Ada tossed and turned on the ground. It wasn't the rough dirt she slept on or the crackling of the fire or the sound of Colette's whispered prayers as she waited out the long night. Ada couldn't sleep because of the auburn haired man staring into the fire across from her. I feel as though I know him. Not just from playing the game, but know him...personally? She sat up slowly and looked at him. After a moment he met her eyes and she blushed.
"Are you well, Adalais?" Kratos asked, looking at her. She nodded and got to her feet and walked over to him.
"May I?" she asked gesturing to the empty stretch of ground next to him before clasping her hands behind her back so he couldn't see them shake. When he nodded she sat down next to him and gazed at the fire. Unconsciously she raised a hand to her mouth to nibble her nails but-
Kratos's hand shot out and seized her wrist, startling her. He, too, was startled. It was something he had always done to Anna, but this girl wasn't Anna. "My apologies Adalais," Kratos said, dropping her wrist. Ada gulped and tried to suppress the butterflies that had risen in her chest and the lightning racing through her veins.
She shook her head and glared at Kratos. "Why do you keep calling me that?"
"Calling you what?" he said confused.
"That's your name, is it not?"
"Unfortunately," she grumbled. "But like I said, most people call me Ada. Or my friends do anyway."
"I see," Kratos said. He paused and then asked, "You truly are from neither Sylvarant nor Tethe'alla?
Ada shook her head. "I told you, I'm from a dimension that does not exist to you. It has nothing do with Mithos’s split world."
Kratos eyes widened in surprise and Anna realized that she had revealed far too much about what she knew. She made to stand up and put some distance between them, but Kratos seized her wrist again and pulled her back down.
"You will explain yourself," he whispered coolly, so coolly that Ada half expected frost to issue from his mouth. "Now. How could you possibly know about that?"
"I told you!" Ada whispered frantically. "In my world your story is famous, the whole story, start to finish. I know what’s going to happen and what has happened. I just can’t reveal it or it will mess everything up."
“Our story is famous how?” Kratos asked shrewdly. “What are we in your world?”
Ada hesitated and he her squeezed her wrist. "Well…you’re fictional, you’re not real. You’re a story told through a video game. See, in my world we use electricity for a lot of advanced technology. We can record moving pictures and display them on a screen. We can use that process along with electronic signals and other technology I do not even understand to create an interactive simulation of reality, something we do for fun and recreation. It’s called a video game."
"I see," was the only reply.
“There’s a video game in my world where you and the others set off on a journey to save the world, but it turns out that the mission you all are on is much more complicated than you thought.” Ada thought for a moment. “Well except for you. You know exactly what’s going on.”
“So our pasts and futures are laid out for the world to see in the form of recreational activity,” Kratos asked, a trace of disgust in his voice. “How unpleasant.” He let go of her wrist. “And impossible.”
“You keep throwing that word around a lot and yet you all seem to believe me,” Ada pointed out. “Why?”
Kratos sighed wearily. “I have seen too much to discount any possibility, no matter how unlikely. That coupled with the fact that you can predict what we say as we say it has convinced the others that you’re something strange. It concerns me however that you know so much about all of us. It robs us of what little security we have.”
“But isn’t the fact that somehow your world crossed dimensions to land in my world a bigger issue than all of your secrets?” Ada asked. “Isn’t it more important to figure out not only how our worlds are connected but how I somehow managed to find that connection? Not to mention if my world is connected, what does that mean for the goal you are trying to accomplish?” She looked back at the fire and rubbed her wrist, frowning. “And why does all of this feel familiar?” she whispered softly to herself.
"Really?" Kratos asked. "What of it seems familiar?"
Ada looked up at him and scowled. “Stupid angel hearing,” she grumbled. "You weren’t supposed to hear that, but I forgot.” She rested a hand on the swords lying at her side and thought a moment before answering. “The sword for felt familiar for one thing," Ada said. "When I picked one up, it felt incomplete until I picked up the second one. Then I knew precisely what to do."
"So we saw," Lloyd said, causing Ada to jump. Kratos looked indifferent. That jerk…he knew Lloyd was listening.
"How long have you been listening?" Ada asked.
