We rode the chocobos all the way to their village. How far? I'm not honestly sure but the things must run four or fives times the speed of a horse at least. The wind rushed by so fast it took everything we had just to hold on to them and not get knocked off to an early grave. Especially when the chocobos leapt between the various islands of floating rock. I generally don't have a problem with heights, but the gaps they soared across did not seem to have any bottoms...
The place we were brought to was full of translucent, glowing flowers and multicolored spores. The Tanuki's homes were strange, either conical tents or orb-like trees with blossoming flowers for the roof while even more were simply built partially into the mountain out of its sturdy rock. There was a slight mist in the air and shimmer to the air from numerous pounding waterfalls in the area.
As the chocobos pulled up and slowed to a stop, I couldn't help but chuckle as Aiko's hair, blasted by the wind, looked a lot like mine usually did (utterly disheveled). As she was taming her wild locks, Tanuki poured out of the structures to gather around us and stare. When Kuoppa waddled out before them there were many great cheers (more 'Wooska"). Slowly the crowd parted to let an elderly looking Tanuki through, this one with dark silver fur with white streaks and a long, flowing beard. His hair was tied in a topknot atop his head. He wore robes of orange, red, and purple while holding a gnarled staff topped with bells with a pudgy white bird with almost comically long eyebrows perched atop it.
He knew who we were and our goal of seeking the twelve relics of Tian Zhe. Despite his advanced age, his smile held mischief and amusement as he told us that he couldn't tell us everything, it was not his place to. He did tell us we could get our answers at a place known as Ilfra, the Sky Palace, that was located beyond the horizon. He did say if we did not succeed in our goal and darker forces gained control of them it would cause the "Shadow" to stir and be given life once more. If that occurred, all the worlds and "layers" of Terra would be impacted. He refused to give any more detail on that, however.
Connitsu did give us some other information on where we were, though. This place was "Beyond the Mists" with Seiya Zei lying far to the west. This was confusing as Seiya Zei itself was known as the far east...suggesting something lay to the west of it was strange to us. He eventually elaborated that this place was normally inaccessible to Seiya Zei, one of the layered worlds that overlapped with Seiya Zei much like the Shadowlands or the Elven Gates. Only those fated to could ever come here, as we were at this point.
Aiko did ask him the meaning of the phrase, "Kiyo Chuk Chuk", though his only response was amusement and that we should repeat it back. We would enjoy the results or so he said. She also inquired on the spirit foxes and Connitsu mentioned there were very few left and finding one was rare, much less two bound to the same person. As for Kaylaviira, it was the name for a great and benevolent power. He didn't have any other details, as it is a very mysterious source of ancient magic.
Besides that Connitsu mentioned the last time an outsider was here when he was but a child. That person only passed through briefly, saying two words to Connitsu and his father..."Stay Strong".
As for how we should get to the Sky Palace? He mentioned we'd have to catch some chocobos capable of making the trip! He said Kuoppa would give us what we need and lead us to the "Edge of the Mist" where they were...and where they were being hunted by some sort of fiends we would have to deal with. The Tanuki's own chocobo herds had been decimated by the fiend mentioned and a great deal of them had been sent fleeing in fear when it attacked the village. First thing in the morning that is! For the evening we would be staying and celebrating.
The Tanuki began to bustle about and a great feast was prepared. As the night came there was no darkness accompanying it, though the stars still gleamed above. Bugs filled the evening air, glowing in reds, violets, and blues. The Tanuki prepared a great bonfire over which they cooked elaborate dishes, with me introducing them to sake and alcohol for the first time apparently (including the recipes I found earlier on the Baychiro). Occasionally they tossed handfuls of some spice upon the flame, causing it to change color and burn brighter for a short moment.
Several Tanuki began to play instruments; drums, lutes, and ocarinas with Aiko joining in on her own ocarina with a wide smile, dancing amongst their tiny younglings. Other younglings gathered around the matrons of the Tanuki, painted with prepared pastes in designs similar to war paint. Keisuke carved little toys for the children to their delight and amazement.
As the feasts began, Connitsu called out over the din and roar of the crowd that they would host games and challenges to honor the glory of Wooska...evidently a hero amongst their people by the sound.
The first involved a test of strength and a 'large' (by Tanuki standards) rock that Keisuke hefted with one hand to the cheers of their people. The second was a chocobo race, a game where they certainly held the advantage. The three of us would be racing their champion Kuoppa. We were granted three of their...problematic chocobos. One easily distracted, one glaring and scornful, and the last trembling with fright. I ended up with the easily distracted one and named him Chiba. He reminded me a little of Aiko's one spirit fox and was rather cute in his own way.
Before the race began, the elder asked if we had any requests. It was with a wide grin I would be honored to share a drink before the race. Aiko and Keisuke, having drank before had no issue with a little sip of sake but it seems little Kuoppa wasn't used to the potent alcohol....
The race was extremely challenging! Especially controlling the chocobos we were given (not to mention the twisting path, the bats that flew up, and all manner of other obstacles) but the drink gave us a slight edge over the more experienced racing Tanuki. We all managed to beat Kuoppa with Keisuke coming in first, me in second, and Aiko in third place. It was incredibly exciting and I hope once we get our own chocobos we'll have the chance to race them again! It was a truly amazing experience.
...oh, the elder just called again. The next challenge is about to start!