Lloyd awoke to a loud rapping on the deluxe suite door. He blinked and sleepily gazed at the clock on the wall near the desk he could see Colette still sitting at. Seeing the time, he jolted up in surprise. It was almost midday already!
He yawned and gazed over to the other side of the enormous cloud-like bed to where Gesea was cocooned in her half of the blanket. He smiled to himself as he part crawled and part bounced across the bed to her. They'd stayed up a little bit too late laughing at random things the night before. Topics had included Noishe getting grey hairs and the sea having a plug at the bottom like a bath, among several others that he couldn't even remember how they'd made sense at the time.
Even though he knew Gesea was still hurt, he was glad that he was able to comfort her. He playfully poked her on the forehead and she caught his hand. "Lloyd. What are you doing? Let me sleep."
The rapping on the door of the suite sounded again, this time a bit more frantic than the last. "What are you doing with my dashing darling, kid!?" Sheelos called. Gesea opened her eyes and looked at Lloyd for a moment, then to the door. She turned scarlet. Lloyd laughed and lowered off of the bed to head to the door and let the banshee in before she tore it down with a swift ninja kick.
Sheelos stomped into the middle of the room and gazed around, breathing heavily. "What took you guys so long to answer!? Yuan's downstairs at the moment and threatening the front desk for a key card!" She turned her back to them and looked at Colette. "C'mon. Hurry up!"
After quickly getting changed and making sure they didn't leave anything behind in the suite, Lloyd, Gesea, Colette and Sheelos met with Yuan down at the reception desk. The half-elf wasn't talking with the receptionist though. He was instead facing them as they exited the elevator. Something seemed.. different about him today. Lloyd quirked his head off to one side, examining him as he walked.
"Don't mention the hair," Sheelos whispered on the way past to meet with Yuan first.
"The hair?" Lloyd wondered, his gaze accidentally fixating on it. Now that he looked, he noticed it right away. Yuan's blue hair was pretty unmistakeably silky usually, despite the fact that the half-elf liked to flatten it whenever he was thinking, flick it when he was making a point, or curl it around his fingers whenever he was just sitting and waiting. Regardless of how surprised Lloyd felt at having noticed his ex-professors strange hair habits, he noticed even more that the locks of blue looked a bit less.. pristine.. than normal. Thin bits of blue hair frizzed about his head in several places. It looked like he'd forgotten to brush it this morning.
Sharing a quick confused glance with Gesea, he proceeded to join Sheelos and Yuan in the foyer. Sheelos had her arms crossed and was eyeing Yuan suspiciously. "You know something."
"I know a lot of things," Yuan answered, smirking. He brought out the hand Lloyd hadn't realised he'd been hiding behind his back to show them all an unsealed envelope. "Someone apparently knew that we were in need of a boat."
Lloyd reached out a hand to take it from him when he offered it, but as their fingers touched in the exchange, he felt the jolt of static. He jumped back and dropped the letter to the floor in the confusion and shock. "Owch! Static shock!" His eyes quickly darted to Colette. Her aura wasn't glowing neon pink or anything, thankfully.
Yuan cleared his throat and shifted uncomfortably on his feet. "My apologies. The mana in the air is especially thick today. I seem to be having a reaction."
Gesea leaned down and picked the envelope from the floor while Lloyd couldn't help his waver of interest from the letter to Yuan's statement. "H-uh-Elves have reactions to mana in the air?" He closed his eyes and tried to 'sense' it like he'd done that other time in Sylvarant. It was there, but he wasn't sure what to look for exactly.
"In Tethe'alla they do," Yuan responded. "The mana is much stronger here."
Lloyd opened his eyes and went to ask Gesea whether she was experiencing anything strange, but quickly changed his tune again when she handed him the envelope. He lifted the flap to open it and took out a heavy piece of card. Scrawled on the front was a message in decorative cursive. He had to squint at the letters a bit before he could make out what it actually said.
You'll find it moored in the harbour.Please use it well and do not speak of this to anyone.
With my most sincere regards,
Assistant C.E.OLezareno Company.
