Lost and found
Lost and found
Martuan didn't know what to think exactly on the events she had witnessed come to pass. The summon spirits had been going easy on Sheelos- that was for certain. The question that begged was why?
The moment she'd challenged the Sylph in part anger, part irritation as to why they had made it so difficult for Mithos four thousand years ago, they'd decided that they were going to get serious. She'd gotten serious too, of course. The problem wasn't her in their battle though. Against her designated opponent, she'd been able to hold her own. Colette and Sheelos however…
Okay. She had to admit, Sheelos wasn't bad. In fact, she had seemed to be doing quite well against Sephie in the brief times she had been able to cast a quick survey in her direction every now and again to see how things were going. The same could not be said for Colette. The Chosen, a girl who had gone on the Journey of Regeneration, fought like an inexperienced child. She threw her bladed chakrams accurately but not at the right speed to do much damage or with any kind of stylistic approach. She would have sworn to the Old Gods that this Colette had swapped places with the real Chosen- the one who had succeeded in each of the 'tests' at the seals in order to make it easier for her to become the vessel Mithos needed for his plans- if she didn't know better.
But did she know better? Or was she just kidding herself? She honestly had to wonder.
Being more suited to wordplay and far less of a natural fighter than Mithos or Kratos (but still leaps and bounds better than Gabriel), she had learned to make do with what she had and develop a strategy around her weaknesses. One such weakness had been her ability to find herself daydreaming at inopportune times. Kratos had scolded her over and over for tripping over things that would have been obvious to anyone paying proper attention, telling her that it would one day cost her dearly. She had tried to get better at paying attention, but had always found the world such a curiosity and herself consumed by wonder about a great many things.
One day, she had discovered what would have been a fatal trap for their party, had she been paying more attention to the noises the boys had been listening to. From then on, she had decided that there was merit in her weakness. Fighting in battles had always felt rather monotonous anyway and she had quickly found that sinking into her thoughts during skirmishes with foes enabled her to appear calm in the face of danger and focus on the really important parts- the bits that dragged her out of her curiosities.
The sound of Colette's delicate scream amongst the battle cries hadn't been enough to distract her as she thought about her confusing set of current memories, but the Sylvaranti Chosen's second yell that was superseded by one of anguish from the Tethe'allan Chosen definitely did. Despite the risks, she decided to look away and assess the issues her comrades seemed to be facing.
The first thing she saw was an arrow flying right at Sheelos' chest and knocking her back with enough force to make her faint and hit the ground with a sickening crunch. The second, and much more disturbing thing she saw was a familiar white garb and a head of long blond hair. She had to do a double take.
The founder of Cruxis stood behind them all, an indignant grin on his annoying 'adult' face and his arms crossed against his chest. Pronyma floated next to him, Colette trying to desperately wriggle out of her grasp. Unable to immediately summon words for her mouth to say and feeling mana build up in the air around her, Martuan had no choice but to waver her attention back to the Sylph trio. They seemed to be more interested in staring at their unexpected guests than ganging up on her though. Their mana burned furiously around them, but they did not release it.
Seeing a quiver from a recovering Sheelos out of the corner of her eye, she turned back to lock gazes with Mithos. A part of her cringed at seeing his expression- or lack thereof. She'd always hated his impression of what it was to be an adult. She was partly to blame for that, she supposed. Instead of embracing the idea of being his sister, as he'd so insisted, she had closed herself off to him from the moment his fervent enthusiasm to change the world into a better place had become an obsession that knew no limits.
And now here she was; her opposition to Mithos clear as he stood before her. To say that she was terrified was an understatement. Nevertheless, she had come too far- done too much- to let this be the end of her endeavour. The age of lifeless beings that Cruxis crystals could create was never going to become a reality for as long as she still breathed air. She let out a cry and charged at her old comrade.
