Illusionistquest Chapter 7: Faith of the Fradulent

You stare the man, no, the GOD in the eyes. He continues smiling to you, and extends his hand. “Come, Tobias, I know you, like all my children, want another turn at the game, would pay anything for another throw of the dice. What say you?”

“Faggot…” You mumble softly, and Jackor cocks his head, blinking a few times.

“I’m sorry, what was that?”

“Faggot.” You say a little louder, rubbing at your eyes. Ugh, colors don’t smell like that…

“I’m sorry, are you saying, ‘faggot?'”

“Yes, I am saying FAGGOT, you damned FAGGOT.”

Jackor takes in a deep breath, uncrossing his arms and walking toward you. You’re too stunned still to do much more than roll yourself over onto your knees, feeling your head swimming as you look up into the God’s eyes. His burning blue orbs bore into your very soul and… eh, it’s really not that scary. You just had your mind fucked with something fierce, so really, what does an angry faggot of a God mean to you?

He reaches you and looks down into your eyes, his expression furious. He takes in a deep breath and grits his teeth, saying, “What the fuck did you just fucking say about me you little bitch? I’ll have you know…”

“You’re a faaaaaaaggggoooooottttttt.” You moan, shaking your head as the astral spirit of Bearsy kisses your forehead. How did Richard deal with this all the time? Maybe his madness wasn’t so bad, but at least the burning sensation on your right arm isn’t so bad. The burnt skin is perfectly normal, right? Right. You cough and continue, “Did you not hear me the first time? Or the second time? Or that one time I spoke in slug?”

“Oh I heard you, and you know what I think?”

“Think about cocks?”

“I think you’re… just the kind of person I adore!” Jackor beams and ruffles your hair, making you blink in confusion.

“Uhhhh, am I insane?”

“Yes, you’re quite insane, but that’s neither here nor there.” He taps his chin a few times. “Actually, no, it is here and there, but we’re off topic.” He bends down and gets eye level with you. “You know, watching your little antics, I really found you quite amusing. Telling a Catgirl you’re gay? Classic.”

“I’m not gay…” You mumble.

“I know, you want to bone the goo-Monster.”

“H…hey, I mean, Saya’s really nice and pretty and…”

“Yes yes, bone the goo-Monster, but I don’t have time for that.” His face turns serious then. “Listen, Tobias, you’re currently insane.”

“No shit Fag-lock. In fact, I bet you’re a figment of my addled imagination. Of course, that begs the question, if you were based on what I thought you’d look like, wouldn’t you have a jester’s face and long, wiggly arms that voodoo tickle children into being illusionists? No, no, that’s thinking too much into it. If I’m insane, then you could appear as anything! You could even be a bear! Am I a bear? I think I’m a bear, like my ancestors, but back on topic…”

“Shut up.”

You feel your mind reel for a moment, and you stagger to your side, barely keeping upright. You shake your head and cough, feeling momentarily sick. Jackor gives you a stern expression and you look down, grumbling, but generally quiet.

“Good, you actually can be taught something. Now then, you must be wondering why a God would know who you are, or even care who you are. Well, there aren’t many Illusionists, so it’s not hard to keep tabs on all of you, but also because of your relation to Richard, and more importantly, his relationship to Fiora.”

He pauses, looking at you, as if prompting you to say something. You blink at him and give him a flat look. He rolls his eyes, before chuckling. “You’re a real piece of work.”

“Who’s fault is that?”

“Touché. Fine, I’ll answer the implied question, it’s because Fiora has managed to slip out of my grasp.”

“Wait… she wasn’t lying about being free of you? But she’s obviously in…oh hang on.” You turn your head and feel a convulsion coming on, and you open your mouth to vomit a rainbow, minus the color indigo. Some part of you implicitly knows that indigo is on vacation. You rub your mouth with the back of your hand before burping, tasting the rainbow for a moment. “Right, sorry. She’s obviously insane, but… not?”

“That’s because she is insane. The side-effects of my… gift, got to her and she sunk into the madness you all do, however…” He seems troubled, which is fairly disturbing to see on a God. “Before she was fully lost, however, she prayed out for deliverance and…” He coughs once before sighing out, “Phallia answered.”

“Sucks.”

“Verily. I wouldn’t have given Nerg’s warty ass about her little move in the game between my sisters, if she didn’t play with MY TOYS.”

“Hehe, you said warty.” You giggle like an idiot.

“Heh, I did, didn’t I?’ He shakes his head. “Gah, got off track. See, I don’t like people, even my lovely sisters, taking what’s mine. What’s worse, is she’s still sapping power from me, and I blame Dollora for showing everyone how to turn things into Monsters.”

“Monsters are hot though.”

He seems to ignore your ramblings. “So, when Fiora went lovey-dovey on Richard, I got pretty excited, figured he could finish her off, end this stupid farce Phallia is playing at, but she pulled out something I didn’t expect of her…”

“Didn’t expect? But you’re a God…”

“Not even Solos is omnipotent, Tobias. If he was, we’d never be in this mess.” He sighs and shakes his head before looking you in the eyes again. “Tobias, I need you to pick up where Richard left off.”

You sigh, which takes you a few tries, as you seem to have forgotten how to breathe right. Thankfully, you figure it out soon enough and complete the motion before looking tiredly into Jackor’s eyes. “Jackor, you’re a real piece of shit, you know that? You curse us from birth to have this power, and we know that it will drive us mad, but we can’t help but use it. It almost drives one insane to know that you’re going to go insane!”

Jackor is silent for a few moments before closing his eyes and sighing. He pauses a little longer and then grits his teeth, “You think I like watching people go mad? You think this was my intention? You think it’s all fun and games for me? Even I lose sometimes, even SOLOS loses sometimes. Some could say he lost more than any of us, and he’ll never know it.” He shakes his head. “I just wanted to give something to humanity, but… a God can’t answer everyone’s prayers.”

You look down, narrowing your eyes. “A damn shame then. I’m no use to anyone anymore. It’s difficult to talk straight, let alone think. How do you expect me to do anything? It would be better for me to just die.”

“Well, that’s why I’ve chosen to show myself, something that is frowned upon by my siblings.” He smirks, “I’m giving you another chance. I’m turning back the clock on your mind.”

You blink a few times before sucking in a deep breath, not daring to hope. Still, you whisper, “You can cure me of the madness?”

“No, I cannot. But I can reverse what she has done. However, I have laid out my price on this matter.”

You grit your teeth. “Why me? Why not fix Richard?”

“Because… that’s beyond me. Richard was a good Illusionist, one of the best, in fact he’s the oldest there’s ever been, though I cannot quite figure out how he’s staved it off for so long…”

“Bullshit, if you’re not just a figment of my deranged imagination, then fucking fix him!” You shout, before staggering. Everything seems to roll a little and you hear the buzzing if mosquitoes all about, inside your damn head even. “Don’t you fucking play with me here!”

“Tobias, you think I’d pick you if I had another choice? I hate to say it kid, but you’re not a superstar! You’re just someone who worships Solos’s glory boy and has followed in the shadow of your Master. Your mastery of illusions is pitiful, and you’re more than likely to kill yourself with your bullshit than actually get results.”

He leans in real close and grabs your chin. “Everything is a game Tobias, everything. There are some bad players, and some good players, and you’re pretty mediocre, but you’re the only one I can turn to. There’s power in pacts, and by agreeing to my terms, I will allow you another chance. If you don’t then we both lose, in fact, everyone loses if my sister gets her way.”

He lets go of your chin and stands up, running a hand through his hair before giggling. “Look at me! Why am I so serious? I’ve never been this serious before! Hehe!”

“…You’re scared.” You whisper, and Jackor stops laughing, his body posture going rigid. “Yeah… you’re scared, aren’t you? What could possibly make a God scared enough to take a… how did you put it? ‘Pretty mediocre’ player?”

He narrows his eyes and hisses out, “An only child could never understand.”

You shudder and reach into your [Pocket Sand] and pull out a handful of purely normal sand. It flows through your fingers, dropping into the ground, becoming lost in the grass and rainbow vomit. When it finishes flowing however, sitting in the palm of your hand are six-sided dice, made of polished bone. You hold them out toward Jackor and grit your teeth. “You want to roll the dice, huh?”

Jackor lifts his chin, chuckling. “The child wishes to play games with the adult, huh? Perhaps you’re better than I thought! You know that I’m a trickster, right?”

“And what do you think I am?”

He breaks out into a full belly laugh before kneeling down and slapping this ground. “Fine then! We gamble! Name your stakes, but be warned, I have my limits! Not that it will matter…”

You smirk, and clutch the dice. “We’ll see about that.”

“You seem rather confident about all of this, hmm?” Jackor says, rubbing his chin. “Now, you wouldn’t be planning on playing a trick on ol’ Jackor, would you?”

“You’d never know if I was.”

“Ha!” Jackor barks out, his laughter ringing in your head like a bell. Actually, there are bells ringing now, which is weird, because you’re fairly certain there are no bells in this place and… oh, on the trees, there are the bells. Where did those come from? Huh.

“Tobias…” Jackor says, his voice serious. “Don’t you go totally batshit on me, I still need you.” He thinks about it for a moment. “Actually, you can stay a little insane for now, I’m interesting in seeing what silly bargain you’ll come up.”

You take a deep breath, settling yourself before glaring at Jackor. “Like I’d give you the satisfaction.”

“Oh but you will.” He snaps his fingers. “Come now, time is money so you humans say. Personally, time is nebulous for me, but I’m missing out on pranks and such.”

