Part 31: Chapter XXVI: The Enduring Promise and Friendship
Field of white
Music: A Promise
Too close. Thank goodness I got there in time.
I know, I should have been faster, but...
It's all right, Escha. Don't worry about it. Let's just get back to Colseit and report on what happened. I'm sure they've felt the aftershocks of the fall of the ruins by now.
Home sweet home
Oh, Escha... Are you all right?
I-I'm fine, Marion... I just scraped my knee a little bit.
Sheesh... I was terrified when I heard you fell from the ruins. I thought my heart was going to stop!
I think mine actually did, for a second.
Ahaha, sorry to make you guys so worried!
Logy, thank you very much for saving Escha.
Oh, no... I just did what I should have.
Now, I know you have a lot to catch up on, so I was hoping you would let me join in.
Whoa, I'm sorry, sir!
...I overheard most of it, but did the ruins really fall from the sky?
U-Um... I think we've caused a lot of...
Sir, I am responsible for what happened. Whatever disciplinary action you have in mind, please leave these children out of it.
No, that's not my concern. Rather, now that it's on the ground, it'll be even easier to investigate it. I doubt anyone expected this to happen... I'm just glad that you've all come back safely.
...Th-Thank you very much!
Your reports of that strange girl concern me more. It almost sounds like she caused the ruins to fall. For the previous era to be capable of wielding so much power... We need to reevaluate our policies.
Sir, please let us continue investigating the ruins now that they're on the ground!
After years of floating int he air, they've come crashing down... There has to be some meaning to this.
Hm. We're now looking into finding out where the ruins landed. Once we know, I'll tell you their location.
Thank you. I'll have the R&D team continue investigating the ruins.
Well, at least we were able to accomplish our goal of investigating the ruins... In the end, we couldn't get all the data we wanted from them, but there is value in building the airship.
Yes, I would've liked to investigate the ruins a little more...but we've learned a lot. I'm going to summarize everything we learned in my next report. I'm sure that'll come in handy.
Yeah, I'll help out, too. If there is anything you don't understand, you can always ask me for a hand.
But... Where do you suppose the ruins fell?
Who knows? It's a big place, so I'm sure we'll find it someday. ...Then again, I can't say for sure. It fell from so high up, it might be in several pieces right now, or destroyed entirely.
Hmm... Maybe they'll never be found...
Either way, it'll take a while. Let's just go about our normal routine until we hear about them.
I guess you're right...but I really wish I could investigate them a little more.
Well, we might as well focus on what we can do now. More importantly, these books are recipes for incredible weapons and armor... I'm sure they'll be a lot of help.
Yeah, they look amazing! Hey, Logy, how should I get started on the report?
Well, you want to start out with what we brought on the adventure, and where we went. Solle gets really annoyed if those details aren't in the final report. As for the information in the report, you should include the nature of the facilities we found, the young girl in the ruins, the monster we fought, and what happened as the facility fell. I'm sure this will be useful information for any researchers who come after us.
That sounds...really tricky. Why don't we take a little break?
Good idea. I couldn't get much sleep on the airship, either.
Hm? Was that a knock on the door?
The unknown land
What's wrong, Harry? You look like you're in a hurry.
W-Well, you see, I happened upon a strange area, and...I noticed that it isn't on any of my maps...
What? There's a place like that near here?
I suppose I did stray a bit from my usual path. In any case, I ended up in a place I'd never seen before. It was very...different...in a way that's extremely difficult to put into words...
You've got to start making sense with us here, Harry. What exactly happened?
I see. That sounds dangerous. You made the right decision in running away.
Oh, ah, n-no, I would've been fine. I decided that it would be better if I told you about the place ASAP.
Is that so... I'm sorry you were concerned about us.
Oh, no, don't worry about it. I'm happy to convey such important information to you young explorers. I'm quite sure something valuable must be hidden in such a place. I'll be better prepared next time!
A location not recorded on any map... Now that sounds like something worth investigating.
Yes, I thought you'd say that, so I prepared a simple map of the location for you. If you're interested, definitely do explore it. If you find anything, please let me know. However, it's a place far more dangerous than you can imagine. Please go with utmost caution.
Got it. Hmm, I wonder what a place like that could be like...
The Palace of Paupers? I've never heard of it.
Neither have I, but...it just makes me want to go even more! It's just south of the mountain atelier.
Oh... You're the other Linca, aren't you?
Yup! You're catching on. I'm number three. You can just call me Sister Three if you want. That's what Linca called me when we were younger. She's not cute like that anymore, though.
I don't think I could call you that... And you're Linca, too.
