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Skewed Destinies- The Flames of Origin

By Keko_the_Hybrid

Mystery / Adventure

The doors to danger open

A/N: Welcome to the anniversary edition of S.D. In about four days this story will have been around for a year! Please enjoy and sorry if there are a few little errors I've yet to catch. I've needed to post from my phone as I've just moved house and we are without internet.

Chapter 53

The doors to danger open

Just a quick glance back at their mode of transport across the sea had been enough to tell her one thing. Novariel still didn't quite trust her completely. He'd been watching her through a small window on the right side of the cabin.

"Not that I can really blame him," Sheelos thought with a grimace to herself. "It isn't like I'm planning on telling him that his whole journey is basically for nought except to earn me some brownie points with Cruxis now."

She parted the canvas front door like a curtain and stepped into the room she'd flickered the low light on in just before. The bent bars of the cages at the end and at the side of the small room stared at her once again. No doubt about it, Genis had broken himself and the other boy out of the caravan by using his super strength powers. She leaned down, grabbing a loose rag from a battered wooden box on the way and wiped the floor around her feet. If she was going to make this next part convincing, she was going to have to wait it out for a bit.

When the biggest layer of dust was gone, she settled down onto her backside and glanced around. She could see footprints in the dust. Some were big- those must have been Novariels. One set of footprints came out from each cage and made the rounds around the room. The footprints from the cage on her right seemed a fair bit more frantic though. Just when she was going to settle back in thought and wonder about how they'd escaped, her eye caught another set of footprints that belonged to neither Genis or the other kidnapped boy. They started at the foot of the entrance and combined with a bunch of footprints, but quickly made a bee line for the back cage.

A shiver ran down her spine all of a sudden and she jumped up from her spot. She stood deadly still and listened keenly to her surroundings. The sound of sea water lapping against the shore just a little distance from the caravan made it harder to sift through natural and unnatural noises. After a little while, she sunk back to her knees and put it down to claustrophobia. She hummed to herself and tried to sink into some thoughts to settle her nerves. As always, it usually came down to one of two things that occupied her mind when she was bored. This time she seemed to be getting a double whammy.

She clutched her chest where her Cruxis crystal sat, concealed under her left breast. As Yuan was the Cerberus, it made no sense that she would have her exsphere on show. While it caused her very little discomfort now since it had been there for so long, she'd not gotten any of the "perks" for having such a dangerous item on her either. Since seeing what Colloyd had gone through and the terrible fate most Seraphs in her life seemed to have, she was quite glad to not count herself amongst the band of angels... yet anyway.

She did wish she could have had some of the super powers though. Super strength would have been nice, or a pretty pair of wings to be able to fly out of trouble when the situation called for it would have been decent. Not that she would have been able to bring them out in front of or around her friends though. Being an angel meant a much easier life for the most part if she were to wear the proper key crest. That wasn't the best part though. If it had just been the promise of eternal life, she would have turned it down in a heartbeat. No.. Pronyma had promised her something far more valuable. A way to escape the life of being the Chosen that nobody needed and especially being the figurehead everyone was prepared to sacrifice. She would no longer live in the shadow of the Cerberus and he would no longer need to be chained to her and make her suffer with the confusing set of feelings she now understood at least partially.

She sighed to herself about that. The half-elf had been gentle with her and let her down gently that night at the clearing just outside of the Gaoracchia forest. He'd been understanding and clear on his own feelings. He of course understood her feelings better than her. He was a half-elf after all. By revealing that and also the fact that half-elves understood the world differently, she had been able to simultaneously understand a little more of her own past. The reason why her mother had been killed had come to the light and all of the circumstances that led to that moment of red snow finally made sense. She also had elven blood in her lineage. There was no doubt about it. She had the ability to summon, after all. It made sense that the blood came from her parents and in turn, made it easy to see that they understood the concept of wanting to be with someone for more than just duty.

