Chapter Forty-Seven: Rheairds Ho!

"Mizuho, city of ninjas."

"City of freaks," Zelos added after Sheena spoke. They walked up to the main entrance, where a blue ninja stood by the wooden poles supporting the classical Japanese archway. Blue ninjas. Yes, so very camouflage. Did anyone here actually wear black?

In any case, Zelos was busy massaging his slapped cheek while the blue ninja stepped in their path. "Sheena! What is the meaning of this? You know you are not allowed to bring outsiders to the village!"

Genis looked at the ninja in alarm, while Sheena said, "I am prepared to accept my punishment. These are the travellers from Sylvarant and we'd like a meeting with the vice-chief."

"You're from Sylvarant?" the ninja – who Will thought was Sheena's friend Orochi – said. "The dying world?"

"Well, we are," Genis said, gesturing to himself, Raine, and Will.

Orochi just gave him a cursory glance, but said, "Sheena, this is incredibly irresponsible of you. How could you threaten the safety of our village like this?"

"Look, I know this is unprecedented," Sheena said. "And I'm sorry. But this was our only option. Please let them in."

Orochi sighed. "Well...I should but...I'll talk to the vice-chief about it. Please follow me."

"All of us?" Will asked for clarification as Orochi started to turn around.

He nodded. "Yes. I'd like you to wait in Sheena's house while I discuss this with the vice-chief."

Sheena's house? Cool. "This way, guys," Sheena said as they walked down the paths of the village. Orochi detoured to walk across a short bridge to the chief's house, while Sheena led them down another path. They walked under a cherry tree, with only a few ripe, red cherries left hanging from the green leaves. At the end of this path was a small wooden house, with a plaque on the door featuring two Japanese characters. Or... Mizuhonian characters. Which probably directly translated to Japanese.

Sheena opened the door, but before walking in she bent down and unbuckled her boots, sliding them off her feet and leaving them on the mat in front of the door. Genis watched, then asked, "Do we have to take our shoes off?"

She paused on her way in, then said, "Er, I guess you don't if you don't want to... It's just tradition, and it helps keep the floor clean."

"Very well," Raine said, already bending over to take her shoes off. "You've adjusted to our customs for so long, it's the least we could do to follow yours now that we're in your home."

"Uh, thanks," Sheena said, disappearing inside. Will took his boots off as well, then followed her inside. Sheena lit a few lamps to lighten up the place, and Will looked around at her small, one-room home. There was a small kitchen area and the table was low to the ground with no chairs. In fact, there were no chairs at all in the house, and on the other side of the room her bed was a simple futon only a couple inches off the floor. The thin wooden floor was slick under his socks and the walls were covered in plain beige paper.

" it is," Sheena said, gesturing around. "Home sweet home."

"Wow," Genis said, looking around the room. "This is so cool, Sheena!"

She blushed a bit. "It's pretty small..."

"Nonsense," Raine said, smiling at her. "It's lovely."

"Heh, thanks. Do you guys want some food?"

"Do we have time?" Regal asked, only just now coming inside. It had taken him a long time to get his greaves and boots off, especially with his hands tied. "Your friend may request that we meet with the vice-chief at any time."

"That's true," Sheena said, then shrugged. "I'll start something. Rice is pretty simple. Please, everyone, sit down and make yourselves at home."

They stood in the middle of the room, looking around. It was clear from the look on all their faces that they were all wondering where to sit when the room lacked any chairs, so Will – probably the only one with a cursory knowledge of Japanese behaviour – sat down on the floor by the table. The rest followed suit, and Sheena, standing at the counter by the kitchen, hadn't even noticed their discomfort.

"So how long do you think it will be until the vice-chief agrees to meet with us?" Zelos asked.

Raine frowned. "Assuming, of course, that he does. If Mizuho is as strict about outsiders as they seem, we may be in more trouble than we thought here."

From the counter, Sheena shook her head. "No. Vice-Chief Tiga is a good man. He's more upset with me for bringing you here than you guys."

"Why is there just a vice-chief?" Genis asked. Will saw Sheena freeze, her hand gripping a cup tightly. "I mean, where's the actual chief?"

"He..." Sheena said. "He's...ill."

"With what?" Genis asked.

Will cut in to say, "It's not important Genis. Drop it."

Genis glared at him, and Will was taken aback. He didn't look mildly irritated; Genis looked seriously angry at him.

Not sure what he'd done, he said, "Um, sorry?" Well. Someone was pissy today.

"I'm sure we have nothing to worry about," Zelos said.

"Hey, Sheena," Will said. "What did those symbols on the door say?"

"What? Oh," she glanced at the closed door as if she could see them through it. "It means 'hope'."

"Is there a particular meaning in having that on your door?" Raine asked.

"Um...well, my grandfather gave that to me a long time ago... He told me to always hold on to hope no matter what, and gave me the plaque so that I'd always remember that. It's kind of traditional."

Raine's eyes lit up. "What a fascinating tradition! What other symbols do people have?" Before Sheena could answer, Raine said, "I must learn your ideographic language; it's so different from our alphabet-based one. Your culture is so unique! I simply must find out more about this."

"Er, well, I'd be happy to show you around town if the vice-chief says it's ok."

"That would be marvellous!"

Sheena turned from the kitchen and placed bowls of steamed rice on the table in front of everyone, complete with chopsticks. She sat at the head of the table and started to eat, while the rest of the group stared at the chopsticks in befuddlement.

"Sheena," Regal said, picking up the two sticks. "How exactly do we eat with these?"

"What? Oh, yeah, sorry, I guess you guys wouldn't know how to eat with them."

Will, figuring it would be a bit suspicious if he knew how to eat with them, let Sheena demonstrate. "Hold the first one like a pencil," she said, "and then the other one is held by your index finger like this..." She tried to demonstrate, and Will practiced wiggling them back and forth a bit. He was far from an expert, and his experience with chopsticks was mostly limited to Chinese take-out.

"Wow, Lloyd," Raine said as she struggled to get the chopsticks to work. "You're very good at this."

"I'm just good at using my hands, I guess," he said. Genis was glaring at him again, and Will was seriously starting to wonder what he'd done.

Sheena looked around the table and laughed as the group tried to pick up grains of rice with the sticks. Zelos had discovered that the rice stuck to the wooden sticks and took to dipping the stick in the bowl and then licking the rice off like a lollipop. Regal and Presea, quietly sitting at one end of the table, seemed to grasp the concept but still struggled to get a mouthful, while Genis and Raine positively floundered.

"It's really not that hard, guys," Sheena said.

"Argh," Genis muttered as a clump of rice fell from between the sticks. "Don't you have any forks?"

She shook her head. "No, sorry. I have a couple spoons, though I use them for cooking and not as eating utensils. I could give you one if you like."

