Explaining this to the Commandant of the Knights certainly was not an easy task.
Explaining how Brave Vesperia had failed to keep an eye on even one little princess was humiliating, but even so, Flynn didn't seem to be blaming them, and Raven rather appreciated that. It almost seemed, that like Raven, Flynn had predicted that the council might make their move on the little missus. However, even though Flynn understood the situation and what seemed to have happened, it wasn't going to stop his knights from talking. The guild's reputation would suffer even further.
Karol had returned from his information gatherings less than half and hour after he'd left, looking annoyed and pleased all at the same time. He had explained that he had gone to see Kaufman, of Fortunes Market, hearing that she had came into town last night just around the time Estelle had last been seen. She had been in a cruddy mood, so, the young man had to cut a deal with her in order to get the information he wanted.
He had said he would tell them what the deal he had cut later, after they had discussed the most urgent matters. As if on cue, the Imperial Knights and the remaining rescued prisoners from Rechner arrived in Dahngrest. For the next day and a half, people had been frantically setting up a refugee camp, working on feeding and assisting the rescued civilians. With the Knights and the guilds of Dahngrest combined effort, they had managed to save the less than thirty remaining survivors from almost certain death.
Rita had nearly worked herself to death, studying the lacrime and doing her best to observe the reactions it had when exposed to different levels of mana. She was obsessed in finding out exactly what the Lacrime were, how they worked, and how come that when equipped to the body, they could use mana to generate artes and magic.
Ryker and Sennett had made the mistake of revealing their abilities to her, and with the prospect of the possibility of regaining her magical artes, he could not blame her for being so suddenly obsessive. Also, he knew this would explain why Elydor could use magic artes without the aid of aer and blastia, something that had been bugging them for quite a while now.
But, that mattered but a little now, as they sat in the main hall of Brave Vesperia, gathered around a round table. He, Karol, Rita, The young commandant and his second in command sat together, discussing the next plan of action. Karol was leaning forward, into the conversation, eager to understand what was going on. Rita sat back, her eyes distant and dark, probably thinking all sorts of dark things. The young commandant and his lovely lady friend with the stern look sat almost identically, both of them proper and knightly.
And then there was him.
He and the commandant were the ones directing the conversation, so he supposed he appeared to be immersed, but, his mind was reeling off five hundred things a second, and his logical process was having trouble keeping up. There was so much they didn't know, and he felt as though it was unlike him to rush in without plentiful information and planning.
But then again, he had no idea where the little princes might actually be.
He could hear the commandant talking with the boy, and was grateful that the conversation had turned away from him for the moment. He went to relax and truly allow himself to think on the matters at hand, where the little princess might be. Its not exactly as if the Elite or Zaphias was exactly safe at the moment, not after what had happened in Rechner. Who knows what could actually be going on behind the scenes with the elite, first Suingam, then Ravk, and then Elydor.
He had known, if even slightly, about the existence of the lacrime, and the locations of the manors. It came with working for Alexei for a little under ten years, learning the dirty secrets of the empire that they would much rather just keep hidden. If the common folk knew even half of what he knew, he figured they might try and stage a rebellion against the Empire.
Not that he could blame them. The Empire hadn't been doing the best for its people for almost ten years now. And just recently, that same new Emperor had allowed the blastia to be converted away. Although it was for the good of the world, not everyone had seen it that way. Life was harder without the blastia, and the citizens of the empire might not be willing to give the new Emperor, Ioder, the chance he deserved. Heh, the more he thought about it, the more he began to think that there was some sort of conspiracy going on behind the scenes.
"Well, the only relevant information I got was from Kaufman." Karol's voice snapped the older man out of his reverie just in time, as he found he had completely zoned out during the conversation. "One of her people, trustworthy too apparently, said they saw a girl with pink hair wearing a white, yellow, and pink dress being taken away by imperial guards. Oh, apparently there was another woman there too, a Krityan...but..."
