Out in a deep, black abyss, floated an immensely large castle, surrounded by purple clouds of electrical energy; and deep within the confines of this rather large fortress stood a grey cloaked figure in front of a throne, where a black creature sat, golden eyes gleaming in the musty room. Of the two, the more intimidating, black creature spoke first, a deep, yet unsettling voice spoke aloud, strong and demanding.

"This is the final stretch, I must have a distraction, you cannot fail me, merchant." The creature growled, "I simply cannot allow failure."

The short cloaked figure uttered no words, silence was his only best friend around this abominable creature, who held no mercy, no kindness, no remorse, and no pity for any other living thing. Destruction and death was what was always left in the wake of this disgusting creature, and it was certainly rare that one would survive the monster's onslaught.

The pitch black creature roared, "With the four out of the way, I shall no longer have any more problems, I shall rise up, not even the Divine Trinity will stand against me alone. But for this goal of mine to be reached, I must have a distraction to allow myself to set the next phase in motion; and you, my old friend, are my best bet at this point."

The grey cloaked figure nodded, then spoke, "As you wish, though, this will not be so easy."

"And that is why you shall have some assistance, you're not the only one to deal with this phase..."

Raising it's hand, the creature ripped open a hole in space-time, in which two figures appeared, both Secrets, a pink-ish colored one and a grey cloaked to add.

"Who has called me to inflict pain?" Temeres screamed in exclamation, Fate was silent but giggling to himself.

"With Fate and Temeres here, you are to go to Earth, a small but beautiful planet, there, you shall begin your part in my final plot, if this does not work, merchant, expect a certainty in death."

"Hm... This phase of your's, you certainly sound worked up, if your enemies out of the way, then why worry?" The short merchant questioned.

"Because there is always a chance of failing, and before The Omega is awoken, I must perform one last sacrement, virtually, you must do as I say. Seya certainly hates being late, so before he awakens The Omega, I must send you to that planet." The black creature demanded, "If this does not start as soon as possible, we'll be late and the whole plot will crumble, so get moving."

The merchant nodded, and with a wave of his hands, Temeres, Fate, and himself vanished in a ripple of space.

The planet Earth itself was quiet, yet bustling with life. A planet many consider home. In a busy city, where many walk the streets to get to their destinations, a woman was strolling, taking her time as she leisurely took each stride, one foot after another; when she was suddenly stopped by a whisper in an alleyway.


She turned to the alleyway, "Who's there?"

And as if on cue, a grey cloaked man flitted out of the shadows. "A merchant of rare goods. A shopkeeper of curiosity, the bread of everyone's sandwich within a dwindling economy of dying currency."

"Uhm.. What?" The woman was confused by the short, cloaked man, he was certainly an estranged fellow, one whom wore clothing of long ago, yet appeared to speak perfect english, albiet on a strange level.

"I have come to tell you about a certain.. Danger. A foretold future, a sinister plot, bent upon time." The short merchant explained, "Allow me to give you a glimpse."

A bright, green flash of light burst from the alleyway, and the woman made a shrill scream.

(AN: You may join here. New Secret story, and I'm quite excited of it.)

Ruichi's heart skipped a beat as the sudden scream from across the street split the air. Instinctually summoning his scythe to his hand, he took off running towards the alley.

Before he made his way, the same woman came running out, screaming "Monster!! A creature!! Help!!" She ran down the street as a roar of fury came from a large slime creature that erupted itself from the alleyway, horrifying more people, as others already began running. Ruichi, however, ran against the fleeing crowd and, once he was close enough, breathed a jet of fire at the monster.

The monster itself roared, spitting out acidic slime upon the ground, taking aim for Ruichi, yet not making at hit, only to melt away cement. The fire melted off bits of the creature in the skirmish, yet it still contained a form to allow itself stabilize. Ruichi continued to breathe fire, sidestepping around the slime.

For a creature that seemed to be dangerous, it was soundly, and easily defeated; the pitiable mass of ooze melted to the ground, it's liquid body bubbling in the sweltering heat of day, a hole made by the creature's body, which oozed it's way into the sewer.

Ruichi stared for a few moments at the crater the monster left behind before turning and beginning to walk away.

"Pssst!! Hey, you!!" A small grey cloaked figure from the same alleyway appeared, "Hail, come over here!" A small wave was made to show the small man was pointing out at Ruichi.

Ruichi barely spared the man a glance before walking away, deciding to ignore him.

Once Ruichi turned his head from the view of the stranger, he found himself face to face with the cloaked being. "Pssst! You, I've something to say to you."

Ruichi nearly jumped out of his skin as he took a step back.

"I've got a secret, a secret so grand it will change this world." The cloaked man barked.

Ruichi spun around and began to run away. He rounded a corner before stopping, looking behind himself tenatively. "Who was-" Ruichi began to think, before he was suddenly interrupted: "Pssst!!" Was heard behind Ruichi, "Want to know it?"

Startled once more, Ruichi fled again, taking off the ground by sprouting his draconic wings and soaring into the air.

"You need to learn the secret." The small cloaked figure's voice was heard, and with that, Ruichi felt a very small creature that was placed upon his shoulder, the small man was standing there, upon his left shoulder.

"Get lost!" Ruichi shouted, trying to brush the man away.

"But you should listen to what I have to say!!" The miniature man exclaimed, holding onto Ruichi's clothing for dear life.

"I don't trust you," Ruichi said.

"Many don't trust the shady type. I can understand... I am but a merchant, a seller of rare goods." The cloaked merchant replied.

"I'm not interested in anything-" Ruichi began.

"This is information. Nothing more nothing less. What's better...? It is free." The merchant chuckles.

Ruichi thought for a second. "Will you leave me alone after that?" he asked tenatively.

"Most likely, it depends on the situation."

Ruichi sighed. "Then get it over with."

The reply came quietly, "Then land first, it makes it easier to speak."

Ruichi gently touched down upon a sidewalk.

"Good. We have landed." Landing upon the ground, the tiny merchant grew to normal size, "Now the information that you have so severely desired." He paused, waiting for an outburst, or at least some confusion, but he was greeted only with Ruichi's irritated expression.

"Well, I saw this girl. Very pretty, she seemed to be a shade of pink, her whole body, and she took off to this cave upon a mountain. I tried stopping her, but she foolishly ignored me, and trudged ahead. She was in danger, but I could not help when I heard her screams." The cloaked merchant stated, "Maybe you can save her?"

Ruichi's face turned pale. "WHERE IS SHE?!" he exclaimed, suddenly growing fearful.

"This way, she went this way! Follow me!" The merchant took off running toward a mountain, which was covered in snow and trees.

Ruichi took off into the skies, flying quickly towards the peak of the mountain. When Ruichi made it to the cave where the merchant explained, he found the seller already there. "She went inside, I'm sure you can understand that dangerous things like this occur, I hope she's ok." And with that, the merchant ran on ahead, deep within the delves of the dank cave.

Gripping his scythe tighter, Ruichi cautiously entered the cave. "Nebula?!" he called out.

His echo was only heard, a few bats flew out right as noise was made, and as much as could be said, nothing was truly in sight, only darkness; and a faint light at the far end of the cave tunnel.

Bursting into a sprint, he darted towards the light.

He entered into a room, a pedestal that held a small, blue glowing orb was in the center, and nearby was the merchant. "Nice, look at this, it's pretty cool, other than that, it's a dead end. Confusing place, eh?"

"Where's Nebula?" Ruichi asked aloud.

"I'm unsure... Perhaps this small object has something to do with this Nebula of whome you speak?" The merchant added, "There's an energy resonating from this strange artifact, perhaps it is her's?"

Ruichi wasted no time in running up to observe the orb.

There was little time to react, as an orb encased Ruichi when he got too close to the blue sphere. The merchant himself backed away, "What's going on?" He questoned aloud, moreso to himself, as he seemed confused as to what was occuring. "Can you get out?"

Ruichi swung his scythe at his prison, but nothing happened, it neither broke, nor seem damaged. The merchant spoke up once more, "Perhaps if you touch or grab the orb? Maybe that will release the forcefield?"

Ruichi placed his palm around the orb.

Almost instantaneously, beams of light shot forth, rays of energy busting down the rocky walls, revealing the skies, and the lands below. The sphere blew into nothingness. In the sky, a vortex of energy formed, lightning shot forth, striking the ground multiple times.

From behind Ruichi, the merchant cackled, "You fool! I knew of your Nebula the whole time, she's perfectly fine! This was just to get you to touch the Sphere of Time, which holds Earth's Time Code, it's sequence to allow creatures to survive. Without it's temporal energy, which you released, this planet shall be permanently paralyzed, frozen in the bowels of time!!"

As this occured, the vortex turned grey, and the color seemingly began to spread, lightning froze in it's strikes, and from there, the color continued forth. Sadly for Ruichi, the bubble did not fade or vanish.

"YOU-!" Ruichi fumed, breathing a stream of fire towards the merchant, which was stopped by the sphere of energy.

"I couldn't touch the Sphere of Time, my own doing in deals with a dark god disallow myself to touch such a pure entity, but I needed to find just a regular, sensical, foolish person to do such for me." The merchant explained, "And now that time is screwed with, I can simply take control of this world." The merchant nodded, "I must be going." And in a ripple of energy, the small merchant vanished, releasing the bubble that blocked Ruichi's path.

Ruichi stood in silent shock for several moments. "It... it can't be..."

"It is, and it shall remain, if he isn't stopped..." A voice echoed in the windless, quiet, greyscale area.

"Who's there? What's going on?" Ruichi called out.

"Assistance, help. I came, but surprisingly, I was too late." In a flash of light, a blue-ish Secret appeared, "It's saddening when it's impossible to make it in time."

"Who are you?"

"The embodiment of Time itself." It explained, "I'm here to assist you, I was too late, so I hid and waited for the small man to leave."

"Can't you do anything about this?" Ruichi asked.

"I can't fix a Time Sphere, not immediately." The Secret explained.

"How long would that take?" Ruichi asked.

"Days." Time explained, "But with one running around, tricking others into letting time stop, I suggest you find this person.. Perhaps, I shall join you...?"

"...very well," Ruichi said.

"Perfect. I shall accompany you. Allow me to assist you in any way I can." Time nodded.

And so Ruichi found a partner, assistance in the darkness, the Secret of Time...

Chapter 1: Temporal Ordeal

The Secret of Time had shown Ruichi one of the nearby towns, frozen in the ever-expanding darkness of paralyzed time.

"You're one of the few on Earth itself that has survived the paralysis of the planet, this frozen land, not by ice, but of course, by time.." Time explained.

"Are there others who can move?" Ruichi asked, walking by a series of houses, whose occupants were all still and silent inside, much like a photograph.

"It depends, few who could have gotten away; but I'd be unsure of whom exactly." Time explained, "There is no sunrise, no sunset. Not here, those who have gotten away are more than likely living in fear."

"Aha! It was you, wasn't it?!" a new voice screeched. A tiny, blue glow began to circle around the Secret of Time, bumping into him in a feeble attempt to attack.

"Hm... No. The time freezing upon the Earth was not my fault. It was of another." Time explained.

"Huh? Oh. I remember you," the blue glow said, fluttering dragonfly-like wings. "So... it was YOUR fault!" she yelled, fluttering towards Ruichi.

"It wasn't exactly his... Either..." Time interrupts.

"Then who did it?!" the fairy-like being demanded.

"He's the only one whom knows exactly who the causer of this crisis was." Time nodded his head to Ruichi.

"A grey-cloaked merchant who wouldn't leave me be," Ruichi grumbled.

"He got to you. His trickery is greater than most, yet he's calm and collected at times." Time explains, "I know of whom you speak, but have not paid much attention to him."

"Then let's find him and kick his ass!" the fairy said.

"The problem is finding one who has left no trace of themselves behind." Time added.

"Right... how exactly do we do that?"

"Maybe you should let them come to you." A voice rang aloud.

