“…Sorry.” Siyuakén bowed her head apologetically. “…I’m sorry for keeping this from you.”
“As you should be,” the Cryotechnic replied as she moved to embrace her friend, who reflexively backed away.
Siyuakén stared at Rebehka, wide-eyed with panic and confusion. “Don’t touch me! What if you get infected, too?!”
“Then we’ll be in it together,” Rebehka declared. “And even now, we are. We’ll find a way to stop the infection, Siyuakén, I promise. We’re already close to investigating the origin of the Chaos Quake! Who knows, maybe there will be some answers there.”
“You can’t… you can’t guarantee that.”
“Well, no, but then no one can guarantee anything. …Really, Siyuakén, we can do this. You’ve already lasted two months — that’s far longer than any other case we’ve seen! That’s hopeful, isn’t it? You can beat this!”
“…And if I don’t?”
“Then I’ll just carve out your brain and store it until we have the technology to create another body for you, free from the infection.” Rebehka smirked. “I won’t let you die. I also won’t let you lose to the infection. You have my word.”
The sound of thunder rolled through the snow-covered forests southeast of Nimaliaka Central, the frequent lightning strikes lighting up the cloudy nighttime skies as Siyuakén and Rebehka exchanged blows just as fiercely as when they had begun fighting nearly two hours ago. Rebehka’s second Overdrive had worn off, leaving the blizzard to die down into a tame snow storm that encompassed the entire region; without the white cloak to block her vision, the corrupted Electrotechnic had begun to attack Rebehka with more ferocity than before, but the veil of night — and the fact that the battle had migrated into the Nimaliakian forests — prevented the two Chaotics from engaging for extended periods of time.
Where is she… Rebehka perched in the branches of one of the taller trees, her eyes closed as she attempted to focus on the snow around her. A moment later she threw herself to the side just in time to evade a lightning blast, and then grabbed a nearby branch and swung herself around to fire several icicles back at the origin of the blast. Siyuakén whacked the icicles out of the air with her fully metallic left arm before shooting a grappling hook out of her right, catching the branch near Rebehka and rapidly pulling herself to it. The Cryotechnic quickly froze the cord and shattered it, sending Siyuakén flying through the air until she grabbed another branch and swung around to tackle Rebehka to the ground. The latter immediately encased the entire area in ice, using her abilities to easily extricate herself as Siyuakén melted the block around her with an exceedingly high current. Rebehka quickly responded by lifting the remaining ice into the air and trying to slam it back down on Siyuakén’s head, but the corrupted Electrotechnic sharpened her nails into claws and dug them into the block, fighting for control with Rebehka for a short moment before launching it forwards. The Cryotechnic instantly disintegrated the block into a cloud of snow that she disappeared into, prompting Siyuakén to blast the area with a powerful lightning strike to disperse the snow cloud — only to find that Rebehka had disappeared.
Siyuakén snapped her head to and fro, searching for the disappeared Chaotic with her electrical senses as the night and the forest obscured her vision. A moment later, she whipped around just in time to block a slash from an ice sword with her left arm; the two Chaotics struggled with each other for a second before Siyuakén pulled her right arm back, charged it with electricity, and then thrust it forwards. Rebehka quickly grasped it with her free hand, encasing her hand with a thick coating of ice to insulate her from the high voltage. The two Chaotics continued to grapple with each other for several more seconds until they both blasted each other with their respective elements, knocking them both to the ground several meters away from each other. But before Siyuakén could stagger back to her feet, her hands and feet were pierced by ice spikes growing from the ground, followed by a larger spike through her abdomen. Rebehka then created a full layer of ice armor as she readied herself for the next incoming electric attack—
The Cryotechnic froze for a moment before snapping her attention to Siyuakén. The Electrotechnic had easily broken free from the ice spikes, but she was left to lean against a nearby tree painfully, clutching her forehead with her right hand as her left arm drooped by her side.
“…I know,” Rebehka responded quietly as she created a lance in each hand. “…I won’t leave you alone, Siyuakén. Not again.”
“N-no…” The Electrotechnic glanced toward her tensely, grimacing in pain as her wounds slowly closed on their own. “I… told you! …Please…! Kill me…!”
The Cryotechnic shook her head. “I can’t do that. …Well, I will if I have to, if it comes to it. But it won’t. And I know what I’m doing this time; I’m not fighting blindly, like that night three months ago. I can do this!”
