Faces, New Realities
Disclaimer: I own Minette, Nancy, Kaz, Rialto, Tigress, Myst, Coal, Willow and the Shadow-Walker (this is not written in conjunction with my current fic series)
Scaler, Serenity, Eboni and Aqua Cutter belong to Pulsar, all other characters are the property of Tecmo
* * * * *
Chapter 1: Changing Places
* * * * *
"Okay, is everybody ready?" Suezo prompted, as he grinned widely, then glanced around at the other Searchers.
"Is this really going to help us to find our friends faster, Suezo?" Serinity asked as she gave the eyeball monster a doubtful look.
"Sure, trust me!" Suezo insisted.
Closing his single eye tightly in concentration, the eyeball suddenly shouted at the top of his lungs "TELE-PORT!"
Total silence filled the clearing for a few seconds and a hesitant Serinity broke the silence.
".........Uh, Suezo? Nothing happened"
"Huh?" he opened his eye again and gaped, nothing had changed around the rebels.
"...Well, that was pointless" Eboni commented as she turned round
and began to walk away.
"Waste of time" Scaler muttered, his leather cloak whirling around
him as he spun on his heel and stalked off.
The other Searchers began to walk away as well as Suezo looked
at his retreating friends in dismay "Aw, come on, you guys, I really
can Teleport everyone!"
"Sure you can, Suezo" Hare deadpanned, rolling his eyes.
The eyeball monster glared over at the tawny-furred rabbit.
"Oh, like you could do any better, Hare!" he shouted angrily.
Hare stopped in mid-stride, then he turned around to stare back at Suezo, a surprised, thoughtful look on his face.
"...Maybe I can" he whispered to himself after a moment, so softly
he didn't think anyone else would be able to overhear him.
He failed to notice the shocked sideways glance that Serinity shot
* * * * *
Later that afternoon, the Searchers had decided to stop for the day and they set up camp.
As Genki and Moochi were helping Holly get a fire started, Hare slowly wandered away from the group.
After walking a distance from the other Searchers, the young rabbit stopped short, then reached under his bandanna, the Phoenix's Tear sparkled as he gently held it in both paws, studying it thoughtfully.
"...Why not?" he said after a few moments, shrugging "At any rate,
it can't hurt to try..."
"Try what?" a voice at his ear asked.
Hare jumped several feet in the air and whirled round to find himself staring right into a pair of huge scarlet eyes.
"Eboni!" he shouted angrily "Don't do that!"
"Do what?" the black rabbit asked innocently, smiling mischievously.
Ignoring Hare's cold glare, she continued "What were you going to
"Well, Suezo?s comment earlier reminded me of something" Hare explained, as he slowly turned away from the young female rabbit
"A long time ago, the Phoenix's Tear teleported me away from Naga,
I'm wondering if I can trigger that again...we could use it to teleport
to where our friends are!"
"Could you really do that?" Serinity piped up, walking toward the two rabbits, Grey Wolf was at her heels.
Both jumped again and stared at them in surprise.
"...Jeez, does everybody know that I'm out here?" Hare muttered.
"If you are going to try and locate Golem...may I accompany you?" Serinity asked meekly, shifting nervously from side to side.
"I'm coming along, too" Grey Wolf added, stepping besides the pixie hybrid "There's no way I'm going to let all of you go off without me!"
"I don't see why not" Hare replied, smiling at the pair.
Turning around, he gripped the Phoenix's Tear in both paws, then he raised it into the air.
"Do you know how to teleport using this thing?" Eboni asked.
"Not a clue" Hare admitted, shaking his head "But...here we go, anyway!"
Suddenly closing his eyes, the tawny-furred rabbit concentrated on opening some sort of warp portal.
He had no idea how Suezo did it...or didn't do it, as the case often was...so he just attempted to visualise a rift of some sort, the three
of them reappearing in another location.
The ground underneath them seemed to shift, Eboni glanced down
and her scarlet eyes went wide and she stammered "Uh, Hare...?"
Hare opened his eyes and he made the mistake of looking down just
in time to see the ground beneath their feet vanish into a swirling
A startled scream escaped from his lips and suddenly he was falling through it.
Eboni and Serinity's frightened cries and Grey Wolf's startled yelp all echoed from somewhere around him, then he was only dimly aware
of Scaler's voice calling his name.
Jerking his head up, the young rabbit caught only the barest glimpse
of the scaled hare's face as he ran toward them as fast as he could, then a sudden blinding flash forced his wavering brown eyes shut and this massive shockwave tore through his body as Hare faded into unconsciousness...
* * * * *
"Watch where you?re swinging your tail, Rialto" Tiger growled
"You wanna make something of it, wolf"
They both snarled at each other as the others all sighed and sweat-dropped.
Myst sighed, slowly rubbing her hands up and down her arms as if
cold, then she looked back the road they were travelling down, something was different, she just knew it.
She walked back the way they had come and stopped, a ?hole? an unmoving black vortex had mysteriously appeared in the road.
"You sensed it too" Tigress suddenly appeared next to the female
Mint, Minette standing beside the lilac she-wolf.
"Yes" Myst slowly replied as she heard Rialto come up behind her
to protectively put his hands on her shoulders.
"What is it?" Minette asked, her hand resting on Tigress? mane
"What are you all looking at?" Hare walked over.
Suddenly the portal shifted and a strong pulling wind burst out of
"Ohhh booooy" Hare suddenly felt himself dragged forward,
Tigress quickly spun sideways, blocking Minette from the strange portal, then she dug her paws into the road, trying to stop herself
and the young pixie from getting sucked in, but Hare crashed into Minette?s back, sending them stumbling forward into the vortex.
As Minette?s scream rang in his ears, Rialto quickly scooped Myst
up in his arms, then quickly turned to run, but it was no good, he
was slowly pulled back.
Something made Nancy turn around to look back down the road.
"Hey, where the others go" she asked.
"They were behind us a minute ago" Genki replied, turning around
* * * * *
In his dream, red flames clashed with silver-white light, then these faint, worried voices cut through Hare's half-conscious state.
"Tigress" was that, was that Tiger.
"Hare" who was that calling his name, it sounded female.
The young rabbit heard footsteps getting closer and closer and he groaned softly, then the footsteps stopped, turned in his direction, then stopped again.
Hare opened his brown eyes to find himself staring right into a pair
of concerned scarlet eyes framed by black fur.
"Eboni?" he whispered.
"Are you alright, child?"
Hare blinked, just a little taken aback, the Evil Hare's voice was an adult male?s, not a young female?s
"Who are??" the young rabbit started to ask even as the strange
Evil Hare reached out to gently stroke Hare?s bandanna between
two fingers, a puzzled look in his eyes.
Then Hare felt himself being gently picked up, as he was carried
along, the young rabbit noticed a silver-white glow emitting from
a medallion the Evil Hare was wearing, it was the same light that
had been in his dream.
Feeling a sudden slight warmth at his neck, Hare looked at the Phoenix's Tear, the crystal was pulsating with a warm red glow.
"The pendants must be reacting to each other" the young rabbit thought, carefully cradled in the Evil Hare's arms.
Strangely enough, although he had no idea who this monster was,
Hare didn't feel alarmed or frightened by his presence.
Somehow, the young rabbit sensed this Evil Hare wasn't his enemy
and felt oddly safe with him, knowing without being able to explain
how this stranger wouldn?t hurt him.
"Hey!" a familiar voice called and Hare looked up to see this youth running towards them, waving his arms.
A shock ran through him, at first glance the youth looked exactly
like Genki, only older.
He looked closer to Holly's age than the familiar child Hare knew,
but his shining clear brown eyes and ruffled brown hair was exactly
"Coal, what did you find?" the youth asked, running up to greet
"This child, I found him out here by himself while I was looking for
"A kid?" the Genki look-alike asked, then bent down to peer into
Hare's face. Without knowing why, Hare shrank back slightly, the
youth?s resemblance to Genki was uncanny, both in appearance
Unconsciously, he gripped his bandanna, making certain the red
cloth covered the Phoenix's Tear.
"What is your name, child?" the black-furred rabbit ?Coal? inquired gently.
"..." Hare started to respond, but his voice just trailed off instead
of answering and a cold chill ran up his back.
For a moment, he had an overwhelming feeling that if he told the
two strangers his name, he would find out something extremely upsetting.
The feeling passed quickly, but the strangers appeared to see his hesitation as shyness.
"The child must be in shock" Coal commented after a little while, glancing at his friend "He appears to be lost"
"Well, let's take him back to the others" the young man added,
turning round and leading them away "And maybe they?ve found
Tigress and the others by now"
"Who's Tigress?" Hare wondered silently.
He recognised the name from earlier, when he thought he heard
They walked away, Coal still keeping a tight grip on the younger
Hare was so absorbed in his thoughts that he failed to notice the strange look that
the black-furred rabbit was giving him and how his scarlet eyes continued staring at his bandanna in confusion.
After they left, another figure slunk out of the shadows.
Violet-brown eyes glittered and Scaler watched both the strangers walk away with Hare still in their clutches.
The green rabbit gritted his teeth in total frustration, he had been knocked out before and had awakened too late to do anything right away to stop them.
Now, he could only follow the strangers silently, slowly drawing one
of his blades as he crept along after them, waiting for his chance.
Chapter Two: Friends and Strangers
* * * * *
"Wha..." Serinity moaned as her verdant eyes fluttered open to find a pair of huge garnet eyes inches away from her face.
Shaking her head to clear out the fog, she murmured "Eboni?"
"Oh, good, you're alright!" the young Evil Hare chirped, a thankful grin on her face.
Taking the pixie hybrid's hand, Eboni helped her to her feet as Serinity looked around in confusion.
"Where are we?" she asked, looking down at the younger monster.
"Dunno" Eboni replied, scarlet eyes flicking around the strange area a little distrustfully "Grey Wolf was here as well, but went to see if he could find the others, I haven't seen anyone else, but what about you? Are you alright?"
"Yes, I believe so" Serinity answered, smiling gratefully.
Taking the black-furred bunny's paw, she added "Let's go and look for the others too, it should go faster if more of us are searching"
"Okay!" Eboni piped, eagerly following after her friend.
However, the young black-furred rabbit hadn't taken more than a few steps before she stopped short, her long ears twitching slightly.
"Hey, hold on" she whispered urgently and Serinity froze, recognising the change in the young rabbit's tone as an alert.
They both crouched behind a bush and Eboni's eyes narrowed as she concentrated on listening, the young Evil Hare could barely make out
a pair of voices approaching them, then she scanned the surrounding area in search of their source.
"Who is it, Eboni?" Serinity inquired, peeking over the black rabbit's
Eboni strained to make out features, then began to grin widely.
"Don't worry, Serinity, look who it is!" she said, pointing.
Serinity followed her gaze and sighed in relief as she recognised who was heading in their direction, a familiar-looking yellow eyeball and a tiny pink monster.
"He-eey, Suezo, Moochi!" Eboni yelled, bursting from the bushes and darting toward her friends.
"Eh?" Suezo turned in time to be tackled to the ground by the young Evil Hare.
Serinity ran up behind her and smiled thankfully at Moochi.
"Thank goodness you are safe" she said, then paused as she noticed
a strange expression on the younger monster's face.
Moochi was slowly backing away from her, wide eyes filled with alarm
and as she stared back down at him in surprise, wondering what was wrong, Suezo squirmed away from Eboni's grasp.
"Ruuun Moochi! We're being attacked!" the eyeball monster shouted.
"What?" Serinity and Eboni cried, startled, but Moochi and Suezo had already run away from them.
"What the heck is up with those two?" Eboni asked, cocking her head to one side as she looked up at Serinity.
But the pixie hybrid offered her no answers, so the black-furred rabbit just shook her head, then started after them, shouting "Let's follow them! Something must be wrong!"
* * * * *
Holly sighed as she stirred the stew, Browny resting at her feet.
"Hush, hush" Nancy had returned from searching for Hare one minute ago and was frantically pacing to and fro across the campsite, gently rocking Willow, who for some reason wouldn't stop crying, in her arms.
Then a blue-furred figure emerged from the bushes and sat down on the log next to Holly.
"No sign of the others?" the brown-haired girl asked gently.
"No, I'm really worried, Holly" Blue turned round to look at her, concern burning in his eyes.
"We'll find them" Holly said gently, squeezing his shoulder in reassurance.
"Hey, Holly" a cheerful voice called as Genki stepped out of the bushes, followed by a black-furred figure
Still gently cradled in Coal's arms, Hare looked around the campsite, a little glad to see 'Holly' , but the other two, a Hare Hound and a male Blue Hare with an instrument strapped to his back were strangers. Suddenly the face of a full-grown adult female Hare was thrust into his
"Why is that kid wearing Hare's bandanna?" Nancy peered down at the younger rabbit, still rocking Willow in her arms.
"HELLLPPP" Suezo burst from the bushes, followed by Moochi
"Suezo? Moochi! What's wrong?" Genki exclaimed, as they skidded to a halt.
"The baddies are chasing us!" Suezo panted, struggling to catch his breath.
"The baddies?" Nancy cried, instinctively hugging Willow closer to her chest.
"That's right! We were both out searching for the others when one of the baddies tackled me-EEEEE!" Suezo's voice trailed off in a scream
as something small and black slammed into his back at full force.
The others leapt to their feet and whirled around to face their enemy, only to see a young Evil Hare hugging the petrified eyeball monster from behind.
"Oh, Suezo, I'm so glad to see you" the young Evil Hare cried, clinging to him "But why the heck did you run away from me? That wasn't very nice!"
"Who are you?" Holly asked, completely confused.
The young female rabbit looked up at her, a quizzical expression on her face.
"What's wrong, Holly, you know very well who I am!" she scolded.
As Holly puzzled over that statement, Eboni seemed to become aware of the fact that they were not alone. The young black-furred rabbit's wide scarlet eyes swept over the assembled members, becoming more confused with each unfamiliar face, then her gaze settled on Genki as she gasped, a sly, knowing grin appearing on her face.
"Oh-hhh, I get it" Eboni murmured, garnet eyes gleaming mischievously as she eyed Holly "I didn't realize you had a boyfriend, won't Genki be jealous?"
"W-w-what?!?" Holly stammered, her face burning a bright crimson.
Genki looked utterly lost, especially when the young Evil Hare pointed directly at him.
"He's your boyfriend, isn't he?" she inquired, to his embarrassment.
"Eboni?" Hare asked, shocked by her forwardness.
The young Evil Hare turned round to look at him, surprised "Oh! I didn't realize you were here already, Ha..."
"Eboni, what is going on?" Serinity asked, running up behind the young Evil Hare "Have you discovered why Suezo and Moochi ran away from, oh!" she gasped as she noticed Blue, Browny, Genki and Coal looking
at her and stared back at them for a moment, taken off guard.
"Miss Holly, are these some of your friends?" the pixie hybrid inquired, looking at the stunned human girl.
Then turning back to the strangers, she curtsied politely and said "My name is Serinity, pleased to meet you"
"Pleased to meet you" Coal replied, his training automatically taking over as he attempted a short bow in reply.
The slight movement was somewhat hampered by Hare's presence in his arms as the young rabbit took advantage of his distraction to pull free.
Landing on his feet, Hare was planning to join Eboni and Serinity, but found himself slumping to the ground, a wave of exhaustion sweeping over him, he felt totallly drained, the attempted warp had apparently taken almost all his energy.
Hidden in the trees, Scaler stiffened when he saw Hare collapse, that sight driving away all his confusion over what he was witnessing. The group of strangers with Hare, Serinity, Eboni, Holly, Suezo and Moochi were forgotten, pushed to the back of his mind and he responded to the potential threat, steel glimmered in his paw for one fraction of a second before whistling through the air toward his target's unguarded back.
Coal heard the knife before he saw it and reacted instinctively.
"Get down!" he yelled, throwing himself against the three newcomers and
pinning them to the ground.
Hare, Serinity and Eboni cried out in unison, too startled to react and only Hare noticed the thin blade as it shot past them, scraping Coal's shoulder. Thankfully, he could see it was only a graze, leaving behind only a small, thin slit in the Evil Hare's skin that was practically hidden by his dark fur.
A green and tan blur erupted from the bushes nearby and Hare saw a short sword appear in Scaler's grasp as he raced towards the stunned group, ready to battle the supposed threat.
"No, Scaler! Stop! They're friends!" he shouted, desperate.
The green rabbit halted immediately, recognising the voice of the only one of the Searchers he ever listened to. Blade at the ready, his cloak falling around his body, masking his battle-ready position, Scaler eyed the strangers carefully, violet-brown eyes glittering dangerously.
However, they were paying little attention to him, for the minute Hare
had cried out, the strangers had all jerked as if shocked and whirled to stare at the young rabbit, eyes wide with shock.
"Hare?" Genki asked.
Hare paused, Nancy was staring at him like she could not believe her ears.
* * * * *
"So you said you come from another reality, is that possible?" Holly asked.
Hare nodded, brown eyes thoughtful as he gazed at the ground.
"I think so, it's the only possible explanation I can come up" the little rabbit replied, unconsciously gripping his kerchief.
Kaz rolled his eyes "Another reality, yeah, right, oww" that last word the result of Nancy cuffing him round the head.
"Hmmm, I wonder if this portal somehow swapped you guys with our friends" Genki said.
"Like who?" Serinity inquired.
"Well, we lost Hare" the youth replied.
The young rabbit blinked in shock on hearing that there was another version of himself in this reality.
"We also lost Tigress, Tiger's mate, Minette, a female pixie, Myst, a female Mint and Rialto, a male dragon" Holly added.
"What's my counterpart in this world like?" Hare asked.
"Well, he's my partner and Willow's father" Nancy said, holding up the baby hare.
Hare's and Eboni's mouths dropped open, as Scaler's eyes widened at the news, while Serinity blinked, slightly surprised. Willow kicked and laughed, stretching one little hand towards the Phoenix's Tear, which had slipped from underneath Hare's bandanna, as she touched it, the crystal glowed with a red fiery light.
"Now, leave that alone, Willow, it's pretty, but it's not yours" Nancy said gently.
Hare glanced down at his pendant, then he tucked it out of sight, not willing to reveal its secrets to these strangers yet.
"The stew's ready" Holly called.
Moochi and Suezo ran forward, eager to be the first to eat, as they shoved at each other, Kaz pushed past them, licking his lips, holding
a bowl in his hands.
"Hey, we were here first, spotty"
Kaz blinked and frowned, then he jumped Suezo and Moochi and they all disappeared, fighting in a dust cloud.
Genki sighed "I ca not believe that I used to do that as well" as Holly sweatdropped.
"The funny thing is Genki still eats like that back in our world" Eboni whispered to Hare and Serinity.
