Skewed Destinies- The Flames of Origin

Serious situations as the sun sets

Chapter 50

Serious situations as the sun sets

Genis felt really bad. His hands clenched by his sides while he watched Novariel talk down to the boy. He wasn't a pushover though and actually had quite the vocabulary of non-vulgar words for someone who looked around the same age as him. Then again, Novariel had made a good point when he had first approached him. Just what did he mean, calling him a kid when he appeared to be one as well. "Then again.. appearances can be deceiving," he thought, thinking of his long life.

Another thought struck him then. "Did I actually live that long? Or was it Presea?"

He had no memory of course of it randomly dropping into a body. That wasn't surprising though- Mithos had explained that Origins curse did that to everyone. Everyone except Kraine anyway. The boy wasn't an elf, dwarf or angel, but he supposed he could have been some other kind of rarer long-lived creature.

Eventually the merchant gave up and returned to the outside. The caravan hadn't stopped moving. Genis assumed quickly that one of the children were driving as well, though he hadn't heard their voices. "Hey, are you okay?" he asked the boy once he was sure their kidnapper wasn't going to return any time soon.

The boy looked up at him and shrugged his shoulders, a grin on his lips. "It's actually kind of funny that he thinks he's got everything under control. He's not very smart."

"Smart enough to catch us apparently," Genis muttered under his breath.

"He cheated," the boy replied simply. Genis snorted and nodded, though a part of him was a little surprised he'd heard that over the noise of the carriage. He placed his hands on the bars of the cage. "You're right though. He doesn't realise what I can do."

Getting a little bit of a buzz at revealing his secret, he used his bare hands to easily force the metal bars of his cage apart until they were wide enough for him to step through sideways. Being careful to be as quiet as he could, he stepped over to the boys cage and did the same thing. He stepped out, smiling gratefully. Genis held out his hand. "I'm Genis by the way. What's your name?"

"My name?" the boy asked. He looked to be thinking. "Eonish." He took his hand. "Or you can just call me Eon. Eonish sounds so..."

"Ancient?" Genis asked, quirking an eyebrow. "You're strange, Eon."

"Says the kid with the super strength and seraph aurgghhh..." He stopped making sense suddenly but it was too late. The two of them said nothing for a time.

Genis clutched his wrists together nervously. "How do you know that Eon? You can see mana signatures?"

"Um.." Eon mimicked his pose and uttered a slight uncomfortable whimper. "I'm really sorry but I can't tell you. Don't worry though; your secret is safe with me." He whirled around before Genis had a chance to respond. "We should hurry away from here. We're not safe."

"No kidding," Genis replied.

Together they headed to the front of the carriage. Genis summoned his kendama but decided to get a look at the trajectory he would need first before chanting. Pulling the curtained exit open just enough to see through, he immediately saw Novariel riding on a black horse with a fluffy white tail. His eyes scanned over to the person next to him. He opened his mouth to gasp as his eyes fell on her red haired top knot. Eon clapped a hand to his mouth and pulled him away from the opening quickly.

"I-it's..." he blinked, doing a double take quickly and then back to Eon. "She's one of my friends!" he explained in a harsh whisper to him.

"Not at the moment she isn't," his new strange friend mumbled back, eyes downcast and hands slipping into his pockets. "A friend does not let another friend be put in a cage. Especially one as dark as this. I hate cages." His whole body tensed and shivered like he was recalling something. "We really need to get away from these people."

Still having difficulty believing his own eyes, Genis gazed back to Sheelos once again. The red head was riding along on a white stallion with a curly brown tail next to Novariel. It was kind of strange seeing her being so quiet, but it was definitely her. A quick search of her mana signature told him all he needed to know. Humans didn't really have a mana-signature, but although she hadn't said it, Sheelos used an exsphere. The tool made from the suffering of people at ranches always gave off a unique mana print. He supposed it was because souls still lived inside them.

He shook his head. "I'm not sure we're going to be able to do that. If we get off the carriage while it's moving, we'll be dragged under the wheels and crushed to death. Besides, there's more to this than it seems. There must be."

