Chapter 3: Friend and Foe

"Ah, yes," Chisara said turning away to look at Naomi. "Those of the feline race who are pure blooded can turn completely into a cat. The type of cat differs from feline to feline. Some transform into house cats, some jaguars, some tigers, some lions, etc. But I can only transform into this. Also, while I'm in my human form I'm unable to get rid of my ears and tail. My father, who was a half-breed, could only transform into this form as well but unlike me he looked completely human while in his human form."

"It sounds the same as with canines," Archer remarked. "Although I wouldn't know about quarter breeds since I've never met any."

As Kam and Chisara looked at her questioningly Archer transformed in a blink of an eye. One second she looked absolutely human, the next she was covered in fur ranging from pale to very dark brown, her canine teeth were larger and she had a wolf's ears and tail. "I'm a half breed canine."

"I'm a feline and you're a canine," Chisara said to Archer and turned to Kamjin. "What are you? A bovine?"

"No, no, no," he answered laughing. "Although when I'm home I do help my parents take care of cows."

Chisara looked up at the sky through the trees and remarked," It'll be dark soon. If you two are planning on spending the night in Dalner I can show the way to the inn."

They agreed and the three of them, along with Naomi and Goose left the forest.

"By the way," Chisara told them. "The inn allows companions although you'll have to pay for any damages," Chisara told them. "And I'm sure Archer that you're dogs can stay there too. You may want to get them from wherever they are."

Archer let out a loud whistle and soon two dogs, an older husky and a golden retriever puppy came running. At about the same time a golden eagle flew down from above to hover above their heads. Kamjin had mentally called Latsa to him.

"Let's go then," Chisara said and started to lead the way but Archer stopped her.

"Wait. How are you going to pay for a room? You gave your money to Tozak for the steaks."

"That wasn't all my money which is why I told you it didn't matter whether you gave me my pouch back or not." Chisara kneeled down next to Naomi and showed Archer a pouch tied around Naomi's neck. The pouch was about four times larger than the one she had given Tozak. "It's the safest place to keep most of my money since who in their right mind would try to steal from a four hundred pound tiger.

"Besides," Chisara added as she stood. "Even if I had no money now, I would have enough by the time we reached the inn."

Kamjin looked at Chisara and Archer suspiciously and asked, "Are you thieves?"

"Yeah," Archer said. "You're just barely figuring this out?"

"Do you have problem with us being thieves?" Chisara asked.

"Of course not," Kam answered. "I think it's exciting. Could you girls teach me some tricks?"

"Maybe," Archer said.

"I don't have the time," Chisara told him as she led the way through the town.

They soon arrived at a large building with a sign that read, "Green Sky, Blue Leaves Inn."

"Green Sky, Blue Leaves? What kind of bocanutty name is that?" Kamjin asked incredulously.

"I heard that the original owner who named the place did a lot of drugs and drank a lot," Chisara said with a shrug.

"I like it," Archer admitted as the three entered the tavern along with their companions and Archer's dogs. The inn's interior reflected its name. On the wall was painted a forest in which the sky was green and the leaves were blue. Added to that, the branches and bark were painted a bright yellow.

The room was small but not cluttered. A desk was situated across the room from the front door. To the right of the desk was a staircase going to the upper floor. There was also another door on the left side of the room.

There were two other people in the room. Behind the desk sat a tanned woman with dark brown eyes and red tinted dark brown hair that reached the middle of her back. At the moment she was chatting companionably with a barefooted and bare-chested man.

Chisara would have dismissed the man as being of no importance except that the man's black waist-length braid seemed familiar. However, she couldn't be certain unless she saw him face. Chisara walked towards him and asked hesitantly, "Shianako?"

At the sound of her voice the man turned around revealing orange eyes and a smooth, handsome face.

"It is you, Shianako!" Chisara exclaimed as she leapt to throw her arms around his neck. "I haven't seen you in forever!"

"It's only been three months," Shianako said as he returned the embrace. He pulled away to look at her. "Besides with such an enthusiastic greeting upon my return perhaps I should stay away more often."

Chisara rolled her eyes and turned to the woman at the desk. "Sorry," she said. "I got a little excited about seeing my old friend. I'm Chisara. I need a room. Oh, and I just remembered. I had my pack sent here earlier today. Did it arrive?"

"Yes, it did," answered the woman, clearly bored with her job. "The cost is five hundred gold a night. You're room is number eight."

Chisara paid the money and was given the key to her room. She turned away but immediately turned back. "Woops. I almost forgot. Those two need rooms as well, although they'll be paying for themselves," she hesitated and turned to look back at Archer and Kamjin. "Do you guys have any stuff?"

Archer slapped herself lightly on the forehead. "I can't believe I forgot my pack," she said. "I left it under the table at Old Beer Sap's."

"I left mine at O'Bersap's too," Kam said, putting emphasis on the correct name of the pub.

