Shulk and Reyn rose with the morning sun and bid farewell to the travellers they had spent the night with. The travellers left for Tephra Cave; the boys set their feet in the opposite direction, towards the Bionis’ Leg. Steep cliff faces surrounded them on either side as they walked. restricting the boys’ route to a narrow path that lay between them.
Shulk trudged behind Reyn, thinking about what the travellers had told them. “Reyn…”
“I know what you’re thinking, Shulk,” said Reyn, cutting him off, “but I reckon we should go check out Colony 6 anyway. We need to get to Galahad Fortress, yeah? Well, we have to pass through Colony 6 to get there. Besides,” he gave Shulk a grin, “we might find some survivors.”
Shulk closed his mouth and nodded, returning his attention to the ground. Survivors…
Shulk stumbled into Reyn; Reyn brushed him off and pointed straight ahead. “Oi, Shulk! Look over there.” He sounded taken aback.
Shulk edged around Reyn to see what he was pointing at. Their path opened up into a huge plain; Shulk, however, was too alarmed by what he saw to take any notice. “Smoke?”
“Maybe someone’s got a fire going!” exclaimed Reyn. “Hope they’re cooking up something good!”
“It’s hardly a good spot for a barbeque,” Shulk pointed out. “Come on, let’s take a look.”
He and Reyn headed towards the smoke, out into the plains laid before them. A warm breeze stirred the grass at the boys’ feet, which seemed to stretch on forever. Further ahead and to their left, rocky ramps covered in grass jutted out of the cliff face; where they led, neither Shulk nor Reyn could see. To their right lay a pool of water with a stream running into it; its source appeared to be somewhere ahead, beyond the cloud of black smoke.
Shulk and Reyn walked south towards the pillar of smoke, drinking in the sights around them. This place… is huge. The more Shulk looked, the more he noticed; beside the rocky ramps to the north, the plain appeared to fall away into oblivion. They found themselves surrounded by armus, four-legged creatures whose backs and legs were covered in brown scales; similar creatures with green scales could be found around Colony 9. Beneath the scales on their backs, a coat of hair could be seen. There were other, larger armus as well; these were not found in Colony 9, and had large horns jutting from their heads.
“What the…?” Reyn muttered. Shulk followed his gaze and was dumbfounded to see what appeared to be a chicken walking around, holding a spear with its wings.
“Just keep walking,” said Shulk. “I’m not sure what that is, but we need to check out the smoke.”
“Um… yeah…” Reyn shook his head, bewildered, and continued to walk.
As the boys approached the column of smoke, they began to make out a large, dark shape at its base. They paused beside it. “Someone’s left a buggy out here,” Reyn observed.
Shulk moved to stand next to Reyn. “That’s strange. Who would just abandon a buggy in this place?” He faced Reyn. “And it’s pretty new.”
“Is it brand new?” Reyn asked.
“Not brand new,” Shulk replied. “But it’s in very good condition. You wouldn’t just abandon it. So… what did happen to the driver?” Shulk reached out to touch the buggy, and found himself treated to a vision.
Shulk saw a boy being chased down by some ardun beside a body of water; the water appeared to be gushing out of the cliff nearby. It surrounded on one side by the cliff, and the other a grassy ramp.
Back in the present, Shulk turned to Reyn. “There’s a boy!” he exclaimed. “He’s being attacked by monsters!”
“You saw it happening?” said Reyn quickly. “Where?”
“I don’t know,” said Shulk. “But it was near some water.”
“Near water…” Reyn echoed. “But what made you have a vision all of a sudden?”
“Maybe it was triggered by touching the buggy,” Shulk suggested.
“Well, we’d better find him,” said Reyn firmly. “Let’s search everywhere round here where there’s water!”
“OK!” Shulk nodded.
Reyn glanced around. “So, did the vision tell you where exactly we could find the boy?”
Shulk shook his head. “I only know it’s near some water. And there was a waterfall in the background.”
Reyn’s eyes dropped to the water running next to them. “Maybe it’s at the source of this stream?” He suggested.
Shulk’s eyes brightened. “Good thinking, Reyn! Let’s follow it.” He and Reyn struck east, following the stream as it curved south-east before straightening out to the east again. The boys slowed as they reached the source of the water; there were no boys or arduns in sight.
“Was this the place, Shulk?” Reyn asked.
“No…” Though there was a waterfall cascading down the side of a cliff, it was not emerging from it. “This place looks different to the one I saw in my vision.”
Reyn scratched his head. “Where to now, then?”
“I’m not sure.” Shulk looked to his right; the rocky walls curved into each other, forming a dark, narrow passageway that he could see formed a dead end. For some reason, it made him feel uneasy, and goosebumps rose on the back of his neck. He turned the other way, looking north across the grassy field; Shulk remembered spotting a body of water as they entered the plains. He pointed. “I think this way. I remember seeing some water around there as we walked into this place.”
