"It's not here?!" Jessie breathed, "Where else could it be?"
Foce took Jessie's left hand in her right, and held them out together, "It's in the Everworld. He's also there, if he wins, anything he says goes, justice is according to his whims."
"That's Vindicatus for you." Feyerous grumbled, shaking his head, "What a wickedly ambitious human."
"Well, at least we know where to go now." Ray took a deep breath and let it out slowly, "Where is the Everworld?"
"The gates to it are at the top of this tower." Banshee replied, starting ahead, "So it's ironic that we could never reclaim it."
Jessie started for the atmos and turned to the others, "Let's stop him."
At the top they uncovered an elliptical, grey portal, through it they could see a towering tree. Jessie knew she sensed something when they docked the Infinity Tower.
"It's getting even warmer..." Foce remarked with a pant, "it's the Summer of Death."
"We won't let it happen!" Jessie cried reassuringly, though the very air shook as though to defy her. They rushed into the portal, but only Banshee, Feyerous, and the Infinity Guardians reached it before the roof fell in.
"You guys go on ahead, we'll met you on the other side!" Sarah promised as they turned back and flew to the airship, "We'll send you our strength!"
Reassured, the four proceeded and found four others watching patiently.
"I see you have that." Vindicatus nodded at the sword Jessie carried and smiled, "No matter, I am immune to the light."
"Then it's me you should worry about." Foce turned to Feyerous and Banshee as well, "These two as well."
"We're all evenly matched here." Vindicatus smirked and gestured to the trio beside him. The four stood their ground and stared as the Guardians approached, "The crystal you seek is here, but you'll be interested to know that I have surrounded it in the dimension of our world, it doesn't recognize the power of the Everworld."
"We'll change that in a minute." Foce held her hands to the side and ran alongside the others.
What happened next was all a blur, a stab of pain grew into a wound on her back as another duplicate stepped out of her, back to back. There were now eight vampires present, she turned to face the new one as a familiar snap reached her ears, when she saw the doppelganger, she was struck by a light attack and immediately hit the ground.
She rolled onto her side and helplessly watched the battle. Jessie tried to reach her, but Commander got to her and bit her. Lover and Thinker teamed up with three others and brought Banshee and Feyerous to their knees.
Foce managed to crawl close to Jessie and tried to get up, "Jess...our power as Guardians isn't enough."
"No...it is. I sense a strength in you...ah, I see now." Jessie slipped her finger between Foce's neck and the thorn motif necklace, "Foce, do you truly believe your life and death is cursed?"
"I...I refuse to think that...any longer." Foce whispered, smiling brightly at Jessie.
"Then lift the curse yourself; don't hate them like you hated yourself, they are you, I sense the same pain in them that you felt all that time, the same hurt buried just beneath the surface of your skin." Jessie closed her eyes briefly and smiled, "When she bit me, it clicked...I felt her tears on my shoulders, just like when you bit me that first time."
"They can be saved?" Foce sat up and stumbled over the quaking ground to where they stood in a circle with the crystals, the newest one sat, however, and Vindicatus stood with the Infinity Crystal in the middle of the ring.
"You know how to kill me."
"You can't kill me, you don't even know my name!"
"I am Foce."
"Lover...why?" she asked the first she reached, "Don't you see this one get you what you want. Attention, affection? Not quite the same,the mortals you enslave could fake anything you ask from them, and you'd never know the truth, because you've never felt love, you didn't feel that and can't feel it, because you have the hate I held for myself still in your heart, you share it with Commander. She's in pain too."
"I-I don't need your sympathy!" Lover turned away from the crystal for a moment and saw--and felt--the pain from the original one.
"Please, don't reject me, don't reject yourself, don't hate yourself, you have the chance to stand down, besides, if you believe Vindicatus will let you have free reign...even he would, would you accept as a bargain for life something meant to be freely given? If you want friends, you can't put them in chains. Would you want that?"
"I-I...I just don't ever want them to leave again...you know how that hurts."
"And we won't feel like that again...if Jessie's able to find us a cure for this curse, but would you be willing to accept that chance, or are you content to force people to like you?" she held her arms out, "Ultimately, the choice is yours."
"I-I..." Lover slowly stopped giving energy to the crystal she tended to and turned around.
"Don't do it!" Vindicatus shouted, "We like you, we're your friends!"
"Then why do you always make fun of my feelings, why do you mock me," her voice cracked and the last part came out in a whisper, "if we're friends?"
"Lover, it's okay now. Return to me, it's been too long since either of us has felt whole."
"Yes...Foce, thank you." Lover smiled at the Guardian of Light who watched them, "Or rather, thank her for me, would you?"
