It was like… seeing a distant memory… no matter how hard you tried. You just couldn't remember what it is you are trying to remember in the first place….
….and yet so familiar you could taste it.
That is how she felt staring at this man, a sandy mantle of sultan silk, worn by travels draped around his face and shoulders, hiding a dark secret only seen as he looked over his shoulder, slowly turning to face this speaker, the onion Knight Duelle… "At least give me your name."
He stared at this knight, as if mocking the lesser life form, a gem glittering on his chest, an arm of crystal and similar stones hidden mostly behind his cape. He remained silent and exchanged glares with Duelle before curtly saying one word, his name. "Elazul."
With it said he turned and went inside the tavern, as if on a mission.
Duelle huffed a sigh. "Geeze. He makes me sick," before leaving himself.
Imu paused, who was this man? More so, why was he so angry? Why did this bother her so? Slowly she stepped into the tavern to find Elazul glaring at the bartender, a lavender haired girl named Rachel. Imu stepped forward, opening her mouth to speak on behalf of the girl quivering in front of him. Elazul turned, "SILENCE! Do not interrupt!"
Imu hadn't realized she was reaching for him until she retracted her hand, shocked by the outburst. Rachel fixated a hopeful look upon her as Elazul stepped closer, "Speak up!"
He advanced again, "Don't make me angry…. What are you hiding!" Rachel quivered, causing Imu to react.
"What the hell is your problem!"
Elazul spun halfway around, his crystallized hand on the hilt of a sword, "A friend is missing."
"Well who is she? I'm pretty sure terrorizing the locals will do you no good in finding her! At least describe the girl," Imu snapped.
Elazul fixated a look upon Imu that made her skin crawl, "She wears a white dress and has long hair… She's like a sister to me. I'm worried."
"Well why are you standing here and threatening an innocent girl? Lets go look for her, problem solved."
He was taken aback by her green eyes fixated so harshly on him, and yet the compassionate request to help. "Together, with me…? But you mustn't…." he paused, looking out the window at the setting sun. "No… I'd be grateful!"
Rachel cleared her throat softly, making the pair stare at her. "What?" Elazul asked more softly this time.
"Here…." She muttered strongly and yet delicately, offering Elazul and Imu a stone egg."
"So… what's this?" Elazul took the artifact in his hand, and something seemed to ripple through the stone on his chest, causing him to pause. "It smells like pearl… we should hurry!"
Imu took the artifact from him, without it, they would be unable to go anywhere it would lead. Elazul was taken aback by the snatching motion she used as they left the tavern. "Where are we going?" she didn't reply as they stood at the edge of Domina…. Once just a bunch of colored childrens toys…
She opened a map, just as the Sproutling had guided her, and used her imagination to envision a place on the map, the stone egg sitting in front of her… Elazul gasped as it vanished, like water had absorbed it, a flash blinding him. He looked up to see the caverns, as if they had appeared from thin air.
"Let's go." Imu said sternly.
Elazul's tongue held for this phenomenon, unable to find words to speak. As they stepped into the caverns, his entire body almost resonating at the feeling of his lost friend. "I sense a brilliance nearby… It's gotta be Pearl. We have to hurry!" but Mekiv caverns were vast… they would spend a while exploring the caves.
Imu didn't seem bothered by this, walking through the treacherous caverns, slaying monsters with the simple flick of a spear, glimmering blue as if an illusion as she moved. She seemed to know the exact route, causing some suspicion from her new comrade.
Really, she was following her gut, it was all so familiar to her, like a dazed dream she couldn't remember. She simply understood this was where she needed to go, what to fight, and how do to defeat it with ease…. They passed a sproutling at first, descending deeper into the caves. Coral grew from the rocks and the ceiling dripped, as if deep underwater. The strange crabs and amphibians seemed to amplify this dank idea.
Finally there was a dead end, Elazul seemed exasperated and on edge, probably believing this was a trap all along. There was a loud crash, Imu flinching, suddenly occurring to her.
It was time to fight, she pulled forth her spear and defended herself from a large, rabbit like ape with a crude axe. It fought well, but it was dead shortly after it appeared. Imu was not bothered by the battle, Elazul looked like he'd be beaten by thugs and mauled, panting heavily and sweat beaded down his forehead, his sea grass colored hair sticking to his forehead.
"PEARL!" he screamed out, almost desperately, he stood in the center of the cavern, looking around wildly, the gem on his chest glittering like a ripple of light shimmered off of him. Imu thought this was beautiful. "Where are you!" She was suddenly caught off guard by another shimmer of light from behind her.
"Elazul?" timidly, a girl in white stepped forward, revealing herself. True to Elazul's vague description, wearing white with creamy blonde hair in a curled low ponytail. Pearls and pink lined her dress, but what caught Imu truly off guard was the similar stone to Elazul's chest in hers. Only hers was pure white, and much like her name, a pearl.
"Is your core alright?" Elazul asked, as if horrified.
She approached him timidly, "Yes…" she looked like a child about to be scorned.
"I told you not go wandering off by yourself! How did you GET here?" He finally snapped.
She looked away absently, twirling her thumbs. "I was just uhm… thinking about… things."
