Continuing on with Final Fantasy: Returning Hope!
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“You’re joking, right?” Terra asked without humor.
Edgar shot back a half-hearted smile and reached down to untie their vessel from the shore.
The Lete River ran through the north-eastern mountains, a thin and winding road of raging rapids. Even as they stood on the stone shore of the twisting torrent, their legs were being drenched by the crashing waves.
The vessel that Edgar and Banon intended them to navigate this watery deathtrap with was a 15×15-foot raft comprised of roughly bound together logs.
“Don’t worry, Terra,” said Sabin, clapping her on the back just a bit too hard. “If anyone falls in, I’m an excellent swimmer!”
“Okay,” Edgar said, having untangled the rope. He held on with all his strength to keep the raft from ripping away from them. “Everyone aboard!”
Terra stepped on hesitantly, dropped to her knees, and clung to a bit of rope sticking between to of the logs. Banon and Sabin followed suit, though both seemed significantly more confident. Edgar was the last to board, leaping gracefully as the rope anchor fell to the waves.
The raft jerked forward as though it had been dying to ride the rapids. At first Terra squeezed her eyes shut as tight as she could and cringed at every bounce and lurch, every icy splash in the face. But after a few minutes, when there had been no yells of terror from the men, she slowly opened her eyes to see what was happening.
The speed was incredible as they hurtled along between the two rocky shores. There were treacherous turns everywhere, but Edgar and Sabin, one at each of the front corners of the raft, used their body weight to expertly force the vessel in the directions they wanted to go. They were perfectly coordinated with each other and Terra wondered where in the world they would have picked up such a skill growing up in the desert.
Banon had a goofy, childlike grin on his face as he held his head up to the cool winds rushing by. Terra looked at him and, how that she knew the Figaro brothers had navigation under control, couldn’t help but smile herself. This was amazing! They were actually river-rafting down a mountain range! Even if the Empire’s soldiers suspected how they’d left, surely they hadn’t thought to bring a boat with them; no change anyone would catch up to them now!
Terra found herself laughing out loud at the thought. Banon soon joined her with his deep guffaw, and the Figaro brothers weren’t far behind.
All concerns temporarily forgotten, Terra dared to release her death grip on the raft and made her way, unsteadily, to a standing position. Spreading her arms like the eagle she’d watched earlier, she reveled in the wind and water spray.
They floated on for miles in this way. Sometimes the river would wide and they’d hover along at a calm, relaxing pace; other times the banks would close in and the raft would rip along so fast it was hard to believe that Edgar and Sabin could keep them from capsizing.
They’d reached a relatively calm area when Banon announced that they were beginning to near the Narshean mountain range.
Terra raised her arms to the sky for a good stretch and felt it…a small bump on the underside of the raft. “Did anyone else feel that?” she asked, turning her eyes to the logs on which she stood.
“Feel what?” asked Banon. He was eying her curiosity.
He’d barely gotten the words out of his mouth when there was a startling crash and the raft lurched violently. Terra stumbled and nearly toppled over the side, but Sabin snatched her arm.
“What was that?” Edgar cried in alarm.
The raft began to settle again, the ripples in the water fading away to nothing. They were all silent as the raft floated on, waiting for another occurrence. At first there was nothing, but then Terra spied a gathering of bubbles.
They had just enough time to guide their raft off to the side before the creature emerged. It broke through the water’s surface so violently that the resulting waves almost tipped them clean over.
“W-what is it?” Terra shrieked.
The thing was huge; its bulbous body, black as ocher, was at least as large as their raft, and was amplified by eight swarming, thrashing tentacles slapping the surface of the water in a rage. A pair of gleaming white eyes stared at them from low on the main body, just above a row of thick, pointed teeth that stretched into an extremely wide grimace.
When it spoke, Terra nearly had a heart attack.
“OW!” it shrieked in a high, piercing voice that grated terribly against their ears. “You hit my head, you, you…jerks!”
Edgar’s mouth was hanging open. “Sorry?” he offered.
The creature’s eyes narrowed and it raised a tentacle, waving it back and forth in a ‘tsk tsk’ motion. “Uwee hee hee…” it chuckled. “Sorry won’t cut it with me, the mighty Ultros!”
Sabin snorted. Edgar and Banon shot a glare at him.
“Game over!” Ultros screamed, pointing four tentacles straight at Sabin. “Don’t tease the octopus, kiddies!”
