WHOOOOOOAAAA! AN UPDATE? NO WAY! Essentially, I've had a massive writer's block. I honestly could not figure out a way to end this chapter off right for the longest time, rewriting several scenes several times. Also, between watching world cup, watching anime, and playing League, the time just kinda disappears. No excuses though, and I've finally managed to push through (LIKE A LITTLE *****) and finish the chapter. I was originally gonna include the endurance round's details in here along with the mirror match, but nah, I wanted to put out an update before the one year anniversary of this story and, fearing my procrastinating habits, figured I probably wouldn't be able to do that. More details about the one year anniversary at the end. Without further ado, the story!


Chapter 8

First light that day seemed like it never came due to the dark clouds that obscured the sky and the fog that blanketed the island. Nevertheless, at 8 am, everyone's alarm clocks (which they never remember setting or even having) rang, and they made their way to the nearest pagoda for breakfast, which brought them to the same room despite the fact that they were pretty sure they entered different buildings.

Even though there were copious amounts of everything and the room was brightly lit as if for a joyous festival, the mood of the dining hall was tense. Maybe it was because of the weather, or the earliness of the time, or the fact that half the competitors were dead, no one really knew. One thing was certain, however: the silence that filled the hall was oppressive. Not even the usually boastful and talkative Johnny Cage was able to break the silence.

"Are you seeing this? Prestigious, big pot, invitational...This is what I need. People will know the name of Johnny Cage and, this time, they will know it's the real deal. No stuntmen, no special effects, no staged stuff. Just pure, sweet, awesome me beating up some scrubs and becoming the champion of a 500 year old tournament."

Is that really all I came here for? Is that the reason why a life has been lost for me, and a beautiful one at that? For my own sake and my own ego? How depraved can you get?

Thoughts like that had been swirling around in Cage's head since yesterday night, causing him to have poor sleep and torturing him mentally. Based on the grim or listless expressions on everyone else's faces, nobody had any good sleep, and heavy thoughts burdened their minds too.

When Shang Tsung noticed that everyone had finished eating (or rather, that nobody was eating) and were staring into space, he broke the silence, saying "If everyone is finished eating, let the final round of the tournament begin!"

Wordlessly, everyone rose from their seats and headed for the door.

"But before that, TEST YOUR MIGHT."

The soul snatcher snapped his fingers, and the setting shifted to that of the palace gates. On the path that lead from the docks to the palace were two pedestals. On top of each pedestal was a block of solid brown rock.

"As with last time, please go and smash the block. Whoever cannot break the block will be automatically disqualified."

The warrior monk was the first to act. Walking up to a pedestal, he took a deep breath and shattered the block with one thundering blow. Cage, not to be outdone, walked up to the remaining pedestal and broke his block with his head.

I will atone for my sins. I will honor her sacrifice. I must win this tournament, not for me, but for those that died to give me this opportunity.

"Once again, the Great Johnny Cage finishes the task quicker and with more style!" declared Cage with his usual cockiness and gusto, ignoring the big red bump that was starting to form on his forehead.

"...You suck." came a voice from the crowd that sounded suspiciously Australian.

"Better than you!"

Satisfied, Shang Tsung walked to the side of the road and announced "Let the final round commence. The winner will be able to challenge the defending champion, Goro, and then me for a shot at the prestigious title of the champion of Mortal Kombat!

"Liu Kang and Johnny Cage, if you would please step forward..."

As the two fighters stepped onto the cobbled path that lead to the palace, all the spectators took a few steps back. Both the monk and the actor came together for a handshake.

"May the best Kombatant win," said Liu Kang.

"Thank you for the support," replied Cage with a smile. "And good luck to you too."

The finalists turned around and took 5 steps away from each other. As they did so, a gust of cold wind blew through, perpendicular to the Kombatants, blowing their hair and cloths around to make them look like cool dudes. Then they turned to face each other. After bowing, they adopted fighting positions.

As Shang Tsung took a breath to announce the start of the match, so did Liu Kang, to enter Kombat mode.

