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Skewed Destinies- The Flames of Origin

By Keko_the_Hybrid

Mystery / Adventure

Summons, swords and flying feathers

Chapter 59

Summons, swords and flying feathers

"Still so many," Kraine thought as relaxed his sword arm and assessed the situation. "Just what are you planning Mithos?" His strength on return to protect both his body and beloved fading, he needed to go with his second plan in order to get things over and done with as quick as possible. Luckily the respite Annalicia had afforded him from the battle at hand had done more than irritate him. The situation he had found himself in could be used to his advantage if he played his cards right and as long as the correct opportunity presented itself.

Taking a deep breath, the seraph-swordsman pointed his sword to the ground and waited for the seraphinalia to be within striking distance. The horde of still two-hundred-some angels seemed to be rather distracted with a ruckus a bit off to the front side of the room but it was impossible to tell what was happening through the sheer amount of mana signatures in the room. Whilst in the exsphere, he had discovered it much easier to find the energy to cast and hold on to his spells mana. He had thought it to be incredibly useful and had repeatedly asked Annalicia to allow him to come forward after conjuring his plan. She seemed to have figured out, just as he had, how the switching worked however. He had been careless around her sharp mind, it seemed. Using his stored mana to his advantage required optimal timing. Releasing the magic too quickly would result in-

He couldn't help it. All control he had been holding on to was relinquished during his brief lapse of concentration as he spied two short figures, one with pink hair and the other with silver, skid out from underneath the chaos of angels, their hands intertwined with one another. Paying him no special attention, they separated quickly and assumed a back-to-back stance before springing back into the action. The air slowly began to crackle with the beginnings of the mana storm he had conjured and released and the palms of his hands tingled all the way up to his fingertips from the magic. The girl- Presea- slashed an axe that looked far too heavy for her petite body in a wide arc around herself and Genis square in the direction of the first line of seraphinalia as they soared in for their attacks. The silver haired half-elf (who had somehow become involved with Lloyd's group, along with Mithos) finished his companions job with some speed-cast fireballs and icicles. The last thing he saw before the noise around him muffled in his ears and the signature light-headed feeling of exhaustion kicked in was the striking blue eyes of Presea turning on him, wild with battle adrenaline as disintegrating members of the angel horde fell to the ground around her and Genis, their feathers going everywhere like they'd been having a pillow fight.

His suddenly worsening condition came as no real surprise. Annalicia had prevented him from pushing it beyond its limits but it had been inevitable for even her to do much about it given their current situation. He had recovered somewhat during his time in the Cruxis crystal but it hadn't been enough. In an ironic twist, had he not donned the second Cruxis crystal to be able to swap spirits with her, his limits would have taken far longer to reach. Now, with the mana constantly draining from his body and feeding both exspheres as was their nature, it was only a matter of time until the seal on Origin was completely gone. He was hardly being a good role model for Lloyd now- not that he had ever deserved such a title to begin with.

"Kraine!"

The frenzied yell of Annalicia awoke him from the foggy ramblings of his mind. Awareness of the situation kicking in, he sprung his eyelids open to find that he had fallen to his knees. The light of Judgement had faded now and it appeared he had at least hit a few angels who had gotten close enough. Genis and Presea stood not too far from his location now, keeping the next wave of angels at bay. Knowing he needed to be a contender in the fight still, he struggled to his feet and began to cast a healing spell in the direction of the children. The seraphinalia that he hadn't caught in his Judgement were angered now and to get to him, they would have to go through them first. If he could not fight, he could assist. Surely.

"Nurse!"

xxx

Many things bothered Sheelos as she directed her rheaird away from Iselia and toward the Triet ruins, home of Efreet. The first of immediate frustrations was her hair. She hated it. The fact that it was short and that running a hand through it felt strange was one thing, but the fact that it couldn't be held up above her head and away from her eyes anymore was another issue entirely. Kuchinawa had some serious explaining to do the next time they came face to face, though she expected they may come to blows again before being able to talk. She had wondered why neither Martuan or Colette had asked more about how she had gotten to Sylvarant or why her hair was a good head's length shorter for a while but eventually figured that Colette was too polite to question her out of fear she might make her self-conscious and Martuan had other motives on her mind. She hadn't said anything to the contrary of Colette's brief suggestion to check out Iselia after all.

