Oh, boy! It's time for my favorite chapter! I can hardly even contain my excitement!
Thanks, as always, to Marina Ka-Fai and Mapo99 for your awesome reviews! I can personally guarantee that you'll both enjoy this chapter as much as me.
Disclaimer, ya ya ya, and let's go!
When Scarlett woke the next morning, she couldn't suppress her small whimper of fear as her eyes flew open. With a quick glance around, she saw that the others were still asleep. Kratos went to her side and placed a gentle hand on her shoulder. "Are you okay?"
"S-sorry… I just…didn't get much rest." She sat up and gave Kratos a look of confusion. "Why was my Key Crest not working? All these years, and I could still be a human, but…the crest that Lord Yggdrasill gave me…"
"I honestly don't know."
"All this time…have you not been able to feel things? Yuan, too?"
He shook his head somberly. "No, we have been able too. We have been angels for so long, however, that we can choose to ignore our basic needs for extended periods of time."
"Then why didn't you realize my crest was worn down?" For the first time in years, Scarlett felt like she could cry from frustration and betrayal. Surely Kratos and Yuan had known that her crest wasn't in good condition…but why didn't they say anything?!
Kratos shushed her and looked back towards the still sleeping group. Lloyd, though snoring loudly, fell silent for a moment before mumbling in his sleep and rolling over onto his side. When Kratos was sure that no one had woken, he said, "Think about it, Scarlett. Obviously Yggdrasill had an ulterior motive for putting those crests on you and the others. If we had done anything to interfere, you know what would have happened."
"I'm showing you what happens when you disobey me."
She hung her head and lowered her voice to a whisper. "You're right… I'm sorry."
"You have nothing to apologize for. Now…would you rather leave before everyone wakes up or do you want to wait?"
Scarlett averted her gaze for a moment. She reached into her small bag and pulled forth her journal, Kratos waiting patiently. She flipped it open and wrote: Thirteenth birthday. Closing it, she took a deep breath. She knew what she had to do. She knew why she had been reminded of that horrid day. Looking back at Kratos, she replied, "…I'll leave now. Tell them something for me?"
He gave a single nod.
She threw her journal back into her bag and tossed it onto her back. She picked up Koikage and gave Kratos a nod of her own and a weak smile. With a quick thought, she wondered if Kratos knew that Yuan was the leader of the Renegades. Just in case he didn't, she said, "…Don't worry, Kratos. I won't betray you."
He gave a small, knowing smirk of his own. "…I know."
She summoned forth her wings and took to the air with a quick glance behind her. She set off for her destination, knowing it wouldn't take her long to get there.
"…Well, would you look at that?" Yuan muttered as he looked at the screen. "Klement, go let her in, will you? I'll be in my room."
"Sure thing!" A handsome half-elf man of about twenty-six years left the control room and headed for the front door of the Triet Renegade Base. He had spiked teal hair, yet two strands refused to stand up right, so they remained hanging in his face. His baby blue eyes sparkled with excitement at what he knew was going to be happening soon. With these two new recruits they were supposed to be getting, things were going to be getting lively around the base.
When he came to the front door, he kept a hand on his sword as he unlocked it and swung it open. Scarlett tensed as she set eyes upon the half-elf, but when he gave her a large grin, she couldn't help but relax. "Umm…I'm here to see-"
"Lord Yuan, correct? Yes, come right on in! He's expecting you. Well, don't stand there looking stunned…c'mon, c'mon." Klement ushered her inside and closed the door behind them. As he turned back to her, he extended a hand. "I'm Klement, by the way. Good to have you on board."
Scarlett shook his hand after a moment of hesitation. "…Hi. I'm Scarlett." She couldn't help but think that this man hadn't been like anyone else she had met before, but it wasn't necessarily a bad thing.
He scratched the small soul patch on his chin as he began to lead the way to Yuan. "Well, let's see… There's me, Phelan, Greg, Mitali, Nasira…now you and the other girl that's supposed to be coming…" Deciding something about all of his mumbling was good, he clapped his hands together and gave a short laugh. "Yes, it's all perfect now!"
Just as Scarlett was about to inquire as to what he was talking to himself about – out loud, no less -, she heard a young female voice shriek with rage. "Dang it, Phelan! That is the last time that you try and put dye in my shampoo!"
