Hope's Bright!

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The Battle Intensifies

Pennie held her breath as Sabra held a knife at her throat. Her whole body hurt, she was terrified, and she was useless. She was so weak she was unable to free herself from Sabra’s grasp. The boiling sun peaked through the holes in the ceiling, causing the room to be unbearably hot and made her even more uncomfortable. Sabra’s grip tightened making her unable move at all, and the only thing she could see was Ray. He stood in a few meters in front of her, watching her with a worried expression. His eyes darted from her to Sabra and back again multiple times as he bit onto his lip. It was like he was frantically going through all of his options of what he was supposed to do next but not having any luck finding an answer.

“Wait a minute, I think I’ll kill her anyway. In fact, I’ll kill all of them,” Sabra laughed.

Pennie couldn’t hear anything after that, she was so afraid her heart beat so hard in her chest that her ears began to ring. She closed her eyes as she began to tremble. She kept thinking that if it weren’t for her, Ray would have defeated Sabra already. Suddenly there was a huge explosion. Pennie opened her eyes to find flames bursting into the air and rubble from the ceiling falling to the ground. The power from the fire was so strong that it caused a massive gust of wind knocking both her and Sabra back slightly. Once the flames subsided, Pennie could see Ray again, except his expression had changed. His eyes were closed, his hair was no longer pulled back with hair clips, and his head was down, but Pennie could tell that he was absolutely furious by the way he gritted his teeth and clenched his fists. The flames that circled his body were more ferocious than Pennie had ever seen. They were a deep orange colour and were so wild that they looked menacing. She believed that it was only her eyes tricking her, but she thought she saw some of the flames flicker to black.

“Let her go, or die,” Ray snarled. He looked up and opened his eyes. They were frighteningly cold and almost as menacing as his flames. Even his voice sent chills down Pennie’s spine. However, she could not draw her attention away from his eyes. There was something very strange about them. Not only did they seem to glow slightly, but his pupils had turned to an odd shape that almost looked like diamonds.

“Looks like I hit a nerve,” Sabra laughed. “And just how do you plan to do that? I’m a man of my word, take a single step, and I kill her.”

“I don’t need to get any closer to make you learn your place,” Ray growled.

“Is that so? And how are you going to attack me from there?” Sabra sneered. “I know for a fact that all of your long-distance spells will put her in danger too. Face it already, I’ve…”

Three sharp flaming objects flew at Sabra’s hand and dug into his skin. He shouted in pain as he let go of the knife and it clattered to the ground. A second after the noise echoed in Pennie’s ears, Ray was beside her. He punched Sabra in the face with his left fist, causing him to lose his grip on Pennie and was sent flying backwards. Despite the impact of the blow, he managed to stay on his feet. Gasping for air Pennie fell to her knees, watching Sabra as he looked at Ray in disbelief. The flames that covered the objects in his hands went out, and they fell out. As they hit the floor, Pennie recognised them as the charred remains of Ray’s hair clips.

“How?” Sabra snarled, as he watched his blood drip from his hand and onto his shoes. “How could such flimsy objects do such damage?”

“Anything can be used as a weapon if you know how to do it,” Ray replied in a dark tone. His deep and unforgiving voice sent chills down Pennie’s spine. He was furious, the last time she had seen him like that was when Visola played with his emotions. Except he was even angrier and looked like he wanted to burn Sabra until he was nothing but a pile of ash. “Now, how about you stop being a coward and fight me head on?”

“Curse you Valero, if it weren’t for the Dark Oviri I would skin you alive,” Sabra snapped. “However, you’ve made a massive mistake. You undid that Toivoa spell so I can use magic again. Saving that pathetic summoner will be your undoing.”

“Like I give a shit what you think,” Ray stated with an evil smile as he summoned his flames to his hands again. “Since you know so much about me, you probably know that I only keep my fire magic hot enough to knock someone out. It’s what I’ve been trained to do. I wonder though, what will happen to you if I make them as hot as possible?”