Another shiver tickled her spine from top to bottom. The unmistakeable feeling of being watched filled her with dread. Rising from her spot, she set about roughly investigating again before deciding to just leave. If anyone was hiding, she was sure she would have seen them since the room was incredibly bright from the dangling bulb in the middle. She walked out into the gradually chilling night, deciding it was time to start untying the horses from the cart. They were pretty relaxed about it and didn't make a fuss.

"This is a cakewalk," she muttered to herself, elated. When the horse she'd mounted and rode for the journey whinnied and backed away just as she tried to lead it over the ramp and onto the boat, she realised she's spoken too soon. She backed away and put her fingers to her mouth to whistle at them. They stood there shivering in the cool breeze and watching her with dark uncertain eyes.

"Come on!" she called, patting her knees and leaning down like she would if she was calling a dog to her. They didn't react to that either. Frustration growing, she wondered whether she might be able to get away with summoning Undine, or maybe Gnome or Volt to give them a little nudge or shock in the right direction. She quickly relinquished the thought, a bit scared that they might be listening on on her thoughts and remembering the pain of the penance she'd suffered for using Undine the way she had.

The door behind her squeaked open and got stuck for a second. Novariel cursed to himself and closed it for a second before trying again, lifting it this time. When he was out, he met her with a smile and then looked at the uncooperative horses. "Don't have the knack with the equine?"

"They were fine until they tried to get on this pile of driftwood," she defended. "Are you sure they'll be okay if we can actually pull them onto here?"

"What would you propose we do otherwise?" he asked. When she stuttered and didn't have an immediate answer, he approached and petted her shoulder as he cackled and shook his head. "It's alright my dear. They just need to get used to you." He kept his hand there for a few seconds longer until he nodded to himself. "Allow me to teach you a little secret."

He brought out a short strap of what looked to be leather from the pocket of his thick coat and let it uncurl itself from around the red handle in his hand and drop to the deck at their feet. Even as he did, she heard the same startled sounds the horses had made when she had attempted to drag them aboard. Snapping her attention to them, she quickly saw their bulging eyes and their shivering forms. It seemed all of a sudden much worse. Out of the corner of her eye, she saw Novariel raise his whip hand slightly, and then without even a murmur of complaint, the two horses trampled up the ramp and stepped onto the boat, not stopping their nervous trots until they were a safe distance away and standing under the small shelter built on to the side of the cabin. They huddled together and watched Novariel carefully.

"How did you do that?" she asked, even though it was pretty damn obvious. She was sure that if the caravaner took even a single step toward the horses, they would back away further into the outside wall of the cabin.

"Dominance is the key," Novariel answered, pulling the leather up from the ground and wrapping it around the handle of the whip. He grimaced, "When taming wild beasts, dominance is all you have against their brute power and strength. The human body is so incredibly weak." His grimace widened into a wide-mouthed grin. She smiled back even though looking at his golden canine fillings that glittered in the moonlit night gave her the creeps. "I'm sure you'll learn eventually." He politely nodded at her and turned away. "Where'd you put the kids?"

"Around back," she answered instantly, the words rolling off her tongue before she'd even had much of a chance to think about them. She had figured she would have been able to see the inside of the cabin in the very least before he asked her any specific questions like that.

Novariel looked over her quietly after her short explanation. For a second, she thought she had already blown it until his conniving grin became a wide salesman smile. "Look at that! I knew you were something special. I didn't even have to tell you where to put the goods!"

"I've got a nose for it," she said again without thinking. "Shut up!" she immedately told herself after. "The best lies are the ones that you don't have to tell." It had been some sage advice she'd received from Yuan long ago when he had told her more about his role as the Cerberus.

Novariel let out a chuckle and headed back for the cabin, waving at her to follow and holding open the door for her. She wondered at what points Yuan might have followed his own advice while she swished her hips and accepted his gentlemanly gesture.

The inside of the cabin smelled just as bad if not worse than the outside. The smell of damp wood and moss filled her nostrils. Novariel took a deep breath of the outside before he closed the door behind him and proceeded to another open inner door. From where she stood, she could see that the room was the bridge of the boat with an old style wooden wheel. Even without a close look and as Novariel pulled the door shut behind him, she could tell that it was nowhere near as high tech as the standard Tethe'allan transport. Novariel seemed to be content to live in the dark ages.

