Story (E3)

What is real friendship?

When is it born, and how does it grow?

At what point does it become... something more?

According to the teachings of the Prophets, Earth is a hollow-centered biomechanical construct with veins of energy (the Gates) that run down to its core. These veins serve as channels for the output of Elemental Force, and there are twenty of them in both the northern and southern hemispheres (one for each Element), forty total. When Kelvan and other civilizations began to artificially extract the essence, the Gates began producing a corrupted form of this energy as a cancerous byproduct. The only way to reverse this process, the Prophets fear, is to close the Gates and terminate the corruption at its point of origin - the center of the Earth, its Soul Gate. For as every living thing possesses a Soul Gate from which its Elemental essence flows, so too does the planet... and every planet, for that matter.

Lai is appointed to this task along with Nevena, Dia, Kevin, Eilam, and Perpetua - all children of the Watchers. Their designated point of entry into the Overworld is Myra, but as they descend, a sudden surge of dark energy separates them, and Lai finds herself standing alone in the middle of the road outside the city of Myra. So it begins...

DIVISION ONE: FOLLOW THE LEADER

 

I-01: We Are the Rygu

Lai, troubled by her dreams, is summoned before the Prophets and briefed on the situation. She descends to the Overworld with the others, but is separated from them by the chaotic energy emanating from the Gates.

 

This is a grossly shortened summary; much of the chapter shows the Rygu going about their daily business and interactions with each other, even a silly stage production put on by Kevin to determine his "bride for the day"... crashed by his ex-girlfriend, Perpetua, who demands his attention only to be spurned once again.

I-02: Ahead on Her Way

Alone on the outskirts of Myra, Lai begins walking along the road, having a chance encounter with a frantic scientist who turns out to be Victor. He had been delivering pathogenic samples on foot when he tripped, and they fell on a little flower growing in the road... which rapidly mutated into a bloodthirsty monster, the Biobotanica, that attacks the two of them. Lai and Victor vanquish the beast, then enter the city to rest. In the diner, they're watched by a slick-haired man in a black suit and shades. Victor tries to find out more about Lai, though she evades his most pressing questions. At this point, she sees Midgadden being interviewed on television, and recognizes him as the malevolent figure in her dreams. Victor perceives that she is troubled, but she's hesitant to tell him anything once she learns that Midgadden is Victor's grandfather.

Victor's destination is the KSO branch in Phile, so the two of them depart by ferry to Lyrica. However, they are separated during a riot on the pier, and Lai finds herself making the journey alone. Her peculiar fear of the dark comes to light when she must venture into the tunnel on her way to the desert metropolis in hopes to meet Victor again. She recalls Latona's encouragements during her childhood, and is able to make it through by following a firefly that befriends her.

I-03: Little Town of Love

The chapter opens with Nevena collapsing from exhaustion in the desert and being rescued by a cloaked figure, who turns out to be Lovette. Upon waking, Nevena is introduced to the children of the orphanage and her heart is warmed by Lovette's compassion, though she is irked by the voyeuristic little Timmy. Later, Morey arrives at the orphanage saying he'd like to volunteer, but Nevena is wary of him. Elsewhere, Lai reunites with Victor at the KSO building.

Nevena gets up in the middle of the night and checks the basement of the orphanage where the safe is located, finding Morey who intends to rob it. A struggle ensues, interrupted by Lovette who discovers the two of them pointing fingers at each other. At this time, an unmarked airship hovering over the city drops Wyrgan, who proceeds to savagely maul the populace. Nevena, Morey, and Lovette join forces with Lai and Victor to fight it, but they can't stop its rage in time. The devastated Lovette is carried by the others out of the ruined city, and into the desert...

I-04: Secret of the Elements

While roving across the desert, Lai is separated from the others in a sandstorm. Nevena, Lovette, Morey, and Victor reach a low-lying mountain valley on the southwest edge of the desert, and camp for the night. Nevena talks to Lovette, mourning the loss of the children with her and offering her support. Lovette knows Nevena is worried for Lai as well, and mutually consoles her.

The next day, the group of four continue deeper into the valley, reaching the Jail Cave. Deep inside, they find Lai held captive by agents of the underworld, led by Astaroth. This is Victor's first encounter with any such "otherworldly" beings, rocking his hardened skepticism. They are able to fend off their adversaries, and Lai tells them that she came to the cave because she sensed Elemental energy radiating from it. Lovette then divulges that her  Granny once told her that a mystical portal was said to exist within its depths. Lai concludes that it must be an Elemental Gate, and fate has guided them there.

They continue deeper into the hellish cave, discovering the altar of Fafnir, Guardian of Fire. Victor can't believe what he's seeing. Lai converses with Fafnir regarding the current state of affairs, and he agrees to close the Gate within the altar if they can prove their worth by defeating him. It's a long, bloody battle where they each fall one by one, until Nevena draws back and finds Morey cowering in a corner. He seems to be reliving some sort of trauma, and her heart opens up to him. Nevena convinces Morey to rejoin the battle with her, and they're able to bring Fafnir down. Before solidifying his spiritual essence in the form of a Rune, he heals them all and entrusts his power to Lovette, then allows Lai to close the gate.

Outside, Lai questions Victor on his thoughts, and he asks her not to test him... but agrees to remain open-minded as they travel onward.