“Uh huh. Well, if you’re so impatient, I’ll just have to think a little harder about my choices.”

“Don’t be a dick.”

“What, like Phallia’s?”

“What? Phallia doesn’t have a dick, I can assure you of that.”

“Oh good, I was always wondering about that.”

Jackor blinks before giggling, “Ha, very well done.”

“Thanks, God.” You say, rolling your eyes. He doesn’t seem to mind, actually it seems the more of a snide little instigator you are, the more delight he seems to get from it. What a sick, sick fucking God. And he’s not even Nerg!

“Alright…” You mutter, putting things together in your head, which seems more like a jigsaw puzzle than anything because of the annoyance in gathering your thoughts. You grip the dice in your hand and look Jackor straight in his pretty-boy eyes. “Here are my demands.”

“It’s only a demand if you win.”

“Whatever. First things first, this is how the game is going to be played.” You hold the dice out toward him. “We roll dice once each. When all of the dice stop moving, add together any pips, and this is the score you get. The one with the highest score is the winner, and their demands will be met.”

“Within reason, dear boy, within reason.” He rubs his chin and give you an odd look before shrugging. “Sounds rather simple for such a dire situation.”

“I’m a simple man.”

“No, you’re an insane man.” Jack says, chuckling. “Very well, your ah… “demands” as it were? Remember, this is all contingent upon you actually doing the deed of killing your Master’s ex-fiancé.”

“First off, as you said before, you will fix whatever is wrong with my mind. In exchange, I will hunt down Fiora for… wait, ex-fiancé?” You say a little incredulously.

Jackor waves a hand dismissively, “Yes yes, didn’t exactly last, poor guy, but she was loony like all women, am I right?” He nudges your shoulder and you just frown at him until he stops and rolls his eyes. “I’m trying to play at humor. I invented humor, you should pay homage and humor me.”

“Ha ha, faggot.”

“Thank you.” He waves a hand for you to continue and you sigh, shake your head, and do so.

“Now then, I wish you to also explain to me why you can’t fix Richard, and I expect you not to bullshit me or dance around the answer. Third, I want you to tell me why Richard lasted as long as he did, and fourth…” You lean in close, your expression intense. “I want your power.”

Jackor, who had been nodding his head in time with your demands, suddenly stops and gives you very searching expression. He narrows his eyes and at you for a long while before hissing out, “Neither man nor Monster can become Gods.”

“Interesting, but not what I had in mind.” You say, shaking your head. “I meant, I want you to gift me with your powers. If you want me to become the slayer you need me to be, then I will need more than I am. If you could act freely upon the mortal plane, you’d have taken care of this already, wouldn’t you? No, you need me to do this, and you’re going to pay me.”

“What you ask is rather much, too much for a simple bargain such as this. You other demands are reasonable, and I will-“

“I’ll take over Richard’s job. I’ll be the one to hunt down rogue illusionists.”

Jackor pauses again and looks off to the side, his face pained. “It is a task that Richard never liked you know. It hurt him to have to do it. It will hurt you too.”

“I’m insane already, and going to go insane later, what do I care?”

Jackor nods his head solemnly. “Perhaps that is true. Still, granting you my power…”

“Or someone else’s power, steal from them for all I care. You do that, right?”

Jackor laughs, “Well, it wouldn’t be the first time I’ve gained a boon from…”

“Then that is my price.”

He sighs and pinches is brow. “Illusionists… you’re almost worse than drunk transvestite gamblers…Fine. If you somehow manage to win, then I’ll grant you some ability…” He holds up a finger. “For every rogue illusionist you defeat, I’ll give you some boon, though what it will be, even I cannot say.” He shrugs.

“Luck will have to be on your side.”

You take in a deep breath and smell the sweet smells of weevil infested grain. Ah, fresh. When you finish tasting the scents of spoiled foodstuffs, you look up to Jackor. “Fine. We have a pact then.”

He holds up a finger. “Ah, ah, ah! Not so fast! My ‘demands’ now.” He rubs his hands together. “Should I win, I will heal your mind to make you functional, and you will go off to defeat Fiora. However, this is not all good for you. Your little companions have been helpful, but you will have to leave them, even the goo monster. That’s right, no more kissy-face.”

“Furthermore, you’re a nice kid, but I will need you to dispose of Richard. He’s too dangerous at this point, and you’re not going to get out of this one. Finally, when Fiora is defeated, you will likely be left broken and abused again.” He shrugs, “You will then kill yourself.”

Jackor’s words sink into you like a bucket of ice water. You can actually feel your clothes becoming wet, and you start to shiver violently, putting your arms around you as you slowly sink down to huddle for warmth. Leaving Ginelle and Saya… Killing Richard? And then… then yourself? What kind of sick fuck of a God would ask such a thing? You look up at him, your eyes wide and confused.

Jackor giggles, though it’s a little more strained than you might have expected. “Not everything is a fairytale Tobias. Gods aren’t there for you, in most cases, we do our best, try to care for you, but… you have to accept that we know better than you. Our words may seem strange, our actions may seem terrible, but in the same way a child should respect their father’s commands, you will respect mine.”

He shakes his head before smiling and holding his hand out to you. “Well? Do we have a pact?”

You stare at his hand for a long while before you close your eyes and take his hand. “What choice do I have?”

“We all have choices Tobias, even if it doesn’t look like it. Sometimes we make the right ones, sometimes we make the wrong ones. Not even the Gods are immune to this. It is a law that transcends even Solos himself.”

You frown deeply, thinking those words over. Yes, there is a bee trying to eat your appendix, but you really just don’t care enough to deal with it. Not even Solos himself… The Gods are far more human than you’re comfortable to admit. You’re about to ask a question of Jackor when he grabs the dice from your hand and begins swirling them about his palm.

“Enough of that. Let’s get this farce over with.” He tosses this dice into the air, smiling at you the whole time. “Round and round the dice will go, where they land, only I can know!” He catches them before rolling them along the length of his arm, like some kind of ball, catching them in his other palm, shaking them a few times. “Well, Tobias? What trickery will you play? How will you cheat? Oh, I suppose you shouldn’t let me know, cheating is not tolerated!”

“Just roll the dice.” You say flatly, and Jackor blinks a few times before cocking his head.

“What, really?”

“Yep.”

He looks at you intensely before down at the dice, then back up to you. “What are you up to…?”

“You said it yourself, you don’t have all day. Roll the dice.”

Jackor sighs and tosses this dice into the air before crossing his arms and huffing. “You’re no fun.”

The dice hit the ground a moment later and tumble though the grass before coming to a complete stop, both showing six pips. Jackor begins to laugh maniacally while you just shrug and pick up the dice. He points at you, holding his head. “A game of chance? Really? You thought you could beat me at a game of chance? I am a God of gambling! I do not just alter luck, I AM luck! Oh Tobias, it was fun bartering with you but… what are you doing?”

You look up from the dice, where you’re currently carving into them with a rock you found lying around. “Huh? Oh, I’m making luck.”

“No, wait, but you’re altering the dice.”

“Yep.”

“That’s… that’s cheating!”

“Is it?” You say, finishing your alterations. “Think very carefully about the rules I defined earlier.”

Jackor frowns, thinking it over. “You said when all the dice stop moving, we count up any…pips…” His eyes go wide and his jaw clenches. “You little shit.”

You casually toss the dice to the ground, and they bounce twice before coming to a stop, each showing nine pips. You look into Jackor’s eyes and smirk. “Looks like you lose.”

Jackor glares at you, his fist shaking. “You… you cheated!”

“No, I played the game by the rules that you agreed to. Not my fault you decided not to play the game according to the rules.” You smile broadly at him now. “Or were you going to go back on a pact? I hear that’s bad for Gods.”

Jackor snarls, clenching his fists over and over. “You… you… you… wonderful little man!” He practically radiates pride as he slaps your arm. “You had me played from the start! I bet you’re not even that insane are you?”

“Please remove your tentacle from my cloaca.”

“Alright, you are that insane.” He steps back and chuckles to himself. “Congratulations! You’re the first to beat me at my own game… well, your game I suppose, since Kellen Porgue! I should feel a little disappointed, but I’m actually quite giddy!”

“Great.” You say, waving away the largest mosquito you’ve ever seen. Well, besides that mosquito girl, but that’s different. “Now then, let’s start small, the questions.”

“Ah… the questions.” Jackor says, sighing. “Richard… the truth of the matter is, he doesn’t want to be fixed.”

“What.” You say flatly. “That’s some serious bullshit.”

“I’m not shitting you. He… he’s fervently believed that this would be his last adventure as an Illusionist it seems. When he failed to kill Fiora, he just… accepted his fate. Maybe he thinks it as some kind of punishment, I don’t know. He’s not better off this way, I assure you.”

“H…how do we fix it then?”

“I told you, you don’t. I’d help him out, for it wasn’t exactly his time quite yet, but if he wants to accept it, it is quite clearly out of my control.”

You begin to itch at your arm, which starts smoking at your furious itching. “Like what, if I finished the job or something?”

Jackor thinks about it before shrugging. “Maybe. You’re going to do it anyway, but don’t you dare get your hopes up. He’ll probably get himself killed, or cause trouble enough to be put down by someone else long before you finish the deed.”

“Bah.” You say, rubbing more at your arm. Shit, it really, really itches, and that smell of cooking meat doesn’t help your concentration. “We’ll see about that. Now then, why did he last so long?”

