"Gnome?" Sheelos recoiled. "As in.. the Summon Spirit, Gnome?"
"Aw shucks. I get all shy when I hear my full name said like that!" Gnome covered his eyes and two bright red patches appeared on the sides of his face near his thick black whiskers.
"But you're supposed to be in the Temple of Earth," Yuan voiced, since Sheelos was shaking her head in disbelief and Lloyd and Gesea had no idea where to start with Gnome's appearance, let alone his presence.
"Would you stay in that musty old place full of the same dirt and everything for more than a few decades at a time?" Gnome asked, floating to the floor and leaning forward toward the half-elf. "Sheesh. You mortals think spirits don't get bored? Let's see you do the same twelve thousand sudoku puzzles more than twice in your lifetime." He didn't even give them a chance to compute the idea of summon spirit sudoku, let alone apologise for offending him. "M'point is I felt like stretching my little shovels." He hovered in mid-air and wiggled the little feet that were almost invisible under the rest of his round body normally.
Sheelos took a deep breath and stepped toward Gnome. The summon spirit comically landed on one foot and pirouetted in a circle before looking at her. "Hmm…so, you're a summoner, huh? Well, look, sorry, but I've already got a pact with Mithos, 'k?"
"Mithos again?" Lloyd's eyes widened at the name.
Gesea nodded. "He must have been amazing."
"Hey Gnome, I'm Sheelos! I ask that thou annulst thy pact with Mithos, and establish a new pact with me."
Gnome twitched his whiskers. "Yer' not as stuffy in the language as the last two but you could still be a bit more relaxed! Bleh!" His eyes made a strange symbol. To Lloyd it looked like XD but turned 90 degrees clockwise.
Sheelos stuttered for a second. "Uh, well…I mean, this is how I was taught to do it. Even then I'm kinda being a bit more informal than Mizuho would probably like."
"Oh really?" Gnome laughed a nasally laugh. "Whatever. All right, show me whatcha got. Eat some dirt!" He pumped his fists in the air and hopped around.
"All of us?" Lloyd asked.
"I believe so," Gesea answered, summoning her kendaxe at the same time Yuan summoned his butterfly blade. Gnome hovered again in the air and floated above them. Lloyd only realised a second before he dropped that it was going to be a body slam. He rolled out of the way and into Colette, who tumbled to the ground. He helped her up, summoned his wings, and drew his swords. If Gnome was going to take to the air, so was he.
"Wind lance!" Yuan chanted. A green lance like the ice one Lloyd had seen him use against the water tornadoes appeared directly above him. He sliced his blade in the direction of the summon spirit and scored a direct hit with the invisibly connected magic before Gnome could turn around.
"Owch!" Gnome exclaimed, his eyes going swirly for a second as he fell to his back. A second later he jumped back up again. "Ok! I'm gonna getcha!" He started doing a strange dance and an orange coloured magical circle appeared underneath him.
Lloyd took to the air and pointed his swords at the summon spirit. "Rising Falcon!" At the same time his attack connected, Gesea finished the attack she'd been conjuring. "Cyclone!" A cyclone of wind grew from the floor and hit Gnome while Gesea turned her kendaxe around to the lethal side and charged into the battle, Sheelos joining her.
"Whoah!" Gnome cried as he spun around in circles and seemed to almost forcefully fly into the back wall of the mine. He recovered quickly and twirled back out into the center of them. Lloyd dodged under Gnome's right claw that spun at him and slashed and thrusted his sword enthusiastically to try and slow him down. It felt so natural; like he'd been fighting that way his whole life. He would have felt guilty about abandoning his chakram training if it didn't feel quite so amazing. During his brief amazement, he forgot about the shovel that accompanied the summon spirit's left handed punch. He managed to jump away but the behind of the shovel caught him on the back.
A spike of pain shot through his body and he found himself dizzily flying to the ground near Colette's feet. While the black spots slowly faded from his eyes, he watched Gesea swing her kendaxe around in a wide arc that created a brief crescent moon after image. "Dual infliction!" Following her attack, Sheeos placed a green card on Gnome and jumped away. "Serpent seal!"
"Owch!" Gnome exclaimed hatefully. "Take this! Ground dasher!"
The ground rumbled under their feet. "Lloyd!" Yuan yelled. At his name being called, Lloyd looked down and saw the cracks in the rocky ground were glowing a bright yellow. He quickly flapped into the air again to get a better view of the situation. Sheelos and Gesea were reeling their heads around frantically to try and locate a place to stand that the magic wouldn't hit. Yuan's position seemed the most safe though. He called for them to head to the half-elf-ex-professor-Cerberus and felt a slight breeze off to his side. Colette hovered next to him, her pink wings flapping frantically and her aura glowing a bright pink. Lloyd stared. The aura was expanding every second.
