Thanks so much for the reviews! Alrighty, chapter four here we come.

Warnings: Um… magical theory that I'm pulling out of nowhere? I like pretending that I know what I'm talking about…and Rita likes to be a smarty pants. Oh wait, if anyone is interested, the symbols Rita talks about are just my (strange) interpretation of the Over Limit crests from the game. Plus, I got tired of looking at this. My beta disappeared on me about a month ago so any mistakes are totally my own.

Also, I'm starting to realize just how unpleasant controlling eighteen odd central characters is going to be. Anyone have some suggestions for character interactions? You know, like 'skits,' but not. I can't promise I'll be able to do all of them, and I won't do anything with heavy romance (flirting is fine), but I'd love to hear some ideas. Thanks! And Enjoy.


She was going to kill Yuri when she got her hands on him, Rita decided, because his pathological need to make her life difficult was getting on her nerves.

"This formula is unstable!"

Actually, Rita thought with acute and burning frustration bordering on homicidal rage, she was going to kill Yuri after she killed Witcher, just as soon as there weren't any witnesses. Then she would launch the little brat off the highest tower of Zaphias castle and enjoy the show.

Coincidently, that was exactly where they were, on the same platform where they'd been forced to battle Estelle when she'd been under Alexei's control, and while Witcher was standing squarely between Flynn and Raven, in the middle of the path back to the palace, it wouldn't be too hard to toss him off the edge to his doom. He was small – even if his giant head gave him his own gravitational field. It would only take one well placed kick and then they'd all realize why it was important not to annoy with her while she was working.

Already regretting not doing this somewhere else, she straightened out of her crouch over her spell circle and placed her paint brush back in its bucket, eyes flicking over the five other people and one dog standing at the edges of her formula before spearing Witcher with a look and growling, "It is not," through gritted teeth.

"Yes, it is," Witcher protested immediately. "You haven't balanced the equation at all, and have you actually looked at the power output? You're going to blow up the palace."

Rita bristled. "Excuse me? Are you blind? Of course I've balanced the equation. What formula are you looking at?" She crossed her arms. "I know advanced magic is difficult for you, but you don't need to superimpose your shortcomings on others." She glanced down at her spell as Witcher stiffened in outrage and cried, "Shortcomings?" in a shrieking wail.

It was a masterpiece, is she said so herself; probably the most complicated formula she'd ever come up with. There were five circles: the core function with four smaller equations running tangent to it at its axes. Each secondary circle was stylized with dozens of curling current lines lacing them to each other and to the storage and amplifier symbols that ringed the innermost Strihm crest of the central function; inverted to pull in instead of sending out.

She'd created it over the course of two sleepless days – and she deserved an award for how fast she developed it, thank you very much – when they finally realized that no, Yuri had not gone and blown himself up to take out the Adephagos, he'd only been sent away to some far distant place instead. This spell was meant to summon him back, and she wasn't about to let some half-pint wannabe-mage ruin their plans.

It was an inconvenient fact that the blastia tower in Zaphias was one of the few places that had enough residual aer saturation to maintain the spell without inducing a severe aer output from the Aer Krene, or she'd have bypassed the city entirely. For the exact reason that was making her want to commit murder; the little fuzz ball with the inferiority complex.

Unfortunately, using the aer in Halure would have harmed the great tree, and no matter how hard she argued, the Union wouldn't let her test her spell within Dahngrest's walls; which she would have said was an affront to her genius if anyone asked – no one did – because it wasn't like her spell would have put the city in danger. She hadn't even bothered to petition Nordopolica, having expected the same response.

Which left Nor and Torim, the ruins of Aspio, Mantaic, Heliord, or Tarqaron. The harbor cities didn't have enough localized aer for her plans, was too spread out between the two cities, and Aspio was a dead end – literally. All the collected aer in Aspio had either dissipated to natural levels when the city had been destroyed, or had been consumed to raise Tarqaron. She wouldn't go to Mantaic on principle – was too damn hot to do anything – and Heliord was too new as a city to have the aer saturation she needed.

And no one was willing to let her conduct experiments in or around Tarqaron because, for some reason, they thought she'd accidently restart the formula to drain the life from the world's populace. Which was the most ridiculous thing she'd ever heard, of course, because she would never be that stupid. But apparently fear was more convincing than logic. Go figure.

