Nothing to say here, onwards with the chapter.
Dateline, December 1st, 1204.
After Ymir had recovered from the sudden attack, Rean, Celine, Toval and I were ready to set off, we had our friends to go and find.
"Make sure you take great care of him." Rean's mom said.
"We'll do what we can." I replied.
"You can count on us." Toval added.
Celine sighed. "I'll be with him even if he said no."
"Thanks, you three. I'll be counting on you." Rean nodded. "Okay, mom, we'll see you soon."
"Take care." Rean's mom replied. "May the goddess watch over you."
We left the house and went to the ice valley to check on Valimar, he awoke when Rean spoke to him.
I then had a possible idea in my head, I had to share it. "Excuse me, Valimar. Do you know where our friends are?"
"Friends?" Valimar responded.
"Sorry, let me put it another way. I guess it would be more suitable to say comrades, a group of people that have stood alongside the Ashen Awakener from the day we first met to completing the trails at the old schoolhouse that led to Rean's awakening. Would you happen to know where they are in Erebonia?"
"You are correct. The comrades you refer to are indeed the ones who aided the awakener in overcoming the trial, including you. Because of this factor, I can detect multiple wave locations of the chosen one's comrades."
Rean gasped. "Wait, you mean you know where my friends are?"
"Correct. Confirming wave locations. Excluding the Awakener of Azure and the one named Alexander Lionheart, the remainder appear to be located in three different regions. All vital signs are normal."
This surprised us.
"Hold up a sec..." Toval said.
"I see now." Celine added quietly. "Do you remember when you overcame the trial to become Valimar's Awakener? Well, obviously, you weren't alone when you did that, you were with the rest of Class VII. And it sounds like, thanks to them being there with you, they've all been recognized as secondary contractors at the same time."
"Including me? Wow!" I blinked.
"So that's how..." Rean muttered. "Please Valimar! Tell me where they all are!"
"Detecting approximate locations using geographical database." Valimar responded. "Three are to the southeast, in the Celdic region. Three are to the northeast, in the Nord region. Three are to the south-southeast, in the Legram region. This concludes a list of the locations of all nine secondary contractors. All vital signs appear normal."
"Yep, that's all of them. That confirms my theory." Celine said.
"They're all okay...they're really okay." Rean said as he got emotional.
"Rean...I'm relived as well, friend." I added as I tapped him on the shoulder.
"I'm really happy for you both." Toval said. "Though, I sure wasn't expecting us to get confirmation of thier safety quite like this."
"Look at you two, crying away." Celine sighed. "And you call yourselves men."
"Oh, I am so telling Emma that when we see her." I smirked. "And it's okay for men to cry, you just don't see it often."
"Sure...whatever you say..."
"Still, all three locations are a ways away from Ymir." Rean said.
"Yeah and the Noble Alliance's got control of key locations all over the country on top of it all." Toval added. "On the plus side, they're all on the eastern side of the Empire. But getting to them ain't exactly gonna be a walk in Mater Park."
"Oh wait...Valimar, can you use the spirit path?" Celine asked.
"Affirmative." Valimar answered. "Doing so would consume all of my current mana, however."
"A spirit path? It is like teleportation?" I asked.
"It's the name given to a really old means of travel." Celine answered. "Using it will allow us to travel instantly to even distant locations."
"How does that work?" Rean asked.
"You know how there are still remnants of animism all across Erebonia, right? Well places like that are connected to one by spirit veins-septum veins, in other words. And Valimar has the ability to use those veins to travel."
"Yeah, that's kind going over my head." Toval said.
"Mine as well, but I think it sounds pretty cool." I added.
"However, the main drawback is that using the spirit path will use up what little mana Valimar's been able to recover." Celine continued. "Which means that until he's recovered enough to travel again, we won't be able to come back here."
"I see..." Rean hummed. "Personally, I can't think of any better options."
"Agreed, it's worth giving it a go, so which location to start with?"
"I think Celdic is the closest to here. Maybe we should try heading there first?"
