Defiance: Birth of the Renegades
Epilogue: Part 2
To my readers,
Oddly the site has been giving me problems. I had this finished, but on editing I've found that parts of it have been deleated, up to an including the ending I put up three days ago... I've no clue as to what happened, maybe I overstepped the character limit for the site. Anyways, I'm putting this up and I'll re-type and put up the next part as soon as I can.
It rose like a wave of color, of light, of sound, and it wrenched reality and perspective from them all. Power came to a call, gentle yet absolute in authority. And it made it so that they could only be and endure. Though the sights they endured were not thier own, nor the emotions wrought by actions uncomitted by thier hands falicious. They were real, as real and as false as the power comanded, and wholy not thier own...
For a time they knew that, and nothing more.
Book of Regeneration, closing of a Symphony"Humans… half elves, elves, they aren't quite pack animal. But there are times I think they're part lemming. One jumps off a cliff, all the others follow. One defies Mithos Yggdrasil, and then they all do. It's certain death, no matter what, but we all just gather up in droves just to…"
"You're being even more insulting than usual, second's Second." Yuan snapped, his eyes thin slits as he considered the tug and pull of the Falnorian market place. There wasn't much of one. Unlike, say Ozette (where everyone was crazed) the semi-sane people went of Falnoir went into the dwellings of their shopkeepers. Curled around a fire, attacked with charm and endless conversation, they were lulled by heat and talk into a dull stupor then fleeced of whatever money they had on them.
Baring his teeth in a wide wolfish grin, Aroon laughed.
"Well excuse me."
Friendly silence fell between them, and Yuan tugged uncomfortably at his gloved hands. He wasn't wearing his sleek leather gloves, rather thick, woolly, mits that had been stolen this morning. Upon his unexpected arrival -Yggdrasil's surly order that he search Falnoir for the human lab experiment and rouge Seraph while expected, had been particularly unwelcome due to the fact Yuan had just taken some poor young Tethe'allan wild lightning mage under his wing and had just started getting the boy's power under control- Aroon had hastily stolen weather appropriate clothing for his lord. While incapable of feeling the cold, the Seraph didn't want to stand out, doing so might gather unwanted attention. So he endured the mits, and the three layers of clothes, and the thick bearskin cloak... and his soul writhed, for his endurance was little more than a facade. As false as his mortality.
The second I get back, I'm stripping out of these filthy, dead, animal hides and burning them all...
"So just who are we looking for?" Aroon murmured, unwittingly cutting into his Lord's mental tirade.
"Host body A012. Also known as Anna Aurion."
Aroon was shocked. "You mean we're going to abduct Derris Fa Sith's wife, is he mad-"
"He's been mad, for a long time. Don't argue with me, just help me look."
"And what are you going to do when you find them?" Seeing his Lord's annoyance Aroon dropped the nervous smile with a grimace. "Seriously, do I need to run to the other end of Falnoir and bury myself in a snowdrift or something so I don't get burned to a crisp or..."
"When we find them you are going to gather all our agents and pull them out, then I'll approach them, alone."
Mithos however, had other ideas and would allow his Seraph no peace. Appearing out of darkness, turning it to light, he came out of nothing more than a shadow. Yuan was grimly watching the small cottage in the heart of town when he got the unwelcome Devine visitation. Jerking back in surprise, aghast at the boy- no man's- audacity, Yuan snarled at his Lord.
Barely quelling the words "What the hell are you doing here?" Yuan managed a semi-pleasant grunt of acknowledgment. Ignoring his underling, Mithos brushed past him, and Yuan wrinkled his nose in distaste at the gaudy white outfit that Mithos was wearing. Crouching in the snow, the frozen water neither melting due to the Lord of Light's presence nor adhering to the false boy's flesh, Yuan shook his head. Snow coated Yuan's borrowed garments, his breath steamed, and while once upon a time such natural phenomenon would have taken effort to produce Yuan had retrained his alien body to respond to all weather as his old one would have. Mithos stared at the cottage, and it's inhabitance with the avid attention of a starving wolf.
And the world around Mithos did not touch him.
"Rather... weather inappropriate garb, isn't it Mithos?" He managed, at last.
"Yuan, shut up." Not even bothering to lift a hand, Mithos released the muting spell with a shifting of his glare. Yuan felt the nerves in his throat go numb, or rather, he felt the sag of the vocal cords as the nerves to them went dead.
Since Mithos' back was to him Yuan mouthed a one word reply.
Had Mithos turned, had cared or been wise enough to turn he would have seen the hate and rebellion in Yuan's soul.
But Mithos only looked ahead, oblivious to the world that quietly scorned him in a hundred and one way.
"No Yggdrasil, you're on your own." Yuan then nodded to Kratos. "I'm sorry it came to this, I tried to stop it, please trust me when I said I tried my hardest to stop him..."
"Get out Yuan, I am in no mood to forgive anything right now."
Black eyes empty, even of defiance, of hate, of hope, Kratos slumped weakly on his own bed. So dead and numb that he didn't realize that it is Yuan easing him down. Numb with shock, yet able somehow to think, the Seraph considered his soul brothers wide eyed visage. Lips curling into a twisted smile, he considered the irony. It seems as if fate has damned them both to love and to lose those they love.
Croaking the name of his beloved, in the delusioned hope that saying it might bring her back, Kratos curled onto the bed. Oblivious to his wings, to the pain of his weight crushing them, the Lord of Death curled upon himself. The motion was reminiscent of a man folding over the spear that steals his life.
But this was a spear that, though someday might be withdrawn, would pierce the flesh again and again. The wound would bleed, and never cease bleeding, for every waking moment of his hellish eternity Kratos must fight down the memories of his beloved to function. He would have to, for all of his days. To this, Yuan could personally testify to, it's the same hell he's endured since Rene died over two thousand years ago.
