Rated: T for swearing, violence, ETC.
BB Pairings: Ragna/Noel
ToV Pairings: Yuri/Rita and Estelle/Flynn
Disclaimer: Not mine. Neither of the series. The story idea was developed between myself and someone else on deviant art.
Warning: Ragna is really a grumpy person. Combine that with the ability to cuss…and you get a grand old mess.
AN: Hi. It's been awhile, huh? I finally got this chapter done, and it's mostly about the stuff in the forests again. BTW, someone mentioned that Ragna and Noel seem overpowered, but they're not actually...Er, nevermind. The explanation is actually presented in-story in the next chapter, so I won't bother boring you with it here.
Forests of Keiv Moc
Remember that there is nothing stable in human affairs; therefore avoid undue elation in prosperity, or undue depression in adversity.
Someone was shaking him. Ragna glowered at the person, his mismatched eyes flashing in anger until he saw who it was. Noel, whom seemed somewhat tired herself, was giving him a guilty look.
Ragna shrugged it off. "Dammit Noel….What is it?"
"Um…," Noel said, "I was wondering…No, actually, it's your turn to make breakfast. You haven't made it yet so…"
The silverette groaned slightly. Breakfast, really? Well, he supposed now would be a good a time as any to get it finished, before Rita started complaining…
He wondered if the teen mage was alright, seeing as the night before she had been rather concussed. Of course, that hadn't stopped her when she began advising them on the best places to camp…or, technically, the worst places to camp for the night.
"In place like this," The concussed Rita said, "You have to be careful where you camp. You could accidently camp in an area of high Aer concentration."
"And that's bad." Yuri, who Rita was using a crutch, grumbled.
She nodded. "Pretty much. It could kill us during the night, so we should look for an empty clearing. Any areas that are too close to the really large trees are dangerous, because those trees are being directly influenced by a large concentration of Aer."
The party grimaced as one at the thought.
He stared into the pan of bacon he was cooking. She had gone on about that for an hour before they had finally found a place to rest. Once they had, Estelle healed the mage's concussion and Rita had stopped her rambling.
Behind him, he heard shuffling. It sounded human, so he only tensed a tad. "Mmm, your food smells delicious, Ragna." Yuri stated as he shuffled his feet over to the silverette.
Ragna rolled his eyes. "You're acting like that old man, with your stupid shuffling, Lowell." Yuri only laughed at the comparison while Raven, who had been behind the swordsman, complained loudly that 'Ragna was picking on him.'
The others soon followed and the party enjoyed a delicious breakfast. Of course, after the first bite, each of them stared at Ragna like he had grown another head. He had snapped at them and the group, for one reason or another, burst into laughter.
After breakfast was finished and all of the utensils had been cleaned, they stood and began their way through the forests once again.
Battle after battle, with Karol occasionally running in the opposite direction of the enemy, they fought through the dense and rather uncaring forest. Rita navigated them past the highest areas on concentration, though Estelle, Noel, and Ragna still felt their effects from a distance.
For Ragna, the effect was a tad different then for others. It often felt like something was trying to rage its way to the surface, in defense against the heavy pressure of something that desperately wanted him dead. A simple glance at Noel confirmed it for him: She too had a similar feeling to his own, though it obviously had some differences. Perhaps…not as strong?
After some time of this battling thing, they came across perhaps the largest tree yet. The giant oak's roots were spread open and a circle of golden orange light rose from between. As they saw it, a large group of monsters fell upon them.
The monster party didn't take too long to get rid of and their mage friend quickly assessed the situation. "The trees, the monsters, it's got to be the aer that's causing this." Rita murmured softly. "There is no other option…"
More monsters fell down around them while Karol cried out a warning. They were completely surrounded by them.
Raven sighed. "Ah, so this is the end, huh?" He brought a hand to his chest in over-done dramatics. "Farwell, all my dear fans across the world!"
There was a groan from his right as Ragna fended off one of the giant mantis beasts. "I highly doubt they'll care that much!"
