Skewed Destinies- The Flames of Origin

Party at Altessas

Chapter 54

Party at Altessas

Every second felt like an hour as Lloyd waited for Kraine to wake up. The clock high up on the wall behind him making a very distinct metallic click every time it hit the twelve made it even worse. He was sick of waiting and sick of wondering and most of all sick to death of thinking. Just looking at Kraine as he gradually showed signs of recovery filled him with a million questions. He'd found it a little difficult to believe at first that Martuan had Kraine's best interests at heart when she had come to him when he had been about to set off to try and find Yuan or Sheelos- he hadn't exactly decided on who at that point. She had done exactly what she had said she would do and that made him question a little more on how much they could trust her. She had genuinely seemed like she wanted Kraine to get better. A part of him wanted to ask whether they had been friends once, but he knew better.

Twitching his sore neck back and forth to try and loosen the muscles that had started to hurt again, he looked to his right at Genis. He was sitting in another chair next to him and looking over Kraine. Genis looked at him questioningly and he stopped moving his neck. "Sorry," he apologised, laughing at how funny it must have looked. "I just thought you must be getting pretty bored just sitting here."

"I could say the same thing to you," Genis replied, raising his eyebrows. "Since when do you sit still for more than five seconds?"

"H-hey!" he blubbered, leaning over and elbowing him. "I'm plenty patient when I want to be and since when are you the expert?" A strange feeling came over him as he finished his sentence. It felt like he'd had this conversation before. He opened his mouth to apologise again but stopped himself just in time. Genis snorted at him and started laughing. "The 'deep in thought' look doesn't suit you, Lloyd."

"I would tend to agree," Martuan added under her breath. "Why don't you just do us all a favour and go use those swords of yours on a tree or something?" She nodded in the direction of his swords, showing that she had already sniffed out the weapons in the room. "Or better yet, go and get some new butter knives."

Lloyd took a deep breath and clenched his fists. He let his anger go, deciding it wasn't worth the ruckus. He didn't want to cause problems for Altessa when they'd already inconvenienced him... and Martuan had helped them. Colette re-entered the room with Mithos at her side. He opened his mouth to defend himself but quickly stopped short when Kraine who lay between them shifted a bit and took a sudden deep breath.

At seeing the movement, Genis unexpedly shot out of his chair and leaned past him to shake Kraine. "Kraine! Wake up! Come on Kraine!"

All eyes in the room immediately bore into the old seraph and waited for a miracle to happen. It was the most Lloyd thought he'd seen his former professor move in the last couple of hours. His fever had definitely lessened as well thanks to a combination of Colette and Tabatha's efforts and Martuan's fandalia potion.

The Renegade leader stopped Genis from shaking Kraine any further while tisking and shaking her head. "He's still unconscious. Don't shake him like that. You'll make him sick." Her fringe fell into her eyes and she scowled. "Trust me, I know." She sounded like she was talking from memory. Lloyd wondered whether that was why she had decided to help them.

As Martuan had explained, Kraine sadly remained unmoving despite Genis' best efforts. The seraph did sound like he was breathing more normally though. Before it had been little more than a shudder every so often. Lloyd turned his attention to Genis as he slowly sunk back from Kraine and back into his chair. Mithos took a seat beside him. The blond had stopped taking digs at Martuan about her 'job' thankfully. Something about that was bothering despite the fact that Mithos and Genis were nice people. Sheelos and Yuan had made it abundantly clear that they weren't allowed to talk about the Renegade operations and Mizuho without permission and Lloyd had been careful not to let anything slip. He still wondered what it had been that he'd said earlier to anger Martuan like he had. He felt like he'd blabbed even when he hadn't.

Uncomfortable with the silence and the ticking clock and eager to avoid looking at Martuan and thinking how she felt so familiar sometimes, he focussed his attention on a safe subject with Genis. "So how did you and Mithos know we were here anyway?" Excitement buzzed in his chest while he waited for the answer from either boy. It was probably going to be cool like they had sensed their mana signatures all the way from Ozette or something.

His silver haired elf friend stuttered in a way that reminded him of Gesea suddenly before finally stumbling out an answer. "W-we were.. um.. just going for a walk away from Ozette for a while."

