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Kocis and Karia flee Sellund Castle with an unconscious Mileena in the aftermath of Ix’s use of Stack Overray to seal himself and Gefion along with the Voidstorm. The growth of Mirrage Crystals caused by Ix’s out-of-control mirristry amplify Ix’s powers in turn, resulting in Kocis growing into an adult form. Mileena and Kocis both realize that Kocis’s continued existence is proof that Ix is still alive, but the rapid spread of the crystals forces them to retreat. With the Heimdallr damaged by crystals and the Salvation Front occupying the harbor, Mileena uses her mirristry powers to create a virtual space for them to escape safely into.
A month later, Kocis and Karia reflect on the state of the world since the Mirrorshift. Shimmeras have been appearing everywhere, despite the lack of Shimmera Glasses. Gareth is still missing, presumably captured by Asgard, the new island that appeared where Odanse used to be. King Demetrius has proclaimed it to be “the revival of the ancient Asgard Empire,” and blamed the Mirrorshift on Mileena.
Meanwhile, in the Asgard capital Hy’Brasail, Mithos is wondering to himself if things have really worked out for the best. Phillip #3, dubbed “Junior”, appears to tell him that Martel has been looking for him, and to remind him to rest and recuperate from the damage to his anima caused by Phantom’s Shadow Beast transformation. Mithos further divided his anima to allow Chester to recover quickly in order to signal Junior so he could stop Phantom. Caius stops by to say that he and Kor are going to investigate the Salvation Front’s movements. After he departs, Mithos observes to Junior that the world is only going to continue growing more chaotic. Though Junior agrees, he says that he can’t leave Mercuria. Mithos says that it probably would have been for the best if they had killed the Nexuses after all, and that it seems that both Phantom and Phillip were being used by Demetrius all along.
Back with the main characters, Kocis catches Mileena attempting to sneak away. Though Mileena claims to be trying to gather information about the current situation for them to make plans, Kocis points out that there’s no reason for her to try to do that by herself. Mileena confesses that she intends to take advantage of the Salvation Front distracting the Asgard Empire in order to sneak into Sellund, where she plans to free Ix from the Mirrage Prison. She wants to save Ix even though destroying the seal would free the Voidstorm as well. Kocis decides to trust Mileena, and insists on accompanying her although he says he doesn’t intend to interfere with her plans.
Their conversation is interrupted by the appearance of a Shimmera, but Veigue, Meredy, Keele, and Jude show up to help them fight. Afterwards, Keele explains that they also went to gather information about the current state of the world, and about the stray Nexuses that Asgard may have collected. Jude says that because he and Yuri have friends who might be in Asgard, they went to ask Karia to help transport them there to investigate. Karia’s behavior made them suspicious, and when questioned by Jade and Leon, she spilled the information that Mileena had left. They decided to split into two groups, one to pursue Mileena and the other to infiltrate Hy’Brasail. Keele suspects that Mileena had been intending to take Ix’s place in the mirrage crystal, and Kocis and the others tell her that Ix sealed himself knowingly to protect Mileena and everyone else, so they should focus on finding a better way to save him rather than wasting his efforts.
Richard appears, saying he will destroy the Mirrist in black and her servants, and sends a Shimmera after them. No matter how many Shimmeras they defeat there seems to be an endless supply. Jude notices a stone Richard is holding glows before more Shimmeras appear; Mileena says that it’s possibly made from mirrage crystal, and that due to the nature of Shimerras, with an object like a Shimmera glass to connect the world and the void it would be easy to summon them. They team up to try to get the stone away from Richard, but are stopped by an older Ix-lookalike, who scolds “Sigurd” (Richard) for going off to act on his own and tells him to meet up with the brigade escorting Illia. The remaining Shimmeras keep the party too preoccupied to pursue.
After the Shimmeras are defeated, everyone wonders about the identity of the mysterious older Ix-lookalike. Although the Ix sealed in Sellund is the third Ix and theoretically the last exoflection, Keele wonders if the man might be an exoflection of a future Ix. Mileena feels that shouldn’t be possible, although Bifrost Mirrists had been doing research into a similar technique. Nonetheless, Mileena believes this couldn’t have been Ix. They decide to keep moving towards Sellund to determine the status of the Ix sealed there. Keele questions Mileena about her earlier understanding of Shimmeras, and she reluctantly admits that she learned more from her shared memories with Gefion. She says that when the Kaleidoscope stripped the anima from living things, it broke them down into particles called animus. The golden grains of the Voidstorm are in fact bundles of animus particles, and Shimmeras are a chimerification of these particles. Kocis says that in a sense, the Shimmeras are therefore made up of the ghosts of the former people and animals of Tir Na Nog. Mileena apologizes again for Gefion’s actions, and the others remind her that she is a separate person from Gefion.
The party arrives at Sellund and sees Ix still sealed inside the crystals. Meredy notices that his hair seems to have grown, which puzzles Keele, who says that the connection with the Void should have suspended life inside the seal. Mileena says the effect isn’t caused by time passing, but rather, that she thinks the Mirrage is reflecting Ixes from both the past and the future superimposed in one place. She wishes she could ask Gareth more about the Bifrost Mirristry techniques, but the group is interrupted by Sync coming to pick a fight.
Marcus shows up to stop Sync and remind him not to forget their objective. Mileena asks to meet with Phil, wanting to know what Phil thinks of Ix’s condition, but Marcus says they have prior engagements and it will have to wait. Jude asks after Alvin, but Marcus says that that “triple spy” has already left, and that he’s working with Zelos as well, before leaving with Sync. Mileena wants to get in touch with Yuri and the others to see if they can find information about Bifrost’s mirristry, so she contacts Karia, who says that Kongwai and some of those who had left with Yuri had returned with a stray Nexus, Ruca. Mileena asks to hear the details.
((to be continued))
Chapter 2 Edit
Ruca wakes up in the Warriors’ Hall in Hy’Brasail, substantially recovered from Phantom’s mirrage array and able to move again. He thinks about how he hasn’t seen Illia since that time, though he believes she was in the Hall as well. Rubia arrives to bring him his meal. Though he asks to be let out, she says she can’t do that, and that all she can tell him about Illia’s condition is that she’s in the Hall as well. Under the guise of feeling his hands to check on him, she manages to slip him a note without the guard noticing. It tells him that because so many soldiers are off pursuing the Salvation Front, the guard is currently weak, and he should take her hostage to escape when she comes back later to pick up his dishes.
When Rubia returns Ruca follows her instructions and grabs her, pretending to hold her hostage to force the guard to release him. Rubia shows him to a storage room where he retrieves his sword, and she tells him that Illia is safe and recovered sooner than he did. However, on the orders of the Four Shadow Generals, she was taken to Sellund for anima-related experiments. Ruca and Illia seem to possess an unknown type of anima, but Rubia says she doesn’t know the details. Ruca asks her to escape with him, but she declines, saying she and Caius have to remain behind for Lukius. She shows him a secret passage and tells him to hurry ahead and save Illia.
On his escape through the passage, Ruca runs into the infiltrating party, including Yuri, Luke, Guy, Cress, Rita, and Senel. Ruca and Senel recognize each other (Arc 1 Ch 14) and Ruca decides to trust them and explain what’s happened and his need to get to Sellund. The party decides to split into two groups, with Yuri, Luke, and Cress continuing their infiltration plan and Senel, Rita, and Guy escorting Ruca back to the entrance to return to Sellund. Mikleo, Sorey, Karol, and Kongwai are waiting at the entrance for the return of Cress and the others. They meet the returning group with Ruca and decide to go back to the hideout to discuss the situation with everyone.
Back at the hideout, Raine, Jade, and Klaus join them for a discussion. Kongwai suggests that Ruca and Illia’s “unknown anima” has to do with their nature as reincarnations. Since Illia was brought along to Sellund, where Mileena and the others currently are, they decide to contact them and attempt to meet up so everyone can rescue Illia together. Raine and Jade agree that whatever Asgard is researching about the unknown anima is likely information they want as well. Karia returns and asks Ruca to explain his situation in more detail to Mileena, and the group sets out for Sellund.
Sorey, Mikleo, Emil, Marta, Karol, Raven, and Kongwai escort Ruca to Sellund. They encounter a Shimmera along the way, and Kongwai is surprised to find that Ruca can still use his Divine Artes. Raven tells them to hide because Asgard soldiers are coming their way, and they see that the soldiers are escorting Illia. Since they haven’t met up with Mileena’s group yet, Mikleo points out that they’re at a numerical disadvantage, but Ratatosk says they can’t lose the opportunity so they charge in anyway.
Ruca and Illia are reuinted, but Kor and Caius step in to recapture them. The Ix-lookalike appears to tell them to stand down. When Caius protests, the man tells him to hurry back for Rubia’s sake, as she’s been imprisoned, and they leave. One of the Asgard soldiers asks “General Naza” what to do about Omega Nexus Subtype 02. Naza says he’s collected the minimum data so to let her go, since they’ve already secured Subtype 03. He and the soldiers depart, leaving everyone wondering about the resemblance between Naza and Ix. Kongwai says that further discussion is meaningless, since none of them knows enough about mirristry, and that they should go ahead and join up with Mileena and the others.
They reunite with Mileena’s group and ask her about Naza. Sorey notes that “Naza” is the name of Tir Na Nog’s god of the sea, and Mileena suggests that it might be a fake name. Regardless, Sorey says that they can be satisfied that they at least know the condition of the “real Ix,” now that they’ve visited Sellund. Illia says she’ll join Mileena’s group, and that if Asgard wanted the reincarnated Nexuses so badly, her and Ruca joining Mileena’s side should mean an easy victory. Ruca agrees to join also, though he says he’s worried about Rubia, as well as the “Subtype 03,” who may be another reincarnation from their world. Mileena says they need to find out more about Mercuria and about what Asgard planned to do with the anima of the reincarnated Nexuses, and in the process hopes to discover something that can help Ix.
Back in Hy’Brasail, Chester stops in to talk to Rubia in prison. He asks her why she set Ruca free, despite understanding how important he was, and wants to know if someone else suggested it or threatened her. He says he doesn’t want to see her locked up, and he'll intercede with Mercuria if she’ll only explain to him. Rubia says she doesn’t need his intervention, and that while she’s grateful to Mercuria, the Living Doll project was a mistake. She demands to know if it’s brought Chester any happiness to see his sister in such a state.
Ludger, Julius, Elle (and Rollo) are out shopping for food when Kor approaches them, asking if they’re friends of Mileena’s. He has a letter for them to pass along to Cress, but when Julius presses him to explain further, he says he doesn’t have time and leaves. Julius suspects the letter might be some kind of trap, so he pursues Kor and leaves Ludger and Elle to take the letter back to the hideout to deliver to Cress.
Back at the hideout, Cress opens the letter, then says to get Mileena right away. However, it turns out that nobody knows where Mileena is, so Raine comes to listen as her standin because she already knows about the situation with Chester. Cress explains to the others that after the Mirrorshift, Chester chose to go back to the Salvation Front to keep an eye on the whereabouts of the Omega Nexuses Phantom captured. According to Chester's letter, more than half of the Salvation Front was absorbed into the Asgard Empire in the wake of the Mirrorshift, and Chester and the rest of the Shadow Generals ended up under the command of the surviving Bifrost Imperial Princess. Chester’s letter includes a map of a route to sneak into Asgard, and the additional instructions that Ludger, Elle, and Julius absolutely should not enter Asgard. Worried that Julius’s pursuit of Kor might lead him into Asgard territory, Ludger decides to hurry after him. Elle wants to accompany him, but when he tells her it would be too dangerous, Milla offers to go along and protect Elle. Lloyd and Colette also decide to come along to help.
