A/N: O HAY THAR, IT'S BEEN A WHILE HURRHURR

Honestly, writer's block was the sole issue here. After months of staring at the same scene and ripping my hair out over what to do next, I finally pushed through and literally wrote half the chapter in a day. At least it's a longer one, right?! We cover a decent amount of ground here, so get ready! Lots of stuff ahead!

Enjoy! :D Thanks for your patience and support guys, you earned this!


The mansion was still mostly silent as Zelos and I made our way down the hall towards the main living room. It looked like he had taken pains not to alarm or wake his staff—at least that meant this visit probably wasn't hostile. Hopefully. What was going on, though?

I was still very disoriented, but this didn't seem like a dream. Though Zelos had donned his traveling outfit, his hair was still tied back into a loose ponytail and mussed from sleep, his bangs falling into his face. It was actually kind of… Jesus, brain, now was not the time!

My hair was still pretty messy too, but I probably just looked silly rather than sexy. I had hastily pulled on my coat and boots, though my gloves were still in my bag and somehow I had ended up wearing only one sock. This was not the way I had wanted to start off the day.

As we descended the stairs, I saw everyone gathered in the living room; several people glanced over at us as we entered. Lloyd was sitting with Colette on one couch, while Raine, Genis and Presea were seated on another. Regal was standing to one side, his posture tense.

Yuan and Botta stood in the center of the room, commanding attention with their presence. They were surrounded by a group of Renegade soldiers—I counted eight. Enough for us to handle if things got sour, but there could easily be more waiting outside.

"Where's Sheena?" I whispered to Zelos as we approached.

He shook his head, frowning. "She wasn't in her room. I thought she was down here already."

That was concerning. I didn't want to jump to any conclusions, but if Sheena was awake, why would she be anywhere but here?

No time to go look for her now. Zelos and I came to stand next to Regal, waiting for some kind of explanation. Yuan looked around at all of us, seemed to determine that the gang was all here, and opened his mouth to speak.

"Hey. Where's Sheena? What have you guys done with her?" Lloyd demanded, cutting the Renegade leader off.

Yuan's eyes narrowed with obvious irritation. "It would be helpful if you would allow me to speak before you begin throwing out accusations. We are not your enemy."

"Really?" Raine spoke up, skeptical. "We didn't part on the friendliest of terms the last few times we met."

"The circumstances have changed," he replied. "And if I'm remembering correctly, it was you people who infiltrated my base last time. We reacted in precisely the same way we would have for any other unwanted intruders. You have my sincerest apologies if you were expecting a warm welcome." He finished on a snide note and the two locked gazes. After a moment Raine seemed to back down, relaxing her shoulders and settling for an annoyed frown.

Well, Yuan was being particularly sassy today. Something told me he was a bit stressed; he was testier than usual and he was dressed in a normal Renegade uniform instead of his typical garb, so maybe he was worried about keeping a low profile in such a populated city. That was probably why they chose now to come to us, when everyone sane was still sleeping.

A tiny ray of hope began to shine in my head. He had just said the Renegades weren't our enemy. Events were pretty messed up, but wasn't it about this point in the game where the Renegades wanted a truce? We weren't in Sylvarant, yeah, but still. Maybe we weren't actually in as much trouble as I originally thought.

Feeling a little braver, I chose to speak up. "Look, I don't know what you're up to, but I still think we should have Sheena here for this. Do you know where she is?"

The seraph turned to me, thankfully seeming to reign in his irritation. "I was getting to that. Your summoner is at the Coliseum."

"Already?" Lloyd stood up. "Why didn't she tell us?"

"Damn," I heard Zelos mutter next to me. Dread settled in the pit of my stomach.

"You've been deceived," Yuan said. "There are Papal Knights waiting to ambush you the moment you try to follow her."

"What? That would mean…" Colette bit her lip. "But Kuchinawa is Sheena's friend!"

"Are you so sure of that?" The seraph cocked an eyebrow.

"Regardless," Botta spoke up, "you're in danger if you remain here. Finish your business and allow us to handle the rest."

"You expect us to trust you?" Raine asked, eyes narrowing. "What reason do you have for helping us?"

"The ability to make pacts with summon spirits is crucial in our efforts to stop Cruxis," Yuan explained. "If your summoner dies, it will take years to find another suitable to take her place. It's in both of our best interests to keep her alive."

"You're very informed on our actions and whereabouts," Regal observed.

"Seriously," Lloyd agreed. "How do we know this isn't some kind of trap?"

"We've been keeping tabs on you for quite some time," Yuan replied, not without some satisfaction. "Our information network is very reliable. You can believe what you want—it won't affect our actions in the slightest."

Though the others were looking tense and suspicious, I felt a rush of relief. So no matter what we did, the Renegades were going to help us rescue Sheena. I was completely okay with that.

"I see." Raine paused, looking thoughtful. "Fine. If you're going to help us, then I won't object. What does everyone think?"

"There's no way I'm just going to leave," Lloyd replied. "If Sheena's in danger, I want to make sure she gets rescued."

"Yes," Presea said. "We shouldn't entrust her life to people who have tried to kill us in the past."

Regal nodded. "Indeed. I would rather not leave here without Sheena."

"No point in leaving anyway when we can't do anything without her, right?" Zelos piped up. "We'd just be going to the Temple of Darkness and twiddling our thumbs. Might as well stick around."

Colette and Genis nodded their agreement. I looked straight at Yuan, satisfied. As long as I kept his motives in mind, I knew he wouldn't screw me over. And he'd be too busy worrying about himself and his men to even think about trying to do anything with me, Colette or Lloyd.

"Looks like this is a team effort," I commented.

The Renegade leader looked less than happy with our decision. "…Fine. But I have several conditions."

"What kind of conditions?" Lloyd asked.

"We will split into two teams led by Botta and myself," he explained. "I will lead the team to rescue the summoner. You, Brittany, and the Chosen of Sylvarant will come with me."

I jumped a little at the mention of my name, and narrowed my eyes a bit. "Conveniently rounding us all up, huh?"

He glared in my direction. "You three are the ones I would rather keep in my sight. If any of the others are captured, I will not risk my men trying to rescue them. Are we clear?"

"None of us will need rescuing," Lloyd assured him, though it was obvious his word was worth little to Yuan.

Raine was silent for a moment, looking deep in thought. Regal exchanged a glance with her before she finally stepped up.

"Very well. But I'll be going with your team as well."

