And here's part II of my Christmas update! Actually, I'll be going in order to the publication, so it's not that surprising Forgotten Sands is next to be posted (despite being a huge pain in the butt in writing... actually, there's only ONE chapter in this, multiple update that gave me more trouble then this one)... actually, the whole fighting within it worried me as I got stuck a few times in it, so I do hope it turned out at least okay. But hey, there's a surprise in it for you ;)

Just like I mentioned in DB, from now on volumes will contain 6 chapters, so in stead of ending at chapter 16, I have the time to 18 to close it... actually, the "Weeping Temple" arc should be done by then, though I have my doubts as there's still quite a bunch of stuff I need to implement in it... well, we'll see how that goes.

Thanks to everyone who reviewed the previous chapter. It really meant a lot and I hope you're gonna like this one as well. And I'm gonna shut up now and get to posting Final Magic... Enjoy:

Chapter #13: Light in the Dark

Volume Cover: Halan is aiming his Moon Blade, in its forth stance, while behind him, on both sides, stand Lizor and Telon in their fighting stance

Title Page: the desert; Zora has just finished making her castle of sand and yet she gazes in shock at Dhalia's sand statue of a snowman

Halan ducked as a whip of light cut the air horizontally, following Zonan's swing. The 'archeologist' wasn't done however and once his assault missed he stopped his arm, ready to attack again. The young thief acted first though and with a yell, he tossed a part of his weapon straight at the bandit: "Second Stance: Sting!"

Immediately Zonan jumped over the incoming projectile, but as the scythe blade flew below, the teen flipped his hand, making the chain change direction, now pushing its bladed end at the 'archeologist' back. Without delay, the Asian relocated his weapon back, making its tip shape into a square shield that deflected the blow.

Pulling the Moon Blade back, Halan readied himself for another counter, yet his eyes widen as the 'archeologist' came charging at him, merely inches behind the returning end of the chain. With a wicked smirk on his face, Zonan thrust his spear forward, the tip formed into a trident just as the young thief regained the top of his weapon.

Instinctually, the teen jumped upwards and spinning parallel to the ground, he transformed his tool, cutting from above, right at the top of his opponent's head: "Third Stance: Claw!"

In a flash the bandit jumped back, barely avoiding the assault, but as he came to a sliding stop, his spear was already shifting into a scythe with the blade twice as big as the handle. With a single swing, the shinning form came at the scar-faced boy, its tip going for his chest. With no way to dodge in mid-air, Halan returned the Moon Blade to its original stance, placing the shaft right in the spot the scythe's handle connected with the light part, stopping the blow.

The attack didn't end there however as the blade suddenly extended, ripping his left shoulder badly. The assault made the young thief lose his balance and thus land on the side, in stead of his feet. Recovering quickly, he rose back to a standing position, only to see his adversary charging at him, his weapon back to its spear form, only the sharp edge was longer and had a smaller one growing from below.

The teen's body reacted on its own, ducking under the bigger blade, yet the smaller, which was on the eye level, extended a moment later, like the scythe did, going right for the scar-faced warrior's face. Instantly Halan tilted to the right, dodging the blow, yet the sharp light still managed to graze his cheek.

The young thief flipped a few times, extending the distance between himself and the 'archeologist', to some point feeling relieved the latter didn't gave chase this time. He wiped the blood that began dripping from the new wound and narrowed his eyes, settling them on the bandit: That shinning end of his really can turn into anything on demand. Even above having greater variety then Moon Blade, it doesn't seem like he has to do anything but will the change, while I need to fold my weapon to jump between stances... with this, there's really no tactic I can adopt that wouldn't be advantageous for him. Since that is the case... how can I win?

"What, done already?" Zonan mocked with a victorious smirk, yet the scar-faced teen seemed to make nothing of the provocation. In stead, he turned his weapon into a chain again with a swing, made the scythe end of it flew horizontally from the 'archeologist' left. The Asian dodged by jumping up, but this was exactly what Halan waited for as he lunged forward, aiming a kick to his opponent's chest.

