The Brothers Wilder
A/N: Thanks for the reviews, guys. And I'm incredibly sorry about the extremely long wait. I won't let it happen again. …As a post note though, this chapter turned out to get so lengthy, what I meant to have as part of this chapter will have to be pushed back to chapter three. Wow!
Also, a huge thanks goes out to doragon no mizu for ghost writing a big chunk of this! :)
The duo reached the base of the mountain within minutes. Lloyd dismounted the panting Noishe, stroking him and scratching him behind the ear. "Good boy, Noishe. Good boy."
"Yup." Zelos agreed distractedly as he pressed a multitude of buttons on the Thing before it eventually shrank. "He made it the whole way this time. Good thing you have him because I doubt you could haul your own lazy ass all the way out here."
"You're the one riding around on a safety insured, properly cushioned work of magitechnology." Lloyd shot back.
Zelos just laughed. "Lloyd, you couldn't tell magitechnology from a rock."
"They're the things that make light! I know just what the hell they are!"
"Yeah, yeah, we'll see." Zelos said, rolling his eyes.
Lloyd 'hmph'ed, eyeing the rigid path ahead of them as he absently fiddled with the dog's coat. His eyes lit up as he saw light smoke slithering upward from the top of the mountain. He knew for a fact that Mt. Fooji was not a volcano—despite the scare tactics his brother had employed years ago—so it had to be a product of whatever had occurred. Something was up there.
Zelos narrowed his eyes in concentration as he pocketed the Thing and visually assessed and calculated the best way to get up the jagged rock. "This would probably be easier if we just l—"
"Fuck you!" Lloyd laughed as he darted ahead to the nearest worn path. Noishe whined loudly, looking pleadingly to Zelos' as if to ask him not to go. The Chosen wouldn't listen, but he got a pat on the head in consolation.
"Hey! Lloyd!" He shouted as he took off after him just as recklessly. "That path doesn't lead to the top!"
"Any path leads to the top if you want it to!"
Determined laughs rang through the air along with the clattering of gravel being kicked around and falling down the sloping sides. Lloyd pulled himself over a particularly steep ledge with relative ease, his azure exsphere glimmering in the afternoon sun. "Zelos, you better hurry up unless you want to get your ass handed to you!" He called as he triumphantly stood ledges over his older brother.
Zelos made no response as he kept running, but to himself he smirked and muttered, "Pride always comes before the fall…"
He awaited a comeback, but when his brother said nothing, Lloyd shrugged and turned to run once again. "Whatever, man!"
As soon as Lloyd had turned his back, Zelos skidded to a halt in the dirt trodden path, stirring up the dust around him. He closed his eyes and began to flick one wrist, conducting the mana around him. He opened his eyes briefly to track his younger brother. "Stone Blast!"
Lloyd startled as the earth in the ledge above him rumbled and began to fall all around him. He withdrew his blades without a moment's hesitation and adeptly sliced through the crumbling stone around him, occasionally batting a few away. He looked back at his brother once the rain had hit a standstill with an eye for revenge, "Oh, you—" he stopped. Behind Zelos, who stood frozen in spell-shock, loomed a chimera, fangs bared and oozing ravenously. His mind flashed with the idea of letting the monster get his revenge for him, slowing his brother down even more.
He shook his head, banishing the idea from his mind as he caught sight of a straggling rock falling in his direction. "Zelos, heads up!" he called, swinging the blunt side of his blade through the stone, sending it flying towards his brother.
With visible effort, Zelos managed to drag himself out of the spell-shock and ducked his head down as the stone fragment whizzed by just above him, smacking the monster behind him. He quickly turned to face the enraged beast. "You just had to get in my way…! Light Spear!" He called, severing one of the creature's heads. His attack finished, and the monster debilitated enough to escape, he hit the ground running.
Lloyd continued hastily down the rugged path. Turning the corner around a ledge, he cursed loudly as he slid to a halt in the dust. His brother had been right; he hit a dead end. He turned on his heel, wildly searching for another way to the top. He took antsy, jumpy steps left and right before finally jumping back and hurling himself onto the rocky wall. Determinedly, he began to climb.
Zelos made his way on the rather paved path with relative ease. Up the mountain side it zigged and zagged like it had been carved in. He hadn't seen or heard any signs of his brother for a while now, but it didn't come as a surprise to him. The thick-skulled kid had probably realized by now that that path led to a dead end and was probably hurrying to make up the lost ground, he figured.
