Illusionistquest Chapter 4: Phantom Sensations

You lean back in your chair, mulling it all over. So there’s something fishy going on in the Great Arboretum, the Mayor is likely in the pocket of Fiora, and the Phantom Thief is due to strike tomorrow for a shipment of… something. Any of these leads could be very, very useful, but there’s really only one choice. Nodding your head you lean forward and point to the letter to the Phantom Thief.

“We need to look into all of these things, but this one, right here? This seems time sensitive. I’m not certain when we’ll get another chance like this.”

The others nod their heads, apparently coming to the same conclusion. Richard has a smile on his face, apparently approving of your decision, or perhaps your reasoning. Either way, it kind of feels nice. He gathers everything up and sorts them into a neat stack before rolling his shoulders. “Alright, so that’s what we’ll do. Looks like it’s planned to happen around 6pm tomorrow, so we have time to prepare.”

Ginelle wrinkles her nose, “Isn’t that still in the daylight though?”

“Yes, so this thief is either very bold, or very good.”

You tap the table, thinking again. “If this was at night, it might be better for us, honestly.”

Saya cocks her head, “How so?”

“Trolls.”

She seems to consider this deeply, tapping the table with a finger. “True, they’ll be suspicious if we hang around too long, won’t they? I have a good cover story to be around there, but I don’t know about the rest of you…” She looks around at the three of you and shrugs.

“Welllll.” You say, coughing into your hand. “We might have a ‘relationship’ with the Illoma family.”

Saya whistles softly as Richard groans. “Relationship… you damn near got yourself sucked into their little family squabble!” He shakes his head before raising an eyebrow. “Was the daughter at least attractive?”

You’re about to say something when you notice Ginelle looking at you quite intently while Saya just quirks the side of her mouth in a smirk. “Uhm. Ophelia was a nice girl, but anyway, let’s go over what we know about this thief, hmm?”

Saya snorts while your Master rolls his eyes. Ginelle narrows her eyes before crossing her arms under her breasts and huffing. Seriously, what the hell is this all about? You sigh and shake your head before speaking. “So, right, this thief is… uhhh.” Actually you don’t know much about the Phantom Thief, do you? “Leyway… robber?”

Saya gives you a look like a parent trying to tell a simple child that they tried their best. “Yes, she has been stealing from Leyway, that’s correct. She pulls out some papers from somewhere, flipping through them. “As far as people can tell, she’s only stolen preserved foodstuffs and various, mundane weapons. What’s curious is that there hasn’t been large amounts of money, or advanced Magitek stolen.”

She shakes her head. “Of course, this is likely because of the connection between the Illoma Manufactorium and Fiora.” You and Richard nod as she continues, “From the limited reports I could get from the guards and various shipping companies, they load up the materials, or they arrive in the station, and as soon as someone turns their back, the supplies just, ‘vanish.'”

Richard frowns, “I’ve heard this too, but what do they mean by ‘vanish’?”

She shrugs, “I don’t know. One minute it’s there, the next it’s… gone. No one sees the supplies or the thief, they just vanish!” She taps the list of papers again, “However, I will say that they never steal more than one crate at a time.”

“So… you’re saying it’s only something they can carry?”

“Well, yes, I suppose so, although such crates usually are fairly heavy.”

“Servo-assistors.” Richard says, nodding his head. “Probably has a set on the arms to let them lift such things.”

Saya considers before nodding her head, “Magitek could explain that. But to just vanish under the nose of people who are all around the items, it hardly seems plausible unless…” She looks between the two of you, “Illusions?”

Richard shrugs, “Possibly, but staying hidden from so many people would be quite the strain upon the person’s mind. Besides, we know that it’s not Fiora who is stealing these things, so…” He shrugs, “I don’t know.”

You swat away a mosquito buzzing around your head, although Ginelle gives you an odd look as you do so. “Well, I guess what we’ll have to do is stake out the area then?”

Saya nods her head, “Yeah, we’ll get in, find a place unobtrusive to hide, and wait for… something.” The three of you all sort of look down as she says this, everyone lost in their own thoughts. There’s not much else you can really do, can you? There’s plenty of sneaky illusion traps and such you could play, but if you couldn’t see your target, then it’s far too difficult to do!

Ginelle looks around at all of you before coughing into her paw. The rest of you look up at her as she shrugs and says, “I think I have an idea. If we know what she’s coming to steal, can’t we just… swap out the contents?”

Saya frowns, “How does that help us? Even if she gets the wrong stuff, it won’t catch her.”

You look into Ginelle’s eyes before your own widen, “Oh Ginelle, you don’t mean…”

She nods her head, a smirk appearing on her face. “We swap out the contents for one of us.”

Richard groans softly and begins to rub his temples.

—————————————

That evening you all slept fairly well, with Saya returning to her own room, which she rented out again, much to Hannah’s delight. You had, maybe a little too enthusiastically, asked if she wanted to sleep with the three of you and she just gave you a flat stare before leaving you to realize how stupid that sounded. Regardless, when the morning came, you found her knocking at your door, trying to get all of you up and ready to leave.

The four of you made preparations for the day, and had a hearty breakfast, courtesy of Hannah, before leaving to get ready for the heist later. Richard said he had a few things he needed to take care of, and left the three of you behind as he went to do so. Without much else to do for the moment, the three of you decide to hang around the Market district until time was appropriate to move to the Leyway station.

Which is just fine, because you have a monkey in your pocket, and it’s stealing all your change. Or, to be more precise, there’s shit you want to buy.

As you approach the Lizardman at her clothing stall, she once more brandishes her sword toward you, echoes of her former glory present in her blade. She begins to speak her merchant’s spiel when she recognizes your face and her expression turns dour. “Oh. It’s you.”

You walk up to the counter and puff out your chest, putting on the smuggest expression you can. “Good morning find clothing monger! I wish to make a purchase!”

She growls, sword still in hand as she stares into your eyes. “You get away from here before you start insulting my fine work again, you hear?”

You mock surprise, placing a hand to your breast, “My good lady! Is this any way to speak with a customer?”

“Customer? You little shit, you come in here, trying to cheat me out of my hard work, and then you have the nerve to return? I ought to make an example of…” Her words trail off as you slap a gold coin onto the table. She licks her lips, staring at it hungrily before she asks, “Where did you get that?”

You gently set another one on the table and she starts sweating, which is something you didn’t think lizards could do, but hey, fuck you, huh? You hold up a third gold coin in your hand, twirling back and forth before raising an eyebrow. “I’m sorry, what was that? I couldn’t hear you over the sound of this wonderful money.”

She slowly lowers her sword back to where she keeps it before putting her scaling hands together, looking like some kind of Danuki as she does so, her body posture growing slightly meek. “Haha, yes, of course sir. I apologize for my earlier behavior. Uhm, how can I help you?”

“I would like to procure that suit, my good monger.” She bows her head before running over and making it presentable. Saya leans over as she does so, whispering in your ear,

“Why are you being so insufferable?”

“Because, she was a bitch yesterday, and this is a little bit of payback.”

Saya rolls her eyes before sighing. “That’s something my Dad would say.”

Your eyes sparkle, “Really? No shit?”

Her expression goes flat. “Oh, right, you’re one of his fanatics. My mistake.”

“Too late, you said it!” You say, chuckling as the Lizardman finishes up, placing the suit on a tailor’s stand. Apparently she’d also gone and found a bunch of pins and needles that she’d placed just about everywhere, and you beckons to you.

“Come, come, we need to size this for you!” You look smugly at Saya before walking around the counter and standing as she sizes you up. You hold your arms out as she uses a measuring tape to figure out your sizes, muttering to herself the whole time. You look at the two girls in your party who both roll their eyes. You merely smile at them with the same level of smug.

“Seriously though.” Saya says, rubbing at her forehead, “Is it really prudent to purchase something like this.”

“Of course it is!” You say as the Lizardman draws the line around your leg. “A suit like this is appropriate for all situations. You have to look suave when working in this line of business.”

