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Open Your Eyes, Billy Pt. 3

FeministKobold Dec 14th, 2019 (edited) 146 Never
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  1. “SHATTER!!” Billy yelled, feeling himself compelled to.
  2.  
  3. The green bolt burst into dozens of smaller arrows, cascading through the air like the world’s best light show. The arrows didn’t glow as strongly as they did when they were one. Each arrow was true, striking one of the controlled townspeople in the head or in other vital areas. They weren’t killed. The power of the arrow had been spread thin enough that each one just knocked out who they heat. The arrow’s energy sensed that Billy didn’t want to hurt anyone, so it didn’t. It was fully in tune with his mind.
  4. Billy’s goggles were slightly askew after all his tumbling and jumping around. The draw string had come loose enough that one of his eyes was exposed. He pulled off his goggles and squinted a bit, checking the world around him. He could see. The world that had always been a blur to him was suddenly crystal clear, without the need of corrective lenses. He had the eyes of an archer.
  5. His heart was still beating, threatening to burst through his chest. He collapsed to the floor, suddenly noticing the intense shaking in his legs. He was still smiling but his confidence had given way to amazement. He did that. He flipped and rolled his way down the stairs like an acrobat and used Ceal’s bow. He lay back on the stone floor and started laughing. Big, loud belly laughs filled the temple. Billy jumped up with ease and started running around, hopping up and down and pumping his fist into the air.
  6.  
  7. “YES!!!! YES, YES, YES. YEEEEES!!!” Billy shouted.
  8.  
  9. Billy found himself overcome with a feeling that he hadn’t felt in weeks. He was roused into a state of joyful play. He did a series of backflips, testing the limits of his new balance. He spun in the air and stuck the landing, holding his arms up in the air. He cartwheeled smoothly into a handstand. Each move was scored with the sound of Billy’s laughter. He had never felt so light. He was flexible and graceful now. Unfortunately his entertainment was halted when he came back to earth. Zoe.
  10. Who knows how many more mind controlled townsfolk were on their way? Now was not the time for playing around. He ran toward the back of the temple, discovering his speed was vastly improved as well. Billy’s speed had steadily been improving through all his walking and running around his neighborhood but now? He was sprinting like an athlete! He and Zoe had to get out of here as soon as possible. With his bow maybe they could stand a chance against Skirax? Billy threw the door leading to the hidden room open, revealing an awake and very surprised lynx who had an awful grimace on her face. In her hands was an empty stone bowl that was previously filled with orange mush that Ceal made.
  11.  
  12. “...What are you wearing?” She asked, her mouth slightly full before she struggled to swallow the last bit of mush.
  13.  
  14. “Zoe, we need to get out of here!” Billy urged his friend.
  15.  
  16. “Whoa! What’s going on?” Zoe asked, hopping out of bed already.
  17.  
  18. “Ceal,” Billy paused for a moment. “Ceal is gone...and we need to get out of here! The townsfolk are coming!”
  19.  
  20. That was all Zoe needed to hear. Just as Ceal said; the mush had given Zoe a massive boost in energy. She was able to stabilize herself, without the need of Billy’s help. She and Billy started for the door but the lynx stopped, looking back towards the nightstand next to the bed. Atop the stand was a box. The lynx girl snatched it up and stuff it into her pack. The two ran back through the temple, their packs and weapons clattering noisily against their bodies. They cleared the hallway to the front of the temple in the blink of an eye. The staircase leading to the second floor rooms was littered with unconscious bodies. Zoe threw her head around in confusion, taking in the situation.
  21. Zoe’s eyes stuck to one spot in particular; the floor where Ceal’s body lay motionless. Billy was right. She really was dead. In her moment of mourning Zoe found herself slowing to a stop. She had never seen a dead body before. Ceal’s eyes were closed, not open. Her face wasn’t contorted into a look of horror, it was peaceful. It was like she was asleep. A sour knot began to form in Zoe’s gut. She tried to shake her feelings away. She needed to hurry or she would fall behind. The gila was faster, much faster than he had been. It was then she saw the bow and quiver on his back. She looked back at the stairs to see the bodies on the stairs, still occasionally writhing. Did Billy do that? All by himself? The two came to the stairs that lead down into town and stopped. More of the controlled townspeople were making their way up to them. The overlapping sounds of  their steps spelling their impending conflict.
  22.  
  23. “All this magical crap and none of us got the ability to fly.” Zoe complained, adjusting her shield in her arms.
  24.  
  25. “I take the two dozen on the left, you take the two dozen on the right?” Billy offered, pulling an arrow made of light from his quiver.
  26.  
  27. Zoe looked over to Billy who already had his shining arrow pulled back on his bow’s string. He looked so...cool. His rediscovered confidence was worn plainly on his face. Even though their situation was dire and they had just taken a loss in Ceal, the only person in this town who truly was on their side, he had a grin. Zoe couldn’t help but smile herself, a small one. She reached over and socked him in the arm, causing him to briefly hiss in pain and lose his grin.
  28.  
  29. “Ow! What I do??” Billy asked, rubbing his arm.
  30.  
  31. “Nothing.” Zoe said plainly. “I like the new Billy.”
  32.  
  33. The looked at each other. Soon the pain in his arm barely bothered him. They had come so far. When they first arrived in this strange world they were at each other’s throats, constantly fighting, building walls between the two of them. Now they were sharing a smiling moment atop the temple’s stairs as a mob of brainwashed people brandishing weapons steadily approached. It was far from anything approaching an ideal but they wouldn’t trade it for anything. The lynx and gila clasped their hands together. “Don’t you die on me, I’ll never let you hear the end of it.” That sentiment was at the heart of the look they gave each other.
  34. A controlled woman threw her sickle at the two. On reflex Zoe got in front of Billy and blocked it. Billy peaked around her shield, a new green arrow drawn, and let it fly, striking the woman in the head. The bolt was weak and only knocked her out. They charged at the mob letting out a cry as they ran. Billy jumped and sent both his feet into a man’s face as Zoe threw her shield and weight into another. They were in the thick of it! And townsfolk were already beginning to stumble and fall down the steps. Billy swept the leg of many a person as Zoe shoved others around with her superior strength.
  35. They had to be careful, as to not injure one of them to the point of death. Billy climbed up a stout man and stood on his shoulders. Using his new graceful abilities he hopped from person to person, barely landing before kicking off again. Billy was still a heavy kid and he used that to his advantage. Each person he landed on toppled over. The young boy jumped and flipped, landing on the other side of the mob, sticking the landing. Zoe bulldozed through the crowd, her shield enveloped in its familiar hazy glow.
  36.  
  37. “Alright, enough showing off!” Zoe said. “Let’s get out of here!”
  38.  
  39. “Right!” Billy agreed.
  40.  
  41. With that the two kids ran off, leaving the mob in their dust. They weren’t slow and tired like last time. They were revitalized with purpose and their magic powers certainly helped. They couldn’t duck inside just any random building, who knows how many of these houses had drones in them? Then they would have more people chasing after them. Climbing to the tops of said buildings wasn’t ideal either. With the sheer volume of drones they could easily climb up to them. Billy and Zoe did the next best thing; they hid in barrels.
  42.  
  43. “Okay.” Zoe started, popping her head out of the barrel with the lid on her head. “Gimme the lowdown on what you can do now that you have the bow.”
  44.  
  45. “Well,” Billy said, popping his own head out of the barrel. “I have laser arrows, I’m faster, I can do gymnastics, and I no longer need my goggles to see. What about you?”
  46.  
  47. “Well I’m Captain America essentially.” Zoe shrugged. “I can also make little explosions? I’m not entirely sure what they are.”
  48.  
  49. “You can what??” Billy asked. “Wait! Duck! Someone’s coming!”
  50.  