Yuan cocked an eyebrow, seeing the obvious mistrust in Raine's eyes, but made no move to protest. "Fine. The rest will go with Botta. That should make two even enough teams, should it not?"

The professor nodded. "Is everyone all right with that?"

When everyone else nodded their agreement—Genis after some hesitation—we began to plan the specifics of our mission. It was going to be an exhausting day.


"You gonna be okay?"

I swallowed—my mouth was dry—and managed a nod. Zelos and I were standing off to one side, exchanging a few last words while the Renegades finished their preparations.

"I'm a little nervous," I admitted, speaking in a low voice, "but I think it'll be fine. Yuan's motives check out, anyway. I just hope he doesn't try to like, kidnap Lloyd in the middle of it all."

"I'd be surprised if he did. This is risky enough as it is."

Zelos sounded sure of himself, so I forced out a sigh and nodded again. "Yeah. Yeah, you're right." Now I met his eyes. "What about you? How are you doing?"

"Me?" He grinned. "Oh, don't you worry about me, spitfire. I've got my little rosebud to protect me from pops and the brat; I'll be fine."

"That's not what I—" I snorted mid-sentence, shaking my head. "Whatever. Just be careful, all right?"

The redhead sobered a bit, watching me. "…Sure. You, too."

Raine was waving us over, so we dropped the conversation at that and made our way to where the others were gathering. Yuan and Botta seemed to be ready. There was a map of Meltokio spread out on the table in the living room; I raised my eyebrows, taking it in. So much detail…this city really was big.

Someone bumped shoulders with me as they walked past, forcing me to take a step back. I looked over my shoulder to glare at them; they had turned around and come to stand behind me. It was a Renegade soldier, though this one was wearing a crooked grin that I recognized immediately.

I faced forward once more and threw one foot behind me in a kick. The hit connected and I heard a satisfying hiss come from the man. He elbowed me, and I smiled sweetly.

Then I realized that Yuan was watching us with a raised eyebrow, and my smile turned sheepish as I fell still. The Renegade leader stared for another moment before turning back to the map and getting everyone's attention.

It was time to get this show on the road.


"Still alive, I see."

"And kicking."

"Quite literally."

I grinned at Freyr's dry retort, distancing myself from him a bit in case he felt the need to take revenge with his steel-toed combat boots.

Our group was walking down a dark corridor of the Coliseum after coming in through a back entrance; Yuan had used one of his moles to get us a free pass inside and bypass the Papal knight ambush. The two of us brought up the rear while Lloyd and Colette were in the center. Yuan took point; somehow Raine had ended up walking next to him, and the two were conversing in lowered voices. She was usually cold to him, but they seemed to be getting along right now. Part of me was willing to bet that if the circumstances were different they would've hit it off. She was going to want to dissect him when she learned how old he really was.

Both groups had come in together, splitting up the moment we gained entry. Regal and the others were going to stand by while we did our thing; our rescue of Sheena was supposed to serve as a distraction while they slipped by into the passageway that led to the prison. After everything was over with, we were going to go through some back alleys and rendezvous in the sewers.

I wasn't exactly looking forward to that last part…but at least that was safer than heading out the front gates. Now part of me was wondering if Yuan and the Renegades had gotten into the city via the sewers, and I resisted the urge to give Freyr a good sniff. He probably would kick me then.

"So, how have things been going for you?" I asked, mainly because walking in silence just made me notice my anxiety more.

"Oh, it's been business as usual," Freyr replied breezily. "Though I suppose it's a bit more interesting nowadays with your group running around and causing trouble." He sent me a sidelong glance. "I hear you had a run-in with some dragons. You're going places, kid."

I rolled my eyes. "You bet."

"I'm sensing a lack of enthusiasm," he commented, quirking an eyebrow.

"Well, I did miss my morning coffee today thanks to you guys," I shot back with a deadpan look. I had been looking forward to that coffee, too. "Actually, today started off badly in general. But mostly it's the coffee. I was going to make a flat white—you know, where you make a cute little heart with the milk? It was going to be amazing. And you ruined it. I hope you're happy."

He was grinning unabashedly. "You're a bit of a brat, aren't you?"

It was very hard not to prove his point by sticking my tongue out at him. I was going to make a (hopefully witty) retort, but then I nearly bumped into Lloyd; everyone ahead of us had come to a stop.

"Wait here," Yuan instructed before moving through a doorway ahead. Up until this point we hadn't encountered any soldiers; we must've been getting close to the main passageways if he was being this cautious.

"Excuse me…" Colette had turned around, looking at the man beside me. "Are you Freyr?"

The Renegade nodded. "The Chosen of Sylvarant, Colette. It's a pleasure. Still alive against all odds…you lot certainly are tenacious types."

"We won't let anything happen to Colette." Lloyd turned around to face us as well, a defiant look in his eyes.

Oh man, there it was, that bit of Kratos that sometimes shined through. Lately Lloyd had taken up the habit of always letting his left hand rest on his sword hilt. He didn't seem to realize that it was the exact same stance his father always used.

Speaking of which, I couldn't help but wonder where the seraph was now… Had he gotten out of the city? Had he seen the Renegades? I was curious, but somehow I felt he'd be annoyed with me if I used that communicator right away for questions that were probably trivial. Maybe it would be better if I waited for him to contact me.

"Well, I do have to admire your resolve," Freyr replied with a smile. "You must be Lloyd."

"Yeah, that's me," he confirmed. "Kohl didn't come?"

The soldier shook his head. "This is too high-profile a mission for someone as inexperienced as my brother. Oh, trust me, he did want to come."

"Aw, that's too bad," Colette remarked, smiling cheerfully despite the circumstances. "It would've been nice to meet him. I've been meaning to say thank you."

Freyr frowned. I couldn't see his eyes under the helmet, but I could just imagine his confused look. "Oh? Why is that?"

"It's because of him—and you, too—that my friends were able to rescue me. Thank you so much." Her cheerful smile became completely earnest, and she clasped her hands to her chest.

"Colette…" Raine, having overheard the conversation, had finally turned around.

The soldier's frown grew. He was silent for a few seconds; finally, he reached up and removed his helmet. I could see now that his brow was furrowed, though I couldn't read the look in his eyes.

He abruptly chuckled, shaking his head. "Well, now I see what all the fuss is about. Sylvarant's sweetheart. No one wants to make a martyr of someone like you. So many have fought their fates as Chosen… but look at you, who decided to bear the weight of the world so that others could live on in ignorance. How can you still smile?"

