This part has one of my favorite parts of writing this story, since this one will have my favorite reunion from the game.
Long Awaited Embrace
Dateline, December 5th, 1204.
After spending a few days of R&R back at Ymir, we were outside Rean's family home, ready to set off and travel to our next destination.
"Well, then, it's time to get going." Elliot said. "We're going to be using Valimar's power this time too, right?"
"Yeah. The Spirit Path is going to be our best bet of travelling." Rean replied. "His mana should've recovered by now."
"Yes, he should have more than plenty after resting for a few days." Celine said. "I take it all of you are rested too?"
Fie nodded. "Yup."
"A lot more of my strength is back, so I can take on better monsters now." I slapped my fists. "Time to resume our rescue operation."
"Come to think of it, what happened to Toval and Captain Claire?" Machias asked.
"I'm not sure..." Rean's mom answered. "They headed off somewhere early this morning."
"Sorry for the delay, I'd thought we be back before now." A voice responded.
We saw Toval and Claire join us.
"Where'd you two go?" Rean asked.
"We decided to do one more round to check Ymir's defenses." Claire answered. "I wanted to make sure the communications equipment that I modified yesterday was functioning properly, too."
"Good news is that everything's in tip top shape." Toval added. "Which means Ymir's now got a line of communication with the 4th Armored Division and the RMP."
"Really? Talk about convenient." Elliot replied.
"Talk about bolstering defenses, that's pretty effective." I added.
"Still, Toval and I are in agreement that it wouldn't be wise for us to leave the village completely unguarded." Claire said. "So a few of us should stay behind to keep an eye on things around here."
"That's probably for the best." Machias responded.
Fie nodded. "Good idea."
"The bigger our group is, the more likely we are to stand out as suspicious even if we do use the Spirit Path." Rean said. "To even things out, I think it'd be better if Toval or you stayed behind, Captain."
"You read my mind." Toval replied. "I think a couple of you guys should probably stick around, too."
"We can discuss that while walking along the valley." Celine said. "There's no point in splitting up right here, right now. But try and make your mind up before we get to Valimar."
Rean nodded. "Sure thing, let's get going."
We left the village and walked up the valley and seeing Valimar in sleep mode.
"All right. Here we are again." Machias said.
"Is he still asleep?" Fie asked.
Rean nodded. "Valimar, can you hear me?"
Some lights glowed up on Valimar. "Reawakening from inactive state...reboot complete." He spoke. "Awakener and secondary contractor waveforms detected."
"Good. He's recovered enough mana." Celine said.
"Man, he really is amazing." Elliot added.
"Okay. Where to, guys?" Toval asked.
"Hmm, we should probably double check where everyone currently is first." Rean answered. "Valimar, can you update us on where the others are?"
"Repeating search..." Valimar responded. "Three of the remaining secondary contractors are to the northeast, in the Nord region. Three are to the south-southeast, in the Legram region. All vital signs appear normal."
"Phew, they're still safe."
"It seems that way." Celine added.
"So, where to next, leader?" I asked. "Both Nord and Legram are miles away from here."
"I think Nord's a little bit closer, if I recall." Rean answered. "Any objections there?"
"Nope...so I guess you gotta choose who's coming with you."
"Right..." He hummed. "Alex, Fie, are you ready to join me?"
I nodded. "Yep, I'm ready to go, I need to continue regaining my whole strength after all."
"I haven't been to Nord before, so I'm willing to go." Fie added.
Rean smiled. "Okay...Captain Claire, would you mind coming along for support?"
"Of course, I'll do all I can to give you three some back up." She replied.
"All right, then it's time to go." Rean turned to Elliot, Machias and Toval. "I'll leave Ymir in your care, you three."
"Don't worry, we'll take care of everything here." Machias replied.
"Ymir'll be just fine, or I'm not a bracer." Toval added.
Elliot nodded. "Just make sure you come back safe, okay?"
"We'll bring them back for sure." I assured. "We might even come back with more than the winds."
Fie smirked at me. "Guess your lack of timing with humor hasn't changed."
"Well then, we should be going." Claire said. "The highlands are well known for thier vastness. We're going to need to be very careful once we arrive."
"Valimar, open the Spirit Path." Celine turned to Valimar. "Our destination is the Nord Highlands to the northeast!"
