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The Future is Yours to Decide

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═════════•°• Militia Camp, Torna, Alrest •°•═════════

 

If it were possible to melt into a puddle of goo and bury herself into the soil, Pyra would gladly do so in a heartbeat. 

“You are going to explain yourself as soon as we get to the camp,” Minoth said, tone dry and void of emotion. She winced, tucking some stray hair behind her ear. “I know what I saw. Just who are you? An imposter? An enemy?”

“We aren’t your enemy, Minoth,” She said, trying to mask the panic welling up in her chest.

“Really? I find that hard to believe,” He remarked. Pyra shivered, crossing her arms in front of her body. She had never seen such a cold expression in Minoth’s eyes before. Not unless Amalthus was brought up. 

“I’m sorry,” Mythra murmured. “I didn’t mean to come out like that but…”

“I understand. If our roles were reversed, I would have done the same,” She replied, crossing her arms in front of her body. “Do you have any idea where Rex will end up?”

“I wish I did. But I wouldn’t be able to tell unless I had a map of the sea currents. It’s not like he’s carrying around part of our core crystal anymore,” Mythra said. “I hope Jin will watch over him at the very least. I saw him leap after Rex almost as soon as he fell.”

“Jin? But Lora and Haze weren’t…”

Not that Jin. The flesh eater,” Mythra said. “He’s been trailing us for a while.”

“And you didn’t think to tell me?”  She said, frowning slightly. 

“You were worried about keeping Minoth off our trail. Not that it did much in the end,”  She felt unease pour from Mythra’s side of their bond. “I also don’t think he was the only one who accompanied us here. If Jin’s alive, then there’s only one person who could have prevented Malos from destroying that village.”

Pyra grimaced. “Himself.”

“Exactly. Well, kind of. You know what I mean. Unfortunately, there’s no way for me to verify this. I can’t contact either Malos; there’s something blocking it and it’s not any of us.”

“Well, that answered that question,” Pyra murmured, ignoring Minoth’s questioning stare. She vaguely understood what Mythra was talking about. It was a type of low energy communication, a vestige from the time before they were blades. She nor Mythra had ever felt a need to use it given that Ontos was gone and Malos was… Well. A genocidal maniac.

“We’re here,” Minoth said curtly, bringing her out of her thoughts. “Don’t do anything stupid.”

“We won’t,” She replied, closing her eyes. The dark blade nodded before glancing around, presumably looking for Addam. She took deep breaths, trying to calm her pounding heart. It had been so long since she had last seen him and to meet him again under these circumstances...  If she was feeling this way, then she couldn’t imagine just how Mythra felt.

“Sheesh. What a drag,” Crossette said. “Just who does he think he is?”

“Remember old man Cole? In Fonya Myma?” Nia asked. “I’m almost certain that’s him; same core crystal, same scar over his right eye.”

“Yes. I’m surprised you recognized him,” Pyra said. 

“I’d recognize that ugly mug anywhere,” She said, crossing her arms in front of her body. “Didn’t expect him to be alive now, though.”

“Yes. It’s a miracle he survived so long,” Roc said. “Although, that begs the question; why did he look so old when Jin looked so young?”

“It probably had something to do with the way his body regulated ether. In fact, that’s the only thing it could be,” Nia explained. “And Jin also had the regeneration chamber that Malos and him nabbed from the remains of Judicium; if he hadn’t, I suspect Jin would have been in the same condition.”

“Speaking of which… Are you going to tell them about Jin or...?” Mythra asked.

“No. There’s no point in making them worry. Not when we’re so exposed,” Pyra replied, glancing around the camp, avoiding the people’s curious gazes. “When and if we get some time alone away from the others, maybe. But until then...”

“Who’s that over there?” Crossette asked, peering over Nia’s shoulder. “He looks like Morag’s younger brother.”

“That’s Hugo Ardanach, Emperor of Mor Ardain. His brother is handling matters as regent in the Empire hence why he’s here,” Pyra said, distinct sadness radiating from Mythra. “He’s also one of Addam’s good friends.”

“Wow. I would have mistaken him for Niall if I hadn’t been paying attention,” Nia remarked.

“Likewise,” Roc said. 

“He’s so young…” Mythra murmured. “Almost as young as Niall was.”

“Indeed,” Pyra said. As if he could hear Mythra’s thoughts, Hugo glanced over in their direction. His eyes widened almost comically, surprise painting his face when his gaze focused on them. He pulled Brighid aside to whisper something in her ear before sauntering over to them excitedly. It reminded Pyra of a puppy who had just found out they were getting a new toy.

“Pyra! Nia! What a pleasant surprise,” Hugo said. The cheerfulness in his voice hit Pyra like a ton of bricks.

