Kazmir’s transformation into a snake-like dragon with two heads completely surprised Ray. It wasn’t the fact that he transformed that shocked him since he was used to that. Every Shadow Beast had a different form, most of which had an appearance of some kind of magical creature. Aleron, in particular, looked like the Nemean Lion, a creature from Greek Mythology with a golden mane and a massive, indestructible body. However, Kazmir was several hundred meters bigger than Aleron and much larger than any of the other dragon type Shadow Beasts he had seen. It was something Ray never would have expected, but for some reason he felt as if he had seen the shadow beast’s form before.
When Kazmir roared, the noise caused a tremor of magical power. He flapped his wings causing the magic power to fly towards them like a gust of wind. It was so strong Ray had to close his eyes, and his ears began to ring. When he opened them, a static image began to appear as Ray’s head began to pound, almost as if it had a pulse of its own. The new image was Kazmir, towering over Ray like how he was in his current position. However, it looked like he was indoors, and it was dark, not like it was night time but as if dark clouds dominated the sky. Like a broken television set, this image disappeared and reappeared, shifting back to Kazmir’s current position every few seconds. The constant change from light to dark made Ray’s eyes ache.
He closed his eyes and shook his head, hoping that the odd sensation would disappear. However, once he opened his eyes again, the blinding light made his head throb harder. He suddenly felt very hot, especially on the face, and his whole body felt heavy as he became extremely dizzy. It was almost like everything around him was spinning around and showed no signs of stopping. Dark patches began to form at the edge of Ray’s vision, and everything went blurry. It was so bad that he could barely see Pennie standing in front of him with a worried expression on her face.
“…ay…ooo…kay…” he heard Pennie say, but her voice cut in and out and sounded a little muffled.
Ray blinked. His surroundings disappeared as the pain began to spread. The static image returned except more of them began to appear. They changed too frequently, and most of them were too blurred, dark and dissolved to clearly make them out. There were a few things he could see. There was a man with long, messy hair that fell past his shoulders, but it was too dark to see anything else besides his burning red eyes full of hate and insanity. There was Kazmir in dragon form snarling, spreading his large wings and causing a roof to collapse. Finally, there was a sword that had the shape of a rapier, sticking out the ground. The blade was thicker than usual, one of the edges was sharper to make the weapon more versatile, and it emanated with deep purple Kohai energy. A curved magenta guard swirled around the handle that had a ribbon with bells at the end tied around it. Muddled voices also filled his mind, they were a collection of mixed up phrases that didn’t make any sense. Each word made his heart beat hard in his chest, and each syllable caused unbearably sharp pains to pound in his head.
“The black dog comes at midnight, bringing the end along with him,” a girl’s voice said.
“I’m going to stay and fight, it might be my only chance to survive,” a voice similar to his own stated.
“Run! You need to get out of here now!” a young man’s voice yelled.
“And with that, the sun has fallen. The light no longer exists,” a man with a very deep voice cackled.
One final very clear image appeared. Azaliea was on her knees with tears in her eyes. She reached out and screamed something, but no noises came from the scene. Her eyes were wide and shaken as someone held her back. As the ringing in his ears turned into screams, everything went black. The next thing Ray knew was waking up on the hot ground, unable to speak, unable to move and unable to feel anything but pain.
“Ray? Ray, can you hear me?” Pennie called out to him as she gently shook him in an attempt to wake him. “Ray, please, you have to wake up.”
It came as a complete shock when he suddenly collapsed. It was so shocking and sudden that no one could move or even attempt to catch him. Without thinking, Pennie immediately knelt next to him to see if he was okay. She was relieved when she found that he was breathing. However, his body was hot to touch, and his eyes fluttered with a pained expression on his face.
“It couldn’t be a heat stroke?” Pennie asked.
It was a very hot day, and it was only getting hotter. They had been fighting for a long time under the blistering sun, and they were all beginning to suffer. She couldn’t believe that Ray would be the first to fall victim to the glaring heat, but it was the only conclusion that Pennie could think of that made any sense. Ray had mentioned having a headache, yet none of them took it seriously enough to think it would cause an actual problem.
“That’s impossible,” Lynx sneered. “He’s a Fire Elemental, there is no way he of all people could suffer from a heat stroke. He’s probably fine.”
“What? You think he’s just fakin’ it, so he doesn’t have to fight?” Dimetrios snarled. “How insensitive can you be?”
“Dimetrios is right, he wouldn’t do that,” Noah claimed anxiously. “Can’t you see how much pain he’s in. He probably has a fever.”
