Pets in the Forest

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As remembered by Ho

So there we were, in the forest, alone and abandoned, with no pork buns.

Usually this happens because my Lady needs to go fight some people and thinks that the Burning Man will set me on fire. But this time, she left me with the Strange Old Man, and Squeaky, and Jialing, and she said I needed to help the Old Man and save the day. But then the Old Man wandered off, without giving me a chance to herd him back to the pack. So all I could do was save the day. Fortunately, saving the day is our speciality.

The Old Man left the Little Girl’s sandal, so obviously he wanted us to go find her, so that’s what we did. I started following her scent down a trail. Aside from Girl and Forest, I could smell Rain, and we heard thunder off in the distance too. Also, we found Adorable Snake. I love Adorable Snake. I don’t really know why.

It started raining, and then the Girl’s scent led us into this clearing full of cows. These cows were going every which way, and stepping in holes, and doing all kinds of dumb things that cows do when nobody is telling them where to go. What I’m saying is that these cows were in serious desperate need of herding. But we had to find the Girl, which meant getting past the Aimless Cows. One of them freaked out and tried to trample Adorable Snake. That clearing was a disaster.

But we got through it. It was really hard to pick up the Girl’s scent again, with all of that trampling going on. Jialing said that something in the chi helped me pick up her scent again, and gave me some kind of “plus 1”. I never know what he’s talking about half the time.

But then we found her! So exciting! But she was trapped under a fallen tree limb, so it was time to SAVE THE DAY! I immediately started digging her out, while Squeaky messed around with trying to lift the branch with a stick, and Jialing said some stuff that I couldn’t remember. Eventually we got her loose, and she patted Jialing on the head for being so clever, and scritched Squeaky for being so helpful.

The Girl asked if we were the three animal friends that Grandfather Takanata said would come. I was like, obviously! She was very happy, and wanted to go straight up to the watchtower, so we could light the fire so the cows could come home. I’m not sure why they don’t just herd them, but OK. Up the hill! But halfway up the hill, I found a Bad Wolf, hiding in a shadow. Obviously it was going to try to eat the Girl!

So once it spotted us, Squeaky sneaked up, and I demanded that it state its business here. The Bad Wolf had the nerve to say that the Girl didn’t need any animal friends, and that he would “deal with her”. We were like, what does that mean even? Humans need animal friends to get anything done. And the wolf grinned -- exactly his idea!

That was enough for Squeaky, who tried to do the Vorpal Ferret thing. I think he needs more training before that’s really going to work, but it sure caught Bad Wolf by surprise. Squeaky and I tore into him, and after some fighting, he melted back into shadow, which was definitely a little weird. This time, the Girl figured out that I had saved her, so I got another chi thingy.

The Girl started to look for wood to start a fire up in the watchtower, but wasn’t having much luck, with the rain raining on everything. Jialing went to look for Forest Treasure, by which he said he meant maybe wood, but I think he was really thinking “Shiny stuff”. He decided that the treasure was in the Girl’s bag, so then there was some of Jialing trying to get into her bag, and the Girl shooshing him off.

Meanwhile there was no dry wood. But then Squeaky looked at the base of the tower, where he found a thingy with a lock on it, and he jimmied the lock open, and hey! Firewood! So she went up and started a fire at the top of the tower, and the cows suddenly started going in the right direction. I dunno how that works even. Maybe the Great Dog Spirit marked this wood once, and now it has herding powers?

Then the Girl was really tired, and she gave us some treats (yay!), and then laid down for a nap. Squeaky and Jialing were both eying that knapsack (Squeaky thought there was something yummy in there too), but it’s kind of awkward because she was using it as a pillow now.

After they talked about it for a while, Adorable Snake rolled her eyes, and said “fine…”, and went in to investigate. She found more sausage (I thought that was the treasure, but Squeaky and Jialing were sure that wasn’t it), and some pouches of leaves and sticks, and some rain gear. Adorable Snake definitely thought there might be some kind of secret, but it was too secret to figure out right now.