The tension in the air was tangible. Raiden looked on with clenched fists. Jaylen (who appeared to materialize out of nowhere after being missing for several days) watched with great interest, after having seen the capabilities of each fighter (though from where, no one knew, since he was invisible for the last few days). Even Kano, who looked like he was playing with his knife as if he was bored, looked on, anticipating an intense fight. This match would be a clash of the titans, pitting the ones who were able to best all the other competitors against each other, not to mention that this was also key in deciding the fate of Earthrealm.

"Round 1...FIGHT!"

Right hook. To Liu Kang's surprise, the fist that moved towards him was no slower than usual. He barely had time to duck under the blow. The speed of his opponent caught the warrior monk off guard, though he lost none of his grace as he continued to dodge around the actor's attacks.

Indeed, he is much stronger than any other I've fought against, with the exception of Kung Lao. Were it not for my reflexes, I might have already been laid low. I shall see if his defense is a formidable as his offense.

Sidestepping the next kick, Liu Kang shuffled forward and drove his palm into the solar plexus of his opponent. Cage had barely any time to double over before the Chinaman's knee smashed into his face, knocking him upright again. Still dazed, the Hollywood star could only bring up his arms to protect his head as he was assailed by a barrage of punches from Liu Kang. Soon, Cage's arms were covered with bruises and his abdomen was sore from the beating he was receiving.

Knowing that hiding behind his arms would do him no good, the actor devised a counterattack strategy. As the next punch came, Cage leaned back as if limboing to dodge the blow. By using both his backwards momentum and a push by his feet, the superstar launched his lower body into the air and delivered a soccer style bicycle kick to Liu Kang's face.

Cage landed on his back but he knew how to fall lightly and how to absorb impacts a long time ago, so he sprang back up quickly. The warrior monk had already recovered from the blow by the time the actor was up.

"Very well fought, Mr. Cage," said Liu Kang. "I did not expect you to do that."

"Man, that was the only hit I got on you the entire match," responded Cage. "And I bet it was just a lucky hit too."

A grin. "Quite right."

"Why you little..."

Before Cage could finish that thought, the Shaolin warrior dashed at him with lightning speed. Relying on pure Kombat instinct, Cage moved to the side, completely avoiding the flying kick his opponent made. The momentum from the kick carried Liu Kang past several yards. As soon as Liu Kang's foot touched the ground, he pushed off to launch himself at the Hollywood superstar. Reacting quickly, the brunet fired a green bolt at the charging monk. However, it was easily sidestepped, barely even slowing Liu Kang's charge. Seeing that it did nothing to halt the warrior monk's advance, Cage took a deep breath and prepared to do something he's never done before.

"Find your center."

A garden. Beautiful. Trees several feet tall with breathtaking blossoms, their scent permeating the air. Short scrubs and bushes. A small sparkling pond in the center. Sitting under the pavilion across from sensei, cross-legged.

"Take a deep breath. Look into yourself, feel yourself. How do you feel?"

"Nothing..."

"Good. Continue."

Cage did as he did so many years ago with his teacher in the garden that day. He took a big breath, and looked into his inner self, disregarding all else, even the rapid charge of his opponent.

"Still nothing."

"Good. Continue."

"Come on, Kageyama sensei, why am I doing this? Didn't you say you would teach me what really made your style of martial arts the strongest?"

"I did, and I am doing good on my word right now. Please, continue your introspection."

Minutes pass, and still nothing. Young Cage is about to say something, but is cut of by his teacher.

"I know. Still nothing. That is the power of the Kageken technique. To draw power from nothing. What is the shadows but an absence of light? None know the true power of nothingness...except the Kageyama family."

Amazing. The old geezer is insane, and I've been learning from him all this time?

"Do you feel anything?"

"No! Nothing at all! Why am I sitting here listening to some old dude tell me to sit and waste my time when I could be making a name for myself?"

"Hehe...silly boy. Even when you're not doing anything, you are doing something. Hear your heartbeat. Feel the rise and fall of your chest as you breathe. Smell the scent of the blossoms. You see, no matter what, you are always doing something, and the Kageken is all about nothingness. So I cannot teach you anything while you are still doing something."