"I'm sure Tozak has kept your things safe," Chisara told them. "Why don't the two of you go get your stuff then come back here?"

"Sure," Archer said.

Archer and Kamjin turned to go but were stopped by the woman behind the counter. "If you will wait just one moment an inn employee will accompany you land carry your things back here for you," she said. She picked up a small bell from the desktop and rang it."

Within a matter of moments a man descended the stairs. His hair and eyes were the same color as the woman's and his arms were well muscled but covered in numerous scars.

"This is Ertog," the woman briefly introduced him.

"Sumisa," Ertog complained. "Didn't I ask you to call me Sir Austal?"

"Yes, you did," she answered. "But I don't plan on calling my own brother sir anything. Especially since you aren't a knight."

The brother and sister continued to arguer for a couple of minutes until Sumisa realized that Archer and Kamjin had left.

"You'd best go after them," Sumisa said laughing. "They were headed to the pub.

"Be back soon," Ertog called as he hurried out of the inn.

"That was interesting," Chisara said, more to herself than to anyone else as she climbed the staircase. Shianako followed and as they entered her room she asked, "Are you staying here? At the inn, I mean. Not in my room."

"I know what you mean, Chisara. My room is right next to yours, number seven," Shianako told her. He picked up her that had been placed on the bed. "Let me help you unpack."

"There's no need for you to do that."

"You certainly won't do it yourself. I know you better than that."

"Just leave it. I'm only staying tonight so if you unpack it now I'll just have to repack it in the morning."

"Okay," Shianako said as he tossed the pack back onto the bed and slung a companionable arm around her shoulders. "I have truly missed you these past three months, little kitty."

As he spoke he fiddled with her ears, a habit he had picked up soon after meeting her almost a year earlier.

When he called her little kitty Chisara pushed him away. "I'd rather be a little kitty than an arrogant fish," she said jokingly.

"I am not arrogant," claimed Shianako mock offended. "And a mere fish is a far cry from a vastly superior mermaid."

They kept their faces solemn for mere seconds before they both dissolved into laughter.

"I missed you too," Chisara said. "By the way, where's your companion, Natamo?"

"He is in my room. Would you like to say hello to him?"

"Of course I would," she said and turned to Naomi who lay on a rug in the middle of the floor. "Do you want to come say hi to Natamo too?"

Not at the moment, Naomi answered. I shall give him my greetings later.

They left Chisara's room and went into Shianako's next door. Next to the bed was a large dish filled with water. In the dish was a three and a half foot turtle.

"Someone's here to see you, Natamo," Shianako announced.

Chisara walked over to the desk and crouched down so that she'd be at eye level with the turtle, "Hey, Natamo. How've you been?"

"He says, 'Terrific, except that I can't find myself a girl.'"

Chisara laughed and stood to turn to Shianako, "What brings you here?" she asked. "I thought you had returned to your home under the ocean."

"I had," he told her. "But my father sent me to find and bring my exiled sister, Talina home before she completely ruins the reputations of all mermaids."

At the mention of the name Talina Chisara tensed. "In that case, pray that you find her before I do," she said through clenched teeth as she held her hands in tight fists at her sides. "You may be my friend but you're sister is my foe and when I find her, I plan to kill her."

"What did she do?" Shianako asked angrily. "She must have done something to you in order to make you wish to kill her!"

"She didn't do anything to me directly," Chisara told him. "She did it to Gerano."

He immediately knew what had happened even though she didn't say it. "I'm sorry," he said going form anger to sympathy in the blink of an eye.

"Don't be sorry. It's not your fault. I only want you to understand my reasoning and not to hate me."

"Of course I understand and I could never hate you Chisara, never."

"Good," Chisara said, in a happy mood once more. "I wonder if the others are back yet. They should be." She started to walk towards the door but she tripped over her feet and fell, hitting her forehead on the doorjamb.

"You're such a klutz," Shianako told her as he helped her stand up. "Now let me see how badly you hurt yourself this time."

He brushed the hair out of her face and examined her forehead. "It's not bad. Just a small bruise. A kiss should make it all better." He pressed his lips to her forehead but instead of immediately pulling away he stayed there with his lips pressed gently to her forehead and his hands resting lightly on her shoulders.

After a few moments Chisara stepped away. "No, Shianako," she told him. "We're just friends. We ended our romantic relationship and for good reasons. It never would have worked. I can't live under the ocean. I'm too scared to even let the tide rise above my ankles. And you have social obligations that mean you can't live on land. We have to stay as just friends."

"But Chisara," Shianako began but was interrupted by the appearance of Archer in the doorway.

"Hey, Chisara," Archer said. "Do you and your friend want to come downstairs? I know we just ate a little while ago but we could still have snacks and drinks."

"Sounds like fun," Chisara said and started to follow Archer out the door and down the stairs.

Shianako also followed. "This conversation isn't over Chisara."

"I never thought it was."