"Whatever floats his boat.." she joked to herself as she lowered herself to a short chair and table in the corner of the room near the window she'd seen Novariel watching her from earlier. A cheap looking plastic vase with fake blue thistle flowers covered in cobwebs sat glued to the middle of the table. Rolling her eyes and trying her best to ignore the eyesore, she slipped into her own thoughts so that she could distract herself from thinking about where they were heading.. again.

xxx

When Altessa opened the door and saw Lloyd plus an extra person waiting, he'd been a bit surprised but begrudgingly let them in since Lloyd had obviously somewhat awkwardly told him that the blue haired woman could be trusted. It was a different story for two complete strangers, as far as anyone except Mithos and Yuan knew anyway. The bearded and green cloaked dwarf answered the door, his usual frown furrowing over his long nose and squinted eyes. It only lowered more and the lines on his forehead only became more prominent when he glanced over the two 'young' boys standing in front of him.

"Hi," Genis squeaked, suddenly nervous. Altessa made him nervous on a good day but now it was even worse. He couldn't exactly answer with the truth on why if he was asked and lying through his teeth wasn't preferable. He'd already complicated things with Lloyd thinking he was a full blooded elf and a complete stranger who just so happened to get saved from the oceans depths by their trusty temp sea captain.

Mithos elbowed him to reply to what Altessa had asked. Something along the lines of "Who are you?" It seemed like such an impossibly hard question to answer all of a sudden. He had to say something.

"Hi," he repeated. "We're friends of Lloyd."

His gulp sounded so loud to himself that he was sure the old dwarf would cotton on and question him. Thankfully Colette came out from an adjoining room behind them with a face towel in her hands and spotted the two of them. She let out a small delighted gasp at the sight that beheld her, followed by a disappointed one when she dropped the towel to the floor with a splat. She scooped it up before padding over to the door to stand just behind Altessa. "Genis? Mithos? What are you doing here?"

"So they are friends of yours?" Altessa asked, a disapproving grunt rather obvious in his voice. Colette didn't seem at all phased by him though and just nodded brightly. "They are. Would you mind if they came inside as well, Grandpa Altessa?"

Genis snickered a little at the dwarfs reaction to being called 'Grandpa.' It had only been for a split second but he had actually seen the iris of his eyes and the white part (the sclera). When Altessa focused his attention back to him and Mithos, he quickly quietened down. He gave them both another once-over before stepping aside.

"If not for your young age, I would tell you to watch your head," he said. He murmured something else to himself that sounded like he might have been questioning when it had become common for children to wander the wilderness in the middle of the night, but Genis didn't catch the whole lot. Colette quickly escorted him and Mithos into the next room where they were faced with a very cramped scene.

His earlier preparations for the chat to come fell short when his eyes fell straight on Kraine. It didn't take a genius to tell that he was quite ill. His skin was a little yellow and he was shivering despite being under the pile of blankets on the bed he was lying on. Lloyd was seated at his bedside, looking at him and Mithos. In fact, the whole room had suddenly turned their attention on them.

A small shiver crept down Genis' spine when he locked eyes with Martuan. She had a bunch of white flowers in her hands. "Hi," he said to the room, sounding just as nervous as he had been when Altessa had answered the door.

"Genis!" Lloyd sounded happy to see him, albeit a tired sounding happy. "And Mithos too!"

"That's right," Mithos said dryly with a nod of greeting.

Having been around his friend who also happened to be around four thousand years old as well as the leader of Cruxis etc for a while now, Genis realised he'd started to notice the differences between what he was thinking and saying. He knew Mithos wasn't particularly fond of Lloyd as it was and that it probably stemmed from jealousy. Martuan looked understandably the most surprised to see them. He didn't have to wonder whether she knew who Mithos really was. No, the real issue was that Mithos currently had no idea that his own part-sister was the leader of the group who were doing their best to interfere with his plans. He was likely pretty surprised she was showing herself to the group considering they weren't meant to have actually met her. Thinking of that, Genis made a mental note that he had to be extra careful to stay on guard. He hoped against hope that Lloyd and Colette didn't say anything too incriminating. Not that he was necessarily taking sides though.