The pixie hybrid quietly giggled behind her hand, then the young Evil Hare grinned mischievously, Hare watched Nancy and Willow intently, his mind reeling from the revelation the female hare had revealed to them, the thought that he wasn't only an adult in this reality, but a husband and father, he didn't know what to make of it.
"Hungry?" Coal was suddenly standing right in front of Hare, Serinity and Eboni, holding out three bowls of stew.
"Yeah" Eboni cheered, eagerly taking the bowl of stew that the older Evil Hare handed to her.
Smiling up at him, she confided "I really didn't want to get caught up
in that battle over there, thanks a lot!"
"It is no problem" Coal replied, smiling back at her.
Eboni found herself staring up into his face and couldn't help noticing how his scarlet eyes glimmered faintly with relief and satisfaction with her delight.
"I thank you as well" Serinity said, taking another bowl from Coal and passing it over to Hare.
But instead of taking the remaining bowl, the pixie hybrid looked down at her lap and sighed.
"What is the matter?" Coal inquired, concerned.
"I'm just worried, we weren't the only ones pulled into the portal from our world" Serinity explained, brushing her reddish-orange bangs away from
her face "I hope he is okay"
"Oh yeah, he never did come back to meet us" Eboni added, realising who Serinity was talking about.
Grinning reassuringly over at the pixie hybrid, she added "Don't worry,
if anyone can take care of themselves, he can"
"Who's that, Eboni?" Genki asked, glancing at the younger Evil Hare as he took a big mouthful of stew from his spoon.
"Why, Grey Wolf" Eboni chirped, grinning widely.
Genki nearly choked on his stew and leapt to his feet, sputtering and gasping, as the other members of his team jerked and whirled around
to stare at the newcomers in surprise.
"G-G-G-Gr-Gr-Grey Wolf?!" Genki exclaimed.
Eboni blinked, confused by the stunned looks on the faces around her and she looked at Serinity, Hare and Scaler, they looked as surprised as she did and she shrugged.
* * * * *
Tiger of the Wind scanned the horizon with stern golden eyes and he silently hoped to catch a glimpse of his mate.
No sight came to him as he growled in frustration, refusing to give up, he had no idea where Tigress and the others had just disappeared to, but was determined to find them, if any of them were hurt, if she was hurt.
"Tiger!" a familiar voice called, one which did not belong to Tigress or any of the other missing rebels.
However, Tiger whirled toward its source, eyes wide, disbelieving. A wolf with silver fur walked towards him, blue eyes locked on his face, Tiger stared into his little brother's face, not knowing what to say or think.
"Big brother, I'm happy to see you again" Grey Wolf said, awkwardly.
The silver wolf seemed to be having trouble finding something to say, much to Tiger's confusion "It's been so long, I haven't seen you since Moo captured me in the canyon"
"What?" Tiger asked, finding his voice at last.
That last comment hadn't sounded quite right.
Both lupine monsters looked up in unison, then Tiger saw Grey Wolf's eyes fill up with confusion as Genki ran up to them, waving his arms
to attract their attention.
"Tiger, who is that?!" Grey Wolf asked.
"That's Genki" Tiger answered automatically.
"What? That's not Genki" the silver wolf replied, much to his brother's surprise.
Tiger shot him a startled look and Grey Wolf added "At least, not the Genki I know"
Genki ran up to them, then recoiled slightly when he saw Grey Wolf staring at him, this pained expression flickered over the youth's face and he turned towards the blue wolf "Tiger, you better come back to camp, we need to talk about something"
Chapter 3: Introductions
* * * * *
"What did you say?" Tiger exclaimed, just staring up at Genki in shock
"What do you mean Tigress is in another world? And Grey Wolf is from that world?"
"That's about the size of it" Genki said, shrugging his shoulders and he looked at the other rebels for help.
They had privately agreed not to have Tiger meet the others from the different reality until they had explained all it to him, but were having
a much harder time than they had expected.
"We're not certain how, but somehow the rebels from this reality were switched with the members of our team" Blue continued, a concerned look on his face as he added "I hope that they are doing well
"I'm sure that they are" Grey Wolf piped up, seeing the veiled concern on his older brother's face.
Although the thought this wasn't truly his big brother hurt him deeply, he still felt a need to comfort him.
"You're saying four others arrived from this world?" Tiger said after a few moments.
Holly nodded and he asked "Who?"
"Well" Holly looked over at her friends for help.
Coal nodded in understanding and got up to retrieve the newcomers. After a moment, he returned, gently leading a faintly blushing Eboni
by the hand.
Serinity and Scaler both walked quietly behind them, the pixie hybrid looked slightly embarrassed about the situation and the green rabbit's neutral expression masked any opinions he held about it.
Tiger's eyes narrowed slightly as he studied each of them in turn.
"Is this everyone?" he inquired after a few moments, keeping his voice carefully devoid of emotion.
In response, the others glanced at Scaler and the scaled hare looked down at this small figure hiding behind him.
Tiger blinked in surprise, he hadn't noticed anyone beside the cloaked rabbit because the thick folds of his cloak effectively hid the smaller figure from sight.
Curious, he got up and stalked a bit closer, straining to make out the features.
"What's wrong? Come on out" the blue wolf prompted gently.
The small figure didn't respond at first, then slowly peeked out at him. Tiger found himself staring into a pair of familiar brown eyes, although the face they belonged to was much younger than he remembered. Then he saw the telltale bandanna around the young rabbit's neck as his golden eyes widened with shock.
"Um, hi, Tiger" Hare said, blushing slightly with embarrassment as the blue wolf gaped at him.
"Oh no, Tiger! Somebody help me with him, you guys!"
* * * * *
Tigress opened her eyes, she was in the middle of this road, looking around, she saw Minette and Hare slumped each side of her, behind them, Rialto stirred, his tail wrapped protectively around Myst, who leant against the dragon's side, her eyelids starting to flutter open. Then Minette opened her eyes, sat up, blinked and looked around.
"Blue, where's Blue?" the young pixie cried, this terrified expression on her face.
"Ow! Ow! Ow! My head, keep it down, Minette" Hare was sitting up as well, holding his head in his hands.
Then something made Tigress look up, Genki, Holly, Moochi, Suezo, a strange girl, a strange boy and two Worms were staring at them from
a little further down the road.
"Hey, are you guys okay?" Genki shouted, running toward them.
As the boy drew nearer, Tigress felt a cold shock running through her, it was Genki, only he looked much younger than the youth which she was used to. She could tell from his scent that it was the same boy, his voice and clear, friendly eyes were the same, but.
"Are you okay?" the strange girl asked, coming up behind the younger Genki.
"You okay, chi?"
"Apart from being just a little disoriented, we are all fine, Moochi" Myst said as Rialto helped her to her feet.
Moochi gave her this strange, blank look, as if he didn't recognise her
"How did you know my name, chi?"
"Where's Blue? Why, why isn't he with you, Miss Holly?" Minette asked, looking up at the startled young woman with frightened eyes.
"Blue?" Holly repeated, confused.
"That's right! Blue should be with you and where's Browny or Nancy or Willow"
"Calm down, calm down" Holly said, nervously, seeing how quickly the young pixie was getting worked up.
Suezo stared up at the dragon a little nervous, not willing to take his eye off the imposing stranger in case they turned out to be enemies.
"I don't like this much, Holly" Suezo whispered, trembling just a little
as the hulking draconian studied him with a bemused expression.
"I don't think they're our enemies" Holly replied carefully, still trying to calm the young pixie down "They don't look like baddies"
"Most of them don't, but he does" Suezo muttered, eyeing the dragon with a huge sweatdrop on the back of his head.
"Anyway, what are your names?" Genki asked, looking at Tigress.
Tigress stared at Genki in shock, unable to believe her ears. She shot
this quick glance at the others, Minette, Myst, Rialto and Hare looked as startled as she was, then Hare stepped forward, obviously wanting to ask what the heck was going on.
However, as the male rabbit began to open his mouth to speak, a ball of crackling ice blue energy shot towards them, as a voice hissed "Evil Shot!"
"Aaaughhh!" Genki yelled as he and the others dodged it and glared in the direction that the attack had come from.
"Give it a rest, Aqua Cutter" Suezo yelled angrily "Don't you give up?"
In response, hissing laughter echoed around the group and a strange creature Tigress had never seen before slithered out of the shadows.
The monster was clearly of the naga breed, but his semi-translucent, blue skin hinted at him possessing the blood of a Jell monster as well, his narrowed crimson eyes gleamed triumphantly as if he was already assured of his victory.
"You know it is useless to resist, rebels" he sneered, his voice hissing faintly "Hand over the little rabbit, have your friend 'Hare' surrender himself at once!"
"Huh?" Hare looked round in utter confusion, then he stared blankly at the reptilian monster, pointed at himself and asked "Are you talking to me?"
"What?" Aqua Cutter said, looking as stunned as the rebels.
After a few moments, his astonishment sharpened into rage, then he hissed "Oh, this is very funny, I suppose this is your idea of a joke?"
The naga hybrid lunged forward, grabbed Myst and wrapped one arm around her neck
"Don't toy with me! Where is the little rabbit with the Phoenix's Tear hiding? If you don't tell me, I'll blast her" Aqua Cutter said.
"But I'm Hare! What are you talking about?" Hare blurted, confused.
Genki and the others were staring at the rabbit in shock, this uniform look of pure astonishment on their faces.
Tigress and Minette stared at them, then at one another, wondering what was going on, Rialto, however, was more concerned with who
the baddie was threatening.
"Who's going to blast who, creep?" the dragon roared, eyes flashing
like embers as he glared down at the reptilian monster.
Aqua Cutter just stared up at the dragon in shock, his mouth hanging open. He noticed smoke was beginning to form around the corners of Rialto's mouth and quickly decided that the best course of action for now was to run like heck.
"I-I'll deal with you later!" Aqua Cutter hissed, then he turned tail and ran as fast as he could.
Unfortunately for him, that didn't prevent Rialto's fireball singing the scales on his back as he launched it at the retreating baddie.
"Ha, what a weakling" Rialto snarled and he turned around to see the other Searchers were paying no attention to him whatsoever, instead, they were all staring at one another with stunned expressions on their faces.
* * * * *
"Where did they get a dragon?" Aqua Cutter panted.
"You poor thing, you won't find your target here" a voice rang out of the shadows.
"Huh, what, who's there?" the naga hybrid peered at the darkness.
"A friend" a shadowy figure calmly stepped out of the shadows.
"What, what did you mean my target isn't here" the naga hybrid was instantly on his guard.
"He transported himself and some of his friends to another world" the shadowy stranger replied.
Aqua Cutter narrowed his crimson eyes, not willing to trust or believe the stranger
"Here, let me show you" this image appeared in the shadowy figure's
It revealed Hare and Eboni sitting each side of Coal, Scaler watching them in the background. Aqua Cutter hissed, then he grabbed at the figure of the young male rabbit, only to have the image melt into thin air like smoke.
"If what you say is true, how do I get to him?" the naga hybrid hissed.
"I can take you there" the shadowy stranger replied.
"And what do you gain or want from this" Aqua Cutter asked.
"The adult Evil Hare wears a medallion, I want you to get him to remove it"
The naga hybrid closed his eyes for one moment to consider this offer, then opened them again "Alright, you have a deal, but no tricks"
Resting his hands on Aqua Cutter's head, this black glow emerged from them and flowed down the naga hybrid's body.
"What?" Aqua Cutter said.
"I amplified your strength and speed, you are now stronger and faster than the rest of your species"
Aqua Cutter blinked, he did feel stronger and faster and the shadowy figure raised his hand, then the darkness swallowed them up.
* * * * *
"I'm supposed to be a WHAT?!?"
Genki, Holly, Coltia, Moochi, Suezo, Alan and the two Worms glanced
at one another and sweatdropped in perfect unison, then turned back to face the incredulous Hare sitting before them.
The tan-furred rabbit didn't appear to accept one word of what they were saying...not that they could blame him, of course, it was rather difficult to believe...
"Um...you're a...little kid" Genki repeated nervously, a lopsided grin on his face.
"Hare, come on, you've been saying that each time they tell you that since we met these people" Tigress pointed out "Can't you accept it must be true? They wouldn't keep telling you this if it wasn't..."
"But, but how can I be a child in this reality? I mean, I have a kid of
my own, for crying out loud!"
"You WHAT?!?" screamed Genki, Holly, Suezo, Coltia and Alan, staring at the older rabbit in shock.
"Yeah, I have a beautiful wife called Nancy and our daughter's name
is Willow" Hare confirmed, crossing his arms.
A sorrowful look passed over his face as he bowed his head sadly and whispered "But they're not here..."
"Hare..." Holly murmured.
"Don't be so upset, I'm certain they are fine" Myst spoke up, reaching over to grip the adult rabbit's shoulder reassuringly "We have to find a way to get back to them..."
"Ri...right" Hare agreed, nodding thankfully at the blue pixie hybrid.
"If you're a child in this reality and we all switched places...." Tigress trailed off, then smirked as she added "Boy, Tiger will probably have a fit when he sees you...or rather, the child you..."
"You think that TIGER'll have a fit? What about Nancy?" Hare pointed out, but the slight smile that slowly tugged at the corner of his mouth indicated he saw the humour in what the lilac-furred wolf had implied.
"Tiger...you mean he's still with you guys?" Coltia blurted out.
"Colt!" Alan and Holly cried, warning her off the subject too late.
"What do you mean? What has happened to Tiger?" Tigress exclaimed, alarm filling her eyes at once.
"Oops" Coltia replied, covering her mouth with one hand and blushing bright red with shame "Sorry, everyone..."
"Colt..." Alan sighed, shaking his head.
"What is wrong? What's happened to Tiger?" Tigress demanded again, her tone becoming frantic.
The Searchers glanced at one another nervously as Holly slowly stood up and walked over to the lilac wolf.
"Come...here" she said softly, indicating to Tigress to follow her away from the others "I'll tell you...everything..."
Tigress, eyeing the young woman doubtfully, nonetheless got up and followed her a short distance from the others, sighing, Holly knelt and began to whisper something to the female wolf,while the rest of both teams looked on awkwardly.
"Why isn't Blue with you?" Minette piped up, turning around to look at Suezo with sad, tear-filled eyes.
"...Who?" Suezo replied, completely confused.
"Blue, Blue and Browny, your..."
Myst reached over and placed one gentle hand on the younger pixie's shoulder, then shook her head sadly when Minette looked up at her.
"Don't" the Mint whispered under her breath "If he does not recognise their names, then..."
She left the rest unspoken, not wanting to upset the younger pixie, if he did not recognise the names of two of his childhood friends, it was possible they didn't even exist in this reality.
Maybe, just maybe they both lived in different forms, under different names, different personalities, but...the Blue and Browny they knew resided in a separate world, asking further after them could only lead
In the background, Myst heard Tigress abruptly let out this anguished howl and winced in sympathy, whatever had happened to Tiger of the Wind in this reality was obviously not something they wanted to learn more about.
Bowing her head, Myst let out a soft sigh, then she felt Rialto grip her shoulder gently with his claws in the same manner that she comforted Minette.
It appeared that each world had its own tragedies to deal with...
Chapter 4: An Unholy Alliance
* * * * *
"Kaz, look after Willow" Nancy handed him the baby rabbit who was sobbing her lungs out "I'm going to get some water"
Kaz just sweatdropped, this nervous look on his face and stared down at Willow, who was still crying, then shoved her into the arms of the nearest monster.
"Excuse me, I, I have to go do, umm, something" the Spot Saurian muttered, hurrying off.
Scaler stared down at the crying baby lying in his folded arms, then raised an eyebrow. Suddenly Willow stopped sobbing, staring up at the scaled hare, then she reached up and patted his cheek, giggling, no fear in her eyes.
"I think she likes you, Scaler" Eboni said, giggling at the green rabbit's expression.
Hare started laughing, seeing how Scaler looked at the baby in his arms with clearly no idea what to do with her. Grey Wolf buried his snout in his paws, fighting to hold back his laughter and Serinity sighed and shook her head.
"Here, if you don't want to hold her, allow me" she said, holding her hands out towards the scaled hare invitingly.
Scaler simply stared at her, then back down at the baby cradled in his arms.
"I will be fine" he suddenly said, to the bewilderment of the other Searchers "Will the mother return soon?"
"Um, yes, but" Serinity answered, blinking in surprise at the unexpected reply.
Scaler ignored her, instead looking down at the baby bunny which shifted and wiggled in his arms. Willow giggled, staring up at the green rabbit with wide, curious bright brown eyes.
"I suppose what the female Hare said is true, the child seems to have her father's eyes" he murmured under his breath.
"What?" Serinity asked, blinking "What did you say, Scaler?"
Scaler did not reply, but glanced over at her, dark violet-brown eyes flashing slightly as they reflected the firelight.
The pixie hybrid gulped and said nothing more, hoping the green rabbit would be careful not to accidentally prick the child with one of the many blades he kept under his cloak.
When Nancy returned, the scaled hare quickly rose and handed Willow to her, shoving the baby bunny in her startled mother's arms.
Nancy stared at him, shocked, then Scaler shrugged nonchalantly before turning away and stalking off to the edge of the campsite, where he just sat down and started to sharpen his weapons as if nothing out of the ordinary had occurred.
"But, but didn't I hand you to Kaz?" Nancy asked after a moment's pause, glancing at the Spot Saurian.
Kaz swallowed nervously and sweatdropped.
"It's getting late" Genki piped up.
"Gee, that's pointing out the obvious" Kaz replied.
The brown-haired youth glared at the Spot Saurian.
"We should all get some sleep" Holly said, quickly.
Genki nodded, headed over to a bag and he started taking blankets out of it. Kaz grabbed a blanket, laid down, tucked himself up and he was fast asleep in no time.
"You wish for a blanket?"
Serinity suddenly looked up, Coal was offering her one as the pixie hybrid took it from him, smiling in gratitude, as Scaler stalked away from the others, lay down and wrapped his cloak around his body.
Grey Wolf and Tiger lay down on opposite sides of the cold ashes of the campfire, while Coal chose and carried two blankets over to Hare and Eboni and gently put them over the two younger rabbits.
"Thanks" they muttered sleepily.
Coal brushed the white tuft of fur on top of her head away from Eboni's slowly closing eyes, smiled, turned away, lay down on the ground and pulled his own blanket round him, one hand sticking out from it.
Nancy settled down for the night, an arm protectively round the sleeping Willow. Genki and Moochi snuggled under the same blanket, Holly and Suezo also shared a blanket with Browny resting at the girl's feet.
As soon as everyone was sound asleep, Aqua Cutter emerged from the bushes.