"Hm...?" Time mumbled.

"Who's that? Who's there?" the fairy exclaimed aloud.

"A friend, make new room, I'm here to help, to give you doom." A pink Secret appeared, "I'm Fate, your future entails, what I show, something you cannot derail."

"Fate, controller of the beyond." Time stated, "Powerful if underestimated."

"How do we battle something like that?" the fairy asked.

"The same way we battle everything, Hecate," a new voice said, belonging to a golden-haired girl that materialized in their midst. "A good, solid fist in their face."

"How joyous. Living souls amongst the frozen. But I'm not here to fight, I'm only here to show you a path, the one that is only right." Fate explains.

"What's he babbling about, Karma?" the fairy asked.

Ruichi, however, remained in thoughtful silence while Fate had made his entrance, giving the pink-cloaked Secret an intense gaze.

"Down through endless trials, and past many homes, lies the land of the hidden, beyond this world, and beyond others. A place where the outer can only reside, a land which only darkness can preside. A portal is on this Earth, and on but only two others; find it here." Fate pointed toward the east, "In the direction, past the mountain range, through a labyrinth, and in a castle fortress deep, you'll find the land, the one hidden, and inside, a large granduous keep."

Time mumbled something to himself, and sighed, "Always in riddles and mysteries."

"At the labyrinth, shall we meet once more." Fate vanished.

"...rubbish," said Hecate.

Time smirked, "Most Secrets don't lie. Fate isn't the type to lie. He's a prankster, a tricky one. There's a trap involved, I'm sure."

"...and since what Fate has said is our only lead, our only option is to walk right through whatever his trap is..." Karma said. "Well then. Let's go."

As they started to leave, Karma turned to Ruichi. "You. Red-head. Go home. You're not strong enough for this."

"No." Ruichi said simply, turning his intense gaze to Karma.

"Don't be stupid, this is for your own good-"

"I think you should allow him to follow." Time interrupted, "After all, you needed much help with Bad Luck, even though he was more of a push-over, he was dangerous. Arbiter fought Fate once, and from the flow of Time, Fate himself made Arbiter for a while, seem ridiculous. It's wise to bring many to fight off Fate."

Karma was silent for a moment as she digested this information. Then she spun around and began to walk off. "Don't say I didn't warn you."

Ruichi said nothing as he followed.

Time floated beside Ruichi, "She is right though, you must be careful. There are dangers ahead, and we must all be careful. Anyone can be overwhelmed."

"Are you sure?" Hecate said. "He's just gonna slow us down..."

"The weak are much stronger than those who have already proven themselves. Have you thought of what one can truly do if they must fight for their very own life?" Time questioned, "I'm curious, I feel strange energies emitting from you." Time watched Ruichi. "Hm..."

Hecate flew over to Karma. "Are you okay with this?" she whispered.

"All we can do is trust the Secret of Time's words at this point," she said.

Time led them to the mountain range, which, like everything else, had turned greyscale in appeance, and took them to the peak of the mountain.

"The view is wonderful, now if it was only morning, or sunset. But because of the disruption of Time's flow, there is no color. I'm sure, soon enough, we might come across a natural disaster that's been frozen as well." Time slightly chuckled.

During their entire trek, Ruichi had not uttered a single word as Hecate continued to speak with Karma. He kept a tight grip on the handle of his weapon, keeping his intense eyes trained on his three partners. His thoughts were as mysterious as his empty gaze.

Time pointed down, in which could be seen in the direction, a labyrinth. "There, that's what Fate spoke of. What say you three, we head down there now?" Time floated slowly down, and waited at the entrance for the other three.

Ruichi had already strode ahead of the others, paying them no heed as he shouldered his weapon. Karma watched him depart for a moment with a thoughtful gaze before she set off too, followed by Hecate.

Upon arrival, Fate appeared to everyone...

"You have arrived." He calmly stated, "I hope the journey wasn't too tiring. Heh heh. Well, anyways, welcome to my labyrinth. See if you can find me, it shall be a blast." And with that, Fate vanished down the atrium corridor, into the vast maze that stood before them.

Time looked to the group, "If we're going to get through this maze and find Fate, we must work as a team."

Karma spared Ruichi a single glance, still unsure of the idea of him tagging along; nevertheless, she entered the maze alongside him, Hecate, and the Secret of Time.

Venturing through the maze took them through long passages, sharp corners, small spaces, which led to the next set of long long passages. Each path seemed the same, like there was no end, or beginning; at least until they made it to the center of the maze, a large circular space, empty.

"You would think that Fate would have planted some kind of trap inside the maze..." Hecate commented.

"You mean you weren't going to endlessly wander outside? I knew I should have planned more traps to place inside." Fate's voice rings out before he materializes into view, in the middle of the large, circular center. "But, I've got one thing around here.... Somewhere..."

"Quit with the jokes and pranks or whatever you want to do, you're in our way." Time berated.

"How 'bout not?" Fate smirked, "It's fate that you came to me, are you prepared?"

" this clown really the Secret of Fate?!" asked Hecate with contempt.

"The one, the only." Fate chuckled, "I was defeated once, long ago, and though the man who took me down is no longer.... Among us. I guess I can pick on others." Fate smirks, technologically speaking, the ground itself suddenly began to rotate, like sidewalk escalators, there were different strips, one head one way, the next went opposite.

"I suppose we can enjoy our time." Fate giggles, "But with Second Scrooge around, he may want to end this fast."

"What did you call me?!" Time yelled.

"Second, as in one, two, three; and Scrooge, you miserly fellow." Fate took out two overly large dice from his palm. "Let's play..." And with that, threw the two dice into the air.


Ruichi sprung forth before any of the others, sprouting his dragon-like wings and swinging his scythe at the mad Secret.

Fate stared at Ruichi, maniacal grin unwavering, "Toys.. You are my toy." He mumbles incoherently, dodging each swing. One of the giant dice almost fall on both of them, missing though; in the scuffle, it vanishes, only to be replaced by a cannon. "Yay!! I got a cannon. You're going to die!!" Fate jumps up onto the cannon. "Let's fire away at everyone!!"

Karma had already thrown a burst of energy towards the cannon as it appeared.

The burst of energy clogged itself into the cannon. "Ha!" Fate points at Karma, "Useless move, there is no point in-" And in the moment, the cannon itself blew up, sending scrap metal, and a certain pink cloaked Secret flying up into the air, only to land face first on the ground.

Time sighed, "He's toying with us."

"Huh? But how can someone so... incompetent... be toying with us?" Hecate asked.

"He wasn't incompetent. He never has, Fate is doing just what he needs to do. His job. And it's working." Time sighed, "He's slowing us down purposefully."

"You... All of you." Fate stood up suddenly, "Shall feel the wrath, of Fate!" Silence reigned.

"Ignore him." Time merely mentioned.

"You can't ignore me!" The other dice from earlier suddenly slammed into the ground, revealing lava. "Ooh... Not good." As if from nowhere, lava spouted out of the ground from the center of the circular section.

Waving her hand, Karma cast energy towards the oncoming lava, solidifying it.

"You cannot stop Fate!! Fate said that lava will burst from that spot, and so it shall pass!!" Lava bursted through once more, this time, spraying in other directions. "It's time to kill you with lava. I'll enjoy your deaths as you burn in the everlasting heat!!"

Time slowly inched his way to the other end of the exit of the circular area. "We should escape." He calmly states.

"Leave the clown to his antics," Hecate said, as Karma and Ruichi followed.

Time quickly led them in what he could believe was the correct direction; all the while, they heard screaming from behind them, Fate, was angered.

"You cannot stop Fate!!" Lava had begun to envelope the maze, and from behind the group, they could see Fate had fused with lava, making himself a large, fiery mass of molten rock. "I will kill you!!"

"So... what was the point of coming to the maze again?" Hecate asked.

"To kill you and burn you alive!!" Fate screams, chasing after everyone, but slowly begins to cool off.

"Hold him back and keep moving!" Karma called out, sending bursts of icy energy towards the gigantic, burning Secret. Hecate summoned spears of magic and Ruichi hurled shadowy bolts towards Fate. Time used his temporal prowess, slowing down Fate.

Fate, due to icy winds and attacks, became stone after a few moments.

Time sighed, "We at least know where to go after we get out of here."

"Lead the way, Secret," Karma said.

"So I shall..." Time led them slowly, after many changes in directions, out of the maze.

And so, the foursome travelled, up and down mountains, forest paths, through caves, until they came upon a castle keep that Fate had mentioned long before...

Chapter 2: Unrivaled Pain

"Fate said something about a fortress, right?" Hecate asked aloud. "Who else is betting that this is a dead end?"

"I've said it before. Most Secrets don't lie. I'm sure we'll be fine." Time answered, "Besides, if we don't get ahead enough, Fate will catch up; he's not easy to get rid of. Last time, Arbiter had to send him to a different time to stop him. So let us strive on, I'm certain we'll be there in no time."

"...Certain we'll be at another roadblock..." Hecate grumbled quietly.

"I guess roadblocks are not impossible." Time added, "But this castle shouldn't be far now."

Indeed, they were climbing up a steep hill, tall and proud as it was. Upon getting to the top, they were met by a shrine, one of a large, black demonic monster, and standing in front of the statue was a short, grey cloaked figure.

"" Ruichi growled.

"..Hm? Oh. Greetings once more." The Merchant stated in salutation, "I didn't expect you here. But to say the least, you're exceptionally persistant to actually come and discover where I've been. But nevermind myself, how's your trip been?"

"Quite miserable, punk," Hecate retorted.

"Is there.. Something that is bothering you...?" The Merchant questions.

"It was him," Ruichi said quietly to Karma and Hecate.

"Perhaps you have come for a fortune? Or some rare goods.. Save for the stopper of time." The Merchant chuckled.

Time stood by, silent.

"Who are you?" Karma asked.

"A merchant, a seller of rare goods. Far and wide, the most valuable selections of items from beyond the vast regions of space itself." The Merchant explained, "I've known, remembered, and met anyone I could possibly meet. I know who you are, my dear."

"...did you say 'rare goods'?" Hecate asked eagerly.

"Focus, Hecate," growled Karma quietly.

"Arbiter. Ever heard of that name... Karma?" Questioned the grey cloaked man. "Perhaps he may have told you stories as well... Maybe of his foolish friends, and he. Fighting off Eclipse, defeating Ebonscale, maybe a few renegades like Control along the way...?"

"What do you want?" Karma asked.

"Nothing as of now. I should be asking the ones who visit me. So what do you want?" The Merchant retorted.

"For Earth's timestream to be fixed," Hecate said.

"Earth's Time Code was tainted. The time-stream of Earth is ruined, by You!" The Merchant points at Ruichi. "You confounded temporal wrecker!" Time was about to retort, but with a little bit of magic, a spell of silence, with the flick of the point that the Merchant created, silenced him.

" decieved me," Ruichi said quietly.

"You wish that occured." Raising his arms, the Merchant formed a bubble in the air, showing a memory of the past.

"You can't do this! You tricked me!!" The Merchant pleaded.

"This was just to get you to touch the Sphere of Time, which holds Earth's Time Code, it's sequence to allow creatures to survive. Without it's temporal energy, which you released, this planet shall be permanently paralyzed, frozen in the bowels of time!!" Ruichi explained.

"As the rest of you saw, that was my memory. Although I was there, I was not the one who caused this problem." The Merchant stated.

" lie," Ruichi growled, clenching his fists.

"I KNEW it!" Hecate shouted angrily. Karma, however, was silent.

"I may be a knowing person, but it does not mean I know everything possible. The Time Sphere was ruined, and I'm being made the villain here. Take pity, and if you believe it to be me instead, then take your anger out, and hit me with everything you desire." The Merchant melancholily explained.

"Quiet, Hecate," Karma said. "Neither are admitting to the action, and both blame the other."

"But-" Hecate began.