Colette, who had disappeared again after ushering the two of them into the crowded room, returned with something else in her hands this time. A mortar and pestle. Excusing herself past them, she handed them to Martuan. Genis remembered seeing Kraine making all sorts of concoctions at one time or another with one of those. Most had been remedies for various ailments like snake bites that caused paralysis in some cases, poison from shrooms in the Iselia forest, or the common cold. They worked most of the time, unlike his other.. interesting.. choices in food combinations.

He wasn't a bad cook, in fact, he was quite good. The only problem was that once people knew just what he put in his food, it became impossible to eat. During their travels with Novariel, they'd had access to all kinds of weird and wonderful ingredients and he had become accustomed to cooking with whatever he could find. In short, his food had become both a rare specimen and an acquired taste thanks to it.

"Is that really the Fandalia flower?" Lloyd asked, leaning over Kraine to watch the Renegade start to mash it up. She gave a slight nod. "As sure my hair is blue."

Lloyd leaned back at that and looked a bit conflicted. "And you said one dose is all he'll need?"

"It's all I needed," she replied simply, switching from stirring around in circles to pounding at the flowers she had already beaten to a pulp. Interrupting Lloyd before he could ask another question, she added "You'll see."

"S-so, who is this?" Mithos asked in pretty thinly veiled innocence. Genis would have expected someone else to pull him up on it if it hadn't been mostly Lloyd and Colette in the room. Lloyd hopped to the introduction with a quick apology. "Mithos, this is Martuan. She's come to help Kraine.." He stuttered for a second. Genis secretly sighed with relief. If Lloyd was this nervous then it meant he knew that Mithos wasn't allowed to know about the Renegades, even if he didn't know why. "We don't really know how she knew he was sick or here though."

Martuans eyes flashed at him to shut up. Genis almost slapped his forehead. This conversation was heading in all kinds of dangerous directions. He watched Tabatha take the towel off of Kraine's forehead and head out of the room to give it a rinse somewhere. "So this is Kraine?" he asked, feeling dirty again. "I didn't know he was sick."

"We didn't either," Colette replied, looking over Kraine with concern. "We found him and then a lot of strange things happened and now we're here."

"Strange things?" Martuan asked, looking delighted that the blonde Chosen's lips had loosened again.

Colette remained mute, not very subtly hinting that there were things that couldn't be spoken around him and Mithos. For once, that aspect seemed to be working in their favour. The room fell quiet. Lloyd shifted a little in his seat before focusing back on Kraine. It was clear how much he still cared for him, even after all he had done to him. It made sense though, he thought jealously. Kraine was his father. They had a bond that only family could share, even as an estranged father and son.

"Hi Lloyd.. I'm actually your uncle," Genis thought, looking over his biological nephew. That sounded weird no matter how many times he thought about it. It made it worse that he actually wasn't sure whether he was older or younger than him. He thought he might have imagined it, but for a split second he thought he felt the Angelus Project get a little warmer inside his hand.

Martuan stood from her spot, mortar and pestle in hand. "Now all we need is some hot water." A strange non-conniving smile touched her feminine lips as her eyes trailed to Kraine. "Maybe some sugar as well. He'll just spit it out if it's too bland."

"You uh.. know Kraine pretty well then?" Lloyd asked. "I mean, I know you work together and everything but-"

Genis summoned all effort in his body to not clap a hand over his mouth. Mithos flinched a little next to him but said nothing of course. Realising she had some serious thinking to do on how to explain this one, Martuan rolled her eyes and left the room without answering the twin swordsman who had just made life hard. Lloyd turned to Colette, confused. "Was it something I said?"