"You're forgetting that mana is more stable than aer," she decided with a sniff. "The same calculations needed to balance aer equations don't apply to this, and even if it did become unbalanced, which it won't, the Rockra safety construction would dissipate any excess power. Meaning no explosion. And you'd know that if you actually looked at it, instead of deciding that you know what you're talking about."

She rolled her eyes, which was apparently all that was needed to set Witcher off. "You, you, you - -" She didn't get to find out what she was before he switched his train of thought and continued with, "That construction is barely strong enough to hold the center formula. You have four extra circles to deal with, and they're all as unstable as the center equation. The amount of magic you're trying to summon with this formula is dangerous, and you're insane for trying this," he cried, the vehemence in his voice actually bordering on startling.

Rita watched him for a moment, bewildered. What was with this kid?

"What are you talking about?" She asked in disgust. "The others circles don't even collect power. Any energy they create is sent through the formula and then transferred to the central function." She pointed to one of the circles, tracing the lines of current in the air. "Which is protected by Rockra; so again - - no explosion."

"Oh?" Witcher snapped. "And what happens when the Rockra rings dissolve? Even if there isn't any explosion, anything caught in the circle is going to be consumed by the power."

"Rita," Estelle murmured, and out of the corner of her eye, Rita could see Estelle's face scrunching anxiously. While the immediate urge to ease Estelle's dislike of confrontation was strong, the need to deflating Witcher's obnoxiously large ego was stronger.

Rita snarled. "Where did you learn your magical theory, under a rock? First of all, do you know how much power it would take to break the geometric stability of three concentric Rockra circles? We're talking about hundreds of delineated fortification loops. Let me put it into perspective, the Tarqaron life-draining spell only had two, and look at how powerful that was. Secondly, do you see Sandor or Fleck? No, no you don't. This isn't an offensive spell. No one is getting consumed, you idiot."

"I see plenty of Chrocs and Kaon. What do you call those; harmless little energy vesicles?"

"No, I call those non-offensive power amplifiers."

Witcher gave a little howl of frustration, his face flushed with rage, and if his hair had been red, he'd look even more like the apple moniker Yuri had labeled him with.

Off to the side, she heard Karol whisper to Judith, "Do you understand what they're talking about?" and saw the glazed and confused sheen of his eyes when she glanced at them. Judith shrugged helplessly with a tiny smile. Rita turned back to Witcher as he opened his mouth, but he was cut off by another before he could start blustering.

"As interestin' as this l'il battle of the brains is, aren't we supposed ta be doin' somethin' important?"

Raven held up his hands and took a step back at that immediate glares Rita and Witcher shot at him for the interruption, apparently trying to fend off any bodily harm by attempting to look nonthreatening,. It didn't work since there was still a cheeky little grin on his face that Rita was going to punch off. Unfortunately, he was right, because for all they knew Yuri had landed in volcano on the brink of eruption and needed them to summon him back right now.

Rita crossed her arms with a huff. "I'm trying to work. Someone is disrupting my concentration," she sniffed pointedly.

"This someone is trying to keep you from killing the Commandant and Her Highness, as well as everyone else in the city," Witcher grumbled, making Rita bristle anew.

"Oh, man," Karol groaned as Rita balled her hands into fists and opened her mouth to tear Witcher a new one.

"Enough, both of you," Flynn said, sharply enough that it derailed the impending screaming row before it had a chance to properly gain momentum.

They turned to Flynn as one, and while the stony look on the Commandant's face made Rita reluctantly choke off her temper, Witcher took the interruption as an excuse to try and convince Flynn to put a stop to the whole production. Apparently he couldn't think up a logical argument and was settling for begging. Idiot. Not that she was surprised.

"Commandant, this is a terrible idea. This formula hasn't been tested at all, please reconsider letting this - -crazy woman." Rita rolled her eyes again, which made Witcher seethe. "Use this spell. She's too absorbed with her own genius to realize the danger she's putting everyone in."

"I'm not putting anyone in danger."

"Yes, you are!"

Flynn held up a hand, making Witcher instantly fall silent, and Rita could almost see the thoughts running through Flynn's head: wondering if he should be letting her do this if might put Zaphias in danger, then remembering that she had been the one to come up with the idea to defeat the Adephagos, and that they'd lost Yuri once already and none of them were ready for a repeat experience.