  51. Zoe and Billy retreated into their respective barrels, the wooden lids making a synchronized ‘thunk’ sound. Sure enough a small group of children wielding knives jogged by, looking for their targets. After a few seconds the two popped their heads back up and resumed their conversation.
  52.  
  53. “If people hit my shield enough it starts glowing, then I can essentially throw it back at them.” Zoe explained.
  54.  
  55. “Is that why there’s a hole in the side of the castle?” Billy asked, pointing off into the distance.
  56.  
  57. “How can you even see that?” Zoe asked, squinting. “But also yes.”
  58.  
  59. “So what next? We’re by ourselves, Koichi and Steven are under Skirax’s control and we can’t get near him without-”
  60.  
  61. “Wait!” Zoe interrupted before rummaging through her pack and producing the box she snatched from the stand in her room. “I have these.”
  62.  
  63. “What’s in there?” Billy asked as Zoe flipped the box open.
  64.  
  65. The box revealed a handful of fluffy, white bunches. Cotton. Ceal had been using cotton plugs for years, which was how she was able to avoid the influence of Skirax’s music. She had provided the lynx with these when she first woke up. Zoe plucked two out and after wetting the white fluff in her mouth a bit she pushed it into her ears. Billy followed suit. There, now they had some protection from the grasshopper. It didn’t solve all of their problems but it was a start. They decided that, whatever plan they came up with next, they would need to get towards the castle.
  66.  
  67. “Alright, that’s a good start.” Billy admitted as he adjusted the cotton in his ears. “Now, let’s-”
  68.  
  69. “Duck!” Zoe warned before the two retreated into their barrels with another ‘thunk’.
  70.  
  71. Tip, tap, tip, tap, tip. The sounds of talons hitting the floor of a forlorn castle. A raven walks alone, the rumbling of his city bleeding through the walls of his abode. How many centuries had this castle stood, even before his family took it? How many sieges, bloodshed, betrayals had it seen? If these walls could talk they would be screaming. The raven clears the hallway and enters his throne room. Hulking beasts, standing on either side of the entrance stand in attention as their master walks by, making snarls of acknowledgement. They are hideous, covered in skin riddled with boils and puss, they stink like the foulest garbage, and would cause the blood of anyone who saw them to turn cold. Their eyes are dead and black. They were his people. They were demons.
  72. Odral Clearwater, the high kind of this land was no longer man. He was a demon, just like his guards and his subjects below. He looked like an unassuming man at first glance, albeit dashing and regal, befitting of his status. He looked quite well for a man over 200 years old. He barely looked a day over thirty. The jingle of bells followed close behind him, as did the tapping of feet covered in cloth. A jester came bouncing towards Odral, flipping through the air. As he got next to his master he walked in a silly fashion. He was dressed like any jester; red and black clothes, pointy shoes and hat each sprinkled with noisy bells, and a big collar that covers some of his shoulders and chest. The jester’s face was hidden behind a white, porcelan mask with thin eyes and a smile etched into the material.
  73.  
  74. “Master, master, my good master,” The Jester fawned over Odral. “Shouldn’t you be on your way? Oh! I know what it is. You can’t bear to part with your dearest Festes, can you?”
  75.  
  76. “I’m leaving now, Festes.” Odral said plainly, despite Festes’s cheer. “I expect to return within a few hours.”
  77.  
  78. “Oh…but what will our kingdom do without its leader? It’s guiding light! It’s only hope in the face of such-”
  79.  
  80. “Silence.” Odral said succinctly as the two came to a door.
  81.  
  82. “Allow me to get that for you, my liege!” Festes offered.
  83.  
  84. The Jester slinked past Odral and opened the door to the king’s private quarters. Odral stepped through into his room where a dress form mannequin greeted him. A yellow cape and hood rested on the mannequin’s shoulders. The raven approached the article of clothing with some reverence, gingerly untying the front of it and taking it off. In one smooth motion he flipped it over behind him and it fell onto his shoulders. He tied it as Festes watched, waiting eagerly for a moment to serve.
  85. Odral extended a hand out to a nearby table where a black whip lay in rest. The weapon slithered like a snake in response to its master’s gesture. The tip of the whip crawled into his hand and wrapped around his arm. The whip traveled down his body and into a metal loop on his belt where it coiled itself neatly. Two. He had two weapons of the legendary warriors in his possession. His whip, which at times could act on its own without its master’s hand even touching it and the cloak of Tesmin the Trickster. Festes clapped and hopped in place.
  86.  
  87. “Sire, I never get tired of seeing you prepare for an outing. Might I say you look like a dashing hero from the days of old.” Festes gestured into the sky, painting a picture with his words. “I can see you now; arriving to those children like their knight in shining armor. ‘Save us! Save us from this strange new world’ they’ll say and you will extend your hand to them with all the kindness in your heart and-”
  88.  
  89. “You make it sound so noble, Festes.” Odral said dryly. “It’s simple. I brought them here so they are my responsibility.”
  90.  
  91. He took an edge of the cloak in hand and pulled it. The yellow piece of clothing unnaturally warped and hung in the air. It wrapped around him, completely enveloping him in fold after fold of fabric. The cloak closed tighter around Odral until it seemed impossible that there was any person underneath at all. Then, in a split second, he was gone. No Odral, no cloak. He was off to find them.
  92.  
  93. Zoe and Billy travelled as quickly and carefully as they could, darting between the houses and buildings, taking the route that would keep them out of plain sight. After running along a wall, Zoe held her hand out and stopped Billy from going forward. She braced herself up against the edge of the wall and cautiously peeked around the corner. Drones, four of them, were walking around in a small pack, searching for them.
  94.  
  95. “What do you see?” Billy whispered.
  96.  
  97. “Some guys are blocking our way.” Zoe answered, keeping an eye on them. “Let’s wait for them to pass.
  98.  
  99. The drones shambled about, knocking over barrels and tearing into bundles of hay that were wrapped up and sitting in the back of a cart. Zoe’s stomach sank when one suddenly turned their direction. She darted away and slammed her eyes shut, hoping that the man didn’t see them. The panicked beating of her heart was felt in her head, making it hard to hear if there were footsteps approaching. Billy noticed her panic. If they got chased again it would just waste more time. Thinking fast Billy scanned the wall they were bracing against. Two feet from where he stood was a set of simple wooden windows. He opened them up and, sure enough, there was a set directly across.
  100. Billy drew an arrow made of energy and let it fly. The bolt traveled across the humble household and hit the windows, causing them to open ‘clak’ loudly as they slapped the other side of the building. The drone who was walking their direction slowly turned his attention to the noise and newly opened window. He began dragging his feet, walking over to it with the rest of them in tow.
  101. Billy silently urged Zoe to move, nudging her with his shoulder. The lynx and reptile ran across the street, narrowly avoiding the seekers’ gaze. The rest of the run was just as fraught with close calls as they approached the castle. The massive stone structure loomed over them, like a testament to their failings up until this point. Billy and Zoe ducked into a small guard’s post that sat a few yards from the castle. They each took a seat across from each other and wondered the same thing; “What next?”
  102.  
  103. “Okay. Skirax is probably still pretty beat up after last time...hopefully.” Zoe began. “We need to get in there, get Koichi and Steven free, and...and…”
  104.  
  105. “What are we going to do about Skirax?” Billy asked gravely, his body beginning to shake as he remembered his time under the grasshopper’s control. “How are we gonna stop him?”
  106.  
  107. “I...I don’t know.” Zoe admitted. “We might need to-”
  108.  
  109. “No.” Billy shook his head. “I know what you’re going to say. Just no.”
  110.  
  111. “You think I want to? I don’t.” Zoe said. “It’s just...I don’t know what else to do. He’s strong, he’s fast, he’s got magic of his own and he had an entire town under his control, Billy. All he has to do is play a song and-”
  112.  
  113. “That’s it!” Billy interrupted, his face bright with his realization. “His legs! What if we just damage the parts of his legs that make music?”
