Sylia's Choice

Part 3

by David "Fido" Lindquist

***************************************
Disclaimer: Bubblegum Crisis is
owned by AIC. AD&D Oriental
Adventures are owned by TSR.
They are both used without permission
but for no profit.
***********************************************

FORWARD:It is finished. After so long a time I've
forgotten it's finally written. I have to admit, there
were times I almost gave up on it but now I'm glad I
didn't. I'd like to thank Jed Bidwell for prereading.


*************************************************

Chapter 3

"Shouldn't we round up the horses?" Nene
asked, a slight note of concern in her voice.

"No," Sylia emotionlessly replied as she
stared at the ground. Abruptly, their leader
turned around and started to walk towards the
temple path.

"Let's go," She said with the same emotionless
voice." I wish to arrive at the temple before
dark."

"But... what about the money?" Linna asked.

For Sylia, the question possessed all the impact
of an icicle being deposited down the back of her
shirt. The anger that simmered within her
suddenly boiled to the surface. She quickly spun
around and glared at the green armored kensai.

"When I give a command I expect it to be
followed!" Sylia screamed, her face a mask of
rage. " Now...let's.......GO!!!!!"

Ignoring the shocked expressions of her comrades,
Sylia turned back around and resumed her march
towards the old temple road. As she heard the
other's footsteps fall in behind her, a small
part of Sylia's mind tried to voice its concern
over the outburst.

*I don't have the time for this debate,* Sylia
thought, as she mentally squelched her
worries. *It's time to end this.* He will
die... he must...*

-------------------

The trip to the temple was not as dangerous as Sylia
thought it should have been. Most of the old traps set
up long ago by the temple priest to prevent attacks
by bandits were now rubble and ashes. It was like
someone had cleared a path for them. That didn't help
in soothing the sense of dread that the group felt.

The logical part of Sylia's mind wondered if the
feeling was natural or part of a spell meant to
make them uneasy.

*It might be,* she thought as she stepped around a
boulder. *He always did make a big production out of
everything.*

"Be careful, Linna" Sylia said the 'point man' of
their group. "This still could be a trick."

"Right," she replied and walked around a curve
in the path. The shear walls of rock that seemed to
slowly grow in height as they walked now were tall
enough to easily obscure her lithe form from Sylia.

However, they didn't obscure sound.

"Gods!" she heard her shout and instantly broke into
a run. Priss and Nene were also running towards the
sound of Linna's voice.

The three other Knight Sabers turned the corner and
immediately stopped. What they saw silenced them
completely.

It was once a temple gate but most of the stone had
long since crumbled into pebbles. Moss and fungus
completely covered what remained, except for the area
around the entrance. That had been recently blown
away. Pieces were strewn all over the inner courtyard
with the last part resting at the foot of the main
temple steps. Sylia's eyes followed the steps up to
the opening. The doors were open but she couldn't
pierce the darkness inside.

"Wow," Nene said, "what a mess."

"Yeah," Priss replied. "So boss, how do we do this?"

"Slow and steady. You know the drill."

With only nods for acknowledgement, the Knight Sabers
slowly crept up to the wall. Making sure it was safe to
enter they went through the entrance and into the
courtyard. The other buildings looked no better than
the wall.

"Welcome, Sylia Stingray. Do you like my new home?"

The raspy voice sent a chill down Sylia's spine. She
and the other three warriors turned and looked at the
source of the words.

An unidentifiable figure stood at the entrance of the
main temple. The black hooded robe, it wore covered
its entire body. She could feel the aura of pure evil
that the creature put out.

"I admit it isn't like my last home," it
continued, "but it's a step up from my previous
residence, don't you think?"

"Hello Mason," Sylia replied, ignoring his ranting.

Immediately after her reply, Priss, Linna and Nene
began to slowly move away from their leader. Each one
preparing for an attack. None of them took their eyes
off the speaker.

"Is that all you have to say to me?" The figure didn't
appear to react to the Knight Sabers actions. "If coming
back from the dead doesn't impress you then I don't know
what would!"

"Nothing you could ever do would impress me Mason," she
said coldly.

"Oh, no?" His retort sent another chill down her
spine. "How about THIS?!?"

The figure's hands shot out from his cloak. He moved
so fast that no one could react before he released his
attack. Three balls of green light instantly shot out
from his fingertips. The energy balls soared through
the air like arrows and hit Linna, Priss and
Nene.

The three Knight Sabers seemed to be paralyzed as the
green energy spread from their impact points until it
enveloped each of their bodies. Then the light faded
and as it did so did the warriors.

Sylia couldn't believe what she had just seen.

"WHAT DID YOU DO TO THEM?!?" Sylia screamed. Pulling
her swords. the Knight Saber's leader ran up the steps
towards her enemy. She didn't get more than half way
before slamming into a mystical barrier and bouncing
off.

"They are still alive," he said, "but for how long
is up to you. Once you get through my forcewall, we'll
talk.Good-bye, Sylia-chan."

