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MHO - The Cult of the Crimson Isles - Chapter 15 by Lloxie

MHO - The Cult of the Crimson Isles - Chapter 15

Mystic Heart Odyssey

Part 5: The Cult of the Crimson Isles

Chapter 15

So just to note, a sareo is a garment I made up. If something actually exists by that name, it’s an accidental coincidence. Basically, it’s like a t-shirt with a long (like, knee-length or below) loin cloth combined, with a couple side flaps as well. Or imagine if you took a really simple dress and cut out portions around the legs to prevent it from restricting movement. And then make it out of a smooth, durable, water-resistant material. It’s what I imagine Hoku and Kani wearing most of the time.



“Okay, got the nets, the spare sail material, the paddles, some thread and a couple needles, a couple spare knives, some cups and bowls, the mat from my hut… hmm...” Hoku asked, looking over the collected materials she and Kani had gathered from her hut and their boat. “I can’t think of anything else. Hopefully Kalei’s having luck grabbing stuff from the forest.”

“I wanna go get my mat,” Kani announced, much to Hoku’s dismay.

“No way, we should avoid the village right now.”

“Don’t care. Gonna go grab it,” Kani insisted, then started walking in the direction of the village.

“Kani wait, it’s not safe!”

“I’m not sleeping on hard rock again, and we don’t know that we’ll have enough material for more than one or two.”

“Kani, come on!” Hoku pleaded, following her. “Don’t be so stubborn!”

Kani crossed her arms. “I’m getting it, and that’s that. Besides, it’ll give us a chance to check on things and maybe grab a few other things in the village.”

“This is a really, really bad idea Kani!”

“You can stay here if you want. It won’t take me long.”

Hoku sighed. “No, someone better help you watch your back. Just… try and be quick and subtle, okay?”

“I’ll be the quickest and subtlest person you ever saw!”

“Right,” Hoku replied, clearly unconvinced and wary, but resigned to the situation.

A short time later, they arrived at the village. There were a few members of the Order watching over things and occasionally stopping residents in their daily activities to bother them about one thing or another. The chief was standing near one of the larger communal buildings and looking rather annoyed at the situation, but he didn’t intervene. The rest of the residents were going about their daily activities, when they weren’t being interrupted and harassed- except for some of the fishers, who were being delayed by having their boat checked over between fishing trips.

The girls slipped behind some buildings and carefully made their way through the village while keeping as low a profile as possible. Hoku cringed when Kani paused to cheerfully wave hello to her neighbor. Fortunately, the passing raptuva was too busy hauling a crate of fruit to the storehouse to take note of them. Finally, they arrived at Kani’s hut. Hoku stayed outside to keep watch while she went inside to grab her mat. As it so happened, she also grabbed a spare outfit while she was in there. Hoku raised a brow at the spare clothing, but made no comment about it. “Alright come on, let’s get out of here,” she said quietly.

“Should we grab some extra food?”

“No, we should have en-” Hoku began to reply, then paused to think. They had lots and lots of fish, sure. But she was concerned for their non-meat-eating friend. “Actually, since we’re here anyway, and the storehouse is on the way… a few extra fruits for Kuna might not be a bad idea. Maybe a couple coconuts, too. The shells might be useful.”

“Good idea! You grab them and I’ll keep watch this time!”

Getting to the storehouse was one thing- getting in without being noticed was another matter altogether. On the one hand, people were coming and going from the place all day- and it was one of several that the village had. But someone was always keeping an eye on everyone that passed through its door, in case anyone got greedy and tried to make off with an oversized snack outside of mealtimes. Luckily, Hoku thought of a valid excuse.

They made their way back through the village, trying to avoid catching anyone’s eye. When they arrived at the side of the storehouse, Kani went around behind it and waited on the far side, keeping an eye out for any approaching red cloaked annoyances, while Hoku casually walked up to the entrance.

“Hold it,” the raptuva standing watch said, holding out a hand upon seeing her approach empty-handed. “What ar-” he began to say, then arched a brow when recognition hit. “Hoku? What are you doing here at this time of day? And… empty-handed at that? Aren’t you usually out fishing by now?”

