A good day ruined
A good day ruined
Colloyd walked ahead of Kraine and Gesea, his arms crossed. He wasn't angry, but he wasn't happy either. Kraine had promised to wake him in the night to take over watch, but he hadn't. When he asked about it, the professor had simply responded that he should enjoy sleep when it was offered to him and that it was his job to protect him. That wasn't why Colloyd found himself in a bad mood. It was the fact that despite their relatively solid ground as they made their way to Hakonesia peak under Kraine's direction, the professor insisted upon telling the both of them to watch their step periodically. It would have been a simple warning if he hadn't been engrossed in his notebook the entire time they crossed the region. Either he had traveled this way many times before and didn't feel a need to look where he was walking, or...
"Owch!" Colloyd found himself tripping over a small patch of overgrown weeds protruding from a crack in the dry ground. His face would have met the ground if he hadn't put his hands out to catch himself.
"Col!" Gesea called with concern as she ran to meet him. He helped himself up and examined his hands. He had cut them open quite disturbingly, eliciting a gasp from Gesea when she saw the damage. Kraine came up to his other side and knelt down beside him. He let out a sigh and looked at Colloyd with an "I told you to watch your step" expression. The look faded after another moment to a look of more concern than anything else. Colloyd watched as the professor put his hands over his bleeding ones and checked for signs of debris. Although it was interesting to watch him pull out several small shards of rock from the wounds, Colloyd couldn't help but be distracted by something else. There was no way that this shouldn't have hurt. He could still feel a dull ache in his bleeding hands, but nothing like he knew he should be feeling.
"This might sting a little," Kraine said, knocking him out of his thoughts and pulling his hands together so that it might look like he was reciting a prayer before covering his hands with his own. He closed his eyes and muttered "first aid".
Colloyd couldn't help but stare as he watched an aura of white outline the teachers every feature. After knowing Gesea could use magic and summon a pretty cool weapon as if from another dimension, he shouldn't have been surprised. Still, something was somehow different about this. He couldn't quite put his finger on it. Gesea must have noticed the odd expression on his face because she was giving him a confused look. He shrugged but tried not to move too much. He could feel a coolness in-between the palms of his hands. It was quite pleasant.
After a few short moments longer, Kraine stopped his magic spell and took his hands away from his. Instinctively Colloyd opened his hands up to peer at the work the professor had done. He stared in surprise. There were no visible markings what-so-ever that he had cut himself. Kraine nodded to himself as he looked over the results too, before getting to his feet and starting ahead down the path. "Be more careful, Chosen."
Colloyd sighed and acknowledged with a bob of his head. The professor was very well aware that he disliked being called the Chosen and so seemed to now be experimenting with the use of the term as a punishment. He looked at Gesea for support but found her shrugging her shoulders and looking at her brother ahead of them. He made sure not to get distracted in his own thoughts again while they trekked, lest Kraine decide to accompany the 'Chosen' namesake with one of his trademark glares. The thought of that sent a genuine shiver down his spine.
The rough terrain changed as they closed in on the mountain hill with the very distinct house right at the very top. They passed through a sloppily guarded front entrance and made their way up the steep incline to the flat top where the house sat. There were a couple of small vendors of healing goods and a few townspeople chatting to one another off to the side of the main area, but other than that the place looked pretty empty. Colloyd decided that most people would just travel through without stopping. His curiosity did peak at the strange little hut to his right as they silently headed for the exit on the other side, though.
Two guards stood in their way now, looking more alert than the ones on the other side. As Gesea went to pass through first, they both made her jump by clashing their weapons together in a way that meant she could not pass through without being chopped to ribbons.
"Halt," the guard on the right ordered. "Please show us your road pass."
"Road pass?" Gesea tilted her head and looked toward her brother. He let out a sigh of annoyance. "Has there been some kind of change? What are these passes you are referring to?"
"You haven't heard?" the guard on the left asked.
Colloyd shook his head. "No, I don't think we have." He also looked to Kraine, who sighed in annoyance again. It appeared even the professor didn't have all the answers.
"The Chosen came through here recently, and so in an effort to reduce risk of injury to the Chosen, we are requesting that all people who seek to follow the same trail as the Chosen get permission from Governer-General Dorr to pass through, or purchase one from the shop here." The way he said the latter part of his sentence sounded almost liked a choked down laugh.
"The Chosen?" Colloyd's eyes widened. It seemed the imposters were at it again. He was about to open his mouth to point out that that was impossible and that he was the Chosen, but was cut off by the professor.
"Thank you for telling us." He steered Gesea and Colloyd a short distance away, ignoring their "explain" looks until he stopped.
