by Odeena Skywalker
A few days passed without any sign from Diva. Sometimes, Liu thought it had been only a dream; but the spring was there, its clear, bright water dripping down the same sharp rock, and each time he drank from it, he felt he grew stronger. The thick darkness which seemed to surround him whenever he stood up, or made a sudden move, was now gone, and when he tried, he managed to do a simple kata, from one end to another, even though he had to lay down abruptly afterwards for fear he would faint.
And then she came. Being totally awake now, Liu saw her materializing from the shadows. He did his best to hide his astonishment however.
“Hello, Liu”, she said smiling.
Liu smiled as well. “I was starting to think you’d never show up”.
“Well, I’ve been… busy”, she told him, and she leaned against the bars, sighing. “Sorry.”
“It’s okay.” Liu approached and took her hand. “Is something wrong?” he asked gently. Then, he spotted a burnt mark on her shoulder. “What…”
Diva followed his gaze. “Oh… that. Long story.” She sighed again. “Mind if I… come in?”
Liu smiled a bit at this. “Sure, be my guest. I’m afraid I don’t really have much treats around”, he continued as she disappeared and reappeared in his cell a second later. “There isn’t plenty of room, either.”
Diva smiled. “Don’t worry about the treats”, she chirped, “I have that covered. And about the room… well, this isn’t too much of a problem, either.” She leaned against the wall casually. “See? All settled.”
Liu was a bit puzzled by her sudden change of mood, but decided it was better not to push in at the moment. “You were saying something about some treats?” he asked tentatively.
“Yeah…” She reached for a hidden pocked and took out a small leather bag. “Ready?”
“Close your eyes and give me your hand.”
He obeyed, although he was, again, puzzled. Suddenly it occured to him that he was always puzzled around her. He felt something fall onto his opened palm.
“Can I open my eyes now?” he asked.
“All right… yes.”
Liu gazed down, and found that he was holding a few strange objects in his hand now: a few small, red spheres, two yellow cubes, a green cylinder, and a long, thin, blue stripe.
“What are those?” Liu asked, eyeing the shapes warrily. “Are they… umm, god candy?”
She smiled. “Right on.”
“I…” Liu tried not to expose his doubts. “Is it good?” he said instead.
“You don’t trust me”. It was rather a statement.
“No, no, I just–”
“Okay then, I’ll try them first. Point a color.”
“Umm… try the red one.” Liu didn’t sound too convinced. His instincts told him not to trust her; still, there were times when his instincts were wrong.
Diva took one of the red spheres and gulped it down. The next second she made a face.
“Cherry flavour. I don’t like cherries,” she explained at his puzzled look. “So. Still don’t trust me?”
Liu shrugged, then picked up one of the yellow cubes. “Here goes nothing…” he muttered under his breath, and he shoved it into his mouth. The next second, he felt a sweet lemon taste, and suddenly he felt lighter.
“This is great”, he mumbled, remembering too late that he was talking with his mouth full. “Sorry.”
“No problem. Glad you like it.”
Liu chuckled, amused. Of all the things that could have happened, the idea of a goddess giving him god candy was one thing he didn’t think about.
Diva tilted her head to one side. “Why are you smirking?” she asked, puzzled.
Liu chuckled again. “Nothing. Aren’t you going to have another?”
“No. I brought there for you. I have my own.”
“Alright then…” Liu took the cylinder and shoved it into his mouth. “Do all Immortals eat this sort of stuff?” he asked.
Diva looked at him in puzzlement. “Um… why?”
“Because if they do, I’m going to kill Rayden for not sharing any with us.”
She smiled proudly. “Actually, not many get this kind of sweets. They’re very rare. Reiko gave me some right before we came here.”
Liu frowned, and Diva realized she’d made a mistake. “I’m… sorry”, she nearly whispered. “I shouldn’t have…” she trailed off.
“What’s going on between you and Reiko?” Liu asked, silent, but determined.
Diva closed her eyes and sighed. “You’d hate me if I told you”, she said quietly. “You wouldn’t understand.”
Liu couldn’t tell whether he was confused, furious or both. Uncertain of what to do, he took her hand. “I couldn’t hate you, even if I wanted to”, he replied gently. “You saved my life. Please, tell me.”
Her voice shook a bit, and she did her best to hold back the tears she felt uprising.
