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Literature
End of the Universe: Chapter 18
Chapter 18- Happy Together
I was immediately rushed to the infirmary at the castle once the plane stopped and I sank in and out of unconsciousness. I remember being surrounded by other wounded soldiers and frantic faces. Within the day, I was left alone in a separate room to slowly take stock of the situation.
On the bright side, I wasn’t mummified in bandages this time and most of the external injuries would heal quickly. But internally, I ached with every move. The experience was surreal as I sat up and lowered one foot, then the other to the floor, like I was re-entering my body after a long time and realizing what had occurred, or the little bits I could piece together.
I shuffled to the door, refusing to be confined to a bed again, and headed down the hall. A nurse crossed my path, her eyes widening at the sight of me. I suppose I did look a mess. Dressing here and there and my fur sticking up at odd ends all over. I’m sure my haggard appearance reflected the so
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Literature
Catch of the Day
Catch of the Day
“This stinks!” May said for the umpteenth time that day as she dangled her empty fishing line and hook in front of her sisters. “There’s nothing here!”
“Eh, quit your bellyachin’,” Lee said. Although she too was disappointed with their fishing spot. They had been in their little rowboat for hours without so much as a nibble. Lee had refused to call it quits right away and had made May and Marie paddle the boat further out from shore to any spot she deemed suitable enough.
Yet as she reeled in her own pathetic line with a grubby worm hooked to it, she was starting to have her doubts. She pondered over the water, leaning over the side and raising some of the mass of red curls dangling in front of her eyes. The lake should be teeming with fish this far out. Where were they today?
“Marie,” she said, casting her line out again, “throw another stick in.”
With a stick of dynamite already between he
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Literature
End of the Universe: Chapter 17
Chapter 17- The Power of the Emerald
When I woke up, the entire airship was moving, lifting off. I sat up, rubbing my sore head, and surveyed my surroundings. A cold, gray metal cell, with no windows and one securely shut door. Seeing no one else around, I guessed that Blaze and the others were in their own cells as well. So we were completely cut off from each other.
The only furnishing was a television screen in the corner, that blinked on as the ship settled into a smooth course and unknown direction.
Nega appeared on the screen, staring hungrily at the three Sol Emeralds he now possessed: the purple emerald from Blue Mirage, the golden yellow gem from Chateau de Pumken, and a cyan emerald, as pure as a cloudless sky, that I assumed came from the White Jungle temple. He circled the glass casing protecting the jewels, sneering at the camera.
“Thank you, Your Highness, for this most lovely gift,” he said. “In return, I shall give you one. You must be terribly
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Literature
Cornered for Dinner
Cornered for Dinner
Carmelita paced in front of the map of Paris on the wall, scrutinizing the colored tacks ringed with matching string. Her eyes traced every city street, running through the different buildings in her mind and the sites that each of the tacks indicated. At the top of the map were mugshots of two hardened criminals: a bulldog with a large underbite and scarred jowels, and shifty-eyed crocodile, his face a never-ending smile of amusement as he glanced off to the side. Then two more photos of unknown associates, with generic silhouettes.
Picking up an open folder on the desk, Carmelita thumbed through the pages. Numerous reports on the jewel thieves listed the priceless gems and cut stones that they had swiped from major cities around the world. And they were already very active in Paris. Ten places in two weeks, including museums, art galleries, and jewel shops, all culminating in a net worth beyond any amount Carmelita would ever see in her life.
As she reached
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Literature
Joys of Parenting: A Little Crush
A Little Crush
“Ruby, did you unpack your clothes?” Rouge called. No answer. “Ruby!” She counted silently to herself, irritably tapping her fingers on the bannister. Moving itself was bad enough. Not that Rouge didn’t mind a change of scenery from time to time and she enjoyed having more space to re-arrange her belongings.
But two things prevented her from re-locating often. One was her stash of ill-gotten goods over the years. She was still paying them off piece by piece to reduce the pressure from authorities worldwide and sold some to GUN in exchange for more valuable favors, such as pardons from sticky situations. But her hoard seemed to grow with a beautifully cut gem here, a priceless vase there, and soon she was back to square one.
So she had to use her black market connections to hide her treasure in certain locations and move it one at a time. Frankly, it exhausted her and she made empty promises once again to off-load some of it for good.
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Literature
Chemical Ed-traction: Chapter 6
Chapter 6- My Secret Ed
The return to his previous standing with Marie wasn’t as immediate as Edd had hoped, but the gesture had re-opened her door and she let him in. “Pretty smooth with the fire crackers,” she had commented.
“I had some inspiration,” he said, rubbing his neck.
It took a couple of weeks until Edd felt like they were back on solid ground and where they had been before. Marie continued acting coy and flirtatious in public. Yet in private, well, the thoughts of her more intimate and personal demeanor always made his cheeks burn and blush.
Still, Marie had been the first to invite him in when this all started. And while he had accepted and they had grown close, there was a nagging sensation that he hadn’t quite met her level of commitment, that she had bared more of herself to him than he had to her.
One last grand gesture formulated in his mind to resolve this itch. Perhaps too grand, as the thought alone made him more anxious a
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Literature
End of the Universe: Chapter 16
Chapter 16- The Widow’s Brood
Torches lined the walls of the tunnel, long since snuffed out. Blaze lit them as we passed, adding a little color to the earthy walls and floor. Eventually, the floor gave way to solid stone and we anticipated that we were close.
Unfortunately, we were very sure we were close when we started coming across skeletons lying on the floor. The first two were propped up against either side of the wall, their jawbones dangling from their hinges and their bodies broken apart by time and decay.
“Hold,” Blaze said, stopping all of us from proceeding. She looked back and forth between the bodies in thought, then asked for a helmet from one of the soldiers. She held the helmet before her, perfectly in line with the bodies.
Sshnk! Rusted, metal spikes burst out of the wall, passing within inches of one another. They pierced the helmet clean through, pinning it to the wall. Slowly, the spikes retreated, caked dust and rust crumbling off o
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Literature
Chemical Ed-traction: Chapter 5
Chapter 5- Take Ed Back
Edd planned accordingly and set aside enough money to buy a decent suit while still having money left over for the rest of his plan. No doubt Eddy and Ed had gone all out to the extreme with their attire, but a nice, red suit jacket and slacks, and a white dress shirt were all he needed. Nothing too fancy.
His next stop was the local store. There were still old Fourth of July fireworks heavily discounted and stacked in a pile, so Edd stocked up on as many firecrackers as he could carry, as well as cheap glass bowls. Once he dropped those supplies off at home, he raced back to the junkyard, digging through every pile of trash he could find for old fishing poles, spool, and thread. In the end, he gathered together fourteen fishing poles, armfuls of spool and thread, and left a decent amount of money at the closed front office in an envelope in their mail slot.
By the time he finished, it was well into the afternoon. He considered readying the last component
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Literature
End of the Universe: Chapter 15
Chapter 15- Metal Ghosts
The chateau was still and quiet, with nary a soul around. I slapped myself for my poor word choice. Each room we checked was the same: abandoned rotting furniture, old portraits and belongings, cracked trinkets on mantles and bookshelves, and the slime coating drenching it all. In fact, the deeper we went, the more thick and viscous the slime became, worse than the mud outside.
I jerked my foot forward, instantly plopping it down into the goo. “This stuff is going to slow us down,” I said. “You think you can burn it?”
“I can try,” she said, holding a fireball in her palm close to the goo. It receded a few inches, but it was slow going. And this method would take far too long.
“What about setting it on fire?”
“Even though the sea slime would burn, the carpet and wood panels beneath these areas would catch fire,” she said, gesturing to the ground and walls.
“Well, we could fly,” I sugg
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Literature
Chemical Ed-traction: Chapter 4
Chapter 4- Sorry, My Ed
Later that day, Edd swung by the nurse’s office, hoping to find Marie being tended to by the nurse. Unfortunately, he was too late. “No need to worry,” the nurse assured him about her injury. “A bruise and some swelling, but as long as she takes it easy for a few days, she’ll be fine.”
That was one burden off his chest and he searched high and low for Marie the rest of the day with no luck. Therefore, he resolved to come into school tomorrow during detention and catch her. She won’t be able to lose me in there.
Sure enough, early Friday morning she was in the Advanced Chemistry class, her chin in her hand while the teacher was engrossed in work on his computer. The classroom was dead empty otherwise, and completely quiet. As soon as she saw him, she tightened a fist, giving him second thoughts of approaching her. Still, they had to confront this head-on. The longer he allowed this incident to fester, the wo
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Literature
End of the Universe: Chapter 14
Chapter 14- Chateau de Pumken
A couple of hours from morning, the road gave way to wet, muddy grass and there were lakes and bodies of water as far as the eye could see, sliced here and there by narrow trails of tall weeds and grass. I shook Blaze awake. “We’re here,” I said.
We exited the vehicles, stepping out first onto the soft ground. The soldiers followed, waking up one by one. I dug my toes around in the mud, noting how after only a few inches, water pooled into my toe-made hole. Out in the marsh, dozens of trails disappeared into the distance, with a couple abruptly ending at the water’s edge. Beside me, Blaze was flipping through the history book, a flashlight clenched between her teeth.
“I don’t suppose there’s a map that could guide us through?” I asked.
“There’s a rough map of the terrain. But it’s very old, before this place was a marsh, so we can’t fully rely on it,” she said, sighing.
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Literature
Chemical Ed-traction: Chapter 3
Chapter 3- Do You Deny Ed?
“Double Dee!” Eddy shouted a third time, yanking on Edd’s beanie.
His train of thought derailed, Edd pulled out of Eddy’s hold and straightened his trusty hat. “I’m sorry. Yes?”
“I asked if you did the math homework already. I need to write them down, copy them, and sell the answers before last period,” he said. Eddy had made them a tidy profit lately, scouting out those more willing to part with cash than put in the work of doing their homework for good grades. They had a pretty good system going, as Eddy had accrued an unusually high number of clientele that demanded their work. Edd figured he must have been working himself harder than normal, pitching their offer to as many classes as possible.
Edd’s only contribution was to do his homework and let Eddy handle the rest. “It’s simple. Do your homework a day early so everyone else can copy it,” Eddy had said. The one area th
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Literature
Chemical Ed-traction: Chapter 2
Chapter 2- Study Ed, Play Ed
Over the month, Edd’s enthusiasm for coming to school didn’t diminish in the slightest. If anything, it only increased. Yes, there was the mental challenge and friends to look forward to, but the one thing that topped his list and set his feet racing through the halls to another day of learning was the Advanced Chemistry class. Each day, Marie displayed more of a side he never knew that stimulated a connection between their minds, almost as if he had found a fellow peer that shared his love for the subject.
Yes, there were still the barrage of flirtatious remarks from Marie. She continued to do her best to whisper suggestive things that made him hot under the collar or approach him in ways that ripped him out of his element and placed him far outside his normal comfort zone.
One particular instance, in showing him how she measured out the exact sample for a corrosive compound, she had stood behind him, with her arms wrapped around his wai
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Literature
End of the Universe: Chapter 13
Chapter 13- Air Superiority
Okay, the shield is holding, the shield is holding. I repeated the mantra to myself, wanting it to be true and knowing it wasn’t. The cracks were healing too slowly and my mind felt like it was about to snap in two as I gave my all to repair the damage. Another plane dived from the sky above, battering us with bullets and reset my hard work, lengthening the breaks in the shield.
“Listen, everyone head to the forest and spread out!” Blaze said, ordering pairs of soldiers in different directions. “On my word, run as fast as you can and meet back at the vehicles!” Then she leaned in to my ear. “How long can you keep this up?”
Judging from the shield’s thin, almost transparent width, I shook my head. “Not much longer.” Sweat dripped down my eyelids, watering my view of the shield and the planes raging above. The flashes of crimson from the biplanes speeding by and the booming shots from the flags
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Literature
End of the Universe: Chapter 12
Chapter 12- Pricey Exchange
Blaze drove like the devil through the desert and toward the White Jungle as evening settled in. We spotted the line of pure albino fronds within a couple of hours and burst through the trees. True to its name, the jungle was populated with white plants of all kinds that looked like crestfallen snow had blanketed the area. Or that the plants themselves were dying. Snowy bushes and vines raced past the window, and above us, a glowing white canopy soaked in the moon’s beams and blanketed the starry sky. Shadows of creatures darted out of our path, climbing up vines or scurrying along the white bark of tree trunks.
Nobody talked throughout the trip. The soldiers were silent and seemed to be replaying Nega’s threat and the death we heard. I did the same, wishing, hoping that everyone else was all right and that we could make it in time. Blaze gripped the wheel tight enough to break it and Gardon’s worried frown deepened when he checked o
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Literature
Chemical Ed-traction
Chemical Ed-traction
Edd stepped off the bus and shouldered his backpack. His chest swelled with pride at the sight before him: Peach Creek High. Others around him shuffled about with gloomy expressions and muttered unpleasant remarks under their breath. For the life of him, he couldn’t see why. This was the next step in their academic lives, the moment they felt closer to institutions of higher learning, and the first day of many enjoyable days of learning and scholastic knowledge in this new school year.
He straightened his tie and smoothed out his pressed vest, ready to meet his fellow students and academic professors with a big smile and a positive attitude. Edd was so excited and enamored with the thought of entering high school, he didn’t realize he was blocking the door to the school bus and preventing everyone else from disembarking.
“Come on, Sockhead,” Eddy said, pushing him along. “We got to make a good first impression and standing there
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Chapter 18- Happy Together

