It is such a beautiful morning. Today is the day we leave the Great Circus and continue on our jouney. Everyone appears to be in high spirits – I think the festivities, even with the problems that occurred, were a much-needed diversion. I was against it at first, but being here helped to remind me of… happier times. I cannot dwell on those however. My new friends have only just learned about the Regalia and the part they will play in the fate of the world. They journeyed out to create a story, and reunite with their lost loved ones. Well, I suppose saving the world will make for a really great story… now I am getting a bad feeling, because all of my favourite books when I was younger were tragedies.
I think we are getting ready to leave. And, I have a sneaking suspicion that Nikki is going to steal my diary and plunder its secrets. The joke is on her, Poro has eaten most of the pages! I should still learn to write more in a manner befitting my… agricultural heritage. I mean, farm upbringing.
We’re at camp now, but I can’t sleep a darn wink. The day’s journey started fine enough – we entered the Forest of Flowers that surrounds Bloomsville. It’s such a beautiful place! The air is warm, filled with the exotic scents. There is such a variety of strange flowers everywhere – some biolu- … glow-in-the-dark plants, weirdly-shaped bug-eater plants, and plenty of small, delicate ones nestled between the big ones. More reminders of home. Oh, but the travel was slow going. Raika did manage to find the beaten path and me, San and Nikki had no trouble getting through, but the ground got very boggy in places, and Minami had trouble with the animals. Poro helped to get them moving again but he’s acting funny too. Maybe it’s because he’s a sheep dog, and San brought a giant white wolf from the circus. So dangerous, that young lady! What do giant wolves eat anyway? Giant sheep? She hasn’t started snacking on Minami’s pack animals yet, so she must be eating something. Actually, that explains why San’s hunting trip didn’t go very well today – Yuki (that’s the wolf’s name) ate it all!
Oh, and there are bugs everywhere! Buzzing, biting, bothering. There’s no way we’re getting a good night’s sleep tonight. I asked Akio if he could make a spell to keep the bugs away, like a magic lantern or something. He seemed to think about that, but then he went to cast some other magic. Or maybe he just forgot. When I went to ask him again later, he’d sealed himself in some sorta magical cocoon. Gross! But then again, at least it keeps the bugs out. Ironically.
This morning I woke up late, so I didn’t have time to write anything until now. We’re still a long way from Bloomsville and I think everyone is in a bad mood because of the conditions. Nikki spiced our rations for breakfast and dinner, which made me feel a little better. I guess not much happened today, or maybe it did and I just didn’t notice? We didn’t really make any progress though, I think Raika lost the path and didn’t say anything. Camping was a bit better, Minami and I went looking around and we found a nice hill, with these little flowers around it – looks like their scent repels insects naturally. Neat! When it got darker, we sat and watched the fireflies flitting about beyond the hill. You know, it’s times like these that I really appreciate how beautiful the world around us is. It’s been rough getting through the forest, but it just doesn’t seem so bad right now.
Later on we were going over our supplies, and it looks like we only have two days of food left. If I remember right, Bloomsville is about three days away, so I hope we can find something soon. San’s hunt didn’t go well, but I think it might be because of the environment. Maybe there’s something wrong here, as well. Nikki suggests we try eating the flowers that are keeping the bugs away, but I don’t think that’s a good idea.
We all slept well last night, and during breakfast we got to talking about what might be wrong with the environment here. The weirdest thing is that there aren’t any birds around – Minami thinks the forest might be too thick for them, but Hiro thinks that the bugs are poisonous to eat, and that’s why the birds are gone. I don’t think I’ve ever heard about bugs being poisonous to eat, but I wouldn’t know, and Hiro seems to know all about poisons and that sort of thing. The good thing about the forest being so thick is that it’s been easy for him to find herbs, that he can use to treat our injuries – we’re all getting worn down from how tough it is to get through the forest. Well, most of us – Nikki and San are doing fine. But San is a forest child, she’s had a lot of practice, plus Yuki helps her. I don’t know what Nikki’s secret is – youthful exuberance? Well, she’s only a year or two younger than me, but she acts even younger. So maybe she just doesn’t notice her legs hurting most days.
We crossed a creek bed, and by that time most of us had enough. I decided that I would be the one in charge of setting up camp today, and I think I did a pretty good job. Raika helped, though. Even though he gets lost a lot and doesn’t know how to pitch a tent, he’s a good helper. Maybe he’s just not the type to take charge? Oh, Nikki and San still had enough energy to go foraging, and they managed to find a bit of food. We still might run out before we reach Bloomsville, but if they can keep this up we’ll be fine. Akio mentioned that if we run out, we’ll have to resort to… “smelly” rations. Well, as long as I don’t have to inhale it I guess. It beats starving.
