Tomorrow Is Another Day
The next few days were spent in the ice digger searching the mountains of Dezoris. Deep in the highlands surrounding the southwestern edge of the plain where Guaron was located, the group found a small cave. Inside one of the rooms, much to their surprise, was a young girl who had set up a home there. "Raise the aeroprism towards the heavens! You should then be able to see the Dark Castle!" she told them.
"You mean Lassic's palace?" Alis asked. The girl nodded. "This could be it! Where is this aeroprism?"
"It's on the opposite side of this cave," she told them. "However, it's guarded by large creatures called titans. But I'm sure you'll be able to defeat them."
"She reminds me of someone," Odin whispered to Noah, slightly chuckling. She smirked and gave him a light shove.
They retrieved the aeroprism from the cave and returned to the surface. Alis raised the aeroprism towards the sky, but nothing happened, however. "I wonder why it doesn't work," she said.
"Take it anyway," Myau told her. "Maybe we'll be able to use it at some other time."
They exited the cave and boarded the ice digger again. Another few days worth of exploration brought them to densely forested plateau. Odin drove the vehicle through the evergreen trees until they came to a small clearing. In the middle of the circular meadow was one single tree that looked different from the rest.
"What is this?" Alis asked.
"I have no idea," Odin told her. "I've never seen anything like it before."
Noah studied the tree. Although it was covered in snow, she could make out some green underneath. It resembled the evergreen trees that surrounded the plateau, but it was smaller and its leaves were wider and lighter in color. Brown nuts were hanging from some of the branches. She plucked one of them off the tree to examine it, but it was long dead and shriveled.
"Hey, Alis?" Myau called.
"Your bag is glowing."
"What!" Alis opened her bag and produced the Eclipse Torch, which was emitting a bright orange glow. She held it in front of the tree and all the snow melted. The nuts on the tree started to shine as well and Noah picked another one off the branches. However, this one shriveled up as well within a few minutes.
"Maybe we have to contain them somehow..." Odin suggested. Alis pulled out the Laconian Pot and put a handful of the nuts inside.
"It seems to be working," Noah observed after some time had passed. "But what do we use them for?"
"I think I know," Myau spoke up. "A villager in Abion told us that the mad doctor had been using a special kind of nut in his animal experiments," he said, grimacing. "Something about making musk cats fly," the small feline spat out.
"Maybe we can get to Lassic's palace that way!" Alis exclaimed. She saw the expression on Myau's face and added, "But only if Myau is comfortable with that..."
He shrugged. "If that's the only way, I'll be fine. After all, we must defeat Lassic!"
"That's the spirit, Myau!" Alis said. "Now all we have to do is find the castle with the aeroprism!"
"Wait!" Noah suddenly stopped her. The rest of the group turned around, surprised at the blue-haired wizard's loud outburst. She blushed, but continued. "Can we do one more thing before we commence out search for Lassic's castle?"
"Sure, what do you want to do?"
"I want to visit my former teacher before we go to fight Lassic. I want to see what he has to say and tell him everything that has been happening. After all, I haven't seen him in quite a long time. And since he's the last person who's really close to me, I want to see him one more time just in case...well, I just want to see him again."
"I understand. There are so many times that I've wished for just a few more moments with Nero..." Alis paused for a moment but then shook her head as if to get rid of he mood that was starting to set in. "But it's no use thinking about that now!" she said in a much perkier voice. "And we will defeat Lassic!"
The pink-clad teenager turned to Noah. "Where does your teacher reside?"
"He lives in a deep cave almost hidden in the mountains south of the Motavian lake, far east of Casba."
Alis nodded. "We'll start heading back to Skure as soon as possible and we'll take the Luveno to Uzo."
The trip back to Skure only took two days. The group rested in the village for the night and left for Motavia in the morning. After the short ride they boarded the landrover in Uzo and Noah directed Odin where to drive.
Navigating through the mountain passes with the landrover was difficult, and eventually, they had to get out and walk. Although Noah hadn't been to those mountains in many years, she felt as if she had only left them yesterday. She led the way to the opening of the cave and quickly found the first staircase. Within a few hours, she found herself standing before Master Tajima's door, just like she had when she was still in her early teens. But this time, it wasn't her parents behind her, but her three newest, closest companions.
