Illusionistquest Chapter 2: Gears of Thought

When it came time to shift watches, Ginelle offered to stay up, but Richard would have none of it, forcing her to sleep. She refused a sleeping roll though, instead curling up into a ball on the ground, swiftly falling into a deep sleep, her imposing form looking awfully adorable as she slept. You didn’t linger upon that for long though, instead tucking back in for your own sleep, which you figure would be rather difficult thanks to the excitement, but it manages to be much easier than expected…

Sunrise comes early and you grumble awake at Richard’s prodding. The three of you share a light breakfast (to Ginelles joy, then sadness) before striking camp and heading back onto the road. The cart is  a little cramped with both you and Ginelle back there, but you managed to squeeze in with the equipment alright.

With the sun shining overhead, you made your way down the road, and as the day wore on, you began to see signs of life, including various farms on the outskirts of the town. Despite being only a few days from your home, the farms here seemed impossibly lavish, even the poorest looking ones having a sense of style and grace that your home could never match.

The main reason for this was not the architecture, but the plants, which grew in carefully cultivated and beautiful ways, making you stop and stare at some, wondering how it was even possible for such things to be done. Ginelle offhanded mentioned something about Biomancers and Plant Monsters, but you were just so stunned by all of it that you didn’t get much more than that.

As you came closer and closer, you began to see people, whether they traveling by river or the roads, it soon became very apparent that you were nearing a city. Everyone about seems rather well groomed and well, happy, to say the least. The speak to each other in such languid and happy fashions, and you even see Monsters, rather frequently to be honest. None of the Plant Monsters seemed to be about, but a fair amount of Beastmen and insects wander around, doing various work alongside humans in peace.

“Strange to think that this place used to be the only area where Monsters were treated like people before the current Monster Lady.” Richard says, waving at a passing Kikimora, a basket of goods in her hands. “But that’s Loveura for you, city of beauty.”

“Order must not have been happy about that.” You say, watching a rather impressively curved Weresheep pass by. You feel something digging into your back and you look over to see Ginelle huff before looking away. Eh heh… uh.

“Well, they didn’t have a big presence here, that’s for certain. Still don’t really, but since the Great Hero took up as the Lord Commander, relations have gotten better, and the Heroic Brotherhood has been seen a little more favorably.”

“Is that right?” You say absently, before noticing Ginelle pale and sink down the cart, which didn’t work as well as intended, being that the cart was small and Ginelle was, well, a Badgergirl. You look off to where she was looking and see two Beegirls standing off the side of the road ahead, their eyes locked onto the Badger. Their wings buzz about in rapid motions as you roll past, their eyes following you for a long while before you leave them behind.

“Hey they’re gone.” You say, patting Ginelle’s back. She groans and lifts her head up.

“Great… now the whole hive is going to know.”

“Is… that a problem?”

She sighs, “Well, maybe not since you’re around, but they might make things difficult for us…”

You shrug, “Eh, we’ll deal with that when it happens.”

“Right you are.” Richard says, ending the subject then and there.

It’s about an hour longer before you reach the city gates, and the sun was staring to dip down the horizon. You stretch as you approach, taking in the majesty of the place.

Before you is a long wall made of pure white stone, though it was covered in an impossible amount of flowers and vines, trees growing out in various sections, though they didn’t seem to affect the wall’s integrity in the slightest. It’s… well, in a word, it’s breathtaking.

A guard in white armor emblazoned with a rose stops your cart as you approach and walks over, addressing you. “Inspection and gate tax.”

Richard hands over a sum of money and the man nods before looking over the gear in your wagon. He pauses as she looks at Ginelle before shaking his head. “Don’t get into trouble, you hear?” She nods back and he finishes his search, apparently finding nothing of any interest. He waves you forward with a well practiced, “All clear, enjoy your stay in Loveura.”

The cart trundles on past the gates, showing you… well, more than you could have expected. The city wasn’t called the city of gardens without reason. Buildings of solid white stone ran out in all directions of the city, covered still in the plant-life you had seen before, making elaborate and amazing architecture into wonderous shapes. Here and there you see areas with glass domes and various plant life within, although many other areas are wide-open, filled with all sorts of gardens.

The Yangrove river flows right through the city and multiple canals punctuate the streets, from minor irrigation channels to large canals where boats forded people and goods about. Your mouth is open so wide, a fly could just settle in and make babies and you’d never notice. Not that you could really care, because wooooow.

Here were the Plant Monsters though, from Alarunes to Dryads, all sorts were about, living peacefully with the people, who helped tend them and then some you assume as a man draws a screen before an alluring looking set of Liliarune which were beckoning him to them. Lewd, decidedly lewd.

Before you know you it, the cart stops and Richard stretches, piling out of the wagon. A little Wolfgirl runs up, tail wagging before Richard. “Mr. Dennerman! I haven’t seen you in… like, ever!”

Richard laughs and rubs the girl’s hair. “Jeanie! I haven’t seen you since you were this high!” He holds his hand about six inches below her head and she giggles. “That long? Wow, time flies.” She looks at you and Ginelle before waving at you. “Oh, oh, is this your apprentice and his girlfriend?”

“She’s not my…” You say, blushing some as the girl giggles.

“I know!” Her tail wags and her ears flip up and down in mirth. “Are you staying the night?”

“That’s right. Could you stable Craig for me?”

“Ahhh, I love Craig!” The little wolf says, rubbing her head onto the horse’s muzzle. He snorts and nuzzles her back, chewing on her hair some. “Hehehe, stop it!” She waves a hand to the three of you, “Mom can get you a room inside!”

You look toward Richard and he nods. You just shrug and leap out of the cart, taking your [Ruck sack] with you before following your Master inside a cozy looking inn with a sign above it that read, “The Dancing Wolf.”

As you enter the inn, the distinct smell of mutton fills your nose and your mouth starts to water. It had only been four days, but the smell of delicious meat was heavenly. You look to Ginelle who was openly panting, and you have to poke her before she realizes it, quickly wiping at her drool with an embarrassed look.

“Well well, if it isn’t my favorite customer!” A matronly voice says, the speaker soon walking around the corner, a mug and rag in her hands. She is a tall Wolfgirl with gray fur and piercing yellow eyes, a innkeeper’s outfit of tunic and apron clothing her motherly figure, though her face still seems quite young. “Richard Dennerman, it’s been far too long.”

“That nose of yours never forgets anything, does it Hannah?” Richard says, embracing the woman who chuckles.

“Oh you charmer you. Best not let my Husband hear that!”

“You say that every time I’m in town.” Richard says, shaking his head. “Anyway, I need a room for three and a good meal.”

Hannah nods her head, beaming. “Ahh, is this the famous Tobias?” She walks over to you and sniffs you, a strange thing, but it’s not like you haven’t been around beastmen all your life. She smiles widely and then chuckles, “Oh ho ho, you have an interesting scent about you. Well, I’m sure you’re as much of a troublemaker as your Master, hmm?”

“Ah ha.. well, maybe a little, ma’am.”

She rolls her eyes. “Ma’am… bah!” As she says this her eyes lock onto Ginelle and she gasps. Ginelle pulls back some, looking down as if afraid, but the Wolf runs up to her, tsking. “Oh no no, this will never do! Dear you can’t go around Loveura looking like this!”

“But… I don’t have any other clothes.” The Badger says meekly. Hannah just shakes her head.

“Well, you best come with me then. Can’t have you with these scoundrels without some decent clothing.” She turns to the two of you and shoos you. “I’ll have your rooms and board ready soon enough, now leave us alone.”

As the two of them walk away to a back room, you hear Hannah say in an excited tone, “So, you and the boy…”

You groan, shaking your head as Richard laughs. “Yeah, Hannah is a handful, but she’s best damn innkeeper in town.” He nods over to the common room where a handful of people sit. The two of you sit down at a table and just relax, waiting for Ginelle to return or… something. The people in the room were fairly busy with their drinks or meals, although one person stuck out to you. A young looking woman of average height with short, dark hair and a fairly attractive face, clothed in a dark jacket and pants, an odd combination, sitting in the corner and eating on her own. You probably wouldn’t have noticed had she not been looking around the room with a purposeful gaze, her eyes lingering on you for a moment longer than necessary before dismissing you out of hand.

Weird, but she wasn’t Fiora, you knew that for a fact from what you’d been told of her. Richard gets your attention again and you settle back as he tells you all about Loveura, and you begin to think about the future in this city, Ginelle, and what you’d have to do later.

You lean back in your chair and stretch, sighing as you get to rest. It’s not exactly that much different than the wood of the cart, but it is different, somehow. You don’t have a good reason for it, which is fine because you feel pretty good. You made it to Loveura, despite a few… incidents… and man was it worth it.

“This place is so much more…ahhhh.” You roll you hand, looking for words.

“Arboreal?” Richard says, smirking

“Nah nah.”

“Alabaster?”

“What? No. What? Ahhh…” You snap your fingers, “Grand!”

“That’s a lot more boring than Arboreal.”

“Well, so is your face.” You say, rolling your eyes.

Richard chuckles, shaking his head, “Oh, such wit. I’ve taught my apprentice well.”

“Shove it up your ass.” You grumble, kicking a foot onto the table.

“Well, it IS a grand city.” Richard says, shrugging. “Of course, we aren’t exactly here for a vacation.”

“Well, sure, I guess not, but come on, until it’s done, can’t I just… you know, have a little fun?”

Richard looks at you critically, and is about to say something when the server walks up, placing two mugs of ale on the table. He smiles at her and she rolls her eyes, smirking though as she takes some coppers from his hand. You cock your head as he so casually tips the woman and you wonder once again, where does he get the money from?

“Hey Richie.”

“It’s Richard, you sack of garbage.”

“Yeah yeah, whatever. Who pays you anyway?”

Instead of answering you, he takes his drink and throws back a huge gulp. You frown at him, before you notice that he’s making a small gesture over to the side. You frown, and look out of the corner of your eye, noticing that he’s gesturing where the woman in the corner is. She isn’t looking at you, not directly, but now that you think about it, she isn’t eating, or drinking, and seems rather intent on… nothing at all really. Interesting…

You frown as Richard puts down his mug, making a sound of satisfaction. “Sorry, can’t pass up the Ale here, what did you say?”

You shake your head. “Oh, I was just asking about how many times you’ve been here before.”

“Ahhhh. Let’s see, this is trip… five?” He shrugs, “Lost track over the years. Mainly used it as a hub so I could catch a boat, but I always come here. Can’t beat the service, the food, or the beds.”

You raise an eyebrow, taking your own ale. Yes, you’ve had ale before, why wouldn’t you? You just, you know, prefer wine. No judgement. You take a drink, and find that it’s actually pretty good. “Beds hmm? You ever ah… try them out?”

Richard’s smile seems to fade for only a moment before appearing again. “That’s not something you ask of your Master, you impudent boy.”

“Ohhhh, I see, trying to dodge the subject, hmm?”

“How about I change the subject then. You know that our room only has two beds, and you just so happened to pick up a stray on our way here.” He leers toward you, “Poor Clarissa…”

“Oi!” You say, face heating up. Crap, you didn’t think about this. “I’ll… I’ll just sleep on the floor!” You groan and shake your head, “And damnit, it’s not like we’re dating or anything, cripes. I’m just too nice a person, alright?”

You think about it again before slamming the table, “And I’m not dating Clarissa!”

