(Originally posted at Oct 6, 2020, at deviantART.)
You decided to help the wolf.
After everyone had shared what they had to offer, Capella takes the lead again, standing by the front of the group and facing the wolf from a safe distance; Alecsander stood right behind her, making sure Amalthea wasn’t left with an open guard.
The wolf then stared in silence at all the food and resources given away in the collective act of kindness that piled up on the floor.
So…? Weren’t you hungry? Gobble it up and tell us what you know.
Suddenly, the wolf bursts into howling, booming laughter, startling everyone.
Joyous! Truly joyous! I hope you’ll forgive me for lying to you…
(It was a trick after all…!?)
…but that’s just part of my duty, I’m afraid!
Preparing for the wolf’s impending move, Capella readies her axe; when, to everyone’s surprise, it instead began ascending into the air. Before their very eyes, the wolf’s form starts to glow and change shape, shrinking from a wolf the size of a human to a significantly smaller form.
What was left of it was an entirely different being.
“Now, please, pardon me the startling introduction. My name is Tamamo, and it’s my duty to put to the test any and all visitors who wish to pass through.”
Despite using your most obvious weakness, you didn’t give in to hatred and kept true to your good hearts, giving a chance to someone who couldn’t be trusted. Even under such circumstances, you still chose to help!
It’s with immense joy I declare – you’ve passed!
The group couldn’t help but stare wide-eyed at the creature before them, astounded at the unexpected turn of events.
Oh, Master will be overjoyed! You’re the first to pass in a long, long time. As a token of my gratitude, I’ll return you what’s been taken, except in double! Please accept this humble blessing from me~
Tamamo floats around the untouched pile of food and resources on the ground and they begin to shine, as they float in the air and follow her trail. The creature surrounds the group, returning each of the belongings to their respective owners, who could see that, in fact, there were more of them than offered before.
Tamamo then goes back to her previous stance, standing afloat in front of the gate.
Ara ara~ Cat got your tongue? You folks are one silent audience!
It’s only normal it takes us a moment or two to process what has just happened, isn’t it? You startled us.
Fair enough~ I suppose my flashy transformation isn’t a sight one can behold often indeed! Anyways, you wanted to enter the Capital, yes?
That’s correct. But how can we trust you? Are you a Memory Keeper?
The mysterious creature’s eyes gleamed, as the will-o’-wisps that danced mystically around her neck shone brightly.
I’m an “impression”!
(What does she mean by that…?) Well, Cappi?
I was as surprised as you, Ale. Whatever she is, I can at least tell she’s not one of Red’s wolves in disguise. They have no shapeshifting nor magical multiplication abilities, or anything of the sort; this is unheard of.
I truly believe it’s safe to trust her words, my children. This looks very much like something Taketori would do as a safety measure.
Then, if you’ve made up your mind, let me clear the path for you~
As soon as she said that, a loud rustling of leaves and stems could be heard; the bamboo were moving aside, making way for a paved path that appeared like magic in the middle, leading further deeper into the grove. Tamamo floated through under the gate, looking back at everyone.
Follow me~ Don’t lag and stay close, the passageway will go back to its former placement behind you as we advance.
Alecsander and Capella exchanged looks and went on ahead after Tamamo.
Everyone! Let’s get moving!
The group advanced through the opened passage in the bamboo grove, following the straight path that extended onwards. As they went on, just like Tamamo said, the bamboo returned to their former place, progressively blocking the entrance again.
This is one impressive barrier.
It’s meant to be impassable! But impressive is a good word to describe it, too~
How impassable is it?
Physically. Or did you think you could get through Master Taketori’s bamboo grove on your own? Fufufu~ That’s cute!
It surely sounds very safe and efficient~
Does being tested by you really guarantee no one dangerous will pass through?
The way someone is tested depends on who they are, but revealing my secrets would be no good, would it? Besides, I had a hunch you could be good people; because you are here.
Finally, setting foot at the Moon Capital, the group took in the view.
It looked very different from Pagus village, sporting a Far East architecture and vibe to it. Despite the traditional and rustic look to the houses and establishments, the streets were colorful and well kept. It looked like the war hadn’t stained that place at all.
They didn’t have much time to spend fascinated with their surroundings, as something quickly flew in their direction, catching everyone’s attention.
Welcome! Welcome, welcome! Congratulations on making it through!
Amalthea! *circling the Keeper, flying around her* I’m so happy to see you come visit me at last!
You didn’t change one bit, my child. As beautiful as ever~♪
I see you didn’t change as well, dear goat mom! Always praising me with kind words~★
I’ll leave these travelers to you, Princess. It’s time I go back to my post.
Thank you very much for your hard work, Tamamo! I’ll take it from here, don’t worry. Good job!
Tamamo solemnly nods, and floats away; Kaguya, beaming with happiness, guides the group through the streets, arriving at what looked like an inn.
Please, take off your shoes before coming in. You can leave them at the entrance; and for the ones who don’t wear shoes, no worries, you can go in as you are! Now, please, if you will~ Father is waiting for you.
Doing as the Keeper had requested, the group enters the inn. Waiting just a little further ahead inside is an elderly man who, with a wide smile, opens his arms in a warm welcoming gesture.
Travelers, I welcome you all! Be very welcome, to the Moon Capital.
It’s very nice to see you again, Taketori~♪
Oh, Amalthea, am I ever glad to see you as well. And… Is that you, Capella?
