Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Episode 15: The Cave of Darkness

Note: Since this is a long episode and almost could be two episodes. I'm going to give the audience more time to read this one and allow other to catch up. As a result, the next episode won't be released until next Wednesday, August 6.
Episode 14 Recap:
          After introducing Jenny to everyone, the party met a new member named Emily, who was determined to face David in a duel. David accepted the challenge and despite her demands that he use Sudron and the Elite Stones, he refused and defeated her very skillfully with his best form yet, proving he was ready to enter the Cave of Darkness to go after what they will need to face the Dark Master.

EPISODE 15: The Cave of Darkness

When the morning came, Emily led everyone to their destination along the less traveled roads. Along the way, Jenny inquired about how Reid how he met Emily.
 “Just by chance really,” David’s old friend began to explain. “I found her fighting some Daelians as Drame and I dropped in just as she finished. She assumed I was another one of them and proceeded to attack me. However, she was already worn out from her fight and I easily neofied her.”
“I had no chance,” Emily stated in her defense. “I had only just received my form maybe a week before that while Reid has had his for a few months. Definitely a mismatch.”
            “I’ll agree with that,” Reid laughed. “I was able to train with Dyl and my Asen, Xander, provided some exercises for us to do. We eventually found Nathan as well and had him join us. For a while we didn’t even know if there were Daelians until the incident in Kelinor concerning the scroll. Xander just warned us that we would need to be ready.”
           “Speaking of your Asen, how come we haven’t seen him yet?” Jenny asked, eager to see another one like Zel. However, David intervened and answered, “Most Asens only reveal themselves to their partner. Zel is unique in that he showed himself but only to explain the situations to those that needed to know.”
            “Hmm, and then Emily has been staying with you, Reid?” Jenny added in.
            “Yes,” the orphan responded, “They’ve taken good care of me. I guess that’s one blessing out of this world full of curses. So how do you like being the ‘damsel in distress,’ my lady? How did you end up being it?”
            Jenny glared at Emily trying to figure out where all the spite was coming from. It was quite evident from her tone that Emily had some issue with Jenny. The sarcasm did not help the cause either. She wanted to ask about what happened to her family, but now it was her turn to answer questions instead of ask. “I became the Shining Princess after my dad found the scroll. I handled it and the next thing I knew, Zel appeared and showed me where I could find the Guardians Ring David is wearing and then told me about what I needed to do and what was going to happen. He even told me that we needed to go to Kelinor to find David. How he knew that was where we would find him, I do not know.”
            “And all you do is stand around waiting to be rescued?” Emily struck again.
            Jenny glared again and finally spoke out. “I may not like feeling useless, but I am not stupid to try and do anything that might hinder everyone else. I will wait until there is something I can help with. Until then, I guess I shall be a ‘damsel in distress.’” She spoke with such force that everyone was impressed and even Emily flinched. Silence followed for a minute until Reid broke it.
            “A scroll, eh? That’s how Dyl and I got our forms too. Nathan said he had the same experience,” Reid declared.
            “You found scrolls?” The professor interrupted. “Do you still have them? I would very much like to examine them,” he pleaded.
            “Yeah, we can show them to you,” Reid said. “They’re a bit different actually. We tried to compare them, but we couldn’t figure out anything. Our Asens said they couldn’t tell us too much about what was written either, funny as that is. It’s almost like they were secret instructions they were told not to read until the time came.”
            “Perhaps it’ll help explain why the Daelians took the one we did have,” Jenny’s father muttered to himself.
            Soon, they arrived at the warehouse they were at before, to the surprise of the group besides Emily.
            “We were just here yesterday!” David exclaimed. “You’re not saying the cave is here, are you?”
            “It’s been here the entire time. You just weren’t ready for it,” Emily explained. “Or you might have been, but not miss posh girl here. It’s not like she was expecting that she would have to go through a trial all by herself from the very start. This is her test to see if she is indeed worthy enough of being our ‘princess.’”
