"It's all based on something I like to call...The Sound of Madness theory. Everyone hears that little voice in their head every now and again, don't they? That little baritone buzz in the back of your brain, the one that wants you to cause so much misery. The voice that wants you to yell, to punch, to steal...to kill. The average person would just ignore it...but all you need is one bad day...and that voice becomes your own."

Perry Martin Presents:

FREEDOM DIES WITH ME: A FREEDOM PLANET ALTERNATIVE TIMELINE STORY

Prologue: A Life Not Lived

Another day in hell and, once more, the sky was boiling.

Master awoke with a steady start, his eyes reddened and weeping. His lungs felt flat from the stale air that wandered the lands and only the sound of crackling fires and way-off screaming caught the pits of his ears. He slowly arched his head up, his neck aching and stiff, as he looked at the world around him. The world had blurred into blends of reds and greens. The crimson sky was continuously lit by flashes of lightning and the every now again the nearby scenery was dotted with green flashes that left behind verdant flames. The area was in ruins, with broken buildings almost everywhere, with the parts of a long since gone casino everywhere they could possibly be. The smell of burnt wood and stale blood fled to Master's nose and left miserable stenches behind to ensure total hell. Master coughed twice and scrambled to his feet, but lost his footing and collapsed back to his knees. He felt weak and bitter, like someone had beaten the tar out of him and he had not had a good chance to recover. He sat up, droopy-eyed and shaking oddly, before reaching for his two main holsters secured to his belt.

The first holster held his trusted Desert Eagle, nicknamed "Vergil" by various people, and as always it retained its two-tone finish and rails. Master slid out the extended magazine and checked the magazine window. 10 rounds. Good. Vaguely satisfied, Master slipped the gun back into its original holster and checked his other one. This one often held the accursed Blade of Hysteria that Master was forced to carry around with him. A demonically-possessed blade that held the key to great power, but had one hell of a mouth on it as some twisted compensation. The Blade had gotten better with age alongside its wielder, but it was still bloodthirsty, mad enough to drive even the most stable of individuals to war-craving insanity. Master shook his head to clear out the dark thoughts and reached for the Blade itself. Oddly enough, it was gone. Master could still feel its presence nearby, so it wasn't stolen, thank Chaos. Master forced himself to his feet and stumbled across the hellish wastelands. Even with his trusty (and large) scarf and sunglasses, the particle-heavy winds still managed to scratch and damage his face. He nevertheless pressed on, calling out into the winds.

"Blade?" came the first call, weak at first but then slowly increasing in strength, "Blade! Where are you, man?"

"Don't worry, kiddo!" Came that old voice, a voice laced with gravel and wit, "You don't need to go far."

Master turned around to see the Blade's distinctive green glow hovering below him. The Blade was half-embedded in the loose soil that made up what wasn't rubble within the landscape, its handle still identifiable despite its colours blending in so well with the dark shades. Master stumbled to the soil and grabbed the handle, yanking the Blade out with a single strong pull. In an instant, the Blade's powers spread up his arm and across his body, returning the lost strength and enabling him to stand up in the grainy wind.

"Nice to see you again..." Master sighed, "At least I found someone. Where's Emma? Where's the Village? Where the hell are we?"

"I don't know..." Blade said, seemingly trying to shrug with no arms, "This place doesn't match any area we've been to before, visually or co-ordniates-wise. Best guess, its a brand new universe. Or at the very least the same universe within a different timeline."

"Sounds reasonable..." Master said, rubbing his forehead, "The last thing...that last thing I remember was looking at this portal that just opened up in the village centre. And then this...this hand reached out and then everything went black. What about you?"

"Same," Blade said, "Kinda strange, don't you think? Right...first things first, we better find out where and maybe when we are. Find a computer of some sort. Gotta be a functional one around here somewhere."

"Yeah...better get going..." Master said, digging out his Deagle and relocating the Blade to his off right hand, beginning to walk towards the nearest building he could see with functional lights, "Hey, Blade? Where do you think we are? I mean, this place looks like a desert, but its got a perfectly urban city look to this rubble. What the hell happened here?"

"Well, with my reckoning, either the world has ended and a being of immense power has managed to pull a meteor-sized spaceship out of orbit and smash it into the Earth, pulling up a dust storm large enough to swallow an entire continent...or we're in Spec Ops: The Line again. Either situation is equally harrowing."