Richard chuckles as you take another sip of your drink. Oh he’s never going to let you live this shit down. Look, maybe you and she were friends and you hung out when you first came to Kasin, but by Jackor, he would not leave you alone about it! Of course, now that you think about it, Jackor probably loves this. Fucking piece of shit god.

“But to seriously change the subject, you should probably be familiar with the city at least. There’s a lot to do, and making sure you know your way around would be helpful.” He pulls something out of his breast pocket and unfolds it on the table. As you look down, you realize that it’s a map of the city.

Loveura is big. Like, really, really big. You remember hearing once that it is the third Largest City in Deleor, especially after Galmathoria became a sovereign nation. Richard traces a circle around the map as he speaks. “The entire city is surrounded by the wall you saw outside, with the various farms around it. However, the city itself is divided roughly into four sections.” He points to one section in the southwest, near where you entered. This section is densely packed with buildings and gardens with few larger canals.

“This is where we currently are, the residential district. Plenty of housing for the city goers, various gardens, and most of the inns for the city.” He points to a section in the southeast where a long, narrow track runs through more spread out buildings with a large, open square area and multiple canals leading from the river. “This is the market district, where most of the, well, markets are. There are fewer gardens here, but the Leyway station runs through this area, making it probably the busiest in the city.”

He moves up to the northeast corner, where the river runs through. Many, many canals branch off here, and the area is almost divided into islands where large buildings sit. “Riverside district. Docks and warehouses mostly, it’s…” He flicks a glance to the woman in the corner. “Of interest. Don’t go there alone, alright?”

You nod your head as he continues to the last district in the northwest, the smallest of the districts. You notice in the center is a large tree, where a few buildings are set up, but mainly there is a very, very large gardened section, covered by a dome. You raise an eyebrow at this as he explains. “The main district. This is where Town Hall is, along with The Arboretum, the large greenhouse here, and The Great Tree.” He frowns, thinking for a moment. “Hmm, what else was… ah!” He snaps his fingers. “This is also where The Hive is.”

“The uh… Hive?”

Richard nods his head. “Yes, The Hive. It’s where the Beegirls live with their Queen. Honey is quite the export for this town, especially from the Beegirls, so they get some good treatment here, especially from the Plant Monsters.”

“So… I probably shouldn’t bring Ginelle around there.” You say, rubbing your chin.

“Bring her? What, I thought you said you weren’t dating her.”

“Oh my fucking faggot-ass prankster God, will you shut up.”

The rubs your hair, to which you pull back, grumbling furiously. He chuckles and takes another swig of his ale before saying, “Look, I’m just giving you a hard time. Probably would be nice to have someone else around you anyway. I can’t always BEE looking over your shoulder.” He pauses, as if looking for something from you.

You think about it and then groan. “You played a pun on the word, ‘be’ as ‘bee,’ didn’t you.”

“Maybe.”

“I hate you so much.”

He gives you a shit-eating grin, right as Hannah re-appears, a broad smile on her face. “Well, would you look at that, the girl here has the same size as I do! Means she has the best sense of fashion.” She blinks a moment before turning back, and seeing that no one is following her. She growls a very wolfish growl before an audible sigh is heard and Ginelle walks from around a corner.

Her torn clothing is gone, replaced by a white blouse with some puffed shoulders, and a fairly low neckline, and a pair of trousers which end at the knee to accommodate her fur. All in all, a rather simple affair, yet it manages to give a very, “city-girl” feel to the powerful looking woman. She grumbles a little, looking uncomfortable before sighing.

Hannah laughs heartily and pats the girl on the back, maybe a little heartily as well and she jumps forward a few steps. “Well boy, tell her how she looks!” The wolf says, staring at you like some kind of predator.

“You uh… look nice, Ginelle.” You say, feeling a little off balance.

The Badgergirl looks to the side and a little color comes to her face. “Kind of uncomfortable though…”

“Bah.” Hannah says, putting her arm around the girl’s shoulder. “You’ll get used to it. Can’t have you looking like some kind of barbarian out in this fair city, can we? You’ll have troubles enough I think.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?” You say, furrowing your brow. Hannah waves a hand as she replies,

“Bees.” She thinks for a moment about something before nodding her head. “You know what, I actually need to speak with your dear Master for a little while, why don’t you two run off and look around the city, hmm?”

“Hannah…” Richard says, frowning, “He’s not a child, and I don’t think that.”

She slaps the table, yellow eyes staring at him with the ferocity of a predator. “Now now, just give the lad some spending money and let him be on his way.”

Richard looks to you and sighs before handing you two silver coins from his pouch. “You know, when I said the service here was good, maybe I was exaggerating.”

“Bah, you’re just a whiner.” Hannah says before waving to the two of you. “Go ahead and have a good time.”

You look to Ginelle who shrugs, before you finish your ale in a mighty swig, belching loudly, and walking up to the girl who smirks, “Lovely.”

“Should have warned you about the crudeness factor before you signed up on this crew.”

“To be fair, I’m a Badger.”

“Point taken. Come on, let’s go before the innkeeper pushes us out.” You nod to the front and the two of you walk away. As you do, you look over your shoulder to find the woman in the corner paying no attention to you, instead watching Richard with a curious expression as Hannah plops down at the table beside him, slapping his back as he almost faceplants into the table. Were all innkeepers like this to regulars?

You step outside into the street, and immediately hear the sounds of a city after night falls. People were still moving about here and there, and you could hear the loud sounds of alehouses nearby as people drank their worries away from a long day’s toil. Many of the interspersed houses had candles or lanterns lit, where they were likely having evening meals, or enjoying their time before bed. Even the gardens you could see were a special kind of active, with soft glowing lamps hung about, garden tenders, or perhaps Husbands of the Monsters speaking gently with their charges or  wives, or perhaps tending to them still.

Of course, the streets were full of people and horses, going to and fro, and you found it a little overwhelming for a moment, until someone pushes by you, almost knocking you down, until you feel Ginelle take hold of your arm, her strong hand keeping you upright.

“You alright?” She asks, seeming a little overwhelmed as well.

“Yeah… let’s keep moving I think.” You nod over to the right and she lets go of your arm before the two of you merge with the sea of humans and Monsters, following the press to where you believe the Market district must be. As you walk, you have to step over a few little channels, where water runs freely, some people just straight stepping into the water without a care. A few of the channels were large enough to warrant little bridges of the stone built over them, connecting to the cobblestone which was present regardless.

You don’t really have time to notice much of anything about the people or the area as you flow with the traffic, and it takes all your effort to keep track of Ginelle, pulling on her arm every now and then when she stops, looking to something, or seeming dazed and confused. Can’t really blame her, it’s a pretty crazy environment. You get a break though when you see a large canal come into view, and a large footbridge spans over it with a sign that says, “Market District.”

Most people continue over the bridge, but some peel off, heading down the canal. As soon as people get over the bridge, the hustle and bustle seems to die down some, and you get a good look at the market area.

There’s an upper and a lower area, with the lower side down near the canal. The lower area is littered with restaurants near the canal where people sit outdoors, enjoying the warm weather as cool wind comes off the canal and boats of all shapes and sizes row past. The upper level had replaced the cobbles from before with solid stone bricks, the same white as the buildings, and looked very polished. Many little shops, most closed for the day, lined the street and most that were open were smaller street fare places.

There were trees everywhere though, some even growing in between buildings, as if they were made around the trees whenever the hell that happened, though you suppose biomancy could have done the job well enough. You don’t see the gardens like you did in the Residential district, but you do see large areas with mostly grass and some trees and flowers that look like parks of some kind, where some vendors are.

The biggest surprise is when you make it through to the Market Square though. The area was utterly massive and filled with stalls of all varieties, most closed for the day again, but the smells from the vendors that are selling food nearly slap you across the face, it’s so good. Your mouth begins to water as you look about, people passing by you with little care for you being such an obstacle, and you notice Ginelle’s eyes locked onto something. You hear her belly rumble a little and you chuckle.

“Hungry?”

She nods her head, eyes still locked on whatever it was. You look over and find her staring at a vendor who was handing a loaf of bread to a someone, the whole thing shimmering in the lantern light as it drips a viscous looking fluid covering the top of it.

“Ah. Well…” You rub at your head, looking around. You didn’t… see any Beegirls. Maybe they’re all in the Main District? It… should be fine, right? You sigh and nod over to the line, and she follows you like a puppy. You even swear her tail wags some as she does, her eyes utterly huge as the two of you get closer to the vendor.

As you get to the front, the vendor, a large man wearing a stained apron says in a booming voice, “Welcome to Portifon’s baked-gooderies, how can I help…” He stops in his tracks, staring at Ginelle.

“Something… wrong?” You say, feeling nervous.

The man licks his lips. “Is… is she a…?”

“Badgergirl, yes.” You say, nodding your head. The man groans some.

“You’re wanting the honey bread, right?”

“Would be nice.”

He closes his eyes and holds out a hand. “Just make sure she’s away from people’s stands when she starts into it, alright? I really don’t need any trouble, but ah…” he looks to Ginelle, who almost seems to be shaking, holy hells. “But I think refusing would be worse at this point. You’re an insane bastard to be with this one.”

“I’m not with… ugh.” You say, handing the man a silver coin. He breaks it for you into a handful of copper coins, handing you two loaves of bread, coated liberally in honey. He purposefully doesn’t hand one to Ginelle, who stares at you with ravenous eyes. Yikes.

You nod to the man who shoos you away, which you do, before heading over to the one of the parks. The entire time you move, Ginelle tries to rip the bread out of your hands, but you keep evading her, whether by true skill or illusions, until finally you find a bench near a large oak tree and you sigh, handing a loaf to the Badger.

She tears the bread from your fingers and begins to wolf it down, large teeth tearing the bread apart as she barely takes time to chew her food in her haste. Her face looks positively orgasmic as she eats the stuff, and she barely notices the mess she makes, dropping crumbs and drops of honey into her cleavage. You don’t stare, much, before going back to your own bread and finding it was actually really, really good, if messy. Your hands are covered in honey because of it, but eh, you’d had worse.

You get about halfway through your bread before you look up and see Ginelle staring at you, or well, your bread anyway. You look down, then back up to her before sighing and handing it over. She takes it with glee before chomping away at it.

“Man, you Badgers really, really like honey, huh.”

“Mrrrmph, ifs gwood, grumph.”

“My, what table manners.” You sigh and look about the park you’re in, seeing it fairly empty, but for a few people sitting about, talking over a few things. One group catches your interest though and you frown, listening as they speak.

“Sales have been down recently, and I just don’t know why.”

“Oh, I’ll tell you why, it’s the damn mayor. New fucking taxes coming down the line, along with that asinine new project he’s got going on with the gardens.”

“You think? I guess people just don’t want to spend the money, especially if they know that some of their seed stock could be confiscated.”

“Yeah. My dear Nicoletta is terrified they’ll take some of her seeds she’s crossed over the years.”

“They aren’t seeds you and she have ah… crossed together, are they?”

“Gods no! At least… they better not…”

You frown, puzzling over their words when you feel something take your hand. You blink, confused for a moment as a gentle wetness plays over your fingers and you shudder at the sudden sensation. Turning about, the source has you choking on nothing as Ginelle licks the honey off your fingers, her tongue dancing around every nook and cranny of your hand to lap up all the sticky material.

The worst part is, she doesn’t seem to realize how fairly lewd the gesture is, especially considering that her chest still had sparkling droplets of the stuff here and there. You feel yourself start to get a little red in the face as you say, “H…hey Ginelle, you uh… you might want to…” She stares up at you with almost feral looking eyes, daring you to continue. “Oh, nevermind.” You say, just patiently waiting until she’s finished cleaning you up.

