Chapter 97: Battle and Birth
Valiod was a blur. Very few of the Travelers could make out his exact movements. To everybody but Robo, Masa, Mune, and Christina, he seemed to be nothing more than a whirlwind, letting out occasional flashes of black energy. Rakin, on the other hand, was almost stationary, except for his sword arm, which could only be made out by the flashes of light reflected from the Rainbow.
For the above-mentioned four, it was clear that Valiod was in a frenzy, wildly hacking and chopping with his black sword, while Rakin concentrated on keeping Valiod at bay. Regardless of his speed, Valiod's strength was amazing. If anybody but Rakin had been fighting, they would have been outmaneuvered or overpowered. Valiod looked to be strong enough to break a human in two, despite his size, and he looked in a mood to do it. His eyes were wild, and he was breathing heavily more from rage than from fatigue.
Rakin was a different story. "Give up, Valiod," he called, his voice calm and his breathing slow. "You can't win. Even if you beat me, there are enough magic-users here to reduce you to ashes. And your children will die either way. Get rid of your weapon."
Valiod threw himself at Rakin anew, and the Prince only survived by sidestepping to let the small figure fly past. "Never!" Valiod shouted, spittle flecking his lips. "You cannot win! I am the Almighty One!"
Rakin jumped over a low sweep of Valiod's blade and brought the Rainbow around for an overhead slash, which was promptly blocked. "Valiod. Listen to me. You know of my predictions. They always come true."
"Yes, you liar!" Valiod agreed, throwing a flurry of quick stabs, none of which connected with flesh. "You tricked me with them! But I'll never be tricked again."
"Think, you idiot! Why would I spare your miserable life unless I thought it was important?"
"Idiot! Me!?" Valiod slashed upward at an angle toward Rakin's chest, but Rakin knocked the dark blade off course.
"Yes, you. Listen! I've seen the future. If you die here, billions will die. Trillions. I'm trying to save them."
Valiod laughed as he parried a blow. He was calming down a bit, though he was still too fast to follow easily. "Billions, you say? Trillions? Humans, I presume. Well, I don't give a damn about your billions or trillions of humans. All that matters is the destiny of the Lavoids. You humans are nothing but fodder for our kind." Valiod was, for a moment, knocked off balance by an attack of Rakin's, but quickly recovered.
Rakin was somewhat angered, now, and began to press the attack to Valiod. "We humans are more than you can imagine. Remember where the Lavoids came from. Humans! They're all human!" Many of the Travelers, Christina included, gasped, but Rakin continued, "You're human, no matter what you may like to think, Valiod. You're just a mutated version of the original."
Rakin only had time to bring his hands up in defense as darkness exploded from Valiod, throwing the Prince backward. He was deftly caught by Crono and Magus, who simply nodded and set him on his feet. Rakin still had the sword in hand, and he was uninjured, but he was breathing a little more heavily than usual. Valiod looked almost ragged, but the hatred on his face said that he wasn't even close to being done.
"You're wrong," Valiod told him. "I'm more than human. So much more. I'm a Planeswalker, the scion of Lavos, a mighty Lavoid! And I have created offspring, the likes of which this universe has never seen! I may not have found the Epitorum, and my Black Wings may be weak, and I may not be able to Planeshift, but I have done something that hasn't been done since the Shi' Kari created the queen! I have created new Lavoids, an entirely new race!" He pointed toward the organic mass behind him, at the huge free-floating form inside. "A new queen, and her children already created. Given time, they may even destroy the original weak, inferior Lavoid race from which they were spawned, or they may simply rule them. Either way you look at it, I'm the father of the supreme Lavoid race." He laughed. "They'll allow me to age a few years, and they'll give me the power I deserve, and then we shall rule the universe together!"
