Washtubs, waterslides & wishful thinking
Washtubs, waterslides and wishful thinking
"It's a washtub.."
"Yes, it's a washtub."
Kraine swallowed deeply and moved the moored "transport" a little in the dock while it was still connected to the chain in order to test its suitability. The second he budged it slightly, water came seeping in through the cracks. He looked at the rest of the motley party. Colloyd had an excited twinkle in his eyes as he fiddled with the key in the lock that the woman named Candy had given him once they had paid for their excursion.
"This looks like it'll be fun!" Colloyd chirped, finally unlocking the washtubs with a click and being the first to settle himself inside one. There appeared to be room for two per washtub. Gesea went to slot herself in next to Colloyd but found herself beaten by Sheelos, who did a run up and would have turned the whole washtub overboard if Colloyd hadn't grabbed a hold of the chains attached to the dock in a fit of panic.
Gesea looked at Kraine. "Come on Kraine." She grabbed his hand and began to attempt to lead him toward the edge.
Kraine pulled away and took a very quick few steps backward. "I.." He glanced at Yuan and hated himself for what he was about to say. "I will stay here and put my trust in Yuan to keep you safe."
"Kraine," Gesea said, exasperated. "They're perfectly safe." She looked ahead at Colloyd and Sheelos, who had paddled away and were enjoying taking turns in steering the death bucket.
"I'm not getting in that thing," Kraine said simply, quite aware of how childish he sounded.
"Okay," Gesea said, surprising him. She started to paddle away. Whether or not it had been her objective to riddle him with guilt with just a single answer, he didn't know, but it worked. He called for her to stop and pulled himself one leg at a time off of the small dock and into the washtub. Yuan settled himself in the last one and caught Noishe as he jumped with his tongue hanging out into it after him.
"Are you alright Professor?" Colloyd asked, reaching his hand out to him when they had reached the Thoda Geyser dock and offering to pull him up. Kraine steeled himself and refused help out of stubbornness for the most part. Avoiding the grin on Yuan's face that said something like "a seraphim scared of water?", he looked around at his surroundings. He could hear chatter of civilians above them. A steep track just behind them would lead to the tourist area. From there, they would hopefully be able to discover the tell-tale signs of the seal.
"Now that we have completed such a.. rare.. experience, let's continue," he said to the group.
They made their way up the steep hill and past the various merchants and tour guides. Colloyd stopped when he appeared to spy something out of the ordinary up ahead. Kraine surveyed the area and saw a familiar girl with a brown-haired ponytail surrounded by a bunch of people with large backpacks and the occasional child.
"Chocolat!" Colloyd called, waving.
"So that's the girl," Sheelos said. "The way Col was wanting to save her, I thought she was going to be some kinda real beauty." She stalked closer for a better look.
Gesea rolled her eyes. "The idea of that probably never even crossed his mind." She kept her distance. Kraine was torn in-between pulling Colloyd away from the girl to avoid a bunch of tourists somehow learning that he was the Chosen, and switching his attention to Gesea. The news from Cacao was still obviously on her mind because she watched Colloyd greet her with his big smile and handshake with a guilty expression.
"It is alright to feel remorse Gesea," he said as he leaned down to her to be at her eye level. "But sometimes telling the truth can hurt more than keeping a simple secret."
"Your brother's right," Yuan agreed. "Think about why Colloyd told that lie to Dorr."
Gesea frowned. "But it is such a burden to know that I.. I killed her grandmother. I killed Marble." Her eyes filled with tears again. "I'm keeping it from Col too. How can anyone live with keeping secrets this big?"
"It is not for the faint of heart," Yuan replied. "But those of us that do, do it because it would cause more pain to tell everyone the truth." He reached into his coat pocket and pulled out a small handkerchief. "Wipe your eyes Gesea and continue to endure." He nodded over to Chocolat, who was leading the group around with Colloyd and Sheelos following her and listening to her stories in amusement. "Let's head over there and meet with Colloyd... and Sheelos."
After Gesea had wiped her eyes, they made their way over to the tour group. Colloyd saw them join and sunk to the back to stand with them while Chocolat explained the geyser and the Spiritua statue that sat on a little cliff opposite them. As Kraine listened, he took some mental notes of the features and properties of the geyser for possible homework. He was almost disappointed when they moved away to continue the tour. Eventually Chocolat led them to the edge of the cliff that faced a large cave separated by a calm body of water.
