The end of the beginning
The end of the beginning
The way those that were different were treated across history had always been deplorable. Elves didn't want to take responsibility for the problems they had caused by 'seducing' humans, and humans who learned of their existence feared them. Four thousand years ago, there had been many more of those types of beings, so the fruit of said humans and elves, the half-elves, had quickly learned their place in society and kept to the shadows out of fear of slavery, prosecution or experimentation. Sadly sometimes all three happened to those that were discovered, as Martuan had learned the hard way.
She'd ended up in the test facility after digging a little too deep into Tethe'allan territory and found herself at the mercy of routine blood tests at Castle Tethe'alla. Never had she been apprehended so fast. Within seconds of hearing a beeping noise coming from the machine the guards used, she'd found herself blindfolded, gagged and with her ears plugged so that all she could hear was the faint muffle of voices while being dragged to heavens-knew-where.
The first time she'd seen Mithos had been upon being shoved into the same cell as him, two measly sandwiches thrown at her back before her captors locked the room behind them and left. Considering that he had been all alone in the cell, he hadn't seemed timid at all when he'd seen her. They'd sensed each other right away and identified that they were both half-elves, but something else had awoken in her at the sight of him and especially after hearing about his sheltered life.
When he had told her that he had lived in the facility for as long as he could remember, she'd felt pity for him, for sure. More than that though, she'd felt the previously inconceivable urge to nurture the young boy and protect him from harm. Seeing the war raging around her constantly had hardened her soul, but Mithos had gradually moulded her back into her softer self by showing her that life was precious and worth caring about. He'd laughed at her terrible puns, listened to her tall-tales to pass time while they waited for the next bout of tests to begin on them, and encouraged her into thinking that things could always be worse. She'd secretly counted her fate as a blessing, even when she had initially complained (quite vocally for that matter) whenever he clung to her too closely.
Upon their eventual escape from the facility with Kraine and after meeting Gabriel and Noishe, Mithos had been free to see the world for what it was.. and had been very disappointed. Unable to understand the politics of the world that she, Kratos and Gabriel had grown accustomed to over the course of their lives, he had tasked himself with the responsibility of trying to change it for the better. It did no good to tell him that things were just the way they were and that they needed to accept it and live life as best they could. The one time she had tried, he had come back at her with his big blue questioning eyes and asked her why she thought it was right to not change things that could (apparently very clearly) be changed.
"Nothing bad can come from trying to fix things that are already broken," had been his motto from the very first time he'd discovered what the world was really like.
That point of view, along with his adamant mindset that if their group consisting of two humans and two half-elves could be friends, then the rest of the world could follow, had led Mithos to eventually believe that stopping the war would be the start of an even greater change for half-elves. More than that, he'd believed they could do it and in turn be hailed as heroes of equal value to society. That was where his obsession with an age of half-elves being accepted into everyday life had begun.
Mithos' first endeavour had been to try and figure out why half-elves were shunned. She'd been able to tell him about that a little, from her own experiences. She'd explained how most humans did not understand why half-elves and elves could feel different emotions to them. The only difference between half-elves being treated as outcasts and elves being accepted was the fact that elves were not human. Half-elves however were, of course, partly human. It was roughly the equivalent to how purely bred dogs and mutts were compared to one another. Just as a family of nobility would not be caught dead with a mutt, neither humans nor elves wanted to be associated with the mutts that resulted of their own follies.
Martuan had long ago accepted that nothing could be done short of waging yet another war, but had not been willing to discourage Mithos' aspirations, especially after the guardians of the world, the summon spirits, had chosen him as the summoner that would lead them to a new age of peace and prosperity. Hers, Kratos' and Gabriel's reluctance to give a boy in his early teens a reality check had only been the start of their collective errors as his trusted companions.
Mithos' resolve to change the very foundations of the world had only strengthened after gaining Origins power and seeing his initial goals (and himself almost, along with her and Kratos) go figuratively and literally up in smoke. The three of them had been captured by humans of the Church of Salvation, the ones who had been responsible for spawning the Worldwide Survival Project, and had their deeds turned on them. Needless to say, they had escaped with their lives and only the clothes on their backs thanks to an almost too well-timed distraction from Gabriel.
