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The soldier that had spoken to them quickly ran for his life. The party knew that they mustn’t flee, as defeating this beast was likely to be the only way that they could hope to reach the Earth Crystal and restore it.

Gaian and Bevern fortunately had some experience of dealing with giant beasts when they were in the Republican Defence Force, and so instinctively ran in opposite directions, so that they would be on either side of the beast. However, Tyght didn’t have such training and so didn’t know where to go.

Gaian shouted at him, “Tyght, keep away from both me and Bevern – we should form a triangle around the beast. He can only try and attack one of us at a time, and so the other two can attack then.” Tyght nodded and got into position.

Sianna stood back from the party. She was preparing herself to use spells when necessary, although she hoped that she wouldn’t be forced to use the Ultima spell in this cavern.

Tyght tapped into the red mist, as the rhino went for him first. It swung its axe towards him, but he held up his staff to defend himself. The axe hit the staff, and stopped dead. Tyght was able to take the force of the impact, and the staff did not break – the combination of Leven’s powers, Lisa’s influence, and the power of the Water Crystal had increased its strength to untold levels.

Meanwhile, both Gaian and Bevern attacked the rhino, going for one ankle each. Their blows struck simultaneously. The foot that Gaian had attacked lifted up in pain, but the one that Bevern had attacked didn’t appear to have felt anything.

The rhino turned to face Gaian, allowing Tyght to move in and attacked the ankle that Bevern had. His staff hit it with immense force, which caused the rhino to recoil in pain.

He swung his axe wildly at Gaian, but missed as Gaian ran to avoid it. The rhino swung round, and was now facing Bevern.

Rather than face the attack Bevern ran – he knew his sword wouldn’t be any good without the power of a Crystal. But there was very little room for him to run to. Gaian and Tyght were attacking the rhino, and whilst they were inflicting damage on it, it didn’t give up on its pursuit of Bevern.

Sianna lifted up her arms – she knew she had to do something to help. But as the three other party members were in such close proximity to the rhino she didn’t feel that it would be safe to cast the Ultima spell – whilst it would probably dispatch the beast, it might dispatch the others as well. She shouted out, “BOLT!!!!!”

Several huge bolts of lightning appeared out of nowhere and struck the beast, causing it to stop in its tracks as it reeled in pain. Bevern was able to flee – he knew his sword wouldn’t be effective. Gaian and Tyght continued to strike the beast, inflicting more and more damage on it.

Before it could recover from the lightning strike it became unsteady on its feet. Gaian and Tyght didn’t relent in their attack, and the rhino eventually toppled over. It let out a mighty roar as it hit the ground, making the whole cavern shake violently, and then it died. Once it had its body quickly disintegrated and disappeared. The only sign that it had ever been there were the bodies of the Imperial soldiers that it had killed.

The party regrouped once more, with them all feeling a sense of achievement. But their good feelings quickly dissipated once they saw the survivors of the Imperial Guard coming out from their hiding places with their swords drawn, and they were quickly surrounded.

One of the soldiers, who was wearing different armour to the others, stepped forward. He said, “My name is Captain Blax of the Imperial Guard Special Defence Force. You have illegally entered Imperial territory. Under the state of emergency imposed by the Emperor, the penalty for this is death.”

Bevern responded with, “A ‘thank you’ wouldn’t go amiss you know!”

“We can see that you are in possession of a mighty power, a power similar to that which has caused the catastrophe that has befallen our world. You are clearly from the Republic, and as you have these powers you were probably the ones to cause this catastrophe!”

“Cause it?! We had nothing to do with it! This catastrophe was the doing of the lunatic of an Emperor that you have!”

“Are you insane? Why would the Emperor himself bring about a catastrophe that destroys the Empire itself?!”

“Right back at you – why would we bring about a catastrophe that would destroy the Republic?!”

“What do you mean? There has been no harm to the Republic! We have had reliable reports that the Republican Defence Force has gathered together a massive invasion force and will be launching its invasion within days!”

“I think you need to get your facts straight – this disaster has affected the whole world. Think about it – when it all started the clouds started billowing out from the Empire, from the direction of Galvatron. Your Emperor has tapped into some sort of dark magic and, for some insane reason, is using it to destroy the world!”

