Chapter 8

"You summoned me, my friend?" The voice spoke to the invisible man.

'Oh my! It's him!' Erickson's subconsciousness thought.

"It's been a while, yes. We are in need of your assistance. Three Jedi are trapped in the cave of secrets, and their masters need to find their way to the planet to rescue them."

"Ah yes, the Besalisk, the Zabrak, and the poor cyborg. If I recall, they followed the first comer shortly afterward." The voice said.

"The sith. We're aware. We can let him be lost in there. We just need the location of our team." Rye spoke.

"You know the sith will be trapped there, but if your team escapes, the sith will escape as well."

"What do you suggest we do?" Ephraim asked.

"Wait for the right time. Then I will tell you, then you will make your move."

"Might I ask how you knew our team?" Erickson asked.

"To put it plain and simply, I'm there too. But I'm not."

"Force-spirit thing." Ephraim muttered.

"What are you doing there?" Rye asked.

"It's a very long story. The Besalisk will explain when you unite."

"How is the team?" Rye asked.

Exar was launched across the dark abyss; Mirtis grabbed his own fist and rubbed it.

"I had no idea we were this durable." Mirtis said.

"What *gasp* do you want?" Exar asked desperately.

"We want you to embrace us. I'm who you are. You were born to be me. I'm here for a reason. Without me, you're nothing."

"Well you know *gasp* what they say. *gasp* If I'm nothing without you, *gasp* then I shouldn't have you."

Mirtis grabbed his head and yelled. He floated over to Exar and punched him again. "You will embrace us."

He grabbed Exar's head. "I'll do this the hard way then." Mirtis's skin darkened until he was black. The black inched its way onto Exar, and his eyes misted up. Whatever of Mirtis that appeared on Exar, it was removed from Mirtis's spirit. Soon, Exar was covered.

Mirtis was what remained.

Exar found himself surrounded by yet another black abyss. This time, only Mirtis's voice was heard.

"You are nothing."

Exar could neither move nor speak.

"You're nothing to everyone."

Exar couldn't stop the tear.

"Not to your masters."

He struggled to move.

"Not to your friends."

He was making a sound, but couldn't move his mouth.

"Not even to your parents, who cast you out to live in hell."

Exar closed his eyes.

The darkness consumed him.

. . .

. . .

. . .

. . .

In the midst of the darkness-

A speck of light.

The light grew.

"What are you doing?"

The light approached Exar, and moved inside of him. "I'm fighting." He said. "Mirtis. I know you're a part of me." The light grew. "You've always been there." The light grew again, and it was battling the darkness. "But you're nothing but evil." The darkness was being overcome. "And I don't need you."

The darkness was reduced to a small speck, then it exploded into tons of small comets, which lit up all round him. Exar was "fired up" with adrenaline, and the next thing he knew-

He was back.

"If I was nothing, then I would have already been cast out again." He said with satisfaction.

"Young Jedi." The voice spoke. "You have my praise. You have overcome the one task no man has dared to complete. You have overcome your demon, and now, you are free."

"Thank you. What do I do now?"

"What do you wish to do?"

Exar already knew whathe wanted to do.

"Can you get me to my friends?"

"I can." The voice said before a portal slowly opened up in front of him. He ran to it, and was about to jump through; the voice called out to him again.

"Exar Sunrider." He said. Exar lent his ear before going on. "May the force be with you."

Exar smiled and nodded, then went through the portal.

"UH! UH! G-G-GUYS!" Kaiyah shouted.

Ailurah and Becky jumped at Kaiyah's loud voice, and were at her side in a second.

"I found it."

"Already? I though it would've taken longer." Ailurah said.

"I applied Ephraim's logic to the books he last checked out, and I found out." Kaiyah said.

"Can you tell us?" Becky asked.

"I'll tell you on the way!" Kaiyah answered as she got up and dashed out the door.

"Oh you're leaving?" Heceowa asked as he watched them run.

"Nice seeing you again." Kaiyah said excitedly before she dashed away again.

"I hope to see you again." Becky told him before chasing after Kaiyah.

"It was good to meet you." Ailurah said before following.

"Likewise." Heceowa said; but before he finished, they were all gone.

'When are you coming back, Exar?'

"Kaiyah!" Becky shouted as she reached her fighter.

"What? We need to go."

"No we don't." Becky said.

"What?" Kaiyah and Ailurah asked simultaneously.

"Think, Kaiyah. Is it worth it?"

"Of course. You brought it up to me; you encouraged me to do this so I could live equally with Ephraim."

