Tomorrow Is Another Day
They stood on the white sands, not quite sure where to go or what to do next. As they stood in silence, Odin, the native of Scion, suddenly remembered.
"There's a hill called Baya Malay to the north of Scion. It's protected by a wall, much like the one around Camineet and Parolit, but the gates are always locked by magic, so no one ever goes there."
"Noah, you can open doors like that, right?" Alis asked. The esper nodded. "So we'll go check it out and see if there's anything there that can help us. Let's go back to Uzo."
They spent the next night in Scion. Noah was amazed at the crowded town. Although that trade had decreased dramatically since the corruption of King Lassic, Scion still resembled the busy port city that it had once been. Odin still knew some of the townspeople, so they were able to find a place to stay fairly quickly. They settled in for the night, and darkness claimed the sky just as the group was falling asleep. Or, rather, half the group fell asleep.
As always, Noah waited until she heard the peaceful breathing of her sleeping friends before she quietly slipped out the door and headed for the docks. However, this time the shadowed figure was already there, awaiting her arrival.
"The stars still look the same," he said without even turning around.
"I know." Noah slipped off her shoes and dangled her feet in the cool, salty water. "I can't imagine you living in a place like this," she told him.
"What, you think I'd be better off in a cave?" he joked. "But really, I don't like it here either, that's why I always tried to stay away."
"So why did you set up a home here?"
"I'm not quite sure. It could have been anywhere, it wouldn't have mattered much. As I once said before, I'm not much of a social creature."
Noah looked at the reflection of the sky in the clear blue water. "Where will you go after this whole thing is over?" she finally asked.
The warrior shrugged. "I'm not quite sure. I'll probably just move around from place to place, be nomadic, I guess. What about you?"
"I guess I don't know either. Maybe I'll just go back to Maharu for a while until I figure things out."
"You know," Odin started, "we're speaking of the future when we haven't even defeated Lassic yet. In a week, we may not even be here."
"But put it this way: If we don't overthrow him, we don't know if anything will be here in the future."
He sighed. "You're right. You're always right." He turned away from the water and stared directly into Noah's bright blue eyes. "Come with me. After Lassic's dead."
"But you don't even know where you're going!"
"Well, neither do you, it doesn't matter. You don't have anyone to 'go home to' and neither do I. At the very least, we won't be as lonely," he said.
"I don't know..." Noah suddenly grabbed her shoes and stood up. "I should be getting some sleep," she stammered. "I'm going back."
Odin sighed again, wondering if he had made a big mistake. "Just think about it," he called into the shadows.
Thinking about it kept Noah up most of the night. She knew that Odin had a point, that she didn't have anywhere better to go, but something was holding her back. She thought of what Tajima had told her about the dying race of espers, and regardless of what he said, she still wanted to do something. She also feared that forever traveling with Odin would cause her to abandon her magic, which was something she had promised the old wizard she would never do.
Noah sighed and stared up at the ceiling. They would be leaving in the morning for the most difficult battle they had ever faced, and here she was worrying more about her living quarters after the fight. "Tomorrow is another day," she mumbled to herself as she closed her eyes.
* * * * *
The purple wall was only a short distance from Scion. With Odin driving the landrover, the trip only took fifteen minutes. They cautiously entered the tower that served as a gate and approached the magical doors. Noah cast her "open" spell and they swung open. Inside was a prison, one that bore a resemblance to Triada. The group made their way through the corridors despite the prisoners reaching and calling out to them.
"All who face Lassic lose their souls to his magic!" one man shouted. "It is foolish to try to get him!" His cellmate, quite possibly his wife or sister, screamed, "Lassic is going to sacrifice us!"
They tried to ignore them and continued on. An older man in one of the last cells managed to grab the hem of Alis' pink skirt. "There is a tower on the top of Baya Malay!" he told them.
"A tower?" Alis asked.
"Yes, a tower!" He seemed to be very excited. "Something secret is hidden at the top of the tower!"
