Trials of the Valiant Chapter 28
By The RPGenius
Worker 8 struggled with an Archaic Demon. They wrestled each other to the ground, each seeking to gain an advantage over the other.
It was not long into this struggle that Worker 8 came to the conclusion that, mighty as he might be, his strength was not as great as that of the demon's. Still Worker 8 fought on, knowing that if he could keep this one demon at bay, the others' chances at victory would rise substantially.
It did not matter if that victory had to come at the sacrifice of himself
"Exhale bloody air Dark Holy!"
Alma was interrupted from her spell casting by the spell of a nearby Archaic Demon. As cold, dark light swept over her, an explosion of unholy energy ripped through her, causing her to scream in agonizing pain and fall on her knees. That spell nearly killed her, but she continued to doggedly charge her Mbarrier magic spell.
Seeing that its spell had not finished her off, the Archaic Demon charged Alma to destroy her. As it reached her and prepared to bring its powerful fist down on the prone girl, its face twisted in an ugly sneer of wicked glee.
Suddenly, Boco was between them, pecking and clawing at the monster, and warking angrily. The demon snorted in annoyance and a little pain at this assault, then grabbed Boco by the neck. It lifted the bird up, then smashed the poor chocobo's skull across the ground. Boco was instantly knocked unconscious. The demon turned his attention back to Alma.
A shot rang out, and then another. The demon howled in pain and clutched at its arm. Alma saw Mustadio further away hastily trying to refill his gun. Unfortunately, the demon also saw him, and ran in an all-out charge to take vengeance on Mustadio.
Byblos growled in helpless fury. This battle was going to end in total defeat for Ramza and his comrades without his help. They were powerful indeed, but there was no possibility of their defeating Sleeris without his aid. Lucavi had sent Sleeris on this mission of Ramza's assassination for a reason, and only Byblos had the knowledge of the Zodiac Monsters that could help.
Unfortunately, he could not get to anyone else to help them, for the Apanda that had been summoned blocked his way. Both beasts circled one another for a few moments, then pounced at one another and joined in a murderous scuffle. Biting, hacking, slashing, neither monster seemed to be able to get the upper hand, though both were bleeding profusely from many wounds after only a minute of frenzied combat.
The Apanda backed off and sat still. It appeared to be awaiting an attack from its opponent. Byblos waited a moment, thinking to catch his breath if his opponent was going to give him the chance to.
Suddenly, the Apanda growled, "Bio!" and Byblos realized that it had not been awaiting attack, but preparing to cast a spell. This realization came as his body began pulsing with the poisonous pain, but it was too late to do anything about it.
The pain distracted Byblos long enough for the Apanda to knock him backwards and onto his back. Byblos tried to rise, but he no longer had the strength as he felt the poison taking its toll on his strength. He was more immediately concerned, however, by the Apanda taking a pouncing position
Meliadoul was pinned in the corner by the last Archaic Demon. It had not actually attacked her yet, oddly enough, but seemed more intent with keeping her away from Sleeris.
Meliadoul thrust her sword forward and was rewarded by the sight of it plunging deep into the body of the demon. The demon growled in pain, but did not seem fatally wounded. Instead, it grabbed the blade stuck in its belly and, with a grunt, pulled it from within itself and from Meliadoul's grasp.
The demon turned and threw the Save the Queen far back into the cave. There was a very distant clatter as it landed.
Sneering triumphantly, the demon turned his murderous gaze back upon the now helpless Meliadoul
Agrias, Vantan, and Ramza faced Sleeris.
Agrias swung her blade down in an arc, calling out, "Heaven's wish to destroy all minds Holy Explosion!"
The blast of light enveloped Sleeris, but when it left, the Zodiac Monster of Cancer seemed totally undamaged.
Vantan ran forward and slashed at Sleeris. His Rune Blade struck the monster's shelled body with a heavy clang, but could not make even a mark on the shell.
"Pathetic!" came Sleeris's taunting voice. "It will take more than that pathetic little blade to penetrate my shell!"
Sleeris raised its arm and brought its claw heavily down upon Vantan's skull. The White Knight dropped to the ground unconscious.
Ramza tightened his grip on his sword as Sleeris lumbered toward he and Agrias. "I'm sure we can defeat it working together, Agrias. We've been up against worse odds before."
Agrias appreciated his sentiments, but she knew as well as he did that it was false bravado put on to try to raise her spirits. Sleeris's armored shell had, so far, completely repelled all their attempts to damage it. This battle did not look hopeful
Byblos saw the Apanda flying through the air to finish him off. Suddenly, a rod slammed into the Apanda's stomach, sending the small demon flying into the cave wall. It did not get back up.
