Just to say, as of the writing of this chapter, I'm going on my fourth year in a row of getting hit by a natural disaster. It was a gravity wave in 2010, tornadoes in 2011, falling trees in 2012, and now a flash flood in 2013. If you guys care, sacrifice some diet cola to the weather deities for me. Not to seem like a total downer or anything, but I don't really think I'd survive a wildfire in 2014…
Thankfully, Dirk didn't try to stop me when I took off after Lloyd and Genis. I'm keeping my distance, not wanting them to send me back or question me on my existence, but I can't help but feel somewhat guilty. I know that they're walking into a tragic event, and I have the ability to warn them about it.
The guilty part is that I'm not actually going to do that. I mean, that might have been why I took off after them in the first place, but, before I could catch up to them it crossed my mind that telling them really wouldn't bring anything good to bear. What would they do to stop it? They could sacrifice themselves to the Desians before they arrived at the village, but then they'd just die and the village would probably get attacked anyway. That would fuck up all kinds of game stuff, so, instead, I'm just sneaking after them and praying that I don't get attacked by more monsters.
It takes a good hour to clear the forest, with a good five minutes of that time spent by me hiding behind a tree while Lloyd took a leak. I almost lose the boys at one point, having gotten myself distracted by the massive shadow of the Iselia Human Ranch. If you've ever wanted a contrasting picture, imagine seeing a giant iron wall blocking off part of what would normally be a lush and peaceful forest. I half-expect to hear anguished shouts and moving machinery coming from the complex, but it turns out to be eerily silent as we pass. Unfortunately, that just makes it all the more unnerving. They're probably gearing up for the attack on Iselia- the village where Genis lives. People are going to die… and it's going to be because I didn't warn them.
No! It's not going to be my fault. I didn't cause the attack. Besides, as I said earlier, what good would come from me telling the people about the attack? What would they do? They would hide and scream and run away as the entire town was burnt down. Those that didn't run would be slaughtered, and those that fought wouldn't get any better. As long as Lloyd and Genis are there, then things will turn out for the better in the end.
…And I'll be there as well. As someone who knows the future, it's my duty and responsibility to protect as many people as I can. I might not be the best fighter in the world, but I'm not above throwing a punch or two for the greater good. If I can just get a Desian on his own, maybe I can disable him and take his Exsphere thing. That's the best idea I can think of… which isn't very reassuring. If it doesn't work, I'm boned.
Well, Columbus didn't abandon his trip to the new world because he might get caught in a hurricane. I'm not going to give up either. I'm here. Might as well make something of myself, right?
Anyway, after we're out of the forest, Iselia is only a field crossing away. Lloyd and Genis waste no time in headed off to what I think should be Colette's house. Colette's the female lead, for those of you uninitiated. She's not actually here, though, considering that this part of the plot is triggered by her departure unto her journey to regenerate the world. That's why Genis came to find Lloyd. He didn't come to see Colette off because she told him she was leaving later in the day. I can't remember the details exactly, but I'm pretty sure that she didn't want him following her because of the danger involved in the journey… and also something to do with a spoiler that I'm not going to mention because I'm getting stared at by some guy with a pitchfork.
"Who are you?" he asks me like a freaking bumpkin. I'm assuming he's some kind of village guard.
"Lyle," I answer plainly. "I'm a friend of Lloyd's."
"Oh…" the guy seems a little put off by that claim, and opens his mouth to say something. I brace myself for anything from insults to joyous welcome, but the guy doesn't actually speak. In fact, he leans to the side and looks straight past me. His eyes grow wide, and his mouth continues to hang open. I look over to his fellow guardsman, finding the same kind of expression, except this one seems to hold a large amount of fear in it.
I turn around, suddenly acknowledging a desperate pit that had been sitting mutely in my gut. You know that bad thing I remembered earlier? It's already here.
Coming up the hill that preludes the village from the forest is a heard of men in red and black outfits. Some of them have whips, some have torches, and some have various tools of harm. Swords, spears, axes, bows! It's a damn mob, and it's got the village in its sights!
