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The beast rose to full height, and drug its tail across the ground.

"My name, Serpent. I won't...let you have...the Gem...and..."

Everyone kept their weapons ready.

"And...then I'll...you have to...uhh..."

Ashe sighed. "Look, we really don't have time for this. Can we just move this along?"

Serpent writhed into a rage. "ROOOOOAAAWR!"

Purple discharge flew in all directions. Ashe and Glenn had the advantage of floating over it, and opened fire immediately. Everyone parted off to the left or right before focusing on offense. Serpent dropped and charged at Canis, who jumped out of the way at the last second. Serpent sniffed the air. Before it detected Canis, he'd brought his heavy blade down. The snake bellowed and swept its tail at him. The monster flinched as Jace put a well-placed railgun shot to the back of its head. It began to worry less about Canis and more about the ranged attackers. Serpent drove its head into the ground and disappeared.

Glenn stopped and held his Morpheus in different directions, looking for where his target might surface. Similarly to earlier, the ground near them began to crack and rumble. They ran and returned fire as soon as Serpent dove out at them. It rose up and spat poison at them. Jace got rather unlucky and his foot had caught the edge of a toxic puddle.

"I can't move!"

The beast slithered over to him. Before it could react, Glenn flew into Jace, and fired a blast right into Serpent's face. Now free, Jace ran toward the wall and revved his M-27B1. Serpent went into a frenzy, spewing toxins and flailing his tail. It dove and sped toward Ray. When he dodged and turned to shoot his target, he was surprised at what he found.

"Where did it go?!"

It looked almost like Serpent flew straight through the wall. A purple portal-like hole swirled where it made contact.

Canis braced himself. "Watch the walls carefully!"

Sure enough, another portal formed elsewhere on the wall and Serpent shot out, only to disappear again. It got a bead on Ashe and sped out behind her. As she was knocked forward a greenish-blue sphere had surrounded her. Her Force Field. This time instead of disappearing into the wall again, Serpent dug its way underground. Everyone by now was pretty comfortable with dodging this move, and was clear of it when it resurfaced. Serpent resorted to simply charging, tail-clubbing, and poison-spitting.

Glenn continued to pop off shots with his Morpheus. "We need something stronger! That hide is tough! Jace, what does your visor say about its power level?"

"It's over -- Whoa!" He backed up from an attempted tail-club.

Ray sidestepped a blob of poison. He struck a hunched stance with his hands cupped together at his side. "KAMEHAME-"

Everyone dropped their fire for a brief moment. Jace yelled through the radio. "Ray, what are you doing?"

"-HA!"

Serpent looked around blindly. "What going on? Something...suppose to happen?"

Ashe held her Energy Glove down. "What was that?"

Ray shrugged. "Sorry. I sort of got caught up in the moment."

Canis sprinted forward in the confusion. "There's an opening...!"

His blue flame-like aura flickered around him. Holding his sword straight out, he thrust it into the large creature. As soon as the blade pierced its hide it came ablaze with blue fire. It squirmed in pain. Serpent slammed its body down in an attempt to crush its attacker. Canis managed to get out of the way, but had to abandon his weapon. Serpent shot forward and disappeared into another portal rush. The weapon that was buried in its side vanished with it. Jace tossed Canis his sniper rifle. And right on cue, Serpent charged for him. Canis released fire as soon as Serpent was barely a foot away. The laser entered through its mouth, traveled the entire length of its body, and exited out from the tail. Serpent never moved again.

"Nice shot." Jace said to Canis as he was returning his rifle.

Ray took the liberty to pull the sword from the dead alien's side. He paused, and studied its blade. Ray even swung it a few times.

"Er-herm."

Ray hesitated for a moment, simply staring back at Canis. He held the hilt out and Canis took his weapon.

Ashe returned her Energy Glove to her bag. "Look!"

A portal that looked similar to Serpent's opened up on the wall and then closed. There was a new hole where it was. Only ten feet in was a ladder.

"It was underground. Imagine that." Said Glenn.

He and everyone else began their descent. The cavern below was lit up by chunks of mithril that lined the ceiling. It looked like a long tunnel. They couldn't see the Gem at the end.

"Ray, you're walking rather stiffly. Are you feeling ok?" Ashe asked.

"..."

"Hello?"

"..."

"Ray, I'm talking to you."

"I'm fine."

"What's wrong with your voice? You don't sound too fine."

He stopped walking and looked at her.

Glenn stopped too and spoke. "Come on Ray. We need to keep walking. The Gem is close."

"We?" Ray spoke.

Ashe was puzzled. "What is wrong with you? You've been acting strangely for the past couple of days."

"I appreciate your concern. But I'll be taking that Gem. You no longer have any part of it."

Glenn was equally as confused. "Wait, what?"

Ray rammed into an unexpecting Glenn, who fell to the ground. Before Jace could react, he'd gotten an elbow to the chest, knocking the breath out of him. Ashe attempted to restrain Ray, but he grabbed her throat and held her against the wall.

Ashe gasped for air. "What're...you..."