While Mithos had been deeply wounded by seeing how truly barbaric humans could be and how elves maintained an 'ignorance is bliss' perspective to everything involving half-elves, Origin's power had given him the apparent ability to see things the eye was not meant to see. His perception of the world changed and he eventually made the connection between the 'dual souls' he could see within people and the way half-elves were treated. Martuan had tried to reason with him that even if people had dual souls, so did half-elves. He'd said he'd seen that she also had two souls within her body (but for some reason could only fully identify one) and used it as an example, even though she hadn't really been sure she believed him at first.
His reply had been a simple one, and nothing had been able to change his mind to think otherwise. "Elves did not originate from this planet. They came from Derris Kharlan. We must get our ability to see the truth from our elven side, not the human side."
He'd surprised her countless times with the amount of knowledge he had acquired even after only a short time out of the testing facility, but still the most memorable time had been when he had run to her, arms wide in longing to receive a hug from her, not as his comrade but as his sister.
Had his plans not affected anyone else but her in his quest to fix what was wrong with the world, she might have been happy to go along with it. She'd known it would never be so simple though, right from the moment Gabriel had suggested (or rather, put into Mithos' very impressionable head) that they could use the Angelus Project research as a means to their goal. Mithos had naturally loved the idea of using the very thing that had been forced on them for good and accepted the idea with little resistance.
Gabriel had always rubbed her up the wrong way, but after he had miraculously avoided capture when three others far stronger than himself had been unable to and then proposed that he attempt to infiltrate the church for the sake of their goal to continue the Angelus Project research, she had become even more wary of his motives.
Upon his successful infiltration into the Church, Gabriel had presented Mithos with further research notes that detailed the goals of the Angelus Project. The researchers had been tasked with creating stronger exspheres in order to discern ranks for higher level officials during the war, as well as to protect people in positions of power; not that it had been done soon enough to protect the Tethe'allan king. The research papers had also revealed the true nature behind exspheres and how they got their power to enhance a user in battle.
Mithos hadn't been the one to start the barbaric tradition of human experimentation, but he certainly had done nothing to stop its advance. His hatred for humans grew every day he learned more about the world around him. The only exceptions were Gabriel, whom he trusted almost unconditionally even though as far as she was concerned, he had done nothing to warrant such trust aside from feed him ideas on how to change things, and Kratos, his teacher in all things related to the sword.
In a way, she suspected that she and Kratos had initially bonded over their mutual general dislike of the human, as well as their protectiveness over Mithos. Kratos had taken a much different approach to her though; one which she had playfully berated him about and called him out as being lazy. He'd taught Mithos to defend himself so that he didn't have to do it for him, after all.
Gradually growing even more arrogant and absorbed by the results the research notes Gabriel had acquired promised, Mithos had formed a plan to use the Worldwide Survival Project, the system designed to basically teach people that half-elves were unnatural creatures, against its creators. He hadn't been willing to listen to her reasoning that playing with with the laws of nature would upset the summon spirits and was just generally a bad idea when she discovered that he, along with Gabriel again, had planned a way to control the mana signatures of people to breed someone who would be capable of working as a vessel for her other half.
He had also discovered that making Cruxis crystals was a long, difficult process which required many human sacrifices over time. Their own exspheres had been the result of many test subjects before them losing their lives to the process. They weren't the 'Chosen ones'; far from it actually. With Mithos' vision of right and wrong skewed, and her finding herself unable to stop him with words, she had turned to creating the Renegades to take a back approach.
All those things had led her to be in this very moment, as she looked at Mithos Yggdrasil holding up the vessel he had needed until only recently. Those things and Yuan. She didn't have time to ponder the suddenly much more interesting motives he might have had upon making the deal he'd made with her. He had revealed one important thing to her though- that he'd needed her Cruxis crystal in order to get into Welgaia because his 'didn't work'. It was as though he had thought it should have in the first place, for one.