"Yeah, I'm with ya..." Master sighed once more. Both stopped talking at this point and Master had picked up his pace, jogging from street to empty street to find a working computer. He came across a street, as abandoned and as broken down as the rest, yet managed to emphasise and outline the devastation of the rest of the world that Master was currently stuck in. At the left were houses, brick and mortar, with windows best described as strips of scarred glass rather than whole panes. The doors were kicked in and what seemed to be light blue fluid was on and around them. To the right were two shops. One of some sort of market-type area, with windows once again smashed to shreds, and it looked obvious that whoever or whatever was alive in this wasteland had helped themselves to food and drink. Master himself stopped by the shop to see if there was anything was still salvageable. Somehow, one of the mini fridges that often lined the walls of any newsagents still functioned, giving off a milky white and cold as ice light that contrasted quite sharply with the rest of the area. Master plucked a bottle of cola out the machine and checked its condition. It seemed to be unopened and in date, so Master took it with him.

"Hmm. A bottle of cola," Master said, slipping it into his jacket pocket, "That'll come in handy."

"At the very least it gives us a better idea of when we are," Blade mentioned off-handedly, "I'm seeing all sorts of drinks that aren't even patented, let alone sold around where we come from, original universe OR otherwise. Perhaps, then, this is some sort of future."

"I hope not," Master said, visibly annoyed, "I'm kind of sick of stumbling across post-apocalyptic futures like this. Crisis City, Mobius-Reboot, Heddgehoggia...urgh."

"Well look on the bright side," Blade said, once again shrugging in a non-visible manner, "Even if it is a post-apocalyptic world, at least it's not one you created. For once."

"...You sure?" Master said. He stumbled back outside and studied the other shop. It was a jewellers with the windows once more smashed, with the remains of a watch and some gold chains scattered across the road. More of the blue gunk from the broken doors was slathered across the glass shards and across the floor in lumps, one of which Master knelt down to, "Anyway, what do you think this stuff is?"

"What, this blue stuff?" Blade asked, "I don't know. Doesn't look like anything I've ever seen. Could be blood, tears, stomach contents...bowel contents, I don't know! Stick my blade into the gunk and I'll see what I can do."

"...Didn't expect to hear that today..." Master said before removing Blade from his holster and plunging him into the gunk. A few otherworldly sounds emitted and then ceased just as fast as they had started. Master dragged the blade out of the gunk and wiped off the residue, "Well?"

"WOOH!" came the Blade's unusual reply, "Wow! That's nothing I'VE ever tried before. Damn, it was like a shot to the heart! Well, if I had one. As for what that stuff is...well, energy. Really, really, REALLY concentrated energy. I've never seen such a strong small puddle of bright blue gunk."

"Hmm," Master said, wiping at his muzzle, "It seems that whoever did this had access to power far beyond us. Something as powerful as the Master Emerald, at least. Well that just makes me more interested for who this creature who turned the world to dust and super-jam actually is...we better get back on the road."

Master continued forward, every step making a crunch on the fragile and barely there road. Every street was almost identical to the last, each filled with houses stuffed to the chimneys with glass shards and debris. Everywhere laid scattered food and accessories and the light blue gunk clinged to everything like giant blood drops. The gunk and its contents still clinged to Master's mind like a dark thought. There was only one thing in his knowledge of the multiverse that could compare to this seemingly massive power output outside of the Master Emerald. It was something called the Kingdom Stone and it was said that it manifested in some way several millennia ago to help a tribe ascend to the point of seemingly gods. But all Master himself knew of this was nothing more than a mere rumour, nothing more than the sort of bold-faced tale spun by ego-driven and maniacal fools wishing to get into the bed of some young and pretty harlequin. Master himself was young, but had lived long, and knew a lot about the multiverse he used to roam as an outcast to his own people, but even he did now know if this Stone was real and if it was to blame for this devastation if it was. He and Blade alike had seen worlds where the energy of the earth had been shifted to remould the universe into the image of a mad man's dream, but to have a single stone contain more energy than the world and cause apocalyptic levels of damage? Neither could believe it.

