Author's Note: The lyrics featured in this chapter are from the Red Hot Chilli Pepper's "Minor Thing", which is Danny's theme tune for this particular fanfic. After all, Danny is a minor king when you think about it, huh?
P.S. I won't be doing a sequel to this story, no matter how much you plead. Sequels aren't my thing as of late, but I will be doing a new Danny Phantom fic after this with a neat twist to it. ;)
Chapter Fourteen: Minor Thing
Danny couldn't understand what had happened to Plasmius. This new form of Plasmius seemed vaguely inarticulate. It kept repeating the same phrases whenever it tried to speak to him. It would always talk of paradise and how he was supposed to bow down and give his life to it.
Certainly, this was not Plasmius in the true sense of someone being who they were. It may once have been Plasmius and it may have his body, but it certainly wasn't Plasmius. This was an amalgamation of all the entities that had gone into making the Life Eater and Plasmius himself. It was a mixture of fragments that had combined to dull the intelligence, to create an idiot machine incapable of pure rational thought, only the most simple of logical thought, a strange being that was an idiot and had power, something dangerous. It had become a danger of great proportions, a terrifying ghostly menace, a Phantom Hazard.
The white-haired half-ghost looked behind him and then at the monstrosity. He was the only thing standing in between the Phantom Hazard and the Real World. Danny was the only thing standing in the way of the Phantom Hazard's insanely over-simplistic plan of eradicating all life to create a paradise where no one would suffer, where no one suffered because they wouldn't exist in the first place.
Danny was sure that O'Donnell intended to remain alive, so that he would be there to rebuild the world in his own image. But now that O'Donnell wasn't there, if the Phantom Hazard succeeded, there would be nothing. Perhaps this was O'Donnell's revenge, set in motion by his own death? Perhaps this was the way that O'Donnell planned to avenge his own death, by ensuring that his absence would result in the complete destruction of all life and all sentient thought.
"You're not getting past me!" Danny called out to the Phantom Hazard, as he floated in front of it with his arms spread out wide. "I won't let you pass me. I won't let you destroy my world!"
"P-Paradise," called out the Phantom Hazard. "N-Nothing shall stand… stand in w-way of L-Lord O'Donnell's ideals. All l-life, all g-ghosts shall cease to exist…"
"O'Donnell's dead!" cried Danny angrily. "You can't complete his plan without him!"
The Phantom Hazard raised its arms.
"For L-Lord O'Donnell's ideals," repeated the Phantom Hazard. "For Lord O-O'Donnell!" Its head then rotated so that Alex's face faced Danny. "Die!" it screamed, before the Phantom Hazard swung a clawed hand at Danny.
The half-ghost, the appointed Harvest King, knew that becoming intangible wasn't one of the best methods of defence against the Phantom Hazard. Instead he flew out of the way and fired a powerful blast of energy at the Phantom Hazard's chest, only to see the beam of energy hit it harmlessly. His attack was to the Phantom Hazard, what a minor prick of a thumb is to a human. Danny fired another blast again, just to make sure and watched as it hit the Phantom Hazard directly in the chest. He saw that it left no mark on the Phantom Hazard. It was completely unscathed.
"No way!" protested Danny in disbelief.
"B-Bow down and d-die," announced the Phantom Hazard, as its head rotated so that O'Donnell's face faced Danny to stare morosely at the half-ghost.
A laser flew from O'Donnell's one eye and struck the floor, missing Danny completely. But the floor around the laser beam started to boil and darken, becoming a dark plasma-like mess that swirled towards the centre where the laser hit it like some kind of whirlpool. A great force suddenly erupted from the whirlpool and Danny felt himself being drawn in towards it as if it was a black hole that seemed to intent on pulling everything inside it, a black hole that was intent on consuming everything and destroying everything that it consumed.
The head of the Phantom Hazard rotated around again, this time so that Alex's stared at Danny. It blinked one eye at Danny, before the head rotated around again so that Plasmius' façade ended up facing Danny. The mouth opened and a powerful beam of energy erupted out of it to strike Danny and he was completely engulfed in the powerful energy beam, the very heat of it, the very energy of it broiling him.
Danny, in pain, lost his concentration and fell towards the black hole that the O'Donnell face had created in the floor. He didn't wake up until it was too late, until he had reached the 'event horizon' of the whirlpool. By then it was too late and his struggles to break free amounted to nothing. The whirlpool sucked him in and Danny suddenly disappeared into it.
Suddenly, the great dark plasma that made up the whirlpool shrank towards the singularity where Danny had fallen. It crashed in onto Danny's body like a wave of water and he felt the darkness go inside him. He could feel the darkness searing his heart, drowning him until it filled him completely.