"Celdic, huh? I'm down." Toval said. "Should make a good test run for this whole Spirit Path deal."
"All decided, follow me then." Celine said.
We walked over to the stone monument and when Valimar stood by the monuments, we confirmed our choice to go to Celdic. A massive circle appeared around us and we were suddenly lifted away and flying through a massive portal until we reached a bright light at end.
When we opened our eyes, I looked around to see ourselves surround in a deep part of the forest.
"Wait, this forest looks familiar." I said.
"Yeah, I know this place. It's Lunaria Nature Park!" Rean added.
"The nature park...wow, that was when we had our first field study. That brings back memories."
We looked at Valimar who had gone into a deep rest, we figured it would be best to leave him here. Since this is the deepest part of the forest, he would be safe. We made our way out of the forest, slaying a few monsters and then leaving the nature park. We were now on the west Celdic highway, the town would be on our left, so we made our way there and entered the town.
"Well, Celdic sure hasn't changed, it's still the same as before." I said. "Although there is a bit more security around here, we better avoid them."
"Yeah, that's probably evidence of how much the war's going on the Noble Alliance's favor." Toval added.
"Hmph! So they've let that get to their heads, have they?" Celine asked.
We started walking, but I stopped in my tracks immediately when I saw a poster that had my face on it.
"What the...there's a wanted poster of me?" I asked.
"Huh, but why you and not me?" Rean added.
"It's gotta be to do with what happened at Trista." Toval answered.
I sighed. "Oh right...when I transformed and everyone present saw it."
"Looks like the situation is more difficult than I could've imagined." Celine said. "Alex, it would be best if you didn't enter Celdic, better for you to wait out of town for now."
"Umm, are you sure?"
"I'm positive, unless you want that group of soldiers to come after you."
I shook my head. "No, no...I'll wait outside...I hope the other places in Erebonia don't have a wanted poster of me."
"Good, I'll be right here as well. I don't want the townspeople getting the wrong idea."
I stood outside the town's exit with Celine as Rean and Toval explored to find some information.
"I can understand Rean being a target, but was my appearance as the demon lord that more intimidating?" I asked.
"It looks like it was. Remember, I was with Rean when you were in that state." Celine answered. "Still...to think you would completely transform into Revelio...you looked exactly like him."
"I'm just worried about how they'll feel when they see me and not just Rean."
"Well, that's up to you. But you should keep in mind of the fact that my witch in training has been worried sick about you."
"I know...I know...I need to make it up to my friends for how it all happened, not just my girlfriend."
A few moments later and Rean and Toval returned with some info.
"Apparently, someone sent us a riddle and the only clue we have is a treasure chest somewhere on east Celdic highway." Toval said.
"Oh, that means I gotta go from here to there without being noticed." I replied.
"Yeah, it'll be risky, but as long as you stand between us, they may not see you clearly enough." Rean said. "You ready?"
"Sure...good thing this jacket has a hood."
I put it up and stood between Rean and Toval. Celine went for an alternative route due to being a cat. We walked through the town and past the guards near the guardhouse and then past the chapel until we were at the exit. I put my hood down and breathed a sigh of relief.
"Okay, we should be safe now." Toval said. "Glad that worked well in our favor."
"So, about this riddle you found?" I asked as Celine caught up with us.
Rean showed me it, it had a grid and a map of the east Celdic highway on it as well as some arrows and chess pieces.
"I've deducted that there may be a key in a chest somewhere." Rean said. "We just need to find one."
"Okay, then let's explore."
We took a look around the area, slaying a few monsters that got in our path and then near towards the second area, we saw a treasure chest, Rean opened it up and there was a key and another paper inside.
"Another riddle?" Toval asked.
"Yeah, and I think the location is close by." Rean answered.
We turned around and thought of checking the windmills until we found one that may be the place on the far opposite side of where the farm is. Rean used the key he found and it unlocked. We stepped inside and found out who it was that wrote the riddles...our faces lit up instantly.
"There you are." A familiar voice said.
"Oh, I wasn't expecting this." Celine said.
"Machias!" Rean exclaimed.