Julius follows Kor unnoticed and spots him meeting up with Caius again. Caius confirms that no one noticed Kor slip away, and tells him they’re going to attack the Salvation Front base after this. They leave to join the attack, and Julius considers what to do. Although the Salvation Front is not currently their enemy, he also thinks that Kor and Caius don’t seem like enemies either. While he’s lost in thought, Sync ambushes him but is scolded by Marcus. Julius asks Sync and Marcus if they can really afford to be hanging around while the Asgard Empire is attacking their base, and Marcus says things are proceeding as planned, and what he really wanted was to make a diversion to draw forces away from Hy’Brasail. Their goal is to retrieve a mirrage tech captured by Asgard, who Asgard has ordered to do research on the Great Spirit Chronos. Julius is worried by the mention of Chronos, so he agrees to accompany Marcus to try to free the tech.
Ludger and the others are following the trail Julius left behind when they see smoke. Colette flies to scout ahead, and reports that the Salvation Front and Asgard seem to be fighting. However, Ludger notices that the Salvation Front seems to be retreating deliberately rather than being driven back. They hide as Kor and Caius approach, and overhear Kor saying Richter had noticed the same thing. They wonder whether the Salvation Front’s goal is Illia or Cecily, but decide that they need to inform Naza regardless. While Ludger and the others are trying to decide what this means for Julius’s whereabouts, Phillip appears and tells them that he can answer that for them. Though they initially take him to be Phantom, he introduces himself as the original Phillip, the 103rd Biqe Phillip Reston.
Phillip explains that Julius went with Marcus to Sellund in order to rescue Cecily, the mirrage tech investigating Chronos. Ludger is shocked to hear that Chronos might be in Tir Na Nog as well, but Milla mentions that they’ve encountered other Great Spirits. Phillip resummarizes for those who weren’t present for Efreet’s explanation that Tir Na Nog’s Sun Goddess Dana predicted the destruction of the world, and to prepare for that time she sealed her priestess Yalanda and the Great Spirits in a sleep until then. Yalanda and the Spirits were meant to awaken together, but although Yalanda has not yet awakened, there are signs that the Spirits are. Phillip is uncertain if Chronos has yet awoken or not, but says that Cecily should be able to answer that, and that she’s been brought to Sellund to investigate the anima of the Omega Nexus Subtype. Since the Empire is likely to use either the ruins of the Kaleidoscope or the chiral crystal refinery for their research, Marcus has gone ahead to the Kaleidoscope and Julius to the refinery. Phillip tells them to head towards the refinery if they want to meet up with Julius and asks them to help Cecily if they encounter her.
The team rejoins Julius at the refinery, and Julius tells them the Asgard army recently brought a young girl into the facility, but he’s uncertain if she’s the mirrage tech they’re looking for. He also says that he saw a man who looked like Ix leading the Asgard forces, and that the physical resemblance was so strong that if Tir Na Nog were a fractured dimension, he would have believed the man was a divergence catalyst. They decide to head in to investigate further, but are interrupted by a bang before and Richard and a young girl exit from the back of the refinery. Richard seems to be hurt and the girl is supporting him. An Asgard soldier pursues, telling them that they’ll be punished for desertion. Milla takes care of the soldier and everyone hurries to help the two of them.
The girl insists that she’s fine, but Richard is in bad shape, and faints. Colette says she could carry Richard back but is worried about separating from the others, so Lloyd and Milla go to make sure they’re not being followed so everyone has time to rest. The girl introduces herself as Cecily and thanks them for their help. Ludger begins to ask her about Chronos, but Richard regains consciousness. Richard recognizes Elle as an Omega Nexus and the Key of Kresnik and grabs her. He summons another Shimmera horde to stop them from pursuing. Marcus and Sync show up and tell them that they’ll handle things, and to hurry after Elle.
Elle is struggling with Richard, but something comes over him and he collapses again. Elle suspects him of trying to trick her, but before she can escape, Mithos arrives. He says that it’s dangerous for her to be there alone and he’ll escort her somewhere safe, but she tells him that Richard needs the help more than her. Mithos puts her to sleep for the time being, then turns his attention to Richard, saying that “Sigurd” has caused him some trouble. The others arrive in pursuit of Elle and Lloyd is surprised to see Mithos again. He asks him about what he’s doing, but Mithos says he isn’t interested in telling him. Milla tells Lloyd that even though Mithos is his acquaintance, she’s going to keep her promise to protect Elle, so she has to fight him. Mithos unceremoniously defeats them, so Cecily gives Ludger a mirrage containing Chronos’s power that she says someone of the Kresnik lineage should be able to use. As Mithos is threatening Cecily, Ludger activates the Chromatus.
Ludger keeps Mithos occupied long enough for Elle to recover, and Mithos accepts the outcome, saying they can take Elle and he’ll retrieve Sigurd. He notes that Ludger’s power doesn’t work well on him, because it and the Eternal Sword are both time-powers, and says that this was what drew Demetrius’s interest to Chronos’ power. Lloyd asks Mithos why he would tell them this but Mithos is dismissive and leaves with Sigurd. Ludger notices that the mirrage Cecily gave him broke, and Cecily explains that the power of Mithos’s sword was what did it, and that the mirrage was only a prototype. She confirms that Chronos has woken from the seal already, and as a result of the spirits sharing their consciousnesses from the multiple worlds, the effect of Chronos’s power allows Ludger to use his Chromatus. Julius asks Cecily to confirm that the Chromatus in this world doesn’t have a negative effect the user, or come at a “price”. Cecily says that due to Elle being an Omega Nexus, the time distortion energy is absorbed from Elle’s body into the void surrounding the world. Ludger is troubled by this discussion, but Julius tells him that things are different from their world, and they can discuss it later. Phillip arrives, relieved that Cecily has been rescued safely, and asks her if she will lend her support to Mileena and the nexuses.
Everyone heads back to the hideout. Cecily explains that she is Gareth’s disciple who was captured by Asgard while researching the mirristry of the Bifrost Empire, which Asgard was also in search of. Mileena returns, and they catch her up on the situation. She says that Overray is Bifrost mirristry, and Cecily explains the technology as temporary exoflection of the potential past and future that draws out the user’s latent potential. Mileena believes some of the nexuses may have powers that were limited by the Encode, and that an Overray Mirrage might be able to unleash those powers. Lloyd wants to try out an overray as well but Cecily says that he’ll have to discover the catalyst for unlocking the power of his particular anima. Mileena begins asking Cecily about Phillip, but Karia interrupts to say that Cress and the others are returning. They’ve brought Chester and Ami with them, and on seeing Cecily, Chester demands she take a look at Ami. Cecily attempts to check up on Ami, and when Ami is unresponsive to her questions Chester explains to the group that since Ami’s exoflection, all she’s been able to do is smile vacantly.
((to be continued))
Phillip, Marcus, and Sync have regrouped after the battle with the Shimmeras (Chapter 3) and Marcus scolds Sync for attacking Mileena (Chapter 1). Sync reminds Marcus that he only joined the Salvation Front in the first place because Marcus had promised him he could kill Mirrists, and that he holds Mileena accountable for Gefion’s plan as well. Phil says that if Sync wants to blame anyone, Sync can kill him when things are all resolved, but to get back on task for the time being. The Salvation Front wants to retrieve Gareth to get the Heimdallr running again. However, when they had made contact with Gareth before, he refused to leave Asgard because he was worried about Cecily. With Cecily rescued they believe he’ll cooperate with them now.
Zelos joins the group and Phil asks him about Alvin and Shirley. Zelos says they’re now at the Salvation Front hideout, and he thinks Alvin is a fine bodyguard for Shirley. Sync asks if it’s really alright to take their eyes off that traitor, but Zelos says that he thinks Alvin feels guilty, and it should be no problem. He also says that he feels uneasy with Shirley and believes she’s hiding something. Phil teases him for it being unlike him to avoid a woman, and Zelos says that it’s just that they don’t know much about Shirley, asking if she isn’t a Nexus or a "stranger", but rather a Living Doll. Phil expresses uncertainty, but changes the subject and asks Zelos to accompany Sync to Hy’Brasail to retrieve Gareth. He says they should meet up with Zelos, who is currently in Asgard gathering information on Demetrius.
Back with the infiltrating party of Luke, Yuri, and Cress, the three of them speculate on what Asgard is intending to do with all of the stray Nexuses they’ve been gathering. It seems as though Asgard might be collecting Nexuses in search of Omega Nexuses, although they don’t know for what purpose. They also discuss why Chester’s letter warned Ludger and the others not to come to Asgard, and wonder if there might be something different about their anima in particular. When they reach the entrance Chester had marked for them on his map they find it sealed, possibly because of Ruca’s escape, and are spotted by Asgard soldiers.
Kratos comes to their aid, and though they are initially suspicious, Kratos introduces himself and Luke recognizes him as Lloyd’s father. Kratos says he is a mercenary whose employer has him investigating Asgard’s self-styled emperor Demetrius. He explains that although the Asgard Empire had been destroyed long ago and the imperial line died out, because the memories and emotions of the exoflected populace of Tir Na Nog are vague, the people are very impressionable. Phantom, too, might have manipulated their memories during his final round of exoflections; as a result, only a month after the Mirrorshift roughly 90% of the world is already under the control of the Asgard Empire. Kratos had been suspicious of Demetrius’s activities and has been watching him closely. He says that Demetrius has been collecting the prophecies of Dana, which relate to how Mirrages and Mirrites would bring about the destruction of the world. Kratos is investigating how reliable the prophecies might be, and what Demetrius intends to do with the information. He gives the group directions to another entrance to the Warriors’ Hall and parts ways with them.
Meanwhile, Zelos and Sync have also entered Hy’Brasail. Sync says that the Warriors’ Hall that they are looking for should be in a highly secure position, as it was a repurposed Imperial villa. Though Zelos is surprised that anything would be repurposed already, since Asgard has only existed for a month, he observes that the city does not look new at all. Sync says that he heard from Phil that Odanse was the capital of Asgard in ancient times. From the worn state of the streets and buildings, it seems that Hy’Brasail has been exoflected from the past, although there should be a limit on how far back an exoflection could be taken from. They suggest that Phantom managed to use the Kaleidoscope to create a mirrage arte that was a fusion of both creation and imagination mirristry, using it to exoflect his own vision of Hy’Brasail. The discussion is interrupted by Asgard soldiers looking for Ruca, who mention returning to the priestess’s troops after reporting in about his escape. Realizing that the guard around the Warriors’ Hall will be tighter because of this, Zelos and Sync decide to sneak into the priestess’s troops and infiltrate that way. They also mention that Asgard seems to be intending to use a Nexus as a priestess to be a vessel for the Goddess Dana.
The two of them easily sneak into the Shrine of Dana. Zelos is surprised that Asgard doesn’t seem to have increased the guard after they rescued Shirley, and Sync suggests that that means they have no shortage of substitute vessels. They hide as a priest approaches, and overhear that the latest possession ceremony has failed. Kratos joins them once the priest departs and says he wants to rescue Kohaku, the intended vessel, because she should have information about Demetrius’s actions. Sync says that Kratos and Zelos should carry Kohaku out while he takes her place in the casket to enter the Warriors’ Hall and retrieve Gareth. Kratos says that some of Mileena’s companions had infiltrated as well and he can use them as a diversion. Kratos and Zelos say they’ll rejoin Sync once Kohaku is out of danger, and depart.
