It's a trap!
It's a trap!
Kraine kept a close eye on Colloyd as they journeyed and made their way back to Hakonesia peak where they would have to travel through once again in order to get back to where Yuan had mentioned the last seal was more than likely located. Although his stomach did little flip-flops at what was to come, he kept himself in check in lieu of more important issues. If Colloyd remained in this mood, it would be very difficult to keep his current condition a secret.. among other things. He almost couldn't stand to look at the boy. He was usually so cheerful and full of optimism, but that person had suddenly vanished and been replaced by a quiet shell of a young man as he seemed to come to grips with the inevitable end of the journey.
Eventually he could contain a sigh no longer. "Colloyd."
Colloyd stopped and looked up at him. "What is it Professor?"
Kraine thought his next words through carefully before speaking them. "Do not forget your friends are as much a part of this journey now as you are. Myself included. We are here to help you."
"Thank you Professor," Colloyd nodded and cracked a smile for the first time in hours. "Actually, would you mind teaching me more about sword techniques a little later when we set up camp?"
Kraine hesitated. "In your current condition you-"
"I'm fine, really," the red-clad dual wielder lied, his eyes wandering away from Kraine's as he clutched his elbows.
Kraine crossed his arms. "Do you have no regard for your own safety, Colloyd? I will refuse to teach you anything more if that is the case."
"Can you blame me?" Colloyd asked. "I am going to die at the end of this journey."
Behind him, Kraine noticed that Sheelos had stopped the moment the words had left Colloyd's mouth. He crossed his arms and hummed thoughtfully before speaking. "If you don't want anybody else to discover your fate, I would be a little more selective on your audiences."
Colloyd turned his head but Sheelos had already begun walking away again. He turned back to Kraine and gave him a confused look.
"Don't worry about it," he said with a sigh. "Tonight we will spar."
"Really?" Colloyd smiled. He left Kraine and headed to the front of the group to Gesea and Yuan. Kraine sighed heavily and followed. At least the Chosen appeared to be happy again.
The group found their way to Hakonesia Peak where they casually strode past the guards, keeping their heads down. All except Yuan, Kraine noticed. He was certain that the man might have at least a shred of conscience about the fact that he had stolen Palmacosta's Book of Regeneration from the Governer-General and essentially sold it on the black market. It didn't appear that way. He tried to not let it bother him, especially considering all that they had now been through together. He was left with no choice but to somewhat place his trust in him for the time being. Yuan was not someone he particularly would like to have to fight against. The "elf" was more cunning than a cartoon bear in a honey factory.
Colloyd had regained his usual demeanour, despite the fact that he must have still been deeply troubled by the events to come. It was only when Sheelos dropped back to his side and waved her hand in front of his face that he realised how dangerously deep in thought about it all he had been. "You know," Sheelos said, her voice softer than normal. "You aren't doing him any favours by moping for him."
"I don't believe I understand what you're talking about, Assassin," he answered, a little more defensively than what was needed. He kept his eyes straight ahead as they made their way down the mountain pass and toward the field that would eventually lead them to the Thoda Dock and take them to Thoda island where there was little doubt the last seal before the Tower of Salvation would await them.
"Drop the act darling," Sheelos muttered. "I heard what the Chosen said earlier. About how he is going to die at the end of this journey."
Kraine paused in his step for a brief moment, but it was still enough for the eye of an assassin to pick up on. Sheelos grimaced. "I don't think you have to worry about him. He probably isn't bothered by that fact any more. Knowing Colloyd, I'd say it's much more likely for him to be worried about the fact that he can't save both worlds."
Kraine watched Colloyd while he thought. Since the boy couldn't feel things any more, it was probably very important that he remain vigilant in case he tripped. "Tell me something," he said. "What will you do when you find out that we can't stop the world regeneration and save both worlds?"
"Hmm." Sheelos glanced away. "I suppose I will have to kill him."
"Then be warned," he replied seriously, "it is my duty to ensure no harm comes to the Chosen. You may be outnumbered if you choose to fight us."
Sheelos went to open her mouth but was stopped when a booming voice from behind called them to halt. The group hesitantly turned to see a group of three soldiers standing there, their spears turned to the sky to show they meant no harm. Kraine withdrew the hand that he had instinctively placed on his sword sheath and stepped forward to nominate himself as their spokesperson. "Can we help you?"
"Are you the Chosen's group?" the soldier at the front of the group asked in a hushed tone.
"Who is asking?" Kraine asked.
The soldier at the back produced a sealed letter to the head guard. He unsealed it and read out its contents to them. "A Church of Martel pilgrimage tour guide has been kidnapped by the Desians. In light of this, Dorr has decided that this is the time to gather Palmacosta's forces and launch an attack on the human ranch controlled by Magnius."
"What?" Colloyd gasped. "Chocolat?"
Kraine nodded. "It appears that girl is in trouble yet again. Strange." He rubbed his chin. "I had thought Magnius would not attempt anything again so soon."
