A whirlwind of color assaults my vision. Hues of teal, yellow, and pink batter my retinas, and a sound like glass scraping against stone pierces my eardrums. A feeling like my skin is breaking apart envelops me, and then...
I'm alone in a field of gray. That's it, right?
No, I'm not sure. I don't even really feel like I'm here, so how can I be alone in this location?
I try and shake my head, surprised that I haven't given myself a headache trying to figure this out by now. I'm even more surprised when nothing happens at all- no sense of movement, no feeling of shaking my head, no feeling of a head at all...
Am I just a soul right now?
I'm aware of a presence behind me. I'm unable to turn to check, but I know it's the Darkrai Shard. It speaks, its voice coming from everywhere and nowhere at once.
"Is it really taking you this long to give yourself form?"
I'm aware of a strange sensation that I think might be pain. I'm not 100% sure, but I know I don't like it.
Give myself form? Chance and I never covered this.
After another blast of the maybe-pain, I think to myself. Chance and I always sparred in dreams, where I seem to have a body by default. Maybe I just need to create one here?
I begin envisioning my body, and the world around me erupts into being. I'm surrounded on all sides by a white light.
I try to turn my head, and get a spear like object through my hand for my troubles. I try and pull my hand back, and the object retracts.
The Shard stands behind me, already preparing another attack. I scramble backwards, clutching my hand to my chest. It’s definitely pain that I’m feeling. So, there’s that.
I begin zig-zagging away- it seems to have the ability to stretch his body and strike with pointed appendages. If I can just keep my movements somewhat difficult to follow, it’ll have a harder time hitting me.
As I move, I begin taking notes on our arena. It’s essentially a blank, white void- nothing in the way of terrain or boundaries. Wonderful. This isn’t ending until one of us is dead.
I begin looking over my body. For the most part, it looks the same as it does outside. There are a few differences, mostly in the shade of my skin. I can’t exactly look to see right now, but my feet feel like they’re missing the scars.
So, if alterations like this are possible, I wonder what else I can do? Could I fight like the Shard?
I begin focusing on my hand, trying to get it to stretch. I begin to notice a slight distortion before my opponent finally finds his mark.
The Shard’s fingers pierce my shoulder, holding me in place. I struggle in place as it approaches, retracting its finger as it does.
“That was easy. I can’t believe you’re what amounts to a hero these days. Then again, I suppose this is what happens when the materials aren’t genuine...”
Something about its remark stings, and I begin to search for any water under the ground. I’m very surprised when the second I think about it, a tremendous geyser erupts underneath the Shard.
It’s blown backward by the force of the blast and lands a good twenty feet away. It slowly picks itself up and faces me once it’s on its feet.
“Impressive. You’re fairly close to collapse, aren’t you?”
I have no idea why, but I find myself answering it. “That’s none of your concern.”
It chuckles a bit to itself. “I’m right on the mark. Let me guess- they’re going to let you live if you kill a bunch of us. Am I right?”
I’m silent for a moment, and it tilts its head to the side. “No? Really? Then what’s the point?”
“What do you mean?”
It shrugs. “Think about this for a minute. I haven’t done anything to you. None of us have. Yet you’ve signed onto an extermination campaign that you don’t benefit from. What’s the point of it? In the end, we don’t stop coming. We never will. In the end, you still die, and nothing is accomplished.”
I shake my head. “No, you don’t understand. I’m supposed to be stopping a Shard that’s going to shut down the sun-
It sighs. “You’re not getting it, kid. You can talk about how you’re going to save the world, but in the end, you’re taking one of us down. Well, if you’re lucky enough to live through this encounter. We literally exist in every moment of time and space. Those lucky enough to wind up with bodies will continue to come up with inventive ways to end the world, or pull it under our control, or do something earth-shaking. You take one of us down and then die. Who’s to say that the world doesn’t end the day after because your luck goddess missed one of us? In the end, what have you accomplished?”
I look for an answer, trying to find out a way in which its argument is flawed. After a moment, I shake my head. I can worry more about this later, right?
And yet, in spite of that, I hear myself ask, “What would you do in my shoes, then?”
It chuckles a bit. “I don’t know. Die, maybe. Or live as you please. When it comes right down to it, you’ve got three choices. Die, and save yourself the trouble of worrying about your friends. Live as you please, and take the world with you. End our threat permanently. Or, you know, keep fighting a hopeless battle that you will never benefit from. Of course, the latter two are only options if you survive this fight. If I kill you, hey- I might count as a hero. Wouldn’t you say?”