Saya and Ginelle both look down to their own, rather utilitarian clothing before looking up at you with flat expressions. Saya begins to speak, a little edge in her voice, “So, you’re saying we should dress up, is that it? That our clothes don’t look good enough, hmm?”

You’re about to reply that a form-fitting clothing or perhaps a nice dress would be wonderful when the Lizardman constricts your neck with the measuring tape, cutting you off. She looks at you with a surprised expression, “Oh dear, were you about to say something?” You shake your head and she smiles widely, “I thought not.”

She lets go of your neck and you start coughing a little, rubbing at your throat in annoyance. You look over to see the other two smiling at you with smug expressions and you grumble to yourself while the Lizardman nods her head. “Alright, alterations will take a little time. Come back later and pick it up.”

“Aww, I can’t wear it now?”

“Well, if you want pants that are too long and a jacket that’s too small, then sure, why not, you can have it now.”

You grumble and walk away as she waves you away, “Have a good day VALUED customer!”

“Bah.” You say, shaking your head. Oh well, you secured a badass suit, just have to wait a little to get it, which is fine. You have plenty of time left in the day, so it’s off to the Magic shop!

“Do we have to?” Ginelle asks as you lead the way through the throngs of people. You look up into the sky, seeing clouds start to roll in. Was it going to rain? Damn, that would make things suck later.

“Yes, we have to.”

Saya sighs and shakes her head, “I should have gone with your Master, at least he seems to be on the ball.”

You pout, “That hurts, you know?”

“Well, it’s true. Honestly, you do realize this is a serious situation, right?”

You pause as she says this, having reached the magic shop. Placing your hand on the door, you look down, a serious expression coming across your face as the events of recent days play through your mind. You sigh and clench your jaw before looking back up at her. “I know it’s serious, I do, but… if you don’t laugh sometimes, then you’ll cry, you know?”

She looks down at that, seemingly considering your words before you push your way into the store. As you had already staked things out beforehand, you quickly run through the merchandise, grabbing a pair of [Magesight Goggles] and a [Disguise kit]. The first would allow you to see through things like Illusions, which you could do if you focused anyway, but also other forms of magic. Of course nothing is infallible, but it would certainly be nice to have! As for the second item, it was mostly a makeup kit, but the items inside were enchanted to improve the process. One brush would age the skin, another dye could make hair almost instantly another color, etc etc. The stuff lasted a few hours, but hey, it would be super useful!

Ginelle picks up something and you dash by her, snagging it from her hands and flourishing the item around you, making your body go translucent. against the shelves. “Haha! Where did I go?” You say to Ginelle, who points straight at your exposed head. You blink and then sigh, ducking your head under the item, and becoming translucent.

“You’re still right there, aren’t you?” She asks, poking you.

“Ouch! Yes, I am, bah.” You say, taking the item off and holding it toward Ginelle. “[Chameleon Cloak], hides the wearer from view, makes them blend into the background. Of course, it isn’t that great if you move around though, as it blurs some.”

“Can’t you just…use illusions?”

“Yes, but if I don’t have to, that’s all the better.” You say, picking up a pair of what looks like shoe soles. “Ah, good, they still have them. [Soundstopper Soles], muffles sounds of footsteps. Should be useful!”

Ginelle just rolls her eyes and you adjust your items, placing a hand on her shoulder. “Hey, you should enjoy these moments, you know? Shit’s about to get real.”

“I know.” She says, nodding her head. “It just feels like, I don’t know, you’re a little too careless is all. I know what it’s like to lose sight of the bigger picture, and it’s not good.”

You pat the items you’re holding. “Ginelle, that’s why I’m shopping for these things, because they can help us. I think more importantly, I need to know that you’re okay, especially since you suggested that reckless plan.”

She shrugs, “It seems like the best course of action.”

“True, but you want to be the bait, don’t you?”

She pauses before nodding her head slowly, “I’m the hardiest, so it makes sense.”

You lightly tap her shoulder with your fist, “Just don’t think of yourself as expendable or anything, alright? It’s only been a few days, but you’re too good a friend to let something stupid happen to, alright?”

She looks down and smiles, nodding her head. “Yeah…” She seems like she’s about to say something when Say walks up and hands you something.

“Here, this is probably the best edition, although I’m not certain why you want another one.” You take the item from Saya, a copy of [Wizardquest: Great Hero Edition] and she rolls her eyes. “His commentary is probably the most truthful and yet critical of the situations, including various factoids about when my Dad wasn’t around.” You look at her critically and she sighs, flipping the book open to the first page. “It also has the shortest dedication page and is great for signatures. I already signed it.”

You keep your breathing in check, doing your best not to spazz out in front of Ginelle after you gave her such a talk about you being somewhat serious. Still, this is kind of amazing to have! A fresh new copy, signed and ready! Someday, someday you say to yourself, you’re going to have everyone’s signature. Oh yes, even the Grand Wizard himself.

Unfortunately, while simple magic items have become much cheaper due to the advent of Magitek, it’s still fairly expensive. You have to hand over basically all of your ill-gotten gains to afford the stuff, and even then you had to work some flattery on the shopkeeper to afford it all. But… but it’s fantastic stuff! Totally worth the money. The only hard part was figuring out how to fit this all in your [Ruck sack]. You wish you could afford a [Bag of Holding] but they don’t have any in stock anyway. Well…, the suit has pockets at least.

You place the [Disguise kit] into your [Ruck Sack] as well as the [Wizardquest: Great Hero Edition] and the [Chameleon Cloak], while placing the [Magesight Goggles] atop your head and the [Soundstopper Soles] upon your shoes, instantly making your feet nice and quiet. Once you feel satisfied, and once you have your overly large rucksack, you make your way back outside to find that it’s around noon.

You sit down and look through your goody bag, though some people might call it a [Ruck Sack]. Honestly, you’d never seen as much money as you just spent, not did you really think you’d ever have that much, yet here you are, casually dropping three gold coins on a suit because it looked cool. Well, you might just mess up and die today, so you really should look good doing so, right? That’s a good reason to spend the vast majority of your money, right?

You rub at the back of your head as you think of these things when Saya sighs and sits next to you, leaning over to rest her chin in her hands. “So… that was… fun, I guess. Not really helpful, but as long as you’re happy I guess.”

Looking up at her, you notice her expression is, well, bored more than anything. You sort of wonder why she even bothered to entertain your little shopping spree. She’s like, famous and has a cool Dad and a Mother who’s the leader of the Monsters and like, she’s nearly impossible to hurt, and she’s like a super spy or something and… and… Ugh. You ruffle your hair before sighing, and both of the girls look at you with odd expressions. You should do something for them, it’s not like you don’t have a few hours.

“So, you’re saying we should dress up, is that it? That our clothes don’t look good enough, hmm?”

That comment by Saya comes to your mind and you rub your chin, thinking it over. Hmmm, maybe there is something nice you can do for them… You rummage through your [Rucksack] and pull out the [Disguise Kit], flipping through a few things before turning to Ginelle, a goofy smile on your face. The two women look at each other before sighing as you begin to explain your plan.

——————–

A little while later, after you’ve picked up your suit, [Fancy Suit], you like to call it, you stand outside one of the most expensive boutiques in Loveura, standing almost alone in the Market district, it was so important. You adjust the sleeve of your jacket, the black fabric feeling quite nice under your touch. She may have charged and arm and a leg for this, but damn if you didn’t look good. It even came with a [Tall Fabric Headwear Piece], though you wish she also had a [Mono Eye Piece] too, but such is life.

“Why are we doing this again?” Ginelle asks, mumbling to herself while Saya rolls her eyes.

“Because, in the short time I’ve known this man, he is incredibly impulsive.”

Ginelle considers this before nodding her head. “True.” She touches her face with one of her paws, frowning as a little bit of pigment goes with it. “But do we really have to wear this?”