            The orphan opened up a panel on the floor of the warehouse and revealed a passageway. “What I’ve heard from the streets is that this used to be a headquarters for the mafia. They found this cave and thought it to be a great hiding place and ideal for secret dealings. So they built this warehouse on top of it. However, something happened and they left this place. Are you ready now, my lady?”
The sarcasm in Emily’s voice was seriously beginning to bother Jenny, but she nodded and was about to go in when David stopped her. He took a couple items out of his pack and handed them to Jenny. They were a flashlight and a ball of string, though the ball was a bit rough.
“I know I can’t go in with you, but you might need these,” he explained. “Sorry about the string. It was a last minute preparation. I also brought sandwiches that Reid and his mother helped make for when we get hungry. I’ll try to hold some for when you get back.”
Jenny smiled at these thoughtful gifts and graciously accepted them. Feeling prepared, she then entered the cave while everyone else waited outside. She no longer felt the sting of Emily’s remarks for she really did feel like a princess at that moment.
Inside the cave, the princess could not see anything. She learned that the darkness in the title was literally true. However, the flashlight helped a great deal. Before proceeding into the labyrinth, she tied the end of the ball of string to the entrance post. Navigating the labyrinth was by far a tedious task. There were many turns and corridors that led to dead ends and sometimes the same spot. If patience was her trial, then she was lasting by a hair. Luckily, being the daughter of an archeologist, she inherited a fascination of mazes and ancient culture. However, this seemed to take forever.
After some time to her, she finally made it into a room where on a table laid a bow and arrow. It was a beautiful bow, crafted elegantly and glowing phenomenally. Next to it was a ring that appeared to complement the Guardian’s ring. She walked towards the set to examine it. She was about to pick it up when she heard a voice call out, “Don’t do it, Jenny!” She spun around to point the flashlight but then the battery died. The princess was about ready to be frightened until she realized her eyes had either gotten adjusted to the dark, or the light from the bow had made it bright enough that she could make out a shape. It was the shape of a female about her height, however, the darkness kept her from distinguishing anything else.
The shadowy figure spoke again. “The bow is not what you were meant to find, Jennifer Elaine Lokaf.” It took a step closer, but the figure did not get any clearer.
“Who are you? And how do you know my name?” the princess inquired with a shaking voice. I’m sure anyone would be confused when called by their full name, especially when they never tell anyone what the middle one is.
“Don’t be afraid, Jenny,” it said reassuringly. “I am what you were sent to find. I am your Asen. I’ve been waiting for you to come for a long time.”
“But if you have been here, how do you know about me?” Jenny asked again.
“There is always a special connection between a person and her Asen. While we may not always be able to speak, the Asen knows who its partner is and all about him or her.”
“If I were meant to find you, then what was this bow for?” the princess gestured toward the source of light behind her.
 “The bow is merely a deception. Meant to lead people like you astray. However, I know you are my partner and that is why I have come to stop you from picking it up. Once you do, you are trapped. You must realize that for someone as pure as yourself, you can’t be meant to find a weapon that can kill, right?”
Jenny just stared at the figure. She didn’t move nor said anything at those remarks.
“I can see your heart,” the shadow continued. “I sense the loneliness that pains you. You don’t have to worry anymore. I am here with you and I won’t leave you. I know you care for the boy and you want to help him. That is why I am here. When we are together, we will be strong and will not need to depend on him anymore.”
Still no response from the princess. There was something tugging her heart to not believe this shadow, but she couldn’t pin it.
“I know how much you care for the boy, but you know he is going to leave you.”
Jenny finally perked up and stared even harder at this figure.
“You cannot expect him to love you, can you? If he did, then wouldn’t he have told you already? In fact, now that he has met that other girl, you are already on your way out of his mind. You know it’s true. Eventually, he’ll start to be annoyed with having to save you all the time. However, we can prove them wrong. Let’s go and we can show that we are better than them.”
