The butterfly effect
The butterfly effect
Lloyd breathed heavily after they took out a swarm of enemies on the Fooji mountains. "Is it just me," he huffed and puffed, "or did these enemies get tougher?"
"It's definitely not just you darling," Sheelos answered, swallowing an apple gel with one gulp and wiping a bead of sweat from her forehead. "Either that or we've gotten weaker." She gave him a once-over. "You haven't exactly been able to do much fighting."
Lloyd had to admit, she was right. He hadn't trained for a long time- since Kraine had revealed his identity as one of the Four Seraphim. Yuan had never offered to teach him how to fight and instead always ended up protecting him. He thought back to the battle with Volt and how Yuan had needed to cast a spell so that he wouldn't be fried to a crisp. A curious thought came over him again. He wondered where Yuan had learned to fight. He'd never seen someone use a double blade like that before. That said, it wasn't as though Iselia had many practising swordsmen. He hadn't even known of Kraine's abilities until the day of the Oracle.
"Maybe you should spar with Mithos," Gesea suggested, snapping him out out his thoughts. He looked at her and she continued with a smile on her face. "He seems very capable with the sword. His fighting style is very reminiscent of Kraine's."
Lloyd stared. She had a really good point. "Hey yeah! Now that you mention it, it is really similar." He thought back to Volts temple again, when Mithos had surprised them all by pulling out some pretty advanced moves.
"Are you two just going to stand there chit-chatting forever?" Sheelos asked, a hand on her hip. She said it seriously, but even in the dim light of Gesea's torchlight magic, Lloyd could see a small quirk of a smile on her lips. His eyes trailed past her. The path quickly became steep just ahead. They were very close to the top where they'd crashed their rheairds.
He excitedly started walking again, Gesea striding just a little ahead to shower the torchlight over where they would need to go. Before he took his first steps up the steep incline to the top though, he drew his wings. He cocked his head back and smiled with satisfaction. As expected, Colette had done the same thing. He could relax a little more and concentrate on his own footing, knowing that her wings would be there to kick in and break her fall if she remained her usual clumsy self and tripped over. He didn't miss being clumsy like that at all and decided to apologise to her when they finally found a way to help her condition.
Soon they reached the windy top of the mountain where they'd left their rheairds. Lloyd squinted in the darkness as they walked ahead. He could see a small patch of white flowers growing around some of the boulders, almost glowing in the moonlight. Just as his eyes fell on the rheairds toward the edge of the cliff, he hit something invisible.
"What's going on?" Gesea asked next to him, having hit the invisible barrier as well. Sheelos spun around in a quick circle, confused too. She too a few steps in the way they'd come to discover to her chagrin that they couldn't go back that way either. The confusion of their invisible cage didn't last too long though. It became visible and glittered until it formed a circle of fragmented orange diamonds that circled around them.
"It appears we have been trapped by a magic barrier," Gesea pointed out, looking frightened. "This is not good." She darted her head in all directions as though she knew something Lloyd didn't. "We need to get out of here."
"So you've come," came a female voice. Gesea's earlier panic made sense now. Lloyd whirled around to watch a blue haired and green eyed woman he recognised instantly as Martuan, the leader of the Renegades, come out from behind a cliff, two other Renegade grunts following. "Like a moth to a flame," she added with a grin that looked pretty twisted under the bad light.
"That pun again?" Lloyd couldn't help but ask as he groaned. "Yuan said that as well!"
"He did, did he?" Martuan raised her eyebrows and circled the barrier to look at all of them in turn. "Interesting." She stopped and looked at her Renegades. "Please retrieve the rheairds at once."
"Yes, Lady Martuan," they said in unison, saluting her and proceeding toward the end of the cliff to the flying devices. Lloyd turned his attention to Martuan when he felt her gaze on him again.
"You're mine this time Lloyd," she said in a calm but demanding tone that reminded him of someone. He couldn't quite put his finger on it though and decided to put it out of his mind.
