Cruxis, Colosseums and calculations
Cruxis, Colosseums and calculations
Genis stood next to Mithos as they waited in line behind a couple of much more able-looking warriors. He hoped they wouldn't get laughed at. All around him people were whispering about Duke Bryant returning and getting pinned for murder. Of course.. he'd figured that part out a little while ago now. Still, the hope that everyone was somehow wrong and that Kvar was just a lying ass had always been a possible silver lining to the story until now. He wished he could drown out the whispers around him and concentrate on being inconspicuous. He stepped forward with Mithos once the last person in front of them finished signing up to the easy arena fight and was ushered over to a spot over on the side wall.
The sign-up lady gave them a crooked smile as she leaned slightly over the desk to face them. "What are you young ones doing in the Colosseum? Want to try your hand at the beginners phase?"
Genis went to nod, but stopped just in time apparently because Mithos crossed his arms and shook his head. "Hmph. Don't make me laugh. We aren't beginners." He side glanced at him. "Right Genis?"
"Oh uh.. yeah," he agreed. Secretly he just wanted Mithos to pick whatever so that they could just get on with it.
The lady giggled until she realised Mithos wasn't joking; then her face just fell into confusion and distress. "There is an uh.. age limit."
"No there isn't, don't lie," Mithos contradicted. "Or I will have you fired."
The poor woman looked all of a sudden terrified. "J-just who are you?"
Mithos didn't answer. He didn't need to. Even knowing him, Genis shivered a bit at the cold glare in his eyes. The woman went back to the sign up book and cleared her throat. "Your names please?"
They gave her their first names and headed over to the waiting area. "Is that room the one that leads to the jail?" Genis asked in a whisper to Mithos as he watched one of the other contestants ahead of them get called in. When the door briefly opened, he could hear the cheering of a crowd. The walls between the rooms seemed to be pretty insulated. He wondered whether that would play a good role in their upcoming prison break.
Minutes started to feel like hours. Genis had to keep telling himself he was much more patient than Colloyd and that he could keep a cool head while waiting. He began lose his cool when the contestant before them seemed to take a lot longer than normal, but once the door opened again and the armoured warrior stepped out with rips in his clothes and bruises everywhere, he jumped up from the bench with Mithos and stretched while he waited for the door guard to call their names.
The muffled sound of the crowd outside in the seats of the Colosseum could be heard all around them, the vibration of excited feet stomping against the stone floors able to be felt from wherever they stood. When the door closed, Genis eyed Mithos, hoping he knew what to do next. "Follow my lead," Mithos whispered, clasping his hands behind his back and stalking past a bunch of tables and suits of armour to the city guard blocking the way through another door. It wasn't of the same wooden variety as the entrance door to the arena. Instead it was a heavy looking iron door. There was no real doubt that they would be going through that door in order to get to the dungeon and find Kraine.
"Excuse me sir," Mithos started, bowing his whole body to the guard. The man grunted in response and pointed away from them to the other door. "Got the wrong door. Go on, the bell's about to sound."
"Oh," Mithos nodded. "Okay."
Genis stared in bewilderment at how easily he agreed and went over to the correct door. "Um.. Mithos?" he asked, following. "We're not going in.. right?"
"Actually Genis.." Mithos looked down from his gaze. "We are going in."
Genis stared. "Y-you.. you lied?" Angered words sizzled on his tongue but they disappeared before he opened his mouth thankfully. "Why would you do this Mithos?! I thought you hated liars!"
"I do!" Mithos exclaimed. "This is different!"
Genis frowned at the look on his face. It was like he wanted to say more but he couldn't. It seemed.. odd. Mithos' expression faded and he put on the same kind of expression he was sure he had seen before. It mirrored Kraine almost exactly. Being as subtle as he could, he placed his rune-crested hand in his pocket for a second. "O-okay.." he mumbled before letting out a sigh. "Mithos?"
He took his hand out again. "I trust you, okay?"
A loud bell chimed before Mithos made any kind of response. The guard at the wooden entrance door to the arena pulled it open to let in the noise. Genis could see the metal grated gate on the other side and some dangerous looking monsters lurking behind it. Mithos at his side, he unsurely stepped on to the sandy scene of future action.
"I can't believe they're here!" Sheelos said, crossing her arms and looking toward the Colosseum district. "Jeez." She groaned a bit. "What on earth are you looking for anyway?! We should go after them!"
