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(it's time for a noteworthy story involving Misery as an active antagonist I believe, this will also introduce two new figures from my extended mythology in the form of Berrypaw and Sharptooth)

Coming of Misery - Paint It Red, Aspects, Nothing To Fear.., Rogues, Wolves At The Door.

Prologue

To the Native Americans they were known as the Coyote and the Raven - in later stories they were the Tortoise and the Hare, Br'er Rabbit and Br'er Fox - two eternal foes in the never-ending cycle of life, birth and rebirth.

In reality they were Berrypaw and Sharptooth, two ancient and powerful beings born to bring balance to a godless universe, one deciding to do so via teaching mankind to become its own savior while the other simply decided to cause destruction..

As they travelled across the world the two tricksters gathered yet more names for themselves, amongst the most common were: Eris, Anansi, Loki and Hermes.

They watched as civilizations came and went, indeed they played a part in the destruction of certain Empires as well as the rise of others - every step they took leading them to a new path by which to shape the destiny of men without them even knowing.

However in the modern age, ravaged by war and crime, few would believe that such beings still walked amongst them.. that was until today..

Chapter 1

The scene begins in a crowded Arcade - although such entertainment had once almost been rendered obsolote it was fast becoming a new trend as many youths found themselves within easy reach of a means of temporarily distracting themselves from the rising tide of violence, inequality and uncertainity which dominated the lives of so many.

Bright lights and loud sounds echoed across the Arcade as people engaged in dance battles, shooting games and even old-fashioned gambling (a sad sign of the times as youngsters freely engaged in gambling - the law no longer respected as society slowly verged towards anarchy once more..).

Amidst all the sights and the sounds a young African-American male walked into view, hands in his jeans pockets as he looked around casually - a pair of sunglasses hiding his eyes despite the noticable lack of sun: he is dressed in a simple red shirt and wears a pair of sandals on his feet despite summer having long since past..

"..funny, I remember when folks were happy playing with a bunch of rocks and some string.. now they seem to be obsessed with the latest shiny trinket to keep themselves occupied.. kind of sad really.. how such an advanced species can get so easily distrac - ooh! Mega-Carnage 2000! I gotta play this!" the figure thought to himself as he moved over to a large screen and began playing the loud and violent video-game.

A short while later a second figure entered the Arcade, also seemingly of African-American heritage yet decidedly different from the other figure - his form fitted into a pair of torn jeans and a white shirt with his hands and feet left bare, attracting a few curious glances from the passing crowds.

"..now this is my kind of place! nothing like the luck of the draw to make or break a man's fortune.. not to mention all that delicious greed.. man oh man, I remember when this stuff was illegal - had to go to some dark alley where the guys doing the business were likely to tie you up and toss you to the fish if you said the wrong thing.. of course when they tried that with me they were the ones swimming with the fish.." the figure thought to himself as he casually walked over to a nearby screen, shoving a random youth out of the way as he enjoyed a free game.

It only takes a few moments for the man with sunglasses to stop in mid-game, jerking back slightly - as if sensing something - he spins around and looks around the Arcade "..oh brother.." he says aloud, only it is a whisper.

(ooc: feel free to start editting if you wish to involve yourself in this story)

In a corner, trying to remain hidden was the gaunt figure of Deathwalker. He seemed to be invisible to most of the crowd, for even those who glanced in his direction didn't seem to notice him.

Standing next to him, also unnoticed, was what once could accurately describe as a demoness- with horns and a tail, but only one of her leathery bat-like wings was intact, the other appearing to have been sliced off.

"Ruby..." Deathwalker muttered. "...why are we here again?"

"Because Scarmiglione told us to come here." Ruby the demoness responded. "He said that he felt something was going to happen here..."

"Scarmiglione said that?" Deathwalker asked incredulously. "Do you remember what happened the last time he sent us somewhere?"

"Yeah, but... oh whatever, just keep your eyes peeled."

"For what, exactly?"

"Anything suspicious."

The barefoot figure soon grew bored of his free game and wandered off, not before ensuring that the joystick of said game was twisted in such a manner that the next person who tried to play was met with disappointment - a wide grin appearing on the figure's face as he observed the reaction from the corner of his eye.

Suddenly the figure froze in place as the figure in the red shirt appeared in front of him, looking at him for a few moments before simply saying: "..hello, brother..".

"Psst... Deathwalker... right there, at two-o'-clock..." Ruby mutters pointing at the two figures.

"Ruby, it's just two people talking."

"Shut up and listen to them." Ruby retorted.

The barefoot figure grins widely then transforms into a large wolf-like creature as he leaps at the figure in the red shirt, who proceeds to transform into a brown hare - the crowds in the Arcade understandably going into a panick as most sane people ran towards the exist.

"..you're mine now, Berrypaw!" the wolf growls.

"..I'm flatter and all but I told you before, Sharptooth.. you just aren't my type!" the hare taunts, leaping around the Arcade with unnatural ease.

"...suspicious enough for you?" Ruby asks with a hint of smugness.

"Grr... fine, you win." Deathwalker growls in irritation, reaching into his jacket and lifting a silver gun into his hand. "Let's just try to figure out what this is all about, alright?"

Suddenly something incredibly happens, the hare's ears perk straight up as Deathwalker lifts that gun - the wolf flying towards the hare, only to be swiftly kicked straight out of the building by a single footpaw as the hare suddenly raced right at Deathwalker, changing back into the form of a human.

"..what is this?" he says in disgust, cornering Deathwalker and pointing at the gun "..well? ..answer me!".

"Well, excuse me..." Deathwalker growled, but I couldn't help but notice that you and your friend were wrecking this whole goddamn place..."

Berrypaw frowns deeply, clenching his hands into fists "..you don't even get it, do you? all these years.. and you guys don't even get it.. GRAH!" - he suddenly leaps right into the air, shattering through the roof in the process and causing debris to fly everywhere as he vanishes from the scene.

Deathwalker and Ruby leap out of the way to avoid the falling debris. "Crap!" Deathwalker snarled under his breath.

As this occurs the feeling of a dark presence befalls Deathwalker and Ruby from behind as a voice notes:

"..Berrypaw was always rather touchy when it came to guns - ever the trickster.. never the killer.. in some ways I admire that about him.. even if his ultimate goals are pitiful at best..".

"Who are you?" Deathwalker asks, as he and Ruby turn around to confront this presence.

A floating figure dressed in a red cloak hovers before the pair, her features covered save for a pair of glowing yellow eyes "..who am I? you shall never truly know.. for I am many things.." she replies.

"...care to name a few?" Ruby asks.

"..I have no reason to introduce myself to you Ruby.. after all.. you and I have been so close for so long.. for as much as your physical pain was great we both know the loss of your wing left a scar far deeper than flesh and blood..." the floating figure replies, her glowing yellow eyes not even blinking as she stays in place "..nor do I need to give my name to you Deathwalker..".