I-05: The Fragility of Life

Far to the north, on the other side of the desert, the group crosses the Lelindaean plains, arriving at the forsaken city. They are appalled by the decaying state of the populace, and Lai especially yearns to do something for them. Nevena runs into Dia, who had stumbled into the city shortly before they arrived. They all meet with the ailing king, who pleads with Lai to heal his daughter, Calliope, if no one else. Lai isn't sure if her power will work, but tries regardless... only to find that Calliope had been long dead, and Delila, heiress to the throne of the underworld, was posing in her place. Lai is brutally beaten by Delila, infected by her darkness before the others break into the room and chase her off. In desperation, Victor reveals an experimental vaccine that he had been carrying from the beginning, the only one of its kind in the world. He injects Lai, hoping for the best, while Nevena grieves and Dia broods.

Distraught over the revelation of his daughter's death, the king allows them to take the last ship harbored in Lelindae, which has no sail. With no alternatives, they accept his offer and leave their destiny in the hands of fate. Aboard the ship, Lai has a nightmare in which a pregnant woman is being chased by underworld agents. Trapped at the edge of a cliff, the woman is impaled, and Lai awakens clutching her stomach, feeling the pain as if it were her own. Meanwhile, Dia apologizes to Nevena for her earlier indifference to Lai's situation... while the man in black from the diner in Myra eavesdrops outside their cabin, having apparently stowed away on the ship.

I-06: Song and Steel

They drift ashore near the Cape Town Kenna and check in to a motel for some much-needed rest from their ordeals. The next morning, Dia wakes up to the sound of Nevena playing her flute on the cape, and rushes out to meet her. Mesmerized by the dreamy music, Dia waits patiently for Nevena to finish, then walks out to the edge and sits down to watch the sunrise with her.

Later, they meet up with the others, and Victor says he needs to return to Kelvan. The only way for him to do so is to board an airship at Denmire; their next destination is thus decided. On the way, they meet Dexter in the forest, allowing him to travel with them. In the mountains, Nevena and Dia trail behind the others as they enter a cave, watching in horror as a rockslide bars entry, separating them. The two climb the slope and continue on their own, hoping to reunite later, while the others are hounded by a mysterious assassin as they pass through the mines.

As night falls, Nevena and Dia seek shelter in a cave and bumble about while trying to start a fire. They eventually succeed, and as they drift off to sleep, Nevena thanks Dia for the good-luck charm she had given her before their departure to the Overworld, saying Lovette sensed its mystical power and was able to find her in the desert because of it. Dia is moved, though remains silent, facing the other way. The next day, they reunite with the others, discover the Elemental Gate of Iron (with its Guardian, Ashura, controlled by a device implanted by KSO) and continue onward to Denmire.

I-07: Galacian General Grant

Upon arrival at Denmire, the group disperses while waiting for their flight. Dexter enters a bar to sing, and is recognized by his old friend Grant (a large portion of this chapter consists of Grant recounting the circumstances that led him to Denmire). The others enter Lord Denmire's fortress for lodging negotiated by Victor (his nephew). Lai wrestles with her inner conflict about Midgadden, and Nevena assures her. Dia can't sleep; recalling her adventure with Nevena in the mountains, she experiences a fond warmth that is somewhat troubling all the same.

 

That night, the assassin from the mines takes Lord Denmire's life, and the heroes nearly succumb to his dark arts... but he is shot by the mysterious man in black who had been stalking them all from the beginning. He vanishes just as suddenly as he had appeared, leaving them to ponder his allegiance. Denmire's right-hand, Copenhagen, swears vengeance upon Oque, though his advisors refuse to take drastic action. He secretly employs his own assassin, Lucas, to kill Myrlia, the queen of Oque.

Aboard the Hornet, the cast participates in some unlikely (and amusing) interactions... but these are cut short by the assassin's sabotage. The Hornet veers from its course, straight into a mountain on the island of Bolgor. Narrowly escaping the exploding airship, the group is once again separated in the frozen wilderness.

DIVISION TWO: THE UNFORGIVING JOURNEY

 

II-08: Hearts of Ice

Dia awakens in the snow and calls for Nevena, who quickly finds her. The two of them then meet Albert, chief technician of the Hornet, and begin searching for the others. Dexter sits in a tree playing his harp, hoping to attract attention; Grant finds him and hurls a snowball, knocking Dexter to the ground. Morey endlessly prattles, hoping to impress Ira as they trudge down the mountain pass. Eventually, they all come together and fight a frosty dragon, nearly overcome before Lovette comes hurtling down from the sky like a meteor, alight with Fafnir's power.

After the dragon, they enter a town on the shore where all the people are frozen like ice sculptures. It's at this point that they encounter Stuart, who rushes from his jet-powered yacht, the Strider, to meet Victor. He received the Hornet's distress signal and came to rescue Victor, paying little attention to the others. Stuart begrudgingly offers them lodging aboard the Strider at Victor's behest, though cruelly withholds heat from their cabins for the duration of their stay. In bed, Nevena feels someone slip in behind her, holding her and keeping her warm. She is strangely unafraid, and falls asleep in their embrace.

The next day, everyone has a cold except Lai, Nevena, Dia, and Lovette, so Nevena is unsure what to think, and too embarrassed to ask. However, she figures that Lai could easily have healed (or prevented) her own sickness, and Lovette has the Power of Fire to keep her warm. The group meets Eilam, who was made a "swabbie" on the Strider. Lai, Nevena and Dia can sense his Rygu blood and recognize him; Victor persuades Stuart to relieve him of his duties so he can join them. Lai then inquires about the situation in Bolgor, and Victor tells her about the ruins in the snow drifts. She feels as though an Elemental Gate could be located there, and so they depart.

While crossing a bridge in the frozen ruins, a portion crumbles under Eilam and he starts to fall. Dia catches him, but then the bridge crumbles further and she also falls. Holding onto Eilam, she rolls upon landing and ducks into an alcove to avoid the falling debris. While trapped inside, Dia tells Eilam to stay close, and they hold each other to keep from freezing. Eilam innocently quips that she's good at keeping people warm, and Dia blushes, though Eilam has no idea what that's about. They are rescued by the others and go on to meet Hel, Guardian of Ice, who reveals that she froze the people of Bolgor out of revenge for their abuse of her Element. She is defeated, the people are freed from their icy confines, and Lai seals the Gate.