"Kraine-" Gesea started.
"Do not worry Gesea," Kraine interrupted her. "I am well aware that we can not go back to Palmacosta for quite some time."
"Then why-" Colloyd started. He found himself being cut off by the professor as well.
"Think about it," he started. "If there is some sort of imposter that is pretending to be the Chosen, then that may be used to our advantage."
Colloyd finally understood. "You plan to use the fake Chosen as a good decoy for us." He remembered the red haired assassin from the other day and felt bad.
Kraine agreed and let out a pent-up breath as he patted the money bag on his waist. "I'm afraid that the result of this decision will also mean that we will need to fight many monsters of this region in order to get the road passes."
"Do you think it's expensive?" Colloyd asked. He reached into his own pockets. There wasn't even any lint in the creases. He gazed behind the professors head at the house where they would probably have to buy the pass from. There was no time like the present to find out. He started toward it, his companions in tow as though they had all simultaneously thought the same thing.
The inside of the place was extremely cramped and smelled distinctly of metal. It reminded Colloyd of when his dad would set to work on making various things for his various clientele. A small elderly man with glasses three times the size of his eyes crouched around in the western corner of the room. He looked over them immediately, appearing to be sizing them up. "If you're looking for road passes, you've come to the right place," he uttered, sounding almost automatic.
"How much gald would we be set back, sir?" Colloyd asked politely.
The man looked surprised at the question- as though nobody had asked it in quite a while. To be fair, Palmacosta wasn't that far away from their location and most people probably found it easy enough to get permission from Dorr. The man looked at him briefly, passed his glance over Kraine, before stopping on Gesea. "For the little lady, I will give a pass for free."
Colloyd smiled broadly at that, though Kraine quickly took quite a defensive stance as he placed one hand on Gesea's shoulder. The old man looked back at Colloyd. "For the two of you, the price would come to two million gald."
"T..t..two..." Colloyd couldn't even finish his words. His mouth was gaping too much. "You can't be serious!"
"Or something valuable," the old man added, brushing off his shock. He nodded his head to Colloyd's left at something. "I'm a collector, you see. I even have the much coveted Book of Regeneration in my collection!"
For the second time, Colloyd gaped. Next to him in a glass case and sitting on book holder was the book he himself had held in his hands not too long ago. There was no doubt about it. It was even open at the funny front page that read "The Journey of Spiritua, by Spiritua."
"It can't be," Gesea whispered as she came up next to him.
"What is this nonsense?!" came a surprising exclamation from Kraine from behind them. Colloyd didn't need to see him to feel the anger radiating from him. The last they had seen the book, Yuan had headed for the town circle of Palmacosta with it. For some reason or other, it had ended up at Hakonesia Peak.
Colloyd wasn't willing to accuse his old teacher of anything underhanded just yet though and turned to Kraine. "Maybe the fake Chosen stole the book from Dorr again and brought it here."
"That is an irrational concept, Colloyd," Kraine remarked. "If they were caught once, then how would they get away with stealing a priceless treasure such as this book a second time?"
Colloyd had to admit it, his teacher made a pretty solid argument. He shrugged his shoulders though, still not willing to admit that Yuan had lied to them about returning the book to its rightful owner.
"Ahem," the old man cleared his throat and waved a hand to get their attention. Three gazes immediately turned to him and he flinched back- probably mostly from Kraine's still furious demeanor. "Did I hear correctly that your name is Colloyd?" He pointed his question to Colloyd, who nodded in confusion. The man clapped his hands together. "Well then! I have already been compensated for your road pass, as well as your two companions." He nodded to Kraine and stopped on Gesea. "N..not that I wouldn't have still given you a free pass of course."
Kraine growled softly under his breath at the old man, his patience wearing thinner and thinner per second.
"Really?" Colloyd took three laminated pieces of paper with the words Palmacosta to Asgard Road Pass printed on them from the old man. "Um.. If you don't mind my asking..." he started. "Who paid you for these?"
The old man tapped his nose. "Koton the Collector doesn't reveal his clients, ever. If I did that, I would be in a lot of trouble."
"But most of it looks like junk," Gesea said in a very matter-of-factly kind of way. Colloyd became worried that Kraine would give her one of his glares but instead found himself surprised when the teacher gave a half agreeable nod.
Koton didn't appear as at ease as them at Gesea's comment though. He tapped the wooden walking stick he had been leaning against on the ground three times to get their attention, before pointing it past Colloyd and to the door. "Leave now, you disrespectful people!"
They quickly did as he said before he could change his mind on being honest about their freebies.