"How do you know us?" Deathwalker growls. "Are you some minion of Lucifer's?"

The figure's eyes glow brighter as she hovers in place "..you tell me.. young one.. do I look like I serve a higher-power?" something in her tone suggests great power.. greater than that of a "minion".

"...maybe not, but what do you seek from us?" Ruby says, snarling at the figure after she had mentioned the incident involving her wing.

Suddenly the doors of the Arcade burst open as the barefoot figure returned, back in his human guise as he looked around in a rage: "..BERRYPAW?! WHERE ARE YOU?! I'M GONNA MAKE A STEW OUTTA YOU!".

The floating figure simply looks to Ruby and states "..you were not the ones I was seeking.. you may leave now.." - she then outright floats through Ruby like a ghost, heading towards the barefoot figure: as she does so a sudden wave of negative emotion rushes through Ruby's body only to quickly pass, as if brushing against darkness itself.

Ruby gasps as the sensation comes over her, then her face darkens and her eyes seem to flare up with flames. After a moment passes, she calms back down, her look turning into one of confusion.

"Ruby? What's wrong?" Deathwalker asks.

"That... that thing... whatever she is... she's not normal..." Ruby says, her voice a little shaky.

"...you mean normal by Earth's standards or our own standards?" Deathwalker asks.

"...Our own standards, you dumbass." Ruby responds, frowning at Deathwalker.

The cloaked figure stops right next to the barefoot man and speaks directly to him, "..Sharptooth.. I trust you are well?".

The barefoot man looks to the figure and crosses his arms, "..do I look alright?! where is he?! where's Berrypaw?! you saw what he did! he's going down this time!".

The cloaked figure hovers in place as she notes "..Berrypaw has fled.. however you are the one I seek out.."

The barefoot man frowns a little, yet he seems to shift a little - as if leaning on thin air "..really? ..you reconsidered my offer, eh?".

The cloaked figure's eyes glow a little as she states "..come now Sharptooth, we have discussed this already.."

The barefoot man grins, revealing sharp fangs "..yeah.. I know.. but come on.. I could show you a good time..".

The cloaked figure simply continues "..I have sought you out because I require your assistance..".

Deathwalker and Ruby glance at each other, unsure of what to make of this strange situation- they opt to silently observe what happens.

The barefoot man continues to grin, "..what is it you want?".

The cloaked figure's eyes glow brighter and an image appears in front of Sharptooth revealing an ornate mask "..I want you to steal this.. do what you will with it.. sell it.. break it.. just keep Berrypaw away from it..".

The barefoot man's eyes light up as he suddenly leaps forward, taking one of the cloaked figure's hands in his own as he shakes said hand vigorously "..you got yourself a deal Miss Misery!".

"...Misery?" Deathwalker whispers. Ruby shrugs.

The cloaked figure nods a little "..be sure to get a head start.. Berrypaw always was the smart one.." she says, beginning to fade away.

"Hey! wait up! Berrypaw ain't got nothing on me, baby! I'll prove it! hey! grr.." the barefoot man snaps, turning to Deathwalker and Ruby "..and what are YOU looking at!?" he growls.

"Well, to be honest... we're looking at you." Ruby says. It probably wasn't a smart move to talk smack toward a supernatural being such as Sharptooth, but then again, Ruby knew nothing of verbal restraint.

Sharptooth looked to Ruby "..you talk pretty tough for someone with one wing, better watch yourself though.. I'm quite fond of the occasional spicy chicken wing myself.." - then looks to Deathwalker and says "..you should put a muzzle on your girl before she gets you both hurt..".

"....SHUT UP!" roared Ruby, and before Deathwalker could stop her, she lunged forth at sharptooth, her own hands becoming like claws, her teeth morphing into fangs...

Sharptooth formed a large baseball bat as Ruby lunged towards him and the area morphs into a baseball stadium complete with organ music playing "Take Me Out To The Ball Game" - he proceeds to swing the bat at Ruby as she comes: however upon impact the bat explodes into confetti that scatters across the area like a multicolored blizzard.

Unlike Deathwalker, Ruby didn't seem phazed at the apparent transformation of their surroundings, but after being struck by the bat, her demonic temper flares up even worse.

"Ruby, stop!" Deathwalker calls out.

Ruby ignores him and attempts to slash at Sharptooth with her claws.

Sharptooth simply laughs as he transforms into a cloud of smoke with a grinning face, "..you mad, little girl? why don't you flutter on over and do something about? oh yeah.. you can't.. ha ha ha.. catch you around one-wing!" - with that he disappears from the area, as he does so the scene quickly changes back to the Arcade as his influence on reality is broken.

In a fury, Ruby begins to smash apart the various machines, snarling and roaring with frustration. Deathwalker knew better than to try and stop her; her rage would cool down over time, and cool down it did, as Ruby slowly morphed back into her human form, her claws becoming fists, which pounded helplessly against the broken machines as she began to weep softly but bitterly. It was then Deathwalker decided to confront her.

"...Ruby..." he began to say.

"...I lost control again..." she sniffed. "...I lost control... too easily..." she bitterly pounded her fists against a broken game console. "...what if I lose control and hurt someone? What if I lose control and hurt you?"

"Ruby, it's okay... it'll be okay..." Deathwalker says consolingly, embracing her, and knowing not what else to say.

"..don't let Sharptooth get to you - he's what scientists known as a Jerkus Maxus.. or "Total Jerk" to us common folks.." a voice suddenly speaks out from thin air, Berrypaw appearing literally on top of a nearby Arcade machine - in his human guise.

"Oh... it's you." Deathwalker said. "Well, looks like we've done our own fair share of wrecking the place too..."

"...It's my fault." Ruby said quickly.

Berrypaw looks to Deathwalker and shakes his head, "..not too fond of a guy who uses a gun to fight either.. you however.." he says, suddenly appearing next to Ruby "..let me tell you something.. you think you're some kind of monster? you think you're going to hurt someone? ..why? ..because you get angry? everybody gets angry..".

Berrypaw points to the still destroyed roof "..see that? that's what happens when I get angry.. you should see me when I'm real mad.. yet I know what I am inside.. and so should you..".

"...it's harder for demons... to control ourselves..." Ruby says sadly. When we get angry... we have to hurt and destroy... it's just what we are..."

Berrypaw shrugs "..if you say so.. though I always thought we had a choice in what we became.. call me crazy.." - he then thinks, rubbing his chin a little "..hmm.." - he begins tapping his foot against the floor: turning away from the pair as if in deep thought.

"...all we want, though... is to be treated like we're human..." Ruby finishes.

Berrypaw turns around and suddenly grins, his eyes sparking as he literally bounces over to Ruby "..well.. you know.. I think I've figured it out.. laugh.. go on.. just a little chuckle.. try it..".

Deathwalker and Ruby look totally bewildered. "...laugh? I dunno..." Deathwalker said. "...there's just been nothing to laugh at lately... everything is just so... serious."

