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Disclaimer: I do not own MR. The idea for the guardians and Eternity Mountain is mine, if you want to use it, please ask me first in an email.

Chapter 20: A Deadly Foe

The darkness swirled around them as the air got hotter and hotter. Their footsteps echoed the stone pathway as they made their way deeper and deeper into Eternity Mountain. Hare's eyes were set in grim determination, his mask of happiness left behind at the entrance. They could easily be killed themselves by the Phoenix, although Hare had survived the last encounter. The Phoenix was the only creature with the power to defeat Moo, for it had done so once, very long ago. Moo had been sealed away, not fully killed, and somehow he was woken up. Who could have or would have done such a thing?

A soft echoing trill came from below them, the walls slowly beginning to glow. 'The Phoenix loves heat. Fire is his favorite thing, lava his ultimate nesting place. The pathway we took up to the top did not go as deep as this one. This is the only way to find the phoenix, and he will decide if our quest is worthy enough,' the hare guardian whispered. It had taken them at least half a day just to get down that far, although Genki suspected it could have taken them even longer if the Phoenix really wanted to keep them out. After all, it had taken them over half a day just to climb the mountain the first time, and this path was going deep into the soul of the world itself, beneath Eternity Mountain.

The pair paused for a moment as the reached the final step in their journey. The blazing fire from within the room they were about to enter lighted the hallway. Swallowing, they stepped towards their destiny.

~*~

Genki gaped in awe at the giant flame feathered bird the seemed to engulf the entire room before them.  Deep black eyes peered into his soul, holding him in place with their awesome power. 

 

‘Genki, Child of Legend.  Hare, Guardian of Hares.  What do you seek,’ a voice echoed in their minds, a great sense of power behind it.  ‘We seek… We need your help to defeat Moo,’ Genki finally spoke, although his body shivered from meeting this god-like creature.  ‘Is that what you seek as well?’ the Phoenix’s question was directed at the halfling this time.  ‘Yes.  The defeat of Moo, the safe return of the other guardians, and the protection of monsters and humans in this time of need,’ Hare answered. 

 

Dark eyes gazed at them silently, as if the giant bird was thinking deeply on their desires.  ‘Very well.  Hare guardian… give the child the tear,’ the command startled them both.  Hare gently removed the gift he’d been given and placed it around the boy’s neck.  Genki touched the tear in silent shock, glancing at the hare guardian in question.  Hare just smiled and nodded that he was alright with the exchange. 

 

‘Now, Child of Legend, you will have the power to defeat Moo.  That power will come to you in your time of greatest need,’ the Phoenix’s voice echoed in their heads as a soft red light engulfed them.  The firebird watched as the two disappeared from his chamber of flame, contemplating his final battle with Moo.

 

~*~

 

‘There are too many!’ Suezo leapt around, using his tongue to attack the bad monsters.  The moment they stepped into the fortress, baddies had rushed from the darkness to attack them.  Holly had picked up a long stick and was hitting the monsters with it when they got too close.  Mochi dived and did pink flower petal attacks while Golem used his heavy stone arms to smash through the creatures that swarmed around him. 

 

Gradually, they fought their way into a huge stone chamber.  The only decoration within the room itself was a huge stone throne in the center.

 

Moo himself appeared from the darkness out of one of the side black tunnels within the fortress.  He watched silent and strode towards his throne with the ease of a creature unthreatened by the fight going on.  Seating himself, he watched the fight continue.  His eyes lit up upon the two halfling figures and a cruel unseen grin came to his face. 

 

Both the tiger and dragon guardians roared, one attacking from the ground with lighting and claws, the other from the sky with power blasts that shot out of his mouth.  Even with the two guardians on their side, the baddies they fought seemed endless.  More kept coming from the shadows; in waves they glided and attacked with a fury.  Mystery disks grew up from the floor each time one of the baddies was taken down, but they were starting to become hazardous to the fighters on the ground. 

 

The dragon guardian cried out, as dark tentacles of shadow seemed to spring from the high ceiling itself and wrap around his halfling form, trapping his wings painfully to his body.  Moo smirked to himself as he watched the creature struggle uselessly, only to be drawn into the shadows and disappear without another sound. 

 

Tiger roared loudly as he watched his eldest companion fade into the wall, unable to see what type of magic had been able to do such a thing.  He leapt high, dodging shadow tendrils that were reaching for him now.  If Moo wanted to capture him, he was going to have to do a better job than that.  With a growl, his lightning lit up the room and shattered towards the evil monster lord.