She blew her fringe out of her eyes for the millionth time and sunk into brooding about the next set of concerns that threatened to drive her insane before nightfall. Something stunk about their situation and what had happened in Iselia in particular, but she couldn't quite put her finger on it. Her head had felt fuzzy and all meaning to her alliance with Martuan and the Renegades seemed to make little sense now. The words out of her mouth outside Colette's old house still bothered her too. Why had she genuinely believed for a second that Colette and Lloyd had actually literally been one person once?

No matter how she sliced it, she couldn't understand what had possessed her to think like that.

Besides, if they hadn't been once person, then why did she still remember the conversation she had overheard between Genis and Mithos during their trip to Volt's temple? Mithos had explained many things at that time, particularly his goals and the properties of the Angelus Project. He had even made plans with Genis. If word of mouth wasn't enough to cement something fishy was going on with her memory currently, then the fact that she had discovered that Gesea had split into Genis and a girl called Presea confirmed it. Discarding the confusion she had on the matter of Gesea having the Angelus Project at the same time as Lloyd when she had assumed there was only one, she knew the only logical conclusion was that her words had meant something and that the splitting of two people was possible. If that was possible though..

Sheelos sighed and blew her fringe out of her face yet again as they lowered now toward their destination. She could hear Colette explaining the events that had happened during her last visit to the ruins to Martuan but she zoned it out to keep trying to unravel the mystery that seemed to go around and around in her head.

If splitting people and 'saving' his 'sister' was the reason Mithos wanted the Angelus Project and it was possible.. then why did her memory contradict it so perfectly?

She clearly remembered the first time she had met Lloyd and Colette at the Ossa trail. It had been when she had still been reserved to kill the Chosen in order to save Tethe'alla and finally be respected and acknowledged by the people of Mizuho. She might have been seen as a killer to some, but she would have finally been a hero in their eyes rather than the girl who had failed to make a pact with Volt, killing many from her village including Kuchinawa's family, in the process.

Even after she had made the most unfortunate mistake of not examining her surroundings before going in for the kill and fallen through a trap door, the first words out of Colette's mouth had been to the effect of asking her if she was alright and practically pleading to be friends. She remembered seeing Kraine and Gesea there too- both half-elves were far more reserved in the more logical department of distrusting her.

She looked at Martuan and her blue hair that she quickly untied from its makeshift bun the moment their rheairds reached the ground while she eased herself off of her own flying bike. She was inclined it was all some kind of smart trick the Renegade had developed in one way, but the other part of her- the part that trusted Yuan's involvement in this and the fact that he had sent her with Colette to Sylvarant- wanted more to believe that she wouldn't sink that low. Plus the question of how she had done it to a whole village plus Colette and her when she had clearly been in Tethe'alla only the day before seemed to be pretty difficult to answer.

"As soon as Tethe'alla's Chosen decides she is finished daydreaming, we shall be on our way."

Her ears caught Martuan's reference to her and she zoned back into the current happenings to see Colette and Martuan both looking at her. When they stood side by side, they looked incredibly similar in some ways. They had the same softness to their eyes when they cared about something and the same stance in battle despite the fact that they both used vastly different weapons. In a lot of ways it seemed like she was looking at a mother and daughter, but she would never in a million years have the guts to point it out to them, unlike Botta who had so bravely pointed out the striking similarities between the lady Renegade and Yuan- the mysterious friend-professor-Cerberus-seraph whom was not a member of Cruxis.

Colette giggled at her and she realised she had been dangerously close to zoning back into her confused thoughts. She looked past her to see that Martuan was now peering into the open mouth of the ruins that led down via steps to the lower and much hotter dungeon. Nodding to Colette, she caught up with the woman and stared down the entrance too, waiting for her lead. Martuan gave her a look before heading down first.