Once inside the Warriors’ Hall, Luke and the others run into Sync. Though Luke is apprehensive, Sync says their goals are compatible, since they’re looking for Chester and he’s looking for someone familiar with the Warriors’ Hall to help him find Gareth. They team up with Sync and find Chester, who is with Ami. After they ask about Ami’s vacant state, Sync says that she must be a failure of the Living Doll Project, arranged by Princess Mercuria of Bifrost. The Living Doll Project is intended to place a soul into a different body by injecting anima into a body that has lost its own, causing a chimerification. Cress asks if this means that Ami has lost her anima, but Sync says that that isn’t the case, and that’s what caused her to break and end up in such a condition. Chester hopes that a Nexus might have knowledge that can help Ami and wants to bring her back to Mileena’s base with the others. Sync says they should go and he’ll head to the prison to free the Omega Nexuses, since he needs to retrieve Gareth anyway. Before they part ways Yuri asks Sync and Chester what they know about Flynn. Sync says that Flynn is the Knight Commandant and Demetrius’s aide, and should be somewhere else currently. Chester says he’ll explain more later and they separate.
Sync heads to the prison, where he meets Gareth and tells him that Cecily has been rescued, offering over her spare glasses as proof. Rubia, also in prison, asks Sync to help the Omega Nexuses, but says she has reasons of her own to stay behind. Gareth and Sync hurry to the cell with the Omega Nexuses, where Regal tells them that Karyl has already been taken away, and Rowen has become weak and fallen unconscious. He asks them to help Rowen but says he intends to stay because the Living Doll Project is planning to use Alicia, and he absolutely won’t allow that to happen. Sync and Gareth leave, carrying Rowen. As they escape they are blocked by Dist, who had come to hear about the outcome of Kohaku’s possession ceremony. Zelos and Kratos return to fly Gareth and Rowen away, and Sync bickers with Dist before fighting his robot and leaving.
Phillip, Sync, Marcus, and Alvin reconvene on the Heimdallr and discuss what to do next. Alvin says he’d like to rejoin Jude and the others, and Marcus says that when Zelos and Kratos return from their investigation of Asgard he wants to send them to Mileena’s group as well. Phillip asks Sync to continue working with the Salvation Front, and Sync asks what their plans are. Phillip says that their purpose is unchanged, and they intend to revive and protect Tir Na Nog. Although the exoflection of the world is completed the Voidstorm remains a problem, and he’s also worried about Demetrius’s plans. Sync confirms again that Phillip will let him kill him when everything is over, and so agrees to join. Shirley joins them on the bridge and says that Kohaku and Rowen are settled and still unconscious. Phillip says Rowen might take some time to recover but that his life is in no danger, and he has plans to help Kohaku regain consciousness. Sync asks what their plans are afterwards, and Phillip says he is concerned about Demetrius gathering Dana’s prophecies and wants to focus on that situation, leaving Mileena and her group to figure out more about the Living Doll Project. Whether or not the prophecies of Dana are accurate, it is true that Aifreed sealed the Great Spirits. Given that, Phillip also expects that the Priestess of Dana should still be sealed in a sleep somewhere. With that as their focus, the Revived Salvation Front departs in the repaired Heimdallr.
((to be continued))
Mileena gathers everyone for a meeting to discuss the current situation. Raine recaps the background: the world is on the brink of disaster because of the Voidstorm, which Gefion attempted to seal in her body with her Human Kaleidoscope plan. Though it failed, Ix instead deliberately caused his power to go out of control, creating an outbreak of Mirrage Crystals that sealed himself, Gefion, and the Voidstorm inside. This event, which was afterwards called the Mirrorshift, caused considerable damage and upheaval and was accompanied by earthquakes. Under the guise of providing relief to the damaged world, the revived Asgard Empire has been seizing control. Keele summarizes the research that Keele Labs has been doing on the Mirrage Crystals, saying that all the crystal growths are connected underground, and theoretically are also linked to the stone containing Ix. Because the crystal is still spreading, it means that Ix’s anima is still being consumed. If nothing is done his anima might be exhausted. However, in suspended animation inside the crystal, even if drained of anima Ix should not die. The crystal is both prison and protective shield, giving them time to find a definitive solution, as well as allowing Kocis to move freely anywhere in the world.
Raine moves on to discuss the current Asgard situation. King Demetrius of Sellund has declared himself the Emperor of the revived Asgard Empire, an empire that existed more than 1200 years ago. Raine speculates that his motive is to revive the Bifrost Empire. In ancient times both Bifrost and Sellund were under the control of the Asgard Empire. Sorey adds that they may want to make use of customs or ceremonies that were passed down in the Asgard Empire in particular, and says that they’ve heard from Zelos about Demetrius’s attempts to use the possession ceremony to call the Sun Goddess Dana into the body of a priestess. Though the records he has from the Asgard period make no mention of the possession ceremony, there are many references to priestesses receiving an oracle, and this might be the reason for their interest in the Asgard Empire. Mileena says that Phillip is also investigating the situation, and they should wait for more information from him.
Aside from the Salvation Front, the rest of the world is now under Asgard’s control. With Phantom’s death Phillip and Marcus reclaimed the Salvation Front, but with so many of the members having defected to Asgard their power is weakened. Raine adds that Alvin from the Salvation Front has joined Mileena and the others, and Mileena introduces all the new members (Rose, Dezel, Anise, Celsius, Hubert, Pascal, Pasca, Kana, and Rody) to the group. The Salvation Front has additional Nexuses as well, including Rowen, who is still unconscious, Zelos, Kratos, Sync, Kohaku--and, although she is not a Nexus, Shirley. Senel is startled by the mention of Shirley and asks Alvin for more information, uncertain if she is the person he knows. While they are discussing that, Raine moves the general conversation on to the topic of the Living Doll Project, asking Cress to bring Chester in.
Chester introduces the Living Doll Project, saying it was the work of the Bifrost Imperial Princess Mercuria. Mercuria is a survivor of the mirrage wars who was brought to Sellund as a prisoner after Bifrost’s defeat. Demetrius raised her as her foster father, and she became acquainted with the Salvation Front through Phantom. Unaware that she was a Bifrost Princess, she was accepted as a young noble girl who was a member of the anti-Gefion faction. It was with Mercuria’s help that Chester found his way into the castle during the Mirrorshift, and Mercuria aided Phillip in order to remove Phantom. Afterwards, Mercuria and her guardian Demetrius began talking about reviving Bifrost, and half the Salvation Front defected to her side as her guards. The remainder, with Phillip and Marcus, are in conflict with the empire. Jude asks if Phillip’s opposition to the empire is due to the Living Doll Project, but Chester is uncertain. He says that all he knows is that the purpose of the Living Doll Project is to put a different soul in a body that has lost its anima, but says he doesn’t know the reason. Jade adds that Ami is now resting, although they don’t yet have a way to heal her.
Julius recaps the situation as the group having three main problems to tackle. Firstly, Ix’s runaway Overray and the Voidstorm. Secondly, the Living Doll Project and treating Ami. Thirdly, the Asgard Empire and their plans. The group decides to divide up to deal with the various situations. Rose and Karol are assigned to information gathering, and Rose says the members of their information gathering group will be herself, Dezel, and Brave Vesperia. Keele Labs is assigned to investigating methods to rescue Ix. Combat members of the group are assigned to find and rescue stray Nexuses. Julius, Mileena, Ruca, Illia, Ludger, and Elle are to avoid independent action. As the talk concludes, Mileena asks to speak to Raine and Jade about Naza.
Karol calls the first meeting of the his information gathering group, with Leon and Lloyd joining the discussion. They decide to start their research on something focused and concrete, so they want to look into the subject of the Omega Nexuses Zelos had reported were captive in the empire, Karyl and Regal. They ask Lloyd and Leon for more information on each of them. Lloyd says that Regal stayed behind to prevent Alicia being revived in the Living Doll Project, and that Regal is a strong, gentle, handcuffed person. Asked about Karyl, Leon says that he sings songs. Prodded further, he says that Karyl is a calm person with strong leadership ability and a heavy past. A woman he loved was killed, and Karyl eventually avenged her. Lloyd notes that the two of them have in common that they lost someone important to them, and Rose adds that Karyl may also want to prevent the woman he cared about from being used in the Living Doll Project. Dezel advises them to be cautious, and Raven agrees, although he says that there are also Nexuses on Asgard’s side who have helped them before (Caius, Kor, and Rubia). Yuri says that there are those whose objectives are unknown, and Raven mentions Flynn. In light of all that, Yuri proposes another infiltration of Hy’Brasail to get more information, and Rose volunteers her merchant connections to help get them in. Karol says that Rita is busy with Keele Labs research, and Estelle is helping the other healers try to find a cure for Ami, so they decide to ask some others to accompany them. Before they depart Cecily hurries in, apologizing for missing the meeting and giving them the new type of mirrages she’s just been developing.
The information gathering group, now including Laphicet, Luke, Guy, and Velvet, departs for Hy’Brasail. Though Karol had just asked Guy and Velvet to accompany them, Luke came along with Guy, and Phi joined Velvet when he heard about the mirrages Cecily had given them. Cecily had explained that the new mirrages should be able to draw out the powers that Nexuses lost in the Encode process, like Rose’s Armatization. If the Nexus encounters a catalyst, the mirrage should be able to manifest the power from their world in a suitable form, and they will be able to use Overray even though they aren’t mirrists. Though Velvet and Yuri initially wonder if Phi was hoping to use the new mirrage himself, they soon realize that he actually came along because he was worried about Velvet and the possibility that manifesting her powers from her original world might cause her to experience the effects of the malevolence. The conversation is interrupted when Karol thinks he spots Emil and calls out to him. Confused why Emil would have followed them in secret, the party tries to chase him. They hear people approaching and are forced to hide. It turns out to be Dist and a priest, who are discussing the rituals. Dist is saying they have no other options because he has no more Nexuses suitable to be a vessel, while the priest is worried that Richter will oppose them. They decide to proceed with their plan anyway and move along. Wondering what they just saw, the group gives up on searching for Emil and heads into Hy’Brasail.
When they arrive in Hy’Brasail, Luke and Guy are surprised to find that Rose’s letter of reference was to a merchant named Astor who they recognize from Chesedonia. Though they know him, Astor isn’t a Nexus, and has no memory of them personally. Astor introduces them to his bodyguard, Hilda. He asks her about the condition of the market, and she says that since many merchants have been detained by the conflict between the Salvation Front and Asgard, they’re petitioning Flynn to secure them safe passage. Yuri asks Hilda to tell him what she knows about Flynn. She says it isn’t much, only common rumors among merchants and soldiers; that he’s the Knight Commandant, who despite his rank deals honestly and kindly with the people. He aided the reconstruction efforts and helped calm the chaos of the empire and restore order. Also, according to the soldiers, he’s very close to General Naza, and the two of them work closely. Hilda asks Astor if they’re going to make their delivery to Rosemallow Villa as planned. On hearing that Rosemallow is the imperial villa where Mercuria stays, Yuri asks Hilda to bring them along on the delivery, and Astor agrees and instructs her to help them.
Hilda sneaks the party in disguised as merchant workers. She gets them to a warehouse directly across from the inner building of the villa, and then makes a distraction so the group can sneak in, spilling her tarot cards and getting the soldiers to help her gather them again. The last card she picks up is the Moon, upright. Meanwhile the group makes their way into the villa, but is forced to hide when Richter and another soldier approach. Richter is upset that the soldiers still haven’t managed to find Aster and instruct them to use more people, including the knights deployed at the Kaleidoscope. The group quickly realizes that he can’t mean the destroyed Kaleidoscope in Sellund, and conclude that the villa must instead have a Kaleidoscope of its own. They believe it to be Phantom’s revised prototype which he mentioned in his final battle with him. Determined to find out more, they go to capture the soldier to get information out of him.
