Illusionistquest Chapter 14: Dark Heresies Pt. 1

Ah hells, you figured something like this might happen. Considering it the [Port-o-Glass] was a gift given to you by a representative of the Crown, it would only make sense that they’d want some kind of progress report, and also that the damn thing would have tracking spells on it or…something. You scratch you head before sighing and weaving into your mail to find it was full of messages!

Sure, it had been… oh hells, has it really only been a few weeks? Since you last checked, but damn this is a lot of messages. Thankfully most of them are about magic unguents and ointments to make your dick bigger, not that you’d ever tried one of course, since they don’t work in about 60% of cases, but of course, you wouldn’t… come on why would you even…haha, not like you tried one when you were fifteen or…

Anyway, going past a few unsolicited Nygeraen communications about sending gold to help a poor desert dweller get back on her feet and she’ll send you more money back. No, you didn’t fall for these ones ever, though once you messed with one of them by weaving a string of shit that you think drove one insane. Today, you merely delete all of them, ending up with two messages left, one from Agent Anderson and one from the Office of the Monster Nation.

Might as well look at that last one first, so you access it, scanning over the runes with a practiced eye. You expected some kind of message from Selene after she said that to you, but this is merely… stuffy. The message starts with basic formalities, then gives some thanks for visiting the embassy, then asks about the state of your health as well as Saya’s without really an expectation of a reply. The confusing part was this section on talking about weeds in the flower patch? That’s real neato but… it’s not all that special honestly. Well, you’ll let Saya see it and send a reply later, since you think she’ll want to speak with her Mother.

Thinking of Saya, you sigh, realizing you’ll need to speak with her later and try to smooth out whatever you’d done. Well, you have a good idea what you’d done, but as far as you know, it probably did something else. Probably. You wonder if Patricia had to deal with this, and you suddenly remember she doesn’t have your Ley-mail address! You hurriedly fish it out of your [Rucksack] and weave it in, frowning as the runes come out to say, “NerdWolf88.” You check it over again before rolling your eyes and sending a pleasant message to her, asking after her health and such, then asking if she’d found anything else out. That out of the way, you access Anderson’s message, which seems to have been from a day ago and read it over.

“Mr. Shady,

We hope you’ve enjoyed the use of this device as provided, and we look forward to you using it frequently on your journey. As of sending this, we have not had any more information about the criminal known as Chalan, other than that she’s headed to Saydinhold. We had prior information seeing her around Oppenheim two weeks ago, before she headed to Sanctifrond. We do not know exactly her intentions here, however it likely deals with the Illusionists present.

Looking back into her past, we can see that reports of someone like her started to be seen about a year ago, first around Galmathoria, and more specifically, The Cradle. Where she was beforehand, we cannot say, which is not surprising, and yet disturbing, especially because around that time reports of a strange, red-haired woman was around there. Yes, we have reason to believe this was Fiora, and this may be how they have met, though whether or not this was the inciting cause of this trouble is unknown.

This is the information was have now. We expect a full report after every encounter you have on this journey, and we will know when you read this message. Have a pleasant day, Mr. Shady.

Sincerely,

Agent Anderson.”

You lean back and frown, thinking over what had been said here. You knew that Fiora had traveled around Deleor after leaving Richard, but not that she had potentially met Chalan all that time ago. As far as you were concerned, you thought that Fiora had turned only recently, but if that’s not the case, then what had she been doing all this time? And what is the connection with Chalan to The Cradle, if there is one? Only thing there is Plant Monsters and the Queen Alarune.

Phallia… this only goes deeper and deeper, doesn’t it? You groan and make to power off the device when another message appears in your Ley-Mail from Anderson. It’s title says, in all superior runes, “DO YOUR REPORT.”

“UGGGHHHHHHH.” You say, and another message appears saying, “DON’T YOU SASS ME.”

You get really quiet all of a sudden and look over the device before whispering, “You can’t hear me, can you?” You pause, looking at the glass for a few moments before sighing as nothing happens. You make to lean back again and think things over when another messages appears, saying, “NO, I CAN’T HEAR YOU, THAT WOULD BE IMPROBABLE GIVEN THE DISTANCE.”

You stare at the device, wondering if this man just expertly knew what your responses would be, or if he really was somehow recording you. Gulping, you hurriedly write out a report of everything that had occurred in Indin and Oppenheim, sending it quickly to the man, who responds lighting fast, “Good, funds are deposited in your account. e careful in Saydinhold, it’s a larger town built around a Leyline nexus, and if you harm the Leyways there, you’ll ruin traffic in the west for a significant period of time.”

“We look forward to speaking with you again. Oh, and: Boo.”

You power off the device and put it away quick as can be, a little freaked out by the experience. Gods above, you are beginning to think this man far more dangerous than you had expected him to be. At least he’s on your side… right?

Shaking your head, you stretch and look outside the window, frowning as you notice it’s gotten a little later on in the day, the sun starting to dip down under the horizon, and you get up, looking over toward little Akela, still napping in your room. You figure she’ll be fine on her own for a little bit as you’re basically the only passengers on the Leyway this far out of any larger town. Stretching again, you make to open the door, only to find Saya there, her hand up to slide it open. You both look at each other for a moment, staring in surprise before you recover and say, “Well uh, hey. Just who I wanted to see.”

Saya blinks twice before shaking her head and frowning. “Oh, is that so? Sure you’re not looking for any busty Holstaurs?”

You look over your shoulder to where Akela is napping and you say, quieter, “Let’s talk outside, alright?” She gives you a flat look before looking down and sighing, then nodding over toward the room over, which was unoccupied. You nod yourself before slowly sliding the door behind you and following after her.

As soon as you enter, Saya sits down forcefully on a bench in the room and glares at you, to which you blink, startled, and raise your hands. “Woah, it’s like I’m on trial here. Saya, come on, what’s bothering you?”

She huffs and crosses her arms. “You know what’s wrong.”

“What, the Holstaurs? Look, they asked first and I wasn’t really going to do it…much.” You rub the back of your head before groaning and saying, “Alright fine, I would have done it, but you know damn well that it wouldn’t have meant anything.”

She sniffs, “Oh, I know perfectly well.”

“Then…what? Was it about the cow tipping thing? I’ll admit it was us… and Ophelia…and most Ginelle, but I’m pretty sure you already knew that, and it was a little bit of harmless fun, a bit of, you know, father-daughter bonding.” You raise a finger and smile, “I think she enjoyed it, and she’s been a little more perky, haven’t you noticed?”

Saya sighs, “Yes, I noticed…”

You frown yourself before rubbing your head and saying, “Well, what is it then? I mean, yes I don’t always do the right thing, but you knew that!” She continues to look a little despondent and you wrack your brain, trying to figure out what’s going on with her. Ugh, women were women, no matter what their race you guess. You press a finger against your temple and say slowly, “I’m sorry we didn’t invite you for the cow tipping? No, that’s not… then me getting into unnecessary danger facing Beardlington? No, we get into crazy situations all the time and we…”

You pause then, thinking that over again. “We.” You repeat before slapping your forehead and exhaling audibly. “Oh Gods, Saya, you’re that upset about not being chosen for the mission?”

She looks up at you and nods her head. “I know I shouldn’t, I just… I thought that we’d go into all of this together, fight these Illusionists at each other’s backs. I know Ginelle is strong, and she’s a great friend, but what if you’d gotten hurt? I was worried sick about you the entire time you were gone, and then I find out that Clint and Clarissa were part of a riot while I just sat back on my ass?”

She shakes her head. “I don’t know, maybe I was looking for an excuse to vent my frustration. I didn’t mean to make such a mess of this…” She puts a hand to her head and closes her eyes, growling. “Gods, I’m being such a girl about this! I just don’t know what to feel about this and-“

You take two steps toward her and pull her in for a deep kiss, cutting her off. Her eyes go wide and she tries to talk for a few moments long before closing her eyes and melting into the kiss, wrapping her arms slowly around you as you embrace her, your lips pressed against hers. She doesn’t try to pull away, not that you’d let her, and you both continue like that until you have to pull back slightly to catch some breath (you, more than her), the two of you looking into each other’s eyes. Her gaze flutters for a moment before she takes a shuddering breath and presses forward again, to which you reciprocate.

She seems a little more passionate this time, and you flow into her embrace, the two of you moving your lips softly, parting them ever so gently before becoming bolder, your breath mingling together, the soft taste of her suffusing you as you her. Aided by some compulsion, you reach your tongue forward, and it’s met by hers, the slick, wonderful feel of contact making both of you shudder as you probe forth, becoming lost, noticing only the tango of tongue you both perform. Distantly, you feel her hands tightening on your back as she presses in closer to you, and you wish you could stay like this forever, but eventually the light-headed feeling resolves as asphyxiation, and you’re forced to pull back, panting for breath.

Saya pants too, her eyes seemingly alight with energy as saliva gently drips from her chin, and you suddenly feel like you’re going to cross a wonderful, yet significant, line if you let this continue further. Still, your pants, which you just now noticed, are tight, and it takes all your effort to breathily say, “A…Akela is in the other room…”

Saya’s eyes, which seem slightly unfocused to you, seem to register your words after a moment and she sucks in a deep breath, eyes focusing again. She seems to visibly shake as she turns away from her and says, voice a little hoarse, “Y…yeah. You’re right, we can’t be loud. Can’t let the others… hear…” She coughs and then shakes her head, cheeks flushed. “Yes! Yes, of course.”

You chuckle and hug her close, stroking her hair and whispering, “If it makes you feel better, I’d have imagined that Holstaur was you.”

She stammers for a few moments before saying in a shaky, yet oddly seductive voice, “I…if it makes you feel better… I could always be a Holstaur…”

The thought immediately goes through your head and you pull away, clapping your hands together as the two of you look away from each other, and you end up coughing into your hands. “Oh gosh, well, ha, is that the time? We should uh… get dinner.”

“Yes! Dinner.” She says, chuckling before walking past a little stiffly. “Dinner and not… not dinner.” She makes to leave the room when you say out, unable to help yourself.

“Saya… you know, if you ever want to… I wouldn’t…” You rub your head, so full of embarrassment before you take a deep, calming breath and say, “Well, just know that even when we’re not together, I’m thinking about you, the way you are now, or whatever way you want to be. And if you wish to… well, continue, then you know where to find me.”

She grips the doorframe and smile at you, “Thank you for that and… for stopping me here. It’s probably for the best right now anyway, because I… love you.” She rapidly opens, then closes the door, vanishing from sight, leaving you with the words on your lips,

“I love you too…”

—————————————————

You actually can’t find Saya after you go looking for her after this point, and instead figure you’ll bother the others. Unfortunately, Clarissa and Ginelle are slugabeds, sleeping in very undignified and unlady-like poses, their mouths open, Ginelle snoring some. You are sorely, SORELY tempted to put something in her mouth, but you restrain yourself. Because you’re a nice person. Yes, that’s what you’ll tell yourself.

