Chapter 6: There and Back again
The sun had just started to peek over the horizon, a new day was dawning.
Shulk, in all his worry, was one of the first ones to wake on this particular day. The Homs had long thought he'd put Zanza behind him, that he could finally relax without the threat of Telethia or Mechon looming over him.
And now, another world was faced with the former of those two problems.
It seemed to have become a sort of tradition, but whenever a problem arose, someone found themselves looking out over the ocean, and now it was Shulk's turn.
Well, not his turn alone.
The moment the blonde Homs arrived on the beach, he noticed Alvis and Louise, staring at the rising sun, and couldn't help but over hear their conversation.
"This will be a hard battle, Louise." Alvis spoke. "Are you sure you and the others would not rather stay here, where it is safe?"
"Alvis..." Louise tried to keep a lid on her temper. Key word being 'tried', as she punched the silver haired Homs on the arm. "Even if the odds are stacked against us, I WILL NOT back down just because some blonde idiot with a God complex is threatening everyone."
Alvis gave a slight shrug. "Well, you can't blame me for worrying. After all, Zanza is more along the lines of 'blonde idiot whom is actually a God'."
"Yet you acknowledge him as an idiot?"
"Well, to be fair," Shulk decided to chime in, surprising the two. "Zanza was trying to destroy all life, so that he'd be the true God of everything. So even I'd agree that he's missing a few screws."
Alvis gave off a slight chuckle. "So, you're also having rough thoughts?"
"When you've lived most of your life with such a person inside your head, you can't help but get worried when they return after they died."
Louise seemed more than a little confused by the choice of words. "'Inside your head'? Do I want to know what that means?"
Shulk laughed lightly. "It's just as confusing as I'm making it out to be."
Louise pouted, but then a thought popped into her head. "Say, if you two can see the future, then can't you check to see if we win? And if we don't where we can make corrections?"
"That would be a good idea," the blonde responded. "However..."
"There is something blocking us." Alvis finished. "It's somewhat ironic, really, since when Zanza was defeated, I was the one blocking him."
"Blocking?" Louise questioned.
"It's like he says." Shulk decided to explain. "It's almost as if the Ether flow is getting cut off."
Louise was about to question it, yet felt she it was going to be way too much effort to just understand it all.
The rest of the party had awoken not long after the three, and were now gathered just outside the colony.
"So, we are agreed on the plan?" Alvis spoke first, holding the Halkeginian Monado in his hand. "Shulk, Melia, Riki and Sharla will stay behind in order to collect the Havres, while the rest of us will make our trip back to make sure everything's still standing."
"Havres?" Louise directed her question primarily to Melia.
"They were intended to be anti-Mechon weapons, though now that they're not a problem, we salvaged what we could in case they were needed." the High Entia told her.
"Considering we're dealing with a continental sized... humanoid... thing." Sharla struggled with the terminology to describe the Bionis. "We're going to be needing as much fire power as we can get."
"Well, with that out of our way," Alvis held the Monado high, the blade hummed to life, and the way to the Sentient Genesis was opened. "We shall see you three in due course."
The moment the party arrived in Halkeginia, the first thing that assaulted their senses was the smell of burning.
Secondly, despite the fact that it was clearly day, there was a very clear, looming darkness.
"Tell me, Louise." Alvis began. "Are eclipses common on your world? Or should we worry about this being something else?"
"I think I see what the problem is." Reyn said before Louise could answer, pointing at what was blocking out the sun. Indeed, in the way, was...
"The Bionis." Dunban stated plainly. "How did we not notice that sooner?"
Alvis couldn't help but agree with the Homs. After all, it was a continental sized giant. 'And my first thought was an eclipse? I must be off my game.' he thought slightly bitterly as he looked over the rest of the party.
As expected, the people native to Halkeginia were down right terrified at the sight of the Bionis, and the Homs looked scared, but at the same time, slightly irritated for the same reasons as himself.
The rustling in the bushes drew their attention, and just as they had full view of the source, several spider like creatures sprung forth.
"Aura Antols!" Dunban shouted. "Scatter!"
