Skewed Destinies- The Flames of Origin

The things wings can do

Chapter 28

The things wings can do

"It's.. it's..."

"Huge!" Lloyd finished for Gesea as they stared wide-eyed at the thing in front of them. One minute he'd been excited at seeing a new device-thing for the sorcerers ring and the next they were all facing off against a giant rat that had been earlier squeaking around their shoes and making Gesea squeamish.

"Does anyone have any cheese?" Sheelos asked.

When nobody raised a hand with cheese enclosed, Sheelos sighed. "Well, I guess there was no harm in asking. Now for plan B."

"You had a plan A?" Lloyd asked her incredulously, still with one eye on the enormous rodent.

"Of course I did, darling!" she grinned. "Now, pay attention to my plan B. Run!"

The rat uttered a squeak so loud and comparable to nails on a blackboard that it almost burst five pairs of eardrums at once. Nobody questioned Sheelos' order. They'd go deaf before they destroyed it. They followed the redhead in an erratic run across the shiny cobblestone sewer floor to the bright blue tile on the floor Lloyd had seen earlier before using the ring device. The minute her shoes touched the outer edges of the tile, she grew larger and larger until she looked like a giant. Lloyd found himself staring again at the unreal situation with Gesea right by his side, despite the barbaric squeak of the rat getting closer and closer.

Yuan was the next to make the transformation and looked down at them all. "Well?" he roared. "What are you waiting for?"

Lloyd cringed and stepped onto the platform. He thought he'd feel strange as he turned back to his regular height but he almost blinked and missed it. He stepped off of the platform and watched the ant-sized Gesea run onto it. She turned back to normal and heaved a sigh of relief. Lloyd looked back to the once mammoth rat and watched it run with a high pitched squeak away from them.

"Well, that was interesting," Yuan deadpanned. "Let's just focus on getting through here." He looked at Lloyd accusingly and the boy let out a low laugh and apology. He sighed, once again aware of a striking similarity between him and him. To ensure there wasn't any further distraction, he decided to lead the group.

Sheelos pulled up beside him. "I figured we'd just head for the sewer drain near the items shop?"

He agreed, having had the same thought. It would be the simplest way to get close to the Elemental Research Laboratory. At least that's where he assumed the Chosen was planning on going. Heading for the steep stone staircase that led to the higher levels of the sewer, he got to a spider web and scowled to himself for forgetting it wasn't going to be that simple.

"Yo darling, hurry up!" Sheelos called back to Lloyd while looking at the web at her feet disdainfully. Yuan couldn't blame her. Every time they went across the webs in this place they were left feeling like children who had eaten candy and not washed their hands right away.

He waited for Lloyd to catch up. "We'll need to become small again. When we do, make haste across the middle thread of the web and don't stop until you get to the blue tile just over there." He pointed at the glowing blue square on the corner of the small platform connected to the stairs that led upward before reaching to his neck and undoing the black cape he had draped around him.

Without it covering Yuan's body, Lloyd couldn't help but notice his colourful choice of armour. A mixture of blue, red and gold. It seemed pretty regal. He would have been more surprised had he not known Yuan wasn't all he'd seemed to be at first though. "Gotcha," he said, ignoring the chill that crept up his spine from remembering Kraine's words of distrust toward Yuan. He squeezed the sorcerers ring on his finger and it let out a large wave of mana into the air.

The world got much bigger and they were all once again left with the impeding terror of sewer monsters thinking they were after dinner desserts if they didn't hurry. On that thought, Yuan led the bunch with Sheelos right behind. Lloyd watched them raise their legs high with each step and place them down gently to the web, only to pull them up again and make a loud ripping noise like velcro. The web had looked flimsy from his regular height but it now looked like thick wool.

Gesea watched closely from next to him, nodding to herself as though taking mental notes. When the time came and Yuan and Sheelos were safely on the other side and back to their giant forms, she was the first of the Sylvaranti to take the plunge. At first she wobbled from side to side under the slight buckling of the stringy silk, but she soon got used to it and before long reached the circular middle of the orbed web. With a few more confident steps, she was off of it and joining Sheelos and Yuan in the land of giant comrades.

Lloyd went to step on to the webbing and follow her example when a thought hit him. He didn't need to walk over it. With a grin to himself at his smarts, he summoned his wings and unfurled them from his back. He stretched them slowly and flapped a few times to loosen them up. Once they felt good, he flapped them toward the ground until he hovered just above it and flew across to the group. The wind in his hair felt good though and he started to laugh happily. He flapped his wings harder and soared up the staircase in a wide arc and then down to his friends again, hovering in mid-air around them like a persistent fly. Seeing Colette hadn't joined them in the land of giants, he spun around to see how she was going. She was only just starting to make the trek across the web. She wobbled back and forth, making Lloyd realise too late what was about to happen. He dove for her but arrived a second too late. The blonde fell face first into the spider web soundlessly.

