"I do not own the rights to anything that belongs to someone else!" – I.K.A. Valian
The wind was calm here, soothing even. The fresh earthy smell that filled this grotto also helped calm the raging emotions flowing through my heart. The thought that I was no longer an Imp Poe crossed the fringes of my waking mind, but what held all of my attention was the woman in front of me. Staring straight at me was Jess Natalia. 'Stare' wasn't the best word to describe what she was doing, no; it was more like what my cat did when she was looking at something interesting. Jess was studying me.
And the longer she studied me, the longer my heart thudded loudly in my chest, the longer my blood pounded in my ears, and the longer I was paralyzed with a mixture of fear of Jess and fear that if I moved, this moment would end and we'd end up fighting. After a long time of me staring at her and Jess staring at me, she abruptly stood up. The fog layering the ground of this dark forest grotto swirled around her demure waist as she sauntered toward me.
I made an attempt to push myself up, away, anything, but my arms felt like they were made of jelly. No matter how hard I pushed, I just couldn't gather the strength to move myself. Thus, I watched Jess stride up to me and then stare down at me, studying me further.
In retrospect, I was pretty calm with the whole situation. I don't know if it was that I'd faced death or if it was that I couldn't move. Not to mention I was at this person's complete mercy. Still, not even an inkling of panic touched my being. Instead, an almost serene calm fell over me, and I couldn't help but revel in the unexpected and strange happiness that filled me.
"You are very confusing to me." Jess' sudden statement jerked me from my reverie. That was certainly not something that I expected to hear from her.
"How do you mean?"
Jess sat down cross-legged and put her hands into her lap, leisurely holding upper body erect. "What is it that keeps you going? How is it that you resisted the Mistress?"
I thought about her question, mentally going over my reasons with a magnifying glass. "I guess… I know, I resister her because I can and others cannot."
"That is not what I meant." Jess tilted her head that caused several of her red and blond hair to fall past her face. I couldn't stop myself from feeling a little taken in by the cuteness of it, something even the most hardened dictators would have trouble with. "On your planet, you were under the Mistress' spell. She'd almost gotten you to kill yourself and yet, you turned against her. How?"
"I, uh… How'd you know about that?" Jess' eyebrows knitted in concentration.
"I was trapped with the other planet servants of the Mistress inside of her spirit. We were only released once our mistress arrived here, on this world. Inside of our bondage on your world, we were only able to see and hear the world around the Mistress. It was through that connection that we all saw and know of you. And, you haven't answered my question. How were you able to resist the Mistress?"
I remained silent as I processed what she'd said. 'Why is she being so nice to me? She wasn't this nice the last time we were alone at the Forest Temple.' "I, uh… don't know. That memory isn't very clear. I remember feeling like I wasn't the only one in my head, but other than that, the whole thing is very hazy."
"I see," she said, almost sadly. Then she looked up, her eyes full of fire, and said, "Well, then you can't help me. I'll just have to find another way." Jess stood up and started walking away. I held out my hand toward her.
"Wait!" She stopped. "Why? Why can't I help you?"
Jess paused for a few minutes, contemplatively staring at the ground. Then, without looking back, she said, "Because you are not bound to the Mistress."
"Just because I'm not bound to her does not mean that I can't help."
"The only thing that the Mistress would possibly entertain as a term for my release is not only the power of hers that you possess, but your soul and life energy as well. And that doesn't guarantee that she'll keep-"
"Then that's what I'll do." Jess turned and stared at me like I just said I'd jump off of a cliff into a pit of lava.
"Are you insane? You would be sacrificing yourself for a chance that I'd be freed, not even a guarantee."
"I've been called worse than insane, but yeah, I would do all of that."
"And if she did not keep her word?"
I thought about it for a few seconds and then shrugged. "Well, at least then we'd be screwed together. And that would make two people she has bound to her that don't want to be so. That is true, right? You don't actually want to serve her?"
Jess hesitated in answering, as if the truth of her feelings would betray her to the witch. Finally, she said, "Yes, I wish to be free of her. But that is beside the point. You are in no way capable of bargaining for my freedom. And I am in no way capable of breaking free myself. There is nothing we can do to change that."
Jess walked off into the woods. I sat there and thought about our conversation. 'Would I really sacrifice myself to free her from that witch?'