Ophelia and Clint aren’t hard to find, however, as they’re both at the bar, though the scene is very… strange. The Rabbitgirl has a metal cylinder inscribed with various runes upon it, and she waves it about, explaining things in very technical terms while Clint sits there, shaking his head and waving his own hands. The poor bartender, an older human gentleman, merely stands behind the counter to refill Clint’s glass as soon as he drains it, which he does… frequently.

“Are you blind? The focusing runes are aligned perfectly with the elemental runes, drawing a Ulwenian matrix! The energy dispersal rate is basically zero in this pattern!”

“And I’m telling you, that damn thing will change the mana rifling, making the whole damn thing as accurate as a drunk man tryin’ to piss!”

Ophelia throws up her hands and makes an exasperated noise before turning to you, blinking a few times before shouting, “Oi! Tobias, get your ass over here!”

You look a little startled at her words, but as you approach, you notice that she too has a glass before her. She drains it before slamming it on the table and growling, “Damnit Tobias, this… this CARROTHEAD can’t see how wonderful my invention is!”

Clint growls, “She wants to ruin the precision of my rifle for what? To make the thing make Fireballs?”

“fireBOLTS!” Ophelia says, putting a finger up in the air. “They are fireBOLTS! Different!”

“But essentially the same.” Clint growls. “Look, I said I’d entertain this, but not that I would actually do this. It hasn’t been done before!”

“Well, how do you know that?” You say, shrugging.

Both of them go quiet, staring at you with half-drunken eyes. the bartender making a sign of Solos over his chest for the relief. You look between both of them and sigh, shaking your head. “We could always check the communion matrix for these kinds of things you know. Besides, I think you two need a distraction anyway”

“Wut, like your little ‘distraction’ with Saya earlier?” Ophelia says, snickering, though Clint looks a little confused. She waves her hand, chuckling wickedly, “Oh ho ho, so now my ears are useful, hmm? Oh don’t worry Tobie…bias…bie, I won’t tell anyone.”

Clint gives you another odd look, but you just shake your head and go to help Ophelia up, but not before she reaches over and drains Clint’s drink, the man looking utterly outraged at the offense. She giggles some, and you lead her away, Clint following in tow as you head to place her down in one of the large, riding cars. She snickers as you set her down and says, “Mom was right, we would have made cute. Little. Bunnies.”

You look to Clint and sigh, but he merely shrugs and says, “She was pretty lucid when talking about magitek, but I guess that was keeping her focused.”

Ophelia sits up then, cheeks still red, but eyes sharp, “Magitek?” She pulls out the cylinder. “You’re ready to try it?”

Clint groans and you hurriedly head to your room to grab the [Port-o-Glass], setting it up for the two, and quickly weaving to some matrices which deal with magitek armaments. Frankly, most of it is garbage about men wanting to fuck magitek weapons, and Monsters wanting either to bait the men, or do lewd things to the weapons, which ends up baiting the men anyway. You hear that Wizards from before twenty years ago still lament what has happened to their sacred stomping grounds, and you can see why.

Thankfully it doesn’t take too terribly long before you reach a good board, and the two end up getting into a mix of drunken shitweaving and going over ideas, apparently getting fascinated by a set of runes on a theoretical barrel to a magitek rifle (not that anyone on this matrix likely had ever even touched one of the things). Eventually, they leave with ideas a ton of laughs, until nightfall comes and you all bid your farewells to get some grub, though Ophelia immediately passes out once the fun is done.

When you turn in for bed after taking Akela for food, you still have yet to see Saya, and by the time you head to bed after reading Akela more [Wizardquest], to which she adores Hala for some reason, Saya still hasn’t appeared. Kissing Akela on the forehead, you set her to sleep and crawl into bed yourself, hoping Saya will return soon. Almost as soon as you close your eyes though, you hear the door open slightly, and look to see Saya carefully taking off her shoes before heading to you, putting a finger on your lips before you can say anything.

She gently leans you back into the small bed before snuggling herself under the covers and around your body, sighing out as she rests her head on your chest. You watch the whole thing with some confusion, but no words, and slowly, she drifts off to sleep. Sighing, you gently stroke her head before smiling and falling asleep yourself.

——————————-

You arrive in Saydinhold after three days and a rather uneventful journey, punctuated mainly by one or two make-out sessions with Saya and a drinking contest by Ginelle and Clint. The upside was that the bartender made out like a bandit, so there’s that. Otherwise, Ophelia worked off her hangover while working on the barrel, getting it almost fully ready to test apparently by the time the Leyway rolls into the town.

Anderson wasn’t kidding when he said it was a place built around the Leyway, because you pull in, you see a scene reminiscent to the Sanctifrond station, but instead of the luxurious, orderly halls, there’s just a mess of people running back and forth, cargo being loaded and unloaded, shouting, and furious sweating. You make your way out of the Leyway to be hurried along as more people board behind you, leaving you to watch the Leyway get pulled across a turntable that changes the track direction, sending it off to a depot to get new cars.

All around you, you see warehouses, bare earth, and wooden structures. There are plenty of stone structures too, but the bare wood feel of most of them make the place seem like a sort of frontier town in a way, at least that’s what Clint says. You make your way away from the station in the center of the town under the watch of the massive amounts of Trolls and head off to the North, though everywhere looks pretty much the same as industry propels people forward through the town.

You make note of anything odd about the town, but about the only thing you see out of place is when a crew of workers drop a crate filled with nails to the ground, breaking the wood and sending them everywhere, but this is quickly fixed and of very little consequence, as everyone gets it cleaned up easily enough and with little injury. You hear some mutterings about, “Third time this week.” but well, given the traffic of the town, this can hardly be called all uncommon.

Thankfully, you find an inn easily enough as the town is flooded with them because of all the traffic. You get checked in and cozy, yet not too cozy, the sun still fairly high overhead today. Still, it’s enough for Clint to place down a map of the town he had acquired and have all of you look it over as he speaks.

“Alright, so Saydinhold is roughly broken into three areas around the central Leyway depot.” He points to where you came in before pointing to the North, where you are now. “There’s plenty of inns everywhere, but we got lucky and ended up coming to the Residential side of town. Here’s where the inns, taverns, and homes mostly are.”

He points to an area in the southeast. “This is the mercantile area. While it has plenty of shops, it’s mainly for banking houses and the like due to all the traffic. I think city hall is around here also.” His last spot is in the Southwest, right next to the Leyway station. “Lastly, this is the Leyway repair and storage facilities. This is where a large number of the Trolls live, and where magitek minded people and Monsters work on the Leyways, as well as all the storage warehouses.”

He nods to the rest of you before saying, “I think we should split up, perhaps see what’s happening around town in the various districts.” He pauses then before tipping his hat to you. “If that’s what our leader wants, anyway.”

You stretch your arms wide and lean back really slow, crossing your arms before nodding your head. It’s obviously a lot of bullshit to allow you to make the pretense of thinking rather heavily about all of this, but hey, you’ve got a willing audience and you’re a little bored as it sits. Might as well ham it up, right?

Of course you can’t play this forever, and by the time you’re scratching your head and making a face akin to constipation, Clarissa rolls her eyes and slaps the table, making you jump and everyone turn their gazes to her. She clacks her tongue before saying, “Hey, are you an Orc or something, because you’re hamming this up.”

“I was deep in thought.” You say, sniffing. Everyone gives you flat stares and you sigh, shaking your head. “Oh fine, so I was having a little fun. Alright, alright let’s get down to business. First off, we need to identify what we’re doing here, and to do that, we need to ask around for uh…”

“Vivienne Montor.” You hear faintly from your breast and you look down, frowning as you’re unable to find Abigail. Well, alrighty then, you just shrug and shake your head, continuing.

“So yeah, Vivienne Montor apparently. Ask around by name, but also look for any strange occurrences in town. Spooky things seem to happen around these people, so I think it shouldn’t be too hard to find them.” You point at the district you’re currently in. “To that end, we need people here, going to the inns, drinking at the taverns, talking to people.”

“Clint, Clarissa, Ginelle, can I leave this up to you?” You say, nodding at them in turn and they look between each other before nodding in reply. “Alright then, next part of business, we need someone to look through the Leyways and the magitek district.” You look to Ophelia who nods her head with a smirk on her face before you also nod to Akela.

“Akela, do you think that you can keep Ophelia in line out there?”

The Anubis thinks it over before nodding her head and shrugging. “I suppose. It might be difficult to fully keep her from going crazy over everything, but I shall endure.” She smirks softly at that, watching the Rabbitgirl as she gives both of you flat stares before sighing and shaking her head.

“Honestly, I thought this was a no bully zone.”

“Not with Tobias around.” Clarissa says, chuckling as Ginelle nods her head.

“Alright, sorry sorry.” You say to Ophelia, giving her an apologetic smile. “I can’t help myself, but I do appreciate you being able to look after her. Honestly, if you could find something to communicate over short distances, that would be wonderful, but…” You wave you hand and she shrugs.

“Who knows what I’ll find. However, I suppose for the last area in town that leaves you and…Saya.” She raises her eyebrows at that, smirking. The rest of the group suddenly swings their attention to the two of you and you both blink in confusion before looking to each other, then to the party.

“Uh… yes, I suppose it does.” You say, frowning before tapping the map. “I was planning on us heading to the Mercantile district to check on any troubles in the money or goods in this area before asking everyone to meet back up in about four hours. I honestly don’t know what you’re laughing about.”

This sends Ophelia into snickering while Clarissa looks to the side, her cheeks red, and both Clint and Ginelle roll their eyes, looking off to the side. You frown between everyone before crossing your arms and saying, “Uh huh. I seem to be missing something here, so maybe someone could-“

Saya cuts you off by putting a hand on your arm and shaking her head. “Tobias just… just drop it for the moment.” You look at her, a little confused, and see her cheeks heating up. You blink a few times at her before sighing.

“Alright, alright then. My orders still stand though, unless someone has questions?” You raise your eyebrow and they all shake their heads, standing up and making preparations. You watch as they make to go and wave to Akela as she hops along with Ophelia, and in the end you and Saya are the last ones in the room.

You sigh and scratch your head before leaning back and mumbling, “What’s their problem?”

“Tobias, you can’t be that blind…” Saya says, sighing herself.