  114.  
  115. Zoe had to admit; it wasn’t a bad idea. It was certainly preferable to killing someone. Skirax was the worst type of person. He was manipulative, he was cruel and took joy in the pain he caused them. He lied to their face and presented himself as a friend. Despite all that though, the thought of killing him was too much. They didn't have it in them and to be frank they didn’t want to have it in them.
  116.  
  117. “Well that’s settled. Now how do we go in?” Zoe asked rhetorically. “We can’t exactly go in through the front door. He’d be expecting that.”
  118.  
  119. “What about the hole in the side?” Billy suggested. “The one you made?”
  120.  
  121. “Unless you have amazing aim and a big ass rope I don’t think that’s exactly the best idea.” Zoe said dryly.
  122.  
  123. “I have amazing aim and unlimited arrows.” Billy demonstrated by pulling an arrow from his quiver and waving it around.
  124.  
  125. “...fair point.” Zoe conceded.
  126.  
  127. It was a long shot but they had to try. Billy and Zoe, employing more of their sneaking that they were starting to get pretty good at, moved around the castle’s grounds. Guards were stopping around, covered head to toe in armor that hid their faces, any feature that made them anything but anonymous. Occasionally there would be a tail poking from the metal plating but that was it. Billy couldn’t help but be reminded of a video game. Hide behind a fence or a random barrel while the collection of 1s and 0s walks around and then dart behind them the second they look away from you.
  128. They two of them approached the wall and looked up to where the hole was. It was only on the second floor but considering this was a massive, opulent castle it might as well have been on the fifth. Billy plucked an arrow from his quiver as Zoe stood watch. He drew his hands back and stabbed the green energy arrow into the stone wall. It pierced into it and cause a mild spread of cracks. The young gila put his hands on it and tested it, trying to move the arrow with all his weight.
  129. After the arrow proved stable Billy began his ascent. He would climb up the two bottom arrows and plunge two new ones from his quiver into the wall. Zoe followed close behind after letting Billy get a few rungs ahead of her on his arrow ladder. A strange sensation built in Billy’s head as the two climbed his arrows. Every time Zoe stepped or pulled on one there was this pressure. It was almost like Zoe was climbing on his brain. The climb only got worse as they went higher. The young reptile broke into a sweat from the strain.
  130.  
  131. “Hey! You doing alright?” Zoe called up to Billy, noticing his climbing pace faltering.
  132.  
  133. “I’m fine!” Billy called down, his voice breaking a little. “We’re almost there.”
  134.  
  135. Billy reached the lip of the hole Zoe had created in the castle’s side and pushed himself up with a hop. He hooked his leg in to give himself some better leverage. He flopped onto the castle floor with a loud ‘thud’, right outside the room where Zoe got her shield. He laid on his back, panting as Zoe followed behind. She sat on her knees beside Billy.
  136.  
  137. “That was a lot harder than I expected, and I already expected it to be hard.” Billy panted.
  138.  
  139. “Are you gonna be okay? You’ve been using your powers a lot. You might be getting worn out.” Zoe noted.
  140.  
  141. “No. I’m fine.” Billy lied, literally hand waving away Zoe’s concerns. “I just need to lay down for a-”
  142.  
  143. “Billy…”Zoe said, apprehensive, looking down the hall.
  144.  
  145. “I swear to you that I am-”
  146.  
  147. “Billy!” Zoe repeated, sounding more dire.
  148.  
  149. “Zoe, would you please let me fin-”
  150.  
  151. “Oh my GOD!” Zoe groaned.
  152.  
  153. Zoe snatched the top of Billy’s hood and lifted his head up. Standing down the hall, with two armored guard behind him, was Koichi Sano. The blonde fox boy stood with his sword drawn and pointed directly at the two of them. The two guards stood in wait, wielding maces. Billy cautiously pushed himself to his feet and Zoe immediately pulled up her shield.
  154.  
  155. “Koichi...it’s us. You remember us right?” Billy asked, putting his hands up non threateningly.
  156.  
  157. “Call it a hunch but I don’t think that’s going to work, Billy.” Zoe warned.
  158.  
  159. The guards were the first to charge. Zoe blocked one of them with her shield. The last hour had been so hectic she forgot that the concussive blast was charged. The guard was launched through the air, sailing wildly over Koichi’s head. Billy kicked off the wall and vaulted over his. In mid-air Billy notched an arrow only for the shockwave of the blast to throw him off and send him crashing into a wall as did the second guard.
  160.  
  161. “Shit! Sorry!!” Zoe apologized. “Anything broken??”
  162.  
  163. “My eardrums maybe!!!” Billy shouted from the floor before pushing himself up and aiming an arrow at Koichi’s head.
  164.  
  165. “What the hell around you doing!?” Zoe yelled, stylishly ricocheting her shield off a guard who was trying to get up.
  166.  
  167. “I’ll knock him out! I’ve been doing it all day!” Billy argued, holding his aim.
  168.  
  169. Koichi charged, thrusting at Billy. The reptile hopped safely to the side. The nine year old boy continued advancing at him, slashing and stabbing, while all Billy could do was dodge. Billy pulled an arrow back only for Koichi to sweep his legs. He only narrowly avoid being stabbed by Koichi’s follow up. The black sword pierced into the castle floor. Zoe, after fully knocking out one of the guards, ran and threw her shoulder into the child. Koichi absorbed the blow with his strength. The two of them grappled on the spot, both trying to force the other down. Zoe, remembering that despite his strength Koichi was still small, lifted him off the ground and tossed him. Zoe and Billy got between Koichi and his sword as the fox boy rolled on the floor.
  170.  
  171. “I can control it!” Billy argued again, conjuring an arrow and aiming it.
  172.  
  173. “Billy! Koichi is way stronger than these random idiots!” Zoe yelled. “Either your shot isn’t gonna do crap or you’re gonna overcompensate and take his head off!”
  174.  
  175. “I…damn it.” Billy sighed in defeat and lowered his bow. “We need to snap him out of this!”
  176.  
  177. “How did you snap out of it?!” Zoe asked, narrowly avoiding a punch from Koichi.
  178.  
  179. Taking advantage of Koichi’s exposed back Billy grabbed the boy and rolled him over his back, away from Zoe.
  180.  
  181. “I was going through some stuff!” Billy explained, dodging the fox boy’s blows. “You said something shocking that I didn’t expect...wait! I have an idea!”
  182.  
  183. “It doesn’t involve beating this child anymore does it?” Zoe asked, tackling into Koichi more.
  184.  
  185. “No...but it’s gonna make me look bad.” Billy said. “Just let him get close to me.”
  186.  
  187. The lynx waited patiently for an opening in Koichi’s attacks, who was pummeling the shield with endlessly. The power of Koichi’s strikes charged the blast in no time. Zoe pulled her shield away to keep the blast from propelling the young boy out the massive hole in the side of the building. Koichi socked Zoe right in the face, sending her flying and sliding onto the floor. The controlled fox turned his attention to Billy, his emotionless eyes zeroing in on him. Koichi ran at him. Billy stood strong, his stance wide, preparing himself for what he was about to do.
  188.  
  189. “It’s your fault your parents divorced you stupid little brat!!” Billy shouted.
  190.  
  191. Zoe’s face was agape with pure shock. Koichi’s feet stopped dead only a few feet from Billy. He stood there, looking up at the older boy. His dead eyes slowly grew with light and eventually pain. Koichi balled up his fists and bared his teeth. The hurt on his face then turned to confusion as he looked around at his surroundings. Billy was dressed so strangely. Zoe was wielding a shield and they were in an unfamiliar part of the castle...that had a giant hole in the wall. Hi face still wore the residual hurt from Billy’s comment.
  192.  
  193. “Wh-where am I??” Koichi asked. “...why does my body hurt?”
  194.  