The Merchant was silent, but nonetheless, looked to Karma, "You seem the most reasonable. Perhaps, you should choose who's lying, and who's the victim?"

"...How?" Karma asked. Ruichi was silent, as was the Merchant.

"Well? Think of something," Hecate said, fluttering near Karma's ear.

"You're not helping," Karma growled back.

The Merchant looked to Ruichi, then back at Karma. "Perhaps a breather?"

"No time," Karma said, proceeding forth. "You two- let's go. I will keep a close eye on you both."

"I must stay here. With the expanding time propulsions, soon, most planets will be frozen. I must uphold the stream here. See if I can assist with the dilemma in any way." The Merchant turned, walked back to the statue and stood there.

Karma thought for a moment. "Fine," she said.

Time walked up, trying to speak forth, but nothing uttered.

"Worry not about the being of Time, he seems to have grown hoarse, as usual, like that, it shall pass." The Merchant added, forming an orb in his cloaked hands.

As they proceeded forth, Karma whispered to Hecate:

"I want you to sneak behind, keep an eye on that man... report back to me if you see anything suspicious."

"If you say so," Hecate retorted.

And so, the group, save for Hecate, left Time following Ruichi and Karma, as they headed forth to the castle keep Fate spoke of...

As for the Merchant and Hecate...

"Hm... Zied, what have you planned? Sometimes, I wonder why..." The Merchant trailed off, mumbling to himself, "...It's not fair... Just.. Not fair...."

Using her sorcery to make herself invisible, Hecate inched forth, interested in what the Merchant was thinking aloud.

"How depressing, I knew it would happen, just like many before... Control, Arbiter, Inferno, Red, Corvus, Chu-ya, even Ebonscale. All fools, who led themselves to their own dreaded demise. Depressing. And soon... Perhaps the next...." The Merchant took in a deep breath, and spoke into what could be presumed, an ancient language. "IWOVA KEIN NOH WKOR VE-EN."

Space around Hecate began to distort, and warp itself in swirling manners.

"WHAT THE-" Hecate shouted before she could stop herself.

The Merchant was standing right in front of her. "I knew you were there, from the start." He states, "It's rude to spy on people..." He sighs, "How about.. A fortune?"

"Er... what?" Hecate asks.

"A glimpse of the future. A fortune? They're fun." The Merchant adds, chuckling lightly to himself.

"Uhm... I suppose so? Couldn't hurt... I guess..." Hecate said.

Bowing his head, and lifting an orb in the air, the Merchant speaks, "I see you.... You're.. A human, very beautiful, ravishing.. I see.. A man.... Mo-rph-eus, is his name.... He's dead. I see a land... Unthinkable. Inhospitable. I see death, Death.... Death!!" The orb shatters, and the Merchant falls over, onto the ground, seemingly out cold.

Hecate was troubled. She would have labeled the Merchant as an over-dramatic sham had he not mentioned Morpheus.

"Eh heh... Heh heh heh..." Light shot forth from the Merchant's hood, blinding everything nearby. When it died down, Hecate found herself surrounded by strange creatures. Black bodies, slimy tentacles with mouths upon them, five eyes off their heads, and snake anttenae. The Merchant was barely floating off the ground, in front of Hecate.

"Your friends are far enough now, and with my magic, you will seemingly find yourself at a disadvantage. Your future entails that you will be beaten here, but have no fear. I shall not kill you. I'll just lay waste to you here, and we'll be by your friends later." The Merchant explains.

"You... BASTARD!" Hecate shouted, using her sorcery to summon a group of phantom-like beings that floated around her in a protective circle.

"Now now, have no fear, your best buddy, and greatest hope, the Merchant is here!!" The Merchant exclaims, as all creatures attack Hecate at once.

Relentless Agony

The group had travelled for quite a while, no one knew of the attack upon Hecate, and all was silent among the group, but there was the castle keep that Fate spoke of. A cloaked figure stood at the top of the roof, and was obviously visible.

Ruichi stopped, gripping his scythe tighter.

"What?" Karma asked.

Ruichi pointed at the cloaked figure.

The cloaked figure jumped down from the top of the keep down in front of the door, revealing itself to be the Secret of Pain... Temeres...

"Well, Ruichi, we meet once again, since our last... Scuffle. How long ago was it...? Hm..." Temeres spoke.

Without pausing for words nor thought, Ruichi charged forth, sprouting his draconic wings and flying through the air like a dart, straight at Temeres.

Temeres stared at Ruichi, as he charged forth, laughing crazily to himself, all the same.

"DIE!" Ruichi roared, cloaking himself in dark energy and slamming right into Temeres like a missle.

Temeres' laughter was heard as he was blasted down by Ruichi's attack.

"Ruichi, you fool!" Karma shouted.

Ruichi swung his scythe at Temeres' midsection; an attack that would have cleaved any normal man in half.

Temeres' cloaked body ripped in half, and his two parts of the cloak seperated. Only to be put back together by shadow tentacles. "Ruichi, you should know by now that you can't kill me." Temeres darkly laughed.

"It won't stop me from trying," Ruichi snarled, while his eyes flashed black.

Temeres laughed, as black tentacles rose up from the ground, on his command, slapping back and forth at anything nearby.

Karma rushed forth into the fray, calling a glowing white orb into her hand- the Shifting Sinew, the weapon that Chu-ya had entrusted her with, which formed itself into a glowing sword. She sliced each tendril in her path as she made her way towards Temeres.

Temeres smirked as more black tendrils slapped their way around, one attempting to take some blood from Ruichi; it met it's end beneath Ruichi's scythe, however.

Karma was about to leap at Temeres when a tendril sliced it's way through her ankle. Grunting mostly from shock rather than pain, she barely faltered and continued her assault.

The tendril appears near Temeres, who decorates the ground around him in a square with her blood, and smirks, waiting for her to attack.

As Karma lunged towards Temeres, Ruichi yelled out: "WAIT!"

Too late: Karma's blade impaled Temeres through his gut. At the same time, however, she suddenly felt a shocking, stabbing pain. She cried out in pain, falling to one knee right in front of her opponent. Her free hand grasped her stomach.

Temeres was surprised, to say the least. He felt a recollection of a green haired man with gold eyes. "You look like Arbiter. You have his eyesss..." Temeres hisses, but slowly builds up laughter, until he sounds maniacal. "To think he wouldn't tell you of me?! HA! Foolishness."

"I doubt it was neglect on his part but rather that you were unimportant," Karma retorted, trying to sound confident. In reality, fear gripped her insides as blood began to pour from a wound in her stomach and through her fingers. Where did her wound come from? She had stabbed him and felt the pain as if she had impaled herself instead...

"Pleassse. He had enough problems with me. Perhaps he feared speaking of the very being who gave him that scar across his right eye." Temeres chuckled darkly, "But you also look like my once-love... Yakuro." Temeres added.

"Mother...?!" Karma whispered in shock before she could stop herself.

"You are her daughter... How delightful..." Temeres stated, "But you have Arbiter's eyes... Those pitiable judging eyes!! You must be a Balance-Keeper as well. What foolishness. Arbiter couldn't defeat me and neither could Ruichi, and judging by even Yakuro's great prowess, you seemed to have gained nothing from her." Temeres cackled wildly, no longer caring for Ruichi at all, but for the girl before himself.

"Don't attack him!" Ruichi shouted out. "Any pain he feels will be yours instead!"

"I remember when Arbiter was a brat. Just like you. A runt. And in Yakuro's name. How sickening, to be under a powerful name, yet you, you show no great ability. Surely Arbiter taught you more than that." Temeres shook his head. "I find no use in killing you. Just like Ruichi, you seem to be a lost cause as of now. And killing lost causes... Isn't much of a hobby as trying to slaughter ones such as Arbiter."

"DON'T MOCK ME!" Karma shouted, ripping the blade abruptly from Temeres. She shakily stood up, still holding a hand over her stomach.

At that moment, Ruichi threw a wall of shadow-like energy at Temeres, intent on throwing him back.

Temeres simply side-stepped, dodging the wall of shadow, after the removal of the blade, and then purposefully ruined his square on the ground. "I'm not exactly mocking you. Moreso battering you for your rich heritage. A Terral should be strong, proud, but not a wild bull bent on ramming into the nearest living thing in sight."

"What do you know about Terrals?" Karma asked, gritting her teeth in frustration.

"I was once one." Temeres' eyes narrowed. "I was once one, before that wretched war annihilated our race and sent everyone into oblivion."

"Leave her be," Ruichi snarled. "You deal with me."

"You know Ruichi, for once, I feel as if not dealing with this. Picking on you is fun, but I've had a slight change of heart." Temeres blurted out, seemingly a bit angered.

"What happened to standing tall and proud?" Karma jested.

"As you can see, and heard moments before, I've become a Secret. I'm no longer a Terral." Temeres chided.

"What are you even doing here?" Karma asked.

"I was supposed to guard the portal, but nevermind that waste of time." Temeres rolls his eyes, "I'm going to wait and figure out where to go from here."

"Mer---" Time spoke, "Hec---"

Karma spun around and faced the Secret of Time. "What?"

"The... Merchant....." Time wheezed. "Hecate.... In trouble..."

"Wait here!" Karma shouted, as she teleported to Hecate's location.

There was nothing there, save for the large statue of the monster the Merchant stood in front of, and the remnants of a wild fight that recently occured.

Zied - God of the Defiled

"Hecate?!" Karma called out.

There was nothing, save for the blowing of wind; but suddenly, the statue of the grotesque creature began to move. CRACK noises were heard as the spindly fingers of the large creature began to move, and soon, it seemed the statue itself came to life.

It stepped off the pedestal, and it's black body moved across the ground like a shadow, as it made it's way to Karma. "You... Are Karma, are you not..?" It questioned.

"What's it to you?" Karma snapped back.

"What's it to you?" The statue-creature repeated, in a loud, scratchy voice, "The goddess is gone. There was no point in coming here, little brat."

"What are you babbling about?"

"You know, Hecate. She. Is. Not. Here. You blithering nincompoop." The creature spat, "I suggest you give up now and leave. Go live somewhere and enjoy whatever life you have left."

"If you're here to get in my way, I'll crush you," Karma challenged.

"I have been in your way before you were even born. I have been around for multiverse after multiverse. Continually being somewhere to cause strife and pain." The monster stated. "I was there when your mother was held down by a demon. I was there when Temeres became overtaken by the Sword of Valu. I was there, during Eclipse's reign, when he took over the heavens. I was there when Inferno fought Ebonscale. I was there when Arbiter died his agonizing death. I was everywhere. When anything bad happened, I was ALWAYS there."

"You've said enough," growled Karma through her teeth. Waving her hand in an arc, she caused an explosion that engulfed the dark monster.

The explosion faded, the smoke vanishing, leaving the monster there, unscathed. "You're nowhere near powerful enough to take me on, brat." The creature babbled, suddenly shooting yellow beams from it's eyes at Karma.

Karma leapt to the side and fired several bolts of energy from her palms.

What Karma found next, was that the strange being had suddenly stood in her path. "You are too young to be fighting me." He then proceeded to punch her in the stomach.

The wind was knocked out of Karma, and she doubled over in pain, staggering back several steps. Yet this did not stop Karma from trying to throw in another attack, using the energies of Chaos to form black, tendril-like blades that stabbed towards the creature.

Karma found herself grabbed by the neck not even a moment after, the Chaos energy leaving almost immediately. "I don't take kindly to struggling insects..."

Despite being choked, Karma was not detered; using the shifting sinew which was still in her hand, she impaled the creature through the chest with a long blade.

The creature laughed, "Chu-ya's pitiful weapon shall not harm me. The old bitch stood no chance, she dropped dead the minute I knew War could get her." The creature smirked, "Kadan was also a failure, I gave him sights beyond what anyone could see, and he was disregarded, many thought he was insane. Your mother as well, the whore, you know your father, do you not?"