Estelle touched Flynn's shoulder, her small hand resting on shiny steel. "Please believe Rita. She says she can do this, and I trust her," she insisted.

"Yeah, she is a genius," Karol piped in.

"If ya can't trust magic from this kid, ya can't trust nothin'," Raven added.

"Rita's figured out enough impossible spells that this one must have been easy," Judith agreed, and Rita was… irrationally pleased with their words, even if Raven was going to hurt for that 'kid' comment. Flynn looked from each face, and then back to her, consternation pulling at the corners of his mouth and furrowing his brow.

"Are you positive this spell is safe, Miss Mordio?" he asked.

Rita nodded impatiently. "Of course," she answered, trying not to sound as irritated as she actually was. "Like I said, this isn't an offensive spell. Think of it like a healing formula or an augmentation equation. You can overload either and all they'll do is dissolve. This is the same concept. The only reason for the sheer amount of power is because this spell summons a specific object, and the energy needed is proportional to the distance between the object and the circle. If the spell becomes unbalanced then it'll dissipate, simple as that."

Flynn took a deep breath and crossed his arms as he took a deep breath and nodded. "Then please continue."

"Commandant - -"

"Witcher," Flynn interrupted, face taut with carefully suppressed frustration, giving the young mage a pointed look that said, at least to her, that he didn't want any further interruptions. Witcher threw his arms up in disbelief with a muted howl, but fell silent nonetheless. Flynn looked back to her. "If you would."

Rita couldn't suppress the victorious smile that spread across her face – not that she was trying hard – and returned to her circle, bending over to finish the last parts of her formula with a neat swish of her brush. The paint she was using was a mixture of ink, powdered blastium ore and Rare Metal filings, meant to help amplify the conductivity of both the mana and the initial spark of aer the formula required so she could wrestle her magic into some kind of enchantment despite her lack of blastia.

Casting a final look over her circle to check the lines of power and touch up any symbols that didn't look perfect, she paced to the edge and placed her paint and brush off to the side before she turned to the others. "Okay, Karol, stand there with Judith." She pointed to the secondary circle on the east side of the formula. When they just stood there like idiots she added, "Well, hurry up."

"Why?" Karol asked, blinking in confusion, almost sounding worried. Rita scowled, so much for the vote of confidence.

"The spell requires anchoring points - - live anchoring points." Rita gave him an arch look. "To work - - just stand there."

"Uh, okay," he said, still not sounding convinced as he and Judith walked over to take their positions on the circle she'd indicated.

"This is interesting," Judith commented, looking over Rita's spell. "And very pretty."

Rita nodded. "Yeah, I know. Old Man, stand there with the mutt." She pointed at the west circle, and then pointed to the north circle. "And you stand there, Commandant."

She didn't have to be looking at Witcher to see him stiffen, nor was she surprised when he burst out with a shrill, "What!?" as Flynn blinked in surprise, moving to follow her directions despite his confusion, which she thought meant that Flynn probably hadn't expected to be needed for anything besides granting his permission.

"Commandant!" Witcher protested shrilly, and Rita would have punted her paint bucket at his face if the resulting spatter wouldn't have messed up the lines of her spell. Geez, he needed to grow a set and get rid of that voice. "Commandant, this is - - this is ludicrous. Sir, sir - -"

"Is there a particular reason for the arrangement of the anchors?" Flynn asked as he took his position, looking over the spell and cutting Witcher off. Rita smiled despite herself, partly from the outraged look on Witcher's face and partly because at least someone knew something about magic.

"Yes," she answered as she pointed for Estelle to take the south circle, feeling smug as Witcher gave a little yelp of frustration and stormed off down the path to the castle, and then irritated when she realized that he was probably going to get that irritant of a second-in-command to try and change Flynn's mind. Rita didn't know why Miss I'm-An-Annoying-Pain wasn't here now, but she wasn't about to question it, or waste time for that matter.

"The anchors need to be approximately balanced based on the individuals' magical potential. You and Estelle have the strongest magic besides me, and you four," she continued as she motioned to the others. "Are relatively equal when you're magical potentials are combined. Judith is a Krityan, and has a natural affinity to magic. She balances out the Old Man, who actually uses magic. Karol and the mutt balance each other out because they're both completely useless at it."

