Illusionistquest Chapter 9: Parlor Tricks

“Hmm? You say something?” Ginelle asks next to you and you just give her a wan smile before shaking your head.

“Nah. Come on, we should find an inn.” You say, looking about, trying to remember everything. It’s coming back to you, slowly, but it’s still pretty much the same, plus a little more magitek. You’re currently in the inner area of the city, where the nobility and higher merchants live, seeing as they’re the ones who generally could afford Leyway tickets, though people of other means come by every now and then to watch, as long as they don’t cause trouble.

If you didn’t have as much money, and some connections via Saya, you’d probably head to the middle district, and find something comfortable, yet affordable, but dealing with the gate guards is a hassle and not worth the time. No, no it’s best to stay in this district for the time.

Saya taps her chin. “It’s a little late, I’m not certain if we can get an audience with mother…” She turns to you and shrugs, “If it were just me, I’d head to the Monster’s Embassy, but considering the group, an inn sounds good, and I happen to know one nearby.”

“The Steaming Staff? Nah, not worth the trouble.” You say, waving your hand. “We should go to the Opal Jinko instead.”

Saya gives you a surprised look. “The Opal Jinko? Why do you?… How do you?”

You shrug, “Not my first time here.” When she narrows her eyes at you, you smirk, “I’ll tell you later, it’s a little much to talk about right now.”

She looks at you oddly for a moment before sighing and shaking her head. “Oh, very well then. I trust you know the way then?”

“But of course.” You say, giving her a bow, and she rolls her eyes, smirking somewhat. You notice out of the corner of your eye that Ophelia is frowning, trying not to look at the display. Sigh, some things will take time to heal, huh? You shake your head and walk out of the platform toward the city itself, your friends in tow.

As soon as you leave the station, you have to once more marvel at the sight of the city, despite the memories. Even in the night time, you have to admit that not even Loveura, with its rich, sylvan charm, could compete with the majesty of Sanctifrond. In the inner district of the city, massive buildings made of intricate white stone, layered with gold paint (and actual gold) and statues of various sizes and shapes are everywhere, giving anyone who first enters the impression that the city is looming over them, showering them with history and opulence.

The streets are packed as well, as people of all stations of life walk around the Leyway station, but the farther you go down the stone paved streets, the more you begin to see people in wagons and carriages dressed in finer clothing, an air of power of nobility about them. Likely, they are nobles, even the Monsters you see about the city carry the same airs. Supposedly, before the Grand Wizard’s quest, this area of town rarely ever saw Monsters, but now you see them on the arms of noblemen, or lounging themselves in rich, and rather risqué, clothing as they roll down the streets.

It’s would be a lot to take in, if you hadn’t traveled these streets for much of your life, and like riding a unicycle, you never forget. It doesn’t take long thankfully before you reach the Opal Jinko then, barring that one time you had to drag Ginelle out of the street before a centaur ran into her. Apparently Ginelle was staring at a sculpture of Solos, which is a wonderful statue, but not worth getting run over!

Well, anyway, the Opal Jinko. As far as inns go, this one is pretty… opulent. Like the name suggestions, above the door sits a statue of a Jinko, proud and noble, her features looking forward as if she’s about to pounce out onto the city, or perhaps people going into the inn. Either way, the statue is carved of marble and laced with opals in certain areas. You always wonder how they never get stolen, but of course, as you watch a patrol of well armed and armored guards walk by, their eyes scrutinizing everyone, you figure you know the reason.

You nod to the others and enter the inn, finding a familiar, if rich setting for an inn. Instead of normal wood, the counters and floors are made of rosewood, polished to a fine sheen, and decorated with all manner of flowers and pictures of feral cats, Monster or otherwise. You shake your head at the pictures, noting they haven’t changed once since you’ve been here last. Well, oh well, you make your way to the reception desk and rap on a small, metal disk there, which reverberates through the area.

You hear some grunting followed by cursing, and a moment later, a stout, human woman appears, dressed in the ritual apron of an innkeeper. She frowns as she looks at your group, staring at you especially. Wrinkling her nose she narrows her eyes and clacks her tongue. “Welcome to the Opal Jinko. The lounge is over to the side, don’t make a mess.”

“Ah, we’re here for rooms  my good lady.” Ophelia says, bowing toward the woman, an air of nobility in her voice. Oh, right, you forgot that Ophelia is technically high born. The whole, engine grease on her jacket kind of ruins the effect a little, but it makes the innkeeper blink in surprise.

“Rooms? Come no, don’t be joking with me like that. Look at all of you.” She waves her hands dismissively.

Saya leans in close to you and whispers, “Why did we come here again? This place is known for having a rather flippant owner with an odd fixation on cats.”

You whisper back, “She doesn’t say anything to anyone about anything, and her pork-loin is legendary.” Turning back to the innkeeper, you bow to her and say, turning up the charm. “Dear lady, I apologize for our appearance, you see we just arrived via Leyway, which had some incidents and our travel clothing is perhaps less than the standard for the city.”

She grunts at you. “Well, that’s certainly an odd style you’re wearing, but it’s Arachnae silk, so you obviously have money.” She sighs and shakes her head before pulling out a key and tossing it to you. “Room fifteen, two beds, you figure out how you’re going to uh…” She looks out over your group and then shrugs.

“Whatever, food will be ready if you want some, extra charge.”

You bow to her, “Thank you kindly.”

“Yeah, yeah…” She waves you off before continuing to write in a little notebook of hers your information. You once heard of a man who tried to stiff the owner of this inn, and while most Monster themed inns are owned by Monsters, this owner might as well BE a Monster based on how quickly she found the man and made him pay every copper.

Needless to say, it’s a good inn.

You make your way up to the room, finding two very nice beds along with a wardrobe, a dresser, a small table, and a wash basin, all of exceptional quality. You don’t want to think about how much this is going to cost you. You set down your stuff and Abigail flutters out, yawning. “Man, you guys took forever. I almost went into a coma.”

“You know, you could stop hiding from people.” Saya says, getting her dress ready. Abigail frowns before sniffing and crossing her arms.

“Hmph! The nerve of some people. You don’t have any control over me!”

“No, she doesn’t, but it is weird.” You say, shrugging and walking over to a bed, sitting down and stretching. You notice Ginelle and Saya looking at each other intently as you do and it dawns on you that you’re going to have to share the bed with one of them. Hoooo boy, this could be dicey if you don’t handle it right. Which you chose to avoid for the moment, feeling that being in a group is not the best setting for such things. You turn to Saya and say, “So, the Monster Embassy, huh? How often does your mother stay there?”

Saya looks over to you and shakes her head, “Oh, pretty often, especially when she has to negotiate with the King. I hear that Blake… I mean, the Lord Commander is in the city also, so they’re probably having talks every now and then.”

You feel your eye twitch slightly. “You… you don’t say.”

Saya rolls her eyes, “I can get you autographs…”

“Yes please!” You immediately begin to dig through your [Rucksack] for your new copy of [Wizardquest]. “What about the Wanderer or the Ascendant?”

“Tabitha and Veronica? Uhm…” Saya cocks her head. “Honestly, no one really knows where Tabitha is half the time besides Dad, but he’s back home. Veronica might be in town, but she’s lately been off helping impoverished children and teaching them the light of Solos.”

“That uh… is not what I expected of her from the book.” You say, a little stunned.

“Well, we’re more than just characters in a story.” Saya says, frowning. You hold up a hand in defeat.

“Alright, alright, you got me.” You sigh and look at Ophelia and Ginelle. “You two want to come along to the Monster Embassy?”

Ophelia blinks a few times before nodding her head. “Yes…yes, of course! I wouldn’t miss an audience like that. Besides, I have to apologize for the Blizters and the… oh dear, I’m getting worked up thinking about it.” She says, chuckling before shaking her head.

You look to Ginelle who pulls out her dress, frowning at some blood that didn’t wash out overly well. You’ll have to find a good cleaner in town, preferably one with a Cancer or a Hydromancer to get it out right. She looks to you and shrugs, “I’ll go if you want me to, though I don’t really know how to act around someone I’m supposedly to serve?”

“Well, it’s not so much serve as understand that she holds a place of power and can make decisions which can affect even you.” Saya says. “She can’t really… force you into things, and due to the nature of Monsters, not everyone will follow anyway.”

“Like those bandits.” You say, and Saya nods in reply.

“Aye, well, in a way they probably served Valinthia just fine in the old days.” She shudders. “I was pretty young then, but it seemed like such a savage time.”

“Well, no sense in staying around here.” Ophelia says before waving toward you. “Shoo now, we need to change again.”

You groan, “Aww come on, do we have to do this every time?”

“Yes. We do.” Saya says, giving you a death glare. You roll your eyes and step outside, pondering what it would be like to meet the Monster Lady. You look down at your book and notice that as you pulled the tome, you also picked up [Bearsy]. You stare into his little bear eyes, seeing a deep and infinite wisdom there.

“You have to go back…” It whispers and you shiver, feeling a sudden craving for salmon that passes soon enough. Weird, yet calming. Either way, you squeeze the little guy and lean your head back before sighing.

“If only little guy, if only. But the only way now is forward.”

“Ayup.” Abigail says, sitting on your shoulder. “So, about those Illusionists…”

“Later.” You say, waving your hand. “I have other things to deal with.”

“Uh huh.” Abigail says, shaking her head. “You really fucked up something hard. Better not ruin your chances of dealing with Fiora. Or hey, you can die too, that would also work I think.”

“Why are you such a bitch?” You say, shaking your head.

“Cause I never asked for this.”

“Nor did I.” You say, almost growling.

Abigail looks at you critically her wings fluttering for a moment before she sighs out. “Yeah, well… I mean… it’s the job so just take it a little seriously? Having your world ripped from you in an instant is just…”

“It hurts.” You say, and she nods her head slowly, pulling down on her cap.

“Yeah…” She looks down for a long while before looking back to the door. “Well about time, come on, get up, get up.”

You stand as the girls arrive, dressed in their finer clothing, which is, for better or worse, nicer than what they were wearing before anyway. The lack of laundering facilities on a Leyway is a serious crime that Magitek needs to rectify! Regardless, you head downstairs and outside, though you really do want some of that pork…

Well, with your group settled, Abigail once again hiding in Saya’s skirts, something the human appearing Monster has come to angrily tolerate, you set off. You’d never been to the Embassy personally, but you know the area, though you allow Saya to lead the way through the streets.

Lantern lights illuminate much of the streets, allowing you to see the various people and buildings about. Not much has changed, with the golden lined white buildings that stretch into the sky, though the amount sporting various magitek signs or other items is interesting, giving a very technological feel to the area. Of course, much of it serves no purpose, but looking trendy is very, very important to people around here, so of course they’d jump on it, even if the foundries are in the middle districts.

As you approach the Monster Embassy, you notice, oddly enough, more Monsters and Monster owned buildings about, as if the place emanated an aura that changed the landscape around it. You would expect people here would find it grating that history like this is being changed, but most people find it acceptable, which must be a testament to the way the Monster Lady rules and the teachings of the Ascendant, whose push for tolerance of Monsters really went a long way after she became the spiritual leader of the Order of the Heroic Brotherhood.

Soon enough, you reach the building itself, a large, gated complex guarded by a variety of Monsters, two Minotaurs at the gate, while you can swear an Arachnae is patrolling the grounds due to the way the light reflects oddly off what can only be silk. You approach the gates, lantern-light illuminating you, and one of the guards holds up a hand.

“Halt. The Embassy is closed for the evening, unless this is a diplomatic emergency, you’ll have to return tomorrow.”

“Come on Julia, you know who I am.” Saya says, shaking her head.

The Minotaur who spoke up, Julia, blinks a few times before looking critically at Saya. “Miss? Is that you?” Saya raises a hand, which partially turns black and the guard stiffens. “Ah, of course, my apologies lady, but I’m afraid the Lady has retired for the evening. You may come inside if you like for rooms, but…”

“I’m not staying, but I’m sure she’ll speak to me.” Saya says, sniffing. “We have important information for her.”

Julia sighs, shaking her horned head. “Fine, it’s no skin off my back, but be gentle, she’s had a long day.”

“I will. You just get back to your Husband when you get off.”

The Minotaur chuckles, “Oh, I will. What about you, you find a guy yet?”

Saya’s eyes flick to you for a moment before she smiles, “Ah well, you know.”

Julia nods her head knowingly, a sad smile on her face. “Of course, of course. Please let me check all of you, and then you can enter.”

The Minotaur does a pat down of all of you, confiscating Saya’s… well, your, [Hunting Knife], though she leaves Ophelia’s wrench, which she stares at oddly, before sending you in. As the gates close behind you, you take a moment to appreciate the Embassy. The building is a three story affair, modified from a mansion that was bought after the current Monster Lady took the throne. With permission from the King, they set up their own diplomatic territory, turning the white house into one of varying shades of purple and blue, that gave it a strange, other worldly feeling. It’s not off putting really, but it is very striking to see!