“Trust me, Siyuakén!” Rebehka shouted back, lunging forward with her lances as Siyuakén’s face returned to a blank slate and she began attacking again. “I’ll save you! That’s what I’m here for!”
“Trust me, Siyuakén. We’ll find a way to help you. I’ll find a way to help you. That’s what I’m here for.”
“…There is another way you could help me… and everyone else, too.”
“What is it?”
“If… if I do end up losing to the corruption—”
“No. No, you won’t. It won’t happen. I won’t let it.”
“Rebehka, it’s not that simple—”
“Didn’t you hear what I told you back when I first found out you were infected? Even if your body loses, I’ll just take your brain and store it until we can make you a new body. You’ll be fine!”
“In any other context, that would actually sound pretty creepy.”
“Maybe, but I mean it. I won’t let you lose. I won’t lose you. And that’s that.”
“…Do you really think you can do it?”
“Of course I do. Come on, Siyuakén, you know me. I wouldn’t say it if I didn’t mean it.”
“You’re reminding me of back when we first met.”
“Heh, well, if regressing back to my ‘try-hard’ stage is what it takes to save you, then I’ll do it. Then we can become friends all over again! It’s the perfect plan.”
“Ha, alright, if you say so.”
“I do say so.”
“…Thanks, Rebehka.” Siyuakén turned to embrace her friend.
“Ha! Don’t worry about it.” The Cryotechnic returned the gesture with her free arm. “It’s what best friends are for.”
A blast of electricity ripped through several nearby trees, toppling them as Siyuakén blindly lashed out in the dark of night. Immediately afterward, the entire area was suddenly encased in ice, freezing the corrupted Electrotechnic to the spot long enough for Rebehka to swing out of the trees and launch several ice javelins in her direction. But Siyuakén easily broke free of the ice fast enough to spin around and catch the projectiles, crushing them in her hands as she locked on to Rebehka’s body currents and summoned a lightning strike directly on the Cryotechnic. Rebehka was only able to weather the attack through the immediate creation of multiple layers of ice shields above her, a task that required enough focus that she failed to track Siyuakén until the Electrotechnic was nearly on top of her. The corrupted Electrotechnic thrust her hands forward, both cackling with energy, but Rebehka reacted just quickly enough to create an explosion of ice and snow that blew the two women apart.
Both combatants caught themselves on nearby trees and launched themselves up into the branches, taking advantage of their Relédiakian training to hide amongst the leaves while simultaneously attempting to track the other. Rebehka silently jumped through the branches, launching the occasional ice shard toward where she thought Siyuakén was while evading stray lightning strikes as the corrupted Electrotechnic sought her out. A few moments later, Siyuakén stopped trying to track Rebehka and instead summoned an immensely powerful lightning strike, obliterating the tree in which she sat as the lightning jumped to nearby trees and continued to chain through the forest. Forced into a dangerous situation, Rebehka threw herself from the treetops, exposing herself to Siyuakén just before creating a massive ice pillar around the original burnt tree. The ice cage offered the Cryotechnic a moment of relief, but no more — Siyuakén burnt her way through the pillar in no time, using high currents in her body to melt the ice. She leaped down to the ground next to Rebehka, landing with a roll and immediately spinning toward the Cryotechnic, thrusting her left arm forward in the same motion. Rebehka quickly moved to counter with her right arm encased with ice, causing a small explosion as Siyuakén discharged into the ice shield. The Cryotechnic immediately followed by creating a lance of ice in her left hand and thrusting it forward, which Siyuakén managed to dodge, grab, and then shatter with a pulse of electricity. The two Chaotics then jumped away from each other as they simultaneously launched elemental attacks, knocking them even further back. After rolling across the ground haphazardly, neither bothered to fully climb to their feet before firing off one more attack — Rebehka immediately froze everything within fifty meters, including Siyuakén, at the same instant the Electrotechnic triggered another lightning chain strike through the forest. The Cryotechnic barely withstood the brunt of the blast, dropping to a knee in exhaustion as Siyuakén broke herself out of her ice prison again and collapsed on her side. The two lay where they were for several moments, each catching their breath; Rebehka was the first to act as she created a staff of ice and used it to climb back to her feet.
The Cryotechnic glanced toward Siyuakén as she got back up as well.
“Why… are you doing this?” the corrupted Electrotechnic muttered as she grasped her left arm in pain.
