Final Hikari: Bwahahaha. There's actual plot in this chapter! XD I'm sure my usual readers are aware I never give my characters any peace, but I don't know if anyone is guessing the plot yet…
Lymle: …Any real announcements?
Final Hikari: Actually, yes! One real one and one not-so-real one. XD The latter is that I completely forgot I was sitting on this chapter! I thought it was already finished and posted.
Lymle: -.- You're really senile, 'kay?
Final Hikari: I blame NaNoWriMo. Now, for the good news! The Grammar Goddess, Dr. Meh, is still drowning in AP high school classes, so Meikahna is betaing for me! Many thanks go to her for saving the grammatical day. XD Now, if you will excuse me, I'm going to hide under my electric blanket for this chapter. XD
Lymle: …That's a waste of power. Just sit by the fireplace, 'kay?
Final Hikari: -deadpan- This is 21st Century Earth. Fireplaces aren't in every house.
Lymle: …That's weird.
Final Hikari: No weirder than my twisted imagination. Disclaimer time!
Lymle: The Final Hikari doesn't own anything from Star Ocean: The Last Hope, 'kay?
Lost In You
February S.D. 10 / B.I. 267
Public News Report I
A division of the Planetary Research Organization based of Eldarian Exploration Vessel 'Valkyrie' entered the atmosphere of undeveloped planet Aeos in, by the calendar of the Earthlings, the second month of S.D. 10. Once surface conditions were determined to be acceptable and air composition breathable, two dozen Sol units each with one man crews were deployed to the surface.
Investigation was carried out by these individuals who approved the climate and location suitable for an Exploration Base to be constructed. Contact with Earthlings from the USTA on their home planet was made, recommending the planet be part of their future investigations. At this time, the development of the first Earthling ship capable of stable long distance warp travel was still in development. Earthlings were still incapable of transportation, as reported by the Commander of the Earthling Moonbase.
However, one of the reports submitted by the first group deployed mentioned an unusual object crashing to the surface of Aeos shortly before the PRO unit's arrival. The crater where this item landed was located but not, at the time, explored. It was determined to have fallen into the depths of an extensive cave system titled 'Miga Insect Warren.'
This prompted Supreme Commander Gaghan to contact the military for assistance during exploration. Captain Arumat P. Thanatos of the Thirteenth Independent Armored Division was deployed with a full crew, estimated to reach Aeos within six hours of the time the notification was issued.
The report containing information on the unusual object was submitted by Employee No. 75897666: Faize Sheifa Beleth. This account will be released to the public after the next conference between the remaining members Superior Council.
The threesome - foursome counting Cerberus - had stopped for the night once the sun had fallen below the horizon and the last remnants of twilight faded from the sky. The aforementioned demon had taken the liberty of lighting a fire before the young symbologist dismissed him. It was fairly taxing to keep him materialized for such long periods of time, but it was something she had become accustomed to from having to fight with him so frequently the previous year. Both girls had fallen asleep relatively quickly as the fire died down, though fell asleep Rose far sooner.
It was almost extinguished when the ex-Thirteenth Independent Armored Division captain, Arumat P. Thanatos, started on his way back to the campsite. It was dark and the only light was the nearly full moon; more than enough to see by for his well trained eyes and reflexes. Though a less coordinated person who was equally unfamiliar with the geography would probably walk into one of the many rocky cliff walls.
The group had reached the edge of the Van Elm Region on the first day of travel. Subsequently, he'd spent the evening clearing the morning's path of monsters. Between the climate and rampant hostile creatures that roamed the land, it was almost surprising Lemuria had been chosen over other potentially hospital planets the emigrant fleet would easily have been able to reach. Mutated Cardianon had added to the chaos, though the planet had been free of their influence for just over a year.
Aeos' average environmental temperatures were more comparable to what Eldar had experienced thousands of years before its doomsday became imminent. However, the beings that inhabited Aeos were far more destructive than the ones on Lemuria; though some particularly strange ones wondered the uninhabited areas of the planet's continents, such as trees possessed by evil spirits and animated golems of stone, it still managed to be the safer of the two planets. The fact was reflected by the medieval civilizations that were able to survive for over a thousand years, if nothing else.
He had stopped on the way back while still a decent distance from where the others slept to see how may notifications and COMs he'd missed while in Woodley, and unable to make contact with the Dominion's network. Though not officially passed between the Earthlings and Morphus, Commander Gaghan was already impressing the importance of the UP3 upon his employees and people. Those still taking orders directly from the Commander, such as himself, were still permitted to keep all electronics required for missions.
