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Thread: The Journeys of the Red Star (Book 1: The Journey of Fire)

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    Default The Journeys of the Red Star (Book 1: The Journey of Fire)

    (rated E10+ for fantasy violence and frightening images)

    The Journeys of the Red Star

    Book 1: The Journey of Fire

    Prologue: The Legend of Arceus and the Dragon

    It is a story long told in Kinmura...long ago, when the world was new, the god Pokemon Arceus and the great dragon Yofune battled for control of the world. Yofune desired to destroy the world Arceus and the other Legendaries had lovingly made, and create a world filled with monsters, hopelessness, and despair. It was a long and hard fought battle, but Arceus ultimately prevailed, sealing Yofune away in the underworld. He also sealed some of his power inside the Great Temple in the north, If Yofune ever escaped, a worthy priest or miko would travel to the shrines of the Six Points of Magic--fire, water, wind, earth, darkness, and light, retrieve their guardian crystals, and set them inside the statue of Arceus to awaken his full power, allowing him to seal Yofune again. Thankfully, no one has ever had to make the perilous journey, although many priests and mikos travel to the Great Temple at least once in their lifetime.

    From his prison in the underworld, Yofune fumes with anger at Arceus, and frequently sends monsters to the surface world. They come in every shape and size--some are merely annoying, while others are strong enough to tear Kinmura apart.

    There are some that make their livings wandering around the world, defending towns and cities and helping those in need. My friend Ash is one such wandering hero, but he is also on a far greater quest--stopping the power hungry Grand Emperor from doing the unthinkable--releasing Yofune and ruling the world. Alongside a young miko named Dawn and me, Ash travels around Kinmura, escorting Dawn to the shrines and helping those in need on the way.

    Hear now the story of how a red clad swordsman with a magical flute and his companions awakened Arceus, and saved the world....
    Last edited by FlamingRuby; 1st July 2012 at 5:07 AM.

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    Tale 1: The Tale of the Dark Swordsman


    We set out from Ash's hometown of Masara early in the morning to begin the first leg of Dawn's journey and his--to travel to the Ruby Shrine and retrieve the guardian stone of fire, the ruby Lauki. Together with the other five stones, they have the power to awaken Arceus' true power.

    But I digress.

    The Ruby Shrine lay far to the east, I knew for sure, but not even Dawn knew of its exact location. We would try to discern that by helping out the people of the region on our journey.

    Ash looked so majestic on the hill that overlooked the plains. The morning breeze ruffled his long red robe with a cape that matched. A gold belt with a ruby set inside and a matching gold sash glittered in the rising sun as he set a simple bamboo hat on top of his head. "Let's go, everyone." he motioned for us to follow him as he started down the hill.

    I stifled a giggle as Ash's faithful Pikachu ran by his side. The two of them had obviously been together for a long time--exactly how long, I didn't know.

    Dawn was also enamored by Pikachu's enthusiasm. "Maybe he knows the way to the Ruby Shrine and Lauki." Pikachu paid no mind to Dawn's comment, he was happily romping through the grass, being careful to follow where Ash walked.

    "Our plan today is to travel to the temple in Chamizu, where one of the Order of the Sacred Tree will escort us to Haradori Pass." Ash explained. "Chamizu itself is a week's journey from here, with several other towns along the way."

    "Which means I will have to hear hundreds of cycles of nakarako before the day is done." Dawn groaned. Normally, she didn't mind hearing the teions--the giant horns that serve to relay information to towns and add special effects onstage. What bothered her was hearing nakarako--the boto, or signal, that a yushin like me has arrived.

    I put a hand on her shoulder. "Peace, lady miko--most kazehitos ask if I am going to perform before playing nakarako."

    "Good." Dawn smiled. "Maybe I won't have to hear fifty cycles in every town we pass through..."

    "Although if this were my hometown we were traveling to, you'd have to hear my sister play a hundred cycles." I interjected. We laughed at this--my sister was in training to be a kazehito, and one of her dreams was to announce me with nakarako.

    "How is Yasuna doing with her training, by the way?" Ash asked, curious.

    "She says she finally played 'Blue Dragon Prayer'--she says to thank you for teaching it to her." I replied.

    "The pleasure's all mine." Ash replied before seeing a glowing white flame on the ground. "A kante?" he asked.

    Sure enough, the white flame transformed into a fairy-like creature as soon as Pikachu tried to bat at it. Try as he might to knock it to the ground, it darted away from him.

    I pulled him back by Ash's side. "Now, now--kante are envoys of the Legendaries sent to guide those who wander." I told him. "Harming one is bad luck."

    "Pika." Pikachu gave the <i>kante</i> a little bow of apology before running back to Ash's side. Just as the kante pointed us in the direction of a town, we heard a teion play an attention tone in the distance.

    Ash's first thought was to reach for his sword, Kunimada. But he heaved a relieved sigh as the teion began osomiya to mark nine o'clock in the morning. "Thank Arceus that kante mean no harm, as opposed to other sorts of spirits." he mused as we made our way into town.

    The kazehito, a young man about twenty years old, called down to me when he finished playing osomiya. "Ai, yushin! Have you come to perform for us today?"

    "Not this time--we have traveled far, and seek information on the Ruby Shrine." I replied. "I will perform in the tavern later." The kazehito nodded, and watched as we started down the dusty road into town.

    It was fairly quiet as we strolled past the simple stone houses with thatched bamboo roofs, but by the time we got to the west end of the square and entered the tavern, we were surprised by a man clothed completely in black addressing the crowd.

    "In this world, titles mean everything!" he roared. "That means that I, the Black Suicune, am the most superior person here! So everything I do is right!" The crowd howled in protest at this.

    One of the barmaids motioned in our direction as the man stormed out. "That Black Suicune guy came into town, captured our elder, and proclaimed himself elder. Many have tried battling him in hopes of finding the real elder, but all thus far have failed."

    "Furthermore, titles, prestige, and power are not what makes a good leader!" Dawn protested. "A good leader should be wise, and listen to their people."

    "Yes--the true power lies in one's heart." I agreed.

    The barmaid then noticed Kunimada at Ash's side. "You're a swordsman, aren't you?"

    "Yes--I have trained since I was just a lad." Ash replied. "My teacher was Takamaru of Masara."

    "He may just have a chance at putting that black windbag in his place!" the smithy cried. Cheers went up in agreement.

    "Very well." Ash began. "If this Black Suicune returns, I will challenge him to battle."

    Dawn gasped as the crowd roared. 'Are you sure you know what you are doing?" Master Takamaru may be strong, and you have obviously learned a lot from him, but what if he is even stronger?"

    Ash was unfazed. "If my blade fails, I have Utahime to help." he assured her as he slid the small wooden flute in his palm.

    I swallowed hard as he began a calm and relaxing melody--what if Ash was in over his head?

    TO BE CONTINUED...

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    Tale 2: The Tale of the Opponent's Secret


    The tavern grew quiet after the Black Suicune had left. Yet I was concerned for Ash--what if he was facing a warrior many times stronger than him?

    A rumor from some patrons got my attention. "They say the Black Suicune gets his strength from a seirei, so if you defeat his seirei, he'll go down easily..."

    That was enough to snap Ash from his peaceful melody. "Seirei?"

    Dawn retrieved some cards from her bag and spread them out on the table. "These are tomi cards--where seirei--or guardian spirits--are said to come from."

    "You think I can learn to call them?" Ash was interested.

    "It is possible for others besides mikos, priests, and mystics to learn how to summon them." Dawn explained before giving both Ash and me a few of her tomi cards. "To call them into this world, tell them what you wish to do in an incantation, then name them. Every incantation is unique to that summoner, so no two summoners will call a seirei exactly the same way."

    Ash studied what cards he had. "If he has a seirei on his side, I will too!" he boldly announced.

    We went out to a field not far from town. This way, Dawn could rein in the seirei if it didn't want to listen to Ash, and it wouldn't damage anything or harm anyone.

    "Now...which seirei are you planning on taking into battle?" Dawn asked.

    Ash looked over the cards depicting beautiful maidens and fierce warriors. "Hm..."

    "Pika?" Pikachu pointed at a card depicting a woman in a white mystic's robe, a green silk belt, and red and blue trim.

    "Lightning Mystic Izanami...a great choice." Dawn smiled.

    "She is said to create the lightning that gives all lightning Pokemon their power." I added.

    "Since you have a lightning Pokemon as your partner, maybe you have an affinity to lightning." Dawn suggested.

    "Here goes..." With that, Ash held the card high. "Spirit of Arceus, grant me the wisdom and fury to face a mystery opponent! I call upon Lightning Mystic Izanami!"

    He then took Utahime and played a frantic melody, making the card glow and take the shape of the woman. "How may I be of service, ye that wields the lightning blade?" she asked, her voice calm and assuring.

    Ash bowed before Izanami. "Lady Izanami...the town you see in the distance has been taken over by a mysterious swordsman known as the Black Suicune."

    Izanami nodded. "Yes, I know of the one you speak of. He receives his strength from a seirei serving the dark dragon Yofune."

    I gasped--the rumor in the tavern was true! "What is this seirei named?"

    Izanami conjured a lightning ball in her hands, which expanded to show a vaguely humanoid figure with matted brown hair wearing a ragged brown dress. But what made me shudder were the creature's eyes--a small yellow glow from eyeless sockets!

    Even Ash was trembling. "Wh-what IS that?"

    "This is Morga, the Zombie Princess." Izanami explained. "She is parasitical in nature, feeding off a host's energy until it dies. When the host dies, she will wander the world in search of a new host. However, if you slay her, the host will be freed. Many of her hosts were tricked into serving her, in spite of themselves. It's possible that this happened to the Black Suicune."

    "So how would I defeat her?" Ash wondered.

    "I would be able to help you a little, but your best chance would be with a seirei of light." With that, Izanami disappeared in a flash of lightning, leaving only her card on the grass.

    "Luckily for you, I gave you a light seirei to command--the Spirit Panther." Dawn assured Ash, pointing out a card depicting a large glowing cat with a flowing white mane. "However, you can borrow one of mine if you wish."

    "No thanks--the Spirit Panther should be enough." Ash replied before starting down the road to town. "Let's get some rest--we have a big day tomorrow!"

    TO BE CONTINUED....

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    Tale 3: The Tale of the Red Star's Duel


    The day of the promised duel dawned bright and early, and throngs of people turned out to watch Ash and the Black Suicune battle on the plains. We had chosen the plains so as to not damage anything or hurt anyone, and still be able to have the teion mark rounds. Had Ash and the Black Suicune dueled right there in the tavern a few days before, there may have been significant damage and lives may have been needlessly lost.

    But Ash knew better than to so rashly charge into the fray--Master Takamaru had drilled the importance of knowing one's opponent into his mind early in his training.

    He had obviously been mulling what Lightning Mystic Izanami had told us a few days before as he looked over his tomi cards. "Are the Spirit Panther and Lightning Mystic Izanami enough for this match?"

    "I would believe so--Izanami would be able to dent the Zombie Princess's defenses, and then the Spirit Panther would destroy her once and for all." Dawn explained. "But don't summon your own seirei until he does--as you are not a priest or mystic, calling any seirei at all will be a drain on your strength."

    Cheers went up as the teion played a high D note followed by thirty cycles of nakarade--the duel would soon begin!

    Ash got up from the rock he had been sitting on as the low A note rang across the plains. "Wish me luck, everyone."

    "May Arceus protect you." Dawn smiled.

    "Pika!" Pikachu waved as Ash met his opponent in the waving grass.

    I ran ahead of Ash to explain the rules to the spectators. "Today we gather here to watch the Red Star..." The crowd roared at Ash's title. He just gave a confident nod as he stared down his black-clad opponent. "and the Black Suicune..." Boisterous cheers were quickly silenced as the black-clad swordsman approached Ash. "will battle with blade and spell in a non-lethal duel to determine the fate of this fair town."

    More cheers went up at this. "The duel will be fought in three rounds, with the winner the first one to win at least two." I continued. I then looked towards the teion's platform, where the kazehito and his partner nervously waited for me to give the word to play a single cycle of nakarade to start the first round. "If there are no questions, may the best fighter win!"

    "Pika pi!" Pikachu called over the cheers.

    "Come on, Ash!" Dawn cheered. "You can do it!"

    The attention tone prompted Ash and the black Suicune to draw their weapons. After a few tense seconds, the single cycle of nakarade came, declaring the duel underway!

    The Black Suicune wasted no time in charging at Ash--but Ash was quick to parry the blow. The force of the attack was so strong, it pushed Ash back a few inches. He made up his lost ground fairly quickly, focusing his energies into his blade as it began sparking with electricity. By the time he delivered his counter attack, Kunimada was glowing white! "White Raikou Slash!"

    The Black Suicune reared back from the attack, shuddering from the tiny thunderbolts that resonated through his body thanks to the cut on his arm. He still managed to slice through the air, creating a tornado on the ground. "Deadly Tornado!"

    Ash had no idea the tornado was coming, and the crowd gasped as the tornado carried him high into the air and dropped him to the ground with a sickening thud.

    Dawn was shocked. "Is Ash..."

    She heaved a huge sigh of relief as Ash weakly stood up. I was just as relieved--the fall may have knocked the wind out of him, but he still looked ready for more.

    Ash took a few steps back, and then charged at the Black Suicune himself, jumping into the air and aiming for his opponent's legs. "Triumphant Arc of the Sky!"

    The Black Suicune began spinning his blade, blocking Ash's attack and knocking him to the ground. "Six Point Circle!"

    "Is there any way Ash can break through his defenses?" Dawn wondered as Ash continued to grapple with the Black Suicune.