I was immediately rushed to the infirmary at the castle once the plane stopped and I sank in and out of unconsciousness. I remember being surrounded by other wounded soldiers and frantic faces. Within the day, I was left alone in a separate room to slowly take stock of the situation.

On the bright side, I wasn’t mummified in bandages this time and most of the external injuries would heal quickly. But internally, I ached with every move. The experience was surreal as I sat up and lowered one foot, then the other to the floor, like I was re-entering my body after a long time and realizing what had occurred, or the little bits I could piece together.

I shuffled to the door, refusing to be confined to a bed again, and headed down the hall. A nurse crossed my path, her eyes widening at the sight of me. I suppose I did look a mess. Dressing here and there and my fur sticking up at odd ends all over. I’m sure my haggard appearance reflected the soreness I felt all over.

“Sir, you shouldn’t be up,” she said, trying to take my hand.

I formed a small glowing bubble between me and here, blocking her reach. “I’ll be fine,” I said. Again, she was taken aback and I waddled down the hall, rounding the corner before I collapsed onto the wall, gripping it for support.

A few more turns and I ran into Gardon. He ran over to help me and I didn’t protest as he took some of my weight, letting me lean on him. “Keep bouncing back quicker and quicker,” he said, helping me down the stony corridor.

“It’s a bad habit,” I muttered as we sidestepped some rubble. In fact, the further we went, the more walls and parts of the roof had collapsed all around. Able-bodied soldiers and servants were digging through the ruins, salvaging any items, weapons, and food they could. Some were digging out people trapped under the giant stones, refugees and those of the castle who had been in the wrong place at the wrong time.

More than a few piles had a pale, stiff limb jutting out of the mess. These were torn down slowly, those digging not in any particular hurry to see which of their close friends had been lost.

I felt sick to my stomach and had to stop at several points. Even walking made the tears in my muscle and tissue from earlier that I thought had been in my mind seem all the more real. I refused to sit down and after a few minutes, would continue on until I needed another rest.

“Tell me,” I said during one breather. “What all happened up there?”

“You took out a good chunk of Nega’s fleet is what you did,” he said. “Saved us and the castle from being completely wiped out.”

“All with the Sol Emerald?” I asked. He nodded. “But how did it work? How did I do it?” And suddenly, I was woozy and swallowed some bile in my throat.

“The Princess can explain that all in good time,” he said, rubbing my back and easing the pain. “For now, I’m sure she’ll want to see that you’re up and around. Come on, this way.”

He took my arm and led me to a large bedroom chamber, which had been temporarily transformed into another infirmary for the overflow of patients. Families huddled close around their loved ones as the physicians and their assistants hopped from gurney to gurney, inspecting injuries and doing what they could. In a connecting room, I saw several people surrounding one patient, brandishing surgical knives. One triumphantly produced a squashed bullet in his forceps. “Three down,” he said and went back to work.

Down the hall, outside the room, Blaze was surrounded by a group of officials in long, ornate robes that had been burned and coated in soot. “Her advisors,” Gardon said. “She’s been getting nonstop reports of all the damage over the city.”

Judging by her sagging frown and weary eyes, the news was obviously not good. “How bad?” I asked as she nodded to some advisors and rubbed her face.

“You don’t want to know,” he said. “Our Nega was bad, but yours was ruthless. He knew we couldn’t defend ourselves, not really, so he targeted the most heavily populated areas.”

