The Dark Hero's Greatest Foe!

“Hee-wait, waaaait, ho!” Frost Ace skidded to a stop alongside his merry band, consisting of himself, Erlkonig, Asherah, and his fellow warrior of darkness (plus her pixie companion). They had reached the end of this layer of the infinite abyss, and a tall, pulsating red door of pure energy stood before them. But something was wrong.

“What’s the problem?” The heroine cocked her head, looking down at Frost Ace with a small frown. “This isn’t like you,” she remarked. Her tone of voice was neutral, but as with many of the things she said, she came off as admonishing more than anything.

Frost Ace spun around on one foot, like a skater doing a figure eight, to face her, and then stomped the ground with the other. “The probl-heem, ho… is that the hee-nemy behind this door… is our worst yet, ho!”

The heroine looked down at Frost Ace, tapping the toe of one of her boots against the floor. Her jacket was flecked with blood of different dark hues, and there was a sizable bruise that stretched from the base of her neck to where her shoulder vanished beneath her jacket.

“What makes them the worst?”

Frost Ace clenched his fists together in front of him. “Our true enemy, hee… hee has fallen to the darkness, ho, and the only rescue we can give is merciless defeat!”

“Sounds like most of them.”

“But this one, my friend, is a former hee-ro!” Frost Ace raised his arm to the sky dramatically. “He’s no different from you or I, except that when the path before him grew dark, hee… wait, where are you going, ho?”

The Dx2 formerly known as Newbie was already walking past Frost Ace, with Erlkonig and Asherah in tow. Erlkonig trailed the other two, and patted Frost Ace’s helmet as he ambled towards the door where the party had assembled. Frost Ace ran after them, a frigid silver blur as he regained his place at the front of the party.

“We have to go in,” Newbie told Frost Ace, who was once again standing in front of her, occupying all of the space between her and the door.

“I know, ho… but this is an important moment! It’s where our bonds will be tested, and—”

Newbie opened the door.

Behind the door was a towering giant… at least by comparison. Once Newbie’s eyes adjusted to the nearly cartoonish sight, she realized that she was looking at a Frost Ace, emanating strands of raw abyssal power and standing almost as tall as she was.

“Oh-ho,” chuckled the shoulder-length Frost Ace as the group’s knee-length superhero ran out in front to face him.

“Hee-ho yourself!” Frost Ace declared. After all, there were no impressionable youths watching this display of rudeness to worry about. “Hee-you’ve allowed yourself to become everything you sought to hee-ho!”

Asherah looked down at Newbie with half-lidded eyes. Newbie looked up at her and exhaled softly through her nose. They both returned, somewhat reluctantly, to watching the two Frost Aces.

“This is the hee-nevitable, ho!” Frost Ace declared in a cold, imperious voice. “When all the Kings are defeated and evil has been vanquished, hee-who is left to rule? It’s hos like us! You’ll understand hee-ventually… if you live that long!”

“Everyone you killed, hee… all of their hearts you froze, ho…” Frost Ace clenched his fists in front of him and shifted his stance into one truly prepared for battle. “Now, hee, you’ll learn why you’ve made a mistake, ho! No hero survives the darkness alone!”

Erlkonig produced a wave of spores that buffeted the evil Frost Ace’s senses, leaving him drowsy. Asherah routed rays of energy around him that destroyed his tolerance towards subtler magics. And Newbie took advantage of what had been done, using poison of divine malice to leave him utterly crippled.

The Frost Ace who believed himself greater writhed in the burning restraint of venom that left him numb and addled. His poisoned mind recalled what he had to do to get there: how he had confronted the King, agreed with his claims that cuteness was justice, and slew him, as the cuter of the two. How he had used his frosty fists not just to gain vengeance, but to gain power and control.

He stumbled forward, a burning — no, melting — sensation coursing through his body as he began to move again. Now he could fight back, he could freeze these fools, and…

And then the true Frost Ace rushed forward, towards his counterpart, and laid him low with a single punch that pushed him over the edge.

Newbie watched as the larger, corrupted Frost Ace backflipped in midair as though he were a toy thrown aside by a speeding train. He fell to the ground and vanished into thin air. As he did so, his smaller heroic incarnation boxed the air for a moment and then pointed one stubby finger forward.

“Because you defeated every-ho, you didn’t have any-ho to back you up! That’s why you lost, ho!”

Newbie dragged the tip of her serpentine sword against the ground as she walked up next to the victorious Frost Ace, still frowning. Erlkonig and Asherah came up behind her, but their expressions were visibly less dour.

“He has a point, you know,” Asherah spoke up. “You really wouldn’t have made it this far on your own.”

“You are exceedingly reckless,” Erlkonig added. “It is good that you are on my side, and not a prospective fool waiting to be swallowed by the alder.”

The girl they spoke to turned her hardened gaze to them. But a tiny blue-and-pink figure flitted out of her hoodie and right in front of her nose. The Pixie companion who’d dragged her out of a situation of her own making like Erlkonig described. The very same person who’d been with her all of this time.

“And you’ve got me!” the Pixie declared.

Newbie sighed, and failed to entirely suppress her smile. “I know. Let’s get going.”

The human girl, whose travels never seemed to stop, no matter how certainly demise appeared to be on the horizon, stepped forward into the echoing portal that now stood before them. And she paid just a little more attention to the murmurs and gossip of her three demon companions behind her, even as she pressed forward.