Illusionistquest Chapter 8: Train of Thought

Before you go five feet, you hear Ginelle ask from behind you, “Exactly how are we getting this started?”

You pause, stunned for a moment. “Uhhhhh. Well… I think we’ll go walk over to the Main District, then the Market district and I don’t know, have a big lunch with everyone.”

“Oh, okay.” Ginelle says, shrugging. “Just curious.”

“Is… is that all?” You say, cocking your head. Ginelle blinks and then shrugs again.

“I mean, sure. I was just curious.” She looks down at the hem of her city girl’s clothing and frowns, seeing as it’s ripped up some. “Maybe I should change first.”

Saya chuckles, “Might be a good idea.” She looks down at her own, dour clothing and frowns. “Maybe I should change also?”

“Oh?” You say, smirking. “Feel like dressing up?”

She huffs, “Hey, you went through the trouble of conning a poor man out of these clothes, so we might as well get to wear them.” She rummages through her possessions and pulls out the red and black dress while Ginelle grabs her yellow dress. They both begin to start undressing before Saya stops and looks up at you.

You wave your hand slightly toward her and instead of the anger before, she blushes slightly and then shakes her head. “Please go outside.”

You look to Ginelle, who stopped herself short, holding her dress over her breasts, though her muscled shoulders are bare. You sigh and stand up, shaking your head, a shit-eating grin on your face. “Oh, very well. I will excuse myself ladies.”

“Pervert.” Saya grumbles.

“Hey, you’re the Monsters.” You say, holding up an arm to block a shoe being thrown at you as you walk outside. As soon as you’re there, you put your back against the door and sigh, sliding down some and shaking your head. How did it end up like this?

“Man, you got yourself in a pickle there kid.” Abigail says, fluttering around you. Must have flown out after you or something. “Also, you conned someone out of those dresses? Maybe there’s hope for you yet.”

“Why does everyone call me kid? I’m an adult.”

“Yeah well, maybe you should handle things like an adult.” She says, looking back at the door behind you before shaking her head. “Well, it’s none of my business.”

“Aww, you almost said something nice.” You say, a smirk on your face.

The Fairy frowns before flying up and flicking your nose. It sort of tickles honestly. You don’t do anything to retaliate, and she huffs, crossing her arms while fluttering before your face. “Bah, you’re a jerk sometimes.”

“Well, yes.” You shrug. “Hey, can you do anything besides being angry? You lit up, but any crazy Fairy magic? I read on the Communion Matrix that Fairies have crazy fairy magic.”

“What? I’m not telling you! Ugh, you really are a jerk!.” She says, huffing again. Before anything else can be said, she looks over at the door and grumbles, “Get up, they’re coming.”

You blink and stand, and a second later, the door opens, Ginelle blinking as she sees you so close to the door. She put the dress on, of course, and once more her powerful form looks radiant in the yellow and black garment. Saya peeks out from behind her and you have to keep to from staring at how well she wears her own dress, the red and black flowing wonderfully with her body. You both blush some and look away. Jackor damnit, Abigail was right, huh…

“Uh, right. You two ready then?”

“Uh, yeah.” Ginelle says, rubbing at her head. “We have a lot to do before we leave, right?”

“Yep!” Abigail says, flying in between the two of you. “Come on, come on, move it, move it!”

You sigh and shake your head, turning back to head downstairs, the others following you. You hear Saya yelp slightly and turn your head to see her fussing at her skirts, which ruffle slightly. Saya growls, “What is your problem?”

“Don’t worry about.” Comes from under her skirt. “Just keeeeep walking.”All three of you look at each other and you groan before continuing downstairs.

Not even a second after your shoes touch the last step does Hannah come out and wrap you in a big hug. You wheeze out slightly as she presses you close into her and you have to slap her arm a few times for her to let you go enough to let you breath. She sniffles and says, “You’re leaving, huh?”

“Yeah…” You say, taking in sweet, sweet air. “Although, it’s kind of hard if you’re squeezing me like this.”

She blinks and then lets you go, chuckling. “Ah, sorry about that, I’m just… still caught up in everything you told me last evening. It’s… a lot to take in.” She puts a paw on your shoulder and nods to you. “Are you alright?”

You sigh out, “No, but…” You look over at your companions and then nod your head. “I think I’ll make it.”

“Well, if you need anything, you come and let me know, alright? I trust you’ll find how to bring him back to us soon, alright?”

“Yeah… yeah!” You say, forcing some confidence into your voice. “Oh, I’m going to guess Richard didn’t pay up yet.” You reach into your pouch and Hannah shakes her head, holding out a hand.

“Oh no, you keep that money. He’ll pay it back later.” You hear a grumbling noise of complaint from the kitchen and Hanna frowns, shouting back, “Oh, stick it you curmudgeon!” She rolls her eyes and looks back at you. “Ah, he’s like that.”

The door behind you opens and little Jeanie walks in, her wolfy-tail wagging. “Hey Mom! The stables are cleaned and… oh hey! It’s you!” She walks up to the three of you and smiles lecherously. “Oh ho ho, look who’s doing well for himself…”

Hannah flicks her daughter’s ear, causing the girl to crouch and pout some. Hannah sighs and shakes her head. “Sorry about that.”

“Hey, speaking of stables.” You say, rubbing your chin, realizing you utterly forgot something very important. “How has Craig been?”

Jeanie looks up at you, smiling. “Oh, he’s well! Likes to sit around and eat all day, seems pretty happy to me! Why, do you want to take him out of the stables?”

“No, sadly we have to leave by Leyway.” You feel a little twinge of pain as you say that, realizing you have to leave Richard’s old horse behind too. You look to Hannah and nod your head. “Hey, do you think we could leave Craig with you? You can use him for whatever you need, I just… we can’t take him with us.”

Hannah nods her head and smiles before patting Jeanie on the head. “Sure, Jeanie loves working with Craig, right?”

“Yeah, sure!” Jeanie says before cocking her head. “Where are you going? And where is Mr. Dennerman?”

Everyone looks a little pained at that and Jeanie frowns, confused, before her mother takes her to the side. “He’s gone on ahead of them to Sanctifrond, sweetie. They’ll be back later!”

“Oh, okay.” She says, sighing some. “Alright then, come back soon!” She smiles and you find your heart bleeding in your chest at her poor, sweet innocence. You lick your lips and nod your head, forcing a smile on your face.

“Yeah… yeah we will.” She smiles at you and you nod to Hannah, who pats your back. You adjust the [Rucksack] on your back before nodding to the others, who adjust their own items and you leave The Dancing Wolf for the last time. For now, anyway.

—————————-

“Fellows eh?” A Guardsman says at the front desk of the station. The scratches his cheek, looking utterly bored. “Yeah, he’s here, though he ain’t really doing much. Higher ups not too happy with him.”

You sigh, feeling bad for the Sergeant. The two (three) of you made your way here while Ginelle headed to the Market District to get Ophelia. You made a straight bee-line to the Main District (which is funny because off the Beegirls), stopping only to speak with Ulala before reaching the station. She didn’t have much to say, merely mentioning that Richard was fine and that she was doing well. You kind of got the feeling that she wanted you to leave, whether for her benefit, or yours, you do not know.

Either way, you stand inside the Station as the guardsman eyes you and your companions before sighing. “Can I help you with anything else?”

“Uh, yeah, can you please get him for us?” Saya says, crossing her arms. The man rolls his eyes.

“Oh, very well then. Give me a moment…” He stands slowly and speaks to a younger man who salutes crisply and runs to the back.

Saya sighs and rubs her face. “I can’t tell if they’ve always been incompetent, or if this is fallout from Fiora.”

“I don’t know.” You say, shrugging. “If she won’t be here much longer, then hopefully things will go back to normal since the Mayor won’t have her inside her head.”

“I suppose…” Saya says, looking a little perturbed. “I might need to have Mother pressure the King to bring someone down to officially look into her corruption. I can imagine he’d want to replace her anyway, though she used to be such a good woman.”

“Well, maybe she can be again, but if we have to leave then…”

Saya nods her head before hitting her dress and grumbling about tiny fairies. “Right, it’s not our concern for now. The town will be standing when we return, alright?”

“What’s this about town standing?” A gruff voice says, and you look up to see Sergeant fellows, in full gear again, walking up to you, shooing away the poor kid working there. He ruffles his mustache before nodding to you. “Ah, the young Tobias and Saya! I trust everything went well?”

“Not… quite.” You say, and the man frowns. You raise a hand, looking over to the bored guardsman, who is eyeing your group with curiosity. “How about we talk over this over some lunch, huh?”

Fellows looks over his shoulder and nods his head. “Alright then. I shall follow you then!” He sighs. “Not like they have much doing much here at the moment anyway.”

The three (four) of you leave then, and Fellows seems to understand the situation somehow, deciding not to ask any questions until you reach the Market District, which is busy busy busy at this hour. Thankfully, you picked an restaurant beforehand, and as you arrive, you see a grumpy looking Ophelia crossing her arms while saying something to Ginelle, which gets lost in the crowd. As you approach though, you see her long ears perk up and she looks over to you, a small smile appearing on her face before vanishing. She waves at you and you wave back before sitting down on at the table next to Ginelle.

Saya, of course, sits directly next to you and Fellows sits next to Ophelia, nodding to her and bowing slightly. Ophelia rolls her eyes before looking back at you, raising an eyebrow. “So uh… this is unexpected. What’s going on and uh…” She looks about, frowning. “Where’s the guy you were with before?”

“Well, that’s kind of what this is about.” You say, putting your hands together and taking a deep breath. “Fiora managed to get away from us, wounded, but alive, and Richard was… wounded.”

Fellows expression turns dark while Ophelia puts a hand to her mouth. “No! Will be he alright?”

“Maybe.” You say, shaking your head. “We have to do something first, but that’s my problem.” Saya and Ginelle before elbow you in the ribs and you wheeze, rubbing at your side. “Fiiiine, it’s out problem.”

Fellows sighs, “Bother, she sounds like quite the terror.” He twirls his moustache, frowning. “What do you plan to do now?”

“Well, we’re heading to Sanctifrond to look chase some leads as well as do some… dirty work.” You say, rubbing your hands together. “It’s legal and sanctioned by the crown, of course, but it’s not pleasant. This is all so we have find Fiora and put a stop to her.” You take a deep breath before looking at both of them in the eyes.