An older male voice responded to her with a laughing, carefree tone. "Oh, come now, Nasira dear! There's no way you could prove it was me-!"
"You left a note with your name in it! Plunge this sinner with your holy light… Prism Sword!"
"Hey, foul play!" That statement was abruptly followed by a cry of pain.
"…Is it usually…this…" Scarlett trailed off, not sure of what word to use to describe what she had just heard.
"Amusing? Hardly. It's usually more people running around trying to get revenge on Phelan than just Nasira. Ah-ha, here we are." Even though Klement's words just left Scarlett more confused, he had brought her to the door that Yuan was waiting behind. Klement gave two short knocks, and when a voice answered, he opened it and held it open for Scarlett to pass through.
When she did, she saw Yuan leaning against his desk, obviously having been waiting on her. "Thank you, Klement. Now, if you wouldn't mind, go and tell Phelan and Nasira to give it a rest."
As Klement shut the door, he exclaimed, "Oh…but what else am I going to do for entertainment?!"
Yuan sighed and shook his head briefly before turning his attention to Scarlett, who seemed thoroughly bewildered. He cracked a small grin before saying, "What? Did you think that everyone stayed disguised as Desians all the time? Or that it was a gloomy place where no one spoke to each other?"
Scarlett made her way closer to Yuan while she glanced about the room. "I'm not sure what I had thought it was like here, but…I guess I can say I wasn't expecting this."
Yuan replied more somberly, "Yes, well, everyone fighting here all have stories of their own. They're fighting for their own reasons, though united towards a common cause. They're all actually quite a lively bunch…as you just saw."
This made her smile. While she had no idea what the two people had been fighting about, especially so early in the morning, it was still a bit of a relief to her. Perhaps she really had thought of the Renegades as being a serious organization, since they were dedicated to interfering with Cruxis' plans, including the Chosen. That thought made her smile vanish quickly.
Catching this, Yuan stood up and made his way around his desk to sit in his chair. "I'm sure you have questions."
"The Renegades kill the Chosen, don't they? Does that mean that…you'll be going after Colette?" While she had only been with them for a short two days, she knew that Colette was a kind girl with a pure heart. She deserved neither the fate of the Chosen nor being targeted and killed by the Renegades.
"Not to kill her. If we still decide to target her instead of someone else, it will only be to keep her out of the hands of Cruxis. For the time being, we will have to leave her alone. Kratos will do everything in his power to protect her."
"Does Kratos know about you?"
"He does. I have offered to him several times to leave Yggdrasill and come help me, but he is too torn up by his recent past to know what is right and wrong anymore." He leaned back in his chair. "Something that has just occurred might begin to change his mind, but I won't say anything on that. It's his business."
"What did you mean about targeting someone else instead of Colette?"
"…That doesn't matter right now."
"Yuan…" Scarlett crossed her arms and narrowed her eyes at him. "If you expect my help, I can't be in the dark."
"I know. This is just not relevant right now. You'll see when the time comes."
She heaved a sigh of irritation from not receiving an answer she would have liked to hear. "So you're a double agent… Does this mean I'm going to be a triple agent?"
Yuan chuckled from the sarcastic tone she carried in her question. "It seems that way, if you're going to be helping me. Yggdrasill believes you are just waiting down here for an opportune moment to rejoin the Chosen's group; the Chosen's group believes that you are an ally to them…and you are now a Renegade."
She shook her head with a dry laugh. Moving closer to Yuan, she sat upon the right side of his desk. "So what are you going to have me be doing?"
"I was wondering when you would ask that. You'll be with my recon team. Klement is one of them."
"Well, think about it… Any time you see a Renegade in public, they look like Desians, right? My recon team remains in whatever casual clothes they want and go into town, investigate Desian and Cruxis movements, and do what they can to help the common people, especially half-elves. They occasionally do recruiting for us." He sat forward, now propping his forearms on his knees. "What do you think?"
She took a deep breath as her mind considered all possibilities. "…All I have to do is get better at lying and keep it a secret from Lor-…from Yggdrasill, right?" Jumping off the desk, she grinned and faced him. "Sounds like a challenge I'm up for. Bring it on."
