Author notes: Well, This one took a while but I finally can upload something I'm proud of. Sorry for the delay anyway. Anyway enjoy this chapter, NOW ON 3-D!
EPISODE 3: Tormented heart
Chapter 29: Carol of despair.
Emil, Marta and Tenebrae flew over the dock mounted on the hippogriffs that Tenebrae had summoned. A heavy mist had enshrouded Thoda Island, preventing them from seeing anything but an obscure shadowy mass where the island was supposed to be.
Oddly enough, Tenebrae had yet to comment on the situation since they mounted the hippogriffs.
"You look worried," Emil observed of the Centurion.
"That's because I am worried," replied the Centurion who finally decided to speak. "I must admit that I am concerned—no—frightened that we might be too late. The closer we get, the more I see things that make me doubt that those tremors we felt earlier were a natural disaster."
"What will… What will happen if Alice has closed the last Seal of Sylvarant?" Marta asked, her voice trembling.
"Then all we can do is pray that Lord Ratatosk will be able to keep the Niflheim Gate closed," Tenebrae answered seriously but his voice denoted no shortage of concern. "Because if it opens… the world as we know it will change forever. If only you hadn't stopped to help Decus, who, I might add, left us as at the first possible opportunity! None of this would have happened!" the Centurion said angrily.
Marta and Emil looked to one another in vain, neither of them knowing what to say. Then again, there was nothing they could say; both of them were at least partially guilty for letting this situation get so far out of hand. Tenebrae had the right to be angry with them.
The fog slowly began to lift as their mounts flew further inland, until it vanished behind them, giving them a full view of the island.
Marta gaped. She remembered coming here as a child with her parents, when her mother was still alive. There was almost nothing left. Part of the island had been swallowed by the sea, and rocks that had fallen from the mountain were strewn about the coast.
They landed near the geyser, or what remained of it, letting the hippogriffs fly away of their own accord after the two riders finally touched down. The two beasts took one look into the cavernous entrance to the Seal of Water and flew off with a shriek.
"I think something in there spooked our friends," murmured Marta.
"No kidding…" Emil agreed.
The first thing they noticed was that the entrance to the temple had been almost consumed by a rosebush made of pure ice that was slowly, but surely, spreading throughout the mountain surroundings beginning to expand over the rest of the island. It was eerily beautiful.
"We should go inside and investigate. We haven't got the time to dawdle." Tenebrae insisted as he floated into the temple, followed closely by Emil and Marta.
The thematic of the exterior was exactly the same inside of the temple. Pillars, statues, altars, everything was trapped between the twisted stems of the ice roses. And most horribly, a handful of people were encased in ice.
"It's so…" Marta wondered aloud.
"Creepy?" Emil said as a chill run through his spine.
Marta shook her head.
"Gruesome?" Tenebrae said.
Again, Marta shook her head.
"Pretty…in an unsettling way," a third familiar, if somewhat emotionless feminine voice said from behind them.
Marta nodded, "Yeah."
The group turned around and saw the rest of their friends: Lloyd, Raine, Genis, Regal, Zelos, Presea—who was examining one of the roses very closely— Sheena, and to everyone's immense joy and relief, Colette.
Without hesitation, Marta ran towards the blonde ex-chosen and jumped onto her arms making them both fall to the ground.
"Oh—" Colette giggled.
"I'm sorry, I'm sorry." Marta apologized blushed as she helped her friend to stand up.
"It's okay. I don't mind."
"I'm so glad you're alright!" Marta looked her around. "That creepy weirdo didn't do anything to you did he?" she asked obviously referring to Nickolay.
"No, he didn't."
Marta sighed in relief and embraced her friend. It was true that they'd had their arguments on the past because of the Great Tree incident that caused the death of her mother. But now she no longer blamed her for something that never was her fault and the blonde girl had become one of her best friends. When she got the news that she had been kidnapped by Alice, she had been scared for her friend's life. To see her unharmed really brought her spirits up.
"Welcome back Colette," Emil said with a trademark grin, not seeing a need to hide his joy upon seeing her either.
"Thank you everyone."
"It's good to see that her stance with the sadist hasn't changed her at all." Tenebrae noted. "Out of curiosity, what did you end up doing with the pink-haired ignoramus? Did you…?" Tenebrae slid his tail beneath his neck making a slicing sound.
"No… he's not worth the time, nor the effort." Raine answered.
"We put him in the custody of Governess Dorr in Palmacosta just before coming here," Genis said chuckling.
Tenebrae nodded and moved towards Sheena.
"Can you sense Undine's presence?"
Sheena shook her head sadly. "I lost my connection with her some forty-odd minutes ago. I haven't been able to sense her since then. She was… the first Spirit I made a pact with after Corrine… I feel like I failed her."
"Damn! Just as I thought," the centurion cursed in low voice, not paying Sheena's melancholy any mind. "We better hurry up and go to the seal chamber. We should better hurry and see if we can get some answers."
Everyone nodded and ran to the seal chamber. There was no time to waste. Sheena however, remained stalk still. Surprisingly—or perhaps unsurprisingly—it was Zelos who skidded to a halt to come fetch her. He carefully put a hand on her shoulder.
"If it's any consolation, I don't think Undine feels that way," Zelos said. "From what I've seen, she was pretty much your wingman...er, wingspirit, over the past few years. She knew that you'd have helped her without a second thought had you been there."
"But I wasn't, that's the problem," Sheena mumbled witheringly.
"Well, you can't be everywhere at once. That's why she's the summon spirit and you're the summoner. Now stop moping and look dignified, you're the chief of a ninja clan, act like it!"
She rolled her eyes, and smirked "Since when do you to motivational coaching?"