“I set up this meeting to say thank you for everything you’ve done for us since we’ve been here. You didn’t need to do any of it, and I’m sorry for the trouble we’ve brought you.”

Ophelia’s ears droop some and she gives you a wan smile. “Hey, it’s alright Tobias, without you we’d have been helping something terrible.”

“And I would have let a criminal go loose!” Fellows says, crossing his arms and nodding. “Though it might have cost me my job.”

“Oh no.” Saya says, reaching out a hand. “What happened with the thief?”

Fellows grumbles, “We put her in a cell, but almost immediately I was taken for questioning, the Chief was furious at me for acting without orders. I’ve been put on administrative holding, but…” He shakes his head. “Well, of course, the cell was empty the next day. Truly empty, mind you.”

“Oh hells, she won’t try to steal our mana cycler again, will she?” Ophelia says, looking alert.

“I doubt it.” Saya says, shaking her head. “She needed to get to Fiora beforehand, but now she probably wants nothing to do with Fiora. I don’t think Fiora wants the cycler for the moment anyway, since she can’t distill and infuse into the plants she was working with anyway.”

Ophelia mouths, “Plants?” before shaking her head. “Alright then, that’s good.” She looks to you and you see a twinge of sadness in her eyes. “So you’re leaving then?”

“Yeah, we leave early evening.”

“Oh, I see.” She fidgets some. “Mk. II Mythril pattern-“

“Yes.” Ginelle says, waving a hand. You chuckle and shrug.

“No one else cares about it as much as we do.”

“Haha, well, they don’t have good tastes then?” She blink and looks to Ginelle and Saya before blushing. “Uhm, right, sorry. Hey, is there anything else I can do for you before you go?”

“Well…” You say, rubbing your chin. “We will likely see those Blitzers at some point, having schematics would be nice…”

“No.” Ophelia says flatly. “I will not give away Manufactorium secrets.”

“Ah, alright-“

“But if you want…” She twirls her fingers together. “I couuuuuld go with you?”

You blink, Saya blinks, Ginelle blinks, and Fellows chuckles. “Ho ho ho, very bold there lass!”

Ophelia waves a dismissive hand toward him. “I just want to go and reclaim our products, especially since the buyer has vanished it seems. If it means I have to travel about, and maybe see a few things, make a few deals, well, then that’s a bonus.” She looks at you and smirks, “Uhm… how about it?”

You cock your head. “Did your mother put you up to this?”

“No!” Ophelia huffs, crossing her arms. “This is my decision!” She pales a moment later. “Though I will have to speak with her before I can finalize any of this…”

“It’ll be fine.” You say, chuckling before looking at the other two. “Is that fine?”

Ginelle frowns and crosses her arms. “If you want…”

Saya shrugs, “Would be useful I suppose.”

Fellows smiles, “Ah, to be young again.”

“What about you, Sergeant?” You say, looking at him. “If you get fired, what about you?”

“Oh, son, I don’t think I have it in me to go on an adventure any longer.” He shakes his head, looking far older than he should. “I have a family to look after anyway, I can’t just leave them.”

“What if I paid you as some kind of mercenary?”

He actually looks a little angry at that. “Boy, this isn’t a time for joking. I take my job seriously, and I work for justice, not for the pay.” He sighs then. “Though without the money, things may be a little tight for abit.”

You frown, feeling bad for the man, when Saya perks up, snapping her fingers. “I have an idea!” Saya says, smiling. “What if you joined the Order of the Heroic Brotherhood?” He gives her an odd look and she waves a hand toward him. “You could be there as an instructor, they always take people with experience and drive.”

“Oh lass, I don’t think they’d take me, I don’t even know anyone.”

Saya chuckles, “I know the Lord Commander, he’ll take you in.”

Fellows gives her a critical look before chuckling. “Is that so? Well… perhaps it would be nice, but I’d have to leave Loveura then…”

“This place is getting a little out of hand for now.” Ginelle says, nodding her head. “Everyone keeps talking about how the mayor is corrupt, and how the Guard isn’t doing their job right. What if they come after you for knowing too much?”

“I… well, that would be…” Fellows stammers, looking troubled.

“Maybe moving to Sanctifrond would be prudent?” You say, shrugging. The man looks at you with a pained expression before shaking his head.

“I don’t have the money for that…” He cuts off as you slap a gold coin on the table. He stares at it before looking back up to you.

“Take it. As a thank you for everything, take it and get your family on a Leyway to Sanctifrond.”

“Boy…” He says, looking a little troubled. “I can’t just take this…”

“Yes. You can, and you will.” You say, pressing it toward him. “Come on Fellows, do what’s best here. Do what you can for justice. Do what you feel is right. If it means staying here, then do that. If not, then I think you’ll do really well in Sanctifrond.”

He stares at the coin for a moment longer before sighing and taking the coin, slipping it into a pouch. “Very well then. Thank you.”

You smile and want to speak more, but get cut off by a server, a young looking Catgirl bouncing up. “Sorry about the wait everyone, what can I get you? We have a special honeyed menu today…”

You groan while Ginelle rubs her paws together, smiling with glee.

——————————–

The sound of magitek engines on the tracks makes  your heart sing as you watch the attendants load up everyone’s luggage into the Leyway. Well, mostly Ophelia’s luggage, which she says is mostly tools that she can’t just leave back at home. It’s not terribly much, thankfully, but it’s still kind of crazy.

You adjust the new pair of [Magesight Goggles] you bought before coming here and then put them back in your [Rucksack], no longer needing them out. Thankfully they didn’t cost an arm and a leg, but hells, you really needed to get a budget. The money won’t last forever! You’re about to count the money again when Ophelia walks up, nodding her head.

“I almost can’t believe Mother let me come, but with the agreement to speak with some backers in Sanctifrond, she let me go.” She looks over the train and nods her head. “Leyway looks to be fully in order, though this is one of the more decadent trains. Not certain how you afforded it.”

“Ah, well, Saya paid for the tickets…”

“What, is she secretly rich or something?”

“Well, she’s kind of the daughter of the Grand Wizard and the Monster Lady, so…”

Ophelia’s eyes grow as wide as dinner plates and she puts a hand to her mouth. “Dear Gods, so she’s THAT Saya? I should have known, but… oh dear.” She looks a little flustered for a moment. “Ahhh, I’m here with a celebrity!”

“So you HAVE read Wizardquest.” You say, smiling at her.

“Of course I have, I just… you know, thought a lot of it was embellished, and it’s not something girls are supposed to like, you know?” She mumbles to herself before slapping her cheeks. “Okay! Right! Sorry about that.”

“That was my reaction at first too.” You say, smirking, looking over as Saya and Ginelle walk up. “You two ready?”

“Yeah, should be fine.” Saya says, stretching. “Tickets all check out for us, and we should be in Sanctifrond in about two days.”

“Technology is wonderful.” You say, slowly caressing the Leyway. The others give you strange looks except for Ophelia who nods her head in approval.

“Uhm… okay.” Ginelle says, nodding to the door. “Should we go in?”

You shrug and all of you enter the Leyway car, looking about the posh interior. There are multiple chairs lining the sides of the car, all made of rich leather with arm rests and multiple windows. A rich carpet runs through the center toward the other cars, and you follow it, noticing a few other, very well dressed patrons sitting there, chatting amongst themselves.

The next few cars are the same, though you reach the dining car next, which has many, beautifully made tables and small booths against one side, and a bar on the other side, a Blue-oni bartender wiping some glasses, giving you a nod as you pass. Ginelle looks pretty interested in this car, but you keep moving forward to the sleeping cars, which have large rooms separated by sliding doors. Your room is only a few cars down, and you slide the door open to find a lovely little setting.

There are four beds, two on each side, lining in a bunk setting, with rich looking blankets though the mattresses look rather flat. Four seats sit against the wall next to the window, and there are two trunks for luggage to be placed.

“Welp.” You say, nodding your head. “Here we are.”

“Yep.” The other three say in unison.

“Heeeeey!” Abigail says, fluttering up out from Saya’s skirts, putting hands on her smock, causing Ophelia to step back in shock. “I call top bunk!”

Everyone looks at Abigail, then to each other. You shrug and shake your head. “Well, might as well make ourselves comfortable, it’s going to be a trip.”

“Well, I think I’m going to take a look around the Leyway a little.” Saya says, tossing her things onto a bunk, one of the top ones you notice. She looks back at you and smirks, “I’ll leave figuring the rest of this out to you.” She squeezes past everyone and wanders down the car, back toward the way you came.

“I’m a little tired.” Ginelle says, yawning. “I think I’m going to take a nap.” She crawls into one of the bottom bunks and sighs in comfort as she snuggles under the blankets and draws a curtain to obscure her.

Ophelia cocks her head, giving Ginelle an odd look. “Uhm, you’re still wearing your dress.”

“Don’t care…” Ginelle says before softly snoring.

Ophelia looks back to you and sighs, her ears bobbing back and forth. “You have a pack of characters around you, you know?”

“Well, I think you’re one of them now.”

“I don’t know how to take that.”

“Eh, it’s a good thing.” You say before patting her shoulder, causing her to jump a little. “Easy now, nothing frightening about me. I’m glad you’re here though, I’d like to know a little more about you and such.” You lean in conspiratorially then and whisper, “Besides, they don’t know anything about Magitek.”

Ophelia chuckles and pulls out a wrench from… somewhere and twirls it in her fingers with expert precision. “Oh don’t you worry, I can talk about magitek for aggggess.” She shakes her head then. “What are you going to do before we engage?”

You shrug, “I dunno, go head around, cause trouble, the usual.”

Ophelia frowns at that before sighing. “Look, Tobias, we don’t really know each other too well, but if you want to talk about it…”

“It’s fine.” You say, cutting her off. “I’ll be fine. Can’t dwell on the past forever, right?”

She shakes her head before smiling wanly. “Yeah, I guess you’re right.” She takes a deep breath and then puts a hand on your chest before pushing you out. “Alright, get out of here then. I have things to unpack.”

“We’re only going to be here like, two days…” You say, but Ophelia waggles a finger.

“Ladies have their own ways about things.”