“Ha! I’d like to see you try!” Sabra laughed as Shadow Eye reformed.

Ray hurtled himself towards Sabra and attempted to punch him again. However, Sabra was ready for him and dodged. He then tried to do a roundhouse kick, but it was dodged again. No matter how many times Ray swung his fists or attempted to kick, burn or punch Sabra, the diabolical man was always able to avoid him. It didn’t take Pennie long to notice that Ray was fighting differently than usual. Each move was very reckless, leaving himself open to be attacked. The fire he created so hot and vicious that no one else could get even near him or Sabra to help.

“Stop dodging and fight!” Ray yelled, the flames around his fist becoming larger as he went to punch Sabra in the face again.

Sabra didn’t dodge, he stood perfectly still as Ray’s fiery left fist hurtled towards him. At the last second, Sabra grabbed hold of his wrist with his right hand. Pennie watched in shock as Ray froze, seemingly just as surprised as she was that the attack was stopped. She could smell the burning of skin as Sabra let go, making a small yelp in pain.”

“My, you’ve suddenly become very powerful, I guess I really pissed you off,” Sabra laughed, placing up his hands and revealing his deep red and blistering right palm. “In saying that though, you are quite weak compared little miss Azaliea. Such a shame that a mere semi can outclass a full elemental. I guess your amnesia has made you quite weak and pathetic.”

“Shut up!” Ray shouted, attempting to punch Sabra again.

However, that time Sabra was faster. He lifted his leg and hurtled it towards the right Ray’s head. He only just noticed in time to block it. Sabra attacked again, turning around to kick Ray in the stomach, which he barely managed to block. Suddenly he was on the defensive, barely being able to block and dodge. Sabra began to laugh as he became more vicious and relentlessly attacked.

“I have you on the ropes, Valero,” he sneered, not showing any sign of stopping. Every attack seemed to become more focused on Ray’s right side. “I know for a fact that you are left-handed. Whether it’s your arms or your legs, you are freakishly strong on your left side that you’re almost not human. Your right side isn’t as strong, and you are a little slower too. Perhaps if I keep attacking that side, I’ll break through.”

“That won’t happen you prick!” Ray growled becoming more used to Sabra’s blows.

“Perhaps you are right. However…” Sabra laughed, swinging his fist towards the right side of Ray’s head again. Knowing that it was coming, he placed his arms in the best position to block him. Once he did, a massive smile appeared on Sabra’s face. “There is one place where you are the weakest and most vulnerable.”

Ray’s eyes went wide as Sabra switched his attack in an instant, successfully kicking Ray in the upper left torso. Ray gasped in pain as he sent flying sideways and falling to his knees. Pennie watched as Ray gripped onto where Sabra had kicked him and grimaced in pain.

“Ah just as I thought, your practically indestructible body is weakest at that point,” Sabra smiled, walking towards Ray. “I heard that out of all the injuries you had when they found you, that area was the worst. It was so bad you still feel extraordinary pain if hit.”

Pennie trembled as she watched Ray, who attempted to get back up but couldn’t because his legs were too shaken. As his eyes returned to normal, he looked up at Sabra with a pained expression, still clutching his side.

“Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear. Can’t get back up? Seems my hunch was better than I thought,” Sabra laughed. “Now, what to do, what to do? With each passing moment, my desire to kill you becomes stronger. To take down an almighty Valero would put my name down in history. I almost want to kill you as much as I want to kill little miss Azaliea.”

With that one sentence, Ray’s eyes filled with fear. Sabra’s laugh became higher pitched as the look of an absolutely insane person appeared on his face.

“Oh, but I can’t kill you. Such a shame. I was ordered not to, so I won’t, no matter how badly I want to,” Sabra claimed maniacally, as he reached his hands towards Ray. “But that doesn’t mean I can’t snap every inch of your body to pieces! As long as you don’t die, I can keep torturing and breaking you for as long as I want!”