Eventually the two made it to what seemed to be a functioning building, but it was deserted. It was a library of some type, one that seemed to scream with the echoes of a past world. Master slashed his way through the doors and looked inside. The library was grand, a true two-story affair with bookcases lining every wall. In the centre of the building stood a group of computers, each broken and long since disabled, but thankfully there was a final one just beyond them. It was large, the screen itself as large as the double doors Master has just cut open and the controls a similar size. Master ran to the console and turned it on. It responded with a few chimes and started up, showing the image of an orange on the boot up.

"Hmmm, I wonder what this is another version of..." Master sighed sarcastically. The computer opened up on a login screen, "Hmm. Well, I could just try to brute force it, but I fear I may not have enough time for that. Blade?"

"Stab away!" Blade responded merrily. Master nodded and plunged the infernal thing deep into the computer. The computer sparked and the monitor went black for a short period of time, but soon resumed on a standard desktop, "Okay, we're in. What should I look for?"

"Look for the history of the world," Master said with a banal sense of authority, "If this place is anything like Crisis City, then it will have news for just before the apocalypse, then it'll stop."

"Hmmm..." Blade said. The screen flashed in various news reports, going by far too fast to read on a whim, but then stopped, "Well this is interesting. Get a load of this: The year is 2019, so we're not that far into the future. But what's even more interesting is that this has still been updated since then. In fact, the most recent submission was just yesterday. Since 2016 there seem to have be plans, locations, letters and stories for others in this group called the Red Scarves. All encrypted in really strange ways. Anyway, I've gone through the entire database to see what happened to this world and I've found the sort of date that may explain it. In 2015, this warrior turned up."

"Warrior?" Master asked, head tilted to the side.

"It doesn't specify," Blade said, "Just that it was a powerful and insane creature, once part of this world, that managed to indeed access this power and grab a meteor from space. The resultant impact wiped out one of the three cities on the continent and shrouded the others in a dust cloud. This Warrior then went on an exodus around the world, a bloody one at that, slaughtering all that resisted her rule. Hmm. Sound similar?"

"Don't..." Master said quickly, keeping his head low and his past at the back of his head. He sighed, "A Warrior. A trickster bathed in the blood of a thousand innocent souls. A warlord who lives to kill. I'd hate to know who that person is..."

"Guards! Call the Warrior! I have found him!"

Master was going to continue, but he stopped. A hand, cold as ice and slightly spiky, had grabbed his shoulder and was in the process of spinning him around, The man was also a mobian-esqe creature, much like Master was, clad in ruined and barely functional ancient Japanese-type gear, including a samurai helmet and accompanying katana. His face was hidden by the large metal helmet, but Master could sense the man was not smiling. Far from it, he seemed furious.

"It's you..." the man said, "The one she said would return, one day..."

"Who?" Master asked, "What're you talking about?"

"You should know, murderer..." the man sneered, "It was you who bought this chaos to this world. Destroyed a planet of freedom and hope. Left a smelly, disgusting wasteland in your wake. Either you come with me willingly...or I will drag you before her with shattered knees!"

Master smiled under his scarf, "Guess we're going to find out soon enough...en guarde, guard!"

The guard responded in turn, swinging wildly at Master with his sword. Master dodged out of the way, the small gust of wind from the moving blade blowing on his scarf slightly, before responding in kind by yanking Blade out of the computer and swinging at the guard. Blade grinded against the guard's katana, a piercing shriek filling the room as it flew down the katana and into empty space, before Master followed up with a square kick to the chest. The guard stumbled back somewhat, clutching at the point of impact, before he got up again and dashed forward. He swung wildly at Master, who responded with blocking the strike with Blade and swung back with appropriate force. The two clashed swords repeatedly, each impact and clash sending sparks and shrieks of steel high into the air, before Master gained the upper hand and thrust at the guard's sword arm. He missed by mere centimetres and the guard jumped back by response. He too thrust forward with his sword, and the length of his blade ensured a hit. The blade went straight through Master's arm, which caused him to yelp in shock and jump back too. Thankfully, the blade was deflected and went into his off arm, so Master was still able to clutch at Blade.

"Damn, that was a sly one!" Blade called out as the two fighters paused for breath, "You okay, slugger?"

"Yeah..." Master winced, clutching at the wound, "Damn guard nicked my arm, though."

"Gotta love katanas!" the guard said, "So much more range! I know all about your Blade of Hysteria, how it drives people to madness, how it claims to be a powerful weapon of war. Ptth. Nothing more than a mere and glorified Bowie knife!"