You whirl about toward her and mock a gasp before sauntering up to Ginelle and fixing her make-up. You honestly weren’t a champion with make-up application, but that’s why you got an enchanted kit. With the help of Saya, who seemed kind of amused at giving Ginelle a make-over, you’d managed to take the unruly looking Badger and turned her into something, well… striking to be honest. She blinks at you, her now-elongated eyelashes fluttering as she does so. “I don’t really see the point in it…”

Saya sighs and shakes her head, patting the larger girl on the back. She too had make-up on, applied by herself, as if she knew how to use it. Considering her ability to change her appearance at will, perhaps applying something as mundane as blush is second-nature. That being said, she went from an attractive woman to something that made your pants stir a little. Of course, her clothing was still dull and muted, but if you play your cards right, you could change that.

“Oh, no no no, mein little flower.” You say as you finish touching up Ginelle’s make-up, stepping back to admire your work. “It would be a crime to ruin such a wonderful portrait, nein?”

Ginelle blinks at your strange accent and your odd, made-up words. They sounded foreign, right? Well, foreign enough to not be completely outlandish, since you’re pretty sure without some serious illusion-work, you couldn’t pull off an Easterner. You sigh and shake your head, exaggerating the actions as you get into your role. You pat her cheek softly and say, “Ah, zer we go! Wonderful like a spring daisy. Of course, a portrait is only as gut as the canvas it is painted upon, ja?”

Saya rolls her eyes, although you can’t help but think she has a smile at the corner of her mouth. “Okay, that’s enough fussing about, we don’t have all day you know.”

“Tsk tsk tsk, you cannot rush genius!”

“Yes, but I wouldn’t really call you a genius.”

“Oh, you wound me so! Fierce like a Jinko you are!” As you say this, you make pawing motions at her until Ginelle gently lowers your hand and shakes her head. Right then, time to get this on the road you suppose. “Very well. Now zen, let us enter zis establishment and get what we came for, ja?”

Saya sighs and links arms with you, Ginelle quickly filling in on the other side. The smaller Monster puts on a very sultry looking expression and the Badger girl does her best to mimic it, but it isn’t… quite the same. Letting out a soft little laugh, covering her mouth with her other hand, Saya says in a voice that drips honey, “Well then Mr. Sinclair, why don’t you show us in, hmm?”

You shudder in a good way despite yourself. Sometimes, just sometimes, you had amazing ideas. You roll your neck and then stride into the boutique, two very beautiful Monsters on your arms. As soon as you enter, you’re greeted by a gruff looking man and a Minotaur, the two bowing slightly to you after seeing your clothing, though they give odd glances to your, ah, “escorts.” Another woman walks up, a four-tailed Kitsune wearing a gorgeous dress of green silk approaches, putting her hands together and giving one hell of a false smile. “Good afternoon! Welcome to the Royal Rose, the finest tailors in all of Loveura, and I might say, Deleor!”

She pauses, looking to you and finding that you aren’t looking at her. Infact, you’re doing your best to look at everything BUT her, seeming disinterested as you do so. She blinks and looks over at the two obvious guards, who shrug to her, before she chuckles softly, “Excuse me, sir?”

“Hmm?” You say, finally choosing to acknowledge her. “Oh, forgive me my dear, I was merely evaluating your establishment, ja? It is quite lovely.”

“Why thank you for the compliment! How may I help you today?”

“You are ze the proprietor, ja?”

“Well, yes, I am.”

“Ah! Wunderbar!” Everyone in the room looks at you a little weird as you say that word but you just keep talking as if nothing was wrong. “Ja, you see, I have come looking for potential art for my next collection.” You nod your head to the two women around your waist before chuckling, “As you can see, I have already acquired such magnificent talent, nein?”

A look of confusion comes over the Kitsune’s face. “Uhm… I don’t understand, ah, sir.”

You shake your head, “Ja, most do not at first, but zat is ze price to be paid for new art, ja?”

She just continues to look at you with that confused stare before you roll your eyes, “Dear, I speak of a fashion design collection, ja?”

As if tossed a rope out at sea, she grabs onto this for dear life. “Ah! Why did you not say so earlier, Mr…?”

“Sinclair, Canas Sinclair, mein dear. Fashion acquisition, ja? It is mein job to go around the world to find fantastic models and clothing to show for ze greatest in ze world, ja.”

“Oh my! Who have you shown for?”

“Ze King, ze Great Hero, ze Grand Wizard…” You feel Say dig her fingers into the small of your back. “And others, ja.”

“Oh dear, we have not been so fortunate as that, but such exposure would be fantastic, wouldn’t it?” She nods to herself, scheming something. “Well then, perhaps I should show you to our most expensive items then? I’m certain a man of your flair would readily be able to acquire them for such lovely talent.”

You shake your head, “Oh nein, nein, nein.”

“Eh?” She says, confused again.

“Nein, do you not understand? Ja, you see, zis is not such an opportunity for me, zan it is for you, ja? You see, zis show of ours is to be in the next few days, but I am afraid my associates need time to evaluate your product, ja?”

“Oh well, certainly if you bring them, we can…”

“Nein, I am afraid zey are in Sanctifrond, ja? Preparing for ze show. Now zen, if your clothing works well for zem, then imagine the orders you will receive, ja? I hear zer will be many Monster delegates as well, ja? Selling to Galmathoria perhaps?”

She seems to start adding up numbers in her head, trying to piece it all together before shaking her head. “Nein… I mean, no, no I can’t just give you the clothing.”

“Oh, zat is a shame. Well, if such is your decision, then I suppose I will have to return to ze Blue Lily, ja? A shame, a lovely woman like yourself would do so well, ja? Ah, but ze Blue Lily seemed very interested in…”

“W…wait!” The Kitsune says, blushing, “No need to do that, their product is quite inferior to mine, and I wouldn’t want to have such pitiful clothing shown to such important people. She bites her lip before sighing out. “Let me get my girls and we can show you our best for your… talent.” She waves to Saya and Ginelle to follow her and they do, Ginelle looking flabbergasted this actually worked. You put your fingers to your lips and blow them a kiss before they’re lead away to dress up and stuff.

Maybe you should say you’re gay so you can go and watch them change, ehehe.. You take a step to do so, but Saya snaps her head back toward you, giving you some kind of death glare and you stand in place. Actually, you’re fine right here.

>Insert clothing options for Ginelle and Saya

———————-

“Is that a smile on your face?” You say to Saya as you walk out of the Royal Rose, the two women, now decked out in their new clothing still around your waist. Saya looks up at you and blushes before pushing off you and standing aside, taking a deep breath before speaking.

“Well, I mean, I AM a girl after all.” She looks down at her new clothing and smiles, “It’s not exactly practical, but it is…”

“Yes, it is beautiful.” You say, smiling at her.

Ginelle coughs into her paw, arm still around your waist. You look over to see to see her looking away, her face red, even under her make-up. She doesn’t even need to ask, and you smile to her saying, “You also look amazing.” She looks down, a smile on her face.

Saya chuckles, “Gods, but if you aren’t like Blake. Still can’t believe Hala managed to get him sometimes.”

Your eyes sparkle at the compliment and she rolls her eyes, “I need to stop comparing you to them, I’ll just get myself in trouble.” Her smile doesn’t vanish completely though. “But thank you, these clothes are lovely, and I haven’t had anything so fine in a long time.”

“Well then, I think we had a successful afternoon.” You say, nodding your head before looking up to the sun. “Damn, it’s starting to get late though, you two spent a long time picking clothing.”

“Well.” Ginelle says, calming down. “Saya was having fun dressing me up.”

“It’s because you have such a wonderful body!” Saya exclaims, waving her hand toward the Badger.

“Oh come on, you’re so much slimmer than I am and you don’t have all these ugly muscles.”

“Ugly? Phah! I wish I had a physique like yours.” She considers for a moment. “Okay, well, I could easily have a physique like yours, but that’s not the point.”

Ginelle chuckles, shaking her head. “Thanks. I haven’t really done anything like this before, especially not with a friend.” She pauses after saying this before looking away, “Sorry.”

Saya smirks and taps Ginelle on the shoulder, “Hey, you know what, we might be here for a short time, working on some dangerous stuff, but if you want to be friends, that’s fine by me.”