Berrypaw begins to chuckle, as he does so he loses his human qualities, becoming the brown rabbit as he bounces in place "..look.. just listen to me.. laugh.. watch.. I'll show you.." - he begins to bounce around the pair, as he does so he begins to laugh. "..now you try it!".

At the sight of the Berrypaw, Ruby chuckles slightly and even Deathwalker couldn't help but crack a small smile.

Berrypaw smiles widely and then stands on his ears, almost in a cartoon manner - looking at the pair upside down "..look, I'm sorry we got off on the wrong foot.. yet I can't stand seeing folk unhappy so.. the name's Berrypaw.." - he rolls over, standing up and offering a paw to shake.

"...Ruby, former demoness of Hell." Ruby greets, shaking the paw.

"...Deathwalker. Former assassin for Lucifer. Big emphasis on the word "former". Now I work with the Vagabond Alliance. We're good guys." Deathwalker explains.

"..well how do you do Miss Ruby? you sure are looking fine today - as for you Mr. Deathwalker, sir.. I still don't trust a man who uses guns but I guess we got no reason to be fighting each other.. especially with Sharptooth being around.." Berrypaw says.

"..which makes me think.. Miss Misery is probably going to be looking for me soon.. when she does you two better be a hop and a skip away.. if you know what I mean.." Berrypaw continues.

"...so that is her name. Misery." Deathwalker wondered aloud.

"...she spoke to us. And then when she passed through me... like, literally floated through my body... I felt nothing but rage and pain and hate in my mind..." Ruby explained.

"not just her name, sir - she is Misery.. the real deal.." Berrypaw replies "..but don't you worry about her.. remember what I taught you.. when things look bad and people look worse.. just laugh.. you'll see..".

Suddenly a dark presence begins to fill the Arcade and Berrypaw makes a shooing gesture "..that's Miss Misery now.. get to getting now.. follow old Sharptooth.. he won't be hard to track down..".

Deathwalker and Ruby nod, following Berrypaw's shooing gesture as they hurriedly exit the Arcade.

As Deathwalker and Ruby leave Berrypaw turns around and a pair of glowing yellow eyes manifest next to him as a shadow casts over his form..

Chapter 2

The street outside the Arcade is busy and typical of an inner-city, this particular street was showing signs of urban decay and was obviously not a place to be at night and sure enough a quick glance at the sky shows that the sun was beginning to set.

"...Let's go." Deathwalker said.

"...where?" Ruby asked.

"...we need to talk to Scarmiglione." Deathwalker said. "Perhaps he can inform us about this Misery-character."

On a nearby wall a poster can be seen that shows an image of the same ornate mask Misery had shown to Sharptooth in the Arcade - the text reading: "showing now at Down Town Museum: New Exhibit - the Mask of The Red Dragon".

Deathwalker and Ruby stare at the poster for a moment.

"That's the..." Deathwalker begins.

"Yeah..." Ruby responds.

"Do you think we should..."

"I dunno..."

"We still need to contact..."

"Scarmiglione can wait. I want to know more about what's going on..."

"...yeah... me too. We'll take on this mission ourselves."

Without another word, Deathwalker and Ruby set off quickly down the streets, running for the Downtown Museum.

The pair only get a short distance down the street when suddenly a shadow casts over them and the sound of dark laughter fills the air, looking up they see Sharptooth riding on what looks like a stylized stormcloud:

"..hey losers! been waiting for you to show up! let's race!" he grins maliciously and begins flying towards the museum with some speed.

Without another word, Ruby grabs Deathwalker in her arms- capable of carrying him with her demon strength, and begins to fly- despite her missing wing, it appeared that demons didn't necessarily require their use in flight.

"Dammit! Ruby!" Deathwalker howled. "At least tell me before you do that!"

"Sorry, Deathwalker..." Ruby grinned. "I forgot how much you hated heights..."

"...I hate being carried by you when you fly. I mean, seriously. Can't we just Hell-Travel to the museum?"

"...That would be cheating."

"...you're playing along with that guy, now?!"

"Yeah." Ruby said, putting on a burst of speed. "I wanna beat him at his own game."

"RU-U-UBY!" Deathwalker shouted with frustration.

Sharptooth continues flying towards the museum and laughs as he notices the pair following him "..what's the matter with you, one-wing? you seem awfully cheerful all of a sudden.. don't tell me.. you guys bumped into Berrypaw, right? my oh my.. just when I thought you couldn't possibly get any dumber!"

Ruby blows a raspberry at him and laughs as she zooms by him. "And you can go lick Lucifer's shaggy ass, sometime!" she retorts rudely. Deathwalker groans.

Sharptooth growls audibly and forms a lasso which he throws at Ruby, catching one of her legs - he then holds onto the lasso and ends up dragging along after the pair "..I think I'd prefer a serving of demon wing with barbeque sauce.. followed by rabbit stew and a helping of whatever the hell the pale one is.." he retorts.

"He's got your leg..." Deathwalker growls.

"I know, dumbass!" Ruby responds.

"...STOP calling me that!" Deathwalker says, lifting his gun to his hand and taking a shot at Sharptooth.

Sharptooth laughs at the exchange and takes one hand off the lasso, pulling out a large gun and firing back at Deathwalker, only the bullets he creates seem to transform into paint-balls as they come nearby: covering Deathwalker in red paint should they hit "..you two crack me up! however - time to end this.."

Sharptooth proceeds to tug hard on the lasso, only to dodge to one side as Deathwalker opens fire on him - his eyes glowing as he snarls, exposing sharp fangs "..oh! I DARE you to try that again!" he exclaims.

Deathwalker takes a shot at the lasso, trying to break the rope holding onto Ruby's ankle.

Sharptooth ends up spinning around as he loses control of the stormcloud, once again resembling somewhat of a Roadrunner-esque cartoon character - allowing Deathwalker and Ruby to beat him to the steps of the museum: which is currently closed to the public.

Yet that does not deter Deathwalker and Ruby as they fling open the doors and head into the building, gazing around for anything that resembled the red mask they were searching for.

The museum is massive, halls spreading out in all directions like a maze - as the pair enter a large shadow suddenly descends upon them as heavy footsteps echo across the area: the shadow progressively getting smaller and smaller as a figure appears next to them in the form of a vaguely humanoid rabbit dressed in the style of a uniformed guard.

"..took you long enough, here we are trying to avoid a mystical catastrophe and you two be playing games with old Sharptooth.. I swear.. some folk never do learn..".

"Tell me about it..." Deathwalker groaned. "Here Ruby was, trying to recklessly show him up, while I reasonably told her that if we Hell-traveled, we could've made it here faster..."

"Shut up, dumbass." Ruby said, punching Deathwalker in the arm.

"Stop calling me that!" Deathwalker protested. "...and what do you mean mystical catastrophe?" he asked, turning toward Berrypaw.