The figure extended its hand toward the princess. Jenny slowly extended her hand out as well. However, as she put her hand forth, she noticed she was still holding to the string that David had given her. In fact, her hand was clutching it hard. She opened her hand to find that she had come to the end of the ball. It was just the amount needed to get to the chamber. There was something else there too. There was a note at the end. She unfolded it to the protests of the shadow and was able to read it with the light there. It said, “Good luck. I have faith that you can do it. –David.”
At that moment, Jenny brought back her hand and stepped back toward the bow. The shadow was approaching but came no further. The light of the bow seemed to frighten the figure. The princess then called out to it, “You are not my Asen. You are a deceiver! I know that even if David does not feel the same for me as I do for him, he is a friend and you are trying to poison that! Now what will the light reveal about you?!”
She grabbed the bow and pulled the arrow aimed at the shadow. At that instant, the figure was revealed. It was not a female figure of her height, but far from it. It was a huge monster! It had the shape of a man, but the head of a bull and was clad in full armor. The helmet permitted a dark red glow to come forth. To Jenny, this was the most terrifying figure she had seen. She released the arrow of light and it pierced the dark figure, making it no more.
The princess then put the ring on her right hand and proceeded to follow the string to the exit using the bow for light. As she got into the view of the others, she was surprised to hear Dyl comment, “It seems she didn’t need those items after all, David.” Nathan added to it saying, “That maze must not have been very difficult for her to do it in a couple of minutes.”
She looked at them thinking they must be joking, but she responded anyways, “What do you mean a couple of minutes? I’ve been there for at least an hour if not three.”
“Actually… it’s has only been a couple of minutes, Jenny,” Reid responded.
The princess gazed at them with disbelief and confusion. Finally the professor spoke up and suggested, “Perhaps that cave is a portal to some magical world where time flows differently.”
“Like Narnia…” David added.
“What?! I never heard of travelling to another world with Neostriker before!” Dyl blurted out, but then he calmed down and looked at David and muttered, “But if David says it’s so, then I guess it probably is.”
“Why if David says it’s so?” Emily asked, picking apart the word choice of the loose tongued Dyl.
“Because David’s theories may seem nonsequitur, there is some logic that is possible,” Zel intervened. “Considering all the interesting things that have happened, it could be possible, though I am certain it’s not Narnia that Jenny went to.”
“Either way,” Reid stepped in, “if Jenny has been in there as long as she says she has, she might want that sandwich now.”
True to Reid’s words, the princess readily accepted and devoured the food. After walking through the dark labyrinth for a long time, she was indeed hungry. She asked David how long the ball of string was and he estimated about a mile though that was only a guess since it took him a long time to roll it up. She then tried to offer him the bow, assuming that it was for him, but he declined saying that it must be for her.
When Jenny was rested, Zel spoke up and informed them what they needed to do. “David and Jenny must enter that cave again. The bow is for her to carry. David, you must still act as her guardian, for the bow has no power at this time. But I must warn you. You cannot use the Elite Stones or Sudron until you reach the end of your trial. In fact, you should not need to fight until then. Also, I will be unable to assist you until that time comes. Are you ready?”
They listened and nodded. David asked if Jenny was ready but before they went in, Reid stopped them and handed something to David.
“You might not be able to use it now, but it might be good to have.” It was the Elite Stone of Water.
 David accepted the stone and then entered the cave with Jenny. It was a little dark, but David used his torch sword for light. Jenny couldn’t remember him entering forms but they continued anyways. They went through the maze and were soon in the light of day. However, when they looked around, they were certain it was not San Diego.
They had come out to and found themselves up quite a ways on a cliff of a gray mountain. There, they could see over a forest with the morning dew rising as the sun emerged in the colorful sky. What caught David’s eye, however, was the black tower he could see not too far off.
“Wow! What a beautiful view!” Jenny exclaimed with a look of childish ecstasy in her face. They both wanted to stay and enjoy the sunrise, but they knew they needed to move on.  Seeing no other option on where to go, they took a path further up inside, leaving behind a spectacular view over a forest. As they walked, Jenny made a quip saying, “Good thing we had breakfast.”
