Through the Eye of the Tortured
Chapter 5: It all Amounts to Nothing
Kano tried to read the expression on Jarek's face, but it was no longer human enough to show what Jarek really felt. Kano was badly burned and limbless after the horrible battle with his former allies, and with his wounds cauterised, it would be a long time before his arms and legs would regenerate. Since their judgment declared he would only become a Demon when the Netherealm ended, he was essentially barred him from ever becoming one, and he was completely at Jarek's mercy. He now had a proper look at this new Jarek standing before him. He was physically larger, with broader shoulders and longer arms than he used to have. His muscles were bulging from his body, his veins pulsing under his skin. His hair was shaved down to his scalp, and the beard on his chin was tied into a short braid that reached his chest. His body was covered in a variety of scars and scrapes, ranging from small bite marks to large patches of healed skin. His brown pants had signs of dirt and wear, but were overall in good shape, and his black, leather belt looked almost new. It was somewhat unusual to see Jarek so well-kempt, but Kano hoped it was a sign of some kind of sanity. The most notable change was Jarek's eyes, which flickered black and white, the colours shifting and melting together. Jarek growled and approached Kano, maintaining his emotionless gaze.
"Why'd you save me, Jarek?" Kano asked, unable to move, and worried about what would come next. "What do you have planned for me, eh? Want to eat up my body parts? Rip me to shreds until I can't regenerate for a hundred years?"
Jarek's emotionless expression evaporated with a sudden smile, and he laughed maniacally. His eyes turned solid black, and his laugh erupted into a hateful taunt. He got onto his knees, and slammed his fists into the ground, pounding at the hard rock and shouting, "I don't belong here, I don't belong here, I don't belong here, I'm just the toughest bastard who can do this!" He lifted his hands, now covered in bloody scrapes, and licked at them hungrily, as if the blood was liquid candy. His eyes were now solid white, and the wounds he sustained in his fight against No Face, Tasia, and Tremor all healed. Even the scrapes disappeared from his knuckles. He took a moment to compose himself, got up, hobbled to Kano, and threw the mutilated criminal onto his shoulder. He broke out into a sprint and ran down many long, dark, cavernous corridors.
"What the fuck is wrong with you? Where're you taking me?"
"I have to manipulate the Netherealm, control it, not let it control me, I have the power, this is the experiment, I am the experiment, can I balance light and dark, am I really here? Where are the lights? Where is the light coming from?! You see? I told you I'd find him! I'm ready!"
Jarek was lost in his thoughts, ignoring the struggling being he carried. Kano was nervous. Jarek was not calm like the others and seemed more insane than Sheeva. How long had he been dead for?
"I'll take you to someplace safe, don't worry Kano. You'll be okay, everything'll be just... Ugh, what is the word people say to make you feel safe even if you think they're lying? It's kind of a patronizing word."
"That's it! You'll be fine! Be happy!" Jarek grinned with his chipped teeth, and his eyes fluctuated between black and white as he roared with laughter. "I had a choice, before coming here, was it smart, what I did? All the pretty lights! When will I know?" Needless to say, Kano was not reassured by Jarek's ramblings.
When they finally reached their destination, Kano looked at what appeared to be Jarek's lair, a dark, unusually dank cave, barely lit by torches and smelling of dead fish. Jarek placed Kano onto a rug made of what appeared to be deer skin. Jarek punched a nearby wall with his fist, drawing more blood from the wound this time. He lapped it up happily, and his eyes glowed a brilliant white in the darkness. He took a deep breath, stood up, and sighed as the torch lights grew brighter, revealing the cave to be a much nicer abode than Kano expected. Drapes of silk adorned the walls and healthy, green vegetable plants grew at the very end of the room, thriving despite the lack of natural light. Compared to the rest of the Netherrealm, this cave was paradise. "Make yourself at home, asshole."
``Why do keep punching things like that and licking the blood? What happened to you, Jarek?"
Jarek dunked his head into what appeared to be a stone basin of water in the cave wall, roaring with delight as he let the cool liquid drip onto his body. He splashed it onto his back and chest and turned to Kano. "I'd offer you some water, but you don't deserve it. It's nice, cool, and so refreshing tonight... Nobody around here drinks water anymore, the poor bastards, they just get used to blood. Not me though, not anymore. Only the good stuff for me down here. The unlucky ones drink the lava, ha, ha, hah... And the punching things bit? The pain keeps me civil, my blood keeps me sane... At least for a little while. It's not working like it used to, but thankfully, I don't need to do it as often as I used to either, only when I feel I'm going too crazy, getting too pumped up. I have to make sure I don't lose myself, but it's getting easier to stay focused... We all aren't as lucky as Drahmin to get special masks and things. I don't know how he and Moloch found it, but whatever...