Today was just exhausting. It feels so good to sit down and relax in camp.
We passed some old farmland which has been overgrown by forest. I didn’t think of it at the time, but doesn’t this seem kind of familiar? Like back in Arianna where the dragon was causing the forest to overgrow and take over the raspberry plantations? Anyway, since we’re finally seeing signs of civilisation, we must be getting closer. But today was so bad I almost couldn’t keep going. Then Hiro made me this special Chrysanthemum tea, and I felt a lot better after drinking it. I miss good tea. Well, Hiro’s brew wasn’t bad, but there is only so much you can get from a campfire and a grimey kettle. Maybe if I pretend I like the rustic charm, it will taste better?
Not much happened today though. Actually, I have a feeling we’re going the wrong way – the path we took seems to go around the edge of the fields, when we should be cutting across to get to Bloomsville. Foraging went well again today, so our food worries are over at least. Well, that is if we don’t go around in circles tomorrow…
Today was pretty eventful! It seemed like we were almost there, and just as well because even San was getting tired. But before we could reach Bloomsville, we were attacked! By bugs, of course, with a side helping of vicious plant life. There were these huge beetles called Maximilian Kabuto, though I couldn’t appreciate how pretty their colourful shells were because of how tough they were to fight. Actually I was really worried about this fight – me and San were both too tired to fight all that well, and we’re normally right in the thick of it. I grabbed a spare pitchfork and managed to wedge a tine right into a weak point in a beetle’s armour, stopping it. San tried to do the same with a hoe, but… well it didn’t work so well. Minami used his magic to enchant Nikki’s axe with ice, and she easily took one down by herself – but then Minami was knocked down by some sort of tumbleweed monster, and Nikki was eaten by some sort of Pseudoparasol plant. Or something? Hiro had some sort of spell that summoned a magical book about it, though I still don’t really understand what that was.
Well, we managed to cut Nikki out, and somehow when the plant died it became a regular (but kinda slimey) umbrella, which I decided to keep. But even though we won that battle, there were still swarms of insects everywhere – it looked like we were in serious trouble. But then suddenly, these people in black armour suits appeared, wielding strange spray weapons – some sort of bug exterminator squad? They drove the insects away and led us towards Bloomsville. Civilisation at last! The squad leader introduced herself as Hanako, and said she was part of the Imperial army. More talk of this mysterious Empire, huh? Then she told us that journeys were forbidden under their law, so we told her that we were merchants from Stonekeep. Which is technically true, I mean Minami is a merchant, and we do have goods to sell (we managed to peel off one of the beetle shells intact – I almost want to keep it, but we need the money). Hanako took us to her superior, Captain Nagi, and she explained a little more about their strange laws. It looks like this Emperor is really against the dragons – Captain Nagi talked about how the worship of dragons is backwards superstition, and they want to stamp it out. Well, I don’t agree at all, but this wasn’t the place to make a stand. This “Emperor” will just have to see that the will of the people will stand up against his laws.
Oh, we did learn that the Forest of Flowers had been normal until 7 years ago, when the bugs started appearing and the plants grew out of control. The Imperials don’t know why, though I have a guess… We end up learning more about this later in the day, though. We left the command post and headed to the market – a bit of rest and relaxation was well-deserved after all that walking, although first we needed to make some money and buy travelling supplies. This was also a good time to ask around about what was wrong with the forest – what we learned was that there used to be a Bird Dragon in the area, ruling over the locals. But after someone (sounding suspiciously like San’s older sister) came and slayed the dragon, a Mantis Dragon moved in – it seems to keep its distance from the people directly, but it’s been causing the problems in the forest. Sounds like we’ll have to look into that. For now though, we decided to go our separate ways for the day, and agreed to meet at the inn. Nikki and I went to the bath house – a long soak in hot water is really the only way to recover after a trip like that. While we were there, though… a strange lady approached us. She tells us she is from the Ishida family… “farmers”, of course (I hope I don’t sound that transparent…) She asked me to help her and her allies regain power in Bloomsville by driving off the local Mantis Dragon. I told her I’d think about it and decided to talk to the others about it when we met at the inn.
