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Orangepotato and Emil Lime

Chapter by Orangepotato

Esperanza Loretta: Reality is black and white. Perception is gray. At least, in my understanding…

"My name is Jacques. It's a pleasure, of course. And it'll be a pleasure to see you die."

Jacques voice resonated off of every wall; making it seem as if he was everywhere in the room, regardless of what Esperanza's eyes were seeing. She had the gnawing sensation to turn around, to see if he was, indeed, standing behind her as well, but she didn't dare.

She was well aware of the dangers she'd impose on herself by doing so.

However, she still felt as if his voice was tickling the back of her neck.

The Chosen spoke, her voice barely denting the man's presence, "What are you doing here?"

She sure put up a great false bravado.

The man answered, "I'm sure I was clear, Chosen." He didn't sound impatient, but he looked it. There was an anger that seethed from his body, though he exhibited a huge amount of control over it. It was almost like he'd locked himself away in a shell, allowing only a fraction of his real power to funnel out.

Swallowing audibly, Esperanza knew they couldn't continue like this. With Everence healing and a new enemy, there was no way they'd be able to free everyone and escape. In retrospect, it seemed dumb to sneak into the base. She hadn't even been able to find her parents, and now they were cornered.

Trapped like mice and the man on the balcony had the eyes of a hungry cat.

"Grave!" Earth sprouted from the ground below Jacques, the man effortlessly jumping out of the way. He landed on the stairs, glaring up at the spot he'd previously occupied in front of the door. Moments later, in the dust of the attack, someone entered the room.

Ilene shouted when she caught sight, "Kratos!"

It was time to move.

Instantly, Esperanza stretched a hand before her, summoning blue mana to her finger tips. Water formed around her as she shouted, "Aqua edge!" The spell shot straight for Everence, who barely had time to throw up a defense. "Chosen, run!"

It wasn't like she wanted to save the girl's life, but she and her brother were the most injured. It was all the pink haired girl's fault for dragging them into this, so she'd make sure they made it out.

It was Holtz who denied it, "Not without you, Esperanza."

Frustration mounted in her. Why couldn't he just go? Was he scared he'd get lost or something?

"Holtz, leave. Now. I'll catch up. Go with that mercenary." She summoned another spell, sending it in the Cardinal's direction with a shout. The man was far more prepared this time, blocking the attack and running forward. Calling on the strength of the exspheres planted in her gloves and boots, she dashed forwards and landed several punches on the man before getting in a round house kick. Everence blocked the last of her attack, sending the scythe barely over her head.

Dropping to the ground, she kicked straight up, catching him in the stomach. It didn't seem to faze him, but he didn't scoot back some and all the while, she leapt up and started jabbing.

She felt rather than saw more spells going off. Since she was focused, she couldn't tell who'd casted the spells. Instead, she hoped it was either Rin-Tins or Kratos. Secretly, she hoped they were also getting out without being chased.

Chances were slim though.

Aiming for the Cardinal's face, she landed the blow before he could blink, sending him back several feet. He landed loudly on his back, letting out a whimper.

He certainly wasn't down, but she'd take the moment that presented itself.

She made it back to the control panel she'd been working on before. It was far too complicated for her, so she gave up on the cautious route she'd taken before. Now, she clicked every key possible, a loud whistle finally signally the cells opening.

Whirling filled the air as the gates retracted and people began filing out. Some were in shock, others had fear on their features.

She shouted to them, "Follow me! I'll get you out of here!" Whether she actually would remained to be seen, but it was a better idea than releasing them to fend for themselves. At the very least it'd cause a commotion that'd further distract anyone who could stop Ilene or her companions.

Tossing her ruby eyes over, she saw that her companions were gone, including Jacques.

Shaking her head, she knew she couldn't be bothered with it.

"Come on!" She signaled them up the stairs, all of them getting the idea. In a quick panicked dash, they all charged their way up the stairs, some people getting crushed under the feet of others. Fear and terror washed through her, but Esperanza didn't have a second to ponder it. Instead, she felt something slam into the back of her head.