Yuan didn't answer her for another couple of seconds, but then pulled something out from the deepest reaches of his backpack to show her. She stared at it and then up at him in surprise. He cleared his throat and placed the item on his head, tucking his bright blue ponytail under it.
"Y..you were the Cerberus for way more than just this time weren't you," she mumbled in more realisation than as a question to him. He knew he didn't have to answer. She rolled her eyes and glanced away from him. "Guess I should have known you were way older than you look." Yuan opened his mouth but she quickly shut him up. "Don't you dare say anything about having a thing for older men."
Yuan flinched back, feigning surprise while a grimace broadened across his lips. "I am much more of a gentleman than that Sheelos." He sighed and held his head. "If you must know, yes I am quite a lot older than anyone you'll meet here, save for Mithos."
Sheelos scoffed and quickly realised her error. She stomped her foot on the ground when she caught the gleeful sparkle of knowledge learned flash across his eyes. She'd learned to fear that look. "Damn it. How the hell do you get everything out of me so easily?"
"I've had years to perfect it to a fine art," he explained whimsically. "Why are you acting surprised?"
Sheelos looked over him again and at the wavy red haired wig he had put on. It reminded her of her own hair, except the strands of fake hair fell past the sides of his face and reached to his lower back. "All those photos back at the village of the Cerberus with the Chosen.. they were all you?"
"There is time for this conversation later," Yuan said, clearly wanting to drop the conversation. The annoying thing was that she knew he was right. The Cerberus tugged his backpack on. It looked kind of ridiculous with his cloak. "Sheelos, you do realise that by coming with me that you're putting yourself in danger?"
"Well that'd be kinda stupid of me if I didn't by now," she pointed out. "You're up to something again and I need to know what it is."
"You are better off not knowing," he replied, the grin fading from his lips.
"Uh oh," she murmured, "It's something really serious judging by that look." He raised an eyebrow at her and she raised one right back. "Hey, the 'years to perfect a fine art' thing works both ways Yuan. If that's even actually your name."
"Don't be ridiculous," he stated, shaking his head. "My name is Yuan Ka-fai and has been for more than four thousand-" He stopped short and she stifled a laugh at him. "Gotcha!" She poked her tongue out.
An irritated scowl on his face, Yuan quickly moved past her. "Go to my house and stay out of trouble."
"What?" she jeered in question. "You said just before that I could suit myself."
"That was before I knew you knew about Mithos," he retorted. "He can't find out that you know about him. Just how much else do you know anyway?" He whirled around and quickly moved into her personal space.
"Right back at you," she interrogated back, her voice going quieter than she would have liked. She wasn't going to let herself be intimidated but she involuntarily stepped back. Neither of them said anything for a time. Eventually Sheelos shrugged her shoulders and let out a breath of frustration. "Fine. You're obviously going to the castle. I'll go catch up with Lloyd and Colette."
Yuan squinted his eyes at her, probably trying to simultaneously figure out why she was giving in and what kind of game she was playing. She just played it cool and grinned. "Can't have my brunette darling being stolen out from under my nose, can I?"
Yuan groaned and waved her to hurry up and leave. She nodded and went ahead, hearing him call out to her that the discussion was merely on pause. She ducked behind a bush that was trimmed in the shape of a cherub and watched and waited for the Cerberus to disappear from her sight. Her best hope was for him to get lost in the crowd of Meltokioans around the castle gates. They all clustered together, practically submerging the papal knights and city guards in their hopes of finding out more information or getting a glimpse of Duke Bryant.
The red-wigged half-elf appeared at the base of the steps that led to the castle and entered the crowd. For a moment she thought she'd lost sight of his vibrant hair amongst the flurry of other cringe-worthy gaudy colours until she saw his familiar cape fluttering in the breeze behind him as he scurried out again from the crowd. Confusion replaced her relief when she realised he was heading instead to the Church of Martel to the left of the main castle entrance. He let himself in with a quick push of the golden door. Curious as to why he wasn't entering the castle as she'd expected him to, but confident that he wouldn't discover her defiance now through the use of his angel senses, she made a mad dash in the direction of the iconic arena in the western wing of the city.
Rushing past a few citizens and almost running straight into someone dressed for arena battles coming out of the weapons store, she entered the Colosseum and found she could enter straight through the barely guarded door to the spectator stands. Despite the drama going on at Castle Tethe'alla, the cheering and almost deafening crowd was as enormous as ever. Eyeing a spot a few rows up from the fence of the actual arena, she pushed past other seat-finders and made her way to the row hers was on. Squeezing against chairs on her left and apologising to people on her right as she waded through the mess of people, bags, popcorn and soft drinks, she eventually found her chosen seat and plopped down.