The paths were confusing. Some went down only to climb again, while others were the opposite. Not to mention many paths went for quite a ways only to be a dead end or, worse, a cliff. They continued to walk for some time. Soon enough, they were lost in a thick fog. It’s amazing how you can be in light but cannot see. The two youths had to hold hands just so they wouldn’t lose each other. It was almost as if they might as well have been in a dark cave.
 They ascended as far as they could on several paths for hours. The breakfast comment seemed to be useless as they were beginning to feel the pain of hunger. They decided to stop after almost falling off a few times until the fog was gone. As they sat, David asked Jenny about her experience.
“So what was it like when you entered the cave before?”
“Not much different than this. Though my legs sure preferred the flat maze over all of this climbing.” She looked down and finished, “But it’s nice to do it with a friend.”
David agreed and the two then heard a growl. Realizing that it didn’t come from their stomachs, they looked around. Jenny spotted a shadow of what looked like a mountain lion. David readied his torch sword. Then, Jenny made a remark that made him think.
“Looks like you do need to fight after all,” she exclaimed. David glanced at her and had her explain. She reminded him how Zel said he shouldn’t need to fight. When he remembered, the guardian thought for a second while staring at the snarling shadow. After a moment of a showdown, David put away his sword and they heard another voice.
“Travelers I see. Stay, Keros.” The threatening sound ceased. There appeared a girl, a very beautiful one with flowing black hair and silver eyes about their age.
“Are you lost?” her perfect voice asked. “Don’t worry about Keros. He’s just my protector. Who might you be?”
  Jenny and David looked at her for a while. Finally, David answered, taking off his helmet, “We are travelers from afar. We don’t even know where we are. This is Jenny, and I am David.”
“Welcome then, Jenny and David. I am Ami. My friend here is Keros.” With that, the lion appeared. It wasn’t like a normal mountain lion. Yes, the shape was the same, but this one was more majestic and had symbols over its body.
“A lion?” Jenny asked, stepping back behind David.
“No, Jenny. It’s a real neomon,” David said analyzing the beast.
Ami looked at David and then at Jenny and the bow she was carrying. She smiled and said, “Keros comes with me when I come to pick some from the tree that’s behind you. Come.  After I pick some, I’ll lead you to my village.”
In awe that there was a huge fruit tree not ten feet from where they stopped, they accepted the offer. As they followed the maiden, she explained that they were going to Kerillia, a village that was pretty much protected by the fog. The mountain they were in was called Mount Malyn. Jenny didn’t pay too much attention to what she was saying. She was intrigued by the clothing Ami was wearing since it was different from theirs. Yet David didn’t appear to mind the clothing. It was a nice dress yet casual and seemed tailored in order to permit doing some work. When they reached the village, there was no fog. Instead, there was the sunny sky spotted with well placed clouds that make any day look nice.
Ami introduced them to the village elder, a small framed sage-like figure. After that, they toured Kerillia and saw it was actually a pleasant place. There was a big shrine in the center of the city but Ami told them that she will show that to them the next day and that they should stay the night at her place. The big that that was on David’s mind, however, was the black tower that loomed in the distance. When they reached Ami’s home, she showed them a little brown fox pup.
“It’s so cute!” Jenny exclaimed in joy as she saw it and the pup yawned.
            “Another neomon,” David stated contemplating and Jenny stepped back.
            “Wait! Then doesn’t that mean it’s a threat and a Daelian ally?” Jenny asked a little bit afraid.
            “Don’t be afraid of this one,” Ami assured them. “What you are thinking about are the dark energy neomon. Those are neomon created by the Dark Power for destruction. This is a regular one. His name is Lumecyx.” Jenny’s nerves calmed down and Ami continued to ask, “So there are neomon where you are from?”
            David answered, “Yes, but only DE neomon.”
            “That’s so sad.” Ami’s countenance turned to that of feminine sorrow, the kind that shows the sadness in their hearts but with no tears. “I fear that is happening here as well. The DE neomon are attacking these normal ones as we speak.”
            “What’s the difference besides the dark energy?” Jenny inquired, playing around with the little fox.
