While the villagers stayed up late and partied, Maki and Chiharu were tired from their journey, and so after they enjoyed the feast for a while, they became sleepy. It was unfortunate, but they had eaten so much meat and were satisfied. So they decided to leave a little early.
“The Saintesses are going to go to sleep?”
“But it’s a feast!”
The children surrounded Maki and Chiharu as they stood up. Of course, the children usually would have been sleeping at this time, but it was a special occasion.
“We had so much fun, but we’re tired after traveling such a long distance.”
“I feel like I’m about to fall asleep, so I need to rest.”
Maki and Chiharu said with regret as they hugged the children that clung to their waists. It would be one thing if they were really just here to sightsee, however, they would be going to the dungeons tomorrow, which meant they would likely have to work.
“You can sleep here. It’s very warm.”
“And if it gets cold, father and mother can warm you up.”
“They are very soft.”
They were probably talking about their third form. Maki and Chiharu recalled the time that they had slept with Zynis and Ortha. The day they had slept against their soft stomachs. It was bliss.
Dog fur was nice, but cat fur was also smooth and shiny. It was cool at first, but started to feel warm if you stuck to it. Chiharu had always been more of a cat person, and so she almost gave in to the temptation, but she practiced some self control. Even if they would be in their beast form, these adults were strangers. And while she did know granny and Alyssa a little, it would still be embarrassing. It would be even worse if it was Kear or Irias.
But Chiharu couldn’t help but think. Maybe it would be fine if it was the children.
“Hahaha. No, that will not work.”
Zynis said to her.
“Huh? Were you reading my mind?”
“It’s very easy to guess what you are thinking, Chiharu. The children are very cute, aren’t they?”
“Yes, they are.”
“The Saintess looks weird!”
The children said without hesitation as they clung to Chiharu. She didn’t mind the occasional insults.
“We beastfolk are generally in this shape. So it takes practice to shapeshift. And while there are some young ones that can transform into beasts, but most of them cannot.”
“I can do it!”
“I can’t do it yet. But mother says I’m very close.”
The children began to announce their progress.
“I see. That’s very impressive.”
“Oh, so you’re so close.”
Said Maki and Chiharu.
“Now, children. Let the Saintesses get some rest. After all, we’ll have to travel tomorrow.”
“Please visit again!”
And so the children went away, and Maki and Chiharu were able to get some sleep.
The next morning, they had some of the villagers guard the hot spring as they went inside, and so they felt quite refreshed as they finished preparing for the journey ahead. And in spite of partying late into the night, the villagers all gathered together in order to watch them leave.
“You must visit us again, when you are not in a rush.”
“Yes, we definitely will.”
Maki and Chiharu squeezed granny’s hands. Kear, the future chief, and his wife Alyssa smiled and nodded. And then the children ran towards them.
“Come back to us, Saintesses!”
“And bring your friends!”
“I want to see more humans!”
“I wish that I could visit your country!”
They exclaimed loudly.
“We really do need to set up a Saintess Tourist company when we get the chance.”
Maki and Chiharu grinned at each other. How wonderful would it be if the different races could interact with each other while they were still young? The difference in size was not so great with children, and it was likely that the prejudices between beastkin, dwarves and elves would decrease.
Of course, now was not the time. They had a job to do right now. And so Maki and Chiharu got into the box with Zynis and Ortha.
“Well, see you again!”
They said, and then the birdfolk quietly took off. The waving catfolk and the village between the mountains grew smaller and smaller.
“So, how did you like the cat village?”
Zynis asked as Maki and Chiharu enjoyed the view below.
“Yes, it was so…”
Chiharu didn’t know what the right word was.
“Maybe it was because of their size, but they felt quite close to humans. But it might also be because we never saw children or elderly beastkin before.”
“Ah, I see. Yes, children and elderly are not likely to travel abroad. And so most humans do not know how ordinary beastkins live.”
“I suppose so.”
Chiharu nodded. And then Maki said,
“Aside from that, the hot spring was really great.”
“Yes. We now have one more place that we want to return to.”
Chiharu said with a laugh.
“In fact, I have a reward for you two. At first I thought that it could wait for when we finish the work in the dungeons, but I asked Sauro, and he’s going to take a longer route now.”
“A longer route?”
“A longer route?”
They said in unison. Now that they thought about it, the mountain range that was the border to the shadow world wasn’t getting any closer for a while now.
“Basically, we are going to dogfolk territory. See? Look down below.”
When they did, they saw that they had now passed the forest and there was a vast prairie below them. Aside from small groves here and there, all of the grass was the same height. The color of the prairie seemed to change every time that the wind blew. And when they looked in the direction that was opposite of the mountains, they could see the glimmering sea. It went as far as the eye could see.
“Sauro will start flying low soon, so you should look at the ground.”
Perhaps they had been alarmed by the shadows of the birdfolk in the sky, as a large herd of deers were bounding away.
“A lot of animals that are a food source for us live here.”
What! These deers were for food then.
“Unlike humans, we don’t have to raise livestock. Our lands are so vast that there is plenty for us to eat.”
Indeed. Both humans and beastkin needed to eat in order to survive. Maki and Chiharu were a little embarrassed about their initial surprise.
“However, we don’t go out of our way to hunt the larger creatures. And so we have a good relationship with them. Look over there. Near the forest.”
“Oh, it’s an elephant!”
“That’s the elephant that promised to carry us. It has no natural enemies here, and lives a leisurely life. And so it will be happy to carry you if you ask.”
After seeing the elephant, the box rose into the air again and headed towards the mountains. On the way, they rested on some flat land, and then continued their journey. When the mountain got closer, Chiharu suddenly rubbed her arms with her hands.
“What is it, Chiharu?”
“I’m not sure.”
She felt uncomfortable, but she wasn’t sure why. Instead, it was Maki who muttered an explanation.
“Chiharu. The miasma is so thick.”
Zynis and Ortha were looking around as if they had just realized this.
“That’s true. Ah, maybe I didn’t notice it at first, because I was close to you two.”
“Yes. It’s so thick and disgusting. Even more than inside of the dungeon.”
Indeed. It was rushing into their bodies so quickly that she felt goosebumps all over her skin. It was moving faster than their ability to purify it.
“It’s only been three days since we left the dungeon. And it wasn’t this thick back then. I wonder what happened here.”
Zynis muttered. But no one was able to answer him.