“It’s true you know.” Abigail says, flying to rest on top of your head, which is actually super annoying. “We have dignity and grace.”

“What… is that?” Ophelia says, looking at Abigail with a perplexed expression. “I saw it before but… I just don’t..”

Abigail huffs and flies in front of her face. “I am a Leanan Sidhe, thank you very much, and I am a SHE not an it!” She crosses her arms and sticks her tongue out at Ophelia.

“Well, you two are getting along well.” You say, chuckling. They both give you dirty looks and you raise your hands defensively. “Owww, the stares owww, it burns.”

“Hmph!” Abigail says before flying over to land on your head again, sitting there. “Let us leave, I don’t want to be here at the moment.”

“You little pixie b…” Ophelia says before catching herself and taking a calming breath. “I’ll catch you later then Tobias.”

“Right…” You say, looking up at Abigail and sighing before leaving the room, shutting the door behind you. You frown and shake your head, causing Abigail to let out a little squeak of alarm.

“H…hey! Don’t do that!” She says, pulling on your hair.

“You are a little pest, huh.”

“Rude.”

“You know you like it.” You say, a smug smile on your face. You are caught a little off guard when she sighs out,

“Yeah, kind of. Reminds me of home.”

“Uh… hmm.” You say, rubbing your chin. “You uh… miss home then?”

“No shit.” She says before shaking her head. “But when Lord Jackor calls…” She sighs again before pulling on your hair. “Stop being so dour you lout. I need you to finish this job right.”

“Ugghhhhhh.” You say, swiping at Abigail, who dodges, the little bitch. You shake your head and look up at the ceiling, thinking about what to do. Honestly, you don’t really feel like much at all, even though you’re finally on a Leyway, one of your dreams. The pit in your stomach is still there, the hole in your heart aching.

“Honestly, you should stop moping and do something fun to take your mind off things.”

“Like what?”

She thinks for a moment before tapping your forehead. “Why don’t you have a party? Parties are always nice.”

You rub your chin, thinking this over. “A party, huh?” You tap your foot a few times, mulling the thought. Spirits have been down, maybe doing something nice in your room would be good? Yeah, yeah, and you could have cool party games and such. People have party games at parties, right? You don’t really know, but it sounds like something you would want to do.

“Hey you know what, that does sound good.” You say, and smiling up to Abigail. She smirks back down at you before giggling.

“See, I am smart, right? Now then, a party, party… we need food, booze…”

“Party games?” You say hopefully.

She looks at you with a very strange expression. “Are… are you twelve?”

“I… no…” You say sheepishly. Abigail just shakes her head and is about to say something before blinking a few times and smiling wickedly.

“Actually… yes, party games are part of a party!”

“Really?” You say, hopefully.

“Oh yes, yes yes yes.” She says rubbing her little hands together. “Every head of Seven Minutes with Phallia?”

“N…no?”

“Ehehehe.” She cackles before stopping herself and coughing into her hand. “Hey, let’s get the food first, alright?”

You blink a few times before sighing and shaking your head, moving down the cars, eventually finding your way into the dining car. As you reach the car though, you feel the Leyway suddenly shudder and  the floor vibrates slowly beneath you before it stops and you hear a mild humming. You look about, blinking, realizing that the Leyway has departed! You smile broadly and walk further into the dining car, feeling a little elated for it.

A few other patrons are there, sitting at tables, mainly having drinks, a few with some meals before them. You look over at the bar, seeing only one other person there, a young man in a leather jacket with a wide-brimmed hat. He doesn’t look up from his drink as you approach, and you sit a few barstools away from him because he seems a little… weird.

“Here there hon, how can I help you?” The Blue-Oni bartender says, looking you up and down. You’re pretty sure she’s just sizing you for your age… right?

“Uh, I guess some ale?” You say, figuring you should at least order something here and she raises an eyebrow. You look a little alarmed, as you feel you made some kind of mistake, and you look behind you to Abigail who… where did she go? You feel a little panicked when the man at the bar chuckles, his voice much more melodious than you’d expect.

“He means he’ll have whiskey.”

The bartender looks at him before shrugging and pouring a glass of amber liquid before you. You fish out a copper for her and take the glass gently, remembering your experiences with whiskey before. You had way too much once a few years back, and Richard gave you hell for… oh. You look at the drink with a sad expression and the man next to you chuckles.

“Ah, whiskey, always brings out someone’s true emotions. Had a loss recently, eh?”

You look up at him and notice he’s smiling at you, his incredibly handsome features and deep blue eyes peeking out from under his hat. You blink a few times, taken aback by him and nod slowly. He motions for you to drink and look down at the glass and do so, feeling the burn of the whiskey going down your throat.

He smirks and takes a swig of his own liquor, downing it all in one drink. “Ahhh, that’s the stuff. Now then, you didn’t really look like you’re here for a drink, though you needed one.”

“Uh… you’re right.” You say, looking back to your glass. “I actually wanted to order some food to take back to my room for my companions.”

The bartender frowns. “Food has to stay in the dining car, rules of the Leyway.”

“Oh.” You say, looking down. “I’m sorry, I just… you see, my companions, one of them is rather ill and the others wanted to do something to cheer her up. I mean, she shouldn’t leave bed, but if we have to move her here to eat, then alright, I get it.” You sigh and shake your head. “I guess I’ll have to break the bad news to them…”

“Aww, hon…” The bartender says, rubbing the back of her head. “Look, I mean… I can’t just.”

“No… no I get it.” You say, sighing and taking a drink from your whiskey. Gah, it burns good. “I’ll just… finish my drink and break the news to them.”

She sighs and shakes her head. “Damn kids like you, always pull at my heartstrings.” She rolls her eyes. “I’ll get something nice for you to take back, just… don’t cry.”

“You will?” You say, smiling at her. “Oh, thank you! Oh, and throw in some bottles of wine too, and bring it by in about an hour or so, alright?”

“Uhhhh.”

“She ever so does like wine, it soothes her soul and reminds her of the old country…”

“Alright, alright.” The Oni says, grumbling and writing a few things down before handing it to a waiter who takes it over to the kitchen area. She shakes her head and goes to help another group of patrons over near the bar. You smirk over the rim of your glass, subtly influencing her mind as she pours them their drinks, making her shudder a little, and get mildly flushed as she believes she’s feeling aroused. It… isn’t as hard as you expected it to be. Maybe she DOES get off on making drinks?

“That’s the best crock of shit I’ve heard in a long time.” The man says, chuckling. “Damn, that was smooth.”

You frown toward him, raising an eyebrow. “I’m not certain what you mean.”

“Naw, sure you do.” He says. “You some kind of mummer or something?”

“Not quite…” You say, looking off to the side and noticing a tall, polished case of wood next to the man. “Are you some kind of performer?”

He looks down at the case and smirks. “Performer huh? Haha, yeah, sure, something like that. I’m a performer.”

“Alright…” You say, shaking your head and finishing your drink, placing it on the counter for the bartender to grab. “Anyway, I better be going, deliver the food to room thirteen, please!” The Oni, her cheeks bright red nods her head quietly and waves her hand to usher you away, and you walk gently down into the next cart, feeling at once confused by the man and elated you got what you wanted. Also, watching those patrons think that Oni was getting off on making drinks was also mildly amusing.

“That guy was kind of hot.” Abigail says, appearing on your head. You jump, nearly slamming her into the wall in your panic and she smacks your head. “Hey! Be careful!”

“Jackor! Where did you come from?”

“Oh, you know, places.” She says, shrugging. “It’s not so hard to find a place to hide in there if you’re looking properly.”

“Why do you keep hiding anyway? Don’t you have crazy fairy magic?”

“Look, fairy magic doesn’t work like that, we have do some light shows, cast a few minor illusions, etc etc, but for Leanan Sidhe’s our talents lie more in inspiring people to-” She cuts off suddenly before frowning and pulling at your hair. “None of your business anyway.”

“You know, if you’re going to be part of the team, you might need to contribute something every now and then… and maybe stop hiding up Saya’s skirts.”

“Oh, you wish you could be up those skirts.”

“Maybe I do!” You say without thinking about it. Of course, then you do think about it and you take in a sharp little breath as Abigail giggles.

“Hehehe, you do want to bone to goo monster!”

“Hey… I just… I mean.” You say, looking a little panicked before sighing and looking down. “I admire her a lot and I mean… how would I tell Ginelle? I know she likes me.”

“Oh, so does the rabbit.” Abigail says offhandedly.

“Yeah, I kind of figured that one out too.” You say, gritting your teeth. “Ughhh, but I think she can be rational about this.”

“Probably, but seeing her smug face getting…” She shakes her head before raising an eyebrow at you. “Well, maybe during your little party you should… let her know.”

You bite your lip before taking a shuddering breath. “Maybe your right.”

“Of course I’m right you idiot.” She flutters up to rest upon your head. “Now then, I think it’s time for some good old fashioned partyyyy.”

“Uh… sure.” You say, looking out one of the windows. Man, Leyways, move super fast, you’re already out in the countryside. A few hours later you’re going to be basically in the wilderness. Technology is so cooooool!

You reach your room again and knock on the door, hearing Ophelia say, “Hello?”

“Hey, it’s me.” You say and you hear some rustling.

“Oh! You’re back sooner than I thought!” Ophelia says. “Uhm… just let me… alright, there we are.” A moment later, the door to the room opens and you blink, taken aback and you behold Ophelia before you in a slim dress of blue silk. The dress has black lance around the bust and shoulders, trailing down to a light skirt that flares into a larger, blue petticoat. Over her furred hands, she’s wearing black gloves that go up to her elbows. She fidgets in the dress before chuckling, “Mother insisted I take one with me, for Sanctifrond you see, though I never wear the things, but well, the two other and…”

“Ophelia, it’s fine, it’s fine.” You say, shaking your head. “Calm down, you look great.”

“Really? Ah, I mean, yeah. Thank you.” She smiles and cocks her head. “Why are you back so soon anyway?”

“You’ll see. We’ll just have to wait for Saya to come back.”

Ophelia cocks her head before shrugging and sitting against one of the chairs in the room as you slide the door closed. “This isn’t the smoothest ride I’ve had in one of these, but it’s a damn good model.”