            “Neomon are simply animals blessed with special powers,” their hostess explained. “The DE neomon were created in mockery through the Dark Power with the intent of destruction. They only appear like animals to create confusion. It is said that neomon were made to be protectors of the land and animals but, as you know, the Daelians corrupted that and used the Dark Power to create them as weapons.”
            “So neomon will die but DE neomon would only vanish when defeated,” David concluded from her words.
            “That’s right. I guess I should expect you to know something about that, seeing that you are a Neostriker. You don’t need to be in forms here.”
            “How did you know that?” Jenny asked curiously as David de-formed.
            “You will find out tomorrow,” she replied. “Until then, relax and rest here tonight. My parents are at the tower tending to it so there’s space.”
            “Ami, do you mean the tower that stands out here?” David inquired as that tower has had his attention for some time. “What is it for?”
            “Yes, that’s the tower. We honestly don’t really know what it’s there for. It has been under our care for generations, though, and the Dark Power is strong there. Only my family has been permitted to go in and take care of it. Some say that it might be a seal to keep the Dark Power contained. I personally don’t know, but the duty will likely pass to me in a few years. Don’t worry about it, though. I’ll go prepare something for us to eat.”
With those words, their hostess went off. Jenny continued being amused by Lumecyx and playing with it. When Ami was gone, she turned to David and asked, “Do you think we can trust her? It feels weird here.”
“What do you mean by weird? Like there’s some evil here?” David responded.
“No… like I might belong here,” she replied. “It’s just a feeling, but I am a little at lost why they seem so easy to trust us. But then again, they are nice people. Also, can we wait a day? Won’t the others get worried about us?”
“Slow down a bit,” the guardian motioned her. “Yes, I think we can trust them. And I don’t think we need to worry about the others. You say you were gone for a few hours but it was only minutes over there. One day might only be like an hour to them. Besides, I think that shrine is where we need to go.”
“Not the black tower? Your eyes have lingered to it ever since we first stepped out of the cave.”
            “No. I don’t think that’s for us. At least not now. I can’t explain it, but I’m sure that’s the case.”
            Jenny accepted his answer and focused again on the little pup. She muttered that it might only be twenty minutes when they return. David joined in on playing with Lumecyx, but in his mind he was thinking. “Kerillia, eh. That’s weird. That’s from a different one of my stories, not Neostriker. What’s going on here?”
            They enjoyed their stay that night. Ami showed them a book which listed and described the various neomon they knew of, regular and dark energy ones. She later took them to a community feast and made them feel welcomed. They played around with the children and few neomon in the village. The air was so clean that the two of them felt very refreshed as they awoke the next day. After Ami provided some breakfast for them, they went to the shrine.
            The shrine was an amazing place. It was furnished with bronze and the finest lumber with intricate design. When they walked in, the two travelers stood in awe at how impressive it was. The closest that could be explained would be someone walking into a great cathedral or the Sistine chapel. Sure, this was not as impressive as the chapel, but it was certainly a sight to behold. The hallway was free space save for a giant fireplace in the center. Along the walls were statues and tapestries with amazing art describing history. Jenny, being the daughter of an archeologist, was amazed, but not nearly as much as David. He ran up to some of the statues and tapestries and then to others. Only a few did he recognize while the rest were completely new to him. The two girls laughed at how childlike he was being in a special place.
            “This is the Shrine of Heroes,” Ami began. “These are the heroes of the Nellenion Kingdom while it still stood.”
            “What happened to it?” Jenny asked. David overheard the question and stood still for a moment. Ami, nonetheless, answered in a grave tone.
            “It was conquered. The last Nellenion King, Phyreon, was a great king…”
            “Phyreon? This guy?” David interrupted gesturing to a statue of a very angelic warrior.
Ami smiled, “Yes,” but then continued in her serious tone and the two travelers listened intently. “However, when his son took the throne, he failed the trial that would have made him heir to the power. For a long time, there was no war, but the people became corrupt under his rule. Before his son was old enough to take the trial or the throne, they were invaded. It was a long war with the king’s son serving as an excellent commander. Some say that if he was given a chance, he would have been as great of a king as his grandfather. The war ended, however, with the invaders’ victory. One of the most trusted warriors of the kingdom betrayed the Nellenions and let the invaders in.”
