"Letting Martel and Anna leave without a communicator was not the smartest thing we've done." Raine sighed. Virginia had turned her own magic on Alicia to try and keep the girl as stable as possible, but the exsphere's infection was much worse this time than what she remembered happening to Anna. Kloitz had woken up, but wasn't any good with magic, so he'd settled for helping Genis bandage his wounds. At first glance they'd looked a lot worse than they were, but after a quick examination, Raine had settled for giving him an Apple Gel and resolving to heal him when she recovered from the barrage of healing spells she'd used on Alicia.
"Guys! Are you okay?" Lloyd ran over. Kratos approached from behind him.
"We're fine." Raine assured him, "What happened?"
"Kvar is dead." Kratos said, "We took some of his research with us, and destroyed the rest of it."
Lloyd cut his father off, "Again."
"Again." Kratos agreed, "I haven't had a chance to look the research over and see if there's anything in there to help us, however." He gestured at Alicia.
"I'll take a look." Raine nodded, taking the papers from him.
Kratos nodded, mutely, walking over to Virginia to help with Alicia.
"What do we do now?" Genis asked from next to Kloitz, glancing at Lloyd.
"We need to get in touch with mom and Martel, I guess." Lloyd frowned, "Mom and Dad know the most about the exspheres… hopefully one of them knows how to help her."
"Well, wandering around in the snow to try and find them isn't a good idea." Kloitz chided.
"Dad, how long can you stick around?" Lloyd asked.
"Not very much longer." Kratos frowned. "I snuck away, and I don't actually have a lie made up to get myself out of this one."
"What the hell is going on up there?" Virginia asked, "Are you ever going to fill us in?"
Kloitz perked up, "Yes, I'd like to hear this story."
"Martel will fill you in when we contact her." Kratos answered.
"Speaking of Martel, is she going to want me to stay here?" Kloitz asked, gesturing to the base.
Kratos shook his head, "I doubt it. With Kvar gone, this base is likely to fall into confusion anyway."
"Should I stay in Triet?" Virginia asked.
"With the way things are now, we could use both of you out of hiding, to be honest." Kratos said, "But talk to Martel."
Both of them nodded.
The group suddenly fell silent as Alicia suddenly shouted in pain.
Virginia quickly laid the girl down in the boat, "Alicia, what hurts?"
"The exsphere." She managed, "Pulsing."
Kratos cursed, "This isn't good."
"I'll go find Anna and Martel." Kloitz frowned. "We can't wait for them."
"Kloitz—" Virginia hesitated, but Kloitz shook his head, sending her a reassuring smile as dark reddish-orange wings spread from his back.
"You're—" Raine said, surprised, but cut herself off, "Never mind." She mumbled, "Everyone's an angel."
Kloitz sent her an apologetic smile, "I'll be back as soon as I can." He said, taking off into the air.
Raine sent Virginia a look, but went back to the papers in her hands, knowing that there were more important things than demanding explanations right now. Virginia hesitated before turning back to Alicia and casting a high-level healing spell.
"Martel! Anna!" Kloitz landed in the snow in front of them. Anna was healing a blue-haired man, who was wrapped in one of their sleeping bags. "Is he okay?"
"He'll be fine." Anna nodded, "Did you… what happened?"
"Kvar's dead, but the girl's condition is getting worse." Kloitz answered, "We need to come up with a plan or something—Kratos has no ideas."
The blue haired man sat up, "Are you talking about Alicia?"
Martel rushed over, "Be careful—you're not recovered yet."
"I'm fine." He insisted.
Kloitz nodded, "We are."
"I'll come back with you." Anna said, spreading her wings.
"Wait, take me to see her." The blue haired man insisted.
"I'm not sure—"
"Okay." Kloitz nodded. "I can carry him back."
"Kloitz!" Anna protested.
"If it was Kratos in this situation, Anna, would he stay behind?" Kloitz asked.
Anna hesitated, but sighed, "Fine."
Martel pulled her own wings out, the three angels taking to the air, Kloitz holding the blue haired man. "So, what's your name?" Martel asked.
"Regal Bryant." He answered. "Thank you for your help."
"Of course." Martel smiled.
"From what I can tell, the reason the exsphere is affecting her like this is because there's nothing protecting her from it. These notes are very…" Raine paused, "Scatterbrained, but they speak of something called Inhibitor Ore that can be used to protect the wearer from the exsphere."
"Crystal mounts are made from inhibitor ore…" Kratos frowned, thinking, "We have to have them fashioned by a dwarf. Are you suggesting that a mount made of inhibitor ore will stop the infection?"
"That's the only conclusion I can draw." Raine nodded. "Do you have any more?"
"Not with us." Kratos cursed, "And I'm not even sure we had any extras on Derris Kharlan."
"We didn't." Martel landed in the snow. "And the dwarf that was helping us fell off the radar a few years ago." She cursed lightly.
"We need to find a dwarf, then." Kratos said.
Kloitz and Anna landed, putting Regal down. The blue haired man hurried over to his wife, who was still lying in the boat.