You pass through various, well trimmed topiaries of the Monsters, mainly the important backers of the nation, until you reach the columned entrance of the building, to which a Kikimora in a maid’s outfit opens the door and bows to you. “Please, make yourself at home lady Saya. I have taken the liberty of informing the Lady of your arrival.”

“Oh, she’ll see us then?”

The Kikimora hesitates before answering, “I do not know.”

“Oh well…” Saya says as you’re lead inside the lavish interior, which has very wide and open corridors, likely so larger Monsters can get through without issue. The marble floors shine under a chandelier that illuminates paintings of the older Monster Ladies, something many Deleorians find… distasteful. You are lead to some very nice chairs made of excellent leather, but before you can even sit, a door opens and another Kikimora appears, bowing to your group.

“The Lady will see you now.”

Your group looks at each other before getting up and following the Monster into a small antechamber, where a group of well armored Wolf girls sniff you before waving you into a large room that seems rather… plain, compared to the others. On the sides, you notice various boxes, where chairs are placed strategically for delegates or court onlookers likely. In fact, you realize quickly that the rich, red carpet you’re standing on leads to a small dais, where a large throne sits, upon it, the Monster Lady herself.

Selene, Cat o’Nine Tails, wife of the Grand Wizard, and Lady of Monsterkind sits upon the throne, staring down at your group imperiously. From the descriptions by the Grand Wizard in his books, she hasn’t changed at all, something you shouldn’t find surprising for such an ancient Monster. She has tan skin and black fur, much like that of a Catgirl’s however her long, luxurious hair is a shade of crimson that strongly contrasts, yet flows together well, much like Saya’s dress. Her attire is a regal dress which manages to look proper, yet reveals a fair amount of leg and cleavage, which is very nice, if not massive, though you certainly aren’t looking.

She crosses her slim legs and shifts ever so slightly on the throne, her striking green eyes never leaving your group, her beautiful features seeming very cold somehow. You shudder as one of her eight tails, a curved hook of a blade on the end, snakes about behind her. You gulp at the sight, feeling nothing so much as an ant before a God.

Selene looks over your party for a moment longer before saying, “State your business at this hour.”

Saya steps forward, bowing deeply to her mother. “My lady, pray forgive our impertinence, however, we have matters of grave importance we must discuss with you.”

Selene waves a dismissive hand, which makes you personally a little concerned, seeing as she’s speaking with her daughter. Did the books really make her out to be like this? You keep your face respectful as the Lady says, “First of all, stop hiding in those skirts, daughter of the Trickster God.”

You see Saya blink as her skirts ruffle and Abigail’s face appears, drained of color. She licks her lips a few times and says, in a low voice. “S…sorry.”

“I do not have control over your kind, however I will not take kindly to you hiding from my guards.” She looks at Saya and narrows her eyes, “And you. Smuggling in a foreign national is an offense.”

Saya holds out her hands pleadingly, “Mot- I mean, my lady, I meant no offense, please forgive me.”

Selene sighs and shakes her head. “We shall discuss this later. However, seeing as you have arrived, I take it your task went well?”

“I… not quite.” Saya says, bowing her head. “There were unforeseen complications. The target proved more powerful than anticipated.”

“A pity.” Selene says, frowning. “What of her plans then?”

“We believe she has evacuated Loveura, however she managed to purchase five war constructs from the Manufactorium before production was halted.” She waves to Ophelia. “This is Ophelia Illoma, one of the engineers at the Manufactorium.”

Ophelia steps forward and does a deep, elegant bow before the Monster Lady. “My Lady, pray forgive me for our ignorance. We were paid with coin thought to be gained by tax revenue, and shown documents we could not disprove false. Unfortunately, five Blitzer units were sent to the Northern Border between Deleor and Galmathoria.”

“This is… concerning.” Selene says, frowning, one of her tails twitching. “I expect your cooperation in the details on this units.”

“Of course, my Lady. We wish to keep good terms with the Monster homelands.” She steps back as Selene dismisses her before pointing at you.

“You, state your name and your reasons here.”

You gulp and take a step forward. “My name is Tobias…” You hesitate before saying, “Shady, and I’m an Illusionist.”

Selene’s eyes narrow and her tails flick a little faster. “Illusionist? What concern of this matter is yours? Your ilk are rarely seen or heard of, but I have had more than one dealing with your kind, and I will not take any tricks lightly.”

“Of course not, your uh, your ladyship.” You say, feeling very, very intimidated. “You see, your ladyship, my Master and I were working together to track and remove Fiora. Unfortunately, we found that she had… become a Monster, who still retained all of her Illusionist abilities.” You look down and shake your head. “My Master was debilitated by our assault on her, and she managed to escape, bloodied, but alive. We do not know where she is now, but we do know she is working for Phallia and-“

You cut off as Selene stands. “I’ve heard enough. I will have a report from you, operative Saya, and the rest of you, leave now.”

You blink a few times before blanching. “Your ladyship, I didn’t mean to offend but…”

“But what, Shady? Don’t think I don’t know of your house’s reputation.”

All of your companions give you startled looks and you groan slightly before slowly raising your copy of [Wizardquest]. “Could… could I get an autograph before I go?”

——————————

You find yourself standing outside the Embassy, your book woefully unsigned. You sigh as you flip through the pages, before looking up at Saya, who gives you a pitiful expression as she says, “I’m… I’m so sorry, she’s never like this unless she’s holding true court and never has she… I didn’t think she would be like that, though what did she mean by house?”

Everyone looks at you and you rub your forehead, “It’s getting late, I’d rather not talk about my family right now.”

“Wait, are you some kind of noble?” Ophelia asks, her eyes going wide. “That would explain a lot.”

You hold up a hand, stalling other discussion. “Look, yes, I’m nobility, no, I don’t want to talk about the Shady family at the moment, alright? You can look it up yourself if you’re so interested.”

“Tobias…” Saya says, reaching over to touch your arm before stopping herself, shaking her head. “We can talk this over for abit…”

“I think… I’d rather be alone for a little bit. I have a lot of think about.” You say, your eyes drifting to Ginelle. She gives you an odd expression before furrowing her brow and then shrugging.

“Well, alright then. You know where to find us, because I need some food and some shut eye.” She stretches her muscled arms, “Don’t be out to late.”

“I won’t.” You say before opening up your coat to reveal the tiny form of Abigail plastered to an inside pocket. “Besides, this one hid in my clothes as soon as she was spotted.”

“That’s… impressive honestly.” Saya says, nodding toward the fairy. She looks to you and hesitates before shaking her head. “Just be careful, alright? It’s a good neighborhood, but…”

“Yeah, I know, I know.” You say, sighing. “I’ll talk with the three of you later. We’ll figure out our course of action in the morning. For now, get some sleep.”

They all nod to you before walking away, chatting softly between themselves. You look down at your coat after they leave, to see Abigail poke her head out. “You’re a coward, you know that?”

“I don’t want to hear this from you.”

“You really like putting this off, huh?”

“I don’t like to,  I just… don’t know the best way to go about it.” You sigh before walking some down the street. You walk for a few minutes before saying, in a hesitant voice, “I think tomorrow though, I’m going to tell her straight up. Be completely honest that I’m with Saya.”

“Yeah, that’s going to go over well.” Abigail says, chuckling as you pass by an alleyway. “Good thing the Monster Lady didn’t ask you any questions about it, could have gotten really awkward, you know?”

“Ask you questions about what?” A silky, almost purring voice asks from the alley next to you.

You spin about, but before you can react, three almost pitch black objects lash out and wrap about your body and face before dragging you violently into the darkness of the alleyway. You feel yourself slammed against a wall and you try to take a deep breath, but there’s something soft and… fluffy, in your mouth. Opening your eyes, you search about to see someone in a cloak standing before you, the hood raised up.

“Mrph dofh wanf?” You say, preparing an illusion anyway, which is best seeing as you’re gagged, though you really should know something about what’s holding you. You only piece it together when another long, tubular object appears before you, a blade held to your face.

“Ara ara, you figured out who I am them. Not that it’s very hard for someone who’s read my Husband’s work.” You see a glint of green eyes under the hood and your eyes go wide as Selene smiles at you. “Terribly sorry about before, but the halls aren’t safe. Now then, why don’t you tell me about this Illusionist Monster, and, I don’t know, your intentions toward my daughter.”

The bladed edge of Selene’s tail presses closer to your face and you reflexively gulp. True, you’re a very powerful, mind altering sorcerer, who has the blessings of your God, but this is literally the strongest Monster in the world, who has a history of literally leveling cities in fits of rage and sadness. So, you’re understandably a little fucking terrified right now.

She looks at you, as if expecting an immediate answer, and everything seems to slow down as you mind races. How does she want you to react? She knows about your family, of course she does, so is she expecting something haughty? Does she want you to be meek and humble before you? Does she want you to cower before her and tell her whatever she wants?

No… of course not. She can probably sense lies from someone, and who are you to her? Some random asshole who’s in the company of her daughter, someone who means utterly nothing to her, if you slip up or make yourself seem weak, she’ll kill you just to keep you out of her daughter’s way. No, no you can’t appear weak, you can’t tell lies, you have to play this the only way you know how: Being the trickster you are!

You focus your magic upon her, creating an illusion of yourself standing behind her, smug expression on your face, saying, “Pssh, nothing personal, Queeny.” It takes some effort to push upon her mind, strong and disciplined as it is, but you feel that it is able to slip though, although your ears ring for some reason, weird.

She stiffens and one of her tails flies behind her, faster than you can see, wrapping around your illusion, and you quickly throw out another one, which she quickly catches as well, before vanishing, a process you repeat, quickly making yourself vanish from her sight, as if she managed to catch nothing but a false Tobias before either, freeing yourself from her grasp enough that you can stagger backward and chuckle.

“I am the Grand Inquisitor of the Laughing God, Tobias Anton Shady, vanquisher of evil, protector of JUSTICE and bane of agriculture. I’m on a mission from the Trickster God to stop a dangerous rogue Illusionist-monster thing from terrorizing the world as we know it.

“I have researched the art of magic through reading Wizard Quest since I was a wee lad and you could even say that I happen to be an expert on this subject!”

You smirk as she carves through another illusion of yourself, her hood flying off, showing her dark red hair and rather angry expression. You chuckle, lost in your little workings here, or perhaps lost some kind of psychosis. Either way, you’re kind of having fun here, though some niggling sensation is telling you that this is a very, very bad idea. Eh, whatever.

“I should have you know that despite my family being SHADY that I can assure you I have no ill intentions towards your daughter. I do believe that the lovely lady enjoys my company due to pleasure that my skills with my sleight of hands provides her every day. I must also say that she thoroughly enjoyed the time in which we slept together on the Leyway journey here.”

You see Selene’s feline eyes go wide and she growls before her tails spread out in a line about her, rigid and strong. You stare at them for a moment before clacking your tongue and saying, “Well shit.”

She spins her whole body rapidly and you duck quickly to the ground, managing to avoid getting sliced in half by the whirling death spiral, but as you do, you notice that one of her tails is sitting lower than the others and before you can so much as say, “Clever girl,” the tail contacts you and Selene immediately stops, wrapping around your foot and, rather violently, slamming you against the wall, driving the breath out of you and aggravating your poor wound from before, despite the healing.

Your illusions snap out as your head swims and you hear multiple blades drive into the wall, trapping your utterly as they slice through pure stone, drawing small drops of blood around your face. There’s no doubt that you’re not getting out of this, this time anyway. Should have probably… stood a little farther back, mhm, that would have been smart.

You flinch as Selene moves up close to you, and you feel her hot breath on your face. “What was that, Illusionist?”

You gulp again and slowly lick your lips as you say, in a tremulous voice, “Will… will you sign my copy of [Wizardquest]?”

Selene pulls back slightly, blinking multiple times, her face one of utter confusion. “Y…you what? You’re trapped here after magically assaulting the damn Monster Lady, and you want my Gods damned signature?”

“Well you see, I’m trying to collect everyone’s…”

“Shut up.”

“Okay.”

Selene sighs and shakes her head, crossing her arms and looking down in thought, though her tails never move. You want to say something, though at the same time, you feel that would work out very well in your favor. Best to wait it out and see what she has to say, especially since you had your fun. Hopefully it doesn’t end up with you dead.

She grumbles to herself before groaning. “Fucking Illusionists. Why, of all people, did my daughter have to get involved with one of you? I thought I raised her right!” Selene looks at you with a critical eye before saying in a low voice, “Don’t think your illusions will work on me again. It’s been a long time since I’ve dealt with your ilk, but I’ve done it before, you merely got the better of me for a moment.”

“If that’s what you want to tell yourself.”

“You Gods damned… all of you never know when to quit, do you?”

“Well, I mean, I could have just run away.”

Selene muses this over. “You could have, and yet you didn’t. Why is that?”

You nod toward her, “Well, you’re kind of the Mother of my girlfriend, so-” You cut off as one of her blades grinds the stone next to you and you lick your lips. “Look, I respect you, I really do. I don’t see why we have to be enemies, though jumping someone in an alley isn’t exactly a nice thing to do.”