Byblos managed to summon the strength to lift his head to see his savior, Malak, standing before him.
Malak knelt down and held a bottle of Antidote to Byblos's lips. He drank eagerly and felt the poison's pain dwindling to nothing. Still, he was too hurt to stand.
"Byblos," Malak told him, "I'm going to pick you up and bring you to another enemy. When we get close enough, use your Shock power. Don't worry, if anyone attacks us, I'll use a potion on you before they can wound you further."
Byblos felt himself being lifted up gently. He opened his mouth weakly to protest, to break his silence to the humans and tell Malak what needed to be done, but he was simply too weak still to form the words.
Mustadio saw the Archaic Demon that had been attacking Alma come charging for him. Hastily, he fumbled with his ammo, trying to reload his gun before the enemy reached him.
Mustadio cursed inwardly as his shaking hands dropped the bullet he was attempting to load. Picking it up would take too much time; he would have to do with only the one he had already loaded.
Mustadio raised his gun to eye level. He forced his arms to stop shaking, knowing that if he missed this shot, his life would end. He carefully took aim of the demon as it got closer and closer.
The monster had almost reached him. Just a few seconds more and it would have him. Mustadio could hear the beast's gleeful squeal of the anticipated kill, could smell the rank odor of the unholy.
He pulled the trigger.
With a bang, the gun went off, and a hole appeared between the eyes of the Archaic Demon. Its face froze in the shocked expression of unexpected death as a trickle of black blood creeped down from the wound, and it fell forward as the life left its legs.
Mustadio was happy to be alive, but the demon had been so close that, in falling, it had landed on him. He struggled to shove the heavy carcass off of him, but could not. Both the Archaic Demon and Mustadio were effectively out of the fight.
Worker 8 had been wrestled onto his back. As he gazed up at the Archaic Demon above him, his logic circuits began calculating that he was about to receive a rather severe beating.
His opponent made a fist and drew it back, preparing to smash it into the robot. Suddenly, a heavy staff smashed the demon across the skull. Alma stood behind it, having finished casting Mbarrier on her brother and Agrias.
The Archaic Demon grunted more in annoyance than in pain. He did not release Worker 8, but used the fist that he had planned to attack the robot with to sideswipe Alma aside, knocking the girl to the ground.
Before the demon could turn his attention back to Worker 8, his head was once again assaulted, this time with a longer, stronger rod. The demon turned to face Malak. Just as he did, Byblos, still cradled in Malak's arms, concentrated on his anger, on the aching wounds covering him, of the blood that had flowed, on his bitter hatred for those that had done this to him. Above his head, the sphere of evil energy created by his resentment was growing.
The Archaic Demon never even had the chance to lift his arms in defense as the ball of hatred hit him. With a groan, the demon fell, dead.
"Thank you, Malak, Alma, and Byblos," Worker 8 said before lumbering off to aid Ramza and Agrias against Sleeris.
Malak helped Alma to her feet. "You're hurt. You should cast MBarrier on yourself," he advised her.
"Thank you, Malak," she said as she began to concentrate to do as he suggested.
Byblos, still in Malak's arms, had regained a tiny portion of his strength by now. He knew that he had to tell Malak and Alma now. Worker 8's help against Sleeris would slow the monster from killing Ramza and Agrias immediately, but Byblos doubted that even the mighty Worker series robot would be able to stop Sleeris. Only Byblos, former demon of Lucavi, knew a way to beat Sleeris.
"M Mala k " Byblos gasped hoarsely, the act of speaking difficult in his weakened condition.
Malak jerked his head at the sound of Byblos speaking, and both he and Alma looked at the small demon in shock. "Byblos, you can talk?" Malak asked in disbelief.
Byblos had no time for their amazement. "M Me Meli ad oul " he struggled to get the word out. It was too much exertion for his weakened body, and he could say no more.
Malak looked about and saw that Meliadoul was cornered by the remaining Archaic Demon. "You're right, Byblos, she's in trouble. Alma, as soon as you finish casting MBarrier, give Byblos a few potions. I'm going to go help Meliadoul," Malak said.
As Byblos watched Malak go, he tried to call out, "No!" but could do no more than whisper it. Malak had not understood Byblos's meaning--that Meliadoul was the only one who could possibly save them from Sleeris.
Agrias and Ramza hacked and slashed viciously at Sleeris at inhuman speed, thanks to the enhancing effects of the MBarriers that Alma had cast on each. Though neither missed their mark, Sleeris shrugged off these attacks as though they were nothing. Even the Ragnarok didn't have the power to penetrate the Zodiac Monster's shell.
Ramza and Agrias stepped back for a moment. "Any ideas?" Ramza asked his companion and love.
