Feel the pain
Feel the pain
"Go upstairs and hide under a bed," Kraine said to Colloyd as he stood from his spot across the table from the dual wielder.
Colloyd opened his mouth into a gape. The Professor was dead serious apparently. "I can handle myself, Kraine."
Kraine's gaze on him turned even more serious than what seemed humanly possible. "Do as I say."
"Just who is this Kvar?" Colloyd asked one of the men that had come running in from outside with the news of the attack.
"You don't know?" The villager raised an eyebrow. "Do you know about the human ranch northeast of here? The people of this city had been hiding some folks who escaped from the ranch. Kvar is the leader of that ranch." He sighed. "Looks like his men found out about it and decided to come attack us to get them back."
Kraine's gaze turned icy. "Just where are these ranch folk?"
"Well rumour has it that as soon as our lookouts saw 'em coming, the people 'emselves turned 'emselves in to try an' save the village," another of the men who had taken refuge in the inn answered in a thick accent that distinctly reminded Colloyd of his foster father. Colloyd clenched his fist and ran for the door. Just when he thought he would be able to make a break for it, Kraine stopped him.
"We have to do something to help, Kraine!" He cried.
"You must listen to me and stay here," the Professor instructed again with a firm glare.
Colloyd stood firm and gave him his best Kraine-inspired glare right back. "I'm the Chosen. How can I expect to save the world if I can't even save one village?" He clenched his fist. "I won't allow this!"
Behind Colloyd, several of the townsfolk gathered in the same room started talking amongst themselves. He could feel their awed stares on his back.
Kraine concealed his glare and turned to the door. "Let us hurry and hope Gesea is not in trouble."
Colloyd almost choked on the smell which wafted up his nose. Meanwhile, Kraine glanced left to right, calculating which direction would be best to go first to check out the security of the town. They didn't have to wonder for long though. Scared townsfolk came running from the direction of the fountain. Kraine set off first, his shoulder length auburn locks and the wings of his cape lifting in the breeze behind him. Colloyd followed, unsheathing his weapons and preparing for the battle he knew was ahead.
"Get out of my way, you pathetic human!" sneered a voice as they slowed their approach once they saw the situation ahead. The voice belonged to an elven man with short hair slicked back right against his head so that his forehead and slitted eyes were immediately obvious. He wore a blue and silver outfit with large golden shoulder pads, accompanied by blood red gloves on his hands. He was reminiscent of the Desians that stood in a readied battle stance behind him but different and grander. He must have been Kvar. There was very little doubt about it.
In front of him stood a familiar assassin with top-knotted red hair and behind her, Gesea. The pink haired elf sat on the ground, clutching her shoulder with one arm as she looked up.
"Gesea," Kraine said worriedly as he ran to her, his aura glowing with healing artes mid-stride.
"Leave Luin alone!" Sheelos exclaimed, slowly reaching behind herself to take out two of her card weapons. "Pyre S-" she only got halfway through her attack when Kvar took to the air with a large leap and landed behind Kraine and Gesea. Colloyd barely had time, but managed to block the heavy downward attack aimed directly at him. His feet slid back into the dirt path as he fended the force off and quickly struck back.
Kvar parried to the right, laughing. "Not bad, not bad at all. Not as though I would expect anything less from my Angelus Project of course!"
"Angelus-" Colloyd gaped, remembering the name very clearly. Kraine and Gesea were also looking at Kvar with equal surprise.
"What do you know about the Angelus project!?" Gesea exclaimed, summoning her weapon. Kraine put his hand on her shoulder. "Gesea, he is our enemy. Do not take him seriously."
Kvar looked at Gesea and then up at Kraine. His main interest seemed to be with Colloyd though as he turned back to him. Colloyd jumped back a few paces and pointed his sword at the elf. "What do you mean? Are you talking about my Cruxis Crystal?" He pointed to his hand and watched Kraine flinch.