  195. “Koichi!” Billy yelled and immediately hugged the fox. “I’m sorry! I’m so so sorry! I didn’t mean it, buddy!”
  196.  
  197. “Kid! Are you alright?!” Zoe came running by and started to check Koichi’s face for injuries
  198.  
  199. “What is going on?! Why are you two...acting like this??” Koichi asked. “Where’s Steven?”
  200.  
  201. “Skirax is bad.” Zoe started. “He put you guys under some weird spell thing. I was able to get Billy out of it after I found Fenro’s shield. Yeah, that story he told us about people stealing it? Turns out that was him...I’m pretty sure at least.”
  202.  
  203. “Also Guinevere is Ceal, the lady who owned the bow ...or was because she’s passed away now.” Billy chimed in. “And it turns out it was mine, not Zoe’s.”
  204.  
  205. “Yeah! That too!” Zoe confirmed, pointing at Billy for emphasis.
  206.  
  207. “We haven’t gotten Steven back but we’re working on that. We’re glad to have you back, Koichi. You’re gonna be a big help.” Billy said as he walked over to Koichi’s sword, pulled it from the floor, and passed it back.
  208.  
  209. “Okay...that’s a lot.” Koichi sighed as he took his sword. “So I take it you guys have a plan?”
  210.  
  211. Billy and Zoe exchanged a look, in silence, and then looked back at Koichi.
  212.  
  213. “Go for the legs?” Billy said, with a shrug.
  214.  
  215. “Am I supposed to know what that means?” Koichi asked, furrowing his brow. “Wait. Billy, does Skirax know you have that bow?”
  216.  
  217. “I’m...not entirely sure.” Billy answered. “Can he see what they see? Or can he just order them around?”
  218.  
  219. “I feel like if he knew then he would have sent the rest of his goons up the stairs as soon as Koichi saw us.” Zoe reasoned. “Why?”
  220.  
  221. “I have an idea.” Koichi said. “But first things first; what can you guys do?”
  222.  
  223. Sore. Still so sore. Skirax Fanui, one of Odral the Raven’s top officers was still in pain from the injuries he sustained in his fight with Zoe. The girl dropped part of the ceiling on him. At times he couldn’t tell if it was his joints and muscles aching or if it was his ego. To combat this Skirax sat with Steven Amaro on his right. The mind controlled youth’s hand glowed with his healing magic, restoring the grasshopper’s health. Skirax shooed the wolf boy and he stopped.
  224. Skirax hopped to his feet and start stretching his legs. He collapsed into a sitting position before springing up effortlessly. The wounds given to him by that girl were an afterthought now. He was in the throne room of Yoola Dul, the noblewoman whose city he took over. How many years has it been since he first arrived? Five? Six? Skirax wasn’t one to dwell in the past. He was concerned with now and the future. Right now his future was looking quite bright. It would be just a matter of time before help arrived, then he would be rewarded by his master. No longer would he have to pretend to be someone’s helper. He would be his own lord, with his own kingdom.
  225.  
  226. “I wish I could say I was going to miss you lot.” Skirax spoked condescendingly to Steven, holding his face. “I can say you four gave me more trouble than this whole town did. I was able to slip in, gain the trust of these simple minded yolkles and none of them noticed a thing. Yet here for children, barely old enough to tie their shoes, bring a roof down on my head!”
  227.  
  228. Skirax slapped Steven in the face, the sound of impact echoed in the empty room. Steven didn’t have the capacity to react. The grasshopper rubbed his hands together and then stopped as his feeler twitched. The sound of scraping hit him and he turned his attention to the open door. Step, drag, step, drag. Koichi, his obedient slave came into view dragging the unconscious body of Zoe behind him. The young fox had her shield in hand. The tall grasshopper immediately brightened up.
  229.  
  230. “Well, well, well...look what we have here. I thought that explosion sounded familiar.” Skirax gushed, enthusiastic over the sight of Zoe’s body.
  231.  
  232. He pranced over to the young fox boy and gave him a tiny pat on the head, a “reward” for his hard work. Skirax started by kicking Zoe, causing her body to roll on the floor. Much to his surprise the young lynx started to writhe on the ground and groan. She was still awake. The grasshopper waltzed over with Koichi following close behind. He placed his foot on the back of her head, pushing her face into the harsh stone.
  233.  
  234. “Oh goodie! You’re awake. Now I don’t have to wait to interrogate you.” Skirax mused, grinding his foot into her head. “Where’s your friend, Zoe? Off licking his wounds?”
  235.  
  236. “Shut up…” Zoe groaned in defiance.
  237.  
  238. “Either I can go snatch him up or Lord Odral and his forces will. It makes no difference to me, girl.” Skirax said dismissively.
  239.  
  240. Koichi and Zoe’s eyes went wide. For a brief second their act was dropped. Odral the Raven, the man they had been hearing about for days now. He was behind this? Koichi quickly straightened his face, lest Skirax turn his gaze and ruin everything. Zoey spoke up immediately, trying to get more information.
  241.  
  242. “What does Odral want?” Zoe asked, straining.
  243.  
  244. “That is a question for the man.” Skirax deflected.
  245.  
  246. Billy was waiting down the hall. His heart was beating wildly in his chest. He peeked around the corner and saw Skirax standing on Zoe’s head. He just had to wait for Koichi’s signal. In a quick motion her drew an arrow and pulled it back. He took a deep breath and waited.
  247.  
  248. “Soon enough you will be taken to Foutaindale and Odral will do what he wishes with you.” Skirax said.
  249.  
  250. “Well...now we know where to stay far away from.” Zoe smirked.
  251.  
  252. “Ha! Like you have any choice in the-”
  253.  
  254. Koichi grabbed the back of Skirax’s clothes, holding the man with his strength. The grasshopper looked over his shoulder to see the young boys eyes glaring at him. Before he could respond Zoe turned on her back and grabbed the ankles of their enemy. Skirax let out an insulted yelp as the two of them put their grubby little hands on him.
  255.  
  256. “Get off of me you brats! How did you-”
  257.  
  258. Billy let go. He didn’t hold back like he did with the villagers. He let his arrow fly through the air, fast and true. It shot down the hallway like a bolt of lightning, passed through the open throne room door and embedded itself in Skirax’s calf. The grasshopper shrieked in pain and collapsed to the floor. His leg burned with with the pain of a thousand fires from the energy arrow which had pierced him straight in the side. Koichi and Zoe backed away from the injured bug, Koichi tossing her shield to her and then drawing his sword.
  259.  
  260. “No..no!!” Skirax yelled, attempting to stand up but finding it difficult to put weight on his other leg. “What have you-”
  261.  
  262. Billy stood in the open door with another arrow drawn.
  263.  
  264. “You...you bastard child!!” Skirax yelled. “My legs! My music! How dare you!? Steven! Heal my legs!!”
  265.  
  266. Skirax turned to Steven who still had the dead eyes of a mind controlled drone. He walked over to Skirax’s arms stretched out, but suddenly stopped. He blinked. The light came back into his eyes and then he hissed in pain, holding his face when Skirax slapped him. He stood up and saw Skirax hunched over, holding his leg and his three friends standing ready for a fight.
  267. All Steven could muster was a simple confused ‘uh’ when presented with the scene. That was all he was allowed. Skirax, using his good leg, launched himself at Steven. The young wolf, seeing a massive version of his greatest irrational fear, screamed and held his hands up, conjuring a blue energy shield in front of him. The grasshopper landed on the barrier and gracefully flipped off of it. He landed behind Steven and kicked his staff out of his hand. The grasshopper drew a dagger from a sheath under his jacket. He grabbed Steven and held the knife at his throat.
  268.  
  269. “Steven!” Koichi shouted.
  270.  
  271. “Not a single step! Or I’ll flay him, children!” Skirax warned.
  272.  
  273. “I have no idea what’s going on right now!” Steven squirmed in confusion and discomfort, feeling crunchy grasshopper hands on him.
