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The radio crackled.
"This is Sheridan Control Tower, we have you on radar. Albiore II, please come in, over."
Noelle smiled. She picked up the small receiver and held it to her lips. She continued to observe the azure sky. "This is the Albiore II, Pilot Noelle speaking; just finishing dropping off the last of Luke's group in Grand Chokmah. I'm headed southwest towards Sheridan at the moment; everything's perfectly functioning and the skies are fairly amiable. Over."
"Ah, Noelle! It's so great to hear from you!" Came Ginji's voice through the static. "After Hod started to collapse, I hightailed it out of there in the Albiore III like Asch said. How on Auldrant did you all make it out of there? Over."
"Well…" She hesitated. Not all of them had made it out. Noelle recovered, giggling, "…I guess all those lessons from my super pilot brother must have paid off, huh? Over."
Ginji laughed. "I'm glad you learned from my mistakes, then." The radio stirred through static and her brother returned again briefly. "Okay, sis, I've gotta let control tower back on. Have a safe flight back. Over."
"I will, don't worry." She smiled assuredly though she knew he couldn't tell. "See ya in a few, Ginji. Over."
Her eyes returned to the beautiful skies around her, her confident smile only softening to express content bliss. Nevertheless, Noelle continued to listen for her next issues from the team in the Sheridan Control Tower. Their instructions were simply protocol at this point, but to hear the familiar voices from her hometown gave her an extra sense of security as she piloted around the world for what she hoped would be the last time for a long while.
Minutes passed and still she had not heard a word from Sheridan. Her content smile faded as the problem became apparent. Over the horizon loomed the dark storm clouds and flashes of cackling lightning that always hung over an isle long forgotten by mankind. She remembered surging through the powerful storms on one occasion to let the group investigate the area. They hadn't returned more than an hour later with the unanimously weary desire to leave and never return.
She glanced downward to gauge the charge of the refined fonstone, looking ahead again as her features scrunched in thought. She shook her head, picking up the receiver. "This is the Albiore II reporting to the Sheridan Control Tower, I have lost all incoming communications due to a field of electrical interference to the southwest of Grand Chokmah. I am rerouting my course and traveling northeast from Grand Chokmah to arrive in Sheridan in approximately four hours. Over and out."
She replaced the unit and switched off the radio, her cheery mood spoiled by the storm clouds. Within minutes, she had turned the massive craft around and began heading back towards the Malkuth capital and sunny blue skies became her pathway once more.
The soft purr of the engine became background noise as she let her eyes drift through the skies ahead. Noelle began to brood.
Asch, the swordsman Ginji had piloted to Eldrant, hadn't made it back before the collapse, if she interpreted correctly. Tear had periodically filled her in on what exactly had been going on throughout their journey, so she was well aware of the 'past' between Asch and Luke. (And just about everyone else for that matter; Tear was thorough.) So the idea of Luke's inferred disappearance coupled with Asch's desertion had her concerned.
Asch—the original 'Light of the Sacred Flame'—had been born with the same fonon frequency as Lorelei, therefore deemed a perfect isofon of the Seventh Fonon sentience. Luke—the replicated 'Light of the Sacred Flame'—had been created a perfect replica of the perfect isofon. Either way, both of them were directly connected to Lorelei.
What worried her, then, came in the form of a troubling question: Why, on the day that Lorelei was supposedly freed from the core, did his two mortal incarnations perish?
Could a God die?
And if they could, what would that leave in their wake?
Noelle slammed into the side wall of the Albiore before she even knew what had happened. The whole sky flashed brilliantly and two explosions like thunderous claps pounded on the craft. Back of her head throbbing, she hurriedly picked herself up and dashed towards the cockpit. The floor began to spin under her and she could see the land spiraling closer and closer.
The Albiore II had been hit.
Precious seconds ticked away as she held tightly to the controls, trying with all her might to bring the craft back under her control. The engine behind her screamed as it had taken a direct hit. But the way that it howled seemed amiss—it was as if components had just… vanished. She ceased her attempts at steering the dying plane for enough time to secure herself within the cockpit. With the engine busted and the controls incapacitated, she knew her crash landing could be fatal.