"Me? MERE?!" Blade said, the greens of his steel slowly changing to a deep red, "There's nothing MERE about me, bub! Your little blade is longer, but is it possessed? Does it glow? Hell, does it even lift?!"

"...Dude, it's 2019," Master said wearily, "Even in our time period that joke's old."

"Sorry..." Blade said, sounding quite sheepish, "Just thought I'd be hip, I...sorry. Look, it's just that I, you know, I think- NOW!"

Before the guard could utter a gasp of surprise, Master gripped Blade and thrust it forward once more. Only this time the blade split into multiple segments, each attached with a rope-like metal coil, that extended far beyond the reach of even the katana. It zoomed past the computers and managed to plunge the tip deep into the opponent's stomach, causing him to gasp regardless. He could only stare dumbfound at the metal lodged in his abdomen as Master got a better grip on the blade's handle, a devious grin spread across his face, yet still subtle under the scarf. He growled...

"Get over here."

And pulled with all his might. The guard could not resist and flew at high speeds towards Master, who drew back with his good arm and unleashed a haymaker straight into the guard's head, sending him crashing to the ground. Master sighed and dug deep into his pockets. Out came a roll of bandages, from which Master drew out a long strip and severed with Blade before wrapping it around his arm wound.

"Heh, the old 'confuse them with outdated memes' trick," Blade beamed, "Works every time."

Master said nothing. He ripped off another piece to keep the original bandage in place and threw the rest to the guard. He looked up, dumbfounded, before grabbing the bandages. Master had by this point already grabbed the guard's sword and cleaved it in twain with Blade, scattering the fragments behind him.

"You're...you're sparing me?" the guard asked, before getting shakily to his feet.

"Of course," Master said.

"But...but I heard the stories from her!" the guard said, "How you pull out nerves and stick hands in mincers! How you drain life energy and use it to revive lost relatives! How you just wail on enemies, cutting deep into flesh enough to simply cut us in two! Gouge out our eyes and squeeze the jelly out of them!"

"Well, give us some credit," Blade huffed, "That stuff tastes REALLY good on flatbread."

"I thought you were going to kill me gruesomely..." the guard shivered, "I thought you were a madman!"

"Times change," Master sighed, sheathing Blade and walking forward, "I don't do that anymore. I only kill when I need to and I always make it quick. Well, with exceptions. But still, I'm not the crazy genocide enthusiast your batcrap crazy leader has painted me as. And, personally, I would like to see the madwoman who is spreading all these rumours about me. So I apologise for the corny line, but...take me to your leader."

"Oh Chaos, how COULD you?" Blade huffed in disgust.

The guard nodded and, after getting to his feet, grabbed Master lightly by the arm. He began to drag Master outside towards a line of guards, a lot more than at first estimated, all wearing the same garb with the same weaponry. The other guards began to look at the battered, weaponless and wounded guard who was marching out of the library, some with looks of pity and others looks of annoyance. Master was marched to the middle of a ring of the armoured guards, kept at sword-point, and made to wait.

"So, boys..." Master said, "We're here!"

"Heard of this leader spreading rumours about us!" Blade said, "We demand to see this porkie-pie leader!"

"Oh, they're real facts..." came another voice, "Taken directly from you, after all..."

Master noticed the voice easily. It was female, deep and clearly deranged, and incoming quickly. He turned to a gap in the ring of guards, some of which had parted and a woman was now inbetween them. She looked quite mature but not exactly old, being slightly taller than Master, and seemed to be some sort of wingless dragon. She was a purple colour, with some shades of what seemed to be a light shade, but was now almost totally replaced with a much darker and dirtier shade that was very close to a shade of black. Her hair was long, wild and unkempt but a single long tail-like appendage extended out of her hair and to around her ankles. Further inspection showed that there was room for a second that seemed viscously torn out, while the first was quite clearly some stuffed replacement that was dirty and hastily patched up with stained black tape. Perhaps most interesting was her face; her eyes seemed to be almost demonic in nature, being jet black with small red circular pupils, and her mouth was a small field of sharp fangs. Her clothes too looked almost innocent, but had been hastily patched up over the years with bandages, plasters and parts from totally different clothes, such as a black jacket with a red trim. Of those clothes, she was wearing a jacket, a pair of shorts, some boots and some gloves that too were heavily damaged, but not patched up enough to hide her claws. To complete the look were two horns on her head, stained black with ash and fire, and curving inwards like the horns of the Devil himself. This deranged woman's expression spoke of nothing but madness, a look Master knew all too well, and she slowly approached him in a stumbling manner with her own blade that continuously bleed a green liquid.