In front of us...was Machias and he had a different set of clothes.
"Haha...I knew you'd be able to solve my riddle. If anyone could, it's you." He said. "And umm...you look well Rean...and you as well, Alex."
Rean said nothing, he went over and suddenly hugged him.
"Woah, Rean! Take it easy there..."
"I'm just so glad you're all right!" Rean replied, happily. "When we parted that day, I...I honestly thought I would never get to see you again."
"Haha, come on Rean...you haven't changed a bit." Machias lightly hugged back. "I had no intention of losing my life in that battle...and neither did the rest of us. Remember? It wasn't goodbye, just farewell until we meet again. And you kept your promise, which is why I was able to keep mine." They stopped the hug and Machias looked at me. "And you, Alex. It's great to see you back to normal."
"Yeah, same here..." I replied. "...look, I know that I have a lot to explain about what happened to me on that day, but right now, it fills me with great relief that you're okay."
"It's alright, you can tell us another time when we're all together."
"That's my plan for now." We shared a quick hug.
"I think the tearful reunion's gone on long enough now." Celine said.
"Geez, you're quite the mood killer kitty." I responded.
"Celine, still a talking cat I see." Machias said before noticing Toval. "And I think I remember you. You're a bracer if I recall correctly."
"Yeah, that's right." Rean replied. "They've been with me and Alex for quite a while now."
"Heh, good memory. We never really talked much when we met on the courageous, did we?" Toval responded. "Name's Toval. Toval Randonneur. Mind filling us in on what you've been up to all this time? We'll tell you about what's been happening on our end, too."
"So what happened after I turned back to normal?" I asked.
"Well, after you lost consciousness, the Courageous arrived to save us." Machias answered.
"Was Viscount Arseid on board?" Rean asked.
"Yeah, when we heard Viscount's booming voice telling us to flee and live to fight another day, we took his advice and escaped from Trista. And splitting into three groups, we fled from Trista as fast as we could."
"And what happened to me after that?" I asked.
"We last heard that you were brought onto the ship and taken to the infirmary room. We had no idea what happened after that. My guess was that they took you somewhere far away from the main places to go to in Erebonia."
"And that far away place ended up being Ymir." I nodded.
"So you escaped to Celdic?" Rean asked.
"Essentially, I managed to escape with Fie and Elliot." Machias answered. "Not sure how the others were split though."
"Really, they're here too?"
"Well, they're out at the moment, but yes. The market manager in Celdic proposed we use this windmill as a hideout, so we've been staying here this past month. It's been enough to help us look into a way to turn this country around."
"Speaking of Celdic, I saw a wanted poster with my face on it." I said. "I assume it's dangerous for me to be there for a full minute, let alone a week."
"Yeah, I'm not sure why, but the Provincial Army seem to have gotten orders to be on the lookout for someone who has demon powers."
"That's me all right...but I can't use them right now. So for my sake, it's best if we don't go there for the time being."
Machias nodded. "I can understand."
"So do you know where Elliot and Fie went?" Celine asked.
"Yeah, they're out trying to find a way to head farther east along the border with Crossbell. We want to go to what remains of Garrelia Fortress."
"Garellia Fortress?" Rean asked.
"Oh yeah, Margot did mention about Imperial soldiers stationed here." Toval added.
"Yeah, They're using the proving ground near where the fortress used to be as a base at the moment." Machias replied. "Specifically, Lieutenant General Craig's division is stationed there."
"Well, you can't ask for a better armored division than that."
"So when will we hear from Elliot and Fie?" I asked.
"Actually, I'm going to be receiving an update call from them soon." Machias answered. "By using that orbal station you see behind me."
I noticed it. "Ahhh, looks trendy and futuristic."
Suddenly, we began hearing a beeping noise from the orbal station.
"Testing, testing. Beginning periodic update." A familiar voice called from the orbal station. "This is Elliot, do you read me, Machias?"
"This is Machias. Yeah, the signal's pretty clear." He replied. "Fie's nearby too, right?" How's everything on your end?"