"Since I discovered to my great surprise that I can actually do it with limited success, about ten seconds ago. Now come on, people will get suspicious and you don't want them thinking you've fallen for me; tragically."
Sheena shrugged her shoulders and walked past him, smiling.
'That idiot…' she thought calmly. 'It's almost as if he always knew what to say to cheer me up.'
"Pardon my asking, but how is it that you didn't arrive sooner?" Regal asked.
"We ran into some…" Tenebrae shot an angry look at Marta and Emil, but decided not to elaborate; it was pointless to argue about it now, "…complications."
Noticing Tenebrae's evasive answer, the president of the Lezareno Company decided to drop the subject for the time being. He had to have his good reasons after all.
When they reached the sanctuary of water they saw her, the responsible of all that had happened, sat over a throne of ice, Alice. However the girl they had before them had nothing to do with the cute looking half-elf they once met. Her eyes were empty and red like pools of blood, her hair was white and her skin was paler than a corpse. The nails of her hand were black and sharp like claws, and they could see black veins in her body and face.
However that wasn't the worst of it.
Marta gasped in horror. Chained to the wall above Alice's frozen throne was Decus, sporting a number of fresh wounds.
"We knew you would eventually come to kill us," Alice said in a low, bored tone voice.
Something about the way that she was speaking in plural gave them all the impression that the 'we' she was referring to didn't include Decus.
"What in the name of the goddess have you done to him?!" Marta screamed.
"He tried to stop us. He betrayed us like everyone else has." She raised her voice, "He can die slowly and painfully for what he did!"
"He loves you!" Marta shouted. "How could you do this?!" she began to cry.
Alice just looked at her unmoved. That only enraged more the brunette.
"How could you do this to the person you love?!"
Alice moved her head laterally as if she didn't know what Marta was talking about.
"The Cruxis Crystal has already done too much damage to her mind," Presea said coldly something that she possibly knew better than anyone else as she touched the evolved exphere on her own chest.
"Oh no, it hasn't." Alice finally spoke. "On the contrary," The girl put a hand over her chest and looked up. "It spoke to me, showed me the truth, it showed us how blind I was on my own, it showed us my weaknesses and rid me of them all." A single tear rolled down Alice's cheek, freezing and falling into her lap fully crystallized. She chucked. "And now we are finally one."
"This chick has completely lost it," Zelos said putting a hand on his sword. He'd seen this scene enough times to know how it would end.
"None of this matters!" Tenebrae shouted. Was he the only one concerned by the real problem? "She has closed the final seal! We must hurry to the Ginnungagap and—" The centurion tried to leave the room when suddenly a tangle of thorny ice vines grew over all the exits.
Alice stood up slowly and began to walk towards them.
"We don't think so. No one will leave this place! You're all far too dangerous for us to leave any of you alive. We won't let you kill us." Alice explained.
Everyone prepared for the worst.
"Alice, stop it! Please!" Marta shouted, seeing all her comrades preparing to fight. If things continued like this they would be forced to fight her, and despite all the hatred she harbored for the sadistic half-elf, she didn't want to kill her. "Can't you see that the only one you're hurting is yourself?"
Alice stopped and tilted the head to the left, intrigued. "Oh? Do elaborate Martmart."
"For all you've done in your search for power… You've only succeeded in making yourself miserable…" she looked up at Decus' limp body. "Along with those who love you." Marta looked back at Alice who seemed to be laughing silently at her which only infuriated her further. "What good have your ambitions done you?!"
All was silent. Marta held her breath, desperate for Alice's explanation. Lloyd answered first.
"Don't waste your time Marta, we can't help her anymore."
"Arrogant swine," Alice shot back angry. Lloyd's words seemed to have struck a nerve as Alice suddenly became dead serious. "You still think you're so much higher and mightier than we are that you can disparage us? You think you're in position to redeem anyone?" the frost around her steadily began to solidify along her arms, legs and torso, intricate patterns forming as greaves, bracers and a cuirass—all made of ice—covered her body. "What makes you think that we need saving!? Hypocrites!" she roared, her voice rising murderously. "We'll show you what true power means!"
An aura of frost began to sweep around the white-haired half-elf.
Alice put her hands over the Cruxis Crystal and it began to glow vividly as her body began to levitate. A pair of black wings with the red tips made of mana sprouted from her back, but unlike Colette's or Yuan's wings the 'feathers' came together to give them the shape of a swordtail butterfly's, albeit upside-down so that the tails reached up above her shoulders, while the rest of the wings were widest around her waist. Many of the 'feathers' looked sickly or incomplete giving them a ravaged appearance, while the tips were irregular and twisted.
"What has my Cruxis Crystal done to her?" Colette gasped, her voice trembling. "Is this my fault?"
"Don't worry, Colette," Raine answered reassuringly. "Your Cruxis Crystal adapted to your mana signature and biorhythm. Being an evolved exphere, it's well past its incubation period and can't adapt to another host body. It's trying to force her mana signature to be more like yours, which is impossible. It doesn't know how to react to her, so it's trying to force her body to do things it isn't made for. The psychological damage may or may not be a side effect of this process."
"Wow! I didn't know you knew so much about this professor." Lloyd exclaimed impressed.
"It's a shame but after spending some time in my youth with my… with Nickolay, I learned more than I would have liked."
"Is it even safe for Colette to use anymore?" asked Genis.
"That doesn't matter," sneered Alice, "because it belongs to us now. She'll never be getting it back."
"I would venture to say that Colette is the only person who can equip it safely," Raine continued, ignoring Alice's statement.
"Enough talk! You'll all die here!" she proclaimed.
"She really thinks she can defeat all of us?" Genis wondered aloud, almost finding the idea funny. "Zelos is right, she really has lost it."