"...Uh..." Master started, "Hello."

"Master..." the dragon grinned, showing off even more of her fangs, "It's been a while."

"Really?" Blade said, "Because it's been almost nothing for us! Literally."

"Uh, uh, no!" Master said out loud, "Not that long for us, no...uh, could you give us a bit?"

"...Fine," the being crossed her arms, "But don't be too long. I've waited a good four years to see you again."

Master tugged on the enormous scarf that encircled his muzzle and hunched over and brought Blade close to his face, "Blade who is this?"

"I don't know..." Blade said, "Doesn't look familiar, doesn't sound familiar, hell, doesn't even SMELL familiar!"

"...You can smell?"

"Look, the point is that I don't know who this person could possibly be," Blade said again, "Swear I've seen that weapon of her's before, though. Think it's a legendary blade, one used by this murderous guy to hack his way across the cosmos."

"So another version of you?" Master asked.

"No, I can't sense any spirit in the blade. And the only other Blade who could cause this much chaos is Atlus in the Blade of Control. Which you destroyed only last month. Best guess, it's a collector's item, a trophy for mad warmongers. It just depends on who this warmonger IS."

"Yeah...I'll ask her," Master said. He sheathed Blade and looked back at the dragon girl, "So, I hear you are this Warrior. Been spreading a lot of things about me. I'd like to know just who you are in return, Miss..."

"You...you don't remember me?" the dragon asked, looking a bit sad, "You don't know who I am? But...but you were there with me through it all. Well, maybe not YOU, but your...infernal blade. Oh trust me, YOU were a pain at first. Like, an absolute pain. But then you put that blade in my hand and then the power felt so...invigorating..."

"And I don't remember you," Master said, "Perhaps I've forgotten. Refresh my memory a little."

"...Alright then, if you really have forgotten..." the dragon walked forward a few paces and bowed politely, "I...am War Lilac. It used to be Sash Lilac, but then you...you came along and did all of this to me."

"So you are this Warrior..." Master said, "You pulled a meteor out of the sky-"

"Spaceship, darling," War Lilac said coyly, "Meteor-sized spaceship."

"And swallowed this world in a dust bowl. Went on a rampage. Killed Chaos knows how many."

"Because YOU wanted me to!" War Lilac yelled suddenly, "It was all part of YOUR plan..."

"Plan?" Master asked finally, "Why would I want to enact a plan to demolish an entire planet? I've already done that! Twice! I was literally insane at the time! And with a name like War Lilac..." he sighed sadly, "I guess you are too."

"Well, you don't have to be crazy..." War Lilac's grin widened even further, "But it helps. The guards of this wretched planet turned to me, thankfully. Even after following that fool, the Majister, they still know a good leader when they see one..." War Lilac stopped grinning, instead starting to frown, "I'm...you're not saying anything. Why aren't you reacting? You did this to me! You burrowed deep into my head and KILLED my innocence!"

"You go about that like its a good thing!" Master said back, his own tone starting to harshen.

"Because it is..." War Lilac said, "With your blade, you freed me. I've seen the light, seen the pigheadness of my fellows. How such beings need to be killed to save a universe! I went on a kill-all rampage for FOUR YEARS just for you! Killed countless in YOUR honour! It's what YOU wanted!"

"But I don't know you!" Master yelled back, "I'd never DO any of that! You're delusional and a madwoman! And it's my job to rid the multiverse of those. I did not create you!"

"BUT YOU DID!" War Lilac screamed, dashing forward and striking with her blade. Master retaliated quickly and blocked, locking the two blades together, "YOU MADE ME! YOU KILLED ME! AND NOW YOU, CLEAR IMPOSTER THAT YOU ARE, WILL DIE FOR THE REAL MASTER!"

"Wait, did she JUST say that we still made her and then instantly assumed we were imposters?" Blade asked, merely content about the conflict, "Heh, either she really is insane or just can't speak to save her life."

"Not the first gal I've talked to who's said that," Master growled, struggling under War Lilac's immense strength, "Alright, Warsash, if you want to see what I can do, then bring it!"

