Putting your hands in your pockets, you walk behind Ginelle, smirking some. The sun is still shining in the sky, beating down warmth and making you sweat some, which was an odd change from the fairly cool interior of the workshop you were in for quite some time today. Honestly you don’t know how you lost so much time in there, but the way your stomach is rumbling now, it’s high time for some chow. Thankfully your boner had gone down, because it would be embarrassing as hell to walk around town with it and you didn’t relish the thought of masturbating in an alleyway somewhere. That’s how you get Antgirls!
You look over to Ginelle to see her looking at some odd flower, poking it with one of her claws before the petals fold into themselves, and she steps back, blinking. Ahhh, she’s a nice girl, a little rough around the edges, but you could have found a worse companion randomly out on the road. You walk up to her and nod over to some of the more crowded sections of the market. “Hey, let’s look over there for something to eat, I’m sure there’ll be something with honey.”
Her little badger ears perk up at this and she focuses her attention on you. “H…honey you say?”
“Yes. Honey says me.”
She plants her fists on her hips and nods her head, “Well what are we waiting for?”
You shrug and start walking, merging back into the press of people. The district always seems so busy apparently, though remembering the markets in Sanctifrond, this was nothing at all compared to that kind of madness. You nudge Ginelle over to the side of the street as a cart trundles through and some eager mongers try to get your attention. One guy seems to be selling what looks like capes and skirts, another with baskets full of apples, though not many seemed to be left due to the time of day. You easily ignore them and continue on your path when you stop, grabbing Ginelle’s arm before she can get too far away.
She blinks and turns to you, looking curiously at what you’re looking toward. At a stall set up in the alcove of a larger building stands a tall Lizardman with long, blond hair, surrounded by fine clothing. Various dresses and suits of all shapes and sizes, made for humans and Monstergirls alike. She even had one for an Ushi-oni, though it was in the back, likely not used very often. She notices your eyes on her merchandise and a wicked smile comes over her face as she draws a sword from somewhere, pointing it toward you. People jump out of the way and grumble, but don’t seem to pay it much more mind. City folk, eh?
“You there sir, I see you admiring my wares. Looking for a fine dress for the lady? Or perhaps a suit for yourself? Yes, yes I have the perfect one for you!”
“Uhhhhh.” You say, looking toward Ginelle. She shrugs and you sigh. “Can you… put the sword away? I’m not looking for a fight or anything.”
She chuckles and slides the sword back to wherever she pulled it from. “I’m just messing with you, it draws people in.”
“Does it though?”
“No, not really.” She says, deflating some. “After I got married though, I don’t get much chance to use it anymore.” She sighs and shakes her head. “ANYWAY, you sir, have excellent taste. How much were you looking on spending hmm?”
“Oh, I was just… browsing.” You say, touching a black suit. Not exactly normal fashion, this one had fewer buttons than you were used to seeing and buttoned up closer to the waist than you were used to. Weird, it came with a white shirt, though where would you put a cravat on it? Clearly this Lizardman is confused on how fashion works.
She slaps your wrist and you pull back, shaking your hand. “What was that for?”
“I don’t work with no copperless bums.”
“Hey, I have a silver!”
She sniffs, “That particular suit is one of a kind, it’s made of pure Arachnae silk and sewn with needles taken from a Cactiarune. It’s going to be the highest fashion in the world, just you wait.”
“So… what, like, two silvers for it?”
She growls, “No, more like three gold.”
Your eyes bulge a little. T…three gold? Jackor damnit, that’s highway robbery! It’s a very impressive suit to be sure, but that much money? For a street vendor? No, no, this will never do. You feel like you need to do something about this.
“Three gold? For a suit with such shoddy stitching?” You say, pointing at a spot on the suit where you’ve made an illusion of frayed stitch work.
She frowns and looks down before narrowing her eyes at you. “There’s nothing wrong with my handiwork. Are you trying to con me?”
You blink once in surprise before doubling down and getting close to her face. “It’s right there, are you blind?”
“What are you talking about? You trying to play mind games with me? I’m a Lizardman, mind tricks donta work on us, only duels you idiot.”
Oh, right. You remember back to the Grand Wizard’s journey where the Wanderer said that once. How could you forget something like that? You grumble and step back, “Sorry, guess I saw something wrong.”
“Sure you did you little shit, get out of here.” She growls, drawing the sword again. You raise your hands and step away, the whole while she stares at you menacingly.
You turn around to Ginelle who stands there with an expressionless face. “Did.. did you just laugh at me?”
“You did, didn’t you?”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
You glare at her a little while longer before sighing and continuing on in the crowd. She follows close to you and shakes her head. “If it makes you feel better, I think you would have looked nice in that suit.”
“Thank you very much Ginelle.” You grumble, nodding over to food stall where a man is handing out what looks like bowls of something that he pours a generous helping of honey into. Well, people seemed happy with whatever it is, so you get in line. Thankfully there’s no trouble from the man this time, though he gets really quiet and hands you your bowls rather forcefully after taking your coppers. The implication is clear, “get out.”
You grumble a little before sitting down at a bench outside of the stall and looking down at your food. Surprisingly, it’s a kind of stew you think, with generous amounts of honey mixed in, giving it an rich and sweet smell. You realize that he didn’t give you any utensils to eat this, and you prepare to stand up and get some when you notice Ginelle just going to town on the bowl, slurping it up by tipping the bowl to her lips. Watching curiously, you shrug and do the same, relishing in the powerful flavor of mutton mixed with vegetables cured with the honey. There’s something to be said for living in a town with an excess of the stuff!
Ginelle finishes her bowl and licks her lips, a look of contentment on her face. “Ahhh, meat and honey, the best of both worlds.”
“It really makes you that happy, huh?”
“I told you it’s almost an addiction for my kind. It just tastes… smells… IS so good.”
“Good enough to get you in trouble here before, huh?”
Her smile starts to vanish some and looks down at her empty bowl, turning it in her paws. She’s quiet for a few moments before saying in a soft voice, “Yes.”
You feel a pang of guilt for saying that out of the blue, but you were curious. Still, seeing her like this was a little painful and you shake your head, sighing. “Sorry, I just… was wondering what happened before. I’m a little worried since you always say it’s fine when people treat you that way.” You lean back, “If you don’t want to talk about it though, we can just forget I said anything, sorry.”
“I…” The Badgergirl begins before shaking her head. “I don’t mind talking about it I guess.” She goes quiet and seems to gather her thoughts before nodding.
“I was last here about three years ago, having earned some money working on some farms. I’d never seen so much honey before, and well, I blew my money fairly quickly.” She smiles and shakes her head, “However, when I was out, I still saw more and would do really anything to get it. I ended up finding my way to the main district and the Hive.”
“You didn’t…” You say, gasping.
She sighs, “I did. I tried to become a worker for the Beegirls so I could get a direct line.”
“Oh, that’s not what I thought…”
“Of course, when they refused, as they would since they hate Badgers, I might have snuck into the hive and taken some, maybe a little too much.” She frowns, “I might have gone a little… well, maybe a lot, crazy on the stuff and ended up breaking some things in town, always looking for more. That’s when I was confronted by a pack of Beegirls who were sick of my shit.”
“Ginelle…” You say, putting your hand on her arm, but she shrugs it off.
“I probably deserved what I got. I broke laws, caused trouble for the town, and ended up making a bad name for Badgers much worse.” She shakes her head again, “And then, then they were done beating me, they threw me into the river. I’m still amazed I survived.”
“Yes, but again, I deserved it. When people look at me with scared expressions around honey, or make comments like the little Wolfgirl did today, I just have to accept it, because it’s true.”
You’re quite for a long while before sighing and handing her what’s left of your bowl. She narrows her eyes, “Tobias, please…”
“I’m not that hungry anymore.” You say, pushing the bowl toward her. “You kept looking at it anyway.”
She takes the bowl hesitantly before looking up at you. “Even after I told you that story, you’re still going to treat me nicely? Knowing I could just… snap at any instant and drown in honey again?”
“Ginelle…” You say, sighing. “I don’t really know how you were a few years ago, but the Ginelle I see today is someone who cares deeply about not making the same mistakes she did before and who strives to make the most out of what she has. Maybe I’m enabling something, but if you start to get a little wild, then I’ll just have to do something to keep you in check.”
You smirk, “Besides, I couldn’t stand to see some dirty Bees beat you up again.”
Ginelle just stares into your eyes for a long time before she looks down at the bowls in her paws, blushing deeply. “T…thank you, Tobias.” She lifts your bowl to her lips before drinking deeply and sighing in relief. “That’s the good stuff.”
