It usually did when Falk was working, researching and inventing. Since he had to manage some human resources on top of it all, it really went by fast.
Falk sent Michela to the airship so she could put the final touches on the fog generator he had designed and almost finished building. Shu helped him figure out how to create a proxy. Of course, with what they knew already of the stones, it was not that complicated to figure out.
Much as the amulet converted the air, so did it convert the stone Griff had returned to Eliza. The dead onyx-looking stone gained some color, and with time, became white like a pure marble of light, visibly energized. One could see the aura being exuded by it a few inches off its surface, which was basically due to its effect on the air being so concentrated due to proximity. As it spread, it became invisible.
That answered two questions: how to make a proxy and what to do with the main core. The answer was simple, take the amulet’s counterpart out of the core and put the amulet in.
However, they would have to be lucky enough that it worked with the proxy because there was no way Falk would surrender the amulet itself to a suicide plan with such a low chance of success.
With a plan in place and a few strenuous hours having passed, Falk moved everyone to purpose. They needed to get to the canyon, send the girl to her doom, and then return in time to fill the island, or as much of it as was possible, with the air particles that would cause corrosion upon the Beasts.
Once everyone knew their job and tasks, Falk teleported back to the airship where he helped Michela finish the work all while furthering his other designs and inventions which would play their own parts in the coming fight. Meanwhile, the airship flew into drop position.
Falk was putting his final touches on a modified version of a steam-powered ballista that would hopefully be able to self-sustain itself for twelve bolts when a mage sought to interrupt him.
“Doctor Goldschmidt,” a brave man called out, interrupting Falk’s thoughts.
Using the right title earned him his life. Falk took the finger off the drill’s trigger and inched back a little bit, signaling he was listening.
“We’re in position, sir,” the mage said.
“So? Good. Tell her to jump,” Falk said.
“She needs the…she needs something,” the mage informed him. “They’re saying you have it.”
“Oh, right,” Falk acknowledged, that was fair enough. “Lead on, man, lead on.”
Falk swiped the larger stone, the converted white marble proxy, and marched after the hooded cloak, which pretty much looked like every other hooded cloak from the House of Magni. He grabbed a glass half-filled with the Bronze Alchemist’s concoction that helped him stay awake and downed all of it.
Falk had been drinking the elixir since she and the Grand Cook had come up with it back at the House of Magni. Thanks to it, Falk had not slept since and he noticed no further change outside of his mood swings having been amplified. He had no issue with his mood swings, in fact, he liked them. He hadn’t felt like himself in a long while and that’s what they were, at the core.
Falk marched his way all the way to the very long balcony that circled the mid-section of the airship. He put the stone inside a sack which he tied closed. Then he looked out of the airship.
The canyon was impressive. It was as if the entire land, which expanded to all sides, had cracked from being too dry. And the scale was impressive, it had cracked so deep you couldn’t see the ground, but it was especially so where they were located.
That recognizable dark fog that was the mark of the Beasts was present. It was everywhere, really, now that he looked. And Falk had to stop to look.
Falk looked to the left, and to the right, and far ahead, and down and up. It was all around him. It enveloped the world, as far as he could see it, and as high and as low, as well.
He looked down again and had to admit that, even in the midst of fog, it still seemed thicker there. It was thicker inside the particularly big crack where they would allow the girl to dive into and die.
Sam, wasn’t it? Falk tried to remember. Her fake name?
“Sir?” the mage said, behind him.
“Yes, apologies,” Falk said, getting a hold of himself to resume the walk, “it really is fascinating, the effect these stones of theirs have.”
“Terrifying, I’d say,” the weaker mind commented.
“Yes but no one cares about what you’d say,” Falk said in passing, a second before he laid eyes on the sacrificial offering. He was a tad shocked, and a whole lot displeased, to see the Shadow standing by her.
“What are you doing on my ship?” Falk asked her at once.