"You're asking me to stop breathing? Stop smelling? Stop my heartbeat? Are you insane?"

"Focus young one. Take slow deep breaths, calm your heart, and concentrate on how you feel."

Crazy old coot...

"Empty your mind. Do not even think. Focus on yourself and your center."

The apprentice martial artist does as he is told. Taking deep breathes, he slows his heartbeat to resting and tries to tune out his surroundings. A few more minutes pass and nothing happens. Just as Cage is about to drift into sleep, his sensei alerts him.

"Careful now young one, you are on the path to power."

"No, I was about to go to sleep. This is boring!"

"Ah, now you've ruined it.

"No one realizes it, but just about everyone embarks on the path of power every night. After a long day, and one is spent, when one is running on nothing, he goes to sleep and is rejuvenated. Where does this power for rejuvenation come from? How is it that, when one is doing nothing, that he gains the most power? You see, the dream world is full of power, and yet full of nothing. It is from this nothingness that the dream world derives its power, and we, the Kageyama have developed a technique that harnesses this power of nothingness.

"Now try again, but this time, don't give in to the desire to sleep. Fight it while embracing it. If you can get in between the dream world and the waking world, you will be able to tap into powers beyond your wildest dreams."

Now I know he's crazy...but I might as well give it a try, I still remember the last time I tried to leave during his ramblings...

Cage tries his best to do as his sensei asks, but he just can't do it. This is the longest he's ever sat in a single spot outside of school. He is just about to fall asleep before a voice, which seemingly comes from inside his head prevents him from doing so.

"Close, but still too far. Come closer."

The martial artist in training sits up, alarmed by the voice he just heard, but not enough to shake off his sleepiness or even open his eyes. More minutes pass before he is able to calm down again to the point he was at before.

"Closer."

Anticipation courses through him, but the brunet keeps it down. He will not achieve the power if he is feeling anything.

"Closer."

Cage is now at the point being half sleeping and half conscious. Inching closer to sleep, he gets the distinct feeling of crossing a threshold, and something in his subconscious, some ancient, unused and unknown part of his subconscious gives way, releasing the promised power.

Strength bursts through the unseen barrier and fills Cage's body. The strength of a thousand men fills him and a green aura surrounds him. His eyes snap open, but the green light shining from his eyes makes his eyes look solid green. The aura swirls around the figure of the newest practitioner of the Kageken, lifting him off the ground.

Cage looks at his hand, unable to believe his (viridescent) eyes. The power surrounds his hands, and his forearms! His forearms have swollen up! And it's not just his forearms, all his muscles triples in size and increases exponentially in strength. The force that courses through his body feels amazing, but it also feels…alive. It feels as if it has a will of its own. The power doesn't so much as flow through his body, but rather consumes it. However, Cage pays that no attention. Here is a power that will surely make him famous.

Whatever barrier was broken for the future Hollywood star to access this power is not sealed up. More and more power surges into Cage and congregates at his chest, building up pressure until he is no longer able to stand it. A sharp pain stabs through his chest and he retches.

The power is gone now, and the brunet is on his hands and knees, gasping for breath.

"Well done John. This will do for today. Slowly, I will show you the true power of the Kageken. But for now, go home and get some rest."

In time, Cage learned to do the same process much quicker. He learned how to channel the power into bolts to throw at his opponents and how to focus the power into devastating blows. All this he learned before his sensei became too sick to teach him. His sensei never recovered from the illness and died before imparting all his knowledge of the Kageken to Cage. And, as his sensei explained,

"The territory you tread on is dangerous, young one. If you are not careful, the nothingness will consume you. Do not use this power unless I am with you and instructing you."

In twenty years the superstar's obeyed his sensei's instructions. He used regular martial arts whenever he needed to fight. Cage observed his sensei's words carefully because everytime he uses the Kageken, the pain that he felt the first time would reappear, sometimes rendering him immobile for a full minute. But now, in a tournament of the gods and the unearthly, Cage was going all out just in order to stay level with his opponents.

