Valgas had commanded his men to attack the heroes who had come to save Ayame. It seems now, his entire plan was falling apart, thanks to the efforts of this renegade cowboy who stuck his nose where it didn't belong. It was making him angrier just thinking about how this was getting worse. Just his luck for things to turn out this way when he was so close to getting the stone. If he had just shot Rouge and Ayame without deliberating, this could have been prevented. Already he was searching through his mind to try and find a way to salvage this plan, and in the meantime, he barked out an order to his men...

"GET THEM!" he yelled.

The man with the morning star in hand charged at Rouge, swinging the spiked mace at her head. She nimbly ducked under it, however, before it could strike her, and she moved majestically off to the side, and then unleash a powerful flipping kick into him, sending him crashing back-first into a wall nearby. The man with the machetes was proving to be a more formidable foe, as he was quite fast with the blades and was capable of deflecting each shot Accel made with them.

"I'll be monkey's uncle, you're tougher than you look," he said, clinching his teeth out the corner of his mouth, "never seen a man wield blades that good. Well, except this one crazy fellow in bandages."

"Who?"

"Dunno the guy's name, but I guess that's not important," the man then came rushing at Accel with the large knives, who reacted quickly by leaping over him and twirling through the air with amazing grace. As he flew through the air, he pulled both his pistols out from their holsters and shot multiple bullets at a certain target. With the skill and precision of a crack shot, he managed to shoot off several of Ayame's key binds, allowing her to free herself with some struggling around.

"Ah... I'm free!" She pulled herself out of the ropes and massaged her tired wrists as Accel landed on his feet, "Thanks Accel-ku—"

"Hey, look out!" He yelled, seeing Valgas rushing at Ayame. Despite the fatigue in her body, she managed to backflip away from his fist as he rushed in with a powerful swing... he cursed at missing his mark, and then noticed something out the corner of his eye... the Power Stone! In his haste to try and kill the heroes, he had forgotten that he had dropped it in the moment his gun was shot out of his hand. On the other end of the room near him was the pistol he always carried... he was faced with a decision. If he didn't get the Power Stone, one of the heroes would. And if he didn't get his pistol, he wouldn't gain an advantage.

He wasn't even sure if his body could handle a full transformation right now, considering he still had wounds to recover from. The Dark Stone didn't exactly heal him when it restored him to life. He growled angrily at this frustrating position he was in... Blast! If I get one, they'll get the other... he thought. He had to make a decision... desiring the power more than his weapon, he dove for the Power Stone...

...only for it to get shot out of his range by Accel by a bullet, sending it skidding across the room!

"Don't shoot it!" Rouge cried as she fought off the man with the morning star, "You might break it!"

"I had to get it away from him somehow from here!" Accel shouted as he fought with the man he was facing. As the man charged at Accel, he nearly caught him off guard with a slash... he narrowly had time to get out of the way, but the blade did manage to cut him as he swiped it through the air. Fortunately, it was only a flesh wound.

Valgas swore he would get revenge on this cowboy later if he managed to beat these heroes, but for now, that Power Stone... he had to have it! He once again ran toward it, this time intending to pick it up as he was running by, only for Ayame to dive in and swiftly grab it before he can reach it!

"Give me that stone, kid..." he said, having stopped in front of her, advancing on her, "I'm in no mood to play games."

Ayame stuck her tongue out at him, "After holding me prisoner like that? No way, meathead!"

"Have it your way... DIE!" Valgas threw a powerful fist toward her, but she would dart away from him with the speed of a cat, and his fist smashed clean through the floor. After pulling it out, he would promptly chase after her for a while at first. He nearly would catch up to her, but Ayame would force from herself another burst of speed despite how tired and fatigued her body already was from being tied up for so long. Then he remembered his gun, and quickly ran toward it... he dove to catch it in his hands... only for it to be shot out of his range by Accel as well!

"Y-you!" Valgas stammered, his anger reaching a boiling point to where he almost fumbled his words, "...you're really pissing me off!" He angrily growled. He then proceeded to run over to the nearest gear, which was actually a very large one, and grabbed ahold of it, stopping it with his brute strength. He then growled, his muscles bulging and veins appearing as he started to use his strength to pull it out, feeling immense pain throb throughout his body as he fought with the gear's foundation... and to the shock of everyone in that room, Valgas, with a roar of rage and stress, practically tore the gigantic gear out of it's place, stopping Big Bill from doing it's usual job of telling the time!

"What in the name of heaven...!" Accel exclaimed, eyes wide in shock.

"How on earth...!" Rouge gasped, unable to believe what she just saw.

"...but... he's... supposed to be at his weakest!" Ayame shouted in disbelief.

