"No!" roared the Hero. He charged the entity, slamming it with his shield with all his might. They crashed through the cityscape, plowing through highrise building after building.
Adam was dead.
The closest friend that the Hero had ever had.
Rage filled him, fueled him, propelling his power to heights it had never reached before. The air around the Hero and the entity ignited from the friction of high speed movement, turning them into a shining meteorite that quickly sped past the city, entering into the Wastelands.
Or formerly the Wastelands. They had been renewed with green and growth oncemore. But the entity had taken that green and made it grey and lifeless just like everything else.
Memories of Adam flowed into the Hero's mind, spurred by his loss.
When Adam had saved the Hero from the jaws of a variant during their Hero License examination.
How Adam had knocked himself out in a several week long coma taking a hit from a powerful villain meant for the Hero.
How Adam groaned as a living corpse, eyes lifeless, pale flesh rotting in patches.
The Hero stopped his charge, skidding to a burning halt upon a now char scarred meadow. The entity flew backwards, into the distance.
The Hero fell to his hands and knees, eyes wide, headache splitting down his brain with lumberjack axe force.
"What was that?" whispered the Hero.
That memory of Adam…
The entity was back again. It stood over the Hero again.
The world turned one shade darker. It was now like permanent night.
A beam from above blasted the entity but like all other attacks, scattered into nothingness.
"Pathetic. Here I am pitying you for the first time in a while." Seth Solar spoke from above. "But you deserve some help for saving the world."
"W-wait…" began the Hero weakly, raising his hand toward Seth.
Seth, however, as hot headed as ever, did not wait. He charged down, punching at the entity.
Like Adam, Seth fragmented into pieces before crumbling into nothingness.
"Seth…" The Hero's hand reached out, grasping a golden fragment - the last of Seth's being - before that crumbled away too.
Seth…the world's second strongest defender, gone just like that.
The former villain who had joined the Hero when the Greys came, putting aside differences to save the world.
The man that had killed the Hero by punching his heart out.
Another headache assailed the Hero. It felt like his mind was a glass vessel and each headache another crack with each crack threatening to shatter the entire thing.
The world turned even darker.
It was now hard to see beyond a hundred or so meters ahead. Everything beyond that was just pure, utter darkness.
There was just the Hero and the entity together upon a hill of grey, surrounded by a void of nothingness.
"Why…?" the Hero weakly stood up. The pain in his head made everything feel shaky. His vision kept blurring in and out, each blur shifting the landscape around him from colorless grass to cracked earth and back.
"Why are you doing this?" the Hero said to the entity. "Why?"
The Hero turned around, hope blooming in the pits of his despair tainted stomach.
Krysa and Elaine appeared through a portal.
"Stay-stay back!" the Hero put a hand up, warding his wife and daughter away. "The moment you get close to this thing, you'll fade away!"
"Everything's gone, dad," said Krysa. She floated towards the Hero, and he panicked for a moment, looking back at the entity to see if it made a move.
The entity just stood there, away from the Hero, as it to give him space.
"What do you mean?" the Hero planted his shield in front of him, between the entity and his family.
"The whole world's gone," said Krysa.
"Gone?" the Hero murmured in disbelief. All those decades of fighting and protecting. All of it…was for nothing? "Destroyed?"
It would all end just like this?
"Not destroyed." Elaine put a hand on the Hero's shoulder. Her touch, even now, even in this apocalyptic moment, was calming. "Our time was just up."
"Our time? What? Elaine, what are you saying?" the Hero glanced back at Elaine, confused.
She stared up at the Hero with speckling her rainbow tinted eyes.
"This world was never meant to be. Remember, my love." Elaine turned the Hero around and put her hand to his cheek. "Remember, Aldrich."
So many memories with Elaine. Their struggles together. The laughs they had between each other. The love they shared. The daughter they raised.
Elaine as a zombie.
Then, it was then that the Hero knew.
"None of this…none of this is real," murmured the Hero, blinking, putting a disbelieving hand to his forehead.
"That depends on your definition of real," said Elaine. "In many ways, it was. The life you had here, the life we had together - it was real to me. It was real to our daughter. In that way, it was real. Even if everything here was a creation of your mind, creation still has substance.
But it isn't 'real' in the sense that this isn't where you belong."
"Like mom said, our time is up," said Krysa. "Now that you're starting to remember, this world's ending. And now, it's time for you to get back to yours."
The Hero knelt down, dropping his shield. Warm tears began to trickle down his cheeks. "I-all of this- you two, the people I loved the most in this world, everything - I can't go, not like this, not so suddenly."
Krysa hugged the Hero, sniffling. "I know, dad, I know. I don't want to say goodbye either. But mom showed me everything. There's a ton of people that are waiting for you out there, hoping for you.
You have a daughter there too, someone just like me. And she's little: she's going to cry a lot harder than I am if you never come back. She needs her dad more than I do."
Elaine joined the hug. "I know everything's breaking apart so quickly. I felt the same way too, but I came to realize that this peace we had, this peace you built - it shows that our story here is over.
You won here.
But out there, you still have a fight to get to.
I want you, no, I need you to be strong.
I need you to save the world out there like you did with ours.
And, most importantly-," Elaine's voice caught in her throat. She held on to the Hero tight, the tightest she had ever held him, never wanting to let him go yet knowing she had to. "I want you to love out there properly. I want you to find happiness. Just like you did here."
The Hero held the two close to him. "I don't want to go. I don't want to let you two go. I don't want to let you two die."
Krysa tried to say something, but her words caught in her throat. Instead, she began to sob into the Hero's chest.
"Death doesn't have to be the end, my love. Nor does it have to be cold and lonely. In your arms like this, I'm reminded of the years of happiness we had. In your warmth, I feel enough comfort to let you go," said Elaine. She rested her cheek against the Hero's own. "Keep us in your memories. The lessons you learned in being happy, in knowing how to love and raise a daughter - use them out there.
Because just like me, there's someone out there waiting to hold you."
The Hero lurched forward, his arms now empty. Rainbow fragments floated away like cherry blossoms in a springtime breeze. Ephemeral. Transient. Disappearing shards of what once was.
The Hero watched as the petals shone, reflecting a lifetime of memories, of love and happiness and family, before fading away into the darkness.
The world turned darker.
Now, there was nothing except the dark.
The Hero stood up. He turned around.
The entity was there. Its shield was gone. Instead, it held out its foggy hand.
The Hero, no Aldrich, reached out and took it.
As their hands locked together, light bloomed from the touch, engulfing everything.