War Lilac responded, swinging wildly at Master and showing a clear lack of training. Master tried the same approach as with the guard, trying to run Blade down the length of War Lilac's own weapon, but the shorter length of it caught Master off guard and he stumbled forward. War Lilac gladly took this opportunity and planted both feet directly into Master's face. He flew a good distance and stopped, getting up quickly and thrusting forward with Blade. War Lilac countered and the two locked into a standoff, both Blades grinding against each other and throwing sparks into the sky.

"You can't win, imposter!" War Lilac growled, her voice now warbling slightly from the emotional stress, "I WILL kill you!"

"I've been doing this stuff for more than a mere four years, kid," Master said.

"Yeah, your Blade isn't even possessed!" Blade retorted, "It doesn't fly, it doesn't talk, it can't shoot projectiles, it-"

"Can't even lift?" War Lilac grinned, "Please, I know your tricks, Blade."

"Hmm. You seem to be unsure about if we're the real deal," Blade said, "Despite the fact you know me and I'm talking to you."

"I know!" War Lilac, seemingly breaking down somewhat, "Are you real? Are you not real? I DON'T KNOW ANYMORE!" another screech came with another strike from her blade, followed by another and another still. Master blocked them all, buckling down more and more each time, and then relocked with War Lilac, "And you're wrong, I DO have a ghost in here!"

"Well, you don't," Blade said, "I checked the whole blade and there's nothing there."

"Oh?" War Lilac asked, "Then maybe you should look closer..."

War Lilac's blade began to whisper slightly, a whisper which quickly turned to a sobbing sound. Master held his ear closer to the blade and the sounds began to increase in volume. And, at the last second, a blood-curdling shriek filled the air. Master winced in pain and Blade was pushed back by some sort of force, taking Master with it. He crashed to the floor and slowly got to his feet again. He shook his head to rid himself of the ringing in his ears and thrust forward with Blade, once again extending the blade into segments. War Lilac was going to have none of that, however, and dodged, grabbing the tip of Blade in her hands. Her hand was cut and began to bleed in short order, but she did not seem to mind. Master knew in what little time he had to react that insanity could dull even the strongest of pains and this was no exception. War Lilac instead pulled on the segment and Master was yanked forward to her once more. He tried to strike with his off hand and catch her off guard, but War Lilac just caught it and threw his hand away before following up with a quick and nasty stab to the abdomen. Master had no time to react and merely dropped to the ground, clutching at his wound. Blade tumbled out of his hand and War Lilac was quick to scoop it up.

"Tsk tsk..." War Lilac sneered, "Trying old tactics seemingly picked up elsewhere? For shame. What may have worked all those years ago no longer does. I know better. And I know you're not the Master I knew."

"I'd like to think I'm better," Master growled, "Better than you, better than me..."

"Better then Brevon?" War Lilac said back, "Oh yeah, you said you were better than him. And then look at what happened to him. His blood still coats my blade without end and my god..." she licked the blood off of her old blade and discarded it, "...it burns so good."

"Pure-Bred Psycho," Blade said, "Just like the last guy."

"Oh, don't I know it..." War Lilac turned to her guards, "My guards! I know that this...thing may look pitiful. I know I spun you tales of a madman who killed his way across the cosmos, a man bathed in the blood of a thousand galaxies, and this is clearly not that man. A mere imposter, maybe! But I implore you, one day you will see this actual Master. And you will see he has a lot of tricks up his sleeves..."

A noisy crack whipped the air, sounding like a gunshot, and War Lilac stopped cold. She looked down at her stomach, where a particularly nasty-looking exit wound was now seated. She had no time to clutch at the wound and instead spun around to Master. He had propped himself up with his arm and was holding his Desert Eagle in his good left hand. He was shaking slightly from the shock and blood loss but nevertheless aimed at War Lilac with intent.

"Like this?" Master huffed, "This the trick you're looking for? So for the last time, stand down!"