Ahead, he noticed a more narrow, less worn path trickling off the side of the road. As it turned a corner, the path seemed to darken down the road as it was covered with an ominous shade. He hesitated, wondering why they had never gone down that path before—it certainly wasn't familiar to him. If it turned out to be like the other smaller paths, a great treasure awaited him at the road's end, and the allure clearly tempted him. But something about the trail sent a chill through his mind.
In the back of his conscious, he also found himself anxious about the distant chance that taking such a shady trail could lead to something that could possibly trap him, kill him. And if that happened, what would become of his brother, alone on Mt. Fooji?
He shivered; he did not want to think about that.
Zelos then continued up the mountainside trail without a second thought. He slowed after a minute or so as the summit became nearer and nearer and still his brother was nowhere to be seen or heard. Looking ahead, four small plumes of smoke slithered into the sky and he could see what looked to be sizeable debris littering the earth. Amongst it, one figure stood, and immediately Zelos froze.
The figure knelt, placing a hand on a pile with stoic care. Upon closer inspection, Zelos realized the pile to be another human. The figure stood once more, and turned its head slightly to look over its shoulder. Zelos had been spotted.
The figure, a man, turned to face him, almost gliding in his steps as he strode forward with his cloak catching in the gales of the summit. "Chosen of Mana, what are you doing here?" he asked, his voice cold and curt.
Zelos eyed him warily; he had seen this man somewhere before. Finally, he spat, "None of your business."
"Actually, it is my business." he replied smoothly and without a pause. "I hope you haven't forgotten your promise."
"I don't know what the hell you're talking about." Zelos responded bluntly.
Panting, Noishe turned the corner to see the two of them and began barking ferociously. He lowered his front and his ears pointed backward; his pristine canines were barred and his barks became interrupted with wild snarls.
"Hey, Noishe. Stand down!" Zelos commanded, inwardly perplexed at his sudden change in behavior. Noishe carried on indignantly, his barks like severed roars.
Noticeably hurried, Lloyd appeared over a ledge on the opposite side of the summit. He wasted no time in pulling himself to his feet and withdrawing his swords. The man looked from the ravenous protozoan to Lloyd with a sudden restrained intrigue. "Boy, what's your name?"
Lloyd narrowed his eyes, tightening his grip on the hilts of his swords. He knew that Noishe never barked at anyone without a good reason; what's more, Lloyd didn't exactly have a good feeling about the man, either. "Give me your name, and I'll give you mine,"
"My name is of no importance to you,"
"Then I suppose mine isn't very important to you eithe—"
"Lloyd Aurion." He enunciated perfectly, closing eyeing him as if to gage his reaction. Lloyd remained crossly silent, attempting to suppress his mild shock and the man took a few more steps towards him until they looked each other eye-to-eye. The man's emerald eyes scrutinized him intently and he flashed a small smirk. "…I can see the resemblance."
At this, Lloyd took action. He stepped forward, attempting to slice their interloper who jumped backward out of range in an instant. "Chosen," he said, "Do not forget your word." With that, he became engulfed in light and vanished in a second.
Lloyd lowered his blades as Noishe's barks diminished to whines and then to soft pants. For a moment he was quiet, pensive and disbelieving of the man's words. Finally, he spoke without tearing his gaze from the mess ahead. "Zelos, who the hell was that guy?"
Zelos paused. The same thought was running through his head. "I dunno, bud." He stated distantly before shaking his head clear of the matter. "Whatever, doesn't matter. Let's see what all this is about."
Lloyd agreed, putting away his swords. He walked over to crash site and began examining.
His brother lingered longer around the smoking vehicles, noticing their distinct familiarities with the Thing. They had to be the same sort of contraption, but where could they have come from?
"Holy crap!" he heard Lloyd exclaim in bewilderment. Zelos listened for more to follow but when his brother remained silent he turned around and looked to where Lloyd stood gawking at something on the ground.
"What're you looking a—" he began as he walked over curiously. When he saw, his eyes grew wide and he echoed, "Holy crap!"
For a moment, both boys stood with their mouths hanging. Traces of drool could be seen at the tips of Lloyd's mouth. "They're huge…" he uttered.