"Because I have to. Because I want to," she said. "I'm surrounded by people I love very much. Everyone's fought so hard for me, and we've come so far. Every day, I wake up and smile because I'm still alive. I'm still here. Months ago, I never would've believed it! That's why I believe now that we can really make a difference. Why wouldn't I smile?"

There was a pause, and then Freyr lowered himself in a bow, clutching his helmet to his chest.

"You're undeserving of such suffering. I'm sorry."

"Huh?" Colette's eyes widened.

He drew himself back up to his full height, now offering the usual crooked smile. "Oh, don't gawk. It needed to be said." The soldier crossed his arms, looking over at the rest of our surprised faces. "I have my place in this fight, and I intend to stand by Lord Yuan. We may have different methods of accomplishing our goals, but essentially we're on the same side… for what it's worth, I truly hope you succeed."

The blonde stared at him for a moment, seeming to process the things he'd said. Then she broke out in a radiant smile. "Thanks! We're going to do our best!"

Raine had been silent through most of this exchange. I saw Freyr glance over at her just before putting his helmet back on, and an understanding look passed between them. Lloyd smiled as well and put his hand on Colette's shoulder, while I found myself looking at the soldier in a new light.

It was kind of him to address her with real respect, to recognize the kind of person she was and the burden she bore. But at the same time…there were certain things left unsaid. The fact that he hoped we succeeded meant he was hoping we could stop Cruxis before the Renegades were forced to kill her. The situation might have saddened him—but that didn't change the fact that if it came down to it, Freyr would turn his blade on her as well.

"We're going to succeed," I assured him, my gaze turning hard.

He looked my way and smirked. "Ah. Well, I suppose if you're on the case, I'd might as well kick back and watch the show."

"Let's move."

I was about to make some kind of retort, but I was cut off by Yuan's abrupt return. He was waiting in the doorway, arms crossed. Freyr's smirk vanished and he was suddenly all business; the rest of us followed suit.

Yuan led the way into another series of corridors. With every step we took, the roar of a crowd above became more and more pronounced. A feeling of dread settled in my stomach—the first match of the day was beginning.


"Stop right there! This area is off-limits! You can't—augh!"

The guard took a sword hilt to the stomach, courtesy of our fearless leader. It was like having Kratos with us again; he stayed at the front of the group, and anyone that so much as looked at us got knocked out cold in a second flat. He moved so quickly and ruthlessly that his attacks looked almost more like a reflex than a conscious reaction. At least we weren't fighting any real enemies here, because we would've racked up a serious body count by now.

The roar of the crowd was deafening now. I could hear what sounded like an announcer too, and it reminded me of some kind of crazy sporting event. Yuan gestured for us to follow and we moved through a doorway and up some stairs, coming to a halt on a landing.

"This is where we part," the seraph said, having to speak loudly over the noise. "Do what you have to in order to extract the summoner. Leave via the western doorway, the one through which Sheena will enter. Freyr and I will secure your escape route."

"Very well. We're ready," Raine replied.

"Yuan," Lloyd spoke up as he turned to leave. "Good luck."

Yuan paused, looking over at the teen; the helmet made it impossible to read his expression. After a moment he frowned and turned away. "… Try not to get yourself killed."

He made a quick gesture and Freyr nodded; the two of them quickly ran back down the stairs, the sounds of their footsteps quickly being drowned out by the crowd above.

"A simple 'thanks, you too' would've sufficed!" I yelled after them. Colette giggled.

"Dork," Lloyd snorted, punching me on the arm.

"… Mizuho's Summoner, Sheena Fujibayashi! Let the first round begin!"

We all froze at that, being reminded of the situation at hand. Raine turned back to the next set of stairs.

"It's starting. We need to hurry," she said.

Without another word, we rushed up the last stretch of stairs. It was just the four of us now—no Renegades, no mistrust, no questioning motives. Just four people trying to save their friend. All that mattered now was getting Sheena out of there.

We came out into broad daylight. The stairs led into an alcove with the stands beginning above our heads on either side of us. Before us was a platform that overlooked the arena. It looked like we were only on the first level.

The platform was part of a pathway that ran around the arena and offered access to the stairs leading to upper levels of the stands. Guards patrolled the area and I realized quickly that we wouldn't be able to hang out here too long without being noticed. That meant we had very little time to devise a plan.

Sheena was standing in plain sight, close to the center of the battlefield. Her cards were at the ready.

The passage at the opposite end of the arena opened and Kuchinawa walked through. Sheena's shoulders slumped, her cards lowering.

"Oh, no…" I heard Colette say next to me.

"The Renegades were telling the truth," Lloyd growled.

Kuchinawa was walking towards her. I could see from this angle that one of his hands was clenched into a fist; the sunlight reflected off of something metal. A concealed weapon in his palm.

"Wait," Raine instructed. "Watch and see what—Lloyd!"

He had seen the expression on my face and acted immediately. He was already climbing over the railing. Before any of us could stop him, he dropped down into the arena.

My heart rate picked up, but inside I was smiling. Of course; it wouldn't be like Lloyd to hesitate for even one second when a friend was in danger. He might be less reckless than he used to be, but this part of him hadn't changed. I wouldn't have it any other way.

I got a leg up and began climbing over the railing as well. It was a bit of a drop and I moved quickly, getting it over with before my fear of heights could cause me to chicken out.

The feeling of falling lasted just long enough to make my stomach flop, but then it was over and done. The impact jarred my knees less than I thought it would; sometimes I forgot just how much an Exsphere helped. I wasted no time in following Lloyd. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Colette and Raine jump down as well.

"Sheena!" Lloyd yelled as we caught up.

She turned her head, eyes widening with shock. "Guys? What are you doing here?!"

"We should be asking you the same thing," Raine replied. "You went on ahead without us."

"I'm sorry," she said. "We thought it'd be best this way. Mizuho's got it taken care of—someone was supposed to stay behind and explain to you. Why did you follow me? You're known fugitives, I'm not!"

"That doesn't matter anymore," Lloyd told her. He turned to glare at Kuchinawa. "This whole thing was a trap to get you alone!"

"What? What are you—"

"Hmph. I suppose it's no use trying to hide it anymore."

Sheena froze, turning around to face her old friend. "Kuchinawa? Why?"

"For the sake of my parents and all of the others who died when you failed to control Volt twelve years ago! I will avenge them, with the entirety of Meltokio as my witness!"