"You don't need to think anymore," he said curlty making Imu glare at him. " Right now you should stay safe by my side."
"But-" Pearl interjected.
"That's ENOUGH!" He shouted, echoing in the cavern.
She winced, looking frightened and as if she was going to cry, but her eyes were not wet. "I'm sorry im so sorry…"
"Go easy on her Elazul, she did make it here unharmed, no one was hurt. No big deal right?" Imu's voice cut through the silence.
"You stay out of this!" He snapped in response.
Pearl suddenly seemed to notice Imu's presence and shifted closer to Elazul, clinging to his crystal arm like a delicate princess. "Who is that?"
"Just someone who helped me find you," Elazul spoke, staring directly into Imu's eyes with an icy warning, "A strange kind of person."
"Oh…" Pearl said, as if disappointed.
"Well then," he said, taking her hand. "Let's go."
"See you around."He turned to leave but she slipped from his grasp, dashing boldly up to Imu with a flushed face.
"Uhm, thank you…"
Elazul turned with a cold stare at the exchange, "We're GOING."
"I'm sorry! I'm coming too," quickly she dashed up to Imu and handed her a Stone Eye and a Firefly Lamp. "Thank you Imu, this is for all you've done for me." She smiled and blushed. Imu couldn't help but smile back as she escorted the two back out of the cavern. They parted ways easily, and imu felt cheated as she watched that strange man walk away.
She began her trek home, it had already been a few days by the time she had made it back to the highway to Domina, and saw something she did not expect. Pearl standing on the side of the road, looking dazed.
Carefully, she reached out to touch her, "huh? Where am I? Elazul?" She turned to see Imu and smiled. "Oh Imu!" She blushed and looked around nervously. "Uh… I…"
"Its ok, you can tell me," Imu said with a soft smile.
"I got lost again, I wonder where Elazul could be," she drew back, looking frightened. "By the way Imu… what is this place?"
"A highway," Imu replied easily.
"A… highway?" Pearl fidgeted nervously, "Oh…maybe I should see whats over there…" She began to walk towards the highway, then turned to face the exit. "Hmm… Maybe over there…" and in her musings, forgot to say goodbye as she left.
Duelle, who seemed to be stationed everywhere Imu went spoke up with a sarcastic tone, "what an absent minded bubble head."
Imu shook her head and continued home, she wanted to talk to her cactus friend and take a nap after the adventure, feed her pets, and check her fruit tree. Lil Cactus seemed to enjoy the tale, but said it was "fun to get lost."
After a well deserved rest, Imu exited her home and was startled to see the mail carrier on her porch, complaining about pumpkins. It didn't sound serious, so she fed and watered her pets, and tended her tree before leaving… The work never seemed to stop.
That feeling never went away. Day after day of mundane tasks and hunting fiends and monsters, Imu could never shake the feeling she was forgetting something. It had been nearly months since she had seen Elazul and Pearl, but they haunted her dreams. The word Jumi replayed in her head like a record, causing her to be absent minded in several times and places she really should have paid more attention.
The feeling amplified when she made a trip into domina, and on a whim, walked into the tavern, only to see Elazul once again, interrogating Rachel. Once again, he yelled not to be interrupted, and demanding to know where Pearl was. Rachel shook with fear, but held her tongue.
"Don't you know?" he asked Imu, exasperated. Imu shook a little, she didn't like the saddened, fearful look on his face. "Do you really not know….?" Imu shook her head, a bit afraid of his rejection. He cursed and turned back to Rachel.
Imu wandered about the town, picking up a cat eared traveler for another short trip, but also noting a strange attractive woman with flowers in her hair. "Did you find Pearl" was her question… Imu truly had no response, the woman smirked and expressed sympathy, hoping she was found safe.
The woman made her skin crawl. When she returned to the tavern to tell Elazul of the strange woman, he was gone… Imu felt once again… cheated.
Days past like minutes, and Imu found herself checking the tavern for Elazul more and more, hoping and praying he'd suddenly appear. Teapo asked about him, mentioning how weird it was to have his heart shining on his chest… which drove Imu to question Elazul… what was he anyway? She couldn't seem to remember.
She found the answer in the church, the reverend knew everyone, and at the very mentioning of his name, she had the word that echoed in her dream… "Jumi"
Her heart ached at his words, that the Jumi were a dying race, and he had no more information.
More time passed and she acquired two children in her home, they provided extra ease to Imu's mind, caring for the tree and pets while she was away, and lil cactus as well. She met penguins pirates, faeries, cat people, lilpeas, strange thuggish brutes, skinny fast brutes, strange dog like play toy looking things, toys that thought they were soldiers and talked, and more… but she had never seen another Jumi.
Finally she saw them again, Pearl, standing at the base of the Tower of Leires. She stared up at the 13 floors in awe, unable to comprehend something. Slowly Imu approached, listening to pearl muse to herself quietly, taking a step forward. "Leires…" she took a step back, bumping into her with a scream.
She flushed, startled, "I'm so sorry, I get carried away in my own thoughts… thank you for finding me in the cave, but I'm separated from Elazul again and I got lost…." She looked over her shoulder at the top floor again. "I have to go… I feel like this tower is calling me."
