Chapter 72: Hope and Failure
Elemental power --
Elemental confusion --
~ Miyara Miwa
We are in this miserable barbarian village that Pippo led us into as shown in the White Faerie's vision. But I feel nothing but frustration: I see no solution to the crystal here. Just a snow-ridden, lice-infested den of barbarian peasants. How I long for home. But I have this damned Crystal and must find a way to destroy it. Then perhaps, if Fate allows, I can return to where I belong, and restore Isawa Godanji's reputation.
But last evening I spent huddled around an open campfire with the filthy barbarians, listening to their utterly meaningless talk. Kyosuke decided their beer was good enough to get drunk on, but I found it vile. Before too long, however, with Hosei's help, he found something drinkable: something they call Vodoka. He praised it highly enough that I tried it and found it decent. Not quite sake, but close enough. I bought the only bottle they had, and Kyosuke and I finished it happily. By the bottom of the bottle, I felt almost content, singing the drinking songs I haven't heard in so long with my cousin. I bought the group another keg of their beer in hopes of their finding another bottle of Vodoka, but no luck. That was all they had. For an evening, it was almost enough.
I slept well until the hut fell on my head.
Ravena, aided by Peter, who can somehow lend her strength to heal others, took care of all of us who were injured. The Crystal again, I'm sure. The hut seemed to just rot away. Ashe, the White Faerie, and Bark used the materials to put together a rough lean-to to shelter us for the rest of the night, and we got just a little more sleep.
Now the sun is up, not that we can see it through the never-ending blizzard. Hosei and Sun are doing something about food, and the rest are arguing over what to do with the Crystal again.
If I only knew some way to destroy the thing, I would simply leave and do it. But there's no point to my wandering around aimlessly by myself, spreading the influence of chaos and being a target for those who want the Crystal for evil. And so I sit and listen to the bickering, and wonder what to do.
There are times that my Crystal-inspired vision seems like a good idea. Kill everyone, and then they will be safe. With no one to influence, the Crystal will be powerless. Kyosuke would be the hardest, and so the first I think.
Hosei and Sun, while buying food, discovered Pippo, beaten to a pulp by one of the other villagers. The Crystal's influence again, I think. He went out into the woods, to be alone, and Hosei followed him, sending SUn back to us to tell us what had happened. I still wondered if Pippo had not finished leading us to where we should go -- surely this place wasn't it -- and so I said I was going to go and find him. The rest came with me.
Ashe followed Hosei's trail, losing it occasionally in the blinding snow, but always finding it again, until we found him. He was asleep in the cold, clutching a tree like a man drowning. Snow drifts surrounded him, but did not touch him, and the snow avoided him as it fell. He wore one of the little paper umbrellas I folded for him the other night on his head.
Ashe was unsure of Pippo's trail, but thought he found it, and so we followed him into the snow. As we walked, the White Faerie thought to ask the Crystal itself how we could prevent it from destroying the world, and it gave him a character. Kyosuke remembered it, and Ravena also, as a character from the Crystal of Air. Ravena thought that it would cause several air spirits to form a protective ring around us.
And then the White Faerie had another of his visions: he saw Pippo leading a large, heavily armed group into the village. And so Pippo either was back there, or would be. With no other reason for being out in the snow, we returned to the village.
All was quiet there, and Pippo and the armed ones had not arrived. The White Faerie said he had another piece of the puzzle perhaps, from his faerie god: the smell of burning ice, whatever that may be. It was enough to give us a glimmer of an idea.
The four original holders of the four several crystals -- Ashe as Fire, Ravena as Air, the White Faerie as Stone, Hosei as Water -- and I as the current holder of the joined Crystal went back out into the wilderness, where Pippo had led us.
I placed my things in Kyosuke's care, doubting we would return from our mission. I impressed on Kyosuke the importance of returning the statue safely to Isawa: it was a matter of honor, and I placed mine, and therefore his as family, as well as Isawa's into his care.
Once in the woods, I placed the Crystal in mid-air, at eye-height, and told it to stay. At first I planned on standing and holding it, but this was better. The other four surrounded the Crystal, Ashe opposing Hosei and Ravena opposing the White Faerie. I picked a place just outside their circle.
I used the character the White Faerie had shown us to create a protective circle around us of the air spirits: more to protect the rest of the world than us. And then the others simply poured all the power they could into the Crystal. Opposing force -- burning ice -- was the objective.
They were never able to perfectly match their power, though. The Crystal became a flaring inferno of light, hear. Its color matched whose power was ascendant at any moment. Hosei collapsed first, and I stepped into his place. One by one the others fell; the White Faerie, Ashe, Ravena. I was left alone with the Crystal, pouring power into it. But I could not balance it myself, and I was not enough to power it as completely as needed. The earth shook under my feet, the wind that had cocooned us became unbalanced and whipped around, buffeting me and the others at my feet. At the last, I could almost feel the thing slipping through my fingers as I, too, collapsed, having failed yet again.