Beyond the Mists Pt. 1

We rode the chocobos all the way to their village. How far? I'm not honestly sure but the things must run four or fives times the speed of a horse at least. The wind rushed by so fast it took everything we had just to hold on to them and not get knocked off to an early grave. Especially when the chocobos leapt between the various islands of floating rock. I generally don't have a problem with heights, but the gaps they soared across did not seem to have any bottoms...

The place we were brought to was full of translucent, glowing flowers and multicolored spores. The Tanuki's homes were strange, either conical tents or orb-like trees with blossoming flowers for the roof while even more were simply built partially into the mountain out of its sturdy rock. There was a slight mist in the air and shimmer to the air from numerous pounding waterfalls in the area. 

As the chocobos pulled up and slowed to a stop, I couldn't help but chuckle as Aiko's hair, blasted by the wind, looked a lot like mine usually did (utterly disheveled). As she was taming her wild locks, Tanuki poured out of the structures to gather around us and stare. When Kuoppa waddled out before them there were many great cheers (more 'Wooska"). Slowly the crowd parted to let an elderly looking Tanuki through, this one with dark silver fur with white streaks and a long, flowing beard. His hair was tied in a topknot atop his head. He wore robes of orange, red, and purple while holding a gnarled staff topped with bells with a pudgy white bird with almost comically long eyebrows perched atop it. 

He knew who we were and our goal of seeking the twelve relics of Tian Zhe. Despite his advanced age, his smile held mischief and amusement as he told us that he couldn't tell us everything, it was not his place to. He did tell us we could get our answers at a place known as Ilfra, the Sky Palace, that was located beyond the horizon. He did say if we did not succeed in our goal and darker forces gained control of them it would cause the "Shadow" to stir and be given life once more. If that occurred, all the worlds and "layers" of Terra would be impacted. He refused to give any more detail on that, however.
Connitsu did give us some other information on where we were, though. This place was "Beyond the Mists" with Seiya Zei lying far to the west. This was confusing as Seiya Zei itself was known as the far east...suggesting something lay to the west of it was strange to us. He eventually elaborated that this place was normally inaccessible to Seiya Zei, one of the layered worlds that overlapped with Seiya Zei much like the Shadowlands or the Elven Gates. Only those fated to could ever come here, as we were at this point.

Aiko did ask him the meaning of the phrase, "Kiyo Chuk Chuk", though his only response was amusement and that we should repeat it back. We would enjoy the results or so he said. She also inquired on the spirit foxes and Connitsu mentioned there were very few left and finding one was rare, much less two bound to the same person. As for Kaylaviira, it was the name for a great and benevolent power. He didn't have any other details, as it is a very mysterious source of ancient magic.

Besides that Connitsu mentioned the last time an outsider was here when he was but a child. That person only passed through briefly, saying two words to Connitsu and his father..."Stay Strong". 

As for how we should get to the Sky Palace? He mentioned we'd have to catch some chocobos capable of making the trip! He said Kuoppa would give us what we need and lead us to the "Edge of the Mist" where they were...and where they were being hunted by some sort of fiends we would have to deal with. The Tanuki's own chocobo herds had been decimated by the fiend mentioned and a great deal of them had been sent fleeing in fear when it attacked the village. First thing in the morning that is! For the evening we would be staying and celebrating.

The Tanuki began to bustle about and a great feast was prepared. As the night came there was no darkness accompanying it, though the stars still gleamed above. Bugs filled the evening air, glowing in reds, violets, and blues. The Tanuki prepared a great bonfire over which they cooked elaborate dishes, with me introducing them to sake and alcohol for the first time apparently (including the recipes I found earlier on the Baychiro). Occasionally they tossed handfuls of some spice upon the flame, causing it to change color and burn brighter for a short moment. 

Several Tanuki began to play instruments; drums, lutes, and ocarinas with Aiko joining in on her own ocarina with a wide smile, dancing amongst their tiny younglings. Other younglings gathered around the matrons of the Tanuki, painted with prepared pastes in designs similar to war paint. Keisuke carved little toys for the children to their delight and amazement.