"This is the seal that each Chosen is said to use to reach areas related to their quest on the Journey of Regeneration." Her eyes drifted through the crowd and to Colloyd. Kraine hoped nobody would notice. The last thing they needed was an audience.. particularly for when they would emerge from the last trial before the Tower of Salvation. Still, they couldn't really afford to waste too much time waiting for the crowd of tourists in the area to disperse.
He tapped his foot on the ground and started to formulate a plan. Just as he was getting to the complexities, Chocolat announced a recess in the tour and pointed out a good spot for picnics. The crowd left the group standing a short distance away from the girl, muttering things to each other about what they might like to have for afternoon tea and where the toilets might be located.
Chocolat let out a large sigh of relief when they approached. "Chosen, you shouldn't surprise me like that! It was really hard to not say your name in front of all those people."
"Oh.." Colloyd started stuttering. "I'm sorry."
Chocolat shook her head and glanced at the seal. "I suppose you are all here on business?" Her eyes sparkled with a somewhat disturbingly similar grin to Colloyd's as she gave the boy a once over. "How far away is the regeneration?"
"It's.. it's pretty soon!" Colloyd answered, doing his best to sound excited about it.
"Colloyd," Kraine started. "I'm sorry to interrupt, but now would be a near-perfect time to activate the seal and head inside the cave."
Colloyd surprisingly nodded his head and headed for the stone tablet located just on the edge of the cliff. As per usual, it had the crest of the Chosen engraved on it, was made of limestone, and had an indentation where he was supposed to put his hand. Chocolat watched with curiosity as he did as he always did. When a bridge of light appeared between the edge of the cliff and the cave, Yuan and Sheelos started to head across.
Colloyd and Gesea stayed behind briefly, saying their goodbyes. The simple girl seemed disappointed that they couldn't allow her to follow but probably understood. Had Kraine had it his way, half of the people who now accompanied them would not have been allowed inside. He glanced ahead across the bridge at Yuan, who's hair shone an almost fluorescent hue as the afternoon sun hit it, and then at Sheelos beside him with her arms crossed behind her head and not a care in the world about falling to her death if she didn't look where she was walking. It seemed a safer precaution to keep the two of them closer rather than further away, so he had allowed himself to go along with it. Colloyd and Gesea shook hands with Chocolat and ventured past him and across the light bridge.
Kraine turned to Noishe, who didn't look especially keen to follow. "Don't let anybody come past here, okay?"
Noishe tilted his head, blinked twice, yawned and dropped to his stomach. "Good," Kraine said, smiling down at the 'dog'. He turned on his heel and was the last to follow the group into the depths of the cave.
Chocolat watched as the last of the group entered the cave and looked at Noishe, who was currently giving her a lazy half-asleep look. A concerned look on her face, she turned away and headed for the picnic area of the tour group. She stood on a small grassy patch and waved to a woman wearing a tight bonnet a little way away. She stood, brushed herself off, and headed toward her.
"Thank you for trusting me," the woman said, taking off her bonnet and letting her hair fall over her shoulders and down her back.
Chocolat stuttered for a second, somewhat intimidated by her green eyes. They reminded her of the blue haired man that travelled with the Chosen group, except her eyes seemed intense with an unsaid desire.
"Thanks to you, I know what happened to granny." She glanced behind herself. "I can't believe that's the imposter group. No wonder they got away with it." She clenched her fist. "Using magic to summon wings and fool me into thinking he was the Chosen! I won't forgive any of them." She turned to the woman. "Thank you for revealing your true identity to me, Chosen."
"Please," the woman said with a smile, "I am just doing what I am destined to do."
Chocolat giggled nervously. "I never imagined I would be friends with the Chosen." She leaned closer. "Your wings are beautiful."
The woman smiled and flipped her odd blue hair behind her elven-looking ears before turning away and raising one arm in the air. Members of the tour group stood up on cue and headed to her. A spiky haired man was the first to make it to her and bowed slightly before addressing her. "My Lady, what would you have us do?"
"As we planned, Botta," the woman replied.