Selene studies you for a moment before sighing and withdrawing her blades, rubbing her forehead. “No, it isn’t, forgive me, but I have little choice. I can’t do things publically.”

“Why not?” You say, a little confused.

Selene waves a furred hand. “It isn’t anything worth your concern. Politics, the thing I said I’d never truly get involved in. This is my damn husband’s fault, all of it.”

“But… you still love him, right?”

She huffs, “Of course I still love him, even if he does cause trouble wherever he goes.”

“Heh, that sounds like him based on the books.”

“Gods, you are a fanboy of his, aren’t you?”

“Aww, see, now you sound like your daughter.”

Selene smirks before shaking her head slightly, “A wise guy, are you? Well that’s to be expected I suppose. Your kind is always like this, even your Master, Richard Dennerman, was it?”

You nod your head, a little surprised. “Yes, that’s right. How did you?”

She smirks, “He’s the only really public Illusionist, though he isn’t exactly out in the open. Anyone with a large political pull knows about his services.” She frowns then and says in a low voice, “What happened to him?”

You look down and frown, remembering all your emotions from before. You take a deep breath and sigh, looking back into Selene’s eyes. “I better start from the beginning…”

——————

Selene crosses her arms and looks troubled as you tell her your tale from when you left Kasin, admittedly not that long ago. How things can change, huh? She turns about and seems to muse something over, her tails swishing back and forth behind her. You feel something tug at your collar and you hear a soft voice in your ear,

“We should go!”

You blink and look over to see Abigail there. Startled you say, “Abigail? You were here?”

“Always, you fucking idiot. She’s a little scary, let’s leave!”

“She’s not going to hurt us!” You hiss, “Besides, this is important.”

“Nnnrrrrgghhhh.” Abigail says, looking at Selene nervously. “I don’t like this!”

“You’re going to have to explain why you keep hiding, you know?”

Abigail, despite the darkness, pales and then shakes her head slowly. “I think not.”

“Oh you’re going to tell me.” You say, but Abigail gasps and hides again…somewhere. Maybe that’s real fairy magic, being able to hide in plain sight, holy hells. You look up to see Selene turn back around, nodding her head slowly.

“This is… bad.” Selene says, something that makes your spine tingle. If she says something like that…

“Is it really that awful?”

She sighs and rubs at her forehead, “Yes, it is. I can already see what she plans to do with those constructs, starting a false flag war with Galmathoria. Normally we could keep this down, but that whole region is a pot ready to boil over. Those Monsters there were almost fully not born that way, and they still cannot come to terms with their new forms, their lusts and urges having no one to help them keep it in check. With an excuse, they would invade, especially if spurred on by my Monsters not content with my rule.”

“Things surely are not so tenuous, are they?” You say, frowning.

Selene frowns, “Why do you think we’re out here?”

“Jumping people is reminiscent of the old days?”

“Harr harr, no you smug little bastard. We’re here because there’s a delegation from the Queen Alarune in town and when you mentioned Phallia, I had to get you out of there.”

It’s your turn to frown. “Queen… Alarune? Ah yeah, I’ve heard of her before. Is there something going on?”

“Well, with the information you’ve given me, especially seeing that there are still Matango spores out there makes me wonder…” Selene shakes her head. “This isn’t really for you to hear anyway. I’ll have to read Saya’s report and speak with the Illoma child to learn more about all of this.” She looks back up into your eyes and smiles, “So, let’s talk about Saya, shall we?”

“Uhm. Okay.”

“First things first, you DO know what she is, right?” You give her a flat look and she clacks her tongue before chuckling. “Right, of course you do. Well then, does she know what YOU are?”

You nod your head. “Of course she does. I haven’t made it a secret that I’m an Illusionist.”

“Of course not, but does she REALLY know what you are?”

You give her an odd look for a moment before your expression sags as the realization comes to you. “Oh. That.”

“That.”

You look down and sigh, “I haven’t had the chance to speak with her about it yet. Things have been… difficult.”

“The Badger?”

You look up at her, a little shocked, “H…how did you?”

She smirks, “Come on, I’ve been around the block a time or two. I know how she was looking at you.” She shakes her head, “But I won’t tolerate you hurting my little girl. She’s not my biological daughter but… she might as well be. As far as I know, you’re the first person she’s ever been with like this, and I will not allow her to be with anyone who would hurt her.”

You frown at her, “I have no intention of anything like that! I really… really admire her and I don’t care what she really is. I think it’s kind of awesome to be truthful.”

Selene puts a furred hand on your shoulder. “Tobias… I see a lot of my husband in you. No wonder she’d go for someone like you, she’s always been a Daddy’s girl.”

“Uhm. That’s kind of… strange to say.”

“Well, it’s a strange situation, isn’t it?” She chuckles, “Gods, look at me, jumping my daughter’s boyfriend in an alleyway. I’m just like my Mother, aren’t I?”

“Should… should I laugh at that?”

“Please don’t.” She shakes her head, “Well, I’ll be watching you, especially given your family history…” You feel the a pressure on your shoulder. “If I catch wind that you’re trying to do ANYTHING with her for political means, I will not hesitate to kill you.”

“Sounds fair.” You say, nodding your head slowly. Selene looks into your eyes for a moment before sighing.

“Honestly, I do sort of respect that you’re not terrified and your little show from before. Makes me angry, but I can’t really get that mad.” She smirks, “Kind of makes me want to go home and see my Husband.”

“So… I can go now?” You say, and she nods her head.

“Yes, you can. However I do have one request for you.” She leans in close, “I need you to continue working toward finding this Fiora. I know almost all Monster types, and Mindflayers do NOT exist. From what you say, even I am a little afraid of her. We cannot allow her to succeed, but I can’t go and do anything about it myself, not openly.”

“I…I don’t even know where to start.” You say, shaking your head. “I was hoping to get my bearings here, help clean up some illusionists in town that might be on the edge of going insane, but… I’ll do my best to help.”

She smiles broadly. “Well then, I think I have something you could do in the meantime. You see, the son of House Fullvora returned today and they’re having a party in his honor tomorrow. While House Fullvora hasn’t made any strange moves as far as I know, there are others there who might know something about Fiora. With the hushed whispers in Sanctifrond about Monster tribes moving to Galmathoria, someone has to know something.” She shakes her head,  “The Monster Embassy was invited, and due to Fullvora being a High House, we need to send someone, but I can’t go myself.”

“Wait…you don’t mean?” You say, looking a little confused.

“That’s right, you’re going to a party with my little girl. At best, you’ll find some information of where Fiora might have gone, at worst you’ll treat Saya to a few dances.” She chuckles again, a little menacingly as she pats your cheek. “And I’ll know if you mistreat her.”

“Oh…okay.” You say, nodding your head. “If I need to get in contact with you, how should I do that?”

She taps her chin, “Well… speak with the gate guards. They’ll turn you away, but I’ll know how to find you.” She raises her hood and turns to go when you raise a hand and shout,

“Wait!” She turns about and gives you an odd look, when you rummage through your bag and show your copy of [Wizardquest] to her. “About that signature…”

>Your madness level increases to 15%

>You occasionally feel something incredibly fluffy, but it vanishes before you can concretely feel where it is

——————————–

“Tobias!” Saya says as you enter your rooms, yawning. She shakes her head before sighing. “I was kind of worried about you, what took you so long.”

“Oh, you know. Walking about town, thinking about things.” She frowns and looks at the cuts on your face and you chuckle, “I tripped. I can be clumsy, you know?”

She rolls her eyes and sighs, “Oh alright then. We ordered some food, though the innkeeper was a little cranky about it. She said we’d need to get it ourselves in abit, though it should be sometime soon…”

Ginelle sniffs the air, “Kind of smells like it’s done already, huh?” She stands up and stretches, moving to walk to the door. You frown and grab her arm as she walks past and she stops, looking at you with a confused expression. You furrow your brow for a moment before nodding and looking over at the other two.

“Can you two… go get the food? There’s something I need to speak with Ginelle about.”

Saya takes a deep breath and nods her head, while Ophelia looks a little confused, but moves as Saya takes her hand. She nods at you and says, “We’ll be back in abit!” before moving outside with the bunny, the door closing and leaving everything a little quiet.

Ginelle looks up into your eyes, her cheeks flushing a little. “What’s this about all of a sudden?”

You feel your chest tense up a little, as a fear courses through you over what you’re about to do. But you have to do it, you can’t just keep putting this off forever. Looking back at the door, you take a deep breath before nodding to the bed and Ginelle’s cheeks flush even more. You sigh and walk over, sitting her down on the edge of the bed before you sit down next to her and pause a few moments.

“Tobias…” Ginelle says, putting a hand on your leg, but you shake your head.

“No, Ginelle, I’m sorry, but I can’t.” She tenses up, slowly moving her hand back as you look up into her eyes. “I can’t keep leading you on like this, you deserve to know the truth of things.” She searches your expression for a few moments before her eyes go wide and she looks down, deflating some.

“I’m sorry.” You say, sighing. “I’ve known you longer than all the others, before all of this went crazy. I remember when you came into camp that first night, and I was a little scared, afraid you’d try something. Even after that, I was a little concerned, yet… found you to be a charming and strong person. I felt like you were someone I could, and have, trusted my life with, even though this was meant to be temporary.”

“It took me some time to notice, but I know you like me Ginelle, I can see that much. You don’t know how hard it is to say these things, because honestly, I really like you too, but…” You bite your lip and take a shuddering breath, “I’ve started something with Saya.”

Ginelle looks up at you with an expression of… betrayal, I suppose. “Sa…ya?”

“Please don’t be mad with her, please. I’d understand if you hated me because of this, I’d understand if you wanted to leave, but please don’t hate her. She truly does think of you as a friend.” You put a hand to your forehead and sigh, “I hate that I have to do this, but it’s for the best to let you know. It’s not fair to you to keep chasing someone like me.”

Ginelle takes a shuddering breath before gripping her paws together. “So… it’s over before it began, huh?”

“Yeah, yeah…”

She leans back her head and closes her eyes. She gulps a few times before taking in a breath through her nose. “Okay then.”

“Okay then?” You say, confused. She looks down at you and nods her head.

“Okay then.” She says flatly before standing up, though her legs are a little shaky. “Okay, you’ve made it clear, you don’t want me like that. I get it.” She’s trying her best not to just break into tears, and it hurts you inside to watch her like this. She walks over to the door and puts a paw on the handle before looking back at you and saying, “I need to think about this.”

“I understand, but please be safe. We might not… be able to be together like that, but I still care for you more than you could possibly know.”

She frowns and looks back to the door. “That makes it worse, you know?” She shakes her head and opens the door, finding Saya and Ophelia on the other side, the two of them looking abashed, their expressions down. Ginelle looks between the two of them, especially toward Saya before shaking her head and walking past, down the stairs. The other two Monsters look at you, but you just put your face in your hands, wondering what the fallout will be for what you just did.

————————–

Saya and Ophelia shared a bed, leaving you once more alone with your thoughts, though you have no idea where Abigail is. Sometimes, you think that she’s a figment of your imagination, which honestly makes you worry heavily. Thankfully, Selene was able to see her, so that means you’re not insane… yet. Of course, that thought makes you worry more and you shudder, knowing you aren’t going to get to sleep well tonight.

Politics with the various Monster tribes coming undone, an exodus to Galmathoria, Fiora’s little war that not even Selene can move openly against. Add in all of this to your own troubles, and you have a recipe for disaster. This is part of why you hate Sanctifrond, because it’s layers of lies upon lies. You should find this nice as an Illusionist, but you can’t, you really can’t, and you know it stems from your family.

You hear the sound of sheets shifting and you ready yourself for someone trying to get into your bed again, but instead you see Saya, fully clothed, standing next to your bed, a finger to her lips. She points to the door and nods toward it. You frown at her before sighing and nodding your head, getting out of bed. You’re not getting to sleep anyway…

Saya opens the door quietly and the two of you walk to a balcony down the hallway, where you step outside into the warm summer night, looking out over the city from the second floor. True, most buildings are taller than this, so you can’t see much past the larger buildings, but you have a good view of the empty streets, seeing only the occasional guard or late passerby.

“You told her, huh?” Saya says leaning on the railing of the balcony. “I’m… sorry you had to do that, but thank you.”

“It was for the best.” You say in a flat voice, and Saya nods her head.

“Yeah, I know.” She pauses before saying, “What did my Mother have to say to you?”

“The wounds?” She nods her head and you sigh. “That obvious, huh…” You shake your head and think it all over before saying, “She’s concerned about politics keeping her from fully investigating Fiora. Some Monster tribes are making moves away from her, the more radical ones heading to Galmathoria. She also believes that people in Sanctifrond might know things, or even be furthering it.”

Saya nods her head, “That explains why she was like that in the Embassy. Mother has a reputation to uphold, since many Monsters only respect strength. She couldn’t show anyone, even her daughter, mercy while on the throne, but… it was rather vicious for her.”

“She seems kind of on edge.” You say, nodding.

“Yeah.” Saya says, looking back over the city streets. “Did she…ask about us?”

“Yes.”