“Wait. What?” Nia asked, swiping a hand in front of her face. She glared at the Gormotti out of the corner of her eye.

“Hugo. It’s been far too long. How have you been?” Pyra asked, doing her best to stay calm and collected.

“You know these people, Emperor?” Minoth asked as he approached, Addam, Zeke, and Lora in tow. Pyra froze, glancing away from the advancing group, hand resting over her core crystal.

“Of course I do. You could say that they’re good friends of mine,” He said, face blank. “In fact, I haven’t seen them in quite a long time. If you’d follow me into the ship so we could catch up in private?”

“Of course,” Pyra said, giving a polite bow.  

“Now wait a minute here. They just-”

“No worries, Minoth. I will not keep them for long. Zeke, if you would tag along too...” Hugo replied, eye twinkling with a stubbornness that let Minoth know he wouldn’t be convinced otherwise. He watched, a unpleasant taste on his tongue as the group boarded the ship. 

“You know… I don’t ever recall seeing those people ever before,” Addam said, tilting his head slightly to the side.

“...Pardon me. I realize that I am in no place to ask this but… Has Emperor Hugo been acting oddly as of late?” Minoth asked.

“Hugo? He seems perfectly normal to me,” Addam replied, raising an eyebrow. “Why? Is something the matter?”

“... It’s nothing.” He replied, looking away. “Don’t worry about it.”

“Are you sure?” Addam pressed. 

“Yeah,” he said. “I know I said this before but it’s nice to see you again, my prince; it’s been a while. I don’t think you’ve introduced me to your friends officially, however. I’m Minoth. Nice to meet you.”

“Pleased to meet you. I’m Lora and this is Jin and Haze. What’s up with your core crystal?” Lora inquired, sensing the tension starting to build. “I’ve never seen a multicolored one before.”

He sighed. “I’m a flesh eater. A blade that's infused with human cells. It allows me to use my full potential without the need of my driver.”

“Without a driver….? Incredible!” Addam exclaimed, eyes lighting up. “Can you still fight with a driver?”

“Yeah. I can fight with anyone if I so choose,” He replied, sighing again. He couldn’t just barge onto the ship without Hugo’s permission. Not unless he had a death wish. But what could he do then?

“Are you sure nothing’s wrong? I don’t mean to pry but you still look bothered by something,” Haze said, concern etched on her face.

“Those people that I brought into camp? They’re hiding something. I just don’t know what,” he said, giving in. He didn’t want to get more people involved than necessary, especially if he had just brought enemies into Addam’s home. “I just wasn’t expecting Hugo to get their attention and take them away.” 

“Hiding?” Lora questioned. “Are you sure? They seemed perfectly normal to me.”

“I’m almost certain that both Nia and Pyra are flesh eaters too, if not just blades. They also came up with some rather weak lies about their origins,” He explained.

“Maybe they don’t want to explain where they’re from? We are in the middle of a war and they could have lost their home to Malos...” Haze suggested, trailing off. 

“Not to mention that you have a bit of a… headstrong personality. Not everyone is used to that. They may not know how to react to your questions,” Addam mentioned. “Not that there’s anything wrong with you, Minoth.”

“I don’t think that’s what he’s trying to point out, Addam,” Mythra said quietly, eyes downcast. “You feel it too, right?”

“About Pyra? Yeah. She feels a lot like you. Like an Aegis,”  Minoth said. Mythra shook her head. 

“It’s not just that; her energy signature is almost exactly identical to mine. That shouldn’t be possible,” She said, twirling hair around her finger. “I’ve felt her ever since we stepped foot onto Torna. I thought I was just imagining it at first but now that I saw her right in front of me...”

“That’s impossible,” Jin said. “If what you’re saying is true, then that means…”

“Pyra is me. Or a version of me. I’m not exactly sure,” Mythra said. 

“What does that mean, then? I thought it wasn’t possible to have two of any blade, much less two of an Aegis,” Lora asked. “And what about her appearance? She looks nothing like you. And her core crystal, if you can even call it that, is red, not green.”

“It’s most likely an illusion. A disguise. I have a little more control over my appearance than most other blades,” Mythra said. “It would make sense why she would choose to change her looks. A green core would be hard to explain.”

“So what do we do?” Haze asked. “I don’t think we should just rush in with fists raised, so to speak. While the circumstances are a little odd, we can’t just presume their intentions from a glance.”

“Besides, Hugo already took them onto the ship along with Zeke. We can't exactly just walk in and demand answers. Friend or not, he still is the Emperor of Mor Ardain,” Jin pointed out.

“Well. I think we may very well have an opportunity to find out,” Lora said, subtly motioning in the direction of the ship. Brighid was approaching them.

