The situation was not good.
Not in the least.
Out at sea, just a day away from their destination, we are greeted with the view of the carrack ship as it begins its descent into a watery grave. It all happened so quickly, some were still uncertain what had happened, but what they did know was that the ship was rapidly sinking and the captain had called to abandon it.
The majority of the crew swiftly began to board the smaller vessels, dropping them into the waters below and departing as soon as they were filled. They watched as what they had called home for the last two months began to disappear into the depths below.
It wasn’t until the ship had fully submerged and they were safe that they decided to check to see if their fellow crew members were alright. It was then that they had realized that there was still one member missing amongst them.
Some jumped into the waters, believing that they could perhaps reach him before it was too late, but they resurfaced almost instantly once they realized that the ship could barely be seen, let alone be reached. It had taken in too much water much quicker than any other boat the captain had seen, which was why he called to abandon it almost immediately after realizing it. If they tried to save the ship, they would have sunk with it.
The poor lad must have been trying to seal the hole up, either to save the ship or to give the crew an extra few seconds to escape. That is what the captain believed had happened.
The captain stood up, he took off his hat, and placed it over his chest with his head hanging low.
Many of the other crew members did the same, some thinking along the lines of the captain, others out of respect for their friend; some almost falling into the water when too many of them stood up on the same boat.
After a few moments to pay their respects, they began to take ahold of their oars in order to make their way to their destination. They would no longer profit with their cargo now lost, but at least they would make it alive, unlike their valued peer.
In the lobby of the Covet Corner Hotel early this morning, we can see that the guests have yet to arrive while Gramps and a bubble slime can be seen ensuring that everything was clean.
“I think this is the cleanest the lobby has been in years.” Gramps told the slime as she did one last pass over the carpet.
“You… think… so?” the slime replied as she began to pass in front of the doors.
“Well… it’s probably been this clean before, but it usually never lasts this long. The last time we did a deep clean like this, Agra came in stomping mud all over the place. The time before that, we had that knot of mucus toads moving in and just leave a trail everywhere they hopped. And I’ll never forget that time that guy crashed in here with his brother and the Ushi-Oni.” He told her whilst organizing the decorative pillows placed on the various sofas.
“Hmm… bad… luck?”
“Maybe… Heh, it’s funny how it always seems to happen right after a good cleaning. Probably a sign that we should stop cleaning so often. Ha!”
“Ha… ha… hmm?”
The bubble slime had begun to laugh at Gramps comment, but was distracted by a new peculiar taste she had taken in. It wasn’t uncommon for bubble slime to find an odd thing on the floor every now and then, sometimes it was crumbs from old stale snacks or maybe a squashed bug taken in from the sole of someone’s shoe… but this flavor was too distinct to be found in the lobby.
It was salt… and lots of it.
She wouldn’t have been surprised if this had happened in one of the kitchens, or if it was just a small amount to only taste a hint of it, but for some reason she was hit with a rush of this seasoning.
The bubble slime looked down to floor, seeing that the carpet was soaked in water. She was confused. The carpet never stayed wet whenever she passed over it, why was it wet now? And why was it so salty?
She turned to the door beside her, seeing a small stream of water escaping from the gaps between the frame and the door.
“Yes, Nettie?” he responded, placing the chair he was moving back to its designated spot.
“Door… leaking… very… salty…”
Gramps turned towards Nettie, seeing the large wet spot under her that had formed before looking at the door she was facing. He began to walk up to it from the side, wondering what in the world was happening.
“Nettie, what do you mean sal-”
The door swung open, releasing a torrent of water and debris throughout the lobby and onto Nettie.
Gramps ran towards the door that had luckily swung on his side, and rammed into it with his shoulder in hopes of closing it. To his dismay, he only managed to close it halfway until it pushed him back and fully opened once again.
“GODDAMMIT! WHERE’S AN OGRE WHEN YOU NEED ONE!?”
Gripping the door, he pushed with all his might, the door creaking and groaning as he inched his way to shut it. The torrent of water almost made him slip multiple times as he took each step, the door sounding like it was going to break any second now from the continuous strain. Where in the world was this door to cause this? Why in the world was this happening? Now was not the time to be asking those questions, Gramps had to shut this door first before it caused any more damage.
He was almost there, only a one foot opening was left between the door and its frame. Soon, he could end this mess.
A stray fish had gotten under his foot, causing him to slip.
Losing his footing, he was pushed back by the swinging door, allowing the water to flow freely back into the lobby.
How in the world was he going to close this? He could wait until someone else who was strong enough could close the door, but the damages this would cause until someone showed up could be monumental. It would be different if there were a few Nereids to contain the water or make it flow outside, but if the water started to leak into the lower floors it was going to cause a whole other slew of problems.
Gramps got back up, grabbed ahold of the door, leaned against it, and began to push once more.
“C’mon!” he said while gritting his teeth, “Give an old man a break!”
Poseidon himself must have heard him say this.
To his great luck, a large wooden crate lodged itself into the entrance of the doorway on the other side, blocking most of the water. Of course, it would not be able to hold for long, as cracks began to form from the pressure being placed on it, causing streams of water sprayed out between its openings. Gramps knew this moment wouldn’t happen again.
He pushed with the ever fiber of his being, slamming the door shut just as he heard the crate crack once more, before swinging the door open immediately afterwards.
The doorway revealed a sunny meadow.
Birds were chirping, butterflies were flying, and the sun was shining down on the fields of green mixed with flower patches.
Gramps let out a sigh, slumping down to the floor, leaning back, using his hands as support while he took in the scenery.
“That’s a first… Nettie, you alright?” he asked while panting, turning around to look at the lobby.
The floor was drenched.
The entirety of the carpet and bottom half of several pieces of furniture had been soaked in salt water. Scattered throughout the room were several fish, some still splashing about the floor mixed in with an assortment of odd trinkets and broken planks of wood.
Gramps turned in the direction of the noise.
Off to the side, by one of the other doors, a single bubble was floating in the air. When it popped, another would appear from the ground below it, rising up into the air until it too would disappear. They soon began to form quicker in succession until they were now appearing in pairs.
“Oh thank goodness.”
Gramps laid down onto the wet carpet once he found out the bubble slime was alright, only a bit scattered from water. It would take a bit of time to reform after being spread out so suddenly.
He felt like taking a nap after all that excitement, but he knew he wasn’t going to be able to. The guests would be arriving into the lobby any second now. Maybe they would forgive him for indulging in a few minutes of rest after averting this small crisis.
They would at least let him lay here until the first one walks into the lobby…
*Cough, cough, cough*
Of course… Gramps wasn’t that lucky.
He sat up and turned around to face the new source of the sound.
It was on the other side of the lobby that he had not looked at yet, and the source was an athletic-looking man lying on the ground very much like Gramps was a few seconds ago. The tanned man continued to cough, spitting out a good amount of water that he had taken in before taking in a deep breath and returning to his quiet state. His chest rising and dropping to show that he was still alive.
“Congratulations,” Gramps said aloud, “you are the third most exciting entrance this hotel has probably ever seen.”
The man did not respond, it seems that he had passed out.
Gramps let out another sigh, laying back down and staring up at the ceiling as a warm breeze flew in and blew past him. He could hear the branches of the nearby trees rustle, the birds sharing their love songs with each other, as if though completely unaware of what had happened.
He placed a hand onto his forehead, rubbing his temple as he thought of what he had to do now.
“I swear, I’m getting too old for this…” Gramps mumbled, laying down with his arms spread out against the wet carpeted floor.
Two Hours Later
The lobby was bustling like every other day, although certain areas were closed off as a seemingly young bubble slime could be seen drying off the soaked sections of the carpet and pouring the excess water into nearby buckets.
Several guests complained about the humidity upon entering the first floor, while others pinched their noses once they sensed the scent of seafood in the air. Surprisingly, a certain few guests expressed their preference in this odd change, saying that it reminded them of home.
Gramps had made a few golems act as elevator operators in order to ensure that anyone who was entering the lobby would be warned of its state of inconvenience. He also assigned another group to assist the slimes in the cleaning of the stairwells, as well as notifying guests who would be heading to the lobby. It had been a while since he’s had to take command of this many of his employees.
He would probably have to get a sylph in here when the lobby wasn’t as busy in order to push out the odor of salt water and fish.
But his main concern was not the guests complaining about the smell, or the carpet that may need to be replaced if they couldn’t dry it out, but rather it was certain group of succubi.
Near the counter of the lobby was an arrangement of sofas that a group of the residential succubi would use as they shared their usual gossip and tips for one another. Usually it was the same five to seven girls who would meet up to share their daily or weekly banter with each other, but today was different.
On this day, on the large sofa that would usually hold three of these demonic beauties, only one of them sat at the edge. The other six succubi were seated on either smaller couches or single seats and chairs, all staring at the unconscious man whose head was resting on their friend’s lap as she stroked his hair between her fingers.
Gramps was initially against the idea, wanting to send the man to the infirmary until he woke up, but Nimue was the first resident to arrive and had managed to convince him otherwise. Nimue, the slim sleek-haired succubus being used as a pillow, was a nurse at the hotel’s infirmary. She was also the one with the most experience reviving those from near drowning, being second only to her sea bishop co-worker who was currently away. The dark haired demoness agreed to take care of him, even though it was her day off, but only if she could do so from the comfort of her favorite spot.