"But there's no way Judith would do that." Rita finished from Karol's right, suddenly immersed in the conversation. Her eyes were hard as she put her hand over her mouth, her palm cupping her chin. Without meaning to, she smoothed back some of her growing bangs from her eyes... she really needed to get them cut. Although it was only a two or three inches, the length didn't suit her. She also seemed uncomfortable with it, although she was too lazy to do anything about it herself, at least, until it became too much of a pain.
"Yeah... the first person I thought of was Judy too... but then I asked the source to describe the woman," Karol nodded, glancing over at Raven, then to Rita, and back to Flynn and his second in command, Sodia, he believed her name was. "He said that the woman he saw was tall, with pale skin, azure hair, and wearing these strange robes with the insignia of the Empire of them."
"Amynorp, of the Elite." Flynn's voice was no more than a whisper, as if he had realized something terrible. Raven was certainly curious to hear what he had to say, and leaned forward as the blonde stared down into his lap, his expression dark. "It would be most unwise of us to trust Lady Estellise's safety to that woman."
"You're coming aren't you?" Rita said with her usual air, now standing over by the back wall, ever unable to sit still. She had a small scroll in her hands, looking back and forth over its contents, her green eyes gleaming with determination, and strangely enough, excitement. She rolled the scroll back up and stuffed it inside her belt, before turning around and facing the table. "To help rescue Estelle, that is?"
"I..." Flynn hesitated, as if contemplating something, and Raven had a feeling he knew what the young blonde commandant was thinking. As much as an advantage bringing the knights with him to Mortis would be, the disadvantages would far outweigh the advantages. It would be best to sneak in and rescue the little princess using stealth. Of course, they had terrible luck when it came to using stealth, but, if they tried bursting through the front with the knights, Amynorp could easily crush them.
The woman was a legendary enigma, and even Raven felt a little uneasy challenging her. While the other elite simply did away with their opponents, Amynorp, she made her enemies suffer a different kind of hell. Several different kinds of hell. He had heard rumors of the results of her string pulling, people being assassinated without contracts and for no pay. She had an entire world at her fingertips, eagerly awaiting her next command
And he heard she was something fierce when angered.
"I am going to go with them. Sodia." The young commandant seemed to have made up his mind, again, snapping the oldest member of Brave Vesperia out of his rambling thoughts. Before the woman could voice her, no doubt, opposing opinion, the blonde commandant turned to face her completely, gently placing his hand on her shoulder. "Please. Sodia, stay here and command the knights in my place. At least until I return."
"Against Amynorp, commandant? Who's to say..." Sodia paused looking down and away from the blonde knight beside her, but Raven caught on. He was rather impressed by her knowledge of the Elite, not just anyone knew such things like that. He felt his opinion of her slightly rise as he mentally completed her phrase in his head, the rather haunting truth of her words echoing around in his head.
Who's to say you will return?
It had been far too long since he had flown on the Fierta.
Far too long since he had felt this free.
Perhaps it was because he was flying right now, he was separated from the Earth, a being apart from it. When you traveled across the earth on foot, carriage, or even boat, you felt to be part of the world, like you belonged. You, and everybody else, all moving across the world like a bunch of ants on an anthill, a small part of a whole. There was always a sense of calm belonging, but a sense of restriction.
You didn't feel that while flying.
It was as if you weren't a part of anything, you were you, the individual, outside of the whole, operating and living independently. He liked that about flying, being able to see the whole world in a matter of a few days, to travel across great area that quickly, when travel normally took months. It made getting to places and doing things so much easier. The only downside of flying was how cold it got up in the sky, especially at night.
He hated the cold.
Speaking of which, night was beginning to fall. He would have to let himself rest soon enough, but first... he had to deal with Judy. He had to know what she was doing at Aeolus, what had happened when she ran into Savage Wolf, and why she had taken so long to, well, frankly reappear. Karol and the others were probably going nuts worrying about her, whether they showed it or not.