Back at the Strider, Stuart starts the engines and begins sailing for Kelvan, but the Strider's hull is impaled by narwhals, sustaining heavy damage. As an emergency procedure, Stuart steers toward the nearest shore, which happens to be Oque. Lai ponders that they aren't meant to go to Kelvan, as their repeated attempts have been derailed time and again. Frustrated, Victor growls that's just ridiculous...

II-09: Into the Night

Lai meets with Myrlia, the queen of Oque, and inquires about the Gate of Darkness. Myrlia expresses sympathy for the adversity Lai and her friends have encountered, offering them a place to stay in the castle. Victor, Ari, and Ira return to the Strider, while Grant, Aeril, and Dexter find Myrlia's hospitality suspicious and decide to stay outside the town.

Their suspicion was not unfounded. The halls of the castle are haunted by the spirit of Myrlia's mother, known only as the night hag. Nevena again feels someone get into bed with her, thinking she knows who it is... then the night hag reveals herself. Nevena escapes her grasp and runs to find Lai and the others, tripping over the soulless body of Lucas, the assassin who was to kill Myrlia. Lai confronts the night hag, who seems to fear her. Motioning her hand to draw out Lucas' soul, Lai sends it to the afterlife where it belongs. Myrlia is impressed by her spiritual power, confessing that she had intended to sacrifice Lai and her friends as sustenance for her mother. To atone, Myrlia offers her assistance, as well as that of her subordinate, Jin, in penetrating the eternal darkness of the Nocturne Forest to treat with Nyx, the Guardian of Darkness.

In the Nocturne Forest, a vampiric creature called Carmilla stalks Dia, taking control of Nevena to manipulate her. Dia knows something is up, but is caught off-guard when Nevena approaches her. But rather than hurt Dia, Nevena momentarily breaks free from Carmilla's spell and cuts herself, bleeding out the curse that was put on her. Lai heals the wound while the others fend off Carmilla, attracting Nyx's attention in so doing. Myrlia explains the whole ordeal, having built rapport with Nyx, who concedes that closing the Gate is the best course of action, allowing Lai to do so. Dia holds an oblivious Nevena as she wakes up, crying over her. Nevena is confused by this reaction, but says nothing other than Dia's name...

On their way back to Oque, the group witnesses a fleet of Denmirian airships lay waste to the town and castle. Beset with utter shock, Myrlia says their only option is to beseech Emperor Zan, of the western Empire of Halmarath, for aid.

II-10: Like Lightning from Heaven

At Halmarath, Lai and her friends discover that Kevin has been taken captive and is about to be executed for trying to start a revolt. Storm clouds swirl around, and a bolt of lightning strikes Kevin at the fatal moment, empowering his Gigavolt Shockwave. With a great leap, he crushes the electrical apparatus that was to kill him, obliterating the officers who were overseeing his execution in the process. Emperor Zan recognizes Kevin as one favored by Indra, Guardian of Thunder, and spares his life. He then allows the group to meet Indra and negotiate with him as they will.

II-11: Strong in Body, Not in Mind

In Jetzu, the group learns that the winner of a gladiatorial tournament will be given the opportunity to meet Marid, Guardian of Body, and be granted a wish. Lai sees this as the perfect chance to close the Elemental Gate. After some deliberation, they determine that the two who hold the best chance of winning are Kevin and Jin, and they enter the tournament in opposite brackets to double their odds. In the semifinal match, Jin is brutalized by a mystery opponent, unnerving Kevin.

 

His unease intensifies when he learns that this opponent he must face is actually Perpetua. She taunts Kevin during the match, and he seems to be avoiding contact at all costs. But when she finally manages to strike Kevin, he goes berserk. Pinning Perpetua to the ground by her throat, his free fist shakes with rage, but he stops himself and punches a hole in the ground instead. Perpetua forfeits, and Kevin is declared the winner... but rather than celebrate, he sinks into a deep, dark depression. Eilam confronts him, asking what his reaction was all about, but Kevin says nothing.

II-12: They Don't Understand

Arriving in Galacia, the group disperses to investigate, getting caught up in various diversions. Grant remembers his childhood with Dexter in Shiloh. Lovette attends the Galacian Symphony Orchestra with Dexter, spellbound by the beautiful music. Morey snoops around, robbing numerous residential homes and even the castle vault. Dia learns that there is a castle guard named Jove, who may be her father. Observing him from afar, she indeed feels a connection, but cannot muster the courage to approach him. To get it off her mind, she decides to go ice-skating with Nevena and Eilam. But when they do, Eilam falls through the ice and is taken to the ski lodge to warm up.

In the lodge, Eilam is approached by Perpetua. She wishes to keep him company, or so she says... but her seductive manner makes him uncomfortable. The more she talks, however, the more he warms up to her. Eilam gets the impression that Perpetua might not actually be so bad, just misunderstood. But the sight of Perpetua holding Eilam all swaddled up in a blanket certainly comes as a shock to Kevin... "I-It's not what it looks like!" No, really? Eilam, how could you!? He's just another one of Perpetua's victims, as Kevin sees it, and Kevin vows to protect him from her, too. Of course, Perpetua just thinks Kevin is overreacting, and dismisses it.