"This must be it!" Alis exclaimed to her friends. "We can probably get to Lassic's palace with whatever is in the Baya Malay tower!" They hurried to the end of the hallway and almost ran into the robotcop that seemed to step out of the walls to block their path.
"Do you have your roadpass?" it asked.
"My roadpass?" Alis paused for a moment. "No, I don't have it."
"You are a fool! You will die!" The robotcop pulled out his gun and aimed it at the group. They drew their weapons and in a few moments, all that was in front of them was a steaming pile of crumpled metal.
Alis led them out of the gate and past the mountains to the north. They found another short passageway that tunneled under a lava field. After crossing the field, they found themselves standing in front of the massive tower sitting atop Baya Malay.
The Baya Malay tower was the most complex maze Noah had ever seen. As always, they tried to find sets of stairs that led up, but in this tower, they were few and far between. Noah had always trusted Alis' sense of direction, but now she started to doubt. She started to wonder if they'd even make it to the top of the tower when they reached a door at the end of a one-way corridor.
"Oh no, another dead end," Alis said. "Maybe we can at least obtain something useful again." At the last dead-end passage they had found a Miracle key, which could open magical doors (Noah was glad she wouldn't have to do it anymore). Alis opened the door and found a grinning old man who seemed to be waiting for them.
"I'm the Great Damor, Soothsayer!" he bellowed at them upon their entrance. "Do you believe in my prophecies?"
Alis shrugged. "Sure, I guess so."
"Good!" He grinned some more. "You're searching for something?"
"Yes, we are!"
Odin leaned over and whispered to Noah, "Somehow I don't think that this guy's 'all there'. Let's just try to get what we can out of him and leave."
Noah nodded as Damor asked, "You are searching for Alex Ossale?"
Alis looked confused and was about to respond when Odin pushed his way to the front of the group and said, "Yes, of course we are."
"Good!" Damor seemed pleased with them and Odin thought that they were finally getting somewhere with this old, crazy soothsayer. "Everything I've said is correct?" he asked.
Alis shoved Odin out of the way (or tried, since she was quite a bit smaller than him) and said, "No, I'm afraid it isn't."
Damor's silly grin turned into a frown. "Do you contradict the Great Damor?!?"
"No, of course not!" Alis was apologetic.
"Of course not!" Damor's broad smile returned. "You are a promising young lass!" Alis beamed, and then turned around to make an unpleasant face at Odin, to which he rolled his eyes. "I will give you a magic crystal for a reward!" The ancient soothsayer pulled a clear, sparkling gem out of his tunic and handed it to the young teenager.
"What an odd man!" Alis said as they left the small room. "I wonder what this crystal does?" When she didn't get an answer, she put it away and said, "Come on, let's hurry, I want to see what's at the top of this tower!"
They spent the rest of the day navigating the many levels of the twisting, difficult tower maze. When Noah finally thought that she was going to be driven insane from going in what seemed like circles, Alis led them out into the bright sunlight.
"Isn't it beautiful?" Odin exclaimed. "We can see almost all of Palma from here!"
"Yes, but where is the secret? I don't understand, it's supposed to be here!" Alis was disappointed. "We've come all this way for nothing!"
"Don't say that!" Myau finally spoke up. "There has to be something up here!"
They thoroughly searched the top of the tower, but found nothing. "Maybe the crystal that Damor gave us could help." Alis looked through her things, but found the aeroprism instead.
"Of course!" Myau exclaimed. "How could we have forgotten? The aeroprism is supposed to show us the way to the 'Dark Castle', as that woman on Dezoris told us. Hold it up, Alis!"
Alis raised the aeroprism toward the sky. Noah gasped as the outline of a castle on an island began to appear in the sky. The image slowly began to grow darker and darker until every possible detail was shown above the horizon.
"There it is! Now we just have to find a way to get there!" She slowly turned around to face the small cat that was looking down at the ground.
Before she could say anything, Myau turned his big, green eyes upward and said, "Just give me the nuts, Alis."
"Are you sure?" Alis was concerned. "If you feel uncomfortable, we'll find another way. I don't want you to feel as if you have to do this."
