I do not own Mortal Kombat or any of the characters. Enjoy your read!

Chapter 21: Jade's Paranoia

Kitana had no escape. Her three enemies had her cornered.

The first to approach was the traitorous Skarlet. The red-clad assassin lunged toward Kitana and spun about once. The back of her fist collided with the Princess's jaw, making her eyesight go black and not get a chance to recover once her other fist crash into her face. Kitana spun but maintained her footing just barely. She turned just in time to hear the pitched ringing of Skarlet's blade being drawn to finish her off.

Skarlet's hand swung overhead toward the Princess' clavicle, but her efforts were thwarted by Kitana's forearms coming up overhead to block Skarlet's arm from advancing too close. With their proximity, Kitana swung her knee up to Skarlet's side to fend her off while her arms pushed the assassin's sole arm away.

Kitana gave a war cry as Skarlet backed up, but Kitana's advances were cut short by the incoming green flaming skull ripping through the air. The heat of the skull was familiar to Kitana, and she knew it's trajectory before her eyes fell upon it. She ducked beneath it and rolled closer toward Skarlet, only to have the woman's foot crash into her face.

The impact made Kitana's eyes clinch shut and forced her to land flat on the floor. From above, Noob Saibot was coming down with his knee aimed for her throat!

Surprised, Kitana rolled toward Noob to get out of his way when his knee crushed the concrete. She pushed herself up mid-roll and rotated through the air once before she landed on her hands and feet. Her moment of grace was now her moment of weakness, as a sharp pain ran through her torso when she felt the firm kick of Quan Chi against her gut.

Kitana rolled off of the leg and held her midsection while breathlessly grunting in pain. She managed to get on one knee and held up her arms to defend herself. "You will not see victory this day!" The medallion on the upper portion of her chest on her attire began to glow an ethereal whitish-blue hue. Kitana hadn't realized it, but the medallion was awakening the fierce side of her; the side of her that was personified in her twin Mileena. The vicious animal shrouded in regal robes and proper upbringing and forced to remain dormant. She refused to let it loose once before and it cost her life.

Never again.

Noob Saibot appeared behind her to attempt to go for a killing blow, but his efforts were thwarted by Kitana's sharp elbow to his sternum. After recoiling off of Noob's chest her arm shot forward to gauge at the eyes of Saibot's shadow servant. She tore at the dark flesh about the eyes with her nails and pulled back one of the mangled eyeballs in her grasp. As the shadow screamed and held his face, Kitana spun about and swiped her foot behind the head of the mangled servant.

As she placed her foot on the ground, the medallion was swiped from her chest by the bony hands of one of Quan Chi's summoned servants. Without the medallion, he believed her sudden burst in energy would be gone, but the theory was disproved when Kitana ducked under the backfist of Skarlet and sent the woman to the floor with a punch to her stomach and a violent grasping of her hair that sent her face first into the ground. The enraged princess did not stop there, as her foot lifted and smashed down into the back of Skarlet's head. The impact fractured her skull and broke the woman's nose into the hard floors. Teeth cracked and popped within her mouth and embedded into her now swelling tongue. The splatter of red hot vitality stained the floor inches away from the small indention made in the flooring.

With Skarlet down, Kitana began to rush for the now growing number of skull-servants to Quan Chi. Each time she broke through one of the green aura covered skeletons, the victim tossed the medallion to another sporadically created fiend to keep it away from Kitana. As the trail of bones piled up toward Quan Chi, the sorcerer's last ditch effort was to create a small army of skeletons to get in her way. Thirty of his minions burst from the ground, all armed with shields and swords to do battle with Kitana. The medallion was well on its way to Quan Chi as she rushed the pack of foes head first.

Sindel, from her throne, tapped her cheek in interest as her daughter took on each armed foe with her bare hands. She watched as Kitana ducked and dodged swords, broke arms, broke legs, and broke necks with precise strikes that were worthy of her former role of an assassin. She was impressed; and that was something the Empress simply hadn't experienced before.