Pennie placed the back of her hand on Ray’s forehead. She could have sworn that he was as hot as the boiling pavement that burnt her knees.
“Noah is right,” Pennie said. “He feels really hot.”
“This is bad,” Blaze clicked his tongue as he watched them from the corner of his eyes. “Things couldn’t possibly get any worse.”
“I really don’t think so,” Lynx claimed with a shrug. “He just has a hotter body temperature than us, that’s all. I mean this is Brayden we’re talking about. He never gets sick.”
“No, that’s not right. I understand how you could make that mistake though,” Blaze stated, trying to keep his attention on Kazmir. “Fire Elementals don’t have higher body temperatures; they aren’t all that different from us. What sets them apart is that they have complete control over the heat of their body, that’s why they are resistant to both hot and cold weather.”
“But that would mean…” Pennie said, looking up at the Blaze.
“That’s right,” Blaze nodded. “For a Fire Elemental like Brayden to have even the slightest temperature… well, let’s just say it’s not a good sign.”
“If that’s the case we need to cool him down,” Cianna stated as she knelt towards the ground. “He may not be responding, but it looks like he’s still conscious. I need to start healing him now before he gets any worse.”
She got to her knees, and she prepared to heal Ray. Before she could, he weakly opened his eyes. After grimacing in pain, he rolled over and supported his body by leaning on his arms.
“Ray, are you okay?” Pennie asked.
“I-I’m f-f-fine…” Ray mumbled. He placed one hand on the ground and struggled to push himself to his knees, his hair fell messily into his face and his body shaking violently as he did. “I-I just blacked out for a bit. Th-that’s all.”
“You’re most certainly not fine!” Cianna yelled. “You have a high fever, and you can barely move!”
“N-no, I-I h-have to fight. I n-need to help…” Ray stuttered as he tried to stand, but his eyes rolled to the back of his head and immediately fell back towards the ground.
Pennie managed to grab hold of him, embracing his upper body to act as support. Pennie frowned. She had never seen Ray in so much pain before. Every time he was injured, he always put on a brave face and looked as if it didn’t hurt much to begin with. However, it was clear to everyone that Ray’s health took a very large and sudden decline.
“I-I have to f-fight… I’m the o-only o-one who c-can…” Ray muttered. “I c-can’t be a burden… not again…”
“Now isn’t this lucky,” Sabra laughed, turning away from Kazmir and started to walk towards them. “Well, I suppose that is what happens when you rely on someone too much.”
Pennie looked at Sabra who wore a sly grin on his face. She also noticed that Kazmir had stopped moving to watch them, his giant snake heads smiling in amusement.
“What’s that supposed to mean?” Lynx snarled.
“Your faces are easy to read. I knew immediately that you thought that if you had the Valero on your side that you’ll be victorious,” Sabra explained. “I mean you should just face the facts. After everything that you’ve been through you are only alive because of him. And now look at him, too worn down to even move.”
Pennie couldn’t argue with the man. Every little thing that happened, they only made it because of Ray. The first thing she thought about when Kazmir appeared and Sabra returned was that she knew Ray would defeat them like he had done with all of the other villains. She still wished that he would. However, as she watched him grow paler and weaker, her heart began to sink.
“How about we make a deal,” Sabra smirked. “I’ll let you all live if you hand over the Valero boy.”
“What?!” Kaela yelled. “What in heavens name makes you think we’ll do that?”
“I’m offering you your lives in exchange for the Dark Oviri’s property,” Sabra chuckled. “I’m trying to be merciful I suppose you could say.”
“P-property? I’m… not…” Ray mumbled grunting in pain and grabbing onto his head with his right hand.
“Mr Ray, you need to save your strength,” Cianna said as she summoned her magic to her hands and attempted to bring down his fever. However, the magic flickered in her hands and didn’t seem to have much of an effect.
“Now this is rich, such a sorry scene this has become,” Sabra smiled. “No matter, I’ll just have to take him by force.”
“You’ll have to get through us first,” Dimetrios growled.
“Very well, if you want to die that badly,” Sabra claimed. “With your injuries and this glaring sun, you’ll be easy to defeat.”
“Then how about we do something about it?” Blaze said as he walked in front of everyone, blocking them from Sabra’s path.
The sound of rolling thunder began to creep in, and it suddenly became darker and cooler. Pennie looked up to find the once clear blue sky filled with dark clouds, covering the burning sun. Blaze slowly raised his right hand and the thunder rumbling became louder as he raised it higher. Once his hand was above his head, he clicked his fingers and lightning struck down from the sky. It hit Kazmir, knocking him to the ground and narrowly missed Sabra.