Once Sheelos and Gesea arrived near Yuan's safe position and the magic of "Ground dasher"dissipated, Yuan charged in with his weapon ready. Lloyd kept his eyes on Colette, unsure whether it was a good idea to let her shoot of an explosion with his friends in the way.
"Oh no you don't!" Sheelos growled to Yuan over the rumbles and noises Gnome made, running ahead of the half elf and taking out another paper seal from her garb. "Gnome isn't going down without getting a good beating from me!"
Lloyd stopped his actions briefly, not wanting to anger Sheelos. Gesea, seeming to have the same idea, switched to spellcasting again after a brief glance at him and the growing angel explosion waiting to happen at his side. Sheelos dodged under a swipe from Gnome's shovel and planted a Pyre Seal on his stomach. She yelled its name loudly and Gnome went falling to the ground with a loud thud. The Tethe'allan Chosen-ninja took out another seal and stood ready for more. Lloyd readied his weapons again too and moved into position to do a downward flight stab at Gnome. The summon spirit finally moved again. Just as they were about to all spring into another bout of action, Gnome rolled to the back of the dead end and waved two small white flags in the air. "Okay okay. Ya got me! I'm done!"
"What? We were just getting started!" Sheelos exclaimed, looking very disappointed as she glanced from him to the seal she had in the tips of her fingers. Lloyd trailed his eyes to Colette. The threatening aura of pink had disappeared and she'd floated back to the ground.
"Whatever!" Gnome grumbled while he straightened the gigantic red bow on his head. "Just make your vow already. Five on one? You guys fight dirty, y'know that? Mithos did it by himself!"
"But.." Sheelos still looked incredibly puzzled. She scratched her head frantically and let out an "argh" before stepping up to Gnome again. "There are people at this very moment that are suffering with the way this world has been created and governed. I vow to help create a way in which the two worlds no longer need to sacrifice one another in order to save everyone. Gimme your power, Gnome!"
"A bit long winded, but alright. I'll go ahead and let'cha use my power." With a wave goodbye to all of them, Gnome turned into a bunch of red boulders and blipped out of existence, a red gem dropping to the ground where he had been before. Sheelos picked it up and waited to hear his voice. "Don't disappoint me like Mithos did, mm'k?"
"You mean Mithos broke his promise?" Sheelos stared. "Guess it really wasn't the hero Mithos."
She turned to the rest of the group, particularly the down-faced Lloyd. The adrenaline of the battle must have worn off. He obviously remembered what Gnome had said before the start of their battle. "Darling," she started, stepping toward him. Suddenly he clenched his fists and gave her his signature confident smile. "If we can't get the ore here, we're just going to have to find out where else we can get it."
"Or find Kraine," Gesea added, stepping into the wobbly circle they were forming. "He was in here before us, so he must have taken it to stop us from being able to help Colette."
"When you put it that way, it's kinda hard to think anyone else had a much better reason," Sheelos conceded. She looked at Yuan, who bobbed his head of blue hair in agreement as well. "Let's head back around the mountain side and get Undine to carry us through to the Altamira islands," he said, cutting through the circle.
Lloyd couldn't help the guilt he felt when he looked at Colette. Probably the most difficult thing about not getting the inhibitor ore was the fact that he didn't know whether she was disappointed or not. She hadn't reacted at all since they'd left the mine. He'd been so busy trying to gauge how she felt that he'd completely forgotten about the Golem he'd wanted to fight. As they briefly stood still outside to take pleasure in breathing the fresh air and tamed the excited Noishe, he realised he'd also forgotten that if he'd gotten hit by said potential Golem, Colette would immediately put herself in the line of fire or cause a massive explosion.
They'd probably actually gotten pretty lucky that they'd beaten Gnome when they did, really. A large explosion like the one Colette had created in the Renegade base probably wouldn't have been a great idea in the depths of a mine. He sighed with part relief that he'd managed to not get them in a load more trouble for once and looked at Yuan. A part of him wanted to thank the half-elf for his advice that they not fight, but he kept his mouth shut instead when he saw that he and Sheelos were actually talking again. Whatever had been wrong before and during their time in the mine seemed to have been forgotten since they'd beaten Gnome and left.