Looking round the Searchers' campsite, he quickly spotted his target, fast asleep, then Aqua Cutter grinned and moved forward, unaware that his tail had brushed up against the male Evil Hare's outstretched hand and of the scarlet slit that appeared in Coal's face.
As the reptilian monster reached Hare, a black figure quickly and silently rose from the ground behind him and as Aqua Cutter started to reach down for the young rabbit, he felt the end of a blade prick him in the back.
"What are you doing?" Coal asked, the tip of his sword jabbing into Aqua Cutter's back
Aqua Cutter froze and he snuck this quick glance behind him at his attacker, his narrow crimson eyes widened slightly when he saw it was the adult Evil Hare behind him, he had assumed from the sword-point at his back it was the scaled hare who'd awakened.
Then the young rabbit at his feet stirred as the naga hybrid gritted his teeth together in frustration.
"I could use some help, Shadow-Walker!" Aqua Cutter hissed as he watched Hare stir.
Bright brown eyes fluttered open sleepily and suddenly widened in shock as they focused on the imposing reptilian figure mere inches away.
Sitting up, Hare opened his mouth to scream, but a tendril of darkness emerged from the shadows and wrapped round his mouth, yanking him back down to the ground.
Coal felt his scarlet eyes widening in horror as he saw Hare struggle to pull away from the shadowy tendril, knowing at once where it had come from, so this enemy was an agent of the Shadow-Walker, but why was he?
Aqua Cutter spun round and lashed out, raking his claws down Coal's side, leaving three deep sloping gashes in his dark fur and swung round again, smashing his tail into Coal's stomach.
The Evil Hare doubled up in pain, holding his stomach, then with his gaze fixed on Hare, he collapsed as the little rabbit heard him whisper "Forgive me, I failed you"
Hare's eyes widened in terror as he saw Coal collapse, then he glared up at Aqua Cutter, who was looking down at his fallen opponent and sneering. Working a paw free, the young rabbit leveled it at the naga hybrid, then he concentrated, a crimson fireball formed around his paw and streaked towards his enemy.
However, Aqua Cutter caught a glimpse of the fiery energy out of the corner of his eye. Whirling round, he yanked the injured Coal from the ground and held the black rabbit out before him. Hare let out a sudden muffled cry of shock and the fireball disappeared as quickly as it had formed.
"What's the matter?" Aqua Cutter leered at him, his voice a harsh whisper "Scared you'll fry your friend if you attack me?"
Unable to answer with the shadowy tendril still around his mouth, Hare bowed his head in defeat, frightened tears brimming in his closed eyes.
Aqua Cutter smirked as Coal dropped to the ground with a dull thud, then reached down to pick up the little rabbit roughly by his kerchief as the shadowy ribbons wrapped tighter around the young bunny's body, ensuring he was helpless, unable to attack or resist.
A portal consisting of the same material as his bonds appeared before them, then as Aqua Cutter strode towards it, Hare looked back at the injured Evil Hare, tears streaking down his cheeks.
Coal slowly raised his head painfully as his gaze locked with Hare's for a moment before captor and captive vanished into the dark vortex.
He reached out one paw helplessly out towards the portal as it disappeared, then slumped back down to the cold, hard ground as his strength abandoned him.
* * * * *
"Morning" Genki said cheerfully.
"Look" Holly cried in alarm.
The youth looked over at where she was pointing, this black-furred figure lay slumped in front of Hare's abandoned blanket, Genki paled, ran over and gently cradled his friend's head in his arms.
"Coal, what happened?" he asked.
"An...Aqua...Cutter..took...Hare...tried...to...stop...him" the semi-conscious Evil Hare whispered, gasping for breath.
Scaler, who was standing behind the youth, suddenly clenched his fist as his violet-brown eyes flashed in anger.
"An Aqua Cutter?" Grey Wolf muttered, his blue eyes quickly filling with alarm as he shot a knowing glance in the scaled hare's direction.
"Coal, are you okay?" Eboni cried, kneeling by the older Evil Hare's side.
He looked up into her widened, worried garnet eyes, then slowly managed a weak smile, not wanting to alarm her and he winced involuntarily as Serinity's fingers brushed up against his injured side.
"Please remain still, don't risk making it worse" Serinity told him quietly.
Her hands glowed with a pale, leaf green aura and Coal felt his wounds start to seal over as the pixie hybrid cast her recovery spell.
"Well, thank you so much for your fine job of reporting who has taken Hare" Scaler hissed under his breath, violet-brown eyes harsh as he glared down at the Evil Hare "A pity you were unable to do more than this"
Coal closed his eyes in pain while Eboni glared up at Scaler.
"I'm certain that he tried his best" she said defensively, wincing as she heard her voice cracking with emotion, the loss of one of her closest friends hurt dearly, specially when one of the others that she considered to be another close friend didn't even remember her in this world.
"That doesn't matter" Scaler said, turning his back on them "What matters is figuring out our next move...we cannot allow Hare to remain in the hands of the enemy"
He found himself staring straight into Nancy's face, suddenly she struck Scaler round the face, brown eyes blazing fiercely with anger.
"You jerk, don't you dare speak to my friend like that" she cried.
Scaler glared at her, his violet-brown eyes blazing as Grey Wolf cast a nervous glance at the green rabbit. However, to his relief, the scaled hare didn't respond to the insult with a drawn blade, instead, he simply backed away from the group, dark eyes locked on the female rabbit.
"I, I wish to try walking" Coal's eyes were open again, but they were filled with pain.
"Are you sure?" Genki asked, worried.
"I can try"
"Be careful, don't strain yourself" Serinity pleaded on seeing him attempting to struggle to his feet.
Eboni looked up into Coal's face, tears springing into her widened garnet eyes as she saw the pained expression on his face.
Coal got up, walked a few steps, then clutched at his stomach, his insides felt like they were on fire, he fell to his knees and collapsed.
"No" Genki ran over and turned his friend over, Coal's eyes were closed, then he moaned in pain.
"Coal, Coal" the youth quickly shook the black-furred body by the shoulders, but there was no response apart from another moan of pain.
"Coal!" Eboni sobbed, clinging to the older Evil Hare's hand.
* * * * *
Genki paced up and down the clearing, not knowing what to do, it had five hours since Coal had collapsed. Suddenly he knelt by Coal's side, the black-furred rabbit was covered with a blanket, only his head and the tops of his shoulders were showing.
Eboni and Holly were kneeling beside him and the young black rabbit was choking back tears as she watched the young woman tend to Coal.
"Holly, how is...?" the youth started to ask.
"He's in a lot of pain, Genki, I think he's got internal wounds" Holly said, gently.
"Come on, buddy, snap out of it, please, who will I going to get annoyed at for constantly being polite to Holly, if, if you don't" Genki whispered, carefully taking Coal's hand in his own, his voice close to breaking.
The black rabbit gave another soft, painful moan, then his grasp on Genki's hand tightened slightly.
An angry, determined look crossed the youth's face, he got up, spun round and stormed over to where Scaler, Grey Wolf and Serinity were sitting.
"What is up with you, Hare and this Aqua Cutter, I...I saw that look Grey Wolf gave Scaler, I want to know what is it you are hiding, if, if it costs me a friend" Genki said, his eyes blazing and his fists clenched.
Grey Wolf winced and he looked away as Serinity bowed her head and closed her verdant eyes, Scaler merely glanced at the outraged youth and looked away without offering any reply.
"Tell me!" Genki insisted, glaring directly at the scaled hare.
The youth turned round to see Eboni had stood up and felt his anger melt away as he stared at her, the younger black rabbit's eyes still wavered with tears, but she met Genki's gaze firmly.
"If you think it'll help, I'll tell you everything" she said, ignoring the look Scaler shot her "I don't know how Aqua Cutter got here without us knowing, but, but somehow he came and he got Hare, we have to save him, but you have to know something about him first"
"What have you been hiding from us?" Genki asked, his voice no longer hateful or accusing.
* * * * *
"You incompetent fool, you were just meant to get the medallion away from him, not beat him half to death" the shadowy figure snarled.
"So, send me back home, I have to deliver the little rabbit"
The Shadow-Walker raised one hand as a black glow surrounded Aqua Cutter, freezing the naga hybrid into place, the shadowy figure walked over and tapped part of the chain round Hare's hands, it turned black and brittle, then crumbled away.
Grabbing the other end of the chain, the dark figure opened this portal, then slowly turned to look backat the frozen naga hybrid.
"You will get your prize back when I get mine, use whatever method you think are best, take a hostage if you wish" the Shadow-Walker disappeared through the portal, pulling Hare after him.
"Hey, wait a....." Aqua Cutter cried, outraged, finding he could move again, but the portal had closed.
* * * * *
Hare stared up at the shadowy figure, who was he?
"You want to know who I am and what I want with you, I see it in your face, very well" the shadowy figure turned around and grabbed the little rabbit's face in between his hands and stared into his eyes, images entered Hare's mind, all involving the same black-furred figure.
The young rabbit's eyes widened at the pure loathing emitting with these images, how could anyone hate so much?
"Understand now?" the dark creature hissed, digging claws that had appeared on the ends of his fingers into the sides of the young rabbit's face.
Hare winced his eyes shut, fighting to shut out the dark images being forced into his mind, instinctively, he called on the Phoenix's Tear and a fiery aura flared up around his body.
The Shadow-Walker recoiled as the crimson flames began to scorch him, taken off guard, but but his surprise lasted only a moment, however, stepping backwards, he made a few arcane gestures with his hands, ribbons of darkness emerged at his bidding, then twined around the little rabbit's body, trapping his arms against his side.
Hare gasped as the shadowy ropes tightened, as the fiery aura faded away, he found himself staring directly into the creature's soulless eyes again.
"W-why, how can you hate anyone so much?" he asked, his voice trembling.
"I have every reason to hate that accursed rabbit" the Shadow-Walker hissed in reply "Not that it matters to you, of course, all you are is a pawn to get the one who I really want, nothing more"
He reached out, then part of the rope binding Hare floated into his hand, seizing it, the Shadow-Walker gave it a rough tug, yanking the little rabbit over to his side. Ignoring Hare's cry of pain, the Shadow-Walker whirled round, leading his prisoner deeper into his realm.
* * * * *
Eboni looked round at the others, trying to gauge their reactions to what she had revealed. As she'd expected, their new friends all wore uniform expressions of complete disbelief on their faces while Serinity, Grey Wolf and Scaler didn't look shocked at all, but then they had expected to hear exactly what she had told the others.
"Are, are you saying that pendant he was wearing earlier" Nancy stammered, brown eyes wide as she stared at the young black rabbit.
Eboni nodded, as did Serinity and Grey Wolf.
"Yes, that was the Phoenix's Tear" Serinity said, smiling a little faintly and looked down at her hands clasped together in her lap "I'm sorry we didn't inform you of it earlier, it is just that we were not certain how you would react"
"Yeah, it's kind of hard to believe" Genki admitted, shaking his head.
"Hey, uh, so was this Phoenix's Tear pendant thingy what caused that portal which switched you guys with our friends?" Kaz piped up.
Silence fell over the rebels for several moments, as the newcomers slowly glanced around at one another nervously.
"Well, yes, we, we believe so" Serinity said, looking at the ground again to avoid the eyes of the other rebels "We were just trying to teleport to where Golem was in our world, he is currently missing and we only wanted to find him"
"In our world, I haven't seen my brother since I was captured by Moo" Grey Wolf added "He's been missing since the final battle with Moo and so has Golem"
"We're sorry" Eboni piped up, looking up at her new friends with tears in her widend garnet eyes "We only wanted to try and locate them"
They looked at all their new friends sadly, as if waiting for them to get upset, then start yelling at them and Scaler looked like he could not care less what anyone said to him about the entire situation.
"You guys" Genki started to say, taking a step forward.
Scaler's ears twitched once as the cloaked rabbit whirled round, drawing a blade, Genki and the others recoiled, not knowing what to expect, as they watched, the scaled hare threw his blade into the bushes nearby.
"Come out! I know you're there!" Scaler hissed, drawing another knife.
"Damn you, Scaler, ruining my little surprise" this raspy voice hissed as its owner emerged from his cover.
On seeing the speaker, Eboni, Grey Wolf and Serinity all leapt to their feet, as the others stared at the stranger in shock. Eboni and Grey Wolf both looked enraged, then they tensed to fight as the pixie hybrid just looked terrified.
"Aqua Cutter" Eboni snarled, then dropped into an attack position "What are you doing here? Where did you take Hare?"
"Well, that's something you don't need to know right now" Aqua Cutter shouted, looking even more upset than normal.
However, he regained his normal haughty smirk and then continued "Anyway, once I'm through with you all, that will be the last thing on your minds"
"Get out of here, you slimy creep!" Grey Wolf snarled, energy crackling around his horns.
Tiger stood beside his brother and the two called out in unison "LIGHTNING!"
But Aqua Cutter dodged it as if the attack was nothing and charged towards the rebels. Serinity grabbed Willow from Nancy, then leapt into the air, pumping her wings till she was flying above the battle. Confused at first, then realizing the pixie hybrid was simply trying to get the defenseless child out of harm's way, Nancy cast a grateful smile up at her and leapt into the fray.
"Why isn't this working?" Suezo shouted, dismayed as he noticed his attacks were missing.
In fact, none of the rebels' attacks were hitting their mark, each blow was slightly off as the reptilian monster dodged each attack easily.
"What is going on? The scaly creep was never this skilled in our world!" Grey Wolf growled, seeing another of his lightning bolts go flying past his enemy.
Nancy charged at the naga hybrid, but he dodged her fist and then seized her arm, twisting it painfully behind her.
As the female rabbit bit back this scream of agony, Aqua Cutter whirled to face the others, a claw digging into her neck.
"Do as I say, or she dies" he hissed, crimson eyes flashing.
In Aqua Cutter's grasp, Nancy smiled and suddenly lowered her head, the naga hybrid smirked, was she admitting defeat?
Then Nancy brought her head back up with such force that it smashed into Aqua Cutter's face and she pulled away from him.
"All right, Nancy!" Genki cheered, grinning.
Feeling something trickle down his face, the naga hybrid touched the area and he snarled on seeing a red stain on his finger, blood was trickling from one of his nostrils, that cursed female rabbit had actually made him bleed.
"Y-yo-yo-you" he snarled, unable to believe what had happened.
Hissing, he lunged forwards, ready to impale her with his claws, but Nancy dodged away from him.
"Are you alright, Miss Nancy?" Serinity called out from where she flew just above the battle, clutching a wiggling Willow to her chest as the baby bunny reached one little hand down to her mother.
"I'm ok, but whered he go?" Nancy asked, turning around to see the naga hybrid had vanished and reappeared faster than she could blink again.
"I don't know, but he's going to get it!" Eboni shouted back.
Bringing back her fist, the young black-furred rabbit charged towards the reptilian monster. Aqua Cutter smirked and he seemed to vanish into thin air yet again, Eboni's eyes went wide with shock and she skidded to a halt, looking around her.
"Where'd he go-" Eboni's question went unfinished as a pair of thick, clawed hands suddenly seized her from above, the others whirled around to see Aqua Cutter holding the struggling, furious rabbit.
Keeping a hand clamped over his captive's mouth, the naga hybrid leveled one claw under her chin.
"All of you better stop right where you are or the little black rabbit gets her cute little head sliced off her pretty little neck" he hissed.
"Eboni!" Grey Wolf shouted, blue eyes becoming wide with horror as he whirled around to see her in the hands of the enemy.
A snarl rumbled deep in his throat as the silver wolf glared at the reptilian monster, then he tensed as if to attack.
"I wouldn't try it, mutt" Aqua Cutter sneered, then Eboni squealed involuntarily, as he dug the tip of one of his claws into her skin.
Grey Wolf snarled again, then Tiger stepped beside his brother, glancing at the silver wolf, he shook his head ever so slightly in warning. Coal's ears twitched, then his scarlet eyes opened.
"Ebo...Eboni" the older black-furred rabbit whispered, watching the entire scene unfolding.
"Now, listen closely, rebels" the naga hybrid hissed, tightening his grip on the struggling young Evil Hare "I want the other black rabbit, the older one to come with me and he is not bringing that medallion, either he gives it up and comes along or I take this little one"
"What?" Genki exclaimed, instinctively stepping closer to the adult Evil Hare and Holly.
The maiden was supporting Coal gently, her brown eyes filled with horror as she just stared at the naga hybrid, unaware Coal was watching everything solemnly
"There's no way we'll let you take him!" Tiger snarled, golden eyes flashing.
"Then the younger rabbit dies" Aqua Cutter shot back, starting to back away from the rebels, Eboni still struggling in his arms.
Aqua Cutter paused, then his crimson eyes narrowed as he regarded the speaker warily.
Coal pulled away from the shocked Holly, then he slowly took a few stumbling steps forwards, clutching at his stomach, but he pushed the intense pain down.
"Coal, what are you doing?" Genki demanded, stepping in front of the Evil Hare, then seizing his shoulders.
"If I go with you, do you promise to leave the others alone?" Coal called out to the baddie, ignoring the gasps of his friends.
"Yes, I will" Aqua Cutter replied, sneering.
The naga hybrid was finding it difficult to speak clearly since Eboni was biting the inside of his hand in an attempt to make him stop covering her mouth, but he didn't care, all that he cared about was finishing his mission.
"Coal, don't do it" Genki pleaded, holding his injured friend back.
"Genki, please don't worry about me, you have to look after the others, I will be alright"
Removing his medallion, Coal gently handed it to Genki and closed the youth's fingers around it, then turning around, he walked towards Aqua Cutter. As the reptilian shoved Eboni away, then grabbed the older Evil Hare's arm, Coal looked over at the younger rabbit.
Their eyes met for a moment and Coal smiled slightly, almost reassuringly at her.
"You try following us, it'll be your funeral" Aqua Cutter snarled, before whirling around.
The very shadows seemed to reach out to embrace them as captor and captive vanished into the forest.
"Coal!" Eboni cried, running after them.
Genki pulled the young black rabbit back and gripped her arm tightly as she struggled to get away
"Let me go! He's taking Coal away! We have to stop him! Please, someone, don't let him take him the same way he took Hare"
"Eboni, there's nothing we can do now" Blue said, flinching inwardly when he saw the younger black rabbit's face.
Her eyes were damp with tears as she continued pulling against Genki's grasp, screaming and wailing "Let me go! We have to stop him! We cannot just let him take our friends like this! Let me GO!"
Genki looked down at the medallion in his hand and his fingers tightened around it.
"Could it be?" he whispered, looking over at Holly.
Eboni looked up at him, confused.
"It's our turn to tell you guys something" Genki said.
"What?" Scaler asked quietly, violet-brown eyes slowly becoming colder and he turned to look directly at the other rebels.