He wondered how they were all doing right now. Not just Brave Vesperia... but Flynn, and Estelle too...
The dark haired swordsman felt a tight pain in his chest, and decided to ignore it, pushing it aside.
"So, what took you so long while you were in Maintaic?" He spoke suddenly to the woman just behind him and to his right. She had been standing there for a while, silently observing him, almost as if evaluating him. She was too damn smart, if he wasn't careful, she would figure out more than he wanted her to... but, knowing Judy, she probably wouldn't care as much as the others... unless she somehow figured out that he turned into a raving lunatic whenever he fought for too long.
Even Judith wouldn't like that.
"I got a little...sidetracked." From the way she spoke, Yuri knew there was a lot more than that to her story, but didn't pry. If she thought it was important for him to know, she would tell him. She shifted her red eyes to look up to the rising moon as they stood on the deck, bathed in the moonlight. "It's something sort of hard to explain...it'll be easiest to wait until Brave Vesperia is all together again..."
So it was guild business.
"Well then, tell me what happened with Savage Wolf." Yuri changed the subject for her, as he already had plenty of questions that he felt needed to be answered. He wanted to know what that despicable guild was up to, Asalle's promise still fresh in his mind. "The last time I ran into them, it got me in a quite a bit of trouble."
"Trouble? You? I never would have guessed." Judy replied dryly, closing her eyes and moving away from the edge of the Fiertia, closing her eyes and touching her forehead for a moment, communicating with Ba'Ul. Yuri waited, a little amused by her reply, when she suddenly spoke up again. "This is another thing that should be discussed with everyone else...however, given the situation we are in, I'll tell you this. Savage Wolf is planning to annihilate Brave Vesperia."
"What?" Yuri didn't mean to sound as surprised as he did. He knew Savage Wolf was a customer of the Elite, and part of the Elite's plan was to annihilate Brave Vesperia, and most of Danhgrest and Nordipolica. But at the same time, he couldn't help but add, "I knew I pissed them off, but I didn't think I pissed them off that much. Sheesh."
He was unusually calm, and it was scaring him.
He knew that as soon as they landed wherever this "Mortis" place was, he'd send Judy on her way. He couldn't let any of his friends get caught up in his mess, no matter how strong they were. That was why he had left the castle like he had, to make sure no one but him had to deal with this problem. He couldn't forget that. Even if he might have managed to keep the monster inside of him at bay once, who was to say he could do it again?
The last thing he wanted to do was harm any of his friends.
"So...why were you at Aeolus?" Yuri found himself asking, this time keeping his voice steady and even. He had gotten cocky, thinking that perhaps he had maybe pushed back the insanity inside of him, but, he knew he wouldn't be able to escape it. Not now, not ever. It would always be there, in the back of his mind. He needed to remember his place. Heh. To think that he, of all people, had though such a thing.
"Ba'Ul sensed a strange power source, and was following that, which led me directly to where I wanted to go, as the Savage Wolves who tried to kill me said that they had been hired by the man who lived in the hidden manor south west of Nordipolica, next to the mountains." Judith smiled, looking up at the sky once again, her voice calm. "I was going to deal with the man who had sent such fiends after my guild, only to find you had beaten me to the punch. Also... Ba'Ul is confused about the power source. He says there's two of them, and he says he's always felt both of them in this world, but, they are different than before."
"They? The lacrime maybe?"
"Maybe." Judith replied, giving him another analytic look. Suddenly, Yuri found himself having the distinct feeling that Judith didn't think it was just the lacrime. It made him uncomfortable, and he decided to ignore the thought for a while. "And maybe not. You and I both know that there is always more than meets the eye on these sorts of situations, wouldn't you agree, cursed one?"
He wasn't liking where this was going. Just what did she know?
He found himself moving away from his spot, moving over to where their third passenger remained, looking over the edge of the Fiertia, watching the ground below dispassionately. He was their guide to this "Mortis" place, and Yuri knew he had met the man before, and not with a good feeling either. He had been a so called 'cowardly' assistant of Suingam, Ravk, and Elydor, leading each of the elite right to him.
