On the deck of the Delphinus, a final terrible battle must be fought for Arcadia's future. An interpretation of how the final battle might have happened.
Vyse wasn't sure how long they'd been fighting. He'd known from the beginning that it would be a long, hard battle, but this... this, he'd never envisaged. Zelos itself was all but invulnerable to their attacks, weapons useless against its sleek silver surface, and every time they hurt Ramirez, or what was left of him, they could see his injuries heal themselves. Zelos' power sustained him, healed him, protected him, even from what should have been fatal wounds. Nonetheless, they kept fighting, the mismatched six who were all that stood between that terrible fusion and the rest of the world. Already they'd defeated Ramirez in straightforward combat; already the Delphinus had damaged Zelos so severely that most of its 'body' had been shed or destroyed. They couldn't give up now!
Barely in time, the young pirate blocked another attack. Ramirez was focusing on him, forcing him into a defensive stance, barely giving him time to think between blows. Alone, he'd have fallen long before, unable to fully defend himself against what would have been a relentless onslaught, let alone heal his injuries - but with the six of them working together, they were holding their own. If Vyse hadn't been in the thick of battle, he might have smiled. The six of them, friends tried and true, fighting for everything they held dear, would not allow themselves to be defeated. Friendship and courage would see them through. None of them would allow themselves to think of the alternative, or they'd all lose hope, and the battle with it.
Another strike, harder this time; Vyse braced himself and still only just managed to stay upright. His left arm ached where the blunt edge of his cutlass had been slammed into it again and again. Eyes fixed on Ramirez, he knew there would only be a moment before the next blow came - but then a shot rang out from behind and to his left, a shot that struck Ramirez high on the shoulder. The Silvite flinched, biting back a cry of pain, and both Drachma and Enrique took the momentary opening. Already pulling back, the fusion of Gigas and human narrowly avoided Enrique's sword thrust, and Drachma's blow hit only the slick, silvery surface of Zelos. But it had given Vyse a much-needed respite, and that in itself made it worthwhile, even though Ramirez's shoulder was already healing.
Ramirez stayed back, and everyone braced themselves for a magical onslaught, Aika quickly focusing on blocking whatever he might do. Instead of attacking, however, he gestured to Enrique, and the Valuan prince's expression changed, eyes wide and staring as if seeing into some other world. Moving as though in a dream, Enrique turned to Drachma and began a flurry of precise attacks, each strike fast enough to hit before the intended victim could recover from the one before. The old fisherman fended him off as best he could with his mechanical arm, but if Vyse hadn't jumped forward, knocking Enrique to the ground, he might well have been killed. The prince's struggles were oddly uncoordinated, and rapidly stopped, blue eyes clearing and looking up into Vyse's brown ones with a confused expression.
"Vyse!" shouted another voice, Aika's voice, in a completely different tone. Vyse instinctively ducked, flattening himself - and Enrique - to the deck. He felt the wind ruffle his hair as a blow from Zelos passed through the space his body had occupied just moments before, and realised with a chill of fear that he and Enrique were horrendously exposed, and, in their current position, quite helpless. But instead of the attack he expected, he heard a choked-off cry from Ramirez, followed by a shot from Gilder and the ping of a bullet hitting the silver 'skin' of the Gigas. Vyse rolled onto his back as ice encased both Gigas and human, jumped to his feet as it shattered again, and reached back down to help Enrique up before Ramirez had a chance to recover himself enough to strike at them, pulling the prince to his feet.
Vyse backed off, dragging Enrique with him, as he spoke. How had Zelos - it had to have been Zelos - done that?!
"I don't know," Enrique answered, confusion in his face and voice. "It was like a nightmare... a terrible nightmare..."
Vyse nodded, grimly. This whole battle was a nightmare... and he had a feeling that they would see worse than this before it was over.
"Hold on, Enrique. We'll win this yet!"
With that, he stepped away from the shaken prince, preparing to attack Ramirez once more. Enrique's expression firmed into one of resolve as he, too, raised his sword to fight again. Vyse was right; they would win. They had to. He could not let the rest of the world suffer beneath the Rains of Destruction.