One of his daggers was still drawn, its cold edge seemed to gleam dangerously, as he focused his full attention on them.
* * * * *
Chapter 5: Telling the Truth
* * * * *
"He's called the Shadow-Walker, we don't know why, but he hates Coal with such a passion, it's almost scary, he, he" Holly said, looking like she was about to start crying.
"Miss Holly?" Serinity asked, taking a step toward the clearly upset human girl, one hand reaching forward in an instinctive offer of comfort.
"Hey, you don't have to talk about it" Blue whispered as he gently led Holly away.
Genki watched them leave and he turned back to the others, Eboni, Serinity, Grey Wolf and Scaler were looking at him quietly, waiting.
"It happened during our first encounter with him, he kidnapped Nancy, Blue and Coal, then turned them against us, the worst thing was they all knew they were doing it, but couldn't stop themselves. Then when I tried to rescue them, the Shadow-Walker took Coal and he went after Holly, Coal was just starting to break the Shadow-Walker's control over him, but was forced to stab himself in the stomach with his own sword as punishment. He died in Holly's arms, only getting resurrected because of Lucas, a youth we befriended, who has the powers to unlock lost discs through physical contact" the youth said.
Serinity stared at Genki in mute shock, tears running down her cheeks unnoticed, Grey Wolf and Eboni also looked shocked as the young black rabbit gripped the silver wolf's mane for reassurance.
"So Coal has died in the past too" Grey Wolf murmured, his blue eyes slowly getting dark as he remembered his own destruction.
"So you think this Shadow-Walker may be behind all this?" Eboni inquired, staring at Genki.
"It makes sense" Scaler said, scanning the entire group with dark eyes "This Shadow-Walker of yours may have been the one to bring Aqua Cutter here, it would explain his presence in this reality, when he should not have been able to find a way to this world, the important thing now, at any rate, is to find a way to stop them"
Genki held up Coal's medallion "This protects its wearer from the Shadow-Walker's powers"
"It...protects them from his powers?" Eboni echoed, a startled expression on her face.
"But...that means...if he left without it!" Serinity gasped, comprehension dawning in her frightened verdant eyes as she quickly glanced at the others.
Genki nodded grimly, seeing that they understood.
"Yeah, we've gotta help our friends!" Eboni piped up, clenching her paws into fists as she looked up at her friends.
"But how are we going to find them?" Serinity asked, a distraught expression on her face.
"Let's head after them" Genki cried, running towards the forest, waving for the others to follow after him.
* * * * *
Aqua Cutter stopped in a clearing and forced the black-furred rabbit to his knees.
"I have who you want, give me the little rabbit" the naga hybrid yelled, looking around.
A portal opened in the shadows and then Hare shot out of it as if pushed, the broken chain still around his wrists. Stumbling forward, the little rabbit managed to regain his footing after a few seconds and he looked around in confusion. His gaze quickly settled on Coal and he gasped in shock.
"Coal!" he cried, brown eyes wavering as he stared at the older black rabbit, he'd thought that the Evil Hare's wounds had been fatal.
Then he saw Aqua Cutter behind his friend, still keeping Coal down on his knees and gasped as sudden comprehension hit him. The reptilian monster's crimson eyes gleamed with this triumphant light and Hare shuddered, flinching back.
Aqua Cutter moved forward and reached out a hand to grab the end of Hare's chain, suddenly a black-furred streak crashed into the naga hybrid, knocking him sideways.
"Get out of here, child" Coal ordered gently as Aqua Cutter grabbed his wrist.
Hare paused, then took one step forward, the desire to help in his eyes
"I said go, please, I can take care of myself"
The young rabbit bolted, tears streaking down his face as he crashed through the forest.
"Hey, hey, take it easy, squirt"
Hare looked up at the blue-furred figure he'd crashed into, then buried his face in Blue's fur.
"Blue, Coal's in trouble and it's my fault!" he sobbed, trembling uncontrollably.
"Hey, don't worry, it'll be okay" Blue said, stroking Hare's back and he quickly looked up, determination filling his eyes "We're going to rescue him, don't worry..."
"And I'm coming with you!" Eboni cried, glaring at Scaler as if daring him to disagree.
"Me too!" Grey Wolf snarled, energy beginning to crackle around his horns.
"May I accompany you as well?" Serinity asked, looking around at the other rebels.
"Count us in too" Genki said.
"I wanna come too!" Hare shouted, pulling away from Blue's protective grasp.
"No way, it's too dangerous" Scaler said, arms crossed over his chest.
"I DON'T CARE! Coal's in trouble and it's my fault! I'm going to help, whether you like it or not!"
"Alright, let's go" Genki yelled, leading the way, Moochi clinging to his back.
* * * * *
"Damn you!" Aqua Cutter hissed, raising his arm to strike the black-furred rabbit.
However, this shadowy rope wrapped round the naga hybrid's wrist and he whirled to see the Shadow-Walker's ethereal form standing a few feet away.
"What are you doing?!? The little rabbit is escaping" Aqua Cutter snarled, glaring over at his so-called ally.
"I know, why should I care?" the Shadow-Walker smirked and the naga hybrid's eyes narrowed in outrage.
"If I don't get my prize, you won't get yours" the reptilian monster hissed, struggling to bring his claws down upon his captive.
However, his arm was still held fast and judging from the slowly darkening expression upon the Shadow-Walker's face, he was running out of time to do anything.
"You have served your purpose, Aqua Cutter, I have no more use for you"
"I'm not just something that you can dispose of easily!" Aqua Cutter snarled, although his crimson eyes held a glint of fear as he struggled.
The Shadow-Walker smirked again, his eyes glowing blood-red as he pointed at the reptilian monster and his hostage.
With a gesture of his hand, shadowy bonds materialised around Coal, then yanked him out of the naga hybrid's grasp.
"Hey!" Aqua Cutter snarled, enraged.
The Shadow-Walker said nothing, but simply made another arcane gesture as a black fireball erupted from his hands and crashed into the naga hybrid's chest. His victim let out a horrible screech as the dark flames seared his skin, the strength and speed given to him by his former ally vanished, melting away under the dark blaze. Aqua Cutter just let out a weak moan and slumped to the ground, barely supported by a tree behind him.
"I can kill you in a breath" the Shadow-Walker told him as the dark figure and his captive faded into the shadows "But I'll let you live, you will return to your own world soon with no memories of what has occurred here, you'll have no idea of where your prey is or how to find him, that is your punishment for defying me"
Then they both vanished, leaving Aqua Cutter alone in the darkness, gasping for breath and knowing there was nothing he could do to avoid what was coming.
The rebels burst into the clearing, but it was nearly empty, only Aqua Cutter lay, slumped up against a tree, a burn mark on his chest.
"You're too late, fools, the black rabbit has been taken" the naga hybrid hissed, laughing as he faded into thin air, on his way back to his world.
"He vanished" Serinity gasped, staring at the space where the reptilian monster had been.
"Now what? Does anyone know how to find the Shadow-Walker?" Grey Wolf asked, looking round at the other Searchers.
Eboni, Serinity and Hare turned to look at the others, hoping they would know something to see Holly shaking her head sadly.
"Don't you know where the Shadow-Walker's lair is? You've fought him before" Eboni asked.
"I'm afraid not" Holly admitted, sadly "He always just came and attacked us, we have never been..."
She trailed off and sighed as she saw tears welling up in the young Evil Hare's eyes again. Hare and Serinity both looked as if they were about to start crying too and the young male rabbit looked at the ground, letting his bangs fall over his eyes and hide his expression.
"Come on! There's nothing we can do?" Grey Wolf demanded, looking around at the others.
Locking gazes with his older brother, he added "Brother, we have to do something! We can't just..."
"There isn't anything we can do" Tiger interrupted, shaking his head.
His golden eyes glittered with total frustration as the blue wolf quickly repeated "Unless the Shadow-Walker attacks again, we won't be able to do anything"
Genki looked down at the ground, fists clenched at his sides.
"Coal" Eboni sighed, closing her wavering garnet eyes.
Nancy stepped over and gently placed her paw on Eboni's shoulder, the young female rabbit looked up at her, eyes brimming with tears. Shaking, she leaned against the older female rabbit, struggling not to cry, Hare looked at them, holding back tears of his own.
* * * * *
The moon had risen high in the sky and the Searchers had fallen into a restless sleep.
Genki, however, was taking a last look over his friends, though his tired body screamed at him for rest, the fact the youth knew that one of his friends was missing, in the hands of his worst enemy, hurt deeply and this stubborn tear squeezed from the corner of one clear brown eye as he gazed up at the stars.
"Coal, I'm sorry" he whispered, as his eyes slowly drifted shut.
After a moment, Hare's eyes flashed open and the young rabbit peeked over at the youth. Seeing that he was asleep, Hare got to his feet and slowly looked around, the other rebels appeared to be asleep, then the little rabbit smiled sadly to himself for a moment, before turning and sneaking away quietly.
As Hare walked further from the other rebels, the crystal teardrop around his neck slipped from under his bandanna. It was glowing faintly with a soft crimson light that cast shadows over the young rabbit's solemn face as he crept farther away from the campsite.
"Coal was caught because of me, it's all my fault he's in the hands of his enemy right now" he thought glumly "There has to be a way to save him, if I could only find where he was"
The Phoenix's Tear started glowing brighter and brighter and as the young rabbit came into the clearing where Coal had been taken by the Shadow-Walker earlier, the pendant flared up into a brilliant, blinding light.
Hare cried out without meaning to and shielded his eyes with his arms, stumbling back from shock. The crimson light faded away, leaving a pulsing reddish glow behind and Hare found himself staring at a shadowy portal framed by crimson flames, he recognised the doorway as similar to the one he had been yanked through during his captivity.
The one difference was the fire that flickered round the opening, flaring and arcing along the edges of the shadow doorway. After a few moments of staring in shock at the opening, Hare closed his eyes and he took a deep breath, steeling himself. Clutching the Phoenix's Tear tightly in both paws, the young rabbit slowly walked into the flame-rimmed portal, vanishing into the swirling void. As soon as he'd passed through the doorway, a black-furred figure walked from the shadows into the clearing.
Eboni blinked her scarlet eyes in surprise, staring at the portal, then began to smile.
"Leave it to Hare and his pendant to find a way after that creep" she whispered, suddenly shaking her head slightly.
Then her smile slowly faded as the young Evil Hare took a deep breath before following the other rabbit into the void. She failed to see the pair of amber-colored eyes watching both the young rabbits from the cover of the bushes or a ghostly figure of a yellow-haired woman in this long white dress watching them enter the vortex from underneath the trees.
* * * * *
Chapter 6: Into the Enemy's Realm
* * * * *
Scaler felt a paw gently pushing his shoulder and sat bolt upright, one hand tightening on the handle of a dagger, his grip relaxed a bit as he stared into Browny's concerned eyes.
"That young rabbit you protect, he's gone after the Shadow-Walker" the Hare Hound said.
"What?!" the cloaked rabbit snarled, his violet-brown eyes blazing as he glared at the tan-furred lupine.
"Jeez, Scaler, what's up?" Kaz moaned as the other rebels slowly woke up, all jolted awake by the green rabbit's shout.
"Hare and Eboni are gone" Browny replied.
"What?!" Genki exclaimed, snapping fully awake as the Hare Hound's comment registered.
"I was getting a drink from a spring when I noticed Eboni sneaking past" Browny explained "I followed her to the clearing where we saw that Aqua Cutter vanish, Hare was walking into a strange portal, it looked like a shadow, but there was a circle of red fire round it, I've never seen anything like it before. Hare went in and vanished and Eboni followed him before I could say anything. I'm pretty sure they're trying to go after the Shadow-Walker"
"They'd have to go try and that" Grey Wolf said, blue eyes filled with more concern than annoyance as he shook his head.
"Hare, Eboni, oh no" Serinity breathed, trembling as she locked eyes with Grey Wolf.
"We have to go after them" the scaled hare whirled around on his heel toward the clearing as he said this.
"Scaler, wait!" Genki shouted, grabbing his arm "I want to help them too, but we can't go charging after them!"
"Why not? That method seems to work fine for you in our world" Scaler shot back, his dark eyes flashing.
"Genki's right, Scaler" Nancy said, glaring at the green rabbit.
Willow stirred in her arms and the female rabbit rocked her child and she added "There is no way I'm possibly taking my baby into that awful place"
"Then don't come along" came the matter-of-fact reply from the scaled hare.
"I can look after your child if you wish, Nancy" Serinity offered "I'm not a fighter and don't think I would be a lot of help against the Shadow-Walker"
"Thank you" Nancy said, then the pixie hybrid smiled as the rabbit handed her Willow.
"I'll stay with you, Serinity" Holly offered "I doubt I'd be much help in a fight either"
"I'm not letting you stay here by yourself, Holly" Browny said "What if you get attacked?"
"Then I'm staying too" Suezo piped up "I'll protect you so there's nothing you'll have to worry about!"
"Who will be protecting who?" Scaler wondered under his breath.
Glancing at the other Searchers, he added "And is anyone else planning on staying behind?"
Kaz rolled his eyes as he whispered to Nancy, who was standing next to him "You're right, that guy is an arrogant jerk"
Scaler's ears twitched slightly and he turned round, glaring into the Spot Saurian's eyes, violet-brown eyes blazing angrily as Kaz recoiled, sweatdropping. Genki, Moochi, Blue, Nancy, Grey Wolf and Tiger shook their heads, the blue wolf looking a bit peeved as he picked up the implication in the scaled hare's tone.
"Let's go" Tiger growled, stalking past Scaler and in the direction of the clearing where Aqua Cutter had vanished.
The others suddenly followed, leaving Serinity, Holly, Browny, Suezo and Willow all alone at the campsite.
"Good luck!" Holly and Serinity both called in unison, as the pixie hybrid looked down at the baby bunny cradled in her slender arms.
Willow stared back up at her with bright brown eyes, giggling, the child obviously had no clue of what was happening. Serinity smiled sadly at her innocence and gently rocked the little bunny back and forth, humming a soft melody.
* * * * *
Hare found himself standing in front of a black castle, but the portcullis was down. Stepping forwards, he absently rested a paw up against the cold metal and looked for a way to open it.
"Is this the Shadow-Walker's castle?" a voice behind him asked.
Hare jumped and whirled around "Eboni! What are you doing here?"
"I followed you, I want to help Coal too" she replied, stepping up besides him and running her fingers along the edge of the gate.
Turning back to Hare, Eboni added "It doesn't look like it opens on this side, does it?"
"It will soon" Hare replied, taking a few steps back and levelling his paws with the gate.
Eboni's eyes opened wide and she hastily moved out of the way, coming to stand behind him. Hare closed his eyes in concentration as the Phoenix's Tear glowed under his kerchief and crimson fire arced from his paws and crashed into the gateway as Eboni gasped.
"What in the" she breathed, sounding stunned.
Hare opened his eyes and he glanced at her "What's wrong, Eboni? You've seen me use magic before"
"That's not it" she replied, pointing at the portcullis "It's just that, it's not working"
"What?" Hare spun back round and he stared at the gateway which didn't appear to have been effected by the blaze.
Levelling his paws at it again, he sent another fireball at the bars, to see it dissipate harmlessly against the gate. Hare stared at the portcullis, shocked, not one of his fireballs had worked, it was still intact, he leant against it and started crying, if he couldn't get in.
Suddenly a black-furred hand emerged from a hole in the portcullis, gently resting on his shoulder and making the young rabbit jump in surprise.
"What is the matter, child?" a familiar voice asked.
"Coal!" Eboni and Hare both cried in unison and the young Evil Hare ran up to the gateway besides Hare.
"What are you two doing here?" Coal asked, staring at the pair in surprise.
"Trying to rescue you!" Eboni replied, near tears "Don't worry, we will find a way to get you out of there!"
"No! You should leave before the Shadow-Walker finds out you are here, if, if he discovers that you are here all by yourselves"
"We're not going to leave you here!" Hare quickly shot back, shaking his head violently as he gripped the older rabbit's paw "We're going to get you out of..."
Coal's scarlet eyes widened and Hare stepped back in alarm as a pair of shadowy hands were placed on the black-furred hare's shoulders.
"What is the matter, can't you get in?" the Shadow-Walker sneered down at them and grabbed Coal by the arm, hauling the Evil Hare away from the gate and back into the castle.
"Coal!" Hare and Eboni shouted, horrified.
Eboni slammed her fists into the metal gate, trying to break it down as Hare's paws blazed with this crimson light and he charged up another fireball.
"Don't waste your energy" the Shadow-Walker taunted as it echoed around them "You'll never be able to force your way in, however, if you two are so intent on entering"
The gate began to pulse with this sullen black light, Hare gasped and backed away, pulling Eboni back by her arm. They watched as it shimmered and melted into thin air, leaving behind a faint gray mist.
"If you're desperate to rescue your friend, come in" the Shadow-Walker continued, trailing off into laughter as his voice faded away.
The two youngsters glanced at each another, Hare unconsciously gripped at his pendant with both paws as Eboni gulped. Steeling themselves, they turned and stepped into the mist, shivering as the fog suddenly surrounded them.
"This is not good" Eboni muttered and groped round blindly for Hare, she could barely see through the dark mist "Hare, where are you?"
"Here" and a crimson glow burst into life a few inches away from the black-furred bunny.
Eboni whirled around to face it and smiled slightly when she realized what Hare was doing, the young male rabbit's body was surrounded by a faint reddish aura, lighting up the area around them and enabling her to see him clearly.
"Thanks, aren't you worried the Shadow-Walker will find us easily now?" she asked, taking the hand Hare offered her.
"Don't worry about it, besides, I have this feeling if he wanted to find us now, it would not matter if we were trying to hide or not" he replied, honestly.
They laughed nervously, the noise sounding hollow and strange as it echoed round them and Eboni began to look around, straining to see through the fog.
"How are we going to find them?" she asked "I don't see Coal or the Shadow-Walker guy anywhere"
Her voice trailed off as Hare walked forwards, pulling her along after him and she looked at him in confusion as she caught up.
"What's going on?" she asked.
"This way" Hare replied and he continued to walk straight ahead, deeper into the mists.
"Uh, okay, but why are we heading this way?" the black-furred rabbit inquired, following him.
"I have a feeling about it, that's all" was the simple reply "I sense something, there's an evil presence in this whole area and it feels stronger in this direction"
"Oh, well, you're the one with the magical pendant thing, so lead on!" Eboni said.
Hare sweatdropped and shook his head, as they continued to walk forwards, deeper into the darkness.
* * * * *
A smirk tugged at the edge of the Shadow-Walker's mouth as he studied the two wispy forms of the young rabbits before him. They were obviously completely unaware of the fact they were being watched, that he could hear everything they said, see everything they did.