"The fake Chosen and his companions set some kind of monster in front of the path to stop anyone else from going in," Chocolat explained. "What are you going to do about that?" She hoped secretly that they wouldn't kill it. It was pretty cute and seemed pretty harmless.
Everyone waited for the Chosen's verdict. She let out a giggle. "Oh, don't worry about him. I'll take care of that."
"Are you sure?" Botta asked her. "He might look friendly but he has been asked by Kraine to allow nobody inside, remember?"
The Chosen shook her head. "Don't worry Botta. That Arshis won't cause us any trouble."
"Excellent," came Kraine's voice from behind Colloyd and Gesea. Colloyd glanced at his friend as they turned in the direction of the Professor. It wasn't hard to recognise and somewhat fear that tone of voice. "Now that we're inside..." Kraine continued, mumbling to himself as he looked around the area with his magnifying glass, "we can begin the excavation at once!" He started laughing softly to himself.
Gesea cringed a little and headed for her brother. "Kraine! We are not here to excavate anything."
Kraine's 'ruin maniac' eyes faded a bit and common sense seemed to return. "It is not a crime to marvel at ones surroundings, Gesea. I assure you, my interest in the research is founded." The crazy look returned to his eyes, making Colloyd realise that the journey might take a little longer than he had thought. In a way, he wondered if he should actually be thanking his Professor instead.
In the next instant, as Gesea gave up and headed on up ahead, Kraine snapped out of it and cleared his throat. Colloyd waited for the man to catch up with him. When they began walking side by side, Kraine watched as the boy slowly zoned out and almost walked directly into a wall. He pulled him out of the way of the oncoming inanimate object just in time and snapped the boy out of his thoughts.
"S..sorry," Colloyd replied. "I was just thinking about Chocolat."
Kraine raised his eyebrows. "That girl?"
Colloyd nodded. "She acted like she was happy to see me.. but.." He frowned in confusion. "I felt like she wanted to say something else to me. I wonder what it was?"
Kraine thought briefly on it before shrugging. "I doubt it was anything to be overly concerned about. You should be more concerned with your surroundings, Chosen. You could get yourself killed if you aren't careful."
"But that's why I have you, isn't it?" Colloyd asked with a grin. When Kraine didn't return a smile, he sighed. "I wish you wouldn't call me that. Besides, it's not like you're never deep in thought about anything and never make mistakes."
"I never said anything of that nature," Kraine defended. "We all make mistakes Colloyd. I have made many in my life. I once made a terrible choice that haunts me even to this day."
Colloyd couldn't help but be surprised. The Professor never spoke about his past. He wondered if the 'mistake' had anything to do with the Salvatorian he chose to have a child with in accordance to the W.S.P. The last time the topic had come up though, he had been shut down pretty quickly. He had learned his lesson on prying into that particular avenue of his Professors history, but he was still incredibly curious. "It haunts you, Professor?" he asked, trying to be delicate and evasive.
Kraine's thinking eyes were replaced by the usual cryptic gaze after he blinked. "Oh, nothing. I apologise." He sped up his pace and gestured for him to follow.
Colloyd scratched his head in confusion and followed. "What's he apologising to me for? I really don't understand him sometimes."
Colloyd stopped with the group when they came to a Sorcerers Ring changing device. The ring on his finger was vibrating with the power from the device. He turned away from the party and gripped his hand into a fist to activate it. A burst of water came flying out of nowhere as though a water pipe had just blown.
"It makes sense," Gesea said. "This place is a plentiful source of water, so maybe this device reacted to that."
"With that power, we can supply water even to distant areas. Depending on the type of contraptions this seal has in store for us, even those of us whom are able to use magic may not be able to summon the water for long enough to be useful," Kraine said.
Following the path around and fighting some small fish-like monsters along the way, the group found themselves standing in front of a contraption that looked like a large version of kitchen scales. On top of the scales were water jugs, and on the left and right hand side of each scale was a large stone wall with a water drop symbol protruding out of the ground. Colloyd used the ring to shoot some water in the jug on the scale that was higher. The device lowered so that the two were roughly the same height, but nothing happened. Colloyd turned to Gesea, who shrugged and looked puzzled. He looked at Sheelos next, who was looking up to the roof. Following her gaze, he saw a small path. "I wonder if that leads to anything?" Before anyone could say anything else, he summoned his wings and flew up, proud that he had taken the initiative on something for a change.