XHe was vulnerable, weak, near death... and you didn't..." Vince sliced the air above his neck with one digit and then flinched back from his Lord's blazing glare. "I mean... with... well..."
"Such soulless practicality befits our enemy, which, we are not." Tossing his long black mane proudly, Jerick, head of the magi growls his defiance. He cooly brushes Vince's suggestion from the air around them with a flick of his hand. "It's a constant struggle, spacing compassion with practicality, but we must continue to do so, else we become like them."
Ignoring the magi's melodrama, Botta nodded. Agreed to all that Jerick said without the pompous show.
"We aren't Cruxis. Despite..." Botta's lips curled into a humored smile. "...our lord's unfortunate ties to the-so-called Devine parties which the Renegades wage war with."
Thin eyes glitter, then silently, the current head of Tethe'allan government espionage nodded. Her slanted eyes show their Mizuhoian blood and not the taint of conflicting blood as the rest present possessed. She was the first human female to date on the council, and unlike all the other women Yuan had promoted to council she wasn't infatuated with him. Had Botta not panned out so well, she was high on Yuan's list of those to promote. He mentally toyed around with the idea of her as Second, and Botta seeing his Lord's wandering attention -and gaze- firmly kicked him under the table.
"Eyes up, Sir." Botta hissed under his breath, the stern Second's eyes glimmered with amusement.
"They are up." Yuan hissed, shifting his leg out of Botta' reach.
"Higher, then." Botta growled back.
"Botta-" Nursing his smarting leg, Yuan glared at the air in front of him, his lips scarcely moving as he spoke in tones that made the brave quake. "-shut up."
Oblivious to his Lord's venom, Botta continued to berate his lord under his breath, knowing damned well Yuan would hear every word.
"Martel wouldn't approve of you ogling some other wo-"
Yuan's answering kick made the table hop, and caused Botta to howl in pain. Cups of coffee, tea, and his glass of water hopped and spilled on the mess of papers scattered before the assembled Renegades. Glares from slanted eyes of every hue imaginable snapped on him. Under that raw malovance Yuan paled and stuttered some excuse that -by the looks of cynicalism all around- rang false to the ears of his subcommanders.
"I understand you are friends... my Lord." The Mizuhoian Renegade said with an ice rimmed smile. "But please refrain from the male stupidity of... how do those of Sylvarant put it?" Thin lips turned down into a frown, then curled back into the form of a mocking smile as the words came to her. "Your rough housing, limit it to off time."
"And try not to kill each other while you're at it." Vince added darkly, giving the pale and shaken Botta a concerned look.
Hissing a multitude of profanities into his beard, Botta was curled -as much as the long table would allow- nearly in half. Both arms were clutching at his knee.
"Tell me," Green eyes were thin slits, as the young man in long white robes considered the writhing Botta. "-that you did not just break Lord Botta's leg as a bad response to some bawdy joke?"
In response to the head medic's question Yuan shrugged, and scooted back, so the man could come forward and heal Botta without the Seraph breathing down his neck.
"'A thread of unraveling if you will.'" Frowning Botta looked up from his report on the desk. To his scrutiny Yuan shrugged, and looked away. "Sir, with all due respect, you promised all of us you'd stop reading Harringway."
Silence stretched between them, Yuan's tense... prickly, the Second's was cool, with a touch of exasperation to it. Finally Yuan let his lips curl into a half smile, and sighed.
"Did I promise?"
It was ironic that he was being called on such a minuscule thing. With the near perfect compatibility of Sylvarant's chosen to Martel looming above them like a cloud, the book seemed insignificant. With the discovery of Aurion's boy being alive, well, and -in Yuan's mind this was the worst part- in the company of his father... Still, Yuan decided to play along. He turned his chair about so he was better facing his second -The wonders of the swivel chair, no longer having to pick it up to move it, or torture his ears with infernal scraping. Yes, he knew that Magnius had a hovering swerving couch, but Yuan had grown fond of less than modern chair- and raised an eyebrow.
"Our world is falling apart, and you're nattering me about a book?"
"My sanity might fall apart if I hear you quote any more Harringway. Think of your own melodramatic lines, my Lord, don't steal them from others."
Dropping the pompous ass pose, Yuan leaned back into his chair, his azure eyes mere slits.
"What's really bothering you, Botta?"
Steel hued eyes dropped, studied the floor, and color mounted the Renegades face. It was rare that Botta would come to Yuan just to talk, while it was one of a Second's duties they were so busy that it was often a neglected one. Loneliness, one man's no matter how powerful that man was, was irrelevant in the face of this war they were in. Yuan had said as much to his Second often, to all his Seconds, and only one had truly disagreed with that decree. Only one had really defied him, and she had died a long time ago.
"Pre-mission jitters, I suppose, my L- Yuan..."
"Definitely, if you're backsliding that badly. You're more than just shaken, if I'm any judge. You've fought those of Cruxis before," Leaning forward, the Seraph's tone persuaded Botta to lift his gaze. Blue met silver, and that gaze alone was to reaffirm a friendship sometimes lost in the face of their grim duty. "-how is this different?"
And Botta knew, from tone and gaze, that Yuan wasn't asking as his lord, but as his friend. Weary, the older looking man slumped into the chair, and let the barriers of pride down at long last. He was pale, almost shaking.
"Against Yggdrasil, while he still has the Sword? While he's at full power? It scares me." Botta admitted the next with a grimace that was oddly contrasted by the real fear that shone in those eyes. "And I hate myself, for being scared, for being a coward."
"Rene was terrified." Yuan said quietly. "Always afraid they'd take her back, torture her."
Botta knew, he was one of the few who had been told the truth of his first Second, and how Bryan Collens had been his second Second. The steel eyed man knew the how and why behind Rene. That confession was years old, but the pain of the telling was raw, the wounds never healed. They never would, because the only slave to pain in his current existence was forgetting, and he would never forget her.