Stars swarmed her vision and she collapsed on the ground, barely catching herself on her hands and knees.

Everything went numb for a second and then tingled. Words wouldn't process right, so she didn't even have a chance to scream when she felt something rip into her side.

The next moment, she was on her back, eyes tracking Everence's movements. He'd fully recovered, scythe in his hands. He was speaking, but his words sounded muted. Soon enough though, they came in full blast.

"That's just too bad, honey. I guess I'll have to treat you myself!" He raised his weapon and slammed it into her stomach.

Letting out a raw scream, she could hardly make her body function enough to struggle. Already, she could feel her energy leaving her with every drop of blood that ran from her wound.

Is this how everything's going to end?

It was probably the most fitting death possible for someone like her. A half elf.

"I'll see you in my dreams," the Cardinal sneered, his handsome face twisted in a smirk. He yanked his weapon and out was about to crash it down on Esperanza's head-

Am I really going to die here?

She never got the chance to close her eyes.

Everything went black.

"Do you think she's going to make it?" It was a light male voice. He sounded overly concerned, yet the tone was very familiar.

A female voice responded, this one foreign. It was soft, yet demanding, "I don't know."

Another male voice, this one strong and deep, "Settle down, Holtz. There's nothing you can do for her now."

"Shut up, gramps!" The light voice –yes. Holtz – shouted. "Now tell me, damn it, is she going to live?" Desperation clung to every word and suddenly, Esperanza could feel something warm against her hand. It was as if someone was holding it. "Stay with me, damn it. Stay with me!"

"Holtz," this voice was soft and familiar, "Be strong."

A high pitched voice chorused her agreement, "Yeah, Ilene's right. All you can do is be strong for her right now. We're doing everything that we can…"

The unfamiliar voice this time, "Yes. And your constant worry is throwing off my magic. Calm yourself unless you want her to die." The words were harsh.

Esperanza felt something prickle against her eyelids.

Sunlight, perhaps?

Slowly, she opened her eyes.

"Ah! She's waking up!" Holtz called.

They were outside the Toize mountains. Grass was under Esperanza, people surrounding her on all sides. The sun was just beginning to come over the horizon, casting everything in a harsh shadow. Even with the fleeing darkness though, she could tell there were tears in the red head's eyes.

Ilene spoke up next. She was sitting next to her brother, a smile on her face, "Esperanza, how are you feeling?"

She tried to speak, but words failed her. It was the unfamiliar person who responded instead. She was sitting on her knees next to the pink haired girl, hand extended over the grievous wound that she'd received. Warm white mana flowed from the woman's finger tips as she looked at the Chosen with a steely gaze, "She shouldn't speak. Just because she's awake doesn't mean she's better."

The woman had long brown hair and an elaborate dress. Her hair hung freely down her face and back, a few ribbons weaving their way through the locks. Her eyes were slanted and a haunting violet color. Her lips were pressed into a slight frown and her features were concentrated.

It was Kratos, who was standing near Esperanza's feet, who commented next, "Yes. As soon as she's healed, she'll still have to take it easy. Healing is better than modern medicine, but it doesn't hold up well for the first twenty four hours."

Ilene nodded, "Yes. You're right."

Esperanza felt her hand being squeezed again, so she shifted her focus to Holtz. He had her hand tightly gripped in his own.

"You really scared us back there," he stated, "I came back just in the nick of time. Everence had you pinned…"

So Holtz saved me?

The unfamiliar woman spoke, the mana slowly fading from her fingers, "There. That's the best that I can do. She'll need lots of rest, but she'll be able to travel, but I warn against fighting."

Rin-Tins, who was standing behind the new comer, smiled, "At least she's alive."

Ilene helped the pink haired girl sit up. The world span a little, but quickly straightened itself. It was Holtz who got her to her feet.

Now standing, she felt her voice return, "Thank you, Holtz."

