Felix gripped the handle of Alondite tightly as Alex stood in front of him. The smug man was simply smiling as he looked at the group of battered warriors. In the last fight Felix hadn't taken many hits but the effort it had taken to dodge the Chaos Dragon had taken it's toll on his body causing the minor cuts and bruises that littered his body to ache with each breath. A few Potent Cures and he'd be fine but Felix knew he couldn't waste his Psynergy on such minor wounds when the main problem was physical fatigue. In such a state his Venus powers would be his best means of attack and he would need every drop of power he could muster if he was going to fight Alex.
"What was denied to you Alex?" Mia questioned her cousin. A calm rage emanated from the blue haired woman as her eyes locked onto Alex.
"Yes, I suppose an explanation is an order. It would be too much to expect you to understand." Alex returned Mia's stare with a cool gaze of his own. "Sadly when you tossed the Mars Star into the Lighthouse Beacon and brought forth the Golden Sun, the culmination of Lighthouses' power, not all of Mars' power was restored to the world."
"Mars' power wasn't fully restored?" Isaac appeared baffled at the notion. "Why would the others fully return but not Mars? More importantly, how would you know this?"
"The floating godlike being called the Wise One," Alex said with a hateful smile on his face. "He instilled the some of the Mars Star's power inside you Isaac. Because of this I wasn't granted the power I should have been by Alchemy's release."
"What does Yune have to do with this, why bring Tellius into your quest for power?" Ike demanded, pointing Ragnell at the blue haired Adept. He was using all of his strength to try and keep the blade level but couldn't stop it from quivering in the air.
"Put your sword down lest I take it from you." Dia stepped forward drawing his own sword as he spoke and pointed the weapon at the Tellian.
"He's no threat as he is right now Dia," Alex assured his partner. "In fact I doubt that any of them would be able to put up a decent fight as they are now." Vines erupted out of the ground, wrapping themselves around the arms and legs of the heroes. In their weakened state they couldn't break free of the Psynergy enhanced vines. Felix tried to use his own Psynergy to fight off the vines but the power that Alex had put in these were strong enough to prevent him from doing anything of the sort. "See, they can be restrained with the simplest of means. To answer your question Ike, I need the Goddess of Chaos to break through the final seal inside the mountain."
"What's behind this seal?" Ivan was glowing with the light of Psynergy as wind whipped up around him in the form of blades to cut the vines.
Alex laughed at the efforts Ivan was putting forth to try and get free. "Nothing that you need to worry yourself about Ivan. Just know that I'll be collecting on my power, with interest. If you want to try and stop me you're welcome to follow after me into the mountain. I'll even give you a sporting chance and remove all the Tuaparang soldiers inside."
"Are you sure that's a good idea Alex?" Dia hefted his sword up onto his shoulder as he looked at the Adept.
"It's the final showdown inside Mt. Aleph. Felix, you know I'm nothing if not sporting." Walking to the Venus Adept Alex reached down and picked up Alondite. Holding out his free hand towards Dia, Alex waited for him to hand over the medallion with Yune trapped inside. Pointing the white sword high into the air Alex tossed the medallion up. Blue energy gathered around Alondite's blade before Alex thrust it upwards towards the medallion. When the energy met the medallion a brilliant light shone out from the impact. The same flames that had once covered Ragnell, the same fire that had been absorbed by the two medallions, now these flames fell from the sky and into Alondite. With blue fire dancing over the white blade Alex looked back down on the trapped heroes. "You'll find me where we all first met." Alex placed his hand on Dia's shoulder and they both vanished under the effects of the Warp Psynergy.
As Alex and Dia vanished the vines that had been holding the group down fell limp. Hurriedly everyone threw off the vines and stood up, for some it was taking all their efforts to keep themselves standing. The two battles so close together had drained them of all their stamina. Chasing after Alex into Mt. Aleph right now would only serve to get them killed. Mia and Rief, tired as they were, went around and patched up everyone as best they could. Freed from the vines and with their minor wound healed the only thing stopping the group from chasing after Alex was their fatigue. Very few of them had the energy left to fight and even if they gave chase, they'd be outmatched.