What felt like hours later, Jess returned, walking back into the glade with a small animal clutched in her hand. By then I'd gained the strength to stand up and move around. I hadn't discovered anything important, other than my Wii-mote and Lantern. Jess dropped the rabbit-like creature in the center of the glade and looked at me curiously.
"Well… yeah, why not?"
"I serve your enemy, my Mistress. Why would you stay?"
"Well… I, uh… have no clue where I am. And I… feel safe around you and…" My heart was once again thudding in my chest and my blood pounding in my ears. I rubbed my hands together and then wiped the cold sweat that had accumulated on my palms onto my pants. 'I can do this, I can tell her I like her, it can't be that hard.'
"Uh… nothing." 'I so totally hate myself right now'
Jess pointed behind me. "Go that way. Just follow the wind, it blows north."
I moved to leave, but stopped mid-stride. I half turned and asked, "Why are you helping me? Like you said I'm your mistress' enemy. So… why?"
Jess stood silently. A light breeze blew through the grotto, Jess' hair to billow about her slender form. I watched her and she watched me.
"Because… You're not bound to the Mistress."
It was later that day, actually night had already fallen a few hours earlier, that I emerged from the forest onto a large open field. The cool night air blew in small gusts across the field, causing the tall grass to ripple as if it were alive. The moon was bright and reflected off the enormous wall that was the edge of the Twilight surrounding Lanayru Province.
"I guess that means that Link was able to restore Eldin," I said aloud to myself. I surveyed the field I stood at the precipice of and settled on staring at the fiery peak of Death Mountain. "And that means Link's now in the Goron Mines. I hope he's and the others are alright."
Thunder attracted my attention to the sky behind me. Rain clouds were gathering quickly above and around the mountains that surrounded this valley. Not wanting to get caught in the rain, I took off running across the grassy field, leaving a trail as I went.
It didn't take long before I felt the first sprinkles of the rain falling. Moments later, I was completely drenched. The rain made the large open field soggy and muddy. Every step I took was a monumental effort to pull my foot forward. Small, shallow rivers formed all around me as the rain gathered together and traveled downhill.
Though the effort was growing harder and harder, I kept moving forward. Soon, that's all I was thinking about, having to concentrate on moving one foot in front of the other to keep the extreme soreness all over my body from overcoming me and making me fall over.
The ground was flooded now, my feet were inundated every step I took. Overhead, the sky crackled and sparked with lightning and thunder. I shivered, the wetness soaking my body draining all heat from it like some starving vampire finally getting something to suck life from.
Lightning flared and thunder roared. And I fell. The sudden water going up my nose brought me back to myself and I pushed up onto my knees, choking and sputtering. I kneeled in the water covered plains, surrounded by waist high grass that was somehow still standing with the ankle high water flowing past the base of their stalks.
It was just after the latest peal of thunder that I heard it. The distinctive noise associated with a heard of animals. Only, this sounded more like the animals were running in a blind panic.
Forcing my legs to move, I moved into a crouching position so that only the top of my head was over the top edge of the tall grass around me. From my position I couldn't see the animals. Of course, the pitch black of night and storm didn't help either. After a few flashes of lightning though, I could tell that the animals weren't stampeding. But if I wanted to see and know more, I needed to be closer to what was going on.
Falling back into my pattern of pulling one leg out of the mud and then sinking it back in one step at a time, I moved forward once more. Gradually, the ground became less muddy beneath my feet and the grass began shrinking. By the time my feet weren't sinking into mud anymore, I realized where I was and what I'd heard. They weren't stampeding animals, but rampaging Bullbos.
The Bulblins riding the raging pigs were steering them around in a circle. Instead of throwing dust into the air, mud was flying everywhere. And in the center of the flying circle of mud was the large leader of the Bulblins, King Bulblin.
The rain slowed to a slight drizzle and the Bulblins all slowed their steeds to a trot. Across the suddenly still plains, a shrill horse cried out. Ever set of eyes, beady and not, turned toward Death Mountain. The moon broke through the clouds just long enough to shine from behind the figure on a rearing horse. I immediately recognized the figure as Link and the horse as Epona.
All the Bulblins had come to a complete stand still, casting appalling silence over the field. From across the field, I could hear King Bulblin snort and shake his tree branch at Link. Link's yanked his sword from its sheath and pointed it, blade still ringing, at the King of Bulblins.
