Do you dream of me in the next life?
“You did the best you could for us, Finley. That’s all we can ask of you.” said Josie.
“We still have other settlements to ask so please don’t worry about us.” said Alice.
Finley who was looking down the whole time looked up at his friends. “You’re right. But I’ll still worry about you guys. Telling someone not to worry is like telling someone not to breathe. Anyways, I have to go teach my class. Best of luck to both of you.”
Finley was about to leave when he realized something and turned back around.
“You guys said you didn’t see the other settlements yet? In that case, if you happen to see Gary or Evelynn, could you please give them these mushrooms?”
Finley held out the pouch and Alice stored it away in her magic. Josie wanted to ask Finley for directions, but she decided not to. So instead she asked one of the locals for help.
They wandered deep into the woods where birds were happily chirping around them.
“Could I ask your opinion about something?” said Alice while they walked.
“Hm? Yeah, of course. What’s on your mind?”
"This morning, Ellen asked me about becoming queen of the Ice Kingdom. I told her I would think about it. Do you…think I can do it? Should I take her offer?”
Josie put her hands together behind her head. “I can see you doing it, but that would be a big responsibility to handle. Do you think you can be happy as queen?”
“Maybe. I don’t know…”
“Whatever you decide, I will support it.” Josie smiled at Alice who returned a smile back.
In the distance, Alice and Josie spotted people that appeared to be wearing animal costumes. At their destination, what they saw was a number of huts and totem poles of various animals. Gary approached them as they passed by.
“H-Hey. Your name is Josie, right?”
“How do you know my name? I never introduced myself to you.”
“Evelynn told me. She heard you say it to Finley.”
“Ah, I see. Oh, by the way, Finley wanted us to give you these mushrooms.”
Alice took out the pouch and handed it to Gary.
“Thank you.” Gary stored it away in his magic.
“What are the mushrooms for?” said Alice.
“Potion making. If you mix mushrooms, some herbs, and –”
He looked at Alice with a puzzled expression. “I’m feeling some weird Déjà vu with your friend here. Have we met before? My name is Gary.”
“My name is Alice. Are you referring to the princess of the Ice Kingdom? I am her, but not anymore.”
“Princess…not anymore? Wait so you’re saying that-”
Alice nodded her head. Gary let out a pained sigh and shook his head.
“I remember she used to be a frequent customer of mine. One time she bought some toys and gave them away to an orphanage.”
“Excuse me, sorry but we have to go to the Settlement Council right now.” said Josie.
“The Settlement Council? Why do you need their help?”
“We want to get back to our world to stop whoever killed us from taking more victims. In order to do that, we need your Settlement Council to help us get inside the Nightmare Kingdom.” said Alice.
“Ok. No time to waste then. Follow me and I will help you.” Responded Gary.
The party of three traveled through the Settlement. Some beast people were lazing about near their tents while others were making idle chat. Josie saw merchants selling jewelry, dream catchers, and other trinkets of various appeal. Beast people dressed up as birds were flying above as they walked by. One of them flew down close to someone in a panda costume and took out a feather and tickled the sleeping panda person’s nose. He slapped his face with his hand and scolded the bird child, who flew away in tactful retreat to his friends that were watching in amusement.
“Hey Gary.” said Josie.
“Where is Evelynn? I thought you two were traveling together since you’re business partners?”
“Evelynn and I are still traveling together. She just went on ahead to set up shop in a city that we planned on selling our merchandise at. I stayed behind to finish gathering materials and make some last-minute trades. Then I spotted you guys coming into the settlement when I was about to depart.”
“Ah, ok.” said Josie.
Gary led them into a field of bamboo. The tall spears of green could be seen almost everywhere. Josie and Alice stayed close behind Gary to avoid bumping into the bamboo as they twisted and curved their way through. They took a left turn down this long green hallway. Suddenly, Josie noticed something out of the corner of her eye. She turned around and ran towards the opening in the wall.
What she saw there was some kind of building. All sides were open to the outdoors. The roof was supported by four totem poles. The front left totem pole had a wolf on top while the front right totem displayed a bird. The back right totem had a moon while a sun was on the left.
“What is this?” questioned Josie.
“This is a place to pray to the god Dawn and the goddess Twilight.” said Gary from behind.
“Beast People have a religion?” said the nearby Alice.
“The whole Dream World worshiped them. Nowadays, no one does. Except for a few who still come back and hope their prayers will be answered.”
“Why did that happen?” asked Josie.
“Personally, I think there’s a more rational reason, but they say it’s because Dawn and Twilight left us.”
Josie gave the wolf totem pole one last look before she reunited with Alice and Gary on the path. Now in front of the Council building in a horizontal line, Josie stepped forward.
“Let’s do this.” stated Josie.