"Hey!" Karol protested. Rita rolled her eyes.

"Sorry, I mean 'pretty much' not 'completely,'" Rita amended blandly as she walked over to Estelle.

"Like that's any better," Karol grumbled. Rita ignored him.

"Sword, please," she asked Estelle, holding out her hand.

"Oh, yes," Estelle murmured as she placed the sword she'd been clinging to on Rita's outstretched palm.

Yuri's sword was heavy in Rita's hand, heavier than she had been expecting, and she almost dropped it as the tip of the weapon sank to the ground and unbalanced the grip she had on the hilt before she compensated for its mass. The long ribbon of the blade gleamed red in the light of dusk, and she swallowed briefly as a little niggling of apprehension picked its way through her gut.

Questions like 'what if this doesn't work?' or 'what if I've done something wrong?' sprang up in her mind as she considered the sword. She'd been careful not to think about it while developing her spell, but this wasn't just a simple case of Yuri going missing. Well, it was, but it wasn't like last time. Last time he'd just been taken to another part of this world. But this time he was actually gone, had been completely removed from Terca Lumireis, the only evidence that he hadn't been destroyed was this same sword that had fallen back to Tarqaron after the last beams of their final attack dimmed out of existence.

She'd been able to calculate approximately how far he'd been flung based on the power of that last attack, but this was all theoretical and, as Witcher had unfortunately pointed out, mostly untested.

She'd done two simple summonings when she'd first finished the circle – one on an inanimate object and another on a monster. It had worked both times, but neither of those tests were as large as this one was going to be, and she couldn't stop the terrifying thought about what would happen if she screwed this up. What if she only summoned a part of Yuri, like his arm or his leg? That would be…awful to say the least.

"You can do this Rita," Estelle said in a whisper, briefly touching Rita's shoulder and startling her out of her thoughts.

Rita glanced at her with wide eyes, abruptly wondering if the Children of the Full Moon could read minds, and then jerking her head back to the center of the circle, instantly berating herself.

"I know," she answered quickly, making sure that her voice sounded confident and dismissive even though her stomach was tying itself in knots. Estelle was right, she could do this. This was magic after all, and she couldn't call herself a professional of she didn't trust in her work. Nodding, she pushed back her anxiety and strode back to the center of the circle.

"All right," she called out, placing Yuri's sword in the middle of the formula to serve as the main anchor of the formula. Its magical essence was derived from the blood, sweat and effort Yuri'd poured over it, especially in the last few months. It was the strongest link they had to Yuri himself. She swallowed and continued.

"When I activate the spell, I need everyone to just brace themselves and let the energy flow through the formula. You four don't have to do anything," she said to Raven, Karol, Judith and Repede. "I just need you to stay there and don't move. Estelle, I need you to get the spirits to start pumping mana into the formula once I start the reaction. Can you do that?" she asked.

Estelle's gaze sank inwards, a look crossing her face that Rita'd come to associate with her communicating with the spirits. After a moment Estelle's eyes returned to her and she nodded. "Yes, I can do that," she said with a smile. Rita licked her lips and scrubbed at the corner of her eye as she fought a yawn. When this was all over, she was going to sleep for a week.

"Good. And I need you." She looked at Flynn. "To keep the flow of energy stable around the formula; you can do that, right?"

Flynn, she had to admit, had the best control over a magical formula that she'd seen outside of herself; better than most of the mages in Aspio, that was for sure. She'd seen him throw a Holy Lance in a fraction of the time it took Estelle to cast the same spell, with almost twice as much power. Rita needed that ability to make sure this formula went according to plan.

He nodded instantly. "Of course."

Rita swallowed again, beating down the case of nerves that fluttered through her stomach as she took her place just next to the sword in the center of the formula. "All right," she started, steeling herself. "All right, let's do this."

"Yeah!" Karol said enthusiastically, and Rita shot him an irritated look before she closed her eyes, dredging up every scrap of magical power she could find as she unrolled her Aspion cloth, letting the soft fabric slip across her fingers.

It was incredibly difficult to get her magical core to give up its energy without a blastia as a conduit, like trying to win a game of tug-of-rope with an Aquicia with one arm tied behind her back, but she managed to pull enough out of her body to start the reaction, and the flare of the spell was almost blinding as it leapt into existence.

