AsaHi’s scream was sharp in the air as SoYa felt himself thrown, scattered across the floor. Then he began to slide. The entire Spire was leaning, groaning as the two Arweinydd locked in on each other in the throws of silent mind-battle.
Jolts of energy crackled through the structure, the forms of both Zerom and Zemi taking on a strange, wavering-edged appearance. It seemed like they were shifting, changing… transforming under the force of Chaos that now saturated everything around them.
SoYa had cried out, begged, beseeched. But his pleading went unnoticed, a tiny voice lost in the tempest of power that tore them all from the grips of reality and threw the chamber into pandemonium.
One glance through the windows told SoYa that the world was altered, as if they were been dropped into some alternate state of existence. The Apprentice could see the black froth of clouds swirling and churning endlessly around the tilted Spire. Streaks of eerie blue flickered and flashed underneath them, a brewing of pulsar energy gathering at the command of the Arweinydd. Somewhere far in the distance, a single point of white light flickered, throbbing like the fragile heartbeat of a world that awaited the final word.
SoYa could feel AsaHi by his side. He could see the terror reflected in her eyes as she gaped at the shifting, irresolute form of Zemi. He could sense the fear that filled her soul, but he could also sense her longing… her desire to rush up to the Dreigiau… to yank him away from the clutches of the Chaos that was bent on consuming him.
To save Zemi.
He wanted to take her by the shoulders and ask her.
How can anyone stop what’s happening?
Still, SoYa couldn’t shake the sense that AsaHi’s thoughts were resolute. As if she knew something that he didn’t. As if she knew what needed to be done.
The otherworldly glow flickered in the depths of her soft eyes. AsaHi was completely focused upon the two Arweinydd who were still locked within a battle that SoYa’s senses could not comprehend. Finally, when the voice of Zerom came again, it was distorted and mangled, nearly beyond understanding.
“Can you feel it now, Zemi?” the dark eyes burned upon his brother, “This is the real power… the real potential… and you will be the one to open the way to it for me.”
“Open the way to what, Zerom? What have you gotten yourself into?” the Dreigiau growled.
With a startle, SoYa realized that Zemi’s voice was also distorted, sounding nothing like it usually did. AsaHi’s hand gripped his sleeve more tightly, her breath gasping as she, too, responded to the alterations within the Arweinydd.
“The great Dreigiau, choosing his path in such naivety? I can hardly believe it. In fact, I don’t,” Zerom sneered. “You aren’t fooling anyone here, pretending you were some benevolent higher being watching over the Earthians.”
A snarl broke over Zemi’s face, his form wavering threateningly, almost losing all grasp on physicality. “You don’t know what you’re talking about!”
“You’re sucking them dry, all the while, you became more powerful,” his sneer grew more twisted. “Well, you were too slow, Zemi. I discovered your secrets. I discovered the power that you commanded, and power even beyond that.”
“You’ve discovered nothing! All you’ve done is take what was already here and tear it to pieces,” the Dreigiau argued, lip curling back.
“Exactly,” Zerom’s eyes flashed, a sudden feverish look shifting over his face. His own motion mocked Zemi’s, his hair streaming behind him in strands of white, grey and black. “You’re a fool, Zemi. Spending so much time pouring your energy and essence into these worthless creatures. They only linger shortly, then pass and die. The real power is found in their death, in the release of their connection to this world. In their passing and destruction.”
Zemi hissed sharply, visibly taking a step back.
“That is Chaos.”
A shiver rushed over SoYa’s body as the final word fell heavily over the room, lingering heaviest upon the Dreigiau. Zemi gave a choked sound, his form crackling and sparking, threatening to fall apart.
“Your fall will be the most delicious of all, Brother,” Zerom’s fevered expression became more and more delirious. One slender hand reached out, dark energies gathering, pulling from the very core of his existence. “If I could gain this much power through the destruction of these worthless, pathetic Earthians, I can’t dream what will come from you.”
A deep, distorted growl shook through Zemi’s body as he fought, his image wavering into near transparency. The impact of the Chaos knocked the breath out of SoYa, even where he crouched watching the struggle, seeped in a crushing weight of hopelessness.
Zemi gathered his strength, readying himself against the darkness. The more energy he gathered, the more transparent his form became, as if his defenses only served to cast the Dreigiau deeper into the fray of Chaos.
But why? If Zemi is trying to fight against it… if he’s not giving into the Chaos… if he wants to strike out against Zerom then-
The words of Aur sprang back to him as his thoughts flew back into action again. The creature said that the power of two Arweinydd opposing each other would cause great destruction, that the heart of Chaos lay within the power released through the act of destroying.
Zemi’s about to do exactly what Zerom wants him to!
All thought froze in SoYa’s mind as the realization fell upon him.
If Zemi’s energy clashes with Zerom’s, then the destruction will not only start a reaction that will feed Zerom’s power, but also take everything with it!
The Apprentice’s eyes fixed on the flow of light and darkness that gathered within the hands of the two Arweinydd. Though he felt tiny, an insignificant Earthian in the vastness of the events unfolding before him, SoYa found himself fighting to stand. His face hardened in determination against the tremors of fear that rippled over him. He knew what had to be done.
“You can’t do this, Zemi!” SoYa’s voice resounded through the twisted chamber, far louder than he had imagined it could ever be. His feet slipped in the shadow-coated floors as he struggled to push forward against the force of Chaos that shook the stone underneath him.
There was no reaction. Neither Arweinydd seemed to even notice his pale, shivering form only yards away.
“ZEMI!” he cried again, a burst of dark energy cutting his shout short. Doubling over, SoYa reeled, catching himself on his palms and knees. The skin on his face stung from the blast, almost singed, though there was no flame.
The Apprentice watched as the Dreigiau lifted his hands, green slitted eyes fixed upon the form of his brother. The gathering of power swept around Zemi, only moments from release. And Zerom loomed over it all, awaiting fruition, his twisted sneer gleaming from the shadows.
Shoving upwards with all of his strength, SoYa fought to gain his footing again. The stone floor reeled, ever more violently, as if knowing his intentions. His mind swam with the overwhelming pressure of Chaos and conflicting energy. The Apprentice grit his teeth and bit back the pain as every muscle in his body ached to put one foot in front of the other.
“Zemi, don’t let Zerom trick–”
Unhearing, Zemi’s hands dropped. A release of power. Pale white energy leapt viciously from the Dreigiau’s open palms towards the shadowy form of his brother.
There was no time to think. No other way. As the pulse of brilliant energy flew from the Dreigiau’s hands, SoYa launched himself forward with the strength he could find. Both hands outstretched, he cast a pitiful last-moment attempt at mind-protection before the blow.
The Apprentice threw himself before the Dreigiau. His body crumpled like a discarded piece of parchment as Zemi’s pale white blast struck him.
A gurgled cry of anguish ripped from SoYa’s mouth. The world flashed through a vision of painful white. His weak mind-warding shattered, sending him recoiling as if he was struck with an arrow to the brain.
Though he expected instant death, he found that he could still see, though as if from a distance. The world reeled and spiraled in flashes of light and dark. He could hear the grief stricken sound of AsaHi’s cries.
Then her face hovered above him, looking somehow dim. He reached for her hand, grasping it weakly. SoYa managed to force three final words from his throat before darkness overcame him, “AsaHi… help Zemi…”