"Colette!" He dropped down onto the web and helped her up. As she stood with his help though, some of the webbing lifted with her. Without much warning, the footing underneath them both gave way and they found themselves hovering precariously over the sewerage stream, entangled in sticky webbing. "Lloyd!" he heard Gesea's giant voice boom.

"It's okay!" he called as he flapped his wings while he held onto Colette. Her wings had sprouted but similarly to his own, they were caught in the web. He stubbornly flapped harder, only to feel the grip of the web get tighter around his body. Just when he started to hear a concerning pitter-patter from a hole in the wall just below them, a large hand reached down and the shadow of Yuan enveloped them. The half-elf gripped the two of them tightly and pulled them out of danger, web and all.

While Yuan carried them over past the worried gazes of Sheelos and Gesea, Lloyd couldn't help but notice the cold metal feeling against his neck. He hadn't noticed before, but Yuan wore a gold ring on his Salvatorian finger. It was pretty worn looking but he managed to see a Y and M engraved on it before Yuan set him and Colette down on the blue tile to grow back to their normal sizes. The Y must have stood for Yuan. He curiously wondered who M was.

"Are you okay Lloyd?" Gesea asked, approaching with a concerned look on her face.

He pulled a long piece of web off of himself and shook his hand frantically back and forth in the air to get it to unstick. "Yeah." He turned to Colette. She was sitting blankly and still covered in the webbing. Sighing, he knelt down to help her. She didn't even blink when he put his hand on her face and pulled multiple strands of her hair accidentally to remove the web. "Maybe you should keep your wings out in future, Colette."

She blinked once and he gaped at her. "Did... did you just hear me, Colette?"

The angel girl blinked again and Lloyd couldn't contain his excitement. "Guys! Colette is starting to feel better!"

"Really?" Gesea leaned down and smiled at Colette. "Can you hear me, Colette?"

".." Colette didn't so much as blink or twitch at her words. Gesea tried again by waving her hand in front of her eyes. Nothing happened.

Lloyd frowned in confusion. "But she was just doing it a second ago." He stood from his spot and watched as she copied him.

Yuan cast an eye over them. "Let's continue on."

Sheelos agreed. "The sooner we can get across the ocean, the sooner we can help Colette."

Lloyd nodded and curiously followed her up the steps just ahead. She hadn't said anything else about Volt yet to them. Thinking of how he and Yuan played the Game of Questions, he decided to try a back-door approach to the conversation. "Speaking of travelling across the water," he started. Sheelos flinched, and for a scary moment Lloyd thought his hidden agenda had been discovered right away. When she didn't say anything or try to change the subject, he continued hesitantly. "Why hasn't Undine challenged you to another battle yet?"

The Chosen-Assassin reached the top of the staircase first and closed her eyes, looking to be thinking. Wondering what she was doing curiously as he also reached the top, he watched her. She didn't do anything for more than ten seconds except close her eyes and he was about to ask why when she abruptly forced a finger to his lips and squinted her eyes harder.

Gesea and Yuan reached the top of the stairs and watched her curiously as well. Eventually she opened her eyes and removed her silencing digit from Lloyd. "What were you doing?" he asked, the moment he could.

Sheelos held her head like she had a headache. "Undine said something about repenting for my failed pact, and until I repent I cannot challenge her to a proper battle."

"Re-pent?" Lloyd blinked. "Like, pay her back?"

"I guess so." She looked unsure herself for a moment before she gave him a wide grin. "Oh well. We'll manage it when we have to." She walked ahead of them across the platform and around a few corners, past some water drainage pipes.

"I'm not sure I like the sounds of that," Lloyd replied unsurely, following quickly. They passed a staircase leading downward where another rat squeaked and ran around in circles to come to a staircase that spanned two levels and led to another higher floor above them.

"Even if you don't, that's what has happened," Yuan replied in a matter-of-factly tone. He let out a sigh after. "This is the first time I've heard of a summon spirit being bitter about delayed pact-making though."

Lloyd wasn't sure what to say and instead surveyed their surroundings. On their current level, in the shadow of the staircase, was a door. If he craned his head enough from where he was standing, he could see another door of the same kind on the wall connected with the floor above them. The door on the floor they stood on was currently closed. Sheelos glared at it with her hands on her hips. "Jeez. Looks like they closed everything to try and stop us this time."