Reyn nodded. “So do I, now that you mention it… Let’s go that way then!” He and Shulk headed north, keeping their eyes open for any form of water. Shulk took the time to properly describe the location he had seen in his vision to Reyn. After walking for an hour or so, the boys found that they could see the glint of light on liquid both to their west and to their east. Reyn turned to Shulk. “So…”
Shulk looked left; the pool there appeared to be hemmed in on either side by the rocky ramps he had seen as they entered the plains. To his right, he could clearly see some form of waterfall cascading from a cliff face, with a grass-covered slope lining one of its sides. That looks quite close to what I saw. He pointed it out to Reyn. “That looks a lot like the place I saw.” He drew the Monado. “Are you ready?”
“You bet!” Reyn pulled out his shield-lance and walked with Shulk towards the waterfall. As the boys approached, they noticed a clump of trees growing beside the water. Reyn’s grip on his weapon tightened. “Shulk! Over there!”
Between the trees, two arduns towered over a scrawny, brown-haired boy as he screamed for help. Reyn immediately dashed in, quickly followed by Shulk. He placed himself between the boy and the creatures. “You all right, kid?”
The boy looked up, startled. “Who are you?”
“That can wait!” said Reyn sharply. “Go! Get outta here! Leave these guys to us.”
“O- OK!” The boy quickly got to his feet and fled.
Shulk looked at Reyn. “Let’s do this!”
“Ready when you are,” grinned Reyn. The creatures growled and tried to follow the boy, but Reyn smashed it in the face with his shield. It recoiled and narrowed its eyes; a sore had opened up where Reyn had struck it. “You’ll have to go through us if you want the kid!” The ardun tried to headbutt Reyn, but he jumped back and hit it in the head once more; it took a couple of steps backwards, growling.
The other ardun charged at Reyn; he leapt out of the way and slashed at it with the end of his shield, leaving a long, deep cut in its side. The beast howled and rounded on Reyn; Shulk dashed in and swiped its other side. It tried to turn to Shulk, but Reyn ran in and slammed it on the side of its head with his shield, breaking one of its horns. Shulk slashed it again; after a few more rounds of this, it collapsed in a bloody heap.
The two quickly disposed of the other ardun in a similar fashion. The boy they were helping was nowhere in sight.
“Well, now that that’s over…” Reyn looked over at Shulk. “Did you see where that kid went?”
“I think he ran off towards the buggy… I’m not sure though.”
Reyn nodded. “That’d make sense. Let’s go back there.”
Sure enough, Shulk and Reyn found the boy back at the buggy. Shulk walked over to the machine and bent down to examine it properly.
“Are you a mechanic?” The boy asked, green eyes anxious.
Shulk turned to face him, “Not really…”
“Ha!” laughed Reyn. “You can fix just about anything. Just give it a go; I’m sure you’ll work it out.”
“Well… Maybe.” Shulk turned back to the buggy. If I just move this around…
A short time later, Shulk stepped back and stretched. “OK. It should work now.”
The boy looked relieved. “Great. You saved my skin! My buggy short-circuited, and then there were those monsters, and… Well, thanks!”
Shulk nodded. “I fixed the circuit, but it’s out of ether. Change the cylinder and it’ll be good as new.”
“I think it’s time for the introductions.” Reyn stepped forward. “I’m Reyn. He’s Shulk.”
Shulk smiled. “Pleased to meet you.”
“Oh… Hi! I’m Juju.” Juju hesitated briefly. “Where are you two heading? If you’ve got time, you should come back to our camp!”
“Your camp?” Shulk repeated.
“Yeah,” said Juju. “It’s not far.”
“How about it?” Reyn asked Shulk.
“Let’s take him up on the offer,” Shulk suggested. “I’m surprised there’s a Homs camp here, but they might have some information.”
“I suppose,” Reyn agreed.
Shulk turned back to Juju. “Juju, can you tell us how to get there?”
“Sure!” said Juju eagerly. “If you go back to the oasis, you should see a tall stone post. Head there first.”
“Then what?” prompted Reyn.
“There’s a small path in the woods, next to the stone post. Just follow it down to our camp.”
“Got it!” exclaimed Reyn. “Now, let’s make a move.” The buggy was still able to move on its own, albeit very slowly. Juju jumped into the driver’s seat and drove it steadily forward. He, Reyn and Shulk started to head north-east, back towards the oasis where they had met.
Reyn took a deep breath. “Man, is it always this sunny here?”
“Not always… But it is a lot of the time.”
Glancing around, Reyn spotted some of the armus and arduns they had seen earlier. “Hey, Shulk… Weren’t we supposed to kill a couple of those for that traveller?”
Juju looked up, curious, but Shulk spoke first. “Well… They don’t seem to be attacking anybody.”
“That guy reckons they do, though,” said Reyn. “And only when someone gets near ‘em.”
Shulk hesitated. “I don’t want to kill a creature if it’s not hurting anybody.”
“They’ve been attacking a lot of our people while they’ve been out getting supplies,” Juju interjected. “If you took out a few of them, there would be less of us getting injured.”