Ginelle smiles and the two women shake hands. This all occurs literally under your nose and you cough into your hand. Both women look up at you and you sigh, wishing you could continue to have fun little moments like these, but there’s work to be done… They both nod their heads, knowing it too. “Alright girls, you ready to catch us a thief?”

Saya nods her head, smirk on her lips while Ginelle gives you a serious expression. You adjust your [Tall Fabric Headwear Piece] and look resolutely toward the Leyway Station. “Let’s meet up with Richard and do this.”

Saya coughs softly into her hand. “Uh, about that.” She waves a hand at her dress, a red, front buttoning number that goes all the way up to the neck. It is adorned with black lace around the neck, skirt and sleeves, which end at the elbows before flaring out. She swishes the black underskirt, which covers down to her feet, before sighing. “Not exactly something meant for combat.” She mumbles something else under her breath you can hear.

“Yes, it is a lovely dress.” Ginelle says, to which Saya turns on her, before sighing and shaking her head.

“You and your… badger…ears.”

You shake your head and look to Ginelle, who is poking at the frills on her own dress. It’s actually surprising well suited to her, being the majority yellow with a V-shaped neckline surrounded by floral pattern of silk. The sleeves are made of black silk while a hanging pattern of black fabric extends from under the floral pattern of the neck to the navel. The skirt is hemmed with black tassels and hung with more yellow fabric flowers hanging over a darker yellow petticoat.

You don’t have the heart to tell her it makes her look like a bee, because it’s kind of hilariously ironic in a way. Coughing into your hand, you look back up at the sky. “Hrm, you’re right, you’re right. We won’t have much time if we head back to the inn to drop these off though.”

“I’d probably tear it anyway…” Ginelle says, sighing. You never really knew she cared so much about such things, being that she’s been walking around in cut up clothing without much of a care. Still, if she cares that much about something like this, you can afford spending the time to head back to the inn and store it safely.

“Right then. Let’s get going then!” You turn and stride purposefully toward the Residential district.

“Hey, can we get lunch?” Saya says, cutting your grand exit short, causing you to almost bump into someone as you try to turn back and look at her. Ginelle chuckles softly and you shoot her a glare, to which she stops laughing and tries to look inconspicuous. You’re onto her…

“Yes, fine, we can get lunch.” You say, rolling your eyes. “When we get to the inn.”

“Oh fine.” Saya sniffs, walking daintily out before you, her nice new shoes clacking against the cobbles as she walks ahead of you like some fancy-pansy princess. You suppose she kind of is a princess, in a way, though. Hrm. Well, regardless, you and Ginelle follow behind her, the three of you blending right in with high society.

—————————

You push open the door to the inn, panting as your feel the wonderful feeling of shade. You swipe a hand across your head and draw forth a gallon of sweat, looking behind you as the other two clamber in, also looking a little worn, but nearly as bad as you. Ginelle is obviously used to being out in the heat, and she merely flaps her neckline without a care, exposing a fair amount of cleavage, while Saya takes a calm breath, steadying herself. You bet she’s doing some crazy slime thing to keep herself regulated, which is sooooo cool.

Hannah looks up from the counter where she’s doing some figures before frowning at the three of you. “Oh hells. Look I paid you the money on the loan already, so you can stuff it up your frilled…” She blinks, seemingly realizing who you are. “By the Gods, did you kids rob someone?”

“What? No!” You say, trying to cool off. Gods, it is hot as hell outside and while this suit is made of some breathable stuff, it’s still pretty heavy. “Why would you say that?”

“Because I know your Master isn’t rich enough to afford something like all of that.”

Saya shakes her head, “I purchased these garments.”

Hannah cocks her head, looking the woman over. “Well… glad to see you’re such good friends already then.” She sighs, “You look hungry. Not much ready at this time of day, but I can probably slap something onto bread for a sandwich.”

“Much appreciated.” You say before nodding to the stairs. “We’ll be back soon.” Hannah merely rolls her eyes as you walk up the stairs to change. You offer up your room for changing, but Saya gives you a flat look before you realize that it would be in poor taste. Damn, foiled again.

They move to change in Saya’s room, and you make to do the same before realizing that despite the heat of this thing, night wasn’t THAT far away and this suit was just THAT cool. Not literally, as is said before, but come on, it just looks like something you expect some fancy agent of the crown to wear while doing some espionage. As you resolve to do this, you see your reflection in the mirror and pause, sizing yourself up. Maybe you could stand a shave, but otherwise you look DAMN good.

“Shady, Tobias Shady.” You say, adjusting your coat. “I’ll have wine, red, not white.”

“Pfffffttttt.”

You whip around to see Saya standing with the door open, trying very hard not to break out into a fit of laughter. Ginelle stands behind her, her lips twitching as she too struggles from guffawing. You frown and cross your arms. “It’s not that funny.”

“Y…yes it is.” Saya says, voice cracking some.

“K…kind of.” Ginelle snickers before looking to Saya the both curl inward before breaking out into a loud roll of laughter, holding their sides as they can’t keep it in any longer. You just stand there, tapping your foot as they laugh, Saya putting a hand on the doorframe to hold herself up while Ginelle nearly falls to the floor, rolling in laughter.

“Come on, seriously…”

They continue to laugh.

“This is getting a little embarrassing.”

More laughter, Saya begins to have trouble breathing.

“You know what, maybe I’ll just leave without you then.” You say, sniffing before striding past them. Saya grabs your arm as you do, her body convulsing in laughter still.

“D…don’t be such.. ahaha..ha, a stick in the m…hehe, mud!” She says as you shoulder on past, grumbling to yourself. You’re not a stick in the mud, they’re just being childish!

You make your way downstairs and sit at a table, huffing. Hannah walks up with a tray of food, setting it down on the table while she looks toward the stairs, the laughter of your “comrades” still filling the air. She shakes her head before raising an eyebrow at you. You lower your head and grumble, “It’s nothing.”

“Sounds like a lot of laughter for nothing.”

“Bah.” You take a sandwich, chicken and lettuce with… honey? Well it tastes good enough anyway. The laughter dies down and the two girl, snickering to each other, walk down the stairs, holding each other as they do, as if they might fall down otherwise. They reach you at the bottom and Ginelle wipes her eyes.

“S…sorry about that. It was just…infectious.”

You grumble again as the two girls take sandwiches, munching on them in such a lady-like fashion. Ginelle takes extra pleasure in the food while Hannah shakes her head. “Now you two, don’t tease the lad, he’s sensitive.” They start to snicker again but Hannah nudges your shoulder. “Oh it’s fine. But what are you doing here anyway? It’s only Five or so.”

The three of you stare at each other before grabbing an additional sandwich from the tray and running out the door, cramming food into your mouth as you run. Shit shit shit, how did it get so late? At least the throngs of people aren’t terrible at this time, but they would be soon, so you push as fast as you can to get to the Market District. Ginelle may or may not bowl a few people over, but that’s the name of the game.

You arrive at the station, sweating and panting again, placing your hands on your knees as your Master runs up. “Where the hells have you been? It’s almost time for the shipment and…” He looks at you askance. “What the name of Jackor are you wearing?”

“Suit. Looks great, breathes well, still hot.” You wipe the sweat off your forehead. “Where’s the Leyway?”

He points to a boxy Leyway car where a throng of Trolls are standing guard as some constructs are finishing loading up crates. Richard shakes his head, “It’s supposed to leave in about twenty minutes or so, but as the Leyway makes its final preparations, the cargo is going to sit there, vulnerable.”

“Can we still get in and switch the cargo?” You ask and Richard shrugs. “Would have been easier if you got here sooner, but well, what are you going to do?”

That’s a damn good question.

“Okay, okay, we NEED to get into that car.” You say, rubbing your chin.

“You still want to get someone into a crate?” Saya says, frowning. “Seems a little difficult seeing as how they already loaded up everything.”

You wave a hand dismissively. “Bah, we’ll just make an illusion of a crate!”