Before Agrias could respond, Sleeris waved a claw and called out, "Ice 3!" Ramza felt the pain of the immense iceberg as it dropped on him, but thankfully much of the force of the attack was absorbed by the MBarrier.
As that attack ended, Ramza concentrated on his own spell. Seeing that Ramza was preparing a spell of his own, Sleeris moved to attack. Agrias moved in front of Ramza to protect him and swung her sword to use her Split Punch technique. The enormous magical sword that erupted from the ground barely even grazed Sleeris.
Ramza finished his preparation. Opening his eyes, he stretched his hand forward and called out, "Ultima!"
An explosion of intense magical energy enveloped Sleeris. When the spell was over, though, Ramza groaned to see that it had no effect.
Sleeris laughed aloud. "Ha ha ha! How could the Bloody Angel have failed to exterminate your pathetic lives? Weaklings!"
The laugh was cut off as Worker 8 came barreling into it. The monster was knocked back several paces by the sheer force of the immense robot slamming into it. Sleeris remained standing, though, and turned to face this new enemy.
Worker 8 drove his fist into Sleeris's body as hard as he could, all the power of the immense Steel Giant being poured into this attack. The fist of Worker 8 struck Sleeris with an ear-shattering crash. Ramza and Agrias actually dropped their swords to cover their ears from the immense noise.
Though the force of this blow forced Sleeris back another couple of paces, even the mighty fist of Worker 8 could not penetrate the armored shell protecting Sleeris. The only visible damage was not to be found on Sleeris, but rather on the slightly dented fist of Worker 8. Thankfully, the robot did not have circuitry for feeling pain.
Sleeris smashed its claw forcefully into Worker 8's chest. With the powerful claw meeting the steel body created a clashing sound almost as loud as the one created by Worker 8's attack.
As Sleeris withdrew the claw, a small dent could be seen in Worker 8's chest. The robot's eyes flickered for a moment, then went dim.
"Worker series robots so irritating, unless you know that a certain spot on their body contains an easily damaged, yet vitally essential part," Sleeris chuckled hoarsely.
Sleeris turned its attention back to Ramza and Agrias.
Meliadoul twisted her head to the side and heard the large demon's fist slam into the wall where her head had been just moments before. The demon scowled in annoyance.
For the past few minutes, Meliadoul, helpless without her sword, had been focusing all her energies into dodging the monster's attacks. Sooner or later, she knew, the Archaic Demon would tire of this game and simply begin casting attack magic, which she could not escape from.
The demon grunted as it pulled its fist from the wall and shook it to ease the slight pain from the impact. While it was distracted, Meliadoul formed her own fist and drove it into the chest of her foe with all her might, hoping that that area might be weakened from her earlier sword thrust.
If the demon had even noticed that she had attacked it, it gave no indication. Meliadoul growled in helpless fury, knowing that it was far too strong for her to cause any damage.
Meliadoul heard a voice cry out, "Asura Back!"
A large, fiery explosion erupted in front of her, almost searing the woman. The demon noticed this, and the second explosion to its side as well. It growled and turned around to see Malak a few steps behind it. Before the demon could do anything, however, a third fiery blast exploded. This one, unlike the first two parts of Malak's spell, hit its target dead center.
The quick fiery explosion caused the demon to howl as its flesh was seared, but when it subsided, the monster still stood strong. With a roar, it ran to attack Malak.
Malak began to concentrate on casting another spell, but the Archaic Demon reached him before he could finish. Before the evil beast could attack, however, Meliadoul threw herself on its back and began punching its head, gauging its eyes, and generally doing whatever she could to damage and divert it.
The demon grunted in irritation and reached back. It grabbed Meliadoul and ripped her away from its back. The demon then proceeded to slam a palm sideways against her head and knock her unconscious. It tossed her aside and turned again to Malak.
Malak, however, had finished preparing for the attack. "Sky Demon Back!"
Again, the first part of the attack missed, but Malak kept concentrating. The ground ripped itself from the floor of the cave and began slamming itself into the Archaic Demon in large chunks of rock. The victim of this attack howled in pain as the pieces of stone assaulted the wound in its chest from where Meliadoul stabbed it earlier.
As one attack ended, and the demon struggled to stand upright, another began. More rocks slammed into the monster in a steady flow, and after a moment, the beast gave a pained whimper and fell forward, bones everywhere crushed by the momentum and mass of the stones.
Malak stood for a moment, getting his breath back as he looked around quickly. Meliadoul was still unconscious, and would have to remain so, since Malak didn't carry any Phoenix Downs. Still, all the minor monsters had now been accounted for, so unless Sleeris came this way, she'd remain safe. Alma had finished casting MBarrier on herself by now, and was administering a few potions to Byblos.