"How are we meant to get through?" Gesea asked. "Does that mean we came all this way for nought?"

"Of course not," Yuan replied. "I would have stopped us long before now if that was the case."

Sheelos agreed with Yuan and looked at Lloyd. "Normally we'd have to do a lot of heavy moving around with trash to get through here, but seeing as we have a resident angel..." She sprinted to the edge of their current floor and pointed downward. Lloyd followed her finger to see she was pointing at a round brown wheel protruding from the wall. "You don't mind using those sapphire wings of yours to help us out, do you darling Lloyd?"

"I guess not," he agreed with a shrug, unfurling the wings he hadn't bothered to put away and swooping down to it. The wheel was stiff at first but once it gained a little momentum it was easy to turn. Lloyd turned it until it couldn't turn any more and heard the rumble of stone on stone as the door above slid open and into a small gap so that they could pass. He flew back up and entered with the rest of the group. Yuan, the last to follow, stopped in the underpass of the door and turned back to survey his surroundings for a few seconds. With a mutter to himself, he re-attached his cloak and turned to catch up with the children.

xxx

After using his wings again in the next room to save them time using what Sheelos called a "trash compactor" (whatever that was) from up on the higher floor, the group walked through another door to face a short passage surrounded by foul smelling water. Vermin galore went about their mousey business and ran from hole to hole along the back wall where streams of recycled water flowed out of spouts and created a musty green coloured waterfall. From where they all stood and gazed around the room, there was no clearly cut path across the water to the next platform. A passage connected by a short descent of stairs to their left led them downward but to a dead end. It was only when Sheelos called them to follow her down the stairs and to the sewerage waterfall that Lloyd noticed the small ledge protruding from the wall.

"You know what to do," Sheelos said, looking at him with a grin. Putting his wings away for good, he nodded and pressed the ring on his finger again to turn them all tiny. This time, he held onto Colette as they edged along the wall and only let go when they were clear of the water.

"Finally!" Sheelos exclaimed once they stepped on a blue tile and turned back to normal size. "We're on the home stretch!" She ran ahead of them. Lloyd grinned and went to follow when he saw Gesea stop mid-step and gasped. Yuan did the same, his eyes narrowing. Sheelos whirled around as well. Caught in the middle of a shocked stare triangle, Lloyd started to feel uncomfortable.

"We've been waiting for you, travelers from Sylvarant," called a hoarse male voice. The group all trained their eyes upward to see three men all with clubs for weapons. Two looked like twins and the other had a head of black hair. Aside from that, they were pretty non-descript and wore tattered clothes with holes in the knees. They jumped down from the platform above to them. Lloyd was ready for them though, drawing his swords and springing into action.

"Lloyd," Yuan called. "Don't kill them. We just need to knock them out." Instead of drawing his double-edged butterfly blade, he just pulled his short sword from its sheath and pointed it at them.

The brutes charged at them, swinging their clubs wildly. Lloyd ducked underneath an attack aimed for his head and used the pommel of his right-hand sword to knock his assailant on the back of the head. He fell to the floor, unconscious instantly. The other two made the mistake of going for Gesea and Yuan and were knocked away before they even got within point blank distance.

With all three men unconscious before Colette got involved, Lloyd heaved a sigh of relief. Sheelos, Gesea and Yuan didn't seem as relieved though.

"There is still da-" Gesea was cut off suddenly when another brute jumped down from a hiding spot above and straight onto her. He had a pocket knife this time and quickly brandished it close to her neck.

"Which one of you is the Chosen of Sylvarant?" the man asked. He had dark spots under his eyes, a shaved head and an odour Lloyd could smell past the usual smell of the sewer. "The Pope promised to lighten our sentences if we got rid of her. Hand her over or the little girl dies!"

Sheelos crossed her arms. "So the day has finally come where the Pope reveals his hand."

Lloyd took a step toward Gesea but the look in the brute's eyes worsened. He had no doubt he would use the knife if any of them tried to get any closer. They were all frozen in place. The brute looked at each of them, his knife hand shaking violently while he sat on top of Gesea. Then suddenly with a bloody yelp, the man slumped forward to reveal a short sword with an intricately decorated hilt sticking out from his back. A flash of white, blue and gold flew from the level above them and moved quickly to Sheelos.

With a powerful downward slam, she was on the ground and under the foot of none other than Kraine. "Don't move…If you move, the Chosen dies. Understand?" He gazed at them coldly until his eyes fell on Gesea again as she slipped out from under the dead convict. She looked shaken but unhurt. "Gesea, are you alright?"