"You-" Karma snarled, unable to finish, seething with rage. She spat at the sickening creature, who licked the saliva off it's own body with it's very tongue.

"I am Zied. Many speak of me as a monster, a creature bent upon murder. But some respect me in the highest regard." Zied dropped Karma, "Maybe Zaiynde would remind you of anything, surely his cursing would."

"I hate you..." Karma snarled, as a black cloak of energy began to engulf her body.

"Zaiynde was a fool as a child too. You know, I watched as he slowly began to break from my curse, you distracted him from his daily prayers. I need more power, and you were disrupting one of my many followers." Zied growled, "You little bitch, I'd never believe a whore like yourself could just show pop up to a follower of my own, and suddenly make him stop contacting me. I told him to kill you, and even then, he disrespected me, he refused." Zied then proceeded to kick Karma down.

Karma lashed out towards Zied, forming claw-like hands from her dark aura.

Zied grabbed her hands, "Now, let's not get too hasty. I shall repeat.. Do you know who your father is..?"

"What's it to you?" Karma shouted.

"Ryou, Arbiter. Your waste of a father, finally dead. But it's looking like his legacy continues. He smirks at me even in his death!" Zied spat, "He continually ruined my plots... He found peace, stopped destroying worlds, put Control to an end, fought off Temeres. Sadly enough, after Ebonscale fell, I found for a short time, depression, a great influence put to an end, but Inferno's death made him go crazy once more. I was overjoyed afterward, but he relieved himself of that as well, and defeated Eod not too long after, freeing your mother, thus bringing you, brat, into this world." Zied growled, "But.. At least he is dead."

"Don't talk about my father, you bastard!" Karma roared.

"And now, his legacy shall be finished, here.. And now..." Zied stated as he moved in for the kill, transforming his hand into a sharp pointed edge.

"Stop!" Exclaimed a voice, a sphere of light appeared between Zied and Karma at the last moment, blasting Zied away.

Zied stood up, and stared as the orb of light enveloped the area, eventually vanishing, leaving a winged woman, whose rainbow hair and wings, along with a golden aura revealed her to be kindly and great. "Zied, finally. We meet once more."

"Not once again. Daille, you bitch, you've come to save a measly girl, pathetic." Zied exclaimed angrily.

This Daille, this newcomer looked to Karma, "Do not fear me, I've come to help."

Karma felt a calming sensation as she looked upon Daille. The black aura surrounding her faded into nothingness.

"To think you'd actually find me, the minute I come out in the open, you appear." Zied grumbled, turning his sight only to Karma, "You, Karma, if you ever find the desire to avenge your foolish father, you shall search me out." Zied disappeared in a darkned light, as if it sucked out all life and whatever kept illuminating the whole frozen Earth.

Daille turned to Karma, "I'm sorry for how late I was, Zied just showed up, and I had to get here as quickly as I could."

"What was that... thing?" Karma asked.

"That was Zied, a being whom acts as my complete opposite." Daille began, "And if you want to know his story, of what and whom he is, you must listen to a tale of woe and misery, of many who have been tortured by him, and thus, you will learn who Zied is. Please, take a seat, it's going to be a while."

"Long ago, far beyond the this multiverse you lived in, there existed many before your's, many thrived, many were beautiful places. Some had gone on for eons, some had just started. Zied laid waste to them all, he slaughtered each planet, each home of each multiverse, one by one." Daille sighed, "I failed as a protector, Zied was always better than I, he had all the power, the wits, the manipulation, and the desire. Do you know of a planet by the name of Thyria?"

Karma nodded.

"The planet was less war ravaged back then, there lived a family of three, by name, Maron, Mia, and Leon; Leon being the child of his father Maron and mother Mia, but as it ends, Zied came upon them and killed Mia and Leon, leaving Maron by himself. For Zied, he took everything from Maron, and transformed the man of whom you see as the merchant, a "seller of rare goods" as he calls himself." Daille paused, she knew this was a lot to take in, but continued only a litte afterward. "Zied destroyed the multiverse of yesterday and came to this one, in hopes of domination of the perfect multiverse. And with an assistant forced to follow these orders, Maron and Zied both began their plotting. Thyria was brought alongside, as a way to escape for Maron, and Zied found it one planet of many he wished to keep." Daille paused once more.

"Zied started with Maron, and had him travel to the planet of Terralius, one of your oldest planets, and there, it began. Maron tricked a man, Temeres into giving a demonic necklace to a young woman at the time, by the name of Yakuro, thus, she accidentally killed her parents and was left alone not too much longer when the Secret of Order took Temeres away from her. Temeres had travelled the halls of the Castle of the Secrets, and did that for far too long, coming across a golden sword, the Sword of Valu, created by Tsukinode, and given to Order by the Merchant, Maron, only a week before. Temeres took the sword, and became possessed, by what force is still questionable."

Daille sighed, creating a cup of water from nothingness and handing it to Karma, she continued with her story.

"Temeres became a Secret himself, and thus tried to take down the Seven Secrets, but failed, but also resulting in some of instability within themselves. Order, whom I beleive may have been possessed by Zied, moved on for a while and gave a man named Ryou powers of Balance, who couldn't control the power, and began to destroy worlds and homes. But he was stopped, after he found peace, but this destruction created Control, a being of pure Order, a Secret bent upon putting everything back into a state of total Order, total Control. But he was soundly defeated." Daille smiled slightly, "I suppose Zied was angry at that, his plot was seemingly dissolved, but I failed to notice during most of this, that he had been busy with Temeres, of whom attacked the man you know as Ruichi, Ryou fought alongside Ruichi to take down or at least force Temeres to flee."

"...small multiverse," Karma thought to herself.

Daille took in another deep breath, "I sometimes wonder as well, the First Evil as some refer to him as, Eclipse, I wonder if he was influenced by Zied to take down the heavens; certainly Zied took his time once he found Ryou to be a thorn in his side. But once Eclipse was down, Zied decided to try to see if he could get his son to join in on the problem, and it ended in failure, his son Corvus may have been born from a demon, but that didn't mean he had to be evil as well."

"I'm sure Ryou, Arbiter." Daille cringed at the name of Arbiter, "Has told you of Inferno, and Ebonscale, of whom both died in a fight with each other, Zied happily accepted Ryou's loss of sanity afterward, and used the Secret of Entropy to further the progress. Though it did not last for too long, as he broke free once more, which moved them to Tsukinode, a god that is much like Zied and myself but prefers neutrality. Zied used him to further his goals, and had him be a buffer, a distraction so as to anyone could not take noticed to him in action. And once Tsukinode was defeated, Ryou found Yakuro, or so your mother found your father. Zied was silent for a while, until I found myself in battle with Anu-Oie, a sentient dimension that devours others. Zied had cursed the Secret of Luck, and forced him to break into two, which you went to assist with."

Daille waited for some of it to sink in. Karma remembered all too well of her hellish adventure to stop the Secret of Bad Luck.

"Though Seya and Anu-Oie are one, Zied can sometimes gain control of the dimension, if I'm correct. Either way, Seya seemed to be influenced by Zied, Seya must have been persuaded by Zied to assist him in the domination. So you met someone who assist you just as well, the old woman, Chu-ya." Daille smiled, and to Karma, the smile seemed somewhat familiar. "And she gave you what you needed to stop Seya..."

"So everything... it all comes back to Zied... but where exactly does Seya fit in to all of this?" Karma asked.

"That is something, I myself, cannot figure out. That is why I created The Golden Gate." Daille stated, "Chu-ya, otherwise the old woman who helped you across the whole problem... Was none other than myself, in a human form."

Karma was stunned. "You... Chu-ya... It can't... but how?" she stammered.

"I have abilities beyond others, to become another creature, and live as one as itself is of my many powers." Daille explained, "Chu-ya was my human life, but when Zied found out, he took over War, and tried to kill me. Zied will do anything he can to make sure his plans work, and go to any length necessary to accomplish his tasks. Your father's death may have been Zied's doing, clouding over another's judgment."

"My father..." Karma said distantly, still trying to take everything in.

"Sadly Zied does all his work in the shadows, he is rarely confronted directly, as he typically avoids fighting." Daille explains, "He seems to have grown more angered, by his lashing out on you. But he did leave his parting words... "You shall search me out." He stated, he wants you to go to him. All of this plotting, manipulation, and working from the shadows... I can only think of one thing as to why Zied is performing his plan like this..."

"Which is what?" Karma asked.

"Zied is afraid of you." Daille answered with certainty.

There was a long silence as Karma digested what Daille had said. "That's... ridiculous," she finally said. "There's no way that... thing could have been afraid of me..."

"Zied is most likely fearful of your heritage." Daille explained, "The younger, newer generations become more powerful than the older ones, and Zied should fear you for it. Why else would he appear to you when you're alone, when your friend is missing, when no one else can see you or find you in time if he overpowers you?"

"Well, yes, but..." Karma said, trying to think of something to say, but finding nothing. Then she suddenly remembered:

"Hecate! Good god, I forgot- where's Hecate? And Ruichi-"

"You mustn't worry. Temeres was blocking the way earlier, he seems to have quit, so you can go into the fortress and save Hecate from Maron." Daille calmly added.

"Will you help me?" Karma asked.

"I shall, my first act of assistance, shall be this..." And then Karma found herself vanishing alongside Daille.

Chapter 3: The Infinite Castle

Karma found herself alongside Ruichi, Time, and Daille, who were standing before an empty room with Temeres.

The Pain Cultist showed them the room, smirking all the while. "This is where the portal is." He snickered, "Ruichi, you better not blab off, saying I'm lying or something, because I'm not!"

"'re lying," Ruichi said.

"It's right there!" Temeres pointed at emptiness in the room. "Do you see it?"

"No." Time answers.

"You're pointing at an empty wall," Karma said.

Temeres face palmed.

Time whispered to Karma, "I think he's nuts."

"I HEARD THAT!!" Temeres screeched.

"What are you playing at?" Ruichi asked.

"Nothing." Suddenly, a force blasted in the room, sending Temeres flying right past their heads, he was, as usual, laughing at the matter, as he slammed into the wall. From where the blast came, a portal was opened, revealing a castle floating in a black expanse.

"...I still don't trust you," Ruichi said.

"That's... Your portal..." Temeres giggled slightly.

"So it seems." Daille added. "Are we going or not?"

"You trust that this is the right portal?" Karma asked.

Daille nodded, she picked up the small cloaked body of Temeres.

"Wha-?" Temeres was then thrown into the vortex itself, his laughter heard along the way.

Daille nodded, "I'm heading along." She entered the vortex not too long after, Time on her tail.

Karma entered next, being followed by a reluctant Ruichi.

Unending Hallways

When the duo entered at the other end of the vortex, they found themselves at the entrance of two large doors, which blocked their way into the castle.

Daille walked over to them, "Temeres shall be joining us for this little chore. I... Persuaded him."

"You did not!! You said you would destroy my existence if I didn't! come to think of it... Can you please do that?" Temeres snickered as he opened the doors alongside Time.

"We must hurry, Zied and the Merchant, named Maron, must be dealt with." Daille added.

"What is this place, exactly?" Karma asked.

"You act like I know. Geez, I was here only for a few moments." Temeres griped.

Once the doors were open, it was shown to be a foyer within, with three hallway exits, chandeliers hung daintily from the ceiling, purple flames ablaze upon the tips of the blood red candles. Pictures of Zied, and a man whom could be presumed Maron were hung upon the sides. A staircase leading to the first hall had jewels adorning the railing, solid onyx made the steps of the staircase.

"This is definitely a hideout." Time thoughtfully added.

Ruichi made a shifty glance over towards Temeres as they proceeded up the stairs; the idea of working with the Secret of Pain did not settle well with him one bit.

Temeres turned to look at Ruichi, waving his cloak around, as if taunting the man.