``As for what happened to me? It's a long story, and nobody's asked me that in a while, so I'll share a bit... After Shao Kahn's invasion failed, the Black Dragon was torn apart. A lot of us wound up captured after the dust settled, and we weren't organized like we used to be, so we split up all the factions to cover more ground and bring some new members. At this point, most of us were hunted down like dogs by Sonya and Jax, and I lost communication with the majority of the high-ranking members. I remember when Sonya caught up to me, she mentioned I was the last one... If they weren't dead, they were in prison, but the Black Dragon basically died a long time ago, arguably, when you disappeared from the face of the Earth.
``Anyway, after Sonya missed catching me in Shanghai, I drove south to hopefully lose her and any agents she might've been with, but I was ambushed by Jax and a few of his new friends in the OIA. They didn't have time to take me to a proper prison, so I was with them in chains when they started making portals and things to find Sonya. They didn't have enough info about me on their files, aside from knowing I learned some stuff from you. They didn't expect me to have eye lasers too, so I cut myself loose, pounded the ground to pop `em all up, and ran straight into the portal before their laser portal thing shut off. Only Jax was able to follow up behind me before the portal closed, and so we were both stuck in this realm called Edenia. There was a war going on over there, a war between Heaven and Hell, tearing the sky and ground apart. It was really fucked up, and it made everything that I went through during that whole Earth invasion look like nothing...
"Wait a minute, I can't tell you this stuff, you're a fucking traitor! You'd probably turn me out faster than a Tokyo pimp would his ladyboy to save your own ass!"
"Jarek, look at me, I'm reduced to stumps, all my connections are gone, all my powers are gone right now, I'm in pain, broken and useless. Throw me a fucking bone here already, and tell me what is going on!"
"I don't care about your problems, I have my own! Everyone in this realm is my enemy, and I've done my good deed! That's why I saved a worthless piece of shit like you, because it reminds me of what I was and wanted to become before I knew better! You are now beneath me in worth, Kano, because my potential's finally being tapped, and I'm not going to blow my cover just to make you comfortable. I can't trust anyone down here, especially you, because I have every reason to believe you would sell me out, and I can't have that. If people really knew why I was down here, everyone would want me dead!"
"Why, you damned asshole? Tell me! If you rescued me to prove a fucking point to yourself, you did it, now I want to know what the heck happened to you! We were friends, for Christ's sake, I wasn't lying when I said I cared about you guys, and that has to count for something, even for you!"
Jarek took a long look at Kano, and sighed. He took pity on his former friend, and waved his hand. His body changed from a scarred, bulky Oni into a regular human, his face still somewhat scornful, but his figure as it was the last time Kano and Jarek saw one another. "I'm not dead, Kano. I was sent here, alive, and I've been down here for years. I'm still alive, and still human, which means that I can wind up on the menu anytime if I don't control what they see and smell."
Kano was stunned. The others suffered for long enough to become Demons, but Jarek had truly struggled. He was a real prisoner in Hell, fighting to survive and retain his sanity. While Kano experienced the good life in Outworld as a general serving a tyrant, Jarek was hunted down by bloodthirsty monsters. He still had to eat, sleep, and hide from everyone, and keep as low a profile as possible. Kano felt sorry for his old friend, but then realized that Jarek had new powers. How was he able to manipulate what the Oni saw and smelt? How could he change his form like that?
``How come you're down here then? And how are you able to change into an Oni? There's no way you can still be human and do all that.''
"I have to be honest though, Kano," Jarek said, creating a grilled chicken leg from nothing and ignoring Kano's question, "now that I have super powers and stuff, it's not so bad being down here. If I hadn't met you guys in the Black Dragon, maybe things wouldn't have turned out like this for me. Maybe I'd be a little happier, a lot safer, and maybe I would have never gone to Hell, but now that I can look back on it all, with everything that has happened, I have to say that I have no regrets. If it was my time, I'd say I'm ready to die a happy man, going to either Heaven or staying here. You turned your back on me, on all your friends in life, but I've grown beyond that. Rescuing you just proved that there's hope for me, and that says a lot, all things considered.