"Regal?" she asked as he grabbed her hand.
She smiled softly at him, "I'm glad you're okay."
"Shh, you're going to be okay too." He insisted. "Do you know where you can find a dwarf?" he asked, "Please, I'll do anything."
"Dirk." Anna suddenly spoke. "Dirk—from Iselia! He'll be able to help!"
"But he's back in Sylvarant." Kratos said, "I can't sneak you through Derris Kharlan—Mithos is up and about at the moment."
Anna frowned, thinking.
"I can sneak you back through the Renegade base in Triet." Virginia said. "She needs to see this dwarf as soon as possible, and if she's going to live to get there, I have to keep healing her."
Anna nodded, "I'll take her, then."
"Mom, are you sure?" Lloyd asked, surprised.
Anna smiled, "Of course." Turning to Regal, she spoke, "Is that okay with you, Mr. Bryant?"
"Please, call me Regal." He insisted, "And yes. Anything you can do to save her." He turned back to Alicia as Anna nodded and began to make plans with Virginia. "Alicia, you're going to be okay."
"I love you, Regal." She spoke softly.
"I love you too." Regal smiled, squeezing her hand. "Is there any way I can come with you?"
Virginia shook her head, "I'm sorry—the fewer people the better."
Regal nodded, "I had a feeling. Please take care of her."
"We will." Anna promised. "Ready?" she asked Virginia.
Virginia nodded, "Yes."
Anna gave her husband a kiss, and gave Lloyd a quick hug, sending a reassuring smile to the rest of the group. Picking up Alicia, she nodded back at Virginia, heading for the base in the distance, not entirely pleased about revisiting it.
"Virginia—" Raine hesitated.
Virginia turned to her. "We'll talk when I get back. I promise."
"See you all soon." Virginia waved, squeezing Kloitz's hand before hurrying after Anna.
Kratos frowned, "I should probably return to Derris Kharlan before Mithos catches on."
"Mithos?" Kloitz echoed, his eyes widening, "Shit, guys, I know you said you'd explain later, but now I really need to hear this story."
"Martel, will you fill him in?" Kratos asked.
Martel nodded, "Of course. Get going."
The boat ride back to the mainland was quiet except for Martel filling in Kloitz, and in turn, explaining things to Regal. When they reached the mainland, Regal spoke. "If it's alright with you, I'd like to stay with this group. At least until Alicia returns."
"Of course." Lloyd answered before anyone else could speak. "Happy to have you, Regal."
"What about me?" Kloitz asked, "I sort of followed without actually checking."
Martel giggled, "You can stick around if you want, too. I'm pulling Virginia out of the Renegades as soon as she and Anna return with Alicia. With Kvar dead and everything going on with Mithos, I really need you guys out here instead of in hiding."
"That's what Kratos said, yeah." Kloitz chuckled, "Alright, I'll stick around for a while too, then, if you don't mind."
"Of course." Martel chirped. "Well, we were heading to Celsius's temple before." She frowned.
"How far from here to the temple, do you think?" Sheena asked, "If Flanoir is closer, maybe we should stop there?"
"Flanoir's in one direction, Celsius's temple in the other." Kloitz answered, "We're best off heading straight to the temple, I think…"
Martel nodded, "It could take us close to a week to get to Flanoir and then to the temple, but the temple's only 2 or 3 days from where we are now." She made a face, "Traversing the Flanoir continent sucks."
"It's just time consuming." Raine agreed, "It takes twice as long to trek through the snow."
"Now you know how Seles and I feel when Kaley drags us up to visit." Zelos whined.
Sheena shoved him, chuckling, "Okay, temple it is, then?"
"It's like a week's walk to Iselia from here." Anna frowned as she looked over the desert in the general direction of Iselia. "And I can't carry both of you."
"Leave Alicia here with me." Virginia said, "I'll call Yuan and fill him in. I have to stay with Alicia because she won't make it without healing spells, but she needs that mount as soon as possible."
Anna nodded, "Right. Be careful, okay?" she asked.
"You too." Virginia sent her a smile.
Anna smiled back, taking off into the air. Virginia slipped into the shadows of the Triet base, putting Alicia down temporarily and hitting the button on her communicator to call Yuan.
"Hey, Yuan. Anna will be in Iselia by noon tomorrow—has anyone filled you in yet?"
"No. What's going on?"
When an angel with yellow-orange wings zoomed through the skies above Iselia, it drew attention. After all, the people of Iselia had seen glimpses of the purple winged angel and the green winged angel, but this yellow winged one was new. Yuan had trouble keeping his class calm after that.
"Do you think this means Colette succeeded?"
"Professor Yuan, is Colette an angel now?"
Ignoring the fact that I do know, how do you expect me to know?
"Is Colette gonna come back to visit?"
I hope not.
"Does she live on the moon now?"
You're closer to the truth than you think, kid.
"Do angels have four arms?"
Do I look like I have four arms?
"Do angels eat people?"
What did you teach these children, Raine?