"Interesting, so the male rabbit can sense the presences of evil? And that light which he summoned, no wonder Aqua Cutter was intent on capturing him. I wonder what else can he do with those powers?" he glanced back at this motionless figure lying in the shadows behind him, chains wrapped around his black-furred body and smirked evilly.
He could see the worried scarlet eyes of his captive staring at him, but knew he could do nothing to stop him. Turning back to the images of the young rabbits, the Shadow-Walker began to make a series of arcane motions with his hands. At his command, wispy forms shaped from the shadows, rising to ethereal feet and floating toward the young rabbits.
* * * * *
"Hare!" Eboni cried, spotting the creatures only a second before he did, then reflexively squeezing his arm as they took a step back.
Brown and garnet eyes slowly widened in horror as the shadowy forms started to take shape, twisting into hulking, nightmarish forms. One of the creatures, a vaguely snake-like monster lunged at them, its mouth gaping open.
Eboni shrieked, ducking behind Hare as he charged up a fireball and he sent it streaking towards the snake. The fiery blast took the serpent full in the mouth and the creature vanished, fading into gray mist again. Without waiting for the others to finish forming and attack, Hare started to launch blast after blast of crimson fire around them, causing the shadowy creatures to fade away.
* * * * *
The Shadow-Walker just stared at the battle raging before him, this cruel smirk appearing on his face. The creatures he had created were illusions, incapable of inflicting damage, but that was not their purpose, anyway.
"Fascinating" he whispered "So this is the power Aqua Cutter wanted to control, I can see why he was so intent on capturing him now"
"Leave them alone" Coal interrupted and the Shadow-Walker glanced back at him in surprise "They are children, they have nothing to do with you, you have what you truly want, leave them alone!"
"You are no position to command me" the Shadow-Walker hissed, glaring at the Evil Hare.
His smirk widened slightly and he added "And besides I want to see these powers up closer, test them myself, if you know what I mean"
Coal's scarlet eyes widened in horror, as his enemy turned his back on him, he shouted uselessly "No!"
Ignoring him, the Shadow-Walker started to make arcane gestures with his hands.
* * * * *
"Eboni, hang on" Hare said, stopping dead in his tracks.
"What is it?" the black-furred rabbit asked, glancing back at her friend.
She noticed the crystal pendant around Hare's neck was glowing a bright crimson, one that cast shadows over the little tawny-furred rabbit's face as he stared at it in surprise and he looked up and started studying the area around them. A visible shudder ran through him as Eboni took a deep breath to calm her racing heart.
"What..." she started to ask.
But before the young black rabbit could finish, the shadows behind Hare erupted and as he whirled to face it, ethereal ropes shot from its depths, then wrapped around the startled young rabbit. He screamed, fighting wildly to free himself, but to no avail as the shadowy coils started to pull him into the newly formed portal.
"Hare!" Eboni screamed, eyes huge with fear.
She made a grab for his arm, but missed completely, then as Hare was yanked into the portal, the young Evil Hare gritted her teeth and ran in after him.
* * * * *
Chapter 7: Battle with the Shadow Lord
* * * * *
"You had to interfere, didn't you?"
Eboni moaned, her eyes fluttering open as she became aware she was lying on the ground. Sitting up, she slowly blinked in confusion, then she gasped as she saw Hare lying beside her, beginning to wake up as well.
"You had to come in after him, you couldn't panic and run away like a sane little monster child" the deep voice continued "You had to interfere, no matter, all you've done is seal your own fate"
Hare woke up, then he and Eboni stared in the direction the voice was coming from, trying to see its owner. A figure stood several feet away from them, swathed in shadows, although the only feature that they could make out clearly was its glowing eyes, both knew exactly who this was.
"You, you're the Shadow-Walker" Hare breathed, trembling slightly.
"So, you recognise me" the dark figure replied, a cruel smirk appearing on his mouth "And I'm certain you recall my companion"
The shadows around him slowly shifted and the young rabbits sucked in a gasp of horror as they saw a black-furred figure, chains wrapped around his chest, just lying motionless on the ground at the Shadow-Walker's feet, a shadowy ribbon in his mouth, serving as a gag. Hare panicked, Coal didn't seem to be alive, but he noticed after a moment the Evil Hare's chest still rose and fell unsteadily, he was breathing, only it was harsh, ragged and weak.
"Coal" Eboni screamed, eyes shimmered with angry tears as she glared at the Shadow-Walker.
Her paws balled into fists as she leapt towards the dark figure, ready to strike him, just to bounce off a shadow barrier that abruptly flared up around him.
"Eboni!" Hare screamed, running to where she had skidded to a stop.
Eboni gasped for breath, painfully and Hare winced as he saw the fur on her arms and knees had been scraped off when she skidded over the floor. Reflexively, this crimson aura appeared round his paws, then the young black rabbit gasped again as her wounds disappeared.
"Are you okay, Eboni?" Hare asked, helping her to her feet.
"Yeah" Eboni replied, nodding as she checked her arms and legs in case.
Both young rabbits whirled around as the Shadow-Walker chuckled darkly.
"So, healing abilities too, fascinating" the dark figure commented, smirking "I am looking forward to testing your powers myself, little rabbit"
Hare winced, while Eboni glared at their enemy with blazing scarlet eyes.
"What's that supposed to mean?" she demanded.
Dropping into an attack position, Eboni added "If you don't let Coal go right now, we..."
"You'll what?" the Shadow-Walker asked, smirking at her "You cannot do anything, can you?"
"We'll see about that!" Eboni hissed, about to attack again.
"Eboni, get back" Hare said, stepping between her and the Shadow-Walker "I don't think you'll be able to fight this guy"
"But" Eboni whirled to stare at him, shocked.
"Don't worry, I should be able to take him, Ive got the Phoenix's Tear"
"..." Eboni frowned, not happy with the situation, but Hare could tell she understood.
Smiling apologetically, the young rabbit turned to face his opponent and a fiery luminance flickered around his body as he dropped into a battle position.
"Let's get this over with" he said, glaring at the Shadow-Walker.
His enemy smirked and then shoved Coal roughly to the side with one foot even as the black rabbit's eyes flickered open. Eboni cried out in fear as she saw the older Evil Hare's wrists were bound together behind his back by a shadowy ribbon. Coal looked over at her, quietly asking her to be brave, if the younger black-furred rabbit continued to panic, she could end up endangering them all.
Smirking, the Shadow-Walker made a quick movement with his hand and a sullen black radiance pulsed around his fingers for a moment, a blast of black energy coursed from his palm, then streaked towards the tawny-furred rabbit.
"Hare, look out!" Eboni screamed.
Hare jerked and hastily covered his face with his arms as this fiery light pulsed round his body and he summoned his shields and the black fireblast crashed into the crimson barrier. Hare winced, but stood his ground and soon the black energy had vanished completely. The Shadow-Walker smirked and raised an arm into the air, then almost instantly the shadows around the young rabbit erupted into twisting, writhing life.
Hare gasped in astonishment as the shadowy tendrils came at him from all sides, once again this fiery sphere flared up round him, but this time he winced visibly as the shadowy coils crashed the fiery barrier again and again, seemingly without end. Eboni and Coal watched in horror, scarlet eyes wide as the magic duel raged before them and the young black-furred rabbit grimaced, there was no way she was going to be much help here, unless.
Her gaze quickly traveled to where the Shadow-Walker was standing, her garnet eyes narrowed thoughtfully, their enemy was focused on the battle, his back turned scornfully on both the black rabbits. He didn't seem to care in the slightest about them, Coal was bound by his dark magic and as for her, well, what could a little girl bunny do?
"Enough" Eboni thought and dropped into a crouch, her gaze never leaving the Shadow-Walker as she crept forward.
Coal just stared at her in shock, realizing what she was plotting, but did not dare making any noise for fear of alerting his enemy, instead, he pretended not to notice, acting like all his attention was focused on the magic duel before him, instead of on the small figure sneaking up behind his old enemy.
The Shadow-Walker laughed as he watched the little rabbit struggling to keep his shield up, seeing the strain on Hare's face as the dark tendrils continued to beat against the fiery barrier, focused on the little rabbit and laughed again, enjoying his opponent's struggle.
Silently thankful her fur enabled her to blend into the darkness, Eboni crept as close as she dared, holding her breath, she did not want to get so close her enemy sensed her, but she needed a certain distance before...finally, she couldn't take the pressure any more, taking a deep breath, she hurled herself forward, praying that she could pull this off without getting herself killed.
The Shadow-Walkers eyes went huge with shock as something small, dark and furry crashed into his back, shattering his concentration and knocking him to the ground. Cursing as he felt his creations vanish with his broken focus, the dark creature struggled to stand, only to have a swift kick plant itself in his chest. Eboni was reacting on instinct, seeking to defeat her opponent before he could strike back at her.
Seizing his arms, she rolled onto her back and lashed out at him with both feet, throwing the Shadow-Walker over her shoulders. Leaping to her feet, Eboni whirled to face her enemy, panting as her eyes darted round in search of him.
"Eboni!" Hare shouted, running over to the young Evil Hare's side.
This blast of black fire surged out of the shadows, but Hare blocked it with a fireball of his own, standing in front of Eboni, he looked for his opponent and saw the Shadow-Walker standing a few feet away, looking very upset.
"Foolish rabbit! How dare you attack me" the Shadow-Walker snarled and launched an attack.
Hare crossed his arms over his chest and he winced as black energy crashed full force into his hastily summoned shield. Eboni gasped in horror as she saw him waver, then grabbed his shoulders, helping him stand up.
"Come on, you can beat him!" she prompted, glaring at the Shadow-Walker.
"Y...yeah" Hare gasped, although he wasn't so certain.
Silently the young rabbit wished the others had come along, he did not think that he would be able to protect them from the Shadow-Walker's attacks for too much longer. More shadowy tendrils crashed up against the flickering shield as Hare winced, feeling the barrier slip a little.
Sweat rolled down his strained face and into his eyes as he fought to keep it strengthened enough to repel the attacks that seemed to be coming more and more often. He could see the Shadow-Walker's face, it was distorted with hatred and malice, he wanted them dead and if something did not happen soon, he would probably get his wish. The Shadow-Walker's sneer grew wider when he saw the young rabbit faltering and the fiery shield flickering fainter and fainter under his pressed attack, soon, he knew, it would be all over.
Smirking, he cast a triumphant glance over at his captive, wishing to see the horror that would fill Coal's face when he saw the children who had so foolishly come to 'rescue' him die writhing in pain and agony. Consequently, the dark creature failed to see the beam of radiant pink-tinted energy until it was almost upon him.
At the last second, he caught a quick glimpse of the pink energy beam out of the corner of an eye and dodged away, forced to halt his relentless assaults on the young rabbits, then before he could recover, two lightning bolts surged towards him, followed by this thick-bladed knife.
"Eboni, Hare, Coal!" Genki cried, racing toward his friends, the others behind him.
The Shadow-Walkers narrow eyes flashed and Scalers knife stopped in mid-air, surrounded by a black glow as this snarl suddenly flashed across his face as he realised he had left his captive unguarded, stepping back into the shadows, he disappeared.
As Coal watched his friends approach, the chains round his body glowed black, lifting him up, then a shadowy arm wrapped around his chest and the Shadow-Walker smirked, drawing the black rabbit close to him.
"Coal!" Eboni shouted, seeing the older Evil Hare's danger.
Whirling round at the young black rabbit's shout, Scaler saw what was happening, in a blur of movement, he drew one of his daggers and launched it at the Shadow-Walker's back. The blade flashed as it flew towards its target and seemed to glow black for a moment.
Scaler's violet-brown eyes widened, the only outwards sign of his shock as he tensed where he stood, unsure what to make of this strange event. Then he felt more than heard the chilling laughter of the Shadow-Walker in his ears and he saw his dagger pulsate with a black aura as it slowly turned in midair until its blade was pointing in his direction.
Realizing what his enemy was doing, Scaler attempted to leap away to find his body refused to respond, a black mist had surrounded him, unnoticed as he'd stared at his frozen blade, which was floating in midair.
"Die" the Shadow-Walker hissed, seemingly from within the green rabbit's mind as the blade shot back towards him with the same amount of force he had thrown it with.
Scaler snarled, violet-brown eyes flashing and watched his own dagger heading for him, he couldn't move because of the black mist.
"Look out!" Nancy suddenly flew from nowhere, knocking Scaler down to the ground, wincing as she did so.
She smiled slightly at the cloaked rabbit who stared up at her, a hint of surprise in his dark eyes.
"Don't get me wrong, I still think you're a big jerk" Nancy grinned at him, then her head fell forward against his chest, Scaler's knife was buried in her back.
Scaler blinked, then he gritted his teeth with frustration andpushed the female rabbit off him. Standing up, the green rabbit glanced down at her motionless form for a fleeting moment as he reached down to grip the handle of his dagger, yanking the blade out roughly, then tossing it to one side.
Looking up, he saw Hare had seen what happened and he was running over to them, the scaled hare nodded to himself, knowing that her wounds would be taken care of. When Hare reached them, he knelt down beside Nancy and began casting a healing spell. Scaler glanced around, making certain that there was nothing close enough to pose a threat to them and returned to the battle, making a mental note not to use any weapons during the fight.
It took a moment for Hare to seal the wound in Nancy's back, thankfully, the blade had missed her vital organs, but the force of it striking her had knocked her out. After healing the cut, the little rabbit looked round, wondering what he could do now, she was vulnerable like this and.
Hare looked up as Blue and Kaz ran towards him, the others were all engaged in battle with the shadowy figure.
"Is she gonna be okay?" Kaz cried, kneeling besides her, gently taking Nancy's head in his arms.
"Willow" Nancy moaned softly, her eyes closed.
"Kaz, stay with her"
"She needs someone to protect her"
The Spot Saurian nodded in agreement, seeing the look in Blues eyes, then the blue-furred rabbit turned and headed to the battle.
Meanwhile, the others were having difficulty keeping the dark figure at bay. Scaler was at a serious disadvantage without use of his blades, while he was experienced at hand-to-hand combat, he was not able to get close enough to use those skills properly.
One of the Shadow-Walker's fireblasts had struck Grey Wolf's leg, Tiger stood protectively over his little brother, using all his attacks to drive the dark creature away, Genki and Eboni were faring no better and they were becoming frustrated with the situation.
The Shadow-Walker made this upwards flickering movement with a finger. Eboni shot into the air, then she began falling back down with full speed, the young black rabbit closed her eyes, she heard Hare and Grey Wolf call out her name, she waited for the impact. Then she suddenly felt herself snatched in mid-air, whoever had caught her hit the ground and skidded to a halt. Eboni opened her garnet eyes, then found herself cradled in a pair of blue, furry arms as Blue gently set her back on the ground.
"T-thanks" she told him, as she whirled to face the Shadow-Walker again.
The shadowy figure made a pulling movement with his free hand as Scaler's knife, suspended in mid-air flew into his hand, the shadowy figure turned to open a portal behind him, then turned back round and pressed the blade to Coal's throat.
"Anyone follows us, he dies, you didnt think that I would let you enter my realm and take the thing I value the most" he sneered, then backed up, heading toward the portal with his prisoner.
"Stop it" Eboni screamed, fighting against Blue's grasp as he kept her from lunging at the Shadow-Walker "Lemme go! We can't let him get away!"
"Eboni, we can't do anything" the blue-furred rabbit said, gently, fighting back the angry tears in his eyes "If we go after them, he'll kill Coal"
"No, he won't" Hare spoke up.
The other rebels looked at the young tawny-furred rabbit, startled. Eboni, Grey Wolf and Scaler felt this cold shock of recognition run down their spines when they saw the stance he was in.
This crimson aura was starting to form round the young rabbit's body, just a slight, misty presence at first seemed to float around his fur, tingeing it a faint reddish hue and his paws were tightly clenched into fists at his side, his dark brown bangs hung over his face, veiling his expression. The Shadow-Walker had overheard Hare's quiet, firm declaration, then studied him with interest, a faintly amused smile on his face.
"Oh, so you think I won't harm Coal, do you?" he asked, voice thick with doubt and sarcasm.
Hare didn't answer, but suddenly snapped his head up, then the Shadow-Walker found himself recoiling slightly despite himself. The young rabbit's eyes appeared to be glowing as if lit from within by twin fires and the crimson aura had been flickering around Hare's body erupted into full blaze.
Genki and most of his friends recoiled, startled, however, the young man noticed Grey Wolf, Eboni and Scaler didn't seem alarmed, then judging from the knowing look which the silver wolf shot him, had been expecting it to happen. Hare glared at the Shadow-Walker with flashing brown eyes, then he raised both paws so they were level with the dark figure, his palms outwards, a fiery blast roared towards his target.
Seeing the fireball coming at him, the Shadow-Walker smirked and yanked Coal's arm roughly to position the black-furred rabbit directly in front of him. He had watched Aqua Cutter's capture of Hare earlier and how the young rabbit had canceled out his fiery attack when the naga hybrid had used Coal as a shield, surely he would. His cocky smile vanished as the fireball curved upwards, shooting into the air inches away from striking him and his captive.
Glancing over at the little rabbit, he saw that he had raised both arms, never once taking his burning gaze off his opponent, then Hare's arms came back down in a flash and crimson flames engulfed the Shadow-Walker from above. Horrible agony surged through the dark creature's body as he let out this scream, writhing under the blazing, raw power surrounding him.
Coal pulled away from him as the black-furred rabbit's bonds disappeared from the shadowy figure's lack of concentration, then ran towards the others, the Shadow-Walker noted with a part of his mind that wasnt screaming in agony at him that the flames had not touched the black rabbit.
"Coal!" Eboni sobbed as the older Evil Hare wrapped his arms round her in a tight embrace.
The other rebels ran over to check on their friend and Genki glanced over at Hare, who was still glaring at the Shadow-Walker, the little rabbit was still surrounded by the strange, crimson aura. Through all the pain, the shadowy figure noticed the other rebels had surrounded Coal in a protective manner, the adult Evil Hare had his arms wrapped tightly around the young black rabbit and she was clinging to him, near tears.
The Shadow-Walker suddenly grimaced, both from the pain and outrage, hed lost his chance, but...
Swinging his gaze to where Hare was still standing, the dark creature felt his angry frown transform into a slight smirk, though the crimson aura still flickered dimmer than before He had expended a lot of energy fighting the shadowy demon and though he was trying not to let it show, Hare was literally burning away the last of his energy reserves.
But the rebels were still in his realm and that gave the shadowy figure an advantage.