The bandit easily blocked the assault with the shaft of his spear and as the thief's foot pressed on, he put the weapon into a spin, blasting the boy back. To his surprise however, the scar-faced warrior flipped in mid-air, his Moon Blade changing shape again and once it became a boomerang, its wielder tossed it straight at the place Zonan was about to land.

Having no way to dodge, the 'archeologist' had the blade of his spear shift into a trident again and as the projectile neared, he pinned it to the ground, between the blades. Using that momentum, he propped himself against his weapon and threw a kick at the charging Halan's face.

The young thief instantly launched a kick of his own, pushing the attack off course with it, all the while he jumped up and spun, throwing his other leg at his adversary's chest. With this, Zonan couldn't do anything, but to take the assault head-on, receiving a blow to the stomach, which send him flying a few meters.

Coming to a sliding stop, he had his spear change the shinning blade again, now making it turn into a collection of whips. With a forceful swing, he unleashed a barrage of strings, making the scar-faced teen, who already picked his Moon Blade up do no more then to revert it to its original form and block, still allowing several on the whips to smack his skin, cutting it.

Halan let out a quiet hiss as pain finally started to get to him. His vision blurred for a moment, forcing him to shake his head in order to chase away the sensation. Once his eyes cleared, he noticed Zonan coming straight at him, his spear once more in its scythe form.

Aa the 'archeologist' brought the weapon down, the scar-faced boy strafed right, avoiding the blow and cut from below himself, splitting his opponent's body. Surprisingly, the figure didn't drop to the floor and in stead merely blurred. This didn't shock the young thief though as he quickly spun his blade and thrust it backwards, impaling Zonan, who came from behind.

The fact that the latter's silhouette waved this time as well did take him by surprise however and in a flash he rolled back as the real Asian fell from above in the attempt to pierce him from the head down. Coming to an abrupt stop, his Moon Blade was once more in its Sting form, allowing the boy to toss its sharp end at his opponent, only to have the 'archeologist' catch the incoming chain, trapping Halan's weapon.

"Correct me if I'm wrong" Zonan asked, aiming the tip of his spear at the young thief. "But if that toll of yours is immobilized... you can't change its form, right?" he finished with a wicked smile, immediately making the light of his weapon extend, going straight for the teen's heart.

The boy's eyes narrowed as he jumped over the attack, somersaulting in the process. Landing just beside the blade of light, he charged forward again, passing the 'archeologist' from the latter's left. In a fraction of a second, Halan changed direction and went to Zonon'a right, making the chain wrap around the man.

The bandit merely smirked as he retreated his blade and rising it to the sky, made its tip shaped into an umbrella of splints, which quickly grew, reaching the ground. With the 'archeologist' surrounded by this, the chain had no way to reach him, forcing the scar-faced teen to jump back, yet as he did so, he also flipped his hand, the momentum carrying force to the end of the weapon, making it, in turn slip out of Zonan's hand, cutting his wrist slightly.

This seemed to agitate the Asian as he stared mesmerized at the wound for a moment, before glaring at the boy. With a wild cry, he lunged forward, the tip of his weapon once more resembling that of a spear. As he beat the distance, he cut from above, aiming at Halan's head, yet the young thief easily blocked the assault with the shaft of his Moon Blade, which was back to its original form.

In a flash Zonan's weapon shifted, its sharp end changing into a scythe for the third time, the blade going right for the teen's face. Seeing this, the boy strafed left, throwing a knee to his opponent's chest, only to have the attack blocked by the 'archeologist' knee as well.

With the adversary on his right, the man suddenly flipped his hand, delivering his elbow to Halan's cheek, making the boy's head tilt to the side, leaving him opened. This was all the bandit needed as he quickly retreated his spear and swung horizontally in the attempt to split his enemy in two.