"I'll make sure that your gravestone, Raven, reads 'Here lies the world's biggest sap'!" Yuri sniggered. He gestured to Rita, while Raven whined. "Can you end this?"
The mage 'hmph'ed. "Of course I can! Just give me a few minutes…"
However, just as the mage was about to start a rampaging spell arte, someone in blacks and dark reds fell from above. Long slightly curly hair that ended just above his waist swayed as the man threw his long sword into the air. A light blue magic circle appeared beneath him and, after a flash of light, obliterated the enemy forces.
"Who are you…?" Noel asked, shocked. The man turned to them and eyed both Ragna and Noel with a somewhat confused look, one that seemed to say 'What are you?'
It was too close to one of Terumi's looks for Ragna to take lying down. "You heard Noel." He barked, irritated. "Who are you?!"
Estelle shot him a stern look. "Don't be rude, Ragna!" She paused. "I mean…I would like to know that too, but there's no need to rude about it." The red-clad silverette's eyes twitched.
"Hey…Duke…" Raven muttered out loud. The party glanced at him. The archer knew this guy?
The man didn't answer. Instead, he made to leave. "Wait!" Rita cried, forcing her way over. 'Duke' paused and glanced back at her. "What is that sword!? Let me see!" The brunette hurried over before he could refuse and began looking it over. "It's like it cuts through aer…Similar to Ragna's Bloodscythe…" Said silverette unconsciously clutched Fireseal, pausing afterword: He wasn't using Bloodscyhe right now.
'Duke' let out a soft sigh. "What good would that knowledge do for you…?" He paused before glancing at Ragna. When the man's eyes fell on the sword, Ragna growled slightly in defense. 'Duke' narrowed his eyes in return before stepping back.
"Well, it could help us stop Blastia from going berserk…Especially as Bloodscythe only seems to cut through Aer when it's in scythe form." Rita replied. "If Bloodscythe could be changed at will to the scythe form, that we might have been able to change something about what happened back, then…"
"…" He began turning away. "This is only a distortion. It is a natural occurrence."
Rita frowned. "…Distortion…"
Estelle stepped forward with Noel trailing behind. "Before you go," Noel said.
"Please take our thanks for saving us." Estelle finished.
"…Do not go near the Aer Krene." He warned.
Rita frowned while Estelle gave him a confused look. "Aer Krene…You don't mean this place, do you?"
He sighed again, most likely at their ignorance. Ragna gritted his teeth. "Aer Krene are the springs from which all aer in the world comes." 'Duke' explained.
"Springs of Aer…" Rita whispered, glancing over her shoulder at the glowing tree cavern.
Yuri narrowed his eyes. It was obvious he was as wary of this person as Ragna. "Who are you?" The swordsman questioned after stepping forward. "This isn't the kind of place you just to for a walk." When he received no reply, the dark swordsman grumbled under his breath. "…We would've been dead without your help though…so…Thanks."
'Duke' acknowledged Yuri's thanks with the faintest of nods, gave Ragna and Noel one brief look, and left. Ragna still couldn't figure out what that last look had been about. Anger? No. Confusion? Odd, but it seemed to fit.
Rita was frowning. "That Power…?" She pursed her lips. "Similar to Bloodscythe, but not the same…The Rizomata Formula…?" She crossed her arms, irritation pouring from every one of her movements. "Augh! I can't tell anything from just checking things out here! I need to see some others!"
Noel turned to the cave that glowed gold-yellow. "Hmm…That guy, from earlier, said these 'Aer Springs' are all over the world right?"
"Yup!" Raven exclaimed brightly from right behind the girl. Noel squeaked and flung her arms around Ragna, who stared at her, startled. The two stayed like that for a few minutes before the blond let go all of a sudden, her cheeks burning red.
The brunette mage rolled her eyes at the archer. "Yes, Noel, he mentioned that. So, I'm going to be following you guys around after this, to see if I can't get a look at a few more of these Springs…."
Yuri gasped dramatically. "Oh, really? My, I thought you were going to go with Estelle back to the capital."
"Well, obviously not right now, as Estelle is probably going to be here for a while too, so…shut your mouth, Lowell." Rita glared. Yuri raised his hands in a placating gesture, grinning at her widely.