Ignoring the sudden pain any movement caused him, the Shadow-Walker made an arcane gesture with his fingers, at his silent command as this shadowy portal opened behind him. The rebels all glared at him and he could see smiles starting to appear on their faces for they were certain that he was beaten, retreating
The Shadow-Walker slowly bowed his head, both to add to the impression he was surrendering and to hide the sly smirk that spread across his face. Really, they should know him better than that, know enough to recognize he never retreated. Coal, at the very least, probably sensed that.
Sure enough, the adult Evil Hare was regarding his old enemy with suspicion, scarlet eyes narrowed thoughtfully, his tense expression a stark contrast to the grinning younger black rabbit that still clung to him as Eboni practically beamed with triumph.
"Looks like we won" she observed, turning a happy smile up to the older Evil Hare.
However, on seeing the tense expression on Coal's face, her giddy mood faded instantly and concern and confusion flickered in her scarlet eyes.
"What's wrong?" she inquired, not understanding why he was so tense.
"This isn't right..." the older black rabbit replied, eyes locked on his enemy.
Suddenly the Shadow-Walker started to laugh, a slow, mocking chuckle, but before any of the Searchers could react, black fire erupted from the portal and streaked toward them. Then everything appeared to happen at once and as the flames neared the other rebels, Hare cried out in terror as he gripped the Phoenix's Tear tightly in both hands and a shield of crimson energy flared up around the others, the dark flames collided harmlessly against the glowing surface.
At least, harmlessly to all those it protected, as the blaze hit, Hare reeled as he let out a pained gasp, slumping to the floor, the others shouted in shock, seeing him collapse, the Shadow-Walker allowed himself a knowing smirk. Just as he had suspected, the little rabbit had tapped into nearly almost all his strength and blocking the blast from killing all his friends had come at the price of what remained of the child's energy.
Laughing to himself, the dark figure backed up and disappeared into the vortex behind him, then a stream of black fire shot out of the portal, right towards where Hare had collapsed, before the vortex sealed itself, the dark flames blazed toward Hare and the others watched in shock, temporarily too stunned to react. Genki heard Eboni let out a shriek of terror as the flames neared her friend as suddenly a black-furred figure was standing in front of the young rabbit.
The youth felt his clear brown eyes suddenly widening in shock as comprehension of what he was witnessing hit, Coal was shielding Hare from the fire blast. Genki could just add his voice to the screams of the others as the dark flames struck them, then raged around them, hiding them from view.
When the flames finally died down, then stopped, Coal lay sideways in front of the younger male rabbit, barely breathing, his scarlet eyes closed and his gray-tipped ears limp.
"Coal?" Genki whispered, kneeling beside his friends as he reached them a few seconds ahead of the others.
But there was no response, just the very faint rising and falling of his chest.
The youth gritted his teeth and put one of the Evil Hare's arms round his neck, then he saw Blue had done the same on the other side, so Coal was supported between the youth and the Blue Hare.
Beside him, Scaler was lifting Hare up in his arms, violet-brown eyes burning with anger and concern. Eboni looked on in shock, garnet eyes wide as they slowly took in the sight of two monsters she cared about in such a terrible condition. Kaz walked over, helping Nancy as she tried to walk herself, then Grey Wolf, his injured leg curled up off the ground, limped up, leaning against Tiger for support.
"Let's get out of here" the youth said, looking around at the others.
* * * * *
Chapter 8: The Power of a Dream
* * * * *
"We can't leave here. There is no way we're going anywhere right now"
"We can't just put the quest on hold!" Suezo yelled, a vein standing out on the side of his head. "The longer we wait here, the stronger Moo's hold might become over...."
"That's enough, Suezo!" Holly interrupted swiftly and the eyeball monster gave her a wounded look.
She returned his gaze sadly, bronze eyes softening and added "I know it's hard, but we still don't know where the others are now. If we leave now, we may never get a chance to see them again...."
She bowed her head sadly and a grim silence fell over her and her companions.
Nearby, Myst glanced at the rest of her own group in concern, seeing the sadness, guilt and fear on their faces. Each of them couldn't help, but sense this was, in some manner, connected to their presence. Tigress, Minette, Hare, Rialto and herself, they had been pulled into a world, a reality not quite their own and at the same time, this similar group of rebels had lost several of their friends and companions.
Myst somehow couldn't bring herself to feel sorry for her predicament when in all likelihood, others were facing the exact same problem in her own reality. How would they be handling it? She hoped her companions back in her world had been as understanding and kind as this world's Searchers had been once they figured everything out....especially since this 'Holly' had dropped some hints which suggested their Hare had 'special talents' that might startle those unused to such things....
Tigress sighed as she watched this reality's rebels continue to discuss their next move. After what she had learned from Holly last night, something she refused to let the others learn of it after hearing it, she felt a nagging desire to have them continue their journey as soon as possible. Things couldn't be allowed to remain this way....
But she also recognized the folly of doing anything before this crisis was resolved. It didn't look as if it would be resolved simply by moving on and hoping blindly it corrected itself, there had to be something they could do....
The lilac wolf froze, tensing where she stood as a faint rustling caught her attention. Swirling toward its source, she snarled as her sharp eyes picked out something moving in the bushes and she lunged forward, knocking the hidden monster flat onto its back.
"Who are you?" she growled menacingly.
The other rebels scrambled up behind her as Holly and Genki both inhaled sharply at the sight of an Evil Hare pinned to the ground beneath the lilac wolf.
"Tigress, wait!" Holly shouted, then fell silent again as she noticed the black rabbit was an adult, not a little child wearing a vest.
Still, the image of Eboni lying there helpless under a stronger monster's paws was now burned firmly into her mind....Moochi was thinking the same thing as the pink monster grabbed Tigress' fur and attempted to haul her off the black bunny, tears in his eyes.
"Eboni, chi!" he screamed, panicked.
"Moochi! That's not Eboni" Genki said sadly, gently pulling his frantic partner away from the lilac wolf.
"...." Tigress gazed over at them, seeing the fear and panic on Moochi's face, then back down at the Evil Hare pinned underneath her.
Logic warred with emotion in the lupine's mind, while she could clearly see this was no ally to these rebels from the medallion on its collar, at the same time, she saw the face of another black rabbit in this one's stead. Even though she knew the one she thought of was in a different reality...a separate world...still...there was...doubt, confusion...finally, she stepped off the startled Evil Hare and fixed it with a piercing glare.
"If you know what's best for you, you'll leave here now and not return" she snarled, curling her lips back so that her fangs glinted in the sunlight.
Apparently getting the hint, the Evil Hare scampered off, vanishing back into the bushes. Tigress stared after it for a while, silently hoping she'd made the right decision, then she slowly turned and walked back to the others.
"Why the heck did you let it go?" Alan demanded, glaring at her with narrowed sapphire eyes.
"Drop it, Alan" Genki said, glaring over at the other human boy.
"Why did you let it go, Tigress?" asked Holly softly, stepping up to the lilac wolf.
Tigress glanced up at the girl, then over to where Moochi was standing by Genki. The pink monster wiped away the last of his frightened tears, but still had a sorrowful look on his face.
"...Back in my world, I have a friend like that" the lupine murmured softly "For a moment, I saw him in its stead..."
Holly slowly nodded understanding, grasping her Magic Stone gently as she returned the lilac wolf's gaze sympathetically.
"...I know what you mean" she replied sadly, gazing off in the direction the baddie had fled.
* * * * *
Meanwhile, the fleeing Evil Hare had since slowed down, gradually realizing that the rebels had not pursued her. The black-furred rabbit's heart still pounded violently in her chest, however as her scarlet eyes raked her surroundings nervously as she walked along.
"Well, did you find anything?" a deep voice suddenly intoned behind her, causing the already frightened rabbit to jerk and spin around.
"Boss!....Oh, damn, you scared me" she panted, glaring at her fellow soldier.
Brushing her sweaty gray bangs out of her eyes, she added "Yeah, I found something all right. Those rebels that Master Moo's looking for? They're here"
"Head back the way I came from and you'll run into them" the scout replied, pointing back in the right direction "Be careful, when I tried to get close enough to hear what they all were planning, a lilac wolf pounced on me"
"Lilac wolf....you mean like a Cabalos?"
"No. Not a Cabalos. She looked like a Tiger purebred, just with lighter colored fur"
"Hmm, never heard reports of a monster like that with the rebels before" the commander mused, then he shrugged and turned to face his unit "Anyway, we have our orders from Master Moo, you two" and here he pointed to two of his fastest runners "Go and alert our backup. The rest of you, come with me. Let's take care of this so-called threat once and for all...."
The pair that he'd indicated took off at once, bounding out of sight. As the rest of the Evil Hares started to where the rebels were resting, the scout hung back at the edge of the group. After a while, she slipped off unnoticed into the foliage, slinking into the leaves without a sound. Scarlet eyes watched as the rest of her teammates raced away, leaving her behind without even realizing that one more member was missing.
"I know what is best for me, lilac tigress" the black rabbit murmured under her breath, eyes glittering slightly behind her cover "I left you and will not return. I am not so foolish as to follow my former comrades into death for him...."
So saying, the Evil Hare fingered the medallion on her collar, then, with a sudden yank, she snapped the chain and let the symbol fall from her grasp. That done, she backed further into the shadows until all that could be seen were her scarlet eyes gleaming in the darkness.
Then those, too, were gone.
* * * * *
"I've gotta say, Tigress, letting that Evil Hare go like that was probably a bad choice"
"Shut it, Hare" the lilac wolf growled, glaring over at the tawny-furred rabbit.
"....But I understand why you did it" Hare went on softly, much to her surprise.
"....Thought about Coal, right?"
When Tigress fell silent and glanced away, Hare said "That's what I figured. That and from Moochi's reaction, they have an Evil Hare on their side as well...'Eboni', judging from the way he screamed that"
Tigress continued to stare anywhere, but directly at the rabbit, but she muttered "Yeah, I noticed...strange world, huh? Mocchi's worried sick over an Evil Hare and you're supposedly a child, though I guess I could see that, considering how much you act like one sometimes"
Hare stiffened, then he gave the female wolf an infuriated glare, brown eyes flashing with outrage. However, before he could spit out the angry retort that burned on his lips, a dry, brittle crunch from somewhere nearby caught his attention. The tan-furred rabbit wasn't the only one who heard the noise as Alan cursed as he drew his blade, joining the other rebels as they dropped into battle-ready positions.
"I knew letting that baddie go was a stupid mistake" he spat, throwing the female wolf this angry look.
Rialto muttered something uncomplimentary under his breath, then the scarred dragon's face contorted in a snarl as he stepped in front of Myst protectively. For the space of a few heartbeats, a heavy silence fell over the rebels, then a commanding voice rang out from somewhere close by.
"Attack!" the leader of the small unit of Evil Hares surged forwards, quickly followed by his soldiers and the Searchers responded in kind.
Myst and Minette swept out of harm's way, lightly springing into the air, wings spread as Holly backed away carefully with Suezo standing protectively before her. The others charged, Moochi using his Blossom Blizzard to temporarily confuse the baddies. At first, it appeared to the two pixies that the fight would be over quickly.
The Evil Hares hadn't been able to surprise the rebels, since they had been half-expecting it after Tigress' encounter with the scout. The first wave was knocked back on their tails easily and Myst could see that most of the Searchers were trying more to simply drive off the black rabbits rather than kill them. She hoped that the baddies would soon back off, they reminded her too much of Coal....
Suddenly, however, Minette let out a shriek that shattered her hope that this battle would end quickly and easily "Hey, look out! There's some Zuums heading this way!"
A glance confirmed the young pixie's warning, several Zuums wearing Moo symbols had arrived and were attempting to fan out around the rebels unnoticed. But while Minette's shout had ruined their attempt at an ambush, it also attracted unwanted attention to her. Several of the saurians fixed the youngster with an icy glare, then they launched fireballs at her flying figure. Minette attempted to dodge, but shrieked as one seared past the edge of one of her wings and as she struggled to recover, the Zuums aimed their attacks and fired again. Myst swerved in to shove the young pixie out of harm's way and she grunted as several fiery blasts slammed into her.
For a terrible instant, she reeled, then plummeted to the ground, landing with a dull thud. Rialto turned round in time to see Myst collapse and for an instant, pure shock and horror twisted his face. However, raw anger and hatred quickly replaced it and the dragon let out an enraged roar as he charged at the closest of her assailants.
The Zuum never stood a chance, one swipe of Rialto's talons tore the saurian's throat wide open and the baddie instantly transformed into a lost disc. However, the dragon was far from finished. With a vicious snarl twisting his scarred face, he lunged into battle, tearing through the unfortunate baddies. It didn't take long for the evil monsters to realize that they were far outmatched, but it was too late to flee. Those who survived his initial assault tried to scramble to safety, only to discover this expanded their lifespan by mere seconds.
It was all the other rebels could do to get out of his way. Even Alan's first Worm was forced to back off to avoid the dragon's wrath, its beady green eyes wide as it cowered beside its fellow Worm and their stunned trainer.
"Whoa...." Suezo breathed, green-gold pupil contracting to a single dot in his bulging eye as he continued to edge away from the horrifyingly one-sided fight.
The others winced and averted their eyes, struggling to ignore the pained, final shrieks of the baddies. Minette, trembling like a leaf, latched onto the side of the person closest to her and buried her tear-streaked face in their chest. That person happened to be Holly and she gently cradled the young pixie's weeping form, tears filling her own eyes. Minette's terror reminded her all too clearly of Serinity's horrified reactions to fighting and despite her best efforts to block the image of Eboni falling alongside the hapless Evil Hares....
All finally it was over, the last of the unfortunate baddies transforming into a lost disc where they had fallen. His thirst for vengeance quenched, Rialto turned and he bounded over to where Myst just lay, unconscious, kneeling gently beside her. The bloodlust in his eyes had vanished, replaced by fear and concern, and he called out the Mint's name as the other rebels cautiously approached them.
* * * * *
Myst slowly opened her eyes to find herself standing alone. Ghostly crimson flames flickered around her body, yet she felt strangely calm, safe despite the fire raging round her. She gazed down at herself, somehow not surprised to see the fire wasn't burning her to a crisp, she only felt a little hot and it was a pleasant warmth like coming in from a storm and curling up by the fireplace. Gradually, she became aware of these voices echoing around her, over the muted crackling of the flames.
"I will not allow anything to happen to you, no matter what the cost is" a calm, collected voice that still carried an edge of steel, vowed.
Briefly, she caught a glimpse of dark violet-green eyes, a flash of metal, the fluttering edge of a leather cloak.
"We should concentrate on finding our friends, not...." a soft, gentle voice slowly trailed off, breaking slightly from sadness, leaving very little doubt as to just what the speaker was pleading with her unseen companions not to do.
A female pixie hybrid with orange-red hair and shimmering, sorrowful green eyes appeared in the flames, hands clasped in front of her chest.
"No....big brother, no...." a horror-stricken voice, heavy with dread, breathed.
A silver-furred wolf, ice blue eyes wavering with emotion, strode past.
"Why should I have to live my entire life in seclusion simply because I belong to a certain breeding?" the voice of a young female filled with anger and conviction, demanded.
A small Evil Hare, obviously a child, crossed her arms petulantly over her chest, her garnet eyes flashing.
Then Myst could see another figure standing in the center of the flames, a young rabbit with tawny fur, clutching at something round his neck. His back was toward her and he appeared to be staring off into the distance at something she couldn't quite see. She slowly approached him, feeling drawn to the child for a reason that she could not put a name to.
As she drew closer, her ice blue eyes widened in recognition at the sight of a red kerchief tied round the young bunny's neck. She recalled how the other rebels had insisted that the Hare they knew was little more than a child....gently, she reached out and laid a hand on the youngster's shoulder. He let out a startled gasp and spun to face her, brown eyes wide with fright. Myst smiled, recognizing the bright, intelligent eyes as matching her own companiond.
The small bunny stared up at her, confused, upset, desperately trying to make sense out of what was happening. The Mint just smiled warmly at him and slowly lifted one hand, palm out towards the child. He paused, gazing up at her face for a moment, then carefully mirrored the action, placing the palm of his paw against hers. Instantly, a fiery orange aura that blazed brighter than the flames surrounding them emerged from their joined hands, taking the form of a phoenix.
"We are alike, you and I" whispered Myst softly.
The young Hare gazed up at her in silent amazement, huge brown eyes looking even brighter as they reflected the light from the firebird. The confusion and fear had faded somewhat from his face and he continued to clutch mutely at something hidden under his bandanna with his free hand....
* * * * *
"Get up, chi!"
Ice-blue eyes fluttered open to find a set of concerned and relieved faces before them and Myst glanced around as feeling slowly returned to her body.
"Are you ok, Myst?" Minette blurted, looking frantic "We got attacked by a bunch of baddies and one of them knocked you down and we were worried cause you didn't get up and...."
"I'm fine, Minette" the older pixie replied, a gentle, knowing smile on her face "I'm just fine..."
"You are, but those damned fools who attacked us aren't" Rialto snarled, even as he bent to help her get to her feet.
The anger in his eyes soon faded to genuine concern as he added "Are you certain that you're alright? You fell and hit your head pretty badly and I....we thought...."
The scarred dragon found he could not finish his sentence, could not quite bring himself to tell the Mint that everyone had feared the harsh impact had snapped her neck. Thankfully, she didn't appear bothered by his inability to continue and smiled serenely up at him.
"I am fine" she repeated, ice blue eyes warm, then turned to this world's rebels and added "And so are your friends as well"
"Wh-what?" Holly stammered, looking just as taken aback as the rest of her group.
"I saw your friends in a vision" explained Myst and in case they didn't believe her, added "A scaled hare wearing a leather cloak, a pixie-plant hybrid, a silver-furred wolf, a young female black rabbit and a much younger Hare, correct?"
She saw the surprise and shock on the other rebels' faces quickly vanish, replaced by relief and Holly nodded confirmation.
"That's right" the maiden said, with a thankful smile "That would be Scaler, Serinity, Grey Wolf, Eboni and Hare...."
"They were okay-chi?" Moochi piped up, staring at the Mint with wide, hopeful eyes "Friends safe, chi?"
"Yes, Moochi" Myst replied, smiling down at the young monster "They seemed to be just fine when I saw them...,it would appear our earlier suspicions were correct and they have ended up in our reality instead of their own...."
"So we have to figure out a way to change things back to normal then" Hare mused, bowing his head thoughtfully and trying not to dwell on what Nancy's and Tiger's reactions had been to his younger self.
The other rebels glanced at one another, then began to attempt to figure out their next move as well. However, the weighty silence that fell over the group was soon shattered, as Rialto abruptly snapped his head up, eyes widened with sudden realization.
"Rialto...." Myst said with a surprising amount of threatening in her tone.
