Book Three: Redemption, Chapter Nine-
"I don't understand how this could have happened," the troubled girl told herself, pacing about nervously in the shadow of the monstrous structure in her lonesome. "I've come all this way, and now... this." Rei gazed up at the League headquarters in its haunting majesty. "How could I have been so foolish? What was I thinking?" Her eyes fell upon her opened palm. "Only one bullet left?" she stressed. "Bleedin' spirits really didn't want me to go through with it, thinking I'd quit here." Rei paused to contemplate the moment, but only briefly. "Well, this is gonna make things hell more difficult," she proclaimed, sliding the final bullet into the revolver. The sun had just peaked over the horizon as she ventured towards the door. The rays cast at her back, it threw a faint silhouette of her form upon the mighty, metal gates. Lifting the heavy axe to her shoulder, the beams intensified to a violent red. Rei smirked, knowing it to be a final omen. "Nice try, guys," she whispered, standing tall and defiant, "but do not fret. It will, no matter what, end here and now." Arming herself in a ready pose, she thrust a massive boot into the door.
A heavy thud resounded through the hollow chamber earning the draped man's attention. The cumbrous portals squealed as they were forced open, a tattered figure sliding from in-between. As the hatches crashed against the wall, he rose from his seat as he saw his top champion, or what remained, splattered about the door. The intruding one was covered in a similar manner. Drips and stains spanned head to toe on torn cloth and bruised flesh alike as it weakly leaned, panting deeply, upon a grand weapon, whose metallic shine was lost to gore. Pushing the shaft down against the now ruined, fine, marble tile, she tried to straighten herself.
"Four down," sickly muttered Rei. Attempting to stand on her own, a harsh, one-eyed stare found its way through a recent cleft in her hat's brim to the caped individual emerging into a spectrum of moonlight shone through the regal stained-glass window set on the back wall. The wobble was loosed from her stand as she found sure footing, for the sheer hate of the target delivered her strength. "Greetings, Dragon Master," she growled through clenched teeth.
"Greetings," the draconic lord warmly returned while reaching behind his back, "and farewell," he added with more spite, "fool!" He whipped out a sleek hand gun, crafted in gold with the image of a wyrm on its long barrel. As it roared, its jaws let loose a powerful bullet that struck the trespasser true. Confidently twirling the smoking gun victoriously about a finger, as he moved to return the firearm, he stumbled, causing the pistol to clatter against the stone flooring, for he saw that the interloper was still standing. A gaping hole bored through her arm, the one which held the giant cleaver. She only gave it a careless, quick look before returning her fixation onto the League's leader. It bled profusely, yet her demeanor never altered. She never flinched nor attempted to cover the wound.
"Do you think I have come all this way to let a little nothing like that stop me?" Rei questioned him with a fiery tone. "You're wrong. Dead wrong." He could not care less as of the moment, for he had scampered to the floor to find and reload his weapon. "Hey," she sharply yelled, "cut that out." Pulling back her perforated arm, she hurled the battle-ax. It sailed across the stadium floor and struck the Dragon Master just as he had loaded his gun, pinning him to his throne. Cutting deep into an arm, he struggled to lift the crushing force, but it weighed more then he ever could have imagined which, in spite of numerous more urgent worries, caused him to wonder how it ever left the ground to begin with.
"Are you insane? I'm the most powerful man in the world," he bellowed while suffering the axe's pressure. "Do you think you can get away with this? You will die for this!" Rei laughed hysterically as she began to approach him from the opposing side.
"Get away with it?" she mocked. "Of course I can. I made sure no one was left to assist you myself," she grimly revealed to him, sliding a finger across her throat. "And you threaten me with death?" She gave off a most boisterous laugh. "I died many years ago. Death put me on his list but hasn't collected his dues yet."
"Who," he strained, "what are you?"
"I am the lost soul known as Rei, the Black Thorn," she divulged. The Master's face paled. "Sound familiar? Good to know that word even spreads this high up."
"Why?" he begged. "Why have you done this? Tell me," he implored through thick facade as he merely tried to by more time to free himself.
"It doesn't make any sense," Rei admitted, "as to why I'd go through all this trouble, does it? Defy the most powerful man in the world to make it a better place, to free it from tyranny even if it meant shedding blood after blood. I came here on the promise to someone who despised you, vowing your destruction," she stated with the utmost solemnity, bowing her had in respect. "I told him it would be done for him and his noble cause." A crack seemed to be appearing in her voice as a hand moved up to her eyes, but it did not return with tears but her domino. "I lied," she defiantly declared, crushing the mask in her hand. "I couldn't care less about the redemption of Rocket. I just figured it would let the old geezer die easier. That, and so he would give me his gun rather than shoot me with it," she continued on, her words turned bitter, after tossing off her split hat, exposing her innocent, fair skinned face splattered in the blood of countless others. "Besides, when you go around killing people like mad you need something to get leaked to the masses so you don't look like the bad guy.