So, I hear Linca's working here now? How's she doing? Is she getting along well with others?
I don't think you have anything to worry about. She's a fine role model.
Is that right? She's all grown up. She's a little awkward and not too smart, so she's always been bad at dealing with other people. She's also kind of dull, unlike me. It's good to hear that she's doing well. Thanks.
Oh, if it isn't Linca! How about joining me for a drink tonight?
Don't dodge the question. I've been looking for you. You were always the leader-type, unlike the other Lincas. I'm sure you know more about them.
No, you're wrong. I'm looking for everyone else, too. I heard Linca was in this region, so I dropped by for a look. I'm glad you're well. You're even blessed with a couple of cute little friends. I'm jealous.
...I really don't know how to respond to a compliment like that.
So what are you planning to do now? If you aren't an enemy, you should talk to Marion and stay with us...
I'll pass. I have no intention of helping anyone working for Central City. And there's still something I need to find. How and why I was born,who did it, and who I really am.
So you don't know your parents?
Mother... I wonder if I have one...
How about you, Linca? Want to come with me?
...I can't go with you. I've found my own place to be. I'm sorry.
It was good to be able to see you again. I'm happy we could talk. Thank you.
Seeya 'round, everyone. Maybe we will meet again.
That was nice, wasn't it, Linca? Maybe you should go with your sister...
No, Escha. I can't follow her anymore. If she asked me again, I might not be able to refuse...
She really was a strange person. I wonder if we really will meet her again some day.
I hope Linca and her sisters can all find each other one day.
Ah, it's you. Do you two have a moment?
What's up, Micie?
I'm going to be quite blunt with this question: Do you think I've been more masculine lately?
Yes. I've been training quite a bit since I've begun going outside of town with you. I've realized... I do believe that I've gained quite a lot of strength.
I-I see. I'm sure that could happen.
I'm sorry. I didn't notice.
Oh... Well, I'm certain it will become visible soon.
Why are you suddenly so concerned about this?
I've thought about it before, but I don't believe that I'm properly intimidating as an auditor. In truth, some people judge me by my appearance, and treat me as a child... or dismiss me entirely. I have considered it, and I feel that my position is better served if I were to improve my physique.
I suppose I can understand, but I think you're fine the way you are now, too.
I agree. You shouldn't push yourself to bulk up or anything. Maybe you're overthinking this?
However, as an auditor, sometimes it becomes necessary to take a stern attitude with others. If I can forge my body to increase my presence during said times, I believe my influence will grow.
Well, that's true... But it also sounds pretty difficult.
Yes. I'm not very tall, either. However, if I continue to train, I'm sure my height will improve. My goal is... Let's say I would like to have a physique like that of Branch Chief Grumman.
I-I can't imagine your head on Colland's body... That might be overdoing it a little.
Well, isn't it good to set your goals high? I'll support you.
Thank you very much. I'll report any further developments in my bodybuilding attempts to you.
Looks that way. This is going to be trouble, but i really didn't know how to respond to that.
Micie really doesn't need to push himself to change...
Brother... Did something happen?
Y-Yeah... This is something I wanted to ask Heizman about...
Heh, well, this goes way back to when I was just a punk. Have you heard of the Expedition Corps?
Umm... I can't say that I have...
The Corps was a sanctioned group from Central City, and they would undertake exploration projects. Remote towns on the frontier, like Colseit, were originally founded as resting places for the Corps.
Wow, you know a lot...
I learned about it in Central City. What about them?
That group was dispatched from this town on a mission...but it ended up a failure. The people who made it back claimed they'd gone "to the edge of the world" and upset people.
Yes, that's what I wanted to ask you about! ...If the world has an edge after all.
Brother... Are you still talking about going to the edge of the world?
Yeah. It's been my dream for a long time now.
Uh, what are you talking about again?
From that point, the land is a deep green, covered in flowers. There's a place for homunculi, too.
Brother heard that story when he was little, and he's been obsessed with it ever since.
Huh... That's the first I've heard of it. Maybe it's a local legend?
I've done some research, but there's no news of it in even ancient literature.
Weren't you listening? The Expedition Corps failed miserably. It's just a fairy tale.
What? I thought you said they found it...? That's a huge discovery! Why would anyone call that a failure?
Right. If their report was official, the next step would be to corroborate what they'd found.
Hm... I think the kid has a point. I don't remember the details, 'cuz I was so young at the time... If there are reports from them, maybe we can figure out how THIS world got so twisted to begin with.
Wait, I'm confused. Did they or did they not find the edge of the world?
Who knows? If it's just a rumor going around, maybe there's some left over information. We can look for records from that time, and see if they mention anything about that! I'll go now!
