Nadeshiko put away her oboe after
the surgery was done and returned to her room at the inn. She could have
sought more permanent lodgings but felt a bit biased about that when she
knew she'd most likely have to move several times over the coming years.
It would be nice to have a permanent home, but how would she manage if the
Sect gave her an assignment half a country away? But even avoiding a place
of her own, she had acquired some ties to this place. Like the three
bunnies she was keeping in the yard.
Too fainthearted to see them end up as diner, Nadeshiko had maybe
influenced the cook to believe they were a type of turtle. Luckily the
cook was unaware of a recipe for turtle soup or her meddling wouldn't have
been effective. The chubby musician fed the pets she'd once received as
payment and was interrupted before she headed upstairs to her room by one
of the miners dashing in.
"We need a messenger to the sect!" he wheezed, clearly having run himself
The innkeeper, a lady of ample bosom, wide shoulders and the muscles of a
brawler, dragged the miner to a seat, handed him some water and then
"There were roars in the mine. Deep down. Sounded large." the miner grew
paler with every short sentence.
"Are there still people in there? Are they trapped or hurt?"
"No ma'am. Everybody got out. The others are keeping watch."
The innkeeper dusted off her apron and made little fuss as she took charge
of the situation. She turned to one of her serving girls and had her go
fetch the mayor of the town. then she sent out her youngest son to head
for the nearest sect, the Square of Blue, and request assistance from a
team of nearby monks of various sects. Then the woman turned to Nadeshiko
"Head for the mine and play whatever music you need to lull the monster
into a deep sleep."
Nadeshiko froze and swallowed. Would her magic work on a monster? She'd
only ever used it on humans. But she was too shy to actually voice her
concerns so she just nodded and set off, hoping help would come soon.
Souzen peaked in through the
curtains obscuring the Head Priest's quarters from view. Most of the
interior of the Wind Mages Sect was open plan with several smaller areas
that could be hidden from view. The air was always able to move freely
through the room and Souzen knew he wouldn't be the only one snooping.
The Head Priest, Ruri, listened to the
teenager rambling off the message his mother, an innkeeper from one of the
neighbouring towns, had given him. Souzen listened closely too but there
really wasn't much to go on. A monster in the mines? Well maybe, loud
sounds that needed to be investigated. It sounded exciting but in no way
dangerous to the young acolyte. If he'd been human, he'd already be out in
the world. But half-elves were granted - or was that ordered - to study
longer and learn more. And Souzen was done being locked away. he wanted to
experience real missions.
"Miss Ruri!" he called, stepping out from behind the curtains, "Would I be
allowed to assist for this matter?"
The head priestess turned her gaze on Souzen and frowned. Souzen cringed
and hoped the superior was in a good mood. He tried to not fidget and took
on a straight pose that Souzen hoped would convey readiness and maturity.
Every second the silence remained he grew more nervous, but he couldn't
really back down.
After what seemed like an eternity, Ruri finally nodded:
"I expect you to listen to the other mages. You are not to put yourself
Souzen nearly jumped but managed to stop himself from bouncing happily:
"You can count on me."
Then the young acolyte rushed off to gather his backpack, which lay
waiting below his bed, ready to start his adventure. When he returned only
a couple of minutes later, other acolytes had been sent out to find some
of the visiting acolytes who the head priestess deemed assets for a
mission such as this. Souzen looked around with his eyes open and his
attention strung high. Who would he travel with? He hoped they were
reasonable people. When all had gathered, he realised with dread that all
of them were half-elves. Though none were remarkably old, he was still the
youngest by far and he knew without a doubt that they would probably not
think much of him. As much seemed to be clear by the way the Metallic
barrier master, Shirogane seemed to eye him with distrust, the way the
light mage Usuiro was completely ignoring him and the way the fire mage
Makka immediately told him he reminded her of her little cousin back
home... But at least he was still allowed to go with them.
On the short trip toward the mine,
Shirogane observed her team. It had been sheer coincidence that the knight
of the Metallic Faction had been at the Sect of Blue Square. She was used
more to dealing with human lords than with her peer mages. She didn't
quite know what to make of the others and felt all the more wary because
of it. Humans were often far more transparent in their motives even when
they were mages.
One thing she was certain of was that there really wasn't a clear-cut
leader present. As a barrier master she preferred keeping to the rear of
the party. Shirogane once more tried to broach the subject of leadership:
"Does anyone have an idea of what we can expect down there?"
"A big monster we need to defeat." Souzen suggested, "At least that's
probably the worst case scenario. It could just be a trick of the wind."
