His boots crunched over the forest detritus as he followed them deeper and deeper into the Cheagle Woods. He was astonished that none of them had noticed his presence yet- he hadn't expected the noble to by any means, and a Fon Master had his own guardians (usually) to notice things for him. What really surprised him was the fact that the enigmatic Tear hadn't picked up on his presence. That pointed to a distinct lack of field work, he mused, which in turn meant some internal division of the Oracle Knights, perhaps...
Jade's thought trailed off as he entered the ligars' tree trunk and began the slow descent over trunk roots, dodging the wounded ligars on his way down. What possessed them to attempt to oust a pest of this caliber, he could not fathom. But if the Fon Master fell victim to any unfortunate accident during this outing, the mission to deliver the peace treaty would become much harder, if not impossible.
He watched in the shadow of the hollow as the fight was initiated, noting the noble's sloppy stance and his unpracticed attacks. Unfortunate, but typical of the amateur swordsman. Tear's skill was likewise minimal, confirming his suspicions about field experience, but spoke volumes of better training and dedication.
Better prepared, but nothing particularly special.
That was, until she started to sing.
Jade Curtiss, though his body would never master the Seventh Fonon and he knew it, had learnt to recognize its presence, how it felt as it passed him by untethered. When Tear sang, he heard the whisper of seventh fonons slipping up through the air to swirl around her as she cast her spell and directed it at the ligar queen. They converged around the girl's body, mixing and interchanging with the fonons in her blood like an exquisite waltz, a song unbroken, some hidden secret. He'd taught himself to observe them early on until he'd become expert at it, devoting long hours to make the skill of seeing them his.
But this was different from anything he'd ever seen. The Professor, or any other Seventh Fonist that he'd watched for that matter, had never cast their spells quite like this. The fonic verse had always been an incantation, true, but never had it transcended into song...
And that was when the realization swept over him like a sudden thrill of cold: she was singing a fonic hymn.
He stood as though transfixed, watching as the red-haired boy got pummeled by ferocious swipes of the queen, as the girl again began to sing. They certainly seemed out-matched in just about every way possible, he thought idly. Their dire straits offered him a clear view into their emergency tactics (there appeared to be none other than frantic slashing and casting), although it felt like some trial by fire to just sit still and watch their amateurism.
Ah well. No one's patience could be expected to last forever.
He opened his body's fon slots slowly, unlocking each fonon, first, second, all the way through sixth, as precisely as an athlete stretching each muscle before making his performance. He'd like to end it quickly. After all, it had been quite some time since anyone had intrigued him this much, and he certainly didn't intend for her to die when he had so much more to find out.
And there was Ion to think of as well, he chided himself before stepping into the clearing.
"Man, all anybody ever wants from me is my title."
Tear glanced up from the fon stones in the lamps. These seemed a little different from what she was used to; their light was warmer. "Do you actually have a title?"
Luke fumed. "Of course! I'm a duke's son, hello?" He laughed. "Half the Kimlascan royal court would probably die if I didn't have a title."
"Well, what is it?" Tear asked, actually curious. "I'm not all that familiar with how duchies award titles to a successor while the predecessor is still living."
"Ugh!" Luke raked his hands through his hair. "Why do you have to make it sound so complicated? I'm a duke's son, okay? That's my title."
Sensing that correcting this was going to get her nowhere, Tear suggested that they take the Colonel up on his offer to explore the dreadnought.
On the bridge, though, the situation was far more businesslike.
"What, no way, Colonel!" Anise stomped her foot on the metal planks of the floor to accentuate her point. "I can't believe you won't just tell them about what we're doing. It would be so much easier that way!"
"Easier, but more dangerous. Besides, I prefer not to take any more people into custody than I have to."
"Aww," the girl smiled up at him, "everyone makes you out to be so tough but you're just a big softie on the inside, aren't you?"
"Not really." Jade replied. "It's just more hassle to move someone from across a country against their will rather than when they go willingly."
Anise's face abruptly fell. "Oh, so you're just lazy."