"Please," Genis said.

"I would like one as well," Raine said. She was glaring at the chopsticks in frustration, and Sheen got up and opened a drawer.

"Anyone else want a spoon? Lloyd, you good?"

"I've got it," he said, scooping rice into his mouth. "But do you have any soy sauce?"

"Soy sauce? Yeah, do you want some?"

He nodded, and she pulled it off the shelf.

"Sheena," Zelos said, "can I have a spoon, too?"

"Yeah, yeah."

She plopped the utensils and the bottle of sauce down on the table, and the group was finally able to eat. The soy sauce, though making the rice taste better, also made it less sticky. This in turn made it harder to pick up, and though he managed he was wishing for a spoon by the end of the meal.

As they were finishing up, there was a knock at the door. Sheena got up to answer it and everyone craned their necks to turn around and see who it was.

"Sheena," Orochi said. "The vice-chief will see you now. Bring the foreigners."

"Alright," She said, then turned back to the others. "C'mon, guys."

They got up, and Will discovered that his foot had fallen asleep while sitting on it for so long. Well wasn't that just typical of him. He managed to get his shoes on without any trouble, and stamped on the floor a couple times to try and get his circulation back.

Outside, they walked back towards the house on the small island in the middle of town. There were more people outside by now, watching the newcomers with interest. He guessed in an isolated Japanese village, they didn't see very many Caucasians.

They walked past a guard at the door and into the small central building. They took their shoes off before entering again, which was kind of a hassle, having just put them on when they left Sheena's house. Will glanced enviously at the wall, wishing they could have entered through the top-secret hidden entrance. Sheena led them into the main room, and knelt on the straw mat before Tiga. The rest of the group followed suit, kneeling behind her.

"Travellers from Sylvarant," he said. "Why have you come to Mizuho?"

Sheena answered for them. "I'm sorry for bringing them, Vice-Chief. But our good friend has been kidnapped and we wanted to use our intelligence network to help find her."

"Hm," Tiga said. "Which friend is it that has been taken?"

"Colette, the Chosen of Sylvarant."

Tiga looked over at the others and said, "Are you aware that because Sheena failed to assassinate the Sylvarant Chosen, Mizuho now faces persecution?"

"What?" Genis said. "But that's not fair!"

"Since when has life been fair?" Tiga said. "The fairness of the situation does not change its existence. So tell me, why should we devote our services to location a girl whose existence endangers all of Mizuho?"

"Because," Will said, "Colette was taken by our enemies, and if she remains in their custody they'll probably win. Our enemies are also your enemies, as they are the ones responsible for victimising the two worlds and pitting them against each other."

"So saving Colette is equivalent to helping the defeat of our enemies?" Tiga said for clarification and Will nodded.

"Yes. Also, we won't be able to focus on our quest until we save her."

"What is your quest?" Tiga asked. "Why should Mizuho care whether you succeed or not?"

"Right now, Mana flows back and forth between the worlds so that one world is always suffering. I want to change that and allow the two worlds to live in harmony."

Tiga laughed. "You want to alter the very fabric of the world? You have high goals, child, but do you have any plan on how to reach them?"

Will twitched a bit at being called 'child' but went on. "I don't know what we're going to do right now, but at least we're trying something. At least we're not just rolling over and taking it. If Lord Yggdrasill created the world, then it's possible for a human or elf to undo what he did." He was sort of paraphrasing what he remembered of this conversation from the game, and he didn't think he'd made any huge mistakes just yet. Certainly the rest of the group was content to just let him talk.

"You speak with such idealism," Tiga said, and Will mentally chuckled to himself. It was not often in his life that he was called an idealist. Usually he was more of a pessimist. "You remind me of the hero, Mithos. He was a sublime idealist."

Will tried to take this Mithos comparison as a compliment.

"He ended the Ancient War by insisting there was a way for the two countries to exist in peace, and went out to accomplish this goal against all odds. Are you saying you want to be the next Mithos?"

Will said, with firm resolution, "I'm not Mithos." Dear god, he did not want to be Mithos. "I'll find my own to save the worlds. We all will. But I can't do that without Colette, and if Cruxis has her, they might win before we have a chance to really start the battle."

Tiga was silent for a couple seconds, and then he smiled. Will released a breath he hadn't realised he'd been holding, and Tiga said, "I admire your conviction and resolution, and would like to offer an alliance. Mizuho will use our information network to aid you however you need, and in return we ask that when you finally achieve your age of prosperity, you help us move the village to Sylvarant."

"What?" Sheena said, her eyes going wide. "Vice-Chief, you can't mean-"

Tiga held up a hand to silence her, and continued, "Mizuho and Tethe'alla have always lived in a shaky relationship, but I fear we have held on for too long. We should travel to Sylvarant and begin anew in that world."

"But, Mizuho is ancient!" Sheena protested. "How can we leave this village behind? Sylvarant doesn't have the cherry trees or the graves of our ancestors or-"

"Sheena, I understand that you are upset at this notion. But it is for the betterment of the entire village."

She hung her head. "I understand."

Tiga turned his attention back to Will. "So. Do we have a deal?"

Will looked over his shoulder at the others. "Well, guys?"

"I don't see anything wrong with it," Raine said.

"As long as Tethe'alla isn't harmed," Zelos said. "I'm cool with whatever you guys decide to do."

The rest nodded in consent, and Will said to Tiga, "Alright. It's a deal." He stood up and started to reach out to shake hands, then hesitated. If this was, like, Japan Town or something, should they bow instead? Was that what they did in Japan for this situation? He didn't think East Asia did a handshake, but he'd always though bowing was used more for greetings or apologies than agreeing on a deal. Or maybe –

Tiga stood as well and saw his hesitation and just reached out to shake hands. Ok, that was simple.

"Now, about Colette," Tiga said. "I'm going to need as much information about her appearance and potential whereabouts as possible."

"We'll have Colette back in no time," Will said as they sat around in Sheena's house later that night. They'd spent most of the afternoon talking to Tiga and the head of the intelligence network about Colette, and as he spoke, ninjas were already scouring the country for her.

Their next mission would be to fetch the Rheairds tomorrow, which would mean another long boat trip all the way back to the Meltokio region. It would take a long time, but at least they'd have the Rheairds then. Unless Yuan showed up to take them? But they were doing this way later, so he didn't really know what to expect.

"That is good," Regal said. "I can hardly imagine how frightened the poor girl must be."

"Colette's strong," Zelos said. "I'm sure she's alright."

Genis and Presea were both very quiet. Presea was sitting quietly at the table with a cup of tea, while Genis sat on the floor by the door. Sheena and Raine had gone out for a tour of the town.

