Skewed Destinies- The Flames of Origin

By Keko_the_Hybrid

Mystery / Adventure

Noishe learns to fly

Chapter 22

Noishe learns to fly

Lloyd?

Lloyd..

Lloyd.

That name. Colloyd stared at the Renegade leader after she had said the name, unable to put his thoughts together into words. The name didn't feel foreign at all. Sure, he could probably argue with himself that it was because half of his name sounded like 'Lloyd', but deep down he knew it would only leave him lying to himself. Ever since he had awoken in the Renegade base, whenever they called him 'Colloyd' he hadn't felt as though they were talking to him. It was like the basic human instinct to turn his head when he heard his name had vanished for some unknown reason. The moment she said that new name though, he felt it belonged to him.

It was too complicated to explain to everyone on the spot so Lloyd just uselessly gabbled a "no" to Martuan, who was waiting for a response to her question. He didn't know Colette. Or at least he didn't think he did. Then again, this lately he wondered whether he knew himself or the people he had come to call his friends. The brief onset of worry started before he shook his head and determinedly forced the very idea that he couldn't trust anybody out of it.

"It's better to trust than to live in fear that I could be betrayed, right?"

Martuan grimaced at him. "I didn't think you would have recognised her. She was a part of you for a long eighteen years, after all."

"Why don't you start from the start?" Yuan asked, seeing everyone's confused expressions.

Martuan put one hand on her hip and raised an eyebrow at him. "I'm afraid starting at the start would take a decade to explain."

"We'll just settle for the short and sweet version," Sheelos replied. "I'm not sure how long I can get away with swatting Undine away from her battle before she decides to exact her revenge."

"That is about all we have time for, regardless," Martuan answered. She led them out of the room. Lloyd stayed behind, looking at the girl and her pink angel wings. She looked lifeless as she stared at him with eyes he recognised. They were the eyes of the boy that had stared back at him in the mirror every day for seventeen years. He waited until they were out of the room to step a bit closer. As he did, her wings fluttered a little more vigorously. Her mouth moved suddenly, but no words came out.

"Come," Martuan called to him then, poking her head around the corner of the open doorless frame. He did as she said reluctantly, but when he met with the others back in the familiar room he had first seen the Renegade leader, he was met with surprised gazes. Martuan put her hand to her chin and gazed at him and then somewhere off behind him. "Interesting. She seems to be reacting to you."Lloyd whirled around to see the angel girl-Colette- standing behind him. She didn't react to him at all, but she was standing close enough for him to feel the tiny breeze her flapping angel wings created.

"You said Angels were half-elves," Gesea said, deciding to keep the conversation going since it was clear that everyone else was pretty distracted with the girl. All except Yuan, who had maintained his attention on Martuan pretty much constantly. "Does that mean Col and.. uh.. Colette are half-elves?"

Martuan shook her head. "The bloodline of the Chosen is a unique one. The powers of the Chosen come from the Cruxis crystal that Cruxis send an angel to give to them when they are born as a part of the fabricated story of the World Regeneration. The reason the Chosen is given a Cruxis Crystal is because it is the goal of Cruxis to end up with an empty vessel at the end of the journey, while also reversing the mana flow from one world to the other."

"So Cruxis isn't just in this to try and rule the world?" Lloyd asked.

Martuan looked a little annoyed. "Do you intend to make me repeat myself, or could you perchance use your own head a little?" She frowned and crossed her arms.

Lloyd backed off and wished he had just stayed quiet and let Yuan or Gesea continue the plot that was unravelling before his eyes.

"Does Cruxis really wish to revive Martel?" Yuan asked. "They send Oracles to those of the mana lineage and control their marriages using the Worldwide Survival Project to create Chosens who become the vessel, correct?"

Martuan nodded and smiled. "You are quite the interesting one, Yuan. I expected no less of you."

"I am also quite impressed," Botta agreed.

"It didn't take a genius to figure it out," Yuan replied, being oddly modest. "Kraine told us that is what Cruxis wished to do with his body before.." He glanced at Colette. "Everything happened."