"Cruxis crystal?" Kvar raised an eyebrow. "It is a different colour than before, but that is impossible! Nevermind. You have taken my precious Angelus project that was meant to be a gift to Lord Yggdrasil and now you shall be punished!" He clicked his fingers and the group of Desians who had surrounded them all during the confrontation all jumped into action, drawing their swords from their sheaths in a unanimous screech. Sheelos and Gesea met the first onslaught, fighting back to back in a moment of awkward teamwork. Kvar still had his sights set on Colloyd, but with Kraine's 'protect the Chosen' instincts kicking in, it wasn't going to be easy for him.
The elf and Kraine matched power for power while Colloyd fought off the Desians flanking them from behind. He threw his chakram to distract one Desian but to his surprise it missed and went clattering to the ground as a spark of electricity from somewhere above hit it. He looked up to see some kind of metal pronged device with a rotating head floating directly above him, the sizzling sound of electricity accompanying it. The sizzling got louder and shot a spark of electricity right for Kraine, catching him off guard and giving Kvar just enough time to hit him square in the ribs with his battlestaff. With a sickening crunch, Kraine was sent flying head first into the ground.
"Kraine!" Gesea exclaimed, going to run to her brother but being distracted by the Desians that had yet to be downed by herself and Sheelos. Sheelos glanced back at Kraine and confirmed that he was alright, right before meeting another Desian's attack. His chakram disabled, Colloyd had to think quickly as he saw Kvar coming right for him. He knocked one of the Desians he had fought off before being disarmed to the ground using as much force as he could. Picking up the sword they dropped, he quickly summoned his wings and flew out of reach of the lightning magic Kvar had conjured to send to his location.
"You're the Chosen!?" Kvar asked, his mouth agape as he glanced from the spectacular pink and blue wings protruding from Colloyd's back and down to the cruxis crystal atop his hand on full show. "But.."
Colloyd readied himself when he saw the metallic devices set themselves on him again. Diving forward in midair, he powered down on Kvar, yelling "Rising Falcon!" as he did so. It was a name he had always wanted to call an attack and for some reason this seemed like the perfect name for what he had just done. Kvar was knocked to the ground and quickly subdued by Kraine before he could get up. With a quick few fireballs, Gesea managed to finish off the electric devices.
Colloyd pointed his swords directly at Kvar's throat. "We have you now Kvar. Now answer my questions!" He looked at his hand. "What did you mean when you called this your Angelus Project!?"
"Ugh.." Kvar coughed. "I meant what I said. That exsphere on your hand, which you mistakenly call a Cruxis Crystal, is the result of years of time-consuming research. I can finally reclaim what was stolen by that filthy female host body. Just wait until the rest of my army comes and you will all be done for!"
Kraine growled and pressed his sword harder against Kvar's chest. Colloyd stared at Kvar. "Female host body?"
"You don't know anything, do you?" Kvar rolled his eyes. "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 those inferior beings?"
"Then...Marble..." Gesea's weapon vanished from her hand as she dropped to her knees. "She was a failed experiment?" She touched her chest but said nothing. Colloyd knew she was thinking that she would have been, if it weren't for the Key Crest attached to her Exsphere.
"Correct. The Exsphere on your Chosen here is different however. It was a successful experiment, cultured on host subject A012. His mother. She took it and escaped from the facility. Of course, she paid for her crime with her life eventually."
"No.." Colloyd's face contorted with anger. He raised one sword, ready to drive it into Kvar's chest. "You killed my-"
"-Now now, don't blame me. I'm not the one who killed her after all. Your father did."
Colloyd stopped his attack. "You.. liar!"
"No no, I assure you it's quite true!" Kvar sounded rather amused, despite being faced with death. "When we sought to take our rightful property from her, she turned into a monster and your dear old daddy killed her. Pathetic, don't you agree?"
"I've heard enough!" Colloyd cried.
"Do not speak ill of the dead," Kraine added in a scary, even tone.