“I don’t know, I really don’t. I will say that Richard, above all other Illusionists, was dedicated to something. Focusing his studies, teaching others, working toward keeping illusionists in line… loving someone with all his heart, these are things other illusionists don’t do.” You’re about to say something when he cuts you off. “No, being a dedicated fan of that Wizard doesn’t count. You’re still a spastic little nerd.”

You grumble something dirty about Jackor’s ass and Phallia’s long cock before sighing and shaking your head. “So, it’s possible for someone to emulate him?”

“Well, it would probably make a better, if slightly more boring, person.”

“I see.” You cough into your hand, which is now on fire. Weird, when did your arm catch on fire? You frown at it and shake it vigorously, but it only makes the fire spread. Oww, owww, OWWW. You look up to Jackor and grit your teeth. “The rest of it, chop chop!” Jackor rolls his eyes as you drop to the floor, and begin to roll about, but this just gets the grass on fire. Great, you’re going to burn to death before you can be cured of insanity, that’s just fucking great. You’re about to start cussing Jackor out when you feel a light touch on your shoulder and… suddenly the fire is gone.

>You Madness level has decreased to 10%

You blink a few times before patting you chest and arms, finding them totally burn free. In fact, you find that you don’t have a cloaca either! Which is a great relief, all things considered. You sigh and look up toward where Jackor is standing and find… something. He’s not standing there anymore, yet there’s a distinct impression that he IS there. Or… was there…

“Fuck, I really was insane… or maybe I still am insane?” You mutter to yourself, shaking your head.

“Nah, you’re not insane anymore, which is why the Master can’t talk to you anymore.” A shrill little voice says from behind you. You blink and turn around, seeing nothing. You scratch at your head before you hear an annoyed, “Up here, idiot.” You look up stare in surprise at the tiny little creature fluttering in the air before you.

It looks like a tiny person, maybe a foot tall from feet to head. On review, it’s a woman even, with oddly alluring proportions despite the size. She’s wearing a simple shirt and trousers, with an apron over it, the thing covered in paint of various colors. She flutters about a few times and you notice her wings are like those of a butterfly, and they shine in a multitude of colors, which dazzle your eyes.

The little Monster’s long, pointed ears rustle her purple hair, and she sighs, giving you a flat stare with her brown eyes before adjusting the strange looking flattened cap on her head. “It’s like you haven’t seen a Fairy before.”

“Uh… I haven’t.”

“Well good, because I’m not just a Fairy, I’m a Leanan Sidhe. Name’s Abigail, and Master Jackor has assigned me to inform you about potential insane Illusionists, as well as make certain you’re working toward killing this Fiora, however the hells that is.” She frowns at you and crosses her arms. “Got that?”

“So… you’re like a minder?”

“He used the term, ‘first of your gifts of power.'” She rubs at her chin, thinking. “Oh, he also said for you to stop slacking on the ground like a bitch and get to work.”

You raise your hands to the sky, shaking them as you shout to the heavens, “JACKOOOOOOOOORRRRRRRRRR!”

Abigail groans and shakes her head. “This is going to be a painful experience, I just know it.”

You finish shouting your rage and sink down onto the grass, panting heavily. Abigail merely sighs and flutters up to you, flapping her wings in front of your face, a look of consternation evident on her expression. “You about done there?”

“Yeah… I guess.” You sigh out, shaking your head. “Felt good though.”

“Yeah, I’m sure.” She says, sighing herself. “Look, can you just gather up your little friends so we can get out of here?”

“Who are you calling little?” You say, quirking an eyebrow.

“Oh by Jackor himself, you are insufferable, just like him!” She shakes her head, “Sometimes, I hate being a Fairy.”

“Yeah, what’s the deal with that anyway.” You say, picking yourself up off the ground. “Not the Fairy thing, but the calling Jackor your Master, thing.”

She crosses her arms and huffs, which is kind of cute considering she’s flapping in the air. “Jackor made us, alright? We aren’t some of Dollora’s little pets, so we have a certain obligation to the bastard.”

“Wow, you sound so grateful.”

“Bite me, you know he’s a bastard.”

“Well. Yeah.” You say sheepishly. “But I mean, he could be worse.”

“Yeah, whatever.”

“Oh hey, I’m Tobias by the way.” You say, holding out your hand. She gives you flat stare and you pull your hand back, sighing. “Yeah, great…”

“I know who you are.” She huffs before looking over at the others. “Really, we don’t have time for this.”

You grumble to yourself about angry little flies before turning to the others. Saya is slowly pulling herself back together, a process that is horrifically morbid, because it isn’t as pretty or precise as it was before. Ginelle groans and sits up from where Fiora threw her, and she shakes her head before spitting out a gobbet of something vaguely red. Richard on the other hand… doesn’t look so good. He’s just sitting there, staring off into space, his mouth moving in slow motions, forming words that… don’t seem quite normal. He doesn’t seem to be going anywhere though…

You frown and decide Saya should be the one to help out first. Not for any particular reason, she’s just, you know, looks like she could use some help. Not like she means more to you than Ginelle! She’s closer to you and Ginelle looks… aww who the hell are you trying to fool? Fucking Jackor and his taunting…

As you walk over to Saya, her torso begins to pull itself into your [Overcoat] which thankfully wasn’t dissolved. Her face begins to form before you and she groans, shaking her newly formed head. She looks up at you and blinks a few times before blushing. “H…hey Tobias.”

“You alright?” You ask, kneeling down before her. “Fiora kind of hit you hard there.”

“Tobias… you know how I said it was now embarrassing that you’ve seen me like this?”

“Uhhh, yeah, I guess I remember that.” You say, scratching your chin.

“Well, I wasn’t joking. It… it’s really…” She covers her face with her hands, which haven’t fully formed, and still leak some black fluid. “Could you look away for abit, please? A girl needs… needs privacy.”

“I mean, you didn’t seem to mind when the others…”

“You’re different!” She says through her hands and you blink, startled.

“Uh… oh. Uhm. Right, sorry about that. I’m going to go… check on Ginelle and uhm… Richard.”

“Please do!” She says, wrapping the [Overcoat] tighter around herself. You cough into your hand and casually walk away, feeling rather embarrassed yourself. Saya got… embarrassed by you looking at what was her essentially naked, and yet… what did that mean?

“You done playing with Saya there?” Ginelle says, cracking her neck. “Ugh…my head.”

“Man Ginelle, you’re made out of adamantium or something.” You say, holding your hand out to her. She regards it oddly for a moment, and you frown before she sighs, shakes her head, and then takes it, almost overbalancing you from the strength of her pull.

“Heh, and you were worried about me.” She shakes her head and chuckles a little before wheezing, slapping her chest, and then spitting up another glob of bloody spittle. “Bah… Anyway, looks like you went through the ringer too.”

“Sort of…But he got it much worse.” You say, shaking your head  and looking over to Richard. Ginelle follows you gaze and her stoic expression melts as a look of heart-rending sadness overtakes her features.

“Oh no…” She whispers, slowly walking toward him. As she approaches, he turns slowly to her, his eyes still wide, expression looking somewhat startled. You watch carefully as she moves toward him, and she slowly raises a hand out. He looks at it for a moment before whispering something and you suddenly feel your spine stiffen. You move quickly toward Ginelle, but it’s too late, she shouts, stepping backward and clutching at her face, though nothing seems to have struck her.

“Fuck!” You shout, running up to Ginelle, pulling her back, your gaze fixated on Richard. It almost makes you sick to see the smirk on his face, an expression which doesn’t match what is being reflected in his eyes. He turns to you and you instantly slap up your mental defenses, to which Richard blinks, looking stunned, retreating his power.

After getting Ginelle a safe distance, you set her down and wave in front of her face. “Hey, hey, Ginelle, are you alright?”

“I… yeah.” She says, blinking a few times. “It felt like suddenly light up, and my eyes hurt…” She shakes her head. “Was that an illusion?”

“Yeah, I think so…” You say, gritting your teeth.

“Why…why would he do that?” She asks, looking more heartbroken than before. You don’t really know how to respond to it properly, because you didn’t know she thought so highly of him. Your heart feels like it’s clenching itself and you struggle to say something, anything.

“He’s not all together there, girl.” Abigail says, flittering up to you and Ginelle. You both look up at her, looking a little shocked, and she rolls her eyes. “What, you want me to lie to her?”

“Who…?” Ginelle asks and you put a hand on her shoulder.

“She’s… a gift from Jackor. Don’t ask at the moment, I’m just… too tired for it.”

She looks into your eyes before looking back to Richard, clenching her jaw, and nodding her head. “What do we do about him?”

“I’ll… I’ll figure something out.” You say, taking a deep breath, though you notice out of the corner of your eye that Saya is approaching, her human form fully formed again.

“I didn’t think Fairies were real.” She says, nodding to Abigail, who rolls her eyes. “Richard really is…?”

You nod to head grimly and she sighs, pulling your [Hunting Knife] from her pocket. “Should we?…”

“NO!” You shout, causing everyone to jump, even Abigail. You look about before sighing and saying, much quieter, “No… I… I can’t do it. Not yet, not when there’s hope.”

Abigail sighs and shakes her little head. “If you don’t have the courage to put down your Master when he’s too far gone, how will you hunt the others?”

Saya frowns, “What is she talking about?”

“I… I’ll tell you later.” You say, shaking your head, the events of today sinking into you. “I just… I want to get Richard out of here.”

She looks at you before staring at the insane Illusionist and sighing. “Alright… if you can distract him, I can, I don’t know, knock him out.”

