Preludes and repetitions
Chapter 40Preludes and repetitions
Kraine watched his beloved as she rested against his rigid arms that he'd lifted to control the rheaird before it descended too far toward the sea; indescribable feelings coming to the surface. The first was utter disbelief. He was holding the body of Gesea, but the unmistakeable soul and mana signature of Annalicia had come forward. The second was the undeniable curiosity he usually kept well hidden out of fear of giving Mithos, Martuan or Gabriel any new ideas. He wanted to know how she had come forth in spirit. Had she possessed her sister? Or was it possible..
His eyes fell on the Angelus Project connected to her chest. He didn't need to touch it to know it was steaming with heat. Gesea's whole body was running a dangerously high fever. He'd initially thought her dead when he'd seen her plummeting toward the ocean, and it had only been the intense heat she'd been radiating that had convinced him otherwise. The overload of emotions he felt as he tried to find the right words to say was almost too much. She smiled at him with the face of Gesea; but he felt the warmth of Annalicia shining all the way through it. The unimaginable agony she was putting herself through made his old seraph heart ache. He had so many things he wanted to say. There was no time.
Agonising over everything, he finally managed a shake of his head. He knew what she was meaning when she said she wanted to split Gesea. While he had never been directly involved in the Angelus Project aside from his days of funding exsphere excavation and taking Annalicia into custody, he had learned all he needed from Mithos and Gabriel and as a test subject for the first Angelus Project.
Annalicia wanted to put into practice the very thing Mithos had been aiming for until presently and the thing Mithos wanted to do now. She was going to finish what Rodyle had started; overcharge the Angelus Project with mana to create the split between Gesea's two forms, and use the infuriatingly amazing evolved exsphere as a catalyst to transfer the souls trapped within it to another body.
Finally words came to him. "No Annalicia. Your body is too weak."
He thought about saying that there had to be another way, but she and him both knew there was not. Especially not at the rate Gesea's body was feeling the effects of the long-time subdued parasite. He started thinking of the ways he couldn't wait to punish Rodyle and briefly started to imagine a life where he got the rune crest from him and attached it to Gesea's body in time. Would Annalicia stay with him forever? What would become of Gesea's soul trapped inside the Angelus Project. Maybe they could-
His thoughts were cut off when Annalicia gripped him with one hand and wiped his face with the other. "Please Regal.. don't look so sad." She laughed when he gave her a look. "Alright fine. 'Kraine'."
The brief attitude she'd shown in her voice and in her smile faded as she glanced into the darkness around them. The squawks of the dragons looking for their prey grew closer. They wouldn't be safe for much longer, even hidden behind the thick patch of slow moving dark clouds that served as their current hiding location. She gazed back at him and a small moonlit tear rolled out from her right eye. Her body was so hot that he didn't even get a chance to wipe it from her before it evaporated.
"We both know.." Annalicia started again, her breathing becoming erratic, "that I am not meant for this world." She took a few more breaths. Kraine opened his mouth to tell her to stop dribbling such nonsense; the same way he had done whenever she had doubted her self-worth as a half-elf in the past. "It was only you that made me feel otherwise," she added before he could. "But Gesea is my sister and I know you've come to care for her as though she is yours as well. We need to do what we can to save her. Lloyd would be lost without her."
She smiled lovingly at him again, and again he thought of all the things he wished he could talk to her about. Had he turned into a seraph with the ability to make time stand still as Mithos could, he would have done it there and then.
The squawks of the dragons broke the two of them out of their moment. Kraine gently shifted his arms to control the rheaird. He heard the cackle of Rodyle and zoomed past him when the dragon flapped close. Rodyle momentarily lost his composure at seeing him before he laughed. "Lord Kraine! So you did know the truth behind this girls Angelus Project. The other Grand Cardinals are such nitwits." He flew closer to them.
Kraine quickly ensured his signature stone face was in place. "What is the meaning of this, Rodyle?" he asked.