Although it would seem like a good idea to anyone else, the other reason he wasn’t very fond of it was because Nimue, like her red-headed companion, was also without a roommate. She too was beginning to get restless, and even though she promised not to charm him with magic, that didn’t mean she couldn’t do so with her looks or words before letting the others have a fair chance. And if he chose to accept an invitation to her room before being assigned a one, then there was nothing he could really do about it.
Gramps let out another sigh before taking care of another guest that wasn’t enjoying the smell from the incident… he really wished Lilly was here, she could calm people down much better than he could. Unfortunately, she decided to take a few days off to visit family, and would not be coming back anytime soon. She wasn’t going to believe what happened while she was gone.
As Gramps continued with the disgruntled guests, the succubi were all having turns guessing what the newcomer was like, as well as who he would like.
“Well obviously he’s going to fall for Nimue. When he wakes up with a beautiful woman softly massaging his head with her looking down at him with a tender smile, it’ll be love at first sight.” said one of the girls.
The succubi that spoke was the eldest in the group, she had turned eighty this year but looked no older than thirty, which coincidently made her the oldest looking one in the group as well. Her flowing indigo hair did little to hide the thick horns that grew up behind her ears which extended forward along the sides of her head, eventually turning upwards and curving at the ends away from each other.
“Oh Vera, you must be reading those romance novels again that your husband got you. I doubt it’ll be that easy to make him fall for me.” responded Nimue, as she continued to stoke the unconscious man’s hair.
“Oh, so you’re saying that you are trying to make him fall for you.” said the redhead of the group.
Nimue raised her free hand to her chest, feigning shock from her friend’s accusation.
“How could you say such a thing Calida?! I thought we were friends!” she giggled. “You make it sound like I planned this whole thing.”
Calida smiled, leaning back into her chair as the other girls also shared a chuckle.
“I can’t blame you Nimue, I probably would’ve done the same.” stated Calida, “Of course, I’m sure I could make him fall for me with my looks alone if he woke up to me.”
“Oh Calida.” Nimue giggled once more, “Perhaps, but I doubt you could ever get Gramps to agree to anything you come up with. So I’ll just have to make sure to make the most of this opportunity.”
“Ha! I knew it!”
“What? I’m just doing what I normally do at work. Now if he feels like thanking me in any way, I’d probably ask him to invite me over to his place for dinner or have him come to my room to help me with something… and if one thing leads to the other…” a sly smile formed across face after saying this.
Many of the other girls nodded, some even admitting that they had done something similar at least once before. Calida leaned forward, nodding at the simple plan that even Gramps couldn’t prevent until a wicked smile formed on her face.
“Alright, you still owe me though, so if he falls for you, you can introduce him to the wonders of demonic women, but I get to break him in.”
Nimue pouted for a moment, obviously not fond of the idea of having to share a fresh catch before returning to her kind yet reserved smile.
“Fine. After he gets a taste of me, I’ll let you teach him how to properly please a demon, but you have to give me a pair of your pleasure rune stockings, and then we’ll call it even.”
Calida clicked her tongue after hearing Nimue’s counter. Those stockings were not easy to come by, nor were they cheap, and worst of all, she had yet to use them with someone. To have someone else use what you had gotten and enjoy using it before you were able to would be almost an insult… but…
A few of the succubi oohed at the agreement, wondering if the events would unfold like the two had planned.
Calida and Nimue were the only ones who did not bear any of these runes directly on their skin like the others in the group, Vera in particular. Calida didn’t want to engrave it onto her body because she believed it would ruin her flawless skin and diminish her beauty. Nimue on the other hand hadn’t done so in fear that it would interfere with her work, even after being told several times by other mamono that it would not. A temporary method of enhancing pleasure was an appealing offer to any succubus, but it was especially so for these two.
It was then that a groan interrupted the group of succubi, causing them all to fall silent.
Nimue immediately looked down to her lap as another groan escaped from the man. It seemed that he would be waking up. She smiled, gently running her hand across his brown hair as she waited for him to open his eyes to her.
The man let out a yawn, squirming in place until he began to slide his eyelids open. It was there that he was greeted by with a warm smile from an alluring beauty, the light shining from behind her making her seem like a celestial being from perhaps Heaven itself… or perhaps Hell once he noticed the small ram-like horns that spiraled backwards in a circular fashion. Nonetheless, he was somewhat surprised to wake up with succubus above him, let alone another six surrounding him.
“Good morning.” Nimue said to him.
The man looked up at the succubus who gave him a kind-hearted greeting with a confused expression on his face, looking around to see the other succubi eying him intently, waiting for his response. He turned his head back to the woman he was resting his head on and asked what had happened to him.
Nimue’s eyes widened a bit when she heard him speak.
“What?” She asked, trying to retain her sympathetic smile.
The man was unsure what she said, but by her tone decided it was best to repeat himself.
Nimue face began to show a slight sign of worry as she turned her head to face her kind, panning to see how the others were reacting.
“Did anyone understand that?” she asked the group.
No one spoke.
A few seconds of silence passed until it was broken by a snicker.
Everyone, even the man, turned to face the source of the sound. Vera was trying her best to contain herself, but eventually let out laugh as she grasped the situation.
“He doesn’t speak our language! Haha! And we can’t understand his! Oh this is great!” she cackled.
The planning, the scheming, the dealing, all of it was made useless because everyone assumed that they could understand each other. Vera shook her head as she stood up, revealing her exaggerated hourglass figure to the man as well as the odd marking across her thighs and abdomen, while still giggling at the girls wasted efforts.
“I’m going to go get Gramps. Hehe. He probably knows what to do.” she said before heading towards the counter, unconsciously swaying her hips with each step she took.
Everyone turned their heads back to Nimue who had uttered those words. It was surprising to hear her use such vulgar language, so they could understand how displeased she was with the situation.
The man who was still laying his head on her still didn’t understand what any of them were saying, although he could understand that the girls figured out that he couldn’t understand them nor did it seem that they could understand him. He let out a sigh, deciding to sit up on the surprisingly comfy furniture he was laying on before looking around to see where he was.
Judging from the number of humans and mamono walking around, he must have made it to Zipangu, like they had originally planned.
In his view, he could see the grand entrance of the hotel, the red carpeted floors, the various pieces of furniture, the exquisite art pieces hanging on the walls, and the hanging crystal chandeliers. He could grasp that this was a hotel, but in his mind this must have been a high-class establishment to afford all these decorations, so he questioned why in the world he was here. Although, for a hotel as seemingly grand as this, some sort of incident must have occurred since several areas seemed to have had limited access. Did the captain get some sort of deal that would let the crew stay in a few rooms that were damaged? If he did, then the captain must have found a good one to have them stay in such a place.
He turned his head when he felt a hand on his shoulder, only to be greeted by the woman he had been resting on. Her expression was slightly worried, but she was smiling at him as if though trying to make sure he was at ease. Who in the world was this succubus? And why was he sleeping on her? Did the captain send her to spend the night… no. The captain was generous, but never generous enough to provide for a place to sleep and someone to sleep with. Was she taking care of him? If so, why? And where is everyone else?
“So, I hear the stranger’s foreign.” a voice rang from behind.
The man turned his body around to see the source of the voice, as many of the succubi around him had also looked to face the source. It was a man that seemed to be about the same age as the captain, with graying hair visible both on his head and in his beard, carrying a box full of trinkets. He wore odd attire for the Zipangu region, a jacket over a white shirt and pants… indeed odd for Zipangu. Behind the man was the shapely woman with odd markings from before, who was simply smiling at the group. From this angle, he could see that she had another odd marking right under her chin.
The old man walked around the sofa and sat himself atop the low table in front of it so that he could face him, placing the box in front of him. Perhaps he could understand him?
The newcomer spoke once more, asking the old man if he knew where he was, but all that he got as a response was a raised brow from the elder. It seems that the old man couldn’t understand him either. Instead, the man raised his hand as though to signal him to wait for a moment, to which the newcomer nodded hoping he was right in what he thought the old man was telling him.
The elder leaned down and reached into the box, sifting through its contents, pulling out the larger ones that got in his way. Several odd objects were inside, a vial with black liquid, a white mask with a monocle drawn about its left eyehole, a stuffed doll in the shape of a Salamander, and a mixture of other unrelated items. Eventually he found what he was looking for, a small mostly plain pendant, save for the image of what seemed to be a donkey engraved onto it. The old man gripped the pendant in his hand with a smile and looked up at the newcomer once more.
“How about now?”
The newcomer widened his eyes when he heard the man speak. He could understand him!
“Can… can you understand me now?”
“Haha! Yes! Yes I can.”
The succubi surrounding them all turned to each other, their faces all still bearing obvious confusion until the one sitting by the man spoke to the old man.
“What did he say?” Nimue asked the old man.
“He said he can understand me. Hmm… can you understand what she said?” he asked the newcomer.