“Minoth.” the blade stated, apprehension settling in her stomach as everyone turned to face her. “Hugo requests your presence: he has a couple of questions that he wishes to ask you.”

“Does he now?” He narrowed his eyes. “Well, I guess I can't deny a direct request from the Emperor. Why don’t you show me the way?”

“Wait for me.” Mythra said, approaching them. “I’m coming.”

“I don’t think you should-” Brighid started only to be interrupted by Addam.

“We’re coming along too. There’s no reason to keep secrets, now is there?” he said, his facial expression sharpening. Brighid sighed, already dreading the ensuing headache she would feel from Lady Morag. Nonetheless, she led them onto the ship, winding towards the back where the Emperor's personal quarters and servant’s bedrooms were located. She knocked on the door next to Hugo’s room. “It’s me. Prince Addam and company decided to accompany me here.”

“Prince Addam…?” Addam murmured, eyebrows furrowing. A deep, heavy sigh followed by frantic whispers could be heard from behind the door. He wasn’t able to pick out the specifics of their conversation but he had no doubt as to what it was about.

“Come in!” Hugo’s voice called after a moment. Brighid opened the door, leading them inside the rather spacious room. Addam’s widened eyes roamed all over the room. Or rather, their inhabitants. The Gormotti girl and one of her blades were sitting at the table in the eastern part, slouched down and looking bored. The tiger blade was sitting at their feet, inquisitive gaze trained on them. Pyra and Hugo were all sitting on the bed in the middle where a tall woman lay, propped up into a sitting position against the headboard. She looked pale and sickly, reminding him of how Mungo had described Zeke when he first arrived. Speaking of the devil, he was standing in the right corner with his blades alongside… another Brighid?

“Is it just me or am I seeing double?” Lora asked, eyes moving back and forth between the two Brighid’s. Minoth could already feel a migraine forming.

“Look. We’re going to make this nice and simple and give you the abbreviated version of what’s going on,” Nia said, glaring at him. “Since you couldn’t resist sticking your noses where it didn’t belong.”

“Abbreviated version? What are you talking about?” Addam asked, frowning. “And I do believe I have the right to know what’s going on in my own homestead.”

“There’s a lot of things that you aren’t aware of. We were going to tell you eventually but we didn’t expect to lose track of my driver like that,” Pyra said, crossing her arms in front of her body. “We weren’t trying to start anything.”

“Indeed,” the figure on the bed said, her thick Ardainian accent leaving no doubt as to where she was from. “Your goal first and foremost from my understanding was to reunite with myself and the others?”

“Yes,” the tiger blade said. “We still have no idea where the nopon and his blades are. And now Master Rex has gone missing.”

“This is all fine and good but can someone please explain what’s going on?” Jin asked, leaning against the wall. “Why are there two Brighids? And, from what Mythra and Minoth said, two of the same Aegis?”

“Yeesh. Have some patience, Mister I almost-” the girl with horns started before the Gormotti flesh eater (?) slapped a hand over her mouth.

“I would definitely like some answers,” Addam said. “Especially from you, Hugo.”

“And you’ll get them, I assure you,” Hugo said. “But please, make yourselves comfortable. This is not going to be a short story.”

“...Was it even worth it to hide our identities? If we were discovered this quickly?” Pyra asked quietly as the rest of the group settled.

“Hiding your identities was the smartest thing you could have done. You couldn’t have known how we would have reacted,” Hugo said, leaning forward. “Now, why don’t we start at the beginning?”

 

═════════•°• :Gormott, Alrest: •°•═════════

 

"It's probably best that we take the ship back to Torna,” Logos said. “It’ll be safer that way. I know Amalthus was able to keep an eye on me because he could track when I teleported.”

“But you aren’t his blade anymore,” Rex pointed out.

“We didn't have a connection at all. Not in any way like what you have with Pyra and Mythra and your other blades,” He replied. “He wasn’t just a charismatic leader; as much as I hate to admit it, he’s also a scientific genius. It’s best to lay low as much as possible.”

“Does that mean you want to avoid going to Torna, then? If anyone recognizes you, that’ll be a disaster and a half.” Rex said. Logos reached over and ruffled the hair on his head.

“I’ll be fine. Don’t worry; This isn’t the first time I’ve had to hide my core crystal and it probably won’t be the last,” he said, summoning a chest piece to hide the purple core. “The majority of people won’t recognize my face. We need to get you back to your blades, first and foremost. We can figure out what to do from then once we have everyone together.”

“When we get back to my other blades, you mean,” Rex said. “And you know they’re not going to be happy about this, right?”

“Heh. I should be the one telling you that,” he said. “I can guarantee they’re all going to be against it. Are you sure you’re ready to deal with that kind of backlash?”  