And in this case, it's not even enough.

Kageyama sensei only taught me how to use this power in bursts, but there is surely a way to use it for a prolonged period of time. I must find this way for, if I cannot, I will undoubtedly lose.

Cage understood that what he was about to do was incredibly risky and highly impossible, not to mention possibly fatal, but he didn't care. He was either going to win with this all-or-nothing gambit or lose anyways.

The brunet's consciousness descended the spiraling hole to nothingness, where the power for his victory lies.

There.

The familiar power of the shadows of nothingness filled the superstar, surrounding him in a green aura. The power filled his limbs first, then his abdomen, his chest, and all the way up to his head. Once Cage felt the familiar stabbing pain in his chest, he let out some of the built up energy in the form of movement.

Liu Kang noticed that his opponent was acting strangely as soon as he closed his eyes and just stood there, as if oblivious to the raven haired man's charge. It became evident to everyone when green energy burst out of the actor's body and surrounded him. The monk did not know what the dark green swirls were, but Cage's chi did not feel any different. It didn't feel bigger (which would indicate an increase in strength) and pattern, or signature, of his chi didn't change either (which would indicate new abilities). Thus, Liu Kang took a risk and launched into a flying kick at his opponent. Had his mind not been clouded by the heat of battle, however, the warrior monk would've noticed that there was the presence of another in Cage's body.

What happened next was incredibly fast. Natural eyes could not see more than a blur, and Liu Kang himself would not have known what hit him were it not for his ability to sense chi. Cage seemingly vanished, though Liu Kang could sense that the movie star had simply moved incredibly quickly to the side to avoid the kick, then towards the flying monk. Even though the Chinese warrior could detect everything, he was not fast enough to react, and the blow from Cage sent Liu Kang flying a good few yards.

Liu Kang recovered quickly, absorbing the impact of the fall without sustaining too much damage and rolling onto his feet. The blow was a bit disorientating and, before the monk could regain his bearings, Cage was already on him, raining blows onto him.

The speed of the blows was incredible. Every hit felt almost simultaneous, and what felt like hundreds of blows fell onto every inch Liu Kang's frame in the span of a mere fifteen seconds. The result of taking so many blows was devastating. Bones all over his body broke, skin and muscles tore, blood gushing out in almost every angle. Finally, after fifteen seconds of the brutal beating, Cage delivered a particularly strong blow to the raven haired man's diaphragm, knocking him to the ground.

Liu Kang lay on the ground on his back facing the sky. From where he lay, Cage towered over him, standing in front of the sun so that he was silhouetted to Liu Kang, with only his nephrite colored eyes, blazing with power, discernible to the incapacitated monk.

The warrior monk smiled. He had been bested in a fair fight. He had lost with honor, and the one who beat him would go on to defeat Shang Tsung, which was all he really wanted to happen, even if it would not be him to best the sorcerer.

Before Cage did anything, however, his eyes widened, and he doubled over, clutching at his chest. The green aura around him disappeared and his eyes returned to normal. He coughed, and blood flew out. It dribbled out of his mouth, forming long strings of blood dangling from his chin, and more blood flowed out of his nose, his eyes, his ears, and any other orifices on his body. The pain that stabbed at his chest was a hundred times worse than normal.

What is happening to me? Is this the true price of the Kageken?

The actor tried to say something, but could not make any words due to the fact that he was gurgling on his own blood. Another pain attack seized him, and this time he vomited blood. If a person walked by at this moment, he would first notice the alarming amount of blood Cage has lost, which was obvious due to the large pool of blood that had formed, and then the passerby would notice how pathetic he looked, pain causing him to flounder about in his owned blood as pink colored spittle started to form around his mouth. It was evident that Cage would not be able to continue the fight.

Why here? Why now? I was about to win...about to make up for the beautiful life lost for me...

Raiden turned and glared at Shang Tsung with enough fury to kill.

"SORCERER! WHAT HAVE YOU DONE?" roared the raging thunder god.

"I assure you that I have nothing to do with this," replied the balding man with a frown.

"You would lie even when it is this blatantly obvious?" seethed Raiden.