The Phantom Hazard rotated its head again until the face of the Danny Clone faced Danny. It blinked once before the Phantom Hazard's great claws started to glow with a ghostly green energy. Aiming its clawed hands at Danny, it then opened fire, sending a ray of ectoplasmic energy hurtling straight at the white-haired half-ghost.
The great shadow that filled Danny, that made him feel as if he was drowning in darkness, weighed him down. Though he wanted to, he found himself unable to break move out of the way of the two large beams of ectoplasmic energy. All Danny could do was stay where he was and let the energy engulf his body in the hope that it would burn away the shadows that kept him from moving. And then they hit him and he cried out in pain as the energy burnt his body, and the shadows that clung to him, that invaded his own body, still clung to him tightly.
So consumed by pain, Danny didn't even notice the small globules of darkness that broke away from the main mass that engulfed his body. He didn't notice these small globules flying towards the Phantom Hazard before merging with the colossal monster. Danny didn't even consider that he was slowly being digested and consumed by the Phantom Hazard and that every attack it would dish out was to break him up more quickly.
Alex's face was the next to come up. The Phantom Hazard lashed out at Danny, smashing its clawed hand on top of him and then raked its hand towards its own body, its great claws running over him.
Danny was sure that he wasn't going to survive the fight, at least not without severe battle scars. He was quite surprised that he hadn't been torn to shreds already what with the punishment he had been receiving at the hands of the Phantom Hazard. If he didn't break free from the shadows that pinned him down, he was sure he would be a goner. He was sure that he would then never see his friends and his family. He would never see his older sister and never be able to apologise for embarrassing her so many times, and for rejecting her help back when she was so concerned for him and being difficult around her.
"No!" cried Danny, as he suddenly realised that he couldn't die. "No! It won't end like this!" Danny started to concentrate on focusing all his energy in one place. He focused as much as energy as possible in the centre of his body, knowing that if he released it, it would diffuse outwards rapidly and burst out, destroying the shadows that clung to him and were digesting him. "I won't let you win!" he roared, before releasing the energy and letting it rip apart the shadows that smothered him.
The O'Donnell face turned back round to face Danny, before opening its mouth and firing a laser that would have struck him if he hadn't flown out of the way.
Danny looked down and saw the ground broil and the whirlpool of shadows appear again. He knew what was going to happen. He had experienced it before, but this time he was not going to let himself fall for that trick again.
The Clone's face was next up to glare at Danny. The great claws of the Phantom Hazard began to glow and it swung one of them at Danny, only to miss as he flew out of the way. The Phantom Hazard released energy from one of the claws, creating a massive green energy beam that flew straight up at Danny, only to miss again. Its head rotated again, this time for Alex's face to appear, and then it clapped its claws together in an attempt to smash Danny in between them.
"Missed!" exclaimed Danny, as he rose upwards.
The head of the Phantom Hazard rotated again.
Plasmius' face was the next one to appear and that was exactly what Danny was hoping for. He focused energy in between his hands, as much energy as possible, before firing it off into Plasmius' lone left eye.
The energy beam struck the left eye, but the Phantom Hazard didn't even cry out in pain. It only blinked before the head started rotating at impossible speeds. The Phantom Hazard's head became a roulette of faces and it seemed as if nobody would know what face the Phantom Hazard's head stopped on, least of all the Phantom Hazard itself.
Danny waited with baited breath for the outcome of his attack. Had he hurt the Phantom Hazard or did he just end up doing nothing more than to fuel its rage?
The spinning of the Phantom Hazard's head started to slow down, until it stopped on the Danny Clone's face. The Phantom Hazard blinked before its hands became great glowing claws and it fired twin energy beams, each equally ten times the size of Danny.
There was no way that Danny could have gotten out of the way. The beams of energy were far too great. Danny quickly formed a shield of ectoplasmic energy around him in the hope that it would serve to protect him somewhat from the Phantom Hazard. He closed his eyes after forming the shield, as the energy hit him and rushed past him. He could feel the heat of the energy as it rushed past his body and he feared the worst as the energy hit him head on, the full power of the Phantom Hazard's rage unleashed on to him.
Slowly, Danny opened his eyes. He found himself intact. His shield had worked after all.
"P-P-Paradise," stuttered the Phantom Hazard, upon seeing that Danny had survived. "D-Die… Bow d-down!" It slashed its claws through the air and at Danny in an attempt to swat him out of the air, but it missed. "Paradise!" screamed the Phantom Hazard, as its head spun until the face of Plasmius rotated into view. The mouth opened and a purple beam of energy flew from its mouth.
Danny was prepared to dodge this one. He flew above the ray, before he rushed straight at the Phantom Hazard. The half-ghost had to admit to himself that he had never fought anything as big as the Phantom Hazard, except for his first encounter with Technus and even then, he couldn't defeat Technus without the help of his friends. Yet they weren't there and he had to fight against the Phantom Hazard on his own.