    "There may be--if you can destroy the seirei giving the Black Suicune his strength." I explained, just as the Black Suicune knocked Ash to the ground, prompting the teion to play the single cycle of nakarede to herald the end of the first round.

    "Very impressive...it isn't often anyone survives my Deadly Tornado." the Black Suicune sneered. "But how fare you with magic?"

    "I have learned much of magic, and it has always served me well when my blade fails." Ash replied as Dawn ran to heal his wounds.

    Once both sides met in the center of the makeshift arena, Ash slid Utahime into his palm and awaited the teion's tone. The Black Suicune just dug a purple orb from his pocket.

    The teion played two cycles of nakarade, and the Black Suicune hurled the orb to the ground. "Blot out the red star from the sky! Zombie Princess Morga!" Many in the crowd screamed as the hideous seirei materialized--even Pikachu darted behind the rock Dawn was seated on in fear.

    "You don't scare me--red is the color of courage!" Ash called before saying an incantation of his own. "Fire of a thousand suns, burn and set my heart aglow...ignite my courage in this song, so all the world my name might know! Resonating Heat Wave!" With that, he played a calm, yet inspiring song, creating a line of bright orange flames that roared toward the zombie princess like a wave of the sea.

    The zombie's heartstopping scream filled the air as the flames engulfed it, but it hurled an orb of darkness at Ash. "Darkness Rupture!"

    The shadowy spell paralyzed Ash for a moment, rendering him unable to even give Utahime the breath of life. With Ash rendered completely helpless, the Zombie Princess conjured a path of candles. "Path of Ethereal Candles!"

    "No!" I gasped as Ash began to float in the seirei's direction--if she drained his energy, he would die!

    "Snap out of it!" Dawn screamed, seemingly to no avail.

    All it took was an assuring smile for Dawn to heave a sigh of relief--Morga may have paralyzed Ash's body, but his heart still ran free! He then began another incantation, even though he could not move his hands to play Utahime. "Lord of Heaven, break me free from these chains of darkness that hold me, and rain down your holy light so the host of this foul creature may be free!"

    With that, he sang Jao wiisha nes chiel com yutuul..., smothering the zombie princess in a bright white light and breaking him free from her spell!

    "Amazing!" Dawn gasped. "I've never seen Ash sing a spell before!"

    "Those that channel their magic through an instrument often can channel magic through their own voice as well, although this is more tiring." I explained as two cycles of nakarede signaled the end of round two.

    With Dawn busy tending to Ash, I ran out to meet the crowd. "Each side has won one round each, so we will flip a coin to determine the mode of combat for the third round." I dug a gold piece from my pocket, then went on. "If the head of the Great Emperor is shown when the coin lands, we will battle with sword. If the Six Points of Magic are shown, we will battle with spell."

    Ash watched as I flipped the coin. If I can battle with my seirei, I may have a chance!

    I studied the coin when it landed in the grass--it was displaying the Six Points of Magic! "The third round will be fought with magic!"

    The teion played three cycles of nakarade to start the third round, but some screams from the crowd alerted Ash that the Zombie Princess still had strength left. He quickly grabbed the card containing the Spirit Panther. "Spirit of Arceus, grant me the power of your holy light! I call upon the Spirit Panther!"

    He played a few bars of the hymn "Holy Light, Awaken" as the card glowed and materialized into the sleek white cat with a flowing mane.

    "What? You have a seirei too?" the Black Suicune cried, stunned at the turn of events.

    "Not just any seirei, but a seirei of light..." Ash replied. "A seirei that can stand against your zombie princess of darkness!" He watched with a proud smile as the spirit panther leapt at the zombie princess.

    I looked on in awe as the holy panther skillfully dodged every one of the zombie princess' dark spells, and proved completely immune to the spell that had almost killed Ash. Yet what we heard the zombie princess' final scream some hours later, the Black Suicune was engulfed in light as well. In his place was a man in a dull blue tunic.

    Dawn noticed Ash heaving with exhaustion as he recalled the Spirit Panther. "Are you okay?"

    "Yeah--calling the Spirit Panther was hard work." he replied before mustering a weak smile.

    The man in blue addressed the crowd. "My friends and fellow townsfolk, I am deeply sorry for the troubles I caused you as the Black Suicune--throwing our elder into a shed and causing terror on the land--I was forced to do as the zombie princess commanded, in spite of myself."

    Dawn was a bit skeptical. "Can you show us the elder as proof of your claim?"

    The man readily agreed, and brought the elder out, who was thankfully unharmed. He listened as the man told his story, and how Ash freed him from the zombie princess' clutches.

    We departed with some bags of gold and some lingering questions--if there were dark seirei about, who was calling them? Were the Jeweled Shrines in danger?

    TO BE CONTINUED...

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    Tale 4: The Tale of the Siege of Plants (part 1)


    Our journey led us to the small town of Oriman, which was nestled on the edge of a forest. But none of us found it odd that the teion did not announce my arrival. Nor did we hear it play osomiya or any other signaling boto at any time during the first day of our stay. It was only when we looked on the signalling platform in the square did we see that there was no one present to play the teion at all--and that was worth looking into.

    After locating the kenshu on the west end of town, we learned why the teion wasn't being played--every pair of kazehito and jinshuhito were huddled in the gathering hall in fear.

    "Peace, everyone." Dawn began. "Tell us why you are afraid to sound the teion."

    Silence met us for a moment before one [i]kazehito[i] apprentice worked up the courage to tell us "If we even play one note in the square, Kotsumori will attack the village."

    "Who is this Kotsumori?" Ash pressed the kazehito for more information.

    "A mad earth mystic that recently appeared in the nearby forest." the apprentice's partner replied. "Talk to the elder to learn more."

    We thanked the kenshu's residents and left for the elder's house in the center of town. As we walked down the dusty road, we noticed more signs of a mystic's magic.

    The road was dotted in puddes that looked very out of place on a hot day. Bugs swarmed everywhere--the rotted crops in fields, the corpses of both human and Pokemon, and even in the puddles and other pools of standing water.

    "Brave traveler...it is fortunate you have come here." the elder smiled as we arrived. "Ever since Kotsumori arrived in the forest, he has wreaked havoc on Oriman."

    "Do you know why he has tried to destroy your fair town?" Ash wondered as he made himself comfortable on a stool.

    "He believes our town disrupts the balance of nature." the elder explained. "We have done all that we could to respect the forest and take care of the environment here, but he will have none of it. No matter what we do, he sends a ghastly monster to attack us, or manipulates the weather in an attempt to frighten us away. We can't even sound the teion, lest he attacks us."

    Dawn was interested in what had terrorized Oriman. "Can you tell us what monsters you have seen in town?" she asked.

    Tears welled up in the elder's eyes. "He has summoned the orge Kijo, who then kidnapped and devoured many of the children." he began as he brushed away a tear. "Those that survived Kijo were attacked by Hikotobu, the ghostly flying head that dark mystics command."

    "Odd--an earth mystic would not summon a creature of the dark, much less attack the village they were supposed to protect." I mused.

    "No one knows how or why Kotsumori descended into madness." the elder continued. "What's important is that he be stopped. Reasoning with him has proved fruitless."

    "Then I have an idea..." I suggested. "Have the teion play ten cycles of nakameya to lure him out of the forest and have Ash try to tell him that you mean no harm to the forest--if he becomes hostile or sends a monster to attack in response to the noise, he will defeat it."

    The elder looked Ash up and down for a moment. "You may be young, but you look strong and courageous."

    "Thank you--I have trained under Blademaster Takamaru since I was a lad." Ash replied. "We currently wander this land in search of the stones of the Jeweled Shrines, in hopes of bringing them to the Great Temple."

    The elder hung his head. "As much as I would wish to help you, you would have better luck asking the order of monks at Chamizu. Dealing with Kotsumori has drained our resources."

    "I see." Ash replied.

    "However, I can tell you that the Honogin Players have been traveling in this area." the elder continued, his mood noticeably happier. "If you can drive Kotsumori away, I will tell you where they will next be performing."

    "It's a deal!" Ash jumped up from his chair. I just smiled--he and Brock, the lead actor of the troupe, had been close friends for a long time. If Ash knew he was in the area, he would go to any lengths to see his friend perform.

    So the next morning, the teion played its first signal boto in a long time--and the crowd roared as the rhythmic notes pierced the morning air. Yet Ash stood nearby the platform and gazed off into the woods, awaiting when--or if--Kotsumori or one of his monsters would appear.

    As the last two notes faded away into the rising sun, some rustling got Ash's attention--and he drew his blade when he saw he was staring down not just any Ariados, but a Ariados ruler--a tsuchigumo!

    To Be Continued...

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    Tale 5: The Tale of the Siege of Plants (part 2)


    When our previous tale ended...

    The elder hung his head. "As much as I would wish to help you, you would have better luck asking the order of monks at Chamizu. Dealing with Kotsumori has drained our resources."

    "I see." Ash replied.

    "However, I can tell you that the Honogin Players have been traveling in this area." the elder continued, his mood noticeably happier. "If you can drive Kotsumori away, I will tell you where they will next be performing."

    "It's a deal!" Ash jumped up from his chair. I just smiled--he and Brock, the lead actor of the troupe, had been close friends for a long time. If Ash knew he was in the area, he would go to any lengths to see his friend perform.

    So the next morning, the teion played its first signal boto in a long time--and the crowd roared as the rhythmic notes pierced the morning air. Yet Ash stood nearby the platform and gazed off into the woods, awaiting when--or if--Kotsumori or one of his monsters would appear.

    As the last two notes faded away into the rising sun, some rustling got Ash's attention--and he drew his blade when he saw he was staring down not just any Ariados, but a Ariados ruler--a tsuchigumo!


    "Be careful, Ash!" I called as Ash approached the tsuchigumo. "Tsuchigumos can poison you if you're not careful!"

    Ash nodded before calling into the woods. "Kotsumori! These people mean no harm to the forest, and take great pains to protect it! So why do you attack them?"

    "Because they defile it by killing the trees for wood and the Pokemon for food!" came a high pitched raspy voice. "If they do not seek another place for their town, I will send forth my army of trees to attack them!"

    "Bloodshed is not the answer." Ash assured Kotsumori. "You would be defiling the forest yourself with the blood of innocents."

    Silence filled the air for a moment before Kotsumori spoke again. "Very well then, young warrior--if you and your friends can defeat the creature you see before you, I will trust your claim and leave this place."

    Ash nodded, unfazed by the growling tsuchigumo. "Deal."

    "If you need our help, play the Song of Six Points." Dawn smiled. "May Arceus protect you."

    Ash wasted no time in running up to the tsuchigumo and delivering a crescent shaped slice to its body. The one slash became two, then two became three. We then heard his cry of "Crescent Sword Dance!" in the swirling tornado of blades.

    The tsuchigumo countered by spraying a noxious green goo all over Ash. The sickening smell made his eyes water and drained his strength, making it incredibly difficult for him to get up. But Dawn was quick to cast a healing spell, clearing away the noxious goo in a flash of light.

    Ash then ran and cut one of his opponent's legs, only to be startled by the tsuchigumo lunging to bite him. It was a long struggle, but almost comical as Ash twisted and writhed around the dusty path. Despite its best efforts to hang on, Ash managed to throw off the tsuchigumo from his arm, making it land against a rock with a sickening thud. Thankfully, his sword arm was not the one bitten.

    He examined his wound through the torn sleeve of his robe for a moment as the tsuchigumo circled him, growling all the while. After concluding that it was not serious, he sheathed his blade and reached for Utahime. "Fire of a thousand suns, burn and set my heart aglow...ignite my courage in this song, so all the world my name might know! Resonating Heat Wave!"

    With that, he played a calm, yet inspiring song, catching the tsuchigumo off guard as it was engulfed in bright orange flames. Angered at being burned, the tsuchigumo spewed thick purple venom at Ash, but it only splattered the dusty path leading into the woods as Ash leapt on top of a rock, Utahime still in his hand.

    The Song of the Six Points resonated through the misty morning air, prompting me to grab my bow. "Ash needs our help--let's go!" I told Dawn as I readied an arrow.

    "What would you like me to do?" Dawn asked as she watched my arrow graze the tsuchigumo's head.

    "Support the two of us with your healing magic, and use offensive spells when you can." I replied as Ash slashed at another of the tsuchigumo's legs.

    Dawn nodded and closed her eyes. "Guiding light from Arceus' land, become a holy sword in my hand! Celestial Blade!"

    The tsuchigumo darted away from the rain of shining blades that flew from Dawn's hands, but fell to the ground as each explosion of light made the earth shake. It noticed my aiming another shot, and leapt at my arm, causing me to drop my arrow as I yelped in pain.

    My right arm throbbed with the tsuchigumo's venom, but I managed to retrieve my arrow and fire it at another of the tsuchigumo's legs, making blood drip onto the ground.

    "Demon Piercing Blade!" Ash called as he cut a star design on the tsuchigumo's skin. It wasn't enough to kill the mighty spider monster, but the technique managed to slow it down considerably.

    "Dawn, try a water spell." I suggested as I bound up the wound on my arm. "Maybe if you freeze the tsuchigumo in place, our attacks may have a chance to critically wound it!"

    "It's worth a shot." Dawn replied before charging a blue ball of light. "Great Lord, if it be your will, grant me the fury of winter's chill! Subzero Chilling Wind!"

    The swirling snow and icicles were the last straw for the tsuchigumo--it skittered through the icicles that surrounded it and bit down hard on Dawn's foot. Try as she might to charge some healing magic, the venom proved too much as she moaned with pain.

