It was days like these where I wonder why Lunaire isn't the leader of this little group. When she interrupted Deon's little joust earlier, she had placed a shadow stigma on his boot. Using that, we were able to track him down to one of Kurriz's only the woods right outside of the small town. One of its signature resources was the rapids that provided for most of the town's power. But as we inched step by step closer to what may be our greatest challenge, I felt no fear. I didn't even realize why until my elements answered for me in the form of the familiar pulse of metal and my smoking hands that were itching for action, the message was loud and clear.
I had no time for doubt and no time to turn back, not when the people I care for are on the line. All at once, my mind went into overdrive, imagining every little possibility for the battle that was about to begin. And once we saw Deon running in an open field with amongst both the trees and the nearby rapids, we didn't even hesitate for a single moment. Under the cover of darkness, we unfurled one of our most complex maneuvers in the form of a Shadow prison that headed straight for him! From prior experience, the fake did what I expected, dodging the black ball with ease. But unlike before, the ball was given newfound purpose as it unexpectedly made a jagged turn that closes in once again! For almost a minute on end, the fake and the ball entered a tense dance of near misses until he got just far enough to counter-attack with a blast of light. The darkness vanished in an instant, but the real surprise didn't like a ball of metal, and a splash of water knocks him down to the ground!
Ever since our dip into the synchro plane, I took what Drippy said to heart, working with what I have, I sacrificed complexity for speed and versatility. My metal is still nowhere near the level I need yet, but Metallic style: Fastform is more than enough! Using the metal, I forced Deon to the ground just enough so Brandon from high above can finish him off from above! But even with half of his arsenal now disabled, He still managed to summon a decoy at just the right angle to interrupt the kicks and throws him to the side! Brandon managed to recover on the spot, attempting to guard against another attack, but I don't think even he suspected reflect ray to the eye! With his vision clouded, the decoy closed with freighting speed to deck him straight into the rapids below him!
Lunaire, in desperation, tried to plant him to the ground, but using his beams of light, he dodged the underground vines of darkness and proceeded to fire a volley of blasts that forced her on the defensive! Lunaire struggled to keep up her defense, so much so that she forgot that we had just entered Deon's bread and butter. Almost instinctively, I dove in for Lunaire, as my hypothesis was proven correct in the form of a reflected ray from the left! But once again, my experience shines through as my entire arm engulfed itself in concentrated flames that brave through the blast!
My mom always said a great offense was a good defense, and with Eridani and Deon's ultimate defenses and Drippy's mana training as a reference, I combined it all to defend myself and my friends. Even still, the blast pushes us back a couple of feet, as all too soon, I'm ambushed out of the blue by several undetectable hits that force both of us to the ground! Next thing I know, I find that my hands got restrained by a multitude of decoys. As I tried as hard as I could to escape their grasp, the Fake Deon decided to make his chilling proclamation as he broke apart my construct.
"Deon knew that you were determined, but I underestimated your naivete," he said with robotic disdain.
"If you knew anything about us, fake, then you know that we may be naive, but we certainly listen. I wonder what you'll think about our pressure now?" I said in disdain.
And at that moment, Mai followed her cue in the form of an almost overpowering mass of water rose out of the rapids. As Brandon was gently put back on the ground, Mai instantly flexed her power in a blast that sends all of the decoys surrounding us into the trees nearby. As she steadied her immense power, she made her ultimatum.
"I'm giving you one choice fake, leave Deon now. Easy or hard, it's up to you."
A part of me wanted to give him a chance to see if he could just give it up, but once again, the memory of Eridani popped back into my mind, and I knew what I had to say.
"Take the shot, Mai! Follow through!," I say in defiance.
For a tense couple of seconds, Mai's entire body shook in conflict, but soon straightened back up in resolve as she made her shot! A wave of water crashed into Deon's body, pushing back until all that was left was a drenched heap on the ground. Mai didn't even bother to prepare for another blast, instead outrunning us both to see the status of our friend. In complete distress, she checked Deon over and over again with tears streaming down her face, knowing that despite everything, she was still forced to do an unthinkable order, an act that I had to give. Almost automatically, I thought back to all the times that I saw Dwarf, Drippy, Basa, and thought.
"Was it like this for them too? Is this the burden of a leader?"
Unfortunately, the question would have to be answered another time as our battle wasn't over! In one moment of perfect calculations, the fake gave Mai a subtle chop to the neck that instantly knocked her out! Before both of us could even react to a sudden change, the fake threw Mai to me with enough force to push me back! With Lunaire all alone, the fake didn't even bother wasting time as he trapped her in a barrier of light with one of his decoys who immediately turned her prison into a cage of lighting. Combine that with the wet ground, and she was the next to go. I readied myself for another attack, but peculiarly the fake decided to walk away in weakened disinterest. In a rage, I moved in for another attack, but I instead got interrupted by a small squadron of decoys that pin me to the ground! As the fake continued his approach, I screamed out in emotion.