And thus the fight continued. Though there were six of them and only one of Ramirez, Zelos' capability to heal him seemed inexhaustible. His Valuan uniform grew steadily more ragged and bloodstained, but his strength didn't so much as falter. This newly-revealed aspect of Zelos' power came into play several more times, and even though Fina healed the others whenever they needed help, the battle was taking its toll on them.
Once again, Vyse was finding himself the target of a relentless series of attacks. The first had caught him off-guard as Zelos spun around from an assault on Enrique that left the young prince kneeling, unable to put any weight on his left leg. Enrique would have been killed if it hadn't been for the others' quick reactions. Aika and Gilder had run around so that any attack would expose Ramirez to both their weapons, Drachma putting all of his strength into a tackle that knocked Zelos sideways, Vyse dashing across the front of the Gigas, extending his cutlass to cut across Ramirez's legs. He'd thought he was clear, far enough from Zelos not to be hit, and stopped, turning, for another strike - and Zelos had spun, hitting him in the side. It had knocked him to the floor, and he'd barely been able to get up in time to block the next attack. Now he found himself forced onto the defensive, blocking, countering whenever there was enough of an opening to let him do so.
While Fina focused on healing Enrique, the remaining fighters - Aika, Gilder, and Drachma - tried to get Ramirez's attention away from Vyse. Aika's boomerang shot past, narrowly missing Vyse's head on the right, slashed across Ramirez's chest, the shallow wound healing as swiftly as the rest had, and returned equally close on the other side. It wasn't much, but it seemed enough. Ramirez pulled back.
Vyse watched him, cautiously. Far worse injuries than that had barely even slowed him down before. Was he planning something? Or could he be weakening?
Ramirez and Zelos extended their right arm... towards Vyse. Despite his efforts to resist, he felt a fog clouding his mind. Everything suddenly seemed unreal, dreamlike. Time seemed to drag out, each second taking an age to pass by. His vision blurred, everything indistinct, as though underwater in a mist. The others saw his eyes widen, saw the now-familiar staring, semi-vacant expression come over his face. But he made no move...
It was Ramirez who made the first move. As Vyse tried to penetrate the fog blanketing his thoughts, the fusion of Gigas and Silvite shot forward, bringing him easily within Zelos' long reach. Before anyone could react enough to stop him, he'd lifted Vyse off the floor, holding him loosely in Zelos' right hand. Vyse tried to struggle free, but his body refused to respond. Ramirez spoke, just once, a single, chilling word.
Six tentacles erupted from the featureless bulge on Zelos' back, each one ending in a deadly sharp tip. Vyse saw them coming through the haze, still in slow motion. He tried to struggle again, to pull free, but his unresponsive body still wouldn't co-operate, and all he could do was watch through the fog clouding his mind. The silver tentacles fanned out around Ramirez with a deadly precision, pushing forwards incredibly slowly, or so it seemed to Vyse - and then, suddenly, seemingly without crossing the intervening distance, they had struck, extending past him, turning, and striking from behind. The six points slammed into his back in almost perfect unison, shattering the young pirate's ribcage. Vyse's mouth opened in a soundless scream. The fog had lifted from his mind, replaced with shock-dulled agony. Every moment stretched out into what felt like forever as he stared down at his chest, a mess of blood and silver. Dimly, he realised Ramirez had let go; just as dimly, he realised he couldn't feel it, couldn't feel anything but the fast-fading pain in his chest. And the air... air on his face.
Vyse choked, trying to cough, and tasted blood, felt it trickle down the side of his face as all but one of the silver tentacles was jerked free. The pain was fading fast, being replaced by a resigned sense of the inevitable. Try as he might, not even Vyse could defy this. He'd come so far, done so much... but now he was dying.
To the others, too, the seconds seemed to be stretching out forever. They watched in horror as Zelos' tentacles slammed into him, into and through his body, sharp silver tips visible on the other side. Vyse's body jerked with the impact, cutlasses slipping from his hands and clattering to the deck, eyes still alive and speaking volumes of helpless shock and pain. His head twitched, choking, and a trickle of blood ran down from the corner of his mouth.
Ramirez let go and pulled all but one of the sharp-tipped tentacles free, reabsorbing them into the silver bulge they had sprouted from, staining the slick surface with blood. With the last, he held Vyse aloft, on a level with Zelos' head, and spoke a single command.