As anticipated, as soon as the holographic screens appeared, messages and assignment notices from the hand full of surviving government officials populated the very large list. He glanced through the ones from Gaghan's address first, uninterestedly taking mental note of the regions that needed to be rid of creatures or investigated before settlements could be built.
However, two unusual COM addresses near the top of the list summoned his attention. He frowned slightly upon seeing them, inwardly wondering what the Earthling captain had called to bother him about.
He leaned against the side of the cliff above him and opened a COM to the Earthling, not caring enough to be considerate and calculate what time it was on Earth, never mind what he might be interrupting.
He waited several seconds and was about to close the COM when a dark room appeared, along with a very tired looking Edge Maverick who answered. The clock on the corner of the screen, displaying the time on Earth, reflected it was a few hours past midnight.
"What do you want?" Arumat asked shortly, not bothering with greetings as the Earthling blinked once before looking surprised.
"Arumat! I didn't think you'd actually ever answer. Reimi even bet me two hundred Fol you wouldn't," Edge rambled, earning nothing but a trademark glare. Taking the hint, he shook his head and got to the point. "I have a favor to ask."
Undeterred by the less than interested and abrupt response, Edge began his explanation. "Two days ago, a massive vessel entered warp space en route to Aeos. It was almost saucer shaped and could probably be classed as transportation ship. It was going extremely slow, and portions of it were being broken down, leaving debris in the warp. All the registry information on it was blocked, but it seemed to be of Cardianon origin, and-"
"Cardianon?" Arumat interjected, voice stoic and unaffected as ever. "Were you able to scan it for life signs?"
"No," Edge admitted, "USTA computer terminals don't have that ability. But it came from the outskirts Eldar System. Its dimensions were reminiscent of those of the abandoned Mothership, where most of the Cardianon mutated in cold sleep. The majority of them ended up killing each other, since only a few remained on the two occasions the SRF made direct contact with them. It's very likely it's the same one."
"Don't you Earthlings have any comprehension of how expansive those creatures' organizations were? They could have manufactured a thousand of those in the time before the Grigori were destroyed," Arumat stated bitterly. "They may have been an underdeveloped species a few hundred years ago, but all the data on the planets they previously invaded was deleted."
A brief moment silence passed as Edge's shoulders fell. "S-seriously? Have you gotten that much more information on them?"
"Enough to know they're still a risk if their vessels can be modified to operate on exalithium crystals, or other comparable energy sources," he replied, divulging no unnecessary information. "Is the Earthling government aware of this ship?"
"No, Reimi insisted we keep it a secret…," he paused, somewhat suspicious the older captain was omitting part of the truth. "Why?"
"Earth is too useless and polluted for them to target, so keep it that way. The only underdeveloped society they're a risk to are the ones being built here on Lemuris. It wouldn't take them long if they were based off Aeos. Don't let that grounded government interfere."
It was clear by Edge's expression he didn't dare correcting Arumat on the fact Earth still had one working ship. "Wait, we thought this one was the original that replaced Arcturus VIII. It warped into uncharted space after the SRF's second encounter with them then absorbed into Nox Obscurus."
Arumat to be linked with Nox Obscurus since its disappearance. He also went listened as the explanation continued; Edge mentioned what had turned up seemed into the research they had done and were still doing. He all but instantly determined what caused the Earthling's interest, and futility of the feeble dream, but waited without interjecting until the younger man was done.
"Don't get your hopes up," he said flatly. "It's more than likely a ship full of blood thirsty Cardianon that managed to avoid mutation. Don't you remember their conduct? Invade underdeveloped planets, destroy civilizations, and abuse all the resources until there's nothing left. No one knows how successful they were for the two hundred years the Grigori corrupted them. They were only noticed by other governments because they targeted Lemuria. There was even a Grigori on Aeos," he continued, ignoring the question. "They probably intended to go there after finishing with Lemuria from the start."
Edge's expression was a stubborn frown, making it clear he refused to give up. "How much evidence indicates they're still alive and thriving on some other planet? The likelihood it's the same one was to be high, too."
Only silence ensued, filling the air for a long moment.
"It's been more than half a year," Arumat said dismissively, "If Beleth were still alive, you'd have known months ago. If that brat could repair a Leviathan like that, he'd have done so for the COMs and contacted you. Seeing as he's been branded a traitor in the eyes of the Morphus and Eldarians thanks to the USTA, you'd be the only logical option."
