Core of Hatred

*Meanwhile in the Anomaly itself, things weren’t going great. Ultia was being controlled by Zaanel still, with Celeste dodging as best as she could, while not fighting back out of not wanting to hurt Ultia. Miriam shot more dark energy shots at Zaanel, attempting to think through a good strategy as she did so*

*Zaanel tried to avoid them, but since his attention was diverted with controlling Ultia, he actually failed, getting hit by her shots, and almost losing his footing as he got pushed back from it. He chuckled, though, and kept his grasp on Ultia, tightening it for more suffering on her end. He pulled her away from Celeste, forcing her to attack Miriam instead…*

Zaanel: Give up, and maybe I’ll actually make it quick on you.

*Celeste watched Ultia get tugged over to Miriam, black smoke starting to flow off her body briefly, before she regained her composure. Thinking for a sec, she ran over to Ultia and Miriam, planning to help intervene while she went through ideas in her head to free Ultia*

Miriam: *Gets into a riposte-esque stance, internally modifying her strategy and waiting for Ultia’s attack to go through with it. When she notices Celeste rushing towards Ultia, though, she decides to jump up and take flight, trying to escape Ultia’s attacks while shooting more energy balls at Zaanel*

*Zaanel darted away from this, and fired his own similar appearing shot of black energy at Miriam, now attempting to run over to Celeste, holding out his arm right towards her as an off-white colored beam fired at her instead*

*Celeste leaped up, avoiding the beam, then using her energy orb to form a combat knife of sorts, trying to cut away the strings holding Ultia*

*Zaanel stared at Celeste, then made a quick decision… Smiling rather sadistically, bending the strings on Ultia around so her arm was in a certain position, before tightening the strings around it specifically, sharpening it as bad as barbed wire, then yanking right back on it with a sick tearing sound*

Zaanel: Go on and have her!

*Ultia screamed out from shock and pain as her arm was torn right off. She looked at her arm, hovering her other hand over it with a groan. It was leaking blue liquid from where it tore off, although it didn’t seem to be blood. In that sense, she surprisingly wasn’t bleeding at all. She was thankfully freed from the strings too, but she was down an arm now, which could be an issue for the fight. Celeste gasped, standing and staring on in horror*

Celeste: O-Oh my god, your arm-!

Ultia: Can be FIXED later!

Celeste: B-B-But-

Ultia: I appreciate the concern, but it’s not important right now. What is important is eradicating this cretin before he does anything else to harm us!

*Ultia seemed more angry then hurt from that, really. As worried as Celeste was, she gave a weak nod, looking over at Zaanel, then back at Ultia*

Celeste: We need Chez back in this fight. Are you sure you can fight with just one arm?

Ultia: My abilities should work well enough no matter how many limbs I have, especially faced with this. Go deal with Chez.

*Celeste nods again, running over to Chez. Meanwhile, Miriam had been flying around, evading Zaanel’s shots and firing out shots in turn, flying a bit slower while she spoke through her earpiece*

Miriam: Vi, you can still hear me, right?

Aviva: “And see your actions, yeah. What’s up?”

Miriam: I have an idea. You have a good sense of my position at all times, right?

Aviva: “Aaaapproximately. What’s the idea?”

Miriam: Code F-A-I. You know the one.

Aviva: Oh h**l yeah. Lemme know when.

Miriam: *Nods, going back to her regular stream of shots at Zaanel*

*Obviously this was a nuisance to Zaanel, as he had to keep trying to avoid them, getting hit straight in the stomach with one and being knocked on his back, although recovering fast, and appearing very annoyed. With his loss of Ultia at the moment, he made a bold move due to his overconfidence, charging straight at Miriam with a sort of black energy blade in his left paw, his right being held out to fire that odd beam at Miri like he attempted to with Celeste*

Miriam: *Manages to dodge the beam, charging head-on towards Zaanel* Vi?

Aviva: “I’m ready.”

Miriam: Good. Dial it up.

*Two sets of wrestling ropes appeared parallel to each other; one right behind her and the other a few feet away from her. Miriam weaved away from Zaanel’s attack, hoping he’d get caught in the ropes*

*Zaanel tried to back up, now using both hands to fire that odd beam at Miriam. He’d hoped it would at least hit someone, as it was pretty annoying to keep dealing with this. He was left unaware to the other ropes, only seeing the ones that appeared behind Miriam, and taking that as a sign of caution*

*Miriam looked back, noticing the beam coming towards her, then weaving under it on her return trip, managing to reach the ropes that appeared behind her and using them to do a horizontal 180, her boots heading directly towards Zaanel’s face*

Aviva: *in comms* “619, motherf**ker!”