Foce hugged the duplicate until the last of her silent weeping faded with her body, only light remained. It glowed around Foce until it, too, faded, "I feel a bit stronger."
"You won't deceive me, my eyes are open!" Thinker roared, not tearing her eyes from her work.
"I know you don't allow yourself to feel anymore, but even I never betrayed my moral compass; you aren't against 'making an example' out of the demons that won't follow you and Commander, why?"
"Because, I know...I see the world for what it is: Hideous. It wants to die, because even beautiful things fade, and the damage they cause is irreparable, I'm liberating us, the whole world!"
"You think that, but how much power do you have in determining this new fate?"
"I trust Lord Vindicatus with my life."
"Even when he would have killed us back on that tower?"
"He deemed his work a failure."
"And do you know why we failed? Because we refused to destroy, you've just lost your way. I've lost my way, you are the manifestation of what I wanted: A cold, calculating perspective. You think this is the right way, but you don't let yourself feel; understand what you're doing with all that you are! You're becoming what you hate, cruel fate ending all that is beautiful far too soon!"
"I-I'm doing them a favor...speeding up the clock. If no one exists to suffer, none will suffer."
Foce rested a hand on Thinker's shoulder, "You're only happy when can vent, when your feelings are valued, when you can direct your pain at someone else. So go ahead, what will hurt more; the loss of what you love, or knowing you had a hand in cutting short the time that could've been spent with it?"
"I...w-what have I become, Foce? I'm a monster!"
Foce pulled her duplicate around to face her and hugged her tightly, "Don't say that again, you know how Jessie hated it when I said that!"
"I don't want to fade away, though, I don't want to go back to you."
"You're a part of me, you'll never fade away. So how about it? Fight and destroy that which seeks to harm what we hold dear?"
"I...I will, I swear it." her voice echoed in Foce's ears even when she was gone.
"I do, too, Thinker."
She met with the others, some were confused and unsure, some of them too grief-ridden to see clearly, but all eventually stepped down.
One remained no matter what she said, and was silent. She had a hood that looked just like her.
"You're the one who walked out of me, aren't you?"
"I guess. Gotta point?"
"I want to know why you're unhappy, but I can't see it."
"She's gonna die...again. I'm not gonna look at her, she's a traitor, and we died on her first...we're traitors. We promised to always be together, to live out our days together...and now this."
"I know it hurts, but don't you still love her?"
"Of course, that's the problem! If I could hate her I'd feel better--I need to hate her or I'll go mad! Not thinking of her doesn't work; ignoring it doesn't make the pain go away, and going after a dream will only lead us both to disappointment."
"I know, but that's what makes us human, not having a perfect world when we're born or when we die, the pain and the joy, so stop halfheartedly giving your power to this crystal; stand up and fight with me against Vindicatus!"
"Am I giving this crystal power? Hadn't noticed. I've been numb so long..."
"Come here, you."
"H-hey, hands off my shoulder, man, I can stand!"
"Hah, good to know."
"But promise me something? Promise you won't hold back, if you do that, and really intend to do it no matter what, I'll return, so promise you'll love her like she's gone tomorrow, because one tomorrow in the future..."
"I promise." Foce breathed, "I promise..."
"Heh, I believe it...that makes me happy. I'll never forgive you if you make her cry."
"I wouldn't have it any other way."
"Oh great, you're here." Commander scoffed, "Go away, you don't like me, don't pretend to! I don't want you to!"
"Well, it was never you I hated, just me...but I can accept what I am now, I don't need violence to do that."
"Yeah, you just need my name."
"And all that lies within your name; to understand you, to understand myself, to accept it and give it a home. I know you're tired of not being able to control the outcome of life, you're sick of all the pain humans cause each other, but exterminating them won't help, neither will controlling them, and when, inevitably, you find them impossible to control, you will kill them all. What good would that have done?"
"Show me...what good does saving them do?!" the ground cracked behind them and Fellnyx emerged.
"I remember you." Foce whispered to the giant monster, mother of all venomwings.
"She's recovered from her wounds, you can't kill death...but anything alive can die, it's so pathetic!" Commander flew up to Fellnyx and closed her eyes, spread her arms and wings, "Fellnyx, take my pain and the memory of my pain and destroy them, destroy my scarred heart and set me free!"
The venomwing queen fired a white beam of light at the duplicate, who fell to the ground, dazed.
"Fellnyx, restore her-"
"No, fool, I am not Fellnyx, I am Death!" Fellnyx opened her mouth, but it was Commander's words Foce heard.
"Good, good!" Vindicatus cackled, "Now kill her! W-what are you...k-kill her, not me!" Vindicatus fell back as Fellnyx's maw drew closer, he cried out ceaselessly until Foce heard a gut wrenching crunch.