"You always were a stubborn one," he commented with a throaty chuckle. Yuan stood and gestured for her to follow him. "Well, I can tell you now that Botta is my second in command…but he's out on a mission right now, so you'll meet him later. As for the rest of my recon team…well, I'll let Klement take you to get introduced. It's okay for you to tell them about your visions. They need to know what to do if you just randomly pass out." When he opened the door, Scarlett saw that Klement was indeed still standing out in the hallway, waiting patiently. Yuan's eyes briefly passed over the refurbished Key Crest on Scarlett's hand. "…I'm glad you're with us, Scarlett. Priya will be along in a few days."
"Priya! That was her name! …Er…sorry…" Klement laughed sheepishly. "Well, then, Lady Scarlett, if you would be so kind as to follow me. I'll take you to the others."
"Okay." Scarlett gave him a friendly smile and followed after him once Yuan gave her a nod.
As Klement led her through the halls, he continued to talk to her, not seemingly caring if she was really listening or not. "So, yeah, as I said, I'm Klement. I've been with Lord Yuan since about eight years ago – I started pretty early. Let me think…I guess I can tell you about the gang. We have Phelan, he fights with a bow, and fair warning: no one but Lord Yuan is spared from pranks he pulls. We got Gregory, but some of us just call him Greg. He's pretty young…nineteen, I think. He's kind of uptight, so if he acts hostile towards you, don't worry about it. He won't really slice you. Then, there's Mitali – you'll like her. She's probably one of the friendliest girls on base here, and she's close to your age I would say. She's mean with a spear if you make her mad, though…which brings me to her little sister, Nasira. She's the youngest we have here on base, but her magic is something else, it really is. She's a talented kid, but she's got a little bit of a temper, too. All half-elves, by the way. So tell me about yourself."
Scarlett gaped at him for a split second. Did he even take a breath in all of that? "Well…as you see, I fight with a scythe…but I can do magic, too."
"Before or after you were turned into an angel? Sorry." He gave her an apologetic glance. "Lord Yuan gave me some of your background ahead of time so I could know what I was dealing with. Please, continue."
"I could do some before. Yuan said I could be a quarter elf, but I don't know who my parents were. I've been on my own for as long as I can remember." She paused, thinking of what else she could tell him. "As you know, I'm an angel, so I guess my senses might be of use in reconnaissance…"
Klement fell back a little so that he could give her a nudge with a wink. "And your sense of humor? Ah, haha. Just kidding. But seriously, you'll need one to tolerate all of us."
"I don't mean to ask such a…well, depressing question, but… How do you manage to stay so…perky?"
Klement's steps didn't falter as he gave her a warm smile. "I have a wife and baby girl. I need to be strong for them. Besides, why should we be so down in the dumps all the time? If we were like that, then Cruxis would be more likely to overpower us. Despite appearances, we're all a group of annoying optimists!"
"I guess that's one way to put it…"
Finally, Klement stopped in front of yet another door, where chatter was heard from within. He turned to Scarlett and said, "Ready or not," as he pushed the button to open it, "meet the gang!"
"How many times must I tell you, Klement?! We are a posse, not a gang!" A half-elf man stood, a few scratches on his face of twenty-seven years. A few strands of his light blonde hair were out of place, but it didn't distract from the fact that his bangs swept over his right eye, which was a lovely jade green. He approached Scarlett, took her hand, and placed a gentle kiss upon it as he gave her a bow. "I am Phelan, my lady, at your service." His hair fell delicately to the level of his chin, cut nearly across.
A young girl of seventeen gave a wave as she continued eating her breakfast of toast, biscuits, and sausage. Her hair was a dark maroon, her bangs hanging just above her eyebrows. The rest of it was pulled up into two high pigtails on the top of her head, to which it fell to her upper arms. Her turquoise eyes shone brilliantly in the light. "Hi. I'm Nasira."
"Goodness, no need to be so friendly, Nasira. I'm sorry. I'm Mitali, her older sister," the older half-elf woman sitting near her said. Her hair was a lovely shade of purple, flipped over her left eye, and falling to the level of her shoulders. Her eyes were exactly the same as her younger sister's, but her smile was much kinder. Her gaze fell to the last person in the room who hadn't introduced himself yet. "Gregory, be nice. Come say hello. Whether you like it or not, she's one of us now."