Layer after layer rippled back from the featureless 'face' of the Gigas, revealing a small, glowing sphere at the centre. An immense blue-white beam shot from it, completely enveloping the pirate... a beam of pure Silver magic. Vyse's protection was no use against the sheer power being brought to bear. Nothing could withstand that irresistible force. The already dying pirate's spirit was shattered, ripped from his body and cast into death's endless void. Not even the strongest known Silver magic could bring him back now.
Ramirez swung Zelos' tentacle sharply to one side, throwing Vyse's limp body off. It hit the deck and slid a short way before fetching up against the railing, broken and utterly lifeless. For a moment, the remaining five friends could do nothing but stare. Vyse couldn't be dead, couldn't be... but there he was.
It had been Vyse who had brought them all to this point, Vyse who had united them, Vyse whose determination and courage had led them ever onward, doing the impossible, the unimaginable, winning through time and again against overwhelming odds... and now he was dead. From that moment on, they knew they could only delay the inevitable.
Driven by fury, they turned back to Ramirez, each attacking in his or her own fashion - save one. After her first moments of shock, Fina ran to Vyse, kneeling by his side, heedless of the blood streaked across the deck. Gently lifting his head to rest on her lap, she stared into his familiar brown eyes, half-closed, dimmed in death to a dull brown worlds away from their normal appearance. She tried not to look at the rest of him, desperately trying not to see the broken ruin of the person who'd so swiftly become one of her closest friends. No matter what happened, he'd always been there for her, promised he'd do everything in his power to help her...
Fina's eyes closed, the motion loosing silent tears to trace twin paths down her face. Vyse was far beyond the reach of any magic she'd ever used. How could she possibly bring him back? And how could Ramirez, the person who'd once been like an older brother to her, have done this, even with everything she and the others had learned? How...?
Lifting her left hand, Fina let it rest on Vyse's forehead, cold to the touch as though he'd been dead far longer than he truly had. Even though all seemed hopeless, she couldn't give up... Vyse had taught her that.
Her voice broke, and she tried again, calling on the power deep within her that until now had remained largely untapped. Her Moon Stones would be no use to her now; nothing but her own innate abilities could possibly hope to do this.
Even Drachma, little inclined towards magic, could feel the power building within her. Ramirez broke off his attack on Aika to try and reach Fina, stop her from doing whatever she was trying to, but Drachma, Gilder, and Enrique barred his way.
What is she doing? Ramirez asked himself. Zelos' power raced through his body like a magical fire, even as severely damaged as it was. They couldn't hope to stand up to it... could they? Already they'd broken the supposedly invincible Gigas, taking it on as it tried to shape its indestructible form. This battered remnant still had power, but the damage they'd done couldn't be undone so rapidly. It was unstable, dangerous, barely restrained... but it was enough. It would have to be enough. He'd kill them, kill them all like he had Vyse, and after them, the rest of the world...
Ramirez didn't want to admit to himself that that attack had been more draining than he thought. The more he used Zelos' incredible powers, the more he so much as made it change shape, the weaker it became. It would be able, given time, to regenerate, but it was time he didn't have, and the constant need to repair the injuries his partially merged body received continued to weaken it. And Fina was trying to do something; he could sense the power building, far more power than he had ever thought he'd feel her use. She couldn't possibly bring Vyse back; Ramirez knew what he'd done to him, destroying both his body and his spirit. The pirate was beyond all hope - and yet she continued.
"...Bathe us... in your light..."
It was impossible, and she knew it, but she had to try. She had to... Vyse had to live. He was so badly hurt, and so cold, so very far gone, out of the reach of any magic she'd ever used before... but she couldn't let him slip away without at least trying to save him.
Ramirez redoubled his efforts to reach her, but all four of the others now stood united in his way, determined not to let him past. If anyone could bring Vyse back now, it would be Fina. She had the same potential he'd had before he fused with Zelos, the Moon Crystal that was her life force giving her powers far beyond the reach of anyone but another Silvite. If it was at all possible to revive the fallen pirate, then she would be the one to do it, and Ramirez couldn't allow that. But no matter how hard he tried to fight his way to her, the remaining four blocked his path, and there was no way he could kill all of them in time, though he tried his hardest.