"Yet she fought, through the pain, the terror, even as she died. Do you know, one of the last things she said to me before Mithos murdered her? I asked her... how she stood being so afraid, knowing that she was going to die." Lifting his hand, he twined his fingers on air, seeing for a moment threads of deepest green between his fingers. He only lowered his hand when the shaking became so bad that Botta looked concern. "She.. she said "I will die anyways. If not here, somewhere else. I'm not scared of death, but dying." it's the pain that she was scared of. It's the pain you are scared of, and what will happen to those you know after you're gone, isn't it?"
Botta nodded, he looked shamed, and Yuan's lips curled into a faint smile.
"It's universal, I'm afraid. And baring a fit of amnesia on your part or a great deal of blunt head trauma you're always going to have that fear."
"You're not offering much comfort, Yuan." Despite himself Botta's lips curled into a thin smile, and the Renegade Lord chuckled in response.
"No, I'm not. Comforting lies, platitudes, we've all had enough of that I think. But consider this. All you have to fear is Mithos. He's a little unbalanced, vicious, but you're mortal and you'll die eventually no matter what he does. Now with Kratos... I'm a fairly good judge of insanity and Kratos definitely has that trait coupled with overprotectiveness, emotional dependancy, and a homicidal streak that's a mile wide. Now consider that, and what he is going to do to me after he sees me with a knife at his beloved son's throat..."
Botta laughed, and Yuan grimaced. After all, the laughter was at his expense. Still the expression was quick to pass, and he doubted that his nervous Second had even noticed it.
"Shall, we have the janitorial staff on hand during the prisoner exchange, Yuan?" Botta quipped.
Images of Renegades flanking the sides of a long hall, not holding crossbows and swords but armed with mops and buckets, crossed his mind with startling clarity. Yuan swallowed down his own chuckle and managed a half grin.
"I think a dust pan and broom will be sufficient enough in disposing of my remains after Kratos is done."
"But think of the walls!"
Leaning forward, eyes turned to thin slits, the Seraph leaned forward. His face a facade of cool impassive anger, it was utterly false, and Botta damn well knew it. Still, image -no habit- dictated he glare at his underling. With a roll of his eyes at his Lord's melodrama Botta got to his feet and made his way to the door.
"You won't have one standing." The Second warned as he reached the thresh-hold.
"There is the door, Second Botta, make use of it."
Snapping his teeth to bite back on an instinctual comeback, Yuan let the sarcasm pass with little more than a raised eyebrow. Seeing the look, knowing he was being spared a scathing retort, Botta turned on his heel to offer a parting bow that was more sarcasm than anything else. Alone, Yuan laughed, and after a suitable span dimmed his laughter to a chuckle. With a shake of his head he set his mask of superiority and irritability in place and bent over some paperwork on his desk. He had a meeting coming up with his Trietian subcommanders soon, and he had to be ready to act the part of Renegade Seraph Lord Vor'esse.
"I don't care what you do to the prisoners." Yuan snapped, his patience spent. He didn't want to hear about these new prisoners anymore. He wanted to get to the hellish task of informing Mes. Larn that her husband had been one of the casualties in the brief skirmish with Cruxis over with. Then he wanted to have his Second alone for five seconds so he could properly throttle the man for going into the tower of Salvation without informing him before hand. "Tie them up, gag them, and put them in separate cells for all I c-"
"One's in critical condition, suffering a sword thrust in the stomach and a number of burns of varying severity-" The medic continued. Heartened when Yuan actually stopped and stared blankly ahead. It wasn't concern, or rather concern for the prisoner that had stopped his hasty withdrawal from the medic's office. Those were odd wounds for a fight against humans. Had one of his magi gone overboard in blood lust during a fight, or was it a sign that one of the Cardinals had finally planted a spy within his own? "His name is Lloyd Irv-"
"Lloyd!" Yuan nearly hopped a foot in the air. His wings materialized behind him as his shock was so complete that he lost all control over his form. "Lloyd Irving! Kratos' boy? I want all of them in the med center immediately. What ever they need tend to them, we can't let one of them die."
Startled by his Lord's sudden compassionate turn the medic was hesitant, weary... But he had the backing he wanted, and after spending a moment trying to read the blue haired man's expression the renegade medic departed. Unsatisfied, but disturbed by the storm of thought brewing in the Seraph's eyes.
Squirming, the silver haired boy shifted in the chair and remained quiet. Seated before the grim unblinking blue haired half elf the boy exuded his discomfort in nearly palpable waves. Yuan snorted, as if to banish the smell of the boy's fear from his nostrils. He looked up from the paperwork that he was filling out to pin the child with a long look. The silence had gone on long enough for his taste, and he was neigh onto immortal.
"If you remain silent I'll just put in a number on the paper."
"How Desian of you." The child snapped sulkily.
"If I were a Desian you would be on a table being tortured, your tongue cut out hours ago after you swore at my guards, and your hands cut off for attempting to escape."
"You're the one who razed two Desian camps and raided another out of spite. You know how they operate by now, don't you? Have you seen or even heard of one torture chamber, seen one person mutilated, tortured, beaten, even after your stupid "I'll try to escape" stunt?" Raising a hand Yuan rubbed his throbbing forehead. "I've interviewed your sister, your human friends, you are the last on my list, and I've other more important things to do but trade insults with a child."
"Like what?" Genis spat. "To lead your men out to kill a few humans?"
Lips quirking into a thin smile, Yuan stared down at the boy. "You... neutral half elves, you're all so... arrogant." He sneered.
"Well you Desian's are just a pack of homicidal bas-."
Something in the back of Yuan's mind snapped. His gloved fingers clenched around the edge of the clip board, blood mounted to his cheeks with enough force to tell him he was fast turning a interesting crimson hue. Eyes blazing, tasting and smelling ozone in the air about him, he held the storms of his soul back. By the length of a hair's width... With careful slowness he stood, and set the clip board down on the stool that he had been sitting on. Lightning mana licked around his fingers, he could feel it pressed against his brow. With a whimper Geins cringed back, his silver streaked blue eyes wide, full with terror.