"Oh Goddess…" one of the guardsmen mumbles from behind me as people close by start to come up and see what's the matter. Slowly, people start to back away and make for shelter. I can't help but just stand and watch as the destruction of this village approaches. It's kind of odd, really. I could have come in here and yelled that the Desians were coming. Considering how close behind me they are, it might not have been too far of a stretch for them to believe me.
For the record, the Desians are the bad guys in the game. Just thought I'd clear that up before they come in here and start tearing shit apart.
Eventually, I've backed up into the plaza that stands aft of the gate where the guards were. The Desians march into town without hindrance. People scream, kids cry, and the mayor actually shows his face to stand in front of those of us who aren't too afraid to make a stand… or maybe we're just the ones who didn't get away before pairs of red and black soldiers got around us and blocked our way before their cohorts took off down the lanes into town. It only takes a minute for the sounds and smells of fire to radiate.
"What is the meaning of this?!" the mayor seems as outraged as a fearful man can get. "We have a nonaggression treaty with you! This attack is-!"
"This attack is warranted," one of the Desians interrupts, this one wearing a gold-trimmed helmet and carrying a staff of some sort. "A known member of your community was identified attacking our people just yesterday. This is retribution for that event."
"Wh-WHAT?!" the mayor stammers, giving off the vibe that something like this never actually occurred to him. I can't help but grit my teeth as this goes on, wondering what I can possibly do here. I'm completely surrounded by these assholes…
Before anything else can happen, one of the Desians that went running into the village comes back with what looks like the battered body of a guardsman in tow.
"Well well," the staff-carrying one smirks as the guardsman is thrown before him. "Looks like we have a brave one."
I watch as the man attempts to push himself up, thinking to myself that I have to do something. I think about running up and punching the Desian, or maybe just picking up the man and pulling him out of there. My legs don't move, though. For whatever reason, I'm frozen into place. My mind is completely refusing to cooperate. An exasperated sigh escapes me as I realize that I'll no doubt be killed if I go out there.
"What should we do with him?" another Desian asks, this one holding a crossbow.
"The same thing we always do with the inferior beings who can't even stand up," the staffed one remarks as he steps on the man's back, forcing him back down with a harsh sound. "We put them out of their misery!"
The crowd lets out a collective gasp-slash-scream as the bowman raises his weapon and puts an arrow into the man's neck without so much as a second's hesitation. Children that were crying earlier begin to absolutely freak out. The women begin bawling. It's a total fucking catastrophe. I, personally, lose any bit of confidence that I might have had coming in as I watch blood pour onto the ground. I want to look away, but I can't. If I close my eyes, the image is still there.
I just watched a man die, and the thought that I might have been able to prevent it burns into my mind like a searing hot brand.
"Now…" the staff Desian speaks back up as he kicks the corpse out from under him. "Lloyd Irving! Step forth!"
The call for Lloyd finally drags me away from the dead man, at which I have to wonder if the lad's actually shown up. Much to my relief, the boy's red clothes brush past me as he and Genis force their way to the front of the gathering.
"You've attacked the village again!" Lloyd states furiously once he's stepped in front of the mayor and everyone else. "I've had enough of this!"
"Again? What're you talking about?" the bowman suddenly drops his fearsome persona, seeming truly mystified by the claim.
"He speaks nonsense. Ignore him," claims a new voice, at which someone steps out from behind two soldiers that had been standing back at the gate. Oh yeah… I was so focused on what was right in front of me, I forgot about this guy. He had seafoam green hair, a red cybernetic eyepatch, and his left arm appeared to have been replaced with a large golden club. Yeah, I remember this guy.
"Listen up, inferior beings!" the new imposing character announces as most of us stand in awe of his appearance. "I am Forcystus, one of the Five Desian Grand Cardinals. I am a superior half-elf who rules over the farm where we cultivate you pathetic humans."
Wow… Not to detract from all that's going on, but is this guy seriously going to do the whole 'condescending speech' thing? Why can't he just put the monster on us and get it over with?
"Lloyd!" Forcystus doesn't stop. "You, a human, have been found guilty of violating the nonaggression treaty!"
"You violated the treaty, too! You tried to murder the Chosen!" Genis interjects, which I find surprising. Most of the kids his age in this crowd are cowering behind their parents' legs.
That aside, Forcystus and the staff guy exchange a look so sudden and short-lived that it can only mean they have no idea what Genis is talking about.