Alice focused her icy gaze on Genis and whispered a single word. Despite not being able to hear it the half-elf could easily read her lips:
Without further words a runic circle formed under the group's feet and suddenly huge icicles sprouted from the ground in all directions. The group barely had time to dive out of the way in time when the icicles exploded in a barrage of frozen shrapnel, leaving them all with lacerations. Luckily for them most of their wounds, though painful, were superficial.
Genis could hardly believe it. He looked up, wiping a trail of blood off his face. How could she cast such a high level spell without incantation?
"Genis, are you okay?" Raine asked concerned, scrambling across the ice covered floor to get to her brother. Genis nodded. "Don't underestimate her. She was as proficient a mage without an exphere as you are with one. She'll be even more powerful now that she has complete control over a Cruxis Crystal."
"I think it would be more accurate to say that the Crystal has complete control over her." Regal said pointedly.
"I know how much you wanted to help her Marta, but we tried it your way. We'll have to fight her whether we want to or not," said Lloyd as he summoned the powers of Flamberge and the Vorpal Sword, his twin swords, and looked at Marta who was helping Emil stand up.
Marta closed her eyes and nodded, Lloyd was right. He had promised her that he would try to avoid the fight as much as possible, but that if Alice tried to hurt anyone he would stop her at any cost. In exchange she promised him that if that day came she would help him. Lloyd kept his part of the deal. Now it was time for her to hold up her end of the bargain.
"I'm sorry Alice… you didn't leave us any other option."
The brunette unlocked her spinner, ready to fight the half-elf, or what was left of her.
Alice smiled at her rivals and froze her toy rapier with a flourish, creating a blade of ice and swooped down to the floor, leaving her wings open.
"Not as sorry as you'll be when this ends."
Lloyd, Emil, Zelos, Regal, Presea and Sheena scattered, surrounding Alice quickly. Not ones to wait for their opponent to make the first move, Lloyd and Zelos charged in first using their Cross Thrust unison technique to knock her off balance.
Lloyd did his best to fight Alice attacking her with a combination of fast attacks and artes while Zelos did the same. However, the half-elf recovered quickly, leaped high into the open air and slammed back down with her frozen sword, with a cry of "Guardian Frost!" upon which the ground around her erupted in a series of icicles that knocked both swordsmen back onto their backs. In the short amount of time it took for them to recover, she was already prepared for their next moves. From the outside it looked almost like she was fighting against kids with toy weapons.
Emil charged in from behind her with his trademark Devil's Hellfire, while Zelos and Lloyd kept her busy.
"Pathetic…" Alice said with a self-confident smile.
Alice concentrated the wind surrounding them around her and whispered the word "Cyclone," unleashing the powerful spell on her attackers without giving any of them time to react. Lloyd, Zelos and Emil were lifted off their feet and sent flying.
"Okay, that's never happened before..." Emil said, digging his sword into the stonework to keep him-self from rolling off the edge of the platform and into the merciless waves crashing below them.
"Yeah. I've never seen anyone get interrupted while using a mystic arte," Marta added, somewhat unnecessarily, helping Emil stand up so that he could get away before the approaching whirlwind could pick him up again.
The spell wasn't enough to deter Presea who despite her small frame managed to charge straight through the tornado and kept running towards Alice.
"I will make you pay for what you did to Colette," she snarled.
The pink haired girl swung her axe in a wide arc that would have cut Alice in half with a single stroke, but for the fact that the half-elf disappeared in a cloud of white powder just as the axehead was about to touch her waist.
'What!?' the girl thought surprised. 'Where is she?'
"Presea!" Genis shouted. "On your axe!"
Presea looked at her weapon and was startled to see the white-clad witch balancing effortlessly on the blade with had her rapier pointed directly at her head, the icy blade melting away as it crackled with electricity.
Presea's eyes widened. However before Alice got the chance to fire off the shot that would have fried her target, Regal intercepted and kicked her off of the weapon.
"Not done yet…" Regal muttered grimly, kicking Alice over and over again without even letting her body touch the floor. With one final kick he sent her flying across the room, smashing clear through her icy throne and hitting the wall. It was a testament to Regal's sheer strength that the impact alone cracked the frozen wall behind her. A jagged series of cracks spider webbed across the ice, and the crisscrossing chains that had fastened Decus to the wall began falling to the ground. Decus fell shortly thereafter, collapsing unceremoniously on the remains of the frozen throne.
"Get away!" roared Alice. With a flick of her rapier, she sent Decus' semiconscious form sliding across the ice-slickened floor. Another flick and her weapon was encased in ice again. Spreading her wings, she rushed Colette who threw her chakrams at her, leaving her defenseless.
Alice cried out in victory, certain that she was about to remove the Chosen's head from her shoulders only to have her sword caught on another sword, as well as that spinner which she still held a grudge against. With a heave, Lloyd and Marta shoved Alice backward—right into Colette's returning chakrams.
"Enough!" snarled Alice, picking herself up, "I'll get rid of you one by one if I have to."
"Let's heat things up in here!" shouted Genis, "Burn! Flare Tornado!"
"Ice Tornado," Alice countered without batting an eye. The blazing cyclone that Genis had just barely conjured beneath her was consumed by Alice's. No one was prepared for when the spell didn't end there however. In an arcane performance of pure magical ability, Alice swept the vortex of ice back at Genis.
"That's just spiteful!" Genis shouted; his cry drawn out as the spiraling blizzard picked him up.
Alice continued her extension of the spell and had it plow into Regal and Presea as well before sending it off the platform entirely. Genis looked dizzily at the water below. He knew how this kind of thing ended.