"I'll go with you," Imu said softly, silently vowing to search for Elazul and return the lost girl.
"Thank you Imu…"
"I have to look in Gato Grottos first, need to check on the material level there and mana."
Pearl nodded, looking at Leires before following her away from the tower briefly. Pearl accompanied her to Gato with no complaint, quietly following her footsteps. She must have been used to quiet from Elazul, but it unnerved Imu.
"Why do you get lost so often…?"
She flushed, nibbling her bottom lip, "I feel like I've lost something… I just need to find it. A distant memory I've forgotten… I just have to know…"
Imu nodded, " I know the feeling."
The journey was simple and easy, Pearl was happy to see the many lands they traveled through to the grottos. Upon entry to the territory, Pearl was taken aback by the rocky landscape and large temple above. She wanted to see it, and Imu could tell, so thought to herself to take her.
She stepped up to the vendor, who explained he was out of wares Imu could use, and to look in the shops above or ask the nuns for assistance. Imu nodded and Pearl followed quietly up the hillside to find an injured sproutling on the ground, groaning about its tummy. A nun was bent over him, trying to assist. Finally noticing the two women and pet, the nun asked for some assistance with the sproutling and Imu heavily sighed and agreed.
The sproutling overheard, and bounced to his feet, quickly regretting the action and doubling over, his stomach in pain. The nun softly guided him to try and walk into the shop but failed as the sproutling ran screaming from the shop, towards the temple of healing.
Imu shrugged and stepped into the shop, to find a glasses wearing male who stood out of the scenery, obviously an outsider. He was examining some stones, complaining they had no sparkle with a heavy set frown. Imu couldn't help but wonder if she'd seen them before… the effeminate male introduced himself as Alex, owning a jewel shop in Geo, and had came to buy gems of high quality, and whished they had better ones. Pearl seemed to notice Imu's oddness around this "alex" and touched her shoulder, quietly suggesting they leave the shop and find the Sproutling.
Upon the path was a fire red haired man with red eyes, in red garb. Quite an odd fellow, Imu thought. Pearl seemed intrigued as he introduced himself. "Hello, my name is Rubens, a fire-keeper in this town. Let me ask you something-"
Pearl interjected "Rubens? Could you possibly be a…."
"What?" He seemed defensive, " I think you have me confused with another person. I hear a thief is after the temples flame, did you see anyone suspicious on your way here?" he asked Imu, ignoring Pearls inquiries.
Imu shook her head, it was just an ill sproutling, nothing to worry or fret over. He nodded with a soft smile, saying he was glad. As they walked towards the terrace with his guidance, imu heard him mutter "what's this…?" but did not bother asking. She simply wanted to find the sproutling and go back to Leires and satisfy Pearl so she could return her to Elazul.
The sproutling was being examined by a nun, who happily addressed the problem as a popo bug, the ultimate medicine. The sproutling was not as amused and squirmed in discomfort, the nun expressed to remove the bug, she'd have to peel away a leaf, but the sproutling fled in horror.
"Oh dear," the nun mused, watching him run in terror, "What a waste. Popo bugs are so expensive too… I think Mr. Rubens needed that medicine too…."
"Rubens…" Pearl muttered from behind Imu, "That name sounds so familiar…"
Imu nodded and led pearl after the Sproutling, finding Rubens gone as they walked by to the temple of healing.
They found the green being running back and forth in circles around a praying nun, begging repeatedly for them to do something about the popo bug, the nun being deep in prayer and their own faith replied to cleanse the mind and all wordly pain would subside. The sproutling wasn't buying it, a childish entity, it complained and whimpered at the nun, Imu suppressed a chuckle at this. The nun continued to say pain was all in the mind, causing the sproutling to run away in frustration once again.
The little thing had ran back to the nun on the terrace, only this times with Rubens beside her. The sproutling exclaimed about the pain, but pleaded not to tear off its precious leaves, the nun agreed. The nun appeared to smirk, "here mr. rubens…"
"Yes?" Rubens attention was drawn away from the scenery and he looked at the sproutling as the nun knocked it out, his core gleaming brightly in the light.
"here mr. Rubens," the nun said, gesturing to the unconscious body of the sproutling.
He hesitated, "no wait…"
"Well? Don't you want to revive your petrified sweetheart?" She cockily replied.
"Yes.. but," he glanced uneasily at the sproutling as it awoke and screamed a childish insult of being a "meanie" and dashed away.
The nun let out a disappointed noise, "See? Now he got away."
Ruben sent her a soft glare, "I don't want to hurt anyone."
"You cant protect anyone," she smugly remarked. "You're too soft."
He crossed his arms and went back to looking at the scenery, hugging himself slightly.
"Like this town," the nun went on, "Cutting through rocks to make pathways." She stepped away and Rubens looked out over the waterfall in the distance, a longing expression on his face. "We're all safe with the flame of hope in our hearts…. Don't you think so?" she glanced at him.
He ignored her. Imu and Pearl approached slowly.
"Uhm excuse me…?" Pearl said softly.