Besides, even if that place did exist... How do you even intend to get there? Damn, the airship got more scratched up than I thought. Escha, why don't you take a break at the bar? Awin's run off, but I can still survey the damage. This might take a while, though...
Hm, I can't think of anything besides a ring. But one could argue that it's still quite premature...
Hm? Micie...? What is it?
I ask simply for reference, but what do women like to receive as gifts? I confess that I've never really put much thought into it, so I am ignorant on the subject.
(Hm...Micie sure has a lot on his mind lately...) Hm... I think every girl has her own tastes. But why are you asking me this all of a sudden?
I, um... It's for work! Yes! I need to give a woman a present as part of my work.
Oh-kay... If it's just for work, then you should go with something safe, like candy.
That's not exactly what I was going for. Um, I want something that'll last a little longer than that. Ahem... Do you think a ring would be appropriate in this situation?
A ring...!? I think that would come as a huge surprise to her...!
Yes, I was afraid of that... But I simply have no idea what to give her.
Well... Who are you giving this to, by the way?
I don't think I understand that... Do you mean she's happy and energetic?
Yes, if one were to paraphrase it, I suppose that would be accurate.
Then, how about alcohol? I'm sure Duke could give you some good advice on that...
H-How could you even suggest such a thing! She's way too young to be drinking!
I-I'm sorry... Why are you yelling at me?
Miss Escha... I'm noticing a distinctly epicurean trend in your suggestions. Don't tell me that's all your interested in! I think that's the bigger issue here!
Huh!? I-It's just a coincidence! You're misunderstanding me!
Why, the apple tart of cour--!!
Food again. I see.
N-No, that's because you said it was "apple"!
No, I think I understand very well. Thank you for your contribution. Now, if you'll excuse me.
W-Wait, I'm sorry... I was just a little hungry, that's all! Listen to me! Awww.... Maybe I should follow Micie. He sounded really worried...
Y-Yes. This store has, um...a panoply of items for sale, so...
Hahaha, you think so? You do like interesting things, Micie.
Y-Yes, I do I-like them...!
Aww, you're making me blush. You go on and stare at them for as long as you like.
(Now's my chance! This is the perfect opportunity! No, I can't rush into it... I must save the present for the very end!)
Ah! Oh, I get it now...! Hee hee. Hello, Micie. Have you decided on a present?
Wha--!? M-Miss Escha!? H-How did you...?
Present? What are you talking about?
Umm, Micie was looking for a pres--
NOT ANOTHER WORD!
Huh!? R-Really...? Why don't you just tell her?
O-Obviously I can't do that! Do you have any idea how much I've struggled...?
What? You said you need a present for work, right? I thought you were here looking for one.
O-Or...was I wrong?
Oh... Ah, yes, I misunderstood you. It's just...that discussion was something of a secret, so...
Oh, I see now. That's why you seem so flustered. Well, now that that's settled, leave the rest to me! I'll show you my super-secret item...
Out of these? Eh... Nothing, really.
None of them? That's pretty amazing.
Hahaha, sorry. I guess my tastes don't really help you guys, huh? What about this mysterious yet beautiful stone? It may bless you with good fortune...
S-Stone...? Y-Yes, I'll take that...
Thank you very much! Ahh, thank goodness I sold that.
W-Well, then, if you'll excuse me...
Oh, right! Hopefully she likes it.
That might be a little difficult, with this gift.
Buying gifts can be hard... Oh! I should be getting back now.
Escha! There you are. What were you doing?
Oh, I was talking with Micie about buying a gift for someone. He said I was really bad at it, that I always want things like food or drinks, so I didn't help him very much. Then I saw him at Katla's, also trying to buy a present. I think he found something!
What's wrong Logy?
Oh, nothing. Anyway, let's get back to the atelier. I think I can make your staff even better now with that recipe book.
Alright, that looks perfect. Escha, what do you think?
Girl from the past
What's the matter, Escha? You've been mumbling to yourself for a while now.
Um, I might be mistaken, but... Have we seen Flameu somewhere before we met her in the ruins?
You think so, too? I was actually thinking the same thing.
I just remembered, but... Do you remember that lithograph we found during our investigation?
Yeah, I do... What about it?
Give me a moment. I want to go over our translation again.
I see... That's right! No wonder I thought I recognized her from somewhere. I thnk you're onto something. This lithograph probably belonged to her...or was referring to her.
So, if the one in the sky is Flameu, and the ones on the ground are humans...
...Hey, do you think Clone is the person "in between"?
Huh!? I...I don't think that's possible! This thing was written so long ago!