Richard smacks the back of your head, and you hop forward a step before turning to him and frowning. “Heeeeey! What was that for?”

“For being an idiot.” He shakes his head, “Think very carefully about what you just said.”

“Uhhhh.” You take the time to think this over. One, there’s a lot of people around, and projecting such an illusion to all of them would be terrible, not to mention one little other issue. If you just make the illusion of a crate, they’ll go to pick up a crate, and leave you behind.

“Okay fine, that was a stupid idea.”

“You think?” Richard says, sighing. “Still, that’s the correct idea.” He looks around the station until he locates a stack of empty crates before pointing at them. “There, we can make this work.”

“Those don’t look like the crates on that Leyway…” Ginelle says, scratching her head. “Are you sure about this?”

Richard shrugs, “We just make the right person see the illusion, and it will work. Trouble is, who will go in there?”

Saya raises a hand, “I will. It makes sense that I should go, considering my, ah… you know.”

Richard cocks his head, “Know what?”

Saya blinks in surprise before you lean in and whisper, “He doesn’t care much for Wizardquest.” Saya’s eyes go wide and she clasps the man’s hand, smiling widely.

“S…so you’re saying that you don’t know anything about me?”

“You’re… the daughter of the Grand Wizard and you can change forms?” He scratches his chin. “Is there something else I should know?”

She shakes her head vigorously before shaking his hand. “Oh, you just made my day! But onto pressing matters.” She takes a deep breath. “Right, I’ll go.”

“I too will go!” You declare, pointing a finger to the sky. The rest of your group, and a few passersby, give you odd looks before you quickly lower your hand. “Right, uhm, yes. Like I said, I’ll go.”

“I don’t know…” Richard says, frowning.

“Oh come on, what am I going to do out here?” You dig into your [Rucksack] and pull out the [Chameleon cloak] and [Magesight Goggles].”Besides, I’m pretty sure these are going to help.”

“Where did you…?” Richard says before his expression grows dark, “Boy, if you stole those.”

“He didn’t.” Ginelle says, putting a paw on Richard’s shoulder. “I think he’s probably right in this case. I would have suggested myself, but having two people might be best and if they get lost, I can probably sniff him out.” She taps the side of her nose as she says this.

Richard sighs. “Fine, fine. Alright, you two load up into the crate, we’ll get the attention of the guards.”

You and Say nod to each other before you both slip out of sight and drape the [Chameleon Cloak] over both of you. The inside of the cloak is a little opaque, enough to see outside by, but not exactly the best, and you have to be slow moving as not to kick into something or run into people as you make your way to the crates. You notice Richard start to move toward the throng of trolls, rubbing his hands together as he starts saying something. Oh well, no time to wonder what he’s doing as you approach the crate, crawling in slowly.

Well, crawling into the crate while keeping a cloak over two people is a mess in and of itself, and you may or may not end up rubbing up on Saya as you do so. As soon as you’re in the crate, which is… smaller than expected, she elbows you in the ribs.

“Ouch!” You hiss, rubbing at your chest. “What was that for.”

“Don’t get any funny ideas, fanboy.”

“Geez, for a Monster, you’re really not that into the skinmanship, are you?”

She sniffs, “I, unlike much of my kind, have standards.”

“Uh huh, like the Great Hero?”

She blushes and looks away, reaching over to lift the lift of the crate down to cover the two of you, seeing as the coast is clear. “Damn you and your disturbing memory of the written word.”

“Aww come on.” You whisper, trying to get situated better in the crate. “I mean, yeah, we’ve only known each other for a day, but I’m not THAT bad, am I?”

She sighs. “What do you want me to say here?”

You’re about to answer her when you hear someone shout, “What do you mean there’s another crate?” You hear heavy footfalls approach and the sound of a construct picking you up. The jostle sends Say colliding into your arms and you both stifle yelps as it happens. When you stabilize, you realize that the impact had shifted Saya’s face to be mere inches from yours and you can feel your face start to heat up as the crate makes it way to the Leyway. Damn, she’s actually really pretty up close, isn’t she?

Then, without ceremony, the crate hits the ground and the two of you jump again. You resist the urge to groan a little as you distinctly hear Richard moaning, “Oh come on! If I hadn’t mentioned you that the damn crate was there, they’d never have brought it on! I just need to get this one package to Sanctifrond! There’s plenty of space!”

“You keep talking like this pretty boy, I’m going to take you in for obstructing the law.” A troll says before chuckling, “Of course, you’d probably like that, wouldn’t you?”

The conversation devolves into nothing of much value between Richard and the guard and you sigh, looking over to Saya again, and through the slivers of light drifting through your opaque sheet, you could see her face was also flushed. You blink a few times, and the only thing that flashes through your mind is, “Well shit, isn’t that cute.”

“Stop staring at me.” Saya says, shifting about. “It’s embarrassing.”

“Kind of stuck like this.” You whisper back. The two of you go quiet, doing your best not to look at each other. You dig about and manage to get your [Magesight Goggles] on before sighing and looking back to Saya, and… huh, that’s interesting. Where once you saw the pretty face of a young woman, you now see a shifting swirl of black, twinkling with various lights of power. Underneath that though is a network of runes that blaze brightly all throughout her body.

“Wow…” You say despite yourself and Saya frowns.

“What?”

“You’re… beautiful.” You say, focusing on her more. Magesight is said to see things as they truly are, to pierce through veils and magic. In the hands of a true Wizard, it could even allow someone to see the color of a person’s soul, but an enchanted imitation couldn’t do that much. It’s still enough to let you see Saya past her outside form, sort of…past her illusion if you will.

“Wh…what?” Saya says, face getting even more flushed as she hisses. “What makes you think now is the right time to say something like that?”

“I’m sorry, I just…” You shake your head, deciding to tell her the truth. “I didn’t mean to, but these goggles let me see… Well, you, I guess.”

Saya goes quiet at that before asking in a very, very small voice. “You don’t mean that, do you?”

“Mean what?”

“That I’m…” She fidgets. “Beautiful?”

“Come on, I’m brash and impulsive, would I lie about something like that.”

Saya closes her eyes before a small smile quirks her lips. “Thank you.”

“No prob-.”

The crate shakes. Both of you immediately go still and look up as the crate shifts and shakes. Then, before you can even react, the crate violently lifts into the air and you feel yourself moving at speeds you’d think weren’t possibly transporting something so heavy! You and Say both look at each other as you realize that getting the jump on the Phantom Thief wasn’t possible anymore, because she now had you in her possession!

You both keep quiet for awhile as the crate continues to fly through wherever you’re being taken. Hopefully they realize you’re gone by now and Ginelle’s started tracking you, but the speed at which you’re going is frankly crazy. If you listen closely, you can swear you hear the sound of gears shifting, likely due to servos as Richard had suggested. Would explain how anyone could be so freaky strong.

After what seems an eternity, you feel the space around you get darker as you presumably move indoors and, again without ceremony, are dumped onto the floor. Both of you jostle about and you can’t help but let out a gasp as you knock your head against the crate.

“Huh? The hells was that?” A foreign sounding, feminine voice says. You hear the top of the crate being shifted open and more light floods in, revealing the opaque face of a short Monster with crest of green scales along her forehead, short, brown hair, and pointed green ears. She frowns down at what is apparently nothing and she growls. Only then do you realize her eyes, which you had presumed looked off due to the goggles and the cloak, but now you realize fully that her eyes are a kaleidoscope of colors.

“What the fuck is this?” She says, scratching her head. “An empty box? Shit, she’s going to kill me for this… but where did that sound come from?”

The strange, Lizardman-like Monster stares down at you with those weird looking eyes, searching the box for any sign of anything in the box. She rubs her chin, and you notice that her green-scaled hand is adorned with a strange, mechanized device. Servos confirmed it seems. She sighs and then furrows her brow before reaching into the box, possibly to find something that she might not have seen, which of course, will find you and Saya.

Panicking, you reach out with your power, pushing rather hard since she is a Lizardman, and finding that… it isn’t that difficult to get into her head? Well, this is going to be interesting.