Saya tenses, “What did she say?”

“She seems okay with it, for now, but…” You close your eyes, wondering if you’re about to make another huge mistake tonight. “But there’s something I have to tell you.”

She looks up at you, frowning, but she nods her head anyway. You take a deep breath and sigh out, “Saya, how much do you know about Illusionists?”

“Only that you can make people experience just about anything, and that many of you are insane, or at least appear that way.”

“That’s close, but not quite. You see, we aren’t true sorcerers, though we aren’t Wizards or anything. We’re more like… bastard children of Jackor.”

“What does that mean?”

“It means that our powers have negative side effects. If I strain my powers, or use some strong abilities then… well, it harms me. Makes me a little less sane.” You look into her eyes, your expression serious. “The eventual fate of all Illusionists is insanity.”

Saya blinks, searching your expression before clenching her jaw. “So that’s why Fiora… it wasn’t just because of Phallia, and Richard…” She takes a shivers, despite the warmth.

“Knowing this, do you still want to do this? I’d understand if you said no.”

She hugs herself for a few moments before taking a shuddering breath and reaching out to grip the railing. She’s quiet for a long while before saying, “Personally, I find it kind of funny. The goo-Monster with the insane man? A match made in the heavens, huh?”

“Saya…” You say and she turns to you, a wan smile on her face.

“I don’t care. Tobias, I don’t care that you might, someday, go a little strange in the head. You’re who you are now and even this nobility business doesn’t dissuade me. At the very least, I want to try for us and bring the world back from the brink.” She holds a hand out to you and smiles, “Are you willing to try with me?”

You look at her hand for a long moment before you shake your head and chuckle, taking it with your own. “Alright Saya, together.”

She smiles broadly at you and you can’t help but return the sentiment. As you do, something comes to you and you blurt out, “Oh yeah, your Mother wants us to go to a party tomorrow.”

“WHAT?!” Saya shouts and you shrug as she begins to fret about. Well… things aren’t fully resolved, and you need to check on Ginelle tomorrow, but at least… at least you have one less worry to deal with right now. Small victories, right?

—————————

You manage to get to sleep alright, though this is sort of enhanced by the presence of Saya in your bed. Not that anything lewd happened! More that, she wouldn’t take no for an answer and just sort of… hugged you while you slept. It was nice, really… nice, although it does remind you of Ginelle, which fills you with not nice feelings.

Regardless, when you wake up in the morning, you’re happy to find Saya still there, her face snuggled up against your back, a thin line of what you can only hope is drool coating you. It’s kind of hard to tell unless you’re looking at her, though the thought of her goo on your back is rather lewd and disturbing. Well, regardless, you gently lift her arms from around you and get out of bed, getting dressed in your suit. When finished, you gently sit down on the bed and look at Saya, just appreciating how such a strong woman can look so much like a child when she sleeps. You gently reach out and push a strand of hair from her face and smile.

“Creeeeeeepy.” Abigail says, whispering in your ear, causing you to jump on the bed. Saya immediately snaps her eyes open and draws her knife from under her pillow before blinking and looking at you, then groaning and slapping her head back on the pillow.

“Tobiaaaaaaassss.”

“Morning Saya.” You look over to see Ophelia getting up as well, yawning as she stretched, her bunny ears standing up. She has the sense to wear more of a shift this time and doesn’t look overly embarrassed as she looks over to you, her eyes bleary. She blinks a few times and looks down at her empty bed, then frowns and shakes her head, rolling out of bed, her little bunny tail waggling from her… oh come on, her shift barely even covers her ass, shapely as it may be. She’ll get it eventually.

You shake your head and poke Saya, who waves the knife at you like it’s a piece of paper, which is actually kind of dangerous. Gently, you take her hand from the side and lower the blade, to which she groans, “Come back to beeeeed.”

“Saya, we have things to do today.”

“Can’t we do them in bed?”

You pause, blinking your eyes in surprise and look over to see Ophelia staring at the two of you before looking down at herself and just now realizing she’s essentially pants less. She jumps, which is a lot, seeing as she’s a bunny, to her pants and putting them on, mumbling to herself.

Saya herself seems to understand just what she said as well and shakes her head before blushing and hiding under the pillow. “Ugghhh that’s embarrassing!”

“I hear that it was considered normal table conversation before your Dad did his thing.”

“Well, yeah but… uhm…”

You chuckle and pat her back before looking over at Ophelia. “What are you up to today?”

She blinks, finishing putting on a nice looking outfit blue velvet. She brushes her hair, which is quite wonderful when let down loose actually, and smirks, showing off some. “How do I look?”

“Like a bunny trying to impress a pack of wolves.”

“Then the illusion is complete.” She smirks and fills a bag with some papers before taking a deep breath. “I’m off to speak with some investors today, probably going to be out for the majority of the day I believe. You?”

“Mmm, well I was thinking about going off to the Hero’s Square for a little while, maybe stop by the Hero’s Hall. Probably hold off on wanton murder for today anyway, got some party to go to tonight.”

Ophelia shrugs, “Eh, Sanctifrond parties aren’t really my scene, but I bet I’ll be invited to one tonight. The Illoma family has a big pull, but I wasn’t aware the Shady family did.”

You frown, “It… doesn’t, not anymore. It’s more like, Saya is going and I’m her uh… date.”

Ophelia looks to Saya and blinks before shrugging and heading to the door. “I see, the Monster Lady getting invited then, must be a big party then.”

“I guess. Hey, if you see Ginelle out there…” You say, looking a little down. “Tell her that we’re worried about her.”

Ophelia looks down and nods her head, “She knows, I can assure you that.” Perking up again, she opens the door and walks outside, leaving you alone with Saya. Also Abigail, but she doesn’t count. More like, alone and a quarter. Regardless you shake your head and move over to Saya’s dress, picking it up and noticing the stains and cuts on it.

“Saya, you can’t wear this tonight.” You say, turning around to see her sleepily drag herself into a sitting position before yawning and rubbing her eyes.

“I know, but I’m sure mother will send me something to wear.”

“Makes sense, but I didn’t know you mother would do something like that.”

“She likes dressing us up sometimes.” Saya stretches her lithe body before getting out of bed, wearing more than Ophelia, but it still showed off her shapely legs. She doesn’t seem to care as much though and bypasses you and the dress to grab her dark clothing, tossing it on quick as a wink. “Anyway, you wanted to go to the Hero’s Square? It’s a nice park I guess, but I don’t really know why you would go there.”

“Oh well, you know, I said I might meet Clint there.”

Saya huffs, puffing out her cheeks. “Cheating on me already? And with a man?”

“Come on Saya, that’s not funny, not right now.” You say looking down. Saya draws back some before sighing.

“She’ll come back, I’m sure of it. It won’t do us any good to go hunting her down.”

“I know, I know.” You say, standing up and stretching. “Well, if you’re good to go, let’s be to it then.” She nods toward you and moves to the door, stopping as she frowns and grabs at something on her back, finding Abigail there, who flies off her back, frowning.

“You’re going to tell me why you’re hiding all the time.” You say to the fairy, who sticks out her tongue but says nothing else, instead flying inside your jacket, the uncomfortable feeling causing you to groan. You’re going to kill this little nuisance at some point, or she’ll kill you, you just fucking know it.

———————————

The Hero’s square is a place in the western side of the Inner district, a few acres of land dotted by various trees and trails around a little pond. There are many benches around the park, but the only thing of real note is the Statue of the Hero, Blake Boudreaux, standing aside his wonderful wife, Hala Boudreaux. It’s supposed to be a statue of the coming together of man and Monster in a new age or something. Honestly, you think a lot of kids go through to get off on the statues because man, was it carved by some impressive Geomancer.

You and Saya enjoy your little walk in the late morning sun, before the crazy burning heat of the afternoon, the two of you munching on some food you picked up on the way there. It’s kind of nice just walking together, chatting about things, acting as naturally as you had before. Is this what it’s like to be in a relationship? Hmm.

As you walk, you keep a lookout for Clint, but don’t see much of anyone there until you reach the statue, where a lone man sits at a bench at the base. A guitar rests in his hands, and he strums a tune that, while not really… good, manages to work on your own strings, the ones in your heart. You feel Saya’s hand, cool to your touch, take yours and you look down at her, seeing her blushing as the music plays over you.

You smirk and look back up to see the man look up at you over his wide brimmed hat, and he smiles that familiar smile, revealing himself, of course, to be Clint. As you reach the man, he strums a final cord before chuckling and putting down the guitar, looking up at the two of you and saying, “Well, if it isn’t Tobias and the lovely lady Saya. I knew you two were somethin.”

You chuckle, “Well, not until that night on the Leyway but, well, you know.”

“Oh, don’t I know it. I have many a tale of travel romances.” He flicks his hat, blue eyes sparkling. “Keeps people entertained out on a cold night.”

“I can imagine.” Saya says, smirking. “But what brings someone like you to Sanctifrond anyway?”

He sighs and puts down the guitar before leaning back and looking up at the statue. “Obligation, mainly. Hard to resist the call of family, though how they found me I don’t know.”

“They have their ways.” Saya says, shrugging. “But if you’re here, it means your family probably has a lot of money, especially since you have that weapon.” She says, waving toward his rifle case. “You don’t see those outside of the top military units unless someone has both money AND influence. Just who are you?”

Clint takes a deep breath and sighs, shaking his head. “Nah, not really my place to tell you at the moment, but I’m sure you’ll find out soon enough.”

“That seems silly.” You say, frowning.                                            

“I like to think of it as… dramatic.” He says, strumming the guitar again, though it’s off key. He frowns before chuckling, “I’ll never get the hang of this thing I think. That Badger friend of yours seemed to like it well enough.”

You blink and take a step toward him. “You saw Ginelle?”

“Ah right, Ginelle. Yeah, she came by a little earlier, walking through looking a little down. Poor girl looks like she spent the night in the bottles, mead probably since she smelled like honey.” He pulls down the brim of his hat, looking at you from under it, “Something real heavy must have happened to her.”

You stiffen before closing your eyes and taking a deep breath. “She… I had to tell her something she didn’t want to hear. But it was for the best.”

“Oh, I’m sure it was, but it hurts, don’t it?” He hangs his head. “Sometimes you just gotta bite the bullet, I know that.”

The three of you stand there, quiet for a long moment before you speak up again, “Clint, you’re more than you appear.”

“Well no shit, everyone is more than they appear.” He waves his hand toward Saya, “She’s actually made of a black goo like stuff and the daughter of the most powerful Wizard in the world.” He looks to you and smiles, “And you’re the son of the family implied in those riots.”

Both you and Saya suddenly become wary, Saya reaching to her belt while you prepare your powers. He looks between the two of you and raises his hands, showing himself not a threat, however you notice his rifle case is unlocked right next to him. Clever… He says in a slow voice, “I ain’t here to cause any trouble now. Just saying my piece, you know? If something like this hits you that hard, you’re never going to survive a party in Sanctifrond.”

You furrow your brow, “What?…”

“Ah, never mind.” He slowly stands and stretches, then stoops down to pick up his guitar and rifle case, closing the locks. “You were going to try to recruit me again, weren’t you?”

Saya gives you an odd look and you frown, “Well, yes, you’re kind of a mystery with a badass gun.”

He lets out a belly laugh, holding his stomach. “Oh, ho ho, that’s rich! Yeah, I guess I am, huh?” He shakes his head, wiping away a tear. “Well, I’ll have to decline again you see, too much on my plate, but we’ll cross paths again.” He turns to go before stopping and looking over his shoulder. “Oh, and I wouldn’t worry too much about your friend, she’ll come around.” Before you can say anything, he just turns back and walks slowly away, the sun hanging high overhead.

You watch him go for a long while before you turn to Saya to see her eyes big, mouth slightly agape. You frown and poke her and she shakes her head before seeming to realize you’re there. “Oh! Sorry, I mean, that’s just so cool.”

You grudgingly agree that it was pretty damn cool.

———————————-

“I can’t believe that The Lord Commander, the Ascendant, AND Hala were at a damn lunch with your mother and we can’t even get in.”

You huff and slump down on the bed in your room. Saya shrugs and walks over to you, gently patting your head. “There, there, I’m sure you’ll get your chance to get a signature.”

“It’s not about the… well yes, it is about the signatures, but also actually meeting them! They’re like legends!” You sigh and slump back onto the bed, looking at the ceiling, enjoying the coolness of the room, or the best you can get anyway. The open windows let in a light wind while the sunlight streams into the room, illuminating the room. Since the Hero’s Hall wouldn’t let you in, you figured you might as well take a break for a little bit before figuring out what else to do. Besides, you were wondering where Ginelle might be, and she wasn’t back here…

“Well, at least you got that new [Dagger].” Saya says, taking the blade out of its sheath. It’s high quality steel, for a really good price, for this area. A few silvers didn’t break your bank for something nice like this. “Of course,” she continues, “You also could have avoided getting into a fight with Abigail on your way here.”

“She bit my damn nipple.” You say, frowning at the fairy who’s sitting on the table, frowning at you.