The youngest of the men was giving Scarlett a cold, icy glare from across the room. His hair was midnight black, and his eyes were a lovely shade of brown, though they were cold with loathing. His right hand rested tightly on his long sword that was attached to his hip. He stood quickly, though he was a few inches shorter than Scarlett. He pushed forcefully by her and growled, "I don't see why Lord Yuan trusts a human," as he left the room.
"She's technically an angel, not a human!" Klement called after him, throwing his hands in the air. "Ah, well, that's Greg for you. Don't worry. He'll warm up to you."
"Eventually," Phelan added. "But don't worry about that killjoy! Come in." He guided her to a seat near Mitali and Nasira and sat beside her. "Do you mind if we ask you some questions?"
"Not really…I suppose." Scarlett wasn't entirely sure what to think on Phelan, either, especially with that kiss he had given her. She averted his gaze slightly.
"How long have you known Lord Yuan? That knowledge might also help us to convince Greg to be in the same room as you," Phelan drawled.
"He found me and some of my friends in the Iselia forest when I was six. I'm twenty-one now. All the rest of that time, I've been in Derris-Kharlan or Welgaia."
"I see… Will Yggy be expecting you back up there any time soon?"
Scarlett's eyes widened with disbelief. "Y…Yggy?!"
"Well, it's not like he deserves our respect!" Nasira interjected. "That only impressive thing he did was split the world apart, and that wasn't even his own power. That was the power of a Summon Spirit."
"True enough." Klement nodded his head once, crossing his arms.
"Is there anything important about you we should know?" Mitali inquired kindly.
Scarlett recalled Yuan's words. "Yes, actually. I'm not really sure how to say this, though… Umm…I have a vision every day."
"…A vision?" Nasira echoed skeptically.
"Yes. I see things that have occurred in the past, most of the time. There are times where I see the future, too. I have no idea how to control it. I'm telling you this, though, because it can happen at any time. When it does, I pass out." She looked at her feet uncomfortably. She had never told anyone before except for Kratos and Yuan when she first received it.
"…How did you get this power?" Klement asked, rather calmly.
"I don't want to talk about it," she replied quickly.
"Fair enough. That's okay. How often does it happen?"
"Just once a day. But not necessarily at the same time."
"Yep, this'll be fun!" Phelan cheered, as if to lighten the mood again in the room.
"You don't think…that I'm strange? Or something…" Scarlett slowly looked at them all in the room.
Mitali answered for them, "Not really. If you said you didn't want to talk about it, that means that you haven't had it since you were born, but rather, that it was given to you by something. My first guess would be a Summon Spirit, but I won't pry. You're no stranger than the rest of us. Particularly Phelan."
"…I resent that statement," the blonde man muttered, crossing his arms and pouting like a child.
"Well, one way or another, it's wonderful to have you with us, Lady Scarlett." Mitali clasped her hands around Scarlett's and smiled at her.
"If we're going to be on the team together, you don't have to call me "Lady"," she pointed out as she returned Mitali's smile.
"But you're a close friend of Lord Yuan! We call Lord Botta, Lord Botta. Don't worry about it!" Klement beamed obliviously.
"That wasn't quite what I meant…but whatever. I guess call me what you want." Scarlett looked around the room at the others. "Thanks. I hope I'll be able to help you all to the best of my abilities."
"…She's so formal," Nasira murmured.
"We'll fix that, don't worry." Phelan patted her head, to which she responded by jumping up, reaching for her staff.
"What did I tell you?! After you tried putting dye in my shampoo, you are not to touch me!" A circle of light engulfed her, signaling the beginning of a spell. "Bury my foe…Grave!"
"Not again, Nasira! Guardian!"
"Oh, dear." Mitali shook her head. "Lord Yuan is going to get upset with us again."
Several days passed since Scarlett had gone to the Renegades, most of which she spent either with Yuan or with Mitali. She had grown closest to Mitali, what with her open and welcoming personality. It reminded Scarlett of Colette, but with a dark side. She had seen Mitali grow angry when Phelan was caught setting up a bucket of water above her door, and as Klement had warned Scarlet…Mitali was deadly with her spear.