"Hey, Lloyd?" Genis said, and Will looked over from where he was standing with Regal and Zelos. "Will you come outside with me?"

"Uh, sure," he said, wondering what this was about. He walked across the room and followed Genis outside, where they put their shoes on and started to walk. "What's up?" he asked. Obviously something had been bothering Genis lately.

They stopped next to the cherry tree at the head of the path that led to Sheena's house. It was evening, and most people were inside eating dinner as the sun was starting to go down. Genis stared at the ground for a bit, then raised his head and said simply, "I read the book."

Will blinked at him. "What book?"

Genis' nervousness was slowly turning into anger. "The one that described how people from different worlds can dress up as people and take their place."

Will's heart stopped for a second. Oh. Oh shit. That book. His mind went into overdrive as he tried to think of an excuse, and he could hear Lloyd rambling about trying to think of something, but he had nothing and Genis kept going.

"I know everything, 'Lloyd'. And I remember. I remember everything that...that girl said when we were in the Fire Seal."

"Where did you get the book?" Will asked. That really wasn't important, but it was the only thing he could think of.

"I stole it from your bag before we left Ozette," Genis said. "And don't you dare accuse me of stealing when you've been parading around as my best friend for who knows how long!"

"Genis, it's not what you think-"

"How is it not? Are you trying to claim that you really are Lloyd Irving?"

"I...well..." It was over. If Genis had read the book, there was no way he could keep this up. "...No. I'm not Lloyd."

"Who are you?" he demanded.

"My name is Will."

"The book said that in Sylvarant and Tethe'alla – which it collectively referred to as 'Symphonia' for some reason - the real person can speak with you telepathically. Is that true?"

Will nodded. "I've been talking with Lloyd ever since this started. We're linked through the Exsphere."

"How long? How long have you been stealing his identity?"

"Since the day Colette received the Oracle." His mind was spinning with all the possible outcomes of this situation, and none of them were good. This is what he'd been trying to avoid for months.

"I knew it. That's when you guys started acting weird. Argh!" Genis shouted, turning away and facing the tree. "I can't believe I trusted you! What kind of friend am I if I can't even tell when my best friend has been replaced by some kind of doppelganger?"

'Will, let me take care of this.'

'What? You want to take over?'

'Yeah. How long can you hold out?'

'I don't know. But let's try it.'

He closed his eyes and took a deep breath, trying to let go, like falling asleep on his feet. At the same time he could feel Lloyd's presence growing stronger, and Will was slipping away...

"Genis," Lloyd said.

"Don't talk to me, you-"

"Genis, it's me."

The half-elf spun around. "Lloyd? Is it really you?"

Lloyd smiled and nodded. "Heh. Yeah. It's me."

"But...but how..."

"We don't have much time. It's hard for Will to let me take over...I don't understand it, really. Complicated soul physics stuff."

"Lloyd, I don't understand. What's going on? Who is this guy?"

"Genis, I want you to trust Will."

Genis' face was a twisted mess of confusion, anger, and sadness. "But Lloyd, who is he? Why do you trust him?"

"This wasn't Will's fault," Lloyd said. "Yggdrasill did this. He forced Will and Ellie – Ellie's the girl who's Colette – into this, and we're trying to make the best out of it. He's a good guy, and I trust him and I want you to as well, ok?"

"Why should I?" Genis shouted, throwing his hands out to the side. "He's been lying to us about this, and it's obvious he's not a very good fighter and he keeps messing up everything."

Ouch. That kind of hurt. Will was watching through Lloyd's eyes and Genis admitting that he'd thought Will was a loser all this time was seriously depressing.

"He's doing the best he can," Lloyd said. "Will's world isn't like ours. He's not used to fighting and stuff. But he's really smart!"

Genis rolled his eyes. "Lloyd, to you, everybody is smart."

"That's not what I meant," Lloyd said, lightly punching Genis' shoulder. "I mean, really. He thinks everything through – admittedly sometimes over thinking things-"

'Hey!' Will whined.

'-but he's just...really unlucky. If I had to pick anyone to take my place, it would be him. I mean it."

Will smiled. Well, felt really happy, because he didn't have a body right now so he couldn't exactly smile. He was just a really happy consciousness. He felt more capable of holding back than he had the last time they tried this, and he supposed he would only get better at it with time. He wasn't entirely sure he wanted to keep practicing though.

"Are you going to tell the others?" Genis asked.


'I'd rather not,' he answered. 'It's easier this way.'

"No," Lloyd said.

"But why not? Don't we deserve the truth?"

"The way Will explained it," Lloyd said, "Is that the less you know, the more likely it is that history will go the way it did in the original story."

"Well, how do we know we want it to go like that?"

"Because, Genis," Lloyd said, putting his hands on the boy's shoulders. "In that timeline, we win. If we change history, Yggdrasill might win and that cannot happen."

'Lloyd, hurry,' Will said. 'I'm having trouble holding on.' He was starting to slip back, and he wanted to make sure Lloyd said everything he wanted to.

"I have to go soon," Lloyd said. "And then Will's going to come back. You need to trust him, Genis. All these months, the person you thought was me was actually him, but he wasn't acting. You continued to be his friend even though 'I' was acting weird, and he's still the same guy. I'm sorry I can't be there with you this time, but I'm always here in the back of his head."

"O-ok," Genis said. "Wait," he suddenly said, looking up. "Lloyd, is – is Kratos really your father?"

"Er..." Lloyd stared blankly at him.

"That girl – Ellie –said he was back in the Fire Seal. That can't be true, can it?"

Lloyd nodded. "Yeah. He is."

"What? But he betrayed us! How could he if you're his son?"

"It's complicated," Lloyd said. "Just trust me on this one."

"But, Kratos is only twenty-eight. If he's your father, he would have had to have been only eleven when you were born!"

Lloyd smirked. "He's an angel, dork. He's immortal."

"I don't understand how you're so ok with this. Kratos betrayed us!"

Lloyd shook his head. "Dad is a good guy. He-"

"You call him 'Dad'? But what about Dirk?"

"I have two dads," Lloyd said. "Duh. He helped us. We could never have won if it wasn't for him. Trust him, trust Will."

'Coming back now.'

There was a rush and Will felt a jolt as he was suddenly corporeal again and could feel the ground beneath his feet. He wobbled and, predictably, collapsed.


"I'm ok," he said. "This happens after we switch back..." He sat up on his elbows and Genis knelt by his side.

"You're Will now, right?"

He nodded. Genis smacked him across the face. "You jerk."

"Ow, hey!"

Genis scowled at him. "I'm going to trust you and try to be your friend because Lloyd asked me to. And...because you've been my friend for these past few months even though you had no reason to care about me."

Will just nodded and watched Genis, hoping the younger would realise he needed help getting up.