 

“Huh?” You look over to her to see Saya rubbing her arm, her face flushed at this point. You study her expression before your eyes go wide and you take in a breath, saying, “Ah. I see.” You scratch your chin and then cough, saying, “Well, it’s none of their business, right? They just like to make fun. We do have some things to take care of here, so…”

She looks back over, eyes searching your expression before she puts in a stern face and nods. “Of course we do. We had all the time in the world on the Leyway, so now it’s time to get to work.”

“All the time for…” You say, blinking a few times before groaning and shaking your head. “Well anyway, we better be going, right?”

She nods again goes to get dressed into her red dress and the two of you walk out of the inn and into the streets of the city. Due to the time of day, it was packed with people going this way and that, heading to and from the various Leyways or perhaps off to business deals, important things. They walked with a purpose that you didn’t see in Loveura, nor with the overbearing superiority that people in Sanctifrond had. No, you bet that most of these people didn’t even live here, so they had no real reason to care as they moved about, getting from point A to point B. Perhaps things were changing here, but at the end of the day the entire town is pretty much just a place for people to stop for the night before heading on their way. It’s lonely, in a way.

Despite being such a hub, the place isn’t overly large, and it takes you barely any time to get to the Mercantile district, and you both have to stop in wonder as you behold the southeast section of town. You thought that the Market district of Loveura, or perhaps the boutiques of Sanctifrond were ritzy, but this place was something else. Perhaps it’s because of the convergence of so many goods, but around every corner were shops lined with goods you’d barely ever seen before, at prices you could hardly believe real.

People dressed in fine suits and dresses walk about the various stores, and you hardly raise an eyebrow as the two of you blend in seamlessly, viewing the various wares. Pottery, clothing, spices, textiles, even some various magitek is all here, interspersed between more normal wares. Asking about, you find that the reason most of these things are so cheap here is due to overstock of goods making their way to the rest of Deleor, and due to the depots and warehouses, the companies can afford to sell products at these prices to people in town. Apparently it’s also a great way to get more investors and people moving into town as well, and you can see that it’s working as you find more and more people spending money.

Interspersed between the stores are larger buildings, made of more solid materials in most cases, declaring themselves as “counting houses” and guarded by large, fierce looking men and monsters dressed in fine, but durable clothing and wielding wicked looking weapons. A Danuki appears from one of the buildings, rubbing her greasy little palms together while speaking to a man, and you can tell just whose bright idea it was to grow this place. Ugh, knowing that made you a little sick to your stomach as you were also a staunch believer in Benny, “Punch the Danuki in the Gookie” Garritine. Still, it wouldn’t do to make a fuss out of all of this, and you instead focus on finding out anything you can about spooky occurrences.

Which there apparently aren’t any in this part of town. All the shop owners you speak to say things are going wonderfully in town, and the only strange events are people being more clumsy that usual. One carpenter lamented the loss of some fine wood due to an accident at the Ley-yard, but he couldn’t really be that upset as he had plenty to work with. Nothing but time was in short supply here.

The curious thing was the story was repeated at many places in town. People dropping items and having them break and shatter, or cargo seeming to vanish, and then being found next to where it was, damaged or spoiled beyond repair. Again, no big loss, but it was odd when taken as a whole. No one had seemed to put that together though, and by the tenth story you’d heard of this, both you and Saya were convinced something strange was afoot.

About two hours into your little adventure, you stop and get some food from an artisanal food peddler (read: A food cart), and you sit down to discuss your findings and rest. You’d been through most of this area and found the various shops (which you should consider visiting again!) and the major counting houses and banks, even discovering a few higher end inns and housing for the Danuki and the richer people in town. A few of the inns however seemed a little strange to you though, and when you asked someone about them, they just looked between you and Saya, lifted their eyebrows up three times exactly, and then made a goofy smile before laughing.

You might be thinking these are brothels. Maybe a little bit.

You shrug and take a bite out of your artisan sandwich, finding it shallow and pedantic, but nourishing enough. Swallowing you exhale and lean back before waving the food toward Saya. “Well, I don’t think we found our mark out here, though I’m not certain anyone here would have known her.”

“Uh huh.” Saya says, munching absently on her own meal, looking off to the side.

“I mean, the whole ‘accidents’ thing is a little weird though. Coincidence is one thing, but this is just silly.”

“Aye.”

You frown and lower your sandwich before leaning forward toward Saya, putting a hand on her leg and saying, “Hey, what’s wrong? Is this about what the others said earlier?” She gives you a blank look and you scratch at your forehead before sighing. “No, it’s about what happened on the Leyway, huh?”

Saya smirks before patting your hand, “See, the others said you couldn’t be trained to think these things through.”

“Hey, I don’t care what Ginelle says about my intelligence!” You chuckle and shake your head. “No, but I understand, I mean things got a little heated there, but since we were so close with everyone else there, I mean, things would have gotten awkward and…” You trail off as she frowns again, and you blink a few times before taking in a sharp breath.

“Oh. That.” You close your eyes and smirk before looking up at her and taking her hand in yours, “Saya, you know that I love you, right?”

Her cheeks grow heated and she looks about, hurriedly positioning herself close to you to hide your hands from the sight of others. She hiss at you, voice stuttering, “I…idiot! What if anyone had seen that?”

“Then they’d be jealous.” You whisper into her ear, making her shudder and wrap an arm around herself. You look at her face and see her bright red now. She tries to pull away from you, but you just put your sandwich down and put an arm around her waist, pulling her in. “Saya, I’m not joking about this, I love you.”

“Saying that in a crowded street? Where’s the romance in that? Couldn’t you have waited for a romantic evening or something?”

“Nah, why wait? Though I suppose I could have done this somewhere more private…”

Her breath catches in her throat for a moment as she breathily says, “You…you don’t mean one of those places… do you?”

You have no fucking idea what she’s talking about, but the way she’s shivering, you’re thinking it’s a good thing. You smile at her and say, “Of course…” She goes rigid at that before shivering and clinging to your arm, saying, “Come on then, we… we don’t have terribly long.”

You do your best to make it seem like she’s not leading you, but she totally is, and eventually you arrive in front of one of those places you had assumed were brothels beforehand. You make to question her when she leads you to the door, and you enter to find what looks like a normal inn entrance, if smaller than usual. A sleepy attendant at the desk looks at the two of you with bored eyes before saying, “Welcome to Phallia’s arms Love Hotel, how long will you be staying?”

“Love…hotel?” You say, blinking a few times as Saya walks up to the desk and negotiates for two hours, the attendant handing you a key and nodding to the stairs. Saya turns to you, smiling like an idiot with the keys in your hands before leading you upstairs to the designated room. Perhaps it was the time of day, but it didn’t seem overly busy here at the moment, yet as you heard the desperate grunting and moaning from a nearby room, you understood what this place was.

“Oh. Love Hotel.” You say as Saya unlocks the door, and she turns to look at you, cocking her head. You merely shake your head before waving her on with a shaky hand and she opens the door, revealing a small room with a wash basin, table, and large bed. You walk forward and Saya closes the door behind you. Turning about, you see her leaning against it, breathing a little heavily as she looks you in the eyes.

“To…Tobias, are… are you sure you want to do this? I was caught up in the moment as I got us here but…” She looks positively scared in a way, and she grips the door handle in one hand, shaking. “I mean, I… I feel like we should but I can’t tell if that’s just my Monster nature or really l…love.” She blushes again, looking up at you with a nervous expression.

“You…you do love me, right?”

You frown and walk up to her, gently placing a hand on her cheek as you say, “Of course I do, don’t say such silly things.” You feel a stirring within your suit jacket, but you ignore it, not wanting to think about Abigail at the moment. She’s a big girl, she’ll understand.

She seems to lean into the caress, closing her eyes as her body loses some tension. In a hushed voice, she asks, “Do you want to do this?”

Your heart begins to beat very fast as you look into Saya’s eyes. You feel your cheeks, already warm from before, heating up to the intensity of the sun and you suddenly find yourself very, very hot. Saya had brought you here to a place specifically to have sex. Saya, the smart, powerful, sexy woman who was before you, the one whose breath was becoming heavy, her hands fidgeting and she glanced between you and the floor.

Your hands start to shake a little and you feel your mouth go dry. You’d sort of imagined something like this happening when you two got together, her being a Monster and all, but now that the time was here, you almost couldn’t believe it. SHE was coming onto YOU. It’s like a boy’s dream come true, the fantasy that all men strived for. All you had to do was reach out and take her.

You feel your pants start to stiffen in anticipation and a hunger goes through you, telling you to place her on the bed and pull her from those clothes. The yearning within you forces you to stand up and walk toward her. She starts a bit as you grow nearer, but she doesn’t move, instead shrinking back to the door, her eyes looking at your lips as you place your arms beside her, pining her against the door. You bring your face closer to hers and you can feel her breath against you as your mind starts to grow fuzzy. Before your lips touch, you take one last look into her eyes.

And you stop. You eyes search hers and therein you see the hesitation, the fear. Yes, there’s passion there, a restrained lust, but at the same time an insecurity that forces you to restrain yourself, a concerned look coming over your face.

Saya’s eyes flutter back into focus and she blinks, looking into your eyes with a scared expression. “W…what is it?” Her eyes grow wide and she takes breathing a little faster. “Did…did I do something wrong?”

You swallow, watching her reaction as she looks back and forth, horribly terrified of something for some reason. It pains you terribly to see her like this, and you drop your arms from the side of her to wrap around her back and pull Saya into a hug. She gasps as you do, but you just hold her firm as she asks, “W…what? To… Tobias, I don’t.”

“Do you really want to do this Saya?” You whisper and she freezes, her fingers tightening on your back.

“Of…of course I do! Why would I bring you here is not…not to…” Her voice drops and she whispers then, “Do you not… want to? With… with me?”

You hold her tighter to you and say, almost harshly, “Of course I do Saya, don’t be stupid. Gods, I’ve dreamed about being able to do this with you, to enjoy this together.” You shake a little as you continue. “But not like this, not with that terrified look in your eyes. Saya, you don’t have to do this, you don’t have to force yourself.”

She chuckles darkly, “Don’t I? You have all these beautiful women around you all the time, and then there’s me.” She pulls back from you, her eyes wide. “If I’m not good enough like this, I can change. I can be whatever you want me to be, it’s not like it’s very hard to-“

“Saya, stop.” You say, using your commanding voice. She looks startled as your magic-imbued voice washes over her, cutting her off mid-sentence, and you shake your head before sighing. “Saya… why are you saying things like this?”

“I…” She stops and swallows before continuing. “When I saw that Holstaur, it first dawned on me that I could potentially lose you. I’d never had anyone like you before, and the thought of losing that scared me so badly. I…I began to fret over my appearance, wonder if I was appeasing enough, wonder if I even turned you on at all.” She shakes her head. “It’s terrible of me, but I thought that… that if we did this then you wouldn’t think about anyone else.”