Back with Mileena’s group, she gathers Jade and Raine to talk about Naza. She says that it was troubling her how much he looked like the older Ix, so she decided to trace through Gefion’s memories to see what she could find. The original Ix protected the original Mileena, Gefion, from the Bifrost soldiers and was killed. He was 22 at the time, and looked strikingly similar to General Naza. He also injured his right arm in that final fight, and Mileena says she believes Naza’s right arm has a prosthetic hand. Rather than Naza being an exoflection of a future Ix, they begin to suspect that he was instead the original Ix himself, and that Bifrost recovered his body at the time. Mileena says Gefion’s memories of Ix’s death are vague, but that she seems to recall Ix’s body dissolving into golden grains of light, just like from the Kaleidoscope. However, the Kaleidoscope hadn’t been invented at that time, so it should have been impossible. Raine wonders if the psychological trauma of Gefion’s guilt over all the people she killed caused her memories to become confused, but for the time being they agree to consider the possibility that Naza is the dead original Ix.
Cecily appears looking for Mileena and gets drawn into the discussion as well. She agrees that it would have been possible to preserve Ix’s body, and that she’d heard that Bifrost’s original intention in attacking Odanse was to seize mirristry techniques from them. Raine suggests that possibly Bifrost recovered Ix’s body in order to study it for mirristry purposes, and Cecily says that if it is indeed Ix’s body, that would make him the first subject of the Living Doll Project. Raine asks Cecily to tell them more about Mercuria. Cecily says that Mercuria is very innocent, but because of that innocence, she can also be cruel. She also loves mirristry; all members of the Bifrost imperial family are mirrists. Calculating from the end of the war, Jade speculates that Mercuria must be about 12 or 13 years old, and Cecily agrees. Jade believes this means that Demetrius is definitely the one steering Mercuria’s actions. Mileena says that even though Mercuria came to live in Sellund Castle following the end of the war and she should have encountered her as Gefion, she can’t remember her at all, and Raine suggests that they need to investigate further about Gefion’s memories.
Meanwhile, Yuri’s group has successfully threatened the location of the research laboratory out of the unfortunate soldier. Before they can start looking around for the Kaleidoscope, Repede suddenly becomes alert, and they hide as Naza and Flynn approach. Naza is saying that it will be difficult to revive all of Bifrost’s people even if they increase the scale of the Living Doll Project. Flynn(?) agrees that he’s worried as well, and that while Lambda and Richard had given him useful insight, it was difficult to find animus particles like Lambda’s. He adds that it’s only by using “this Nexus’s body” that he’s able to gather animus particles. Naza mentions his own “already dead” body, and Flynn(?) begins to say something about the anima of body he has, before Yuri blows their cover and charges in. Yuri asks what they’re planning to do by possessing Flynn, but decides he’ll just knock the possession out of Flynn’s body by force and attacks. When their blades cross, the special mirrage that Cecily had given Yuri begins to shine, and Naza yells for “Baldr” to get back. A giant shimmera appears and the group is forced to fight it instead.
Yuri activates his overray in the battle, and Naza recognizes the mirrage type that Cecily had given them. Yuri demands one more time for them to return Flynn’s body, but Baldr insists that he needs Flynn’s anima in order to protect Princess Mercuria and Prince Woden. Naza snaps at him not to use that name and that Prince Woden is already dead. Raven tries to bait them for more information, but soldiers appear as a distraction and Naza and Baldr get away, leaving behind another Shimmera to cover their escape. Yuri charges ahead of the group, trying to fight his way through in time to catch Naza and Baldr, and Guy and then Karol scold him for it. Yuri calms down enough to wait for the others and discuss what’s happening. Guy and Raven are troubled by the plans to revive Bifrost with the Living Doll Project, and Yuri says that they need to capture Baldr and bring him back to the hideout to find a way to help Flynn.
They encounter Mithos as they’re following Naza and Baldr, and ask him to tell them which way they’d gone. Mithos says that they’re in a place Yuri and the others can’t reach and not to bother, and is about to go on his way when Dist appears. He threatens to tell Mercuria that Mithos was willing to overlook the intruders and wonders what kind of punishment Mithos’s sister might receive for this, so Mithos attacks the party after all. However, he doesn’t put up much of a fight, and afterwards uses Distortion Blade on Dist for speaking of Martel. Yuri asks if Mithos is really trying to help revive the Bifrost Empire after all. Mithos says he has no interest in it, but also that he has no intention of interfering for the time being. He leaves, and Yuri decides that they should head back. Based on Mithos’s clues and Naza mentioning “closing the gate” before he fled, he believes that Naza is using the same sort of extradimensional space that their own hideout is based in. They believe the new Kaleidoscope may also be inside the same space. They decide to head back to share this information with Mileena and the others, and update them about Yuri’s overray as well.
Back at the base, Mileena asks Cecily what she’d originally been looking for Mileena to discuss. Cecily says that she believes she may have come up with a solution to fix Ami.
((to be continued))
Kratos has infiltrated a Spirit Research Facility near Hy'Brasail's Rosemallow Villa, where Demetrius, Junior, and Richter are discussing research progress. Junior says that Omega Nexus Subtype 03, Spada, has traces of his past life as a weapon remaining in his anima. Richter says that Spada's past life may have been similar to Leon's sword Chaltier. They're therefore considering exoflecting an expert in the subject from Leon's world. Demetrius asks for Richter and Aster's report on the spirits, and Richter says that he'll present it himself since he had no intention of bringing Aster along. According to the literature Richter and Aster have found, Dana's priestess and Origin together guard the place Aifread sealed the spirits. However, Richter isn't sure if that location would have survived the Voidstorm. Demetrius says that if the place of the seal had been destroyed then the world would already have been consumed by the Void as well. Hasta says that he had found an "Empty Maxwell," but the meeting is interrupted by an Asgard soldier rushing in to say that Mithos is wreaking havoc at Dist's laboratory and that Dist and Kor have been injured. Hasta wants to go, but because Demetrius wants to hear more about Maxwell, he sends Richter to deal with Mithos. Kratos decides to follow Richter.
Meanwhile, Zelos, Marcus, and Sync wonder why Kratos is late meeting up with them. Phillip joins them and mentions that Rowen has stabilized considerably and should be waking up soon. Kohaku, though, is still in bad shape. He says her symptoms resemble a condition that sometimes affects mirrists, and that "her heart is missing"; the core that links her anima and her animus is absent. Marcus explains that Mirrists use their mirrage to reflect a portion of their hearts when they exoflect, as with the mirrites. However, Phillip says Kohaku is lacking that part. Without that core, her anima and her animus--or, her soul and her memories--have been separated. Marcus speculates that erasing her from her body was a necessary first step in the plan to use her as a vessel for the goddess. Zelos says the situation reminds him of Colette and Martel, and Sync suggests that it might have been Mithos's idea in the first place. He says they should hurry to meet up with Kratos, as he's realized that the next vessel for the goddess is likely to be Martel. Phantom had exoflected Martel from a point in time where she was alive. However, Phillip says that Bifrost's Purification Glass mirrages (the overray mirrages, from Chapters 3 and 5) have the capacity to call forth past and future possibilities engraved in a person's anima. Because Martel's soul and body had become separated in the future, they would also be easier to separate in the Nexus Martel, making her an ideal vessel. Zelos and Sync hurry to give the news to Kratos. The group arrives at the laboratory, where Caius is trying to convince Mithos to calm down. Kratos intervenes to stop Mithos from attacking Caius. Mithos eventually relents and asks Kratos to heal Kor, saying that the six of them should head to a more remote place nearby so they can talk. A soldier wearing Richter's armband had arrived at the laboratory while they were talking, but they escape before a confrontation occurs.
After the group retreats to a hill outside, Kor demands that Mithos apologize for earlier. This sets off another argument which Kratos interrupts by asking for explanations. Kor says he was asked by Aster to check in on Dist, and when he and Caius arrived, Mithos was attacking Dist. Mithos says this was because Dist had abducted Martel. Sync mocks him for taking so long to realize that Martel would be an ideal possession candidate, and Kor asks why Martel would be involved at all, since he believed the possession ceremony was a cure for Kohaku. Mithos explains that Kor has been tricked, and Kratos says that Kohaku is now with the Salvation Front, although she's lost her heart. Dist escaped with one of his robots while Caius was arguing with Mithos, so Kratos says he'll have the Salvation Front look for Dist's whereabouts. He asks Kor to explain how Kohaku had lost her heart in the first place. Kor says that they had been trying to help Richard, using their Soma to Spiria Link in order to fight the xerom-like creature inside him. Something went wrong and Kohaku collapsed. At that time Mercuria intervened and told Kor she would help him restore Kohaku's Spiria. With the realization that he was used, Kor says he has no reason to stay with Asgard. Kratos asks him to consider remaining behind as a spy. Caius says he can't help them outright because of Rubia and Lukius, but he'll support Kor. Kor wants more time to consider. Kratos agrees and says that since Caius and Kor seem to be in Asgard against their will, he'll lend them what help he can as well. Mithos also says he'll accept their cooperation in searching for Martel.
Back with Mileena's group, Cecily is explaining her plan for helping Ami to Rita and Keele. She mentions the Heart Core Loss phenomenon as well, and Mileena says that it's a condition that can occur to mirrists if their use of a mirrage drains too much energy from their heart. Cecily adds that while the Heart Core Loss generally only affects a part of the mirrist's heart, it can result in a loss of emotion. Jude wonders if Ami's constant smile is a result of her losing all other emotion, and Cecily agrees. As a mirrage tech looking into someone's heart is beyond her, but Mileena should be able to do so with mirristry. Mileena says that she understands the principle but that the technique is too advanced for her and they need Phil. Although Phil could confirm Ami's symptoms, Cecily believes they need the Soma to actually heal Ami. Chester remembers hearing about Soma from Kor and says he'll go bring back Kor. He asks Mileena to get in touch with the Salvation Front, since Senel must also be worried about Shirley. Kocis and Mileena say that they have no way to contact the Salvation Front, since the mirrage crystals covering the world interfere with the long-range signal. Rita and Pascal are working on the problem but haven't yet solved it. Just then, Karia arrives to say that Phil has gotten in contact with them.
At the Salvation Front, Marcus asks Shirley who she really is. Even though Phil and Gareth had been unable to make their long-range communication work, she easily solved the problem. "Shirley" says that although she'd like to explain, she has some uninvited guests, and she's a little busy at the moment. Shirley collapses and a woman appears beside her, apologizing for having borrowed Shirley's body for a time. She says as repayment she's healed Shirley's Heart Core Loss condition. She introduces herself as the Yaw Bique before vanishing. Phil says that from that title she must be Biqe Yalanda Odanse, the first mirrist. She is the priestess of Dana who should be the catalyst for the spirits to awaken. They wonder if her awakening is a sign of the impending end of the world. Then Shirley wakes up, confused, and asks them if they're from Seylund. Kratos wonders if that means that she was exoflected and her heart core tampered with before the Mirrorshift. Phil says he'll explain the situation, and tells her that her friend has been looking for her.
The Salvation Front group, minus Phil, goes to meet up with Mileena's group, and Zelos complains about Phil's cowardice in avoiding her. Mileena, Senel, and the others arrive, and Marcus hands Shirley over to them. Kratos and Lloyd have a brief reunion, and Kratos asks them to entrust Ami to the Salvation Front so Phil can look at her condition. Chester and Cress say they'll go with Ami. Cecily is urged forward to greet Gareth, who apologizes for her being held captive by Asgard. She addresses him as "teacher", surprising him, and hands over her plans for using the Soma to treat Ami for him to look over. Marcus says he'll let them know by mirrage communication how things go with Ami, and the groups go their separate ways.
Back on the Heimdallr, Marcus asks Gareth how Cecily's plan looks. Gareth agrees that if Kor's Soma works like Cecily outlined it should be able to heal Ami. However, he wonders why Cecily is so familiar with mirristry techniques, and Bifrost's in particular. Marcus asks if that isn't what Gareth taught her himself, but Gareth says that despite being his student Cecily is also young, and he'd only taught her ordinary fundamentals. The level of her research surprises him. Phil joins them on the bridge and says that he's confirmed Ami's diagnosis and that he might be able to treat her with his mirristry, but to err on the side of caution he'll wait for Chester to return.
