Hope's Bright!

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True Strength

Blaze stood in front of them with a malicious smile on his face. Ray still couldn’t believe that he had betrayed Twilight Heart without hesitating. It hurt to think that someone Ray once considered a friend would just turn against him like that. With a click of his tongue, Ray knew what he had to do.

“I won’t let you get away with this,” Ray yelled, running towards Blaze to attack him. “I’ll stop you right here and now.”

Blaze used his magic to create a powerful gust of wind to push Ray back towards a wall. Ray hit the wall with such force that the bruises across his arms, legs and back began to sting again. The marks on his hand had faded, and the pain from his previous fight was slowly returning.

“I have to admit; you’re quite strong Valero, even if you’ve never beaten me in a fight before. That last attack should have knocked you out. It’s such a shame you are so stubborn. You could have been a valuable ally,” Blaze claimed standing over him.

“I d-d-don’t understand… w-was everything just some st-stupid lie?” Ray stuttered.

“That’s right,” Blaze stated with a cold and brittle tone like the first ice of autumn. The malice in his voice could make the smallest and finest hair stand up on end. “I was only acted your friend to get you to trust me, after all. It was all for this moment; I never cared about anything but my desire to destroy you all.”

Ray slowly got up. With a pain in his chest, he took a deep breath. Ray knew that any attacks he aimed towards Blaze would be slower than usual. Even for an Elemental, Blaze was incredibly powerful. His control of the air and the ability to create storms was what made him a difficult person to face in battle. Perhaps even more challenging than Dimetrios Tuff, but he had to stop Blaze no matter what it cost him.

“I won’t let you get what you want; I’ll stop you,” Ray stated.

“Really? In that condition? I highly doubt that,” Blaze sniggered.

“You guys need to get out of here,” Ray yelled, ignoring Blaze’s comment. “I’ll stay here and keep him busy.”

“But Ray…” Pennie began.

“I’ll be fine. Only a full Elemental stands a chance against him,” Ray yelled. “Just hurry up and go already!”

“He’s right, let Brayden hold him off so we can call the MLC for help,” Master Isaac ordered.

As they reluctantly began to run towards the exit Blaze laughed again.

“Did you really think I would just let them go like that?” Blaze moved his hand towards the others. “I wonder how you’ll react if they are all destroyed right in front of you?”

He created hurricane-like winds that hurtled towards the members of Twilight Heart. The rumbling sound of the winds ripping through the entire room was so deep and loud it almost sounded like thunder.

“No!” Ray shouted. He knew that with his injuries he wasn’t fast enough to reach them in time, nor were they fast enough to escape the fast travelling attack.

Suddenly a massive brown rock wall appeared and blocked Blaze’s attack, which spread from one wall of the cathedral to the other. The collision of the two opposite elements created an explosive boom. When the rough textured wall crumbled from the pressure and made clattering noises as the individual stones hit the ground, Ray found Dimetrios Tuff guarding Pennie and the others.

“Looks like I made it just in time Valero,” he smirked.

“What do you want now?!” Ray growled.

“I’m taking your advice, moron!” Dimetrios yelled back, “You focus on that jerk and I’ll get your pals to safety.”

Ray hated it, but he had no choice but to trust the Earth Elemental, “Fine. Make sure no harm comes to them, or you’ll be sorry.”

Ray turned to Blaze Tooronga as he watched Dimetrios and the others run away out of the corner of his eyes. However, Pennie began to move towards him. She stood next to him and prepared her stance for battle.

“What are you doing? You should run now before you get hurt,” Ray told her.

She shook her head, “No, I’m staying here to fight with you. You seem like you’re in pain. You can object all you like, but I can tell. I’m going to help if you like it or not, so I refuse to take no for an answer.”

Ray wanted to tell Pennie that he was fine, that she should be worried about herself. However, all he could do was smile and be thankful she was by his side. It was going to be a fierce battle so he needed all the help he could get. Ray nodded in agreement and Pennie began her summoning ritual. “How annoying, I was hoping to avoid this,” Blaze growled, as Pennie began her summoning ritual.

“Did you think I’ll hold back long enough for you to get ready?” Blaze said as he ran towards them to attack.

Ray took a deep breath and mustered all the magic he could to create a massive wall of flames, blocking Blaze from their path. He didn’t know how long it would last, but Ray just had to keep Blaze away long enough for Pennie to summon something. Pennie finished her summoning, and a new summon called Sean appeared in front of her. Ray could feel how powerful the one she called Sean Shadow Buster was and felt more confident about the battle ahead.

“Sean, I need you to help Ray defeat Blaze!” Pennie ordered.

“It would be an honour to fight alongside with a Valero again.” Sean bowed.

“Err… sure…” Ray said, not knowing what the shadow was talking about.

With a loud boom of lightning hitting the floor Ray’s flames disappeared. Blaze walked towards them with a dark and cold expression on his face.

“How annoying, I was hoping to avoid this,” Blaze growled. “You guys were the ones I hated the least. Perhaps you would have been able to save this world if things were different. However, since it’s come to this, I have no choice but to end your lives.”