"Since you talked about the video game things in your world," Lloyd grinned. "I like the sound of those video games. Do you have one with you, is that what that cam-thing was? It will give us something to do while we walk everywhere. Man, is it getting old."
Ada and Kratos both scowled. "This isn't a vacation you know!" they snapped in unison.
Lloyd looked terrified. "Hey hey hey! One Kratos is bad enough, Ada. Damn it!"
"Sorry," Ada said rubbing her forehead. "Actually I'm not sure why I said that."
Lloyd scowled, but then brightened. "So…you said this feels familiar. What else about it feels familiar?"
"Well…" Ada chewed her lip in thought. Kratos grabbing my wrist to stop me biting my nails felt almost as familiar as the sword. There was a nudge on her shoulder and she turned to receive a big lick in the face from a green and white dog.
"Noishe!" Ada squealed, hugging the gigantic dog around the neck. "How ya doing, boy?" Noishe whined. Ada raised an eyebrow. "Whine? I thought you were supposed to bark?"
"Bark?" Lloyd said. "Noishe is too much of a wimp to bark."
"Oh..." Ada said confused. Hello! Noishe never barked in the game. What are you thinking? "Oh yeah. My bad."
"Lloyd, Adalais," Kratos said. "It is late and we've much to do. Please, rest. You'll need your strength."
Lloyd grumbled and settled back down, falling asleep almost at once.
Adalais waited to make sure he was asleep before getting to her feet. "My wrist." Kratos looked at her. "You grabbing my wrist to stop me from biting my nails felt almost as familiar as the sword. For some reason…it made me smile." She walked back to her patch of dirt, pulled her hood up and dropped into sleep.
Kratos stared the fire, wondering what hand fate had dealt him this time.
"Ready?" Lloyd asked as the group of Desians drew closer to their concealed spot in the woods. Ada gripped the hilts of her borrowed swords, her blood pumping with anxious excitement. "Now!"
The group burst from the trees. Sheena hit them with a Pyre Seal as Genis launched icicles at their faces. Lloyd took on the sorcerer. Raine and Colette lingered in the back. Their job was to strip the dead bodies and drag them into the woods. Kratos charged and ran one through with his sword.
A female spear bearer lunged in towards Ada, who blocked by crossing her swords. The Desian pulled back and circled her, Ada following her sharply. The Desian swung her staff toward Ada's legs. Ada dodged to the side quickly and swung at the woman’s rib caged. The Desian leaped backward just barely…but forgot Ada's other sword, which Ada drove up through the gap between her upper and lower armor on her abdomen. The dead woman slumped forward onto Anna, who caught her and laid her on the ground, wrenching he sword free. The stench of blood was thick in her throat, but for some reason it didn’t bother her. Like I’ve done this type of thing before too.
Raine rushed forward. "You stabbed her under her armor. We can use this outfit." She quickly stripped the outer armor away, and an extremely pale Colette dragged her into the forest. Ada looked around and noticed that this battle was over. Curious, she followed Colette into the woods.
Colette was kneeling next to the bodies of the fallen Desians and began to pray, asking Martel to have mercy on them and forgive the regeneration group for killing them. Ada would expect nothing less of the pure-hearted girl, and yet she was still surprised she’d be praying for the people who were trying to kill her friends.
"You're a good person Colette," Ada said when the girl turned around. "Knowing what these men do and still praying for their souls."
"I hate killing people," Colette said sadly. "I'm supposed to Regenerate the world and save people, not destroy more lives."
"I understand," Ada said. "But think of it, by doing this, you may have saved people who could have been captured later. That's a little better don't you think?"
"I suppose," Colette said.
"Colette?" Lloyd called from beyond the trees. "Ada? Where are you?"
"I cannot believe you let that STRANGER go off alone with the Chosen!" That was Raine snapping at Lloyd most likely. "Do you realize what she could do to the only person who can save Sylvarant?"
Ada sighed. "We best get back before they think I did something horrible to you."
"Oh don't worry," Colette said with a bright smile. "You're not our enemy, I can tell. Just like Sheena."
"Thanks Colette," Ada said.
The met up with the rest of the group. After Raine yelled at Colette for being so careless and warned Ada not to believe they trusted her, the group headed back to Luin to prepare for their mission.
