Something Beyond my Search
All ownership claims go to Squaresoft and the appropriate developing staff. Direct quotes from the game are used.
Imu stretched, fatigue wearing her down like an anvil—and boy did she know how heavy they were! The small boy beside her seemed just as tired. "Hey Bud," she caught his attention, "What's the next town and how far off are we?"
The boy unfolded the map hanging from his belt, consulting it for a minute before replying, "It should come into sight in about 5 minutes. It's Gato Grottoes!" a wide grin spread over his childish features.
"Gato Grottoes? You seem excited; is it a cool town or something?" Imu wondered in surprise at his reaction.
Bud, energy suddenly back in his small body, replied, "Of course it is! Not only does the wisdom Selva often visit, but it is also the home to the Temple of Healing! Mana nuns train mystic healing powers in there, and the healing branch of the goddess resides there!" he waved his arms excitedly as he spoke.
Imu looked upon him tenderly and continued to converse with her self-acclaimed apprentice. It wasn't long before they began approaching the lights of the sacred town. Fatigue getting to them, with a look they agreed to rush towards the town, making it there in a shorter time than they had originally expected. "Alright, well, first of all, we need to check into an inn, then we eat." Her lips spread into a smile at the thought of food. Bud nodded in agreement, and they set out to find a place to spend the night.
Having checked into a homey-looking place near the entrance, Imu and Bud set out to a restaurant they had seen on the way to the inn. As a waitress sat them down, Imu felt a chill run down her spine—it wasn't the first time she felt such a unique chill, but she couldn't quite place it. Inconspicuously looking around, her eyes fell upon a man with a red outfit. His head was covered by a turban of the same fiery colour, and a giant ruby protruded from his chest like a growth, shining softly though the fabric of his clothes. Familiarity crossed over Imu's features in displeasure as she turned back to her menu. She frowned as memories of the other guy he had met rushed into her mind. What was that word again?
"What's wrong master?" Bud asked, taking her out of her reverie, in concern. "Does your tummy feel sick?" he was terrified for her health.
Imu stared at him in confusion for a minute, then shook her head with a smile. "No, I'm ok Buddy Bud." She used the nickname she had given him. She then remembered the word she had heard from the Priest at the Church of Mana, and asked Bud about it, "Hey, Bud, do you know what a Jumi is?" she made sure to say it in a quiet voice, hoping the man behind her would not hear.
"Of course master noticed, too! What a sharp eye you have, indeed!" he called triumphantly, adoration growing into his features, then proceeded to explaining, "A Jumi is a member of a long-lost, near-extinct race of humans who had a jewel for a heart, which is located smack in the middle of their chest, exposed. There are usually two—a guardian, and a knight. The knight's task is to protect his guardian at any cost, and the guardian in turn cries tears of healing to aid their knight in battle. But one day, all guardians became unable to cry, and the race started to die off. So if a Jumi is seen in this day and age- which is very rare indeed!-, they will surely be a knight without a guardian." Bud seemed proud of himself for educating his master in something new.
Imu pursed her lips, frowning at the new information, "The death of a race. . .it's so. . . it's so sad." She grimaced, her eyes, stinging as she tried to hold tears back (it had been such a long day, and sadness was less withheld in tiredness). After seeing Elazul caring so much for Pearl, she could just imagine it too well: a bleeding knight, crying over his dead guardian as they became sparks of mana, leaving the knight all alone in the world. No wonder Elazul was such a grouch!
Bud, alarmed, stood up with a smack of the table and screamed at Imu, "MASTER, NO! WHATEVER YOU DO, DO NOT CRY!" The whole restaurant went silent, and only then did Bud notice how loud he had been. He looked around for the Jumi, in case he had realized they were talking about his race, then realized that he must have left at some point while they were talking. Crystallized eyes looked at him in shock as he sat back down, and as the commotion began about him once more, he clarified himself, "If you cry for a Jumi, master, you are sure to turn to stone."
"Stone?" Imu exclaimed, "I don't want to turn to stone!" Imu rubbed at her eyes to get rid of the teary feeling, and stopped the flow right then and there. "But why is that?" she asked as she took a sip of her glass of water.
"Who knows? I guess it has something to do with the fact that they themselves can't cry." Bud shrugged as the waitress came up to them. Something poked at the back of Imu's stomach, which she chose to ignore and began to place her order. The waitress's jaw dropped in shock as she struggled to keep up with what she asked for.