  274.  
  275. “We’ll explain later!” Zoe shouted.
  276.  
  277. “Stop talking! I make the rules here!” A desperate Skirax bellowed, threatening Steven’s neck more. “You three are going to throw me your weapons and then you will let me leave!”
  278.  
  279. Koichi, Zoe, and Billy all exchanged a look before coming to their decision.
  280.  
  281. “Fine.” Koichi said, feeling defeated.
  282.  
  283. “How do you we know you’ll keep your end of the bargain?” Billy asked as Zoe removed her shield.
  284.  
  285. “I’m a desperate man, Billy and vain. I like being alive.” Skirax said. “Just let me leave and Steven here won’t be harmed.”
  286.  
  287. Billy reached for his bow. He was fast but there was no way he’d be able to fire an arrow before Skirax plunged his knife into Steven’s neck. The wolf was pushed along by the grasshopper who was now yelling at the kids to relinquish their weapons and move to the far wall, away from the door. Slowly Skirax and the captive Steven shuffled to the door. Their walk was slow on account of the grasshopper’s injured leg, which was bleeding heavily.
  288.  
  289. Tip, tap, tip, tap…
  290.  
  291. Skirax froze and the color drained from his face. The sound from the room seemed to get sucked out, making all those in it aware of the tapping sound coming from the hallway. One by one Skirax, Steven, Koichi, and Zoe turned their heads toward the open door. The outline of a person could be seen in the shadows, casually approaching. The figure came into view as they stepped up to the door. A raven, average height but dashing and dripping with presence stood before them. He wore a bright yellow cloak and hood on his shoulders.
  292. All eyes were on him, waiting for him to do or say anything. Skirax, astonished that his master was standing right before him, slowly released Steven from his grasp. He expected troops, other officers, not for Odral the Raven to come and tend to matters himself. Skirax immediately fell to his knees and bowed.
  293.  
  294. “Lord Odral! Welcome, sire! Welcome!” Skirax bowed over and over.
  295.  
  296. Steven backed away from the men and approached his friends. He snatched his staff up and all four of them turned to face Odral. This was it, the man they were supposedly fated to fight. They were so unprepared. Odral’s gaze went from his officer to the four children. He made eye contact with them all but seemed to focus on Billy most of all. The young gila sensed this and took a step back without thinking. Odral walked past Skirax, not addressing him.
  297.  
  298. “It’s good to see you four again.” Odral spoke for the first time.
  299.  
  300. The four exchanged looks with each other. He was glad to see them? Odral walked up to them. Zoe and Steven, the protectors of this group, instinctively stepped forward, both holding up their weapons. Odral stopped, his face barely registering them as a threat. He looked at Zoe’s face, Billy’s neck. They were scuffed up with bruises and scrapes. He reached behind his back, prompting them all to get on their guard.
  301.  
  302. “There’s no need for that.” He dismissed, pulling out a small package made of leaves and tied together with string. “May I?”
  303.  
  304. “What is that?” Steven asked, not backing down yet.
  305.  
  306. “It’s salve. For Billy and Zoe.” Odral explained, opening the leaves and revealing a pale, pungent substance. “It’s not good for you to always use your powers to heal, Steven. You need to consider yourself in all this.”
  307.  
  308. “Sir…” Skirax spoke up.
  309.  
  310. “Silence, Skirax.” Odral said plainly as he took some salve in his hand. “This is going to burn at first but it will help.”
  311.  
  312. For some reason they let him come over to them. They were taken in by his demeanor. He was so approachable, so nice. Zoe watched as Odral put a light smear of the salve on her cheek. She hissed a bit as the Raven rubbed it in. He even apologized and adjusted his strokes to be softer. Billy was next. The light cuts on his neck, from when Skirax was torturing him had scabbed over in an ugly way. In all the chaos he hadn’t gotten them cleaned. He too hissed as the salve stung his wounds.
  313.  
  314. “Ceal taught me how to make this.” He said, making conversation with them. “It’s no substitute for magic but it works wonders.”
  315.  
  316. When he was done he looked at Billy for a long time. Billy blinked awkwardly and averted his gaze from the raven. He turned to Koichi and Steven, who were still watching with apprehension.
  317.  
  318. “Who did this to you?” Odral asked.
  319.  
  320. Without speaking a word the four kids all, one by one, turned their heads to look at Skirax, who was still on the ground. Whether it was because his leg was too injured to stand or he was trying to get brownie points wasn’t known. He pushed himself up as best he could to address his master.
  321.  
  322. “Lord Odral. Please. You must understand! I was working to get them for you! And-and-and they’re so spirited! Haha! You and the legendary warriors picked so well! They have strong, iron wills! It’s so-”
  323.  
  324. Crack! The whip on Odral’s hip extended across the room, stretching beyond its normal length to quickly constrict Skirax’s neck. The children all let out sound of distress. The whip travelled so fast! They had no chance of following it. The grasshopper gagged and grabbed at the leather whip around his neck. He gasped for air that wouldn’t come. The entire time Odral’s face was emotionless. His officer begged wordlessly for release.
  325.  
  326. “Stop!!” Billy yelled, running over to Skirax.
  327.  
  328. “Billy no!” Steven yelled reaching for the gila.
  329.  
  330. For the first time Odral’s face changed. He was surprised as Billy ran and started tugging on the whip that was choking the grasshopper. Skirax looked at Bily with eyes of shock and then regret. Even after everything, this boy was trying to save him? Billy tried to find the tip of the whip so he could unravel it.
  331.  
  332. “Please! Don’t kill him!” Billy begged. “You can’t just do this to people! Please! Stop!!”
  333.  
  334. “Oh Billy...you are so much like her.” Odral said, his voice nostalgic. “For better...or for worse.”
  335.  
  336. Odral flicked his wrist. The motion shot through the whip lightning fast, like the weapon was an extension of his nervous system. With a loud, sickening crunch Skirax’s neck was thrown to the right. His body slumped and fell to the ground. Billy gasped, backing away and stammering. Skirax lay dead, staring at Billy with blank eyes. Koichi screamed and retreated behind Steven and Zoe, who were shocked to their core by what they just saw. Skirax Fanui was dead and they had seen it with their own eyes.
  337. Billy felt his body fail him. He fell onto the floor, unable to look away from Skirax’s dead body. His stomach lurched, the sound of the grasshopper’s neck snapping playing on look in his mind. He turned to Odral, whose whips was slithering back into place on his hip. Their gazes met.
  338.  
  339. “Why?” Billy asked. “Why?! I asked you not to!! Why did you kill him?!”
  340.  
  341. “He hurt you. He hurt all of you.” Odral said, uncaringly. “I gave him orders not to.”
  342.  
  343. “What is wrong with you!?” Zoe shouted, comforting a terrified Koichi who was clinging to her leg. “Billy get away from him!”
  344.  
  345. “What do you want from us?!” Steven shouted, cutting right to the point. “Tell us what you want and stay away!”
  346.  
  347. “I want your weapons.” Odral said. “I brought you here so that you would awaken the other weapons...so that they could all be in my possession.”
  348.  
  349. “You did all this for weapons!?” Steven chastised.
  350.  
  351. “Yes. And I can easily reverse it.” Odral began. “I brought you here using the power of Tesmin’s cloak. There were...complications and you weren’t transported to me. But now you all have your weapons and if you give them to me, right now, I will take you home.”
  352.  
  353. Home. All of them had a change when that word was spoken. Odral would take them home, get them back to their everyday lives, and all they had to do was hand over these weapons. No more bug people, no more demons, merfolk, lack of electricity, seasickness, nights devoid of the sounds of the city, no more being separated from their families.
  354.  
  355. “J...Jhosk said you’re the bad guy.” Koichi said, his voice shaky. “You’re working with demons!”
  356.  