Lloyd glanced around himself. "Damn. What do you want with me?"
"The Angelus project," Martuan stated. "On your hand. You no doubt know that it is special. I require it." She reached her hands through the barrier and grabbed his arm. She pulled it out of the barrier, leaving the rest of him inside of it. "Give me your exsphere Lloyd. Yggdrasil will win if he is to discover what it really can do!"
"Yggdrasil?" Lloyd tried to pull his hand away, but his arm appeared to be stuck between being inside and outside the barrier. It was like it had a cast on it that wouldn't let it shift from its position. "Why would he want my exsphere?"
"Explaining any more would only confuse you," Martuan said frankly.
"No!" Lloyd squirmed with his hand and slapped hers away as best he could.
"You want to save the world? Then you need to stop resisting!" Martuan sounded more desperate than she had before. "Don't you understand?" She finally got a grip on the exsphere and went to pull. "This is the answer to everything he wants to do!"
Lloyd heard a voice yell in his head as Martuan grasped his exsphere. Bright light emanated from it. Lloyd felt the same tingling sensation he'd felt a couple of times before now and watched Martuan jolt back from him in surprise. She'd obviously felt it as well. Before she regained her composure and went in for another go, Lloyd watched an orb of light fly from his exsphere to somewhere behind him. As it darted through the barrier, a loud glass-breaking sound filled their ears. The barrier around them shattered and turned into twinkling star shapes before fading away into nothing.
Lloyd heard the voice again. This time it was outside of his head. He also heard a unanimous gasp from both Gesea and Sheelos. His stomach filled with butterflies as he turned his head.
"You can't have it!"
The voice came out of the mouth of Colette. Lloyd stared.
"Colette spoke!" Gesea said excitedly, her eyes wide.
Colette's aura glowed its familiar bright pink as she charged out from behind him at Martuan. The key crest he'd made for her started glowing the same hue his exsphere had a second earlier. "That belonged to Lloyd's mum! I won't let you take it from him!" She charged forth at Martuan but tripped on a pebble right before she reached her. Despite her clumsiness, it did the trick. Martuan stumbled backward.
Lloyd's eyes snapped from Martuan, to Colette, then to the new voice. He expected to see a Renegade but instead found a woman in red body-tight armour with aqua coloured hair tied back in a copper-like bandanna, materialising out of nowhere. She floated toward Martuan, the strange floating copper spikes that floated around her moving as though they were wings.
"Lady Martuan," the woman said again with a nod. Lloyd had to naturally assume that she was a Renegade. He'd never seen her before. He was sure he would remember her if he had. "I had not expected to see you here."
"Nor I, you," Martuan replied. "Please explain yourself Pronyma. The role of you Desians is to wreak havoc on Sylvarant, is it not?"
"Pronyma?" Gesea said from beside Lloyd. "I feel like I've heard that name before."
Pronyma spoke before Lloyd could agree with her. "With all due respect Lady Martuan, it is hardly worth the time of a Grand Cardinal such as myself to send my Desians around a world where there is no Chosen to inspire." She crossed her arms across her chest and looked to the group. "I come under the orders of Lord Gabriel, in Lord Yggdrasils absence of course."
"Gabriel?" Martuan spat. "Just what is he up to now?"
"Lord Gabriel wishes to take custody of the young half-elf travelling with the Chosen of Sylvarant," Pronyma said. "Hand her to me."
Martuan looked surprised. "The girl? What worth is she?"
"We are currenly exploring the properties of the Angelus Project since the.. incident.. at the Tower of Salvation. Since the Angelus Project from A012 is no use to us as long as it is occupied, we have decided to examine the girls Cruxis Crystal. There is a chance it has evolved to be a little..less.. useless."
Martuan thought on her proposal for a second before obligingly stepping aside. "Very well. You will entrust both Chosen of Sylvarant to me to watch over until such a time as they are of use, then."
"I have no orders regarding the Chosen from Lord Yggdrasil at this current time," Promyma replied, drifting past Martuan and toward Gesea. "You hid well. Goodness knows how you avoided our detection and killed our Desians for so long little girl, but play time is over."
