THE RIFT'S DIVIDE - P.9
The skies of the rift world were dim and dark, and instead of the usual moonlight, the quilted, colorful skies glowed a faint light, acting as giant night lights above. Below, the group was approaching a mass of twinkling lights on the ground level.
Aiza and Axel were walking ahead of the group, and behind them Hibiscus limped along, followed by Mithril, who was towing the large pile of gnuts they purified. Riding his usual water disc, the warrior had made a long veil of water like that of a cloth, and upon it the tired gnuts rested on it in a heap.
Light splashing sounded behind them as he tugged along the pippits.
"Why is he going through all that trouble?" Axel asked, glancing back.
"I think it's because of… his comrades. He isn't one to leave behind anyone." Aiza replied, after a thoughtful look. Mithril was here to find the rest of his division after all, and even if the gnuts were just pippets, she surmised that he had an obligation to look after anyone who got corrupted.
"It's a long story." Aiza concluded, turning her attention to Axel.
"Anyways, I can't believe you're here! Seren and I heard you disappeared those months back! We thought you were a goner!"
The blue vespire gave a weak smile. "I'm somehow still in the flesh. That's the life of a treasure hunter. You two aren't any better either."
Aiza grinned. "True… To find ourselves in here… Guess we can't get enough of danger!!"
She gazed up at the twinkling quilted sky. "It's very much like when we all raced for that one shard hah!"
"You two knew eachother?" Hibiscus asked, craning her neck over them.
Axel nodded. "Yes… A year ago Aiza and Seren ran into me on the road. We were looking for the same artifact. It's quite a story."
The blue vespire hastened his speed, pointing to the lights up ahead. "But it is a story I'll tell sometime. We've arrived at camp, and we should report in."
The camp was an enormous donut shaped area, and when they approached, a few gasped in surprise at how large it turned out to be. The pillars of smoke they saw earlier were towering columns of magical signal fire, and at the foot of them were tall bonfire-like structures made of weapons from the plains they passed, burning off of fire runestones inside.
A makeshift twelve foot tall fence of rocks surrounded the camp, jutting towards the outside. They stretched out from the ground and into the sky like large wings, and a few geomancers flew around maintenancing them.
Tents of various colors and materials coated the inside of the camp, and in the center of the place, a huge rock castle with wing like shields stood tall and regal. It bore a resemblance to the fence, also looking makeshift. Flags from all around the pouflon continent flapped at the top of the roof. One with flowers in them-- bellacoste's heraldry, another with a mountain and crystals-- banelaire's, and the third, a curious sandy flower and fruit banner-- from the nation of ursuki. There was also one other flag, though Aiza couldn't recognize it-- A flag with a paw print of some sort.
Poufs, vesps, and suki of all types walked and flew about the place, all busy handling supplies or messages, or some sort of job.
The air buzzed with voices and shuffling of boxes and weapons.
"Holy moly!" Aiza's mouth gaped, staring at the castle that towered over them.
"That's the temporary headquarters for all world leaders at the moment." Axel explained, moving towards a little tent at the foot of the castle. "Go ahead and look around, I've got to fill in my patrol." He approached the pouf there and began to file his report, leaving the others.
“I’ll get Hibiscus and these gnuts over to the medical tents to be checked over. I’ll go and find you later.” Mithril stated, also leaving, moving the last triage towards the busier tents. Hibiscus bowed her head politely before following the others.
Now alone, Aiza slowly spun around, taking in the incredible sight around her.
The Aequoreans had a corner of the camp where a large pool of water moisturized their warriors.
For the Ursuki, many of them conversed at a large fenced in sandy area with tools she's never seen before.
The vespires all coalesced at a hearthlike structure, surrounded by minerals of all sorts.
And in Bellacoste's corner, she recognized the usual battalion station, a large tent with piles of grass and flowers. And within that corner, she recognized someone familiar.
"Oxal… Is that you?" Aiza called, approaching the tent.
A plucky white pouf with black spots turned around, his cow bell giving a jingle, his face showing a surprised smile.
"Aiza! You're here?!"
"It's been forever since I last saw ya!" Aiza ran in for a friendly hug, then bounced back. She hadn't seen him since she was a bloom, back when she met Seren in Goldfair.
"You've gotten big!" She laughed.
"So have you!" Oxal replied, now staring at her cape. "You're a mage now?"
"Yup. I'm gonna be a mage detective!" She smirked, posing, before grinning at him. "And you're a knight now?! Nice!"
The cow patterned pouf blushed, embarrassed. "Y-yep! This is a mission I'm on now."
"Wahooo! We got to celebrate soon! But first…" Aiza looked around them, at the busy encampment.
"What's going on here?"