And so, the party was split into four separate groups, going separate ways as the Antols scuttled after them.
Dunban and Tabitha were the first to halt in their tracks, having realised that the Antols had cut them off.
"Well, this is a fine predicament." the Homs commented as he drew his katana.
One of the creatures leapt at the duo, only to be skewered by an icicle. "Strange creatures." Tabitha quietly said. "Dangerous."
Two more Antols lunged, only to be met with the edge of Dunban's blade. "Yeah, and unfortunately, they're not the worst the Bionis has to offer."
As more Aura Antols were slain, twice as many seemed to take their place, putting a strain the stamina of both Homs and Halkeginian.
And within just a few short moments, Dunban noticed a particular opening in the Antols' formation. "Our time is now!" he shouted, as his blade was covered in a pinkish aura.
It took Tabitha a few seconds to realise just what Dunban had planned, the clincher being that all the monsters around them had now turned their sights to him. With a wave of her staff, Tabitha let out a howling blizzard, drastically slowing down the Antols.
The Homs smirked, as the grip on his sword tightened. "Born in a world of strife!" one swing, and several Antols fell. "Against the odds!" a second slice, and twice as many were slain. "We choose to fight!" a two hit combo, and only a small handful remained. "Blossom Dance!" with a leap and a twirl, the last of the Antols fell to his blade.
The two shared a look of approval, a nod, and began running to find the rest of the party.
Antol upon Antol pounced at the trio of Reyn, Montmorency and Siesta, and each one bounced off the shield mode of Reyn's weapon.
"We can't hold this spot forever," the water mage shouted, blasting a few foes away. "We need to regroup!"
"Yeah, easier said than done!" Reyn responded, slicing through a pair of Antols, though no matter how many fell, twice as many sprouted. The attacks continued for quite a while, and the Homs was starting to grow increasingly tired, guarding the two females from the Antols.
The trio were hard pressed for some form of breathing space, a luxury that an ambushing enemy did not wish to give them. One Antol latched onto the Homs' Gunlance, and was only removed when a torrent of water struck it.
Things were not looking good for this team of soldier, mage and maid. "Shulk, you'd better hurry up."
Guiche and Fiora were having... somewhat more luck in comparison to Reyn's group, though only in the sense that they lacked a non-combatant. Of course, the 'somewhat' in the equation came in the form of the two, plus the three bronze golems Guiche had summoned, being completely surrounded by the Antol horde.
Guiche was, quite frankly, quivering in his boots. "S...So," he began with a stutter, "any idea about how we'll get out of this?"
A smirk found its way onto the Homs' face, and Guiche heard what could only be described as metal turning from her body.
Following the original defeat of Zanza, Fiora went into a sort of stasis, during which her Homs body was restored, but it was not a 100% restoration, as she managed to retain many of her abilities as a Face unit.
Not that she was complaining.
"Shifting into second gear!" a feeling of her joints loosening overcame her, and she darted at the Antols. Before any of them could react, her knives made their way from one to the other.
Guiche was quite mesmerised by the sight, akin to watching waves hit rocks, and dragging them back out to sea. Many Antols still remained, but the ones in the immediate area were downed fifteen seconds after Second Gear was enabled.
"Well," she stated, twirling her knives, "shall we move on?"
This day was not turning out as Alvis had anticipated, and for someone who could see the future, that was a statement to be worried by.
The Antols did not pose much of a threat to him, or to Louise or Kirche, his current party, but their numbers had him concerned.
There was also the looming threat of the Bionis. They were only gone for a day, so why was it upright now, all of a sudden? Well, there was no telling just how long the Bionis was dormant in these lands, so he may have just arrived at the end of that stasis.
Another Antol exploded before him, and the next question came to mind: If there were this many Antols roaming around, what else is in these lands, attacking its people?
Alvis was, generally, an apathetic guy, and it would take someone like Shulk to really get his attention on something as fleeting as a mortal, but this entire situation had him concerned.
Perhaps his time with Kallian had made him soft.
With claymore and Monado in hand, he cleaved the life from each Antol that charged. With fire and explosives dancing around him, he felt safe.