Imu woke up in the early morning. Gazing out the window, she realized it couldn't be any later than 7 am. Not being able to fall back asleep due to a stronger poking in her stomach, she opted for taking a walk. Careful not to wake her young companion, she slipped out of bed, put her shoes on, and tip-toed out of bed towards the door.
Walking out of the hotel made her feel like the world itself had taken a breath mint—everything was so cool and fresh! Oh, how she loved the feeling. She set about to exploring the town, going through streets, into alleys, and past all kinds of early risers. On one street, she noticed a Sproutling laying on the ground; two nuns beside it.
"Excuse me, but are you feeling alright?" a tone of concern protruded from one of the nuns as she asked the Sproutling.
"My tummy hurts. . . " he replied painfully.
"Oh, could you help me take care of him?" she asked her companion.
"Thanks. . . " the Sproutling voiced, "Ow, my tummy!" he seemed on the edge of crying.
The other nun touched his arm, "Come on, try to walk to that shop over there."
"Oh. . . " the Sproutling seemed afraid, "N-No, I can't. . . " he pulled away desperately, "Someone help meeee!"
"I wonder if he is alright?" the nun that had first spoken asked worriedly.
The other nun, less worried, replied, "Maybe the mountain paths wore out that Sproutling."
Imu shrugged and went up to a fork in the road, and in the distance to the left, she could see the Temple that Bud was talking about. She was ashamed to only then notice the man from the night before, standing at the very middle of the fork. She decided it wouldn't hurt to talk to him. "Hi there!" a polite smile, nod, and greeting encouraged her to continue, "I'm new to town, so I'm hoping to make local acquaintances. I'm Imu!" She held out her hand, which was politely shaken.
"I'm Rubens, a fire-keeper for this town." He replied, and then added as an afterthought, "Let me ask you something. I hear a thief is after the temple's flame." He paled at his own statement, "Did you see anyone suspicious on your way here?"
Imu thought about it for a second, dismissing the Sproutling and nuns from her options, then shook her head, "Nope, I didn't see anyone."
Rubens sighed, whether in relief or disappointment, Imu wasn't sure, "You didn't? Well, I guess that's good. I guess it was just a rumour. . . " he chuckled lightly, "The inspector exaggerates everything."
"Huh. . .hey, what is your job as a fire-keeper, exactly?"
His gaze wavered for a second, but he did not pause in his answer, "My job is to keep the torches burning at the temple. The temple is to your left." He seemed anxious to change the subject, "By the way, a Sproutling running by here was acting strange. . . I think he went to the terrace." He pointed towards the right side of the fork.
"Oh! I saw him on my way here; I hope he's ok. I should go check on him. See you later!" she walked off with a smile and a good bye.
Imu walked in on a scene very similar to the one before.
"My tummy hurts! Please help me!" the Sproutling cried to a nun.
"Let me see. . . " the nun knelt down to inspect him, "Oh, it's a Popo Bug! It can cure most anything!"
"Help me!" the creature cried as it flailed its arms about.
"Just wait!" the nun stopped him, "That bug is the ultimate medicine. . . Let's just remove it."
"You're going to help me?" the Sproutling smiled.
"I'm just going to peel away a leaf to take out the Popo." She began to move her hand towards the offending piece of roughage.
The Sproutling panicked and ran away, ignoring Imu as he rushed past her, "Nooooooo!"
"Oh, what a waste! Popo Bugs are so expensive. . . I think Mr. Rubens needed that medicine, too."
Imu's breath caught. If the nice Jumi man needed the medicine, she would try to get it for him. Not really just because he was a Jumi, but because he had been so very kind to her, despite his serious nature.
Going back to the fork, Rubens was in the same spot as before. Something occurred to Imu that hadn't occurred to her before, "Hello again, Mr. Rubens! I should have asked you something else before: who was the inspector you were talking about?"
Rubens' smile was amused as he replied, "He's a mouse-man with a pipe and a really loud voice. He keeps pestering me to be careful all the time."
Imu laughed, "Yeah! He's DEFINITELY that old man! Anyway, I hope to see you around, Mr. Rubens!" she winked playfully and grinned, waving and walking off towards the temple.