Daille took the group forward, leading everyone, making it into the hallway, and walking up to a door, she opens it, revealing a large library. Pictures adorned the walls, some of planets, a few portraits of some creatures, such as Control and Entropy, Anu-Oie, Seya, Hate, and Illusion. Also, portraits of Arbiter, Red, Inferno, and Amnesty, Eclipse, Dashuri, and Zetio, Eboncale, Gepetto, Nova, and Kane.

Countless portraits of creatures, people, and places. In the center of this massive labyrinth of library books, was a table, and sitting on one of the chairs was the Secret of Fate.

"Long time, no see!!" Fate waved, book in hand and some leftovers of what could be considered the cloaked being's dinner. "How has your expedition come along?"

"...where's Hecate?" asked Karma demandingly.

"Well, after you froze me in stone when I was on a lava rampage, I returned here, read a book and then ate dinner and read more and here we are!! Yay!!" Fate clapped, "Oh. The answer to the question... Probably the throne room." Fate turned and grabbed a book off a shelf. "Since you 'beat me' I don't need to bother with you!! Away, away with you, wild animals!!" Fate shoo'ed them away from himself, even though everyone was more than ten feet from him, he pointed at the door across the room, golden laced.

"Not to sound repetitive," said Karma, "but I don't trust him."

Daille smiled, "Don't mind him, he couldn't harm us, I'd make sure of that." She opened the door, showing a dark hallway, and as such, she lead them all down the dark path, to the next door, which was colored completely black. "I feel Zied may be beyond this door, enter with caution." She explained as she opened the door.

"If you say so," Karma said.

As they all stepped into the obscured room, clapping was heard.

"Grandiose! You have arrived." Sitting upon a throne, at the end of the room was Zied, beside him was the Merchant, and another, grey cloaked figure. "I'm glad I made this castle, not some long, stretched out course for my enemies to fatigue themselves in, but to get them to me as quickly as they can be, how enjoyable it is for my own mind to move any part of the castle at will, and allow ones such as yourselves to not feel that power."

Hecate could found, in a cage, floating barely above Zied's head.

"LET ME OUT YOU ASSHOLES!" Hecate shouted, ramming the bars of her cage.

"And here we are." Temeres and Time stated at the same time.

"Jinx!" Temeres laughed.

"Shut up." Time growled.

"Both of you, shut up!" Daille commanded, silencing the fools.


Hecate began to scream and shout in great detail the number of horrid, violent things that she would do to Zied and the merchant, none of which were remotely pleasant.

Zied ignored Hecate, "Daille, you came as well.. How nice. And Karma has marched to her death. Splendid."

Daille turned to Karma, "We're in danger, these three are each powerful. Who are you going to take?"

"All of them!" Karma shouted, launching several blades of dark energy at her three enemies.

Everything became dark moments after for Ruichi, and once the light returns, he finds everyone in the room, save for Zied, Daille, and Time, are seemingly dead on the floor

"How pitiful, no one withstood my attack, save for you two." Zied stated.

Daille perked up, "What did you just-"

"Silence. You know full well I simply killed them." Zied smirked, "You somehow survived Ruichi. But luck doesn't get you too far. But since you lived, I might as well, suggest this to you... How about you rule alongside me, in a multiverse of darkness?"

"...burn in hell," Ruichi snarled, breathing a jet of black, hate-feuled flames at Zied.

The black flames vanished before they touched Zied, "Don't bother."

Time perked up, "How can we win, Zied already seems too powerful for us."

"Your friend sees the correct path, you should follow his ideal. How about you just give up. It'd be much easier for myself to rule the multiverse, another bug out of the way. Here, maybe I'll let you too live, and you allow me to slaughter Daille over there." Zied stated.

"You lie," said Ruichi darkly.

"Some would say I would, but I do not, and I would regard you in the highest honor." Zied added, "Come closer, and I shall tell you something beyond mortal ears."

Ruichi took a step back.

"I have never lied... To you. And I'm not going to lie now. But if you anger me, you shall be the first to die." Zied added.

Daille piped up, "Don't listen to him Ruichi, he's just threatening you."

"Now I demand you come here, and listen to at least my plea." Zied added.

Ruichi was silent. And then...

He slowly approached Zied.

Zied smirked, "I would like to first of all, state that your very brave to approach me." Zied stood up and moved toward Ruichi, bending over, he was about to whisper.

Ruichi was silent, and stared ahead blankly like an automaton.

Zied began to speak in a foreign language, one Ruichi himself never heard of.

Ruichi suddenly sprung into action. His body became like a silvery ember in the darkness as he focused a spear of magic aimed at Zied's head, which exploded with the force of a small bomb. Ruichi, unaffected by the blast, swung his scythe at the dark creature.

The room once more became dark for Ruichi, and then light returned.

Zied got hit by Ruichi when the attack was performed moments before, Zied didn't seem all too happy. "Agh. Bastard!" Ruichi found a fist slam into him, knocking him far back into the wall, Temeres though stood in the way, blocking any severe damage.

"Ruichi, you got out of the illusion!" Daille exclaimed, "I knew you could free yourself."

"So that's your decision, Ruichi?" Zied questioned.

Ruichi glanced around, where Karma, Hecate, and the others all stood, relatively unharmed. "An illusion, huh..." Ruichi murmured. Then he turned to Zied.

"I would rather die before I ever follow you," Ruichi said.

"Hmph. What a waste of time, could have gained another assistant, but no. You chose another path." Zied shook his head. "This was all a waste of time, just to get at you, Ruichi. Oh well." Zied's eyes became purple, and as suddenly as it occured, the castle room tore itself into three islands, floating about in the infinite space. Zied stood upon one, the grey cloaked person upon another, and the Merchant was placed on the farthest spot.

"...we're screwed," Hecate said bluntly.

Zied smirked, "You'll be staying with me." He told Hecate.

Chapter 4: Battle For The Multiverse

Grey Lines

Time decided upon himself to fight against the grey cloaked being, prepping himself for whatever battle was about to begin, he stood upon the same platform as the strange person.

"Who are you?" Time questioned.

"I'm the undivided. The Neutral, the very first. In this battle, I'm here merely for a one purpose, which I shall not disclose. I am Zetio." Zetio explained, answering in complete monotone.

Time backed up a little, but found Zetio right before himself. "I shall not be ridiculed, you shall not run." Zetio bashed down Time in the first moment he got, but Time merely vanished, trying to save himself from the First Neutral.

Time then appeared, using orbs of energy on Zetio, who knocked them all away, and came back, bashing Time down upon the ground.

"Your moves are too slow." Zetio explains, "You should give up."

Time sighed, and nodded, but then swiftly dealt an uppercut to Zetio's chin, sending him flying into the air, which was proceeded by a sphere of energy. Dealing a time effect, slowing Zetio himself down. Time then proceeded, but found himself being absorbed into a portal of Zetio's creation, which seemed unaffected by time strains and thus blasted both of them down, damaging them both.

"You certainly have great abilities, but you are obviously weaker." Zetio adds.

Time was weakened, he found himself tired and weak already, Zetio must have formed a suicide energy explosion, using only Time's power.

"Give up." Zetio demands.

"I.. C-can't." Time breathes in, obviously damaged enough to be in serious danger, as a white light enveloped Time's sight...

Zied's Abilities

Karma leapt towards Zied, throwing a bone-shattering punch, Daille following closely behind. Zied dodged simply by moving to the side to avoid damage. Landing where Zied was a second ago, Karma whirled around with a kick.

Karma found her leg grabbed by Zied's long, spindly fingers, which moved up her leg in a spider-like fashion, before he threw her. Daille came charging in, blasting beams of white energy at the dark god, who smacked each one out of the way. "Grow up Daille, your abilities show no growth!" He mocks before blasting a black beam from his mouth at his target, who nearly dodges.

Karma summoned several spheres of glowing energy, which launched into the air and dove towards Zied.

Into which each attack flowed straight through Zied. Daille immediately perked up, "Karma, get away from him! Now!"

Karma leapt back, as Zied released dark energy waves, blasting through a shield of light energy Daille had created to block the move. Daille got shot down, seemingly weakened from the overpowering move itself. Zied was standing right in front of her, and in her weak state, he picked her up by the neck.

"The Dark Wave was created by myself, used to take down light types such as you, not even the Divine Trinity or Alpha could stand such a move, only those tainted with tinges of hatred can survive the attack. My moves have changed, foolish girl." Zied boasted.

"Order," Karma commanded, using her powers to will two pearly white cords of energy to wrap around Zied, holding him in place. In that occurance, Zied dropped Daille, who crawled away from Zied in pain. Zied turned his head to look at Karma, "You little tart..." Zied mumbled.

"CHAOS!" Karma shouted. Black, crackling lightning exploded from her palm, tearing through Zied.

"Grah!!" Zied growls angrily, but moments after, he vanishes from view, appearing in front of Karma, who throws a black-fire punch at her face. Karma took the hit at the same time she threw a kick at Zied. Zied blocked the move with his own arm, smirking as he knew Karma was a good fighter, but believing he himself was better.

Karma staggered back. Regaining her footing, she cloaked her fists in energy before leaping back towards Zied, who then grabbed her fists in the split second she tried to land her hit.

"Face it, brat, you're nowhere near as powerful as I am." Zied boasted.

Suddenly, the Shifting Sinew that Karma held in her fist shaped itself into a knife, stabbing through Zied's hand.

Blood trickled from Zied's palm, his smirk became more of a grin, as he began to meld some of the Shifting Sinew's energy with his own. "Finally, some of Daille's power has begun to meld with mine!!" As an attack back, black electricity crackled as it surged from Zied's to Karma's body, electrocuting her.

Daille stood up, weak on her knees as she turned to see Karma getting attacked by Zied's electricity, but in a hopeless effort, she got blasted down by yellow beams from Zied's eyes, finding her left arm to be frozen into stone. Karma was stunned, but stubborn; summoning the energies of chaos, black lightning burst forth from her body once more towards Zied.

"The unlimited power!! It's perfect!!" Zied exclaimed, a bright white light soon took over...


Ruichi sprouted his draconic wings and took off into the air, flying towards the Merchant. Temeres shooting off as swift as he could to keep up with Ruichi.

The Merchant stood upon his platform, seemingly unfazed by Ruichi's slight transformation. "Are you prepared?" He questioned, as Ruichi and Temeres made their way there.

Ruichi launched several thorns of dark energy towards the Merchant. Temeres assisted, sending a barrage of needles at the Merchant.

The area became dark in an instant, and thus, when light returned, there were black creatures that had blocked each attack, and thus, began attacking Ruichi and Temeres.

Ruichi ran in with his scythe, cutting down as many creatures as he could while he ran straight at the Merchant. Temeres attacked alongside Ruichi, knocking any monsters back that made their way through Ruichi's barrage. The Merchant jumped back to the edge, so as to avoid Ruichi for as long as he could, whilst forming a blue orb in hand.

Ruichi breathed a shadowy torrent of dark flame towards the merchant, who then released the orb at that exact moment, slowing down time, save for himself, as he moved through the area, and with Time himself distracted, the Merchant began to appraoch Ruichi at a swift speed, whilst Ruichi was slowed down.

"Damn," Ruichi thought to himself- even his own ability to think had been slowed dramatically down.

After only a few moments, time returned to normal, but the Merchant was suddenly holding a scythe, much like Zaiynde's, he swung in an arc down upon Ruichi's head, only for it to be blocked by Temeres' own body. Who laughed, but got flung over to the opposite side of the platform.

"Psst! Ruichi, I've got a secret for you.." The Merchant grabbed something that was hidden within the confines of his cloak.

In desperation did Ruichi try to swing his scythe at the Merchant, who, underestimating the length of the scythe, got cut. The Merchant fell over, the cloak ripped in half, which falls over, nothing within the confines of the cloak itself.

"...what?!" Ruichi exclaimed.

The cloak once more, begins to fuse together, forming the Merchant once more, who stands up as if he was never cut, his clothes as if were never cut. "Funny how I haven't felt pain in over thousands of years, even getting cut in half does not harm myself. But you didn't let me finish."