            “How horrible!” Jenny exclaimed. “Why did he do such a thing?”
            “Yes, he’s famed for being a traitor. In fact, we do not even remember his name because of it. Yet, his story is too of tragedy. His motives became complex as he fell to the enemy’s lies. Some say it was because the kingdom he was defending became too corrupt and he could no longer fight for such a kingdom. It is sad how it took only a few years to undo what generations had built up and withheld. The Nellenion Kingdom used to be a shining example of a perfect society. Others say it was because the king had done something evil to him. Still others say that it was through his brother that he was tricked into betraying his kingdom and great friend, the prince. We don’t know much more about what happened as our village was formed by people who fled into exile when the war ended.”
            “What happened to the great prince that you spoke of?”
            “He was able to flee as well with his family. After the invaders broke through the walls and ravaged through the city, there was no hope left. The treachery dug deep and cost the lives of many of the warriors until there were but a few left. Those remaining, including the prince escaped and went off to new land. It is said that an heir to the Nellenion Power will return to the land. Meanwhile, we wait and tell the stories of our heroes.”
            “That’s amazing,” the Shining Princess declared. “How long has it been since then?”
            “About two hundred years,” Ami answered. “But come, let me show you the greatest of our heroes.”
            She led them to the back of the shrine and into another room big enough to easily seat all of the villagers plus some. It was lighted more but only two statues stood while the wall was covered with various tapestries.
            “These are our two great heroes. Zel, the Xagem, and Mastra, the great Nellenion King.”
            Jenny glanced at David at the sound of Zel’s name, but he didn’t budge. He looked in awe of everything there. At the end of the room, in between the two statues was a stone table with a great book of writing on it.
            Ami continued. “Zel and Mastra were the first Neostrikers. Rather, Zel was the first, but Mastra inherited it. Zel suffered an incurable disease as a child. It was later discovered to be the Dark Power attacking his body. Just as all seemed lost, a wise man appeared and crafted an armor made with Shining Power and gave it to him. With the armor, Zel was able to live and was granted special powers and virtual immortality.
“It soon came to be that a wicked advisor went to the Daelian king and told him of what happened. It is believed that this advisor was who infected Zel with the Dark Power as poison to begin with. The Daelian king had a similar armor forged for him using the Dark Power. He became known as Zenoth since he became a monster of great evil. He was able to use the Dark Power to create numerous warriors and dark energy neomon. For that reason, he is referred to as the ‘Dark Master’.”
The two travelers looked at each other, realizing the significance of the name. Meanwhile, Ami continued her story.
“Zel, thanks to the armor, was a powerful warrior. He fought against the Daelian lord and his monsters, but he could not do it alone. The wise man revealed that if he sacrificed some of his power and the immortality he had gained from the armor, then they could make suits for the knights to use against the Dark Power. Zel did this and the wise man forged special rings that activated the magical armor. This is how the Neostriker came to be with an unexplainable power to materialize armor out of thin air to fight in.
“Soon, Zel led his army to fight Zenoth but was killed in battle. At that time, Mastra took his friend’s armor and, blessed with power of his own, defeated the Daelian lord, sealing him away. After that, Mastra became the first Nellenion King.”
“How did he defeat Zenoth?” David asked, making the connection.
“With the Elite Stones,” she told them. “They house the power of the elements and with them, the Great King Mastra overpowered the Dark Master.”
Jenny looked a little confused. “Elements? I can see how stuff like Fire and Water are considered elements, but what about the others like Speed and Night?”
“Oh? So you do know about them,” Ami said pleasantly as if she knew something about her guests already. Nevertheless, she answered Jenny’s question.
“The Elements are divided into eight, as the legend goes. Speed is one of the names we give to Motion, which can then be considered Life. Night likewise refers to Shadow which the logic for fire and water still applies. The reasoning for Ice is that it represents cold.”