The feline sighed. "It's okay, I know it's imperative that we get there as soon as possible. Give me the nuts." Alis pulled out the Laconian pot and Myau quietly ate a few of them.
When Myau ate the nuts of Laerma, he became clothed in flame and emitted a blinding light. When he was visible again, he had been transformed into a beautiful winged beast. Myau flapped his wings proudly and said, "This actually isn't so bad."
The others climbed onto his back and began the ascent to the Air Castle. They had just about landed when they were confronted by a flying dragon. Myau barely dodged the flame that it shot at them.
After a brief battle, they landed on the floating island. Noah looked around. The surface of the island looked exactly like any other town they had visited. The grass was green, flowers were blooming, and a few small houses stood to the side of the narrow streets.
"Who would possibly want to live here?" Alis wondered to herself more than anyone else.
The esper had to agree. Despite the tranquil perfection, Noah had not lost sight of what was supposed to reside here. She shivered at the thought of what must live in the ominous castle in the center of the airborne island.
"Well, let's see what the residents can offer us," Alis said as she led them to the first house.
She pushed open the door and greeted the old man (who slightly resembled Damor) that was standing in the center of the single room. "Hello," Alis started. "What can you tell us about...your town?"
The old man did not answer. "Is there any information you can give us?" Alis asked, desperate to find out more about Lassic and his dark palace.
He smiled, a nasty, intimidating smile. Alis looked at him curiously. The old man then proceeded to open his mouth, so wide that even Noah, who was standing in the back of the room, could see what was inside.
Or, rather, what wasn't. "Oh, gross!" Alis exclaimed. Someone (assumed to be Lassic) had cut out the old man's tongue. The group quickly left the house.
"I'm afraid all of it will be like this," Odin said. "I wonder why we didn't see it before? The only people Lassic would bring to this isolated place must be, in his mind, the worst offenders."
Alis nodded in agreement. "It makes sense. And as well as keeping them captive, here with no escape, he cut out their tongues as well. But why?"
Odin shrugged. "We can only guess. My idea is that these were the individuals that led revolts and spoke out against Lassic. He probably wanted to make sure that they would speak no more."
Alis winced. "So my brother...," she trailed off.
"Was probably one of the luckier ones," Odin finished. "At least his death was fairly quick."
The teenager nodded again. She looked around at the rest of the houses, imagining the tortured souls that lived inside. She sighed and continued on the spiraling path that led toward the palace.
Noah stared up at the huge, ornate doors that served as the entrance to the castle. It was slightly larger than her uncle's abode back in Paseo, but it seemed darker and more closed-in. Alis pushed open the massive doors and stepped inside.
Lassic's palace turned out to be another maze with many levels going deeper and deeper underground. Alis, the fearless leader, was more determined than ever to get to the end of the tunnels. The labyrinth wasn't as complex as the Baya Malay tower, but they still encountered many dead ends.
Noah was actually glad that they had some difficulty. If navigating the maze were easy, she would have more time to think. Every once in a while, Noah let her thoughts drift to what lay at the end, but she would force herself to pay attention to what was going on around her.
Just as the esper's imagination was starting to take over once again, Alis stopped at a locked door. She opened it and stumbled backwards in surprise.
A hideous creature that resembled the mad doctor in Abion awaited them. "This can't be Lassic, can it?" Alis asked.
Before anyone could answer, the creature said, "I have watched all your actions. Attack me now, if you dare!" It shot out a laser beam from its stomach that barely missed Alis. She pulled out her Laconian sword and fought back.
Although the monster put up a good fight, the others were just too strong for it at this point. Just as Odin was about to deliver the final, fatal blow with his axe, it disappeared. They looked around in amazement, wondering where it could have gone, when they heard a voice, saying, "I'm but only Lassic's shadow! Even if you defeat me, you've gained nothing at all!" Maniacal laughter rang out as Alis groaned.
"I thought that we had finally found him. Now our quest still isn't over."
"It's okay," Odin told her, "We must be nearing the end. We'll find him soon, don't worry."