"Wh-what?" Her voice was suddenly very small. I only heard it because of the hush that had suddenly fallen on the crowd.

"That was an accident! Why are you doing this now?!" Lloyd asked, coming to stand beside Sheena.

"Sheena was offered the chance to redeem herself, and instead she put Mizuho in danger once again by allowing the Chosen of Sylvarant to survive!" Kuchinawa replied. His eyes were cold, but his voice shook with barely suppressed rage. "And to add insult to injury, now she's making pacts with summon spirits like it was never an issue at all!"

"That's not how it is at all! You've got it all wrong!" Colette protested.

"Do I? I think she wasn't really trying during the initial pact! Because of that, she killed my parents and countless people of our village!"

This was too much. I could see Sheena's composure crumpling and it was hard to imagine the emotional damage this was doing to her. On that day back in Mizuho she had been sitting by the edge of the path, head pressed into her knees, crying… and her own people had walked by her like she wasn't even there.

"Don't take your grief out on her!" I yelled, stepping forward. "She was seven! You can't place that kind of responsibility on the shoulders of a child! She's just as much a victim as you are!"

"Outsider! How dare you even suggest—"

"She's right!" A small voice. Corrine had come out, standing defiantly at Sheena's feet. "Sheena is a good person! Sheena doesn't betray her friends!"

"Kuchinawa, I…" Sheena's voice shook. "I did my best, I…!"

"Enough! I don't want to hear it!" Kuchinawa roared. He revealed the blade he had been hiding, falling into a fighting stance. "It's time for you to die!"

"Everyone!" Colette gasped.

Papal knights were approaching from both entrances to the arena. There were far too many of them for us to fight. Crap—if they surrounded us, it'd make a practically impenetrable wall! We had to do something—

Kuchinawa rushed at Sheena with impressive speed, lashing out with the knife. She saw him coming but didn't move, her face still a frozen mask of hurt and shame. Lloyd tackled her out of the way just in time and the two tumbled to the ground.

I rushed in to buy them time to get up, engaging Kuchinawa with my sword. He barely broke stride even as I swiped at him, instead ducking under the blade and forcing me to twist away so I wouldn't get a knife in the gut. The blade narrowly grazed my back instead, the stinging pain reminding me of how close I had come.

The knights were closing in. Lloyd had pulled Sheena to her feet.

"Wait," Sheena said. "Kuchinawa, I'm the one you hate! Leave them out of this! You can kill me, just don't hurt them!"

Kuchinawa paused mid-strike, leaping out of my range. He turned to her. "Fine, then."

"Sheena, what are you doing?!" Lloyd demanded as she stepped forward, vulnerable, her weapons lowered.

"The west gate," I heard Raine say.

That was right. That was where Yuan was—ah!

The bars over that passageway had lifted to make way for the Papal knights coming through. Now I saw several near that entrance fall to the ground. An armored Renegade stood beneath the arch of the doorway. He was tapping his foot. Tick-tock, you're running out of time.

"Ray!" the Professor cried. Beams of light rained down on the group of knights approaching us from that direction. Some fell; the rest fell out of formation. This was the moment of confusion we needed.

"Lloyd!"

"I know," he said, glancing at me before turning back to Sheena and grabbing her by the arm. "You aren't dying here! Come on!"

We made a break for it, though Sheena was practically being dragged. Raine managed to cast Photon on the run, breaking up the group of knights further. The large arena worked to our advantage; we had enough of an opening to get through, and the knights were too heavily armored to give chase effectively.

Though I did have to dodge a jab from a halberd at one point, we made it to the doorway in one piece. The Renegade rushed us inside the passage. Seconds later, the bars slid into place once more, preventing the knights from giving chase.

"That won't buy us much time." It was Yuan. "They'll have access to the door controls shortly. Reinforcements are arriving as well. Follow me."

"Wait!" Sheena protested. "It's me he's after! Just—"

Yuan glared. "Don't be a fool. The Pope orchestrated this—sacrificing yourself won't change the outcome in the slightest." He turned away, moving down the stairs. "We don't have time for this."

"But…"

"We'll talk about this later," Raine said, briefly placing a hand on Sheena's shoulder before following Yuan down the stairs. "Come on."

"I'm sorry!" Colette started moving down the stairs as well, pausing to look over her shoulder. "Genis and the others might be in trouble too! We have to hurry!"

My stomach sank. Zelos…the others…we were cutting it close. They were okay, weren't they?

"Damn…" Sheena swallowed. "I'm coming!"

Lloyd and I followed her. The bars were still blocking the entrance behind us, but I could hear the metallic sound of clinking armor, drawing closer and closer, echoing down the passageway…


Because we had left through the way Sheena had come, we now found ourselves moving through the combatants' area. There were a few unconscious men and women lying on the floor, and a group of three Renegades were standing in the corner, conversing. I took a deep breath; they seemed to have it under control. They were way better at this infiltration stuff than we were. Probably because they had been doing it for ages, and we had a tendency to just…wing it.

One of the Renegades turned to Yuan. "Sir. It looks like Lord Botta's group has made contact. They've advised us to continue as planned." That voice—it was Freyr. Man, it was too hard to tell with those helmets sometimes.

The seraph nodded. "Very well, Major. Take your men and go on ahead. We'll follow."

"Yes, sir!" the three of them chorused, and vanished down a connecting corridor.

"Freyr…?" I heard Sheena murmur next to me.

Yuan turned and frowned at her, but then seemed to let it go. I found myself glancing in the direction of another passageway, one that seemed to have stairs leading further down. That had to have been the route to the prison. The others had been standing in this spot not too long ago.

"Yuan," Raine spoke up when there was a pause. "The Pope was already aware of the Renegades' existence. Is it not true that by doing this, you're making yourselves enemies of the church and by extension the kingdom? It seems like a sort of notoriety you wouldn't desire."

"We were already held in suspicion despite everything," Yuan replied. "Little is known of our organization, and people fear what they don't understand. On the few occasions we do show ourselves, it always ends the same way. It doesn't matter. This will make travel through Tethe'alla irksome, but far from impossible. Existing in the shadows is the nature of the Renegades."

Lloyd was fidgeting. "Why are we just standing here? Aren't we going to follow them?"

"They're ensuring that our escape route is safe," the seraph explained. "If there are any problems, Freyr and his men will handle them first. Being right behind them would defeat the purpose."