"Huh?" Eon tilted his head. "Why?"

"Ignorance is knowledge," he replied softly, backing away from the door.

Eon's confused expression fading, he paced away as well and to the cage that he'd been broken out from. He ran his fingers along the curve of the bent bars in one direction, paused, then rubbed them back in the other direction. Genis wondered what he was thinking about.

"The creed to appear or sometimes actively try to remain ignorant to the truth standing before you in order to pursue the quest of greater knowledge," Eon said, making his thoughts apparent.

"Y-you know what it is?" Genis couldn't help his stunned response. "I didn't know it was something other people knew."

Eon shrugged like it was no big deal. Genis felt even more curious. "A woman I used to know used to use it herself. It served her well over time," Eon explained, then gave him a short nod. "So if you believe there is more to this story, I think it's important we look for it. I'll trust you."

"Really?" Genis asked. For what felt like the billionth time, Eon surprised him. "I mean, don't take this the wrong way Eon, but isn't it kind of stupid to trust someone you just met?"

"So I shouldn't trust you?" he asked in perfect rebuttal without even seeming to need to think about it. "If you'll feel better, I can wait to trust you until you tell me more about why we should wait to try to escape." He turned away from the bars to face him.

"Uh, okay?" A bit intimidated by the sudden undivided attention he was getting, Genis looked at the kendama still in his hand. He hadn't unsummoned it yet. Doing a few quick rounds to get the ball in the cup helped clear his mind as it always seemed to. He recalled when Sheelos had defended Presea and he in Ozette and forced the others to see the strength that they hadn't even been sure existed in their own hearts. "Something is going on that we don't understand. There's no way that Sheelos would do this to me. She's a pervert and annoying sometimes but..." He trailed off when Eon stopped looking at him and padded past him to the cloth door once again. "Hey! I thought-"

The whole caravan ground to a halt all of a sudden and the background noise fell quiet. Eon put a finger to his lips to tell him to hush before nodding his head toward the opening. Swallowing as he approached and a little nervous to find out why they'd stopped, Genis looked through the gap. It was much more difficult to see what was going on this time.

He recognised the backdrop right away. They were on the Grand Tethe'alla bridge. Sheelos was still seated on her horse, albeit looking a little more relaxed. He could see Novariel talking to two Papal Knights just in front of them and a lady with long blonde hair in a blue uniform. She was leafing through a bunch of papers while Novariel smiled and chatted to her about the weather. Just as he was wondering whether they might inspect the contents of the carriage and whether they should stick to the plan to wait and see or make a break for it, Sheelos turned her head to look directly at them. His body temporarily paralysed from the surprise, he stared back into her brown eyes.

xxx

The bright sunset orange of outside hit their eyes as they neared the exit. The shaft just ahead funnelled into a wider arc and took a direct ascent upward to freedom. Upon reaching it, they were finally free to stand and stretch, letting out various relieved sighs and groans as they did. Colette elongated herself so much in the enjoyment of it all that she almost fell backward. Having predicted it with scary accuracy, Lloyd caught her arm and held her steady.

She laughed and looked upward again. "Are you ready?" she asked rhetorically.

Lloyd nodded anyway. "You go first."

"Oh," she looked like she wanted him to say he would go first. A bit embarrassed, but ultimately deciding his confidence as a man needed to be kept intact, he cleared his throat. "My wings are a bit bigger than yours and-"

Colette's eyes widened. "Oh! Right! Of course. They feel kinda weird when they touch things, huh."

"Y-yeah." He accidentally stumbled on the word, wondering whether she was saying that from a memory of when they had been one or whether it was something more recent.

Regardless of which, she seemed to think his argument mattered and took flight to the top of the shaft. She disappeared out of sight. "I'll be on the ground," she called back, poking her head back over the edge of the shaft to look down on him from above. She gave him a sweet smile and left him to his own devices. Summoning his wings, he flapped them to get some lift off of the ground and then tucked them in as far as he could without over-stretching them to be able to glide up to the top rather than flap.