    "Here..." The town elder offered me a white strip of fabric flecked with green. "Tie this around your friend's foot--it will help with the poison."

    "Thanks!" I paused to fire another shot at the tsuchigumo's legs, then tied the herb-flecked ribbon around Dawn's wounded foot. It eased the pain enough for her to cast a healing spell, making her foot good as new.

    A "oof" got my attention as the tsuchigumo charged at Ash, sending him flying into a tree. But I managed to shoot at another leg, and Dawn fired a ball of light, which stunned the tsuchigumo.

    The tsuchigumo being stunned was enough for Ash to get up and hack at one of the unwounded right legs. But he didn't expect the tsuchigumo to bite him in the leg, poisoning him again. Dawn was quick to heal him, though, and his blade combined with my bow to strike hard.

    Dawn noticed that our attacks and fatigue was taking its toll on its opponent--it wasn't moving as swift as it had before. "Now's our chance! Hit it, and hit hard!"

    I focused all my rage into my next arrow, making it burst into flames. "Three Burning Arrow!" The townsfolk gasped in awe as I appeared to unleash not one, but three flaming arrows into the tsuchigumo's three remaining unwounded legs.

    Ash did likewise, channeling his energy into his blade until it sparkled like thousands of stars. "Glittering Sword of Stars!" The final blow was so strong, and so bright, the crowd saw a few sparks fly onto the ground. But when the light faded away, cheers went up when we saw the tsuchigumo was slain.

    "Words cannot express my gratitude for your saving our town." the elder smiled as Dawn healed the rest of our wounds. "As I promised, I will tell you where the Honogin Players are performing next--they will premiere 'The Legend of Yochi, the Song Mystic' in Kasura tomorrow. Kasura is a half day's journey to the east of here, so you should arrive by morning if you left tonight."

    We left Oriman later that evening after resting and sharing dinner with the townsfolk. But Ash had a smile on his face as he led the way into the moonlight--just what role was Brock going to play in Yochi's story?

    To Be Continued...

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    Tale 6: The Tale of a Friend's Debut (part 1)


    "Kiyama? Is the play we're going to see based on an actual legend?" Ash asked as the path to Kasura turned upward.

    I nodded. "The story goes that Yochi was once very afraid of battle, but one day, she met a minstrel that could sing magic. She was inspired, and performed for him in return. What neither of them knew was that in the royal palace, a prince was dying, poisoned by a treacherous lord. That is all I will tell of it for now--you'll see the rest of the story for yourself very soon."

    The familiar flowing chords of a harp got our attention--and compelled Pikachu to dart off in search of who was playing the beautiful melody.

    It turned out Brock was the one playing the harp. Pikachu was sitting at his feet, dreamily watching as the ethereal chords swirled into a triumphant war march. It was like we could see the raging battle in our minds--the rumble of Rapidash hooves, the war cries as the armies charged to battle, the clangs of swords and whistle of arrows, and the screams of the dying as they fell to a rival's weapon.

    Then, the fierce battle gave way to a sad, but hopeful melody that represented the battle's aftermath, complete with a few harmonic chords to represent shooting stars. True, Brock was not a yushin--but he could definitely become one if he ever tired of the stage.

    Ash led the applause when the last chord faded away. "Bravo!"

    "That sounded very nice!" Dawn agreed.

    "Thank you--it's one of the songs I have to play as Kashu--the yushin in the play." Brock replied as he set his harp aside and removed the silver fingerpicks from his right hand. "I believe it's called 'Battle on Falan Plains'..."

    "That is one name for it, but the tune is also a version of 'Moltres' Flight in Summer' and is known in the west lands as 'Entei Racing Across the Plain'" I explained.

    "Is it hard to learn the complex songs in plays, as opposed to playing for fun?" Ash asked as he ran to embrace his friend.

    "It can be, but it depends on the tune I have to learn." Brock replied as a light breeze ruffled his brown hair and the red ribbon on his tunic that signified he was primarily a sodai actor. "If any yushin are in the area, they will teach me the tune, its history, and any other names it's known by."

    "Pika pi?" Pikachu asked.

    "Play some more?" Brock asked. He thought for a moment, then reached for the fingerpicks on the rock by his harp. "All right, I'll play for a little bit longer--when the teion plays its next osomiya, I have to go back to get ready for the show."

    Pikachu nodded as Brock slipped on the fingerpicks, then picked up the harp to play again. "Here's one I've been working on--'Dance to Welcome a Yushin'"

    With that, he began a prayer like melody that quickened into a festive song--I was in awe at how nimbly his fingers danced across the strings--if there were any wrong notes at all, I couldn't hear them.

    It helped that he had a beautiful harp as well. it was shaped much like a bow, with jewel-studded stars and ivy inlays winding around the column. A tiny Beautifly was perched at the column's top, as if inviting all who heard the harp to come and listen.

    Brock managed to squeeze in three more tunes before the teion sounded. "It's time." he began as he put the harp and the fingerpicks away. "The show's going to start in an hour."

    "We'll see you in the audience, then!" Ash replied. He waved goodbye as he led the way down the hill into town.

    Later that night...

    "And now, please welcome the Honogin Players to the Forest Glen Theater!" a navy haired girl announced. We applauded as she departed offstage and the orchestra began the overture.

    "A long time ago, there lived a mystic named Yochi." the narrator began. "While she lived among the woods by the capital city, she longed to be a great hero like yushin sang about."

    The curtains came up on a girl clad in a green and silver mystic's robe. "I am Yochi, a guardian of the forest." she began. "I protect the plants and Pokemon here,
    and make sure they are safe
    With magic given me from Shaymin's hand
    I create miracles from the land.
    Yet deep down, my heart's burning desire
    Is to be called a hero, as yushin say.
    But when I hear word of a tale of woe,
    My heart races in fear."

    The three teions played hayareya for a moment before Yochi continued. "But today I have nothing to fear. The birds are singing..." A flute played a soft trill to illustrate this. "The wind rustles the trees' branches, and all is at peace."

    The lights went down, save for the narrator in his spotlight. "But what Yochi didn't know was that in the royal palace, an evil plot was afoot as Prince Shinzo approached the age of marriage..."

    The lights came up on a royal throne room, where a boy in an ornate teal, black, and gold tunic and white leggings listened as a man in a royal blue, gold, purple, and white robe spoke to him. "My son, the year is fast approaching,
    When you will choose a princess as a bride,
    But with what sort of maid do you desire
    to spend a long and happy life?"

    "Father, the choice is clear to me..." the prince replied. "My future queen will be as strong and brave as she is beautiful."

    "Why do you say that?" the king asked, puzzled.

    "It's true that a prince's bride is to love him and give him an heir." the prince explained. "But can she not give me counsel to make wise decisions,
    Or even make such decisions by her choice?
    Can she not aid me in defending our land,
    When evil lurks at Kinmura's door?"

    "Of course she can--although I don't know where you would find a princess skilled in a blade or a bow." the king mused. "I promise you that I will find a maid brave enough to suit your hand."

    The orchestra played a tense stinger, and the teions began the urgent hayamiya as a spotlight appeared on a man in a black, red, purple, and white robe. "So the prince is almost of age to wed, and seeks a brave maid to protect him..." he sneered over the teions. "But no maid like that he will receive.
    He knows not of the coup that I am plotting
    That will take his life.
    Yet he is only the beginning,
    Once he has died,
    His parents will too
    By the cunning poison trap I plan to set
    Then I will have all of Kinmura
    Call me their king!"

    Boos filled the air as the lights went down. "Why that sneaky double crossing Ekans..." Ash muttered, appalled at the treacherous lord's plot.

    "At ease, young warrior--it is only a story." the woman next to Ash assured him. Ash just sighed and focused his attention on the stage as the sozo put the finishing touches on the forest set.

    Yochi returned a few moments later. "All is peaceful in the wood, as it should be."

    A harp chord in the distance got her attention. "What's this? A harp echoes through the wood...a yushin must be nearby!"

    Excited murmurs went up as the lights blinked over to Brock, now clad in a blue, green and silver pattern often reserved for great yushins. "Greetings, travelers...my name is Kashu." he began. "Across the land I wander, no place to call my home,
    Yet I do not despair, no matter how far I roam
    Song and story is my trade, but I take most delight
    In the wonder of my audience's faces
    As I tell them of legend..."

    He began the prayerful section of the song he was playing before as he continued his monologue. "Though no teion is here to welcome me,
    I wait here, harp in hand
    Hoping that at least a Pokemon
    Longs to hear of a distant land
    Of heroes brave and clever
    As they seek a princess' hand

    Or maybe of wily Tanuki,
    Clever people, gods and kings
    Even the call of battle
    Comes from my harp as it sings...."

    With that, he played the "battle" section of the song--and it was just as thrilling to hear the second time around! The crowd seemed to agree, and roared with applause when the last chord died. Our applause was the loudest, though.

    "Bravo! Well played!" the actress playing Yochi cried as she entered the scene, also applauding the song.

    Brock said nothing, but began the "aftermath" section of the song. When he finished, Yochi asked 'What is a fine yushin like you doing all the away out here?"

    "His Majesty has bade me to perform for the prince's birthday tomorrow." Brock explained as he cradled his harp in his hands. "But I am not sure if I should come, if what I hear in town is true...

    "What have you heard?" Yochi was curious at this.

    "One of the lords at the palace seeks the throne for himself, and is even now plotting to kill the prince." Brock explained. "And who am I to suggest that once the prince is dead, the king and the queen will die as well?"

    "Don't speak of things like that!" Yochi gasped. "The more we talk about them, the more likely they'll come true! What I want to know is how your skill is so great to make wilting flowers bloom and fallen trees live again!"

    A playful smile formed on Brock's face. "Very well then, mystic, if you must know
    How magic power flows from these blessed strings...
    The Guardian of Song, Meloetta, granted this power
    For me to command my harp to do wondrous things."

    "So what did you do to please Meloetta?" Yochi was interested.

    "It was no different from how I played for you," Brock explained.
    "I played, and Meloetta came to listen
    She heard me play old favorites and new tunes for at least an hour,
    And was so pleased, she blessed my music with power."

    Yochi nodded to show she understood. "Is it possible I can harness such power?"

    "It will not be an easy calling...." Brock cautioned,
    "You must practice the holy songs--morning, noon, and night,
    "But in addition to your innate power
    You will learn to harness the other five points,
    Fire, wind, water, darkness, and light!"

    Yochi gave Brock a little bow. "In return for playing another song, I will become your apprentice in the way of song magic, and all the training and trials it entails."

    "Then consider this song a sign of my acceptance." With that, Brock began the tune "Sakura Falling in the Pool", with the lights going down when the last note died....

    To Be Continued...

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    Tale 7: The Tale of a Friend's Debut (part 2)


    "Meanwhile, the prince retired to his chamber for the night." the narrator continued as Brock's song faded away. "Nakama, his lady in waiting, was puzzled by the prince's desire in a bride, and decided to question him further, unaware that the prince's life was in grave danger."

    The lights came up on Prince Shinzo's chamber, where the young prince was resting. "Your Majesty, your choice of a queen is odd." Nakama began. "If it pleases you, will you enlighten me on why your future queen must be brave?"

    "It is simple, really..." the prince began. "A good king cannot rule a country on his own--and so the queen must be able to match wits with her beloved. But why is it that every girl I've found knows only of the kitchen?"

    Some giggles went up at this as the bells played a mystical melody. "Oh, but Your Highness, Kinmura prides itself on many brave heroines!" Nakama began. "You know well of Kanade and her skill at the bow,
    Or of Misha, who sang Pokemon into the world
    Little Anzu, whose cleverness rivaled her beauty
    Kaya, the queen of dreams
    and Mari, the maid who protected a queen
    Yushin sing of many more maids than these,
    so surely your bride is among them."

    The prince sighed. "That's true, Nakama...but where would I find such a maid?"

    A tense stinger went up, complete with hayamiya, as Kurayami returned to the stage in disguise as a servant. "The hour has come for His Majesty's evening tea, and in it I have placed a deadly poison, to ravage him through and through." he sneered.

    Boos filled the air as Kurayami approached Nakama and offered her the cup with the "poisoned" tea. The teion's hayamiya reached a fever pitch as the prince took the cup from the tray.

    "Don't drink it!" Ash pleaded, never mind this was what happened in the story. His cry of "NOOOOOO!!!!" practically overpowered the other gasps and screams as the prince collapsed to the stage in feigned sickness.

    "Ash, pipe down!" Dawn hissed over Nakama's panicked monologue. "This is how the story is supposed to go."

    "Besides, Yochi would have no quest if Nakama confronted Kurayami now, would she?" I added.

    Ash's tearful glance became a reluctant grimace as the sozo set up the forest setting onstage. Okay, if this is how the story is supposed to go, fine. Kiyama's right--if we confronted Kurayami now, there would be no story left.

    A harp chord snapped him to attention--Brock was about to call on Meloetta to grant Yochi the power of singing magic! I call upon the Guardian of Song
    To listen, and heed these words...
    he sang as he played.
    There is another here that wishes to draw on your power,
    Enhancing her powers of earth...


    With that, he began singing in the language used for spellsongs--either that, or gibberish that sounded like it. Yozecan, kol an ce miar,
    kee wa yana wahhat crir wa hozas yamb yor
    pen mias aya.
    Wiaks fyelyan yamb kol,
    mias ce griupa
    Poga ree ce yot
    yowr wer mas wa hozas yamb kol!


    His next spellsong I recognized as a real spell. Jao wiisha nes chiel com yutuul...

    "That's the same spell you sang to defeat the zombie princess!" Dawn gasped.