" your world, I'm a character? That's what the book said."

"It's complicated," Will said. "There's this whole thing about infinite universes and building bridges between them. I don't fully understand how it works. You should ask the Wonder Chef."

"He's the guy that wrote the book, right?"

Will nodded. "Yeah. He just pops up out of nowhere sometimes. It's...weird."

" know the future."

"Er. Yeah."

Genis sighed. "I suppose you can't tell me."

He shook his head. "It's like what Lloyd said. The more you know about the future, the more likely you are to change it. Just trust me when I say that we don't want to change the future."

Genis forced a smile. "Well, I guess it's nice to know that we get a happy ending. I can wait for that."

", could you help me up?"

The next morning, Tiga helpfully outfitted them with food and supplies for their journey, and since they had a wing pack now they could carry lots more.

"Good luck on your journey," Tiga said as they stood by the archway leading to the village. "After retrieving the Rheairds, return here and we will hopefully have information on the whereabouts of your friend by then."

"Great," Will said. "Thank you."

"We'll be back before you know it, Vice-Chief," Sheena said with a grin.

"Sheena," Orochi said, "didn't you say the Rheairds ran out of fuel? How do you intend to fly them?"

"Oh..." her grin fell. "I guess I hadn't really thought of that."

"Uh-oh," Genis said. "What do we do now?"

"You will need the Summon Spirit of Lightning," Tiga said, looking directly at Sheena. "Otherwise the Rheairds will not be able to fly."

Sheena stared at him for a couple seconds. "Surely there's another way..."

He shook his head. "I'm afraid it's necessary."

"But, Vice-Chief, I can't-"

"Sheena, you are much older and more experienced now. It is time to face your fears."

Sheena hung her head, while the others looked on in confusion. Genis glanced questioningly at Will who just shook his head slightly. It was Sheena's place to explain.

"We can deal with it when you return," Tiga said. "For now, retrieving the Rheairds should be your priority."

"Ok," Sheena said. "Good bye, Vice-Chief. Thanks for everything."

She bowed, and Will felt like he should as well. "Yeah, thanks," she said, bowing awkwardly. Wow, he couldn't say he'd ever seriously bowed to anyone before.

Tiga bowed back with a smile. "I will see you again soon. Take care."

They left, walking back out into the fields around Mizuho. "So, where exactly are we going?" Sheena asked.

"The Fooji Mountains," Raine said. "Where we left the Rheairds."

"I know that," Sheena said, rolling her eyes. "But how are we getting there?"

"We're walking to the west coast," Will said, "and then pulling the boat out of the wing pack and heading over to the Meltokio region."

"We have to go through Gaoracchia Forest again, don't we?" Zelos said.

"Yep," Will answered. "Why? Scared?"

"Me? Frightened? Ha! I laugh in the face of danger." He put his hands on his hips and puffed up his chest. "It's just a forest, after all . We've crossed through it before. What's there to be afraid of?"

Presea spoke up, speaking slowly and coolly, "Gaoracchia Forest holds dangers in the shape of various monsters that have a taste for human flesh such as zombies, ghosts, and boxing flowers. There is also the chance of straying off the path and becoming hopelessly lost."

Zelos' face fell and he stared at Presea. "Preseaaaaaa, you don't have to point all that out," he whined.

"We've gone through before," Regal said. "Last time we defeated a major foe. I do not believe we have anything worse than that to fear."

"You know what we need?" Will said. "A teleportation device."

"You mean like a warp?" Genis asked.

He nodded. "Yeah. It could instantly warp you around the world. That would be awesome."

"Or," Genis said, "what if you could just go into a wing pack and ride around in there while someone else carried it?"

Will stared at him. "Genis, that's...that's awesome! That's a brilliant idea!" He looked over at Zelos. "Is that possible? Can you put a person in a wing pack?"

Zelos tilted his head to the side. "Huh. I don't know; never thought about it."

"That is an intriguing possibility," Raine said. "It could make mass transit very simple and imagine if you could go inside and use it as a makeshift home while on the road!"

"We could just take a wing pack up to Yggdrasill, press the button, and bam! He'd be trapped. Problem solved," Will said. Then they could fight other enemies by pulling out the wing pack and saying, 'I choose you, Yggdrasill!' Yggdrasill would be just like a Pokémon.

"It is unlikely that that would work," Regal said. "Wing packs were not designed to store living things and thus the storage area is a vacuum. You would suffocate and die."

"I don't see how that's a problem," Genis said. "If we were going after Yggdrasill, I mean. It would sure be a simple way to defeat him."

"Yeah," Will said. "He'd be in the middle of trying to cast Judgment on us, and then we'd just suck him in and he'd die." Not quite as cool as using him as a Pokémon, but still pretty effective.

Regal shook his head. "Wing packs are not capable of pulling in a living creature. It's a safety mechanism installed after a small child was killed in an accident."

"Oh," Will said. "Well...I guess that's good. I mean, if kids were getting hurt. But still. Less awesome."

"...You look fat."

Rodyle ignored her, standing by a table and going over plans.

"Really. Why do you wear that atrocious cape thing? When I first saw you, I thought you were ridiculously fat until I realised it was just the cape. And then underneath you're all scrawny and short."

Rodyle glanced up and glared at her. "Chosen, be quiet."

She leaned against the wall. Her arms were sore and numb from being held above her head for so long, and she was exhausted from lack of sleep. Twice a day, Desians would come in and let her down to eat and use the bathroom, but other than that she remained chained to the wall in Rodyle's lab. He kept coming over while working to look at her Cruxis Crystal, presumably to check if he was designing his Mana Cannon right.

"Do you wear it so you'll look bigger or something?" she asked. "Because I'd recommend platform shoes. You'd still look like an idiot, but at least you wouldn't be a fat idiot."

"Be quiet." He didn't look up from his work this time. It was her third day here, and Ellie was exhausted. She was hungry and sleepy and thirsty and she had used up all her TP trying to cast Angel Feathers on Rodyle. She hadn't been able to get a decent night's sleep to restore her Mana either. And on top of that, she was in pain. After Grave-ing her the first day, Rodyle had let her side bleed for a while before a Desian finally came by with an Apple Gel to keep her from bleeding to death. But she still had a bloody hole in her shirt, and it still hurt.

"And what's with the glasses? Are you trying to look gay? It's like all you Grand Cardinals are having a competition to see who can look the most homosexual."


"Well, what do you want me to do? I'm bored. If you let me go, I swear I'll shut up."

Rodyle once again ignored her. Argh, he was worse than Kratos! Uglier and more bastard-y too.

"I'm bored. Bored, bored, bored, bored, bored. I can't imagine how anyone could possibly be more bored." She sighed and slumped against the wall, letting her weight hang on her wrists. It wasn't very comfortable, but it was a nice break from just standing there.

