Associates of the Angelus
Associates of the Angelus
Several things ran through Presea's mind as the giant sword of magic that had appeared before her and Genis vanished in a bright flash of light. Everything including the feathers from the downed seraphinalia and their weapons too had vanished after the fight as though there had never been one to begin with. The first question was who had done it? It certainly had not been her or Genis.
The second question was where had Lloyd gotten to? Glancing over to the north-west area of the room, she could see that he had left the spot she had seen him last. She didn't have to question for too long though because Genis let out a call in his name when he turned to face in the opposite direction to her. She whirled around just in time to see the twin-swordsman collapse into Kraine's arms, two brightly glowing swords similar to the giant magical one she had seen before disintegrating from his hands.
Kraine sat still with Lloyd collapsed in his arms, seeming content to watch rather than wake him. Trying to ignore her fury at him currently, she sprinted beside Genis to their location on the floor a short distance out from the cell that they had been trapped in when Genis had last spoken with them. That had been right before the Angelus Project had practically spat her out into the real world. It still felt odd to be able to run in any direction and not hit a wall almost immediately after being in the exsphere for so long, but at the same time it didn't. She had been as one with Genis for a long time before now after all.
"Kraine!" Genis greeted the seraph with relief, not really to her surprise. Kraine looked up from Lloyd at the two of them, setting his eyes on her first. She made sure to stay as apathetic as possible while he was focused on her. They would need to have a conversation, but this was not the time. The seraph looked to Genis, who smiled awkwardly at him. "Are you okay Kraine?" He looked past him at Lloyd. "Was that magic.. Lloyd?"
Some strange things had been happening to her since she had emerged from the Angelus Project, but even lacking the ability to sense mana signatures anymore, Presea knew enough about how Kraine's magic generally felt and looked to know it must have been someone else. It hadn't been Genis or herself, so that really only left one other option.
"Yes," Kraine answered, turning his head back to look at Lloyd. He seemed to be completely out cold. "As things are, I believe it's important to leave post-haste." With those words he stood and gave Genis a look that they both recognised. It was the kind of look that was usually preceded by an uncomfortable question. "Where is Mithos?"
Uncomfortable it certainly was. The two of them had expected it to come up, but they hadn't yet formed a plan on how to answer. Presea glanced over to the exit. She didn't care much for Mithos or his ideals (even though Genis did), but she did care for Yuan. The blue haired half-elf had come to them just in the nick of time to enable them to race in and help Lloyd and Kraine. Powerful though they were, Mithos had put them in a death trap. Yuan had told them to not tell anyone of his presence in Welgaia but with the way Genis still trusted Kraine almost fully after everything he had done to them, she was pretty much just waiting for him to spill the beans.
"He's kind of tied up at the moment," Genis said in the most awkward dodge of a question imaginable. Kraine was far too smart to let it go. Presea kept her eyes averted and a blank look on her face even though she could feel a giggle building up in her chest. It was hard to be angry at Genis for how he felt toward Kraine and Mithos when he was so smart but so socially awkward. Not that she could really say that she was much different. The distinction between her life and Genis' still wasn't all that clear, but she knew in her heart that they were different people.
"Mithos will not be trying to track us right now," she decided to add to his statement since it couldn't get much worse. She figured that at least if Kraine tried to get the truth out of her, she could easily just ignore him. Kraine had lied to them and he had lied to Lloyd. He'd been willing to sacrifice his own son at the Tower of Salvation. For that and for his involvement in Annalicia's death which she still had yet to hear come straight from him, she could not ever forgive him.
As anticipated, Kraine looked instantly suspicious of her and Genis. He dropped his curiosity sooner than she thought normal though, standing and lifting Lloyd over his shoulders like a ragdoll. It was only then that she noticed how wounded he was too. A once most likely quite eye catching button up suit shirt was now reduced to a dirty rag, torn to shreds by the battles and showing Kraine's bruised purple skin underneath the gashes. Having never seen him in such a state, she would have been lying to herself if she didn't admit that it made her feel incredibly anxious.