Chester, Sync, Zelos, and Kratos have infiltrated Hy'Brasail again to retrieve Kor. They ask Astor for help and he entrusts them to Hilda, who is familiar with Kor. Hilda asks them to explain first why they want to meet him. After they tell her about the situation, she says she has a message from Aster to Mithos about where Martel was taken. She wants them to pass it along to him and agrees to guide them into Hy'Brasail Castle where Kor currently is. She leaves them waiting in a room but returns with Caius instead of Kor. Caius explains that Mercuria had summoned them because she was angry about the Mithos incident, but Kor had started arguing with her about Kohaku and hasn't returned yet. Chester is panicked that without Kor they won't be able to help Ami, but Caius says that Hilda had explained the situation to him and he brought them Kohaku's Soma to borrow. He then asks them if they were serious before when they offered their help, because he's worried about Rubia. Hilda says that she's been looking into where Rubia is being held captive, but she's still narrowing down her leads. Kratos gives Caius a mirrage and tells him to contact them if he needs. Caius thanks them and says they should hurry and leave, since Naza and Sigurd were coming to the castle soon. Kratos asks Caius where they can find Mithos and Caius says that Mithos has a shelter in a nearby forest that he had prepared to hide Martel in. He marks it on a map for Kratos and the others, and Sync and Kratos go to find Mithos while Zelos takes Chester back to the Heimdallr with Kohaku's Soma to see to Ami.
Following Caius's map, they find Mithos's shelter in the woods. They tell him that they learned from Aster that Martel is at the Tidal Temple. Mithos recognizes the place, and says that it's a temple connected to Mercuria's villa. Kratos says that he and Sync will accompany Mithos to investigate. He asks Mithos about all the old books he's collected at his hideout, and Mithos says that he's been doing investigation into spirits. Although he doesn't care about Demetrius's plan, he's concerned that a spirit version of Martel might exist in Tir Na Nog. Kratos doesn't understand, but Mithos declines to explain further. The three of them head out to the Tidal Temple and leave Noishe behind to wait for Mithos.
At the Tidal Temple, "Sigurd" intercepts them. Mithos calls him Richard, but Sigurd corrects him, saying "Richard" is the name of the owner of the body and he is "Sigurd." He says that since Mithos had been trying to transfer spirits into a different body in his original world they should get along. Mithos ignores him and asks where Martel is. A child's voice interrupts them, asking if Mithos can hear her, and Mithos identifies the voice as Mercuria. Mercuria tells him not to disappoint her, but Mithos is angry at her for getting Martel wrapped up in her plan. Mercuria tells Sigurd to explain. He says that the project is Demetrius's ambition, and when everything is over the goddess will be returned elsewhere. Mithos says that the possession project and the Living Doll project are the same, and he won't forgive them for erasing Martel's heart. However, Sigurd says that Martel's heart core wasn't damaged, but was materialized intact. However, if Mithos continues to oppose them, Mercuria will destroy Martel's heart core. Sigurd says he'll let Mithos see for himself, but asks for proof that he has no intention of betraying them, so Mithos attacks Kratos and Sync.
They manage to injure Mithos but his wounds heal rapidly, and Kratos tells Sync that unless they destroy the Cruxis Crystal Mithos will recover. Zelos interrupts with a Divine Impale and brings Marcus with him. Mercuria complains about the interference but says that Mithos seems to have fought properly, unlike Dist's report. Satisfied, she asks Junior to return with Mithos and tells Sigurd to withdraw. Sigurd vanishes. Mithos asks Kratos if he can believe in him, and Kratos promises that this time he'll save Martel and Mithos both. Junior asks Marcus to pass on a message to Phil to "go to the place of our beginning." Marcus asks Kratos and Zelos to finally officially join the Salvation Front, as they keep coming into full conflict with Asgard anyway, and he needs someone else who can give orders since he can't be far from Phil. They both agree. They receive a transmission from Phil, who is trying to say something about Ami, but the communication is interrupted by a garbled transmission that sounds like Ix. The voice says, "Dark... cold... the void is getting closer," before vanishing again. The group is bewildered, but Phil's message cuts back in and he tells them Ami regained consciousness.
((to be continued))
Mileena, Jade, Cecily, and the Mirrites are discussing the next steps in healing Ami, observing that with Kohaku in the care of the Salvation Front Kor should be willing to help them. Jade then asks Cecily about the virtual mirror realm containing the second Kaleidoscope that Karol and the others had discovered on their infiltration into Hy'Brasail (Ch 5). He notes that their own hideout required both Mileena and Karia to construct and maintain, and that the mirristry technique to create it was one Mileena learned from Gefion's memories. Therefore, it implies that the Empire has a Gefion-class mirrist on their side. Cecily says she isn't sure; since Naza is Mercuria's older brother, Prince Woden, Woden is certainly a mirrist. However, she believes that he shouldn't be able to use his original power with Ix's dead body, and Mercuria shouldn't be capable of creating a virtual realm of her own yet. Mileena believes she and Phil are the only two people who currently have that power, although she adds that if the woman who helped Shirley actually was the Biqe, a feat like that would be easy for her. Jade says he has two possible candidates that he believes could have created the mirror realm in question, but because he isn't familiar with the Empire he needed to rule out other possibilities. Cecily says that what she knows is that Mercuria had approached her suddenly asking her to revive the Bifrost mirristry techniques. Jade believes this means that Mercuria likely doesn't know mirrists other than Cecily. Mileena is surprised, pointing out that Cecily is a tech and not a mirrist, and Jade says he misspoke. Just then a communication from Marcus interrupts. He says that Phil needs Mileena's help and asks them to rendezvous with the Heimdallr on a remote snowy mountain. Jade tells Cecily to go with them, saying that if Ami's condition is a result of a failed attempt to make her a Living Doll, Cecily's information could help not just Ami but the others in her situation. Mileena asks him what he knows but he declines to elaborate, reminding Mileena of the way she had kept her identity as Gefion from the others and saying Cecily can confess for herself when she's ready.
At the Heimdallr, Mileena and the others meet up with Phil. Phil says that Ami has finally snapped out of her emotionless state, but now she's crying instead and he can't figure out the cause. Because he's worried that her condition might be dangerous he wants to go ahead and treat her with mirristry rather than waiting for Chester to return with the Soma. He intends to project Ami's heart core using a mirristry technique and have Mileena anchor it. Then he can perform some delicate repairs to the wounded part of Ami's heart core. Mint and Cress remain on standby as support, and Julius asks to talk to Cecily and Gareth outside. Gareth asks Cecily where she learned so much about mirristry and mirrages, and Cecily apologizes, admitting that she is in fact a Living Doll and not Cecily at all. She explains that a Living Doll is a chimera created by removing the heart core and installing an artificial heart core instead, trapping animus particles that were drifting in the Void. She is one of the dead Bifrost citizens who is currently borrowing Cecily's body. Gareth is worried about Cecily's safety, but not-Cecily says that she believes Cecily's heart core must be safe since her body would not continue to function if the heart core were destroyed. She then introduces herself as an Imperial Mirrist of Bifrost, Sidonie, and apologizes for not telling Gareth before. She explains to the others that she and Gareth had been engaged to be married. Gareth's parents were merchants who had another home in Bifrost that was near Sidonie's. When the mirrage wars started, their relationship caused her to be suspected of spying and she was sent to the front lines. Gareth was serving as a volunteer soldier for Sellund and encountered Sidonie there by chance. He lost his arm trying to protect her, but failed, and Gefion took him in afterwards. Sidonie's animus particles were scattered by the Kaleidoscope, and the next thing she was aware of was being made into a Living Doll by Mercuria. Ludger asks her about the process of the dead soul being summoned into the body, but the conversation is interrupted by Chester's loud return. Zelos deposits Chester and then borrows Marcus to go reinforce Kratos and Sync (Ch 6). Sidonie says the Soma that Chester brought back should be useful to the treatment Phil is attempting, and they return to Ami's bedside.
Phil explains to Chester that Ami's heart seems to be searching for him and Cress. Although Phantom had exoflected her from before the destruction of Toltus, he used Chester's heart to align the Kaleidoscope. Because the memory of his village's destruction lingered so strongly in Chester's mind, it was easy to align to. As a result Ami was exoflected experiencing that sense of fear of an incident she couldn't remember or understand herself. Mileena tells Chester to wake Ami from her nightmare through the mirror. Chester tries to call Ami back, promising to protect her this time. The Soma begins to glow in reaction and Sidonie suggests giving it to Kohaku. When the Soma touches Kohaku it shines more brightly, and Mileena observes that its energy is amplifying their mirristry. Phil says that the Soma exhibits a power like exoflection, and with it reinforcing them, they succeed in restoring Ami's heart and she wakes up at last.
Meanwhile, Mercuria is complaining to Baldr about Mithos's misbehavior. She doesn't understand why he's angry when she's just doing the same thing with vessels and possession that Mithos had been in his original world. Nonetheless, she intends to go meet him. Baldr thinks about how twisted she's become, and an unseen voice answers that there's something he can do. Baldr agrees.
Back on the Heimdallr, Chester and Cress are catching Ami up on the current situation and what happened to Toltus. Phillip tries to contact Kratos to update him, but the transmission is interrupted by the appearance of a staticky Ix (Ch 6). The group hears Ix say that he needs to seal the crack to the Kaleidoscope, but that the power is steadily diffusing. Phil proposes that it was Ix's diffused power spread throughout the world that was interfering with the mirrage communication before, and that when Yalanda forcibly pierced through that interference, Ix became able to reach them through the communication. Mileena realizes that that means it's now theoretically possible for Kocis to speak to Ix. Kocis tries reaching out to Ix, Kohaku's Soma begins glowing again, and a piercing pain goes through Kocis's left eye before he collapses.
When Kocis comes to, Mileena explains to him that he is now in the realm of his and Ix's heart, and that she is a projection created by his mind. The connection he and Ix share means they can meet in this place. After wandering for a little while he encounters Ix. Though he initially isn't certain whether Ix is another construct of his own mind, Ix's worrying about how to prove his identity convinces Kocis that this really is the Ix he knows. He catches Ix up on the present condition of the outside world. Ix says that he hasn't yet figured out a way to permanently hold back the Voidstorm, and that there's just too many things he doesn't know. Kocis volunteers to track down information for him, and Ix seems to have an idea. He asks Kocis to come meet him at the broken Kaleidoscope. He begins saying something about the Soma but Kocis regains consciousness and loses the connection before Ix can finish his thought. Kocis tells the others that he's spoken to Ix and that he needs to head to Sellund.
Back in Hy'Brasail, Mercuria welcomes Mithos back and says she's pleased that he's not as insubordinate as Dist reported. Dist is apparently in a coma after his fight with Mithos. Mercuria asks Mithos why he's so displeased with her, saying that after her father has heard Dana's words, she'll return Martel to Mithos. Mithos tells her not to treat Martel as an object, and Mercuria replies that if he keeps being stubborn, he'll end up like Kor and Rubia. She reminds him that they're both people who just want to create a place for themselves and that their goals align. She then asks if he wants to come with her to check on Lambda. Mithos asks if she's meeting Lukius, and she says she already invited Caius, but he seemed reluctant. She doesn't understand Caius's unhappiness with what's been done to Lukius, since as long as Lukius is alive there's no issue. Mithos declines her invitation but meets Caius shortly afterwards. Caius is upset about Lukius still, but tells Mithos that if Mithos needs the help, he'll go with Mercuria to see Lukius and provide a distraction. Mithos says there's no point, since he doesn't know where Martel is anyway, but Caius says he has word from Hilda and Aster about Martel's possible location. Mithos decides to go and Caius says he'll contact Kratos for him.