When light hit his eyes properly, he had to blink a few times to get used to it again. As expected, the sun was well and truly on its way to setting. They likely only had half an hour left of daylight, tops. The shaft they had been instructed to crawl through had led to the back of the roof of the castle. They'd climbed higher as they had kept going forward. He perched on the curled edge of the shaft and peered over the wall that surrounded Meltokio. Colette was waving both hands at him from a spot of brown grass on the ground below amongst greenery. He waved back and stood to stretch his wings. As he did and his eyes caught the sight of the dark hole they'd come out from, he fell back into the thoughts that had been pestering him since leaving the jail.

"I didn't imagine that, did I?"

He stared into space, thinking back to the voice that had come out of his once teachers mouth. It rung in his head so clearly still, but he didn't hear the words- only the voice. He'd recognised the voice. He was sure of it, as sure as he was his favourite colour was red. It was the unmistakeable voice of the woman- his mother- from his dreams.

Why, of all people, had her voice come out of Kraine's mouth? He let out a frustrated cry and scratched his head furiously. "That doesn't make any sense!" It didn't seem possible. He raised his hand to much more easily train his eyes on the special exsphere his mother had died for, still embedded in the key crest on his hand. It had been there for a very long time. Colette had spoken to his mother while she had been trapped in there as well.

Half-heartedly concluding that it had to just be some weird coincidence, he gazed back to Colette. She'd had her wings away again when he'd seen her down there before, but they were out again now. "Lloyd!" she called, waving both hands at him. "What's wrong?"

He realised all of a sudden that he was probably worrying her. "Stay there," he called when she started to flap. "I'm coming!"

With one final stretch, he tilted his head from side to side to try and loosen the stiff feeling in his neck. It didn't seem to want to budge. He wondered if he'd slept wrong or something or if it was just him still recovering from the dragon attack. The wind whistled through his hair as he glided down to Colette to join her on the grassy ground.

"What were you thinking about up there?" Colette asked curiously.

"Well uh.." he stuttered. It wasn't exactly an easy question to answer. He didn't really know the answer either. Her question had been enough to bring all the questions of just a few seconds ago back into his head though.

By the look in her blue eyes as she watched and waited for an answer, Colette was growing more and more concerned. "Are you thinking about Gesea?" she tried to ask. "We didn't end up seeing her. I'm really worried about her."

He nodded because it was easier than explaining. His eventual thoughts would have probably led to her in a few moments. He hesitated quickly after though and heaved a sigh. "Colette?"

"Hm?"

"Did you hear what Kraine said to me back in the jail?"

Just by the look in her eyes, he knew she hadn't. It was still a bit creepy how it felt like looking at himself in a mirror. The longer they remained split though, the less he found himself thinking of her as once having been a part of him. Colette was her own person, just like he was his. He wasn't sure what else to say and just kept walking ahead. The big patch of brown faded into green aside from two separate lines that went in the same direction, likely from the wheels of some kind of travelling merchant caravan.

"Either way," Colette said, "Kraine will be able to tell us more when we see him next I think." She nodded in the positive way he was certain that only Colette could. "Anyway! Yuan said we should meet at the big peach blossom tree just past the Grand Tethe'alla Bridge." She pointed ahead. He followed her pointer and nodded. It was pretty easy to see. The trail from the merchant caravan went in the direction of the bridge and the tree stuck out like a sore thumb just behind it.

"Let's go!" he said cheerfully, deciding to properly try to put his questions out of his head. There was no point in dwelling on something that made no sense. His dreams changed anyway, it seemed.

xxx

The sound of fire crackling nearby filled his ears. Mithos opened one eye and then the other very slowly to look up at a roof laced with intricate golden patterns in a wooden finish. Something kind of warm and wet sat on his head. He sat up slowly and let it fall to his lap. It was a wet hand towel. He was bandaged around where he remembered being wounded from the dragon knight. Even thinking of that made him scowl and wish he'd allowed himself to lose his temper just a little bit. He thought of the silver wings that Genis had conjured and smiled to himself. He'd been right in assuming the Angelus Project had been very close to its next stage. Now all he could do was hope Genis would accept his offer.