Just looking at his skeptical blue eyes on her and Genis set her memory reeling back to the night they had become themselves inside the Angelus Project. Annalicia had taken over to protect them. The tender words Kraine had spoken as he looked at her sister and the words she had responded with in kind left little to the imagination. They had very clearly been in love, but if the rumours were true and he had admitted to the crime of killing someone, everything she had ever spoken to him about was a lie. He was not her brother. He was nothing more than a criminal with a guilt complex.
Being able to believe that fully would have made things so much easier. She was not an idiot though. Things were rarely that black and white. When all was said and done though, Annalicia would still be dead.
Or would she?
Fatigue buzzed through Mithos' body and forced him to sink to his knees at the most inopportune time. Clutching his chest with one hand and his forehead with the other, he regarded the blue haired half-elf whom he had once called his friend and the classic butterfly blade gripped in his left hand. Things didn't seem right any more. It was the same feeling he had experienced over and over during the time Lloyd's group had started to get the summon spirits. This was by far the worst of it though. It didn't just feel as though he was missing a finger- no- it felt like a whole entire limb had been ripped from him and thrown to a pack of wolves. An indescribable emptiness.
"W..what's happening?" he asked to his would-be assailant as he winced again. He didn't really need to ask. It was more of a question of why.
"You could consider this to be your just desserts for going against our deal," Yuan remarked airily.
"Just what have you done?" He gave him the evil eye, trying to get any semblance of information from him since he knew Yuan would not give him a straight answer.
"Nothing but attempt to save your life," Yuan said casually as though it was such an obvious thing. Mithos found himself at a loss as he usually did. Yuan's battle-ready expression wore down to a more relaxed one at seeing that he was obviously in no state to fight him again yet.
Mithos found himself mocking his choice. "Wouldn't finishing me off make everything easier?"
Since seeing Yuan at Origin's seal, he had been convinced that he was just like the others; out to take the Summon Spirits from him because of the fascination with the idea that the world needed saving from its ordeal. While it was true that Tethe'alla had prospered for a little too long currently, nothing good had come from the two countries when they had been together. Martuan's idea of creating a new world tree by somehow feeding the dormant seed enough mana to grow was preposterous as well. It created as many problems as it solved.
Though Origin had not told him much about anything (including combined souls and why he had been able to see them), he had seemingly not been able to withhold everything from him. One night in a dream, he had experienced what he had always thought to have been a premonition or a sight of the future where the Great Seed had germinated. Cities had been destroyed by the sudden imbalance in the mana and the world began to abuse it more than ever before.
"To quite the contrary actually," Yuan scowled in response, collapsing his blade in the overly showy fashion that was pretty typical of him. "The world needs a leader to follow by example," he continued to add. "I've seen what happens if you continue down this path. It is.. undesirable." He looked like he had more to say but was holding back.
"Cryptic as always," Mithos stated, turning his head away to hide the smile tugging at his lips. Yuan had not changed at all. "Just when were you planning on explaining yourself properly to me?"
"There is no need for that," the bluenette quickly responded. He rested a hand on his hip and raised a questioning eyebrow a him. "You accepted my guidance long ago. Why should that have changed?"
"Let me think.. maybe because you're still alive?" Mithos knew better than to voice his thoughts though. The half-elf responded as though he had heard his remark however. "You have not changed. You are still as easy to read as the books in my knapsack." He crossed his arms. "Half-elves have never been accepted. I am simply trying to ensure things are different this time." He hesitated at the end of his sentence and his blue eyebrows furrowed. "In a sense at least. There are some things that even I cannot change."
"So you have seen the future?" Mithos asked, unsure if he was ready to believe such a simple answer to the question about the Yuan enigma that had been bothering him for so long. If that was in fact the truth, he was going to demand know how Yuan had come to have such powers. Even he, when he had been in control of Origin, had not wielded such abilities.