"Now, Estelle!" she called out, forcing her magic through the first circle, winding it through the primary energy symbols and activating the inverted Strihm crest to begin the summoning. When the sudden blast of mana forced its way through her body, she nearly collapsed, the weight of the power almost overwhelming, as thick and heady as aer was light and volatile.

Even though it was easier to weave the mana into the circle than she had been expecting, like adding sugar to water instead of the oil to water mixture she'd been expecting, it still took all of her effort to keep her knees locked under the pressure, and she grinned fiercely when the spell flared with life, the light clean and strong and beautiful, no hint of corruption or unbalance.

Taking a deep breath she pushed her hands forward, directing the flow of power into the north circle beneath Flynn, activating the Twory function to support the flow of energy and keep the spell grounded, and then radiating outwards to stimulate the energy symbols to start producing the necessary magic.

When that circle was firmly activated, the swirling lights of power stable and contained within the margin of the equation, she pulled her hands to the side so that her arms and the cloth between her fingers, made a rigid line with her shoulders, dividing the energy and sending it flowing brightly to the sides, rushing through the east and west circles. The circles initialized simultaneously, the gentle brilliance of two Laitos equations mustering up even more power to send swirling through the spell.

Finally, she arched her back and stretched her arms behind her, letting the power flow to the final secondary circle as her Aspion cloth stretched tight over her chest, magic thrumming through the strands of silk and tingling up her arms where the fabric was clenched in her fists. The activation of the Ailus crest almost doubled the power of the spell, jumpstarting the flow of energy into a continual loop around the main function, and she heard a grunt of strain from one of the others at the increased pressure of magic.

Taking a deep breath, one filled with the fiery life of her spell, Rita drew her hands to her chest and drew the energy from the outer circles to the middle, activating the final ring of symbols that would exponentially increase the power of the spell. The four remaining crests, two Kaon and two Chrocs, were aligned at forty-five degree angles with the center Strihm, and as they burst to life, they cast a glorious glow around her that buffeted her body with an overwhelming vortex of radiance.

She took a moment to revel in the brilliance; she'd never had access to this much magic before, never in her life and it was breath taking, beyond anything she'd ever experienced. There was light and energy and life roiling up through her, completely consuming her thoughts, tearing through her like a howling beast, and she marveled in the sheer magnificence of it. Part of her wanted to just stand there and let her body drink in the magic, let it flow through her until it tore her apart, reduced her to the most basic building blocks of life, but she knew she had a job to do, even if forming the words to the spell's incantation was almost impossible.

Twirling her Aspion around her head, a habit so familiar she didn't even need to watch to draw the necessary sphere of activation symbols in the air, Rita started chanting.

"O divine light, I call upon the power that yields life to this barren land. Bring forth the northern winds, the eastern fires, the western waters and the southern stones. I beseech thee, construct a path across the heavens and bring unto me that which has been lost. Bring me Yuri Low - -"

And then something snapped.

She stopped chanting instantly, her words choking off as her throat went dry and the blood drained from her face. She only had a second to glance down and take in the sight of the three Rockra rings splintering apart before the power of the spell reversed its flow, sending up instead of bringing down. The sound of tearing magical bonds rang through the air like a crystal bell shattering over marble as the inverted Strihm crest flipped over and her feet lifted off the ground.

"Wha - - no," she whispered, flinging her Aspion as fast as she could, trying to force the flow back in the right direction.

"What's going on?"

Aer, aer - - I need aer, she thought desperately, reaching out with her mind, searching for any extra aer to pull into the spell and stabilize the formula, and only sparing a moment of thought to wonder where it came from when she found it – massive and powerful; felt like a blastia – before she yanked it into the spell.


She struggled to stifle the leaping, roiling magic rapidly slipping out of her control, and it almost worked; the swirling vortex of energy calming to a near manageable level, the light dying down in intensity. But as soon as she tried to direct the magic back through the formula in the correct direction, it shrieked back into existence, and her control was wrenched away in a tornado of radiance.

"Miss Mordio?!"

"Shut up!" she screamed, hurling her will at the spell, but it was too late. She'd created it to be powerful, and now it was working against her.