The other thing was that he had seemed certain that no ill effects would come to either of them by swapping the Cruxis crystals that had been attached to them for forty centuries, so much so that she hadn't been able to resist taking a risk. Putting it on had proven to her once and for all that their mana signatures were incredibly compatible and that she had been right all along. He hadn't elaborated the first time she had guessed his true nature, but wearing his exsphere and still being able to use its abilities so comfortably that it felt as though it was her own had given her all the proof she'd needed. All she lacked was the proof on how it was possible for him to be a part of her when she was still herself; not to mention why exactly Yuan's exsphere was enabling her to ignore Mithos' ability to stop time.
While in thought, she moved into position with her staff. Then, she tried not to think. This needed to be done. She closed her eyes and gripped her staff with both hands before taking a swing at her four thousand year old friend and family. She poked one eye open in the midst of the swing and corrected her target, seeing that even with her eyes closed she would have been far too accurate and have delivered a fatal blow to his cranium. Mithos let out a yelp of surprise when it connected with enough force to leave a bruise but no permanent damage, dropping Colette instantly as he fell to the ground. The moment she was released from his grip, the Chosen turned colourless and hovered in mid-air, joining Sheelos and Pronyma in the time freeze.
It didn't take him very long to recover from the blow and look up at her in confusion. For a moment as he locked gazes with her, all she saw was his child-self, innocent and just wanting to make things work for the sake of a better world. So many things had happened that she could never forgive him, or herself for, but she still felt like the blow hurt her just as much as it had hurt him physically. She dropped her weapon accidentally in the moment of stunned silence between them before an apology slipped from her mouth.
"Sister," Mithos addressed, looking down from her and at the decorated floor at his feet. "Why do you insist on betraying all we have worked toward?"
"We is a little strong of a word," she replied bitterly as she gave a quick cursory scan of his condition. Something had seemed off right from the moment he had appeared. She hadn't sensed him right away either. His mana signature was weaker. It appeared that he really had lost Origins power. "Nevertheless, you are not only to blame for things having gotten out of hand. Please Mithos," she made sure to use her pleading voice as she continued, "stop this fruitless crusade and join our cause to join the worlds once more."
Mithos surprisingly didn't shut her down instantaneously this time. He actually seemed to be thinking about all she had said. "I can't stop," he said finally. "If I stop after all this time, all the sacrifices we made would have been for nought. Wouldn't that be worse?"
He had a point, but she wasn't about to admit it. She needed to stay strong and firm on this if she was even going to have a hope of breaking through. Things were different this time. She didn't feel like she was talking to a brick wall for a change. Reminding herself to keep on guard in case this was all some kind of ploy, she pressed on. "Still even with the use of the Angelus Project, how can you hope to convert the entire worlds population?"
"That is where you come in, actually," he replied. "You and your Renegades."
His words and the accusing eyes he turned on her as he said that last word took her breath away and made her immediately stand on the defensive. Mithos rose to his feet and glared at her for a few seconds before a conniving smile replaced it. "What, didn't think I knew?"
"B-but.. how could you have?" The words tumbled from her mouth accidentally, but she didn't regret them. Mithos was a genius, and insulting that would have met her with a far worse fate, she was sure.
"How else?" Mithos raised an eyebrow. "Our spy told us all we needed to know, albeit unwillingly." He tilted his head toward the frozen Sheelos, her mouth wide and her hand clenched in mid-movement around one of her seals.
"Then why didn't you stop me?" she yelled, unsure how to take everything she was suddenly learning. She tried to think of a time when Mithos had appeared to know the truth, but she was drawing a complete blank. Instead she found herself in a semi state of panic at what Mithos might have already done with such knowledge.
"Because.." Mithos' hardened expression softened. "All we need now is the mana cannon and the Angelus Project and we can use it to purify everybody at once." He crookedly smiled in a new crazy way that gave her the creeps, only made worse when his eyes widened in glee as he took hold of her wrists. "The Great Seed will germinate with the properties the Angelus Project has. Don't you see? We were always meant to work together in the end!"
