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— Keeper of the Seven Keys: Groundshaker —

Thalas stood on his knees, cowering his body as he continued to cry. Melchior stood up in silence, crying for the two friends he had already lost. As Melchior continued to be trapped in his sadness and mourning, another feeling was taking care of Thalas' soul and desolace; an ugly, growing ans somewhat fueling feeling.

"Had I woken up earlier, I might had prevented their deaths...". He thought. "Why didn't I wake up sooner? Why?!"

Thalas slowly stood up as melchior continued to weep and mourn; he looked at his fellow Blue Moon Knight with anger and contempt. His blue eyes met Melchior's dark eyes and his gaze made Elemental Alchemist stop mopping. They stood there in silence, looking at each other; Melchior had no idea of how to react, for he had never seen Thalas looking at him like that.

"You've got to be kidding me." Thalas said.

"What?" Melchior replied, shocked.

"Never in a million of years would I have thought you capable of something like this." Thalas continued with passive anger. "Even though I disagree with you in many aspects, I never thought you'd send us to our demise. Never... Until now."

"Thalas... Thalas, what the hell?!" Melchior objected. "You know me! I'd never do such thing! You all are like family to me!"

"Were. We were all like family to you." Thalas rudely interrupted, crossing his arms up to his chest. "We were until you found your parents; until you began this godforsaken journey and decided to take revenge for people that were your masters, not your closer kin."

Melchior gasped and bowed his head down as Thalas prepared to speak more.

"I am too pissed off to carry this on." Electro Archer said. "Look at us. Look at us, Melchior! Kimi froze to death; Maya became a beacon of flames; Anael died electrocuted and I am carrying the Heart of Guatemala! Altagracia and Kaiser have just died and we cannot come back from where we came from! Do you understand now how serious this is?!"

"Thalas, I always knew how serious this issue was!" Melchior replied. "I never thought we would end up like this! Please, believe me! I didn't set you guys up!"

"Right now... I don't know what to believe." Thalas sighed as he uncrossed his arms. "I just want to get the hell out of here and find a way to bring my friends back to life... For I don't know if they are yours too anymore."

Thalas turned around and walked straight ahead; Melchior looked to Electro Archer and felt completely lonely; all his friends were killed and the only one left was shutting him out. Elemental Alchemist sighed and followed Thalas' lead. The French Guatemalan hero looked at the grin walls that defined the Necropolis' area; they looked far bigger and more detailed than before.

"We are close now." Thalas said. "If you find somewhere you recognize, tell me. Our time is running out."

Melchior nodded and kept moving forward.

"I still don't recognize the place, but its energies feel somewhat familiar." Elemental Alchemist shyly commented.

They kept moving forward and rightwards as the darkened road began to change; step by step they left the abandoned courtyard of the Equilibrium Temple and marched to somewhere damper, slightly hotter and somewhat pleasing, which was confusing for the remaining Blue Moon Knights.

"Well... Another scenario for us. Great." Melchior woefully commented.

Thalas did not reply Melchior's remark. Indeed he kept moving forward, oblivious to anything Elemental Alchemist would say as an attempt of breaking the ice between them. He kept moving forward as he noticed the road becoming full of mud, moss and bordered by fern and bushes.

"She's leading us to... A forest?". Electro Archer thought. "Oh...Great. Just my luck.". He rapidly conjured his magical bow and held it very tight, arming himself for whatever was about to come. They kept walking until they found a cave entrance at the end of road; Thalas halted and lifted his head upwards to smell the air. He took a deep breath, nodded and moved forward. Melchior sighed and followed his friend to the cavern and beyond.


****


Mary Hellheim was smiling; the Gates to the Underworld seemed to finally be yielding as she wanted; she grinned as she conjured more and more ghouls and zombies to do her bidding, which was simply pass through a ritualistic circle and faded into bloody dust, which was absorbed by the Gate's engravings. She then looked at her floating crystal ball: it depicted Melchior and Thalas marching in silence towards her next scenario.

"Hm... Not so confident anymore, are you?" Hellheim commented with a grin smile. "It is tough to keep your heads high after all the deaths they witnessed...". She sighed with a sinister smile. "Ah, if only Melchior had given up of his silly quest... His friends would still be alive and well by now. Well... At least until I finished my... Masterpiece."

She looked at the portal and her smile became even larger; the enormous structure seemed pleased with her bloody sacrifices; she then held the crystal ball on her hands and kept looking at the two remaining Blue Moon Knights.

"Now... You are heading to the Groundshaker Crater... Which will be their final challenge. After all, they won't be able to catch me anyways..."

She closed her eyes for a moment, took a deep breath and turned her back to the gates; she began walking away from it, going forward towards her buildings. Though she looked confident, something inside Mary Hellheim was telling her that her ultimate battle was about to come. Sothing was telling her that either one of them was going to reach her and try to bring her doom.

"Not today." She thought as she kept walking. "Not today... I'll prevail and those Blue Moon Knights will all be mine to command... I already killed five of them anyways and the Warlock community doesn't dare to intervene on my schemes... I really don't have anything to worry about... Or do I?".

She kept walking forward but her smile began to disappear from her face; her countenance was taken by worry and paranoia as she kept walking away from the gates; she heard a loud choir of laughter and turned around just to realize she was utterly alone. She sighed and entered into her antechambers, sat on her bed and tried to calm herself down.



****


Melchior and Thalas arrived at the other side of the tunnel with no troubles; their noses soon were filled with the smell of running water, muddy earth, fresh plants, blossoming flowers and ripe fruit. As oddly as it could be, both of them couldn't help themselves as they began to smile.

"Feels like..." Melchior began.

"...Home." Thalas and Melchior said at the same time. "Feels like home."

Melchior held his scepter tighter and came closer to Thalas, walking side by side with him; Electro Archer looked around and saw nothing much more than the dense forest ahead.

"That's odd." He commented. "That's the only place that seems untainted by Hellheim's power. How's that even possible? Isn't that her domain?"

"I don't know." Melchior replied as he looked around. "This feels weird, Thalas... Keep your eyes open. I haven't come across that jungle before but I think the path I know to the Necropolis lies nearby."

"Well... I don't have another option than trust your judgement, then." Thalas replied. "We'll move slow and steady. Guide me through, then."

Melchior nodded and took the lead as they entered into the dense jungle; it began to get slightly hotter and damper than before; they began to hear strange noises. Some resembled growls, while others were more like dry wood pressuring healthy branches. The remaining Blue Moon Knights felt uneasy as they advanced through the strange rainforest of Groundshaker Crater...


To Be Continued...

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