I hope that no one here will kill me.

All I can say is sorry. I've been tied up with school. Life. To anyone who cares, I haven't been updating lately because I've been working my rear hind off in school. A bit more than normal people usually do, actually. Cliff-notes version, there's a college I really want to go to. And the only way I can do that is by keeping a pristine record. And even with those efforts, I'm not so sure if I'll get past the auto-denials of their application pools.

Riggght. So, how have you guys been?

~Fukachi no Rin

It's really cold.

I fidgeted underneath my bedspread, tossing the covers over my head. Without the ability of the frigid air entering through the top of the pill-sleeping bag, I was pretty sure that gaining a few hours of sleep would now grow in possibilities. We had traveled yet another day, heading towards the wonderful town of Asgard. One more day of near death had past, and it was the time for sleeping, still fearing for our lives. Traveling sucked.

I grumbled, tossing once more onto my left side. I never understood how people could sleep on their sides. I tried once, twice, maybe a few times to see if it helped my sleeping at all. Despite my best attempts, I always woke up either on my back or with my side feeling sore as hell. It would remain another mystery of the world that always would exist to perplex me...

Something stiff nudged against my hip, antithesis to a soft tap. "Wake up."

"Go screw yourself Kratos," I grumbled in dismay. "I'm trying to sleep."

Followed by my response were a few light footsteps, followed by the lifting of my sleeping bag. Before I had a chance to scream, or react, I had been dumped out of my bedspread, face first in the dirt, my stomach feeling as if I had landed on a rock. Maybe because I had landed on my backpack. What did I carry in that thing...?

"Let me make myself clear, Miss Alexa Embers," Kratos stated, dark eyes glaring. "When I ask you to awaken, it is a gesture of courtesy. It is none of my concern if you wish to comply – that is not my issue. You will treat me with respect, do I make myself clear?"

I nervously gulped. "Y-yes sir."

Kratos nodded stiffly. "Good," he replied, tossing my bed spread onto the ground. Without any further acknowledgement, he turned on his heels, pacing to the extinguished fireplace. Smoke still rose to the dark sky, the moon still high in the night. Night... We only set up camp an hour or so ago...

Followed by a bark, Noishe appeared from behind a distant hill, a hint of silver and brown behind his head. He halted in front of Kratos, bashing his head nervously against the stoic mercenary's shoulder. Dismounting from Noshie's back, Lloyd walked up to Kratos, making no acknowledgement of my presence.

"You were right," he said coolly, hand placed instinctively on one sword. "There's a bunch of Ogres heading this way – three or four of them."

"They probably smelled the meat we roasted earlier." Raine appeared from behind the thick forest, her hand guiding Colette. "Ogres are not the smartest of all creatures, but once they gather the scent of fresh meat..." Raine made a face, her hand pressing against the base of her chin. "Will we have to fight them?"

"There is a chance, unless we set off for some means of shelter." Without further elaboration, Kratos looked over Noishe's head. "How is your mana level?"

Genis gave a uncertain response. "I have some left, but it's not enough to complete any spells..."

"Oh! I have an orange gel!" I dug into my pockets, pulling out the orange gelatin disk. "I know it tastes yucky and has been in my pocket, but it's better than nothing, right?"

Genis made a face, but took the medical assistant nevertheless. "Why do I need mana?"

Raine cocked an eyebrow, also questioning the mercenary's methods. "There is a cliff not far from here," Kratos elaborated, his hand rested at the hilt of his sword. "Once we reach there, we can have you carve into the stone and burn our scents with other magic." A glint passed over Kratos' eyes. Sounded like the old man had done this before.

"When you say fire magic..." I preceded, my voice barely a mutter.

"I will be the one casting the spell," Kratos answered bluntly. Right. No fire for Alexa. I should've known. "Chosen."

Collete's head bobbed to the side. "Yes?"