Gilder was already down on one knee, his left arm limp, though still fighting as best he could. Ramirez's attack on Aika had left her injured, too, and she hadn't had time to heal herself before crossing to defend Fina. A swipe of that immense silver right arm hit Drachma full-on, knocking him aside and leaving him dazed for a moment; a few moments later a further attack slashed across Enrique's sword arm. The defence was crumbling... but it had been long enough. The power Fina had been building had been loosed.
Magic from all six of the Moons washed over the fighters. Ramirez felt it flow into each one of them, felt it pass him by. It healed their wounds, clearing their minds of exhaustion, shoring up their determination, their courage, leaving them all feeling renewed, as though they had just awoken to a bright new morning, as though the long and horrific battle had never begun. Most amazingly of all, Vyse's eyelids flickered, blinking a couple of times before opening fully. He was alive...
Aika was the first to see, Vyse and Fina visible in her peripheral vision. She couldn't stop herself from calling his name, overwhelmed with wondrous relief.
Fina's eyes snapped open at the sound of Aika's cry, staring down into familiar brown ones that were as alive and clear as ever. The scar beneath the left remained, just as it had for as long as she'd known him, a mark rather than an injury, but everything Ramirez had done was gone, terrible injuries healed as though they had never been. She echoed Aika, amazed, hardly daring to believe that what she was seeing was real.
All the others had turned to see, and even Ramirez was still for an instant, shocked into immobility. How could she have done that? It shouldn't have been possible! Why, why had Vyse been revived almost the moment he killed him? Why him? Why?
Only a moment passed before he forced himself to move again. No matter what, he would kill them. Vyse would die again, and this time, he wouldn't come back. Turning on the closest, Enrique, as Vyse began to slowly sit up, Ramirez would have caught him completely off-guard if it hadn't been for Vyse's shouted warning.
"Enrique, look out!"
Enrique spun, barely bringing his sword up in time to block Ramirez's attack. Vyse jumped to his feet, forcing himself to move despite his lingering disorientation. He needed time to come to terms with what had happened to him, but it was time he didn't have, and he forced the thoughts of his death to the back of his mind as best he could. He could deal with it later... if there was a later. Trying to ignore the blood soaked into his ragged clothes, streaked and pooled across what felt like half the deck, Vyse ran to retrieve his cutlasses from where they'd fallen. He had to fight, no matter what happened. He couldn't let Ramirez win.
Steadily, Zelos continued to weaken. Vyse's impossible revival had given the others new strength, and they firmly believed they could win. With all six of them to face, Ramirez would have lost long ago if it hadn't been for his fusion with Zelos, the Gigas' power healing even fatal wounds as he received them. But that strength was no longer the limitless force it had been. What was left of it, though incredible in its own right, was a thin, battered shadow of the effortless power that had called down the Rains of Destruction - and it was fading, failing far too fast.
In and of itself, a simple fading would not present the same problem as what was actually happening. True, in his half-merged state it would almost certainly kill Ramirez, and even if that wouldn't have, it would be likely to absorb the power of his Moon Crystal in an effort to sustain itself, but that was not what he could feel taking place. Instead, Zelos' weakness was causing it to lose control. The strong, steady, unstoppable flow of power he'd felt before the battle with the Delphinus had become a faltering blaze of energy, weaker than before but still potent enough to annihilate him were it to be loosed, fluctuating wildly - and getting worse even as it got weaker. Zelos' capability to control its power, to protect Ramirez's comparatively frail body from its full extent, was failing faster than the power itself, every demand he placed on it further stressing already strained regulatory abilities. He was barely stopping himself from showing some kind of reaction to the surges of raw power, almost intense enough to hurt.
Attention focused on Enrique, and Gilder behind him, Ramirez only just lifted his left arm in time to knock Aika's boomerang aside with Zelos' left hand, which moved in perfect synchronisation with his. Had his reactions been dulled even slightly further than they already were, it would have hit him in the face. But with the bulk of the Silver Gigas' arm momentarily obscuring a good portion of his vision, he couldn't see what else was coming from his left until it hit him. The impact knocked the fusion sideways, and Ramirez let out an involuntary cry.