“That’s a dumb question, and you know it,” Rebehka retorted as she created yet another set of ice armor for herself. “I’ve only told you countless times — I’m your best friend. And that means I can’t let you die!”
“You don’t… understand!” Siyuakén pursed her lips, frustration and pain wrought over her features. “I’m… suffering! To stop this, to stop me, you need… you need to kill me!!”
“Or I can just bring you back to your senses!” Rebehka countered, “look, you’re already more in control than before! Morcii’s weaker than ever; now is the time to shake off his influence!”
“And if you won’t do it yourself, then I’ll do it for you!” The Cryotechnic lunged forward, simultaneously creating a dozen airborne javelins and launching them toward Siyuakén. The Electrotechnic simply countered the javelins with lightning strikes, illuminating the frozen and damaged area just in time to block a punch from Rebehka. Siyuakén then followed with her own as she attempted to uppercut the Cryotechnic, but was blocked by a shield of ice. Rebehka quickly countered, sweeping her foot around to knock Siyuakén’s legs out from under her — only for the Electrotechnic to catch herself by shooting her grappling hook into a branch above her and then throw an electrically charged punch with her other hand. The two Chaotics continued trading blows, covering their attacks with continually dwindling amounts of electricity and ice, blocking, countering, dodging — but over two hours of fighting was catching up to them. Within barely a dozen blows they were using mere token amounts of their powers, their bodies slowed as they felt more pain through exhaustion than through injury.
The Cryotechnic stepped away wearily as Siyuakén stumbled backwards, small sparks jumping across her limbs.
“End this… kill me…!”
“…Damn it, Siyuakén, I already lost you once!” Rebehka countered, and then paused momentarily to catch her breath. “…I’m not killing you! …But I am finishing this, whether you like it or not!”
“Overdrive: Ice Storm!”
Siyuakén instinctively shielded her face with her arms as the light snow around her instantly developed back into a raging blizzard, drawing a curtain of ice and snow that darkened the night forest to pitch black.
“Why… why… why did you follow me?!”
Without warning, the corrupted Electrotechnic felt herself get launched into the air by a blow from below.
“Why wouldn’t I? You’re my best friend! I can’t let you go!”
Several more blows quickly followed; within moments, Siyuakén found herself above the clouds themselves, the veil of the blizzard no longer present to block the crescent moon and starry skies.
“If… you were… my friend… you… would have killed me by now!”
Rebehka then appeared within sight, having jumped up a series of ice platforms to reach Siyuakén.
“I can’t do that! I made a promise, remember?!”
Before the Electrotechnic could react, Rebehka crafted a giant hammer out of ice and swung it overhead, slamming it into Siyuakén and sending her careening back into the darkness of the snow storm below.
“You’ll live through this!”
“…NOW THIS IS TRULY A SURPRISE! YOU’VE OVERCOME THE EXPRESSION INHIBITORS! MUST BE BECAUSE YOU’RE ALMOST DEAD. HMM.”
“I… said! Stay… away…!”
“AHAHAHA… HA HA HA HA HA HA! CUTE. YOU THINK YOU COULD POSSIBLY SAVE YOUR FRIENDS? IN THAT STATE?”
“I… I…! Hrgk—!”
“SEE? YOU’RE HELPLESS AGAINST ME. JUST AS YOUR FRIENDS ARE! NO ONE CAN HOPE TO STOP ME! YOU CAN’T STOP ME FROM CONQUERING THE GALAXY. AND YOU MOST CERTAINLY CAN’T STOP ME FROM KILLING! NOT YOUR FRIENDS, NOT YOURSELF, NOT ANYONE!”
“…No… …maybe not… me. But… not… no one…!”
“HMPH. …YOU ANNOYING ALDREDANOIDS ARE JUST AS HEADSTRONG AS THE ALDREDAS THEMSELVES. WHAT A NUISANCE… OH WELL. HAVING A CHAOTIC LIEUTENANT, AND A QUAKEBORN, NO LESS, WAS GOOD WHILE IT LASTED.”
—What? While it lasted? Is this— is this the end?
No… even if I can’t be saved, what about Rebehka? Davídrius? Christeané?
Hero Machina — they all need my help, but—!
I can’t… resist… his… control…!
I have no more energy… I’m so tired… …will someone, please… …just end it…
…I can’t give up. Not yet. Rebehka believes in me… and she’s right. Morcii is weaker than ever… now is my only chance. I can’t let her down again. I won’t! I have to see the end of this!