As the feasts began, Connitsu called out over the din and roar of the crowd that they would host games and challenges to honor the glory of Wooska...evidently a hero amongst their people by the sound.

The first involved a test of strength and a 'large' (by Tanuki standards) rock that Keisuke hefted with one hand to the cheers of their people. The second was a chocobo race, a game where they certainly held the advantage. The three of us would be racing their champion Kuoppa. We were granted three of their...problematic chocobos. One easily distracted, one glaring and scornful, and the last trembling with fright. I ended up with the easily distracted one and named him Chiba. He reminded me a little of Aiko's one spirit fox and was rather cute in his own way.

Before the race began, the elder asked if we had any requests. It was with a wide grin I would be honored to share a drink before the race. Aiko and Keisuke, having drank before had no issue with a little sip of sake but it seems little Kuoppa wasn't used to the potent alcohol....

The race was extremely challenging! Especially controlling the chocobos we were given (not to mention the twisting path, the bats that flew up, and all manner of other obstacles) but the drink gave us a slight edge over the more experienced racing Tanuki. We all managed to beat Kuoppa with Keisuke coming in first, me in second, and Aiko in third place. It was incredibly exciting and I hope once we get our own chocobos we'll have the chance to race them again! It was a truly amazing experience.

...oh, the elder just called again. The next challenge is about to start!

Baychiro Pt. 5

When we stepped onto the deck of the ship at last the air shifted slightly and we were able to see each other, though almost translucent and like a mirage. Meaning Aiko and myself on the present Baychiro could see images of Keisuke and Genbo on the past Baychiro. 

In both versions the sky was completely empty, full of nothing before us but black emptiness. The ship's image seemed to shift between the two and it was a truly majestic sight in either with huge wings sweeping off the sides and a massive blackened steel ring encircling the hull which held the fire elemental that kept the ship aloft. It seemed...off though and sickly, with the elemental appearing to be composed of green and black flames and sputtering angrily within the ring. 

A single figure stood at the ship's wheel, a partially translucent woman with long, gleaming black hair, turquoise and green robes (favored by the nobility of the Crab clan), and exhausted-looking eyes that stared off into the distance. Her one hand was on the wheel with the other on a curled dragon staff made of gleaming metal. That is, until Genbo stepped forward and held forth the turquoise amulet which immediately caught her attention causing her to blink before screaming with her features twisting in horror. 

It was then Genbo that changed before our eyes, his face adopting a cruel smile and chuckling darkly before calling her a "wretched bitch" and yelling at her, "how dare you imprison me!". 

We were lied too! Genbo wasn't the lover, but the traitorous brother. The forbidden love was between Tennen, a half oni, and Kyonshi. We'd been completely duped and played right into Genbo's hand. Gods damn him!

As Genbo drew his blade and turned he was joined by Kyonshi (now evidently under his control) staff in hand and starting to chant magical spells...to face Keisuke alone. Before we could even think of swapping one of us to aid him through the foxes, on the present, rotted version of the ship the great iron ring binding the elemental shattered and it flowed down toward the deck, a massive being composed of black and green flame, full of wrath and hatred. Aiko quickly warned me it seemed composed of necrotic energies just before the battles began simultaneously. 

As Keisuke battled Tennen and the ghost, I charged the elemental, rolling under its swipes and using Ashura to deliver precise strikes against the limbs as they swung. Enraged, it released black fire across the ship which rotted our flesh but we managed to avoid the worst of it. Aiko worked to mend the damage as I fell into a zen state, humming softly one of Grandfather's tunes and began to parry and sidestep the hefty swings from the creature. Aiko quickly worked her magic to hide us both from sight causing it to once again loose a burst of necrotic flame in its fury, this time dealing heavy damage to us both as our flesh seemed to literally melt off us in great wretched hunks. As I took off one of its great flaming arms with a powerful swing, I glanced just in time to see Keisuke bring his hammer down in an overhead arc and crush Tennen into the floor of the ship with immense force, even the floorboards buckling under the incredible power.