“It’s not anything I’m not used to,” Rex said, a lingering bitterness curling along the edges of his words. He hummed. Maybe his former adversaries were not as united in their goals as he had once thought.

“Rex, I’ll be fine. Stop worrying,” he said, more harshly than he intended. He winced as a stab of pain emanated from his core crystal. He had always wondered why blades cared so much for their driver’s well being. Now that he felt the consequences his own words dealt firsthand, he understood. “Sorry. I didn’t mean for that to come out so harsh.”

“I know,” Rex replied. The pain subsided slightly but stayed ever present. He had a feeling it would be a little while before his driver completely shrugged it off. “I know that this is not something I can run from; the changes to my salvaging outfit kind of makes that impossible. Not that I would want to if I could.”

“I could get rid of it if you want-”

“Don’t. I like it and I want it to stay. We match this way. Kind of,” Rex said before changing the subject. “How long will it take us to get to the dock?”

“It’s about a ten minute walk, more or less,” he said. “What should our cover story be?”

“Uhh… You’re the driver and I’m your blade?” Rex suggested offhandedly. “Honestly, I am the last person you should be directing that question towards.”

“Geez. It’s a wonder how you managed to get anything done…” he said, shaking his head. “Just leave the story to me and go along with it.”

“I mean, it would have worked if I still had Pyra’s core crystal...” Rex trailed off, yawning. It was strange to see Gormott at this time. The wildlife was the first difference that stuck out; he never would have guessed that Aspars would have once inhabited the open plains. And the landscape itself? He recognized the entrance to Torigoth, Lyta Oasis, and the Waytree but that was about it. They were so much closer to the Cloud Sea, even during high tide on his time's Gormott. He longed to dive beneath the clouds; what types of things would he find here, in this time? He could go without the excessive amounts of hills, though. Despite how young he was, the damage that had been done to his body made him feel like he was in his late twenties. He lurched forward suddenly, barely able to keep himself upright as all the air was punched out of his lungs. He glanced around with confusion, drawing his sword. There were no enemies around. Or people, for that matter. So why did…?

“Rex.” Logos stated, voice rigid and withdrawn. Confused, he followed Logos’ gaze. Nothing out of the ordinary stood out at first. Then, he noticed (or rather, smelt) the acidic, burnt scent of dark ether. He looked further down the plain, spying a familiar head of silver hair and an eerily familiar face.

"How…?" Logos breathed, eyes wide. "That's…"

"Don't question it. Malos first, questions later," Rex said, drawing his sword as he sprinted towards the dark Aegis. He was just fast enough to leap in front of Jin, projecting an ether shield at the last second to block the explosion of darkness from finishing off the flesh eater. The epicenter of the blast exploded on contact, spreading across the surface in a swirling storm of anger. 

“Oh? And who do we have here? Are you the mysterious absent driver of this sorry excuse of an opponent?” Malos roared with laughter, resting the blade of his weapon on his right shoulder. Rex shuddered, feeling nothing but pure animosity roll off of him. “On second thought, no. You wouldn’t be this one’s driver. I have to give you credit, though; you got a lot of balls to be jumping in without a blade of your own.”

“I do have one. A blade, that is,” Rex said, backing up slowly towards the flesh eater. He shivered, ice ether rumbling around him frantically. He needed to buy Jin some time; there would be no way he could protect the flesh eater and help Logos defeat Malos. Not when he was the only driver out of the bunch.

“Oh? And where are they? I don’t see them anywhere,” Malos taunted, dramatically looking around as if to make a point. Rex tugged at his blade’s ether connection, trying to coax him to approach. The bond wouldn’t listen to him; in fact, he felt it try and pull him back and away from the situation. Rex held strong, meeting Malos’ gaze head on. 

“They’re on their way. They’ll be here in no time,” 

“Ha! You’re bluffing,” Malos said, activating the weapon. “Well, it’s too bad then. Guess I’ll have to deal with you and then take out the one kneeling behind you. You’ll be a nice warm-up.”

Rex stood his ground, his eyes burning with trust and confidence even as Malos prepared an attack. Meanwhile, Logos watched the situation with growing horror. He knew redemption would not be easy. He had figured that he could start by stopping his past self. So he had done everything in his power to subdue Malos and take him out of the picture. 

But, much like everything he had ever tried to do, he had failed. And he would be damned if he was going to let another person get hurt because of his failures. Logos cried out, unable to take it any longer, and charged. He flung an orb of ether energy towards his doppleganger. Rex had the foresight to jump back, taking Jin with him, escaping the reaches of the impact. A torrent of dust erupted from the explosion, wind angrily swirling around. He sprinted towards his driver, discomfort settling in his body.

“You... You’re so stupid,” He seethed, gripping his driver’s shoulders like a lifeline. “What were you thinking? Rushing in head first?”

