After a few hours of traveling, Sara noticed that night seemed to come much sooner than usual. Before long, she and Leon finally emerged from the forest. They stood at the edge of a huge valley.
Sara couldn’t believe her eyes. A city much bigger than any she had ever seen or heard of lay within the valley, with an enormous cloud blocking out the sun. At various points in the distance, she spotted what looked like the tallest watchtowers on the planet. Further off, she could barely see the silhouette of the massive, taller buildings.
“Welcome to Vesuvia,” Leon said.
“How big is this place?” Sara asked.
“We need to get to the center. Walking, it’d take about three days.” Leon said.
Sara grabbed Leon by the arm, “Three days just to reach the center?! Gaia’s largest city is just a day from one end to the other.”
“That’s because you humans like to spread yourselves around, but lucky for us we aren’t walking.” Leon said.
“Horses?” Sara asked.
“Don’t have anything like those. You’ll see. Follow me,” Leon said, leading Sara to a nature-made path into the valley. Several Vesuvian guards watched as they passed by and entered the city.
For Sara, it was entering unknown territory, and it was a little exciting for her. Vesuvians stared at her as if it was the first time they’d ever seen a human, and for most, it was.
The area had a country-like feel to it, with animals Sara had never seen before wandering around pens just off the dirt path.
A Vesuvian farmer, a woman with tattoos on her arms and face, stepped out of a small shack nearby. She had a strange device in her hand and stuck it onto one of the farm animal’s neck. The animal squealed for a second, and then went on about its business.
Sara could see a small container on the device collecting blood from the animal.
“Don’t worry,” Leon said, “It’ll be fine. These animals are much more valuable alive than dead, so they’re very well taken care of.”
“You farm them for blood?” asked Sara.
“Yes,” Leon replied, “The farmers store it, or turn it into something harder like a blood marble to carry around.
Sara looked on at all the animals, “How much do you have to drink to live?”
“On a full stomach we can live for years, but when we use it to do things you humans find impossible, it’s a rare commodity.”
“So, blood is everything,” Sara asked, “Without it, you couldn’t move so fast, or lift heavy stuff.”
“Among other things, pretty much,” Leon said.
“Has it ever been a problem?” Sara asked.
“It wasn’t called the Dark Era for nothing.” Leon answered.
One of the larger farm animals suddenly roared and burst through a pen like a bull, charging at Sara. It didn’t have horns, but much of its body was covered in exoskeleton armor.
Sara froze. There was nowhere to run except back, but as fast as the animal was running there was no point.
Leon pulled Sara behind him.
The farmer quickly jumped the fence and ran between them and the animal. She stared at the oncoming animal, her eyes turning completely black. The animal skidded to an abrupt stop inches from plowing through the trio.
“Sorry ’bout that. Your smell’s a bit strange to him.” The farmer said, then following the animal back to the pen.
“You okay, Sara?” Leon asked, “You’re shaking a little bit there.”
“And you’re not?!” Sara said.
Leon gave a little shrug.
“How far till we pass all this?” Sara asked.
“Just a few minutes,” Leon said, “The farms are only at the outer edge of the city.”
Sara calmed herself as she walked with Leon, “How did that lady do that? That animal could have easily torn us apart.”
“She’s a Liro,” Leon said, “They have a way with animals, not to mention they can turn into them, too.”
“But how can you tell exactly?” Sara asked.
“Aside from the fact it didn’t kill her,” Leon answered, “Most Liros will be covered in tattoos. The shoulder-length hair and prickly attitude sealed the deal.”
“You can control animals?” Sara asked.
“Me? No,” Leon replied, “Only thing I got from them was a semi-final form, which comes with heightened senses. I can’t completely transform, though.”
“So, the House you’re born into determines what abilities you have?” Sara asked.
“Yes, and even then, it depends on age and practice.” Leon responded.
Sara looked behind and saw someone following a short distance, keeping a close eye on them, “Who’s the escort?”
Leon kept his eye’s forward, “What does he look like?”
“Like he eats too much red meat.” Sara mentioned.
“He’s a Remia,” Leon said, “Extremely strong and extremely fast. A group of them can put a building up in no time!”
Sara noticed they were headed in the direction of a watchtower. The closer they got, the more unbelievably tall it seemed, “The Houses are that distinct, huh? Which House was Bekal from?”
“Kanara,” Leon replied, “They like to mess with your head.”
“What do you mean?” Sara asked.
“Bekal could have put you in a trance, maybe,” Leon said, “Older members of the House can cause anything from hallucinations to memory loss to possession.”
“How can I tell when I see one?” Sara asked.
Leon thought for a moment, “It’s more difficult with them. Their outward appearance isn’t influenced by their abilities.”
The closer they got to the watchtower, the harder it was for Sara to take her eyes off it. She could see a set of cables extending from the tower to another far off in the distance, “Leon, what in the world is this?”
“Remember when you asked how we would reach the center of the city?” Leon said.
“I’m starting to wonder if I want to know.” Sara replied.
“Towers!” Leon exclaimed.
Sara looked at Leon, “What?”
“We call’em towers.” Leon said.
“That’s original.” Sara shook her head.
They walked into the base of the tower and entered a large basket connected to ropes that went all the way to the top. With a quick jerk, the basket quickly began to go up.
When they reached the top, Sara could see for miles in all directions.
A Vesuvian working the winch locked it in place so the basket wouldn’t fall and grabbed a lever, “Ready?” he asked.
“Hang on,” Leon said.
Sara grabbed the basket’s support ropes and braced herself.
With a nod from Leon, the Vesuvian pulled the lever, sending the basket off on its way along a set of cables.
It was only a matter of seconds till the basket was racing through the air.
Leon was leaned against the edge of the basket with his legs crossed, slightly amused.
Sara, however, was hit with an adrenaline rush she’d never experienced before. She looked down and saw the buildings far below zooming past.
A good minute later, they reached the next tower.
Leon pointed to continue on.
The Vesuvian manning the tower worked several winches and pulled a lever to send the basket further into the city.
At this point, Sara began to see a few other baskets in the distance traveling between towers. After the sixth, she could see even more racing through the air, “This is neat!” She said.
Leon looked over the edge, “Almost there.”
After several more towers, Leon pointed down, instructing the Vesuvian to lower the basket.
Sara stepped out, “We definitely have to do that again!”
“Perhaps, maybe on the way back,” Leon said, “There’s going to be a lot of people here so try to keep up.”