But then things were getting kind of weird. Squeaky tried to figure out what we needed to do next, and he figured out that it was Fire Lighting Time, which didn’t make sense, because the fire was already going. And he got some weird chi thingy for that too. He tried to wake the Girl up, but she seemed to be magically asleep! Jialing said there was Storm Chi on me and Squeaky, and a lot of Storm Chi keeping the girl asleep.

We couldn’t figure out what to do. But I knew what our Companions would do: they would hem and haw and then look in the backpack. So we looked in the backpack. Jialing figured out that one of the sticks in the bag of sticks was Forest Treasure. Squeaky still couldn’t figure out what in the backpack was yummy (I think he was ignoring the obvious, which is sausage…).

Squeaky tried using the poncho to protect the Girl from the Storm Chi. No luck. Then he went down to start another fire in the box full of sticks, in case that was it. But it wasn’t. We tried poking her with the sticks. Nope. Squeaky thought the fire needed to be bigger, so we started hauling more wood up to add to the fire at the top of the watchtower. I don’t mind carrying sticks, obviously, though it got kind of repetitive, and still she wasn’t waking up.

So we thought it through and decided that there was nothing left to try but throwing the Treasure Stick into the fire. I really wanted to grab it in midair, but it just wasn’t the time. That got things going: the fire started glowing blue! Jialing said that was spiritual light. The wind started howling, and we heard a voice: “He comes. Save him.”

And finally the Girl woke up. She thought maybe she heard something. Squeaky quickly went downstairs to put out the extra fire that he’d started. I looked out into the storm. I couldn’t see anyone coming, but I did notice a cave nearby. What would our Companions do? Obviously they would go to the cave.

So Squeaky and I led them toward the cave. At the mouth of the cave, we found a tree growing inside a cleft rock. The wind was blowing, and the tree was shaking, and the rock was rumbling, and the closer we got, the louder it all became! The Girl got more worried as we approached the cave, and eventually all the noise kind of got to her, and she yelled at the rock to be quiet, and it quieted down. That was definitely surprising.

I could smell more shadow wolves, though, so we had to go in carefully. I organized our little party into a scout team and a main body. We could hear something whimpering somewhere in the cave, so we followed that. And eventually we found the source: A little boy with a torch, being menaced by two shadowy wolves.

So we GOT THEM. Squeaky went in to grab one by the back of the neck while I went for the front of the neck on the other one. Jialing complained that he’s no good at fighting, which unfortunately is true, though he got in there and flapped for all he was worth. Adorable Snake helped out by chomping at the heels of the shadow wolves: It turns out she’s mildly venomous, and can kind of stun her victims. And to be fair, nobody likes having a ferret attached to their back. So we wore them down and beat them back into the shadows. Going pad-to-pad with those guys was not a walk in the park; they beat me up pretty good as well.

Jialing figured out more stuff -- the shadow wolves had Darkness Chi, not Forest Chi. The Boy definitely had Forest Chi, of the good kind. From the Boy’s scent, I could tell that he hadn’t walked into the caves -- he somehow just got to where he was. He said he was following the blue light, but then it went away. Well, anyway. To get out, all I had to do was track us back to the cave entrance. Easy peasy.

So then, the Girl was looking for some Mother Shishen, who she was supposed to heal. And I’m like, some of the Companions are always talking about some Rule of Threes (especially Squeaky’s guy), there’s going to be a third fight. And when we got to Mother Shishen’s little shack in the woods, I’m like, there are wolves right here. And Jialing is like, there’s dark chi right here. And Squeaky is like, something’s not adding up here, but are we sure we want the Girl to give a salve of strength to the Harmless Old Lady, who says her foot hurts, but it looks fine to us?