  357. “And what do you know about demons, Koichi?” Odral raised his voice to the child. “Tell me, what do you four really know about this world and the shoes you’ve been asked to fill?”
  358.  
  359. They didn’t say anything. Really, what did they know? Aside from Utsassi they hadn’t come across any other demons. They stayed silent.
  360.  
  361. “I worked with demons to SAVE this world.” Odral asserted. “To unify it. Thousands and thousands of years of fighting have a chance to end because of me! If I am in possession of all six weapons then I can do my work unimpeded! This place will be safe and secure and I will watch over it until the end of time to keep it that way!”
  362.  
  363. “Shut up!!” Billy shouted, his voice echoing in the room.
  364.  
  365. Odral turned to face Billy who had pulled himself from the floor and was now glaring at him. His face was filled with rage. Before Odral could respond, he had more to say. They all did.
  366.  
  367.  “You just shut up! Right now! This is bullshit!” Billy yelled at the man.
  368.  
  369. “Do you have any idea what we’ve been through?! I almost died in some stupid temple because YOUR plan messed up.” Zoe joined in.
  370.  
  371. “We almost got killed by fish people, we almost drowned on a ship on the way here!” Steven yelled, really truly screaming at this man.
  372. “And what about this city? Huh?! Where does a city of brainwashed people fit into your plan?” Koichi finally got the guts to say.
  373.  
  374. “How many other cities do you have under this kind of control?” Billy asked, collected. “How long were they going to be under your control? Indefinitely? Is that what a secure world sounds like to you?”
  375.  
  376. Odral looked at the four of them. They picked them for a reason. He should have known that this wouldn’t be easy. He sighed and reached for his boot. He pulled simple knife out and began to twirl it between his fingers. He looked at Billy.
  377.  
  378. “I must be honest with you. Billy. I initially objected to Ceal choosing you.” He mused, thinking of days long past. “Frankly, we all did but she knew it was you. We thought she was crazy to pick her own son.”
  379.  
  380. He wanted to reject those words on the spot but his chest was tight. Billy stood there, dumbfounded by what Odral just said. He tried to open his mouth to object but…”When I came to your world, I was thirty”. That’s what Ceal had said. Billy began to shake his head as his mind was flooded with images of her. Her rubbing the top of his head, straightening his scarf, asking him to help in the kitchen, the warmth she had shown him. Her smile, in the temple. Her sadness in the moment confused Billy but in this moment made all too much sense to him. Billy’s chest ached.
  381. Billy’s friend all stood with shocked looks on their faces, Zoe especially. Ceal was Billy’s mom? Koichi and Steven didn’t have the context that she did so the news hardly hit them the same. She could see it. Suddenly features the two shared started pouring into her head. Their faces, their eyes, their smiles.
  382.  
  383. “Billy…”Zoe lamented, seeing her friend in pain.
  384.  
  385. “No…” Billy croaked out. “No, no, no, that’s not…”
  386.  
  387. His body started to shake and tears sprang forth from his eyes as he fell to his knees. Odral walked over to the stunned gila.
  388.  
  389. “Be glad you never met her.” He said coldly. “The pain would only be worse. She was a great woman and you should be honored to-”
  390.  
  391. “I did.” Billy said, seething.
  392.  
  393. “What?” Odral questioned, proceeding carefully.
  394.  
  395. “She was here you asshole!” Billy screamed, making Odral reel back in shock. “She was here! She saved me...and I saw her die...because of YOU!!”
  396.  
  397. Billy leapt at Odral and reached into the quiver. He pulled out a vibrant green arrow and held it above his head, intent to stab it down into the raven’s body. Odral didn’t know Ceal had been here. He didn’t. This surprise was enough to throw him off. The young gila was able to grab onto Odral’s clothes. His bright yellow cloak reacted, enveloping the two and transporting them away. Steven ran at the spot where the two were and looked around feverishly.
  398.  
  399. “Billy!! Billy!!!” Steven yelled. “Where did they go!?”
  400.  
  401. Odral appeared in the air, above the castle. The teleportation threw Billy off, causing him to fumble and fall from Odral. His body smacked into the stone floor of a large balcony. He sprang up and glared at the raven, who was floating in the air. Billy could hear a dull roar coming from the town proper. He turned and looked out. He was high above but he could see the people of Teovell scrambling around, free from Skirax’s control.
  402.  
  403. “Billy. Let me-” Odrl was swiftly cut off by an arrow being shot his way.
  404.  
  405. “I don’t want to talk anymore!” Billy shouted. “It’s no use talking to you!”
  406.  
  407. “...Fine. So be it.” Odral sighed and then pulled his whip from his belt. “I can’t have you interfering with my work, Billy.”
  408.  
  409. He flicked his wrist and the whip cracked, going stiff as a rapier. Billy drew another arrow, prepared to fight but Odral flew higher. He soared to the castle’s highest point and landed. He raised his whip above his head and plunged it into the castle’s rock. Billy tilted his head, confused at this gesture but soon it became all too clear.
  410. Roots of leather sprang from the rock and grabbed him. He screamed and fought against them as they crawled up his body. His bow and quiver were taken from him and suspended in the air beyond his reach. Billy ran to the railing of the balcony and jumped for it, ready to kick off and get a boost. The whip roots foiled his attempt by snatching him down to the ground. He thrashed around as Odral flew back down to him
  411.  
  412. “It will all be over soon.” He said, as if that was going to make any of this better. “I will take their weapons and I will send you all home. Then you can go back to your lives like nothing ever happened.”
  413.  
  414. “Go to hell!” Billy yelled.
  415.  
  416. Odral’s cloak took him and he was gone in the blink of an eye. The tendrils that kept Billy at bay backed off, allowing him to finally move. He saw hundreds of whip roots sprout from the stone foundation, layers and layers covering the door in front of him and blocking his escape. He was trapped.
  417.  
  418. Steven, Zoe and Koichi were trying to make a run for the exit when the floor beneath them and the surrounding walls began to shake with activity. Leather roots sprang forth and began grabbing at the three of them. Steven’s neck was snatched and the wolf was being yanked towards the wall. Koichi swung wildly, severing the roots that attacked Steven, only to be grabbed by ones coming from the ceiling.
  419.  
  420. “Help me get him down!!” Steven yelled, kicking at the roots and pulling down on Koichi.
  421.  
  422. “I’m working on it!” Zoe strained, fighting against the grabby roots.
  423.  
  424. Down the hall Odral appeared out of thin air and a spinning mass of cloth. He watched idly as the youths struggled with his whip’s tendrils. He lamented that it had to be this way but truly it was the only way. He looked down at the knife in his hand and twirled it again. He raised it up and plunge the blade into his forearm, just below his elbow. This display gave the children pause as they saw blood oozing out of Odral’s self inflicted wound. The vibrant red blood dripped and coated his arm, moving against gravity. His entire arm was covered in a solid layer of blood.
  425. His arm ignited with a single flourish. The appendage was a blazing inferno of unnaturally red fire. Zoe looked up at Koichi and lifted her shield.
  426.  
  427. “Koichi! Punch it!” Zoe commanded.
  428.  
  429. The young fox punched her shield, charging up her concussive blast in a single hit. The lynx ran at Odral, zig zagging messily to avoid the writhing whip tendrils. Steven pulled the roots taught enough for Koichi to slash them away. Zoe threw a series of punches at Odral who floated in the air, effortlessly avoiding her blows. Odral slashed at Zoe with his flaming arm but the lynx rolled and avoided it. She threw her shield and Odral’s cloak teleported him just past it.
  430. Steven, wanting Zoe’s shield not to get too far from her, conjured a barrier for the shield to hit. The shield hit, setting off the blast and kicking up massive amount of dirt and debris. The blast even cleared out a patch of roots. The all reconvened on that spot, pushing through the dust cloud that had been whipped up..
  431.  
  432. “How did I do that?!” Steven asked, coughing.
  433.  