The newcomer shook his head. It was the same as before, just a jumble of words he couldn’t understand. But somehow this old man, who was speaking his language, was able to get these women to understand what he was saying. How? They were both speaking the same tongue, why could they understand the elder but not him? Was it the trinket? It did seem familiar though…
“Hmm… oh well, might be better that way.” the old man chuckled, making the succubi by him pout. “Either way, welcome to the Covet Corner Hotel. I’m Gramps, who might you be?” he said, extending his hand out as a greeting.
He might not be in Zipangu like he originally thought…
“I’m… Reve…” he said, reaching his hand out, somewhat unsure of how this greeting would work.
Gramps took a firm grip of Reve’s hand and shook it before letting it go. This was indeed not Zipangu.
“Where… am I?” Reve asked once again.
“I already said where you were. You’re in the Covet Corner Hotel.”
“No, I mean where in the world am I? This… isn’t Zipangu… is it?”
“Ohh… no. We’re not there. We’re in the western territories, like Order-controlled territories.”
His eyes widened in shock when he heard this from the old man. He was in the western world? HOW?!
“I take it you were probably planning to end up in Zipangu… right?”
Reve only nodded.
“Well, it looks like your voyage was cut a little short. Mind filling me in on what you remember?”
“Filling you in? You mean tell you what happened?”
Gramps raised his brow and took a look at the pendant in his hand, murmuring something under his breath before saying yes to Reve.
“Hmm, from what I can remember, I had been on a ship for quite a while, as one of the crewmembers, transporting goods over to one of the smaller islands of the Zipangu region. After that, we would go to the mainland, restock and rest before leaving back home with some exotic goods.”
Gramps nodded, showing that he understood him. The others around him, on the other hand, were annoyed that he wouldn’t share what was being told to him.
“We were close to our destination, about a one or two days’ worth of travel was left until we arrived. As such, the captain wanted someone to take inventory one last time to make sure no one had taken or ‘accidentally’ moved any of the cargo around somewhere they shouldn’t have. I was picked to do so.”
Once again, Gramps nodded to show he was paying attention, unfortunately he didn’t notice the red-headed succubi walk up and grab onto his shoulders before shaking him.
“Come on Gramps! Don’t leave us in the dark like this! What is he saying?” Calida said, causing many of the other demonic ladies to murmur in agreement, including the one beside Reve.
“Alright, sheesh! He’s a sailor, he’s telling me what he was supposed to be in Zipangu.”
“Zipangu? That’s a bit far…” Vera responded, still standing behind the sofa.
Ignoring the succubi around him, Gramps told Reve to continue.
“After being picked, I went down to the store rooms and started taking inventory like I was supposed to. We had a lot of cargo, so this was something that would take the entire day to do. I thought we would get to the port before I’d ever finish. But then… then…”
Reve began to trail off, his mind gradually replaying the event that had occurred.
“Then?” Gramps asked.
The newcomer’s eyes slowly widened before he looked down at his hands and back up to Gramps.
All the succubi turned to him when he raised his voice, many urging Gramps to tell them what had happened, to which he refused to answer.
“Not quite… but tell me exactly what happened.”
“I- I was taking inventory in one of the rooms. All of a sudden the ship shook and water started to flow in. I tried to get out, b-but the door wouldn’t open. Whatever happened lodged the door shut, trapping me in there. I knew we shouldn’t have put a door there, but the captain wanted to make sure he could lock up the cargo to keep people from taking anything. I did everything I could to get out. Kicking, pushing, pulling, yelling for help, everything. By the time the water was up to my chest, I gave up on the door, trying to see if there was anything in the room that could get me out. There wasn’t. I tried one last time with the door when the water was near the ceiling… and after that everything went dark.”
Gramps was silent.
He stared at Reve in the eyes as he listened to his story, piecing together what he told him and trying to figure out what had happened. Gramps could tell he was telling the truth by the look he was giving him, that and most people aren’t too keen on nearly dying from drowning in order to get here. The succubi were all quiet when they saw Gramps like this, knowing he was in serious thought. Calida and Nimue were both leaning in towards him in hopes that he would eventually say what it was he was thinking, as well as what he was told.
Gramps let out a sigh, the expression on his face loosening as he too leaned forward.
“Well, I can tell you what happened after you passed out, but I want to ask a few more things before I do that.”
“Hmm… I want to know how the boat sank. Can you think of any reason why?”
Reve thought about it for a moment, trying to come up with a reason why the boat he was on sank, but nothing did. He shook his head.
“Nothing? Pirates? A kraken? Anything?”
It wasn’t pirates, it would’ve been much noisier and continued after the first hit. And it definitely wasn’t a kraken, the captain had ensured a method to keep the boat and most of the crew in case one ever showed up. He had written a giant message on the bottom of the boat stating that if one wanted a crew member, to simply rise above the surface of the water and say so. It had happened once that a Kraken was about to attack them and did in fact read the message. When she appeared, they had been out at sea for months and half the crew practically jumped out into the waters to meet her. She took her favorite and left. They had lost a crew member, but had saved the boat, the shipment, and everyone else. It was not a bad trade, especially since the kraken seemed to have attracted a group of sea slimes, so many of the men relieved some of their pent up desires… while some found out that they could sting.
Reve told Gramps why those two couldn’t be it, leaving Gramps impressed with the captain’s methods of dealing with a kraken. It was odd seeing someone who would try a peaceful compromise and succeed in doing so when humans and mamono were involved. But seeing that Reve truly could not come up with a reason, he stopped trying to get an answer from him.
“Oh well… it’s just odd. My only guess is that if nothing outside caused it to sink, then something inside must have.”
“Are you saying that a crew member did this?” Reve responded in a slightly raised voice, obviously offended by this statement.
“No not at all.” he told Reve, seeing the camaraderie he had for his fellow sailors. “What I am saying is that maybe something inside had caused the ship to take in water. What it was, I do not know. It could’ve been termites or something you brought that didn’t react well to something. But you don’t know, and we could sit here all day guessing what it could have been. It’s not going to get us anywhere.”
Reve calmed down, seeing that Gramps wasn’t accusing his friends for nearly causing his death, taking a deep breath before finally asking Gramps what had been on his mind since he woke up.
“How did I end up here?”
Gramps smiled, leaning back a bit and patting his thighs with his open hands.
“That, I do know the answer to.” he said with a smile. “You asked to be somewhere else, and we answered.”
Reve tilted his head at the response given to him.
“Alright, so do you see all those doors over there?” Gramps stated, pointing at the wall farthest from them that was lined completely with doors.
Amongst the several doors, there was a single pair of double doors that seemed to lead outside, and another door with a uniformed Ogre standing in front of it with her arms crossed telling others to keep moving if they lingered by her too long.
“Those doors are linked to several other doors scattered around the world. If someone says the magic words, or something along those lines and meet a few requirements, they can use that door to get here.”
Gramps nodded at Reve’s question.
“Essentially. You got incredibly lucky that one of these doors was linked to that door you were by for that room you stuck in. Otherwise… well you probably should’ve prayed for a sea bishop or a mershark to save you at that point.”
Reve paused for a moment as he absorbed what Gramps had said. It was true. If the captain hadn’t been so paranoid and placed that specific door there in that room or if he had been trapped in any of the other areas… he would have died.
“Thank you.” he said, looking up at Gramps.
“It isn’t me you should be thanking.” Gramps chuckled, pointing at the succubi seated by Reve, “You should be thanking her. She stayed by your side the entire time to make sure you recovered.”
Reve turned to look at Nimue, who was somewhat surprised that Gramps mentioned her and caught off guard when the newcomer faced her. He took a hold of her hand with both of his, kissed it softly, and rested his forehead against it.
“Thank you, I am indebted to you.”
Nimue had blushed at the sudden actions of Reve, but still did not understand what he said, looking at Gramps in hopes that he would finally translate.
“He says thanks, and that he owes you.”
“Oh! No, not at all! It was nothing!” She said, slightly flustered, “But if he does want to thank me… then he cou-”
“No.” Gramps interrupted.
“Bu-what do you mean no?”
“I know what you’re going to say, and I am not going to say that.” he told her, turning to Reve, “She says it was nothing.”
Obviously she was trying to say more, but it seemed like Gramps wasn’t going to let that happen whilst he still held the only means of conversing between the two.
“Either way. Since you’ve got nowhere to go, and you can’t really go back the way you came, would you like to stay the night here? On us, of course. At least until we can figure out how to get you home.”
That was a very generous offer, especially considering his situation.
“I’d appreciate that.”
“Perfect.” he replied with a smile, leaning down to grab the box of items and standing up. “Follow me.”
Reve stood up, saying his goodbyes to the succubi and thanking the one that had taken care of him once more, even though he knew they couldn’t understand them.
He could hear the group of succubi instantly erupt into a conversation, specifically between the red-headed one and the one he was sitting next to. It seems that they didn’t appreciate Gramps refusal to relay the message they had for him, but it might have been for the best.
They walked up to the counter, behind it was a woman made of clay known as a golem that was discussing with other mamono about things he couldn’t understand. It seemed that the golem worked here, which was odd since he had usually seen golems do manual labor, and even then golems were rare to find due to the difficulty in making one.