"H-hey!" she found herself defending as she followed, Colette in step with her. "Sometimes a girl just has to think, alright?"

"I have no issue with you thinking," Martuan responded back curtly. "It is your lack of ability to keep moving while you have such thoughts that annoys me."

Sheelos decided silence was needed. If the conversation kept heading in that direction, there was no doubt that she would end up explaining what she had been thinking about. Since she barely understood it herself and it was clear that Colette at least hadn't had the slightest clue as to what she had meant by her earlier comment in Iselia, she wanted to avoid that conversation as much as possible. If playing the Game of Questions with Yuan had taught her anything over the many years she had been forced to play it, it was the ability to judge the direction of a conversation much more accurately and steer it in a more desired direction.

"So how will getting the Summon Spirits help Lloyd?" she asked, even though she partly knew the answer. Martuan, of course, had her own reasons to stop Mithos from having so much power and probably taking the Angelus Project from Lloyd, but she suspected there was more to it than that. This would be a good test to know how much she and Yuan had been planning together. There was also the fact that Martuan wished to use her and the Summon Spirits in her plans to use the Mana Cannon.

"The world can no longer continue the cycle it is on," Martuan answered simply.

Colette's face scrunched in delight at hearing those words and she nodded enthusiastically even though Martuan couldn't actually see her from up front where she was walking and leading them through the dungeon. They were already more than halfway and the enemies that lurked in the corridors (that she and Yuan had killed the first time around) were back but for some reason paying little attention to them.

"Lloyd needs to in the very least escape Mithos and by getting the summon spirits, we will distract him for a time," the Renegade added. It was a pretty smart move on her part. She'd stated the truth in such a way that it sounded different depending on the ears that heard it. Sheelos grinned briefly at her cunning. Colette would have had no choice to imagine Yggdrasil hadn't wanted them to change the world he had created by releasing the two worlds from their mana link and splitting them since he had 'created' the world in the first place.

Deciding it was time to steel herself for the coming battle, Sheelos decided questioning Martuan could wait. A teleporter stood not too far away from them now, it's blue hue standing out amongst the general atmosphere of reds, oranges and browns. They'd gone through the middle door leading into the giant room and headed up several raised blocks. She passed a flying bird monster and watched as it merely tilted its head at her as though curious. She snapped her gaze back to Martuan. The woman had done something. She wondered what the fight with Efreet was going to be like.

Xxx

Two mana-doctors ran diagonally across the field from opposite ends, sending healing signatures to all that were close enough. Seeing that the children were all replenished, Kraine dearly wished he had time and opportunity to ask Annalicia if she were still alright. That however, had gotten him into trouble the last time and sent her coming forth into his body. He couldn't let her be put in danger like that again, so he resisted the urge to gaze into the blood red glass ball attached to his hand and kept his eyes on the field.

His searching eyes quickly spotted a flash of red amongst the sea of white, black and mostly blue outfits the members of the seraphinalia wore. Every instinct in his body switching to the same somewhat frustrating capricious mode he had found himself in earlier while facing Mithos, he threw caution to the wind and bolted into the fray. Of course, the angels were smarter than to let him be on his way to his son. Lifting his sword to be ready for them, he waited for them to charge in. With a laborious swing of his sword in a crescent-moon around himself, he finished them and continued.

Slowly getting closer to reaching Lloyd, he noticed several things had changed about the boys demeanour. The first was that he wasn't fighting, just dodging and sinking further back into the crowd away from him with each passing moment. It was no surprise. He had been unarmed since their run in with Gabriel's underlings at Altessa's house. He was vulnerable. But there was something else that bothered Kraine too. Lloyd's mana signature. When he'd been young, he had not had one, but as an angel thanks to the exsphere he wore on his left hand, it had always been rather calm in nature unless he was fighting. Now however, there seemed to be something different mixed in to the signature. It hadn't been there before when they'd been trapped in the cage together.