  434. “It’s a long story! Where’s Koichi??” Zoe asked, grabbing her shield and holding onto Steven’s sleeve.
  435.  
  436. “I’m here! Where’s Odral?” Koichi asked.
  437.  
  438. A gust of wind came from Odral appearing behind Koichi. The world seemed to slow down as the three kids turned to face their attacker and his blazing arm. He raised it and brought it down on Koichi. His arm passed right through his body without effort. Koichi seize up and fell back into Steven’s arm. His eyes were wide open and his body shook violently. Zoe and Steven crowded him, searching for any injuries but there were none. The arm simply passed through him like a ghost. The color began fading from Koichi’s body. Literally. His blonde fur was going gray.
  439.  
  440. “What did you do to him?!” Steven shouted.
  441.  
  442. “I have severed Baol’s sword from his body.” Odral explained. “This could have been avoided if you just listened to me!”
  443.  
  444. “You...you…” Steven shook, unable to find the words.
  445.  
  446. He pointed his staff at Odral and released a flash. The raven actually yelled out in pain. His body was lightly smoking and he was covering his eyes. That’s right! Odral has demon blood in him! Steven raised his staff more and poured light onto the man, not letting up for a second. The raven shielded himself with his cloak, not unlike a vampire before teleporting, behind Steven.
  447.  
  448. “Look out!!” Zoe screamed.
  449.  
  450. Steven crossed his arms and covered himself in a barrier, just in time to block Odral’s fiery arm. This one was different however. It was small, curved and precise. Steven had great difficulty conjuring barriers that weren’t big flat squares, only able to do it once before during the fight with Razorbrook. Steven’s barrier perfectly covered him in a cylinder shape with a round top. He had to do something.
  451. He dropped the barrier and reach for Odral’s neck, specifically the ties that secured Tesmin’s cloak to his neck. The raven flew back but Steven Jumped on him, hooking his legs around the man. He bit down on the tie, trying to undo it as they flew around.
  452.  
  453. “¡No te escaparás tan fácil!” Steven yelled, his mouth full of cloth.
  454.  
  455. Zoe Jumped up and grabbed the bottom of the cloak, trying to weigh him down. She climbed up and hooked her arms around Odral’s neck, choking him. The raven spun, bashing them into the sides of the walls.
  456.  
  457. “Let me go!!” He shouted at them.
  458.  
  459. Steven pushed up on Odral’s face, fighting him with all his might. He hooked his fingers into the raven’s feathers. Just a little more! Steven’s eyes began to glow, steadily replacing his normal eyes with solid light blue. He blinked and found himself in a sea of blackness. He looked around, trying to find Odral, Zoe, Koichi, anyone but he was all alone. He didn’t even have his staff with him. A feeling welled up from within him, so strong, so painful. He started crying and fell to his knees, unable to shut this feeling down.
  460. It wasn’t even his feeling. Was it? He opened his eyes back up and looked down at his hand, seeing not the furred hands of a wolf but instead the feathers of a bird. Steven inspected his being, patting himself down. He was Odral. Rather, he was in Odral’s body. Was that accurate? He felt so alone, why did he feel so alone? His insides felt like they had been stabbed raw into hamburger meat. This pain was too much. He let out a yep of agony and had to fight not to fall to his knees.
  461. Steven froze. His body went cold with an intense fear. Something was watching him.He shook like a terrified child, expecting to feel the breath of a masked killer on his neck. He turned, slowly. The was just more blackness. His head tilted upward and the sight hovering about Steven’s head made his blood turn icy. A giant set of eyes took up the sky, so large it was impossible to miss, yet he did. The eyes, foreign and not resembling a set he had ever seen, were staring down at him, bloodshot and a kind of milky yellow. Piercing black pupils twitched wildly as they saw Steven.
  462. The wolf let go of Odral and fell to the floor, still shaking with fear. Odral was able to throw Zoe to the floor as well, now that Steven had tapped out. Odral landed, seeing the scattered children all in various stages of defeat. Koichi was convulsing on the floor, gray and unable to operate his body. Steven was on the floor in the fetal position, his head swimming with a noxious cocktail of emotions. Zoe stood, beaten but not giving up just yet.
  463.  
  464. “You three are to be commended.” Odral admitted, dusting himself off.
  465.  
  466. “Save it! We’re not done yet!” Zoe bellowed.
  467.  
  468. Billy ran, leaping at the wall and tried to climb up the whip roots to get to his bow. Each time the whip would shift and make it impossible for him to keep hold. He fell to the floor, scraping himself on the door. He kicked off the railing and grabbed onto the canopy, only for more to spring out of the ground and drag him down. Billy had been at this for a few minutes now, everything he tried ending in failure. He slumped and started crying. He would raise his hand and hit the floor beneath him.
  469. He picked himself up, tears running down his face, his body sore and his whole world turned upside down. Surrogate mom huh? She just needed the money? What a load. How much did he know? Did he meet them? Did he agree to this? Did his father know about all of this and just refuse to tell him? Billy ran up the wall again only to be thrown, sliding on the floor and hitting the stone railing.
  470.  
  471. “No. You don’t win today.” Billy seethed, talking about Odral. “I’m going to get home. I’m going to get home without your help and figure out what’s going on!!”
  472.  
  473. Billy ran at the wall and instead sent his shoulder into the door. He hissed in pain. He wasn’t blessed with enhanced strength like Koichi and Zoe were. He could bash this door a thousand times and it wouldn’t fall. He was trapped here, with these tendrils keeping him on the balcony. Billy turned to the railing. He looked around him at the roots. Ceal said that she had to pass the bow on before she could die but she could still die in combat. What happens if Billy dies before he can pass the bow?
  474.  
  475. “Whatever happens, Odral probably doesn’t want it to happen.” Billy said, walking towards the railing.
  476.  
  477. Billy ran at the railing. This was the mother of all gambles. If this didn’t work then, well, nothing would work for him again. His foot got on the rail and then he immediately backed away, every part of his body screaming “No! What are you doing?!”. He yelled in frustration and grabbed the sides of his head. The gila’s heart was pounding in his chest, terrified at the idea of ending up as a splatter on the ground. Billy backed up all the way to the door and squared himself with the railing.
  478.  
  479. “We are the masters of fuckin' Attitude City!” Billy yelled in a messy singing voice as he took off running toward the railing. “Harder and faster...than you in Attitude City!!!”
  480.  
  481. Billy jumped off the railing and fell, screaming in terror. The rushing wind abused his ears, taking up all he could hear. He looked up and saw the whip’s tendrils shooting down from the balcony after him. It was just like he thought! Odral's whip would do all it could to keep him from harm. Others sprang from the wall trying to snatch him. He reached out and grabbed a tendril. Billy’s weight pulled it taught and he went swinging. Billy was still screaming his head off, how could he not?
  482.  
  483. He closed his feet onto the tendril and felt his stomach sank as his momentum swung him upward. He released, letting himself sail through the air, so close to the castle walls that he could touch them. Billy baited the whip and each time one came out that he could use he grabbed it tight and swung, building more and more speed, as well as ascending back towards his bow and quiver.
  484. Billy was getting light headed. The excursion of his powers was starting to take its toll on him. He shook his head. No. He couldn’t give up. That wasn’t an option. So many people were counting on him; Koichi, Steven, Zoe. There were so many people he needed to see again. He grabbed a tendril and kicked his legs out, adding to his velocity. The top of the rope hit the balcony, causing Billy to swing upward with greater speed.
  485. The bow and quiver! They were right there, still being held mindlessly by the whip. Billy shot up, arcing a bit as he held his hands out. His fingers barely hooked around his bow’s string and the quiver’s strap but it was enough to snatch them and bring them back into his possession. Then he fell. He tumbled through the air like a mess until the whip grabbed him by his ankles and simply held him in the air.
  486.  