Martuan wasn't sure what to feel as she looked into his excited eyes. She'd always planned to revive the Great Seed using the rebuilt mana cannon, the summon spirits and the Angelus Project as power, but she had never once come to the conclusion that reviving the Great Tree Yggdrasil would also do the very thing Mithos wanted to do. It all seemed far too convenient.
The sudden urge to pin the blame on Gabriel bubbled to the surface, but she managed to quell it for the time being. If she could get Mithos to be on her side, it might just be worth taking the risk in going along with the strange idea. "So you are suggesting that the enhanced mana the Great Seed will have will be enough to super charge everyone's mana and split their souls without them needing an exsphere?" The idea just oozed fantasy to her.
"Not quite," Mithos replied. She prepared for him to put his finger on what was bothering her. "They will need to be equipped with exspheres still." He stumbled on his words when he probably noticed her disappointed expression. "B-but that is what we can use our ranches for. A couple of them have been destroyed but there are still a couple in action too."
"And your quest for The Age of Lifeless Beings, then?"
Mithos tilted his head in question. "The age of what?"
Genis had discovered Presea was amazing and smart during the short time he had come to know her. She was a lady of few words, but with those she did say, she tended to like giving the truth in how she saw it. Kind of like Lloyd, but far less likely to wing it and see how something decided to pan out. Occasionally he'd notice how she would smile softly before she spoke, almost like she was appreciating just being able to say what was on her mind. In a way, he understood how she felt; they had been Gesea for as long as he'd known, after all. But on the other hand..
He observed his pink haired friend from behind as they headed in the direction of the Tower of Salvation and wondered why it seemed that she felt more badly about some events of the past than he did. She'd proven that they hadn't been affected the same way by Kraine, for one. He couldn't stomach the thought of trying to ask her though and instead guiltily found himself mulling it over in his head again and again.
The Tower of Salvation loomed closer and closer. The easiest way to get there had been to head to the south-west corner of Flanoir and go in a straight line, according to the map of Tethe'alla that he'd squirrelled away in his pants pocket some time ago. The rheaird had made it a very easy flight. Even just looking at the tower made Genis feel a little uncomfortable. The question on whether they would even be able to get up to Welgaia nagged in the back of his mind the closer they drew, and didn't stop even as they began their ascent from the foot of the clear sky-blue steps, toward its hungry mouth.
He closed his eyes and let out a deep breath when they reached the inside and faced the twin swords that stood in the center of the bottom floor as well as the stairs that led to the top level and teleporter. "Mithos made me a member of Cruxis," he reminded himself. "There's no way he'd make a stupid mistake like not configuring the system to let us in." He was suddenly scared that maybe only he would be allowed into Welgaia. All he could do was hope for the best.
"Lloyd would have liked to have given pulling them out a try," Presea said, snapping him from his worried thoughts as he absently observed the swords in the floor while they climbed the staircase. She pointed to the red and blue swords. He bobbed his head in agreement, imagining him pulling them out accidentally like the unlikely heroes in Sylvaranti fairytales. Lloyd had been far too distracted by figuring out (somehow) that Kraine was his father, and his condition thanks to his exsphere to even take notice of them the first time they had been in this room though.
Presea had temporarily distracted him for long enough that they had both stepped onto the teleportation pad and reappeared on the road to Welgaia, only to face about thirty or fourty winged Angels. His previous worries dissolved, Genis found himself instantly with more. There weren't as many seraphinalia as they had fought against with Lloyd and Kraine, but the small crowd that faced them was by no means a force to be taken lightly.