Squinting through the gap between angels at him for a moment while he fended off a new attacker, he understood it better. Something was definitely different. The usual orange and blue hue of Lloyd's mana signature spread out far beyond its normal aura-like appearance. This had to be why Mithos had kidnapped him. If he had only wanted the Angelus Project, he would have been able to take it easily during the lapse in paused time after knocking Lloyd unconscious. He finally got the upperhand and ended his opponent before taking the time to cast another spell for the party in the general vicinity. He felt his legs buckling underneath him even before releasing it.

x

Lloyd watched as yet another nurse glowing in hues of blue and green ran past his location. An enemy scraped at his shoulder from the side right as it happened but he barely even felt the pain. Instead he felt the cool sensation of being healed. It seemed Kraine was still alright. The magic did wonders for the small cuts he had continued to sustain while trying to reach where he had started off. His back still stung badly and the aching in his neck that he had coped with for days now ached even worse than before. The earlier searing on his hand had transformed into painful throbs of heat as well.

Turning and running into a new empty gap slightly closer to the other side of the room, he noticed two large swords on the ground at his feet from downed seraphs. Hearing the flap of enemy wings from above, to the side and behind as well, he didn't have time to contemplate whether it was a good idea or not and just picked them up with each hand. Immediately he noticed just why twin swords were sold as a set. The weapons felt incredibly heavy and unbalanced. Lifting them to catch the two short daggers driving toward him from above, he was confident to add how unnatural they felt to the list. He sidestepped when the angel that had thrown them toward his head flew down to get in an attack of opportunity and struck the winged foe in the side with one sword, the other he had been bringing up behind it awkwardly missing its target. He watched as the angel fell into another one, giving him time to turn and catch the next attacker in a side swipe. The moment the first sword connected, he felt a horrible twinge run down his arm and to his back. The large wound he'd gotten from another angel during his fight with Remiel ached unbearably for a second and he dropped the sword that had connected.

He didn't have time to catch it before another enemy lunged a small flail he'd started spinning above his head at him. Just barely hitting it away with the flat of his sword, he ducked and stabbed into the angels stomach with the second sword to end things. Pulling the sword out after the stab seemed nigh impossible and he didn't have much time to try before he heard the twang of an arrow being released from a bow from behind. It grazed against the top of his right ear as he stepped to the side and whirled around to see his attacker.

"That was a close one.." he thought as he breathed heavily and tried to distance himself from the archer now in his view. No weapon felt like a better option at this stage. If he attempted to move more with the swords, he might end up impaled.

Turning his head slightly, he finally saw the eyes of Kraine straight on him, the signature blue hue of his wings soon after. It still seemed strange to see him with wings behind his back, even after all this time. Something was wrong though. The attention the professor usually commanded using his eyes was not there. It was like he was looking at a shell. Memories of how Kraine had acted the night before came to the forefront of his mind. "Kraine!"

Kraine didn't react all that much to his name being called, confirming his fears. In such close proximity, he would have definitely heard him under normal circumstances. Seeing another opening through the barricade of angels that were ready to start fighting again, he skidded under it to land closer to Kraine. Through the gaps as he dodged enemies to his left and right, he could see the seraph's full form properly. He looked to be in the middle of casting a spell in the direction of Presea and Genis and didn't appear to have seen the enemy coming at him from behind yet. He opened his mouth to call out but was stopped by some attackers of his own. "Not now," he growled, landing a dwarven fist on one. "One of my friends is in trouble!" He stole a glance in the direction of Kraine again but could see nothing now. It didn't seem like he was standing anymore.

x

"Kraine," Annalicia called to him worriedly while he tried to gain a grip on reality again. "Take off the Cruxis crystal!"

It wasn't as easy as just taking it off. He knew she knew that. It had embedded itself into his skin long ago and the only way it was going to be removed was by a sword to his hand. He couldn't do it anyway. Annalicia had survived within the Angelus Project, but without him she would lose her connection with the world once again. That wasn't the only issue with her plea either. He was sure that regular Cruxis crystals did something to the people they absorbed if they were trapped for longer periods of time. That was why they never worked in Mithos' experiments and only gave their wearers seraph wings and angelic abilities. Overhearing the researchers back at the facility where the Angelus Experiment had first started talk about the properties Cruxis crystals had in comparison to exspheres was enough to suggest that a similar difference existed between Cruxis crystals and the next state- the Angelus crystal.