"Kill her, Noob Saibot." Sindel spoke up to command the creature of darkness, as Quan Chi's minions were falling quicker than he could create them. The medallion was seconds from his grasp as it was being rushed to him by a single running minion across the room.

Kitana spun about as her fists bashed aside a single foe. She dropped to a knee, just barely missing contact with a high-arcing Shield slash from one of the minions. As she dropped down to her knee, her left hand drew her tessen from her hip and opened it. With one swift motion, Kitana spun back to a standing stance with the bladed weapon slicing like a cyclone through the bone-build butchers that surrounded her. Their cries of agony were overpowered by the high-pitched ringing of her blades. Once she completed her rotation her hand released the tessen and sent it soaring through the air toward the fleeing minion.

Her outstretched hand was knocked down suddenly. She felt the burning sting in her forearm bones but hadn't any idea what hit her. Before her eyes could register the next attack, she felt herself being knocked to the ground after her eyesight went black. She skid along the flooring and through the pile of bones she created, only to see Noob Saibot standing with his foot outstretched where Kitana's face had been previously, and the sound of bones clattering once her tessen cleaved through the body of Quan Chi's servant.

Quan rushed for the medallion, and Noob Saibot was in Kitana's way to stop him.

Saibot vanished from sight and positioned himself suddenly in front of Kitana.

Saibot threw his fist to the Princess' throat, but was met with a sudden surprise. A sharp pain pierced between his middle and ring finger, and proceeded to rip tendons and bones through his wrist and forearm. His blood splattered all over Kitana's facial region, but he saw aggression instead of anger in her eyes. Her second bladed fan had done the work as her last defense, leaving his hand split up to the middle of his forearm thanks to her sharp weapon of choice.

Saibot shouted in agony, as Kitana kicked him off of her. The body exploded in a plume of shadow, just as Quan Chi's triumphant laughter echoed through her ears. The real Noob Saibot dropped down from above Kitana with a katana aimed to cleave her in half.

The loud clank of steel and steel sent shockwaves through her body, as she felt that her death would come much quicker now. She shoved the monster of darkness back, but was further deterred by the sound of the bones starting to come together around them.

She backtracked, going on the defensive as the skilled assassin took precise swipes and jabs toward her vital organs. She barely missed contact each time with him, and in turn her own strikes toward his throat, heart, and facial regions all missed their mark. She jumped and dove aside to avoid him, and only gained momentum when he foolishly stabbed forward. Kitana grasped his arm and sent his momentum forward, but jabbed her fist into the back of his head. She crushed it to the floor as hard as she did Skarlet, sending blood fluttering in ribbons around the floor.

Skarlet was starting to move, she noticed. The blood was soaking back into her. This wasn't good.

"Well, Princess…" Quan Chi said as he held the medallion triumphantly. "It seems you've lost."

"You will give me that medallion, sorcerer!" Kitana shouted as she flung the blood from her present tessen.

"You will have to offer me something in return…" Quan Chi chuckled sadistically. "Or pry it from my cold…dead…hands…"

All the while, Noob Saibot's eyes were on the fallen Sareena. It was an awkward positioning, with his head half-way into the ground. As he watched her lifeless face, memories started to rush back to him. The emotions of Bi Han started to bubble on the surface of Noob Saibot's psyche…

Skarlet, on the other hand, was now on her feet. Her face regenerated, as well as her teeth and bones. It was painful, but she was determined to kill Kitana. Even with Ermac chained up and watching in deep heartbreak, she had no feelings toward him. Not even as a mentor or friend. Quan Chi and Shao Kahn were the only ones who truly mattered.

Sindel was quite interested in how this all would play out. Her amused expression was worth many more words of egotistical confidence than she could ever utter forth.

Then there was Kitana; enraged and soaked in blood and without the hope of the perfect world she aimed to create. All of it had gone up in smoke, all of it ruined by a destiny unchanged. Armageddon would still likely come, Liu Kang would likely lose his life, and Shao Kahn would likely see to the end of days in every timeline, if not Shinnok. Without assistance, what would Kitana do?

