Tavia back stepped, putting distance between herself and Dieos. He watched her, his red eyes never leaving her form, but he didn't even look alarmed or wary. It was like he was watching an insect, one he could crush at any time, but didn't particularly want to deal with.
"And you say you aren't siding with the humans," Dieos scoffed. "Don't think I'll be as kind as last time. Neither of you will be leaving here alive."
Tavia circled around Dieos as he spoke, keeping one eye on him as she looked around the lab. It was a mess. What had happened here? The consoles lined up against the walls were cracked and dead; Althier pooled out of the devices and onto the floor, but it wasn't the cyan glow it ought to have been. The Corrupted Althier already lurking in the walls had spread, tainting the air and Althier. The heaviness caused by the corruption circled around the room, centered around Dieos.
The bed Izak was supposed to be on wasn't in the center of the room. Tavia gritted her teeth and looked away from Dieos, trying to find where it had been moved to. There were scratches on the floor where it had been, as if something had been dragged. Tavia's gaze followed the lines. There, in the corner, was something that looked like it might be the bed.
"Tavia," Ikarios shouted.
Tavia looked back at Dieos; he had taken a step towards her, and was reaching his hand out to grab her. She took a hurried step back, out of his reach, and then raised her sword. She side-stepped to get to Dieos's side, and then stepped forward, close enough for an attack. His reactions were slow; if it wasn't for the power lurking in his body, Tavia was sure he never would have lasted in combat.
She swung her sword at the man. She wouldn't hesitate again. She would strike him down.
The sword caught on something hard mere inches from Dieos's torso. It was a familiar feeling, the same as the barrier that surrounded the institute. It wasn't as strong, but it would still take at least a few seconds to cut through, and Dieos wasn't going to give her that time.
Alarm rang through her head as Evos warned her that Dieos was attacking once more. He reached out to grab her again, and Tavia jumped backwards, the strength from the Althier in her limbs turning the small jump into something that took her several feet through the air and landed a full yard away.
"Don't let him grab you," Ikarios said.
That was obvious. Tavia was sure something bad would happen if Dieos managed to lay hands on her, she just didn't know what exactly, and she didn't really want to find out.
"I must say, I'm feeling...ah what is this called?" Dieos tilted his head as he thought. "Disappointment. That's what it is. At this point, I was expecting more from you."
Dieos looked over at Ikarios. The boy was still standing near the elevator, his body tense and rigid as he glared at Dieos.
"Should I deal with you first, then?" Dieos asked.
Ikarios glared back, but despite his firm expression, he took a step back. The silver in his eyes flashed, but Dieos was unfazed.
But he was distracted for the moment. Tavia charged forward, lowering her sword to bring it across his body in a horizontal strike, but before she could make contact with Dieos's body, her sword stopped once again. Tavia gritted her teeth and poured her strength into the sword. The world screamed around her as she tore through the barrier, but before she could make much headway, Dieos swung his arm at her, red Althier flickering around his fist like a glove.
Tavia moved the sword into a position to block, and Dieos's fist struck the flat of the Ageless Sword. She saw him grimace before the force of his strike pushed her backwards. He had more force behind his fist than she had expected, and Tavia lost her balance as she tried to absorb the power of the blow.
She stumbled to the ground, and before she could regain her feet, Dieos kicked her in the chest. Tavia grunted as the kick sent her sliding across the hard stone floor. She stopped a good five feet away, and lay on the ground, a hand to her chest as she tried to assess the damage.
A broken rib? Maybe. Whatever it was, her chest hurt when she tried to breathe. She got up into a crouch, as Evos expressed his concern over her injuries, and then assurance. He thought she was alright to continue? Did she really have any choice?
Tavia swayed to her feet, a hand to her chest as she regained her breath and balance. Dieos was once again looking away from her, his attention back on Ikarios. Did he consider him a bigger threat? But Ikarios wasn't even armed. Maybe Dieos really was worried Ikarios would seize control of his mind. In that case, Tavia had to continue her attack.
There was a distortion in the air around Dieos, a flickering red that surrounded his entire body. It was the shield protecting him from her attacks, but she hadn't been able to see it before. One particular spot was a paler red than the rest, less brilliant. It was the spot she had tried to cut through only moments before. Either Dieos hadn't noticed it had yet to recover fully, or he didn't have the energy to fix it while fighting off Ikarios. Either way, that weak spot was Tavia's best hope.
She took a step forward. Dieos looked in her direction, saw the way her chest was heaving, and then looked away again. He was underestimating her, but that worked out best for Tavia.
"Let's give this all we've got," she whispered.
She increased her channeling, filling her body with Althier to the point where she thought she might scream from the pain. She clenched her jaw shut and kept her breath steady. The Ageless Sword's light intensified until it was bright enough to cast its light on the walls, washing away the red that overwhelmed the room.
Fast as possible; she'd likely only get one last shot at this. Althier filled the muscles in her legs, burning them, but granting strength at the same time. Her muscles bunched, and Tavia dashed forward. She focused her gaze on the weak spot, and brought her sword down with all the strength she had. The screaming of Althier tearing Althier filled the room once more, and Dieos jerked to attention. He spun around to face Tavia, but she didn't let up.
Her sword cut through the shield; every moment that passed saw her closer to the end. She kept her focus on the shield, ignoring the snarl on Dieos's face.
The shield shattered, but at the same time, Dieos grabbed Tavia's arm. Pain, like she was being torn apart, filled her body from where he touched her. Her world turned red as the corrupted Althier filtered into her body. Althier surrounded the point of contact, red from Dieos, and cyan from the coat protecting Tavia. She gasped for breath, her hands trembling. She would have collapsed, but the pain had locked her muscles in place.
"Give it up," Dieos said.
Tavia managed to draw a breath.
A frown flickered across his face. Dieos lifted her by the arm, and casually threw her across the room. She gasped as her back struck the wall of the lab, but compared to the pain of his grip, that was nothing. Her arm still burned from the point of contact, but at least her body wasn't filled with that terrifying pain anymore.
Tavia's body trembled, but she had to stand. She had to—
She got to her hands and knees, panting for breath. Her body burned all over, and Evos was nothing but a bundle of stress and worry. Tavia stood. Her shoulders were hunched, and she could barely lift her head. She looked up at Dieos, his red eyes were gleaming, shining like rubies under the summer sun.
Her body froze. She was rigid, locked in place by some force she couldn't see. This feeling wasn't the same as when Ikarios had taken control of her body before; it wasn't that she had lost control of her limbs. Instead, it was if the air had hardened around her arms and legs, preventing her movement.
"Enough of this," Dieos said, looking down at Tavia. "I guess I'll deal with you first."