When she does finish with every last morsel, even the bits on her own person, she looks about for more before blinking a few times. “That.. that’s it? Where did it all go?”

“You ate it Ginelle.” You say, mildly taken aback. She frowns before sighing,

“Oh, right. It’s been so long since I’ve had any I just…” She blushes some, looking up at you. “Maybe we could get another…?”

You look at her flatly and she sighs, shoulders slumping. “Sorry. I just, you know.”

“Really like honey, yeah I gathered.” You shudder some at the phantom sensation of her tongue on your fingers. “So, how do you like Loveura?”

“Seems a little stuff to me, but places like this…” She waves her paw around at the trees, “Are very peaceful. I like it, reminds me a little of home.”

“Which is like, outside of the city.”

“Yes well, it’s still a whole different world.”

You shrug, “Fair enough.”

“I bet you sorcerers get to see all sorts of things like this though.”

You look about and put a hand on her mouth. “Shhh! Don’t call us that.”

She blinks, taken aback as you remove your hand. “What? Why not, that’s what you are.”

“Yeah but… look, it would be best if people didn’t know who we are, alright?”

She frowns, “As part of your… business?”

“Yeah, let’s go with that.” You say before shaking your head. “It… it would best if we didn’t draw attention to ourselves, not that like that anyway.”

She sighs, “Oh, alright.” She scratches her chin then before looking about. “How long are we supposed to be out anyway?”

“Hell if I know. You want to head back or something?”

“Not particularly, this is fine.” She leans back, stretching her toned body. “I like the feeling of the night air, even in these stuffy clothes.”

“It is kind of nice.” You say, looking up into the sky to see the stars starting to appear. You and just stay like that in silence for a little bit, people around you moving away before you hear a rustling across from you.

“Hey, Tobias.”

“Hmm?”

“Thanks… you know, for helping me out.”

You wave a hand, “You’ve already thanked us.”

“I suppose, just… most people wouldn’t really do that, I think. I mean, I did show up at your camp in the middle of the night and you just… I don’t know.” She smirks, “Well, you and your Master and very nice people.”

“Thank you Ginelle.” You say, finding yourself smirking back before you sigh and stand up. “Alright, we should head back I guess. You ready?”

She nods her head and the two of you retrace your steps. It’s still busy, but not as busy as before, and you make decent time, even able to talk a little. You find out that Ginelle is actually the youngest of three daughters and that both of her older sisters had left the area around Loveura years back, leaving her with her mother, though the two of them don’t exactly meet all the time as they are a fairly solitary Monster variety. She explained about how the Lamia around there made it a little hard for the rest of the Monsters, as they hoarded much of the resources, which was why she had to steal.

“Also, getting to punch a snake in the tits is fun.” She says. You wouldn’t know.

By the time you reach the inn again, you’re both a little tired, but happy, and bed sounds great. As you enter the common-room, you see your Master sitting there, three empty ale mugs before him as he plays with a half-full mug, staring off into space. You fear for a moment that he’s having an episode and you walk up to him, placing a gentle hand on his shoulder.

“Richie? You alright?”

He blinks, eyes coming into focus. “Huh? What? Oh! Tobias!” He shakes his head, “Sorry, was just thinking about things, I’m alright.” He looks to Ginelle and smiles, “You kids have a good time?”

“It was fine.” She says, and he chuckles in return.

“Just fine, huh? You need to step up your game, Tobias.”

You grumble at the man before looking around. “Where’s Hannah?”

Richard waves hand, “She has responsibilities and such to take care of, can’t harass me all night.”

“What did you talk about?”

He frowns, looking to the corner again. The woman was gone now, probably leaving some time ago, and he sighs, waving for you to sit. “Fiora.”

You take a seat before him along with Ginelle as he speaks. “Fiora and I came here a few times together while on business, and she hit it off with Hannah. We were just… reminiscing.”

A pause hangs in the air before the three of you, and you awkwardly break the silence by asking, “What…kind of person is… was Fiora?”

Richard closes his eyes before speaking slowly. “Fiora… was brilliant. There’s a lot of ways to describe her, but I think that’s the best. She’s thirty-five now I’d say, and has the most striking auburn hair you’ve ever seen. Sure, last I saw her a few years back, she still looked really, really good, but she’s always taken care of herself. Of course, her most striking feature are her eyes.” He smirks, “Always so full of life and mischief. She’d manage to get herself into trouble no matter where she went, but always was able to get out of it with a simple little trick or a clever word. And when that didn’t work, she could weave illusions almost better than I could.”

His smile becomes rueful, “She was the model apprentice, who became the best I’d ever let loose on the world. Maybe that’s why she hit this point before I expected her too. I had hoped I’d never have to see it, but…” He shakes his head and drains his ale. “That’s life.”

You don’t say anything, just feeling sympathy for the man. The pain in his eyes was quite real, and you felt that anything you might say would just be mean. Ginelle, on the other hand, does speak very quietly for her.

“It sounds like you really cared for this woman.”

Richard looks up at her, studying her expression. Eventually he looks down, and closes his eyes, “I think I still do, always will.” Before an awkward silence can form, he slaps his thigh and stands up to stretch. “Alright kids, time for bed. We have a long day ahead of us.”

“Yeah, fair enough.” You say, following your Master upstairs. The three of you enter your little room, which isn’t much to speak of, just a solid, wooden room with two comfortable looking beds, a small table and chair, and a wash-basin. At least you have a window with a pretty good view.

You all don’t say much more, instead Richard takes one bed and gets cozy while Ginelle looks to you curiously. Richard groans and pats the bed next to him. “Come on kid, just no touching.” You shake your head but acquiesce, feeling the wonderful feeling of a mattress under you while Ginelle snuggles up on her bed, alone, and drifts off to sleep, a place which you too head shortly thereafter.

——————————

You awaken in the night, hearing the sound of mosquitoes buzzing around you. The fact that you know they aren’t really there doesn’t make it any easier to bear with, but it’s…fine. Actually, you’re kind of relieved when you do find a mosquito, and you let it live, just to make yourself feel slightly less insane. Not that you’re really that insane! Right? Fuck.

You rub at your eyes and look over at your Master, who is still sleeping. He mumbles something, rather quickly and a little scared, but you can’t really pick out any particular words. You consider waking him up, but… no, he’s probably used to this already. Something you’d probably have to… learn to deal with yourself.

You sigh softly and look over to the other bed, still a little shocked to see another companion about, especially a girl! You feel a little awkward looking at Ginelle as she sleeps softly in the bed, the sheets pulled up to her neck, one furred arm dangling loosely over the bed. Her normally strong face seems almost serene as she breathes out slowly, and you have to admit, she is a little cute.

You look back to your Master and then over to her. Surely it wouldn’t be so bad if you… come on, it’s not like she’d really be that mad or… that’s what Monsters are about and…

“Damnit.” You mumble to yourself, settling back in your bed with Richard. No, no you literally met her two days ago, thinking about something like that is just too much. Despite the conflicted voices in your head, you just roll over, staring at the back of a man instead of the face of a woman, and fall back asleep…

———————————–

“Tobias.”

“Hrmmm?” You say, mumbling softly, feeling something warm and strong in your arms.

“Tobias, please let me go.”

“Ehhh?” You say, blinking your eyes awake. It takes you a moment to realize what you’re holding is actually your Master and you pull back quick, “Oh whoa, shit!”

Richard grumbles and pushes himself up, shaking his head toward you as your cheeks start to gain color. You hear a rustling behind you and you turn to see Ginelle push herself up out of bed, rubbing a clawed paw at her eyes. “Mmmm, what’s wrong?” She says sleepy, blinking about.

“NOTHING.” You say, hurriedly rolling out of bed and making way to the washbasin, where you slap warm water onto your face.

“Tobias just needs some support every now and then.” Richard says, stretching before putting his boots on. Ginelle gives you a curious look before shrugging, though she doesn’t say anything, which is just fine by you. Soon enough, the three of you head downstairs to the aroma of fresh-baked bread and bacon.

“Moooom!” You hear echo from downstairs. “I smell Richard! You should put the honey up!”

As you get downstairs fully, you see the little wolf-girl, Jeanie, being scolded by her Mother, the older Wolf holding a tray of breakfast foods in her paws. “Jeanie, that’s very rude of you to say!”

“Well yeah, but have you seen a Badger that isn’t addicted to honey?”

“Where did you learn something like that?”

“Ynette.”

Hannah rolls her eyes and smiles wanly as she sees your party. “Oh, sorry about that loves, it’s those Bees, you know? But you don’t choose your daughter’s friends.”

Ginelle shrugs, though her eyes are locked onto a small pot on the tray. “It… it’s fine. We do like honey.”

Hannah chuckles and seats the three of you before serving the other table, a little forlorn look in Ginelle’s eyes as she walks away. Jeanie walks up to the table, arms behind her back as she looks abashed. “Uhm… I’m sorry Ms. Badger-lady. I didn’t mean to be rude…”

Ginelle blinks a few times, looking somewhat confused before nodding slowly. “I said it’s fine. Thank you though.” She smiles a toothy grin at the girl, which would maybe be a little off-putting to most, but when the little girl smiles back with her own set of sharp teeth, it all seems to be fine. She scampers off as Hannah comes by and puts down a tray before you, chuckling softly.

“She’s a good girl, just gets into trouble sometimes, but that’s a pup for you.” She waves her paw over the tray and your mouth waters a little at the spread of bread, honey, some cheese, and eggs. “You probably have  a busy day ahead of you, so dig in!”

“Don’t have to tell me twice!” You say, scooping up some eggs. Mmmm. Eggy. Ginelle does the same, but puts a dollop… well, more than a dollop, of honey on top, and makes a pleased sound as she eats, though of course she doesn’t use any utensils.

“Both of you are like children.” Richard mumbles, taking some food for himself.

“Thanks dad.” You say, smiling toothily at him. He just sighs and shakes his head.

“Alright, alright, let’s talk business while we eat.” You and Ginelle look up at him curiously, though the Badgergirl was still shoveling food into her mouth. Richard seems to ignore this as he begins to speak, “First things first, we have to find Fiora. This is probably easier said than done, as she might not even be here anymore, but given some of the rumors circulating through the city, I have doubts that she’s left.”

“Rumors?” You ask, curiously, “Like… the taxes and the seed collection program?”

Richard nods his head. “I see you’ve started early, good good. Yes, the tax increase has put some strain on the outlying farmers, and no one is quite certain what it’s being used for. Hannah thinks it’s for the Leyway system, but it came out of the blue about a month ago, and only now have things been escalating.”

He chews on a piece of bread before speaking further. “As far as this seed collection program, it’s strange how little controversy it’s stirring up amongst the Plant Monsters in the city. Many are apparently unhappy with it, but not to the point they would outright refuse, unless it impacted their daughters. Their husbands and caretakers are the ones who actually find it annoying from what I hear.”

“Anything else?” You ask, rubbing at your chin. Richard nods his head.

“Yeah, there’s been more traffic going through the Leyway apparently, heading up north to Helmscrag. Foodstuffs mostly, but the Magitek supplier in town has apparently made a contract up there as well.”

“Helmscrag?” You say, confused. “Isn’t that a border town with Galmathoria? End of the line for the Leyway, right?”