"No way," Sheelos gaped after he'd finished reading it out to them. "How did the old guy know we needed a boat!?"
"Perhaps we were overheard?" Yuan offered. "He did seem to feel as though he were being watched when he spoke with us yesterday."
"Then we have a boat! Isn't that great?!" Lloyd looked from Gesea to Colette, then to Sheelos and Yuan. They all nodded with varied enthusiasm. He turned to the elevator. "Let's go check out the weapons and armour they have on the second floor before we go."
He sprinted to the device and punched the button to go up. Now they just needed to play the waiting game. The electronic dial next to the triangular up button changed its numbers from two to three, then back to two, then finally it dialled down to the G floor and opened with a ding. A crowd of beach-goers stepped out from it and they all had to hug the rails to avoid being trampled. Once the elevator was empty and the crowd dispersed, the group stuffed themselves in and pushed the button for the second floor.
Sheelos stood next to Yuan once she'd found the new armour and dagger she wanted and the special shiny paper she could use to fashion some new seals. Lloyd, Gesea and Colette were standing at the weapons stall with a million different choices laid out in front of them for their next weapons, a line of other shoppers waiting patiently in line behind them. "Good thing we've got some cash," she said absently to judge the Cerberus' mood. Yuan shrugged nonchalantly and gazed at nothing while in thought. She sighed and decided to go for broke anyway. "Is that how you got the old guy to give us a boat?"
As expected, Yuan paid attention at her accusation. He thought he was an expert at being subtle, and he usually was, but today he seemed a bit out of sorts. Sheelos intended to take full advantage of it. "There's no way that we just happened to get given a boat," she reasoned. "C'mon! What'd you do?"
Yuan said nothing and bailed, heading for a seat on the leather lounge suite in the middle of the market. It connected to a railing that circled a hole facing directly down to the ground floor below. She stared in disbelief as he gazed at the gaudy painted sky backdrop like it was actually interesting and decided to stalk after him and stand in front of his line of vision, just to be annoying. "If you won't tell me that, then how about telling me about 'reacting' to 'the mana in the air'?"
"Must you be so persistent?" Yuan asked, irritation very clear in his voice once he decided to speak. "How about trusting me a little."
"Trust works both ways Yuan," she quickly pointed out. "Just where did you-"
"Hey Sheelos! Sheelos!"
Sheelos clenched her fists and rolled her eyes at being interrupted at of course the most inconvenient time. The universe seemed to have it out for her. She shot Yuan a this discussion isn't over look and turned to see Lloyd, Gesea and Colette approaching. Lloyd had such an goofy pleased smile on his face that she couldn't help but be curious despite her deep-seeded agitation with the smirking half-elf sitting behind her.
"Watch this," Lloyd instructed once they caught up and stood together. He reached into his backpack and took out two shimmering chakrams. They were golden yellow bladed circles with silvery S shaped handles that went straight through the middle. He held them out toward Colette. Sheelos couldn't help but gape when the usual mute and inanimate blonde angel reached for them. What was more- the static expression on her face curved into a slight smile. Lloyd raised the chakrams in his hands a little higher and Colette's hands raised to try and reach them.
"Lloyd," Gesea warned, "you shouldn't tease Colette like that!"
"I know, I know. I wasn't meaning to." He guiltily lowered his arms and allowed Colette to take the weapons. Once she had them in her hands, she held them in front of her blank eyes. Everyone watched with curiosity until she looked up and let them slide out of her hands to the floor. One fell flat while the other rolled past their feet and toward the items shop. Lloyd knelt to pick the one at his feet up while Gesea ran for the other. She came back shortly and handed to him. Funnily enough, the moment both chakrams were in his hands again, Colette reached out for them.
"Looks like Colette likes chakrams," he said, realising he was only really stating the obvious. He handed them to her again and she rinsed and repeated her earlier action. As he watched her hold them for a third time, he couldn't help but be reminded how he had once felt comfortable using the bladed rings himself. It had to have been because of Colette. Now she wasn't a part of him any more, he had no desire to use dual weapons and instead favoured twin swords. That's how it seemed anyway.