"Rrrrr... RRRRRAAAAAAAAH!" Valgas then began spinning around with the giant gear in his grasp, building up momentum as he spun faster... he then let go of the gear, throwing it in Ayame's general direction, who gasps, and turned to run and get out of it's way. The gear came crashing down hard, shaking the floor, nearly smashing all the way through the floor, sending wood splinters, huge clouds of dust from on and under the floor, and a shockwave through the ground, throwing Ayame off her feet and high into the air, and, inadvertently, she let go of the Power Stone, letting it fly through the air!

"Iyaaaaaaaaah!"

Gravity would soon take it's toll, and pull Ayame down through the air. As she yelled out during her rapid descent, the man with the morning star, who was fighting Rouge, looked up to see her... "Huh?"

The thug soon stopped as well, and looked up with her. As he did, Ayame came crashing down, both their heads colliding with amazing force! The shock of her sudden collision and how hard she crashed into his head was enough to make the henchman fall over to the floor unconscious with a groan of pain. Ayame fell and hit the ground shortly after, dizzy, and with her eyes swirling around from the blow.

"So good of you to drop in!" Rouge joked with a smile.

"N...not funny..." Ayame groaned, holding her head.

Accel meanwhile, was still fighting it out with the machete-carrying-man, whose attention was diverted when he saw his ally get knocked completely out of the game by the falling kunoichi. This distraction was what he needed to land a definite blow. He swiftly rushed in, and unleashed a fierce body blow to the man's gut, following with a fierce side kick, and finishing him off with a brutal haymaker punch that threw the man swirling through the air and face-down on the floor. He let go of his machetes on the way down, and they promptly clattered to the floor.

"Tsk tsk," he wagged a finger back and forth at the fallen man, grinning, "It's not smart to take your eyes off your opponent."

And that left Valgas as the only baddie left to dispatch... something of which came to Rouge's mind, as she intended to make him pay for the problems he gave her friend. She looked around for a moment, trying to find him. That's when she spotted him, grasping the Power Stone that had been dropped, and attempting to head toward the elevator. She quickly threw flames in his direction, hurling them at the elevator door... the flames rose up like a barrier in front of Valgas, cutting off his escape, and he stopped dead in his tracks, looking over his shoulder at the heroes.

"Where ya goin'? You're the last person to dance with at this party," Accel said, slamming his fist into his palm as the three made their way toward him.

"You're trapped now, Valgas..." Rouge explained, a ball of flame in each hand she held at each side, glaring at him.

"Heheee~n! I told you that you wouldn't get away with it..." Ayame laughed, holding a kunai in her hand, ready to throw it at a moment's notice, "I was right, wasn't I~?"

"...!" Valgas drew back, clinching his teeth, sweating nervously... he was surrounded! He reached for his gun again, but only touched an empty holster, which widened his eyes in horror. Apparently, he had forgotten to go and pick it up during all the havoc and was now left without a weapon. Damn it! he thought, I forgot my gun is still on the other side of the room... I forgot to pick it up! He then looked back to the approaching heroes who were ready to attack him, What now? I can't let them take the stone! And in my condition, I can't fight all three of them at once... not with these injuries...

"We can play this nice," Accel adds, "just give back that Power Stone and maybe we'll letcha go..."

"Let him go? He's caused my friend grief. I say we beat him up," Rouge growled, anger in her heart at the way Valgas has treated Ayame, and for the fact he tried to kill her.

"...hrhhh... beat me up?" Valgas then said before he pleaded, "...no! I'm still recovering here! Would you really thrash around an injured man?" He looked around desperately for something to escape from. He spotted a window! But he was on the top floor of Big Bill, and it had to be at least 16 stories high... a fatal fall even for Valgas if he were at full strength. But he remembered he had the Power Stone... anything was possible as long as it was in his hands. He formulated an escape plan as quick as he could. But how to get away from these guys first?

He hoped this would work... despite the fact any one of these guys could attack him at any moment if he so much as moved, he risked it to rip off his shirt and the gun belt from around his waist and hurl them at the heroes, surprising them for a split second. He quickly dashed off toward the window as fast as his legs could carry him. Already recovering from the surprise, the heroes attacked! A bullet buried itself into Valgas's shoulder and a shuriken landed in his back. He managed to avoid the flame in time as he dove out the window with the Power Stone tucked under his arm, fighting the pain that coursed through his body from his newly made injuries.

"NO!" Rouge cried, running over to the open window with the others, "He's escaping!"

As they watched Valgas plummet to what seemed his death, he let out a laugh as he held the stone up and gazed into it, putting his heart into his request, "Give me the wings for which to fly with! Do it! Now!"