"Just how many of these things are there?" Kirche called out, frying another Antol. "They just keep coming."
"Antols generally travel in large hordes, and this just happens to be on the bigger end of that spectrum." Alvis responded.
From the brush, Dunban and Tabitha emerged, tearing through the foes with ease. Following them shortly was the trio of Reyn, Montmorency and Siesta, being chased by a large number of Antols, and shortly thereafter, Fiora and Guiche.
"Looks like the gang's all here." Dunban commented rather casually.
Alvis went to respond, but in that split second, his eyes flashed blue. "Duck!" he shouted, and everyone was smart enough to follow through with the order.
The moment following, two large, silver machines shot forward, blowing the Antols away. The machines landed, and from them, the remaining four members of their party were spotted on them.
Balancing Riki on his head, Shulk gave them a thumbs up. "Looks like we're just in time, huh?"
The signal was returned by Alvis.
The Havres were quite the peculiar machination, as far as the Halkeginians knew of them. They were not as big as the airships that they were use to, but just one alone could fit all fourteen of them with plenty of leg room, the only reason they had two was because there was strength in numbers.
There was also the fact that they did not run on Wind Stones, the power source that the airships used, and instead used this Ether stuff. Louise was starting to wonder if there was anything Ether couldn't do.
Alvis was looking over a map of Halkeginia, pondering their next move. He made note of how similar the land looked to Europe from the original world. He turned his head to the port side, and noticed the series of airships travelling from a tower of smoke. 'The creatures of the Bionis must have ravaged that town.' he concluded, as he traced his finger from their point on the map, to the town, and then in the direction the ships were travelling, concluding that they were moving towards the land labelled Albion.
He could see Albion from here, and it was in the sky.
The AI had seen many things in his time, but a floating island was just plain weird. But then again, there was Prison Island.
"Alvis," Melia called from the helm, "where are we heading to?"
The AI rubbed his chin, before reaching an answer. "We'll make to rendezvous with those ships a ways off," he pointed in their direction, "from there, we'll assess the damage the Bionis has caused, and most likely make for the battle with Zanza."
"Nice and simple plan," Reyn commented, "I like it."
"Of course you would, Reyn." Sharla commented, punching the Homs on the shoulder.
Everyone could share in a bit of laughter from that simple situation, and honestly, in this dire situation, why wouldn't you try to find some sort of joy?
"Well, we'd best grab onto something," Alvis spoke, grabbing the nearest handrail, "and make as much wind as we can."
Yet before they could get under way, torrential winds stuck the Havres, knocking all off balance. Attempting to regain balance, Alvis' conciousness slipped into the future for a few seconds. "Above us!" he shouted, eyes connecting with large beast that descended to the level of the Havres.
The Homs was honestly expecting a Telethia, and to be frank, he may have preferred one. The creature before them had the body of a red lion, the face of a man, teeth of a shark, tail of a scorpion, and the wings of a bat. Alvis was thankful that his wide database allowed him to identify the creature as a Manticore instantly, but even someone as powerful as he and Shulk's group would be against the wall in this situation.
What added to the fear was the fact that it was someone's mount, and the one riding it was glaring at them with such ferocity, everyone was wondering which was scarier.
"So, Louise Françoise, you disappear for three weeks, while the world is going to hell, and this is what you have to offer for it?" the woman spoke, looking like a much older Louise. A much older, far angrier Louise.
Louise visibly shrunk, and the pressure this woman was excreting made even Dunban break into sweat. "Mo... mother," Louise stammered out, trying to find a way to portray just what she had been doing.
"Save it, child," Karin Desiree shot a glare, winds wrapping around her wand-sword. "Tristain law is blunt on the subject of deserters..."
Half way through her speech, Shulk foresaw the fight to come.
Although, calling it a fight was putting it kindly.
"The sentence is death." Karin finished, thrusting her sword forward, and a spear of twisted wind shot out.
Art: Heavy Wind.
Target: Both Havres.
Result: Death to all.
The moment the vision ended, Shulk drew the Monado from his back, a green symbol appearing in the circle of its hilt.