*Zaanel was… Obviously not expecting that, it proving way more effective than Miriam’s previous attacks as it hit him directly and sent him flying back a bit from the force of the kick, leaving him vulnerable to another ranged attack before he could recover*

Miriam: *Watches the ropes disappear, then quickly charges a huge shot and sends it directly towards Zaanel*

*That, too, hit Zaanel as he was down, actually causing him some pain. He got up, but not without a bit of a “bruise” on his face. This mainly just ticked him off though, as he stamped his foot on the ground, creating a Sentinel in the room as a distraction, after Miriam specifically. He put his paws together after that, with what looked like a small bit of code just visible between them, before he blinked a bit and charged directly at Ultia. He was going to try to kill all of them… So avoiding hits from that beam and from his hands right now would be top priority. Ultia warped away before Zaanel could reach her. The fight was getting better, but still wouldn’t be easy…*

*A little while later, back down on the ground, a huge, black explosion was visible from the Anomaly, which poured out a tar-like, thick, black liquid from it. Not all that close to anyone, but still very peculiar as it just kinda puddled together where it was…*

*Fizz, Emma, Arleen, Trix, and all the others were together, fending off the Eradicators as best as they could manage. They were managing the hordes pretty easily now that they were all grouped and working as a team. They were completely focused on that, so they didn’t really notice the odd liquid*

*Rather suddenly, the black tar-like stuff began to solidify, jutting out as sharp tentacles, similar to those coming from the Anomaly itself previously to corrupt, but these were intended to kill. Several of these tentacles jutted out, one going after Nova, another after Fizz and Arleen*

*Fizz whirled around, seeing this, and only barely being able to dodge, noticing where the others were heading…*

Fizzson: Arleen, Nova, watch out-!

*Arleen reacted quickly, jumping out of the way just in time, rolling as she landed*

*Nova heard Fizz and tried to dodge to the left. However, the tentacle appeared to acknowledge that Fizz warned him, and weaved to the left as well. The relatively thin appendage stabbed directly through Nova, near the heart, before retracting right away. He stayed floating up on his star, just appearing shocked, while the thing started to jut out more of tentacles, directly at Lance, Brooke, and Rose*

*Rose saw this, dodging quickly away, barely managing to avoid it, while Fizz stared at Nova in surprise and worry*

*Brooke did something with an ability that wasn’t seen before as she was mostly using smoke, clenching her right fist and raising up a sort of concrete stone wall, which the appendage smashed into but didn’t destroy, retracting back. Lance also narrowly avoided it, with the tentacle scraping into and through the upper part of his right arm. He recoiled a good bit from that, but came out relatively fine. Nova on the other hand finally stopped being still, as the star he was on faded and crumbled into yellow powder, causing him to fall off and right onto the ground, limp…*

Fizzson: …I’m gonna check on Nova, someone cover me.

Arleen: Got it!

*Fizz runs over to Nova, crouching down to check his pulse, while Arleen keeps Eradicators fended away from him in the meantime*

He was face down on the ground, and no pulse was felt. The area around his stab wound was also quickly becoming black. Very dark, although it wasn’t necrosis*

*Fizz just stayed there, silent with wide eyes from a combination of horror, surprise, and confusion…*

Arleen: Well? Is he okay?

Fizzson: *Gets up, shaking a little* H-He… He’s dead.

Arleen: *Eyes widen* F-From that? How?

Fizzson: I-I’m not sure, but he doesn’t have a pulse. The place he got stabbed is turning black for some reason….

Arleen: Oh god… That’s…

*She wasn’t sure what else to say, so she just went back to fighting Eradicators, trying to keep the energy up despite that disheartening news. Trixie meanwhile practically ran towards Lance to check on him*

Trixie: Ey, is everything alright?

*Lance didn’t appear to have the black area around his wound like Nova did, actually seeming pretty fine from it*

Lance: Yeah yeah, I’m alright….

Trixie: *Breathes a slight sigh of relief* Alright. That’s good at least….

*The goopy thing appeared to only be active for a very short span of time, as now it was doing nothing…*

*Fizz took a deep breath to try and calm himself, looking over at the thing*

Fizzson: …What even was that?

Lucian: Oh who cares, just some more random crap with this stuff. It’s done now, so get back to fighting already, would ya!

*Fizz pauses for a moment, nodding, then getting right back into the fight. The flow of Eradicators seemed to be slowing down by now, as if it was now a limited amount…*

*Emma noticed the slowed flow of Eradicators, raising an eyebrow*

Emma: Anyone else notice how few Eradicators we seem to be getting now?