He would like nothing more than to toss this man over the edge of the ship and down to the world below, but... he would never find Mortis in time without the mans help. And, he thought with a painful tightening in his chest, Estelle didn't have that much time. Out of anyone that Amynorp could have captured, did it really have to be her?
"Are you worrying about Estelle?" Judith seemed to read his mind, usually, he didn't mind. Then again, they weren't usually in a situation like this. He hated it when people read him like a book, especially when it concerned his feelings for others. He turned away from the Krityan as she sighed in annoyance, looking off into the sky again, "I don't blame you, that woman was a real piece of work."
"You're supposed to say things like, 'don't worry' and 'she'll be fine'," Yuri replied dryly, looking out into the night sky, his eyes finding Brave Vesperia instantly. It was Estelle who had given them the name for their guild, and it had been Estelle who had told him the legend behind it, that night in Nordipolica. Yuri closed his eyes and sighed, the pain in his chest not going anywhere. He turned around to see Judy giving him one of her knowing smiles, a look that unnerved him. He hated it when people looked like they could see what he was thinking, or feeling.
"Don't worry, Yuri. Estelle is a lot stronger than that." Her voice was rather calm, and sounded like a soft bell, copying the tone and cadence of his voice from moments earlier. It was comforting yet unnerving, and he doubted he had ever had such a friend, other than Flynn, who could read him so well. "She'll be fine. And she's probably giving that woman a run for her money."
"Heh." Yuri looked down, over the edge of the ship as they flew over Hyponia. If only he could be that optimistic right now.
Estelle stared at the blank wall in her holding room. Amynorp had kindly gifted her this room, considering the conditions of her capture. The room was barely ten feet long and wide, made almost entirely of concrete, with one window on the west wall and a wooden door on the north wall, with one inexpensive bed, nightstand, and chair shoved against the east wall. It certainly wasn't bad, but it wasn't the best either.
At least they had yet to return her to the capital.
She was sitting down on the bed, watching the sky through the small window, her fingers running over Second Star absently. This room reminded her of the castle, of her growing up as a caged little bird. If she didn't manage to get out of here, her past would become her future, except, this time she'd be a wife of a man she barely knew and did not love. And then, like her mother, maybe she would die early too, perhaps of heartbreak, passing her memento onto her child, so that they wouldn't be lonely.
She rather hoped not. She wanted a much happier future than that.
Estelle was surprised she had been allowed to fetch the sword, but only after being warned that should she be seen by any of her guild members or seek any help, that Brave Vesperia would be destroyed instantly, and Danhgrest would suffer her wrath as well. And considering it was Amynorp, Estelle believed her. She would believe any threat that that woman made in a heartbeat.
She wondered how Amynorp knew about Yuri...then again, according to her handmaidens, it wasn't exactly a secret. In fact, she would listen to the maids stories of her and Yuri, usually in embarrassment, considering the things that the maids would gossip about. Things like love, lust, and a love story that could never be.
And no matter how many times she told them that Yuri had never done anything improper to her, they insisted to keep with their gossip of the two of them. What was it that they said, "a story of a forbidden love". She knew that the maids wrote their own little novels about her and Yuri, fantasizing about "the devilishly handsome man with a heart of ice who'd fallen for the naive princess".
Just thinking about was embarrassing.
No wonder Amynorp knew.
Forcing those thoughts aside, Estelle began to wonder why Amynorp had brought up Yuri in the first place back at Danhgrest. And just now, she had her guards hold her in place for several minutes for no good apparent reason, and then had them release her, letting her know that once the pest was taken care of, she would be shipped off to the capital to marry Haigos Evaristus-Lampo Leimer for the sake of the empire.
Then it clicked. Yuri was the pest Amynorp wanted to be rid of. She was an Elite after all, and Yuri had been going around killing the elite. It would only be a matter of time until he appeared at the beautiful elite's doorstep, and then, Amynorp planned to somehow use her, Estelle, against him. The pink haired girl tightened her fists around Second Star.