His core gleamed in response to hers. "Are you… a jumi?"
She smiled brightly, "you ARE a jumi! Oh, I'm so glad we aren't the only ones left! Elazul will be so happy to hear this!"
Imu suddenly remembered the reverends words… the Jumi, a dying race.
"Who are you anyway?" Rubens asked, fixating a tight stare on the girl.
She flushed softly, "Oh excuse me! I am called Pearl, a Jumi of pearl."
He looked away. "Please Leave."
She looked shocked and hurt by the words, "E-excuse me?"
"I don't want other so know I'm a jumi," he said warily, glancing at the nun nearby.
"But…why?" Pearl innocently questioned.
"People are old fashioned around here, and the jewel hunter is around," He responded easily.
Jewel hunter? Imu looked at the nun again… she was watching the entire thing.
"I am sorry," Pearl muttered, "but before I leave, I have a question." Rubens nodded. "Why did the city of Jumi go to ruin?"
Ruben sighed. "You don't know? You must have been too young. It wasn't because of invasions or jewel hunters…" he paused. Pearl tilted her head in confusion. "It was a jumi traitor!" he exclaimed, as if hoping someone would hear him.
Pearl gasped and covered her mouth, this causing her to shake a bit. "No!"
He huffed, "that is the truth. Now please leave." He seemed to be hurrying the two along for whatever reason.
"A… traitor?" Rubens did not reply, looking around warily.
Imu turned and approached the eavesdropping nun, "How very unethical of you, eavesdropping…" she said darkly.
"Only those strong enough survive," the nun replied curtly, blue eyes flashing. "It's natures way."
Imu glared at the person, placing a hand on her hip. "You need to hurt others to protect your precious ones. Don't you agree, little princess?" the nuns blue eyes focused on Pearl and Imu felt the urge to move in front of Pearl a little more, a flicker of mana, the ability to summon her spear threatening the nun slightly. Pearl was still taken aback by the news, and stared at the nun in shock.
"You know who I am?" Pearl asked shakily.
"well, what do you think?" the nun mocked. Imu pulled Pearl away to find the sproutling, not liking the tense atmosphere and with a gut feeling something bad was about to happen.
They went back to the temple of healing to find the nun from earlier collapsed on the floor, her ankle twisted from the sproutling panicking about her.
"OH!" a small pink and green mouse like creature with a pipe exclaimed. "Aha! A crime! The victum is… a nun… she has no external wounds." Imu blinked in surprise, still bent over the nun. "Hey you! Don't touch the body." Imu stepped away.
The nun huffed a sigh. "I am still alive."
"Oh my apologies!" the creature responded. "What seems to be the problem."
The nun sounded rather snarky and curt with agitated responses, "I just twisted my ankle with the Sproutling bumped into me."
The little creature blew steam, stamping his feet. "So she disguised herself as a Sproutling! What could she want?"
"She…?" Pearl whispered softly, hiding behind Imu.
"Blast it, Sandra!" He exclaimed and dashed away.
Imu looked at the forgotten nun, she assured she'd be alright and insisted on needing no help, and suggested the two left. Pearl and Imu left to the terrace, a bad feeling seeping into their skin.
The nun and Rubens were at a standoff.
"what is it?" Rubens snapped, agitated.
"I think I will get the popo bug from that Sproutling."
He crossed his arms and looked to the side for a moment. "Well go ahead. I'm not going to do it."
"how callous! So you don't care one way or another about your love in Geo?"
He staggered back, as if pushed. "H-How did you know where she is?" he looked horrified. Pearl clutched her skirt, as if scared as well.
The nun stepped closer to Rubens. "Good question…"
Rubens stepped closer. "Don't mock me…"
"well, if you don't want it, can I take the Popo bug?"
Imu noted she changed the subject.
"fine by me." Rubens snapped darkly.
"you don't care whether if affects your girlfriend or the Sproutling, do you?"
He stepped closer, glaring into the nuns face, "Look, I don't want to interfere in anyone's life." He fisted a hand in their shirt, lifting them slightly."And I don't want anyone interfering in mine." He pushed the nun back and turned his back. "just leave me alone."
The nun chuckled. "never"
His core glimmered and Pearl grasped Imu's hand in horror at what was about to happen.
"Stones who lose their sparkle shall be punished!" The nun cried, reaching under Rubens thick scarf to grasp a large ruby like stone and puncture a hole in the stone with a thinly bladed knife. Blood spurted from his mouth, blood filling his lungs.
Rubens fell to the ground, his life fading fast. "How… dare… you…" he growled darkly, trying to sit up and fight but unable to move, his eyes focusing in and out on the blade in her hand.
"Mr. Rubens!" Pearl screeched, dashing to his side with Imu in tow.
The nun looks at Imu darkly. "come any closer, and I will kill him."
Imu was almost willing to take that bet, seeing as he was about to die anyway, blood pooled out of his mouth and he began to cough. Rubens body convulsed at the break of his heart, but he clung to life.
"Please! Stop this!" Pearl cried.
The nun rolled her eyes. "Oh, shut your mouth, little princess. Do as I say and I wont harm your core."