Estelle raised her hands to get their attention. "Um, shouldn't we go? More monsters might show up…" The party shared a wince before nodding in agreement with the pinkette. This fact was a very true and one that they didn't want to have a confrontation with.
Hurrying to leave the valley, Ragna cast the so-called Aer Spring a wary look. He swore he could still hear soft, malevolent whispers echoing from it…
"Hey, Ragna, are you all right?"
"Oh, hey there, Estelle. I'm fine, why?"
"(My Healer's instinct was screaming that you weren't?) You look like you have a head ache…Come to think of it, so does Noel."
"It's just a headache, Estelle. We'll be fine. I doubt those healing artes of yours can do much for a headache anyway."
"I think you should be more worried about Yuri…I think he got hurt in the fight earlier."
Distantly. "Yeah, Estelle—Woah!"
"…Thank god she got off my back."
"So, those Aer Springs are called 'Aer Krene', huh?"
"That's what that Duke guy said anyway."
"Hmm…Hey, where do you think they could be?"
"Probably place where there have been reports of high Aer Concentration, Noel."
Serious. "Yeah, that would make sense." Concerned. "Um…Rita?"
"Hmmm….U-um, nevermind, it wasn't important." Leaves.
At this point Ragna was just a bit confused as to where the hell they were headed. Where was that dumbass Don? Because at this point, he was seriously considering dragging everyone back to town since, with their group's luck, the Don would probably be back in town already.
Rita was muttering under her breath.
"You sure mumble a lot, don't you?" Raven said cheerily.
The mage would have said something snarky in return if it wasn't for the earth rumbling ominously beneath them. "W-what?! Another Monster attack?!" Karol was tripping over his feet and nearly fell on his face.
Instead, it was a stampede of monsters heading deeper into the forest. Ragna grabbed both Noel and Estelle, as the two were too startled to move. Yuri, in turn, dragged Karol back and pushed his head down. "Keep your head down."
"Hey…" Noel mumbled. "Look over there." She gestured to where the monsters had run from as the stampede vanished.
Estelle pressed her hand to her mouth. "It's…it's them…!"
Ragna trailed behind the group, surveying the man they had been looking for. He was old, appearing to be around the same age as Valkenhayn…at least physically. His face and chest were decorated with red tattoos and he wore mainly black and white clothing with gold lining. Don Whitehorse was leaning heavily on his sword when he looked up at them. "…Did you all do something?"
Yuri ignored Noel's mutter of 'bad grammar' and said, "Do something? What do you mean?"
Don Whitehorse clearly shared high stamina with Valkenhayn, as he heaved himself to his feet with ease. "Those savage monsters turned as docile as pups before running off!" He narrowed his eyes at them. "What did you do?"
Ragna crossed his arms. "We stopped that flow of Aer, remember? That probably had something to do with it."
Karol stepped forward, the only one wiling to explain to the Don. "The monsters turned tame when we stopped the runaway aer!"
The Don frowned. "Hmmm…Runaway aer…"
"Oi, Old Man!" Rita snapped, stepping up to stand next to Yuri. "Do you know something?!"
His frown deepened at the title, but didn't reprimand her (which Ragna was glad for, he didn't want to hear one of her rage induced rants again). "Well…My old friend Belius used to say something about it." Karol muttered something under his breath, but Ragna didn't hear, too busy with Noel's muttered rant about bad grammar and trying to calm her down as quietly as possible.
Why did bad grammar of all things set her off?
"Who is Belius?" Rita questioned with a frown.
Karol looked up. "The Duce who rules the coliseum of Nordopolica."
Ragna and Noel both looked up when Repede bumped his head against their legs to gain their attention. Noel ruffled the fur behind his ears before turning back to the group along with Ragna. Don Whitehorse was speaking: "What's this about runaway aer?"
A certain brunette was eager to please. "Oh it was really amazing!" Karol had moved closer to the Don to answer the question. "More and more really strong monsters kept coming, but we—"
"Kid." Ragna spoke up. Karol turned to give him a questioning look. "…We should keep that incident to ourselves, I think."
