Acronix's heart jumped as the older man nearly let him fall, "Again, Acronix, do. you, yield?"

"I... yield"

Wu pulled him back up, gloating over his victory as he did so. It made Acronix sick.

And, just as Wu finished his spiel, the time vortex opened back up, and time skipped forward.

Suddenly, they were standing in front of the Forward Timeblade.

Its rushed, shoddy workmanship had not survived the fall.

Green energy sparked around the warped chronosteel, then faded.

Acronix had been on his feet for hours, and being drained of his powers had taken a lot out of him, the final leg of his fight against Wu had run on adrenaline, and that was fading, leaving him sore and exhausted.

Acronix fell to his knees, blinking back tears. He had failed.

"Whatever you do to me" he said, clear as he could, his voice weighed down by emotion "please, make it quick" he closed his eyes, finally allowing himself to rest. Maybe he'd at least see his brother again.

Instead, he felt a withered hand on his shoulder, "Acronix" Wu's voice was gentle, "I want help you"

Acronix jerked his head up, eyes blinking open in shock, "what?" he snapped, "why would you help me?"

Wu sat across from him.

"I suppose I have grown sentimental in my old age" he said, a hint of melancholy in his voice, "and, we both know you were never the one calling the shots"

Acronix bristled, getting to his feet, "And you think I had a choice? My life was a living hell after they found out about me!, My brother was the only one who stood by my side"

Wu raised a hand, "Please don't misunderstand, your brother was a flawed man, but he loved you, the way my brother loved me, I don't believe it was his intention to make you his pawn"

"I WASN'T HIS PAWN!" Acronix lunged at the elderly man, but Wu dodged him easily. Acronix stumbled and fell, and didn't get back up.

Wu waited a couple minutes.

Acronix didn't move.

As cunning an opponent he was, it wasn't like Acronix to set up a trap like this, nevertheless, Wu takes caution in his approach, staying vigilant as he kneeled next to the prone figure.

No attack was launched, but he could hear quiet sobs.

Gingerly, Wu placed a hand on Acronix's shoulder, the younger man flinched, swiping weakly at the older man.

Wu pulled away, giving the former Master of Time some space. He backed off, keeping an eye on him from a distance.

Eventually, Acronix's breathing evened out, and he sat up, pulling his knees to his chest and burying his face.

Wu hesitated a moment, beginning to approach the younger man, "Acronix?" he called, keeping his voice low, Acronix raised his head and looked at him.

"can you talk?" Wu asked, Acronix nodded, "ye-yeah" he muttered, wiping his face on his sleeve.

Wu sat down, settling a fair ways away from Acronix, "I can give you a place to stay for as long as you need" he said, "I won't ask anything of you in return"

Acronix snorted, doubtfully, "and what do you hope to gain from this, exactly? No one's ever given us- uh" he briefly choked up, "me, anything for free, there's always a price"

Anything 'free' was a trap.

"I-" Wu started, and then sighed, "I hope to gain a clean conscience"

Even after everything he'd done, Wu could never forgive himself if he left Acronix to his fate in an unfamiliar world.

Acronix thought about his words, curling in on himself, "I guess I have no choice" he said.

"I will not force you"

Acronix scowled, "you know that's not what meant" he snapped, Wu lowered his head.

"yes, I know" he said, words tinged with guilt.

Acronix paced the monastery grounds, then turned and kicked the dirt with a growl of frustration, then said "I'll take your offer", more than a hint of bitterness creeping into his voice.

Wu nodded, starting to get up, and reluctantly, Acronix followed suit, his movements stiff from exhaustion. The older man turned his eyes towards the setting sun.

"It's getting late, and the climb is perilous in the dark" said Wu.

"We should make camp" said Acronix, subtly sagging in relief. Wu pretended not to notice, giving a nod of agreement, and went to retrieve the supplies he'd hidden less than an hour ago, Acronix watching him like a hawk. Wu lifted the bag and slung it over his shoulder, giving Acronix a smile, "why don't you make a fire?"

Wu had thought to bring food, and a part of Acronix was greatful, of all the things he'd expected on the other side of that vortex, a warm meal certainly wasn't among them.

A greater part of him was worried.

"What's your game, Wu?" he asked, not looking up from his empty plate.

Wu raised an eyebrow, looking up, "hmm?"

""The fire, the food, a place to stay, you are setting me up for a fall"

Acronix leveled him with a glare.

"I'm not an idiot, Wu, I knew what I was getting into, if you think you can pull the wool over my ears just so you can humiliate me, then you have made a grave mistake"

Wu shook his head, "no, Acronix, I know you don't trust me, but I am giving you a second chance"

"Thats not the Wu I knew" Acronix growled, "what changed?"

Wu sighed into his cup, and then looked back at Acronix.

"The old alliance has disbanded, its members either dead or missing, your crime was against a group that no longer exists"

Wu pours himself more tea.

"Even if I wanted to, I no longer have the authority"

Acronix fell silent, not expecting a response. He couldn't argue. Wu wasn't exactly the "goody-two-shoes" a lot of people liked to imagine, but he wasn't one for mind games.

If he'd wanted Acronix dead, he'd have let him fall.

Sighing, he allowed his shoulders to sag. Whatever Wu wanted with him, he'd have to face it.

Lucky for him that didn't include execution, he thought, eyes drooping.

Wu stared down at his tea, as though deep in thought.

He glanced back at the man sitting across from him, "Acronix..." he said, his voice trailing off.

"I'm awake" Acronix straightened up, rubbing his eyes and stifling a yawn.

Wu said nothing, continuing to watch him, a guilty frown etched into his features.

Eventually, Acronix got tired of waiting, "what is it?" he snapped, in response, Wu sighed, "we have a long trek ahead of us, get some rest"

Acronix had a feeling there was more, but he was too tired to press the issue.

He didn't want to sleep. Leaving himself vulnerable around an enemy went against his every instinct, but he knew he wouldn't have a choice.

Giving in to his exhaustion, Acronix crawled into the sleeping bag Wu had provided, allowing sleep to take him.