Imu summoned her spear and used it to separate the two, fixating a deep, hateful glare upon the nun.
Rubens coughed loudly, "What… do you….. want…..?"
The nun appeared to smirk. "I wanna see some tears! Cry like a child and beg for your life." Ruben sputtered blood, trying to reply. "Well? Where are your tears?"
"But…." He coughed "I can't…."
"That's just too bad," she mocked, stooping down to his body and ripping the ruby from his chest, the puncture hole seeming to cry in the perfect surface. "Still alive, eh? Jumi of the Lucidia are indeed formidable."
Pearl was gasping softly behind Imu, as if crying, but there was no tears, just dry sadness as she over looked Rubens, horrified. "As I warned you, I'm taking the Flame of Hope!" the nun held the ruby up for Rubens and everyone to see, marveling at the gem.
Imu stepped in and the nun recoiled, tucking the ruby away, Pearl seemed to change a little, her broken voice harsh and angry. "You will not get away with this!"
"Oh come on, little princess. I know you don't care."
"WHAT!" Pearl was furious, Imu was taken aback by the fact, but clung to her spear, ready to use it if necessary.
"Don't shout- you're only a rock," the nun mocked.
"I am not a rock!" Pearl shouted.
"Just be quiet, like a good little rock? Okay?" she spoke as if Pearl was a child.
"I'm not a rock! I'm not—" she cut off suddenly as if struck by something and held her forehead.
"Just ask your own core whether you're just a rock or not," the nun, or rather jewel hunter, suggested darkly. Then she vanished.
Pearl looked down at rubens again, he was still clinging to life, blood was seeping into the ground from his chest and he looked at pearl dazed as the mousey man in pink appeared and began to accuse Imu of the crime, addressing her as Sandra.
Pearl yelled in defense that a nun was the one that did this. The little pink creature yelled that she was a master at disguise but would be captured while blowing steam again, apparently this was a common trait. He ran away as Rubens clung to life on the floor, Pearl and Imu knelt down to see him in his last moments… he was already starting to fade.
"Mr. Rubens!" Pearl took his hand and held it tight, as if clinging to him to hope he wouldn't vanish
He looked up at her and sputtered, "Pearl… please… tell… Di… that I am… s-sorry…"
"Who is it! Who do you want me to tell this to!"
He finally let out a last breath, his body fading and dissipating with a gleam of ruby light, as if a beam of light had struck his missing core for the last time… Imu stared at Pearls trembling form as she repeated his name in horror….
Pearl clung to Imu desperately in the temple of healing moments later, listening to the mousy creature, Inspector Boyd, explain that Sandra the jewel hunter had left a note saying she would steal the flame of hope. In their idiocy they had assumed the temple torches, but no one knew Rubens was a Jumi, and thus could not have known.
He went on to say that Sandra must be caught and was probably still in the area, asking for the help of Imu and Pearl alike, pearl instantly agreeing to this idea. He directed the two to search the temple outskirts, where the waterfall and cancun nest resided, Pearl grabbed Imus hand and rushed out the door, before Imu took over and lead the way through a series of dark caves, following a trail of sproutling leaves. Sandra did say she wanted the popo….
They crossed a small bridge, made of a fallen tree at a beautiful waterfall, Imu quickly helped Pearl across as well as her beloved pet that followed her like a shadow.
At the base of the nest, they found Sandra still dressed as a nun and the sproutling, Sandra assured she could get rid of the sproutlings pain and the creature was overjoyed, after being knocked out, once again, Sandra removed the popo bug with ease from its leaves.
Pearl boldly stepped forward, "The Jewel hunter!"
"Oh more company?" Imu could have sworn she recognized that voice…
Inspector Boyd appeared at last, "Now I have you, Sandra! You're going to pay for what you've done!"
Imu's breath hitched as the same woman from the inn in Domina revealed herself, orange flowers in her brown hair and a green dress with purple gloves, and yet it still seemed familiar … her eyes, seemed so familiar and yet not so to being Sandra.
"No one will ever catch me!" she exclaimed, pulling a rope and hook from her supplies and catching a ride on the cancun bird as it passed by over head. "ta-ta everyone!" Boyd began to curse and steam as the sproutling regained consciousness, celebrating at the loss of his pain. Boyd demanded he shut up, for it was truly no time to celebrate.
Pearl stared up at the sky, where the bird had vanished, "if only I had the power to heal…"
Imu took the thank you from boyd and laid a hand on pearl's shoulder, only resulting in a warm hug from the small girl. Imu returned it, sorry she had brought her here to see this with silence. "Lets not tell Elazul about this…"
She nodded into Imu's shirt and cried tearlessly, no fluids came from her sobbing, but Imu knew the cries of pain all too well, petting her hair softly to soothe her. She took her to her home briefly to let her play with the animals, to make her feel better, before they would venture out to Leires once again.