That sounded about right. Blaze broke off from the advisors, excusing herself for a moment and entering the infirmary. On the way in, she slowed in her stride, surprised to see me. “Hey,” I said.

A small smile graced her ever-lovely features. “Good to see you up,” she said, then gave me a look that we would talk later. We stood aside and she entered the room, greeting those in the infirmary while her advisors waited for her.

“She’s gotten much better recently,” Gardon said quietly, musing to himself. A suggestive twinkle in his eye caught my attention. “I wonder why.”

“What do you mean?”

He merely pointed at Blaze as she comforted those in the infirmary, ensuring everyone was safe and provided for. She lingered by one gurney where a soldier was having the bones set in his legs. The soldier’s wife was on one side, holding her husband’s hand, and Blaze took the soldier’s other hand, encouraging him to be strong as the physician shifted the last bones into place.

“She’s not as stiff and restrained as she used to be,” Gardon said. “She’s changed a lot recently.”

“Well, with the adventure we’ve been on, that can happen,” I said. “She would have to be a good leader to get through it.”

“She already was,” he said. “And she has led squads and armies into battle before. But like I said before, she was never good at connecting with people on a personal level. She could talk the part, act the part, but never immerse herself in it. Until now.”

“Then,” I watched her, noting how easily she helped others, “what do you think changed?”

“You,” he said. “Your arrival.”

“Me?”

“For whatever reason, she is more comfortable around you than around anyone else I have ever seen.” He didn’t need to state the reason, for I saw it in his small smirk and knew it in my chest. For it was the same reason I felt at ease, yet stressed, confident, yet weak-kneed around her all the time.

“I think I better go lay back down,” I said, a fresh wave of nausea hitting me hard. Gardon agreed and led me back to the room.

*  *  *

By nightfall, I was feeling better, although my mind was frantic about the revelation Gardon had pointed out. I didn’t really know what to do or how to take it. Part of me soared to the heavens while the rest trembled in fear that what I had been dwelling on and wondering was finally confirmed by another. Thankfully, before I could drive myself completely insane, Gardon fetched me for a private dinner with him and the Princess.

“She’ll join us in a while,” he said, leading me to the familiar private dining room we had eaten at before. “The Princess is busy meeting the dignitaries from the other countries that she put out a call to.”

“Then they’ve sent help?” I asked. To answer my question, a group of foreign soldiers, wielding halberds and marching in complete sync, passed us to the main dining hall.

“Yes, indeed,” he said. “Each dignitary has brought a small army with them, on loan from each of the countries. We all set out first thing tomorrow morning to locate and protect the remaining Sol Emeralds.”

We entered the dining room and took our seats, waiting to be served. “Tomorrow?”

“Well, we have no time to waste. Nega isn’t going to slow down, damaged ships or not. If he gets his hands on any more emeralds, next time he assaults us will be the last time. We need to beat him to the punch. Are you up for it?”

“Of course,” I said. “I just didn’t expect it to be so soon.”

“If we don’t leave soon, we may follow the same fate as your world. And from the things you’ve told us, nobody wants that.”

“No,” I said as the food was brought out and set before us. “No, you don’t.”

We thanked the servants and they scampered off to their own meals as Blaze entered the room. As soon as the doors were shut and we were completely alone, she sank into the chair, allowing the full weight of the responsibility and stress to slide off her shoulders and dangle from her limbs, making her movements slow and lethargic.

“How are you both?” she asked, moreso checking on me and my wounds. She grabbed the pitcher from the middle of the table and filled her glass.

“We’re fine. And you?”

“I’m well. Sorry, I’m late,” she said. “Have you already been told about tomorrow?”

“Yes, that we’re going after the other Sol Emeralds,” I said.

“We finalized the plans for tomorrow. Each of the dignitaries will travel to separate destinations with their armies, led by one of our generals.”

“And us?” Gardon asked.

“We’ll be traveling with one as well, to the Diamond Dust Mountains.” A frozen series of mountains if I remembered correctly.

“I’ll be sure to pack warm,” Gardon said.

We ate in silence for a few minutes, nobody really talking as we allowed Blaze to recover her strength. Once her usual glow had started to re-appear, she dabbed her mouth with a napkin and set down her utensils. “So,” she said and I swallowed a wad of food in my mouth, “I’m sure you’re wondering what happened on the bridge and what you did.” I nodded and wiped my mouth as well. “Well, I can tell you it was a very foolish, albeit very brave, thing.”

“Par for the course then,” Gardon said, chuckling at his joke.

“I’m guessing I unleashed the power of the Sol Emerald?” I said.

“You would be correct. And it took out a dozen of Nega’s planes in the blast that were nearby. Even did a lot of damage to his ship. The best way I can describe it was a large energy pulse around you.”

“Did we manage to get the others?”

She shook her head. “Some of the soldiers tried, but by then, Nega’s robots had broken through. I didn’t think about the other emeralds until too late, but I was more concerned about you.”

The comment was refreshing and made me feel better. Gardon looked up momentarily and if he was taken aback by her candidness, he didn’t show it. “I’m glad I didn’t grab two. One was bad enough. It felt like I was being torn in half by the power.”

“I should think so,” she said. “You absorbed a lot of the emerald’s energy. Too much, really. In any other case, you would be dead. It takes a strong willpower to use the Sol Emeralds like that. Even then, it’s still dangerous.”

“But surely you know how to use them?” I asked. “After all, your kingdom protects one of them. Why wouldn’t you use it then if you knew how to?”

Gardon exchanged a wary look with Blaze and she sighed. “When our kingdom was first formed, the first monarch did know how to use them, yes. In fact, legend tells that he could use all seven of the Sol Emeralds to release an unbeatable power, unlike any the world has ever seen. Over the years, his lineage has had varying success with the emeralds. Different families have come to sit on the throne through war and marriage so that nowadays, our ancestor’s blood and ability is so diluted that it’s a miracle if anyone can even use one, much less all seven.”

“And can you use one?”

“Somewhat,” she said. “When young, all the monarchs are taught how to use the Sol Emeralds in case the occasion calls for it. Even if they aren’t able to, the knowledge is still passed down. I learned when I was very young and was able to use it, but,” she paused and a sense of dread formed in my stomach, clashing with the full belly of food, “I wasn’t able to properly wield it, similar to you. Only instead of a wave, mine came out in a blast of fire. Destroyed parts of the castle and the town.”

“Was anyone, uh,” I didn’t know how to properly get the words out, but she understood.

“Thankfully, no. Some close calls though. Since then, I refused to use the Sol Emeralds unless absolutely necessary and when left with no other option.”

“I’m sorry. I didn’t know.” I flexed my hand, the sting from the power lingering a moment to remind me of my attempt. “I can see why though. This morning, I thought it would rip me apart. Doubt I’ll try that again.”

“I wouldn’t be so quick to write it off,” she said, taking a sip of her drink. “It’s rare that those outside of our lineage have the natural ability to wield the Sol Emeralds, much less the willpower to absorb its energy.” Her eyes sparkled with thoughtful appreciation and a hint of something more. “Perhaps, in time, you could learn how to use the Sol Emeralds. With some one-on-one training.”

“But I’m not royalty,” I pointed out.

She shrugged. “I don’t believe there is any law against that. If so, I’m sure we can make an exception or find ways around it.” Her tone was a bit suggestive and Gardon choked on a bite of food. He beat his chest, freeing the piece, then returned to his plate. As it slowly dawned on me, she added, “You would need some training though.”

“N-Not anytime soon I hope,” I said, stammering as much as my hands shook, and failing to hide my goofy grin.

Over the lip of her goblet, she smiled at me too. “Of course.”

*  *  *

What was I doing?!

That was the prevalent question that burned in my brain as I walked the nighttime streets with Blaze after our meal.

For one, I should have still been in bed and resting for the day to come. Or so the physician told me. That hadn’t happened all day before dinner and it certainly wasn’t going to happen now after it. So foolish as it was, I had accepted Blaze’s request after dinner to join her on a stroll.

However, my mind chastised me more over the situation I was putting myself in. It told me to reject Blaze’s offer, turn in early for the night, stay steadfast in her radiant presence. The same demands that had been nagging me ever since I first laid eyes on her. Now with us so close to one another and in a delicate position, they were practically screaming at me.

The streets were mostly empty. The townspeople had turned in for the night and only the city watch remained. While Gardon wanted Blaze to have a detachment of soldiers, she had refused, pointing to me. “Nega is gone. I think we’ll be fine on our own. I have Silver with me.” With the shape I was in, she was more likely to be protecting me if we ran into trouble. Gardon had relented, on the condition we be careful. He had also given me a look that lasted a second longer than necessary before leaving us to our walk.