Martuan didn't reply directly and turned away, her cape flapping behind her from the sudden movement. "You already know that there is another world beyond Sylvarant that competes for mana, correct?"

Lloyd nodded and looked at Sheelos, who didn't seem to look as stunned that this woman knew about her world as he thought she should have. "Tethe'alla," he confirmed.

"The one who created this twisted world that vies for mana was Cruxis' leader, Yggdrasill," Martuan explained.

"Create a world?" Gesea asked and grimaced. "The probability of that is less than one percent."

Martuan sighed. "If that's what you believe, then our conversation ends here." She started walking off from them, but she didn't appear to actually want to go anywhere. Lloyd called her to wait and she obliged.

"So how much of the story of the hero Mithos and the Goddess Martel and the spirit of Origin is a complete lie made up by Cruxis? I went to the Tower of Salvation and didn't meet Origin." He clenched his fists. "If Yggdrasill was the one that created the two worlds himself, what can you possibly hope to do against someone like that?" Before Martuan could answer, he continued on his emotional rant. "And that's not all. You sent your Renegades to try and kill me more than once. You're not on our side, but for some reason you saved us. Why?"

Martuan looked impressed. "It seems this change has made you a little less gullible."

"Excuse me?" Lloyd began to sizzle with rage. He had just about had enough of this woman. She seemed intent on giving them plenty of questions and not enough answers.

"Our reasons for saving you are our own," Martuan answered, as cryptically as expected.

"However," Botta continued on, "Our goal is to stop Martel's revival. Therefore, the Chosen, who would become her vessel, was an obstacle."

"Do you still mean to kill the Chosen?" Yuan asked, his hand going to his sword immediately.

"Kill the Chosen?" Martuan cast her gaze over Lloyd. "I am quite certain I could not kill the Chosen, even if I wanted to." She tilted her head to eye Colette. Lloyd thought that it might have been a cute look if she had been anyone else. "She completed the Angel transformation and is now a lethal weapon whose only goal is self-preservation. Laying a hand on her would simply be a death wish."

Three mouths in the room dropped in different ways. Gesea, who usually was always the 'quiet one' unless she had a strong opinion, spoke first. "Are you saying that the only reason you haven't killed Col yet is because..." She stopped short and trailed off. Like Lloyd, she probably didn't need to finish the end of her sentence to understand that she was correct.

Still, he shook his head and swiped at the air in disbelief. "You're saying that I'm not the Chosen anymore?"

Martuan raised her eyebrows. "I never said that, but why don't you prove me wrong?"

Without giving it too much thought, Lloyd closed his eyes and concentrated. He felt the familiar tingling sensation of his wings spreading from his back. He opened them to see the stares of everyone on him. Martuan seemed equally as surprised, but quickly masked her expression with a grin. It reminded him of Kraine suddenly and his heart ached. He gestured at his own wings in a "See?" gesture, but couldn't help but notice that his wings looked different. They were now a pure sapphire blue rather than the mix of pink and blue that they had been before. He tried not to let on though. "I don't think it can easily be disputed that I am still the Chosen now."

Gesea put her head in her hands while Yuan kneaded his eyebrows and cursed under his breath. Lloyd only realised his mistake when he saw Martuan glance at Botta, then the Renegade click his fingers. A group of three armoured Renegades ran into the room at his command.

They were quickly surrounded as more poured into the room. "Regardless of whether it could be disputed, we no longer need the Chosen," Martuan said, holding her hand out to her side and summoning what looked like a quarterstaff from thin air. "What we need is you, Lloyd!"

There was that name again. The right one.

Momentarily surprised, Lloyd didn't notice Sheelos had apparently been preparing a way to get them out if things turned bad. A smoke screen enveloped them. He felt a hand touch his wrist and through the smoke saw Sheelos' red hair. He ran with her hand clutching his wrist until they were free of the room and could see clearly. Before he had a chance to ask a single thing, he and Gesea, whom he hadn't noticed had hold of his hand until then, were pulled into a small crevice and out of the view of a team of Renegades whom scouted past the hallway.

