Parasite: Part 3, Chapter 3
This is it, Lucca pronounced. If all goes well, well be rid of Helminthes by the end of this night.
The trio took a moment to gaze at the nearly-complete citadel which stood on the foundation of Magus ruined castle. A good deal of the towers that had been destroyed after the failed summoning of Lavos were rebuilt, albeit in more stout incarnations. The entire fortress had an overall squat look to it, as if it was meant to resemble the portly green Mystic who had assumed control of the humans enemies. Additionally, the walls looked smoother and more sturdy than those of the old castle. Examining them, Lucca pondered how long Magus stronghold had existed, and if it was even built for the displaced Zealian prince from the start.
Where are the workers? Marle wondered aloud. This isnt quite finished; they were all over the place the last time we came here.
Theyre probably expecting us, the inventor suggested.
Of course, Meridio surmised. Bodhran was a guard; he was waiting for us so he could warn the rest that we were arriving.
So theyre getting an ambush ready? the princess inquired.
For whatever good that will do them, the mercenary replied, chuckling quietly to himself. Stepping in front of his companions, the man pointed a finger at the fort and declared: Take a good look at this place, ladies, because this will be the last time you ever visit.
What do you mean? Lucca queried.
Were going to raze this castle, and send everybody inside to Hell with it, Meridio pledged coldly.
And with that, he pushed forward and through the unlocked entryway to the bastion, as the sun ambled its way towards the horizon, leaving stains of crimson in its wake.
You know, now that I think about it, Marle mused, nearly in a whisper as the group ascended the staircase in the deathly quiet foyer of the castle, I feel kind of sorry for Helminthes.
How do you figure that? Lucca asked.
Well, Lavos was messing around with the planet of its own will, but I dont think Helminthes has a mind like that.
I notice a little more of it every time we fight it. It moves like a machine most of the time, reacting to everything we do instead of acting on its own. If you look into its eyes, theres nothing there. They may as well be empty sockets.
As they proceeded through a dim corridor, a small vampire bat squeaked its displeasure at having its sleep prematurely interrupted. Meridio replied instantly by deftly pitching a sphere of fire into the creature, charring it in seconds. The young scientist scratched her chin, eyeing the man worriedly for a breath, and prompted her friend: Go on.
I think Crono knows it, too, the princess continued, biting her lip pensively. When we fought it the last time, he didnt act as if he was trying to stop an enemy. It was more like like he was putting it out of its misery.
Interesting thought, Lucca observed.
If youre sympathizing with monsters, Meridio spoke up flatly, I have trouble seeing how youve lasted against the Mystics this long.
The young lady remained where she stood as the other two progressed beyond her for a few paces. She fixed her eyes on the man, narrowing them slightly until another small creature screeched from the confines of a darkened corner, jolting her attention and prompting her to stay close to the others.
Continuing through the lengthy hallway, the trio maintained an eerie silence that was broken only by the sound of their feet against the stone floor, which soon enhanced the monotony of the corridor. As Marle slackened her pace again, an odd clomping sound made itself known. Meridio quickly halted and placed an outstretched arm in the path of his companions. The sound stopped almost as instantaneously.
Whats that? the man demanded.
I think it was behind us, Lucca suggested, glancing over her shoulder.
Spinning around, the mercenary drew a charge of lightning through a raised arm and around his fist, casting light through the hallway. As quickly as he turned, something cuffed the back of his head and threw him to the ground, causing the man to lose the hold on the ethereal light. Branched of electricity swarmed through the hall, loudly careening off of walls as the fighters shielded themselves and hastily dodged about. When the commotion was over, all three noticed that an army of torches had been lit on both sides of the stone hall. Ringing ears and squinting eyes soon focused on the source of the attack, as a being spoke:
Stupid humans, fooled by the simplest illusions. Ill have a lot of fun killing you.
Bodhran, Meridio spat as he leapt to his feet. Im happy to see you for the last moments of your life.
Really, now, the reptilian Mystic chided, Is that the most threatening thing you can think up?
I dont need threats, the mercenary retorted as he drew his weapon.
Well, youll need more than that mace to save yourself, Bodhran claimed as he clasped his palms together in front of his own face.