Before he could grab onto Ray, a small grey dagger with green, orange and black markings flew past Pennie and lodged itself deeply into Sabra’s arm. His arm went limp as blood began to fall from the wound. It gave Dimetrios a chance to grab onto Ray and carry him away from Sabra. Pennie turned to the direction the dagger had come from to find that Blaze had regained consciousness. He held his upper body up with his arm while the other one was stretched out, still in the position he used to throw the dagger.

“Blaze…you…” Pennie muttered, noticing that Blaze was breathing heavily.

“Is that all you’ve got?” Sabra laughed, pulling the dagger out of his arm and looking at Blaze with a dark expression. “Your brain must be beginning to rot, you damn zom…”

Before Sabra could finish his sentence, Blaze squinted his right eye shut and clicked his fingers. Once he did lightning struct Sabra from the blade in his hand, causing him to scream in pain.

“Stupid, filthy, pathetic little zombie. How dare you attack me like that after all I’ve done for you?” Sabra muttered as the electricity died down to sizzling sparks. “I should really send you back to the grave to rot, just like you’re supposed to. However, if you apologise and team up with me to destroy these pathetic excuses for Oviri, perhaps I’ll forgive you and let you live. Now, kill them.”

Sabra clicked his fingers, just like he had done to control Blaze the first time. However, it didn’t work, causing him to click his fingers frantically several times.

“That won’t work anymore. I’m more awake now than I have been in years,” Blaze stated as he shakily got to his feet. “It won’t matter how many times you threaten me or try to control me. I’ll never do as you say. They may never forgive me for what I did, but there is no way I’ll let you lay another hand on Twilight Heart ever again. If you want to kill them, you’ll have to get through me.”

“Blaze, you finally came back to help us,” Pennie sighed with relief.

“I don’t know if we can trust you, but we are glad to have your help,” Kaela stated. “You do realise you still need to be punished though, right?”

“Of course, I really have no choice but to accept punishment after everything I’ve done,” Blaze sighed. “There is a lot I must apologise for, but that will have to wait for now.”

Blaze turned his gaze back to Sabra who began to mutter angrily under his breath.

“Rotten zombie! Damn Twilight Heart! Pathetic! Useless! You all must die!” Sabra yelled, the last shred of sanity he had disappearing as he tightened the grip on Blaze’s dagger. “I will kill you all! You shall all be punished for accepting something as stupid as peace!”

“I finally have the one who killed my friends in my grasp. However, it seems my job has to come first,” Blaze stated, reaching out his arm with an open palm. Once he did the dagger in Sabra’s hand removed itself from his grasp and flew towards Blaze. He grabbed onto it, as soon as it did it transformed into his axe and pointed it towards Sabra. “Now then, Sabra Blackwell of the anti-government guild Destruction. By order of the next in line to the seat of Earl of Aria, Blaze Aliené, I condemn your crimes. For the murder of many and for tarnishing the great will of Aria you are convicted of high treason and will be punished by the hands of Twilight Heart.”

Taking a deep breath, Ray took the time that Sabra was distracted on Blaze’s attack to regain his composure. His side was still stinging from the attack, but he managed to get back on his feet. He couldn’t believe that Sabra had perfectly kicked him where his scars were and knew exactly what would happen when he did. It was so powerful that the old wounds that hadn’t ached in six years became agitated again. Much to his annoyance, his headache from earlier had returned. He was fine until Sabra said something about wanting to kill him as much as he did Azaliea. Immediately after he said that the voice Ray heard the night before echoed in his ears.

‘The choice is your’s Brayden. Either you die, or I kill Azaliea,’ the voice boomed.

After hearing it Ray found himself unable to move, he became even more frozen in fear when Sabra threatened to torture him until the diabolical man was satisfied. Ray didn’t even want to think about what would have happened if Blaze didn’t attack and if Dimetrios didn’t grab hold of him, dragging him to safety.