The young thief came to just in time and placing his own tool perpendicular to the floor, its blade downward, he stopped the assault just before it reached its target. As the scythe pressed against the silver shaft, the teen suddenly made his weapon spin, lifting its tip upwards. The maneuver pushed the 'archeologist' weapon back, yet this was but a part of it, for as Halan's Moon Blade flipped, it carried a bunch of sand from the floor with it.

The tiny grains hit the man's face, taking him by surprise completely and giving his opponent enough time to deliver a spin kick to his face, forcing Zonan to take a couple of steps back. This, in turn, gave the young thief enough time to jump to the air in the attempt to fall right on top of his adversary.

As his body dropped, the Moon Blade began changing once more, this time into an unknown shape. With merely inches separating the two, Halan called out: "Fifth Stance, Pincers" and only now did Zonan realized the weapon became giant scissors. Before he could react, the arms of the silver tool closed on the shaft of his spear and snapped, breaking it in two.

The 'archeologist' eyes widen in surprise while the young thief landed in front of him and with his toll still in the same form, he jumped up, opening the pincers. In a flash the edge of the blade pressed against Zonan's shoulder and as the teen somersaulted, the sharp metal ripped the skin, releasing crimson liquid from the target.

The sudden pain stretched through the bandit's body in an instant, making him drop to his knees, huffing. As he covered the newly inflicted wound, he looked over his shoulder, sweat appearing on his face: "How?"

"Moon Blade is a very special weapon" Halan replied simply, turning to face him. "Basically it's an arsenal, allowing the user to have a tool for any sort of situation; Wing is for long-range combat, Sting works well against a group of enemies, while Claw gives advantage on medium distance. However, out of all its shapes, Pincers have the least usefulness in actual battle. Due to their form, they're not good for actual fighting as scissors are hard to maneuver and, above that, can be easily disabled or ripped out of the user's grip. There is one aspect of that stance, which makes it worth-while though and that is its strength. Normally it'd require a great deal of power to break through iron, however if you apply pressure from both sides of the target, the power you use extends. Pincers sole purpose in Moon Blade's arsenal is preciously breaking the opponent's weapon..."

"So, all this time, you were merely waiting for the right opportunity to use this?"

"Pretty much" the young thief nodded calmly. "After all, with that light blade of yours, you had too much of an advantage" he stated, while Zonan's eyes narrowed. With a roar, the 'archeologist' charged at the teen, yet the boy only let out a sigh, delivering a punch to the man's face once he got close enough, knocking him out: "Your weapon is gone... you should, at the very least, know when you're beat" and with that he reverted the Moon Blade to its original form, placing it on his back: "Either way, looks like we're done here... now I need to find the others..."

Yet, as he took a step forward, pain shoot through his body, making his eye twitch: Why is it, that lately I end every fight badly wounded? He complained to himself, annoyed...

-Back to the Temple's Main Chamber-

Telon fell to the floor, huffing heavily as a new bruise decorated his face. He slowly glanced at his opponent, who now stood merely inches away, with his arms crossed as he looked onto his fallen adversary with indifference: "Is that it?" he asked with no trace of emotions in his voice, while the guardian struggled back to his feet. "Just now, with the whole declaration of leaving Jin's spine in tact on purpose, I truly thought you'd be a bigger challenge... but, in the end, it appears the gap is still too wide..."

"Shut up!" the other reptilion snapped, his hands hanging on the sides as he stood. "I will defeat you, even at the cost of my own life! There's no way I'll let you get the Eye of Sseth! You hear me, traitor? You want it, you'll need to walk over my cold, dead body first!"

"As if that possess any kind of a problem for me" Drakkan responded simply with a bored tone and with this he prepared his arm, aiming the palm at his enemy's chest. "Farewell" was all he said before unleashing the attack. Yet, before the hit connected, a huge, flat blockade appeared in its way, stopping the assault. The 'archeologist' gazed to the side, noticing a certain human-bird hybrid, holding a massive sword in its hand. Sword, which blade now stood between the repitilion and his target.