“Ehehe, yeah, sorry Whetu,” she said, then sighed and rubbed her face with an irritable expression. She looked around somewhat conspiratorially, then frowned and leaned in to continue in a low voice, “You know these jerks aren’t making things easy.”

He frowned and glanced over at one of the red cloaks harassing one of the other villagers, then slowly nodded. “Yeah, you can say that again. Took forever to get them to let us set up breakfast this morning,” he said, then furrowed his brow. “Speaking of which, I don’t remember seeing you then…”

“Come on. You know me. The less I have to be around these guys, the better. Even if it means eating light on my own.”

He smiled sympathetically. “Yeah. I hope they find those demon-lovers soon so they can go back to the mountain already,” he said. “You still haven’t answered my question though. You know the rules, can’t let you in without a good reason.”

“Yeah, unfortunately I was so tired and distracted yesterday, I forgot to grab our baskets after dinner. So I just want to grab those real quick so I can get out of here.”

He eyed her for a moment. “You realize they’re going to want to search your boat before you sail out.”

“Ugh, don’t remind me. Yeah, Kani’s supposed to be getting one to do that right now. I just hope they don’t keep us waiting until it’s too late.”

“Right, right,” he said, then sighed. He then opened the door for her and gestured inside. “Well, good luck to both of you. Stay safe out there.”

“Thanks. Same to you,” Hoku said, then hurried inside. Making sure nobody else was inside, she quickly grabbed up the two baskets, then carefully stowed a few coconuts, a pineapple, some bananas, and one or two other things between them in a way that she could carry them without it looking too obvious. The pineapple was the trickiest one, but she remembered how much the sereva had enjoyed it. Finally, she hurried out and met Kani around the corner. “For once I’m glad I didn’t think to bring the empties back with us after a trip,” she said quietly.

“Yeah, that worked out great! Need me to carry one?”

Hoku shook her head and glanced around warily as they walked to the edge of the village as nonchalantly as possible. “I’ve got the fruit hidden between them,” Hoku pointed out as quietly as she could.

“Oooo, sneaky!”



The walk out of the village was nerve-wracking. Several times, they were worried they were going to be harassed by one of the Order members, but luckily the few they passed were already busy haranguing someone else. Hoku finally breathed a sigh of relief once they rounded a thick patch of foliage at the edge of the village and began down the trail towards her place. Luckily, the shore was uneven on that side of the village, allowing a chunk of the forest to serve as a natural barrier to where she stayed.

About halfway through, however, her heart leaped up into her throat as a red cloaked individual suddenly stepped out of the woods into the trail. As soon as they pulled back their hood, she was met with a mixture of relief and annoyance.

“Hello, Hoku, Kani.”

“Anaru,” Hoku said briefly.

“Hiiii Anaru!” Kani said, giving a friendly little wave.

“Good to see you’re both well. I hope the others haven’t been bothering you too much?”

“Not if we can help it. I live on the fringes for a reason, after all.”

“Yes, yes, I know. My dear antisocial cousin likes her space,” Anaru said with a chuckle. “I never forget.”

“What do you want, Anaru?”

“Can’t I just check in on family once in a while?”

Hoku gave him a dubious look.

He sighed. “Right, I’ll be quick. I know you’ve got fishing to do. I genuinely do worry about you, you know.”

“That’s very sweet, but I’m doing fine so-”

“Don’t be dismissive. Hoku,” he continued. “You’ve heard about the rules, I’m sure. Every boat needs to be inspected between trips. Given that we’re family, I figured it’d be better for me to check in on you than one of the others.” He cracked his neck and grumbled. “Truth is I’m pretty beat from rushing down the mountain though, so I’m willing to hand-wave it as long as you can do two things for me.”

“Oh? And they are...?”

“Well, first, obviously, just promise me neither of you are helping the demons out,” he said with a faint smile. “Can’t skip that one, or I’m not doing my job at all.”

Hoku rolled her eyes. “Still no demons. As usual.”