A few moments passed, and finally Yuan gave the signal for us to follow. We ran down a winding passageway, and it was now that I started to see actual bodies. Aiming to incapacitate a heavily armored knight at this point would be far too time consuming. They were all bleeding from the throats, stabbed expertly through the weak point where helmet and breastplate connected.

We ran past the fallen knights and I tried to ignore the smell of blood in the air; it was overwhelming in the small underground passage.

For a while all of the corridors seemed to blend together. Then suddenly we were running up a set of stairs and out a doorway, and I was blinded by the sudden sunlight. I stumbled on the cobblestone and Raine grabbed my arm to steady me.

"There they are!"

Shit. My eyes adjusted, only to reveal that we had been seen. A group of knights were advancing on us. The city's regular guards had been forced to help as well. We had come out through another back entrance to the Coliseum, and a group of guards was blocking the elevated path back to the main part of the city. The Coliseum was on an upper level; there was no way back except via that path!

"This way," Yuan urged. We turned to see him moving in a different direction, and it was then that I saw Freyr and his companions waiting for us.

Ah, crap—they didn't expect us to jump, did they?!

They did. They were standing by the edge of a waist-high wall, and there was a drop leading to the lower level on the other side. I realized upon looking over the edge that there was a taller building directly below us; we could theoretically get down unharmed by landing on the roof and jumping down to the street from there. But it was still really far…

Yuan had jumped, Raine and Sheena following shortly after. Now Colette pushed herself off the wall. Lloyd was staring at me knowingly; I had thought about it too much, and my legs were freezing up. There were knights closing in on us. Move, dammit!

"So the Escape Artist does have one crippling weakness," Freyr remarked behind me with a snort.

Without warning I felt his arm loop around my middle and I was pulled off the ground, tucked neatly under his arm. I let out a yell, beginning to kick my feet angrily; Lloyd saw what was going on, flashed me an apologetic grin, and swiftly abandoned me. I heard the sound of his feet hitting the roof below.

"Put me down!" I growled.

The other two Renegades were chuckling at my expense. Freyr ignored me and leapt swiftly up on to the wall. There was one heart-stopping moment where I caught a glimpse over the edge, and I suddenly felt sick. Then he jumped.

I had to grit my teeth hard to stop myself from letting out a scream. There was the usual horrible falling sensation, and then the impact came all too suddenly. The jolt caused Freyr's arm to dig into my stomach with bruising force, knocking the wind out of me. I fell limp for a moment, wincing and trying to figure out left from right.

"Is she okay?" That was Lloyd.

In response, the soldier dropped me unceremoniously on to the roof and my face met tile. I found enough breath to utter a few expletives.

"I think she's fine," Freyr said cheerfully. "Now up, up, we have to get moving."

"I'm gonna puke," I wheezed as Yuan grabbed me by the arm and pulled me to my feet.

"Save it for the sewers," he told me. "We have a few more jumps before we're finished. Try to stay upright."

The idea of forcing the gag reflex and vomiting all over his shoes was very tempting. I was seriously considering it, but Colette got my attention and distracted me.

"Do you want me to fly you down?" she asked quietly.

With some effort, I shook my head. "No—no. I'll make it from here. Don't draw attention to yourself."

Thankfully, the next few jumps were much more manageable. We landed on a lower roof, and finally jumped down to the street. Startled civilians backed away as we landed, staring with wide eyes. Not the greatest situation—witnesses would report our location.

Yuan and Freyr already knew what to do. They led us into Meltokio's extensive network of back alleys, and we vanished from the public eye.

And it was over, just like that. Thanks to the help of the Renegades, we had lost our pursuers. Mission success.


If there was one thing I hadn't missed at all about Meltokio, it was these godforsaken sewers. This time was even worse than the last, because we had to actually hang out here while we waited for the others to return. I was worried, I felt nauseous, and I just wanted to go back to Zelos' mansion and take a long bath.

Obviously I couldn't have that. So for right now, I would be happy enough just to smell fresh air again and to be out of Meltokio.

We had been waiting for a while. At least, it felt like a while. It was too hard to tell without any sort of reference. Conversation was stunted; if it was just us we would probably be talking, but the presence of Yuan and the Renegades made it a little weird. Not to mention every time I opened my mouth I managed to irritate Yuan in some way, so I just settled for a sullen silence. My stomach still hurt from the fall. I wanted Zelos back. He was always the one to break the silence and say something really inappropriate at a time like this.

"Heeeeey, hunnies! Fear not, the Great Zelos has returned!"

Yeah, something stupid like that.

… Wait a minute.

"Is that really necessary?" Raine muttered with a note of exasperation.

"Zelos!" Colette and I cheered.

Lloyd grinned. "About time!"

"Idiot," Sheena said.

The group was approaching, their footsteps echoing down the passageway. I saw our very own Idiot Chosen marching proudly at the front, looking none the worse for wear other than his headband being slightly askew.

An irritated Genis followed behind him, walking alongside Presea, who looked slightly amused. Regal followed them as well. At the rear of the group came Botta and a few Renegades, surrounding another woman—Kate. She looked a little shaky, but otherwise unscathed. Good…everyone was in one piece.

"Lord Yuan," Botta spoke up. "We took measures not to be seen, but it is only a matter of time before they suspect we took this route."

"Yes," Yuan agreed. "I'll hear your report later. For now we'll focus on getting out."

I wanted to regroup, to talk to everyone that had returned and calm my nerves, but there was no time. Again Yuan rushed us onward. Dammit…there would be time to talk later. I just had to suck it up and move.

Now that there were no armored soldiers barring our way and we didn't have to take a bunch of precautionary measures, things went by much more quickly. Before I knew it we were out of the sewers and breathing glorious fresh air, and the stone walls of Meltokio were growing smaller and smaller behind us.

We took the Rheairds from there and traveled for a good hour, finally stopping to rest when we found some cover. We set up a temporary camp in a small forest close to the ocean, and I was finally able to relax. The Renegades were busy reporting to Yuan and getting their shit together, so there was time to actually chat and exchange stories on what had happened. Zelos was in the middle of a dramatic tale of how he had singlehandedly saved Kate; Genis and Presea, to his chagrin, continually gave commentary and corrected all of his wild exaggerations. Kate just sat there looking mildly confused.

I plopped down next to Sheena, who was sitting with Corrine in her lap. The two looked up when I sat down.

"Hey…" she said quietly.

"Hey," I replied. "Are you okay?"