"Acknowledged." Valimar responded. "Activating Spirit Path..."
A huge circle appeared around us and we started floating across the portal, it was the same as the first time and I was getting used to this pretty quickly. The journey wasn't for long, when I closed my eyes from a bright flash, we opened them to find ourselves in the middle of a stone ruined circle.
"Hey, this looks familiar." I said. "Wasn't this where we had that battle with Millium?"
"Yeah, we're at the stone circle in the southern part of the highlands." Rean answered.
"So you two fought Millium here?" Fie asked.
"Haha. I heard all about that from Millium, actually." Claire said.
"This spot's fairly high up, too, so it won't be easy to see you from ground level." Celine added. "We should be able to leave Valimar here without him being found."
Claire nodded. "Celine's right. This area is an excellent place to keep Valimar."
"Well, how should we do this?" I asked.
"We need to start gathering information on where everyone might be." Rean answered. "I say we start by heading to either the settlement to the north or Zender Gate to the south."
"That settles is where Gaius is from, right?" Fie asked.
"Zender Gate's where the 3rd Armored Division is stationed, too." Claire said.
"Good thing this is the highlands, there shouldn't be any wanted posters of me around here." I added. "Otherwise, we could be in real trouble if someone saw me and called for backup."
"I think you're overreacting." Fie said.
We walked down the hill of the stone circle and around the small field path and when we were on the open giant field, we saw a squad of soldats and a few tanks battling in the far distance near where the watchtower was.
"Yikes! Better stay clear over there." I warned.
"I guess even a place as far out as Nord couldn't avoid becoming a battlefield." Rean said. "But I agree, let's keep on this side and head over to the gate."
"The Soldats might be simple copies of the Divine Knights, but those soldiers still did well in repelling them." Celine added.
We walked to the right and went upwards to see a group of armored tanks and soldiers.
"Whew, we're finally here." Rean said.
I sighed. "I wish we had those horses right now."
"I just hope the lieutenant general is able to meet with us."
Three soldiers noticed us and rushed over before aiming their weapons at us.
"Woah, where's the fire?!" I exclaimed.
"What are a bunch of civilians like you doing in a place like this?" One of them asked. "You sure don't look like you're from the settlement."
"Wait a second...you look familiar." Another soldier said, looking at me. "You must be the boy who's on the wanted poster."
I frowned. "Oh you gotta be joking...I'm wanted, all the way out here too?"
"So much for overreacting." Fie muttered.
"Put your hands in the air!" The third solider ordered.
"Halt, men! That will not be necessary!" A voice intervened.
We turned our attention to the familiar lieutenant general and the soldiers stood aside and saluted.
"It has been some time, Rean Schwarzer of Class VII." He said. "And the same to you, Alex Lionheart. Rest assured that the bounty on you will not be claimed by my soldiers."
"Oh, what a relief...wait, a bounty?" I asked.
"Still, I'm impressed that you all were able to make it here. The ferocity of this war raging around us grows worse by the day. Come, it would be my honor to speak with you and field any questions you have in my office."
We nodded and followed him into the gate building and inside his office.
"As you may have realized, the word around Erebonia is that there is a 250,000 mira bounty on you." Vander said. "The bounty was announced a few weeks ago and wanted posters were put up all across the country."
"So no matter where I go, I'm going to be caught by anyone whose seen my face and everything goes to...well, I can't say it, I'm having enough troubles with myself." I sighed.
"It's understandable. I wasn't made aware of the details and while I may know only rumors, I have complete faith that your innocence will be brought forward."
"I sure hope so..."
"As for the situation you just saw in the field, there is a good reason. The Noble Alliance has gained control of the watchtower."
"The watchtower's been overtaken by the Noble Alliance?!" Rean asked.
Vander nodded. "I'm afraid so. It happened not long after the war began. They've been using it as a base of operations from which to attack Zender Gate. Now we have to fight off their offensives from both sides of the border."
"Sounds like a bad situation to be in." Fie said.
"But it sounds like it'll only be a matter of time before the gate falls." Celine added.
"Celine!" Rean exclaimed.
"You're not supposed to talk to other people." I added.
Celine sighed. "I was just speaking my mind. Besides, this lieutenant general knows what he's doing,."
"You're too kind. But yes, she's not mistaken. Without a significant development in our favor, I expect this base to fall within the month." Vander replied. "We're doing all we can to avoid that, but it is a possibility we must accept sooner or later."