Gramps told Reve to wait by the side of the counter, continuing through a door behind it and returning shortly afterwards without the box he had carried in. He headed towards Reve, pulling a deck of what seemed to be clear cards out of his pocket, picking one out and holding it towards Reve to grab it.
“What is this?” he asked, looking at the odd item.
“It’s your room key.”
“That’s an odd looking key…” Reve stated, raising a brow as he took it from Gramp’s hand.
Almost immediately after taking a hold of the card, it began to change colors in rapid succession, switching to every color he could recognize. Some of the mamono took interest in his key, taking out their own cards while waiting for his to reveal the room he was assigned to, but many were not since most that were by the counter already had a roommate, they were just there to complain about the state of the lobby.
There were a few mamono he could recognize, a yokou holding a green card, a crow tengu with a white card, and a jorou-gumo bearing a gold card. The other two mamono who were eying him were species that he had never seen, one being a small woman darker than himself covered in golden insect-like body parts whilst the other was a giant blue-skinned one-eyed woman. They both held a beige card and a white card, respectively.
Switching between his key that had lessened its pace and the keys of the others, he could guess what it meant. The colors must represent a floor or a section of hotel that the person would stay in. It wasn’t too strange, some of the places he stayed while in Zipangu gave a room key with a tag to show the quality of the room, such as gold, silver, or bronze. A few even allowed access to certain amenities such as access to the hot springs if they had one depending on the color of your tag. Even so, no one had ever given him a key that would change its own color according to where he was staying; and considering how many colors his card had turned, this establishment must have been gigantic to have that many individual areas.
Soon the card had made its decision, revealing that Reve would be staying in the section of the hotel that was assigned for to the green color. The four mamono that didn’t have this color grumbled, putting away their cards before departing, leaving Reve and the one-tailed fox-woman at the side of the counter.
The youku walked up beside him, winking at him and placing her card beside his to show that they were both the same. Her card already bore some symbols on it, whilst his still blank.
“So sweetie, if you’re with me then can you help me earn my second and third tail tonight?” the fox asked in a playful tone.
He wasn’t sure what she had told him, and Gramps had stepped away to help the golem with the various mamono by the counter. He turned to face the smiling youku, apologizing that he could not understand what she was saying, and that she probably couldn’t understand him either.
The youku pouted, retracting her card to her chest as she gave him a quizzical expression. She raised her finger up, her eyes shifting in the same direction, thinking for a moment until opening her mouth.
“Can… you… repeat? Slowly?”
The woman could speak his language!
He was surprised to see someone else he could talk to, even if it seemed like she was struggling to find the right words.
“Sorry.” he said, “I didn’t think you could understand me. I’m surprised you can speak my tongue.”
The youku smiled, raising her hand up and turning it side to side like a swaying ship.
“So-so. Friends have… umm… boys who speak like this. They try to teach me. Not learn much. Yet.”
“Oh, but it looks like you are learning well.”
Although her pronunciation was a bit shaky, she was indeed saying each word correctly, but her grammar still needed some work. Still though, it seemed like she would pick it up soon enough if she had gotten this far with it.
“But, what I said was that I did not understand what you said.” he told her, slower this time to give her time to decipher his statement.
“Oh! I said if you with me, then you help me with tails.” she said, bringing her tail around her and brushing it with her hands.
This left Reve a little confused. He wasn’t sure if she was mixing up her words or if she actually needed help with her tail. It seemed fine to him. Nor did he understand what she meant by if he was with her. Was this place actually a brothel with a woman in each room? A bit odd if it was… but then it would make sense why she said tails instead of tail.
“Want to pet tail?” she asked him, taking him out of his thought loop. “Fluffy very tail.”
Her tail extended closer to him, offering him an opportunity to touch it. It was very well groomed, as far as tails go, showing that she took exceptional care of it. He decided to give it a chance, slowly reaching his hand out to it until it landed onto it and running his hand over it with the fur.
It was indeed very fluffy.
He continued patting the tail, it was softer than the weresheep pillows that he and crew had to ship several months ago. It was almost addicting in all honesty, he just wanted to keep petting it.
“You might have addict on your tail there Kaeko.”
Reve took his hand away from the tail, turning to the source of the voice that was none other than Gramps.
“Aww, why’d you make him stop?” Kaeko complained, with Reve no longer able to understand her.
Gramps simply chuckled, before turning to Reve.
“So, what room do you have?”
He looked down to his card, and was greeted by the image of a series of branches forming symbols that were written across the top of his key. He raised the card, showing Gramps the numbers 141 written on it.
“I don’t know.”
He couldn’t speak the language, and he couldn’t read the numbers either.
“Oh, that room 141. I’ll show you to your room.” Gramps said nonchalantly.
Kaeko quickly looked at her card after hearing Reve’s number, pouting almost immediately afterwards with drooping ears before putting her card away.
“Something wrong?” Reve asked her, already guessing what it was.
“Room number not the same.” She replied in his tongue.
“You speak his language?!” Gramps exclaimed, somewhat surprised by this.
Reve simply nodded to Gramps.
“I shouldn’t be surprised. I knew it sounded familiar… it’s the same one that Chie and Yukiko’s roommates speak, right?”
“Mmhmm.” Kaeko nodded. “But,” she began whilst turning to Reve, “I thought you said you couldn’t speak this language. How can you understand Gramps?” with a slightly annoyed tone.
Reve simply raised a brow, turning to Gramps.
“Oh,” Gramps opened his hand to reveal the amulet he held, “Translator’s Trinket. Translates anything said to you and anything you say to someone as long as you have it on your person. Useful for these kinds of situations.”
“Ooh, that really is useful.”
“That’s right. Alright Reve, just follow me and I’ll show you to your room.”
Reve nodded, turning to Kaeko.
“It was nice meeting you. And petting your fluffy tail.”
“It was nice to meet you too.” she replied in his tongue, with a hint of blush visible on her face as she bowed slightly, like the farewells of those of Zipangu.
The two left Kaeko by the counter, heading towards the elevator as she smiled before walking away.
The Mystic Forest
That was how Reve would describe the view upon arriving to the fourth floor of this hotel.
Upon stepping outside of the contraption known as the elevator, Reve was greeted with an overwhelming number of trees, bushes, and the like bordering the dirt pathway that connected to the elevator. The sound of birds and rustling leaves could be heard spread throughout these woodlands, along the smell of damp earth with old leaves that made his body feel at ease. It was a refreshing change of scenery for someone who had seen nothing but the sea for the last two months.
Surely they were outside. But how did they end up here? It didn’t feel like the elevator brought them outside, it felt like it was bringing them up to a floor above them. Was it a trick? Were they using the same spatial magic that brought transported him halfway across the world? Perhaps, that would make the most sense. Making a floor’s theme look so realistic that it couldn’t be distinguished between itself and the actual location it was based from would be too difficult, and probably costly as well.
Reve took a few steps towards the edge of the path, reaching his hand out to feel the bark of the nearby redwood tree as his head looked up to see the grand heights it had reached. Trees like these did not grow in his land, it was truly a marvel to behold.
Or so he would think.
His hand rested upon a flat surface, but it was not the tree that he was feeling, it felt like a wall. His gaze returned downwards to his hand, seeing that it was indeed not touch the tree as he had originally planned to do. It was a few inches away, being pushed back by some invisible force. Reve pulled his hand away before trying again, having his hand stop in the same area as it had the first time. He dragged his hand across this invisible wall, showing that it was evenly spread just beyond the edge of the path.
“Hey now, don’t do that. If you leave a smudge it ruins the whole effect.” Gramps told him.
“Huh? The whole effect?”
“Yeah… oh right you don’t know.”
“I’ll explain while I show you to your room. Follow me.” Gramps responded, walking down the path, occasionally kicking a loose pebble.
Reve did as he was told, trailing behind Gramps as he continued to take in his surroundings. Was this all truly just decoration?
“So, as you can see, it looks like we’re in the middle of a forest, right? But, in actuality, we’re still in the hotel, it just looks like we’re outside.”
“But how? And why?”
“How, the walls are enchanted to give the illusion of a certain place, that way it seems like you’re actually there. The floor on the other hand, that’s real. We brought in the dirt, stones, pebbles, and weeds so that it could blend in with the surroundings.”
“This is incredible…” Reve commented, watching how the ‘shadows’ shift when the image of the branches above them moved with the wind.
“As to the why… mostly for the guests.”
“What do you mean?”
“Well, as you saw in the lobby, many of our guests are mamono. And most mamono aren’t exactly known for living indoors. In fact, many don’t react very well to staying indoors for anything longer than a few hours.”
That made sense to Reve. He had seen many mamono, both at home and in Zipangu, and most seemed to live out in the wild. Zipangu was the only place he had actually seen mamono living in homes or communities with humans.
“So,” Gramps continued, “a way around that was to make it seem as if they’re not in a tiny enclosed space. If it looks like they’re outside, they don’t get nervous or anxious about it, and it has the added benefit that it reminds them of home, which makes it easier for them to settle in.”
They took a right turn into a hallway with several trees lined up on opposite sides of the hall, each one seeming as if though they could’ve been hundreds of year… if they were real. On each tree was a large wooden door, much taller than the average door you’d expect to be used for people. It was probably about twice his height, and if it wasn’t, then it was close.