"You'll cause us no more trouble," the white-haired witch sneered. She raised her sword into the air and the spell ended with a climactic burst, sending the three combatants tumbling into the waves below.
"Genis!" Raine cried, sprinting as best she could across the frozen ground beneath her, and looking over the edge, outpaced by Colette who was making effective use of her wings to avoid slipping. Their control over the situation continued to decay however when, just for a moment, her wings flickered out, nearly sending her into freefall.
"What's going on!?" Lloyd called, "What just happened to your wings?"
"I don't know. They're feeling almost…heavy. They've been getting harder and harder to use lately too!"
This would normally be where the Professor would try to make an educated guess, but her mind was somewhere else entirely. It was unusual to see her so distracted, even more unusual for her to be on the verge of panicking, but in her defense, her brother was at the mercy of a roiling ocean.
"Where are they?" Raine shouted anxiously, a nauseating sensation settling in the pit of her stomach the longer she couldn't pick Genis out among the rocks below. "Colette, can you—?"
"I can't see them!" she responded, shaking her head fearfully.
"You'll see them again soon enough," Alice spat, "Ice Needles!"
Zelos didn't wait for Alice to finish and dived between the spell and its targets to use Guardian creating a magical barrier.
Waving her hand, she accelerated the frozen projectiles and broke Zelos' guard, knocking him to the edge of the platform where he barely managed to keep his balance. Raine on the other hand did not fare as well. Several narrow icicles pierced her in the right shoulder and in both of her legs, while even more pummeled her in the back. Colette tried to reach her, but Raine lost her balance too quickly and fell with a grimace into the stormy sea.
"Professor!" shouted Colette, but her voice was snatched away by the wind. Even if Raine, or any of the others, heard her by some miracle and tried to answer her, she wouldn't be able to hear them.
Her wings blinked out for a moment a third time and she hurried to get to solid ground before her angel powers gave out even further.
´Angel powers… wait…´
"Lloyd! I'm losing my angel abilities!"
"I think I've been separated from my Cruxis Crystal for too long!"
"I don't think so. You're forgetting one important point though, Colettie," someone said from right behind her. She whirled around in fright to find Alice hovering there, smirking diabolically and leaning forward so that her face was mere inches from Colette's. The blackened veins on her face stood out prominently at this distance, making her sneer even more disturbing.
She flapped her wings theatrically. "It's not your Cruxis Crystal. It's ours!"
Sheena and Emil came in for a rescue just in time, activating a Pyre Seal to knock her flat on the floor. However she gracefully righted herself in mid air, batted the ninja away and with a flurry of violent slashes, though in doing so, got caught in Emil's Dark Radiance technique. The wave of energy hit directly the half-elf but it barely managed to scratch her ice armor.
However it wasn't something that Alice took lightly and redirected her full attention on the blonde boy. Lloyd took the distraction time that Emil got them to help Colette to get back to the platform.
Alice landed a few steps away from Emil and walked stolidly towards him looking at him fixedly. Emil tried to keep Alice away using the "demon fang" arte and sending her various energy projectiles through the ground as he walked backwards. The 'angelic' half-elf dismissed every attack with a wave of her rapier as she kept getting closer and closer to the blonde boy who was getting more and more desperate the closer she was.
Emil struck Alice with a bottom-up gash that would have deeply wounded and lift various fit on the air anyone. However Alice's ice armor took the full blow barely damaging it and cut Emil upside-down from the right shoulder to the waist.
Emil dropped his sword unable to keep holding it and fell on his knees before Alice.
"Now you will pay for everything you did to us."
Marta jumped from behind with her spinning weapon ready to slice the half-elf. "Get away from him you bitch." However Alice was faster than what Marta had expected and impaled her in the middle of the aerial attack.
"MARTAAAAA!" Emil screamed with all the force of his lungs.
The body of his beloved impaled in the middle of the air hold by Alice.
Alice smiled in satisfaction as she saw the girl she hated so much choke in her own blood as she grabbed the ice blade that was holding her body onto the air.
The pain simply disappeared. The anguish and despair were quickly transformed into anger and rage, feelings that he had never felt with so much intensity. A back aura began to cover his full body as he regained strength to take back his sword. There was only one thing on his mind, kill Alice. He wanted to see her death, no… he wanted to see her quartered more than anything on the world. As he lifted the sword small fragments of ice began to levitate as if it had its own gravity field.
Tenebrae looked shocked the scene. There might be more of Ratatosk on him than what he thought.
Emil stood up ready to attack Alice when suddenly Zelos jumped flying with his golden wings on him and took him far away from Alice.
Suddenly Marta's body puffed in a cloud of white smoke revealing a dummy filled with shinning explosive seals.
Alice tried to fly away but it was already too late and was caught in a big explosion that destroyed the few left walls of the plat form.
"What-? What has happened?" Emil asked in confusion to Zelos who had covered them both with a magic barrier.
Zelos looked back at Emil surprised. "That you almost blow up with her."
"Emil!" Marta ran towards her beloved knelt at his side and took away his shirt to inspect his wound and began to heal it. It was a nasty one but he would survive.
"Ma… Marta? I- I thought you were dead."
"It was one of Sheena's dummies. I'm fine, don't worry." Marta smiled warmly. "Sorry if I have bothered you."
Bothering him? He thought she was dead! For a moment he almost felt like he lost his mind. The image of her dying before him devastated him in a way that he could have never imagined.
Emil did his best to stand up and embraced the brunette with strength as he began to cry.
Marta stood still shocked for a brief moment -She didn't expect that, Emil have never been to kind of boy who gave the first step- before returning the hug back.
"I- I thought I had lost you…" He whined between tears of fear of losing her and joy of having her back.
"Don't worry Emil. I'm fine." She reinsured kindly as she pet his hair. "I'm here."