The head spun round and Alex's face rotated into view.
That made Danny stop in his tracks. He couldn't hurt Alex, even if it was only his face attached to the Phantom Hazard.
A great white claw suddenly hit Danny, swatting him out of the air. He fell towards the black whirlpool of shadows that still bubbled on the floor and would have fallen back in, had he not stopped himself short. Danny suddenly became intangible and the other clawed hand went straight through him, much to his own relief.
The great whirlpool of shadows suddenly collapsed in on itself and there was geyser of shadows that rose up out of the centre at Danny.
It never hit him as he flew backwards out of its way. He watched as the shadows flew up into the air to take on the form of several sharp spikes before each one flew through him. There were so many that Danny couldn't dodge them all. There were so many that he couldn't blast them all to pieces. So he did both. He dodged as many as he could, blasting others to smithereens.
The Phantom Hazard's head spun round until the face of Plasmius ended up facing Danny. It opened its mouth and the great cavity started to glow with an eerie purple energy, before a great beam of energy erupted from the Phantom Hazard's mouth, destroying everything in its path.
That was a tired move. Danny dodged it merely by flying high above it.
What he didn't expect was the Phantom Hazard's head to rotate so that the O'Donnell face confronted Danny with its dark gaze, with an eye that was of such a dark brown that it almost looked black. It didn't seem to move, its chest heaving unexpectedly before it opened its mouth and a great gush of green liquid spewed out from the Phantom Hazard's mouth.
Danny nearly didn't escape it. A small drop landed on his suit and started to eat away at the fabric like concentrated acid. He looked at the burning acid and then up at the face of the Phantom Hazard, the face of O'Donnell that glared at him soullessly.
The head rotated once more.
The half-ghost, the Harvest King, Danny had had enough. He inhaled deeply before holding his hands out in front of him as if he was holding an invisible ball with the both of them. Danny quickly focused as much energy as he could in between his hands, charging up a powerful mass of ectoplasmic energy to fire at the Phantom Hazard. He knew he had to act quickly and act quickly he did, as he let rip with a powerful blast that tore through the air.
Alex's face slowed to a stop to face Danny, only to suddenly be hit by the beam of energy. The Phantom Hazard screamed in agony, as the head spun round uncontrollably, its entire body shaking violently.
"Alex," murmured Danny under his breath, as he thought about what O'Donnell had said.
"I decided to use her ghost as the base for the Life Eater," O'Donnell had said and he had referred to Alex, or rather, to Alexia.
"So he wasn't lying after all," said Danny in a tone of voice that almost suggested defeatism.
The spinning of the Phantom Hazard's head suddenly started to slow, until the face of Alex suddenly came up. There was a cracking noise, as the face frowned, before the head spun round again until the Danny Clone's face was in direct view. It glared at Danny with its terrifying eye, before the Phantom Hazard's hands started to glow an eerie green glow like Danny's had done many times before.
"Not this time round!" cried Danny, before he flew around the Phantom Hazard in an attempt to find Alex's face. He didn't really want to hit the friend of someone whom had become a best friend in the short time he had spent at the phantom Streete Court High, but he knew he had to. That face was the Phantom Hazard's weakness and he had to exploit it if he wanted to save the Earth from the beast.
"Bow down and d-die for P-Paradise!" cried out the Phantom Hazard.
Danny screamed as he was suddenly caught in the blast of ectoplasmic energy from the Phantom Hazard.
And he fell.
"Bow down and d-die for P-Paradise!" cried out the voice from the Machine.
Jazz felt completely unsafe as she squatted underneath the huge sheet of metal that had once been part of the floor of the Observation Deck. Any moment, she felt as if any moment the metal would give way and crush her underneath. Was that really preferable to going out into the open though, where the great hulking machine body of the Life Eater was? Was it really that preferable to being crushed underneath the vicious spikes of the Life Eater's metallic arms or its spidery legs.
Outside, she could hear Valerie battling against the vicious thing with her all her might. She could hear Valerie opening fire at the machine with her vast array of weaponry and her parents joining in, using some weapons they had managed to scrounge from the ground, weapons that had been left behind by the Blue Bow Soldiers when they had fled the Tower, from the reign of the Danny Phantom Clone and from the terrifying might of O'Donnell's Life Eater.
Jazz felt absolutely useless as she crouched there, completely defenceless, without a weapon to hand. She wished that she could join them out there, but she knew she couldn't. Then again, her parents had been insistent on her staying with Sam and Tucker, what with them all being weaponless. Yet, she couldn't help but feel as if there was something she could have done to help. She couldn't lead Sam and Tucker to safety, what with the Life Eater having blocked all exists, but surely there was something better she could do than sit underneath an unstable sheet of metal that could collapse on top of them.