The young wind-mage, hardly more than a boy, seemed to be very much
rooting for the worst case scenario.
"A trick of the wind, that could be.... although... maybe it's water."
Usuiro said slowly and with lots of pausing. Shirogane just knew half of
what he was thinking hadn't been said but she wasn't going to try and fill
in the blanks. Though the light mage was about her age, he was probably
just as useful as the juvenile wind mage.
"Fire also sometimes roars." Makka, the fire mage added, "Although I doubt
a natural phenomenon is causing these noises. They would have been
reported before. The mine has been in service for many years."
Shirogane felt relieved that someone was at least saying something useful.
At least until Makka continued:
"In any case, I'll get to blow stuff up and that's going to be fun."
Shirogane sighed and wondered if she should just leave the others at the
entrance. going in alone seemed like such an enticing possibility but it
would go against her orders. Despite her reluctance, Shirogane didn't want
a bad review either as those could really set back a lot of the good rep
she'd built over the past years. It only took one bad review to mess up
When the quartet reached the
entrance to the mine, they were met with a curious sight of a pink-clad
musician performing. The miners were talking and everyone seemed very much
relaxed. Hardly the circumstances the four mages of the support mission
"Can anyone explain the situation?" Shirogane asked and then headed off to
talk to the miners who seemed like they might be in charge.
Usuiro turned around and singled in on the performer. A half-elf, so she
was most likely a mage herself. Judging by her clothes, Usuiro had a good
idea what her powers were. Already his mind was coming up with strategies
on how they could use her because it was clear that this young woman would
have to go down into the mines with the rest of them. Usuiro assumed that
Shirogane would be the one to make the definite call but he had a hard
time imagining that she wouldn't take the presented opportunity,
especially with how disappointed she was in the team.
Though not particularly sensitive, it had been hard not to notice the
warrior's impatience at their differences. But they were not a seasoned
war party. they were a hastily put together group of mages who were going
to investigate some weird sounds. Usuiro had been coming up with plenty of
options, hardly any were an actual threat. Even with a dangerous animal
stuck in the mine, chances were bigger that the animal was hurt or trapped
than that it would pose a threat. In fact, whatever was down there was
probably asleep anyway.
"Do you think your magic worked?" he asked the musician.
The young monk of the Curtain of Pink shied away a bit and said: "I don't
know. The miners are saying they heard the roars regularly and they've
stopped now. So they think it worked."
"Hmm." Usuiro replied.
His mind was already accounting for the fact. The chances of wind or fire
being the culprits had just diminished by a large portion.
Lost in thought was how Shirogane found them again. Usuiro picked up the
return of th other member and he absentmindedly walked inside the cave,
creating a light without actively thinking of it. He faintly picked up
Shirogane's curses as she rushed the others in behind him and cast a
Usuiro would have been able to cloak them from sight but he figured the
barrier was just as good.
The inside of the mine looked
pretty standard to Makka. The tunnels at the surface were pretty wide,
going further in they got more narrow. Shafts gave access to floors on
different levels. Dratty, the red firelizard she'd received from her
cousin Beni, peaked out from beneath her mantle and
Makka gave the little red winged lizard a quick pet before instructing her
to go back into hiding. Not too many people would know what to make of the
draconic pet after all.
Makka fondly thought of her cousin who was still too much of a tomboy to
be taken seriously. Looking once again at Souzen, Makka couldn't help but
draw the parallels between the two youngsters. Beni was older, but she
somehow doubted that Souzen would be much wiser in half a dozen years'
time. Makka knew the type too well. Eager, and because of it, too
energetic, too impulsive and too prone to causing trouble. Even if they
Makka resolved to shield the youngster from Shirogane as she could feel
the frustrated tension rise in the warrior. The woman really needed to
lighten up. With five mages, among which one with the clear ability to
lull whatever was down here to sleep, there really was no way they could
get hurt. But tell that to the barrier master.
"Anyone want to play a word game?" Makka asked, earning her a death glare
"What? Nadeshiko here put the monster to sleep anyway."
Nadeshiko shrugged and quietly said: "I don't know how long the magic will
"You sell yourself and your powers short." Makka insisted.
She smiled, realising she was becoming just like her mother and feeling
much too young to be acting like a supportive maternal figure. But if her
acting a bit out of sorts helped people relax then she would do it.
Nervous mages made for bad accidents, only not everyone seemed to know
that. Makka gave a pointed stare to Shirogane who clearly had no clue what
Makka meant with it.