"I am insulted. I have enough tact to know when to lie and when not to. I also know when to directly intervene, like what you accuse me of, and when to sit back and watch, like what I am doing now."

Raiden was about to badmouth the sorcerer some more, but was cut off by Liu Kang.

"It's true, Lord Raiden. The amount of black magic that he would've needed to use to do that to Cage would leave unmistakable residue, but I cannot sense it, and I trust that neither can you."

The thunder god paused and sensed the area. It was true. Black magic always left behind obvious auras of darkness that were so obvious; even people that are non-sensitive to magic could feel it.

Raiden threw one last dagger from his eye at Shang Tsung before turning to the still writhing Cage.

"Well, this is awkward," said Shang Tsung. "It's only round one and neither kombatant seems able to continue. We'll have to settle this in round two.

"NO!" exclaimed Liu Kang as he stood up, using both his chi and pain repression techniques he's learned to ignore the pain his body was in. "I am the winner. Now get some help for Cage, please."

"Of course he'll get help." The soul stealer waved his hands and instantly rejuvenated both fighters. "But, even though you won the first round, this fight is not over until the second one."

"So be it."

Both fighters were fully healed and ready to fight. Cage in particular was happy about it. This would be a chance to redeem himself, another shot at winning the tournament. All he has to do is use the Kageken to weaken up Liu Kang enough so that he can win without the Kageken. That way, he can win while avoiding the...terrible side effects of the technique. The brunet took at big breath and started to draw upon the power of the shadows...but found none of the strength he usually finds.

The actor liked to describe the process of drawing upon the nothingness like descending a deep well to gather water from the bottom. Following that analogy, this case would be getting to the bottom and discovering the well had dried up.

Well, I'm boned.

Cage adopted a fighting stance and tried to be calm and confident, but he knew the match was already over. He had tried to fight Liu Kang without the Kageken in the first round, and that did not turn out well. The blacked haired monk was swift and strong and was at a level above him. In fact, the only blow he landed was a lucky one, and luck certainly won't win the fight for him. The actor would try. He would try and pray, but, in his heart of hearts, he knew that he had already lost.

"Round 2...FIGHT"

From the moment the fight started, Liu Kang knew something was wrong with his opponent. The way he fought was too...passive. Too defensive. The Johnny Cage he had observed from the beginning of the tournament was more aggressive. He would always go for the first blow, make moves and try to put his opponent on the defensive. This style of blocking and dodging and trying to avoid attacking that he was currently using now...it didn't feel right.

The warrior monk tried to bring out the aggressive side of Cage. He relented a bit on his assault. He made obvious mistakes, exaggerating his movements so that there were openings (or big gaping holes) in his guard. However, Cage did not take the bait.

Something is definitely wrong, thought Liu Kang.

Liu Kang's master had told him that a lot could be learned about a person by observing their face. Seeing as his opponent wasn't going to get aggressive any time soon, the warrior monk took this lull in the fighting to study the face of the actor while continuing a very weak assault on the brunet.

The face of Cage spoke of an easy life and an even easier going attitude. It spoke of a lifetime of success and recent hardships. Most of all, that face was the face of a person who knew he could so something, but is unable to, for one reason or another.

Based on this information and Cage's strange fighting style, Liu Kang deduced that the superstar did not or could not use the technique that he used before. Both fighters knew that, without that technique Cage was no match for Liu Kang, let alone Goro or Shang Tsung. The bare chested monk delivered a powerful punch to the brunet's core, knocking him back. He used this halt in fighting to initiate a dialogue.

"Will you not use it?" asked Liu Kang.

"I would if I could, but..." replied the superstar, voice laced with bitterness.

"Then you know that you will not stand a chance in this tournament."

Cage's silence spoke for him. The knowledge was mutual.

"In that case, I will do what you cannot. I will win, and beat Shang Tsung for the sake of Earth."

The Hollywood star's face said it all. He'd accepted that a long time ago, but still wishes that the situation was different.

"Fine," sighed the brunet, his shoulders slumping. "I forfeit the match."