"I wish Danny were here," whined Tucker, as he crouched underneath the sheet of metal helplessly. "He'd kick this thing's butt."
"Tucker!" cried Sam angrily, as she nudged the bespectacled kid. "Ixnay on the Annyday."
"That's okay," said Jazz calmly. "I know all about Danny's powers."
Both of Danny's best friends turned round to face Jazz, their heads spinning round so quickly it almost seemed as if they would snap right off their necks.
"You what?" they exclaimed simultaneously in disbelief.
A faint smile spread across Jazz's lips.
"I've known for quite some time now," she told them calmly, as she hugged her legs more tightly. "When I confronted you guys, you were so defensive about what really happened to him. I found out a day afterwards, when Danny transformed outside the ice cream parlour." She laughed, but it wasn't a mocking laugh or a derisive laugh. It was the kind of laugh that you have when you don't really know what to really feel. "It sure explained a lot," she said.
Jazz looked up at Sam and Tucker.
"You're both really good friends to him," she told them, "to keep a big secret away from everyone." She sighed and then looked away from him. "I suppose he saves the day quite a bit, huh?" she asked them without even giving them eye-contact. "Like the time at Casper High?"
"Yeah," was Sam's reply. "He does."
"And nobody knows," said Jazz sadly. "Isn't that just, the sad part? No one really appreciates him for what he's done, yet he still does it anyway."
"Yeah, he's funny like that," replied Tucker with a nod of his head. "But you know, I wouldn't have him any other way."
"Nor would I," said Sam in agreement with a nod of her head.
The smile had returned to Jazz's lips, or maybe, it hadn't even left her lips at all. She wasn't sure herself, but all she knew was that the smile was there now and it conveyed all her emotions.
"I wish Danny didn't have to," sighed Jazz. "I wish he didn't have to be the hero, to put himself in danger like that, like he's doing now. I'm sure you don't want him to either, huh, Sam?"
In the space that followed after Jazz's words, they could hear the sounds of the battle ravaging not too far away from them. The sounds were getting closer and it seemed that they were not safe sheltered underneath the remnants of the Observation Deck, but where else could they turn to? Where else could they go? All exits had been blocked and that sheet of metal, that had once been a floor, was the only shield they had from the attacks of the Life Eater.
"No, I guess I don't," replied Sam with a shake of her head, "but if he didn't…" She trailed off.
"Yeah, I know," replied Jazz with a nod of her head, as if she knew what Sam was getting at. "And I'm proud of him doing what he does and if my parents knew, I'm sure they'd be proud of him too, even if he is part ghost."
"I'm sure Danny'd be glad to hear that," said Sam.
"Yeah," agreed Tucker. "He'd be glad to hear that."
Danny's eyes fluttered open. He felt uncomfortable, as if he was wearing a jacket made out of whale bone.
As his eyes became accustomed to the blinding darkness that seemed as bright as a thousand suns, he could see the ghostly white features of the Phantom Hazard. Danny soon realised he was in trouble. He could see that he was in the hand of the Phantom Hazard and that it was raising him up to the Phantom Hazard's head and towards Plasmius' mouth, not that it mattered which face the mouth belonged to, seeing as all faces were joined to the Phantom Hazard and all mouths led to the Phantom Hazard's innards.
"No, let go of me!" cried Danny, as he struggled to break free from the Phantom Hazard's grip. He had too much to live for. He had friends, he had family and he had his entire life ahead of him and Danny was not going to let this monstrosity take them away from him. "Let go of me!" he screamed, before focusing all his energy into his hands in preparation for the stunt he knew he had to pull in order to be able to break free from the Phantom Hazard. "Let go!" he shouted, before blasting at the Phantom Hazard's hands with all he'd got.
There was a scream from the Phantom Hazard and it let go of Danny as if he was a hot iron rod. It flailed its arms wildly, its vicious claws slicing blindly through the air in an attempt to strike the Shou Ge Wang down. The Phantom Hazard suddenly started to become intangible and sank through the floor as if it was made from quicksand.
Danny still felt cold, as he floated there in mid-air. He knew the Phantom Hazard hadn't gone far. It was still around, lurking inside the floor so as it couldn't be hurt. He knew it was only a matter of time before it would rise back up and ambush him.
Two great white claws suddenly rose up out of the floor to grasp at Danny, but he flew out of the way. There was a flame and the Phantom Hazard's head suddenly appeared in between its two claws. It glared viciously at Danny before the head disappeared as did the claws.