Rakin shook his head. "You fool." Valiod blinked, but Rakin continued, "Do you think the Lavoids know anything about gratitude? Look at what happened to your mother Zeal. As soon as she lost to my father and the others, Lavos cut off her immortality, and let her age to death. You know it to be the truth, just as I do. What makes you think they'll treat you any better just because you're their father?"
Rather than answer, Valiod leapt at Rakin again, a second blade of black energy appearing in his other hand. Rakin brought the Rainbow between them just in time to block the crossed blades. Valiod wasn't discouraged, however, and spun around to lash out with his foot, kicking Rakin in the side of the knee. Rakin staggered, but the Rainbow was nevertheless there in time to block the two blades again. Valiod seemed to be growing more determined by every step as some internal madness drove him on, but Rakin was beginning to weary slightly.
A sudden shout of "My Prince!" rang out, and the two warriors jumped away from each other in surprise. Everyone turned to see Janus, his wife, and his daughter Schala, standing at the entrance. The shout had, surprisingly, come from Schala, whose face was even now suffused with (and Christina nearly choked when she saw this) fawning adoration. Without warning, she suddenly ran up to the two warriors, and leapt to throw her arms around Rakin, whom she immediately began to rain kisses upon.
This, much more than any previous action, deeply disturbed Christina.
Rakin tried to fend her off, but it was rather difficult to do so while holding a long katana. Eventually he settled for holding her at arm's length, but this did little to abate the pure joy in her countenance. Valiod and Rakin both seemed confused, and Rakin looked more than a little embarrassed.
"Schala," he managed. "What... was that about?"
"I apologize, my Prince," Schala gushed. "But upon seeing you, I... was overcome. I was so happy to see you alive..."
Rakin glanced around, and Christina was almost sure he was avoiding looking at her, personally. Why should he look at her, anyway? Christina didn't care who he... associated with. Of course not. Why should she care? Just because he'd recently given her the best experience of her life was no reason to feel attached.
Rakin's face was turning a rather interesting shade of red as he tried to work out an appropriate response to Schala's statement, but Valiod saved him the trouble. "Schala!? You, too, have turned on me?"
Schala turned toward him, and her expression was as icy as it had ever been. Except for the fact that she was holding Rakin's hand so tightly that he couldn't extract it short of cutting it off. "How could I turn on you, Valiod, if I was never loyal to you in the first place?" She turned to look at Rakin again, and again her face was transformed, all coldness gone. Christina wanted to hit her. "The moment I saw my Prince, I knew that our destinies were intertwined."
Rakin blinked. "Well, yes... In a way..."
"And though he has not accepted my heart yet," she continued, oblivious to Rakin's discomfort or some of the Travelers' amusement. "He will, one day. Until then, I shall serve him faithfully."
Rakin closed his eyes as if wishing he were anywhere else. In fact, he was wishing exactly that. "Schala, I've already told you what I can see of the future. I see you with another man, not-"
She placed a finger on his lips to silence him, and looked as if she might kiss him again, when Valiod suddenly burst out with "You two have never even met before! How could you be his servant?"
Finally, by pretending that Schala wasn't there, Rakin was able to smile, albeit weakly. "I've got loud thoughts, Valiod. Only a telepath as weak as you couldn't hear them. But even muted by your possession, Schala still heard me. She and I have been working together ever since she was fourteen to bring everything to this day, exactly as it is, even down to influencing who you sent to which Generator. I mean, if Caerina, Wethreem, and Ledune had been at the Fire Generator, I don't think Gaspar and Melchior would be here today."
The two Gurus nodded in grudging agreement, and Valiod scowled. "So, you think you're clever, eh? Playing me for a fool? Well, we'll see who the fool is here..." He abruptly began to giggle, though he didn't seem to realize it. The twin blades evaporated. "Yes... We shall reveal the true fool." His black energy wings flared briefly, but he didn't seem to notice that either. Dark energy was gathering around his hands, streaking up his arms like electricity. Valiod smiled, and the darkness gathering around him cast reversed shadows on his features. Rakin raised the Rainbow and pushed Schala out of the way of whatever was coming. Valiod seemed to be staring at something none of them could see. He continued, "Are you a fool, Rakin?"