Liu Kang bowed to his opponent, but some grumbling came from the crowd.

"Man, it was just starting to get good too." Suspiciously Australian.

"Yeah, are you even in your final form yet?" Suspiciously Dragon-Ball-Fanatic-y

"Boo! Quitter!" Suspiciously godlike.

"Well, before you I can acknowledge your victory, Liu Kang, you must FINISH HIM!" announced Shang Tsung.

The warrior monk bowed once more while uttering a monkey-like cry. In a flash, Liu Kang covered the five or so yards between him and the actor with a single cartwheel. Upon coming out of the cartwheel, the raven haired warrior used his forward momentum to deliver a a teeth-shattering punch to his opponent's jaw, causing him to blast off into the stratosphere.

"It is done," declared Liu Kang.

"That's it?" asked an incredulous sorcerer.

"What?"

"That's kind of lame."

"I'm not gonna lie, that was pretty boring," agreed Raiden.

"The sky didn't even turn black! It's as if the...Elder Gods aren't even acknowledging that that was a fatality!"

"Well I finished him, so too bad. I win, now let me fight Goro so I can win this tournament."

Just as Liu Kang finished, a meteorite crashed into the ground a few yards from Liu Kang. Upon further inspection, they found that it was only Johnny Cage, who had somehow survived the re-entry after being sent into orbit. He was still alive and breathing, despite the fact that most of the bones in his body were probably broken and the teeth he had left numbered in the single digits.

"Wha...he's not even dead! I'm sorry, but I cannot count that as a win!" huffed a very bewildered and angry Shang Tsung

"All you said was 'you cannot win your match unless you finish your opponent.' That's pretty darn vague, don't you agree? What constitutes finishing someone? You can't fault me, because you never specified what finishing really meant. So too bad, so sad. I win."

"If that's so, I'm changing the rules. You cannot win your match unless you KILL your opponent now." hissed the pupiless manipulator.

"You can't be serious!" exclaimed Liu Kang.

"That's cowardly and dishonorable," stated Raiden whilst condemning the sorcerer with a displeased glare.

"To quote you directly, 'too bad, so sad.' On this island, what I say goes."

"I will not do it," stated the warrior monk, back straight, unyielding to the dark desires of the blue robed sorcerer.

"Then maybe someone else will. GUARDS!"

At the sorcerer's call, the guards with the fox-face shaped masks lining either side of the path closed in on the comatose body of Cage. Liu Kang moved closer to the body, and Raiden teleported in front of it. Both were planning to protect the unconscious actor and both were rendered immobile by Shang Tsung.

"You will not interfere."

Whatever dark spell that Shang Tsung had cast prevented the duo from voluntarily moving their muscles. They moved out of the way of the advancing guards, unable either to look away or move to help.

Kano and Jaylen were lucky in the sense that they could choose to look away, and so they did. The thunder god and Shaolin monk were forced to watch the spearmen not only kill the unconscious actor, but utterly mutilate the corpse. When the guards were done, the remains of Johnny Cage weren't so much a body with holes in it as opposed to holes with body on it, entrails exposed to the dim morning light, blood spreading in an ever growing pool around it.

All those who beheld the spectacle would have the image of the mutilated body engraved into their minds forever, traumatizing them. For Shang Tsung, it will become a fond memory to remember on a sunny afternoon with nothing to do.

The wizened sorcerer waved his hands, the guards returned to their posts. That action also released the spell on the immobilized duo, letting them drop to the ground on all fours. Immediately, Raiden teleported in front of Shang Tsung, his face distorted with fury.

"SORCERER!" shouted Raiden. "YOU HAVE GONE TOO FAR. I WILL END YOU!" A loud peal of thunder accentuated the first word, giving a really intimidating effect to it.

Tsung sneered. "You do not have the power to oppose me, fool."

Raiden proved the exact opposite by blasting the blue robed sorcerer in the chest with a bolt of lightning, sending him flying for a good few feet.

The Outworld representative stood back up, fury blazing in his eyes.

"I will show you the true meaning of terror before I absorb your soul."