She took a deep breath, and let it out slowly.
“Shao Kahn–the one who you defeated in Mortal Kombat–is… was, my father.”
Liu’s eyes widened, but he remained silent as she went on.
“I don’t know who my mother is. Only Kahn knew, and he took that secret with him when he died. Reiko told me that my mother died at birth, and Shao Kahn told Reiko to take me to the Netherealm and prepare me to become one of his generals. But Reiko disobeyed his master, and didn’t take me to the Ziggurat, like he had been told to.”
Liu shuddered. Not even Immortals used to talk about the Ziggurat very often. It was thought to be somewhere in the Netherealm, a temple of damnation, home for the darkest souls in all the known Realms. The very thought made his hair stand on end and, despite his courage, he shuddered.
“Instead, he raised me like I was his own”, she continued. “I grew up in a small shaolin temple, somewhere in the realm of Eccelsia. Reiko wasn’t around all the time – most of the time he was carrying out Shao Kahn’s orders – but when he came, we used to spend hours together. I showed him what I had learned, and he used to show me some of his own katas. Other times, we used to go deep into the woods which surrounded the temple. We had out own secret place, a clearing, somewhere, on top of a hill.”
She looked him straight in the eye. “He taught me everything I know, Liu. He is the closest thing to a father I’ve ever had.”
Liu was silent for a moment.
“He was one of Shao Kahn’s most trusted generals”, he finally said. “Why would he disobey his master like that?”
“The Ziggurat is the most terrifying place in all the known Realms. He’s not how you think, Liu. He has a heart, too.”
“Then why did he obey Kahn?” Liu snapped. “Why did he kill millions? Why didn’t he–”
“Liu.” She put a hand on his shoulder. “Do you actually think he wanted to obey Kahn?”
Liu was taken aback for a second. “I… of course he did! Otherwise, why did he–”
“Ever heard of Edenia?”
Liu gave a bitter laugh. “Of course I did.”
“Then you must know what happened there, too.”
“I know. But what’s that got to do with Reiko and Kahn?”
“Edenia was taken by Kahn because Outworld warriors won the tournament ten times… and because the Edenians were too proud. Same thing happened in Eccelsia, too. A long time ago, when Kahn wasn’t even half as powerful as he was when you defeated him, his warriors won the Mortal Kombat tournament. As price for his realm, Reiko sworn loyalty to him. The reason he was so ever-obediant, was because, at the slightest sign of treachery, Kahn would have destroyed his Realm.”
“His Realm…?” Liu Kang repeated numbly. “You mean…”
“Yes. He was–is–a deity. Just like I am.”
Diva glared at him, unable to hold back her tears any more. “So, do you hate me now?”
A strange mixture of emotions raged through Liu’s mind. Comprehension and anger, mercy and blame, regret and compassion. But on top of all that was a question.
“What have you been doing the past few days?” it almost sounded as if he wasn’t even aware of the questions he was asking. “Where have you been?”
“All this time?” She gave a bitter laugh. “Shinnok wanted to see if I was worthy of being one of his generals. All this time, I had to fight his best warriors. I guess I impressed him after I fought prince Goro.”
“Goro?” Liu was astonished. “I thought he was killed–”
“Well, he was, until Quan Chi ressurected him somehow.”
“And… you have that–” he motioned towards her scar “–from him?”
“The scorge? I got that from Reptile. No mortal has the power to hurt a deity, you know that, but somehow, Reptile managed to get me–pretty bad, too. Him and Goro were the only ones I couldn’t beat.”
“No wonder”, Liu muttered under his breath. Goro, the Shokan prince, had been hard enough to defeat in the original tournament. The warrior had no doubt that Quan-Chi had added some sorcery of his own. “How’d you take him?”
She shuddered a bit. “Not that good. Well, to be straight… he nearly killed me. That’s why I couldn’t come.”
“And Shinnok allowed all this?” Liu nearly shouted.
Diva put a calming hand on his shoulder. “Liu, please, calm down. Shinnok doesn’t need weak fighters in his army.”
“And Reiko? Why didn’t he say anything?”
“He can’t”, Diva reminded him. “Eccelsia, remember?”
She sighed tiredly. “I don’t know why all this is happening to me,” she muttered. “I don’t want to be a general in Shinnok’s army. I just want to go home.”