Amongst the coughing Renegade grunts, Martuan knocked Yuan's butterfly blade back with her quarterstaff, then quickly swung it to try and counter. Yuan was too quick for her though and ducked under the attack skilfully.

"Tell me," she said as they clashed. "Why did you call him Lloyd and the girl Colette when we rescued you?"

"I merely saw them separate and decided on a name that would be fitting of each of them," Yuan replied. "Do you find that hard to believe?"

The smoke was starting to clear now. He saw Botta heading for the door of the room. "I apologise that we can't chat longer, but I have to be somewhere else." He dodged away from another quarterstaff blow and charged for Botta at the door. "Sorry," he apologised briefly before knocking him flat to the ground and running out to the base hallway. As he ran and hid in a small crevice just before some Renegade scouts turned the corner, he heard a familiar bark. A flash of white and green filled his face and he found himself on the ground with Noishe looking down at him, happy to see him. As he silently struggled to get the 'dog' off of him, he heard what sounded frighteningly like an explosion from somewhere not too far away.

xXx

Lloyd, Gesea and Sheelos all stared at the downed Renegades, and then at the girl-Colette- as she stood at the center of the mass knockout and stared blankly.

"Looks like that Martuan chick was right," Sheelos said. "The girl really is a self-defence system." She looked at Lloyd. "Was only when the Renegades went to attack you though."

Lloyd held his head in frustration and let out a low yell. "Gahh! I wish people would just make up their minds if they're our friend or our enemy! One minute the Renegades save us and the next they want to kill us!"

"We have to get out of here," Gesea said. "But they no doubt have the exits surrounded."

"Do you think we can fight our way through?" Sheelos asked.

"That's all we can do," Lloyd said. "We have no choice. Besides, hopefully Yuan will-" he stopped mid-sentence when he saw a white, green and blue blur in the distance. The blur slowed down to reveal the figure of Yuan riding on the back of Noishe.

"What are you people waiting for?" Yuan asked. He set his gaze on Sheelos. "I thought you'd have told them by now." Sheelos flinched and glanced away from the gazes of Gesea and Lloyd. "What the lovely Sheelos means to say is that there's no way we're going to kill all the Renegades," Yuan elaborated. "She has a better idea though."

"You do?" Lloyd asked, as though Sheelos herself had said what Yuan had said.

Sheelos crossed her arms and gave Yuan a ticked off look before nodding. "The Renegades know about Tethe'alla, obviously. Actually, they are the ones who helped me to travel to this world by lending my people some of their technology. In return, I was to kill the Chosen."

"You mean.. you knew about the Renegades?" Gesea gaped. "Why didn't you tell us this sooner?"

"What good would it have done?" Sheelos asked defensively. "I knew about the Renegades, but that didn't mean I could tell them apart from the Desians. I had no idea that Desians still existed in the world. They're little more than fairy tales in Tethe'alla." A troubled look crossed her face but she didn't say what else was wrong. "Anyway," Sheelos continued, "My point is that they should still have some of that technology here at the base." She looked at Yuan. "Any idea where it is?"

"No idea," Yuan replied, "but follow me." He held a hand out to Gesea and lifted her onto the back end of Noishe. The dog let out a small whine of complaint before galloping off toward another adjacent hallway.

Noishe, Yuan and Gesea led Sheelos, Lloyd and Colette into a small room. It had a circular doorway that looked like it might open depending on what buttons were pressed on the glowing and beeping technology that sat on the left side of the entrance. The door behind them whooshed shut when Sheelos hit one of the buttons, creating a nice breeze. A few buttons more were pressed. A large circular door that Lloyd hadn't seen on the floor opened up and a platform raised out of it to reveal four bird-like machines.

"Magi-technology?" Gesea asked as she hesitantly moved toward them.

"Right," Sheelos answered as she pressed another button and made all four machines whirr to life with loud sounds like a clock ticking really fast. The sound wasn't as new to Lloyd though. They sounded like the teleporters at Magnius' base to him. Sheelos sprinted past him, sat on one of the machines and lowered her foot to a little panel protruding from its red body. As her foot touched it, the large round door that Lloyd had first saw upon entering the room opened. Bright sunlight emerged from the hole, making them all shield their eyes.