“Tsk missed,” Blaze snarled. “It seems that this is as far I can go in my current state.”
“I thought you couldn’t use magic?!” Lynx growled.
“Oh, I was lying in a way,” Blaze replied, turned to them and smiled devilishly. When he did Pennie notice that his left eye had changed from its usual chocolate brown to a glowing amber colour. “I had to dip into a power I had locked away, so I don’t know how long it will last. However, there’s no other choice but to use that here and now.”
As he turned back to Sabra, the remaining sparks from the lightning danced their way over to Blaze and began to circle his body as he lifted his arm above his head again. He then threw his arm down, and a few seconds later it started to rain. It was cold on Pennie’s skin as she looked up at the sky in disbelief.
“It couldn’t be…” she muttered.
“Weather manipulation! So, you can do it!” Sabra laughed. “A skill born with the Aliené clan once every hundred years. You really were holding back this entire time!”
“Of course, I never really trusted you from the beginning. I made sure to hide my real skills,” Blaze claimed. “And now I’ll use it to defeat you.”
Blaze swung his arm sending electricity shooting towards Sabra, landing right in front in front of him and sending dirt into the air. Not wasting a second Blaze lunged forward jumping into the air. He began to chant a spell as he rotated his body around.
’All of nature hear my command
May the wind rain and lightning dance in my palm
Come forth destruction and attack thy enemy’
Huge gusts of wind began to swirl around Blaze as he spun. Pale yellow lightning sparked as the wind became stronger.
“Catastrophic Hurricane!” Blaze yelled, throwing all of his magic and Sabra.
It hit Sabra perfectly as a huge tornado formed where he was standing. Blaze landed messily on his feet, stumbling before he was able to regain his balance.
“Did you get him?” Kaela asked.
“Oww that actually hurt you little shit,” Sabra laughed. Once Blaze’s attack died down, they found the Destruction leader still standing. His clothes were in tatters, but it looked like Blaze’s hurricane spell hardly scratched him. “Perhaps if you were the real deal instead of an experimental zombie it would have done more damage.”
“No way! Not even that did it?!” Dimetrios yelled in shock.
“I still have many tricks up my sleeves, my victory is certain,” Sabra claimed as he pulled an object from his pockets. It was a syringe that seemed to have blood in it. Sabra then jabbed it into his own arm and let the blood seep into his body. “Prepare to die, Twilight Heart!”
Sabra’s body started to grow. The muscles in his chest and arms bulged tearing his clothes and revealing his bare chest. He became several meters taller than Blaze, and his fingernails became longer and sharper that they almost looked like claws.
“All this power is fantastic!” Sabra cackled, revealing his teeth that sharpened to a point as he looked up at his hands in amazement. He then looked back down at them a gave them a shark-like grin. “So, this is what Phoenix blood does! Who would have known?”
“Phoenix blood?! No way!” Lynx exclaimed.
“Yes way! Now the only way to get away is to kill me!” Sabra laughed. “Oh, but I know none of you will do that. Article three of the rules of Twilight Heart clearly states that one shall not kill.”
“How do you know that?” Dimetrios asked, who only just became familiar with the rules.
“I helped write them,” Sabra sneered. “I was one of the founders you know.”
“What?” Pennie muttered in shock. “Surely you’re lying.”
“H-he’s not…” Ray mumbled, looking up weakly at Sabra. “I thought I heard h-his name before… now… I know why.”
“Dear me, even in this horrendous state you’re smarter than all of them,” Sabra chuckled. “I see why the Dark Oviri wants you so desperately.”
“If you were a member, why are you doing this?” Kaela asked.
“Because I despise peace, nothing is better than absolute chaos,” Sabra stated. “I originally hoped that group would annihilate the CSOG and take power. When they didn’t, I took matters into my own hands I developed dark magic to take control of Le Alba. Naturally, I was relegated, but it was for the best. Because now there’s nothing stopping me from killing you all as painfully as possible!”
Sabra lunged towards them claws first. Blaze jumped in the way and grabbed onto his wrists. However, the mutated man was so strong, he pushed Blaze back regardless of how much strength he put into stopping him.
“You guys need to take Brayden and get somewhere safe!” Blaze yelled, turning his head to them as his feet slid across the dirt. “I’ll keep them here for as long as I can then meet up with you later.”
Dimetrios did not waste another second. He grabbed onto Pennie carrying her under one arm while he carried Ray under the other. Following his lead, the others ran away from Sabra as Noah flew above them.
