AN: Many thanks to the people who commented, and thanks for the tip about the annonymous reviews, derail. I wasn't sure what you were talking about at first so I looked around my account and eventually found it. Hmm...the end of this chap seems a bit rushed, but I hope you still enjoy it. Also, a Tourmaline is a precious stone that can take almost any color, just in case you wonder later.
Eagler - your character will be introduced in the next chap :)
Chapter 9: Tourmaline Tree
News of the Galroz incident spread across Grand Terra in just a couple of days. Some of it came with good words for the Engraved and the Einden faction, but not everyone thought this way. A few others claimed that the Einden faction rebelled against the Crade faction because of the latter's strength which was almost common knowledge among the people, thus leading to negative responses towards the Engraved as well.
Unfortunately, the Razenwald crew and all other Engraved were publicly known as renegades to some because of their actions. The Galroz incident was one that caused mostly good opinions, but in the past it wasn't always the case. Before the Keii had even arrived on Grand Terra there was already conflict. Galroz wasn't one of those involved, but all over the world there were scenes of disruption and contest over the energy known as Mana. When the Keii arrived, the conflict was thankfully lessened among the people due to collaboration efforts to rid the Keii.
Still, these beings posed a threat, and the Engraved to them weren't so different. If one person regarded the Engraved as heroes, another would regard them as radicals. This is the story of the Engraved's lives whether they liked it or not.
It's said that people have a hard time sleeping when they're stressed, and the same could be said about Gale. In the past couple of days, he'd been spending his time thinking about all the images he'd suddenly aquired in his head. Ever since Alt had struck him, he'd been viewing them like a mental gallery. It was strange. He could clearly see the picture in his head as if it was his own memory, but he couldn't seem to play that 'memory' back.
Suddenly, a knock on his door got the boy's attention. "Gale? You're gonna miss breakfast" Kari began before opening the door. Gale sat on his bed, that same impartial expression on his face. He wasn't one to show if he was angry or sad outside of battle, so it was a bit difficult to exactly pinpoint how he was feeling. "Still thinking about Alt, aren't you? You don't have to think about it alone. Let's talk it over with the others, okay?"
With a nod, the teen replied, "Alright...just one thing"
"Hm? What is it?"
"You should wait for me to say it's okay to just enter the room" It didn't take a genius to know what he'd meant. A person who simply opens doors all the time without asking first is ought to come in at a bad time sooner or later.
"Oh, s-sorry about that" Kari said with a slight redness in her face.
He wasn't shy about it, but Gale looked forward to eating the food that Grand Terra had to offer. Probably because it was all new to him. There were a variety of animals and plants in this new world he'd never seen before, and that meant a new selection of foods to choose from.
"You seem hungry today" Ritz began as he stared at Gale's plate which had a lot less food compared to his companions.
"Yeah, you even beat Kari" Krowe laughed. "She probably eats the most in the whole Razenwald crew!"
"But studies show that eating a heavy breakfast and a lighter lunch is good for you" the girl swiftly reasoned with a knowing smile.
Beside the blond Engraved, there was a new face that Gale had only recently seen. Her name is Rena Sky, a girl with maroon colored hair and dark green eyes. According to Kari, she was an amethyst-user, just like Leon Griever whom they'd met at Galroz prison. Though she had the same ability, her way of using it was on a much different method. While Leon used it to his swordplay, this girl adapted it to a more unorthodox style: sound waves. Attached to her fingers are rings that contain strings in them that can be used to create different sounds when used like a whip. The sound waves created are amplified by her telekenesis to the point where they can be used for offense. When creating a low-pitched sound, Rena can use a strong impact with the power of a sledgehammer. With a high-pitched sound, She creates a weaker but faster attack that can even be used at longer ranges due to the sound's faster travel.
Personality-wise, all Kari could say was that she was a rash and spunky kind of person who'd sometimes act first before thinking. One of her other strong points was her undying confidence. She was about the same age as Kari, which brought them even closer.
"Hey, so tell me again about this 'power' of yours" Rena began with an upbeat voice. "I've never, in my entire life as an Engraved, heard about a Ruby-user's weapon suddenly turning into a person"
"It's odd, right?" Kari added. "It was pretty powerful to boot. And just before that, Gale suddenly started seeing random images of himself"
Gale nodded in response, "I don't know why, but I can't seem to remember where these memories came from. It's almost like a camera"
"A camera? What's that supposed to be?" Rena asked with curious eyes. Gale was pretty sure they'd have something like that based on the level of technology. He thought it was probably called something else in this world.
