-Inside Sakuramori Forest, one hour later-
Diana and Amanda were making good time in getting out of the forest and had not yet seen that woman from earlier. Diana was not even sure if she was real, but the dark-haired woman's magic signature was real enough. Maybe the huntress had encountered a kitsune or something... kitsunes were fox spirits famous for adopting female forms and tricking people with elaborate illusions that were indistinguishable from reality. Diana had thought that they were native to Midi, but she was no expert in folklore. Maybe one or two had migrated to the Sakuramori area for one reason or another.
"Hey Diana, did you see some strange lady in black clothing wearing red gauntlets that look like the ones Midi's samurai wear?
" Amanda asked Diana out of the blue. Diana nodded.
" Diana asked.
"I saw her too and I wanted to be sure that I wasn't the only one who did. I was running from her earlier because I was walking along the path and all of a sudden she came out of nowhere and swung this big red sword about a foot behind me. I didn't know if she was after me or not, so I screamed and ran away.
" Amanda explained how she had known about the mystery woman. Diana did not know that the woman had a sword, only that she dressed in black and wore red gauntlets. As if the mystery person were a devil of mythology that could be summoned by the mention of its name the afterimage appeared and the woman appeared in front of Diana. Amanda screamed and hid behind the huntress.
"Sakuramori Forest isn't for the weak.
" The woman repeated her warning from earlier.
"I found the missing person I was looking for and am on my way out.
" Diana informed the stranger. The woman nodded.
"Yes, you should leave with her while you can. You see, we're far from the only ones in this forest.
" The woman informed Diana. Before Diana could react the woman raised her left hand into the air and a red dome of magic emanated from her body. The area glowed red for a few moments and Diana saw white outlines in the air that began to take physical form. They were floating blue flames that had somehow remained hidden until they had been revealed!
"Now do you see why I say what I did?
" The woman asked.
"Yes. Now I do.
" Diana conceded. She was unaware that there were floating blue fires in the forest until the woman had revealed them. She had read that they were a type of spirit, but their name eluded the huntress. The blue flames continued to dance in the air as Diana and Amanda looked at them in surprise.
"These spirits are not to be taken lightly. Sometimes they're just simple tricksters looking to play pranks on humans. Others are more malevolent and want to hurt intruders. A malevolent spirit was following your companion and I banished it with my sword. Unfortunately, she thought I was attacking her and ran away from me before I could explain myself.
" The black-haired woman said to them and explained why she had "attacked" Amanda earlier. Diana looked at the woman with her truth-detecting ability and saw that the stranger was telling the truth. She was no outlaw, but someone else. What she was remained a mystery for the time being.
"While I cannot say that I blame Amanda from running from you, I appreciate what you did for her.
" Diana said to the stranger. The stranger gave a small smile.
"I can see spirits that others can't see. I can also reveal them to others who don't have my gift, but many people tell me that they'd rather not see them.
" The woman replied. Diana nodded. She too had seen a lot of things that most people would rather not see.
The blue flames began to move up and down in what looked like agitation. The woman noticed this and walked past Diana and Amanda.
"Follow me. I believe that we're beginning to overstay our welcome in this forest.
" The woman warned them. Diana looked at Amanda and the other blonde nodded at the huntress. Diana turned to face the stranger and nodded.
"Very well then. Lead the way.
" Diana said, ceding the right of leadership to the stranger. The black-haired woman led the two blondes towards the exit at a brisk walk while the spirits were still somewhat accommodating towards the trio. Diana did not know that spirits could manifest in daytime... maybe they could because of the abundant magic that permeated the forest.
-One hour later, outside Sakuramori Forest-
"We made it. It seems that we caught the spirits in a good mood because they let us go without pursuing us.
" The black-haired woman told Diana and Amanda.
"I'm just glad to be out of that forest! I kept hearing flute music but I didn't see anyone with a flute! It was really creepy!
" Amanda exclaimed. Diana heard the flute music play a few notes before it faded away. Amanda and the stranger had heard it too because they reacted to it. Amanda shrieked while the stranger remained calm.
"THERE IT IS AGAIN!
" Amanda exclaimed. Diana looked towards the woods to see if she could spot the flute player but did not see anyone.
"There's nothing to worry about, young lady. You should be glad that flute music's the worst thing that happened to us. If the spirits really didn't like us we would have had a rough time of it.
" The black-haired woman remarked. Diana looked towards the woman and asked a question.
"What is your name?
" Diana asked her.
"My name's Konoe. Konoe Takamachi. Or Takamachi Konoe. Either order works for me.
" The black-haired woman finally introduced herself to the two blondes.
"I am Diana Winchester.
" Diana introduced herself in return.
"And I'm Amanda Smith.
" Amanda introduced herself to Konoe.
"All right then. Now that we all know each other's names, let's go to Sakuramori. I've had enough of this forest for one day.
" Konoe said to them. Diana and Amanda nodded. Konoe then began to lead them towards Sakuramori so that they could get on the road to Hosenka while there was still plenty of daylight.
- Konoe Takamachi:
[Post Word Count: 1,056]
[Total Word Count: 3,008/11,000]