He became suddenly aware of movement behind him. Instead of circling around to face his enemy, he instead found himself on the ground and looking up at Lloyd, his son, as he blocked an attack using his arms. He yelped in pain and fell down beside him as blood dripped from the wound he'd sustained. Kraine looked over him, unsure what to say. He'd been careless and allowed Lloyd to save him when it had been he who had been trying to find him in the first place.

"Kraine," Lloyd breathed to him, his voice hoarse as he clutched the wounds on his arms. "You're not proving anything by dying here. We can win this fight." He looked up and grinned his usual confident smile. Any other time, Kraine might have berated him for being so careless, but instead he found himself smiling at his fighting words. Lloyd had the effect on everyone he met. No matter how bad things seemed, it felt as though that when Lloyd professed everything would be okay, it might actually be true. Always the idealist. So much like Mithos... but so different too.

Using the remaining part of his energy while they sat there practically waiting to be finished off, he summoned a small barrier around the two of them to deflect the oncoming attack in four directions by the four angels around them. The angels that hit it screeched and flew back from the impact, but the shield faded soon after. Without even a second thought, he threw himself in front of Lloyd. Panic spawned in the boys eyes.

"Lloyd," he muttered, "don't die." With those words said, he closed his eyes and waited.

The moment he waited for the pain to come seemed to last a little too long. It was only when he felt the lack of Lloyd's presence in front of him and the slight tickle of something soft like a feather on the back of his neck that he sprung his eyelids open once more to discover first of all that Lloyd was gone.

"I won't die," he heard Lloyd say to him from behind. He twisted around on his knees to see the boy grinning at him, two gleaming swords of gold and white in his grips. The almost blinding white blades were slicked with blood but he didn't have to wonder what had happened. The corpses of their attackers lay on the ground at Lloyd's feet, their eyes and mouths wide with the surprise they'd experienced at the time of their deaths.

Lloyd waved one sword in front of his face and followed the movement with his eyes. "Cool. Didn't know I could do that!" He looked pretty surprised and looked at Kraine questioningly. He didn't know what to say to that though- surprised for a different reason. They weren't just any swords. Somehow Lloyd had learned the art of summoning swords in the same way half-elves did. Not only that, but the swords he had summoned looked uncannily similar to one he had seen before in the hand of a young half-elf boy who had once been his apprentice. The coincidences of their situation continuing to mount, he felt a stronger urge than ever before to keep Lloyd away from Mithos.

Lloyd turned his head up from their brief glance at each other to the battlefield that had been behind them. Genis and Presea were still fighting; Kraine could still hear the cries of Genis' spells and the yells of Presea as she swung her axe. He turned hus head to look too. When he felt the mana welling up in the air though, he realised his error in looking away from Lloyd. Even to a non-elven eye, his mana signature glowed outside his body.

"Let's finish this," Lloyd said, an unnatural gleam of excitement in his eyes. He spread his arms out wide by his sides and then slowly moved his left hand out to his front, flexing it so it looked like he was holding out his hand to Kraine to help him up.

Kraine knew better though and finally managed to get to his feet. "Lloyd!"

Lloyd didnt even look at him, just continued to focus. He stomped over and shook him. "Lloyd wait! Stop this!"

It was too late. Whatever Lloyd was doing with the magic he was using, he released it. An almighty crash sounded from behind and he whirled around to see an enormous magical blade the height of the room had fallen into the middle of the fray. Genis and Presea froze what they were doing and stared up at it for an instant before a single wave of light pulsated from it. From the center near the blade to the outer edges of the battle field, the seraphinalia started to disintegrate, letting out high pitched shrieks and yells as they did. All was silent in the moment that followed until Kraine heard a gasp and turned in time to catch his son as he fainted into his arms.

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