“Yeah, what kind of nasty, two-faced, evil, deceptive JERK would work with DEMONS?” Kani said with a narrow-eyed look.

Hoku side-eyed her and smirked briefly, then turned her attention back to her cousin. “What was the other thing?”

He glanced at Kani for a moment, then back to Hoku. “Honestly, I’d like to talk to you for a few minutes alone, if you don’t mind.”

She furrowed her brow. “Oh. Uh… sure?” She turned to Kani with a somewhat nervous look in her eye. “Uh, here, take these back to the, um. Boat. I’ll… join you in a few I guess.”

“Sure thing!” Kani said cheerfully and took the baskets. “See you there!” she said and started walking away cheerfully. When she was past Anaru and he had his back turned, she made a quick face at him before hurrying off.

Hoku had to bite her tongue to keep from grinning at the gesture, then turned back to Anaru. “Well?”

His demeanor became more serious. “Hoku, I know how you feel about the Order and our pursuit of demons. I know you’ve been skeptical… but these two outsiders are seriously dangerous. You can’t take this one lightly. If you know anyth-”

“I’m staying clear of the whole mess, thank you. I just want to go on with my life in peace.”

He narrowed his eyes. “I happen to know you and Kani were the ones that brought them to the island, Hoku.”

Hoku fidgeted a bit, but managed to keep her expression neutral. “Yeah. And? Not like we knew anything about them at the time. Far as I could tell, they were just a couple of nice guys that needed a ride.”

“And you were just feeling particularly generous that day…?”

“Hey, I was wary, but Kani talked me into it. You know how she is. She saw something new and interesting and that was that. Not like they were armed or anything.”

“They had knives and a hatchet.”

“I didn’t see them at the time. And like I said, they were nice as can be to us.”

“Hoku, you avoid people as a general rule. But you expect me to believe you just randomly brought two outsiders- non-raptuvans from Tuimana-knows-where- to the island just out of the kindness of your heart?”


They stared each other down for a minute, as if daring the other to say something. Finally, Anaru sighed again and rubbed his temples. “Hoku, if you’ve been in contact with them since they escaped-”

“What did I say? I want nothing to do with any of this. Last thing I want is give the Order a reason to come harassing me more.”

“Then you’d better tell me if you see ANYTHING out of the ordinary, understood?” he said with a slight glare. After a moment, his expression softened again. “I can’t protect you any more, Hoku. If the Order suspects you’re helping them, I can’t do anything for you.”

She stared at him in silence for a moment, then looked away. “Yeah. Order’s more paranoid than usual. Got it.”

“I mean it, Hoku. I don’t want anything bad to happen to you, but this is serious. Deadly serious. Those two are a menace. Did you know they wrecked the shrine? It’ll take ages to fix the place up again! The mural is completely destroyed!”

Hoku sighed and gave him a tired look. “How very sad. I’m sure ‘Tuimana’ will ‘inspire’ some other artists to replace it.”

There was another uncomfortable silence.

“Am I free to go?”

Anaru stared at her for a moment, then rubbed his head. “I wish you would take things more seriously, Hoku. It’s a dangerous world, and Tuimana just wants to make it safer. We all do. I know the others’ methods can be… pushy at times, harsh even, but it’s only because of the darkness we’re up against. Just remember that.” He took a deep breath then waved her off. “Anyway, go on, I’ll see you later. Just… be careful.”

“I will,” Hoku said as she hurried off. She paused briefly and glanced back towards him. “And… you too.”


Sunshine swept through the forest, just below the canopy. Eventually, he finally spotted what he was looking for after hearing some commotion and faint cursing. Kalei was in the process of dusting himself off, apparently having recovered from tripping. Scattered around him was a collection of wood and various plant materials he hoped the others would find useful. Just as he was bending down to start gathering them up again, Sunshine landed on a low branch nearby and let out a small whistle, startling him slightly. He immediately whirled around and held up one of the chunks of wood as if preparing to use it as a weapon. Luckily, he managed to avoid dropping anything this time.

“Oh, it’s you,” he said, lowering the wood. “Sorry, just… well, never know when some Order scout might show up. Did you need something?”