"No, Dragon Master, I am not some messenger of death from a foe long forgotten," she proclaimed as she unbuttoned the shredded black jacket of Rocket. "I have my own vendetta to settle. I, Jacquelyn Daws. It started with Rocket and ends at you." As the jacket came off, she noted her tattoo. "A white rose is branded upon my breast. I placed it there as remembrance of my true purity at heart. It branches from a twisting, black stem. Each thorn is a soul that stood in the way of my progression." It curved around her shoulder where it wound about her arm, slowly revealed as the jacket slid from her limb. As it progressed, the stem grew more gnarled, coiled tighter, and sprouted thorns closer. Soon, they began to dig into her flesh. Slightly beyond her elbow, trails of blood filled what little skin was not consumed by the thorns. The entwining loosened past the wrist as it wrapped threefold around her hand. "It travels," she explained, "from my heart, bearing with it all the hatred swelled in the bottom of it," she went on, tracing its path down her hand held low, "and it ends right -" The stem stopped on her trigger finger. "- here!" In a flash, she had her gun out and aimed, the trigger perfectly aligned with the design's end.
An alarming crack had disillusioned Jacquelyn to allow the Dragon Master time to slip away, but, at the speed he moved, she dared not to waste her last remaining bullet. He may not have been struck by a bullet, but he did not escape unscathed, for the snap heard was the breaking of his own bones. Knowing he could not lift the ungodly axe, he bought time so that he could use it to severe the part from the rest of his body. Not wanting to be tempted to waste the ultimate shot, she holstered it in favor of pulling the great cleaver, with ease, from the Master's throne.
Cupping his stub, the wyrm warrior cursed her and promised swift vengeance. Tossing about his flowing cloak, a draconic legion emerged. Jacquelyn quickly responded with the release of her own brigade of the meager four in reprisal. His troops were both fierce and majestic, malevolent yet elegant, demanding of awe and fear like divine seraphim, while hers were looking ragged and worn, having seen one too many battles, over life and the day, awaiting there last. They were his archangels: Michael, the fleet-winged Dragonite; Gabriel, the merciless Tyrinatar; Uriel, the annihilating Salamence; Raphael, the empathetic Alteria; Chemuel, the vigilant Flygon; and Jophiel, the dominating Kingdra. Outnumbered and out powered, this fact alone would not dim her determination. The four scattered across the stadium, attempting to break up the draconian foes as their commander was charged at with a wildly swing blade, but he, nor they, felt like wasting any more time.
"End it," ordered the Dragon Master, "now!" As if a puppet on strings, the mighty Michael acted, its body generated a heavenly aura that hastily channeled to its mouth, leaving its body duller than before, almost black, as a raw stream of power erupted from its gaping jaws. Sensing danger, Cinder immediately detoured from his current charge upon an enemy, for he knew the beam's target was not one of them. With no other way to advert the threat, he hurtled himself at the owner he had known throughout all these years out from the screaming path of sheer destructive force. Slamming him into the tile, it dragged him for quite a distance before the drake ran out of juice. The Dragonite fell to the ground, motionless, a its color returned little by little. A stretch of tile, thick, heavy, impenetrable rock, now bore a deep scar of jagged breaks riddled with pieces of flesh and bone at the end of which laid an unidentifiable tangle that only twitched for a little while longer. Jacquelyn, recovering from the harsh fall, tried to regain her standing on a twisted leg when she spotted the bloody trench. Forthwith, she clasped her hefty cleaver and, with dire gaze, made another hobbled pass at the wyrms' boss.
"What are the rest of you waiting for?" he inquired, questing for his pistol. "Stop her!" The room was flooded with the brilliant nimbus of the remaining five, one by one, it would be shattered as they found themselves dumbfounded. Goopy, working with the utmost speed, was clearing all knowledge of such a menacing spell from their minds but could not reach Raphael or Chemuel in the given time. The cloudy being's lofty ray along with the earth faerie's sped to Jacquelyn but were intercepted by Poppy and Squishy. Blasted hard, the flower managed to roll himself in the casting of the stained glass while the jellyfish erected a psychic wall to little avail. As the Alteria and Flygon, devoid of all energy, slowly drifted downward, their descents were hastened as spires of ice filled their bodies and nailed them to the floor. Frozen lances rained ubiquitously, piercing all of the dragons' sensitive flesh with polar needles.