"You are to ride with Lloyd on the dog..." Kratos ordered with little hesitation. Colette turned to face Lloyd, greeting him with a warm smile. Noishe lowered his back right with time, and the two climbed onto the protazoan's back. "Lloyd, no harm is to come to the Chosen, do I make myself clear?"

Lloyd gave one firm nod, oblivious to Colette's tight grip on his upper arms. "Miss Sage, if you will take the lead, I will guard the end, in case our guests decide to appear."

Raine nodded as well, her fingers white around her staff. Genis, without any hesitation, devoured the Orange Gel, scampering next to Lloyd with his kedama drawn out in hand. I gave Kratos an earnest look. "What do you want me to do, Kratos?"

Kratos inched his head to the side. "Do not get in the way," he warned, patience thin. I shook my head nervously, hands wrapped around the handle of my tonfa. Blurry-eyed, head pounding, arms sore... I'd be a ridiculously opponent if an ogre managed to sneak up on us now.

The group of us began to move at a steady pace, Raine's orb of light guiding the front, Kratos protecting the back. My hands rested uneasily at the grips of my tonfa. As the Earth began to tremor beneath our feet, the fast pace evolved into a quick sprint.

Electricity crackled at Kratos's hand, and scarce of a chant, the magic pulsed from his outstretched fingers, directed towards the thick forest behind us. The sickening sound of trees snapping filled the air, followed by the collapsing of every oak and maple behind us.

Before I could make a smart-alec remark about trees and advocating naturalists, Genis's panicked remarks filled the air. "Isn't that going to lead them straight to us?"

"They're already on our trail," Raine explained to her younger brother. "Any efforts to block their path would more than helpful."

Kratos came to a sudden halt, the end of his sword flat against his hand. Colette spun her head, eyes wide. "Mr. Kratos!"

"Keep going!" Kratos roared harshly. "I'll keep them busy."

Lloyd swore angrily, looking Colette in the eyes. His lips moved, and next thing I knew, he had jumped off Noishe, his swords escaping his sheaths with a sharp hiss. He took position next to Kratos, his weapons ready for battle.

"Lloyd-"

"Listen, you're not going to be able to hold them off all by yourself. Complain all you want; you're part of the team and you should know by now I don't abandon my friends."

I half expected Kratos to death-glare at his son, except he didn't. Instead, a smile touched his face, and he hid his eyes under his bangs. "Do as you wish."

And then something very scary happened. Suddenly, the ogres didn't seem like that much of a threat. Mana pulsed in what felt like a good mile radius, the tremor rippling through the Earth. It was much more than what Kratos had ever used – cripes, I couldn't even sense mana, and I was feeling THIS.

We were still running, but I kept looking back. I couldn't care less if I hit a tree – I cared more about Lloyd and Kratos, if those two would be alright, if my friends...

My mind numbed in those thoughts as it continued to watch those processes.

A shadow, dark and large, loomed from the deeper part of the forest, making its direct path to Kratos and Lloyd. I sucked in a breath. Damn. The pits of its orange eyes glowed brightly in the darkness. Nothing but malicious intent filled those two illuminated gems, and there were coming closer... closer...

"Grave!"

The mana tore through the soil of the Earth, a combination of stray rocks and stalagmites tearing up in front of the ogre. The enemy rebuked, and with a club in hand, stoke the rocks at the center. Dust clouds spread away from the once existing shield, and the ogre resumed its path. Lloyd, his swords gripped before his torso, leaped into the air, a stream of mana following his circular path. "Tiger Blade!" Lloyd's first sword sliced into the edge of the ogre's club, and his other grazed the ogre's shoulder. The ogre stumbled; Lloyd sprung from his feet again, this time, rising high above the Ogre.

"Tempest!"

In a split second, he had spun from the ground up to the top of the ogre's head. He brought down both swords at the forehead, a well aimed final blow.