You look into her eyes, which also carry a sadness, and you sigh, nodding. She nods back to you and you slowly walk toward Richard as Saya slinks about the outside. You frown toward Richard, though he doesn’t seem to notice you. Slowly, ever so slowly, you continue to walk toward Richard until you’re maybe three feet away. Only then does he turn his face to you, yet instead of the confusion before, you see only sadness.

“Tobias…” He whispers. “I’m sorry.”

You hang your head and take a shuddering breath as you reply, “Me too…” At that, Saya closes the gap and delivers a blow to Richard’s head, causing him to shudder and collapse to the floor, his eyes fluttering as he fades into unconsciousness. You take a deep breath, shake your head, and then go to pick him up.

“Hey…” Ginelle says, walking toward you. “Listen, I can hold him.”

“No.” You say, shifting his weight so you can carry him more comfortably. “This is my burden.”

Ginelle nods before sighing and stepping away. Saya walks up to you and checks on Richard before nodding her head. “He’s out good. Should be for awhile, but… we have to do something about him or it’s going to be trouble.”

“I know.” You say, looking about the area. “We’ll get out of here and figure out… something. There has to be cells for sorcerers or something, right?”

“Not in Loveura, not officially.” She frowns, tapping her foot. “Well… the Manufactorium might have something for trapping in magical energies, but I’m not certain how good a cell it would make…”

“Fine, we’ll ask Ophelia then.” You frown, staring at the altar. Saya follows you stare and she cocks her head at you, to which you shake your head. “I just wonder what she was doing here, you know? It looks like a lab, but also some kind of ritual site. Those Monsters from before… talked about being failures or unworthy but… what did they mean?”

“I don’t know.” Saya says, sighing. “I’ll go check it out, might help since… since things didn’t go as planned.” She looks at Richard and shakes her head. “If only I didn’t let her trick me like that, he would have…”

“Saya.” You say, very seriously, trying to keep your own emotions in check. “Don’t feel like this is your fault, please. It would just be too sad…”

She looks into your eyes and hesitates before reaching forward and giving your arm a squeeze. “Thanks, Tobias. Now go, we have… a lot to do still.”

“Hey, I’ll help you out.” Ginelle says, moving up to Saya. “You and the uh… Fairy? Go along.”

“Talking to me like I’m some kind of object…” Abigail says before rolling her eyes. “Come on then. And no, I’m not going to help you carry him.”

You frown but don’t say anything, merely shifting Richard on your shoulder and walking out of the foliage, off to the exit. Night has fallen on you as you walk, and you feel the weight of your Master pressing upon you, the humidity and heat of the Arboretum not helping at all. Still, you merely grit your teeth and keep walking, because what else can you do?

Fireflies begin to light up around you, casting the place in a fey illumination, which might be beautiful if not for the circumstances. You vaguely notice something larger flutter about you, scattering the fireflies, and Abigail appears before you, the vague light of the moon illuminating her shadow before you. She flits up to your face and cocks her head before asking, “Are you crying?”

You blink a few times, and realize that your cheeks are wet. With your free hand, you wipe at your eyes to find that, indeed, you are crying. You try to wipe away the tears in futility, but fail to do so. Instead, you close your eyes, take a deep breath, and merely soldier on, not saying anything to your Sidhe minder. Unfortunately, the tears and the darkness make it hard to see, and you stumble a little, catching yourself before shaking your head.

“Hey, aww geez man, you’re going to just… ugh, this is pathetic. Here, wait a sec.” Abigail says before taking a deep breath and vibrating for a moment. You cock your head, about to ask what she’s doing, when suddenly she explodes into light, her wings shimmering in a vibrant rainbow of colors, casting you in an aetheric glow. She sniffs, a look of pride on her face. “There! Pretty cool, huh?”

You just blink at her tiredly before adjusting Richard and moving forward. Abigail stays behind a few seconds before flailing her arms and flying up behind you, muttering about ingrates. You don’t care though, you have too much on your mind, and your back. By the time you reach the central dome, you’re sweating buckets, and your knees feel weak, but damnit, you aren’t going to let him down!

Suddenly, the weight is lifted from you, and you turn around to see Ginelle heft Richard from your shoulders, carrying him comfortably, despite her wounds. Saya walks up, holding a few vials, and a few sheaves of parchment. She nods to you sullenly and you respond in kind before the three of you… no, the five of you, head out of the Arboretum through the front door, and into the night sky.

The first thing you notice is the change in temperature. It’s warm, but without being trapped inside, the oppressive humidity no longer assaulting you, the slight breeze of the outside almost makes you shiver as it tickles the sweat coating your back. You take a shuddering breath before sighing. “Alright, let’s head to the Market District, I guess. Maybe Ophelia will still be there or something.”

“Maybe.” Saya says, shaking her head at the overgrown path before you. “We should find a ferry then.”

“Probably for the best.” Ginelle says, before spitting up more. It’s a little dark, though thanks to Abigail, you can tell it isn’t as red anymore. “I can carry him for awhile, but it would be faster.”

“Yeah, I suppose…” You say, feeling just… just so tired. You lean against a nearby tree trunk, laying vertical to the ground for some reason, when you feel it shiver against you, causing you to step backward, look of confusion on your expression.

The tree, which you realize now is a massive root, shakes a few times before it shifts and shakes, and from the center mass appears the shape of a face. A few moments later, it resolves further into Ulala’s head, though it stays the dull brown of the root. She blinks a few times before smiling at you. “Heeey! Tobias! You’re still alive!”

“U… Ulala?” You say, a little stunned. She nods, well… shudders, her head before smiling again.

“Yep! Told you have I roots everywhere.” She looks your group over before frowning. “You don’t look so good. Is Richard there okay?”

You look down, gritting your teeth and her expression becomes sad. “Oh… I’m sorry for your loss.”

“He’s not dead.” You say, feeling some anger rising within you. “He’s just… He’s just a little sick now. He needs to stay somewhere he can’t hurt anyone… or himself, for awhile.”

Ulala frowns now, her expression one of consternation. “So he’s gone insane, has he? Damn.” She shakes, or well, tries to, looking far, far older than she did before. “You have to put him down, he’d want you to do that.”

“Don’t talk like you know him!” You hiss at her, before looking off to the side and gritting your teeth. “Sorry…”

Ulala merely hums. “I’ve seen him doing his grisly work more often than you know, boy. He’s never shown mercy to those he hunts, because he knew that he brought the true mercy.”

“There’s still hope.” You say, your gaze burning. “I choose to believe there’s still hope. Jackor said he could fix this.”

“Jackor, huh…” Ulala says, looking over to Abigail. “Putting your faith in a trickster can only end in one way.”

“I’ll choose how that ends.” You growl out before turning from her. “I have to put him in holding, I don’t have time for this.”

“You really think you can do this huh?” She says before pausing for a moment and sighing. “I can take him.”

You pause and turn back to her, frowning. “What do you mean?”

“I can take him into myself, hold him in what is essentially stasis. It’s… it’s something very personal for a Dryad, but… but you’re the only ones to really treat me like a person in a long time.” She looks into your eyes and nods slightly. “If you want to, that is. You know where to find me.”

With that, Ulala closes her eyes and slowly fades back into the root, eventually leaving it as it was before. You frown at the root, then look back to the others, who look as beaten and worn as you feel. Saya shrugs before gripping at the items she’s shoved into the pockets of your [Overcoat.] “Whatever you want to do, but Tobias, we need to talk about that altar.”

“Yes, pick soon, I have some targets to brief you about.” Abigail says, fluttering about. “How do you feel about Sanctifrond?”

“Let’s just get out of here, alright?” You say, sighing. The others nod toward you, and you trudge through the dark path, which obviously hasn’t been up kept in while, though no one complains. Soon enough, you reach the end of the path, and arrive on the main road of the Main District, one path leading toward the Riverside District, the other heading to the square.

A few people pass by, giving your group a few odd looks, and Abigail drops her glowing, as the lanterns on the path give more than enough light. She flies behind Saya then, hiding behind her shoulder, her expression looking a little perturbed as another group of people pass. Hrm. Well, you don’t have the energy to really care about all of this.

“Alright.” You say, rubbing at your forehead. “Let’s figure out what to do with Richard and then… I don’t know, but we’ll have to talk over our next moves. We’re not going anywhere until tomorrow.” You look back once more to Richard, his expression almost serene in his unconsciousness. Normally, you’d blame Jackor for your misery, but it doesn’t feel right to do so anymore. Still, you feel that someone, or some ones, somewhere, are tormenting you, as if this is all some sort of divine plan.

You grip your fingers into a ball, and growl to yourself. “Fiora… Phallia… I’m going to get you for this.”

Taking a deep breath, you calmly shake your shake and look off toward the Main District square. Saya follows your gaze and nods her head slowly before saying, “Ulala… might be the better choice. She seems confident and Dryads aren’t the type to go back on their word.”

“Yeah…” Abigail says, her wings fluttering from behind Saya, though her eyes are busy looking all around her for some reason, paying close attention to people who pass by. “Dryads are pretty important, and they don’t go back on their word or anything.”

“You… alright there?” Ginelle asks, giving her an odd look. Abigail gives her a frown but looks away without saying anything.

You shake your head and sigh. “Yeah, I kind of got that feeling also. Ophelia is nice but… there could be so much that could go wrong. If Ulala can do what she says, then it would be best.”

“Besides, it would be nice to see how Fellows is doing.” Saya says, nodding her head. She looks over her shoulder at the little Fairy there before sighing and shooing her away, which doesn’t really… do much. She merely accepts the little Monster there before heading off to the square.