The figure known as Mason turned, walked back into
the temple and closed the doors.

Sylia didn't hesitate as she got up and quickly gathered
her blades. Pointing one blade at the area where she
hit, Sylia began to chant.

"LET THE POWER OF DESTRUCTION LOOSE! DISINTEGRATION!!!"

Pain laced through her body as the spell activated. She
gritted her teeth and watched the invisible field become
visible then shatter. It took her a few seconds to regain
enough composure to start walking unsteadily up the
stairs. With each step, she regained her strength. By the
time she reached the top, the pain and weakness had faded
away. All that was let was a burning rage.

She didn't stop. Sylia just drew back her foot and
slammed it into the doors. They buckled then collapsed
inwardly onto the floor.

"MASON!!!" Sylia screamed.

She walked over the fallen doors without losing a
step. Her eyes searching for their quarry. The temple
looked nothing like the outside. Everything from the
pillars that lined the main hall, to the carpet on the
floor and the rafters appeared brand new. However, even
though it showed no signs of decay, there was a stench
that couldn't be mistaken for anything else.

It wasn't long before she reached the other end of the
hall and walked into the greeting room. It was obvious
to her that he had magically enlarged the room by two
or three times at least and looked similar to the
hallway in style. What caught her attention though
was the robed figure that sat on a large throne at the
other side of it.

"This ends now!!" Sylia screamed as she charged.

The Knight Saber noticed that the figure didn't react
as she ran up the steps and plunged Kotetu into it's
body. It didn't do anything at all as she pulled it
out.

*There's hardly any blood either,* Sylia noted while
she examined her blade. She also noted that the figure
had little coming from the wound. Her suspicion aroused,
the Knight Saber slowly reached for the hood of the
figure and pulled it back. The face of a dead Kate
Madagin greeted her. It was frozen in a look of pure
terror.

"She didn't like the new me," Mason's voice said
as another hooded figure came out of a closed curtain
beside the throne. Sylia instantly shifted into a
defensive stance when she saw a nagimaki in his bony
hands. What had made her go into the stance was the
hands.

"You did it," she whispered with a mix of horror, anger
and disgust in her voice. "You would actually risk the
wrath of the gods--"

"Of course, Sylia-chan. how could you think I
wouldn't?" Mason pulled back his hood to reveal a
skull. "Besides, the 'wrath of the gods' is highly
overrated."

The only response he received was Sylia shifting her
stance.

"So," he said as he shifted into his own combat
position, "I do believe we have some unfinished
business?"

Sylia only nodded then launched her attack. Both blades
moved faster than the eye could follow only to be
blocked by the longer weapon. The Knight Saber leader
barely dodged the retaliatory strike. She tried to block
the follow up attack but the impact staggered her.

*I felt that through my armor,* She thought as she
jumped back. *I have to put some space between us.*

Mason lunged at her as she landed forcing her to
attempt another block. Kotetu flashed out to absorb
the hit only to shatter at the moment of impact. It had,
however, deflected strike downward. Sylia's shock over
her katana's destruction turned to a grimace as the
nagimaki tip struck her leg. She spared a momentary
glance at the wound before the Knight Saber turned her
attention back to her opponent.

Mason appeared to smile before resuming launching
another attack.

This time, Sylia was ready for him.

Using the broken blade as a shield, she slammed that
shattered blade into the side of the pole. It made his
weapon go wide and as he fumbled to recover his
balance, Sylia slipped in and drove her other sword
into his chest. The blow ripped through his robe and
pierced his ribcage. He dropped the nagimaki and
staggered back as she drew it back out.

The Knight Saber leader smiled as he fell to the
ground.

With the remaining blade ready to strike, Sylia
stalked towards her downed opponent.

*Soon...,* she thought, ignoring the pain or her
wounds. *Soon, it will be finished.*

Her eyes watched as the lich formerly known
as Mason attempted to rise only to collapse.

"It seems you have me at a disadvantage," Mason
hissed, the green light in his eye sockets seemed to
pulse at each word. "But now it gives me a chance to
prove to you that we are the same."

Sylia froze. She realized what he was referring
to. The night as he died Mason said "You and I are
the same." Sylia knew exactly what he meant and it
had haunted her ever since.

"The orb and I are specially linked. If I am
destroyed, your teammates die with me," he crowed,
a hint of triumph in his inhuman voice. " If you
shatter the orb you will free your associates, but
I gain the orb's power. It will make me ten times
stronger and we both know what it took you to get
me in this condition."

Sylia ignored Mason's comments as she raced to
come up with a solution.

*What do I do?* she thought, *I do not have the
reserves for another prolong battle, yet I can't
kill the others just to destroy him... can I?*

"So...what's your choice?" Mason arrogantly
said, "Me or them."

He then screamed one word.

"CHOOSE!"

The word filled her with dread. It was a decision
Sylia knew that, someday, she would have to
make and it haunted her. She then noticed that she
felt a sense of deja vu. Like she had been
confronted with this choice before. Then Sylia
realized that she had.