"I don't make a habit of repeating myself," Yuan responded, "but in a sense." He turned his back to him and summoned his pink seraph wings. Though Mithos rolled his eyes when Yuan wasn't looking, he understood how good they were for making a statement that needed to be listened to. He waited for the explanation to start but was surprised when Yuan walked toward the door instead. "This world needs Mithos the Hero to return. Do not be foolish with this chance you have been given to do the right thing."
He held up the wrist that the Cruxis crystal he wore sat on and whipped his head back to peer back at him. "It may be hard to believe Mithos, but I assure you that we want the same thing." His eyes narrowed with seriousness then. Mithos felt a chill go down his spine at that. It was like he was about to be scolded by Martuan. An involuntary gulp made its way to his throat. "We both want Martel back," Yuan finished. He pressed the button on the door and left.
Now alone in the data chambers where he had been watching the fight between Lloyd, Kraine and the seraphinalia he found himself staring at the silver door long after it had whooshed shut behind Yuan. He allowed himself to sink into his own thoughts to try and correlate the information he had so far, confident that he would not find himself disturbed for some time. He closed his eyes in order to concentrate a little easier.
Yuan had come in to his life in as much of a mystery back when he had first met him as he did every time he subsequently met him four thousand years later. In truth, he hadn't needed to threaten the truth out of his old friend the night the group had left them alone at the sail boat. He'd known just by the colour of his blue hair that it was the same Yuan. It was the same impressive shade of electric blue as Martuan- an odd colour for elves and half-elves even more so. There was no way he would have mistaken him for anyone else. He hadn't been able to resist seeing him squirm a little though. It served him right anyway for attempting to pull the wool over his eyes by hiding his mana signature from him.
He had met him the first time only a short time after he, Martuan and Kratos had made a break for freedom with exspheres in tow after giving the scientists of the Angelus Project what they deserved. Gabriel had been the next to join them after quite literally bumping into them during their escape. Showing them the exsphere implanted into his chest, he'd told them that he too had been a test subject for the project. Shortly before leaving the facility, they had been stopped by a howling noise from one of the chambers. Even if he hadn't had a soft spot for animals, Martuan would taken the initiative and led (forced) them to save the beast. With their combined reason against the other two members of their party, they had sprinted to the rescue despite their limited time to escape while the alarm blared overhead.
Finding the beast and finally escaping their ordeal soon after, they had curiously began to wonder what he was. He certainly was no normal dog. After some brief research following a hunch of Kratos', they had discovered him to be a rare creature called a Protozoan- the first race to be born in the world. He was a creature guided by mana, similar in many ways to the Summon Spirits that governed the elements of the world. Though they had never seen it, they had learned his first form had been a fish-like creature called an Aquan and his second form had been of avian nature, called an Aeros. He was still currently in the third form they had found him in, the dog-like Arshis, but would eventually evolve to have a fourth and fifth form. Not a lot was officially known about his next forms, except that his fifth and final form was a human who would fight evil. Mithos grimaced to himself at the irony that was the fact that they wouldn't have been able to happen across information about him if he had not once been in the hands of researchers prior.
They had not forced the Protozoan to stay with them, but the creature had taken quite the liking to Kratos in particular and had just sort of stayed with them after that. Kratos had then voiced his discomfort at them calling him "dog" "puppy" and "sweetie-pie" and suitably named him Noishe after that.
His first fateful meeting with Yuan had happened on the very same night he had first discovered his wings and they finally started to understand the true meaning behind the Angelus Project. After some intense conversation between the group about hiding his secret as much as possible and them monitoring him closely, he had felt the urge to separate himself from them in order to gather his thoughts and feelings about what was happening. The idea of being closely monitored bugged him since he had been losing his appetite for days. They had only just escaped from the testing facility, so he didn't want his friends to worry about him. Martuan monitored him enough already as it was, even back when they had been test subjects. He had always been made to eat his food no matter how foul it was because she insisted that he keep up his strength.