"Speaking of Genis," he thought, glancing around the room. He remembered feeling quite faint when he'd been talking with him. It seemed he'd ended up blacking out before the end of the fight at the Colosseum. Genis wasn't anywhere in the room presently, so he turned his attention to figuring out where he was. He saw very little around the bedroom that told him much, but even just by the smell of it, he knew it was still Meltokio. The streets were so different now that they had been prospering for so long. Emissions of all kinds slowly destroyed wild life and the trees that he'd once marvelled were almost all gone. The nostalgic clay buildings of old had also been torn down by the greedy humans, to be replaced by the unfeeling cold bricked buildings, dressed by all kinds of furnishings. The only part of the city that looked the same was the peasants quarters now.

He wondered if he was alone. Doing a quick scan of the area, initially he thought he was. There seemed to be some humans around, but not in the immediate vicinity. The next moment, a small 'blip' appeared on his metaphorical mana radar from somewhere close. A door quietly opened and the signature came more strongly to him. A human signature, but with something else mixed in. Uncontrollably grinning as he recognised the small amount of mana fingerprint immediately, he turned his head back. "Gabriel!"

The human seraphim chuckled lightly at the childish expression on the boys face. "Now now Mithos, you act as though you haven't seen me for a millennia!"

Mithos crossed his arms and pouted. "Well it has been ten years! Pronyma gets to talk to you way more often."

"The sad truth," he agreed, taking his white and gold robe off and hanging it on a golden hook near the door. He rolled his shoulders. "That thing gets rather heavy after a while."

He now wore a simple tunic made of green fabric under it with brown pants that loosened or tightened at the bottoms via a black intertwined lace. Just seeing it made Mithos fondly remember the old days- one day in particular.

Gabriel took his pope hat off too and looked at it. "So does this blasted thing. What do these people plan to do with their monarchs? Sentence them to a life of stiff necks?"

Snickering, Mithos shrugged his shoulders. Gabriel continued to pace around the room. "I take it that you have heard about Rodyle's treachery?"

"I not only heard about it, but I saw it for myself." Mithos let out sigh. "I expected it from him one day. All that knowledge would have to make you want something for your selfish gains. He seemed the type."

"You're a smart kid," Gabriel joked.

Mithos rolled his eyes. "That joke stopped being funny about three thousand years ago." He kneaded the wet towel that had been on his head with his hands. "What happened anyway? How did I end up here?"

"You were injured in the Colosseum," Gabriel replied, raising a curious eyebrow at him. "Or did you lose so much blood from not doing anything in the fight that you lost your memory?"

"No!" he denied. When Gabriel gave him a wide-mouthed grin full of glee and raised his eyebrows up and down, he realised he'd bitten to another one of his bad tasting jokes. He groaned and slowly stood from his bed. The wound didn't feel too bad. Then again, he did have a pretty good habit of healing more quickly than the others. The minus side was that his body, being stuck with that of a child even when in his 'adult' form, was far less durable than his adult bodied friends.

"A caravan salesperson by the name of Novariel was going to bring you to a doctor before he made off with the half-elf Angelus Project kid," Gabriel finally explained.

"His name is Genis!" Mithos snappily corrected. "And what do you mean? You let him leave with him!?" He rushed closer to Gabriel, glaring. Unfortunately for him, the human wasn't the least bit intimidated. He'd received the same indifference from Kraine and Martuan in the past as well.

"Calm yourself," Gabriel warned. "We're immortal, not invincible. Keep moving around like that and you are destined to faint again." When Mithos didn't show a hint of a smile at his humour, he decided to get to the point. "My apologies. I realise you have grown close to him."

Mithos felt his cheeks get hot and looked away. "I-it's okay. I know you didn't mean it in a bad way. You're not like all those other humans."