"… I don't know." She lowered her head. "I don't know what to think. Kuchinawa was working with the Pope all this time…? We've been friends since we were kids… what am I going to tell Orochi? Did Orochi know?"

"Sheena…"

"Every time I talked to him…was he thinking about it?" The ninja let out a shuddering breath. "All these years, and I never realized…he hated me too…"

"Screw him," I said passionately. "If he can't even understand that you suffered too… this whole thing is fucked up!"

"Sheena." Regal had approached. His eyes were kind. "I heard what happened, and I understand how you must be feeling. Remember that although you may bear some responsibility for what happened, it is unfair of Kuchinawa to place the blame entirely on you. He is still living in the past, too afraid to admit that Mizuho may have been partially at fault—if he were to accept that, revenge would be impossible."

She shook her head. "I… I still failed them. And now, I might get you all killed too… guys, you should have just left me back there. I—"

"Please don't talk like that!" Colette interjected. "Please don't make the same mistakes I did. Nothing good will come of you sacrificing yourself!"

"She's right," Lloyd piped up. "You dying wouldn't accomplish anything. In fact, you'd just be putting your village in danger. Mizuho needs you—we need you. Don't let Kuchinawa make you think you're worth less than you really are."

"But—"

"Oh, come on, Sheena. How much more convincing do you need?" Zelos had paused his story upon overhearing our conversation. "Don't tell me you actually wanted to die back there."

He was wearing that fake smirk, the one that meant he was genuinely upset and trying to hide it. He cared and he was concerned, so he cut through to the truth of the matter and said the most upsetting thing possible.

The ninja flinched like she had been slapped. She took a second too long to reply. "O-of course not! I just…"

Corrine burrowed his head into her stomach and she hugged him, letting out a long sigh and falling silent. That was all the answer I needed. For a moment there, she really had wanted it, she had felt she deserved it, and having Zelos call her out on it made her feel deeply ashamed.

"Everyone, if I could have your attention."

The pressure was taken off of Sheena as Yuan approached. The Renegades had stopped conversing amongst themselves and they were now listening intently.

"Yuan," Raine said coolly. "It's about time we discussed exactly what the Renegades are up to."

"Indeed," Botta agreed, coming to stand alongside his superior. "If we are to join forces, there are some matters we must talk about."

"Wait, hold on. Join forces? You mean we're not just gonna go back to being enemies after this?" Lloyd interrupted.

"I imagine this has something to do with Sheena's abilities as a summoner," the Professor mused. "You did mention that keeping her alive was a priority."

Yuan nodded. "Allow me to explain. Do you know of the Giant Kharlan Tree?"

"The legendary Giant Tree said to have existed in the Holy Ground of Kharlan, right? It's the tree of life, which produces infinite mana," Zelos said.

Colette glanced over at Zelos and then turned to Yuan, frowning. "Isn't that just a fairy tale?"

I blinked; this sounded familiar. After a moment of listening to them talk it clicked into place, and I realized that this conversation was supposed to take place when we encountered the Renegades at the ruins of the Palmacosta ranch. But we weren't in Sylvarant, and nothing had happened in order, so they were forming the truce now.

Yuan and Botta spent the next twenty minutes explaining details that I already knew, with my fellow group members asking questions in all the right places. I attempted to show surprise when I was supposed to, but at this point I was just so sick of pretending that I just kind of tried to bet on everyone being too absorbed to really pay attention to my facial expressions or lack of input.

They explained how the two worlds were originally one, how Yggdrasill had torn them apart and forced them to vie for the small amount of mana emitted by the Great Seed, giving birth to the ritual of reversing the mana flow via the sacrifice of Chosen vessels. Yuan told us of how the Great Seed was the key to reuniting the worlds, how it needed to be fed mana from Derris-Kharlan in order to germinate, how Yggdrasill was giving the mana to Martel in his attempts to resurrect her, and how germinating the seed meant forcing Martel to be absorbed.

Finally, they brought up the main point—the Great Seed was protected by mana links, and our pact making was breaking those links. That was why they needed us, why they had gone to such lengths to protect Sheena.

"… I see," Raine said at last. "Without a summoner, you would be unable to weaken the protection around the seed, and germinating it would be impossible. Now I understand why you want us to join you."

"Our goals are the same," Botta told us. "There is no reason to remain at odds any longer."

Lloyd stepped forward. "Before we make any sort of decision, I have a question. Yuan, are you with Cruxis? Or are you with the Renegades?"

The seraph crossed his arms. "…I am with Cruxis, and I am also the leader of the Renegades."

"A double agent?" Regal remarked quietly.

"In other words, a traitor," Zelos said. He certainly loved his irony.

Yuan frowned, unamused by the comment. "So, what's your decision?"

Lloyd was quiet for a moment, staring the seraph down. Finally he sighed. "… Okay."

"Lloyd, you're going to trust him?" Raine spoke up.

"Yeah," he said, turning around to face us. "He's revealed the fact that he's a traitor. He's putting himself on the line; that has to mean something… at least, that's what I believe. Is everyone else okay with this?"

"If you trust him, Lloyd, then I will too," Colette replied.

"I like the way my cute little angel thinks," Zelos said, throwing an arm around the blonde. "Bud, I'm cool with whatever you pick. It'll be interesting either way, right?"

Raine let out a sigh. "… An alliance could have some benefits. If you truly think this is the right thing, I won't object."

"Any scenario where Yuan doesn't try to stab me is fine," I muttered under my breath. The seraph looked at me in a way that suggested I shouldn't get my hopes up.

The others ended up agreeing as well; at this point most of us were willing to trust Lloyd's judgment. He was the glue that held us together. Where Lloyd went, we went.

"All right, it's decided, then," Lloyd said. "We'll team up with you."

"Excellent," Yuan said. "In that case, I won't have to recover those Rheairds you… borrowed."

"I understand your next destination was the Temple of Darkness," Botta remarked. "Navigating the temple should no longer be an issue; our group acquired the Blue Candle upon rescuing Kate."

"Shadow is the final pact you'll have to make on Tethe'alla. Finish whatever business you must here and when you're ready, come to our Flanoir base," Yuan said. "We will activate the dimensional transfer system to allow you access to Sylvarant. We can discuss our next moves from there."

"Sylvarant…" Lloyd murmured with a touch of longing. He snapped out of it, forcing a nod. "Right. I guess we'll see you there."

"We'll be taking our leave, then."

Botta and Yuan nodded to us in turn, and the rest of the Renegades retrieved their Rheairds from their Wing Packs. Freyr gave us a halfhearted salute. Until next time.

