by Odeena Skywalker
Diva’s eyes slowly opened as she came round; unfocused at first, confused and tired afterwards. The first thing she saw was Liu Kang’s concerned face. The warrior was looking towards somewhere behind her, she couldn’t see what it was.
Liu turned to her, and a little smile played across his features for a second. “Welcome back.”
Diva slowly stood up and rubbed her temples. “Are we in the Netherealm?” she asked, although she aleady knew the answer all-too-well.
“Yes”, came the reply.
“Great”, she muttered. “I was starting to think I’m hallucinating, and that wouldn’t have been good at all. What happened, anyway?”
“Well, you… um, passed out.”
“Just like that?”
“Yeah, just like that.”
Diva rubbed her temples again. “It was almost as if someone hit me in the head with a mace”, she grumbled silently. “Everything just… went dark.”
Liu raised an eyebrow. “Okay, that’s one strange thing. But how come we got to the Netherealm, of all the places? I have every reason to believe you didn’t want us to end up here.”
“I didn’t. This is probably Quan-Chi’s doing.”
“Well, undo it”, Liu snapped.
“My thoughts exactly.” She got to her feet, raised a hand and focused, trying to open a portal. Nothing happened.
“Something’s wrong”, she stated as she focused harder. Again, nothing happened.
“Well, what is it? What’s wrong?” Liu asked impatiently.
“My powers…” Diva’s eyes widened at the discovery. “They’re–they’re gone!”
“Quan-Chi”, Diva said bitterly. “If this is anyone’s doing, it’s his. His powers are tremendous in Outworld.”
“Well, that’s just great”, Liu mused. “What do we do now?”
Diva sighed. “This is the Netherealm. Without my powers, we’re as good as dead.”
“That’s negative thinking”, Liu said, trying to lighten the mood. Suddenly, a thought occured to him. “Diva…”
She glared at him. “Yes?”
“Why are we here?”
She kicked at a small rock in frustration. “I already told you, Quan-Chi–”
“No, not that. Why did you help me escape? Why did you put an entire Realm at risk for me?”
Diva shuddered slightly. “I… We have to find water”, she said suddenly. “I can still sense water, and I’m guessing there’s a spring here somewhere.” She started towards the entrance which the stone dragon seemed to be guarding. Liu shrugged to himself and followed her. Back in Outworld, even with Diva’s aid, his death became inevitable. At least here, he had a fighting chance, although he didn’t bet high on his odds.
None of the two fighters noticed the changes which silently occured with the stone dragon during their brief talk. Its body glowed faintly, and shards of rock began to fall, revealing dark emerald scales. Slowly, the gigantic statue came to life.
When Liu noticed the fact, it was already too late. The beast unleashed a demonic shriek, and a seemingly endless wave of flames swept the shore.
The chamber was lit by hundreds of candels, each and every one of them spreading a faint oriental scent in the air. Altars to the Elders were carved dirrectly into the stone walls, and statues of strange shapes casted trembling and dark shadows around.
In the center of the shrine, Lord Rayden, God of Thunder and Protector of the Earth realm, stood, meditating.
The god tried to clear all thoughts from his mind and reached out, trying to sense the mind of Earth’s champion, Liu Kang. He knew that Liu Kang was still alive, just as he knew Kitana was dead. Still, he couldn’t reach out to him, and this was what concerned the Thunder God more than anything else.
The flames of the candels trembled slightly, and a gentle breeze filled the room, as Fujin, God of Winds, materialized in the shrine. Sensing his presence, Rayden opened his eyes.
“Fujin”, he said quietly.
“Hello, Rayden.” The younger god appeared a little uncomfortable. “How are things?”
Rayden sighed. “I can’t find Liu anywhere. He’s alive, I know that–but I just can’t reach him. It’s almost as if something’s blocking me.”
“Have you tried to break through whatever it is?” Fujin asked. Rayden shook his head slightly.
“It’s too strong, even for me. It’s almost as this spell would be protecting an entire Realm from–”
Suddenly, Rayden’t eyes widened, and he bolted upright. “That’s it! I think I know where he is!” Raising his staff, Rayden disappeared in a flash of lightning without anything else.
Fujin sighed. “I hate it when he does that”, he grumbled silently; then, he teleported away.
Liu’s thoughts raced, but he couldn’t find a way out of the situation. Acting by instinct, he threw himself down, pulling Diva with him. The flames passed inches away from the two; they barely had time to roll out of the way, and a new jet of flames hit the ground where they had been standing a moment ago.
“Go for the tunnel!” Liu shouted, jumping aside as the tail of the dragon swept past him.
