"This place is so cool!"
Alex honestly had no clue how they ended up where they had. All she really knew was that Noelle managed to get a hold of some sort of upgrade for the Albiore's flightstone, and that had led to the pilot testing out what the new and improved Albiore could do.
The group wasn't in any hurry to get anything done for once, and besides, Guy was eagerly encouraging her to break through blizzards around Mt. Roneal, and thunderstorms around a small island between Grand Chokmah and Keterburg that really didn't appear to have anything on it. At first it was rather nerve-wracking, as the aircraft did go through quite a bit of turbulence whenever they broke through whatever it was they were trying to break through, but Alex and the others knew that Noelle was a professional, and so they trusted her nonetheless.
After a few hours of testing out the new Albiore, Noelle had decided to see if the aircraft's enhanced speed could break through a whirlpool near Sheridan. As if by fate, the pilot had managed to find a whirlpool with a cavern on the other side of it, and so she deemed it safe to speed through it, seeing as they wouldn't be crashing into the cliff on the other side.
Unsurprisingly, as every other test had gone well so far, they had managed to break through the whirlpool without much difficulty. What was waiting on the inside of the cavern they had just entered, on the other hand, took everyone by surprise.
They were shocked to find a small boy in bright yellow overalls that were far too big for him waiting beside a dock, and they were even more startled to find an unnaturally tall ladder leading upward until it was engulfed in the darkness above standing against the rock wall. Beside that ladder was a large metal door, with an older man standing in front of it.
Out of pure curiosity, the group decided to dock and see what this place was all about. Jade seemed the most curious about the fact that there seemed to be people living in the area.
"Welcome to Nam Cobanda Isle!" the boy had greeted as everyone left the Albiore, before explaining that they were a surprise, because the place never had visitors. The cavern was small, there was no way what they were seeing could be classified as a whole isle. Whatever was at the top of the ladder must have been the real shocker.
And a shock, it was. Once they had all made the exhausting climb up the ladder, as the lift, which was behind the metal doors they had seen, was supposedly out of order, they were greeted by possibly the most interesting place Alex had ever seen in her life.
The fon machines scattered throughout the small village concealed in a rather large tent weren't exactly...conventional, but they were still more than enough to get Guy excited. These machines were all pretty small, and seemed to be more for entertainment than anything else. Alex immediately thought of the circus upon seeing them, and the fact that the place was surrounded by a huge circus tent really didn't help matters.
Anise also seemed enthralled by everything, and in a matter of moments the group had lost both Guy and the younger girl, who had both dashed off in different directions to check everything out. Ion was the one who remained the calmest out of all of them.
They had spent a half hour trying to find the two of them, and they finally met up in a room near the middle of the tent that was filled with much more serious looking fon machinery.
There were screens set up all over the place, where you could clearly see what was going on outside in every possible direction. There was one screen that was taken up by the Albiore a hundred feet below them.
Alex had to admit as everyone admired all the machinery around them, the place was pretty cool.
As everyone watched Guy rant on about the machinery in the room, something caught Alex's eye. She was surprised no one else saw it, considering the bright pink and purple stripes on the child's cat costume stood out compared to the rest of the room. But it wasn't just the child that caught Alex's eye, it was what was in his hands.
The child was holding in his hands two very oddly colored swords, one was a vibrant indigo color, while the other was a bright, shining crimson. She had seen these two particular swords in magazines concerning her favorite book series as a teenager: Tale of Two Worlds. If the swords weren't enough, the kendama also held in the child's arms were enough for her to be positive.
Quietly, she began to follow the boy in the strange costume into the room he was entering, too intrigued by whether or not the swords he was holding were legitimate and could be used in battle (how cool would it have been to battle a monster using Kratos' Flamberge?) or merely props.
She had lost track of the boy upon entering the room, but suddenly she didn't care about that. She had to cover her mouth to stifle a gasp.
On second thought, this place was amazing.
As far as her emerald eyes could see: costumes. Costumes for all her favorite characters from her favorite series. The young girl inside her that used to obsess about that series was suddenly reawakened and already throwing a fit in her mind. It was all Alex could do not to squeal like a giddy schoolgirl.
There were so many thoughts racing through her head at that moment, but the most prominent of them: Where was the Kratos costume? If she found who was in charge of this beautiful place, would they let her wear his cape for a while?
She didn't want to get in trouble, but she really wanted to see more of the costumes and whatever else they had. Were they putting on a play? If they were, there was no way she was missing that.
She slowly and quietly made her way to the nearest clothing rack and began going through the costumes, mumbling to herself as she went.
"Lloyd, Colette, Genis, Raine, Human Ranch prisoner...Aha!" she pulled the costume from the rack with a bright smile on her face, not knowing just how loud she was being. That wasn't hard to find at all.
Startled, she spun around on the spot, hiding the Kratos costume she had found behind her back. Her face was arguably redder than Luke's hair as she stared at Guy, trying and failing to put on a poker face.
He laughed at the look on her face, "What are doing? What's behind your back?"