Genis went to look at Mithos, only to discover he had actually left the room at the same time as Martuan. It was kind of scary that he'd done it without drawing any attention to himself. Leaning back on the chair he'd found, he saw Mithos standing next to her while she poured the mixture into what looked like a hand crafted stone mug, along with some hot water. He wasn't saying anything, but as Genis had experienced before, he sometimes didn't need to.

"So what made you come here anyway?" Lloyd asked, smiling at him. Genis stuttered and Lloyd laughed. "I mean, I'm glad you're here but I thought you and Mithos were in Ozette now."

"The people of Ozette aren't very nice to non-humans," Mithos said from the door. Martuan squeezed past the bunch of them and to the other side of the bed opposite to where Lloyd was sitting.

"Oh?" Colette looked sad. "I'm sorry to hear that. Were they mean to you because you're a half-elf?"

"Half-elves are always punished," Martuan said. "It's just the way it is and always has been." She parted Kraine's lips. "Drink this and don't you dare think about spitting it out on me."

Whether or not the older seraph/swordsman/professor heard her or not, he didn't spit it out. He barely made a sound while she slowly poured the mixture into his mouth. "So Martuan," Mithos said while she worked, "Lloyd was saying you work with Kraine? What do you guys do for a living?"

Martuan shot him a glare so venomous that Genis felt his blood run ice-cold. It looked pretty uncalled for if you didn't understand that Mithos was just fishing for information on how exactly she had dealt with Lloyd and the group before. "That depends; what do you do for a living Mithos?"

"Mithos sails boats," Lloyd cut in with an answer, happy to finally include himself in the conversation.

"Really?" Martuan said, as though the news actually surprised her. "And is that how you met him?" She ignored the suspicious look Lloyd was suddenly giving her and looked to Kraine. He looked too, having seen the man move slightly and heard him take a deep breath. Martuan smiled. "Good. It's starting to work. Now we play the waiting game."

"Do you think it'll be long before he wakes up?" Genis questioned, feeling all of a sudden nervous. He wasn't sure exactly what he could say to Kraine anymore- especially with everyone around like they were. There was one thing he was sure he did want to say though, much to the contrary of how he knew Presea felt toward it. He wanted to say that he knew whatever had happened with Annalicia wasn't his fault and that he didn't blame him. He just wanted an explanation.

xxx

There had definitely been a slight change in temperature.. but nothing like there should have been. Sheelos hadn't been able to stop herself. That place just brought up way too many memories, good and bad of course. She found herself looking out of the window after a while and watching the scenery pass by. After as while though, she had started feeling like something was off. Waiting a little longer, the feeling in her gut about it grew stronger. She could see frost starting to build up on the window sill and had needed to rub it occasionally when it fogged up from the small amount of warmth the primitive vessel offered.

And that was it.

They were approaching Flanoir and yet she was still pretty content to sit around twiddling her thumbs in her normal garb. The heating device was limited to a small travel heater that sat bolted to the wall in a little nook of the small room they were in. The boat didn't even have a kitchen. By this point of their travels, she had been expecting to have to codger the dodgy trader into lending her one of his coats, though she really disliked that idea and would have been happy at her luck if she weren't so confused.

Flanoir frequently snowed and yet she hadn't seen a single flake fall from the overcast night sky and no sign it had fallen before they'd arrived. Either the snow region was experiencing some kind of heat wave.. or they weren't actually heading for Flanoir. But if they weren't heading for the god forsaken city, another question just begged to be answered.

Where were they heading?

Another hour passed and she still saw no sign of snowfall, neither did she feel any sudden temperature drop. The boat shuddered to a stop just as she was considering a way to ask Novariel about it without seeming suspicious. The door to the wheelhouse opened and her companion stepped out to give her a proud smile. "We're here."

"We are?" she asked, trying to be as fake excited as she could. It was a pretty handy skill she had picked up over the years from her time in Mizuho. It did no good to show them how depressing life as their 'Chosen' object was, after all. She turned to the window and wiped it before pressing her face against it. She could see some kind of land mass, but nothing that really stood out from the angle they were on. Decisively standing from her spot, she realised Novariel was way ahead of her. He held the door open for her again. "It's time for me to let you in on a little trade secret."

