Erk, Lucinda, and Sara just stared at the banner…and REALLY hoped it was just paint.
"This guy is psychotic." Erk looked over to see that Lucinda had passed shock and ran head first into anger. She looked ready to kill someone. "This is just a game to him." She said through gritted teeth. "Lives are at stake and he's treating it like a joke." She raised a hand into the air and a hole opened up in the air above her hand. Reaching in, she pulled out two knives before it closed. "His ass is so mine the moment I see him." She said, wielding both daggers threateningly.
And by the way she said it Erk had no doubt that she do it.
But then her deadly aura was ruined by a giant sneeze. "Damn it!" She yelled, rubbing her nose. "Stupid rain! Now I've started catching a-a-choo!"
Erk sweat dropped. "Of course you're going to catch a cold. You're wearing a corset and a skirt, not much protection against the rain, genius."
"You shut up." She shot back with a sniffle. At this point, her ponytail was just hanging like a piece of laundry and every time she moved her head, it would fling water everywhere.
Then Sara walked up and put her grey traveling cloak around Lucinda's shoulders. "Here, milady. My clothes are better suited for this weather so you can have this."
Lucinda sniffled and was about to argue back, but then she sneezed again. Tugging the cloak closer, she muttered, "Thanks."
"Oi. You two done?" Erk said, suddenly on edge. His entire body was tense.
"What if we aren't, jerk? Got a problem with that?" Lucinda fired back, glaring at the boy.
"Milady, please don't fight." Sara said meekly.
Erk glanced at them, ready to jump a single notice. "Then hurry it up." He said hurriedly. "Because we're alone here."
"Seriously? So what if we're alone? In case you haven't noticed, it's freaking raining out here. Why wouldn't we be alone?"
"Idiot." Erk said back. "Think about it. There are always sentinels in lighthouses that watch for travelers. The lighthouse would have been lit when we got close so we wouldn't get lost. But it didn't." He looked up at the giant building which was only a shadow against the dark clouds overhead. "Which means there aren't any people up there. Besides, all this time we've been standing here and I haven't seen a single light on."
Lucinda glanced around and could only agree. Something was wrong. "Then let's keep going." She said. "We need to find Latran and Becky. We can worry about the town after that."
With that, she started walking into the town, Sara following close behind. Erk glanced up at the dark lighthouse again before joining them.
They hadn't been walking long before Lucinda stopped. "Hey, do you guys hear something?"
Sara shook her head but Erk could hear it. A slight hissing noise. He walked around a bit until he found where it was loudest. Right in front of a barrel. "I think it's coming from in here." He said. Lifting the lid up, he saw a red bar lying inside. And floating in front of the bar was a glowing white number ten.
And it was counting down.
It took Erk a total of two seconds to realize what he was looking at.
"Bomb!" He slammed the lid back down and ran from the barrel as fast as he could. Lucinda caught on immediately but Sara was still turning around to see what Erk was yelling about. Not giving her a chance to turn and run, the two each grabbed one of her arms and dashed as fast as they could.
They'd barely gone a couple of steps before the barrel detonated, the resulting explosion kicking them off their feet and onto their stomachs.
"Damn." Erk said with a groan, lifting himself onto his knees. "What the hell wa-." He froze as he heard two more hissing sounds.
"Please tell me that's not what I think it is." Lucinda groaned. She looked around until her eyes landed on two red bars, both of their timers were counting down.
"Ah crap!" Erk yelled. Next to him, Sara gasped and her eyes widened. They weren't going to get away from it this time.
But then Lucinda slammed her hand on the ground and a hole opened up beneath them. Erk could only scream and flail around when he fell through.
But they only fell for a few feet before they hit ground again. Erk looked around in panic only to find himself in the shadow of something giant. Spinning around, he saw the lighthouse towering over them and above him, a hole in the air was closing. And just as it did, an explosion tore through a row of buildings near the entrance of the city. Just where they had been.
"W-What was that?" He stuttered shakily.