    "It's actually a pretty versatile spell, and one of the Four Great Spellsongs." Ash whispered. "In addition to conjuring forms of fire and light, it can also summon Legendaries that rule over those points. But that can only be done by powerful yushin, priests, or mikos."

    "That makes Brock's character a pretty powerful yushin." Dawn mused as a puppet of Meloetta appeared in a flash of light.

    "Ye have called, yushin, and I am here." the tiny puppet began. "What is it you desire?"

    "This is Yochi, an earth mystic that desires to learn to sing magic." Brock explained, gesturing to the actress playing Yochi.

    "You know well I don't give the gift of spellsong to just anyone..." the Meloetta puppet cautioned. "But if you believe she has the potential, I will gave her a chance to prove herself."

    "Well, I can play the tikin..." Yochi stammered as a sozo brought her a tikin.

    "All right..." the Meloetta puppet replied. "Let's hear you play 'Blossoms Falling on the Road'"

    Needless to say, the actress playing Yochi proved to be a master of the tikin--together with Brock backing her on harp, it was almost like we could see the titular blossoms swirling around us as the peaceful melody echoed throughout the theater.

    The performance must have touched Ash deeply--it was all he could talk about when we left the theater. He told me later that he hopes that Brock's next performance features a solo like that. If you ask me, he probably has a crush on that actress.

    To Be Continued...

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    Tale 8: The Tale of the Kodani's Clue

    Our adventure brought us to Tamiya, a large town not far from Chamizu. Ash had heard an intriguing rumor in a roadside tavern on the way--an ancient forge, made by an ancient king long ago, was said to be hidden underground in the Haradori region. The only thing the rumor didn't mention was where to dig.

    The rumor was also interesting to us for another reason. "You know, if a cache of ancient weapons is underground just waiting to be discovered, who am I to suggest that Lauki and the Ruby Shrine are down there as well?" Dawn suggested as we strolled through town.

    "Arceus hid the Jeweled Shrines very well, so I wouldn't be surprised." I assured her as we passed by the signalling platform. The pair on duty looked a little uneasy--the jinshuhito was relaxing and watching the townsfolk come and go through the east entrance of the marketplace as he ate a meat bun. The kazehito, a girl about thirteen years old, was keeping a watchful eye on the entryway into town, as if expecting someone or something to appear there.

    "Oi!" Ash called up to the platform, getting the teal haired kazehito's attention. "Why the uneasy watch?"

    "At ease, master warrior. We are under no threat." the kazehito assured him. "The Jade Swellow Winona is due to arrive today, and so I must be prepared to play nakadiya at any time." she explained as she cradled the teion's giant mouthpiece in her arms. "It's boring when you have so long to wait in between osomiyas, so I enjoy announcing visitors."

    She then noticed me standing behind Ash. "Oh! Is your yushin friend going to perform while we wait for Lady Winona?"

    I giggled. "No, not this time--I wouldn't want to steal the spotlight from the kodani." The kazehito nodded and resumed her watch as we made our way into the marketplace.

    Kodani? Ash was confused.

    "You've never seen a kodan show?" Dawn gasped. "Ash, you're in for a treat!"

    "I've seen Winona perform before." I began as I led Ash and Dawn into the inn's courtyard, away from the crowds. "Essentially, a kodane--a singer-storyteller, will use dancing, acting, and singing to tell stories in dialects of the mystic tongue accompanied by an ensemble. Male performers are kodana, and female performers are kodani"

    "They use hundreds of props and wear all these beautiful costumes to tell their stories." Dawn continued. "The one thing all of them use is a tandai, a long ribbon on a stick."

    "The color of the tandai determines what kind of story the kodane is telling." I added. "Red means an epic or adventurous tale, yellow is a children's tale, green is a trickster story, blue is a tragic tale--and that's only a few colors."

    I was about to say more when the teion sounded the attention tone, followed by nakadiya. "She's here!" Dawn cried, motioning for us to follow her into the crowds of people headed for the majestic theater at the north end of town.

    We wasted no time in taking our seats towards the front, and it wasn't long before the ensemble walked onstage--three boys and three girls. I did find it interesting that the player of the great waidan--a tall and large flute-like instrument famous for its low buzz achieved with a horn-like mouthpiece--was a girl.

    Once the ensemble was in place, the lights went down. The harp played an opening chord as a lavender haired maiden in a green robe-like costume--Winona-- appeared in a spotlight. Māk pron sa kuda int mon Kanade gakeahakh mak sār won, Kirameya! she sang in a piercing mezzo-soprano as she produced a red tandai from her costume.

    The drum and bells provided a swift beat for the harp as the young kodani twirled faster and faster, seemingly wrapping herself in the tandai. "Wrapping yourself in the tandai symbolizes the passage from the real world to the world of make believe." I whispered. "She will do it again at the end of her final tale to symbolize the return to the real world."

    Onstage, Winona began her first tale. Ē poch kesha abai, Kanade mukh iri ē tera won. she sang, showing us a simple wooden bow. Wir len sen tera won, sa nandāmakh Mightyena... The flute then played a high piercing note that more or less mimicked a Mightyena's howl, making some people laugh. at Raikou... The waidan then blew a loud note to mimic a Raikou's roar. Wakana int mak suhari, mak chara lara ar chāka, at mukh pronhech kai hāk.

    "Our guardian, brave Kanade!" someone shouted as the harp and tikin signaled a scene change.

    Ash was unnerved. "Don't they know you're not supposed to talk during the show?" he hissed.

    "Actually, calling things out like that and interacting with the kodane are welcomed and encouraged." Dawn explained as Winona skipped and twirled over to stage right, her tandai creating a mesmerizing trail of patterns behind her.

    Ita nu, ē karendach nashoh arārakh uh sa lon, Winona sang again. She quickly slipped on a mask that looked like a demon's face, prompting the flute to play a note that mimicked a female scream. nashuwech ē cen int chira mān... The tikin played a mournful melody as she removed the mask and picked up a fan to represent a female character, danced over to where the demon mask lay on the stage, and dropped the fan on top of it, symbolizing a sacrifice.

    "How terrible, to end so many lives that way!" Dawn called to the dancing kodani

    An, ur lun karela. Winona sang to Dawn over a harp flourish. Kanade ni sayut, Yukin, lun turatakh wi an sa cen horakh kai no... She brushed the tandai against her face, creating the illusion of tears. at sa shāsakh len Kanade kai nai toshanhech.

    "Do something, Kanade!" Ash called, as if he were Yukin. The crowd agreed, and cries of "Do something!" almost drowned out the harp.

    The moji playing a mystical melody quieted the cries. Kanade lugakh kai din kai tuha sa cen, wir mak won lun pror soch yatēn kai lēt ē nashoh. She showed us the mask again as the ensemble played a tense stinger. Yukin irarakh kai thuhad kai het ē lāvoh, wir Kanade lurakh mak sur ur lēn pror wa ah auni kun. Prai lāvoh mukh ar musshakh sa nashoh--lun ma urejhela? Lun Kinmura nansetakh kai wakosha ē lon int dah?

    "Not so long as Kanade and Yukin are around, it's not!" Ash announced. The ensemble agreed, and played an adventurous melody as Winona set the mask aside and picked up a short bojo--a wooden dowel-like staff used to represent walking sticks, swords, and even spears--in her other hand.

    Sa pran nu, Yukin pan ih ē sērā ugai kon. Winona sang.

    Ash watched, mesmerized, as Winona told "The Quest for Kirameya". Every twirl, every step, every note, every pattern of the tandai as it fluttered through the air--Winona and her ensemble clearly loved their craft, and it showed. Every once in a while, he would call out encouragement to Kanade, but for the most part, he sat quietly and listened.

    When "The Quest for Kirameya" ended, the lights went down for a moment. When they came up again, Winona wore a purple and light blue costume decorated with silver and gold trim. Leas dir ni wechi aoth ni lurar bag tiri! she sang as she produced a white tandai from her costume.

    "A white tandai and the formal eastern dialect of the mystic tongue...this is a historical tale." I smiled.

    "Not just any historical tale--the tale about the hidden forge we are looking for!" Dawn was excited. 'Maybe the kodani will tell us where to dig!"

    O cidh wudi aghe, o neal nudh bochach ir Kinmura. Winona began as she carefully set a tiny crown on top of her short bojo, balancing it on her hand at the same time. Li bochach chunn o chuni lemh amh gerach tis lun cuari.

    "As a king should." someone commented as the flute led the way into a regal interlude.

    Aoti mu, bodint aoth firant sagher we tsun nain ni bag guka. Winona sang over the droning buzz from the waidan, still balancing the crowned bojo with one hand and holding the white tandai with the other. Ni nudh mashusach nel li chain sín o tiri aissharaimh, ke ith firant umas gedi, lun cuari gain mhikan nararan.

    She set aside the crowned bojo as the drum and bells played a rhythm that sounded like a hammer. Ke aisshareann ni Oran braí nel coirr ni chu we Chamizu, ni nudh sagher sírudh ni tiri...

    Ash nudged Dawn at this. "Say...is the Oran tree the kodani sings of still there?"

    "I think so..." Dawn replied.

    That was all Ash needed to hear--he was more than ready to see if Winona's tale of the lost forge, its stash of weapons, and the monsters inside it was actually true!

    To Be Continued...
    Last edited by FlamingRuby; 19th August 2012 at 12:49 AM.

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    Tale 9: The Tale of the Underground Forge (part 1)


    It did not take us long to find the underground forge outside Chamizu. It turns out we didn't even have to dig.

    We arrived at the Oran tree that grows on the path to Chamizu armed with shovels and picks. "If the king that built this underground forge didn't want anyone stealing the weapons inside, he had to have put the entrance deep underground." Ash explained as he began digging in a patch of dry dirt by the tree.

    "That's true--and the path to the forge proper is at the end of a winding labyrinth." I added as I dug in a patch of dirt by the tree's roots. "So our first challenge is finding the entrance."

    Try as Ash might, the hole he dug didn't reveal any entrances. Then he tried a dry patch of earth by the road--but nothing turned up there either. The hours wore on and the sun grew hot, but no matter where we dug, we could not find an entrance.

    Around noon, Ash finally gave up on his second hole and made his way over to a rock to rest. But when Pikachu leapt on it, he felt it giving way! Ash helped his companion up, then looked down a surprisingly well preserved iron ladder.

    "Could this be the forge?" Dawn asked as she joined Ash at the edge.

    "Only one way to find out!" Ash motioned for us to follow him down the ladder and into the darkness.

    We emerged some moments later in a dimly lit room decorated with faded tapestries bearing the star-like crest of a dynasty long since gone. "It doesn't look too much different from most sanctuary foyers..." Dawn mused as she admired the crescent moon mosaic that made up the floor. Although a few pieces were faded from age or missing, it looked like it may had been part of a palace foyer.

    Ash, meanwhile, discovered a crude map etched into the easternmost wall, reached for Utahime, and touched the bell end to the map. "Glowing Blue Eye, if your aid I need, remember this place, as I follow your lead." The crude map glowed blue for a moment.

    "Interesting spell...what does it do?" Dawn asked as we started down a corridor.

    "Glowing Blue Eye allows me to conjure a map of a location through Utahime." Ash explained. "As she is an enchanted flute, she remembers the map for as long as I am in that place. If I'm lost, I can play to reveal the map, or return to the entrance."

    "I see--you're asking Arceus to guide you through Utahime." Dawn nodded to show she understood before observing the room we had entered. Unlike the entrance, this room was rather plain, save for a small scale, some small tarnished weights, and three other doors, all locked.

    "But how are we going to progress if all the other doors are locked, and there appear to be no means of obtaining a key?" I asked.

    Dawn closed her eyes in prayer. "Great Lord, please reveal to me that which mere mortals cannot see." With that, she began to glow a faint yellow-white, as most mikos did when they received visions from the heavens.

    "Well?" Ash asked. "What do you see?"

    Dawn's aura faded a few seconds later. "Lord Arceus says that the door to the west will allow us further into the labyrinth. The other two are treasure rooms. All three will unlock if we can solve the challenge of the scale."

    I hurried over to the scale and examined the tarnished weight on the right pan. "I think I know what we should do--figure out which of these weights is the same weight as the one already on the scale to balance it."

    "Well, Kiyama--we'll let you place a weight first." Ash suggested.

    I looked over the row of other weights on the rock with the scale--some were too big, and some were too small, but only one matched the weight already on the scale. After moving aside those that were too large or too small, I told Ash and Dawn "After we eliminate the obviously wrong weights, we have four choices remaining." With that, I selected the second weight and placed it on the scale.

    We all held our breaths as the scale appeared to balance, but then sighed when we saw the scale tip downward a little.

    "My turn." Dawn walked over to the scale, added my weight to the rejected pile, and grabbed the third weight. That one also appeared to balance, but it ultimately made the scale tip slightly upward.

    "Well, Ash..." I began as I added Dawn's weight to the rejected pile. "We have narrowed your choices down to two--either way, we will know which weight balances the scale."

    Ash hesitantly grabbed the first weight and placed it on the scale. He heaved a huge sigh of relief as the scale balanced, making all three doors unlock in a flash of white light.

    As we started towards the north treasure room to claim the coins and jewels inside, I hoped to the Great Lord that we were on the right path to Lauki...

    To Be Continued....

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    Tale 10: The Tale of the Underground Forge (part 2)

    When we emerged into the next room from the west door, I wrinkled my nose at the musty smell. "You'd think someone would've kept this place clean...." I grumbled as I gathered up some fragments of rotted rope.

    Dawn, meanwhile, was examining a message hastily scribbled on the east wall. "Ameru stands here, slain by a basilisk..."