"The sentence is death." Karin finished, thrusting her sword.
"No escape..." Shulk dashed forward, blade drawn back, and shouted, "Monado Purge!"
The blade was swung, and a wave of green energy shot towards Karin, meeting the wind spear head on.
The Heavy Wind spell dissipated as the vision shattered.
The Manticore dodged as the wave of Ether continued as if the spear had never been there. "Listen, miss," Shulk called as he landed, "Louise didn't run away, she and Alvis came to us for help, because we've faced this problem before! We're on the same side!"
"He's right, lady Karin!" Guiche followed up, "These people are familiar with... whatever that thing is!"
"Preposterous," she shot back, glare shifting between the two blondes, "what could a bunch of children, commoners, no less, be able to do against such forces?"
Alvis took a few steps forward. "Will you really not listen to reason, Karin?"
"There is no reason in what you say," she spat, "only naïve foolishness."
"Why can it never be easy?" Melia commented, pressing a series of buttons on the console before her. The hull of the Havres began to hum, a series of green pulses began to emanate from it, until it reached a pace where it was a solid green field, at least 15ft in diameter. "Ether Plains have been deployed, I guess we'll have to knock some sense into this one."
Alvis smiled slightly as he took the Monado from his back, and lent it against the railing. The Ether Plain was an idea he originally proposed to Lorithia, though she immediately writ it off, but he did observe Melia finding the old blueprints. It was a rather simple idea, that involved concentrating Ether around the source, and making an elevated platform from it. Alvis leapt over the side of the ship, and landed soundly on the new foothold. Looks as if she made it work. Drawing his claymore, Shulk, Dunban, Kirche, Riki and Montmorency followed him onto the Plain, with Sharla taking aim from the other Havres along with Tabitha.
"Do you really think you can challenge me?" Karin asked, a series of different wind spells lining themselves up in her mind.
"Well, we do stand a good chance." Alvis commented with his usual shrug. "And don't bother bringing Fate into this," his eyes narrowed as they met Karin's, "after all, I learnt from these people that Fate is a cowards tool."
The six began their charge, fire, water, and ice flying towards Karin, as each shot was met by one of her own. When the three swordsmen made it to her, she managed to block and dodge each of their strikes with ease.
Fighting a Telethia was becoming more and more appealing as the battle went on.
Even with Sharla and Tabitha providing long ranged support, landing a hit on Karin and her Manticore was like stabbing a dragonfly with a rapier. It wasn't long before the two young mages were exhausted, unable to fling any more spells. Even with the power of the Monado, Shulk and Alvis struggled to balance their offence and defence. Dunban and Riki were not having much luck either, as they lacked the range and practicality that the others had.
From the sidelines, Guiche, Fiora, Siesta, and Reyn all cursed themselves for not being able to help, Guiche for the simple fact that Earth magic was impossible this high up, and the other three for lack of any ranged tactics. Melia tried to provide support where she could, but fighting and managing two Havres at the same time was a tough feet.
And then there was Louise.
On one hand, she was understandably terrified, this was Karin the Heavy Wind, after all, and her own mother. She wanted to help them desperately, but she doubted her explosions would do much against a professional.
She cursed herself, cursed her uselessness, and above all, cursed having to be a 'Zero'.
Then she realised something.
The Monado, the one she previously knew as the 'Staff of Destruction', was right next to her.
Alvis left it there, but why? It made no sense to her, it made no sense to anyone.
Then, something Alvis mentioned came back to her: The Monado chooses it wielders. She recalled what happened when Forquet grabbed it, then she remember that it didn't happen to herself, the Monado considered her worthy.
It didn't consider her a 'Zero'.
Then, there was Alvis' action from the day he was summoned as her Familiar. All this time, he was patient, helpful even. Where everyone else mocked her, he sort to understand the cause of her problems, and find the solution.
Well, they didn't really have a solution, but they did learn quite a bit.
Alvis was the first person outside of her sister and, to a lesser extent, her father, to try to properly help her.
Then there was her mother... whom did little to comfort her.
An unusual emotion began to boil in the depths of Louise's gut, something she didn't think she'd ever feel towards her own mother.