“What are we supposed to do? Leave Jin to fight him alone? Teleport away to Pyra and Mythra only to have him follow? Board the ship only for him to take it down? He’s after us too, if you can’t tell,” Rex spat back, clutching the drip of his sword tightly. Logos snarled, shaking his head.

“He’s only after us because you… Ugh. We’ll talk about this later,” He growled, summoning his sword, offering it to his driver. “Prepare yourself. This won’t be an easy fight. What a first battle together as driver and blade...”

Rex sheathed his own weapon, taking Logos’ Monado for himself. It was big, much bigger than anything he was used to wielding. Which made sense, given that Logos was almost twice his height. Yet it was surprisingly easy to hold, weighted slightly more towards the blade end. He felt their bond unfurl, power radiating throughout his body. The weapon came to life, a purple blade of ether extending off the weapon, his suit lighting up softly. He felt Logos’ emotions; the fear, the protectiveness, the confusion, the anger. He took them into his heart, sending his own feelings of love, confidence, and assuredness back through their bond. When Rex opened his eyes as the dust settled, he felt calm. Like a cat waiting for just the right moment to pounce on their prey. 

“What the...?” Malos yelled, somewhere in front of him. Rex took a deep breath and charged forward. Time seemed to slow down momentarily in a manner that was strangely reminiscent of Mythra’s foresight abilities. He saw Malos attempt to dodge his swing, leaning to the right. He swung in the opposite direction at the last possible moment, catching Malos by surprise as he slashed straight through the armor on his right shoulder. The dark Aegis stumbled back several paces, clutching the injured limb.

“How the fuck did you do that?” He bellowed. Rex ran forward, feigning another swing at Malos’ right shoulder. At the last moment, he threw the sword behind him towards Logos, sliding between Malos’ legs. The dark Aegis barely had time to process the feign before he was sliced right along his spine. Pain erupted belatedly around the injury but Malos ignored it, blindly swiping back at his assailant. He flipped around quickly, intending to strike his opponent on the head and end this little dance before it got out of control. Neither his opponent nor his blade were behind him; even the flesh eater he had tracked down was nowhere to be found. 

“Who the hell are you? Some knock off version of me?” Malos cried into the air, scanning the area. He sprinted forward once he found his targets off in the distance, weapon right in front of him. Logos dodged, tossing his weapon back to his driver. Rex caught it, their ether link flaring to a bright orange color. 

“I’m you but better,” Logos stated simply, doing his best to suppress the nausea settling in his stomach. Seeing the person he used to be right in front of his face was disheartening. And, if he was honest with himself, frightening. Taking advantage of his distraction, Malos attempted to swing at his counterpart. However, the damage to his shoulder affected the trajectory of the strike, the sword merely falling to the side.

“Damn it!” Malos scowled, leaping back a couple of paces. He would have to rethink his strategy. He wasn’t expecting the little shit to be so speedy.

“You know,” Rex gritted out, dodging out of the way when Malos sent several waves of ether towards him. “From how you fought before, I didn’t expect you to be anything close to an evasion tank.”

“You aren’t built like I am,” Logos replied, shielding his driver from a blast of ether. “I had to adjust my strategy to better protect you.” 

A warm feeling swelled in Rex’s heart, his face flushing. “You don’t have to do that, you know.”

“I want to,” Logos said. “Now let’s focus on defeating what’s ahead!”

“Right!” Rex said. “Any advice? Since he’s basically you?”

“Aim for his core crystal. It will give us the opening we need,” Logos stated. “Toppling him wouldn’t be a bad idea.”

“Got it!” Rex said. “Striker Edge!”

“Hey!” Logos called as Malos was pushed backwards. He mumbled out his next statement. “That’s my art…”

“It’s our art now!” Rex called back cheekily, parrying a blow from the dark Aegis. He passed the weapon back to his blade. “You ready?”

“Let’s do this!”  Dark ether churned in the air, rising up violently and knocking any poor soul that wasn’t prepared for it to the ground. Malos landed face first in the dirt. Using that to his advantage, Rex ran forward and launched the dark Aegis into the air. Unfortunately, he righted himself almost immediately, forming a sphere of ether between his hands. Logos’ eyes widened in realization.

“I was hoping to avoid doing this but I can’t let you run around wearing my face,” he cried, sending the orb careening towards the titan. Logos all but flew towards Rex, spreading a giant shield of ether spanning the entire plain. The orb exploded angrily on impact, spreading across the surface. Rex took advantage of the cover it granted him, sprinting towards the spot where the dark Aegis would land. Logos threw the Monado towards his driver; Rex reached behind him without looking and grasped the sword. 