Ruichi was too slowed down in time to even have any hope of a second attack.

The Merchant snickered, "This battle, and Zied's... Is but a mere illusion." A bright white light enveloped Ruichi and Temeres...

The realization hit like a wall of bricks...

Time's Dilemma

Time found himself in the same spot as he was earlier, along with Zetio, but everyone appeared to have vanished.

"Don't worry Time, it's just going to be you and I for this moment." Zetio added.

Time sighed, he was obviously the weaker being, Zetio had easily attacked, and even escaped the slowing of Time, and through all of this, Zetio had used some suicidal moves, which didn't slow down with the passage of time.

"The Passage of Time!! You don't have it with you but... That Merchant character!! He must have it, if he can manipulate time, he himself must have been the one to have stolen the Passage of Time!" Time exclaimed.

"Yes, I had it used upon myself to protect my own being from your temporal moves, I'm outside the boundaries of Time, alongside the Merchant." Zetio stated.

Time sighed, he found no chance of winning this fight, and he could feel himself fading away, weaker than he was earlier. "It does not mean I'm not, and I cannot allow myself to lose, yet I know I can't win.. Cowardice is my only option." And with that, Time absorbed himself into the time stream, escaping Zetio, as he heard the angered screams of the First Neutral.

Chapter 5: Horrid Reality

The group found themselves still standing in the exact same spot they were standing at earlier, within the throne room, save for Time, who seemed to be missing. Zied was sitting upon the throne, glowing a faint gold color, the Merchant was near him; but the grey cloaked being was missing.

Zied smirked, "Did you enjoy that... Realistic illusion? It did whatever happened in it, to yourselves. As well as myself." Zied chuckled.

Indeed, it was true, Karma and Daille still had their damage that was dealt, alongside Ruichi and Temeres.

Daille sighed weakly, "How...?"

"Don't toy with us," said Ruichi between deep breaths, pointing his scythe at Zied.

"I was just here to gather some energy, but oh no..." Zied started, "I JUST realized you have a missing friend. Oh dear." Zied snickered, "And soon, you'll be joining him."

The Merchant stared at the group, then turned heel, walking behind a curtain behind the throne, vanishing from their view.

"i'm sure you wish to know where this is heading..." Zied smiled.

Daille spoke up, "Shut up. You.. Cruel monster.."

"How about not...?" Zied raised his hand, and Temeres floated over to him, unwillingly. "And for your betrayal..."

Temeres' eyes widened slightly, as energy surrounded him, and then, he suddenly burst into energy. His screams, yet laughter of the pain fading away slowly. Echoing throuout the throne room, Temeres' scythe and the Blade of Valu fell to the ground, and then suddenly vanished with golden energy bursts.

Karma and Ruichi were shocked speechless, and even Hecate in her cage was thunderstruck.

"Anu-Oie can deal with him for now. I might just make a personal visit in the future." Zied relaxed upon his throne. "i have no more quarrel with you, begone."

Daille spoke up, "You're dealing with us."

"I think not." Zied yawned, "Behind me is where he, went, your Earth manipulator who ruined time, you may go there."

Using the Shifting Sinew, Karma summoned forth a long blade that grew in length and smashed open the bars of Hecate's cage.

"ABOUT TIME!" Hecate complained. Summoning several bolts of magic, Hecate attack Zied, screaming "DIE, FUCKER!"

Zied sighed, staring at Hecate, his visage unwavering. "You are nowhere near powerful enough to damage me. I am also too lazy and bored to bother with any of you. The illusion, happily gave me what I desired. Thank you." Zied yawned.

A golden light suddenly enveloped everyone once more, and everyone's vision shattered like glass. Moments after, everyone could see once more. Hecate was once more, inside the cage. Everyone else was at the end of the room, the Merchant was also beside the throne.

Zied was halfway to the group, arms outstretched, a black sphere in hand, a look of surpirse and anger.

Daille smiled, "I broke the full illusion..." She stated proudly, "Though it seems as if he really did destroy Temeres..."

Forcing Hecate's cage to float over, he took it and threw it at Karma. "Damn you, Daille. I almost had them." Zied turned and floated to the Merchant, whispered a few things, and the Merchant nodded, and once more, like in the illusion, turned and went behind the curtains.

"Daille, you wish to fight me, and you too, little Karma?" Zied cynically questioned.

"Damn straight," Karma growled.

"The Merchant is mine," Ruichi said.

"So be it!" Using his prowess, Zied teleported Karma and Daille away, then vanished himself, leaving Hecate, and Ruichi in the room.

Without wasting another moment, Ruichi took his scythe to hand and entered the curtain where the Merchant had disappeared.

Behind the curtain was a long, spiraling staircase, which winded all the way to what could most likely be, the top of the castle, other than that, there were portaits of strange colored monsters, though some seemed human, others didn't. One particular painting contained a young man, who's ebony hair, and golden eyes could only be one single person that Ruichi knew of.

"Corvus," Ruichi muttered.

"Creepy decor," commented Hecate, who followed Ruichi nearby. "Wonder who these freaks are."

"They are Zied's children. Each and every one." The Merchant was atop the staircase, standing upon the last step that reached the roof, "Now come, a battle of the ages awaits." The Merchant went to the roof, no longer in their sight.

Ruichi took off in a sprint up the stairs.

"Wait up!" Hecate shouted.

The Merchant

When they reached the rooftop, they found the Merchant standing at the edge, staring upon the darkness enveloping the dimension. Also, behind the Merchant, floating slightly off the rooftop was a giant cathedral organ. "Long ago, before ages of your's began, mine had just started, we were happy, and many of us enjoyed our beloved life, but the end soon arrived, and before that exactly came, I was visited by Zied."

"The sky ripped, and the land cracked, no one knew of what came upon the world, and before anyone knew it, life as Thyria knew it, ended. But it didn't occur just like that, life is still upon my home planet, a half-life... A depressing war-ravaged life, a land in which many hardly consider home any longer. I, of course, took myself along side Zied." The Merchant sighed, "And now it has come to this, Ruichi, I have finally found what I most desired, moreso, an exit."

"Pardon?" Ruichi asked.

Pressing down upon a note of the organ, the trapdoor that led to the roof shut. "Countless children of Zied have continually tried striving for my ability, but Zied did not give them the power to do so!! I am Zied's one and only servant!! You are going to die here!! And no longer shall you be a thorn in my side!!" The Merchant screamed.

"Forget it," Ruichi said, charging in for an attack.

Part 1 - Merchant's Powers

Black creatures appeared from nowhere, each whipping their tentacles around at Ruichi, while the organ was being played by the Merchant, who seemed to have a blue orb surrounding himself.

Hecate created a blue spherical shield around Ruichi as he charged into the fray, slashing and hacking at each nearby tendril.

Within a matter of moments, all the creatures had fallen to the ground, lifeless. The Merchant turned around, and began to clap, "Very good. Though your style needs some work."

"How do we fix the timestream?" Ruichi demanded.

"You mean with this?" The Merchant held out a strange orb, "During the illusion, I had the chance before Time vanished and took his time orb. It holds time and will fix Earth's Time Code." The Merchant explained, "If you beat me, you can take it back."

"Challenge accepted!" Hecate shouted.

"Perfect." The Merchant replied, taking out a scythe, his cloaked face stared it's gaze upon Ruichi, "You be ready too."

Ruichi spread his wings and became engulfed in black flames. Once the flames had dissipated, Ruichi's form had changed quite notably; His eyes were two pitch-black orbs and his skin was greyer. His draconic wings were unfurled and his teeth tapered into sharper points. He held out his scythe, ready for combat.

Raising his arms, the Merchant rose into the air, floating above the roof, he cuts at the air in Ruichi's direction, causing shockwaves to fly at Ruichi and Hecate.

Ruichi took off after the Merchant like a bullet; spreading his wings, he soared into the air, twisting and swerving around the Merchant's attacks.

"Swift speed." The Merchant mentioned, before forming more of the powerful shockwaves upon the whole airspace.

With her magic, Hecate created a shield around herself and Ruichi, but under the barrage of attacks, it began to crack. And with unimaginable speed, the Merchant flew over to Ruichi, and made an arc with his scythe, intent on shattering the field.

The instant the shield was shattered, Ruichi's scythe met with the Merchant's forcefully.

"Are you prepared...?" The Merchant questioned.

Ruichi didn't answer as he attacked the Merchant once more, flapping his wings to stay aloft.

Landing down in front of the organ, "I asked you a question, it is rude not to answer, well, during my age. Your age seems less respectful and more dependent upon cruel ways." The Merchant raised his cloaked arms, "Are you prepared...?"

"Damn straight we are!" Hecate shouted.

Part 2 - Time Stream

"Good." A blue gate appeared behind the Merchant, beginning a suctional force that sucked the Merchant himself within.

Hecate launched a barrage of magically conjured thorns towards the gate.

The thorns got sucked in as well, and the power continually grew, sucking in more and more, until Hecate and Ruichi began to have problems, and began to get sucked in as well.

Hecate was pulled in instantly, leaving behind a trail of profane words. It took Ruichi a moment before he lost his footing and was drawn through the gate. To which the duo landed upon a floating platform, they found the Merchant standing before them, and behind himself was a radiant, beautiful, glistening, large white light, encompassing the background. To the sides were swirls of wonderful, blue shades, each changing to a darker or lighter blue.

The Merchant stared at them, "This is where we shall battle, as it is only the perfect battle ground." He added, "I hope you enjoy all of this, as knowledge fills your brain to the brim and the past meets with the present, along with the future, all in the same single spot."

"What is this place?!" Hecate asked, both demanding and awestruck.

"It is the Time Stream. Yes, the fabric of Time itself flows here, where the past meets the future, where the present lives in-between. From here, you may see past or future events, you can gain unlimited knowledge. You can learn anything, so long as you will." The Merchant explains, "We're heading back in time, but before we do so, we must finish our battle, upon the perfect stage, in which this performance, will be at the greatest point within Time itself!"

Ruichi charged forth once more as soon as the Merchant had finished his rant, who then slammed his scythe's point upon the ground, forming a massive blast that shockwaved across the whole ground. The Merchant then formed a sphere of energy that was sent flying toward Hecate.

One of Hecate's spirits took the blow, disappearing in a blue flash while three other spirits rushed the Merchant. Ruichi was thrown aside by the shockwave, but was not deterred as he resumed his charge towards his enemy.

Lifting his left cloaked arm, the Merchant snickered, as black and white branches of electrical energy shot forth, destroying the phantoms in the way and attempting to make contact with either Ruichi or Hecate.

Ruichi became cloaked in a black energy as he darted towards the Merchant; the electrical attacks seemed to arc around the dark energy surrounding Ruichi, as if imbibing him with more power.

The Merchant teleported, appearing at another end of the circular platform, he shot a few black orbs into the air, which all slowly dwindled down to the ground, yet, there were suddenly many, as if they multiplied. "Deal with this.." One large orb formed, which floated around, slowly after Ruichi.

Ruichi spun around; the energy surrounding him launched itself towards the Merchant like a crackling bullet of energy as the black orbs descended upon him and Hecate.

The energy Ruichi created, sent the orbs once more, back up into higher altitudes, and the attacks slammed the Merchant upon the ground, who seemed to lay there, motionless. Althlough the cloak looked damaged, it seemed to put itself back together, particle by particle, until finally, the Merchant stood up once more.

"How come you continue to fight..? Why...? Does it.. Make you feel better?" The Merchant questioned. "What is your purpose?"

"We fight for good, duh," Hecate said.

"I fight... so that others don't have to..." Ruichi said.

Once more, another orb was sent flying out into the air, much larger than the piece of floating land itself, it began to descend, "Unless you don't want to be dropped off in some random time period, I suggest you destroy it." The Merchant advised, as he began to form another orb.

"Hecate. Stop the orb," Ruichi said as he charged in towards the Merchant.