The object of the brothers' ogling was in fact not an object but another human. A woman. A woman of different descent with raven hair and wearing clothes they had only seen in their history books. Although, none of the former mattered, as all the brothers could focus on were her wonderfully large… gifts.
"…Touch 'em," Zelos said. "See if they're real."
"Oh you don't have to dare me…" Lloyd said, reaching his hand forward before retracting it. "Wait, what do you mean see if they're real?"
Zelos hid the shame in his eyes with his hand, hanging his head. "You have got to be kid…"
"—what are they if they're not real? Does that make them imaginary?" Lloyd went on. He then gasped, "…Balloons?!"
His older brother looked ready to disown him. "You know what, just never mind. Never mind, Lloyd."
"—if you popped them?! What would happen?"
"Lloyd, you're an idiot." Zelos sighed. "Just forget about it for now. I'll tell you when you get older. Until then, let's get any survivors away from these Things. They look like they could explode at any moment."
Lloyd crossed his arms over his chest. "Hmph." He then quickly moved to take care of the raven-haired woman. "I'll get—"
But Zelos staved him off with one arm. "Uh-uh, bud. I don't think so," He shot quickly. "I've got seniority."
"…'Sylvarant', huh? Looks like those crack-pot theorists were right," Zelos stated, peering over towards the blonde stationed to his far left. She sat unblinking, stiff as a rod; her blue wings gave off a soft glow against the darkness of the night. "Angel, come on now. I bet you'd be as cute as a button if you smiled!"
"She can't hear you." A boy with silver hair and blue garmits muttered softly as he absently poked their crackling fire with a stick.
Zelos did not respond, instead he gazed up at the starry sky overhead and sighed. Lloyd had been gone for quite a while now. He had run off in the late afternoon to grab something to eat for everyone, leaving Zelos to watch over the four then unconscious survivors of the crash. Three of them had awoken: an older sliver haired woman, identified as 'Raine', then the young winged blonde, who he was told by Raine was called 'Colette', and lastly an even younger silver haired boy named 'Genis'. Raine and Genis were siblings, he was told. But he waited to hear the rest of their story once Lloyd got back so they wouldn't have to tell the extensive tale more than once—of course, they would likely end up having to collectively tell it over three times. His brother needed things to be repeated. Many times.
What's more, he was started to become more concerned as the last member of the strange group—'Sheena', who actually hailed from Tethe'alla—had yet to awaken.
The sun had set not too long ago, cloaking the surrounding area in layers of darkness and allowing the chilly air to settle. Luckily they were able to contend both with a strongly blazing bonfire built on the center of the summit. Zelos figured they'd end up camping the night atop Mt. Fooji before leading the group back to Meltokio the next day. Also to their good fortune, there wasn't a cloud in the sky and they had a dazzling view of the stars and glowing moon.
Bored with the growing silence between them, Zelos stretched his arms behind his head, directing his gaze towards Sheena. "So, we've got the Unconscious Goddess over there," he looked in Colette's direction, "The Cute Mute Angel," he looked to Genis, "The… uhh… hm," He finally looked to Raine, "and the Sensual Maiden, eh? Am I missing anyone?"
Raine shook her head, "While I don't fully approve of your nicknames for everyone, I don't think you've shared with us your name,"
Zelos became wide eyed, clearly shocked and taken aback. "You… don't know me? My, my…" He stood up with a grand smile. "I am the Great Zelos Wilder, Chosen of Mana, Savior to Tethe'alla, Bringer of Salvation, and all that good stuff. But you can just call me 'Mr. Zelos'."
Genis looked up from the fire with clear interest. "You're the Chosen of Tethe'alla?"
"Yup, yup. That's me, alright," he said, a hint of unnoticed bitterness tingeing his charm. Looking around, he saw the raven haired woman sitting up drowsily with a hand to her head. He beamed, "Looks like Sleeping Beauty over there has finally awakened."
Raine walked over to Sheena, he trailed behind her. "Sheena, are you alright? You've been out for quite a while." Raine told her. "Are you injured at all?"
She just kept massaging her temples, eyes closed. "My head just hurts, that's all…" she mumbled. "I'll be fine."
"You could have a concussion," Raine said, "Allow me to help."
Without another word, she began to cast, green mana swirling around her. Within a moment, the spell dispersed and Raine reopened her eyes. "How do you feel now?"