Perhaps she had known this all along, which is why she had begged to bring the sword, wishing to give Yuri the best chance he had at winning this inevitable battle that was drawing ever closer. She didn't know what she would do when she saw him again, but she knew that he was most certainly coming, and in that moment, it was enough.
The blonde man in the suit that Yuri seemed to somehow know had announced that this was where they would have to disembark. He was only allowed to bring the cursed one to Mortis, to where Judith knew the other Krityan woman hid, with Estelle locked away somewhere inside. Scratch that, hopefully locked away somewhere inside, she didn't want to have brought Yuri here for it to only be a trap. Which it probably was anyway, and she was sure he knew it.
He was hiding something. Not even just the whole "cursed one" business, but his strangely distant attitude that he only took up when he was feeling moody or brooding over something he'd done. Right now, she couldn't say for sure, although she and Ba'Ul already had a few good, solid ideas on what was going on. That was part of the reason she had returned to the remains of the city of truth, Kleoryen after feeling the disturbance of the balance of power she had felt while in the sands of Kogorh. She hadn't found what she was looking for the first time she was there, at Kleoryen, simply because she hadn't known what she was looking for.
"That mark on your chest, it looks familiar." She had said it before she knew what she was thinking really, and although he had maintained a good poker face, she could see right through it. That mark on his chest that looked so familiar to her had something to do with it. And the blond man in the suit had referred to Yuri as "cursed one". Could the mark be a curse mark? And if so, what sort of curse was he under?
Unless "cursed one" was a nickname because Yuri had absolutely terrible luck.
However, in light of recent events, she felt that such a thing was unlikely.
At least now she knew exactly what to look for. Another link in the chain that would help explain everything. She understood the puzzle, but she couldn't see all the pieces yet. Soon, soon she knew she would. But first thing first, Estelle had to be rescued and Yuri had to survive and overcome whatever trap Amynorp had set for him.
She, in the meantime, would head back to Dahngrest and pick up the rest of the guild. She knew that they were there, she just knew it. Also, they would probably also want to help rescue Estelle if they could. Ba'Ul, reading her thoughts, sped up, flying south for a shorter trip to the guild city. If they hurried, they could be there and back by tomorrow.
She hoped that wouldn't be too much time, and that Yuri would only be arriving to Mortis by then. True, she might not know where Mortis might be on Hyponia. But, she always could ask Ba'Ul to track Yuri, and it wouldn't be a problem, thanks to the strange power his body had taken to emitting at all times. It had been so powerful she had had trouble standing close to him, speaking with him, and she knew Ba'Ul had felt rather wary of him, and worried for her safety.
What exactly was Yuri's curse?
He hadn't worn normal clothes since... hell, he couldn't remember.
Flynn looked at himself in the mirror. He had never expected to have to disguise himself in order to sneak into one of the Elite's manor's. He would have gone in his knightly getup, had the young Karol not pointed out that he would stick out like a sore thumb. Also, he didn't want to be recognized so easily, and so, the young boy had dragged him out for a while around the city, although discreetly, to a guild called "Commonwealth", since Fortune's Market was still recovering from the goddess-knows-what. And while standing under the banner declaring "Put your faith in Commonwealth: Ricchezza per tutti", he had let the sales person at the stall take his measurements for a disguise.
The blonde was wearing a white loose v neck shirt with long and billowing sleeves tied at his wrists, a dark blue sleeveless vest that had a brown belt at the middle, and another one going diagonally from his shoulders to his waist. The vest was just a little long, slightly layering over the somewhat loose dark brown leather pants that were tied mid-calf and stuffed into the much darker brown boots. He had attached his sheathe and sword to the belt, and his shield attached to the back.
He didn't look anything like himself.