“Put me down! I can run,” Pennie shouted.
“No, you’re too slow,” Dimetrios snarled. “We need to get out of here now!”
Before they could get any further Kazmir landed in front of them with a bang. He then swung one of his giant arms, sending them flying to the ground using the back of his hand. As Pennie groaned in pain, she realised that the sun started to glare on them once more. She looked up quickly and saw that the clouds had vanished without a trace. She then turned back to find Blaze lying at Sabra’s feet. There were giant cracks on the ground where he lay, and his body twitched violently.
“Now that was too easy,” Sabra laughed, picking up Blaze by the throat and dangling above the ground. “I love this power, even the Starlight Knights won’t stand a chance against me now.”
Pennie’s eyes went wide in terror as he observed the situation, they were in. Ray was on the ground barely able to hold his body up. Blaze was completely trapped in Sabra’s grasp, and the others could only just get to their feet as Kazmir prepared to attack again. At that moment Pennie began to wonder if they were stuck in a battle they could never win.
Ray knew that the situation was dire. However, no matter how many times he told himself to get up he couldn’t. Every time he moved even the slightest bit his head pounded harder. The pain was unbearable, and it made his whole body ache. He was so weak that he was barely able to hold himself up using his arms.
“None of you are going anywhere,” Kazmir snarled. “I’ve been hired to deal with you, so this is the end of your pitiful lives. Hand the Valero over, and I’ll make your deaths painless.”
Ray clicked his tongue, attempting to get up once more but failing. Everyone was only in trouble because of him, yet he couldn’t do a thing. He didn’t understand why he had to be in so much pain at such an important time. He was mad at himself for being so useless as he started to feel sick in the stomach, especially when he remembered that he used to have similar headaches all the time. Over the last few years, he thought he had gotten stronger, but nothing much had changed since he was that weak little kid with no memory.
“I’m not going to let you have him,” he heard Pennie say.
Ray looked up to find Pennie standing right in front of Kazmir preparing her stance to summon something. She was trembling, but Ray was amazed at how courageous she looked despite the situation.
“You’re actually cute for an Oviri girl,” Kazmir laughed, leaning his giant heads towards Pennie. “I think I’ll keep you as a little pet.”
Kazmir suddenly grabbed onto Pennie and held her in his massive hand. She shouted as he tried to pull herself out of the Shadow Beasts grasp. When everyone noticed that Kazmir had taken her, they started to attack him, but nothing they did seemed to work.
“P-P-Pennie…” Ray stuttered as he finally managed to get to his feet.
He stumbled towards her. However, his head and body ached so much, he collapsed after taking a few steps. He managed to break his fall with his hands but as he hit the ground his left hand began to sting. Ray no longer had the strength to move, he barely even had the strength to lift his head.
“That’s enough!” Kazmir screamed, his voice echoing in a deep booming tone. “I’m pissed now, prepare to die!”
“Kazmir, don’t forget to keep that one alive as requested,” Sabra said as he glanced over towards the shadow beast.
“No, he must be annihilated,” Kazmir snarled, his giant footsteps thumping towards Ray. “The Valero boy was supposed to die many years ago. This time I will finish the job!”
Kazmir lifted his heads and a black orb of magic formed between them. As it got larger, it crackled like lightning and looked like a giant mass of Kohai energy. If it were to hit someone, it would kill them on impact, and because of the size, it would hit everyone. As the headache began to take Ray’s vision, he knew he was unable to do anything but watch. Kazmir shot of his attack, and it hurtled towards him, so fast that there was no way that anyone else could move out of the way. Then a sudden flower shaped barrier made from fire appeared, causing a huge explosion when it interacted with Kazmir’s attack. It deflected his attack, sending it and fragments of flames into Kazmir. He was knocked backwards with a roaring shriek, letting go of Pennie in the process. She didn’t even fall for a second before someone who wasn’t there before caught her in their arms.
“Visola!” Kaela exclaimed as Visola landed perfectly on her feet.
“Why hello, it looks like you’re in a bit of trouble here,” Visola smiled as she put Pennie down. “It’s a good thing we came to help.”
“We?” Pennie wondered.
“You… what are you doing here?” Kazmir snarled, landing quite far away.
“Simply joining the fun,” a girl said as they landed between Kazmir and Ray. “Is that a crime?”
Through his blurred vision Ray could barely make out who it was in front of him. Although she was older than the one from his memory, he’d recognise the girl whose long brown hair drifted in the wind anywhere.
“Azaliea…” Ray muttered.