The Tentacruel had summoned the arctic storm as he lied on the floor, his indeterminate flesh burst open. Uriel, punished enough by the wintry blizzard as it was, attempted to thaw its comrades as Gabriel, whose rocky skin was not as afflicted to the cold, stomped over to his position. Slowly, it drew back its fist, surging with voltage. Squishy had little time left but, instead of a futile attempt at self preservation, he called forth the storm a final time. The crackling fist drove deep into the invertebrate's squelchy substance, drilling a hole straight through as a thin whine died out. Before its hand could be withdrawn, a dazzling spectrum of light ripped across its craggy back. The weed had directed the shining moon beams in assault rather than regeneration, but efforts had come all too late.
Once more, frigid spines covered the arena. Most of those fortunate enough to survive the first were not granted the same luck this time around. Jophiel, one of the two tempered enough to outlive the storm, fluttered over to the incompasitated Vileplume. Taking pleasure in its cruelty, the sea serpent readied to unleash its draconian breath, but found cold steel in its back before this could happen. Jacquelyn did not want to see anymore of her friends depart. Lucklessly, the Kingdra's sturdy scales caught the ax blade and would not give it back up. Angrily, it faced its attacker, but, when she tried to run, her escape was blocked by the approaching Tyranitar. Amidst the bleakness, a nauseating fume spewed from the floor as a putrefied puddle oozed its way nigh. Not wishing to leave it, Jacquelyn was pulled away by Poppy, who hitched worse than her. Outraged at the Muk's sudden appearance, they let forth an imperial wrath unimaginable of fang and flame.
From out of the viscous slough, Goopy drew out his face directly before that of Gabriel. The sudden manifestation shocked it but only for a moment. This was all it needed. Its maw thrown open, a terrible wail expelled from deep in its gullet. Instantaneously, the stained glass masterpiece fell to ruin as did all windows in the entire complex. The ears of all spewed forth blood as they were brought to their knees from harrowing torment. The rocky hide of the behemoth was even being shattered in the sonic blast, slowly chipping away as raw flesh was exposed. As the shriek persisted, the Vileplume pulled himself in the way of the Muk and Jacquelyn, holding her in place no matter how much she fought back. Tearfully, she gazed into Poppy's beady eyes seeking some sort of answer, it seemed as though they responded to her. When he was just a little sprout, she had saved his life from a rampaging, stony brute, took him in, and cared for him. This was why they were doing it. They owed her their lives, and the time to repay her was at hand. Wrapping his stubby arms around her and pushing her to the floor, the flower braced as the slime creature, whose surface pulsated from containing exceptional pressures, finally gave way in a devastating, megaton explosion.
When Jacquelyn came back to consciousness, she found all the walls in the vast chamber arched outward, speckled with pieces of foul colored sludge. Severe damage was dealt to the ceiling the morning sun peeked through the many holes. On antipode ends, there were two large craters that distinguished the deaths of the last remaining dragons. However, the blighted carcass that had shielded her during the marked the death of all her monsters. The grim battle-ax had landed, surprising intact from the blast, square in the middle of the arena floor, blade caught in the tile. Peering about, it came to knowledge that the eruption had carried her within proximity of the Dragon Master, who was currently lying face down by his once glorious throne, now in shambles. Drawing her gun, she forced herself to her feet despite numerous injuries that would prefer otherwise. She had no way of knowing whether or not he had survived but at least had a way of making sure. In a feeble gait, she steadily approached the body with it always in the sights. It did not stir in the slightest, but that was not enough for her. Aimed straight at the head, as the hammer drew back, the body, gaining life, swung around, knocking her off her feet and the gun from her hand. Her aches and sores revisited, she struggled to pull herself to the revolver. Meanwhile, whether it was his change in position, the added light, or the repositioning from the sacrifice, the League Champion spotted his firearm laying just before him. Concurrently, they both dove for their weapons and sprung at one another, each with a barrel pressed against their temples. It was a deadlock.
"You know," he broke the silence after a few minutes into the standoff, "that there will be no easy way out of this. If just one of use pulls the trigger, the other one's going down, too." His bargaining meant nothing to her, and he could tell. "It doesn't have to be this way," he broke in a while later. "I don't want to die either. We're the two most powerful people in the world. We deserve to have it. It should be ours. Right?" Her arm was unwavering. He began to panic. "You are aware that if you do this," he repeated a haunting from her past, "you will die." This caused her to stop and contemplate the moment. She thought of her life and what she had done. She thought of all this and smiled, staring him coldly in the eyes.