"This late at night?" he asked, smiling as he remembered how he had sometimes gone half-asleep walking alone through the Iselia forest late at night after having some of his dreams. Before waking up, he'd always been convinced that he would find his mum or dad just a short distance away. Noishe had thankfully always watched out for him despite how freaked out he always got around monsters.

"Speaking of Noishe..." he thought suddenly, wondering where his furry friend might have ended up. So much had happened that it hadn't crossed his mind until now. Kraine had once told him to not worry about Noishe, but it was hard not to. Another contender suddenly added itself to the list of people/furry things he wanted to find. The horrible feeling that something bad was happening to Gesea and Sheelos and the fact that he didn't exactly know whether Yuan had ever planned on returning to them to give them answers slowly ate at him. There was no way he could leave Kraine's side now though. He still didn't trust Martuan; she'd tried to get in their way more than once and had seriously slowed their quest down by stealing the rheairds for no apparent reason. They were far from friends.

Another hour slowly trickled by with Colette and Tabatha traipsing back and forth doing this and that for Kraine. Colette sometimes took a break to ask Lloyd if he was okay. She was such a caring person; she just seemed to ooze her concern for others in her actions. She had so quickly forgiven Yuan for keeping the fact that he was an angel from them, not to mention she had always been quick to defend Kraine whenever he was brought up. He understood her feelings about Kraine though. He'd known for a while that Kraine wasn't as bad as he was trying to make himself seem.

"I don't want to hurt you.."

He remembered those words from when he and Kraine had fought in the Meltokio sewers clearly still, but they weren't the ones that stuck in his mind anymore. It still made no sense. Why did Kraine sound like his mother? Just as importantly, why had Yuan said what he had and why did it fit the situation without making sense?

The room suddenly getting stuffy again, he decided he needed a little air. Tugging on his red gloves, he stood and unsurely scanned over the room for his swords. They were where he'd left them of course, in the corner of the room next to a book case filled with books on dwarven vows. Deciding he didn't need them though, he excused himself into the lounge, passing Tabatha who was standing just outside the doorway. Not halfway to the front door, he stopped again. Something felt weird, like the air around him was prickling up with static. He'd felt it before. He whirled around just in time to see Colette, who had been in the middle of chasing him down, turn on her feet and look in the direction of the bedroom. She beat him into the room, but only just. At first all he saw was Mithos and Martuan standing turned toward each other. They weren't looking at each other though, instead both pairs of eyes were on Kraine and on Genis, who was out of his chair and leaning over Kraine again.

"Kraine!" Genis cried, sounding hopeful again. Lloyd heard a dry cough come from the professor and shifted a bit closer to get a better was finally happening.

Kraine's eyelids fluttered open and he looked at Genis with a vague expression for a few seconds before flinching up from his relaxed position to a half standing, half kneeling pose on the bed. He turned his head upward to what Lloyd knew must have been a pretty conflicted expression. His defensive stance slacked a little. "Lloyd, you're okay. Thank the Gods."

He'd somewhat expected the voice this time, but it still did nothing to lessen the surprise, nor the confusion and drooping mouths of most of the people around them.

"He-" Mithos started.

"-Sounds like a girl," Genis finished for him, his eyes wide with surprise. Martuan bobbed her head and rose from her chair while she eyeballed Kraine, waiting for him to speak again. Kraine turned his head in her direction, opening his mouth, then stopped. He blinked a couple of times and rose a hand to his mouth.

"What is the meaning of this, Kraine?" Martuan asked, her eyes narrowing. She leaned closer. "Speak."

Kraine refused to speak for some reason. His eyes went glassy, like he was zoning out and about to have a ruin maniac moment. Martuan snarled and reached her hand to Kraine. She grabbed him by the collar and raised him to meet her eye level. "I saved your life. The very least you can do for me is thank me! I always disliked your indifference to people when you were-" she cut herself off. Lloyd curiously wondered what she had been about to say.

Kraine shrunk away from the Renegade. "Thank you for saving his life, and mine too. I would like to say I am indebted to you but I think I'd be making a promise I can't keep."

There it was again. The voice from his dreams that he had been comforted by on scary nights as a child came flying out of Kraine's mouth, only this time it sent shivers up his spine. The idea that it might have finally been the time to get answers was almost paralysing.