"Looks like we should have killed him," Yuan sighed. "Some things are just destiny."
Kraine ignored his not-very-subtle hint that he wasn't impressed with the way they had initially dealt with the Desian leader and frowned at the head guard. "What does this have to do with us?"
"Governer-General Dorr would like you to postpone your Journey of Regeneration temporarily and assist us."
"I'm afraid that it would put the Chosen in danger, so we must decline and send our best wishes that the rescue of Chocolat goes safely," Kraine answered.
Naturally, Colloyd spoke up at that. "Professor! We can't turn our backs on people that need us." He looked at Yuan, who sighed and glanced at Kraine.
"Actually Colloyd, I have to agree with Kraine this time," Yuan said, to much his disappointment. "You should be wondeirng just why they are asking you? Out of all the people they could ask." He looked at Kraine and managed to spot a hint of a smile that he was winning this argument with the Chosen for once. He looked away quickly, feeling sorry for him, knowing that this was far from over. Judging by the look on the guards face at their argument, it appeared he had a better reason than 'just because'.
"It is because..." the guard talking with them shifted uncomfortably. "The Desian leader Magnius has also said he will not release the girl unless he gets an audience with the Chosen and his companions."
"Then we have to go," Colloyd said, clenching his fists and looking at Kraine again determinedly.
"I agree with Col," Gesea said. "It's not like it is completely out of the way for us Kraine."
Kraine looked at the last person in the group to talk, sensing she was also going to agree. She put her hand on her hips. "Don't look at me like that, darling. I'm just agreeing with the majority."
With a heavy sigh and a nod, Kraine crumbled under the force of three against two. The group took the note from the guard and headed down the rest of the mountain.
"So it is a trap..." Kraine said softly once they had reached the Palmacosta ranch and discovered the familiar friendly man that they recognised as the right hand man of Governer-General Dorr, Neil. He crossed his arms. Yuan smirked. "Of course, we did know that already."
"But not for the reason we thought," Kraine sighed. "Of several possibilities, it looks as though the worst has come true. Dorr did not just agree to this. He was a part of the plans. I did wonder why a lone girl of little value to them would get kidnapped from a city full of armed forces."
"I'm sorry to tell you this," Neil said softly. "But now that you know, you can just leave this region."
"What about Chocolat?" Colloyd asked. "It's still true that they only wanted to see me, right?"
"We will do our best to get her out, Chosen. I just need some time to assemble our forces and work out the best way of action," Neil said in a tired but reassuring voice. It was abundantly clear to Kraine that this meant they would not be taking action any time soon. The whole thing had made him incredibly curious though. What was in it for Dorr? He thought about Kvar and how they wanted Colloyd's exsphere. He eyed Yuan and saw the half-elf's brain ticking away behind his usual curious grin.
"I don't care if it's a trap," Colloyd said, interrupting Kraine's thoughts. "But I want to know more about why Dorr would set this up with the Desians. He is a kind man. I'm sure there has to be more to this story."
Kraine couldn't help but to look at the boy with a little surprise. "Colloyd, I hadn't expected you to be so grown up about this." He mulled it over. "However, I'm afraid the latter is no longer an option for us." He shot Yuan a more venomous glare. The bluenette put one hand on his hip and raised his eyebrows.
Neil looked confused and looked to Colloyd for answers. Colloyd apparently thought it was fine. "Professor Kraine thinks that the Governer-General will lock us up when he sees us."
"I suppose that is an option," Neil nodded. "After all, you know that he was working with the Desians. If you went there and questioned him about it, he would not take very kindly to that."
Before Colloyd could correct Neil on his assumption, Kraine spoke out. "It goes without saying that we have been trapped into doing this for the safety of that girl." He looked at Colloyd and wondered why he even needed to ask his next question. "We will not have the help of the Palmacosta armed forces. Are you certain you want to enter the ranch?"
"Of course!" Colloyd nodded with certainty.
"There is also the chance that talking with Magnius will reveal how Dorr is messed up with this," Gesea said.
"Well, looks like we're gonna infiltrate," Sheelos said with a grin. She pulled the sleeves of her garb up in readyness. "Just leave that to me. I've got the perfect idea!"
"Does it happen to involve something like-" Yuan started, dropping his backpack and unzipping it. He searched through for a few moments until he found what he was after and pulled out what looked intriguingly like a female Desian outfit. "This?"
Sheelos gazed at it in surprise for a few seconds before crossing her arms and grinning. "Insightful as always, Yuan."
"You shouldn't expect any less," Yuan replied curtly.
"Can't we just enter?" Colloyd questioned. "I mean.. he's expecting us, right?"
"The lower Desians probably don't know anything about this meeting," Kraine said. "Dorr likely couldn't risk a lower rogue revealing that he had ties with them and kept it quiet. In all likelihood, Palmacosta probably knows very little of this operation. I believe an infiltration would be best, despite my reluctance to be involved with more bloodshed than necessary."
"Do you always speak so formally, darling?" Sheelos asked. "You sound like my village chief."