Lloyd accompanies Mileena and Kocis to the site of the broken Kaleidoscope where they unexpectedly meet Mithos. Lloyd asks him why he's there and launches into a heroic redemption argument with him, which is then interrupted by Naza's appearance. He's unsurprised by Mithos's betrayal and attacks the group, saying he'll complete his father's failed work and destroy all Sellund mirrists and mirrites. They fight, but as Mithos is about to attack Naza, Mercuria teleports in with Baldr. Ix warns Kocis to be careful, and that Gefion says Mercuria is dangerous. Mercuria gets angry at Mithos for betraying her again and teleports away with the other Asgard people. Realizing that Mithos can't return to the Empire and at Ix’s prompting, Kocis asks Mithos to come back with them and tell them about the situation. Though Mithos refuses to join them, he does agree to come to the hideout to talk. Raine calls them to say that the Salvation Front contacted them and Mileena should return quickly.
Mileena rejoins the group after talking to the Salvation Front about the research they were conducting on the Soma. She explained the situation to Raine and left her talking with Mithos. Mileena can sympathize with Mithos’ choices because of Gefion, and Lloyd says he wants to believe in the possibility presented by this world. Raine joins them and asks them if they're seen Mithos. Apparently he slipped out when she left him briefly. Ix tells Kocis that he sees Mithos with Karia and a monster deep in the woods, and Lloyd decides to go after them.
As previewed in the Mithos event, Lloyd finds Mithos in the woods and talks to him about his choices. Mithos challenges Lloyd to fight him, and after Lloyd wins, agrees to cooperate with him because he believes Lloyd can defeat Mercuria. A muffled voice interrupts them and Mithos remembers that he hasn't un-gagged Karia yet. Karia scolds them both and complains about Lloyd not worrying about her, but he says that Ix had said she was safe. When Mithos asks about this Lloyd explains that Ix Can see anywhere in the world the mirrage crystals reach. Mithos asks them to use this to find Martel's body. He had heard that she was in Sellund Castle, but when he arrived all he found was her heart core. He warns them that if he can't find Martel's body he's going to betray the group, although Lloyd points out that such an upfront admission is hardly a betrayal. Lloyd adds that if Martel's body is hidden out of sight of the crystals Ix won't be able to help, but Mithos believes that becaue of the boost the mirrage crystals give mirristry and the fact that a body begins degrading if its heart core is removed for too long, Martel's body must be somewhere nearby within the range of the crystals.
The Phantasia and Symphonia casts accompany Kocis and Mithos to the mirrage crystal refinery where Ix says he saw Martel. As they approach, Ix warns Kocis to be careful because Naza is there. Kocis is worried that he had returned with Mercuria, but Ix says that only Martel and Naza are around. They hurry in to confront Naza and Kocis demands that he return Martel. Naza refuses, saying that he has no reason to, and that it will be troublesome if Martel lives. He says that they seem to be under the misapprehension that his purpose is the same as Demetrius, and that he has no intention of supporting a king of Sellund. When Kocis asks if Naza's goal is the revival of Bifrost he denies it, calling the revival Mercuria's foolish nonsense and saying that if Demetrius believes in it he's a fool too. Although Naza has been playing along with them, he says if they break the Cradle of Dana he'll become their enemy. Before the group can get answers from him he aims an attack at Martel and they jump in to protect her.
Though they succeed in pushing Naza back, they can't seem to stop him. Naza says that the dullness of physical pain is one of the positive points of a corpse body. Ix passes Kocis another message from Gefion, telling Kocis that his eye is connected to Ix, and if he joins their anima he can unleash a forbidden technique. Kocis's anima has a reaction to the words. In order to protect everyone he activates the power and hits Naza with his overray attack. Mint and Raine hurry to heal Kocis afterwards. Mithos steps in to finish Naza off before Naza can attack the weakened Kocis, and Naza turns his attack on Mithos instead. Martel cries out a warning to him and jumps in to protect him, to Mithos's shock. He had believed she couldn't move because had her heart core, but Naza laughs at him and tells him that the heart core he stole actually belongs to the previous vessel. Martel apologizes for leaving Mithos alone once again and says goodbye.
((to be continued))
Zelos, Kratos, Sync, and Marcus are heading to the Kaleidoscope after hearing the garbled transmission from Ix at the end of Chapter 6. Zelos is a little disappointed to miss Ami and Chester's reunion but agrees they can't ignore the situation. On their way they get a mirrage message from Caius. He tells them that he'd received new information that Martel was in Sellund (which he told to Mithos in Ch. 7). He explains that he heard Martel had her heart core removed, and he believes it's being kept in the underground vault near the Kaleidoscope. He also says that Hilda and Aster felt the information was not necessarily reliable and might be a trap. Caius calls Mithos his first friend in Tir Na Nog and asks Kratos and the others to help him, saying that he's going to buy Mithos a little more time. Kratos tells him to contact them if he needs help and thanks him for calling Mithos a friend.
Kratos is troubled about the implications of the information from Caius, feeling that something about the situation doesn't line up. He doesn't understand why Mithos agreed to help Mercuria in the first place. Given Mithos's personality, it suggests Mercuria must have somehow won his sympathy. The type of person Mithos would feel compassion for and the type of person who would set a trap for him seem incongruous. This suggests two possibilities to Kratos: either Mercuria is a masterful manipulator who had played Mithos all along, or else she was being manipulated by a third party. However, if she were being manipulated, the question then becomes what the third party's motive would be. Unsettled, Kratos wonders if perhaps the goal of the trap wasn't Mithos, but Martel all along. The group decides not to join up with Mileena and the others and instead to proceed independently.
Caius joins Mercuria on her visit to Lukius hoping to provide a distraction for Mithos. Mercuria is pleased and praises his concern for his brother. She says that the Living Doll Project exists due to Caius, Lukius, Mithos, Richard and Lambda. Though she knows Caius is troubled by Lukius's treatment, she says that it's necessary in order to contain Lambda. She plans to prepare the body that Lambda wants, but her father is opposed to unleashing Lambda, so for now Lukius needs to remain asleep. She says that once everything is finished Lukius and Caius can live peacefully together. Caius asks after Rubia, trying to excuse Rubia's actions by explaining that she is just impulsive but that she really was thinking of Mercuria as well. Baldr wonders if Rubia's headstrong nature might cause them more problems, but Mercuria says that Richter has assured her Rubia is securely contained in his spirit research lab. When she realizes she's given away Rubia's location to Caius, she scolds Baldr for saying too much.
An Asgard soldier hurries up with an urgent report. Worried for Mithos, Caius tries to urge Mercuria to go on ahead to Lukius with him. She agrees, but when the soldier announces that he has news about Mithos, changes her mind. On hearing that Mithos has gone to Sellund she says that he has taken her brother's bait. She explains to Caius that she had not yet removed Martel's heart core, but hurries off to deal with Mithos before telling Caius more (Ch 7). Baldr tells Caius to go on back to the palace. When Caius thinks of using the opportunity to save Lukius, Baldr warns him that awakening Lukius now would be dangerous, and that he might end up like Flynn. For Lukius's own good Baldr insists that it's for the best if he remains asleep for the time being.
In prison, Kor is worrying about Caius and Kohaku. When he hears footsteps approaching his cell he decides to feign illness in the hopes of escaping. The passerby turns out to be Fractured Milla, who he recognizes from her wanted posters. She agrees to let him out in exchange for his help in rescuing Rubia. She says that Rubia encountered her when she was injured and, in order to heal her, used "spirit gear" developed by the Empire. As a result, Rubia "was made to carry the Maxwell of this world". The two of them set out to search the cells for Rubia.
Zelos and Kratos are keeping an eye on the soldiers in Sellund, having split up with Marcus and Sync. Caius calls Kratos to tell him that he wasn't able to buy much time and Mercuria already knows about Mithos. He also passes along what Mercuria had said about Naza's plan. Zelos says Kratos had guessed that a third party was behind the trap for Mithos and that the actual target might be Martel. Startled, Caius says that he had heard from Richter that Naza was opposed to the possession plan. With Martel as the next vessel for the project, Zelos and Kratos realize that Naza likely wants to get rid of her. However, after being chosen as the next vessel, she was put under tight security and her location was hidden. In order to draw her out Naza manipulated Mercuria with Mithos.
Marcus and Sync rejoin the group and report that Naza is in Sellund Castle. Sync says that Naza was asking about the research being conducted at the Chiral refinery. Kratos suspects that Naza's interest means the work there is either related to the Living Doll Project, or that it might even be where Martel is being held. Kratos decides to go scope out the situation alone, telling the others to let him know if Naza makes a move. He departs and Sync asks Caius to catch Marcus and himself up on what he knows. Afterwards, Marcus says that he doesn't understand what Baldr is up to, but that the situation in the Empire seems to be getting dicey. He invites Caius to join either them or Mileena's group. Zelos adds that he can continue researching other ways to help Lukius, and Caius decides that if he can rescue Rubia and Kor from the Spirit Research Facility he'll meet up with Zelos and the others after.
Kor and Fractured Milla find Rubia in the deepest cell of the facility, but she's very weak. Milla observes that Maxwell's ring is missing. However, she decides not to worry about it because they need to escape before Hasta and Saleh return. On their way out they find their path blocked by Richter. Milla says to leave Richter to her, telling Kor to take care of Rubia. Richter says that Milla is the only one he can't overlook and also urges Kor and Rubia to leave. Kor runs away reluctantly. Caius meets him at the exit, and Hilda gets the three of them into a carriage and sends them off to safety.
Kratos is investigating the Chiral refinery and finds a room full of gems labelled with names and physical characteristics and realizes they must be heart cores. He searches hurriedly for Martel's but doesn't find it, and believes Mercuria might have been telling the truth about not having removed Martel's heart core. Soldiers come through to quickly evacuate the research facility on Naza's orders. The researchers protest leaving behind "the Nexus vessel" but the soldiers hustle them out. Kratos searches deeper in the now-empty facility looking for Martel but is ambushed by Barbatos. Sync and Zelos join the fight and the three of them manage to push Barbatos back. After Barbatos retreats, Zelos tells Kratos that Kocis, Mithos and the others have come to the Chiral refinery. Sync asks why the facility is empty and Kratos, realizing Martel is in danger, tells them all to hurry.
Meanwhile, Kor and Caius go to meet up with Phillip. Kor tells Caius how Richter let him and Rubia go. Caius says that he had invited Richter to leave the Empire and make his escape with Aster, but Richter had said that he "absolutely could not go to where the mirrists were." Caius believes Richter is a good person and is troubled by the situation. Phillip joins them, and when Kor thanks Phillip for the help Phillip thanks them for saving Marcus (Arc 1 Ch 14). They recall how they were working for Mercuria at the time, and Caius says that Mercuria has become twisted and they can't seem to get through to her anymore. He then asks Phillip to help Rubia. Phillip agrees, and says he also wants to heal Kohaku quickly. He wants to ask for Kor's assistance with the heart core situation, saying that Sellund Mirrists do not have the techniques to help someone whose heart core is removed entirely. However, with Kor's Soma he believes they can restore the heart cores. Kor notes that the heart cores sound like the same thing as Spiria Cores, and says he'll do what he can.
Zelos, Kratos, and Sync rush in to find Naza having just gravely wounded Martel (end of Ch 7). Determined to protect her, Kratos says he'll share his mana with her. Mithos says that even for a half elf that would be dangerous, but for a human it could be deadly. Kratos insists, but collapses after healing her. Sigurd appears to retrieve Naza and summons a horde of Shimmeras to fight them. Cress rallies everyone to try to fight their way out, and Phillip, Kor, and Caius show up to help.