"Be careful, Col!" Gesea called as she watched Colloyd hover in midair while he examined the surroundings above. He dropped back down to them. "There are some fire symbols and a jug that's on fire." He looked at his ring. "That's not fair. The Sorcerers Ring changed without being asked to."
"I can do it Col," Gesea offered. Colloyd looked at her as she summoned her kendaxe. "Take me up to the top there. I'm the smallest here so.." She looked down, her voice going quiet.
Colloyd tilted his head, wondering why she was going completely red. Maybe it was embarrassment? She never had been one to like being the center of attention. "Okay, here goes!"
He picked her up and carried her to the top level of the room, past the fish monster that had its back to them at the time. It was harder to fly with someone else in tow, but Colloyd had experienced much more pain when he had saved Harleisha and Linar from falling to their deaths after the incident at Asgard. That was when he had been able to feel things, at least.
With a quick incantation, Gesea set the unlit vase on fire. Colloyd assumed it must have been filled with something flammable in order to work, but tried not to think too hard on it save he ask the Professor for answers and get an assignment in return. A buzzing sound came from over to their left and a teleporter glowed to life. Colloyd looked down at the remaining group from above and waved. "Looks like we have to come up here guys."
"And is the darling Mr Chosen going to help us?" Sheelos asked, looking to follow the path that they were standing on to the exit of the room over to the southeast. "The gate there looks like it's blocked off."
"It would appear we've skipped over a complication to encounter another one," Yuan said. "Colloyd, would you be obliged?"
Colloyd nodded and assisted the rest of them one at a time to get to the top. Once they were all safe, they each ate a gel to top up their energy. If the previous seals were anything to go by, they would likely be facing an enemy.
Colloyd opened his eyes after a time when he thought the light feeling of going through a teleporter would have normally subsided. He barely had time to react when a blue monster with a long mermaid-like fish tail came charging right for him. He ducked for cover and it went over him and Gesea. Kraine and Yuan drew their weapons first and seamlessly ducked in opposite directions. Colloyd scanned the battlefield and watched the movement of the trio of enemies that had attacked from the get-go. There was one larger one and two smaller ones. The larger one looked like it was summoning magic, as Gesea next to him had already started to do. The two smaller ones were fighters, judging by how they met the swords of both Professors and didn't immediately get chopped to ribbons. Sheelos ran into the fray next, taking out her cool floating battle cards that she still hadn't explained.
"Pyre seal!" she exclaimed as she threw one of the cards on to the belly of the largest mermaid monster and only narrowly dodged a rather painful looking tail whip. Colloyd decided to help Sheelos in the battle first. He took his sword and reached for the chakram. He held the round bladed disk in his hand and readied it for an aerial assault, but as he went to let it leave his fingertips, he found himself gripping it tighter accidentally. He remembered the feeling well. An unsettling knot wound its way through his stomach. He couldn't remember how to throw the chakram correctly. Awkwardly holding the chakram in his hand, he ran in with his sword ready and summoned his wings. Timing his attack with Sheelos', they managed to knock the enemy to the ground. As it fell with a loud crash, a large lightning bolt of magic hit it square on.
"Colloyd!" Sheelos exclaimed. Colloyd found himself on the floor a second later, the mermaid that he had previously thought out for the count on top of him and the prongs of its trident that it had gripped in its fingers protruding straight through his armour. He knew he should have cried in pain, but instinct kicked in first and he used the chakram still in his left hand to make a nasty dent in the side of its snarling head. It flinched back and pulled the trident clear.
What shocked Colloyd more was seeing the blood on the prongs. His blood. Just looking at it, it had been stuck in there pretty deep. For a vital moment, he stared at the sight, only to be waved out of it when he saw the flash of lightning magic from Gesea again followed by the blur of Kraine and Yuan as they did a dual slash on the large monster, having felled their own targets sometime during the last few seconds. The mermaid monster turned to dust on the ground with a high pitched shrill.
Kraine ran to him, his aura glowing white. If he was healing him, Colloyd couldn't feel it. Gesea looked horrified as she approached. "Kraine! Is Col going to be okay?"
Kraine didn't answer right away, his gaze meeting Colloyd's. "You might want to sit down, Colloyd," he said quietly. "You will faint of blood loss if we cannot stop this."