With road passes in hand, they had no trouble gaining access past the guards to head down the other side of the peak. The town of Asgard could be seen in the distance. It would be the first place they would investigate for the Seal of Wind. Kraine had earlier mentioned that the Book of Regeneration had described the next seal being in a windy place, in a ruin, so naturally Asgard being the city of Wind and Ruins on its vacation posters was a good place to start. Colloyd grimaced as he remembered the spring that the professor had had in his step when he had been explaining that just hours earlier.
Now, any of that previous excitement about investigating a ruin was gone; replaced by a solemn face that seemed to be trying almost too hard to mask the thoughts ticking along behind it. He felt sorry for him and decided to at least attempt to ease his mind. "Professor," he started, dropping back from his spot next to Gesea for a moment. "Even if Professor Yuan did sell the book to Koton.. at least it's safe, right?"
Kraine's face went paler and he glanced down at the red-clad boy. "Although you make a good case, you are far too trusting. I do not trust this old professor of yours one bit. He is far too experienced in battle to just be someone who has gotten by on his travels between cities." He wanted to add more about his distrust for the 'elf' but held his tongue when he saw Colloyd's eyes express sadness. He looked away from the face of the boy, trying to remain firm in his stance on things.
"I know it looks bad," Colloyd said, clenching his fists into balls and looking to be thinking very hard. "But..." he quivered. "But.. isn't it better to trust people aren't bad? He might have sold the book to Koton to pay for our road passes!"
Kraine couldn't avoid eye contact after that and looked into the deep blue of Colloyd's eyes. They looked determined. Very determined. He accidentally cracked a smile and saw Colloyd realise he might be making some ground. "That must be it! So please Professor, let's still be friends with Yuan if we see him again?"
Kraine sighed and shrugged his shoulders in defeat. Colloyd clapped his hands together at his success and quickly bounded back up the road to where Gesea was walking to tell her his deductions on the mysterious donation of road passes for them all. Despite his reluctant agreement to drop his suspicion, Kraine thought to himself that this 'Yuan' had better have a good explanation as to how he thought it a good thing to steal a book from the Governer-General in Palmacosta and potentially get them promptly arrested the next time they stepped foot in the town. Not that it mattered yet anyway. If he had his way they wouldn't be returning to that region for quite some time. Not until they absolutely had to. A shiver went down his spine as he thought about the inevitable to come. Those washtubs..
He could feel his palms getting sweaty at the thought and shook his head to try and eliminate them before the children ahead of him suffered for his lack of awareness momentarily to the world around him. Swiftly he drew his red book of research notes from the satchel at his side and concentrated on them instead. They were always a good halfway distraction.
Although Colloyd observed that the professor had seemed deep in his notebook once again as they travelled closer to the large city in-between a crevice in the mountains and fought off a few easy field enemies along the way, it didn't take him long to get a noticeable bound in his step when they neared the entrance. "Simply wonderful," he started commenting as he looked up from his book every so often and then scribbled something down. Other similar comments continued, including "fantastic, intriguing, interesting, a marvel..."
Basically the professor thought Asgard was cherry on top of the bees knees. Gesea looked uneasy the entire time her brother was muttering to himself as they made their way past a slope which led up into the shopping district. As they reached the centre of the town, Kraine seemed to have run out of different synonyms for awesome and looked at the two of them, still with an unnatural looking smile on his face. Colloyd understood Gesea's discomfort entirely. Some people's eyes just shouldn't glitter like that.
At seeing both of their looks, Kraine briefly shifted his expression to a more normal one and cleared his throat. "Ahead is the Asgard Ruins. I suggest we go and take a look." He hadn't given them a chance to answer before he headed off past them and toward an archway past a house that seemed to lead up to a great many steps. Colloyd couldn't even see the top of them but it looked like they led all the way up the mountain side. He became suddenly glad for the reassurance of wings to back him up if he happened to trip and fall.
"Colloyd, Gesea. Get out your school books," Kraine instructed them when they finally reached the top of the stairs after a couple of short breaks along the way when they got to the various viewing platforms. The teenagers hesitantly did as he instructed, knowing better than to disagree. Besides that, Colloyd had to admit that he was sort of curious about the place. Especially if it was in fact the site of the next looked around for any obvious places to open up a secret tunnel while Kraine started to talk, but he couldn't see any.
"Time for a quiz," Kraine said, looking at Colloyd. "Colloyd, state the historical background of this ruin."
"Uh... Ah.. Well.. " Colloyd scratched his head nervously and tried to recall when the professor might have told him this. Would it have been some point when they had been travelling here? Or some obsecure part of a history lesson at school?
