"…I am of Cruxis, the organization that guides this world. I am one of the Four Seraphim, sent forth to keep close watch over the Chosen."
When those words next came out of Kraine's mouth, Gesea's already numbing body gave out and she fell to her knees from the shock. Yuan protectively took charge and stood between him and her. Kraine glared at him and he glared back.
"Just what will you do with him?" Yuan asked, gesturing toward the vacant Chosen.
Kraine crossed his arms. "I have no time for the charades Yuan. We will take Colloyd as our vessel and begin the next phase of our plan." He drew his sword and pointed it at him. "You can either leave peacefully, or I will make you regret stalling my business."
Yuan summoned his butterfly blade and readied himself. Kraine took a slight step away, his signature movement before he dove in for a strike. Yuan perceived it and clashed weapons with him at full force. Not making any ground, Kraine retreated backward in midair and landed softly a short distance away.
Gesea looked up at him, a dumbfounded look on her face. "Why?" she asked softly. "How long have you been lying to me?" She stood and stepped toward her brother. "Did you get in trouble with them when you were trying to help me?" She tried to approach further but Yuan stopped her. She pushed past him and tried to run for Kraine. She gasped in surprise when Kraine turned his sword on her. "Not another step closer Gesea. I.. I will use my sword if I must."
His expression looked pained as the words left his mouth, but it was hard to tell who was the most pained by the situation. Kraine, Colloyd, Gesea- they were all suffering. Yuan simmered silently with rage as he watched the short pink haired girl in front of him fall to her knees once again.
"Why Kraine?" She asked as she looked up at him, showing the tears streaming from her face. "I'll never forgive you if you take Colloyd away from us!" She summoned her own weapon and glared at him with emotional grief.
"This is what the Chosen wanted," Kraine replied, the hurt he had revealed in his eyes vanishing and being replaced by his usual steely gaze. "Would you have his sacrifice be in vain? He was prepared for this from a young age and always knew he would die." He looked at Yuan, still standing and looking the most collected mentally of them all. There was a look in his eyes though, like he was expecting.. more. More than just their usual sword versus sword. Though he didn't show it, the knowledge that the man knew more than he had been willing to admit unnerved him.
Then, as though to answer Kraine's mental question about Yuan's antics, the tower filled with an almighty well of mana. Gesea gasped at the sensation, Sheelos turned her head in all directions. Eventually everyone, including Kraine, looked to the altar where Colloyd was still lifelessly floating- sensing the well of mana focus in his direction.
"I had thought you would have ended this by now," said a voice.
A ball of light appeared out of nowhere. The first thing Gesea saw as it formed was a large pair of amethyst coloured wings. A tall man with blonde hair appeared, looking at Colloyd with interest and paying the rest of them, including the open-mouthed Gesea and Sheelos, as much attention as a grain of sand on a beach jetty. Kraine put his sword away, got to one knee, and bowed his head at the angel. "Lord Yggdrasil."
The name of the man Kvar had mentioned in the same breath as Cruxis Crystals and the Angelus Project had not left Gesea's mind. Sheelos appeared to have some recollection of it too. "He's Yggdrasil?" The Assassin asked, raising her eyebrows. "He is a he, right? I can't tell one-hundred percent from this angle with the long hair and everything."
"Silence," Yggdrasil said, turning to them. "I am the leader of Cruxis and the Desians. I will not be spoken of so insolently!" He shot a beam of light so fast at Sheelos that all she had time to do was blink before it hit her and she was sent flying several metres backward.
Yggdrasil grimaced as though such a powerful attack hadn't taxed him at all. "Since you have yet to heed the warning of Lord Kraine, I suppose I will have to take care of you myself." He glanced back at Kraine. "I should have guessed you would find it difficult to fight such opponents." His aura began to glow. The group readied their weapons while Kraine kept his eyes downcast.
Yuan and Sheelos ran for Yggdrasil, airing on the side of caution of a back attack from Kraine and tackling the angel from the other side. Before any attacks could connect, all in the room stopped dead still. Mana tingled through the air, stronger than before.