The King lifted an enormous horn to his mouth. The sound that blasted from the other end of the instrument made my knees shake and my bones rattle, which was surprising considering that I was on the other side of the field. Even after the King had stopped blowing, sound from the great horn still rang out.
The rain clouds above, as if in response to the horn's call, began loosing their rain once more. I groaned as heavy sheets of ice cold droplets began to fall onto the field. 'Not more rain,' I moaned internally.
The thundering hooves of rampaging boars filled the air as every single one of the Bullbos were spurred on by their Bulblin riders toward Link. Link nudged Epona into high gear and took off like an arrow. The two sides crashed together, Link crying aloud with his sword held high, and the Bulblins waving their clubs and flaming arrows around.
It didn't take long before Bulblins were literally flying off their mounts. It looked like Link and Epona were a bowling ball, and the Bulblins were the pins. But Link's goal was obviously King Bulblin, made all the more so when Link rushed passed a gaggle of smaller Bulblins and headed straight for the King.
The two traded blows and Link successfully struck a blow on the side of the King. The King panicked and dug his feet into the side of the boar he was riding. The boar squealed loudly and took off faster than even Epona was running.
"What a battle, eh?"
'What the!' I nearly jumped out of my skin when the person next to me spoke. I did leap when I got my wits about me. I dropped into a low stance, though I probably wouldn't have been able to defend myself very well from the newcomer. He was bigger than a Goron, and by bigger I mean muscular. "Who are you," I shouted over the rain and the sounds of battle.
"I'm the servant of my Mistress. But you can call me Cratos Katanaké." The man bowed to me, a feat in and of itself since the guy looked so muscular that he looked like he should have been too thick to bend at all. "I know why you have come here and no, you can't help the Chosen Hero. This is his battle, one that cannot be interfered with lest you infringe upon his honor."
I tried to run around the larger man, but he moved quickly, far quicker than I thought he could and knocked me onto the ground. "Why? Why can't she just leave me alone?"
"Because my Mistress wishes it. And you are also to surrender my Mistress' powers back to her."
"And what makes you think that I'm going to do that?" I pulled my Wii-mote from my belt and activated the Aluminum Bat. "I don't think I'm here to surrender anything."
Cratos chuckled, his long braided hair plastered to his armor. 'Armor?' I looked Cratos over once more. He was wearing what looked like ancient battle armor similar to what the Japanese Samurai wore. That and something like what the Knights of Europe wore. Together, with the rain and the dark atmosphere and low lighting, Cratos Katanake looked like a knight from hell and a tank rolled into one.
"You have no choice in the matter," he said. "You will surrender the Mistress' powers or I will rip them from your living soul… once I've beaten you to death in single combat, of course."
I raised an eyebrow. "Single combat?"
"Of course," he said seriously. "I cannot just take it from you as you are now. That would be dishonorable."
"I thought your Mistress didn't have any honor."
"It would dishonor her now if I did not defeat you. Now, prepare yourself." Cratos turned toward me and that was when I caught my first glimpse of the rest of him. His right hand was done up in one of the most awesome looking gauntlets I've ever seen. And then my eyes set upon the sword strapped onto his belt. It was humungous; as long as I am tall and as wide as a butcher knife, the strip of metal that Cratos drew from his side was the most spectacular cutting device I'd ever laid eyes on, save for one. "Are you prepared, Ish Valian, for your fate?"
I raised my bat to eye level and was suddenly enraptured by the raindrops falling onto its surface, sliding down its side, and then dripping off the bottom. It didn't occur to me that I was leaving myself open, but I guess Cratos took it upon himself to remind me that I was now in a battle.
His sword cleaved the air with an audible whine and would have taken my head off had the sword not flown several centimeters over my head. Needless to say, my attention was now on Cratos.
"I would not like this battle to be wasted on your incompetence. You will put up a decent fight, after all, it is only honorable and not to mention, logical that you would fight for your life, useless though the effort may be." I swallowed loudly as I felt the rain falling on my new bald spot. The coolness of the water sent shivers down my spine, as did the realization that he hadn't missed on accident.
"N-no! I-I uh… just meant to clear my mind for the fight."
"Very well," he said after a moment. The rain and darkness made it hard to see his facial expressions, but he didn't look all that pleased with the situation, at least, that's what I got from his stance.