"Huh?" Lloyd stopped in his tracks just as they were walking up to the counter at the convenience store with all their new supplies. His new pair of twin swords balanced precariously atop the pile.
Seeing the confusion in his friends eyes, Genis felt his stomach twist. All of a sudden he wasn't sure what he was about to do was the right thing. In need of a push to continue 'explaining' why he and Presea were leaving, he stole a glance in the Pinkette's direction. The moment their eyes locked and she nodded as if to say "we must do this", he felt a tiny bit better about the white lie he was about to tell. Last night had been a great opportunity for the two of them to communicate about the next series of events.
Convincing himself that it was only a temporary lie to protect him from harm, Genis garnered the strength to continue onward. "We would just be getting in the way if we come with you," he added to his previous explanation in order to soften the blow. It was harder than he'd thought it would be though. Memories of lying about being a full-blooded elf to people in Iselia sprung to mind. It wasn't as though they knew what a half-elf was, but he was willing to bet that it would not take long for people to fear them if they were able to connect general civilian half-elves with the likes of the Desians. In fact, he felt almost eerily positive that would happen. "A-and Presea is just an innocent bystander. I want to take her back to her home," he continued on.
He was prepared for the next question which he expected to come from Lloyd. Instead of asking it right away like he expected him to, the brunet shifted from left to right in thought for a few moments before coming out with "At least let us see you off to your home."
Us, meaning he and Yuan. Genis stuttered, still with his reservations on that matter. He knew Yuan would have his own piece to say about it, but could only really blindly hope that his priorities lay with Lloyd rather than with what he and Presea were about to do. It was a bit unnerving to his hopes to think that Yuan did so happen to be one of the only people who knew the truth about who they were. Getting away without the blue haired walking mystery that was Yuan noticing was going to be next to impossible, too. He was standing just outside the store, glancing in to check on them every so often but otherwise seeming pretty much the same way he had always been.
"There is no need for that," Presea interjected calmly into the conversation, in reply to Lloyd. "We do appreciate the concern, but you have more important things to worry about than the two of us."
"But.." Lloyd furrowed his brows. "I haven't had a chance to talk to either of you about what happened in Derris Kharlan yet. Like how you said you were..an angel of Cruxis." He'd lowered his voice on the last part so that the eavesdropping shop clerks couldn't hear.
Genis felt his ears heating up at the mention of that. All of a sudden he wished he could go back in time to visit his past self and tell him to stop being a drama queen.
"And that isn't all either." Lloyd's gaze shifted to Presea for a moment and then back to Genis. Genis found himself quivering in realisation of the questions about to come. He looked around the convenience store. It was pretty empty. There was no excuse he could use to make an early escape from the inevitable. "You two said it yourself," Lloyd continued. "You knew Annalicia. You said she was your sister, right?"
It seemed he'd been right to feel scared. Genis worriedly shared another glance with Presea. The jig seemed to be up. He hadn't expected Lloyd to figure it out. Lloyd was too dense for his own good sometimes. He wondered if he'd been underestimating his best friend's intuition the whole time he'd known him, even when he'd been Colloyd.
"I mean, the only way it makes sense is that either the two of you know Gesea and are related to my mother, Annalicia, or the two of you are Gesea," Lloyd pressed.
Genis felt like the room had become a pit of lava and like he, Lloyd and Presea were standing on a tiny platform in the middle, unable to go anywhere. His heart caught in his throat and he found himself unable to reply. Lloyd had been leaning in a bit as he said his piece, but then he slowly sunk back and watched them with eyes that changed slowly from serious to saddened. "It's true isn't it," he muttered. He looked away and clenched a fist at his side. "Damn it. If I wasn't such an idiot, I'd have figured it out earlier." He gave them one last glare from the side, closed his eyes and snarled. "That's enough. Get out of my sight, both of you. I don't want to hear any more."
"L-Lloyd!" Presea cried at his somewhat out of character reaction, stepping forward. "Please, hear us out."