“You spun around in a circle proclaiming the power of Jackor in front of a gambling hall!”

“I thought it would make you happy!” You say, huffing. “Geez, all you do is nag, nag, nag.”

“I can’t believe you, you stupid little man-child!” Abigail says, flying up to your face, about to bite you again, you guess. Before she reaches you, Saya intercedes and shakes her head.

“Now, now children, stop fighting.” You both groan and look away, sniffing. Saya sighs and looks to Abigail. “That was very rude of you Abigail.” You chuckle yourself before Saya glares at you, “And you! Do you know how mortified I was to see that?”

“A little mortified?” You say, smirking, and she frowns deeper.

“Ugh… maybe you deserve getting bitten.” She shakes her head before sighing again, “I hope you don’t pull anything like this tonight.”

“You know I can be charming when I need to.” You say, sitting up and smiling. “We’ll be the toast of the party.”

“I suppose if you can dance anyway.”

You frown, “Well, I could dance years ago, but…”

Saya jumps up, looking shocked. “Tobias! You’re taking me to a party and you can’t dance?!”

“Hey! It’s more like, you’re taking me!”

“Oh no, you’re getting up right now. I will not have you embarrass me out there.” She drags you off the bed before pushing the table out of the way and planting her hands on her hips, looking none so much like some kind of prep school teacher. She sniffs and looks down her nose at you before holding out her hand. “Take my hand and put your hand on my hip.”

You roll your eyes and walk up to her, easily getting into position. “I told you, I learned how to dance from my family tutor, years ago.”

“And I learned to dance from an Eldritch horror with a penchant for tea.”

Your eyes shine, “You learned to dance from Xanthia?”

“Of course it was Madam Xan… oh right, you read the book.” She sighs and shakes her head before snapping to. “Alright, stop this. If you remember your moves, then let’s start simple.” She looks at you and coughs, jolting you to start. Right, right, the man leads…

You take a breath and lead her in some basic footwork, your mind subsumed in the task of placing your feet where they need to go. You manage to fumble something of a dance together, but soon enough, Saya sighs and begins correcting you.

“No, you need to turn here.”

“Your foot, your foot! Don’t put it there!”

“Ugh, why would you spin me like that? This isn’t one of those middle district parties!”

You sigh and stop dancing, frowning down at her. “You know, you’re making this a little less than fun.”

“Well, this is a little serious, we are representing the Monster Nation!”

“I know but… I rather just dance with you.”

She goes quiet at that and you sigh, pulling her in close to you, wrapping both your arms around her as she does the same to you, and the two of you gently rock back and forth to some unknown beat. It feels far more natural than the dancing before.

“Tobias…” Saya says, leaning her chest into you. “What did Clint mean today? About your family?”

You’re quiet for a long moment before you sigh. “You might as well know before they find out tonight.” You gulp and then close your eyes. “About fifteen years ago, when I was still young, there were riots in Sanctifrond, against the push for more rights for Monsters.”

“I remember that.” Saya says, drifting in time with you. “Dad kept me home, but he said he had to do a lot of work with Blake and mother to keep the city from burning. A lot of high houses were hit hard.”

“Yes, most of them, in fact. The only one that wasn’t hit very hard was… House Shady.”

Saya looks up at you, and frowns. “That’s… your house didn’t…”

“There was no proof, and I was but a child. How could I know what my father was doing? But everyone suspected, whether it was true or not that we instigated the riots, the opposite effect happened. Man and Monster came together to push down the House from its high status into that of lowly Viscounts. Many would have seen us dead, but without concrete proof…”

“Tobias, that… must have been very hard.”

“I suppose. I was accustomed to a certain style of living, but when we went down in station, my father and mother were far more concerned with gaining their power back than they were about me. Not that I saw them much before, thanks to my tutors. Of course, when they found out I was a sorcerer, they jumped at the chance to send me off to Richard.”

“Why?”

“I don’t know. Maybe they just wanted me out of the way. Didn’t really help, the family is still where it was before. Some prejudices don’t go away.”

Saya goes quiet for a long while before laying her head onto your chest and closing her eyes. “I’m so sorry, Tobias. I didn’t know.”

“No, it’s fine. If I didn’t go to Richard, I never would have had the life I did, never would have met such people, never would have met, well, you.”

You let those words hang as you look into each other’s eyes. You feel your heart start to beat faster, realizing once again that Saya is so close you, and you see she notices it too, her eyes fluttering softly, her breath quickening in pace. You gulp and pull closer, yet she doesn’t pull away, spurring you on forward.

A knock at the door breaks both of you out of your trance and you step away from each other, both looking embarrassed for a moment before you quickly cough and say, “Yes?”

“It’s the innkeeper, you lazy brats. Got a message for the Lady.”

Saya frowns and walks over to the door, opening it up to take a letter from the innkeeper before tossing her a copper and then nodding her head, looking over the envelope over. She opens it in a swift motion before pulling out a small letter and groaning.

“What’s it say?” You say, walking up, and she hands you the letter, which you scan over. The calligraphy is wonderfully done, but the message is rather short:

“My dearest Saya. Your mother requires your presence, alone. Please come now, you wouldn’t want to keep mother waiting, would you?

-Love, Selene, XIV Monster Lady”

Saya rubs her forehead. “Damnit, I forgot. Look, I better go see her.” She hurries and takes up some papers she wrote last night before sighing and heading to the door. “I’ll see you at the party. 7pm, don’t be late.”

“I won’t.” You say, sighing. Well, there goes your day together. She pauses and quickly walks back to you, giving you a kiss on the cheek, to which you blink a few times before blushing. She smiles before sticking out her tongue and dashing outside, leaving you one quarter alone again.

“Kekeke. If I didn’t know better, I’d say Jackor was playing a cruel joke on you.” Abigail says, rolling on the table to smirk at you. “We’re even now, that was funny.”

“Well, hmm.” You say scratching your chin. “Guess it’s just you and me then, you annoying little Fairy.”

“Guess so, you asshole giant idiot.”

You both look into each other’s eyes for a moment, finding a mutual understanding and nod your heads before you say, “Welp, I’m going to go look for Ginelle.”

“Wait, you don’t want to talk about murdering people?”

“Not really no.” You say, grabbing Saya’s dress and preparing to head outside. Abigail flutters up to you and huffs,

“You’re never going to get around to this!”

“We only just got here last night you know.”

“Yeah, but there’s a pretty interesting name on the list and-” You silence her by waving a hand.

“I’ll deal with it tomorrow. For now, I’m going to drop this off at a cleaning place and be off” You open the door to the sigh of the Fairy, who hides herself inside your jacket, again, and the two of you walk outside to jaunt down to a cleaning shop, where they don’t bat an eye at the blood, merely sighing and getting to work. Clearly, they have dealt with this shit before on multiple occasions. You shrug and then head back around the Hero’s square, where Ginelle was last seen.

Of course, you don’t spend much time around the park, instead moving to some nearby bars, those that you know of anyway, which cater mainly to Monster clientele. Wandering through the places, you don’t really find that Ginelle has been through here, as Badgers are still quite rare, especially in this district. It takes you about five different places until you find a little place off the beaten path where a Kobold of all thing, is busy wiping down glasses.

“Well sure I saw a Badger! Came in here last night and drank ten whole glasses of my best mead.” The Dog-girl leans forward on her bar, her smile becoming positively venomous. “You wouldn’t happen to know where that bitch went, did you? Skipped out on her tab you see.”

You roll your eyes and slap down a few silvers, which the Kobold scoops up before letting out a happy bark. “Well, guess bygones are bygones!”

“You uh… wouldn’t happen to know where she might have gone, do you?”

The Kobold barks again, wagging her tail, “Oh, no. If I did, I would have guttered her and fed her entrails to my children!”

You look back and forth, a sudden shiver going through your spine. “Oh… oh. Thanks then.”

She smile broadly, “No… thank you!”

You frown and walk out of the bar, heading down to another where the story repeats, and you find yourself actually shocked to find out that over five bars, Ginelle managed to drink thirty pints of mead, which is…how is she still alive? Damn, you should really go drinking with her now! Although again, might be a bad idea, seeing how much money that ate from you, and you still have no idea where she is.

On your journey, you pick up a [Pocket Timepiece] and stow it in the pocket of your suit jacket, so you don’t forget the time. It’s also incredibly stylish, but the main function is for you to know what you have two hours until you have to be at the party. Considering where House Fullvora is, it would take about half an hour to get there from the cleaners, and you’d want to be there early for Saya and…

You walk into one last bar and look up to find a surly looking Inari there, who looks you dead in the eye and asks, “What do you want?”

“Uh… have you seen a Badger around here?” You ask, and she grunts, pointing a thumb back the way you came.

“Yeah, some pretty boy in a hat came by and paid her tab, took her off to wherever. Must have been his latest plaything.”

“You don’t know anything else?” You say, deeply perturbed. Pretty boy in a hat? Shit, you hope nothing bad happened to her! All because you had to go and say the fucking truth, Gods damnit.

The Inari snorts before spitting out a wad of… wait, is she chewing Green Leaf? Fucking hell. She looks you in the eyes and smirks, “Oh, a second lover, huh? Well, as much as I like drama, she seemed to know this lad, whisked her away and she went with him without an issue, though she was drunker than a skunk girl who just sniffed a sewer, eh?”

“This… pretty boy, did he have blond hair and blue eyes?” You say, troubled, doubly so as the Inari nods her head.

“Yeah, wearing some strange attire around her too. All leather eh?”

You take a deep breath and clinch your teeth. Clint… at least it was actually someone you knew, but what would he be doing with Ginelle? Shit, and you had no idea where to find him until tomorrow.

Your train of thought is derailed as you hear a slight tinkling noise and you look down to see your [Pocket Timepiece] jingling. You take it from your pocket to see little hands pushing against it, and you roll your eyes, opening up the device to see… aww hell, you only have an hour until the party! You whisper a quiet thanks to Abigail before nodding to the Inari, who seems pissed that you’re not buying anything, before you head off to the cleaners.

They hand over Saya’s dress and… well, it looks amazing, to be honest. They somehow managed to match the threads perfectly when repairing the tears and the blood washed out like it was never there. Honestly, it looks like it did when you fleeced the poor guy back in Loveura, and you give them a small tip of a few coppers as you take the dress with you, knowing that Saya will love it. Hells, as you walk there, you even get her some flowers, like the gentleman you are.

Because you will have to act like a gentleman, the moment people figure out you’re a Shady.

Well, you push that thought out of your mind for the moment as you approach the Fullvora household, a massive, sprawling mansion with grounds laying in the northern quarter of the inner district, past the castle itself. The architecture of the main mansion is ancient, almost as much so as the city itself, and has weathered many things from Monster invasions to certain… riots, standing strong. You bask in the glory of a high house once again as you look to all the statues lining the walls, something they’re known for, though you have no idea WHY they’d choose so many statues of beautiful women with demonic features… Solidarity with the Monsters?… hmm.

You approach the gates to find a steady stream of people coming through, checking their names off a list before being allowed in. You don’t recognize many of them, but a few faces are very, very familiar. Lord Davenshrike, Lady Ulnach, Count Humburton… very important people in the social circles of this city, and this country. Thankfully, no one seems to have any inkling of who you are, so you just relax outside of the gates, getting odd looks from guards, but due to your attire, they don’t try to stop you or anything.

“Tobias?” A familiar voice calls, and you look over in shock to see Ophelia approaching, wearing a gorgeous gown of blue silk that you hadn’t seen before, bows adoring the shoulders and waistline as long, luxurious petticoats flow down, obscuring her bunny legs. Her face has a generous amount of make-up applied, and she looks downright noble, though you have NO idea where she stored all of these things unless… was half her luggage clothing?

“Wow, I didn’t expect to see you here.” She says, walking up to you and smiling.

“I uh… could say the same.”

She chuckles, “Well, I was invited after a business meeting. Seems those old codgers wanted a fine piece of, pardon my speech, ‘tail,’ at the party.” She turns about and wiggles her little bunny tail before giggling. “Not that they’ll get any of it, but it makes for good political points.” She looks about before cocking her head, “Where’s Saya?”

“Right here!” Another voice says, and the two of you turn to see Saya approaching, your mouth dropping open as you behold her.

True to form, her mother had provided her with a dress, but this thing is… almost over the top! It consisted of a black, silken blouse with a low, square cut bodice, with grey frilled shoulders and long sleeves. The impressive part, however, were the layers upon layers of black skirts, white thread running through each, creating a dress that splays out from her, various shades of grey hiding the heels she’s wearing, accented by a black and white striped set of bows trailing from behind her hips.

She smiles at you, a small blush on her face as she asks, “So, do you like it.”

“I uh…uhm.. uh…” Ophelia nudges your shoulder and you shake out of your stupor. “Yes! Yes I love it, I just was… wow.”

Saya chuckles and walks up, plucking the flowers from your hands and smelling them, pulling them back down and smiling brighter. “You’re so damn corny.”

“That’s what Richard always said.”

“Heh.” She looks down at her dress and sighs, shaking her head. “Oh, Tobias, you didn’t have to go and get that done for me.”

