“But how? I came after sensing the presence of the beloved child. And now you say you did not come here to leave with us?”
“We need to get closer to the Shadow World and help purify the world first.”
“That can be done later. How long has it been since a beloved child has visited us? We will take the other one too. Now, let us go.”
By this time, Maki, Kaider, and Nyran finally caught up with them.
“You aren’t going anywhere! I know you merpeople are fond of children, but this is kidnapping. She has business in the Dwarven lands. Let her go.”
“Please let me go.”
Chiharu added after Kaider. The merman looked at them sadly. Oh, no. This was just the same as with the bird people. She needed to make things clear.
“We will come to visit you when our business is done. So please let us go now.”
“And when will you be finished? Tomorrow?”
“It won’t be that soon, but I promise that we will come back.”
He looked at Maki.
Maki swore. He sighed and let Chiharu down. Maki quickly stood next to her.
“But could you at least show your faces to the people of the sea?”
Kaider and Nyran accompanied them suspiciously as Maki and Chiharu were led closer to the other merpeople. Hands came out to touch them, hold them, pat them on the head. This continued for the rest of the time they had left.
This was part of the tax that Saintesses paid. Maki and Chiharu did their best.
“Now, it is time.”
“Beloved children, you must return after the end of your journey.”
“Yes, we will.” “Yes, we will.”
The youth said, letting go of them with much regret.
They ran back to the train. Their seats were still empty, and they sat down in relief.
“That was tiring.”
“Traveling is hard.”
Kaider was amused by this.
“No. You know, most people do not encounter Gazers, or kidnapper merpeople when they travel?”
“The merpeople seem to really like people, just like the birdfolk did.”
“Oh, I don’t think so. Wait, the birdfolk were after you too?”
“Yeah, they almost took off with her.”
“It was just a coincidence! It was because I was easier to carry.”
Nyran burst into laughter.
“Well, you do seem like that type.”
What type? Even so, this whole ‘not listening to what people are saying’ thing… They really did have their heads in the clouds and sea. Chiharu sighed. But it was at least preferable to the malice of the inland people.
“And I really wanted to buy some accessories as a souvenir… Maybe this is a warning that I shouldn’t waste money.”
Chiharu grumbled. Kaider looked at her with an exasperated expression.
“Chouze, you haven’t noticed it yet?”
He pointed at Maki with his chin. Maki-chan? Oh.
They looked at each with surprise. When had they put this on us? On our hair and body, and even our pockets. They were overflowing with scales. Huh.
“They must have really liked you.”
Or they were just marking their territory. The two quietly removed the scales and neatly packed them into their bags. They may be able to sell them later. They would have to, as it took up too much space.
It was yet another incident for them, but at least they had got some wine and scale accessories from it. So it was all good in the end. Or so Maki decided to conclude. But all of the dwarves they had met until now were kind and fun people. If they could only get to the Dwarven lands, then everything should be okay.
The train’s bell echoed over the merpeople island, signaling their departure.