Yggdrasil let out a sudden cry and snapped his head to where Colloyd floated, the magic aura he had been emitting fading. Sensing danger, Sheelos and Yuan retreated and watched the body of their friend pulsate. The pulses started off slow and audibly sounded like a heartbeat, but slowly became louder and more overbearing. The colour changed with each pulse. First it was white, then a light green, then pink, then blue.
"This.." Yggdrasil whispered, shaking his head frantically, "wasn't supposed to happen!" He looked at Kraine darkly, a pained expression on his face.
Kraine stepped toward Colloyd. "It appears the Chosen is rebelling. There is no telling what this could do. We should take him at once."
"Not-" Yuan exclaimed, running at him with his blade ready for a back attack, "-if I can help it!"
Kraine turned just in time to catch it. Colloyd's body pulsed louder though and neither of them could keep their force up without buckling from the severe amount of energy emanating from his body.
With a particularly debilitating round of pulses, all in the room were on the ground staring at Colloyd. His body glowed white. From the glowing white blob, the shape of a human body emerged. It looked like the body of a female with long hair. The glowing faded and left behind two new looking humans. One with brown spiky hair and red clothes, the kind of clothes Colloyd always wore, except..
At first Gesea couldn't place it. He seemed different. His face was pointer, but that seemed impossible. Then she realised what it was. His eyes. They were still lifeless, but they were no longer the usual lake-blue that reminded her of her brothers eyes. They were hazel. With no words able to escape her mouth, and the rest of the group including their enemies clearly just as stunned as she was, she looked at the blonde haired girl floating next to him. Her hair reached her lower back. She wore a white robe that reached her knees with blue trimmings on the arms, seams and bottom, with purple slacks and the same boots Colloyd liked, except in the same white as her robe. She had her eyes closed currently, but slowly she opened them to reveal a lifeless expression but undoubtedly the blue eyes Gesea knew well. Amongst the silence, Gesea started to hear the sound of rushing footsteps. Many footsteps.
The pulsing stopped and Yggdrasil was the first to his feet. "I have had enough of fooling around. Let us leave with them both, Kraine."
"As you wish," Kraine nodded, standing and taking a step. Yuan crossed swords with him again, while Gesea and Sheelos sprung into action on Yggdrasil, who had set his gaze on Yuan in a stalemate of swipes and clashes with Kraine. She swung her readily fire-imbued axe at him but he dodged and laughed, hovering in the air out of reach before any more attacks could reach and over to the two floating bodies. A ball of white light shot at Yggdrasil from behind all of them, not damaging him but knocking him off guard. Gesea turned her head and finally noticed the source of the footsteps she had heard in the silence. A familiar Desian that they had only fought with the day before burst onto the scene with a group of heavily armed Desians behind him.
"The Renegades," Yggdrasil cursed. "I see they intend to be as annoying as ever."
Gesea heard Yuan yell her name but it was too late. Something hit her in the back and before she knew what was happening, she was flying into a pillar several metres away and losing consciousness.
"This doesn't make any sense," came a girls voice. "Just who is Cruxis anyway? Cruxis Crystals... Are they something.." She paused for a second. "That's it isn't it. Cruxis and the Desians are working together for some reason."
"That about sums it up," a male voice answered.
He opened his eyes to see a bright fluorescent light shining down on him for a second before a girl with pink hair blocked it with her body as she stood and leaned over him. He blinked, his memory a little foggy. Eventually he figured out her name. "Gesea?"
The pinkette's eyes glittered with tears but none fell from her eyes. "It is you, isn't it Col!" She gasped. "Y..you can talk!"
He frowned and tilted his head. "I think so?" He rested back, a bout of dizziness coming over him all of a sudden. "I feel strange."
"That should not come as a surprise," the voice he recognised as Yuan said. He watched the blue haired elf come into view and sit on a seat beside his bed. "Do you remember anything that happened in the tower?"