* * * * *
Chapter 9: Aftermath - pt 1
* * * * *
Browny stretched and yawned, then sniffed the air and quickly got up.
"What's wrong?" Holly inquired, gently.
"The others are coming back" was the tan-furred lupine's reply.
"Really?" Suezo asked, hopping up behind his two friends.
The eyeball monster's green-gold eye narrowed slightly and he stared out towards the woods, straining to find the others. After a few seconds, a look of alarm flashed over his face.
"Oh no..." he breathed.
"What's wrong?" Serinity inquired, slowly walking up behind her friends with the wiggling Willow still cradled in her arms.
Her question was answered mere moments later as the others came into view. Serinity stifled a gasp, gently clutching Willow closer to her body, while the young bunny cooed and reached out toward the approaching Searchers. Nancy was leaning heavily against Kaz for support, yet appeared to be recovering somewhat from her ordeal and Grey Wolf was still limping slightly, but Tiger's presence directly beside the silver lupine seemed to be of help.
The same could not be said of Coal or Hare.
The older Evil Hare was hanging limply from,between Genki and Blue, only the fact they kept his unresponsive arms hooked round their shoulders kept him upright, his head was bowed over his chest, barely supported by his friends' efforts, he looked little more than a rag doll.
Scaler was carrying the unconscious Hare gently in his arms, part of his cloak wrapped round the young rabbit's body, at first glance, the scaled hare's face appeared to have its normal neutral expression, however, another closer look revealed the barely contained outrage which glittered in his dark, violet-brown eyes.
Eboni and Moochi trailed alongside the others, both young monsters appeared to be unscathed compared to most of their companions, but their faces had paled considerably. Eboni was clutching at Moochi's arm in a death grip as the tiny pink monster allowed her to cling to him despite the fact that both had to recognize the fact they were little more than strangers to one another in this reality.
"Serinity!" the younger black rabbit called out, seeing the pixie hybrid standing in shocked silence.
Breaking away from Moochi, the young Evil Hare raced over to the others, skidding to a halt in front of Serinity, then she stared up at them with wide, wavering garnet eyes.
"Help" she pleaded simply, desperation causing her voice to nearly crack.
* * * * *
Hare blinked, he was standing alone in a thick blanket of silver mist, voices echoed around him, cutting through the mist, each with a different emotion.
"You're the stinkin' brother of a stinkin' traitor" a gruff voice, dripping with pure anger snarled.
A dragon slowly lumbered past the little rabbit and Hare recoiled at the harsh sneer on the red monster's scarred face.
"I have to do this, Nancy" a familiar voice, filled with sadness whispered.
Then a male rabbit wearing...his bandanna.
"I wish I could bear your cubs" A female wolf with long lilac fur that rippled slightly as if stirred by a gust of wind.
"Blue should be with you and where's Browny or Nancy or Willow" this youthful voice suddenly cried, shaking with fear
Lastly, a young female pixie with unusual hair.
Then a cool hand was gently placed on his shoulder. Hare spun around to stare up into the ice-blue eyes of a female Mint, roughly about the same age as Holly. She slowly lifted one hand, her palm facing outward towards him, Hare gently placed his hand against hers for an unknown reason and as this fiery pale orange aura in the shape of a bird emerged from their hands.
"We are alike, you and I" the blue pixie hybrid whispered, smiling as a image of the Phoenix burned in her ice-blue eyes.
"Who..." he started to ask, however, before he could finish, the silver mist surrounding him seemed to explode into blinding white light...
* * * * *
"Hey, he's waking up"
"Should I get Scaler?"
Hare opened his brown eyes, then blinked as Eboni's and Blue's worried faces came into focus.
"Where am I?" he whispered.
"Back at the campsite, you were out for a entire day" Eboni replied.
"You fainted and the Shadow-Walker took one last swing at you, Scaler carried you all the way back" Blue added.
"Then, what happened before?" the younger rabbit inquired. "Not what, squirt, who" Blue looked over at where a black-furred figure lay, non-moving on the other side on the campfire.
Slowly getting up and walking over, the little rabbit felt his heart sink. Coal was lying there, his hands folded over his chest, making it look like he were dead, only the very slight rise and fall of his chest indicted he was barely alive. But his medallion hung back around the Evil Hare's neck.
"...Oh no" Hare murmured, shaking his head sadly "Coal, I'm sorry, it's my fault you're like this..."
"That's not true..." Eboni started to protest, moving to join him.
Blue gently put one paw on her shoulder and Eboni turned shimmering scarlet eyes toward him, the sapphire-furred rabbit slowly shook his head no, warning her nothing she said would help her friend right now. Eboni stared up at him a moment more, then turned back to look at Hare sadly.
As the young male rabbit stared down at the black-furred rabbit, a breeze blew around him, shivering, Hare thought he heard a faint voice borne on the wind.
"Coal?" Hare blinked in shock, then a strange woman's voice rang out in his head.
The little rabbit looked around as silver-white mist drifted around his feet, he mist parted as this human woman in a white dress slowly swept up to him. Gazing into her face, Hare gasped as he backed away slightly, she had similar-shaped eyes to the Shadow-Walker, but they were the same colour as the mist and burned with knowledge.
"Do not be afraid of me, little fire-bearer" she smiled.
"Who are you?"
"That is not important, you wish to help my old servant?"
Hare blinked, not realizing at first who she meant. As he continued to stare up at the woman, however, he noticed this familiar symbol etched on her pendant. It was the same symbol as the one on Coal's medallion.The little rabbit gasped, brown eyes widening slightly, noticing this, the woman just smiled gently.
"Coal's your old ser..." Hare shook his head, stubbornly reminding himself not to waste any more time.
The longer he waited, the more the older Evil Hare suffered...
"Yes, I want to help him" he replied, staring up at the woman with pleading brown eyes.
She smiled, silver eyes twinkling "Very well, here is what you must do..."
* * * * *
Hare re-opened his eyes and noticed everyone was staring at him.
"What happened, you zoned out for five minutes" Genki asked.
Without a word in reply, Hare reached out and lifted Coal's head up, removing his medallion from round his neck and placed it on top of the Evil Hare's hands, he removed the Phoenix's Tear and placed it on top of the white metal pendant. The other rebels stared at him, not understanding the reason for his actions.
"Serinity, can you come over here, please?" the little rabbit asked.
The pixie hybrid obeyed, a puzzled look in her eyes.
"Place your hand on top of mine" Hare ordered, gently.
She did so, then this tiny multi-coloured flame consisting of silver, white, crimson and leaf-green emerged from their hands and slowly spread across Coal's body covering the black-furred rabbit in a silvery-white aura with patches of crimson and leaf green fire in it. Coal's scarlet eyes flew open as he convulsed, his body lifting off the ground slightly, then he relaxed, eyes closing again as his breathing became strong and steady. Serinity gasped and drew her hand back, staring at it as if she couldn't believe what had happened.
"Hare, you should get some rest" she murmured, gently forcing him to walk next to her even as she stepped away from Coal.
"I'm fine" Hare insisted, attempting to twist away from her grasp and failing.
"No, you're not" she said, more firmly "After all that's happened, you look like you're about to faint again..."
"Yeah, we're a little sick of seeing you unconscious" Grey Wolf said, stepping up beside his two friends.
Hare looked up at the silver lupine and returned the wolf's grin with a crooked smile of his own. Standing nearby, Tiger of the Wind felt his eyebrows raise slightly in surprise. Of all the thingst that he'd witnessed so far, his little brother's friendship with the 'child Hare' startled him the most...almost as much as the whole 'magical fire powers' thing....
Genki noticed the expression on Tiger's face and chuckled while Holly giggled quietly behind her hand as Nancy also smiled, thankful to see the rivalry existed between the blue wolf and her husband did not carry over through bloodlines.
"Just try to relax for now" Grey Wolf went on, unaware of or perhaps ignoring the looks that he was getting "You can't expect to be of much help if you're dragging your feet, right?"
"...Right" Hare agreed reluctantly, frowning.
Nancy appeared next to them, a blanket in one hand while Willow was cradled in the other.
"Here" she said, handing it to Hare "It's the least we can do, after all your help earlier...we couldn't have gotten Coal back without you...."
Hare nodded awkwardly, blushing faintly, not knowing how to act round the one who was, after all, the wife of his counterpart in this reality.
"Thanks, but you should really thank Eboni too, she did as much as me if not more, I wouldn't have survived long without her there...."
Eboni blinked, realizing with a start the others had turned their attentions back to her. Sensing their gratitude, the younger Evil Hare blushed uncertainly for a heartbeat, then she felt a heavy paw on her shoulder and looked up to see Blue smiling down at her.
"You did great too, kid" he told her.
She beamed, delighted by the praise and threw a wink in Hare's direction as he smiled back at her, nodding. Then his gaze happened to shift to where Suezo was standing and his grin faded at the look he saw on the eyeball monster's face. He was staring at the little tawny-furred rabbit with a mixture of disbelief and Hare's heart sank further - fear. Hare turned away, pretending he hadn't seen Suezo' s expression.
But Scaler had noticed how his smile had faltered, becoming less genuine and how his gaze had rested on the eyeball for a heartbeat. Violet-brown eyes narrowed into glaring slits, as Nancy and Grey Wolf continued to talk with Hare, he slipped over to Suezo's side.
Silently, he cocked an ear, listening as Suezo just muttered under his breath "Creepy...with powers like that...dunno how the others can treat it as normal"
"Care to explain what you mean?" the scaled hare asked quietly, now standing directly behind the eyeball monster.
Suezo jumped, startled and sweatdropped as he whirled to face Scaler "I m-mean, that is..."
"You're frightened of Hare's abilities, aren't you?" the way that Scaler said this turned it into more of a statement than a question.
"Well, yeah" Suezo admitted, shuddering "I mean, how can you guys deal with it? You act like it's nothing that he's so....different"
Scaler's expression darkened, a shadow falling over his face as he glared down at the eyeball monster "Hare's abilities comes from his mastery of his pendant, the Phoenix's Tear. There is nothing odd about this, it is simply part of who he is, something we have accepted as a part of day to day life"
"Fine, fine, I just think it's a little...well, scary"
Violet-brown eyes glittered as they narrowed even further, Scaler's bangs now shading almost all his face, masking his solemn expression.
"Oh?" he said mildly, too mildly.
"Yeah" Suezo went on, oblivious to his growing danger "I mean, a young rabbit with access to that much power...what if he lost control? Or what if someone like Moo got a hold of him, he could turn out to be more destructive than Moo or the Shadow-Walker-"
Suddenly Suezo gagged and the others turned to see Scaler's paw wrapped around the eyeball's tail, right where it met his body. Holly and Serinity gasped, Genki and Tiger charged forwards to help and Kaz and Moochi froze from shock. Grey Wolf and Eboni glanced at each another and rolled their eyes.
"Oh, perfect" the silver lupine muttered, heading over to try and help diffuse the situation "It was only a matter of time, right?"
Meanwhile, Scaler felt Genki tugging his arm and loosened his grip a bit although he ignored the boy's shouts, instead, he continued to glare at Suezo, locking gazes with the frightened eyeball monster.
"Hare is nothing like Moo or the Shadow-Walker" the scaled hare hissed, just loud enough for everyone surrounding them to overhear it, but not loud enough for Hare could hear what Suezo had said "I would appreciate it if you refrained from saying such things"
With that, he dropped Suezo, allowing him to fall to the ground with a thud. Genki, Holly, Kaz, Tiger, Grey Wolf, Moochi and Eboni quickly exchanged glances, not knowing what to do. Genki frowned a little thoughtfully, while Suezo had no right to say such things about such a proven ally like the younger Hare, Scaler also had no right to nearly choke the eyeball monster over his opinion. Moochi, meanwhile, looked confused.
"But Hare is a friend-chi" he piped up "Why Suezo thinks he's like baddies?"
"Good question" Eboni agreed, shooting the pink monster a thankful smile.
At least, he appeared to be okay with everything...a lot like her friend back in her reality, a thought that both saddened and gladdened the young black rabbit at the same time.
"He-hey, I was only saying...it's a little unnerving that a young rabbit has the power to do stuff like that" Suezo tried defending himself, shrinking away from Scaler's glare.
"Not as unnerving as the thought of you having any sort of power" the cloaked rabbit snorted, narrowed eyes gleaming as he added "Of course, there's no possibility of that, is there?"
Suezo's face turned crimson with fury "WHAT?"
"You heard me"
"Why you, just 'cause you have all those stupid knives, you think you're better than me?!?"
"I trained hard to obtain my mastery of these blades" Scaler shot back, flashing a dagger in his paw briefly "Besides, it doesn't take that much to be better than something like you..."
Serinity sighed as she wandered away from the other rebels, tired of listening to Scaler and Suezo arguing. It reminded her too much of her own reality where the cloaked rabbit and the eyeball monster got along even less and thinking of that reality only made her depressed. As long as they all remained here, she came no closer to finding her old childhood friend.
And what made it worse in her eyes, however, was the fact Golem also seemed to be missing in this world too, there had been no sign of him with the others. Given that a large stone giant wasn't all that easy to hide, she had to assume that he was no longer traveling with the rebels right now. As for the reason that Golem was no longer with the team...she wasn't certain that she wanted to know.
Nobody had volunteered that information when they had been discussing the differences between their worlds and she wasn't about to badger the other rebels with questions they did not want to answer. All she could do was hope Golem was safe, wherever he was in this world...
Her ears twitched, picking up the soft strain of a lovely melody and the pixie hybrid glanced around in surprise. Curious, she walked along, listening carefully to the lilting song, then she came across its source. Her green eyes widened slightly for a moment and softened with comprehension as they came to rest on the song's player.
Completely absorbed in his music's spell, concentrating his attention solely on his lute, it took a few minutes for Blue to realize he was no longer alone. This did not bother Serinity in the slightest and she just listened silently, not wanting to interrupt or bother him. Finally, however, the blue-furred rabbit glanced upward and started in surprise at seeing the half-pixie standing there.
"Oh...Serinity" he greeted her after a pause, sapphire eyes shimmering briefly.
For an instant, his eyes had played a trick on him, the sunlight streaming steadily into the glade had blurred her figure enough for him to imagine it was Minette standing before him. But that was impossible, since the younger pixie was currently...in another world or so they hoped, at least. Briefly, he wondered if things would ever be back to normal...
"I'm sorry, I did not mean to disturb you"
"What? No, no, you've got it all wrong" Blue assured her, managing a quick smile at the pixie hybrid "I was just...thinking, that's all..."
"Ah" Serinity nodded, not seeming convinced, but not wanting to push the matter any farther.
Cocking her head to one side, she changed the subject by asking "That lute, where did you get it? I've never seen an instrument crafted like it before"
"I've been playing it for quite some time, it was a gift from someone special" Blue admitted gently.
The pixie hybrid smiled at him in understanding, both of them unaware of the slitted red eyes watching them from a nearby tree. In the cover of the shadows, this dark, twisted figure smirked silently, careful not to make a sound that might alert them to his presence.
"That's right, keep on talking" he thought, eyes glittering in the darkness "Keep listening to each other and neither of you pay any attention to someone like me..."
* * * * *
Chapter 10: Aftermath - pt 2
* * * * *
"Suezo, please!" Holly shouted.
"That's enough, Scaler!" Grey Wolf barked at the same time.
Both were ignored as the two continued to argue. One could almost see sparks flaring in the space between their locked eyes and Genki noted in concern the scaled hare had drawn one of his longer swords. The blade glinted in his paw and he shifted slightly as if preparing to lash out. Genki tensed, ready to dart forward in an instant to aid the eyeball monster if things came to a fight. Out of the corner of an eye, he glimpsed Tiger and Kaz dropping into similar positions.
A shrill scream rang through the trees, making the other rebels jump in surprise.
"Serinity!" Eboni cried, darting off towards the sound of the cry.
Browny, who had been directly beside the young Evil Hare, followed on her heels and the rest raced after him. Nancy looked up to see the others running off in the direction of the scream and she started after them, only to stop short as she realized Willow was still in her arms.
"Here" she said distractedly, handing her wiggling baby to the monster beside her "Stay here and look after her for me, please..."
Then she was off, racing after the other rebels, leaving a stunned Hare cradling a laughing Willow in his arms and crouching beside the sleeping Coal, bright brown eyes wide with shock, confusion and dread.
* * * * *
Serinity slowly shook her head in order to clear it, the rough bark of the tree she leant up against scraping her skin. Something had just seized her from behind and thrown her against the trunk, as she struggled to regain her wits, she vaguely heard a scuffling noise somewhere before here, like somebody was fighting...
Looking up, she froze as her wavering verdant eyes fell upon a creature that she'd never seen before in her life, it looked like some sort of worm-like creature covered in armor. Serinity gasped in horror as she noticed the creature had Blue by the wrist, but the blue rabbit met the strange worm's gaze steadily.
"Vurm...I thought you were dead" Blue
hissed, this undertone of deep hatred in his strangely
A shudder quickly ran up Serinity's throbbing back at the unfamiliar anger in her companion's tone, in her short time knowing the blue rabbit, she had gotten the impression that he was a mostly kind-spirited soul, not one capable of such hatred. Yet the cold, twisting sensation she felt in her chest the moment she glimpsed the centipede hinted that this newcomer was more than suited to be the recipient of such anger...
"The human girl with the Magic Stone appears to quite fond of you, rabbit, so let's see what happens when I do...this!" Vurm grabbed his captive's arm, then he forced it to bend into an unnatural position behind the blue rabbit's back.
A sudden, clear snap sounded as Blues composure shattered as his eyes flared wide in sudden pain. An agonized scream tore from the rabbit, echoing through the forest and the centipede's eyes seemed to glint briefly with happiness at the shout. Serinity blinked, staring at the pair in dull horror, hoping the others had heard that.
"So much for stoicism, eh, rabbit?" Vurm asked, a twisted approximation of a smile spreading across his jaws.
Glancing at the pixie hybrid's frail form, still leaning against the tree, he hissed "And it looks like this time, your pixie friend can't save you, pity, that, whatever happened to the other one, anyway?"
"Other...one?" Serinity echoed blankly, taking a few seconds to catch onto what the worm was talking about.
She gasped as she abruptly realized he was referring to one of the other rebels that she and her friends had switched places with, but which one exactly was beyond her current knowledge. A dry, mocking chuckle came from the armored worm as he misread her confusion, then his eyes glinted as he glanced down at his captive.
"Well, well, I never figured you to be the type" he teased, not really expecting any sort of coherent reply from the suffering rabbit.
However, his distraction gave Serinity enough time to act. Still leaning heavily against the tree for support, the pixie hybrid raised both trembling arms, then pointed them at the worm, fingertips glowing pale green.