"Get back here! I'm not done with you yet, bastard!"
"Yes we are, I only came after you because I knew the distress would cause Deon to be easier to control, but now I don't need such a requirement, the job is already done," he said with no remorse and no revelry.
The coldness of the statement was so reeling that I could feel my body physically drained at the thought of another failure. The thought that I had finally ran out of all my luck and couldn't measure up when it counted. A thought that I couldn't accept in the slightest as once again, my element roared defiantly at Terra itself the words I was about to say.
"I refuse to believe that!"
In one defiant eruption of flames, I eviscerated the decoys and propelled myself straight at the fake once again! In almost fearful caution, the fake avoided my charge! But that didn't stop me for even a moment as from Brandon's example; I used my torrents of flames to reposition myself and lunge once more to meet him face to face! Crackling fire meets sizzling lighting as both of our hands grasped each other in a heated struggle that bathed the entire field in an intense white light! But I didn't pay attention to all that as I tried one more desperate plea.
"You once said that you never needed help before Deon, and I don't think that you need it now, so please, stand and fight!" I say as my fire rose even more.
The fake for once showed rising emotion as in one fell swoop; our stalemate ends in a blast that separates us both! Immediately after, he shot out another volley of beams as he made his wrathful statement.
"How can you even say such things, how can you go so far, for a man you don't even know!? Would you even say the same for someone who constantly hides behind a mask?!"
As I defended against the barrage of blows, even through the searing pain, I still kept at it.
"Yes, in fact, I would do again and again in a heartbeat! Because even if he is hiding, I could still see it plain as day! That man has a light that shines above all others, and as both his leader and his friend, I know that now more than ever, we can be the new elementals. And no one, not a king, thief, or some nameless phantom, is ever going to take that away! I won't allow it!!," I say as I use my flames to get close enough for one last climatic punch to the face!
But before my fist can even connect, the fake put up a barrier that blocks my punch as in one violent split second, I'm hit with another light blast to the stomach! The recoil alone was enough to send me crashing back to earth. As I held my bruised lower body, the fake milked it for all it's worth as he looked down upon me with the steely eyes of a killer. And as I readied myself to at least go out fighting, I bear witness to a once in a lifetime occurrence.
"No failure, no weakness ever."
With how many times that I've broken this creed and considering my current predicament, maybe I would be better if I just faded away. As the black tendrils started to get even stronger and wrap even further around my body, I felt my very soul started to wane and sleep. But just as I felt like I was going to crumble, I saw the light more bright than I had ever seen before. It was so bright that I had no choice but to see it, and when I did, it nearly put me to tears. I thought after the fight with Eridani; he would just leave me alone and prove Alihain all the more. But despite the danger, despite all that happened, they were still fighting for me.
It was an experience that I had never had before, yet all the same, I knew exactly what to do as soon as I saw such a light, I walked towards it. Because I am doomed to fail the people that used me as a tool, I sure as hell won't fail the people who don't! And if failure is what I am, then just this once I'll act like I'm not. Using every fiber of my will, I raised my right hand to the glowing portal, begging any soul in Terra that could hear me give me their strength! And I think someone was listening on that fateful night because, in a single stroke, a blast of thunder from the heavens struck down upon my body! And as my body bathed in the glow of Heaven's Wrath, I went into the light. In a moment of clarity that was almost far too clear, I found myself face to face with myself.
I didn't even know what was going on myself, but I didn't even care as I knew just from looking at him that I was facing the cold look of Alihain. In an instant, I felt my mana flare up in rage as I started to walk to my former captor, more sure than I've ever been. At every step, I could feel his emotionless mask vanish all the more as I decided to make my new claim to both him and the world.
"You were right, Alihian, maybe my light only meant to be a tool for others, then I think I will happily use it if it means that I get to light their darkest hour!"
In hand clad in both light and lighting, I grasped Ailhain's shirt in a grip that could break stone! And as I looked at the now panicky parasite, I still kept going.
"And if it means that my fate is defined by protecting the only light I have ever known, then at least accept yours and vanish Alihain!"
As Alihain's body convulsed in pain, I could physically see it, see him as his blackened soul bit by bit purged and crumbled under my element until in one final push, he died in one last push with a smile on his face, leaving my demolished body more free ten it's ever been. After that, it all faded to black. I didn't know how long or even how close to death I had gotten that night. But I did know when I did eventually wake up; it was to the same inviting light I saw before. And once my eyes adjusted to the glow, all I could do was see my camped out friends who had seemingly stayed with me for days on end. Knowing all that, I for once looked at the perilous future ahead of me, completely fine with not knowing the answer right away. Because I know when it does, it will be the one that I make, no one else's.