“Damn it, kid. You’re smart. But you’re still no match for me!” Malos cried, swiping broadly with his sword. Rex would have taken a direct hit from it had a blur not raced past him, meeting the Aegis’ strike with his own. 

“Well well well. Looks like you have more spunk than I thought,” he taunted, pushing back against Jin. “Unfortunately for you, that same trick won’t work twice.”

He shoved Jin backwards, the blade flying helplessly behind him. Logos caught him, setting him down. Rex tossed his weapon back to his blade, powerful gusts of wind mixed with dark ether surrounding him. He unleashed another Monado Cyclone, toppling the dark Aegis. Catching Logos’ weapon, he prepared himself to launch Malos into the air. Jin beat him to it, flinging him into the air before slamming him into the ground, a resounding crack echoing around them. Malos didn’t stay down long, though, teleporting away briefly to catch his breath. Rex furrowed his eyebrows, noticing that he had two lines of ether extending from his chest. He traced the new one back to Jin. He sent a questioning glance towards the flesh eater. 

“It’s an ether connection, Rex. I really hope you don’t need me to explain that to you,” Jin said, smirking.

“Oi! You cheeky sod…” Rex murmured. “Was just surprised, is all. You sure you’re okay to fight?”

“Yeah. Let’s do this,”

The last part of the fight, if you could even call it that, was laughable at best. Rex almost felt bad for Malos. Fighting with a cracked core crystal against three opponents who were extremely well versed in how he fought? There was nothing he could do to dodge anything they threw at him. Especially since Rex was doubly more powerful (and nimble) thanks to Jin. It only took a few more good swings from himself and the flesh eater before Malos was kneeling before them, defeated and breathless. Before Rex could open his mouth to say something, Logos drove the sword directly into Malos’ core crystal from behind. A positively grating scream tore out of Malos’ lungs, chilling Rex to the bone. 

“You… Why would you…” he choked out, a couple of lone tears falling down his cheeks. “Why would you go after me and not…?”

The dark Aegis gave a resigned chuckle, the rest of his body dissipating into a cloud of ether, lighting the nighttime plains of Gormott with lavender. Logos stumbled forward, leaning onto his sword for support. Rex blinked away the shock, feeling the constant pulse of anxiety coming from their bond. He hobbled over, his left leg protesting with every movement.

“How… did you do that? Any of that? You used my power,” Logos murmured, placing his hands on his driver’s shoulders. “Even as my driver, you shouldn’t be able to…”

“I did have Pyra’s core crystal lodged in my chest for a long time. Maybe that has something to do with- Hey. Are you alright?” Rex started to explain before grasping one of Logos’ trembling hands. He gazed up, taking note of the dazed look in his eyes and his short, ragged breaths. Realization dawning upon him, Rex pulled Logos down to where they sat cross legged. 

“Logos. Look at me,” He murmured, pulling his blade close. “Name five things you can see.”

“Rex-”

“Trust me.”

“I- Your eyes, the cave off in the distance, Jin, the grass… a ponio,” Logos whispered, shivering violently. Rex rubbed the blade’s knuckles reassuringly. 

“Good. Four things you can feel?”

Logos traced the grooves in his armor, his breaths ragged and abrupt. “Your armor. The… The ground beneath me. The wind blowing across my face.” He touched the exposed skin on his chest. “Your skin beneath my fingers.”

“Three things you can hear.”

“My own breathing. The wind rustling the grass. Your heartbeat.”

“Two things you can smell.”

“Eternity perfume. Nature.”

“One thing you can taste.”

“Ether,” Logos said bitterly, his lip trembling. “Ether.”

“How are you feeling now?” Rex asked.

“...Better,” He admitted, shuddering. “Not perfect, but better.”

Out of the corner of his eyes, Rex noticed Jin approach timidly. Before he could greet him, his attention was diverted away as Logos suddenly pulled him into an embrace, all the air forced out of his lungs. The blade buried his face into his driver’s neck, exhaling. He could feel a damp spot start to form on his shoulder. “Please don’t do that again. I can’t...”

“I won’t,” he promised, hugging back just as fiercely, hearing the unspoken words just as clearly as the spoken ones. He patted the ground next to them in an open invitation, watching the flesh eater sit down out of the corner of his eye. “I won’t, alright? Thank you for trusting me.” 

Rex hauled himself onto Logos’ lap, the pain in his body becoming more apparent as the adrenaline wore off. The position was a little uncomfortable but it was worth it if it calmed his blade down. They stayed embraced for a while, the only sounds around them being their breathing and the gentle rustle of the grass. Logos eventually pulled back, wiping the stray tears out of his eyes. He couldn't bring himself to care about the eventual embarrassment he would feel over blubbering like an idiot.  