"Nothing!" Alex said in an unnaturally high voice.
Guy narrowed his eyes and took a couple steps toward her, "Come on, let me see."
He made a lunge at her, trying to get around her and grab the costume, but Alex saw it coming. It was times like these she was glad she was much shorter than him. She quickly ducked under his outstretched arms, ending up behind him. She still held the costume behind her so he couldn't see it.
He turned around and looked confusedly at her, "Seriously, what are you...?"
A few minutes of struggling between the two of them ended in Guy holding the costume in front him while looking at a very embarrassed Alex with a raised eyebrow. She had her face turned away from him, not wanting to look him in the eye. She didn't know what to expect for a reaction, but she certainly wasn't expecting what she heard.
"Alex...Please tell me you're not a Kratos fangirl."
"Shut up!" she said, her face growing even redder than before, "I was just looking at it! It just caught my eye - you know purple's my favorite color!"
Guy nodded, a bemused smirk on his face, "So that's why you had to hide it from me? Because I seem to remember a few years ago when you were obsessing over A Tale of Two Worlds, and..."
Alex couldn't think of a reply other than 'Shut up', and fortunately she didn't have to, as the child dressed as a cat had chosen to return at that moment.
"Meow, excuse me," the little boy in the Katz costume said as he walked up to the two of them, his eyes on the costume Guy was still holding in his hands, "May I help you with something?"
Alex quickly grabbed the costume out of Guy's hands while he wasn't paying attention, taking him by surprise. She ignored his momentary lapse back into his old phobia when he jumped away, and put the costume back in its place on its rack.
"N-no, sorry," Alex replied to the small boy, who was watching the two of them with curiosity, "We were just leaving."
"Meow, okay..." he replied, sounding a little depressed all of a sudden. Alex swore she had seen the ears on his costume droop slightly as he hung his head.
Guy and Alex looked at each other, both feeling a little uncomfortable, they couldn't just leave the kid alone and depressed.
"Is something wrong?" Guy asked.
"Well...Meow. Did I hear you say she was a Tale of Two Worlds fan?"
"Actually, I said she was obsessed with-"
"Yes, I'm a fan," Alex interrupted, glaring at Guy, Is there something you need?"
Instantly, the child perked up, and before she could register what was happening, she was being dragged by the hand down the isle, a little weirded out by the fact that the boy was now purring. At least he was committed to staying in character?
"That's great!" the boy said as he skipped in front of her, still holding a tight grip on her hand, "The people of Nam Cobanda Isle are putting on a play! But you might have figured that out already because of all the costumes, meow."
"Really?" Guy asked, having followed them. Alex already knew she was going to see that play no matter what. But she had one question on her mind.
"How are you going to fit all three books into one play? That's a lot of information to cover in just a few hours, unless you were doing a parody or something."
They eventually stopped at one corner of the room where they kept some of the props, Alex immediately noticed the swords she had seen him with earlier.
"We were thinking of making it a musical, actually, since everyone loves musicals," the boy confessed. Alex had to suppress the urge to laugh at the mental picture of Kratos, Regal, and Desians singing and dancing. Somehow she could picture Zelos or Yggdrasil killing a solo though. "But we could never figure out how to get a few of the characters to still be taken seriously while singing. So instead we decided to make the play into three parts."
"I can get that," Alex told him. She had to think that Regal and Alicia's story could be made into an amazing duet , though.
"Anyway, meow," the child went on, "We've been so busy working on costumes and props, that we haven't actually done a lot of advertising. We're starting our tour around Auldrant in a couple months, and no one but us knows about it. Miss Noir's talked a lot about you folks, and it sounds like you do a lot of traveling. Do you think you can maybe put up a few flyers for us in the towns that you visit?"
"That doesn't sound too hard," Guy said, his arms behind his head, not even questioning how the child knew who they were, "It shouldn't be a problem...Wait, Noir? The Dark Wings are here?"
"Yep! Miss Noir and her colleagues founded this place and let us all live here!" the boy replied, handing them a few flyers, "Thanks a lot! In exchange I'll get your group tickets to our first performance!"
"Thanks," Guy said, as Alex's eyes lit up. He grabbed her hand and tried to pull her away, "We'll take you up on that offer, but right now we really need to be getting back to our group."
"Oh, really?" the boy asked, "But I wanted your opinion on what we have for the angel wings right now. I thought having some outside input would help us..."
"Sorry," Guy told him as he continued to drag Alex away, Alex trying to get back to the boy so she could see the wings, "But we really need to be getting back, we never even told them where we were going, so..."
"I understand," the boy replied, a little disappointed, "It's just a new type of fon technology, so we don't really know how well it will turn out."
At this, Guy stopped, and Alex wondered if the boy knew about his weakness to fon machines.
"I guess it wouldn't hurt to take a look..."
Alex smirked at him, knowing his reasoning for suddenly agreeing to see the wings, but even so, they never even got the chance to see them.
"There you are!"
The new voice caught both Alex and Guy by surprise, and they both turned to see Tear walking toward them.