The elemental stopped suddenly, seeming confused as the flame that seemed to compose it simply seemed to go out all at once from a strong wind and before we realized it we were all standing on a single ship, the present, ancient version. There was a sigh from Kiyonshi as she said, "It is finally time for this ship to rest...thank you". 

The next part...was strange. I remember falling suddenly, plummeting through darkness but hearing a strangely soothing voice. It told us we denied the Morbenkai (the council of Akerfall) the necro-elemental weapon and elemental galleon flying ships, saving countless lives in the process and avoiding numerous costly wars. Even Terra itself thanked us for that, as the damage would have been to the world, as well. There was the feeling of suddenly sinking into plush, comfortable grass as shadows seemed to dance around us and it seemed to bid us farewell in some manner as it said, "Kiyo Chuk Chuk" before my consciousness seemed to slip away.

When I eventually awoke it was to the sounds of Aiko's screams of terror, crying for Iki! I struggled to push aside the fatigue that gripped my body and  awoke with a start to find her having a nightmare that Iki had died not far from me. We were on grass though...and definitely not a ship. Once we got her settled down, we realized we could still see Iki and Jiba floating in the air before us. While I was petting Jiba, I realized there were child-like voices around us and we all turned to see we were surrounded by a small group of tiny, fuzzy,...adorable creatures. They stood about 3 ft tall and appeared liked clothed small bears or racoons with differing fur colors that walked upright. They kept saying, "Wooska" but also spoke Seiya Zein to our immediate relief.

Keisuke, startled at first, leaped to his feet and drew his hammer before realizing they barely came up to his thigh. This startled them and sent a number of them running or hiding before the larger ones who brandished various farm implements. They were holding large woven baskets filled with clams they were taking from the multitude of streams near us.

At this point we took our first real look at where we were. The place was...well beyond my ability to describe. It was like a magical forest, full of life and primal power. The land was broken up and floating in immense islands in the air as if suspended by magic. It was full of flowing waterfalls, jagged mountains, and the lushest forests I've ever seen. Our collective breaths were stolen by the sight.

One eventually stepped forward, the largest of the bunch, with a coating of brown fur who called himself Kuoappa. He told us we were in Ula'ree and that they were the Tanuki. He told us he would take us to their home, called Taewe Village, where we could meet their elder Connitsu who would answer our questions. Aiko pointed out while he was explaining Terra's three moons and ring were still in the sky here, to our great relief. So we're still on Terra, but none of us have the foggiest notion of where!

It's also worth noting most of the Tanuki were staring in rapt attention at Iki and Jiba. Kuoppa told us these spirit foxes were the children of Kaylaviira quickly before wandering off. Even Aiko doesn't seem certain of what that means or the significance of it. 

He's now given us a moment to gather out things and adapt to our surroundings while he gets our mounts to carry us to their elder. I have no idea where we are, how we got here, or how we are going to get back but it seems like this Connitsu is our best bet so far. Hopefully he'll have some idea on-



Baychiro Pt. 4

This ship twists and confuses the mind in the worst possible ways! Especially with having to swap between two versions of the same place with so many differences, not all of them obvious at a first glance. Even now I'm having trouble detailing what happened between all the moving around and seeing much of the same scenery multiple times in different states of existence.

Hmm, before I go further I'll refer to the ruined, old ship as the "present" Baychiro and the shiny, new looking one as the "past" Baychiro. That should help a little bit. I hope.

We found Aiko and myself could not go up, the trapdoor was locked by powerful magics. It was Genbo that told Keisuke in the past that the priest locked the lower levels so he would have to be dealt with likely for us to go higher. Thus it fell to Keisuke climbing to the upper floors first. Luckily the door containing the temple (and priest) was still marked, though the relief above the doorway was in very rough shape, broken and badly damaged. Keisuke also heard sailor shanties and revelry behind two doors close together in the past Baychiro.

