Disconnected at the nucleus
Disconnected at the nucleus
Kraine rested Annalicia atop the floating core of the Great Seed and gently placed the Cruxis crystal Mithos had given him on her chest. It began to shine almost instantly thanks to the mana that still pulsated through the seed feeding into her body. "Forgive me," he whispered as he wiped a strand of pink hair out of her eyes and rested his palm on her forehead. "There's no other way to save you. I will not lose you again. Presea needs you."
She didn't open her eyes but he could see her body starting to turn green. It had been so close before thanks to the Angelus Project that it was no wonder the last strain from the Cruxis crystal would drain the remainder of life from the shell of the girl called Presea. He reached for the evolved exsphere once more and once again pulled it from her body. Clutching it tightly in his hand, he turned away before he could watch the body that had held out for just long enough to save her disintegrate.
Genis found himself surrounded by red and looked around himself. The scenery was fairly familiar now to him. He could see Presea sitting over in a metaphorical corner with her head in her hands. She didn't seem very happy. Running over to her, she finally looked up. He blinked in surprise when he saw her eyes were red. She looked like she'd been crying. "What's wrong Presea?"
He quickly petted his pockets to see if he had a tissue handy. Dreams didn't seem to allow the transfer of objects from real life unfortunately. Instead he settled down next to her and put one hand around her. "What's the matter?"
"I've seen everything you've seen," Presea said softly. She turned to gaze at him, her blue eyes looking very serious all of a sudden. He tried not to get nervous. "Genis, why aren't you as upset?"
"Upset?" He tilted his head. "About Kraine not being our brother?"
Presea quickly turned her head back to her lap and fell quiet for a few seconds. "That as well, but that isn't what I'm referring to." She rested her hand on her chest. "It appears that while we were connected by the soul, we were not connected by the heart, Genis."
"I don't think I-" Genis stopped before he made a fool of himself. "It's about Lloyd.. isn't it."
Presea bobbed her head once and Genis felt his heart sink. He wondered what to say. It was a pretty delicate situation to be in and he felt himself blushing just thinking of the fact that he remembered how their heart had beat fast all those times Lloyd and Colloyd said things he didn't understand could be misconstrued to mean anything else.
"As a half-elf, I thought I understood my emotions much better," Presea went on. "It seems I misplaced my feelings somewhere they did not belong along the way."
"Colloyd was our first friend," Genis spoke softly. "It was only natural for feelings like that to come up." He was going to add 'especially since Kraine kept his true relationship with us a secret', but he didn't want to force Presea to be more angry with Kraine than she already was. "Our connection with Col was real and at least we know the real reason now."
Presea looked up again. "I suppose you're right. Thank you Genis."
She gave him a smile and he blinked, sure he'd felt his heart do a little flip-flop in his chest. She smiled not only with her mouth but with her eyes as well. "I-i-it's o-o-okay," he stuttered, wishing he could kick himself without her noticing. He bonked himself in the head casually when Presea went to look back out at the 'window' of the Angelus Project. He hadn't noticed it when he'd first entered his dream, but now that his eyes seemed to have adjusted, he could see the familiar roof of the cabin. It was actually amazing that he was sleeping without rolling over onto his stomach and blocking the view for Presea.
Just as that thought struck him though, he felt like laughing at himself. Since he was dreaming the whole thing, it didn't really matter whether he covered his hand or not. But then again.. he kind of found it odd that he didn't really doubt the Presea sitting next to him now was the 'real' Presea and not just a figment of his imagination. It was an odd feeling to describe. He put it down to the instinctive feelings Colloyd basically lived by. He looked over her while he was sure she wasn't looking. Presea flinched from her quiet state a second later and he thought he had been caught staring until she reached for his arm with one hand and pointed up to the 'window' with the other. His whole body went rigid at the sight.