"We're finally going to infiltrate the ranch," Genis said.
"We have to decide who will be the Desian," Raine pointed out.
"What do you mean, Professor?" Lloyd asked
Raine fixed Ada with begrudging glare. "Only one of the Desian uniforms we just obtained looks like it can be used." Ada gave a little bow, which caused Raine to scowl and Colette to giggle. "So everyone else is going to have to be prisoners."
Ada turned to look at Lloyd, knowing what he was about to say. This is so much better than playing the game! I'm living it!
"Me! Me!" Lloyd cried. "I'll be the Desian!"
"This is not a game," Kratos said coolly.
"Far from it," Ada said as the Professor and Sheena walked off carrying the uniforms. "Your dislike for Desians would make it difficult for you to talk to them like equals or superiors."
"But…" Lloyd started to protest, but his shoulders drooped in defeat. "I still want to try."
"Your services are best devoted to freeing the prisoners," Kratos said.
Raine and Sheena returned, wearing the Desian uniforms. Ada grinned. It was really happening, she was really going to help infiltrate the ranch.
"This is so awesome!" she squealed. Genis looked at her like she was crazy.
"Hey, that's not fair, Professor!" Lloyd shouted upon seeing her outfit.
"It's not about fairness," Raine said patiently "This will look the most natural. Besides, this is a uniform for females. You won't be able to wear it."
"I don't know about that," Genis muttered.
"Hey shut up Genis!" Lloyd snarled.
"All right!" Ada said, punching her fist in the air as the group set off. "Let's stick it to those Desians." Everyone looked at her like she was insane.
"I think you've been talking to Lloyd too much," Genis said.
Raine and Sheena were very convincing as Desian guards. Raine struck up a few small conversations to gather some extra information before leading her 'prisoners' inside. Once inside, they navigated the main halls until they reached the spots where several hallways branched off from the main one.
"Ada," Raine whispered. "Which hall way?"
Ada pointed to the left. "Continue on down this hall way and turn right at the end. From there, it will be the door straight ahead." They continued forward, wary as guards passed by, occasionally greeting Sheena and Raine. Ada chanced a glance behind her and met the cold dead steel that was Kratos's eyes. Such was their ferocity that she tripped distractedly, causing the equally distracted Seraph to crash into her.
"Eek!" she cried as the tile floor rushed towards her forehead. Kratos seized her collar and yanked her upright.
"This is no time to be clumsy," Kratos warned. Ada glared.
"This is no time for you to be distracted by your past," Ada snapped back, angrily but quietly so only he could hear.
"Easier said-" Kratos began, but stopped as the doors opened to reveal the almost empty control room.
"Hmm? YOU!" Botta snapped, stopping in his tracks. His eyes circled the group and rested on Ada. She met his gaze as his eyes widened. "Who are—that's not possible!"
Everyone turned to look at Ada, who had no idea as to what Botta meant. She glared and said, "Look here, Ren-" Kratos cleared his throat softly. Ada grimaced at her near slip"-Desian, you’re not the first person to say that to me today but if you don’t shut it, you will be the last."
Botta continued to gape until Lloyd said, "You're the Desians we ran into in Triet!"
"Sir!" said one of the Renegades with Botta. "This is the perfect chance!"
"Are you looking for a fight?" Kratos asked.
The Renegades started forward but Botta held up a hand. "Wait. Kratos is with them. Retreat for now."
"Wait…" Lloyd turned and looked at Kratos. "You know each other?"
"I suppose, if you mean the fact that we ran into them at Iselia and Triet," Kratos said with a shrug. Ada suppressed a snort with great difficulty.
Botta walked forward and looked from Kratos to Lloyd to Ada and then back. "I think it would be in both our interests for us not to fight here."
"Do what you will," Kratos replied indifferently. Botta and his foot soldiers ran off. Lloyd started to go after them but Ada jumped forward, recalling the next series of events.
"Lloyd!" Ada snapped just as the doors opened to reveal an assortment of Desian soldiers. They took one look at the situation and cast a spell…that was headed directly for Lloyd!
"No!" Ada shouted, dashing in front of Lloyd. "Guardian!"
"Colette! Kratos! Ada!" Lloyd shouted. Kratos and Ada lowered their swords as Colette turned, clutching her shoulder.