You smirk and stand up, taking the bowls from her and returning them to the man who grunts and sends you on your way. Which you do, go on your way that is, down through the Market District again, traveling north to the Riverside district. On the way you look at various vendors, selling things from Eastern theatre figures, to pure Galmathorean glass, and even signed copies of [Wizardquest], though you’re fairly certain the signatures are false because they’re different from the signature you have in your book, which is clearly the correct signature from The Ascendant.
Along the way you also check out a few arms dealers, wondering if there was anything of value there. Swords and the like mostly, and while they look cool, you have no idea how to use one, and the cost in coin is kind of extravagant anyway for such a thing. You were sort of hoping someone might be selling one of those charger muskets you’d heard about, but the chances of finding anything like that in the open market were basically nill. Maybe Ophelia could hook you up… Ah, but you probably shouldn’t see her again for abit, gotta let the whole… aphrodisiac thing… blow over.
Anyway, you also stop by an actual shop on the side of a canal which sells various magical implements. Sadly, there’s nothing for illusionists, but you do find a curious mix of enchanted items that anyone could use, and that might be super useful to you. Of course, you don’t have enough money to afford any of it, and unless you swipe stuff, you’d have to come back later. Oh well, might as well make a list of things. Maybe if you’re a good boy, Richard will buy you some with all that filthy money of his, wherever he gets it from.
>Insert magical item wish-list
“Are we ever getting to the Riverside?” Ginelle asks as you look over a cape that changes colors based on your mood.
“Yeah, yeah…” You say, grumbling. “This stuff is just cool, alright? We don’t have these things in Kasin.”
“I will never understand men and their obsession with shopping.” She says, shaking her head. You find that thought vaguely hilarious, but you keep it to yourself. Probably… better that way. Putting the cape back, you head out with Ginelle back down the way North. It’s not long until you reach the bridge leading over a large Canal with the words, “Riverside District” over it.
The way the sun was looking overhead, you probably have a few hours to figure things out before you needed to head back to see Richard, assuming you didn’t find him here. You nod to Ginelle and start looking around the area.
The Riverside district lives up to its name, as the majority of the place is covered in crisscrossing canals, filled with river traffic coming up and down from the massive Yangrove, where docks hold large river-faring vessels laden with all sorts of goods. Where the Market District was full of the bustle of people coming and going for commerce, the Riverside district was filled with men and Monsters engaged in industry, loading and unloading ships and warehouses, preparing vessels for sailing, or just drinking at a Riverside tavern. There were very few of such taverns in the market district, but you figure that River sailors want a way to spend their coin after a long day without having to travel all the way to the Residential district.
There are constructs out and about also, almost universally the heavy worker units, lifting and transporting cargo about. Beyond there, there isn’t much to be said for the district, as it’s gear-built for one purpose and one purpose only, but you like that simplicity. You don’t even scratch the surface of the area before you take a break near the river, watching ships get loaded up as sailor-types and more water-based Monsters go about their business.
“Hmm, if I were Fiora, where would I be?” You muse, rubbing your chin.
“Didn’t she have a canal ticket, wouldn’t starting there be best?” Ginelle says, and you snap your fingers toward her.
“I like the cut of your jib, but that might be too easy. Maybe we should look into one of the taverns?”
“Why don’t you just break down the door to a warehouse?” She suggests jokingly.
“Hmmm that could work also.”
“I said that jokingly.”
“Yes, I am aware, but it could be a surprise factor…”
Ginelle sighs, shaking her head. “Well, do whatever you want to do, we only have so much time here anyway.”
“You know what.” You say, looking around and nodding your head.
“I’m fairly certain I don’t.” Ginelle replies back, crossing her arms under her breasts. “But I bet you’re seriously considering breaking into a warehouse.”
You spin upon her and point a finger, “You would be correct!”
She stares at you for a little while before shrugging. “Fine, at least if we get caught, I’ll be beaten alongside someone this time.”
You tap your noggin, “Nah, we’ll think of a clever and fantastic way out of any trouble.”
“If you say so.” She shrugs and looks about. “So, which warehouse?”
You think about it for a moment. “Probably one that seems fairly quiet and secluded, a run-down one would probably be best to hide in, right?”
Ginelle shrugs again, “Maybe? I have no idea.”
You pat her on the shoulder, “Leave this all to me.” Actually, you’re not as confident As you sound, but come on, when do you get to break into facilities and look for bad guys? This might be the only time you’d ever get the chance! Besides, you always had the canal ticket to fall back on, so what’s a little breaking and entering between friends, hmm?
You nod to the side and start walking, Ginelle in tow. You’re on the lookout for any signs of illusions, which you don’t see any, or your Master while you chug through the streets. The farther north you get, the dirtier the canals and the shadier the buildings, which is perfect. Hell, you don’t really the town guard around as often either, which is fantastic for you. Means less people to get you when you enter a warehouse, right? Of course, that means less people to help if you get into trouble.
“Hah.” You say, shaking your head, though you feel your hands shaking with nerves. “I’m a professional.”
“Uhhhh.” You pause, fumbling for words. “Professional… professional?”
She looks away and you swear you hear her snicker. You narrow you eyes and stop in the shadow a large building who’s white stone had seen better days. A few, scraggly looking plants grow in the cracks where sunlight barely reaches while a few vines crawl up the side of the walls. You stop and take a look around, seeing a few windows up above and a decrepit looking door.
You rub your chin and look about, seeing no people or monsters around. You nod your head slowly and head over to the door, looking it over. A simple thing made of solid oak, painted white like the rest of the building. A faded sign hangs over the door proclaiming, “Johannes and Daughters,” but clearly this place wasn’t in use. Although, as you look to the ground, you see tracks in some of the built up dirt and dust where the door had swung through. So someone has been in here recently…
Perfect! You turn to Ginelle and nod at her, to which she walks up and looks at the sign before frowning. “What does it say?”
You blink, “You.. can’t read?”
“No, of course not, who would teach me?”
“Oh, right. Feral Monster and all that.”
“I wouldn’t say ‘feral,’ but…”
You shake your head. “Anyway, lets try in here. I think we should go in from the top…”
Ginelle pushes at the door and it swings open. You just stare at it, then her, then it again before you shake your head. She smirks, “You’re welcome.”
“Frickin frackin badger wrackin…” You grumble before slipping into the door, crouching low, Ginelle following behind you.
The building is larger than you expected, but it’s quiet, almost dead quiet. The windows up top filter in a soft stream of light, making the place dim rather than completely dark. In this dim light, you see that instead of an empty warehouse, the place is filled with crates of all shapes and sizes. You turn about, looking through the various crates, always searching for illusions the whole time, though you get nothing.
Ginelle brushes one of the crates and frowns. “Tobias.”
You flip about and put a finger to your lips. She rolls her eyes, obviously not taking this seriously, though she does speak in a softer voice. “Some boxes aren’t covered in dust. Someone is using this place.”
You frown and walk over to the box she’s standing next to, looking it over. It’s crammed in between two other boxes, these two looking unused, and you stoop down to look at what’s written on it. “Love em’ Produce.” You read out, frowning before looking back to the crate. You try to pull the top off, but it doesn’t budge, so you not to Ginelle.
She pushes you aside and grabs the top, straining as she tears it box off, making far more noise than you thought she should have. You look about, worried, but you don’t hear anything thankfully. Phew. Ginelle frowns and you look into the box over her shoulder. It’s filled with vegetables of all varieties, you can feel some magical power leaking from the box as the top is removed, and you realize this produce is magically preserved!
“Shit.” You say, shaking your head. “This is the Phantom thief’s lair, isn’t it?”
“Looks like it.” Ginelle says, shrugging. “Not who you were looking for then?”
You grit your teeth, thinking. “Not necessarily. All we know is it’s possibly a woman, so it still could be..” You pause then, pushing Ginelle down low as you hear something in the distance. You concentrate on it, and it’s obviously within the warehouse but what…
“Singing?” Ginelle says, frowning. “Is someone singing in here?”
You narrow your eyes before taking in a deep breath. Yes, that is obviously a female voice, singing a low and melodious voice. Concentrating harder, you can make out some lyrics.
“Here lies the sorrows
And all of our dreams.
We live for the morning
But wake up in chains.
