Chapter 16: Cry for "IDOLA" the Holy

Danielle watched in horror as Rico's body shuddered violently, the red eyes open and glazed over. Lightning ripped through the darkened skies, an evil wind howling across the dead plain. A strange, cold light wrapped around Rico's body now, blinding Danielle as she stumbled back a step. Covering her eyes, she wincing somewhat while the wind tore at her body. She glanced down, spotting the Red Saber embedded in the ground. Danielle wrapped her hand around the hilt tightly, pulling it up from the stone.

"Behold… my true form…"

The light flashed so brightly now that Danielle cried out while covering her eyes with her free hand and stumbling back. Suddenly, her body felt incredibly lightweight, something lifting her up into the air. Danielle forced open her eyes, her vision blurred and distorted as she tried to examine her surroundings. She was rising up towards a circular, ring-like platform that had symbols on its surface, the platform teal in color. The platform was very high above the ground, the air unusually calm compared to the howling winds she had felt on the ground. Landing on the platform, she stumbled forward a bit whole holding up the Red Saber, shifting uneasily. Dark Falz wasn't anywhere in sight.

"I shall show you… the true meaning of fear!"

A shape flew up into the middle of the rings, hovering there in front of her. Its body was a light shade of blue, its long spindly arms ending in two very long and deadly blades. From its back came down two long and thin wings with shimmering membranes that were a rainbow of colors. Its head was cross-shaped with no noticeable eyes, the colored lines running along its body green in color. Its torso was taken up by a gigantic open mouth that never closed, three short "teeth" lining the sides, moving individually and ending in deadly sharp tips. It had no legs, but it did possess a tail of sorts. Of medium length, the top was covered in the same light blue skin as the rest of Falz's body while the bottom was pinkish flesh. Danielle knew without a doubt that this was the perfect form of Dark Falz.

Moving with impossible speed for a creature its size, Falz flew forward and brought down one massive bladed arm, the strike hitting with full force and sending Danielle skidding across the platform. Her armor had done nothing to minimize the damage, a deep gash in her side. Gasping a bit, she rolled over onto her back and managed to sit up somewhat, seeing Falz towering there over her.

("Don't hurt her!") "You… shall suffer…"

Danielle spat slightly, tasting something in her mouth. She looked down and saw dark red blood tinged purple. She stared at it, feeling sick to her stomach, the wounds in her back feeling as if they were constantly moving now. She knew what was happening, but she didn't want it to be true.

"Can you feel it…? Can you feel your body changing… evolving…? You will become like me… a part of me for all eternity…" ("Fight it! Don't let it control you!")

Hearing Rico's voice faintly in her mind made Danielle glance up, a glimmer of hope within her. Her friend still lived, held by Dark Falz just as Danielle herself had been.

Defiantly, she gathered the strength to stumble to her feet, taking up the Red Saber and pointing it at Dark Falz even as she heard its sinister laughter in her mind. She was terrified, but she had to try to fight. She had to give it her best shot.

Besides, I have nothing left to lose right now.

"Hah… Pathetic… Look at you… trembling and trying to be brave… You will join your friend in her suffering…!" ("Don't… give up! We're still together, we can still fight!")

Danielle bared her teeth, striking out at Dark Falz as it drew close. The blade cut the skin of the dark god, not doing a lot of damage but injuring it nonetheless. Falz flew back out of range, watching her now. Holding her side, Danielle began to jog around the ring, keeping an eye on Falz as she moved. As soon as it flew in to slash again, Danielle jumped forward to avoid it. The blade cleaved through the space she had just occupied, barely missing her while it passed through the ring without damaging the platform. Danielle landed in a prone position on the platform, quickly scrambling to her feet even as pain slashed through her side, turning and aiming a strike at it. Just before the blade could it, a strange crystalline shell covered its body to protect it.

"Zonde!" Danielle shouted, thrusting her left hand forward, palm towards the demon. A bolt of lightning shot down into Falz, the technique resulting in a growl of pain despite the protective shell. Danielle was about to use another technique when Dark Falz rose above the area and out of range of her attacks. Spheres of blue light shot down from Falz at her like missiles, Danielle running as fast as she could now to dodge them. As the last of the spheres shot by, Dark Falz pointed one of its bladed arms at her. Instantly, arrows of light shot into Danielle from all sides, the Grants technique striking with crushing force. Crashing to the platform's surface, Danielle gasped weakly in pain from the numerous injuries that covered her body. The Red Saber clattered to the surface just in front of her, Falz's triumphant laughter echoing in her head.