The blonde sighed, knowing he was going to be breaking so many laws by doing this. He was the commandant of the imperial knights, and he was sure setting a bad example. He had told Sodia to tell the knights that he had came down with a really bad cold, and that they would be taking a few days to rest and recover from their hike, so they wouldn't get suspicious if he wasn't around for a few days.
Hopefully he looked normal enough that no one would look twice at him. He honestly felt that he looked like a lame excuse for a pirate. Then again, there was a few in Danhgrest with such a sense of style, it wouldn't be all that hard to sneak out pretending to be one of them. As embarrassed as he was by the get up, he wasn't about to let it foil his plans.
A head on assault against Amynorp would never work, which is why he had agreed to infiltrate her mansion with Brave Vesperia. However, while he was with them he would not tolerate any looting or scavenging, or, at least, that's what he told himself. They were in a guild after all, and even with the friendship treaty, knights could not order around the guilds. Even if he could, he doubted he would. But he, he would not break any more rules than he had to.
Oh god why had he agreed to this?
At that moment, he felt a familiar nose rub against his hand and looked down to see Repede looking up at him expectantly. It didn't take him long to figure out that Repede wanted him to follow him. Flynn smiled and nodded to the canine, taking one last look in the mirror, before turning away and following his friend out of the room.
For being a new guild, Brave Vesperia's current HQ wasn't very small, but, it wasn't obscenely huge either. It was a mere two stories, the bottom floor consisting of the guild's business and social manners. There was the main hall where jobs were commissioned and accepted, a small bar and dining area, a decently sized lounge area, and a small meeting room which they had used just earlier today. The upstairs was a single long hallway with eight rooms. Six of them were bedrooms, one was an office, and the last one was a storage room.
It was a rather homely HQ, but it suited Brave Vesperia rather nicely.
Raven, and Rita awaited him, waiting patiently. He wanted to ask where the youngest member of the guild was, but he figured that he would show up soon enough. He was probably just preparing for the upcoming challenge. After all, they were breaking into the most influential of all the Elite's mansion. There was no telling what kind of trouble they might get into, and they needed to be adequately prepared.
"Are ya sure you wanna do this, kid?" He heard the eldest member of Brave Vesperia ask, and turned to face him. Raven was standing up straight, with his arms behind his head and looking rather relaxed. The young commandant listened carefully as the older man spoke, knowing that there was knowledge in his words. "If you get caught, you'll have to take the fall, you know."
"I know." The blonde replied, closing his eyes and breathing in deeply. Before glancing out the open door, where Sodia stood, talking to another one of his knights. They had simply chased after Lady Estellise and Yuri... but now, things were different. Even so, rescuing Lady Estellise came above all else, but it was Amynorp who was his opponent. This wasn't an enemy he could face using his own methods. "I will do what I have to in order to fulfill my duty and do what is right. The law will not punish Amynorp, and neither shall I. Right now, I am merely a friend of Lady Estellise, who wants her to be safe."
"So you already have an excuse if all else fails?" Rita said, her tone incredulous. He glanced over at her as she faced him, shaking her head. What did she expect from him, for him to be a goody two shoes all the time? Well, he already was feeling a slight bit guilty but that didn't change things. He was going to go in anyway."I don't believe it."
Before they could carry on their conversation any longer, the youngest member of Brave Vesperia came sprinting back into the guild. Everyone stopped and looked down at him, waiting for him to catch his breath. The boy placed his palms on his knees while he leaned over, breathing heavily, waiting for the spell of exhaustion to pass. He must have some very important news, and Flynn could only hope it was good news.
"Judy...Judy's here!" Karol gasped, much to everyone's amazement. He continued, struggling to speak, "She's asking us to hurry...says she'll explain along the way... but... it seems that Yuri's gone to rescue Estelle!"
Well, he had asked for good news.
Except, he was not sure if that was considered good news at all.
A/N: Another one... getting closer... :D
"Oooh, what sort of moron designed this place?"
"Whats going on here?"
Next Time: The Separation: Amynorp : Two