It was that open show of fear, and only that, which held Yuan in check. With slow, deliberate, care, he gathered and dispersed his power. Silently he picked up the paperwork and walked past the shivering child. At the door leading out of the cell Yuan paused, considered saying something, perhaps apologizing. At length he decided that perhaps silence was the best option of all and left without another word.
Days later, well past the quarantine period, he skimmed the report that the medic had left for him. This rag tag band of Sylvarantians were all recovering from near fatal wounds. Shaking his head he sighed. What the hell could Kratos have been thinking? He'd nearly killed them all.
Only fast treatment and some miracle had made it remotely possible for the Fujibayashu girl to be walking again, as for the half elf healer Ms. Sage, whether of not she'd be able to rise from her bed much less walk was something yet to be seen... Lloyd, Kratos' own son, was dealing with the horrid recovery of a sword thrust to the gut, and yes, while Kratos had missed the vital organs -by mere centimeters in some cases- such a wound rarely healed cleanly. And even if it did heal cleanly the pain of the healing would be as crippling as the wound itself.
But then consider the alternative, the group's death at Yggdrasil's hands. In Kratos' twisted mind perhaps he had been doing them some service. Death, even a dragged out one by the sword, was preferable to the hells Yggdrasil would have wrought. Looking back, wouldn't he have rather slashed Rene's throat with his own hands rather than see her in Mithos' clutches? On foresight he might have killed her himself to spare her the tortured death she'd endured. Maybe. But to have killed her would have been to deny himself the thinnest of hope, and it would have meant her blood was on his hands...
Shaking his head, forcing the macabre throughts from his mind, Yuan stood, pushed away from his desk.
As if by doing so he could distance himself from his sins, his failings...
He stood, clenching his hands into fists.
To hide the fact that they shook...
There was a knock on his door, and Yuan hastily threw himself back into his chair. Botta would have his hide if any of the men reported that he'd been pacing his office again like a caged beast. Control, he always must appear to be in control, no matter the crisis that threatened the organization, and this rise of unaffiliated, rebellious, youngsters shouldn't have been enough to shake him this bad.
Perhaps, like his Second, he was feeling change in his bones. He felt as if some small quake would bring down the order of his world and he was shaking in terror for that change. Change meant death, but in turn it offered a chance for a better life. He feared change, perhaps in that he and Mithos weren't so different. Taking a deep breath to compose himself he stared at the air in front of him, and assumed a slightly irritated expression. As his face fell into familiar -if false- lines of annoyance, it was easier for his voice to follow suit.
"What is it?"
"Visitor, one of the new ones, sir."
Fujibayashu? Come to give a report? In her state she shouldn't have been able to make the trip. Curiosity made him cock his head as he considered that possibility in full and discarded it. His keen ears picked up the sound of shuffling feet, an obvious sign of unease, and he smirked. Mort- no... unaltered half elves were an impatient, skittish, lot, he decided. With a slightly condescending smile gracing his lips, he nodded, though no one could see him.
"Let him... or her, in Sky. Then go to break. You've been out there how many hours?"
The only reply he got was a chuckle, and a growled threat of "call him your lordship, runt". With a clink of steel shoed feet to mark his leave taking, Sky trotted off. Curious now, Yuan assumed his most board expression and leaned back into his chair, kicking his feet up a little. Before he could even begin to explain how to open the door -a feat that would have been beyond most of the people of Sylvarant- the door hissed open on it's own, and his visitor stepped in.
He nearly lost his jaw as a hesitant, pale, Genis Sage slipped into his office with the air of a whipped dog about him. Only four millennia's of life gave him enough control over himself to keep his mouth from sagging open. He blinked, only that, and considered the boy with his thin slit eyes. With a wave of a hand he pointed out the chair, and watched with some humor as Genis dragged it over to the desk and took the seat and position Rene had once favored.
Perhaps, in that... all children were universal...
Holding back the tide of memories. Knowing well the seduction of the warmth and old love tinged with the anger and frustration that came from an untimely death, Yuan sighed, and stared at the child before him. It was with some satisfaction, he noted, that someone had garbed the boy in new clothes. Though the boy's natural pallor made black the least flattering of colors it was at least clean.
Another bonus was that the boy's clothes was not blood stained, grim smeared, and bearing witness to more sword slashes, singe marks from spells, and other testaments of violence and war than Yuan could have counted. While normally such things wouldn't have bothered him, it made him think of the war. There was something about all of the new comers that stroked old memories of that dark time.
"I..." Licking his lips, Genis lowered his eyes, finally breaking the gaze lock that had been stretching out for the many long minutes Yuan had been hovering between reminiscence and thought. "They let us out, yesterday. I was.. invited to... look around. To make my own judgements on what was going on, and to visit my sister."
That was not what he expected, raising an eyebrow to convey his surprise Yuan stared at the boy for a while. After a proper span he let the thin line of hair drop to it's customary place. Yuan clasped his hands together and rested his chin upon his knuckles. "As I tried to tell you before you nearly provoked me to incinerate you, we aren't Desians. But, I imagine your freedom has shown you that more than my empty platitudes."
Genis nodded, a strand of silver hair fell into his eyes. Pushing it back, the boy grimaced, as if thinking that he needed a hair cut. If so the child's and Yuan's thoughts were running on the same track.
"Are you proud... that you're a half elf?"
Yuan, froze. So shocked he stopped breathing and actually showed his surprise without a surplus of grace that had become his trademark amongst the Renegade. The boy watched his expression twist into surprise with impassive blue eyes. At last, Yuan nodded, and watched with no small astonishment as this child that had so easily surprised him seemed to crumple into himself. The facade of confidence, knowledge, fell away to revel a frightened child that had seen his world cave in around him. Looking into that suddenly wounded soul Yuan knew without knowing how, that if anything else, the child was not proud of his birth. Genis had bought the lies, the lies of tainted blood and inferiority, and that knowledge shone in the light of the tears that sprung to those young eyes.