("Get up! You have to keep fighting for both of us! I know it's hard, but you can't give up!")

Danielle coughed weakly, in more pain than she had ever endured in her life. How in the world she hadn't passed out yet, she hadn't the slightest clue. She drew upon her last reserves of strength, grasping the hilt of the Red Saber and holding it in what was pretty much a death grip as she rose unsteadily to her feet. Falz floated there in front of her, pointing a blade arm at her once more. Danielle felt a slight tugging sensation, a feeling of being lightweight, and a rush of fatigue. An exact copy of Danielle appeared within Falz's mouth, those strange teeth moving around her as if they were eager to bite into her.

Confused, Danielle focused on making her body move as she rushed to the edge and slashed at Falz, immediately falling to her knees with a scream. As soon as she had struck, a searing pain had ripped through her chest, Falz's "teeth" sinking into the copy image. There was no real physical damage that she could see, but the pain was all too real.

Not much more… I can't handle… much more of this…

She struggled to just stand to her feet, face ashen in color, her blue eyes carrying an exhausted look. Every part of her body was hurting now. Her insides felt like they were on fire, sweat rolling down her face. She could barely breathe, couldn't focus…

("Danielle…")

I can't fight anymore, Rico… I'm changing already, and that thing's too strong…

("There's one last thing left to do. We can't lose ourselves to it. We have to hold on to who we are and not let it consume us.")

How are we supposed to fight something as powerful as this?

("We have to try. If we can just hold on, someone from Pioneer 2 may come and destroy it.")

And if they don't?

Danielle had staggered to her feet, Falz hovering a few feet in front of her, the copies image now gone from its mouth. She knew that it was gloating over its approaching victory, Rico's weak but comforting voice falling silent for a second in her mind.

("That… is not an option.")

For one last time she raised the Red Saber. She knew it was a lost cause, as did Rico. Despite these impossible odds, she remained defiant, determined to fight until the end. Her body protesting each movement, terror gripping her heart, she struck with all of the force she could manage. The Red Saber sliced deep into Dark Falz's flesh, its growl of pain full of anger and rage. Danielle saw it move its arm out of the corner of her eye, the flat of its blade slamming into her side and sending her flying off the edge of the platform. She lost her hold on the weapon, plummeting down through the sky towards a pit of infinite darkness. Dazed, she managed to make out Dark Falz shooting past her, waiting below with its body turned up towards her, that gaping maw open and eager.

Blood in her mouth, struggling just to breathe, a feeling like cold fingers prying into her mind and digging into her soul. Pain ripped at her, the very blood in her veins burning. She knew death would be a release, but it wouldn't come. It would never come.

("Danielle!!")

Weakly, she raised a hand, trying to reach out. "R-Ri…co…" In an instant, the worst pain she had ever felt ripped straight through her body. She couldn't scream, couldn't breathe, her eyes wide with pain and fear. She was still falling, but she could see her own body impaled on the demon's blade. She screamed for help, but no sound escaped, the teeth in Falz's mouth gnashing at her soul, trying to rip it apart. She was fading, slipping away bit by bit with nothing to latch onto. Darkness was everywhere, evil and infinite, not a single glimmer of light piercing through.

Before Danielle was completely shredded apart, she felt a warm, strong hand grip her own. She raised her head but saw nothing but darkness, not even seeing her own arm.

Rico…?

("I'm here… don't worry…") Her voice sounded strained, as if she endured terrible pain herself. ("We'll be freed… We just have to hold on. The only way we'll survive this is if we hold on together…")

Danielle could only hope that what Rico said was true. Trapped in that darkness, Dark Falz still trying to rip at her soul, Danielle just held on tight and waited.

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Dark Falz returned to its tomb once more, twisting its host's body in the way that it saw fit. The other's body was already mutating, Falz crafting it to its liking to form its guardian. Even with its new host, it still wasn't satisfied. It needed a more suitable host body to evolve even more. It would never stop, eternally consuming everything in its path. It could sense thousands of souls on a ship in orbit about the planet. Already people, strong ones, were exploring the surface. They were following the trail of its host and its guardian, heading right in its direction. It called out to them, beckoning them to come, ready to devour every last one of them.