"Sca...Scattershot!" she suddenly cried, wincing at the fresh wave of pain that swept through her frame as the tiny blasts of energy coursed forward.
The attack was too weak to do any serious damage, but the burst of lights all around him was enough to throw Vurm off his guard.
"What...what the?" the worm snarled, eyes widened with shock at being attacked by the fragile looking hybrid.
Then, more by luck than anything else, one of the bolts struck his arm, searing the flesh. A pained snarl erupted from the centipede, as he angrily tossed the blue rabbit to the ground and yanked his wounded arm away. Serinity gasped as she saw Blue slam into the ground and limped to his side, kneeling next to his crumpled form.
"Are you alright, Blue?" she whispered, voice cracking with emotion, then she reached out with trembling hands to steady him.
Blue winced at her touch and he managed to move just enough to look up into the pixie hybrid's worried face. His deep sapphire eyes wavered with agony, his breath coming in pained gasps.
"My arm, he broke my arm" he murmured through a haze of pain.
The pixie hybrid shuddered, biting the inside of her lip, she could see that fact clearly just from the unnatural angle that his arm was bent at.
"Shush, don't strain yourself" she instructed, whispery voice cracking slightly with fear and concern.
A shadow fell over their kneeling forms, then Serinity shivered as she tore her gaze away from Blue's twisted arm and up to the hulking figure towering above them. Blue gritted his teeth in agony and frustration, wincing from the pain in his broken arm, his half-open eyes glaring up at Vurm as the centipede loomed over them.
"Do not be afraid, gentle-heart" a strange female voice whispered gently in Serinity's mind.
Tendrils of silver mist slowly crept round them, enveloping the clearing from top to bottom.
"What in the...?" Vurm's voice rang through the mist.
A huge ghostly red figure lumbered out of the mist, behind the pixie hybrid, then strode past them, it was a dragon. Serinity blinked as she watched the dragon walk past them, it had a lightning shaped scar over its left eye, one of the dragon's arms was folded against its chest to form a perch, a Mint sat on its arm.
"Myst, Rialto, it, it can't be" Blue whispered.
Then as suddenly as they had appeared, the apparitions of the two monsters vanished. A brown streak just erupted from the undergrowth, flying forwards, latched itself onto Vurm's throat. Serinity watched, faintly shocked as Browny sank his teeth into the worm's throat, savaging it a bit, then leapt clear. Eboni burst from the bushes next and ran over to their side.
"Serinity, you okay?"
"The others?" the pixie hybrid inquired.
"They're right behind us" the young black rabbit glanced at the Hare Hound, his hackles raised, was still battling Vurm.
"Ugh, is this some type of Worm breed? It doesn't look like the ones Alan has" Eboni observed, taking a stance in front of Serinity and Blue.
"It's Vurm!" Holly gasped, arriving and dropping to her knees beside her injured friend.
Holly didn't hear Eboni's query, instead screaming when she saw Browny getting thrown backward by the centipede. Tiger and Grey Wolf fired twin blasts of lightning at Vurm, driving him back before he could hurt the fallen lupine anymore.
"You alright?" Grey Wolf asked quickly as he and his brother moved to stand between him and their opponent.
"Y-yeah" Browny managed to rasp, slowly getting to his feet "I'm...fine"
Scaler came up beside Grey Wolf and drew one of his longer swords, glaring at Vurm with narrow violet-brown eyes.
"Not like any monster I've seen before" he admitted under his breath "Not that it matters..."
Vurm glanced around, cat-like eyes narrowing with frustration at all the new arrivals. Though he felt they would easily fall to his attacks, he wasn't a complete idiot and recognized that fighting all of them at once would lead to his getting injured and possibly even defeated. A crude mockery of a smirk appeared on his face and he dove into the dirt, vanishing before the astonished rebels' eyes as he burrowed quickly underground.
"What the...is he running away?" Eboni asked, cocking her head slightly to one side.
"Hardly! Watch it, everyone" Tiger warned, snarling and glared where Vurm had disappeared.
Suddenly the ground started to hill upwards as if pushed up from underneath.
"He's heading towards the camp" Genki yelled.
"Willow" Nancy cried as her brown eyes widened with alarm.
She turned and ran back toward the campsite. Scaler snarled, then headed after her.
* * * * *
Hare stood, closely watching the worm pacing back and forth just in front of his fiery shield.
His pendant had abruptly began to glow brighter than normal, giving off a warning of danger, he had grabbed the baby rabbit and raced over to where Coal slept and raised a shield. Now staring at the strange creature that had arrived and was circling them warily, he was glad to have followed his instincts. Behind him, the older black rabbit laid, head resting on his hands as Hare gently held Willow against his chest.
Vurm glared at the three rabbits with narrow cat-like eyes, growling quietly under his breath. The worm knew something was strange about the trio, it was obvious from the crimson dome that had suddenly flashed to life around them as he re-emerged from the ground directly in front of them. Vurm's hand suddenly shot through the shield, much to Hare's utter shock. He quickly twisted his body so that he was between Willow and the worm and pulled away. Vurms claws hooked onto and tore the bandanna from Hare's neck, the centipede snarled in frustration, throwing the red cloth to the ground.
Muttering and growling, Vurm started to pace around the dome again, eyes locked on the rebels. Hare returned his gaze silently, still cradling the twisting and crying Willow in his arms. He kept the fire shield around them, despite how the creature had managed to reach through it and concentrated on strengthening it as much as possible.
Hare winced, this shiver of pain quickly coursing down his back. His body was still recovering from the battle with the Shadow-Walker and trying to keep the shield strong enough to hold up against some...something that had managed to pierce it once was seriously affecting him. But he had no choice...
Suddenly the worm stopped pacing, his eyes grew wide and he turned around to glare directly at Hare. Before Hare could react, Vurm's hand shot through the barrier again, this time seizing hold of the Phoenix's Tear by the string round the little rabbit's neck and ripping it from his throat. Hare cried out involuntarily, feeling the fiery barrier flash out of existence, with a rush of lost energy the moment the pendant was torn from his neck. The abrupt loss of strength slammed through his small body all at once and he reeled, sinking to his knees, temporarily stunned.
"Such power" Vurm hissed, holding the crystal teardrop up and studying it.
The soft rasp of labored gasping caught the worm's attention and he whirled around to see Hare crumpled on the ground next to Willow and Coal, shivering slightly. The sudden separation from the Phoenix's Tear had hit the tawny-furred bunny hard, as his body struggled to adjust to the loss of its powers as quickly as possible.
A cruel smirk twisted the centipede's jaws and he clutched the precious crystal tightly in one of his hands as he commented "What an interesting little trinket you have....this should prove quite useful"
He frowned, noticing its once-steady glow had faded. Vurm shook the crystal teardrop furiously and when it didn't respond, he quickly lunged forward. Hare had no chance to react as the centipede seized him by the tuft of fur on top of his head and lifting him off the ground.
"How does this work?" the centipede hissed.
Hare looked up at his captor, barely able to keep his eyes open. A small smirk appeared on the young rabbits face.
"Like...like I'd tell you..." he managed to force out between gasps for air.
Vurms hideous face contorted in an enraged snarl, eyes seeming to glow a deep crimson and he yanked the young rabbit closer to his face. Hare couldn't keep himself from trembling as he stared into his captor's eyes.
"You will tell me how this pendant of yours works, one way or another" Vurm hissed.
Hare had no doubt that the creature would use any means possible to extract the information he wanted. But, at the same time, he silently vowed not to breathe a word to the centipede. He knew if this creature realized the truth about the link between him and the Phoenix's Tear, things would only get much worse...
"Willow! Hare! Coal!" Nancy's voice screamed, sounding close by.
Vurms eyes widened slightly and Hare struggled to break free from his grasp, this wave of fear running through him, he recognized the spark of comprehension in the armored worm's eyes, Nancy had reminded him that they were not alone. The baby Willow and the recovering Coal were close by, if the worm turned his attention toward them...desperately, Hare threw all his waning strength into his thrashing, reaching toward the pendant still held by his captor. If he could get hold of it, he could hopefully protect the others again, at least for a little while.
The rebels burst into the clearing, Vurm was sitting on a log in the middle of the camp, still gripping Hare by his tuft of fur. The centipede snapped his head up, looking startled by their appearance.
"Hare!" Eboni shrieked, seeing her friend in the creature's grasp.
Nancy gasped, scooping up Willow into her arms and glaring at Vurm with outrage burning in her brown eyes.
"Let him go" she ordered, gripping her wiggling, crying daughter tightly.
"Nancy" Serinity whispered, stepping up behind the female rabbit.
Glancing back at the pixie hybrid, Nancy realized what she was hinting at and passed Willow over to her. Serinity cradled the sobbing baby bunny in her slender arms and cooed soft reassurances at her, while retreating back behind the other Searchers. Her arms free again, Nancy dropped into a battle stance, eyeing her enemy. Watching the rebels tense for battle, Vurm smiled, then forced Hare's head up.
"Now, now, I suggest you all back off" he said all too calmly.
Pulling out a vial of black and red liquid, the worm added with a smirk "I've always wanted to see how this works on a child..."
Serinity gasped, sensing that whatever the strange substance this creature was holding was, it was a definite threat to her friend. Eboni, Scaler and Grey Wolf saw this as well and readied their attacks, recognizing the danger without knowing exactly what the threat was. However, it was obvious from the way that the faces of the other rebels turned pale that they knew exactly what the liquid in the vial was. As Grey Wolf began to charge his torpedo attack, Tiger stepped up beside him and lightly trod on his foot. His younger brother shot him a startled glance, and the blue wolf shook his head slightly, warning him off.
"Its too risky" he snarled through gritted teeth, golden eyes flashing with anger.
At the same time, Genki's hands slowly closed over Eboni's shoulders, pulling her back towards him before she could rush at Vurm.
The young black rabbit shot him a betrayed look, garnet eyes filled with reproach, anger.Scaler, meanwhile, had drawn one of his throwing knives from beneath his cloak. With a sudden movement, he snapped his arm back, then prepared to launch the blade forward, aiming at one of the armored centipede's narrowed eyes.
Scaler paused in mid-throw and glanced over his shoulder. Blue was holding his wrist with his good arm.
The sapphire-furred rabbit gave the scaled hare a pleading look, blue eyes wavering with anger, fear and remembered pain.
"We can't, not if we want to help Hare, I, I know what that stuff is like..."
Scaler glared at Blue, slowly lowering his arm. However, the blade remained half-hidden in his paw. Vurm backed up, still holding onto the little rabbit, the child was a good shield and a source of possible information on how to use the crystal. Then he realized the rebels' eyes were fixed on the area behind him. Suddenly a blade, gripped in a black-furred hand, was pressed against the worms throat, then the owner applied a little force and a trickle of dark green blood ran down Vurm's throat.
"I suggest you let the child go" a calm, solemn voice whispered right to the worm's ear.
Scowling, the centipede released Hare, the young rabbit grabbed the crystal from the worm and stumbled backwards, trying to get out of reach as quickly as possible, his wavering brown eyes locked on Coal. As he gripped the crystal tear tightly in both paws, it began to glow faintly once more, reactivated by his touch.
"What...?!" Vurm cursed "Why is it glowing now...? It wouldn't before when I..."
He started to reach towards Hare but Coal's blade pressed closer to his throat, warning him to back off. Hare edged away and several of the other Searchers came up to stand beside him, watching Vurm warily.
"Hare, are you alright?" Eboni asked, gripping her friend's arm.
Hare just nodded in reply, his breath coming out steadier as he felt the familiar energy from his pendant rush through him. Eboni smiled in relief, then looked nervously toward the armored centipede and the older Evil Hare.
"Coal, what about..." she started to ask.
Before she could finish her query, Vurm abruptly spun round and head-butted Coal. As the Evil Hare fell back, the centipede crouched down and leapt upwards into the surrounding forest. The leaves began shaking and rustling as the unseen Vurm moved from one tree to another.
"Where is he?" Serinity cried, hugging Willow to her chest, then quickly backing away from the overhanging trees, wavering green eyes locked on the concealing branches.
As the Searchers watched the trees, trying to spot the enemy, this lasso of silk dropped down around Scaler, pinning his arms against his sides. Hare turned round in time to see his childhood friend get pulled off his feet. The knife the scaled hare had been holding at the ready clattered to the ground and he was yanked up into the treetops.
"No!" Hare screamed, terror-stricken.
In the foliage above the rebels, Scaler kicked and thrashed furiously, anger in his eyes, then Vurm lay flat on a branch, then he reached over and wrenched the scaled hare's mouth open.
"Say aah, bunny-boy" he taunted and spat into his captive's mouth.
Choking, Scaler swung his foot up and slammed it into the worm's side, causing the creature to curse loudly and lose his grip on the scaled hare. Scaler plummeted back down to the ground, landing with a dull thud and a shower of leaves and broken twigs.
"Scaler!" Eboni and Hare screamed, running over to him.
"Scaler! Damnit!" Grey Wolf cursed, launching his Ice Bullet into the treetops directly above where the cloaked rabbit had fallen.
Tiger followed his younger brother's lead and the Lightning he shot up managed to strike Vurm directly in the side, just between two armored plates. The centipede cursed in pain and he lost his footing, fell to the ground, but quickly righted himself, glaring at the rebels with narrowed eyes.
Serinity was standing several feet from him, cradling Willow in her slender arms with Hare and Coal on either side of her. The rest of the rebels were fanned out to surround him, blocking him from approaching them or the fallen Scaler who was crouching on the ground where he had landed. All appeared ready and willing to launch an attack the moment he moved out of line.
"Get outta here, you overgrown slug" Eboni shouted, garnet eyes flashing with anger.
Vurm glared at her, then shifted his piercing gaze at each of the rebels in turn. Abruptly, he lunged forward, reaching out as if to snatch the young black rabbit.
"No, you don't!" Grey Wolf and Tiger snarled in unison, leaping toward the armored centipede.
Suddenly, Vurm whirled around and too late both lupines realized that he'd merely feinted the lunge at Eboni. The wolf brothers scrambled to avert the leap, but Vurm managed to seize Tiger's mane and yank him off the ground.
Grey Wolf's shout was cut off as Vurm sent him flying backwards, Serinity screamed as she saw the silver lupine land roughly on his side and lie still. She started forward, then paused when she felt Willow squirming in her arms. Coal reached out and gently pressed his paws over Serinity's hands, causing the pixie hybrid to look up at him in surprise.
"I will take care of her" he said softly, urgently "Go check on your friends"
Nodding agreement, Serinity gave the Evil Hare a thankful look as she handed Willow to him and scrambled to help Grey Wolf. Meanwhile Hare was unaware of what they were doing, bright brown eyes locked on Tiger's figure in Vurm's grasp. A shudder ran down the tawny-furred bunny's back and his breath came in short, panicked gasps.
"Tiger!" the other rebels shouted.
Vurm backed away, a vicious grin distorting his face.
"Ah, well, pity" he hissed, revealing the vial of black-red liquid "If I cant see the effects of this on the child, seeing how his body reacts will be just as interesting..."
Flipping the cork off the vial, he knocked the rebels away and wrenched Tiger's mouth open. The lupine monster thrashed, but couldn't break out of the centipede's grasp as he prepared to pour the liquid down the blue wolf's throat.
"NO! You CAN'T!"
Vurm paid no attention to the desperate scream, however, he was unable to ignore the white-hot blast of crimson fire that lashed out and struck the vial. The heated liquid burst into flames, engulfing his hand and causing the armored centipede to let out a pained screech. Tiger fell to the ground hard, forgotten by the baddie as Vurm reeled backward and clutched at his wounded arm.
"Damnit!" he cursed, then dove into the ground and burrowed away, retreating from the campsite before any of his opponents could take full advantage of his injury.
Stunned, Genki and his team-mates whirled around to see the source of the attack. Hare still had both his trembling paws pointed out before him, wavering brown eyes wide, tears streaking down his fear-flushed cheeks. The tawny-furred bunnys mouth worked silently, as if he were struggling to say something, but could not force the words out. Tiger got to his feet, unable to take his eyes off the young rabbit. Something about the look in the child Hare's eyes alarmed him but the blue wolf couldn't quite guess what...
"Kid, I think something's wrong with your friend" Browny piped up.
Hare seemed to snap out of his semi-trance at the sound of the brown lupine's voice and turned to see what he was talking about. Scaler was gasping, one hand resting on his throat, whatever the black gunk that worm had spat into his mouth was, it was cutting off his air supply.
He couldn't breathe, he couldn't....
The green rabbit suddenly collapsed, violet-brown eyes closing as the blackness claimed him.
"What?" Genki exclaimed, seeing the scaled hare stumble and fall.
Serinity let out a frightened gasp, half-rising from where she crouched by the recovering Grey Wolf's side. However, she faltered, not knowing where her help was needed more or even if she would be able to help the cloaked rabbit. Blue reached Scaler's side first, then wrenched the gasping warriors mouth open. He peered in,trying to ignore the thudding of his heart in his ears.
"Is he...?" Nancy asked, crouching beside Blue and giving him a worried look.
"Not the Feverblood, thank goddess" replied Blue, though the frightened expression didn't fade from his sapphire eyes "Theres something stopping him from breathing, though...I have no idea how we're going to get it out"
Hare ran to his dying friend, trying to think of something, anything that would save the green rabbit.
*What do I do, what do I do?* the tawny-furred rabbit thought frantically *This isn't a poison or an injury, how can I save him?*
Hare could feel Scaler's body starting to stop jerking as the cloaked rabbit's coughing became more ragged and he began to go completely limp. Finally, the young rabbit decided to try one last desperate attempt. He concentrated, focusing his will and the power of the Phoenix's Tear on the scaled hare. Many times, Hare had used the Tear to summon tremendous flames that could swell to any size.
Now, he prayed that he could do the opposite. He felt it, saw it in his mind's eye, as a tiny fireball came into existence in Scaler's throat. The flames started to melt the gunk, carefully moving to avoid cooking the scaled hare from the inside. Soon, the gunk was burned away as the flames dissipated. His throat no longer blocked, Scaler began to breathe again, though he still remained unconscious.
"What did you do...?" Blue asked, staring at the younger rabbit in amazement.
Hare did not reply, instead focusing his full attention on Scaler.
"...Can we stay here for the night?" he asked, hesitantly after a pause, gazing over at Genki
"Just...just until we're certain he's alright..."
"Fine" Genki replied, nodding "Besides after everything that's happened, I think we all could use a little rest..."
The other rebels murmured agreement as Eboni quietly joined Coal and squeezed the older Evil Hare's hand for comfort. He glanced down at her and smiled softly, though his scarlet eyes remained thoughtful.
* * * * *