Diva bolted towards the dark entrance and disappeared in the shadows, and Liu quickly followed. “Keep running!” he shouted as he heard another feral shriek behind him. In an instant, a thought occured to him, and he threw himself through a side entrance just as a jet of flames filled the entire tunnel. The heat was unbearable, and Liu crawled away. This seemed to last forever, until, with a last shriek, the fire eventually died down. Liu climbed shakily to his feet.
“Diva?” he called out. There was no response. He felt his heart in his throat. “Diva?” he called again. The echo travelled back and forth between the stone walls and gradually fainted, before the answer finally came.
“Here!” Diva’s voice had come from somewhere ahead.
Liu started forward, when he suddenly sensed an incomming attack, and he raised his hand, grabbing someone’s fist. “Hey!” he shouted, twisting the aggressor’s arm; immediately, he heard a faint gasp, and a voice, “Liu? Is that you?”
“Yes, it’s me. Let… go!”
Liu released her arm, still startled. “Are you alright?”
“A little scorged, but… I’m fine. You?”
“Same here… That was close.”
“Too close”, she sighed. “And now, we don’t even know where the hell we are…”
“You said you could sense some water around.”
“Uh… yeah. This way…”
Liu didn’t move. “Which way? I can’t see a thing!”
“Oh… right.” She took his arm and gently yanked it. “This way.”
They started to walk forward, leaning against the wall for support.
“Blind as bats”, Liu commented sarcastically.
“What are bats?” Diva asked, suddenly interested.
“Little creatures that live in dark places”, Liu replied. “They kinda look like mice with wings. You’ve never heard of bats before?”
“We didn’t have any in Eccelsia”, she answer. “Mice with wings, hmm? They must look… interesting.”
Suddenly, she stumbled on something, and lost balance for a second. Liu instinctively caught her, and she found herself in his arms. They remained still for a second, then Liu slowly helped her up.
“Thank you…” she trailed off, uncertain of what to say next, and Liu realised that he was still holding her hand. Gently, he wrapped his other arm around her; after a second, she stopped even pretending to try and get away.
An infinity of realms passed before Reiko’s eyes in mere seconds.
Where are you? he thought out, as he frantically searched for Diva’s familliar presence. Where did you go…?
He waited a few moments for a response, but there was none. Reiko sighed, and then he resumed his search.
The stone creature seemed to grow out nowhere. Liu barely had time to push Diva aside; however, he didn’t have time to block the incoming hit, and he was thrown into the rocky wall by the tremendous force. A sharp edge drew through his shoulder, and he shrieked in pain. Diva didn’t think twice; drawing out her twin blades, she attacked.
It was like striking blows against a wall. The creature barely flinched; then, with just one hit, sent her crashing into the wall. The last thing she saw was a dark hand coming down towards her; then, everything went dark.
He had no idea as to where he was, or how he had gotten there. There was a level, constant pain in his right shoulder, and when he tried to move his arm, he could hardly resist the urge to scream.
He immediately felt a cold hand reaching for his forehead, and he heard a voice. He couldn’t quite make out the words, but the urgent tone was obvious. As far as he could understand, the voice asked him to stay still. Then he realised it was Diva who was speaking, and he relaxed a bit, knowing that she was alive and she was with him. Sighing, he gave in to the weakness in his body, and he drifted away once more.
There was no response, and Diva sighed and leaned her forehead against the bars. Her head still hurt from the hit she had received from the creature, but apart from that, she was all right. It was Liu who concerned her the most. He had been unconscious for a while now, and he had only come to it for a few moments before fading again. Diva knew very little about wounds, but she could tell that Liu’s was serious.
As far as she could tell, they were prisoners. They were locked in a cage, settled high above, on a rock platform. They were in a bigger cavern now, and it was lit by a stream of lava which surrounded the entire area. Below, she could see a few dozens of rock creatures, and in the light, they looked even bigger and more threatening. She didn’t know what was going to happen to them, but one thing was for sure: it was not good.
The thought occured to him out of nowhere. He could almost feel danger surrounding him. The feeling was so strong, that Reiko seemed lost for a second. Tensing, he shrugged it all off, before a sudden realisation dawned on him. Opening a portal, he hurriedly stepped through it. His only hope was that he wouldn’t be too late.
‘In your next battle, use the ellement which gives life…’
It was cold, so cold. Liu shivered. The tunnel was narrow and dark, but he only had one thought in mind: somehow, he had to get through, he had to get to the other side.
‘Why am I doing this?’ he thought to himself as he struggled forward. ‘Why…’
A faint cry for help reached him, and he started to run blindly towards where it had come from. One turn, then another… The cry echoed again, closer this time. One last turn, and a bright burst of light hurt his eyes. He staggered backwards, and suddenly he found himself trapped. He opened his eyes and he realised he was sinking in a pool of lava. Sharp bolts of pain drew through his body as he struggled in a futile attempt to free himself.
