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— L’ Marseille —

"We are lost, Melchior." Thalas grunted as he looked around.

"What about that tree?". Melchior asked. "It seems new...! Oh, wait...We have passed through it already... By the fourth time.". Elemental Alchemist sighed.

None of them had any idea of how long had it been since they entered the Crater. The light seemed brighter behind the dense greenish clouds as they kept trying to move forward; the jungle itself seemed to be clustering around them as they got even more and more impatient. Thalas was breathing heavily and decided to sit down for a while.

"Well... And now what?". Electro Archer asked. "Are we trapped here for good?"

"I don't know..." Melchior hanged his head dejectedly as he sat down. "I still feel that familiar energy flow, but it seems to have spread out; I am not sure of its direction anymore."

"Then you should get more focus." Thalas harshly replied. "I doubt Mary Hellheim has forgotten about us. She killed our friends, you know."

Melchior nodded agreeing with Thalas. Then, he took a deep breath and crossed his legs, changing the way he was sitting on the grassy floor.

"I'll try again." Melchior sighed. "Cynthia taught me how to use Earth in my favor... Let's see if I can get us some hints on our walking..."

Elemental Alchemist closed his eyes and put his hands on the soil; his Mana began to flow from his skin and touch the ground. Some images began to appear inside his mind; he saw more landscapes of Groundshaker Crater as he remained focused; he then began to see a glade far away. There was an altar in the center of it and some shapeless beings surrounding it. As he tried to see more, one of the things charged and interrupted his spell so fiercely that he fell on his back and spitted blood.

"Argh!" Melchior screamed in pain. "My head!"

"Are you okay?" Thalas asked.

"I've been worse.... And I've been better than that." Elemental Alchemist replied, standing up. "There's a glade to the east, I think. It was the only different part I saw, but I think we won't make past it without a fight..."

"So be it..." Thalas sighed. "Let's do this while I still got hope."

Electro Archer and elemental Alchemist stood up and moved eastwards; both of them were holding their weapons of choice and looking around while marching forward. The humidity began to diminish and soon it the winds began to blow and the heat went down. Once again the last two Blue Moon Knights remained in silence as they carried on.

Soon the glade began to appear in the horizon; the strange altar was made out of a fallen tree and its branches were holding a large, empty crystal ball like the previous altars. Thalas frowned his brow and positioned his pointing and middle fingers around the bow rope. Melchior held his scepter tighter and kept moving on. The glade was oddly silent; it was so quiet both of them could hear their heartbeats; Electro Archer walked closer to the altar to inspect it; then, he felt something was wrong.

"The Earth..." He thought. "Something is... Moving! Oh, damnit!"

The French Guatemalan did not think twice before throwing himself on Melchior just to be violently caught by a line of strong, giant vines. Melchior fell on the ground and stared in awe.

"Thalas!" He shouted, conjuring fireballs. "Let him go!"

 Elemental Alchemist conjured a line of raging fire with his scepter, releasing Thalas from his captors; he ran and jumped to catch his friend in the air and prevent his fall. he then looked at the raging vines and realized they were part of what he had seen.

"These... Vines... They are..." Melchior babbled horrified.

"Leave them to me." Thalas asked barely able to stand up.

"Thalas, no!" Melchior objected. "You are the only one I have left! Please, don't do this!"

"Hahahaha,,, Only one of you might get out of here alive; that is only if both of you don't end up perishing anyways."

Electro Archer stood up; Elemental Alchemist went on his path to prevent him from walking and both of them got violently grasped by the wild vines; Thalas' torso and neck were violently held while Melchior was being held by his feet and his hands. At that point he realized his friend would soon die and he had the chance to prevent it.

"S-Stop!" Melchior shouted. "Let him go, Hellheim! It's me that you want! Kill me and put this to an end! Leave Thalas be and take me, I beseech you!"

"Shut up, Melchior!" Thalas shouted as he was suffocating. "If...argh...If you do that... If you... Surrender... I...argh... I will never... Ever... Forgive you!"

"I'll get you out, Thalas!" Melchior shouted as he began to ignite his hands. "You will live... I... I swear you will!"

Melchior's fiery hands ignited the vines that held him; as he began to fall downwards another vine caught his torso and held him up. Thalas was breathing heavily and with major difficulties as the vines kept holding him tighter and tighter.

"Melchior... Leave at once!" Electro Archer held the vine closer to his hand and shook his head. "It is clear to me... You are the one meant to face Hellheim. I... I just ask you... Take... The Heart of Guatemala... With you."

The vines began to rumble and slowly yield; they could hear laughter coming from down below as they reached a dead-lock situation; Melchior began to cry as he felt forced to make the ultimate decision. He ignited the vines holding both him and Thalas; Electro Archer threw the Heart of Guatemala to Melchior and shoot an arrow down below the vines; the burning living pieces of botany hit Melchior and tossed him away.

He saw a fiery light raising from the open wound in the ground and heard Thalas' loud cries of pain and agony; Elemental Alchemist put the Heart of Guatemala around his chest and ran away, running around the massive hole.


****


Electro Archer found the source of all vines; seven plant beings made out of vines, wood and leaves were the responsible party for all troubles Melchior and him faced that far; he conjured magical arrows and threw at his foes, hitting bullseye marks every time he could, However, each time he eliminated one, two more came to him; he tried loading and shooting faster, but it was of no use; soon he found himself surrounded and completely outnumbered.

"So... This is how it's going to end." Thalas sighed as he put his bow and quiver away. "Well... Good game. Thanks for the fight! SPANISH TREE TORADA!"

Thalas concentrated all his power; he remembered everything Melchior had put him through; all their disagreements, confusions, fights, anger and laughter. Everything that made them friends and rivals at the same time. He stomped the floor with all his might as each memory came into his mind; then, he saw the bulls running over his foes.

"Good game...". He grinned as he knelt down.

The wooden bulls swept all plant beings, crushing and shattering in wood pieces as they eliminated their targets. The shattering pieces, however, flew towards the cavern's walls and began to crumble them. Thalas felt the ground shaking stronger than ever and he smiled, knowing his work was done. Rock and mud slit downwards and Thalas could neither see nor hear anything anymore.


****


Melchior left the glade with difficulty as ground kept trembling; he fell on the ground and it suddenly stopped. He looked away and he heard the sound of crystal shattering. Elemental Alchemist stood on his knees and as loud as he could, as tears fell from his face and his heart was taken by grief, sadness and loneliness.


To Be Continued...

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