Lloyd silently shook his head.
Presea tried to reach for him but he flinched out of reach. She faltered back and gazed downward at her feet to gather herself for a few seconds before taking a deep breath and looking him in the eye. "We kept it from you for a very good reason. We always intended on telling you.. but.."
Genis didn't really know how to pick up from her sentence either when she stuttered. Saying something like 'we were waiting for the right time' meant nothing to someone like Lloyd. There was also the fact that making excuses on why they hadn't told him would have also been defending Kraine's decision to keep his true identity hidden from him.
Lloyd acted as though he hadn't even heard Presea's words. Normally Genis would have gotten angry and probably stepped on his foot, but given the circumstances, he felt more helpless than anything. He was reduced to staring up at the swordsman in red, hoping that the terrible moment would pass and he would remember the good things. Lloyd would tell them it was okay and that he understood in the way that he had always typically done. It had been one of the reasons he had been drawn to him from the first time he'd come to Iselia. Lloyd had always seen past the face of the situation and been able to come at it from a different point of view.
Why was it so different now?
Lloyd remained stone-faced and cold. Genis slowly realised he was going to have to just do as they'd been instructed for now. Presea looked back at him when he grasped her shoulders gently and nudged her toward the door, her blue eyes sparkling with tears. She was trembling just the same as he was trying not to. He shook his head and she lowered hers in disappointment before bobbing it in silent agreement. They moved together for the door. Presea left first.
Genis took one last look at Lloyd. "This isn't like you Lloyd. Usually you'd at least listen, even if you already have your own opinion formed about it." He didn't wait for Lloyd to answer. Instead he spun around and left the shop, kind of past being upset and more furious at how suddenly childish his best friend had become.
Lloyd listened to the door jingle on Genis' exit and as he and Presea took turns in talking to Yuan about what their plans were. He sighed and looked down at his exsphere, crested with the rune crest that Yuan had very conveniently acquired. It wasn't that he wasn't grateful though. It'd already helped things move along immensely. He let out a deep breath. "Sorry Genis. You'll forgive me one day, won't you?"
The sensation that he was being stared up at by the souls that resided in the Angelus Project bothering him, he glanced away and proceeded to bring the gear that he needed to the counter, dumping the items Genis and Presea had hastily chosen when they hadn't had any intention of coming along to one side. Earning a roll of the eyes from the store clerk that wandered the store to ask customers if they 'needed anything', he chuckled under his breath to himself.
Telling Yuan hadn't been as bad as Genis had expected it to be. In fact, the other half-elf had cottoned on pretty quickly as to what their true motive had been. He hadn't said it in so many words, but the fact that he hadn't asked them any further questions had basically given him away. They didn't loiter for very long after their brief goodbyes. He didn't want to look a gift horse in the mouth and suspected Presea felt the same.
Heading toward where the rheairds were parked in silence with Presea at his side, her expression unreadable and like she was trying to be a blank slate, Genis started to feel bad for her. She had clearly wanted to stay close to Lloyd. When he had suggested that he was the one to have gotten them into this mess to begin with and that it really had nothing to do with her, she had flatly denied him.
"I may not have been quite myself," she had said to him last night. "But we were both Gesea. I will not allow you to do this alone."
He'd been worried about her conviction when push might have come to shove, but she had also quelled his fears as though she had known what he was thinking before he even spoke. "No more people should have to suffer like Marble and Annalicia. I may not be a half-elf any longer but I still feel as though I am one. That must mean that Mithos is correct in the idea that people would understand if they were able to turn out like us. If Mithos has what he wants, there is a chance the suffering will end."
She'd paused and clutched her hands to her chest in thought for a few seconds after that. Strangely, Genis had also had the same feeling that he knew what was on her mind. "Besides, Mithos will come for Lloyd again if we do not satisfy our end of the bargain." She'd gestured to her body as though to say 'we got our end of it, after all.'