She heard Estelle scream and Karol's cry of fright, Repede's howl and Raven's yell of shock, Judith's gasp and Flynn's shout of surprise but she couldn't see them through the light of the spell, blinding in intensity, and she could only think of one thing – and it seemed that the irony was really going to kill her – before the world dissolved in a flash of light, before she was sent flying through the air coiled in thick bands of energy:

'Damn, the little idiot was right.'


It was fittingly ironic that after all they'd done to save the worlds from Yggdrasill, it was going to be the weather that did them in. And the volatile blizzard raging outside the window Raine paced before – extremely unusual for Asgard since it was the middle of summer – seemed intent on driving home the point that they deserved to suffer for tampering with the fabric of the worlds.

It didn't help that Yuri had yet to wake from the comatose state he'd fallen into two days before, or that there had been no word from the others since they had gone to investigate the changes to the planet's continental stage, and the strange light show Lloyd was convinced was the same phenomenon that had occurred when Yuri had fallen on the Kharlan Tree.

At least Asgard's inns were well equipped for mountain weather; someone would have had to pay had she been freezing as well as anxious.

With a disgusted sigh, Raine turned her attention away from the window to the unconscious man slumped on the bed at the back of the room – a different room since Yuri had smashed through the window in the one they'd had previously, rendering it uninhabitable because of the weather. His arms were tied to the posts as a precaution against any foreseeable consequences, and his dark hair was pleated into a neat braid that rested on his chest. Yuri's face was as pale as the pillow it rested against, and the only sign that he wasn't a corpse was the rhythmic movement of his chest.

She watched him for a moment longer before grumbling, "It would be very considerate of you to wake up soon, Mr. Lowell," and turning back to the maps and history texts she had been pouring over for the last five hours, attempting to extrapolate the most logical rearrangement of the world's land masses. It was, needless to say, a rather impossible feat considering she didn't even know if the separate continents had remained, well, separate.

For all she knew, Altamira and Mizuho had been fused together to form the world's first ninja theme park. It was unlikely, yes, but theoretically possible; if one ignored the land surrounding both cities that would have had to be displaced, and the fact that the ninja of Mizuho would sooner fling themselves from the top of Fooji Mountain than allow their secrets to be utilized for the amusement of tourists. The only definitive information they had was that Luin was now located to the west of Asgard instead of north, and that the Palmacostan continent was no longer reachable from Hakonesia Peak.

The only other aid she had managed to procure was a very crude sketch from Kratos of what he could remember of the world map four thousand years ago. It was barely more than a handful of poorly drawn circles, and Raine had already decided that his apparent 'forgetfulness' was some passive rebellion to make her life difficult. He and Lloyd seemed to share that quality and since the man had a near eidetic memory, she couldn't believe he could have just 'forgot,' no matter how long he had been alive.

She was still glaring down at the crude sketch half an hour later, and briefly considering stopping for a late lunch, when Regal and Presea stepped through the door, brushing snow from their hair and shrugging out of their jackets as they walked over to her desk. Raine turned to them, and the small knot of worry in her stomach eased just the slightest.

"How was it?"

Regal chuckled, the sound lacking any humor as he smoothed his long hair from the chaotic snarl the wind had whipped it into. While it seemed contradictory, his manacles didn't impede his grooming attempts at all.

"Not well, I'm afraid," he answered. "This blizzard has spread clear across the country and it doesn't seem to be letting up any time soon. Luin is under at least three feet of snow and the House of Salvation is full to the bursting point with migrants."

"Oh, wonderful," Raine sighed, pinching the bridge of her nose. "If that city becomes uninhabitable after all our efforts in repairing it, I might have to let myself be eaten by a dragon." Regal smiled at that, wryly, with a twist of his mouth that said he knew exactly what she meant. "What else? Did you find any other cities?"

"Yes," Presea answered, staring down at Raine's mostly blank map. "Flanoir is here," Presea added softly as she sectioned off a rough space off the coast with her finger. "Approximately six hours northwest of Luin by Rheaird, with the Tethe'allan base oriented to the south. The Balacruf Mausoleum is still located near the peninsula from Hakonesia."

"Thank you, Presea," Raine said softly as she outlined the Flanoir continent and Sylph's island. Presea nodded and then turned to walk over to Yuri's bed to stare at his face. Raine raised an eyebrow at her, and then looked back to Regal. "Any word from the others?"