Berrypaw just chuckles as he grows, changing back into his human guise - save for his purple eyes, which betray his true nature: a smile remaining on his face despite the bickering "..well where would the fun of been in that?" he notes, turning around as he motions the pair along a hall - a skip in his step "..well turns out Miss Misery is wanting the Mask of The Red Dragon - either to keep or to destroy.. either outcome suits her just fine.. neither suits us well..".

"This mask is obviously some powerful artifact of sorts... what does it do?" Ruby asked.

Berrypaw keeps moving along the hall, passing by several displays of ancient history - "..legend says the mask can shield whoever wears it from the eyes of the gods, the stars and time itself.. they never be seen.. unless they wants to be.. if Miss Misery got her hands on it she could do anything she wanted - like a child who could raid a cookie jar without fear of mommy or daddy scolding them..".

As the trio move further down the hall a pair of yellow eyes suddenly manifest high above them, a red mist covering the area as Berrypaw comes to a halt: "..talking of Miss Misery.. looks like we're about to get a not so-divine intervention right now!".

Deathwalker reaches for his gun, but Ruby stops him. "...not the gun." she whispers, gesturing to Berrypaw.

Deathwalker sighs and opens a flaming portal, from which he draws a sword with a crimson blade.

The red mist suddenly forms into seven cloaked figures, Berrypaw steps back "..oh hell no.. not these guys.." he mutters.

Manifesting behind the seven figures is Sharptooth himself, dressed in a white tuxedo and an ornate walking stick - grinning as he exposes his signature fangs: "..Miss Misery always did like me best, Berrypaw.. which is why I get all the good stuff.. say hello to my friends and Miss Misery's own elite.. The Outsiders!".

"...hello." Ruby greets sarcastically.

Berrypaw suddenly leaps in front of Ruby and Deathwalker, slamming his fists against the ground - causing the area to rocket upwards like a platform, the roof shattering harmlessly around the trio in the process: he then turns to Ruby and Deathwalker "..listen.. this is bad.. you don't know what these guys can do.. I'm not going to have much time to tell you either.."

Sure enough within a matter of minutes a massive beanstalk sprouted nearby, carrying Sharptooth and the seven figures up towards Berrypaw and the others:

"..where you going, Berrypaw? don't you know it's impolite to ignore guests? go on, boys! have a party! just remember - that mask is mine!" Sharptooth growls, pointing at the platform - the figures soon starting to clamber over.

Deathwalker swings his blade through the air; each swipe sends a wave of flame toward the attackers.

One of the figures steps in front of the others, seeming to absorb the flames rather well as he proceeds to spew forth a cloud of biting flies that swarm over the platform: as this occurs Berrypaw leaps off the platform and tackles Sharptooth, the two plummeting down to the ground below.

"Crap!" Deathwalker exclaims stepping back. Ruby steps forth, breathing flames out of her mouth that form a barrier to protect them from the insects.

The figure grins as he steps aside, allowing another figure to step forward and raise a hand towards the two - as he does so Ruby begins to feel herself growing weaker by the minute, as if her body was slowly withering away.

A third figure steps up and looks to Deathwalker, as he does so his eyes glow brightly and Deathwalker begins to feel any inborn abilities weaken (note see Envy's page for information of this "Dread Gaze").

Deathwalker lifts his gun, now that Berrypaw wasn't present, and loads it, preparing to shoot at the two figures standing before him and Ruby.

The two figures continue to concentrate as yet another figure appears, this one appearing female and unleashing several metal chains that fly towards Deathwalker as if having a mind of their own: the figures seeming to attack slowly, as if safe in the knowledge they outnumbered the pair and wishing to toy with rather than simply overwhelm their opponents.

Deathwalker leaps to the side, yet due to his weakening strength, the dodge is not at precise and he barely avoids getting struck by the chains. He takes two shots, aimed at the two figures that had confronted him and Ruby.

Ruby lunges at the female figure, her hands once more becoming like claws as she attempts to slash at her face.

The two figures are hit and turn instantly to dust, the female soon follows once Ruby slashes at her face - the remaining figures looking to the pair: "..oh, how good for you.. finding out our little secret.. too bad you won't banish the rest of us so easily..".

With that one of the figure's spews out another cloud of biting flies, the other three soon separating as one appears next to Deathwalker and another next to Ruby - the third simply observes the scene:

"..Gluttony - keep those insects coming.. Greed, show that guy a real party.. Pride, tame the savage beast.. remember.. we aren't fully revived yet.. all it takes is one strike and you're back in limbo..".

Ruby uses more flames to hold the insects at bay, yet this unfortunately leaves her open for attack...

Deathwalker meanwhile whips his gun-arm around and tries to aim at Greed.

Pride looks to Ruby and speaks to her, "..stop fighting.. you don't want to fight.. do you?" - his eyes flash for a moment and Ruby begins to feel her emotions reverse, anger being replaced by happiness - hostility with affinity..

Deathwalker on the other hand soon finds himself struggling with his own sanity as Greed makes a few gestures with his hands, slowly beginning to make Deathwalker's thoughts draw towards feelings of intense greed.

"Out... of... my... head..." Ruby growls, lunging half-heartedly at Pride, her swipes weakening in power with her growing reluctance to fight.

Deathwalker became conflicted with himself, caught between these new emotions and his sense of duty; he seems to fight with himself in order to lift the gun.

Pride simply grins at Ruby "..we're friends - you and I.. no.. we're more than friends.." - his eyes flash more, clearly finding this amusing.

Greed however is more focused as he continues making strange gestures, the clouds of biting flies not helping matters at all as the other figure watches the whole scene with silent approval.

Ruby attempts to fight off Pride's influence, but being emotionally unstable, her resistance fades entirely.

Deathwalker, on the other hand, raises his gun at Greed with difficulty and begins to pull the trigger.

Pride proceeds to grab Ruby by the arm and tugs, "..see? you and me - we have a special relationship.." he begins, only to suddenly lift in the air as Berrypaw appears from behind: tossing him over the side of the platform: yet Berrypaw doesn't have much time to speak with Ruby as Gluttony soon engulfs him in a cloud of biting flies, causing Berrypaw to flail around.

"I'm going to make you into pot-roast!" Gluttony spat as he focused, causing more and more insects to swarm over Berrypaw.

Greed keeps making gestures at Deathwalker, the gun seeming to turn into solid gold as the entire area sparkles with illusionary wealth - everything seeming to be tempting and new "..take it.. forget about her..".

As Deathwalker pulls the trigger the third figure steps forward, absorbing the gunfire as he finally intervenes - a stern look on his face: "..too late.. you've already given in.. now Wrath shall destroy you.." he declares.

"Never...!" Deathwalker snarls, trying to raise the gun once more, only for Ruby, snapping out of the trance that Pride had put her in before being dispatched, to leap at Wrath and Greed, her hands becoming like claws.