“Isn’t it?” You say, nodding your head. “Personally, I like the High Silver Chariots by technical standpoints better, but…”

“Ugghh, I can’t sleep with your nerd talk.” Ginelle says, poking her head out of the curtain, frowning. Abigail mirrors the motion and flies into her

“We’ll keep it down.” Ophelia says, and Ginelle just rolls her eyes before closing the curtain. You shake your head and look back to Ophelia, discussing the current patterns of Leyways out there and the politics of the Troll Unions, etc etc. Actually, it isn’t until you hear a knock at the door that you realize that you totally lost track of time speaking with the bunny. It’s refreshing to have someone to talk about these things with!

You get up and walk over to the door, opening it to reveal the waiter from before, a fabulous array of foods on a cart. He nods his head toward you and says, “I trust your waylaid friend will enjoy this meal, non?”

Ginelle groans from her bed and you both look over at her bed, then back to each other before shrugging. You tip the man a few coppers and bring the food in, a plethora of meats, breads, and other dishes, along with a few bottles of wine! Crap, this is going to cost you an arm and a leg, huh?

“Tobias!” Ophelia says, looking a little shocked. “Food doesn’t leave the dining car!”

“Well, when you’re me, you can do anything.” You say, giving you a big grin. “Besides, I felt like, you know, we should have a little bonding or something. Have a little party maybe.” You rub the back of your head. “Of course, if Saya was here, we could get things started…”

Ophelia shakes her head, smirking. “You are a bag of tricks, Tobias Shady. A party, huh?…” She looks over at the spread before chuckling and popping a strawberry into her mouth, her ears perking up as she chews on it succulently. You feel a little… uncomfortable as she takes a little too much delight in the act, though it kind of looks forced. Regardless, you notice a moment later her ears twitch and she frowns, eyes opening to look about.

“Do you feel that?” She asks and you frown, looking about the room.

“No? I don’t really…”

“The Leyway, it’s decelerating.”

“Why?”

“I don’t know…” Ophelia says, looking a little alarmed before standing and moving her head about, one of her feet thumping the floor. “I don’t like this.”

You look outside the window to see she’s right, the landscape is slowing down, and you open the window to look out ahead of you, though the rushing wind makes it a little difficult. In the near distance you can see fires spread out before someone on the tracks and as you approach, you begin to make out the forms of people… or Monsters, it’s hard to tell.

The sound of hurried footsteps comes from behind you and you turn about to see the door thrown open, Saya looking at you with a worried expression as she shouts. “Bandits! There’s bandits stopping the train!”

You and Ophelia trade glances, and a moment later, Ginelle rolls out of bed, yawning and rubbing at her eyes. “What’s happening?…”

“Come on.” You say, following Saya as she walks back to the front of the Leyway. Multiple worried passengers look outside their rooms, confusion on their faces as you pass by. When you reach the dining car, the passengers there are looking outside the windows with worried expressions, the bartender gripping a large, ornate club in her hands.

In fact, the only person there not looking worried is the man from before, another glass of whiskey in his hand. As you approach, he downs it and places it on the table before adjusting his hat and looking up to you, smiling. “Well, you look like you’ve got somewhere to be. Any idea what this ruckus is about?”

“I think there’s bandits about to board the train.” You say, and the man nods, reaching for his case and undoing a clasp.

“You don’t say? Huh, I didn’t think I’d be able to practice a ah… performance while on this trip.”

“What are you talk abou-” You say before the window next to you bursts into a shower of glass and a powerfully built Satyr flies through, showering you with shards of crystalline glass. You stare at her for a moment, stunned as she brandishes a club, about to slam it into your face, when the man at the bar blurs into motion.

You hear the sound of something metallic clacking followed by a flash of light, and suddenly a small hole appears in the Satyr’s arm and she recoils back, screaming in pain before Ginelle can tackle her and knock her out. You stare in confusion at your assailant for a moment before looking back up at the man, who tips his hat with one hand. In the other hand he carries a long, metallic silver weapon with a straight barrel, cylindrical chamber that glows bright purple with aetheric light, and an ornate wooden grip.

The sounds of more glass shattering and screams come from all over the Leyway and the man looks about, nodding his head. He leans the device across his shoulder, smiling broadly as he says, “No time to be sitting around, let’s play some music for these bandits!”

“Oh my Gods!” Ophelia says, putting a hand to her mouth. When the Satyr was hit by the man’s weapon, it caused a small spray of blood, some of it splattering against her dress, staining the blue with crimson. She took a shuddering step toward the man, her eyes wide, expression stunned. “Y…you…you…” She stammers, unable to get out a full thought.

The man takes off his hat, revealing short cut, glorious golden blonde hair. He places it to his chest and nods his head toward Ophelia. “Ma’am, I’m sorry you had to see that. I forget sometimes that some people aren’t accustomed to the blood. Please accept my condolences and hide yourself in your roo-“

Ophelia cuts him off, breaking out of her stupor.”You have a Godshammer rifle! If I’m not mistaken, the stock is custom, right? Oh, the purple glow in it… a Ungot IV mana chamber? I can tell by the discharge, of course. That’s one fine piece of magitek!” She completes the distance and runs her fingers down the barrel, shivering in an almost sexual manner. “Oh… I never thought I’d get to see one in person…”

“Uhh… Yes, it is.” The man says looking a little confused. “I appreciate anyone who understands the finer points of magitek weaponry, but we kind of have a train of full bandits?” As he says this, you hear screams from forward in the train.

“Oh… oh!” Ophelia says, shaking her head. “Of course! You’re right… bandits and…” She looks down at the unconscious Satyr, Ginelle dusting off her paws after knocking her out. Thankfully the rifle managed to cauterize the wound, so she wasn’t going to die, but… well, maybe you don’t care so much about her.

Ophelia shudders and rubs her shoulders. “This is going to happen a lot, isn’t it?”

“Look, Ophelia…” You say, putting a hand on her shoulder. “You can stay in the room if you want and-“

“No, no. There’s no time for that.” She says, shaking her head, ears flopping. “We need to get going. Besides, if they’ve damaged the mana engine, I need to be there to help out.”

“Well, alright then.” The man says, preparing his rifle again. “Name’s Clint, by the way.”

“Saya.”

“Ginelle.”

“Ophelia.”

“Tobias.” You say nodding to him. “Let’s head out and help.”

Clint looks at all you, spending a little more time than you think proper studying Saya before nodding to you. “You got a weapon?” Clint asks, and you wave a hand.

“Don’t worry about me.” You say and he looks at you critically before shrugging.

“Alright.” He moves to the end of the dining car and take a deep breath before sliding back to the door and in a fluid motion, levels his weapon and immediately fires it, to another bestial bray of pain. You move forward yourself, but Saya vaults over the bar and slips under Clint, who doesn’t flinch at her speed, and she vanishes into the other car, more cries coming a second later.

You, Ginelle, and Ophelia reach the car to see Clint holding overwatch and Saya incapacitating another Satyr. In total, four of the bestial goats were down, along with many passengers, some of which groan or shake, while others are disturbingly still. Ginelle slips past also, making certain everyone is fine, and you look out a window, seeing more torches outside. Obviously there’s a ton of these bandits… must be expecting quite the haul?

As you turn back you look behind Clint into the dining car to see another Satyr finish crawling through the window, her muscular body effortlessly entering into the car. She shudders and pulls out a wicked looking axe, leveling it to throw at the man helping you.

You gasp and quickly send out an illusion, and the Satyr’s eyes grow wide before she jerks back, as if being struck by something and she lets out a scream of pain. Immediately Clint flips around and fires a shot into her chest, blood spraying out from her to coat the wall before she slumps to the ground, dead. He stares into the car for a moment longer before nodding his head to you. “Much obliged.”

“No problem.” You say, looking back to the cars before you. A lot of passenger cars, but thankfully most people should be in their rooms… still, securing the engine is the most important thing here. Besides, they’d probably be more concerned with looting back there and if you could secure one section, you can move forward. You point toward the front and both Saya and Ginelle nod to each other before moving forward.

You take on the next few cars like this, Saya and Ginelle dashing ahead of the group while Clint takes down the surprised targets. You and Ophelia watch from behind, but there aren’t any more surprises like before, thankfully. There’s actually little trouble, and some people even thank you for your help. After the third car like this, you look outside and see the torches are gone, so most of the bandits are in the Leyway you assume. It’s kind of weird that there’s a band of ONLY satyrs out here, ones smart enough to know how to stop a Leyway and when it would be arriving, but you don’t much question it.

You’re preparing to move forward to the next car when Saya stops the whole group, placing her ear to the door leading to the next car. She frowns and turns back to the rest of you, moving quietly. When she reaches you, she whispers, “There’s quite a few in the next car, they sound agitated for some reason. I think they heard their friends in this car, but aren’t willing to come in here.”

“So they’re getting smarter…” You say, rubbing your chin. “Might be dangerous to just assault them head on.”

“We could go from the outside?” Clint suggests, but you wave a hand.

 “No, no we can get through this.” You ponder for a moment before sighing and looking to Saya. “I think I can make a distraction for you, alright?” She nods her head, not even questioning you, which is a rare rather phenomenon in your life, and you slip forward to open the door just a crack and peak inside.

Immediately you see three Satyrs level weapons, one actually throwing it toward you, and you jerk back your head, the weapon imbedding itself in the door. With the door still open, however you focus yourself and cast your illusion into the room, targeting one of those who didn’t throw a weapon. You hear some confused shouting, followed by some momentary grunting and then you strike again, targeting a different one. You hear one of the Satyrs, in a gruff voice, shout, “I’ll Teetolar you, you owl raping pan piper!”

“Твоя мати сука? Твоя мати сука?! What does that mean?!” You hear sounds of weapons being drawn and a moment later, fierce cries of panic and anger. You put a hand to your head, shaking it momentarily before waving Saya and Ginelle through, to which they tear open the door, vault over you, and take down the fighting Satyrs.

As the last one goes down, they grunt, “This is your fault, you сука… whatever that means…”

Ginelle nods to you, holding her paw in a thumbs up while Saya smile appreciatively. Clint walks up, rifle over his shoulder and rubs his clean shaved chin. “Uh huh… you sure you’re not a mummer? How did you get them to fight each other?”