Rodyle gave a chicken-like cackle. "Now now. I can't tell you that, can I?" He raised an eyebrow at Gesea's body resting on him. Kraine wasn't certain if Annalicia had fainted or was pretending. He guessed the latter. He'd taught her many things about what to do if she was found in the time when he left to make an appearance with Cruxis in order to throw them off of their scent while they'd been on the run.
"Lord Gabriel did say that you may be an issue," Rodyle said, sounding unimpressed. "After all.. she is the sister of your dead wife!"
So Gabriel had been conversing with Rodyle. Kraine silently glowered and made a note to turn his 'talk' with Gabriel into more a heated discussion. He led the rheaird back up and around toward the floating sky platform, Rodyle following. His dragon didn't snap at them, but it wasn't really surprising. He wanted Gesea to keep feeding the Angelus Project for whatever Gabriel had planned after all.
He steered the rheaird up through the clouds to the Dragons Nest and then away from it again. He knew he'd already used it for a lot longer than Martuan had intended, but he had to help Annalicia before they arrived back at their destination. He gingerly rested a hand on her forehead and cast a revitalise spell on her. Even as he did, he could feel more mana ebbing away from his body than normal thanks to the crystal on her chest.
The heat radiating from her body lessened. She poked an eye open at him as they flew. He continued to cast until he felt the area around him well up with mana. Something blasted at the rheaird from behind and the smell of smoke filled the air. He glanced behind to see the damage from what was likely dragon breath; black smoke billowed from the rheairds exhaust. He felt the mana in the air welling up again and glanced up to Rodyle and his dragon.
"Don't think I'm going to chase you around all night," Rodyle bellowed. "I need that Angelus Project and I won't be going anywhere without it."
The rheaird was starting to lose the remainder of its juice. Judging by the clinking and sick sounding mechanical noise it gurgled, Kraine swiftly made an executive decision to let it fall to the floating dragons nest just a little below and zip out his wings to break the rest of their descent.
Annalicia opened her eyes as he fluttered down as gently and quickly as he could. Under the blue light of his wings, he could see her eyes get a little wider and her smile a little broader. Even she had not seen them very often. He had never revealed them while taking residence at the Lezareno Company. They gave off a very recognisable mana signature that identified him better than a fingerprint to those of Cruxis. A sudden flash of memories from their first meeting when she had been little more than a child came to surface, but he quickly pushed anything other than battle readiness from his mind.
He held Annalicia steady until she stood on her own. "Don't push yourself," he muttered. "Do not stray far from me and hold my hand at all times." He offered his hand to her.
She giggled and shook her head. "No Kraine. You know I can't fight if I do that."
They watched the flying dragons take perch around them in a triangular formation, their red glowing eyes boring down on them with the desire to kill. Annalicia threw a few punches to the air and then a kick to apparently show Kraine that she was ready. He let out a low breath of relief. She seemed to be feeling a lot better for the time being.
Being the stubborn woman that she was when she had her mind made up; he knew he would have to make a deal with her. He drew his sword from its sheath. "Very well. I will dismount Rodyle and take the dragons. Make sure you kill him for both of us."
Gesea dropped to her knees and stared out through the red hue of her Angelus Project; the thing Kraine had told her was a Cruxis crystal. Tears fell from her eyes and she shook her head in disbelief. The scenery changed from looking at Kraine to facing Rodyle after a large-scale shower of magic she could feel even from the crystal hit the dragons that had very nearly killed her. She'd never seen Kraine use that kind of magic before.
Rodyle grew closer and closer to Annalicia. Gesea could hear her sisters raspy breaths as she ducked under a swipe from a magical weapon Rodyle had conjured and punched him in the nose. The little pair of glasses seated on the bridge of his nose shattered and crumpled against his face before falling apart in two pieces to the ground. She heard a yell from her sister and flinched. The red walls of the Angelus Project around Gesea glowed a brighter red and she covered her eyes. A light tingling sensation filled her entire body and she felt as though she were floating. The heat she'd felt on her body before radiated from the floor she was kneeling on and she had to stand up to keep it from burning her.