"A-Annalicia?" Genis whispered, barely audible to anyone who wasn't standing right next to him or didn't have fine-tuned hearing. Lloyd blinked in surprise at his silver haired friend muttering the name of Gesea's sister as he stared at Kraine, the memory of his confrontation with him in the Meltokio jail coming back to the forefront of his mind.

"He didn't kill me because he wanted to!"

Kraine had spoken in the different voice then too.. directly after he had confronted him about being Duke Bryant and his possible involvement with the death of Gesea's sister. Lloyd rubbed his forehead as confusion set in once again. Martuan withdrew from holding Kraine by the collar and just gave him a well? look.

When Kraine bobbed his head once, Lloyd was filled with a million more questions. "Wha..wait.. wait just a second," he stuttered. That wasn't possible. It couldn't be. Annalicia was Gesea's sister. There had to be some kind of mistake. Surely Annalicia wasn't that uncommon of a name. He'd never heard it before though but that didn't mean it wasn't a common name in Tethe'alla. He felt Kraine's gaze on him and stared back, not sure exactly what to say at all anymore.

"No way," Genis gaped, giving Kraine a once-over. "But you look like-"

"I'm quite aware of the situation Genis," Kraine replied in a voice that wasn't exactly irritated by not quite.. not, either. "It's kind of a long story. I can't talk about it in front of our present company." He trailed his eyes around the room to Mithos and then to Martuan again.

The expression on the Renegade leader darkened at Kraine's comment before she crossed her arms over her chest and raised two eyebrows. "Interesting." Without another word, she scurried past all of them and out of the room. Kraine immediately went to try to get out of bed to give chase but failed on the first step, almost falling to the floor if Lloyd hadn't caught him and supported him with his weight until he could get his balance back and shift into bed again.

"That woman.." Kraine mumbled through a few heavy breaths.

"You think she is up to something?" Mithos asked as he stood from his chair.

Kraine didn't respond to Mithos and instead looked back at Lloyd, an odd smile gracing his lips. Colette looked like she was about to tell him that it was rude to ignore Mithos when he raised a hand up in a stop signal and shook his head. The blond excused himself out of the room. From his spot, Lloyd heard the signature clicking and metallic groan of the heavy front door opening and closing once. He waited to hear it a second time, but instead his ears were met with a woof and the sound of frantic knocks on the front door.

Skidding from his spot behind Genis and to the window, Lloyd pressed his nose against the pane and squinted. The first thing he saw was Martuan disappearing off past the side of the house. Leaning as close as he could to the cold glass and turning his head to the right, he was able to look toward where the warm orange glow of the house streamed out from the front door and where multiple shadows stood in its way. His heart took a happy leap in his chest when he saw the familiar white and green coat of Noishe glowing softly under a combination of natural and unnatural light. A tall figure with electric blue hair held up in a ponytail and a wide black cape stood next to him, greeting Altessa.

"It's you," Altessa said while another figure joined him in the doorway. It was Tabatha. He strained his ears to hear the conversation even though he could have much more easily listened if he'd moved back into the living room. It kind of sucked that he didn't have anywhere near as good hearing as he'd had before his experience at the tower, but he was kind of glad as well. He was pretty sure it was still above his average before he'd been able to summon wings. He wondered whether Colette was as sensitive now.

Yuan hadn't really needed to say much. In fact, Altessa let him in without even a grumble. He spun on his heels and watched his old professor who was in fact another angel appear in the doorway, white flowers clutched in his fingers. Noishe skidded and scratched his claws across the floor to stand next to him for a second before pushing past to romp straight to the bed and to Kraine.

"N-Noishe!" Kraine laughed in the womans voice, trying to push him off so he could breathe. Lloyd took a step to go to try and pull him off but the dog quickly switched targets, this time tackling Genis to the ground and smothering him in slobbery kisses. He barked and gave him a new hairdo.

"Wow Genis," Lloyd laughed, together with Colette pulling him away from Genis so he could get up. "You really must have made good friends with Noishe!" He looked back up to the doorway. Yuan was no longer there.

"Yuan!" Colette called, running out of the room. Noishe chased after her, and Lloyd and Genis after Noishe, each narrowly avoiding stepping on the white flowers the half-elf had dropped in the doorway. They watched the heavy door slam shut again and as Tabatha put a latch on it this time.