Alis led them along until they arrived at another locked door. This time, however, she hesitated before turning the key in the lock. The doors opened and they entered.
The room was black. Huge panes of glass that served as windows covered the back wall, but by now it was night on Palma. Noah felt the room closing in upon her. She yearned for the light of the outside hallway but the door had closed and there was no turning back.
In front of one of the windows loomed a giant shadow that almost blended in with the darkness of the room. Noah wouldn't have noticed it except for the two blood-red dots that were suspended in the upper part of the shadow. Her breath caught in her throat as she realized that she was staring into the eyes of the king himself, cause of Algol's destruction.
Lassic stepped down from his throne and greeted his visitors with a false warmness that made everyone shudder. "Ah, my children," he said. "Do you really wish to kill an old man?"
While Alis was silent, Odin laughed. "Don't even think you'll be able to get away with that one," he told the king. "If you have sympathy for old men, then what about the people living in this prison?"
Lassic didn't blink. "All right. Then we shall forget this as an unfortunate mistake." He raised his staff and the four other fighters prepared for the battle. A bolt of lightning hit the top of the staff and was redirected toward his opponents.
On impulse, Alis grabbed the crystal Damor had given them and held it up. Like a magnet, the crystal attracted and absorbed most of the electricity. However, some of the lightning still managed to strike its target.
Noah winced as part of the thunderbolt grazed her upper left arm. She forced her mind into the same state as when she fought the dragon in Casba and refused to ease up on her fighting. She sent her own bolt of lightning in Lassic's direction and didn't even bother to notice where it struck. She felt the pure energy well up in her wand and explode out the top. Although it consumed much strength, she didn't want to give Lassic any chance to gain an advantage.
Lassic's attacks were strong and powerful. Although Myau was doing his best to heal as many of his companions' wounds as possible, the injuries were beginning to increase. Noah felt as if the entire right side of her abdomen was bruised and she noticed a small bloodstain on her sleeve. She decided to allow herself one small look at Odin, who was standing on the opposite side of the room.
She immediately wished that she hadn't. Odin's wounds were worse than her own and his attacking strength was beginning to suffer. The Laconian armor that he had been so proud of was almost covered in dark red blood and his face was covered with purplish sores. Lassic attacked again and the warrior fell to his knees. In a last desperate attempt to inflict damage, he pulled out the small laser gun he had obtained in Skure. Alas, the effort was too much, and he collapsed on the cold, jet-black floor.
Instead of discouraging Noah, this sight motivated her to fight harder. She temporarily ignored the throbbing pains of her wounds and fired another thunderbolt at Lassic. His attacks were getting weaker and more of Noah's blows were hitting their mark. Alis complimented Noah's spells by flinging fireballs of her own, while Myau still worked as diligently as ever to heal his friends. Noah caught another glimpse of Odin, who was still lying on the ground. She couldn't tell if he was dead or just unconscious.
Feeling even more empowered, Noah shot one more thunderbolt at Lassic. It hit him in the center of his chest, knocking him over. Noah was about to prepare another attack when she saw that the king hadn't gotten up. She stared curiously at his still body. "Is he..." She turned to Alis, somehow not being able to say the word she was praying for.
"I don't know," she answered. "He isn't moving."
Myau cautiously tiptoed over to the unmoving body of Lassic. "He isn't breathing," he reported. The cat tentatively nudged the black-clad arm. Nothing.
Noah watched this, knowing that it was finally over. Her mind felt somewhat numb; she didn't know what to think. She looked over at Alis and saw that she was softly crying.
"I've accomplished my wish," she told the esper who had come over to her side. "Nero is satisfied now in heaven." She sighed. "I know that I've avenged his death, but this makes me miss him more than ever."
"I know how you feel, that's how I felt after we killed the dragon outside of Casba."
Meanwhile, Myau had returned to the group. "Hey, I hate to break this up, but we've got to get to a church quickly, Odin doesn't look so great." He turned to Noah. "We also promised your uncle that we would come to see him as soon as we defeated Lassic."