“That’s not going to happen, there’s no way we are dying today,” Ray smiled as his flames filled the room once more. “Because...”

“We’ll defeat you no matter what!” Pennie and Ray shouted together.

The battle had been very evenly matched. One minute Ray and Sean were overpowering Blaze, and the next Blaze had sent Ray flying backwards. Fire, wind and lightning filled the building; the power was so intense that Pennie was struggling to remain standing. It was shocking that Blaze had managed to take on two people at once and it hardly seemed that he was struggling at all. Ray and Sean leapt towards Blaze to attack, there was such a great distance from each other that it would have been impossible to dodge or block both of them at once. However, with a single movement from Blaze, a massive gust of wind pushed Ray and Sean back simultaneously.

“Come now, is that all you got,” Blaze snarled with a wicked smile.

“Impossible…” Pennie muttered in shock. “How could one person be this strong?”

Pennie watched as Ray got back to his feet. It was horrible, Ray had already sustained so many injuries from his battle with Dimetrios, and his condition only worsened as he continued to fight with Blaze. Blood ran down his arms as he shook his head and ran back towards the battle. That fight was so much more horrific than the one against Dimetrios, which made Pennie wonder why the mark his on hand wasn’t there. With each passing moment, Ray became slower and weaker, but Pennie could do nothing but hope that another miracle would occur.

Suddenly a stray lightning bolt came hurtling towards her. She had been so focused on Ray that she hadn’t noticed it until the last second and couldn’t move fast enough to dodge it. Sean just managed to grab her and guide her to safety just in time.

“Careful Pennie, it’s dangerous here.” Sean stated as he put her down, “I’m going to stay here to protect you.”

“But you need to fight, you could get rid of Blaze’s power!” she said

“Unfortunately it will only work a couple of times on an Elemental” Sean replied.

“Could you dispel Ray’s magic so that he can stop fighting and you can take over for him?” Pennie asked. “He’s in a lot of trouble.”

“My little trick won’t work on the Valero kid,” Sean explained, “and besides it was him who asked me to protect you.”

“But Ray…” Pennie interjected.

“Will be all right on his own.” Sean ensured her. “He is a Valero after all.”

Unsure what Sean meant by that Pennie sighed. She looked to Brayden once more. She was surprised to see him being more defensive. He kept leaping around Blaze and dodging his attacks instead of going in for attack himself. The patterns he was creating was as if he was setting something up. A strong tornado blew him into the air. As he hurtled towards the ground, Ray rotated his body, so he landed on his feet and skid across the floor.

“Why have you attacked us like this?” Ray growled as he grimaced in pain.

“Do you really have to make me repeat myself?” Blaze snarled. “Twilight Heart isn’t strong enough to fix this corrupted world. In fact, it’s probably just going to get in the way. I have to get rid of it to make my desires come true.”

“And what would that be?” Ray asked as jumped into the air and hurtled himself towards Blaze, attempting to kick him.

“The same as you, I want to save Le Alba. But first I have to destroy all those who have made me suffer,” Blaze replied, blocking Ray’s attack with his arm. “To do that I need power. I’ll become so strong that all those who seek to wrong this world will be too frightened to act against me. Once all those who threaten Le Alba have been annihilated by my hand, things will finally change for the better. The first ones to go are the hypocrites within Twilight Heart who only fight for their own selfish gain.”

“But you’ll never save anyone if you rule upon fear. Twilight Heart’s goal is to save the world; how could we be saviours if we hurt others along the way?!” Ray yelled, landing on his feet and preparing to attack Blaze again.

“Only the weak feel that way. After all, only the strong are respected in this day and age,” Blaze stated as he kicked Ray in the stomach which sent him backwards. “Peaceful days never last. Not as long as selfish people try to force the world to fit their perfect image while everyone else does nothing but watch and foolishly hope that things will get better. That’s what’s wrong with you people. You claim you want to save this country, but you won’t do whatever it takes. If we want the power to liberate Le Alba, we have to crush everyone in our way.”

Ray leapt off his hands to perform a back handspring. Flame erupted from his feet as he flew towards Blaze.

“You’ve forgotten the true reason for fighting!” Ray yelled, “It’s not about power and destroying the enemy! It’s about helping those in need and protecting what’s important to you!”

Pennie watched in amazement. Even though he had sustained more injuries than Blaze, Ray’s attack began to get faster, and Blaze began to find it harder to dodge his attacks.

“To protect those people you need power!” Blaze bellowed as one of his lightning attacks knocked Ray into the air. “Without it, we are nothing, without it those we love will die. There is nothing else for me but my ambition to eliminate those who took everything from me.”

“It’s not always about power! True strength is about dedication and faith! Those who focus too much on power tend to miss little details,” !” Ray said jumping backwards. With a sly smirk on his face, he looked up at Blaze with an astute gaze. He stood tall and proud, confident in himself and Twilight Heart as he clenched his hand into fists. “ Just like how you missed the trap I set up!”