“Don’t worry about it.” Ophelia says, her ears twitching. It sounds like people are moving this way, the floor is vibrating.” Clint nods and takes up positions on the other side of some seats, while everyone else hides. You take a spot next to Ophelia and she winks at you, making a thumbs up. Oh, Ophelia, you try.

The door slams open and the sound of hooves fills your hearing as you look up to see a group of Satyrs file in, pointing at shouting as they spy Clint. He immediately drops one, but the others dash forward before he can charge up another shot and he grunts, pulling back.

Unfortunately for them, as one passes by, Ginelle leaps from the side, pinning the woman to the ground while Saya hamstrings another, causing them to fall into a heap. More still are coming, and before Saya can do much more, a club smacks her across the face, sending her to slam against a seat, stunned momentarily as Ginelle is kicked in the stomach, driving the air from her. You look up at the one who did this, finding a larger Satyr, wearing an amalgamation of armor over her torso, jingling sacks of coins tied to her belt. She smirks and pulls out a cleaver, leveling it to slice toward Ginelle.

“No!” You say, standing up and the Satyr stops her blow, leveling it carefully toward the Badger, who understands the situation herself. The bandit looks up to you and licks her lips, chuckling.

“Ohhh, is this your girlfriend? My, you’re a succulent one, aren’t you? Here I thought we’d only get codgers, but the Boss is going to be sad when she finds out I took a nice one like you.” You take a step toward her and she levels the cleaver closer to Ginelle, growling at you, “Not one step further! You take another step and I cut her pretty little head off!”

You hold up your hands in a gesture of peace. “Okay, okay, calm down…”

“Calm eh? Ha! This is too fun!” She licks her lips. “Now, we’re going to wait until the others come here to clean up this mess, but for now… take off them pants.”

“Uhm… what?” You say, confused.

“I said, take them off, less you want to see her hurt.”

“You… you don’t have a dick or something, do you?”

“What? No. Why would you even fucking say that?” She says, looking angry. You move your hands to placate her before sighing and reaching for your belt, gently undoing it. She chuckles and licks her lips again, but you hear something soft and metallic from behind you. Slowly, you close your eyes and take a deep breath, pulling down your pants.

She begins to chuckle, but before you can drop your pants past your undergarments, you drop to the floor, revealing Clint crouching behind you, who fires his rifle, taking the woman in the chest, though her armor takes much of the blow. She staggers backward, grunting, but more furious than anything. Before she can recover fully, however, you hear a high pitched cry, and Ophelia leaps over the seats in a way which doesn’t seem physically possible, and slams a wrench into the Satyr’s head, causing her to stagger to a knee, though it throws Ophelia off balance and she falls onto her side, atop another Satyr on the ground.

Saya moves up and finishes the job, quickly dispatching the bandit with dispassionate precision before looking helping up Ginelle, who nods her thanks to her. You sigh and nod to Clint, who puts to fingers to his hat and flicks them toward you. A weird… gesture, but okay. Looking back to Ophelia, you walk to her, seeing her groaning and you help her up, to which she smiles at you. “Did I help?”

“Yeah, you did, though perhaps maybe you should let Saya take care of it next time.”

She looks a little down. “Oh… alright.” She sighs and shakes her head. “I wanted to try being like the others, but maybe I should just stick to my strengths.”

“Well, that wrench seems pretty strong.” You say, tapping it and she rolls her eyes before looking forward and frowning.

“The next car is the crew quarters before the engine. I can’t hear much in there, but I would imagine there has to be someone in control up there.”

“Right.” You say, looking ahead and nodding to Saya, who checks the door, frowning.

“No one’s there.” She says, a little confused, sliding the door closed. Before it finishes sliding shut, however, you see a large hand reach forward and snag Saya’s collar, pulling her hard enough to shatter the door on its frame, shocking all of you as a large, much larger than even the armored bandit, Satyr walks through the door, pressing Saya firmly against her, and ball of fire hovering over her hand. She looks over all of you before grunting and making the fireball stronger.

You shout at Clint, who readies his rifle, but the woman brays and the windows around you shatter and four more Satyrs appear. Ginelle tries to fight one off, but she gets slugged in the face and drops to the floor, struggling as she’s pinned down by the Bandit. Ophelia drops her wrench and surrenders while you get smacked in the shins, driving you to the ground as well. You can’t see what happened to Clint, but you hear his rifle drop to the ground.

“Bah, how did you cause so much trouble, and yet were so easy to catch?” The large Satyr says, and you look up, getting a good look at her. She’s tall, as you noted before, perhaps seven feet high, with shining, steel shod hooves. Her torso is that of a very, very well endowed woman, though she’s wearing an assortment of armor that somehow manages to show cleavage while looking intimidating. She shakes her hips, which are furred brown and resemble that of a goat’s, and on her belt jingles multiple vials of white fluid. She grunts toward you shifts her long, brown hair, revealing a black eye patch and pretty, though stern face.

“I should just kill all of you.” She says, before looking down at Saya. “But, hostages are hostages, huh? How much are you worth to someone?”

“You let her go.” You say, your shins hurting like crazy. “Don’t you dare hurt a hair on her head!”

“Hrm? Don’t speak unless spoken to.” She nods to the Satyr next to you, who kicks you with a hoof, which hurts like the hells. You wheeze and she rolls her eyes before continuing. “Honestly, how many of my ladies did you kill? It’s a real pain in the ass to retrieve them AND our loot before someone shows up. I already killed the conductor when he wouldn’t open up the safe on the Leyway, or take out the mana converters.” She sighs and shakes her head.

“He didn’t burn so good.”

“Why are you doing this?” You say, trying to stall for time, anything really, as you think things through. Saya could easy melt her way out of this, take out the boss quick as can be, so why isn’t she? She actually looks a little nervous in her grasp, looking toward the fire.

The leader rolls her eye. “Uh, for the money. We’re bandits, and Leyways can make some great money. Easy as hells to hold up too, much better than a wagon. No deeper meaning, my sisters and I just want an easy life since Galmathoria is a pain and that bitch of a Lady doesn’t want us raiding anymore. Soooo we’ll just become lawbreakers, take what we want, fuck who we want, and keep on living the life we know.”

“Uh…huh.” You say, shaking your head. “What are you going to do with us?”

“Oh, well, I’ll probably just have someone rape you, and I’ll sell off the women folk, ransom, whatever makes the most money.”

“Sounds pretty petty.” You say, making eye contact with Saya, urging her with your eyes to get her to do something. She bites her lip and the leader notices, frowning.

“Petty huh? Petty would be taking you while your girlfriend watches.” She says, smirking. “Ah well, I think it’s time to get going and…the fuck is that?”

Everyone stops and turns about to see a glowing ball of light appear in the room, dashing from the other cars. You vaguely get the shape of a person with wings in the ball of light, and a moment later, a booming voice says, “I AM THE SPIRIT OF VENGENCE!”

The Satyr leader doesn’t hesitate and throws her fireball toward what can only be Abigail, and the little Fairy dashes to the side, the fire splashing against the ceiling, scorching it horrifically and creating the smell of ash. Abigail flutters to the side again and she throws another fireball, to which the Fairy dodges, and the ball hits the Satyr locking down Clint, lighting her hair on fire, and causing her to scream and drop to the floor, rolling about.

The other Satyrs shout in alarm and the leader Satyr roars, placing another fireball to Saya’s face as Clint scoops up his rifle. You feel metal press against your neck as the Monster holding you presses you close to her, and you can tell the other two have done the same to Ginelle and Ophelia. The leader Satyr grits her teeth and says, “Put the weapon down, or they all get it.”

“Aww, now see, I can’t be doing that.” Clint says, never taking his eyes off the Satyrs. “You see, ma’am, I respect all of you, but a performer can’t just pack up mid-way through the show, he has to see it through.”

“You can’t shoot all of us!” She shouts and Clint chuckles, causing her to look a little confused.

“Well, you see, about that….” He says, sliding a finger forward on the mana chamber, causing it to burst brilliantly to life, flaring a bright purple all over the car. The Satyr’s bray in panic for a moment, but before they can finish, Clint moves in rapid succession, firing four shots before the mana chamber sputters and goes dark.

You feel the knife against your throat clatter down as the weight of the Satyr’s body falls onto you, and you roll it off you, revealing a perfect shot in the forehead, killing her instantly. You look over to the others, seeing the exact same thing, stunned expressions from your companions. Even Saya is surprised!

Clint stands and looks over his rifle before sighing. “Damn, these things aren’t cheap.” He looks up and smirks, “You all alright there?”

You blink a few times before nodding your head and rising. “Yeah… yeah I think so.” The others form up around you and look to Clint, who just tips his hat. “Thank you for that.”

“Nothing much.” He says, shouldering the rifle again. “Like I said, I got to practice my art.”

“Nothing much he says…” Ophelia says, huffing and looking at his rifle before letting out a cry of distress. “You burned out the mana chamber! This weapon is useless without another one!”

“Yeah well, that’s what happens sometimes.” He says, nodding back the way you came. “I have two more in my luggage.”

“T…two?” She says, eyes huge. “How can you possibly afford two…” He raises a finger and waggles it.

“Now now, enough of that, we have a Leyway to clear.”

You sigh and shake your head, about to say something when you hear hooves clattering toward you and Clint steps back as the door opens and more Satyrs appear, their eyes full of rage, the belts full of loot. However, when they reach the doorway, the stop, staring at the corpses before them, especially that of their boss. One of them licks their lips and smiles wanly before stepping back. “You know what, we’ll be going now.”

“You do that.” Ginelle growls, and they bolt, leaping out the windows and running off into the night. There had to be at least ten of them, were they afraid after seeing their Boss dead? Well… whatever, it works.

“Uhm… okay.” You say, shrugging. “Ginelle, Saya, sweep the Leyway for more and see if anyone needs help. Clint, give them a hand.” You look to Ophelia and nod. “We’re going to check the engine, see if we can’t get find the engineer and maybe get this moving again.”

She salutes and the others leave, though Saya lingers for a moment, looking a little apprehensive as she clenches her dress before shaking her head and running after the others. You sigh again and follow Ophelia to the engine room, wishing you could just have had a nice party…

————————-

The Leyway was perfectly intact thankfully, though the engineer was way too afraid to do anything, and with the conductor dead, it fell to Ophelia to operate the Leyway. Of course, after the sweep revealed all the bandits had fled, it took Ginelle, Saya, Clint, yourself, and many surviving staff to clear the logs and other trash barricading the tracks enough that you could move again.