As he commanded, there was a glow of blue energy around his body from the stone as pair of large crow-like wings burst out from his back! Holding tightly to the stone as the aura faded, he worked to stop his fall and allow the wings to take over, spreading them out wide and changing his fall to a graceful glide, using his wings to flap through the air and soar high into the sky. He then laughs wickedly, glad his escape plan worked even though he didn't get away unscathed.

"Nuahahahahaaa! It worked! It worked! I'm free! And now, the Power Stone is mine! Ultimate power will soon be within my grasp once I gather the rest of the stones!" He chuckled, roaring with malevolent and excited laughter as he flew away.

"Aw, shoot!" Accel slammed his fist against the wall, "Mr. Bad Guy there got away!"

"Not yet he hasn't!" Rouge said, summoning her magic carpet, "We can't let him keep that stone! Come on, you guys!"

"Hoho! This is gonna be exciting," Ayame giggled, already leaping out the window and gracefully landing on the sturdy carpet that hung in the air, held aloft by a magical force, "besides, I haven't made him pay yet!"

Valgas was relieved... though a little annoyed. He would have some trouble getting that bullet out of his back. He figured he'd go see a doctor to get that removed. He didn't want to waste the power of the stone on something like wishing himself to be healed. He had big plans, after all... he still wanted to conquer the world. Restraint like this was necessary if he wanted to realize his dream. In due time, he'd make all the heroes who got in his way pay dearly for contributing for his first demise. And more importantly, he'd make sure he wouldn't get turned into a horrific beast again.

As he soared through the air, occasionally flapping his wings to keep aloft, he then felt an intense heat fly by him from above... this alarmed him, and he looked over behind him... his eyes comically bugged out as he saw Rouge, Accel, and Ayame, all three of them following him on the magic carpet, having quickly caught up to the former wrestler!

"What's it take to get away from you people?" Valgas cried, before turning his head back around and flapping his wings faster to try and gain speed.

"Oh, no you don't!" Rouge growled, commanding the carpet to fly faster to keep up, and charging up a flame in her hand, "You're not keeping that stone!" She then hurled a series of flames at the man, with Accel firing his guns and Ayame throwing the occasional kunai or shuriken or two to try and pepper him with as much fire as possible.

Valgas struggled to move from side to side to get out of the way of the attacks and desperately wanted to get away... he grit his teeth hard, eyes wide as he furiously flapped the wings to increase his speed. He then attempted to soar in another direction while in the air, with the heroes in hot pursuit, and not letting up in their attacks. Things were getting narrow, however. As this attack continued, Accel soon found himself running out of bullets, and Ayame no longer had anything to throw at him.

"He's dodged all my shots!" Accel grit his teeth in frustration, "Crap! That guy can move fast! Doesn't help I couldn't get a decent bead on him!"

"I could barely hit the guy, he's jukeing and jiving around so much..." Ayame moaned, "We can't keep the pressure up on him anymore!"

Rouge nodded, exhausting from using up much of her magic power just to conjure the flames to throw at Valgas, "Even on the ground, he's fast. Even though he's burly, it doesn't slow him down at all. It was like that when he fought us long ago..." she then stood up and held both her hands up, gathering the rest of her power up into a large ball of flame, "...this has to work... it's the last of my power."

"Come on, strike true, baby!" Accel urged.

"Hnnnnn... HAAA!" Rouge then unleashed the ball with all her strength into the air, hurling it straight at Valgas. Thankfully, this time, the aiming worked out. Valgas, as he was attempting to move up, inadvertently slammed into the ball of flame, catching him abruptly off his guard as he felt an intense, burning pain scorch across his back. Not only that, but the wings he was using to keep himself afloat caught on fire, and were soon completely wreathed in intense flames, burning feathers being thrown through the air. As well, he had accidentally let go of the Power Stone, and it fell out of his hands and down through the sky.

"N-no, NO!" Valgas shrieked, swiping at the air in a futile effort to grab the stone. But alas, it was long out of his reach, "NOOOOOO!"

"Direct hit! Way to go, Rouge-chan!" Ayame cheered, pumping the air with her fist.

Accel waved his hat in the air, " WOO-HOO! We got him! You came through in the clutch!"

Valgas struggled to keep himself in the air, but it was no use... the wings were now damaged beyond repair and he began falling through the air, thick, black smoke and the smell of burning flesh following in his wake as he plummets, screaming the entire way, his world spinning around him so fast he had no idea what was going on. All he could do was just scream, "GUWAAAAAAAAAAAAH!"

But, fortunately for Valgas, he was falling toward the waters near the docks where boats often rested at, and where some people would sometimes go to fish. One fisherman watched casually as Valgas came barreling through the air in flames and would land with a grand splash in the waters, his body slamming into it so hard it created a spectacular geyser upon landing and caused the water around him to ripple roughly for a moment before it settled down.