"No way!" Lloyd exclaimed, clenching his fists and rushing to the door. "He's not running away again!" He looked at Tabatha and was about to ask her to unlock it when Noishe stood in his way and frisked up in his signature guarding-but-scared pose. "Noishe," he said sternly. "What are you doing? We need to go after Yuan before he gets too far away!"

Noishe whined and blinked, then lulled his head from side to side before sitting in place on the floor. He wasn't going to move. Lloyd shared a confused sideglance with Colette and then down at Genis, who was looking around the room. "Did anyone see where Mithos went?"

Doing a quick scan of the room, Lloyd noticed that the little blond was nowhere to be seen. "Weird. I didn't hear the door close."

"Neither did I," Genis mumbled. "What about you Colette?"

She shook her head. "No.. but.." She stuttered and turned concerned eyes straight on Lloyd. He stood attentive for a second until he saw movement from the back room. A hand rested on the side of the door frame for a second before a body shifted out of it to face them.

"Noishe," Kraine softly called through heavy breaths. "Come here."

With a small whine of complaint, Noishe complied, shifting to his feet and trampling up to Kraine. The older swordsman reached a hand down to the dog and gave him a scratch behind the ears for being obedient before hobbling up to them. Lloyd stuttered when he met eyes with him. "K-Kraine?"

Kraine smiled and stepped past him to the door to undo the latch. "Wait, Kraine!" Lloyd said more seriously this time. "Where do you think you're going?!"

Kraine turned to him. "Lloyd, be a good boy and wait here where it's safe."

"Where its safe?!" Lloyd swiped his hand through the air angrily. "From what!? Being stuck here achieves nothing! Two of our friends are misssing and another one of them left without saying a word to us!"

"Plus you're still really weak," Genis added. "You can barely stand and you know it! You should be-"

"-Please Genis," Kraine cut him off softly, "don't argue with me. I don't have the energy to explain everything at this stage."

Genis shut his mouth. Kraine looked to Colette as though expecting her to say something as well. She instead just stammered his name out. With a nod as though he thought he'd said everything he needed to say in that voice of his, he made to leave the house. Lloyd could stand it no longer. He followed the seraph as he tugged open the door and slipped outside. "No, wait!"

Kraine, or whoever was inside Kraine's body, didn't listen. "I said wait!" he demanded, and blinked in surprise when it worked. Kraine didn't turn to him, seeming to wait for him to say what he wanted to say. "I won't just sit around here and do nothing," he growled. "Not when Sylvarant and Tethe'alla are both hanging in the balance. I won't abandon either world and pretend to be a helpless child!"

"That's right," Colette said. "Just a short time ago, Lloyd and I were willing to give our lives for this world. But nobody has to be sacrificed. You know that, don't you?" She stepped closer to Lloyd's right while Genis brought up the other side. Standing with his friends in the wings next to him, he felt stronger than ever to finally confront the truth.

"Kraine probably knows that better than anyone," Genis said, dealing a slight blow to his concentration on what he wanted to say. Confused on what he meant, he glanced down at him and urged him for clarification. Genis continued to focus his attention on Kraine. "And so does Annalicia."

Lloyd slowly faced Kraine again. "Just who are you?" He found himself quivering suddenly. Colette clutched her hand around the crook of his arm, seeming like she understood how he was feeling even though he actually didn't really get it himself. He continued, "Genis called you Annalicia twice and-" Clenching his fists, he took a deep breath and asked the question that had been on his mind all day. "Why do you have the voice of my.. our.. mother?!"

The mouth of Kraine opened to answer but quickly shut again. Lloyd felt Colette's hand tighten around him. "Lloyd.. I.. I think.."

"We're surrounded," Genis finished. "I can't believe I didn't notice this before." He summoned a kendama into his hands from the realm of weapons all elves and half-elves seemed to summon from and did a quick 360 scan of the area. "Why can't I see them?"

"They're invisible?" Lloyd questioned, reaching his hands down to where his swords usually sat. His clenched fists met air instead and his heart thudded suddenly in his chest, the mental image of his swords leaning against the wall inside the bedroom in Altessa's house coming to mind. He wished he could melt throught the walls suddenly. Colette was in the same boat at him, having placed her chakrams down when she had been running back and forth to look after Kraine after Martuan had made a point of telling her to stop making such annoying sounds when she was trying to think.