Rubens waved back at the cute girl, and smiled at her retreating figure; it was the first time in a long time that anyone fun had come to Gato. He was taken out of his reverie by a light sound beside him. He frowned, "What's that?"
Imu walked into the temple to see the Sproutling pestering a praying nun. The Sproutling ran back out in desperation, and Imu failed to catch him, growing irritated at the small creature. She ran after him, following him back to the terrace she was just at. She couldn't help noticing the absence of Rubens as she passed by the fork.
She saw the Sproutling once more talking to the nun, "My tummy hurts! Help me, but don't tear off my leaves!" Imu eyed Rubens, who had not yet seen her, and figured that was where it would end—he would get the bug he needed and be alright. She would have left, but something urged her to stay where she was, so she simply stepped to the side in case the Sproutling would once more decide to rush out of the area.
"Alright, my dear. Come over here, I will help you." The nun called lovingly, yet Imu's stomach churned uncomfortably.
"Okay!" The Sproutling called and walked to her.
"Here, Mr. Rubens." She called. Rubens hesitated as he moved closer, his core seemed to shine through the cloth more brightly. The Sproutling fell to the ground with a painful exclamation, which the nun ignored, "Go ahead, Mr. Rubens."
The man hesitated, and took half a step back, "No, wait."
"Well?" the nun put her hands to her hips, "Don't you want to revive your petrified sweetheart?"
"Yes, but. . . "
The Sproutling shot up from his position, "Ooooooh, you meanie!" He ran away as Imu had predicted.
"See? Now he got away!" the nun chided at Rubens.
"I don't want to hurt anyone." He sighed.
"Then you can't protect anyone. You're too soft." Her words seemed to be like a slap to his face, rendering him silent. The nun went on scolding, "Life is like this town. . . Cutting through rocks to make pathways. We can't get to the top without a flame of hope in our hearts." Here she eyed him oddly, "Don't you think so?" at his silence, she spoke once more, "Only those strong enough to survive. It's nature's way."
Imu decided it would be best to leave, and headed back to the temple, despite her stomach churning in alarm.
A nun lay on the ground, the mouse-man kneeling by her, "Aha! A crime! The victim is. . . a. . . nun. She has no external wounds. . . " as Imu neared the pair, he called out to her, "Hey, you! Don't touch the body!"
The nun sounded irritated as she weakly opened her eyes, "I. . . I am still alive. . ."
"Oh, my apologies!" the mouse man adjusted his hat, "What seems to be the problem?"
"I twisted my ankle when the Sproutling bumped into me."
The inspector seem to boil, as Imu could swear she saw steam protruding from his giant ears, "So she disguised herself as a Sproutling? What could she want? Blast it, Sandra!" he looked to Imu, "You! Come with me! You might be of assistance!" he ran out of the temple towards the terrace, Imu nodding and running after him—something was terribly wrong; she should have never left those two alone.
Imu beat the inspector in record time. She walked in on a conversation. Suddenly, she was rendered unable to move. She couldn't even make a sound. The runes in her hair sticks burned as they tried to fight something off. Something evil. The two had not seen her.
"What is it?" Rubens stared towards the waterfall.
"I think I will get the Popo bug from that Sproutling." Her hand was shaped weird, but Imu could not place what was wrong with it.
" Well, go ahead. I'm not going to do it." Irritated, the Jumi turned to the nun.
"How callous! So you don't care one way or another about your love in Geo?" the nun chided.
Rubens narrowed his eyes, "How is it you know where she is?"
The nun seemed taken aback, and took a whole different tone to her voice altogether, "Good question. . . "
"Don't mock me." The man glared cautiously at her.
"Well, if you don't want it, can I take the Popo bug?"
"Fine by me."
The nun seemed to smirk, "You don't care whether it affects your girlfriend or the Sproutling, do you?"
"Look, I don't want to interfere in anyone's life." He glared dangerously at her, "And I don't want anyone interfering in mine. Just leave me alone."
Imu tried to scream, she realized what the oddity with her hand was a minute too late. Not a sound came from her.
"Never." As Rubens turned around to incredulously stare at the nun, daring flashing in his core, the jewel was sliced in half by a knife, bleeding a rich red liquid.