"Exactly! If you do what Ephraim did, your life will be shortened as well."

"I get that."

"Let me finish. Whenever I saw your future, I saw you living a long life. A bountiful one. I can't spoil it for you; but believe me, it's not worth sacrificing half your life for."

"You don't understand! I won't be able to live with myself if I lose Ephraim before his time. I'm willing to sacrifice half of mine if he was willing to do the same."

"That won't be your future. Please, trust me! Just, let it go. You need to learn to let go of what you fear to lose."

Kaiyah held back her tears from the thought of losing Ephraim and living alone without him. "I can't. I have to do this."

"No. You can't. You don't know the consequences of this action; it will only make things worse. I can't tell you what will happen, but you need to trust me. Don't do this. I know Ephraim's your best friend; but, friends... even family, you'll have to let go of."

"Why?"

"Some things are almost impossible to let go of, but they're worth letting go of; sometimes, the hardest choices are for the greater good. You need a strong will to let this happen."

"I don't want to let it happen."

"I understand Kaiyah! More than you know, I know how it feels to lose someone close. But sometimes, you need to let go of your closest friend, or something worse than guilt will curse you the rest of your life."

"You're not very convincing."

"Trust me, Kaiyah. The pain isn't worth it."

. . .

"That'll be for me to decide."

"Kaiyah. Do you know where Ephraim is?" Becky asked.

"Going after Exar and his team, why?"

"Do you know where he is?"

"Uh, no."

"The team was trapped on a planet with Erk's master." Kaiyah froze herself. "Ephraim is going after the team, and the Master will be there too."

"He's goi- . . . Can we find him?" Kaiyah asked.

"We can, but we'll have to move quickly." Becky answered as she and Ailurah ran and jumped into her fighter.

At that second, Kaiyah got the point. "You didn't want me to go copy Ephraim, because once I will have completed the process, Ephraim will have already been gone." Kaiyah turned to Becky. "I will have done it for nothing."

Becky smiled. "More than guilt, I'm telling you."

"Why didn't you say so?" Kaiyah asked, swinging her arms.

"It needed the explanation, plus the chapter needs to be extended." Becky said.

. . .

"Never mind. Come on; we gotta go." Becky concluded before the three went off to find Ephraim. "Thank the force I know where they'll be."

Jo was growing tired and weary; he wanted to give up then and there.

"What am I supposed to do? I have no idea what 'Ben' was talking about, and I still can't find a way out of here." He said, then he heard something.

He readied his lightwhips -not yet igniting them- and slowly approached the sound's source. He heard the sound coming from around the corner, and put his back against the wall, and looked around.

He saw another man in the cave. He was digging through the cave with a picaxe, hammer, and nails.

"Excuse me, sir? What are you doing he-" Jo stopped in his tracks once the man was startled and turned around to face him.

The man too was shocked.

"Jo." The man said, tearing up and dropping everything.

"Kell." Jo said as he nearly dropped to his knees.

"Jo, what are you doing here?"

"W-w-w-what are you doing here? You were dead!" Jo asked sharply, also tearing up.

"I'm not dead. I never died. The day the hospital fell, I took Darin to a hospital room to try to heal him. Whenever the bomb threat was detected by a secret computer, Darin and I were immediately transported away. We had underground bunkers, and I was able to patch him up."

"Darin's alive?"

"He is. And I am too. I have discovered much since then."

"Like what?' Jo asked cheerfully.

"Jo. I want you to come with me." Kell said as a rock wall fell, and a path was seen in the wall.

"Where?"

"I have found a way."

"A way to what?"

"To heal you."

'Is he talking about what I think he is?'

"I can heal your body. You won't need those robotic limbs anymore."

. . .

"Aang. You have succeeded and passed the test. Now, you may ask your final question."

Aang needed to know the Master to defeat him; he could ask about him, but he couldn't go anywhere afterwards. He could ask for a way out, but he'd be alone; he didn't want to explain any possibilities to his masters if they were to ever find him. At this point, he knew what he had to do.

"Can you take me to my friends?"

"I can." Then a portal opened up, and Aang immediately jumped through.

"Farewell, and good luck." Galen finished. 'Good thing he didn't forget the brick.'

Aang stepped through the portal, and once his portal closed, another opened up in front of him. And Exar stepped through.

They stared into each others eyes, then they ran up and embraced each other.

"Are you real?" Exar asked, tearing up.

"I am. Are you?"

"Definitely. I can't say how glad I am to see you." Exar said, pulling away.

"Where's Jo?" Aang asked.

"I don't know, but I have a feeling he's close by." Exar replied.