Pearl sat in the yard, petting a chocobo and a garuda, feeding them cabbadillos and squalfins. The Dainslaif meandered about, minding its own business, and the succubus stayed by Imu's side. Imu left the tired succubuss to graze in the yard and took the Dainslaif for this adventure, for this is where its egg had be located. She had a bad feeling about this and wished Elazul was here somewhere to help…
After a couple days of rest, they set out for Leires in silence, passing by the city of Geo with a mild glance. Slowly the entered the tower through the gate of ravens, and began the ascending. Pearl clung to Imu's side, the inhabiting monsters seemed to sneer at her from the walls.
When they reached the teleportation device on the eighth floor, Imu knew they were almost there… and it wouldn't be too long before the bad feeling was more than just a feeling.
Pearl stood at the door on the eleventh floor. "The room of fate lies beyond the door…" she muttered. "Everyone must face their past." She stepped closer to it. "I…."
Imu laid a hand on her shoulder.
"I'm sorry Imu, run if it gets dangerous…"
"When have you ever known me to run Pearl?" Imu replied softly.
Pearl smiled and nodded, looking up at the door as Imu opened it with ease. Inside was a throne with a peal upon it, and before it, a woman that looked almost identical to Pearl, but much darker and formidable.
"You're the guard?" She stepped closer. "Please… tell me.." again closer, passing Imu, "I want to know my own past." Pearl suddenly collapsed, thrown back by a force as the nearly identical black pearled Jumi disappeared, and the large monster in her wake was destroyed with ease as well… Imu stood in the room… facing ones past huh? What was her past? Why was this all so familiar…
"I was so scared…" Pearl whimpered, bringing Imu out of her own thoughts. "huh…? My core…" she touched the pearl on her chest as it shimmered in response to another.
"Pearl!" Imu's entire blood ran cold at the voice of Elazul behind her.
"Elazul" she said softly as he stepped closer.
"I thought I told you not to wander around!" he looked panicked, and tried, had he ran up the 11 floors alone?
"I'm sorry… if I try to remember something..."
He looked at Imu, a softer expression, "Thanks again…"
Face your past huh…. Why would he have known to come here…?
He grabbed Pearl's wrist. "Let's go!"
Pearl whimpered, looking to Imu. "I feel like I can… Please, Help me…" she looked so desperate. "Please…" Elazul began to walk away as Pearl flushed sadly. "Please, Elazul."
He didn't say anything, looking at the floor. "I understand." Pearl looked surprised, and then he gave Imu a hard stare. "Take Pearl to the bottom of the tower…" he smiled as he placed a crystal hand on her shoulder. "If anything happens to her… I will kill you. Understand?"
Imu nodded. "I made it up here with her, I can easily make it back down. Worry about yourself," she replied, prying his hand off her shoulder.
"I'll clean up the little trash. Don't let Pearl get in over her head."
Imu rolled her eyes and looked at Pearl, who smiled weakly. "Thank you for helping me," she blushed adorably and Imu patted her head, playing with a lost curl.
"Let's get out of here." Pearl nodded and exited the room, before the doors closed, Imu looked back, she could have sworn she saw someone, just a split second as the doors closed.
The trip back down was far easier. At the base of the tower, Imu spoke to her Dainslaif, "stay extra close to Pearl SoulGazer." The polterblade saluted her in understanding, and hovered close beside the pure white girl, not a scratch on her as they approached the entrance.
As they went to exit, a paper fell to the ground, curiously Pearl picked up the note. "A note!" she looked around wildly, "the jewel hunter!"
Sandra fell came from the ceiling on a rope, Imu pushed pearl behind her. "I've wanted to meet you!"
"No," pearl clung to Imu securely.
"Your core is mine!"
A spear formed in Imu's ready hand and she prepared herself for anything, glaring darkly at Sandra.
"Judge the clod who as forgotten its sparkle! Go Jewel Beast!"
The thing summoned and was destroyed almost as fast, Pearl without a scratch.
"That's quite a partner you have, Pearl." Sandra said mockingly.
She grabbed Imu's free arm, squeezing it. "why… why do you hunt us! How terrible!"
"Listen to your core."
"huh?" Pearl touched the pearl on her chest with delicate fingers.
"we will meet again, goodnight… Pearl." Sandra dashed away before Imu could react.
Pearl took a shaky step forward. "Am I going to die? A guardian without a knight is a sitting duck…" Imu braced her from falling.
"No, I wont let that happen. You know that."
Pearl flushed and sputtered. "Elazul is looking for others…" she didn't hear her. "And if that Jumi is a guardian, then he'll…" she paused again. "And I'll be all alone. I hope he never finds one," she boldly declared.
She looked at Imu with a strength in her eyes not seen before. "I have to go. Elazul is waiting… I'll get yelled at again."
"Thank you… Imu…" she handed her a couple of artifacts… "Take care Imu…"
"You too pearl. Be safe."
She nodded with a weak smile and left the tower with ease, Elazul waiting by the gate.
Imu looked up at where the Room of Fate resided, and recalled the face she saw as the door had shut… those blue eyes were unmistakable… but… why were they there?
Why was Elazul in that room…?
Imu went home with a heavy heart, knowing she wouldn't have an answer.
In her downtime at the house, Imu read a few texts on Jumi, learning some basics about who and what they were. It was all very complicated, and she gave up after a few pages of lore, it was simply too intricate unless it was explained.