The loud roar from the battle arena sent shivers down her spine and she craned her neck over the crowd in front to get a piece of the action. The first thing she saw was a giant dragon/bird monster. The thing had no wings, but had bird talons for its front and back legs. Its front legs seemed to hang uselessly in front of its chest. A human rider sat on its scaly grey back, holding a whip. As the rider slapped the whip at the dragon chimera's side, it jerked its head back and spat a blazing fireball out of its shiny scaled mouth. She followed the fireball and watched a small blond boy... Mithos.. roll out of the way and summon a short sword from the next dimension.
He backed away though and turned his head to the right. Sheelos squinted but finally found herself able to recognise a head of silver hair and the familiar blue and black dress code that belonged to Genis. He looked like he was yelling something at Mithos but the kid seemed to be ignoring him and just glaring at their adversary instead. Whatever it was that had spurred them to randomly fight in the arena as opposed to maybe coming to look for Kraine, she suddenly got the very distinct impression Mithos had been the one to make the plans. A flurry of icicles flew from nowhere at the dragonbird and sent the rider flying to the ground. He jumped up again and dropped the whip to instead pull a great sword out from the giant sheathe he had attached to the double-shouldered baldric belt that criss-crossed across his front and back.
Lloyd stood and waited out the front of the house Yuan had directed them to go after ringing the bell, Colette at his side. He smiled at Colette and she smiled back. They hadn't really said much, but that didn't really matter. There were more important things to worry about. Despite what Yuan had instructed to them to do, they'd listened in to the crowd for a little while and pieced together another very important piece of information. It seemed that Duke Bryant was in the city as well. Lloyd's heart pulsed faster against his thinking about it. It really seemed possible that if they could find Gesea and Kraine, they might be able to kill two birds with one stone and find the Duke while he was still in the jail waiting to have a verdict. Amongst the whispers, he'd heard that the aristocrat had killed someone and admitted to the crime.
"It's just like Sheelos said," Colette pointed out worriedly as though she had plucked the thought from his mind.
He nodded and scratched his chin. "I don't know. I'm not sure I believe that's all there is to it."
The lingering thought in the back of his mind was all the more worrying. He all of a sudden wished Colette would read his mind again. No luck though; the door to the mansion in front of them opened before either of them could talk more. A man with greying brown hair, a moustache and wearing a royal blue jacket with white pants and a red tie stood there. He gave them a friendly smile as he regarded them. Lloyd instantly pegged him as Sebastian.
"Can I help you?" the butler asked.
"Hello," Colette greeted. "Mr Yuan said we should come here."
Recognition flashed in his features. "You must be Sir Bud." He nodded at Lloyd.
"Huh?" he blinked. "Sir.. Bud?" He shook his head. "My name is actually-"
"-And you must be Lady Colette!" Sebastian offered a white gloved hand out to her. He leaned his face forward to her hand when she took it and gave it a polite kiss. Giving a stunned and polite giggle while her cheeks went rosy, she allowed him to lead her indoors.
"My name's Lloyd," Lloyd finished anyway as he followed and as Colette looked back at him apologetically. Sebastian didn't seem to hear him though. The butler let go of Colette's hand and quickly closed the doors behind them. Lloyd gazed around himself in awe. The mansion was huge. Brown and cream checkered floors lined every inch of the ground and a large staircase decorated with brass swirls on the risings to the right of the huge room led up to a landing on another floor. The faint scent of a flowery smelling furniture polish wafted around the area. It reminded him of Castle Tethe'alla. The design was quite obviously Meltokian- but it had another flair to it as well. He could easily picture Yuan living somewhere like this, even if he ever actually did. Being the Cerberus sounded exhausting.
"Would you like a beverage, Sir Bud?" Sebastian asked, seeming to pull a tray from nowhere with several selections of cups.
"Uh my name-and no I-" Lloyd found a mug of hot green tea placed in his fingers by the courteous butler. He placed it on the tray respectfully while Sebastian offered the same to Colette.
"Actually, we're on a really important mission right now," he spoke, glad to finally be able to finish a sentence. "The Chosen sent us here. I think he said something about disguises?"
Sebastian calmly placed the tray down before clapping his gloved hands together. It made such a familiar sound that Lloyd half expected wood shavings and dust to magically appear and fly everywhere. "I do apologise Sir Bud," Sebastian said with a little bow at him, "but the castle ball is not for another few months. I will eagerly await the arrival of your formal attire if you wish that to be purchased. The Chosen spares no expense for his honoured guests."
