Illyana kneels at the side of the dying Ororo, torn between her love for the woman and her eagerness to obey Belasco. Cupping her chin, Belasco mocks that it is such a fine line between love and hate, isn’t it? She hasn’t yet decided which to choose. Some of her soul still remains to be corrupted.
Illyana begs Belasco to spare Storm – that she’ll do anything in return. To which Belasco replies that she’ll do that anyway. He orders her to begin the ritual of conjuring the third bloodstone and condemning Storm’s soul in the process. Both Illyana and Storm have been tainted by him. Look at her face! he orders. She yearns for this, almost as much as Illyana does. They mustn’t disappoint her.
Illyana cannot help but start the ritual but, when she sees Ororo’s understanding smile, she finds the strength to plunge her dagger into Storm’s heart in a mercy killing, thus saving her soul.
Suddenly, all hell breaks loose, as the weather around the citadel goes wild and lightning shatters the tower. It’s as if Ororo has become one with the lightning doing her utmost to destroy Belasco and all his works.
A livid Belasco promises Illyana terrible punishment. Pain and misery for the rest of her life, but Illyana teleports herself and Ororo’s body to Ororo’s garden, where she buries her friend. Illyana cries for her friend and remembers. Without Storm’s power to shield her home, though, the weather around it breaks down. All of a sudden, Ororo’s corpse, transformed to look like a demon and clearly possessed by Belasco, rises and chases Illyana.
The girl teleports to another part of Limbo, where she is attacked by a reanimated Colossus, who blames her for his death.
Another teleportation jump surprisingly takes Illyana out of Limbo and to her parents’ home in the Ust-Ordinsky Collective. She senses instinctively that this isn’t another of Belasco’s tricks. Illyana runs to hug her surprised mother, but neither she nor her father recognize her, as they believe her daughter is still a six-year old girl living with her brother in the USA, not a teenager, one wearing a strange fur outfit at that. The Rasputins chastise her for playing such a nasty joke on them and then leave her outside the door.
A dejected Illyana sinks to her knees. Hearing a voice, she turns around to be faced by a full set of zombie-alternate X-Men: Nightcrawler, Colossus, Wolverine and now also Cat and Ororo. Illyana faints, until she is awoken by Belasco in Limbo in what’s left of Ororo’s garden.
Colossus holds her up by her arms. Belasco states she is far too calm, considering what’s in store for her. He orders colossus to stretch her arms a bit. He wants to hear her scream. And she does until her throat cracks. This moment could have been as pleasurable for her as it is for him, Belasco informs her as he conjures up the third bloodstone from her soul.
Belasco takes away the locket and tells her that she must be taught a lesson. She must learn who is master of Limbo. For her transgressions, he’ll leave her alone to fend for herself in the wilderness without her mutant or her magical talent. No matter, how much she’ll suffer, starve or be injured, she will not die and, when he has need of her, he’ll simply summon her and use her, whether she wants to or not. Eventually, of course, she will not want to resist. Then perhaps, if she asks nicely, he may forgive.
When Illyana is left alone, the garden becomes a frozen wilderness and, with Ororo’s dacha leveled, she realizes she needs food and shelter. A gust of winds sends her crashing against Ororo’s massive oak. In the tree, Ororo’s magic runs so strongly Belasco couldn’t sweep it away, and she decides to use Ororo’s oak for a windbreak and its lifeforce as sustenance.
Over the time that passes, Illyana tries again and again to create an acorn from her soul to break free from Belasco’s hold and prove that her uncorrupted side will win out. Every time, the acorn is corrupted and reminds her of her own inner darkness. Days pass without change. She has no idea how many. She grows a head taller and becomes as hard as the wilderness. Finally, there is barely any of the oak’s lifeforce left. Illyana fears she only has doom and destruction bring to those she cares for. She tries one final time and fails again, while the oak dies and crumbles to dust.