Like a Martel-send, Gesea stepped in for him before he could make a fool out of himself. "It's the temple where Cleo the third held a ritual to offer a sacrifice to the Summon Spirit of Wind in order to quell a storm that had raged for a week."
Colloyd punched his hand. "That's it!" He grinned at his friend. "Well done Gesea!"
Kraine didn't seem as impressed though and gave Colloyd a short glare. "Have you learned nothing these past three years?"
"Well I like P.E, Art and Home Economics." Colloyd was going to add to the list, but decided to take another course of action upon Kraine's irate look. "All of which you have taught, Professor."
Professor Kraine heaved a sigh before turning to the giant stone dais. "This delicate curve is said to express the flight of the Summon Spirit of Wind through the sky. In addition, it is said that this stone is infused with a large volume of mana, and at night..."
Although Colloyd was interested in hearing the Professor's words, something else caught his eye from a way off. Something red fluttering in the breeze. He wandered to the other side of the stone dais to peek around the corner, only to see a man and a woman seated with some kind of device next to it. The woman wore a bright red bandana over her head of jet black hair, with long tails that flapped in the breeze wistfully.
"If we use the breaker bomb here, we can easily destroy this confounded dais," the woman said.
"But, Harleisha… This is a rare and valuable remnant of the Balacruf Dynasty. We really shouldn't be destroying it," the man sitting crouched reasoned with her. He had somewhat similar features to her, including the same colour hair. Neither of of them had bothered to look up from the device yet to see Colloyd's thin white scarf flapping in the breeze and giving away his location.
"Are you telling me you'd rather I die Linar? Me, your own flesh and blood?" Harleisha stood angrily, showing Colloyd that she was heavily pregnant. "And what of your niece?"
Linar sighed. "You know that is not what I'm saying!"
"What are you doing?" Colloyd asked, hearing enough to warrant making his appearance known.
The two apparently elven siblings, judging by the curve of their ears, jumped out of their skins at his voice. "Wha…who are you?" Linar asked.
"I heard you talking about a bomb," Colloyd said as he trailed his eyes to the device they had been sitting in front of.
"It's not what you think! We weren't trying to destroy the ruin at all!"
At the somewhat loud explanation, Colloyd got a distinct feeling of unease up his spine. Somehow, he was sure he could feel the deep blue glare of Kraine on his back- or at least the back of his head. The birds stopped chirping, the wind even seemed to lower its somewhat persistent whistle. He listened to the sound of marching feet from above him and braced himself with a knowing grin for what he knew was coming. The two elves took their gaze off of him and heightened it to the height of the dais. Colloyd watched in amusement as confused expressions were quickly replaced by terrified ones.
"What...did you just say?" Kraine asked, in a soft and dangerously calm tone from behind.
Colloyd felt sorry for them. "W..wait Professor, I'm sure it's some kind of misunderstanding!"
Kraine eyed the contraption and then looked back at the elves, his gaze becoming even more intense. He stepped down from the tablet to stand protectively in front of the device. "You have no idea of the importance of this ruin. I suggest you fix your ways and apologise to the dais immediately." He went to gesture to the large ruin behind him but instead his hand met a switch. A sharp click sounded, followed by a rushed succession of ticks.
Three pairs of uh-oh's sounded upon realising what had happened. Kraine just stared ahead, not moving his hand from where it had knocked the switch. The ticking continued. Harleisha and Linar flinched back suddenly. "Look what you've done!" they exclaimed together.
Kraine spun around wordlessly and looked at what he had done, before turning back to them and putting his hand to his sword as though he were very close to actually using it on them. "What I've done!?" he spat furiously. "Do not blame your actions on others!"
"None of that matters!" spoke a voice beside Colloyd.
Gesea stared at the bomb worriedly. "It is important to disarm this. Otherwise it is highly likely that we will all die."
"Gesea's right!" Colloyd said, kneeling down in front of it and looking at the wires. "It doesn't look like it has a disarm switch either."
"Of course it doesn't!" Harleisha scoffed. There was a gasping sound as though she meant to say more but had been silenced. Colloyd couldn't tear his gaze away from the bomb now. Every second counted. He reached for the red wire and prepared to pull it out. Unfortunately for him, while he was good at these sorts of things, there was a reason his Dad had told him to always point the wood carving knife away from himself. His hand slipped suddenly off of the red cord and into the green one.
The moment that followed seemed to go in slow motion for Colloyd. Kraine jerked him back from the device and gripped him tightly. To his left Gesea took a flying leap past them both. Then time resumed to normal and they were flying off the edge of the mountain and toward their deaths.