"We need to find a place to rest, we aren't going to be able to rest well here." Pointing out the obvious, yet needed to be said, truth Soren started to look around for a viable spot that they could rest. Sitting amongst the craters and rubble of a fight they just had wasn't relaxing.
"Keep an eye out for monsters," Isaac advised. "Mt. Aleph is a strong source of Psynergy so there's bound to be some hiding around." Everyone nodded their heads in understanding as they started to walk away from the battlefield.
After an hour of walking, the group found a small cave to hide in for the time being. Garet sent a fireball in first to scare out any inhabitants. Three large canine like creatures bolted out, their fur slightly singed. Once inside everyone found a place to rest, some sat while others lied down. Getting their energy back right now was the most important thing.
"So no one's worried that this Alex guy is going to break this seal while we rest?" Janaff asked, not familiar with Alex's way of doing things.
"No," Felix answered quietly. "Alex said he'd wait for us where we first met and that's what he'll do."
"Felix is right," Ivan assured those that hadn't dealt with ALex before. "What we have to worry about is why he's waiting there for us. Alex wouldn't have chosen that spot without reason."
"Where did he pick?" soren wanted to be able to piece together as much information as he could, it was in his nature to learn about his opponents.
"The Elemental Star Chamber," Garet was the one to answer. "It was where our journey really started."
"What's in there that'd give Alex reason to choose that place?"
"If it was anyone else I'd say sentiment," Isaac responded. "Garet and I were in there only for a short time thirty years ago. Back then it was a cold cavern, I remember the rocks being coated in a thin layer of ice."
"Naturally Jenna and Kraden sent us to explore and possibly break our necks," interjecting a little humor Garet attempted to liven the mood, as was his self imposed job.
"After we picked up the Mars Star, the key to lighting the Mars Lighthouse, Mt. Aleph started to erupt. Garet and I were able to escape thanks to the Wise One. I can only imagine what it looks like now after having the room erupt."
"We'll head there once we've regained our strength but Isaac," Soren looked serious, more serious, while he spoke directly to Isaac, "you'll need to stay back until we've dealt with Alex."
"My dad is one of our strongest fighters," Matthew pointed out as he recalled his father's display with the Sol Blade. "If we want to defeat Alex we'll need his strength."
"I understand," Isaac nodded his head at Soren. "Alex wants the remaining power of the Mars Star, which is supposed to be in me now." Picking up the yellow sword that he used in the last fight he called out to Felix before handing the other elder Venus Adept the Sol Blade. Taking the weapon Felix shook his head, ashamed that he had lost Alondite so easily.
"Dad, are you sure?" Matthew was a little shocked that his dad was so readily able to just sit by and let the others fight.
"It's not that I want to sit back Matthew. But if Alex wants the Mars Star it's best to keep it away from him. The last thing we need to do is play into his hands."
"Anyone have an idea how we're going to get Yune back?" Ike raised the question. Silence permeated the cave. All eyes turned to Ivan and Soren, the two brains of the group.
"Whatever it was that Alex did, I have no idea how he did it. All I can say for certain is that the blue fire was absorbed by the sword." Ivan had his arms folded while he sat crosslegged on the ground. Everyone's gaze shifted over to Soren who shook his head, neither of them had a real idea of what had just happened.
"Just for the record I don't have any idea what happened there either," Artemis offered up.
Unwillingly a few members of the group had drifted off to sleep they were so tired. While they slept Felix got up and headed outside. The sun had just set leaving the moon and stars the only source of light. Reaching up over his shoulder Felix grasped the hilt of the sword on his back. The cloth that wrapped around the hilt felt different to his hand by the feel of the blade itself was familiar, like he hadn't given it up to the Mars Clan thirty years ago.