“You’re an idiot.” You say flatly and she looks like she’s been slapped across the face, her eyes blinking. You cut her off before she can reply and you say, “Saya, I’ve never been in a relationship either. I don’t know the nuances, I just know what feels right.”

You take a deep breath before continuing. “Do you remember what I said back in Loveura? When I had the [Magesight Goggles] on?”

“I… you said that I was beautiful.” She says, looking confused for a moment. Her eyes go wide then as she gasps. “But you could see-“

“The real you, yes. I don’t care about what form you take, though the one you’re currently in is gorgeous, and don’t you argue with me. I care about YOU, no matter how you look.” You lean forward and gently kiss her on the lips before pulling back and smiling. “Why would you ever think I would consider leaving you? I wasn’t joking when I said I love you, and I know you weren’t either.”

“T…Tobias.” She says in a shaky voice before pushing herself forward onto you, pressing her lips onto yours with a forceful intensity that at first takes you off guard. You feel like a dam of passion has been released here and she presses all her concerns out the window, an overflowing sense of relief flowing through her kiss. You feel her press you so forcefully that you take a few steps back, hitting the edge of the bed and tripping backward, the two of you twisting and hitting the bed, pulling back from each other from the shock. Fully clothed, you both stare into each other’s eyes before returning to kissing, forgetting everything that had happened beforehand.

Despite her earlier pressuring, you take the lead over her and she acquiesces, slowly allowing you to turn her onto her back. Your lips never parting, you find yourself atop her, and when you have to pull away for air, you pant above her, seeing her flushed cheeks and heaving chest. Both of you know it’s too late to stop it now, it has been activated. Saying a prayer to Renny Deskcart, you go back in, this time placing your hands upon her chest, reveling in the soft, delighted sound she makes. Your fingers trace across her bust, feeling the soft curves through the fabric, and suddenly you move to the buttons with a feverish haste, undoing them clumsy as you continue to attack her mouth with yours.

She pushes you away, which is nice since you need air, and grabs at your jacket, tearing it off you while you laboriously remove her top. You shrug to allow the jacket to be taken off you, tossing it over into the corner of the room, ignoring the soft scream that accompanies the sailing article of clothing. As you straddle Saya, her top half undone, you both go to your own clothing, taking it off faster than you could have done for the other. Soon enough you’ve opened up the buttons of your undershirt, your bare chest to the world, and you watch as Saya shrugs out of her top, revealing her shift underneath.

She giggles as you lean down again, licking at her bared neck, placing your hands upon her waist and pulling the shift upward, your fingers gliding along her deliciously smooth skin. As you reach her breasts, you feel the bare flesh and you take a deep breath, wanting to stay there, but instead you pull the rest of the shift over her head, tossing it aside as you look down at her now bared chest.

Saya lay here, face flushed, only wearing her petticoat now. Her breasts, not overly large, lay before you, and you think they’re perfect in their size and shape. She chuckles nervously as you look down at her and she says, “S…something wrong?”

You realize you’re frowning and you shake your head before sighing. “You made yourself tan when I wasn’t looking.”

She looks about, obviously guilty, and she says, “W…what? Made myself tan? What are you talking about, I always look like this, right?” She looks down at her bared chest, which is now the color of a tanned woman, very much like her Mother, Selene. She licks her lips and then looks back at you, going back to her pale skin. “Aha… you ah… didn’t like that.”

“I don’t like that you feel like you have to change yourself.” You say, leaning forward to cup her breast, the soft, fatty mound fitting wonderfully in your hand. She gasps slightly as you do, eyes staring in disbelief. “You know, this is much better than a Holstaur’s.” You say, smirking before pinching her nipple.

“Ahn!” She moans, back arching slightly before looking at you with wide eyes. “I… I didn’t think that…” She licks her lips and nods for you to continue. “Just… be gentle.”

You feel like you could say something about this, maybe reassure her that you want her to feel like a woman, but words seem meaningless. You lean your face down and lick her breast, and it feels just like you’d imagine it would. The soft feel of her skin, the delicate taste of sweat across her body, it’s wonderful. She squirms as you massage her other breast, continuing your oral assault.

She continues to pant and squirm as your tongue works across her breast, and you feel an instinctual nee to lick her petite nipple, tongue flicking across the firm protrusion. She squirms even more at this and you can’t resist the urge to bully her a little. getting into it before pulling away with a soft, “popping” sound, smiling wickedly at her.

Saya’s laying her, panting softly, one hand over her forehead, and you notice curiously that part of her arm is darker than the rest, the skin seeming to melt and warp slightly. It vanishes soon enough, and you’re a little busy, so you just look into her eyes and smirk.

“You…you’re not using an illusion on me, right?” She says, chuckling. “Making me feel so good?”

“I don’t know, are you changing yourself?”

She closes her eyes, smiling broadly as she takes your hand, squeezing firmly. “No… not for you.” Before you can do anything else, she sits up then and pushes you down, running her hands over your bare chest as she squeals in delight, heading down to your pants. With quick, expert motions, she pulls down your pants and frees your erection to the air. Her breath catches her in throat and her eyes sparkle like a child being shown candy, and she tentatively reaches out to touch you, as if worried that it might vanish. Her fingers brush across the tip of your manhood and you take in a deep breath as a wave of tingling pleasure spreads from you, and your member throbs against her touch.

“I…I never thought I’d actually… I mean, I’ve seen them before and such, but uh… wow.” Saya says, cheeks burning crimson. “This is ah.. haha, oh I’m embarrassed now.”

“Now you’re embarrassed?” You say, chuckling as you push yourself up.

She pushes against your chest, saying, “Woah, woah, hey I want to make you feel good!”

“Nah.” You say, leveraging your man-strength to push her down onto the bed again. “Perhaps next time, but today, this is about making you feel good. To remind you how beautiful and wonderful you are.” You gesture to your throbbing rod. “I mean, you made me like this, right?”

Saya looks concerned for a moment before she closes her eyes and nods her head, allowing you to pull down her petticoat and remove her undergarments, revealing a wet mess of her pussy. Once again, you have to stare at her, taking in the gorgeous curves of her body. Sure, she isn’t shaped like her Mother or any of the more sexually streamlined Monsters, but you really don’t fucking care. This is Saya and she’s fucking beautiful.

Gently, you trace your fingers around her vulva, and she squirms some, biting her lip. “You really have to do that?”

“Maybe I do.” You say, gently sliding a finger inside her and meeting no resistance as she’s adequately lubricated. Her hips buck slightly and she gasps as you feel the wet, warm folds of her pussy wrap around your finger, as if wanting to suck it in. You pull out slowly, staring at the lewd juices on your fingers, and the smell makes you suddenly hunger fiercely for her. She nods at you as you look down at her, and you position your genetalia to hers, your hand almost shaking as you guide yourself to her entrance. Taking a deep breath, you push yourself into her.

Both of you shudder as you press in, and Saya gasps while you grit your teeth, both of you awash in pleasure. The warm, wet sensation, the pressure on your sensitive manhood…it’s indescribable and you’re barely halfway in. Once the initial shock is over, you look at her, looking for signs of discomfort, and find her staring at you with lusty eyes, her body shaking.

“Are…are you alright?” You say nervously. “I mean, I hear for first timers it can be painful.”

She chuckles and shakes her head, “Tobias, I’m can change my appearance. Why would I give myself a hymen?” She squirms along your shaft, looking positively ecstatic. “Ah… ah I’d heard it felt good, but I mean… ha ha…”

“I’m going to go fully in, alright?” You say and she nods her head vigoursly as you lean forward, pushing yourself fully into her, feeling the slick pressure against you, and before you know it, you’ve hit her deepest part, the pressure against the head of your dick making you feel pretty damn good to be honest.

Suddenly, the feeling changes about you and you look at her in shock as her walls constrict upon you, putting a pressure that seemed to hit you at all the right places, and you almost double over from the sudden rush of feeling. You look at her face and she giggles softly before making a little moaning noise. “So maybe I felt like changing a little, alright? But now I can say that my pussy has memorized the shape of your dick. Ahn!”

She makes a moan sound as you pull out of her perfectly tight snatch before thrusting into her, unable to hold yourself back. Yes, you said you were going to make her feel good, but holy hells, sex felt great! What were you supposed to do, not fuck? She didn’t seem put off by it and fell into your motions, gripping the bed sheets as you rock her body back and forth, her modest breasts jiggling before you as you spread her legs.

She looks into your eyes and you lean forward, positioning yourself above her as you kiss her, and you feel her legs and arms wrap around your body, the two of you losing yourself in passion. Your senses seem dulled beyond the pleasure emanating from your cock and mouth, all else unimportant. Distantly, you feel Saya’s fingers seem to slacken on your back, a cool, gliding sensation flowing down it, but who cares, it actually feels rather nice. Her kiss even starts to get sloppier as well, and you hear the slapping of your flesh into hers grow wet and heavy.

You feel like it could have been an eternity of you thrusting into her, but all things must end as you feel yourself engorge, your thrusts becoming more powered and frenzied. Shit, you’re about to cum right into her! Somehow that seems like the most important thing in the world to you, and you grab at the bed around her shoulders, feeling a slick wetness there, but what do you care? Your world is focused on releasing your seed into the woman you love and with a roar of pleasure, you thrust yourself fully into her as you climax.

The feeling is far better than you ever could have imagined, and you cum far more than you ever have before, the convulsions of pleasure as each wave of your jizz bursts from you almost making you faint from the pleasure. But you endure, pumping more and more into her, your build up from so long behind released, and you distantly hear her make a gurgling sort of shout before suddenly your back is on fire. Not like, a good, sexy kind of on fire, but like, holy fuck this hurts like hell!

You pull back suddenly, looking down at Saya and you blink in startled surprise at what you see. Saya lays before you, heaving and shaking as rivulets of your cum dribble from her snatch, but she had let go of her human form. Her face is almost entirely black, melting softly onto the bedspread, her right eye reverting back the Arachane’s, shining red while the other looks human but…melted somehow. You look about the rest of her body to see her shoulder transitioning in patchy places from her pale skin to the blackness of her true form, and you realize that’s what you felt before on the bed.

Parts of her flesh ripple and twist, and you see portions of the bed smoking softly as she eats into it, not fully aware of what she’s doing, bone haphazardly sticking out of various places on her body. Your eyes go wide and you look to you back, feeling at the furrows there and the burning sensation returns. With horror, you realize that Saya had started… digesting you without you even realizing it! You can’t help but shift away from her as her half-formed throat gurgles in pleasure. It takes you a few moments to catch your breath and say, “Saya?”