Enraged, Illyana cries and rages and suddenly realizes why she was doomed to fail: when Ororo created life in form of the acorn, she was trying to reaffirm her old beliefs, she held life sacred. Illyana has no old beliefs to return to. She simply wants vengeance. Reaching out once again, Illyana uses the last remainder of the oak’s lifeforce to create a sword from a part of her own soul. In that moment, the enchantment that has kept her imprisoned shatters and Illyana teleports into Belasco’s citadel.
Belasco, in the meantime, has been working hard on a plan to free himself from Limbo that doesn’t include lllyana, but hinges on the wedding of his old enemies Ka-Zar and Shanna, who were originally responsible for his banishment to Limbo. While he had planned to use Illyana to free him, this might be more delicious. His enchantments are already manipulating the Atlantean android Dherk. He needs only restore queen Leanne of Lemuria to a semblance of health and all will be ready.
That moment, Illyana enters and shatters the statues of Ka-Zar, Shanna, Dhrek and Queen Leanne with her Soulsword. “Remember me?” she asks with a triumphant grin.
Belasco calls her a nuisance and attacks her with a magic blast which the sword and her own magicks easily deflect. He tries to reach her with his own sword. And while his reach is longer, Illyana uses her light circles to stay out of his range.
S’ym storms in, intent on helping his master, but Illyana manages to knock him out with one stroke of her sword. Belasco, she notices, is starting to look frightened. Illyana goes on a rampage and destroys his spellbooks (which she secretly had memorized). As Illyana gains the upper hand in their duel, she begins to take on more and more demonic aspects such as horns and fangs, whereas Belasco appears more and more human and starts losing his magical powers in the process.
There isn’t even a pretense of a fair fight anymore. Belasco’s hard pressed to keep himself alive against Illyana and her Soulsword. She mockingly suggests he appeal to his masters for aid. Or could it be, that they like her better than him?
But then, Illyana starts to remember young Ororo’s duel with Belasco, where a similar process took place and then notices that she has a tail (which she is using to throttle him) and is becoming just like him both physically and mentally. An inner voice urges her on to kill him while she has the chance. Did Ororo hear those words on that fateful day? she wonders. She now stands at the brink of the same abyss. She realizes that killing him would be the ultimate failure and refuses to do so. Her Soulsword was forged within the fires of rage and grief and the violence of those emotions overwhelmed her with an insane bloodlust that sent her hurtling down the same road Ororo followed to her damnation.
She renounces her heritage? Belasco sputters. No, she embraces it, she tells him. Power absolute was within her gasp, he urges. The price was too high. He calls her a pitiful, pathetic human weakling and a fool. She reminds him that she beat him in fair combat. He doesn’t understand: with her victory, she proved her right to his place as the Dark Ones’ standard bearer but her act of mercy-- how could anyone be so cowardly and childish as to renounce such power! He throws her the locket and threatens that she’ll regret this decision, when his masters, the Dark Lords rule Earth. With that, he teleports away.
At that moment, Illyana returns to her human shape. Alone again, she’s unsure how to feel about her victory and about the fact that she is a curious mix between two schools of magic, a mix symbolized by her sword. She wonders what to do. She is now mistress of Limbo, she could stay, be safe and try to make the whole place like Ororo’s garden. Or she could go to face the X-Men, for whom no time has passed while she grew up and face the risk of eventually running into Belasco again. That’s why he left her the medallion. Three bloodstones have been created, a reminder that she is more like Belasco than Ororo.
Illyana decides she has to go and teleports to meet the X-Men on Magneto’s island.
And so, Kitty Pryde pulls her out of the light circle and the X-Men are surprised to see the seven year older Illyana.
One year later on her birthday at Xavier’s mansion, Illyana muses about those events. She made no other attempt to contact her parents. For a while, she tried to put her past behind her. But she cannot deny who or what she is or how she came to be. She thinks about the dead alternate X-Men, her friends, who will never be dead to her as long as she remembers them. Walking down the slope in the snow, she sees the New Mutants engaging in a snowball fight and wonders what her life would have been like, had she grown up normally, but decides to make the best of her life and to see this as a beginning.