This is Clone we're talking about. I think it's entirely possible. Maybe she knows something about Flameu.
...A-Anyway, let's go talk to Clone![/i]
An eternal promise
We met a person in the ruins who called herself Flameu, and she looked like the spirit child on the lithograph we found during our investigations. There was another figure who looked just like you, Clone.
My, oh my... You still have one of those? I thought they were were all long lost.
So it WAS talking about Clone and Flameu... What does this mean? How are you and her...?
Flameu and I were born in the same era. What you refer to as the Ruins is actually a management facility.
...So, you do know about Flameu, then.
Yes, but... I had assumed that system had long since stopped. But, like me, as long as the power source is working, it will never cease functioning.
What were the two of you doing there? Please, tell me in detail!
The "Ruins" were designed to turn a deserted wasteland back into a lush environment. Flameu and I, and lots of our peers, were conducting research in order to save the world.
But, Flameu thought that as long as humans exist, the results she desired could never be enacted...
What does that mean? I thought you were working on this research together.
Yes, but in our plans, she determined that human beings were too much of a variable to handle. As a result, she decided to move her facility to a place where humans could never reach her. But, there was no evidence that the facility was operational for the past few centuries...
And then she woke up when we arrived?
Was she alone for that entire time? That's so...
Maybe it would've been better for her to remain asleep up there...
Oh, Clone! Could you tell us a little more...?
Let's leave her alone for now, Logy. I've never seen her so sad...
I-I guess you're right. Still, I can't believe she knew somuch, and she's been here this entire time.
I'm as surprised as you are! Clone never talks about herself, so... I mean, I've been with her since I was very little, but I really don't know anything about her.
...Honestly, I'd always thought that what happened long ago never really mattered to us now. Investigating the ruins was my job, but I was more interested in the lost or forgotten technology. ...But now i want to know the truth. Flameu brought her facility down, but what does she plan to do?
You're right... Clone wouldn't tell us anything about that. I'm more curious about Clone and Flameu themselves. They're supposed to be friends, but they haven't seen seach other for hundreds of years. That's awful.
You have a point. There must be something we can do for them. At any rate, we must take action.
Yes! I know there's something we can do for them!
Hm... I'm going to try to talk to Clone more. Maybe I can find out more.
I know. If she says no again, I'll stop asking about it.
Also, it seems like you haven't submitted your budget report, so we've come to collect it.
A-Ahh... I'm so sorry, I forgot.
Umm... What's on your mind?
Huh? O-Oh, umm...
Saying "Um" doesn't answer the question.
S-Sorry... It's just, I'm not really sure what to say, I...
Sometimes, when I'm not sure what problem I'm struggling with, it helps to say what's on my mind.
That's right! It doesn't matter what's wrong, just tell us! We want to be able to help you, too!
Th-Thank you... Well, I might not be able to phrase it very well, but... Will you still listen?
Wait... I don't understand. I thought the first time any of us saw her was in those ruins.
Yes, but... When I was really little, Clone started drawing a picture-book for me... It was "The Bumblebee Princess". And though Clone never mentioned it, I think that character was her!
That would mean Clone never forgot about that little girl...
Yeah, that's what I thought, but...
Huh? Is something the matter?
Clone said she couldn't finish drawing the book...but I don't think the ending is depressing.
Are you certain about that?
Yeah... If I recall, that story had a happy ending. Clone doesn't appear to know anything, though. Could this all just be my imagination?
Hmm... A strange story, indeed.
Is it? Perhaps the rest of the story exists, but simply remains to be told.
What rest? Clone said that that was the end of the story.
It's different from the story you remember, though. Maybe she's hiding a different ending...
Another ending...? I never really thought of it that way.
We should continue the search. If your memory is correct, the truth is likely out there somewhere.
Thank you for hearing me out!
No, please... Don't mention it. It's good to be able to help you.
You can come to us with your worries. We don't mind helping you out at all.
When you find it, you have to tell us about it, okay? I want a look at this picture-book, too!
Right... I think I'd better look around the house, then.
End of the story
Logy's not here... He must have left earlier and I missed him. Hmm... I could've sworn it would be around here somewhere...
What are you doing, Escha?
Are you looking for something?
Oh, Brother, Nio... I was looking for a picture-book that was around here somewhere. Have you seen it?
I haven't seen one...but is it really that important?
Yeah, it's got to be here...but I just can't find it. It's about a person named Flameu that my mother or Clone may have wrote a long time ago. If you see a story book with a girl in a blue dress and green hair, that's her.
Flameu's story, huh...? All right, we'll help you search for it!
I'll pitch in, too. If we all look together, we're bound to find it sooner, right?