Reve continued to follow Gramps down this hall, noting how between the doors and trees were bushes or shrubs, some with berries just ready to be picked.
Eventually, they stopped.
Gramps turned to the door on his right and pointed to a placard that seemed to have been nailed onto the redwood. A similar series of symbols were written on it, making Reve pull out his key card and compare the two. Gramps had told him that his room was 141, and it seemed that the symbols from his card matched the ones that were written on the door.
“I think this is it.”
“Good, may I have your key then?”
Reve handed him his card, wondering how in the world he was going to unlock the door with it. He couldn’t see a keyhole anywhere on the door.
With the key in hand, Gramps slid the card into a small slit just below the placard, hidden within the several indents of the bark-like appearance. It sounded with a click, showing that it was unlocked.
“Alright, if you have any questions, you can ask me in the lobby, or just about anyone on this floor. Most of the residents in these halls are friendly, so don’t be shy.” Gramps told him, handing him back his key card.
“Okay, I’ll keep that in mind.”
“Also,” Gramps extended his other hand to him, opening it to reveal the Traveler’s Trinket, “you’ll probably need this.”
“Oh, thank you.” Reve stated, taking the pendant from his hand. “It won’t be a problem if I have it, right?”
“Not at all.” Gramps said, waving his hand side to side, “Someone left that in the lobby months ago, so I doubt they’re ever going to ask for it at this point. And I have a few spares lying around somewhere, that one was just the closest one.”
Reve nodded, placing the pendant around his neck and hid it under his shirt.
Gramps smiled, nodding a goodbye just as he turned around and headed back to the lobby.
“Enjoy your stay.” he said, just before turning into the main hall.
Reve waited until Gramps was out of view to open the door and walk into the room in which he would be staying. He wasn’t exactly sure what to expect after seeing this floor.
Entering the residence, it seemed that he had entered a simple log cabin that was secluded deep within the forest. The hardwood floors, the seemingly uneven pine walls, the thick wooden poles that supported the ceiling. Practically everything seemed to have been made of wood.
Near the center of the room were two black rugs that probably used to belong to pair giant bears or something similar, with an oddly short table in between them. On the side closest to him was a long wooden bench with a backrest, while on the opposite side of the table had a single rocking chair. Other than that and the simple kitchen in the corner, there wasn’t much else in this room save for the window on the far wall.
It seemed that there were two other rooms attached to this one, both on the wall behind the rocking chair. One led to an oddly spacious bathroom, whilst the other probably led to the bedroom. As his luck would have it, it seemed that the door was jammed, since it refused to budge when he tried to open it. After a few failed attempts, he gave up with a sigh. He could go tell Gramps about it, but this was a free room, so it would be rude to immediately complain about something like that. He would mention it to him tomorrow though, it would be nice to sleep on a bed if he had to stay here longer than a few days.
Seeing that there wasn’t very much to do here, Reve thought it would be best to explore the floor a bit. Hopefully he would be able to find his way back, or at least figure which symbol meant which number.
With that in mind, he turned around and left the room.
When the room was silent once again, the door to the bedroom cracked open, an eye peeking through the spacing, checking the room before opening the door.
What had started as a simple walk around the floor to enjoy the sights turned out to be more difficult than Reve initially expected.
Not too long after he had left his room, he was making his way down one of the corridors when a faint buzzing sound could be heard. At first he believed it to be one of the several noises this floor made in order to seem more authentic, since he doubted there were truly birds or bees hiding in these fake woods.
Unfortunately, he was wrong.
The noise grew louder and louder in a matter of seconds until he felt a sudden push from behind, quickly followed by a light tug. Neither the push nor the tug were strong, although he did nearly fall from the unexpected push.
When he turned around to see what had cause this, an antenna poked his cheek as he looked down at what was clinging to his back.
A young bee girl was flapping her wings so fast that only a blur could be seen, trying to pick Reve up and take him god knows where. When he was about to ask what she was doing, another much older gray bee woman came flying in and pulled the child off.
Apparently, the child was going to claim him for the Queen, since that was what bees do.
The older bee apologized for the young one’s behavior. She was trying her best to teach her that she didn’t need to do that, but instincts were hard to ignore. After a few words with the smaller bee, which he found out was actually her sister after mistakenly calling her the older bee’s daughter, the tiny gray bee also apologized. Reve simply said that it was just some harmless fun and that they didn’t need to worry about it before they went their separate ways.
Soon afterwards, he had made it out to one of the main halls, wondering if there was anything on this floor worth seeing other than the false images of the great outdoors. When he had heard what sounded like a stone bouncing off another, he turned his head to face it, learning from his previous mistake.
Of course, he didn’t turn quickly enough to see what it was that was heading towards him.
Within a second, he was literally swept off his feet, landing into the hands of several small children that were all carrying him down the hall. Upon reaching the end of the hall they propped him against the wall in the sitting position, finally allowing him to see his captors.
Their large round ears, the long hairless tails, and their fur covered hands showed that they were all large mice. Reve wasn’t exactly sure what to do, since he never had to deal with this type of mamono. The only reason he even knew about them was because he had once seen a swarm jump out of a ship that was infested with them after the crew set off a ‘stink bomb’ to get rid of them. It was quite the spectacle from a distance… the ships nearby on the other hand didn’t appreciate the new additions to their crew.
Although his exposure was limited, he was at least recognize what they were, and even if the species all looked like small girls, he could tell that these large mice in particular were still just children. The girls were all excited with their catch, running around in circles whilst still surrounding him to make sure he didn’t escape.
Many began to share what they planned to do with him, now that he had been caught and claimed by the pack. Most said that they would have him hold their hands, some stated that they would have him push them on the swings. One said she would make him hug her until she fell asleep in his arms, making a few change their minds and switch to her idea. It almost seemed adorable to Reve… at least until the last one spoke.
She had claimed to have the best use for him… she would have him kiss her on the cheek.
For a split second, the group stood still.
If the frenzy was considered wild before, chaos had broken loose after the last large mouse had spoken. The girls instantly swarmed him, each stating that they should go first for one reason or another, clearly wanting to best the others with being the first to get the kiss. It really didn’t seem like they cared if Reve agreed or not, as far as they knew, it was going to happen.
Thankfully, another large mouse that was about a foot taller than the ones around him and at about head height to him in his current position had arrived, clearing her throat to make herself known. The swarm all turned their heads to the sound for a moment until they scurried off of him towards the largest mouse amongst them. The most adamant ones from the swarm tugged on her clothes, saying ‘Mama, look what we caught!’ or a variation of that phrase.
The mother sighed, taking a few steps forward before apologizing to Reve for the actions of her daughters. She said it was a pack mentality way of thinking, and that it was difficult to simply not assault a man if the pack was beginning to grow too large.
He accepted the apology, saying that he was heading this way anyways. She then led her horde away, leaving him alone in the main hall.
Reve thought that would be the last time he’d get attacked today, standing up from the floor, and brushing off his pants before continuing down the hall the large mouse family had went.
Walking down the hall, he could hear noises coming from the end of the hall steadily growing louder with each step he took. He wasn’t sure what it was, but it sounded lively, and he could swear that he heard laughter.
Finally, something different on this floor.
But with the noises coming from ahead of him, he failed to hear the giggling of those behind him. Before he knew it, the world had suddenly become dark, and the noises had gone with it.
“What in the-”
He was pushed.
He did not fall though, something caught him before he did, only to launch him back to where he was pushed from.
“Hey, stop that!” he yelled, only to be answered with a low demonic laughter from all around him as he was shoved once more.
He had to get out of here, but whoever it was that was doing this wasn’t letting him gain his balance, constantly pushing him to and fro within its grasp. There was no way he would be able to get out of this.
Or so he thought.
The mysterious force that was denying his escape decided not to catch him, instead letting him fall to the ground.
But this was his chance!
He quickly got to his feet in order to escape whatever it was that was causing this madness, only to immediately fall once again to the ground. Something was keeping his feet from moving, and it wouldn’t let him run freely. He was stuck.
The laughter began to grow louder after watching his failed attempt, enjoying his feeble effort.
Reve was beginning to panic.
There was no way out. What was he going to do?!
He curled up on the floor, hugging his legs as the voice grew in volume, shutting his eyes as he hoped for all of this to end.
The darkness disappeared.
He opened his eyes to see that he was back in the hallway.
Reve lifted his head, looking up above him to see three tiny girls flying nearby.
He looked down at himself, letting go of his legs to see that he was still in one piece, with only one minor change. His shoelaces had been tied to each other.
“WHAT DID I SAY ABOUT THESE PRANKS?!” Boomed a girl’s voice.
Reve looked down, seeing a man standing at the end of the hallway. He doubted that the voice came from him, but as the man slowly approached the group, he could see the source of the voice sitting on the man’s shoulder.
“A SIMPLE PUSH OR A SHOVE IS FINE FROM TIME TO TIME! BUT THIS!? THIS IS GOING TOO FAR! LOOK AT THIS MAN! HE LOOKS LIKE HE WAS ABOUT TO WET HIMSELF!” continued the booming voice of the pixie sitting on her husband’s shoulder as she held on to his neck for support while her other hand rested on the large bulge in her belly.