"I'm okay!" Colette assured them.
"No time for that!" Kratos said. "Look behind you!"
"Well, this is a surprise." Ada stiffened. She would have to be dead not to know that voice. Cold fury welled up inside her as she gripped the hilts of her swords so hard, her knuckles went white and the bones creaked. "When I heard we had some rats, I assumed it was the Renegade, Botta, but instead I find the wanted inferior beings." Kvar laughed. "But I must say that I'm quite impressed that you're still alive after that attack."
"YOU!" Ada shrieked. Something inside of her erupted, a bloodthirsty desire to bring unholy suffering down on the head of the vicious Kvar. Rage and hate radiated off of her skin, causing her comrades to grow alarmed as her eyes burned with fury. She dashed forward, swords raised, but Kratos grabbed the back of her jacket and flung her to the ground, cracking her head against the floor. Ada groaned from the floor disoriented and dizzy as the Desians laughed.
"What the hell did you do that for?" Ada heard Lloyd shout. Kratos ignored him and crouched next to Ada.
"My apologies," she heard him mutter as his face slowly stopped spinning, "but stay back. You look too much like Anna to allow him to see your face up close." She sat up slowly, ignoring the throbbing ache in her skull as she struggled to her feet. Despite her pain, she refused to stop glaring at Kvar the whole time.
“Who are you?” Raine demanded of Kvar.
"He is Kvar," Kratos said, turning to face the man. Unlike Ada, his hate was in check, his eyes cold as ever, but even in her dazed state, Ada could tell the restraint Kratos was displaying was miraculous given what Kvar had done to him and Anna and Lloyd.
"I see some of you know me," Kvar said arrogantly. He looked at Lloyd with his crimson irises shining in their pupils of pitch. Kvar quickly scanned his face before locking on the boys hands. "That Exsphere is without a doubt the product of my Angelus Project!" he signaled his guards with a jerk of his head and they moved forward, intent on Lloyd.
Ada and Kratos both moved forward, but Colette was suddenly in front of Lloyd, launching her chakram at Kvar. Raine and Sheena wasted no time and threw open a door to their right.
"Good job, Colette!" Lloyd said, grabbing her hand. "Let's go everyone!" They dashed through the door and raced down a corridor, Ada's mind working as fast as their pounding feet. What were you thinking! You know Kvar! You know what he's done and you know he will fall. Weren't you overreacting a bit?
No…said a fainter voice in her head. I wasn't. After what he's done to me…he deserves my wrath!
He's done nothing to me though! Ada shook her head to clear her strange thoughts as they burst through yet another door and stopped.
Before them was a giant machine with a large conveyer belt. The belt was transporting human beings into the heart of the machine where case after case of exspheres was being released down the other side. They stared in horror, even Ada, as no trace of the people came out of the other side with the exspheres.
"No," Ada muttered, feeling the bile rise in her throat. She could smell blood in the air and the scent of decaying human flesh. However bad it had seemed in the game, the reality was so much worse. The humans were dirty and underfed and completely conscious. They were handcuffed and tied to the moving platforms that bore them through the machine. Most were too defeated to struggle, but the odd prisoner here and there thrashed against their bonds. There were no screams though. It happened too fast. Despite the efficiency and cleanliness of the machine, that smell of blood could not be erased. It was too much.
"What…what is this?!' Lloyd said feebly, unwilling to accept what his eyes were telling him.
"This is where the exspheres are removed from the host bodies." Kvar emerged behind them, smiling evilly. Ada would have pounced on him then and there, but Kratos was in her way and her head and soul ached too much.
"Do you mean that Exspheres are made from…human bodies?" Raine asked, though it was clear she didn't really want an answer. No one did.
"Not exactly," Kvar replied. "Exspheres are dormant at first. They extract nourishment from humans to grow and awaken. Human ranches are exsphere manufacturing plants. Why else would we spend our time raising and taking care of these inferior beings?"
"That's terrible!" Genis cried.
"Terrible?" Kvar laughed cruelly. "Terrible is what you've done. Stealing and using exspheres that we've invested so much time and care in creating. You deserve to be punished."