Before he could finish his attack, he was stopped. Midair, his swords were jammed in the middle of the ogre's club, frozen in place. An grotesque fist made contact with Lloyd's side, crushing the swordsman straight to the ground. Lloyd let out a grunt, as the weaponless swordsman could only do in his pain, as the ogre lurched to stomp on his stomach.

"Lloyd!"

I spun on my heels, hands at the hilt of the tonfa. Snapping my entire body around, I launch myself into the battle's direction. I didn't know what to do... All I could do is react, react to what was happening.

And then there was pain.

It was the most unexpected, especially since I was sure ogres couldn't use magic. Then I remember, oh shit, not a video game, this is real life. My bad. Guess I can't turn off the friendly fire. Either way, there was a strong wave of electricity coursing its way through my veins, coming from the exact same person who had simultaneously managed to rescue a limp teenager and in their arms and rescue him from the clutches of death. Only if Kratos was wearing blue and red – I could start playing the Superman theme for him.

...If he wasn't launching Lightning at me.

I collapsed to my knees, tonfa collapsing to the ground. Metal conducts electricity. Life freaking sucks. Next came my hands, to balance my body weight. There was an amazing amount of pain in my arms now, from the electrical shock, and pain wasn't good. The best thing I could do was gasp for air as I stared wide-eyed at the ground.

"Embers!" Kratos barked. "If you do not stay back, you pray to the Goddess I don't cut you down myself!"

I pushed myself back to my feet, still gasping for air. Then I glared. It is directed to none other than Kratos, and it is well deserved past it's time. I'm still gasping for air when I stumble back onto my feet, and tears are clouding my eyes after I pick up my tonfa and run after the rest of the Chosen's group.

"Alex, are you okay?"

"I'm fine, Colette," I hissed back, obviously lying. I couldn't help it, in all the hatred, the anger I was experiencing. If Kratos wanted to fight by himself, fine. He could more than handle some pesky ogres. But if Lloyd got hurt... Then... I used the sleeve of my shirt to wipe away a few tears.

"We're here."

We were stopped right at the base of a cliff, where Genis took position front and center. A slightly orange rune appeared beneath his feet, and the half-elf began his magic, carving away deeply into the rock. The mana was dancing, from the bottom of his feet and angled to the edge of the cliff. In a few seconds, Genis already dug an entrance point into the cliff, small enough to fit a single person through.

"I'm digging out a hollow, Sis," Genis explained, sweat trickling down his brow. He was staring so seriously at the rock, as if it would explode if he broke his intensity. I took in a breath, turning back around at our path. The ground was still quaking, from what I could only assume to be the raging battle taking place between a spandex clad mercenary and two-plus ogres.

I fingered the top of my tonfa subconsciously. If worse came to worst, we probably could manage to fight off the ogres... Yeah, if Raine cast a few Photons, Collete attacked with her feathers and Genis... managed to cast some spells without getting killed. Which meant, in worst case scenario, I would be stuck at the frontlines, trying not to get killed. Joy.

"Done!" Genis yelped, resting his hands on his knees. "I'm about to burn our scent... You guys might want to get out of the way..."

"Don't overdo it, Genis," Raine spoke, her voice strained. Genis bobbed his short head once, straightening his posture. A deep ruby rune appeared beneath his feet, the mana glowing around his young figure. "Alexa, Colette. You two should take shelter in the cave."

I looked at Raine quizzically. "Shouldn't someone get Kratos and Lloyd? Before we hide away?"

A blaze shot from Genis' kedama, forming a semi circle around us and the cliff. "They'll be able to find us on their own time. The most important task now is making sure Colette is safe," Raine answered, her voice still tight. "Colette, please go first."

Colette smiled dutifully, hopping off of Noishe's back before she crouched in front of the small crawl space. It was about... Three feet high, and very dark. Like, monster-in-you-closet dark. Okay. Kinda creepy. The Chosen dipped one foot into the mouth of the cavern, and slipped into the orifice, completely disappearing into the umber. With a bit of hesitation, I poked my toe into the entrance, feeling no solid ground beneath the sole of my feet, and pulled back. "Don't worry Alex; it's fine in here! Although it's a bit dusty..." Colette echoed, her voice cheerful. I let out a sigh, and hanging both feet over the edge, I slipped into the cave.

