((A/N: Whoa. This took a while to update. I've been so busy with school and stuff lately, I've had no time to write. I'll try to work on it more, though.))
Chapter 9: Parting of Ways
Danielle was thrown backwards as her brother suddenly attacked with a vicious kick. She dropped her blade, staggering slowly to her feet. Devin grabbed her by the neck, slamming her into the ground. "Fight, Danielle! I want to at least have a challenge before I kill you!"
Danielle coughed harshly as he let go of her and stepped backwards. She tasted blood in her mouth. "I don't… want… to hurt you…"
"Too bad. I don't feel the same way about you!" He ran at her again, slashing with his sword. Danielle ducked under it, grabbing her blade and blocking his follow-up attack. Their blades were pushed against each other, locked in a struggle, and Danielle felt herself being pushed backwards. "This time, you won't escape. Say hello to Mom and Dad for me." With an incredible burst of power, he shoved her sword away and slashed at her neck. But another sword stopped it, the blade almost touching her neck.
Devin jumped backwards as Paine slashed at him. Wiping away a trickle of blood from a small cut on his face with a ravaged hand, he smirked. "Well, well, well… You again. I take it you're this imbecile's guardian?"
"You're stupid to risk showing your face again in Luca, Devin."
Paine? How does she know who Devin is…?
He let out a sharp laugh, standing up straight. "Such harsh words, Paine. I don't really care if I'm wanted by every single person in Spira! No one can stop me. Not a summoner, not you, not even," Devin smirked as he said this, "a Guardian of Light."
"Devin, what are you doing?" Danielle shouted as nine all-too-familiar red runes appeared on the ground. "You… You can't be…"
Devin's smirk widened. "Yes, I am. His body may be gone, but Chattur'gha's spirit shall never be destroyed!" A pool of red light appeared in front of him as a scaled claw shot out, latching onto the cement. Another followed, and soon a dragon had pulled itself from the portal. Its skin was completely red, and its body was long and low, not quite like the dragons Danielle imagined. It lacked any wings, and its yellow eyes shone out from their sockets.
"Remember how much you used to love dragons? Well, I find it fitting that you're about to be killed by one!" Devin laughed. "Go! Kill them both!"
Danielle gritted her teeth, sliding into a defensive stance. "Paine, I don't think we can take him."
Her guardian smirked. "Don't worry. We'll beat it." Paine rushed the dragon, slashing up at its head and dodging its claws. Danielle went to join her when the dragon let out a great roar. Red lightning shot into the ground, hitting Danielle and making her fall to her knees. Pain flowed through her body, paralyzing her. The mocking tone of Pious Augustus echoed in her mind.
"you are powerless against my master, Roivas. Surrender, and your death will be without pain."
Danielle staggered to her feet, seeing Paine single-handedly holding off the dragon. "I'm not… I'm not going to lose anymore!" The red crystal in her sword glowed with an inner fire as she held it with both hands, tip pointed at the ground. She thrust the blade into the concrete, the whole sword becoming engulfed in flames. The fire licked at her hands, but they didn't burn them. Cracks appeared in the ground, flames coming out of them as Vulcain burst through.
"Paine, fall back!" Danielle shouted, taking her sword in hand once more. Her friend did as she said as the Ifrit rushed its opponent. Claws raked down the side of the dragon's face, and it roared In pain. Danielle saw Devin casting a recovery spell on it, so she darted forward, slashing diagonally. She heard the dragon's death cry as Devin's eyes went wide. Blood trickled down the wound, dark in color, which wasn't normal.
"So… You finally have the nerve to fight… Well, it doesn't matter… The Darkness… is… eternal…" Devin closed his eyes and fell backwards, his body dissolving into pyreflies before it hit the ground. His sword faded away, along with the corpse of the dragon.
Danielle fell to her knees, her sword clattering to the ground beside her. Tears ran down her face as she let out a sob. "Bro… I didn't mean… I didn't want to kill you…"
Paine gently pulled Danielle to her feet, helping her to stand. "He was your brother? He wasn't from Spira?"
Danielle shook her head. "His name's Devin Sterling… My parents died when I was little, so another family took me in… Devin's not related by blood… but he's still my brother. I grew up with him almost all my life…"
Paine's face softened, but confusion was evident in its features. "If he's your brother, why did he attack you?"
"You know how I told you about the Ancients? One of them killed his parents. He had gone missing a while back, and I thought he was dead." Another sob escaped her throat. "He really is now… because of me…"
Paine shook her head. "He was a servant of one of these Ancients, apparently. His real killer wasn't you, but the Ancient. Don't blame yourself for it."