Ginelle shifts Richard on her shoulder and nods to you before walking after Saya. You sigh and put your hands in your pockets, looking up at the rapidly darkening night sky, watching as the stars begin to shine brightly in the heavens. Heavens… bah. You’re tired of Gods, and yet you just made yourself into the Inquisition of one. What delicious irony, huh? Well, whatever, you follow after the others, quickly catching up as you move to the square.

Due to its more… administrative status, the Main District has less people around during the evening than in the other districts. Still, it’s enough to have people give your group odd looks, either looking toward Ginelle and Richard, or the little flickers of movement from Abigail. It’s weird though, she’s so bullish, and yet with all these people about, she seems… well, almost scared. You watch as she flutters up to Saya’s ear and whisper into it, Saya blinking in confusion before looking a little perturbed. A moment later though, she sighs and opens the [Overcoat] a little, and Abigail flutters inside before Saya hurriedly covers it up.

“Uhhhh.” You say, not able to help yourself. Saya freezes and turns back to look at you, her cheeks hot.

“Y…you didn’t see anything.”

“I’m not certain what I saw.”

“Thafs righ!” You hear from inside the [Overcoat]. Saya shudders as the muffled voice squeaks out before she chuckles herself and turns about, continuing to walk forward. You share a glance with Ginelle who merely shrugs and continues lugging Richard forward.

Soon enough, you reach the square, the branches of Ulala’s tree playing out over you. You notice them shake, though there is not breeze, and you sheepishly wave at them, to which they shake further. Did… did you just greet a tree? Well, she’s a living tree or something and… ah, whatever.

As normal, no one is standing about the tree trunk, and you walk up, saying, “Ulala?”

The tree twists and shakes again, and once more the female body of Ulala pulls out of the tree, and she smiles. “Hi Tobias. No one ever waves back to me you know.”

“It seemed proper.” You say nodding your head before giving Richard a pained look. “You… you said you could?”

Ulala nods her head slowly. “So, you chose to take my offer then? It’s for the best…” She gestures to Ginelle, who gently sits Richard down before her, his eyes still closed in unconsciousness. Ulala clenches her jaw before sighing.

“Ulala… please.” You say, bowing your head. “Please keep him safe for me.”

You feel smooth fingers cup your chin, and you look up to see Ulala stretching out toward you, an almost fully human body formed from the tree. “Tobias… I promise you, I’ll keep him safe for you.”

“I…” You say, choking up. “I don’t deserve your help, but…but…”

“Shhh. This is my decision, alright? Come now, say your farewells, for now. It will be easier if we do this quickly.”

You nod your head slowly before wiping at your eyes, feeling the tears flowing there. With bleary eyes, you kneel down toward Richard, gently putting an arm on his shoulder. You feel your words catch in your throat, and you feel yourself shaking, unable to say the words you need to say. You’re about to just crumple into a pile of tears when you feel gentle pressures on your shoulders.

You look up to see Saya standing behind you, tears in her eyes, as well as Ginelle, her eyes closed, paw gripping your shoulder tightly. You look down and take a shuddering breath before looking back up to Richard, now filled with confidence from your companions… no, your friends. You begin slowly, speaking in almost a whisper.

“Richard… I know that sometimes I disappointed you… well, more than sometimes, but I’ve always thought of you as something more than just a mentor. You know that my father and I didn’t have the best relationship, but when I was being taught by you, I… I felt like you were the father I never had. I always knew that someday you… you’d go but…” You rub at your eyes, and take another deep breath before gritting your teeth and speaking in a firm voice. “I’m going to kill Fiora and I’m going to make Jackor restore you. Not even a God will be able to hide from my wrath. You just sit tight, you just… just sit tight with Ulala. I’ll be back for you before you can even think to scold me.”

You close your eyes and stand up slowly before smirking at Richard. “When I come back, you’re not even going to recognize me. I’ll make your proud Richard, you’ll see. I… I love you.”

Those words hang in the air for a long moment before Ulala nods her head, giving you a sad expression. “That was beautiful…” You close your eyes before nodding toward her. She looks down to Richard and gently reached down to pick him up, lifting him without effort. Ulala looks up at you and blushes some, looking down to Richard. “This… this kind of personal. Could… could I ask you to look away? Perhaps keep people from looking at me?”

“I… yeah. Alright.” You say, looking to Richard one last time. You grit your teeth and turn about, looking up at the sky. Saya and Ginelle do the same, but to your numb surprise, they both lean into you, putting their arms around you, Saya even laying her head against your shoulder. You should feel something about this, anything, but you just feel… well, numb.

From behind you, you hear the sound of bark snapping and cracking, but you keep yourself from looking, instead just staring off into the heavens as a sickening, wet sound comes from behind you, followed by Ulala’s shuddering breath, some which sound like vague moans. It lasts for maybe a few moments, but soon enough, you hear nothing any long, but Ulala’s panting. You turn back around, and watch as the twisted trunk of Ulala’s tree finishes wrapping around itself again, sap dripping down the bark, Ulala herself taking short breaths, though you have to wonder why a tree would pant.

Soon enough, it finishes, and Ulala shudders, wrapping her arms around herself. “Oh… oh my, that’s… much more… tingly, than I thought it would be.” She blinks, looking up at you before blushing. “Oh… you saw that.”

“Sorry…” You say, looking embarrassed. She smiles at you, though she seems embarrassed about it herself.

“Ah, well, it’s fine.” She shudders again. “Sorry, it’s just… a different feeling. But he’s safe, and he’ll stay that way for a long time.” She nods to you before smiling. “Go, do what you need to do. I’ll be here, and so will he.”

You nod to her before taking her hand, causing her to blink in confusion. “Ulala… thank you for everything.”

“Oh… uhm. Yes! No problem. It’s nice to help people again for a change.” She blushes before waving you off. “Now now, you better get some rest, you look wiped.”

“Yeah, I guess we are.” You say, looking over to Ginelle and Saya, who both look utterly drained. “Though, there is one last thing we need to do before we return.” You point back to the Guard station, and Saya nods. Ulala merely shrugs before melting back into her tree.

“I’ll be waiting…”

“Thanks.” You say, looking at the tree, which seems like nothing has changed, and nothing will ever change. You feel a chill at this thought, and promptly let it be, looking back toward the Guard station. No, no, you are NOT going to think about anything depressing. No, you’re going to end Fiora, spit in Jackor’s eye, and get Richard back, if it killed you.

“Come on.” Saya says, taking your hand and leading you forward. “I’m getting a little sick of this insect in my clothes.”

“Fug yuf.” Abigail says from within her casing, and Saya grunts before smacking the inside of the coat, causing a little squeal from within. She chuckles menacingly before continuing to drag you forward. All you can really think is how chilly her hands are, but you know what she’s doing and you shake your head, smirking somewhat as you approach the station.

Outside is a small congregation of Guardsmen and women, all chatting about something, rather loudly.

“Fellows brought in the Phantom Thief.”

“Bah, it can’t be her, Fellows lost his touch years ago.”

“Yeah, the Chief wasn’t happy with him at all. Apparently he was furious that the thief was hurt like she was. Says he might discharge the poor fellow.”

“Yeah well, if you ask me, we might be better off without his old, silly ways.

The group laughs at that, but stops as you approach, frowning deeply. One of the men walks up toward you, adjusting his uniform. “Can I help you citizen?”

“I… was hoping to speak with Sergeant Fellows.”

The man frowns deeply, looking your group over. “The Sergeant is busy at the moment. Come back tomorrow.”

“But…”

“I said, leave.” He man says, tapping a sword at his belt. “Or do I have to take you in for belligerence?”

You clench your fists before smiling up at the man. “Sorry about that, thank you for your time.” He gives you frown, but you turn about, growling to yourself. “Fucking hell…”

“I guess we’ll have to try tomorrow?” Ginelle says, shrugging. “It will be fine, besides, it’s getting late…” She looks up at the sky and frowns as she says this.

“Yeah, let’s head back for now.” Saya says, gripping your hand. “We have a lot to talk about anyway and honestly, you need rest.”

You nod your head slowly, not saying anything as the two of them lead you back to the Residential district, you legs feeling like jelly as you walk with them. Thankfully, the same numbness from before helps pass the time quickly, and you barely even notice when you stop in front of The Dancing Wolf. Only then does it hit you that you have to break the news to Hannah, and the thought nearly makes you sick.

“You going to be alright?” Ginelle asks, nudging your shoulder.

“No.” You say, shaking your head. “No, but it’s not really my place to choose my comfort at the moment.” Taking a deep breath, you open the door to the inn, and are immediately assaulted by an upset looking Hannah.

“Boy, don’t you be standing around the outside of my establishment, looking sad. Not unless you’re here to drink a lot, which I don’t really think you are.” She looks about before frowning. “Where’s Richard?”

You look down and Hannah takes in a sharp breath. “Maybe you do need a drink or seven. Maybe I need a drink or twelve.” She clenches her paw before nodding off to a back room. “Come on, out of the lobby.”

“Hannah… He’s not dead, he’s just…” She shakes her head and makes a curt gesture, forcing you to cut off. You look between your companions and sigh, following her into the back room. Turns out, it’s the kitchen, and it’s surprisingly well stocked, a thin man in an apron stirring a pot that smells like mutton. He looks up as you all crowd in and he frowns deeply.

“Honey, why are there guests back here?”

“Shush dear. Go serve that stew, I have things to talk about here.”