Colloyd nodded and did as he said, but smiled at Gesea. "I'm okay. I'm sure it just looks bad."
"I don't buy it," Sheelos gaped. "What's going on? You were skewered and you act like it's no big deal."
Colloyd couldn't bring himself to meet her eyes. "It's okay, really! You guys don't need to worry about me."
"That only makes us women worry more," Sheelos answered. "By the way, your daddy dearest looks like he's descending on us again."
Colloyd went to move but Kraine held him firmly in place. "You are not fit to move, Colloyd. This may take some time."
"Chosen of Regeneration… You have done well in reaching this far. Now, offer your prayers at the altar," came the voice of Remiel from above.
Despite Kraine's instructions, Colloyd got to his feet. His eyes were a little blurry when he stood and apparently he had lost enough blood to wobble as he walked. His companions went to help but he held up a hand weakly and insisted on finishing what he had started. They had come this far anyway. The transformation couldn't get much worse than it already was, anyway.
"Oh Goddess Martel, great protector and nurturer of the earth, grant me thy strength!" He summoned his wings and watched as his vision darkened around the corners. Remiel appeared out of a floating ball of light from above in front of him.
"Your journey has been long. You have done well to reach this far, Colloyd, the Chosen one!"
"Thank you…Lord Remiel," Colloyd replied. He wanted to ask or say more but the words wouldn't leave his mouth. His mind had gone blank.
"Let us grant you our blessing," Remiel continued. A ball of light travelled from him and into Colloyd's body.
"…Thank you," he replied again.
"Hmm? Now, Chosen One. Your journey is finally drawing to a close. It is time for you to rejoice. The path to the Tower of Salvation is open! Head to the Tower of Salvation and offer your prayers of regeneration! Then, you will be able to climb the stairway of meet Origin."
"The world regeneration is going to take place?" Gesea asked. She didn't need to elaborate. Colloyd understood her feelings perfectly. Since learning about Tethealla, nothing about what they had striven for and what Colloyd had been primed for his whole life made as much sense as it had before.
"I shall await you at the final seal, Colloyd…my son. There, you will become an angel, like me, and the world will be regenerated." Remiel disappeared with a flash of light and a puff of angel feathers.
Colloyd put his own wings away and turned to the group. Their eyes immediately went to his shoulder wound again, but his eyes went elsewhere when he watched several figures appear in the teleporter behind them. He recognised the dark-haired man from Gesea's kidnapping in the Triet Desian base. It was Botta.
Botta stepped off of the teleporter. "Hello Chosen. I am afraid you will need to die today."
Colloyd opened his mouth to retort but no sound came out. Suddenly, it became crystal clear what the last test before becoming a full angel would be. Botta and his Desians stepped off of the teleporter and more figures appeared behind them. "It's an ambush," Colloyd thought, gripping his sword and realising he had left his chakram on the floor on the other side of the room where Kraine had been healing him.
"We aren't here for no reason," Yuan replied, grinning like a Cheshire cat at Botta for some reason. Botta glared at him and drew his red blade from his sheath. It looked as though it had been repaired. "You might be able to take on some of us, but not all of us!" He charged for him and Yuan caught the assault. Colloyd went to ready himself with his weapon but found his vision darkening with any movement of his arm. While Sheelos and Gesea met some of the Desians rushing them and held them off, the fact that more kept appearing in the teleporter was not a good sign.
Kraine backflipped and landed next to Colloyd. "Chosen, stay behind me." He put away his sword and clapped his hands together. Under the clashing of swords and the cries of the Desians and his friends, he heard Kraine chanting a melody. When he stopped, a large blue dome appeared around the two of them with a bit of breathing room on either side. Sheelos fell back and looked over their situation, watching Gesea fling a few Desians in the air with a stalagmite spell. The Desians got closer than desirable and she seemed to realise she needed to change her tactic. Throwing her weapon in the air, she caught it with the other end and swung it around herself in a wide crescent.
"Kraine!" she called, knocking another lot down. "We can't do this forever."
Kraine nodded in recognition but he didn't appear to know what to do.