That night, she had the most elaborate dream, and yet so very simple. It was almost as if it wasn't a dream at all… someone slipping into her window in the dead of night, stepping over to her lightly and leaving a silken kiss upon her forehead, brushing blonde strands out of her sleeping face with delicate fingers before stepping away to disappear that same night.
When Imu awoke… was it really a dream? She touched her forehead and looked at lil cactus, who never sleeped, he stared back as if nothing had changed…. It had to have been a dream, he was such a skittish thing.
Only a dream… right.
She found herself wanting to escape the Jumi and the fascination she had with them, picking the closest thing she could from her textbooks that morning. Faeries. She read about how they hated humans, and lived in the forests and ruins. She decided to take a trip and see it herself.
She met a man named Escad, brash and bossy, much like Elazul… then mentally berated herself for thinking for him. He spoke to an elderly woman about her powers, a demon named Irwin who grew up with her stealing them and making her weak, Imu thought of the faeries speaking of a human queen, and Lord Irwin. When the door closed, he noted Imu's presence, asking if she knew everything. She nodded, she had gotten the gist of it, he frowned and demanded she left.
Deana, the cat eared girl from a long time ago, demanded Escad leave, and he did with heavy words and a couple nasty comebacks, mentioning he was in the underworld. As Imu was turning to leave the crying old woman and cat girl attendant, a strange nun burst into the room and grabbed the elder, boasting it was for their lord, and vanished with her. Deana screamed for Matilda…. Imu couldn't help a wry laugh… perhaps this was the short break she was looking for.
After Matilda returned, Imu found herself in Domina, cursing herself, she stepped into the town square and stared at the taverns windows, not finding Elazul, and for some reason, went to the fortune teller, as if looking for an excuse to be at Domina at all. The fortune was rubbish so she stopped by Rachel, Mark, and Jennifer's house to visit. Then she'd descend into the jungle again, looking for Escad.
She found him in the Forested Ruins, noting her presence instantly.
"Hello?" Imu said warily at his stare, looking up a bit at him.
"You're interesting… Come with me, let's go together."
Imu reluctantly agreed.
"I can make you a hero, just don't get in my way."
She chuckled, "I already am a hero of legend…"
He seemed confused by this answer, and so was she, but she couldn't respond as to where that came from.
"Sure, let's go with that."
Escad mocked her spear, saying a sword was far better suited for adventuring, Imu listened to his bitching for a while before equipping a one handed she found in her inventory, blue and yellow, a beautiful piece of equipment called the Sword of Fate.
She had no idea where it had came from. Escad eyeballed her Dainslaif frequently, disturbed by it. As a way to show the harmlessness of it, she ventured back into the jungle to find an egg she wanted, a demon egg. She had read this was one of the few places they lived and thrived, and she wanted a little demon to accompany her and make him more nervous.
After deciding a demon was not what she wanted, and hatching two dragons, a kid and a land, she ventured off with Escad again, with her garuda on her shoulder. They travelled a beach before finding themselves at the city of Geo.
Kathinja was mulling about with Gilbert in tow, proclaiming his love for her, she continuously shot him down, complaining she had to get her students to school again. Gilbert of course accepted the challenge and then put it all on Imu to do. As she wandered the streets speaking to the children, a shop caught her eye. Escad was unamused by everything, and was more than happy to walk inside of the shop with her.
It was a jewelery store, and inside was Alex from that day in Gato, examining jewels just as before. Only this time, Alex introduced himself as the owner of the stop, and provided a vast variety on the knowledge of the Jumi. Imu eagerly absorbed all the information, hoping to somehow benefit Elazul and Pearl later with it. She was drawn out of the verbal studies with Alex by Escad yawning rudely and loudly behind her, her Garuda perched on his shoulder asleep. Imu apologized and exited the store to get back to work.
After the exploration at Geo, Escad seemed to become antsy, but Imu desperately didn't want to rush him away, so instead, she made him do it, stepping to Gato, he instantly came up with an excuse and rushed back to the Jungle. Imu paused in the temple of healing, missing her blue eyed, bejeweled friend of sorts.
Her garuda nudged her shoulder, and she petted its feathered head with a thank you. As if fate would have it, the abbess matilda was apparently calling for Imu's presence. Entering the dreamweaver room, the elderly Matilda asked for you to locate and find Deana, who went looking for Irwin. Imu remembered that Deana had been seen in Domina a few times, and went there to search first, checking the local inn, the courtyard, the houses… and finally the tavern.
As fate would have it, she found a pair of blue eyes instead. Elazul looked up at Imu with a soft expression that she had never seen before. "What are you doing here again?" Imu asked him, sitting down. Deana could wait five minutes.
"I'm looking for a friend." He said softly, a familiar sword much like the Sword of Fate in his lap. How did he have it?
"So I am, would you like to search together?" Killing two birds with one stone sounded like a good idea.
He looked hopeful, "I would be grateful, but…" he paused looking at the sword. "You should stay away from us, or else…"
Imu smiled. "What's the worst that could happen? Come on, let's go."