"Are we really going to go to Tethe'alla?" Lloyd asked. His head still whirred at the idea that the devices that had come out of the floor could take them to another world. He wondered what his dad would think of them.

"That seems like the only way out of here," Sheelos answered, looking uncomfortable.

Yuan spoke up. "Besides, don't you remember what Martuan said? Angels are half-elves that evolved using special exspheres called Cruxis crystals." He glanced at Colette. "If I'm not mistaken, Colette is currently wearing what looks like one around her neck."

Lloyd went to look but was distracted when Gesea nodded. "I noticed that as soon as I saw her earlier. It's different to your exsphere Col. It's more like.." She trailed off. Lloyd knew what she wanted to say but guessed she didn't want to talk too much about it in front of the others.

"They study the Cruxis crystal that belongs to Tethe'alla's Chosen at the Imperial Research Academy," Sheelos said then.

Lloyd's eyes widened. "There's a Chosen in Tethe'alla, too?"

"O...of course. The world regeneration ritual is carried out in Tethe'alla as well. The Church of Martel exists, too. It's been centuries since the last Chosen went on a world regeneration though."

"I wonder how long Cruxis has been involved in the world Regeneration?"

"I dunno," Sheelos shrugged, "but if you don't hurry up and get on a rheaird, the Renegades are gonna override the code to get in here and capture us again!" She pointed to one of the devices.

"So these are rheairds," Lloyd said, getting on one. Gesea went to sit behind him but found herself stopped by Colette as she vacantly took the seat instead and held on to him. Lloyd stuttered an apology to Gesea. She smiled and shook her head, taking her own rheaird instead. Yuan was the last to take a seat. To their surprise, Noishe jumped in front of Yuan on his rheaird and sat with his front legs flopping off the front and his back legs and tail sitting between Yuan's. His tail wagged and slapped him in the face.

If the elf wanted to complain, he didn't get much chance to. The devices lifted from their places on the ground and whooshed out of the room and into the blue sky. It only took a few seconds of frantic trial and error for Lloyd to work out that the levers at the side helped to keep it in the air. He followed Yuan, Gesea and Sheelos higher and higher. He heard a yell from Yuan to brace himself but didn't understand why until they flew straight through a large fluffy cloud. It didn't feel like cotton wool or fairy floss at all and he emerged on the other side drenched from head to toe. Sheelos laughed at the sight, having expected it and manoeuvred her rheaird to avoid the cloud completely.

"Tethe'alla, here we come!" Lloyd exclaimed over the wind, shivering from both the cold and excitement. They sped faster and faster upward. It was only when the rheairds started to make clunking sounds that Lloyd got a chance to look downward and notice that the scenery had definitely changed.

"What is happening!?" Gesea asked as she shook her head to release some of the cloud water from her pigtails.

"It must be because the seals have been released in Sylvarant," Sheelos called. "Tethe'alla's already starting to run dry on mana."

"What does that mean?" Lloyd asked. The rheaird underneath him made a louder and much more concerning clunking noise.

"It means we're gonna faaaaaaaaall!" Sheelos exclaimed as they all did a nosedive toward a cliff face of unknown origin.

Amongst the yells of his friends, Lloyd felt Colette's grip loosen as she let go of him and flapped down to safety. "That's it!" he exclaimed, realising what he had to do and quickly summoning his own wings.

After scooping up his friends and Noishe with mad swoops up and down and offering all his available limbs, the rheairds dropped to the ground and they slowly hovered down to meet them. Through the immense pain coursing through his body at the strain, Lloyd thought three people and a dog hanging like monkeys out of a barrel just above a mountain top must have looked quite funny.

He let out a cry of agony when they landed and awarded himself the worried gazes of his friends, followed by a frenzied lick from Noishe. Yuan knelt down to him and rested one hand on his shoulder. Lloyd felt the familiar sensation of being healed and thanked him before getting to his feet. "So this is Tethe'alla?" He directed his question to Sheelos, who nodded and gazed around herself with her hands on her hips.