"Go and prevent your future husband from destroying the ship, will you?"
A few moments after Anise had exited, one of the helmsmen coughed significantly. "Uh, Commander?"
"Meaning no disrespect, sir, but seeing it'll be a while until we reach the Kaitzur checkpoint and that we have things under control here..."
"Ah." Jade laughed, adjusting his glasses and gracefully acknowledging the oversight. Anise was perhaps less than an appropriate guide for their guests. "I admit my carelessness, Captain. In the mean time, I leave the Tartarus in your capable hands."
Terrifying and enchanting.
The fon slot seal clicked and circled into place above him, each twisting circle sealing off fon slots he'd staked his life to open, make himself more a catalyst for artes- everything was getting clogged over as the lock turned itself into place. It was like catching a bad headcold on every part of his body, mixed with clammy skin and the feeling of drowning in something viscous, a molasses-like substance that used to be the air. Gravity seemed like it was being reinvented; each breath he took pulled him down harder and harder, until his lungs ached like they were filling up with lead.
Jade wasn't used to functioning on such a paltry amount of fonons, the sudden disconnect was suffocating...
"Even a Fon Master would be trivial to deal with without his fonic artes. A pity your reputation couldn't have afforded you more protection, Necromancer." The Black Lion's deep voice intoned somewhere in the distance. Jade felt it ringing in his ears like bells out of tune, his head throbbing with the discordance.
If this was the terrifying and enchanting thing promised him in that Score, then he was never hearing his read again.
Still, as he pulled himself back up to standing with what seemed all his strength and lunged with his spear at Largo, his arm shuddering as the shaft pressed through the God-General's armor and bit into skin, he couldn't say that he agreed with him.
Jade's smile never faltered, even as Largo's eyes widened in shock.
"Oh, you'll find I'm anything but trivial."
A Necromancer had his reputation to uphold, after all. And no one forced Jade Curtiss to his knees.
Tear had a feeling that the Colonel wouldn't be asking them to help if he'd had any other choice.
She noticed that he still fought the monsters admirably, though less skillfully than he had with them back in the Cheagle Woods, and agreed to herself that, determined though he was to regain control of his ship, he could not have taken the bridge on his own. A part of her pitied him, but another part was curious that he'd admit it. Surely that must have cost him something to say. But then again, he'd easily knelt when Luke had requested it...
Whoever he was, Jade had a different concept of pride than most people she met, Tear concluded as she passed through the door to the upper part of the bridge with him.
Below, she could hear the voices of several Oracle Knights in charge of steering the dreadnought. Her eyes flicked over to judge his expression, but again she was surprised: his countenance didn't betray any hints of malice or outrage at seeing the enemy in control of his ship; no, from his pleasant smile, she'd be more inclined to think that nothing more exciting had happened to him than chasing down those bandits, rather than the craft he was in command of getting stolen from him.
"You seem like there's something you want to ask." He commented softly, lest the men below hear them.
Tear looked away quickly. "It's nothing."
"No, really, if we're to go into battle soon together, I insist."
How could she ask him about his pride? How he'd still kept a cool head, to her amazement, after everything had turned against him? Or what had happened to him to make him say that his pride wasn't so cheap as to be bothered by things like Luke, or the ship being taken? All of that was...much too personal.
So, Tear opted for a more general topic. "How long will it take to get the seal off?"
She saw the Colonel's lip quirk into a pleasantly amused smile. "I should still be capable in combat, at least more than enough to keep with you, if that's what you're asking." He paused, considering it seriously. "I would imagine some months. It's like a lock whose combinations keep changing."
Tear looked down at the knights below them and sighed to herself. "The seal or you?"
"Both," Jade shot back, examining their targets' positions and readying himself to jump down for their ambush, "though I doubt anyone other than myself would be capable of solving them. Now," he said, returning to the matter at hand with an ease of manner that disconcerted Tear, "if you'll sing your hymn, I'll attend to the Tartarus' controls."
Tear wasn't sure what to make of him and had a feeling that she wouldn't for a long time still. So, she did the only thing she could and sang.