There had been a bitterness to her voice that Genis hadn't wanted to address back then, and he still didn't now. It was plain to see though. Presea had never wanted him to make the agreement with Mithos in the first place. After their split, she hadn't trusted Mithos the same way he had felt compelled to. It was strange how they sometimes were like two parts of a whole, but other times they thought in such different ways. He contemplated it a little further.
He wondered whether Mithos would come after Lloyd again. If he had wanted the Angelus Project from him, shouldn't he have taken it from him right away?
He wondered why Mithos had wanted to test the limits of Lloyd's exsphere rather than take the thing that he'd sought for so long. Mithos had been presented with many other opportunities to take the gem and run, too. He'd travelled with them all for a time without any of them (with the exception of Yuan) knowing who he really was, after all.
No, he didn't seem to want to take Lloyd's exsphere. He did however still want theirs. Seeing Lloyd and Kraine in such trouble and feeling conflicted the entire time when he knew Presea was seething with anger inside the exsphere had been all that was needed to charge the Angelus Project and set the pinkette free of her prison. Mithos had tried to take the Angelus Project from him shortly after, but he hadn't wanted to complete their exchange while Lloyd was still in danger. That was when Yuan had graced them with his presence and he'd made his somewhat unsure escape to be able to help Lloyd and Kraine in the battle against the seraphinalia.
He knew Lloyd would never agree to what they were about to do though. Even he didn't quite understand why he was so willing to take a risk. It wasn't like him at all. Confiding in Presea about it, she'd been equally as dumbfounded. She had said one thing that had resonated with him though.
"You feel a connection to Mithos in the same way you.. we.. felt the connection with Kraine. We wanted to trust him despite how he had betrayed us."
"When we were one," she'd been quick to add.
With that in mind and Presea by his side, Genis felt a little less like a traitor. He just hoped that blind faith would work in their benefit for a change.
"Mithos!" Martuan exclaimed, taking a swipe at him. As expected, he saw through her easily and stood still, simply staring and waiting for her to stop. She very nearly didn't and would have guessed the child in a man's body would have been just as surprised as her.
"So this is what you have been doing while you were away from Derris Kharlan," Mithos stated, a smirk raising at the corners of his lips. He clearly thought he had figured her out. Martuan decided silence to be the best answer and that it was preferable for Mithos to assume what he wanted in this situation. Lying had never been a strength of hers, and she especially disliked lying to those she cared about. Her cunning relied on bending the truth to suit her rather than flat-out tall-tales. From Mithos' simple deduction, she was able to realise one thing though. Gabriel hadn't shared his 'suspicions' on her actions as the leader of the Renegades with his young ward.
Forming the Renegades hadn't been for selfish reasons. It had been to oppose Mithos in his goals to keep the world separated. Back then, she had thought she would be able to force his hand when the Chosen was found to rarely succeed in the journey to become the vessel. By his plan not working, she had been sure that he would join the worlds once again. It hadn't happened of course. Ironically, in order to save the worlds, she had also stained her hands with the blood of innocents. Colette had almost been another one of them. She looked at the Chosen again, to see that she'd stopped resisting against Pronyma and instead decided to watch the conversation from her clutches.
"H-how did you even know where we were?" Sheelos asked. Martuan observed Mithos carefully and waited for an answer to the very good question. The Tethe'allan Chosen pivoted her head back to look at the summon spirits flapping behind them, and then back to Mithos. "What do you want with Colette?" She cringed a bit and put a hand to her chest where she had been hit by the wind arrow sent forth by Yutis. "What use to you now is she? Didn't you want the Angelus Project instead?"
Things suddenly felt right once more. If she hadn't been putting on a facade for her dance with 'Yggdrasil', Martuan might have sighed with relief. She was certain something had happened at the Tower of Salvation that had changed everything, but things had somehow seemed.. off.. since Iselia. She'd begun doubting so many things about her own motives that it would have given her insomnia if she'd been able to sleep in the first place.
