A guttural blare warned the five that Helminthes was about to attack. The group scattered as the beast drove its head downwards towards them. Pulling its head out of the soil, the monster took a moment to spit out the great clumps of dirt that it had shoveled out of the ground and resumed its cobra-like posture.
Instinctively, each fighter, upon regaining a battle stance, quickly scanned the surroundings for his/her comrades. Nobody was seriously injured from the first attack.
Frantically, Lucca called out: “That thing might just absorb my gun shots like it did my Magic! You guys have to find a way to stop it!”
The robot and the amphibian were the first to respond. Frog gave a knowing wink to the automaton, saying, “Shall we?” Robo responded according to their preplanned attack pattern, catching the swordsman as he leapt onto the android’s shoulders. Spinning in place, Robo grasped the knight errant firmly by the heels and swung him outward. When Helminthes was in view, the robot let go of Frog’s legs and sent the swordsman flying towards the great worm.
Frog gripped the shimmering Masamune and pointed it straight towards the beast. With blinding speed, the fighter drove his sword into the creature’s face, missing its eyes by inches.
Helminthes swung its head backwards in pain, bellowing and trying to shake the frog loose. His unwillingness to release his hold on the Masamune caused the swordsman to pitch dizzyingly back and forth along with the beast. Finally jarring the weapon loose, the monster threw both Frog and the Masamune towards a crowd of dead trees.
Without pausing, the worm bent its head down towards Robo. The android knelt and hastily began powering up his “Meltbeam” (as Lucca had called it). But before he could attack, the creature, emanating an odd bluish aura, stretched its mouthparts outwards and sprayed a dense geyser of water straight at the automaton. The powerful hosing threw Robo backwards and into a decaying tree. Shattering through the rotted wood, the robot landed heavily and not far from Ayla, who was still unconscious despite the clamorous din around her.
As he slumped to his back, Robo unknowingly let a few of his intake vents, usually closed tightly in the event of a water-based assault, fall open. Liquid quickly seeped into his frame, penetrating the looser joints and causing shorts throughout the android’s body.
Reacting swiftly, Lucca raced to where the robot had landed. Cursing under her breath, she expeditiously shut down as many of the electric parts as she could, but a great deal of damage had already been done, and Robo would require major repairs before he would be able to fight again.
“This is crazy,” Marle said as she and Crono, the only two left in a position to fight, regarded the huge flatworm. “We can’t outmuscle this thing,” she declared seconds before the beast drove its head downward towards them again.
Leaping and rolling out of the way, the young lady thought for a second and came up with an idea. “Wait, Crono!” she called, stopping the lad from what would likely be an ineffective charge against the monster.
“I have an idea,” she explained. Standing straight up, the princess clasped her hands together and murmured a silent chant. The voiceless words helped her concentrate her energies as she focused on the proper spell.
Helminthes stopped moving when Marle began her meditation. Almost looking uneasy, the creature started to back itself up. It then turned around and pushed itself further away from the castle ruins using its paddle-like limbs.
Crono, wanting to keep the beast within range of whatever spell his companion was conjuring, chased after the great worm. With a leap and a quick flourish, he buried the Rainbow Sword into the back of the monster. The weapon easily penetrated Helminthes’ thick hide, but just as easily slipped out when it whipped its tail in anguish. The boy was thrown to one side, but quickly righted himself, having not been thrown from the same height as his amphibian compatriot.
The young swordsman would have tried another attack had he not heard the sharp whistle that accompanied the wave of energy that Marle had cast towards the beast. A barely visible ray of white Magic struck the creature’s tail end and instantly turned into tangible ice.
Holding her palms out towards the monster, the girl sent a constant stream of energy flying at Helminthes. The envelope of ice speedily grew and covered the length of the beast.
Helminthes uttered an almost panicked gurgle as it tried to turn its head backwards to smash the ice casing. But the icy covering had already reached a point that prevented the creature from twisting far enough to retaliate.
Crono ran to Marle, who was straining as she rushed to complete the ice shell. Eyes squinting and arms quivering from the tension, she called out:
“I’ve never made this much ice before! I don’t know if I can finish this!”
Falling to one knee, the young lady gritted her teeth and continued to throw more energy at the worm. Crono took a step towards her, unsure of what, if anything, he could do to help her and ready to catch her if the strain caused her to collapse. He knew, however, that interfering might ruin the entire spell and all of her efforts, so he held himself back.
Finally, her magical energy spent, Marle cast the last bit of ice onto Helminthes and pulled her arms back in agony. She would have fallen on her face had the young ronin not caught her by the shoulders. Slinging an arm over his own shoulder, Crono led the exhausted young lady back to the area where Ayla, Robo, and Lucca remained.
Lucca assisted the youth as he sat Marle against the tree next to Ayla. Producing a small vial from a pouch on her belt, the inventor told Marle:
“Drink this ether; it will restore some of your energy and help you relax.”
Dizzy from exerting herself, the princess mumbled, “I couldn’t finish. Crono, you have to do something to stop it.”
The boy stood up and regarded his friends, all rendered powerless in one way or another. He looked to the dead grove, where his fellow swordsman had been cast moments before. Then, with a stony countenance, he turned and marched towards Magus’ creation, determined to slay Helminthes one way or another.
“Be careful, Crono,” Marle called.
Twisting his blade out to his side, the fighter approached the great worm, encased up to its head in ice. He could feel the vapid eyes of the Magus upon him, but he ignored the wizard and put his full attention on the beast.
Walking the length of the worm, he saw that, in its retreat, Helminthes had reached within about fifty yards of the westernmost coastline. The creature wheezed uneasily with one pair of exposed gills. Reaching its head, Crono studied the monster’s visage. Its contorted mouthparts lay sagging out of its mouth. Ugly horns jutted forward from the center and sides of its head. What struck the boy most, however, were the beast’s eyes. Smooth and reddish in color, they appeared dead, as if Helminthes itself had no life essence. Looking at the great worm, trapped once again in ice, Crono saw it as a sort of husk, a shell of a once living--
Suddenly, the lad’s thoughts were interrupted when a shattering sound pealed through the air as Helminthes arched its midsection upwards, cracking through the ice prison. The remainder of the envelope fragmented with ease as the creature assumed its cobra posture and bellowed at the youth.
Crono braced himself and prepared for battle as the monster commenced its assault. The young swordsman was pushed backwards as Helminthes charged, driving its head repeatedly downward and sending volleys of ethereal water at him.
Within minutes, the beast had driven Crono to the western shore of the island. Cornered, the boy knelt and launched his counterattack.
Brandishing the luminescent Rainbow Sword, he jumped at the monster and delivered a glancing blow to its side. Landing mere feet away, he leapt again, cutting Helminthes at a different angle. Crono continued this attack pattern, slashing and slicing away at different sides of the beast and never pausing long enough for Helminthes to find him to react.
As his onslaught perpetuated, the creature acquired a myriad of wounds on the segments just below its head. Some were long slices, while others were deep puncture wounds; altogether, the numerous gashes were spilling a great deal of the monster’s blood.
Sensing a significant loss of strength in the great flatworm, Crono sprung his last offensive. Leaping behind the creature, then jumping onto its back, the youth raised his sword and buried it into Helminthes’ flesh, just below the beast’s head.
Then, squeezing the sword’s handle tightly and concentrating his inner energies, Crono projected a surge of electrical Magic through his blade and into the body of the monster.
Roaring in anguish, Helminthes tried vainly to shake the boy loose, but its muscular control was hampered by the steady flow of electricity into its body. Thrashing clumsily, the beast finally succumbed to the force of the boy’s attack and fell to the ground.
To Chapter Seven
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