Liu left out a soft whimper. He couldn’t fight the nightmare. He was too weak to even try.
Something was going on. A faint murmur was suddenly heard among the creatures, then, one of them got up. Another handed it a spear, as a few more cheered in low, unnatural voices. The creature slowly started towards the cage.
Diva knew resistance was futile. She slowly drew backwards, as the creature approached the cage, a low, feral snarl barely audible from its clenched jaws. It raised its spear, ready to strike.
Afterwards, things happened at an amazing speed. In the same instant the creature thrust the spear forward, a portal opened at the far end of the island, and silver ninja star hissed through the air. The spear broke in half, its tip passing inches away from Diva’s shoulder. The creature spunned around frantically, but it was already too late. A great ball of fire struck it, and, as it staggered backwards, it fell into the lava stream with a shriek.
Reiko appeared where it had been standing, a ninja star in each hand. He opened the cage lock with a kick, then turned his attention back to the other creatures, which were slowly advancing towards them. He raised his hands, and a rain of fire started out of nowhere. He smiled to himself as the creatures ran around, desperately trying to shield themselves as sharp bolts drew through their bodies, and, finally, there were none left.
“Reiko!” Diva rushed forward and embraced him. She tried to say something, but instead she broke down crying against his shoulder. “Thak you!” she managed between sobs.
“It’s alright.” Reiko did his best to sound calm, but anger was boiling deep within. “It’s okay, it’s all over now.”
She pulled back a little to gaze into his sky-blue eyes. “I’m sorry”, she nearly whispered. “I didn’t-I just-”
“It’s alright”, Reiko repeated. “You…” he paused for a moment, uncertain of what to say. “You did what you thought was right. Even though you risked the entire realm of Eccelsia by doing so”, he finished grimly.
“He was going to die!” Diva protested faintly. “And I… well, I owed him”, she finished under her breath.
“For killing your father?”
“For releasing me! Had there not been for him and the other Earth warriors, I would’ve ended up an assassin for Kahn, or Creator knows what. You know that.”
There was an awkward silence for a few seconds.
“Shinnok sent me after you”, Reiko stated quietly. “He wants you alive.”
Diva’s eyes widened. “You’re not… going… to…” she trailed off. “What will happen if you don’t bring us in?” she asked instead.
“I don’t know”, Reiko confessed.
He was in a dilemma. One side of him urged him to deliver the fugitives to Shinnok-and insure his realm’s safety. Yet, another side of him didn’t want to. He knew what would follow then-death, for both of them. And then, probably, his punishment would come as well.
Suddenly, Reiko’s shoulders straightened up. His decision was made. If there was anyone to pay for this, then he would take the blame alone. He relied on the fact that Shinnok needed his services as a general, and thus wouldn’t want to loose the only trading card he had.
But on the other hand, Shinnok had other generals as well. What if…
He snapped out of his thoughts. “What?”
Diva pointed towards the entrance of a tunnel. A few creatures were coming out, waving spears and clubs and unleashing deep battle screams.
“We have to get out of here”, Reiko said hurriedly.
“Wait… what about Liu?”
Reiko threw her an inquiring glance, but she looked away. Sighing, he closed his eyes, and the three teleported away, just as a few spears made their way towards the spot where they had been standing.
They were now on a small island, surrounded by lava. Diva sighed, and she sat down, taking Liu’s hand. She still felt his pulse, and that gave her confidence for now.
“I can’t help you any more”, Reiko stated. “If either Shinnok or Quan-Chi find out…”
He didn’t have to finish the sentence. Both him and Diva knew what was going to happen if they did.
“At least… help Liu”.
Reiko narrowed his eyes. “What?”
“You’re a healer, aren’t you? You can help him!”
Reiko sighed. “Diva…”
“Please, Reiko. He will die otherwise, and none of this would have mattered as all.”
Reiko sighed again, still undecided. “All right. I’ll do it. For your sake.”
He took Liu’s hand, and closed his eyes. His hand started to glow faintly, as Liu’s wounds slowly closed. All this lasted a few moments; then, Reiko let go. He felt dizzy for a second due to loss of energy, and he shook his head slightly.
“This is all I can do. Anything more, and I won’t have enough energy left to go back.”
“And… what will you tell Shinnok?”
“Shinnok knows little about my full powers. I’ll tell–”
The rest of his sentence was cut off by a loud peal of thunder, and Rayden, God of Thunder, appeared next to them. The god looked around for a second, then his gaze stopped on Reiko. His eyebrows frowned, and the air around him began to crackle with electricity.