With cries to the heavens
She hears our tears,
And thus does she deliver
The end of our fears…”
You look toward Ginelle, who shrugs, obviously having not heard the song either. Who is this she? Chains? Hrm. Well, anyway, someone was in here, and honestly, leaving would be the best option, but… what if it wasn’t Fiora? Better yet, what if it was? You had to know so you could tell your Master, and maybe you could finish this all tonight.
Taking a deep breath, you silently nod to the side and the two of you start crawling through the rows of boxes, the sound of singing getting closer and closer. You reach a final layer of boxes, and the song, which is repeated, sings the most powerful here. You take a few deep breaths before preparing to cast illusions on whatever is over there. You feel a powerful grip on your shoulder and Ginelle nods to you in support.
“Alright…” You whisper, “Let’s see what we’re looking at.” Gripping the boxes, you slowly pull your head to the side and look around the corner.
A soft and gentle ray of light from one of the windows illuminates a section of the warehouse with a few desks where multiple weapons lay scattered about, from swords and axes, to shields, and even a deactivated maid construct, though it was in pieces. Yeah, this was certainly shady, but what really caught your eye is the person singing. Perhaps person is a little strong, for its most certainly a Monster.
An Alarune sits in the middle of all of this, singing with a hand to her breast as the light plays upon her. She has the upper torso of a beautiful woman with alabaster skin, her curves lithe and beautiful, with skin covered in tiny vines that crisscross through her flesh. Just past her pelvis, her legs form together into a the mouth of a giant, white flower with massive petals and long, flowing green stalks. Vines play gently about her, her roots spread across the floor and digging in deep to the ground.
As you watch her, she turns about in her flower, and her heavenly face looks onto yours, her eyes slowly opening to reveal glowing red orbs that are a stark contrast to her snow-white hair. Your heart begins to hammer in your chest as you realize she’s smiling directly at you.
“Oh… guests. I have been told not to allow guests in here.” She raises a hand as you step back and you feel Ginelle pull you backward as a vine flies past you, narrowly missing your head. You hear her laughing and you turn around to the door, but see a line of roots and vines cover it, trapping you inside.
“Please, stay awhile if you would. I have not had guests besides my lady in some time, please let me entertain you until she returns.”
You gulp as you see the vines begin probing about the boxes, searching for you. You turn to Ginelle who also looks worried and you both nod your heads, obviously neither of you knowing that to do in this situation.
Okay, okay, let’s review the facts. You’re trapped in a warehouse with stolen goods being attacked by an Alarune who sings cryptic songs and talks about her lady and the only weapon you have is your hunting knife and a weapons grade Badgergirl. Looks like you’re going to have to get illusiony here. Is that a word? No? Well, whatever, it fits for now.
All around you vines wrap around boxes, feeling for your location. Thankfully you’ve shifted over some from your original location, and you watch as a vine crawls through there before snaking around another box.
“Damnit.” You whisper to Ginelle. “You have a plan?”
“You’re the big bad sorcerer.” She hisses back, “You think of something.”
“Ugh.” You tap your head, thinking about how the Grand Wizard would have solved this problem. The first thing that pops into your mind is using fire, but you have no lighting sticks or flint or anything. Besides, you’d need one hell of a fire to get that started.
“What if we just talk to her?” You say, seeming a little hopeful. A moment later, you hear a crate shifting and you turn about to see multiple vines lifting up a crate behind you. You lick your lips as you watch it being pulled back.
“Oh.” Ginelle says, grabbing your arm. “We should run.”
“Yes, indeed.” You say as Ginelle drags you backward right before the crate smashes onto the floor where you were, scattering tomatoes everywhere and making a damn fine mess all over the place, which looks suspiciously like what you might be if you had gotten hit by that crate.
The two of you slam your backs behind another set of crates, hearts thundering in your chests. “I don’t think talking is going to work.” Ginelle says, looking around the corner.
“Can you tear apart those vines on the door?” You ask, one again not learning your lesson and being hopeful.”
“Maybe, but she’d catch me before I could finish the job.” She says, growling. “Might have to just punch her in the face or something.”
“Damnit, if only I had some fire, could burn her out.”
She waves a clawed paw, “Can’t you just… illusion up some fire or something?”
You blink a few times. Oh right, you’re an Illusionist, you create illusions. Riiiiiggggggggghhhhht. You slap your forehead, thinking it over. Yes, you could be a simple pyromancer and scare her into letting you go, but if she reported to someone, especially Fiora, then she’d know your face and Ginelle’s making things pretty bad for you. You need to incorporate a disguise into all of this, but what?
“Where have you gone my guests?” The Alarune says in that melodious voice. “You make it hard to entertain you if you hide all the time…”
Another vine slaps against a crate next to your face and you shudder as she slithers on by, looking for you like some kind of… plant… snake… thing. Right, better make this quick before she picks up any more crates. You take a deep breath and concentrate on the first image in your mind before grabbing Ginelle’s arm and helping her up.
“Just play along.” You whisper to her before walking past the vines slowly and turning the corner toward where the Alarune sits. As you do so, your illusion plays into her mind and she blinks a few times, confused.
“You’re not who I saw…”
“Bitch, you don’t know what you saw.” You say, crossing your arms and standing tall with a snide expression on your face. “Shit, you throwin vines around everywhere, who do you think you’re fucking with here?”
“I…what?” The Alarune says, her former confidence seeming to slip a little.
“Bitch, I say, who do you think you’re fucking with here?”
“I do not know.”
“You do not?!” You turn around once, throwing your arms into the air. “Bitch, get over here.”
“I’m rooted in place.”
“Not you bitch.” You say, snapping your fingers toward Ginelle. “This bitch, this bitch!”
Ginelle, who’s hiding behind a crate gives you a stare that says, “I will rip your spleen out and beat you with it.” She does walk over toward you though, grumbling a little before crossing her arms.
You grunt, “Bitch, you best not be grumbling at me, you know who I am.”
She grumbles again and you roll your eyes before putting an arm around her waist and dragging her close to you. She blinks a few times and then blushes as you turn to the Alarune. “Bitch, you should know the only man to ever tame a Hellhound.”
“I am not aware that this has ever occurred.” The Alarune says, eyeing Ginelle warily. Good, she really doesn’t like fire, does she?
“Shit, don’t you see the fucking evidence right here? Do I have to fucking spell it out for you?” You snap your fingers and a small jet of illusory fire appears, causing the Alarune to flinch. “Bitch, I’m Franz muthafucking Jakovitch.”
You think about it for a moment before adding, “The second. Esquire.”
The room goes silent as you let those words sink in. Oh yes, your amazing dark skinned complexion, accented with red, finely woven robes and sick darkened spectacles make the illusion one that no one could deny. Having a fine ass hellhound on your hip was the icing on the cake, though you’re fairly certain that Ginelle will beat you later for it. Or… something. Whatever, gotta survive this for now.
The Alarune shifts a little uncomfortably before asking, “Who?”
You stare at her, amazed. Has no one read the book? Come on people, it’s out there everywhere! Ugh, these Monsters, not knowing their history! You shake your head a few times before growling. “Oh hells no, I did not just hear that. I DID NOT JUST HEAR THAT.”
The Alarune shrugs, “I suppose it doesn’t matter who you are, I’ll capture you all the same.” Her vines snake toward you again and you lift your free hand, forming up fire again in the palm. Her vines pull back as you wave the fire about.
“Oh? Oh? What’s that? You afraid of the heat? Bitch get out the kitchen then!” You say, juggling the illusory fireball in one hand. Honestly, you should tone this all down, because it’s getting tiring but it is kind of fun! Still, you feel that this is not going to play well on your sanity…
“Yeah, I thought so. Anyway, you sittin in here with all this shit, you know who’s shit this is?” You don’t let her speak before you continue, “That’s right, it’s my shit, and I’m wanting it back.”
“I’m afraid this all belongs to the Lady now.”
“The Lady? Who the fuck is this high-class bitch you be calling the Lady?”
“A servant of the true Goddess.”
“The fuck that means? I need a bitch’s name.”
“She does not go by any name, for all who are true know of her and her purpose.”
You rub at your forehead. Jackor damnit, this was frustrating. “Bitch, I don’t need any of your mind-games, you best tell me where your bitch-ass Lady is right now.”
“She is out.”
You tip your fake spectacles down. “You don’t fucking say.” You turn to Ginelle. “Bitch, this bitch says her bitch is out, you believe that?”
“Uhm.” Ginelle says, confused. “Yes?”
You roll your eyes. Seriously, needed to a lot of work on her acting skills. The Alarune shifts again and you raise the fire up, flaring it. “Oh you best not be trying to sneak attack me, cause you’re going to up in fucking flames if you do.”