The Don gave a light nod of agreement. "He's right. You don't do deeds like that so other people will notice…"
"…You do it to protect the ones you care about." Noel finished with a knowing smile.
That wasn't what I was thinking, but whatever. Ragna snorted.
Karol mumbled an apology while Estelle stepped past Don Whitehorse to kneel next to one of his injured men. "Excuse me." Estelle glanced back at him. "But could I take a look at his injuries?"
The Don opened his mouth to question what she meant, but the pinkette was already healing the injured man. He thanked her with a small smile. Sighing, the Don shook his head slightly before turning to proper look at the group. "Hmm?" Don Whitehorse frowned slightly. "Ain't that…Raven, that you? Quit hiding!"
Raven let out a soft, but dramatic sigh before sidling out of his hiding place in the greenery. "Humph." Odd, that wasn't one of Raven's usual greetings, Ragna thought with a snort.
"Our man ain't givin` ya any trouble, is he?" The Don questioned Yuri.
"Whaddaya mean, trouble?!" Raven gave the older man an indignant look. "The reason the monsters got tamed was our doing, mine especially!"
Noel's eye twitched. "I don't remember you doing much…" She grumbled.
"Eh?" Karol stepped back, surprised. "Raven's a member of Altosk?!"
"Apparently." Ragna muttered.
Don Whitehorse whapped Raven. "Ouch!" The archer leapt back, out of reach. "Gramps! Cut that out!"
"Shut up, you!"
Yuri smirked to himself in amusement before stepping towards the Don, serious. "Don Whitehorse." The man grunted in acknowledgement. "I know we've only just met, but there's something we have to talk about."
Before anything more could be said, they were interrupted by one of the Altosk members. The man murmured softly to him before the Don nodded. "I see. All right, you dogs! Time to move out!" He shot Yuri an apologetic look. "Sorry `bout this, but something's come up and we need to return to Dahngrest." The man promised to allow them to talk them if they came by the guild hall and Altosk departed.
"I wonder what could be happening…" Noel murmured. "Did Hakumen show up again?"
Ragna grumbled. "I doubt he'd attack anyone in town, Noel. Bastard is set on killing just me." Noel frowned at him as Yuri crossed his arms, obviously deep in thought.
Karol looked up at Yuri. "We're…gonna make one right? A guild, I mean." The brunette boy glanced at the world-traversing duo. "Ragna and Noel said they might join, too, if we did."
"Hm? Did you really?" Yuri seemed surprised.
"What's with the surprised look?!"
"Heheh." Yuri smirked at Ragna. "I just thought you, at least, weren't one to give your allegiance to just anyone."
Noel hide her smile behind her hand while Ragna squawked in indignation. Raven chuckled. "That's great and all…but what do ya guys think?"
"Think about what?" Estelle asked curiously.
Raven stroked his beard. "About how awesome I am? I clearly have no match."
"Well your large ego has no match, that's for sure." Ragna smirked. Yuri sniggered while the older man pouted at the silverette.
Karol grinned. "I didn't see much awesomeness from you, myself." Raven feigned immense hurt. Noel glanced at Rita, who seemed out of it.
"…Rita?" The brunette mage made no move to respond. What could she be thinking about?
"All right." Yuri spoke up. "I'd like to go back to Dahngrest to meet with the Don and look for Barbos."
Estelle stepped towards Rita. "Rita, when he's done with that, we should go back to report…Rita?" The girl really was out of it, as she had yet to react to the princess.
After having her shoulder shaken by Estelle, the mage turned to Estelle with a faint frown. "Sorry, what was that?"
"…When Yuri's done, we should report back to Alexei…" Estelle gave her a concerned look. "Is something the matter?"
Rita shook her head but neither Ragna nor Noel were buying that for a second. Rita was clearly worried about something and also confused. They had only seen her like that once before, shortly after they had first ended up with her…
Ragna sighed through his nose. Why did he have a bad feeling all of a sudden?
Forests of Keiv Moc