Lloyd led the journey back through the mountainside, Noishe and Colette by his side while Gesea hung back with Sheelos and Yuan. Eventually they turned the last rocky corner of the mountains to be able to see the Tower of Salvation again from their continent. From there, it didn't take long to reach the beach and follow it along to the area they'd flown over with the E.C to land in the moat of water next to the forest. Lloyd covered his brows with his hand to block the sun and scanned the water curiously to see if any of the E.C had floated to the top. He couldn't see much though. If it had, someone had already taken it. He curiously wondered if there were any villages hidden around the continent.
"I guess I'll see what Undine can do." Sheelos said from behind. Lloyd walked back to stand with the group to watch Sheelos take a blue gem from her bag and clutch it to her heart. "Undine! I summon you!"
Undine promptly appeared. "What is it, Sheelos?"
Sheelos scratched her head. "Uh.. Is there a way you can help us get across the water. We want to go to Altamira."
"That is but a simple task," Undine answered. She didn't seem to mind. Lloyd watched the lady summon spirits aura glow an icy blue and extend out to all six of them. "For a limited time, you may walk across water as I do. Be warned though, that should your feet touch the land after leaving this beach, you will lose this power. I will not grant it again so easily." She glowered at Sheelos. "You do realise that I am a Summon Spirit? The same age as the first beings that walked the earth?"
"Y..yes," Sheelos nodded. "I wouldn't ask normally but after you-" She cut herself off and covered her mouth, hoping she hadn't said too much to anger Undine again.
"Understood." Undine burst into bubbles after that statement and left them all standing there.
"We should test it out," Sheelos said. The rest of the group nodded and looked at Lloyd. He blinked and startled back from then. "M..me?! Why do I have to be the first one?"
"You are our leader, aren't you Lloyd?" Gesea asked.
Lloyd crossed his arms. "Well yeah but-" He stopped at the expectant looks of all of his friends and slumped his shoulders. There was no way he could say no now. He stepped up to the waters edge and reached one foot out to the sea. Since he'd found out that he couldn't swim the day before, he hadn't been exactly eager to try again. To his surprise, even though Undine had clearly explained what would happen, he saw his foot land on top of the water like it was just another piece of land. He put his other foot on and walked a bit further out. Grinning, he got a bit more confident and did a run and jump. "C'mon!" he called. "The water's fine!"
"Very funny Lloyd," Gesea said, eventually following his example with the rest of them.
They passed close to a long beach connected to the continent that housed Mizuho, Sybak and Ozette about half an hour into their aquatic adventure. Showing clearly that he didn't like their mode of travel, Noishe bolted off toward the yellow sand on their left as soon as he realised what it was. It took Lloyd, the extra-strong Gesea and Sheelos to stop him while Yuan seemed to think explaining the situation to Noishe would help more. Either way, the dog calmed down and turned his nose toward the island in the distance. Gesea petted him at the side and he lowered the arch of his back slightly to allow her to saddle herself on him.
"So what's Altamira like?" Lloyd asked Sheelos once they were on their way again. He squinted his eyes to try and get a better view of the town they could see from a distance. He could only mostly see a bunch of white fog and a giant vase shape.
"Why're you asking me?" Sheelos retorted. "It's not like I ever went to the resort town for fun. Yuan and I always went wearing ridiculous disguises when we were asked to check up on the status of the missing duke."
"There's a duke?" Gesea blinked and tilted her head. "I remember hearing that Palmacosta was going to make the Governer-General Dorr a duke."
"The duke of Altamira is missing?" Lloyd questioned. "What happened?"
"I dunno," Sheelos answered with a shrug. "It's a pretty famous story though. Duke Regal Bryant- the rich aristocrat that went missing some twenty years ago without a trace!" She accentuated the end of her sentence and then put her hands out in front of herself in quotation marks. "'Nobody' knows what happened to him."
"You say it like there's more to the story," Gesea pointed out.
Yuan snorted and looked away. They all looked at him until Sheelos continued. "Yep. It's a giant conspiracy. They say his servants and employees are all covering for him to protect the Lezareno Company. The most popular rumour is that he killed someone and ran away though."
"That's impossible," Lloyd defended randomly. Gesea, Sheelos and Yuan all raised eyebrows at him. He crossed his arms and nodded to himself. "With a name like Regal, he doesn't sound like a bad guy at all."
"That's your argument, Lloyd?" Gesea asked.
"I dunno," Sheelos chimed in, stalking in the vicinity to put an arm around Lloyd suddenly. "I think our handsome Sylvaranti half-Chosen is on to something. No guy with such a handsome sounding name could possibly be bad! I mean c'mon! Regal! Just hearing it is enough to send shivers down a girls spine." She let go of him and walked off, laughing to herself.