“Nah, but I wanted to.” You say before shrugging. “Guess we’ll have to leave it at coat check then.” They both nod to you and you off your arm to Saya, who takes it eagerly before the two of you formally walk up to the steward who looks over the list, frowning at the two of you.

“Names, please.”

“Saya, of the Monster Delegation, and this is…” She hesitates for a moment before saying, “Tobias Shady.”

The steward pauses, looking up at you with a stunned expression, several nearby people whispering to each other and giving you strange looks. You just… let it slide off you as they do so, until the steward coughs and looks down at his list, crossing off something. “V…very well, please enjoy the party. Ah, and Miss Illoma, you may enter as well, we have been expecting you.”

Ophelia nods her head and chases after the two of you as you walk inside, the news of your presence seeming to spread like wildfire. Well… that’s just how these things go, huh? You better get prepared for it as you walk through the grounds, the summer sun still bearing overhead, though it has begun threatening to set.

The three of you reach a massive set of doors, leading into the main ballroom, and you all take deep breaths before heading inside. As soon as you enter, you know you’re in high company as brilliant lights and rich music play over you, sending you awash in sensations you didn’t expect to find. Directly after that comes the buzz of voices speaking, and you’re temporarily disoriented as the mass of humanity in this space is similar, yet far different to that of even the busy streets of Loveura.

The ballroom has tiled floors and large, domed ceilings, with multiple windows shining down light, though chandeliers of various sizes are lit, preparing for the oncoming evening. All around you stand nobles and those of means, either sitting at tables, or standing around with drinks or food, chatting to each other about things that could either be related to the wine, or the fate of the world. It’s hard to tell which until you get in there!

You notice off to the side a dance floor, though no one is dancing yet, something you’re certain will change as soon as this “son” is introduced, but for now, the three of you head off to get something to eat, because you’re actually kind of starving. On your way, you grab some glasses of fizz-wine from a server, giving one to each girl before taking one for yourself. You smile and clink glass, taking drinks of the wonderful liquid before sighing out in joy. This is high society, the better aspects of it, though the occasional glances you get remind of you the… not to glamorous aspects.

Grabbing a heaping portion of food that must have cost golds of coins to prepare, you sit down at a table, eating with gusto as Saya and Ophelia expertly look about the room, a frown coming across Saya’s face. You raise a fork toward her and she glares at you, to which you instantly switch to gentleman mode, raising your little finger as you point a fork at her. She nods grudgingly for your attempts at trying.

“What’s going on?” You say, and Saya nods to the front of the ballroom.

“I think the guest of honor is about to arrive. Notice the people around the front? They seem eager to please someone, so they must be house sycophants, who know what’s happening.”

You nod your head, this making sense to you. A moment later, a steward walks out and waves his hand, his voice magnified through the crowd. He says, voice booming, “Ladies and Gentleman, esteemed members of the nobility and merchant class, I welcome you to House Fullvora. It is my pleasure to introduce my Lord’s eldest son, who has returned from a long trip out West. Please, welcome Lord Clintain Fullvora!”

The crowd claps respectfully as the sorcerer steps back, and from a staircase descends two very familiar faces. You frown deeply, putting down your fork and watching as Clint, or should you say, Clintain, reaches the bottom stair, dressed in a suit of a much more conservative style, before turning and holding his hand out. A black furred paw reaches out and takes his hand, taking the last step, her brilliant green dress sparkling as it’s skirts swish around her. She smiles up at Clint before looking around the room, her eye wide with surprise, and your heart does things you weren’t aware hearts could do.

“Ginelle…” You say, watching as your Badger friend steps up next to Clint as he addresses the crowd, his rustic charm gone, replaced by a perfectly cultured voice that more matched his pretty boy appearance.

“I am honored to see so many of you come here to support House Fullvora during these troubling times. Truly, I would be remiss I were not here to tend to my ailing Uncle. However, we cannot wallow in grief forever, so tonight I ask you enjoy yourselves of House Fullvora’s hospitality! Eat, drink, and be merry!” He takes a proffered goblet from a steward and raises it high before looking out over the crowd, everyone clapping with a little more enthusiasm than before. As he scans the crowd, you can swear that his eyes lock onto yours for a moment, and his smile grows a little wider.

——————————————

The crowd slowly dies down, their congratulations turning once more into their little circles of conversation, Clint all but forgotten except by those who wanted something from her, swarming up over him and Ginelle, eager to ingratiate themselves with the young Lord. You merely sit back in your chair, crossing your arms and frowning, trying to process everything that was happening. In retrospect, it all made a kind of perverse sense, the things he said, how he seemed to be so affluent, his damn… high born looks.

“What’s Ginelle doing with him?” Ophelia asks, her ears twitching. “I mean, I could have imagined her in a bar or something, but here?”

“She was in a bar.” You say, taking a deep breath. “It seems Clint picked her up from one though, saved her from drowning herself in mead.”

“What, so she could be some arm candy for him?” Saya says, looking quite perturbed. “I won’t stand for this, Tobias, we’re going over to have him explain things.” She stands up and starts to walk over to him when you gently put a hand on her arm, causing her to pause and look back to you.

You shake your head and sigh. “No Saya, think about this. We don’t know the full situation, and if we go out there and make a scene with the son of a High House… remember your position and mine.” You subtly nod to a few women dressed in finery, a Hellhound among them, strange as it was to see that kind of Monster in the nobility. Saya pauses and takes a breath before taking her seat again, straightening out her dress.

“Of course, you’re right, I wasn’t thinking.”

You reach out and take her hand, squeezing it in yours, and she smiles back at you, eliciting a mild amount of chattering giggles from the noble women, including a small gout of flame from the Hellhound, who must have been from House Korlon, those damn horse breeders. How a Hellhound ever got into that family which consorted with Centaurs, you will never know. Regardless, you ignore them and speak, not caring who hears.

“I think he’ll find us, or Ginelle will. We’ll find what out what’s going on, but making a scene won’t help anything.”

Ophelia nods her head, “He’s right, let’s just do what we came here for, we can see about Ginelle later.”

Saya nods her head, looking a little troubled. “Alright… I suppose. I just… I hope she’s alright.”

You smile and stand, offering your hand to Saya. “She’s at a fancy party in Sanctifrond. She’s going to cause a faux pas at some point, but she’ll enjoy herself. At least we know where she is, so we can have her return to us later. For now, why don’t we go and mingle?”

Saya looks up at your hand and smiles, taking it with her gloved hand, the two of you turning to look to Ophelia who waves a hand, rolling her eyes. “Oh geez, you two and your lovey-dovey nature. Honestly, this is why I never got involved with any of this, magitek is so much simpler…”

“Oh hush Ophelia, you look lovely and I’ve seen multiple young men looking your way since you got here. Just enjoy yourself, alright?” Saya says, eliciting a blush from the Rabbitgirl. She looks down and twiddles her thumbs before taking a deep breath and nodding.

“I… thank you, Saya.”

“If you need anything, follow the glares.” You say, heading off with Saya into the crowd. The two of you make waves in multiple ways, partially due to Saya’s grandiose dress, must mainly because of the scandal of the Monster Lady’s eldest daughter with the son of a disgraced noble family. As you walk, Saya points out important nobles, noting what they’re known for and pertinent information in case they want to strike up conversation. Her knowledge is mostly limited to the High houses, though a few of the more eccentric, or relevant to Monster interests, houses are mentioned too.

Of course, most of them chose not to speak with you, which is fine, because you don’t really want to talk with them either, mainly keeping your eyes open for Clint. Yeah, you talked big talk, but you’re really kind of furious inside. What the hell was he doing with Ginelle? She was YOUR friend! Sure, you might have crushed her spirits and sent her on a spiral of drinking, but you didn’t mean to do it! Fucking hells, when you get to him, you’re going to… to… ahhh fuck, what are you going to do?

So lost in thought were you that you barely noticed Saya tug at you arm and point at the approach of an older looking gentleman, his suit stretched a little tight against his bulk, a young and attractive woman on his arm. He smiles broadly and raises a hand as he approaches, shouting, “Well if it isn’t the young lady Saya!”

Saya smiles broadly as he approaches and he bows to her before she curtseys and holds out a hand, to which he kisses before chuckling. “My my, I haven’t seen you in… what has it been, three years?”

“Indeed, Lord Gillafront, not since the ball my Mother hosted.”

“Ball she says, trap she means!” He laughs, his belly shaking. “Many unsuspecting young lads ended up that night stuffing more than their faces you know! Sometimes I think your mother is some kind of demon!”

“Oh come now Lord Gillafront, you give her too much credit. The Succubi found the entire display far less titillating than they were led to believe.”

“Is that so? Well now, good thing I have my Lady here to keep me from such troubles!” He pats the arm of the woman on his arm, who looks way younger than him, her blond hair and beautiful face screaming, “trophy-wife” or “political marriage.” He turns to you and ruffles his moustache before saying, “Well, why don’t you introduce me to the young man here.”

Saya blinks, taken aback for a moment before remembering you’re there and smiling, waving toward you. “Ah, of course Lord Gillafront. This is Tobias Shady, son of the Shady house.”

You bow gently to the Lord, before holding out your hand. “Pleased to meet you my Lord.”

He stares at your hand for a few moments before smiling and taking it in his meaty hands, shaking firmly before letting you go, a mild layer of sweat on your palm. You keep from frowning quite adroitly you believe. He smiles and says, “Ah, so you’re the Shady lad I heard around here. Can’t say I’m too much a fan of your Father’s decisions boy, however, if the young Saya here seems to trust you, well, then I’m inclined to give you a chance.”

“You are very generous, my lord.”

“Indeed.” He says, his jolly eyes looking at you with a sort of calculation that you didn’t see before, his demeanor hiding a very intelligent personality. “Well now, are you enjoying the party?”

“Oh yes, it is quite enjoyable. I have not been such an event in quite some time.” You say to which he snorts.

“Well, you know the reason for that. Still, it’s odd they’d have a party, given the situation.”

Saya frowns, “What situation?”

“You haven’t heard? Ah, you must have been off with that Father of yours, not hearing the news. Well, you see, it’s an open secret that the brother of Lord Fullvora has gone out of the public light recently. They say it’s due to him wanting some privacy, but personally, I think he’s ill. Why else would they track down that vagabond of a son, hmm?”

“Vagabond? Clint…tain seems quite the gentleman.”

He smirks in a way that implies, “Well isn’t that cute.” It… really kind of grates at you as he continues speaking. “Clintain has always been an impulsive young lad, making trouble where he can, declaring he was going to join the Order of the Heroic Brotherhood even! Apparently he really looked up to the Lord Commander when he was a young adult. Of course, his parents wouldn’t stand for such a thing, and why would they?”

You feel a certain sort of empathy with that, remember when you first got a copy of [Wizardquest], pouring through it and idolizing the characters within. Your mother, however, found it something a young gentleman shouldn’t read, burning the book when you were nine. You didn’t get another copy until you went to Richard’s…

“Of course, the boy would not dissuade and ended up taking money and leaving town out to those wilder areas near Galmathoria, so I hear.” He shivers.

“If he’s such a troublemaker, why go through the trouble of bringing him home?” Saya asks, intrigued.

The Lord looks about and leans in close, apparently not wanting people to hear, though at the same time he seems positively ecstatic that someone might. “Well, the way I hear it, the lad has no love for his father, but his Uncle, oh he does care for his uncle.”

“Why would that be?” You ask, curious.

“Hah, well, the man is quite… eccentric. Some say he should have been a mummer instead of a noble, though in my few interactions with the man, I am inclined to agree. It seems he has a strange effect around people, getting even the most sour old crone to feel at ease. It’s half the secret to Fullvora’s success, especially after… well.” He gives you a sidelong look to which you bow your head.

“Of course, you say, frowning deeply.” He smiles at you and pats your arm.

“Lad, I’m sorry to keep bringing it up, but your parents truly did harm to most people here. I don’t know where you’ve been, to be honest, but some grudges stay for quite some time.”

“It’s fine, my Lord, I acknowledge my family’s faults. I do not associate with them much anymore, however.”

“Is that so? Well then, I’m glad to hear it, although to this day I’ll never understand what they were thinking…” He trails off as his wife tugs at his arm and whispers into his ear. He blinks a few times before looking behind him, toward another group of nobles, and he clacks.”Ah, of course. If you’d excuse me, I need to speak with Lady Pello. Please, enjoy yourselves tonight, and it was a pleasure speaking with you again Lady Saya.” He bows to her again before turning and leaving to speak with another party, leaving you with Saya and a few more people about whispering.

“Uncle, huh?” You say, frowning, thinking over what Lord Gillafront said. Maybe that’s why Clint seemed to find you so intriguing, maybe you remind him of his uncle?

“Interesting information…” Saya says, looking in thought herself. “Well, at least we got something out of all of this.”