"I am not a little girl," Gesea said, glaring up at her.
Lloyd drew his swords and stepped in front of her shaking body. He wasn't exactly sure whether she was shaking from anger or from being scared. "If you want to get to her, you will have to go through me first!"
"And me!" Sheelos agreed, taking out her dagger with one hand and a seal with the other.
Everyone turned to Colette. She had a determined expression plastered on her face. "I won't let anyone hurt Gesea."
Pronyma jumped back and stared at Colette. Lloyd got a sudden bad feeling in his gut. He had the distinct feeling that she'd just blown her cover, just like he had when he'd revealed his wings to Martuan back at the Renegade base. "She has returned to life through that second rate bauble on her Cruxis Crystal?" Pronyma asked. "How is that possible?" She shook her head. "Nevermind. This changes everything!" She laughed. "We will take the boy, Martuan."
Martuan opened her mouth to say something, but fell quiet. It seemed.. unlike her, somehow.
"That's not going to happen!"
Lloyd sliced his weapons at her but with a flash of white and gold and the clink of sword against sword, he found Kraine standing in front of him and overpowering his attack.
"Prof-" Lloyd stopped, almost choking on the word. "Kraine!"
The ex-professor glared down at him. "Pronyma. I have orders from Lord Yggdrasil. We are to leave the boy be for now and observe the situation before exacting our next move."
"Lord Kraine," Pronyma addressed, standing from the flinching pose she'd taken when she thought she was about to get hit. "I have orders from Lord Gabriel."
"Lord Yggdrasils wishes come first," Kraine replied, unwavering. "I will have a..talk.. with Gabriel. Fear not of any repercussions."
Pronyma didn't appear too happy at his override but quickly bowed her head to him. Then, just as she had appeared, she vanished again into thin air.
"What are you doing here?" Martuan asked, clutching her cape around herself a bit as she did.
"I believe I should be asking you that," Kraine replied, his voice going even colder as he cast his gaze over her. "Leave, Martuan, before either of us are forced to talk further."
Martuan pouted and crossed her arms. "Who do you think you're ordering around, Kraine?"
"I take it by your attitude that you would rather make a scene here?"
Martuan stepped back and glanced over the rest of the confused group again. "I suppose it isn't good to argue in front of the children now, is it?" She turned her back to them. Just when Lloyd was wondering whether she had her own personal rheaird, long and elegant seraph wings of pink and green hues sprouted from her back and lit the area around them. "I shall take my leave now."
She tied her hair back into a bun with mind-boggling speed and took to the air. The light from her wings made her look like a firefly the further out into the distance she got.
"She's an angel too?" Sheelos asked, scratching her head as she also watched the lady seraph disappear off into the distance. "This is getting pretty complicated."
Lloyd dodged past Kraine and ran to the edge of the cliff. "Damn it Martuan. Come back here!" He knew it was no use wasting his voice though. She'd fled and her Renegades had taken the rheairds. He turned back to see Kraine looking over Gesea. "Gesea, are you alright?"
"Why?" Gesea asked, her voice little more than a whisper over the whistling wind around them. "Why do you keep doing this Kraine?" She stepped back from him as he went to reach for her, almost tripping into Colette. Colette smiled and held her steady instead.
"There are reasons I must," he muttered. "Forgive me." He turned away from her and to Lloyd. "Now that you have Colette back, just what do you intend to do?"
"What do you mean?"
"I am asking if there is a reason for you to remain in Tethe'alla."
"Of course there is." Lloyd clenched his fists at his sides. "We're going to stop this cycle of two worlds stealing mana from each other. We're going to break the mana links."
"You must relinquish that train of thought," Kraine instructed him using his 'professor' tone. "It is a path that will only lead to destruction. You will be risking your lives. You are not strong enough."
"Everything leads to destruction!" Lloyd argued back. "That's why we have to change it."
