Maria woke up from what Kokoso dubbed a team nap, and found her allies around her on the floor. Turning, she found Mother Goose was taking a nap as well, but something still seemed off. She sat up and looked around groggily. She considered poking Kokoso to wake up, but reconsidered.
"Can't be sure they won't wake Mother Goose." she stood up and stepped pass Kokoso, whose ears almost reached Byrd's face, and found Cathryn not far off, she was under a table by the door, she was the one Maria had to be careful with, "I should probably drape a blanket over the table so I don't wake her up." Maria turned to a chair next to her and grabbed a blanket that rested in an undignified lump, but before considering why Mother Goose would allow such a blanket to remain in a lump, she clutched the soft material and it jumped.
She jumped and sea green hair rose from the blanket mountain to find her staring in surprise at the girl who's example of midday naps they were now following. Amber eyes and green were caught for a moment in silence, until the stranger fell back into the chair and burst into laughter, "Well, there goes stealth." Maria turned to find her companions stirring and sighed.
"I-I'm sorry, it's just, I had this dream," the green haired girl tried and failed to stifle her laughter, and Maria watched as Kokoso looked around, uncertain of why he was on the floor, while Cathryn silently slid out from under her table and Byrd lay on the ground, a hand over his forehead, "and in it a monster was following me, big monster, all hairy and teeth, and it grabbed my arm, and then you grabbed my arm and I was confused, you know, I thought I was dreaming! But then I realized that you just wanted this blanket...cold?"
"U-uh...no, I thought you was a mound of blankets...she'd never let that fly, though."
"No? Then why did you grab my arm?"
"I wanted to go outside, but I didn't want to wake Cat, so I was going to drape it over the table."
"Oh...I see, why?" the girl titled her head to the side, staring at Maria curiously.
"Because...I just told you-"
"No, no, I mean going outside!"
"Oh...something seemed...off." Maria shrugged.
"Like waking up on the floor?" Kokoso called out, "I mean, seriously...how did I get...thought I was in bed?"
"You said something about a tam nap and collapsed." Cathryn reported.
"Not like waking on the floor," Maria stared up at the ceiling, "more than that...I guess it was because I trying to remember who else was in the room."
"Well, you found me, then!" the girl announced cheerfully, "Oh, so hey, you guys really did me in earlier, let's have a rematch sometime!"
"U-uh...no?" Byrd suggested, striding up to her, "You nearly killed Cat...twice, I don't think I want a rematch!"
"I almost killed Kitty?" the former phoenix fell back in her chair, startled, "I never would have wanted to, I promise!" she sprang out and ran to Cathryn, "I'm really, really, really sorry!"
"I...it's okay." Cathryn assured, standing slowly and stretching her arms.
"No, it's not, I promise, I-I'll find someway to make it!" Cathryn winced as the new resident to the village cried into her shoulder and followed Kokoso's silent advice as he patted Byrd's back slowly.
"Really...you don't have to worry about it."
"But I almost killed you!" she asserted, "As a spirit I really, really shouldn't have done that, monster or no!"
"Hmm, so that's why," Maria mused, "when I met your phoenix form's dark eyes, I sensed something that seemed human, but I was uncertain the whole time...but how did you...where are you from?"
"W-well," the young woman put her finger on her chin as she arranged her thoughts, "um, I...I'm...from...I...see, when a spirit looks down upon the world, they see what is or isn't in their sphere of influence, so I came down on my annual, three month routine to influence this hemisphere!"
"So, you're a nature spirit?" Cathryn tapped her chin thoughtfully, "But how did you come to be a monster?"
"Because...I don't know, actually, I just...went the wrong way? I felt like I was getting pulled apart and thought maybe I was having a bizarre dream." the nature spirit replied, patting her arm, "But I'm fully awake, and on a mission."
"What's your mission?" Kokoso inquired, "I'll do whatever I can to help!"
"Aren't you nice, then?" she smiled, "My mission...is to take up my place in this domain!"
"Wait...you're a nature spirit with a three month routine and it's also annual?" Maria folded her arms and pursed her lips, "So, I'm going off on a limb here, but you're basically Spring?"
"Yep, the one and only! Umm, so, about how far to the equator?"
"The e--now that you mention it...isn't the city built on the equator, and we're flew in a straight line, right?" Maria turned around and found Mother Goose smiling, eyes closed, "Hey, are you awake?"
"I was just enjoying the pleasant conversation." Mother Goose giggled, "But to answer your other question, we are...within the equator's boundaries, the equator is covered by the Wilds here, but Spring should be able to influence our world now."