The Alarune narrows her eyes but seems to settle down. Phew, she was apparently not fully cowed by your assault, but damnit you haven’t learned much of anything here and straining the illusions would be bad over time. Probably could just send in the town watch, maybe get a little reward for sending this in. Getting out in one piece is probably the best thing though, so better get on that.
“Shit, you best open up the door and let us go, isn’t that right bitch?”
“What?” The Alarune says.
“Not you bitch, I mean this bitch.”
Ginelle growls out, “Yes… daddy.”
You blink at her a few times, startled. “Uh… daddy?… Ah, I mean, yeah, that’s right bitch!”
She drives a fist into your side as you look back to the Alarune. “You heard her, open the door.”
The Alarune considers this gravely before shaking her head. “Though I am loathe to do so, I cannot let you leave. The Lady’s orders are quite strict, and disobeying her word is to disobey the word of the Goddess.” Her vines raise up and for a third time, your hope is quashed. You should really remember that it is the first step on the road to disappointment next time.
Vines race out toward you and Ginelle pushes you downward, just in time to avoid them. Another set shoots in from the side, and you instinctively throw the illusionary fire at it, causing the Alarune to scream and the vine recoil, though in truth it was perfectly fine.
“You bastard!” She shouts, face contorting in pure rage. “I will crush you!” To emphasize this, she grabs another crate with her vines and throws it toward you.
You and Ginelle both dodge out of the way as the crate, this one empty, smashes to the floor, sending splinters everywhere. You roll to your feet and throw another fireball toward her, but she intercepts with another fine, causing her to scream again in agony, but otherwise, she’s perfectly fine enough to slap at you again, this time the vine wrapping around your leg and tripping you before pulling you in.
“Sh…shit!” You cry, panicking some, causing your illusion to begin to slip. The Alarune looks at you curiously as she drags you in toward her.
“What is this…?” She asks, confused. “You can’t be…”
Before she can finish, Ginelle leaps forward and tears the vine with her claws, freeing your legs and forcing the fine to flail back, spraying out stick liquid as the Alarune cries. “Ahhhhh! Damn you!”
Ginelle growls and stands before you as you soldify your illusion again, keeping the Franz Jakovitch and Hellhound illusion active. You snarl and in both of your hands you charge up fireballs. “BITCH. YOU GUNNA BURN FOR THAT.” Yes, yes you are laying it on super thick, but come on, this is a serious situation!
“Ginelle!” You shout, and she instinctively covers you, batting aside vines as you prepare to toss the illusionary fire. One wraps around her wrist and she tears it off as two more find their way there, and Ginelle screams in rage. You feel yourself start to sweat as you get it just right… and… there! You pull your arms back and toss two huge orbs of fire toward the Alarune.
She recoils backward, managing to deflect one ball of fire, the other hitting her straight in the flower petals and you make damn sure the illusion ignites her. She screams as she goes up in flames, doing her best to bat it out, and you notice back near the entrance the vines are staring to crawl away.
“Noooooo!” She shouts, slapping at herself! “This isn’t real! I can’t be burning! This is an illusion!” She flails about, crying. “Lady please, don’t play these games on me, I’m being good… I’m serving our Goddess, please don’t…ah…ahhhhh!” Her eyes roll up into her head and she slumps over, drool running down her chin. Her vines fall to the floor as she goes unconscious. At least… you think she’s unconscious.
Panting a little from the exertion, you let the illusions drop, though you can feel some residual heat on your arms. It’s not painful or anything, just like… a tingling feeling. Hrm, this doesn’t bode well. Ginelle throws the vines off her before narrowing her eyes and then looking to you. “Bitch, huh?”
“It’s part of the act.” You say, shaking your head as you approach the tables the Alarune was standing guard over. On the tables are weapons as you saw before, but on one sits some papers along with ink, a pen, and a seal for wax as well as a few stacks of coins. Mostly are coppers, though there are a few silvers and gold pieces. You reach over to grab them when you hear the sound the door opening from across the room.
You and Ginelle both look at each other before quickly running behind the unconscious Alarune. You do your best to stay quiet while also looking toward the tables as slender figure enters the space. With a shock, you realize it’s the woman from the damn inn again! Okay, this is starting to get really, really weird. She looks around before muttering a quiet curse word and moving to the Alarune, prompting you to slink downward as not to be seen.
“Shit.” The woman says in a soft, yet firm voice. “This is going to make things more difficult…” You hear the sound of metal sliding out of a sheath before a visceral sound and green blood begins to crush down from the Alarune. Footsteps echo as she walks away and you chance the risk to look over your hiding place to see the Alarune’s throat has been cut. You grit your teeth, seeing that the woman is looking over the papers on the table before picking up the seal. “Damnit, how did they get this?”
She pockets it and the letters, then turns to go, ignoring the gold. You sigh out in relief and she turns about, staring at where you sit. You immediately create an illusion to keep you hidden but… fuck, what the hell was with this? It felt like you’re pushing against liquid or something, but you think you’re able to keep yourself hidden long enough to duck down again. You hold your breath before you hear the sound of her walking away, the door opening and then slamming shut behind her.
You look over to Ginelle and you breathe out softly, leaving the corpse of the dead flower. While you shouldn’t have felt pity for her, this was certainly not what you had hoped would happen. You wanted to bring people in, maybe get some answers from her, lure out whoever her boss was, but now… well, that was that, your mysterious guest is apparently some kind of murderer, and obviously tied in with whatever is going on here.
“Dollora…” Ginelle says, shaking her head. “She didn’t deserve this.”
“No, probably not.” You say, sighing. It was your first time seeing a dead body like this, yet you didn’t really feel anything. Is it shock? Hard to say, maybe you’re just a little numb because she tried to attack you, or because she isn’t human, but… Well, there’s nothing for it anymore.
You walk over to the table, grunting. “She took all the papers, didn’t even get to see what the seal was.”
“Is that important?” Ginelle asks, looking a mace over.
“Could be. If she has a seal from a high house, she can send fake letters with some serious credibility.”
“You think that woman is…?”
You shake your head. “No, I didn’t detect any illusions, but she… was resisting me somehow, without even being conscious of it I think.”
“Weird. Well, we probably shouldn’t stay here for long.”
“Yeah.” You agree, scooping the money into your pocket, there’s about 4 gold coins and a handful of the other stuff, which is at least something for all the trouble of this place. Looking about, you don’t find any other helpful clues, so you merely shake your head and leave with Ginelle.
The sky outside is beginning to darken, and the two of you agree to head over to the inn. You consider telling the town guard about all of this, but with a dead Alarune, this could be trouble. Best to let Richard know about everything beforehand, and figure out where to go from there. You pass by a few rough looking customers, but with Ginelle in tow, no one bothers you as you reach the inn.
“Well hey there!” Hannah says, washing out a mug, like a true innkeeper. “Fun day you two?”
“You could… call it that.” You say, shaking your head. “Is Richard back yet?”
“Afraid not.” She says, shrugging. “Man likes to be back before dark though, so he should be here any time now.”
“Right…” You say before thinking and asking, “Have you seen a woman in here who’s about average height with short black hair, wears dark clothing?”
Hanna taps her chin. “Well, yes, but I haven’t seen her today.” She gives you a sidelong glance, “Should I tell her you’re looking for her?”
You wave a hand, “No thank you.”
Hannah chuckles, “Well you two sit down, I’ll have food ready in a jiffy.” The two of your nod toward each other before taking a seat in the common room. You put your feet up on the table and lean back relaxing. Ginelle watches you do this, shrugs, and does the same, though her city girl clothing makes it a little difficult, she manages, somehow.
Before you can fully relax though, the door to the inn bursts open, almost causing you to fall backward in your chair before you right yourself, looking over as Richard storms into the room, slapping a note down on the table.
“What did you DO?” He snarls before pointing at the paper.
You look at it with a little trepidation and read, “Oh Richie, I’m so glad you’ve come for me. I’m waiting for you with open arms. Love, Fiora.” You look up at your master to see him fuming in anger. Uh oh.
>Your Madness level increases to 15%
Everything gets very quiet. The few people in the common room turn to look at the three of you and you’re acutely aware of everyone’s eyes on you. You look about the room before locking eyes with your Master, returning his glare the best you can. On the inside though, your heart is hammering hard enough to break glass.
“Master, why don’t we take this somewhere more private.”
