Chapter 37 - A Doll World
“Snortrrghhwwha? What?” Jomiko awake to the call of a communication spell. It took a couple of seconds for her to remember they had separated into two groups, and while one searched for the secret entrance, the other slept.
They did this because they sorely needed a rest, but also needed to find the entrance as quickly as possible.
“Yea, yeah, I’m here. Tell me where you are, and we’ll take over your shift.”
“Actually, good news…we found it,” Arata’s voice pointed out, a bit surprised and in-between yawns. “Head south-west, some 10 degrees, until you run into a nest of loinsky, then turn right about thirty and keep going. Persephonai will be in the air to spot you.”
“Alright, we’re on our way.” Jomiko woke the twins.
The twins had again requested they be split up, but with what had happened time and time again, Jomiko and the rest simply refused.
She rocked Sanpu’s shoulder, simultaneously rocking Fuun’na since they were sleeping next to each other, or over each other depending on one’s point of view, like they had wrestled in their sleep.
Which they did.
“C’mon, you two. Get up, we found the entrance?”
“Really? Awesome, let’s go!”
Arata, Kazuki and Pixa eyed the entrance nervously. It was at the bottom of a very wide tree-trunk, and they had only found it by patiently knocking around every tree they found. This is why it had taken the whole night, and the better part of the morning, to cover what wasn’t, by any means, a great distance.
The entrance was about ten miles from Bellhall, which was nothing at all. They had taken about half an hour to figure out they had to step on a particular leaf to open the entrance, and the entrance was nothing but a pitch dark tunnel heading straight down through the floor.
They were nervous because it looked everything like an entrance into Sen territory.
“Are you sure this is the right entrance?” Pixa asked, her heart bulging a bit as she looked at the darkness.
“A tree straight west from Bellhall, and close enough that it makes the direction relevant,” Kazuki pointed out, “it has to be.”
“But it…looks like--”
“It’s what it is,” Arata said, “Jomiko will let Leaf know, we should have reinforcements no later than a couple dozen minutes behind us. But we don’t know how along into the plan they are, maybe those minutes will matter?”
“If they really come,” Kazuki pointed out.
“Why wouldn’t they?” Pixa right questioned.
“Fea’re a proud people, and they mostly care for themselves. We don’t have a Fea with us.”
“But this is a direct threat to their territory,” Pixa remarked.
“Worst case scenario, they send some scouters and fortify their defenses. Either way, we’re getting back up soon,” Arata commented.
“We should wait,” Kazuki suggested.
“And share in the spoils and glory?” Jomiko asked, cutting through the air to meet them more than ready for violence. She landed and made a fist, “and in the opportunity to whore-slap those four sons of bi--”
“I agree. We move,” Persephonai interrupted, lightly landing behind them.
“You’re just worried Bellhall won’t show that Sen any mercy,” Kazuki coldly stated.
Persephonai widened his eyes, but then took control and surprisingly didn’t even flinch.
“Like I have any doubt you will.”
Kazuki raised an eyebrow, surprised, while Sanpu voiced his amusement out-loud “Ha! Our angel’s growing a pair,” he slapped Persephonai’s back, and drew his weapon, gesturing at Pixa.
“Well? Light ladies first.”
“I knew this was coming…” Pixa complained, sulking lightly as she shook her fists twice.
“Nonsense,” Persephonai interrupted, crossing in front of her, “allow me.” He shook his fists like she was doing, then slapped his hands together, and opened the arms while making fists again, at which moment they lit up with a white shine.
“Go behind us, in case we need to run,” he suggested.
“Good idea,” Arata agreed, and Pixa complied with a nod.
Persephonai opened his hands, and focused, flashing a beacon of light ahead of him as he stepped into the opened tree trunk.
Everyone followed Persephonai as he descende the several steps, and this descent went for quite a long while. They kept going without a sight as to it finishing for minutes on end.
“Man, this goes on forever…” Jomiko mentioned, a tad frustrated.
“I really don’t like this…” Pixa cautioned nervously.
“Just don’t think about it and keep going,” Sanpu suggested.
“That’s what we do,” Fuun’na added.
“Yes, and it always works out so well, doesn’t it?” Kazuki’s words oozed, filled with sarcasm.
“Just keep quiet, please,” Arata surprisingly said, “there’s no knowing how far our noise is reaching, and by that I mean we’re not sure we’re not being heard.”
“That is actually a good point. Tone down the light there, Wings, maybe we can actually catch them off guard…for once,” Kazuki said, more demanding than suggesting, but no one protested against it so Persephonai didn’t either.
“My name’s Persephonai,” he still said. The responding silence didn’t seem to care.
The air around them became more and more muffled and damp, the smell of mold and dryness well in the air. The Lan in their group began intermittently sniffing, and twisting their noses, trying to get accustomed to the air.
“I see the exit…” Persephonai whispered, speeding up his pace, “c’mon.”
The stairs finally stopped going down when they walked into an exit, which itself led into a naturally made subterranean corridor, which is to say, a cave. It turned left and then continued on, intersecting with others.
They stopped at the first intersection.
“Now what? Which one do we take?”
“We can always spli--”
“No way, I’m sick of that.” Jomiko swung an arm, harshly and fed up. “We stick together.”
“We have two light sources though, we could split both ways,” Persephonai commented.
“I said no, let’s vote and take an exit.”
“You’re being senseless, Jomiko,” Kazuki argued.
“No, she’s right,” Arata said, in a low voice. “There’s no knowing who or what we’ll find here. I’ve got a feeling we’re better off not finding it than not being at our full strength if we do.”
“He has a good a point, Kazuki,” Pixa sort of pleaded.
“Humpf, fine. I vote to continue forward.”
And they did go forward. With the stopping and resuming movement, and now that they didn’t have to move in a single file, Pixa started walking alongside Kazuki. She looked to the side, a bit embarrassed, but ready to have the right reaction the moment something startled her.
“I can seelight,” Persephonai whispered, dimming his own. He slowed his pace as they approached an exit to the cave.
What they saw caught them completely off guard.
The exit led into a parapet, a ledge wide enough for three people, that turned left to ramp down and around the very very enormous chamber that stood before them, one big enough to house a city.
And a city, in fact, it was housing.
Makeshift houses were built into and out of the mineral rocks surrounding them. A stream of water was falling from the ceiling, into a pond that streamed into a small river that crossed the city. Lights were sparse and dim, but all the darkness in the world would not hide the reality from Arata, Jomiko and the rest of the group.
“Is…is it the Sen?”
“No…the Sen don’t have that much light…or the need to build actual houses,” Persephonai pointed out, his tone of voice utterly confused.
Upon first catching a glimpse, as their minds struggled to process the fact it was a functional city filled to the brim with people…that were walking around, doing things… their first assumption was it was a Sen city.
But looking closer, the scurrying silhouettes, a couple hundred feet away from them, were not of Sen...
“They’re… Rei?” Persephonai said, perplexed.
“Geez, that’s a whole butt-load of them,” Sanpu remarked.
“What the cra-? What’re so many Rei doing all the way out here?” Jomiko asked, turning to Kazuki. They all did the same, but Kazuki did not notice them.
Standing on the ledge, his eyes were opened wide.
Of all the things he never expected to find at that secret lair, a city of Rei didn’t even factor. His voice sounded out as much perplexed as utterly shocked and, most notably, angry.
Whatever was happening there. Why didn’t he know about it?