He closed his eyes and frowned hard, trying to recall the memory. He pictured Kraine, then Remiel. He thought of the startling image of Remiel's face as he caused him pain. His own father..
"No.." he shook his head. "He was never my father. I felt that truth back then." It probably stung the least, but it was one of the only truths that he could understand at present.
"Jeez," Sheelos sighed. "Let's at least tell the poor guy what happened." She walked up and took a seat around the bed.
Colloyd looked at Gesea and Yuan for an explanation, who glanced at one another and appeared to have a silent eye conversation before they nodded in agreement. "This might come as a surprise," Gesea said. "Don't worry. We'll figure things out. I promise."
She reached onto a desk behind the bed and offered a mirror to him gingerly. He hesitantly took it and turned it toward him, confused... that was, until he understood perfectly.
His face of almost eighteen years didn't look back at him in the mirror anymore. Well.. not completely. His face was more masculine, as though he had done a years worth of a fitness regime overnight. The distinctly masculine face that he had always desired stared back at him. Speaking of staring back, hazel brown eyes looked out from under dark brown eyebrows. His hair spiked up more than it usually did despite his best efforts. It was shorter too.
He dropped the mirror in surprise and looked at everyone. Sheelos grimaced. "Didn't know you were hiding a man under that baby face of yours, Colloyd!"
He blinked belatedly at her when he realised she was talking to him and mentally stumbled for the words he wanted to say. "Neither did I."
"Perhaps we should start from the beginning," Yuan acknowledged when he noticed Colloyd seemed to struggle for words to fit his feelings. "If we start from what we do know, the rest should all fall logically in place."
"I somehow doubt that very much," Gesea mumbled. A pained expression crossed her face as she bit her lip slightly at a memory. Colloyd was almost too scared to ask what was bothering her.
"First," Yuan started, "Our current situation. When we were about to be killed in the Tower of Salvation by Yggdrasil, we were rescued by the organization on this base that resembles the Desians. They call themselves the Renegades." He looked at Gesea and over to Sheelos. "That is the part the two of you are probably the most unclear about. I assessed the situation and decided that it would be better to trust someone who is willing to save our lives, albeit possibly only for the time being, over someone who was definitely planning to kill us."
Colloyd sat up again and looked around himself. The room did resemble a room he remembered from a Desian base. With recollection of the base came another realisation. His eyes darted around the room in search of his stoic yet ruin-crazy Professor. He looked at Yuan and opened his mouth in question.
Yuan hushed him and stood from his spot. "The next thing. It seems that the Renegades oppose the Desians. They probably have a reason for intentionally trying to look like Desians." He paused only briefly, formulating his next words sensitively for at least the two most innocent in the room. "Kraine told us he is from Cruxis, and Yggdrasil claimed to be the leader of Cruxis and the Desians. If you think of Desians and Cruxis working together, or perhaps Desians being the pawns of Cruxis, everything makes sense."
All of a sudden, the distress Colloyd had seen in Gesea's eyes had become perfectly clear. He didn't know what to say. His first instinct was to ask for proof of the Professor's involvement in it all, but the instinct to trust the word of Yuan and the looks of understanding if not a little bewilderment on his friend's faces at the conversation took over.
"Does that mean.." Colloyd started, still finding the voice coming out of his mouth odd.
"Yep! He was our enemy, right from the start," Sheelos replied, her fists clenched. "He admitted it himself. He's one of Cruxis' Four Seraphim!"
"Seraphim?" Colloyd knew he had heard the word before. After all the books he had read during his childhood, even he would have been surprised if he hadn't been able to connect the dots. The conclusion made his mouth drop.
"As much as it brings me pain to agree," Yuan started, "Kraine is likely a subordinate of Yggdrasill. He probably joined us to make sure Colloyd didn't stray too far from the journey to regenerate the world." He looked at the boy on the bed, still looking and probably feeling very dazed. Nobody could blame him. It was a lot to take in, and they hadn't even gotten to the other thing yet. "Not every Chosen in the past has been so resolute on their sacrifice for the good of the world."