"That's not what I meant at all!" Lloyd muttered to himself, knowing that it'd fall on deaf ears if he said it any louder. "Wait. Half-Chosen?" He sprinted a little to catch up with her.
Sheelos pointed to him and then behind them to Colette. "Well do you have a better idea on what you are? To me it looks like you're both Chosen."
"Huh. I guess I hadn't thought about it like that," he admitted. For some reason, the idea that he and Colette both shared the fate of being a Chosen was comforting. He sped his casual walk into a run when he saw that they were getting pretty close to the shoreline of the Altamira region, leaving his friends behind and calling for him to wait up. He could see the lime green leaves of palm trees and the giant vase-shaped building among patches of colourful beach umbrellas of Altamira, just from a distance.
As he reached the shore, he slowly reached one foot from the ocean to the sand. A strange feeling came over his body when his foot connected with the shore. His one leg on the sand wobbled and he quickly reunited it with his other leg to get back his balance. That one wobbled too and he fell to his knees before he could help it. It was like he was adjusting from sea legs to land legs, even though they hadn't been in a boat.
Sheelos fell next to him and promptly tried to tackle him. He fought her off and turned just in time to stop Colette face-planting the sand during the sea-leg to land-leg change. She fluttered her wings and fell backward until she was standing upright properly. Gaining the feeling in his legs in that instant, Lloyd turned tail and bounded across the beach toward Altamira.
"Wait! Lloyd!" Gesea yelled, giving chase. She cursed her short legs. Her small stature made it easier to hide, but running across sand without feeling like every step was a jump was a feat on its own. She turned to Yuan. "We need to talk about how we're going to go into a city and not get captured."
"Oh." Yuan tilted his head.
She gaped at him. "Do not tell me the thought had not occurred to you yet."
"You misunderstand," Yuan replied. "There's no chance the Papal Knights will give us trouble in Altamira. If Sheelos did it right, they should have no reason to suspect we even had a way to travel by sea."
"Hey!" Sheelos snapped. "What do you mean IF?"
Yuan held up his hands apologetically at her and watched Gesea catch up with Lloyd and Colette ahead. Lloyd started pointing at things he could see from the city to her and she started correcting him on the terminology of some of the words he started using.
Lloyd and Gesea stopped on the stone green plaque in the towns entrance and stared at what they saw just past the giant "WELCOME TO ALTAMIRA! Enjoy your stay!" sign that loomed above. A giant panda, a crocodile standing on two legs, and a human-shaped cow with a cowbell in its hand stood under a decorative archway that led into the city. The three obviously costumed people waved at them vigorously.
"Do you think they know us?" Lloyd wondered aloud. He glanced past Gesea to Colette and was glad to see that she had her glittery pink wings tucked away.
"Maybe this wasn't such a good idea after all," Gesea replied. The two of them took some very quick steps backward when the costumed people came bounding up to them.
"Congratulations!" the crocodile announced in a muffled pirate-like voice. "You're the one millionth guest to Altamira! Please accept these prizes."
Before he could say no, Lloyd found a bunch of tickets in his hand. The trio of costumed people left them soon after. "Wow! We won a prize!" he cheered excitedly as he looked down at the tickets. One said "The Lezareno Hotel Deluxe Suite Package" and the others all said "Lezareno Co. Funland."
"Two seconds into the city and we're already drawing attention to ourselves. Guess I shouldn't really be surprised," Yuan said with a sigh when he and Sheelos caught up after settling Noishe outside.
"No, you shouldn't," Sheelos agreed with a mocking laugh under her breath. "It doesn't suit you."
"C'mon! Let's go check out the city!" Lloyd said as he raced ahead, looking left to right excitedly. To the right of the towns entrance was the large vase-shaped building he'd seen from far away. It was a lot bigger in person and the stairs that led from the ground up to it had been painted red and gold in the center to simulate a red carpet. A boy about his age wearing a white hat and a blue uniform stood at the top of the stairs outside the pink stained glass doors that led into the building, while a blonde woman wearing a red scarf and black swimsuit stood at the base. She caught eye contact with him and smiled with a set of bright white teeth. "Welcome to Altamira, the Seaside Paradise. Enjoy your stay!"
"Th..thanks!" he stuttered. Gesea rested a hand on his back and pushed him to keep walking.