"Who are you?" Telon asked weakly, shifting his attention to the new arrival.

"The name's Folko" the bounty hunter replied without taking his eyes off Drakkan. "I'm a friend of that blonde over there" with that, he tilted his head towards Dhalia, who was still in Shura's grip. "And, apparently, we are allies" he added, swinging his blade, the force pushing the 'archeologist' a few meters away in a sliding motion.

"An animorph, eh?" Drakkan rather stated then asked, a note of amusement in his voice. "That is certainly unexpected. Granted, I don't see much point in choosing a form of a chicken..."

"It's a hawk!" Folko yelled, his eyes becoming pupiless from fury. Quickly he recomposed himself however, ready for a fight. His eyes widen though as the opponent disappeared from his sight, appearing behind his back an instant later. The bounty hunter only managed to spin around and blocked with his sword as the reptilion's palm hit. To the shapeshifter's surprise however, the hit connected, smashing his stomach and thus riding the teen of his breath.

Bending forward from impact, Folko was left entirely open and Drakkan wasted no time, rising his arm to bring it down on the back of his opponent's head. The animorph reacted quicker this time and thrust his sword up in stead, forcing the reptilion to bend back himself, in order to avoid getting pierced.

But the bounty hunter was not done as he quickly flipped his wrist, making the blade of his weapon locate parallel to the floor and with a twist, he put the sword to a spin, creating a vortex that came at the 'archeologist' face with a whistle. On instinct, the latter jumped back, giving the shapeshifter enough room to straighten up and aiming the tip of his weapon at Drakkan's chest, he charged forward with a yell.

The reptilion smirked at the assault and waited. Once the sword was close enough, he clasped his hands together, trapping the blade in between. To his surprise however, Folko instantly propped himself on the handle and flipping, delivered a kick to his opponent's face.

The 'archeologist' head tilted from impact, while the animorph remained hanging parallel to the floor. His eyes narrowed at the fact that Drakkan's grip on the blade still held, but as realization came, it was too late for his adversary already launched a kick of his own, making it rise straight into Folko's stomach.

The teen gasped again, while the reptilion let go of the blade, aiming an opened palm to the face of the falling bounty hunter. Before he launched the assault though, another interruption made him froze as his henchmen flew through the chamber, hitting the floor around him.

The 'archeologist' gaze up front, seeing Shura now had her back turned towards him, her sword pressed against Dhalia's throat as she settled her eyes on the figure, who now stood blocking the main entrance to the room. This one was dressed in a black cloak, much like Telon, only his hood was taken down already. The warrior was, without a doubt, another reptilion, although much older then the other two as his, green scales seemed dry, while his mouth had no fangs. A large scar ran down the left side of his face, leaving the eye on that side entirely white.

"Master Geon" Drakkan noted with a smirk at the sight.

"I'd prefer you no longer referred to me by that title" the old reptilion replied, hiding his fists beneath the sleeves of his robe. "You've disgraced our teachings, going as far as to attack your own kind. You were trained to protect the gem... not steal it!" the guardian raised his voice, narrowing his eyes as they settled on the 'archeologist'.

"I'm one of the last of the Reptilion race!" Drakkan snapped back, losing his calm. "The Eye of Sseth was given to us and as such it belongs to those, who survived! Myself included! And, since I'm the strongest among us, it's only natural for me to take it. Having such power at your disposal and yet allowing it to merely linger in buried ruins is a waste I cannot allow!"

"That power comes with a price" Geon responded with a stoic voice. "I figured I've taught you this much."

"You taught me enough" the 'archeologist' replied and in a flash charged forward, appearing right behind the older reptilion. However as he thrust his palm, his former master deflected the attack by hitting his wrist, thus throwing the assault off course.