"A huge rescue mission… We're trying to find all who were lost from Bellacoste and cure them." Oxal gave a firm nod. "A couple days ago, we set camp here, and made a temporary castle for all to use."
He glanced at Axel. "It's been an ongoing search. I'm sure you were escorted here by one of our scouts?"
Aiza nodded, her face now serious. "Yeah. We cured a vespire and some gnuts out there." She looked up at Oxal with a worry she now remembered, and she eagerly wagged her tail. "Oxal.. Have you seen Uncle Klein? Is he in camp, did anyone find him?"
The knight thought for a bit, but shook his head, an unsure look. "I haven't seen him. I'm sorry… I know you must be worried."
"Oh… I see." She looked down, sadly.
"But if you ask around, I'm sure someone might have seen him! It's a big camp after all." Oxal gave a reassuring smile, patting her on her shoulder.
"... You're right! Maybe someone has." Aiza picked herself up and smiled at Oxal as she bounded away. "Thanks Oxal! I'll look around, let's chat later!"
The knight waved as she flew off, sighing with a gentle smile. That reminded him of someone dear to him, whom he also wished was safe. "Meadow… I hope you're well."
Aiza gazed around, looking for someone knowledgeable. Vesp, suki …. Tall feline creature on two feet…
She did a double take, and rubbed her eyes. Before her, to her shock, lay a camp full of beings she had never seen before. Bipedal feline beings walked about, talking to each other. They had no wings like the rest of Bellacoste, cloven feet, and they had strange long fleshy nubs for hooves-- Fingers?!
The orange pouf beelined towards them, curiosity exploding. She approached the closest, one with similar colors to her, with some spotty patches of dark orange.
“Wh-What are you?!” She asked, eyes wide.
The feline noticed her, and gave her a friendly wave. “Oh hello, you must be one of the rescued from the rift outskirts!” He turned to her, holding in his free palm a mouse-like creature. “I’m Tiny! And this is Teeny, we’re ambassadors for Andras.”
“I...Wha???” Aiza tilted her head in confusion. “What’s an ‘Andras’?”
“I can explain. I know this will be news to you, as a new traveller coming into this place, but Andras is a world where me and my friends came from. We’re called Woolynes.”
“A...Whole OTHER world?!”
Tiny nodded, petting Teeny. “Yes! In fact, this rift is actually a bridge between worlds.”
Aiza looked up, amazed. The quilted sky…. All those patches with different colors of stars and sky… Those were all different worlds?! It didn’t make sense, but she should have expected this. It was a magical anomaly after all... In her travels with Seren, they thought they had seen it all, but this was insane.
“No way…. That’s awesome!” She exclaimed, eyes sparkling.
“I know right?” Tiny grinned.
It took Aiza a while to recover from the new information given to her. All this time she had thought the rift to be some strange space fixed in time, and she wasn’t wrong-- however, it being a bridge to other worlds was unheard of. Seren was probably having a field day somewhere in camp learning all she could about it.
The pouf frowned remembering what Seren had said again. Oh dear. If Seren saw her here… She would be furious--having told her to stay put back in Aequor.
“Are you doing ok? Sorry, that was a lot to unpack.” Tiny asked her, scratching his head.
“Y-yeah. I’m good.”
Aiza shook her head, looking awake. “Say Tiny, have you seen a brown ursuki anywhere? Erm.. He’s kinda this big and has a mustache.” She stood on her hind legs for a few seconds, gesturing at the (not very) approximate height of Klein.
Tiny rubbed his chin, thinking. But he frowned and shook his head. “No dice. I don’t think I have. A friend of yours?”
“Close one. Almost like family.”
“I see… Maybe he had crossed the bridge into Andras?”
“What do you mean?”
“Our worlds are accessible right now you see… We can go to yours, or you can go to ours.”
Aiza blinked in amazement. That was pretty cool. But then she realized a terrible outcome, and she gasped in horror.
“Oh no…. What if he went to there? He was corrupted, he wouldn’t know…”
She fell back, holding her head. If Klein did fly into Andras, that would mean he would literally be a world away from being found again. And what if the Woolynes in Andras saw him as a threat? They would only see a monster, not the kind farmer ursuki she knew him to be.
Her mind spun.
She came to the rift looking for him, and now he could be in a whole other universe?
How would she find him again? He could be lost… Forever.
For the first time since the journey began, tears formed at the edge of her eyes. Darkness grasped at her again, and she was losing her senses…
The void laughed.
But then it was cut away, as Tiny waved at her.
"Hey.. Hey it's gonna be okay." He said. "I'm sure he didn't go that far."
The woolyne thought hard, then raised a finger. "Ah! I know. I think I know someone who can help you out."
Aiza raised her head.
"Here, follow me."
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