"I don't know what I would have done without you. I- I- I just-"
"Everything is ok Emil." She said before giving him a sweet kiss on the lips and joined their foreheads. "I'm fine. Now lie down so I can heal your wounds."
Emil did as he was told.
"Still… What was that?"
Marta turned towards Zelos who was approaching to the cloud of smoke.
"Is she dead?"
Zelos turned back as he kept an eye on the smoke.
"I don't think so. But this will be over soon. I'll make sure of it."
The cloud of smoke began to dissipate revealing a wounded Alice with various bruises on the body walking shaking out of the smoke.
"You…" She shouted filled with fury. "You -*cough*- You will all pay for this!"
"I don't think so." Zelos said calmly.
"Her ice armor it's broken. It's now or never!"
"I will show you what I'm made of…" Zelos shouted. "Take this! Shining Bind!"
A large seal of light formed on the ground around Alice, who still was recovering from the tricky ninja attack, as divine energy began to surround her to finally release the collected energy in a blast of light that struck Alice directly lifting her body on the air as she screamed on pain.
Alice's severely wounded body felt limp on the ground as the seal slowly faded away.
"This…" Zelos took a moment to take back his breathe. "This should be enough."
Much to Zelos surprise he saw Alice slowly standing up. "You must be fucking kidding me."
"You…" She panted as she tried to hold herself together. "Ice lance!"
Alice shot a lance towards Zelos but it missed.
"A… A season in hell!" Alice shouted as she staggered.
The lighting passed at his left seven feet away from him.
"We will kill you all! Monsters!"
Alice then began to shoot spells furiously everywhere driven by rage miserably missing all of them.
Sheena charged against the half-elf easily dodging the projectiles and kicked her on the face sending her to the floor.
Alice lifted a wall of ice stakes around herself forcing Sheena to jump backwards with a somersault barely avoiding the deadly icicles.
Zelos attacked the barrier with a 'super lighting blade' followed by a 'double demon fang' from Lloyd. The strength of the combined artes crashed the ice barrier in an explosion that sent Alice flying backwards.
Decus, finally coming to his senses, looked up.
"Away from me!" Alice shouted on despair. "Ice tornado."
Alice was fighting a battle she couldn't win. She'd just end up getting hurt, or killed, he knew that. He had to do something. Because whether that was their intent or not, the way Alice was fighting, he was sure it would be the result.
Colette stared back at Alice as she tried to keep herself up recovering from her wounds as she tried to keep herself up. Her gaze was defiant, yet sympathetic.
"You know Alice… At first I really didn't like you for the crimes you committed while you were part of the Vanguard. Then when I learned more about you and all you were forced to go through, I felt sad for you, but now…" Colette stopped a moment and looked at the half-elf. "Now I only feel pity for you Alice."
Those words hurt Alice more than anything she could have done to her. Something in her simply snapped.
"It doesn't matter what the outcome of this fight is, because you've already lost. You haven't lived for a single second of your life. You have pushed away any chance of happiness in favor of fear and you've let it consume you. You think you're powerful," the blonde said disappointedly, her eyes boring into Alice's. "But you're the weakest person I know. Instead of moving on, you let your past and fears control your life." Colette looked at her with a dead gaze and said venomously. "Even if you defeat us… even if you kill us— you will always be miserable because that's how you decided to be."
Alice began to tremble violently. She found herself overflowing with a cold, murderous rage unlike any she had ever felt.
Colette took a step forward and looked at Alice with sympathy. "Have you forgotten why you wanted to grow more powerful? When did gaining power stop being a path to reach happiness and became the goal itself?" She looked at Decus and closed her eyes like a disappointed mother, which only infuriated Alice even more. "When did you lose yourself Alice?"
"You…" Alice hissed furiously, sputtering with hate. "How dare you! You think you know everything about me!? You think you know what pain is? You think you are in a position to give me any lesson!? You have no idea what suffering even means;you selfish, privileged little cow!"
The half-elf put her hand over the key crest and clenched it as hard as she could. "But if you're so desperate to understand me, then why don't we help you."
Colette looked at her in shock, realizing what Alice was trying to do. "Alice! Stop!"
The half-elf grinned maniacally her eyes gleaming viciously. "We'll kill all your so-called friends in front of you. Maybe we can fill a jar with your tears and drink them! I will destroy everyone and everything you love and force you to watch!" the crest squeaked under the strain. "And then—once you finally begin to understand what pain means…"
"Stop! Alice! You don't know what you're doing!"
"…then we'll show you firsthand…why you need power to live in this world!" she spat, "When we're destroying all the things across this miserable little world that matter to you, then you'll understand! When you finally look back at this moment and realize what you could have done if you had it! When you finally realize what having power means!" Alice's voice became lower and cold. "Only then, will we kill you!"
The key crest sparked. Then it cracked. It was just a single hairline fissure on the edge of the frame, but that lone conduit was all the Crystal needed. The crest was forcibly detached and was blasted away.
Alice stared at Colette with a vicious smile as the Cruxis Cristal began to shine.
"No Alice… What have you done?" The blonde chosen looked at her horrified.
However as soon as the pain began she lost the smile on her face and fell on her knees. The half-elf girl put a hand on her chest and slowly tried to stand up when she suddenly noticed that her leg refused to move. The girl of red eyes looked at her leg and noticed in horror that it was frozen. The ice quickly began to rise through her tights.
Alice tried to take away the ice but when she tied to move her hand she noticed that it had began to freeze too.
The last thing that everyone heard was the scream of panic as her whole body was frozen.
"A-Alice?" Decus chocked trying to hold his tears back. "It can't be true."
There she stood, frozen like a statue, with an expression of pure fear on her face.