"Think of Colette as insurance," Pronyma stated. "I promise on my reputation as a Grand Cardinal and on the Age of Half-Elves that she will not be harmed if you comply with our wishes."
"A bargaining chip?" Sheelos spat. "You've got to be kidding me! There's no way that's gonna fly." She readied herself for battle and looked in Martuan's direction. She nodded back to say that she agreed with the notion, even though a small part of her did want to know what Mithos might have wanted. There was a small problem with starting a battle with Pronyma and knowing that they didn't stand a chance against Mithos alone. Colette still stayed neatly tucked in her arms. Sheelos saw it too and hesitated.
"I'm o-kay," Colette said in reassuring syllables, looking at Sheelos. "I think maybe we should at least hear what Mithos has to say about everything."
"No Colette," Sheelos said as she half gaped, her eyes wide in bewilderment. "You can't be serious."
Colette was deadly serious. Martuan could tell. Sheelos faltered back, seeing it as well.
Mithos chuckled and a devious smile cracked on his lips. "That's the trouble with humans. You're all so quick to judge us. I only came to take what is rightfully mine back." He looked at Martuan. "Annulst your pact with Origin, Martuan. I will not ask twice." He looked at Pronyma. "You have permission to remove Colette's crest in ten seconds if m-my sister does not comply."
"As you wish, Lord Yggdrasil," Pronyma responded in her usual irritating motherly way. One of the tendrils in Pronyma's body suit opened. A metal arm extended from it and to the Cruxis crystal that sat at Colette's chest. That was a new trick. Martuan figured Mithos must have made changes to it at some point. He'd always been into tinkering with things.
Mithos started counting down, but still Martuan found herself kind of speechless. He reached four and a bit before she realised she couldn't take a risk and bet he was bluffing. "Hold on!" she exclaimed to try and stop the clock. "You mean you lost Origin?"
Before Mithos could respond, he was interrupted by Colette as she stared him down with curious eyes. It was a little scary how little she seemed to be worried while being captured. Anyone might have thought she was used to it. The thought made her grimace.
"What?" Mithos snapped at Colette.
"So does that mean.." Colette started, "that you really are Mithos the Hero?"
Mithos summoned his large wings, the way he always did when he wanted to make a point. "I suppose there is no use in hiding it any longer."
"Wow," Colette mouthed. "So you used to have Origins power, and now you don't?" She frowned hard and bit her lip. She sighed a bit and hummed, then sighed again.
Martuan tilted her head at the same time as Mithos. Colette was very clearly not saying something. "What is it Colette?" she jumped in before Mithos could. "Do you know something about this." She glanced at Mithos. "I do not have Origin's power. Do you honestly think I'd be wasting my time running around with this bunch if I did?"
"No offence," she added quietly after, feeling a little guilty.
"I.. I don't know," Colette replied, her voice quivering as though she had only just figured out the serious peril she was in. "My memory has been so hazy since Iselia." She looked at Mithos. "I'm sorry. It's like I feel like I knew you were Mithos the Hero, but then I couldn't have. I don't want to cause trouble by saying the wrong thing."
Mithos groaned in frustration and before Martuan could even think to move to stop him, he'd advanced on Colette and cast the familiar magic of time. She watched as everything went black and white around her and as Mithos reached a hand around Colette's throat. "Stop being so vague… and nice!"
Colette gripped her hands around Mithos' in attempt to pull herself away. She was no match for the strength of an angered child in an adults body however. Despite her surprise, Martuan stood perfectly still so as to not alert Mithos of the situation while she calculated her next move carefully. Time had not stopped for Colette because Mithos was touching her, but somehow she also found herself unaffected. What had changed? She looked down at the exsphere on her hand and gaped for a moment as realisation struck.
Yuan. That was why.
She currently had his Cruxis crystal equipped, after all.