"In more ways than one," Gabriel agreed. "As I was saying; I stopped him from taking you to the doctor. Considering your leanings, you were one blood test away from being a victim of the caste system. I also discovered Novariel is being paid by someone to kidnap Genis and deliver him to a remote location. He would not say where, but I figured it might be a good idea to set our dear spy on a mission of discovery. I suspect Novariel might have a deal with our friends, the Renegades."

"Can she be trusted?" Mithos asked. "We know Mizuho have links to the Renegades now. It is likely she has known who the leader is for some time."

"This will be her test. Once she has fulfilled her mission, she will be forced to make the choice on whether she will tell us all that she knows, or whether she will remain loyal to her people."

In an odd way, Mithos found himself feeling oddly strange about the pretty unsurprisingly conniving plan Gabriel had hatched. His friend seemed to notice his internal conflict, so he decided to just come out with it rather than endure an eternity of persistent questions. That part of Gabriel's nature seemed to come out only during their conversations though. He had never appeared in the same range of annoying traits to the others. He guessed it was probably because he knew he wouldn't get away with it like he did with him. The human had always had that (annoying at times) impact on him. "I suppose I'd respect her loyalty either way," he explained. "Betraying those close to you is never easy, even if it is for a good cause."

Gabriel bobbed his head in understanding and turned to a set of decorative spears on the mantle above the crackling fire place nearby. "Indeed. For now, we must wait and see where her loyalty lies."

xxx

Yuan stood first, then turned to help lug Annalicia to her feet as the crawlspace around them opening up into its signature standing space that funnelled out to the top back of the castle. Groaning and grimacing from the tearing sensation across his shoulder, he pulled her up.

"You sound like an elderly man when you do that," she commented with a wide insinuating grin.

He coughed to hide his snort at the hilarity of the expression on the usually quite emotionless mask of Kraine. "If you're going to tease me, I could easily just leave you here to fester with your Ozette flu."

Annalicia coughed a bit. He narrowed his eyes at her, wondering whether it was on purpose to make him feel guilty, or whether it was something else. His answer came quickly though when she crossed her arms across Kraine's chest and pouted. "You'd never leave us here."

The woman inhabiting his body had an odd way of shining through. Since it was likely that Kraine was able to see and hear everything, it amused Yuan even more to wonder whether he would express his mortification at the way she'd acted in his body by the time he got out. He certainly looked forward to having ammunition for a good tease and maybe a bit of leverage if he could get Annalicia to spill some more personal beans.

She coughed again, only this time it sent a cold shiver of recollection up his spine. This time it was the real deal. She held her head and would have fallen backward if he hadn't been able to react quickly enough to catch her arm. The virus was taking its toll. He had to keep her distracted so that she didn't become a dead-weight woman in a male body until he was able to have other means of carrying her.

While Annalicia looked up at the orange light pouring in from outside, he made his way over to the slightly lighter shade wall on his right. Clawing his fingers into a small gap at the side and pulling, he revealed the secret passage that led to an area that connected with the laundry chute of the castle. From there, they could access the garden and meet with the green and white fluffball...among a couple of other things.

He expected the woman to look impressed, and she delivered. With one eyebrow raised in curiosity and with a few fingers tapping her elbows while she had her arms crossed, she looked the most like Kraine with the face she was currently pulling at him than she had in a while. Sensing an incoming avalanche of questions, he wondered if she might enjoy a good Game of Questions as much as Kraine.

"May I ask you something, Yuan?" she asked, being more surprisingly polite and vague than he thought she should be. Her countenance changed immediately after as she placed her occasionally quivering hands on her man-hips. It didn't have quite the same effect as it would have had while she used Kraine's body, he was sure.

He waved the question away, trying to seem nonchalant. "Would my saying no stop you?"

He pivoted on his heel to face back to the passage he'd opened for them to secretly grin at how predictable she was and used a wave for her to follow him as a cover. Taking a couple of steps into the next area to complete the act, he turned to her again, only to find her slumping forward a little and breathing heavily as she took baby steps toward him. A look of sheer determination on her face, she looked like she really thought she could do it on her own. Of course, he didn't intend to let her drain her energy when the hardest part of their journey was yet to come.