"Jin..." Rex trailed off awkwardly, finally addressing the elephant in the room.

"Rex." Jin responded, a small smile on his face. He relaxed, tension seeping out of his muscles immediately. Chuckling, he shook his head fondly.

"I'm glad to see you again. I would ask how you managed to survive but I really can say that stranger things have happened."

“Indeed,” Jin said. “Thank you for that. I’ve been holding him off ever since he appeared in Gormott. You gave Pyra quite the scare.” 

“Huh?”

“I was following you and Nia to Aletta,” Jin said. “I jumped after you when you were blown off the titan, managing to catch you as you fell. Unfortunately, all the land on Torna is too high up so I had to find a titan to get you to, which was Gormott. I passed out once I reached one of the lower areas.”

Logos let out a wolf whistle. “You swam all the way from Torna to here? I’m surprised you were even able to fight.” 

“Oh that’s right! Did you happen to see what knocked me over?”

“I’m not sure. It could have been just wind but nothing about this situation is remotely normal,” Jin said. 

“You can say that again,” Rex murmured. "Thank you. For saving my life."

Jin nodded, glancing around. "Never thought I'd find myself back here.... I still can’t quite believe it.” 

Logos snorted. “Neither did I. I don’t suppose you have any idea how we got here?”

“I do, actually. But we need to find Mythra first,” he replied. "I don't feel like explaining myself twice."

“Which one?” Rex asked. “Although now that I think about it, they’re both probably in Aletta.”

“Both, preferably,” He said, adding his next phrase almost like an afterthought. “I may or may not have met the third Aegis.”

“Ontos? You met Ontos? But isn’t he in a different universe?”

Jin raised an eyebrow. “Are you sure about that?”

Rex groaned, letting his head fall back. “Why do I have a feeling that this entire situation got infinitely more complicated?”

“You don’t know half of it. But this is something that we can discuss in the morning. It’s best that we take a rest for now,” Jin said. Rex attempted to climb out of his blade’s lap but was stopped by the vice grip that was Logos’ arms. 

“Can I just hold you? Please?” 

“What am I, some sort of comfort stuffed animal?” Rex grumbled with no real heat, settling back against the blade’s broad chest. “Careful now. Keep being this comfortable and I’ll be tempted to fall asleep.”

“As if you didn’t sleep in my arms for the better part of a week,” Logos teased. 

“Don’t look at me like that! I was injured and you make a really good pillow. Your body is so… squishy.” Rex said. Jin snorted, shaking his head.

“Squishy huh? That’s a new one…” He said, throwing his head back. “Rest, Rex. You did good out there.”  

Rex nodded and curled up, yawning. Logos ran his hand through his hair, watching intently as his driver’s breathing evened out. Affection curled in his stomach at the peaceful look on Rex’s face. 

“So…” Jin said quietly, eye flickering between him and Rex. 

“Shut up…” he murmured, face flushing a dark purple. “I’m… glad you’re here. All things considered.”

“Me too. I was expecting to be alone in this,” Jin admitted, watching the sun set in the distance. “... Do you know if the others survived?”

“No. And I’m not counting on it,” he said, looking away. “Part of me hopes they’re alive but it’s a long shot.”

“Yeah,” Jin said. He gestured towards Rex. “How exactly did that… happen?”

“He got drugged by Indol, although I don’t think he really noticed,” Logos said. “Took me quite a while to filter it out of his bloodstream, too. As for our bond… it just kinda happened on its own.”

“Drugged?”

“I think it was meant for… Malos. The only thing I know for sure is that it prevented me from establishing an ether link with him immediately,” Logos sighed. “Are you bothered by it?”

“That he’s your driver? No. That’s your choice and your choice alone,” Jin said. “I am bothered by the fact that Indol has their hands on a drug with that power. They shouldn’t even remotely be able to develop something like that. Even Amalthus in the future didn’t have his hands in this particular area of blade science.”

“Who knows? Now that history has been changed, anything’s possible. Especially if Ontos is involved like you said,” Logos said. “I’m sure my efforts to stop certain things from happening have undoubtedly contributed to the chaos as well.”

“Malos…”

“Don’t look at me like that. I’m not going to let Lora die again,” he said, looking away. “...I go by Logos now.”

“I know. It’s going to take a little getting used to,” Jin sighed. “We’re going to have one hell of a mess to explain. Hugo is aware that we’re here; apparently Morag made quite the impression on his bedroom door. Literally.”

“Great,” Logos said, craning his neck to the side. “So would it be safe to assume that Addam and Lora are going to know too? I can’t imagine he would keep something like that from them.”