"Your chief?" Colloyd asked.
Sheelos blinked and glanced away. "Um, nevermind. Let's decide who gets to wear the outfit."
"It's a female costume, so I do believe that leaves our options quite limited," Kraine explained. He looked down at Gesea. "My sister is too short, and the rest of our party are male."
"And Noishe isn't an option either," Gesea nodded, petting the 'dog' on the head when his ears pricked up at his name.
Sheelos grinned and took the costume from Yuan. "Let's get going."
Colloyd couldn't quite comprehend it. Looking at Sheelos dressed in the Desian uniform made him feel oddly uncomfortable, and yet he couldn't take his eyes off of her. Her physique was definitely accentuated by it. He was startled when two angry voices called them to stop where they were what seemed like all of a sudden. Jumping back to reality, he saw that they were nearly at the head of the base. Sheelos tightened her grip on the chains that she had been holding on to while she led her 'prisoners' to the base. Two somewhat short looking Desians ran up to them, their weapons drawn.
"I have the Chosen and his accomplices in my custody," Sheelos explained. "Please allow me to deliver them to Lord Magnius."
The two Desians looked at each other, shrugged and turned back to Sheelos. "Go on then. Hurry."
They all followed Sheelos awkwardly in a straight line until they were safely inside and had turned a corner out of sight. "We should be safe now," Sheelos said, dropping the chain. The rest unbound themselves from the loose chains and handed them back to Yuan, who had also been carrying them in his backpack of surprises. "It looks like the front was mostly just heavily guarded. They probably didn't feel a need to increase the security here."
"I agree," Kraine nodded. "If anything, it would make sense for Magnius to make it as easy as he could for us to get in without arousing too much suspicion."
"We could have just knocked them out, it seems," Gesea said.
"There's little need to be so violent, Gesea," Kraine said. "The less bloodshed, the less likely this is to be dangerous for the Chosen."
Seeming to ignore Kraine's remark, Colloyd sighed as well. "Attacking them would have been much easier and far less distracting, too."
"Distracting?" Gesea asked. "That is an odd choice of adjective, Col."
Colloyd stuttered. "Uh, um.. Nevermind." He rubbed the back of his neck nervously as he glanced around. His eyes widened when he saw something quite familiar. It was the same kind of device he had seen in the Balacruf Mausoleum. "H..hey! Isn't that one of the reactors for the Sorcerers Ring?" He ran to it, making them all follow with haste.
After some experimentation, Colloyd found that the device allowed them to see objects that shone on the ground that seemed almost invisible to the naked eye. Not only that, but the Desian base had teleportation pads all over the place. After some trial and error, and possibly going around in circles, they discovered that the teleporters were designed to confuse intruders that did not have a sorcerers ring or know the path to take in order to get to Magnius. The ones that led them to new unexplored areas emitted a very faint humming sound that seemed to react when Colloyd activated the ring.
By using his exceptional hearing and the ring, the group finally found themselves standing in front of a slightly different looking teleporter. It was bigger, looked blue when he used the ring, and hummed a little bit louder than the others. There was little doubt that this would lead them to where they would need to confront Magnius.
"Is everyone ready?" Colloyd asked, staring the teleporter down as though it were Magnius itself. "I'm not sure what's going to happen in there."
"I would suggest Kraine and I head in first in case of an unexpected trap," Yuan said, stepping to the front of the group. Kraine agreed and stepped forward with him. The teleporter was large enough to fit two people.
"Okay," Colloyd agreed reluctantly. The two professors stepped onto the teleporter. Whooosh! It made a sound and they were gone in the next instant. Colloyd stepped onto the teleporter with Gesea next and activated the ring. He closed his eyes, expecting the feeling of weightlessness overcome him. After a couple of seconds of nothing, he opened his eyes to see Sheelos looking at them both with a puzzled expression. "Oh no.." He mouthed.
Gesea dropped to her knees and started pounding on the teleporter. "Kraine!"
"So, you've finally come," said Magnius, turning around in an oversized spinning sofa in the middle of the room to face Kraine and Yuan once they had stepped off the teleporter pad.
Kraine said nothing to the Desian leader, while Yuan put a hand on his hip and glanced at the teleporter when he heard a sound behind him. Instead of seeing Colloyd, he saw the whole teleporter pad freeze solid. "When I said about an unexpected trap, I hadn't foreseen this." He sighed loudly and looked at Magnius. "It appears that the Chosen was never in your sights to begin with. What is it that you want?"
Magnius laughed. "Well, I had wanted to do this alone with the Seraphim next to you, but I suppose it doesn't matter." He looked at Kraine. "I simply want an exchange of information. Now, tell me exactly what is going on, Lord Kraine. Why does the Chosen have the Angelus Project?" He got out of his chair and stepped toward them. "Better yet, why don't you tell me why you're directly protecting him when it is our assignment to kill the Chosen and take back the Angelus Project, and why I shouldn't just kill you now?"