Trials of the Valiant Chapter 20
By The RPGenius
Ramza was beginning to suspect that this tunnel had no end. The farther he, Agrias, and Worker 8 went, the brighter the tunnel became. By this time, the tunnel was as light as day.
Ramza was practically falling over from exhaustion, and his feet were throbbing with pain. Yet, painful as his feet were and tired as he was, he found that he didn't entirely mind this experience as much as he would think he would.
This puzzled him, naturally. What could possibly be enjoyable enough about this experience that he wouldn't mind wandering in a deep cave, hopelessly lost, pursued by unknown numbers of enemies, and in sore need of rest?
Ramza glanced over at Worker 8, who was silently walking along. The robot was getting annoying as time went on. Often, as the tunnel curved abruptly, the robot would continue to walk in a straight line, crashing into the wall and continuing to mindlessly try to go forward until Ramza verbally commanded him to do otherwise. Although Worker 8's strength and power in battle easily made up for the problems he caused outside of battle, it was still irritating to have to continue to command him in his every action. Yes, Worker 8 had certainly not made this little adventure any more enjoyable.
Ramza looked over at his other traveling companion and smiled slightly. With all she had on, Agrias had to be just as fatigued as he, but she hadn't yet complained or asked to rest once. No matter how much she might be suffering, she never let herself show it to anyone else, always insisting on keeping up the image of strength and endurance. Sometimes, Ramza wished that she would be more open with her feelings. Her insistence on keeping them locked up inside her to prevent worry only backfired, for Ramza worried more about not knowing her condition than he would if he knew how badly she was tired or hurt at times. Still, it was good for morale for her to continue to be a strong, steady, dependable ally, and Ramza deeply appreciated that.
Yes, Ramza reflected, Agrias certainly did have many good qualities. She was totally loyal, trustworthy, honorable, and even kind, in her own way. She had a steady, indomitable air about her in whatever she did, commanding respect from all that knew her.
Perhaps, Ramza reflected, he didn't dislike this whole experience because he knew that no matter what happened, he had a steady, reliable companion with him who would never let him down.
Somewhere in the back of Ramza's tired mind, nearly unregistered by his conscious thoughts, Ramza noted the fact that he and Agrias, what with one crisis after another and a troop of people traveling with them, rarely got to spend much time alone like this. This small corner of his mind noted this fact with some regret.
"Ramza? Are you okay?" Agrias asked him, shaking him out of his thoughts.
Ramza shook his head to try to clear his fatigue. "Yeah, I just zoned out for a little while. This tunnel just seems to go on forever, doesn't it?"
Agrias agreed as Ramza silently chastised himself. He should be paying less attention to thinking and more attention to where he was. Regardless of a lack of sleep, he needed to stay awake and alert. If an attack should come, he needed to have all his wits about him.
* * *
Malak crouched on top of the hill overlooking the cave's entrance. He and the others counted a score of enemies below, guarding the blocked cave.
Malak voiced the question running through everyone's mind. "How do we get rid of them? There's way too many to take by ourselves."
"Let's rush them and hit them before they can figure out what's going on! We'd have the element of surprise on our side," Meliadoul suggested.
Vantan shook his head. "I fear that your plan is flawed, Meliadoul. There are far more of them than there are of us, and surprise would only give us a few moments of advantage. We would be overwhelmed!"
Meliadoul looked at Vantan angrily. "We've survived considerably worse odds than these before. You underestimate our power because you haven't seen us in combat."
Alma looked as though she wanted to say something, but did not voice her opinion as Meliadoul and Vantan bickered.
Malak saw this and interrupted the quarrel. "Settle down, you two! Alma has something to say!"
Alma gave Malak a grateful look. She cleared her throat and started talking. "Vantan's right, surprise wouldn't work."
Vantan's smug look was cut off as Alma continued, "But he's wrong when he says we can't win because our foes outnumber us. I believe we're strong enough to overcome them in battle."
Meliadoul snapped, "You're contradicting yourself! If we can beat them using surprise, then why don't we?"
"Let her talk, Meliadoul, she wasn't finished!" Malak told her.
Meliadoul's eyes flashed, but she said nothing.
