The desert expanded outward in all directions, with nary a plant nor shrub in sight. The oppressing sun beat down on the soil, scorching it and anything foolish enough to walk here. The sand was hot, to the point where it would scald flesh if stood on for too long. Off in the distance, barely visible, was a large shrine with a pair of draconic statues situated next to it. That was their destination amidst this wasteland.
Coronus held a hand over his head, trying to stay the sun's efforts to do him in. "Of all the places to go... In all the universes..." He said in an annoyed tone. "You had to pick this one?"
“I sensed darkness here. Powerful darkness. We would have come to it eventually.” Jak said coldly.
"Better later than sooner..." Coronus muttered. "But I can't very well stop you."
“There are going to be worse universes out there. Remember that.” Jak replied.
Coronus nodded, feeling defeated. "Drovius... I'm not looking forward to that place. In there, no such thing as light exists."
After having walked quite the distance, Jak and Coronus finally stood in front of the temple. The shade it gave off was welcoming, but it had a strange, foreboding sense to it, as if the temple itself wanted Jak and Coronus to leave and never turn back.
“Let’s go.” Jak said, walking toward the entrance.
Coronus nervously followed Jak. "This place feels so dark. It's weird."
“That’s because our dark soul resides here.” Jak stated, then halted just within the doorway. “There is someone else. Not quite as powerful as our dark soul.”
Coronus stood next to Jak. He could feel the dark presence for sure, and there seemed to be a glimmer of something else. Not as powerful, but close.
"Ah, another pair of kills? Or perhaps servants?" A voice called from the shadows.
Jak smiled coldly. “You won’t be able to hide in those shadows. Reveal yourself and maybe your death will be quick.”
A red bi-pedal dragon, roughly one and a half times as tall as Jak, strode out from the shadows. His face bore a wide grin, as if he took pleasure in seeing fear in others.
Jak looked at the being before him coldly. “Just another dark soul.” He said. “Let’s see how long you will last.”
The dragon scoffed. "How long I'll LAST? Do you truly think you could stand up to my might, worm?"
“Your ignorance is astounding. Oh well.” Jak smiled slyly. “It will just make this battle more pleasurable.” He said as Lucifer’s Scythe appeared in his hand.
Coronus felt he could sense a glimmer of light from the dragon, but it vanished as soon as it came.
The dragon growled, flame issuing from his mouth in a steady gout. "I, Alexander Delrante, will burn you to ashes!"
Shadows swirled up and consumed Jak and Coronus, and Jak appeared a moment later behind the dragon, and Coronus appeared in the corner of the room, out of the way. “You must first keep up.” Jak said slyly.
Alex snapped his fingers and his body disappeared in a wall of flame. When it dissipated, he was gone. "Oh, I'll keep up alright." His voice echoed from the walls. He reappeared in front of Jak and aimed a punch at his gut.
Jak smiled slightly as the blade of the Scythe flashed. Suddenly, shadows started to wrap around Alex’s body, binding him, forcing his arm to his side.
"Such strength..." Alex muttered. "But not enough!" He disappeared in another spout of flame, this time appearing high on the ceiling, out of view.
“You believe the shadows will hide you. Such a fool.” Jak said, his smile widening. “The shadows belong to me.” His voice turned icy as he said the last sentence.
"Such ignorance..." Alex said to no one in particular. "You will pay for such arrogance!" He leapt down from the shadows, his claws unsheathed and ready to taste blood.
Jak looked up, the smile on his face. As Alex looked while he came closer, Jak seemed to ripple, but solidified again. “Your soul is mine.” He said in a cold tone as he seemed to dissipate in a cloud of smoke.
Alex landed to the ground with a tremendous crack, signifying a broken bone somewhere. He clutched at his chest, at a broken rib, unable to get up.
“It seems you have injured yourself.” Jak said, his voice echoing around the room. “I’d say that next time, you should surrender, but of course, there will be no next time.” Jak said, appearing in front of Alex. He grabbed the dragon by the throat and lifted him up with tremendous strength.
