Zel's sword swung down, Lina's head just inches away, when—
"Fireba—" But Lina wasn't able to finish. A blue barrier had surrounded her, glowing incandescently, and, looking behind her, she saw Filia, holding the shield up. Zelgadis' sword slammed down hard against the barrier, but Filia pushed the steel away with her mind. Zel stumbled back, the force of the barrier knocking him away. He growled, charging once again, slashing against the barrier. Slashing and growling. Slashing and growling.
The wild look in his eyes scared them all. It was a wild and crazed look, eyes that were filled with pain, and an intenseness that none of them could comprehend. The fire in between the redhead's hands faded slowly to a red ember, before falling to the floor. Her mind suddenly flashed back to the illusion that she had been trapped in just a short while ago, where Gourry had been attacking her…Is this another illusion? Are they all going to turn on me?
Lina looked around at the barrier. Is this barrier going to end up crushing the life out of me instead?
This isn't an illusion.
And then she realized with a start that Gourry wasn't in the barrier with them. Where…?
Before she could finish her thought, a blur ran past the blue wall that Filia still held up. Gourry ran forward, seeming to appear out of nowhere, knocking back Zel's sword with his own.
"Run Lina!" The blond called to her, over his shoulder. "Find Amelia. I won't hurt Zel, I promise…but you need to find Amelia."
"I can't leave the two of you!" Lina cried out. True, she had fought Zel many times before, but now…he wasn't the same person anymore.
"Go find Amelia, Lina!"
"No! You stupid moron, what makes you think I'll listen to what you say? I'm staying put, and that's final!" Lina looked at Filia. "Filia, you go and find Amelia."
Filia looked up at her barrier, but before the golden dragon could open her mouth to respond, Zelgadis charged at Gourry, faster than the blond had anticipated, and the chimera brought the sword down upon Gourry's blade with staggering force. Gourry's teeth clenched together, his arms shaking as he fought to bring his sword upwards. The sword grinded down upon his blade, jarring Gourry with the sheer impact of it. Before Gourry could recover, Zel had pulled away and charged again, and Gourry had barely enough time to block the blow.
Grunting, Gourry pulled away with effort, and using his skill and force, he nimbly swept forwards towards Zel, switching from defensive to offensive. Zel quickly parried Gourry's attack with a swift swing of his sword, moving backwards as Gourry brought his blade down upon the chimera's sword again and again.
Faster and stronger Gourry came at Zel, his arms dealing blow after blow to the chimera, who could do nothing more than block. His muscles tensed, the feel of the sword light and sure in his hands.
"Go and find Amelia!" He cried out to the redhead.
"I said no!"
"Lina…" Filia began, as she lowered her barrier.
"Filia, you go. I have to help fight Zelgadis. We'll…he needs to be knocked out. He's deranged, Filia. I can't leave him like this."
"Lina!" Impatience laced Gourry's voice. "Stop arguing and go! Amelia needs more help than Zel h—"
Suddenly, Zel rushed at Gourry, and Gourry yelped, swinging up his sword as he jumped backwards. But Gourry wasn't fast enough—Zel's sword bit through the blond swordsman's flesh. He sucked in a breath as his muscles tensed painfully in his right shoulder, blood pouring down into the pummel of his sword. Gourry had only been keeping half his attention on the chimera when he was yelling at Lina, and he silently cursed at having left himself open.
Gourry rolled to the side as Zel slashed down, and ran into Lina, knocking her to the floor and stopping her from casting her spell. His breath was ragged in her ears. "Lina, for once in your life, just listen to me. Go and find Amelia!" The redhead opened her mouth angrily to spit out a sharp reply, but he had already gotten back up, barely ready to parry and counter.
His right arm ached, so he switched the blade to his left hand, swinging it at the chimera to get the feel of it. Gourry feinted twice, and Zelgadis bought it, his sword swinging wildly to the side, just barely parrying in time to prevent the blond from making a touch. Gourry, against his better judgement, glanced over, to see Filia dragging away the redhead, who looked on angrily. Their eyes met in that brief instant, and the shadow of a smile flickered over his face, before he turned back to the chimera.
