the slit, Jamie’s arm is skimmed by one of the bullets.

Nothing should be able to enter this space. This is going to be harder than I thought.

Another bullet goes into one of the slits, and it explodes, covering a wide radius.

Shit.

Multiple bullets come through, exploding one after the other, forcing Jamie to come out of the slit. Leyna quickly meets him and slams his face into the ground. He tries to move, but she stomps on his back repeatedly, forcing him to spit out blood. “Wait! Stop! I have a son who needs me. Don’t kill me! Please!”

***

Across town, Chigaru begins to fade in and out as he continues to fight Ameena. “Damn it! Don’t tell me this boy is getting ready to die?” He stops pursuing Ameena, then flies quickly toward Jamie. His henchmen follow him.

***

Leyna continues stomping on Jamie’s back, and the beating causes his cloak to unwind and go back into his bracelet.

From out of nowhere, a large net pins Leyna on top of Jamie.

A helicopter with “ATRA” painted on the side hovers above them. Inside the helicopter are two people in body-tight metal suits and helmets flickering with red and blue lights.

“Looks like we caught the two who are destroying the city. Takedown was a success. Ground team, you are now free to move in,” the man in the helicopter says. Four soldiers holding swords and guns, wearing the same outfit as the people in the helicopter, appear out of thin air around Jamie and Leyna. They all simultaneously point their guns at them; then, Ana descends from the sky, legs crossed, wearing a red hood, and holding an open grimoire. A black hole opens underneath Jamie and Leyna, and they both fall through with the net on them. The black hole closes right before the soldiers start shooting. Then, another black hole opens in front of her, and she flies through it. The black hole closes.

Another black hole opens above the ground, and Jamie falls through and lands on his back. One of the soldiers in the helicopter zooms in with a function inside his mask, scanning his face. The display inside his mask reads, Arrest on sight; active.

“He’s wanted. Bag him and bring him in,” one of the soldiers says. Jamie is wrapped in another net and reeled into the sky. They fly away and vanish.

Chigaru shows up with his henchman as Jamie is taken away. “Damn that boy. I’m done saving him. It’s time for him to learn from his mistakes.” He waves his hand, and his henchmen disappears. He opens his portal and jumps into it, and it closes.

***

Miles from where Jamie and Leyna have been fighting, Saira is hiding from the giant eagle inside of a fancy hotel bathroom. She hears screams and the sound of things breaking coming from outside.

“I shouldn’t have trapped myself in a concealed place like this. There’s nothing to swap with. Boop, get me out of here.” She looks around and doesn’t see him. “Hmm, still not here.” She hops off the toilet she was standing on and opens the stall. She creeps to the door and slowly opens it, then peeks out the door and sees the entire lobby covered in trees and vines.

She begins walking, trying to avoid the vines on the floor, but accidently steps on a twig. Vines swiftly wrap around her feet and drag her across the floor, pulling her outside. The vines hold her up in the sky, and the golden eagle swoops down and prepares to snatch up Saira.

Saira sees Ameena running toward her on the side of a building, a pink saw blade made of energy above her hand. She launches it toward her. The blade reaches the vine and cuts Saira free right before the golden eagle reaches her, but the golden eagle continues its pursuit as she falls and catches her in its talons. It begins to fly back into the sky, but before it gets too high, Ameena grabs onto the eagle’s legs and holds on. Strong vines wrap around Ameena’s legs. She looks back and sees that Jacob’s deity has vines coming out of his white short-sleeved shirt, wrapping around her ankle. The eagle struggles to fly away. A pink saw blade forms at the base of Ameena’s foot and begins to spin, cutting one of the vines holding her leg. She swings her leg and cuts the other vine. The eagle flies away.

“Thanks. I needed a lift away from those creeps, but whether you’re friend or foe, this girl is coming with me.” Ameena’s hand glows with a pink energy blade, and she swipes at the bird’s legs, forcing it to drop Saira. She grabs Saira, lets go of the eagle’s leg, opens up a portal beneath them, and they both fall through before it closes.

The portal reopens in Ameena’s world, and Ameena steps out into a snowstorm with Saira in her hands. She throws Saira in the snow.

“That feels good, right? I love this stuff!” Ameena dives in the snow and starts making a snow angel.

Saira shivers. “It’s so cold, and my body feels so heavy.”

“Oh, you’ll be fine. Don’t worry your pretty little face. You’ll get used to the gravity here.” She makes a snowball and throws it at Saira.

Saira’s teeth chatter. “No, I won’t survive long in these conditions. I can feel my body going numb.”

“Okay, since you’re going to be a baby about it, I’ll get you somewhere warm.” Ameena wraps Saira in her tail. “Since your deity doesn’t talk, how would you like to train with me and get stronger?”

“Please get me somewhere warm,” Saira mumbles through the tail.

“Yeah, yeah, yeah.” Ameena jumps through the snow and into a forest.

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