“Checking on friends,” the bird squawked.

Kalei gestured around to the things at his feet, then resumed gathering them up. “Well, as you can see, I’ve been busy. I just hope they’ll find this stuff useful.” He looked back up at the bird. “You, uh… didn’t see anyone approaching here, did you? I’m trying not to stray too far from the beach, so I know when the girls get back.”

The kikomanu fidgeted a bit. “All clear. No bad fucks.”

The raptuva snorted in amusement. “Good to know.”

“Stay safe. Checking on girls,” the bird announced and fully unfolded his wings.

“You too!” Kalei replied. “You never know what the bastard told people. They could be looking for you now, too.”

The bird made a sound that vaguely sounded like laughter and fidgeted some more. “Poor fucks.”

Kalei couldn’t help but smirk. “Right… see you later, Sunshine.”

Sunny took off again in a flash of light. As he swept through the woods, he suddenly felt eyes upon him. Moments later, something dark whipped through the air around him, making him jerk away and swoop over to land on another nearby limb. Sure enough, moments after he landed, the dark mass bolted up to the thicker end of the branch near the tree’s trunk, then manifested into a familiar form.

“Hello again,” Zyn said, lounging against the tree. “Have you see the boys? The damn pact is keeping me from scrying for them properly here. It’s a damned potent one.”

“Boys hiding. Hidden cave. Friends helping.”

The jarzin arched a brow, intrigued. “Hidden cave, hmm? Mind showing me where it is?”

Sunshine looked around a bit, seemingly thinking about things, then turned back to him. “Soon. Checking on friends first.”

“Well, as long as those two are safe… they are safe, right?”

Sunshine bobbed his head, then clicked and whistled.

“Good. Tell you what, then, I’m going to go do some more snooping around. Check on the status of these Order creeps. I’ll meet you at the beach this evening, deal?”

“Deal,” the bird replied, spreading his wings again. As he took off, Zyn transformed back into a wisp of smoke and zipped off just as fast.


A short time later, Kalei walked back to the beach, and was pleasantly surprised to see Hoku and Kani approaching as well, with two baskets partly filled with various odds and ends. “Everything go alright?” he called out to them as they approached, his own arms awkwardly holding onto a bundle of materials of his own.

“Up to a point,” Hoku said, nervously glancing back over her shoulder. “We should get back quick, though.”

“We ran into her cousin,” Kani explained with a frown. “He’s a Watcher in the order.”

“Well, shit. I take it you managed to give him the slip at least, given that you’re here now.”

“Hopefully, but I wouldn’t put it past him to be spying on me,” Hoku explained, then set her basket down. “He said we were good to go, but I have a feeling he might have followed after us, at least up to a point.”

“Dammit. What do we do?”

“He’s probably not actively watching us at this moment. He might be back checking on my shack and the boat, wondering why we’re not there. But that means we better move quick.”


Hoku set her basket down. “You can divide your things up in the baskets here, as long as you don’t mind carrying mine so I can focus on the water.”

“Sure thing. Thanks.”

Kani set her basket down for a moment as well, and helped Kalei as he gratefully unloaded his things, distributing them more or less evenly into the remaining space in each of the baskets. Both of them repeatedly shot wary glances off the way the girls had come form, watching for any signs of movement, while Hoku conjured up her magic and began forming the water tunnel. None of them said another word until they made it down below the surf.

Finally, when they were fully concealed by the waves splashing up against the shore, Kalei let out a relieved sigh. “Hey, by any chance did you two see Sunshine? He came and checked on me, and was supposedly going to come find you two next.”

Hoku furrowed her brow, but kept her attention on shaping the way forward through the water. “Sun- oh, right, the kikomanu. No, haven’t seen him.”

“I hope he comes back to the cave, I still wanna meet that little guy!” Kani said with a slight pout. “Seems like everyone’s seen him but me.”

“If it makes you feel better, I’ve not talked to him yet.”

“I’m sure you’ll both get a chance,” Kalei assured them. “Little guy seems to have taken a real interest in our little group.”