Two tentacles came swinging in with immense speed. Terra screamed and Banon ducked in fright. Sabin grinned wide, lifted his arms, planted his feet, and stopped the tentacles in midair. Water from the creature’s slimy skin drenched his body, but he grinned and flexed his arms as though it was all a terribly fun game.
“Muscleheads?” Ultros squealed. “Hate em!” While Sabin struggled, the giant octopus whipped around with two more tentacles, looking to smash their raft.
“I think not!” Edgar bellowed. The auto-crossbow was already in his hands and he shot off a volley of arrows before any tentacles could land.
Terra covered her ears at the hideous noise Ultros emitted. Sabin was almost hauled off the raft as all tentacles flailed madly. Ultros slapped its limbs against the water in a desperate attempt to dislodge Edgar’s arrows.
“Arg!” it screamed, voice filled with fury. “Delicious morsel! Let me get my bib!”
“Away with you now!” Banon bellowed. “Take to the seas before you are injured further!”
The high-pitched laughter that followed was almost as painful as the scream. “I think not!” squealed Ultros, and all at once he lunged forward with his entire body.
Edgar raised his weapon and Sabin planted his feet, but they never got the chance to meet the attack. A burst of flame flew between them and connected squarely with Ultros’ face. The scream he let loose caused the brothers to cover their ears in dislike. Terra lowered her arms, a stony set on her face, as the violent creature fell back into the water, thrashing in pain.
“Yaaaaaaoooooooucch!” it shrieked. “Seafood soup! Seafood soup!” And then it sunk beneath the surface of the water, leaving behind only a few tendrils of steam.
“Good job, Terra!” Banon praised. Terra flushed.
“Is it gone?” Edgar asked cautiously. He peered over the edge of the raft. The current was beginning to pick up again and he could make nothing out.
“I think Terra thrashed it!” Sabin announced with a hearty chuckle.
Terra smiled, pleased to have helped, but the smile soon fell off her face as she felt something wet and slimy rub against her leg. Startled, she jumped, but the thing had glued itself to her boot. “Ew!” she cried, upset. “There’s something stuck to my leg!”
The thin end of a tentacle curled around Terra’s ankle and yanked hard, but Edgar and Banon grabbed her arms and Sabin brought both of his fists down as hard as he could. There was a squeak and a burst of bubbles from the water and the tentacle retracted beneath the surface.
“Terra, over here!” Edgar insisted, pulling them all to the center of the raft.
“It’s alright now,” Banon promised. Terra took a few deep breaths.
“That slimy, disgusting…” Sabin growled, peering into the water. “Watch out, I’m gonna hit it with a Blitz technique!”
Edgar reached out as Sabin stepped forward. “No! Sabin, wait!”
But Sabin shrugged off his brother’s hand. “Don’t distract me, Edgar!” Without a further word, he leapt from the raft and into the rapidly accelerating waters.
“He’s always been a tad zealous,” Banon groaned. Terra gaped.
“Sabin!” Edgar shouted again, his voice raising with panic.
“Don’t worry,” Banon assured him with a smile. “You should know better than any of us that any moment he’ll flop right onto the raft!”
Edgar was just opening his mouth to reply when there was an enormous splash and a yell. Their heads whipped around to see that Ultros had reemerged a dozen meters away, with Sabin standing on his head. As they watched, amused, Sabin hopped back and forth atop the octopus’ dome, dodging swing after swing from the tentacles. They couldn’t help but laugh as Ultros pummeled his own brain in a mad attempt to squash his tormentor.
“Seems a little too perky!” Edgar chuckled.
But Banon had stopped laughing. Terra followed his gaze and saw why. The now-speedy waters were hurtling them toward a fork in the river. Their raft was being pulled irresistibly toward the left fork. Sabin, still dancing on Ultros’ cranium, was floating toward the right.
“Sabin!” Terra called out in alarm.
The younger Figaro brother turned to the sound of his name, but was just as soon distracted by a flailing tentacle.
Edgar and Banon dropped to their knees and struggled to reroute the raft closer to Ultros, but the water was too fast and they were soon beyond the point of no return.
“Sabin!” Edgar cried out as their paths split. He looked concerned and frustrated, but he knew there was nothing to be done. “Sabin, take care of yourself! Meet us in Narshe!”
The brothers locked gazes for half a moment before the waters carried them out of each others’ sight.