"We've surveyed the area around the Twin Dragons Bridge as best we could." Another familiar voice answered...it was Fie alright. "As we expected, their defense is airtight."
"To pass through, you need a permit from either the Kreuzen Provincial Army or the Noble Alliance." Elliot added. "Civilians and merchants don't stand a chance right now. This isn't gonna be easy, no matter how you slice it."
"All right, then. It sounds like we'll need to devise a plan." Machias said.
"Well, that's no surprise." I muttered before winking at him.
Machias nodded. "Oh and by the way, is there a chance for me to come over to you? I have a big surprise for the two of you."
"A big surprise...hmmm." Elliot replied.
"How about Point D in front of the Twin Dragons Bridge?" Fie asked. "It's not visible from the surrounding area, so the provincial army shouldn't notice us if we meet there."
"Point D, the one one the outer edge of East Celdic Highway." Machias responded. "All right, that should be fine. I'll head over there right away."
"Okay, we'll head out, too." Elliot said.
"Well, see you later, over." Fie added.
Machias turned off the orbal station and we left the windmill before travelling along the east Celdic highway, we slayed a few monsters of course, but we then took a turn off the roadway and through a narrow path until we reached a small area away from the main road, there was no one there when we arrived.
"Well, we're here, but I don't see any sign of them." I said.
"We'll just need to wait for Elliot and Fie to meet us here." Rean added.
I heard a gasp from behind us before the one who gasped ran towards us.
"Rean!" Elliot rushed to Rean and he held his hand with happiness. "I'm not seeing things, am I? It really is you, right?"
"Yep, it really is me." Rean replied. "It's great to finally see you again, Elliot."
Elliot then noticed me. "Ah...Alex! I can't believe my eyes!"
"Better believe it now, I'm back to normal." I replied before feeling sad. "And...I'm really sorry for scaring you and the rest of our friends when I became that demon lord. I promise that I will explain everything when everyone of us is back together."
"Of course...all that matters is that you're alive, I'm so happy you and Rean are okay."
"Wait, where's Fie?" Rean asked.
"Oh, right, before we took off to meet with you guys, she seemed to notice something and told me she'd catch up later. I'm sure she won't be long."
"I'm back." A familiar voice said.
We looked at our left and up above to see Fie standing above us. She gasped when she saw me and Rean and then leaped before landing right on top of Rean.
"Woah!" Rean caught her by the arms, but just barely.
"Oops..." Fie replied as she somewhat pounced on him.
"A little dramatic, don't you think?" Machias asked.
"Good thing I chose to step further away." I muttered.
"I'm not sure if that was such a good idea, Fie." Rean said. "It'd kind of spoil the reunion if you broke a bone or something...or me, for that matter."
Fie smiled at him. "Don't worry, it just sunk in that it's really you."
"Hehe. Who else would it be? I'm happy to see you're okay."
"I wasn't going to give up. I wasn't going to risk losing my new family." Fie then got off him and went over to me.
"You're back as well, Alex?" She asked, softly.
"Yeah, I'm back to myself again...it's been a while." I replied.
She suddenly wrapped her arms around me and sniffed a little.
"I know, Fie...what my demon self said and did were horrible." I put my arms around her. "I am so sorry for that, but I'll tell you everything I know when we're all together again."
Fie nodded and then we pulled away before Fie wiped a tear away.
"Thanks for coming back to us, Rean and Alex." She said.
She and I had become close friends since the start of the Class VII journey which did resulted in me and Emma getting together, so it felt great to see her doing alright. I hoped to see her again soon.
"Well, that's all of us, together again." Machias said.
"Haha, can't help but crack a smile when watching them can you?" Toval commented. "Don't know if I've ever seen two people so happy to see their friends again."
"I should hope so. It wasn't easy making it happen." Celine added.
After taking a breather, we exchanged our stories about the current situation.
"Well, that's one region down. Only two more regions to go in the hunt for the rest of Class VII." Toval said. "Must be feeling pretty good about that, huh, Rean and Alex?"
"You bet. It wouldn't have been possible without your help either." Rean replied.