“Don’t give me your lies! The Emperor has told us himself that the disaster was caused by a group of dark wizards directing a Devastation spell at Galvatron, with the express consent of the Republican Senate!”

“And you just believed him? Can’t you see that he’s been lying to you?! We don’t know what his intentions are, but he is trying to gain as much power for himself as he can! He’s destroyed both your Empire and our Republic, and who knows what he’s going to do next!”

“Enough! We know that you have come to take the Crystals to build up your strength further in order to wipe out all trace of the Empire! But we won’t let it happen. Yes, you have great strength, but we outnumber you by at least a hundred to one. Your activities end here! Once we have killed you we might actually be able to help restore some peace to this world.”

Sianna then spoke up, “Just try it. What you have seen so far is just a taste of what we can do. Yes, we’re from the Republic, but we weren’t sent here by the Senate, we were sent here by an even greater power than that of the Republic and Empire combined! This power strengthened our weapons, and gifted me one of the mightiest spells there is. I have been given the Ultima spell!” As she said this she raised her arms, and the soldiers in front of her instinctively recoiled and raised their shields. “Do you want to find out just how powerful it is?”

The Captain took a step back, “Y... your lying...”

“Do you want to find out? Go on, just try it!”

Gaian then spoke up, “We all need to calm down! None of us knows the full facts of what is going on in our world at the moment. We have all been affected by this disaster, and fighting each other won’t help matters. Captain, we helped you dispatch that beast which was defending the Earth Crystal. We were sent here by a power that somehow helps to guard those Crystals. This disaster was brought about by there being a great imbalance within the Crystals. We have been sent here to restore that balance. Surely even you can figure out that the best way to try and restore balance to the world is to first restore balance to the Crystals? The Emperor has sent you here to try and take their power, but they help to protect the world! Can’t you see that Emperor is destroying the world, not helping it?” He could see that his words were having the desired effect.

“Supposing you're right, what would you have me do? I am a Captain of the Imperial Guard. All of us have sworn an oath the Emperor. We have to obey his commands without question! We may not know what he wants the Crystals for, but we have to trust his judgement!”

“Didn’t he also take an oath when he took over the throne? Didn’t he swear to protect his people? You can see that by disrupting the Crystals, by trying to take their power, he is doing the opposite of that. The Emperor has gone mad, and is trying to increase his power, no matter what the cost. Let us go, let us restore the Crystals. Let us bring balance back to the world together.”

The Captain thought for a long moment, and then said, “You're right, I'm done with blindly following orders. I’ve seen too many of my friends killed over the past few days whilst we followed the Emperor's wishes. If you swear not to harm us, that you will only try to help us, we will do what we can to help you restore the Crystals. Do you so swear?”

“I swear.”

“All of you?”

Bevern, Sianna, and Tyght all said in unison, “I swear.”

The Captain nodded, “Good.” He turned to the soldiers and said, “Let them pass, let them reach the Crystal. They have sworn not to harm us, and so we will not harm them.” The soldiers stood apart, forming a passageway to the Crystal.

The party slowly walked along this path until they reached the alter. Tyght said, “I’ll go.”

But before he took a step forward Bevern said, “Wait a minute, you’ve already got the power of a Crystal. My sword was next to useless against that beast. It should be one Crystal for each of us. I’ll go, if that’s alright?”

There was a lengthy pause before Tyght said, “Very well.”

Bevern walked up to the alter. He held out his sword, and touched the Crystal with it. As he did so there was a bright light, forcing him to close his eyes.

He then saw the island where the airship had crashed. He could see General Catrix’s men building rafts from the trees on the island. They were preparing to sail the Crystal back to the mainland.

When he could open his eyes again he turned to face the others and said, “They’re building rafts, we have to get to the island as soon as possible.”

The Captain asked, “What island?”

Gaian answered, “General Catrix was on your airship, which was powered by the Wind Crystal. They crash landed on an island out at sea. We need to find a way to get there before they bring the Crystal back to Galvatron.”

The Captain nodded and said, “I think I know a way. I’ll take you to see Cid.”

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