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Skewed Destinies- The Flames of Origin

By Keko_the_Hybrid

Mystery / Adventure

The things wings can't do

Chapter 44

The things wings can't do

Yuan and Kraine stood at the foot of the Tower of Salvation near where the almost transparent blue stairs led up to the altar that would open the doors. Kraine sideglanced at Yuan suspiciously as he waited for the smirking half-elf to say a word to stop him. Yuan gazed up ahead, looking somewhat absent of his usual personality. Kraine figured that they had reverted to their usual banter of back and forth questions, so it was little use in asking him for further clarification to his earlier reveals. He wondered just what could be so strange that he 'wouldn't believe him even if he told him'.

Looking down at Presea in his arms, he noticed how much she looked like Annalicia. Gesea had looked like her too, but her features had been far more elf-like thanks to her other personality. It made sense. She too had started off as a human. Wiping his mind of the guilt attempting to peck its way to his senses, he made to focus on the task at hand. He nodded his head respectfully in thanks to Yuan and started up the steps slowly, summoning his wings as he did in case he were unfortunate enough to stumble from the extra weight he carried. Not that the tiny girl really weighed all that much, he reminded himself, but he could feel the mana in his body straining to maintain the wings. He had not recovered yet from the fight with Rodyle or from flying much further and faster than he knew himself capable. It was a dismal state to let Yuan of all people see him in.

Not that Yuan was faring too much better presently. He'd known exactly the way that woman had attacked him just by a quick glance. Still, something had stopped her from inflicting the fatal wound. She rarely fought with anything sharper than her tongue unless she intended to kill. A quick smile ran across his lips at the memory of how she would always get angry if any of their group killed a beast in more than one strike. He'd challenged her to do a better job and she had done it out of pure spite. Martuan was worse than Noishe. So why hadn't she killed Yuan?

He supposed it may have been for a number of reasons. Knowing her, she probably thought Yuan was just too interesting to kill. She likely knew he knew things he shouldn't and -like him- wanted to get the full story. She'd likely guessed he was a seraph since she had laid her base out so that only those with wings would be able to reach her in ample time. Having travelled with Yuan for a time though, he'd learned a lot about the piece of work his fellow seraph was.

"Kraine," Yuan called from the steps below. He glanced back silently and waited for him to continue. He did. "If you intend to save her, you must see it through until the bitter end."

"Hmph," he replied, "I have every intention to."

Yuan gave a single nod of the head and turned his back to him. "Very well. I won't forgive you if you half-ass it." He trod back to his rheaird without another word and roared it to life. He left, probably thinking he might have seemed uninformative.

Kraine continued up the steps, piecing the information he already knew together. Yuan had surely intended to stop him from going to Derris Kharlan, so what had changed his mind? In the one brief moment Yuan had given into his plea to save Annalicia, he had shown more of his true self than any other time they'd battled wits before. "Perhaps travelling with Lloyd has softened him a little," he mumbled softly to Annalicia. "It is difficult not to be swayed by his strong affliction to do what is right. Are you proud of what he has become?"

Her hand moved slightly and he almost stumbled backward in surprise. He continued the climb, tightening his grip on her. "I may have failed the first time Annalicia, but I will protect you with everything I have this time." He reached a palm out to the stone seal pedestal. As per usual, it reacted to the mana within his body from his own Cruxis crystal and sent the door to the tower whooshing open.

Stepping past the stone seal and into the ancient connection between the worlds, he found himself facing the gleaming twin swords which made up Origin's Eternal Sword, wedged into the floor and protected by an impenetrable barrier that only Mithos could breach. Holding more tightly on to Presea's body, he started to climb the staircase to his right which curled around the swords and led to the top area that housed the teleporter to Derris Kharlan, the swords remaining in sight the whole time.

One blade of the two was wide and flat and shimmered in an oceanic blue colour along its length, ghostly light-blue accentuations around its sharpened edges. It was of dwarven make, right down to the painted blue wooden grip and pommel that were both decorated with intricately carved symbols of longevity and wisdom. The grip was plated with silver on one side as a way to fend off evil spirits, while the crossguard was painted a dark grey colour as was traditional of dwarven works of any amount of beauty. From his studies into the civilisation, he had gathered that the dwarves preferred their creations to always display a sense of modesty in order to showcase their firm belief system that any work done could always be improved.