"I'm so bored. I think I'll sing a song. What's your favourite song?"

Rodyle glared at her again. "Chosen, shut up."

"I've got a lovely bunch of coconuts...there they are all standing in a row...big ones, small ones, some as big as your head! Just give 'em a throw, a flick of the wrist, that's what the showman said!"

"Do you ever stop speaking?"

"It's a world of laughter, a world of tears. It's a world of hope and a world of fears. There's so much that we share, that it's time we're aware, it's a small world after all!"

Rodyle was trying his best to ignore her, bending over his table and scratching away with his pencil. She could only assume he was working on the Mana Cannon, but she didn't know exactly how that worked. All she knew was that somehow she was supposed to be the battery for it.

"This is the song that never goes on and on my friends! Some people started singing it not knowing what it was, and now they'll keep on singing it forever just because this is the song that never goes on and on my friends!" She grinned at the way Rodyle was determinedly ignoring her. He wanted to use her, huh? Well, he'd have to put up with her first.

"Some people started singing it not knowing what it was, and now they'll keep on singing it forever just because this is the song that never goes on and on my friends! Some people..."

"I can drive if you want," Will said.

Zelos looked over from the driver's seat of the boat and raised his eyebrows. "Oh? From what I've heard, you fail at life when to comes to operating vehicles."

Will rolled his eyes. They were the only two still awake, Zelos taking his turn driving for Regal. The rest of the group was spread out somewhere in the boat, getting what sleep they could as they sped over the choppy waves toward Meltokio. "Genis likes to exaggerate," he said.

"Well, don't worry about it. I can pilot this baby perfectly."

"Ok, ok. I was just offering." He leaned back in the passenger seat and watched the ocean whiz past. "How fast are we going, anyway?"

"About fifty miles an hour," Zelos asked. "I think the boat could go faster, but we might blow the engine."

"And that would suck. What about gas? Is it possible that we'll get stranded in the middle of the ocean?"

Zelos shook his head. "Nah, we're fine. We're still half full. This thing gets really good gas mileage."

Will looked over at the control panel. He recognised most of the dials from Earth, but there were a couple that he didn't know if they were unique to Tethe'alla or unique to motorboats. "What about that one?" he asked, leaning over and pointing at one where the arrow was low. "Is that still-"

"It's fine, Lloyd," Zelos said, batting his hand away. "Look, I promise to tell you if we're about to crash and die, ok?"

"Puttering out of fuel won't cause us to crash," Will pointed out.

"Sheesh, I think you need to get some sleep. You're quite high strung, you know?"

"I'm not-"

"Personally I think you need to get laid, but you don't seem to be into that so..."

Will rolled his eyes. "Why do I even talk to you?"

Zelos grinned. "It's because I'm so charming. Seriously, though, bud. You need to ease off on the paranoia. Not everything in the world is out to get you."

Will sighed and leaned back again. "Give me a break; I've had a rough couple of months. Tell me that not everything is trying to kill me after fighting for your life against a crazed ladybug. Like fifty times."

Zelos laughed, his shoulders shaking as he drove.

"It's not funny!"

"Sure it isn't..." Zelos sighed. "You're killing yourself, bud. Take it from someone who knows. If you spend your life focused on the bad stuff, then that's no way to live at all. Don't worry about every little thing – just go with it and have as much fun along the way as you can."

Zelos was staring ahead, a content smile on his face as if he was trying not to look too serious. Will just watched him for a couple seconds, thinking. Zelos had a poor lot in life; worse than Will's, probably. Will had been in danger since the end of March, but Zelos had had to put up with this for his entire life. And then there was his mom being killed right in front of him – that couldn't be good for anyone's psyche.

"...I guess you're right," he said. "But that doesn't mean we should just sit back and not do anything! Nothing can be accomplished if you just expect things to happen. You have to make your own plans, and those don't just spring up out of the ground. It takes a lot of thinking and-"

"Geeze, Colette wasn't kidding when she said you were tightly wound."

Will jerked his head around. "What did Colette say?"

He shrugged. "Just that you're uptight and need to relax more."

Will rubbed his forward. Uptight? Need to relax? Aw, man, he was turning into Kratos. Maybe Ellie was right. Maybe he needed to let things go more. Kratos was cool, but he was still an arrogant prick and Will had no intention of becoming him.

"Ugh, maybe you're right..." He looked up. "Hang on. When did you guys talk?"

Zelos shrugged again. "Couple days ago. Why?"

"I didn't hear her say anything about me."

"What, you eavesdrop on her all the time?"

"Well, no, but I didn't see you talking any other time than when I was within earshot."

Zelos just smiled a bit. "You're doing it again."

"Doing what?"

"Being a paranoid little freak. Relax, bud. Go to sleep. There's no need to worry, for Master Zelos is at the controls."

He groaned. "I'm sorry. I don't know why I keep freaking out over everything."

"I told you," Zelos said. "You need to get-"

"As nice as that sounds, my chances of getting laid are considerably lower when my girlfriend currently hates me and has gotten kidnapped."

Zelos gave him that smile again, and Will was starting to not like the thoughts Zelos had when he got that smile. "Who says you need a girlfriend? We're passing by Meltokio; I'd be happy to set you up with a lady friend of mine."

"No thanks."

"...Are you sure you're not gay?"

"I'm pretty certain," he said with irritation, staring straight ahead.

"You know, you're only seventeen. There's still time to experiment just in case. I mean, I knew a guy once who thought he was sure too, until he went to a wedding and got really drunk and-"

"Sorry to interrupt what I'm sure is a fascinating story," Will said, "but I think I'll take your advice and go to bed."

"Ok. See you in the morning."

"Good night, Zelos." He turned away and nestled into the seat. It wasn't as nice as a bed, but it beat sleeping on the hard ground.

"I'd be happy to direct you to that friend of mine, you know."

"Good night, Zelos."

He sighed. "G'night, Lloyd."

"Fuck you, fatso."

"Chosen!" Rodyle slammed his pencil down and whirled around to face her. "If you do not cease and desist your incessant natter I will be forced to take serious measures."

Rodyle started to walk towards her. Ellie was getting nervous, but she refused to show this to Rodyle. She'd been letting out a stream of insults all morning, and she was afraid Rodyle had finally reached his snapping point. "When I get out of here, I'm going to fuck you up so much your bloody carcass won't even be recognisable as you! I'm going to Judgment your ass into next Thursday, you warthog-faced buffoon!"

Rodyle was standing before her now, and Ellie determinedly held her defiant expression as she looked up at him. He grabbed her hair and yanked her head back, hitting the wall with a dull thud. She winced and Rodyle held her there, saying, "Anything else you'd like to add, Chosen?"