Rubens staggered, "Ungh!" he clutched at his chest in pain, "How. . . dare you. . . " he fell to the ground. A shattering sound was what it took for Imu to realize that she was free; the sticks in her hair blank of any motif. She ran to kneel beside Rubens, but was interrupted dangerously by a voice far different from the nun's previous voice. She stopped in her tracks.
"Come any closer, and I'll kill him. Do as I say," she turned to Rubens," And I won't harm your core."
"What. . . do you. .. want. . . ?" he responded weakly.
"I wanna see some tears! Cry like a child and beg for your life." Imu clenched her teeth. She knew that the three of them were aware of the impossibility. "Well?" the so-called nun exclaimed mockingly, almost to a point of pain, "Where are your tears?"
"But. . . I can't. . . "
Her voice turned to stone, "That's just too bad." She took the knife and set to work, taking the core from his chest, "Still alive, eh? Jumi of the Lucidia are indeed formidable. As I warned you, I'm taking the "Flame of Hope!"
Imu knew that there was nothing she could do for Rubens other than revenge, so she rushed at the nun.
"I won't be caught so easily. See you around." She winked at Imu and took out a hook, which she hooked onto a stone somewhere above. "See you around." She pulled herself up, out of Imu's reach and sight.
Imu sank to the ground beside Rubens, biting her lips in anger, making them bleed. She barely noticed Inspector Boyd come into the scene.
"Oh no!" he screamed angrily, smoke once again exiting his ears, "I was too late!" he took in Ruben's body. "Blast it! So it was you!" he pointed at Imu, who stood up angrily, "Give yourself up, Sandra, and take those crazy sticks out of your hair!" As the blonde was about to defend herself, Rubens interjected.
"No. . . " the attention of both was drawn to him, and Imu knelt beside him and took his hand, frowning, "It was. . .a. . . nun.. ." Boyd was once again infuriated, "Ungh. . . " Rubens contorted in pain, tightening his weak grip on her hand, "Diana. . .I-I wish I could see you again. . . " he looked as if he might cry, yet no tears fell, "I'm. . . sorry. . .".
With the last statement, Rubens became mana, his hand disappearing from Imu's.
Back in the prayer hall, the inspector was going over the details with Imu, and a very upset Bud at being left behind.
"The temple received a note from Sandra, the jewel hunter. It said that she will steal the Flame of Hope. I thought she meant the sacred torches...But she was after Mr. Rubens's core!
If only I had known that Mr. Rubens was a Jumi! We must catch Sandra, no matter what!
I need your help! Will you cooperate?"
"Absolutely." Imu answered determined.
"OH, THANK YOU!" Boyd almost cried with joy, then went back to being serious, "Something tells me that Sandra is still around this area. . . I will search the village, and you go check the outskirts. Let's go!"
Imu found herself at the waterfall, Bud closely beside her. As they neared the Cancun bird's nest, they heard a familiar conversation.
"I can get rid of the pain you feel." A nun spoke gently to a Sproutling.
"Yes. . ." she reached out to him.
"OW!" he exclaimed. Imu ran towards them, Bud following closely.
"Oh, more company?" she glared at Imu.
Inspector Boyd came behind Imu, "Now I have you, Sandra! You're going to pay for what you've done!" he pointed dramatically at her.
The nun took off her cloak to reveal a slim body. The sight was familiar.
"YOU!" Imu gritted her teeth, "You were with Pearl that day! Who the hell are you?" Imu reached for her Halberd, ready to rush towards her.
Sandra ignored Imu, "No one will ever catch me!" She winked at Boyd, "Ta-ta, everyone!" she once again threw up her hook, disappearing behind the nest of the majestic bird, on which she flew away.
"Blast it, the Cancun Bird!" The mouse-man exclaimed. Imu tuned out a conversation between him and the annoying Sproutling.
She glared at the retreating bird, determined on helping the Jumi somehow. She knew that she needed to find Elazul and talk to him about this. Boyd went up to her.
"Another Jumi was murdered. . .This is horrible. Well, I appreciate your help anyway. Please take this." He handed her a mana-filled artefact, then turned his fist towards the sky, "Sandra. . . I WILL catch you one of these days!"
Here's the second chapter. You know, I don't update often, but when I begin to write, I just cannot stop myself. At any rate, here we are. There are a lot of placeholders in this chapter thanks to that irritating Sproutling, so this is the best I could do. See you around!