I had been so deep in thought that I hadn’t paid attention to our surroundings until Blaze pointed out the fields nearby. I realized we had walked out of the town, yet were still within clear view of the outer walls.

“Over here,” she said, guiding me through the field. The further off the path we went, the more I saw strange, silvery glows within the gently swaying grass blades. When she finally stopped, there was a small flowerbed of the unusual plant. Their petals opened wide, drooping toward the ground and almost touching one another in an oval. In the light of the night sky, they took on a beautiful, celestial hue, as if capturing the moonlight and reflecting it.

“What are they?” I asked, crouching down and fingering one of the petals to get a better look.

“Moon Lilies,” she said, sitting down beside me.

“They’re gorgeous. I’ve never seen any flower like it.”

“As far as I know, they’re only found here.” She crossed her arms on her legs, admiring the flowers. “Normally, they’re pale and dull during the day, and die if left long in the sun. They only grow at night and bloom at certain times. Some can even take years, but if you’re patient, they’ll eventually show their real color.”

“They are something,” I said, sitting back.

“That they are,” she said. “I like to come out and look at them sometimes when I’m stressed.”

“Well, flowers are soothing.”

“It’s not just that. According to our history, that’s how our ancestors found this place to settle. This used to be the clearing in the middle of a forest. The first settlers became lost in the woods and couldn’t find their way out.”

“So they used Moon Lillies?”

“Yeah. They found these plants shine the brightest at night, almost like a small moon, hence their name. They led the settlers out of the forest and to a large clearing, where our town was born. I like to come here and be reminded of that.” She plucked one of the flowers, spinning it between her fingers. “That no matter how grim things become, there’s always hope to guide you out of the darkness. That’s why we cultivate them so much here.”

She pointed the stem back to the castle. “When people look out from that town, they’re reminded of that. There’s always a glimmer on the horizon.” She turned the stem to the landscape around us and I spied the shining spots on the hills in distance, like tiny stars that had grown bored of watching the world and had come to join us. “It’s one thing to admire about the night.”

“Yeah, it is,” I said. “Can’t say we had anything like that in our world, but I enjoyed the night just as well.” Not wanting to ruin the mood, I stopped. However, she waited for me to continue.

“Why’s that?” she asked.

“Well, it covered the land,” I said slowly. “Hid the horrors for a while.” Her expression dropped as I went on. “I could at least pretend everything was back to normal before the sun rose each day and spoiled the illusion.” Most mornings, I had cursed the sun, for all it did was cover the wasteland in long, haunting shadows at dawn and dusk, then highlight the brutality of Iblis’ reign throughout the day.

Blaze’s fingers touched mine and a warm sensation spread up my arm. I was sure she wasn’t using her power this time. “There is another reason to enjoy the night as well,” she said, indicating the sky. “Probably the best of all.”

I lifted my weary head to the sky, where far away from the moon, numerous stars twinkled like Moon Lillies sprouting and blooming in the very fabric of the universe. “Millions of stars,” she said. “Millions of places and lives of hopes and possibilities. Just like the millions of choices and outcomes we have here. One where your future occurs and Iblis dominates all. Another where we win and the world is safe.”

At that, my eyes instantly drifted to some of the brighter stars in a tight cluster. “Perhaps even one where you’re happy.” Happy. The thought of it hit me. A long-sought after dream. Did I dare hope to have a happy, normal life after all of this was over? “Maybe,” Blaze said, “one where we’re both happy…together.”

The last part trailed out of her mouth softly, but I caught it and it brought me back down to earth. There was an expression on her that I had only caught glimpses of. Openness, highlighted by her red cheeks. There were no villagers, soldiers, or anyone around. It was only the two of us and she was finally speaking aloud what I had been battling with for days now.

She didn’t face me, but talked more to her knees than anything else. “Since you’ve been here, you’ve given me a resolve I didn’t know was possible. Being around you only strengthens that. And, I like it. I,” she licked her lips and swallowed, “I want to be around you.”

Together.

Together with her. Here, happy, with Blaze. Princess or no, I could be with Blaze. Was such a thing possible?

Again, old, tired arguments reared their ugly heads. I wasn’t even meant to be in this time, much less fraternizing with anyone. And here I was, planning to settle down with the Princess of the kingdom. Nega had warned us against changing too much in the past.

All that reasoning didn’t tear down the one question:

So?

So what if we were from different universes? We loved one another, didn’t we? Wasn’t that good enough?

I blinked and my breath quickened. Was that truly what this was? Real, honest-to-goodness love?

I had never had the opportunity to experience this in my world or find anyone special, not like Blaze. But here, there was a chance. We were already changing fate by saving the planet. What was one more minor detail in the grand scheme? Love transcends time, space, and all between, or so I had once heard.

Looking back at her, I smiled and said, “You’ve always had that resolve.”

“Then you’ve shown me how to use it.” She leaned in closer. It was unbearably hot, I thought, even as a cool breeze brushed my face.

“And you’ve shown me mine,” I said. “And kept me grounded.”

She smirked. “I guess that fits since you’ve been helping me fly.” I shared a chuckle with her and her voice dropped to a whisper. “I like it, as well as you.”

“And I like that outcome you mentioned,” I said, closing the short gap left between us. We embraced, our lips meshing together into perfect harmony as I fell backwards with her into the flowerbed. Neither of us minded. Our eyes closed and we enjoyed the kiss and each other under the stars.

The two of us.

Together.

Property of The Pen Vs The Sword. Please do not use without permission. Thank you.

End of the Universe: Chapter 18
You have no idea how long we've been wanting to do this chapter.

Sword: Every hour of every day!

And we finally got to do it. Probably with the most romance so far.

Pen: Bleh, I'll say. You two shoved so much sappy drivel in this that I could start a syrup company!

Sword: Ooo, now all we need are pancakes and waffles!

Now, I'm hungry. To the IHOP. Meanwhile, please let us know what you think of the story so far. We'd love to hear from you and thank you for reading!

Chapter 1: A Dead World
Chapter 2: One-Way Trip
Chapter 3: Back in Time
Chapter 4: Jewelry Heist
Chapter 5: Answers and Evidence
Chapter 6: Bed Rest
Chapter 7: Scene of the Crime
Chapter 8:
 Homecoming
Chapter 9: Emerald Hunt
Chapter 10: The Jewel of the Sea
Chapter 11: The Serpents' Lair
Chapter 12: Pricey Exchange
Chapter 13: Air Superiority
Chapter 14: Chateau de Pumken
Chapter 15: Metal Ghosts
Chapter 16: The Widow's Brood
Chapter 17:
 The Power of the Emerald
Chapter 18: You are here.
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Catch of the Day

“This stinks!” May said for the umpteenth time that day as she dangled her empty fishing line and hook in front of her sisters. “There’s nothing here!”

“Eh, quit your bellyachin’,” Lee said. Although she too was disappointed with their fishing spot. They had been in their little rowboat for hours without so much as a nibble. Lee had refused to call it quits right away and had made May and Marie paddle the boat further out from shore to any spot she deemed suitable enough.

Yet as she reeled in her own pathetic line with a grubby worm hooked to it, she was starting to have her doubts. She pondered over the water, leaning over the side and raising some of the mass of red curls dangling in front of her eyes. The lake should be teeming with fish this far out. Where were they today?

“Marie,” she said, casting her line out again, “throw another stick in.”

With a stick of dynamite already between her teeth, Marie dug in their sack of sodas, worm bait, binoculars, and other fishing supplies for the matches. She struck one, lit the dynamite, then hurled the stick as far as she could towards the middle of the water between them and the shore. A few seconds passed and a geyser of water exploded into the air, rocking the boat and rumbling the surrounding area.

The water rained down on the sisters, soaking them thoroughly. May picked bits of dirt and grit out of her blond hair and Marie squeezed out a flood of water from her tanktop. And still, no fish surfaced.

“Face it, Lee,” Marie said, shoving past her and grabbing an oar. “There’s none here. Maybe we caught them all.”

“Don’t be stupid,” she said, her legs shivering from the cold water seeping into her socks. “There’s always been fish in this lake. They don’t up and disappear,” she said, pushing Marie back.

Marie tumbled into May and fell on top of her, rocking the boat. “Oh, yeah? Then where are they?”

“Hey,” May said, groaning and fighting to breathe. “Get off!”

“Make me,” Marie said, shoving her face into the floor of the boat.