The other sword seemed more elegant than the blue one. Its curved falchion-style blade glowed a fiery red on the inside that calmed to a elegant orange hue around its sharp edge. It reminded him of Annalicia when she got fired up at something- a ball of flames on the inside but with a calm and respectful way of expressing its true thoughts. The crossguard was more intricately detailed, gnarling out from the center and painted in the same red and gold hues as the rest of the hilt. He had no doubt it was of elven creation.

Annalicia's body grew gradually colder and stiffer as he carried her up the final steps to the top level, despite him having using his best healing artes which had forced him to take a temporary break just outside of Altamira shortly before Yuan had found him. If he didn't get her to the Great Seed before her body died..

No. He didn't want to think about that possibility. The weight of the Cruxis crystal Mithos had given to him to use seemed to get heavier with every step. He hoped she would forgive him.

xxx

"So we just have to put these square cubes in front of the lasers, right?" Lloyd asked, looking around the room that surrounded them. Genis wondered why he hadn't taken out his wings for a brief point until he realised it was probably more to do with his recovery after the dragon attack rather than not wanting to reveal himself as an angel. Colette probably also did not want to reveal her wings considering that, as far as they all knew, he knew nothing about Sylvarant and the Chosen from there.

Urging himself to forget all of that for now, he watched Lloyd start attempting to move the grey cube they'd come across. It looked like foam to him, but Lloyd appeared to be having a little bit of trouble. "W-wow!" he groaned, putting his whole body into it and almost tripping himself up as he tried to push. "This-this is pretty h-heavy!"

"Let me help," he offered, walking closer and hoping that strength hadn't left his body in the same way the kendaxe now felt weird to hold. He placed both hands on the block next to Lloyd's and stretched his legs out behind him.

"On the count of three," Lloyd said. He nodded and waited. "One.. Two.. Three!"

The block moved as though it were slipping on ice. Genis stared as it darted through the first laser they wished to block and hit the wall on the other side of the room.

"Huh?" Lloyd looked confused as he turned to him. "I swear it was really heavy before!"

"Maybe it was some kind of trick?" Colette wondered, her finger touching her chin in curiosity.

Lloyd nodded. "Either that or Genis has super strength." He plucked one of Genis' arms out from his sides and held it up. "But I don't think that's the case."

"Lloyd!" Genis complained automatically, snatching his arm away.

"Yeah?" he asked, looking confused. Genis quickly glanced away and saw that Sheelos was looking at an open square hole in the floor near her feet. It hadn't been there before. He only had to observe for a second longer to see another identical cube come out from the hole, a bunch of mechanical noises sounding as it did. "Looks like we get another try," Sheelos said happily.

Genis set himself behind the block with Lloyd again, this time positioning himself so that he could easily only put a little of his strength into it this time. He pushed the block with Lloyd laughing at their success at his side, another thought coming to mind as they did. It seemed unusual for them to actually need to do puzzles despite the amount of ruins they'd needed to explore so far. It seemed even more unusual that they were having to do them after Yuan and Kraine had been there. Ignoring the question it begged, he walked through the blocked laser area with the group and went on to help Lloyd pull it out and toward the next laser.

Xxx

Yuan hovered in mid-air on his rheaird, a bit indecisive. If the group were headed to find the rheairds, which he suspected they were by now, then his first call should be back to the Renegade base. His shoulder ached just thinking about facing Martuan again. With that in mind, he couldn't help but lean toward one of the two other possibilities for his next venture. Sure, he would be able to leave while the children slept, but the very last thing he needed was for Mithos to gain any more awareness. He already had a grudge against Tabatha- he didn't want her or the old dwarf to suffer for his inability to keep a cover on their operations of late. The second option was to have a chat with Gabriel.

Tempting as both additional options were, the more he weighed the thought about the body Kraine had been carrying into the Tower of Salvation, the more he knew he needed to be at the base. He didn't very much fancy all four of the Kharlan heroes on his back for various reasons. At least with Kraine he had formed a somewhat uneasy alliance. Just as he wouldn't forgive Kraine for going back on his word to protect Annalicia, he doubted the professor-seraph would go easy on him for failing to do his duty as he had promised. Not that he'd promised on a whim, of course, but he very dearly did not want to see the damage a parental instinct scorned could inflict upon him.

Finally deciding upon that final scary thought, he turned the rheaird toward the snow region and set the booster to on. It blasted off with a huge jolt, making him yell into the heavens at his shoulder pain and curse Martuan's name amongst a string of other words worthy of making a sailor cringe.

xxx

When they finally got through the area with the blocks and lasers and faced the next hallway, Sheelos stopped and observed the area. "Yuan's definitely been here," she said, resting her hands on her hips and looking around. Genis flinched, not having expected that the Tethe'allan Chosen of all of them would be the one to address the elephant in the room.