"It seems they spare no expense with him either," he said, eyeing the table in the far corner of the room near the window.
"Those are gifts of a salvatorian nature," Sebastian explained. "As you probably understand, Master Yuan has quite the line up of those that wish to be tested for their eligibility."
Lloyd tried not to think on it too much. Glancing at Colette, he noticed her wince a little as well. Those were memories he didn't like to think about. He realised they were getting sidetracked though and sought to explain what he meant a bit better. Yuan had sent them here for a reason. It struck him only then that his ex-professors request made no sense. He'd been with them almost the whole time since they had gotten back the rheairds and as far as he knew, he hadn't left on his own again. It was possible.. but..
"Damn!" The moment the realisation struck him, he let out a cry of anguish and flung himself for the door. "Yuan didn't want us to be able to walk around without being seen. He wanted us out of the way!" He grasped the door handle and craned his neck back to see whether Colette was coming. She looked concerned but like she was ready to follow. They waved goodbye to Sebastian and left. He bowed respectfully until the door shut and they couldn't see him any more. They faced out to the city of Meltokio once again.
"Won't we be captured if we're seen though Lloyd?" Colette asked in a whisper.
"It's okay," he said with a nod. He was fairly confident his idea would work. "Let's fly into the castle."
"Wow! That's a great idea!" Colette looked impressed and raised her head to eyeball the castle looming over the whole district. The shine of eagerness in her eyes faded after a few seconds and Lloyd felt her scan him with concern.
He shook his head, realising what she was thinking. "I'm feeling fine." He flexed one arm and grinned. It wasn't a complete lie. His neck was still throbbing, but at least most of his body felt better. "That way we won't be seen. We need to find and talk to Duke Bryant. I have a feeling that if Gesea knows he's in the city, she'll probably stop at nothing to find him as well."
She nodded in agreement. "You promised you'd helped her, right? That means we'll probably find Kraine as well."
Lloyd couldn't help but grin. He was glad she was agreeing to his idea and following his train of thought. He knew Gesea, Sheelos or Yuan would have tried to talk some sense into him. She still looked a little bit apprehensive though. He reached for her wrist and startled her accidentally. Blinking back his own surprise at the little 'eek' she'd let out, he pulled her in the direction of the large fence between Yuan's mansion and the next one over. It seemed like the most convenient place to execute his brilliant plan. As soon as they were out of sight of any of the citizens still wandering about, he let the feeling of mana he was used to by now swirl around his body until it gathered at the center of his back. With a light shrug of his shoulders, he felt the mana release and his wings come out.
"Your wings are so beautiful Lloyd," Colette complemented. He laughed and scratched the back of his head, unsure what to say in response. As she summoned her own wings, he did have to wonder just why his wings were different to hers. If Duke Bryant was involved with exspheres and Cruxis crystals, he wondered whether he might be able to tell them more. If they did find him, the first agenda would be one thing and one thing only though- to find out what had happened to Annalicia. The rumour of the murder they'd heard from the townspeople echoed through his mind. He tried his best to shake it off and focus on making the little bit of extra effort lifting off the ground seemed to take look as easy as winning at Dwarven Pot Luck Surprise.
Genis felt nervous. He had gotten the picture on what Mithos was up to a while ago when he'd seen him duck under the third rounds flying dragon monster and run away from fireballs and shock waves instead of attempting to do his own battles. For all the help he'd been, he might as well have been a cheerleader. Now in desperate need of a gel or two, or just a rest from the fighting, Genis wearily watched with his friend standing by his side as the gate opened for the fifth and final time. An enormous black metal-clad dragon with pointed dark blue wings glided into the arena, a bardiche in one hand and a bladed shield decorated with the colours of fire in the other. Only as he watched it swipe its weapon and point it in his direction did he begin to wonder just how a monster could learn something like that. Someone must have trained it. The sandy terrain rumbled and he felt it through his legs as the monster took further steps toward him. Then it stopped.
"Genis!" Mithos called from the sidelines.
He nodded tiredly, feeling the mana in front of him where the creature stood gradually become thicker. "Guardian!" he yelled, feeling his own mana welling up and releasing it to form a green see-through shield around him. It barely held for long enough to stop the massive set of three fireballs flying toward him, one after the other. After taking the final blow, it shattered and he dropped to his knees.