II-13: Streets of Gold

Having forged an alliance with the Sea Behemoth and Guardian of Water, Neptune, the heroes arrive in the Golden City, Rakhan. Lai requests an audience with the queen to discuss the Gate in the nearby pyramid. The queen sets her eyes on Kevin, and declares that if they will give him to her, to be her husband, she will grant them access to the Gate. Kevin thinks nothing of it, figuring his friends will bail him out somehow. But Perpetua takes serious offense. Why the queen, and not her?

That night, Perpetua sneaks into the queen's harem to retrieve Kevin. He didn't count on her, of all people, being the one... and she takes advantage of his stunned shock, binding and interrogating him. Kevin confesses that he did like Perpetua, but then she changed. Perpetua contends that she just became more secure in who she is, and that Kevin is really the one who changed. At this point, they're caught by the guards, and Kevin's presumed infidelity will be punished with death the next day.

Locked in the guillotines, Kevin promises Perpetua that if they make it out of there alive, he'll be willing to give them a chance. She knows it's an empty promise, turning away in disgust. But when the others learn of their predicament, they cause a ruckus in the royal court, rushing in and releasing Kevin and Perpetua from their bonds. The queen then sends the gargantuan Headsman after them, and they seem powerless before him. Perpetua attempts to disable him by wrapping his wrist with her whip, but he just flings her aside, into a pillar. Then towering over Perpetua, the Headsman raises his axe when Kevin slips in from behind, charging energy in his right index and middle finger before driving them into the Headsman's spine, paralyzing him. The Headsman collapses, and the queen, impressed by their display of cooperation and craftiness in outwitting her (by using Kevin as bait and then freeing him), grants them access to the Gate of the Sun Guardian, Sphinx. Perpetua tells Kevin she's holding him to his word, halfhearted though it may be.

In the pyramid, Nevena trips a trap and falls into a pit of scorpions. To save her, Dia bravely steps in, knee-deep in the lethal creatures. She frees Nevena from her confines and carries her out, then collapses from the effects of the venom, her legs covered with painful wounds. Lai heals her, but Nevena is astonished at the lengths Dia went to help her. Still woozy, Dia just smiles, remembering their ordeal in the Nocturne Forest.

II-14: Cruel Memories

The heroes arrive in Mondale, city of the moon, nestled deep in the forest south of Halmarath. Nevena is paranoid while shopping in the town square, feeling as though a hooded man is following her. Dia inspects the Lunar Altar, remarking that she often feels like the moon with its ever-changing phases; Nevena says it's only natural, and Dia smiles at her fondly. They learn that the Moon Guardian, Kyubi, resides at the lake nearby, and go to meet her. Kyubi challenges Dia to a duel on the surface of the lake, and enchants her steps to walk on the water. Dia is victorious, and Kyubi grants her the Elemental power of the moon. Nevena compliments Dia's smooth movement, her elegant gliding across the water during the duel, and Dia again blushes.

Later, when the others have fallen asleep, Nevena asks Dia if she'd like to stargaze with her, as they hadn't the opportunity to do so since they arrived in the Overworld. Dia eagerly accepts on the surface, but beneath, her soul swirls with turmoil, as she fears she can't conceal her deepening feelings for Nevena any longer. Dia determines to come out, disregarding the potential repercussions due to the Rygu customs and her arranged marriage to Amrit. While stargazing, Nevena senses that Dia is troubled, and asks her what's wrong... but, though pained, Dia can't bring herself to say anything. Nevena assures Dia that she can tell her anything, that they're best friends... and that's exactly the basis for Dia's reservation; she treasures her friendship with Nevena above all else, and wouldn't wish to ruin it for such selfish reasons. So she says nothing, making the excuse that the fight with Kyubi wore her out, and she needs rest. Nevena says she'll go to the lake one last time to look at the reflection of the moon, and Dia retires for the night.

Alone at the lake, Nevena is approached by the hooded man who stalked her in Mondale. Removing his hood, he reveals himself to be her father, Norvin. Seeing his face, Nevena is paralyzed with traumatic shock; though blocked from her conscious mind, her body remembers the abuse, burning as if on fire. Norvin confirms, revealing that Nevena's mother, Naomi, lost interest in him after giving birth to her, and that he murdered Naomi once she discovered the abuse. Nevena is completely overwhelmed. Norvin takes advantage, tackling her and proclaiming that they can finally be together again. Nevena cries in despair, and just then, Kevin rushes out from the brush, knocking Norvin away from her. He pins Norvin to the ground, pointed mask poised to strike. But, trembling with uncertainty, he asks Nevena what he should do... kill her father, the man who ruined her life, or spare him? Nevena hesitates, and Norvin momentarily breaks free of Kevin's grip. Kevin instinctively retaliates as Nevena gnashes her teeth and turns away... wide-eyed, Kevin gazes in disbelief at the blood on his hand. The others arrive on the scene at this point, seeing Nevena's face to the ground, sobbing. Dia feels immense guilt; how much differently could this night have turned out, if only she'd said something?


THE NIRE ARC

An optional diversion, the cast may decide to take a break and stay in the town of Nire for several days, re-evaluating themselves and healing from their recent distress.

 

Episode 1: For the Love of Lai (II-15)

A flashback chapter that recounts how Lai found Nevena, and their early interactions. In the present, Lai and the others reassure Nevena in the wake of her devastating revelation and promise to always be there for her when she needs them... even Morey, as she was always there to provide encouragement and optimism in their darkest hours. Nevena is deeply moved, and Lovette tells her that, as she has finally gained insight into her problems, the healing process can now truly begin.