Shulk hesitated, and then slowly drew his sword. Reyn followed suit. As they approached the group, the ardun snarled and moved between the boys and the armu. It’s protecting its family, Shulk realised. He stopped and took a step back.
“Shulk?” Reyn paused, the growling ardun before him and his best friend behind him, unmoving.
Shulk shook his head. “It’s just protecting itself and its family, Reyn.”
“Family?” Reyn looked back at the ardun and the armus crowding behind it. The beast pawed the ground, still growling. He sighed and slowly backed away with Shulk. When it was satisfied that the boys had gone far enough away, it threw back its head and trotted off in the opposite direction, the armus in tow.
Protecting its family… Juju had never thought of it like that. He said nothing as Reyn and Shulk strolled back over to his buggy. They continued along their path to the oasis.
“Why didn’t you want to fight it, Shulk?” Reyn asked. “Especially after those two we killed earlier?”
“Well…” Shulk looked up at the sky, thinking. “It didn’t attack us until we went near it, did it? It wasn’t going out of its way to do us any harm. It just… didn’t feel right. As for the two that attacked Juju… It didn’t look like they were going to back off.” He turned to Juju. “Why did those two arduns attack you?”
Juju shrugged. “I was just trying to get back to camp when they came running along… As soon as they saw me, they started to chase me. I didn’t do anything to them.”
Shulk nodded. “See, Reyn?”
Reyn waved his hand about. “I hear ya.” He looked down at Juju. “Do you reckon your mates could get the stuff you need without going near those things?”
“I… I guess we can try.”
Reyn nodded, seemingly satisfied. Shulk smiled, grateful for his friend’s understanding. They walked on together until they reached the oasis, which Juju told them was known as the Rho Oasis. Water gushed out of the cliff face and into the pool of water below. Next to the water was a small hill from which one could dive off, into the water. The place struck Shulk as a peaceful one – when there weren’t raging ardun roaming the place.
The sight of their lifeless bodies made Shulk uneasy. He turned to Juju. “Shall we move on?”
Juju nodded and began to head south-east. He pointed out their destination, the Kamos Guidepost; an ancient building that had been standing for as long as even Juju’s parents could remember, he told them. The grey structure jutted out of the ground, overgrown with moss and plants. From there, Juju led them south through a small forest. They made their way through the trees towards a narrow opening in the cliff face; Juju nodded to a man standing guard as they passed him.
The path sloped downwards at a slight angle. The cliff face on their left opened up into a small clearing. In the middle of the clearing lay a pool of water with what looked like some kind of giant engine sitting in it.
A raven-haired woman approached the party as they made their way into the refugee camp. “Juju”. She sighed. “Where have you been?” Shulk was startled when he heard a woman’s desperate voice in his head as he was visited by a vision.
“Juju!” Juju was caught in a Mechon’s claw, the raven-haired woman running towards him; the vision changed, and she was the one falling into its claw. A Mechon with a face – different from the one which had attacked Colony 9 – turned to look at Shulk. Shulk blinked as he dropped back to the present, trying to process what he just saw.
The woman was scowling as she glared down at the buggy. “Don’t tell me you were…” When Juju just stared at his feet, she continued. “I’ve told you a thousand times. We’re not ready to leave the camp yet.”
“But I thought…” Juju slowly raised his gaze.
“Juju!” she exclaimed angrily.
Juju looked back to the ground. “Sorry, Sharla.”
Sharla smiled softly and bent down to touch her forehead to Juju’s. Then she stood and turned her brown eyes to Shulk and Reyn. “That gear. You must be survivors from the Defence Force!” She ran over to Reyn, looking desperate. “Is Colony 6 OK? Did Gadolt make it?!”
“Hold on,” said Reyn. “What are you talking about?”
“We’ve… we’ve come from Colony 9,” said Shulk slowly.
Sharla looked surprised. “Colony 9?”
Juju spoke up. “They saved me from some monsters. This is Reyn, and Shulk.”
“Oh,” Sharla sounded disappointed, “so you’re not from Colony 6.” She stared at the ground for a moment before lifting her gaze. When she spoke, her tone was much more measured. “Thank you for helping Juju. I’m his sister, Sharla.”
“I told them they could rest here with us,” Juju said in a small voice.
Sharla glanced at Juju. “Did you now? Well, all right.” She looked back at the boys. “I suppose that’s only fair.”
Reyn glanced at Shulk. I’m sure she knows more than that traveller. “Did something happen? To Colony 6?”
“Actually, we’re heading there ourselves,” Shulk added.
Sharla averted her gaze. “Colony 6 has been…” She couldn’t bring herself to say it; Juju looked away. “Our home! It’s been occupied by the Mechon.”
Shulk had nothing to say. So those travellers were right…
“I’ll tell you about it inside,” said Sharla grimly. “Follow me.” She turned and began to lead the boys into a cave set into the cliff. Shulk and Reyn looked at each other before following her into the cave.
Images taken using Scalz311 (http://www NULL.youtube NULL.com/user/scalz311)‘s walkthrough.