Slowly, with some small fear of some arcane retribution -comforting a half elf... or any magi was risky at best, since in the throes of emotion mana came the easiest- Yuan stood and walked around his desk. So shaken, more torn by his souls pain than fear of being hurt by "the desian lord", Genis allowed Yuan to kneel by him and gently drape an arm around his shoulders.
That gesture of comfort was what broke the dam, and the tears came out in a torrent.
"Moody adolescent half elves, it's all I get on my door step these days..." Yuan grumbled under his breath. His personal guard, Skyian Fallenblood snorted, he'd been one of those "boys" that Yuan had taken in. It had happened so many years ago most didn't know why or the how of the two lightning magi's friendship.
"Sky, shut up."
"Yes, sir." Sky saluted smartly, his frank gaze made the gesture more sarcasm than respect. "Message from med center by the way. The Irving boy's up and about."
"Good," Yuan grunted. "Bring them in to my office after summoning the Trietian sub-commanders."
"Granted, he looks like a mummy with all the bandages..."
Yuan sighed, waited for the slightly scolding silence that Sky favored him to change to discomfort. At last, when the man squirmed under the Seraph's steady gaze, Yuan shook his head.
"Sky, you're a companionate man, I require that for my soldiers and personally applaud the trait, but don't get attached to the humans. Especially the Irving boy."
Unlike Botta, Sky wasn't aware of all the going ons in the Renegades. That was something Sky had requested. Even after the both radically different lightning magi had hesitantly -or rather after Yuan had hesitantly admired to what Sky was ramming down his throat- admitted to their friendship, Sky had insisted on some distance. To quote Sky; he liked Yuan the Renegade, but found Lord Vor'esse and a number of Vor'esse's decisions a little cold blooded for his taste. Sensing Sky's curiosity Yuan shook his head, pitying the compassionate man. A man who insisted on a level of ignorance, claiming that ignorance in small doses -large doses would have had the man culled from the Renegades or killed within a year- was bliss.
"You're going to kill, the Irving boy?" The question was forced past a barrier of gritted teeth.
"No." Yuan answered, his lips curling into a half smile. A dark smile for a lie, a fair trade for all. "I hardly need to, his father seems hell bent on doing it for me. This is going to be for his protection, though the boy won't like it."
Recalling his training at Yuan's hands, and the taming of the wild power that had nearly driven him mad and killed many people, Sky was well aware that if Yuan said the boy wouldn't like it, he meant it.
"You won't hurt him." Sky pressed.
"I never made a promise I couldn't keep. I never promised you that, even when you were a child, remember?" Yuan was walking, and Sky had to break into a quick jog to avoid having the door close in his face.
Sky nodded, his short cropped brown and blue hair fell into his eyes. Ignoring the visual barrier, the guard kept pace with his lord, at least until Yuan gave him a long look that indicated that said without words their paths were splitting.
"The sub-commanders, than the prisoners, and fetch Botta while you're at it." Yuan reminded the man with a smirk. "Mortals." The Seraph sighed in mock despair, he paused long enough to roll his eyes before disappearing in a flash of light.
"The Genis boy... He approached you and asked to join the Renegades, didn't he?" Botta asked, once his commander had cooled his temper enough to be safe to approach.
"Yes!" Yuan snapped, small stars of lightning snapped around his fingers.
"You showed him the base?" Botta quiered.
"Yes!" Yuan roared. "And I showed him the damned Rhieard chamber and I explained the controls to him. I didn't realize that he'd memorize everything I said the first time around! I underestimated him, and Kratos' brat, and that damned traitorous Mizuhoian witch! I already was reemed out by an infuriated sub-commander of defense and the armsmaster here, I don't need another lec-"
"The witch, Sheena, she's the one who summoned Undine to fight Mithos, in the Tower." Botta cut in, knowing his lord would rant and rave for hours if given enough leash to do so. While he'd never seen Yuan in this state, Rene had. She'd left a document on how to deal with Yuan's rages in a book that every Second was ordered to read. A book that Yuan still, even though it was two thousand years after the girl's death, couldn't bear to look at.
Slowly, as if waking from a dream, Yuan lifted his face from his hands and released hair that he hadn't realized he'd been pulling. The hands shook, and shook badly.
"She did what?"
She summoned undine. Though the words weren't spoken they hung between the Renegade Lord and Second. Fires ignighted in Yuan's eyes, than dimmed to mere embers cast in shades of blue.
But the embers were still there, cast in blue, and Botta remembered, that the hottest flame was blue.
And he was not comforted.
A summoner... Yuan looked at Sheena with more respect then he had on that distant day he had briefed her on her mission for the king of Tethe'alla. Never mind her Mizuhian robe was slashed to ribons around the ankle by some monster's reaching claw, that blood trickled from a gash above her head. He watched her, than considered the boy who called himself Lloyd Irving. Those brown eyes, once warm and open were closed and shuttered in the face of an enemy. Hard learned was caution to the carefree. Bitter defeat and a new quiet resolve had made this child into the mirror image of his father. Pulling several strands of rebellious blue away from his eyes he nodded to his men, they gathered the remains of the steel falcons, and were to depart. He'd oversee the collection of Kratos' boy and the summoner himself.
A flash of midnight shadow on the edge of his vision made him turn. Pronyma was up and about it seemed. He suppressed a smile as he studied her from the corner of his eyes. She was torn and bloody, her mace split in twain and blood dribbled from a long cut that can across the palm of her hand. Yuan's estimation of Lloyd's swordsmanship skills and overall strength went up a few notches. He wrinkled his nose as if offended by the smell of the mortal half elf's blood and turned away when she moved to approach him.