He didn't have time to sit and gather his wits though. The world around him shook and he only managed to barely get to his feet and back away in time to avoid being skewered by a thrust from the enormous polearm. The dragon knight recoiled its neck backward. This time though, Genis knew what was coming. He jumped backward toward the contestant gate of the arena and waited for the three fireballs to come flying toward him. He just hoped his calculations were as correct as they had been the last four battles.
"One.. two.. three.."
All three fireballs flew to the ground and burned in place for a few seconds. Genis observed the monster acutely, feeling his energy finally building up again. "Now thrust your weapon like a good monster..."
It did exactly as he thought on command. The dragon knight cried a loud ear piercing noise that sounded like something in-between a screech and roar when it missed its mark this time. Realising the cause, it took some more steps forward, its yellow bird feet leaving lines where the gnarled claws on each toe scratched against the sandy ground. Standing in place once again, it recoiled its neck and got ready to use its twice-old attack. Genis readied himself to cast guardian, but felt relatively confident that the fireball wouldn't hit its mark.
He grinned to himself when the pattern completed itself just as he'd expected. The weapon swipe came in a few-
"Ah!" He let out a surprised yelp when, by a stroke of lady luck somehow, he found himself being only just far enough away to avoid a quicker than normal slash from the weapon. It was so close that his hair rustled as the sharpened tip flew past his face. The dragon flew back slightly from him then, which he found odd. Smoke flared from its metal plated nostrils and its eyes bore onto him with desire to kill. Genis breathed heavily as he glared right back. The only way to stand a chance was to wait for an opportune opening. He began to mumble the enchantment for lightning, choosing not to use his kendama to focus this time since he needed to watch for the movements of the beast as it stomped its feet into the ground in rage at him and squawk-roared again. Then without warning and completely out of his attack pattern, the bladed shield he was holding spun out of his hands and toward an unsuspecting Mithos. Genis didn't even have time to mouth a warning and Mithos barely had time to turn his head before the defensive weapon hit its mark.
Looking down at the shield as it fell to the ground at his feet and the blood quickly seeping through where it had hit on his white tunic, Mithos choked a few unintelligible words before falling face-first into the ground. Genis stared, unable to believe his eyes. The dragon knight roared and raised its weapon, stepping up for a final assault. It seemed Mithos had irritated him.
"No!" Genis cried. He didn't know what to do. There was no way he could reach his half-elf friend in time. Focusing somehow in the moment, he mumbled the words to the incantation faster than he thought possible. The spell was going to be weak but it couldn't be helped. "Lightning!"
The reserves of mana he'd built up before when observing left him and a dark cloud appeared over the dragon knights head. A single bolt of purple coloured lightning descended from the cloud to knock it off its course of attack. Genis gulped when the giant lug of a thing turned its head and screeched. It turned fully to him. Summoning every last ounce of reserve energy he had in him, he parried away before three fireballs flew in his direction and skidded on a right angle toward Mithos. In the back of his mind he just kept trying to reassure himself that there was no way that the four thousand year old leader of Cruxis could be killed by an arena monster.
"Mithos!" he cried, seeing the dragon lift the bardiche in its hand to his friend again, intent on a strike with a finishing blow this time. Mithos showed no signs of moving. Genis leapt into the air from one foot toward the fallen angel hero and found himself catching him by the back of his cape mid-jump and as he fell. They both went sliding across the ground, just out of the dragons reach, from the force.
When he felt Mithos quiver slightly under him, he heaved a sigh of relief. The comfort didn't last long though. The crowd around them roared with excitement and the searing heat of what he knew must have been a fireball hit his back, followed by two others. An odd tingle started at his hand where the Angelus Project sat. From there it travelled up his arm. He remembered the feeling from his bad memories of a night not so long ago still. Everywhere fell quiet. He slowly opened up the eyes he'd been squinting closed in wait for the final blow to finish them and saw the world had turned black and white.
Mithos groaned and shifted to face him. He looked incredibly pale and his eyes were only really half open. An odd smile broke across his face, followed by a low laugh. "Fancy this.. me.. getting knocked out by that."
"Yeah," he mumbled, only managing to say anything through the numbness in his body and especially near his shoulders and back out of sheer confusion for the situation. He looked around himself. People were standing with their arms raised and their mouths open as they would when in the middle of yelling and cheering. The giant shadow of the dragon knight about to finish them stood frozen in time as well. There was no other explanation. Mithos had stopped time somehow. He looked back at his friend speechlessly then.
Mithos was still smiling. "You'll need to get out of the way in a second, but welcome to Cruxis Genis."