Keisuke ...well did his thing and did away with the priest (of Gozrah) quickly and recovered his holy symbol which seemed to do the trick, allowing us to access the upper floor. It lead to a chamber with four more doors. We checked our version of the temple which was deserted, but learned the broken statue and relief depicted the Dark Goddess. Since Keisuke had taken some wounds during the battle with the priest we got the spirit foxes to switch us so Aiko could heal him. I returned to the lower floor during this time to check on Genbo and affirm we we would free him from this prison. He was very thankful. 

Upon returning to the upper floor I realized I was stuck again. None of the doors would open. I was informed by Jiba that Aiko and Keisuke were helping the chef cook for the crew. I confirmed with him multiple times that it wasn't a joke and that is what he had been told. I'll need to get the full story later, but when the doors once again clicked and fell open, the mess hall and chef had passed on peacefully in the present Baychiro. It was the first room I stepped into and wasn't immediately assaulted by undead so I was very thankful. They informed me as I was exploring the rows of tables that they had received a bronze key to the sleeping quarters as thanks for making a really good meal. At this point I found the leader's table and found a silver key within a small leather pouch. I took it carefully but whatever the other two had done had indeed let these men go to their deaths peacefully it appeared. I'm making a note to ask Aiko on the whole story there later...sounds like an interesting one!

I stopped in the kitchen on the way out and happened to notice some sheets of parchment sticking out of one of the drawers. Miraculously they had not decayed! They were a collection of recipes, all of which contain alcohol as an ingredient...I took them for later when we hopefully get out of here. 

At this point we hit another problem as Aiko and Keisuke were able to open the last door to the bedrooms but it didn't work in the present Baychiro. The door was too corroded to swing at all. Once again we called on Aiko's foxes to swap Keisuke and myself, using the silver key I found to finally enter the armory. We proceeded to take some weapons and armor that looked like they might be useful in addition to the equipment requested by Genbo including with armor, shield, katana, cape, and vials. We also located a special item he thought might be of help, an amulet set with a green-violet tourmaline he had given to Kiyonshi and had great sentimental value to her. With some hope he might be able to remind her of the better days and put this ghost ship to rest. 

After a bit of discussion we decided to swap Aiko with Genbo, bringing him to the past Baychiro and hoping it would revitalize him. We were certainly correct, his youth returned to him and he was no longer a skinny, bony, old man. He was a young man in the prime of his life with mythril bracers covering his elbow to wrist and a shock of raven black hair outlining his youthful features. I watched as he drank one of his vials and armor threaded across his body while his eyes turned into featureless white orbs. Kinda unsettling but also intriguing. I'll have to ask him more when we are not so pressed for time.

While he prepared himself, I noticed for the first time the tiny, glowing red fox watching us both with rapt attention. Evidently when Aiko had swapped, I had been left alone with her other fox and was now capable of seeing it. I reached out...well mostly, by instinct and assumption after encountering Jiba to give him a pet and almost lost a finger as he bit at me. Realizing my folly I quickly apologized and introduced myself which seemed to satisfy him somewhat. He introduced himself as Ikiryu, though said I may call him Iki. Also he said I could pat him once as he was also in the wrong when he overreacted in trying to bite me. 
Ikiryu, Adorable (but Prickly) Spirit Fox

It was wonderful! He made this adorable little purring sound! Eventually he noticed though and told me to stop with a little huff. It was just as well as I realized Genbo was staring at me...and couldn't see Iki. He thought I was going insane and talking to myself! Oops!

We deigned to move on at that point in a rather awkward silence for a time. We returned to the spiral staircase and found we were able to climb up to the higher point of the ship now (previously powerful magic, gusts of wind blew us down whenever we tried ascend further) where Genbo told me the Captain's quarters, the ship's wizard, and the deck of the ship were. 

A hallway lead to the deck while the door to the right lead to the Captain's chamber. We decided together to handle the ship's wizard, a half-oni man known as Abumi. Genbo warned me even amongst the rest of the crew he was only really held in check by the captain and had highly questionable morales and methods. We would have to be careful. Meanwhile Aiko and Keisuke went after the Captain of the ship who Genbo now was able to confirm was indeed Tennen, another powerful half-oni.