There it was again, that glimmer of light. This time, coming from the dragon. Coronus bolted forward and with strength unknown to even him, separated the two combatants.
Jak slid back and stared at Coronus angrily. “What are you doing?” He demanded, his voice cold.
Coronus returned Jak's glare. "He is not evil. Can't you feel the light inside him? Or were you too busy fighting again?"
“Darkness resides in his soul, empowering him. It is my duty to eliminate him.” Jak spat back.
"Look closer at his soul, you fool. It's not all dark." Coronus retorted, surprised he was even doing this.
“I have. Darkness resides at the core. That is his evil, and it controls him. If you wish him to live, purge it, but next time, don’t get in my way.” Jak said icily.
Coronus wordlessly turned to Alex's writhing body and purged his soul. However, he couldn't purge it completely.
Alex's face contorted in pain as he looked at Coronus. "Why are you helping me?" He said in a breathless voice.
Coronus looked back at Alex and started to heal Alex's broken rib. "Because you're different from the others."
Jak scowled. “Where is the other dark soul that resides here.” He asked coldly.
"Zeroth!" Alex said loudly in answer to Jak. "Zeroth resides here, at the lowest level of this temple's dungeon... He preys on innocent bystanders who merely come here to pray and worship their deity. An immense, writhing creature made of nothing but tentacles and organs... It's an abomination."
A slight smile appeared on Jak’s face, the sight turning to a creepy visage of deviousness. “Then I must pay this Zeroth a visit.” He said as he started to fade into the shadows. “Remain here.” He added as he vanished completely, a small shadow among the darkness moving quickly down the stairs.
Alex looked at Coronus. "Shouldn't you be going with him?" He asked, wanting to be left alone.
Coronus shook his head. "No. He'd kill me. And I'm not saying that figuratively either."
The shadow flitted into a large room, the room farthest underground. It was eerily silent when Jak reformed from the shadows and he glanced around the room.
"Another meal...?" A voice whispered from the walls, coming from everywhere at once.
Jak smiled viciously. “Zeroth. How nice it is to finally meet you.”
A hiss surrounded Jak. "You... How did you find me? I thought I'd dug myself in fairly well..."
“The darkness of your soul is not invisible to me. I see the universes you go to, the worlds you corrupt. How could you ever think you could escape me?” Jak said, surveying the room.
Another, louder hiss came from the walls. "Do you take me for a fool? I wanted to corrupt those worlds so you'd go there first, leaving me to corrupt others..." Several light blue tentacles, roughly the size of a tree trunk in diameter, sprouted from the walls. "But I failed in that plan. No matter, I have enough fighting prowess to destroy you!"
Jak smiled suddenly as his scythe started to glow. “The shadows hide you for now, protect you. But not for long.” He said. He suddenly moved lightning fact, the blade of the scythe cutting through the tentacles easily as Jak vanished and reappeared at the roots of each.
"You think I hide within the shadows, fool?" Zeroth laughed. "I hide not in the shadows. Take a look around the room. You will not find even a small glimmer of my soul."
“You do not realize that your black soul uses the shadows to disguise yourself. Reveal yourself, and prove that the shadows do not hide you!” Jak said.
"If you wish to die so quickly, then so be it!" Said Zeroth. The blue tentacles retracted back into the walls and several smaller, snake-like black tentacles oozed out from the wall. They formed into a small sphere wrapped around a pulsating orange core, then the sphere sprouted two pairs of long tendrils, two on each side. A single tentacle rooted Zeroth to the ground, allowing him control over the rest of the tentacles residing just outside the chamber's walls.
“Prepare for execution.” Jak said, holding the scythe loosely, but readily.
"Execution?" Zeroth said in a laughing tone. "It is YOU who faces demise! And even if you kill me, you still have my three brothers AND my master to deal with!"
Jak smiled ruefully. “It seems you just revealed that there will be more of your kind to deal with. Now when they die, they can blame you.”