Noah took a deep breath and knocked on the door. A few moments passed before the old man finally answered. He stared at her and said, "Ah, my young pupil, Noah, you have returned."
She embraced her former teacher and he welcomed the rest of the group inside. Noah started to say something, but Tajima stopped her.
"I know. You are preparing to face Lassic. Come, you must pass your final test: We will duel!"
"What?" Noah was about to argue some more, but a ball of fire whizzed past her nose before she could open her mouth. Meanwhile, Alis, Myau, and Odin had left the room to get out of the way of the battle.
Noah took a deep breath and sent a bolt of lightning in the wizard's direction. He sent another two fireballs back and the two continued to fight for the rest of the afternoon. Finally, Tajima put down his staff and congratulated his onetime pupil.
"You have become much stronger," he said. "You are well prepared." Noah beamed at the compliments as Tajima removed his cloak. "I'll give you a Frade Mantle as a gift. It protects you from danger!"
"I can't accept this!" Noah protested.
"But you must, it will assist you in your battle against Lassic." Tajima crossed the room and sat down at the table. "Sit down, Noah," he said, "We have much to talk about."
Still somewhat considering herself the docile student, Noah obeyed and placed herself across from the wizard.
"I am glad to see that you have kept up with your studies and learned a great variety of spells," he said. "Now it's time to learn the meaning of your studies, like I promised you long ago."
Noah didn't say anything, although she did remember.
"We are part of a great race called 'espers'," he began. "Your parents also knew magic, but they were reluctant to use it. They felt that they would be alienated from the rest of society if it were known that they had these special skills. However, they wanted you to make your own decision when the time was right, so they brought you here for you to train inconspicuously." He paused for a moment. "They would be so proud of you now. If they could only see you..."
"I found the creature responsible for their deaths," Noah blatantly said.
"It was a dragon. I helped kill it." Tajima didn't seem to know what to say, but Noah went on. "But when I reached the town, I realized that I had to get on with my life because that is what they would have wanted me to do."
A smile spread across Tajima's face. "Indeed, they wouldn't have wanted you to waste any more time in mourning. And it's so tragic that their lives were ended so soon. You see, Noah, espers' life spans are quite a bit longer than that of an average Palman. Your parents were right in the prime of their lives, they could have lived for many, many more years. But as I told you at the time, certain things happen for a reason. That was your sign to start your life on your own."
Noah reflected on this one more time, but then a new question came to mind. "You said that there is a whole race of espers, but where are the rest of them?"
"That is a difficult question, Noah, and I don't know the exact answer. Like your parents, many espers don't like people to know of their powers. I'm sure that there are many scattered throughout Algol, either in towns, or living on their own. I did hear that many of them moved to Dezoris and are residing there."
Noah nodded and the old man went on. "There are some who fear that we are a dying race. That is why it was so important for you to continue your studies. Everything in nature is part of a delicate balance, Noah. If we were to die out, or the native Dezorians, or even the cacti on this planet's fields, everything would be thrown off and destroyed. It is crucial that the espers survive!"
"What can I do?" she asked.
"Promise me that you will always keep up with your magic. Never relent in your studies; always yearn to know more. If every esper were to do that, we'd never have to worry again."
"But I want to do more," she told him.
"I know you do, but there really isn't anything else," he said. "Now that you know of your background, I have nothing to teach you more. You and your companions may stay the night and continue your quest in the morning. Which reminds me, you may want to let them back in so they don't become tarantula food."
Noah smiled. "I'm sure they'd be just fine, but I'll go get them anyway. Then I'll tell you about everything that's happened."
"No you won't, you need your rest. You can tell me after you get back, that way your tale will have a much better ending."
"But what if..." Noah started to protest again, but Tajima cut her off.
"There is no time for 'what-ifs'," he said. "You will be victorious. Now go get your friends and rest for tomorrow."
"Because tomorrow is another day, right?" Her smile grew.
"Of course it is. I always told you that you were my best student," he said, returning the smile.