She doesn’t seem to react for a moment, and you repeat her name again. She seems to hear it then, and she snaps that red eye to you, and it widens in realization. Before your eyes her form shifts, blackness turning into soft skin, bones pulled under muscle and then flesh, her eyes coming into focus and fully human as she blinks, and in moments she’s back to being the naked human woman before you.

Saya looks at you in horror and embarrassment, and she moves to open her mouth as she looks at the bed, but you hurriedly lean forward and kiss her to keep her from speaking and she struggles for a moment before calming down, allowing you to pull back and shake your head.

“Shhhh.”

“Ohy…Gods Tobias, I didn’t… I didn’t realize what was…” Her eyes grow wide. “Did I hurt you?!”

“No.” You say, lying. Fucking hell you fucking back, fuck shit fuck damn. “The only thing you did was give me the best time of my life.”

She looks at you with a concerned expression before biting her lip and nodding. “O…oh. Was it that… that good?”

“That’s what I want to ask you.” You say, flopping down next to her, not caring that you’re bare to the world. You take her hand in yours, trying to push your nervousness down. You don’t want to feel this way, but you just got burned, literally, and it’s difficult not to, but you can’t afford to make her feel bad now, no, you’ll take any pain you can for her.

She takes a shuddering breath before feeling at her womanhood, giggling softly. “It’s so… so warm. I’d heard what it would be like, but I never thought I could feel this good inside.” She sighs and snuggles up to you. “Tobias… thank you.”

“For filling you full of my man-seed?”

“No, you jackass. For… well yes, that too, but mainly for helping me with my insecurities. You stuck with me even though I…” She trials off and buries her face in your chest. “I love you.”

You stroke her hair softly and chuckle, “I love you too.” The two of you stay there for a long time, enjoying each other’s presence, the smell of sex invigorating both of you. Of course, you can’t help from being a complete jackass, and you say, “Though I mean, if you wanted to maybe be as big as a Holstaur…”

She slaps your chest and sniffs, and you chuckle, pressing her close to you, using her warmth and the joy you feel to try and get over the pain that’s coursing through you. Damnit, how deep did her fingers go? You really hope nothing vital was hit… though you think you’d be dead if that was the case, right? Right? Right.

Eventually you sigh and shuffle over to your coat pocket while not exposing your back and, pulling out your timepiece, which you flick open. You groan as you look at the device and say, “We have like, ten minutes before we have to meet with the others.”

Saya sighs. “Oh, I was hoping we might, you know…” She waves her hand and you roll your eyes. “You are a Monster, aren’t you?” She beams at that comment and you both go to getting dressed. As you put your suit jacket on, you hear Abigail hiss,

“You piece of shit, making me watch that.”

“Uh, you didn’t have to watch it. You didn’t even have to be in there.”

“Where the fuck was I going to go?”

“Anywhere? Seriously, I wonder sometimes if you’re a figment of my imagination.”

“If so, then you’re fucking crazier than I thought. Maybe I should just tell your goo girl about the scars on your back now.”

You growl at her, “Don’t you fucking dare.”

“Oh, you don’t want to hurt her feelings huh? But doesn’t it hurt? Oh it bet it’s super painful.”

Groaning, you wipe a hand across your face, “Why are you doing this? I’m sorry I didn’t, I don’t know, hang the jacket up outside, but come on, she’s my girlfriend. What right do you have to be angry about this?”

Abigail goes quiet and you narrow your eyes before growling, “I thought we’d been getting along better, but I can see that you’re still resenting all of this. Fine, if that’s how you want to be, then so be it. Just sit there and speak when you have something important to say.”

“Everything alright?” Saya says, walking to up to you in her full dress. She looks over your shoulder before frowning. “Oh, damnit, that Fairy was fucking in there, wasn’t she?” She groans. “Ugh, did she see us?”

“Yeah, but she knows better than to say anything, RIGHT?” you say, looking down at your jacket. No response is given and you narrow your eyes before shaking your head. “Alright, let’s get going then.”

Saya nods her head and beams, taking your hand, and you walk out of the room, and return the key. The attendant sees your hand holding and rolls his eyes. Obviously he’s seem much, much lewder things here, the poor lad. You tip him before reluctantly the two of you let go of your hands, and settle for her holding your arm and staying close to you. It draws some glances, but whatever, you really don’t give a shit what other people thing right now.

———————

You’re still a little late in meeting the others, and they all give you long looks as you appear. Clint smirks while Ginelle narrows her eyes, while Clarissa and Ophelia look between each other in suspicion. Akela merely waves toward you as you approach, hopping off a bench and walking up to Saya, giving her a hug. Her nose seems to twitch though and she sniffs the air near her crotch before pulling back and blinking. She seems like she’s about to say something, but Ginelle leaps forward and pulls her back, addressing the two of you with, “Hey! Thought something might have happened to you two.”

Akela pulls back, looking confused before shaking her head and nodding. “We almost went looking for you, would have been a good excuse to try out these new things that Ophelia found.”

Everyone turns to the Rabbitgirl, and her ears stand up straight as she smiles wickedly.”So, we didn’t find our quarry, or really… anything of much value there, but I DID make some trades and well, apparently the workers here have developed a short range system of voice boxes using tuned wind magic to turn sounds into vibra-” She looks about at everyone’s confused faces before she sighs and shakes her head, holding up a small, metal box.

“You speak into one end, and someone else with another one tuned to the same magical frequency can hear you.”

“Ohhhhh.” Everyone says, clapping their hands. She rolls her eyes before huffing.

“Honestly… only little Akela there seemed to understand how great this was. Of course, I wanted to take home a class 8 mana converter or maybe look under the hood of a LeyLion class Leyway, but nooooo.” She points to your daughter.

Akela shrugs, “She would have kept us there all day. I had to keep her in line.” She smiles softly at that, and Ophelia sticks out her tongue.

Clint shakes his head and chuckles, “Well, our end was a little more fruitful. Apparently some people have heard of this Vivienne before, but no one’s seen her in a few days.”

Clarissa chimes in, “Oh, oh, but we did find out that certain Leyways are being delayed from coming in and out on time due to cargo getting trashed.” She lifts and wing and speaks conspiratorially. “Oh, and I might have distributed a few flyers I made up real quick about the need for people in Oppenheim. You should have seen their faces at the mention of lusty cow tiddies.” She chuckles a little and Ginelle rolls her eyes.

“I told her she shouldn’t have had anything to drink. She almost went flying after that too.” She shakes her head and continues. “It seems that these accidents are pretty concentrated around the warehouses though sometimes it happens elsewhere. I wonder if it’s connected to our quarry?”

“Maybe.” Clint says before tipping his hat to you and Saya. “What did you two ah.. find?”

“Oh, you know.” You say, shrugging. “The same mostly, though the upper crust doesn’t seem to care about a few lost shipments here and there. The counting houses are still operating at full capacity, and the Danuki seem rather in good spirits.”

Clint frowns deeply. “Wait… shipments are breaking and the Danuki look happy? That’s the strangest thing I’ve heard all day.”

“Benny Garritine?” You ask.

“He’s a hero of the West.” He says, nodding his head before leaning his head back and sighing, looking at you out of the corner of his eye. “Anything else you’d like to report?”

Everyone looks at you almost expectantly and both you and Saya look between each other, feeling rather awkward for some reason. It’s not like they knew, right? Surely they couldn’t…alright fine, they probably knew. You sigh and shake your head, shrugging. Well, it’s time to get back to business, so…

You hear shouting followed by a large crashing noise, and everyone in the area turns to see a crate smash into the ground, and feathers fly everywhere, causing a generalized panic and people are covered in the things. It’s not a big deal, but it makes everyone flustered, and they try to remove all the feathers, grumbling and shouting at each other. All of you look between each other, but Akela raises a hand and points, “Hey… that lady doesn’t seem as concerned as the others.”

You turn your gazes to where she’s pointing and you notice a short woman standing there in an oversized cloak, a delighted smile on her face, though you can’t see her eyes due to the hood. She turns about and walks away in quick steps, disappearing into the crowd of people, the feathers covering her exit. Before you can even react, she’s gone.

“Clarissa, follow her!” You say, pointing to where the woman ran off to, your whole focus shifting to command the others. “Ginelle, Clint, I’ll need you to chase her down while the Saya and I go over the right, Ophelia, look after Akela.” You make ready to run and get things done when you hear Clarissa squawk and then Ophelia yelps, followed by a crashing sound.

You turn about and watch in confusion as Clarissa sits up, rubbing at her head, her feathers and hair ruffled everywhere. Underneath her sits a stunned Ophelia who quickly pushes the Crow off, who promptly stumbles some and falls onto her side. The Rabbitgirl starts yelling at the Crow, who grows rather heated and flaps her arms about, creating a massive mess.

You grit your teeth and move forward to push the two aside, and you growl out, “Stop it right now you two.” They both do, the tell-tale signs of your commanding voice working upon them, and you say, “She’s getting away.”

“Tobias, let it go, man.” Clint says, putting a hand on your shoulder and shaking his head. “She’s long gone by this point.”

You sigh and he helps Ophelia stand up, and you groan, rubbing at your forehead. “Damnit… we could have caught her just like that. What happened?”

“She jumped in the air and then fell on top of me!” Ophelia says, brushing black feathers off her. “I don’t know what her deal is, but her damn talons hurt!”

“Hey! I keep them manicured… sometimes.” Clarissa says, rubbing at her face. “And I just…you know, got a wrong take-off. I’ll do it right this time, you’ll see.” She waggles her tail feathers and prepares to jump, when you hurriedly take her arm and shake your head.

“Woah, woah, hey! Slow down, slow down.” You need Clint’s help to keep her down, but eventually she calms down and burps a little before shaking her head. You sigh and look to Clint who shrugs and then sighs himself.

“I’m good to fly…” She says, hiccupping. You watch as she giggles and you feel someone tap you on the shoulder. You turn about to see Saya nodding at something, and you look over to see the whole crowd of people, who had finished dealing with the feathers, staring at the new spectacle. A few people whisper to themselves, pointing at giggling while a pair of boys look at Ginelle with lusty eyes, making some rather lewd gestures.

Gritting your teeth, you shake your head and say, “Fine, let’s go.” You help Clarissa onto your shoulder and start moving off, the others gathering close by you. Ginelle walks close and you ask, “Did you get a scent?” She shakes her head and you sigh. “Alright then.”

“I’m confused though, why did you ask her to fly if you knew she was… well.” She says, waving her hand. “I mean, at first she was drinking because we were, to fit in I guess, but then she just went at it and…” She shakes her head.