He looked towards Sabra, who began to mutter vulgar and derogatory things, still extremely pissed that his plan had fallen apart. As he fell deeply into an insane state, Ray and the others were able to regroup.

“Ray, are you okay?” Pennie asked him, looking at him with a concerned expression as he still clutched onto his aching left torso.

“Yeah, it just caught me by surprise. I should be fine,” Ray replied. He then turned to Dimetrios who looked down at him in disbelief. “Thanks for getting me out of there. I appreciate it.”

“So, what now Mr Ray?” Cianna asked.

“Sabra’s lost his mind,” Ray growled. “I guess I just have to beat him to a pulp until he gives up or dies.”

“Really? You couldn’t do anything before,” Lynx scoffed. “What makes you think you can do something now? You took a heavy hit by the looks of things.”

Ray clicked his tongue in annoyance. He couldn’t stand hearing another word from Lynx’s obnoxious mouth. Every time a sound came out of his mouth, Ray became more agitated.

“Shut up, I’m fine…” he muttered under his breath.

He still had a strong desire to punish Sabra after what he did to Pennie. It didn’t matter how many times he told himself to relax, he kept finding himself getting angrier each passing minute.

“Cool,” Dimetrios muttered, hearing what Ray had said. “Since you’re fine, I can do this.”

Dimetrios suddenly punched Ray in the head. It wasn’t as powerful as his usual punches, but it still hurt and made his headache pound for a few seconds.

“Ow! What the hell was that for?!” Ray yelled, rubbing his head.

“That was stupid, Valero!” Dimetrios stated. “What happened to thinkin’ things through? You’re the annoying genius who completely defeated me last year, so wake up and turn on that brain of yours!”

“Dimetrios is right Brayden,” Kaela agreed. “You need to calm down, this isn’t like you.”

“Sorry, I just lost my temper for a minute,” Ray sighed. “It doesn’t change the fact that I’m out of ideas.”

“Well think of something!” Lynx growled.

“For god’s sake shut up!” Ray yelled. “I’m not a computer that can just cough up a plan in seconds!”

“If you had more time could you make one?” Kaela asked, watching them argue out of the corner of her eye.

“Well, I suppose…” Ray muttered, unsure if he could come up with something at all. “But he’s been one step ahead no matter what we do.”

“I’ll give you the time you need, it’s the least I can do,” Blaze stated, preparing his stance to attack Sabra. “I’ll keep him distracted, even if you end up planning a retreat and decide to leave me behind.”

However, after taking one step, Blaze grunted in pain and lost his balance. The blade of his axe went into the ground, and he had to lean against it to stay on his feet as his body trembled violently. As his breathing became rapid once more, blood from multiple wounds began to seep through his clothes.

“Are you goin’ to be able to?” Dimetrios asked in doubt. “You’re fallin’ apart as we speak.”

“Y-you guys are… only in this mess because of me. It’s up to me… to fix it…” Blaze said, struggling to speak. “I say that… but I feel like I’ll pass out any minute.”

“Carrying that massive thing is not going to help,” Lynx scoffed, rolling his eyes. “Not only are you a traitor but you seem to be stupid too.”

“Unfortunately, I have no choice,” Blaze sighed, ignoring Lynx’s last statement. “My Ikiru and Kohai energy is too low to use magic after all, so this is the only way I can fight.”

“Fight?! You still want to fight me! How dare you turn on me!” Sabra shrieked. “I trained you! I gave you a purpose! I transformed you from that useless zombie to the warrior you are today! Twilight Heart cast you out and they always will! Return to me at once!”

Like lightning Blaze bolted towards Sabra. Ray had never seen him move that fast before. He watched in complete surprise as Blaze swung his axe down at Sabra, who ended up creating a black orb of magic to stop the blade from hitting him.