With that, Shang Tsung shot three flaming skulls from his palms. Raiden teleported up to the sorcerer and punched him in the face. Shang stumbled back a few steps, and managed to react fast enough to duck under the roundhouse kick that Raiden threw at him next. The soul snatcher growled out a spell, and flames exploded out of the ground around his feet, obscuring him from vision. When the flames died down, it was Scorpion stood in the place of Shang Tsung.

"Hiding behind the soul of your victims? How desperate," taunted Raiden.

The shape shifter roared and charged at the thunder god, who shot a blast of electricity at the faux undead ninja. Just as the shot was about to connect, the body dissipated into ash, and Raiden realized too late that he had been tricked. A fist came from his right and smashed into his face, followed by two kicks, one to the stomach, one to the chest and an uppercut to the solar plexus that knocked the white robed god to the ground.

The electric deity's body dissolved into electricity and reformed with him standing upright, but not before he shot a bolt of lightning at the sorcerer. To his surprise, the lightning did not hit Shang Tsung, but a statue of ice (now a pool of water) that stood where the Scorpion poser once was.

"Not hiding, merely using the tools I have effectively," came a voice from behind Raiden. It was a voice colder than the coldest winter, and a chill raced down the spine of the straw hat clad god. Judging from how close the voice seemed to be, the ancient sorcerer must've been right behind him. The designated protector of Earthrealm whirled around with a hook aimed at Shang Tsung's head, but his intended target grabbed the fist with his open palm, stopping it dead in it's path.

Raiden tried to punch the demon posing as a cryomancer, but he ducked under the blow and winded Raiden with a vicious strike to the gut. Shang Tsung proceeded to alternate between punching the tired out god's left cheek and backhanding his right while mocking him. As he was doing this, he shed the image of Sub-zero

"I thought you would end me, hmm? Foolish thunder god, neither you nor your lackeys can or will defeat me. I will subject your souls to eternal torment by sacrificing them to the furies, and then revel in the pain of all the foolish humans of this realm as they are killed, plundered, possibly raped and enslaved. I will cackle as the pantheon of Earthrealm gods is brought down to the mortal level and humiliated. I will dance on the grave of you and all your pathetic defenders...if any graves will be made for you and your pathetic lot. You will be either forgotten in the halls of time, or be remembered as an incompetent and inadequate fool. But that's not the least of your worries, because death will not be the end for you. Oh, I'll see to it. Once Shao Kahn's contract with me expires, I'll need something to do for the next millennia, and I think I'll satisfy myself with breaking your mind bit by bit. You better be scared right now becau-"

Raiden cut off Shang Tsung's gloating by kneeing him in the stomach. The blow knock the breath out of the sorcerer, causing him to release his grip on the beaten up thunder god, who promptly teleported a few feet away from the murderous Outworld inhabitant. The white robe clad god took a big breath and unleashed all of his remaining power into a continuous lightning bolt, zapping the sorcerer and immobilizing him.

"Liu Kang!" gasped Raiden, whose voice trembled with the effort it took for him to maintain his attack.

"Yes, Lord Raiden?" responded Liu Kang, dazed and still a bit tired from his last fight and the effects of the spell.

"Time is short, so I will keep this brief. Shang Tsung's power has grown beyond mine, and I cannot stop him. It is all I can do to hold him right now, and I certainly cannot do that forever. When my strength runs out, the vile villain will kill my physical form and absorb my essence. All of the hope of Earthrealm rests on your shoulders, Liu Kang. The sorcerer will undoubtedly try to use his dark magics on you to gain an unfair advantage, so I leave you with a parting gift."

Raiden pointed at the fallen monk with his left hand and jolted Liu Kang with a little bit of electricity, completely healing him.

"My blessing is now on you. Not only have you been healed, but Shang Tsung's dark magic will be ineffective against you. This does not last indefinitely, so please, defeat him as soon as you can. Everything relies on you."

With a final cry, Raiden ended his desperate attack and dropped to his knees. Shang Tsung, now free from the grips of the lighting attack, glared at the tired thunder god with narrow eyes filled with malice and contempt.