She shared a few conversations with Klement and Phelan. She thought both seemed to like her well enough, but they were often preoccupied with talking about upcoming missions, and while they invited her to listen it, she would just say that she would leave it to them. Phelan would grumble and mutter, "Man, here I thought I was going to get out of it."
Any time she saw Nasira, she wasn't far from Mitali. When she was with her big sister, she was laughing and smiling, but once she saw Scarlett, it would fade slightly. It made Scarlett feel like she was wary of her presence, like Gregory, but not as extreme. Still, in the past day, she would sit in the room with Scarlett and Mitali, but make no attempt at conversation.
Gregory was another story. Yuan told Scarlett that he would speak to him, but it would be his own obstacle to overcome. He said Gregory's story was not pretty, but offered to share no details. She had seen him perhaps four times in passing when she walked through the base, and every time, he would glower at her. With a dry laugh, she thought, At least he acknowledges me.
On the fourth day, their last team member walked through the door with a tall half-elf man. Scarlett spotted her instantly and ran to her with a grin of relief. "Priya! You're here!"
"Scarlett?! You're here?!" the half-elf girl returned. She had wavy black hair held up in a ponytail, though a few strands hung loosely in her sky blue eyes. Attached to her hips were her two whips, one black and one grey. Scarlett figured that now Priya was here, there would be rivalry with Nasira over the stronger magic user.
"Yeah, I've been here for a few days. Hey, you're bleeding. Are you okay?" Scarlett pointed at Priya's forearm, where a small gash was bleeding rather profusely.
The half-elf man beside her nodded in agreement. "We should get that looked out."
"No, it's fine, Botta. Watch." Priya pulled off her grey whip and cracked it against the floor three times. "First Aid."
As the wound sealed itself up, Scarlett glanced at the man she had called Botta. This man was Yuan's second-in-command. Even just standing there, he did seem to command a certain authority. His gaze shifted to Scarlett. "So you're Scarlett, correct? I am Botta. Do you know where Yuan is at?"
"He's up at Cruxis right now."
"Okay, thank you. Then, Priya, I will take you to the others to meet with them…"
"No, that's okay. I'm sure you've got other things you need to take care of." Priya waved it off nonchalantly as she put her whip back. "Scarlett can take me."
Scarlett raised an eyebrow and gave the half-elf girl a playful glare. "She's right. I can take her to them."
"Are you sure? Well, thank you. Until later, then." Botta took his leave with a grateful nod.
Once Scarlett gestured for Priya to follow, she asked, "So how did you "disappear"?"
"Let's just say it involved a good pummeling and leave it at that." Priya rubbed the bridge of her nose and shook her head. "It was thoroughly exhausting." She turned her gaze to Scarlett and demanded, "Why are you here? I thought you were supposed to be with the Chosen's group."
"It's…a little complicated. Let's just say I'm having an internal war right now."
Priya narrowed her eyes at Scarlett's mockery of her own vague details, but said no more as she followed her to meet the gang/posse. When they arrived at the door, Scarlett gave a small grin of her own as she opened it, saying, "Meet everyone."
"That was a lackluster introduction, Scarlett!" Phelan cried indignantly. "I must insist you leave and come back in!"
"Hush, now, Phelan. Don't be so silly." Mitali shot him a light, playful glare.
"Don't call her that," Nasira snapped. "I don't even want to imagine ever being related to you."
Klement gave a wave with a smirk and called, "Heyyy, Priya's here! The gang is all here!"
"The posse!" Phelan insisted.
Gregory muttered, "You're both idiots," from his corner of the room.
Priya's eyes narrowed with disbelief as she looked at Scarlett. "Are they...always-?"
Priya looked back at them with a wicked grin of her own as she pumped a fist. "This is going to be epic."
Ah, Priya...I agree with you completely! Epic is as epic does. This will be epic, indeed. Well, everyone, there it is! Scarlett is now with the Renegades, playing all sides (poor girl), and has a new gang/posse! Don't worry if you couldn't keep everyone completely separate - there will be many adventures with them so that you can learn to love them all! Including Priya. Priya is actually a character I created for my sister, Lumos Fabula, for her to use in her new, rewritten version of Order of the Elements. When she gets around to publishing, I recommend checking it out. It's pretty sweet.
Well, as usual, feel free to leave a review at the bottom! We like review parties, yes we do, precious. See you all next time!