"Why aren't we following the children?" was the first question that came out of her mouth once she took his support of her failing body for granted.

He decided to pursue a game of questions. "How would I explain how we were able to get into here to begin with?"

"That isn't all though, is it?" She shot him a knowing side-glance and he scowled. She was good. He was already almost cornered. He wasn't going to let her win that easily though.

"Do you believe there is another reason?"

Like she was expecting his question, she quickly made a comeback. "Was there someone else you were looking for?"

Pausing in step for a brief moment and then quickly moving to try to downplay it, he cleared his throat and continued. "Who do you think I was looking for?" He wondered how she had managed to suspect he had conversed his plan with Noishe and whether she perhaps had more of an eye for noticing things than he'd realised.

"Perhaps a red haired Chosen woman, clearly in love with you?"

She said it in such a matter-of-fact way that he refused to give her the satisfaction of surprise at her almost-not-a-question. She did strike a complete excellent point though. Sheelos had not been with Lloyd and Colette. He hadn't been expecting either of them to be in the jail either. Knowing Sheelos, she had probably gone off to spy on Genis and Mithos near the Colosseum. He didn't have time to worry about her though. She would definitely get the picture of what had gone on soon enough if she hadn't already, purely from word of mouth. The tabloids were probably already running hot. He decided he would send Noishe to find her at a later time.

Realising that he hadn't said anything for perhaps too long, he quickly questioned back with "In love with me?"

He didn't really want to go into more detail about the other insinuation she was making with her comment. Showing that he and Sheelos had history was one thing, but revealing that she had been involved in some of the deeper secrets to do with his mission was still a big no-no. He'd probably revealed far too much to Kraine as it was. Still, a small part of him definitely felt the guilt of using her feelings as a bypass away from the unwanted.

"Just how much does she know about you?" Annalicia asked, catching him off guard yet again. He was glad that they actually had to stop for a minute anyway to focus on the task at hand while he thought of a good way to answer. She apparently had her eyes on the prize. He wondered if it was simply the uncanny senses to emotions women seemed to be gifted at, or whether Kraine had actually observed everything and used his "Ignorance is knowledge" creed as a reason to keep his questions to himself. Either way, it was an aggravating turn of events.

Dropping his backpack and quickly unzipping it, he rummaged through until he found a rope. Then, snapping out his wings, he flew up the shaft until he found the small crawlspace in the side that led into a slow downward slope. A small hook sat in the wall on the side of the opening where a door had originally been. What use it might have been, he had no idea, but he had made quick work of it the last time he'd needed to make a quick escape from the castle. That usually happened when he was sometimes stuck in the castle on official matters and needed to avoid being sensed by an occasionally visiting 'Duke Bryant'. He did a quick loop around the hook with the rope and finished it with a sailors knot. He tugged it a few times to make sure it was secure.

Now came the hard part. He knew just by the pain in his shoulder and the smell that occasionally wafted up his nose that his wound from Martuan had started to open up yet again. Carrying a fully grown man once up into the shaft had been one thing, but there was no way he would be able to do it again unless he wanted to faint from blood loss. He hovered down to Annalicia. She was leaning against the side wall, eyes barely open. "You need to grab the rope and climb."

The look on the 'mans' face said all that needed to be said, for once. Yuan doubted it would have been so obvious if Kraine had still been the one behind the mask, so to speak. Despite the story her expression told, Annalicia clasped one hand around the rope and gave it a few weak tugs. Even doing that seemed to take all of her energy. She fell to her knees, shook Kraine's messy head of brown hair and punched a clenched fist into the ground. "My mind says yes but my body is saying no way in the seven hells am I getting myself all the way up there."

Yuan deliberated his next thought carefully. Regrettably there didn't seem to be another option at this stage. If she were able to at least lighten her weight, he might be able to pull her up using the rope without too much further injury.. hopefully. "Why don't you just pull out your wings?" he asked. "That should make things a lot simpler."