Alis agreed. "We'll visit the church in Camineet, stay the night at Suelo's house, and then go to Motavia." She searched her bag for the transer that she always carried for emergencies and held it up. Noah closed her eyes and waited for the transer to go into effect. She felt very light, almost floating, and in a few seconds, she was standing outside the church.
The priest inside greeted them warmly. For a relatively small fee, Odin was resurrected, and crossed the street to rest at the home of Suelo, who had known Alis for most of her life and always offered the group free rooms and meals. She provided them with fresh burgers and plenty of cola. The next morning, they thanked her profusely and left for Uzo on the Luveno.
Within a few hours, they were standing before the governor's palace in Paseo. Noah was excited; she hadn't seen her uncle since the time of her parents' deaths. They entered the mansion and made their way to the throne room.
The throne room was empty. The governor was not there. They stood in the center of the room, wondering where he could be. Just as they were about to leave, the floor collapsed and they fell into an underground chamber.
"I never knew this was here!" Noah exclaimed. They looked for a way back up to the throne room, but their search was futile.
Alis led them along the dimly lit passage. When it seemed that they had reached another dead end, another pit trap opened up and they fell to another level of the labyrinth. Luckily, the drop wasn't very great, so they managed to escape with a few minor bruises.
Approximately ten minutes later, the same thing happened. "I'm getting tired of this!" Odin complained. "What is the purpose of all of this?"
The bottom level of the maze seemed to go in a complete circle. "I don't understand! There should be something here!" Alis said. She leaned against the wall in frustration and it gave away. "What is this?"
Myau examined it. "It appears to be another magical door," he said. Alis took the Miracle key and opened it. Another door locked by magic awaited them. The Miracle key was put to use once more and the doors opened.
Not even the darkness of Lassic's castle could have prepared them for this. Noah couldn't see anything, no windows, no shadows, no light. She reached out to try to open the door, but she found nothing, just empty space.
She wondered where her friends were. Noah assumed that they were near her, but she couldn't hear any telltale signs, such as breathing or footsteps. A small blue light appeared in front of her. She wondered if it was real or just her mind playing tricks on her.
"What could that be?" Alis' voice came from the left. As she spoke, the light grew. It began to take the shape of an almost human form. Two muscular arms appeared from the body that tapered off into nothing. At the ends of the arms were closed fists, ending in thick, sharp claws. Finally, a head appeared.
Noah shuddered when she saw the hideous face. The glowing red eyes were extremely similar to Lassic's, but they burned even more with the desire to kill. Multiple rows of silver-gray fangs protruded from the grotesque mouth. It said nothing, made no noise, but the four heroes knew that this was the final battle.
As always, Alis drew her Laconian sword in a single, practiced motion that by now, she could do in her sleep. The others followed, determined to kill the being that wanted nothing more than to destroy their lives and the future of Algol.
The creature breathed. What came out of its mouth wasn't fire, or lightning, or anything that Noah had ever seen before. A flickering ball of pure hatred was shot toward the group, exploding in their faces. Noah reacted in the best way that she knew: aiming thunderbolts in the creature's direction.
This battle was different from any others, even the encounter with Lassic. The surrounding, ever-present blackness made it impossible for Noah to see her companions. Every once in a while, she would see the Laconian axe come across the monster's midsection, or a fireball of Alis' bursting on its skin, but that was all. She wanted to call out, but she knew that she couldn't distract the others because they needed to focus as much as possible.
The esper continued to summon as much lightning as possible, but she couldn't tell if she was actually harming the creature. For all she knew, the being was immortal and all their attacks were wasted.
Another one of the attacks shot into the group. The edge of it hit Noah head on and she collapsed. Her vision started to blur and everything became fuzzy. Is this it? Is this the end? She fought to stay awake, but the intense pain in her head was starting to win the battle. She saw the feline face of Myau hovering over her and knew that although he was trying to heal her, it was too late. Speaking was impossible, although she tried her hardest. I'm sorry, Alis. I'm sorry, Tajima. I'm sorry, Algol. Her head fell to the side and she caught one last glimpse of Odin's metal boots before she lost consciousness.