"Yeah, I think us two men should consider ourselves very lucky." I added. "But we can't leave just yet, because I am curious about heading to the fortress myself."
"Oh, are you sure?" Machias asked. "I mean yes, we do have to go there, but that place was..."
"...where my father was killed, yes." I sighed. "But I made a promise that in return of reuniting with all of you, I would see through these troublesome times to the very end."
"Well put." Fie replied.
"I think Alex makes a good point." Rean said. "We're also gonna need a base of operations at some point, but here in Celdic isn't an option."
"Then what about your home village back at Ymir?" I suggested.
"Hmmm, that could be an ideal place. I'll think about that for the time being,"
"Alright, so what do you think, should we press on with Garellia Fortress?"
Machias nodded. "Yeah, we should try to continue with our original plan."
"Still, the Twin Dragon Bridges is one of the alliance's most important strongholds." Fie said. "Trying to pass through there is gonna be risky."
"It may be, but it's a risk worth taking." Rean replied. "It could allow us to find out what the situation in the Imperial Army is, how Instructor Neithardt is doing, and above all, it should give us a better idea of how the war is developing. Knowing that should help us better decide what path we should take as a class."
"Makes sense. So far, you've just been watching things unfold from the outside." Toval agreed. "This could give you an opportunity to see what's happening on the inside, right?"
"Of course, I also want to make sure that Lieutenant General Craig knows his son is safe too."
Elliot smiled. "Thanks, Rean"
"All right." Machias nodded. "I'm in. Let's do this."
"Same here." Fie agreed. "But it's gonna be totally dangerous, you know?"
"Since when did we ever take on anything that wasn't dangerous?" I smirked. "Anyways, is there a route where we can sneak past security?"
"There is one secret route. We might still get caught, but it's our only way in."
"Yeah, but thinking about it, I would need to be double careful since I'm wanted in Celdic."
"Then let's start by going to the Twin Dragons Bridge." Rean said.
We nodded and left the meeting zone, walking along the way until we reached the two bridges, there was a lot of security, including Soldats.
"Well, no chance of getting a permit here." I commented. "Secret hidden route it is, then."
"The Noble Alliance has got every reason to love showing it off, what with it being one of thier most important strongholds." Toval said.
"And with the war going on, security's going to be even tight then usual." Machias added. "This isn't going to be easy to cross."
"Well, what are we going to do?" Elliot asked.
"The Noble Alliance sends troops to the fortress using the Transcontinental Railroad." Fie answered. "We'll use its tracks."
"Will that be actually safe enough to do?" Rean asked.
She nodded. "Look over there."
We saw the railway tracks and I already had a feeling of where Fie was going with this.
"So what you mean is that if we can find a way to get on the railway without being seen, we can cross over and find the route that will take us to the fortress." I said.
"Bingo." Fie nodded.
"How're you planning to get down onto the tracks, though?" Toval asked. "We could jump over the fence if you're down for risking the alliance filling us full of holes...or not."
"Don't worry, none of us have a death wish like that." I replied.
"I'm guessing there's a maintenance passage that leads down there." Fie said. "We should see if we can find anything in that waiting area to our left."
"Okay." Rean nodded. "We'll have to be careful not to draw suspicion to ourselves, but let's see what we can find out by asking around."
We went into the building and we saw a shady looking person at the far right with a hood on, we follow the person to the corner and saw no sign of them, except for a maintenance vent. I went in first and crawled along the vent. I felt like that snake guy for a moment. We reached the end and crawled out to find ourselves on the tracks.
"Looks like we got to where we needed without any problems." I said.
"Yeah, sure, but what happened to that hooded man?" Machias asked.
"We need to focus on crossing to the other side of the bridge." Rean reminded.
We lightly rushed along the side of the railway without being caught and headed inside the fortress. We then snuck across the station and reached outdoors on the other side. We took a right turn and reached the byroad pass after turning left through the gate. So close to the fortress now...not long till I see with my own eyes what happened there.