Her head pounded from smashing against the wall but she glared at Rodyle as threateningly as she could manage. "I'd call you a moron but that would be an insult to morons, you pompous, stuck-up, snot-nosed, fuck-faced, asshole."

"I believe I've had quite enough of your blather. Are you going to stop talking so I can get my work done?"

"Your mother was a hamster and your father smelled of elderberries."

Rodyle rolled his eyes and reached into his pocket and pulled out a piece of fabric. This he shoved in her mouth and said, "Be. Quiet!"

"Mmmmmph!" Rodyle released her and walked away, while Ellie shook her head and tried to use her tongue to dislodge the gag. This just made her head hurt more, though, so she closed her eyes and leaned back, wishing she could keep singing.

'Now I can't even irritate him. This sucks.'

'It's only going to last a few more days,' Colette said. 'Then you'll go to the Dragon's Nest and the others will rescue you.'

'A few more days? Argh, I can't take much more of this!' This was all Will's fault. He was supposed to protect her but he'd just let this happen because he was an idiot. When she saw him again, she was going to punch him. Hard. In the face. Or the groin. Whichever.

Over a week later, they were walking up the path to the top of the Fooji Mountains. It had been a very long walk, but now they were finally almost at the top. Will's feet were sore and the thought that after this they were going to have to go all the way back was majorly depressing. This damn mountain.

'After Sheena fires the Mana Cannon,' Will said to Lloyd, 'I'm going to ask her to blow up the Fooji Mountains, ok?'


'Goddamn mountain.'

"Lloyd, I have a suggestion," Zelos said from a few paces behind. "Why don't you give me a piggyback ride to the top of the mountain."

Will wrinkled his brow and looked over his shoulder. ""

"Awww, c'mon. I'm tired of walking."

"You're bigger than I am!"

"Well, yes, I am bigger, but then I'm bigger than most guys."

"Let me clarify," Will said, rolling his eyes and feeling very thankful that the three girls were in the front of the group and hadn't heard. "You're taller and heavier than me."

"But you're strong, right?" Zelos said, quickening his pace and throwing his arm around Will's shoulders. "I bet you could handle it."

"Please tell me we're still talking about piggyback rides."

Zelos rolled his eyes. "Yes. Geeze, and you call me perverted."

"Look, I'm not going to carry you. Ask someone who's actually strong enough to lift you."

Zelos sighed. "Alas, you have failed me. My poor feet."

"We're all tired, Zelos."

"Yeah, yeah," he said, pulling his arm back and then running forwards a bit. "Hey! Regal, buddy!"

Will shook his head. Zelos. He was just Zelos.

"Hey, uh, Lloyd...Will?"

He looked down at Genis. They were alone in the back now, so he didn't think the others would overhear their conversation. "Yeah?"

"What's your world like?"

Will was quite for a couple seconds, thinking. They hadn't had a chance to talk without the others listening in until now, but he'd been expecting this question ever since the night in Mizuho. "It's...different. It's faster, I guess. Busier, more crowded. Paved roads all over the place, cities with buildings hundreds of stories high. It's very crowded – there are billions of people. You can fly across the world in giant metal cylinders with wings. And we have telephones, which let you talk to anyone in the world."

"Wow," Genis said. Will wasn't sure how much of that Genis really understood. He'd been trying to sum up Earth as simply as he could, but he hadn't been very specific. "So...where do you live?"

"Well, our world is divided into countries, like Sylvarant and Tethe'alla only on one planet. And the country I live in is called the United States of America. That's then broken down into individual states, and the state I live in is called California."

"This is crazy," Genis said, shaking his head. "It's hard to imagine there are whole other worlds out there that we know nothing about. I thought it was mind-blowing to learn about Tethe'alla, but at least this world is connected."

"Yeah," Will said. "I knew about Sylvarant and Tethe'alla, but I didn't think they were, y'know, real. And then according to that book, every world ever is also real. I could feasibly jump into any book or game or anything."

"After you go home, are you going to do that?"

He frowned, then shook his head. "I think I've had enough world jumping to last a lifetime. I'll be perfectly content to spend the rest of my life on Earth."

"So you like your world more than ours?" Genis asked.

"...Yeah. Yeah, I do. I mean, nothing against Sylvarant or Tethe'alla, but Earth is...well, it's my home. It's broken and dysfunctional and there are so many things wrong with it, but it's mine."

"I know what you mean. Tethe'alla is much nicer in terms of Mana supply and technology, but Sylvarant is my home."

"Also, Tethe'alla is way more racist."

"Well...yeah. That too."

"Presea," Regal said, and Will looked up at the others to find himself looking at a very odd sight. "Just because Zelos asks for something, it is not necessary to give it to him."

Zelos was balanced precariously on Presea's shoulders, while the small girl effortlessly carried him. Raine and Sheena were gaping at the sight, Sheena looking like she was preparing to smack Zelos.

"Oh," Presea said simply. "Very well."

"Wait, Presea!" Zelos said as she prepared to drop him. "You don't have to – oof!"

He landed on his butt on the ground, and Sheena said, "What the hell do you think you're doing, you idiot Chosen?"

"Zelos," Will said, walking over. "You're a moron."

"Aw, c'mon guys, don't make a big deal out of this."

Will offered Zelos his hand and helped the Chosen to his feet.

"Just walk," Will said. "It's not that difficult and we're almost at the top."

Sheena decided Zelos wasn't worth her time and shook her head in disgust before turning around to continue walking. Raine rolled her eyes and followed suit, while Presea just obliviously followed. She might have regained her soul, but she was still a long way from being fully human again.

"Thanks, Lloyd," Zelos said, giving him a genuine smile. They started walking, with Genis and Regal now bringing up the rear. "And...Lloyd?"

"Hm?" Will looked over at Zelos, an oddly serious look on his face.

"I'm sorry."

"For what?"

"Just, y'know...if I've been a jerk to you. No hard feelings, right?"

"Uh...ok." Actually, Will had been making a conscious effort to be nicer to Zelos ever since Lloyd pointed out that it was based on his trust whether or not Zelos betrayed them. "Why do you say this all of a sudden?"

He shrugged. "No reason. It's just a dangerous journey and we don't know what's going to happen next, so I'd rather not have any regrets in case we don't see each other again."

Will raised his eyebrow. "Are you expecting me to fall off the mountain or something?"

"No," Zelos said, rolling his eyes. "I'm not saying you're going to suddenly drop dead, but I noticed we're not really getting on each other's nerves as much this last week so it seemed as good a time as any to clear the water."

"Well, ok. Uh, I'm sorry, too. I guess I overreacted when I shouted at you."

"Great. I just don't like to live with unfinished business or regrets or anything hanging around."