The volume of her voice could easily fool anyone into thinking she was a giant, and the tone behind it would make most run for safety.
“I SWEAR! YOU THREE-” she let out a groan, clutching her husband’s neck as she leaned forward.
“Sweetie, don’t push yourself. It’s not good for you or the baby.” the dark-blue haired man told her, with a slightly worried expression across his face.
“I know… I’ll be alright…” she patted his neck, returning her gaze to her daughters that were looking down at the floor, “but these three!”
The girls visibly flinched when they heard the rage forming once again in their mother’s voice.
The seated pixie was boiling, but she closed her eyes and took in a deep breath, letting out an extended sigh as she calmed herself down.
“I swear,” she said while shaking her head, “what am I going to do with you three. Help the man up. And fix his shoelaces!”
Before Reve could object, two of the pixies had gone to him, each taking a hold of one of his shoulders and lifting him to his feet. He was surprised something so small could lift up someone of his size with such ease. Below him, the third pixie sister was quickly untying and retying his laces back the way they were before they had appeared.
The man walked up to Reve, immediately bowing his head slightly with a hand on his chest.
“Please forgive us for the actions our daughters had caused.” the man said, soon followed by the cyan-haired woman on his shoulder.
“Yes, we are deeply sorry for what our daughters may have done to you. We have been TRYING-” she quickly glanced over to the three girls, who looked down at the floor as soon as she did, “to teach them that some pranks go a little too far… but it seems that we aren’t very good teachers…” she ended with a sigh, brushing her long wavy hair behind her.
“It’s alright. It’s been happening quite a lot today as a matter of fact…”
“No, it is not alright!” the man immediately responded, raising his head to look directly at Reve.
“Absolutely. We must make it up to you!” his wife stated, both with determined looks on their faces.
“I know, how about we invite you for a late lunch? There’s a nice little place just up ahead. Surely you were planning on going there.” the man suggested.
“Yes, that seems like a great idea. We were planning on having something there while the girls played in the park just across from it… BUT I’M NOT SURE WE SHOULD LET THEM PLAY WITH THEIR FRIENDS AFTER THIS!”
The three girls flew up to their mother, looking up at her with tears forming in their eyes.
“NOOO!!!! PLEAASSEEEE! WE’RE SORRYYYY!” they said in unison.
“Hmm… I don’t know… Dear, what do you think?” the mother asked with a finger on her chin while looking up to her husband.
“Gee honey, I’m not so sure either. We should just go home…”
The girls looked up at their father, whimpering once they heard his suggestion. The mother sighed while she watched the scene by her girls.
“But… we’re already here… and I am in the mood for their tea…”
The eyes of the pixie sisters widened with hope, flying up to their mother and hugging her whilst repeatedly saying thank you.
The man with the pixies on his shoulder also let out a sigh along with a smile as he watched his wife be surrounded by their daughters before returning to Reve.
“So, would you accept a free lunch as an apology?”
When Reve opened his mouth to respond, his stomach grumbled. It seemed that his body had made a decision before he could.
The entire family shifted their gaze towards Reve’s stomach, then back up to his face with his still open mouth until they all began to laugh.
“Hahaha, oh dear, I think that’s a yes!” the seated pixie said between her laughs.
“So you arrived today. It’s unfortunate that your first impression isn’t the finest we could offer.” the pixie said to Reve.
The couple named Gregory and Ellie had taken Reve to a rather small establishment that was just down the hall from where he had met them. From the outside, it had the appearance of a giant tree that had survived over a millennia, easily towering over the others nearby. But, as you neared the base of this marvel, one could see that holes had been cut out to act as windows, while the inside had the appearance of making it seem that it had been hollowed out in order to allow people to live inside it if they chose to.
Within it, the room was modelled to look as if though it had indeed been carved out of a tree. Even the floors that had been levelled and varnished bore several hundred rings that propagated from the center of the room out to the walls. Wherever they could, they used nature as a replacement for modern commodities. Vines were braided together into curtains that were ready to closed at any moment, certain chairs had the looks of originally being saplings that had grown into intricate patterns before being pulled from the ground and used as seats, while certain areas of the room used containers with incredibly bright fireflies to ensure that entirety of the room was well-lit.
It was a tiny restaurant that the locals called a café, serving all types of beverages and finger foods that one could be in the mood for as well as actual meals. Its concept seemed like something between a street vendor and a pub, but it worked out well, especially due to its location.
Across from this spectacle was an open space with all sorts of children running around and playing with others of their apparent age. Very much like the furniture within the cafe, this ‘park’ also offered small attractions of similar design so that the kids could enjoy themselves. There were all sorts of human and mamono children in this space, including a very familiar grey bee girl and several large mice. Off to the side was a blue-tinged snake woman who was keeping a watchful eye over the children from a nearby bench as what appeared to be her daughter was reading a book beside her.
Many of the parents of these children were likely inside of the cafe, enjoying a small snack or the atmosphere as their kids tired themselves out. Sometimes a child would go in and ask for something to eat as well. One particular boy had gotten a bag of treats from his parents and began to share it with his green-skin friend that had an odd looking dish on its head.
A young elf that seemed to be in her late-teens walked up to the table with the three, placing a doll-sized chair and table in front of the empty seat between Reve and Gregory.
“Here is your seat madam. And have we decided on what we would be ordering today?” she asked with a smile, taking out a small notepad.
“Yes, we would like to have two orders of the Forest’s Special, and if we could get an extra bowl for my wife.” Gregory told the light green-haired elf.
“Of course, sir.” she nodded, taking the menus that were written on oversized leaves and leaving the group. “Your drinks will be out in just a moment.”
Gregory lifted his hand up to his shoulder, allowing Ellie to slide onto it with an audible grunt as she held her side. Once she was safely seated within his hand, he brought her over to the tiny dining set at the center of their table, where she slowly seated herself with visible effort. She let out a sigh, leaning back in her chair after she scooted it forward into her appropriately sized table.
“Is it difficult to fly in your condition?” Reve asked, after watching her struggle with a simple task.
“Very…” she responded, rubbing her swollen stomach.
“Normally she wouldn’t touch the ground unless she was sleeping or absolutely had to. But as we get closer to the expected date, she tires out much more quickly, and simple things become a challenge.”
“The worst part is that the girls know it too. They’ve been getting especially rowdy recently now that they know I can’t keep up with them to stop them from getting into trouble. Again, sorry about earlier.”
“Oh please don’t worry too much about it,” Reve told them, “like I said, it has been happening quite often today.”
“It must be because of how you smell.” Ellie said nonchalantly.
Both Reve and Gregory looked at each other in confusion before returning their stares down to the pregnant pixie.
“What? You don’t know?”
“Honey, I don’t even know, and I live here.”
It was then that the elven waitress returned to the table with their beverages. She placed the wooden mugs in front of their respective patron, placing an especially tiny one with extreme care onto the table for Ellie. Beside Ellie, she placed a small cup that was half the size of the pixie that was filled with her beverage of choice. It seemed that Ellie would have to fill up her own cup using the supply given to her. They thanked the elf before she went to tend to another table.
“So… why would it be the way I smell?” Reve asked.
Did mamono really like the smell of saltwater?
“You’re single. I can tell by the way you smell.” she told him, sipping on her tea.
Gregory raised his brows, before nodding as if though everything made sense to him, but Reve was far from his own revelation to share in his sentiment.
“You can tell by my smell? How?”
“The smell you give off, it’s sweet, it’s fresh… untainted… at least mostly. It means that you’re not with anyone, or at least haven’t been with anyone in quite some time.”
“But sweetie, why are the kids attacking him then?”
“Oh, they don’t know any better. Something in them is telling them to go get you, but they just don’t know why yet. Of course, if the same thing were to happen when they fully mature… well, you’d be passed out and used up by now.” she replied, taking yet another sip of her tea.
“Huh… I didn’t know mamono could smell something like that.” Reve thought aloud.
“Oh yes, most of us can. Children are just a bit more sensitive to it. When they grow up, it dulls down a bit, but trust me we know, and even if it isn’t pure that doesn’t mean it won’t stir up those of us who haven’t found someone yet. That waitress of ours surely noticed that you weren’t tied down, she’s been throwing looks at you ever since we walked in.”
“What?” Reve looked around to see the elf was behind a counter on the other side of the room, and she was indeed staring at him.
When he caught her, her pale skin flushed a deep red, turning around and acting as if though she were busy doing something else. He too gained a bit of pink on his skin, but it wasn’t really visible due to his skin tone, although the expression on his face was more than enough for the couple to know it.
“If you don’t have a roommate, she’s definitely not a bad choice.” the pixie said with a sly smile, leaning towards Reve.
“But Ellie, just look at the age difference.”
Reve was 32 years old, and the elf seemed to have been somewhere between 17 to 20 years of age. It wasn’t uncommon to see relationships with such an age gap in his homeland, but Reve was never very comfortable with the idea.
“You’re right honey… she’s probably three times his age.” Ellie agreed with her husband, causing Reve to choke on his drink.
“Wait, wait…” Reve coughed.