Richard, fuming, looks about the room before taking a deep, shuddering breath. He stands up straight and takes the note from the table before nodding toward the stairs. You nod back to him and help Ginelle out of her chair. She grips your arm and you sigh, shaking your head before following him up to your room. As you pass by Hannah, she shakes her head toward Richard, jaw clenched. It seems like this isn’t her first time seeing him like this.
Richard opens the door, ushering the two of you in before he slowly closes it before breathing out, trying to control his apparent anger. He swallows before clenching his hands into fists and speaking in a low voice. “What did you do?”
You sit down on one of the beds and rub at your face. “Where did you get that?”
Richard growls, “I asked you a question first, now answer me!”
You and Ginelle look at each other, feeling nervous. Richard has a look in his eye, one that you’re afraid isn’t entirely sane. Generally speaking he’s a nice guy, and though he gets angry, being like this is… a little too much. You raise a hand slowly and gesture for him to sit. He narrows his eyes at you but does so.
“Alright.” You say, speaking slowly. “I’m going to tell you about our day, please wait until I finish the story.”
He grits his teeth but does so, allowing you to tell about your adventures in the Manufactorium and the Warehouse. You leave out the little bit about the leyway station, because why would that matter?
“So, in the end, that woman we saw before swiped some papers and a seal after killing the Alarune and fleeing.”
Richard looks at the letter in his hand before sighing and running his hands through his hair. “Jackor damnit kid, this is bigger than I thought.”
You look down, thinking about everything. It just… doesn’t make sense. For someone so insane, how could she put all of this together? She could have stolen the money, true, but everything was just… you don’t know. Once again you look up at your Master and ask, “Where did you get that note?”
He looks down at it, toying at the paper with his fingers. “Someone in a cloak handed it to me as I passed through into the Market district from the Riverside. Before I could realize what had happened, they were gone.”
“No, I couldn’t detect any.”
“I… see.” You shake your head, “She has to know you’re staying here though, is it safe?”
Richard shrugs, “I don’t know if anything is safe, although with that safehouse compromised, she’s probably got to move somewhere else, though she’ll be on the lookout…”
Ginelle raises a paw and both of you turn to look at her. “I know I wasn’t supposed to be part of all this but… what did this Fiora do? Why are you chasing her?”
The room goes quiet as the question you were wondering was spoken aloud. Richard looks down, grinding his teeth before sighing and rubbing her forehead. “Damnit… there’s really no hope for you to be uninvolved now, is there?” He chuckles and shakes his head, “Jackor, you fucking piece of shit.”
“Answer the question.” You say, folding your arms. Richard looks at you, studying your eyes.
“You know why.”
“No, apparently I don’t.” Your confusion, tiredness, fears, all of it coalesce into this one moment and you stare straight into your Master’s eyes as you speak. “For someone who is apparently insane, she has put together quite the little army here. Is that the work of an insane person? Has this all been some kind of lie? Do Illusionist really go mad from using their powers?!”
Richard pales some and whispers, “Tobias… please.”
You slam your fist on the table, “Answer the question, damnit!” You feel your face heating up. “I swear to Jackor, if you’ve been lying to me all this time, I will leave right now. I’ll leave everything you’ve taught and go my own way. I don’t need a Master who lies to me.”
Ginelle puts a paw on your arm and murmurs, “Tobias…”
You push her arm away when Richard holds up a hand. “Alright… alright. Just… let me gather my thoughts.” He pauses for a long moment before nodding his head. “First thing’s first. As much as I wish it wasn’t true, we do eventually go insane.”
Ginelle sucks in a deep breath at this, looking at you with scared eyes, but yours are locked onto your Master’s, watching his words for any hints of lies. You don’t see any, and merely nod your head before he continues. “Secondly, Fiora has most assuredly succumbed to her madness.”
“Bulls-” You begin, but Richard cuts you off.
“Third and possibly most important… I do not believe she is human any longer.”
“I… what?” You say slowly, not fully understanding. “Is that a metaphor or something? She’s become so twisted, she’s no longer human inside?”
“No, I mean that, as far as my sources can tell, she is no longer physically human. She has become a Monster.”
“How?” You ask, putting a hand to your head. “Monsterization is a serious crime outside of Galmathoria, and even still, how could she use illusions? There’s no such thing as Monster Witch who can use true illusions!”
Richard nods his head. “Yes, I know. That’s why this is so concerning, even more so because of what you discovered today.”
You close your eyes, trying to process all of this. “So… she’s insane, yet she’s not insane, and she’s a Monster.” You throw your hands up in frustration, “What does that even mean?”
Richard puts a hand on your shoulder and shakes his head, “That’s what I’m trying to figure out myself.”
“We should get the crown involved in this.” You say, standing up. “Let them handle everything, they’ll figure it out.
“I’m afraid that option isn’t available.”
He shakes his head, “From what I was able to gather today, much of this stems from the mayor. I’m afraid Fiora somehow has her inside per pocket. If we make opens moves like that, we’ll easily de-stabilize this city, and could cause serious harm to the kingdom as a whole. If we do that, then Galmathoria might take it as a sign of weakness and…”
You grit your teeth, “Finally launch a full invasion.”
“My thoughts exactly.” Richard says, nodding his head.
“So what do you do?” Ginelle asks, sitting behind both of you and trying not to be intrusive.
You and Richard exchange glances before he shrugs. “I think our plan is still the same. We have to take her out ourselves before we can go and try to get whatever she was working on reversed.”
“But what if she tries to attack us here?”
“I… doubt that. She hasn’t covered her tracks at all, and she even had an operative with a great chance at killing me today, but instead she left a note. She has to know why I’m here, so either she doesn’t think I can stop her or…”
“She wants you to find her.” You complete, shaking your head. “I don’t like that at all.”
“Fiora always did like playing games.” Richard says before sighing.
“This is one hell of a game!” You say, grumbling and leaning back in the chair.
“What about that other woman?” Ginelle asks, sitting on her bed. “How does she fit into all of this?”
“I don’t know.” Richard says, shrugging. “She’s staying in this inn and it doesn’t sound like she knows about us. I got an odd vibe from her before though. If she’s a part of all of this, it might be good to speak with her.”
“What if she’s part of Fiora’s little gang?”
Richard thinks it over before shrugging. “I guess that would be good to know also.”
You stand up and move to the door. “Well, let’s ask Hannah to tell us whenever she gets back, alright?”
Richard nods his head before yawning. “Good idea. See if she can’t bring some food up to the room too. I think I’m a little too tired to go out there tonight. She’ll make me try to drink.”
You roll your eyes. “You good up here Ginelle?” She waves a paw at you in confirmation and you shake your head before heading downstairs. The room got chatty again, which was much nicer than the silence, and you make your way over to the main counter where Hannah shakes her head at you.
“How’s he doing?”
“Calmed down some.”
She sighs, “Thank goodness. He can be so serious sometimes. Let me guess, we wants food in the room.”
You smile and shake your head, “You really do know him well.”
“Repeat customers make their way into my head. Was there anything else you needed?”
“Yeah actually.” You say, rubbing the back of your head. “Hey, if that woman I was talking about happens to come back, could you let me know? There’s something I need to ah… talk to her about.”
Hannah raises an eyebrow. “Really now? Even though you have that nice Badger…”
“We’re not together.” You say as a reflex.
She chuckles and shakes her head, “Well, lucky you, someone just got here.”
You furrow your brow and turn around to see the door closing and the woman lowering a cowl over her head before sighing out. She looks up and locks onto your eyes. The two of you just stand there, looking at each other for a long moment before you take a step toward her, “Hey, could you…?”
She flings open the door before you can finish and runs out of the inn. You just stare there for a moment as it all sort of processes for you. You hear Hanna laugh behind you though, “Hahaha! Better go after her kid! You’ll never get anywhere if you just stand there!”
Shit shit shit. You begin to chase after her, but as you reach the door, your intelligence finally kicks in and you realize that this is not the best of ideas. Going out alone, chasing someone who clearly has the resources and the will to kill someone is probably going to end poorly for you. Adding in the fact that she seems to be somewhat resistant to illusions, you end up with nothing going for you to keep yourself alive.
“Eh? You got cold feet or something?” Hannah says behind you. “Or maybe you already did something? My, what a heartbreaker you must be.” She chuckles heartily, but you merely shake your head and walk away from her.
“Hey!” She says, pushing her way out from behind the counter. She runs up to you and locks you in place with a large, canine paw on your shoulder. “Don’t get all bent out of shape, it’s just a joke.”
You shake your head. “It really isn’t.”