Lance: I am. Maybe it’s going real well up there….

Trixie: We can only hope….

*Back in the current time, the battle against Zaanel was still going on. Since Miri had the Sentinel to focus on, Zaanel himself focused on Ultia, deciding to charge right at her without worrying all that much, similar to what he did with Miriam, keeping one paw behind his back to keep her on edge as his other held a black energy blade like before as well. A repeat attack, possibly…*

Miriam: *Groans loudly* Just fight me head-on instead of sending out more minions, ya f**kin’ coward! *Doesn’t attack the Sentinel, oddly, instead just trying to channel whatever energy she could manage*

*Ultia dodges away, firing a couple star projectiles out at Zaanel as she dodged*

*Zaanel narrowly avoids these. While the fight was going on, Celeste was crouched near Chez, trying to rally him up*

Celeste: C’mooon, Chez. We need you here fighting with us! What happened to all that frustration you had with Zaanel before?

Chez: *Mumbles something that was too quiet for Celeste to hear mostly, only making out* …No… Use…

Celeste: There is use, Chez. Miri just got some real good hits on Zaanel. His face is even bruised! But we need everyone at their best here for the biggest chance of success. That includes you.

Chez: h-huh..? *Slowly look up at Celeste confusedly, not sure what was true… The horrible visions they saw of all their friends getting tortured and killed, or Zaanel being hurt all of the sudden*

Celeste: I don’t know what kinda stuff Zaanel did to mess with you’re head, but we’re actually hurting him here, and we could use your help to keep the pressure on.

Chez: *Slowly manages to sit up, looking around, still quite dazed from the visions Zaanel had given him* …Are you sure that’s true? It… It feels as though they’re just… Toying with us… *Collapses again, still being largely devoid of hope…*

Celeste: I’m positive, Chez. He’s losing his cool, you can see it in how he’s acting now.

*Celeste glances at Zaanel, who was… Definitely visibly annoyed and losing his temper at this point, trading the energy dagger for a larger energy ball which he sent at Miriam, taking the paw from behind his back out and swiping it at Ultia, intending to hit her with a large point-blank shockwave

Zaanel: Just DIE already!

*Ultia saw this, retaliating against the point blank attack with a blue explosion from her palm, the two colliding into a cloud of dust. She was holding her own surprisingly well, despite the lack of an arm…*

Celeste: I know we can win this, but we need all our attack strength if we’re gonna do it. Please. Nothing’s gonna happen if we don’t try…

Chez: I… Do… Do you really think so..? *Ears perk up as they sit up again*

Celeste: I really do, Chez, and our chances only get better if you quit mopin’ here and get in the action.

Chez: *Slowly grips at his mask* I… Alright… I could try. Especially if it means they won’t be able to… *Trails off, looking at Celeste as he stood up now*

*Zaanel tried attacking Ultia again after the explosion, firing out another shockwave as well as stamping the ground, with odd, black, sharp tentacles sprouting from the ground behind Ultia to get her stab her from behind*

*Ultia barely managed to teleport out of the way, retaliating with a barrage of energy balls. Celeste smiles at Chez, her own energy ball beginning to double the pressure on Zaanel as it glowed and tried to ram straight into him quickly*

*Chez watched Ultia and Celeste using energy balls, finally deciding to try and help as well, forming several light and fire balls and launching them at Zaanel, all moving in unpredictable looking patterns in unison*

*This annoyed Zaanel immensely. He barely managed to avoid Chez’s attack, while getting hit by Celeste’s ball due to the unexpectedness of it. He then did something odd, trying to grab at least part of the ball in his paw instead of actually attack…*

*The energy ball managed to fly away and around Zaanel for a bit, before actually getting caught by him*

*Zaanel wasted no time once he got this ball, putting his second hand on it, and starting to tear it apart, in half at first*

Zaanel: …Not nearly careful enough.

*Celeste’s eyes widen a bit in fear and surprise. She then winced and kneeled down to the ground in pain. Seems she was hurt as the energy ball got damaged. Ultia saw this, immediately firing out star projectiles to try and stop Zaanel from damaging it…*

*Upon these projectiles being fired, he held up the ball, bending its code painfully to his will, and using it as a shield like Celeste would to block and absorb the stars, then proceeding to rip the ball, and the fibers holding it together physically in general, apart in the most painful way he could…*

Zaanel: I just have to get hold of you for a moment, and you’re dead.