Although he knew elves were a race that had prolonged lifespans, he was surprised that one who seemed so young could be his grandmother. But there was something else on his mind as well.
“I just remembered, this is the second time I’ve heard about this roommate thing. What is it?”
This time it was the couples turn to face each other in confusion before returning their gazes to Reve as if though he asked what the color of the sky was.
“You don’t know?” the Pixie asked, scooping another serving of tea into her tiny cup from the pool beside her.
“Hmm… there’s no concrete reason why the hotel does this, but whenever someone decides to check in to the hotel, they are usually paired up with someone who’s already in the hotel as well. People have tried finding out why by asking Gramps, but he gives a different reason every time. That’s how I ended up with my little Ellie here.” Gregory finished, a smile forming on his face as he placed his hand by the pixie and extended his finger beside her.
The pixie looked up to her husband, her hand resting on his finger as the pleasant memories of how they met began to return to her. She placed her mug on the table and gently rubbed her stomach with a look of satisfaction for how things had turned out since that fateful day.
“That would make this building… a very large matchmaking service.”
“More or less.” the pixie responded, turning away from her husband to look up to Reve. “But it’s one that offers several benefits for using it. Like housing, schooling, safety, attractions…”
She began listing down the several commodities and included amenities that the hotel offered to its residents, as well as the many conveniences with living here.
This hotel was surreal in what it could offer.
The elf returned with a tray in hand that held two large bowls on it, along with a significantly smaller empty bowl and utensils for the pixie. She placed a bowl in front of Reve, unable to make eye contact with him after she had been caught, with a slight hint of red still visible on her face while she did so. She placed the other in front of Gregory without any issues, along with the tiny set for the pixie on her table. She fidgeted when Reve thanked her and quickly left, probably to hide her embarrassment.
After she left, Reve looked down to see what it was that the couple had ordered for him. He couldn’t read the menu, so he asked them for a recommendation.
The bowl was rather large, it looked to be about the size of his head, and within it was an assortment of cut fruit and vegetables, accompanied with some sort of meat that seemed similar to beef. He took the fork he was provided in hand, stabbing it into a small piece of the meat and placed it into his awaiting mouth.
It was not beef.
It was much better.
The meat had a muskier taste to it than beef would usually have, and it was much leaner than traditional cattle. It was venison. It had been some time since Reve had eaten a juicy cut of venison such as this, but this one was definitely the winner as far as taste was concerned. It was seasoned with spices and herbs he himself wasn’t all too familiar with, but he did not care, it was made to perfection according to him.
He must have made a face without knowing it after his first bite.
“I think he likes it.” Ellie said with a giggle as her husband tried his best to place a few pieces of his dish into her bowl.
The Sleepless Night
A few days later
Morning came just like any other at the Covet Corner hotel. Guests were coming and going as they pleased, current residents complained about their lack of a roommate, and others were attending orientations that were going on. Indeed, just like every other day.
Gramps was standing behind the counter at the lobby, and he couldn’t help but take in a deep exaggerated breathe to show how good of a mood he was in. After a few deep cleanings with the help of Nettie and the other bubble slimes, along with a few sylphs, they had finally gotten rid of the stench in the lobby.
Everyone noticed, and it seemed to be having a similar effect on everyone once they stepped into the lobby. Some of the guests who were originally going to complain to Gramps about something simply forgot once got to the lobby, while others became more willing to listen and accept Gramp’s explanation to their problem or at one of his possible solutions.
Truly, it was a great day as far as Gramps was concerned. The only thing that could make it better were if Lilly came back from her trip early and agreed to cover for him while he took a nap in the backroom, but he wasn’t going to hold his breath for that.
When he finished with the guests at the counter, he noticed that a familiar face was waiting for him to approach the counter.
“Good morning Reve!” Gramps greeted in a delighted tone.
“Morning.” Reve responded, smiling back at Gramps as he rubbed his own back.
“You’re still waking up with a sore back?”
“Still sleeping on the floor…” Reve murmured.
Gramps furrowed his brows as he heard his response. Reve had told him after his first night that the door to the bedroom had been jammed shut, so he sent someone up there in order to check it out and fix it if necessary. They came back saying that none of the doors were broken. But Reve insisted that the door was still stuck, and as such he had been sending someone to his room each day to fix it, with everyone stating that there wasn’t a problem to begin with.
“Hmm… That’s odd… I’ll send up one more person up today to check. If you’re still sleeping on the floor tonight, I’ll go up there myself and just take out the door completely tomorrow.”
“I would appreciate that.” Reve told him, arching his back a little causing it to let out an audible crack before straightening himself. “But that’s not why I’m down here.”
“Ahh,” Gramps said with a knowing smile, “you want to know if we found your ship mates.”
It had been about four days since Reve arrived to the hotel, and Gramps had been trying to figure out how to get Reve back. Since they couldn’t just send a mershark in through the door Reve had originally gone through, they had to try to figure out which one was the closest to the port in Zipangu that Reve had described to him. Unfortunately, Zipangu was an island on the other side of the world, so there were only a few doors that had managed to reach there, and the port wasn’t near any of them. Gramps had sent someone through to find out what they could and to return as quickly as possible, but that was three days ago.
“She still hasn’t come back yet, but she should be coming back today or tomorrow, at least that’s how long she said she would take.”
“Darn, oh well.”
As much as Reve wanted to see his crewmates, it wasn’t as if though he were in any rush to leave. If anything, he might ask to stay a bit longer after the reunion.
“By the way,” Gramps said, reaching out to a corner behind the counter before tossing a small pouch to Reve, “this is yours.”
The pouch jingled as it was swung into the air and hit Reve’s chest, sliding down onto his hands that barely managed to reach it in time before falling onto the floor. The bag, although small, had a fair amount of weight behind it. It could’ve easily hurt him if Gramps had decided to throw it a bit harder.
Although he could guess what was inside, Reve opened the pouch in order to reveal the mass of silver and gold coins within it. He shook the bag around to see that they were all indeed gold and silver, not a single copper one amongst them, then pulled on the strings by the opening in order to close the pouch and keep the coins from falling out.
“That should cover everything. Anything we didn’t decide to keep will be sent up to your room, along with a written receipt for what we did take.”
After his first night here, Reve had gone down to the lobby in order to find out if there was anything he could do so that he could buy food. Even though he was staying here for free, it didn’t seem like they were going to feed him too. To his surprise though, Gramps had told him that during his arrival quite a bit of the ship’s cargo had also been swept in by the current along with him. Gramps was originally just going to send it up to his room, but after seeing that most of it were commonly ordered items in the hotel, had instead decided to buy it from Reve. Although these items weren’t necessarily Reve’s to sell, he was the only person who Gramps could buy it from… and it would solve his minor money problem. With that, Gramps paid him a small portion in advance so that he could survive for a few days and told him that he would get the rest once they decided what it was that they would keep.
Reve couldn’t help but jingle the pouch a few more times with a smile across his face.
“Thanks.” he finally responded.
“No problem. Got anything planned for today?”
“Nothing in particular. Probably just wander around a random floor and meet another friendly stranger.”
“Well, if I were you, I’d pay a visit to the eighth floor later tonight. There’s a festival going on today, and they only hold it once a year up on that floor. So there’ll be all sorts of things going on up there. Food, music, games; everything you’d expect and then some.”
“Hmm, that sounds like a good idea. Where on the eighth floor is it taking place?”
“It’s in the bazaar area. Basically if you go up that elevator over there, you take a left and keep going until you reach the end of the hall. If there’s a bunch of doors on only one side, you’re there. That, and I’m sure there will be a crowd going in and out of there, so you could probably just ask around to make sure you’re heading in the right direction.”
“Alright, I think I’ll go.”
“That’s the spirit.”
Reve said his goodbyes to the kind old man before heading to the elevator and head up to his floor. There was still a fair amount of time until tonight, and he was feeling a little peckish… maybe he should visit the elf at that café again…
Several hours later
“… still jammed…”
Reve had returned to his room after the festival had ended at midnight, and he was tired after having spent most of his day at it on the eight floor. While he was up there, he was able to try out all sorts of things, both new and familiar to him. Ranging from foods to games, he even found the youku from when he first arrived. She was surprised to see him, but she wasn’t as enthusiastic as she was before for some reason… much like the elf from the café.
Kaeko showed him around, she even helped him find a place where he could get some festival attire since it seemed that most of the people here had agreed to dress in this theme. After some time, she introduced him to her friends Chie and Yukiko along with their boyfriends Aldrich and Troy. They spent hours together, talking and laughing about what had happened, showing Reve all sorts of things he had to try.
Before he knew it, the festival was ending.
A beautiful tanned woman known as a Pharaoh shouted that the festivities would be coming to an end once again this year, and that all should come and enjoy the final show of the evening. The ceremonial dance of sand and fire.
It truly did seem as if though everyone had decided to watch the show.
He could barely find a spot in order to get a view, but when he did he was entranced by the spectacle.
And like that, the festival was over.
He said his goodbyes to his new friends before finally returning to his room… only to see that he would not be welcomed to a comfortable bed once again…
He looked around the living room once more.