"Looks like it's finally my time to shine!" Sheelos said in a surprisingly uppy tone given their dire situation and that there was nowhere to run. Colloyd could only watch from his protective bubble as Sheelos fought off some Desians before placing her own hands on the altar. It seemed crazy at first, but soon enough the ground rumbled and the ground in front of it opened up to reveal a patch of water. A blue woman with purple tattoo's along her chest and arms, long flowing purple hair and legs that connected into a curved tail floated out and stood on the water, looking at Sheelos. She wasn't human, but she didn't seem like a monster either.
"Undine," Sheelos called.
"You who possess the right of the pact. I am one who is bound to Mithos. What is your name?"
Her voice was something else. If it could have sent shivers down his spine, Colloyd was sure it would have. Undine sounded like she was talking underwater.
Sheelos stepped back in surprise and Colloyd stared. "Mithos? As in, the hero Mithos?"
"We must not get distracted with the details," Kraine called. He was starting to sound worn out. The Desians were surrounding the barrier and doing their best to weaken it. Gesea, having taken out many Desians with her kendaxe swings, appeared to be at the end of her tether and made her way into the barrier for some respite. Yuan was still swinging and dodging Botta. It seemed the Desian had improved from their last run in. Yuan didn't seem to be able to get a decisive blow on him and it seemed like he was just stalling for time.
"I am Sheelos," Sheelos answered. "Undine, I seek a pact with you."
"As things stand now…I cannot," Undine answered, seeming to pay no special attemtion to the direness of their situation.
"What?" Sheelos asked. Colloyd could barely see what was going on past the persistent Desians, but judging from the sound of Sheelos' voice, this was not meant to happen. "Why?" Sheelos asked.
"I am already bound by a pact. I cannot form two pacts at the same time."
"You mean your pact with that Mithos guy?" She put her head in her hand. "They never mentioned this could happen at the institute!"
"Sheelos," Kraine called. "A Summon Spirit pact requires a vow. As long as the pact-maker upholds that vow, the pact remains valid."
"…That is correct," Undine replied.
"So it is a summon spirit," Colloyd stared. Sheelos had told them that she could summon spirits, but she had yet to show them the proof in the pudding, so to speak.
"Therefore," Kraine continued, "all you need to do is ask for the annulment of the previous pact and form a new one. The previous pact-maker may have broken his vow or passed away."
"How do you know this, anyway?" Sheelos asked while she fought off some Desians that got too close.
"I am a scholar," Kraine replied simply. "Hurry, otherwise we all might die here and both worlds will eventually fall."
"But what if the pact maker hasn't broken his vow or died?" Sheelos asked. The answer was self explanatory though and Kraine didn't seem to want to waste any more energy on it.
"Okay, I'll give it a shot," Sheelos nodded to herself. "Hey Undine, I'm Sheelos! I ask that thou annulst thy pact with Mithos, and establish a new pact with me."
For a tense moment, Undine paused. Colloyd somehow imagined her searching files in her brain. Then she spoke. "Before I can allow the formation of a new pact, I must test your worthiness as a pact-maker. Draw your weapons."
Sheelos gasped. "Undine, please give us your aid. We are unable to fight right now."
Undine thought. "I sense spirit within you, and for that I am willing to make a one-time agreement to allow you to use my power as you see fit. Do be warned however, that this comes as a cost."
"A cost?" Sheelos asked. She fought away some more Desians but they seemed to all be converging on her location now instead of hacking at the barrier Kraine was still somehow holding up for Colloyd and Gesea's sake.
"You alone will fight me to earn the right to my power, and if I do not see you worthy of my power, you shall die," Undine replied.
"Oh come on," Sheelos cried. She shook her head. "Okay."
"Very well then," Undine sounded pleased and turned into a ball of blue light. "Use my power to travel through the water and to freedom," Undine said before she disappeared.
Sheelos nodded. "Okay." She turned to the group. Yuan backflipped close to her, Gesea ran and Kraine used the last of the energy he could muster to scoop Colloyd into his arms and carry him, the protective barrier still surrounding them. With a cry of Undine's name, the water she had emerged from rose higher and enveloped them. Like a slippery dip made of water, the party found themselves flying out into sunlight, around a few bends, upstream and downstream, underwater and then floating upward to surface at the top of a lake. Before he blacked out, Colloyd saw a sign nearby that read "Lake Umacy."