"Damn it," Ada muttered, bending forward with her hand covering her mouth in disgust. "Kvar…you sick bastard!" Something was happening inside her mind. She could see the scene before her, Kvar laughing, that horrible machine, Lloyd and the others frozen in horror, but she could see another scene too. A dark cell, soulless red eyes staring at her, unimaginable agony. Was this a memory or something she imagined while playing the game? What was it? Why was it coming to her now?
"Damn!" she heard Lloyd shout. "We're surrounded."
"Lloyd, your Exsphere was to be an offering to Lord Yggdrasill." Ada saw Kvar walking towards Lloyd, who prepared himself for a fight. "It's time you gave it back."
"Yggdrasill." Raine was as sharp as ever. "I suppose that's the name of your leader."
"Yes. Now, for the sake of our great leader, Lord Yggdrasill, and for the sake of my own success, I need that Exsphere!"
Lloyd clenched his fists around his swords and growled. "Again?! What's so special about my Exsphere?"
Kvar folded his arms and smirked again. Ada retched, trying not to lose it completely. The memory or hallucination coupled with the scene before her and Kvar’s evil was too much and she knew what was coming next.
"That exsphere is the result of years of time-consuming research,” Kvar bragged. “I can finally reclaim what was stolen by that filthy female host body."
"What are you talking about?" Lloyd asked. "The female host body? You're not talking about…" he trailed off in horror.
"Hmm, you don't know anything, do you?" Kvar said.
Kratos gasped sharply. He could feel Kvar’s intent. He was going to tell Lloyd the truth, he was going to reveal what Kratos had been forced to do so long ago.
"That exsphere was cultured on host body A012,” Kvar said. “Human name, Anna—your mother." Lloyd stepped back in horror. Ada hissed in frustration, finally able to stand as rage kept all other emotion and feeling at bay. Kvar had no right to tell Lloyd the truth. It should have been up to Kratos.
"She took it and escaped from the facility." Kvar continued. "Of course, she paid for her crime with her life."
Lloyd was shaking with fury at this point as he looked at Kvar. "You killed my…
"Now, now, don't blame me," Kvar said.
"Don’t…" Ada heard the agonized plea, muttered softly, and turned to see a very pale Kratos shaking his head in disbelief. "Don't tell him that."
"I'm not the one that killed Anna."
Kratos started forward, but Ada moved in front of him. I can't let him blow his cover! But neither can I let Kvar do this.
"No!" Ada shouted at Kvar. "Don’t feed us your damn lies Kvar." But I know they aren't lies!
Kvar laughed. "Lies? They aren’t lies, you inferior being. I speak the truth. I think it’s important that Lloyd knows I'm not the one who killed his mother.”
“How dare you—!” Lloyd began but Kvar cut him off.
“Your father did."
There was a pause, the air so still that it seemed as though time stood still, frozen by the shock radiating from the small group of naïve children. Even Raine and Sheena seemed taken aback by this startling revelation and if Kratos was any stiller, he may as well have been carved from stone.
"Liar!" Lloyd shouted finally.
"Please." Kvar rolled his eyes. "When her Key Crest-less exsphere was removed, Anna turned into a monster and your father killed her. Pathetic, don't you think?" he asked, looking at Lloyd as though sharing a joke, one that Lloyd did not find funny at all.
"Do not speak ill of the dead." Kratos said coldly, stepping around Ada and approaching Kvar slowly, like an animal stalking prey.
Kvar looked at him with amusement. "Who cares? They were both just a couple of filthy humans—worthless maggots."
"Don't you ever talk about my parents like that!" Lloyd screamed, drawing his swords
Ada couldn't take it anymore. She whipped out her blades and lunged forward, anything to stop the suffering that was consuming everyone around her.
"Ada, Lloyd—stop!" Sheena grabbed Ada with one hand. "I'll handle this," Sheena withdrew a piece of paper with a charm inscribed on it, a guardian seal. "I'm gonna use the last one, Grandpa…" A lightning shikigami appeared in a puff of smoke. "Go!" Sheena used her ninja powers to teleport the group away, her hand still clasped around Ada's forearm as they rushed through the void.
Ada's feet connected with solid dirt. Her knees gave way and she hit the ground. The last thing she heard was a cold voice muttering, "First aid," before everything went black.