 

Moo held up a single gloved hand and as the light touched the glove, it faded into nothingness.  Tiger stared back, stunned.  The echoing evil laugh of Moo made their flesh crawl, but the group kept on fighting. 

 

A flash of red light burst in the middle of the chamber, and two figures could be seen within it.  Even Moo himself perked up in interest as the forms of the Hare Guardian and Genki became visible. 

 

‘They started the party without us,’ Hare spoke, breaking the silence.  Both baddies and goodies had paused in their fighting to stare, but now the battle continued.  With Genki and Hare there, the group was finally together. 

 

Moo contemplated as he watched the fighters.  It would not be so easy to catch the Tiger Guardian or the Hare Guardian, as it had been to catch the others.  These two were different somehow, and more powerful in spirit. 

 

With the two new members joining their team, the group was beginning to take down the baddies and fewer were coming out than before.  Hare raced around, throwing fire punches and kicks, his agility allowing him to dodge the artful attacks of his enemies.  Tiger would snarl and take a chunk out of any baddie that came near enough to him, and those that attacked from farther away would become charred by his lightning.

 

‘We’re going to defeat you, Moo,’ Genki announced, as his friends finished off the last of the baddies.  ‘I think not, little boy child,’ Moo stated, waving his hand.  More shapes began to move in the shadows. 

 

‘No matter how many baddies you bring out, we’ll defeat them all,’ this time it was Holly who spoke, as she moved to stand beside Genki.  ‘I’m sure that you’ll find these ones much harder to deal with, my dear,’ the evil monster replied.  The group was frozen in horror as the creatures began to emerge from the darkness.

 

‘What are those things?’ Suezo’s panicked voice came from behind them.  ‘Moo’s creations,’ Hare breathed, staring at the deranged looking creatures creeping out of the shadows ahead of them. 

 

Oddly shaped and mutated monsters that seemed to be made up of many species.  They slipped out of the shadows, coming towards them slowly.  Many sets of red eyes pierced them, watching and waiting for a signal to attack.  Moo held up a hand and brought it down with immense force upon his rocky throne.  The creatures attacked.

 

In the midst of the bodies and confusion, Genki was the first, but not the only one to hear Holly’s screams.  Hare saw the boy turn, his eyes caught on Holly’s frightened face as Moo carried her away, leaving them to battle to the death.  ‘Holly!’ the youth leapt through the air, crushing his skates in the mutated faces of their enemies. 

 

Ghastly moans and groans came from the creatures as they fought to surround the youth, but he was too fast for them.  Hare’s eyes flashed and he dove towards the boy.  For he was the only one who had seen the danger fast approaching the Child of Legend.  A strange mutate with a scythe-like arm was about to slash down on the unsuspecting boy. 

 

~If only I had the Phoenix Tear~ 

 

Genki turned to see the sharp blade slicing toward him, so fast that he couldn’t move or hope to get out of the way.  A brute force lifted him off his feet and shoved him sideways with a hard push.  A sickening sound of torn flesh and cracking bone, a wail of agony and defeat echoed off the stone walls of the fortress. 

 

The midnight haired boy turned towards the sound, blood splattering his cheek, in time to watch his friend sink to the ground with the blade shaped scythe embedded in his chest.  Weakened dark eyes met his for a moment, a calm smile gracing over the halfling's face, before his eyes slid shut for the last time.

 

A bolt of lightning came from out of nowhere, slicing through the mutant’s arm that lay rooted in Hare’s flesh.  The creature let out a shriek of pain and moved away to avoid any further attacks.

 

Genki got off his scrapped knees and walked over to his friend, kneeling at his side.  He laid a nervous hand upon the other’s neck, searching for a pulse.  Nothing, the warm skin was already beginning to cool.  Blood soaked the beautiful white fabric of the guardian’s robe, blending into the crimson belt, and pool onto the cold stone floor beneath them. 

 

The youth turned his tear filled eyes to his still fighting friends, watching the mutants who easily outnumbered them and seemed unable to die.  Anger burned in his heart at the thought of coming so close and being beaten by Moo.  At the mere idea of his friends wasting their lives and being unable to stop the evil creature that would soon enslave that world.  A red glow began to emit from the crimson tear laying on the boy’s chest, making his salty blue tears look like streams of blood on his cheeks.

 

‘STOP!’ the boy cried out, the light getting brighter until it filled the chamber with a fiery gaze.  The youth sank to his knees once more as the cries of pain died in the air, and the light began to fade back into the tear.  Dead body parts littered the ground, his friends the only ones standing in the cold dark tunnel of death. 