After the battle the group takes stock of the injuries. Martel has fainted and is resting, and Mithos confirms that the heart core he recovered earlier wasn't hers at all. The heart core reacts to Kor everyone recognizes that it must be Kohaku's. Kor wants to be taken back to the Heimdallr where Kohaku is. Mileena agrees, adding that Kocis and Kratos need immediate treatment. Kratos is on the verge of death, with Raine and the other healers keeping him alive with continual healing artes. Mithos says that in the worst case, even if Kratos's body died he would survive through his heart contained in his Cruxis Crystal, but he and Lloyd are both unhappy about this outcome. Chester suggests Mithos try sharing his mana with Kratos. Mithos seems to have some doubts but agrees to attempt it once they return.
Back at the Heimdallr Kor says he's going to go into Kohaku's Spiria Nexus and restore her heart core. Because the others don't have Soma he says he'll go alone, but Phillip protests that that would be dangerous. Mileena believes that they can amplify the power of the Spiria Link using mirristry, since Kohaku's Soma had amplified the power of their mirristry when they were healing Ami. Caius, Chester, and Cress all insist on joining Kor, and he thanks them for their help. Together the four of them enter Kohaku's Spiria Nexus.
After clearing out the monsters inside Kohaku's Spiria Nexus and reaching the center, Kor returns her heart core to its proper place and her heart core blossoms like a giant flower. Kor and the others return to the outside world where Kohaku regains consciousness again. After Kohaku and Kor's reunion, Mileena asks to hear more about the details of how Kohaku had become injured helping Richard in the first place. Mithos and Martel join the group, followed quickly by Lloyd. Kratos is in poor condition and his body is rejecting Mithos's anima. With no way to heal him Mithos is desperate. He apologizes to Kor for injuring him before and asks for Kor's help, saying that Kor and Lloyd are now the only ones who can heal Kratos.
((to be continued))
Mileena leaves Lloyd and the others behind at the Heimdallr with Mithos and returns to the hideout. Kocis says he's recovered somewhat from using his overray and that he won't carelessly remove the eyepatch again. Ix adds that he still hasn't heard the details from Gefion and that Kocis should be cautious. Reminded that Ix can now communicate easily with Kocis, Mileena asks why Ix had asked them to come to Sellund before. Ix says he's trying something and he'll let them know more if he succeeds. Kocis asks after Kratos, and Mileena says that Phil is using a Soma in order to construct a mirrage that will allow the user to make a stable Spiria Link without a Soma. With that, they should be able to treat Kratos.
Yuri comes to tell Mileena that Karol has finished his preparations. Mileena calls everyone together and explains that she's been compiling a list of Nexus candidates. Karol gathered information from everyone about the people they knew in their original worlds, and using a mirrage camera from Keele Labs, he and Mileena created a Nexus candidate list including exoflected pictures of each potential Nexus. Elle spots the picture of Richard and remembers him from their run-in in Chapter 3. Sophie and Asbel overhear and are startled to find that Richard is in Tir Na Nog, and Caius is startled in turn that they know Richard as well. Emil returns and Caius remarks on his strong resemblance to Aster. Emil is surprised to hear that Aster was exoflected and wants to meet him. Sophie and Asbel want to go meet Richard. Veigue, having heard the stories from the others, recognizes that Hilda is in Hy'Brasail and wants to meet her. Ruca suspects that "Omega Nexus Subtype 03" is Spada and wants to look for him. Caius offers to accompany all of them because he's familiar with the Empire, and Karol says he'll come along as head of the information team.
At Hy'Brasail they find soldiers swarming the entrance to the city. While trying to figure out how they can sneak inside, Ix tells them that Phil has spotted them. Caius sees Junior hurrying out of the town and heading for their hiding place. Approaching, Junior tells them that he felt that Mileena was nearby through the shard of the protective mirrage that he still has. Mileena decides to come out of hiding and asks why he's joined the Empire. He says that before that, Baldr wants to meet with Mileena and the others. Yuri suspects a trap but Mileena agrees to the meeting.
Baldr joins them and is briefly taken aback by Kocis, mentioning again that in Bifrost mirrites are regarded as evil creatures because of their association with the destruction of the world. He's surprised that Mileena didn't know this, but Mileena says that her memories from Gefion are incomplete. Baldr sets the matter aside and says that since Mileena's party opposes the Living Doll project he wants to assist them. Becoming a Living Doll is obviously an injustice for the person whose body is stolen, but Baldr says that he has no desire to be revived in an unfamiliar body either. He declines to join Mileena's group but says he'll provide information about the Empire in lieu of Caius. Mileena is skeptical, but as a gesture of good faith Baldr says he can give them Spada's location.
Back at the base Sorey and Mikleo are waiting for Lailah, who's been spending time with Cress and Velvet. She joins them and the three of them attempt to armatize using the Overray Mirrage that Cecily gave Sorey. They fail and start discussing the possible causes when Cecily shows up. Cecily says that she believed armatization was completely impossible before Lailah joined them. However, now, they should be able to use the Overray Mirrage to draw out those past and future possibilities. She thinks what they lack is a powerful motivation, like Ludger and Yuri had had. Encouraged, Sorey decides to keep trying a little more. Lailah suggests that he try closing his eyes and holding his breath to sharpen his senses. Rutee interrupts and says that Emil and the others have returned with news and that everyone should go join Mileena and hear what happened.
Mileena summarizes the meeting with Baldr for everyone, and Cecily says she believes they can trust him. During her original life in Bifrost Baldr and Naza had both shown concern for her despite her being suspected of spying. She believes both are good people and that they wouldn't care for the Living Doll project themselves. Mileena suggests that this might also give them an opportunity to help Flynn. They decide to at least go and see if Baldr's information is accurate. Sorey, Cress, and Milla join Kocis, Luca, and Asbel to follow up on Baldr's lead. Cecily tells Mileena that she has a message from Phillip that the Spiria Link mirrage has been completed, and Phillip would like Mileena to come to the Heimdallr along with healers in order to treat Kratos. Rutee, Mint, and Cheria join Mileena, and the groups both head out.
On the Heimdallr, Mithos and Martel explain the situation to the group. The healers are needed to provide life support to Kratos while the others use the Spiria Link to bring Kratos back. Mithos says that he believes Kratos has simply given up on living. Having finally fulfilled his purpose of protecting Martel he is satisfied to die. However, Mithos thinks that Lloyd can still reach him. Phillip explains that the Spiria Link mirrage will allow up to three people without a Soma to enter the Spiria along with Kor. He asks Lloyd to choose the remaining person in addition to himself and Mileena, and Lloyd chooses Colette. Martel tells them that there isn't much time and that they'll send a signal when the healing is at its limits. Phillip asks Rowen if he's ready and Rowen agrees. Kor, Mileena, Lloyd, and Colette enter the Spiria.
Inside Kratos's heart, Lloyd, Colette, and Kor remark on the strange atmosphere. Mileena says that it gives off a feeling similar to Emil, Milla, and the seraphs. Lloyd speculates that it might be related to the connection Kratos had to the seal of Origin in their original world. They're interrupted by Kratos, who tells them to get out before his heart fades when he dies. Lloyd tries to convince him to live, but Kratos says that 4000 years was long enough, and that he's satisfied that the wish that he was denied in their original world has now been granted. Lloyd insists that he still wants to get to know Kratos as his father and says he'll fight to defeat the former hero Kratos.
After they beat Kratos in the Spiria, Lloyd says that with the former hero defeated, what remains in Kratos's heart is the mercenary Kratos that accompanied them on their journey. Mileena also encourages Kratos to start over. Kratos finally agrees and accepts Mithos's mana. Mithos collapses from the energy expenditure but Martel assures everyone he'll be fine. Everyone returns from the Spiria Link and Kratos wakes up. Martel apologizes to Kratos for having burdened him for so long with her wish to protect Mithos, and thanks him as well. Kratos tells her that it wasn't a burden, but his oath as a knight. Lloyd thanks Kratos for surviving and calls him "father".
Meanwhile, Kocis's group has arrived at the location Baldr gave them to ambush Spada's transport. Asbel wonders what it means for Lambda if Richard has been made into a Living Doll. When Sorey asks, he explains that Lambda is a life form from another star that had taken possession of Richard. Sorey speculates that Asgard might be using the artes and technologies from the Nexuses' original worlds as the basis for their Living Doll project. Cress and Hubert are considering their ambush approach for the transport. Cress thinks that Baldr chose an advantageous location for them, but Hubert is still suspicious. The party discusses Baldr's trustworthiness for a while and Ix assures them that whatever Baldr's intentions, he can watch the enemies' movements through the mirrage crystals. Milla says the spirits tell her that the transport is approaching and that Richard is with them, and Ix confirms it. Cress says to capture Richard if they can and the group strikes. An Asgard soldier tells Richard/Sigurd that they're being attacked by a strong number of very powerful enemies and that Maxwell is with them. Surprised, Sigurd tells them to go hurry and check the cage. Sophie spots Richard and says that she doesn't feel Lambda's presence at all. She demands Sigurd return Richard and Sigurd summons shimmeras to fight them.
The party fights the wave of shimmeras but meanwhile Sigurd escapes with the transport, so Kocis tells Ruca, Illia, Asbel, Sophie, and Hubert to pursue while he handles the monsters. Ix cautions Kocis not to use his overray again but Kocis insists that there's no other way. Milla tells Kocis to wait until the last possible moment to use that power, and she and Cress attack the monsters. Sorey and Mikleo, driven to protect the others and keep Kocis from needing to use his overray, try to armatize again. For a moment they're successful but the armatization falls apart. Aster explains that it's likely because the seraphs are a slightly different existence in Tir Na Nog than in their own world due to the Encode. Kocis and Milla quickly recognize that Aster isn't Emil and are confused where he came from, and Aster introduces himself. He says that he was on the transport but in the scuffle he fell off and was left behind. Sorey asks him to explain what he means about the seraphs, and Aster says that in Tir Na Nog seraphs are an existence very similar to spirits, something like a subspecies. Because of this he thinks they may not be compatible with the armatization technique, which makes the overray difficult to control. He offers Sorey a "spirit ring" and says that if he attempts the armatization while wearing it, the revised armatization with a spirit can be afterwards copied by the overray mirrage. Though wearing the ring is dangerous for long periods of time he says it should be fine to attempt briefly. Sorey and Mikleo decide to try it, and since they need a real battle to give themselves the fighting spirit to power the armatization, Cress and Milla volunteer to open a special session of the Cress Dojo.
This time the armatization is a success. Sorey and Mikleo are pleased but Mikleo feels more tired than usual. Aster believes it's the effect of the spirit ring and tells him to quickly take it off, so they return the ring to Aster. Baldr joins the group, relieved to find everyone safe but startled to see Aster. Aster says that since the transport had suddenly decided to bring along "Maxwell" he had wanted to come with them. Baldr is shocked that the transport wasn't for Spada, but Aster tells him that moving Spada was postponed, and Milla asks what he means about Maxwell. Aster asks Baldr if it's alright to explain but Baldr says that he should consider Richter's position and avoid getting involved. Then Baldr tells Milla that Asgard searched out and exoflected a Maxwell like Milla from another world and that the Maxwell of Tir Na Nog was killed. Aster says that Demetrius is planning on using the power of the priestess of Dana and the spirits for something. He doesn't know all the details, but he's also been working on spirit research, and he advises Milla that she and the Key of Kresnik should avoid entering Asgard. Baldr apologizes to the group for his failure to return Spada to them and says that next time he'll manage it. Aster tells Baldr to be careful as well, and says that the last minute substitution of Maxwell for Spada may be because Saleh is suspicious of Baldr's movements already. Baldr and Aster head back to Hy'Brasail and Baldr says he'll contact them again. Ix says he's found Asbel and the others and Kocis's group goes to join them.