“Correct, however if this Magitek equipment keeps flowing up there, either a continuation of the track will be made, or someone’s worried about an Invasion.”

Both of you go quiet at that, thinking over the implications. The only sound is Ginelle chewing loudly, but even she breaks this by asking, “Why would this Fiora care about that?”

“She’s insa-” You start, but Richard cuts you off, shaking his head.

“We don’t know. That’s why we have to find her, and make sure she doesn’t cause any more trouble.”

“Did she… go bad or something?”

“You could say that.” Richard says, sighing. “Anyway, I think it would be prudent to split our search today, just gathering information.”

You nod your head. “I guess Ginelle and I could go around the Market district again. Check out the Leyway station or so.” You look to Ginelle and she nods back, finger scooping the rest of the honey from the jar, a look of disappointment on her face.

“That should be fine. I’ll spend some time around the residential district then. We’ll reconvene here around sundown. And Tobias…” He sighs, “Keep your eyes out for illusions, and if you see her, don’t… don’t be surprised by what you see, and do NOT interact with her.”

You nod your head slowly, and he releases your arm before finishing off his breakfast and standing before nodding to you and Hannah, then heading out to gather information. You and Ginelle finish off the rest of the plate before doing the same.

————————————-

If you thought last evening as busy, the Market district during the day eclipsed that handily. People move about in blurs, coins are exchanged for goods at every intersection, and the sounds of chatter and negotiations are loud enough as to be deafening. You’re amazingly surprised at the variety of people and Monsters you see, even some Far Easterners and Ushi-oni! Apparently you were the only one with time to gawk in the city, and people push by you, muttering, “Damn tourist.”

Obviously, the main market square was not going to get you any information, not like this, so you and Ginelle push through the crowd on your way to the larger manufacturing area near the Leyway. You actually find it kind of easy to push through the people thanks to Ginelle’s imposing presence, or maybe because people really don’t like Badgers in town. You do see a few Beegirls here and there, mostly carrying honey, or flitting overhead toward some of the gardens, but you’re pretty sure none of them notice, or have time to deal with the Badgergirl.

As you make your way to the Leyway, traffic dies down some, and you actually have time to hear yourself think. This part of the Market district still has the large canals, but instead of resturants, the lower areas are filled with loading docks, where men transport goods on and off canal boats, destined to the warehouses of Riverside or to the manufacturing places above. You see industry everywhere as people work to make textiles, or pottery, all sorts of things.

What stands out here as opposed to the other section is the amount of constructs. You’d seen the odd one before, but around here, they were much more numerous and in all shapes and sizes. The majority were the large, faceless, and bulky variety used to haul large packages around the districts, or for loading and unloading. Occasionally you see what looks like a nobleman walking with a slimmer model in tow, their frames made to look like beautiful women, though their faces were impassive. You’re pretty sure these models are made as maids or menservants if you recall, much to the chagrin of many Kikimoras.

“Neat.” You say as the two of you step off the main street, hanging near a small little garden where a variety of flowers sway in the wind. “I don’t even know what I’m looking for.”

Ginelle shrugs, “Something out of the ordinary?”

“Yeah but, what does that even mean?” You say, shaking your head. I haven’t seen any illusions, or anything that just jumps out at me as spooky or wrong.”

“Well, why don’t we look at the Leyway then?”

You perk up, excited. “Oh right, the Leyway!” You start to get a little pumped at the thought. You’ve always loved the Leyways, ever since they were first introduced about ten years ago, and you’ve always wanted a model Leyway, but they were a little expensive, just like tickets to ride on the magitek creations. For the most part, they were just large boxes linked together and propelled through the land by drawing energy from the natural Ley-lines that connected the corners of the world.

Personally, you thought they were the coolest thing ever, as the technology in them was astounding! The ability to make it from here to Sanctifrond in a mere two days? Absurd! They revolutionized trade and transport between in the Kingdom, and you think they’re possibly the Grand Wizard’s finest invention. Even if he didn’t actually invent then. But hey, look, he started the Magitek revolution so it’s sort of like he… fine, you’re gushing.

You and Ginelle move with renewed purpose and it isn’t long before you hear the sound of a whistle, heralding the departure of one of the massive creations. You bound around a corner in time to watch as the large, blocky construct rolls down the track, picking up speed as it does, and leaving behind a crowd of workers and well-wishers before disappearing into the distance.

“Soooooo coooooool.” You say, watching it go before your ears perk up as another Leyway, going in the opposite direction, pulls into the station, stopping in a cloud of aetheric particles that quickly vanish from sight. People immediately set to work offloading cargo from it while passengers step down and greet others, or head to horse-drawn carriages to head through the city.

“Hey Tobias, who are those Monsters?”

You blink, realizing Ginelle has said something, and look over to where she’s pointing. Standing amongst a group of workers are two very tall women with gorgeous features and wearing tight-fitting blue uniforms with large stars on their breasts as they look over lists. You’d think them almost human if not for the large, pointed green ears and green, slimy looking hands. Ah, of course they’d be here.

“They’re trolls. The Grand Wizard apparently gathered them up into a union back during his Quest and some random aestheticians took it a little too far. They gained enough influence and revenue from taxing people across major bridges that they used their leverage to take control of the Leyway organizational system.”

Ginelle merely cocks her head. “I just thought trolls were supposed to be ugly.”

“I think they used to be, but a lot of their revenue goes to beautification spells these days.” You shake your head, looking about for illusions. Nothing there, not that you’d get so lucky. “Anyway, let’s head around to…”

“You two!”

The two of you turn as one of the trolls, a beautiful woman with long, silvery hair and sparkling green eyes approaches, holding a club in her hand. As soon as you reaches you, the immediate smell of river spunk mixed with perfume hits you and you remember that no matter how beautiful they may look, no one has ever been able to get rid of their smell. Ginelle scrunches her nose and the Troll narrows her eyes and speaks in a low, rumbling voice that was much at odds with her appearance.

“You have tickets?”

“Uh… what? No, we don’t.”

“Then what are you doing here?”

“We’re just looking around.” You say, a little nervous for some reason.

“Looking around huh, you mean, casing the place?” The Troll slaps her club into her hands. “I think I might have to take you in for questioning. Been quite a few odd events going on recently, maybe you two might have something to do with it.”

You think desperately of a way out when you feel a hand on your shoulder and you turn about to see the face of a mature looking Rabbitgirl. You blink a few times as she speaks in a soft, matronly voice. “Dear me, I can’t believe I lost my employees like that. I hope they weren’t causing you trouble.”

The Troll blanches a little, “M…Madam Illoma, I apologize, I didn’t know they were with you.”

The Rabbit chuckles softly, “Oh it’s no trouble at all. Keep doing good work.” The Troll nods to her, then bows to you before walking away rather quickly. As soon as she’s out of range, the Rabbit turns to you and raises and eyebrow. “Good thing I was here, the Trolls are on alert these days.”

You just blink at her in confusion. “I… what?”

She chuckles, “Ara ara, I see you’re a little confused. From out of town, I assume?” She nods to Ginelle, “Seems likely as the Badgers aren’t quite welcome here.”

You nod your head and she puts her hands together, bouncing once, making her rather… endowed chest jump with it. In fact, you take a moment to appreciate her fully, not for any… particular reason. She’s a little shorter than Ginelle, though she has a very, very developed body with well rounded hips, and very large breasts, though it’s all enclosed in a well tailored dress of green silk that flows down to her legs, which are, by nature, well developed and brown furred, ending in long, rabbit feet. Her arms are furred as well, though she has rather human looking fingers, enclosed in white gloves. The face you’d glimpsed before is very mature looking, and she has a serene expression which plays nicely with the long, floppy ears atop her head.

“Splendid! Oh but I do love finding new faces, please please, join me for tea, would you?”

“Wait wait wait.” You say, holding up a hand. Why is the name Illoma familair?  “Who are you?”

“Me? Oh Dollora, where are my manners?” She curtseys to you before speaking, “I am Emma Illoma, Lady of House Illoma, and the owner of the Illoma Magitek Manufactorium.” She smiles at you again,

“Now then, about that tea?”

You look to Ginelle who shrugs, looking obviously quite confused by the situation. To be fair, YOU are confused by the situation also. Why would one of the most important Monsters in town want to invite you of all people over for tea? It made no sense, but you have heard that some of these rich folk can be… eclectic.

Well, you suppose that this could be an unexpected boon also. Getting in good with a powerhouse in town could let you learn some things, especially why the Trolls are on edge and what her company is shipping out north. Yeah, yeah actually this could work out really well!

You straighten your back, dust off your clothing, and speak in your most charismatic voice. “Why thank you for your offer my companion will graciously accept your offer.” You hold a hand to your breast as you continue, “Ah, and my apologies as well, my name is Tobias Shady, and this is my companion Ginelle.”

She raises an eyebrow, “Companion? Not lover?”

You do your best to hold down a blush and succeed, thankfully. “No Madam, that is not the case.”

She seems to think about something for  a moment before smiling, “Very interesting! Ah, but let us be off, I can’t be keeping you all day.” She turns about and begins hopping down toward where you’d seen the Manufactorium before. Guess she lives in the Residential of Main district, so perhaps she has an office set up here instead.

Ginelle shakes her head and grabs your arm, whispering in your ear, “Something seems off about her.”

“What, like she’s going to take me into a back room and rape me for eternity?”

“No, she’s obviously married.”

“How can you-“

“Look, I don’t know much about these things, but for a prey animal, she sure smells confident.”

You look down, pondering about that. Has Ginelle eaten other Monsters before? You know it happens all the time, just…hum. Well, it’s a fact of life, so you shouldn’t dwell on it, but you do give her a curious look anyway, unable to help from thinking about it. As you do though, you notice something else out of the corner of your eye.

“Tobias? Is something wrong?” Ginelle asks, face concerned, “Is there something on my face?”

You blink, taken aback for a moment. “Oh? What? No, sorry, I was just looking behind you. That woman from the Inn is over there.” You continue to watch the woman, still dressed in dark clothes as she makes her way to the Leyway station. She slips by a Troll guard without anyone noticing before blending into the crowd and out of sight. What an odd coincidence.

Ginelle looks over her shoulder, but frowns as the woman vanishes. “What, is she following us?”

You shake your head, “No, I don’t… think so? Just a coincidence I think.”

“Tobiiiiaaaassss!” Lady Illoma calls, “Are you coming dear?”

You nod to Ginelle before the two of you continue after the Rabbit, heading to the Manufactorium.

——————————-

To say the manifactorium was big would be an understatement. The building sits on the edge of a canal, with multiple little docks on the lower where materials are brought in and out for transport elsewhere. The building was obviously not built for this purpose, looking as if it had been there for a long time, perhaps as a three story trading house before it was converted, and it’s pristine white exterior was covered in old growth of vines bearing flowers of all varieties in addition to a large tree that seemed to be growing almost out of the side. Large windows run along the top, where light must pour in for the workers.

A set of massive doors sits before you, open, as a team of men and constructs load up a large container into a horse-drawn carriage. In fact, as you look about you see multiple constructs around the grounds, either helping with shipping or tending to the grounds with some of the smaller units. Traffic is still heavy around the grounds however as despite the fact that it’s a huge building, people still pass by as it’s still a crowded city. Ah the smell of commerce!

Emma leads you through the crowds, and as soon as she reaches the grounds, one of the constructs turns to her and bows deeply, still holding a massive crate in its arms somehow as it does so. The sound of nails on a chalkboard sounds before a discordant voice emanates from the machine. “Welcome back miiiiissssstriss.”