After the Bathhouse we went to see the Fortune Teller – Raika joined us for this one. I guess he ran out of other stuff to do? Anyway, it was good to finally find a skilled practitioner of the art, and I was able to learn a great deal about my own destiny. I’ve visited fortune tellers many times in the past, but since my… new situation, this is the first time I’ve spoken to one. Hrm. A cage of fire, a labyrinth of thorns. The way must be unlocked with wisdom, she said. That is the way to the sceptre… oh, anyway! I shouldn’t write the details of Nikki’s fortune reading, since they are of course very personal matters about food, her pursuit of the culinary arts, family and of course, marriage. Raika asked about his career when it was his turn. Then finally we went to meet the others at the inn – we had a lot to tell them, and so did they actually. For dinner we had some sort of weird curry. I love a good curry dish, but this one had a weird flavour, and it was way too spicy. I had to drink a lot of yak milk to keep my cool.
It turned out that Minami had received an offer from Captain Nagi, to slay the dragon. It seems that they have some sort of secret weapon, and they would rather send us to do it for some reason. But that’s not all – San was asked by some of the locals – dragon worshipers – to bring an offering to the Mantis Dragon, so that they could make peace and maybe convince it to calm the forest down. Decisions, decisions. I decided the only we would get through this is by figuring out what we all wanted, as a group, and then pick the best option for us. Well, some parts were easy enough – no one liked the Empire, from all that we’ve heard about it so far, except Minami. Hrmph, I swear all he thinks about is money, though he should be the wisest of us, being the eldest. I can’t bring myself to think ill of him though, because he has been a good friend, and he is pretty smart. Next we talked about the dragon worshipers – none of us really cared about them either. I mean, we are dragon-pilgrims ourselves, but the local worshipers seem a bit extreme preferring to pay tribute to cruel and uncaring local dragons. In the end we decided that driving the Mantis Dragon off would be the best option, as it would help the locals and deal a blow to the mysterious Empire as well.
Afterwards, while I was doing our laundry, I met with Ishida again. She took me to her… um, “Farmhouse”. It seems their fortunes had fallen, much like… other families. They did have a beautiful, detailed tapestry – oh, but that isn’t important right now. We talked about her family’s heirloom, the Mantle of Wind – another piece of the regalia. I also learned more about the regalia the Emperor has – the Lead Crown, which we learned a few days ago that the Emperor had taken from the stone people, and used to open the gateway to the underworld. Troubling. Anyway, once the dragon has been driven off, Ishida could use the regalia to drive the soldiers away. All we needed to do was play a strange drum near the Mantis Dragon. A demonskin drum… pleasant, huh? Well, I agreed, and returned to the inn. Tomorrow, we go back to the Forest of Flowers.
We’ve set off into the forest again. I’m not sure if we know how we’re going to find the dragon, but with our map-reading skills, we’ll do just as well whether we’re trying to find it or just wandering aimlessly. Oh, the others aren’t too happy about the demonskin drum – neither is that funny little fox that seems to follow us around now and then. We don’t really have much choice but to use it, though.
It turned out that even though Minami turned down Captain Nagi’s offer, she still sent Hanako out… San went to sneak up on them, and she told us that they were definitely up to no good. They’re probably following us, and plan to use their secret weapon on the dragon. Well, the joke’s on them – Raika’s leading us! We have no idea where we’re going!
Could this day have gone any worse?!
In the morning, we started to talk about what we were going to do with the soldiers following us. Well, we agreed we would have to defeat them, but it seemed that one of them was spying on us and rushed to warn the others. When we went to see them, we found out that Hanako wasn’t with them – she must have been trying to sneak away from us with the secret weapon. San, Hiro and I managed to catch and ambush her, but… then things got complicated. The secret weapon she was carrying – a huge poison gas bomb, like their bug-slaying weapons – she blew it up! I got away from the blast and managed to hold my breath and San, somehow she was completely fine. Hiro got really sick and ran off to escape the smog, and Hanako… Even though she was our enemy, we didn’t want her to die. San and I rushed her back to the others, but with our healer gone and her being at the centre of the blast…
Luckily our magic saved her life. Somehow, Minami managed to convince the soldiers that we were still on the same side. They headed back to Bloomsville, but we still had a problem – Hiro had been separated from us, and he was probably not doing very well. We had no choice but to set off and find him – instead, we found the Mantis Dragon. Good, right? At least we could do what we came out here to do?
Wrong! I don’t know what happened, but for some reason Raika started talking to the angry and dangerous dragon. It said something about the land dying if it left, and that the drum was wicked. I kept hissing at him to play the drum and end this, but instead? He pulls out a sword (I didn’t even know he had one! He never uses it…) and broke the drum! The Ishida family’s drum, which was entrusted to me, that I was to safely return! He said that the drum was bad, so it had to be destroyed. I can’t believe this! We had a plan, and we were about to resolve everything. Sure, it wasn’t a perfect solution, but it was the best we could do. And now? We’re right back where we started, and I don’t even know what we should do next.
I’m so angry, I just broke another quill. I only have one left, but i