"This can't be true… This can't be happening."
"No… No… No…"
Everyone looked silently at the scene as Decus slowly crumbled; shaking and crying, unable to believe what had just happened.
Suddenly as if the statue reacted to his scream it began to crack. Small fissures began to ran through the ice statue.
"What the hell is going on?" Zelos asked to Lloyd as them both began to walk backwards intuiting that something bad was about to happen.
Suddenly Alice's hand closed crashing the ice as a pair of angel wings with black feathers sprouted from the back of the ice statue shattering the ice.
Decus watched confused the scene when suddenly the whole cover of ice exploded sending the man backwards.
Everyone stood still staring at Alice.
"Oh no…" Colette thought put her hands on her head.
Almost every imperfection cause by the Cruxis Crystal had now disappeared. Her skin was smooth and her black dress had disappeared revealing a majestic white dress made of snow. She had a back a pair of majestic black wings like the angels on Derris-Kharlan and her gaze was no longer vicious, but cold and emotionless.
"A-Alice?" Decus stuttered as he approached to his beloved. "Are… are you ok?"
Colette quickly stood up and began to run towards the purple haired guy. "No…"
"Decus get away!?"
However the purple-haired was too amazed to pay any attention to the blonde girl.
Alice turned towards Decus and moved her hand towards him.
Decus was about to entangle his hand with hers when Colette jumped on him making them both fall to the ground just in time to avoid an ice lance that would have killed Decus.
Alice looked down to the pair and moved towards the rest of the party ignoring completely Decus and Colette.
"She can no longer recognize you." Colette warned to the purple-haired. "I know what she is being through… She has become a Cruxis angel. She is just a housing of the girl she once was. No emotions, no feelings, nothing. Just survival instinct." She explained. "I have been through that…"
Decus stared at her confused.
"So now what?" Zelos looked back at the companions.
"I don't know…" Lloyd replied holding tightly his swords. "
"I guess we should take away the Cruxis Crystal" Sheena proposed. "Just in case"
"What has happened to her?" Marta asked.
"She became a Cruxist Angel." Zelos explained to the girl. "The good thing is that she only has survival instinct right now."
"And the bad one?" Emil inquired.
"May the merciless embrace of the cold north take you…" Alice said coldly.
"That she might take us as a threat to her life." Zelos answered getting ready to block the spell.
Everyone stood in defensive position waiting for the attack yet nothing happened. Until suddenly a snowflake fell on Emil sword.
"It's… snowing?" The blonde said lifting his gaze to the sky covered on snowflakes.
"What is going on?" Sheena asked.
A snowflake touched her check and she felt something wet and warm on her face. The ninja touched her check and then looked at her hand, it was blood blood.
"The snowflakes!" She shouted startled. "They are sharp like blades!"
However the warning was too late. The snow falling was already cutting everyone clothes and skin. The cuts weren't much bigger than paper cuts but they were unceasing and painful. If they didn't find a solution soon they would end soon dying bleeding out by hundreds of painful, tiny cuts.
When they thought that things couldn't get worse Alice waved her hand. Suddenly all the snowflakes moved slashing Emil, who tried in vain to block the attack. The snow simply skirted the sword, ravaging clothes and flesh alike like a sharp claw.
The blonde boy screamed pain at the stunned gaze of his companions.
Alice made the moved the snow at her will and harassed Emil from every direction, creating blades of snow that severely wounded Emil's back, arm, legs and sides as the snow became tainted in red.
Unable to keep fighting any longer Emil fell limp over the floor covered in red snow.
Marta ran carelessly towards her beloved using the spinning blade to cover her face she ran through the falling snow.
Alice put together the falling snow creating a cloud of snowflakes ready to attack the brunette.
"Not so fast!" Sheena shouted as she summoned a tangle of hundreds of seals with the word fire wrote on her natal language and threw them against the white-haired angel.
With a movement of her hand Alice intercepted all the seals with the cloud of snowflakes and shattered all the seals into hundreds of tiny useless pieces.
The half-elf gave a cold glare to the black haired woman and threw the snow cloud against her.
Sheena knew she was doomed. The cloud was way too big for her to dodge and she didn't have time to summon Celsius to help her. Zelos suddenly appeared before her using his shield protect her. However much to his dismay the shield didn't last long against the attack which ended shattering it and taking them both.
Lloyd watched the scene horrified.
The cloud dissipated revealing Zelos body covered in blood on the ground and Sheena severly wounded trying to hold herself up..
"Stupid Chosen." And fell to the ground aside Zelos.
Lloyds pulse became faster and faster. No one had made him so angry since his confrontation against Kvar and Rodyle.
Alice swirled the snow above the unconscious pair creating a drill ready to finish them off.
"Stop it!" Colette shouted from behind throwing her chakrams.
Decus jumped on her making her miss the attack by few inches but was enough to make Alice lose the concentration and focus on them instead.
"What are you doing?!" Decus shouted struggling with her on the ground.
Colette didn't want anyone to die but if she made her choose between Alice and her friends.
"I won't let her kill my friends!"
Colette bite Decus's hand. The pulled him away enough for the blonde girl to nail her knee on his crotch just in time to push him aside to stand up and take back the chakrams.
The blonde girl was ready to throw them again when she was pulled back to the ground by the leg.
"I won't let you hurt Alice!"
Alice soon lost her interest in the struggling duo and focused back in the left member of the group: Lloyd.
The angel looked at Lloyd coldly as the swordsman stared back at her with a gaze of contained hatred. Even though the snow was cutting him he didn't even blink.
Alice raised both arms and the snow on the floor lifted a hollow column of hundred feet around Zelos, Sheena, Emil, Marta and Lloyd that began to rotate like a tornado as it narrowed.