((to be continued))
At the base, Cecily is telling Karia that she's going to head back to the Heimdallr when a call suddenly arrives from Kocis. He tells them that the transport they ambushed didn't contain Spada after all, and that Baldr went off in search of Spada while Ruca and Asbel's groups chased Sigurd/Richard. Cecily apologizes for not having thought to let Richard's friends know about Richard earlier, and says that to make up for it she'll focus on how to help him. Sorey and Mikleo tell Cecily about the successful armatization using the spirit ring. Sorey says that without the ring, he doesn't think he'll be able to armatize with any of the other seraphs. Cecily says the spirit ring seems dangerous and she'll need to investigate further. Milla adds that Baldr had told them the Maxwell of Tir Na Nog had been killed, and that Aster warned her not to come near Hy'Brasail or she might be used in a "Spirit Gear". Cecily is unfamiliar with the technology and says that it may be something that was invented after her death. She says that the Empire was developing techniques using knowledge from other worlds, and that the "Spirit Gear's" resemblance to armatization may mean that the source for the technique was another seraph familiar with armatization. Sorey guesses Zaveid, and the group agrees to look into it. Karia says she'll pass along all the information to Mileena.
Veigue, Emil, Marta, Yuri, Repede, and Karol are visiting Astor's mansion in the Empire looking for news of Hilda. Astor meets with them and explains that unfortunately Hilda isn't there any longer. Her friendships with Caius and Kor caused the Imperial soldiers to become suspicious of her after their defections. Astor sent her to a far away city in order to find a new supplier, intending to get her away from the soldiers and to possibly make a profit at the same time. Astor also tells them that he hasn't seen Aster recently, and that Hilda might have information about him. The group decides to go after Hilda and contacts Karia to give her the update. While talking to Karia, Yuri has second thoughts about going along. He's still suspicious of how quickly Baldr's plan had gone wrong. Though he initially suspects a trap, the group agrees that there were less risky approaches for Baldr to take if that were the case. Yuri wonders if instead Baldr was the one being watched by the Empire, and Karia confirms that she'd heard something similar from Kocis. Yuri says that it will be dangerous if the group keeps getting incorrect information and decides to stay behind in Hy'Brasail to investigate. Karol stays too, saying that it would be bad for Flynn if something were to happen to Baldr. The group splits, with Yuri, Repede, and Karol remaining behind while Veigue, Emil, and Marta go to find Hilda.
Mileena returns to the hideout with Lloyd and Kor, having left Jude behind with Mint, Cheria, and Rutee to look after Kratos and the other injured. Karia passes along the reports from Veigue and Kocis, and Mileena wants to ask Martel and Kor about the Spirit Gear and the "Empty Maxwell". Kor is surprised by the mention of Maxwell and asks if she means Milla, surprising Mileena in turn. Kor explains that Milla had helped him and Rubia break out of the prison before being captured by Richter. Ami and Elle come to bring everyone tea and Elle overhears the discussion about Milla. Kor and Mileena gradually realize they must be talking about two separate Millas, and Mileena asks Ami to get the Nexus Candidate List, as well as Claus and Cecily. When Kor looks at the picture of Milla on the list he says that the resemblance is strong but there's a difference. Claus theorizes that the Empire has searched out Fractured Milla in order to replace Tir Na Nog's Maxwell. Considering the situation, the group worries about Milla's involvement in the rescue operation. They initially want to call Milla and Mikleo back, but feeling that it might be dangerous to leave Kocis's group with less support, decide to send reinforcements instead. Kongwai, Stahn, and Kyle all go to join the main group pursuing Richard and Fractured Milla.
Karyl is thrown into the same cell as Spada in an Asgard prison, coughing and weak. He tells Spada that he can't give in because if "that person" were exoflected and used as a hostage he would never forgive himself. He asks about Spada's circumstances and Spada says that Asgard researchers are interested in his previous life as a sword with a consciousness. They seemed to want to exoflect his past self and talked about "cutting up" his soul. He speculates that they're trying to work on a weapon with a will, or possibly how to turn a human being into a weapon. Karyl says that Spada sounds similar to a Swordian. He explains the idea to Spada, then faints, leaving Spada worrying about how weak Karyl has become. Baldr arrives and is relieved to find that Spada hasn't yet been moved to another location. He releases them from the cell and tells Spada that his friends are waiting.
Back on the road, Ruca and Asbel's groups notice that they're catching up to the transport. Hubert is worried about the Shimmeras that Sigurd can summon, but Asbel noticed that he seems to be using a mirrage crystal to call the monsters. He thinks that if they can get the crystal away from Sigurd he might not be able to summon more. Hubert decides that he and Sophie will hold back the other enemies around the transport, Illia will attempt to shoot the crystal out of Richard's hand, Ruca will cover Illia, and Asbel will secure Richard once Illia gets the crystal away from him. The plan goes off without a hitch and Asbel knocks Richard unconscious, retrieving the crystal afterwards. Sophie notes again that Lambda isn't inside Richard anymore and wonders why. Ruca rushes the carriage looking for Spada, but Saleh appears to taunt them until Kocis and the others show up and drive him off. Milla calms Ruca down by telling him that Spada wasn't being transported after all. Baldr calls them to tell them that he released Spada and Karyl and tells them where to meet up. Asbel, Hubert, and Sophie decide to head back to the base with Richard, and the others go to meet Spada.
Immediately after contacting Kocis and the others, Baldr runs into Naza and Richter near the dungeons. Naza questions him about what he's doing there and mentions that Spada and another Omega Nexus are missing. Baldr admits that he released them, and Naza sends Richter in pursuit before asking Baldr to explain himself. Baldr says that after receiving news that the transport had been ambushed, he thought Richard or Fractured Milla might fall into the enemy's hands. He says he released Spada and Karyl temporarily to make it easier to retrieve the Nexuses while appearing to be an ally. Naza finds the approach out of character for Baldr but seems to accept his explanation.
Spada and Karyl are overtaken by Asgard soldiers on the way to the rendezvous point. Spada prepares to make his stand when Ruca and the others come running to their rescue. Richter catches up to them, but Kongwai, Stahn, and Kyle join the fight and force Richter to retreat. Karyl has fainted, and Stahn recognizes the anti-mirrage bracelet he's wearing as the cause. Because it would be dangerous to take it off themselves they decide to contact Mileena and head towards the Heimdallr.
Jude is finishing up treating patients on the Heimdallr. He tells Leia that Rubia's condition is improving and that now things will just take time. They decide to check in with Phillip about Rowen when instead they run into Rowen himself with Phillip. Phillip explains that when they'd brought Kratos in in critical condition he'd been forced to wake Rowen to make room to treat Kratos. By the time the team was ready to do the Spiria Link to heal Kratos, Rowen had caught up with the situation enough to provide support. Jude wonders why Mileena and the others hadn't mentioned meeting Rowen, but Rowen says he had asked them not to for the time being. Although much improved, he's still weak enough that he's losing consciousness from time to time, and he hadn't wanted to worry them. Jude wants to bring Rowen back to the hideout with them, but Phillip reminds Jude that Rowen is an Omega Nexus. His physical condition is currently poor enough that it would be dangerous for him to wear the bracelet Gareth had developed, and Phillip also isn't certain whether the Omega Nexus anima flow reversal would have an effect on the mirristry creating the hideout. Until Rowen stabilizes further he needs to stay on the Heimdallr. Mileena contacts Phillip to make sure Cheria, Rutee, and Mint are still on the Heimdallr, and tells him they're bringing Karyl there for treatment. Gareth is able to remove the anti-mirrage bracelet so the healers can work.
Mileena joins the others on the Heimdallr to find that Karyl has already been stabilized. Everyone gathers so Spada can update them on the research that was being done on him. Spada says they were interested in his past life and that they kept talking about things like "spirit separation, fusion, and possession". Phillip agrees that Spada's guesses about Asgard working on imbuing a weapon with a will or consciousness seem plausible. Mileena wonders if they might also be looking into housing several souls in one body or vessel, and Sorey says that that sounds like armatization. The group wonders again if the Empire had drawn their ideas for the research from Spada and the others, or if another Nexus from Sorey's world might be involved. Ruca suggests the Empire might also be getting information from someone in Mileena's group. He says he doesn't suspect a spy, but that maybe someone could be unwittingly passing information along. Phillip is considering the possibility when Baldr interrupts with a mirrage communication and asks to meet.
With the possibility of an information leak in mind, Mileena and Kocis leave the other Nexuses behind and go to meet Baldr along with Phillip, Marcus, and Cecily. Marcus says that if any information leaks this time the traitors would have to be either Baldr or Cecily. When Baldr arrives, he tells them he had run into Woden and things had gotten complicated. He admits that the number of difficulties that arose in what should have been a simple operation make him believe that someone in the Empire already suspects him. Even so, he wants to continue helping Mileena and the others. Baldr says that if Mercuria had been interested in using the Living Doll Project to help people he might have continued to serve her, hoping that future research could make a method of reviving the dead that didn't require a sacrifice. But Mercuria only wants to return the dead of Bifrost. Phillip recognizes that Mercuria is trying to get revenge on him and Gefion specifically. Baldr points out that Mercuria is attempting to repeat what Gefion had done to her by stealing away Gefion's country and rebuilding the world in the shape of her own wishes. He says that in order to stop the Living Doll Project they need to make it impossible to gather the scattered animus particles of the dead Bifrost citizens. In other words, they need to either remove or completely seal the Voidstorm so that the particles cannot be drawn in. Mileena feels they need to rescue Ix first. Baldr agrees that Ix's situation is serious and asks Kocis if Ix isn't in great pain. Ix initially denies it before Kocis feels the stabbing pain in his eye, and Baldr says that he believes Kocis is feeling Ix's pain through a Mirrite Link, an ability that allows Ix to use Kocis's eyes and ears. Ix admits that he had asked Kocis to come to Sellund in order to strengthen the link, but hadn't wanted to explain until he could use it more adeptly to send power to Kocis. Kocis gets angry at Ix for concealing how much pain he was in, although he understands Ix had just wanted to avoid worrying them.
Cecily says that all that information points to them needing to rescue Ix very soon. Keele Labs have been working out a means to puncture the Mirrage Crystals and extricate Ix, but they still don't have a method to keep the Voidstorm from escaping once that happens. Baldr says he has an idea, but that he first needs to separate from Flynn. He explains that because he was one of the first test subjects of the Living Doll Project the heart core extraction technique had not yet been worked out. Therefore, Flynn's consciousness is still inside his body, and Flynn had accepted him willingly. Baldr says that if he splits with Flynn, Flynn can stay behind in the Empire and draw the attention of whoever is watching Baldr. Meanwhile Baldr can temporarily borrow another body and make preparations to help rescue Ix. He asks Cecily for her assistance and she agrees to go to the Empire with him despite the danger. Mileena asks Baldr if he's really willing to betray Naza, but Baldr says that Naza's goals are different from Mercuria's, and that what Naza wants is to protect the world, "the Cradle of Dana". Phillip explains that "Cradle of Dana" is what their world is called in their creation myth, which says that people burdened with sins atoned and were born purified from the "Cradle of Dana". He remembers Junior telling him to go to "the place of our beginning" and realizes Junior must have been talking about a certain stone monument.
Baldr says that he finds it hard to believe after meeting everyone, particularly Kocis, but that the prophecies of Dana predicted mirrites would destroy the world. That was what had originally caused Bifrost to attack Odanse and started the mirrage wars: Bifrost wished to kill all mirrites and the mirrists who created them. Baldr says that that was, and still is, Woden's intention.
((to be continued))