The teen nodded and she felt a small smile threaten her face. Turning away from him, she met the eyes of the woman. Instantly, she senses the dislike and she frowned.

So the woman was an elf?

As if Kratos was reading her mind, "What is an elf like yourself doing outside of Heimdall?"

The woman perked up to that, "I was traveling when I was captured."

The man seemed to notice the same hostility that Esperanza had, "And what made you stick around?"

It was obvious they were the only two who sensed it and the only ones who were questioning the woman's motives. The other three quickly interjected when the mercenary placed his hand on the hilt of his sword.

"Hey, gramps, leave her alone."

"Kratos, she hasn't done anything wrong."

"You shouldn't try to cut her into pieces, Mr. Kratos."

The auburn raised a hand to silence the objections, "Chosen, you should never trust anyone, even if they offer help. She could very well be after your life. I suggest you think carefully about your next move."

Ilene shook her head, "She helped us, didn't she?"

"Yes, Chosen. She did."

Holtz agreed, "She saved Esperanza's life. Why would someone evil do that?"

The obvious sarcasm that would naturally go along with Kratos' comment was lacking, though it seemed to hang in the air, "I don't know. Perhaps because she could be manipulating you into trusting her?"

"You sure that doesn't come from some olden day folklore or something?" The teen waved a dismissive hand, "Sides gramps. I'm a good judge of character. I think she's fine. If anyone was manipulating us, it'd be you."

"Holtz, you're a child. You still have a lot to learn."

"What the hell is that supposed to mean?"

Esperanza raised a hand, "Enough." They both stopped instantly, though Holtz sent his share of glares over to the older man. "I agree with Kratos. I'm a half elf. Why did you save me?"

She'd been expecting shock or some sort of horrid gasp at her statement, but all she got was contemplative silence. What the hell was wrong with these people? They agreed to help her into the Desian stronghold and then don't care that she's a half elf?

Maybe they weren't listening.

"Answer me," she stated. "Elves and half elves get along worse than Humans do with my kind. You had to have an ulterior motive for coming to my aid."

The woman stood, shoulders ridged. It was obvious that she was battling something inside her mind, as if she still hadn't made a decision on it.

Finally, she said, "It is possible that I'll need help from the Chosen."

Kratos interjected, "The Chosen cannot simply run around the countryside doing other people's bidding."

"I'm well aware of that, but if I didn't think I'd need her help, I wouldn't be asking."

The auburn seemed almost upset at the turn in the conversation, but Ilene interrupted, "What do you need help with?"

Before the woman could answer, Esperanza shook her head, "Why don't you tell us your name first?"

Almost like she was taken aback by being asked a question by a half elf –Ah, there's her revulsion – she quickly composed herself, though not hiding the scorn on her face, "It's Yahne. And I heard while inside the base that Heimdall was going to be attacked."

A small amount of shock went through the pink haired girl. She didn't care for the city at all, but for someone to want to attack it? Elves were nasty creatures, but they never came out of their home to bother people.

"Is it a Desian attack?"

Yahne nodded, but didn't say anything.

The Chosen furrowed her brow, "We can't allow that to happen."

The mercenary intervened, "Chosen, I don't mean to be rude, but you can't stop your journey just because someone needs help. The entire world needs you as well, don't forget that. You're being selfish for ignoring your duties as the Chosen."

Hurt was evident on the red haired girls' face, but she spoke calmly, "I understand what you mean, Kratos, but Yahne helped us, so why can't we help her?"

Esperanza wasn't surprised when Holtz defended his sister, "She's right. The journey's a stupid waste of time anyways. We just freed a bunch of people from a camp. That's more useful than Ilene traversing the world looking for seals."

A growl almost escaped the auburn, "And when those people get recaptured by the Desians?" The siblings swallowed and the older man noticed. He sighed, "I ask that you reconsider your objectives, Chosen. The will of the people is strong, but the will of Martel is stronger. Your priorities need to reflect your desires."