"Geeze, Zelos, you're making me feel like I'm going to drop dead any...minute now..." Ohhhh, wait a minute. They were going to reach the top of the mountain any minute now. And it was possible that Yuan was waiting up there to try and kidnap him. And if Zelos was acting like they weren't going to see each other again, that was starting to seem very likely. Oh, man, dammit Zelos. Will found it hard to take Zelos' apology for any and all douchbaggery seriously when the guy was planning for him to be kidnapped and, for all Zelos knew, killed as soon as they reached the mountain top.

Will was now feeling a lot less eager to reach the top. However, they were rounding the last curve of the road and nearly at the top. Will quickened his pace to catch up with Raine, not wanting her to walk around the corner and be completely caught off guard. He was ready to reach for his swords in an instant and alert for Renegades.

The group rounded the corner and came to flat plateau on top of the mountain. Will looked around, not seeing any Renegades. Of course, he also failed to see any Rheairds. Dammit.

"Where did the Rheairds go?" Sheena said, looking around. Yes, Sheena, they're hiding under a rock.

"Did you guys hide them?" Will asked. He walked over to the side of the plateau, not really expecting to find the Rheairds here. It looked like the Renegades had already taken them back to the base. Damn, now they were going to have to break in there and retrieve them.

He stood on the edge of the mountain, looking out at the view. They were pretty high up, though there were higher mountains around them. He thought he could see Meltokio from up here.

"Hide them?" Genis asked. "Of course not."

"Maybe there are clues up here as to where they disappeared?" Regal said.

Raine sighed. "We might as well look."

Zelos walked over towards Will while the others started to walk across the plateau. "Hey, Lloyd, what'cha looking at?"

He shrugged. "Nothing."

"Come help us look," he said. "You're good at spotting details and stuff."

Will looked over at Zelos suspiciously. "Why-"


He spun around, just in time to see spinning yellow diamonds spring up out of the ground and surround the rest of the group. Dammit, Zelos! Will stood off to the side by a large rock, looking around wildly.

"You fools," came the familiar voice of Yuan. "You've walked right into my trap!"

He stepped out from behind a large rock on the far side of the plateau, leering at them like a spider that had just caught something in its web. Will shrank against the rock he was near, with Zelos standing by. Yuan was a Seraph just like Kratos, and Kratos had kicked his ass the last time they fought.

"Yuan!" Sheena said, while Regal and Presea looked at the others questioningly.

"Do you know this man?" Regal asked.

Raine didn't let her eyes leave Yuan's face as she said, "You could say that we are acquainted."

They needed a plan. Will did not have a plan. Now that he noticed it, he could see the box hidden near one of the rocks near the entrance. That was the control for the trap, and he was lucky enough to not have been caught. He just needed to get to it and smash it up to release the others, without getting caught by Yuan, of course.

"Now," Yuan said, "where's Lloyd?"

Will didn't say anything, too terrified to move. Any action on his part would draw Yuan's attention, and that was the last thing he wanted right now.

'You know, Yuan's not that bad. He saved Dad's life. And he doesn't want to hurt you, so you don't have to be scared. I mean, don't surrender to him or anything, but it's not like he's Kvar.'

'You know they're voiced by the same guy?'

Before Lloyd could respond, Yuan turned his head to the side. "Ah, there you are. Lloyd, you need to come with me."

Realising the jig was up, Will took a couple steps away from the wall. His companions were watching him intently, and Zelos was standing behind him. He felt a little nervous about this, seeing as Zelos was currently working for Yuan. He just hoped that Zelos would realise that literally stabbing him in the back right now would not be very subtle.

"How about no," he said.

"This is not up for negotiation," Yuan said, starting to walk towards him. "Lay down your swords and we can do this without a fight."

Negotiation would be nice. It had worked pretty well against Vharley, though Yuan was considerably more intelligent than Vharley. Also, Yuan wanted to kidnap him. Will did not want to be captured. Not a lot of wiggle room there.

Yuan got closer, and Will drew his swords. He didn't know how much good they'd do against Yuan, but it was better than just standing there. Yuan raised his eyebrow. "You intend to fight me?"

Will didn't say anything, but tried to give Yuan a defiant look. He wasn't going to be kidnapped without a fight.

"Very well. I hope you know what a fool you are."


Yuan struck out at him fast as lightning, and Will barely managed to avoid getting his head chopped off. But the weapon – which Will believed was called a swallow – was double sided, and the other end was swinging around at him deadly fast. Not knowing what else to do, he bolted, running across the small plateau as fast as possible. Zelos was right on his heels, and he stopped near the rock Yuan had been hiding behind.

"Demon Fang!" he shouted, sending a bolt of light at Yuan, who was in the middle of casting.

Will's attack did little to distract him, and he was about to use it again when Yuan shouted, "Lightning!"

Electricity coursed through him and Will was painfully reminded of just how much he hated Kvar. His fingers tingled afterwards, all the electricity coursing into the metal swords. Yuan was casting again, and Will didn't like the thought of getting zapped unconscious. He couldn't keep Demon Fang-ing from a distance if he wanted to win, so he was forced to run towards Yuan again.

"Hunting Beast!" He managed to upset Yuan's concentration enough to keep him from finishing the spell, and then brought his swords up to block the swallow as it swung around to hit him. Yuan was really strong, though, and Will was using all his strength to keep it back, the blades digging nicks into the shaft.

"Double Demon Fang!" Zelos sent two attacks whizzing for Yuan, which distracted the Seraph. This allowed Will to try Super Sonic Thrust, which Yuan easily dodged. Will's momentum carried him forward a couple steps, right past Yuan. Then the shaft of the swallow struck his back and he careened forwards, dropping to his hands and knees.

He heard a clang as Zelos' sword collided with Yuan's blade, and then he rolled over as the other end of the swallow sped towards him. "Beast!" he shouted from his back, slashing his sword through the air. The force pushed Yuan sideways a couple steps, and Will jumped up to join Zelos.

He struck at Yuan, who blocked his blow yet again. Will tried to feint to the left, but Yuan was too smart for that and shoved the shaft of his swallow at him, pushing him backwards with a solid blow to the gut.

Will staggered backwards and Zelos kept fighting, though Will noticed he was doing so half-heartedly. He didn't even seem to be trying when Yuan hit him in the same way and pushed him back. This gave him time to start casting again and Will, not keen on being shocked, rushed towards him to stop the spell.

It was too late, and just as Will started to strike, Yuan yelled, "Lightning!" and Will's body jerked as electricity coursed through him with a wash of pain. Before he could do anything else, Yuan followed it up with, "Thunder Explosion!" and leapt straight up in the air like a Jedi. Will stood there for a split second, wondering what to do, when Yuan somersaulted in the air and came crashing down, digging one end of his swallow into the ground. Blue light and electricity exploded around him, and Will grit his teeth and scrunched his eyes shut from the painful attack.