"Professor Yuan, can we go try and find the angel?"
"Yeah, maybe it needs help, Professor! What if it's in trouble?"
"Please Professor Yuan?"
That was when Yuan decided that dismissing class before noon was better than listening them ask questions he wasn't supposed to know the answers to. After making them promise to ask their parents for permission before they went angel hunting, he headed out of the village, deciding to try and find Anna.
He took the slow path through the forest, following the smell of Dirk's furnace to his home. As he approached, he noticed Anna sitting outside, head in her hands.
She glanced up. "Yuan? Hey."
"Hey." He nodded, "Virginia filled me in. How's it going?" he asked, sitting down next to her.
She sighed, "Not so good. Virginia's spells are holding her over, but I had to leave her back in Triet and I'm terrified."
Yuan frowned, "The mount?"
"Dirk's working on it, but inhibitor ore isn't easy to mold." She sighed again. "I just hope Virginia can keep her stable until I get back."
Yuan put his hand on her shoulder. "I'm sure she'll be fine."
"Hope so." Anna mumbled. "Aren't you supposed to be teaching?"
"The kids caught sight of your wings." Yuan answered. "Couldn't calm them back down."
"Sorry." Anna chuckled.
"I don't mind the break." Yuan smiled, "How's Martel holding up?"
"She's putting on a strong front, but… well, you know Martel." Anna answered.
"Yeah." Yuan sighed as well, "My replacement at the schoolhouse starts soon, and then I'm planning to stick with you guys, if that's okay."
"Of course." Anna smiled at him, "We'll be happy to have you."
The caves that surrounded Celsius's temple looked at natural as caves could get—of all the temples that Sheena had been to, this one looked the least like a temple, anyway. The chill from the air hit the group as soon as they entered, however; where caves would normally be warmer than the open space outside of them, this one was a good ten degrees colder, if not more. It had taken two days to get to the temple and none of them were in any shape to fight for a summoning pact without some rest first.
"Maybe we should rethink camping here." Zelos shivered.
"Camping in the open isn't a good plan either, though." Raine hesitated.
"Celsius keeps her cave cold to keep out intruders just like us." Martel explained. She and Kloitz looked fine, but then again, their bodies could withstand much more extreme temperatures than human or elven bodies could hope to. "But there's a sanctuary not too far in, where she keeps the temperature higher—or at least there used to be. It was for aspiring summoners and people on pilgrimages."
"Let's hope it's still there, then." Sheena said through chattering teeth.
Martel quickly led them deeper into the cave. Around a bend that was not the regular path towards the spirit was a dimly lit cave with a fire pit in the center. Immediately upon entering, the temperature around them rose, the chill gone.
"Thank you, Celsius." Martel murmured, "We can stay here—it's secluded, so it's safe, and much less chance of us freezing overnight."
"Sounds perfect." Raine nodded, the group beginning to set up camp.
Once camp was set up, Martel wandered outside to call Virginia for an update, and Sheena, Zelos, Lloyd, and Genis pulled out a deck of cards to play their favorite nonsensical card game. Regal sat down to watch them, perplexed by the idea, leaving Raine and Kloitz sitting in silence by the fire.
"Hey, Raine?" Kloitz spoke up.
The half-elf glanced over.
"Can we talk?"
Raine hesitated, but nodded. "Sure. Outside?"
Kloitz nodded. Raine pulled on her coat, and looked over at her brother.
"Sis?" Genis asked.
"We'll be back soon." Raine assured him. "We're just going to look around."
Genis nodded, "Okay. Be careful."
Raine smiled at him and nodded, before following Kloitz from the cave and through the temple to the outside of the cave. They were silent for the walk, but once outside, Kloitz spoke up. "Virginia told me that you figured out…"
"What, that you're my father?" Raine asked, interrupting him. "It wasn't difficult."
Raine sighed, taking a deep breath before continuing. "Just… just tell me why. I was only eleven! Genis was a newborn! Why would you just abandon us—"
"We didn't abandon you!" Kloitz cut her off, "We didn't. We never meant to."
"Then what happened?" Raine asked, "The very least you owe me is an explanation."
"I owe you so much more than an explanation, Raine." Kloitz murmured, "How much do you want to know?"
"Everything." Raine answered. "I'm tired of secrets, I'm tired of lies—I'm tired of finding out people are immortal angels." She snapped.
Kloitz flinched again.
"Please, Kloitz. Tell me everything."
See, I can still post two chapters in a week! :D
I know this sort of ends on a cliffhanger, and I didn't mean it that way. I'm sorry. It was just a better place to end it, so I just ended it. The explanation is next chapter, along with some summon spirit butt kicking. :D Also, news on Alicia.
I'd just like to take a minute to thank everyone who's been sticking with me despite my erratic updating schedule and massive lapses in updating. You have no idea how much it means to be that you're still reading, whether you review or not. It only took four years, but we made it to fifty chapters! Thank you all so much.
Anyway, let me know what you thought, and I'll update again soon. :) Thanks for reading!