A cold silence ensued his statement. He heard the echo of a soft gasp in this distance and the soft rustle of tree branches. He turned away from the screen momentarily as the sound reached his ears, inwardly deciding to end the conversation as quickly as possible.
"Traitor?" Edge echoed, clearly surprised. "That's ridiculous! What could the USTA have to do with that?"
Are those old Earthling fables about blonds being slow correct or is he just an idiot…?
"Simmer down," he retorted. "I'll look into it as soon as I'm done my current mission. When is it estimated to land?"
"Seven days," he said reluctantly. "But-"
"Alright," he interjected, "I'm still grounded for a few more days. I'll contact you in eight with what I find, but don't expect anything more than a bunch of massacred Cardianon."
"Thanks," Edge replied, although halfheartedly. "Just where are you, though? Can you get to Aeos that quickly?"
"Lemuria. The planets aren't far apart."
Edge, still bothered by the previous comment, refused to let the topic die. "But how could he be help accountable for what the Grigori that possessed him did?" he questioned quietly. "That shouldn't even be common knowledge for the majority of Eldarians or Morphus. What did the USTA do?"
Arumat shook his head in response. "Worry about passing the UP3, not a situation that won't be happening."
"But what about-" Edge started.
"Answer when I contact you. Over and out."
"Wai-" the connection was cut before he could finish the word.
She watched as Arumat turned the device off and put it back in his pocket. He straightened and reached for his scythe, leaning the pole against his shoulder casually, giving him the appearance of a space age grim reaper. She held her breath as he started back toward the campsite and listened to his quickly approaching footsteps, trying to calm her racing heart.
She clutched the staff in her hands tightly, numb fingers matching the coldness of the weapon and the night that hung like a veil over the mountain range. Her mind was reeling; she felt the regret of not paying more attention to all that was happening around her when she had still seen the world through the eyes of a child grow ever heavier. What was happening?
After no more than a few minutes, he turned to the right where the path slid between the two sides of the cliff and stopped. He looked down to see Lymle kneeling there, obviously eavesdropping. She jumped to her feet immediately, taking an instinctive step away from him in the process.
Her legs had become stiff from kneeling down so long in the cold and she stumbled slightly as she distanced herself from him. He stared down at her blankly though she returned his piercing gaze stubbornly. Oddly, he looked unsurprised, though rather inconvenienced. She met his gaze evenly, though it was undoubtedly difficult not to become unnerved by the piercing amber eyes.
It felt too much like the only other two or three noteworthy times she'd confronted him directly, without anyone to hide behind or distract; she didn't want to think back to the last time, though the memory of when the group had taken part in the assault on Nox Obscurus. But in the end, it was all because of the same missing person.
"You were talking to Edgie, right?" she asked suspiciously.
"What of it?" he countered, lacking interest in dealing with her. She was a child and he was not a babysitter.
She seemed to hesitate, and when she finally spoke up, she selected her words carefully. "How…is he? Why did he call you?"
"A Cardianon vessel in need of investigation appeared," he replied shortly, walking past her and starting toward the campsite. "It's likely to be a siege and attack. That's the only reason I was contacted."
She frowned and followed him quickly, refusing to let him go without further questioning. She walked quickly, struggling to keep up with him. "Who were you calling a traitor?" her voice nearly cracked when she said the last word. "It sounded serious."
He ignored the question and continued walking. She exhaled exasperatedly and jogged to keep pace with him. "Hey! I wanna know, 'kay?"
"It's nothing of your concern."
"So then what'll it hurt to tell me?" she retorted, still at a distance of at least two feet.
"One of the Eldarians who previously worked under Commander Gaghan was legally classified as a traitor. The information isn't to be divulged to civilians."
She looked up at him, pressing her lips together stubbornly. "I know there's more to it than that, 'kay?"
"Did you learn to eavesdrop from that Oracle or is it considered acceptable in this planet's culture?"
She sighed and crossed her arms. "You were talking about Faize, weren't you? What's happening?"
He stopped suddenly and turned to face her, though his gaze had settled on something above her head. She frowned deeply and stepped back leaning against the tree that protruded unnaturally from the cliff, waiting for him to say something. The soft chirping of crickets in the tall grasses around them was the only noise to disrupt the silence for several moments.