Lady Illoma frowns and hops over to the construct, grumbling about something before opening up a panel on its chest, slapping a few things, then sighing. “Number 436, report to maintenance, your vocal converter is broken.”

The construct bows it’s head. “Asssssss you wish my ladddddy.” It turns from her and stalks over the open doors, setting its load into the wagon before heading inside. The Rabbitgirl puts a hand to her head and sighs overdramatically.

“Sometimes these constructs can be such a chore to work with.”

“I wouldn’t know.”

She blinks, “Do they not have constructs where you are from?”

“I am from Kasin, it’s… not exactly that big.”

She frowns, thinking for a moment. “We shipped three units of Mk. II servants there recently… I suppose that isn’t very much, is it?” She chuckles before shaking her head, “But where are my manners? Please, come inside!”

She hops over to the entrance where the men are loading things up and they stop to bow to her, giving polite greetings to which she chuckles before telling them to keep up the good word and leading you inside. As you enter, you begin to hear the sounds of industry, and see men and Monsters working on various metal-frames in a large workshop, blacksmith hammers ringing as they toil at their labors, the heat inside a little unbearable, but they don’t seem bothered by it at all.

Emma leads you over to a side hallway though, where the hard floor becomes carpeted, and as you enter a door to another section, the sound of hammers ringing leaves your ears and you start to see signs of offices and various things you’d show to make rich clients feel like this is a serious establishment, with paintings and vases and things. It’s such an odd dichotomy from the workshop out from that you have to wonder for a moment if it’s planned this way, to put people off for a moment.

Before you can ponder this much further, a maid unit, complete with a maid’s outfit, steps up and bows to your group. Her vocal unit starts up, but a much more refined voice comes out in a lovely dulcet tone. “Mistress. Would you like some tea for you and your guests?”

“That would be lovely Georgia.” The unit bows again and turns to go, and the lady leads you into a room the maid unit was standing before, sitting you down into some plush chairs before she takes a seat in her own, larger chair. Status symbol? Hard to say.

Trying to come up with some small talk, you say, “I noticed that maid had a name.”

“Aha, you did, didn’t you? Well, Georgia was one of the first servant models I had built, and she’s part of the family in some ways.”

“Is that so? She doesn’t have a…”

“Soul crystal? No, hers is artificial.” She shakes her head, “The Grand Wizard’s story makes them seem far more numerous than expected. Thankfully people figured that out rather quickly, for it was quite gruesome at first.”

“I… can imagine.” You say, looking aside. Better… change the subject. “You have a lovely place here.”

“My, what a charmer.” She says, chuckling. You may or may not have difficulty not looking at her chest as she does so. Come on, they’re just out there for everyone, it’s hard not to! She continues, getting your attention again, “But you know, I am married with children.”

You hold up a hand, “Of course, I hope I didn’t give off any untoward intentions.”

She chuckles again, damn her, “Oh dear boy, so polite! You must have had some excellent training in manners. I am merely playing with you though, a bad habit of mine with guests.”

“Speaking of which…” You say, coughing into your hand, “Why did you invite us however? I am grateful for your help, but…”

She waves a hand. “Think nothing of it. As I said before, I do like to speak with those from out of town. It serves to help spread the good name of the Manufactorium and gain potential clients, as well as being quite entertaining! Why, I even had this lovely woman in a few weeks ago with the most lovely auburn hair…”

A knock sounds at the door and all of you turn to see Georgia come in and pour tea for each of you, the aroma smelling heavenly, but your attention was still on what she’d said before. Woman with auburn hair? No, that couldn’t have been…

“Would you like some honey in your tea, sir?”

You blink, startled to see the impassive face of the maid unit before you, holding a pot of fresh Loveurian honey. You nod your head slowly as she spoons some in and stirs it, handing the cup to you, which you take delicately. She does the same for Ginelle, who tells her to spoon more and more of the stuff until it’s more honey than tea. Emma just chuckles as Ginelle greedily drinks the solution.

“Oh but it is so rare to see a Badger! My it was so unfortunate what happened to the last one who was in town.”

“Huh?” You ask, looking up from your cup. “What happened?”

“Oh my, I don’t want to spoil the mood, forget I said anything.” Emma says, waving a dismissive hand and taking a sip of her tea.

“The beegirls beat her senseless and threw her down the river.” Ginelle says, before continuing to drink her tea. Lady Illoma sputters out some of her tea before coughing and smiling again.

“Well, yes. That is what happened, wasn’t it?”

“It’s fine, I’m tougher than that.”

The Lady’s smile falters some, “O…oh, you were the… oh my.” She coughs before her cheer comes back. “Yes well then, always a treat! Besides, it’s wonderful to meet young gentlemen from out of town. I’m sure my daughter would love to meet you.”

It’s your turn to sputter some. “Hah… daughter? I… uh.” You don’t really know what to say for a moment and you flounder about before reaching for a simple, “She must be quite a beauty if she’s anything like you.”

Emma’s cheeks redden, but a calculating look comes over her eyes, “Oh my goodness, what a silver-tongued man you are! My, well I almost feel a little faint after a compliment like that!” She waves to the maid, “Georgia, would you terribly mind fetching some crumpets?”

The maid pauses before nodding her head. “Of course mistress.” She bows and exits the room, leaving an awkward silence in the air. You look to Ginelle who frowns at the Rabbit, although on her face it looks more like a scowl, but you don’t feel any particular anger or anything over her gushing. Of course, why should she? She’d have no reason to be jealous about… anything… Women are complicated.

You sigh, trying to remember what she’d said before. Something about a… ah damnit you forgot. Well, you might as well ask about something else for the moment, it’ll come back to you. “So, if you don’t mind me asking, what was the trouble that has the Trolls on edge?”

Lady Illoma takes a sip of her tea before answering in a calm voice. “Thefts, I am afraid. Though our city is quite lovely, there is always a sort of malcontents which run around. Personally, I blame the taxes the mayor has levied, driving good folk to crime.”

“What are they stealing?” You ask, calculating.

“Weaponry for the most part, though fair amounts of food shipments have gone missing also.”

You blink, not expecting this. “Weaponry? Like, swords and such?”

“Mostly. The most curious thing is no one has ever seen anyone taking the items. They vanish under people’s noses like a ghost!” She chuckles, “Of course, there are no Ghosts here, not for the past seventy years anyway.”

“Foodstuffs too…” You say, brow furrowed, “Why would they take it from the Leyway though? Does it happen anywhere else?”

“No, not particularly. Of course, the things loaded onto the Leyway are magical preserved. Good for storage for later use.”

Interesting, very interesting. “So, they thought we were some shady looking criminals I suppose?”

“I suppose so! Though how they could think that of such a dashing young man, I do not know.” She looks to Ginelle and blushes, “Though, I am afraid profiling does occur for your kind, I hope you understand.”

Ginelle shrugs, “It’s…fine.” You look to the badger and frown. She always said that when people brought it up. Was it really fine though?

“Yes, well, at least our magitek shipments have been protected thus far.” She says, sighing. “I do worry though, we just made such a large contract with Helmscrag, I would hate for anything to go missing.”

You perk up at that. Right, right, this was the perfect person to ask! “My lady, I do not wish to pry, but why would they suddenly make such a contract? Are they ordering war units?”

“Yes, they are, however I was assured by the woman who placed the order that it was perfectly legitimate. She bore the seal of the crown and her paperwork checked out, as well as the money for the order. I do not question such profitable orders!” She says chuckling.

You take a deep breath, eyes fixated on the Lady. Woman, with auburn hair and a pretty face you bet. Jackor above, you couldn’t have gotten this lucky already, could you? “Did… this woman give you a name?”

“Hmmm. Yes, I believe she did. Now let’s see.” She taps at her chin, “Fe…Fo…Fi…ah, Fiora! Yes that was her name.”

You and Ginelle exchange looks and you begin to ask about her excitedly when the door opens and a young Monster is ushered into the room by a rather insistent Georgia. The woman turns to the made and frowns, crossing her arms under her above average breasts.

“Georgia, I swear, if you were any other unit, I’d re-wire your legs to your arms.”

“Now now dear, that’s no way to speak in front of guests.” Emma says, taking a sip of her tea, a hint of a smile on her lips. “Introduce yourself.”

The woman grumbles and turns to you. She’s a Rabbitgirl, a little above average height with a slender build and accentuated curves hidden under trousers and a brown leather jacket covered in stains. Her fur was the same shade as Lady Illoma’s, and as she removes a pair of goggles she wears over her eyes, you realize they’re very much the same as your host’s, with a similar, if younger face. The only real difference was the way she held herself and the long hair tied into a bun behind her head.

“Yeah, I’m Ophelia Illoma, pleased to meet you or whatever.” She turns to her Mother before sighing, “Can I get back to work now? I’m almost done with this Mk. IV’s visual matrix and Suzanne needs me to make the solid state drive so she can enchant it.”

“Dear! You could at least say hello to this young man here.”

The younger Rabbit turns about and groans before walking over to you and shaking your hand, smearing grease on it, though her hand was quite soft. “Hey there, thank you for visiting the factory and keeping mother company and all that.”

You feel a little taken aback as she shakes your hand, as if you were thrown into cold water without warning. Searching for a lifeline, you notice a symbol on the breast of her jacket and you leap for it like an oasis in the desert. “So uh, you work on the Yeldenmere line?”

She blinks, seeming shocked by your statement. “You… you know of the Yeldenmere line?”

“Well, yeah, why wouldn’t I? It’s a famous line that runs through Sanctifrond with some of the most powerful cargo cars on the Leyway. I hear the new A7 line is quite the powerhouse though, able to lift…”

“300 tons of cargo, yeah! Not only that, but there’s a luxury line associated with it that runs…”

“Directly to Cair, yeah yeah, yet it’s always eclipsed by the Dendre line.”

“Ugh, I can’t stand that line, it’s so overblown!”

“I know right! And the…” You start to say, getting really into the conversation when you hear Lady Illoma cough into her hand. The two of you stop, looking into each other’s eyes before hurriedly looking away, embarrassed that someone say you talking so passionately about Leyways of all things.

Emma merely has a very coy smile on her face. “Oh my, you two seem to have a lot in common, don’t you? My, why don’t you join us for tea then dear?”

Ophelia rubs the back of her head, getting grease all in her brown hair. “Yeah… no, I need to get back to work, Mother.”

“Well then, why doesn’t our guest join you?”

You and Ophelia trade a glance, although hers is more of a, “You sincerely hope you don’t do this.” You cough and shake your head, “That’s quite alright, there’s more I’d like to discuss with you about…”

“Nonsense!” Emma says, setting her cup on her saucer with more force than necessary. She has a wide smile on her face that has no joy in it at all. “I will not allow my fifth, unmarried, child-bearing aged, daughter be so rude to such a handsome, well spoken, knowledgeable guest.” She looks directly at her daughter, who’s tiny little cotton tail shudders under her mother’s stare. “Now then, be a good girl, and take the man to work with you.”

The two of you trade uneasy glances again, both feeling the weight of the Lady in the corner. You hear a rustling next to you as Ginelle sets her cup on the table. She looks about the room and frowns. “What am I supposed to do?”

Everyone in the room turns to Ginelle who merely looks at you and shrugs. “I mean, she didn’t ask me to come along, should I just… go home?”