Wrath turns away from Deathwalker and grabs at Ruby as she leaps, his eyes glowing brightly as Ruby begins to feel her darkest emotions growing - her demonic qualities slowly but surely taking over as Wrath corrupts her mind and body.

Greed on the other hand is distracted enough that Deathwalker can finally get an attack in, the figure's influence momentarily lifting.

Lastly, Gluttony keeps Berrypaw covered in swarming insects as the trickster struggles to break free - grinning wickedly Gluttony moves forward as if to attack only to let out a cry of surprise as Sharptooth appears behind him: lifting him high in the air with both arms.

"..sorry old friend but you made a fatal mistake, you didn't let Sharptooth have his fun.." Sharptooth said maliciously and threw Gluttony off the beanstalk, the startled Outsider falling to his apparent death below..

Having run out of bullets, Deathwalker takes up his previously discarded sword and charges at Sharptooth.

Sharptooth laughs as he sees Deathwalker approaching "..you're joking, right?" he grins, taking his ornate walking-stick and twisting it, revealing a hidden blade within - which he soon draws out.

Meanwhile Wrath continues to corrupt Ruby, his eyes glowing as he yells over to Greed "..brother.. leave this place.. while you still can.. we can be born again.. through you..".

Greed looks confused for a moment before he nods and begins to flee the scene - Wrath returning his attention to Ruby "..don't you worry, little woman - the Age of Misery will see such wonders.. oh yes.. your pathetic little Hell will seem like Paradise in comparison..".

Ruby snarls; her snarl grows into a roar as she assumes her full demonic form. Her teeth grow out into fangs, her tail, arms, and back grow sharp thorns, her eyes flame up, and her talons grow even larger and more deadly. She swipes at Wrath, with her now animal-like paws burning with flame.

Wrath laughs as he's struck, "..that's right! give into despair! in the end that is all that will keep you alive!" - he then bursts into flame as his form seems to disintegrate in front of Ruby's eyes: a larger being emerging from the flames in the form of a familar cloaked woman.

"..now.. begone.." Misery declares, waving one of her arms and unleashing a wave of red energy that hits Ruby like a battering-ram.

The wave smashes into Ruby; yet her demonic strength, now in it's true form, allows her to keep her ground as she stumbles but remains standing. Regaining her footing, she leaps at Misery.

Deathwalker swings his blade at Sharptooth; as the crimson metal slashes through the air, it seems to become akin to flame.

Misery's cloak begins to wrap around Ruby as she leaps at the figure, "..fine.. stay.. I have more pressing matters at hand..".

Sharptooth growls and drops his own blade as he motions "..you have bigger problems, little man - your girlfriend seems to be going bye-bye.. as for me.. gotta fly!" - he leaps back, right off the beanstalk.

Deathwalker spins around, his eyes widening in shock at the sight of Misery and Ruby. Cursing, he darted toward them, raising his blade.

Misery begins to draw Ruby further into the cloak, as she does so a portal begins to form within - slowly but surely drawing Ruby into a new dimension: Misery looking out with a disturbing lack of emotion as Deathwalker runs forward.. "..why must this multiverse be full of fools? no matter - I shall soon correct that.." - with that Misery's eyes glow brightly and she unleashes a beam of energy at Deathwalker, made out of pure negative energy.

Meanwhile Berrypaw recovers, shaking himself free off a few stray insects, seeing what is happening he growls a little and transforms into his rabbit-form before he too darts towards Misery "..I'm going to regret this.." he thinks to himself.

Deathwalker pounces to the side, avoiding the beam, and leaps into the air at Misery; with a raging battle-cry, he attempts to slice at Misery without hitting Ruby.

Misery suddenly spreads up like a tide of red water, washing over the entire scene as she engulfs Deathwalker, Ruby and Berrypaw: "..hmm.. you avoided my stare? ..interesting.. yet it will do nothing.. in the end..".

Chapter 3

Deathwalker, Ruby and Berrypaw find their world temporarily nothing but a tide of red - then black.. after a few moments the black fades away to reveal an entirely new environment resembling a dark cavern with torches and a collection of torture devices hanging from the walls.

"What... is this place?" Deathwalker wonders aloud.

Berrypaw points towards a dark figure that resembles an armored woman with a metallic scorpion's tail and large metallic wings, who is in the process of stringing up an unfortunate soul to what looks like a medieval rack:

"..why don't we ask tall and gruesome over there?" Berrypaw asks.

"...this reminds me of lower Hell..." Ruby says quietly. Deathwalker shrugs and walks over to the armored woman, watching her intently with caution should she prove to be a threat-

"Um... hello?" he asks, unsure of how else to gain the figure's attention.

The figure turns to Deathwalker, as she does so the figure on the rack is held in place by chains and the figure idly walks over to a lever - "..so you tried to fight Misery? well, this is the result.. be thankful she sent you to my realm instead of her own.. you're in no danger.. in fact.. you are free to leave at any point.. this was merely a distraction.. as well as a lesson..".

Berrypaw looks to the figure on the rack then to the armored woman, he waits for a moment before he asks, "..what exactly is this place? I'm not too fond of places where people are chained up.. unless they've done some wrong..".

"What exactly is Misery?" Deathwalker asks.

"..you ask too many questions on matters which don't concern you.." the figure replies, puling on the lever - as she does so the figure on the rack begins to struggle "..what is Misery? she is what she is.. what is the place? ..this is pain.. life is pain.. pain is.. everything.. without pain there is no relief.. without suffering their is no calm.. without darkness there can be no light..".

Berrypaw frowns "..you don't make any sense - now let them go".

"..do not challenge me Berrypaw.. or I will cast you into a sleep you won't soon awaken from.." the figure replies.

"..you want to kill me? go ahead.. I can take it.. now let them go.." Berrypaw says defiantly.

Rbuy, to Deathwalker's surprise, stands with Berrypaw, facing the mysterious figure clearly in opposition. "I agree." she says.

"...I don't think that's a good idea..." Deathwalker says quietly to them.

The figure looks to Berrypaw and Ruby then states "..I do not kill.. I am pain.. the man you see before you has fallen, his arms and legs are broken.. thus he stays with me until his pain subsides.. as for you.. if you challenge me then I shall warn you.. there is a level of pain in which the body passes out to protect itself..".

Suddenly the group notice the area changing into a dark tunnel and the figure disappears, the voice echoing out "..so if I were you I would run..".

Berrypaw takes a step forward "..I'm not going -!" he begins only to stop, his eyes growing wide as a nightmarish creature suddenly begins to move down the tunnel towards them: most of its form hidden by shadows as it slithers across the floor - multiple spider-like arms and legs scraping across the walls as it moves along.

"... don't you cry.. baby bye.. don't you cry.. baby bye.. all your pain goes sleepy bye.. don't you cry.. baby bye..".

Without a word, Deathwalker and Ruby turn tail and run; Ruby breathes a blast of flame at the monster before fleeing.