"Us, kill the Chosen?" the soldier begins to laugh. "Hahaha! Oh, I get it. They must be after the Chosen."
"They?" Lloyd catches on, much to my internal thanks. "You mean you aren't the ones who attacked the temple?"
"I have no need to explain myself to the likes of you," Forcystus continues to be extremely demeaningin the way he talks. "All that matters is that you, Lloyd Irving, have been in contact with host body F192 and attacked our guards."
The mayor takes this point to run up in front of Lloyd and starts chastising him. Personally, I think that this is hardly the time. There's kind of, y'know, a disastrous attack destroying your town. Be mean to the protagonist later!
"You imbecile! What have you done?! How many times have we told you to stay away from the ranch?!" the old coot starts shaking his fists as he yells at the top of his withered lungs.
"…I'm sorry," is the only defense Lloyd can come up with, so I guess it's too much to hope that the guy might perk up and shout some badass one-liner at the man. That'd really make my day, what with all the depressing shit that's been going on.
"We've prepared an suitable opponent for your crime," Forcystus wrangles control of the speaking back to his side before moving out of the way. We all look up to see what he's talking about, only to find a duo of unlucky Desians leading something in with chains.
Imagine the most frightening thing you've ever seen. Now forget about it because this is worse. What they've just lead in, it's… I can't even describe it. Claws, talons, bones protruding, veins bulging, skin oozing God-knows-what! Several members of the crowd, me included, start to back away. This thing… I thought it was supposed to have once been a human. There's no way…!
"Wha… What is that thing?!" Lloyd exclaims just before the thing takes a swipe at him. Someone manages to pull the mayor out of the way, but Lloyd can only put his arms up to block. The monster's arm backhand's Lloyd, knocking him back. It's here that I notice that one of Lloyd's hands had been wrapped with a bandage or something. Well, the bandage just fell off, revealing Lloyd's Exsphere.
It game-on now! Lloyd pulls out his swords, which just happen to be made out of wood, and Genis runs up with that little ball toy he carries around. Is this it?! Two boys with toys versus a giant monster?! Oh man, this isn't anywhere near as heroic as it might have seemed in the game!
The fight starts off with Lloyd charging forward and giving a running, leaping slash to the monster's chest. The thing flinches, but it doesn't seem to have done much more than piss it off. With surprisingly fast movement, the monster brings an arm up and attempts to slam Lloyd into the ground. Thankfully, Genis has been doing his thing- casting magic!
Three wisps of fire, similar to the ones that saved me from the bees yesterday, fly in over Lloyd's head and burst against the monster's hide. This actually causes the beast to stagger backwards for an instant, allowing Lloyd to get a combo in. He slams his swords across its torso in a circular patter before striking a brief pose and going for a rapid stabbing attack.
That's the name of it, yeah!
Lloyd takes a step back from the monster as things progress, but then it pulls its arms up to its head and begins to let out a bizarre cry. Then, out of nowhere, the ground beneath the monster begins to crumble. Lloyd's barely a whole meter away before a burst of dark energy erupts from around the thing's feet, enveloping the spot where Lloyd had been standing.
Genis doesn't seem to have missed a beat, though, as small green edges of air slide in and cause the monster to flail uncontrollably. This gives Lloyd another opportunity to strike.
He doesn't waste it, rushing in and, with a flash of his Exsphere, sending a rising slash across the monster's chest. Then, suddenly switching downward, he brings another slash. The monster cries out again before crumbling to the ground in a sad heap. That's it, then… I can't look.
"Well that didn't go as hoped," Forcystus looks almost humiliated by the turn of events. It's true, though. Their 'suitable opponent' didn't so much as scratch Lloyd beyond that initial strike. It can't be denied that the kid's got some serious power, and Genis was no slouch either. Hell, Genis doesn't even have an Exsphere yet, and his spells were totally having effect!
Hmm… Boys with toys, my ass. I wonder what an Exsphere really does.
"Lord Forcystus! He has an Exsphere!"
Oh right! Plot!
"It must be the one from the Angelus Project that we've been searching for!" Forcystus goes ahead and makes I can only assume to be a logical conclusion before pointing to Lloyd. "Give it to me!"