His hands shaking, he quickly took out his weapon and saw Presea do the same out of the corner of his eye. The seraphinalia didn't move however, aside from beating their wings in semi-unison. They appeared to be waiting on orders from someone. All they did was stare at them and block the path. Just when Genis was about to suggest to Presea that they turn back and try to get them to follow them into a more even battleground, he watched as the seraphinalia split into two sides down the middle of their crowd and as a man he vaguely recognised thanks to his very recognisable gleaming white Pope's outfit stepped up to the front. This time, he had a pair or large gold and silver wings, similar only to the size of the ones on Mithos himself, protruding from his back.
"You've come," the Pope said. "I was beginning to doubt your loyalty."
Genis stood strong and tried to think positive thoughts. "You're Gabriel right?" He tried his best to smile. "I didn't realise you were the Pope. No wonder Mithos didn't want me to meet you right away."
Gabriel looked indifferent, despite his best efforts to be polite. "You've come to give the Angelus Project to Mithos, correct?"
Genis stole another glance at Presea, to which she nodded. He took a breath and looked at Gabriel again. "That's right. We're heading to Welgaia right now. We want to join the cause and create an age where everyone can live together peacefully."
"Is that right?" Gabriel's mouth twitched into a half smile. "Very well. I will take the exsphere and deliver it to Mithos." He left the seraphinalia in his wake and approached, his steps echoing in the silence amongst the beating of wings. Genis tried not to stare.
Just as Gabriel was close enough to reach out to them, Presea moved in front and glared at him. "No. We will not give it to you."
Gabriel whistled and crossed his arms while he looked down at her. "And why not?"
"Because we can't trust you," Presea replied simply. She turned her head slightly to look back at Genis. "He had a part in what happened to Annalicia after all. Why should we trust him?"
Genis' first reaction was to say that Mithos trusted him, so they should as well. His second reaction, as he watched the slightly ticked off expression on Gabriel's face transform into a scary one of rage, was to agree with Presea's instincts. She'd trusted him on his instincts with Mithos after all.
"We want to see Mithos," he said firmly to Gabriel.
At first, Gabriel didn't react. He then let out a small sigh and slumped his shoulders before reaching into his long coat. "I was hoping it wouldn't have to get messy." He turned his back to them for a second and bowed his head at the seraphinalia. The moment they raised their weapons in response, Genis realised he was right in trusting Presea.
Presea swung her weapon at Gabriel's unguarded back, but he jumped just slightly forward toward the seraphinalia in order to dodge. "Whoah!" he yelped in mock surprise. "Watch it. You'll hurt someone with that thing if you're not careful, little lady."
Genis cast a fireball at one of the seraphinalia that approached from his side and sent it hurtling back into the line of others that were behind. The line was quickly replaced by the next lot though. It was just like he expected. They needed to make some distance for him to be able to get any kind of upperhand.
"Genis," Presea called, suddenly grabbing hold of his hand. "You can't cast without enough distance and I can't take them all on by myself. Our only choice is to run."
"Yeah," he replied quietly, finding himself pulled out of the way from a spear jab from behind. The teleporter didn't seem to be an option any more. Luck was going to have to be on their side, if only he could get his legs to run fast enough. He only had enough time to cast a flurry of icicles out from all directions to their foes before they were off and running. Gabriel seemed to have vanished from the battlefield.
Just as he thought they were on the home stretch, the last human seraph of Cruxis appeared once more. Presea barely had time to yell and get her weapon ready before he hit her in the back of the neck with his fist. When she went down and let go of his hand, Genis saw that it hadn't been a straight knock out at all. A needle with the remains of a blue liquid inside a phial connected to it stuck out of her neck. She quivered for a couple of seconds before going completely limp.
Genis felt woozy immediately after the sensation of a pin prick on the side of his neck. His heart palpitating so loudly that he could hear it in his ears, he managed to get one final glimpse of Gabriel before everything went too cloudy and dark to see. The man had lifted his Angelus Project hand to study it, then slowly lowered his other hand to pull the exsphere from it. The satisfied smirk he'd had on his face at first quickly turned into surprise, followed by one of anger as he gritted his teeth. He snarled something as he glared at him, but he couldn't hear him. The world of questions and terror ebbed away and gave into blackness.