“I don’t know, I guess I had a lot of my mind and I made the wrong call.” You nod to Ophelia. “Is she fine?”

“The bunny? Yeah, I guess. She’s just upset.” She shrugs. “Sure you don’t want me go hunting for her? I didn’t get a scent but…”

You bite your lip before sighing out. “Yeah, would you mind? Don’t engage, just see if you can follow her.” You look back to Ophelia before saying, “Take one of those new things of hers and Clint. I don’t want anything happening to you, alright?”

She nods and leans in to whisper, “I think you might want to take a bath. You smell too much like sex.”

You stumble for a moment as she hops off to gather Clint and speak with Ophelia, who hurriedly goes over the device before the two dash off into the town. You watch them go for a few moments before shaking your head and urging the others forward until you’re a good distance away from the scene. Ophelia notices a small cafe nearby and you all take a seat, ordering some simple drinks as you set the poor bird down and rub your face.

Clarissa mumbles with her face on the table while Saya scratches her head. “Honestly, I never would have taken her for a drinker.”

“Me either…” You say, a little worried. Growing up, she never touched the stuff, though you don’t know what she’s done recently since you were focused on your studies. You watch her for a few moments before sighing and looking to Akela. “Honey, promise me you’ll never drink.”

She looks down at her cup of juice before frowning and looking back at you. “Is this some kind of trick?”

You pat her head before looking back to Ophelia and bowing your head. “Sorry that my order cause her to do this. I hope you’re not hurt.”

“Nah.” Ophelia says, waving her hand. “It’s fine, I suppose. Mostly took me off guard, and nothing’s broken.” She frowns, “Though I am more worried about that incident. You think it’s the Illusionist?”

“Almost certainly.” You say, nodding your head. “Though I can’t fathom WHY she would be doing something so simple like this. I figure if she was, uh…’ripened’ then she might be doing some crazy shit instead.”

“I mean, the feathers are pretty crazy I suppose.” Akela says, and everyone looks at her as she innocently sips at her drink. “What? It’s tasty.”

“I had feathers…once…” Clarissa mumbles, and you just shake your head.

“Perhaps Ginelle will find her?” Saya says, shrugging before sighing. “Yeah, I guess not. We probably should think of other leads.”

“What about the warehouses? That sounds like where most of this has been happening.”

“There’s a lot of space there, finding one person is going to be very difficult unless we know what she’s going after.” Ophelia says, nodding her head before sipping on carrot juice. “I think the secret to that lies in the cargo, and what she stands to gain by destroying it?”

You and Saya before look at each other before blinking and Ophelia frowns. “That face should be reserved for that blockhead badger, because when I say something smart it should be perfectly natural.”

“I mean… I guess.” You say, shrugging. “Well, are we certain that she might not just be crazy?”

“I bet she is.” Saya says, nodding her head. “But Beardlington was insane and he made a kingdom of Holstaur. That creepy farmer was insane but he made a ritual site for his wife. Hells, Fiora is fucking insane and she’s orchestrating a war!” A nearby waitress cocks her feline head, looking a little surprised before scooting away, not wanting to be part of this.

“True.” You say, frowning. “I suppose you’re right, just because someone is insane doesn’t mean that they can’t work toward some goal. Perhaps some people take to insanity better than others? Haha…” You feel that itching on the back of your neck all of a sudden and you look over your shoulder to see no one there. “Yeah…”

“So, if we assume she has a reason to break the shipments, then let’s think about it logically. Do we know anything about the cargo?” Ophelia asks.

“Uhm… not really. Seems like it’s all random stuff I think.”

“I doubt it. The items might be random, but what about the shipping containers?”

You frown. “Hrm. I mean, that crate beforehand had a symbol of a Flying squirrel on it, right? Come to think of it, didn’t the other crate from when we came into town have that same symbol?” You didn’t notice beforehand, but now that you think about it…

Ophelia nods, “Squirrel Girl Transportation: ‘We fly so you don’t cry.’ They’re a pretty popular leyway transport company that formed a few years ago. We use them every so often to ship magitek products.”

“Hum. I wonder if all the other crates were from this company?” Saya says, nodding her head. “And if so, then perhaps they’re being targeted?”

“Maybe she doesn’t think Squirrels?” You say, shrugging. The others give you flat looks and you chuckle.

“Perhaps a competitor is trying to take them out, using the Illusionist?” Saya suggest and Ophelia shrugs.

“Maybe, except the Danuki have a massive share in that business. They wouldn’t take it lying down easily, and yet they look pretty happy, right?”

Saya frowns deeper. “They did… which means more than likely it’s insurance fraud…”

“My thoughts exactly.” Ophelia says, nodding sage-like.

You lean over to Akela and whisper, “Akeeeelllaaaa. This is booooorrrriiinnnnggg.”

She sips at her drink before bopping you on the nose. You blink a few times before frowning and saying, “Well, that’s no headpats for you tonight.” She looks at you with hurt, puppy-dog eyes, lower lip quivering and you roll you eyes, saying, “Ugh… fine, you get one head pat.”

She thinks about it for a moment before shrugging and goes back to her drink. You sit up to hear Saya say, “It’s settled then.”

“Eh?” You ask, scratching your chin, and Ophelia frowns.

“You’re going to speak with the Danuki on the pretense of getting a loan to buy a home to raise your adoptive daughter.” When you look confused, she says, “You’re going to maybe also see if you can find anything else out about what the next shipment failure might be at the same time.”

“Oh okay.” You say, looking to Clarissa. “What about her?”

Ophelia sighs. “I’ll take her back to the inn. I think the range on these things will let me communicate with you though…” She taps the box and presses a button. “This is big bun, give me a good word there Musclehead. Over.”

There’s some strange, static-like noise coming from the device before Ginelle’s voice appears, “I told you, I’m not doing this codename thing.”

“I didn’t catch that Musclehead, did you finish speaking? Over.”

“What are you talking about? We didn’t find anything by the way, though I think we chased her back to the Residential area.”

“You need to say ‘over’ at the end of your sentences, over.” Ophelia says, giggling.

“I’m going to shove this up your tiny, flat ass, over.” Ginelle says, grumbling before cutting out totally.

Ophelia snickers a few times before putting the device back and sighing in contentment, handing one of the devices to you. “Be careful with it, I can’t find a way to make quieter, so if someone speaks on the other end while it’s turned on…” She shrugs, “I hope nothing important is said!”

“Alright, alright.” You say, shaking your head and looking to Clarissa, who is fast asleep. Something goes through your mind and you say, “I think I should help you carry her back to the inn, she’s a little heavy.”

Ophelia sniffs, “I can do it!” She goes to pick up Clarissa and staggers some. Despite her hollow bones, Clarissa is still pretty awkward to carry, and you chuckle, helping her hold the girl. You nod to Saya and Akela, waving them off to meet them over in the Mercantile district, and they go, holding hands and looking like a proper mother/ daughter situation. It’s kind of nice honestly.

Of course, the burning sensation on your back is a little…overpowering all of a sudden, and you groan, staggering yourself. Ophelia flails about and helps carrying Clarissa before asking, “Whoah! What’s wrong Tobias?”

“Nothing much, just… pull a muscle.” You say, grunting. “I’ll see a healer on my way to meet them.”

Ophelia eyes you with suspicion before sighing and shaking her head. “Fine, let’s get her home.” You do just that, and though it’s painful, you set them up alright back at the inn, Clarissa passing the fuck out as Ophelia watches over her. She inquires after your health one last time, but you just shake your head and continue of, alone, wincing in pain.

Though the day is still bright and people are about, you feel a little lonely by yourself, and you sigh, looking down at your jacket. No movement, nothing at all. Now that there is time to think it over, you feel sort of… bad for how you spoke to Abigail. Maybe she was just doing her normal banter thing, but you were so full of hormones and feeling so great, you just… gaaaaah, you fucked up a little.

“Hey… Abigail.” You say, waiting for a response. Nothing happens, though you KNOW she’s there. “Abigail, come one… I’m sorry about before. I was just so worked up and… and…” You hang your head, stopping next to a shop as you sigh out. “We’re going to keep doing this, aren’t we? We’re going to rub friction against each other until Jackor is finished with both of us? Is that his plan? To have us just fight and bicker all the time? Is that why he has you change your form when the power comes to you? To keep us strained and apart?”

Silence continues for a long time before you sigh and shake your head. “I guess I don’t deserve a response but… but I don’t want to keep fighting. It’s tiring to have this between us and everyone else in the group. I just want us all to be like… a family.” You look up at the store you’re at and frown, noticing what it’s selling. You look inside for a long time before heading in and making a purchase, stuffing the items into your jacket pocket as you leave, continuing to walk down the street toward a healer.

You feel a rustling in your jacket pocket followed by a tiny gasp. You don’t pause, or stop, or pay any attention to it at all. As you reach the healer’s shop, you hear a tiny, almost imperceptible, “Apology accepted…” You smirk and open the door to the healer house, to get your fucking back to stop hurting, holy hells.


“What took you so long?” Saya says, tapping her foot as you jog up. She sighs and shakes her head, “The counting houses are going to close soon, I thought you weren’t showing up.”

“Sorry, sorry, Clarissa was being a handful.”

“She was passed out.”

“She got better.” You say, shaking your head. “Anyway, let’s get this over with, alright?”

“Yeah, this is kind of boring.” Akela says, shrugging. “Can we get some more of that juice? It was berry good.” Both of you freeze and look at Akela, who looks between the two of you and coughs. “I thought I’d try humor, you know, just like Dad.” She looks at you with those puppy dog eyes and you narrow your own, looking to Saya.

“Did you teach her how to do this?”

Saya starts whistling and turns about, hands clasped behind her back. You look between the two women in your life and sigh, taking Akela’s paw while Saya takes the other, and the three of you head up to a nearby counting house, where an armored Minotaur cracks her neck and says, “State your business.”

“We’re looking to get a loan to purchase a house!” You say, smiling broadly. “You see, my wife and daughter, well, they sure deserve more than I’m giving them and by golly, we’re going to live the Deleorian Dream!”

The Minotaur sniffs, “Deleorian Dream? Phah, well, you can enter, please enjoy your stay and we welcome your business.” She holds open the door, allowing you inside, and all three of you walk in, cheerful as can be.

As you enter, you notice a few things. One, the office was very well furnished, and two, it was all cheap and fake. It’s like the Danuki here wanted the pretense of a rich clientele, yet didn’t want to spend money on it. That being said, almost as soon as you enter, a Danuki appears from the shadows, rubbing her hands together.