“Dear, it’s not ready yet, I have to add the-” He cuts off as she tosses in a handful of garlic. He looks at the pot, his face mildly horrified before he tastes the stew and grunts, lifting it off the range. “Fine… don’t be too long, it’s busy.”

“I won’t dear.” She says, crossing her arms to look at you. As soon as the door closes behind what is likely her husband, she sighs. “What happened.”

“Richard he… he got hurt.” You say, trying to find the right words. “He’s staying with a friend but… he can’t…”

“Come on Tobias, cut the shit.” Hannah says, growling softly. “Fiora got the better of him?” You blink, taken aback. She grunts and shrugs, “It was obvious what he was doing here, the way he’s been acting. Besides, you mentioned her name multiple times, and I have decent hearing.” Her wolf ears twitch.

“Ah.” You say, looking chagrined. “Yes, she did beat him, and he… he’s not all together there at the moment. For his safety we left him with…” You look to Saya who shrugs, obviously leaving it up to you. You groan before saying, “With the Great Tree in the Main District. She’s a Dryad and she took him in.”

Hannah whistles, leaning on the counter. “I’d heard that that tree was something special, but a Monster?… Damn.” She shakes her head. “How long until he’s better?”

“Depends. I have to do something first, get someone to help cure him.” You shake your head, “It could take awhile.”

She clenches and unclenches her jaw, thinking about something before sighing and reaching into a cabinet, pulling out a letter and a sack that jingles slightly in her palm. She sets them down on the counter before you, looking them over before sighing again. “Richard… knew something like this might happen. He left you these in case.”

You look over the sack, which is very, very full looking, and then to the letter, a simple thing with your name written on it in ink. Your heart clenches and you reach for it, but Hannah slaps your hand, causing you to pull back and flinch. She shakes her head and growls, “Tobias, don’t you dare open that now. You’re not in the state for it.”

You take in a deep breath before nodding. “Alright, I’ll… I’ll look at it in the morning.” She hesitates before handing it, and the sack of coins, to you. She looks at the items before putting a paw to her face, shaking her head. You swear you can see tears trailing down her cheeks and you grit your own teeth before reaching out to hug her. She intercepts you though, and pulls you in, squeezing you close to her.

“I didn’t want to have to give you that letter, but… but you said you can bring him back?”

“Yeah…”

“Then do it.” She hugs you a moment longer before pulling back and wiping at her tears, sniffing and trying to get her composure. “Ugh, look at me, I’m a wreck, and it’s peak business hours.”

“We’ll talk to you in the morning.” You say, looking at the letter again. She nods and waves you off, and you do just that, leave out the door, back to the lobby before heading upstairs. As you do, Hannah’s husband walks up with the pot and a few bowls.

“Hey, Hannah seems to think a lot of you, and I think I should have my hands free when I go back in there. Take this, alright?” Ginelle steps up and takes the pot and bowls, the whole thing smelling like garlic and mutton now. You stomach rumbles, yet you don’t feel all that hungry, instead looking toward the stairs, trudging up them and entering your room.

It looks so… empty now. You look over to Richard’s clothing, not that he brought much with him, and frown, gritting you teeth before sitting down at the little table and setting down sack of coins and Richard’s letter, not having the energy to look through either at the moment, and instead you rest your head in your hands, weariness flooding into you. You hear Ginelle plop the food onto the table, but don’t look up until she bumps at bowl into your shoulder.

“Eat up.” She says, handing the warm stew to you. You look up at her before shaking your head mutely. She growls and pushes the bowl at you again. “Tobias, you need to eat, we all do. It’s been a long day.”

Saya yelps as from the top of the [Overcoat] Abigail appears, huffing and puffing. She shakes her herself, wiping at her forehead. “Wow! For someone with such cool skin, it got hot in there!” She flutters about before frowning. “What? Oh hey, is that food?” She flies to your bowl and picks up a piece of mutton, chewing on it before making an off face. “Garlic? Hrm, odd choice, but oddly okay I guess.”

“Don’t eat other people’s food.” Saya says, frowning. She takes a step toward the Leanan Sidhe before looking down at her attire and sighing. “Hey, I’ll be right back. I need to change my clothes.”

“Do you even have a key anymore?” Ginelle asks, cocking her head. Saya shakes her head and lifts a finger, it twisting and forming into the shape of a key. Ginelle rolls her eyes. “Hannah won’t like that.”

“I pay extra.” She looks to you and sighs. “Give me a sec.” She walks out of the room, leaving you with Ginelle and Abigail, the latter still eating from your bowl.

“You can’t stay sad forever.” Abigail says, licking her fingers, since she chooses not to use utensils. “You have Illusionists to put down.”

“Don’t sound so happy about it.” Ginelle growls, but you raise a hand, sighing.

“No, no she’s right, I just… it’s hasn’t been that long. It’s still fresh.”

“It’s always going to be fresh. The best thing you can do is work toward closing the wound.” Abigail says, popping some potato into her mouth. You begin to wonder where she puts it all before she puffs out, “The quickest way to get him back, and letting me go back to my own business, is to take out Fiora, and to do that, you’ll need gifts from Jackor.”

“Like you?”

“Hells no.” She shakes her head violently. “Look, let’s just plan out where you’re going to go next, alright?”

“Do we have to do this now?” You say, groaning.

“Yes, we do.” She looks about the room for something before instinctually diving toward a bag and pulling out a piece of blank parchment. With some effort, she flies it back to the table and then looks about again. “Hrm… you have a pen?”

“Yeah…” You say, taking off your poor, beaten up [Rucksack] and pulling out your [Pen] and [Ink]. She flitters into the air and grabs it, dipping into the ink before furiously dragging the device, which is almost as large as she is, onto the paper, scratching out words faster than you can believe. You read over her tiny shoulders and soon enough she finishes, standing the [Pen] up and smirking, looking oh so smug again.

“Mhm, that’s right. This is the current list!” She says, pointing at the paper. You look at it, seeing four names on the paper, though you don’t know any of them personally.

“There’s two in Sanctifrond?” You say, looking a little surprised. Abigail shrugs.

“Well, yeah, it’s a big place. The other two are a little farther out, one in Hurn, the other in Leif.”

“Hurn? That’s… east of here, right?” Ginelle asks, looking at the list before shaking her head, apparently remembering she can’t read.

“Yeah.” You say, rubbing your chin. “It’s a logging town, though I’ve never heard of Leif.”

Abigail huffs. “Geez. Leif isn’t too big, but it’s to the north west of Sanctifrond. I think it’s a mining town?”

“You don’t seem too sure of that.”

“Well. I mean. Shut up.” She says, puffing her cheeks before fluttering her wings. “You should pick where you want to go!” She says, getting in your face. “And make it quick!”

“Fairy…” Saya says, entering the room. “Don’t push Tobias into making decisions.” You look to the Monster, seeing her changed into another black garment that she was wearing before, your [Overcoat] held over her arm. She nods to you before putting your clothing on a bed, and sitting down at the table. She removes a few items from her pockets and places them on the table, sighing as she looks at them.

Ginelle frowns, looking the objects over. “This stuff is weird.” She goes to pick up some pieces of parchment from before, but Saya scoops them up before she can, scanning them quickly. You look over the items yourself, noting that there are two vials, one filled with what looks like seeds, the other filled with… spores? You frown and look to the last item, a knife with a rose hilt upon it, the blade incredibly sharp and fine.

“Shit…” Saya says, putting the parchment down. You cock your head and she waves the papers. “These are manifests of all the seeds funneled to her. She’s been making notes next to them, detailing crossbreeding programs.” She points to a specific section, and you frown, looking it over before taking a sharp breath. Saya nods her head.

“Yeah, she managed to get her hands on Matango spores today and she had plans to cross them to Rageweed.”

“Rage…weed?” You say, frowning. “No, wait, wait, how do you cross something to Monster spores?”

Saya gives you a dubious look and you click your tongue. “Right, right.” You rub the back of your head, once again remarking on how tired you feel. “Well… yeah, Rageweed?”

Ginelle grunts, “It’s a fairly rare plant, but ingesting it can make someone… well, rage. They go into a berserk state for awhile, unable to reason appropriately.”

“Wait… so she’s trying to cross one of the fastest propagating spores with something that sends people into a rage?”

Saya nods her head, “Even worse, Matango spores will drive Monsters into a sexual frenzy. Can you imagine berserk, sexually powered Monsters?”

“Sounds like an Ushi-Oni.” You say, and Saya sighs, shaking her head.

“Tobias, this is very, very serious. The Monster Hordes are done thanks to Mother, but if something like this slips out, then it could be devastating to everything she’s worked toward!”

You groan, rubbing at your forehead. “Yeah… yeah, I get you. But what does this have to do with her war constructs and Galma…” You blink a few times, remembering Fiora’s words from before. < I have a war to start you know. Those pesky Galmathorian’s aren’t going to invade Deleor by themselves you know!>

“Oh Gods.” You say, rubbing at your forehead. “If she lets that loose in Galmathoria…”

Saya nods her head fiercely. “I know. However, she didn’t get to cross it, it looks like, before we managed to drive her out. This vial here…” She picks up the vial with spores. “This might be the Matango spores.”

“Wouldn’t she come here to try and take it back?” You say, looking a little alarmed. Saya merely shrugs.

“I doubt it, she might not know we have it even. But it seems pretty integral to her plans, so she might look elsewhere for them…”

“Where would that be?”