After finally getting his companions to agree to let him go as long as he didn't wander too far, Noishe had quickly joined his side and gone along with him. The Arshis' had quickly sped into a gallop after they had gotten a distance away from the group however. Only just managing to get a grip of a tuft of his fur before he ran out of reach, he had managed to vault himself up to the 'dog's' back in time before he accelerated and dashed further away.
Stopping in a clearing, the first glimpse Mithos had ever seen of Yuan had been his blue hair. It was so much like the woman who he'd been unable to not dote over after she had shown such kindness to him over their time trapped in the facility together. Before any surprised words could be exchanged between the two as they immediately sensed their half-elf signatures, Noishe had bolted out from under his grip to take a juicy looking red tomato straight from Yuan's hand, sending him falling onto a patch of very damp grass. Being a somewhat sheltered boy at the time, he hadn't met many other half-elves aside from Martuan. Because of that, he had pretty much instantly and almost instinctively trusted him. Thinking of that, Mithos chuckled under his breath at how naive his child self had been.
While feeding Noishe tomatoes and dodging question after question by responding with other questions when it came to do with why he was there in the first place or how he knew Noishe, Yuan had quickly showed him that the trust he had placed in him was indeed warranted. Though he had been made to promise not to share the information with his friends, Yuan had been the one to impart to him some extra knowledge about Protozoans and the fourth form, the Fenrilra. The fourth form of Protozoan was the most curious of all as it would eventually give Noishe the ability to change between his forms at will. Fascinated by that idea and by the other information that Yuan had given him, Mithos hadn't been able to resist seeking him out each night after that when Noishe got restless and ventured from the group.
Each night, Yuan would have new information or stories of "other times" to tell him. His favourite one had been the one about a young boy who had risked everything to save his sister. The story hadn't had a happy ending, but Yuan had explained that it was not because the boy did not care enough that his sister had not survived. It had been because he had only been as young as himself at the time of his sisters death and had linked something in her dying words with the ability to bring her back to life when he succeeded in fulfilling her wish. Yuan had also explained that things may have turned out differently had the boy received proper guidance from his friends. Funnily enough, Yuan had ended the story with "and everyone else lived happily ever after.. for a time, anyway."
The mysterious man always liked to leave his stories on cliffhangers. Despite the Kharlan War going on all around them and causing the mana in the air to grow thinner each day, Mithos had found himself hooked and constantly pondering things. By the time each night fell and he met Yuan, he had always found himself bursting with questions. At first his questions had yielded little answers in return from his half-elf friend, but that hadn't stopped him from trying to ask again and again. Through questioning Yuan back about the questions he responded with, he had started to figure out just how to get answers through the questions by 'reading between the lines'.
Sighing to himself at the particular memory, Mithos realised he was probably the most to blame for Yuan's current frustrating ability to dodge questions so expertly. He hadn't made it easy for himself.
After discovering that Yuan followed them wherever they went, his desire to introduce him to the rest of his friends had grown insurmountably. He was certain Yuan and Martuan would get on quite well and that Kratos and Yuan would argue but probably become best friends. Since he had considered Yuan to be in the same league as his other friends, it only felt natural. Upon asking him if he wanted to meet them though, Yuan had given him the most cryptic answer he had ever heard in his life.
"My direct involvement in the outcome of your journey will lead to severe consequences not only for myself but for the world. More than you could possibly imagine."
Of course, he had asked for an elaboration. Yuan had given him an ultimatum instead of an elaboration however.
"If you would allow me, I will assist you and your friends where I can in order to ensure the world and half-elves will eventually know peace."
Just a brief couple of sentences had been all it took to get the wheels in his mind turning. Since that night, he had started to notice the suffering of people around him more and more. On one hand, he had thought the humans deserved it for starting the war to begin, but on the other he couldn't help but feel bad for them, especially when Martuan looked so sad whenever they passed through a village of regular civilians affected by the war.