 

Episode 2: The Grande (II-16)

The group decides to have dinner at the Grande, a five-star restaurant recommended by Victor. Dia takes Nevena shopping for an outfit to wear, and though Nevena is still somewhat numb and unenthused, she verbally makes known her appreciation for Dia's support. They arrive a little later than the others, walking down the red carpet arm-in-arm. Morey snoops around as usual, noticing a table occupied by a group of men in black and even having a run-in with a bodybuilder in the men's bathroom. Perpetua attempts to steal the show by strutting around in leather attire, unnerving Kevin much to Eilam's amusement.

In the middle of dinner, Victor asks Lai to come out to the courtyard with him, and they sit on the edge of a fountain. One of the men in black, Julian, spies on them. Victor tells Lai that she has completely changed his life, that he's no longer the same jaded man he used to be, and proposes to her. Lai's heart sinks as she remembers her obligation to Zavier. Wishing it wasn't so, she refuses, dashing off in tears.

Episode 3: Sincerity's Consequences (II-17)

Eilam approaches Nevena to talk with her, and she asks about his past (covered already, in Eilam's biography). While the two of them walk along and talk, gang members surround them. Unable to take them on herself, Nevena manages to escape and gets Kevin to help, but Eilam is severely beaten and admitted to the hospital.

Episode 4: Amnesiac Neko Koro (II-18)

This chapter's contents are largely covered in Koro's biography.

Episode 5: Nire Noir (II-19)

A multi-faceted, action-packed work, originally written in two parts (build-up, and the main event). As it branches out in many different directions, it would be difficult to encompass in this synopsis... but basically, the heroes get caught up in a gang war, are helped by the men in black who jump down from the tops of buildings to assist them (I was sure to highlight that, as I thought it was awesome when I first wrote it in the summer of 2004), and ultimately save the city. Highlights include Dia jumping across cars zooming up and down the street, Kevin jumping out of a speeding car driven by Perpetua, and Nevena chanting "Watch the tram car, please!" as she chases after one of the thugs on the boardwalk with, you guessed it, a high-speed tram car (later they have a confrontation on a moving roller coaster in an amusement park). Also, Eilam gets out of the hospital. There's so much more, but it won't make any sense out of context. The wind of inspiration really hit me on this one!

Episode 6: Strange Vibes (II-20)

Kevin and Eilam go jogging in the rain, stopping to rest under a pavilion. Recent events have made Eilam curious about Kevin and Perpetua's past, and he asks Kevin about it. Part of this has already been written in Kevin's biography, but Kevin also reveals that, as she got older, Perpetua began to exhibit sadistic behaviors. When Kevin's father died, his mother turned to alcohol and became abusive, so it was nothing less than a traumatic trigger for him. Eilam apologizes for requesting information so personal, but Kevin tells him not to worry.  As they return to the hotel, he begins reminiscing about the time he and Eilam met. Eilam also reflects on what it meant to him, and the two share a heartfelt hug in the rain.

Episode 7: Our Own Little World (II-21)

A sweet side-story focused on Nevena and Dia's friendship (or my affectionate abbreviation, "NevDia"), with the two of them going out and doing things together as friends. I wrote countless such dialogues around this time, and this one just so happened to make the canon. They have dinner at the Grande again, just the two of them, and Nevena presents a new collar to Dia. Acknowledging her affinity for them, Nevena thanks Dia for standing by her during her hardship; Dia can say nothing other than Nevena's name in response.

Afterward, they go stargazing on the hill outside the city, and witness two shooting stars that criss-cross each other's path. These are the twin shooting stars, and they remember seeing them when their friendship began ten years ago. At that time, they wished that they would be best friends forever. It's said no one will ever see more than a single instance of the twin shooting stars in a lifetime, if that; so they take it that their wish will come true.


DIVISION THREE: FURTHER REVELATIONS

 

III-22: Return to the Rygu Kingdom

With most of the Gates sealed, the Rygu return to Esmeralda to report their progress. Eilam finds out that he has a secret admirer when given a letter from her by his father; encouraged by Kevin, he decides to meet the girl, whose name is Cherie. Perpetua discovers that her sister Amita had gone after them when they initially departed, and is still missing. Lai tells Latona about the nightmare she had on the ship departing from Lelindae, asking what it might mean.

 

Latona reveals to her that the underworld prophesied her birth and future battle with its queen, Lilith, and sought to eliminate her preemptively. Led by one called Malacoda, they breached the Second Firmament and killed Lai's parents; but she had already been born and hidden by Latona, as the Prophets told them of the plot beforehand. Rory and Regina knew it was their destiny to die, just as it was Lai's destiny to destroy the queen of the underworld.

 

On the night before Lai's marriage to Zavier, she flees to the Overworld to be with Victor, and the others go after her.

 

III-23: Taking Action

The heroes discover a secret facility deep in the forest of Kelvan where Stuart performs his horrible experiments... the same facility from which Koro escaped. They find out that Amita is being held there, and Perpetua leads the charge to liberate her.

III-24: Infiltration of Kelvan

In search of Lai, the group begins their infiltration of the imperial city of Kelvan, through the sewers. In private, Morey asks how Nevena is holding up, and she seems surprised that he cares. He then reminds her of the incident when they fought Fafnir, clarifying that he, too, has dealt with a lot in his life. Morey then reveals that he was the son of a stockbroker in Myra, with two older sisters. When the stock market crashed and Myra's economy fell into ruin, they lost everything, and Morey's father was murdered on the street by a former shareholder. His mother and sisters were forced to sell themselves in order to survive, and also met with tragic ends. Nevena is speechless, but there's little time for sympathy...