A voice from behind made her jump in surprise and whirl around, only to startle a silver haired young man slightly shorter than herself. He took a quick step back, tilting his head from side to side as he stared at her. "Hello?" he asked, sounding incredibly nervous.
"Hello?" she greeted in question back. "Who are you?"
As the words left her mouth, she thought her voice sounded different. She felt a bit lighter too. A quick glance down told her that she had somehow changed her clothing. She was wearing a cute black dress tied at the middle with a silver belt, and her usual high cut boots and gauntlets. The boy standing and still looking fixedly at her was wearing a familiar blue tunic top and shorts with decorative white and swirly edges and a black shirt underneath.
"W-who am I?" the boy asked. "Who are you? One second I was kneeling down pretty much where you are, and the next I'm standing and looking at you." A look of what Gesea thought was realisation washed over his face and his eyes grew even wider. "Oh no," he said, raising a quivering finger and pointing it at her. "It happened to us. What Annalicia said."
"What she said?" Gesea didn't have to think for too long. She closed the gap between herself and him. "Could it really be? You are my other self?"
"I-I think so," he said with an over exaggerated nod, making his hair fly into his eyes as he did. He laughed and wiped it away.
"So I'm not Gesea anymore?" she couldn't help but ask aloud. Not that she expected an answer, but he shook his head. "I wonder what I should call you?"
The two smaller dragons dropped to the ground with pained shrieks and slowly started to turn into glittery dust, leaving the saddle Rodyle had been using on one to fall from mid air toward the sea below the nest.
"You've still got some fight in you," Rodyle said, rubbing his face. "How are you feeling?"
Annalicia breathed heavily as she watched him starting to cast a spell on her. Kraine had his sword clenched in the teeth of the large mother dragon. She picked him up by his sword and attempted to swat him to the ground by lurching her enormous right clawed paw at him. Thankfully he let go and flitted to safety above her reach before doing a nosedive straight for her eyes. She roared in distaste and tried to swat him away like a cat playing with a fish on a string. He was too nimble to be caught though.
Annalicia loved watching him fight with his feet, but she'd never seen him do it while airborne. Watching him twist and kick in midair and twirl to hit with both his ankles and the steel toe of his boots in one fluid movement was like watching a gravity defying ballet dancer- not that she would ever tell him that.
Through the pulsing sensation spreading through her veins and the searing heat from the Angelus Project, she managed to get her legs to run off to the side just in time to avoid a lightning strike of magic from her own assailant. She ran toward him from the side where she didn't think he would be expecting. Unfortunately for her, it seemed her tricks had already worn thin. With a crack of steel knuckles she hadn't noticed him wearing against her stomach, she faltered back and coughed. A little blood came with it. She wiped her mouth. Gesea's body was not going to last for much longer.
Rodyle went to attack her again when he instead found a sword flying straight into his back. His eyes went wide and he lurched forward. Annalicia, summoning the last of her strength from somewhere deep within, punched him just below his sternum, pushing him back further into the blade of the sword. Rodyle coughed Kraine's name in a curse and fell to the ground face first.
Only adrenaline from the fight remaining, Annalicia made her way into the open arms of Kraine and felt her legs give out from under her. He caught her of course and lowered her to the ground. She could barely see straight. A floating sensation came over her as the searing of the crystal reached its pinnacle. She thought it might burn a hole straight through her chest.
The former Gesea, now having self-nicknamed herself "Pink" held the boy, "Silver," by the shoulders as she looked out through the red hue of the Angelus Project into the face of Kraine- the man that she'd thought was her brother since he'd come to rescue her from her fate in Ozette. He'd lied to her. She could never forgive him.. but on the other hand..
No. She couldn't think about that.