May kicked her off and Marie crashed into Lee this time. Already tense as it was, Lee whirled around, abandoning her pole, and tripped Marie. May threw empty and full soda cans at them, prompting Marie to turn her attention back to her. But when she rushed Marie, she slipped on some water, kicking a bucket of worms into Lee’s face and chest.

“Ugh!” she said, wiping the worms off her. Her clothes were covered in brown and pink worm guts and slime. No mercy now, she thought.

May bit into Marie with her buck teeth and Marie lifted May high to piledrive her into a seat. On the other end, Lee growled. “That’s it!” She jumped into the fray, tackling both her sisters.

That was too much for the boat. It tipped far enough on one side for the water to rush in and the next moment, all three sisters were plunged into the icy cold depths, along with their poles and supplies.

Lee was the first one to surface and swam for the boat. Marie popped up next, followed by May. “Good job, you two!” she said, splashing each of them.

“You tipped it over!” May said, splashing back.

“Just help me with the boat,” she said through chattering teeth, pushing the edge of it from under the water. They managed to right the rowboat and Lee held onto the bow as they climbed in. Once they were all in the boat, they searched for their belongings. The oars were close by and Lee snagged them out of the water, throwing them at the other two. “Get to paddlin’.”

In the end, they recovered only two of the poles, some soda cans, the binoculars, and a couple of sticks of dynamite. “Ma ain’t gonna like that we lost most of her dynamite,” she said.

Marie nodded. “She was saving it for her next wedding.”

With a sigh, Lee tossed the dynamite into the bottom of the boat. This day had turned out completely rotten. Maybe they could swipe some sticks later from the construction site in the neighborhood. By now, the workers there would be through with them and could spare a half dozen or so.

But there was time for that later. For now, they were freezing and needed to dry off. “Let’s head back,” she said. May and Marie turned the boat for shore and paddled, their limbs constantly rattling.

Lee looked over the edge. It still didn’t make any sense. Where could all the fish have gone? In the distance, she thought she heard a yell. Raising her head, she spotted several figures on the distant shore of the lake, almost out of sight behind some trees.

“Hold it!” she said, grabbing the binoculars and standing up. She wiped the lenses off as best as she could and peered at the other shoreline. Focusing the lenses, she could make out some of the neighborhood kids gathered around a platform built on a rickety old dock. Behind the platform were scores of fish in a ringed cage, with someone swimming in the middle. Another person was sitting with their back to her, tending to the person in the cage every now and then, and busying himself with a money box.

But the one in the center, the one herding the neighborhood kids to the platform’s edge to view the cage, was none other than her favorite weasel. There was no mistaking that short stature, eccentric showmanship, and loud mouth. Even under that ridiculous red striped jacket and straw hat that made him look like a regular carnie, it was definitely Eddy.

“What is it?” Marie asked. Lee unfolded the binoculars so the other two could each look through a lens. Then she turned their heads to the other shore and shoved the binoculars against their eyes. Instantly, their faces lit up.

“I think we know what happened to all the fish,” she said.

“He-llooo, Oven Mitt,” Marie said, holding onto her side of the binoculars and burrowing a hole through them as she stared at Edd at his moneybox.

“There’s Big Ed in the water,” May said, leaning dangerously far over the edge and heaving a long, wistful sigh. “He looks just like a majestic whale swimming in the ocean.”

“We might land a catch yet,” Lee said and took the binoculars from them. “Head to the bank. We can’t spook them.”

“On it,” May said, grabbing both oars and rowing furiously for the group of trees that hid them from the neighborhood kids. Once on shore, they hid their boat and crept softly through the woods until they were a stone’s throw from the platform.

“Yes, see it now!” Eddy said, showing off Ed to the crowd. Close-up, they saw Ed had several green and pink fins strapped to his back and razor-sharp teeth made out of saw blades. Other than a pair of old, stained underwear, he was completely naked. “The prehistoric, ancient monster unearthed from this very lake!”

“I am the Machine Gun Sharkanator!” Ed said, popping up from the water and plopping his head on the platform.

Eddy frowned and pushed his foot into Ed’s face, shoving him back in the water. “Uh, right. It’s Latin for ‘apex predator’,” he said. “Who’s up first?” Two of the kids approached and deposited quarters into his hand.

Ed was still swimming in the pool, playfully chasing the fish in his little cage, while the other two Ed’s had their backs to the Kankers. Lee looked between all three of them and hummed to herself. “I got an idea,” she said. “Follow my lead and stay quiet.”

*  *  *

“Latin for ‘apex predator’,” Edd said sarcastically as Eddy dumped the quarters into the moneybox. “Brilliant save.”

“Yeah, yeah, just keep track of the money,” he said.

“I’m more concerned about those explosions we heard earlier.” Edd looked out over the lake. “They sounded far too close.”

Eddy only saw still, peaceful waters. “Probably just someone throwing firecrackers,” he said. “You worry too much.”

“This is a predator?” Rolf asked, standing at the edge of the platform with Johnny and Plank and scratched his head. “It is having fun with its food.”

Eddy rushed to the cage and sure enough, Ed was busy splashing around and swimming with the fish. “He’s, er, lulling them into a false sense of security. Any minute, he’s going to go into a feeding frenzy.” He caught Ed by ear, pulling him out of the water for a moment and staring him down. “Isn’t that right? A feeding frenzy like a real shark?”

It took a few seconds before Ed processed his meaning and he yelled, “Shark frenzy!” He tore into the water, searching for the fish and kicking up waves so they could barely see what was happening.

While Rolf and Johnny weren’t paying attention to him, Eddy dumped a can of sardines into the water. Ed was quick to catch one and held it up between his sharp teeth, pretending to devour it and jerking his neck around wildly.

“Cover your eyes, Plank!” Johnny said, holding his hand over the piece of wood’s painted eyes.

“Ho-ho, he reminds me of Nana at our holiday feasts!” Rolf said, clapping.

Suddenly, Ed stopped, becoming completely immobile and looked into the water. His eyes widened and he yelled, “Something’s got—” then he zipped under the water into the depths, as if dragged down by an invisible force.

“Where did it go?” Rolf asked.

Eddy dropped to his knees and peered into the waves. “C’mon, lummox,” he said under his breath, “where did you go? We got more customers lined up.”

As quickly as he had disappeared, Ed surfaced again, gasping for air and his fins falling off “Guys!” he screamed. “Ka—” then it was back down into the water again.

“Eddy?” Edd asked. “What’s happening?” But Eddy wasn’t listening. He was still searching for their star attraction while the kids waiting behind were grumbling about leaving.

“This stinks,” Kevin said. “I’m out of here.”

“I’m coming too,” Nazz said and Jimmy and Sarah joined them.

“No, wait!” Eddy said, turning around, checking the water every few seconds for any sign of Ed. “It’ll come back any moment now. It’s just, uh, getting a larger fish to tear into!”

Behind him, a slow whirring noise caught his ear. Eddy rounded towards the sound, hoping it was Ed, but saw nothing. The whirring continued and he followed it to a line and hook dangling through the air and coming to rest behind the tip of Edd’s hat.

Eddy cocked an eyebrow as the other kids paused and watched. “What is that?”

Seeming to sense several eyes on him, Edd raised his head from the moneybox, completely unaware of the line. “What is it? Do I have something on me?” he asked, patting his cheeks and shirt.

The line above him became taut and the hook snatched the tip of his beanie, tugging at it. Edd quickly grabbed the edges, holding it down. “Who’s doing that?” Then the line yanked him hard, off his fast, and he vanished amongst the trees as the line reeled him in. “Eddy!” he yelled, his voice echoing long after he disappeared. The trees where the line had come from rustled for a moment, then grew still.

Terror-filled shouts from above and the water’s edge surrounded the remaining neighborhood kids. “Woodland nymphs!” Jimmy shrieked.

“Don’t be stupid,” Sarah said. “It’s ghosts!”

The other kids turned and fled the woods. Eddy almost joined them, then remembered the moneybox back on the platform, with its two shiny quarters inside. He braked and veered around, dashing for the box waiting for him.

Yet when he dove for the box, it jumped back and onto the dirt ground. He growled and swiped at it again. Again, it hopped backwards, deeper into the forest. “Ghost or not,” he said, grabbing at it, his fingers brushing the lid as it led him further in, “that’s my money!”

Finally, it halted in the middle of a pile of leaves. Eddy dove for the box, savoring the cold steel in his arms, before he realized that he was sinking into the ground. He scrambled for solid dirt, but only fell further into the hidden pit, crashing at the bottom ten feet below.