“A fine idea!” Lady Illoma says, her long ears flopping back and forth. “Not that we don’t appreciate your presence, it’s just the work-rooms are every so small, and people always end up rubbing against each other…” She winks at you, prompting a shiver down your spine.

“Mother!” Ophelia huffs, crossing her arms. “He might have an interest in the Leyways, but come now, having someone in the workshop can be dangerous! We are working with some serious magitek here!”

Emma waves a hand, “Well, then I’ll just have to send Georgia in.”

“Ugggh!” Ophelia says, throwing her hands into the air. “That’s even worse!”

“I’m not taking no for an answer, young lady.”

The younger rabbit pinches the bridge of her nose before sighing out deeply. “Uggghhhh. Whatever!” She turns about and points at you, and annoyed look on her face. “Come on then. She is INSISTENT.”

You look between the smiling Lady and the annoyed engineer and decide that this is not a situation you want to be in. Assuredly, this is not a situation you want to be in ALONE. Still, this could be another golden opportunity to get some great information, such as what exactly is Fiora ordering and why? Ophelia might not know, but if you manage to smooze up to her Mother enough…

You stand up and delicately take Ophelia’s hand before bowing and kissing it. She blinks a few times, confused as hell before pulling her hand back, ears standing up and face going a little red. “I apologize for my previous behavior, but if your lovely Mother wishes that I attend you, who am I to say no? Her magnanimous hospitality has been quite amenable.” You flash Ophelia your best smile, practiced before the mirror for hours upon hours, because if you didn’t, then Richard would make you sit through another lecture.

“Besides, I am quite interested in being shown the ropes by such a charming lady.”

“C…charming.” Ophelia says, lip twitching upward somewhat as she stares at you with incredulity. Lady Illoma puts a hand to her face, cheeks going a little rosy as she chuckles,

“Ara ara! I believe I’m blushing some.” She fans her face with her ears some before shaking her head. “You two should be off before I embarrass myself any further, oh!”

“Ah, but I am afraid…” You say, walking toward her slowly, “That my companion should come along. I assure you, she will cause no trouble, but she does get quite lonely by herself.” You stop a few feet before the Lady, smiling bright enough to reflect the sun. “You wouldn’t want a woman to be lonely, would you?”

Her smile fades some as she looks over to her daughter, then to Ginelle. You can practically hear the wheels turning in her head as she thinks it over. Alright, time to turn it up a notch then. You take another step toward her and trip over a conveniently scrunched section of the rug. In reality, you just trip over your own two feet, but the little details don’t really matter with your tiny illusion as you come crashing down to land at Lady Illoma’s big and fluffy feet, hands outstretched to caress them. They… are actually kind of really soft, aren’t they?

You look up at the lady, a decidedly more cheesy smile on your face, one that looks really, really fake. She looks at your eyes, blushing furiously before looking down at your hands, which you quickly pull away. You push yourself up and chuckle in a way that really makes your heart cringe, but it’s all part of the act… Of course, you deliver the final blow by saying, “Haha… oh dear, I guess this means I’m going to get quite lucky, aren’t I?”

“Uh…wha?” Ophelia says, face going scarlet. It’s kind of weird though since you aren’t even touching her feet, but maybe feet are a really lewd subject for Rabbitgirls? You figure it would have been the ears, but hey fuck you or whatever.

Lady Illoma is practically steaming before you and she covers her face with one hand, waving you away with the other. “Oh…oh! T…take the Badger, I…Oh dear, I have much work to be about!” She stands up and accidently brushes past to, to which you may or may not cop a feel. She jumps into the air, stares at you, and then runs out of the room.

You and Ginelle share a look before she rises from her seat. You turn to Ophelia, who is staring at the door in confusion, and cough lightly into your hand. She imitates her mother and jumps up, spinning to you. She fumbles with words for a moment before taking a deep breath to calm down, and then shaking her head. “Yes… well, despite that rather, embarrassing turn of events, we might as well get going. Sooner we go, the sooner my Mother can let us be.” She eyes Georgia, who stands there impassively, before shaking her head and walking to the door.

Shaking your head, you follow fairly close to her as she walks down the plush hallway. She notices this and starts walking a little faster, to which you match her pace. She looks over at you with suspicious eyes before walking even faster. She’s actually walking really, really fast, but you do your best to keep up with her, not willing to be left behind her cute little bunny-butt. Well, it actually is cute to be fair, but you aren’t really noticing that, no siree.

“Hey, you’re moving quite fast, is something wrong?” You say, making certain not to breathe hard, don’t start breathing hard…

“Not at all.” She says, looking forward. “The… workshops are just a distance away, I just want to get there quickly is all.”

“Mistress.” Georgia says, whom you realize is keeping pace with the two of you easily, “We have passed your workshop.”

Ophelia stops abruptly and you keep going a few feet before screeching to a halt, turning around to realize that you’ve left the plush-carpeted area and entered a rather utilitarian hallway of stone lined with doors marked in various colors. The Rabbitgirl looks about, then grumbles and enters one colored yellow. You suppress a snicker before entering the room after her, Ginelle and Georgia in tow.

As you enter the room, you have to stop for a second and stare at everything. The room is fairly small, like Emma said, but it is packed with tables lined with all sorts of tools and implements that you have no idea what they do. In the center of the room is a tall workbench where an older human woman sits, tapping the table. As soon as Ophelia enters she stands up and sighs.

“Damnit all to hells Ophie, what did your blasted Mother want this…” She pauses, looking over you and Ginelle before blanching at Georgia. “Oh… hello… Georgia.”

“Good afternoon Enchantress Unale.”

The Enchantress looks at Ophelia with a scared expression before the Rabbit sighs and walks over to pat her back. “It’s fine Suzanne, you’re just stressed. Look, let’s just get back to work, alright?”

“What about…” She says, waving toward you and Ginelle.

Ophelia rolls her eyes. “Mother is being pushy again.”

“Well, you are the only one of ten daughters who isn’t married…”

“Ugghhhh! Not you too!” The Rabbitgirl groans, placing a hand to her face. “I swear, no one is going to leave me alone about this!”

“I’m sorry, but whatever could you two lovely ladies be speaking about?” You say, doing your damndest to act dumb. Both of the employees look at you, then to themselves before huddling together, whispering too low for you to hear. You look at Ginnelle who shrugs, then to Georgia who nods and says,

“Enchantress Unale is telling Mistress Illoma that you’re ‘rather attractive.'”

“Oh my Goddess!” Ophelia shouts, face red as a beet. “Damnit Georgia!” She plops down on a stool at the workbench and takes up a small orb. Face still red, she slams down her goggles and begins going at the device with a chisel. “Stupid Mother… I don’t have the time for things like that.”

This is… almost amusing. Gods you can bully her so hard, and honestly you really should for your faggot ass God. Still, she seems like a really nice girl and you don’t have anything against her. You weigh the two choices in your hands before sighing. Not bullying wins out, but only by the barest of margins.

Which means you should bully her only a liiiiittttllleee.

You make to walk over to her, but Ginelle takes you arm and looks you in the eyes. “What is happening here?” Her eyes have a curious mix of annoyance and confusion. How curious… if you didn’t know better she might be… jealous? Nah, Ginelle isn’t like that, right? Nah.

You pat the Badger’s arm, “It’s fine, I’m going to just ask her some questions is all, nothing bad is going to happen.” You smile to her and she just looks skeptical before letting your arm go, allowing you to walk over to the workbench and squat down on the other side of the table from Ophelia.

“What do you want?” She says, not looking up at you as she carves something into the orb. The object looks like it’s made of some kind of reflective green crystal, and as she moves her tool over the crystal, she makes what appears like runic sigils with expert precision. Let’s see, if that’s the case then that makes this a Core for a unit, and though you don’t know much about these, you know enough to BS about it.

“I’m just amazed, the way you inscribe formulae is almost magical. Your hands are quite skilled, I wonder if the rest of your handiwork is as powerful.”

She stops mid-rune before slowly setting her tool down and looking up at you. You smile at her and she growls. “What’s your game?”

“Game? I don’t know what you’re talking about.” You say, looking perplexed. “Nice goggles by the way, they must be quite useful to have to hide those brilliant eyes of yours.”

Suzanne chuckles, though she goes quiet as Ophelia throws a glare at her. She grumbles and looks back to you, cheeks still red, “These are mage-sight goggles, enchanted to allow someone to see the flows of magic so NORMAL, HARD WORKING, DEDICATED, people can DO THEIR DAMN JOB.”

You hold up your hands and fold some, looking abashed, “I apologize if I seemed rude, I was just curious.” She sighs, shaking her head before picking up her tool again.

“I mean, you do this job so well, I wonder what other jobs you’re good at.”

She growls furiously and almost slams the orb down onto the table, stopping herself in time to not damage it. Pulling her goggles up onto her forehead, she glares at you with great intensity. Well, you might have overdone the whole… mild bully thing. She grinds her teeth and Suzanne puts a hand on her shoulder, “Now now, he’s just being nice…”

Ophelia waves her away “No, really, are you some kind of Noble my Mother is trying to tie into the family? Or is she trying to find some excuse to keep me out of the workshop and into some damn nursery, huh? Well, I think you can remind my DEAR MOTHER that I’m the only one who can make the cores to these precious Mk. IV Blitzer units she’s shipping en-masse up north on the request of some royal bitch.”

You try to hold up a placating hand, but she just points the tool at you, face getting even redder, “I bet this contract is a fucking ruse too, because there is no way she makes enough money off these things to offset the costs. Plasma-cannons? Does she even know how much magitek goes into one of those? Not to mention pure adamantium plating, lightning casters, and a cognition core!” She holds up the device. “Not even the Great Forge in Sanctifrond makes these stupid things, and I’m finishing up an order of twenty! You could conquer Cair with just five of these things!”

“So.” She says, leaning across the table, giving you a view of some uh… well, very cleavage, “What. Is. Your. Game.”

You lick your lips, feeling that messing with her at this point would be quite the mistake. It’s high time to take the information you’re given and get the fuck out of dodge before shit gets real. You look to Suzanne who rolls her eyes, then to Ginelle who shrugs, a small smirk on her lips, damn her to the hells. Taking a deep breath, you look Ophelia in the eyes and put on a serious face. “Ophelia… Do you smell fire?”

She narrows her eyes and then sniffs the air before suddenly looking over to the corner and gasping, dashing over to a large, cylindrical shaped object and flapping her arms about. “No, no, no, the mana capacitor! Damnit Suzanne, did you leave it on?”

The Enchantress looks utterly startled, “N…no! I didn’t even channel magic into it! Besides, it’s been working just fine since testing!”

“Well get the fire control unit, we need to put this out now!” Ophelia screams as Suzanne runs out of the room. She points to you, “Get out of here, there’s been an accident!”

“Oh hells!” You shout, pulling on Ginnelle’s arm, leaning in to whisper into her ear, “Just pretend there’s a fire.” The Badger blinks a few times before waving her clawed hands in the air.

“Ahhhhh, firrrreeee.”

You groan. What a poor performance, an utter lack of emotion, but the show must go on. You push the Badgergirl out the door, and make your own way out when a metallic arm shoots out to block the doorway. You step back in confusion as Georgia shuts the door on a startled Ginelle, then breaks off the handle before turning to Ophelia.

“Mistress, I do not detect the presence of any mekanical failure in this room, nor any indications of fire.”