The pink haired girl looked over at Ilene, who was staring at the ground. Somewhere, she managed to find sympathy for her.

She didn't much care for the Chosen. It was easy for someone to go around and attempt to save the world. When it failed, they were dead and didn't have to suffer any more on the planet they'd left behind. Decades passed between each failed Chosen and it seemed like it was impossible for one to complete the Journey… even now, Esperanza doubted Ilene's strength.

It seemed that she was alive only because of a few well timed events…

Sighing, Esperanza cut to the chase of the argument, "Are you helping or not? That's all there is to it. If you're trying to think about more than that, Chosen, then you're thinking about too much."

Ilene perked up at that, but didn't say anything.

Rin-Tins gave her opinion, "Isn't Flanoir across the way from Heimdall? Past Altamira? The ship's ready and packed away in a wing pack, so it's just a matter of unloading her into the water somewhere. Couldn't we help the Elves and then make our way to Flanoir? It really isn't that much out of our way…"

Confidence filled the Chosen, "Rin-Tins is right. Kratos," she faced the mercenary and bowed, "I'm sorry for causing so much trouble, but this is something I have to do. Please try to understand. We'll continue on the journey immediately afterwards. I promise."

"And if there's another person who offers their aid and then wants something in return?" The man was obviously uncomfortable with the decision, but it wasn't like he could say no.

Esperanza felt sorry for the bastard.

"Then I'll tell them that I'll help when I regenerate the world."

The answer didn't appear to make the man feel better, but he said no more.

Holtz was actually the next one to speak up, "Alright. Let's get going then!"

The group started moving away, but the pink haired girl held back. It was time to leave. She couldn't bother them with sticking around and besides, she needed to find her parents…

"Esperanza, aren't you coming with us?" Ilene questioned.

Surprised, the girl furrowed her brow, "I have more important things to do."

The red headed brother raised an eyebrow, "Like what?"

She didn't even bother hiding the sarcasm in her voice, "I don't know, finding my parents."

He didn't seem bothered, "They're probably in the small town nearby. Gramps said he heard that's where most of the camp's prisoners went that way. I'm not sure how he heard it, considering he's ancient, but whatever."

Esperanza wasn't sure if she was happy about the turn of events or not, but shrugged. She supposed they'd travel to the next city together and that was it. Perhaps she could locate them there, though deep in her heart, she had a sinking feeling that they were already dead. She hadn't seen them in the made dash from the ranch and even now, it didn't seem like they were looking for her.

There was sorrow in that thought, but she didn't dare voice it. Weakness wasn't something she could show... not now, not ever. It was something her parents had taught her. The world was a rough and terrible place. Fight to survive, the motto of the land.

She frowned.

It was probably for the best to separate from the group now. Cut the feeble ties that were trying to form, and then... what? There really wasn't a plan after that. She could search the world for her parents but the dread of truly finding out they were dead? Perhaps ignorance really was bliss.

Looking over to the group, she mulled over it. Even with one of them being the Chosen and the other now being an Elf… they weren't all bad. Holtz, Kratos and Rin-Tins were tolerable.

Stepping forwards, she brushed past Yahne and stood next to Holtz and Ilene, "Fine. I can at least walk with you that far."

Holtz seemed more happy than necessary at that comment, "Alright! Yet another person to talk to other than old man gramps." He grinned like child and Ilene shook her head.

"Isn't 'old man gramps' redundant?"

"Nah, he needs to be called that because he's super old."

Esperanza felt a small chuckle rise in her, but she stifled in quickly. At the very least, she could travel with them until she figured out what she was going to do. Besides, the Chosen was going to unlock the seals... if she even made it that far. But Esperanza knew that the travel could land her on a different continent. Some new scenery would do wonders.

As they walked, she let her eyes travel over the horizon. Beyond the vast sky waited Heimdall. The land of Elves. A place she wasn't welcome. However, it was under attack, and if nothing else, that was intriguing.

Yes. She could at least stick around for that.