Just as the red-clad swordsman considered running inside, the leaves and ferns of the trees and bushes of the Gaoracchia forest a short distance off to their right rustled. He thought it was the wind at first until the methodical sound of marching and the grinding of greaves on gravel gradually filled his ears.

"Oh great!" Genis exclaimed. "Now what!?"

"Papal Knights!" Colette answered as the three of them watched the signature sheen of white and green armour emerge from the woods. Multiple knights carrying various types of weapons and some on horses slowly marched into the area.

"It looks as though we have some unexpected problems."

Lloyd spun on his heel to where the familiar deep voice had come from just then and watched as the scenery near the window of Altessa's house started to become wavy like how roads in the distance sometimes did on a blistering hot day. The silhouette of a person started to form. All around them, other previously empty spaces did the same thing. Back to the window though, he recognised the man and his spiky black hair and red blade almost immediately.

Botta crossed his arms and tapped his elbows in thought before shifting to look at Kraine, still standing on guard as the rest of a fifty-something army of Renegades appeared fully. "If you intend to leave, you must go quickly." He looked at Lloyd and then down at Genis.

"W-wait," Genis stammered. "You're helping us?"

Lloyd nodded in agreement quietly. Genis had taken the words right out of his mouth.

"There is no time for idle chit-chat," Botta replied. "Unless of course you all have a death wish." The Papal Knights were getting closer. The Renegades forming a circle around them stood in ready stances facing directly toward their assailants.

"What is the condition of this?" Kraine asked directly to Botta, his hand reaching for the pommel of his sword. Lloyd froze. The voice that came out of half-elf's mouth and the stance he had adopted as he addressed Botta could have only belonged to one person and one person alone.

"Condition?" Botta asked, furrowing his thick black eyebrows while they had a staring contest. "I'm sure you are aware by now of the one and only condition we have always had. However, it seems that our plans have been compromised and so I must allow you to escape our grasp once again." He looked down at Genis for a few seconds as though he was having a mini debate in his head. "There is a condition that I do not wish to mention however."

"There is no need to mention it," Kraine replied. "Leave it to me." He turned his gaze on Lloyd. "You still have the rheairds, correct?"

"Yeah, two of them," he replied. A brief memory of the last time he had flown with Kraine actually conscious came to mind. He hadn't been able to speak back then and hadn't known of Cruxis or the Renegades or the fact that he and Colette had been two people in one body... somehow. The hunger for answers rising, he ignored Kraine's scowling face and lifted the wing pack out from his pocket. He still wanted his swords but there wasn't time.

The Papal Knights were getting incredibly close now. He could see some with bows starting to scatter and take aim. No sooner had the rheairds burst out and grown to their regular sizes, the four of them slid on and raised them off of the ground and quickly left the Renegades and Papal Knights to their battle.

"Where are we headed?" Lloyd asked, hovering above the clouds and trying to see what was going on down below still. When a sick shiver overcame him, he knew it was time to look back up.

"We are headed for Ymir Forest, the forest that houses Heimdall, the village of the elves," Kraine replied, leaning closer to him and reaching his hands past him to the controls of the rheaird. It was only as Kraine turned their flying magitechnology around in a 180 angle that Lloyd noticed. Kraine had two exspheres on his hands. His usual one sat on his left hand but his sword hand had a shiny red one embedded into it. He turned his head to question him but quickly snapped it back at the sound of a yelp from Genis. Colette was attempting to turn their rheaird as sharply as Kraine had. Genis held the rheaird in a death grip for dear life and kept his eyes focused on the sky above rather than below.

"Let's hurry," Kraine urged from his spot on the rheaird behind him once their friends thankfully managed to not turn theirs upside down and fall out of the sky. "Before it's too late."

"Too late for what?" he asked back, obeying even though frustration started to set in again. "You still haven't answered any of my questions. What's been going on with you Kraine?"

He didn't expect a response, so he wasn't exactly disappointed when he didn't get one, moreso frustrated that the more questions he had, the less he seemed to get answers lately. He shared a few glances with Colette and Genis as they made their brief travel toward the forest. Lloyd recognised the umbrella shaped trees and ponds of water glittering through some very small gaps amongst them as he lowered his rheaird. They were in the same region as the Toize Valley mine. He'd seen it when they had been mid-crash in the E.C. He wasn't even sure why they were heading there, but if it meant getting to the bottom of the secrets the resident seraph professors in his life were hiding, he was all for it.