Silver was quivering in her arms. Just like Lloyd and Colette, the two of them had found themselves to be two halves of a whole Gesea. Since splitting with Silver, Pink found herself feeling a little less afraid of the situation, much more furious, but also less sure of her own convictions on the matter that raced through her head at a million miles per hour. Whoever Kraine was, he clearly was not her brother. She'd heard her sister call him Master Bryant as she'd gazed up at him and allowed the occupants of the crystal on her chest a front seat view. Kraine was the president of the Lezareno Company that had been 'missing' for a quarter of a century, give or take. Of that she could definitely be certain.
The pieces of the puzzle slowly formed and joined together in her head as she continued to watch Kraine gaze down at her sister through their vantage point. The ache in his eyes spoke volumes to her on another matter. He and Annalicia very clearly felt for one another with the unspoken emotion all half-elves and elves inheritantly possessed. She'd seen humans afflicted with it too, but none she'd been close to. Luin came to mind.
Her sister and Kraine loved each other. That wasn't all, either. Rodyle had confirmed it with his earlier crude remark. They hadn't just been in love. They had come together, not as Salvatorians, but because they had desired to do so. Pink didn't know what to feel. In the very least, it made sense as to why he had always acted in such a distressed manner whenever she'd asked him more about their sister. A part of her hated how foolish she had been to believe without any real proof that a man she did not even remember prior to meeting him in Ozette could be her brother.
But how had Annalicia died? She was terrified to find out.
"Please, you must," Annalicia whispered, stroking the thumb of her hand cupped around Kraine's chin against his cheek.
He lulled into her palm slightly, closing his eyes. "Annalicia.."
She was always amazed at the words he managed to say without saying them. When she had first met him again, she'd initially been irritated at what she'd thought was a lack of vocabulary. As time wore on during her stay at the Lezareno Company and during their time on the run from Kvar though, she'd noticed a lack of words meant something different where he was concerned. He was a man that preferred his words to hold meaning when he spoke. His soft uttering of her name oozed the feeling that he didn't want to do what was coming next. It was infectious.
She could feel her consciousness fading away from reality and her thoughts becoming more and more jumbled. Even her hand on his face was starting to seem disconnected from the rest of her body. She closed her eyes; too strained to hold them open any longer. Kraine's grip on her quivered slightly as he watched her form glow. A large amount of mana surrounded them, ebbing from the Angelus Project. Her body pulsed loudly underneath him. He held her tightly to him despite the pain in his eardrum from the rapidly increasing volume and intensity of the mana bursts. It eventually slowed and stopped again. He glanced off to the side of them to another glowing form on the ground for a second and then back to her. "Please forgive me."
Pink gasped as she watched her former brother draw her sister away from him and hold a small knife close to the viewpoint. The blue light radiating from his wings cast a shine on it that reflected straight through the crystal and forced her to shield her eyes. The scenery went dark and the heat of their surroundings faded.
Kraine held Annalicia close to him and closed his eyes. He could feel the final signs of her life trickling away from her as the glow of her body faded and revealed a new, albeit similar looking form. He clutched the Angelus Project in his hand as he tried to find the right words to express his thoughts. He couldn't lose her again. He wouldn't.
"My love," she whispered, faintly squeezing his hand. "Give him the Angelus Project."
He followed her gaze to the silver haired boy staring up to the sky blankly from a rigid lying position on the ground. He didn't want to leave her for even a second as she slipped further away, but he knew he had to. If he didn't, her.. sacrifice.. would all be for nought. He felt dirty even thinking of her as a sacrifice. Still, he did as she wished.
He gently rested her on a grassy patch on the damp ground and dragged his feet over to the boy. He couldn't even feel an aura of mana from him. He was quite literally a shell. Unlike Colette however, he didn't sense he was a self preservation device. Colette had been different. She'd been given that Cruxis crystal and it had effectively made her a vessel ready to become either a sacrifice to Yggdrasil to be able to split Martuan's souls since her mana signature was a match, or a lifeless angel, ready to mindlessly defend Derris Kharlan.