“Wow,” Jenny said impressed, though realizing there was more to the explanation than that. She then turned back to the two statues and asked, “So which one is which?”
“The one with the armor is Zel. The other is Mastra,” Ami explained. “Mastra is actually more famous for his deeds outside of battle as he was a ruler of peace. He was so great that it is said that the neomon willingly fought for him whenever he needed them to.”
“I must say, this whole place seems very magical.”
“I guess I should take that as a compliment,” their guide smirked. “The village gathers in this room once a week and we read from that great book on the table. In there is the chronicles of the great heroes in this shrine. It ranges from the story of Zel and Mastra to the fall of the Nellenion Kingdom.”
“Once a week? Doesn’t that ever get tiresome to hear the same ones over and over?” David asked surprised at this cultural event.
“Why should it?” Ami responded. “I love these stories and there are so many to hear. It has everything in it; Adventure, Love, Wisdom, Songs, and even Mystery. This tradition has made our community stronger. Besides, how else can we honor our heroes of old? If we forget about them, then we do them a grave dishonor.”
“What if they didn’t really exist?” David continued.
“Does it matter? It’s important for us to remember the good deeds of our heroes. By remembering, they continue to inspire us in our everyday lives. We may not have adventures like they did, but their stories help us act like them. Even if these heroes didn’t exist, the principals they stood for do. That is the beauty of a legend. It becomes a symbol and creates heroes for beyond their own time. People need heroes to look up to; to keep them strong, to give them hope. Even if I were to discover that everything was a lie, I would still tell their stories for those reasons and would continue to believe in them.”
            “I will admit, you are a far better person than I, Ami,” David stated switching his attention back to the two statues. “After all, your people welcomed us into your home yet we are strangers and bear weapons.”
            “Don’t be silly,” Ami said with a smirk. “If you didn’t carry any weapons, you would have been suspicious. It’s dangerous out there. Besides, it’s the weapons you carry that make us trust you.”
            “What do you mean?” the young princess spoke.
            “Take a closer look at these tapestries. Do you see it?” their guide pointed to specific ones on the wall. David and Jenny examined it and saw it. The bow and Sudron were there! Well, Sudron was sort of there. Some details were a little different, but it was definitely similar design.
            “These were weapons of your heroes?!” Jenny exclaimed with disbelief.
            “Whether they are, I cannot say. But their similarities are too close. I believe they are. Since you bear them, you must be special people. We feel that you are here for a reason. Do you know that reason?”
            “I believe it has to do with Shining Power,” Jenny answered. “We seek a way to cure David of the dark energy that flows through him.”
            “Then you must go up to the stone table,” a voice called out. The group turned around and saw the village elder by the entrance. He walked closer and said, “That table is magical. It contains a magic that is deep and beyond our understanding. Perhaps it was a magic written in before our world’s beginning.”
            “I don’t see the connection, but I’ll take a look,” the guardian commented. He went up to the table. He looked back at the elder, Jenny, and Ami. Nothing special seemed to happen. As he stepped back, however, to return to them, something did happen.
            A Nellenion field appeared and took up the entire room save the entryway where the others stood. David turned around and saw a shadowy figure. It soon took shape and became recognizable. It was the demon Neostriker from both David’s vision and from Jenny’s experience from the cave. The horns and glowing red eyes pierced through their hearts.
            “It’s you,” David declared. “You’re the one who tried to make me activate the beast.”
            “I merely tried to make you accept who you are,” the dark figure answered.
            “What would you know about me?” David refuted.
             It laughed. “Can’t you see? I am you!” and with those words, the Daelian Asen turned into a mirror copy of David. “You cannot defeat yourself,” it mocked.
            “You may be a part of me, but I am not you! And with my sword I shall purge you!” David declared authoritatively. He performed neoformation and became Cyonex once more, drawing his sword of flame. The demon changed forms as well and molded into a shadow copy of Neocyx. The youth then heard a voice.
            “Are you ready to face your Dark Side?” it said. It was Zel.