They ventured past a few busy ice-cream stalls in the shade to find an area where the path split off to the left on to a viewing platform and down some steps. The sign right before the descent indicated that it led down to the beach. Lloyd didn't need to go down any further to know it was packed. He could hear the excited screams of children and the chatter of their parents along with the rolling of the sea waves even from where he was standing. "I wonder who we can ask about getting some sea transport?" he wondered to his friends as they ventured along the honeycomb shaped path past a few chattering nobles.
He stopped when he saw another lady resort employee in the same black swimsuit and red scarf. She even had blonde hair. He realised it must have been a wig. The path split off in two directions on either side of the employee, but the path to the right looked a lot shorter. Keeping an eye on both Colette and the dog that sat to the right of the entrance to the path, Lloyd led the group further in.
"Why are we even bothering going this way?" Sheelos complained. "It's not like we're going to magically come across someone who wants to give us a boat."
Lloyd shrugged in response and kept going. The narrow path didn't lead to anything that looked significant and quickly ended at what looked like some kind of memorial stone slab that sat just outside of the shadow of the large vase building to their right. He couldn't see it past an elderly man in a red noble suit though and quickly got bored of waiting. He turned on his heel and directed his friends the way they'd come.
Just as they began to walk, they heard a gasp from behind. "You're..." a slightly muffled voice gasped. They all turned to see the old man staring. He had his eyes fixed on Gesea.
Gesea frowned up at him. "Why is he staring at me Lloyd?"
"I dunno," he replied. "Do you know Gesea?"
The elderly man's eyes widened and a smile showed itself from under the giant moustache that covered most of his chin area. "So it is you." He knelt down and Gesea withdrew herself closer to Yuan and Sheelos. "There's no need to be afraid. Oh, how you do look so much like your sister did when she came to us!"
"S..sis.." Lloyd stuttered, blinking in disbelief at what he'd just heard.
"My..." Gesea seemed to be having just as much trouble as him at getting her thoughts and words together. "My sister?! You know my sister?"
"Why yes," the old man replied, getting himself back up from his knees with a little bit of difficulty. Gesea got a bit braver and stood next to Lloyd, her scared expression looking a bit more puzzled now.
"Your sister talked about you so often!" the old man laughed. "She would always tell Master Bryant and I the most wonderful stories about how you were the most amazing most talented older sister in the whole of Tethe'alla."
"S..she did?" Gesea's eyes widened to twice their size. "I see. This is the place she went to work for the noble."
"But then the noble she worked for must have been..." Sheelos trailed off. Gesea nodded at her, catching her unfinished drift. "She must have worked for Duke Bryant!" She looked back at the old man. "Where is she?"
The old man's expression changed and Lloyd immediately felt his heart sink. He'd seen that look before- on Kraine no less. Gesea shrunk back a bit next to him. "I'm sorry.." the old man apologised. "We don't know where she is. She..." He sighed and reached into a pocket of his waistcoat. With a light groan, he knelt back to Gesea's level and bowed his head as he handed her some kind of plastic blue coloured card. "I apologise. I can say no more."
Gesea looked at the card and then at the old man. "What's your name?"
"George. A pleasure to meet you." He said it so casually as he stood and eyed their surroundings that Lloyd started to feel nervous. "I thank you for asking about the stocks of Lezareno. We're not accepting new brokers currently however. Please read through that pamphlet if you have any questions about what we've discussed." With a short nod to the rest of the party, George cut through the group and headed off across a raised arch in the distance.
"Look at the pamphlet?" Lloyd felt totally confused. "But he just gave you some plastic card thing. Do you think he gave you the wrong thing?"
"No, I'm sure he meant to give me this," Gesea replied firmly as she flipped the card over in her hands.
"Hey! It has writing on that side!" Lloyd exclaimed when he noticed it. He leaned over her to read it. "Lezareno Company- Sky Terrace entrance access."
"Whoah!" Sheelos suddenly shot forward from the back of the group to peer at the plastic. "No way! The old geezer gave you a key card for the Lezareno Co?!"
"Is that important?" Lloyd asked.
"Are you kidding?" Sheelos gaped at him. "Since Duke Bryant went missing, they strictly regulate anyone who goes in and out of that building. We just got a free pass to do as much investigating as we want."
"I don't care about investigating!" Gesea exclaimed suddenly to her. "All I want to know is why he gave me this when we were talking about my sister. Don't you dare say anything else is more important."
Sheelos cringed at the serious glare she was getting from Gesea. "Okay okay. Sorry." She pointed behind herself. "The other direction leads to the Lezareno Company. Let's go before it gets dark."