"Ooh," she cooed, "sounds interesting." Only half of her meant it though. The wiser part of her was holding up tiny red flags with all available digits while jumping up and down and shaking its head. Still, something she didn't understand was going on. That alone was enough to pique her interest. She smiled up at him as she squeezed through the gap of the door past him to outside, deciding it was good that he hadn't mentioned Genis or the kid again yet. The longer she could keep him from possibly going to 'the back', the better. She still wasn't exactly sure where 'the back' was anyway.

A small island with three cyllindrical rocks in a triangular formation faced her and her jaw almost fell to her feet. It might have been pretty different if she hadn't eavesdropped on conversation between many of the Lezareno Company employees the day they had been allowed access to the place. Legend had it that the rocks were a portal to the underworld when the moon hit it in a certain way. People had allegedly seen it for themselves and scholars who researched the Otherworldly Gate went mysteriously missing, never to be seen again.

"Why are we at the Otherworldly Gate?" she questioned.

Novariel looked impressed at her. "Someone's done their homework I see. Well then, I don't need to waste time explaining what happens here sometimes." He dug into a pocket on his puffy trousers and brought out a shiny piece of metal around the size of the palm of his hand. "This is the key to everything," he revealed mysteriously, parading past her to where he could jump off of the low side of the boat and into shallow water. Sheelos quickly followed, pulling the legs of her pants up to her knees and tightening the strings so that they didn't fall back down while she waded through the water.

With no possibility of wet pants in sight, she lowered herself off of the edge of the boat in the same place Novariel had and dropped into the sea. A quick and involuntary yelp of surprise left her mouth. The water certainly felt like it belonged to the seas of Flanoir, even if the average temperature outside of it didn't. Her legs instantly numb, she had to push herself to put one foot in front of the other and shuffle to where the trader stood watching her. "This better be worth the frostbite," she muttered to him as she stepped onto land, slipping on her shoes and rubbing her bare legs to try and get some blood circulating again.

"Just watch," he instructed, raising the shiny disc of metal up above his head. She watched carefully for a second until a familiar cringe made its way down her back. She whirled around to scan the boat.

"What's the matter?" Novariel asked her, stopping his little show and tell and focusing on her.

"I feel like we're being watched," she muttered, doing another scan and trying to force her eyes to adjust so she could see the nooks and crannies of the boat easier.

"Watched?" Novariel asked, peeling his eyes onto the boat as well. "You think we've been boarded without knowing?"

"I.." She didn't know what to say. Things weren't exactly going to plan anymore.

Clap, clap clap.

She and Novariel started at hearing a high pitched clapping sound from somewhere nearby. A shadow on the right end of the boat moved. The both of them caught it and watched as it formed into the shape of a man.

... a man wearing what was unmistakenly Mizuho ninja garb.

Sheelos couldn't believe her eyes. The ninja crouched for a second before making a jump from the deck to the roof of the cabin. The moonlight shone down on him from his position now. Sheelos found herself doubly dumbstruck as her eyes trailed up and down the red and gold garment he wore. Only one ninja in the village wore that red garb. "K-Kuchinawa!?" she cried, squinting.

The ninja clapped his hands together again. "Looks like you haven't gotten rusty even now you're basically a tag along on an adventure with the very people you were supposed to stop from destroying Tethe'alla."

He spoke with such bitterness oozing from his words that Sheelos knew something wasn't right.. aside from the fact that he had randomly appeared on an old boat in the middle of the ocean in the middle of the night of course. She took a step forward. "Kuchinawa, what are you doing here?"

Kuchinawa pointed to her and Novariel. "I am under orders to ensure he does not take you away from Tethe'alla."

"What?" she spluttered. "Who gave you the orders?"

"That isn't all," he continued on, ignoring her question completely. "I also came to ensure the Angelus Project wasn't to go missing... though I seem to have failed in that regard, don't I?"

She froze and glanced at the man by her side. He blinked a few times and shifted forward. "What did you-" He muttered the rest of his sentence into the sandy ground when he face-planted into it.