“Hopefully that’s a sign that Whironui likes us, too,” Hoku suggested.

“Hmm. Maybe. If he’s even still paying any attention to the mortal world,” Kalei said with a slight frown. “I don’t know how much of what I know is even true anymore, but I do know there’s been no real signs of other spirits, let alone gods, on the island for a long time. And Sunny is the only kikomanu I’ve ever actually seen, as far as I can remember.”

“Well, let’s just try to be optimistic…”

“Well, at least luck seems to be on our side so far. I’m just glad it was your cousin that stopped us and not someone else,” Kani pointed out. “Would have been worse if it was one of the other red cloak jerks.”

“True, I guess. He bugs me sometimes, but at least I know Anaru’s a good guy at heart,” Hoku said with a sigh. “Wish he would leave the damn Order, though…”

Kalei nearly tripped, then eyed Hoku. “Di… did you say Anaru?”

Hoku shot him a curious glance. “Yeah. Why? You know someone by that name?”

“...yeah… and you said he’s a watcher?”


Kalei’s eye twitched slightly. “Fuck. He was part of the group I was with when we came across Lykou and Kuna,” he explained, then shivered. “If he’d seen me, he would’ve recognized me…”

“Oh shit! Good thing you weren’t with us!” Kani blurted out, wide-eyed.

“No kidding,” Hoku agreed.

“Damn, he got down here fast...”

“He did mention that he’d rushed down after the incident at the shrine.”

“Actually, now that I think about it,” Kalei continued, scratching his head. “I think I vaguely remember him leaving early the morning after the boys were, er, captured. He never was one for lingering at the shrine.”

“Yeah, he spends a lot of time down around here. Annoying me,” Hoku said with a flat look. “I know he means well, but he won’t stop trying to change my mind about the Order.”

“He knows about your wariness, huh?”

“Mhmm. We’ve had plenty of arguments.”

“You’re… honestly kind of lucky he didn’t report you. Some people get brought in for interrogation and, uh… ‘redirection’ for expressing skepticism of the Order. Although I guess less often down on the coast.”

“Really? Damn.” Hoku furrowed her brow. “They’re even more fucked up than I thought.”

“I guess he was really looking out for you,” Kani pointed out. “Shame the Order’s a total lie. I can’t imagine what he’d do if he found out.”



“Damn, Ku. You’ve got a real talent for that,” Lykou complimented. To pass the time, Kuna had mixed up some crude paints with varying combinations of ash, coal dust, dirt, and sea water. It made for a very limited pallet, but he’d still managed to make some decent, if basic depictions of various plants and creatures they’d seen on the wall next to his friend.

“Ah, come on. It’s not that good,” Kuna replied, blushing and smiling. “Not much I can do without more colors, anyway.”

“Hey, you managed to get the paints the right consistency with barely anything to work with. That in itself is worth being proud of,” the konuul pointed out.

“Thanks.” Kuna looked down at the various sharp stones laying on the poncho draped across Lykou’s lap. The sereva had decided to put on his old shorts again under the red cloak he borrowed from Kalei, even if they were on the edge of falling apart, but the canid had decided to remain technically nude until his clothing could be fixed up or replaced. Still, at least he’d agreed to cover up a bit with Kuna’s tattered poncho in the meantime. “Looks like your stabby-things are coming along nicely.”

“Shame I don’t have any spears to attach them to,” Lykou said with a shrug. While Kuna was painting, he’d opted to pass the time practicing with making spear-heads, and even a crude knife or two, out of any loose stones he could find, including some loose pelenock teeth. “I like these pelenock teeth. Definitely want to bring some home with us.”

“You just like how they spark when you hit things with them,” Kuna pointed out with a smirk.

Lykou stuck his tongue out at him playfully.

They both turned to the cave entrance when they heard the gurgling, sloshing sound of the water distorting. Kani hurried in first, followed by Hoku and finally Kalei.

“Welcome back,” Lykou said. “Everything go alright?”

“Mostly,” Hoku said, dismissing her magic while the other two set down their baskets and began pulling some things out of them. “Had a close call though.”