Marta looked around scared as she tried to heal Emil.
"I won't leave you Emil." She whispered between tears as she tightened her hand with his and put it on her chest.
"Can you heal them?" Lloyd asked suddenly in a serious tone.
"If you can heal them."
"Ye- Yeah, I learned a lot from Raine."
"Heal them then!" Lloyd commanded with an unfitting self-confidence given their situation.
Lloyd didn't want to reach this point but there was no other option.
Colette screamed horrified from the ground as she saw the snow tornado narrowing on them. The blonde closed her eyes not wanting to see the outcome.
Then suddenly the tornado dissipated in an explosion.
Alice stared unmoved.
Marta looked at Lloyd open-mouthed. He had a pair of long white mana wings and instead of his usual twin swords he was holding a purple and crystallic long broadsword. His hair and clothes moved by the energy he the sword was releasing.
"So he is indeed the Eternal sword holder…" Tenebrae muttered aloud.
"Take care of them." Lloyd said in a serious voice looking at his friends. "I will take care of her."
Marta nodded and began to cast a maintained "Circle of healing" on the group.
There were two reasons why Lloyd didn't want to use this ability on first place. One he might hurt unintentionally his friends. Secondly on this form his mana was quickly consumed. If he didn't finish the fight quickly he would be too exhausted to keep fighting. In fact, after using this skill, he will be way too to even move.
Alice flew towards Lloyds so fast that Marta barely had time to notice the attack.
Lloyd parried effortlessly her ice blade and kicked her backwards before flying high over the platform. He had to keep Alice way of his friends or else he couldn't ensure their safety.
Alice chased him followed by the snow on the platform.
The swordsman stopped abruptly and charged against her. Alice barely had time to parry the attack. The strike was so strong that sent the angel through the cloud of snowflakes against the platform like a meteor. The white haired girl stopped the fall at a few feet of the collision and landed gracefully. If she could express any emotion it would be hatred.
Lloyd rushed against her. He had no time to lose.
Alice used to snow to create a tangle of tentacles and used them to try to take Lloyd down.
The swordsman flew gracefully thought the multiple attacks dodging all of them and chopping any tentacle that came too close and he kept flying towards Alice like a falcon towards it's prey.
Alice commanded the snow to cover her creating a wall of snow between her and her aggressor. However that didn't stop the swordsman who raised the Eternal Sword and flew directly against the deadly wall.
"I will show you! This is the decisive blow!"
Lloyd crossed through the snow wall severely wounding him-self and appeared in front of Alice with his clothes torn apart and his flesh full of bleeding cuts but with an untouched determination.
Alice covered her body instantly with an ice armor but it wasn't enough. The wave of pure mana created by the blow crushed completely her last defense and impacted directly against her cutting her diagonally, cracking the Cruxis Crystal, and chopping her right wing.
The blonde girl stood still for a second before finally falling on her knees.
"Finally." Lloyd thought as his wings began to evaporate.
As Lloyd collapsed and the Eternal Sword separated back into his fathers' swords, Alice began to cough blood and put a hand firmly over the floor nailing the ice.
"Impossible! It can't be! I stuck her with all I have! How can she still be alive?"
"G-G- Ground Dasher!" Shouted Alice spitting blood.
Lloyd tried to move away but not a single muscle responded to him and was struck by the attack that sent his limp body rolling backwards.
Alice managed to get back up, though with visible effort and took back her weapon.
Decus stumbled over to the discarded key crest and took it. He tried to approach her but Alice pointed her rapier at him threateningly.
"Get away!" Alice shouted seeming to have come back to her senses, or what was left of them.
"Alice, please just take the Crystal off!" Decus begged laboriously, "Please, please… For once listen to me!"
"Listen? To you?! I should kill you right now, you filthy traitor! You're the one that brought them here to kill me in the first place!"
"That's not true, Alice!" Emil shot back, as he stood up still in pain by his wounds."He wants to help you. That's all he wants, all he ever will want."
"I wish you'd just listen to me…" Decus muttered, defeated.
"You made a big mistake by kidnapping Colette even after I advocated giving you another chance," Marta growled angrily, not caring that this would be the first time Alice would even hear about that detail.
"Of course, you made a bigger mistake by trying to equip a Cruxis Crystal that wasn't made for you. However strong you must feel, you are monster. That thing has made you grotesque."
"But your biggest mistake; the single most unbelievably stupid thing you could ever have possibly done, was abandon the one person who would do anything for you, regardless of how much he disagreed with your actions! He literally proved that he was willing to die for you and you threw him away! After everything he did for you! How dare—"
"Shut up!" Alice howled. In the space of a second, she spread her wings, lifted off the ground and said four words, pointing her rapier at the damp, icy floor.
"A Season in Hell!"
Everyone left in the chamber was electrocuted. Decus collapsed, twitching in agony as the electrical current surged mercilessly though him. And yet, through the pain, he experienced a moment of clarity.
Suddenly, he didn't feel the pain anymore. The injuries he'd sustained, the electrical current ravaging him that very moment, were…nothing.
He stood up. Alice's mouth was moving but he couldn't hear her, she slashed at him multiple times and he didn't feel anything. He carefully placed the key crest over the Cruxis Crystal and was about to pluck the evolved exphere from her when everything came surging back. Just in time for Alice to encase her rapier in ice one last time and run him through.
"I was… so close…"
No. He wouldn't let this end here. With inhuman strength, he lifted his arm and grasped the damned gemstone in his hand. He tugged, and it came away along with the key crest.
"G-got it…finally…" he gasped.