Annalicia met his gaze and blinked. "My w-wings?" A discomforting smile appeared on the lips of the seraph. "That's right. I would probably still have wings thanks to this thing." She waved the hand with the crested Cruxis crystal on it a bit and then tilted her head. Yuan watched her eyes trail past his and behind him. She was looking at his wings. Suppressing a self conscious shiver, he waited as patiently as he could muster until she was done.

Eventually she looked back at him. "So how exactly do I make them come out? Is it something to do with mana?" She squinted a bit. "I think I can feel the mana somewhere in my body, but it feels kind of numb. Not like how it did in my body."

She sounded slightly more energetic now that the prospect of having wings had been brought up. Yuan sighed inwardly. "I suppose even with your spirit in his body, you must have to summon them the same way. Just think about the strongest emotion you can think of and your mana should come forward."

"Emotion? Is that the same for all the angels?" She tilted her head one way and then back the other again. "Kraine never told me that was how he did it."

"I suspect he never told you many things," the half-elf muttered, then decided to add "for your own safety."

"You might be surprised," Annalicia said before closing her eyes. The strongest emotion she could think of was torn between three times with three separate but not altogether opposite feelings. The first being the first time she had ever met Kraine.

She remembered it all too clearly. As a girl of only seven, she had been forced to follow her fathers instructions on everything. The newest came as a direct order from the Pope apparently. She'd found out that her father had offered her as a subject in an experiment to make her stronger in exchange for their freedom as half-elves... though she now knew she had not actually been a half-elf at that time. Her father had tried to justify his agreement on the matter with the fact that their mother had already been taken 'away on a holiday', but she hadn't really understood what that meant until she'd been much older and forced to see the world through the eyes of an adult.

She'd decided to worry her father a little to try and get him to understand that she didn't want to be an experiment. She left the confines of Ozette and the Gaoracchia forest to go for a swim in the sea to deliberate what she might have to do for herself and her younger sister Gesea if her father continued to go about his ways. What she hadn't counted on was that she would easily be swept out to sea by the rough tide that evening. She hadn't even had a chance to resist. To this day, the crash of the waves and the gurgle of water still filled her ears when she thought about it.

She remembered being swept underwater before being able to take a breath more than once. The once warm feeling ocean around her had quickly changed to feel like an icy death trap. When a large wave crashed over head and she had trouble rising to the surface again, she remembered resigning herself to the idea of death. That was at least until a hand reached through the water and plucked her from it with ease.

The first thing she remembered feeling was the warmth and safety of his body as he clutched her tightly to him. Confused at why she couldn't feel water around her, she remembered shifting in his arms so that she could get a good look at her rescuer. Looking up, she looked past the normal figure of a somewhat handsome man to see a sparkling blue light behind him. She'd been so surprised as she watched his wings flutter as he flew, that she'd actually thought she had passed into the netherworld until he put her back down and she felt sand from the beach cake in-between her toes. He hadn't said much to her after that except to forget she ever saw him, but he had been the most perfect thing she had ever seen in her life.

Convincing herself that she had a guardian angel, she went back to her life in hopes that everything would turn out okay and that she might one day meet him again. At the age of eleven, she had been taken to an unknown laboratory and been given the Angelus Project, then whisked back to her home and told to tell nobody. The second strongest emotion came from what came later when she had been forced to go and work for someone who was involved in the project and wanted to observe her progress with the exsphere. The searing anger and hatred mixed in with confusion she had felt when she had met 'Duke Bryant' was impossible to ever forget or describe. She hadn't known the full story or much about him back then of course.

Lastly, her son. Her son Lloyd being born into the world despite all the complications it had. She had never been so happy in all her life. Kraine had smiled more and more with every day their little Lloyd had blessed them with his presence. He'd been an especially proud father when Lloyd had learned to call him dad or when he had taken his first steps which had turned into a running bound straight for his legs to give him a cuddle. Her love for her family never ceased.

"Well done," Yuan said, snapping her out of her memories. She opened her eyes and turned her head. Instead of the blue and rounded wings that she expected to see fluttering behind her, she found some sharp and pointy wings of blue and red hues.

