Their shared meditation helped, and in a way Yerbol's philosophical musings also lent the pair strength. They had overcome those narrowed viewpoints on the Force and it's properties, and even changed the views of many of the Elders who currently worked with them (which, at the time, had also seemed impossible), they could stop Illesia too. They spent the rest of the journey meditating again, even the hounds oddly quiet as they seemed to sense the gravity of the situation they were about to go into.
As they began to skim over the planet’s surface, her partner shot her a glare and she instantly knew what he was referring to, but offered little more than a thin smile which didn't come close to filling her face in response, too focused on their intended task and its possible outcomes to make Wampa jokes. Instead, she sat further forward to squint at the glaciers as Yerbol brought the vision Renso had sent them months before back to their attention. Spotting the odd formation mere seconds before Yerbol did himself, Aria had raised an arm to point it out when the other Champion spoke and veered towards it.
Upon leaving the confines of the ship, the duo and their beastly companions found the surface of Chufion Prime to be even colder than it first appeared. Pulling her cloak tighter around her shoulders, Aria exchanged a glance with Yerbol and pressed forward. The further they advanced into the hallway, the more familiar it seemed. This was definitely the place from Renso's visions. At the end of the hallway, they were greeted with a set of pods that were also recognisable, out of which emerged their quarry.
Aria narrowed her eyes warily at Illesia, choosing her words very carefully.
“Renso made a mistake with the way he treated you, he realised that before he died.” she knew it would do little to change the Xiis leader’s ways, but perhaps it would bring her some manner of closure before she met her end. “But what he learned...the teachings he gave you, they were the right ones.”
The Champion shook her head sadly. “You know what's sad is, you don't even see that anymore. That real strength and power comes from the balance of knowing when to kill and when to show compassion and mercy, not from hatred and fear.”
Drawing her lightsabers, Aria's muscles tensed in preparation for the confrontation, her eyes never leaving Illesia. It was difficult to judge the level of power in this place, and thus difficult to judge whether they could successfully overload Illesia's abilities by feeding TOO much energy into her. They risked draining too much of their own energy in the process too, which didn't seem viable.
I think we've got a better chance trying to cut her off than overloading her… she pointed out to Yerbol, shifting her weight warily. Or at least trying to wear her down a bit first seems like a good idea. It nearly worked last time, right?
Illesia had no other Xiis, so far as they could tell currently, which would make the task easier...more like a one on one fight. We'll keep goading her, maybe if I can irritate her enough she won't notice what you're doing this time.
If all else failed they could attempt to overload her instead. Giving her partner one final nod, Aria went on the offensive, Chwuq flanked her while Taral hung back at Yerbol's side to give the Champion some form of protection. The Xiis leader’s teeth flashed again as she dodged sideways to avoid Aria's blade, Chwuq’s teeth snapping shut inches off their mark as Illesia avoided her too. And thus the deadly game of feint-and-dodge began, though Illesia wasn't entirely invested, too much of her attention was still fixed on Yerbol, making the Champion’s task of stripping her Force connection that much harder. They would have to fix that.
With a flummoxed snort, Chwuq shook her coat as she glanced between Aria and the Xiis.
This prey is difficult. Much hurt for us if it hits back.
Aria avoided another swipe to her shoulder and nodded, grasping for the tendrils she recognised as the beast’s mind.
I know. We're the distraction. She needs to be weaker, then we kill her. It was a dangerous game to be playing, but a few broken bones or battle wounds could be mended, compared to the alternative of allowing Illesia to recover her strength fully and launch another attack on an Alliance world.
That, Chwuq understood. With renewed understanding, the pair closed in on Illesia again. Chwuq turned out to be surprisingly agile for her size, twisting and leaping to deflect some of Illesia's more savage blows away from Aria, for which the Champion was grateful the longer the dance went on. For all their efforts, they seemed to be in a stalemate, every blow Aria landed or deflected was mirrored in kind by the Xiis leader, only one in every three lunges of tooth and claw from Chwuq landing their mark (though Aria suspected the Tuk’ata intended this to be so, each wound was not enough to bring them the endgame opportunity, but deep enough to bleed and gradually sap the Xiis’ strength). Keep hounding her, keep her attention off Yerbol and Taral, who was doing a good job of snapping and lunging to force Illesia back towards the other two whenever the Xiis came too close. This time it was a more even match of strength and stamina between them thanks to the few weeks of sparring, strength training and meditation the duo had partaken in at the academy, and that seemed to put Illesia's caution on high alert. Her lunges were more cautious, her muscles always tensed to leap away as she avoided getting too close.
Holding her blade aloft, Aria's features quirked into a smirk as she pointed it directly at Illesia and proclaimed between slightly shaky breaths:
“It's not like a Xiis to try and run from a fight.”
A snarl. “What's the matter, afraid of a bit of competition?” she rolled to the left to avoid a projectile of broken glass which Illesia plucked from the broken edges of the stasis pod behind them and hurled at her in retort, hiding her wince as some of the shards nicked her shoulder.
The Champion popped back up on Illesia’s right side, features spreading into a smug grin as the taunts continued, since they appeared to be having the desired effect.
“For all your efforts, you know he’s never going to want you. Not while I’m here.”
She had perhaps, underestimated the force with which Illesia would launch her next attack due to her anger at the Champion’s constant prodding, Aria’s eyes widening a little as she was hurtled clean over Illesia’s head and back into the pods behind the Xiis. She was sure the glass might have cracked on the impact, though thankfully it seemed to cave inwards and thus meant very little injury to Aria other than being momentarily dazed, which the Champion played to her full advantage by feigning a stumble and inability to hold her weight underneath her in the hopes of drawing the Xiis in closer, if Yerbol could cut off her Force abilities, Chwuq could come at her from behind and prevent her escape, so the duo could finish this…