"If I may ask, how did the watchtower fall into enemy hands to begin with?" Claire asked. "I imagine it would have been well guard, considering it was built to keep watch on the Republic."
"It was. The soldiers there would have been highly vigilant, too. thanks to the attack mere months prior. However, none of us could have imagined the card that the alliance would play to take it from us. I understand if you find this hard to believe, but we have reason to believe the alliance has temporarily joined hands with the Republic."
"An alliance with Calvard?!" I exclaimed. "That would explain why Crossbell has remained untouched."
"There seems to be no room for doubt in that case, then." Claire said.
"Look what we have here is a case of 'the enemy of my enemy is my friend.'." Celine added.
I hummed. "That's one way of putting it."
"From what we can tell, there's nothing wrong with the orbal communications equipment." Vander said. "I just wish we could get in contact with Gwyn."
"Gwyn, now there's a name I haven't heard for a long time."
Claire nodded. "He definitely would be the ideal person to discuss technological issues with."
"Sounds like we've got a task prepared. What can we do to help around here?"
"Hmm, this war is between the Alliance and us." Vander replied. "Leave the fighting to us, you just focus on your tasks. Besides, you've come all this way, I'm sure Gaius would very much like to see you."
"Gaius is here?!" Rean asked.
"He is indeed, he left a message for me with one my men." Vander continued. "He supposedly returned here roughly a week ago with several other students. He said that he wanted to assess the situation here before taking off to his home settlement to the north."
"Well it should be obvious, we are in Nord after all." I pointed out. "I guess he's over there right now. In which case, we should go to the settlement as quick as we can."
Vander nodded. "I won't stop you from going after your classmates, but I would ask that you be careful not to get caught up in any of the fighting. The nomads are preparing to more their settlement farther north to avoid getting drawn into it themselves, I believe."
"Sounds like we need to hear north quickly." Celine advised.
"And not a moment too soon." I added. "Let's get going...oh, and we should use horses to get there too."
"Yes, good thinking, Alexander." Vander nodded. "I suggest you use the horse the last time you and Rean were here on your field study. I will have them ready for you shortly."
"Thank you for your kindness, sir." Rean said.
"We appreciate it, sir." Claire added.
We left the office and then out of the gate, waiting until three horses were brought out by the soldiers. I got on the one in the back since I already knew how to ride one from before. Rean got on the one at the front with Celine on his back, whilst Claire got on the third and Fie held on to her from behind.
"Hello there, old friend." I spoke to the horse. "You ready to catch up on lost time?"
The horse snorted, as we began to move out on the horses, I suddenly noticed a familiar student. It was Mint, one of the students I became a friend with from the music club, I was wondering what had happened to the other students from the other classes. I made a mental note to let Elliot know that one of our music club friends is okay.
We galloped onwards to the settlement to find nearly all of the homes not there, it was quiet as well...too quiet.
"Hmmm, is it me or do you get the feeling we're being watched?" I asked.
"Someone's coming!" Rean gasped.
Suddenly, a group of jaeger soldiers arrived and surrounded us.
"This is quite the welcome party." I smirked. "But you jaeger soliders just came to the wrong neighborhood!"
"Wha?! It's him! The one who has the demon powers!" One of the jaeger soldiers said. "But you're right, we're jaeger soldiers and we're known is Nidhoggr!"
"Nidhoggr? I've heard about this group." Claire said. "They're not to be taken lightly."
"Alright, it's fun time!" I exclaimed.
The battle started and this was the best chance for me to use the powers I had regained. Fie and I formed a link and were an agile and hard hitting duo. Rean and Claire mixed thier close and ranged attacks to eliminate two of them and Fie and I finished off the third one, ending the battle.
Well, we thought it was over, but the jaegers called for back up, two more soldiers and four armored dogs showed up. This looked pretty bad until we heard a squawk from an eagle that flew by, then we heard a neigh from a horse that was fast approaching. The familiar guy on it roared as he took a lot of them down.
"Is everyone all right?!" He asked.
"Huh...Gaius!" Rean exclaimed.
"Wow! Nice timing, friend!" I added.
Fie nodded, smiling.
"I'm just glad I made it in time." Gaius said.
That was when the jeager soldiers got a call and were forced to retreat, the coast was now clear.