"You seem happier." Aang pointed out.

"You too. This cave is full of surprises, and secrets."

"A cave of secrets. Insightful ones. A very strange place it is, but I say it was worth it."

"We came here for revenge, and came out with self-satisfaction." Exar said as they remembered their masters.

"We should find Jo." Aang said.

"Yes. I agree, he should be clo-"

Then they heard something.

"Am I the only one hearing things this time?" Exar asked.

"No. Let's go." Aang said as they followed the noise. They went just around the corner, and were shocked at what they saw.

Jo was standing willfully in front of the Master, who had his hand out.

"Come with me, and you won't worry about those robotic limbs anymore."

"JO! GET AWAY FROM HIM!" Exar yelled.

Jo turned to them with a not-so-happy look on his face. "Kell" was about to intervene, but Jo put his hand up, motioning him back.

Jo approached the team, stood in front of them for a short moment, then said, "I'm going with him."

"Jo! What are you doing?" Aang asked

"This is my adpotive father. You've never met before."

"Oh we've met before, but he's not your adoptive father." Exar told him.

"You don't know what you're talking about. I know his face, and that, is my adpotive father Kell. I've had enough of your crap! I haven't been treated well by you, and I don't see any reason to go on with you guys. I'm going with him.

"Jo, this is a trick. He, has no face; but a metal mask, and a red lightsaber." Aang said desperately.

Jo was back by Kell's side, then he turned around and faced the team again.

"This cave has done stuff to you guys."

"No! This sith is messing with your mind. You, need to step away!" Aang said.

"Jo." Exar spoke up. "You're right. We haven't treated you fairly. We're sorry. If we could have you back, we'll do better. We'll do our best to fix our mistake."

Aang thought about that for a moment, then swiftly agreed. "Yes, Jo. I too, am sorry. Please, come back to us. Remember what we're living for."

Jo remembered his masters too. Then a thought clicked to him. He turned to "Kell," then asked, "After all these years, why didn't you come to look for me?"

'Oh my.' Kell/Master thought, unsurprised.

He received no answer.

Aang and Exar stared the Master down. Then Exar used the force to knock Master's head into the wall, making him break his concentration.

Jo saw the truth; and he recoiled, horrified.

The Master got up, but didn't engage.

"Yes, it's me. Kell is alive, as well as Darin; but without me, you'll never find them."

"Where are they?" Jo asked.

"Did you hear what I just asked?"

"But at the moment, I'm not without you. You're here to tell me what I need to know." Jo said.

"He's stalling." Exar said. "He wants something to happen."

"Or something not to happen." Then the Master disappeared into the hole in the wall. "Until next time, Jedi."

"That was a little anticlimactic." Aang said.

"Yeah, and that last one-liner could've gone without saying." Jo said. He then faced his team, then hugged them. "I'm sorry guys. I almost fell for it."

"But you didn't." Aang said as he pulled away.

"Okay, I hate to break up the moment, but can we find a way to get out of here?" Exar asked.

"The sith incidentally revealed the way out." Jo said with a smirk. He gestured all around him. "These are just plain rocks, so they'll act like plain rocks."

"I see where you're going with this." Aang said as he pulled out his lightsabers, Exar following.

"Just use the force to throw them straight up. We'll be breathing normal air again soon." Jo said.

Exar and Aang thrusted their lightsabers up, and the rock was easily cut through. Jo grabbed onto his teammates, and used his boot jets to fly up. They then found themselves on the top; they all took a breath of fresh air.

Then they celebrated.

"I've never done something like this without major help." Exar said.

"Well, that's why we have Jo. Our quick thinker." Aang said.

"Too bad you're not a quick thinker." Jo joked.

"What do you mean?"

"Think fast." Jo speedily said, then a rock bounced off of Aang's head.

"Ow! Haha!" Aang said, rubbing his head.

Then they heard one of the most satisfying sounds of their lives. Gunships.

They looked up and saw a Republic gunship descending down towards them. Ephraim was leaning out and waving at them. Then the ship turned, and there they were.

"Masters!?" The team shouted before jumping high up and into the ship, embracing their well-alive masters.

"These past few minutes have been the best of my life!" Exar said, tearing up again.

"Indeed. Let's go home." Rye said.

"How did you guys find us?" Jo asked.

"That's a really long story." Erickson answered.

Then the ship flew up and away.

But they had no idea they were watched. The Master observed from afar, and grinned. "Everything is falling into place."

THE END...

TO BE CONTINUED IN "YOUTH WARS PART V: GHOST STORY"