“So this is where you've holed up, huh?”
Her voice takes Caramel out of whatever trance she's been in, of carefully collecting materials for another lon in exchange for some mage training. At first, Caramel don't think she hears it right, and then, it goes:
"Rose? What are you doing out here?"
Her Vespire friend stands tall on the snow, wearing nothing more than a fancy cloak, but looking proud nonetheless.
"No one else but me." She confirms, with a toothy grin. "What are you up to out here?"
"Wait, no, what are YOU up to out here!" Caramel demands, resisting the urge to stomp the ground, in rage or excitement, who knows. "I haven't seen you since we've parted ways!"
And although her actions could've fooled anylon else, the truth was that Caramel was happy to see her friend.
Since all the crisis back in Chrysanthos, Caramel and Rose haven't spoken once, and didn't trade addresses or anything to keep in touch. To be honest, the apprentice thought they would never see each other again.
"I've been looking for you, actually." Rose started, getting a confused look out of Caramel. "Heard you were doing some mage training. It was awfully hard to find you, you know? But, umm, how do I explain..." The vespire made a pause, a pensive expression on her face. "Say... Would you like to visit Aequor with me, dear?"
"Apparently, our problems with the cracked sky aren't over. If you'd like to travel with me, I shall explain on the way."
Oh. This made the pouflon shiver.
Caramel didn’t actually know why she agreed to this. Perhaps it was the heat of the moment, the happiness of seeing a friend after a while of not knowing their whereabouts. Perhaps it was a desire to escape from her failures as a mage. Either way, now that they were moments before diving into the water, she regretted the whole chain of events that led her to accept Rose's plea for help.
“Are you sure this Aequor is through here?” She asked after a few moments, staring into the still water.
“Of course, silly!” This was Naia who answered, an overexcited Capricorn princess. She was a soft pink color, and had a curious fish tail that Caramel only read about in books. Usually, Capricorn pouflons didn’t dwell on land, so it wasn’t uncommon to meet a pouflon such as Caramel, who had never even seen one before. “Aequor is underwater.”
“I’m sure your breathing spell will do just fine.” Rose said, with a little flick of her tail. “You've got nothing to worry about.”
This time, it was now Mint Chips, her Toucana, who chirped to motivate her. Her two pippets, Mint and Cabbage, were awfully calm about all of this. They insisted on coming with her, even though Caramel said it would be dangerous, so now she was stuck with the two, often trying to bully each other again.
“I don’t know…” She kept staring at the water.
The truth is that Caramel was scared of the ocean. It wasn’t a phobia per se, just a silly fear that gnawed at the back of her mind. Especially now.
“Don’t worry, I wouldn't let anything happen to a friend of my friend~” Naia practically sang these words, and Caramel smiled.
Caramel stared at her pippets, ready to travel, Mint flying a little above the shallow water, and Cabbage squeaking in the sand. She stared at Rose, too, who was letting out a soft puff of green mist (oh, so that’s how Vespire magic looks like).
Hell, what could go wrong? She was with friends.
Caramel released her magic soon after, a glow painting her horns, enveloping her and the pippets. Carefully, she stepped into the water, as breathing became hard, and the oxygen of the land wasn’t enough to hold her. As she dived, eyes closed, Caramel felt all kinds of weird. The water was cold, for god’s sake.
A few moments later, she opened her eyes. Soft blue surrounded her. Breathing was now easier, but Caramel couldn’t quite shake the feeling of dread, being on water with limbs that weren’t made to swim.
Following her trail, was now Naia, gracefully swimming with her fish tail, back legs gone, as if it never existed. Rose was the last, wh somehow managed to move just as gracefully as Naia, maybe because of the long tail.
“Alright, follow me! I’ll show you around Aequor when we get there!”
The two of them did their best to follow, Caramel raising an eyebrow to Naia’s statement. They weren’t going to Aequor to sightsee the place, no. The underwater kingdom was suffering just like they were on land, with weird creatures ravaging the town, spreading their corruption whenever they went. The king then summoned warriors from all across Bellacoste, to help deal with the situation. And since Rose knew Caramel, who was training to be a mage, it was the first thing the Vespire thought of.
Caramel was eager to help, and to give a look at the city as well, perhaps learn more about Capricorn pouflons. Only the excitement was enough to override her fear of being on water, really.
The little group swam for what felt like hours. Caramel buckled her legs erratically, trying to achieve the smooth movement of both Rose and Naia, but feeling unable to. It took quite a while of failed swimming from her before they actually started to see things.
The city was beautiful. Although the first few buildings were damaged by the relentless attacks of the corrupted creatures, it was still magnificent. Buildings made of black stone, coral, even shells and sea plants, all of them impossibly large, carefully carved into houses and skyscrapers (waterscrapers?). Taller than all, a castle could be seen in the distance, glowing soft white lights.
“Soo, what do you think?” Naia asked, looking chipper.
“It’s beautiful…” Caramel said.
“Wait until you see the castle!”
The princess kept on leading them further into the city. The city soon was filled with all kinds of noises, as their residents came into view. They were all colorful, a nice contrast to the town’s architecture.
“We’ve still got a while until we go meet the King, so I thought we could explore a little bit!! I’d love to show you around!”
“Ah, that won’t be necess--” Rose started, but Naia kept on talking.
“Oh, I know! I’ll show you my favorite nap spots, and the best restaurants we have around here. There’s some caves, and even spots where you can often find sunken ships, they have so many treasures! And you should see our theatre, the school the…”
Caramel zoned out. She shared a look with her pippets. Cabbage was making a frowny face, and Mint was looking at everything, except Naia. Caramel laughed internally.