He groaned and rolled over onto his back. He had landed square on the moneybox, the sharp edges jamming into his ribs. Still, he had the money in his hands. He raised the box in triumph at the sky shrouded by trees. Soon, the trees themselves were covered by shadowy figures, all of whom shared a distinct, familiar laugh. One slow and goofy, one shrill and piercing, and one deep and husky.

“Well, well,” the husky one said, leaning over the pit and her yellow teeth curling back into a sinister smile. “What a catch.”

“Kankers,” Eddy realized. He was outnumbered three to one with no way out. He was trapped on all sides. And where were his friends?

“I’ll say,” the goofy one said. “What a whopper!”

“Seems a bit shrimpy to me,” the piercing voice chimed in.

“You’re one to talk with your skinny catch,” the husky one said, casting a line down the pit. It descended slowly, right for Eddy. The laughing continued as he covered his head with the moneybox, blocking out the inevitable.

*  *  *

Lee kicked her shoes off, relaxing on the sofa beside her sisters. Under their feet was a net filled with fish and the bag of replenished dynamite. “Those construction guys are lucky we left them something,” May said.

Marie shook the empty moneybox. “They got the better end of the deal if you ask me.”

“I don’t know,” Lee said, looking up at the three wooden plaques above their heads with pride. “I’d say we came out on top today.”

Superglued to each of the three plaques were the Eds, stretched out horizontally like a fish trophy and with a golden tag beneath each of them.

“Eddy,” Edd said, wiggling. “This glue is starting to chafe my skin.”

“Put a sock in it,” May said, flipping on the television. “Monster Movie Hour is about to start!”

Ed grew excited and hopped up and down on the wall. “Ooo! Ooo! The Squid from the Black Lagoon on Mars! Turn it up! Eddy, make them turn it up!”

“Shut up, Ed," Eddy said, stewing in his own misery and anger as the Kankers laughed.

Property of The Pen Vs The Sword. Please do not use without permission. Thank you.

Catch of the Day
This comes as a request from :iconheavier-lobster:. At first, we were unsure about taking this request, but as we went along, we got more into it.

Sword: And we tried our best to make it like the show.

Pen: Which is more taxing than I wanted from this endeavor.

Thank you all for reading and please let us know what you think of it. We'd love any feedback.

Ed, Edd, n Eddy and all related material belongs to Danny Antonucci and Cartoon Network. The story idea belongs to :iconheavier-lobster:. Sword and Pen belong to me. Please don't use without permission. Thank you.
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This week's most voted pieces are Traveler by LaminIllustration by :iconlaminillustration:, Subsiege Promo art 01 by M1keN by :iconm1ken:, and  Luua Mhin by varuvi by :iconvaruvi:! Congratulations! So this week, we'll be choosing some from their favorites!

The art is below. Please vote for one of them. Artists in the selection can vote as well, but not their own work.

Batman - The Dark Night 2 by matlopes Raptor by Gottsnake creature by mold3531
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Annie Mei! by Artipelago 258 by Ragora57 5 bot by Hozure
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Also, the giveaway for a free Core Membership has ended. Unfortunately, the deadline passed without anyone winning the Core Membership. We'll likely do a giveaway in the future with a different idea instead.
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This week's most voted pieces are Boba Fett by QuintusCassius by :iconquintuscassius: and Rina by sasucchi95 by :iconsasucchi95:! Congratulations! So this week, we'll be choosing some from their favorites!

The art is below. Please vote for one of them. Artists in the selection can vote as well, but not their own work.

fan art  by muffindrawerirl A Trip by Movco Subsiege Promo art 01 by M1keN
P211 by HBDesign Traveler by LaminIllustration ILM Art Department Challenge : The RIDE by pierreloyvet
Ariel by Marmaladecookie Sombra by varuvi UNDERTALE Frisk [SPEEDPAINT] by Sueweetie
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And as an FYI, the giveaway for a free Core Membership ends this week. If you'd still like a chance at it, please see the journal here:  Thank You All, Gift, and a Core Membership PrizeHello, everyone. I just wanted to quickly say that we appreciate all of you. Every single person who takes the time to review our stories, every watcher who follows us, everybody who we can entertain, and every person we have friendly chats with. We love you all and just wanted you to all know that. It really does brighten our day to hear from you all, as it can help during bad days. In fact, there's many days where we'll go back and read through old comments, critiques, reviews, and conversations that bring a smile to our face, even if the day has been rotten. So for that, we thank you again. I know I'm being redundant, but we mean.
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Chapter 17- The Power of the Emerald

When I woke up, the entire airship was moving, lifting off. I sat up, rubbing my sore head, and surveyed my surroundings. A cold, gray metal cell, with no windows and one securely shut door. Seeing no one else around, I guessed that Blaze and the others were in their own cells as well. So we were completely cut off from each other.

The only furnishing was a television screen in the corner, that blinked on as the ship settled into a smooth course and unknown direction.

Nega appeared on the screen, staring hungrily at the three Sol Emeralds he now possessed: the purple emerald from Blue Mirage, the golden yellow gem from Chateau de Pumken, and a cyan emerald, as pure as a cloudless sky, that I assumed came from the White Jungle temple. He circled the glass casing protecting the jewels, sneering at the camera.

“Thank you, Your Highness, for this most lovely gift,” he said. “In return, I shall give you one. You must be terribly homesick after these long journeys. What say we drop on by the castle for a bit on the way to our next destination?” His horrible smile widened at the deadly suggestion. “I’ll bring you up to the cockpit when it’s time so we can both say ‘Hello’ together.” As he chuckled, the feed ended, leaving us all with nothing to do but wait.

Once the announcement was over, I fashioned a spear of light and threw it at the television, destroying it. It was stupid and used up the scant amount of energy I had recovered, but it was satisfying. I sat down and my body slumped to the floor, unable to think straight. I had to rest more. Although part of me wanted to search for a way out. Yet my brain was too foggy to think, my muscles to weary to pry anything open. Still, I had to—

I was out like a light before I knew it, sleeping soundly. Sometime later, a loud rapping like metal smacking metal echoed off the door. Whang, whang, whang! I jerked awake, propping up on my elbow as two robot guards entered, both armed with guns. “Dr. Nega wishes to see you,” one said.

Sighing, I dragged myself to my feet and they ushered me out of the room, handcuffing my arms and legs in the process. In the hall, Blaze, in handcuffs and chains well, waited with the surviving soldiers, all of whom had been stripped of any weapons and armor they had and had been chained together. A third robot was keeping watch over them.

The robots arranged us with Blaze and I up front following a lead robot, while the other two followed from the rear behind the soldiers. Not much we could do in this position. If we tried to fight, the rear guards would kill the soldiers. Cursing artificial intelligence, we marched to the bridge.

Nega swiveled around in his chair when we arrived and greeted us as Blaze and I were separated from the soldiers on opposite ends of the room. “So nice of you to join us, Princess,” he said. Beside him was the case of Sol Emeralds. I wanted so badly to smash the glass and grab them, but now wasn’t the time.

“Admire them all you want,” Nega said, catching me staring at the collection. “They are quite beautiful, aren’t they?” He pressed a button on the case, brazenly opening it before us and plucking one from its holder, spinning it in his hands. “And the power within them is all the sweeter.” The emerald was right before our eyes, as if he was tempting us. I coldly stared him down and he returned the emerald to the holder.

“You can’t do this,” I said, but he interrupted me.

“Silver, we’ve been through this already. According to my calculations, Iblis will be under my control.”

“Just like he was last time?” I asked mockingly.

“Furthermore,” he said, ignoring the jab, “the more emeralds used to revive Iblis, the stronger it will be when it is awoken. His power with one emerald was enough to devastate the planet. Imagine what all seven can do.”

“That’s what worries me,” I said.

“Well, small minds worry about small things like themselves,” he said, spinning back in his chair. He flicked a dismissive hand and said to the robots, “Take them to the window over there. We should be approaching the castle shortly. I wouldn’t want them to miss a thing.”

We were jostled to the glass-lined front that oversaw the world beneath us. The bright morning sun stung my eyes. Shielding my face, I peered below. We had left the swamp far behind and were now traveling along rich, lush fields of green. In the distance, beyond a row of sloping hills, the castle towers stood erect and faint against the skyline.

“Got any ideas?” I asked, scratching my muzzle and casting a quick look to the side. The soldiers were at the other end, also being forced to watch the imminent destruction from the window.

“Not really,” she said. “You?”