Blackness started to seep from Noob's body to mingle in the coagulating blood of Sareena. The darkness contaminated it rapidly. Black swirls of corruption and malice all formed and created a cancerous darkness leading back inside of Sareena's body.

Trails of Sareena's blood were also leading to Skarlet's boot. She was using Sareena as a means of recovery as well. However, the darkness was spreading to her while her attention was on Kitana.

"Very well, then." Kitana took a deep breath and took her combative stance. "If it is my life versus the rest of you, then I will fight! I will die fighting; you all will die in the unchanged future! Fight me as you may, but your ultimate foe, Fate, is indestructible!"

Quan Chi found her words comical. He began walking toward her, ready to challenge her with the aid of Skarlet. "Foolish…foolish girl…"

His hand began to lower to place the medallion at his belt.

Kitana's tessen on the floor started to twitch.

As the wrist of Quan Chi and tessen on the ground behind him were lined up…

Kitana reached forward with her left hand.

The weapon obeyed her and soared toward her hand fully extended and rotating at speeds that rivaled an F2 tornado. The sharp sound of flesh being torn and the ringing of five razor sharp blades filled the air. Quan Chi screamed as his hand hit the floor and his vitality went spraying and gushing from his severed wrist. Kitana caught the tessen and spun about to toss both weapons toward Skarlet behind her. All the rising skeletons fell instantaneously.

The assassin moved aside of both attempts at offense, and rushed Kitana head on.

Sareena's hand twitched on the floor. Her entire body broke apart into a larger, more demonic form with thick spinal bones bursting through her formerly elegant flesh. Her face elongated and all humanity in her ceased to exist within a second. The large female demon's long bony arms swiped at Skarlet and took her down to the ground. Sareena beat, pummeled, and clawed at Skarlet relentlessly, despite the Blood Ninja stabbing at her with her sharp weapons in return.

Shocked by this, Kitana took her opportunity to rush the still panicking Quan Chi.

She leaped and cracked her foot across the pale man's jaw and dropped down to sweep him off of his feet to follow it up.

In the background, Saibot was back in action. He created a gateway beside Sareena and Skarlet. He allowed the demon to throw Sareena through it, and then both of them followed her inside. The gateway was closed by the time Kitana pulled up Quan Chi's hand clinching the medallion. She pried the hand off and pinned it back to her chest immediately.

Quan rolled away from her, clutching his stubby arm. "This…this is not over!" Like a dog with his tail tucked between his legs, Quan Chi ran off after creating a portal of his own. Kitana chased him, but he was already gone. She stopped in her tracks, kicking a few of the scattered bones away in the process.

Now…she was alone with her mother and the chained up Ermac.

A slow, soft clapping filled the room, which made Kitana begin to turn her sights over to Sindel.

"Excellent job, child." Sindel said while she stood up from her throne. "You have done well as a warrior. I expected no less from the child of Queen Sindel…" She stepped down the small set of steps and planted her heeled boots firmly on the ground. "There is but one challenge left; me. A Goddess among Gods." Sindel held her arms out boastfully, knowing her power greatly surpassed Kitana's in every way. "I am greater than your puny resistance. I have only one equal, and his name is Shao Kahn! I will kill you, take your soul, and then kill every one of your friends one…by one…"

Kitana began to face her mother. She knew that somewhere she was in there. Somewhere in whoever she was facing, her mother was alive. "You are the Queen of Edenia, you." Kitana spoke as she placed her tessen back at her hips. "For nearly my entire life you have been gone. In another life I had you back for a short time, but for thousands of years I was without my one true mother. One stepped in to try and help, but that one could never replace you. Even in my adulthood, even when Edenia was alive and thriving, you were still Queen. I am, and forever will be known as Princess Kitana, and that is not because I am unwed or unprepared for the throne…" She started to choke up. Her voice was cracking as she spoke…her right hand pointed toward the ground to drive her point home as she shouted. "It is because I cannot accept that you are gone!"