A dull throb in his neck that he assumed to be the remainder of the pain from the dragon attack awoke Lloyd. He squinted a bit as the light filtering through the room hit his eyes. He rolled over onto his side and only narrowly avoided slapping the sleeping Genis down on the floor just below him with the back of his hand. A low giggle sounded from over on the couch adjacent to his. He glanced over and smiled to see that Colette was awake. "Good morning Lloyd," she whispered. "Did you sleep well?"
He nodded even though he was lying. He'd slept through the night, sure, but his dreams had been littered with dreams about Kraine and Gesea. If Colette knew he was lying though, she didn't say anything.
"Just what is Kraine up to?" he wondered to himself as he shifted his feet over to the side of the couch and glanced over to the pair of twin swords leaned against the wall just underneath the clock. Something didn't feel right. He knew they couldn't afford to spend too much time backtracking around the world, but he couldn't turn his back on Gesea. He'd made a promise to find Duke Bryant with her after all. After everything they'd been through together, he couldn't picture her being happy to leave him wondering whether she was okay and just travelling the world with her brother.
He eyed the now stirring Genis again, feeling bad for what the day would bring. Not only were they going to to say goodbye to Mithos for the time being and return him to his home in Ozette, they were going to have to leave their new silver haired friend behind too. Their journey was only going to get more dangerous with the more seals they broke. They'd only known each other for a day or so and yet he felt strangely connected to him. A part of him wanted to fight the urge to leave him behind. He ended up wondering whether Genis could fight and what kind of magic he used as a full-blooded elf until the door from the bridge opened behind him and footsteps rushed quickly out toward him.
"Darling!" Sheelos greeted him happily, crushing him a little under her usual open-armed hug around the neck.
He tried not to flinch. "Sheelos! Welcome back!" He turned around so that she had to unlatch herself before she was swung over the side of the couch. "Did you and Yuan work everything out?"
She jumped back from him. "Wh-what makes you think it had anything to do with him?!" Her usual grin faded as she darted her eyes from him to Colette. Colette said nothing, glancing off to the door that led out to the main deck. It was making sounds like it was about to open and they could hear Noishe whining. It finally opened and the dog came shooting like a pellet from a slingshot through the gap as soon as it was big enough for him to squeeze through. Yuan followed in after him, nursing some messy hair, probably from attempting to wrestle Noishe (and failing).
Lloyd turned his head to continue talking with Sheelos, only to find her having returned to the bridge. The door shut behind her softly. Genis started to snort and laugh uncontrollably from a morning Noishe shower. With Colette joining his side, Lloyd tackled Noishe while she helped pull Genis from the jaws of a doggy demise.
"That's just Noishe's way of saying good morning," Colette explained, petting Noishe on the head and quickly tracing her fingers to the special part of his neck that he loved being scratched on.
Genis stuck out his tongue and wiped a particularly long bead of slobber from his chin before it managed to reach all the way down to his bare legs.
"I still don't understand it though," Lloyd muttered, looking confused. "It's like meeting new people doesn't phase him anymore."
Colette moved her eyes closer to look at the 'dog's eyes. "Yeah. I wonder what changed?"
"Maybe it's an elf thing," Yuan offered, stalking past them and to the bridge door. He rested a hand on the knob. "Regardless, we are almost ready to disembark and head off on the rheairds to Ozette."
Nodding, Lloyd gazed away from him and to the window behind Colette's couch. Mithos was obviously busy docking their sail boat at the small jetty just a short walk from the Gaoracchia Forest. He hated the idea of having to say goodbye so soon, so he purposely took his time in getting ready. Nobody raised a complaint though and he was kind of glad that everyone seemed just as apprehensive as him.
Once they were all ready to go, Mithos emerged from the bridge with Yuan, a sad smile on his face as he levelled his gaze on each of them. "It's okay guys.. I know."
"We're really sorry Mithos," Colette said. "You said you were from Ozette, right?"
"That's right." Mithos gave her a short nod. "I live in a house right on the outskirts."