Ray pulled his LIT07 with his free hand. Before he made another move, Glenn spun on the ground and kicked his shin. Ashe immediately countered with a right hook, hitting him with such force that his helmet flew off. She grabbed the LIT07 he'd dropped and aimed at his face, struggling to hold still. Ray shook his head.

"WHOA! HOLD ON NOW!" Ray shouted, throwing his hands up.

Ashe was still shaking slightly. "DON'T FUCK WITH ME, RAY! I MEAN IT!"

"WHAT DID I DO?!"

"YOU TRIED TO KILL ME!"

"...I'm sorry, I did what now?" Ray asked, confusion hung on his face.

"SORRY DOESN'T CUT IT!" She pulled the trigger.

"AAAAH!" Damn, woman! What's the matter with you?!" He said, clutching his wounded shoulder.

Canis held her weapon downward, at the same time still grasping the hilt of his own.

"What is the last thing you remember, Ray?" His expression seemed to be a mix of intensity and concern.

"Let's see...we killed Serpent...I went to grab your sword for you...and then...and then..." Ray knit his eyebrows. "Then I honestly can't remember..." He looked around. "Where ARE we?"

Jace was still trying to catch his breath. "We just came in from the hole in the side of the Stadium." He wheezed.

Glenn stood up. "And then you went ape-shit crazy and attacked us."

"I...actually attacked you?" Ray struggled to remember.

Ashe was still shaking. She pulled something that resembled something similar to a pulse oximeter from her bag and tossed it to Ray. He picked it up.

"What is this?"

"C-Check your blood toxicity." She still gripped the LIT07 tightly.

Ray removed the gauntlet from his right hand. He clamped it around his index finger until it beeped. It gave him his blood-mithril toxicity reading. Ray looked up. His gaze was confused and vacant.

"What does it s-say?" She asked.

"..." Ray remained vacant. "0.00 percent..."

Glenn grew angrier. "Bullshit! Give me that!"

He measured his own. "0.12 percent. It definitely works..."

Canis held out his hand and helped Ray up. Jace handed his helmet to him. He simply placed it in his bag instead of putting it back on. Ashe however refused to return his firearm, snatching it away when he tried to take it back. He didn't question it and let it go.

"Whatever happened, I'm really sorry, we’ll talk this out later. Let's just keep moving."

They let Ray walk in front. An opening came into view, and the pedestal they were looking for became visible. The Gem Tail sparkled with a radiant light.

He looked back at Glenn. “Are you sure about this?”

"Go ahead, Ray."

Ray reached for the Gem. His fingers came within inches.

"Hold it right there!"

"This be as far as ye go!"

"No one move!"

Ray and the others turned. Apollo, Icarus, and Hermes were facing them with their own weapons.

Canis had not anticipated this. "Apollo? What is the meaning of this?"

"We must apologize, Canis. But ye know exactly why we come."

"Quite frankly, I don't."

"Allow me to explain." Spoke Icarus. "We cannot allow one as dangerous as he out into the world."

Ray stood in front of the pedestal. "Dangerous? Who?"

"I speak of thee."

"Me? Dangerous? Other than what I've been told happened a few minutes ago, I don't believe I would classify myself as 'dangerous'."

"Ye don't even know who thou art. That be dangerous enough."

Apollo spoke again. "Unfortunately ye must be silenced. Regardless of how ye may have changed, you pose as a threat upon this world. We bare thee no ill will. What ye hath wrought many years ago shalt not repeat."

Another voice came from behind.

"Tsk, tsk. It would be quite an...inconvenience...if you failed to complete your mission."

Ray lowered his cutter he had drawn. "Oh? Shadus. What happened to you? Are you ok?"

"Am I ok? Of course..."

The Guardians turned to face him.

"Who art thou?" Apollo demanded.

"I am their supreme authority. They operate under me."

Ashe lowered Ray's LIT07. "Shadus? You just disappeared. What happened?"

"Disappeared? I don't think so. I've been rather busy with my own important tasks."

"But what're you-"

"What am I doing here? That's a good question. I came to see you, Ray."

Ray was confused again. "You came all the way out here just to see me? What for?"

"You know why. I wanted to see how you thought about your newfound self, or rather, old self may be more appropriate."

Ray tightened the grip on Collision. "We would have ordinarily came to see you anyway. And what do you mean by my old self? You actually know about me?"

"Oh? You should remember everything by now. Take the Gem Tail, Ray. You will understand."

Ray turned toward the Gem. He reached, and hesitated. He was no longer sure about whether he wanted to find out what Shadus meant or not.

Icarus called out. "Do not listen to him! I beseech thee, turn away!"

Ray wrapped his hand around the Gem. As soon as his fingers made contact with it, his eyes grew wide. He fell to his knees, trembling. He flexed his fingers, and he began to sweat.

"Was that..."

Shadus grinned. "Now that you've had contact with every piece, the truth should be clear to you now."

"Was what I just saw...the events of two hundred years ago? The near destruction of the planet? The Epoch Nightmare period? And I was..."

"Fufufu. That's right, Ray. You finally realize who you really are. The Demon Commander that controlled the Aparus and nearly brought this planet to an end two hundred years ago -- is you."

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