Something started to bother him though as they lowered to the ground. It was as though he expected to see someone else with them. Kind of like the sensation of being watched, but kind of not. Like a presence was in the air. "A mana signature maybe?" he wondered to himself, shifting a little to face Genis and Colette. They were close enough to the ground now that distractions weren't deadly.

"Do you guys-"

"Feel the mana signature that was here?" Genis finished for him. It was a question but also enough of an answer. Colette nodded in agreement. Hearing Kraine's light sigh from behind him though, he started to worry a little more that it was something to be concerned about.

"Can you read it, Genis?" he asked the full-blooded elf. If anyone could, and were likely to tell him the truth, it had to be Genis. He trusted the shorty already, like they'd been friends for years. To his question though, Genis looked away and down at the fast approaching ground. It was now time to find safe land to park the rheaird. "It's okay if you don't know though," he added quickly.

Genis nodded for a few seconds before abruptly shaking his head. "No. I knew it right away." They finally landed and stepped off, most with shaky legs for the first few seconds. Genis held on to Colette as she stepped off the rheaird, beating Lloyd to the punch. He looked at the glade that loomed ahead of them. "It was Mithos' mana signature."


"Would you please stop looking at me and giving me that ridiculous smirk?"

Yuan glanced away from her alluring green eyes and tried to subdue his cackle as best he could. It ended up sounding like he was choking. It was a good thing that the elves of Heimdall were on his side.. a not-so-good thing for Martuan though. The moment she'd attempted to fly across the border and land somewhere close to the Torent Forest that led to where they were both heading, she had been arrested and thrown into custody. It didn't matter if you were a seraph. If you were a half-elf, you had no place in the village. That had not changed, regardless of the changes to their history. Just thinking about it made his blood boil hotter than anything else.

Martuan let out an exasperated sigh and slumped her shoulders. "Tell me again why you were allowed entry to Heimdall and I wasn't?"

"Only if you tell me why you helped Kraine," he bargained, hoping her curiosity was as strong as his.

"He's an old friend," Martuan mumbled, using the same thin excuse she had tried to convince him with the first time. "I already told you that," she added, trying to make it seem less flimsy.

"Oh well," Yuan said as he shrugged and sped his pace up a little to overtake her. "I'll keep my secrets to myself then." He watched her approach while he waited at the sign just before the entrance to the Forest of Origin. Martuan didn't bite to his tease however and instead hastened to catch up. She didn't stop next to him, instead hurrying past like she knew what she was doing. He hung back to curiously watch her put her money where her feet were.

She stopped when she came to the first intersection though and turned to him. "Well then Mr Secrets, would you care explain how we can get through this infuriating forest in the quickest way possible." Her eyes rolled up to the her left while she appeared to be recalling something. It seemed like something pretty frustrating judging by how she bit her lip after a couple of seconds and scowled down at the ground in front of her. "Something this beautiful shouldn't be so frustrating."

"You had the right idea the first time, in a manner of speaking," Yuan said, feeling amused as he thought of the usual emotion and snapped out his wings with ease. Catching Martuan's gaze on him and then at his pink appendages lighting the dark forest with their light, he felt his ears starting to get rather hot. He tore away from her piercing stare while he cleared his throat and pointed upward, about to explain why it was a good idea to fly even when they couldn't really get higher than the first canopy. She interrupted him when she pulled out her own pair of wings to add to the light with their lovely combination of green and pink and let out a crafty little giggle. "Such manly wings, Mr Secrets."

"The wings don't make the man," he defended, shocked to hear her teasing him.

Just when he let his guard down, she strode herself into his personal bubble and looked closely into his eyes. "Stop playing these silly games with me Yuan."

"W-w-what g-g-games?!" he cried, stumbling back in surprise. Such a simple gesture sent him gabbling like a fool to get his composure back and his heart thudding so loudly in his ears that he wondered if she could hear it. He thanked the old Gods that her blue hair served as a reminder as to who she also was.