Nobody said anything but Lloyd felt the tension in his gut worsen. He didn't remember Ozette very well, but there was only one house on the outskirts of the village. The burning desire to ask Mithos' actual age flared up again but he quickly gulped it down when he remembered Gesea's sad expression when she had told him how long half-elves lived for. Looking around the room at Yuan, who was not seeming to pay all that much attention to what they were talking about, he wondered how old he was. Half-elves were so interesting. He looked at Genis and grinned, then laughed when his short friend gave him the most freaked out look he'd seen since he'd told Gesea he had seven pairs of the same clothes and never wanted to wear anything else.
A little later as the group disembarked from their rheairds to head through the back way into Ozette, just past Altessa's house, Genis found himself absently wondering about what would be to come. Nobody had said anything yet about making him leave their group. Colette had been overly cheerful toward him though; a classic sign from the days of Colloyd that she was actually pretty distressed.
When the two Sylvaranti Chosen's fell into another random conversation and Mithos quietly walked beside him, Genis had a little time to reflect on his 'dream that wasn't actually a dream' with Presea. They'd both seen it as Mithos crept around them while they slept and looked at Lloyd's exsphere and key crest. He shivered a little. Not that he was sure why it bothered him so much, but Mithos hadn't shown any interest in the exsphere that he'd known of before. He supposed it was kind of interesting though. His mind started to boggle again over Colette's explanation of a woman named Anna inside it who had said she was Lloyd's mother. He hadn't realised he'd summoned a kendama and started pensively juggling the ball in and out of the cup until he felt gazes from two different directions on him.
"Wow!" Lloyd grinned excitedly. "Is playing with those things an elf thing?" He reached for it without thinking. "Can I have a shot?"
"Oh yes!" Colette agreed, clapping her hands together, "me next!"
"Uh.. sure," he replied, handing it over and waiting for it to all go south like the last time he'd tried doing it. Lloyd stared at the ball and cup weapon, his eyebrows furrowing and his teeth biting into his bottom lip. With a quick jolt of the wrist, he tried to get the ball into the cup. It balanced just on the edge the first time but slipped over. He didn't give up though and squinted harder again before making a variety of "hoo-hah!" noises and jolting around.
"Lloyd! Wait!" Genis couldn't stop him from leaning too far forward in time before the ball accidentally hit the rim of the toy and bounced up to hit him in the forehead. "Ow!" the swordsman cried, handing the kendama out to anyone who wanted to take it, finally giving up. Mithos and Colette reached for it at the same time but Colette allowed Mithos to have the first go. As Genis expected he might, he took to it like a duck to water.
"It is an elf thing, isn't it!" Lloyd concluded, grinning at both of them while still rubbing his head.
Genis shared a glance and a shrug with Mithos while Colette had a go. She had as little success as Lloyd, with the added bonus of the string snapping from the handle part and flying off to hit Yuan square in the back of his head. He and Sheelos had been walking up front in silence. Sheelos cackled with laughter when he glared at them in demand to know who the culprit was. Genis quickly clicked his fingers to de-summon his kendama from a distance.
"Scatter!" Mithos cried, laughing and tugging him at the arm to follow. Genis laughed too, forgetting everything that troubled him until they arrived on the outskirts of Ozette. The familiar grave of the only father he'd known when he'd been Gesea greeted him first, followed by the rest of the house he'd left behind to travel with Kraine.
"Well, this is my house," Mithos said to the group when they caught up to the two of them. Genis blinked in surprise and stuttered with the rest of the group.
"Mithos?" Lloyd frowned. "Is this really your home?"
"O-of course," he lied again, glancing at Genis with a scared expression at the looks he was being given by the rest of the group.
"Looks like someone might have lied to us," Sheelos commented, tapping her foot and crossing her arms. "Where are you really from, Mithos?"