"I've been looking for you. I thought you were going to bring her straight back?" she asked Guy.
He scratched the back of his head nervously, "Sorry, we got a bit distracted."
When he pointed out the small child to her, her strict look melted instantly into a blush. "O-oh, I see. Well, I told the others I would bring you two back right away, so we have to leave."
The boy bowed down apologetically, "Meow, I'm sorry if I kept them for too long, miss."
"N-no, it's alright," it always amazed Alex how easily Tear lost her composure around anything cute. She gave the boy a kind smile, "It's not your fault."
In the end, Guy and Alex basically had to drag Tear away from the boy to get back to the others, where a surprise waited for the two of them. They would have been even more surprised had the cat boy not mentioned Noir.
"Welcome to our home!" York greeted them once they were back in the room full of screens displaying every bit of the area surrounding the place. The others stood behind York, with Urushi talking to them about the defenses in place around the Isle, and all appeared to be over the shock of the Dark Wings being there.
"Your home?" Guy asked, "You mean this is the Dark Wings' hideout?"
"That's right," York replied simply, "At times, we are the circus troupe, the Black Dream. Other times, we are noble thieves, the Dark Wings. But we are always the custodians of this hidden town." He opened his arms wide with a proud smile on his face, "Welcome, visitors, to our proud home, Nam Cobanda Isle!"
"So Kimlasca and Malkuth don't know about this place?" Alex asked.
"We take pride in our lives, we're not ruled by anyone," York answered, waving his hand down, "Now, since you're here, we'd like to ask a favor of you. Follow me."
"Why should we do you any favors?" Anise demanded, when the group stood their ground.
"If you don't mind, I'd like to leave questions until after we've explained a few things," York replied, opening a door to their right. For a few moments, no one budged, until finally Ion decided he would give them a chance and entered the room, Anise on his heels even though she didn't want to help the Dark Wings.
"This is an autonomous state, in a manner of speaking," Jade told the remaining members of the group, "I think it would be to our advantage to hear them out."
The others sighed and agreed, and then marched into what was most likely the only normal looking room in the entire place.
"Well hello, kids," Noir greeted with a small smirk on her face from the middle of the room, "Never thought we'd see you all the way out here."
"Does it really matter?" Luke asked, "There's something I wanted to ask you. Can you tell us about Nam Cobanda Isle?"
"What do you want to know?" Noir asked.
"Why did you set it up?"
"Oh..." Noir seemed to think about it, "Hmm, what to do...?"
"Hey, lady!" Anise tried, "Tell us, and we'll give you Guy!"
"Anise! What are you trying to do?!" Guy shouted, looking a little scared, since the pink-haired woman had been constantly trying to flirt with him whenever they ran into each other. Alex sighed and hoped that Noir wouldn't take Anise seriously.
"That doesn't sound too bad," Noir said, looking at Guy, who was obviously very nervous at this point, "I was getting tired of these good-for-nothings anyway." York and Urushi exchanged an annoyed look behind her. "It might be fun to get to work with a handsome man like you for a change."
"N-no!" Guy protested, as Alex suppressed the urge to smack Noir, "I... I don't think I'm your type! You need someone a little more, uh..."
"Relax!" Noir laughed, "I'm kidding. But you are darling when you panic. Alright, I'll tell you."
"Noir!" both Urushi and York tried to protest.
Noir ignored them, "It's been fifteen years now. I was born in Malkuth, on the Island Feres. It was destroyed by the tidal wave from Hod's destruction. I'd probably have been monster food myself, if a passing ship hadn't picked me up."
Everyone was listening with rapt attention. Whatever they'd expected her to tell them, it certainly wasn't anything like that. Another life ruined by Hod's destruction.
"And not just me. York and Urushi, too."
"We was awful lucky to be saved under them circumstances."
"We lost our homes, our family, everything in that instant," York said.
"From that day on, we did anything to stay alive..." Noir told them, "Anything. We nabbed a Scorer one time, and heard what happened to Feres was part of the Closed Score. If they'd told everyone earlier, everybody could have survived."
"That truth was really hard on Noir," York explained, "She got more depressed by the day."
"All we could do was watch over her..."
"That's enough, both of you!" Noir shouted at them over her shoulder, "Anyway, I got to thinking. Daath controlled the world through the Score. As long as the Order held the Closed Score, neither Malkuth nor Kimlasca could disobey them. So the rulers of both countries forgot their people and started kissing up to Daath. We figured it would be better to give those idiots' riches to their suffering people."
"As time went by, we started to pick up war orphans and whatnot," York continued for her,
"And before we knew it, we were a family of four hundred fifty-nine."
"As thieves, we can't live out in the open... But with so many people, it was kind of hard to hide, so we built a town out here."
"Only a few work as thieves, the rest are mostly circus performers and engineers."
"Nobody but the thieves knows there's thieving being done," Urushi added.
"To really survive out here, we needed some people with an understanding of fon machinery," Noir told them, "And as you already know, Sheridan is the closest city to here."
"So you went to the city in order find some mechanics who would consider moving here?" Ion asked.