“What, you really did something to her?”
“No, I didn’t do any… gah. Look, it’s a little more complicated than that.”
“It always is.” Hannah says before letting you go and sighing. “I take it this has to do with Richard’s, ah, ‘buinsess?'”
You nod your head in the affirmative and she sighs again. “Great… well at least she pays up in full every morning, in case she has to leave quickly I assume. Looks like it’s no skin off my back if she’s gone, but what are you going to do?”
“Not certain. Probably go speak with Richie or something about all of this, see what his opinion is.”
“So… you’re not going to go after her?”
You throw your hands up in the air, “And do what? She’s wearing dark clothing, it’s night time, and there’s tons of people around. She’s probably loooong gone by now.”
Hannah rolls her eyes, “You have a Badger.”
“I’m sorry, what now?” You say, frowning.
“I said, you have a Badger.”
“I was being facetious.”
Hannah puts her paws on her hips. “Well I wasn’t. Look, Badgergirls have a great sense of smell, almost as good as us Wolves.”
“It’s not like I have anything with her scent…” You pause as Hannah pulls out a handkerchief from her pocket. You just blink a few times, confused. “Uh, why do you have…”
“Dropped it earlier, thought I’d return it to her.”
You scratch your head, “But why would you give it to me? What do you get from this?”
Hannah chuckles and presses the handkerchief into your hands. “Look, I don’t think you’re going to hurt the girl, and clearly it’s important to you, so it must be important to Richard.” She chuckles, “If you do have ill-intentions though, I’ll rip both your arms off and beat you with them.”
You have a strong mental image of this occurring and shudder. You nod your head in thanks and turn about to head up the stairs to your room. As you put your hand on the door handle, you stop as you hear Richard’s voice from behind the door.
“Sometimes I just wonder if that kid is really thinking straight.”
“What makes you say that?” Ginelle replies, voice slightly muted by the door.
“He’s smart, don’t get me wrong, but sometimes he just plays in to these childish fantasies of his too much. I’m just afraid for the day when he’s forced to really grow up, it might be too much of a shock for him.”
“I think he’s stronger than you think.”
Richard chuckles, “Looks like you’ve taken a shining to him.”
“In a way…” Ginelle says, almost too quiet for you to hear.
“I think someone like you is good for him to have around. You keep him out of trouble, you hear?”
“I’ll do my best.”
“Good girl.” Richard says before stomping his foot down. “Boy is taking his damn time though.”
Guess that’s your cue. You open the door, pretending you hadn’t heard anything and the two look at you with perplexed expressions. Richard lounges back in his chair, sighing out, “Ol’ Hannah bringing us some food?”
“Yes and no.” You say, shaking your head. “Things may have gotten a little complicated.”
Richard leans forward and narrows his eyes, “Complicated how?”
“Complicated as in, as I was asking after our mystery woman, she entered the inn, then bolted as soon as I tried speaking with her.”
Richard groans, putting a hand to his forehead. “Damnit, there goes a damn good lead. We might never find her in this city now.”
“Not so fast…” You say, pulling out the handkerchief.
Ginelle cocks her head, “You need to blow your nose?”
“Yes, it… wait, what? No, no, this handkerchief belongs to our quarry!”
Richard cocks his head now, “And how exactly did you obtain this?”
“From a Wolf.”
“Hannah…” Richard grumbles before shaking his head. “Well, no sense in looking a gift horse in the mouth. Maybe we can get a friendly Kobold to help us search for her.”
You shake your head this time and point to Ginelle. “Who needs a Kobold when you have a Badger?”
The two of you look toward the Badgergirl who blinks before pointing at herself. The two of you nod in unison and she sighs audibly before standing and grabbing the handkerchief from your hand. “You owe me for this.”
“Are you lost?”
“No Tobias, I am not lost.”
“Are you certain? Because you seem pretty lost.”
Ginelle turns about, placing her paws on her hips as she glares at you. “I am not lost! I know exactly where I’m going!”
You raise your hands defensively. “Just making sure, alright? This area seems… unlikely she’d be here.” You point about, showing Ginelle the sights around you. The three of you are still in the Residential district, though it was an area that wasn’t nearly as well traveled as the others, populated mainly by older gentlemen and scantily clad women as they traverse through the light of red tinted lanterns.
“Look, this is where her scent leads to, it’s not my fault if she chose this place.” She narrows her eyes as a duo of Wolfgirls walk by, waving their tails in a flirtatious manner toward Richard and yourself. With a growl, the two jump away, growling back, before sauntering back down the path. You may or may not have stolen one little glance before snapping your attention back to Ginelle.
“Well then.” Richard says, coughing into his hand. “This would be quite the place to hide out I suppose. Let’s look around a little and, ah, I mean.” He takes a deep breath before waving his hand toward Ginelle. “Lead on.”
She shakes her head before leading the two of you further down the red lantern area, her head moving this way and that. The farther you walk, the more uncomfortable you and Richard feel as the hungry eyes of ladies, and Monsters, of the evening watch you like predators. One rather stacked Harpy even brushes you with her wing as you pass by, revealing a very alluring body beneath. You gulp and return your eyes to following Ginelle, getting your head back in the game. To be fair, your other head is trying to get into the game also, but damn if you’re not doing your best to keep him on the bench.
You walk past maybe five more brothels before Ginelle stops, and furrows her brow. “This can’t be right.” She mumbles, sniffing the handkerchief again before looking at a group of Catgirls lounging out languidly in front of an inn. She cocks her head then turns back to you and Richard. “The scent ends at these Monsters here.”
“She’s clearly a human though.” You say, rubbing at your chin, and clearly not admiring the shapes and curves of the scantily clad Monsters.
“Well, that’s where this trail ends.” Ginelle says, shaking her head.
“Maybe she managed to wash off her scent trail?” Richard says, trying to be helpful.
“No, it doesn’t… I don’t know.” Ginelle says, shrugging before pointing at a Catgirl at the edge of the crowd with black fur and auburn colored hair. Her clothing is a little less revealing as the other two’s, especially the small skirt she has on, going to about mid-thigh. She pays you no particular mind, merely chatting with the other women around her, laughing amiably.
You look back over to Richard who shrugs and you roll your eyes before sighing and walking over to her. As soon as you approach, the two other Catgirls look up at you, their tails wagging back and forth in sensual motions. You ignore them as you stand before the other girl, and cross your arms. Eventually she looks up at you and raises an eyebrow.
“Can I help you?”
“Yes, I’m looking for a woman about this high.” You hold your hand out in front of you at the height of the woman. “With dark hair and darker clothing. Have you seen anyone like that?”
She shrugs, looking disinterested. “Lots of people come by here, can’t really remember all of them.”
You narrow your eyes before shaking your head. This wasn’t going to go anywhere. You sigh and make to turn around when Richard walks up and puts a hand on your shoulder, stopping you. You frown as he smiles down at the Catgirl. “I’m sorry for my son’s rudeness, you see, he’s a little nervous around such pretty women.”
The other two catgirls titter between themselves, but the one before you merely frowns. “What of it?”
“Well, you see, what he really wanted to ask was, ‘how much for a night with you.'”
Both you and the Catgirl look at Richard, mouths agape. He just smiles at the woman amiably as her face starts heating up. You blink a few times, your own face heating up from embarrassment. “H…hey, I didn’t mean t…to!”
Richard crouches down to eye-level with the Catgirl, whose tail is trashing nervously back and forth. His smile grows even wider as he reaches out and grabs her wrist, locking her in place. “Got you.”
Her free paw instantly go under her skirt and a flash of metal heralds a knife which she slashes at Richard, who pulls away in time to avoid the blow, but allows her to escape. She dashes down the street to a chorus of screaming Catgirls, and Richard curses, yelling for the two of you to chase her. Both you and Ginelle barely hesitate before doing so, running furiously to keep sight of her as Richard does his best to try and keep up with you.
She dashes through people like some kind of living liquid, weaving in and out of the lightly populated area with grace denied you and Ginelle as you barrell through people she merely sidestepped. You try throwing out illusions to get her off guard, like a barrel here, or a person walking out of an alley there, but despite the effort in making them stick, she avoids your fake people as easily as real ones, and even did a somersault over the barrel, making your mouth drop open in surprise. Yeah, there was no way in hell you’d ever catch her on your own, holy shit.