I won’t give up!
“I won’t… give up…!”
“I’m done… with being controlled by you. You… have no power over me!”
“YOU DARE DEFY ME? ME, THE LEADER OF THE NANOCREATURES? ME, THE HARBINGER OF THE MORIKAI?! YOU DON’T HAVE THE POWER—!”
“No, you don’t have the power. You were beaten on Neticen, and you may have returned, but you still don’t have the same power as before! You can’t control me, Morcii. And even if you try, my friends will come back for me. I… doubted them, once. And not just them — I doubted my own ability to control my fate. But I see now that I was wrong, and that you will never win in the end!”
“AHAHA! YOU MUST BE DERANGED! YOU BELIEVE THAT FRIENDSHIP CAN OVERCOME MY CONTROL?! SUCH CHILDLIKE BELIEFS HAVE NO PLACE IN MY GALAXY!”
“But the galaxy isn’t yours, Morcii. It never will be.”
“…HMPH. IF YOU INSIST ON SUCH IMPUDENCE, THEN I HAVE NO CHOICE BUT TO OBLITERATE YOU AND ALL THAT YOU STAND FOR. THE GALAXY WILL BE MINE, ALDREDANOID. YOU WILL REGRET CHOOSING THE WRONG SIDE.”
“I won’t regret anything, because there is no choice with the Nanocreatures! From this day on, I’ll oppose you to my last dying breath, to my last lightning strike, and I’ll be glad to do so — because it will be my choice! Because no one else can ever force me to do anything again! Because I won’t be standing alone! You thought you could control me, Morcii, just like you thought you could control the galaxy. But I proved you wrong once, and I’ll do it again! Your reign…
“Wha…?” Siyuakén’s eyes fluttered open, revealing only a blur of darkness. Moments later her vision began to settle, resolving into the starry night sky through a hole in the clouds and a myriad of broken branches and ice shards.
The Electrotechnic blinked several times and then tilted her head back, immediately meeting eyes with Rebehka. The two stared at each other for several moments — a blank stare from Siyuakén, an amused one from Rebehka — before the Electrotechnic jumped to her feet and scrambled away, realizing that she had been laying with her head beside Rebehka’s knees.
“Wha, what are you doing?!” she exclaimed, “you… you can’t… I’m…!”
Rebehka simply crossed her arms, an amused smirk on her face. “You’re what?”
“I’m…!” the Electrotechnic started, but faltered as an unfamiliar feeling crept through her body. She paused for a second before looking down at her hands, her bruised, metallic hands — that she could clench and open at will. Hands that she had full control over.
The corruption no longer controlled her.
“Realized it yet—?” Rebehka started, but stopped to jump forward and catch Siyuakén as she collapsed into tears.
“I’m sorry!!” she sobbed into her friend’s shoulder, “I didn’t…! You…! I was convinced, but, but you…!”
“Shh…” Rebehka responded quietly, fully wrapping her arms around Siyuakén in a warm embrace. “…It’s okay now. It’s okay…”
“B-b-but it’s not!” Siyuakén drew away again. “I… I thought I was better off dead… I, I didn’t think, I didn’t think this was possible, but… …I was trying to force you to kill me, that, that’s not okay!…”
“…You almost succeeded, too.” Rebehka smirked bitterly. “…I was ready to kill you not even two hours ago. After two, three months in prison, away from everyone… I did think killing you would be the answer. That it was the only way to stop your suffering… …but do you know what else I realized, after all that?”
Siyuakén sniffled wearily and wiped a tear from her cheek before meeting eyes with Rebehka again. “…What?”
“I realized that I missed you.” The Cryotechnic stepped forward and hugged her friend again. “…And that I didn’t have to renege on my promises after all. Because we’re best friends, damn it, and as sappy as it sounds, I won’t let anything get in the way of that!”
“…Maybe it is sappy,” Siyuakén responded quietly, “…but it saved me. And I can’t appreciate that enough… I don’t know how I can ever make this up to you…”
“Well… there is one way…”
Rebehka finally released Siyuakén and pulled back enough to lock eyes with the Electrotechnic, a stern look on her face. “Never do this to yourself again!”
“…Heh.” Siyuakén slowly smiled, prompting Rebehka to respond in kind. “…Understood!”