Part 7: Bortevo
Chapter 7: Bortevo
While we were in Camineet, we visited Nekise again. I introduced him to Noah, who smiled shyly and with great effort forced out a "hello". When Nekise tried to shake his hand, Noah just stood there and left him hanging.
"So, Nekise," I said, trying to draw attention away from the awkward moment, "what have you been doing with yourself while we've been away fighting evil?"
Nekise shrugged. "Not much. We're all still stuck here in town, getting deeper and deeper in debt to Lassic as the prices of basic necessities keep going up. It's great to see you again, Alis, but I wouldn't stay long if I were you. Lassic's robot cops have been asking around town to see if anyone knows your whereabouts."
"So they know about me. It was only a matter of time. If they ask again..." I sighed. "If they ask again, tell them everything you know. I don't want you risking your life for me again."
Nekise nodded in agreement. "Probably best for both of us if you don't share your travel plans with me, then."
"Yeah. And it's also best if I don't see you again for a while."
"You're doing the right thing, Alis. All I ask is that you come back alive when this is all over."
I wish I could have stayed longer, but being in my home town just wasn't safe any more -- not for me, and not for Nekise. We said our goodbyes, and I paid a visit to Suelo, making sure there were no robot cops nearby before I knocked on her door.
When she saw me, her expression of surprise quickly turned to joy. "Alis! You're okay! And who's this new friend of yours?"
I blushed. I was on a journey to kill the king of Algo, and yet Suelo was still treating me like a child. Honestly, though, I didn't mind a little mothering right now. "This is Noah. Noah, say hi to Suelo." This time, Noah managed a wave as well as a hello.
Suelo beckoned for me to come in. "Alis, why don't you and you friends come inside? I just made some tea."
I shook my head. "I wish I could, but it looks like I'm public enemy number one here at the moment, at least in the eyes of Lassic."
"Oh, Alis. You know you'll always be a hero to me."
I laughed. Suelo always had a way of making things seem better. "I know. But my just being around people is enough to put them in danger now, so I won't be coming back here for a while. I'll miss you, Suelo."
"I'll miss you too, Alis. Please take care."
We embraced, tears streaming down our faces. After a long moment, we let go of each other and I left. She stood in the doorway and watched me go until I turned a corner and lost sight of her.
The Eppi Forest seemed like the safest place to hide while we waited for our spaceship; even if Lassic's cops knew we were there, they'd never find us among all the trees. We spent the next few days hiding out there, hunting monsters by day and studying magic by night. I learned a spell to temporarily paralyse enemies.
After a few days, we checked back in on Dr. Luveno. He still didn't have the spaceship ready for us, so we hunted down some more monsters and studied some more magic.
Myau learned how to create a magical barrier to deflect enemy attacks, and Noah learned a short-range teleportation spell that would come in very handy for getting us out of dungeons in a hurry.
I checked in on Dr. Luveno again. This time, the spaceship was complete.
Wait, what? Why'd you build it for me, then?
Now he tells me. We could have found Hapsby and been back here by now if he'd told us in advance. :sigh:
I turned to Odin. "Hey, Odin, Hapsby was in Bortevo, wasn't he? Do you know the quickest way to get there from here?"
Odin scratched his head and thought for a moment. "It's not far. I think we can get there if we follow the coastline around the Gothic Mountains."
Myau pawed the ground uneasily. "I'm not sure we want to go to Bortevo."
I was getting a little tired of Myau's complaining. "Myau, we have to go to Bortevo. What's wrong with it, anyway?"
Myau hissed in frustration. "Have it your way, then. You'll see when we get there."
As usual, there were monsters to deal with on our way. We'd dealt with the undead before, but the ones in the Gothic Forest were a little fresher and tougher than the skeletons and spirits back in the mine.
Noah's policy of trying to communicate with monsters paid off, and he talked one out of attacking us. Unfortunately, the only information Noah got out of it was anti-Dezorian propaganda.
The land to the south of Bortevo was a barren hellscape of flowing lava and boiling tar pits, probably from a recent volcanic eruption.
Myau sniffed the air haughtily. "I told you so."
I surveyed the disaster zone ahead of us, trying and failing to find a way around it. "Well, what are we supposed to do now? Walk across the lava?"
Myau looked up at me quizzically. "Got any better ideas?"