Touching the defensers he'd equipped and following the group to the elevator, he thought about the other differences he'd noticed in himself and seen reflected in Colette. It only made him that much more determined to save her. Frustratingly, the only thing they could do for her was find Kraine and ask for the inhibitor ore that he'd taken from Toize Valley Mine. The only problem was that asking for it would likely lead to blows. All he could think about upon that train of thought was that he wouldn't allow him to hold back again.
"You what!?" Sheelos asked, staring at Gesea and at Lloyd once they'd confessed to them about their discussion the night before. They were strolling through the field to the harbour just to the Northwest of Altamira. "You do know that Mizuho put a lot of its resources into finding the duke, right? He's gone. Vanished without a trace."
"I reluctantly agree with Little Miss Ninja," Yuan said.
Gesea bowed her head and Lloyd stopped walking. "I still going to find him," he said, tightening his grip on his twin swords. Sheelos went to disagree and make another point but Lloyd kept going. "Gesea deserves to know what happened to Annalicia." He continued walking, having said his piece.
"But what makes you think finding the duke will solve anything?" Sheelos asked. Lloyd opened his mouth but stopped. A was a pretty good question actually.
"Finding him could cause more problems than it would solve, too," Yuan added.
"It is because Duke Bryant cared for my sister enough to erect a memorial," Gesea cut in to explain. "If he knows that she passed away, he must know how it happened."
"Yeah," Lloyd agreed, finally catching her drift. "If Regal knows how it happened, there's a really good chance he can tell us more about the Angelus Project. He might even know more about my mum."
Yuan and Sheelos glanced at one another, then fell quiet in thought. Eventually Yuan spoke up first. "I suppose given the circumstances, it isn't exactly likely that we will hear an explanation from our enemies. I understand your logic."
"But it doesn't change the fact that if he is alive, he doesn't want to be found," Sheelos continued. She knew it was falling on deaf ears though as far as they were concerned. There was only one other thing she could say. "If we want to know more about the Angelus Project, the Pope would be a good choice of target."
"The Pope?" Lloyd glanced from her to Yuan, hoping they'd explain more.
Yuan gave Sheelos an annoyed look and cleared his throat. "We found out from Kate that he is the one whom ordered the experiment of the Angelus Project to begin."
"What!?" Lloyd's eyes shot to the continent to the Northwest of their position. "Then we have to go and confront him!" He tapped his foot and tried to calculate the possibility of making a pit stop there before going to get Volt.
"Lloyd, even I know that isn't a wise move," Gesea said, stopping his thoughts before they could disappoint him any further. "The Pope has power over the Papal Knights and we have been running from them since they found out Yuan and I are half-elves. There's no way we can get into Castle Tethe'alla to confront him, even if we wanted to!"
"Which is why we did not tell you right away," Yuan added in his own defence. "It is because you are so rash to do the right thing that it is sometimes better for you to be kept in the dark."
"Ignorance is knowledge?" Lloyd asked, recalling a conversation with Kraine.
Yuan crossed his arms. "Humph. I hardly need to ask who taught you that analogy, do I? Nevertheless, I suppose it applies to this situation also. Or at least it applied until Sheelos told you about the Pope's involvement."
"I have no idea what you're on about," Sheelos replied. "Ignorance is knowledge doesn't sound like a very good life lesson."
"That's what I said!" Lloyd laughed.
"You're wrong," Gesea defended. "I know my brother is one of Cruxis' Four Seraphim and everything, but he's still actually really, really, really smart. Ignorance is knowledge was a really important part of our survival when we were travelling." She stopped talking abruptly after that and hurried on ahead.
"Hey Gesea, wait!" Lloyd called, giving chase. Colette ran behind, leaving Sheelos and Yuan standing with Noishe.
Sheelos absently scratched the dog behind the ears while she waited for Yuan to explain what on earth 'Ignorance is Knowledge' was. "You don't need to know," he said to her look with his usual cheek. "You already practice it anyway, I'd say." He started off after the other two.