"Tell me, Foce, do you object to his death?"
"I object you, Commander, I object your plan, and I will show you what good it does to fight for something you care about, and why you should care about the humans!"
"Let me help!" Jessie shouted, stumbling over to Foce. She smiled and visibly recovered her strength as her hands rested on Yggdrasil's trunk, "Please, let me help."
Foce smiled at Jessie and nodded, "If you're sure."
"Don't count us out, either!" Ray spoke over the Infinity Guardian's communication gems, "It's time to end the struggle that brought us together! Juliet, Sarah, you're our snipers! Jacob, get us close enough so Romeo and I can bombard this monstrosity!"
"Glad to have the backup, bro," Jessie remarked warily, "just be careful, guys!"
"We'll fight you because for us, humanity has always been a source of joy for us, as much as they hurt us, there's always some good with the bad, I want you to believe me when I say that!"
"I'll believe me when you destroy me! I am Focenyx!" she let out a bitter howl and the dark sky filled with meteors.
"Soul Security!" Foce stared up at the sky and her soul darted up to the sky, "Spirit Seal!" she hissed, and created a barrier that kept the meteors from hitting the ground or the airship in the sky.
"Celestial Light," Jessie's voice echoed as she glowed white and spread her wings, "Overcharge!"
Jessie darted toward's Focenyx, carefully avoiding her sharp teeth and toxic talons, "Somewhere in there is the Foce I love, I will find you!" Jessie shouted, drawing blazing white lines into Focenyx's grey skin.
"You can't hurt me, I'm balanced, I am the Infinity Goddess!" Focenyx roared.
"No, you're in pain and denial, but I love you anyways!" Jessie cried, "Celestial Light, Burst!"
Focenyx cried out as the white lines on her skin glowed violently, "I don't love you, I don't even like you!"
"No, you're too hurt and afraid, I know you were hurt before...but the Guardian of Light was like you too. She vented her rage by destroying those who killed the one she loved, but let's stop the pain! Let Fellnyx go, Commander--no, Foce." Jessie sheathed her blade and landed, "Please, I will fight to save my love, but I hate hurting you!"
"Jessie, take my hand." Foce held her right hand out for Jessie's left, "Foce, come here."
Fellnyx let out a tired roar as her face hit the ground, and Commander timidly approached, "I don't believe you...maybe I'm too scared to." Commander held out her hand and slowly stepped forward, "I love you, Jessie...so, so...much!"
Commander's hand went up to Jessie's neck and she slammed the Guardian into Yggdrasil and bit her neck. She cried out in surprise when Foce's hand found her forehead and pulled it back to withdraw the fangs from Jessie's skin.
Foce flew backwards and cast the dizzy Commander to the ground and kicked her closer to the edge, "How dare you?! You love her, so why do you want to kill her?! Why?!"
"Because, I want don't want anyone to take her from me...except maybe myself!" she swung her arms and a rose grew from the ground, Foce mimicked reflexively.
"Towering Rose: Cancel!" Foce commanded.
"Your heart is mine, but I am the commander here, if I fall, so do you!"
"And if I only wanted to cripple you? Your pain can't hurt me!" Commander screamed, shaking with rage and sorrow, "I hate you, so, so much, Foce!"
Foce held her hands out as though she was casting the spell, "Shadow Cur-- Amethyst-"628Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡ5kiaNMX9TF
"Hah, didn't expect I'd switch at the last minute, huh?!" Commander held out her hands, "Now time to finish this!"628Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡ6XU7CPwQgh
"Once and for all!" Foce agreed, "Thorns, take root, Bloom, Rose!"628Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡGmtbeEiWO4
"No cancel...wait, she's cast-" Commander screamed as thorny vines tried to crush her, but failed to kill her.628Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡTkgAeqOAWk
"Jessie, I'll always love you, no matter what, I'll always feel the same...including in the next life!" Foce cried out to the tired Guardian resting against the tree.628Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡjg3uuTOCgY
Foce had the vines sling her into the pit and jumped in after her, with the hook of her scythe under Commander, she pulled the wide eyed demon close and touched her cheek sorrowfully.628Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡ236qkUEBjg
"Goodbye, Commander, Vampire Lord Foce, Guardian of Darkness, I'm never going to accept your actions, but hopefully in death you'll see my resolve." she curled her fingers back and frowned at the red gem she placed on the vampire's cheek. 628Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡ4DMAK9UgRq
She slowly pushed the gem and as it sank into the soft skin it glowed. Foce squeezed her eyes closed and thought of Jessie, and how she was leaving her alone, despite her wishes. 628Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡYiw1Vxtv4T
One burst after another, an eight of her HP decreased, and as the eighth surge of pain withdrew, she braced herself for the ninth.628Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡOQKMFJuX1n