    "What does that mean?" Ash asked, piqued.

    "It means that we must be on our guard--a basilisk or something just as frightening may lurk here." Dawn replied." Ash nodded, and followed Dawn out the north door.

    The rustling of Rattatas caught us off guard as we entered the next room. I managed to kill one immediately, but Ash cornered the other one and focused some power into Kunimada. "Holy Sword Beam!" A flash of blue light appeared from the sword, killing the other Rattata."

    "Well done." I smiled as I inspected the two corpses for anything of interest.

    "It is the most basic sword technique an aspiring swordsman--or swordswoman--learns." Ash explained. "All other magic based sword techniques are based on the Holy Sword Beam." I nodded to show I understood.

    "Speaking of swords..." Dawn examined another hastily scrawled message in the western wall. "This says 'You can't kill it with swords...'

    "Hm..." I thought for a moment. "Is it possible the other message about the basilisk and this one are connected?"

    "They could be, and they may not be." Ash told us. "It's also possible that whatever fiend that lurks here is not a basilisk, but something else entirely."

    "Whatever it is, you will have to use Utahime's song to defeat it." Dawn cautioned as we made our way forward.

    My fears grew more and more intense as we passed through the next room. Various scraps of clothing were scattered throughout the room, many of them blood stained. I shuddered as we made our way eastward--what if the fiend in the forge's deepest sanctum was something far stronger than the three of us combined?

    No, Kiyama--stay focused, and be brave! I reminded myself as we made our way eastward. If you die, Yasuna will never get the chance to welcome us home!

    We found what I figured was an altar dedicated to an evil spirit in the next room. "Maybe that's what's making us all jittery." I mused. "Can you purify it, Dawn?"

    "If it would pacify the spirits here, it's the least we can do." Dawn assured me as she opened a bottle of holy water and sprinkled it on the ancient altar, making it glow pale blue as the evil was cleansed from it. "There....I feel calmer already knowing that the spirits here can rest peacefully."

    "Same here." Ash agreed as he led the way out a south doorway.

    A goblin charged at us as we walked in the next room, but Ash ran to meet it, slashing its leg when the two met. With Ash distracted, I aimed an arrow at the goblin's unwounded foot, focusing all my courage into it. "Seeker's Fang!"

    The glowing arrow's impact made sparks fly. That gave Dawn an opportunity to charge! "Holy Dance of Angels!" she cried as her flail went flying into the goblin's ankle, making it trip and fall.

    Ash made a flying leap to deliver the final blow some moments later. "Mist Cutting Moon!" he called as Kunimada engulfed the helpless goblin in ice.

    The next room was rather small, save for an ornate looking chest. Naturally, I ran for it, but the sound of Utahime playing a lighthearted melody made me stop in my tracks--the chest was blocked by a large pit!

    "Thanks..." I giggled as I made my way back to the entrance.

    "While the thought of treasure is exciting, is it worth a long fall into the pits of darkness?" Dawn cautioned me as we made our way out the west door.

    "No...and thank goodness Ash played Wandering Lantern when he did." I replied.

    A large worm hissed at us as we entered the next room, daring us to take the massive pile of coins and jewels it guarded. Ash was not afraid of the hideous green worm before him, and eagerly slashed at one of its upper segments. I managed to pierce its thick hide, but the wound wasn't deep. Dawn tried to attack, but barely scraped her target as the worm grazed her skin.

    She figured her flail would not be much help as Ash delivered another slash. After I made a shot to its head, she charged a ball of red light. "Great lord, may this holy flame show all the world the power of your name! Great Fire Dance!"

    The worm was surprised by the wave of fire surrounding it, and quickly succumbed. "Clever--I did not know a bug would submit to fire." I mused as we helped ourselves to the treasure the worm had been protecting.

    "Bugs are part of the plant domain of the earth point, and earth fears fire in that form." Ash reminded me. He slid open a door leading down to the forge's next level. "Be on guard--I have a feeling the creatures here will get stronger the farther down we go."

    I was more worried about what awaited us in the forge's deepest sanctum--was it really a basilisk, as the messages we had seen claimed? Or was there something far more sinister down there?

    To Be Continued...

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    Tale 11: The Tale of the Underground Forge (part 3)

    I wrinkled my nose at the rotted bread that dotted the floor as we arrived on the third floor. That was obviously a sign that someone else had been inside the forge before us, and had not been so lucky.

    The tomb in one corner of the next room confirmed my suspicions, but was more worrisome was the room itself--there was no sign of a door besides where we had entered.

    Dawn, meanwhile, unearthed a right arrow on the wall by the door. "Hey Ash...play Glowing Blue Eye."

    Ash nodded and played the song, making the wall with the arrow lower like a door. It was still a bit dusty as we stepped into the large room filled with stray swords, flails, and other weapons, but what struck my attention was the large mosaic of monsters and legendary creatures that served as the floor.

    "Amazing..." Ash mused as he knelt down to inspect the mosaic. "Though the image is faded a little, you can still see the many monsters, creatures, and Pokemon the artist created."

    "To be fair, no one has been down here for years." I explained. "That said, do you think the monster that lurks in the deepest sanctum is represented in the picture?"

    "Let's see..." Ash looked over the large image for creatures and Pokemon he knew. "I see Arceus in the center, some kind of winged Ponyta, a bird similar to Moltres, a thousand armed creature being attacked by the three Beasts..."

    "The bird you see must be different because I see Moltres here." Dawn interjected as she pointed out Moltres by Arceus' head.

    "Perhaps this mosaic shows Arceus judging the monsters?" I asked--the image appeared to show Arceus, the other Legendaries, and benevolent creatures attacking monsters.

    "Could be...there are many other creatures in the image." Dawn replied.

    "The half-siren, Lugia, some kind of water demon, a Crobat-like monster..." Ash continued to study the mosaic. "Various ghosts, Ninetales, werecreatures, dark mystics..."

    "Are we ready to move on?" Dawn asked, slightly annoyed.

    Ash scrambled to meet us at the north end of the room. The next room had hundreds of holes in the north and south walls. The question was, which one was the correct way forward?

    "Great Lord, please reveal to me that which mere mortals cannot see." Dawn prayed, making all the holes glow. Luckily, the center hole turned out to be where we needed to go.

    Another mosaic depicting Arceus judging the monsters mate us in the next room, but an Ursaring was hungrily eying us. Ash drew Kunimada, but this made the Ursaring roar again. I fired an arrow in its stomach just as it charged at us.

    "Waltz of the Blade!" Ash slashed the Ursaring's knee with a harsh blow. The Ursaring tried to scratch him, but he quickly jumped away. Before the Ursaring could chase him, Dawn heaved a fire spell at one foot.

    I focused all my rage into my next arrow. "Three Blaze Arrow!"

    The Ursaring didn't expect three arrows to pierce its leg, much less to be slain by White Raikou Slash some seconds later. "Nice work." Dawn smiled after determining the Ursaring's corpse had nothing of interest.

    "Thanks." Ash smiled.

    Various weapons, armors, and other items were scattered within the next rooms--a shield in the next room, a ladder in another, and some spears in a third. I expected that we would see more weapons the closer we got to the forge proper, and the fiend in the deepest sanctum.

    A fireplace met us in the next room, so we took a moment to relax and regain our bearings. I was more worried than ever when I saw another message that said "No, he has eleven eyes" on the wall--just what was it in the innermost sanctum? Did we have a chance of defeating it?

    To Be Continued...

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    Tale 12: The Tale of the Underground Forge (part 4)


    Our expedition into the deepest parts of the forge led us from an ancient building into a cave. While there were Pokemon tracks scattered about the numerous broken arrows, what frightened Ash the most was a large pool of water in the center of the room. The stalactites up above had likely created it, and every time Ash heard a new drop land, he would uneasily look around as the sound echoed throughout the cave.

    Even Pikachu could tell his master was frightened. "Pika?" he asked as he climbed on Ash's shoulder.

    "Please do--it would be helpful to have some light." Ash replied.

    Pikachu nodded, and formed a tiny ball of lightning that surged through his fur, creating a yellow glow that allowed us to see down the rocky paths.

    What we didn't count on was for Ash to almost trip a fire paling. He leapt back when he saw the glowing mandala-like design at the room's entrance. "I didn't know there would be traps here, too!"

    "Peace, Ash..." Dawn assured him. "Paling traps are disarmed by the elemental that defeats it." With that, she charged a rainbow ball of energy. "Water of life, our need is dire, clear us a path through demon's fire!" Colorful Rain!"

    Ash watched, stunned, as the many colored raindrops fell on the paling. "I'll have to keep Utahime handy..." he mused before finding another message scrawled into the rock. "It is awake..."

    We all jumped when we heard a roar in the distance. "I have a feeling we must be close to the deepest sanctum..." I stammered.

    Ash played Glowing Blue Eye, then studied the map that appeared before him. "No--from here we have three more levels before we reach the inner sanctum."

    "Then what was that roar?" I asked as we entered the next room.

    My question was answered when an Ursaring charged in front of us! But before we could ready our weapons, Pikachu pointed out an earth paling in one corner.

    Ash grinned as he make a flying leap into the air. "Moltres Taking Flight!"

    The Ursaring didn't see Ash diving into it from above, and ended up getting pushed into the earth paling from the brunt of Kunimada's blow. "Good thinking, Ash." I smiled as I watched rocks rain onto the Ursaring.

    "A paling can only be tripped once, so we must take advantage of traps in the next few floors if we want to face the fiend at the bottom." Ash explained.

    "The less we have to fight, the better." Dawn agreed as the path turned southward.

    The first few rooms we passed through held nothing of interest, but it wasn't until we saw a rack, a boot, and other means of torture that I started shaking--what if the forge was also used as a torture chamber long ago?

    No--this king was kind and just--not the kind to use torture. I assured myself. Then another idea popped in my head--what if this makeshift torture chamber belonged to the fiend?

    Spinaraks skittered out of the way as we continued south. One room had a line from a Kanade story on the western wall--"Upon the Night of Brass, when the White Buneary lies in blood, the Maiden of Virtue shall awaken." According to the tale, the white Buneary actually symbolized a demon--and it was when this demon was slain that Kanade's powers awakened. We determined it had no connection to our quest and continued on to the east again.

    A groan in the distance startled Pikachu as he watched some Rattatas run by. "Pika pi?"

    "At ease--there's no monster here." I assured him.

    A tapestry depicting goblins attacking a town hung on the east wall of the next room. I swore I heard a tikin playing "Falan Love Song" in one corner of the room, but when we looked again, there was no tikin, much less a tikin player, to be found.

    Dawn decided to see if the tikin song was coming from a spirit. "At ease, wandering spirit....we mean no harm."

    We watched as a young girl clad in an ornate orange and yellow robe appeared, playing a tikin. "Have you slain it?" she asked us. "Did you slay the kasai yurei?

    "Is that the name of the fiend that dwells in the deepest sanctum?" Ash asked the ghost.

    The ghost nodded. "My love went off to drive it away from this holy forge--as he descended into the forge's depths, he left messages to help others that would try and slay it if he did not return."

    "That explains the messages..." I mused.

    "How can we help?" Ash asked.

    "Arceus has told me I would not enter the heavens until someone has slain the kasai yurei." the ghost replied. "If you think one of the six mystic jewels is here, it is not."

    "Even though Lauki is not here, we will still cleanse this place so you can see your beloved again in the heavens." Dawn assured the ghost.

    The ghost smiled as she resumed playing the tikin. Yet as she disappeared and we carefully climbed down to the fifth floor, we heard her voice sigh "Thank you...."

    To Be Continued...

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    Tale 13: The Tale of the Underground Forge (part 5)

    After carefully guiding us down the shaft to the next floor, we found ourselves in a large room, where the steam from below had blown a hole in the eastern wall. A tile map of part of the labyrinth made up the floor--obviously of a floor we had passed through earlier.

    A Venipede studied us for a moment as we tromped through the next room, but it presumed we were no threat as it resumed tunneling through the cave wall.

    I was startled by some headless statues as we entered the next room. Some thumping clued be in on who had beheaded them--a gang of goblins chittered happily as they beheaded another statue of an ancient queen, only to laugh heartily as the stone head landed on the floor with a thump.

    They had no time to react as Ash cut into them in a trail of Cheri blossoms. "Path of Sakura!"

    I helped out by firing an arrow at one that was trying to leap at Dawn, and she quickly scorched another with a fire spell "Star fire, awake and deliver your judgement! Fira!"

    Once sure the goblins' corpses were neatly stacked against the wall, Dawn managed to restore the beheaded statues before we continued on.

    Rotted straw and various arrowheads lay in the next room, so we turned eastward, as per the map in the first room. A second map just like it was in the next room, along with various sized skeletons hanging from the wall. Most of them were human, but Ash recognized a few Pokemon bones as well. He shuddered a little at a Pikachu skeleton hanging over the doorway as he left.

    A message by a fountain in the next room determined the Pikachu skeleton's origin. "It ate Pikachu..." Ash read as he waved away some curious Spinaraks.

    "The kasai yurei must like Pokemon as well as humans." I mused as I threatened a Spinarak with the point of my bow, making it skitter away in fear.

    "Either that, or it transformed into such a creature." Dawn suggested.

    Ash just petted Pikachu. "I'm just glad I have you, my friend."

    "Chu..." Pikachu happily sighed in reply.

    There was nothing but a rusty chain in the next room before we continued south. After winding through a long hallway, we emerged in a room containing an idol of Yofune, in addition to gargoyles perched on the wall and torches adding a dim light to the room.

    "You think this idol is ancient?" Ash wondered.