Martuan's lips curled into a cat-like grimace as she wiped her hair behind her ears. "Tell me why I'm still me and you're.. well, you." She had such a determined look on her face that all he saw was Martel for a few seconds. His suddenly less-subdued emotions almost got the better of him but he managed to reign them in when he considered the other side to her. Given the right information, she would be able to eventually calculate and discover almost anything.

She didn't look surprised to get no answer. He hated himself for doing the signature Kratos move of staying silent. He'd always hated that tactic during the war. His preference was much more skewed toward feeding his enemies false information that could only be taken at face value. There was something so annoyingly ambiguous about silent answers, but even he had to admit that there was a time and a place for it.

Straightening herself up, Martuan flapped her wings and tilted her head. "Very well. How about we give up on that and actually admit that we are connected through her."

Even though it was rather detrimental to everything he could think of, Yuan couldn't help but be impressed. She saw his emotion before he could hide it, naturally, and her eyes glittered excitedly at her discovery. She clapped her hands together and nodded to herself. "I knew it."

"I don't understand what you find so amusing," he denied lazily, knowing he was as good as done as a possum caught in the clutches of a bear trap.

Martuan's wings fluttered faster. She was enjoying this. "There is no use in hiding it from me Mr Secrets. You already know how I knew you'd be at Altessa's and that Kraine was sick, I bet." She turned around in mid air, tapping her chin thoughtfully. "But why her? What connection does she have that allows me to know you were picking a bunch of those flowers?" She stopped and trained her eyes on him again. "Why that girl? I wouldn't have even known it had I not experienced the change in the visions and the way her mana signature modified when you were nearby."

"Do I need to remind you that we are in a hurry?" Yuan questioned back, knowing it probably wouldn't stop her from pulling the information out of him. He had to remain firm. "There is no time to discuss this. Given the circumstances I would prefer you did not insist on accompanying me."

"You realise the irony in that, I take it?" Martuan asked. "Especially given that I arrived in Heimdall a full half an hour before you."

Yuan shrugged and hovered to the first layer of the tree canopy. As expected, a faint green and yellow mist wafted around the upper level. It couldn't be seen from below. It was the simplest and quickest way to find where they had to go. "Are you coming?

"You're quite infuriating sometimes," Martuan said in a voice that sounded more like she was trying to be irritated as she joined him above. When she took note of the mist, she looked mildly impressed. He realised he was accidentally grinning again and had to force himself to stop.

They started fluttering over the ground dwelling monsters and obstacles of the forest as they followed the mist together, a moment of peace coming over them. It gave Yuan time to work out whether it was time to tell her more about the current state of the world so that she might be able to assist him. Eventually coming to a conclusion, he opened his mouth to start. "It's because she is a Summon Spirit."

Martuan tilted her head slightly at that. The two of them fluttered around a corner to keep following the mist. "That explains a lot actually." She grimaced. "No wonder Mithos' little experiment on her failed." She edged him to answer her invisible question but he edged her right back to continue on her train of thought, curious more than ever at what kind of conclusion she might come to without him needing to say too much more. "Speaking of experiments," she continued eventually, "her mana signature was incredibly close to Mithos' once she was created."

Yuan bit down on his lip, knowing what was coming. He decided to save her the trouble of questioning him. "She is using that body as a shell to conceal her true nature. She is quite comfortable with it."

"You don't say," she said, eyes wide. "But what does she have to do with either of us? Just what kind of Summon Spirit is she?"

They stopped right before the entrance to the glade and glanced at one another, daring the other to threaten first. Neither did. As they floated to the ground, all semblance of their earlier conversation disappeared as they focused on what was come. Without another word, they were off, racing one another into the leafy depths of Torent toward the seal of Origin.

My seal.

I looked up from the gold and silver winged seraph that called himself Gabriel to watch the two blue haired half-elves approach. They seemed unnecessarily worried. Gabriel stomped his feet like a disobedient child throwing a tantrum because I wouldn't let him have what he wanted. In the very least, I still had the excuse of being tied to Kratos Aurion and Mithos Yggdrasil. I had to hold back my grin though- such an expression was unbecoming of Origin. It was apparent that Yuan had done his job.. and a little extra. After all, how was the man who had once killed Martel meant to know that Summon Spirits had a choice when it came to their pacts?

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