"Yes, exactly," York replied.
"Theys were pretty excited about it once wes told them what we needed," Urushi said, "The people of Sheridan sure dos like their challenges."
"Of course we had to be careful about who we told," Noir added, "We couldn't exactly let word of our new home get out."
"But how did you get all this fon machinery here?" Natalia asked.
"I didn't think we would need to explain that too, Princess," Noir said, "We thought it was pretty clear now why our group of noble thieves was formed."
Natalia crossed her arms and glared as York continued, "Getting to the point now, our mechanics have developed a new use for fon technology over the years, and it's just recently been finished. Everyone in Nam Cobanda Isle has already tested it out."
"So what do you need us for?" Luke asked, looking very much like he didn't want to help them.
"Well, you see," York explained, placing his hand on his chin, "We need someone from outside Nam Cobanda Isle to test it out, and so far you're the only ones who have managed to make it here. Most of the machinery is transportable in some way, so if you guys can determine whether or not it's worthwhile, we may start bringing some of it along with our circus act."
"Most of the technology is brand new," Noir told them, "Even the guys at Sheridan don't know about it."
Guy visibly perked up at the mention of the new fon technology nobody knew about, and Alex knew in that second that their fates were sealed. They'd have to go.
"Oh great," Alex muttered, "We'll have to go now."
"What are you talking about?" Luke asked her, before turning back to Noir, "Sorry, but we really don't have time to-"
"Luke," Alex said with an eyebrow raised, "I should remind you that if we decide not to do this for them, we'll all have to deal with a certain someone's complaints about the decision for Yulia knows how long," she jabbed her thumb in Guy's direction, noticing from the corner of her eye that his expression had gone from excitement to that of a kicked puppy when Luke tried to tell Noir they couldn't do it. Alex pointed at the redhead, who had caught on to what Alex was saying, "And you'll be the one sharing a room with him."
Luke's eyes widened, and Jade spoke up. "Why not? We can afford a short rest."
Alex had a feeling he was more interested in what these fon machines were, and if they were worth reporting to Emperor Peony and blowing the secrecy of Nam Cobanda Isle. She was just thinking about whether or not she should ask him what his intentions were, the people here all seemed so happy that she didn't want anyone to ruin the home they had sent so much time developing, especially after learning the Dark Wings had lost their homes due to the Hod War as well. She felt oddly closer to them for some reason.
"Colonel..." Alex started, getting his attention, "About this town..."
"Yes," he replied, "We can't just let them go, no matter their reasoning."
"Jade!" Luke exclaimed, "That's cruel!"
"Their past certainly deserves sympathy," Jade replied, "But that's no excuse for theft of property."
"Can't you let them go, Jade?" Ion asked.
"Yeah," Anise agreed, "It's not that bad!"
"It most certainly is," Jade told her, "...Though I don't actually intend to file a report until I catch them in the act."
"Well, that's a surprise," Noir said, "Mister Necromancer, I'd heard you were pretty rough."
"We have no intention of getting caught either," York told him, "The town should be safe for a while."
"Well then," Noir turned to Luke, "You've agreed to help us?"
When Luke nodded, York spoke, "Then follow Urushi and me, would you? We'll explain what we need when we get there."
When Alex heard that they had developed new fontech, this certainly was not what she had in mind.
"This is amazing!" Luke and Anise exclaimed in tandem. Guy seemed lost for words, but the look of excitement on his face was all Alex needed to know he was amazed by this as well. Even Jade seemed slightly shocked by what he was seeing, and Alex almost laughed when she thought about the fact that he really couldn't report this to Emperor Peony as none of it could be used for military purposes. Though she would admit that she could imagine the emperor's face lighting up like a child at the thought of seeing a place like this, which would honestly be exactly the reason Jade would never tell him about it, as he would most likely be roped into being his babysitter as his best friend. Alex couldn't help but smile at the thought of Jade being forced to visit this place with him.
"Well? What do you think?" York asked the members of the group who hadn't yet spoken, standing proudly in front of the gateway leading to the numerous giant nameless machines. They came in every shape and size. The biggest of all of them, and the one Alex's eyes were most drawn to, was just in the shape of a enormous circle. It had swinging seats all around the edges, and moved in a slow circular motion. Were people supposed to ride it?
"What...?" Tear asked, looking curiously around the place.
"We calls it an 'Amusement Park'," Urushi told her.
"It's basically a place where people can gather to kick back, relax, and have some fun," York explained, "All these machines you see here are rides. They've all been tested multiple times, and they're about as safe as they could possibly get."
"We's gonna open the place to the people in Nam Cobanda Isle next week, and then later we'll figure out a way to take most of it with us for our circus performances. We ain't sure how to get the roller coaster across the ocean though..."
"At any rate," York cut in as Urushi trailed off, "Noir figured that yous guys are deserve a break, so she says that you can use the place today for a break. And this way, we'll know ahead of time from you guys if this was a waste of time. All you have to do is come back to our room when you're finished here and tell us what you think of the place."