  487. “No...no!!” Billy yelled as he thrashed, being held in the air like a caught fish. “Let go of me! Right now! Aaah!!”
  488.  
  489. Billy screamed at the top of his lungs in impotent rage. He fought so hard, was this really how it was going to end? In failure? With him hanging upside down as the townspeople below watching? He squirmed and wrestled with the whip. He looked up and took aim with his bow...before lowering. It was pointless. The tendrils would just keep him at bay until Odral had taken his friends weapons. Then he would come up here and take his. He had nothing left. Nothing. He cried more, tears running down his forehead.
  490.  
  491. “Billy…” A soft voice called in his head. “Don’t cry.”
  492.  
  493. Billy slowly opened his eyes. He was rightside up in a world of green. He was on his knees, matching the person in front of him. Ceal. She looked younger, about his dad’s age now. She held his face in her feather hands and wiped his tears away. He rested his head against her chest and he hugged him.
  494.  
  495. “Is what he said true?” Billy asked. “Are...are you my mom?”
  496.  
  497. “I am…” She confirmed, and he could feel her nod.
  498.  
  499. “I don’t understand any of this. Why did my dad lie to me? Why didn’t you...why did you leave?” Billy cried. ‘What am I supposed to do? Everyone’s in danger and I can’t do anything!”
  500.  
  501. “Open your eyes, Billy.” Ceal said softly. “Just open your eyes…”
  502.  
  503. Billy’s tear soaked eyes snapped open, glowing an enticing emerald green. His gaze fell upon the castle. The world was bathed in green except for these patches of varying colors. Grays, blue, red, purple. Billy was seeing the people in the caste! Seeing their aura. Billy locked his sight on a purple aura, feeling in his heart that it was Zoe. A black aura was steadily approaching her. The newly revitalized gila reached into his quiver and a massive bolt of green energy crackles out. He pulled out a ball of energy that was wild, untamed. He notched it into his bow, finding it difficult to do so. His hands burned from touching the energy. If he didn’t hurry then his skin would melt off.
  504. The energy elongated, getting narrower, until it resembled not an arrow but a massive harpoon! Billy let it go and his harpoon made a sound like thunder in a storm as it sailed through the air. It cut through the castle, shattering the outer defences and sending rocks flying every which way, all while leaving smoking molten rock in its path!
  505.  
  506. The earth shattering boom had replaced all the sounds of the world with a high pitch ringing. Zoe coughed and hacked as gray smoke filled her mouth and sight. She waved her hands around in vain, trying to clear the smog. As it faded, a green glow started to become clear. Zoe continued waving, clearing more smoke until…
  507. Odral was standing in the hall, with a massive green bolt of energy piercing right through him. The bolt was stuck in the floor, Odral, and the ceiling. The man was twitching in pain, holding the bolt that was still crackling with raw power. Zoe looked up to see the holw the bolt came through. Molten rock was dripping through the opening.
  508.  
  509. “Billy…” Zoe sighed and then fell into a sit.
  510.  
  511. The bolt evaporated after a while, making Odral fall flat on his face. He rolled onto his back and looked down at the gaping hole in his stomach. He was still making small, weak noises of pain. He craned his neck up and looked at Zoe, then down the hall to Koichi and Steven. He sighed in agony as he stared up at the ceiling. His cloaked began crawling on him, ready to take him away.
  512.  
  513. “Another time then…” He gasped. “We shall meet again...another time.”
  514.  
  515. Like that he was gone. Leaving the three children in the hall. He appeared above the castle, where his whip was. He was holding his massive wound with his other hand. He looked down to see a passed out Billy, still suspended in the air by his whip. He flew down. He plucked the boy from the whip and safely laid him down on the ground. His whip coiled itself into place. Odral turned his attention back to the town. He could hear the people coming to the castle.
  516.  
  517. “He really is your boy, Ceal.” Odral sighed, the smallest pained smirk on his face.
  518.  
  519. He teleported away. Right before the townsfolk arrived. They stormed the castle, lead by Yoola Dul, the noblewoman who they were sent here to meet in the first place. Turns out Skirax had stuck her in an anonymous suit of armor and made her his servant while lying to the people that she was away on negotiations. It took some time to smooth everything, explain that their beloved Skirax had taken control over their minds, used them to play king. Despite his transgressions, his body was buried in their cemetery.
  520. Billy was unconscious for days. His powers had simply taken too much from him. When he awakened he and the rest of his friend were hailed as heroes. They didn’t tell the people that Guinevere was in fact Ceal. They all figured that they had too much else to worry about. They didn’t hide her heroics though. Billy and Zoe told the truth that she had saved them and given them the support they needed to finally best Skirax and in the process had given up her life.
  521. Billy was quiet at the funeral. They all were. Billy came to this world obsessed with a date with an awful girl and ended up burying his mother. None of his friends knew what to say. What do you say in this situation? Steven’s parents were alive and well. Koichi’s parents were around but separated. Zoe was the closest to knowing what he was going through but even she was without words.
  522.  
  523. A couple days went by. Bily found himself visiting Ceal’s grave in the cemetery. Each time a frog would appear in his throat, keeping him from saying anything. So he would sit. He would sit next to her grave stone and just exist, with his mother. Billy heard the rustling of grass and dirt behind him. He looked over his shoulder to see Koichi, Zoe and Steven.
  524.  
  525. “Hey.” Billy said simply.
  526.  
  527. “Hey.” Zoe greeted.
  528.  
  529. “We brought you some sweet bread!” Koichi announced, holding forth a loaf wrapped in cloth.
  530.  
  531. “And we also wanted to see how you were doing.” Steven added. “Lady Yoola wants to see us in the morning. You don’t have to come but we wanted to invite you.”
  532.  
  533. “Thanks…” Billy shrugged.
  534.  
  535. Steven nudged Zoe’s shoulder silently.
  536.  
  537. “Ow! Quit!” She whispered. “It’s called tact. Hey Billy. I was looking in the secret room and I found something you might want to see.”
  538.  
  539. Zoe sat beside Billy and passed him a book. It was the book that had been resting on the far table. He must have passed by this thing five times and never thought about it.
  540.  
  541. “It’s Ceal’s. Open it.” She encouraged.
  542.  
  543. Billy did just that. There were journal entries dating back a few years, various recipes for medicine, including the awful orange mush, detailed drawings of plants and fruits that were safe to eat, and on the last page, before droves of blank ones was a letter.
  544.  
  545. Dear Billy,
  546.  
  547. If you’re reading this then I am probably not of this world anymore. Hopefully I’ll have the courage or the time to tell you this to your face but if I don’t, I’m sorry. The truth is, you are my son, Billy. When I came to your world all those years ago I met a man named Derrick. I had never met a man so confident and full of life. Every day we spent together was a treasure that I wouldn’t trade for anything. I hope you won’t be angry with him. He doesn’t know about my duty, the bow, anything about this world. It pained me to leave him after you were born but I was needed elsewhere. I always wanted to come back, to see you again. I want to take you to school, have dinner with you, play with you but alas the fates were against us. It pains me every day that I won’t get to see the man you’ll grow up to be but I have no doubt in my mind with Derrick as your father and your friends by your side, that you will be a great one. I love you, my son. I love you more than all the gold in the world.
  548.  
  549. Love,
  550.  
  551. Mom
  552.  
  553. Tears stained the pages of the letter. Billy’s body shook as he read along. After the letter’s end he closed the book and quietly sobbed, lamenting the mother he would never truly know. Zoe put her arms around the Gila and hugged him, which Billy returned immediately. It was such a nice day. The sun was out, keeping things warm. The breeze pleasantly rustled the trees. Under it all was a boy crying. Koichi came alone to Billy’s other side and hugged him tightly, making him feel secure. Steven put his arms around all of them. They stayed like that for a while not wanting to move. This moment was painful but in this moment they all four truly became friends. They were just stuck with each other anymore. They were together.
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