Ophelia got everything moving smooth enough, and with the help of some staff, got some order going. She refused to leave when someone offered her a break, however, saying that she was too excited to step away. She… actually seems excited about it, so you leave her be and help out the passengers.

A few are dead, sadly, but most are either just accosted or lightly injured, and one of the passengers is a healer, so wounds are fixed well enough. Of course, you and your group get hailed as heroes for all of this, but before you can try to pass the buck to the others, Ginelle and Clint vanish, one saying she wants to nap again, the other just… disappearing. Of course, Abigail did her disappearing act almost as soon as she appeared, only reappearing in your room, saying she got tired of waiting before going to sleep herself, the little ingrate. It’s maybe a few hours into the night before you get some semblance of calm enough for you and Saya to break away from the others and head outside into the warm night air, the breeze outside feeling good against your skin.

“Can’t have things easy, huh?” You say, looking over the railing at the caboose as wind whips past your hair. You don’t really care though, it feels great.

“No, we can’t.” Saya says, sighing. “Sure you don’t want to get some sleep?”

“Nah, I’d just like to sit out here for abit. We have another day to sleep all we want.”

“Fair enough.” She says, looking up into the night sky. She’s quiet for a a long while before speaking in a quiet voice, “I’m sorry about earlier, I know you wanted me to… to use my talents to get out of her grip, I just…”

“Saya, it’s fine, I don’t-“

“No, it isn’t, it was a stupid reason and I just… ugh.” She puts a hand to her head and shakes it. “I never have trouble like this.”

“It can’t have been that stupid a reason.” You say, trying to reassure her. “What happened?”

She looks at you with some apprehension before sighing out, “I didn’t want to do it because… I didn’t want to ruin the dress you got for me.” She looks at a little tear in the dress and sighs anyway. “It means a lot to me, alright?”

“Saya…” You say, feeling the mood change a little as she looks up at you, wind rustling her dark hair. Even in the darkness of night, you can tell her beautiful eyes are staring into yours, as if looking for some kind of answer, though you don’t know the question. Or do you?

This mood, the way she’s looking at you, your beating heart… all of these things run through your mind in a split second as you desperately try to make sense of what’s happening this night. You had maybe hoped you could get along with Saya, but something more? That was just a niggling hope in the back of your mind, something you’d pushed down because come on, you’re you. She’s a hero, daughter of the most powerful people in the world, and you’re… Tobias.

But when you look again in her eyes, what else could be happening here? Surely, you’re over thinking things, right? Yes, but not in the way you’re thinking, is it?

You close your eyes and take a deep breath, calming your thoughts. No, sitting here running all this through your mind wouldn’t do. Richard always said to study your situation, study people, and formulate from the information present. A very analytical way of looking at things, but it boils down to “go with what makes sense.”

And what makes sense to you, is that Saya wants something from you.

Opening your eyes you looking back at her, your mind resolved. You take a step toward Saya and she flinches ever so slightly, something that seems wrong for her, given the strength you associate with the woman. Your heart beating quickly, you reach out with a tremulous hand and gently place it upon her head, causing her to gasp slightly as you softly run your fingers through her hair in gentle, stroking motions.

You give her a soft smile and say, “Don’t worry about the dress, the only thing that matters to me is that you’re safe.”

Her eyes go wide and she takes in a sharp breath as her face burns so brightly red that it almost becomes a beacon in the night. She looks to the side as you continue to pat her head, your fingers playing along her rather soft hair, and she mutters, “Tobias that’s… you don’t mean that.”

“I do though. It’s been only a short time since we’ve met, but I feel… I don’t know, close to you. Maybe it’s from reading Wizardquest, yet…” You shake your head and sigh. “No, no forget Wizardquest for a moment, it doesn’t do you justice.”

“I mean, I was only a kid then.” She says, leaning a little into your hand. “I should hope it doesn’t do me justice.”

“Yeah, yeah.” You say, chuckling a little awkwardly. Both of you go silent for a moment, the only sound the rushing wind and the gently motion of your hand on her head. This lingers on for a long moment and you see Saya look up at you before looking back down, her face seeming… disappointed. Above all else, that hurts you, and you have to grit your teeth and just do it.

“Saya, I like you.” You say, almost tripping over your own words. Once again her eyes widen, but in total shock, as if she was utterly unprepared for this eventuality. She studies your expression for a long while before she breathes out,

“You… you do, don’t you? And… and not just because of…”

“No, it’s because of who you’re related to, but who you are. Strong, confident, funny, caring… I feel so far underneath you, it’s almost painful saying things like this.” As you say this, you try to retract you hand, but in a fluid motion, she snags it with a hand of her own and places your palm against her cheek, the coolness of her skin, despite her blushing, feeling good against your hand.

She closes her eyes for a moment and takes a shuddering breath, leaning into your hand. “Tobias you… I think I like you too, but… but you know what I am, it’s not… I mean, I can’t…”

“So what?” You say, walking forward to gently bring her into a hug. She practically melts into your embrace and you hold her tightly against you, feeling a sort of elation you’d never known before. She shudders against your chest, and you take your hand that was on her cheek to take hers, holding it tightly. “If I cared that you’re really some black goo monster, would I do this?”

She chuckles, though they’re punctuated by what could only be sobs. “That’s not… not very nice to say to the girl you practically confessed to.”

“Practically? Shit, I didn’t do it right then.” You say, smiling down at her. She looks up into your eyes, her own glistening with tears, a smile on her face.

“You’re an idiot, you know that? But… but no one’s ever… thought of me in this way before. No one’s ever held me like this and…” She blinks tears out of her eyes. “Look at me, a few hours ago I was killing bandits, and now I’m crying like a schoolgirl.”

“Hey, let out whatever you have to, alright?” You say, holding her close again .

She mutters against your chest, “What about the other two?…”

“Other two?… Oh, Ginelle and Ophelia.” Your face pales some at the thought. This is one hell of a can of Sandworms to deal with now, huh? You take in a deep breath before sighing. “I… I’ll talk to them later. I’m sure Ginelle will figure it out soon, but Ophelia… well she’ll get over it quickly.”

“Are you sure about this?” Saya says, gripping you tightly. “You can back out, I’ll understand completely.”

“Saya, let me see your real face.”

She snaps her head up to you, a look of confusion and embarrassment on her expression. “W…what?”

“If you’re so worried about how I think of you, then show me your true face.”

She searches your eyes before breathing a little quickly and looking down, biting her lip. You feel her hands on you tighten, and a moment later, she closes her eyes. Her face seems to ripple, and then, slowly, the skin tone vanishes, replaced by an almost gelatinous blackness that you would have difficulty seeing in the night if it weren’t for the bright red, insectoid eye looking at you. Her other eye is still there and human, an odd dichotomy in the sea of pitch that is her skin. She looks back up at you, looking for signs of fear or disgust.

You gently raise your free hand and, without hesitation, place it against her cheek, feeling the cold, almost liquid feeling of her skin. She gasps, looking at you with almost a sense of horror. “I could have eaten your entire hand!”

“Yeah, but you didn’t, and you wouldn’t, right?” You say, smiling.

Saya’s mouth, or well, you think it’s her mouth, hard to tell in the darkness, hangs open. She seems to fumble for words for a long while before shuddering and punching you slightly in the side of the ribs. “Don’t be such a smart ass.”

“That’s literally my best trait.”

“Ugh, I’m going to be dating someone like you. Mother warned me about Illusionis…” Her eyes go wide as she gasps. “Oh hells, I’ll have to introduce you to Mother.”

“The Monster Lady? I mean, she’s really nice, right? It shouldn’t be that big a deal or anything…”

“No, no she’s nice, I love Mother, but she’s just really… really a big stickler on formality for those outside the family and I don’t know how she’ll react to something like this and, oh boy I have to send my report and…”

You gently put a finger on her lips, or whatever they are atm, silencing her. She pauses and you gently move your hand to tilt her chin up, your fingers sinking slightly into her until you touch the bone underneath. “Saya, don’t worry about it I’m sure everything will be fine. I have a few things of my own you should know, but for now…” You trail off as both of you realize your situation.

Your heart begins to pound faster in your chest as you realize that she’s seen it also. You feel her body tense up and if she had eyelids, you feel they’d flutter slightly as she leans in ever so closely, perhaps ten percent toward you. You gulp as an almost magnetic attraction pulls your face closer to hers, pulling you in to close that ninety percent gap. You’re almost there, your mind gone blank, your whole being subsumed into the realization that you’re about to kiss her, when you feel a gently pressure on your chest and you see Saya pull back, breaking you from your spell.

You blink a few times as she looks away, her face becoming once more human, though her expression is pained. She mutters, “I’m sorry, I… I’m sorry about that, but I can’t, not yet.”

“Saya…” You say, feeling an utterly crushing weight upon you at those words. Did you mess up somehow? Already? You tried going to quickly, that’s what it was, fucking hells.

“It’s nothing about you or anything, I just… just don’t want to rush things.” She looks down and sighs, “I’m sorry for that.”

You sigh yourself before nodding and pulling her in for a hug, resting her head against your chest, not allowing her to say no to that. “It’s fine, I understand.”

“Thank you…” She says before quickly standing up on her toes and giving you a peck on the cheek. She smiles broadly at you before pushing away and doing a little twirl in her dress. “Better get some sleep, we’ve got a lot to do when we get to Sanctifrond!” Saya walks to the door and puts a hand on it, pausing before saying, in a voice almost too quiet to hear, “You don’t know how happy you’ve made me Tobias.”

And with that, she opens the door and vanishes inside. You watch the closed portal for a long moment, before slowly touching your cheek, feeling the lingering sensation of her lips against your skin. You break out into a wide smile and whisper to yourself, “Dating someone like me, huh?”

Shaking your head, you follow back into the Leyway and head to your room where Saya has already closed the curtain to her bed. You look up at it for a long time before smiling and preparing yourself for bed, crawling up the other top bunk and settling down, pulling the curtain closed as you snuggle under the incredibly soft sheets. You sigh, feeling a mixture of elation, embarrassment, and apprehension, though out of everything you feel more tired than anything.