Ophelia turns about, waving her arm at the fire, which you worked damn hard at making her see. “Georgia, it’s right here! Look at it! It’s going to burn out this whole room!” The construct shakes her head and the Rabbitgirl looks flustered for a moment before looking back at the fire, then quickly putting her goggles on and gasping.

Ohhhhhhh hell. She turns on you and walks toward you, grabbing a hammer from the table. She growls and touches the metal to your chest “What. The. Hell. Are you? Are you the Phantom Thief?”

“Uhm.” You say, looking over to Georgia, who stares at the two of you dispassionately. “Would you believe I’m just a tourist?”

Ophelia screams and raises her hammer to strike you when Georgia grabs her wrist, keeping the Rabbitgirl’s arm locked. She struggles about, protesting, before the construct shakes her head.

“I am afraid I cannot allow you to harm another potential suitor.”

“Are you daft? Damnit Georgia, execute operation Rabbit Hole!”

The construct stops moving for a moment before shaking her head. “I am afraid I cannot comply with this operation, Mistress.”

Ophelia looks shocked. “W…what? But no one knows about that operation!”

“Pardons Mistress, but your Mother has overwritten this operation with one of her own.” She reaches into a pocket of her maid’s outfit and withdraws a small vial of pink liquid. It sloshes around a little bit in her metallic hand.

“Uhm… what is that?” You ask, getting a little afraid. Well, actually you were already afraid, now you’re just terrified. You can hear Ginelle banging at the door, but obviously it’s made of some really stern stuff, and it’s not showing any signs of snapping. A crackling sound comes from somewhere in the room, and both you and Ophelia look up as a voice echoes.

“I’m sorry for doing this dear, but I’m afraid that I just can’t allow you to take your time any longer. I am impressed you managed to clear the room with a false fire, but I need to make certain. You’re twenty-four for Dollora’s sake! I had your eldest sister when I was eighteen!”

Ophelia blanches, “M…Mother, why are you doing this?”

There is a pause before Emma speaks again, “Do you know how embarrassing it is to have an unmarried child at this age? One who has no interest in sex and just plays with machines all day?” She sighs, “No, if you won’t date, proactively or otherwise, I will make you do so.” The voice crackles and then takes on a gentler tone, “Besides, young Tobias here is quite the strapping young lad. If I was twenty years younger and wasn’t married… well, I’m sure he’ll make you quite happy.”

Her voice takes on a serious tone again. “Georgia. Execute Order 69.”

The construct nods her head and then pops the cork off the vial, a sickly-sweet smell pervading the room. She holds it toward Ophelia who tries to pull back, eyes wide in panic. “Mistress, please imbibe this aphrodisiac. If you do not, I will be forced to become aggressive.”

Ophelia looks at you with a terrified expression, her eyes begging for help. You stand there, stunned by the sudden activity, and look to the door, which was obviously not going to be opened by any easy means. You gulp, thinking furiously.

Ophelia struggles against the iron grip of Georgia, unable to free herself from the grasp of the construct. With almost comical slowness, the maid unit brings the vial of aphrodisiac toward the mouth of the Rabbitgirl, her protests doing nothing at all to stop the inexorable advance of the solution.

You grit your teeth as you watch it happen. Damnit all to hell, you never knew Monsters when they were super-strong rape machines, but even they will admit that deep down, raping is still a tradition they hold dear. Ophelia seems like a nice girl, but if she gets super randy because of that potion, things were certainly going to get high-impact in here. There’s only one thing to do then…

You take a deep breath, then quickly step forward and put your hand on the vial. Both Ophelia and Georgia look at you, one with an expression of relief, the other with… well she only has one expression.

“Tobias, oh thank Dollora.” Ophelia says. “Help me get out of her grip here, we have to get out.”

“Please do not interfere.” Georgia says, those hollow eyes staring into yours, “If you would like to assist, you may start removing your clothing.”

“Georgia, please.” You say, shaking your head. “Do not force Ophelia to drink that, she clearly does not wish to.”

“I am ordered to make her drink, however.”

“Well, what if I drank it instead?”

There’s a pause in the room. Ophelia’s eyes look like they’re about to bulge out of her head, she looks so shocked, and you hear some crackling again before Emma begins chuckling. “Oh my! I knew you were a lusty one, but to go so far? My, you will do just fine as a son-in-law I think.” She titters abit more before saying in a commanding voice, “Georgia, give him the potion.”

Excellent, excellent, all according to plan. You remove your hand from the solution and she lets go of Ophelia, who staggers back from you, looking utterly horrified. You wink at her, which makes her eye start twitching, and you hold out a hand to receive the vial. You’ll just take it and smash it on the ground, then you can think of a good way out of…

Your scheming is cut short as Georgia grabs the back of your head, tipping back, and then draining the thick liquid down your throat. As it slides down, you get the vague taste of raspberries and cream, before you remember that the vast majority of potions have semen as their base. You begin to freak out a little, sputtering, but Georgia slams your mouth shut and forces you to swallow before letting you go.

You stagger to your knees, blinking some, waiting to feel something, but nothing really… happens? Sure, you have this disgusting feeling in the pit of your stomach after drinking that, but otherwise you don’t feel half bad. Actually, you feel kind of good now that you think about it. You look up to Ophelia and flash her a quick smile and… wow, was she this pretty before?

Huh, you always noticed she had really, really nice legs and fantastic curves, but you just never appreciated them fully before. Damn she has a lewd body! You know, her mother says it’s alright, and it would be the easiest way to… Oh fucking hell.

You put a hand to your head, shaking it to clear your mind. Fuck, that potion was working far faster than you thought it would, and of course, you’ve popped one hell of a boner. Ophelia stares at your pants in horrified fascination, and you can’t really blame her. What Rabbit wouldn’t want to get a carrot like you have in your pants and… FOR FUCKS SAKE.

Georgia puts a hand on back and pushes you toward Ophelia, causing you to jump a few steps, colliding into her and putting your hands on her shoulders to stabilize yourself. Her face is utterly flushed as you look into her eyes, and you feel yourself breathing a little heavily. Gods, she smells nice, doesn’t she?

“Tobias…” Ophelia says shakily. “Y…you’re not going to…?”

You lean in closer to her, taking in her scent. The faint hint of sweat and grease, the smells of a hardworking woman. Damn that’s hot. Still, you have enough reason to whisper into her ear as you do, “No, but I need you to play along some.” You move your mouth to her neck and gently place a kiss there. That’s what you did in these situations, right? She shivered like she likes it anyway. “Can you deactivate Georgia?”

“N…no.” Ophelia stammers as you slide your hands to her waist. “Y…you’re taking this a little far.”

“I can’t help it…” You murmur, “You’re just so damn sexy…”

“T… Tobias!” She yelps as you squeeze her tight ass. Damn that’s nice.

“Sorry… sorry, this is really hard to fight off.” You murmur.

“Yeah, I can tell by your uhm…” She fidgets as your pants brush against her thighs. “This is getting dangerous.”

“Maybe a little. Look, if you can’t deactivate her, is there something we can use to bust down the door?” As you say this, you might uhm, grind yourself a little against her.

She makes a small sound that might be close to a moan, although you think your addled mind might just be interpreting it that way. She fidgets against you, but you’re pressed pretty close, her warm body against yours. Wonder what she’d feel like without the clothes in the way? As you think this, she looks off to the side and whispers, “I think so. The lock is broken but… Wh…where is your hand?!”

You pull your questing fingers away. “Sorry, naughty guys have a mind of their own.”

“A…anyway. There’s a lightning caster that I could to break the door, but…”

The speaker crackles to life again. “Georgia? Are they making cute little grand-bunnies yet?”

“Not yet Mistress.” The construct say, “The young Master is engaging in foreplay.”

“Good on him, but push them along if they don’t get started soon. I want to hear some screaming young lady!”

“This is so messed up.” Ophelia whines before whispering again, “Tobias, what are we going to do?”

“Might as well give Georgia a show…”

“T…Tobias! L…look, you’re a nice guy and you’re kind of attractive b…but!” She stammers as you chuckle and start to slide her jacket off her shoulders. She whimpers, but doesn’t fight you, oddly enough, until the clothing drops to the floor, revealing a white sleeveless shirt that strains to keep her endowed chest in, though you can clearly see two rather hard nipples poking the cloth outward.

“No undergarments?” You say, chuckling. “My my, it’s like you’re inviting me.”

“It’s too hot to wear them!” She protests. “Tobias, please…”

You shake your head. Damnit, she’s right, you have to fight this! Now is not the time to just rip that thin cloth off and grip those beautiful breasts in your hands, feeling the pillowy softness between… You shake your head again. “Right, right. Where is the weapon?”

She nods off to the side of the room, past where Georgia is standing. On a side table is a long, heavy looking, rectangular object with an indentation that likely is where the item produces it’s energy. From what you remember, Lightning casters are the most common form of weaponry on constructs. They channel lightning aspected mana-crystals to create energy blasts. Should be more than adequate to blow down a door like this.

Getting past Georgia though, you’d have to make something convincing. If only illusions worked on her! Then you wouldn’t be in the situation, with your hands on the soft arms of a gorgeous Rabbit-girl, boner hard enough to shatter diamonds! Damn constructs! You grit your teeth and look to Ophelia. “I’m going to need you to moan.”

“Eh?” Ophelia says, her lip twitching. “Wha…ah!”

You start running your hands up her waist and under her shirt while simultaneously licking her neck. She lets out a rather convincing moan as you do so, and you start pushing her toward the other side of the room, as if your passion was starting to get a little out of control. Of course, it kind of was, and you’re having a really, really hard time controlling your hands from just jumping up and grabbing her breasts.

You make it about halfway across the room, a little past where Georgia is standing, when you reach the danger zone, you fingers brushing the underside of her breasts. You look into Ophelia’s eyes, both of you breathing a little heavily, as she’s apparently getting into the act quite nicely. A much better actor than Ginelle, that’s for certain! Ophelia lets out a shuddering moan, then grabs your head, pulling you into a kiss.

You flail about, shocked. Shit, she was REALLY getting into her role, wasn’t she? It’s just… an act, right? You hear over the speaker Lady Illoma giggling like a madwoman at the lewd sounds the two of you are making, and you feel both of you collide into a table, the lead taken from you as Ophelia took charge. Various magitek items bounce about, some clattering to the floor as she explores your mouth. Your mind starts to get hazy as you fall into the rhythm with her, feeling the softness of her lips and warmth of her oral cavity. You start to get a little light-headed from the intensity of the kiss, and you realize your hands have lost the control you had before, and they are firmly grasping her breasts, squeezing them. Huh, they’re actually kind of firmer than you’d expected.

You feel her let go of your head and the two of you look into each other’s arms, breathing heavily, faces flushed. She raises her hands to place upon your chest and you know that as soon as she does, you’re just going to fucking lose it. She places her delicate furry hands onto you, and then pushes you back violently.

You stagger backward and fall to the floor, utterly confused. Wait, what? You blink, looking utterly stupefied as Ophelia turns to the table she pushed you against, and grabs hold of the Lightning caster. She holds before her, and points the device at the door. A sound like bird chirping starts to fill the air as the device begins to glow a faint purple, runes on the side of it glowing hotly.

“What is that sound?” Lady Illoma says over the speaker. “Is that a Lightning Caster?”

“Affirmative.” Georgia says, taking a step toward Ophelia.