“Anaru’s her cousin, apparently,” Kalei said. “And somehow he’s already back down here and went to check up on her.”

Lykou and Kuna exchanged a look. “Anaru’s already down here again? Shit, they must rushed down all day and night to get back down this far so fast.”

“To be fair, I think he left before the others, early yesterday morning.”

“He did say he preferred the coast…” Kuna mused aloud.

“Yeah, harassing me,” Hoku said, rolling her eyes. “Anyway, we can’t go back out without a plan. He’s probably still snooping around for us. He’ll know something’s up once he sees my hut and our boat are emptied out.”

“Good news is Hoku and I both have our mats!” Kani announced, laying hers out. “Of course, if you want to make three more, there probably won’t be any material left for making clothes, so I brought something of my own that should fit Kuna.”

Hoku and Kalei shot her a look. “Is THAT why you brought that?”

“Hey, thanks,” Kuna said with an oblivious smile.

“That’s a-” Kalei started to say, then just smirked and rolled his eyes. “Eh, you know what, whatever. Can’t be picky I guess.”

“Huh?” the sereva said in confusion.

“Kani, that’s-” Hoku started to protest, then paused and thought about it. “Actually… it might work…”

“What? What’s the problem?” Kuna asked, growing more perplexed and slightly annoyed.

“Well… it’s a sareo like Kani and I wear. They’re usually not, uh… made with guys in mind, you know?” Hoku said with an uneasy smile. “Now that I think about it, you… might not look bad in one though?”

“R...really?” Kuna said, blushing and arching a brow. “Why don’t guys usually wear them?”

“Yeah, seems kind of strange to me,” Lykou chimed in.

“Might be a little baggy in the chest area, but I don’t mind if you stitch that up a bit for the time being,” Kani said, grinning. “I think you’d look cute as heck in one.”

Kuna blushed and smiled. “Thanks,” he said again, then went to clean his hands off before picking it up and looking it over. “No offense, Kalei, but I’d rather ditch the cloak as soon as possible, given-”

“Hey, totally understandable. I feel the same way about the thing frankly. If it survives this whole ordeal, I’m either going to give it away or see about dying it some other color or something.”

“Painting again hmm?” Hoku noted, looking at the wall that the sereva had been decorating next to Lykou. “Good to see you two found some things to keep you busy.”

“You mean besi-” Kani started, then stopped when Hoku shot her a glare and cleared her throat. “Ugh, nevermind. Anyway, sorry we don’t have anything for you Lykou.” She grinned. “You naked under that thing?” she asked, gesturing to the poncho.

He smirked. “Yeah, why?”

“Might be stuck that way until we can fix up your shorts,” Kani pointed out with a playful look that didn’t hide the fact she would have enjoyed the sudden disappearance of the poncho.

“I’ll live,” the canid said with an eye-roll and a chuckle.

“Kani, I swear,” Hoku said, facepalming.

“Thanks for grabbing all this stuff, guys,” Kuna said, going through one of the baskets. “I’ll start working on a mat for Kou and I. We can share, so that should save some materials.”

“I bet you can~” Kani teased, earning a light smack from Hoku.

Kalei sat down near Lykou and looked over the various sharp objects scattered around him. “Not bad. You’re pretty decent at that. Hope you’re not planning to just charge up the mountain stabbing anyone in the way though.”

Lykou snorted and shook his head. “No, I’m just doing this to practice, mostly. I’m always having to make new spears to go hunting, so I figure this will be handy next time I do. Not like there’s much else to do in here anyway.”

“That does kind of bring us to an important point though- what are we going to do? Not just about Tuimana and Kairangi, but the Order?” Hoku pointed out. “Don’t get me wrong, I have no particular love for most of them, but that doesn’t mean I just want to go around fighting and killing them if it comes down to it.”

“Maybe some of them can be reasoned with?” Lykou said hopefully. “Anaru seemed nice enough.”

Kalei rubbed his arm thoughtfully. “Yeah, I guess he was one of the few that wasn’t a total asshole to me. Unfortunately he’s also a pretty devout believer. And he’s hardly the only one.”