"Sorry," Sheelos apologised as she whirled around. Kuchinawa had disappeared and just as she suspected, he did his usual act of slipping by unnoticed and ambushing his victims from behind. He was like a magician; she'd always been a little envious at how adept he was. A shuriken flew just above Novariel, missing its target and dropping into the sea. She met Kuchinawa's parry and punch with a block of her own a second later. He grinned at her as he kicked and she dodged and vice versa. It almost felt like old times. "Kuchinawa," she started again to him. "What's going on? This isn't like you at all."

"No, it isn't," he responded, landing a blow on her and knocking away. Despite her rib aching from the blow, she managed to catch her balance and somersault herself back into a standing position. Novariel tried to get up but Kuchinawa quickly tossed a couple of ninja stars in his direction and made him drop again. "Stay down if you know what's good for you. I'll be dealing with you later. This is not your fight."

"It isn't?" Sheelos kept on her guard and waited for him to come to her this time. "Wait Kuchinawa-" she ducked under a side turning kick and gave him a slightly pulled back uppercut to the chest. While he breathed heavily and guarded, she continued to ask her question. "What exactly is this about if it's not about trying to protect me and save the kids?"

"Hmph." Her childhood friend uttered a sarcastic grumble. "I suppose you wouldn't know since you pretty much abandoned all care for Mizuho since you got everyone killed by Volt that day."

"What?" Her body became pins and needles. "I see.. You want revenge for what happened to your parents." She laughed. "Funnily enough, I understand how you feel. I guess you must really hate my guts, huh."

"I do," he growled. "Even after everything you did, you turned your back on Mizuho, its people, and the whole of Tethe'alla. You were always selfish though."

"Vice-chief Tiga agreed to the methods that we are planning to use to ensure nobody suffers anymore," she pointed out in her own defence. He'd stopped huffing and puffing now and she knew she needed to be on guard again. He leaned forward and she prepared for his signature charge. Instead, a large throwing star flew above her head. She watched in surprise as the hair she had in the top knot above her head fell to the ground at her feet, scrunchie and all. Loose strands of hair fell around her face and into her eyes. The bone-crushing force of an undercut to her side followed by a kick to the shoulder sent her flying into the freezing shallow water.

Numb tingles prickled all over her skin and her vision blurred from the impact. With a groan, she tried to get up. Her body didn't want to agree with her it seemed. Through dizzied vision, she saw her friend step up close to her. "I will finish you here. We'll just say you had a little accident, just like your mother."

"H-h-how d-d-dare y-y-you!" she said, trembling with both cold and seething anger. She sat up finally and attempted to pull herself up. A short dagger poked into her neck before she could though. She glanced to her left at her friend. He leaned closer to her. She didn't need to be able to see much to know he was glaring at her. "I would rather die than be forced to accept you as my Salvatorian."

"Your.." she squinted as a light shone straight into her eyes from the direction of the island rocks. She could make out the silouhette of Novariel holding up the shiny object again. Her body suddenly felt light and disconnected from the rest of her. When the light faded again, she felt herself drop slightly onto some dry land. In front of her she could see Novariel, and behind him in the sea, his boat.

"Well that looked like it was about to get out of hand," the smuggler said, chuckling lightly and offering her his hand. She rolled her eyes and got up herself. The pain from Kuchinawa's attacks on her hurt, but it was nothing she hadn't dealt with before. The real issue was that she very clearly recognised her location. Just a short distance behind her sat a tall mountain. A large city sat on the waters edge to the north and a thick forest that raised higher into the mountains behind her just to the east.

Not seeming to take offense to her ignoring him earlier, Novariel stepped up to her side while she stared at the city. "What do you think, m'lady? Do you like it?"

"Well, um.." she wasn't sure what to say, but knew it better to air on the side of caution. She wiped her hair out of her eyes and tucked some of the longer strands behind her ears. "Where are we?"

"A place very far away from Tethe'alla," he explained, a proud chuff in his chords. "Welcome to Sylvarant."

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