"Why do I get the feeling that something's wrong here?" Anise asked, Alex couldn't help but agree. The Dark Wings weren't exactly their allies, or very trustworthy. "What do you want in return? We're not giving you any gald!"
"Don't worry, little lady," York told her with a laugh, "Consider it repayment for helping us in Grand Chokmah a few months ago. Who knows what condition Noir and ourselves would be in if those two gentlemen there hadn't stepped in." He nodded toward Guy and Luke. "If that's not good enough for you, we still have all those times you didn't have us arrested to repay you for."
Alex recalled the incident in Grand Chokmah, and how Luke and Guy had defended the three thieves from a few thugs who had tried to attack them while they were setting up for a circus performance. She still wasn't sure what to think about Noir constantly flirting with Guy every time they ran into the Dark Wings since the incident occurred. She definitely wasn't impressed when she had given him some key that she had said was the 'key to her heart', even though she said she was kidding about what it was right after she cornered him into accepting it.
"Should we trust them?" Luke asked, turning to Jade.
"I think they sound sincere," Noelle said, "And you all have been doing so much running around lately. Not to mention you risk your necks for everyone basically every day. You need a break." Alex could tell that Noelle really wanted to go through the gates in front of them and check out all the machines. She was practically bouncing on the balls of her feet. Only Guy looked more excited than her.
Jade sighed, "I suppose we might as well...Under the condition that no one tells Emperor Peony about this."
Alex smirked, seeing right through Jade's request, "What's wrong, Colonel? You wouldn't want to spend the day here with your best friend?"
Jade raised an eyebrow at her, "That may very well be the case. However, I should warn you that if the situation does arise, His Majesty just may want to bring his beloved pets along, which would in turn mean that Guy would inevitably be coming along as well. Perhaps I could request that my subordinate help him? Surely he wouldn't mind the help. And I do promise that the experience wouldn't be too boring for you, I would do everything in my power to make it a memorable day."
Luke was by now laughing at her, probably having the entertaining mental picture in his head of what Jade was explaining.
"You mean I would get to spend more quality time with Cute Little Jade?" Alex asked in mock excitement. Jade simply gave her that look of his that told her to tread lightly; everyone knew how much he disliked the fact that Emperor Peony had named one of his precious rappigs after his best friend. Alex rolled her eyes, "Fine, I won't tell him."
"You have my utmost gratitude."
"So we're checking this place out, then?" Guy asked eagerly.
Jade sighed, "I suppose we are."
"Awesome!" Guy said, immediately making his way to the closest machine, a sigh over it that said 'Tilt-a-Whirl'. The others followed him, and within seconds they were all trying to ignore a spiel about how amazing fon technology was.
While he was going on about the machine (only Noelle was listening to him at that point, and she was even adding to the conversation) the others went about making plans. Within moments it was decided that Alex and Luke were going to try some of these rides, and bring Guy along if they could drag him away from the Tilt-a-Whirl long enough for him to actually experience how it worked.
"Okay," Alex told Guy, "While you freak out about all this machinery, Luke and I are going to actually try some of these rides out. You're welcome to join us if you want."
When Guy didn't respond, and only continued to talk about the machine in front of them, Alex sighed and turned to Luke, "What do you want to try first?"
Luke scanned the area, his eyes stopping on the beginnings of a certain contraption that went around the entire park, swerving and looping in all different places. By the looks of it, it had several cars that took people around it at incredible speeds. It had a sign above where the line would start for it, saying 'Roller Coaster'. Alex could understand why Urushi had his doubts about taking it across the ocean.
"That one," Luke decided, pointing at it before turning to Tear, "You want to come?"
Tear took one look at the roller coaster and shook her head, "Um, n-no. I don't think so, and I'm not sure bringing Mieu with you on something like that would be safe for him. I'll take him so he doesn't get hurt."
Natalia giggled at the cheagle's reaction, "It's alright, Mieu, I'm quite sure you're not missing out on anything."
"But I want to go with Master!"
"Go with Tear, Mieu," Luke told him, his eyes still on the coaster, he was barely concealing his excitement. "You'll have a better time with her."
"I think I saw a bunch of stalls over in that direction with games and stuffed animals for prizes," Alex told Tear, barely holding in a laugh as the normally well-reserved girl's eyes lit up at the mention of stuffed animals.
"Wait, prizes?!" Anise practically demanded, turning in the direction Alex was pointing. "Do you think they'll have any Gald prizes?"
"I doubt there's any gambling in a place like this, Anise," Jade told her, "It is a family place, after all."
"Anise," Ion started, "If it's alright, I'd like to try some of these rides with Alex and Luke."
Anise sighed, her eyes still searching for the prize stalls as Natalia and Tear made their way over to them with Mieu, "Well, if you want to, I guess I don't have a choice. Oh well, some of these look fun anyway. You coming, Colonel?"
"I'm afraid not," Jade shrugged, "At my age, any of these rides could leave me in a state of cardiac arrest."
"And yet the monsters and God-Generals we run into and fight off on a daily basis are nothing for you?" Alex asked.