There was silence. Mithos backstepped a bit and shook his head. "No, uh, actually.. I-"
Genis spoke up before he'd even fully thought it through. "Actually, I live here. The place was abandoned for quite a long time and so I moved in." On one hand, he felt his soul crush a bit at the instant trust and belief in Lloyd and Colette's eyes at his explanation, but on the other hand Mithos' distress vanished thanks to him. It wasn't like he was actually lying though.
"I'm going to live with Genis for a while and then go h-home," Mithos explained to them.
"Thank you for everything Mithos," Lloyd said while Colette next to him bowed. Genis laughed a bit. They still seemed to be joined sometimes.
"If we ever need a sail boat captain, we know where to find one," Colette regarded to Mithos. She smiled at Genis then. "Is it okay if we come to visit?"
"Of course!" He felt sad just looking at Colette and decided to focus on Yuan. He still had so many questions. He shifted his gaze to Sheelos while Lloyd rambled on about how it was better this way for them to be left behind in Ozette and wondered whether she also knew the blue-haired half-elf's secret and what other things she might now. Obviously not realising anyone was watching her, she darted a quick glance to Yuan. What was even funnier was when Yuan caught her in that instant and she looked away, cheeks turning red. He laughed out loud accidentally and blew his own cover.
Probably knowing what he was laughing at and not wanting to be there when the question was asked, the Tethe'allan Chosen turned on her heel and started to leave. "C'mon darlings, what are we waiting for? Let's go. We've got Kraine and Gesea to find."
"Right," Lloyd agreed, a serious expression in his eyes as he nodded in understanding. He looked at Genis. "I hope we meet again at some point. I feel like we could be good friends." He then turned to Mithos and gave him a polite bob of the head before setting off. Colette bowed her head to them again, waved with a 'goodbye for now!' and followed the group out until they were lost in amongst greenery and vines.
As they disappeared, Genis found an incredibly lonely feeling growing in his gut. He wondered whether Yuan planned on doing something when they found Kraine again. How was Mithos' cover going to stay intact, at least until they saved Presea from the confines of the Angelus Project if Kraine revealed what had actually happened to any of them?
He wondered whether his brother-in-law had managed to save Annalicia and the body of Presea. The latter didn't sound very hopeful, particularly because Mithos had ignored the possibility of being able to somehow get Presea back into her first body.
"Everything okay Genis?" Mithos asked, cupping his shoulder. "Let's go and check out the place. Hopefully the door is open!"
"It is," he reassured, realising Mithos didn't know that he'd actually lived there when he had been Gesea. He felt kind of sick as he trod through the soggy grass and up the steps to the door. The house stirred nothing but bad memories of what he and Presea had done. The smell of their fathers rotting corpse in the bed when Kraine had placed the rune crest on his Cruxis crystal had been so overwhelming that his stomach churned again just thinking about it. "Kraine did a lot to help us. We need to find out the full story from him." He thought back to Colette's feelings on him. She at least was entirely convinced that Kraine was a good person. He needed to believe in that as well and hoped he could convince Presea to.
He opened the door of the little villa and stepped inside. A bunch of cobwebs hit him in the face and he did a little dance on the spot to try and get them off. "Hold on." Mithos chuckled as he plucked a large strand of web from his hair and pulled until it was gone. "We should probably clean this place up before we start your training."
Genis blinked out of his stare on the bed where his father had been 'sleeping' and shivered. This wasn't right. He didn't want to stay behind.
Kraine let out a heavy sigh as he stopped at the gates of Castle Tethe'alla, looking up to where the guards stood. He tugged on the sunglasses he had bought from a travelling salesperson along the Toize Valley Mine route to the south of Altamira covering his eyes and folded them neatly into a pocket on his waistcoat. If he was going to play the part, it needed to be convincing. The uniform of a Cruxis angel would not have done in the presence of the King. After making a pitstop at the beaches of Altamira, the place that brought back so many memories- good and bad- he was ready.
"Are you with me Annalicia?" he asked in his head as he touched the uncrested Cruxis crystal now attached to the front of his right hand. "Let's go and have a chat with Gabriel."