She heard the ominous rustling of branches several feet above her head, though no breeze blew through the valley to disturb them. She turned around quickly and looked up, but was a moment too late. Several thick roots abruptly shot up from the ground with inhuman speed, wrapping around her wrists with a painful snap.
She attempted jerking away as they closed, but only succeeded in making them tighten. She continued to struggle futilely, feeling the circulation to her fingertips lessen all but immediately. Before more roots or branches of the cursed tree had the chance to come to life, Arumat lifted his scythe and in one quick slice, severed the roots.
She fell gracelessly to the ground, landing on her right arm. She grimaced slightly, only hearing the sound of the Eldarian's scythe cutting through the wood of the tree's trunk. She scrambled several feet away as the sharp, glowing blades were thrust into the 'face' that emerged amongst the bark.
What just happened…?
Its expression was distorted into one of agony as its branches drooped as quickly as they had come alive. Her wrists ached painfully, and despite the heavy sleeves of her dress, were bright red where the roots had been wrapped. She blinked momentarily, slightly stunned at the brusqueness of what had just transpired, watching as he stepped back and sap the color of blood leaked from the slice.
The sticky substance that remained on the ex-Thirteenth Independent Armored Division captain's scythe seemed to burn off as the retractable blades returned to their usual form. It emitted small trails of smoke as he straightened and resumed walking wordlessly.
She scowled at his back as she hurried to her feet, dusting the grass and splinters from her clothes. She ran to once again catch up with him, unsure if she should thank him or continue questioning him for more information. She chose the latter option on a whim, but without much hope of an honest answer.
"Please. Tell me what happened, 'kay? Is it about…him?" she paused to run a few feet before falling into step beside him.
"You expect me to know who you're talking about?" he asked flatly.
Inwardly thinking there was no way he didn't know who she was referring to, she hesitantly questioned him on one final matter. "Is…is there a chance Faize is alive?"
There was a pause in conversation as they reached the top of the hill and the campsite where Rose still slept peacefully came into view. Only the faintest glow from a few smoldering embers remained of the fire.
"No," he said shortly.
"You're lying," she insisted, though clearly more to convince herself. "That's what Edgie was worried about, isn't it?"
"Forget about it. Chasing phantoms isn't a matter for children."
She felt the incline of the land dropping as her steps slowed. Her shoulders fell as she finally stopped, watching motionlessly as he continued forward. She reminded herself not to be disappointed - it was impossible to get any information out of him. Nevertheless, her thoughts remained darkly on the dismissive statement. Or, perhaps, dismissive comparison.
She remained unmoving for several moments, memories of the Palace of Creation flooding her mind. She looked up to the sky, expecting to see the endless star ocean, but thick clouds had moved in to hide it from view.
"Phantoms…," she murmured aloud.
Final Hikari: …If I may say something random, Bacchus' wife scares me.
Edge: I was slightly scared when I learned he had a wife…
Final Hikari: XD Me too. But she creeps me out. -sweat drop- Freesia is the name of my shampoo and a instrumental track by Gackt on my iPod.
Final Hikari: XD Yes. I buy the .66 cent VO5 stuff. :D It's really cheap when it goes on sale and somehow Gacktesque with the name 'Freesia!'
Edge: That's just a bit creepy.
Final Hikari: Anyway! It's been ages since I worked on Utopia! I took most of July and August off. -brick'd- But I still really, really love writing in Arumat's POV. XD I was going to hold off until he was back in Asgard, but I just wuuuuuuuv writing about him. :D Also, before I get picked on, though I hesitated a few times, I thought it wasn't too out of character for him to have an actual conversation with Edge, since he was all but downright chatty in his last PA of the game. XD
Arumat: …I was never "chatty."
Final Hikari: XD Yes you were, Mr. Toothpick. Also, I didn't pick back up on Chapter IX's cliffhanger in this one. :O Oh noes. Also, despite writing the entire original draft of Utopia on paper, I'm going to try and slow down to make the chapters longer. Things are moving pretty fast, considering where I started, but there's just so much story to tell…and you guys still nothing about the crux the story, the inv--- -mouth is abruptly covered by Reimi-
Reimi: No spoilers.
Final Hikari: -shakes her off- Finally, I honestly had no idea when I made up the name 'Planetary Research Organization' that it abbreviated to PRO. Goes to show how with it I am! XD -nervous laugh-
Final Hikari: …Alright, this disclaimer is too long. See you all in Chapter XI, tentatively titled "If I Were Lying."