“Welcome, welcome! I am Elma, may I show you to my office?” She nods down the hall and you really just want to stab her right now, to proclaim the crimes of her people and burn this whole place to the ground. But you don’t, because you’re a good boyim.. You mean, boy. Fuck.

The Danuki leads you to a nice little office, with a painting of Elma with a little daughter and a rich looking husband. She sits you down in the chairs there, only two, and you look to Akela who immediately jumps into Saya’s lap. You sigh internally and smile at the Danuki. “Thank you for the hospitable treatment. We are here to look into a loan.”

“Yes, yes, I’ve heard. Now then, how about we talk about the kind of home you’re looking into?” The Danuki says, getting some papers out and writing.

You frown and start trying to make up some bullshit here, yet you can’t really think of anything… Though this is taken out of your hands as Saya piques up and says, “Well, we’re looking at a 2 bedroom place with a good view of a riverside, not too far from the tracks, but far enough to not have to hear the constant Leyways. We’d also like…” She talks in a rapid-fire motion, the Danuki hurriedly writing things down, asking questions every so often, and you just lose track of it. You have SOME financial training thanks to your Father, but it’s been so long since you’ve used it, it’s difficult to really figure it out fully.

“Dear, do you mind taking our daughter to the restroom?” Saya says out of nowhere.

You blink a few times, coming back into focus to see Saya nodding down at Akela. Ah… you see. “Of course, of course.” You say, rising to take the little girl from Saya. “I’m sorry ma’am, where is the…?”

“Down the hall, to the right.” The Danuki says, scribbling furiously, a manic look on her face. You just want to… to… ah whatever, it’s time to go. You shake your head and take Akela, walking down the hallway and then going to…the left!

“That’s not the restroom.” Akela says up at you, but you quiet her, to which she says, “Ah, of course. Espionage. How fitting for a child.”

“Shhh.” You say, “Listen for anyone coming.” She blink a few times before shrugging. You both wander down some small corridors before finding a little door with a sign that says, “Danuki only.” Both of you give each other a look before shrugging and opening the door to find a room full of ledgers. Thankfully, it’s empty, and you walk in slowly, making certain you’re alone.

“Alright.” You say, nodding to Akela. “Let’s go through these and find some evidence.” She sighs, but the two of you dig through the ledgers, the most recent ones anyway, and in almost no time you find exactly what you need.

“Here we go…” You say, tapping the book. “Yep, specifically making payments to our girl. Good thing these sneaky, no good, traitorous, piece of shit Danuki can’t help but keep records of these things.” You chuckle and look over to Akela who’s eyes are wide, ears twitching back and forth. You frown and walk over to her, asking, “Honey… what’s wrong?”

You hear footsteps and you quickly pull Akela aside to hide as someone walks up in front of the door. You hear some mumbling from the other side before the door opens and your eyes go wide as you see who enters.

Chalan, her brown hair held loosely around her head, enters into the small room, her blue, refined dress flowing softly around her as she looks about. She sighs and grumbles something about greedy leaf-heads before opening up the ledger that you were looking at before and smirking. “Ah… I see. That’s where my last little lamb went, tsk tsk.” She looks over the book a moment longer before closing it and turning to go. You hold your breath as she leaves, not daring to make a noise as she puts her foot on the threshold, preparing to leave.

“Pssssshhhh. This is… ugh, this is Musclehead. We might have a lead on the target, looking for advice Scatterbrain, over.”

Akela, Chalan, and yourself all freeze in place. You look down with shuddering hands at the device and start to sweat as Chalan turns back into the room and heads right for where you’re hiding.

In a quick burst of motion, you whip out the [Chameleon Cloak] and place it over Akela, causing the startled little girl to flail about for a moment. You hurriedly put a hand over her mouth and make a gesture for silence before you turn and burst forth from your hiding spot, making Chalan blink in surprise and take a step back.

In one, fluid motion, you slowly slide your fingers through your hair, turn to show her your profile, and put on your most cocky smile as you say, “Chalan… I’ve been expecting you.”

She raises an eyebrow at you, her face a mix of disgust and interest as she too cracks a smile. “Well, well, well, if it isn’t Tobias! Fancy meeting you here. I did say we’d be seeing more of each other, didn’t I?”

“Perhaps not those specific words, but something to the effect I suppose.” You say, shrugging. “It’s no matter though, because after today, I don’t think we’ll be seeing very much of each other.”

Her mouth quirks for a moment as she tries to keep a straight face. “Oh? Why might that be?”

“You see, dear, dear Chalan, the Danuki sold you out like the lying scum they are. This entire place is surrounded by Order soldiers, all ready and to come in at a moment’s notice to take you out.” You smirk and shrug, “If I were you, I’d not try anything reckless, lest I… accidently alert them.”

Chalan’s face goes flat as she says dryly, “The Danuki.”

“Oh yes indeed! The no good, backstabbing, Gods damned, money-grubbing DANUKI.” You point directly at her and smile broadly. “Now then, if you’re a good girl, and answer some questions, perhaps I can convince my comrades to take it easy on you, you know, for good behavior.” You chuckle, “I’m surprised you didn’t see this coming, to be quite honest.”

She shrugs, “Oh, you outwitted me quite thoroughly. I see that Fiora’s warnings about you were not misplaced at all.”

“Of course not.” You say, puffing out your chest. “I even took care of most of the Illusionists you drove insane.”

She narrows her eyes. “You did what…?”

That’s an interesting piece of information actually, she didn’t seem to know the trouble you’d caused her. Let’s just file that away for awhile. You smirk, “Yes, Tucker, Beardlington, and of course that poor woman running that orphanage…” You shake your head before glaring at her. “Tell me how you do it.”

She shifts her weight before cocking her head and thinking. “Hmmm. I don’t know. That would kind of be rather annoying for you to know. I don’t think it’s worth it.”

“Need I remind you of the Order Heroes positioned right outside? Don’t give me a reason to call them in here.”

“Oh very well then.” She says, looking exasperated. “I just get to know them, and after awhile, they come to see things my way.” She shrugs and then smirks. “Nothing really insidious about it, I assure you.”

“You’re driving them insane in order to… what was Beardlington said… ripen them?” You furrow your brow. “What do you intend to do with Vivienne?”

Chalan frowns, “How do you know her name?”

“I’m the one asking questions here, alright? Now tell me, what do you intend to do with her?”

Chalan studies you for a long while before smirking and saying, “Why, bring her the same gift that my Mistress gave Fiora, of course.” You stare, startled as Chalan puts a hand to her mouth and chuckles, which quickly becomes full out laughter. “Hahaha! The look on your face right now! It’s absolutely glorious! Yes, yes Vivienne will become another Mindflayer, and my Mistress will have her way with this world.”

She makes to step forward, holding out a hand before her, and you hear faint whispers in your head, telling you to trust her, that she’s correct, that she’ll help you find everything you’ve ever wanted. The temporary shock to your system gives her the time to walk forward to you and gently cup your chin, a wicked little smile on her lips.

“You don’t have to fight me though, sweet little Tobias. Beardlington got everything he ever wanted, Helen was able to provide for her Orphanage, and you… what do you want?” She licks her lips as she leans down to your ear to whisper, “You want your Master back, don’t you? Phallia can make it happen, you know.”

Richard… back? Not having to kill anyone anymore? That sounds… well, wonderful. You feel something slipping into your mind, a gentle comfort and your concerns seem to…slip away. Distantly, you think that there’s something wrong here, that she’s messing with your mind, but gosh, why would she be so nice to you in that case? You feel your eyes start to flutter and your knees go weak, when a discordant sound shrills from the communication device, “TOBIAS, WAKE THE FUCK UP.”

You snap back into focus at the sound of Ophelia’s voice, and suddenly the haze on your mind vanishes as if it was blown away by a massive gust of wind. Your eyes go wide as a singular focus comes upon you. Richard was important to you, but he was no longer what you wanted most in life. No, what you wanted most was crouching behind you, and you needed to protect her.

With a roar, you slap Chalan’s hand away and feel something tugging at your skull for a moment before being torn away. Tendrils of green flail about in the air before quickly being retracted into Chalan’s hand, her expression stunned. You quickly follow up by slamming a fist into her gut and she cries out, staggering backward. You don’t follow up, which is a smart move, because she looks up, eyes glowing faintly green before settling back to their usual color, and she snarls, making ready to assault you.

Quickly, you snap your fingers and the sound of clanging metal fills the air as three Order Heroes and a Paladin burst into the room, armor shining, weapons drawn. They surround Chalan and lock her down as she looks about, furious.

You growl, “That’s enough of that, bitch. I told you I wasn’t fucking bluffing.”

She looks back and forth between all the men before taking a deep breath and standing up straight, composing herself. Without hesitation, she strides through one of the men and he makes to attack her, but she just ignores him, and the blade vanishes through her, the rest of him vanishing with it. You feel the pull on your mind as the rest of the illusion crumbles apart, and you curse, knowing that someone she’d managed to school herself enough to stop it. A shame, because that illusion cost you to perform…

>Your madness level is now 24%

You hurriedly make to draw the knife from your belt, but stare down in surprise as you find it’s no long in its sheath!. Chalan’s arms bulge out, making her much more muscular all of a sudden. You see her skin writhe and shift, as if something was underneath it, and it makes your skin crawl in response. Her face still a mask of composure, she says, disdainfully. “I was just here to see why that whore Vivienne walked out on me for these fucking cretins, but I think I’ll just kill you. Certainly, Fiora will cry, knowing she lost her last connection to that lover of hers, but what do I care? She’s just a pawn in all of this.”

She prepares to lunge at you when something flashes from nowhere, and a gout of green blood sprays out from a wound in the woman’s leg. Chalan cries out in surprise and stumbles, knocking aside the [Chameleon Cloak] from Akela, who takes a step back in alarm, your knife in her paws.

You don’t even hesitate, quickly dashing forward to scoop up your daughter as she cries out, snagging the cloak. As you pass, Chalan makes to strike toward you, but you kick her in the side of the head and she wobbles, stunned long enough for you to book it out of there. You run down the hallways, Akela in your arms, and you come to a slide on the carpeted floors in front of the little office where Saya and Elma are sitting, both going over facts and figures with each other, both sides getting quite into it.

As you run up, they both look at you, a little startled, and Saya says, “Honey! What’s wrong? I was just negotiating a really good deal for a low interest mortgage on the east side of town…”

“No time for that!” You say, looking behind you. “We have to uh… I mean, that is to say, Akela’s not feeling very good.”

You nod your head vigorously toward the little Anubis in your arms and she blinks a few times before her eyes go wide and she puts her paws on her stomach. “Uggghhh, Mommy, it huuurrrtttssss.”