Seconds later, the Phantom Hazard reappeared in its full entirety, floating there like some great demon. Its head spun round until Alex's face replaced that of the Danny Clone's. Then its hands suddenly burst into flames and the Phantom Hazard made a grab for Danny with fiery claws, before its entire body suddenly burst into flames, making its entire body seem black in the bright red of the fires. And bits of fire broke off from the main fire to form the shapes of bats and birds with human heads, fiery representations of all those that had gone into making the Phantom Hazard, fiery representations that flew straight at Danny like birds flying in to catch their prey.
Extending his hands out, Danny created a shield of ectoplasmic energy surrounding him. He watched as the fiery ghost fragments hit the shield and dissipated, each one of them. Danny didn't get it. Was the Phantom Hazard seriously thinking that would do the trick against him or did it have something up its sleeve? Impossible. This Phantom Hazard was a mindless beast without its creator to keep it in check. How could it be smart enough to trick him?
A roar escaped the Phantom Hazard's mouth before it swung a fiery claw straight at Danny, swatting him out of the air. Its other clawed hand suddenly swept up towards Danny, as if to catch him but it didn't and used the palm of its other claw to smack Danny back. The Phantom Hazard then swung both of its clawed hands together to crush Danny between them.
They never hit him, as he regained his senses. He became intangible and flew through the clawed hands, focusing his energy into his hands before firing a green energy beam straight at the Phantom Hazard's head.
"L-Lord O'Donnell!" called out the Phantom Hazard. "P-Paradise! Ideals of P-Paradise!"
The artificial ghost became intangible, as its head rotated until O'Donnell's face appeared in front of Danny. The thing then opened its mouth and fired a powerful beam of dark energy that flew through the air and nearly hit Danny, had he not flown out of the way at the very last minute. The Phantom Hazard then disappeared, becoming invisible.
One of its clawed hands suddenly appeared underneath Danny before it rose upwards and fits great clawed fingers flexed inwards to encage him. He flew higher, escaping its grasp before the clawed hand clenched tightly and then burst into flames to incinerate what it would have caught if it had been just a tiny bit quicker. The Phantom Hazard's other clawed hand suddenly reappeared in a burst of flames and moved sideways to swat Danny out of the way, but missed again. Its head appeared, to reveal Alex's face, before the Phantom Hazard drew its clawed hands back and then slapped them together in another attempt to crush Danny between them.
"You're not too bright, are you?" said Danny, as he flew out of the way. "If I didn't fall for it the first time, what makes you think I'll fall for it again?" He shook his head. "I've had enough of you. It's time for you to go down!" He then flew straight at the Phantom Hazard and with all his might, he punched it in the face.
Danny punched it so hard that the Phantom Hazard's head spun round uncontrollably. He flew back and then focusing as much energy as possible between his hands, he then fired an energy beam straight at the spinning head of the Phantom Hazard, hitting each face with ectoplasmic energy.
There was a terrifying screech from the Phantom Hazard and its entire body shook violently. Cracks began to appear in its exoskeleton and an eerie green light began to shine out from those cracks, as ectoplasm oozed out of the fissures in its outer exterior. The entire thing seemed to be collapsing, the entire Phantom Hazard seemed to be breaking apart before Danny's very eyes. Was it possible? Could it be that he had finally defeated the Phantom Hazard? Was it going to break apart and disintegrate?
The Phantom Hazard gave out one last bestial howl before it exploded, the energy tearing apart its body and engulfing Danny in its wake.
The great machine that had once been the Fate Determination Machine then staggered backwards.
"Ha! I knew it couldn't handle that!" exclaimed Jack Fenton, as he held the smoking anti-ghost rifle.
There was a great scream from the Machine, as of a million screams. The glass began to crack all over, fluid leaking out of it like water leaking through a cracked ship hull. Metal started to groan, as the cracks spread across the glass surface of the tubes and the great glass sphere. The ivy began to fall from the machine, as it shuddered.
Glass shattered, sending shards flying through the air to fall like snow and glitter like diamonds. Fluid gushed out as the machine teetered over like a drunk and the crashed to the floor with a great cacophony of shattering glass and smashing metal.
"My, my… Even though my Life Eater was far too powerful for Plasmius to control, you managed to defeat it," said the voice in the darkness. "I really have underestimated you, Daniel Fenton."
For the third time that day, Danny found himself awakening to an unfamiliar sight. He had almost had quite enough of being knocked unconscious, only to reawaken in some strange position that he didn't recognise himself being in before. It was getting on his nerves. He wanted nothing more than to stay conscious and the only time he wanted to be unconscious when was he went to sleep of his own free will. Was that so difficult a thing to ask?
"O'Donnell," exhaled Danny, as he got up to his feet. He stared in front of him and saw Dr. O'Donnell floating not too far away from him, now a ghost and translucent. "Where am I?"
There was a strange smile on O'Donnell's face, as he floated there with his back to the Ten Judges of Feng Du, all of whom had been restored upon the Phantom Hazard's defeat. It was an unnerving smile that wasn't present on anyone's face within the other-worldly court room.