Kvar looked at him this time. "Why should I care? They were both just a couple of filthy inferior beings. Worthless human maggots that bred another worthless human maggot!"
Emotion bubbling inside Colloyd's chest could no longer be contained. He lifted his sword and stabbed it straight into the Desian leader. "How dare you mock my parents!"
Kraine followed suit. "Feel the pain," he started, slashing Kvar's armour to pieces. "Of those inferior beings," he continued, lifting his sword to aim for a precise angle. He sneered angrily at him. "As you burn in hell!" He drove the sword home, ensuring Kvar breathed his very last breath.
Colloyd let go of the sword embedded in Kvar's chest and took a few steps back, examining the battlefield. His legs shook violently. He finally knew. He almost fell backward but found himself caught by the arm by Kraine, who held him steady. "You should make your wings disappear. They are likely sapping your energy," he explained, the bite in his voice being the only part of the Professors stoic facade to reveal that he was indeed still pumped with anger from Kvar's lack of regard for human life.
Colloyd supposed that considering the Professor was a teacher of knowledge and quite a good user of healing artes, such things would upset him. "Thanks," he answered, doing as instructed. He did immediately begin to feel a little better.
"Kraine," Gesea started. She appeared to have gained some of her composure since the revelation about Marble. Her face still showed some signs of how pale she had become in that split moment though.
Kraine nodded down at his sister. "We should find the rest of the troops Kvar mentioned and dispose of them quickly before they cause any trouble." He looked at Sheelos. The assassin had taken a seat on the foot of the fountain and was clutching her midriff. Past her hand, he could see some blood staining her clothes.
"If you're going to kill me, make it quick," she said as Kraine approached. "I don't have the strength to fight back now." She gave a low laugh. "You'd actually be doing me a favour."
Kraine said nothing and knelt down to her, his aura starting to glow. He reached out to her and she flinched back for a second before relaxing. When she stopped breathing quite as heavily, Kraine knew he had done the job. He stepped back respectfully and watched her gaze turn from thanks to questioning.
"You protected my sister," he explained. "I wouldn't consider it honourable to allow you to die after that. Nor would I have liked to kill you. While I fight on the side of the Chosen, I dislike outright murder and needless bloodshed."
"How chivalrous!" Sheelos said with a suggestive grin. "A woman could get used to a man like you around."
"I very much doubt that," Kraine replied, realising too late that he should not have encouraged her harlot behaviour.
"You didn't seem to have a problem taking your anger out on Kvar," Sheelos said in an almost frustratingly mellow observation in comparison to where Kraine had expected the conversation to head. Kraine looked at Kvar, the elf's eyes still open but the light of spite and anger gone from them now. He had wanted to explain his actions further but was pulled out of his train of thought by Colloyd as the boy ran off back toward the inn, yelling behind him that he had smelled smoke earlier. He followed with Gesea at his tail. To both their surprise, the assassin followed them.
Kraine turned to her to question her on her motives, to which she cut him off. "I'm coming with you," she said adamantly. "I don't want to see Luin burned down or turned into ruins either."
Kraine nodded. "Just remember that it is still my job to-"
"Yeah yeah, protect the Chosen of Sylvarant. It's okay handsome, I get it." Sheelos ran past him to catch up with Colloyd and Gesea, leaving Kraine to think to himself on her choice of words.
After checking the market district of Luin and briefly venturing to the inn to collect Noishe, the group of four left the town to find the Desian soldiers Kvar had been so convinced would avenge his cause. Colloyd had been starting to say that he wondered whether they had just left to go back to the ranch when he stopped mid-sentence and stood staring. Gesea squinted her eyes to try and see what he was looking at. Without another word, the Chosen went galloping off, the rest of the group trailing and only stopping when they started to discover Desian bodies beginning to litter the field. Kraine looked to Gesea, who nodded to his invisible question. She could feel it too; the high amount of mana in the air and the mana signature it belonged to. There was no doubt about it.