With hand shaky from either fear or anger, Louise grabbed the Monado, and felt it hum in her grip.
She heard Siesta call out to her, but Louise was beyond the point of no return.
And she leapt over the railing.
A vision played before her eyes.
A wind spear had been launched, its target, Kirche.
A damage read out played at the top of her vision, calculated into numbers.
Louise wasn't sure she could count that high.
The result was Kirche becoming a pile of gore on the side of the Havres.
And she would not allow it.
The spear launched, and this time, Louise stood before it, a familiar yellow symbol appeared in the Monado, and the wind broke on the shield that formed.
Everyone was left breathless, Karin especially. "I'm done..." Louise muttered softly, "I'm done just... putting up with it all."
Karin recollected herself. "And just what do you hope to do? All you've accomplished is blocking one of my weaker spells."
"Shut up!" she shouted, surprising Karin once more. "Do you even know what it's like? Zero this, Zero that, I'm tired of it!" the Monado flared even stronger than ever. "That's just the sort of thing I have to put up with at that Founder forsaken academy! And then there's you," her eyes locked with Karin's and the elder woman noticed the pure rage behind those amber orbs. "Always in your shadow, always being ridiculed for the slightest mistake, as if it's all my damn fault, like I had control over my screw ups!" the Monado was now engulfed entirely by its own light, and Louise felt its form shift in her hands.
"This is... phenomenal," Alvis put simply, feeling a proud smile etch itself on his face.
"This power," Shulk muttered in a mixture of pleasure and surprise, "she's unlocked the Monado II?"
"If you want to ask why I'm angry, mother... no, Karin," Louise continued, "it should be obvious. I'm angry at this blasted world, at the people who mocked me for problems beyond my control," Kirche, Guiche and Montmorency all winced in guilt. "But above all else, I'm angry at you," the light erupted from the Monado with the intensity of the sun, "You cold-hearted bint!"
[Track Set: You Will Know Our Names]
The light finally died down, and in Louise's hands was now a much larger Monado, in its default form, it was easier to call it a sword.
The parts shifted, and the blade of light shot forth, larger still. Not even bothering with giving Karin the benefit of responding, Louise charged, swinging wide. Karin blocked it, but the force was enough to knock her from her Manticore. Rising, Karin let loose several high level wind spears, not as strong as her Heavy Wind, but enough that, if it hit, Louise would most likely die.
Louise foresaw each shot, and dodged with millimetres to spare.
Watching the two duel was akin to watching a tornado meet the ocean, both were absolute, but only one was truly on the offensive. Karin tried to fight back, but she, of all people was being forced back by a mere child, her child! She never thought such a thing would be possible.
Alvis looked on in pleasant awe, for once again, human kind had shown him its power to overcome impossible odds. Still smiling, he turned to Kirche. "What do you say we help finish this game of charades?" he asked her.
Kirche returned the smile, lacking any of the usual flirtation. "Anything to not have to stand on this stuff longer."
Both charged forward, wand and claymore in hand, they clashed with Karin's spears of wind, and stood strong beside Louise. "You've been quite impressive over the past few minutes, Louise," Alvis commented, "but what do you say we overpower our enemy?"
Louise gave off a confident humph. "Well, your the boss." she said jokingly.
Alvis was surprised by this first, but didn't let it show. "Then, it's time for a Chain Attack."
The three charged, and Kirche launched a series of fireballs at the wind mage. Many were blocked, but exhaustion took its toll on Karin, and was hit by a few.
Alvis followed up with a favourite technique of his. "No escape... Cross Ray!" two slashes in an X pattern, both piercing the wind barrier, and leaving large scratches in the foes armour.
Louise didn't have as much variety in her repertoire, but what she did have was effective. Channelling her willpower into the Monado II, she cast a spell, fully expecting it to end in explosion, and it did just that, winding Karin greatly.
Kirche made her second move, forming a serpent of flames to trap Karin. As the Heavy Wind was still processing everything going on, the trap worked, and she could not properly move.