What bothered him the most though was seeing how the decrease in mana was affecting nature. After a long trek across the land to find Yggdrasil- the world tree that he had only heard about from his friends- he had discovered it was no longer as they had described it to him. Standing under its majestic foliage and touching its trunk was enough to tell him something quite serious was wrong. Nothing, not even the development of exspheres to enhance battle stamina, had affected him as much as seeing the tree dying before him. Taking the trees name as his own since he could not remember his original one, he had vowed that day to stop the war. Martuan had been by his side, agreeing to his notion in a matter of moments, Kratos and Gabriel soon after.
Their goal clear, they had initially lacked any direction. It didn't take long for Yuan's words to him to seep into his brain again though. His next encounter with his friend had been one of more importance than the usual tales by the side of a snoring Noishe.
"Where can you find out how to help the world?" Yuan had asked back pointlessly before responding a little better. "Where would one normally go to gather information on Summon Spirits?"
The answer had been a library and the subject was Summon Spirits. Finishing his Game of Questions quite prematurely with Yuan, he had dragged Noishe back to the group to tell them of 'his' idea. If any of them had been suspicious of his sudden stroke of genius, they had never said.
After both Martuan and Kratos had used their connections to their advantage in order to sneak into libraries without being seen by anyone who may have been connected to the Angelus Project, they had found themselves formulating a plan. If they were able to control the Summon Spirits, they may also be able to control the flow of mana and stop the war. If they couldn't do that, it was possible that they might be able to gain leverage on the people and scare them into submission. Though he didn't say it to his friends, the idea of using his wings to portray an even scarier image had crossed his mind more than once.
After seeking out Undine first, he had discovered to much his surprise that he was the one who would be enlisting the help of the spirits. They had all decided prior to the battle that Martuan would be the best bet. Her ability to read mana signatures was the best out of the two of them by far and so it seemed she had more spiritual power in general. Everyone had been stunned in the moment that Undine had looked at him and requested he make a new pact to annulst the pact she had made with a woman named Sheena in the past.
Eventually it came to making the last pact- the one with Origin. That was when everything had changed. The moment Origin had begrudgingly given him his power and he had come up with the idea to use the eternal sword to split the nations apart since their earlier plans had been met with failure, he had never been able to see the world normally. All of a sudden the reason why people did not understand the concept of loving in a non-maternal way started to make sense. Though Origin did not answer him when he asked, his reluctance to answer had been an answer in itself anyway. Origin had done something to the world.
After using the eternal sword, he had found himself with the ability to see the separate mana and energy signatures of people around him. Martuan had two separate ones that seemed to compete for dominance and Kratos had two others that had been quite dormant at the time but steadily grown in power. The only one of his friends who did not have two energy signatures was Gabriel. Yuan had disappeared from his life from that point onward so he hadn't ever been able to get a good reading of his.
Even being sheltered, he had been taught a little of his ancestry by Martuan and by reading about it through books. Elves had always understood the concept of love- it was only most of the humans that did not seem to. Though he still didn't understand why half-elves that were combined souls understood the concept and humans did not, the problem had definitely started with Origin.
Learning more about his new power and training it so that he could gradually gain more information from the souls within the bodies of almost everyone around him, he also began to notice other afflictions the world seemed to have. Though elves and half-elves understood love, the half-elves in Exire had still exhibited afflictions similar to the humans. Some people and half-elves changed their appearance and personality as they grew older and as the weaker spirits that sometimes resided within the stronger ones became more dominant. The world seemed to go on as normal when people quite literally woke up looking different. It was only when he had been researching the phenomenon with Kratos that Origin's influence on that had been pretty much confirmed. His human teacher had always remembered what the people had looked like before and their names when others did not. The only plausible reason they could come up with was the fact that he had some of Origin's power as well since he was quite literally the seal for Origin.
Getting better at using his new power had led him to the startling discovery that one of Martuan's souls was such a close match to his mana signature that it could have only meant one thing. At first he had been surprised to discover that she had been his sister possibly at some point and he may have just forgotten, but then he had started to realise that it made sense. He had always loved her as a sister and she had seemed to always respond in her own kind of sisterly way to him as well.
