Lucinda and Sara looked at the glowing platform dumbfounded. "W-What the hell is this?" Lucinda finally asked, tentatively poking at it with her foot.
"It's something I've been working on." Erk replied while standing up, making the chains around his waist clink together. "It'll carry you while I run. And it should protect you from all the wind and branches and stuff."
"What do you mean 'should'?" Lucinda demanded with a glare.
"I haven't exactly tested it out with passengers until now."
"Milady, if I may?" Sara said softly just as Lucinda opened her mouth to shout something. "If Mr. Erk believes it'll work, we should trust him."
Lucinda grinded her teeth together in frustration before grabbing her friend and jumping onto the platform. "Fine! But if we die because of this I am SO coming back to get you." She said threateningly to Erk.
"Yeah, yeah whatever." Erk said while stretching his legs. "Ready?"
Before they could say anything, Crest stepped towards Jack, who was standing just behind the platform. "Wait, Master. I want to go with them. I have no doubt they are capable wizards, but they don't have much experience yet."
"Er," Erk said hesitantly, "I'm not sure that's a good idea. You're really heavy and I'm not sure I'll be able to hold all three of you. You might make the spell break."
The Master shook his head. "Besides, I have confidence that they'll save Becky and Latran." He turned his head slightly to look at him, his green eyes showing through his mask. "And I have something else I want you to attend to."
A conflicted look crossed Crest's face. Finally, he stepped back. "Yes, Master."
Jack nodded. "Good. Now we can't waste any more time." He pointed to the East, the direction of Lighten Town. "Now go! Go save them and teach that bastard what happens when you threaten Pumpkin King!"
The three of them stood at attention. "Yes, Master!"
Erk got into a running position with a smirk and a loud train whistle sounded and steam hissed at his feet. "Full steam ahead!" He snapped his goggles over his eyes and with one step, he shot off, leaving a trail of dust in his wake.
Once they were out of sight, Master Jack walked back into the guild and picked up the video lacrima. He turned it on and paused it on the man. "Crest." The white haired man stepped forward. "Take Bertrand and go do some digging." He studied the man's face. "I want to know who this man is."
As Erk was running, Lucinda and Sara were looking around in awe. Trees and birds were blurring past them in the blink of an eye and all they could hear was the sound of the wind rushing past. But it wasn't hitting them. If they looked hard enough, they could see a faint barrier around the platform they were standing on.
"Okay, I admit this is impressive." Lucinda finally said. "I was actually expecting us fail horribly when we started moving."
"Thanks for the vote of confidence." Erk said, his voice echoing on the platform.
"Whoa!" Lucinda yelped. Sara little jumped a little in shock. Lucinda looked at Erk, who was still running ahead. "How are you doing that." She yelled at him.
"You don't need to yell. Sheesh." He replied. "Since I'm on the outside of the barrier, you normally wouldn't be able to hear me. And that would have been a bit of a problem if I needed to tell you something. So I did a little tinkering." He turned his head to smirk at them. "As long as you're on the platform, you'll be able to hear me perfectly."
A mischievous look spread across on Lucinda's face. "Does that mean you can hear everything we say?" She leaned close to Sara and put a hand in front of her mouth before whispering something into her ear.
A red flush immediately appeared on Sara's cheeks and she covered her mouth with her hand. "Milady!"
The platform shook as Erk missed a step and almost tripped, causing his two passengers to fall to their knees. "Are you trying to make me crash!" He shouted angrily at them, his face red.
Sara jumped to her feet and bowed apologetically to him, her face still blushing. "I'm so sorry, Mr. Erk. I'm sure milady didn't mean to-." She stopped as she looked at Lucinda, who was laughing and holding her sides on the floor. Sara sweat dropped. "Maybe she did mean to do that…"
Erk "hmphed" and looked forward again. "Well it'll be three hours before we get there, so make yourselves comfortable. And we aren't stopping for bathroom breaks!"
In a dark room, the pale man in the white coat was standing in next to the dangling Becky. She was breathing steadily but other than that she wasn't making any movement. He put his arm around her. "Hehehe. This is going to be so much fun. Don't you agree, my pretty little girl?" She didn't respond. Jumping forward and spinning in a circle, he stopped in front of her. "You know, I'm a bit curious. How are you still alive? I've been having fun with you for a whole night now. But you just. Won't. Die." He grabbed her by the front of her shirt and pulled her forward roughly. "How are you doing it?" He hissed.