 

‘That was close,’ Suezo sighed, his feeling echoed by a high pitched cry of “Mochi!”  ‘Where is Holly?’ the one eyed monster asked, as he looked around the room.  ‘Moo kidnapped her, and Hare…’ Genki trailed off, unable to turn around and see the sight of his friend clothed in his own blood behind him.  Many eyes turned upon the halfing, barely noticeable in the shadows of the tunnel wall. 

 

‘How can he be sleeping at a time like this?’ Suezo grumbled to himself, hopping closer.  Genki held out a hand and touched Suezo’s back before he could go any further.  ‘He isn’t sleeping,’ the boy whispered, head bowed, tears falling down his face and landing on the stone below. 

 

The tiger guardian moved quickly past them both, ignoring Suezo’s sharp intake of breath when he finally saw the scythe and where is had landed.  ‘He saved my life,’ Genki whispered, knowing that the creature had been aiming at him.  ‘Baka,’ Tiger whispered, a voice softer than they had ever heard before. 

 

‘Fighting is bad,’ Golem groaned deeply.  A soft “mochi” answered him sadly.  ‘Isn’t there anything..?’ Suezo trailed off, looking away from the tender scene before him.  The halfling tiger guardian bent on one knee, perched close to his un-breathing companion.  With a deep sigh, he leaned closer until their foreheads were brushing and reached out to touch the other youth’s soft pale cheeks.  A slight blue glow began to come from the tiger boy’s figure, sparkling his fingertips where they rested. 

 

‘Baka hare,’ the guardian whispered, his own grief and pain evident in his trembling voice.  Genki felt a stirring of power and turned to watch Tiger brush his lips against Hare’s, sparking a gentle red glow from the cold skin of the other.

 

~*~

 

‘Where are you taking me?  Put me down!’ Holly demanded, hitting her hands against Moo’s armor.  Unexpectedly, she was dropped onto the cold stone floor.  Looking around in wonder, she could only stare at the huge crystal pillars that seemed to have grown right up out of the floor.  In each one was a halfling guardian, frozen into an eternal sleep.  ‘My collection.  When I have the last two guardians, I shall be unstoppable,’ Moo’s deep voice echoed the huge chamber.  The dragon guardian had been the last captured, and he too slept within a crystal prison. 

 

‘You, my dear, are going to help me take over this world,’ the evil giant continued, looking down at his delicate prisoner.  ‘I’d never help you, Moo.  You’re evil,’ the girl answered, glaring at the pink haired monster.  ‘Oh really.  What if I could tell you what happened to your father?’ the monster lord questioned, watching a look of pure shock come over the girl’s face in response.

 

‘Yessss… I know about your father, little Holly.  I know what he found, what he released.  I know why he was unable to return to you all those years ago,’ Moo told her.  ‘You don’t know anything about my father!’ the girl yelled, angry tears stinging her eyes.  ‘Oh, but I do.  You see… he released me.  I owe him something for that,’ the monster chuckled darkly.  ‘No, that can’t be true,’ Holly whispered, a shiver racing up her spine. 

 

‘But it is.  Now, little Holly.  Look into the face of your father,’ the creature’s laugh grew darker as the girl stared horrified at him, finally realizing what had become of the man who was her inspiration. 

 

~*~

 

A tale had been told over countless generations.  The story of how the evil Moo was finally destroyed by the Phoenix.  How his dark spirit was sealed away in a strange mystery disk, buried in mountain and rock.  However, the story continued, although few have been privileged to hear it.

 

A man, an archeologist, found a strange mystery disk.  But, the moment he touched it, a dark presence awakened.  The evil was still powerful even at its weakest state, and drove itself out of its prison and into the man’s heart.  And so, Moo was born again.  And the man… his soul remains trapped, his body a prisoner, until someone brave and true will free him.  From that day on, Moo gathered his forces, preparing for the day he would reign supreme once more.

 

~*~

 

‘Tiger,’ Genki whispered, watching the blue haired youth back away from the unmoving guardian.  ‘Lets go,’ the halfling growled, anger burning fiercely in his eyes.  The boy nodded, not looking back as the group continued on, leaving their friend’s body behind.  When they defeated Moo, then they’d return to give him a proper burial.  It was the least they could do for their friend.  With that last thought, Genki slipped into a darker tunnel, the one Moo had escaped through, his mind set on rescuing Holly and getting avenging Hare.

 

…tbc…

 

Author’s Note:  An update, finally!  This story is getting way too long.  The final battle is next, please watch for it!  To read any of my other fics, visit : http://wingedtora.tripod.com , or http://darktora.tripod.com (for my Ushio and Tora site).