*Celeste screamed in pain now, stuck to the ground from the sheer pain as black smoke was practically pouring off of her. She wasn’t just in pain, she was angry. Angry at everything Zaanel had done, and what he’d do if he managed to kill her and the others here. That pain was making those negative feelings impossible to hold in like she’d been doing…*

*Chez realized what was happening, becoming frozen in fear yet again, scared to even attempt to fire at Zaanel while they were messing with Celeste like that…*

*Rather suddenly, the ball seemed to just… Vanish into odd, wispy vapor. Zaanel seemed rather confused by this, looking up at Celeste. She was still on the ground, having fallen completely silent. Upon initial glance, she looked like she might’ve been dead, considering she wasn’t moving, and the ball disappearing like it did. That was quickly proven false though, as she looked up at Zaanel, her skin turning a pale gray, and her hair turning pitch black. She gave an almost demonic screech, suddenly rushing wildly at him*

*Zaanel wasn’t expecting this, barely backing away with a dodge. Celeste slashed at him with her hands, which had morphed into long, sharp claws. Her attacks were going too fast for him to fully register, him taking a good few minutes of dodging before he shot out a black shockwave to try and get her off him*

*Celeste jumped up and away to avoid it, surprisingly managing it despite the range, then jumping back with slashes almost as fast as she jumped away, while letting out another screech. She was moving with seemingly inhuman reflexes, actually managing to overwhelm Zaanel for the moment*

*With no other real choice at the moment to deal with Celeste, Zaanel warped away, annoyedly, directing the Sentinel to move over to hopefully keep Celeste occupied as well as Miriam, while he dashed towards Ultia for an attack*

*Instead of dodging, Ultia actually took the attack in full it seemed… Before disappearing into a puff of smoke, appearing to just be a clone that’d been set up while Zaanel’s attention was diverted. Ultia herself quickly appearing behind Zaanel with a hard kick into his back*

*This was something he didn’t predict or avoid, taking a serious hit, and actually getting knocked over from it, leaving him momentarily susceptible to attack*

*A few moments after Zaanel got hit, Chez slowly blinked back into focus and shot several spiked crystals towards him… Eventually just being overcome by anger as Chez started to heavily increasing the amount of crystals they sent, seeing this as the only possible moment to at least hurt Zaanel in any way. Seemed to be overexerting himself…*

*Celeste wasn’t exactly in the right mindset to take advantage of this, even if the Sentinel wasn’t specifically targetting her along with Miri now. She was just attacking whatever moved in her range and attacked back, which was proving less effective against the Sentinel then it’d been against Zaanel. Miriam was still flying around, now trying to find a perfect position to get the Sentinel caught up in a specific attack, but not Celeste*

*The Sentinel knocked Celeste aside with a hard strike, then tried to swing again at Miriam, this time attempting to jump to do so, although it couldn’t really jump much… At all. Zaanel on the other hand couldn’t recover fast enough, actually getting seriously hurt by Chez’s crystals, as one of the spiked ones was shot with enough force to stab right into his arm. Despite this, he got up, very clearly having lost his cool, firing a barrage of blackened energy balls at everyone he could, while stomping his foot down again to cause a sort of miniature quake in this area and hopefully knock them off balance. His plan couldn’t be foiled, at least in his mind, by these worthless creatures…*

Zaanel: Just GIVE UP and DIE!

*Celeste quickly dodged the blackened energy balls, but wasn’t able to process the quake, getting knocked down. She was the only one to get knocked down though, as Chez managed to keep his footing and block the energy balls, while Ultia and Miriam kept flying around. Ultia and Chez were sending energy balls and crystals respectively at a constant rate now, the one crystal in Zaanel vanishing to leave an open wound as Chez’s eyes changed from glowing blue to a vibrant red*

*Celeste being knocked down for the moment actually worked out in Miriam’s favor, as it left an opening with the Sentinel in perfect position, extending her palm toward the chest of the Sentinel*

Miriam: No. I don’t think I will.