War Lilac looked blank for a second, clearly working through the events in her head, but resumed a snarled look and leaped forward with the Blade of Hysteria held high. Master gave her no time and no more mercy, opening fire once more. The second bullet hit War Lilac in her arm and she dropped the Blade with a gasp. Master slowly got up and sighed; even insanity couldn't hold up to a volley of .50 Action Express. Master opened fire with the last eight rounds he had, some hitting War Lilac in her lower body, and some in her thighs and forearms. Finally, the slide locked back empty with an empty clicking noise and Master lowered the gun. War Lilac was gasping, a look of shock and sadness spread across her face, before she gasped a final time and fell backwards, hitting the reddened soil with a soft thump. Master looked up wearily at the other guards, each one looking on with shock spread across their faces, expecting nothing but death. Instead the guards backed off slightly, including the guard he had disarmed only a few minutes previous.

"Only when necessary..." the guard parroted, "And always quick."

Master sighed and collapsed to the floor again. He skidded over to Blade and grabbed him once more, who retorted with, "Well...you got her."

"I didn't want to do that, dammit," Master sighed, cupping his head in his wounded off-hand, "I wanted to stop her peacefully. I wanted to talk to her, figure out what went wrong."

"Well you'll never get that chance again..." Blade sighed too, "Chaos, I'm getting too old for this crap."

Master got up again and stumbled over to the other blade that War Lilac had discarded, as the various guards only looked on in shock.

"They're not attacking us," Master said, picking up the blade, "Heh. Guess they've never seen someone put down this War Lilac...four years..." he sighed, then checked the blade. It still glowed a sickly green from the liquids crossing its surface, very similar to his own Blade, and the sobbing still rung out.

"P-Please..." the voice said, a female one that wavered and sobbed at every opportunity, "It's dark in here...h-help me."

Blade's glow dimmed, as if it was going pale, "What the..."

"There he is...THERE HE IS!" came another voice, "GET 'UM!"

There was almost no time to react before a cavalry people came rushing out of the library, weapons like spears and flails in hand, screaming all the while. The guards took one look at the new army and, now leaderless, ran for the hills. They vanished over the horizon and new ones flooded in. They were of various species and ages, each wearing ragged clothing and, perhaps most strangely, red rags around their muzzles, much like Master himself with his scarf. They too formed a ring around Master and what he assumed to be their leader stepped forward. She was tall, pale and green, with large floppy ears and a small button nose, alongside green markings across her face and body. She was the best dressed out of all the others, actually wearing non-damaged clothes, specifically a black shirt with black demin shorts and a pale leather jacket over it, she too with a red scarf which only hung loosely around her neck. She was also quite battle damaged, with a mechanical hand, bandaged ear and a single black eyepatch wrapped around her. Her face was one that Master could guess was quite broken; the sunken eye, the wrinkled scour, the unending stare and so much more. She approached Master with her glares and, before he could get out a proper hello out, punched him square in the face. He leaped back and dropped War Lilac's blade, which she picked up and held to his throat, mere inches away from the scarf.

"Christ, why does everyone want to kill me today?!" Master yelled out in weariness.

"You..." the woman pressed the blade closer, "You have a LOT of nerve coming back here, Murderer..."

"Goddamn it, I don't know any of you!" Master yelled a final time, "I'm just...here! I woke up in this hellhole and you're not making it any better."

"You don't know me..." the woman asked, to which Master shrugged. The woman paused for a bit, but then grabbed Master's scarf and removed it, uncoiling it around his head like a bandage. The scarf was removed and discarded, and now Master's muzzle could be clearly seen; it was almost split into two, with a massive gash spreading across his muzzle and through his own mouth, with haphazard stitching across the cut to keep the skin closed. The woman looked over it in silent satisfaction, "A Glasgow grin. Just as you said it was. Well, you're not...him, that's for certain."

"Not anymore..." Master said, "Look, I just want to know what's going on. Who was that, and who are you?"

"It seems you're from before this whole thing happened...good, we're in luck," the woman sighed, poking at Master's stitched up muzzle. It felt lumpy and cold to the touch and Master quickly whisked her hand away, "Your scars...anyway, you want to know? Then I'll tell you."

The woman signalled to her army and they too backed off slightly. She then signalled for Master to sit down and remove his jacket, which he reluctantly did, falling to the ground again with black shirt showing proudly. Two members of the army came forward, one with a teapot and a few cups while the other held a roll of bandages, far thicker than the strips Master held in his pocket.

"I, uh..." Master started as he was handed one of the cups, "I have bandages, thanks."