``I guess what I'm trying to say is that I still hate you for what you did, for abandoning the Black Dragon clan and joining the enemies of Earth. I hate you with all my heart and soul... But I forgive you. I wouldn't be where I am today without you, and I wouldn't have been given the awesome opportunity I got all those years back after Shinnok was beaten. Thank you, Kano, for being such a strong influence on me, and helping me realize that I didn't want to become a carbon copy of you.''
Kano was surprised to hear Jarek say all that. He did not know if he should feel insulted or happy with Jarek's words, but the fact Jarek forgave him made all the difference in the world. If Jarek could be in the bowels of Hell and still see the bright side of life, maybe Kano could learn something from his former ally. Maybe there was still hope for him, despite being dead... ``Thanks, mate, I really appreciate that, especially with the kind of day I had so far... So how do you do it? How is it that you can change yourself like that, make food, and just plain survive down here with all this comfort?''
"Demons and Angels can only manipulate so much of the essence the Netherealm and the Heavens have, but the living, oh boy, living beings with the right balance of good and evil, can wield untold power in either of the spirit realms... That's why living flesh is a delicacy here, why Demons hunger for the blood of mortals, Angels, and Gods, to give them clarity and a power boost that can't be matched. Fucked up, eh? I'll keep my fried chicken, thank you very much! Lord knows that Demons taste terrible, even when they're cooked!"
Suddenly, a bright light shone and a massive portal opened up before the two of them, revealing a beautiful, white world. A cool mist exited from the portal and caressed Kano's skin on the floor. It was refreshing, inviting, invigorating. Jarek stared into the portal and pondered aloud, "Is my time up already? Where do I go from here? From one hole to another?" Jarek walked towards the light, intrigued with what lay beyond it. "I've dreamt of this place for so many nights. I saw it in my dreams, I saw it when I was awake, it came to the point where I thought that it was real and this Hell was fake. But they are both real, I traveled in both without ever being present in one or the other. Have I always been alive? I'm sure I died and went somewhere... Didn't I? Was I saved before or am I being saved now? Where do I fit? Where do I belong?"
As Jarek stepped closer to the portal, Kano panicked. "W-wait a minute," he asked nervously, "where are you going? Take me with you! Please! I'm a changed man, I don't belong here anymore!" With Jarek no longer concentrating on his home, the cave slowly transformed from a comfortable abode into a simple lair. The rug disappeared from beneath Kano, the water dried up, the torches burnt out, the silk faded away, the plants crumbled, and the air became hot and disgusting. Kano was still lying limbless on the floor and unable to escape.
Jarek turned around and sadly looked at him. "I can't save you. You had all the chances in life to do something right, and you didn't; you do belong down here, while I earned my freedom before it was too late. I had a chance to be more than the bad guy, and I took it. I saved people I never knew, and helped out when I didn't have to. Shao Kahn, Shinnok, Quan Chi, I bet they all could've offered me something great to betray Earth and the heroes I fought alongside, but I can only be so much of a scumbag. All I can do is leave you this." Jarek waved his hand, and Kano was covered in a blue energy. "This shield'll protect you from everything so you can heal without any worries. When you have legs to walk again, it'll disappear, but at least you can rest until then. Good bye, Kano, and good luck down here... You'll need it."
As Jarek stepped through the portal, Kano caught a glimpse of a man with long, white hair welcoming Jarek with open arms, along with a young black man with white tattoos on his body and, oddly enough, a glowing white being who resembled Jarek.When the portal closed completely, Kano remained in the dark cave, blanketed in the shield, with nothing to do... All alone, out of the chaos, and unable to escape until he healed. It would take weeks for his limbs to grow back, but it would mean nothing in the end. All the remorse he felt for his actions in life, all his desires to make things right again, all the tears he wept out of shame and sorrow, were not enough to change his fate. He chose the path he wanted and now he would pay the ultimate price. He quietly cried as he realized that he had nothing left, and nothing would change in his favour this time. He would remain forever trapped in the Netherealm until the realm ceased to exist, avoiding the Demons of his former life as well as those who served Lord Baphomet. Maybe if he was lucky, he would find the Scrivener and ask him to change his judgement, but with no allies or friends to help him, Kano knew he had no hope for a better future. He was truly in his own personal level of Hell.
The final chapter of Kano's time in the Netherealm. I hope you enjoyed reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it. :)
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Also I'm guessing this does have to do with the other stories Lord Baphomet still rules but for how long? Hmm I see an opening.
Yup, this story is connected to my other ones, so if you want to know more about what happens in the Netherrealm, check out one of my older fan fics, Elder Demon Shinnok. It kind of gives a whole new spin on the judgement Kano received.