His body ached in protest but Felix swung the Sol Blade around, going through the forms he had picked up over the years. While he moved through the forms his body got used to the motions and the aches started to subside. Bring the blade down Felix felt a sharp pain in his shoulder caused him to drop the sword mid swing.
Leaning down to pick up the sword Felix could hear a voice off in the distance, one that was coming from a different direction of the cave. Quickly grabbing the hilt of the Sol Blade with the hand opposite of the injured shoulder. Unsure of who the owner of the voice was Felix wanted to be prepared for a fight. Injured as he was he was sure that he'd be able to at least hold off whoever was approaching long enough that someone else from the cave would be able to help him.
Hearing their voice coming closer and the sounds of the pebbles of the area clack against each other Felix unconsciously tensed up ready to fight what was going to emerge from the rocks that surrounded the cave. The first thing that he saw clearly was the pommel of a sword at about the height it'd be if it was sheathed on a person's waist.
"Show yourself," Felix called out to the person behind the rock. All sounds of movement stopped at the sound of Felix's voice. Still tense the Venus Adept moved to try and get to an angle where he could see the owner of the sword.
"Felix, is that you?" the person asked, the voice distinctly female. Able to hear the person clearly now that she was so close Felix thought he recognized the voice.
"Mia?" He wondered aloud.
Sure enough once he could see past the rock she was behind Felix caught sight of her trademark orange outfit. She was a little worse for wear since he last saw her, parts of her outfit were sliced and blood had seeped into the cloth staining it a darker color of orange with a hint of brown. Her hair was a mess and there was a small cut on her cheek that was still oozing a little blood. Seeing her disheveled state Felix rushed over to her and assessed the damage that she had sustained.
"I'm fine Felix, it's not as bad as it looks. Ike's done worse to me in our training sessions." Letting Felix look her over Mia stood there waiting for him to finish before he gave a nod of approval.
"Where were you?" satisfied that Mia wasn't too badly injured Felix's mind moved to wondering what had been the cause of the injuries in the first place. Last he knew she had been taken captive by Alex.
"Under the large mountain over there." Mia pointed to the towering Mt. Aleph. "They kept me in a jail cell but I managed to escape. All of this," gesturing to her injuries Mia had a grin on her face, "I got from fighting my way out." The Trueblade was proud that she had been able to free herself.
"How?" Felix questioned not her ability but the fact that the Tuaparang had been unable to keep a single person detained. So far they had appeared far too clever to simply let a prisoner escape.
"Well I did have some help," Mia confessed. Echo appeared on top of her head, looking a little tired from the assistance he'd given during their escape from Mt. Aleph. "They didn't think I'd be able to conjure up any Psynergy or the likes. Echo here got me out of the cell and then I got us out of the mountain."
"Thanks Echo," Felix held his hand out to the Djinn. Turning into energy Echo disappeared into Felix to gather his energy, using the Adept's naturally affinity with Psynergy to restore himself faster. "We should tell the others you're here." Grabbing Mia by the hand Felix led her to the cave where the group was resting.
Soren was the only one of the Tellians left awake, even Ike had drifted off to sleep to recover. Greeting Mia with a smirk, that was the Soren equivalent of a smile, he nodded in silence to her sudden appearance. With the kids fast asleep none of the Weyard born know who it was that Felix had brought in but Mia noticed her scrapes instantly and headed over to give the swordswoman her own once over, not knowing that Felix had already done so. Feeling that some of Mia's cuts could use with a quick treatment the Angel patched Mia up with a few Plys.
After a quick round of introductions Mia sat down slowly, in a bit more pain than she had let on. While she hadn't lied when she said that Ike had done worse to her in training sessions, that wasn't saying she was okay. Ike didn't hold back in training so Mia had, more times than she could count, require Rhys healing in order to keep from falling into a near death coma. Late in the night as it was even those that had managed to stay awake until now started to feel drowsy. It wasn't long before they had all fallen asleep in the cave.