"Yeah, little strips." the woman said, grabbing her own cup and having the female rabbit holding the teapot pour some tea into the cup, "Trust me, you never change. Like, at all..." she sighed as Master also had tea poured into his cup, from which he took a small sip as the other member wrapped the bandages around his stomach wound, "Well, I am Carol Tea; wildcat, ex-friend of Sash Lilac and current leader of the Red Scarves. I've been helping people evade the wrath of War Lilac for the Great Dragon knows how long, no thanks for what you did to her."

"What did I even do?" Master asked.

"That, sadly, has been lost to time," Carol sighed, "Even I have forgotten what happened. Not that I've had the time to think about it. I've been too busy making sure I don't get hacked to pieces by the Warrior over there."

"Friend of yours?" Master asked, "I'm...sorry. I was trying to find a better way..."

"I understand..." Carol said, a heavy twinge of bitterness in her voice, "I did too. Multiple times, in fact. Every time I lost another member of my army. You'd think I'd learn, but...I just want my best friend back."

"Well..." Master said, sipping his tea, "If there's anything I can do, I'll do it. If I did this, I might as well try to resolve it."

"Yes..." Carol sighed, drinking the last of her tea, as did Master. "I can send you back in time, to just before it all went wrong, and I implore you..."

"To fix it?" Blade asked, "Why do we have to do it? Why don't you stop us before we even set foot in the universe? Surely by putting us in the universe we'll increase the chances of these events happening all over again?"

"It's the only option, sadly," Carol pleaded, "Your wielder is the only one who may know exactly what went wrong and sending myself would be...disastrous. At best."

"She's right," Master sighed alongside, "The mere concept of two Carols in the same place at the same time is enough for the universe to fold in on itself, never mind this Carol's actions would erase her timeline so she would've never existed in the first place. Even the most simple of choices can lead to big, worldshattering impacts. And I, sadly, am one of those choices."

"Just...please..." Carol pleaded a last time, "Even if you can't totally save Lilac, save the world...just try to minimise the damage. I don't want to live in this hellhole without my best friend anymore."

"...I'll try," Master nodded, putting his empty tea cup down and putting his jacket and scarf back on, "Hmm, fastest cup of tea I've ever had."

"Alright..." Carol said, brandishing some sort of weapon, which glowed a bright blue, "This is a portal gun. It can fire portals back and forward in time. Works on Chronos Energy, that thing you worked on in the past. Yeah, you gave me this, right at the end of this whole crapstorm. Right, here is what you'll do; go back into the past, you'll wake up in Dragon Valley. Find Lilac and the younger me and try to make sure that we all remain in one piece with intact minds. Got it?"

"Yeah, but..." Master sighed, "Never mind. Wanted something to do, anyway. I get the feeling I'm going to regret pretty much everything I do for the next week or so...or is that the past week, all those years ago? Look, I'm ready. Adventure awaits!"

Carol smiled slightly at that. She had a lovely smile, Master noted. She then aimed the gun and fired just to the left of Master. A blue portal popped into reality shortly after, the sound of ticking and the smell of brass filling the area, "Well, here we go..." she said, "Just find us, find...Milla...and try your best to minimise the damage. Good luck in your quest, Master of 112233CHARLIE."

"Don't worry, I have a pretty good track record," Master lied, before tipping his glasses like tipping a hat to someone, "I will do you proud, Carol Tea."

"You know," Carol giggled, "You called me Casual back in the day."

"I did?" Master said, before reeling back, "Oh yeah, I see! Well don't worry, Casual, I'll do my best! Blade, adventure awaits!"

"And bloodshed," Blade said, "I hope we see some bloodshed."

Master then ran headfirst into the portal, letting out a triumphant yell of "GERONIMO!" which shortly cut off as the portal dissipated. Carol, seemingly content, sat down besides the body of War Lilac.

"I'm sorry, Lilac..." Carol sighed, tears in her eyes and petting the body's ruined hair, "I'm so sorry..." she sighed, but then stopped, "...Wait, I've just realised I could've avoided this entirely by just warning him to stay away from our universe at all...DAMMIT!"

(Hello, there! If you think you've read this story before, then you might be a Watcher on my DeviantART page, where this story was first set up. I decided to put it up here too. Get a bit more exposure, as well as actually post something on this account. I've let it sit dormant for FAR too long. Anyway, hope you enjoy, the next chapter should be up tomorrow. See ya!)