Kraine began whirling around more and more with the more bodies they found. Sheelos raised an eyebrow when it became almost dizzying. "Yes yes, Yuan's been here. We get it."
Gesea looked at her. "But how do you know that Sheelos?"
Sheelos stuttered. "I uh.. can sense mana signatures as well."
"Really?" Gesea's eyes brightened with interest. "Wow. You will have to tell me how a human can do that some time."
"I would also be curious to know," Kraine added in. "But I do get the feeling it is something you may not like to talk about."
"You're as conniving as you look, my cool yet dashing darling," Sheelos purred with a grimace.
Gesea, getting bored of the back and forth between her brother and their new temporary companion, approached Colloyd. "I don't know why, but I feel like Yuan's been here," he said to her, confusion in his eyes.
She smiled. "Looks like becoming an angel has enabled you to sense mana signatures."
Gesea nodded. "Think of them like a fingerprint based on magic. It fades when the user leaves the area though, so Yuan must still be close."
"Do you think he did all this?" He gaped, hearing yelling off in the distance near the forest where he had trained with Kraine. Once again, the group found themselves running after him.
They found their mysterious blue haired elf friend standing with his back to them, surrounded by an army of ten or twenty Desian troops. They all lunged for him. Colloyd drew his weapons and was about to enter the fray when Yuan jumped out of the middle of them, landed directly in front of him, and half turned to the confused circle of Desians. He clicked his fingers and a moment later they realised they had been attacked and comically fell into a pile with groans and gasps.
"Pr..Professor.." Colloyd gaped.
Yuan turned to him and sighed. "I suppose I should have guessed this clean up would take longer than yours in Luin."
Colloyd just stammered and looked from his ex-professors emerald gaze and down to the double blade in his right hand. It wasn't like any weapon he had seen before. The running of feet sounded for a moment, then the clash of steel, before a metallic monster similar to the ones Kvar had at his disposal came crashing down from above them with Kraine soon after. Yuan looked at the thing and then at Kraine, surprised. The Professor crossed his arms. "If you don't keep your guard up, something could easily attack you from behind."
"I'll keep that in mind," Yuan grinned at him.
"Was that the last of them?" Kraine asked then, nodding to the Desian corpses.
Yuan nodded. "I heard the commotion and saw you all fighting Kvar. I thought it best to head his troops off."
"Normally I would have said you were completely mad, going alone," Kraine started, glancing down at Yuan's butterfly blade. "But it seems my hunch was correct and you are no mere travelling scholar with a knack for the sword. If you could really call your real weapon a sword."
Yuan grimaced and said nothing, succeeding in quickly raising Kraine's blood pressure. Behind them Sheelos cleared her throat. "Excuse me. Not that I'm not really curious to question Yuan here on a lot," she looked at the bluenette for extra emphasis. "But I'm out of here." She turned and started to bolt away. Colloyd caught her hand to stop her. She turned back to him. "Let go. I'm not trying to play hard to get this time."
"Where are you going?" Colloyd asked, letting her comment go over his head.
"Where do you think?" she replied. "I'm going to the Luin ranch. There are still captives there."
"Well then, we're going too," Colloyd replied. At her confused expression he clenched his free hand into a fist and looked at the Exsphere that sat atop it. "We need to stop them using people to make these things. My mother was a victim. I don't know what they want them for, but I know we have to stop them!"
"I suppose I can't convince you otherwise, can I?" Sheelos said with a shockingly genuine smile. When Colloyd smiled back she frowned and glanced away. "D..don't think that this means I'm going to stop trying to kill you. After this is over, you'd better watch your back!" Colloyd laughed at her, Gesea catching on and laughing too. She faltered back. "Why're you laughing. I'm completely serious!"
Yuan looked at Kraine, the usual annoying smirk on his lips. "I suppose I'll come. I have nothing better to do."
"Do what you like," Kraine mumbled, walking ahead to give example to the others that they should hurry. It would be much easier to infiltrate the ranch under cover of night.