"Just what did you think about to get ones looking like that?" Yuan asked, raising an eyebrow. She gave him her best mysterious smile and watched him turn away. It was hilarious how much it creeped him out to see expressions on Kraine's face. He seemed to think he was hiding how much it bothered him, but he was easy to see through. A lot like Kraine in some ways, but in other ways completely different. Still as much of an enigma though.

Yuan waited for Annalicia to climb up to him. At first she seemed ready to tackle the world with her new set of wings. He watched as she experimentally flapped them a few times. She looked at the rope for a few seconds and then up at him, her wings flapping even harder. He stared, realising that he hadn't explained that flying was not a good idea in her state. Before the words could leave his mouth, she attempted it. She lifted off of the ground and tried to fly up to his location. He leapt off of the side of the hatch to catch her when her wings quickly lost their vibrant hue and faded away into nothing. Cursing loudly as the very thing he'd been trying to avoid with his arm took its toll on him, he carried her to the top and put her down. He could feel the sticky trickle of blood pouring down his chest and side from the wound.

"Just go down the chute," he snapped at her when she tried to apologise. He shoved her a little harder than he knew Kraine would have appreciated and she went sliding. He quickly used first aid to heal the flesh wound, though he knew it wouldn't last for very long without real treatment. The slightest wrong movement would have it open up again with twice as much pain as the first, second and third time.

After getting a sleepy earful from Annalicia at the bottom of the chute, he allowed her to lean onto him while he led her through the small connecting room to the outside garden. It was good to get some fresh air when they reached the outside, but he hadn't counted on the fact that it was almost dark already. She gasped suddenly when they turned a corner, almost flinching away too far and falling. He put his fingers to his lips, shook his head and approached the woman who was standing with her back to them currently. She turned when she heard their footsteps.

"Cerberus," she whispered. "I'm deeply sorry for everything that has occurred."

Kraine's body relaxed a bit, signalling that Annalicia realised that Princess Hilda was not their enemy in this if she knew that he was the Cerberus.

"I'm sorry to have troubled you with the burden of allowing us to escape," Yuan replied. He reached under his cloak and into a sealed pocket to bring out a small vial of yellow liquid. "Please give this to the king."

"This will cure him?" she questioned, shaking the little bottle. "How do you know?"

Yuan remained quiet. Annalicia wanted to know as well but she didn't dare open her mouth. Even if the princess knew that they were escaping, it was pretty unlikely she would expect a woman's voice to come out of a man's mouth. A small seed of regret settled itself in the pit of her stomach as she wondered why Lloyd had seemed so stunned. Did he remember her voice? She frowned hard a couple of seconds later when she felt guilty, but couldn't quite put her finger on what she'd been thinking about before. Princess Hilda apologised for prying and quickly made herself scarce after a short bow to the blue haired Cerberus. Yuan then side-glanced at her. "Good. You're still conscious."

She coughed and nodded. "I take it you're planning on putting us on a rheaird?"

He scoffed and she shot him an annoyed look. "Not while you're in this condition," he elaborated. "Noishe is a far safer bet. At least he'll be able to catch you if you fall."

"Catch me?" Annalicia frowned, confusion setting in.

Yuan grimaced and glanced down at her hand. She wondered what he was on about. Last she checked, Noishe had four legs that preferred very much so to stay planted to the ground. She felt the mana well up around Yuan and watched as he put his fingers to his lips. A loud whistle, louder than what was normally humanly possible, blew from his lips. He hushed her when she tried to ask what he was thinking, almost bursting her eardrums. He seemed to be expecting something.

A little time passed and still nothing happened. Creasing his eyebrows as he gazed around the sky, he blew using the magic whistle again. Annalicia managed to block her ears this time. Time passed and nothing except the sun setting changed. It was almost completely set on the horizon now. Yuan looked quite worried all of a sudden. "Damn it Noishe. Where are you?"

"How was he even meant to get here?" she finally managed to ask. "You do know he's a dog right?"

"Of course I do," the bluenette retorted. "That's not all he is now, though."

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