    "Impossible--the king that built this forge was good ruler." I explained. "Besides, it appears to be of a recent vintage."

    "Kiyama's right--it doesn't have any dust or cracks on it." Dawn mused before laying a hand on it and whispering "Great Lord, please reveal to me that which mortal eyes cannot see."

    "Well?" I asked when the golden glow from her hands faded away.

    "Lord Arceus says that this is fairly new, likely erected by the kasai yurei to commune with Yofune in the underworld." Dawn explained before turning to Ash. "You have Arceus' permission to destroy it in any manner you deem appropriate."

    "I know just the thing..." Ash slid Utahime into his palm and mused "Flames that dance as embers fly, and lightning flash across the sky, combine your power at my call, so all may know Arceus rules all! Red Thunderbolt!"

    He then played a festive tune that caused red thunderbolts to begin striking the idol. The faster he played, the more thunderbolts hit, culminating in a massive explosion at the song's conclusion.

    "You could've just sang a spell..." i suggested as I brushed cinders off my tunic.

    "I know, but we still have two more levels of labyrinth to explore after this, and then the kasai yurei's lair." Ash reminded me. "So I need to save my strength."

    "Have you ever thought about learning to play the harp?" Dawn asked as we entered a room with a faded emerald swirl in the center.

    "Well, I remember Mom playing when I was little, but she never let me play on it." Ash replied as he gathered up some of the empty bottles lying in one corner of the room. "So I just bypassed the harp and went straight to the flute. Having said that..." He paused to show us a stairwell leading downward in the next room. "I would love to learn if it was a handheld one like Brock's."

    "I would be honored to teach you." I assured him. "In fact, with enough practice, you could probably rival Brock's skill!"

    To Be Continued...

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    Tale 14: The Tale of the Underground Forge (part 6)


    A Spinarak skittered past us as we arrived in the entry room. "You know...I've always wanted to learn to wield a sword..." Dawn mused as we carefully stepped around some stalagmites. "So if you taught me how to wield a small sword, would you let me teach you the harp?"

    Ash was a bit dumbfounded by the question. "Is it possible for a miko to wield a sword?"

    "As a matter of fact, yes!" I replied. "I have seen mikos wield the small, yet mighty shoken before..."

    A smile formed on Ash's face. "Tell you what...when we get to Chamizu, I'll buy you a shoken and you can buy me a harp. Then, we can teach each other our respective skills."

    "Consider it a deal." Dawn replied.

    Our route turned westward down a long hallway, which in turn came out in a room with several passageways. "Now which way?" I asked. Besides where we had entered, the room also had routes leading east and west.

    Dawn, however, was interested in some ancient runes by the northern wall. "This is...a secret door?" She tried to brush away the dust in an attempt to read a word smudged in ancient paint and further marred by dust, but the door gave way!

    Ash scrambled into the new room and caught Dawn seconds before she landed on the cold floor. "Are you okay?" he asked. Aside from a little dust on her robes, Dawn didn't appear to be in any pain.

    "I'm fine...thank you for your kind concern." Dawn smiled as she brushed off the dust. Once she was presentable again, she looked around the new room. "Another demon idol..." she mused when she spotted a vaguely draconic idol in the eastern corner of the room. She offered me four of her tomi cards. "Would you like to destroy this idol, Kiyama?"

    "Sure!" I replied.

    "These are four of my instrument spirit seirei." Dawn explained as she fanned out the cards before me. "The Spirit of the Harp, which holds the power of light...the Spirit of the Tikin, which holds fire...the Spirit of the Moji, which holds water...and the Spirit of the Flute, which holds wind."

    I needed no time to choose which spirit I wanted to summon. "Spirit of the Harp, may your song resonate in our hearts!"

    The card glowed, and a young girl clad in a long golden robe appeared, a majestic bow-shaped harp in her hands. "What is your request, master?" she asked, ever aware of the swarm of Venipedes headed in our direction.

    "Destroy those Venipedes and that demonic idol with your holy song." I replied.

    The Spirit of the Harp nodded. "Hear now 'Flowers in the Garden At Sunrise'. With that, she began playing a peaceful melody that engulfed the Venipedes in light.

    "Pika?" Pikachu gasped as the Spirit's song created golden auras around us.

    "I feel stronger..." Ash gasped when he saw the aura around him. "and courageous!" He was about to draw Kunimada when he saw a flash of silver light streak towards the idol, shattering it into a thousand pieces.

    I gave the Spirit of the Harp a little bow when she finished her song. "Thank you, seirei."

    "I will be waiting for your call." the Spirit of the Harp smiled before returning to the form of a card again.

    Dawn retrieved the card and shuffled it back into her deck of tomi cards. "Remember how the Spirit of the Harp played when you learn the harp for yourself." she reminded Ash.

    Ash nodded as he admired the many royal tapestries hanging on the cave walls. Though they were worn and faded from age, I couldn't help but wonder if he was imagining what they may have looked like when they were new.

    I found a cryptic message on the western wall of the next room. "Crimson, gray, ruby?"

    Dawn studied the faded letters. "This message is far too faded for me to ready any more of it...it could be a description of the <i>kasai yurei</i> for all we know." Ash nodded and led us onward.

    He played Glowing Blue Eye on Utahime some moments later, making a door form on the west wall of the next room. We climbed through a large hole in the western wall in that room, but as we climbed down to the next level, I noticed a message that warned "It's a trap". Did it refer to the kasai yurei? Or did it refer to something else entirely?

    Whatever the ominous message referred to, we were about to find out.

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    Tale 15: The Tale of the Underground Forge (part 7)


    I was relieved when we saw a fireplace in the next room. "Thank Arceus for somewhere warm!"

    "I'll say...I was starting to get a little cold." Dawn agreed. We weren't sure if someone had been in the forge before us and lit the fire, or if it had been magically lit. However it was lit, a warm fire was a welcome sight in a cold cave.

    Despite the relative peacefulness of the room, our impending battle with the kasai yurei weighed heavily on my mind. Sure, Ash had Utahime, and Dawn had innate magical power as a miko, but what magical powers did I have, if any?

    I thought back to our earlier battles, and how my anger and determination enchanted my arrows--was it possible that I had magic power inside me as well?

    "Remember that message that said 'you can't hit it with swords'? I asked. "What if that also applies to arrows as well?"

    "Your emotions adding the elements to your arrows is a sign you have a little magic power." Dawn assured me. "However, I'm pretty sure you can't hit a ghost with arrows either."

    I sighed--I wanted to help my friends, and yet it appeared I had no other means to attack besides my bow.

    A thought occurred to me as we left the fireplace room and started down a hallway--what if I could channel magic through my harp, like Ash wanted to learn to do?

    I got a chance to test my theory as a swarm of Spinaraks met us in the next room. "Resounding Chord of Fire!"

    The Spinaraks scurried to get away from the flames that formed from the harp strings, but the cinders my spell had left behind left the smell of burnt poison in the air.

    "Next time you try a fire spell, can it not be against something with poison?" Ash asked be as he pulled his tunic over his face to try and block out the smell.

    Dawn was more interested in another message engraved on the western wall. "'Sharpen thy sword and ready thy shield'?"

    "We must be getting close." Ash replied as he brushed aside more charred Spinarak's remains.

    After wading through the knee deep sand in the next room (thankfully with no sand worms to be had), we came across a mural depicting an ancient army clashing with goblins. Seeing Kanade in the image gave me new resolve--just as she never gave up on her adventures, we wouldn't rest until the kasai yurei was slain and the ghost of the forge was avenged.

    Some Ratattas scurried by us as our path forward turned into a slope leading downward. A roar startled me at first as we approached an ornate door, but I did my best to hide my fear as we approached.

    When we arrived at the bottom of the slope, we found one last message--the first word was marred by dust, but the rest of it read "lies here, slain by a flaming spirit". "This must be our target's lair..." Dawn mused. She gasped as her hand brushed against a switch hidden in the wall, making the ornate door rumble open.

    "This is it...we can't go back now." With that, we entered the darkness that led to the kasai yurei's lair...

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    Tale 16: The Tale of the Underground Forge (part 8)

    Ash angrily eyed the hideous orange spirit waiting for us in the next room. "You that dares to desecrate this place--no more will you feed on fallen heroes!"

    With that, he played a mystical melody on Utahime, sending a blue beam of ice speeding into the spirit's stomach.

    "Lord Arceus, give Ash's blade the might to cut through things hidden from sight! Rune Blade!" Dawn called. The spirit balked as ancient glowing runes appeared on Ash's blade--now he could fight with Kunimada!

    I motioned to Dawn. "Is it possible for you to enchant my arrows so they could hit the <i>kasai yurei?</i>"

    Dawn nodded. "In fact, I could change the spell to enchant any weapon by naming whatever I needed to enchant while naming the spell." With that, she closed her eyes and began focusing her power again. "Lord Arceus, grant Kiyama's arrow the might to pierce things hidden from her sight! Rune Arrow!"

    "Thanks!" I replied as I took one of my now glowing arrows and fired it into the spirit's stubby arms. It howled in anger and heaved a fireball at my own elbow. Although I rolled out of the way as I retreated to a stone ledge, it still singed the sleeve of my tunic and left behind a small burn.

    Dawn saw me holding my wounded arm and charged a ball of light. "Seven colors of healing light, rain down and show the dark your might! Rainbow Burst!"

    The room lit up with many colors of beams as I climbed on the ledge. While a green beam healed my burn, the majority of them landed in the spirit's stomach.

    Ash, meanwhile, took advantage of the rainbow light stunning the spirit to strike it in the side. The spirit countered by transforming into a form that was both human and dragon at the same time--a ryuto. It saw Ash rushing to attack it again, and slapped him with its hand, knocking Ash backwards.

    Though Ash had the wind knocked out of him, the ryuto couldn't reach me with its tiny wings, so it blew a spiral of dark magic in my direction. I fired an arrow at its leg, which dispelled the brunt of the attack, but it was still strong enough to knock me to the ground.

    About then, Ash had recovered from the ryuto's attack enough to play an excerpt of a hymn on Utahime, creating protective circles around all of us and forcing the spirit to shift into the form of a werewolf.

    Say...since werewolves fear silver, I wonder if the Rune Arrow has the same effect? I thought as I readied an arrow. But before I could fire, the spirit shifted into the form of a dark knight. My enchanted arrow had no effect--it just bounced off the spirit's armor with a tink

    Ash was undeterred by the sudden turn of events. "Shining Wave of Light!"

    With that, he began a festive melody on Utahime, making a wave of light wash over the dark knight.

    Dawn studied the knight as it clutched its wounded arm in pain. "I think you got its sword arm, Ash!"

    But before Ash could play Shining Wave of Light again, the spirit shifted again, this time into a large golem. I sighed--even enchanted blades and arrows couldn't cut through stone unless enchanted by a powerful spell.

    Dawn seemed to sense our frustration, and charged a blue ball of light in her hands. "When none of our weapons won't suffice, help me break through the rock with the power of ice! Icy Silver Crystal!"

    The golem quizzically looked down at the silver pool of ice forming around it, leaving it no time to react when it was surrounded by silvery crystals, leaving it frozen in a block of ice.

    Ash was about to sheathe Kunimada when he saw a crack begin to form in the ice! "We're not out of the woods yet!" At that moment, the spirit broke free in its original form, howling desperately, and knocking us all to the ground!

    "Too...loud..." I groaned from the screech.

    "I...can't...move..." Dawn agreed as she too struggled to get up.

    Jao wiisha--! was as far as Ash got in singing the Great Spellsong of Fire when the spirit screamed again, forcing him to cover his ears as he hit the ground again.

    I realized what Ash was trying to do. "The kasai yurei is using a form of spellsinging to render us unable to move..."

    "So if Ash manages to get off...the Great Spellsong..." Dawn winced as the spirit continued to scream. "he could potentially do the same thing to it! That way, we could finish it off once and for all!"

    Finally, the room went silent for a moment as the kasai yurei weighed its options. "Now's your chance, Ash!" I whispered.

    "I don't know if I have enough strength...." Ash groaned as he slowly stood up.

    "Can't you at least try?" I pleaded.

    "Think about Pikachu on the surface, and that lady spirit we're helping." Dawn added. "If we die, Pikachu will be all alone, and that spirit will never see her beloved again!"

    "I know you can do it--you've done it before." I continued.

    Ash said nothing, but faced the kasai yurei, getting its attention. But before it could scream and knock him to the ground again, Ash sang Jao wiisha nes chiel com yutuul...

    "He did it!" I cried as a large circle of light surrounded the spirit.

    Our celebration was cut short when the kasai yurei shifted into a siren and sang Rou iitsa ron selga vichii..., making the room begin to flood with water!

    "Oh no..." Dawn swallowed hard. We hadn't counted on this.

    "It's trying to take us with it by flooding the room with water!" I explained as I led the way to the ledge I was perched on before. It was a little hard to walk as the water level slowly rose higher and higher, but we eventually made it to higher ground.

    "Maybe I can use the same spellsong to freeze the water at its current level!" Dawn suggested. "As a miko, I can use the Four Great Spellsongs at their full potential."

    With that, she sang Rou iitsa ron selga vichii..., stopping the water flow as what water was present froze into a layer of ice, trapping the siren as well.

    "It worked!" I smiled.

    The spirit shifted to an ice dragon as one last attempt to destroy us, but Ash readied Utahime to play as he called over the dragon's roar "Great Fire Dance!"

    With that, he began playing a victorious melody, surrounding the white dragon in flames! It howled in pain as the fire consumed it, but Ash's song overpowered it, destroying it and melting the ice in the process.