“Yeah, I have no idea how we’re going to convince a whole island full of people that their spiritual leader is the one actually working with a demon,” Lykou pointed out with a frown.

“I kind of question how much some of them believe it in the first place,” Kuna chimed in.

“Oh there are definitely some that join and just go along with things for perks,” Kalei said, rolling his eyes. “Tane just likes being able to boss people around, and Hina just liked getting special treatment.”

Kuna shot him a brief smirk. “Mhmm. Imagine that.”

“...aaaand I had less than pure motives initially too, yeah,” the raptuva continued sheepishly. “Regardless of their reasons though, I don’t see any of them being particularly willing to listen, let alone to the very people they’ve been told are ‘corrupted’.”

“Hey, how did Sunshine convince you anyway?”

“Heh, magic, what else?” Kalei explained. “He convinced me- at beak and claw point, mind you, that little guy’s mean when he wants to be- to follow him to some weird place far away from any trails where there was this strange round stone thing. Must be some ancient ruin or something. Then he did this thing where he made a moving image on the cliff nearby and showed me the conversation the Speaker had with you that morning, where he basically admitted to things,” he continued, nodding to Kuna. “Even perfectly mimicked the bastard’s voice, somehow. I’m telling you, that little bird’s hiding some damned impressive tricks.”

“Wow… would love to have seen that,” Lykou said, then scowled. “Minus the subject matter, anyway.”

“I wonder if there are more ruins like that hidden around the island?” Kuna wondered aloud.

“Even if there are, it’s not like we can just go around trying to convince random members of the Order to come visit them one at a time,” Hoku pointed out. “Not to mention I doubt Sunshine would have the energy or patience for that. Magic that potent must be pretty exhausting.”

“He did look a bit frazzled afterwards. I don’t know about tiring, but I think it made him dizzy or something.”


“We should ask him about it sometime,” Kani suggested, then frowned slightly. “If we even get the chance.”

“I’m sure he’ll turn up at some point.”

“Oh yeah, he was supposed to come check on you guys earlier,” Lykou said. “Did he?”

“Yeah, I spoke to him briefly, but apparently they never saw him,” Kalei answered. “It’s possible he just spotted them from afar though and decided not to chat.”

“Maybe he went to report back to Whironui again.”

Kalei shrugged. “Possibly.”

Kani glanced over at Kuna and noticed him working on Lykou’s pants. “Aww, working on that already? I thought you were gonna work on the sareo first? Or your mat?” she whined playfully, then looked over to Lykou with a mischievous look and got up. “Guess I’ll have to steal that thing if I wanna see some konuul d-”

“Kani!” both Kuna and Hoku said at the same time, then turned to each other in mild surprise and amusement. They both snickered and Hoku turned back to her old friend. “Quit being such a perv, for crying out loud.”

“Oh come onnnnn!” Kani said, then plopped back down and crossed her arms, pouting.

Lykou snickered, blushing a bit. “Eesh. So much attention. Why you wanna see my junk so bad?”

“I’m just curious, that’s all!” Kani replied, then smirked and looked away with a slight blush. “Not fair only Kuna gets to see it…”

Kuna blushed. “I-it’s not like I peek when we’re bathing, you know.”

“Not nice to lie, you know,” Lykou said with a playful grin.

“Oh hush,” the sereva chided, then smirked in spite of himself. “I mean, you are hot, to be fair. I imagine you’re used to it back home, around Naira and whatnot.”

“Oh you’re a fine one to talk. If I take this thing off, maybe it’s only fair we strip you back down too, so we can see that cutie booty.”

Kuna yelped and curled his legs up, then stuck his tongue out at the konuul.

“Sounds good to me!” Kani agreed, beaming.

“Well this conversation took a turn,” Kalei remarked, arching a brow. “How did we get from talking about the order to a bunch of horny flirting?”

“Fuck if I know,” Hoku agreed with a faint smirk. “Kani’s perv energy must be rubbing off on them.”

“H-hey, I wasn’t being-” Kuna began to protest.