“Possibly. Like I said, I was trailing Rex and Nia after they ran into Minoth just outside of the desert. He didn’t seem to buy their story and I have no doubt he’s already reported his suspicions to Addam,”  

“Minoth…” Logos trailed off, shaking his head. He glanced down when Rex shifted, stretching his legs out to hang off his body. “That’s going to be a problem. He always liked to poke his nose into business that wasn’t his.”

“It’s more than just that. If Addam doesn’t listen to reason, then we’re going to have trouble moving around without getting caught. And that’s putting it lightly.”

Logos grimaced. He buried his hand in Rex’s hair, running his fingers through the brown mop absentmindedly. “And it’s not like he’ll believe us if we tell him we just killed my past self. Especially if Hugo or any of the others spill about the events of the future.”

“Yeah. I hope you're aware that they’ll target Rex first,” Jin said. “It doesn’t matter how much he fights or argues. They aren’t going to believe him due to his age. What is he, fifteen? Sixteen?”

“I don’t know honestly. That’s one of the reasons I didn’t want him to be my driver at first. He’s been through enough as it is, especially because of me,” He said quietly, looking away. “I’ve seen the scarring on his torso. It’s... I’m honestly surprised he still has feeling in some places.”

“That bad, huh?” Jin questioned, resting his chin on his hands. Logos closed his eyes and nodded, swallowing heavily. 

“He told me that he didn’t know if he would be a good driver for me. That he didn’t know if he was the right person to help me,” He whispered, voice breaking slightly. “Honestly, that’s not the issue here. I don’t think I’m going to be a good blade for him. He’s going to suffer just because he’s associated with me. I’m… I...”

“I wouldn’t worry too much about it,” Jin said, watching as Rex unconsciously pulled Logos’ hand closer to him. “I think you’ll be just fine.”

“I hope you’re right, for once,” He replied, pulling his driver closer to his body. “He’s been put through far too much for someone so young.”

“Do you think he…” Jin started before shaking his head. “Nevermind. It’s nothing.”

“Do you think I what?” Rex murmured, stretching his limbs out. 

“How long have you been awake?” Jin asked. 

“Uhhh… Like two seconds?” Rex replied, words slurred slightly. His eyes fluttered open. “Seriously. What’s on your mind?”

“About earlier… I formed a connection with you to make sure you stayed safe. I don’t think I’m going to be comfortable with having a driver. I don’t mind fighting alongside you but…”

Rex snorted. “I mean, I figured as much. I'd be more surprised if you asked me to be your driver.”

“You’re not bothered by it?”

“Why would I be? I have, what, five blades now between Logos, Pyra, Mythra, Nia, and Roc? That’s enough for me. I’m just glad that I don’t have to face you in battle anymore. You’re insanely powerful,” he said. “Speaking of which, you’ve got to teach me how to do that one art. You know, the one where you do a full driver combo.”

Jin raised an eyebrow. “You think you’re going to be fast enough? It’s not easy.”

“Are you challenging me?” Rex said, grinning. He glanced to the side, face falling slightly.

“What’s wrong, Rex?” Jin asked. Logos moved his arm as his driver sat up, gazing out in the distance.

“Do you feel that?” He asked. “It feels like something big.”

Logos followed his gaze. He had to concentrate a little bit but he could feel it; a massive disturbance in the ether. It had to have been several thousand kilometers away on another titan.

“That feels like Pyra,” Rex said, standing up shakily. 

“I don’t feel anything,” Jin said, blinking.

“Trust me on this. I know what I’m feeling,” Rex said. “I need to get over there. She needs me.”

Logos scoffed. “She can handle herself just fine.”

Rex suppressed the annoyance threatening to bubble up. “That's not what I mean. If she’s releasing her power like that, it means there’s a threat big enough to warrant revealing her identity.”

“Kid, you stick out like a sore thumb. There’s no way you could have stayed hidden for any length of time.” Jin pointed out.

“I know, alright? We’re doing that best we can with the information we have,” Rex said, frustrated. It amazed him how they could go from cordial chatting to tense interactions seemingly in the blink of an eye. He took a deep breath, willing his anger to fade. There were bigger fish to fry. “Can you teleport us there, Logos? From this distance?”

“As long as I can clearly imagine where we need to go, yes. But with how exhausted I am, I can only do it once. We won’t be able to escape if we go there,” Logos said.

“That’s fine. Might as well bite the bullet now,” Rex said. “How does this work, then?”

“Just hold onto me. Are you coming, Jin?” Logos asked. The flesh eater snorted.

“I already told you that I needed to find Mythra,” he replied, looping his arm around Logos’ waist.    

“I’m here for you, alright? Don’t forget what I said to you,” Rex said. Logos cursed inwardly, waving a hand in front of his face. Two seconds his ass. 

“Yeah yeah yeah. Whatever. Let’s go,” He murmured.