"Just for that, I will make you suffer all the more," he hissed.

Faster than one as old as he should be able to move (which, in the world of Mortal Kombat, is pretty darn fast), the wizened wizard dashed at Raiden and picked him up by the lapels of his robe. He lifted his struggling victim with his left hand, and a pale, sickly green light flowed out of the twitching body into Tsung's open right palm. Raiden's corpse shrank and dried into a brittle, crumbly grey husk. Shang Tsung dropped the skeleton, and the lower half dissolved into a puddle of green slime upon touching the ground.

The blue robed sorcerer sighed a satisfied sigh, and sifted through his vast store of souls to find and torture Raiden's soul, but was stopped short by Liu Kang's cry.

"It's not over, sorcerer. You still have me to deal with."

Shang Tsung sighed again, but not contently this time, but wearily.

"So I do, don't I?" Suddenly, a maliciously mischievous glint flashed through his eyes. "...Or do I? I'm fairly confident that I have enough souls to unbalance the furies right now." At this point, Shang Tsung was talking less to Liu Kang and more to himself. "In fact, more than I need! The power of the thunder god greatly bolstered my already considerable powers. Yes...I can definitely do it. Who needs victory in the tournament? Mortal Kombat only pertains to the taking over of realms; the emperor merely wishes to...annex this realm. Yes... All I need to do is set up the ritual and alert my master and this realm will be mi - ours for the taking. Yes...YEEESSSSS."

As Shang Tsung brooded over his evil plan to himself, Liu Kang grew more and more creeped out and frustrated. He was being completely ignored after issuing (what he hoped was) a direct challenge. A slap to the face would've been less insulting. On the other hand, talking to oneself like that and the smile of evil ecstasy on the face of the sorcerer definitely weren't normal. Especially with the orgasmic tone of the last yes.

Liu Kang cleared his throat; bring Shang Tsung out of his quiet revelry. "Like I said, you still have me to deal with."

"Me? ME?" chuckled Shang Tsung. "I don't have to do a thing. Mr. Kano and Mr. Jaylen here will be doing all the fighting."

"What?"

"Are you crazy?"

The protests of the two were completely ignored by the grey haired mage. He snapped his fingers, and pale green light surrounded the forms of the two fighters. The same green light also ringed their eyes and irises.

"As you wish," droned the two simultaneously as they advanced on the warrior monk.

"I have work to do," stated Shang Tsung simply. He turned on his heels and headed back towards the palace with his arms crossed behind his back. "Do give my regards to Mr. Cage when you find him in the afterlife."

"Shang Tsung!" called Liu Kang. The sorcerer did not even slow down.

"Demon!" spat the monk. Same result.

The Shaolin managed to get one final insult off before being too occupied with his opponents to shout at the receding figure of Shang Tsung anymore.

"Coward!"

This managed to bring the sorcerer to a halt, and nearly made him turn around. The Outworld representative managed to get a hold of himself though, and continued towards the palace.

He stopped as he crossed the threshold between the exterior and the interior of the walls, and removed the blazing fury from his eyes. He wiped the infuriated snarl off his face, and replaced it with a victorious smirk.

Insult me all you want, but today is the day that I win.

Sounds of the battle outside reached the ears of the sorcerer. The sound of a one-sided fight was music to his ears, and drove him onwards.

Today is the day Earthrealm finally falls.


So, character death, ominous threats, desperate situations...all the stuff you'd expect for a climatic final battle with the big bad boss and his invincible right hand man. The part where Cage first discovers the Kageken was hard A.F. to write. Pretty much had to use all my knowledge of cliche martial arts to come up with that scene. Still, I really wanted to include that scene because I wanted to explain how come Cage can use all those shadow kicks and stuff. I also have some cool stuff planned involving the technique as well. Next chapter: endurance rounds, mirror match ups, sub-boss battles!

Now about that anniversary thing... I've got a lot of stuff planned for the one year anniversary: update on the story, a new oneshot concerning the origins of Shang Tsung, and an alternate version of Chapter 5. See y'all then!