She snaps her head over to the corner before blinking her eyes and dashing off, chasing after the sounds of someone singing a rather morbid tune off in the corner. Saya grabs at your wrist and you see her looking all around, her eyes worried. “Where did she go?”

“I played an illusion, she left, we can probably go and hide now.”

“Left? Shit, she must be fast, I didn’t even see her.”

“I wouldn’t say she was all that fast, but whatever.” You say, hurriedly getting out of the box, doing your best to keep the [Chameleon Cloak] on both of you. As soon as you’re out, you take a look about. You’re in another warehouse, this one smaller than the last one you were in, but keeping in the same style. It’s packed with various crates stamped with differing seals of produce or the like, and you realize with a start that the Phantom Thief must have more than one safe house.

You can hear the sound of the Phantom Thief reaching where your illusory voice is coming from, and you hear the lyrics that you’re playing to her read through your mind.

“Half a pound of innocent blood,

Half a pound of murder.

That’s the way the story goes,

Pop! Goes the Lizard!”

You’re not even certain where you got these lyrics from, but it seems to be making her angry as she growls out something before crawling back over another crate. You go stock still, grabbing Saya’s hand as she stops, all four limbs on the crate as she hangs almost vertically upon the box, twitching her head around as if trying to pinpoint something.

She looks fairly young, perhaps in her mid twenties and, as noticed before, she has many characteristics of Lizardmen. Her green scaled forearms and legs end in sharp, taloned fingers and toes, while a long, sinuous tail sweeps behind her, the end curled up on itself in an odd fashion. She’s wearing a rather simple looking tunic of… pink, of all colors, which you think should have been extremely obvious for anyone looking for her. It hugs her petite body fairly well though. Maybe she’s a Monster Witch? Hard to say.

She looks about, those odd eyes going all sorts of directions, sometimes independent of each other as she snakes her out long tongue, which looks odd on her rather attractive face. As you notice all of this, you hiss to Saya, “Be quiet, she’s right in front of us!”

Saya starts, looking all over before hissing back, “Where?”

You blink, startled. “Huh? Saya, she’s right in front of us!”

She looks visibly shaken, “T…Tobias, there’s no one there!”

You frown as the implication comes to you. Are… are you seeing things? Shit, you aren’t that insane, are you? But… if you’re seeing things that other people can’t see, then… what else could it be? You look down, running things through your head, trying to piece it all together when Saya smacks your head.

“H…hey, what was tha…what are you?” You stammer as you realize her initial smack was just her grabbing your head and trying to pull your [Magesight Goggles] off. She succeeds in doing so, and puts the goggles on before gritting her teeth.

“Shit, you’re right.”

You blink at her, then look over at the boxes and see… nothing. The first thing you feel is relief. Oh thank the Gods, not Jackor, he’s a shitbag, for being blessedly lucid. The most terrifying part of insanity, you’re told, is not realizing that you’re going insane. It… scares you to think about sometimes, especially now that you hear mosquitoes every now and then.

The next thing you feel, however, is worried. You look to Saya and say, “What is she?”

“Dunno, some kind of Lizardman I guess, though I’ve never seen one like this.” She moves her head, watching the woman crawl around before growling, followed by the sounds of her walking over the warehouse floor, then rooting through the box. You hear her sight, then curse to herself in some strange tongue.

“Damnit. Where am I going to be able to find mana crystals in such quantity? Hrrmm… I could just skip out on the meeting I guess, she’s paid me well enough. Ah, but that woman is so crazy! She’ll find me, yes? Maybe I should just go home then? Perhaps for the best…”

You frown as everything goes quiet, and you reflexively take a step forward, but as you do, you kick some gravel on the floor, making a scuffing sound, and Saya grabs your arm reflexively. Her fingers dig in harder to your arm, but you see nothing but Saya’s terrified face as the sound of soft footsteps comes closer to you before stopping. You look to Saya, seeing her slowly reach for her knife, and you know right then and there that the strange Lizardman is right in front of you.

You grit your teeth and then, knowing what you have to do. You rip the [Chameleon Cloak] off and throw your fist forward before it connects with something that isn’t there. You feel something hard, like bone, against your knuckles, followed by an impact and then a shout of pain as the Lizardman comes into focus against, clutching at her face.

Apparently you did a hell of a number on her, and she clutches a bloodied nose, her eyes focused on you in rage. Saya appears out of the [Chameleon Cloak] also, both of her knives in her hands as she crouches down in a battle stance. The Lizardman looks to both of you before hissing, “What is the meaning of this?”

You adjust your suit, looking at her with a smug expression, “I should ask you that madam Lizardman, or should I say, ‘Phantom Thief?'”

Both Saya and the Thief look at you for a moment, both entirely silent before you see Saya’s mouth twitch. You look to the Phantom Thief who stares at you in utter confusion. You sigh and shake your head, “Oh god damnit, seriously? This is a very serious situation, and you’re going to laugh?”

“It’s… just so… I mean you’re…” Saya says, trying to keep a straight face, “I’m sorry, I normally work alone so… pffff.”

“Are you a buffoon?” The Phantom Thief asks, “Have I the town’s fool chasing me?”

You rub at your head before sighing and pointing at your quarry. Fuck it, if they were going to laugh, let them. You have important shit to do. “Tell us where you’re meeting Fiora, and we’ll be lenient.”

The Thief cocks her head and blinks a few times. “You know of Fiora? And me? Hrrrmm, no, that won’t do. True, I will likely need to cut ties with her after this, but still, loose ends, not good to have around. Can’t have people spreading my secret, can I?”

“What secret?” You say, actually oblivious.

“She can turn invisible, you idiot.” Saya says with exasperation.

“Oh, right. That.” You rub at your head. “Seriously though, let’s not fight about this, you’re going to lose.”

“Is that so?” The Thief says before vanishing before your eyes. You blink a few times before an extremely powerful force slams into your gut and throws you up into the air to slam onto a pile of crates, smashing through one, your soft, squishy back absorbing the force of the shattering lumber, clearly saving you from extreme pain. Except your back is still part of you, so no, you are still in extreme pain.

You groan as you distantly hear Saya shout your name before she dashes off, her soft footsteps clattering about the warehouse. You wonder for a moment how she’s following the Thief until you remember, right, right, the goggles.  It takes a few moments, but you pull yourself up and look around the room, seeing a very odd sight, though your vision is swimming a little, so maybe it’s also that.

Saya is leaping over boxes like some kind of Catgirl, swinging her knives and blocking imaginary blows from various angles, looking like some kind of child playing imaginary fighting with themselves. You watch as she staggers from something that hits her arm, but she smirks and slashes again with her knife, throwing a small spray of blood into the air along with a scream of pain.

“Gaaaaah! Damn you, how are you seeing me?!

“The miracles of magic you bitch!”

Damn, that’s kind of hot. Well, anyway, you probably shouldn’t just be sitting here, you need to do something to help! With wobbling legs, you slowly pick yourself up, but as you try to clear a box, you feel your leg give out and you collapse onto your face, wincing in pain. Shit, those servos must really give her some crazy strength or something. You really, really hope you don’t have internal bleeding.

Saya blocks a blow with her forearm again, which you really, really think is cool, before driving a knife toward her presumed target, but before she can, her leg gets pulled out from under her and she falls to her side with a grunt before she wheezes out as her abdomen is seemingly crushed before you.

“N…no!” You shout, rising again and raising your hand toward Saya. Oh shit, oh shit, she can’t really be dead or anything, right? Another blow, same as the first slams into Saya and she cries out as enhanced blows rain onto her. “Damnit, no!” You shout getting to your feet shakily and running (see: hobbling) over to Saya as fast as you can.

The blows stop and you see Saya wheeze out again, rolling onto her before your attention is snapped in front of you as something invisible grabs you by the throat. You hear a hiss followed by, “Now to silence you.” You feel an oppressive force start to constrict down on your throat and you gasp as more and more pressure is applied. Fucking hell, this was how you were going to die? Choked to death? Man, fuck that.