He opened his eyes as soon as he could, feeling a bit shaky. He could see his friends in the trap, watching the battle anxiously but being unable to help. Yuan darted forward and Will did his best to try and block his attacks. Zelos stood back and kept trying to use Double Demon Fang, but he wasn't being terribly effective.

"Help me, dammit!" Will shouted at Zelos as he swung his swords around crazily. He didn't have a chance to even try attacking Yuan, using up all his energy just trying not to get stabbed.

"I am helping!" Zelos yelled back, but nevertheless ran towards Yuan's back with a shout of "Hurricane Thrust!"

Yuan sidestepped to avoid it, but this gave Will a chance to use Sword Rain. He slashed Yuan's side and was quite pleased to see blood, though only his first couple attacks hit him. Yuan was now bleeding and angry, and heightened his attack on Will.

Will found himself backing up, being slowly driven to the edge of the plateau. He blocked every swipe that came at him, but it wasn't enough. Zelos was trying to help, though he appeared to be mostly just putting on a show to pretend he hadn't betrayed them so it wasn't very useful.

Will blocked another blow, and took a chance and stuck at Yuan. He managed to cut his chest, though Yuan had stamina matching Kratos' and all Will was doing was pissing him off. Then Yuan whipped his swallow at Will, and didn't aim for his torso as expected.

Will threw his swords up to block, and the bladed edge instead sliced across his right wrist, cutting a deep wound and forcing him to drop his sword with a gasp of pain. Yuan took advantage of this distraction, and brought his leg up to knee him in the stomach. After taking a pained step back, Yuan brought the swallow up to his neck. Will froze, panting, staring at Yuan with fearful eyes.

"Drop your other sword," Yuan said, staring back intently.

Will complied, and then clutched his bloody wrist. Ok, fighting didn't work. He needed a new plan, and fast. He was currently on the edge of the plateau, a steep slope behind him and rocks all around. His allies were trapped, he was injured, and only had one weapon in his bad hand.

"It didn't have to come to this, you know," Yuan said.

Will just gritted his teeth and tried to squeeze his wrist hard enough to get the bleeding to stop. Zelos was coming up behind Yuan now, but he didn't think there was anything Zelos could – or would – do.

"Now come with me," Yuan said.

Will's eyes darted around, looking for a way out. There didn't seem to be an easy exit, and he could see the others watching in helpless panic from the trap. "I can't," he answered as bravely as he could. "I still have to save Colette. There's still too much I have to do."

He looked up and met Zelos' eyes, trying to tell who Zelos was siding with at the moment. As far as he knew, Zelos was wobbling between factions at this point, so maybe Will could sway him over to help him.

"The Chosen is of little concern to me," Yuan said.

"Zelos!" Genis shouted form the trap. "Don't just stand there, you idiot! Do something!"

Zelos glanced back over his shoulder, a troubled look on his face. Will thought he saw Zelos say something, but he couldn't hear from where he was.

Will stared at him, a pleading look on his face. Come on, Zelos, please...please help us...

Yuan lowered his swallow and pulled his wings out, the pink light erupting from his back with a flurry of feathers. This was met by a gasp from the rest of the party, and Will heard Sheena say, "Yuan is an angel too?"

Please, Zelos. Come on. Will bit his lip, taking a couple steps back from Yuan but realising he couldn't go any farther without slipping off the mountaintop. Yuan raised his arm to grab him and presumably fly away with him, when Zelos came hurtling forward.

His sword was sheathed and Zelos did a flying leap towards them, causing Yuan to spin around in surprise. Zelos crashed into Will, and the latter only had time to widen his eyes in shock before the pair went toppling down the slope.

For the second time in only a couple weeks, Will found himself jouncing down a steep slope, banging his elbows and knees on rocks all the way down. Zelos let go of him and they separated, luckily not banging into each other as they rolled down. His eyes were closed and he didn't know which way he was going or even which way was up or down, and just prayed this lesson in gravity would be over soon.

The slope gradually lessened, and the next thing he knew Will was crashing into a tree. "Owwww..." he groaned as he laid there, his side very sore from the crash. He thought maybe a rib was broken based on the pain in his torso, but other than that he seemed to be fine. Well, that and he was sore all over. Again.

"Get up!" Zelos shouted, already clutching a tree and pulling himself to his feet. Zelos' shirt was ripped and he had a bloody lip, and looked similarly worse for wear. "He's got wings, Lloyd! We have to get out of the open before he comes after us."

Will forced himself to his feet, ignoring his aching body. He stumbled after Zelos and into the trees, and the pair ran downhill. The ground was slick with fallen leaves and scrub, and there wasn't even a hint of a path. Will looked back and couldn't see if Yuan was following them, but they were under the cover of the trees so he wouldn't be able to just fly down and spot them.

"Let's hide here," Zelos said, vaulting over a large fallen tree. Will followed slightly less gracefully, pulling himself up and straddling it before slipping down the other side. Here they leaned back against the rotting wood and caught their breaths, listening for any sound of Yuan.

It was silent save for the light rustling of leaves and the chirping of insects. Will was aware of a bead of either sweat or blood running down the side of his face, and he could feel the beginnings of a bruise forming on his thigh.

They waited for several minutes, and then Will said, "I think we're safe."

"Great," Zelos said. He stood up and stretched, then started casting. Will remained seated and watched him heal himself, and then say, "I assume you'd like some First Aid as well?"

"Please." Zelos casted again, and Will sighed in sweet relief as his injuries were healed. Zelos wasn't quite as good as Raine, though, so he was still a bit sore, but it was manageable.

He got up and leaned against the large log. "So why did you push me off a cliff again?"

"Geeze, sorry for saving you. I didn't think I'd be able to fight off that Yuan guy any better than you could, so I did the first thing I thought of to get out of there."

"Thanks, I guess," he said grudgingly. "You know this is the second time in recent history that I've fallen down a cliff?"


"Yeah. In the Toize Mine."

Zelos grinned at him. "You're incredibly unlucky, aren't you?"

"Heh. You could say that." He looked the forest and said, "So are we going to get out of here?"

"Hm..." Zelos said. "Good question."

"What? But this was your plan!" Will was starting to feel a familiar wave of panic rising. They were in some forest on a mountain side with no idea how to get back to civilisation and Yuan was around somewhere waiting to capture him and he didn't even have any swords left. How did he manage to run through swords so quickly? Really, now it was just getting silly.

"Well, I suppose if we circle around the mountain we'll eventually reach the path."

Will sighed. "Better than nothing."

"No use moping around here. Let's go."