Abumi was a fairly tall creature with bright red hair and horns, dressed in brilliant red robes. We tried catching him off guard, but he had expected an attack it seems and set up an illusion to waste my first draw and swing of Ashura. The battle was fierce, him continually using annoying illusions to stop our attacks and dropping powerful bursts of intense flame.

When we stepped out of the wizard's chamber we were victorious but charred black from head to toe, just like everything else that was left in the room. Genbo drank some potions to heal his injuries but unfortunately did not have enough for me. We updated each other through the foxes and found that Keisuke had more or less crushed the Captain in two mighty blows, though taken a few painful injuries in the process. Aiko had already handled his wounds and we swapped once more so she could treat me. 

Everyone is currently taking a small break to ready themselves before we step out onto the deck and confront Kiyonshi who is piloting the ship. I really hope Genbo's amulet works...the constant battles have taken a toll on most of us by now. 

Well here we go one more time. We have to put a stop to this tragic vessel and bring rest to all those trapped here!

Baychiro Pt. 3

 *There are a set of tiny, fox-like paw-prints that run across the page, smearing the ink somewhat*

So from what I've been able to put together from what the prisoner says (assuming he isn't a raving lunatic), I am on the Baychiro from the legend we heard. The prisoner, Genbo, was cursed and locked down here by Kiyonshi's "Oni Lover". Could that be Tennen? I'm not sure and Genbo's answers are hard to understand at times due to what he's been through I presume. He seems...damaged to say the least.

While we were talking I noticed a slight gleam manifest near the center of the room, heralding the arrival of warm, brilliant blue shimmer. Before I could even grasp the handle of Ashura it turned into a tiny blue fox that was staring at me and said my name excitedly. It introduced itself as Jibakurei...in a manner that suggested familiarity. Admittedly nothing came to mind (though its name did sound familiar) and I was starting to think this might be a bad dream brought on by the story Keisuke told, bad clam chowder, or a mixture of both. I mean...it definitely seemed like a bad hallucination at the time!

No, that would be too easy, of course. Turns out (from what the tiny fox said) it is one of
Jibakurei, Adorable Spirit Fox
Aiko's spirit guardians. It got more complex after that, but sounds like Aiko and Keisuke are here (kind of...and together) but in a different time planar magic rift thing. Basically what occurred aboard the Baychiro was both tragic and powerful enough it damaged not just our realm but the spirit realm sa well and we were currently on the "edge of the fringe". Jiba (as I took to calling him) knew that because his counterpart Ikiryu (another fox I'm guessing or something?) was with them and due to us being partially in the spirit realm they could communicate across it. Supposedly he believed we could impact the other realm through our own actions as well, which might explain the doors randomly opening on me.

I managed to catch most of what he said, but his manner of speaking and explaining was a bit hard to follow. I was also a little distracted as he(she? it?) really is incredibly adorable. It even allowed me to pet its fur (...whatever, I'll say it is a he) while he was talking. I'm not sure my sketch did him justice honestly but I tried my best.

Jiba also excitedly told me we could swap ourselves for one another back and forth with his (and Irikyu's) power, though doing it too often would drain them. Before I could say much Jiba decided to demonstrate this and threw himself into my back and sent me stumbling...well across some sort of boundary. Suddenly Aiko was there with tears in her eyes and hugging me. I presume Keisuke ended up where I had been. Aiko was in a familiar chamber with a spiral staircase leading up to a trapdoor, but in their instance the ship looked brand new, like it had just set sail. I winced when I saw the four guards and guard officer upon the floor, their heads recently caved in...from what Aiko explained, due to Keisuke's hammer. 

Things suddenly started to make a little more sense. I was seeing the aftermath of Keisuke and Aiko's battles and the ship in the present where it was ancient, rotting, and full of undead. Where they had been was when the ship was new and filled with a living crew. Oddly, Genbo did not exist in both versions, in theirs they could not even see or get into the cell at all. It simply appeared to be full of thick, silvery fog. So there was definitely some discrepancies between the two.