As you leave the red lantern area, she dodges into a side-alleyway and the two of you barrel into it, your [Hunting Knife] drawn and Ginelle’s claws at the ready. You look back and forth, yet see no signs of her though, almost as if she had vanished! The two of you step down the alleyway, looking around in confusion, as the only way out would be from where you entered thanks to the dead-ended wall on the side. Richard comes in a moment later, panting furiously as he looks around the alleyway.
“W…where…hah…haha… where is she?”
A dark shape drops down from behind Richard, and the gleam of a knife appears at his throat. He tenses up immediately and both you and Ginelle’s eyes go wide. A palpable tension appears in the air as the Catgirls says in a slow, yet firm, voice.
“Tell me why you’ve been following me all day.”
“Follow you? I thought you were following me!” You say, mind racing. This woman is obviously the same one from before, but how could Richard tell, and what exactly is she? You can only think of one Monster you’ve ever heard of who can change her shape but… nah, there’s no way that would be right. Why would she even be here?
She inches the knife closer to his throat. “Tch, of course you’d say something like that. Now then, what are you and your Lady doing in this city? Tell me truthfully and I’ll just turn you into the town guard with minimal bruises” She presses the knife enough to draw a trickle of blood from Richard. “Don’t tell me, and I’ll be forced to get violent.”
You lick your lips, deciding to go for the gambit, to roll the dice. “Calm down there. There’s no need for this to get violent, Saya.”
Her eyes go flat as she looks directly at you. “How do you know my name?”
Don’t freak out. Seriously, don’t do it. It would be really, really bad if you freaked out right now.
Though you tell yourself these thoughts, you can’t help but start breathing a little hard. Saya looks at you oddly as you try to martial your thoughts, but her grip on her knife never wavers. She grits her teeth and asks again, “Who are you, and how do you know my name?”
You take a shuddering breath, trying to stay in the moment. Your master has a knife to his throat, one which could be used at any time to end his life. And the person holding the knife is a shape shifting monster with great reflexes and is the daughter of the Grand Wizard and she’s some kind of horror-blob thing and….
“Why are you making that face?” Say says, brow furrowed. “Seriously, answer the damn question!”
You shake yourself, realizing that you’d started drifting off again. Okay, okay, shit, gotta get back into the scene. You slowly raise your hands, showing her that, even though you held your [Hunting Knife], you didn’t mean to hurt her. “Take it easy, we don’t mean you any harm. As to how I know your name, well…”
You shrug, “I can’t think of any other Monster who can change her forms so masterfully.”
She stares at you for a long time before sighing out, “Oh Gods, you’ve read the stupid book, haven’t you?”
“Hey now! Your Dad did some great things and wrote an amazing book, and your adventures together are really cool and legendary and everything and…”
“Apprentice.” Richard says in a stern voice. “Be quiet.”
“But… but come on! She’s like a freaking celebrity!”
“Yes, a celebrity with a knife to my throat that you’re doing nothing about.”
“But… but come oooooon.”
Saya growls, getting both of your attentions. “Look, just because my Dad is famous doesn’t mean you should forget that I HAVE A KNIFE TO THIS GUY’S THROAT.”
Richard rolls his eyes. “What knife?”
“What are you talking about?” Saya says, looking down and then gasping as Richard holds up a hand. To your eyes, he’s not holding anything, but Saya leaps back, looking at her hand and dropping the knife there, apparently thinking that Richard stole it somehow. “H…how did you do that?”
“I think we’re the ones in the position to ask questions now.” Your Master says, tossing the illusionary knife in the air. “Begging my idiot apprentice’s lack of manners, but it seems we might have some miscommunication here.”
“Is that so?” Saya says, holding onto her other knife as she crouches downward.
“Is it really necessary to do that?” You say, scratching your head. “Can’t you like, just dissolve us or something? I mean, the only think you can’t dissolve was the magical sword that the Great Hero used, but it’s not like we have something like that.”
Richard groans, “Damnit kid…”
Saya blushes, “Look, I’m not a fan of doing that much anymore and…”
“Oh oh, do you still have to change bones to change your form? I think it’s inconvenient, but I bet you stored bones all over the city as contingency plans, huh?”
“Well, yes, I do still have do that, but I’m always improving with…” She shakes her head and narrows her eyes, “Stop trying to distract me!”
“Aww come on, we both know you’re not going to try to hurt anyone here.”
She growls and dashes past your Master with blurring speed and you step back, taken totally by surprise. You flail about to try and make an illusion appear, but due to your lack of focus, you’re unable to get a good grip upon her mind, and she gets within five feet of you… before Ginelle’s leg seems to come out of nowhere and trip Saya.
She’s taken utterly by surprise and falls into a roll on the ground, springing up with her knife drawn, staring at you in disbelief. She looks quickly to Ginelle, who is not where she should have been to trip Saya, and the woman grits her teeth. “What the hell are you people? How did she move that fast?”
Richard shrugs and walks up next to you, putting a hand on your shoulder. His expression betrays nothing, but obviously he made the illusion to trip Saya, he just had to have. “We are the people who now have you in a corner. Just calm down and we can talk this out.”
Saya looks behind her out of the corner of her eyes and curses before sighing and sliding the knife back into her thigh holster. She crosses her arms and glares at the three of you. “I could just melt the three of you.”
“See, I told you she could do that.” You say smugly.
“Not now Tobias.” Ginelle says quietly, and Richard nods his head in agreement.
“Alright, fine.” Saya says, waving a hand. “Besides one of you being one of those rabid fans of that adventure who apparently knows everything about me….”
“You were made of Matango spores, swamp horror essence, Arachnae venom, a dash of monster plague, and Victoria’s head…” You mutter.
“What was that?”
“Nothing! Just, you know, saying how I totally got you! Thinking that I’m some kind of crazy fanatic about [Wizardquest], pshaw.” Everyone gives you an expression that says they aren’t buying your shit. You just cough into your hand and stand straight, speaking in a more respectable tone.
“Right then, so we know that you were in the Johannes and Son’s warehouse today.”
Saya grumbles, “Damn, I knew there was someone watching me.”
“Indeed. We saw you kill that Alarune and take some papers along with a wax seal. What did they say?”
Saya narrows her eyes. “You still haven’t given me a reason to trust you.”
“Well, we haven’t actually tried to attack you or anything. If we were with the Phantom Thief or Fiora, would we really be talking? Wouldn’t we go right to the stabbing, as ineffectual as that would be as evidenced by Fort Carls… ah…” You cut off, coughing.
“Fiora? So that actually is her name.” Saya says, seeming to relax a little. “So those documents are related to all of this.”
“All of what exactly?” Richard says. “I have a feeling we’re here for two different goals, though they converge upon the same person.”
“Seems that way.” She says, shaking her head, feline ears twitching this way and that. She studies Richard for a long moment before nodding her head. “The name is Saya, and yours?”
Saya nods her head and looks to Ginelle who says, “Ginelle.” Finally she looks to you and you really, really wish you had your copy of [Wizardquest] on you. Oh, maybe you can get her to sign it back at the inn? If only it wasn’t such a large book, you’d carry it around with you, but alas, it is.
“Tobias Shady.” You say, smiling at her. She gives you that odd look again and you have to wrack your brain on whether or not you’re making a goofy face again. No, no you don’t think so, although Ginelle is looking at you out of the corner of her eye curiously.
Saya nods her head before looking about, making sure no one is watching behind you before speaking. “I was sent here on suspicion of someone trying to foment a war, and it looks like the information is good. Apparently this, “Fiora,” is the one behind all of this? I cannot yet discern if she is human or Monster though.”
Richard nods, “We are on a mission to put down Fiora before she can cause more trouble than she’s already started.”
“Who sent you?” Saya asks, curiosity in her expression.
She frowns deeply. “Mother never said the Crown was moving against this, she would have known if they were.”
“Mother?” You say, unable to contain yourself. “Like, Selene, the Cat o’nine tails? The current Monster Lady?”
Saya gives you a blank expression again before rolling her eyes, “Yes, oh devoted fanboy, my Mother is the Monster Lady.”
“That is so cool.”
“Tobias…” Richard growls and you hold up your hands in a placating gesture.
“Alright, alright, I get it, I get it.” You shake your head. “Who sent you out here though? Surely your Father is too busy to keep up with such things.”
“Yes, Dad is busy, but can you hop off his dick for a moment?” She shakes her head. “Anyway, I’m here in the capacity of the Monster Lady.”
Richard sucks in a sharp breath. “So this does concern Galmathoria.”
She nods her head in the affirmative. “Yes. We received reports of War constructs being made in the Crown’s name through channels of ours, and that their destination was Helsmcrag.” She shrugs, “Problem is, as soon as anyone tried to look into it through official channels, the Mayor of Loveura stepped in and threatened reprisal actions.”