"Oh, no, no, that will never do! It must be the equator, with a margin of four square miles at minimum, otherwise I'll fail my job!" Spring gasped and clenched her fists, "The world could end!"
"Hmm, I'm afraid that isn't possible." Mother Goose glanced up apologetically, "Isn't it possible to reside in this hemisphere? Give me until this hemisphere would experience the beginning of Autumn's reign, by that time I should have prepared my energies for a journey to the other side."
"By that time Summer will have had to take her place!" Spring exclaimed, "I can't risk it...for all I know, Autumn might not even be there, we have to hurry, time is of the essence, and you know it!"
"I...can't deny, Autumn could be in trouble." Mother Goose cleared her throat and turned to the others with a pained smile, "I hate to ask favors...but the monsters might regain their senses before I return to this village from my journey-"
"We got you covered." Cathryn crossed her arms and turned to the door, "You need us to make sure no harm comes to Spring...in fact, why not just stay?"
"J-just stay?" Mother Goose knitted her brows and Kokoso nodded in agreement.
"The village needs it kind-of-but-not-really queen-guardian, and we need to get tougher anyways, but on that same note, we took down Spring here, three or...four times was it? She kept eating the monsters." Kokoso shrugged by way of response to Mother Goose's eyebrow, "I think we're ready for this, besides, if this is of global importance, then it's our fight...besides, I'm curious what's at the equator!"
"So am I," Maria spoke up, "from what I understand, there's more Seasonal Girls out there, and if their safety is in question, then we've got to do something."
"I want to know more about this, too," Byrd smirked and turned to Cathryn, "maybe we should leave her here, though?"
"Huh?! I was the first to speak up, no way I'm staying back!" she turned to Mother Goose and crossed her arms, "My assistance here isn't required, is it?"
"Oh, you're free to go along with your companions...actually, it's recommended that you four stick together."
"See, Byrd; the spirits recommend I stay." Cathryn crossed her arms and turned away.
"I was only making fun of an old idiom."
"Old...oh." Cathryn strode away without looking back, "If lava, scalding water, and a battle with a constantly reborn monster feeding off hordes of monsters hasn't killed me yet, then I think I can take a little curiosity."
"Come on, Spring," Maria waved for the nature spirit to follow them while Kokoso silently tapped his fingers together and followed Cathryn outside, "we'll swing by my place for a bite, then be off."
"Ah, so you'll all help me, then?!" Spring followed eagerly.
"Yeah, after we eat." Maria confirmed, stepping outside after Kokoso.
"And you'll give me food?! You guys are the best!" Maria held onto her ears as a sudden gust swept over her and saw Spring had flown over her and the others, green feathers ruffled as she spun and landed, then joined the others as they coughed and sneezed from the sand she stirred up, "S-s-ah, s-ah, achoo! Sorry."
"It's fine," Cathryn crinkled her nose as she fought the urge to sneeze, "actually, I'm more curious about your wings...like where they went?" she turned back to Byrd with an angry grin and pointed at him, he raised his hands defensively and smiled.
"Oh, my true form has wings, but this body is mostly human, regular old, garden variety human." Spring explained.
"So, that's a human's body-"
"No, it's mine, I generated it to be low profile, I understand that certain people don't like wings or something."
"Oh, so...did it take long?" Cathryn quirked her eyebrow at Spring.
"I have a question now," Kokoso raised his hand, "what about your true form, can you only be here if you're human?"
"Not...exactly, see, some stuff's going on right now, my spirit form won't cut it."
"Why not ask for help?" Kokoso offered.
"Oh, I will, I'm sure the others-"
Kokoso hopped in front of her and walked backwards, "I meant us! We defeated you, so wouldn't we be the best choice to help you, at least until you can defeat us?"
"You're right...but you guys don't know what you'd be getting into."
"Ha, we didn't know what we were getting into with you, we can handle whatever you throw at us."
"Hmm...okay, I'll take any help you offer me."
"Great, now we just need some sleeping bags, tents, water...um, maybe something to use as kindling, and-"
"Let's just handle it after deciding on dinner." Maria advised, walking pass the excited rabbit Animen to open the door to the Sea Side Wolfe.
"I want a salad with a ton of olives on it." Spring announced.
"Not a literal ton, I hope." Byrd laughed.
"Ha, ha, you're funny." Spring remarked, running to a table and taking her seat.
Byrd turned to Maria, "I think we've got some macaroni we could cook, it's not as popular as I'd hoped."
"Then bring it out, I'm sure Spring will want more than a salad." Maria turned around on her way outside, "I'm just going to take a walk around, that feeling that something's off keeps nagging me."
"Alright," Cathryn turned to Spring, "I guess I'll explain team tactics to you...and try to figure out how you can stack on our preexisting arrangements."