"Yep. The mana in the air is different but it's definitely Tethe'alla. Looks like we're at the top of the Fooji Mountains." She pointed behind them all. "We can see a lot of the Tower of Salvation from here."

"T..the Tower.. of Salvation?" Lloyd couldn't help the nervous quiver in his voice when he said the name of that tower now. It wasn't exactly attached to good memories.

"So there are two towers as well," Gesea said in the calculative voice she always used when she was thinking while she was talking. "Sheelos, what else is similar between here and Sylvarant? What about the Holy Ground? The Church of Martel is also over here, right?"

Sheelos nodded and hummed in a 'don't interrupt' tone for a second. "The place where the Tower of Salvation lies is the Holy Ground of Kharlan."

"But that's impossible," Lloyd said, shaking his head. "The Holy Ground of Kharlan is where the peace treaty was signed to end the Ancient War. There can't be two of them."

"Sorry to burst your bubble my dashing darling, but are you sure yours isn't fake?" Sheelos asked. "We have records in our museums that depict how the Hero Mithos called the two ancient monarchs to the Holy Ground of Kharlan in order to forge a peace treaty before Martel was sacrificed and Origin regenerated the world."

"Of course I'm sure," Lloyd replied. He didn't feel sure though and just continued to stare at the tower. "But I suppose given everything that has happened, there's a chance that that whole story is fake and that both might be fake."

"There's only one way to really know for sure," Yuan said. He pointed downward. "We need to explore Tethe'alla more."

"I agree," Lloyd nodded before looking at Sheelos. "I want to finish what I started with you. I want to find a way to stop the world regeneration once and for all. I don't want any more Chosen to be sacrificed for some grand plan to revive Martel. I want a way for Sylvarant and Tethe'alla to be happy."

Sheelos looked touched at the sentiment. "Then the first thing we need to do is to tell the King of Tethe'alla the state of things in Sylvarant. He might not believe just me thanks to the Pope's influence, but if a whole group of people from Sylvarant speak with him, he'll have no choice but to listen."

"Well what are we waiting for?" Lloyd clapped a fist into his other hand. "Let's head there!"

"No use in standing around here I suppose," Sheelos agreed.

"But what about the rheairds?" Gesea asked. "Are we just going to leave them here?"

"There isn't much we can do with them at the moment," Sheelos admitted. "We managed to avoid destroying them completely thanks to our handsome Chosen, but they won't be goin' anywhere until we get some fuel."

"What's the fuel then?" Lloyd asked, skirting over her flirt. "Coal?"

Sheelos snorted. "Of course not. Didn't you hear what I said when we were falling? Geez, how do you guys live in Sylvarant?"

"The fuel is mana," Yuan answered more concisely. "The obvious answer would be to use a summon spirit to power it. Some lightning perhaps? Volt might do."

Sheelos flinched backward suddenly at Volt's name. "But.. I haven't made a pact with Volt. I've only just made a half-assed pact with Undine, too."

Lloyd looked disappointed and nodded. "I guess we have no choice but to leave them here for now then."

Gesea nodded and looked just as disappointed. "And the history books had me thinking that magitechnology was infallible."

"Well then, let's get going!" Lloyd cheered, changing his tune instantly and heading off down the path.

Gesea trailed at his side, the excitement Lloyd was radiating contagious because she also cheered. "Wow, our first adventure in Tethe'alla!"

"Gesea," Yuan called from behind the group where he and Noishe followed, "Remember this is not a field trip."

"Yuan!" Lloyd laughed. "You're starting to sound like the Pro-" He stopped suddenly, realising that just mentioning Kraine would put a damper on the mood. Too late though; Gesea heard him. She had seemed to be doing alright but it was quickly obvious that she was even more confused at the professor's betrayal to them than he was. She looked at her feet as she walked until he couldn't stand it and put a hand on her shoulder. She looked up at him and he gave her his best smile. "It'll be alright Gesea. We'll find out why he lied to us. There has to be more to this." Gesea gave him a smile, but it wasn't her usual bright one. Lloyd looked back at Yuan and Sheelos. "You guys agree, right?"