We carefully hopped between tiny rocky islands jutting out of the lava. The radiant heat and fumes were suffocating, and monsters crawled out of the tar pits to attack us. Eventually we made it to safe ground on the other side of the lava.
Well, relatively safe ground. Apart from the giant fire-breathing flies and the stampeding mutant elephants, I mean. Come to think of it, I almost preferred the lava.
We'd finally made it to Bortevo. Odin shook his head sadly as he saw what had become of the town. "Bortevo used to be Palma's leading manufacturing centre for heavy machinery. Now that all the factories have closed down, it's just one big junkyard."
Even once Lassic was gone, it was hard to imagine this place ever returning to its former glory. We couldn't set right all the harm he was doing; all we could do was stop him from doing more. Seeing the gaunt, desperate faces of the few survivors still picking over the remains of Bortevo, that didn't seem like enough. One of them did confirm for us that Hapsby was probably here, so at least we could get what we came for and leave.
That's what I thought until I saw the sheer amount of junk in Bortevo, anyway. Entire warehouses were piled high with spare parts and worn-out machines, slowly rusting away. Eventually, we found a small robot among the refuse, but it was trapped under a huge steel girder which was itself trapped under an even bigger girder. There was no way we could move it on our own.
I felt a tap on my shoulder and turned around, irritated.
"What is it this time, Noah? Do you want me to cut the crusts off your sandwiches again? Are you upset because we didn't let you talk to something that was trying to kill us? Or maybe you tore a hole in your robe and you want me to help you cut a hole in the other side so it's symmetrical again. Go on, speak up."
Noah looked hurt. "I, um, I just had an idea. Sorry if I bothered you."
I tried to put a hand on Noah's shoulder to comfort him, but he shied away. "No, I'm sorry, Noah. I shouldn't have snapped at you like that. What's your idea?"
"Well, that spider we met before told me about a solvent called Polymeteral that dissolves anything except Laconia. Hapsby's casing is made of Laconia, right? So all we need to do is find some of this Polymeteral stuff, and we can dissolve the girder to free Hapsby."
"Huh. That's... that's actually a pretty good idea. So where do we find some Polymeteral?"
Noah thought for a moment. "There's a town to the north called Abion. There used to be a medical research facility there. I'm not sure if it's still open, but there might still be some Polymeteral in there."
"To the north? How do we get to the north? We're already on the north coast, and we don't have a boat."
"There was a cave just outside of Bortevo," Odin chipped in. "It's been a while since I was around here, but I'm pretty sure that cave is an underground passage to the north. We can probably get to Abion from there."
And so we found ourselves in yet another underground passage. I took the time to learn a long-distance teleportation spell, so at least the trip back would be less onerous than the trip there.
We emerged on the mainland to the north. Abion couldn't be too far away now!
Myau learned a spell to detect and disable traps. Words could not express how useful that was going to be next time we were in a dungeon.
The terrain to the north soon grew too rough and mountainous to cross easily, so we climbed down an embankment and onto the beach. A narrow strip of sand stretched as far as the eye could see. I liked long walks on the beach as much as any other girl, but this was ridiculous.
Noah stood still at the water's edge for a while, watching the ocean, his hair and robes blowing in the wind. I was about to ask him to get moving when I realised that the wind wasn't just blowing past him; it was circling around him. He was controlling it.
Not a moment too soon, either, as two sea serpents rose from the water to attack us. Noah blew a gale of sand and pebbles at them with his magic, blinding them and leaving countless tiny wounds on their bodies. As they flailed around blindly, we dispatched them with our weapons. For all of Noah's quirks, he certainly had his uses.
Giant octopuses also attacked us as we walked along the beach. They were less of a threat than the sea serpents, but still packed a nasty bite.
After a long, long walk, we found a spot to climb back up to dry land. The new land sported more new monsters, although the new variety of scorpion wasn't particularly more dangerous than the old ones.
Some of the new monsters also had new information for us, thanks to Noah.
Whatever Laerma nuts were, a lot of people and monsters had things to say about them.
Finally, after braving more dank caves, lava pits and absurdly long beaches than most people saw in a lifetime, we'd made our way to Abion! We could find some Polymeteral, go back to Bortevo to retrieve Hapsby and then we could finally use our spaceship!