"...Nevermind. Anyway, many of the images seem like there's something missing. I don't know why but I can feel that there should've been something there. Out of all these pictures...there's only one that feels complete"
"Lay it on us" Krowe said, leaning his back on the chair with a laid-back posture.
Remembering that single image, Gale spoke, "I can see myself...sitting on sand. There's water right in front of me so I think I'm at a beach or something like that. It was evening, and floating just a few ways away was...a tree. It was on top of a small island and was covered in glass. From afar, I could see it shining with many colors just like a prism..."
Ritz, and Rena couldn't seem to recall the place, but the other two Engraved had a pretty good idea. With a chuckle, Kari noted, "It's called the Tourmaline Tree, and it's the first place you visited in Grand Terra. You weren't conscious at the time, but that's where the bridge between your world and Grand Terra was"
Krowe added, "It ain't there anymore though. When the moderators asked us to get you, they only opened the bridge for a short time. They won't be doing that again unless they've got a good reason to"
Being the only lead the group had, they decided to try and follow it. Fortunately, the Tourmaline Tree wasn't so far from where they were at the time. The Razenwald had made a short stop for supplies so Gale was free to go for a visit. Using the glidebike he'd gotten from Galroz prison, Gale, along with Kari and Rena went out to investigate.
"You're not going, Ritz?" Krowe asked his fellow Engraved who shook his head slightly. His face looked a little pale, as if the boy was-
"Feeling...a little sick" Ritz replied with his head almost moving in circles. "I guess...I'm not really used to flying yet...I never really used to when I was younger..."
"Tough luck, kid. Well, you could always kick back here. I think Kiku's dragged Cole into the town though, and pretty much a lot of the other Engraved have gone out"
"Wait...Kiku and Cole? Ritz said with a raised eyebrow. "I can't possibly see how those two can get along"
"They can't" Krowe grinned. "Cole couldn't handle her whining, and thought it was best to just give up and go. Apparently, Kiku's taken a liking to Lily, and as much as Cole hates the fact that the only way to keep his Keii summoned is by staying near it, he's gotta be a man and deal with it"
"I see...I guess I feel a little sorry for him"
Meanwhile, Gale was well away towards the Tourmaline Tree. It was his first time using the Glidebike for a longer distance, and to be blunt, it was a great feeling. Kari, who stayed behind the boy, thought it was a nice feeling as well even though she'd ridden on one a few times before. Flying closely beside them was Rena, using a much smaller variant of the Glidebike: a Lifter. The lifter was shaped similarly to a board, but with a few aerodynamic features put into it such as the triangle formation on its end made by connected mechanical joints. It was reddish in color, and custom designed by the Engraved.
"Hey, Kari. Is that it over there?" Rena asked with her hand close to her forehead and squinting eyes that spotted a nearby shore. She also caught sight of a large crystal a short way from the beach.
"Mhmm. That's the Tourmaline Tree. Now, if we could just find a good spot to la-" Before the blond could finish, Rena suddenly picked up her speed, surpassing the Glidebike and heading straight for the shore site.
"She's probably broken the speed limit by now..." Gale muttered, making his passenger chuckle.
"That's Rena for you. Anyway, how fast can this thing go?"
"I'm not sure...but I guess it won't hurt to see" Gale replied, speeding up his own machine as well.
In a few minutes, the three had reached the shore known as the 'Gleaming waters'. The reason to this is the Tourmaline's Tree's reflection reaching the sea, displaying a variety of colors on many spots of the water. "Now this is a view!" Rena exclaimed, stretching her arms to relax and removing her heeled shoes.
Gale had to agree, being the type of person who'd sometimes take some time off to sit by the shore in his own world. At that time though, he'd be talking with Alex if he wasn't by himself. This spot immediately took its place in Gale's favorite list.
"Do you remember anything?" Kari asked, but the boy shook his head. He tried to, but nothing seemed to come up. Trying again to recall, Gale slowly paced towards the water with light steps on the peach colored sand. They hadn't realized it, but a few hours had already passed since they left the ship, and the sky had turned a slight orange. With the stop-overs they had to make before getting to the shore, it was only normal that they'd be a little late.
"...I still can't see anything past that image" The raven haired Engraved spoke, scooping up some sand in his hand and watching it slip through slowly. "Maybe it was a waste of time to come here"
"Don't say that" Kari smiled. "Let's just look around for a bit. I'm sure we're ought to find a clue or two sooner or later" Her positive outlook was something Gale relied on even unconsciously for the past few days. With everything that was quickly happening to him, her presence felt relieving.