*A strong beam emits from her palm, heading straight for the Sentinel’s chest, being lined up to also hit Zaanel*

*He stood his ground nonetheless, trying to avoid the shots going at him, albeit with little luck at all. He didn’t notice Miriam’s charged beam, which pierced right through, and even dissipated the Sentinel. It hit Zaanel directly afterward, going through his body like a spear and exploding as soon as it went through, covering the area adjacent to him in black smoke as a result. There wasn’t a thump to be heard from him falling down, but there weren’t any further attacks from him either, yet…*

Miriam: Hit him with everything you’ve got, guys! *Starts sending out a flurry of dark energy ball attacks, as fast as she can manage*

*Ultia does just this, sending a nonstop barrage of energy balls into the smoke cloud, while Chez just kept up the crystal attacks he’d been doing. Celeste’s rage was finally beginning to cool down, and her body was seemingly out of the danger zone for now, leaving her to slowly change back to her normal appearance, panting lightly where she layed on the ground…*

*All this pressure must’ve been severely hurting him, but there was a loud, almost deafening explosion of dark energy from Zaanel’s position, although it didn’t lead to any attacks directed towards those inside. He took the hits from Miri and the others, and wouldn’t last more than a minute by now… But he had a big smirk on his face, knowing exactly what he just did…*

*Chez yelped in fear from the explosion, holding up his shield to block, just barely getting caught in the explosion by the edge… Eventually though, he realized the explosion hadn’t knocked them back or anything. He tried to think for a moment on what to do, but his head was completely clouded in rage and instinct. He couldn’t bear to let this moment slip away.*

*Chez quickly rushed forward without thinking, forming several massive crystals that hovered in the air. Each one they formed seeming to be larger than the last one, Chez holding their right paw up as the crystals each hung just below the dark smog for a moment. Chez then quickly pushed paw forward, launching each massive crystal one at a time, each smashing directly into where Zaanel would be. Every second Chez focused his attention to directing things without giving himself a chance to breathe, each crystal shattering on impact into smaller crystals that fling outwards like shrapnel almost from how hard Chez had been pushing them. This exhausted them further, but they still kept firing each and every crystal down anyways. About eight of the crystals was flinged directly onto Zaanel as the shards flung out, possibly even hitting some of the others from how uncharacteristically wild this was for Chez. Their red eyes glistened through the fading darkness with an emotionless expression, staring directly at Zaanel. Chez stayed completely silent the whole time, smashing two of the crystals at once right where Zaanel stood, with the last crystal having a slight delay, being the largest, before it was sent straight down, smashing onto Zaanel*

*Zaanel didn’t expect any of that from the “weakest”. By this point he’d already accepted his grand plan was going to fail because of these… Things, so he hardly even resisted. Each crystal smashed into and hurt him quite a bit, with the blunt impact from one of the huge ones visibly smashing into his head. With that, he didn’t appear to be dead, but did collapse forward, falling limp onto the ground*

*Chez panted heavily as their shield vanished and their legs slowly gave out again, this time from pure exhaustion. They kept their head held up long enough to watch for Zaanel, barely keeping themselves conscious as they held themselves up with their arms and watched Zaanel collapse*

Miriam: *Floats down, kicking Zaanel in the head, not with force, just enough to hurt* B***h.

*Chez snickered a little, weakly, their eyes slowly glazing over with a shade of gray as the color seemed to drain from them. Eventually, Chez just… Faceplanted, passing out completely*

*Celeste got up, her energy ball slowly fading back like solidifying smoke above her head, Celeste walking slowly over to Zaanel, who was out cold*

Celeste: We… We really did it…

Ultia: *Floats down next to Celeste* Are you alright? I didn’t pay much mind to it during the fight with everything else happening, but you took on a rather… Beastly form there…

Celeste: Wha…? *Pauses, taking a moment to realize what she must’ve meant* O-Oh, yeah. I’m fine. Tired, but… Yeah…

Ultia: *Didn’t entirely seem to believe that, but leaves it be for now, with a nod, looking at Zaanel* …Question now is, with Zaanel taken out, what happens to the Anomaly? It was his creation after all, and he seemed to be maintaining it…

Miriam: That… Is actually a valid question. If it just kinda pops out of existence, I’ll catch Chez, but you guys are on your own.

*Shortly after Miriam said this, the floor began to shake, with the shadows that formed it and the walls slowly disappearing, like they were dissolving away without Zaanel to keep the Anomaly energized. Ultia and Celeste look at each other briefly at this*

Celeste: I’ll grab Zaanel. Miri already said she had Chez.

Ultia: A-Are you sure? He seemed like he got to you pretty bad, considering…

Celeste: Maybe, but I’m not the one missing an arm. I can… Deal with it, you just focus on yourself.

Ultia: But I co-

Celeste: There’s no time to argue this, Ultia.

*Ultia pauses, giving a slight nod, then floating up and creating a star platform under herself, Celeste created a cage for Zaanel with her energy ball, which she sat on top of, it being wide enough for her to manage it without being too precarious, and Miriam quickly grabbed Chez and floated up, the three of them all floating down as the Anomaly disintigrated around them*


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