III-25: Motive and Reason

Nevena finds Lai in the imperial fortress, along with Victor who appears to have betrayed them. He had been secretly leaking information pertaining to the locations of the Elemental Gates while traveling with Lai, and says that KSO is currently poised to drill through them and extract all the essence. Lai pleads with him to stop this from happening, but Midgadden and Stuart then appear, gloating that it's already too late. At this point, the fortress disengages from the ground and rises high into the air, with Stuart cackling that they've now got front-row seats to the explosive burst of Elemental Force that will presumably ensue, lighting up the world in a rainbow of colors. Victor expresses remorse for the situation and also resentment for the way he was treated by his grandfather; sheltered, used, deprived of the joys of his childhood in the name of science, and even abused by Stuart... who sends yet another one of his bioengineered terrors after Lai and Nevena: the ferocious Wolverane. Though unable to harm it, they manage to lure it near an open docking bay and dodge as it charges, sending itself hurtling down to the world below.

 

Midgadden reveals that the incidents in Phile and Lelindae were intentional, and but testing grounds for Kelvan's biological warfare. Lai and Nevena are both appalled; Nevena recalls the children of the orphanage in Phile, and Lai could never forget the horrible suffering in Lelindae; how guilty she felt, being unable to save them. Victor asks why, how could his grandfather be driven to do such inhuman things? Midgadden's insanity finally comes to the fore as he recalls his daughter Michelle, Victor's mother... saying that Victor's wretched existence was the ultimate punishment for taking his Michelle away from him. In sheer unbridled rage, Victor completely snaps and shoots Midgadden multiple times, killing him. Lai and Nevena are utterly shocked, and Stuart flees in terror. Victor falls to his knees, screaming, as the airship fortress loses control and crashes on a solitary island.

III-26: A History of Mad Science

Lai and Nevena awaken in the flaming debris of the fortress, pulling themselves together and exploring the abandoned laboratory nearby. Inside, they witness the true horror of Midgadden's insanity: failed clones of his daughter Michelle, calcified within test tubes, in various stages of embryonic and fetal development. Backpedaling, Nevena trips on a computer console, which boots up and displays Midgadden's disturbed ramblings on the monitor. They reveal that, as Midgadden began to lose hope of regaining Michelle, a dark perversion appropriated his consciousness, and he used the sixth iteration of his daughter, codenamed "No. 6," as a vector for the "mutagen" variant of the Shadow Virus, the same that transformed the Biobotanica that Lai and Victor fought so long ago.

Suddenly, they hear a piercing shriek, and a living nightmare emerges from the darkness: No. 6. Lai and Nevena prepare to fight for their lives, when a gunshot rings out and No. 6 is put out of its misery by none other than Victor. Finally, every trace of his warped past is eliminated, and he can die in peace. Putting the gun to his head, Victor declares such, but is stopped by Lai, who grabs his hand with the gun in it. Nevena stands at a distance, having realized she is not, and never was alone in her distress; that many people have endured hell in their life as she has. Lai declares science to be the ultimate evil, but Victor argues that it is rather the greatest power mankind has ever known, and that any power can be used for good or evil.

At this time, the ground quakes, and they realize that KSO has released the Gates. Now nothing is stopping a full-scale invasion from the underworld. Dark energy, having accumulated behind the closed Gates, erupts like geysers from the depths of the Earth, completely destroying the fabric of the Second Firmament above. The Rygu rush to evacuate to the Overworld as the foundation of Esmeralda collapses, and onlookers in the world below declare that the sky is falling. As Lilith's image appears in the air, Lai closes her eyes and invokes the divine energy within her, being radiantly transfigured as she rises to fulfill the prophecy she was born - and will die - to fulfill.

THE AFTERMATH

One of several outcomes for the story, and the only one in which the Sainthood has context. Speaking from a gameplay perspective, throughout the story, the heroes have the opportunity to obtain the powers of all twenty Elements, but only five are actually required by the plot. If the player reaches the normal end of the story with just those five, they will be ushered into the Aftermath of their failure to save the world. They may then seek out the remaining Elements and experience an alternate (and arguably more meaningful) end to the story.

Earth, the Shattered Planet (III-27)

The year is 1333 NCE. On her own, Nevena searches for Lai, who went missing after her climactic clash with Lilith three years ago. Though many thought her to be dead, Nevena believes she must be alive. Tracking in the wilderness, she encounters Wolverane, who apparently survived the fall. Nevena desperately tries to escape its fury, but before long, its damaged cybernetic components explode, incapacitating her.

Reunion (III-28)

Nevena is saved and brought into a settlement of Rygu who escaped the Second Firmament before its collapse, led by Dia. The two are elated to be together again, meeting at night by the spring to discuss what's happened to them in the time since they separated. Nevena curiously observes that some Rygu who left the Second Firmament still possess Rygu bodies; Dia explains that, as the Firmament was collapsing, the process of body transfer was interrupted for some, and they face mass discrimination in the human world. Worse yet, Stuart is alive and well, having made a practice of using captured Rygu as his test subjects for "Neo-KSO" and justifying his behavior by asserting that the Rygu have no officiated rights, nor a place in the human world. Furthermore, he blames them for the catastrophe that occurred as a result of Kelvan's tampering with the Gates, and the general public doesn't know any better. Therefore, no one opposes his "extermination of this extraterrestrial menace," so Dia and the other Rygu live in hiding.

The next day, a mysterious illness breaks out among the settlement. Fearing a resurgence of the Shadow Virus, Nevena and Dia venture into the Lyrican jungle looking for the Panacea Root said to grow there. They camp for the night, recalling the time they did so while journeying to Denmire. Dia expresses how badly she missed Nevena during the three years they were apart, and the two seem to be exchanging glances through the fire that imply the feeling is mutual. The next day, they encounter a huge burrowing beast in the cave with the root, rampaging mindlessly. It seems to be controlled by the same kind of device that KSO had implanted within Ashura. Once disabled, the creature becomes docile and shows its intelligence, introducing itself as the Land Behemoth, Pluto, and thanking them for freeing it from Stuart's grasp.