It had been Drachma who hit him, charging the moment he saw the Silvite temporarily blinded, putting all the strength he could into the attack. His artificial arm had struck Ramirez's legs hard enough to break bone. For a moment, no-one moved, staring in a kind of horrified fascination as Zelos' power snapped the clearly broken bones back into place, accompanied by a bitten-off cry from Ramirez.
The Gigas healed him, of course, fusing shattered bone and restoring damaged flesh, but at a cost. The fusion of Ramirez and Zelos sagged forward, propping itself up with its right arm. Zelos' control of its power was almost gone. It flooded from the damaged Gigas' core in pulses of raw, barely-contained energy, searing through Ramirez's body like fire. With every wave, he shuddered, and Zelos shuddered with him. Gritting his teeth against the pain, Ramirez forced his eyes to stay open, forced himself to keep on moving. His gaze locked on Vyse, green eyes staring at the blood-covered pirate with a crazed intensity. If nothing else, he would kill him. He had to. Almost without thought or care for the attacks of the others, he sent Zelos floating across the deck to the young captain, his every move focused towards Vyse's death. Ramirez knew, now, that he was dying. So much damage had been done to Zelos that he didn't know if it could regenerate even if he did somehow win the battle. But he would take Vyse with him. He would avenge Galcian's death.
Vyse blocked desperately, driven back by the attack. Ramirez's crazed single-mindedness, combined with his own death not long before, was unnerving even him. Despite their victory with the Delphinus and Zelos' evident weakness, shown in the way it had to support itself, in the fusion's regular shudders, it was beginning to feel less and less likely that they would ever win, as if the fight would go on and on forever. Exhaustion slowed his reflexes, but the waves of pain dulled Ramirez's enough, Vyse's companions distracted him enough that Ramirez could never land a fatal blow. They were yet again at the stalemate much of the battle had proved to be. Unless someone broke it, the entire battle would hinge on the power left in Zelos and in the party's Green - and Silver - Moon Stones, on whether they or Ramirez would lose their ability to heal themselves first. Neither side wanted to rely on that.
Again, it was Drachma who broke the stalemate, charging at Zelos with all his strength. He hit only the side of the Gigas, the impact still enough to knock the fusion aside. Ramirez took just a few moments to recover... but it was a few moments too long.
Now's my chance! If I don't finish him now, we may never do this!
Vyse swept the cutlass in his left hand through the air in front of him, causing small whirls in the air currents that he, with his affinity for Blue magic, could sense and amplify. As he spun those breaths into a powerful whirlwind, he raised his right cutlass to the skies, calling lightning from the tumultuous stormclouds above. Like most people on Arcadia, Vyse had a dual affinity for magic, primarily aligned with Blue, but secondarily with the powers of the Yellow Moon. Now he was using that ability to its fullest. Slashing down with his cutlass, he sent the lightning-charged tornado racing towards Ramirez.
The Silvite's eyes widened as he looked up, just in time to see Vyse bring his cutlass down! There was no time for him to try to protect himself, scarcely even time for him to realise what was coming at him before it struck, dragging him spinning into the air, buffeted by winds that seemed to want to tear him apart. Lightning coursed through Ramirez's body, amplifying the pain of Zelos' fluctuating power a hundredfold, leaving him unable to concentrate enough to even attempt to stabilise the Gigas. And with every strike, the power surges grew ever worse, ever more uncontrolled, as Zelos expended more and more of its precious energy to heal him. If this didn't stop soon, either the lightning or Zelos itself would undoubtedly kill him.
Summoning all of his determination, Ramirez battled the pain, trying to force himself to hold steady against the winds. If he could just do that, he could make Zelos move forwards and escape. Jerking in the grip of the winds and the lightning, eyes flickering open after each shock only to close again with the next, he nonetheless managed to slow, then stop, the Gigas' tumbling, bringing it to the relatively calm - though still shot through with lightning - centre of the tornado. If he could just hold on long enough to force Zelos through the winds...
Vyse, however, had other ideas. He wasn't finished with Ramirez yet. Running towards the tornado he himself had created, he leapt up and directly into it. Lightning crackling harmlessly past him, the swirling winds lofted him safely higher and higher until he was level with the half-Silvite fusion.
Ramirez saw through pain-blurred vision Vyse appear in front of him, seeming to hang suspended there for an instant, held by the winds of his creation. How could it be? He should have been dead! Ramirez should have been winning! Since that day began, Ramirez's life had been shattered once again, and by him! How, why? Why?