Before I can try to retort, it’s moving again. It zig-zags closer, like it’s about to try and hit me directly. I raise my arms to defend myself and notice a sort of glint around the claws. Is that...
He’s almost right in front of me. Abandoning all logic for a split second, I dash forward, swinging my claw out in front of me. The Shard is surprised as my claws extend and knock it to the side.
It trips and falls but is on its feet in a second. It hop-skips backward a few steps, and begins attacking with its fingers again. I roll to the side, desperate to avoid the strikes.
Well, I’ve figured out Scratch, but it didn’t do me as much good as I thought it would. Hmmm... On that topic, is the Shard right? Is this all pointless?
I block an incoming thrust with one of my claws and the Shard begins to approach me slowly.
...There’s no way I can make any kind of difference. In the grand scheme of things, my actions are insignificant. It’s absolutely correct.
I dodge to the left and begin to surround my head and feet with water.
So, why am I fighting? Because it’s the right thing to do? How can I be certain that right and wrong even factor into this? The way the Shard talks, it’s like he’s some kind of force of nature...
I speed towards it, and am knocked out of the air as it swings its arm to the side.
I can’t fight the wind or the tides. Just as they will exist regardless of my efforts, so will the Shards. What do I do?
The Shard approaches me slowly, lifting its hand up into the air as its fingers extend to about a foot long.
Should I just surrender here? No. I don’t want to die, and Kim, Julius, and Ampharos don’t want me to either. The three of them...
I try and dodge, but not fast enough. Its fingers rake down my arm, leaving long, deep red gashes down the side. I’m lucky that wasn’t my front, or I’d be dead.
Ever since this whole ordeal started, they’ve been there to help me out, haven’t they? Kim herself mentioned the personal danger she was in, but she didn’t care. She was willing to put herself on the line for me...
I focus the water around my tail and roll to the side. A wave explodes out of nowhere, engulfing the Shard and blasting it backwards again.
Maybe it’s time that I gave something back to them.
The Shard slowly picks itself up again. I notice that the edges around it seem... fuzzy, somehow. Like he’s been spray painted into existence. He teeters unsteadily for a moment before looking my way.
“...You... Haven’t given up yet, I see. I’m disappointed.”
I shake my head. “No. My friends are waiting for me outside.”
It sighs. “Fine, whatever. Bear this in mind, though- you’re sweeping a dirt road. In the end, you affect nothing.”
I nod. “I know. You want to guess what else I know?”
Before he can react, I focus on the ground underneath him and hit him with another Water Oath.
He lands on the ground and rolls to the side. I approach him slowly, and look down at him.
“I don’t care.”
He looks at me a moment and chuckles. “Keep telling yourself that.”
I raise my arm and swing my claws down.
In an instant, a bellowing, screeching sound assaults my ears, and the world around me splinters into a billion pieces. For a moment, I’m surrounded by pitch blackness. Then, suddenly, I’m back in the forest. Kim, Julius, and Ampharos are nowhere to be seen.
The first thing I do is check my arm. There’s no sign of the wound from earlier- in fact, I feel better than I’ve felt in a while. Absurdly good, in fact. Like I’m bathed in warmth, even on the side of this snowy mountain.
Near where the rest of the team were earlier are a series of footprints leading away from the site. I begin to follow them and feel a tug at the back of my mind.
Chance, now is really not the time.
She doesn’t try to contact me again. I nod to myself and notice a fiery glow off in the distance. I begin to approach and notice Ampharos standing by it.
The second he sees me, he dashes over, and grabs me. “Heath! Are you okay?”
“Fine, Ampharos! Well, I’m alive, anyway. Would you please let go of me?”
After a moment or two, he lets go, and stands back. “Sorry about moving. Thing is, you and that Shard made a lot of noise, and, well...”
I tilt my head to the side. “Noise?”
He nods. “Think of the worst snarling imaginable. Now, couple in a few shrieks, moans, and one or two instances of what sounded like backwards speech. None of us could take it, so we moved a bit.”
After a moment, I nod. “Understandable. Sorry, Ampharos. Where are Kim and Julius?”
“A small way down the road. Kim noted that one way or another, when the fight finished, none of us had any reason to stay on the mountain. We’ll catch up to them- they’ve only got a few minutes on us.”
I nod, and the two of us dash down the mountain. We manage to catch up to them quickly, but before I can call out to them, I feel Chance’s presence again.
I just said-
Heath, it’s important. This can’t wait.
I sigh. What? Are you going to try and make me feel better after the fight?
She pauses a second. ...No, but I might have to in the fu... No, no, on topic now! Heath, we’ve found him. We know where our Shard is.