Part 22: Lassic
Chapter 22: Lassic
I paced around the top of the tower, scuffing my shoes against the roof as I walked.
"Are you okay?" Odin asked. "You look restless."
I shook my head. "I'm fine. I'm just searching for hidden switches in the roof."
"Are you sure? Because if it's about your father--"
"It's not about my father." It was. We were wasting time up here while he was rotting away in prison.
"Well, I don't think you're going to get anywhere by kicking the floor. Are you sure there's even anything up here? Maybe all Lassic was keeping here was Damor and the Miracle Key."
"No!" I answered, a little too abruptly. "There has to be something up here. There has to be. If there isn't, that means we have no leads left on where Lassic is, and... and--"
"Um, Alis?" Noah interjected. "I have an idea."
Knowing Noah, either his idea would lead us straight to some vital piece of information or it would involve jumping off the tower to see if we could fly. He'd been on a roll lately, though. "Yes, Noah?"
"If whatever is up here is hidden, and Lassic can use magic, then maybe it's hidden by magic. Why don't we try using the Aeroprism?"
"Good idea, Noah. It's worth a try."
I took the Aeroprism out of my bag and held it above my head. A beam of light shot out from its centre and arced up into the sky.
The sky flashed with an iridescent display of colours, and a huge floating castle materialised. There was something up here, alright; it was just a little further up than I'd expected. Now how were we going to get up there? I didn't have time to go all the way back to the Luveno, and I didn't think there'd be any place for it to land anyway. And if we needed to fly, there was only one other option. I took the Laconian pot out of my bag, opened it and offered a Laerma nut to Myau.
Myau sniffed at it dubiously. "Are you sure this is going to work?"
"Please, Myau. You're the only one who can get us up to Lassic's castle. All of us -- no, everyone in the Algo star system is counting on you."
Myau rolled his eyes. "Alis, you should know by now that guilt trips don't work on me."
"Well, in that case, just think about how cool it would be if you could fly."
"That's more like it," Myau said with a grin.
Myau opened his mouth and I popped the Laerma nut in there. He gnawed on it for a while, swallowed, and stuck his tongue out in disgust. At first, nothing else happened.
Then Myau burst into flames.
For a few moments, I worried that I'd made some terrible mistake. Was the kind of Laerma nut I'd picked somehow incompatible with the kind of Musk Cat Myau was?
When I saw what he'd become, I knew there was nothing to worry about. Myau had grown to the size of a large horse and sprouted a beautiful pair of wings. Amazingly, his jacket had stretched to fit his new size, and his wings poked out neatly through the holes in its back; whoever designed it had clearly known about the peculiarities of Musk Cat physiology.
"That was totally worth eating that horrible Laerma nut," Myau said, craning his neck back to take a look at his wings.
"What are we going to do now?" Noah asked curiously. "Can we jump off the tower and see if you can fly?"
Noah was two for two today.
We could all fit comfortably on Myau's back as long as we held on tightly. As we flew up toward the castle, a golden dragon swooped down from the castle's ramparts to intercept us. Myau flew straight at it, undeterred.
(Video / Backup)
Myau made a close flyby past the dragon, ducking under its claws and grazing its chest with his fang while I slashed at its neck. As Myau turned around for a second pass, the dragon's fiery breath caught him in the flank, severely burning him and scorching Odin, who returned fire with his laser gun. On our second flyby I finished what I'd started, cutting deeply into its throat with my sword. The dragon gave an ear-piercing screech and nosedived toward the ground.
Myau, whimpering in pain from his wounds, flew us unsteadily into the castle's courtyard before slumping to the floor, exhausted. As I used my magic to heal the worst of his wounds, his wings shrank down into his back and his body returned to normal size.
We took some time to catch our breath before continuing on. There were a number of houses along the side of the path, although none were as finely-decorated as I would have expected from buildings so close to Lassic's castle. Perhaps this was where his servants lived.
The residents sat motionless in their houses, not responding to anything I said to them. I grabbed one's hand in a failed attempt to get his attention, and when I let go he held his arm perfectly still in midair. It was as if their will had been completely taken away.
I felt certain that this was what Lassic was trying to do to my father. I'd make sure he wouldn't live long enough to succeed.
The one man who still had enough volition left to talk to us warned us that trying to oppose Lassic would mean our deaths. I don't know why he bothered. If we were going to turn back, we never would have come anywhere near this far in the first place.
Another house held an unpleasant surprise in the form of a giant serpent. We quickly drew our weapons and felled the beast.
Finally, after our long journey across Algo, we stood at the entrance to Lassic's castle. The opulent decoration of the walls and gates was offset by the menacing stone gargoyles on the roof, and by the knowledge of who awaited us inside.
The interior of the castle was just as I'd expected it to be, with rich carpeting and the obligatory wall art depicting monsters and demons engaged in sundry atrocities. I was much more concerned with the actual monsters that seemed to lie in wait around every corner. The castle's layout was straightforward, but the fact that the only stairs we could find kept leading deeper and deeper down into the castle's dungeons didn't exactly inspire confidence in me.
We fought our way through countless dragons and robot cops to reach the deepest level of the dungeons. Behind a relatively plain locked door, we were confronted by a man whose face looked just like Lassic did in all the propaganda posters and films. There was something wrong about the way he moved that I couldn't quite place, though.
(Video / Backup)
When sparks flew from his wounds as we attacked him, I realised what it was. We were fighting a lifelike robotic body double. Its fighting skills were somewhat lacking, and we dismantled it in a few hits.