Regal shook his head, "Not much. The last I heard, Zelos was in Altamira off to the west, and Colette and Genis had found Triet somewhere to the south. We didn't hear anything from Kratos and Lloyd. Where is Sheena?"

Raine rolled her eyes. "Of course Zelos would find Altamira," she muttered as she lightly traced her pencil in the approximate shape of the countries Regal had mentioned. "And Sheena is helping the villagers with the storm. I'm surprised you didn't see her on your way in, actually. What about the… comet," she said, for lack of a better word. "Is it concurrent with what Lloyd and Colette said? Did you find any people?"

Regal cocked his head to the side and Raine followed his line of sight to Yuri's bound and unconscious form, and as the moment stretched on in silence, she began to wonder if it was bad news he was struggling to put to words.

"No one unusual was at the inn in Luin, and we couldn't find any evidence of someone falling from the sky around that area," he offered at last. "Of course, we weren't there for very long, but if someone had fallen there, they either haven't made it to the city, or are dead and buried in snow."

Raine crossed her arms and sighed, bone weary. "Hopefully it won't be the latter, but if we consider the injuries that Yu- -"

"He is awake," Presea announced, making Raine stiffen and jerk her head to the side in time to see a pained smile pull at Yuri's lips. It immediately made Raine start to scowl even as a feeling of relief swelled up in her.

"Oh really," she growled, crossing the room to take her place next to Presea and folding her arms over her chest. Yuri cracked an eye and looked up at her, and even though his smile was weak, it was still impertinent.

"Hey, Raine," he croaked, attempting to shift into a more comfortable position and then stiffening when his arms failed to move. He glanced up, eyes widening and eyebrows creeping up as he tugged at the ropes. "Well," he said at last, in a tone that was much less surprised than it had a right to be. "This is interesting."

"How long have you been awake?" Raine asked, crossing her arms. Yuri glanced at her, but not before stopping on Regal and Presea with an evaluative look that was remarkably intent despite the fact that he looked like he was struggling to keep his eyes open.

"Since you said I needed to be considerate and wake up. But I drifted in and out while you were swearing at your desk."

Raine's mouth twisted in embarrassment as Regal muffled a chuckled. "I do not swear," she answered stiffly.

Yuri shrugged with a smile. "Guess it was my imagination," he agreed in a tone that could only be described as teasing.

Raine hurried on, prickling immediately. "Apparently. Now, why didn't you tell me you were awake? We have important questions for you, and you've been out for a while, we need to get some water in you."

She was quite sure she knew the answer, she just wondered if he would admit it. Had she been in his position, restrained and possibly in pain, gathering intelligence would have been her top priority; right along with planning ways of escape. It explained his, what she thought, lack of surprise at finding himself bound. He had probably been fully alert and feigning sleep for quite a while.

"Water would be great," Yuri rasped, wry smile pulling at his mouth as he evaded her question and looked up at his arms, tugging a little at his wrists in emphasis. "And I have a couple of questions myself, actually."

"For your protection as well as ours," Regal answered calmly as Raine walked to her desk and poured a glass of water from the pitcher she'd brought up with her from breakfast. Walking back to the bed, she brought the glass to Yuri's lips and tipped it gently so as not to choke him, placing one hand at the back of his skull to support his neck. His nape was slick with sweat, but his skin wasn't feverishly hot, which was comforting. There didn't seem to be any obvious aftereffects to Yuri's almost-transformation.

Raine removed her hand and stepped back once Yuri had drained the glass, nodding when Yuri rasped, "Thanks," and walking back to her desk to lean a hip against the edge. Regal continued as soon as Yuri's attention returned to him. "We would be remiss in allowing another… incident to befall Asgard after we assured the citizens they would be safe."

Yuri visibly winced at that, face paling and hands tightening into fists above his rope manacles, no doubt remembering the fighting he'd tracked through the city and the enormous crater he had blow into the field in front of Asgard. "I forgot about that," he muttered, eyes slipping closed as his tongue lashed out to wet his lip, looking back at them after a moment with his mouth curled down into a frown, eyes dark.

"Okay," he started. "Before I answer anything, who are you two?"

Regal smiled lightly. "Regal Bryant."

"Presea Combatir," Presea said quietly.