Berrypaw runs after the pair as the creature gives chase along the tunnel, at the end of the tunnel is a light - which grows brighter and brighter as the group near it: the monster continuing to pursue them as it repeats:

"... don't you cry.. baby bye.. don't you cry.. baby bye.. all your pain goes sleepy bye.. don't you cry.. baby bye..".

"...what the Hell is that thing?!" Deathwalker pants.

The group almost reach the light when the creature suddenly picks up speed and starts scuttling towards them at a rapid pace - noticing this Berrypaw comes to a stop and turns around: "..doesn't matter.. you guys be careful.. Sharptooth won't give up without a fight.. I'll be alright.. I think..".

With that Berrypaw stands in place, waiting for the creature to approach as he blocks the way to allow Ruby and Deathwalker to escape into the light..

"No- wait!" Ruby exclaims.

"Good luck..." Deathwalker says, grabbing Ruby's hand and pulling her along.

Berrypaw sighs as the creature charges towards him "..good luck, he says.. oh boy.. well.. let's see what you got sister.." he says..

+++++++++++++++++++++

After entering the light Deathwalker and Ruby are temporarily blinded by pure white which soon fades - showing the pair floating in a vast ocean of white emptiness: a new figure manifesting next to them, resembling Misery but having a pure white cloak and glowing blue eyes - the figure radiates a presence of benevolence unlike her dark counterpart.

"More of these... beings..." Deathwalker mumbled.

"you know Deathwalker, refering to someone as a "being" is impolite.. you may call me Bliss.. I see you two already shared company with my sisters Misery and Pain.." the figure in the white cloak says.

"You seem... nicer." Ruby wonders aloud.

"You think of Misery and Pain as evil yet you forget the bigger picture.. without grief one can not fully heal.. without pain one is blind to forces that can hurt you.. this is part of a balance older than even the abstracts.. a balance which is in danger of being shattered by rogue forces that seek to gain more influence than they are entitled to.." Bliss replies.

"What are you talking about? What balance?" Ruby asks.

"..in order for the multiverse as you know it to function their must exist a balance between opposites - neither force can be allowed to grow stronger than the other.. for when the balance is broken the Great Destroyer does stir.. the Shadow of Death.. from which there is no escape.. yet no matter how absolute a law may be there will always be individuals that think themselves above it.. Misery is one of these beings.. a rogue aspect.." Bliss explains.

"...right, right... but what do you mean by 'Great Destroyer'?" Deathwalker asks.

"..that is not your concern.. for now.. all you need to know is that Misery intends on obtaining the Mask of The Red Dragon, which will cause the balance to be distorted: for if she obtains the Mask she will be immune to the laws of the abstracts.." Bliss replies.

"...how do we stop her?" Ruby asks.

"..you do not.." Bliss says simply "..however.. take this.." - a small ornate rod appears next to Ruby - "..defeat Sharptooth and Misery will no doubt confront you - use this Rod of Discipline on her and she will temporarily be trapped within the body of a common vermin.. but beware.. for the balance is clear: Misery must always exist.. this curse will only weaken her for a short while and her rage will be great.. by then however this whole experience will be behind you..".

"...if we must..." Ruby says, taking the rod into her hands.

"..you have a choice, Ruby.. if you did not you would never of made it out of Hell.. just make sure you make the right choices.." Bliss says, then vanishes as the area is engulfed in a blinding white light.

Chapter 4

After the light fades Ruby and Deathwalker find themselves back in the halls of the museum - a familar voice speaking out to them, "..hey.. you back? ..that's good.. I was afraid you were going to sleep forever..".

Sharptooth stands in front of the pair, holding a lifeless Berrypaw by the neck as he motions slightly "..old Berrypaw don't look so good - kind of pathetic really.. I'll never understand it.. why does he go and make sacrifices for losers like you? don't make no sense..".

"Put him down, monster." Ruby said.

Sharptooth laughs as he looks to Ruby and Deathwalker, "..you serious? ..you want to take me on? ..is that what this is about? eh?" - he grins as he tosses Berrypaw to one side.

"Bring it, furball." Ruby snarls, brandishing the staff. Deathwalker points his crimson sword at Sharptooth.

Sharptooth laughs as he spreads his arms out, causing a massive tremor that knocks Ruby and Deathwalker off their feet as he literally grows in size - "..this is going to be too easy!".

Sharptooth

"Holy-" Ruby begins to exclaim.

"Bigger isn't necessarily better..." Deathwalker muttered to Ruby. "That just means there is more of him to hit..."

Sharptooth's grin grows wider as he suddenly pulls out a pair of guns, relative to his size, being more like small cannons as he twirls them like a character in an old Western move - chuckling to himself as he opens fire in a chaotic flurry: leaving burning marks across the floor and walls as well as shattering several of the museum's nearby exhibits.

Deathwalker and Ruby flee toward each other and open up a pair of flaming portals, which take in the gunfire aimed at them and launch it back at Sharptooth.

Sharptooth growls as he falls back slightly, then pulls his guns away for a moment as he unleashes a beam of energy from his eyes which crashes against the ground and creates a large shockwave: "..now you're just getting annoying!".

The portals dissipate as Deathwalker and Ruby are hurled backwards, slamming into a wall. Ruby rebounds and charges Sharptooth, brandishing the staff and taking flight, while Deathwalker staggers to his feet, slightly dazed.

Sharptooth growls as he's charged at, his eyes sparking as Ruby charges towards him - dropping his guns to the ground, as he does so the guns shatter and turn into clouds of mist.

With a ferocious battle-cry, Ruby attempts to plunge the staff into Sharptooth's monstrous form.

Sharptooth laughs as he suddenly vanishes in a cloud of mist, which starts to fill the entire area - "..oh.. you've gone and done it now girl.. oh yeah.. now you're going to get it.." his voice echoes across the room as a low rumbling sound shakes the room.

Ruby hovers in midair, looking about frantically. "Deathwalker..." she begins to say.

Deathwalker tenses up, preparing himself for whatever may occur.

Suddenly the mist begins to grow solid as Sharptooth reforms as a gigantic serpent that covers most of the room, shattering even more exhibits as he shakes his tail, having become a monstrous rattle-snake that hisses wildly as his mouth grows into a huge reptilian grin: "..now for my favorite part of the game.. sudden death..".

Deahtwalker and Ruby are lost for words as both flee for cover.

Sharptooth smashes through the room as he uses his tail to try and grab at Deathwalker and Ruby - "..since you're about to die anyways I think I can share a little secret with you two.. you see.. me and Berrypaw.. we don't use magic.. oh no.. we control reality.. so.. yeah.. you never stood a chance.. you lost before you even began.. it's be kind of funny if it wasn't so damn sad..".

Ruby manages to leap away; Deathwalker isn't so lucky as his ankle becomes snared by Sharptooth's tail.