Lina hesitated, the anger draining away as she watched him. But Filia's tug on her arm returned the redhead to the dilemma at hand, and, taking one last look at her friends' duel, ran out of the room with the ex-priestess. "I'm sorry," she whispered, though to whom she was apologizing to—whether it was Gourry, Zelgadis, Amelia, Filia, or herself—she didn't know.
As their footsteps receded, the blond swordsman took a deep breath to steady himself. Gourry's feet danced on the marble floor as he lunged forward, the sweat beading on his forehead threatening to drop down into his eyes. Zelgadis lunged also, throwing the strength of his attack into his legs. As their blades clashed against each other, they pushed, fighting to throw each other balance off.
Then, suddenly, Zelgadis fell, moving forward on the floor as Gourry, who had bee taken completely by surprise, fell forwards over the chimera. The chimera's blade sliced into the blond swordsman's leg, and he cried out in pain, using his other foot to push off against the chimera's back. He slid along the floor, a trail of blood following. Turning around on the ground, he saw Zel lying of the floor in front of him, his eyes wide as his hands swirled in the blood that he had caused Gourry to shed.
"Pain…You'll die like the rest of them!! I'll show you what a monster is…"
Gourry pushed himself backwards until he felt his back hit a wall. He couldn't win against Zelgadis unless he really, truly wished to hurt him. And he didn't. Zelgadis was on the killing edge, and unless Gourry was also, there was no way to beat him. Gourry knew he was a better swordsman, but not against someone on the killing edge. If only I could trick my mind into thinking that I want to hurt him…I could win. If I could get myself on the killing edge…But he knew it was impossible. He could never even think of killing his friends.
Using his blade as a crutch, he picked himself off the ground. Zelgadis did the same, his eyes dancing. He put weight on his injured leg, and it held. So he didn't cut me deep. Good. He still had a chance.
In a flash of steel, the chimera thrust at Gourry. The blond swordsman, biting down on the pain in his shoulder and his leg, shot towards Zel as well, and he felt dizzying agony at the force of their weapons colliding and then sliding past each other. Gourry's heart began to pick up in pace once more, and adrenaline filled his veins, overcoming the pain in his shoulder and leg.
Then Gourry realized something. He could win. He's on the killing edge, and he's crazed, which means he's just set to kill. He'll leave himself open…he'll make wild swings. Zel jabbed his sword forward, and then swung the blade towards Gourry's injured leg, and they continued to exchange blow after blow, parrying and dodging.
They circled each other, like prey, clashing steel against steel, the ringing loud in their ears.
Gourry danced backwards, causing Zel to swing wide. Perfect. Gourry lunged forward, his legs and arms thrusting his sword quickly, jamming his steel blade against Zel's sword, which had just begun to swing back into a parry. The force sent Zel's blade flying as his shoulder was dislocated.
Zel cried out in pain, his eyes clearing for an instant. But then the hate filled them up once again, and popping his shoulder back into place, he snarled, running at Gourry. Now, I just need to find a way to knock him unconscious…Gourry thought, dodging the chimera.
I can win.
She was running again, running through the endless stream of bodies and bones, wings resounding behind her like the drums of Hell. Everything around her was dark—even the air tasted black in her throat—a dry, vile taste that ached her raw throat. Bones jutted out of the ground like trees, grabbing, tearing, ripping and biting.
A laugh, sounding closer. And closer. Leathery wings in the air just behind her.
Move, Amelia, move!!
Why can't I run faster? WHY?!
She could hear their breath. Smell their pungent smell. The bones were still lashing out at her.
What am I doing here? God, snap out of it Amelia! SNAP OUT OF IT!
I...I can't let her do this to me…
I'm strong…I'm strong…Her breathing was ragged; her feet were swollen and bleeding. It's a trick, this isn't real. I'm strong. This isn't real.
This isn't real.
It can't be…
…I'm…I'm home! This isn't real.
Why am I so alone?
"THIS ISN'T REAL!!"