Lucca and Marle drew their own weapons, but stepped back as Meridio twitched the ball at his side and swung it around before winding a sideways pitch towards the motionless adversary. The instant before the attack could connect, everything in the hallway spun sickeningly around a horizontal axis. The shock of the tremor caused Meridio to drop his weapon, and the mace flung languidly past his enemy. Bodhran grinned at the three adventurers as they stumbled and fell, clumsily grasping for errant objects on the floor in order to steady themselves. Each promising stone gave way and faded out of view whenever a hand reached for it. Amidst the vertigo, the very images of the walls seemed to melt and contort.
Lucca tore the glasses from her face and dropped her firearm. The Wondershot hit the ground with an earsplitting crash that resounded far longer than it should have. The scientist clenched her eyes shut and covered her ears, breathing in more shallow gasps the longer the effect lasted. The more she and her companions moved, the more apparent it was that every sound they made, even the smallest shifts of clothing, fell under a mysterious amplification and resounded through the wide stone hallway.
Marle, startled by the percussive echoes initialized by the dropped firearm, tried to push herself to her feet and head out of the corridor. Upon turning her back to the snickering Mystic, she was met with a slew of twisting, disorienting shapes. Colors of a vibrancy never seen before swirled among gruesome distortions of the stone walls and mixed with slivers of likenesses of monsters she remembered from her travels. Phantoms of creatures that haunted her memories leapt at her, ghoulishly passing through her and vanishing at odd intervals as they wordlessly taunted her. Spinning around wildly, she drew a long, horrified breath and faced the Mystic illusionist, quelling the surge of ghastly images.
Stop it! she screamed as she fell to her knees and turned tightly shut eyes to the floor. Stop doing that!
Stop doing what? Bodhran queried innocently, his voice booming across the passageway. Im just standing here; whats wrong with the lot of you?
Youre going to have a problem yourself in a minute, the mercenary vowed, stumbling as he fought to regain his sense of balance. He had been trying the hardest to stand, and was tripping a great deal in the process.
You people cant seem to stand up, the Mystic observed. Is it my spell thats making you so dizzy?
Youre a coward, Bodhran, Meridio declared. Stop this game and fight me like a man!
You insult me, the illusionist spat. Fighting like a human is the last thing a Mystic would do. Thats why were going to win this war against you people, he proclaimed loudly.
Stop talking! Lucca screamed raggedly, clutching her pained ears.
Closing his eyes, Meridio found, as the other two had already, that the stomach-turning disorientation continued even when there was nothing to see. While his head sent him staggering in odd directions, he attempted to keep focus on where he remembered his opponent stood. The war was over when Magus was driven away, he attested. This is all a poor attempt at revenge.
Bodhran balled a fist and responded: This war will continue as long as-- A clumsy punch aimed at his head cut his words off, not as much through the need to dodge as by the compulsion to laugh at the mans faulty attack.
Meridio pushed farther forward, swinging fruitlessly towards the sound of Bodhrans laughing. Clearly amused, the illusionist taunted, Why dont you open your eyes? The effect is the same either way. Youll never hit me.
Keep talking, you fool, the mercenary prompted through gritting teeth. A fierce left hook met with resistance, although the man found out too soon that his fist had been caught so that Bodhran could gain leverage in order to smash an elbow into Meridios forearm.
Howling in pain, Meridio reeled backwards and fell onto his back, clutching his newly fractured arm. Lucca, from a deceptively unstable sitting position, hysterically called out: What happened?
Suppressing a few groans of agony, the man twisted furious eyes in the direction of the reptilian adversary. Pulling himself to a crouch, he raised outstretched palms above his head and concentrated on the general vicinity of the Mystic. Amid nauseating swirls of color and ear-splitting echoes within the stony confines of the hall, he compelled himself to summon a mass of lightning and form it into a ball. The energy wracked his broken arm as he focused as well as possible on his enemy, and he could see that Bodhran was regarding him a bit more seriously than before.
Well, trying a new strategy, eh? the Mystic surmised. Calmly extending his arms at angles from his torso, he turned his own palms outward. Taking a moment to grin at Meridios injured arm, he slapped his hands together and toppled the mercenary with an impulse of mystical wind.