Suddenly she bolted up. “I have to go”, she said hurriedly.
“Telepathic call?” Liu asked.
“Yes. I’ll see you later then.”
With that, she disappeared.
The days passed, one after another. By now, Liu was used to Diva arriving when he least expected it. Then, they usually talked about things, and, time after time, Liu told her all about his life: the Temple of the Order of Light, the tournaments, the other chosen fighters, and so on. In turn, Diva told him about Eccelsia, about the temple where she had grown up, and about Reiko. Occasionally, she would bring some more of the sweets Liu had turned to like so much.
“I’m freaking Reiko out with these”, she commented once. “He keeps telling me that sweets are fattening.” Then, she smiled a bit. “I don’t recall asking for so many even when I was little-and trust me, I used to eat a lot then.”
The spring water was enough for Liu Kang though. He had made a full recovery as time passed–and now he felt ready for anything.
But neither of them was prepared for what lied ahead. And things were soon going to take a turn for the worse.
Liu opened his eyes and sighed. He slowly got to his feet, then stretched his arms. Making sure that none of the guards were around, he went for the spring and took a sip.
“What the-” he muttered.
For a strange reason, the water tasted sourly. He shrugged, then set up to do the usual kata he began each ‘day’ with.
It was later in the ‘afternoon’, and Liu was resting. A few minutes ago, he had tried the spring water again, and this time it had tasted almost like it usually did, but the sour tase was still in. Suddenly, he heard the sound of approaching footsteps, and he sat up and listened. It sounded like someone was coming towards his cell, or rather, running. A second later, Diva rushed into view and nearly collided with the bars. She looked around and seemed to be lost for a moment, but she quickly regained her composure. A wave of her hand, and the bars disappeared.
“What–” Liu started, but she cut him off with an impatient gesture. The same second, the spring disappeared.
“I’m getting out of here”, she said hurriedly, panting. “And you’re coming with me.”
Liu could only stare at her. “But–but what about Eccelsia?”
“Forget that”. She grabbed his arm. “We have to go now, before–”
The sound of approaching footsteps cut her off.
“–the guards arrive?” Liu finished, raising an eyebrow as he spotted four ninja guardians approaching.
“Stop!” one of them yelled. Another rushed to get help, as Liu and Diva both took defensive poses.
“This is gonna be fun”, Liu mused, just as a ninja charged him. Ducking out of the way, he sent the guard into the wall with a kick, face-first. The ninja spun around almost instantly, and his fist exploded in Liu’s stomach. Taken offguard, Liu staggered backwards as the ninja charged him again.
Meanwhile, Diva was having difficulties of her own. She desperately jumped up, managing to avoid a kick from one of the guardians. Just as she landed, the other one tripped her, and she fell. She rolled out of the way, barely avoiding another kick. She stood up and put her back against the wall.
“Not good”, she muttered, as the two ninjas approached from different directions, pulling out their swords at the same time. “Not good at all.”
A flash, and curved blades emerged from her bracelets. “Let’s play”, she mused as she charged one of the guardians. The ninja blocked the attack with his own sword, and a fierce battle began. It didn’t last long however, as the Goddess of Oceans was clearly outwitted. Before she knew it, she found herself pinned to the ground, with two swords against her throat.
“This was fun, while it lasted”, one of the guardians said in mock pity. “Good bye”, he finished, as he raised his sword, ready to strike.
Liu’s attack caught both ninjas by surprise. In a matter of seconds, both were on the floor, clutching at their wounds and clearly no threat at all. With a sigh, Liu helped Diva to her feet.
“Thanks”, she said uneasily as the two blades drew back into her bracelets. “But I could’ve taken him.”
“That, I doubt.” Liu waved his katana sword proudly. “Not bad, eh?”
“Yeah… not bad. The problem is, we have to get out of here, and that way-” she motioned towards whrere they had come from “-is blocked.”
“Are there any other exits?” Liu asked quickly, catching the sound of more guards approaching.
“Not as I know.”
“So what do we do now?”
“I’ll tell you what we’ll do. Run!” Diva yelled, just as a steel arrow passed only inches away from Liu’s throat.
“Sounds like a good plan to me”, Liu yelled back as they both ran deeper into the dark catacomb. “We’re doomed”, he added under his breath.
Suddenly they came to an abrupt halt, nearly colliding into the stone wall.