You smile at her as she chokes you. Of course, you can’t see her expression, but that’s okay, because her being invisible gives you a full view of Saya rolling to her feet and moving swiftly behind the Lizardman, before placing a knife to her throat. “Drop the idiot.” She says in a calm voice, as if she didn’t just get pummeled a moment ago. “Now.”

You hear a string of curses in a language you don’t know before you feel yourself dropped to the floor, and you stagger backward, trying to get your footing as you gasp for breath. Fucking hell, that really hurt! She might have even crushed your windpipe if that went on much longer! You look up to see Saya calmly holding the knife in place, your invisible foe slowly re-appearing.

“You should have been dead after that!” She hisses.

Saya just flips her hair casually, “Yeah, I get that alot.”

“Graaaaah. To be beaten but an idiot and his girlfriend…”

“I’m not his girlfriend.” Saya says flatly. You see her eyes behind the goggles flick to you and you blink a moment before coughing into your hand.

“Oh, right, yeah, she’s not my girlfriend. Yes.”

“Phah, makes no matter. Well, you haven’t killed me yet, so I expect you want something?”

“You know what we want.” You say, dusting yourself off. Damnit all to hell, this is a new suit… “Tell us where Fiora is, and why you’re stealing these things for her.”

The Phantom Thief rolls her strange eyes. “Fine. I was contacted because of my ‘talents’ as you have noticed.”

“Yeah, I have, what the hell are you anyway?”

She sighs, “Chameleon, now can I continue?”

“Oh shit, that’s a real Monster?” You say intrigued. “I thought it was just a turn of phrase for blending in and such. I mean, I guess I never really thought about why the cloak was named that.

“Tobias, please be quiet.” Saya says, and edge to her voice.

You hold up a hand as the Chameleon makes to shake her head, but thinks better of it. “We do not live in this land you call ‘Deleor.’ Our people come from across the sea, to the west, but this is neither here nor there. When I was contacted for this job, I was told to gather things from Leyways and not to be seen.”

“Food shipments, weapons, yeah, we know.”

“A fan of my work? Bah. Regardless, I only ever saw her once. Strange woman, very strange, and dangerous too. Had a look in her eyes like she’d snap at any minute, kill you for the slightest transgression.” She shudders for a moment. “Yes, well, I was supposed to deliver this package in person to her at 6:30, but of course, that was cut short…”

“Mana crystals you said?” Saya asks, furrowing her brow. “Why the change in cargo?”

“I don’t know! She didn’t even tell me they were mana crystals, but it’s obvious by the labels on the boxes. Hellina mana supply, they mine mana crystals and make other, various mana storage and dispersal devices.”

“So… it could have been one of those things?” You say, curious.

“Bah, maybe? Who cares, I don’t.” She shakes her head. “I am supposed to meet her here with the crate, but now thanks to you two, I can’t very well do that, can I?”

You and Saya trade a look before you ask in a slow voice, “You… are supposed to meet her… here?”

“At 6:30?” Saya says nervously.

“Yes, they’ll probably be here any time now.”

You hear a warehouse door creak open in the distance and both you and Saya have looks of utter shock come on over your faces. The Chameleon sighs and shakes her head, “Great, now we all are in for it. I hope you’re happy with yourselves.” She goes invisible to your sight again as you hear gentle moving through the warehouse.

The sound of footsteps grows closer and you look to Saya, panicked expression on your face. While you secretly hoped to find Fiora tonight, that was before you got separated from Richard, or getting punched in the gut. You’re in no shape at all to deal with her, and frankly, neither is Saya. The best option is to get the fuck out of dodge.

You gesture hurriedly over to where the [Chameleon Cloak] is laying. Well, you think it’s there… probably. Saya follows your gesture, and she grits her teeth, considering her options. As she does so, however, she doubles over as something hits her in the chest. She staggers backward from the blow, and you hear the Chameleon girl leap away to land upon a box nearby.

You curse silently to yourself, grabbing the cloak from the ground and dashing over to Saya, throwing the thing over to the two of you as you huddle to the floor. Saya begins to grumble something, but you put a finger to her lips, looking through the opaque cloak as the footsteps draw close. As you watch, the figure of a woman appears, one with purple skin and-

Everything seems to shift around you for a moment. You blink, and look up to the woman who… is a just a normal woman. That’s… weird, you could have sworn you saw something before? It can’t have been an illusion, there’s no way someone could cast that if they don’t know you’re there, right? Crap, did you hit your head when you slammed into that crate? You wouldn’t put it past happening…

The woman before you is tall, well proportioned, and has a lovely face of a woman in her thirties. Her dress is a simple green affair, with goes well with her long, red hair. You grit your teeth as you confirm that this is, indeed, Fiora, there’s no doubt about it.

She looks around the room, her eyes lingering upon the empty crate before turning about, a neutral expression on her features. As she swings her eyes to you, you look into them and see something that makes your skin crawl. Despite her expression of neutrality, those green eyes of hers sparkle with intelligence, speaking of a powerful mind and personality. And yet… something is wrong about them, as if they’re slightly unfocused, tired, or perhaps not exactly connected to the moment she’s currently in.

You’ve seen this look upon Richard’s face sometimes, and it scares you just as much as it does on him. If there was any question before that Fiora was insane, it’s gone now.

Saya tugs at your arm, and she licks her lips before gently trying to slide the goggles off. You catch her hand and shake your head. You don’t want her making more noise, or any at all as Fiora puts her hands on her hips, sighing and shaking her head.

“Roanoa! I know you’re still here darling! Why don’t you come on out and speak dear? I’m not angry!”

Bullshit, those eyes say that she’s angry as hell. She looks to the floor, seeing something before cocking her head, a soft smile appearing on her lips. “Hmmm. Maybe she’s not here after all? A shame!” She starts walking slowly, making it seem like she’s not really following anything as she touches a finger to her lips. “So sad, I just wanted to tell her that she’s been such a good girl for me. I’m not even mad that she failed to bring me what I asked for. If only she was here…” She reaches a pile of crates, looking down at them for a moment before smiling wickedly.

Roanoa screams, reappearing upon a stack of crates and falling to the ground as she holds her head. The world seems to shift again as it happens, and you see Fiora’s skin as purple again, her hair no longer red, but instead an off shade of purple as well, seeming to move… And then it’s gone again.

You rub at your eyes, seeing Fiora again. What… what’s going on? Saya grips your arm hard as Fiora walks over to the poor Chameleon girl, lifting her up gently to a sitting position before kneeling down and resting her chin on her fist. “Roanoa, Roanoa… why did you hide from me?”

Roanoa takes a shuddering breath, trying to stabilize herself. Fiora smiles even wider before Roanoa lets out another scream, holding her gut and grunting out, “I… I’m sorry, F…Fiora.”

Fiora gently puts a finger to Roanoa’s lips. “Shhhh, shhhh. You remember what I like to be called.”

The Chameleon girl goes pale as she says, “S…sorry Mistress.”

“See? That’s not so hard! Now then, be a good girl and tell me where my cargo is.”

“I… I was… was tricked. The box was empty, and…” She clutches her chest, gasping again.

“Oh dear, why are you lying to me? You’re bleeding from your nose and a cut on your arm! I worry about you! So why don’t you tell me who did this?”

You and Saya exchange a look of terror as the Chameleon licks her lips. Damnit, you hope that Richard and Ginelle get here soon, because Fiora is really, really creeping you out. Whatever illusions she’s playing upon the poor Chameleon, they seem incredibly painful, and it’s not like the girl has any reason to protect you. Shit, if she says that you’re still in the warehouse, could Fiora find you?

You grit your teeth and hold Saya’s hand for reassurance. You’re distantly aware of her cheeks glowing scarlet, but you’re way too focused on Fiora and Roanoa to fully notice. The Chameleon girl licks her lips before saying, “I don’t know who they are. They hid in the crate I think, a man, more of an idiot boy, named Tobias, and a woman named… Saya, yes that’s it.”