Yuri nodded. "I'm guessing you already know who I am. So, what the hell happened to me? I mean - - shit, I don't even know what I mean. I remember… I remember this darkness, and… this anger. I don't - - just tell me what happened."

"You were transforming into an Exbelua, a monster created when humans have had their exspheres removed without a key-crest," Presea answered immediately, and Raine winced a little at her matter-of-fact tone. While she admired straightforwardness, discretion was often more effective with issues such as this.

Yuri stared at Presea with wide eyes. "A monster? You're kidding, that…" He looked at the ceiling, breath coming the slightest bit faster with a real element of fear traced in the whites of his widened eyes. "That explains a surprising amount, actually. Damn, that's…" He laughed a little, somewhat wildly, and while Raine commended his ability to remain calm, she could hear the faint traces of panic on the edge of his voice. "And that was just from taking out my blastia?"

Raine frowned; there was that word again: blastia. "Yes. We call them exspheres here, though, not blastia, but I suppose it amounts to the same thing. And here, exspheres require a special talisman to regulate the mana within them because of their instability. It's called a key-crest, and removing an exsphere without one causes a backlash of mana that reacts negatively with the body. Don't you have something similar on your world?"

Yuri shook his head a little, but she had a feeling that it was more of an expression of disbelief than one of negation. "Well, we have these things called bohdi blastia, but the only thing they let us do is use the power of the blastia because they barely do anything without them. I've never heard of anyone turning into a monster because of them, but then I'm no expert so - -" he cut himself off, arms abruptly straining against the ropes binding him, eyes narrowing. "Wait, you were talking about people falling from the sky. It was that light, wasn't it? I - - I remember seeing it. Those lights were people, same as what happened with me?"

Raine nodded slowly, but it was Regal who answered. "That's what Lloyd and Colette believe. And since they were the ones who witnessed your fall, we're inclined to believe them. What do you know of it?"

Yuri shook his head. "Nothing, but…" he trailed off, thinking. "… But if she figured it out..." He abruptly yanked on his restraints, curling the ropes around his wrists and grabbing the twined cord to haul himself up into a sitting position as he speared Raine with an urgent look. "You have to let me go."

Raine raised a skeptical eyebrow. "I don't think so."

Yuri scowled. "Look, I don't know exactly what that light was, but if it's what I'm thinking it is, then those are my friends out there and I'm not going to leave them out there to die while you interrogate me."

"Your friends?" Regal asked.

Yuri nodded, but when he spoke next it was through gritted teeth. "One of my friends is a genius. She probably figured out what sent me here and developed a spell to get here too. I know you don't trust me, but if I'm right then I need to be looking for them."

Raine sighed, and turned a little from the bed, thinking. She had decided a while ago that he wasn't a threat to the planet. His confusion over being here had been too real for him to be a spy on the brink of an inter-world invasion, as Kratos was somewhat given to believe. But he was dangerous nonetheless, if only because the instability of his… blastia could manifest at any given moment. She looked back. "We can't let you go - -"

"Raine - -"

"Let me finish," she snapped. "We can't let you go by yourself. Your blastia is too volatile for you to leave without some kind of protection, and you're right, I don't trust you. I'm not about to let you go without getting some answers of our own. But we are investigating, and as soon as my companions return we can discuss allowing you to travel with us for further analysis."

"That's not good enough," Yuri snarled. "They could be dying and you're wasting time - -"

"It's been two days already. If they are as seriously injured as you believe, then they are already dead. I understand that you want to search for them, but need I remind you that you have no idea where you are going and since we're in the middle of a blizzard, you won't be getting very far either."

Yuri's face darkened, and Raine could see the muscles in his jaw clenching tight enough to whiten the hinges. Presea cocked her head to the side. "The likelihood of success given the lack of knowledge of terrain and the ferocity of the weather is less than five percent," she murmured.

"We are trying," Regal added. "We are worried about this as well."

"Well congratulations for being concerned citizens," Yuri growled. "I'll be sure to get you medals."

Raine stared at him, unimpressed, and for a long moment Yuri glared back, grey eyes flashing like steel as they darted between the three of them, and then to the door and his restraints. Raine had little doubt that he wasn't attempting to figure out how to escape, and just waited until he sagged back against the headboard with a defeated sigh. "Fine," he snapped. "What do you want to know?"

"Well…" Raine started.