Maria stepped out and shut the door, the conversation inside was muffled by the door and faded as she stepped further along the beach, "I can't put my finger on it." she continued on, staring at the painted sky, until a dark form caught her attention, "Hey, you!" she knelt down and shook the cold, waterlogged girl.
"The end." the girl mumbled, mystifying Maria.
"Um, hello? Are you reading fairy tales in your sleep?" Maria shook her head and lifted the young woman off the ground, and started off for Mother Goose's hut.
"So, we just found her there?" Mother Goose smirked, "Well, another member for your party...assuming this is also a spirit...but if she is, she's not like one I've met before."
Well, maybe she's a water spirit?"
"Hmm, could be, they're generally well mannered, you should get along well...maybe she'll even take up fishing in your stead."
"Oh, that would be great, I don't like dealing with fish unless it's sardines or salmon, the only one's I'll eat."
"Ah, fortunately you could find all kinds of fish here, the Wilds is full of mysteries...like that pond in your backyard, where all the fish come from, none can say...it's said that pond has no bottom, I certainly didn't see one."
"I have wondered about-" Maria turned around to find Spring leading the other three into the hut, "Oh, hey, guys, I found another woman."
"Hey, you're not supposed to find anyone else without us!" Kokoso teased.
Maria smirked and replied in kind, "Oh, sorry, I thought you weren't interested."
"Well, that depends, how many people do you plan on finding?"
"I have no idea."
"Hmm?" everyone's focus shifted to the stirring figure laid out on the couch, "W-where am I?"
"You're safe...would you happen to be Summer, or a water-" Maria fell off her knees and watched in horror as the girl sat up, violent fear etched into her features
"I-I am...I...m-my name-my...name is...my name." she clenched her teeth, shaking as she tried to recall.
Maria stood up and placed a hand on her shoulder, "It's okay, Mother Goose can come up with something...unless you are Summer, in that case we'll know soon enough."
"A-am I Summer?" the panicked girl squeezed her eyes closed when Spring shook her head.
"I'm sorry," Spring almost whispered, "but you're not...I don't think you're a spirit, but you're certainly not an Animen, so...we could put up missing person posters, but if you're here, there's probably a reason you're alone."
"What's an Animen, or...spirit?" she stared at the green haired girl, waiting for an answer.
"Well, an Animen is a human who has some animal features, like Kitty's ears, or Byrd's wings, Kokoso's legs are a lot stronger than they look, too, they're capable of propelling him five feet up without effort, and Maria a wolf, a very well rounded Animen, capable in any situation." Spring then gestured to herself, "I'm what you'd call a spirit, I'm Spring."
"Spring...I feel like I know that name."
"Well, I share the season's name, and there are other...what did you call us, Maria?"
"Seasonal Girls." Maria replied, "You don't like it?"
"No, no, I do, it's catchy." Spring assured, smiling.
"Seasons...I seem to remember that, too." she sighed irritably and laid down, "I need time to...sort it all out."
"We'll be gone a while, we'll try to be back tomorrow evening." Maria turned around and found Cathryn holding a plate, she set the glass on the table she was under earlier, "Oh, guess we're eating and running?"511Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡfRA7aehfNI
"We could, but we already ate, Byrd and Kokoso still need to get all the gear sorted, and I worked out some ways for Spring to act in sync with our usual attacks, I wanted to go over some details with you." Cathryn pulled a sketch out of her pocket and unfolded it, "Here Kokoso stands to the far left of the our formation, shielding himself, his sword has decent range, there's no reason to put another swinging next to him, so Byrd will be to his right and somewhat behind him, so Kokoso's sword can cut over the spearhead in case a monster charges in when Byrd retracts, then you're next to him, I'll be around you, looking for a good place to strike, after I execute my typical combo, Spring will swoop in and handle the rest, I'll rarely take a needless hit from now on, and you'll never be at risk just because I can't attack as quickly as you."511Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡ7m5XPBwDXy
"I thought I could always just shield myself." Maria pointed out.511Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡ29At6iHORK
"You could, but I keep thinking...the one time you're in the middle of something, the one time you need to block...you might not be able to, you can only take so many hits."511Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡpiJYflJAqW
"I understand...I'm still taking precautionary blocks, though."511Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡgI5weodRRW
"I'd expect nothing less." Cathryn folded the sketch back up and pulled out another, "Now, she decided on this one, it's very creative."511Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡWggLTV1lWD
Maria prepared her attention for the strategies Cathryn and Spring came up with, while Kokoso went back to the Wolfe and prepared the gear they'd need for the journey.511Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡUWv1VQLduG