Unfortunately for the big guy, he's stepped just a little too close to the fallen monster.
In what must seem like a miraculous turn of events, the defeated creature springs back to life and wraps its long arms around Forcystus in the hug of the century! All of the Desians stop what they're doing and come running, but none of them seem zealous enough to actually touch the thing.
"Unh… Run…away! Genis, Lloyd…"
Oh man! That just sounds… wrong.
"Wh-What was that voice? It sounded like… Marble."
"…It can't be!"
"Ugh… Nng… Guh! Get away… Hurry!" the thing continues to urge, at which we all finally oblige. "Genis… You were like a grandson to me. Thank you… Goodbye."
At that, the thing starts glowing. Forcystus can't escape, the Desians don't know what to do, and I hit the deck.
There's a lot of fire and smoke and a flash of light that I didn't really see because my eyes were closed, but that's it. Marble's blown herself up to take down Forcystus, and, as the smoke clears, it doesn't look like she's done a bad job of it. He's on the ground, looking rather worse for wear, and half of his men are scattered about in various states of disrepair. I remember, in the point of the game, Forcystus looking up and telling Lloyd that they'll always hunt him for his Exsphere. Instead, the few remaining Desians just haul their boss and their downed buddies away in a silent retreat.
That all, then. They're gone… but they didn't leave empty-handed. Turning around, there are still houses on fire, still people dead, and I still did nothing to stop any of it.
What… What kind of person am I?
"You!" the mayor shakes me out of whatever depressing reverie I might have been about to undergo. Those of us that haven't wandered off to go tend to the fires turn to face where the old man's grabbed Lloyd by the shoulders and is shaking him like a madman.
"Look!" he shouts. "Look at what you've done! Look at what's happened to our village! It's all your fault!"
"…I'm sorry," is all Lloyd can say. I can't argue against him there. I doubt I'd do any better if I'd caused all this.
"You're sorry?!" the mayor seems offended, releasing Lloyd and standing back where two village guards appear to back him up. "You can't fix this by apologizing! You've destroyed half the village, and, furthermore, the Desians have you marked as their enemy!"
Strong words, though, as somebody who's seen it all before, I can't deny that it's all warranted. I mean, I like Lloyd. He's a good guy. A little naïve, though, and that's what's got him into trouble here. He helped Marble without thinking about consequences. Even if he did think that he was getting back at the Desians for attacking the temple earlier in the game, it probably wouldn't have been too farfetched for somebody to think that the Desians might just attack the village anyway out of spite.
"This village will never be at peace so long as you're here. Do you understand?" the mayor finally settles his voice down. I think it might have blown out, as it sounds raspier now compared to how it had earlier.
"Wait a minute!" Genis springs in front of Lloyd like a protective dog, going so far as to throw his arms out all shielding-like. "You're going to exile him?!"
"Yes," the mayor sighs.
"That's not fair! Lloyd didn't do anything wrong! He just saved Marble!"
"Involvement with the ranch is forbidden! There are no exceptions!"
"So it's okay to let people die at the human ranch as long as the village is safe?" Genis says something awfully mature for his age. Did I mention that Genis is just twelve years old? I wonder if he even knows the weight of that sentence. I'd bet he actually doesn't. Kids say crazy things when they're angry.
"The people at the ranch are just going to rot there anyway!" yells some woman I hadn't been paying attention to. Ugh… Hearing that makes me sick to my stomach. I swear if somebody hadn't moved that guardsman's body, I'd probably have thrown up by now.
"That's right," the mayor picks up. "If you hadn't done something so stupid, they would have been the only ones who died."
Yikes… Moral conundrums abound in this village.
"You humans are all the same…" Genis mutters, looking down in defeat in the face of the crowd.
"That's enough Genis," Lloyd puts his hands on his friend's shoulder and steps in front. "This was my fault. I'll leave."
Somebody in the crowd speaks out about Lloyd being a child, but then another refutes them with how many people have died because of him. This cues me to look back into the village. Several of the fires have been put out, but only just, and there are still others in flames. Hell, some aren't even there anymore, just piles of ash and smoldering beams. On the air rides an odor the likes of which I've never had the displeasure of taking in before. There's not a doubt in my mind that it's nothing less than the stench of death. Death caused by heroes acting on their emotions… and death propagated because I didn't do anything to stop what I knew was coming.