Thank you! Let's split up and search for it, then!
I can't think of anywhere else it could be...
Oh...! Hey, there's something tucked away back here. Could this be what we're looking for?
Yes! You found it! I knew there was more to the story! That's strange... Clone never told me about this part...
...Hmm. Now I wonder if maybe Milia was the one who actually drew those.
Huh? My mom...?
I was small, too, so I don't remember much about your mother. But she was such a warm person. She might do something like that.
Now that you mention it, the drawings are in a different style. Maybe Clone didn't draw this.
...Then, maybe Mom drew this picture book for me.
Hey, how does that version end?
It's from so long ago, honestly, I don't remember... Let's read it.
"The Adventures of the Bumblebee Princess, Part X"
"It was her friend...the girl with the hat. The girl with the hat squeezed the princess' hand."
"I'm sorry, Princess... We just didn't know."
"What did you not know?"
"You've been working so hard, Princess...and all I could do was support you from far away. But leave it to me! Now it's my turn to save you, Princess!"
"So the girl with the hat and the Bumblebee Princess went to the town to convince the people there. Then, the people in town slowly opened up to them, and became their new friends... Before she knew it, the Bumblebee Princess had made friends with everyone in town."
"Now, Bumblebee Princess, let's build a new watering can. If we work together, we can build an amazing watering can that we couldn't build alone."
"The Bumblebee Princess used to be alone, but now she had friends."
"Yeah! Let's build a watering can together, and fill the world with beautiful flowers."
"And so, they built a new watering can and the town flourished, and they all lived happily ever after."
Ahaha... Oh, Mom... She was never good at telling stories. The pacing feels so forced. And the heroine changed from the Bumblebee Princess to the girl in the hat.
...Still, it's a good story. To make friends and grow flowers all over the city. How wonderful...
The storytelling doesn't have to be perfect. It's a good memory for you, no matter what.
Mom... I finally remember. I cried because I didn't like the ending, and she tried so hard to change it. Everyone became friends, and the Bumblebee Princess smiled, and...I like this ending so much more. It's more than just Clone. Everyone, even that little girl, deserves to be happy.
There has to be something that we can do, too... Escha!
What's the matter, Escha? Where have you been?
Oh, I've been thinking a lot about Flameu, and what we should do.
Well...what do you think we should do?
We need to do something to make her happy. If Flameu has been living in the Unexplored Ruins for hundreds of years, she has to be really sad about that...
Yeah... We should do something for her, after all this time. She went up to the sky to try to find a way to save the world. We need to do something for her, now.
I heard from Escha. Everyone wants Flameu to be happy...and I think you're no exception. Am I right?
I heard Flameu's voice in this town. Right now, I can say that with certainty. I can hear her... It's nostalgic, yet somehow very sad.
I've been meaning to ask you about that, Nio... Is that really possible?
...This is only conjecture, but I've heard of management interfaces that can sense each others' minds.
Huh? So people like Flameu can feel each other? But Nio's just a normal person, right?
That child, too, is one such alchemist. She is a Geosys interface. ...Most likely, against their will, however.
(I see... No wonder she was talking like a robot...) So...Flameu is an alchemist from long ago?
She "is" the interface? Does that mean her entire body was absorbed into the machine itself?
Yes, but only alchemists from the bloodlines directly involved in the research have that privilege. It's possible that Nio's family was somehow involved in the development of Geosys.
(Nio's family is involved in alchemy? That's...)
I see... That's why I was able to hear her. But unlike me, that girl's been trapped in there...
Hey, Clone. Is there a way we can free Flameu from that place?
Her mental state is completely unstable... There has to be something we can do for her.
Flameu has a very strong will, and has bound herself to that device. I doubt she will leave it on her own. Besides... She has lived too long as an interface. I doubt her mind is that of a human anymore.
Then, there's no way to save her...?
If we can extract it from the system, it may be possible to free her mind as well.
Then, we need to do something right away! I'm sure Flameu is in a lot of pain right now!
Is there any way you can convince her to leave, Clone?
After so long in the system, I very much doubt that Flameu's mind is intact... I doubt she remembers anything of her past life. ...Besides, I'm afraid I'd only get in your way.
Clone, it doesn't matter... You need to go see her. C'mon, let's go together!
...Even if I were to go, I'm sure she's forgotten that promise we made.
We won't force you, but are you sure you're okay with her story ending this way?
No... I... I want to save that girl, too. But do I really have that right?
That's not something you should ask us. You need to decide for yourself, and take action.
Since I was able to hear her voice, I might just be able to make her hear mine...
Yeah, let's all work together to save Flameu.