Artemis woke with the dawn, having been absent from most of the last fight she hadn't had much reason to sleep. Looking around she noticed that none of the others had awakened yet. Feeling just fine she reached into her pocket and pulled out the Teleport Lapis. If they were going to take down Alex and Dia then they were going to need more than just the group that they had gathered. The problem was that at the moment the Tuaparang should be invading Tellius so she couldn't pull anyone away from the fight there. Jenna's group was the only one that she could possibly gather but the Lapis wouldn't transport her down into the cave they had gone into and getting down to them in enough time would be problematic. They were her only shot to add members to the team though.
"I'll be back in time to lend aid. I hope, " she whispered to the group before channeling Psynergy into the Teleport Lapis and vanishing from the area.
Reappearing outside the cave that the Tuaparang intelligence had told her that a group had entered Artemis prayed that she'd be able to find them down in the maze that led to the base under the island. Without a map of any sort and having never explored the cave herself Artemis could only guess where they were at within the natural maze that lay before her. Checking to see that her bow was ready she dashed forth into the mouth of the cave.
With a yawn Isaac woke up to the sounds of shuffling bodies. Light filled the cave telling the inhabitants that it was morning, they had been able to sleep through the night without incident. Ike, Felix, and Mia were the only ones that the light hadn't woken up yet. Getting up and stretching out all the kinks that came from sleeping on the ground Isaac headed outside where the others had gathered. Shielding his eyes from the sun as he walked out the Venus Adept looked up at the large mountain that loomed over everything in the vicinity. All of these years spent trying to get back to the mountain and now it was going to be the battlefield against Alex. Meeting up with the group that had gathered together Isaac listened in to see if there what was going on.
"The point is we don't know where she's gone or why she left, she was gone before any of us woke up." Soren's analytic voice was easy to distinguish from the mess of others. "For all we know she's gone to help the Tuaparang."
"Artemis wouldn't do that," Ivan practically shouted back at the Arch Sage. "She wouldn't go and help them after bringing Felix and the others to us."
"She could have brought him along for the simple fact she knew that Yune would follow after him given the chance." Soren rebutted. While Soren remained his same stoic self it was easy to see that Ivan was being pushed to his limits.
"That's enough out of the both of you," Garet stepped in between the two wind users, preventing anything that might have been about to happen. "I get what you're saying Soren, but you don't know Artemis like we do. Sure we didn't know she had been working for the Tuaparang but that doesn't mean we don't know what she's like. It's just not in her to betray us, for all we know she's gone to find help."
"Garet's right," Mia backed him up. "She has the Teleport Lapis and if she wanted to hurt us she would have already given away our location."
"We'll just have to head out and try to stop Alex before anything goes wrong," Garet finished. While Soren didn't look convinced he dropped the matter, he'd gotten his point across and was able to recognize that any further argument would be pointless. The group that had gathered around dispersed now that there was no more threat of infighting.
Still a little sore from sleeping on the ground rather than in beds, the group was moving a bit slower than normal but still, they were in fighting shape. Isaac headed over to his best friend that had just put a stop to an argument that could have ended badly had it been allowed to continue. Garet was talking with Mia, Matthew, and Sveta about something but when he approached all four of them fell silent. Curious as to why they were acting so suspicious Isaac decided to leave it alone until later, right now he had bigger fish to fry.
While he had agreed with Soren yesterday about staying away from the fight with Alex there was something about it that didn't sit right with the Venus Adept. Alex had never been upfront with his master plan before, why would he start now? Warrior instinct or whatever you wanted to call it was giving Isaac the feeling that even if he wasn't to appear to fight Alex, he'd still be playing into the man's hand. If he fought Alex then at least he knew what the former Mercury Adept was doing and could possibly prevent him from getting his way.
Isaac went to consult with the man that had put out the idea for him to stay behind. Soren was off by himself with a small book in hand. With a quill in hand the man was swiftly writing something within the pages of the notebook he had with him. Isaac was unsure of what Soren was writing but he figured it had something to do with the events of yesterday and what they'd be trying to accomplish today. Standing next to the Arch Sage Isaac tried to think of the best way to explain what he planned to do.