Hoku chuckled and rubbed his head. “I’m just teasing,” she said, then shot Kani a look. “Mostly.”

“Hey, we’ve got two exotic cute guys from far-away lands,” Kani insisted. “And you honestly expect me not to have some fun about it? Have we met??”

“Anyway,” Kalei said, trying to change the subject as he looked around the room, then looked at the paintings on the wall. “So Kuna, you like to paint, huh? Pretty nice job with so little to work with.”

“Thanks,” the sereva said with a shy smile. “S’just something I picked up to pass time when… well, anyway, I enjoy it. When I have the chance, anyway.”

“You should see what he did at the visitor’s house!” Kani said. “He painted all these different people they met on their journey so far, it’s really, really good!”

“Visitor’s hall?”

“Yeah, you know, th- oh wait, you’re from a mountain village, aren’t you?”

Kalei sighed. “Unfortunately.”

“The visitor’s house is a special building with a lot of history,” Hoku explained. “It’s been there as long as anyone can remember, built by ancestors originally to house gifts from people that visited from far away. At some point someone changed the tradition to have them paint something on the wall inside instead. Sort of a way to show they were there and show a little something about themselves.”

“Oh wow, I’d love to see that.”

“Yeah, it’s a really awesome place. I love the concept,” Lykou said.

“Me too,” Kuna agreed. “It’s really pretty, with all the colors and different painting styles and stuff. Shame I only have shades of black and grey to work with in here.”

Lykou grinned at him. “Hey, we could always do the makeup thing again if you want.”

“Oh you’d like that, wouldn’t you?” the sereva replied with a grin of his own. “Maybe I could get the consistency around the eyes just right and… mmm,” he teased, licking his lips playfully with a mock-sultry expression.

The konuul blushed brightly, then snickered. “On second thought, maybe not.”

“Makeup? Oh this sounds like another juicy story!” Kani commented eagerly. “Do tell!”

“Nah, nothing to tell,” Kuna said, suddenly acting nonchalant as he resumed stitching up the sareo.

“Wh-?! Oh come on!!”

Lykou chuckled some more. “Don’t worry about it. He’s mostly being honest, there’s really not much to it. We just painted each other’s faces one time when we were stuck hiding out during another rainstorm.”


“Isn’t that kind of… you know, tricky?” Hoku asked, furrowing her brow. “You know, with the um. Fur and all?”

“Not really,” Lykou said with a shrug. “It takes a bit of effort if you wanna make it look good and last any time, but it’s doable. Like I told Kuna, some of the hunters back home do it before a hunt sometimes for good luck.”

“I imagine it probably would be easier for someone without fur though,” Kuna mused thoughtfully. “Any of you ever- oh, hey Sunny!”

The bird in question had just entered through the same hole as before and flew down to land on Kuna’s shoulder. He clicked and whistled in response to the sereva’s greeting.

Hoku and Kani stared at the kikomanu in fascination. “Wow… um. Hi there,” Hoku said. “It’s… an honor to meet you.”

“Yeah, we’ve been hearing cool things about you!” Kani agreed. “I’m Kani, and this is Hoku!”

Sunshine bobbed his head at them and shifted a bit on Kuna’s shoulder, then whistled again.

“Where’ve you been, Sunny?” Lykou asked the bird. “We were starting to wonder about you.”

Suddenly, with a burst of smoke that appeared out of nowhere and startled everyone, Zynshal appeared, leaning casually against the wall opposite the one with the holes, with his arms crossed. “Bringing me here,” he answered with a grin. He then made a finger-gun-like gesture to the bird, although of course it’d have no such name to any of those present. “Thanks again, buddy.”

MHO - The Cult of the Crimson Isles - Chapter 15


Here's chapter 15! Somewhat dialogue-heavy again- but hey, this group has plenty to talk about! Also, please make sure to read the author's note. I don't know if anyone is prone to skipping those, and usually they're not too important, just a reiteration of what I usually put in this description, but this one has something you'll want to read so as not to be confused. 

Please remember to leave a comment to share any thoughts you have about this chapter! I can only grow with feedback!

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Literary / Story