She felt her blood freeze as Grand Chokmah came into view—not only into view, but into her path. She desperately hammered away at the control panel, utilizing every mechanism that had any power. She let out a wordless exclamation as the wings finally groaned in response and she maneuvered the plummeting craft away from the capital city.
The roaring crash could be heard for miles.
"Arise, my Scions,"
Luke sleepily cracked open one eye. Selenia. He hoped he wasn't dreaming again.
He sat up to see Asch pushing himself up, also fairly dazed. Upon his original's back had sprouted a pair of identical black-feathered wings that unruffled themselves as he awoke. He absently stretched his arms and his wings, as if connected by a string, acted similarly: they fully expanded to reveal a breathtakingly dark down that seemed to span the horizon and blend into the night.
Luke inwardly frowned, stretching his arms and outstretching his own radiant white wings to confirm they had received the same package. Satisfied, he jumped to his feet and looked about the selenia filled valley for Lorelei. The sentience stood at the edge of the field, facing the ocean with his hands placidly placed behind his back. His right hand fidgeted impatiently while his left seemed completely unaffected.
It was Asch who broke the silence. "Why'd you bring us to Tataroo Valley?"
His fidgeting ceased, and Lorelei turned. "Until recently, the highest areas of Seventh Fonon concentration have been the Absorption Gate and the Radiation Gate. But after our emergence from the core at Eldrant and a choice two hyperresonances…" he paused to let his words hang in the air, "…Seventh Fonons have become more widespread and scattered around the world, not just at those points. With that being said, we could have wound up anywhere, but this place just has a certain… significance." He said with a curling smile.
A chill brushed over Luke; he didn't like how Lorelei spoke so fondly of this place. What's more, he was starting to wonder just what the sentience had planned for them.
Luckily, he wouldn't have to wonder for much longer. "On Auldrant, one day has passed since your defeat of Van. Obviously, it is night in this region and in a few more hours, the sun will rise and the people of Auldrant will learn to live another day without knowing what fate may bring. This concept may instill in some a sense of isolation and fear, whereas others might embrace the idea of independence and self-reliance.
"Either way, now that the Score has been overturned, the weak need a leader and the strong need to be supervised." He stopped, sporting a faintly puzzled expression. He asked, "…Why is that?"
Asch supplied his textbook answer. "Otherwise, the strong could lead the weak in all the wrong directions."
Lorelei nodded. "Good, you haven't forgotten." He began to walk through the valley, quietly signaling them to follow. "There are so many things that humans take for granted. For instance, can you feel the gentle breeze and the steady earth underfoot? Can you see the darkness of the night and the soft light of the stars? Can you hear the placid waves against the shore and the crackling of a hearty fire? …Suffice it to say the elements are in balance. No one element dominates the other, but they all contribute respectively into the creation and maintenance of a world that can sustain fragile life.
"I don't mean to sound patronizing when I say this, but no one of such a fragile existence truly understands just how delicate the balance is between the elements, or how surprisingly difficult it is to maintain it." Lorelei sighed, "Especially when the elements are… quite a wide array of characters."
Asch narrowed his eyes and scrunched in nose in distaste. "You don't mean…"
"…The other elements…?" Luke filled in cautiously. He had heard stories from long ago of their existence but never thought of them as more than the aura of the elements.
The sentience couldn't help but let a small smirk slip; his scions were in for a rough first week. He turned to face them with a quizzical expression. "Oh, was I wrong to assume you've already met the family?" His words drowned in irony. "Allow me to introduce the first two you'll be working with."
Lorelei gestured with his left hand and a golden bird radiantly illuminated the azure night. It easily stood to match the three isotopic gods in height, the red and gold feathers adorning its head like a gallant crown. It outstretched its shimmering wings at its side and lowered its head, as if in a bow. It then straightened, its violet eyes sharp like a hawk. "This is Rem, Sentience of the First Fonon, or rather, the Summon Spirit of Light." Lorelei supplied. "Luke, Rem is under your authority—meaning you are in charge of making sure Auldrant has the light of day. Likewise—"
Lorelei gestured with his right hand and a chill brushed through the air. The night beside the god suddenly turned into a deep darkness that seemed to even mask the moon. A humanoid shape could barely be distinguished from within the shadows, but its sinister smile could be felt piercing the air. "This is Shadow, Sentience of the Sixth Fonon, or the Summon Spirit of Darkness. Asch, you will be in charge of Shadow and thus pressed with the responsibility of assuring the darkness of night also falls upon Auldrant."