Kitana's tears beaded at the corners of her eyes while she faced her corrupted, and still grinning mother. "I cannot accept that Queen Sindel, the woman that gave birth to me, gave up on me. I cannot accept that she resorted to giving her life to protect a realm, and never considered what it would put her daughter through. Her daughters through!" She threw her arm backward toward the exit of the room, as if Mileena was there. "I made the mistake of not being there for Mileena, but I realized that I am not as cowardly as you were. I realized that I have a responsibility, and I will see it through no matter how much it tortures me inside! I will nevernever be with the man I love, and if that means the realms remain alive, he remains alive, and Edenia is protected then I accept that. Mileena and Jade are all I live for besides Edenia. You will always be Queen, mother, but I will never be a coward!"

Kitana's words hit something within the silent Ermac. He knew a fight was coming, but the weakened being lifted his head to see the mother and daughter at odds.

Sindel's grin started to lower after Kitana's bold words. "Your voice is wasted on me, child. I will be sure you cower before Shao Kahn before I end your life…"

Kitana lowered her head slightly as her tears rolled down over her bloodstained cheeks. "I accept your death, mother. You are different this time. I will be the mother to Mileena that you never were, I will be the sister to her that she deserves, and I will be the friend that Jade needs. I will be everything Edenia claimed you were…"

"Sindel, my love…" A voice echoed from Ermac that froze Kitana still, as well as Sindel. "Do not do this. You are better than Shao Kahn; you are stronger than his influence…"

The Empress was stunned. Her white eyes were as wide as Kahn's hammer when her attention shifted to Ermac. "Jerrod…?" Sindel gasped. Her voice was much softer than before, as the actual Sindel emerged for a moment. The influence of Kahn and Shang Tsung's collection of souls took her over immediately. "No…no! I will not fall for your tricks! I am a Goddess! I am not your weak Sindel!"

"Sindel, please." Jerrod pleaded in earnest to his lover. "Remember who you are; do not be defined by this new power! You are her mother, you have a chance to make things right!"

Sindel grit her teeth. Her eyebrows lifted up as it seemed she was struggling internally. A violet orb formed in her right hand as she lifted it to aim toward Kitana. "No, this is what I am meant to do! She must die!"

"You do not forgive yourself for what you did, Sindel." Jerrod continued. "You had no choice. You were forced to do what you did. You cannot forgive yourself, I understand. However, this is your chance, my love. This is your chance to ask for forgiveness and be forgiven. Do not let your guilt feed Shao Kahn's influence!"

"How…how could I ever…" Sindel's voice was now the one breaking. Jerrod's words were invading her clouded mind, bringing her a sense of clarity she hadn't felt in ages. "I…I am a Goddess! Die!"

Sindel ran toward Kitana at full speed. She knew a single punch from her could end Kitana's life. She didn't need much effort at all. She swung her fist toward the princess with everything she had behind it. "This is the end!"

Sindel's promise proved to be the truth.

The fist made it's impact…

…with Kitana's palm.

There was a very light sound of knuckle and flesh meeting, but there was no damage done to the blood-covered Princess. She looked unimpressed by Sindel's 'strength', even with the tears in her eyes.

Sindel nearly choked on a gasp. "Wh-what are you?! My strength…! You've stolen it from me!" She trembled in horror, as she knew her death was now imminent. "How have you done this to me?! Is it this medallion..?!"

"Actually, no." A voice came from the doorway as Denise Tsung and hooded guards of the palace stepped inside the room. "You never had any real power. We simply played up to Shao Kahn's vanity." The others with her soon revealed themselves to be Rain and Reiko, whom along with the missing Tanya had an established alliance with Denise. The last guard remained hooded however. It seemed he was the only actual guard in the bunch.

"I am a goddess!" Sindel shouted as she struggled to remove her hand from Kitana's grasp. "You are lying! This is a trick!"