Seeing something in the far distance, Rena interrupted, "I'm gonna go over there for a bit. I feel like doing a little exploring around here" And with that, the upbeat girl darted towards the other side of the shore. After watching the maroon haired Engraved take off, Gale and kari did some exploration of their own. The shore was much larger than any other Gale had seen, but it was more of a positive note.
There were a lot of objects though including large shells, oddly shaped stones, and also a small cave to the far left side. Searching every nook and cranny, Gale and Kari quickly passed some time by until the sun had already begun to set. It was almost evening, and Gale took a seat on the sand with tired eyes. It was a nice view though. The colors reflected by the distant Tourmaline Tree took a spot on the orange sky as well.
"I guess we're still short on leads, huh?" Kari said, taking a seat beside the ruby-user with a sigh. "I wonder if Rena's found anything?"
With his mind deep in thought at the moment, Gale began, "...Hey, Kari"
"I, uh...wanted to say thanks - for saving me before, I mean. I guess I'd be dead right now if it weren't for you. I was a bit confused at first, and I spent a lot of time thinking about it the day before I gave you my decision, but now my head feels a little lighter, at least" he was a bit bashful about it, but his words sounded straight from the heart. "Sorry...I'm not really good at this kind of stuff" he finished, scratching the back of his head.
"No, it's alright. I'm just relieved you're not mad about it. To be honest, I really didn't know how you'd react to leaving behind the world you knew. If it was me, I probably would've had a tougher time making up my mind"
If Gale had known her only for a day, he most likely wouldn't have believed what she'd said. Even though she was very reliable during missions, in the ship she acted just like an average girl. Surprisingly, she was even a bit of a klutz at times be it in ordinary chores or even outside of that. Gale wasn't the sort of person to really mind something like that, but that didn't mean he couldn't be even a little analytical about it.
At that moment, the sun had now taken its place beneath the horizon, and a lit night sky appeared with its heavenly bodies. The sunset view was already a sight enough, but seeing the dark sky illuminated by the contrasting Tourmaline Tree was even more to behold.
"It's really pretty" Kari mumbled as her eyes fixed themselves to take both the Tourmaline Tree and the sky into her view. Gale didn't share the exact same sentiment, but he found the sight very relaxing to his mind. If he would ever be able to return to his own world - and he thought just maybe he could, one of the first things he would talk about would have to be this view.
"Hey, you guys!" Rena called out from afar, holding a crystal-like object in her right hand. "Get a look at this. It probably chipped off from the Tourmaline Tree"
Taking a look at the shining object, Gale suddenly widened his eyes as a flashing memory began to reveal itself. He found himself at that very same spot, standing there with a crystal in his hand. Something was different though. He seemed shorter, with smaller hands and feet. A voice called his name shortly after, and the boy looked to his left. The person's face was blurry, but Gale could still hear his voice.
"I see you got a Tourmaline shard. Don't break it now" the stranger said with a smile as the two young boys glanced at the same night sky. "Hey, do you ever wonder why big brothers are born first? Well, it's because they have a duty. That duty is to always look out for their younger siblings, and it doesn't matter if they're related by blood or not. That bond...is something that transcends explanation" Eventually, the image before him began to blur even more until almost nothing could be seen anymore.
"Gale! Hey!" he could hear Rena's yelling voice, and soon he'd snapped out of his trance. "Geez...it's like you had a coma standing up! You had me freaking out for awhile!"
"Are you alright?" Kari asked, receiving a nod from the slightly dazed Engraved.
"I remembered something" Gale began "I...I was here before, and I was with someone. I couldn't tell who it was, but he seemed so familiar"
Before the group could even begin to contemplate, however a ringing sound suddenly caught their attention albeit a bit abruptly. Picking up her phone, Kari quickly answered.
"You guys should probably head back here now" Krowe suggested from the other line, "We're leaving first thing in the morning for the mission. Did you find anything interesting?"
Kari replied, "Gale managed to get a part of his memory back, but it doesn't look like it'll be of much help right now"
"That so? Well, it's like they say, 'there's always next time'. And by the way...kindly remind Rena that she's on cleaning duty tomo-" Without even letting the man finish, Rena swiftly pressed the cut button on her friend's phone, sighing with a heavy shrug.
"Well, I guess we better get going then..." she muttered with a frown. "I wish I could just stay here for the night. That would be great, actually"
Taking one last look at the Tourmaline Tree, Gale etched it deep inside his thoughts. It was still unclear what that 'memory' really is, but he felt a sort of warm deja vu feeling emanating from it - the kind of feeling that he didn't want to let go.