"Clean up this mess." He mock barked at his men. They looked up as one and covertly studied his hands. After seeing no tell tale twitches to his fingers that could convey much and would convey orders to kill Mithos' pet bitch if she crossed him, they went back to work.
He walked around the edge of his trap, brown eyes filled with equal parts of frustration and determination made him smirk. He couldn't help himself. It was as if Lloyd was some purer image of his father, cleansed of all the hate that had brought his sire down. He walked along the edge of the trap, and paused, only briefly, to look at the form of a soulless eyes pink haired girl. Yuan made a note to find out who she was, then his view of the child was blocked off by Genis Sage. He met the short prisoner's eyes fearlessly, neither one backed down for a long span. A flash of red, on the edge of his vision made him break the contest of will prematurely. Yuan whipped around and stared in shock at the Chosen for a heartbeat, -it wasn't part of the plan for Zelos to get caught in the trap or even be present!- but control asserted itself and he carefully set his face into a mask of indifference.
At the call from one of his men, Yuan turned his back on the human and half elf captives his trap had gathered him and saw that Mithos' tattooed she-dog was bothering one of his soldiers. With an annoyed sigh he stepped between the man and woman, giving the woman a Kratos inspired glare of death.
"She was trying to take the Sylvarant Chosen, sir." The guard reported quietly.
"Excellent work, Brings, go back to your duty now. I've the situation in hand."
Bring bowed, and noted how his lords fingers curled ever so slightly then twitched. The soldier all but ran to his sector, and went straight to his superior officer. Men who had been working drew knives and hidden crossbows from phony engineer's supply packs.
"My trap. My prisoners." Yuan snapped, as if he were speaking to a slow child and not Mithos' right hand shadow magus. "Stay out of my business."
"Give me a reason to." Pronyma purred. Walking towards him with an oozing half step that repelled rather than attracted his attentions. A whistle of appreciation from Zelos told him that his discerning taste in woman wasn't universal. Before she could set a hand on his shoulder in a familiar fashion he stepped back and snarled. Her brow furrowed in annoyance, and her face settled into a brisk mask that did little to hide her hurt at his refusal. "She is Lord Yggdrasil's property."
"Like I said, give me a good reason." He snapped his fingers, and she turned, now aware of five crossbowmen had pointed their weapons of choice at her from five different directions. Naked steel arrow tips gleamed in the sun, as well as an assortment of sword edges and one steel topped staff. The weapons wouldn't hurt him, and she was well aware of the fact that only a weapon of arcane power or a weapon of nature driven by titanic force could even draw his blood.
"Conniving bastard, aren't you?" Pronyma hissed, her green eyes blazing with rage.
Yuan decided to take that as a complement, and he managed a mocking bow. "Thank you."
"You'll kill the girl."
"She isn't relevant. If Yggdrasil losses his pet project, all the better." Silence fell between them, and Yuan quietly considered what he'd said. She could mark him as a traitor by his words alone. That was dangerous, perhaps it was best to throw the lamb to the wolf. It wasn't much of a sacrifice after all, it was what the girl had probably wanted. "However, considering Martel's life hinges on the Chosen ritual, you may have her-"
"How very generous..." Pronyma began.
"-if you take her, and yourself, and leave. Immediately."
Pronyma's reply was silence that ended in a nod. She slipped around him -spending a moment to admire his form from the corner of her eye- and walked to Sylvarant's chosen. Cold eyes flicked across the soul less girl's form, Pronyma's glare and casual toss of her green hued locks made it obvious to Yuan that he woman thought herself to be the better looking of the two. Snorting at the woman's vanity Yuan turned from her, nodded to his men, crossbows were quietly put down and tools taken up again. He was so interested in watching his men salvage the bashed remains of his Rhieards that he almost missed it. Hearing the woman mutter something about a ugly crest marring her prize he turned. Than in a show of gross stupidity fueled more than vanity than anything else, Pronyma reached to rip the ore necklace from the Chosen's neck. Slender hands reached for the make-shift key crest, and those once empty eyes opened and closed of their own violation.
Pronyma shrieked and staggered back, even as the chosen's now blue eyes cleared and looked at the mountain top in complete bafflement.
Yuan's mouth sagged open in shock. Impossible. Colette couldn't have woken, the soulless never came back...
Save that she had, and with clearing eyes and hardening resolve she looked around her and drew those silly throwing rings she favored. Much to the Renegade leader's amusement, the girl brushed past Pronyma like she didn't matter and attacked the glowing yellow wall that served as the defyer's of Cruxis' prison. After a few slashes she dropped the rings and bent down to see if she could get a hand hold and lift it up. She stood, brushed off her leggings, and frowned. It was a stupidity on the girl's part, to be certain, even now Pronyma was gathering herself, ready to grab the child. Oblivious to her growing peril, her eyes only for the red clad Iseliean. Colette had drawn her pink wings from sheer joy on hearing he was "fine" and looked to be ready to fly into the cage just to hug him.
He'd never had a captive walk into the cage before, and held his men back with a waved hand. He wanted to see this, just to rub in Kratos' face how wrong the man's report was on these Sylvarantian children. To quote the report Kratos had described the Chosen of Sylvarant as; intelligent, despite her ignorance of the cruelty of the world. Yuan snorted, Kratos had given the girl far too much credit.
As if some god was bent on proving Yuan wrong the girl managed one quick attemped hug -the cage made it difficult to say the least- and looked around as if seeking the device that held the mana field stable. Pronyma pounced then, roughly grabing the girl's arm.