"Kraine as well?" Lloyd asked, sounding hopeful. Genis let out a breath he hadn't realised he'd been holding. This conversation was not going how he'd expected. Then again, they rarely did.

"Kraine's a friend of ours," Colette explained to him, seeming to take his sigh to mean that he was confused at all the different names being thrown around. "So is Yuan."

"It also seems like Colette's interpretation of 'friend' is a bit loose," Sheelos said in contradiction. "Yuan's debateable, but our handsome Kraine is possibly anything but our friend."

Colette went to say something more, possibly in Kraine's defence, but bit her lip instead. It reminded Genis of Colloyd, and again of the fact that Colette and Lloyd truly had been one person once. He looked at Lloyd and noticed an expression of determination on his face. "We have to talk with Kraine."

"Understatement of the year," he thought as he wondered when they would find Kraine next. One part of him demanded that they set the record straight with him, but the other part of him wanted to avoid it for as long as possible. Finally getting the truth from Kraine meant more than one thing, after all.

He'd mostly confirmed one of those things thanks to his conversation with Mithos on their way to their current location and everything that had happened the previous night with Kraine and Annalicia. Talking with Kraine meant finally getting the truth from his mouth about how Annalicia had met her fate. Confirming the story Kvar had told them long ago back at Luin before Kraine and Lloyd had finished him off together was the part that scared him the most.

"He's here?" he decided to ask, already knowing the answer. Even if he hadn't known that Kraine had definitely been there thanks to the small fact that he had rescued Presea, Annalicia and himself from falling into the water off of the side of the sky platform by using a rheaird, he had picked up on the familiar mana signature of his former brother as soon as they had entered the base. It was slightly fainter now since it had been a little bit of time since he'd been in the area, but it was still noticeable.

"Don't know," Sheelos answered him, shrugging casually. "I guess it kinda feels like it. I'm not particularly great at detecting people's mana signatures in case you hadn't noticed. I just have way too many other talents that I'm sure you'll find out about eventually!" She winked at him and Genis rolled his eyes and looked anywhere but at her. Her attempts to show off seemed to be even more irritating now. He wondered whether it was because he was potentially on the made-up Salvatorian market in her head now. The very thought of her making a move on him made him want to cringe and he didn't want to promote her behaviour.

"Except Yuan's?" Colette asked Sheelos with a smile, ignoring her egotistic display. Whether there was hidden subtext in Colette's words, Genis didn't know. Either way, Sheelos quirked two eyebrows at her. "You mean seeing all of the winded Renegades lining the corridors wasn't enough of an indication?"

Colette looked left to right at the scene as though she hadn't noticed before. Genis couldn't help but let out an amused snicker at her innocence. Lloyd started laughing along beside him after a few seconds, and until Sheelos hissed at them both to be quiet, it felt like things were almost back to normal again.

"Shouldn't we check if they're okay?" Colette asked, leaning down to one. He was still breathing and looked like he was just having a really nice nap. It didn't look like Yuan or Kraine had killed any of them or given them too much permanent damage.

"I don't think that's the best idea," Sheelos replied. "They're kind of our enemies, remember?"

Colette didn't seem entirely convinced. Genis was pretty sure the rest of the group felt similarly. With the knowledge he now had about the Kharlan Heroes and Mithos, he was even less certain anyone they had come into contact with sat purely on the line of evil, maybe with the exception of Kvar.

"Honestly," the assassin-Chosen mumbled under her breath, rolling her eyes and sneaking toward the next corner to poke her head around. They waited for her to wave her hand in signal that the coast was clear before following her down the next hallway.

After running past a few mounds of unconscious Renegades, the group found themselves in a large room that scaled upward toward a door at the very top. Genis had no doubt that Martuan would be waiting for them on the other side. Once again it seemed that they would have to use the sorcerers ring. A device buzzed just a short distance ahead. Lloyd sauntered over to it while he removed his glove, used to the drill by now. The ring buzzed with electricity and he experimentally pointed it to the roof. A bright white ball of lightning gradually flew out of it and sizzled through the air a short way until it disappeared. The range seemed somewhat limited.

Sheelos tapped her foot impatiently, gazing from Lloyd and Colette and up to the door all the way above them. "This is wasting so much time. Can't we just fl-" She stopped abruptly.