Sheelos bit her lip and slumped her shoulders. "What is it about you? Even when you're betrayed you still believe in people."

"It worked for trusting you, didn't it?" Lloyd grinned.

Sheelos let out an exasperated sigh and looked at Gesea. "I'm not as optimistic as Colloyd, but I guess I gotta agree. Kraine's too smart not to have any reason for what he's doing." She grinned. "Nobody with eyes like his is just a pretty face."

The sound of flapping wings could be heard from above suddenly and they all craned their heads to see. Several eagle monsters had spotted them and were beginning to swarm.

"We should keep moving," Yuan said, making his butterfly blade appear as a precaution. Gesea followed his lead and summoned her kendaxe. Lloyd went to follow suit after he saw Sheelos also draw her dagger from a sheath on her hip but stopped when his hand reached the bag he kept his chakram inside. It was a familiar awkward feeling- like he had all of a sudden forgotten how to use a weapon he had trained and played with half his life. His other hand that rested on the sword at his side gripped it comfortably. Paralysed by indecisiveness on what to do about the situation, he turned from his friends and called them to keep following him down the mountainside.

Upon reaching the foot of the mountains, Lloyd turned to the group that had been following him and stopped his gaze on Sheelos. "So where are we meant to go?"

Sheelos raised an eyebrow at him. "Why're you asking me? You're the one leading the group, darling."

Lloyd scratched his head and sniggered a bit in embarrassment. "How would I know where to go? I'm from Sylvarant remember?"

Sheelos blinked in realisation and took the lead. "Right. Sorry. This way everyone. We're off to Meltokio." She waved behind herself and led them off the mountain and toward a city with a castle that they could see even from their current distance.

xXx

When they entered the bright and bustling city of Meltokio, Lloyd hid a sigh of relief from his friends. They hadn't encountered any fights with the local field monsters, but he knew it would only be a matter of time before he had to explain to them the gradually stacking list of new issues he'd been discovering. The amount of discomfort and confusion he'd felt when they'd occasionally been told to keep on guard during their trip through the wilderness had been very unsettling. Not only did he have to wonder how he might fight if they needed to, he had also inevitably found himself remembering Kraine's training words about using a weapon that was designed to be used in a pair and felt the inevitable stab to the heart that came along with it. He wasn't just being optimistic about it. He didn't want to believe it.

"Well, I'm off then," Sheelos said suddenly before they walked in through the main gate where two guards stood. They all turned to her and she glanced around. "I've got a few things I need to do. I need to go back to Mizuho and report my mission failure to the Chief."

"Mizuho?" Gesea asked.

Sheelos nodded. "I grew up in Mizuho. It's a village that lives in hiding from the rest of the world."

"In hiding?" Lloyd asked. "Why?" He shook his head. "More importantly, what will happen when they find out that you didn't kill me?"

"Nothing that you need to worry about," Sheelos replied. She reached into her outfit and brought out a letter. Lloyd stepped forward and took it from her. "Give this to the King in Castle Tethe'alla," she explained. "Tell the guards at the front that it's a special request from Sheelos Wilderbayashi. The King should grant you an audience right away."

"Really?" Lloyd blinked. "Thank you! You're really a nice person Sheelos." He watched as Sheelos turned a shade of pink at that.

Gesea watched too and laughed. "You get embarrassed at strange things, Sheelos. You give compliments all the time and you never think twice about it."

Sheelos stuttered and turned away from them, raising her hand to wave. "Well then, bye."

"Hey, wait!" Lloyd called. "When will we see you again? You're coming along with us aren't you?"

"Don't worry about that handsome," she said. "I'm sure we're fated to meet again."

She left them standing at the entrance of Meltokio until she disappeared around the corner of the large stone wall that served as the city perimeter.

"Well then, should we be off?" Yuan asked, clearing his throat to get their attention. The small group minus Sheelos and Noishe -who patiently waited at the gate for their return- headed toward the large castle that loomed at the northern edge of the city.

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