"You're going to come with us anyways aren't you?" Soren hit the nail on the head without looking up from the book.
"I have the feeling that no matter what I do I'll be playing into Alex's hands," Isaac replied calmly.
"So you plan to present yourself to him, something we know he wants us to do."
"I can't sit back and do nothing, not when there's a chance I can do something to stop it." Thirty years ago Isaac hadn't been able to do anything to prevent Alex from seeing his plan through. If it hadn't been for the Wise One's foresight, Alex would have gotten the full power of the Golden Sun.
"Last night you said that you understood why you need to stay back," Soren pointed out.
"Still do," Isaac agreed. "That doesn't mean I can let you guys go in alone and let this play out without doing something to stop Alex myself. You could say that I want to make up for the fact I couldn't do anything thirty years ago."
"Let him come, appearing behind the two was Ike. "You couldn't stop me from fighting the Black Knight and I don't think you'll be able to stop Isaac today. A curt nod was exchanged between the two men in a mutual understanding of the situation. Shaking his head Soren dropped the subject, today just wasn't his day. The last of the problems finished, and with the remaining two members awake, it was time to head into Mt. Aleph to find Alex.
Arriving at the entrance to the inside of the mountain the group took a collective breath before heading in. Isaac and Garet, the only two that had last seen the mountain before it sunk into the earth, gasped at the sight they were greeted with. While this wasn't the entrance they had used back when they lived at the foot of the mountain, it was a shocking sight to see nothing but bare cave walls. Compared to the temple they had entered before, this was nothing like they had expected another entrance to be like.
Having just come from this area last night, Mia lead the way down into the depths of the mountain. Through the man made tunnels they headed down into the mountain's depths. Evidence that the area had once been inhabited by the Tuaparang was apparent by the weapons, armor, and technology. It appeared that Alex had been true to his word as they had yet to run into a single Tau Warrior during their walk.
Walking down three flights of stairs they had reached the dungeon level that Mia had just escaped from. Going deeper still into the mountain they reached a small tunnel with a single door at the end. Torches lined the wall, far apart enough that there were wells of darkness between the light cast by the fires. The door at the end was the done in the same style as the door that had guarded the Daedalus summon tablet, grey stone with a sun carved into it and a slot for the Sol Blade. Felix had the Sol Blade in his hand before they reached the door and inserted the blade into the keyhole without thought.
"Been all over Weyard," Felix explained to everyone when they gave him an odd look, "picked up a few things." Taking it in stride the group followed the swordsman through the door.
"I have to ask though," Matthew pipped up, "how did you guys lose the Sol Blade in the first place?"
"Now's not the time," Felix answered, a bit more curtly than he meant to.
"Your Uncle lost it on the way back home after we lit the Mars Lighthouse," Garet readily supplied. Felix glared at Garet over his shoulder as he walked.
Nothing had changed in the scenery after going through the Sol Blade locked door, not until they came to the first open area. When the tunnel opened up to a small cavern, tiles dotted the floor on the otherside. It gave off the feeling that the room was incomplete, that this room was to be fully tiled but something had stopped the progress. Dirt and grime had gathered on the once pristine white floor turning them an ugly gray color.
The clanking of armor could be heard coming from the other side of the room as the gang stood there, taking in the change. Coming out into the room was Dia, still clad in his mock Black Knight armor. Hefted onto his shoulder was a weapon that Ike and the other Tellians were all too familiar with, the Gurgurant. With the Mad King's sword in hand Dia approached the heroes, blocking their way deeper into the mountain.
"Alex may have gotten rid of the grunts but you will still have to deal with me." Lifting the massive blade off his armored shoulder, Dia slammed the crescent shaped tip of the sword into the ground, chunks of dirt flying into the air under the force. It was a clear challenge to everyone in the room, Dia was betting that he'd be able to take them all on alone.
"I'll take you on," Garet stepped forward, axe in hand. Mia stepped up behind him him ready to back up the careless Hero.