"A different matter entirely. After spending years in the military those are situations I'm used to."
Luke turned to Guy again, who was still admiring the machinery of the ride right next to him. "Are you coming?"
"Hmm?" Guy asked, looking at Luke as though he'd come out of nowhere, "Oh, no. You guys go on ahead without me, I'll catch up in a bit."
Luke shrugged and nodded, and the others went their separate ways. Luke, Alex, Anise, and Ion all made their way to the start of the roller coaster, where one mechanic stood waiting for them so they could operate the ride, while Tear, Natalia, Noelle, and Mieu went to check out the rest of the park. Jade seemed to have disappeared altogether without any notice, and Guy stayed right where he was.
The roller coaster turned out to be the most exhilarating thing Alex had ever experienced, even the first time they'd ridden the Albiore couldn't top it. She, Luke, and Anise had all thoroughly enjoyed it's breakneck speed as it looped and curved around the park, but it was clear Ion hadn't had as much fun as they had.
The Fon Master, who had been riding with Anise in the car behind Alex and Luke, looked more pale coming off the ride than usual, and his skin even had a tinge of green. He denied it when Anise said he was sick, and she then told him he wasn't allowed to go on any of the bigger rides since he obviously couldn't handle them.
They found a much smaller roller coaster that appeared to be more for kids for him to ride with Anise, and he seemed to enjoy that one much more, even though it was clear Anise was lying when she said she had fun on it too.
They found another ride that looked like it would be impossible to transport, called the Drop of Terror. It was basically a giant tower that had seats lining the bottom that would bring them all the way to the top and then drop them to the bottom again. Luke wanted to ride it, but Alex was a little hesitant. He needed a second person to ride with him though, and Anise had decided to stay with Ion and watch since there was no way she was letting him ride it with them.
In the end, Luke had been able to persuade Alex into riding it, and she didn't enjoy it nearly as much as she had the roller coaster. She and Luke both agreed that they were reminded of when the lands were falling when they got off the ride.
As they made their way through the park and rode some of the rides, Alex really began to wonder just how the Dark Wings were going to transport any of the rides. Only a few of the kid rides that Ion and Anise had gone on looked like they could be transportable. And some of the bigger ones, like the Swing-Around that Luke and Alex were riding looked like they might be transportable, but they would take a lot of work to set up and take down.
At first Alex was a little opposed to riding the Swing-Around, as it was just a bunch of swings chained to a giant pole that swung them around in circles fifty feet in the air. It didn't look very sturdy, but again, Luke had managed to persuade her.
Everything had turned out alright in the end, and the four of them left to find something else for Ion and Anise to do.
While looking for another ride for them, they passed a strangely constructed house labelled 'The Fun House'. It was oddly crooked, and even appeared to be moving a bit. The height restriction on the info sheet next to the house said that both Luke and Alex were too tall to enter the house, so they assumed that it was something else mainly for kids and Ion convinced Anise to go in with him.
For a good ten minutes, Alex and Luke waited outside on a bench for them to exit, talking about which ride they should go on next, or if they should check to see if Guy was done freaking out about the fon machinery and was ready to actually ride some rides with them.
Finally, the two younger members of the group exited the Fun House, and that exit was actually a slide coming from the window on its top floor. Ion looked happy upon leaving - Anise, not so much.
"Never again," she mumbled as she led the others away, "Never again! I'm tired of these kiddie rides! I'd rather go on the other rides with you two."
"I'm sorry, Anise," Ion said sadly, "I didn't know you weren't having fun."
"Oh," Anise suddenly stopped looking annoyed, "It's not your fault Ion, it's not that I'm not having fun, it's just..."
Before she could finish her thought, they found Tear, who was holding Mieu, Noelle, and Natalia on a ride that was simply spinning teacups. Alex and Luke noted that Natalia looked very much at home on the ride, and Tear and Mieu both looked content. Noelle
looked a little bored.
Oh!" Anise said as she spotted them, "How about you go with Tear and Natalia, Ion? The rides they're going on look like they'd be more for you to go on."
Ion agreed to this, and the four of them waited for Natalia and Tear to leave the ride so they could drop Ion off with them.
Once the girls had left the ride and agreed to take Ion off their hands they went separate ways again, the girls and Ion heading in the direction of a Carousel, a ride consisting of fake Rappigs and Uniceri moving up and down slowly in a circular motion, and the rest of them, now including Noelle, who had admitted she was bored of the rides they had been going on up until then, heading back to the Tilt-a-Whirl to see if Guy was going to join them. Jade's whereabouts were still unknown.
Unsurprisingly to them, Guy was still interestedly looking at the Tilt-a-Whirl when they arrived, and didn't even notice when the group of four approached him.
"How about instead of just staring at it," Alex started when they were right next to him, taking him by surprise, "You actually try riding it? It's the whole reason we came here, right?"