Looking further, Malak saw that Sleeris had apparently disabled Worker 8, and was now advancing on Ramza and Agrias. Malak ran to help them.
Sleeris swung its large claw in an arc, trying to smash both Agrias and Ramza in one blow. The Zodiac Monster had underestimated their agility, however, and both warriors nimbly jumped back to avoid the attack.
Ramza was beginning to tire by this time, the strain of many futile attacks and narrow dodges taking their toll on his stamina. Looking over at Agrias, he could see that she, too, was beginning to tire slightly. Sleeris had trouble hitting them, but unless they could find some way to harm the servant of darkness, they would eventually become to fatigued to keep evading its attacks.
Sleeris lurched towards its intended victims again. This time, though, any attack it may have been planning was cut off by the arrival of Malak, who ran in front of Sleeris and swung his Octagon Rod with all his might.
The result was a resounding, somewhat gong-like noise as the rod bounced off the head of Sleeris and threw its owner off-balance.
Ramza groaned and mentally crossed off the attack he's been planning on Sleeris's head. Apparently, it was just as hard as the rest of the body.
Sleeris issued a small growl of minor irritation and grabbed Malak. It tossed him with some force into the nearby wall of the cave. With a thud, the man impacted the wall and fell to the ground. He didn't get back up.
Just then, Ramza felt his movements speed up, and his bruises and small cuts began to slowly scab over. Alma had cast an MBarrier spell on him.
Unfortunately, Ramza was not the only one who noticed this. Sleeris, having dealt with Malak, now turned to the source of the spell and ambled over to her.
Ramza's sister held her ground even as the giant beast approached her. Byblos knew that she had to be terrified, but her hands never even shook as she gripped her staff tightly. A fine pose for death, without fear, only courage.
And death it would be, Byblos knew. Nothing could stop Sleeris now. Meliadoul had been their only hope of stopping it, and she was not only separated from her sword, but also unconscious. By the time both situations were remedied, Sleeris would have killed everyone present. Even now, it was partially toying with Ramza's party. Its orders from Lucavi had obviously been to exterminate Ramza first and foremost, so Sleeris was not wasting time attempting to kill his friends. It would have plenty of time to finish them off when Ramza was dead, but for now, knocking them unconscious would suffice.
Byblos watched Sleeris approach Alma. The Zodiac Monster of Cancer had not seen him yet. Byblos could run now. The cave was open, there was no one to stop him, and Sleeris certainly wasn't fast enough to hope to catch him. If Byblos fought Sleeris, he, like Ramza and all his friends, would have his life ended here and now.
Now was the chance, while Sleeris was going to deal with the Beoulve girl. One quick leap to the side, then a short dash out of the cave, and Byblos would be free of his debt to Ramza and possibly free of any attempts of Lucavi's to find and punish him. One quick leap
Sleeris reached Alma. She tried, valiantly and futilely, to attack it with her small staff. Sleeris was preoccupied
straight at Sleeris's armored body. His claws gleamed as he flew through the air. Byblos could not leave Ramza and his allies to their deaths alone. They had fought for Byblos against Elidibs and the Apandas that had been sent after his desertion to track down and eliminate him. They had saved him from capture, a fate worse than death. Byblos would repay Beoulve regardless of cost.
As Byblos made contact with Sleeris, he became a blur of motion as he slashed in a wild frenzy against the shell of the demonic beast.
Sleeris stopped as if puzzled, then hissed an amused response to Byblos's attack. "Byblos, old comrade, what are you doing? Surely you know that my armor is far too strong to be pierced by your insignificant assault."
With that, Sleeris knocked Byblos away, as a man knocks away a bothersome insect. Byblos landed hard on the floor. He struggled to rise, but two of his limbs had been twisted and perhaps broken upon impact with the ground.
"Byblos, old comrade, what are you doing? Surely you know that my armor is far too strong to be pierced by your insignificant assault."
Agrias's mind froze for a second as she heard Sleeris's words. As Byblos was knocked away, and Alma ran to stand beside her brother and his bodyguard, revelation dawned on Agrias.
"Armor " Agrias murmured in realization.
Sleeris turned to face the three remaining opponents. "Enough play. You die now."
Agrias would have one try at this before Sleeris was upon them. Hoping, praying, willing for it to work, she concentrated. Meliadoul had taught Agrias some of her Divine Knight abilities, but had not really finished instructing Agrias on this one technique.
Agrias looked at Ramza, standing grimly, ready to protect his sister and his bodyguard with his life. The man she loved.
"Shellbust Stab!" Agrias cried out, and swung her sword
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