Ju-Long circles around the edge of the stage till he reaches one of the corners. He takes a deep breath and allows the gauntlets’ energy flow to increase. He bends his knees, widens his stance, and channels the energy down into his legs. The world around him slows to a standstill. Ju-Long launches off the floor, leaping directly for Rhi-Nu. He covers the distance between them with ease, throwing a kick aimed at Rhi-Nu’s chest. Just inches from impact, Rhi-Nu’s armor glows. Rhi-Nu dodges left and Ju-Long’s foot simply grazes by. The instant Ju-Long’s feet hit the floor, he spins around and throws another kick. Rhi-Nu is too slow and the kick makes a dull thud as it strikes the steel armor. Ju-Long instantly follows up, not giving Rhi-Nu time to react. Ju-Long jumps, spins, and brings his leg around to land a kick against the side of Rhi-Nu’s head. Ju-Long lands, jumps back out of reach, and allows the flow of energy to return to normal. Rhi-Nu just stands there and grins.
That didn’t do much, says Tim.
It wasn’t meant to, replies Ju-Long.
The flow of energy increases again, this time only going as far as Ju-Long’s arms and shoulders. He charges forward, closing the gap between them. Once in range, he throws a punch at Rhi-Nu’s side. It hits with a resounding ring as the metal of the gauntlets strikes the steel armor. Rhi-Nu looks down, amused by the hit. Ju-Long immediately throws a punch to the other side, but it is met with the same effect as the first.
Rhi-Nu shakes his head, “Kind of embarrassing, isn’t it?”
A massive energy surge from the gauntlets runs through Ju-Long’s body, filling every muscle with added strength and speed. Ju-Long drives upward using every muscle in his body to propel him. He brings his right arm up, throwing an uppercut that hits squarely under Rhi-Nu’s chin. The punch has such a great amount of force behind it that Rhi-Nu is lifted off his feet and sent backward a couple feet before landing on his back. The crowd around erupts in cheer as Rhi-Nu lies there still.
Ju-Longs walks over and kneels down, making sure that Rhi-Nu is out cold but otherwise fine. He looks up at Kau expecting to find him looking angry and frustrated at yet another defeat. Instead he finds Kau sitting there looking as smug as ever with a big grin on his face.
That’s when Ju-Long notices that Rhi-Nu’s armor is glowing. Dimly at first, but growing steadily brighter. Rhi-Nu’s arm shoots forward and grabs ahold of Ju-Long’s gauntlet. Ju-Long pulls against it to break free but the grip is too strong. A symbol begins to form on the front of Rhi-Nu’s armor as if it is being burned on by an invisible branding iron. His body arches upward and the glow burns to a brilliant flash of light. Rhi-Nu suddenly rolls to his side and hurls Ju-Long into the air. Soaring across the stage headfirst, a graceful flip in midair allows Ju-Long to land on his feet as Rhi-Nu rises to his feet. The symbol on the chest of Rhi-Nu’s steel armor glows bright red against the silver glow of the rest.
Demon Guard? What does that mean? Tim asks as he reads the symbol.
That means that Rhi-Nu is no longer in control. He is now a slave to the armor.
Ju-Long looks up at Gwan and Gwan meets his eyes with a look of fear. Ju-Long breaks eye contact and looks around at the crowd who has gone silent over the change of events. With a slight nod, Gwan acknowledges what Ju-Long is hinting at, then calls some men over to give them instruction. The men quickly disappear into the crowd and start evacuating all the villagers from the village square, quietly and orderly. Ju-Long motions to Gwan to leave as well, but Gwan shakes his head in disagreement. With a sigh of disapproval, Ju-Long looks to Kau.
“Do not look at me that way, brother,” says Kau. “I’ve had about all I can stand of your self-righteous attitude. You’re worse than the missionary these days. Oh—that reminds me.” Kau reaches into his pocket and throws what he pulls from it onto the stage near Ju-Long. “I’ve heard he has been forced to take a little bit of a detour on his way back.”
Ju-Long looks down to find a small Bible lying in front of him. Picking it up, he opens the front cover to find a picture of a man, woman, and small child smiling in front of a little church. Tim notices the man in the picture looks just like Pastor John from the orphanage but quickly dismisses the thought as just a coincidence.
An evil smile beams across Kau’s face. As Ju-Long looks back up to Kau, the last bit of hope Ju-Long has so desperately been clinging on to for his brother’s salvation shatters and fades. Gwan, seeing what was thrown onto the stage, rushes over and grabs Kau by his collar raising him off the platform floor.
“What have you done!” Gwan demands.
“Careful now, brother. Wouldn’t want you to break any vows.”
“Gwan!” shouts Ju-Long from the stage. Gwan snaps out of his rage and releases Kau from his grip.
“Don’t worry, little brother,” Kau says to Gwan. “The missionary is perfectly fine. For now, anyway. I just needed some assurance that Ju-Long wouldn’t back out of this fight. Regardless of the outcome, as long as Ju-Long continues to fight, the missionary will be returned free from harm. However—and make no mistake about this—try to flee or send anyone to find him, and he will meet your God before the sun has set on this day.”
Gwan begins to reply “You bett—”
“Kau,” interrupts Ju-Long, “make no mistake about this. I will defeat this abomination and you will return the missionary, or else.”
“Or else what, Ju-Long? You’ll do like Father and banish me away again? Oh, how I do grow tired of your rhetoric.”
A single tear breaks free from Ju-Long’s heart and rushes to his eye for escape. As it goes, it collects all the hope, love, and mercy Ju-Long still has for his brother and locks it within. Finding release from his eye, it slides down his cheek and hangs from his chin, unwilling to let go. But there is no going back from the path it has taken. Ju-Long’s gauntlets begin to glow vibrantly as their power rages through his body. The tear finally gives in and releases its grip, falling to the stage floor. The tear, like Kau, is lost forever.
“Or else I will do what Father truly set out to do the day you were banished. I will send you to face your eternal judgment.”