Saya shrugs, “I don’t know. For now, we’ve stopped her though, bought some time, but… I don’t know where she is and I have to report to mother about all of this.”

Abigail shrugs, “Don’t ask me where she is either. Jackor can’t keep tabs on her thanks to Phallia for some reason.”

“Some God…” You mutter, and Abigail doesn’t correct you. You look over at the knife, picking it up and looking it over. “What’s this for?”

Saya grimaces. “I looked over that altar and it has some fairly… strange words on it. I think Fiora might have been using it for ritual sacrifice or… surgery.”

“Those Monster from before?” Ginelle asks, scratching her head. “What did she do to them?”

“I don’t know.” Saya says, shrugging. “But something like that, in a place of pure nature, would be a great place to make a contact with a God, I guess. You’d have to ask something a little more knowledgeable on such things.”

“Like who?” You say, putting the knife back.

Saya narrows her eyes, looking a little annoyed before muttering something to herself. You cock your head and she groans, saying louder, “Patricia might know, I GUESS.”

You and Ginelle look at each other, blinking before looking back to Saya, who is pouting. You cough into your hand, looking confused. “Uhm… who is Patricia?”

“A dumb, brainy smarty at the Sanctifrond University.” She says, grumbling. “Probably one of the smartest people I know, next to Dad.” She blinks then, puffing her cheeks, which looks a little cute. “Don’t tell anyone I said that.”

“Uhm. Okay, sure.” You say, scratching your head. “Was there anything else?”

“No.” Saya says, and the others shake their heads. You rub your forehead before sighing and looking down at your bowl, which is now empty. By Jackor… that fairy could eat.

“Alright… I think we should get some sleep, think things over for tomorrow. We’ll decide our course of action in the morning.”

“Sounds good.” Saya says, before hesitating. “Hey… Tobias, are you going to be alright tonight? Do you want us to stay here with you tonight? Not in the same bed, of course, but… you know.”

You look up at Saya, then to Ginelle, who nods her head, smiling softly. You take a deep breath nod your head, gulping some as you feel a wave of emotion go through you. You wonder what you did to deserve people around you like this, people who care enough to give you comfort, despite the short time you’ve known them.

“Yeah.” You say quietly. “Yeah, thank you.”

They smile both of them give you a light hug before you make ready for bed, hoping to the Gods you can find some sleep tonight. You have a feeling, however, that resting easy is going to be harder than you think.

————————————–

You’re right, of course, and despite your weariness, you are utterly unable to fall asleep. Even after the other two blow out the lantern and climb into Ginelle’s bed, you merely find yourself awake and in the dark, alone with your thoughts. Alone… no, you’re not alone, but at the same time, you’ve been with Richard for so long, that thinking of life without him as your Master is… difficult.

The day you’d be on your own certainly would have happened in the near future but it was just so abrupt that you aren’t prepared. Why did it have to happen like this? Was there anything you could have done to prevent this? If you’d been a little more cautious, paid more attention in your studies, would Richard still be here?

It’s wrong to think these thoughts, but the wounds are so very fresh and they hurt. You feel something well up in your chest and you have to take a shuddering breath, pulling in your blankets to keep yourself from outright crying. How pathetic, right? A grown man, crying like a child. But what else could you do?

You faintly hear the rustling of sheets from behind you and you immediately put it out of your mind. Probably one of the girls just shifting in bed, nothing special. You merely lay there in bed, and you realize that despite the warmth outside, it’s really cold. Oddly though, it’s only because of this cold that you feel a warmth moving toward you. Feeling a little confused, you begin to turn about when you feel something touch you.

In a mild panic, you turn about and through the haze of night, you see it’s Ginelle. You blink, not exactly knowing that’s going on when she leans down and whispers in your ear, “I’m here for you.”

“Wait, Ginelle!” You hiss, but she slides into the bed, rustling the sheets before wrapping her furred arms around your chest, and you pause as a gentle warmth spreads through your body. You feel like you should push her away, but as she presses herself against your back, you feel a calmness spreading through you and you take a shuddering breath, feeling your concerns fade away under her presence. You don’t even care as she presses her body against you, and you can acutely feel her hard muscles, as well as the soft globes of her breasts on your back. It feels like you should feel something about this situation, think it through, perhaps even reject it. But she feels so warm, and you quickly lose the energy to protest, merely putting a hand onto her paw, and gently closing your eyes, drifting off to sleep.

—————

When you awaken, it feels like you’ve been hit by a Minotaur. You groan, and blink your eyes awake, and all the pains and aches of the day before slam down upon you and you grunt, looking about blearily as you view the sleeping face of Saya. You blink a few times, your brain not able to fully comprehend exactly what you’re seeing here. You turn your head, a task that seems rather more difficult than it should, and you one more see Ginelle behind you, her arms still wrapped around your waist.

Closing your eyes, you take a deep breath and slowly put your hands to your face. Fucking. Hell. On one hand, you just shared the bed with two wonderful and beautiful girls, but Gods damnit, this was too much of a joke, even for Jackor. It’s now painfully obvious that if you don’t do anything, this is going to escalate into something really, really bad. For now though, you need to handle the situation delicately, consider your options, and carefully get out of Ginelle’s arms and…

“Hey! Hey, hey, hey! Get up!” Abigail shouts, fluttering in from seemingly nowhere before landing forcefully on your chest, forcing the air out of you, and causing you to wheeze violently as she jumps up and down on you.

Saya snaps awake, reaching for something under the pillow before training her eyes on Abigail and growling, “Fucking Fairy!”

Ginelle stirs behind you and she yawns mightily before squeezing you against her, causing you to wheeze out again and pound your fist on her arms until she lets go and sits up, rubbing at her eyes. “Whas happenin?…”

“You’re just sitting in bed all day when we have things to do!” Abigail says, fluttering up into the air as Saya throws a hand toward her. “Geeeeez, look I’ve let you all mope around and rub up on the idiot boy long enough, but I’m getting sick of waiting around for all of you.

“Abigail…” You groan, rubbing at your eyes. “Ugh… come onnnn.”

“No! You had your night to cry and get cuddled on my multiple girls, which is really terrible btw, but you need to get up!”

“FINE!’ You shout before rubbing at your head and looking over at Saya and Ginelle, who are both giving each other inquisitive looks. Now that you actually have some sense, it occurs to you, thankfully, that they are both wearing clothing, even though there was more skin showing than you’d expect. They were cuddling in… nightclothes. You should find this very, very arousing, but sadly, you do not.

“Girls… thank you for your help, but we should probably get up.”

Saya pauses before nodding her head slowly. “Yeah… you’re right, you’re right. We need to be going and I…” She hesitates and then just shakes her head. “I’ll go gather my things from my room.”

“Yeah…” Ginelle says, rubbing her head and watching as Saya leaves the room. “Hrm, I slept pretty good, how about you?”

“Ginelle…” You say before sighing. “We’re going to have to talk about… last night.”

“Oh?” She says, a blush creeping onto her face as she looks down. “I want to… talk with you about something too.”

“Oh for the love of Jackor…” Abigail groans, flying up to Ginelle’s face. “Shoo, shoo, you Badger. Go get some honey or something.”

“What did you say, you little shit?” Ginelle growls, swiping to grab the Fairy who does a midair back flip, rolling her eyes at Ginelle.

“Honestly, you big creatures are sooooo miserably slow.” Ginelle keeps swiping at her over and over, throwing sheets everywhere as she tries to grab the fairy, reminding you nothing so much as a Catgirl chasing something shiny. Nothing ever gets resolved, but it’s hilarious to watch. Eventually, Abigail sighs and pulls out your [Pen] and flies up to Ginelle, startling the Badgergirl and then writing on her face, giggling some before pulling away.

Ginelle blinks, and rubs at her face, ink smearing on her paws. She turns to you, confused, and you put a hand to your mouth as you realize that Abigail drew a rather stylized penis near Ginelle’s mouth, though the whole picture is smeared due to the poor Badgergirl’s messing with it. Stifling a laugh, you wave a hand toward Ginelle. “G…go wash your face before it sets in.”

“Why, what did she draw?”

“Don…don’t worry about it. Pfffff.” You say, precariously keeping yourself from spewing out in laughter. Ginelle gives you an odd look before rolling her eyes and rubbing at her face again. She stops, realizing what she’s doing and groans, getting out of bed and moving to the wash-basin.

You shake your head and give Abigail a stern look. She merely crosses her arms and puffs out her cheeks. “What? It was funny.”

“Well, yes, but come on, what’s got you so worked up today? Fairy dust in your vag?”

She blushes at that, the tips of her pointed ears going scarlet. “W…what? Why would you even insinuate something like that? Fairy dust is… and in your vag would…” She shivers, not a wholly uncomfortable act it looks like, though she stops and frowns at you, getting control over herself. “That’s incredibly inappropriate though. I don’t want your dick, not like those two.”

You scratch your head, looking at her oddly. “How do Fairies… I mean, if you’re a kind of Monster, then there’s no…”

Abigail’s full face goes red and she turns her face, not looking at you. “I don’t feel like I need to discuss that with you.”

“I mean like… you’re the size of one and there’s just no way unless you like… stretch or something.”

“I said that’s enough!” Abigail says, brandishing the [Pen] in front of your face. “Stop, or you’ll regret it!”

You roll you eyes and shake your head. “Fine, whatever. But if you’re going to stay around, you’re going to have to get used to this kind of stuff.”

“I will not be stretched by someone like you!” She squeaks and you sigh.