We watched quietly as Rheaird after Rheaird took to the air. It was a larger group than I was used to, and it was kind of strange to see so many in the sky. They faded into the distance, forming white streaks through the blue. And just like that, we were on our own again.

When they were gone, Lloyd turned to the rest of us and flopped back down on the ground. "Man… this day was exhausting. I'm beat already."

"We still have plenty of daylight left," Raine said. "We can at least get a head start on our destination."

"I know, I know," the teen groaned.

"So what's the plan?" Zelos asked. "We've gotta make the pact, but we can't drag Kate along with us, either. She says Ozette is her hometown; that's where she wants to go."

"Ozette was destroyed," the Professor said, turning to Kate. "Are you sure about this?"

"Yes." The half-elf closed her eyes. "It's…where I was born. Please."

"Okay." Lloyd paused for a moment, thinking. "Should we split up?"

"That does seem reasonable," Regal remarked. "It would take quite a bit of time to make the trip to Ozette first."

"Not to mention I only need three other people with me to make the pact," Sheena piped up. She seemed a bit more composed now.

"Right," Lloyd agreed. "In that case, Sheena, you should pick the groups."

She immediately grew flustered. "M-me?"

"Yeah. The group that goes to Ozette won't have to do any fighting. You're the one who has to make the pact, so you should pick whoever you think will be more useful against Shadow."

"All right…" She bit her lip, her cheeks turning faintly pink. "Um… I'll take you, Lloyd."

"Got it. Who else?" He smiled, completely oblivious to her sudden shyness. I rolled my eyes; that kid was never going to figure it out.

"Ah… Raine. If we're going in a small group, we should probably take our healer. And Colette, too—I think her angelic magic will work best against Shadow."

"Okay," Lloyd said. "The groups will be uneven… should we have the fifth person go with Sheena just in case?"

"I would like to go with your group," Presea said quietly. "I… am not ready to revisit Ozette…"

Sheena nodded. "In that case, Presea too."

Oh, wow. Just like that, I had gotten out of having to fight a summon spirit battle, and I didn't even have to do anything. Hell yes, happy day! Genis looked crestfallen at being separated from his sister and his girlfriend so I felt a little bad, but I still wanted to punch a fist in the air and cheer.

"Aw, come on! Bud gets all the girls?!" Zelos protested.

I huffed, kicking him in the shin. "What, I don't count?"

"Ow! I didn't mean it, spitfire! Of course you count!" He whined. "It's just, the ratio of girls to guys in my group—it's throwing me all out of whack! This is not cool!"

"You'll get used to it," Lloyd said. He was wearing the usual deadpan look he reserved especially for Zelos.

"Buuud! Even you're abandoning me!"

"I'm getting a headache," Sheena groaned.

"You think that's bad? I'm stuck with him," Genis said, letting out a groan of his own.

"Your input wasn't needed, brat," Zelos grumbled.

Regal sighed, being the only mature adult. It was a relief he was in my group, because otherwise it'd probably be utter bedlam. I could count on him to keep Zelos and Genis from bickering each other into an early grave.

A few days in the company of Regal, Genis, and Zelos…well, this was going to be interesting.

"All right," Raine spoke up. "Enough arguing. Let's sort out our supplies and get moving. Shall we rendezvous at Altessa's after the pact is made?"

Genis immediately brightened. "That sounds like a good idea! We'll wait for you there!"

Aw, dammit. I was considerably less happy about this arrangement now. Hopefully they didn't take too long; I wasn't too keen on spending a lot of time under the same roof as Mithos.

After a light lunch and some time spent sorting our stuff out and refining the details of our plan, we said our farewells and set out in opposite directions. With luck, it wouldn't be long before we were on our way to Sylvarant.


It was noon of the next day. The sun was high in the sky, but the burnt boughs hanging over Ozette cast it in perpetual shadow. It had only been about a week since the town burned, and sometimes I still caught the scent of burnt flesh and hair on the breeze. Being reminded of the horrible day we'd spent burying the bodies was hard. Even if it was her hometown, I couldn't fathom why Kate would want to come here, see it like this.

She was down by Presea's house. She had requested to be alone to think for a while, but we were going to stop by there before we left. Regal had suggested we eat lunch on the outskirts, away from the destruction. He and Genis offered to cook; I was relieved. Their cooking was probably the only thing I'd be willing to stomach right now.

Zelos had wandered off, telling us to come get him when the food was ready. Genis heaved a sigh when he was gone.

"Is it just me, or has he been acting weird all day?"

Regal nodded. "I've noticed it as well. The Chosen seems unusually quiet today."

I bit my lip. I had been getting ready to follow him, but I paused. The past few days had moved so fast and taken a lot of unexpected turns…I had meant to tell them, but the time had gotten away from me. I felt bad. Lloyd wasn't even here… I really wished Lloyd could be here today. But it couldn't really be helped. After what had happened with Kuchinawa, Sheena needed him, too. I understood that.

"Guys…it's his birthday," I finally said.

Genis' eyes widened. "Huh? But—really? He never said anything. I would've expected him to say so and try to make us all be his servants for the day or something obnoxious like that."

"Hmm…" Regal frowned thoughtfully. "Perhaps it is not a day he is particularly fond of."

"Oh." The half-elf boy stopped what he was doing suddenly, the look in his eyes slowly changing. "He's the Chosen… Colette always hated her birthday."

"What do you mean?" I asked, though I had a feeling I already knew.

Genis stared at the ground. "… She would never admit it, but I could tell she hated it. It was never about her… it was always about the Chosen. The priests always took her away for the whole day for celebration ceremonies. Lloyd and I had to get up really early just to get her away long enough to give her our presents."

"She never told us, but now I'm thinking… she must have known that every year, she was getting closer to the Oracle... to dying." He fiddled with the hem of his shirt for a few seconds. "But Zelos is the flourishing world's Chosen, and everyone in Meltokio loves him. What does he have to be upset about?"

"Does everyone in Meltokio truly love him?" Regal wore a pensive expression.

Genis' face fell. "Of course not! It's not real! Those girls he surrounds himself with aren't real either! But he's so full of himself and he acts like he doesn't care about anything, so—" He cut himself off, abruptly growing thoughtful. "… He can't be…"

I stood up, feeling a little upset at the turn the conversation had taken.