Muttering apologies, he unstrapped a belt from his Cruxis uniform and tied it around the boys arm to restrict the blood flow. Then, with a quick shallow incision with the small pocket knife that was still slicked with Annalicia's blood, he placed the Angelus Project back inside him. "I'm sorry," he muttered as he worked. "It seems you are destined to be burdened with the results of my sins for the rest of your life."
He placed the rune crest that Rodyle had stolen just deep enough into the incision that when he healed the skin with his first aid magic, it stayed in place there.
"Can you feel that, Pink?" Silver asked, gazing up from the glowing red floor. He didn't seem so scared any more.
She nodded, having been about to ask him the same thing. A breeze charged with static electricity swept through the special exsphere, knocking them apart and pushing them to their knees. The floor didn't burn to touch any more, Pink noticed.
"Are you alright Silver?" she asked, her head spinning a bit from the suddenness of her collapse.
He didn't answer.
Worried and gaining her composure, she turned to where she thought he would have landed. No sign of him. He was gone. A light feeling like the one she remembered from using the elevator in the Altamira resort hotel came over her and she got a different vantage point. A familiar head of silver hair connected to an elven face with ocean blue eyes gazed through the redness of the Cruxis crystal down at her for a second, looking surprised.
Kraine stood with bated breath, waiting for the boy- his technical brother-in-law- standing in front of him to say something. Knowing dual souls existed within one body had hardly been a secret from him- he'd even asked Mithos to tell him the names of his souls. His alias as Duke Regal had come from that. Yet still it was agonising to watch the wave of emotions flicker in the boys eyes as he moved his gaze from the Angelus Project safely attached to the flat of his hand to him. When they were eye to eye, he noticed some features of his looked like Gesea, and yet.. not. Unsurprising, of course. He wasn't Gesea; he was only a part of her.
"Kraine?" the silver haired boy asked unsurely in a voice with a sharper and less mono tone than he was used to from Gesea. Kraine gave him his attention until he caught a hint of movement out of the corner of his eye. He looked back at Annalicia. She was still unmoving from her spot. He left the silver haired boy to come to terms with everything for the time being and headed over to her. She was breathing, just barely.
He gathered her up into his arms and held her close, unable to say anything now. A gasp sounded from the boy behind him, but he didn't need to know why. Mana had begun filling the air long before now and a presence had been getting closer. Still, he had nothing to fear.
"Yggdrasil!" Silver cried, quickly summoning his kendaxe. It felt oddly heavy in his hand, he noticed.
Kraine, still with Annalicia in his arms, turned toward him. "Leave the boy alone, Lord Yggdrasil."
The tall, white-wearing blond angel raised a protestant hand at him. "Don't worry. I will not harm a hair on his head; provided he cooperates with me." He threw something red. Kraine shifted to catch it and looked down into his palm. A Cruxis crystal glimmered up at him.
"Annalicia is still alive, as is Presea's body," Yggdrasil explained. "Take her to the Great Seed. It will keep her alive for the time being."
Kraine looked at Annalicia. "So, the girls name is Presea." He snapped his attention back to Yggdrasil. "Just what are you planning to do with the boy?"
"You should be more worried about the girl," Yggdrasil pointed out, ignoring the question. "You have my word I will not harm him."
Kraine glanced between the silver haired boy and Annalicia/Presea. "Alright." Jostling her body in his arms as he stood, he gave one final look to the angel and the timid half-elf boy before flying off for the Tower of Salvation.
Silver took some very quick steps back from Yggdrasil, keeping his weapon firmly pointed at him despite the increasing feeling of pointlessness and dread coming over him. Yggdrasil turned to look at him and he was surprised at the expression he received. Instead of the cruel smile of the Cruxis leader that he remembered from their encounter during the time Colloyd had split into Colette and Lloyd, he was met with a kind one.
Yggdrasil knelt down to him, his rainbow coloured wings still spanning around him like a majestic halo. "Now Genis, do you want to go back to your friends?"