            “Yes, you here to help?” David responded.
            “Certainly. This Nellenion field is special. Those outside will not hear or see anything. This fight is important. Don’t lose your concentration.”
            “Got it. Let’s do this.”
            The duel began. The demon drew out twin swords against David’s Sudron. They clashed blades and went about a few bouts. This was by no means an easy fight for the youth. His Dark Side was able to counter his moves and even improved some others. At one point, Cyonex’s adversary used two sonic swords to fire four sword waves. David was only able to avoid damage due to his armor neocards. In addition, the Dark Side was able to vanish for instants only to reappear at another point. 
            “This is tough,” the guardian declared. “How do you fight against yourself?”
            “With help,” came Zel’s reply. “We’ll need to work together.”
            “I’ll buy that.”
            “Behind you!” Zel cried out.
            Just in time, the Falcon countered an incoming blow with his own slash and launched his opponent back. With Zel’s help, David was able to land a few more blows with good use of his neocards. However, the demon form had another trick. He multiplied! There soon were Neocyx Dark Side clones everywhere. David tried to overcome them but learned that they were merely shadows. He would attack one, but then the real one would strike and vanish. It definitely made the youth lose his cool.
            “How can I fight this?!” he cried out.
            “You need to calm down,” his Asen responded.
            “How can I keep calm against this impossible fight?!” David yelled out.
            Zel didn’t budge. Like a wise master, he merely kept his composure and said, “Remember what you told Brian about the Dark Power. It amplifies your passions. It uses them against you. You must remember though that passions are momentary. They get strong fast, but they also fade fast. You need to endure the storm. Focus your mind. Listen to me and let me help you.”
            David did remember. He took a deep breath and closed his eyes. Zel then gave him cues and the youth managed to avoid and parry his enemy’s attacks flowingly. He did this for a few moments. The number of shadows increased at first, but soon they vanished one by one. Then, when there just a few left, David opened his eyes in focus and said in synch with his Asen, “Now!” The guardian drew his legendary sword and slashed his opponent about ten feet away in an instant, defeating his Dark Side.
            “Was that…” David began recognizing his feat but Zel finished his words for him.
            “…Full Power? Yes. The ability that happens when an operator and his Asen are synched granting a boost in speed and power when the synchronization energy is charged.”
The Nellenion field disappeared and David exited out of forms. What was where the demon form stood was now a sphere of light. The sphere then moved and encircled Jenny only to disappear inside of her.
“What was that?” Jenny inquired of the elder.
“That must have been Shining Energy. It has granted you some of its power. Go to your friend and place your hand over his heart.”
The Shining Princess did as told and David embraced it.
“Are you okay?” she asked.
“Yes, that feels good actually,” David said with some joy in his voice. “The dark energy gone now. It appears you can now purify. Congrats.”
She nodded. Meanwhile, Ami stepped up.
“We were right. You are the heir to the title ‘Warrior of Fire’,” she declared with a sense of peace around her.
The two travelers told the elder and Ami that they must get going back to their home, but knew not how to return to the cave that they came from. Ami asked about the cave and smiled. She led them back to it and they realized that it was not too far from the village. In fact, it was right in front of it. They just needed to take a different path than they did at the first fork they came across. They said goodbye and went through.
When they came out of the cave back in their world, they saw Reid and Nathan groan while giving Dyl a few bucks.
“What’s going on?” the newly purified youth questioned at this sight.
Emily sighed and explained, “Dyl just won a bet, that’s all. He said it that you two would be back in twenty minutes while Reid guessed five and Nathan, thirty.”
“I wish we had a chance to join on that bet. I would have won too!” Jenny triumphantly declared.  
            After that little commotion, everyone asked how it went, but the two decided to leave them in the dark about what happened. The only thing they found out was that David had been purified. Zel then appeared and revealed that David and Jenny’s adventures in the cave had not finished. There were now three trials for them to accomplish and he warned to spread them out at least a little. They accepted the notification and then took the rest of the day off.

Episode 16: Jungle Adventure

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