“It is our ship,” said the Shadow, leaning her head forward a little bit as she was want to do when she wanted to be taken seriously. “I am here because I should.”
“Here you go, Sam was it?” He said.
“What?” The girl asked, grabbing hold of the small pouch, a bit out of sorts. “Oh yeah, uh, sure.”
Fake Sam, the Thieving Magpie, put the pouch inside her suit, which wasn’t a formal suit whatsoever, it was tightfitting, and yet, still looked bulgy. A metal wire connected her to a hole in the ceiling over the balcony she would jump from.
“Are…you can pull me up with this?” she asked, doubtful.
“Of course,” Falk said casually, “now, off you go.”
She stepped towards the edge and looked down.
“uff…I really don’t wanna do this,” Sam said.
“Nobody wants to, Sam,” the Shadow interjected, “nobody wants to do any of the things we do… but we have to. We have to take risks, otherwise…it will be over.”
Speak for yourself, Falk thought immediately, I’ve been happy with what I’ve done.
“I just.” Fake Sam gulped, eyes locked on where she was going to fall. “I don’t wanna die.”
The Shadow grabbed both her shoulders and massaged them slightly.
“We will be right here, Sam. You will do great. You will save the world and we will be here to save you.”
Ugh… he thought in rejection, it was a good thing his facial expression wasn’t that discernible. Or rather, a bad thing, they should know. “Ugh,” Falk said out loud.
They eyed him for a couple of seconds but said nothing. Instead, Sam reached up and grabbed hold of Shadow’s hands, breathing deeply.
“I dunno who you are, lady…but thanks,” Magpie said. “I guess I’ll trust you.”
Someone spare me…just jump, already, Falk said in his mind, duly impatiently.
They let go of each other and fake Sam approached the edge, standing on top of it. That was impressive to say the least, the airship wasn’t the least bit still, floating as it was, so the fact she could stay balanced on the wobbling beam, with everything she was wearing, took him a few seconds to believe.
However, it wasn’t long before Falk grew impatient again. “Go, Sam,” he said, harshly, “the world needs you.”
Fake Sam shivered and looked back at the Shadow who nodded encouragingly.
“Remember the scroll,” said the Shadow. “We will keep in touch.”
Of course, theoretically, they had to know when to pull her back up, but no means of communication could work at such a great distance and underground to boot, so Kagekawa had produced two more of their mystical scrolls.
“I find a tunnel entrance,” the girl said to herself, still balanced on top of the rim, “I evade the Beasts. I head down and east,” she closed her eyes, breathing restlessly. Afraid. Terrified even, one might say. “Until…until I find tunnels made of their metal. I find…I find a huge one. I find a gigantic chamber. I find a very large sphere that will be darker than the darkness.”
Fake Sam reached up to her head and pulled down the goggles that Eliza had given her, they had apparently belonged to the Dark Runner. The one whose death Falk had caused. They would allow her to see in the dark well enough.
“I find the row of crystals,” fake Sam continued, nervously.
“And you pull the second closest to the entrance and then the sphere opens,” Falk put in, refusing to wait. “You will then see something inside, which is safe to remove by hand. You’ll do so and replace it with what you’re carrying. At that point, you’ll make your way back and we’ll pull you back up.” Falk crossed his arms, duly annoyed.
“The world is ending, Sam. Hurry up,” said the Shadow.
“Right,” fake Sam replied with a nod, huffing the corrupted air. She pulled the scarf up to cover her mouth and nose and tied it evenly behind her head, all while still remaining balanced…oscillating along with the rim. “Wish me luck. This really sucks but…yeah, wish me luck.”
“Skill to you, Sam,” the Shadow said almost immediately, “that is all you will need.”
The Thieving Magpie scoffed, forming a half-smile.
“You’re a dork, lady,” she said.
Then she jumped.
Less than a second later, the wire that was attached to her came off the ceiling, dethatching completely, and just fell right after her evidently loose.
“Finally,” Falk proclaimed in relief, “we can get on with the real plan.”