A sound between a snore and a groan
sounded from somewhere up ahead, startling the five mages. A few seconds
later Nadeshiko was back to playing her music. Souzen quickly raised his
hands to his ears, but then dropped them as he noticed none of the others
were doing the same.
"Isn't it dangerous to listen to this music?" he asked.
"People from the Curtain are only allowed out when they can fine-tune who
is being influenced by their magic." Makka educated.
"Oh." Souzen replied, looking a bit embarrassed.
"Let's follow the snoring." Makka suggested and then had to hurry as
Usuiro had already started moving.
Without really discussing it, the five mages formed a line that was led by
Usuiro who lighted the way. Nadeshiko followed behind, playing her lulling
melody. Makka and Souzen followed side by side, Makka sometimes saying
something to calm the wind mage. Though he probably wouldn't have to act,
his magic could help them out a great deal should they get stuck, but
Makka knew better than to tell him that before they had safely returned to
the surface. Shirogane brought up the rear, feeling both reassured by the
familiar role and also agitated because she had no idea what was going on
at the front.
Usuiro could feel them getting closer. The sounds were vibrating more off
the walls and it was getting harder to pinpoint just where the sound was
coming from as it ricocheted along the rock. They'd dropped a few stories
but were coming back into broader caverns that seemed to have formed
naturally and had not been carved. This part of the mine seemed to be
mostly used for storage as evidenced by the small alcoves stuffed with
tools and necessities.
The snoring got louder and it wasn't much later when they found the
culprit. The large reptilian monster looked alien to all but one of the
mages. Luckily Makka was present or some harsh consequences might have
befallen Sei and his bond Purple Meranlath. So
before Shirogane could strike with her sword, Makka yelled:
"Stop!" and set of a few firecrackers she'd carried in her pocket, rousing
both dragon and rider.
"What did you do!?" Shirogane roared.
The warrior was furious, fearing for their lives as Makka had woken up the
"It's okay! I know them!" Makka insisted and was luckily aided by Usuiro
who quickly placed himself between Shirogane and the dragon and Souzen who
had suddenly recognised the fellow wind mage now that the intial shock of
seeing a dragon for the first time was fading. That left Nadeshiko who was
still pretty frazzled but was not someone who would willingly oppose a
"Crisis averted." Makka sighed and then turned to Sei, "Why did you think
hiding a dragon in an active mine would be smart?!"
"We weren't hiding. Merely looking for candidates." the wind mage said
"What's going on?" Nadeshiko finally asked in a small voice.
"Where to start?" Sei started.
At that exact time, Dratty poked her head back up from under Makka's cape
and filled with joy at seeing a dragon, escaped to go greet her larger
cousin. In fact it had been Sei and Asagi who had
brought the eggs from Lantessama and given them to Beni who had then
handed them over to her Makka. And though Dratty had never been to
Lantessama she seemed to remember some of this.
"So this is a firelizard, a smaller version of a dragon, one of which you
can see here. Dragons tend to make connections to other beings as they are
born. But we're keeping these secret for now." Makka clarified.
"About that." Sei said, "There is a shortage of candidates at Nidus Asteri,
a sister-place to where Meranlath was hatched and they asked if I could
look for some people who would be willing to try to bond some special
dragons. I was specifically asked to look for half-elves."
"And the loud noises?" Souzen asked.
"Meranlath sneezed because of the dust." Sei replied sheepishly.
"I guess this concludes our mission." Usuiro pointed out.
The light mage had kept careful watch of Shirogane but was reassured that
although she was still a bit tense, she would offer no harm to dragon or
rider. After the explanation she deflated further.
"First we'll need to get back to the surface." Usuiro added, "Would you
lead us out, Shirogane?"
Only half an hour later they five mages had returned to the surface with
tales of a freak passage of wind that they'd blocked. To add to the
scenario Makka had even caused a small explosion for the miners to hear.
Reports were made and everyone returned to the guild where Sei awaited
them to get their final answers on whether or not they wanted to go to
"I'm so going!" Souzen exclaimed as soon as he saw his sect-mate.
"I wouldn't mind bonding a dragon." Makka agreed, she'd been secretly a
bit envious of Beni and her brown Mizarth.
Sei looked at the other three. Surprisingly it was Shirogane who nodded
next and consented:
"It seems like I need a break from the reality out here. Going to a
different world might be just what I need."
"Studying my magic in another world might bring me some more insight."
"I don't know..." Nadeshiko said, "Can we just leave?"
"The high priests are all in the know." Sei assured the young hypnotist,
"We can even arrange it so you arrive back only a day after you've left."
Nadeshiko felt relieved at those words and said: "Then I have no
objections to trying for a dragon."