I didn’t answer right away. The castle was fast approaching and I searched the room. There had to be something we could use, some way out of this predicament.

The robots kept a close eye on us and prevented us from viewing much beyond the castle and its surrounding city coming closer into focus. Nega leaned forward in his seat, his fingertips tapping one another in glee. “Prepare the bombers,” he said. A pair of robots saluted and exited the room, drawing my eye to a panel beside the door.

There was a red button, ringed by yellow and black stripes. An emergency button. I mentally slapped myself. Of course, Nega had these installed on his ships for intruders and fires.

“Silver,” Blaze whispered under her breath, “what is it?”

“I think I found a way out of this,” I said, trying not to eye the button too much in case anyone noticed. “I need a distraction though.”

She nodded and shuffled to the side a few feet, keeping her eyes trained on the castle. The robots followed her, leaving me virtually unattended. I inched over to the side, avoiding making eye contact with any robots. Slowly, slowly, one inch at a time.

“Nega,” Blaze said, gaining his attention, “I implore you, please do not attack this castle and town again. The people cannot handle another tragedy.”

“Precisely,” he said. “Once I’m through here, I won’t have to worry about your meddlesome interference anymore.”

“Then keep me here,” Blaze said. “Keep me as a prisoner as long as you wish. Just please, spare my people.”

“And where would be the benefit in that?” he asked. “Once word gets out I have you, your people will come rescue their princess, and I can’t have any more distractions.”

“Then I’ll call them off. I only beg that you leave them be.”

The radio buzzed on Nega’s console. “Sir, the bombers have launched and are approaching the castle.”

“Say I spare them? What then?” Nega asked her. “You’ll willingly stay here and not try to escape. You’ll abdicate your throne and support my new rule over this world? You’ll bow to me?”

The pain and vile disgust for him was evident in her eyes. But then Blaze knelt down on one knee, surprising all of us, even the robots and Nega. The mad doctor raised a curious eyebrow as she nodded. “Yes, I will. As long as you let them live.”

I was within range of the button. Forming a small shaft of light, I guided it low to the ground and to the emergency button.

Nega stroked his mustache for a few seconds, humming to himself at the prospect. The radio crackled to life again. “Sir? Your orders?”

He pressed the button to respond and took a deep breath, keeping us all on edge for a heartbeat. “They may fire when ready.”

“No!” Blaze said, shooting up.

“Take any prisoners you can and continue firing until the entire city is rubble.”

“Yes, sir,” and the radio cut off.

Nega turned back to the princess, who glared at him while clasping her hands for mercy. “Please, don’t,” she begged.

“You care more for your people than your own life. Harming you will do no good. If I spare your people and continue on, you’ll still oppose me. If I really want to get through to you, Your Highness, I need to hit you where it hurts.”

“Then I will never surrender to you,” she said.

“And what of the people I intend to capture? If you don’t submit, then you will die along with them” he said. “And you can watch each and every one, starting with your boyfriend.” He pointed to the window where I had been. “Wha—”

The emergency alarm went off and the robots went into a panic, searching for the cause. I dashed through the gaggle of machines as Nega rounded toward me. His hand reached for a pistol holstered in his chair and was quick on the draw. He fired at and I caught the laser bolt in a teal bubble. Ducking my head and holding my handcuffs up, I let the laser bolt loose and it seared through the links.

Frustrated, Nega fired off several more shots in anger. I caught each one, kicking my legs through a particular low shot to break the chains on my legs. The rest, I flung towards the chains for Blaze and the soldiers, then in Nega’s direction, destroying computers and monitors all over the bridge and showering him in sparks. Leaping over the console, I kicked him in the chest.

The large man reeled back and yelled for his robots to kill us. I lifted him into the air, swinging him in close between me and his robots. I decked his nose and he reeled back, cursing and holding his face. “This is for everyone you’ve killed,” I said, throwing him into the console. I hopped onto his back and mashed his face into the buttons, as the monitors flashed all sorts of information and made erroneous chimes and beeps.

I raised my fist and hit him hard in the cheek, over and over, letting all my pent-up anger rage out. He tried to bite me, catching my knuckles a few times. My hand stung, but I was pretty sure I knocked a couple of teeth loose. “We should have never taken you in,” I said as he elbowed my chest. I blocked his second attempt and twisted his arm behind his back. “Gardon and I should’ve left you out in the desert.”

“You’re right,” he said. “Unfortunately, neither of you soft-hearted fools could. Look where that got you now.”

I heard a gun click and the next moment, my shoulder burned like it was on fire. There was a black mark, already cauterized by the laser bolt Nega had fired from under his arm. He spun around, cradling the arm I had twisted and aiming the gun at my head. “Goodbye, rodent.”

A fireball shot out from our side, catching his hand. Nega yelped, dropping the gun, and it clattered underneath the consoles. Blaze readied another fireball and hurled it over our heads into a swarm of robots. A deafening boom! rocked me forward and into a chair.

By then, we were right over the city and an air battle was raging outside. At first, it seemed like Nega’s pilots were turning on one another, blowing each other to bits as they flew by the window. But after a few moments, we realized that several of the planes had been painted with purple stripes and the crest of Blaze’s house, a stalwart castle flying a banner.

“It’s Gardon!” one of the soldiers shouted.

Nega and the robots couldn’t comprehend what they were seeing. He slammed his fist on the radio button. “Focus all attention on those ships. I want Gardon and the rest of their air force dead immediately!”

“Oh, no you don’t!” I said. Taking advantage of the confusion aboard the bridge at this new turn of events, I lifted Nega up and slammed him into the roof.

The air gushed out of him, but he managed a weak cry. “Kill them!”

The robots behind me steadied their weapons, training us in their sights. I flung Nega at them, knocking several out of the way of the only exit. But just when I thought we could make it through, the exit door slid open to reveal more robots, armed and ready to join the fray.

Rushing to the exit door, I forced it shut with my power. Blaze was by my side and seared through the circuits for the controls that opened the door. Then she set to work torching the edges of the door, sealing it shut. “This should keep them at bay for a few minutes,” she said.

The soldiers had armed themselves with guns and were dispatching the last of the robots on the bridge. “Okay, but how do we get off?” I asked aloud, then spotted the radio on the console. It was thankfully still active and gave me an idea.

Nega groaned from the floor and I kicked him on my way to the console, knocking him out for a moment more. I fiddled with the radio’s controls, unsure what I was really doing, and hoping for the best. “Gardon? Are you there?” Nothing. I didn’t even know if there was a radio in their planes or if this could reach it, but I continued adjusting the settings, hoping it worked. “Gardon? Can you hear me?”

After several different attempts and settings, a faint voice answered my call. “S..ver?”

“Gardon?” I asked, turning up the volume. “I can barely hear you. Are you there?”

“Yeah,” he said, his voice a little louder. “Where are you? Nega’s attacking the castle again and we’re barely holding our own.”

“Well, funny thing actually,” I said. “We’re in his flagship.”

“You’re where?”

“It’s a long story and we’ll explain later.” Blaze joined me at the console. “Can you come pick us up?”

“I would if we could get clear of these things,” he said and an explosion echoed on the other end of the radio. Outside, one of the robot planes burst into a cloud of smoke while one of the painted planes zipped through the smoke and chased another target. “But there’s too many of them.”

“Is there a way we could call Nega’s planes off or make them self-destruct?” Blaze asked.

“Not that I know of,” I said. “Most of Nega’s ships in the future were already broken down and abandoned. It never really came up.”

“There has to be something here,” she said, cycling through the screens on the console.

“Gardon, hang tight. We’ll see if we can find something to help you out,” I said.

“Roger.”

We scanned through the screens, searching for anything that looked like a self-destruct sequence. Of course, we came up empty-handed. Nega was a lot of things, but he wasn’t stupid. He would hide any command like that where only he could find it in the right circumstance.

As Blaze continued searching, my gaze drifted to the Sol Emeralds. “What about those?” I asked.

“What about them?” she asked.

“The Sol Emeralds are supposed to hold a lot of power. Suppose we attach it to one of the anti-air guns up top?”

“Do you know how to install an ancient, all-powerful emerald into an anti-air gun?” she asked and I dropped my eyes. “It’s a nice thought, but even if one of us knew how, it would take some time. Time we don’t have.”

“Well, how about you use it?” I asked. “It might amplify your powers and you could easily take out the planes.”

“No,” she said sternly. “We can’t tamper with that power. You’ve seen what Nega can do with it in your own time. It’s uncontrollable. It could destroy everything.”