"You are an oddity, aren't you my dear? Still, Yggdrasil will find some use in you as vess-"
Before Yuan could even move to take control of the situation that had ceased to be comical and might prove dangerous -a dark spell could do him harm and his men might get caugh and killed by the crossfire of a confrontation between him and Pronyma- gravity took matters out of everyone's hands. With a twist of her wrist Colette wrenched free of Pronyma, made a hammer of bright red hue materialize out of nothingness, and raised it over her head in a threatening manner. Pronyma managed a sneer at the weapons' appearance, stepped forward, and the girl stepped back... and tripped.
With a loud thud, the girl landed on top of the arcane cage's generator. Small sparks spat out of the device, as well as a thin plume of smoke to mark the magi-tech devices passing from this world.
"Sir?" Brings had crept forward to stand at his left. "Orders?"
"Remind me to kill head of magi-tech development."
"Yes sir, but on the more immediate matter..."
"After they're done killing Pronyma approach them and shoot to wound, cripple, but refrain from killing. We'll take them back to the local base. Until then, sit back and enjoy the show, captain."
Despite the expression screening helm and the fact that Yuan had his back to him, Yuan was sure that Brings smiled.
"You know." An anonymous nurse noted cooly as she wound his head in bandages and absently checked the bloody bandages wrapped around his mid section. "If you really are feeling deprived of a pin cushion I could have on of the women lend one to you."
His side ached from the Irving boy's sword thrust, the Chosen of Sylvarant had gone on a wild hammer throwing spree after clonking the rouge Seraph upside the head. The old wound Kratos had inflicted on him in Hima had been reopened when he'd dove out of range of one of the younger Sage's Eruption spell...
"Tell me, madam, do you bear any relation to a lady named Feruon?"
"Haven't heard of her."
Feeling suddenly the weight of his four thousand years, Yuan sighed. "Who has?"
"You saw the homing device?"
"Yes." Yuan sighed. He wished for medicine that would sooth his head and settled for rubbing his temples as the head of security of the Tethe'allan base continued to follow him and fret.
"It's Mizuhoian..." The retired warrior hinted.
"No, really? I thought it was Iselian." Yuan snapped.
Sarcasm was lost on the underlings. Paling, cringing, the man winced back as if Yuan had wielded a cat o nine tales or some other torturous instrument. Yuan decided to ignore the man and just go into his office and lock the door. Not exactly the brightest of Renegades, the man started to follow to whine and hand wring some more. The steel door slamming in his face was something of a detriment to that plan. At last, alone in his office, Yuan limped to the desk and sunk into it's acompying chair with a sigh.
His desk had been cleared, and some thoughtful underling had left the most important piece of paperwork on his desk.
Alone, with his thoughts and the missive from Zelos Wilder, Yuan found solace from the world for a time by setting his hands against his face and closing his eyes. It wasn't sleep, it wasn't oblivion, but perhaps by not seeing the problem, for just a little, he could be granted some peace.
It never worked, but he never stopped trying.
Swallow smashed against twin long swords. Snarling, Yuan shoved back hard and wasn't too surprised to see that his strength was met with matched by the boy's stubbornness. Baring his teeth in a grin, he summoned a bit of mana to crawl along the ornate edges of his weapon. That made the boy hop back... in shock. The pun was inevitable of course, but after living so long he found it more amusing than annoying. It was familiar, almost like seeing an old friend...
"You think this would be easy boy?" Yuan panted. "You thought it would be as simple as walking in and just taking them away. I'm no fool."
Lloyd grunted, used the reprieve that Yuan's words offered to wipe away the blood that driblbed down a nick and into his eyes. Botta was holding his own against Tethe'alla's Chosen, the elder Sage's magics, and the pink haired axe-woman. Yuan was fighting against the younger Sage, Kratos' boy, and a man wearing shackles. The blue haired convict was slowly crawling to his feet -a difficult feet wearing shackles, made more so by a long swallow born wound that ran down his right thigh- and Yuan lifted a hand to summon lightning.
"It's over boy."
And with that he released a bolt of lightning.
Times before Yuan had cast bolts and watched with a mingling of respect and sympathy pain while Kratos' boy had swatted lightning bolts aside like they were cross bow bolts. The boy was relying on the rune encrusted dragon tooth swords to take the blunt of the blow. And it had worked, while Yuan had been holding the blows in check. At full power they would melt the steel, and the reminants of volts mana that the swrod's runes held in check would blossem out into a blow that was neither expected nor could be countered. The weapon that Lloyd had used to shear through Botta's spells meant to support his Lord would be extinguished and it would be over in a matter of moments.
Granted, he'd thought that before when casting indignation judgment. When the blade of his rage melded with the light of the heavens and the Volt-esk power of his soul... The steel plates that served as a floor for the Rhieard chamber were warped, some were pure liquid, others hissed and spat as stray bolts of lightning danced across thier soot covered surfaces like listless serpents.
He'd thought it over then, thought it over when Botta had cast a spell that had caused the earth itself to buck and heave and cast ripping tearing stones into the air and leave horrid slashes along the intruders. He'd thought it over when Botta's earth warping powers caused part of the overhanging balcony to crash down on the young spell caster's head. He'd thought it over when Zelos had colaspsed at his feet, torn and bleeding... Yuan had considered the matter settled when the half elf healer had taken an Indignation spell unshielded.
This time, despite his boasts and claims, he realized it was over. When Genis cast a lightning spell and met power for power he realized it was over. The Sage boy was as good a spell caster as a Seraph was. Despite the child's lack of control, the lack of refinement, on a power to power basis... the silver haired child was Yuan's equal.
Before he could act on this realization, the Seraph felt the earth pitch under his feet. Metal creaked, the walls around him developed an alarming array of cracks. He whiped his head to gape at Botta, some corner of his mind was piecing together a reprimand to deliver to his Second for causing so great a geological siezure that the base's structure would be in danger...
He turned in time, all of his harrasers turned in time, to watch a shard of earth larger than an oak tree burst into being under the Second's feet. Second went flying one way, little homocidal ax-girl went the other.
And sea water began to gush into the chamber, the planet's life blood brought in by the spear cast of and by the earth.