He didn't even have a chance to respond before Luke was pushing him from behind in the direction of the entrance to the ride. Anise and Noelle got into one of the spinning carts while the other three piled into another, Luke and Alex on either side of Guy. The ride went on for a few minutes, the cart spinning fairly quickly. They all enjoyed the ride, and afterward they got Guy to actually go with them to ride some more.
They had agreed to go on some of the rides that Alex and Luke had gone on already, since Noelle and Guy hadn't gone on them, and Anise had only watched while Ion was with them. First, they went back to the roller coaster, since it was easily Alex and Luke's favorite. Alex had ridden with Noelle, while Luke was with Guy. Anise had decided to wait for them since she had to have a second person and she had already gone on it before anyway.
After going on all the rides they had previously gone on, they found a different ride called the Land Ship. It looked like an extremely smaller version of the Tartarus that was swung backwards and forwards on a metallic swing. There was no limit in numbers for that ride, so they just piled onto one side of the ship. It wasn't the most fun of the rides, but it wasn't boring either.
Eventually, they had run out of rides to go on, and so they decided to find the others.
It took about fifteen minutes for them to find them, but once they did, they explained that they had run out of rides as well. Jade was still nowhere in sight.
"Where do you think Jade is?" Luke asked.
"Who knows?" Alex shrugged, "He's probably looking for something worth reporting to Emperor Peony."
"Do you really think Jade would do such a thing?" Ion asked, "He said earlier that he wouldn't report anything unless they were caught in the act."
"It's Jade," Guy told him, a grim look on his face, "He was probably lying to lure them into a false sense of security."
"Still, I doubt he would find anything here that is worth reporting to the Emperor," Natalia reassured Ion.
Alex laughed, "Yeah, especially since Peony would probably be more interested in coming here and dragging Jade along with him."
Tear sighed, "Yes, well we still need to find him."
"Are you speaking about me?" Jade asked, coming up from behind them and shocking them all slightly, "It's rude to talk about someone behind their back, you know."
"What have you been up to?" Guy asked him.
Jade shrugged, "Oh, nothing you should concern yourselves with."
"Whatever," Luke rolled his eyes, "Well we're all together again, now what?"
"We could check out that area with games and stuff?" Anise suggested.
Everyone agreed, and they went on their way. Jade seemed more like he just wanted to get the day over with, having found nothing to really interest him. In fact, he probably felt more like he was babysitting them even more than he usually did.
They quickly found a game that most of them were interested in, called Bumper Cars. The object was to drive around and try to crash into each other as much as possible. Natalia and Tear didn't seem very interested, but they had somehow managed to persuade them into giving it a try, Luke had wanted everyone in on this one. It was nothing short of a miracle that they had managed to convince Jade to try it. Only Mieu was left to watch as it was too dangerous for him.
Unsurprisingly, Noelle was the best driver out of them, her only problem was understanding that she was supposed to crash into the others, since her job was to fly everyone safely around Auldrant every day. Even Tear and Natalia managed to have fun with it, the only person who wasn't enjoying himself was Jade.
Alex had to wonder if they had lost their minds when Luke and Guy had decided to gang up on the older military man, and did nothing but laugh with the others at them when Jade used one of his artes on them after they left the Bumper Car stand, resulting in the two of them having two very big, very staticy Afros.
Next they tried the Balloon Pop, where Tear completely out-shined everyone. Only Natalia came close to her precision with the darts used to pop the balloons. Tear never missed a single one, while Natalia missed a couple. Watching them made Alex glad that they fought alongside her, she wouldn't want to be the one they aimed at with their arrows and throwing knives.
After they were finished with that stand, Luke had confessed to Guy and Alex that he wanted to impress Tear, but she seemed to be so much better at all of the games they had played so far because of her killer aim. The poor guy had possibly the hardest girl on Auldrant to impress, and watching her at the Balloon Pop seemed to have been a blow to his masculinity.
Alex took pity on him and decided to tip him off about Tear's weakness to cute things, so getting her one of the stuffed animals that were held as prizes at one of the game stands would probably be enough to impress her. Honestly Alex was surprised that he hadn't caught onto her weakness to everything adorable, since it had been pretty obvious to the rest of the group.
They later passed a game that was called 'Whack-a-Cheagle'. Once they figured out what the object of the game was, which took only a couple seconds because of the title, poor Mieu was horrified, as was Tear. The others didn't find the game to be a great idea either, least of all Ion. The Fon Master had made a note to ask the Dark Wings to remove the game, as they shouldn't have been treating the Order's Sacred Beasts so cruelly even if they weren't real.
Luke finally managed to win a stuffed animal for Tear at the stand that involved throwing balls at stacked bottles, which certainly got him on her good for him, his new hairstyle probably wasn't going to help him keep any interest she was showing him.
At the same stand, Jade had taken out his annoyance at the day by using Energy Blast on one of the stacks of bottles, making everyone nervous about being around him. They all just stared at, no one really having the courage to say anything. The person working the stand certainly looked scared for is life.