"Lloyd's right," Colette chimed in. Lloyd couldn't help the goofy smile tugging at his lips at hearing her talk. She was just as he'd expected her to sound. "We can't just let people keep suffering, Kraine! I know you know that." She walked closer to him, not seeming to fear him at all despite his countenance. "You're a good person Kraine. I know it. Why are you always fighting against us?"
Kraine growled something under his breath and turned away. "Lord Yggdrasil will order your capture, Lloyd," he said.
"Then I'll have to beat him back," Lloyd retorted. "I swear I'm going to protect Sylvarant and Tethe'alla."
"Hmph," Kraine grumbled, sounding more amused than annoyed, Lloyd thought. He summoned his blue seraph wings and lifted off into the air. "Do your best."
Just as Martuan had, he flew over the edge of the cliff. Unlike the Renegade leader however, he didn't fly out toward the sea and rather fluttered down the mountainside.
"Just what is his deal?" Sheelos groaned.
"It doesn't matter for now," Lloyd answered, looking to Colette again. "We've finally gotten Colette back!"
"Yeah!" Gesea reached her hand out to her. "It's nice to finally meet you Colette."
Colette tilted her head at her. "Oh. Right. I suppose you feel like you're meeting me for the first time, huh." She nodded her head respectfully and took Gesea's hand. She let go after a second and examined Sheelos. "You're Sheelos, I know."
"You gotcha," Sheelos answered with a wink. "Does that mean you've been seeing everything this whole time you've been vacant?" she asked, taking the question out of Lloyd's mouth.
"That's right," she responded brightly. "I remember when Lloyd and I were connected, too." She giggled and glanced at Gesea. "I hope you can be my best friend as well Gesea."
"O-of course," Gesea stuttered, her voice going low. She glanced away, the way she always did when she was embarrassed.
Finally, Colette turned to Lloyd. "It's so nice to finally be able to say hello to you, Lloyd. Thank you for the gift you made me." She touched the key crest he'd made for her at Altessa's place. "Despite everything going on in your head, you still wanted to help me. Even if I turned out to be a complication you didn't want."
"Of course," Lloyd grinned. "I don't know why we were one person before but you're you now, so that's all that matters."
"Hm.." Colette thought for a second before nodding in agreement. "Yep, you're right. That's all that probably matters. Thanks Lloyd."
Sheelos and Gesea shared a glance and Sheelos slapped a hand to her forehead. "I was afraid we would have two simpletons on our hands."
Gesea went to copy her but stopped mid-slap when she suddenly remembered something. "Lloyd! I remember now," she explained, trying to get the words out before her emotions got the best of her. Too late. She thought of Chocolat and couldn't stop the quivering of her hands. The image of what had become of Marble, then the image of Dorr being stabbed in the back by the purple monster back in Palmacosta came to the forefront of her mind. "Pronyma was the name that demon who pretended to be Governer-General Dorr's daughter said she took her orders from. Pronyma is one of the Desian Grand Cardinals!"
"Damn it," Lloyd cursed again. "We let them all get away!" He gazed up at the sky.
"We should head back to the boat," Sheelos directed. "We're going to have to get our rheairds the hard way since the Renegades took them." She crossed her arms. "Martuan has some explaining to do as well."
"Yes," Gesea agreed. "It appears she is connected to Cruxis as well."
"This really is getting complicated," Lloyd said. He held his head for a second. "In other words, they're all our enemies, right?"
"But Lloyd," Colette reasoned, "Don't you feel it too? That Kraine's a good person?" She looked at Gesea. "He's always been protecting us, even as a member of Cruxis."
"What'd I tell ya? He's much more than a pretty face," Sheelos answered before Lloyd could think of a way to explain his complicated feelings for his ex-professor.
A grumbling sound sent them all on guard for a second until they discovered the source when Colette's hands went flying to her stomach. "Oops!" she laughed, looking down at herself. "I think I'm hungry!" She sounded excited. Lloyd thought back to how he'd felt before the events at the tower. Just the thought of food had once been enough to make him feel dreadfully sick.