Eyes wide, dazed... no staggering, Kratos' son took one look at the base's walls, one look at Yuan's stupor, and made a lightning fast descision.
"Everyone, run for it!"
But instead of running for the sanctuary of the base like nice little idiot humans they ran for the Rhieards.
"Over my dead body!" Yuan howled, seeing the lot of them almost to the steel falcons. He chased after them, mainly after the Irving brat. His wings aided his leap, and he managed to clamp himself down on the red rhieard as Kratos' son mounted up on the avian based magi-tech. The human's brown eyes went wide in horror as he realized that he had a passanger and just who that passanger was. "We're not done yet boy!" Yuan grunted, trying to pull himself up on the wing.
Lifting his sword Lloyd growled right back at him. "Oh yes we are!"
Lloyd then proceeded to bludgen him in hopes of making him let go. Yuan grinned, blinked away the blood and the pain, and smirked. This would be too easy.
Then, as if to spite him, the Sage boy hit the ignition and Yuan took a full blast of magi-tech fire to the gut. His grip slipped, just a litlle and Irving smiled down at him.
Remembering how Kratos had called him that in the war and how much he hated the nick-name Yuan snarled at Kratos' son. He managed to hold on whilst they were in flight for a half minuete, before his grip finally gave way.
"I wish Yashin were alive. He'd grasp this in a heartbeat, have ideas, and be willing to counter my theory with something besides ignorance." Yuan mumbled to himself in angelic. Perhaps his mumbling and half voiced complaints caused some perplection to the current head of magi-tech development. Probably not, the man while wise in current theories and the like was thicker than two planks when it came to new discoveries.
And hearing that at each "spirit's altar" was not a congelation of one specific mana waiting to be harvested, but a sentient entity, while not exactly new was something of a discovery to this rather short sighted magi. Limited by the material, obsessed with cause and effect and doing his damndest to purge from all renegade literature that there was such an idea of spirits the current head of magi-tech was treading a thin line between execution and being fired.
"Sir." Looking at his lord as if he was very concerned, the man set aside the report Yuan had penned and stared his superior in the eyes. "If... what I'm reading is right, you are telling me that every magus ever born is... blessed by beings that don't exist. Are you... feeling alright, my lord?"
Yuan flinched back from the man's hand, that if allowed would have checked his tempratre. After being forcefully dislodged from the younger Aurion's stolen Rheiard -a sword blow over the head multiple times coupled with the below freezing weather that was the norm of the Falnoir region could lead to the condition of temporary paralysis of shock even despite his Seraph constitution- his head hurt. Add to that that Botta had recoiled from his Lord's touch when the Seraph had tried to tend him... He must be freezing, literally, for Botta wasn't a man to complain about a little chill touch.
His deteriating temper coupled with the steady throbbing upon his skull where knots probably were forming, made his self control slacken, just a bit. This fast becoming clear meaningless conference with a complete incompetent, the nessecity of it to be held in the medics wing, only reminded him of his defeat. Defeat at the hands of rag tag group of children. He seethed, and perhaps his control slipped more than just a little.
"I'm feeling perfectly fine for a man who's lived for four thousand years, seen and fought such "imaginary beings", ended a war struck up by two selfish countries that weren't satisfied with "the limited hypothetical force of mana", watched the world get divided by a mystical blade forged by Origin which "just doesn't exist" and has properties that allow it and it's wielder to warp the very essence of time, space, and matter, and went through a hellish submersion in "make-believe matter" that turned me into a "non-existent" Seraph."
The soon to be former head of magi-tech opened his mouth, closed his mouth, and did a passable fish impersonation that made Botta chuckle from his place on the cot to the Seraph's right.
"In the name of the Renegades, for the sake of their lives for which your blatant ignorance and overweening hubris could cost, and for the sake of my sanity, I am striping you of your position. Send one of those "incompetent dreamers" that you're spent half of this meeting griping about here, to me, immediately! They'd have more wit than you. Efreet's hell fires-" He couldn't resist adding that tiblit just to make the man squirm in acute discomfort before he threw in his final insult. "-a lack-wit would have a better grasp of the situation than you."
He managed to sit up, despite his throbbing skull and series of nicks and cuts all over his frame. He managed to push aside the covers and stand up, despite the fact that mana drain from the sorcerous fight with the Sages and Tethe'allan Chosen that had drained him down to nothing mana wise. Shaking, as weak as a new born colt, he drew his wings.
That was enough to send the man out of the room at a run, leaving only a scream behind.
"Impressive sir." Botta noted with a chuckle that ended in a hiss of pain.
Folding his to his side wings, Yuan managed to turn to face the bed before his legs buckled. A medic who had been waiting for the meeting to end with ill concealed patience approached her lord and firmly pulled him up to a semi standing position, adverting her face so she wouldn't get a face full of feathers for her efforts. She unceremoniously dumped him on the bed then rolled him over so he lay on his stomach.
Labor done, the half elf gingerly sat on the side of his bed, panting. Obviously his hundred thirty some off pounds was heavy for the woman's spindly limbs. She clearly wasn't build for hard labor. Still, he cracked a slight smile, and took a stab at himself.
"One of those wonderful things about rank, you get such outstanding treatment in hospitals."
Botta managed a weak laugh, that ended in a croak of agony and the girl turned a charming red hue. Yuan even unbent to croak out a laugh at his lame joke. The girl only looked flustered, and he spent a few words to assure her it was best not to roll him over on his back. The wings, he explained, were sensitive as hell.
As to how she could help him...
"Knock Botta out, he's a pitiful sight-" Ignoring his Second's relieved sigh Yuan continued, "-then send me someone from the magi-tech department that looks intelligent and flexible. Someone who annoys the hell out of that pompous bastard that just left. That's a good mark of intelligence, someone who annoys the closed minded fools around them just by being themselves."