You roll over slightly in bed and sigh, when you see a the smiling face of Abigail looking you. You’re honestly too stunned to jump, or perhaps too tired, so all you can do is blink at her shit-eating grin, the little fairy leaning on one shoulder, her wings staring to glow faintly.

“So, did you kiss de girl?”

You slowly roll over to the other side and shake your head before closing your eyes and drifting off to sleep. With Sanctifrond only a day away and a lot of things to take care of before you get there, you’re going to need all the sleep you can get.

———————————–

You awake to the sound of gentle humming and rustling sheets. Grumbling, you open your eyes and look about your curtained off bed section to see Abigail curled up a few inches from your head, sleeping soundly. Aww, she’s kind of cute like this, of course when awake, she’s kind of a bitch. You watch her for a moment longer before rolling your eyes and gently opening your curtain to see sunlight streaming into your room, and Ginelle pulling herself out of bed, yawning.

As you pull back the curtain, she looks up at you and waves, a motion which you reciprocate before the memories of last night come back to you. Holy shit, you’re dating Saya now, aren’t you? You vaguely notice Ginelle giving you an odd look and you shake your head, trying for force on a normal expression, since you clearly must have had something strange on your face. You smile at her and she points toward the bed under you, and you frown, trying to look down before realizing that’s a bad idea.

The bed under you should be housing Ophelia, and considering how quiet Ginelle is being, it must mean that she finally succumbed to basic urges of the living and took a damn nap. Good for her. Ginelle shakes her head and sighs before rolling out of bed, still wearing that dress you note, plus a little blood, and quietly opening the door. She closes it behind her, leaving you in a room with only three other women.

You miss Richard.

Anyway, you sigh and crawl out of bed to the floor and quietly dress yourself in your suit. This thing is seriously worth every copper, because despite all that’s happened, it looks good as new. Three gold was a fucking steal for this, and you mentally remind yourself to always purchase Arachne silk clothing from now on. Well, if you could afford it anyway, not like you’re loaded or anything. Of course, you are dating the daughter of two of the most powerful people…

You shake your head vigorously. No! No, no no! You will not just imagine such things. It’s too cruel for both you and Saya. You like her for who she is, not what and… well, always WHO she is. Things are complicated. Of course, that thought gets you thinking about Ginelle and Ophelia, making you blanch slightly. Fucking hells, how are you going to explain all of this to them? Ugh…

You look over to Saya’s bed, the curtain still drawn, and you think about opening it, to confirm that this isn’t some crazy dream, when you shake your head, dismissing the idea. No, no, you won’t do something like that. She clearly wants to take it slow, so you’ll let her. Not like you have any experience in these matters beyond Clarissa, but that doesn’t count. You never really… look, it was Richard that… ugh… Would you ever even see her again?

Sighing, you dispel these thoughts and prepare to face the day. No sense in getting worked up over such things until the very moment they happen, where you can freak out and try not to ruin your life. That’s the appropriate, adult way to handle stressful events. The other appropriate, adult thing to do is have a hearty breakfast. Clearly, this is the right choice, especially since the bandits stole all your food from your little party last night. Truly, they were the worst in the world.

Quietly, you make your way outside, looking out the little windows to see the morning sun shining over the countryside between Loveura and Sanctifrond. You take a little moment to just appreciate such things, small memories stirring within you of when you took a similar Leyway to Richard’s place all those years ago. Strange how things haven’t changed, huh?

You shake your head again, and walk down the hallway to the dining car. Thankfully, the staff worked through the night to remove the corpses, either disposing of them or stowing them in the cargo hold, which is incredibly morbid, but whatever, it’s not your place. As you enter, you see the familiar face of the Blue Oni bartender, though her face is a little flushed as she pours a glass of amber liquid. Seriously, did you actually cast an illusion, or does she REALLY get off to such things?

Either way, you look over to the only other occupant of the dining car, to see Clint sitting there, a plate of steak and eggs before him, with a generous portion of bacon and a muffin. Clearly, this is fine dining at the highest. As you enter, they look over to you and he waves his fork at you before picking up the glass and taking a drink, exhaling with joy at the burn.

“You’re hitting the bottle a little early, aren’t you?” You say, taking up a seat next to him at the bar.

“Never too early for the good stuff, right gorgeous?” He says, obviously intending the last part for the bartender, who blushes again before rolling her eyes and looking to you.

“I’ll have what he’s having.” You say, and she nods her head before pouring you a glass of the drink and putting in an order for food. You look down at the glass and sigh before looking back up at Clint, who raises his glass to you. You blink a few times before shrugging and picking it up, clinking it against Clint’s and taking a drink, feeling the familiar burn before setting it down.

“Hah, see, never too early.”

“if you say so” You say, rubbing your chin. “A little quiet in here today, huh?”

“Well, these rich types don’t much care for breakfast. It’s all about brunch for them.”

“Uh huh. Sure it doesn’t have to do with the Leyway robbery last night and the several injuries?”

“Nah.” He says, picking up a piece of bacon. “They really, really like brunch. Mark you, they’ll be here in a few hours, talking about Mamanosas like nothing happened.”

You frown, rubbing your chin. “You know an awful lot about the nobility, huh?”

He smirks, “Hah, knowing they like breakfast and lunch foods doesn’t mean I know much about them.”

“If you say so.” You say, shrugging before holding out a hand. “Tobias Shady, didn’t get to introduce myself properly.”

Clint raises an eyebrow before taking your hand in a firm grip. “Shady, huh? You don’t say. Going to Sanctifrond to see family?”

You blink a few times, confused. “I.. no, I’m going for a different… I’m sorry, why do you ask that?”

He chuckles and releases your hand, shrugging. “Oh, no reason. Name’s Clint, but you already knew that.”

You frown deeply and study his calm expression, seeing something beneath the smugness he’s displaying. Carefully, you ask him, “Clint, what exactly do you do?”

He smirks and pats the case next to him. “Well, I guess the whole performer thing went out the window, huh?”

“Uh, yeah.”

“Well, you see, I’m sort of a traveler of sorts. Spent a lot of time roaming around the more wild lands out around the Galmathorian border.”

You take in a sharp breath. “Solos… that’s incredibly dangerous territory! They stick to the old ways, rape men on sight, or take them back to Galmathoria.”

He smiles wider. “It’s basically wild country for the people who want to live there, and they need someone with the skill and the tools to keep things in order. That’s where I come in.”

You frown. “Wait, but why are you heading to Sanctifrond then?”

His smile flickers for a moment. “Obligations.” He says before shaking his head. “Anyway, they’ll be fine without me for a little bit. Got me a few others I’ve trained to keep things out there in order.”

You lean back, rubbing your chin. “So you’re like some kind of mercenary?”

“Hells no!” He says, looking a little angry. “I fight for causes I find just!”

“I… see.” You look over at his case before waving toward it. “That weapon, it’s not exactly common, right? I’ve never even seen one before. The people out near the border have that much influence eh?”

He shakes his head and pats the weapon case. “Nah, Gloria and I have been together longer than all that. Of course, I’m not that old! But as for where I got her, well, that’s my little secret.”

You sigh and shake your head. “Clint, honestly, I was impressed by what you did last night. I was kind of hoping that maybe I could convince you to join me on a mission of utmost importance.”

He raises and eyebrow as the Blue Oni returns with a plate full of breakfast meats, placing it down before you. Gods, it smells heavenly, but you have something important to deal with at the moment.

Clint looks at you critically before slowly tapping his whisky glass, which he managed to drain without you even noticing apparently. The bartender prepares to fill it when you wave a hand. “Put it on my tab.” She gives you an odd look before shrugging and placing the full glass next to Clint, who is still staring at you.

“Well?” You say, but he stalls you by lifting the glass to his lips and taking a swig, sighing a moment later.

“Utmost importance, huh?” He seems to muse that over for a moment before waving toward you with his glass. “Well, best get explaining then.”

You look toward the Blue Oni who shrugs and walks to the other side of the bar and starts cleaning glasses before you look back to Clint. Taking a deep breath, you say in a quiet voice, “My companions and I are trying to stop an insane Monster from starting a war between Deleor and Galmathoria.”

He gives you a long look before snorting and shaking his head. “Really? That’s what you have to say?”

“Well… yeah, it’s the truth.”

“Oh, I believe you, it’s just… kind of silly, right? Saving the world? You think you’re the Grand Wizard, Mr. Sorcerer?” Your eyes go wide for a moment and he smirks. “Thought I wouldn’t notice last night? Dunno what you did, but it worked. Saved me I should think, so I owe you that much.” He looks down at his food before sighing. “Listen, I got a few things to take care of in Sanctifrond, you ever want to speak again, come by the Hero’s square round noon. I’ll probably be about, just relaxing or so.”

“I…” You say as he shovels the rest of his food into his mouth before swigging down his drink and nodding to the bartender, then you, and walking off toward his room. You can only stare at him as he walks by, the while scenario playing out oddly in your head. What the hells just happened there?

A moment after the door to the other car closes, it opens again, admitting Saya, who smiles upon seeing you, a little blush on her face, though she’s wearing her dark clothing again. She walks up and sits next to you, smirking as she sidles up close to you, resting her head on your shoulder before looking up at you. “Morning.” She says, making you blush slightly.

“I…uh, morning.” You say, a little flustered at the sudden attention, when you realize that Saya already has a piece of your bacon to her lips. You frown at her and she chuckles, chewing on the meat and pushing away from you. You narrow her eyes as she finishes off the bacon and smirks.

“Oh, this is going to be fun.” She says, chuckling as she takes another piece of your food.

“Hey, order your own!” You say, taking your plate from her.

“That’s no way to treat your new girlfriend.” She says, reaching over your shoulder, but you stick your tongue out at her and she pulls back rolling her eyes. “Oh fine, you stick in the mud.”

“That’s very lewd.” You say, raising your nose as you spear some eggs and bring them to your mouth. She blinks a few times before her face goes crimson and she punches your arm.

“Gods, you are crude.”

“Thank you.” You say, a smug expression on your face. She gives you a glare before rolling her eyes.

“Well, Ophelia went to sleep, finally, and I think we’re still on track to reach Sanctifrond by the evening. Should be smooth sailing, so to speak, from here on out.”

“I suppose so.” You say, shrugging.

