I was just getting ready to set up my body for descending to the ‘mortal world’ again, when the door burst open, and a tiny missile came flying in my direction. “Daaaaaaale!” Aurivy shouted out as she wrapped her arms around my neck. “Big sis said you were finally ready to come down and visit us!”
I chuckled as I heard that, nodding my head. “That’s right. I was just setting everything up right now to do that.”
Aurivy smiled happily as she heard that, her eyes becoming upturned crescents. “Finally~! But… could you fast forward by about two days, first?” She asked, and I really didn’t see a reason to refuse, although I was curious.
“Is something happening in two days?” I felt my eyebrow quirking up as I asked that.
“It’s a surprise!” She let out a small giggle as she said that, finally pulling her arms off of me. “The two of us are staying in the city of Hel’dar in the kingdom Udonia. Once you head down, we’ll meet you in front of the southern gate.”
“Okay… anything else I should know, or should I make a reputation for myself before I head down?” I questioned, seeing as how they seemed to have a fairly specific plan for how we were going to spend our time.
Aurivy tilted her head, seeming to consider the question seriously, before closing her eyes and shaking her head rapidly. “Nope! Blank slate should be just fine.” She assured me.
Nodding my head, I turned back to the computer, and fast forwarded two days as I had been requested. It was such a small leap that it barely even counted for anything, so I didn’t mind at all. As for the city that she requested… I did a brief search, and found that it was the capital of Udonia. Guessing there is something fairly big happening today.
Seeing as I knew where I was going now, I went ahead and returned to working on the body I would use to descend. Since I was going to Udonia, a kitsune should do just fine. For hair color… let’s go with a dark red. Otherwise, I kept most of my features in line with my normal body.
Now, a name… I’m not really going down there to do anything major this time, so just calling myself Mitchell would work just fine. I nodded my head, before finalizing the decision.
Body verified. Kitsune race selected. Beginning descent. May you work for the betterment of your world, Keeper.
I felt the blue lights envelop me, causing me to close my eyes as I descended into the world. Naturally, I didn’t forget to grab my storage bag, as I never go anywhere anymore without it. When I arrived, I was in a small forest just off the dirt path leading to the city. I wanted to give myself a good bit of distance from anyone else that might spot my arrival, and thankfully this area was clear of any beastkin.
Moving onto the dirt road, I set my destination for the nearby city. From this distance, I could see a rough outline of the architecture involved. The city’s outer walls, like so many others, appeared to have been created by a group of druids. This caused it to appear as a single, smooth surface rather than a pile of stone bricks.
One thing I noticed that was different from Cau Buhnga’s walls was the addition of parapets small sections of raised stone placed regularly along the top of the wall. This actually confused me for a moment, as that was typically used as a defense in times of war. While they didn’t exactly go away during peace times, part of me questioned why they were even there in the first place.
Perhaps it is for the guards to better shoot down attacking monsters. I briefly considered that idea, nodding my head. Unsurprisingly, the wall did not appear to have any kind of ward that I could make out from this distance. Ryone said that wards were a relatively uncharted field of magic, so I wasn’t really expecting to find them commonly on cities for at least a few hundred years.
Contrary to the stone wall, there was a large wooden gate that stood wide open where the dirt path met the wall. Beyond the gate, I saw several small buildings. Unlike the elven city I had recently visited, the buildings of Hel’dar appeared to be constructed of wood instead of stone. I could see several window holes in the sides of buildings, but there was no glass being used in this region.
No guard attempted to stop me as I entered the city, although there was one posted just outside the gate, and another atop the walls. The one on the ground, an ursa man with strong features, even greeted me with a smile and a nod. Within the city, I could hear a multitude of voices talking merrily.
From the information I saw about the city before descending, roughly ten thousand beastkin lived here. Judging by the size of the place, that seemed to be an accurate estimation. Although there were not very many homes with multiple floors, there were long roads with buildings on either side. I had even seen branching dirt paths on the way in, which seemed to lead to farmland outside of the city’s walls.
“Over here!” A voice suddenly called out to me, and I turned my head, finding a pair of beautiful young women running towards me. The two seemed to be almost identical in their appearance, both just shy of five and a half feet, looking to be in their later teens or early twenties. Their bodies were well proportioned, and they each had dog tails swaying behind them, as well as large furred ears atop their heads. The only difference was that one had silver hair and wore a black dress, while the other had black hair and wore a silver dress.
Name, please, if you would? I heard Aurivy’s excited voice calling into my mind, and readily answered that I would be going by Mitchell. As soon as I did, the silver-haired sister ran up and took my hand, dragging me towards the other one. “You finally made it, Mitchell. We’ve been waiting for you!”
Okay, so silver hair is Aurivy, and black hair is Terra. As I thought that, I looked towards the black haired sister, seeing an almost goofy smile that I hadn’t seen on the felyn goddess in so long. “Sorry to keep you waiting. So, what’s the big event?” I asked, nodding my head towards the direction of the city center, where I could hear more voices speaking loudly. Every now and then we would see someone walking out of their homes and heading in that direction, as if it were only natural.