"Let's go back," Gesea cut into the thoughtful silence, deciding to agree with Sheelos and starting off toward the path down the mountain; the light from above following her and prompting Lloyd and Colette to follow unless they wanted to be left in complete darkness.
Yuan stopped back at the dock that led to the deck of their sail boat with Mithos and Noishe. He was exhausted. Playing the Game of Questions with the ever inquisitive Mithos had not changed much. The only real difference was that he found himself slightly more impatient than Mithos when he didn't get a direct answer out of him. He wondered briefly whether that was how Colloyd had felt when he'd been subjected to it during his time as a student to him but quickly brushed it off again when he felt a very familiar mana signature somewhere off in the distance.
He eyed Mithos. The blond was looking around the area with curiosity as well. "What have you assigned Kraine to do?" he asked, wondering if he'd get lucky enough to catch him off guard.
Mithos gazed at him questioningly. "I have not assigned any new task. I assume he has been attending to business as he sees fit."
"I suppose he is quite a busy man," Yuan said, unable to help his smirk. He continued to look out toward the mountain. There was another mana signature in the air. It was suppressed though and he was certain he only found himself tuning in to it because he knew it so well. How could he not. If Mithos was aware, he hadn't indicated so.
Choosing his next words carefully as he followed Mithos on to the deck, he started. "It is starting to get very late. I will be going to find Lloyd and the others."
Mithos was smart. Too smart for his own good a lot of the time. Yuan was almost sure he wasn't going to get away with it. Nevertheless, Mithos didn't so much as bat an eyelid. "I will watch over the boat," he said. "This is a popular spot for bandits after all."
Not wanting to overcomplicate something going in his favour for possibly the first time since he'd come to Tethe'alla again, Yuan nodded graciously and quickly left Mithos to traipse through the field. Eyes of monsters glittered behind bushes at him and he summoned his blade as a warning to all. They seemed to get the idea. It wasn't long until he noticed the mana signature getting closer to him. Closer and closer...
He quickly swung around in a 180 degree angle with his blade and watched Kraine duck under it expertly, an after image of his wings remaining for a split second after the action. Yuan jerked his body back only -just- in time to avoid a roundhouse kick to the face by the seraph. Kraine retreated backward and fluttered down to the ground.
"When are we going to stop meeting like this?" Yuan joked, turning his blade downward and relaxing.
Kraine sheathed his own weapon and crossed his arms. "When you eventually tell me how you know everything, perhaps." He looked toward the mountain. "I am certain you know of Martuan and her relation to Cruxis. It would not surprise me in the least if you also have connections with Gabriel, especially considering your position as the Cerberus."
"I'm impressed," Yuan said, raising his brows. He wasn't lying in the least. "I'm sure you know by now that my secrets do not get told easily." He sighed and paced back and forth for a couple of seconds, wondering whether his next move would be wise.
"You wish to find the rheairds that you know were taken," Kraine surmised.
Yuan stopped pacing, this time more surprised than impressed. "How do you know that the rheairds were taken?"
Kraine gave him a look that said you think I'm going to explain myself to you? And he knew it was going to have to be an eye for an eye. "Just like old times."
Deciding on matters that had come to mind just before, he let the pink glow of his wings fill the area. Watching Kraine, he almost burst out laughing when he saw what was sincere surprise on the seraph's features.
"Fascinating," Kraine said after a second, masking his emotion quickly when he saw Yuan's annoying grin at him. He cleared his throat. "Very well. I have been curious as to Martuan's acts recently as it so happens. At first I considered reporting mutiny to Lord Yggdrasil.. but as things stand now, there are more complications to be considered if that were to be done."
Yuan understood. "In that case, help me get the rheairds back and I will continue to protect Gesea and Lloyd for as long as I can."
"I assume you know where they are located, then?" Kraine asked.
Yuan knew he didn't actually need to answer, so he looked off toward the ocean instead. "We should make haste."