"Ow... Rock..."

"You okay, Alex?"

"Just fine, Colette... I think I stepped on rock though..."

"Oh..."

Raine's voice sounded from above. "We're coming down; clear the entrance."

"Okeydokey, Professor!" I called back, moving further back into the space. I hit something – the wall of the cave, I hoped. Listening carefully to the noises, I heard the shuffling of people, descending into the cavern. There were four of them, and I wondered if I miscounted until the next voice spoke.

"Colette? Are you okay?"

"I'm fine, Lloyd," Colette reassured. "How are you?"

"Don't worry about me," Lloyd partly laughed. "I just got a bit of a scratch, that's all."

"Lloyd, will you get your hand off my shoulder?" Genis demanded, causing Lloyd's laugh to become uneasy.

I finally spoke. "Lloyd, how in the world are you even walking? Weren't you just unconscious?"

The air grew more still, as Lloyd's laugh faded away into the nothing There was just breathing. Everyone's breathing, clear as a bell in the cave. And one person in particular's was very tensed. "I woke up. It wasn't a serious injury."

"Okay – just clarifying," I replied stiffly, trying to ignore the lifelessness in his voice. Someone (Kratos or Raine...) shushed us, at the moment the vibrations of a moving mass hit us. Taking a deep breath, I started counting to ten. There was still a deep rumble from above – the ogres were still on the loose. And things were feeling dim.

The pounding from the footsteps was growing stronger – had Genis did a well enough job burning away our scent? The little half-elf was still fairly new to magic, and perhaps his control slipped somewhere. If that was the case, either Kratos or myself (assuming I didn't explode from overuse of mana when trying to cast Dragon's Breath) could double-check with a quick spell. I opened my mouth, forming the question in my lips, when my blood ran cold. At the entrance of the cave, a pair of bright orange eyes glared through, scanning what it could make out for its prey.

My knees wobbled under my weight, as a cool sweat gathered at my forehead. Hell, despite the fact they were searching, I could feel the gaze penetrating my body. I sucked in another breath, pushing my back closer and closer to the wall. Someone – close to me, probably about an inch or so away – was doing the same. The ogre exhaled, its rancid breath filling the air of the cave, and if it weren't for me being so afraid, I would've hurled right there.

It started at us for what felt like hours – no, years. And like nothing had happened, it turned and stomped away. My brain turned right back on, letting me sigh in relief, and I tried to reach for the sweat on my forehead when something stopped me.

Oh...

During the time of our wait, I had latched onto the arm of the person standing next to me. They were tense, I could tell, but I had no idea if it was from my hold or from the near attack of the ogre. Gently, I pulled myself away, the scent of the leather jacket brushing my nose.

For a few seconds, I was unsure whether or not to care.

;:;:;:;:;:;:;:;:;:;:;:;

Destroyed. Much of it gone. Demolished. Charred. Damaged.

That was the scene we came to in Asgard.

Hotels blown ablaze, flames licking the tops of the cliffs. Other buildings had lost two and a half of their once walls. The huge inn, the ostentatious one in the back of Asgard that cost a ridiculous amount to stay in – yeah, that looked like one of those dollhouses you could split through the middle. Except it was missing a half.

And the wind only got stronger.

Collete reacted first of everyone in the group, her feet tapping against the stone staircase. When she was halfway up the stairs, Lloyd decided to panic, reaching out his hand while beckoning out to the young blond. "Collete, wait!"

Colette stopped in front of the remains of the produce store, her eyes fixed through the space left between the off-the-hinge door and stone wall. "There's someone in here – I can hear them!" Colette rushed into the store, and after an "oops," crash, and puff of smoke, another panic fit erupted from Lloyd.

"Colette!"

"I'm okay! I just tripped..."