"Some people will do anything for a swim," he commented, before casting out another line.

But the stone? What about the stone? It was falling toward the ground, and from this height, if it landed hard enough, the force could shatter it! Rouge knew it would be useless if it was broken, so she daringly had the carpet nose dive toward the glowing stone to gain more speed, "Hold on!" She shouted, "Don't wet your pants yet!"

"Wet my pan—hey! What are you doing! Whoaaaaaaaah!" Accel cried, holding onto his hat as they dove for the stone...

"Go for it, Rouge-chan! You gotta catch it!" Ayame held onto Rouge tightly as they headed toward the falling blue gem.

They were getting closer to the ground as they desperately headed toward the descending stone. Accel was getting worried. If it was a bad idea to go after it in the end, they were going to slam into the ground so hard that they'd die from the forces of gravity and the physics that came with them. Not a way he wanted to go, especially when he felt he was still in his prime. He hoped his friend at least knew what she was doing.

It seemed like they were all ground to crash into the ground in a fruitless attempt to catch the stone. But thankfully, this would not be so; At the last moment, Rouge reached out and grabbed ahold of the Power Stone, and grabbed the front end of the carpet, pulling up hard to gain enough altitude for it to curve upward just inches from the street, surprising people as it flew straight ahead, and swerved around people and other vehicles just to get in the clear, with everyone else hanging on for dear life.

Eventually, the carpet would slow down and gain enough altitude to fly back up high in the air and over the town before they could crash into a coach, with all the passengers heaving a sigh of relief... they had their lives, and more importantly, the Power Stone!

"Thank the kami!" Ayame sighed, "We beat Valgas and got the stone... what a close call. Not to mention, you saved me in the process."

"How on earth did he get ahold of you anyway?" Rouge ask, holding the stone close, as though not wanting to let it slip away from her grasp and go through the process of diving for it again.

"I... I got careless..." Ayame sighed, rubbing the back of her head, "See, the story was that he was looking for you, so I followed him, and, um... and he wanted to kill you, so I thought of warning you. And I guess I screwed up."

"Well, don't worry to much. Nobody's perfect," the Arabic woman then smiled, "and we stopped him, so let's go home. Besides, that festival is tomorrow, and I need to prepare my tent."

"Phew, I'd say I'm lookin' forward to getting onto the ground. Riding my Thunderbolt Rider is more my bag, than soaring on a flying floor rug," Accel sighed with a grin.

Rouge then frowned, "I'm concerned, still. About the Dark Stone... what did Valgas mean when he said it spoke to him? And when it said that thing to him, about he still needed to play his role... what was that about?"

"W-well, um..." Ayame then clinched her fists, and tried to change the subject, "Why don't we worry about that later? We should be happy to stop evil from causing mischief, right?"

Rouge's train of thought broke, and she nodded, regaining her smile, "Ah, that's right, that's right. Let's get back down and worry more about having fun at the festival."

"Now you're talking!"

Down at the waters, Valgas broke his head through the surface, coughing and sputtering out the clear liquid, and rubbing his eyes to try and clear it from his sight, the magical wings having disappeared from his body due to the lack of the influence of a certain magical stone. He angrily looked up at Rouge and the others as they flew high overhead, and he rose an arm out over the surface to shake it in fury at the heroes and yell up at them...

"You'll all pay for this!" he screamed up at them, hoping they heard him, "This defeat means NOTHING! It's just a matter of time before I get another Power Stone to claim! And then you'll be dead, you hear me? DEAD!" With his plan failed, Valgas's first thought was to try and get the bullet in his shoulder removed and his new injuries treated.

While the heroes did hear him somewhat, they weren't paying much attention to him. For the events of this crazy day had come to an end, and everyone could go back to their business. Rouge had gone to prepare and asked Accel to help her in getting the tent ready, which he figured he might as well, since she said 'please'. And Ayame herself? She swore in her own mind to take her training a little more seriously so as to avoid winding up in this sort of situation again, and was looking forward to start once she got back home, at least until the festival started so she could regale people to make a little money.

Godspeed, Ayame. Godspeed.

-FIN-


A Word From the Author:

That's it for my story. I admit that I'm not sure if my storytelling or writing is up to par, and as far as I'm concerned, this story is probably not all that good, but I hope that I have satisfied you in some way with it, as I tried to churn out something decent, at least. I hope to write another Power Stone-centric story sometime in the future, and it was fun to work on this one. Thank you for reading this story, you may leave any feedback if you wish, and I won't mind hearing from you. Feel free to check out my other work as well, and I hope we meet again...