Returning to the settlement with the panacea, Nevena and Dia are aghast to find the entire village in flames. Survivors claim that Stuart raided the settlement with Neo-KSO, killing many of the Rygu and abducting even more. Their objective now clear, Nevena and Dia set out to end Stuart's reign of terror.

Old Friends (III-29)

In their travels, Nevena and Dia reunite with Eilam and Cherie (now in human form), who are engaged in a relationship. They eat together, and while the girls gab giddily, Eilam is awkwardly silent. Nevena notices, encouraging him to participate in their conversation. Dia further asserts that Eilam is also one of them. Amidst their revelry, the town is attacked by Stuart's mutants, and they are assisted by an unlikely pair: Kevin and Perpetua, working in beautiful synergy like never before. Kevin even seems to have adopted Perpetua's dresscode, much to Eilam's surprise.

After the confrontation, the friends catch up and realize their common goal: to bring down Neo-KSO. Eilam asks Kevin what in the world happened to him, and he recalls his reconciliation to Perpetua. Simultaneously, Perpetua tells Dia about it. During an unlikely meeting, Perpetua insisted that she was Kevin's lady once again, giving him little choice in the matter. When they were about to consummate their union, Kevin shrank back, and Perpetua asked what was his problem. He then revealed to her that he had never actually been with a girl before, and that his persona was merely a facade. To keep up appearances, he would begin relationships with girls, then terminate them before they got too far, making it out to be her fault. Perpetua was appalled that Kevin would play with their hearts like that, but then he explained his past, as he had to Eilam in Nire. Filled with compassion rather than anger, for the first time in her life, even, Perpetua desired to help Kevin overcome his fears.

It comes out that Kevin and Perpetua have attained celebrity status as a popular gladiatorial duo in Jetzu. Putting on their best performance for the others and crossing their arms in victory, a misty-eyed Eilam marvels at how far they've come since their first battle in Jetzu, so long ago...

Renewed Relationships (III-30)

Dia has another opportunity to meet her father, and all her friends encourage it to the uttermost, especially Nevena. She agrees, so long as the others will negotiate it. Nevena approaches and informs Jove that his daughter wants to meet him, and he's also eager to meet her. The next day, they have breakfast together and get to know each other for the very first time. Dia is extremely nervous, having dressed her best (unusually femininely, that is) and hoping to put on a good impression... but Nevena tells her she didn't need to do that, that all she ever needed to be was herself. Dia then confesses to her father that she stretched the truth in some instances, and Jove stresses how proud he is, that Dia never had anything to be ashamed of. He also tells her that, before becoming a Watcher, he had been a bureaucrat who championed social reform. The nobles feared his forward thinking, and shifted his position. Amazed, Dia realizes she inherited his ideals.

Dia also finds out that her mother is alive, and made the transition to human form. Remembering their history, she's even more reluctant to meet her again than she was to meet her father... but Jove pushes for it, promising to back Dia if need be. Dia ends up arguing bitterly with her mother, saying she is who she is, and nothing was ever going to change that. Jove intervenes, bringing calm to the storm, and Latona apologizes for treating Dia so harshly and imposing her strict standards upon her, revealing that she also resented them in her youth. Dia sees her mother in a new light, swearing to abolish this cycle of oppression when the new kingdom is instituted.

A New Tomorrow (III-31)

The heroes discover a secret anti-KSO rebellion comprised of many of their old friends, including Victor and Lovette. With their help, they finally locate Stuart's Neo-KSO headquarters, and together with their unlikely allies, the men in black, they formulate a plan to infiltrate and save their Rygu kin. Julian, who had been following them since Myra, reveals that the men in black are, in fact, disembodied Rygu; a secret order within the Watchers who were appointed by the Prophets to ensure the success of Lai's mission. As Dia sums it up, "A secret society within a secret society... brilliant."

 

While determining the course of action, Victor suddenly winces, clutching his chest, and collapses on the floor. He is rushed to bed and administered shiatsu by Lovette, who diagnoses his failing heart; or, as she defines it, a fatal blockage he has incurred within his heart chakra. But, Lovette says, with the normal release of one's emotions through tears, such a blockage should never occur. Victor then reveals that he has not cried since early childhood, as Stuart is a dacryphile and derived pleasure from torturing him; he therefore swore that he would never give Stuart that depraved satisfaction again. Lovette stresses that it's critical for him to release his long-held emotional energies, even that his life depends on it. Victor is unmoved. Against his will, he is forced to remain at the resistance base while the others carry out their infiltration of KSO.

At KSO, Perpetua is the one to confront Stuart, as she was particularly troubled by Victor's story and seems to hold something against him. But, being the coward he is, Stuart escapes by ejecting himself through a hatch in the ceiling. In mid-air, he turns to his left and sees Victor hunched on the roof of a nearby compound, aiming a bazooka straight at him. With a great shriek, Stuart is blown to bits, Victor staring coldly into the light and heat of the explosion afterward. The others are shocked that he showed up and performed in his condition, but Nevena especially understands the anger and pain he carried all his life as a result of Stuart's abuse. Victor thanks Nevena, and she says he should thank Lai, who saved her. Victor broods, taking out the ring he had proposed to Lai with.

