It was late in the afternoon when our heroes arrived at the ancient ruins of Hopi Mesa.
Like Benjamin Village, Hopi Mesa has a mountain range in the background, and the remains of former residential areas and altars could still be seen everywhere.
The townscape, which took advantage of that structure, successfully blended the past with the present, creating a “somewhat nostalgic” atmosphere for the visitors.
The first thing for them to do was to find lodgings.
They picked a room on the second floor of a beautiful building made of wood and stone with a great view.
Chiyome was apparently going to be fine on her own, so she stayed in a room slightly apart from theirs.
And now that they had a room, the duo were thinking of surveying the area, but…
[I’m sorry, Seto. I feel a little tired.] (Satis)
Satis was laying down on the bed, looking tired.
Perhaps because she exhausted such a huge amount of mana during her fight with the Orc King. She did take a short break after that, but even so, she still looked completely exhausted all the way here.
She could barely walk, and when they arrived in this town, she was so spent she could not even smile.
[I’m sorry, Satis. I should’ve come to your aid after all. If I had fought the Orc King instead, you wouldn’t be–] (Seto)
[What are you saying now? That battle was something I had to win myself. I can’t keep relying on you for everything, now can I?] (Satis)
[But still…] (Seto)
[Good grief, you’re so indecisive. I’m taking today off, so we’ll start investigating the area tomorrow. Don’t worry. I’ll be fully recovered by then, so we’ll be able to check things out together.] (Satis)
[…Alright. Take a good rest. Ah, I know. How about I go look around now? This way, if I find anything interesting, I’ll let you know.] (Seto)
[Eh? But…] (Satis)
[It’ll be fine! I may not know anything about history, but reconnaissance is something I can do. Leave it to me.] (Seto)
[Hmm… Very well, then. But please don’t overdo it. And even if you don’t find anything, come back before it gets dark. Are we clear?] (Satis)
Seto nodded with a smile and left the room.
She half-hurried across the hallway and stairs and out of the inn.
At that moment, Seto’s expression turned a little gloomy.
[Satis really wasn’t feeling well…] (Seto)
He did not get to see her smile
That alone was enough to weigh heavily on the boy.
For Seto, Satis’ smile was the first treasure he had found in his life.
But now, Satis was so exhausted from her battle that she could not move her body the way she wanted.
It was not like she was going to die, but Seto could not bear to see her so weak.
Back when he first met her in that forest, he most definitely did not feel that way.
Satis was weakened back then too, but Seto was still capable of acting independently.
But now, if someone were to ask him how he felt, then the answer was clear as day.
Seto was incredibly worried about Satis.
He could not help but feel restlessly torn between his wish for her to get well soon and his desire to walk with her.
[…I really can’t live without Satis, can I? Hahaha…] (Seto)
With a dry smile on his face, he left the inn and set out to explore.
While looking back at the inn several times as he left, Seto paced around the townscape of ruins.
Gendar said in his letter that the “key” was there, but so far, the boy had not found anything that might be it.
As he was circling the markets with his mind clouded by his concern for Satis, he saw Chiyome walking by.
Seto rushed up to her and lined up beside her.
[Ah, it’s Chiyome. Heyyy!] (Seto)
[Hmmm~? Is that you, Seto? What brings you out here? …Is the lady travelin’ with you stayin’ at home today?] (Chiyome)
[Ah, yeah, you could say that. …But nevermind us. What are you doing, wandering around here? Were you headed somewhere?] (Seto)
[Well, I’m here for business. I’m a shrine maiden, so I was gonna pray and ward off the bad luck in that house. Then I’d charge them for it. I was just finished with that other house back there.] (Chiyome)
[Ohhh. So that kind of job also exists.] (Seto)
[Well, it only earns me chump change. When I don’t have enough, I make up for it with another job.] (Chiyome)
[What kind?] (Seto)
[Hmm~? You wanna know?] (Chiyome)
[…Maybe not. But still, you’re amazing. You can do everything by yourself.] (Seto)
Seto smiled in a self-deprecating manner.
He ended up comparing himself to Chiyome.
Chiyome sensed the depression inside him.
[…Good grief. I know your companion ain’t in good shape right now, but if you’re in low spirits too, you’ll never get back on track.] (Chiyome)
Chiyome had also taken care of Satis along the way when she was tired.
She shrugged her shoulders and gave Seto some light pats, as if telling herself that he was the one who needs help now.
[Now listen. It ain’t like she’s gonna die. When people are tired, they all feel better after a good meal and a good night’s sleep. It’s the same for her.] (Chiyome)
[Well, sure, but… When Satis isn’t in good health, I’ve got this pain in my chest.] (Seto)
[*Sigh* You’re so wishy-washy. You gotta stay firm, like a rock! It ain’t like you did anythin’ wrong. You gotta stay confident in yourself. Trust me, it’ll be good medicine for her.] (Chiyome)
[You… think so?] (Seto)
[Sure do. Being full of energy suits kids better.] (Chiyome)
With these words, Chiyome took Seto to a food stall and bought him fruit.
Seto declined at first, but gave in to Chiyome’s insistence and accepted the fruit.
[It’s my treat. Kids should eat as much as they can.] (Chiyome)
[Okay, I’ll help myself. …Sorry about that.] (Seto)
[Don’t apologize. Once you’re done eatin’, be sure to show her your smile.] (Chiyome)
[Okay, I promise. But there’s something I have to search for first.] (Seto)
[You’re lookin’ for somethin’? Well, I dunno what it is, but I wish you luck in findin’ it.] (Chiyome)
After that, Chiyome walked away again while poking her cane around.
Seto wanted to follow her and see what kind of job she did, but he decided to leave that for another time and just try to fulfill his own duty.
Unlike the long face he had been pulling until now, he now had the gallant expression of someone fully focused on what he had to do.
He had to return home with at least one piece of information so he could show his face to Satis again.
[I didn’t find anything of note in the city. …Maybe I can try going further behind next.] (Seto)
There was still time before it got dark.
He went to the far end of the city, to a section near the mountain range.
As he proceeded, the bustle and crowds of the marketplace gradually vanished.
This section appeared to be a residential area, and he saw children playing and running around innocently several times.
However, it seemed that outsiders were not really welcome here.
Some houses closed their curtains as soon as they saw Seto walking by their windows, and he saw a few residents stealthily watching him.
Guess I’ll just quickly check things out and go back. I think I’ll investigate that spot over there last. (Seto)
The place Seto headed to was one of the plainest areas of Hopi Mesa.
There was a rocky mountain in the back, part of which had been processed into a temple.
It was a cave temple, and quite an old one at that.
Are those…? (Seto)
There were several totem poles surrounding it.
Hoping to find some clues there, Seto slowly marched forward.