“Sorry Georgia, I’ll patch you up later! Clear the door!” Ophelia shouts, slamming her goggles down over her eyes. As the construct gets within arm’s reach of her, she clicks something on the device and a blast of purple energy shoots from the indentation at the tip. The beam slams into Georgia, tearing her apart in the middle, sending sparking halves of the construct into the air before the remainder of the blast hits the door, breaking it off its hinges and sending it flying across the hallway to crumple to the floor.

The Lightning caster gives off a few sparks before gently whirring down, and the only sounds in the room are the gentle sparking of magical energy from Georgia and the heavy breathing from both you and Ophelia. She sinks down, lowering the weapon and chuckling before outright laughing. “Fuck me, it worked! Hahaha, take that Mother!”

You push yourself up from the floor, shaking your head. Ophelia turns to you and flashes you a quick smile, “Sorry about the push, but I needed a clear line of fire.”

“Oh that’s fine.” You say, reaching her and putting a hand on her arm, feeling your blood burning even hotter than before. You move your face toward hers, feeling your inhibitions fleeing, “Now then… how about we pick up where we left off?”

Ophelia’s cheeks redden, but before you can reach those glorious lips, you feel a strong hand take your shoulder and flip you about. You stare into depths of emerald eyes and realize that Ginelle, who was far, far more attractive than you remember, was holding your arm. You smile at her and she merely raises a fist and slugs you across the jaw, throwing you backward with a yelp of fright from Ophelia.

You hit the table behind you, scattering more magitek, and sending your head spinning. “Owww! Fucking hell Ginelle! What was that for?” You say, rubbing your chin. “You almost broke my damn jaw.”

“Do you feel like fucking the rabbit anymore?”

“What? No! I feel like I got punched in the…” You blink a few times, looking to Ophelia. She’s still super attractive, and you still have one hell of a boner, but… you don’t feel like jumping her anymore. Still rubbing at your chin, you shake your head. “No, I guess not… huh, guess I just needed to be smacked back to my senses.”

Ophelia sighs out, wrapping her arms under her breasts and looking to the side, though she was still blushing furiously. “Wish I thought of that before he started getting handsy…”

“Young Lady!” Emma shouts over the speaker. “What have you done?!”

Ophelia rounds on the speaker, pointing at it, though you’re certain Lady Illoma can’t actually see anything. “Stopping your little games, Mother! I will choose my own damn Husband when I feel the time is right!”

The speaker is silent for a moment before a sigh is heard over it. “Come to my office.”

The three of you look toward each other before Ophelia growls, pushes her goggles back to her forehead, and stalks out of the room. You and Ginelle exchange glances and shrug.

“Were you really… going to have sex with her?” Ginelle asks, her face unreadable.

“Well… I probably would have tried.” You say, coughing into your hand. “Thanks for ah… you know.”

“Glad to help.” Ginelle says, pushing past you to follow Ophelia. You rub at the back of your head, watching her as she goes. First Ophelia kisses you out of nowhere and now Ginelle is acting weird. Honestly, you’re having a hard time separating reality from the act. Maybe that’s just women for you? Still, you follow in the wake of the other two as Suzanne runs in with another construct in tow, shouting about a fire, and freaking out when she doesn’t see one, but instead a broken Georgia.

——————————-

Ophelia rabbit-kicks open the large doors to her Mother’s office, revealing a plush looking space with beige carpet and a large desk where a variety of tools of Magitek origin sat. On the desk was what looked like some metallic box with a speaker on it, and as you enter, Emma pushes it aside before leaning back into her large, throne-like chair.

“I hope you’re proud of yourself.”

“I could say the same to you, Mother.” Ophelia growls.

“I was, for a little bit.” The older Rabbit says, starting to look her age. She reaches into the desk and pulls out a bottle of something amber colored and a glass. She stares at the glass for a moment, then shrugs, and opens the bottle, drinking straight from it. “Damn but you’d have had cute little bunnies.”

You blush a little at this as Ophelia rolls her eyes. “Mother, I think you owe both of us an apology.”

Emma sighs, “Sorry for trying to get my daughter to rape you, then advocating you raping her.”

“That sounds… a lot harsher when you say it out loud.” You say, rubbing at the back of your head.

“What’s his deal anyway?” Ophelia says, putting her hands down on her Mother’s desk. “He’s some kind of sorcerer, isn’t he? He some kind of noble you want introduced into the family?”

You groan as she says this, and Lady Illoma furrows her brow. “Sorcerer? Dear, I have no idea. I just picked him up off the street today. Damn trolls thought he was the Phantom thief or something.”

Ophelia blinks, “Wait, you tried to pair me up with random guy off the street?”

“Well, sure. You said that ‘no man in this flowery little town’ was good enough for you, so when I heard he was a foriegner…”

The younger Rabbitgirl sighs. “Damnit Mother…”

“Well, you did sound like you were enjoying yourself a little!” Emma says before slugging back a drink. “Makes me proud to know my daughter a least has SOME interest in such things.”

Ophelia puts a hand to her face, the whole thing gone beet red. “I am so sorry about all of this. I wish there was a way to repay you for the trouble.”

“I could think of a way…” Emma says, taking another drink before Ophelia snatches the bottle from her hands and taking a drink of her own.

You and Ginelle look at each other before you cough into your hand. “Actually, there is something I think you can help us with.”

“Hmm?”

“You see, we’re actually quite interested in this Fiora. Anything you could tell us about her would be really useful.”

Emma looks at you quizzically. “I told you a little too much as it was earlier, but I sort of assumed you’d become part of the family.” She sighs, “I think if I said anything else, I might get in trouble with the crown, and I can’t afford that.”

“Oh come on Mother! He could charge us for attempted rape and take everything. Besides, I still don’t think she was official.” Ophelia says, sniffing.

“Attempted rape…bah. Anyway, her money was, and that’s what matters.”

“We’re losing money on this deal and you know it!”

The two Rabbitgirls glare at each other before Emma relents. “I know we are, but she assured me that if the Mk. IV’s we send out north perform well, then we’ll get tons of funding. We could make the aetherwing then!”

“I… don’t know what an aetherwing is…” You say, shaking your head. “But what do you mean by performing out North? Is there a war coming?”

Lady Illoma waves a gloved hand, “No, of course not. I’m assured this is just to reinforce the forts up there and give the Galmathorians a scare. Most of the functions on these Blizters are on lockdown anyway, they aren’t even that threatening, and the client assures me it’s fine.” She shrugs, “I don’t have a reason to doubt her, she seemed quite trustworthy after we started talking.”

You rub at your forehead. Great, she must have used some fancy talking and good illusions, though how she managed to do so while insane, you have no idea. Well, whatever you guess. “Is she still in the city?”

“I think so, she wanted to see the last ones, make sure the order was complete, although five have already made their way up north to Helmscrag. The rest are…” She looks to Ophelia who grumbles. “On their way, though it will take some time.”

“Do you know where she might be staying?” You ask, hopeful.

Ophelia shakes her head, “Bitch… I mean, the client wouldn’t say. I did she that she had a canal ticket in her pocket when she was here though. Looks like it was for the Riverside district.”

You and Ginelle exchange looks before nodding to each other. “One last thing, what do you know about this, ‘Phantom thief?'”

The younger Rabbitgirl shakes her head, “Not much, as far as I know, it’s just one person, though some people say it’s a whole gang. Personally I think that’s crock, the patterns are always the same.”

“You take way too much interest in these things.” Emma sighs.

“Well, when they target weapons, and we MAKE weapons, maybe it would be good to be interested.”

“They have yet to touch our shipments, so why worry? They just go after food and more mundane weapons.”

Ophelia huffs, “Sounds like someone’s stocking up for something. I wish the city guard would find the damn person already, but given the way things go missing, I doubt they can.’

“How is that anyway?” You ask, curious.

She shrugs, “I don’t know honestly. From what I hear, one moment cargo is there, the next it just… ‘vanishes.'” She does hold up a finger then, “However, I have heard someone saw the thief once, and that it was most assuredly a woman, though they didn’t get much more than that.”

You nod your head. Yeah, this was all starting to get a little more serious than you’d expected. “Thank you for your answers, you’ve been a big help.” You bow slightly to Ophelia, “I’m sorry about the trouble I caused as well, I wish you luck on your further endeavors. It’s always nice to see someone who appreciates magitek.”

She blushes some and looks aside, to which her Mother raises an eyebrow. “Well then… Ophelia, might you escort our guests out?”

Ophelia sighs and nods, leading you out through the plush carpeted area and outside, where the sunlight that streams out nearly blinds you for a moment. You squint some before shaking you head and turning to the Rabbitgirl.

“I’m sorry for my Mother.” She says, holding her arms behind her back, fidgeting. “I know things got a little hectic back there, and uhm… I apologize for suddenly ah… you know.”

You wave a hand, “It’s fine, you were just acting, right?”

Ophelia blushes, “Yeah! Acting…” She rubs at the back of her head, floppy ears waggling. “Look, if you need anything while you’re in town, just let me know, okay? As an apology.”

You smile at her, “Sure. Thank you.” She looks down and smirks before turning about and walking back, a distinct little hop in her step as she does so, leaving you alone with Ginelle again.

“Well.” She says, stretching. “You still have a boner.”

“Thank you for that.” You say, sighing. “You alright?”

She looks to the side and shrugs, “I guess. Everything turned out alright in the end, right?”

“Yeah, I guess so.” You say, nodding your head. “I think the Riverside is our next bet?”

“Isn’t Richard there?”

“Yeah, we can meet up with him, if not we’ll just head back to the inn.” You look up at the sky seeing that you were there longer than expected, it was already mid-afternoon, “Got some daylight left anyway, so first there’s something I need to do…”

——————

“It’s the Phantom Thief!” You shout before pulling back into the crowd as everyone turns and looks to where you’re pointing on the busy Leyway platform.

Everyone immediately turns to see a construct walk into a side alley, holding a crate of something in their arms, looking confused as hell. “That’s just a worker”, they say, or perhaps, “What are you smoking man?” However, two Troll guards who see the commotion freeze in their tracks before pulling out large clubs and jumping upon the construct, beating it first and asking questions later. Naturally, one of them is the bitch who tried to take you in earlier.

You snicker, dropping your illusion, the image of black and white stripped clothing upon a woman with a mean face vanishing as you fade further into the crowd, making certain no one can see you. As soon as the Trolls find they are rused, they look about, confused as multiple workers run up to them, pulling them off the severely damaged worker unit, making quite the commotion as they do, starting a little fight between them until more Trolls arrive.

Everyone watching the scene is having a hard time understanding what is going on, but you know exactly what happened. To make matters worse, with a simple illusion, you make the two Trolls who jumped the poor construct see someone fade into existence before running down the alley, prompting them to start thrashing about again.

Feeling yourself unable to fully contain your laughter, you make your way out of the crowd before meeting back up with Ginelle, who’s standing a distance away, watching with an odd expression as you burst out into laughter.

“I don’t see what’s so funny.” She says, watching things get out of control. “But you obviously do, so, whatever. You had your fun?”

“For now.” You say, giggling as you watch people leave the scene, one of them being the woman from the inn again, an annoyed expression on her face. “Jackor damnit, I’ve been straight laced for too long.”

“Well, whatever makes you happy.”

“What makes you happy?” You ask offhanded to Ginelle.

She looks at you for a moment, hesitating before muttering, “Honey.”

“Right…” You say, scratching your chin. You could have sworn she might say something else but, eh, whatever. “Well it’s about lunch time, why don’t we head get something on our way to the Riverside?”

She smirks before nodding and heading off before you, badger tail waggling some. “Sure.”

 

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