"Spatial magic." Lucinda said breathlessly. She had sweat beading her brow and Sara was helping her sit up. "I ripped a hole in space and brought us here." She took a shaky breath. "But I've never opened one that large or traveled this far before. Give me a sec to catch my breath."
Erk scratched the back of his head and lifted his goggles to rest them on his forehead. "Sure. Doesn't seem like there are any more bombs around here so we should be safe." He looked around at the rainy town. "But what's up with this place? The entire freaking place is booby-trapped. And where are all the people?"
Sara kept close to keep her steady, but glanced up at the lighthouse worriedly. "Mr. Erk, I've been wondering this, but are lighthouses always so bulgy?"
"Huh?" Erk replied, confused. He looked up at the structure through the rain. It did look odd. There were bulges going all around it. "Not usually." He answered. "They're usually made of smooth stone…"
At that moment, there was a flash of lightning which stunned them into silence. Erk just stood there staring while Lucinda and Sara gasped in horror. The bulges weren't just pieces of the lighthouse sticking out.
They were people.
Hundreds of people were tethered to the lighthouse. None of them were moving.
After getting over the shock, Erk ran over to the nearest person, an old man who was hanging by his hands just above the ground. "Hey, what happened here?" He shouted. The man didn't answer. Erk grabbed him and shook him a little, but the man didn't stir. He growled in frustration before going to the next person, a woman around his age. "Miss, wake up! Tell me what happened." Still no answer.
Sara and Lucinda watched in hopelessness as Erk kept trying to wake them up. After about five people, he finally walked back over with his head down in despair.
"They aren't dead." He said simply. "I checked their pulses. They aren't dead." He looked up and his eyes looked lost. "But why won't they wake up?"
Lucinda stood up and put a comforting hand on his shoulder. "Don't worry." She said softly. "They've probably been put to sleep by magic." She took a step towards the lighthouse. "If we find the person who did this, we can free them."
"Well in that case, you've found me!"
They nearly jumped at the voice and whirled around to see the man in the white coat from the lacrima standing almost directly behind them.
He bowed dramatically. "My name is Jilo and I'll be your host this evening. Although I admit that I wasn't expecting you so soon." He stood up and put a finger to his chin. "You've still got forty-five hours left and that's no fun…" He snapped his fingers. "I know! Let's change it up a little!" He didn't get a chance to say anything else before a hole opened up in the air behind him and a hand shot out and put a knife to his throat.
Erk looked back at Lucinda. She had her arm through a similar hole that was next to Jilo. "Tell us where are friends are and I MIGHT spare your life." She said threateningly. There was enough venom in her voice to kill a pack of elephants.
Jilo didn't look impressed. He ran one hand through his white hair, completely ignoring the knife at his throat. "I quiver in my boots." He said flatly. "Aren't you a bit young to be holding something so dangerous?" He waved a finger around and a small glowing ball appeared. He smiled wickedly. "Maybe the baby should drop the sharp object." With a flick of a finger, the ball floated into the hole.
A bad feeling hit Erk in the stomach like a train. Before he could think about it, he was running towards Lucinda and tackled her. "Get down!"
As he pushed her to the ground, the ball of light floated out of her end and exploded. If Lucinda had still had her arms there, it would have been blown off.
"Milady!" Sara shouted. She ran forward to check on her while Erk stood up and glared at the pale man.
"How is she?" Erk asked.
Sara looked up after checking her over. "She's hit her head. Unconscious." Her voice was weak with fear.
"Oh ho!" Jilo said with amusement. "Looks like we have someone who isn't a complete moron." With a flourish of his hands, a ball of light appeared above each of his fingers. "Well, let me tell you something. Before I was so rudely interrupted, I was going to shorten the length of our little game to one day." He scowled. "But she pissed me off. So now." The frown turned into a grin. "You've got till sunrise."
"What!?" Erk shouted. "But that gives us…"
"Ten hours!" Jilo finished for him with a laugh. "You have ten hours to find your little friends or…I'm going to blow them to kingdom come!"