Colloyd hugged himself and rested his chin on his knees. "We were deceived from the very beginning. By Remiel, the Cruxis, even Kraine!" He looked at Sheelos. "But the world regeneration wasn't a lie completely, right?"
Sheelos shook her head and looked troubled. "Definitely no lie about that. Tethe'alla exists and it was my job to kill you to stop you regenerating Sylvarant."
Colloyd looked even more miserable. "And I didn't even get to meet this "so called" Origin either. I guess that was just another part of the story Cruxis made up to lure Chosen to them." He looked at Yuan, who had an unsure expression on his face.
Gesea saw it too. "You think he still exists, Yuan?" she asked.
Yuan shrugged after a second and glanced to the open door of their little sick bay. "Further than what we know, it isn't wise to speculate. It looks as though Botta might have a few more answers for us though."
The Desian/Renegade that they all had met on two to three other occasions appeared in the doorway and looked over at them. He managed a somewhat unnatural smile when he saw Colloyd staring at him. "Ah, good. You're awake. I trust you have a lot of questions. Let me take you to meet our leader."
The group followed the Renegade Botta through a sleek corridor filled with strange machinery. It felt strange to walk with Botta as though they were his guests. Colloyd barely had time to go into his own mind about recent happenings because they soon came to a door that slid open at their presence and stepped inside a familiar room. It had been the room where he had first fought Botta and met that mysterious and oddly unforgettable woman.
And there she was.
It was only the back of her, but he recognised the blue hair immediately. The same shade as Yuan's, but incredibly long.
"Lady Martuan," Botta said in greeting. She turned and he did a slight bow of greeting. When her green eyes met Colloyd's, he felt a little shiver run down his spine.
"You're the leader of the Renegades?" he asked.
"Correct," she answered with a cool smile and a flick of her hair. "We're an underground resistance dedicated to fighting the Desians…or rather, the Cruxis."
Yuan had been right in his assertion. It made sense of course.
"Cruxis controls the Church of Martel in the open, and operates the Desians from behind the scenes. The Desians are a subordinate organization within Cruxis," Botta added, just to reconfirm that Yuan was indeed a smarty-elf. Not that Colloyd expected anything less of his former Professor.
Martuan nodded at Botta. "The Church of Martel is nothing more than an instrument created by Cruxis to rule the world. Those who call themselves angels are half-elves, who've evolved by using a special type of Exsphere called Cruxis Crystals."
"Half-elves?" Colloyd blinked. "What's a half-elf?" He looked pointedly at Gesea and then at Yuan. Both suddenly seemed very uncomfortable with the topic. Gesea at least met his eyes for a brief moment, but Yuan kept his eyes squarely on the woman.
"That doesn't matter for now," Martuan continued on. "The angels aren't gods or anything of the sort. Of course, the Church of Martel and the Chosen know nothing about that."
Colloyd noticed her gaze had shifted to him again and started to feel uncomfortable. Maybe Gesea and Yuan's odd behaviour was a product of that too. She was very unnerving. "Before I go on, perhaps it would be wise to show you something."
She turned and led them to an adjoining room. Before she turned on the light, Colloyd saw a bright pink light flittering back and forth. The light buzzed on and there in the middle of the room stood a girl with blonde hair and a white robe outfit. A small tingle travelled down his spine. Gesea gasped next to him, Sheelos raised her eyebrows, and Yuan frowned.
"This is Colette," she said. Gesea stepped forward but the Renegade leader swiftly stepped in to stop her. "You recognise her I see."
Gesea said nothing else but glanced at Colloyd. He didn't return her glance, his gaze on the girl. It was like he was in some kind of trance. Even the gaze of Martuan back on him didn't make him waver straight away.
Martuan looked at Colette, then back at Colloyd. "What about you? Do you recognise her, Lloyd?"