It was in her dreams and in her thought every time
her team... no, they had stopped being that the night
she went after Mason, her friends, went out on a
mission. Would she have to sacrifice one of them
to achieve the groups goals? Could she? It was
something that she had dreaded ever having to do. Now,
she had no choice but to do it. Save her friends or
fulfill her dreams of destroying the man responsible
for her father's death? A voice inside her screamed for
vengeance no matter what the cost.

*So? They were just a means to and end!* it
said. *Sacrifices must be made for the greater
good!! Avenge me!*

The words hit her with the force of a thrown hammer.

"You and I are the same... ," Largo's voice whispered
in her ear as she remembered staring at the damaged
superboomer. Her own voice finishing the sentence... "we
will sacrifice anything to gain our revenge."

Images cascaded before her mind's eye. Watching her
father's lab in flames. Receiving the data cartridge
that changed her life. Gathering the people and tools
needed to fulfill her plans. Hearing the screams of a
boomer child as it died. The light go out of Mason's
eyes as she plunged the blade into his neck... Then
the image of a friend who was in so much pain she
wanted to die. Pain that Sylia had inadvertently
caused by recruiting her...

*Enough,* her mind said. She then knew what choice she
had to make.

With a shout of rage, Sylia spun around. She ignored the
pain that shot through her injured leg as she ran towards
the orb. One stroke of her blade was all it took to
shatter it. The green light burst out in a flash, when it
subsided. Three more figures were laying around her. She
immediately checked on them as Priss coughed then tried
to stand.

"G-gods," she stammered out. "Can't feel my... "

"It's okay now," Sylia said 'Everything is okay now."

She checked the others and found them in similar
states but otherwise okay.

*The numbness will wear off,* she thought. *Now to deal
with..*

"RAAARRRGGGHHH!"

Sylia didn't have time to react as the lightning bolt
struck her back. She didn't have a chance to recover
before she was hit again. The force of the blast flung
her into the far wall. It took all her strength to roll
over and see where the attack had come from. The Knight
Saber leader's eyes locked on Mason's green glowing form
as it slowly moved towards her. His robe had burned off
revealing the skeleton that was now her enemy. At that
moment, she realized that he seemed to be struggling
with every step.

*It's almost like he is in... pain?* She stared at him
for a few seconds more then began to laugh.

"The wrath of the gods is overrated? What do you say
now Mason!"

Another howl from Mason echoed through the hall as
he dropped to his knees and began to crawl towards
her. His feet had decayed into nothingness and it
was slowly spreading up his bone legs.

"I... can... still...finish... you!" he gasped.

She knew he was right but Sylia found that it didn't
bother her.

*Better me than any of them,* she thought. Her
only wish was that Mackie wouldn't try to take up
her crusade. *One life wasted on this is enough. I
hope Nene and the others understand.*

As he continued towards her, Sylia closed her eyes and
waited for the end.

"FLAMES OF STEEL! STRIKE!"

Her eyes opened just in time to see Nene's three
fire shuriken explode inches from his face. The lich
rolled away from the blast only to become entangled
in the now recovered Linna's battle chain. Sylia knew
it wouldn't hold him for long but for the warrior
that now was standing before him it would be enough.

"Die, you bastard!" Priss screamed as she swung
her battle axe. The blade solidly connected with his
skull, splitting it in half, and embedded itself in
the floor. The remaining parts of the undead
creature's body twitched for a few moments the
dissolved into nothingness.

The Knight Saber leader watched in silence as Priss
stumble back until she reached the wall then leaned
against it. Linna was stretched out on the floor
trying to get her breath back while Nene had passed
out from her effort.

"Good work," Sylia said as she heard birds faintly
chirping throughout the building, "my friends."

*****************************

"TWEET....TWEET....TWEET...."

"Huh... what?" a barely awake Sylia mumbled.

It took her a few moments to realize where the
annoying noise came from.

*I really should get a new timer alarm program.*

Now fully awake, Sylia retrieved the remote and
turned off the alarm. She then stepped out of the
tub. Unlike the other times she slept in the past
week, she felt different. The tension and weariness
that clung to her seemed to evaporate. Though
still a little tired, Sylia felt the emotional
weight lifted from her mind.

*I haven't felt this good in a long time,* Sylia
mused as she stepped into the shower. It didn't
take long for her to dry off and get dressed for
bed.

As she walked to her large window, Sylia let the
words Largo spoke run through her mind.

"Maybe we were.." she whispered then smiled
slightly, "But not anymore."


END

APPENDIX:

'FLAMES OF STEEL! STRIKE!'= Fire shuriken
spell verbal component.

"LET THE POWER OF
DESTRUCTION LOOSE!
DISINTEGRATION!!!" = disintegration spell
verbal component.

Nagimaki= A short, lightweight but strong
glaive.

Orb of life = Ancient artifact that can bring
the dead to life if enough life force is
gathered. However, it will return undead to
their previous state.