"Well, I think there's more to him than that," I said. "And I think it'd be nice if he had a real friend wish him a happy birthday for once. Not Zelos the Chosen… just Zelos. So that's what I'm going to do."

"Wait," Genis said. He seemed to fight with himself for a moment; then he looked pleadingly at Regal, who smiled knowingly and turned to me.

"We'll need at least thirty minutes."

I blinked, surprised. "Uh—okay, sure." What did he have up his sleeve?

Either way, it didn't matter. I was sure I could manage. It'd take some time for me to actually find Zelos, anyway.

Turning away from the campsite, I set out.


He was sitting by the edge of a river that ran its course through Gaoracchia; he didn't make any move to acknowledge me as I approached. For a moment I nearly paused, my nerves getting the better of me. Stupid… why was I so nervous? It was only Zelos.

Gah, but he was in one of his serious moods, and I felt a lot of pressure to make him feel better. I didn't want to mess this up somehow.

I didn't know how to approach the situation, so I just did what he would do. I walked right up and flopped unceremoniously to the ground next to him.

He sighed. "Sorry, spitfire. Not exactly feeling the company right now."

"Tough," I said with a smile, though inside my stomach did a flop. Ha ha, you got re-jec-ted.

Zelos turned to raise an eyebrow at me. "What's that look for?" He tried a grin of his own. "Oh, come on, everyone needs their 'me' time. I'm just having one of those days. So can I pleeease be alone right now? I promise, later there'll be plenty of the Great Zelos to go around."

"Yeah, I don't want any of the Great Zelos' bullshit," I shot back. The response effectively wiped the grin off his face.

"I don't think you should be alone to brood today. That's just messed up," I told him.

"Who said I was brooding?"

"I think I can tell by now when you're brooding." I rolled my eyes.

Then, after some hesitation, I reached into my pocket and pulled out a small package. My cheeks warmed unexpectedly, and suddenly all of the nice things I'd thought up to say at this moment were gone. Instead I reached over and plopped the package in his lap. "Here."

"Huh?" His blue eyes widened with disbelief.

"Happy birthday, Zelos."

"You actually remembered?" He stared at me for a moment and I suddenly felt it very hard to look at him under such scrutiny. Ugh, why was this suddenly so awkward?

"Ah—yeah, of course you remembered," he corrected himself shakily. "How could you forget? Most important day of the year and all." Then he began to unwrap the package in an agonizingly slow way, making me increasingly fidgety as I waited for a reaction.

"It's not much," I said hurriedly before he could finish. "I mean, I don't have nearly as much money as you so I wasn't really sure—"

Zelos had finished unwrapping. He turned the symbol over in his hands for a moment, examining it.

"… I've seen these before," he said. "It's a Mystic Symbol, right? Wow… it's authentic. How'd you get your hands on one of these? They're not exactly common."

I shifted a little, uncomfortable. "Um, I maaaay have bullied a shopkeeper in Meltokio…"

He let out a laugh, throwing his arm around my shoulders. "Really? That's my spitfire! I have got to hear this story. But first…"

The redhead took the rawhide loop and slipped it around his neck so that the symbol rested against his chest beneath his clothes. He smiled. "This thing will definitely be useful. You watch, I'll be bangin' out spells like nobody's business!"

I snorted at the image that brought to mind. Oh, lord… he was going to be an even bigger loudmouth in battle, if that was even possible.

Zelos sobered, the arm around my shoulders slackening a little. He turned his head to look at me.

"… Thanks. I usually hate getting presents, you know."

"Why's that?" I gave him a cautious sidelong glance.

He hesitated. "… Eh, well, you can probably figure it out. All those presents in the living room back at my place? Just a bunch of meaningless crap that my hunnies throw at me every day. They don't really know what I want or what I even like. And my birthday… man, the festivities start days in advance. I never get any sleep."

Something clicked in my head. "That's why you didn't want to be seen in Meltokio."

"What?" He nearly flinched, caught in the act. Then he just offered a halfhearted grin. "You got me. Yep, that's the big secret. Dunno how it is for Colette over in Sylvarant, but here my birthday's practically a Tethe'allan holiday. I didn't want to get mobbed."

"It shouldn't be like that," I murmured. "Your birthday should be about you."

"It is about me. The Amazing Chosen One," he said bitterly.

"We'll, we're not in Meltokio," I replied. "You can be just Zelos today. And when we get over to Sylvarant we can celebrate it for real, because screw celebrating at Altessa's, right?"

He smirked slightly. "And do what? What is it that people do for fun in Sylvarant, play with rocks?"

"Oh, come on!" I punched him playfully on the arm. "Sylvarant has its good points, trust me."

"Don't get me wrong, it's cute how hard you're trying, but…" He fiddled with the wrapping paper I had used. "This is enough. Really."

"Zelos…" My face fell, and I chewed on my lower lip, disappointed. I wanted him to be happy. He deserved a real birthday. It wasn't fair.

"I'm serious." He met my gaze and paused, staring me down for a second.

The silence stretched on, and I felt myself getting embarrassed and self-conscious again. What was he thinking?

"You really should stop doing that," he said.

"Uh?" I blinked.

He reached out, pressing a thumb to my lower lip. Then he tilted his head and winked, leaning a little closer. "Biting your lip. It's suffered enough abuse, don't you think? At least let me have a go at it."

"Wh-wha?" I reeled back, my face turning beet red, all thoughts coming to a screeching halt.

"Oh! That was a good one! Haven't gotten you that red in a while. I was worried I was losing my touch." Zelos laughed loudly and I pressed my hands to my face, trying to get ahold of myself.

Oh, god. Biting my lip was such a habit, too—now I was going to get embarrassed every time I realized I was doing it! Dammit! Uuuuuugh, Zelos…

"You're awful," I said, rubbing my cheeks. "I'm gonna have to get out of that habit now."

"Wait, no, don't! I didn't mean it!" He immediately began to backpedal. "It's cute when you do that. Besides, it's my birthday, remember? What I say goes."

Cute. I drew my knees up, burying my head in them and groaning. "Whatever."

He reached out and ruffled my hair. "All right, spitfire, didn't you have a fun story to tell me? You bullied a shopkeeper, right? I promise I'll behave for a few minutes."

"Um…" I took a deep breath and lifted my head. Okay, mental functions needed to resume. Work, brain.

"Well, before I really start—I need to say this, the bullying was totally justified. You see, the shopkeeper was a huge dick…"


A/N: Until next time...reviews are much appreciated!

Next time: Do we have to go see Mithos?