We traveled along the byroad whilst eliminating monsters, we then took a detour to a building that was more like a ruin that hadn't been used for years. We left it alone for we didn't have time to sight-see. We got back on the byroad and eventually past a checkpoint that took us right into Garrelia Fortress.
"So this is what's left of the place..." I said. "...that dome over here has to be where Crossbell is."
The moment we stood further into the fortress grounds, Machias stood on something and Fie pulled him away before a trap went off.
"What was that thing?!" I exclaimed.
"It was new model mine...thought so." Fie answered before she looked up. "Come out, you two. I know you're there."
We all looked up behind us to see a pair of men that looked familiar...of course, they were at Heimdallr among those Soldats.
"Long time no see, Fie." The medium blonde haired guy said. "A year-ish I guess? Hah. Still pint-sized, but you've grown a bit taller at least."
"Her muscular strength, reflexes, and agility have also remarkably improved." The muscle-bound guy added. "There's no stopping the flow of time, I suppose."
"Careful guys. That's Zephyr's emblem on their jackets!" Toval warned.
"So you're the ones who knew Fie way back?" I asked. "Mind if we get a little antiquated, I wanna remember the names of those I've taken on."
"Hehehehe, quite the confident boy, aren't you?" The medium blonde haired guy said. "Just call me Xeno, that's all."
"Refer to me as Leo." The muscle-bound guy added. "And that is all you need to know."
"So Xeno and Leo, huh?" I responded. "I bet you two are here on behalf on the Noble Alliance."
"Well...yes and no." Leo answered.
"We just wanna enjoy our long-awaited reunion with an old friend and comrade." Xeno added.
"Uh huh...sure..." I said. "Your call, Rean, shall we take them on?"
Rean nodded and we drew out our weapons. But Xeno and Leo drew out weapons we haven't seen before.
"A blade rifle and a mechanized gauntlet?!" Toval exclaimed.
"So I'm not the only one with gauntlets." I added. "This should be a nice way to compose a boxing match!"
"All right! Let's have some fun!" Xeno declared. "You ready, kiddos?"
"Fight with everything you have." Leo added. "Unless you want to end up in as many pieces as this fortress."
I glared at them. "You have no idea...I won't end up the same way my father did!"
The battle started and they were giving us a run for their money, but it was by this point that a fragment of my strength had recovered. I charged at both of them with one of my normal crafts. Leo struck next and his gauntlet packed a punch, but I retaliated and eventually, had him on the ropes. The others took down Xeno before Fie delivered the last blow on Leo and the battle was done.
"Not bad. For being only students, you show great potential." Leo said before looking at me. "Especially you who wields the gauntlets. Your experience with them was very telling. Your academy training seems to have paid off. It's not easy to keep up with Fie."
"Haha. You think they can handle us if we kicked it up a notch?" Xeno asked.
I frowned. "You seriously asking for seconds?"
Suddenly, the moment for a second round was stopped when a squad of Soldats arrived. Xeno and Leo were forced to withdraw and they leaped away from sight. Rean was silent, but he called for Valimar. When he arrived, the same procedure followed and the next battle started.
Rean commanded the Valimar to bring one one Soldat and then its sword away, giving himself a much better chance to fight back. Smooth move, Rean, I didn't think of that one. Rean took down the other two Soldats and the battle was over. The enemy Soldat captain was going to call for reinforcements when a battalion of tanks showed up, led by Elliot's dad.
Then we heard a bullet from our left. I looked to the left and upwards to notice...the icy maiden with a sniper rifle...it's Captain Claire. Xeno and Leo who were watching the whole thing retreated away, we would most likely see them again soon. Then the Soldat captain retreated and things finally calmed down around the fortress.
With the situation now controlled, it was time to use the spirit travel to return to Ymir, we had myself, Rean, Celine, Elliot, Fie, Machias, Toval and Claire altogether. We were off to a terrific start, but our goal to reunite the class was only just beginning.
Yeah, I've chosen to rush this one, because I don't plan to spend as much time as I did on the first story.
Next time! Rean's chosen members go to the highlands to find their next three friends.