"Well, I'm glad they're gone, but how are they able to contact with those things?" I asked.
"Yeah, that's what I wanna know." Rean added.
Gaius got off his horse and approached us. "It's good to see you, guys."
"Haha. You were right on time, Gaius." Rean replied. "Thanks for saving us. I don't know what we would've done without you."
"No thanks needed between old friends. And to you, Alex. It's a great relief to see you back to normal."
"Yeah, I feel really grateful that you're alright too." I replied before I felt sad. "It must've been horrible, seeing my powers for what they really are. But I will tell you everything...once everyone of us is back together."
Gaius and I shook hands.
"Heh. I understand. Funny, it's only now starting to sink in that it's really you both. I've been praying for this day to come since the day we parted. It brings me more joy than I can express to see you both standing before me."
I smiled and moved away as Rean and Gaius shook hands.
"Alex and I feel the same way." Rean replied. "When we parted, you put your in harm's way to protect a guy like me. And here you are, doing it again. Thanks for never giving up on me, Gaius."
"That's one less person to worry about." Fie said.
"Yeah, now we just need to know about the settlement here." I added. "It looks like a quick 'pack up and roll out' method just occurred here."
"That's right, I'll guide you all over to Lake Lacrima." Gaius replied.
"That's where Gwyn's cabin is, isn't it?" Rean asked.
"Indeed. We've all moved over there for the time being. Alisa and Millium included."
"Well, that was easy." Fie said.
I smiled. "Oooh boy, that's gonna be quite the reunion."
"So Millium is okay." Claire sighed, happily.
"Then we better get over there, asap." I said. "You can lead the way."
"Sure, I'll show you the fastest route there." Gaius said.
We got on our horses and Gaius led the way as we passed through the open area of the north of the highlands until we reached Lake Lacrima to see the nomad settlement and the cabin by the top right. We were greeted by some of the people before we met with Gaius's parents. It had been a long time since we last saw them.
"Well if you ask me, this is all wonderful timing." I said. "Although I can't help but be concerned on what'll follow if those battles keep going."
"Indeed." Claire nodded. "It's entirely impossible that even this region could become a war zone soon enough."
Lucan hummed. "Things aren't going to get easier for us any time soon so long as this war continues."
"However, we would like you to focus on your main objective for now." Fatma said. "Gaius isn't the only one you came to find, correct?"
"That's right, we heard that Alisa and Millium are here." Rean responded. "Do you know where they are?"
"They made their way to the northeastern region of the highlands not that long ago." Lucan answered. "Gwyn is with them too, he mentioned that he wanted to look into something there."
"Hmm, then we should make a move and see if they need help." I said.
Lucan nodded. "Good luck, and may the blessings of the winds and the Goddess be with you."
"Off we go, then." Fie said.
We then left the settlement and Gaius led the way to the northeast part of the north highlands area. There was a route we hadn't taken before, so we went there and from that point on, it was new territory. We took our time since there was a precarious bridge that we had to cross, when we were halfway across however, we suddenly heard a roar.
"What the heck?!" I exclaimed.
We galloped over quickly and noticed a giant iced monster approaching towards the three people we were looking for. Alisa and Millium tried to fight back and protect Gwyn, but their attacks were not doing much. We then intervened to throw the monster off guard.
"Are you okay, friends?!" I asked. "We're here for you both!"
Gwyn gasped. "Well, if it isn't Gaius...wait, you two are..."
"Rean! Alex!" Alisa said happily.
"You're both totally alive!" Millium added with relief. "And Claire's with you too, triple score!"
"We can talk later!" Claire responded. "Our first priority is taking down this beast!"
"Just be careful!" Celine warned. "This is no ordinary beast, it's a cryptid!"
"All right, bring it on!" I exclaimed.
The battle began and Alisa and Millium joined the battle. Fie and I went first and we knocked it back a little. Rean and Claire went next and they dealt same damage. Alisa and Millium used their combat link to knock it off balance, this was for Gaius to finish off, he went for his s-break and that eliminated the beast that vanished away.
"Whew...down it goes." Rean said.
"Yeah, that should've done it." Gaius added.
"You called it a cryptid, right?" Fie asked.