"Feel my power," Alvis muttered, deciding to use and Art that he had not touched upon for many centuries. "Lost Flash!" he dashed forward, through the flames, and hit Karin with several Ether infused slashed.
Louise browsed the powers she could use with the Monado. There were many options, as she was starting to learn. She could properly use any spell she could think of if she wanted, with how much Ether it could manipulate, but she chose against it, not properly knowing the full extent of the Monado's power. So instead, she settled on that blue symbol she saw back during the battle with Forquet. "Monado..." she muttered, and the blade extented two-fold, then ten-fold. She rose the blade high, the energy pulsing through her body with all her adrenalin. "BUSTER!" the blade was brought down, and had it not been for the remnants of the wind shield, Karin may have died that day.
The Ether blade retracted back into the Monado, the everyone's muscles finally started to loosen up. Karin was lying flat on her back, injured, but not out cold.
Louise's concious started to waver, and would have hit the floor if Kirche didn't catch her. Alvis motioned for the fire mage to take Louise back to the Havres, and walked over to the incapacitated Karin. "So, do you believe us now?"
"I suppose so," Karin moved her head to meet the Homs' gaze. "When did Louise become so..."
"Strong?" Shulk finished for her as he walked up. "She always was, she just never had the proper chance to prove it."
"And you, you're able to do the things she did?"
"To an extent," Shulk rubbed the back of his head, "honestly, it took me longer to make the Monado evolve into its second stage, and that required help from its creator, Louise managed it on her own."
"That Master of mine is really something, huh?" Alvis said. "Come on, let's get back to the Havres."
After a lot of healing, courtesy of Sharla, Montmorency, Riki (using his breath, it was rather disturbing for the native Halkeginians) and Tabitha, all the combatants were back at full health, and Karin had caught them up on what had happened over the past weeks (which seemed to translate into a day or two in the other world).
"So, not long after Alvis arrived, the Bionis rose, and began its attack." Shulk started his summarising, jotting it down in his journal. "And all kingdoms save for Albion were decimated, with barely a few hundred survivors per kingdom."
Kirche lent into Alvis' shoulder. "Does he always write out loud?"
"You'd have to ask Reyn or Fiora." he told her.
"He does." both responded instantly.
"Thankfully, Albion has opened its borders to the other kingdoms, and has a truce with the faction known as Reconquesta." Shulk placed a point at the end of the sentence. "But why do you speak of them with such disdain?"
"Because Reconquesta seeks to overthrow the rulers of Albion," Karin responded, nursing her still sore muscles. "at the very least, they have the common courtesy of not attacking with the bigger threat looming."
Alvis mused the information. "Melia, how are the Havres holding up?" he asked the High Entia.
"Quite well," was the response, "thankfully, no attack landed, and the Ether Plains didn't drain much fuel, so we'll easily be able to reach this Albion."
Karin nodded at the information. "Well, for what it's worth, I'll go on ahead, and inform the others of you lot." she made for her Manticore, but not before stopping next to the exhausted Louise. "Louise..." she hesitated slightly, trying to find the right words, "You did well."
And just like that, Karin was gone like the wind. Louise's hand trembled slightly, which quickly travelled up her entire body.
This was not rage, as it was before, and the others knew it. Only an idiot would be unable to tell the difference between anger and relief, after all.
Kirche and Dunban locked eyes, and the latter nodded. With slow steps, the red haired girl stood before Louise, and held her in a tight hug.
It resulted in Louise's head being smothered by Kirche's breasts.
Louise tried to question why the Germanian was doing this, but honestly, in her opinion, it was nice.
Even with the world on the brink of damnation, perhaps things were starting to look up for her.
Well, finally, am I right?
Sorry it took so long to get here, writers block, uni work, and just other writing projects really get in the way.
So, yeah, Karin showed up, Louise snapped, and combat related visions are seen with the in-game UI.
Also, I don't often recommend a certain track for a situation, but You Will Know Our Names fits all too well with Louise's moment of awesome.
I'll keep this short, not bother with a preview, and see those of you only here for this work... whenever I update it next, those whom read my other FoZ works there, and anyone else in my other works to come, which will have less to do with FoZ (because I really need to write other things).