"Wha- HEY!" Hecate complained. Growling to herself, she formed several tendrils of magic energy which shot up from the ground like vines and pierced the orb, beginning to drain it's power.

The Merchant shot a few smaller orbs at Ruichi, each in an attempt to slow him down. "Get hit, get hit!!" He chanted over and over, wildly throwing more and more of these temporal spheres. The barrage proved too much for Ruichi; after leaping and twisting around several of the orbs, one struck him square in the chest, followed by a number of others, but for Ruichi, things began to suddenly speed up, as if Hecate and the Merchant himself were in slow motion.

"Iiiiii'ddd thhinnkk youuuuu wwoouulld ggeeett hurrrrt." The Merchant seemingly drawled out in slow motion, through Ruichi's perpective at least.

"Rrrrrrrrruuuuichiiiii, aaaaarrrre youuuuuuu oooooookaaaayyyy?" Hecate asked.

Ruichi clambered to his feet, gripping his scythe for support, before charging in and striking at the Merchant.

To the Merchant and Hecate, Ruichi appeared as a mere blur, once more, the attack broke through, knocking the Merchant down, as little particles fells to the ground like confetti. The Merchant lay there, lifeless.

Silently taking note of his newfound advantage, Ruichi leapt up to deliver a blow to the Merchant, raising his scythe above his head, to which the blow was dealt, the cloaked head bown off, revealing nothing beneath but emptiness, as more particles were seperated, and spread about. The Merchant appeared to have been defeated.

"Iiiiisssss thaaaaaaat iiiiiiit?" Hecate asked.

Time seemed to return to normal at that moment, bringing Ruichi back to normal speed. The Merchant still seemed dead, he was silent, and there was no sign of him getting back up.

"How do we... get out of here?" Hecate asked.

Ruichi shrugged.

Part 3 - Dirty Soil

Strange papery noises began to be made, as parts and particles of the Merchant began to form back onto himself, he stood up, as before, once more. Anew, alive, and seemingly refreshed. "You simply do not seem to have the strength you need to win."

Images began to appear upon the side of the time stream, images of creatures and monsters, the Merchant paused, but spoke once more, "It seems the past is finally revealing itself to us." Corvus and Rune fighting faded into view on the right side, whereas on the left was the death of Arbiter. "These past happenings, we are seemingly travelling through, as of now. If only I could change a few things, then everything would be perfect. Control winning the castle. Entropy keeping his plot with Morpheus in check, dealing with Arbiter's sanity of course. Ebonscale winning against Inferno. All of these... And now, this happening itself is showing it's mark upon history, and the future."

"What are you getting at?" Hecate demanded.

"That Time itself is marking our battle upon time and space itself, I shall project our image upon the Multiverse itself, and reveal to all, in different times and places, this battle." The Merchant preached, "Everyone shall know of us three, no matter what moment in time we are."

"Enough," Ruichi said. "This ends now."

"Now..." The Merchant repeated, "Now is the time... Now, as in every moment, since we have placed ourselves in the Time Stream itself... Before I continue forth, before I speak even more... I must ask you one more question..." The Merchant begged, pleading.

"So... what?" Hecate asked.

"What is my name...?" The Merchant questioned.

Ruichi merely stared.

"What kind of a question is that?" Hecate asked.

"Just a simple question.. I desire your knowledge, that if you truly know my name, you must speak of it." The Merchant demanded.

"...Maron." Ruichi said quietly.

The Merchant seemingly took the name in, and as if suddenly, a striking pain seemed to go straight into his chest, he cough and wheezed, as if he had breathed his first breath. Everything seemed to slow down, as if this one single, solitary moment had the greatest effect upon him than any attack or any move that could be performed.

"Corr-ect..." Maron coughed, bending over only slightly.

Ruichi and Hecate stared surprised by the turn of events.

"But this isn't.. The end." Maron finished, standing up straight, "I am still alive!" Maron declared as his arms suddenly cracked and grew larger, as three more protruded out of his back. Fangs came out of the cloaked face, and soon five yellow eyes followed, followed by two angelic wings, tentacle protrusions came out of the sides, forming a large spider-like creature. "Be prepared!" The Maron-Spider stated, before approaching the duo, and jabbing at them with with the sharp, spiny tentacles.

"Eek!" Hecate shouted as she and Ruichi split in opposite directions to avoid the attack.

The spider form of Maron loomed over Ruichi, attempting to spit acid upon him, while also fluidly jabbing at him still with the slimy tentacles.

Ruichi was swift, however; leaping about with precise agility, he dodged most of the onslaught. One tendril almost struck him, but was blocked with a forcefield of Hecate's.

Another few jabs were placed, before an orb was formed by the spidery appendages, which was thrown up into the air, the spider then changed course for Hecate.

"Er... go get him!" Hecate shouted, as several of her phantom-like minions rushed towards the creature.

The monster spit acid upon whatever phantom it could hit, the orb though, seemed to slowly move down, yet gained speed as it descended.

The shadow-like energy cloaking Ruichi began to lick the air like tounges of flame as he sprang up, spreading his wings, and took flight towards the orb, ramming into it like a human missle. The dark energy exploded outwards from his body like a giant web, puncturing the sphere in several places at once.

The unstable energy of the orb blew it to bits, sending waves of powerful dark magic upon everything, including the Merchant's monstrous body, which roared angrily, hissing all the while, it turned it's attention to Ruichi, spitting out acid.

"How do ya' like this?!" Hecate challenged, sending a forceful blast of magic energy hurtling towards the Merchant.

Maron's spider form created a beam of dark energy, which collided with the magic energy, blasting it back.

Hecate was struck with her own rebounded attack, and thrown through the air. Ruichi flew into the air and dove towards the Merchant, raising his scythe.

The giant spider turned at that exact moment, and did not have enough time to block for Ruichi's attack, but in that moment, everything seemed to slow down, save for the monster itself, which vanished from view.

"What the-" Hecate began.

The spider appeared once more, creating a new sphere of powerful energy, enough to blast the platform they were upon into smithereens.

Ruichi swooped back up before slamming full-force into the ground, and darted towards Maron once more.

Maron once more, released the large sphere, though as big as it was, it seemed it would only be moments before the whole platform itself would be destroyed.

"Ruichi! Get that damn sphere!" Hecate shrieked.

Ruichi glanced up; realizing he had only mere seconds, he cloaked himself with dark energy once more and ran headlong into the orb.

The large spider got behind the orb Ruichi slammed to, and started pushing it forward, to blast down the floating platform. At that moment, several of Hecate's phantom minions began to dive towards Maron.

"Get him! Get the bastard!" Hecate shouted.

With the phantoms ditracting Maron, the orb slammed into Maron's spider form, and blasted the creature to bits, as energy blew everywhere.

Part 4 - Volitile Actions

When the smoke from the explosion vanished, Maron was standing upon the platform, although he now held a golden sword in his right hand, and in his left was a large scythe with five blades.

"Blade of Valu and Temeres' scythe. Both mine." And right then, the scythe flew at Hecate, in an attempt to slaughter her there and then.

"AAAGH!" Hecate shrieked.

A dark flash; a heavy grunt of pain.

Ruichi stood between Hecate and Maron, having tried to use his own weapon to block the attack; however, two of the scythe's blades had pierced his flesh- one in his shoulder, the other in his stomach.

"Ruichi...?! You idiot!" Hecate snapped.

"Ruichi... Stopped the attack..." Maron whispered, "Such selflessness. I haven't seen such a kind action for quite a while. The goddess better take over for now." Maron advised, electrical sparks appeared for a few moments, before he flew a few feet into the air, and took off, the Blade of Valu pointing forth, to stab Ruichi or Hecate.

Pulling the scythe from his body, Ruichi sprung forth, swallowing the pain, and breathed a jet of dark flames towards Maron.

The Blade of Valu glowed, reflecting the attack of black flames back at Ruichi. "Burn, Ruichi. Feel your flames. Understand the pain it gives to others." A grin forms under the hood, "I may not be Temeres, but I know how to utilize this weapon."

With diffuculty, Ruichi leapt out of his own flames. His dark, draconic form which was resistant to flame kept him mostly protected his flesh while his clothes were singed. Growling slightly, he planted his scythe into the ground and watched Maron intently.

A tendril of blue magic from Hecate darted towards the hand that held Temeres' scythe, intent on snaring it like coiled rope.

Landing as far away as he could, Maron began to chant some anient words of a tongue long ago. And in moments, the Blade of Valu floated by itself, as well as Temeres' scythe, which both began to swing and float toward respectively Ruichi and Hecate. Hecate, against a scythe, Ruichi against the Blade of Valu.

"Not too much longer Mia. I've got my last chance.. Finally." Maron muttered, "I haven't forgotten.. Merely lost myself." He then spoke up, "Be careful! Don't get hurt.. Too badly."

"...what?!" Hecate exclaimed. Ruichi was silent.

As the scythe approached Hecate, the fairy summoned a series of magic blades not unlike spidery legs that acted as a barrier between her and the weapon. Ruichi lifted his scythe and waited for the sword to approach..

The Blade of Valu made a swift way to Ruichi, swinging wildly, left and right, desiring some blood to cake it's surface, the same was for Temeres' scythe, which seemed even more violent than the pain sword itself.

Hecate's magic blades were enough to match the speed of the scythe with their sheer number; Ruichi's hands were just as quick in blocking the attacks of the sword.

While the duo was distracted, Maron had formed a much larger orb than the spider form from earlier, this one seemingly was filled to the brim with time energy, as strange energies surrounded this sphere.

"Here we are." Maron then allowed it to drop.

"AGAIN?!" Hecate groaned.

"This should finish the field." And with that the orb itself blew up the floating land, blasting it into small pieces, save for a few large chunks, which barely kept themselves afloat, Maron, namely, was on top one of them, cloaked arms folded, the Blade of Valu and Temeres' scythe floating beside him.

Dazed from the attack, Ruichi opened his eyes to find himself sprawled upon a chunk of floating rock, with an agitated Hecate bouncing up and down on his head.

"Get up! GET UP!" Hecate shouted.

Maron had his hands folded, he seemed quite pleased with his attack. Certainly, by far, these two were powerful, but were they as powerful as he?

Part 5 - Spirit of Maron

"I've grown tired. I've grown old. I've seen so many things, and so many lifetimes go by." Maron spoke aloud, "But now, I feel you should be dead." The boulders began to quake, as energy crackled, Maron began to fade away, the cloak vanishing, until all that was left was a red, ghostly spirit, flames etched about the ends, a skull was shaped into a hat at the top of the body, with an extra set of eyes. Below the hat, was two green orbs, and from under those, was a scarf, symbols etching the fine silk, as finally, the ghostly flaming red body showed itself upon bottom.

"Although you've weakened me, I'm not one to drop dead, now fear my abilities, my power, this is something to dread." Maron rhymed, though he made it sound as if he had been waiting to say those words all his life.

Ruichi pulled himself up slowly, gripping his scythe for support. He grit his teeth and glanced towards Maron's new form.

"Do something!" Hecate shouted to Ruichi.

Ruichi, however, remained still and silent.

Maron chuckled lightly to himself, he seemed to know he was winning. "We only have little time left, we are beyond the average time-scale. We're heading into far past, beyond your Multiverse's time."

"Fine!" Hecate shouted, attacking the Merchant once more with tendrils of magic power.

Maron snickered, as he seemed to move much quicker in this form, almost as if teleporting, he practically reappeared, floating in midair, off the floating boulders. "I suggest you find a way to save yourselves." He advises as a charged beam of energy incinerates more than half of the boulders that are floating about, though he purposefully displayed this power, showing them he could destroy them in a powerful attack.

"Run!" Hecate shouted. Ruichi, however, stood his ground.

"Are you not scared?" Maron questioned, "Are you not afraid of death? Do you embrace it, do you feel your end is near? What ails you?" He was directing the question to Ruichi, as electrical energy circulated around the spirit form of Maron.

