Ruin Explorers: The Million Bright Ambassadors

By Six-string Samurai (S3Cubed)

Chapter Three

They might have considered going back to Ipsward if there had been a little daylight left, but taking the terrain into account, the girls decided it would be safer to spend the rest of the night at the bottom of the stairs leading into the cavern. It was much warmer there, and sleeping by the water just didn't sit right for some reason. It could have had to do with all that open space hidden by the steam clouds. Either way, they undid Fam's pack and pulled out a large blanket for the both of them. Using their packs as makeshift pillows, the girls settled down for the night. They'd even had the luxury of a warm bath.

Fam awoke to find Ihrie sprawled half in and out of the blanket, snoring away, oblivious to the light streaming down from the hole above. The cat girl stretched some, and sat up on her knees. She'd had to sleep on her stomach for fear of aggravating whatever she'd done to her poor tail. While she was no stranger to sleeping on uncomfortable surfaces, Fam usually had the luxury of changing positions while she slept. She ached all over. Maybe they should've hiked back to that outpost last night. She could've had a bed to sleep in, and some breakfast, even if it was paltry.

She started to poke at Ihrie, intent on waking her, when she remembered the lake. That would do wonders toward getting the kinks out of her body. The other treasure hunter surely wanted to sleep in, so Fam figured she'd go for a swim, and let Ihrie rest a little longer in the process.

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When the swordswoman woke, she found herself alone. "Fam?" Had the other girl gone outside? She sat up, pulling on her cloak to go check the top of the stairs, only to find the entryway empty as well. Puzzled, but not overly concerned, she headed back down into the cavern. It was possible that the cat girl had gone off to find something to eat. There was also the matter of the local spirits. The blonde had been overly concerned about that in Ihrie's opinion.

While she waited on her partner to return, Ihrie repacked their things. It was still relatively early, and she wanted to get to Ipsward by lunchtime. It had only taken them a few hours to get to the mountain from the outpost. Once they were on horseback, it would be about the same amount of time from there to the town. If they left soon, and the weather held, her estimate would be about right. Her stomach chose that moment to make its thought on the matter known.

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Meanwhile, the wiggan was enjoying a nice long soak in the heated waters of the lake. She'd considered swimming back out to the island; maybe the statues would jog her memory, but once she'd fully immersed herself that thought had been pushed aside. Still, if there was one thing that disappointed her, it was the lack of glow on her fur. She scrunched her toes through the silt at the bottom of the lake, trying to stir it up to no avail.

Mildly put off, but physically feeling much better, Fam clambered out of the water. She wondered if Ihrie might be awake by now, and began the walk back. Hopefully, she'd be dry by the time she got there.

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"You could have at least woken me up too," the swordswoman complained, when her partner returned, obviously having had gone for a swim.

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True to Ihrie's calculations, the pair made it back to the Inn they were staying at in the northern town in time for a decent lunch. They were currently stuffing their faces, hungry from the long journey, and grateful to sit down on something that didn't move.

They'd discussed the problem of the shards at length on the trip back from the mountain, but hadn't reached an agreement on what their next move would be. Ihrie wanted to check up on the merchant who'd bartered her for the map. He might know more than he'd been letting on at the time. Fam thought that was a good idea, but she wanted to find more information on the Satori Dragon first.

Neither of the two choices would allow them to stay in the north however. Ihrie had found the map in a shady little corner of Grant City, and Fam wanted to visit her village so she could consult her teacher's library. This led Ihrie to think of her own teacher, and the books he had in his possession. It had been a few years since she'd last set foot anywhere near the place, but she'd also heard more than one rumor that the old man had passed on. Maybe it was high time that she dropped in to pay her respects, and maybe find a way to undo the curse while she was at it.