Presea didn't know why she came to the beach.
Every action Presea made was deliberate. She squandered no energy or speech. When she fought, each movement was concentrated, meaningful; when questioned, she measured sufficient replies. If nothing else, Presea was efficient.
Sometimes she felt she was nothing else.
So she didn't understand why they were in Altamira at all. She thought that with every hurtful revelation her friends faced, they focused more intensely on their mission. Yet certainly they had more important things to do than help that woman find her daughters. Now they were wasting a whole day. As far as Presea could tell, the beach was completely irrelevant, even harmful to their goals. The worlds would not save themselves. Yggdrasill would not stop his plans so Lloyd could snorkel.
Lloyd was calling. Presea looked up, but he wanted the attention of Genis, not her. To see some kind of shell, apparently. The white-haired boy jogged over to share in his friend's discovery, kicking through salt water, the world in his open smile.
Presea looked back at her project in the hot sand, musing that he did not always look so young. When he tapped his power he seemed ageless.
In battle one could only think about what was necessary. One's mind must always be on the next move. Presea fell into her strokes and quit feeling. She anticipated, acted and reacted. She sought perfection. Of course, every now and then wounds impaired her performance so that momentary retreat became the most useful action, until Raine's cold healing flowed over her. At those times of waiting she stood back and calculated the battle from a distance.
Genis invariably proved himself. Kendama twirling absently, light winding around him, lambent shadows across his face. He went so far inward, or somewhere else, that it seemed he was no longer there. She felt like him, then, or imagined he felt like her—mind separate of body and emotion. He was outside of time, the way she had been for so long. So long.
And then his childish voice intoning old words. "I call upon thee in the land of the dead..." He fell into the chant, his magic near effortless, as though he were answering a homework question aloud. Presea labeled magic an unimportant mystery: its how and why were incomprehensible. She understood what it did and its place on the battlefield, and that was all that was necessary.
"What are you making?" Genis' shadow stood over her.
"Octagon-Shell Turtle Twins," Presea replied. She rarely varied her tone. "It's a charm to ward off danger at sea."
"Oh. Does it really work?"
She looked up, expressionless. "I heard a legend of it in Ozette, but I am uncertain of its success. Should I do something else?"
"N-no..." Blood rose to his face, as always around her. Presea had not yet equated his flushed nervousness with his feelings for her; she merely wondered if he was feeling well. She thought he should put his sun hat on instead of letting it dangle behind him from the string around his neck... but she decided he was capable of making that decision on his own and said nothing. She preferred not to waste words, although her fellow travelers (especially Zelos) exhibited no such frugality. So she waited for him to make the next move: speak or leave.
Her staring only made Genis redder. "I'm... want to help me build a sand castle? If we make one bigger than Lloyd's, we can decide dinner at the camp tonight."
Presea didn't see the point of deciding dinner. Sustenance was sustenance. But Genis thought it mattered. He preferred one type of energy over another. "All right," she answered.
They dug deep to find sand that packed well, and for half an hour Genis prattled on about his childhood in Iselia. He's yet a child, Presea thought, listening to his stories. She might have lived twice as long as he, but had not aged. Her life was twisted by magic and exsphere experimentation. Though she worked valiantly to not dwell on it, sometimes she could not help but despair.
She thought sorrow should consume Genis today as well. Yesterday he wept over the loss of his friend. Mithos' betrayal hurt no one more than Genis. But here he was, building a sandcastle. How could he distract himself? How could Lloyd and Colette splash each other, play like children, laughter ringing to the empty sky? Everyone has lost so much. How can they be happy?
"You can't remember your sadness all the time," Genis replied.
Presea looked up in surprise. She had spoken aloud without realizing it. Although she could think of no good reason to, she continued. "Yesterday you were sad about Mithos."
Genis looked down in shame. "I knew who he was before anyone. But I trusted him." He looked down at his side of the castle so far: a mix of sand, shells, sticks and seaweed. Creative, impulsive, unorganized.
"You trust too easily. All of you do."
He was quiet for a while. "We think with our hearts," he finally said, true as lightning.
Presea looked at him in awe. "You do. You all do." And she wondered at her place in their company, if she paid so little mind to her emotions.
Absentmindedly, she had been smoothing the top of a perfect tower. He put a hand on hers and stilled it. She felt prickly sand, cold skin, warm sun. "It's okay to feel," he said.
"Yes," she replied, unsure which of them comprehended less. She moved her hand away and mechanically scooped more sand.