"I won't run," said Ruichi. "Too much is at stake."

"That's admirable." Maron politely commented, "I would even go as far as to state you are worthy of defeating Zied." Maron's spirit form crackled with black electricity as he began to move into position once more, charging another powerful beam to wipe off another half of the field.

"You can't win them all!" Hecate shouted in Ruichi's ear. "Run, you idiot!"

Ruichi however, sprang forward, raising his scythe for a deadly blow and flying towards the merchant like a bullet, what occured next, changed the tide of the entire fight, as Ruichi found the scythe sunk deep into the chest of the ghostly spirit of Maron.

What could be presumed blood, was dripping down the scythe, though it was pink in color and gushed out like jelly.

"You... Got me.." Maron whispered.

Hecate stared. "It can't be that easy..." she muttered.

Black electricity crackled once more, seemingly getting more violent, as Maron released himself from the scythe's grip and once more transformed back into the cloaked being, gaining black seraph wings, and flew about, this time, black electricity found it's way around the whole boulder section, forcing Ruichi to either jump out of the way or fly about, though it seemed dangerous either way.

Ruichi took off into the air in pursuit of Maron.

As the two fought about in the air, they found themselves finally being spat out of the time-stream, and popping out into the sky of Thyria.

Maron took a breath, "Ah, yes, Thyrian air of long ago, it's great scent.." More black electricity crackled as he blasted it in random directions, seemingly not even trying to hit Ruichi or Hecate, as if he didn't care about the two.

"You-!" Hecate snarled, sending several more barbs of magic energy hurtling towards Maron.

The black, electrical energy grew more powerful rebounding the magical energy, and releasing what appeared to be a black spirit from the body of Maron, which faded after shrieking in pain.

Maron appeared to faint after a few moments, only to awaken in seconds; the three still falling 'with style', toward the surface of Thyria. They were stopped in the air a second after though, by green fields of energy, in the shape of large, circular discs.

"What the-?!" Hecate exclaimed.

"You two.. Had enough strength, enough power. To release me from my prison." Maron stated, slouching over weakly, finally falling to his knees. "Hardly any strength is left." A blue portal formed behind Maron, "This time-stream, shall return you... Back to your time."

"You just tried to kill us and now you expect us to trust you with that portal?" Hecate mused.

"It does not matter any longer.. You can wait, and be stuck in the past, in my time. Although I regret it, I could never save my wife or child...." Raising his hands, a blue orb appeared, floating down to the ground of Thyria, a second one appeared and floated to Ruichi, forming into the Time Sphere needed. "And that is.. Your Time Sphere... Correct the time done to Earth, by placing it where it belongs.." Maron wheezed, but found strength to stand up.

Ruichi took the sphere. "Come with us," he said, "you do not belong in the past."

"I never belonged anywhere. Zied destroyed me, way before you two probably even existed." Maron coughed, "I should have died long, long ago. On this day. This very, life-altering day, here, in the past." Particles and small parts of Maron's cloak began to float off, floating higher into the sky like recently burnt ashes of wood, scattering out into the wind.

Ruichi stared for a moment, before motioning to Hecate. "Come on," he said quietly.

"Oh. Right." Hecate said, as they entered the portal.

"Good-bye... My loved ones...." Maron spoke for the last time, finally dissolving completely into the air as ashes.

Chapter 6 - The Power of God

Zied cackled madly at Karma and Daille, "You think you two can handle me?! It's foolishness!! What a pity you'll die soon. How pathetic." Zied went silent for a few moments, before laughing again, and this time pointing rudely at the duo that stood before him.

Daille sighed and turned to Karma, "He's a bit crazy, if you didn't notice.."

Once more, the laughing died down, and Zied appeared to be angered, for some strange reason. "That power." He mumbled to himself, "I feel.. A distrubance.." Zied looked to Karma, "What did you do?!" He accusingly screeched.

Karma shrugged.

Zied growled, as a portal opened up, releasing Hecate and Ruichi from the past.

"Those brats. You two. Where is the Merchant?" Zied angrily questioned.

Ruichi shrugged.

"We kicked his ass!" Hecate exclaimed, despite herself and Ruichi looking slightly worse for the wear.

Zied's eyes turn green for a moment before returning to their golden yellow, "You mean he gave up, and once he.. Had the chance, he.. Released himself." Zied growled, "Treason. For thousands of years he worked with me, only to betray me at the height of the plan. You foolhardy creatures, you made me lose one of my greatest, most powerful assets, how did you break the control I had over him?!" Zied screeched, the dark room everyone stood in changed to a bright red, the circular, doorless room becoming more chaotic with every second.

"You talk too much," Hecate said.

In that instant, Hecate was grabbed by black tendrils and was forced over to Zied, in which he held her in his large, spindly fingered hand. "What did you say...?" Zied's eyes narrowed, as he snorted, scalding hot breath blowing upon her small, fairy body.

"I said you talk too much, you babble incessantly, you never shut up, you don't stop yammering, your trap never closes..."

"Hecate..." said Karma, lunging towards Zied with a punch cloaked with flaming energy. "...shut up!"

A wall of black flames blocked Karma from moving any further, as Zied's anger began to become more obvious, he closed his hand upon Hecate, before setting it aflame with black fire, all the while, burning Hecate with the inferno of his hand. He said nothing, as he raised his other hand to Karma, and raised one certain finger within the middle.

"BASTARD!" Ruichi roared, leaping through the wall of flames, barely scathed, and attacking Zied head on with his scythe.

Though Ruichi was great at his speed, and had a move that would take out a normal opponent, he found a fist in his face, finding himself flying and falling down in front of Karma, Hecate, being thrown on top of him.

Karma charged forth into the fray as Ruichi sat up, dazed. Hecate spread her bent wings, flickering slightly like a dying lightbulb. "...ow," she said simply.

Karma found her neck being grabbed by Zied's hand, while she was charging, "Do you ever learn? You're nowhere near as powerful as Arbiter was. Although, you could plainly see where you gained his ability to be completely useless in battle. Now..." Zied's other hand transformed into an axe, "I shall finish you."

"Don't talk about my father, bastard!" Karma roared. The Shifting Sinew transformed into a katana that grew in length, aimed for Zied's face.

But in that moment, a bright light blasted between the two, to prevent damage to Karma, Daille stood between them.

"Once again, to the rescue, it's Daille!" Zied clapped as if applauding an amazing feat. "But I have a magic trick up my sleeve, and this time, it will work." A dark bolt of energy shot Daille, and within moments, the whole place darkened, only to be relit, but with two Dailles, both standing next to one another. Zied was nowhere in sight.

"What-?" A Daille found herself surprised, though the other Daille made the same reaction at the same time, Zied's voice rang out, "Let's play the game, 'Kill the God with a Shifting Sinew'. Karma, what say you?"

Ruichi climbed to his feet, holding a wounded Hecate in his hand. "I can't smell him," he said quietly.

Soon enough the Daille on the left attacked the Daille on the right, and so forth, as the right then attacked the left; each other attacking the opposite one. Leaving the three out of the whole issue, each one made the same exact moves, and thus, caused even more confusion.

"Wait," Ruichi said, holding out his arm to keep Karma from moving forward. "I don't smell him..."

"You already... said that..." Hecate said.

"What do you-" Karma began to ask, before her eyes widened in understanding. "Oh..."

"Zied... where are you really?" Ruichi asked aloud.

"It's good you have sharp senses. You can pick out what is truly needed, and what is not. And that's good for you." Daille found the copy of herself melt.

"But just because I left a little misconfiguration within the plot, doesn't mean I didn't do it by accident, or that I was careless." Black smoke appeared, forming into Zied once more. "I've grown tired of this."

"You have no idea..." Ruichi mumbled.

"Each of you.. Foolish creatures, will find your ends soon. Within time, you shall see.." Zied growled, vanishing moments after, with everyone else finding themselves back to what appeared to be Earth, within the room with the Time Sphere's pedestal.

Daille spoke up, "I could barely hold ourselves up as he sent us away from his fortress." She stated, Time appeared moments after, being spat upon the floor with a thud!

Karma picked herself up. "That's... it? Just sending us away? Just like that?"

"Coward..." Hecate muttered distastefully.

Time stood up dazed, as Daille spoke aloud, "Of course. Zied always runs, he never wants to fight, he wants others to fight for him. I've never caught Zied, he's always gotten away. It's a great impossibility to win to him."

"A coward can be far more dangerous than one of valor," Ruichi said quietly.

"That's true." Daille replied, "His abilities and manipulative prowess boost him high up in ranking among others. But he's become more angry, and more sporadic. Those who have fought beings like Control or Temeres, should know a truth. That Zied created those two, whether by his own influence or indirect. Those beings, and many others like Zied's own son Corvus, have died or have become dangerous because of Zied himself." Daille turned to Karma, "Zied knew of your birth, he knew of his future entailing that you could defeat him. He cursed your mother with a monster named Eod, and your father by attempting to make him lost control of himself, twice. Zied will not stop.. It is in our best interest to figure out a plan, a way to fight back.."

" do we... fight cowards?!" Hecate exclaimed weakly.

"Even I am unsure of this. Zied has always escaped. And when he gets away, there's always a problem that gets in the way. If he invited us to come to him, he'd have a trap planned; with the addition of having an escape route, though I'm sure he'd have more than three other ways to exit." Daille stated, as she messaged her forehead, "Zied is always thinking up new ways to implement darkness about the multiverse, and is responsible for everything horrid. Lucifer himself, is awed at Zied's work. Zied was the first ruler of the place known as Hell, though he left that position, to give utter despair to any and everything within Life's spectrum..." Daille sighed, showing uncertainty in her facial features. "I don't know what to do..."

"There'll be a way," Karma said. "Sooner or later, Zied will fall." She punched her palm with a fist. "I'll make sure of that..."

"Well, we'll have to be ready. Time will tell." The Secret of Time stated, "Ruichi, place the sphere back in the place you found the first. It shall fix Earth."

Daille nodded to Karma, agreeing with her fully. "We'll force Zied to confront us. Don't know how yet, but we'll be able to."

Ruichi turned away from the rest and placed the time sphere upon the pedestal from which it was first removed.

And as the orb was placed, color returned, life upon Earth began to stir once more...

"We won today's battle," Karma said, "But the war is far from over... we need to be prepared."

Time piped up first, "And how do you plan on that?"

"Becoming strong enough to crush him, of course," Karma said.

"I see. I shall come when you call me then. Until that time arrives, I shall wait." And with that Time bursted into a flurry to spatial energy and electricity.

Daille smiled, "Hopefully Zied will know he will lose this time around. We shall corner him, he'll have nowhere to escape to."

Ruichi shouldered his scythe and was ready to leave when Karma stopped him.

"You- Ruichi- err... thanks for your help. I was wrong to underestimate you."

"Yeah," Hecate piped in. "You're made of tough stuff, I'll give you that."

Ruichi nodded, before turning away. "You have those same gold eyes," he said.

Karma was stunned. "...what?"

"Those eyes... eyes that have seen the misery of this existence and still fight onward, unrelenting. You remind me of an old friend."

Daille watched Ruichi and Karma, her eyes fixated upon the scene before her before butting in, "I hope you shall all gather once more, in the fight against Zied. Until then, a plan must be made, Karma, are you willing to leave with me, in my own sactuary, and assist me in that portion, for the time being?"

Karma nodded. "Of course."

"...which means I'm stuck going along. Perfect." Hecate grumbled.

Back, far in the past, the ashes of Maron's body slowly floating down like flowers in the wind, a blue spirit floated about, within the sky. Creating a vortex, a rip through the Time-Stream, it entered. The vortex closing only moments after, meanwhile, far down below, onto a calm beach, a blue orb landed upon the sand.

Forming into a shell, a child walked up to it and picked it up, running back to his parents, he happily showed the two his new sea shell, the three completely unaware of a black monster watching them not so far away...

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