Her heart skipped when he smiled. "I am grateful," he stood up and put his sword away. Imu made a stop at the fortune teller, they always seemed to have a clue as to where to look for missing persons.
She directed to ask the Wisdom at the lake, Imu instantly remembered Lake Kilma, many faeries were there! Deana may have went there as well. Thanking the fortune teller, she dashed away.
After losing Deana in the lake to the realm of faeries, she retunred to Matilda with elazul. She explained what happened and was asked to leave, as the door shut, she heard a voice, addressing itself to Selva, speaking to Matilda. She couldn't help but eavesdrop as it spoke names, saying the future was decided by who walked its path… "You, Deana, Escad, Irwin, Elazul," her heart froze on that name, despite him being behind her, "Pearl, Larc, Sierra…" who the hell were they? "
Matilda finished his statement, "… and Imu?"
"You thought so too? I wanted to hear that."
She began to put up a weak fuss, saying she couldn't argue a wisdom. Imu was shocked to hear her name in this mix, Elazul had apparently heard to, placing his human hand on her shoulder. "Hey… you ok?" She barely heard him, no longer listening to behind the door.
She nodded weakly, Elazul pulled her away from the door and out of the Grottos, walking with her to her house to recover from the mild shock.
"Hey now, it's alright. Everything will be just fine."
She nodded weakly, sitting amongst Trents great roots. Elazul sat beside her , watching, he stood up and wandered the roots for a brief moment before finding a fruit and bringing it down. He sat beside her and offered a piece of fresh Squalfin. Imu smiled and offered a bit of hers to the Garuda, who ate it happily with a side of Fish Meat, before nibbling her own chunk. Elazul gave her his half as well, not needing to eat.
"So I did a little research on Jumi," she said softly.
"And? What did you discover?"
She looked at him with a soft expression, "That I really still don't know anything about you."
He smirked, and brushed her hair out of her face.
"What's it like? Having an external heart?"
He frowned, "Painful and dangerous…."
Very very delicately she reached towards his core, Elazul mentally panicked, but held very still, staring at her with a carefully blank, yet frightened expression as her fingers brushed the large stone. "Its warm…"
"Well it is my heart," he said bluntly, trying to remain calm, with the slightest scrape of her fingernails, or a hard tug, he could be paralyzed or dead.
Instead she brushed her finger tips over the smooth, warm surface, and retracted her hand, leaving him a sense of euphoria, releasing the breath he had been holding. He had no idea what to say to this exchange.
She stood up after finishing her fruit. "I need to go back to Gato, will you come with me?"
He nodded as she walked away. Still unsure how to react. When she vanished, Garuda in two, he looked down at his core. He could still feel her fingers on it, the warm and delicate touch. He couldn't decide if he liked it or hated it, but regardless, the feeling was there. He stood up and followed her. She had left her bird I the stables, feeding it and watering all of them. Jennifer had stopped by and offered money for her dragons, Imu signed off for her to take them, as they were hoarding the food from the Succubus and Dainslaif.
Back in Gato, they found Escad bitching about faeries being evil and so were those that spoke to them. Matilda had fallen asleep, and there was no other adventure to be had at current. The duo began to search for Pearl or other Jumi, finding themselves lost in the Mindas Ruins, after that, lost in some Mines. Imu was beginning to feel a little bit too like Pearl, but was thankful to have her spear back.
They found Watts, then discovered the wisdom had a story to tell them. Before either could object, they were flung into the past, witnessing an event ten years prior with Escad and Deana, Matilda and Irwin. Elazul looked unfazed, but stayed close. They both wanted to get out of this dream…
Elazul and Imu were dragged into the lowest caverns and Escad awoke them, telling Imu to choose… him or Deana. She didn't want either, she just wanted to leave, and go back to a much brighter place like Geo or the Snowfeilds. She refused to choose.
"So be it," Escad said darkly. "Your path has been chosen."
Imu looked up at the hatred in his eyes, and cringed backwards, Elazul touched her shoulder gently. She really wished she had a pet to comfort her right now. He armed himself and lunged for her, she was stunned and didn't respond, instead it was Elazul who blocked the attack.
"Imu! Get a hold of yourself!"
His voice pulled her back out and she summoned her spear, Escad glared at the weapon, he never did like it. But something had changed about the way it felt in her hands, she felt stronger, and with a thrust of spirit, mana, and force, Lo and Behold almost finished him off from the blows Elazul had preformed earlier.
She lowered the weapon, standing by his side, and then the dream vanished, she was returned to Gato, safe and sound. She looked at Elazul softly, thanking him for his help. The Jumi shook his head and looked up at the temple. "You always seem to get yourself into others business, and then in trouble… I wonder what the future holds for you."
She wondered what the past had already held, and why she felt such a strange way around him, "Lets go to Geo. I want to introduce you to the Jewel Shop owner, Alex."
Elazul cringed, "jewel… shop?"
"He supports Jumi, and refuses to sell their cores. You're safe."
He seemed to relax a little.
"Would I ever walk you into mortal danger?"
He paused as if thinking about it, but shook his head.
"Let's go. This place creeps me out."
"Yeah, let's go." And so they went.