“True.” You say, nodding your head. “Well, I think we should continue making the rounds, hmm?” She wraps her arm around yours and nods her head, the two of you continuing to walk through the crowd. This time, things are a little different, apparently having been approached by Lord Gillafront, another High Lord it seemed, people found it politically advantageous to at least address Saya. It feels a little a little grating to be basically the arm candy, but at the same time, you’re glad you don’t have to do much more than smile much of the time, something that makes quite a few young ladies blush and look away, much to Saya’s pleasure from the look in her eyes. She’s enjoying showing you off! How scandalous!

You don’t learn much else of interest though, most of the talk being people trying to either ingrate themselves to Saya because of her Mother, or to see just what this son of Shady looked like. Every so often you manage to get something useful, about the changes in laws regarding Magitek generators, taxes related to wheat crops, the disturbance in economic trade in Loveura. You don’t care overly much, even if it is interesting, you’re still more intrigued in finding Clint, though your only indication of where he is would be by the large amount of sycophants in a certain area at a certain time.

At one of these moments, when you’re close to such a crowd, you try to look over while in a conversation when you hear, “Oh, but you must be having trouble with that Alarune delegation. I’m so sorry you Mother couldn’t attend because of it.”

The speaker is a young looking Dragon, another rarity as far as Monsters go, even before Valinthia. Many found them quite disreputable because of this, but a few strove to make good names for themselves despite this, including this one with blue scales and white hair, wearing an ice blue dress that made her eyes of the same color shine. “I’m sure it must have been difficult for them to travel out here, but I hear the demands they’re making are quite unreasonable.”

You frown, turning your attention fully to her. “Which demands to you mean specifically?”

She looks to you, her eyes immediately appraising you before flicking back to Saya for a moment as she says, “I have heard they wish for greater sovereignty of their own affairs near Galmathoria. The queen lives there among The Cradle, yes?”

“Of course.” Saya says, nodding her head. “However, the Cradle is a large source of food and medicinal products for the Monster Nation, Deleor, AND Galmathoria. However, having them under the banner of the Monster Lady gives much more favorable conditions for… pollination, wouldn’t you say?”

The Dragon laughs, “Oh well, that is the concern of all Monsters, yes? I say, I haven’t been, ah, ‘pollinated’ in quite some time, though it’s much better than those poor Galmathorians.” She gives you a lecherous smile, “Although I’m certain that you’re getting pollinated quite well, aren’t you?…”

“My Lady, that is quite unbecoming!” Saya says, and the Dragon holds up a clawed hand, chuckling.

“Forgive me, I can’t help it sometimes. Please, enjoy the party.” She wanders off, leaving you a little confused and Saya flushed.

“The nerve of her!” She says, sniffing. “Just because she’s distantly related to the old Monster Lady, does not mean my mother had to make me interact with her.”

“I don’t know, you two seemed to get along well enough.”

“Be…be that as it may, it’s highly improper for this venue!”

“Says the woman who wanted to pick a fight with the guest of honor.”

She huffs and is about to say something else when you hear the band strike up, a slowly, resonant sound of strings humming across the room. People murmur to each other and start heading toward the front of the ballroom, and the two of you look at each other, a little embarrassed for a moment before Saya nods, holding out her hand to you. Smiling, you take it and lead her to the dance floor.

As you approach, you see multiple couples of various ages readying up as the band prepares to play, yet you easily find a spot on the floor. Gently placing your hand on her waist, the other taking her hand, you look about the room and hiss, drawing Saya’s gaze. Over about twenty feet away stands Clint and Ginelle, the poor Badger looking utterly confused as the steady looking lordling says something to her that gets lost in the sounds of conversation. You strain to hear when the band begins playing and your attention is immediately drawn to the person in front of you, Saya.

The song is of excellent quality, the band well trained, and paid for, and you do your very best to draw on everything you remember, and were taught, about dancing. At first, you focus your entire focus into the dance, making certain you get everything right, when you feel Saya squeeze on your hand and you look up at her, seeing her smiling gently, shaking her head. You realize then and there and she was just all bluster beforehand, wanting your dancing to be perfect. Hell, at the core of it, she just wanted to dance… with you.

You close your eyes for a moment before smiling back at her and focusing not on your feet, but your connection to the woman in your arms. The music flows through the two of you, and the people all about move their feet in time with it, but for all you care, you’re lost in a world with just the two of you, and it seems all too soon when the music dies down. You gently lean her backward and she gasps before giggling, the two of you looking into each other’s eyes.

You hear a clapping nearby and the two of you look up to see groups of dancers looking on as Clint himself walks up, Ginelle on arm. He smiles at the two of you and says, “What a show! I had no idea you were such good dancers.”

“Clin… I mean, my lord.” You say, bowing to him, though you have a strange and sudden urge to use the [Eye of Fear], shatter his consciousness, and send him spiraling into a world of pain and misery. Instead you just bow to him. “What an honor to have you address us.”

“Hah, well, yes, I am quite magnanimous.” He shakes his head, “But enough of that, I had been meaning to speak with you, but I believe the band is about to strike up another song. Might you wish to switch partners?”

Both you and Saya look at each other with startled expressions before she nods and looks to Clint, smiling. “Of course, my lord.”

He smiles broader and looks to Ginelle, “Is this alright with you?”

Ginelle looks at you, her face embarrassed. “Well… if he’s alright with me stepping on his feet…”

“Oh hush, it only happened four times, you did well for your first time.” Clint says, patting her shoulder before offering his hand to Saya, who takes it, the two of them walking off, leaving you alone with Ginelle in her dress. She looks down, her face abashed, but you sigh and walk up to her, offering your hand to her. She looks up at it before closing her eyes and taking it, allowing you to put your hand around her waist.

The band starts playing again and you slowly begin dancing. You immediately find out that Clint wasn’t kidding, you did school him fucking hard on the dance floor, even if you didn’t actually watch. Oh well, it’s fine, though Ginelle looks beet red, embarrassed as you dance with her. Rolling your eyes, you say, “Ginelle, I’m glad to see you’re safe.”

She’s quiet for a few moments before looking down and whispering, “I’m sorry…”

“For what? Your response was justified, and I’m sorry that it turned out that way.”

“No I mean, I’m sorry for making you worry.”

“Well, it looks like things turned out alright, though I am a little confused to see you with Clint.”

“It’s not what you’re thinking! He found me, about passed out in a bar, much to my disgrace, and took me in to help me sober up.” She looks up at you, a little concerned, “Nothing happened! He was the gentleman the whole time, even invited me to this party, saying you’d be here. I… I couldn’t go back to you yet, and this dress looked really nice and…”

“Ginelle, it’s fine, I told you. I’m just glad you’re safe.”

“I just… didn’t want you get the wrong idea. Didn’t want you to think I was some… some floozy who flocked to another man just because I was in the cups.”

You gulp and prepare to say, “Well, if you like him…” But you can’t do it. Fucking hells, you haven’t moved on yet. Instead you just sigh and smile at her. “Don’t worry about it. We can talk more after the dance, alright? Why spoil such a pretty dress with a frown?”

She blinks and then smiles softly, nodding her head as the two of you dance to the music, her feet uhm… only mildly dangerous weapons. Still, you manage to survive with your shins intact, and you finish the dance, both of you smiling. Gods, it took a load of your chest to see she was alright, and that she wasn’t on Clint’s dick… yet anyway. You still don’t know his intentions…

As the band gives a moment to prepare for the next dance, you hear a murmuring come from the crowd not dancing. Frowning, you look over to the commotion and hear someone shout in terror before more and more people begin screaming. You frown deeply as people scatter from the commotion. You grab the arm of a man who runs by, and you ask, in a confused tone, “What’s going on?”

“I…I don’t know! Lord Fullvora’s brother appeared and… and then people suddenly began acting weird and screaming!” He shakes out of your grasp and continues on away, and you frown deeply before looking out to the thinning crowd, watching as people drop to the ground, crying in pain, or swatting at things that aren’t there, or even just looking comatose.

As the crowd falls, as if in a wave, you see one man standing in the middle, a look of anger on his face as he holds his head. He appears as if an older, gruffer version of Clint, though instead of being dressed in finery, he’s instead in dishevled clothing, cut leather bonds on his wrist flapping. He growls and shouts, his voice seeming to echo in your mind rather than being projected, “Damnit, I was TRYING TO SLEEP!”

You feel a stirring in your suit and you blink, remembering that fucking Abigail hid there, and she pops her little head up and says, a smug smile on her lips. You growl and say, “Abigail, why didn’t you tell me that fucking Lord Fullvora was an insane Illusionist?”

“Well, you didn’t seem to take much stock in the list before, instead getting angry over your little Badger.” She hides back into your jacket. “Better do something about it!”

You frown deeply, and your eyes cross that of the insane Illusionist. He looks at you oddly, cocking his head before narrowing his eyes, and you feel pressure of an illusion upon you, which you swiftly dispel. He blinks a few times before smiling. “Another like me! Ho ho! Is it too loud in here for you? Would you help me quiet things down?”

As you’re about to reply to him a Monster, the Hellhound you saw before leaps from the panicking crowd toward the other Illusionist, her eyes literally blazing. She lets out a bestial growl as she leaps, her speed in the air faster than you can believe. Unfortunately, it is not fast enough, and before she can reach the man he snarls toward her, his eyes seeming to bore into her and she shrieks, her trajectory thrown off course, and she slams into the floor a few feet from him, clutching at her chest, her eyes wide and afraid.

“I TOLD YOU TO BE QUIET!” He shouts before putting a hand to his head. “Everyone is so loud, so Gods damned loud…”

You grit your jaw as he mutters to himself. Ginelle walks carefully to you, her knuckles popping as she says, “Tobias what-“

You slap a hand over her mouth as the deranged Uncle snaps his head to you, his eyes looking a little wild. You immediately assault him with a simple illusion, one to dampen the sound coming from Ginelle and he blinks a few times before rubbing his head and seeming to notice you again. “Oh… oh it’s you. Where did you go before? I’m sorry, everyone is so rude here, all I want to do is sleep…”

“Of course sir.” You say, not daring to take a step toward him yet, though you hear Saya and Clint moving up over the din of people fleeing. You hold up a hand behind you, and you hear them stop, allowing you to converse with the man again. “I’m terribly sorry for the way they’re all acting.”

“Well they should know better. It’s night time, and people are sleeping. How did they get into my bedroom anyway? I thought we had guards for this sort of thing.” He frowns as a man near him begins shrieking, and a moment later the poor soul’s head snaps backward as if struck, and he falls to the ground, silent.  “Kids these days…”

“Damnit…” You whisper, sensing out the best you can with your senses. It’s not as developed a magic sense as say, a Wizard would have, but for Illusions you have a rough estimate of just how far this man’s bubble of influence spreads, especially in relation to the bodies around him, which you really hope are still alive. You look to the side as Clint and Saya reach you from their slow pace and Clint can only stare in horror at what his Uncle has wrought.

“Dear Gods…” He whispers, looking utterly shocked as he addresses his Uncle. “Uncle Horatio, what have you done?”

Horatio Fullvora turns to look at his nephew, his eye twitching faintly as he puts a hand to his forehead. “Clint… you’re so damn loud, boy.” He grits his teeth. “What did I tell you about being so loud?”

“Uncle, you didn’t…” You shake your head slowly toward Clint and apply another illusion to his Uncle, though the man seems perturbed, as if a fly at stung him. Speaking of flies, what is buzzing around your head? Well, never mind, more important things present.

“Clint…” You whisper, shaking your head, “Be careful what you say and how you say it, your Uncle is not quite in his right mind.”

“What? No, he’s just a little sick, probably has a fever and…”

“Clint, listen to me. Your Uncle is not the man he once was and if you do this wrong, he will not just incapacitate, but KILL everyone around him in ways you can’t comprehend.” You don’t take your eyes off Horatio, but you say, in a cold voice, “He needs to be pacified.”

Clint takes in a sharp breath and hisses, “Don’t you lay a damned finger on him.”

“That’s not what I mean.” You let that hang there for a moment before you say, “I meant, he needs to be calmed down so he can be lead away and isolated. Once there, we can discuss what exactly is happening to him.”

“Happening to him? He’s just got an illness, the Hospitaliers are…” Clint trails off before gritting his teeth and looking around at the people on the ground. He hangs his head and says in a quiet whisper, “Fine, we do things your way, for now.”

Saya taps Clint on the shoulder. “Let him handle this, it’s out of our control, for now.”

“Right she is.” You say, nodding your head, “Clint, I need you to stay here, but Saya, help people get evacuated.”

“What about me?” Ginelle asks, and you shake your head.

“Go with Saya, I’d appreciate you here but… I don’t think this is your forte.” You wave to the down hellhound, who is sobbing quietly. “Now then, go, he won’t stay calm for long.”

The two women nod their heads and head over to the evacuating crowd. You don’t see Ophelia around, but since she’s not the floor, you assume she’s safe and not trying something stupid, like bringing out a mana cannon. She… she didn’t bring one of those, right?

“What do we do now?” Clint asks and you shake your head, taking a slow step forward to his Uncle.

“Well… you say slowly. The first issue is that your house now almost certainly has blood on its hands, and your uncle is now a known sorcerer.”