“Dead end”, Liu observed. “Now what?”
They could already see their followers. There were at least twenty ninjas, advancing towards them and waving their weapons menacingly.
Diva’s mind raced. She was the Goddess of Oceans, so she could have used her ellement to defent both of them, if only–
“Duck!” she yelled as she raised her hand. With a tremendous sound, a thick wall of cascading water emerged from the floor and smashed into the ceiling. The ninjas stepped back, startled.
“Not bad, is it?”
“Not bad”, Liu admitted. “But that won’t hold them off for long.”
He was searching frantically for a sollution, when suddenly, a thought came into his mind.
“Can you… um, form a portal or something?”
“I don’t know”, she replied. “I’ve never tried.”
“Well try it now!” An arrow hissed through the water wall and hit the wall next to Liu. More followed. “And hurry up, please?” the warrior finished, ducking as more arrows came through.
She raised her other hand. “Where to?”
“Anywhere!” Liu snapped.
“Alright…” Something sparkled into the air for a second, then disappeared. Diva sighed in frustration.
“It’s too much!” she yelled “I’ll have to drop the wall. Get ready!”
Liu tensed, and Diva waved her hand again. With a booming noise, the wall collided onto the other side, washing away most of the ninjas. At the same time, a portal began to form in front of them.
Liu glared at it. Portal travelling wasn’t exactly high on his pleasant-things-to-do list, but a quick glance at the ninjas who were recovering fast made his mind. Taking a step forward, he grabbed Diva’s arm. She started forward, but she suddenly froze.
Running through the group of ninjas, general Reiko froze as well. Behind him, the sorcerer Quan-Chi raised his hand, and a green wave of energy bolted towards the two escapees. For a second, Diva’s gaze met with Reiko’s; then, Liu yanked her through the portal, and the universe seemed to collapse in itself.
Colors swirled around like mad, and both Liu and Diva closed their eyes, holding their hands tight. An eternity seemed to pass in mere seconds, then suddenly things reverted back to normal, and the two landed hard.
Liu slowly got up and dusted himself off. “I hate portal travelling”, he grumbled. “Diva? You okay?”
The goddess nodded slowly and got up as well. “I’ll survive”, came the answer as she looked around.
The question came from both warriors at the same time. “Where are we?” There was an unconcealed tone of astonishment in Liu’s voice, while Diva sounded tired and resigned.
The place where they had appeared was nowhere near anything Liu had ever seen before. They were in some sort of cavern, on the bank of what seemed to be an endless ocean of lava. Stones of strange shapes were sticking out of it here and there, and skeletons were pinned to them. On the other end of the bank, there was a giant dragon, carved in stone, and behind it there was the entrance to a dark tunnel.
Diva’s face suddenly went pale, and Liu rushed forward to support her. The thought dawned on him at the same time, yet it was the goddess who spoke it first.
“We’re in the Netheralm”, she whispered, and then she collapsed into his arms, unconscious.
The ninjas on either side of Reiko took a step back as the general bowed his head respectfully before his master, Shinnok. The fallen Elder God looked down on his servant with unconcealed fury.
“Your protege has betrayed me”, Shinnok said in a harsh tone.
Reiko said nothing, but he dropped silently to one knee.
“She helped Liu Kang escape”, Shinnok continued.
Quan-Chi took a step forward. “Master, if I may…”
Shinnok turned to the sorcerer. “Yes?”
“I have done a little… trick on the portal the traitor opened. I know they intended to go to Earth realm; but somehow, they ended up in the Netherealm instead”, Quan-Chi stated, his entire attitude a cruel parody of astonishment and confusion.
Unseen by his master, Reiko’s eyes narrowed as Shinnok chuckled silently.
The general raised his look. “Master?”
“You can make amends for Diva’s regrettable treachery”, Shinnok started slowly, “or you can watch your entire Realm die.”
Reiko slowly stood up. “Your orders, Lord?”
Shinnok suddenly frowned, his mask of indifference dropping and this revealing the fury that was slowly building inside him. “Bring them to me”, he commanded. “Both of them.”
“As you command, master.” Reiko bowed and started to leave, but Shinnok stopped him with a gesture. “Yes?”
“Bring them alive”, the god hissed through his gritted teeth. “I want to kill them myself.”
The general nodded, then opened a portal and disappeared.