"Charmed." It breathed. Rem let out a low hiss.
In an instant, his normally blithe and light tone vanished; beneath it a stone hard tenor came through. "The breaking dawn will commence the first of your many tests." The sentience's icy gaze turned towards the Summon Spirits. "Shadow, Rem, obliterate any memories of the system I've had you running for the past millennia at the half-way point of the cycle and henceforth abolish all institutions that shaped your behavior under my hand. Heed the words of my Scions as if they were my own."
Rem nodded obediently while Shadow only let out a throaty, amused laugh. Lorelei went on, clearly on edge. "Luke, Asch, do not feel the need to run everything precisely as it was before. Although to fragile life, change is not always something greeted with much enthusiasm, a little change could help… or hinder. Choose wisely," Lorelei warned through clenched teeth. "Excuse me, there is something I must take care of. Feel free to explore the extent of your powers; just don't forget, your world rests in your hands."
Noelle awoke with the echoes of the howling machinery still ringing in her ears and the impact of the landing still pounding her head. …Where was she, anyway?
As she struggled to sit upright, she could feel the cool grass trembling beneath her and a soft wind in her face. She opened on eye dazedly—everything was just colors and shapes for the first couple seconds.
"Oh, thank goodness, you're awake." A voice exclaimed in relief. She frowned, didn't she know that voice? It hurt to think. The voice came again, less assuredly. "Er, Noelle? Are you alright? I'm over here."
"Huh?" she sputtered, holding a hand to her head. She slowly sorted through her vision… where was the voice coming from? Or rather, what?
Another voice sighed heavily. "Oh dear, she isn't doing well. Allow me to take a look,"
At once she felt a warm flat surface cup over her shoulder. She gazed down at it and followed it up until it revealed to be… a person? Is that what that was?
"Hmm." He hummed flatly, as he analyzed the eyes of the incompetent pilot. She stared right back at him with an empty sort of fear in her sky-blue eyes. He shook his head, backing away. "She's not recognizing either of us. It is likely that she has a concussion."
"Man!" the other voice cursed. He kneeled beside her and she blankly looked into his eyes. "Noelle, it's me, Guy. You had a crash in the Albiore. Can you understand me?"
She could feel her heartbeat and her pounding migraine synchronize. She understood what they were saying to her—she needed to convey that to them. "Yeughssh…" but somehow, she couldn't operate her own speech. Her headache worsened.
"I think you're right, Jade," Guy hurriedly stated. "We've got to get her some medical help right away."
"The title of 'Dr. Mambo' wasn't obtained through any absurd or frivolous incident, you know." Jade seemed smug to remind him. "Guy, I'm afraid you'll have to help Noelle into the city. Even the slightest knock to the head could cause permanent damage, if not be lethal."
Guy nodded. "Right." He hesitantly moved to help her up, but something held him back. He sputtered abashedly, "Can you stand?"
"Honestly!" Jade cried out harshly. "Whether or not she thinks can doesn't matter. You need to help her—and by help her, I mean carry her."
"Wh-what?!" Guy exclaimed, his voice breaking. "Jade, y-you know I can't do that!"
The Necromancer had already started heading towards the city. "For Noelle, I'm sure you could manage." He shrugged, adding, "…Or for the Albiore, if you'd rather look at things that way."
Left with no other options, Guy let out an aggravated groan and steeled himself with a deep breath. After a moment of mental preparation, he awkwardly scooped her into his quivering arms and followed in Jade's path.
The Colonel glanced behind him to make sure the two were on their way. His eyebrows jumped as he saw Guy fairly calm with a woman cradled in his arms. Still, he couldn't resist the change to jab the Royal Rappig Attendant of Emperor Peony the IX one more time.
"A word of advice: Shaken Baby Syndrome can also apply to a severely concussed woman."
Although her entire frame of support was trembling uncontrollably, Noelle felt herself slipping into unconsciousness. Before she could black out, she gathered her remaining strength, and managed to voice, "Wha hap'n tzu… Albier?"
Guy grimaced. "Two simultaneous hyperresonances."
Confused, yet not unaware, Noelle stole away into the darkness.
Note: Please see my profile for an update regarding ALL stories. Thank you.