“So could this ship.” We were out of options. I grabbed one of the Sol Emeralds and before Blaze could stop me, I pushed out a broken section of the window. I held on tightly to the purple emerald and pushed it out in front of me.

“Silver, you can’t!” Blaze said, sprinting for me. “It takes an extreme amount of willpower to control it! You could destroy everyone!”

But all I saw below was the castle crumbling and the people running scared. I squeezed the gem, wanting its power to course through me. But nothing was happening. I shielded myself from Blaze, creating a wall that separated me from the rest of the bridge and tried again.

Again, nothing.

Why? I concentrated harder, shutting my eyes and blocking out all sounds. The noise of gunfire, of ships exploding, of Blaze’s warnings. The emerald sat there. Why couldn’t I do it? If Nega could release its power for evil, why couldn’t I for good?

Please, I prayed and everything fell away into the background. There was only me, holding the emerald, struggling to tap into its power. Please.

Then, a spark. A flickering sensation in my fingertips. This had to be it. The warmth that radiated in my palm had to be the Sol Emerald’s power. I focused harder, sweat pouring down my brow, and the feeling washed over me, filling me head to toe.

I cracked an eye and my entire arm was aglow in a brilliant light I had never seen before, brighter and more vibrant than my own power. Was this the emerald, me, or a combination?

“Silver,” Blaze said quietly behind me.

Time seemed to slow down around me, but not the gem. No, the Sol Emerald pulsed like a heartbeat, each pump filling my body with more and more. My eyes were glued to the gem as my arm trembled, the sensation becoming overwhelming.

My entire body shook, unable to contain the emerald’s power intermingling with my own. I had to release it. But I didn’t know how. Images flashed through my mind of Blaze, the brave solders fighting Nega, the robots in the sky, Nega’s ships. It was all a jumble. I pushed the robots to the front of my mind, needing to use the emerald on them.

Yet still, the power continued to build. I didn’t know how to release it. My body felt like it was ripping itself apart, muscles tearing, skin and fur splitting, every inch rendering like a bomb slowly exploding. I shouted at the top of my lungs, the agony too great to bear. I don’t know if anyone heard me or not, as the next second, I saw the glow surrounding me burst into the air, blinding me and swallowing the ship, the battle, and the morning sky.

Then I collapsed, falling over and gasping for air. Every breath hurt, my lungs aching for air and my chest willing me to stop. In an instant, Blaze was at my side and soldiers around us yelled and gestured.

“Grab the other emeralds!” Blaze shouted overhead. Then sounds of gunfire echoed around us, closer than before, and fast laser shots took out one of the soldiers above me. Blaze waved the other soldiers away and they took up defensive positions, firing back at whoever was attacking us on the bridge.

I didn’t make much sense of what all had occurred until I was being lifted and seated somewhere else next to Blaze, the emerald still clenched in my fist. We were flying through the air, and all around us, bits of fiery metal rained to the earth like comets. Nega’s large, cumbersome ships were turning tail, retreating from the battle.

I used up the little bit of coherence and strength I had to put the pieces together and ask, “We won?” My throat was sore and raw and tasted awful, coated with bile and smoke from the battle.

Blaze looked at me in surprise and pressed her face into mine. “Silver! Are you okay?” I looked at her, unable to bring myself to speak again and she understood. “Yes, we won.”

I smiled at her, grateful and relieved, and closed my eyes as the plane touched down.

Property of The Pen Vs The Sword. Please do not use without permission. Thank you.

End of the Universe: Chapter 17
So I would say we've definitely passed the halfway point here.

Pen: ONLY HALF?!

Quiet. And we're getting really excited because, well, I suppose you'll just have to see.

Sword: I wanna know! We better hurry up and write.

Silver, Blaze, and all related material belongs to Sega. The story, Sword, and Pen belongs to me. Please do not use without permission. Thank you.

Chapter 1: A Dead World
Chapter 2: One-Way Trip
Chapter 3: Back in Time
Chapter 4: Jewelry Heist
Chapter 5: Answers and Evidence
Chapter 6: Bed Rest
Chapter 7: Scene of the Crime
Chapter 8:
 Homecoming
Chapter 9: Emerald Hunt
Chapter 10: The Jewel of the Sea
Chapter 11: The Serpents' Lair
Chapter 12: Pricey Exchange
Chapter 13: Air Superiority
Chapter 14: Chateau de Pumken
Chapter 15: Metal Ghosts
Chapter 16: The Widow's Brood
Chapter 17:
 You are here.
Chapter 18: Happy Together
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This week's most voted pieces are Traveler by LaminIllustration by :iconlaminillustration:, Subsiege Promo art 01 by M1keN by :iconm1ken:, and  Luua Mhin by varuvi by :iconvaruvi:! Congratulations! So this week, we'll be choosing some from their favorites!

The art is below. Please vote for one of them. Artists in the selection can vote as well, but not their own work.

Batman - The Dark Night 2 by matlopes Raptor by Gottsnake creature by mold3531
XIAO AO JIAN GHU Game scene illustration by white70WS The Knight by justonewing Marian... I guess !? (after study speed paint) by Veramundis
Annie Mei! by Artipelago 258 by Ragora57 5 bot by Hozure
Puzzle and Dragons - Ilmina by nnnnoooo007 Concern For Keiko by ThirdheiR Sombra by letrongdao

Also, the giveaway for a free Core Membership has ended. Unfortunately, the deadline passed without anyone winning the Core Membership. We'll likely do a giveaway in the future with a different idea instead.
  • Listening to: Nothing
  • Reading: Sherlock Holmes
  • Watching: Arrow
  • Playing: Ratchet and Clank HD Collection
  • Eating: Ramen
  • Drinking: Diet Coke

deviantID

ThePenVsTheSword
Dustin Martin
Artist | Student | Literature
United States
Name: See up top.
D.O.B.: 03/27
Sex: Male

So I came here from fictionpress and fanfiction. Just thought I'd post some of the stories here and see what people think of them. If you guys like them or just want to read more, let me know and I'll post some more Perhaps even earlier stuff. Might also add some drawings if I can ever improve well enough to draw something decent.

Yes, I do take requests for certain prices. If you want, just let me know what you want me to write/draw and I'll try to charge accordingly.

I'm only on deviantart, fictionpress, and fanfiction. Any other people with the same name are someone else entirely.

Current Residence: FL
deviantWEAR sizing preference: M
Print preference: Unsure
Favourite genre of music: 90's rock and 80's pop music
Favourite photographer: Unsure
Favourite style of art: Sketches I suppose
Operating System: Windows 7
MP3 player of choice: iPod
Wallpaper of choice: A beach setting
Favourite cartoon character: Pinky because I can do his voice
Personal Quote: A lot. Ask and I'll tell you some.
Interests

With Daniel Craig saying Spectre is his last Bond movie, who is your favorite Bond? 

53%
8 deviants said Pierce Brosnan
27%
4 deviants said Daniel Craig
7%
1 deviant said Sean Connery
7%
1 deviant said George Lazenby
7%
1 deviant said Roger Moore
0%
No deviants said Timothy Dalton

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:iconthepenvsthesword:
ThePenVsTheSword Featured By Owner Mar 29, 2017  Student Writer
Thank you very much! I did. And you're too kind. :blush: :hug:
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:iconcandicindy:
CandiCindy Featured By Owner Mar 29, 2017  Student Digital Artist
No problem! :D Glad to hear you had a good time!
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:iconthepenvsthesword:
ThePenVsTheSword Featured By Owner Mar 30, 2017  Student Writer
:)
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:iconlazyrayfinkle:
LazyRayFinkle Featured By Owner Mar 27, 2017
Best of birthdays to you.
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:iconthepenvsthesword:
ThePenVsTheSword Featured By Owner Mar 27, 2017  Student Writer
Thank you very much!
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:iconsonicgoose:
Sonicgoose Featured By Owner Mar 27, 2017  Student General Artist
HAPPY BIRTHDAY!
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:iconthepenvsthesword:
ThePenVsTheSword Featured By Owner Mar 27, 2017  Student Writer
Thank you so much!
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:iconsonicgoose:
Sonicgoose Featured By Owner May 6, 2017  Student General Artist
No problem
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:icontheblacknova:
TheBlackNova Featured By Owner Mar 27, 2017
HAPPY BIRTHDAY DUSTIN!

:iconcake3dplz:
:icondananana3dplz:
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:iconthepenvsthesword:
ThePenVsTheSword Featured By Owner Mar 27, 2017  Student Writer
Thank you very much! :la:
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