Vyse had to die. He had to. Regardless of the cost to himself, Ramirez would kill him, for everything he had done, for everything he was! Through the pain clouding his mind and the strain of simply holding Zelos in place, he struggled to find the extra strength to extend a single arm, just far enough to intercept the young pirate. But it was strength he didn't have, that Zelos couldn't give him in time, and though his arm wavered and began to lift, it wasn't enough.
In the instant Vyse hung there, suspended in front of Ramirez, he struck out as hard as he could with both cutlasses, one after the other, each one cutting a diagonal path across Ramirez's body. Even as he did so, the whirlwind began to die away, and they both fell, Ramirez uncontrolled, Vyse still held safe by the last breath of his winds. Though the pirate captain's landing was as light as ever, Zelos crashed to the deck seemingly without even any attempt to prevent the impact. Could it be? Was it over, at long last...?
Zelos stirred... and slowly, impossibly, amazingly, righted itself again, right arm pushing it up off the ground. Ramirez's body hung limply from the places where he and Zelos had merged, blood dripping to the deck from the wounds Vyse had given him. He looked more dead than alive - but then, with a tremendous effort, he raised his head, eyes once again meeting Vyse's with that terrifyingly single-minded crazed determination. Vyse stared back, hardly believing what he saw.
How can he still be standing?!
That attack had drained the last of Vyse's strength, leaving him utterly exhausted. If Ramirez attacked now, there was no way he'd be able to hold him off for long. Had it all been for nothing, no more than a futile gesture in the face of destruction?
Ramirez couldn't move. Zelos' power was out of control. He was holding it up with sheer willpower, and it wasn't enough, couldn't possibly be enough. Pain burned through his body with every surge of uncontrollable power, rising to unbearable agony, dying away to nothing, and rising again.
Zelos was done for. It was too badly damaged, its control, once so sure, so effortless, gone completely. The attack Vyse was expecting would never come. Raw power tore through the last crumbling vestiges of restraint, Zelos' core glowing with a blinding light, Ramirez's back arched and arms outflung in helpless reaction to the power tearing him and the Gigas apart. Hidden from view by its radiance, his voice rang out in a final, agonised cry, railing against a world that had taken everything from him, refusing to accept this fate as though denying it could make it false, as though his will alone could reshape the world.
"No! This can't be happening!!!"
And then... there was nothing. As the light faded, Zelos' motionless form was revealed as an ashen statue, its very molecules torn apart by the power that had so briefly raged unchecked, its strength the seeds of its own destruction. It seemed to erode even as Vyse watched, as though thousands of years were passing in the space of a scant few seconds, the insistent wind carrying it away in a flurry of particles too small to see. All that remained was Ramirez's Silver Moon Crystal, falling unsullied to the Delphinus' blood-streaked deck, shining incongruously as though bloody battles and shattered hearts were things it had never seen.
Vyse let himself fall to his knees, then flop backwards to a sitting position, heedless of everything else. It was over... they'd won.
Fina stared at the Moon Crystal that was all that remained of Ramirez, trembling, tears falling once again. It was over... over, and everything she once knew was gone, everything she once loved. Yet she'd been fighting for what was right, because she had to, fighting alongside her friends for the world and the people she'd come to love... for Arcadia, for Vyse, for Aika, for Enrique and Drachma and Gilder... for everyone.
Stumbling a little, Cupil floating slowly beside her, she crossed to Vyse and sat down next to him, resting her head against his shoulder, heedless of his blood-soaked clothing. It felt sticky, clammy and cold against her skin, but through it she could feel a living warmth, the life she'd refused to allow Ramirez to take. Letting his cutlass slip from fingers that had stiffened around the handle, Vyse lifted his left arm to rest around Fina's waist. Battered and exhausted though he was, he knew she had to be going through more than any of them. Fina leaned against him a little more, her eyes closed, tears still trickling down her face.
Zelos was gone. Galcian was no more. And beneath the Delphinus, unnoticed at first, Soltis began to sink once again, returning to what the Silvites had made its rightful resting place... the bottom of Deep Sky. The world was safe, and at long last, their fight was over, though it would echo in their minds for years to come.