Then he suddenly stopped and his eyes traveled from Becky to a body that was lying on the floor a few feet away against the wall like he was following a string. "Oh." He said with chuckle. "Oh ho." He let go of Becky, making her swing back into her original position. He started pacing towards the body and grabbed roughly before dragging it towards the lighter area around Becky.
"I should have suspected as much from you. But did you honestly think you could sneak it passed me?" He tossed the body into the light, revealing the mangled form of Latran. His clothes were completely tattered and his normally gelled hair was in complete disarray. His body was battered and bruised and he had burn marks on what skin was showing.
But despite those injuries, he stared up defiantly at his captor. "You can't blame me for trying. If a woman is in danger, a gentleman must do everything he can to help her."
"Well isn't that just the sweetest thing I've ever heard." The man said calmly. Then he kicked Latran hard in the stomach, making him grunt in pain. "Why don't you get off your high horse?" He kicked again. "I know who you really are." Another kick. "And. This. Isn't. You!" Swinging his leg back, he kicked him even harder, causing Latran to cough up a small amount of blood.
He grabbed Latran by his hair and dragged him up to face level. "I expected something a bit more…fun from a legend like you."
Latran held back his wince and glared. "I'm not that man anymore."
The man growled and dropped him. "Well then why don't we have a refresher course?" He held up a hand and a small glowing orb appeared over each finger. "I want to see how much you can take, my predecessor!"
Latran's eyes widened at the lights. "No!"
Outside, there wasn't a single person out to hear his manic laughter and Latran's screams.
As Erk, Lucinda, and Sara got closer to their target, the weather became worse and worse until the dark clouds opened up and rain came pouring down, which meant as Erk ran he was kicking up streams of water. Luckily the barriers around them kept them dry. Otherwise it would have been a very miserable trip.
"Well this is just rotten luck." Lucinda moaned. She was lying on her back and staring up at the sky as the rain continued to come down. Next to her, Sara was sitting and passively watched the scenery go by.
"Actually, this is pretty normal for this area." Erk explained. "It's always raining here, which made it a hazard for trains to travel to. For a while, this area was completely cut off from the rest of the world. And without trade, villages were abandoned and the people migrated to different towns. But one town, Lighten Town, didn't get abandoned. The townsfolk didn't want to leave, so instead they built a large lighthouse right in the middle of town, which is how the town got its name. So now when trains come through, they light the lighthouse so none of the trains run off the rails and so no bandits can sneak up on them."
Lucinda raised an eyebrow and sat up. "Okay. You don't look the type to know a lot of trivia. So how the hell do you know that?" She asked, looking at him skeptically.
Erk stuck his tongue out at her. "I've worked with trains all my life and I've done my homework. You could ask me anything related to trains and I'd know it." He said with a hint of pride in his voice. "But the rain is good. That means we're almost there. Time to start slowing down a little."
At that, Sara looked him worriedly. "I've been meaning to ask something, Mr. Erk. Aren't you tired from all this running?"
"Ha!" Came Erk's reply. "Are you kidding? This is what I'm MADE for." He smirked cockily. "I could go a few more hours without getting winded." Looking forward, he suddenly became serious. "Look lively. We're here."
Both Lucinda and Sara got to their feet and looked over Erk's head. Not far ahead of them they could see a town through the rain. They were clearly in the right place. A large lighthouse was towering over them from the center of town.
Lucinda took a deep breath and looked at Sara. "Just remember to stay behind us, okay? I'll keep you safe."
Sara looked at her friend and smiled softly. "I have no doubt you will, milady."
After a few more minutes, Erk finally slowed to a stop in front of the town with a hiss of steam coming from his legs. "We have reached our destination." He said in his conductor voice. "Please exit through the doors on your left and thank you for traveling with Railroad Erk. Have a nice day."
Lucinda looked at him blankly. "You've been practicing that haven't you."
Erk blushed and didn't look back at her. "I have no idea what you're talking about."
She rolled her eyes. "Whatever." She and Sara took a step off the platform and the moment they did, it disappeared and they were all doused in the rain.
"Milady you shouldn't talk like that."
"Not you too, Mr. Erk!"
Erk and Lucinda looked at each other and suppressed a laugh. They'd only been in the rain for a few seconds but they were completely soaked to the bone. Luckily, Erk's goggles protected his eyes from the rain.
Looking around, Erk saw something on the arch above the entrance to the town. His face immediately went pale. "Look."
Lucinda and Sara looked up as well. Sara gasped while Lucinda gritted her teeth together with a hiss.
There wasn't much light, which is why they hadn't seen it when they were approaching it. But on the arch was a soggy white banner. And written on the banner in red, runny letters were the words, 'Welcome Pumpkin King!'.