I know humans, so I tried to figure out where the bad guys were. But that was confusing, because the Girl was good, and the Boy wasn’t a bad guy yet, and …. That’s it? No more humans. Uh…

So the Girl was trying to give the salve to the Old Lady, and we decided we were going to have to stop that. Squeaky grabbed the Old Lady’s foot, and Jialing started flapping in the Girl’s face, and Adorable Snake grabbed the salve. And suddenly the Boy is starting to get scared and whimpery, and the wind starts picking up outside, and I was like uh-oh, if we had our Companions here, they would say the Boy is a Plot.

So change of plan. Squeaky went over to offer his fluffy splendour to the Boy, for hugging, and that worked, and the storm calmed down. I decided to take the direct approach with the Old Lady, going for the neck. Adorable Snake fed me some of that yummy strength salve, which was really quite tasty, and made me very strong! Well, after a couple of bites, the whole Old Lady thing kind of went away, replaced by a Shadow Wolfy thing. Aha! As soon as she was exposed, she wailed “No! The son must not be introduced to the father!”. Then she melted away.

I have to mention at this point that the Girl’s name is Persistence, and it’s kind of apt, in a way that a name like “Perception” wouldn’t have been the right thing at all. Because she’s kind of “Huh, what happened to Mother Shishen?” And I tried to tell her that Mother Shishen was a shadow wolf, but she just wasn’t getting it. I ate the rest of the salve, though. That really hit the spot, since all these wolves had been kind of shredding my hide. Jialing pocketed the Old Lady’s coin purse, since it was jingly, which promises shiny. Well, he didn’t pocket it, dragons don’t have pockets. You know what I mean.

But Girl noticed that I was licking my wounds, and said there might be a chance to get some Phoenix Tail mushrooms before dark. So we went out looking. Jialing found some mushroom treasure -- some red-and-orange mushrooms. Looked phoenix-y to me. But the Girl ignored them and went for the gray mushrooms. I went and nommed some of the red-and-orange ones that Jialing was pointing out, and they healed me some! Tasty tasty!

But the Girl was totally confused and thought I should eat the gray mushrooms instead. Jialing said there was weird chi on her eyes. She was really pushing the gray mushrooms, so I had to pretend to eat them, grabbing them and then smushing them on the ground. Hey! They melted into the ground, just like those wolves did! OK, that settled it -- Jialing decided that it was time to try out a new thing he’d been learning from his guy: “Chi cleansing”. He hit her with some of that, and suddenly she flings away the gray mushrooms, saying “Ewww!!!”.

The Boy ate one of those tasty Phoenix mushrooms, and his eyes glowed yellow a little. Not sure what’s up with that.

It was almost dusk, so the Girl hurried home with us. Once she got there, she found a guy sitting next to the fire, and she was like, Ahhh!!! Intruder! Get him! But he wasn’t shadowy at all, and I tried looking for Bad Guy Humans, and once again… not human. Jialing took a good hard look at the Guy, and then his eyes kind of bugged out of his head, and I think Jialing needs to go confuse his Companion now. So we decided maybe it’s not such a good idea to attack this guy. The Girl was disappointed, but the Guy thought we were wise.

“Don’t worry”, he said, “I just stopped by to thank you for finding my son.”

Aha! The son introduced to the father! Well, if the Shadow Wolves didn’t want that, it’s probably a good thing, right? So the Boy was introduced to the Guy. Day Saved!

And then the Guy asked the Girl if she wanted to choose one of us as a companion, and suddenly we were all looking at our paws, because, you know, we already have human companions. But she said that we had all helped her equally, so she wasn’t sure which one to pick. The Guy asked Adorable Snake if she wanted to be a companion, but she said no. So the Guy will find the Girl another companion, sounds like. He pointed us off on the right path to go find our Companions, who were all fast asleep in a clearing, with nobody on guard.

Jialing thinks the Guy is actually the Forest, and we’re like, whoa. Adorable Snake says she can turn that into a Secret, so the Snake of Secrets can go tell the Dancer, which seems like going around the long way, but honestly, Companions often have a really hard time comprehending plain old language, so Snakes it is...