Amelia's eyes snapped open with a gasp; one hand grasping her throat and the other clutching at her chest. Her eyes stared up at the ceiling wildly as she panted, trying to settle her nerves. It wasn't real. But she felt the stings from where the trees of bones had cut her. Why am I bleeding? It wasn't real. It couldn't have been real. There was a sharp intake of breath to her left. Her heart leapt out of her chest in fear, and she turned frantic eyes towards Riers.
"My, my, my…I'm quite surprised, Amelia dear. Just when I thought I finally entered your mind, too, you push me out." She laughed, a malicious sound that made Amelia cringe as she fought against the darkness that was trying to surround her.
"STOP IT!!" she cried out, swatting the never-ending stream of black away from her. Pushing the darkness away from her.
Pushing Death away from her.
Amelia couldn't even bring herself to cry anymore. She was beyond that point now. She'd cried so much that she was wasted now. She turned her head to look at the broken walls of her palace—her home.
Everything around me is dying. Breaking. Falling apart.
I don't want to die. Please, L-sama…I don't want to die!
Reirs was getting impatient. "That's enough playing around, Amelia. Let me into your goddamn mind!"
Reirs' fists clenched, the darkness rising like a pillar of flames around her.
"You'll die soon enough, Amelia dear. It's just a matter of time before you truly break."
I want to do something more with my life.
"Stop striving to hold onto your life. We all die eventually. The sooner you die now, Amelia, the quicker you get to see that stupid wench that you call 'Mother'."
I want to change someone in my life.
"You'll never be strong enough to defeat me! You never take chances in your life. You'll always be nothing!"
I want to love someone.
"You're alone, dear Amelia. No one will save you."
…Please…Don't let me die…
"You can't even save yourself. You're alone, Amelia." Reirs smiled wickedly at her. "You can't do anything by yourself. Weakling."
No…no, that isn't true.
I'm strong. I know I am.
My…my friends had faith in me in the past.
Amelia stood up, her mind screaming out in pain. Her body ached, every muscle and cut stinging like white-hot knives.
"I'm not weak," Amelia gritted out of her teeth, healing herself slightly as she spoke, the magic flowing out of her hands and into her body.
"Heal yourself all you want, little one. Just because you can stand up doesn't mean you are strong."
Amelia backed away slowly, readying a barrage of spells to use against her.
I can't win against her. She's too strong.
I have to be strong. I…I have Justice on my side.
…I have to win…
"I can win!" Amelia shouted at Reirs, her breath ragged. The crown princess was afraid, and her hands, which had finished healing and was forming another spell, couldn't stop shaking.
"You stupid girl! This is MY realm now!! You could never win!"
Her realm? HER realm? Amelia couldn't believe it.
It was Amelia's home!
And that's when she realized it. She couldn't hide anymore. Hoping for her friends to come wouldn't work. She had to stand up for herself. She had to stand up for her home—no more relying on others this time around. This was her home, where she grew up.
I might be standing in the middle of the ruins of a great kingdom, but this is still a Holy City. MY Holy City. Even a ruin can be holy. Even a ruin was worth fighting for.
Amelia's heart pounded inside her chest. Maybe… I can't…L-sama…someone….help me!
But she knew deep down that this was her chance. If she was going to die, she would die fighting.
Not crying for help. Not begging for mercy.
I don't know…
…I'm alone…please…I need help…
…Maybe…Maybe I can win…
A/N: Well, this chapter took a while as well (a good number of months). But, with graduation looming closer, I've been busy trying to keep my marks up and in good shape for university. I'm quite happy with the way this chapter turned out, especially the duel between Gourry and Zel. I've been lacking a bit in the action department, and so I'm really happy with this fight. Hopefully it wasn't boring. I also plan on rewriting one of my old chapters too add some more action into it, since, when rereading it, I was very disappointed with it. But fear not, it won't be a huge change, so it won't take up too much time. This fic is going to be finished in three chapters or so, maybe 4, so the end is coming. Thanks to everyone who stuck it out with me, and who've been patient. I'm hoping this chapter was worth it.
Thanks to everyone who reviewed, I'll be sure to dedicate a section to you guys once this fic is done.