Alma continued, "The reason a surprise attack wouldn't work is that I see three ninjas down there. Ninjas are so fast in combat and so used to using sneak attacks themselves that it's nearly impossible to successfully ambush them. They'll almost always hear you coming before you get to them, and even if they don't, their reaction and speed during combat makes whatever surprise you have on them almost useless. If we were to attempt a sneak attack, they'd likely discover us coming and warn the others, and even if we got there without them knowing, they'd be ready to fight immediately and keep us from attacking any other foe until they had recovered from any shock we created."
The others just sort of stared at her for a moment.
"How do you know so much about combat? Even Ramza rarely knew that much about his enemies' strengths and weaknesses when he planned attacks!" Malak asked, impressed.
Alma blushed at everyone's stare and looked down. "There were a lot of books in the monastery that I lived in with Ovelia for a while. This sort of thing always interested me, so I read a lot of books on combat in my spare time," she said.
"So what do we do?" Mustadio asked, scratching his head.
"Well...I have a plan..." Alma said hesitantly. Her friends sat and looked at her expectantly, so she began to outline it to them.
* * *
Agrias was rarely impressed. Now, however, she could only look on in awe at the sight before her.
She, Ramza, and Worker 8 had reached the end of the tunnel. The large, cavernous room they had walked into was not incredible, but what was in it definitely was. Shelves and shelves, piles and piles, boxes and boxes of large, glowing crystals were everywhere. The light they gave off was incredible.
Shielding his eyes, Ramza remarked, "Well, this explains where all the light comes from. Say, Agrias, are those-"
She nodded, saying, "Yes. They look like Spirit Crystals to me. But who put them all here? And who were they all when they were alive?"
Ramza shrugged. "Your guess is as good as mine. I just hope that it's not some monster that stores the souls of all the people it's killed." He yawned. "Agrias, I don't know about you, but I'm exhausted, and the thought of going back down the eternal tunnel because this room is a dead end does not make me happy. I suggest we take a rest before going back."
Agrias was extremely tired herself. However, she couldn't let him go to sleep unguarded. "Okay, you take a rest, and I'll keep watch," she told him.
"No, Agrias. You take a rest, too. You're just as tired as I am. Don't try to deny it."
Agrias appreciated his concern, but he was overlooking one important fact. "What if one of Syldreth's men finds us? They'll easily capture us."
Ramza patted Worker 8 on the back. "No problem. Worker 8, while we're sleeping, keep your sensors operating. If a person comes within 100 feet of us, wake Agrias and me up."
Agrias still disagreed with it, but eventually her exhaustion won out and she lay down near Ramza.
After a few minutes, Ramza spoke. "Agrias? I don't mean to pry, but why did you decide to stay with us? I know you told me some reasons before, but I don't really think their the real reason why you don't go back to being Ovelia's bodyguard, or simply just starting a new life."
Agrias had been thinking a lot about this, but she still did not have an answer. "I...don't really know. There are lots of reasons for me to stay with you and your group, but none of them are the real reason. I wish I knew the answer myself."
Ramza was quiet for a few minutes, then said, "Well, I'm glad you're here. If it weren't for you, I wouldn't even be here. By the way, thanks for saving my life over and over recently."
"No need to thank me. I'm just doing my job," she answered gruffly.
Agrias wouldn't have thought it possible to fall asleep in a room so bright, but she underestimated the power of fatigue. A few minutes later, she was asleep.
* * *
Kupop waited a few minutes, then jumped out from behind a pile of Spirit Crystals that he'd been hiding behind. Gripping his homemade spear tightly, he cautiously approached the two sleeping intruders.
Kupop was so intent on watching them that he accidentally bumped into their large, gray monster-thing. It took no notice of the small, white-furred creature that had collided with it. Kupop's small pink wings relaxed a little when he saw that the large creature was not interested in him. Kupop walked over to the two slumbering people.
No doubt about it. They were some of the same nasty things that had recently invaded the cave and caused so much trouble for Kupop's people. Kupop dashed off to alert his chief of this.
Soon these two trespassers would pay dearly for entering the Moogle Holy Grounds!
Final Fantasy Tactics Fanfic