I took a deep breath and emptied my mind of thoughts. 'I know I can do this. All I need to do is empty my mind and focus on my opponent's movements. I think this would be a perfect opportunity to use that new ability I have, but… this isn't the kind of battle where defense like that can be utilized very easily. I should stick with attack then. Okay… mmm… mmm… Ichigo Kurosaki!'
Outside of my mind, the power I'd inherited from the Witch enveloped me in a red hazed. Several seconds later I was standing in front of Cratos with the Celestial Tsurugi clutched firmly in my hands while sporting a spiffy suit of red colored stone armor.
Cratos eyed me; at least I assumed he was eyeing me from behind the darkness of his helmet. "I see, so you've started to utilize the Mistress' power as your own. It isn't too late yet though. The assimilation of power takes quite a while and your own ability with the Power isn't complete."
"I won't be defeated so easily." 'I need to defeat him fast so that the Power doesn't run out before I win. Better get this over with.' I circled around Cratos and kept my sword in a defensive upward slant. Cratos kept his own blade in a similar position. He never let his guard down and not once did he even hint in his body language that he was going to attack.
That is why, when the attack came, I wasn't even sure I was hit until I saw my own blood in my hands. The sword had moved so smoothly, the man's form so gracefully, it was perfect swordsmanship, something a novice like me could never hope to compete with. But being an idiot, I let my anger fuel my actions and rushed Cratos.
That encounter, a two hit retaliatory combo, lift me with a gash on my check and bruised tailbone. I grunted and made mistake number two, letting my anger control me again. This time I came away from the encounter with a broken arm and what had to be a concussion.
Cratos dropped his guard, almost taunting me to attack him. "I expected more from one who has mastered the most powerful form of my Mistress' Power. You have obviously not earned the right to wield such power."
'What does he mean? I… I earned this power. I was… given… oh, that's…' I shifted the Celestial Tsurugi so that it pointed downward then I leaned on it, having bruises on my legs from some altercation that I didn't see. My broken left arm hung limply at my side. I could feel the pieces of my bones moving about. Through my pain, I glared at Cratos. Then an idea started to from in my head.
"I hate to admit it, but you're right. I haven't earned the right to wield this power. So then, come, finish me off and take back your Witch's precious power. " I watched Cratos absorb my taunt. Apparently he knew it for what it was, but then what I was banking on took effect. He was bound by honor, at least I assumed he was, and I was proven right when large man lifted his sword from the ground and took up a rigid, attack stance. He held his sword high above his head and stood there for a few seconds. I could literally see the water being launched from his arms as the muscles within tightened with stored energy.
'This is it! I guess I better use my other ability then. It's all I have left. Alright Old Man, it's time to see if your crazy idea of defense works in the real world.' I took a deep breath and just as Cratos began to inch forward, the instant he began to move and his sword began its downward sweep, I closed my eyes, cleared my mind once more, and didn't move an inch.
I opened my eyes. I watched the sword in Cratos' hands fly downward at speeds that I couldn't even begin to catch up with. It streaked toward my head with all the ferocity of a jet fighter. And passed right through my midsection and buried itself into the dirt. 'NOW!'
I immediately spun around and using my momentum, did the first thing my instincts told me to do with my sword, I stabbed Cratos in the butt. Strangely enough, the blade of the Celestial Tsurugi found a way through the links of Cratos' armor and sank deep into the layers beneath.
The larger man stiffened. I could tell that he was quite surprised by the turn of events. I pulled my sword roughly from Cratos' rear end and took a weak step backwards. Using that defense ability really did take it out of me like Oberon said it would.
"You have won, Ish Valian. I take my leave of you. But know this, we will battle once more in the future." Cratos exploded into a million dust particles that instantly disappeared. I dropped to the ground, completely exhausted, but happy to be alive.
The sound of shouting pulled my attention from tending to my broken arm to Link on a rearing Epona. The clouds finally broke to show that the sun had come up. The light of the new day shone up on Link and his horse, casting an almost magical radiance about them.
I smiled and turned away. Today we'd won a victory, both me, and Link. Though, I'd have to ask him to explain how Midna was kidnapped.
I finally finished this chapter. It took a while for some reason that I cannot fathom at this time...
Oh well, onto the next story. The Symphonian Adventure. Oh, and please review if you could, thanks.
And as always, thank you for reading my work.