"Why, Feng Du, the Kingdom of Death, of course," was O'Donnell's reply. "Wherever did you think you were?"
"What are you doing here?" asked Danny angrily.
"That is a tough question," said O'Donnell sarcastically. "I don't know. Maybe it has something to do with the fact that I'm dead?" He chuckled.
Danny couldn't understand. Something just didn't add up. Something was amiss and he wanted to know what it was.
"I don't get it," he told O'Donnell with a shake of his head. "Why are you smiling? I've defeated your Life Eater. It's gone now. The Blue Bow Army's finished. You're finished and so's your mad plan."
"That may be so," agreed O'Donnell with a nod of his head, "but I've still come out on top. Plasmius is defeated and your precious Alex is gone. Both you and Plasmius have lost what you sought for, and that will give me all the satisfaction I will ever need. And now thanks to you and Plasmius, the Shi Ti'en Yen Wang cannot stop me from using the Wheel of Rebirth and without Lady Meng Po, I will be able to retain my memories, precious memories that will allow me to take the Earth for my own!"
As O'Donnell spoke, the darkness subsided to be bathed in a golden darkness as dark as a million suns. Great columns rose upwards and the entire room changed until it looked like that of an Imperial Chinese Court, and behind O'Donnell was a table at which were seated ten men all dressed in yellow silk robes with blindfolds around their eyes. Great red banners hung from the ceiling and situated above them was a great black plaque with Chinese characters written on it in golden, proclaiming the men to be the Shi Ti'en Yen Wang.
"Enough!" called out one of the Judges in a harsh, stern voice that made O'Donnell. "Enough of this, O'Donnell! I, Qin Guang Wang, now sentence you to the Lower Levels of Feng Du for your crimes. Go down with you!"
"What?" exclaimed O'Donnell in disbelief. "You're back? Already?" he cried, before Professor Zeross, Forsythe, Dyer and Ceres burst out of the ground and grabbed him, dragging him down through the floor screaming.
Danny blinked, as he looked at the floor where O'Donnell had been standing. There was no hole, there was no sign that Zeross and the others had burst out of the ground to drag O'Donnell screaming down towards the deeper depths of Feng Du. It was almost as if they had been ghosts, which, he guessed seeing as he was in Feng Du, was more than likely. He then looked up.
The Shi Ti'en Yen Wang sat there sternly, facing him with blindfolds over their eyes. Danny felt uncomfortable, as he stood there, as if they were scrutinising him, as if they were judging him.
"Shou Ge Wang, We must thank you for saving us," stated one of the Judges sternly. "If it were not for you, We would have stayed a part of O'Donnell's Life Eater for all eternity and that is why We are in your debt."
"However," continued another one of the Ten Judges, "it has not escaped our attention that none of this would have happened if you had not neglected your duties."
"Duties?" exclaimed Danny suddenly in the pause after the Judge had spoken. Had he heard right? After praising him, were they criticising him for not doing enough? He couldn't believe it, yet he had heard them say it straight to his face. "What duties?" he shouted angrily. "I didn't know anything about any duties until it was too late. You didn't even tell me I was this Shou Ge Wang. I knew nothing. Why didn't any of you tell me? Why didn't any of you train me? Why did I have to find out everything by myself? Couldn't you have at least helped out a bit?"
Danny shook his head.
"And another thing, I'm fourteen years old," he told them sternly. "What made you think I'd be suitable to be Harvest King? Don't you think fourteen year olds have enough problems without having maniacs chasing after him coz he's some special link between this world and the next?" He waited and received no reply form the Judges. "Well?"
"We only endorsed your candidacy for Shou Ge Wang," was the reply from one of the Shi Ti'en Yen Wang. "Your position as Harvest King was approved and made official by Heaven. Everything is centralised and the Central Office is Heaven. Though We do have some autonomy, ultimately everything We do is in accordance with the Mandate of Heaven."
"What about Alex?" asked Danny. "Was what happened to her also endorsed by Heaven?" His question was met by silence. "Where is he?" he asked them. "Where is she?" he asked sternly, but this time changing the pronoun. "Where is Alex?"
"I, as Judge of the First Court, have reviewed her case and submitted an application for her entry to Southern Paradise," was the reply from one of the Judges.
"As King of Feng Du, I have approved her application," was the reply from Yen Lo Wang. "She will spend twenty years in Southern Paradise, before she is to go down to the Tenth Court of Feng Du and perform the Rites of Rebirth with Lady Meng Po and Zhuang Lun Wang watching over her."
"Was there ever an Alex?" asked Danny curiously and was greeted by silence.
"Never," was the reply from one of the Judges. "The Alex you knew was and had always been Professor Zeross' granddaughter."