    "It's over..." Dawn heaved a sigh of relief as Utahime's song warped us out of the forge and back on the plain outside Chamizu, where Pikachu was waiting.

    "Pika!" he smiled as he ran into Ash's waiting arms.

    "I'm glad to see you too..." Ash agreed as he hugged Pikachu. But then he saw a blue light fly out from the forge entrance, which met a red light flying down to meet it.

    "The spirits..." I assured Dawn as they formed into the girl from before and a young man. "By defeating the kasai yurei, we have cleansed the ancient forge of evil and allowed them to reunite in heaven."

    "Words cannot express my gratitude for bringing my beloved back to me, mortal of earth." the male spirit began.

    "We know not why you seek the Six Points of Magic, but we and all the hosts of heaven believe you will find them and awaken Lord Arceus." the female spirit added.

    "Thank you." Dawn replied. She waved goodbye as the two spirits became lights again and flew towards the heavens.

    "Pika!" Pikachu called after the spirits. "Pika pikachu!"

    Ash, meanwhile, knelt at the place the spirits had appeared to us, took Utahime, and started playing a prayerful melody to the sunny sky above us, both grateful to be alive and thankful that we had met the spirits.

    Dawn recognized the song Ash was playing. "'A Peaceful Road to Heaven'--a hymn often played at funerals to wish the spirit--or in our case, spirits--a safe journey to the heavens."

    We listened to the peaceful melody echo across the plains. When Ash finished, Pikachu politely applauded the tune as we gathered our gear and started down the road to Chamizu. Finally, Dawn asked "Why did you play that song?"

    "I wanted to thank them for helping us and wish both of them well on their journey to heaven." Ash explained. "So I felt playing 'A Peaceful Road to Heaven' was the least I could do."

    "Pika chu?" Pikachu requested.

    "A victory song?" Ash was confused.

    "We did defeat a large monster back there..." I reminded him. "So I see no harm in a victory march."

    Ash thought for a moment, then launched into, appropriately enough, "A Triumphant Welcome on the Festival Day", which rang across the plains as we continued down the road into the setting sun...

    To Be Continued...

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    Tale 17: The Tale of the First Harp Lesson


    It was market day in Chamizu, and I couldn't be more grateful to arrive in an inn to rest after our adventure in an ancient forge. While I paid for a room, Ash and Dawn went their separate ways.

    They returned some hours later with gifts for each other--Ash a sword for Dawn, and Dawn a harp for Ash. "It's beautiful!" Dawn smiled as she drew the mythril shoken, admiring its crystalline guard with an aquamarine in the middle of it. Sapphires were also there, embedded in the silver grip.

    Ash was equally enamored in the harp Dawn had bought for him--a vaguely circle-shaped instrument with flowers and leaves as decoration. "I think I'll name it..." He paused for a moment to think of a good name. "Yukanmune." No sooner had he spoke the name, did the harp glow a soft red as some of his magical power flowed into it.

    Dawn smiled. "Consider it my thanks for being a brave warrior and a great friend."

    We traveled to a field outside of town later that afternoon--if Ash had given his new harp magic power by naming it, we would at least be somewhere where no damage would be caused if he accidentally cast a spell.

    "All right." Dawn began as Ash finished putting on the fingerpicks that came with his new harp. "You'll notice that Yukanmune has guide strings--do's are the red strings, and fa's are the black ones."

    "Oh, so that's why some of the strings are colored..." Ash mused.

    "Remember, only the picks should touch the strings." Dawn gently reminded him after spotting some of the fingers on his left hand touching the strings. "Your non-playing hand should be supporting the harp in your lap." Ash nodded and did his best to mimic Dawn's relaxed pose with her own harp--a lyre-shaped instrument with wings for the tops and diamonds inset within flower decorations.

    "If your shoulder hurts or your fingers tingle, relax and make sure you're not tense, and you are evenly distributing your harp's weight on your non playing hand." I reminded him.

    "Go ahead--explore your new instrument a bit." Dawn urged.

    That was all the encouragement Ash needed--he managed to find and pick out a C major scale. Dawn smiled as he explored a simple chord progression and improvised around it. Even Pikachu smiled as he listened to the hesitant first progression take shape in fits and starts.

    "Now try it in a minor key." I suggested.

    "Minor key?" Ash was confused.

    "If you know the name of a major key, step down to <i>la</i>--or the equivalent note, and you have a minor scale." I explained.

    Ash nodded, located an A string and started improvising around the A minor scale. For one moment, he looked like one of the great harpists in a theater orchestra, playing an ominous song to set the mood for a tense scene.

    "That was great!" Dawn applauded him when the last note died. "You just played your first song!"

    "Th-thanks..." Ash blushed, flattered by the applause. "I just made it up..."

    "Keep practicing." I reminded him. "Brock did not learn all of the songs he knows overnight, and you won't either."

    "Nor did I learn all I know with the sword in one night...." Ash agreed. "So I'm gonna practice the harp like I did the sword--extra hard!" We laughed as he played a triumphant chord for effect.

    To Be Continued...

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    Tale 18: The Tale of the Western Prophet


    After Ash spent the better part of the day breaking in his new harp, Yukanmune, we made our way to the temple of Chamizu for the night. We arrived not long before evening prayers, so Ash got to play Yukanmune to accompany the two hymns the disciples sang that evening ("Arceus Watches From the Sky" and one of my favorite evening hymns, "Moonlight Falls Upon the Land.") He didn't sound too shabby, so much so that he got a few compliments when prayers were over.

    When the disciples had left, Ash told the high priest the reason for our journey. "I have heard troubling rumors that the Grand Emperor seeks to awaken the dark dragon and try to control him, and so we are traveling to seek out the Jeweled Shrines and use the sacred gems to awaken Arceus."

    The high priest nodded. "It has been foretold by Hitomi, the Silver Seer, that a mad emperor would try and harness forbidden power."

    "I know of her--she lives far away on the peak of Mt. Baiyin far to the west." Dawn interjected.

    "That, and her prophecies are almost always correct." I added.

    "Arceus granted her immortality and her great wisdom as a reward for her devotion to Him." the high priest went on. "Two hundred years have passed since the last time a prophecy of hers did not come to pass, so she is someone you can trust for guidance on your travels."

    "What can you tell us about the prophecy?" I asked.

    "It goes like this..." the priest began as he lit the candles on the ends of the main altar. "A thousand years after Yofune's fall,
    A king gone mad will rise
    To try and call him forth from the underworld,
    Bringing Kinmura to its knees as he flies..."

    "Makes sense...if Yofune is ever awakened from the underworld, Kinmura will be destroyed." Ash mused.

    "The next part concerns you, young warrior." the priest went on. "But as Kinmura's people look northward,
    A red star shines in the skies
    Which will bring forth the Six Points of Magic
    So Arceus will also rise."

    "That's it!" I cried when the lightbulb went off in my head. "Ash is the red star, and our journey to the shrines awakens the Six Points of Magic."

    "And the six jewels from the Jeweled Shrines awakens Arceus in turn." the priest smiled. "In order, they are Lauki, the ruby of fire, Maiki, the emerald of earth, Vesiki, the sapphire of water, Tuliki, the topaz of wind, Yoki, the amethyst of darkness, and Kirki, the diamond of light."

    "Yes--we currently are searching for Lauki." i explained.

    "Running about Kinmura wily-nily won't get you anywhere." the priest cautioned. "It would be wise to make the perilous journey to Mt Baiyin and visit Hitomi to learn the locations of the Jeweled Shrines."

    Ash nodded. "We understand and accept this challenge, no matter what happens."

    "Yes, the Grand Emperor must not awaken Yofune." I agreed.

    The priest then led us to the hallway to the visitor's quarters. "Then you may rest here tonight before one of the disciples escorts you through the pass to Haradori in the morning."

    "Pika." Pikachu gave the priest a little bow before running to catch up with Ash.

    "My companion says thank you for your hospitality." Ash replied as we made our way to a room to rest for the night.

    Little did we know, the might was going to be anything but peaceful.

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    Tale 19: The Tale of Terror in the Night


    We went to bed confident that we would be escorted to Haradori in the morning. That all changed around midnight.

    Some thumping and clattering from across the hall startled Ash awake. "What was that?"

    "What was what?" I yawned as I too sat up in bed.

    "That clattering across the hall..." Ash laid a hand on his his stomach, as if he felt sick. I also knew the gesture meant something was wrong. "Someone's here...and they do not come in peace."

    "Calm down--let's gather our weapons and go see for ourselves." Dawn assured us as she climbed out of bed and retrieved her gear.

    We hurried across the hall and threw open the door. "Make the Colors in the Sky!" Ash commanded, playing a long, flowing chord on Yukanmune that conjured several balls that burst into flower-like shapes with a loud pop.

    The high priest met us in the thoroughly ransacked room. "Alas, you are a few moments too late, young warrior...another one of our disciples is gone." he sighed as the last ball exploded with a pop.

    "Who is taking these holy apprentices?" I asked.

    "Moments ago, cultists in disguise as bandits burst in here and kidnapped another of our apprentices." the high priest explained. "Why they are taking apprentices, I don't know, but nine others have also been taken. This one marks the tenth."

    "Why would they need ten clerics?" I asked.

    "And here I was hoping to scare the fiends off..." Ash muttered. "That spell is not meant to harm its target, but merely startle them."

    "If I may, I can ask Arceus for any clues." Dawn suggested before clearing away some blankets, books, and pieces of smashed pots and approaching an altar. "Lord Arceus..." she began as she knelt before the altar. "Someone is in danger, a friend most dear; show us all what happened here."

    When she got up from the altar and approached us, Dawn was glowing a soft blue. She held out her hands, projecting a time loop of what had most likely occurred minutes before.

    I first saw an image of the high priest and the disciples sleeping peacefully. Suddenly, five men all in black burst into the window. Three of them worked on fending off the surprised and angry disciples as the other two captured their target.

    Ash thought for a moment as he watched the chaos unfold. Okay...so five cultists came in here--three of them were for a distraction, while only two needed to capture their target. He watched the cultists carry off the captured disciple, now bound and gagged, into the night. And that is where we came in. he thought as an image of himself burst into the room and cast the spell.

    Suddenly, the image changed to a cave somewhere in Kinmura. A circle of hooded black figures walked around a magic circle glowing with an eerie purple glow, chanting in a language I figured was the demonic tongue.

    "What is this?" I asked as the image zoomed out to show the ten captured disciples--each of them blindfolded, bound, and gagged--on the edges of the magic circle.

    A taller figure in a more elaborate black robe--apparently the leader--accepted a twisted blade with a guard shaped like a Hydreigon's head from an apprentice. "He's gonna--!" one apprentice stammered in fear as a captured apprentice was led into the center of the glowing circle.

    Sure enough, we winced as we heard the sickening sound of a blade cutting through skin, and the slain apprentice fell in a heap to the floor.

    Even the horrifying scene was too much for Dawn as the vision disappeared and she fell forward. The high priest caught her and laid her down on a bed.

    "Dawn!" Ash dashed over to the bed. "Are you okay?"

    "What was that terrifying vision?" I pleaded.

    "Peace--your friend is merely exhausted from channeling the Great Lord's power." the high priest assured us. "Even the greatest priests and mikos are overwhelmed like this on occasion."

    "When will she wake up again?" I asked--I had never seen Dawn tire like this.

    "Not until morning, I'm afraid." the high priest replied as two apprentices hurried to make Dawn comfortable. "Apparently the Great Lord showed her what the cultists plan to do with the ten captured apprentices--use them as sacrifices for an evil ritual. The combined stress of channeling Arceus' power and the horror of what she saw was too much for her body to handle"

    A determined look formed on Ash's face. "Then I will find this place and stop the evil ritual before it even begins!"

    "You plan to save the captured apprentices?" the high priest asked. "While I do not deny your gifts with the blade and magic, understand that it could be a dangerous journey--and that the horrifying scene we saw could be taking place even now."

    "I know, but I still want to try and save them!" Ash protested.

    "Your goal is noble to be sure, but for the moment, let us return to bed." the high priest suggested. "We can plan for a rescue mission in the morning."

    TO BE CONTINUED...

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    Tale 20: The Tale of Planning a Journey


    Before we left the temple, we decided to plan our route to Mt. Baiyin. Going through Haradori Pass wasn't a must, but very helpful if you were going straight there. But we couldn't go straight there--not with the lives of ten apprentices in the balance. Ash decided to kill two Pidgeys with one stone--find the fastest way to the mountain that at the same time led us to the cultists' hideout, wherever it was.

    "Okay..." he began as he unrolled a map of the area onto the table we were seated at by the library entrance. "We are right here at Chamizu." He pointed out the city of Chamizu near the right edge. "and Mt. Baiyin is all the way over here..." He pointed out a mountain sitting on the map's northern edge. "The question is, what is the fastest way to get there that would also lead us to the ten captives?"

    Dawn looked over at me. "Why not let Kiyama try mapping a route first? She is a skilled tactician, after all."

    "Preferably a route where we don't have to go through the pass." Ash whispered as I overlaid some paper over the map so my drawing a route would not leave any marks.

    After marking our start and end points with dots on the paper, I began describing my route. "If we leave here and follow the hills, we'll come to the town of Tamora." I explained as I marked the town on my route. "After that, though, it's mainly mountains and wilds, with plenty of ruins and caves to explore."

    "You sure we need to go through that many ruins and caves?" Dawn asked when she saw all the ruins, caves, and dungeons marking my westward route. "We'd hardly have any strength to save the captives, much less climb Mt. Baiyin."

    "I know, but one of them could be holding the captives." I protested.