His right hand opened, and fired forth a beam of crackling darkness. It slammed into the Rainbow with force enough to smash stone. Rakin held his ground, but only barely. The beam continued pouring from Valiod, who looked rather pale from the effort, but he didn't look as if he intended to stop. Rakin gritted his teeth. If he let up for even a moment, the beam would tear through him and probably not leave enough left for burial. For that reason, he was very worried when a crack suddenly appeared in the gleaming material of the Rainbow's blade.
Rakin dropped to the ground just as the blade shattered and the beam tore through the air he'd been occupying until very recently. He could do nothing but lie down on the fleshy floor of the chamber as the beam continued on to slam into the wall behind him. It continued for what seemed forever, but eventually shut off. Rakin looked up to see Valiod, grinning tiredly.
"Did your nice sword break? Too bad." Valiod raised a darkly glowing hand. "I've got enough for one more." Rakin didn't move. There wasn't much point. He had very little chance of dodging, and running around wouldn't help. "I'm not a fool," Valiod continued. "Only one who risks his life for others needlessly is a fool." Valiod's smile disappeared. "You didn't answer my question, Rakin." Rakin blinked. "Are you a fool?"
Christina didn't have time even to cry out as the beam jumped from Valiod's hand, straight at her. She closed her eyes so she wouldn't see everyone's horrified expression. There was a slamming sound, which must have been the beam smashing through her body. It was strange, she thought, that she didn't feel any pain. As time went on, though, she realized that she was still fully conscious. She opened her eyes.
Rakin was standing in front of her, arms outstretched (though how he had gotten to her before the beam was a mystery). The black energy writhed and crackled as it tried to get past an invisible barrier an inch from Rakin's hands. Christina took a step to get away, but then she noticed his expression. He was straining himself to the point of exhaustion to keep that shield up. Getting there in time to save her had probably drained him. And he was unlikely to dodge this beam as he had the first, since it was aimed slightly lower.
Rakin's eyes didn't move as she stepped up beside him, but he did smile appreciatively. Christina tried to help, somehow, but her mind was soon swept up by Rakin's presence, and then he was using her power to reinforce the shield. It wasn't enough, though. Now that she was helping to maintain the shield, she could feel how weak it was. Rakin was on the point of losing consciousness, so tired was he, and Christina wasn't much better. The shield was thin as paper, now.
Christina flinched in surprise as Crono stepped up behind them. Rakin nodded slightly, and suddenly Crono was helping to support the shield too, somehow. One by one, Travelers stepped up, adding their own minuscule bits of power to the shield. Lucca added her determination. Gaspar and Melchior added their wisdom. Wethreem added his sense of justice. Masa and Mune added their loyalty. Glenn added his courage. Corea added her commanding presence. Ayla added her unquestioning faith. Magus added his strength of will. Janus and his wife added their dedication. Gedd added his curiosity. Robo somehow added his humanity. Even Schala managed to add her adoration of Rakin, though Rakin and Christina both wished she hadn't. And Marle added her hope.
The beam was sundered, thrown back on itself by the overwhelming force it had tried to crush. Valiod cried out at the backlash, and staggered back, stunned. For a moment, they all shared Rakin's eyes, all seeing the life flowing everywhere, and then he released the link, and they all fell back into themselves, subtly changed by the experience.
"The person who risks his life for others isn't the fool," Rakin told Valiod. "The fool is the person who underestimates the power of the human spirit."
But Valiod wasn't listening. He was staring at the sac containing the unborn Lavoids. Valiod began to laugh, and abruptly it ruptured. Foul-smelling fluid poured out as the Lavoids awoke.
"Isn't it cute?"
-Every person on Earth upon seeing a newborn
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