"What's that supposed to mean?" She followed him but he didn't answer.
Soon enough they were standing at the harbour and gaping at what they were seeing. A sail boat with a sky blue hull, equipped with life rings and complete with a cabin and small birds nest welcomed them. The sails flapped in the light breeze as the whole thing rocked gently on the waves.
"It's a real boat!" Lloyd said excitedly. "We can be pirates! Arr!" He stepped onto the boat unhesitatingly and waited for it to stop rattling under his weight before he did what he thought was his best pirate pose. Colette and Gesea clambered over the side of the low dock next and stood next to him, Sheelos following with a leap and a soft landing just to show off. "Thank you, thank you," she said as she bowed and the children clapped.
Yuan bowed his head to look at Noishe and the dog gave him a "well?" look. He gestured his hands to the boat. "You can go first this time."
With the canine equivalent of a shrug, the green and white fluffball jumped onto the boat, his claws scratching around while he did his best to regain his balance. Yuan climbed in after him and caught contact with his black and silver eyes. "Ladies should always go first, anyway."
Noishe whined and lazily lifted a paw to push him down but whined and pulled it back when static fizzled between them, sending the fur on his leg all puffy for a second. Sheelos raised her eyebrows, glancing between the Cerberus and dog. "Well now that Yuan's stopped messing with the fur ball, how are we going to actually drive this thing?"
"We should go and look at the controls," Lloyd declared. "It can't be that hard, right?" He looked hopeful when his gaze fell on Yuan. "I bet you know how to drive a sail boat too, right? It's probably got one of those wheel controls too."
"You'd assume correctly, of course," Yuan said as he reached under his cloak again and brought out the pair of keys he'd taken from the envelope earlier before handing it to Lloyd. "But this boat doesn't have a tiller. I think it's probably powered by something more Tethe'allan."
"Like exspheres..." Gesea mumbled, her voice cold.
"I can only hope not," Yuan replied. "Let's head into the cabin to check it out."
Lloyd, having found his sea legs rather quickly despite being unable to swim, was the first to rest his hand on the doorknob of the cabin. He pulled it open and peered into a well lit room. The entrance led directly into a narrow kitchenette. There was a stove, sink, a kettle, and plenty of other amenities. There were even tea and coffee cannisters sitting inside a rack securely nailed to the wall. Continuing on with his friends packing into the small space behind him, he saw a small lounge suite and a coffee table. A row of wooden bookshelves with locked doors decorated the side back wall.
"This must lead to the bridge," Sheelos said, peering at another blue door with the logo for the Lezareno Company plastered on to it to Lloyd's right. She turned the knob and let the door fly open. Everyone jolted back with surprise when they were immediately met with the figure of a boy not much older looking than Gesea. He jumped back in surprise as well, his hand still in the motion of reaching to open the door from the other direction.
"Who are you, cutie?" Sheelos asked. She tilted her head. "We must have the wrong boat or something."
The boy stepped out of the dark bridge room and into the more well-lit lounge and living area. Lloyd immediately noticed a head of shoulder length blonde hair and a pair of striking blue eyes.
"Hi everyone," the boy greeted, glancing over them all. "No," he said, sounding amused when he stopped on Sheelos, "you don't have the wrong boat. I'm your sea captain."
"A sea captain?" Lloyd felt excited. "You mean you're actually qualified to be out on the sea? How old are you?"
"Lloyd, that's a rude question," Gesea groaned, giving the boy an apologetic look. "Sorry. Our friend sometimes forgets his manners when he gets excited lately."
The boy laughed and shook his head. "It's no problem. To be perfectly honest, I'm still new to the trade and haven't had that much experience just yet."
"Oh!" Lloyd tittered his head and punched his own hands together in thought. "That's okay. Yuan said he knows how to sail these kinds of boats too. Maybe you can learn from one another." He looked at Yuan expectantly. He hadn't said a word yet. He still didn't say much and only looked at the boy. The boy returned his blue gaze on him. "Your name is Yuan?"