Terra’s incarnation spoke up without a second thought. “It’s the weekly festival of D’ka, the day of rest and celebration.” She said as she grabbed my free hand. “Come on, Miren and I can show you.”
Okay, so Aurivy is Miren. Now, would someone do a convenient name drop for Terra’s incarnation? It would be much appreciated! As I thought that, I nodded my head towards the two of them, causing Miren to laugh. “Come on, Rinn, let’s hurry up or we’ll miss the fun!”
And Rivy comes in for the save. “So.. what is D’ka to celebrate, anyways?” I tried to use the language knowledge granted to me by the system, but the word did not seem to have any direct translations.
Thankfully, Miren answered my question pretty regularly. “It’s the day that the four goddesses created the four kingdoms. It is said that they communed with their priests for six days and nights to set up the land and structure of the kingdoms. On the seventh day, they went silent, allowing their people time to rest. Yet at the same time, it was a time of celebration, because the four kingdoms were still united.”
I couldn’t help but glance over to Rinn as I heard that, recalling the version of history that Terra had told me before. She shook her head, smiling knowingly. “The goddesses work in mysterious ways. Sometimes without ever actually doing any work at all, yet people still perceive it as so. Or, maybe they just wanted a convenient excuse?”
That is, sadly, true. Saying that it was the idea of the goddesses themselves to divide the kingdom gives a perfect reason to keep the church in the highest position of power. As we turned a corner, I saw a pair of felyn children running past us, each with a ribbon on their arm. One of the ribbons was white, while the other was brown.
It looked like they were being chased, so I turned my attention towards the larger group of kids running after them. They all had playful smiles, so it didn’t seem to be bullying. And again, there were ribbons on the arms of each child. Though, the ribbons on those kids were all blue. “And… what is that?”
Miren looked between the two groups of kids, covering her mouth to suppress a laugh. “Oh, this’ll be good… That is the ‘Goddess’s Keeper’ game that they play every D’ka.”
...Explanation needed! Seeing the stiff look on my face, the two sisters looked at each other with satisfied smiles, before Rinn took over. “There is a legend of a being who stands above the Goddesses, someone who is faceless and formless, yet can alter the very world itself with a thought. Some people call him the Father, some people call him the Maker, but the common term that has developed is that he is the one who protects us, keeps our world safe. So, he has come to be known as the Goddess’s Keeper.”
Giggling, Miren took over from there, and we could see more children walking around with blue ribbons, as if searching for someone. “When the festival of D’ka first began, a bunch of kids decided to make a game of the legend. Everyone involved is given a single ribbon to wrap around their arm. Blue ribbons indicate the mortals, who worship the goddesses.”
“Most kids have a blue ribbon, but there are four special ones. The white ribbon marks Udona, brown marks Keliope, black marks Accalia, and red marks Terra. If anyone with a blue ribbon catches one of the ‘goddesses’, they exchange ribbons.”
Rinn couldn’t suppress the grin on her face as Miren explained the rules of the game, and I knew there was more. “However, among the blue ribbons, there is one special one. On the inside of one of them, there will be a golden band. That person becomes the Goddess’s Keeper. In order to ‘win’ the game, you have to have either one of the goddess ribbons, or the Keeper ribbon by the time the game ends in the evening.”
...My life has turned into a children’s game of tag. “There aren’t any other, similar games, are there?” I couldn’t help but ask, looking between the two as they burst out laughing.
“No, playing that keeps them pretty busy. Some kids play other games among themselves, but most either stick with this game, or help out the adults.” Rinn explained with a shrug of her shoulders, still grinning happily.
“What about security… monsters won’t just stop attacking once a week because of the festival, will they?” I mean, if anything they should be attacking in greater numbers, because all of the juicy targets are in the city.
Rinn nodded her head, as if understanding the question. “For safety, there are patrols going through the nearby area every day, including D’ka. While it means some people don’t get to enjoy the festivities, they rotate them regularly so that nobody is completely left out.”
“I see… So, aside from this… game, what else is there to do on D’ka? Surely, the two of you didn’t ask me to delay my arrival just for that?” Though, I could completely see Terra doing it just to mess with me. But, I couldn’t see Aurivy doing that.
Miren grinned slightly, and we finally got to what seemed to be the largest building in the city. “This is the theater. Every D’ka, there are performances held here. We wanted to bring you here to watch those~.” She assured, winking playfully to me as she finally let go of my hand. Rinn soon joined her, and the two ran straight towards the theater, right past a line of people who were waiting for admittance. Oh, great, they’re performers…
Though, seeing them running like that did answer a small question I had been wondering about regarding beastkin fashion. Apparently, their dresses were cut just above where the base of their tails were, giving a brief glimpse of skin before pants covered everything below the tail. Still… very pretty.