"It's not Lloyd's fault!" Genis remains adamant in his best friend's defense. "I'm the one who took him to the ranch, so it's my fault!"
In the game, the mayor argued a little more here, but, much to my surprise, he forgoes anymore useless talking and says the damning words.
"Fine then. By the rights vested in me as the Mayor of Iselia, I hereby announce the banishment of Lloyd Irving and Genis Sage from the village. Get out!"
At that, the entire congregation that had gathered to witness that sham of a trial finally disperses. The only ones left now are Colette's family and me.
"I've caused so much trouble… What can I do besides say that I'm sorry?" Lloyd asks as he stares blankly at the crater left behind by Marble's explosion.
"You can go and join the Chosen," Colette's grandmother, Phaidra comes up besides the boy and puts her hand on his arm. "Protect her. When the Journey of Regeneration succeeds, surely the people will change their minds about you two."
"That's what you intended to do anyway, right?" claims Colette's father, whose name I can't remember. He comes up with a backpack on his hand, which he gives to Lloyd. "You left it at our house earlier."
"Right. Thanks," Lloyd nods before sliding the bag onto his shoulders. Then he turns to face us all. "I will atone for what I've done. I swear to protect Colette for the sake of those that have died because of me."
Wow… Y'know, that was a real cheesy sentence, but the way Lloyd said it makes it sound better than I might have expected.
"…I'll go with you," Genis finally speaks for the first time since his spat with the mayor. "It was my fault you were banished, so I promise to stick by you always."
Okay, now that sounded cheesy.
Lloyd and Genis start talking about Marble's Exsphere, which Genis had picked up off the ground while I wasn't paying attention. I take this moment to reflect on the thoughts I had this morning, about me rising to some occasion and kicking the game's ass. Yeah… What I just watched didn't look like a game. Those people actually died. This town actually burned. I didn't do shit to stop it, but what could I have done? I made my decision earlier. Interfering with plot events won't bring any good about.
…So much for responsibility and protecting people.
"…after all, it looks like it's going to be a long journey."
"Lloyd," I finally find a time to say something. I've been standing here quietly for the entire event. Now's the time for me to do something more than watch idly.
The red swordsman looks at me, his face giving off the impression that he hadn't noticed me yet. "Lyle, I, uh… I guess you saw all of that."
"Yeah," I try not to grimace at the thought of what's transpired. "Since you two are headed off, let me come with you."
"Huh? Are you sure? I thought you came here for a reason," he looks at me kind of like I'm crazy.
"In the end, there's really nothing for me in this village," I note, peering over a burned out house that I wish wasn't there. Another thing comes to mind as I do. "Besides, between yesterday and today, I'm pretty sure I owe you and your friends my life. I can't pay it back if I don't go with you."
"Oh?" Phaidra looks at me. "Are you the one that everyone rescued yesterday?"
Gee… Way to make it sound like I'm completely pathetic.
"Er- Yeah, that's me."
"I see," the elderly woman nods. "I think it would be best if you all traveled together, then. After all, there is strength in numbers."
"She's got a point," I look back to Lloyd.
"That she does," he can't deny. "Is it okay with you, Genis?"
"Of course," the young boy smiles, making me at least a little bit better. "Lloyd said you were an adventurer, so you'll know all about where we're going."
Oh… Yeah. Sure thing.
"That's right. I was in Triet just a few days ago," I totally lie. Man, I'm going to have to do some intense studying to live up to all of this crap I'm selling.
"You'd best get going, then," the father suddenly gets all urgent. "The longer you stay here, the farther away the Chosen gets."
"You're right," Lloyd nods before turning to the gate. "Let's go guys!"
Just like that, with a point and a yell, I find myself running off into adventure. Phaidra yells some words of wisdom after us, be we're clear of the village so fast that I don't hear them. Noishe gallops up next to us before too long, at which I guess the chase is officially on. We're going to find Colette and the rest and join them in saving the world!
On that note, I guess it's officially time to make something of myself.
Thanks for reading! Please leave a review if you feel so inclined! All praise and criticisms are accepted!