The robot taunted us as if we thought destroying it was some great achievement instead of a minor inconvenience.
"Is that the best Lassic can throw at us?" Myau crowed.
"Don't get too cocky, Myau," Odin warned. "We still need all our strength for what's ahead of us."
Beyond the robot, the passages led back up toward ground level. We made our way up until the path ended at a heavy, magically locked door. Just as in Medusa's tower, a mural above it depicted the demon I'd seen in my nightmare. The picture didn't bother me any more: I had a strong feeling that Lassic's throne room was behind this door, and once he was dead I'd have nothing left to fear from his illusions.
"We can't be far from Lassic now. Is everyone ready?" I asked, adjusting my armour to cover any weak spots as best I could.
"I can't wait," said Myau, with a predatory grin.
Odin stared gravely down at his axe and shield. "Ready as I'll ever be."
"Of course!" Noah said cheerfully. "Once we've saved Algo, can we have ice cream? It's my favourite food but it was always hard to get on Motavia owing to the lack of ice. I think my favourite flavour is strawberry, but chocolate is nice too, and sometimes vanilla is--"
I interrupted before Noah's rambling could draw the attention of every monster in the castle. "Listen, here's my battle plan. If anyone disagrees with it, feel free to speak up. Myau, heal and strengthen us when then go for the throat when you see an opportunity. Odin, get right in there with your axe and I'll try to flank him -- let's see how strong Lassic's fear of our Laconian weapons really is. Noah... Noah, just do what you do best and we'll be having ice cream in no time."
As I took out my Miracle Key and prepared to unlock the door, I tried to bolster my confidence with thoughts of everyone I was fighting for.
For my father, taken away from his home and family in the night and broken by Lassic just for asking too many questions.
For Nekise and Suelo, the last brave people left in Camineet, who had been there for me and Nero when we needed them.
For a girl whose name I never knew, turned into a monster named Medusa by Lassic's evil magic.
For Myau, a noble creature left alone in the world by human cruelty.
For Odin, a hero every bit as worthy of the title as anyone in history.
For Noah, a true innocent who answered the call to fight evil with his extraordinary mental powers.
For Palma, a once-beautiful planet defaced by monsters and the iron-fisted rule of Lassic.
For Motavia, protected from total ruin at Lassic's hands by a barely competent governor.
For Dezoris... well, not so much for Dezoris. That planet still sucked.
But most of all, for Nero, my brother, who gave his life to fight for Algo's freedom. If it weren't for him, I never would have set out to kill Lassic. Nero's sacrifice would not be in vain. I would avenge him.
I flung the door open and strode into the room.
Lassic's chambers weren't so much a throne room as an altar room, apparently dedicated to the demon whose image I'd seen outside. I drew my sword and looked Lassic straight in the eye. He stared back at me, his eyes glowing an unnatural red, filled with hatred and contempt. The feeling was mutual.
"I'm not here to kill an old man. I'm here to kill a monster."
Lassic flew into a rage and began chanting in an evil-sounding language. The crystal on his staff glowed with an intense blue-white light.
(Video / Backup)
Just as the staff seemed about to discharge its energy, I felt the crystal hanging around my neck heat up and vibrate. I looked at Lassic and saw that his staff's crystal was doing the same. The crystals continued to resonate with each other until with a deafening shattering noise, deep cracks shivered through both crystals. Lassic screamed in frustration, electricity flying wildly in all directions from the broken crystal. We were showered in sparks that delivered agonising shocks; I shuddered to think what would have happened if Lassic had been able to turn his full power against us.
Odin was the first of us to reach Lassic and strike, but Lassic dodged with inhuman agility, and even with Myau's magic strengthening him Odin only managed a glancing blow to Lassic's side. Struggling to see through the sparks, I dashed behind Lassic and stabbed him deeply in the back, but he showed no pain, only anger. No blood flowed from his wounds; it was as if we were cutting into a corpse. Noah used his wind magic to throw Lassic off balance and clear the sparks away from around us while Odin and I attacked and Myau frantically tended to our wounds. Lassic turned his staff toward Noah and he bore the brunt of the next salvo of sparks, staggering back in pain.
We'd cut Lassic's flesh down to the bone in places now, and his head was hanging from his neck by a thread, but he was still fighting as viciously as ever. Noah, horribly burned and too exhausted to use his magic, made a last desperate lunge at Lassic, using his wand as a weapon. Lassic took the impact of the wand's sharp point in his stomach, still with no sign of pain, and struck Noah in the side of the head with his staff. Electricity coursed through Noah's body and he fell to the ground, lifeless. Crying out in anger, I raised my sword and struck with all my might at what remained of Lassic's neck, cutting his head cleanly off.
Lassic's body finally dropped to the ground, and his staff grew dormant. Slowly, painfully, Lassic's severed head twitched its muscles and turned around to face me. His eyes looked up at me, and his mouth opened to speak.
"I loved life so much... All I wanted... was to live forever..."
The glow faded from his eyes, and a cloud of foul-smelling black mist issued forth from his mouth and drifted out the door.
"Well," I said, "now you're dead."
Our long journey was finally nearing its end. All that remained was to resurrect Noah, open up the prisons, decommission the robot cops, and begin the long task of rebuilding what Lassic had destroyed. Much as I hated to admit it, doing all of that would require the Governor's help. We had one more trip to make before we could truly rest.