    "Kiyama may be onto something..." Ash assured Dawn as he set the paper with my traced route on the table with the map as a reference, grabbed a brush of his own, and traced over my route in red until he got to where I had marked Tamora. "We don't want to go too far up into the mountains, but what if we explored the Shrine of Enchanted Storms, turned south into the Forest of Prayers, and brave the Maze of Twisted Runes before following the wildlands west to the mountain?"

    Dawn thought about Ash's route for a moment before she took a brush and traced up to where I had marked Tamora in blue. "While a maze makes perfect sense for the Black Circle Cult to hide their captives, what if they are hidden somewhere in the wilds Ash mentioned?" she explained as her route generally followed a westerly path from Tamora. "True, we would have to go through the Valley of Wandering Spirits and brave the Shadowed Citadel, but at least we wouldn't have to brave any of the monsters of the mountains."

    "You know...it may be easier if we traveled to Tamora first before we decide on our ultimate route." I suggested. "That way we could take any rumors into account in our planning."

    "Great idea!" Ash smiled as he got up from the table. "Since Tamora is the last form of civilization before the wildlands, many travelers headed to Mt Baiyin gather there."

    Little did we know that our route to the mountain was going to be longer than any of us imagined...
    Last edited by FlamingRuby; 6th January 2013 at 2:13 AM.

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    Tale 21: The Tale of Tamora's Illness


    The moment we arrived in Tamora, I knew something was wrong.

    Instead of townsfolk waving hello and maybe the teion sounding to announce my arrival, the town miko and elders met us at the front gate and began feeling around our bodies and casting the spell Cleansing Light for any form of illness.

    Ash let the elders know of his discomfort in no uncertain terms. "What's the meaning of this? We're fine, do we look sick to you? Oh, I see, maybe we're carrying contraband!"

    "Peace, lad--we mean no harm or discomfort to you or your friends." the head elder assured us. "It's just that with many of the townsfolk either sickened or dying from the kurohi, we are checking everyone--resident and outsider--for the symptoms of the disease when they enter."

    Ash blushed at this. "I see....forgive me of my outburst from before. It was just so sudden, and I have not felt ill recently."

    "I know of the kurohi--a powerful curse only elite shamans in service to the dark dragon can cast." Dawn interjected. "Symptoms include fatigue, a very high fever, sore spots, and intense pain all throughout the body. The pain is what leads some to call it "black fire"

    "There are some healing herbs and spells that will ease this pain, but more often than not, the patient dies before they can be cured." the miko sighed as she led us to the temple. "That's why we have quarantined everyone inside their houses until we have the black fire under control."

    "Do you know how or why this black fire outbreak occured?" I asked as we arrived in the temple's main prayer hall.

    The miko bid the elders goodbye, then lit the four candles on the altar. "I'm not sure how the outbreak occurred, but I think I know the why after studying the rituals of shamans."

    She paused to say a quick prayer for the suffering, then continued. "Yofune is one of the harshest beings for a shaman to serve, and only the strongest and most capable end up serving him."

    "What else can you tell us about the black fire?" Ash interrupted.

    "It is a unique disease that can only be magically induced, and even then, on a single target." the miko replied. "Once infected, the patient can then infect many others--usually the best way to end an outbreak is to kill the one initially infected. But that's what the elders and I don't understand--the people of Tamora make an honest living in the mountain mines, and Arceus has said not one of us has angered him, so who could have dabbled in the dark arts enough to be infected with the black fire?"

    "Maybe it is a shaman who made the caves their home?" I suggested.

    "What do you mean?" The miko was confused.

    "I too have studied shamans and their dark arts, and it is not uncommon for them to seek out clearings, alcoves, and caves to practice hexes and curses." Dawn explained. "It's possible that a young shaman in service to Yofune made their home in the mines, offended Yofune in some way, and in his rage, he infected this shaman with the black fire."

    My eyes lit up--Dawn could be on to something! "The shaman's infection then spread to the Pokemon of the mines, who in turn infected the humans that came into the mines, who then infected the rest of the town."

    "A very plausible chain of events, yushin." the miko smiled. "But with everyone quarantined, no one has dared venture into the mines to find out if this is indeed the case."

    "Do you know a spell that can protect against infection with black fire?" Ash asked. "We may be outsiders, but we wish to end your suffering once and for all."

    "Yes...I do know such a spell, but now would not be a good time to venture into the mines--certainly not after you have traveled all this way." the miko replied.

    "If you will grant us food, supplies, and a night's lodging, we will investigate in the morning." I offered.

    "I accept your offer." the miko smiled. "May Arceus protect you from the black fire!"

    TO BE CONTINUED...

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    Tale 22: The Tale of Cleansing the Mines (part 1)


    After being blessed by Tamora's miko against the black fire, we descended into the mines the next morning, with one of the miners that knew how to fight, Yakan, going with us as our guide.

    "Here is the foyer that serves as our meeting quarters." he began as we landed in a large open room. The room looked more like a room in a tavern than a cave--there were tables, chairs, and beds everywhere, with a slab of rock serving as a bar, complete with an array of glasses and drink ingredients.

    "Altar to Arceus is over here..." Yakan went on, showing us a simple altar carved from a white rock at the south end of the large room. "Many of my crew always pray here before going deeper into the mines." He then gestured to an ornate silver mirror studded in sapphires hanging on an eastern wall. "This is the Oracle's Mirror--you can ask the Gardevoir said to watch over this mine a simple question about what lurks in the mine, or what is plentiful here."

    "Most Gardevoirs and Gallades that watch over mines replenish what is lost, so mountain veins rarely run dry." Dawn noted.

    Ash, meanwhile, wasted no time in asking the mirror a question. "Lady of the mine, please bless the meek with the wisdom and knowledge that they seek..."

    An image of a Gardevoir formed in the mirror a few moments later. "Answers you have sought, and answers you will find...tell me ze burning questions zat may be on your mind." she began, her voice assuring and quiet.

    "Lady of the mine, I am told that the black fire runs rampant here...do you know anything about who could have initially infected the mine?" Ash asked. "The people in town believe that a shaman in the black dragon's service contracted the disease after failing to please him."

    "Ze townsfolk are somewhat correct, but it was not ze shaman that was infected." the Gardevoir replied. "Ze young shaman was actually killed instantly by a monster zat ze black dragon intentionally infected with ze curse. It is zis monster you must slay in order to cleanse ze mines and ze town."

    Dawn gave the Gardevoir in the mirror a little bow. "Thank you for your response--where can we find the fiend?"

    "Ze monster lurks on the seventh level of ze mine--but even zough you are protected from ze black fire, be wary of ze many other monsters and traps zat lurk here." the Gardevoir warned before disappearing into the mist.

    "Magic Guiding Lantern." Ash playing Utahime echoed into the mines, the song making a small horde of zombies rush to flee the spots of light that the spell formed, killing them. Once all the zombies had died, the spots of light concentrated into large ball that lit up a small throne sitting atop a ruined dais.

    "You do not want to run into zombies here--particularly with the black fire afoot." Yakan cautioned as we made our way northward. "They'll literally suck all the life out of you."

    "Point duly noted." I stammered--luckily, Ash had Utahime and Yukanmune, and Dawn had her own holy spells, so it would have to take a very strong zombie for us to be concerned.

    A long sloping corridor was what worried me even more. "You know what sort of trap awaits us if you find a long sloping corridor like this?"

    Yakan nodded as he heard a low rumble in the distance. "Boulder trap!"

    We dove into an alcove in the western wall, just as a large boulder rumbled by us....

    TO BE CONTINUED...

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    Tale 23: The Tale of Cleansing the Mines (part 2)


    We waited in the alcove for a few more minutes after the boulder had rumbled past, just to be sure more where not headed our way. Once sure our path to the next level of the mines was clear, Ash led the way downstairs.

    But when we tried opening the door that led out of the room we arrived in, it wouldn't budge, no matter how hard we shoved and pulled at it. "That door's a bit sticky, so a good push should budge it." Yakan interjected.

    "We've been giving it a good push, and so far it won't budge, even with two or three of us combining our strength." Dawn protested.

    I noticed Ash had a thoughtful look on his face. "What are you contemplating so hard?"

    He said nothing, but took Utahime and commanded "Blue Sonic Wave!"

    We were confused at first as he played a soft hypnotic melody that resonated through the cave. But then Dawn noticed the blue waves of energy flying at the stuck door. "I see...Although Blue Sonic Wave is meant to be a non-elemental spell to stun monsters, the waves' force may also be able to push the stuck door open."

    "Note that Ash is playing softly." I explained to Yakan. "The strength of Blue Sonic Wave depends on the volume of the sound playing it. We don't want to break down the door--just unstick it."

    Yakan just chuckled. "Pretty creative way to open a door, if you ask me." The door finally opening with a sickening creak punctuated his point.

    We made our way eastward into a room filled with crystals on the walls. But Dawn noticed a chilling message lit by some blue crystals on the northern wall. "Save yourself, kill the others?"

    "What could that mean?" I wondered.

    "There are a number of possible meanings..." Dawn explained as she shooed some Spinaraks away. "It could be our foe taunting us, it could be the young shaman's last message before the black fire claimed her, it could have even been a warning from a miner. But who wrote this message and why, I don't know."

    Yakan studied the crudely carved message for a moment. "Doesn't look like the writing of anybody I know...let's just keep going for now."

    Ash agreed. "Yeah, we'll find out who wrote it soon enough."

    After turning south and passing through another empty room, we came out in a long and winding passageway. "Here's the long and twisting passage we like to call the Rock Maze." Yakan explained as we wound our way down the many corridors. "If you're not careful, you can be stuck down here for days."

    "That's very reassuring." I sighed.

    Luckily, we made it through the Rock Maze without any problem. But dawn was most excited to see a well in the southern corner of the room that led down to the next level. "Is the water in that well safe to drink?"

    "Sure is--one of our favorite spots to get a drink on our way back to the surface." Yakan replied. "Go on, take as much as you like."

    I wasted no time in refilling my water bottle, and Ash did the same. But when I tasted the water, it was ice cold, sweet and refreshing, as fresh water should be. We all needed a drink to combat dry throats from the dust in the mines; and it would likely get dustier the further down we went....

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    Tale 24: The Tale of Cleansing the Mines (part 3)


    We descended a long ramp down onto the next floor. Aside from a salty smell in the northwest corner, and a few Rattatas scurrying about, we continued on. The Rattatas had shown no interest in us as we tromped through their room, so we were not going to waste any time fighting them, in an attempt to conserve energy (and arrows, in my case.)

    Luckily, we were told this was a small floor, but some of the deeper floors would be bigger. That made my heart race--what if we were lost forever in the mines?

    Ash lay a hand on my shoulder. "Whatever it is you are worrying about, we'll face it together."

    "Thanks." I smiled as I waved away the Spinarak crawling over my foot. With my friends and our guide, there was nothing in the mines we couldn't face!

    Yakan smiled when he noticed a chest in one corner of the next room. "I remember putting a diamond in here the other day!" He worked to disarm the needle trap around the chest for a moment as he explained "Sometimes when we find something particularly rare in the mines, we'll put it in a chest for safekeeping and place a trap around it so monsters can't steal it."

    "That's a clever idea." Dawn smiled.

    "In my case, I placed a field of poison needles around this one." Yakan continued as he carefully disarmed the triggers for the needles.

    We watched for a few moments as Yakan worked, then opened the chest. "Here it is..." he smiled as he proudly showed us a diamond so large, it barely fit in his hand.

    "Wow!" Dawn gasped. "I didn't know diamonds got this big!"

    "I didn't either, till I dug it out of the cave wall one day." Yakan replied as he set the diamond back in the chest and set a new trap around it. "Once we clear the mines, I'm sending it to the scholar's guild, but for now, it's staying in the chest."

    "Fair by me." Ash smiled as he led the way into the next room.

    A statue of Arceus and various holy runes on the walls made Dawn gasp in awe. "This must be a safe place of some kind, right?"

    "Exactly--if one of us runs into a particularly fearsome beast down here, we run as fast as we can here--the runes and the Arceus statue deter our pursuer from coming in here." Yakan replied. "Saved our skins on many an occasion--but I can't say the same for our last safe room--we forgot to ask the miko to bless it..."

    Various headless statues scattered across the next room confirmed to Ash what had probably happened to the old safe room. He noticed a message on the west wall, but all he could make out on the dusty wall was "died here". "Who exactly died here?" he asked as he cleared away more dust in hopes of finding a name.

    "A miner from long ago that met his fate in this room." Yakan explained. "His name is only known to Arceus now, as his name has faded from the wall."

    Dawn whispered a quick prayer to the fallen miner before we continued. In the next room, I gasped at what stood in the northwest corner of the room. "One of the demonic idols we saw in the forge!"

    "Great Heavenly Dawn!" With that, Ash started playing a festive melody on Yukanmune, each string sending a streak of light at the idol as it sounded its note. The constant barrage of light was enough to shatter the idol when the song ended, leaving thousands of obsidian shards on the floor.

    "That's one way to get rid of a demon idol." Yakan chuckled before directing us to a pile of torches in another corner. "Might want to grab a torch or two, it'll get dark the farther down we go into the mines."

    After gathering as many torches as we could carry, we hurried into the next room. I suddenly heard Dawn say "Over here!" and hurried over to the west wall, where Dawn was excitedly pointing out a crudely drawn vampire face. "I think I know what our opponent on the seventh floor is!"

    "I wouldn't take a random drawing as fact." Ash cautioned as we made our way down to the fourth floor. "For all I know, our foe could be a completely different beast!"

    TO BE CONTINUED....

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