Danny then turned to face the Judge that had announced himself as that of the Tenth Court.
"I know I've never spent that much time with Alex," he said calmly, as if talking to no one in particular. "I only spent two nights in that freaky dream school, but I guess… Alex was like a friend to me there. No, he… she was a friend. Everything was so strange and so different, yet Alex was there to help me get through."
He sighed, before he said, "Maybe it was O'Donnell's presence inside Alex that made her find me and help me out and befriend me, but I doubt it. In those dreams I had after escaping the hospital, I could tell she genuinely liked me, that it wasn't O'Donnell controlling her and tricking me into coming back to the hospital." He sighed. "I never really got to know her," stated Danny with a shake of his head. "Is it… Is it possible for me to see her one last time? You know, before she's reborn?"
"This is highly unusual," was the First Judge's reply, "but I do not see why not." He then clapped his hands twice.
Alexia appeared before Danny, wearing the same school uniform she had worn when a pupil at the real Streete Court High before it burned to the ground. It was nearly the same as the uniform she wore when she was in the ghost school, but of course, she wore a skirt now she was a girl. And her hair had not changed colour, but her eyes were no longer a dark brown but were of the same colour as Danny's human eyes.
"Thank you, Danny," said Alexia gratefully with a small bow of her head. "Thank you for everything you did."
"It was nothing," said Danny sheepishly, as a small blush spread across his cheeks.
"No, it wasn't," disagreed Alexia with a shake of her head. "You could have ignored the dream. You could have ignored me. I mean, what if I had been just a figment of your imagination? What if I had been a tool of the Blue Bow Army, an imaginary victim to trick you into a trap?" She looked Danny deep in his eyes. "You came to help me anyway, even if I was a tool of the Blue Bow Army, even if Dr. O'Donnell was using me to get to you."
"I couldn't take the chance," was Danny's reply to her statements. "You were in trouble and I had to save you. That's the kind of thing I do." He then shuffled nervously on his feet, not knowing what exactly to do.
A smile spread across Alexia's face.
"Thank you," she said before she walked up to him and gave him the biggest and strongest hug he had ever received in his entire life, one that was only rivalled by Sam's last hug. "You've done so much for me and suffered so much for me. I'm so sorry for everything that happened to you." She then paused a while, as if in deep thought, as if a great idea had come into her mind.
"Come with me!" said Alexia with a happy, insistent expression on her face. "Come with me, Danny. We can leave the world behind us. We can have so much fun together and nobody will hurt you for what you are. In Southern Paradise, you'll be accepted. People will understand you. You won't be an outcast anymore."
Danny looked into Alexia's eyes and saw that was what she clearly believed. He understood that she must have suffered quite a lot at the hands of the Real World and would understand why she wanted to get away from it. Now that he thought about it, he had suffered quite a bit at the hands of the Real World. There was something he liked about the idea of leaving the world behind, to take a break from the troubles of the Earth and then to start afresh.
But what about his friends? What about his family? How would they cope without him? Would they miss him?
"I'm sorry," he apologised to Alexia, as he shook his head. "I can't go with you," he told her. "I've got friends and family. They'd miss me if I was gone."
Alexia nodded in acknowledgement.
"I… I understand," she said quietly, as she turned her head away from Danny.
"A… Alexia, I'm real sorry," began Danny.
Alexia raised a hand in a silencing gesture.
"No, don't be," she said to him with one shake of her head. "You've done more for me than anyone ever has. Thanks to you, I can be free to live my own life the way I want to live it. I know… I know I can never repay you for what you did, but I'll try my best to remember you and everything you've done. It won't matter how long I spend in Southern Paradise. It won't matter how many cups of Lady Meng Po's Tea of Forgetfulness they give me. I will remember you and all you've done, even when I'm reborn."
Somehow she then managed to get close to him. Alexia flung her arms around Danny, holding him tight before giving him a light kiss on the lips. She pulled away with a smile and giggled upon seeing him go bright red.
"Goodbye, Danny," she said to Danny. "I'll never forget you."
It was encroaching on his very being, threaten to swallow his consciousness whole. It seemed like a terrible force that dwelt in the recesses of his mind, beckoning him towards it and making the world pale in its presence. Nothing seemed as if it could defeat it and stop him from slipping into its lightless embrace, as it seemed to drain the colour, the sound and the very life out of his surroundings.
Yes, and even as time passed, he grew weaker to this terrible force and the complex nature of his consciousness, of his being awake, began to slow and factor after factor kicked in, to shut his very system down. Whatever was left of his consciousness became dim electrical impulses of the neurons in his mind and his eyelids became heavy.
Fight it, you've got to fight it, he managed to think to himself.
"Mr. Fenton!" cried a voice and a great one-metre ruler slammed down on the table in front of him, jolting him back awake. "Mr. Fenton, would you please care to repeat what I just said?"