It was when he confided in Gabriel about his findings that the human-turned-seraph had come up with a plan after saying that he remembered reading about some other properties evolved exspheres had. Though initially reluctant, he had agreed to begin a new Angelus Project. Enlisting the help of Rodyle and the other Grand Cardinals, they had eventually come to the conclusion that exspheres worked by absorbing mana and so it was definitely possible to use them to absorb a souls mana and that if they could control the way they absorbed mana, it would be possible to transfer a soul from one body to another. In order for compatibility though, a soul with a close mana signature to her own would be needed. That was when he had decided to set up the Journey of Regeneration- not just as a means for the balance of mana to shift, but as a way to be able to save his sister, Martel, from her current situation as a twin soul.
Everything seemed to be going according to plan when Colloyd finally made it to the last seal. Then the unexpected situation of the Chosen splitting into the two souls that inhabited his body had occurred. He had thought Colloyd had a mere Cruxis crystal since the Angelus Project had been lost since the night the boys mother had been killed by Kraine. He had tasked Kraine and given Gabriel the order to hand down to the Grand Cardinals to find it again but had not heard of any success. His curiosity on Lloyd's exsphere before he had known there were two had led him to do a little investigating on his own. Becoming their sail boat captain, he had much more of an opportunity to research just what might have caused the split to happen at the tower. After all, Cruxis crystals were far easier to develop than Angelus Projects.
Never had he suspected that the Angelus Project had only moved to Kraine's own son, nor his sister-in-law. He still did not understand how there could have been two Angelus Projects when they had spent hundreds of years trying to create just one with the right host body.
Something caught his eye on the monitor that sat on a desk just a little bit away from him. Yuan had long since left the area, as had (presumably) the others. He stood from his spot and headed over to it and the control panel that sat in front of it, noticing he had recovered while deep in his thoughts as he did. Pressing the directional keys on the control panel, he scrolled through the different rooms until he saw movement. A door shut behind a figure. Mashing the keys, he waded through the rooms until he found the one that connected to the other one. He eyeballed the figure immediately to discover it was one he recognised. A familiar brown haired man in a Pope's outfit stood waiting for an elevator on one of the lower floors.
"Perfect." He looked to the door and planned his next move out in his head while he waited for Gabriel to reach him. Despite what he had seen at Origin's seal in Torent Forest, a part of him still did not want to believe that the human could have planned to betray him. It sent a stab to his heart even more than the idea that Martuan or Kraine may have planned the exact same thing. Gabriel had never voiced negativity toward his idea and always helped him toward his goal of saving Martel. The question still remained though- had he really wanted to simply take Origin's power from him to save him from the burden? Still holding onto the toggle while he watched and waited for the door to his room to open, he clenched his fist around it. It didn't seem right. He wanted to believe in Gabriel more than anything but the evidence against him was currently pretty damning. It was a confusing set of feelings that he hoped to be rid of post-conversation with his friend and old comrade.
Even though he had been watching intently, the door still startled him as it whooshed open with its usual electronic buzz to reveal Gabriel on the other side. Annoyingly, he found himself tongue tied as to what to say first.
Luckily the human took the initiative. "I should have figured that you would go to these extremes." He scanned the room over carefully for a second before looking back at him, this time with a less serious look. Mithos felt himself relaxing again but waited for him to say something more. He did. "Yuan has left, I hope?"
"Yuan?" he asked, finally able to get his voice out. "How did you even know he wa-"
Gabriel waved his hand around to cut him off and he obeyed like a child. He felt like kicking himself soon after though. Gabriel took a few steps toward him, making him quickly summon his sword in response. The human didn't flinch at the sight though and instead proceeded to place a hand on his head. "Nevermind that," Gabriel spoke softly to him. He had a great gleam in his eye now. Even after all this time, Mithos didn't know whether the look was to be feared or savoured. Gabriel continued. "Because I have decided that it is finally time to tell you the truth."
Gabriel sighed and bowed his head. "The truth about Yuan and about the time I first met him four thousand years ago."