“So they sent you…” Richard muses.
“And you.” Saya says, nodding her head.
You furrow your brow. “So wait, you actually do get paid by the Crown to basically be a hitman?”
Richard nods his head, “Yes, a job I think you’ll have to take some day.”
“I see…” You say, frowning before looking back up to Richard, then Saya. “I just wonder though, how do you know about Fiora’s ah… condition while she does not?”
Saya cocks her head, clearly interested in what you meant by this. Richard just shakes his own head. “When I said she was seen in town, I wasn’t lying, though she was seen as human by my informant.” He pauses for a moment before taking a deep breath. “My theories on her undergoing Monsterization are based on the behaviors described. These are not the works of an insane human.”
Saya’s eyes go wide. “Monsterization? What kind of Monster?”
Richard holds a hand up. “I don’t know. Yes, this is something your Mother would likely want to know about, but I don’t know what to tell her. It’s a guess at this point, but I’ve dealt with many who lose control of their minds and they don’t make plans to start a war.” He thinks about it for a moment, “This intelligently anyway.”
Saya puts a hand to her head, shaking it. “Wait wait wait, insanity? What are you talking about? Who are you people anyway, some kind of sorcerers based on earlier?”
You and Richard look between each other before nodding and turning back to Saya. In unison, you both say, “Illusionists.”
Saya just stares at the two of you for a long moment before groaning. “Oh Gods, Dad warned me about Illusionists.”
“He did?” You say, blinking. “What did he tell you?”
“That you’re all impulsive, cocky, slightly insane pranksters.” She studies you for a moment. “I think he was right.”
“Hey now, that’s not fair!” You say, preparing to defend yourself when you hear sounds of men laughing from the street behind you. You turn about as two men in Town Guard uniforms, the brilliant white stained with various food and drinks, walk past the mouth of the alleyway and stop, staring at the four of your.
“Hey!” One of the guards asks, his voice sounding a little tipsy. Obviously he takes his duties QUITE seriously. “What’s going on down there?”
You prepare to say something when Saya slips up next to you, wrapping her arm around your waist. You feel your cheeks start to heat up as she rubs your chest, her scantily clad chest pressing against yours. Before you can really process this, you realize that Ginelle is pressing herself against your other side, though she doesn’t have the same, sensual face as Saya.
Saya coos out, her face pressed against your shoulder, feline ears tickling your cheek. “Oh, I’m sorry sirs, we were merely… discussing a deal.” She draws a finger across your chest. “These gentlemen are a little shy you see…”
The guard’s mouth opens in a knowing smile. “Oh aye, first time out in the Red-Lantern side, eh lads? Well, I know that what’s about, but you ladies know the rules. Take it inside.”
“Oh of course sirs, of course…” The guards tip their helmets to the four of your before continuing on their way. You look down at the two women clinging to you and can’t help but put on a goofy smile, basking in it for a moment. Come on, a legend was touching you! Wait that didn’t come out right…
They both look at each other before rolling their eyes and elbowing you in the abdomen, driving the wind out of you and causing you to stagger to one knee. They nod toward each other and walk Richard merely shakes his head. “I think it would be best if we continue this back at the inn.”
“Agreed.” Saya says, walking over to pick up her fallen knife. “I do have something I’d like to gather up before we return however…”
“Hahaha! You did it kid!” Hannah says as the four of you enter. She has a smug expression on her face and she nods to Saya, who is back in human form, though she does keep her distance from you. “Guess I don’t have to rip your arms off then, do I?” Saya gives you an odd expression and you just wave a hand, not really wanting to talk about it.
Jeanie pokes her head from around her Mother’s skirts, a wolfish smile on her face as her tail waves furiously. “Ohhhhh, so Mr. Apprentice has a new lady hmmm? You cad you.”
Hanna swats her on the head, sending the little girl tittering away. The older Wolf sighs and shakes her head. “I have no idea where she gets it from.”
“You, I’d assume.” Ginelle says offhandedly.
Hannah merely rolls her eyes and waves a paw. “Yes yes. This is the third time I’m offering food, if you don’t take it now, I’m going to cut you off for good.”
Richard smiles and laughs, “Thank you Hannah, I promise this time we won’t skip out on your hospitality.”
She sniffs, though her tails starts wagging, “Bah, can’t ever say no to that smile. You best not be telling my husband, you hear?”
“I’m telling Daaaaaaad!” Jeanie says, dancing around her Mother’s legs before squealing and running after Hanna picks up a broom.
“Bah! I’ll be with you in a moment.” She says, rolling her eyes before shouting, “I’m coming for you, you little pup!”
You watch as the two run away, before turning back to the others to see Saya smiling. She notices your gaze and she shakes her head. “Just… reminds me of my little sister is all.”
You’d heard that the Monster Lady had two twin daughters, but [Wizardquest] ends shortly after the return to Sanctifrond. As soon as you think of this, you remember that your book is upstairs! You take Saya’s hand without thinking and drag her up the stairs, her protesting the whole way.
“What the hells are you doing?!”
“I need you to sign my book!”
You nearly break down the door to your room and let go of Saya’s arm before grabbing your copy of [Wizardquest] and presenting it to her, you panting the whole time. She gives a look of utter revulsion before taking the book from your hand and studying it, flipping over the first few pages. She stops at the signature from the ascendant before looking at it critically and sighing. “It’s fake.”
You blink a few times, certain that you had temporary memory loss. “I’m sorry, what did you say?”
“It’s fake, the signature.” She looks over the book again. “Truthfully, I like Veronica’s copy the best, as my Dad’s footnotes are almost unintelligible, but yeah, this isn’t her signature.”
You stagger backward until you reach one of the bed and collapse down onto it, staring at the floor. Somewhere, you knew the signature was fake, but it’s your prized possession and… You feel something tap your head and you look up to see Saya holding your book before you. Staring at it, you numbly take the book from her hands and just set it on your lap.
Saya coughs into her hand and says, “Flip the page.” You do so, and your eyes go wide as you see a fresh new signature, written in ink, saying, “Saya.”
You look up at her and she blushes, looking away. “No one’s ever asked for my autograph before, alright? It’s still a little creepy you’re so obsessed, but I could at least do something.” You jump to your feet and go to hug her, but she elbows you in the chest again and you fall onto your side, wheezing as Richard and Ginelle come up the stairs with trays of food.
Richard merely shakes his head. “Idiot.”
Over dinner, the four of you trade information. Richard had discovered that certain people were moving through the canals more frequently than before, apparently going into various old warehouses in the Riverside district, looking for something, though he isn’t certain what based on what he could gather. Saya spent much of her time focusing on the items that were stolen, tracing it back to the Johannes warehouse after searching for some days before you had been here, finding nothing of value but cold trails of the Phantom thief. Her investigations into the Main district also seem to show that the Mayor hasn’t actually been seen for a few weeks.
It seemed that neither of them had good information on the dealings in the Manufactorium, so at least you were super useful today too!
Saya nods her head, digesting all the information before reaching into her mouth and pulling out a metal tube. The process is fairly disgusting, but you think it’s pretty cool as she opens the contents, opening up folded letters and taking out the seal. “Might as well show you what I found. Looks like mostly some missives between this Fiora and the Phantom thief.”
“So they aren’t the same person?” You say, cocking your head.
“No, apparently not.” Richard says, looking over the letters. “Looks like Fiora wants her to steal some things tomorrow and bring them directly to her. Doesn’t say what they are though, but she has the exact Leyway and times for it.”
“What’s this seal for then?” Ginelle says, picking up the little item, the sigil of a rose engraved into it.
“This.” Saya replies, taking a letter from the stack and holding it up. You take it and scan the contents before whistling. Saya nods her head grimly. “Yeah, my thoughts exactly. It’s an order from the Mayor to authorize the transplantation of certain Plant Monsters from the Great Arboretum to all across Deleor.”
“It looks authentic.” Richard says, looking it over. “But since we intercepted the seal and the letter, it might delay her on this front, though I’m not exactly certain what she plans to do with this.” He scratches his head, “I’m not certain where to start with this. Your thoughts, Saya?”
She frowns deeply, “It seems she has close contact with the Phantom Thief. Perhaps catching them would lead us to her?”
Ginelle shrugs “It sounds as if we can get some good information from the Arboretum too, unless you have a better idea, Tobias?” They all turn to you as you rub your chin in thought.