“What? He’s not a sorcer…” He trails off before frowning.  “No, he couldn’t be…”

“Yeah, yeah keep telling yourself that.” You raise a hand slowly toward Horatio and smile as you say, “Sir, can we come speak with you?”

“Speak?… Ha, you’re the only here with sense enough to SPEAK instead of SHOUT.” He shakes his head, “These damn kids these days, no respect for anything. At least Clint here is being quiet, though all those people out there…” He frowns and takes a step toward them.

“Ah, but sir!” You say, holding your hands out, “Don’t waste your time on them, they are beneath you! Besides, they are currently leaving, and you must be so tired.”

He looks down and murmurs, “Aye… aye I am tired. It’s so hard to sleep though, with the voices I keep hearing, the memories that keep appearing…”

“Memories?” Clint says,  stepping slowly toward his Uncle. “Uncle, what memories are plaguing you? We can talk about this…”

Horatio looks up, a tear draining down his cheek. “My dear Alicia…”

Clint instantly goes quiet, a look of shock appearing on his features as the color drains from his face. You cock your head slightly before saying to the other illusionist. “You hear things, see things that aren’t there?”

“More and more I have…” He whispers. “The more I used my gift to bring joy, the darker things became for me, and the harder it has become to sleep.” He looks you in the eyes, and you realize his are bloodshot. “Do you hear the voices too?”

“You have to go back…” Whispers in your mind, and you close your eyes, taking a shuddering breath as you whisper, “Yes. I do.”

He chuckles softly and you close the gap to him slowly, Clint following behind you until you stand before the man, who weeps softly, a circle of devastation around him. Slowly, you reach a hand forward toward him and gently lay it upon his head, about to lay an illusion to help calm him down enough to sleep when a door nearby bursts open, admitting a group of armored soldiers in the livery of House Fullvora. The lead one shouts, “Protect the Lord!”

Your eyes go wide as Horatio snaps his attention to the guards and roars, “SILENCE!”

The guards, still in motion after bursting in, one by one drop to the floor, covering their ears and scream until they go hoarse, their ears bleeding. Unfortunately for you, Horatio turns upon you as well, his eyes blinded by rage. Suddenly, a high pitched wailing fills your ears and you stagger backward, your whole body shivering in time with the sound, your bones feeling like their shaking together.

Clint drops to a knee, looking violently ill as he covers his own ears, and you know it’s an illusion, the other Illusionist looking once again to the evacuating group, which hadn’t quite gotten out yet. At the back of the crowd was the dragon friend of Saya’s and she stood, transfixed in fear as Horatio snarls and prepares to charge her.

“No!” You shout, focusing your concentration and throwing out an illusion upon the other Illusionist, and he stops, looking utterly confused as something seems to grab his ankle. He looks down and his eyes go wide before he too screams. Shit, you probably shouldn’t have made it one of the people on the ground grabbing his leg, but you had to think of something fast and this was the first thing to come to you. Either way, you hear the wailing subside some, enough for you to concentrate on breaking the illusion, and things become blissfully dull instead of cacophonous.

Horatio wails and falls down, shaking his head as he tries to get away from your illusion, appearing to flail is leg about with no real effect. Damnit… but if this was going to work, you might as well keep it going, no matter how morbid it was. Taking a deep breath, you influence more of an illusion, and suddenly it appears as if more of the bodies are reaching out toward him, holding down his arms and legs, smothering him until his screams of torment become shrill. He seems to have but one moment of lucidity, looking at you with wild eyes until he convulses and goes still.

Everything goes quiet as the people on the floor become silent, the illusions upon their minds gone. Clint seems to be freed as well, though he’s down on his knees, breathing heavily. You look out toward the crowd of people who stopped evacuating to look upon the scene as it ended, and all you feel is overwhelmingly tired as phantom echoes of screams wail in your mind.

>Your madness level has increased to 18%

>You occasionally hear distant screams, though you don’t know why.

Officials of the house, who managed to avoid the chaos run up and you take a breath, expecting them to surround the down man, but instead they surround you, grabbing your arms and holding you in place as an angry looking woman walks over and slaps you across the face, screaming, “WHAT DID YOU DO, YOU DAMNED SHADY?!”

You blink, stunned by the treatment, unable to fully comprehend what just happened. She slaps you again and shouts, “Look what you did! Look at the devastation you caused! By the power of my house, I will see you executed, you traitorous little-“

“Mother… stop.”

The woman turns her gaze to Clint, who stands slowly, taking a deep breath. “He didn’t do this.”

“Clintain, you don’t know the Shady family. I don’t know what sorcerous powers he used, but he will be sentenced for his crimes!”

“Mother, be quiet for once in your damn life.” Clint says, gritting his teeth, and his Mother blinks, startled, though he continues to speak. “Tobias did nothing here but stand against Uncle until he tired himself out. He was the only one willing and able to stand against this tide, and I will NOT have you disparage him.”

“C..Clintain! How…how dare you speak in such a fashion!” His mother says, her face beet red. “You mean to say this was your Uncle’s fault? Your sick Uncle? HA!”

“From what I heard, that seems to be the truth.” A familiar voice says, and you all turn to see Ophelia stride up, her bunny ears twitching. “I heard the whole thing, saw it too. The gentleman did not appear well and… perhaps it would be best not to make a scene here where multiple people are injured.” She coughs into her hand and Lady Fullvora pales.

“L…lady Illoma. O…Of course, forgive me.” She snaps to her guards, two of which take Horatio with them, the others checking people for signs of life. Unfortunately, you see a few who aren’t breathing, Jackor damnit.

As you watch the crews do their work, Clint puts a hand on your shoulder and squeezes it before saying, “You best get out of here as well. I need to go tend to my uncle, but I won’t have this fall upon you.”

You nod to him, but instead of leaving, you grit your teeth and say, “Clint… I have to tell you what’s happening to your Uncle. You… won’t like what I have to say.”

He hangs his head and shudders, “After what I just saw there, I have a feeling, but… This can’t happen again. Our family will already have fallout from this and… and he mentioned his wife.” He takes in another shuddering breath before saying, “Is there no help?”

“No.” You whisper before shaking your head. “There’s only one thing that can be done.” You ball your hands into fists. “If you want to help your Uncle, find me. I’m sorry, but it’s the only option.”

“Tobias… what are you? What is my Uncle?”

“Illusionists.” You say before walking away, leaving a stunned Clint in your wake. You don’t look back as Ophelia strides up toward you, silent, though soon enough Saya and Ginelle meet you outside, and the three of you trail off to the outer grounds. Ginelle pauses at one point, looking to Clint with a sad expression before sighing and shaking her head, falling in line.

You don’t speak the entire time back to the inn, and when you arrive, everyone slumps, their minds trying to cope with what happened. You’ve never seen that kind of devastation before, never heard of what Richard had to do, but this was his job, wasn’t it? To help these people by ending their lives? What a miserable existence. Your respect for Richard only grows every day…

“Hey.” You hear in your jacket pocket, and you open up for Abigail, looking positively sweat drenched, to fly over to the water basin and dunk her head in, pulling it out to shake her purple hair, and water droplets, everywhere before sighing. “Ohhh yeah, that’s good.” She turns about and frowns then before asking, “Why didn’t you kill him when you had the chance? I was telling you to do it!”

“Couldn’t hear you.” You say, not lying, though you don’t really want to talk to her.

“Ugh, you’ll never be able to kill Fiora!” She shouts, flying into the air. “At this rate, I’ll be stuck here forever!”

“Oh shut up you gnat.” Ginelle says, frowning.

“Ginelle is right.” Saya says, leaning her head back against a pillow. “If Tobias had executed the man there, he would have caused even more of a scene and then where would we be?”

“He did the right thing.” Ophelia says, tinkering with some tools on something, though her expression is anything but calm. It must be a comforting thing for her you guess. “At least we managed to reduce the number of casualties… I hope. I don’t know how they’ll control him though…”

You hold up a finger and tap your temple once, twice, three times, before pointing it at the door, and a second later you hear a knock. Everyone looks at you oddly, before Ginelle gets up and answers the door, taking a step back as she does, a shocked expression on her face. A moment later, Clint walks in, dressed in his leathers, his hat in his hands. “May I come in?”

—————————–

“So, you’re telling me my Uncle is an Illusionist.” Clint says, bent over in a chair, hands clasped before him. “A kind of sorcerer who messes with people’s heads?”

“Yes.” You say, nodding your head. “I am one too.”

“And that… eventually you all go mad and have to be… to be put down? Like plagued dogs?”

You nod your head, having told this where everyone could hear. It wasn’t fair to Ginelle or Ophelia for them not to know, although they both look troubled. You can’t really blame them, though you sigh and lean back in your chair. “Yes… and it falls upon me to do it.”

“Why? Why would you put yourself in such a place?”

“Fate? Circumstance? Making a deal with a demon? It doesn’t matter, what does matter is it is my job as vested by the crown, and by the Trickster God himself.”

“Jackor? But he doesn’t do a damned thing.”

“Tell me about it.” You mutter as a sharp pain pierces your nipple. Fucking hell, the little shit bit you again! You wince for a moment before drawing a shuddering breath. “I know you don’t want to hear this Clint, but it’s the truth, everyone can verify it.”

The three girls nod and he hangs his head. “Damnit…” Clint whispers before taking in a deep breath and exhaling it all. “I should have known when he mentioned Alicia… He never talked about his wife after she died, always kept it to himself. He wouldn’t even talk about her to me, and I, well… I was basically like a son to him.”

Ginelle pats his back and he shudders once. “Tobias… the way he acted, what he did… if he wakes up again, people are going to die, aren’t they?”

“Likely, yes.”

“Damnit… I’ve seen so much death in my life, and yet I can’t just…”

“Clint, if you can’t… then you can’t.”

He shakes his head violently. “No, no he has to… to pass on, at least while he has some comfort of sleeping. He had been complaining about it, I just… I just need a little bit of time to prepare for this.”

“I can perform the deed if you want…” You say, trying to help, but he looks you in the eye.

“No, there’s no way you’d be able to get into the household… well, not without your powers, but if anyone saw you, you’d be killed. I don’t know what your reputation will be after tonight, but I can tell you that my Mother will try to get the blame pushed to you, mark my words.”

Saya sniffs, “We’ll see about that.” Ophelia nods her head as well, and Clint smirks.

“You got a good set of friends here, Tobias. I envy you, in a way.” He takes in a deep breath before standing slowly and nodding to you. “I’ll do it. I have to do it. Thank you for helping me clear my mind to this. I know it will be for the best.”

You nod your head to him and he turns to go before stopping and taking one of Ginelle’s paws in his hand. “Ginelle, I’m sorry I couldn’t treat you to much of an evening, but I hope you enjoyed what you could.”

She nods her head and looks down at her dress, “It was fun while it lasted, thank you, though the dress?…”

“Keep it.” He says, waving his hand. “I don’t have much use for it, and it looks great on you.” He smiles at her before leaving out the door. You hear his footsteps as he heads down the hall, and then all goes quiet.

You sigh and lean back saying to the others, “Come on, let’s get some sleep, I think we’ll have some fallout to deal with tomorrow. No one argues.”

———————————

In the middle of the night, you feel something tapping your head and you look up to see Abigail positively buzzing her little body glowing slightly. You cock your head and whisper, “What do you want?”

She hisses excitedly at you, “He did it! He killed his Uncle! Oh ho ho ho! I feel it, I feel the gift from Jackor!”

“What? What do you mean, YOU feel the gift? Wasn’t I supposed to get some gift?”

“Yeah, but I’m the intermediary.” She flaps around a few moments before flying up to your face and pressing her little mouth to yours. Before you have a chance to say anything to the contrary, you feel your body radiate with a gentle heat as power flows into you. Your heart begins to feel like it’s burning, yet at the same time you feel a stillness through you, as if the pumping of your blood would calm you, focus your mind.

>You gain <Battle Focus>

>Stolen from Sveth, tempered by Fillios, you have been given the ability to calm yourself while in battle, reducing the effects of psychological attacks while in the fray.

You gasp slightly as Abigail pulls back, and you notice that she seems… taller? No, no, it’s just a trick of your mind, she’s the same size she always was. The little fairy does a back flip in the air before nodding to you and seeming to wink out as her light fades. You blink a few times, looking down at your hand and feeling the new, calming energy stored within. You sigh and lay back down in bed, closing your eyes to drift back to…

Wait, didn’t Abigail say there were TWO Illusionist targets in Sanctifrond?

 

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5 thoughts on “Illusionistquest Chapter 9: Parlor Tricks”

  1. Oh, it’s continuation of wizardquest? I loved that shit
    Is it finished or you are still writing it? Not a fan of ongoing stories tbh. They too often left unfinished.
    Can you give link to your 8chan thread?

    1. Yes, it is set in the same world and is in the future, but it doesn’t have as much to do with the former cast. I’m posting it here for posterity and exposure.
      http://archive.is/Ake6z
      This link has all the threads, I’ll still try to post a “chapter” from here a day, though I can forget if it’s a long day.

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