“All I ever hear from you is zombie this and zombie that. I absolutely hate it when people call me that,” Blaze growled with a dark and frightening expression. “I’ve had enough of you running your stupid mouth. I may never be a true Aliené, but I’m at least strong enough to knock you down a peg or two. I won’t let you take anyone else from me.”

“Oh dear, I’m in a pinch,” Sabra claimed sarcastically. ’You forget I still have Shadow Eye! I can still predict your every move!”

With his free hand, Sabra grabbed Blaze’s wrists and then slammed his knee into his stomach. After he coughed in pain and his knees buckled, he turned around and kicked him, sending the Air Elemental into the wall. Once Blaze fell to his hands and knees, his axe turned back into a dagger and clattered to the floor.

“Pathetic! Pathetic!” Sabra laughed as he watched Blaze fail to get back up. “You call yourself an Aliené?! You’re just a copy! A failed experiment! You don’t stand a chance!”

“This is impossible!” Lynx shouted. “He can predict everything it’s not fair! How can you even beat something like that?!”

“Predict everything… huh…” Ray muttered to himself.

The pain in his head became sharper as images of Azaliea popped into his mind. He suddenly remembered saying something similar to what Lynx had said.

“So, thanks to that scar on your eye you can predict everything someone does?” the younger version of him asked. “This Shadow Eye thing seems kind of seems unfair.”

“No, not predict, this mark can’t do anything of the sort, despite what he thinks,” Azaliea claimed. Ray wondered who she meant by ‘he’, but he ignored it, thinking it wasn’t important. “It’s a simple enhancing rune. It’s a strong one, but it’s nothing more than that. It only enhances the analysing abilities you and I already have.”

“That’s a little disappointing,” the young Ray sighed. “I thought it would be some cool trick that the Dark Shadow developed.”

“Well yes, it is,” Azaliea stated, covering her eye with her hand. “It would only work on us because our eyes are special, so if anyone else tried to use it wouldn’t work very well and have defects. In other words…”

“There’s no such thing as Shadow Eye!” Ray finished her sentence, snapping back to reality.

“What is it Brayden?” Kaela asked, shocked by him shouting suddenly.

“I just remembered, Shadow Eye can only enhance the eyes,” Ray exclaimed. “He’s not predicting anything. He’s just quickly analysing our movements, that’s all.”

“Oh… is that so…” Sabra frowned as he turned to face them. “You seem to have more memories than I was led to believe. No matter that doesn’t change the fact that you are all doomed.”

“Great discovery but how’s that supposed to help?” Dimetrios asked. “We need a plan!”

“I need a moment to think, think you can give me that?” Ray replied.

“Of course. Don’t get upset if I defeat him first though,” Dimetrios smirked. “Come help and do something useful for once, Lynx.”

Lynx growled but nodded, understanding that it was not the time to argue. Kaela didn’t waste a second running into battle with them, as Cianna used the opportunity to run to help Blaze.

Ray took a deep breath and closed his eyes. All he had to do was think over everything and analyse everything he already knew about Sabra. He had to find the defect that Azaliea had mentioned. He thought about how he moved, the things he said and the way he behaved.

“Give up already!” Sabra cackled. “None of your spells have hit me before and none of them will!”

Not finding anything useful in his memories about Sabra, he moved onto the attacks they had already use that failed. Dimetrios and Ray were both able to hit him once, but never again.

“So elemental magic isn’t the answer,” Ray muttered.

Sabra couldn’t block attacks he couldn’t see, but a quick and invisible attack was near impossible considering the injuries everyone had sustained. Everyone who cast some kind of spell failed to land a blow. That was when he realised something. Pennie had been the only one not to use magic the entire time. Ray’s eyes flung open and darted to her. She was still standing next to him, biting her lip and contemplating on what she could do and whether she would be any help.

“Pennie…” Ray said to her. “You’re the answer.”

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