Danielle looked over at the warrior. She was right. The real killer was Chattur'gha, the one who had manipulated Devin. He was supposed to have been destroyed by Ulyaoth, but it seemed he was still alive. And that meant that…
Her thought was cut off by the sound of screaming coming from the stadium. Danielle shot Paine a glance as she snatched up her sword. Together, the two rushed up the steps into the stadium, ready for the chaos that was ahead.
Danielle and Paine fought back-to-back, holding off a mass of fiends that were trying to get at the spectators. Danielle cut through a Coyote, kicking away another as it lunged at her. She saw the familiar forms of Ulyaoth and Xel'lotath zombies, but they weren't fighting each other. They were actually working together.
"Paine! You know how to deal with zombies, right?" The warrior replied by swiftly dispatching two of them in one slash. Danielle felt hands grab her from behind and teeth clamp onto her shoulder. Before they could rip into the flesh, she thrust her sword backwards into her attacker's stomach. As a strange humming sound reached her ears, and a blue light washed over both Paine and her, Danielle pulled out the blade and sliced through the neck of the Ulyaoth zombie in one move, cutting off its kamikaze attack.
Danielle cut down a Coyote that lunged at a woman, pyreflies shooting past her into the sky. She saw a man in a red robe holding a massive sword cut down a large reptilian fiend with just one blow. He turned to face her, his one good eye staring at her. The man nodded his head slightly, right when Paine shouted a warning. The Coyote jumping at Danielle received a sword through its head as she crouched down and pushed her blade upwards. When she looked back, the man was gone.
"Danielle, look," Paine instructed, pointing over to the stand where Maesters Mika and Seymour, two leaders of Yevon, had been watching the tournament. Now, a massive beast was there, chains wrapped around its entire body. With an inhuman and tortured cry, its eye glowed crimson red. With every flash, fiends dissolved into pyreflies and zombies faded away.
Danielle stared in awe at the monster, her heart skipping a beat. "What… What is that thing?"
"Anima, the dark aeon. Powerful, but hard to control. Those chains represent a summoner's control over it. If they ever broke, it would go on a rampage and destroy all in its path. It is truly a terrifying beast." The last of the monsters were wiped out, and everyone looked towards Maester Seymour, the one who had summoned Anima.
Danielle saw the smirk on Maester Seymour wore and felt a chill run up her spine. There was something dark about him, something that sent fear deep into her heart.
Danielle and Paine stood before Yuna and her guardians at the entrance to Luca stadium. The man Danielle had seen before was with them now, and Yuna introduced him as Auron, a guardian who had protected her father on his pilgrimage. He was leaning back against a wall, listening to them.
"So… I guess it's time that we went our separate ways, huh?" Danielle asked quietly, even though she already knew the answer. She rubbed the back of her head with her gloved right hand, then brushed the bangs out of her eyes. "Hopefully, we'll see each other again soon."
Paine looked over at Yuna. "Be careful out there. Powerful fiends have been showing up lately. Don't get careless and drop your guard."
Yuna bowed, performing the prayer of Yevon to them. Danielle and Paine returned the gesture, as it was the custom to. "Thank you for the advice. We won't forget it."
Auron pushed away from the wall, starting to walk past them out of the stadium. "Don't forget to take your own advice," he warned. Tidus shot him a double take before chasing after Auron, calling his name.
Wakka sighed and shook his head. "I really don't get what's going on between those two, ya?" With a shrug, he smiled at Danielle. "Well, thank us for helping us win the tournament! We couldn't have done it without ya." He patted her on the shoulder. "You've really got some potential, kid."
Lulu nodded her head slightly to Danielle. "Be careful. I hope that our paths will cross again. Paine, please take good care of her."
"I will," she replied. "Lady Yuna, good luck on your pilgrimage. May you succeed in following your father's footsteps."
Yuna bowed once more. "Thank you. Farewell, and thank you for all your help."
Danielle watched her friends leave and sighed softly. "You don't want to have to leave them, do you?" Paine asked.
"No, I don't, but I know I have to." Danielle clenched her fists tight. "We have to stop the Ancients while defeating Sin. It's not going to be easy, but…" She stared down at her hand, thinking of that final look on Devin's face. "I'm going to do it for Devin…"
Paine smiled a bit as Danielle's eyes burned with determination. The Ancients had taken so much away from her already. They weren't going to take anything else.