Saya gives you a critical look before frowning. “Ah… the others.”

“They’re not going to take it well.” You say, twirling your fork about. “I think Ophelia will be fine, but Ginelle…”

“Maybe I should tell her, I’m her friend and such so…”

You sigh and shake your head. “I’ll let her know. I don’t want you two to fight, you both mean a lot to me.”

“Tobias…” Saya says, putting a hand on your shoulder before sighing and waving to the bartender, “Get me some breakfast too.”

“Coming right up.” She looks between the two of you and raises an eyebrow. “You want a drink too?”

“No, thank you.” She says, and the Oni looks a little disappointed before putting in the other order, leaving you two alone again.

“When.” Saya says, and you groan, hanging your head over your food.

“I don’t know…” You grumble and she pokes your shoulder.

“Tobias, you can’t string her around like that. It’s not fair to her or… or me.”

You look up at her and see her expression, a hint of pain hiding behind her eyes. You grip your hands before sighing and nodding your head. “Alright, I’ll tell her soon, alright? For now can we… can we just relax a little?”

Saya sighs and leans her head against your shoulder. “Fine, I just… I just want to start this on an even field, you know? Maybe I’m asking a little much but… I want to know that I matter to you.”

“Of course you do, don’t say that…” You say, putting an arm around her shoulder. She leans into you for a moment before you hear the sound of the door opening and the two of you pull apart before the door opens, revealing Ginelle, her short, white hair looking windswept. She takes in a deep breath before smiling broadly.

“Nice day everyone! Who’s hungry?”

You and Saya look at each other before nodding and waving to Ginelle to take a seat next to you, preparing to get her fed as well.

————————————

“I don’t wanna get uppppp!” Ophelia whines behind her curtain, the sound of rustling blankets filling the room.

“Ophelia, it’s like, mid afternoon, you need to get up and make sure they don’t crash the Leyway.” You say, sighing.

“I don’t care, I’m tiiiiiirrreeeed.”

“This isn’t very professional.” Saya says, rolling her eyes.

“Bah, professional…” Ophelia mutters before shuffling and pulling back the curtain, revealing her face, which looks pretty tired, if pretty pretty. “Come on, just a little longer?”

“Now Ophelia.” You say, tapping your foot. She groans and rolls out of bed, rubbing her eyes. You blink a few times as she does and both you and Saya look toward each other before Saya turns you around in a hurry.

“Ophelia, put some clothes on.” Saya says, her voice sounding a little strained.

“Huh?” You hear Ophelia say before gasping. “Oh hells, I forgot Tobias was around! Uhm! Sorry! I didn’t realize I was just wearing my small clothes!”

You decide not to comment on the fact that she actually looks really, really good in just her undergarments, because you’re a smart one. So smart in fact, that you spent most of the day quietly practicing basic illusions, mainly to calm down Ginelle. Well, you also wanted to maybe use that to break the news to her, but you were too chicken to do it…

Of course, with you reaching the station in a few hours, you kind of need Ophelia up and awake, mainly because she’s the de facto engineer of this Leyway at the moment. You hear some ruffling behind you before Ophelia makes a noise of affirmation, and you turn about to see her in her leather jacket and pants again. She rubs at her eyes before looking at you and blushing. She chuckles softly, “Ah, haha, right, I’ll head to the engine then.”

“Alright, we’ll see you in-” You’re cut off as Saya nudges your shoulder. You look to her and she nods her head toward Ophelia, to which you bite your lip. The Rabbitgirl looks to you, cocking her head, her large ears flopping.

“Something wrong?”

“I…” You say, suddenly incredibly nervous. You look between the two and take a deep, breath before saying in a low voice, “Ophelia, I have something to tell you…”

She blinks and looks concerned as you rub at the back of your neck. “Well, you see, I’m pretty sure you have a thing for me.”

Her face lights up bright red and she holds up her hands defensively. “No… NO! That’s not, I mean…” She looks toward Saya, her face paling some. “That’s… I mean…”

You sigh and hold out a hand toward her. “It’s fine Ophelia, I think you’re a great person and I love that we can connect on things the others don’t appreciate, not the mention the fact that you’re beautiful, but…” You look to Saya and gently take her hand in yours. “We decided to… start something.”

Ophelia’s eyes go wide and a moment later, her ears droop down low, her expression crestfallen, though a wan smile is on her lips. “Oh… of course. I should have known you’d go with… well it’s not like I ever really thought that…” She rubs at her eyes before sniffing and looking up at you, a smile on her face. “This is why I didn’t bother with boys. Machines can’t hurt you.”

You let go of Saya’s hand and walk over to Ophelia, taking her in a hug. She resists for a second before shuddering and resting her head against your chest. You say to her, in a low voice. “Ophelia, the fact that you could even start to feel this way means that you want something more. I’m incredibly honored that someone like you would feel that way about me, but… someone else would make you far happier. Don’t let go of these feelings, alright?”

She nods her head and pulls away, rubbing at her eyes. “Y…yeah. You’re right. It was stupid anyway.” She chuckles, putting her hands on her hips and looking off to the side. “Mother was right about something I guess!” She shakes her head and sighs. “Look at me, I’m a mess.”

“Hush, you’re beautiful.” Saya says, nodding to Ophelia. “I’m sorry, I hope that this doesn’t…”

Ophelia shakes her head. “No, no, we still have business to take care of, I just… need a bit. Not even sure it was anything silly like love, just a crush.” She sighs and shakes her head. “I don’t know how you’ll tell Ginelle though.”

You blanch. “I’ll… figure something out.”

Ophelia nods her head slowly before taking a deep breath and slapping her cheeks. “Right then, I’m off to make sure we can stop this thing.” She walks to the door and lingers there for a moment before looking back at you and Saya before shaking her head. “I’ll see you at the station.” With that, she leaves.

Saya looks to you and pats your shoulder. “Well done.”

“I guess.” You say, grumbling, still feeling bad about it. Poor Ophelia… but perhaps it was for the best.

“You’re not going to be able to tell the badger, huh?” Abigail says, peeking her head out from the bunk, a shit-eating grin on her face.

You raise an eyebrow toward her. “Awww, are you upset that I didn’t choose you?”

She blinks a few times before blushing furiously. “W..what? Why would I care about something stupid like that?”

“Awww, it’s okay little Abigail. I know you wanted a piece of this, but it just can’t be.”

She almost literally begins steaming. “Y…you bastard!” She says before slamming the curtain shut. “Get fucked by a bear! The kind with a penis!”

Saya sighs and shakes her head, giving you a look of utter annoyance. You shrug your shoulders and walk outside the room, where she frowns after you close the door and says, “That wasn’t very nice.”

“Yeah well, maybe she needs teasing every so often. I bet it gets her off.”

“You’re just high strung over Ginelle.”

“That, and a lot of other things.” You say, sighing.

“Wanna talk about it?” She says, and you shake your head.

“No, not at the moment, I just… just want to sit and rest until we reach the station.”

Saya nods her head before looking down to your hand and hesitantly taking it before smiling up at you. “I think I can do that.”

You sigh and look at her before shaking your head and heading to one of the cars with seats, both sitting next to each other and chatting softly until Saya falls asleep, resting her head on your shoulder. Even though you just want to sit and watch her like this, you too succumb to the temptation and drift off to a light sleep yourself.

————————-

You awaken a few hours later, finding Saya still on your shoulder. Looking around out a window, you find that it’s become dark outside, though that little scenery you see outside shows signs of civilization. Must be getting close to Sanctifrond, huh?

You gently shake Saya awake, and she blinks her eyes before looking up at you and rubbing at her mouth, a thin little stream of drool there. She looks out the window blearily before narrowing her eyes. “Oh, hey, we’re almost there.”

“Yeah, I think so.” You say, an a moment later, a staff member walks by, instructing you to prepare your luggage for the station. You and Saya nod to her and head back to the room, to find Ginelle there, packing her things, which is pretty much just her dress.

“Hey.” She says, looking at the two of you. “Saw the two of your sleeping earlier, though I wouldn’t disturb you.”

“Oh… thanks for that.” You say, looking a little nervous.

“Yeah, good to see the two of you getting to know each other better.” She says, smiling. “Of course, I’d like to try the same thing sometime.”

Saya frowns at you and you gulp a little before licking your lips. Ohhhh boy, this is the time to do this. Of course, Saya should be outside, and you should do this gently, and be a complete gentleman and…

“Yeah, sure!” You say, chuckling. Saya gives you a fierce look as Ginelle smiles.

“Heh, alright then.” She looks off to the small window in the room before shaking her head. “Loveura and now to THE Sanctifrond… never thought I’d get to see something like this in my life.” She turns to you and smiles, “You’ve really brought a lot of great things to my life, Tobias.”

You groan deeply at that and Ginelle gives you a strange expression as you feel the Leyway suddenly seem to shift some under your feet. It’s a familiar feeling to last night, which means you’re… decelerating? You look outside the window again to see buildings appear, along with lanterns and other lights, people all about, despite the evening. Soon enough, all of you are watching as things slow down until you lurch slightly to a stop.

You hear the clatter of feet and luggage outside and you nod to the others, taking Ophelia’s things, to which Abigail hides in for some reason, before heading with the crowd out to the station. You step out the Leyway, onto the stone platform to feel the warm air of the summer night play upon you, the tickling sensation feeling almost nice as you look about the station.

Due to the massive leyline conflux here, this station has multiple Leyway lines, and thus is massive, in the shape of a large, domed structure, made almost entirely of glass, which you figure is incredibly expensive, and incredibly difficult to build. Still, it’s breath taking to see it again, as well as the flurry of people moving about the platforms, buying food, running to Leyways, or getting off to their destinations.

You look over to see Clint appear out a door a car down, and he notices your look before tipping his hat and vanishing into the crowd. You frown, but can’t exactly chase after him, instead making sure everyone gets off, standing a little to the side until Ophelia manages to rejoin you, a rather excited look on her face. She kind of looks like… she might have gotten off on that somehow. Best not think about it too much.

Well, with your group about you, you sigh, and look off toward the exit in the night, all the familiar sights coming back to you. Shaking your head, you grip your [Rucksack] handle tightly before taking deep breath.

“Welcome home, I guess.” You say, heading off into the night.

 

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