Diva stepped in between the two. “Leave him alone!” she shouted, drawing out her blades, although she knew she didn’t stand a chance against the god. “He didn’t do anything!”
“Diva! Back off!” Reiko said sharply. “If it’s a fight he wants, then it’s a fight he gets.”
Reiko shoved her aside, and a fireball formed between his hands. The same instant, Rayden raised his staff, and Reiko barely had time to dive out of the way. Rayden kept sending bolts of electricity towards him, and one of them his its target. Reiko resisted the urge to scream and unleashed a wave of ninja stars at the god. Rayden teleported out of sight.
Reiko drew in a sharp breath. “Where did he go?” he said to himself, glaring in all directions. Around the same time, Liu began to awaken.
“Liu!” Diva ran off to him and gently helped him to a sitting position. “Are you all right?”
“I… guess so, yes…” Liu looked around, and found Reiko standing a few steps away, crouched in a defensive position. His whole body tensed.
“It’s all right”, Diva said hurriedly. “He’s the one who healed you.”
“He is?” Liu raised an eyebrow. “Well, correct me if I’m wrong, but he looks even worse than I do. What happened?”
“What happened? Rayden happened”, Diva said bitterly.
“What? …oh, no!”
A sudden movement caught Diva’s eye, and she turned just in time to see Rayden materialize. His bolts caught Reiko off guard, and the general fell to the ground.
“Reiko!” Diva shouted, bolting towards him.
“Rayden! No! They’re friends!” Liu shouted at the same time.
Rayden raised an eyebrow. “What?”
“They saved me!” Liu said quickly. “Had there not been for them, I would be dead by now!”
All of the sudden, a low groan echoed in the cavern.
“The stone creatures!” Diva exclaimed, turning towards a tunnel entrance.
It was, indeed, the creatures. Giant, strong and mercyless, they were running towards the four.
Reiko jumped back to his feet and turned to Rayden. “Get them out of here!” he shouted. “Now!”
“But what about–”
“Go with them!” Reiko shouted, starting to fire upon the creatures. “Please”, he added in a whisper. “Go!”
Rayden nodded and created a portal. After shooting a few lightning bolts at the creatures himself, Rayden stepped through it, carrying Liu. Diva cast one last glance at Reiko, then she followed as well, and the portal closed behind her.
Reiko glanced behind and he nodded to himself; then, he opened a portal, and jumped through it as well, just as the first creatures reached the place where he had been a moment before.
The sun was setting in a blaze over the desert; from a low peak, a lone figure stood silently. She watched it until the last rays of light died in the distant horizon, then started to head back to the Temple of the Elder Gods, when she suddenly found a tall figure standing in front of her.
“Liu? Is that you?” she questioned, squinting.
“I was worried”, Liu Kang replied. “I couldn’t find you anywhere, so I figured you’d be here.”
“I was just… thinking.” Diva shuddered. “I didn’t know it gets so cold here.”
“Yeah, it’s a bit chilly. Let’s head inside.”
Liu wrapped an arm around her shoulder, and she didn’t protest.
“Earlier today, you asked me why would I put an entire realm at risk for you”, she said quietly.
Liu stopped to glare at her, but couldn’t see her face in the dark. “Yes?”
“Shinnok had… made a decision. They were going to have you fight Goro. To the death.”
“I could’ve taken him”, Liu said reassuringly.
“Not in the condition you were into. And if you were to win, you would’ve fought another warrior, and another. It was a death sentence.”
Liu smiled. “In this case, I am even more in your debt.”
“It doesn’t matter. If anybody’s owing to anyone, that would be me.”
Then, the two headed silently for the Temple and disappeared inside.
Shinnok’s eyes started to glow menacingly. “You left them get away?” he shouted, and everyone else present flinched. Reiko bowed his head.
“Rayden… couldn’t be taken. I appologise.”
“Fool!” A green bolt of energy strook Reiko in the chest, and the general was thrown a few steps away. He gasped and tried to get up, but his legs refused to support him.
Shinnok turned to his personal guards. “Get him out of my sight”, he ordered.
“Shall we kill him, master?” one of the masked ninjas inquired.
Shinnok seemed to consider the alternative for a moment. “No… Take him to his chambers.” The two ninjas nodded as they helped Reiko up and left.
“You know he lies”, Quan-Chi stated, matter-of-factly.
“Yes, sorcerer, I know that. But I believe he can still be of use for us.” Shinnok chuckled to himself. “Yes… It is time to use my highest card in this game.”
“And which is that?” Quan-Chi questioned, narrowing his eyes.
Shinnok chuckled again, and his eyes glowed menacingly.
“The Realm of Eccelsia.”