"You two won't be enough," Janaff flew over to hover next to the Adepts, "mind some aerial support?" Both fighters nodded in appreciation of the assistance offered.
"Just you three? So be it, I'll carve you into pieces." Swinging the Gurgurant with both hands Dia sent forth a wave of red energy at the three warriors. Janaff flew high, transforming in the process, while Garet and Mia rolled under the attack.
Hawk talons raked across the ebon armor of Dia as Janaff sped past him. With a yell Garet swung his axe at the armored opponent that managed to raise the giant sword to block the Adept's attack. Proceeding to trade blows, Garet kept walking backwards to pull Dia away from the tunnel entrance, Janaff stopping Dia from retreating. Fighting an armored foe while wearing none himself, Garet was at a disadvantage in close combat, at least his Hawk partner had speed and could retreat to the air is need be. Mia was doing her best to patch up the wounds that Garet and Janaff sustained but she was quickly being overtaxed by this.
"They aren't going to be able to do it with just the three of them," Ike observed as he stepped forward to help them out.
"We'll have to trust that they can," Isaac placed a hand on the Vanguard's shoulder, holding him back. The two leaders looked at each other each trying to convince the other they were right without saying a thing. Seemingly annoyed at the two, Lethe rolled her eyes before she ran out onto the battlefield, transforming mid run.
"Or Lethe will join the battle," Mia told the two men. Bot glanced over to see the large orange cat pounce on Dia, granting Garet a small relief from the fight.
"I'll lend my power to them," taking off into the air Reyson followed after Lethe. With both of the group's laguz members in the fight against Dia the Heron's Galdr would best be used here were he could make full use of all his songs.
"Let's take this opportunity to move forward," Soren suggested, already making his way to the tunnel that Dia had come through. All five fighters had moved to the center of the room where they could make the most of space provided. A bit reluctant to leave them behind, but understanding what that the greater threat lie ahead, Ike headed after Soren. With everyone else following after them they left their four friends to deal with the last remaining general of the Tuaparang army.
Now as they reached the Sol Sanctum that Isaac had explored in his teens with Kraden, Jenna, and Garet the pace was much faster. Even though he had only been in the sanctuary once before Isaac felt that he knew exactly where they needed to go to get to the Elemental Star Chamber. While the sanctum was a large place it was easy enough to navigate, the puzzles that had once prevented easy exploration were still solved from thirty years ago. Statues were still moved and the bull still had the gem set in its eye allowing the party to move forward without much hindrance as the monsters that had once called the place home had vanished.
Coming to the final room, the entrance to the Star Chamber, Isaac could see the portal still shimmering in the back. The four angel statues holding the crystals still sat around the picture of the crescent moon on the floor, one that had at first been a sun before Isaac's group had disarmed the trap on the floor above. A line of light shot from the center of the moon to the portal, the light was the very thing making the warp in space. Felix was the first one to the portal, he too knew that it was the entrance to the room they sought, the Star Chamber being where he had revealed himself to his friends after having them think him dead for three years. Standing below the glowing white light on the wall Felix let the power suck him up and through, each of the members of the group in turn followed suit.
Emerging out on the other side of the portal, Isaac and Felix were both stunned by what had happened to the Elemental Star Chamber. It had been covered in ice the last time they had been here but now that the Elemental Stars were gone and Mt. Aleph had returned to being an active volcano, lava flowed over the floor. Gone where the pillars that Isaac had hopped across all those years ago to collect the Stars. Lava had hardened and created a fairly solid ground, with obvious places of weakness evident by the flowing magma underneath. The entire room was light by the liquid fire that raced under their feet.
Floating in front of them above a pool of fire and stone was Alex. The Alondite was in his hands, blue fire still surrounding the white sword. Seeming to be oblivious to the arrival of the group Alex sent a wave of the blue fire down into the lava, sending it into the air where it hardened before falling to the ground. In the small time before more lava took the place of what Alex had gotten rid of the group could see a white barrier.
"Glad to see you could make it," Alex congratulated the group.