“No, I meant… look, whatever. I’m getting out of bed.” You throw the covers off you and roll out of the bed, planting your feet on the floor before sighing again. Abigail coughs and shakes her head, the blushing sort of going away. Sort of.

“Yes! Good!” She says, rubbing at her cheek. “To save you time, I counted the money in that pouch and read over that letter from your former Master.”

“You WHAT?” You say, horrified and furious.

“Yeah, a lot of money. Five gold, fifty-two silver, and forty-eight copper pieces, and a key in the bag, and the letter says-“

You hold up a hand, cutting her off. You take a deep breath before growling out, “What made you think you had the right to go through these things?”

“Look, I’m here to expedite this whole murder process. You were asleep, like a slacker, so I took care of things for you.”

“That letter was PERSONAL!” You nearly shout, and Ginelle looks back over at both of you, looking concerned. You wave a hand toward her dismissively before clenching your fists. “Give it to me, now.”

“Well, yeah it was personal, but-“

“NOW.” You hiss and she blinks a few times before sighing and doing a mid-air, backward cartwheel and appearing on the table, grabbing the opened letter and flying it back to you. You snatch it from her grasp and look it over. She opened the letter with dignity at least, looking very clean and happy, but… it felt like a sort of violation. You shake in anger for a moment before sighing out and removing the letter from the envelope, Hannah’s words to wait to read it running through your mind. Still… you feel obligated to read it now.

So, with some anger, some apprehension, and some sadness, you open the letter and read:

“Tobias,

I want you to know that I write this letter of sound mind, or as sound as my mind could be. Everything I say here is the truth and I wish to hold nothing back from you, though it is hard for me to say sometimes.

Firstly, the point of this letter. If you are reading this, then I am either dead, or have gone insane, and I pray to the Gods that you had the courage to kill me. I do not blame you if you could not, for it is not a fate I would wish to foist upon anyone. I never expected to survive my encounter with Fiora, not with a rational mind. I’ve been on the edge for a long time as it is and when my suspicions were confirmed of her becoming a Monster, I knew that the feeling I’ve been having since we started would come to pass.

I never wanted to leave you like this, but as part of his sick game, we all must play our parts, and I have sacrificed myself as the knight so the Queen may be taken. Perhaps casting myself as a knight is a little egocentric, but this is a will of sorts, so I can be whatever I want to be.

Tobias, I have had multiple students, and I must say, you’ve been the worst. You wouldn’t do your studies on time, you spent all day looking at your silly storybook, or you just plain badmouthed me. There were times when I thought about kicking you out and leaving you to your own devices. It would have made my life a little less stressful, that’s for certain.

And yet, though you were the worst pupil, you always caught on quickly, and watching you explore your power was always a treat for me as a mentor. I saw from the first day I found you in Sanctifrond the potential within you, the greatness that just needed an avenue to express itself. I feel from our trip to Loveura, the road is what resonates with you. Actively pursuing a goal, and thinking creatively to get out of the situation, using your powers in efficient ways… these are all things a good Illusionist should be able to do. I saw glimpses of these things, and I am so disappointed that I could not be around to watch your growth into a truth Illusionist.

Perhaps it is because I never had children, or perhaps because of the lingering scars of Fiora, but having you around, despite your bullshit, has been great for me too. This is hard to write in some ways, but I always thought of you as the son I never had. The insubordinate, lazy, piece of shit son that I love with all my heart. Sometimes, I wonder if I deserved getting the second chance after Fiora by having you around.

Well, enough of that musing, and back to business. Hannah should have given you the money, it is all of my savings. The key is for our house, well, your house now. All of it belongs to you, and I hope you’re able to return home and make a place for yourself there. That Badgergirl, Ginelle, she’s a nice girl, and so is Clarissa. You’re an attractive lad, so make a home for yourself! Enjoy life before things get complicated for you. You can’t escape what you are, or what you’ll have to do as my apprentice, but you can avoid my mistakes. When you find someone you feel a connection to, grab them with all your heart and never let go. If I’d done that, then maybe Fiora would never have been when she is now.

I wish I had more to leave you beyond money and property, something more than just these words, but this will have to do. Tobias, I have done my best to impart upon you knowledge, something that I hope you use in life. We have such power, such fantastic, destructive, beautiful power, yet at the end of the day, with the knowledge to use it, we’re nothing. Never stop pushing, never stop trying, and never give up. You’re a man of great talent and personality, and you can do whatever you believe you can do.

It feels like there’s so much I could say, so much I could pour onto this paper, feelings that would span volumes, but this is hard enough as it is. You’ve grown into a fine Illusionist, but you must always keep improving. You’ve made me proud to have known you Tobias, and I wish you a fine and full life, so please, live it.

 

Thank you for everything,

Richard Dennerman”

You gently fold the letter up and slide it back into the envelope, taking a shuddering breath. You’re not even certain how to feel about all of this, it’s just… just so much to process. Feeling something on your cheek, you rub at it and find once more that you’re crying. You swallow and chuckle, “Damnit, I thought I said I wasn’t going to cry anymore!”

“Hey, hey, it’s fine.” Ginelle says, apparently having watched you read after cleaning her face. She scoots up to you on the bed and gently rests her head on your shoulder, nuzzling you softly. “It’s going to be alright.”

“Ginelle.” You say, shaking your head. “You don’t have to stay here, you know. You didn’t have to stay for any of this. You could go to Kasin and have a great life and-” She puts a finger to your lips, cutting you off, shaking her own head.

“Shush, Tobias. I’m here with you because I choose to be here, alright?” She gently removes her finger from your lips and you sigh.

“It’s going to be even more dangerous from here on out.”

“That’s fine.” She says, puffing her chest. “You need someone to protect you all the more then!”

You roll your eyes, smirking, when the door opens and Saya comes in with a tray of food. She looks at the two of you with a frown before placing the food on the table, the tray clattering and causing you to jump up some. You frown at her and she huffs before sitting down and chewing on a piece of bread. You and Ginelle trade glances before the two of you shuffle off the bed and sit down at the table again.

“Uhm, thank you for the food Saya.” You say, taking some sausage and bread, making a little sandwich, while Ginelle lathers some bread in honey.

“I figured I could do something like this, also ask about the Leyway schedule for today.”

You look up sharply, food still in your mouth. “Lehwey?” You blink and then hold up a finger before chewing furious and then swallowing, choking out, “Gah, sorry, sorry. Leyway? What about the Leyway?”

Saya gives you an odd look, and Ginelle shrugs. “He likes them or something.”

“Clearly…” Saya says, giving you an odd look. “Anyway, it seems there’s an early evening Leyway to Sanctifrond. I’m planning on leaving on it since I have to report everything to Mother.” She hesitates before looking at Ginelle, then to you. “I was wondering if you two were… going that way.”

“I’m here too!” Abigail says, shoving a sausage into her mouth. Huh, her cheeks sort of stretch like a squirrel’s. She catches you watching and she stares into your eyes as she bites off a chunk of sausage forcefully before dropping the rest to the table. She continues to stare a little longer as she chews before turning about not to look at you. That was one of the most disturbing things you’ve ever seen.

“Uhm…okay.” Saya says, watching that ordeal. “Nevermind, but you need to decide quickly so tickets can be-“

“I’ll go with you.” You say absently, still feeling a little disturbed. Was that erotic or a threat? Why would she DO that? A moment later you blink and look around, seeing Ginelle frowning. “Oh! I mean, we’ll go, yes.”

“Ah.” Saya says, clacking her tongue. “Alright, that’s easy enough. I guess I can purchase Leyway tickets then with some of my funding, would be nice to have you around when I got to deliver my report to Mother.”

You raise a hand. “Wait, wait, you want me to ride on a Leyway, AND meet your Mother, I mean the Monster Lady?”

“Uhm… yes?” Saya says, looking a little confused.

“Woooow.” You say, smiling like an idiot.

“It’s not all fun and games.” Abigail says, pulling out her list. Man, she has really good calligraphy skills. “You have people to kill.”

“Yeah yeah…” You say, chewing on some more food. “So pushy…”

“Well, if you need assistance, I might be able to help.” Saya says, shrugging. “If Mother sends me elsewhere though… that’s that.”

Ginelle sighs, “I hope we don’t have to split up though, you’re too good a friend to lose like that.”

Saya gives her a smile that looks a little strained to you. Real, yet… well, hard to put into words. “Yeah, I feel the same way.”

“Saya…” You say, frowning. “Are you alright?”

“Yeah, why wouldn’t I be?” She says, smiling at you prettily.

“Because you…” You look around at the others and shake your head. “Let’s talk about it later.”

Saya looks down, her smiling fading as she nods her head. “Yeah… that would be better.”

You sigh out before clapping your cheeks. “Right then! So, we have a plan to go to Sanctifrond, likely the A6 line on a Mk II Mythril pattern…”

“Tobias…” Ginelle says, nudging your arm.

“Fiiiiine. So, Leyway, but before we go, I think we should pay Fellows a visit.”

“Sounds fine.” Saya says, nodding her head. “Probably should check up on the Manufactorium too before we go, make sure everything there is fine, maybe get some specs on those warbots. They probably don’t want to hand them over, but having something like that to show Mother would be excellent.”

Ginelle frowns. “Ophelia, huh? Alright…” She shakes her head. “But it is what it is. Sounds like a plan.”

“Well, let’s get started then!” Abigail says, flapping into the air before zooming to the door and clicking open the handle (With some severe effort). The three of you look at each other before shaking your heads and standing up from the table, ready to get on with whatever the future holds.

 

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