Gesea watched her brother with mounting confusion flashing in her eyes, but nodded. Yuan muttered something that sounded like "Ye eva'e" under his breath. Kraine scowled and hoped the younger ears present didn't understand what that meant. He made sure to give Yuan his best glare.

"Heh," Sheelos laughed underneath him. "So you knew I was the Chosen the whole time? I should have guessed. You're way more than just a pretty face."

"You should have considered yourself lucky that revealing you was not in the best interest of Cruxis," Kraine replied, sounding tired.

Yuan stepped forward unhesitatingly. "You think we'd believe you would kill a Chosen? Please Kraine, don't insult us."

Kraine gripped the pommel of the longsword on his belt and glared at him. "Having returned to Tethe'alla after a time, I learned you were posing as the Chosen. I find that.. interesting... to say the least, Yuan."

"Can't we have this discussion without your foot in my back?" Sheelos asked, grumbling angrily and squirming. "You're obviously not here to kill us this time or take Colette."

"There will be a time not so distant from now, where that will be different," Kraine replied. He lifted his foot from Sheelos and she slipped out to run for cover behind Lloyd and Yuan. She held them at their shoulders and heaved a loud sigh of relief. "For now however, I only want to talk with Gesea," Kraine finished. Lloyd clenched his fists around his still drawn swords. Kraine looked at him and lowered his gaze to the swords. "You have changed your fighting style. You lack proper training but it seems to suit your physique now."

"Aarghh!" Lloyd couldn't take it anymore and let out the bellow as he charged at his former teacher and friend. Gesea called for him to stop but he couldn't listen this time. Kraine drew his sword and met his first swipe with ease; holding his ground and looking him square in the eyes calmly with the one eye that wasn't covered by his auburn hair. They matched strength for strength initially, but Lloyd knew he couldn't keep it up without breaking the thin blade he was using. He brought the blade in his other hand around from behind and swiped at him, jumping in the air and turning as he did to give his force a little more velocity. Kraine met the attack with a forceful swipe of his own and sent him flying back.

Thinking fast, Lloyd used the force to propel himself at his opponent again, alternating his swords in a succession of quick strikes at Kraine as he did so. Still the seraphim caught his blows with ease. "Back down," he warned as they sparred, the rest of the group watching with unsure expressions on what exactly they should be doing.

"Why would I?!" Lloyd spluttered, clashing steel with him again, his swords together against Kraine's longsword. It was a much fairer chance he could overpower him this time.

"I don't want to hurt you," Kraine replied.

It was a reply so soft that Lloyd almost thought he hadn't heard it. A strange feeling came over him and he found himself staring at the angel traitor for a few seconds and almost letting his guard down. Before he could get an easy swipe in if he wanted to, Lloyd jumped backward to stand closer with his friends. Kraine regarded him carefully until he was satisfied that he wasn't going to attack out of the blue again and slid his sword back into its sheath.

"You owe us some answers!" Lloyd cried, his voice echoing through the sewer. Kraine turned his back to them and summoned his blue seraph wings. Lloyd gaped. Although by now it would have been stupid even for him to question whether or not Kraine was on their side, the sight of the wings protruding from his Professors back still surprised him.

"I am doing what I must to atone for my sins," Kraine spoke solemnly, turning his head so he could see them all staring at the light show coming from his back. "The path Lord Yggdrasil wishes to follow is the only way. The revival of Martel will bring peace to the world at long last. As for 'owing' you answers, I think not. However, I do owe an apology to you and Gesea."

Lloyd clutched his swords tightly, unsure what to say. Kraine raised one leg slightly. Lloyd knew the pose surprisingly well. It was perfect for take off. He stuttered even more for something to say. "Forgive me Gesea," Kraine said, looking at her. He then settled on Lloyd. "Don't die, Lloyd."

With those final cryptic words he was off; flying over to the other side of the room and through the door they had come through.

"Where's my apology?" Sheelos sniffed as she gestured to the front of her dirtied robes. She turned around and tried to see her back. Lloyd would have laughed at the giant brown footprint present now if he wasn't already half absent in his own world. "Don't die Lloyd? What's that even supposed to mean?!" He felt like hitting himself hard in the face with his sword sheath. Before he could follow himself up on the desire, Yuan's hand rested itself on his shoulder. "Let's head into Meltokio now."

"R..right," he agreed. There was no point in dwelling on it. He looked at Sheelos, still grumbling to herself in a high pitched annoyed tone about apologies. "Lead the way, oh great Chosen one."

Sheelos gave him a dirty look and he swiftly took it back. They turned the last corner of the sewer underground and climbed the staircase to the upper level they had continuously been attacked from. A short distance further, they finally clambered up the ladder that led to a sewer lid and opened to the business district of Meltokio.

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