Who I Am (III-32)

With the fall of Neo-KSO, all seems well, and Dia begins constructing a new kingdom for the Rygu with help from the others. But one night, in a dream, she is visited by Lai's spirit, who informs her that Malacoda usurped the throne of the underworld after Lilith's defeat. Having rooted himself in the underworld, he has been channeling the corrupted force of Earth's Soul Gate to the heavens above with intent to trigger a universal collapse. Lai says she will bequeath her divine power to Dia so that she may stop him. Dia asks why her, and not Nevena, as Lai and Nevena shared a deeper connection. Lai profusely apologizes for the circumstances of their lives, saying that, like Dia, she always desired to be closer, but the rigid social structure of the Rygu prevented that from happening. Dia is touched, swearing to create a better future for their race. Lai says she can do that for all the world by assuming responsibility for the Sainthood, and Dia reluctantly accepts.

Before she can truly become a Saint, Dia needs the two associated artifacts: the Seal of the Nightingale and Trumpet of the Wolf. She approaches the Prophets, inquiring of their whereabouts; they tell her about the Temple of the Watchers, inaccessible by land. Victor proposes travel by air, prompting Ari and Ira to collaborate with Albert on a quick fix. They come up with a small airship, but it needs a name... In honor of the Hornet, Nevena suggests that it should be called the Honeybee. "Oh, Nev, that's so you!" Dia thus approves. The rest take to it instantly, and they're off!

At the temple, they learn much about the history of the Rygu people, including the shocking revelation that they originally became space-faring nomads when their own planet met with a tragic demise, not unlike the Earth with its corrupted Elemental Force. Realizing the Rygu essentially "passed on" their failure to the hapless humans by teaching them how to control the Elements when they lacked the discipline to practice restraint in so doing, Dia is angered, questioning why they would repeat the same mistake. Nevena comforts her, saying they can still redeem themselves by saving the human world, despite failing to save their own. They recover the seal and trumpet, returning to Mondale.

What follows is an introspective analysis of Dia as she meditates to purify herself on the Lunar Altar in Mondale, and quite exhaustive. During her meditation, which covers her earliest memories to the present day, she recounts how Nevena was always cheering her on, helping her to cope with her frustrating life. Simultaneously, Nevena is shown lonely without Dia, holding her pillow close at night. Dia struggles to integrate her repressed emotions, such as the pain of growing up without her father, feeling trapped in her arranged union with Amrit, and the fear of rejection or even violent retaliation in remaining closeted about her sexuality. It culminates with her awakening as the Saint of Love and assuming angelic form, trembling as the Entheos energy courses through her veins. The others are in awe of her transformation, and none more so than Nevena, who blushes and smiles warmly.

Dance of the Heavens (III-33)

Before leaving for the final battle, the cast decides to participate in Mondale's Lunar Festival, similar to Leonardo's "house party" near the end of E1 (and its E2 equivalent in the Eldoro Castle party, unreleased at the time of this writing). While getting ready, Nevena looks at herself in the mirror and suddenly begins to feel down... but then she thinks of Dia, and all her other friends who have supported her so lovingly. Smiling with bittersweet fondness, she hurries out to join the festivities.

Moving away from the crowd, Nevena and Dia once again find themselves on the Lunar Altar, the full moon shining high above. They perceive how the stars and moon seem to be locked in a perpetual courtship dance in the night sky, drawing close and following suit. All their concerns seem to slip away in this timeless moment... and as their cosmic choreography comes full circle, Dia reveals a custom-tailored ring she had commissioned for Nevena. Breathless, Nevena accepts it. Dia tells Nevena that she always wants her by her side, that life was never worth living otherwise. Whispering Dia's name, Nevena falls into her arms as shades of night conceal their embrace.

With the dawning of the day, the Prophets combine their power and open a portal to the center of the Earth, where Malacoda is rooted, exhausting all of their energy. Before they pass away, they entrust the future to their acolyte, Enoch (seen in E1). Enoch mourns that the Prophets gave their lives for the future of the Rygu and humans alike, and says they can do no less in their honor. Bravely venturing through the portal, Dia and the others contend with the forces of the underworld on the way to their final confrontation; Delila returns, as does Astaroth. Breaching the barrier of dark energy at the planet's core, Dia assumes Entheos and rises to the heavens to do battle with Malacoda. Sounding her trumpet, she is assisted by Victor, Ari, and Ira in the newly-constructed Hornet Bomber, a battle-ready recreation of the original Hornet that Albert conceived.

To finish Malacoda, Dia is contacted by Lai's spirit and told that she must invoke the Light of Righteousness. Dia is afraid, feeling unworthy of the sacred power and fearing that it may destroy her in the process. Suddenly, she is embraced from behind by Nevena who tells her that, as Dia carried her pain, so Nevena will bear hers. Dia then finds the courage to use the Light of Righteousness, incinerating every fiber of Malacoda's being. With his death, the last of the world's corrupted energy evaporates, and pure Elemental Force begins flowing normally from the Gates once more.

EPILOGUE

Thus, the legend of the Elements was born.
Born of a pure Love, forged from youthful innocence and nurtured by years of friendship.
A Love that persevered through trial and tribulation...
A Love that understood pain and did not turn away, but suffered with it...
A Love that gave birth to the power that would save the world time and time again.
Were it not for this Love, all would have been lost.
And only this Love could have prevailed.

God is Love; a Love that holds the world in place, that binds together the Elements themselves.
He has given His Love freely to all, that life might flourish and overflow abundantly with it.
He does not oppress, but justifies those oppressed and sets the captive free.
Open yourself to the undercurrent of Love that pervades all.
Let it wash over your spirit and cleanse your soul.
For we all bear the potential for Sainthood in our hearts...
Just as we possess a void that only Entheos can fill.

The Light inside you burns brighter than any star in the universe.
Shine that Light - YOUR Light - as a beacon of Hope for all the world to see!
Cast off the blinders of prejudice and hate.
Let the Love flow through you, its Chosen vessel...

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