"I see you still attack from behind... this isn't a way of a true warrior..."

"True warrior my foot" Drakkan spat at the lecture. "In battle, the only thing that matters is victory and warriors are made specifically to win. Honor matters not, for it is always the victor that is remembered in the end" he proclaimed before spinning on his foot as he threw a kick to Geon's face.

The older reptilion ducked under the assault and in turn threw his leg up, delivering a kick to Drakkan's chin. As the latter's body rose, the guardian retreated his arms, only to blast them forward an instant later, punching the 'archeologist' stomach, mere impact sending the elder's former student sliding on the floor. The moment he came to a stop, the brown-skinned reptile flipped, landing on his feet, his face twisted with fury.

That old guy is pretty good Dhalia thought to herself, observing the match. But that still wasn't the voice I heard earlier she noted and then heard another whisper, which made her turn out front. She spotted Folko standing a few meters away, readying his sword and in a flash he lunged to the sky, dropping down in a blinding speed.

Shura only managed to jump back as the animorph landed between her and the blond, slamming his sword to the floor, which made the ground crack. The female swordsman gazed at the bounty hunter, her face indifferent: "What a treacherous attack... unworthy of a true samurai..."

"And when have I said I'm a samurai to begin with?" Folko shoot back calmly, settling his eyes on the girl. "All I wanted was to free my friend... besides, taking hostages is not very samurai-like either, so you shouldn't talk" he proclaimed, rising his blade, yet at this time a yelp of pain echoed through the chamber, making him glance to the side.

What he saw made the animorph widen his eyes as the one called Geon now dropped to his knees, holding his chest, while blood ran down from his mouth. Drakkan stood just before him, his right fist covered in the crimson liquid as well, yet his face remained still. Without a word he spun and aimed a drop kick right to the top of the elder's head, yet before the attack connected, another leg appeared in its way, stopping the 'archeologist' yet again.

"One nuisance after another" Drakkan complained as he settled his gaze on Lizor, who now retreated his leg, which in turn blocked the former's attack. He allowed Zora to slide off his back, while the 'archeologist' went on: "Will there be any more people interfering in my business?"

"Dunno, don't care" the guardian responded, getting into his fighting stance with a swift motion, which tossed his hood off, revealing he was but another reptilion. "However I will not allow you to do further damage. I have come ssspecifically to kill you!" and with that, he charged forward...

-and which side are you on?-

And this concludes this chapter. Hope you enjoyed it and that the fifth stance of Moon Blade was to your liking. In actuality, all 12 forms are meant to be connected to one another, so that a certain stance is somehow diverted from the previous. It's not always visible at first, but I am hoping it you caught that... to prove a point: Moon Blade's original form is a spear (resembling a giant scalpel of sorts), which changes into "Sting", a chain with a scythe blade. Now the transformation is quite simple as the spear's shaft extends, turning into the chain, while the blade bend to resemble that of a scythe... I suppose you have to really want to see it in this case, but hopefully other transformation are more plausible for you.

For example going from Sting to Claw always worked better for me; the blade simply bends further (hook is not that different from scythe IMO) and the chain just retracts back, forming a handle. Going from there to Wing is even easier as a boomerang is shapes like a crescent moon, much like the blade of a hook, so basically all that's need is for the handle to disappear. And going from Wing to Pincers, the fifth stance... well, it's not that tricky... imagine a boomerang shaped like a "c"... now, it you cut it in two, you get two blades. By growing handles behind each, you basically get a slightly tensioned scissors :D Similar logic (if you saw any in that trail) follows all of Moon Blade's transformations and the sixth stance is also diverted from Pincers... I actually wonder if any of you would manage to figure out what the sixth stance is before I actually reveal it. We could make a game out of it ;)

Before I go off to update Final Magic, I'd just like to wish you all MERRY CHRISTMAS and a HAPPY NEW YEAR! I do hope to read you all in 2012!