He stepped up to the guards at the front gates. They crossed their pikes over one another. "Entry to the castle is restricted to authorised personnel only."
"Do you not recognise me?" he asked. The two guards blinked and looked from him to each other. He let out a sigh. "I suppose I am without my blue wig at the moment, so you are not entirely to blame for your incompetence." He cleared his throat. "I am Duke Regal Bryant and I am here to report to the King of Tethe'alla."
"It can't be!" the guard on the left said, shaking his head as his eyes widened in disbelief. "The Duke disappeared a long time ago. Nobody has seen him for twenty years!"
"If you doubt my sincerity, bring me to the Pope before I see the King. He will vouch for me. That I can guarantee."
After patiently waiting for the guards to make a decision on the matter, he was about to go with plan B when they bowed their heads at him. "Please allow us to escort you to the Pope's chambers. He is in the castle today as the King is feeling quite ill presently."
"It will be my pleasure," he replied dryly, remembering why he had been so glad to leave this life behind. "Although without my position as Duke, I wonder if we would have met once again?" He touched the Cruxis crystal. "Met once again and had you grow to not hate me, anyway."
The guards led him through the halls until they reached the Pope's chambers. He got a few double takes from some of the servants along the way but it was likely more to do with the fact that he found himself preparing for what was to come and likely with a scowl defining his features. Synonymous with one another, the guards opened the two doors of the chambers inwardly to show the Pope standing by one of the windows with his hands behind his back, looking over Meltokio.
"Excuse the intrusion Your Holiness," the guard to Kraine's right said with a bow. "We have an individual here claiming to be Duke Bryant. He came to us requesting an audience with the King but we request your approval that he is who he says he is."
The Pope locked eyes with him. "Yes, he is who he says he is."
"R-really?" both guards asked, looking over him with disbelief. He sighed. "Well then," Guard A said, "please allow us to take you to His Majesty. As you are no doubt aware, there are various discussions that are in order."
"Much obliged," he agreed. "Firstly however, I have some matters I would like to discuss with the Pope in private."
The guards looked at 'His Holiness' to make sure it was alright. The Pope nodded and sent them out of the room, closing the doors on their way out with the same fluidity as they had when opening them.
The clock ticked as Kraine stepped closer to the Pope and glanced out of the window. "A marvelous view you have of Meltokio. It is no wonder you wish to take it for yourself by poisoning the King. Humans are such selfish creatures."
The Pope grimaced and crossed his arms. "Wise to everything as always, old friend." He turned to him. "I have my doubts that you came to make small talk however."
Before the Pope knew what hit him, Kraine held him by the neck and against the glass. "You would assume correctly Gabriel. I foresaw treachery from Martuan at some point given the views she has always had on matters, but not from you."
Gabriel snorted. "What you call treachery, I call necessity. We needed the Angelus Project for Mithos' goals, remember?" He gave him a serious look. "Or perhaps now that you are in fact a half-elf, you can not see past your love for that woman and her sister."
"There is a fatal flaw in your judgement," Kraine growled. "You see, it is plain to see that you knew where the real Angelus Project was all along. You are the one who controls the grand cardinals movements after all." He squeezed harder. "There is another reason you want the Angelus Project and I will find out what it is."
He released his grip on the Pope and drew his sword, swiftly resting the tip on his jugular. "Being the Pope of Tethe'alla has made you rusty. I suggest you tell me what you know."
"You've misjudged me this time, Kraine," he said, bringing out a small handheld buzzer from behind his back to show him. The doors burst open behind him. "Duke Bryant! Drop your weapon immediately or we will kill you where you stand!"
Glaring at Gabriel, he dropped his sword and waited for the inevitable. Killing all of the men that quickly surrounded him would have been easy but hardly recommended. A pair of steel handcuffs brought his wrists together. As the captain of the royal guard escorted him from the Pope's room, he felt the new Cruxis crystal on his right hand starting to burn.