Sharptooth looks smug as he notes, "..this is what you get for allying with Berrypaw - I was always the smartest and most powerful.. there ain't nothing Berrypaw can do that I can't do better.. you really thought otherwise? man.. I feel sorry for you guys.. you have no idea..".

"Deathwalker!" Ruby calls out, flying toward him.

"...you talk too much..." Deathwalker mutters.

Sharptooth keeps Deathwalker in place "..got a problem, sir? ..too bad! ..you see.. you should of just left when you had the chance - this don't concern you.. this is between me and Berrypaw..".

As Sharptooth talks Berrypaw stirs slightly, extending a hand outwards he breaks a large piece of fossil from one of the dinosaur exhibits - the fossil now resembling a very primitive spear as he concentrates: using what little strength he has to hover the object in midair:

"..why? ..why can't they fight for what they think is right? ..we ain't gods, Sharptooth.. we're teachers.. you just forgot what it is you're meant to be teaching.." Berrypaw said, his voice weak.

Rbuy leaps at Sharptooth's tail, attempting to stab it and force him to release Deathwalker.

Sharptooth releases Deathwalker as his tail is stabbed and he lunges at Ruby with his fangs, opening his mouth wide - as he does so Berrypaw hurls the broken fossil straight into the open mouth, resulting in it impailing Sharptooth as he suddenly flails, his form crackling with lightning as purple mist engulfs the area.

"..maybe someday you'll remember.." Berrypaw finishes, then falls back to the ground - lifeless.

"...Berrypaw!" Ruby cries out as she hurries over to the fallen rabbit. Deathwalker scrambles after her.

Chapter 5

Berrypaw remains lifeless as Ruby and Deathwalker move over to him, Sharptooth finally disappearing in a swirling mass of crackling purple mist - as Sharptooth disappears an ornate red mask falls to the floor next to Berrypaw.

Deathwalker lifts the mask. "Ruby... I think this is it..." he says.

Suddenly the mask begins to glow as a dark presence manifests, another familar voice speaking out: "..I grow tired of these games..".

Ruby and Deathwalker look around frantically. "Is it... coming from the mask?" Ruby asks. Deathwalker shrugs.

Suddenly a red mist sweeps over and enters Berrypaw, his lifeless body rising up before he opens his eyes - which change for their signature purple coloration to glowing yellow and the mask suddenly begins to pull itself away from Deathwalker's grasp as if invisible hands were trying to move it towards Berrypaw:

"..I will have that mask and no man or god will stand in my way..".

"Ruby- it's her!" Deathwalker exclaimed. "The staff- use it!"

"But... Berrypaw..." Ruby began.

"NOW!" Deathwalker exclaimed.

"Grr..." Ruby snarled. "Die, bitch!" she bellowed, hurling the staff point-first at Berrypaw.

Misery

However Berrypaw simply made a gesture with his hand and sent Ruby flying backwards with a powerful gust of wind as he transformed into a large red dragon in the style of the Chinese - glowing yellow eyes blaze as Misery calls out: "your toys will not save you now..".

Ruby flips back, and lands on the floor, straining against the wind; Deathwalker takes hold of a large slab of rubble.

Berrypaw blows out a stream of red flame which creates a wall around himself, out of which multiple clones of Deathwalker and Ruby run out - each one made out of the same red flame and mimicking the movements of their original copy.

Ruby darts forth, surrounding her own self with flames, and leaping at the copies; being immune to fire, she had no problem charging in on a mob of fire-monsters, but the same could not be said for Deathwalker, who was still a human, after all. Deathwalker managed to snatch up the staff and leap back, barely avoiding being singed by one of his clones.

As Ruby charges at the copies she soon finds out that the red flame is not akin to normal fire, for when she attacks the copies they break apart and unleash painful memories of the past - which invade the mind like sudden flash-backs.

Ruby collapses onto the ground on all fours- shivering, her mind is jolted away from the ruined museum, and she sees herself, chained up in a dungeon, with the leering face of a demon and a red-hot knife approaching her...

"Deathwalker... don't... attack them!" Ruby calls out.

It was too late; as Deathwalker sliced through one of the flaming figures with his staff, he felt his mind rush back to a time that was chillingly familiar to him- he was lying in a bloody pool, crawling on the floor, when a gunshot rang out, and then he was spiraling into darkness, falling...

Berrypaw chuckles as he walks out from the wall of red flame, now back in his human guise - he walks over to Deathwalker and holds his hand out towards the staff: causing it to turn red hot as he attempts to pull it towards himself with invisible energy as Misery speaks out: "..with this mask I shall no longer be subject to the laws of the Absolute.. I will be Supreme.. get used to your suffering because soon this will be the fate of all beings..".

"Never!" snarls Deathwalker, continuing to hold on tightly to the staff despite the agony.

Ruby suddenly bounded over and leapt at Berrypaw, taking on her true demonic form once more and outstretching her talons.

Ruby suddenly feels herself being catapulted right across the room as Berrypaw falls over on the ground - Misery bursting out like a red ball of energy, crashing into Ruby and sending them both hurling into a nearby wall: "..stupid girl..".

Ruby is stunned for a split second, before she roars and attempts to slash Misery with her talons; meanwhile, Deathwalker, shaky from his flashback, grabs the staff and runs over to Ruby and Misery.

Misery transforms into a large demonic figure not unlike Ruby, grabbing Ruby and throwing her at Deathwalker with considerable force as she notes: "..face it Ruby.. you're not strong enough.. if you had a shred of love for the human you would keep him at a safe distance.. instead you drag him along on your selfish little war.. in the end he will suffer an agonizing fate - all because he put his trust in a monster like you..".

Deathwalker leapt out of the way; Ruby flipped through mid-air, landing on all fours, and snarling at Misery, before leaping forward and slashing at her.

"I'm... not... a... MONSTER!!!" Ruby bellowed.

Misery laughs as she takes the form of Deathwalker, Ruby forming large slash wounds over "his" chest - then she speaks in Deathwalker's voice "..just think Ruby.. next time you lose your temper.. this could be me.. imagine.. even for a second.. the pain you would inflict.. even if I forgave you.. do you think you'd forgive yourself?".

Ruby faltered; Misery's words struck her like icy daggers.

"Don't listen to her!" Deathwalker cried out, resuming his run toward Misery.

Misery grins as she slaps Ruby across the face, still in the form of Deathwalker "..go on.. strike me.. make me suffer.. because once this is over you will do the same to the real Deathwalker.. he trusts you Ruby.. the question is.. do you trust yourself?".

As Deathwalker approaches Misery turns and unleashes a blast of energy from "her" eyes - which hits Deathwalker like a battering ram of suffering, trapping him inside painful memories of his past.

"I..." Ruby began, continuing to falter under Misery's influence. "No... you're lying... I'd never..."