Another odd thing to note is while I'm with Aiko I can't seem to see the other spirit fox. She doesn't seem sure why that is either, but perhaps it has to do with how the present version of the ship is closer to the spirit realm or something. This isn't exactly my forte admittedly, as if that wasn't abundantly clear as it was.

It took us quite awhile to sort out (mostly) what was going on. I was so relieved to know they were both alright and to not be alone for the first time in quite awhile. Passing information between the two foxes is turning out to be a little tricky but we're managing. Genbo apparently would like to help us escape but requires his equipment and flask from the armory on the upper floor. We've decided to try retrieve that next as I believe we can use all the help we can get at this point!

Baychiro Pt. 2

*This page is stained with the spray of the sea and flecks of rusted metal, smelling sharply of rotted wood*
The next chamber housed a pair of giant, powerful (but sadly badly rusted) engines and a heavy, dented anvil. The walls were covered in all manner of smith-ed goods from harpoons to weaponry. There was two other doors leading from the chamber, one to a smaller room built into one corner more recently and another leading I presumed deeper into the ship. Everything was old and rusted, with the wood in the room congealing from age. 

There was also single, seven foot tall rotten corpse lay against the anvil, his head long ago since smashed in. A white bristled beard framed its face, the flesh sickly grey and smelling putrid. A rusted war-hammer lay not far from his outstretched arm.

As I stared at the corpse I was overcome by a feeling of dread and sure enough as I stepped out of the room I had been trapped in the corpse animated, lunging to its feet and rushing toward me with bony clawed hands outstretched. The sight was unnerving and while I slapped away it's gnashing teeth, the bony claws found purchase into my shoulders, tearing into the flesh. I eventually destroyed the animated corpse, but I was left with some nasty wounds. I count myself lucky they don't seem to be infected at least.

Both of the doors were locked again (of course) and sealed by some sort of power. While poking around in frustration I did happen to find an adamantine key that was tossed into one of the engines. An engine still filled with hot coals and the occasional gout of flame. I pulled a hook and some thread from my pack and pulled it up to the side just in time for the engine to loose a gout of flame. At which point I cursed and just grabbed the key. I got a little singed, but compared to the wounds from the undead before they were very minor. 

There was a definitive click in the lock when I turned the key in the smaller room, though within the only thing waiting for me was another skeletal undead, this one covered in sticky, rope-like strands of green ectoplasm with outstretched claws. After the first battle I was more ready and I was able to shatter its bones into pieces before it could cause me further harm. The room had a number of rotted bookshelves, a desk, and six sets of ceremonial armor, now rusted beyond recognition. Just as I was starting to give up finding anything of use I heard the door back at the end of the hall click and open of its own accord. How puzzling and utterly frustrating!

The chamber beyond that door lead to a somewhat curved chamber with a rusted spiral staircase leading up to a rusted trapdoor and a single jail door with iron bars on the window. There were five more corpses here and strangely they too had also with their heads caved in. Once again a single step into the chamber caused them to animate, four of them turning into blue-green spectres and forming a sort of shield around one dressed in what looked like guard officer's armor. The guard officer skeleton was framed by flickering fire lining his bones and in a breathy gasp it said something like, "The prisoner must not be freed". While it was quite powerful, with potent unholy strength augmented by his fallen companions, I was fighting to survive and nowhere to turn back to which gave me an edge. Despite the throbbing wounds, I managed to battle carefully and destroy the creature once again without taking any further damage due to some carefully timed parries and ripostes. 

None of the crates nor the fallen guards seemed to have any key, so I made my way over to the jail cell to find there was actually someone alive within it! More importantly perhaps, this chamber confirmed I was indeed upon a ship as it was shaped like the triangular nose of the ship. More shocking though was the location of the ship as a simple glance out one of the portholes revealed we were not upon the water, but flying through the sky! I'm on an airship!

As for the prisoner, I'm currently letting him recover a bit. He's an old man with dark-black, bedraggled hair and claw-like hands. He's thin and bony, not to mention it seems like his mind and memory has been damaged to a degree. The bit I have got out of him troubles me deeply, however. 

He says his name is Genbo...