Zelos frowned, taking a small step back from the two. He eyed the silver haired woman skeptically, scrutinizing over her every feature searching for any sort of clue that could give her away. From the limited information they had been given—and even more limited since he had never cared to remember it anyway—he knew that the world they supposedly came from was far less technologically advanced than Tethe'alla, perhaps on the level of Ozette and other backcountry parishes. While he could cast spells, it was only because of an injection of elven blood he had been given at some point in his life, when exactly he couldn't point out; the technology was entirely new to all of Tethe'alla and still had yet to gain any recognition.
With that in mind, the fact that she could manipulate mana so easily and without a second thought perturbed him into thinking there was something she was trying to hide—and he didn't blame her for it. But that didn't mean he had any sympathy for her, either.
He wouldn't jump into hasty conclusions, although he kept alert for any more suspicious evidence.
"A lot better," Sheena answered, dazedly rising to her feet. "Thank you. …Where are we, anyway?"
"Well shouldn't you know, beautiful?" Zelos asked, stepping forward with a coy smirk. "After all, you are from Tethe'alla, aren't you?"
She turned her head to gaze spitefully at him. "I am."
He closed the distance between them, slyly grinning. "So am I. And I've seen every gorgeous girl Tethe'alla has to offer, and yet you have somehow evaded me." His eyes ran up and down the curves of her body. "Maybe as a courtesy for, y'know, savin' your guys' life and all, you could repay me with a—"
"No." She answered firmly, coldly as she brushed past him. But he only turned with her.
"No? Oh, hunny, you don't know—"
She spun around in a whirl. "No, I do know." She stated with an edge. "Just because you're the Chosen One, you think—"
Sheena halted. A large wolf-ish creature had rounded the corner to the peak. Raine, Genis and Colette immediately jumped to their feet and stood prepared to battle. The creature set down the large bag it carried in its fearsome jaws and yowled.
"Hahah, relax. This thing'd more likely lick ya to death than ever attack you." Zelos laughed, "That's just Noishe. He's my bro's, erm…, dog, I guess." He scratched his head, having never extensively thought the issue over. "Whatcha got there, mutt?"
With clear shock and skepticism, the Sage siblings slowly took their seat again, Colette plopped down mindlessly and Sheena remained standing, still wary of the giant protozoan. Noishe took hold of the bag again and lugged it over near the fire. He dropped it on the ground and poked around inside of it with his massive snout and seconds later pulled out a gigantic bone basted in some sort of brown sauce. Content with his dinner, he trotted off away from everyone else.
"That's odd, there's usually a kid that comes with the giant dog…" Zelos remarked. "Oh well. Let's see what the canine catering service brought for dinner."
He walked over and reached into the bag, withdrawing first a loaf of bread followed by other sandwich ingredients. "Sandwiches?" he speculated. He then added with a shrug, "Bud, you could've done better… then again, you also could have done worse…"
He turned to face everyone else, "Sandwiches, you guys know what they are, right?"
Sheena and Raine glared daggers at him; Raine voiced their unanimous thought. "We're from a parallel world, not a third world country."
"Aren't they the same thing…?" he muttered under his breath before flashing them a friendly smile. "Right, right. My bad! Then—"
Before he could continue, a gloved hand appeared over the opposite ledge, followed by another, and finally a body clad in dusty white outfit hauled itself over the cliff. He huffed heavily. "Hey, Zelos…" he panted, "Have you… seen Noishe? He's… got the food."
Zelos gaped. "Did you just…" he sighed, shaking his head. "For Martel's sake, Lloyd, Noishe is smarter than you."
The dog could be heard whining in disgruntlement at the uncalled-for insult to his intelligence.
"H-huh? Whaddya mean?" he sputtered. He looked at the large bag his brother was dealing with and asked in disbelief, "Whuzsat?"
"The food," he answered with a smirk. "Now get off your fat ass, our company is conscious this time."
In response, Lloyd scrambled to his feet, laughing rather sheepishly. "Hey, I'm Lloyd. Lloyd Wilder." He stated. "Who're you guys?"
Before they could respond, his brother again interrupted. "Lloyd, shut up already." He laughed. "Let 'em get somethin' to eat before interrogatin' 'em! They've still got their whole story to tell us, anyway."