Genis watched her expression change gradually. He could almost hear her thoughts. She did a quick turn of the room around her, then glanced back to the top area, then around again. His throat went dry. Apparently she now had the same unsettling thoughts he'd had about the whole base they'd come through so far. She looked at him and he realised he must have been staring. He quickly stuttered and looked toward Lloyd, trying to think of something, anything, to say to change the subject out of his head. He managed a "What do we need to do?" as he left Sheelos' side and approached the two that had once made up Colloyd, but still the question hung there. Would Kraine really have carried Yuan?

Genis set about occupying his brain and helping Colette and Lloyd to solve the puzzle the room presented to them. Every time he stole a glance toward Sheelos, he noticed a lost and somewhat confused expression on her face. If she caught him looking though, she would give her usual wink and smile. The more she did it, the more Genis started to wonder whether her whole personality was a fraud. That seemed like an awful lot of effort though. A few times Lloyd asked her to do things and she obliged for a short time before just standing around again and doing nothing.

Finally when they got the last piece of the puzzle of the room in place and stood on the platform that would take them up to the door, Lloyd turned to her. "What's wrong Sheelos? Are you worried about Yuan?"

Sheelos stuttered. "In a way," Genis thought, wishing he could step on Lloyd's foot and tell him to shut up about it. Before Sheelos could answer, Colette went on to offer some more reassurance. "I'm sure he might just be having a chat with Martuan."

Genis knew he had to speak up for her sake, like she had done for him that time in Ozette after he'd remembered a little about his and Presea's past. "Or he's already taken the rheairds and flown off toward our boat."

Lloyd and Colette looked horrified at the thought. He absently chuckled at them until he also realised the despairing thought that his joke had seemed plausible. Gulping, he stepped off of the platform with Sheelos and toward the door. A device sat next to it that reminded him of the resort hotel in Altamira. Sheelos looked over it for a second before sighing with relief. "Looks like it's been put into override and we won't need the key cards."

"We needed key cards?" Lloyd asked.

Sheelos stuttered and scratched her head, seeming almost like her normal self for a second. "The guy who let us in- y'know, the Mizuho operative?- Yeah, he told me he only had one set of the cards and gave them to Yuan. It was kinda always fifty-fifty whether we'd actually be able to get in."

"You've got to be kidding me," Genis said slowly, gaping at her. "You mean we could have come all this way and not been able to get to where you said the rheairds were?"

"Afraid so," she quickly answered before pushing a button on the side of the door. It whooshed open to reveal a hangar. "Well come on then!" she exclaimed, stepping through. "Or do you want the door to close on-" She stopped when she turned to her left and stared.

Genis stepped through with the rest of the group to see what had caught her attention. There Martuan was, held to the wall by what looked like some throwing knives, Yuan leaning close to her ear. He straightened up at the sight of them and waved with a guilty smile. While the rest of the group waved back and Lloyd and Colette scouted around their immediate vicinity for signs of Kraine or the rheairds, Genis found himself in prime viewing position for Sheelos to storm up to Yuan and slap him hard in the face. He flinched away at the pitch. That sounded like it hurt.

Colette and Lloyd spun their heads back to look at what had made the sound. Sheelos turned away from Yuan while he rubbed the red hand mark on his face. "Where are the rheairds?" She looked at Martuan with a scary fire in her eyes.

The Renegade leader scoffed a laugh, not seeming the least bit intimidated. "I think you probably can already figure that one out just by the state of this room." She nodded at Yuan. Sheelos glared at the Cerberus. "Get them out."

Yuan did as she said quietly, pulling out four rheairds from the wing pack. Sheelos stepped up to them and reached for Volt's gemstone. He appeared before her and sent lightning bolts flashing from his body into the machines without her even seeming to need to say anything, then faded away back into nothingness. She seated herself on the rheaird closest to her without a word to them.

Genis decided that he needed to follow her example and sat himself on to the rheaird behind her. Lloyd and Colette shared a glance and followed, deciding to sit on one together so that one was left for Yuan. Sheelos roared her rheaird to life and flew upward without waiting through the open top door and into the sky.

Yuan quickly joined the rest of the party before they left to follow Sheelos back to the sail boat. Colette turned on her seat to look back at him and then Martuan. "Will she be alright?"

Yuan nodded and clicked two fingers together. The snap sounded a bit louder than it should have. Genis realised only after Martuan tumbled to floor with a shriek that Yuan had summoned weapons to pin her there. The last thing he saw was her shaking her fists and yelling Yuan's name before the circular opening of the hangar closed behind their hovering rheairds and they were once again out in the fresh mana-filled air of Tethe'alla.

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