The only pain Meridio felt was from his freshly broken arm, but an odd buzzing sound had entered his head immediately after the maneuver had floored him. Keeping his hold on the ball of electricity, he again tried to aim for the illusionist. Kicking his feet out and throwing his weight forward and upward, he hurled the spell towards the Mystic. His mental pitch was interrupted by a loud and hauntingly familiar voice:
Whats the matter, son? Afraid? We dont want our legacy tainted by fear, do we?
The lightning ball faltered in midair and bounced off of the floor and across the room past Bodhran, striking an indistinguishable corner of the hall. Stunned, the man remained in a half-standing position, momentarily ignoring the imbalance in his vision and the horrible loudness of the crumbling wall that had been struck.
Where where did that come from? he demanded in a harsh astonishment.
Do you remember that fellow? Bodhran queried naively. He seems to have struck a chord with you. Intriguing.
Did you do that? Meridio inquired.
My son is not going to be afraid of heights, the voice said again. You may as well get used to sitting in that tree, because Im not getting you down from there.
Stop it, the mercenary ordered fiercely, his voice echoing in the magic-plagued hallway.
Oh, come now, the illusionist taunted, These are your own memories. Dont you like them?
Ill see your head ground into this very floor, Meridio growled.
Thats not how you fight, whelp. Were not finished training until my arm is broken, the ethereal voice pronounced.
The man clutched his head as if the voice injured him. Shut up father he whispered angrily.
Do you girls recognize this man? Bodhran asked of Meridios stunned companions. Both had trained worried looks as best as they could to the mercenary, who had fallen to his knees just as they had. Bodhran let a hearty laugh go and watched them both wince under the agonizing echoes of his laughter.
Youll regret this, Bodhran, the mercenary declared grimly, keeping his face to the floor.
I worked too long and hard to keep this family name dignified to have you ruin it by being soft, the voice threatened.
Your father is right, a feminine voice declared.
Thats it! Meridio yelled, pulling himself up despite the extreme vertigo. He took tightly clenched fists to his side and pushed them towards the Mystic illusionist, channeling a spell through the quick expansion of his fingertips. Bodhran staggered backwards, enveloped by a tight shell of white energy. Waves of dizziness subsided by a barely detectable measure, but the reptilian appeared paralyzed by the aura. Struggling against the force field, the illusionist kept an eye on the mercenary, having lost his confidence under the confines of the enchantment.
Meridio pointed his right finger in the air above himself and generated a handful of shards of supernatural ice. Aiming a furious glare at the stunned adversary, he pointed his free left hand at Bodhran and hurled the right downwards, sending the shards straight at the Mystic.
With a grimace, Bodhran forced himself against the white field and out of the path of the assault, leaning to the side just enough to escape being stabbed by the barbs. As the illusionist gradually straightened his posture, Meridio swept his broken left arm upwards as quickly as he could. A score of larger ice spears rushed towards the man from behind the Mystic. In a quick spasm, Bodhrans torso caught most of the spines; the white field dissipated instantly and the once-proud illusionist fell forward limply.
Slowly, the image of the hallway righted itself, and the swirls of color that plagued the three combatants faded. The only trace of the dizzying experience was the intense ringing in the ears of all three. Marle stood and warily stepped over to where Lucca had seated herself. Helping the inventor to her feet, the princess offered a reassuring pat on the back as Lucca calmed her own breathing down. Meridio remained where he stood, cradling his fractured left arm in the right and keeping a deadly glare fixed to the corpse of the Mystic.
Marle, half-leading her friend, approached the man. Are you alright? she asked cautiously.
Still watching the body, he replied, Ready to move on? in what was obviously a forced congenial tone.
Yeah, she answered, sneaking a glance to Lucca, who was heaving a sigh and pushing away to stand on her own.
A wave of his uninjured arm beckoned the mans companions to follow him. As they rounded the freshly-dead Bodhran, Meridio snuck over to where his mace had fallen and retrieved the weapon. Having allowed the two young ladies to pass him, he strolled leisurely up to the corpse, paused a step, smiled at his enemy, and planted his foot firmly on the back of the Mystics head.