Blaze was too busy on his full frontal attack to notice Ray’s cunning plan. Pennie smiled. Knowing Ray, their victory was assured. A red light circled Blaze as small flames appeared from the ground.

“What’s this?!” Blaze growled.

“I knew I didn’t have much of a chance beating you.” Ray admitted, “I had sustained too many injuries from a previous fight, and my usual power moves wouldn’t cut it. So I decided to try something new.”

“Impossible this would…” Blaze began.

Ray clasped his hands together, so they sat flat against one another and prepared the spell, “You can’t judge me or lecture me on my beliefs or tell me what I can and can’t do until you’ve learnt your own place!”

Pillars of fire erupted from the ground and created a cage, the resounding roar of the flame echoing through the room and causing the ground to shake. The burning embers were so bright and powerful as it swallowed Blaze whole. The intensity of the attack made the building shake, and ash and cinders flew into the air, creating a thick cloud of smoke which would make it difficult for anyone inside to breathe. Pennie watched as the flames, smoke and cinders disappeared. Blaze stood still and began to lose his balance. He stepped backwards, his hair falling into his face as he began to breathe heavily. It looked as if he was unable to move his right arm while he held the other across his body. Ray stood a few feet in front of Blaze, trying to catch his breath and looking like the tress of the battle had caught up to him.

There was silence. No one moved for a couple of minutes before Blaze began to laugh. Blaze made a loud growling sound and clicked his tongue.

“I must say I’m impressed. I don’t believe anyone has injured me this much before. If someone has, it escapes my memory,” he stated. “My right arm might be slightly paralysed for now, but that won’t last for long. I am far from done.”

“No way…” Pennie stuttered with shock. “Even after all of that, he can still fight?”

Pennie looked towards Ray. She could tell just by looking at him that he no longer had the strength to fight. She guessed that he must have used to last of his energy in his final attack against Blaze.

“It looks to me that you have finally reached your limit,” Blaze narrowed his eye, with a devilish grin and a patronising tone. “I believe there are things you still aspire to do. So why not give up now and I might just let you live.”

Ray did not move. Time seemed to freeze as he looked up at Blaze with a dark expression on his face.

“I can keep fighting too. I’m not backing down no matter what,” Ray snarled.

Blaze’s expression changed. There was a long silence as he began to step backwards.

“Wh-what, why can’t I?” Blaze muttered. “What is this feeling?”

Pennie watched Blaze stand in silence as if he was almost frozen in place. Although it was hard to make out Pennie could have sworn Blaze’s eyes were wide with fear. With a click of his tongue, Blaze struggled to clasp his hands together. The clap of his hands made a bellowing noise almost like thunder. Once he did, lightning and wind began to circle around him, and he began to disappear.

“I’ll retreat for now, but next time won’t be so pleasant.” He growled as he faded away. “You will regret this, Brayden Valero.”

Pennie sighed with relief once Blaze’s transportation was complete. She didn’t expect for Blaze to retreat so suddenly. She began to wonder if it was some kind of trick, that in the very next minute, Blaze would return and attack. She turned to Sean. He performed a low bow and disappeared, confirming that they had successfully won the battle. She looked towards Ray. He stood tall in his wake of victory. She was amazed at his fighting skill, amazed at how he spoke and how he continued to fight despite being at a disadvantage. As she stared at him, her heart began to beat so fast that she couldn’t help but stare at him in amazement.

“Ray… truly is amazing,” she said with a sigh.

Ray’s knees buckled and gave way. He no longer had the strength to stand. He lay on his back and sighed.

“I don’t want to move anymore,” he said with a sigh.

His body ached all over, and he felt exhausted. Two battles in a row had taken their toll on him. In fact, he was surprised he was still alive. There was a ringing in his ears, and his head spun. He was glad it was over because any minute longer and he wouldn’t have made it.

“Are you okay?” Pennie asked who had walked over to him and crouched over him.

“Not really…” he said honestly. “But I will be after a long nap.”

Pennie chuckled, “You really are an idiot.”

“No, I’m not,” Ray growled.

Pennie lay next to him, “I’m exhausted too, so let’s just lay here till someone comes to get us.”

Ray frowned. He didn’t realise how much stress Pennie had gone to through the whole ordeal. For some reason, he began to think it was his fault. They lay side by side in silence for a while before Ray spoke up.

“I’m sorry” he muttered.

“Huh why?” Pennie asked turning her head towards him.

He turned away from her, “It’s my fault that you got caught in this mess. I was the one who brought you to Twilight Heart.”

“No, there’s nothing for you to feel bad about,” Pennie said shaking her head, reaching out and grabbing onto his hand. She smiled at him with rosy cheeks as he turned to her in surprise. “I guess I never thanked you for that.”

“Thank you for getting me into Twilight Heart, Ray” she smiled happily. “Believe it or not, even during the scary parts I’ve had a lot of fun. I’m glad I got be meet you, and I’m glad I joined Twilight Heart.”

Ray smiled back at her as they both looked up to the roof and laughed.

“Yeah, I’m glad you did too,” he said with a chuckle.

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