He could hear Alice shrieking, her body shuddering violently. He vaguely registered that his own body was sliding backward off the rapier, no longer able to summon the strength necessary to stand up, but most of his attention was elsewhere.
"Y-your eyes…" he mumbled as he looked up into them, as they changed before his eyes from blood red through crimson, orange, mustard yellow, until finally… "They've always…been the most beautiful golden color…"
The rapier fell from her hand and she collapsed in a heap on top of him. With a sudden gasp, she clutched a wound on her arm as though feeling it for the first time.
"What?" she mumbled hoarsely, "Who? Did someone…something…my eyes?"
She sat up with no shortage of pain and looked around. Her head hurt. Like someone had driven a spike into it. No. Like someone had driven a spike into it and then yanked it out.
She was in another seal chamber. Her vision was hazy, but somehow she knew. That made sense. She was… wait… no… She already beat Undine… then what?
She tried to move but found her legs trapped under something. She tried to push it away. It wasn't exactly hard to move. Then her vision came into focus.
"Decus!" she shrieked. She started shaking her head deliriously, trying to make the image go away. This had to be a nightmare. But each time she looked she still saw Decus lying there, bleeding out.
No. This wasn't right. This wasn't supposed to be happening! How could this be happening! This is exactly the kind of thing she was trying to avoid! Her head shot up when she heard him groan.
"Alice… She's worried about me," he slurred weakly, "I must be… in heaven."
'Oh goddess,' she thought, a hazy memory coming through the fog of her mind. Bile rose in her throat and she barely fought down the sudden urge to throw up. A stray tear fell from her eye. And she hastily wiped it away despite protests from her aching arm. She was not crying. She didn't cry.
"Did I-did I do this to you?" she whispered.
"N-no. It… it wasn't you. It was—" he trailed off. Something about the way he said it didn't reassure her that it wasn't her fault.
"No…no…" She muttered word over and over again. Until the word was became a monotonous droning that blocked everything else out. There was no world outside of herself. She was not crying! Crying was for weaklings. She wasn't weak!
Except that there was! There was a stupid, awful, miserable world beyond herself, and in it, stupid Decus was bleeding to death! She looked around wildly for something, anything that might help. There were two people nearby who were in good condition to help her.
The last two people who would ever help her. Hell, the last two people she would ever want help from!
She couldn't bear the thought of asking that airheaded brat and her pet for help. Not for her, never, she would rather die than ask for help to Marta. However for Decus…
The bile in her throat rose with disgust as she tried to call them over. To demand that they save Decus' life.
No sound came out. She tried again, and again her voice was non-existent. As much as she wanted she simply couldn't, her pride, her stupid pride would kill Decus.
The fight finally took it's toll. With her face full of tears and feeling more miserable than ever Alice fell over him exhausted unable to do anything but mourn.
"Marta, are you alright?" Emil asked.
"I'm fine. Thank you..." Marta answered with a little of effort as she stood up.
"How are the rest?"
Marta looked around. Colette was rubbing her head as if she was recovering from a hard hit. Lloyd was exhausted and seemed literally paralyzed. And Zelos and Sheena were recovering just fine from their wounds.
"I think I got the least of her assault actually." Marta mumbled, standing up unsteadily. "I'm kinda surprised. I thought she'd go after me like…like…some single-minded animal… I don't know."
"Speaking of…" Emil started. He walked slowly over to where the two former ex-Vanguard members lay, "What should we do with them now. I mean, there's no point in killing them anymore." Emil sighed mentally. "I wish things have ended different but the others take priority. With luck, anyone who was tossed outside will have washed up somewhere on shore by now."
"Hopefully," Marta added.
"Don't jinx it any more than I did!" Emil said quickly, holding his hands up in alarm. He looked over at Decus and Alice again. "Do you think there's anything we can do?"
Marta shook her head. She looked miserable, with an unusually tired look on her face. There were actually bags under her eyes. They were provably dead already. After all Decus had done MArta couldn't help but feel pity for him.
As they walked past Alice, Emil came to a sudden halt, Marta bumping into him and nearly falling over.
It was only when he noticed that Alice's mouth was moving that either of them realized she was speaking. She was looking down at Decus—yikes that was a lot of blood—and her voice was so quiet on top of being hoarse from all the shouting she had done that she was mouthing most of the vowels, while her 'h's were more like coughs. After leaning in close enough though, they managed to figure out what she was saying.
"Pl-s *-lp *-m."
She didn't look up. She didn't move. She just kept repeating the words over and over.
"Pl-s *-lp *-m.
"Pl-s *-lp *-m."
- Please help him.
Their eyes widened.
"Pl-s-, M-rt-, *-lp *-m."
- Please, Marta, help him.
"Did she just call me by my name!" Marta gasped incredulously.
"I, uh—I think so," Emil said.
"Alright. He's lost a lot of blood, it's really scary. But I think I can keep him alive until we get back to a town or something."
Sheena stood up staggered and helped Zelos to stand up. When the red-haired noticed what Marta was doing he sighed annoyed.
Sheena looked at Lloyd worried, something that wasn't overlooked by Zelos.
"I'm fine Sheena." Zelos panted as he did his best to fake a smile. "Go and help him."
Sheena looked at him not really convinced.
Sheena nodded and left not without turning her head and giving a sincere "thank you" to the red haired.
"I'll go find the others," Emil said.
"Alright. I'll be here."
Alice smiled. She felt humiliated, but at least Decus would live.
Martel help her though, she was never calling Marta anything other than Martmart ever again. Well, if she survived.
Author notes: I was actually going to add too Richter's fight on this chapter but it was unfitting. I thought it was better to end the chapter this way and leave Richter's fight for latter.
Thank you everyone and special thanks to Draconic. This chapter wouldn't have been the same without Draconic's help.
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