It was finally getting late, and they were just about to end their night and go tell the Dark Wings what they thought, when Ion pointed out that they hadn't gone on the Ferris Wheel yet. Jade, who had had enough of the place, had decided to go back to Nam Cobanda Isle and report to the Dark Wings while they went on the Ferris Wheel so they could get on the Albiore and leave immediately afterward. No one dared argue with him.
Alex and Guy were the first to get on one of the cars, before it started and stopped right away so Anise and Ion could get on one, then was Natalia and Noelle, and finally Tear and Luke.
Somehow, the topic of conversation between Guy and Alex had gone back to that morning when they were in the Tale of Two Worlds costume room Alex had dubbed The Best Place on Auldrant, and then somehow ended in the strangest conversation she had ever had with Guy.
"What, you want me to propose to you with an Exphere ring?"
Alex gasped in mock disgust, "Guy! You know those are made from human lives!"
Guy rolled his eyes, "Sorry, I couldn't think of any other jewelery from the series."
Alex shrugged and put her finger to her chin in thought, "Well... There's the necklace that Lloyd made Colette? It only played a pretty major role in the story though, so I can understand why you'd forget about it."
"I'm not quite as...enthusiastic about it as you are."
"Fine! I'm a nerd!" Alex exclaimed, throwing her hands in the air, "So sue me. I don't make fun of your interest in fon machinery...anymore."
"Well I think I'm entitled to bugging you about this for a while," Guy told her, "I definitely won't be leaving you alone about that Kratos obsession you have."
"It's not an obsession," Alex replied, "He's just an awesome character."
Guy rolled his eyes, "Yeah, right. I'm sure your dream life as a teenager was to marry Kratos and own a pizza parlor with him or something."
"As entertaining as the mental picture of a 'Papa Kratos' Pizza Parlor' is, it's completely ridiculous, Guy. Kratos hates tomatoes, he wouldn't want anything to do with a pizza parlor."
Guy groaned, "Not exactly the response I wanted to hear."
Alex laughed at him, "Alright then, how's this: Kratos is way too old for me, and too serious. I may like him as a character, but I doubt I'd even really get along with him in real life. My dream life isn't too far from what I have now, actually. Minus the whole 'Saving the World' stress...I think we could all do without that," Guy smiled before Alex continued her thoughts. "Then again, my dream life never exactly had a guy with a fro in it..."
"Does it really look that bad?"
"Frankly, I miss the bowl-cut. You look ridiculous."
"The bowl cut wasn't my decision! And I never exactly asked for this hair style either!"
"You kind of did," Alex pointed out, "In what universe could someone possibly get back at Jade for all the times he's given us hell and actually get away with it?"
They enjoyed the rest of the ride in silence, both exhausted from the events of the long day. The others all seemed exhausted as they left the ride as well. Most noticeably even as it was getting dark, was how Tear and Luke left their car both blushing bright red.
When Alex and Guy pulled Luke aside and asked what happened he only turned a deeper shade of red before explaining.
"I...tried to kiss her, but my damn hair was still really staticy and it shocked her!"
Alex couldn't help but laugh at him, and Guy joined in shortly.
"Shut up!" he told them, "It's not funny!"
Guy tried to apologize through his laughter, but he just couldn't manage it.
"It really is," Alex managed, still laughing, "I'm s-sorry, but, that's the funniest thing I've heard in a really long time! I so wish I could have seen that!"
About a half-hour later, they were finally all back in the Albiore, Noelle preparing to get going after everyone had decided their next destination.
They were all tired, Alex had her head on Guy's shoulder, barely awake, when Noelle asked a question that had everyone fully awake and a little scared for their lives.
"Hey, Guy, you said you wanted to learn how to fly the Albiore, right?" she asked, "Do you want to give it a shot?"
Guy's face immediately lit up at her her words, all traces of exhaustion disappearing in an instant, it was all Alex could do not to laugh at him.
"Really?!" he was barely able to contain his excitement. Alex had to sit up straight so he wouldn't be shouting in her ear. She noticed that Guy had paused and looked at Alex, a look on his face that told her he was asking for her permission.
Alex sighed, but realized he may not be completely used to not being a servant yet, despite the fact that he hadn't been treated like one by anyone except for Natalia over the few months of their journey. And even Natalia stopped when they found out near the beginning that he was a noble from Hod, though she did slip up and get him to do something every once and a while. And then there was Guy's inability to say no. "Are you seriously asking for my permission right now?"
He didn't give an answer, but looked like he was seriously contemplating whether or not he should answer.
Alex rolled her eyes, "Go ahead."
Guy smiled at her and kissed her quickly on the cheek before heading up to the front so Noelle could show him how to operate the Albiore.
"If you make the Albiore crash into a mountain or something and kill us all, we're through!" Alex called after him.
Guy laughed, "It'll be fine."
"I won't let him crash," Noelle added, smiling.
Alex stifled a yawn as she tried to get comfortable in her seat, and noticed that Luke was looking at her with a smile.
"You have him whipped," he said, laughing at his best friend. Alex could only raise an eyebrow at him. "What?" he asked, noticing her expression.
"Tear?" Alex suggested, her arms crossed.