Yuan stayed ghostly still, only seeming to manage a slight bob of the head. The group gave him confused looks. Lloyd wanted to joke that he was acting like Kraine, but thought better of it for Gesea's sake.
The boy retracted the hand he'd extended to Yuan. "I'm sorry. It's probably kinda weird that I've heard some of your names and haven't introduced myself yet." He bowed his head for a second and then smiled. "I'm Mithos. It's a pleasure to make all of your acquaintances."
"You've got the same name as Mithos the Hero!" Lloyd pointed out in awe.
"It's a common name," Mithos said, his voice going a bit higher pitched in what must have been embarrassment.
Gesea was first to reciprocate the formal introductions despite Lloyd's interruption. "I..I'm Gesea!" she said, reaching both her hands out to him. "It's nice to meet you, Mithos."
They joined hands and Mithos looked upon her with curiosity and a broad smile. "It's nice to meet you too, Gesea." Letting go of her, he dipped his head in the direction of the exit. "I can hear howling outside."
"Oh, that's Noishe," Lloyd said, starting for the door. As he grew closer, he heard the dog scratching at the door in desperation to get in. "What's wrong Noishe?" he asked without opening the door. "You never want to come inside."
He opened the door a crack and quickly felt Noishe's wet muzzle on his elbow. Without much warning, the door creaked against the dogs weight and Lloyd had no choice but to let him in or otherwise risk a broken door on his hands. With a weirdly happy yap, Noishe bounded through the kitchen, skidded around the corner and-
Lloyd ran to see what had gotten into his pet and gaped when he saw Mithos on the floor, Noishe licking him madly. Mithos was laughing too much and they could only hear bits of "down boy" through the cackles. With Gesea's help, Lloyd pulled his enormous beast of a dog away so that Mithos could stand.
"Thanks," Mithos said, wiping his face to get some of the slobber off. Lloyd cringed, having been at the whim of Noishe many times when he'd returned home after school. Nothing but a shower was going to get rid of that smell. Mithos didn't seem too bothered by it though. He gave Noishe a pat on the head and the dog panted zestfully.
Lloyd knelt to Noishe, amused. "What in the world has gotten into you Noishe? You're normally scared of new people."
"Maybe it's because he can sense Mithos is a half-elf too?" Gesea asked. She quickly covered her mouth when Mithos took several steps back from them, appearing very worried.
Lloyd stood and looked at their sea captain. "Is he? I wouldn't have guessed."
Mithos bit his lip and shook his hands. "No.. I-"
"It's okay," Gesea reassured softly, ambling slowly to him. "Lloyd is different. Colette's quiet but I'm sure she feels the same way. You know Yuan's a half-elf too, and Sheelos is nice as well mostly."
"Hey!" Sheelos snapped in fake annoyance, her hands on her hips. "Gimme a break! I'm an angel! Metaphorically speaking, anyway."
Lloyd and Yuan coughed at the joke and Gesea giggled. "She's actually not so bad. Just don't get too close otherwise she might try to jump on you."
Mithos looked puzzled as he quickly glanced between her and Sheelos. "I..I'll keep that in mind. Thanks Gesea." He pointed his thumb behind himself at the entrance to the bridge. "Care for a tour?"
"Actually, would we be able to start moving while you're at it?" Yuan asked, saying the first thing he'd said since seeing Mithos. He threw him the keys.
"S-sure," Mithos stuttered, fumbling a bit with them when he caught them. The room was quiet for a second as Mithos looked at Yuan, seeming to expect him to bark another order. When he didn't, the short blonde turned to saunter into the next room with Lloyd, Colette and Gesea following.
Sheelos' eyes narrowed at Yuan when he remained where he was, watching the backs of the others. "Jeez Yuan. Why're you being so cold to the kid? Even Noishe likes him!" She tapped her foot for an answer, unimpressed with him.
"Woof!" Noishe yipped in agreement.
"Yes, well, Noishe will like anyone who feeds him tomatoes," Yuan grunted, having enough of the conversation and proceeding to head into the control room to ensure everything went smoothly. Noishe let out a short, argumentative growl after him.