The Danuki’s eyes go flat, but Saya seems to get the message and she nods, bowing her head to Elma. “I’m so sorry ma’am, but I’m afraid she gets some terrible stomach-aches you see. I’m afraid if we don’t take her out of here, things may get… well… it wouldn’t be good for your other clientele.”

Elma sighs and nods her head. “Of course, I understand, I too have children at home.” She shuffles all the papers she was working on into a pile and neatly puts them in a file.”Well, if you ever wish to continue this, you know where to find us. Please, have a nice day.” The way she says it makes you think she wanted to say something else, but you don’t question it, and instead take your girlfriend and get the Hells out of there.

As soon as you’re out of the building and out of earshot of the guard, Saya asks, “What the Hells was that about? Tobias, you look terrified, what happened?”

“Chalan…” You say, a little winded. “She… was there too, apparently hunting the same leads we were.”

“Oh. Oh gods.” Saya says, alarmed. “Are you two alright?”

“Yeah… yeah I think so.” You tap the device at your hip, which throws out a light click of static as you pull it off your belt and say into it, “You hear all of that, Ophelia?”

A slight storm of static comes over the device before a shrill, “HOLY HELLS SCATTERBRAIN, YOU DONT KNOW HOW HARD IT WAS TO KEEP QUIET, OVER.”

You wince and pull the device away from your ear as a few people give you odd looks before continuing on with whatever they were doing. You sigh and say, “Well, it’s a good thing you didn’t keep quiet, you really saved me there, though how did you know I was out of it?”

“Uh… well, you were talking all high and mighty, then she said some spooky stuff, and then you went quiet, so I sort of assumed, over.” It’s quiet for a moment before you hear, “So… I saved your ass there, huh? Over.”

“Yeah, I guess you did.” You say, chuckling. “Why are you calling me scatterbrain and saying over all the time?”

“That’s your code name and that’s how you talk, over.”

“Hey big-bun and Scatterbrain, you two done chatting on the line, over?” Ginelle says, her voice cutting through the device with a hiss. “Because you’re making a LOT of noise and we’ve still got eyes on the target, over.”

“What’s she doing?” You ask hurriedly before blinking a few times and saying, “Over.”

“Not much.” Clint says, his voice low and muffled. “Looks like she’s talking with someone down there, person’s hooded and all, but I think it’s a monster based on what I’m seeing here, but… wait.” He cuts off for a few seconds before he whispers, “I think it’s a Danuki, I think I saw her tail as she handed over a sack of something. Money, probably, over.”

“Don’t fire, over.” You say, knowing that Clint clearly wanted to. “It’s a good shot, but we need her alive for the moment, over.”

Saya and Akela give you odd looks as you shake your head. “She apparently rejected Chalan for the Danuki. I want to know why, and maybe we can get something from her? Lean a little bit more about what’s going on, and maybe see if we don’t have to kill her, if possible.”

“Roger that, over.” Clint says before sighing. “She’s leaving anyway, but I think Gin- uh, Musclehead got a good scent on her, over.”

“Yep. We’ll see you back at the inn, over.” Ginelle says before static replaces everything. Ophelia sends another confirmation, and you turn the device off.

You sigh, glad that everyone is safe. For good measure, you give both Saya and Akela big hugs, and they both reciprocate, though Saya quirks a small smile. “What’s this about?” You cut her off from speaking further by planting a kiss on her lips, lasting perhaps a little longer than it should, and you hear Akela sigh as you pull away. Saya puts a hand to her lips, a goofy smile on her face. “Okay, this is weird.”

“I just want you two to know how much you mean to me.” You say, taking in a deep breath. “Just getting my priorities straight.”

“Well, you can get your priorities straight when we get back to the inn.” Saya says, leaning close to you while taking Akela’s hand. She leans further and whispers into your ear, “Maybe if there’s time, you can really show me your priorities.”

You smirk, though at the thought your back begins to itch abominably. Maybe…maybe you can just cuddle.

————————————–

“She did what?!” Ginelle says, slamming her paw onto the table. She looks down to see some splinters in the wood, and she coughs, placing a plate over it and looking about shiftily. The rest of you sigh and shake your head before you tap the Badger’s head, and she pulls back, blushing. “S…sorry. I’m just a little angry is all.”

“You’re always angry.” Ophelia says, sipping at a glass of wine while you all sit around a table in the inn over dinner. Saya is helping Akela with her meal while Clint and Ginelle already finished theirs, drinking some spirits while Ophelia keeps an eye on Clarissa, who sips at a cup of water, her face looking pale, her food relatively untouched. She notices you looking at her and she blushes, turning away before sipping at her water.

“That may be.” Ginelle says, sniffing. “But I’m not going to just let this all slide. I’m going to beat that woman’s ass.” She growls and takes a drink from her cup. “Good going on you little one, you’re making auntie Ginelle proud.” She nods to Akela who looks up and frowns.

“I never said you’re my auntie. So far I think the bunny is more deserving of the title.”  Ophelia’s ears stand straight up at this and she blushes some, spilling her wine. Akela cocks her head before chuckling. “Maybe I should re-think that as well.”

“Honey, it’s not something you get to decide. Besides, Ophelia is already an aunt, right?” Saya says, nodding to the bunny who’s wiping up spilled wine.

“Hmm? Oh, yeah, twenty four nieces. They’re a handful alright.” She chuckles before going back to wiping her dress, “Though that’s really sweet of you to say Akela. You’re much smarter than they, I hate to say.”

Akela sniffs, “Of course I am.” You poke her nose before shaking your head.

“Keep acting like that and someone might just challenge you on how smart you are.” She looks at you with a disturbed expression before going back to her food. You give her a confused look, but before you can press her, Clint interjects.

“So, we know that this Vivienne is playing for her own team here. By what we saw and the ledgers you found, she’s clearly picking targets based on what the Danuki want taken out in order to make a few more gold.” He shakes his head and grumbles under his breath. “Anyway, since Chalan had ample time to look over those files too, I bet she knows where the next hit will be.”

He looks to you and raises an eyebrow. “Which by the way, where is?…”

“Oh, right.” You say, nodding your head. “Seems a shipment of mana crystals was flagged to come in tomorrow. Looks like they want it to go missing instead of busting it up this time.”

Ophelia’s nod her head, “Makes sense, Mana crystals are power sources. Sure, if one gets damaged, it’s no big deal, but a large enough supply can cause one hell of an explosion.” She frowns, “I hope Vivienne knows this or things could get very messy.”

“Well, we’ll make sure it doesn’t come to that. I think the shipment was scheduled to come in late tomorrow, around 10pm, right?” You look to Akela who doesn’t seem to notice for a few moments before blinking and looking at you with a startled expression and nodding her head. You frown but continue. “So we’ll have time until then. I don’t want anyone traveling outside without being in pairs, and I don’t want you going out without communication, got it? Chalan is out there and I don’t want anyone getting hurt.”

Everyone nods their head in agreement, and you finish the meal before heading back upstairs to your rooms. Ginelle makes to help Clarissa, but you wave a hand and tell her head up. She gives you an odd expression, but does so, following Ophelia and Clint. Saya seems to get the message and takes Akela with her, leaving you with the sullen looking Clarissa who swirls around her water with her wing… somehow, you never quite figured out how wing-hands worked.

The two of you sit in silence for a while before Clarissa groans and puts her head on the table. “Ugh, just tell me how bad I messed up so we can get this over with.”

“Clarissa, why are you drinking so much?” You say in a calm, level voice.

She looks up at you through her mop of black hair, brown eyes calculating before she sighs and shakes her head, putting it down on the table and mumbling, “None of your business…”

“It is my business, actually. Clarissa, I know I ask a lot of you sometimes, but I really needed you today and you were drunk off your tail feathers. I’ve NEVER known you to drink before so, what’s the deal?” You scoot close to her and pat her head, to which she tenses up before sighing.

“I don’t know, I guess Clint and Ginelle got me into it and it was a little fun at first, you know, being part of the team like that, but when they started going on the information hunt, I just felt… useless next to them.” She closes her eyes as you continue to rub her head, though she speaks a little stronger. “Sure, I managed to tell people about Oppenheim at least, but when it came time to ask about the mark, well, Clint just had a way with words and had all the ladies over him while Ginelle was so forceful, I just felt left behind.”

She shrugs, “So I drank…and kept drinking, and now here we are.”

You sigh and stop patting, leaning back and crossing your arms. She picks herself up and gives you a miserable expression as you deliberate, finally looking her in the eye and saying, “Clarissa, are you sure you want to be here?”

She blinks a few times and immediately says, “Yes, of course I do, why would…” She trails off before frowning. “You… you’re thinking about sending me away.”

“Not because of this, not totally. You’re a great scout and you’re my oldest friend but… Clarissa, I saw the way you reacted to some of the things we’ve had to do. You’re strong, but are you that strong? I don’t want to force you to stay for my sake.”

Clarissa looks down at her cup for a long while before shaking her head. “I’ll go if you want me to, I’ll take your orders, but… but even though I don’t feel like I’ve been all that useful, I still feel more fulfilled than I did delivering letters all day. Being close to people like this… it’s nice.” She chuckles, “It does get lonely, flying alone. Besides, we’re saving the world, right?”

You look into her eyes and see something else in there, a deeper sadness and you close your eyes before taking a deep breath and saying, “Clarissa, you’re doing this because you’re afraid you’re going to lose me. That if you don’t stay close here, I’m just going to vanish.” You open your eyes and give her a level look. “Isn’t that right?”

She looks at you with a look of pure horror before she looks down and nods her head slowly. “I… When I learned about this whole insanity thing, I got scared. I mean, yeah, I used to crush on you real hard, but now… now I’m just scared to lose you as a friend.” She sniffs and rubs at her eyes with a wing. “If I let you go and you never came back, I’d be destroyed, you know that?”

You sigh and give the Crow a hug, which she reciprocates, holding you tight. “I’m going through way too much emotional stuff these days.” You say, still hugging her.

She chuckles, though it’s punctuated with sobs. “Well, it’s about time I get my turn then, don’t you think?” She continues to hug for a long time before pulling back and sighing, looking a little more contented. “Thanks for that… I’ll stop drinking as much, alright? And you can count on me to do anything, you know that, right?”

“I know.” You ruffle her head one more before helping her up, though she seems much stronger now, and the two of you head upstairs, where she bids you farewell as you go to your separate rooms. As you enter your room, you see Saya reading aloud to Akela from [Wizardquest] and you pause at the wonderful little scene, heading over to join them and trying to forget about all the other thoughts rampaging through your mind. Tomorrow was going to be one hell of a day.

 

 

1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars (8 votes, average: 5.00 out of 5)
Loading...

Leave a Reply