Denise chuckled as she stepped ahead of the others. "You're a pawn, Sindel. Return to me that which is mine…" The woman licked her teeth as her right hand lifted up in front of herself. Her fingers bent as if trying to claw at the air, but her great power was beginning to drain Sindel. Violet and purple energy rippled through the air like translucent splatters of paint flowing back toward Denise's waiting palm. The soul energy gathered from Shang Tsung was absorbed back into her body and reinvigorated her. As the energy was taken, Sindel fell to her knees as her weakness became apparent. Quan Chi's dark magic which resurrected her was sucked out as well and gave Denise an extra super charge.

Kitana released her mother's hand and turned her sights to Denise. "Allow her to live!" She commanded. "If you have taken what possesses her, then you need not do more!"

"…Little girl," Denise huffed. "I have no intention of killing her. She was just a pawn as I mentioned. I needed a little of Shinnok's power…" She tapped the side of her cranium and gave a playful smile. "You play chess one move at a time, while I play from the end game to the beginning moves. I don't need to explain myself, just know that the rest of this problem?" She looked around the room, but was gesturing to the conflict with Shao Kahn. "It's yours to solve alone."

"Set Ermac free." Kitana narrowed her eyes. While Ermac was using her father's voice, she was more concerned with the life of her mother and her friends than acknowledging her long since passed father. "Set him free, tell me where Mileena and the others are, and leave us. I will handle the rest."

The hooded man spoke. "So demanding" He chuckled as his Australian accent rolled right off his tongue. "Reiko's mother instilled much fight in you, but your demands are unneeded, Princess Kitana." The man pulled his hood back, and it was Kano. "Your mother and Ermac are free to go. Kill Kahn and you won't ever see us again."

The princess narrowed her sights on Kano now. Why was this human in allegiance with them and speaking as if he was a physical threat to her? He hadn't any of the cybernetics that Sonya and the others saw, but Kitana was oblivious to his cybernetic assimilation. "You will be silent, worm. I am speaking to one who holds power to threat."

Kano chuckled and glanced to Denise. "Well…" Kano spat on the floor. "Guess I gotta slip into somethin' a lil' more…" Within seconds, Kano's features switched over into Liu Kang's. "Comfortable for your eyes." His voice completely shifted. It was clear this was Shang Tsung now. "You are a great asset to us. Kill Kahn, and as we promised…none of us will be in your way."

"Sorcerer…" Kitana felt uneasy about trusting Shang Tsung and Denise Tsung. She was oblivious to their trickery; not knowing that Shang built a decoy for Shao Kahn to merge with Sindel. "I will kill Shao Kahn…now tell me where my sister is!"

The room fell silent as a single footstep echoed in the entrance of the room.

The presence of malice was incredible; even Kitana and Sindel's stomachs felt tense as the new entrant emerged into the room. The light scrape of her energy staff brushed along the stone floors as she moved between Denise and the others as if they were pillars and not people. Her eyes were locked on Kitana and Sindel, and as she stood in front of Denise, she uttered one word. "Leave."

Kitana noticed the weapon drawn by Jade and worry painted her expression. Her eyebrows lowered in concern as a single hand reached forward to try and get contact with Jade who was yards away. "Jade…what is -…"

"LEAVE." Jade commanded as she looked over her shoulder in anger to the other group.

Denise gave glance to Kitana, but began to back away. Once she turned her back, Shang Tsung, Rain, and Reiko each left the room. Now only Kitana, Sindel, and Ermac were left with Jade. The tension was increasing with every breath, every pause, and every second Jade clutched her weapon.

"Jade," Kitana tried to speak softly. "Are you alright? What has happened? Where is Mileena?"

"I have a few questions." She spoke as she turned her gaze back on her friend. "And do not ask me about your sister, Kitana. Not until I know the truth." Now she burned her sights on Sindel. "Tell me of Edenia before your reign. Tell me of Queen Edenia and King Theopolis. Tell me of the massacre Tell me the tale of how you stole my kingdom," Her voice became more aggressive as she went on, cracking with emotion as she was on the verge of tears. "My realm! My birthright as the rightful Princess of Edenia!"

Kitana was shocked. She glanced down to her mother for some kind of response. "…Rightful princess…?"