Zeroth seemed to shrink back, obviously angry at himself for letting his tongue slip. "Irrelevant!" He said. "Because you'll never reach them before they corrupt this planet!"
“Ah, so they are all on this planet as well.” Jak said.
Zeroth screamed, an inhuman, piercing wail. He sent several tentacles at Jak, each one about the size of a snake.
Jak smiled patronizingly and dodged the tentacles agilely. “Just as I thought. Nothing but black fury.” Jak raised his hand and shadows wrapped around Zeroth and started ripping him from the floor, disconnecting him from the other tentacles.
"Fool... Darkness cannot destroy darkness!" Zeroth said, laughing. "And even if you were to destroy me, you'd never be able to take my key."
“Like I need darkness to reap your soul. As for your key…” Jak walked up to Zeroth and thrust his hand into the strange orb that was the core of Zeroth, pulling out a strange green stone with a black rune carved into it.
Zeroth screamed again, then turned his body intangible. It was visible, but blurry, as if it was phasing between dimensions. He briefly turned tangible to fire his tentacles at Jak, wrapping them around him. "Now you are going to die, Reaper of Darkness!"
Jak merely laughed, the sound sending chills down what would be counted as Zeroth’s spine. “I am death itself. I do not die.” Lucifer’s Scythe suddenly cut through the tentacles, slicing through them as if they were merely the air itself, freeing Jak. He swung the weapon and the blade pierced the very orb he had retrieved the stone from.
With a shriek that shook the cavern and the temple above, Zeroth died. His body burned with black fire, starting at the tips of the tentacles and burning until it reached the core, at which point his body exploded. The blue tentacles that had come out of the walls fell to the ground, limp, and dissipated into blue particles that hung in the air.
Lucifer’s Scythe vanished as Jak held up his hand. A strange light came from the ashes and floated to his hand. “Your soul belongs to me.” He said, then turned and walked up the stairs.
Coronus looked up at Alex. "Why are you here, anyways?" He said.
Alex sighed. "I came to destroy Zeroth. His presence is a huge threat to my well being."
Coronus scoffed. How selfish... He thought. He looked at Jak as he walked back up the stairs. "How'd it go?" Coronus said, already knowing the answer.
“Zeroth is dead, although, we do have four more enemies upon this planet. Three like him, and their master.” Jak stated, staring coldly at Coronus and Alex.
Coronus sighed. "It figures that we wouldn't be done so quickly on this desert planet."
Alex growled. "There are MORE?" He said, obvious rage in his voice.
Jak glanced at Alex, his gaze piercing and cold. “You are lucky to be alive.” He said icily. “If you come along, you will stay out of my way. I will not hesitate to kill you. For him, I may hesitate, but not you.”
Alex growled. "Perhaps you forget that allies can leave just as easily as they come. But then again, you don't care, do you?" Alex looked out the gates of the temple at the bright sun, his eyes adjusting immediately. "You don't know your way around here. You only know the basics of this place. You don't know the details."
“Don’t push your luck. You are still alive because he,” Jak gestured to Coronus, “got in the way. I don’t need a guide. But like I said, if you tag along, do not get in my way.”
Alex sighed. "Fine." He bit out angrily.
“Then let us leave this place. We have much more work to do.” Jak said, holding up the key that he had extracted from Zeroth. “I would assume there are three more of these. Then we go after the master.”
"It's one of THOSE kind of hierarchies?" Coronus said, slightly annoyed.
“Apparently. Zeroth was a fool. He didn’t know when to stop speaking. He told me basically all we needed to know.” Jak said.
Coronus shook his head. "Sometimes, they make it too easy..." He looked up at Alex. "Can you fly us around or something, to make it easier on us?"
Alex looked at Coronus and scoffed. "I prefer walking. I like the sun."
“We go on foot. It will build your endurance. You’ll need it later.” Jak said, standing at the doorway. “Now, I say it is time to start moving. We have quite the quest ahead of ourselves.” With those words, Jak walked out into the desert.