The black-haired youth blinked, as he looked up at the figure of his English teacher, Mr. Lancer.
"Uh…" began Danny Fenton, only to trail off into awkward silence.
"I thought as much," said Mr. Lancer, as he scratched at his head. He turned to face the clock at the back of the classroom. "I'd like to see you in my office after class, Mr. Fenton."
Danny heard a laugh and turned round, to see the grinning face of Dash Baxter, the school bully and one of the football team's best players. That figured. Dash loved to see him in some trouble and if Danny wasn't in any, Dash always found some reason to torment him.
It was times like those that he just wished that he could disappear and slip away unnoticed from the rest of the class. It wasn't as if anybody in the class cared, with the possible exception of Tucker and Sam, his two best friends.
There were times when Danny just wanted to tell others about the reasons as to why he always seemed drained and tired in class. He wanted to tell them how it was him that had saved them from the enraged ghost of a cafeteria woman and how it was him that had saved them countless times from the ghosts that somehow managed to find their way into the world of the living. He wanted to tell them about how he had ended up with ghostly superpowers thanks to his parents' invention…
Yet what would be the point?
No one would believe him and even if they did and even if he did prove his powers in front of them, what then? Would he be celebrated as a hero? Would he be shunned as a freak?
"I change the key from C to D," sang Danny softly under his breath, so quietly that no one could hear save for him and the Gods themselves.
In this day and age, it seemed as if the latter were more likely and every day he lived with the fear of being found out for what he really was, some half-boy, half-ghost hybrid. He was already unpopular, amongst the bottom rung of the social ladder, and what he didn't need was another excuse for them to shun him. No, if he was to be even accepted, he had to keep his true capabilities a secret from the others. He could never truly be himself, or all that he could truly be, for he lived in a society where it doesn't matter who you are but whether you conform.
"You say to me, it's just a minor thing, yo. He knows everything."
Yet what was conformity?
Danny didn't want to be someone else. He didn't want to conform and change his identity, his ideals and his beliefs. He wanted to be himself. After all, he had pretty much been everything else. Under the Blue Bow's influence, he had been a boarding school pupil, a band leader and had a clone made of him, a clone that had become Head of the Blue Bow Army. He had been everything except for himself and now was that chance, now in that class, with his friends, in his hometown, he would have the chance of being true to himself.
"To readjust, you've got to trust in the fuss…"
The bell suddenly rang.
But Danny didn't hear it. He had found himself humming a song and his thoughts were all focused on that song.
"It's just a minor thing, yo. He knows everything," Danny found himself singing quietly to himself, in a hushed voice that nobody but him could hear. "It's just a minor thing and I'm a minor king. He knows everything."
Sam was worried, as she sat there in the class and looked at Danny. This was exactly what had happened before Danny was first hospitalised and taken to the Roslyn Hospital. Sure, they had managed to completely destroy the Blue Bow Army, but she couldn't help but feel as if Danny was still at risk, at risk from Plasmius, at risk from those whom would seek to use Danny for their own purposes. She wanted to rise up and follow him, but a crowd of pupils had suddenly gotten in the way and before she could go after him, he had already disappeared.
The black-haired Goth turned round to face Tucker.
"Come on!" she cried without an explanation and grabbed him by the arm, before dragging him along with her. "We've got go after them!" She didn't even stop for anyone, nearly pushing Paulina off her feet as she ran through the corridors with Tucker trying his best to keep up with her.
She suddenly crashed into someone.
"Whoa, Sam!" exclaimed Danny, as he placed a hand out on to the lockers to prevent himself from falling over. "Where's the fire?"
There was a grin on Danny's lips, as he leaned against his own locker. Danny looked so confident standing there. He looked completely at peace with himself, not like the person that had been dragged off to Lancer's office.
"Danny, what happened?" asked Sam.
"Yeah, what happened, man?" asked Tucker curiously. "What did Lancer say to you?"
The smile on Danny's face widened.
"Aw, you guys cared?" he said in reply to their questions. He laughed. "Don't worry, guys," he told them calmly, as he opened his locker. "It was just the usual thing, you know? Don't fall asleep in class again, that sort of thing." He picked out a few books, slipping them into his rucksack and then closed his locker. "So, you coming to watch me play tonight?" he asked them.
Sam felt some relief at what she was hearing. It seemed to her almost as if Danny had returned to his normal self, the self that she had known long before the accident at his parent's lab.
"Yeah," she replied with a nod of her head. She'd like to hear Danny's band play for its first time and to hear the songs that he had written, songs that would allow her to see into his soul.
"Come on, let's get out of here," said Danny, as he slung his rucksack over his shoulders and he walked with his friends out of the school, all whilst humming one of his own songs.