"Right. Ordinarily, cryptids shouldn't exist on this plane to begin with." Celine answered. "But there's something abnormal taking place here in Erebonia...and it's not the war. I can only assume that abnormality having an effect on the land is what caused it to appear."
"Some abnormality?" Rean asked.
"Are you implying that something else might be happening at the same time as the war?" Claire added.
"We should consider all possibilities." I pondered before smirking. "Anyways, don't you people have some reunions to make? I can wait for my turn."
Millium turned with a big smile. "Claire, I'm so happy to see you!" She rushed over to hug her.
"Millium, I'm so glad that you're alright, it's wonderful to see you again." Claire hugged her in return.
"Yeah, same to you. That new outfit you got looks smokin' on you, too."
'That's one word for it.' I thought.
"Rean!" Alisa called.
Rean turned to see her running before hugging him close. "Alisa..." He then put his arms around her.
"It's really you, isn't it? It's really really, you? I can't believe I'm finally seeing you again."
"Neither can I...I'm so glad you were able to find Gwyn at least."
"Yeah...wait a minute. Never mind me, what about you? Where have you been ever since we parted back at Trista? And how did you end up coming here? And I can see how you would be with Celine, but how come you're with the others?"
"Haha...it's a long story. I'll fill you in on all the details you want later, but that'll have to do for now. Sorry for being a pain...also, I'm not the only one who's happy to be alive."
Alisa then saw me and smiled as she continued hugging Rean.
"Yeah, I am...I'm sorry for how horrible things got, back at Trista." I replied. "When all of us are back together, I'll tell you everything about my true powers. I'm happy to know that you are alright."
"Yeah, I'm so relived that you're back with us." Alisa then rested her head on Rean's chest and smiled. "This all feels like a dream, at least now I'll be able to keep that promise."
"Promise?" Rean responded, I bet he was thinking of what Alisa said to him. "Oh!"
Alisa then blinked and pulled away. "N-not now though! These things are all about timing...no, forget I said that!" She cleared her throat. "Thank you Rean, thank you Alex, thank you both for coming back to us."
I nodded in silence.
"And from this point on, I won't be going anywhere without you." Rean replied.
Fie giggled lightly.
Seeing them back together reminded me that I need to reunite with Emma soon...I miss her so much.
"Haha. Always good to see young people living up thier youth." Gwyn said. "I'm surprised you've got no problems with sharing a passionate embrace like that in front of your old grandpa. Not that I mind of course."
Alisa gasped. "I-it was just...I just got all emotional seeing him again and...don't go reading anything into it, okay?!"
"I'm afraid that's too little too late for that." I muttered, smiling.
"Okay, it's Millium time!" Millium leaped to Rean and he caught her. "Oh, I've missed you soooo much, Rean. Wasn't expecting you to be hanging out with Claire though."
"Well, suffice it to say, a lot's happened." Claire replied.
"I wasn't expecting you to be with Alisa and Gaius either, to be honest." Rean added. "I would've thought you returned to the intelligence division."
"Oh, Rean. That's adorable." Millium said. "You should know me by now. I'm as much a part of Class VII as the rest of you." She then got off him and turned to face me. "And it's soooo good to see you too, Alex."
"Yeah...it's been a while, Millium." I replied. "I'm sorry for what happened when I lost all control back at Trista. But I'll tell you why it happened once we've found everyone."
Millium then hugged me close and I hugged back.
"It's nice seeing us all together like this." Fie said.
"And hopefully, we can find the rest of us soon, too." Gaius added.
Claire smiled. "I'm so happy for you all."
"Allow me to express my gladness to you as well." Gwyn added. "I'm sure you must have a lot of catching up to do, but I think we should return to the lake for now. I managed to get a look at how things are in the watchtower."
We then saw the watchtower in the distance and it looked rebuilt.
"Well, it seems to have been repaired, but..." I paused.
"Does it have something to do with the orbal communication problems in the region?" Rean asked.
"It certainly does." Alisa answered.
"It's got this really annoying thingy on it you see." Millium added.
We agreed to talk about it later, Gwyn got in his truck and drove off whilst the rest of us got on the horses. Fie sat behind Gaius, Millium sat behind Claire, Alisa sat behind Rean and I remained riding solo.
Whatever this annoying thingy is...we would have to eventually deal with it soon before this gets worse...
Next time! The group discover a ruin temple before attempting to solve the issue at the watchtower.