"So, you guys have been busy," she said as she took a seat next to Saito.
"Yes, I had a feeling you would not return alone, and Hayai and Kuma take up quite a bit of room."
Dally laughed. "Especially Kuma! I see you've met my cousin."
Saito nodded. "She will be of help. I know where her family is from, and that is close to the third temple."
"I haven't been there in ages," Celia said thoughtfully. "I hope I remember my way around."
"Things have changed quite a bit, but I am sure you will be fine," Saito replied. "Do you want to come in and see the new addition, or will you be heading off now?"
"We should go," Celia declared as she looked toward the mountains. "I'd like to get back before dark, and we don't have much time."
Dally nodded. "Let's go."
"Dinner will be waiting for you when you return," Saito called after them. They waved and headed down the path that led to the mountains.
They walked in silence for the first kilometer. A foul odor overtook them, and they both stopped abruptly.
"What is that?" Celia said, putting her hand over her mouth and nose.
"I think," Dally said, walking farther up the trail, "yep, it's dragon dung."
Celia caught up to her and they both stared at an extremely large pile of dragon dung. It did not look like the dragon had "naturally" deposited it there, but like it had been placed there.
"Is this here to stop people from using the path?" Celia said, her voice muffled by her hand.
Dally shrugged. "I don't know, but let's get around it quick before our lunch comes back to haunt us." Celia nodded, and they walked around the foul mass and went a bit into the woods. Dally turned around to make sure Celia was behind her, and let out a scream when she saw Celia lunge for her. She stepped back and felt the ground fall from under her heels. Celia grabbed Dally's shirt and pulled her forward.
"You were going to step into a trap," Celia said, pointing behind Dally.
Dally turned around and saw there indeed was a hole in the ground, partially covered by tree limbs. "Thanks," she said to Celia.
Celia shrugged. "I should have said something, but I just reacted."
"Good thing," Dally said, peering into the hole. It wasn't very deep, and it looked like something had dug the hole with very large paws.
"Let's just keep going," Celia urged. "I'm not liking this at all. Let's just get to the temple."
They walked around the hole and went back to the path. They walked, constantly looking around for more impediments to their progress. They saw the temple in the distance, and quickened their pace.
A loud crunching sound shattered the silence and a huge rock fell onto the path a few feet in front of them. They jumped back, and a large dragon shadow passed over them. Celia looked up and her eyes got very wide.
"Zenko," she whispered. "The trickster dragon."
"That's not very nice!" Dally yelled at Zenko. "You could have killed us!"
The dragon turned in the sky and landed on the path on the other side of the rock. He laid his head on the rock, and sighed. I'm sorry, he was saying.
Dally put her hands on her hips. "You should be sorry! You want to play tricks but we're not dragons!"
Zenko sighed again, then pushed the rock out of the way. He turned, and hunkered himself low to the ground and looked over his shoulder at them. Climb on!
Dally motioned for Celia to follow, and they climbed on Zenko's back. He flew them up the hill, and landed in front of the Temple. Kamaitachi stood on the Temple steps, staring in awe at the duo as they climbed down from Zenko's back.
"I see you've made a friend," she said softly.
"After he tried to kill us," Celia growled.
"Not on purpose," Dally said.
Kamaitachi smiled and approached them slowly. "He is a bit of a nuisance. But, he doesn't intentionally try to harm anyone."
"Anyway," Dally said, patting Zenko's cheek, "I did talk to my contacts in the Blackbloods. Celia here is one of them. They are fighting Xander's forces as well."
"Well, I am not sure if it was your discussion or the fact that they want to attack on other fronts, but the Blackbloods have pulled out of the Ridge," Kamaitachi said as she slowly reached out to touch Zenko's snout.
"When?" Celia asked.
"This morning," Kamaitachi replied.
Celia grinned at Dallyah. "Guess it worked," she said proudly.
Dally shrugged. "I highly doubt Xander moved because of me."
Kamaitachi smiled. "Your humility defines you, Princess. Come back tomorrow, I will help you find Ronin."
Dally bowed. "Thank you, Guardian. May I ask one thing of you?"
Kamiatachi nodded. "Of course."
Dally patted Zenko. "Please don't call me Princess. I am a Dragon Lord."