Fiora’s eye quirks for a moment. “Saya you say? Interesting. What did you do with them?”

“I… I thought I had killed the girl, but she lived and caught me in a trap before I got loose. I don’t know where they are.”

Fiora sighs and caresses Roanoa’s cheeks. “And I gave you those lovely, very expensive, servos to make your job easier, yet you couldn’t kill a girl?”

“I…I pounded her organs to mush!” Roanoa says hurriedly, trying to get a word in edgewise. “P…please Mistress, you have to believe me!”

“Oh I do believe you!” Fiora says, gently tapping the Chameleon’s cheek. “I believe that you found a rather nasty thorn in my side. Good work.”

Roanoa smiles, shuddering softly as Fiora stands and turns about in a circle, humming to herself. She does this for about a minute before sighing and resting in a thinking position. “Hum de dum. So, first my dear, dear Richie-poo comes for me, and now the Queen Bitch sends her daughter. How troublesome!” She shrugs her shoulders, “Oh well, I’m almost done here anyway. I’m annoyed that the Manufactorium has been set-back, but it’s no matter, the units already done should be useable for the purpose.”

Roanoa licks her lips, moving to a crouched position, still holding her gut. “M… Mistress, does this mean that… you don’t need my services any longer?”

Fiora looks at Roanoa from over her shoulder, “Hmm? You’re still here? Ah, well, the loss of that warehouse also hurt, as well as losing poor Ho’anla, but I just don’t think there’s time to steal such items again. Besides, the other plan is going better than expected.”

“O…other plan?”

Fiora whirls around, stalking over to Roanoa and picking her up with little effort. The world shifts again and you see that instead of arms, her hair, shaped like tentacles is holding Roanoa in the air, Fiora’s red eyes glittering with malice and… it shifts back. Fiora chuckles, “Oh, nothing you need worry your little head over. Of course, things would have been easier had you gotten me my cargo, but you’ll just have to try again!”

“M…Mistress, they know of my talents now. I…if they tell people that…” She cuts off as Fiora pulls her mere inches from her face. The Illusionist smiles so wide, it seems like her face is going to split.

“I don’t care how you get me my cargo you little shit, but you better do it.”

Roanoa gulps, nodding her head. “M… mana crystals, right?”

Fiora waves a hand dismissively, “Oh no, a mana cycler.”

“A… A what?” You look to Saya who shakes her head, apparently not knowing what it was either.

“A mana cycler? You know, a device that concentrates and infuses mana? No? What do they teach you in those schools these days?”

Roanoa is about to say something when Fiora’s expression goes flat. “It’s a rhetorical question.” She drops the poor Chameleon girl, who hits the floor and crumples. Fiora leans down before her, smirking. “So, you’re going to bring me what I want?”

“Yes Mistress!”

“And you aren’t going to try to skip town on me?”

“N… No Mistress!”

“Goooood.” Fiora coos. “Because if you don’t bring me that cycler to the Main District by tomorrow, I’ll rip out your spine and beat you with it.” Roanoa’s face goes ashen as Fiora says this, the red-haired woman merely smiling. She reaches over and pokes Roanoa’s nose. “Boop.”

The Chameleon staggers to her feet before bowing and turning away, running as fast as she can. As soon as the warehouse door closes shut, Fiora sighs and shakes her head, sitting down and leaning her head back, closing her eyes, looking for all the world like a tired woman. “Oh, why did SHE have to get involved in this so soon? It’s going to ruin all my fun… And I did so wish to see darling Richard alone.”

She sighs again, opening her eyes to look up at the warehouse ceiling. “Oh Richard, I’m going to free you from Jackor’s grasp. You’ll like that, won’t you? Of course you will, you always complained to me how you hated being under his yoke.” She giggles in a way that was utterly and completely at odds with her lucidity. “It’s been so long since we last saw each other too! Oh, to hold him in my arms again as I tear the life from his body! Ah! Ahhhhnnn!”

You look over to Saya who looks at you with a mix of confusion, revulsion, and terror. Was… was Fiora getting off to the thought of killing your Master? Speaking of which, they should have been here by now, unless something happened to them. No, no surely Ginelle could protect him, not that he needed protecting, but… your mind begins to wander to various cruel fates.

Fiora’s moans abruptly stop and she stands up quickly, looking about the room. Your heart starts to beat faster as you begin to grow concerned that she’s found you, and your hand tightens on Saya’s, who tightens reflexively in response. Fiora paces about the room, putting hands to her head, mumbling something to herself before she kicks at the crate you stowed away in, knocking it back a few inches. She stops and cocks her head, then smiles.

“Oh, now I remember! Tobias is his little apprentice, yes? Didn’t she say he was still here?” She sweeps her gaze around the room, but seems unable to see you thankfully. Her behavior is just so erratic that you can’t make heads nor tails of what she’s doing any longer. She puts her hands to her face and says, “Oh Tobiaaaaaaas! Come on out! Auntie Fiora wants to speak with you!”

You blood runs cold as she uses your name, and you shake uncontrollably, hoping she just leaves. She paces around a little more before sighing and kicking at some debris. “Well that was a stupid thing to do.” She mutters darkly before turning about. “Whatever, I’ll just deal with them when I find Richard, he’s the only true threat anyway.” She smiles again and shouts, “But I’ll be waiting for you dear!”

With that, she stalks out of sight and toward the warehouse door, which slams shut a few moments later. You spend multiple heartbeats under the [Chameleon Cloak] before blowing out a long-held breath and shuddering. You look to Saya, who shares the same expression of confusion and horror that you do. Slowly, your eyes drift down to your joined hands, fingers locked together so tightly that it’s hard to pull them apart. She blushes deeply and it feels like her skin ripples as she pulls her hand to her breast, rolling out from under the cloak and shuddering.

“By the Gods, she really is crazy, isn’t she?”

“I… I suppose so.” You say, still shaking. “And yet, she has this presence of… I, I don’t even know.” You shudder, “It scares me though.”

“Yeah…” Saya says, lifting the [Magesight Goggles] to her forehead. “There’s no doubt she’s a Monster though. I have no idea how she walks down the street like that. Her hair…”

So it wasn’t just your imagination then. You point at the goggles and Saya frowns before realization comes to her. “Ah, I see.” She hands you the goggles back and you sigh, stowing them away.

“She’s keeping up an elaborate illusion it seems, but she didn’t seem to know where we were so… it shouldn’t be possible, not without extreme strain upon her…mind…” You pause, shaking your head. “Well, I guess that’s already happened, but she just shouldn’t be functioning like that.”

“What did she mean by ‘free from Jackor?'”

You frown, remembering her saying that. “I don’t know, I guess she wants to kill Richard? That would free him in one sense.” You sigh, remembering that your Master still isn’t here. You grit your teeth then, looking to Saya, “Nothing we can do about it at the moment. Let’s go find the other two and figure out what do to from here.”

Saya nods her head and the two of you leave the warehouse as stealthily as you can, although you hurt abominably on your trek and the two of you have to take a Canal boat just for the extra comfort and speed. It takes you as far as the Market district before dropping you off, Saya helping you get out of the boat. When you thank her, she just rolls her eyes, but at least she doesn’t say anything mean, and you make your way to the Leyway station where groups of trolls are gathered.

“Ugh… they must be ‘investigating’ after the supposed heist.'” You say dryly, not seeing your Master around. “Might as well ask if anyone knows where they went.”

“Just stay here, I’ll do it.” Saya says, walking in the crowd and asking the trolls a few things. She returns a few moments later, her face looking annoyed. “They were detained by the city guard for possible accessories in the heist.”

You groan, putting your hand to your forehead. “Well, that explains why they didn’t show up. Gods damnit, what are we supposed to do now?”

“Get them out?”

“Yeah, after that.” You growl, shaking your head. “This is all getting way bigger than I expected.”

“Life is that way. Nothing’s ever simple.”

You sigh, hanging her head. “I’m beginning to think you’re right.” You close your eyes for a few moments before taking a deep breath and adjusting your coat. “Right then, let’s figure this all out I guess.”

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