Misery suddenly appears behind Ruby, now back in her usual cloaked form - which begins to wrap around the demon as she states, "..answer my question: do you trust yourself? ..do you honestly believe you can control it?".

"..Misery.. that's enough.." Berrypaw says, having got shakily to his feet "..you feed on them.. because they are stronger than you.. it makes you scared.. don't it? ..that no matter what you do.. no matter what you say.. there is always more to life than suffering..".

Deathwalker crawls over slowly toward Misery, clutching the staff in his hand, and trapped between visions of his past death and the real world. "Ruby..." Deathwalker calls out. "...fight back... trust yourself..."

Misery looks to Berrypaw, disappearing from sight she leaves Ruby momentarily as she latches onto Berrypaw - bringing him to his knees as he wraps herself around him "..time for a history lesson.. Berrypaw.. you taught mankind many things over the centuries, didn't you? ..now see what they did with your teachings..".

Berrypaw closes his eyes as flash-backs fill his mind, of the dark era of slavery and killing - of prejudice and hate.. of a world were he found his words warped or ignored..

"..humanity suffers because it is all they really know, Berrypaw.. you try and teach them about a "better" life and this is the result.. you can't change them.. you can't save them.. you see.. they are already lost..".

Berrypaw collapses on the ground and clutches his head as the visions become darker and more violent, of war and oppression.. the cries of women and children.. the burning of buildings and shadowy figures hanging from old tree branches..

"..those days are gone now.. people have changed.. you aren't going to bring it back.. no one is.. they'd rather die than live in the past.. they'd rather fight.. than be like you.." Berrypaw says defiantly, his voice getting weaker.

Deathwalker, still plagued by his own visions, manages to drag himself near Ruby, handing her the staff. She took it, still dazed from her encounter.

"Go... go, get her..." Deathwalker gasps.

"But... I..." Ruby begins; it was apparent that she was shaken by Misery's actions.

"I trust you... you need... to trust yourself, too..."

There was silence for a moment, before Ruby's hands tightened around the staff. She spun around and began to run toward Misery, raising the staff as if about to strike.

"..the targets may of changed, Berrypaw.. humanity remains the same.." Misery states, the shadowy figures changing to reveal demons, mutants and other superhumans - ignoring Ruby.

Ruby leaps into the air, raising the staff above her head. She swings it down toward Misery with a battle-cry.

Misery suddenly crackles with red energy as she unleashes a shockwave upon being hit, once the shockwave disappears a red insect appears where Misery once stood - "..oh.. I see.. the Rod of Discipline? ..no matter.. I am of the abstract world.. you think this can imprison me forever? ..no.. not even close.." her voice echoes out as the insect scuttles away.

Ruby stands still for a few moments before she falls onto her knees, dropping the staff onto the ground.

Chapter 6

As Misery disappears into a crack in the wall the museum suddenly returns to normal - Berrypaw sighs a little before he closes his eyes and passes out on the ground and the red mask stops glowing as everything goes deadly quiet.

Deathwalker is the first to move: after having recovered from his visions he headed over to Ruby, and knelt down beside her, placing an arm around her shoulders. No words needed to pass between them, as Deathwalker had already understood Ruby's pain.

They held each other in their arms for several moments, before Ruby spoke up.

"Misery was right... I can't control myself... I can't trust myself... I'll only end up hurting you sometime... It's almost happened too many times now..."

"Don't say that." Deathwalker demanded. "Don't you dare say that."

"It's true..." Ruby said. "Look at me... I'm a demon... I'm a wrathful, violent monster from Hell... we lose control easier than people... and others tend to get hurt when that happens..."

"I don't care what you are." Deathwalker said firmly. "I love you, and I'll do anything for you."

Ruby sniffed and held onto Deathwalker tighter. "I love you too... but that still doesn't change what I am..."

Suddenly a figure manifests next to Berrypaw and takes the mask, the figure resembling a tall woman with the head of a dog, beneath her flowing green dress is a hoof and a lizard's foot - her left arm is covered in fur and ends in a vaguely humanoid paw while her right arm is that of a human female.

Deathwalker and Ruby look to this new figure, but keep their arms around each other. "...who are you?" Deathwalker asks warily.

The figure turns to the pair, the mask floating into her human-like hand as she stares at them with eyes that burn like small stars: "I am Creation.. you are Deathwalker and Ruby.. a man condemned to Hell and a demon.. yet you are both in service of the Alpha.. interesting.. creatures of chaos and destruction.. yet no longer aligned with the Omega.. yes.. I see now.. the Alpha did not lie.. all beings have a choice.. even the so-called "damned"..".

"Wait... Alpha and Omega?" Deathwalker asked.

"Service to the Alpha?" Ruby questioned. "What does that even mean?"

"it means you are stronger than you think you are Ruby.. you escaped Hell.. you learned to love.. you will do great things.. together.. but you must learn this on your own.. for the future is not mine to reveal.." Creation replies as she rises from the ground, a bright light surrounding her as the mask follows her: "..I shall take the mask to the Hall of The Gods where it shall be kept safe..".

Deathwalker and Ruby, lost for words, can only watch as Creation begins to ascend.

Berrypaw suddenly begins to stir as Creation disappears - coughing slightly as he takes on his human guise and shakily lifts himself off the ground, yet not quite onto his feet.

"...Welcome back." Deathwalker says. "Thought you were done for."

Berrypaw looks over to Deathwalker and Ruby "..you'll be survived what you can live through.." he replies.

"Indeed." Deathwalker responds, standing and helping Ruby to her feet. "What now?" he asks.

Berrypaw gets to his feet shakily then transforms back into the form of a rabbit "..hey.. one thing.. before I go..".

"What?" Ruby asks.

"..don't be sad.. don't be scared.. you did what you did today because you're more than just a demon.. or a human.. you did what you did because you are heroes.." - Berrypaw replies, turning away as he hops away, stopping midway - "..take from someone who knows, it ain't what you is that makes you a monster.. it's what you do..".

"Berrypaw... thank you." Ruby says.

Berrypaw smiles as he turns around, his purple eyes glowing for a moment "..no.. thank you.. for being what you are.. the world needs more people people like you.. even if you don't know it yet.." - with that Berrypaw turns back and hops away with a chuckle "..anyway, enough of the silly stuff - take good care of her Deathwalker.. you'll never find another like her.. I'd say that's worth fighting for..".

Then Berrypaw vanishes from sight, the museum once again oddly empty and quiet.

Deathwalker and Ruby look at each other, affording a small, rare smile each as they lean in and kiss for a moment; now that their ordeal was over, it felt greatly comforting to share their relief and love with each other.

"Let's go." Deathwalker said, as he and Ruby began to walk out of the museum, side-by-side with their arms still around each other. They had won the battle, but their trials were far from over...

As the pair left the museum the scene shifts down to the edge of the curb, where a red insect scuttles into a drain - the sound of chuckling following as a pair of yellow eyes manifest in the darkness below..

- THE END -

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