Lloyd ran in after her, and the four of us behind trailed up the stairs. This place was an ugly scene. Lots of destroyed buildings. Lots of burning buildings. Lots of wind. And no people. As if this place had been or war zone... "Mr. Aurion... How likely is it that this is the handiwork of Desians?"

Kratos turned warily to Raine, his eyes dark. "Not very. Desians destroy all in their path, murder many, take many. Their would be far more carnage had they been the aggressors."

"Collete, can you move the door?"

"Okay!"

The door fell straight onto the grass, followed by a distraught Colette and weary Lloyd. With an unconscious person's arms slung over his shoulders. He looked a bit old and ornately dress, kinda like an arch bishop or another person associated with great piety of rel- oh. This can't be good...

Genis looked at his sister, blue orbs wide. "Is that the Priest...?"

Raine scanned over the man, and after tapping her staff against the ground, she circled the mana glow around the unconscious man's head. She was murmuring some sort of incantation, one in a language I could hardly understand... Elven? Watching the subject careful, Raine kept her gaze focused, gauging any reaction. He jerked suddenly, like one of those bodies that had been resuscitated by the ambulance electric pads. His eyes were half opened, unseeing.

"Sir, are you alright?" Raine pronounced clearly to him. Eyes glazed, he pushed his head up, not truly looking for anything. "Sir?"

"The... the caves..." The worn man broke into coughing spasms, and the wind picked up once.

"The... caves?" Lloyd repeated.

"The ancient people of the Balcruf left them behind," I recited from my earlier lessons. "They're also pretty good safehavens for the wind."

"If we were to take refuge there, it would be easier to heal him," Raine added thoughtfully, gesturing to the now unconscious man. That spell only lasted ten seconds. Made me a bit concerned about the abilities of the team healer. Anyway, Kratos nodded, and after placing his hand threateningly on the hilt of the sword, he began to lead. Colette took the Priest's other arm, assisting Lloyd, while I tried not to look so lost.

None of is were speaking, but only because there was nothing to speak about. We made it to Asgard, yes. Or what was left of it. With a whopping population of one citizen. And no dead bodies, surprisingly enough. This place looked like it had been overrun by Desians, and yet, no one was killed? How uncharacteristic was that of the sadistic race of half-elves. Perhaps they were making a change for the good.

We could hope, right?

That hope died a bit when we walked into the cave. No, it wasn't filled with dead bodies. It was filled with live people. Lots of them. Practically the whole population of Asgard. No way in hell Desians were that nice.

As Colette and Lloyd placed the man on the stone floor, the oldest of the citizens, a hunched over man with beady eyes, interrogated us. "Who are you people?"

"Travelers, coming in search of this man," Kratos gestured to the Priest, keeping his voice smooth. "If you'll excuse us, he is badly injured, and we have to tend to his wounds."

"That won't help him. He's good as dead, anyway. We all are. I'm surprised you even made it this far, with that beast wandering around the town." The man shuddered, as if he were reliving a painful memories. "Many are dead, already. And this all would have been avoided if that bastard Linar and his stupid little half-elf friend didn't go blowing up the pedestal-"

"Excuse me," Raine spoke, her staff pouring healing artes over the dying man. "But when you said pedestal-"

"Oh. You're another history fanatic, aren't you?" the old man mocked. "He was too. And look what it's done! He stuck his nose where it didn't belong, and a monster was conjured, demanding the sacrifice of a fair maiden. When his sister was chosen, he snooped around some more, destroying the pedestal in the process, and releasing the monster into the town."

I could feel my eyes widening. "I don't understand," Raine shook her head. "What is this monster you refer to?"

The man laughed, a bitter laugh. "He was a god of their time, the Balcruf's we're sure. An embodied spirit. He originally demanded a sacrifice, over his seal, but now, he just wants to taste our blood." He shook his head. "Once the wind grows stronger, he'll appear. And when that happens... We'll be doomed."