You know me…?
You look just like your mother, but the bell on your neck clears any doubts I could have.
Sorry, I don’t remember having met you before.
*chuckling* I’d be surprised if you did! You’ve surely grown up into a fine young woman since I’ve last seen you. *reaching out for a handshake* And you, young man, are…?
Alecsander Avery, pleased to make your acquaintance, sir! I’m the Masterlist Archivist.
The pleasure is mine, I’ve heard about your research! I suppose there is a lot we must talk about before you settle yourselves. So, shall we begin?
After everyone in the group had been properly greeted, the ones who wanted to stay to listen to the talk between the Moon Capital leader and the expedition leading people and Keeper were invited to be seated. Kaguya closed the doors shut and sat beside Taketori.
Please don’t mind me, as I’ll be mostly taking notes during this conversation. So, Cappi, please.
Right, I’ll begin. Mr. Taketori, what can you tell us about Red’s invasion? Do you know anything about it?
Well, you see, my girl… Things started looking odd after we lost contact with Vasilisa. All of the leaders here in the Pacifist Continent were on good terms thanks to our alliance; however, one year ago, we simply stopped getting news about her.
So, you too…
After long wondering about why we couldn’t reach her, I planned to contact Capra on this matter. I have visited her some times in the past, but after the Capital grew prosperous, I had to stay here to ensure the land’s protection. After all, the Nature Forces’ cradle is located here.
The Nature Forces’ cradle?
Deep within one of our forests, there’s a shrine. It was built to protect the place on which the Memory Keepers children of the Nature Forces come into being. I believe Mother Nature would have wanted to trust me with their safety, so I took it upon me to protect not only my people but the little ones born here.
However, I digress. As I was saying earlier, I planned to contact your mother, Capella. I sent one of my men to deliver a letter, and that’s when I got notice of Red’s raid on your village. As soon as he returned with such news, I activated my support troops and sent them there immediately. Then, with a clenched heart, I created this bamboo grove that now conceals the Moon Capital.
We were too late… Red’s pack completely destroyed the Village of the Seven Goats and all of the human villages they could find on their way there…
Much to our surprise, my troops crossed paths with Vasilisa’s support troops. Despite being incommunicable, she did make her move, so I’m certain she hasn’t abandoned us. Her men didn’t have any vital information on her status, but they also had been given orders to perform a reconnaissance mission, in case the worst had happened to Capra.
…And did they find anything?
Yes, my girl, they did. As you might know, our continent is protected by a wall and the oceans that surround it. Crossing the underwater kingdoms would deem itself to be a hard enough task, and even if Red made it to the land, he wouldn’t be able to trespass the wall carefully crafted by the Architects. However… The Architect’s Site had been completely savaged, and a gigantic opening was found on the wall.
So, they broke it?! But how is that possible? Those fleabags aren’t that strong! More importantly, how were they even able to cross the water…?!
…Surrounding the opening and scattered around parts of the Architect’s Site, were massive crystal formations. Otherworldly beautiful, sturdy crystals…
She’s one of us, one of Mother Nature’s children…
Tremaine must have joined forces with Red. He or his wolves aren’t strong enough to manage such a feat, but Tremaine’s crystals are. It’s safe to assume she was the one to tear down the wall; as for crossing the ocean… she might have created a bridge to enable their passage.
What happened to Halliwell and Dartmoor? Did your men find out if they managed to hide and stay safe?
Not only these two but also Joseph… The three of them were found lifeless. We’ve lost the Three Little Pigs as well…
Red… What about Red…? Do you know what happened to him…?
Both troops searched to and fro for him, but to no avail. There was no trace left of him or his wolves inside the entire continent… And we’re not sure of why, or how.
What about the other child of Mother Nature, sir?
We couldn’t find her either. With Red’s disappearance, the war seemed to die down… But there is still much we don’t understand or know about such circumstances.
That’s the reason why we’ve been concealed in here since then. We’re not sure what happened to Red, but judging from the soldiers’ report, he seemed to be headed here next. We don’t know if he’s aware of the shrine… But we’re not strong enough to perform a counterattack. Father’s defensive skills are unmatched, but both he and I lack offensive powers…
Therefore, the best we could do was to protect the Capital before an attack happened, and keep our guards up amid uncertainty. I’m truly sorry to be the bearer of such grim details, but it’s the least I could do for my dear friend Capra: telling you everything I know, in hopes to aid your expedition.
You’ve certainly helped, sir. The more we know, the better.
Now, I assume you’re all tired from the long travel. This inn is owned by me, my wife, and our dear daughter right here; and we would be overjoyed if you chose to stay. No costs charged, of course!
We’re beaming with happiness to have visitors after so long, and such special guests to boot! It’ll be a pleasure to serve you well~
That’s very kind of you, but we don’t want to bother you with-
Please, I insist.
Capella looked at Alecsander, and he simply shook his head with an apologetic smile.
We thank you for your kindness then, Mr. Taketori.
Shall I show you to your rooms, then? Unless some of you want to take a stroll first around the city instead.
There are lots of nice things to do and see around here! I’m excited to be able to show you something really neat~!
Speaking of which, I also have something I wanted to talk about.
Please make yourselves at home! Just let me know what you decide.
Original text by ShiroganeRyo
Music: Fantasy & World Music by the Fiechters – Tea Ceremony