Sindel took her gaze upon the ground. Shao Kahn's influence was fading, and her own memory was filtering back in slowly. She was lost for the first few moments, but the Queen carefully picked herself up from the ground. "Your mother…Queen Edenia…" She exhaled. "She was a…"

"I care not for what she was!" Jade shouted. "Did you murder her?!"

"She was as bad as Shao Kahn, Jade!" Sindel retorted. "She sent your siblings to war before they were of age!"

"Did you murder her?!" Jade's eyes were strained now. Her arms trembling with anger.

"I saved Edenia. I saved you." Sindel continued. "I could not allow her tyranny to continue after so many were slaughtered and sacrificed to the One Being! She was going to sacrifice you, she was going to give your soul to the One Being and merge the realms!"

"ANSWER ME!" Jade stomped on the ground hard enough to send cracks through the ground several meters around her.

"Yes!" Sindel finally spoke. "Yes, I killed her! I had to!"

"You named yourself Queen." Jade's voice cracked, and she paused to gather herself. "You stole from me what was to be mine. You stole my chance to redeem Edenia, you stole my life and gave it to her. You made me a servant when I am the only one of true royal blood! You enslaved me to watch after her, you never gave me anything I was owed! You tried to burry my memory so I would never know the truth!"

Kitana finally chipped in. "Jade…" She spoke softly. "We are friends. The past is the past. We can get over this, we always have…" Kitana watched as Jade shook her head all while she spoke. It seemed words were grains of salt to her mountainous anger.

"The past isn't the past." She retorted sharply. "You have been trying to change the past this entire time Kitana. You tried to hide your guilt, your failures, and pretend to care about what I wanted in my life. You lied to me just as much as she did! All you wanted was your perfect life and you tried to control me! You tried to hold me in your shadow; you treated me like your hand maiden!"

"You are my friend, Jade!" The words were breaking her heart, but she tried to reach out to her friend again. "How many thousands of years have we spent together?! Do not tell me all of it has been forgotten!"

"Thousands of years as your slave…no more. No more!" Jade grit her teeth and spun her staff in front of herself. "You should have been the one at my beck and call. I was never a friend to you. You left Mileena and I in your glorious, perfect, and untainted shadow. It was you who caused the end of so many lives when you helped Earthrealm. It was you who put me and others in danger. It was you who foolishly challenged the Deadly Alliance unprepared, it was you I had to rescue, and it has been you I've had to babysit in your quest for perfection. I put myself and Nido at risk to help your future! You would never do that…all you care for is your status and your false throne…"

"Jade…!" Kitana's heart was breaking with every breath. She was trying to focus all of her attention onto Jade to prove to her that she still supported her. "What has gotten into you? What has happened? I am your friend! I only want what is best for you, Mileena, and our friends! If I must denounce my royalty to ease you, then I will!" She stepped forward, but hesitated to move another inch when Jade struck the floor between them with her staff. "What must I do? Tell me and it is yours! I only want my family…I care not for royalty. I've lived that lonely life once…" She took her gaze upon the ground briefly. "I wanted to give it all up to be with the man I love. If Edenia is what you want, Jade…it is yours. However you cannot hold me to blame for what happened in the past between our mothers."

Jade wanted to forgive Kitana. However, something was aching in the back of her mind. Like mother, like daughter, and eventually she knew Kitana would become power hungry again. Or would she?

The voice of Queen Edenia echoed in Jade's head. 'She lied to you. She is trying to get sympathy through her daughter.'

"I…" Jade hesitated. Her facial expression softened with concern for her own actions. She held her staff tightly in both hands, but she gave her usual kind gaze to her friend Kitana. "…I forgive you, Kitana. You were not in the wrong." She smiled sweetly…

"Thank Edenia…" Kitana exhaled. The tension was now cleared. "We have to find Mileena and the others. Shao Kahn still waits ahea-…"

"But I do not forgive her." Jade spun her staff and moved at near light-speeds toward the vulnerable Sindel.

"Jade!" Kitana shouted out as she threw herself in front of her mother!