Not much had changed since he had arrived. He had moved the short table closer to the bench and stacked the two individual rugs atop of each other in order to simulate a mattress. Reve had gotten used to sleeping on a hammock while he was out at sea, but there was nothing he could use to hang the rugs on for them to act as one. Along with the promise of opening the door each day, Reve made no preparations in order to put one in the room.
The only other change in the room was the addition of large chest just behind the bench, along with a clipboard on top of it. It seemed to have been the items that Gramps decided not to buy along with a receipt for everything he had purchased. But Reve was too tired to bother looking into the chest or reading the papers. That, and he probably couldn’t read it anyways.
Reve placed his clothes and a bag filled with his purchases while at the festival on the wooden bench before slinking down onto the double rug bed he had made.
Within a few minutes, he was fast asleep.
“Champion, you have arrived.”
“But of course, my Queen.”
Reve had been summoned to the private chambers of Her Majesty, Queen Penelope of Runberia. A Champion such as himself would never dream of ever setting foot within the palace, for they were of lowly birth and undeserving of such an honor. But here he was, standing within the bed chambers of the most beautiful and powerful woman of this country.
“Are you nervous?” She asked, stepping out from behind the folding screen to reveal her translucent nightwear.
Her periwinkle hair swayed as a breeze from the open balcony across the room made it way to her, causing her flowing gown to reveal her pale legs.
“Not at all my Queen!” he replied, looking directly ahead of himself so as to not disrespect her with his stares.
“Are you certain… it is a crime to lie to your queen.” She reminded him, stepping towards him.
“I would never lie to you my Queen. I am not nervous… simply anxious is all!” he responded with a bead of sweat trailing down the back of his neck.
“Hmm… I suppose that would be natural.” She trailed around him, crossing her arms below her large succulent breasts. “You will be fighting not only for your life tomorrow, but for everyone in Runberia… including mine.”
He had not forgotten.
Runberia had been at war with its neighboring nation known as the Alistone Kingdom for quite some time now. They had been waging this war for as long as Reve could remember, probably before then. The Queen had lost her parents to this never-ending battle, and had been forced to take up the throne at an early age without a suitor in order to maintain order within her lands.
Both nations were equally matched in resources and power, having maintained a stalemate against each other since the beginning of the battle. But tomorrow, it would all change.
They had agreed to select a single champion to represent each other and to do battle. Whoever survived would decide who won the war and finally put this all to a decisive end. In order to ensure the results, several other nations were invited to watch the battle and recognize the losing nation as belonging to the victor once it had been decided, as well as enforcing the agreement between the two rivals.
Against all odds, Reve, a Champion of the arena that had to fight for his life as entertainment for others, had somehow beaten the elite royal guards in combat and was chosen to represent Runberia. But for some reason, he felt at ease, even with such a grand weight on his shoulders.
“We must ensure that you are absolutely prepared for tomorrow.” The Queen told him, finally coming into view from his left after walking around him.
“Of course my Queen.”
“As such, tonight, you shall be laying in my bed tonight.”
“…my Queen?” he finally turned his head to her.
It was disrespectful for someone such as himself to look directly upon her without her allowing him to do so.
“Tell me Champion. Would you not need a good night’s rest in order to prepare for tomorrow’s events?” she began, walking towards her bed.
“I- I suppose that is true… my Queen!”
“And tell me, who do you believe would have the most comfortable bed in the entire kingdom?” She asked him, opening the bed canopy to show the pristine white linens of the bed.
“That… would be you my Queen.”
“Then, my loyal subject, would it not be the actions of an irresponsible queen to not ensure that someone of great importance, such as yourself, obtain the very best that she could offer?”
She had entered the bed at this point, laying on her side towards him through the opening made in the canopy hanging over her bed. Her gown had slid down past her shoulders, as well as a good portion of her breasts, revealing her ample cleavage to him.
“You speak nothing but the truth my Queen… but-“
“Are you going against the words of your queen!?”
“NOT AT ALL! I-I simply wish to voice my concern with Her Majesties command. Being found with someone of such low birth and impure blood could degrade your most exalted name, my Queen. I do not wish to soil such a thing.” He announced, bowing his head to her.
He could hear her sigh contently before she spoke once more.
“Rise my noble Champion. You greatly care for your queen like no other. Do not fear in ruining my name, for when you win tomorrow, I shall make you my king.”
Reve gasped, returning his gaze to her.
“B-but Your Majesty, the people would never allow for it.”
“Never you say? I am their queen, they will do as I say. And will they truly deny the savior of their home, the savior of their lands, the savior of their lives such an honor?”
A smile formed on her face as she watched him struggle to find a fault in her statement.
“Now my Champion, we should not debate this any longer. Please join me. Let us enjoy one night together before finally ending this war.”
He couldn’t deny her any longer. Not only was she right, but Reve had been fighting his temptations to immediately join her as she revealed her enticing body to him as soon as he entered. He began to take his first steps to join her atop her bed, all while she removed her gown.
Her pale skin, her pink erect nipples, her dark eyes, they were all calling to him, waiting for him to join them.
By the time he had crawled onto the bed with her he had already stripped down to nothing, leaving a trail of his clothes on the floor behind him. He leaned over her, staring down at her smiling face as she reached her arms up around his neck.
“My Que-“ he was stopped by a finger being placed over his lips.
“If you are to be my king, you should at least call me by name.”
“Yes my Q-… yes my Penelope.”
Her eyes instantly brightened when she heard him whisper her name, pulling him down to her and allowing her heavenly lips to meet his.
They continuously kissed each other, only breaking for a moment to look into each other’s eyes with longing desire before returning. Her soft lips were impossible to tear away from for longer than a few seconds, he would crave for them if he was separated from them any longer. Her tongue slipped into his mouth, sliding by his while he began to do the same. Finally, she pushed him away, her face flushed with desire and her eyes yearning for more, but there was something else that she wished for, something greater. She looked down at the space she had caused between them, seeing Reve’s full erection pushing against her thigh. Her lips curled into a smile once more as she narrowed her eyes up to Reve’s, pulling him down onto the bed beside her.
“Now, my King Reve, you will be in my care. Do not worry, I will make sure that everything is taken care of so as to not distract you tomorrow.” She whispered into his ear, turning his head to her and planting one last kiss.
She rose her slender body up from beside him, crawling down to his standing member, staring with visible lust in her eyes. Leaning her head down below it, she pulled his cock towards her face and licked it from the base to its tip, sending a wave of sensations up Reve’s spine.
Forming a grip around his member, she began to stroke it with her hand as her mouth began to lick and suckle on his balls. Reve groaned as the tickling sensation mixed with her massage reached him. How was she so good at this?
She continued her assault, switching her mouth’s attention to the tip of his penis as her hand limited her motions to its base. She slurped up the precum that he had been forming at the head of his, the pupils of her sultry eyes slid up as if though it were the finest delicacy this world could offer her. Her motions quickened in pace, her fingers tightening their hold, and her tongue circled the head of his cock, licking up any precum that formed as soon as he let it out.
Reve was already approaching his climax so quickly, how in the world did she know that he would enjoy this so much? He hadn’t said a word since she began, but it was as if she had done this before, doing what he wanted most so as to properly satisfy him. Reve wanted to ask, but a playful squeeze to his testicles made him let out a gasp instead of the question.
He wouldn’t be able to hold it any longer.
“I’m-“ he gasped as she squeezed him once more, causing his to cum.
He shot his seed up into the air, some landing into the queen’s mouth, while the rest scattered across her face. She had a look of ecstasy on her face when she felt the taste of his cum on her tongue, an expression of pure joy in being showered in his fluids.
Her face was so obscene, one that he would have never expected to have witnessed in his lifetime, but so familiar at the same time.
With a single finger, Queen Penelope wiped off the trails of his seed from her face, placing it in her mouth to lick it off. Her half-lidded eyes watched him stare at her, they were still filled with longing and desire to continue.
Reve began to sit up, hoping to take the initiative and to properly satisfy his queen, but she extended her hand to him, telling him to stop.
“No my King. You must save your strength for tomorrow. Allow me, your Queen, to handle the task at hand.”
He felt obliged to listen to Penelope, laying back down on the feathery soft mattress of the bed.
She smiled once more to him, lifting herself up and turning around, allowing him a view of her round behind. Penelope positioned herself above Reve’s still erect member, taking a hold of it so as to lead it to her opening. She rubbed the head of his cock against her clit, whimpering slightly at the sensation until finally inserting the head within the lips of her folds. She gradually sank down onto his rod, taking it all within her, biting her lip to keep herself from moaning aloud. Her breathing was shaky, as if though it were too much for her, but she continued on, raising her body up until it seemed like his cock would slip out before returning the base.
Her movements were unsteady at first, her body twitching at the feeling of Reve rubbing against her inner walls. But with each fall, her motions became more consistent, and each one gradually increased in pace, craving for the sensation that each tiny movement caused her.
If Reve could see her reddened face, he could perhaps figure out that she was becoming addicted to his cock. Of course, that would be if he could tear his eyes away from her luscious ass that was bouncing on top of him. Like her, he was becoming bewitched by not only the rear view of her body, but the slimy tightness of her folds that refused to let go of him.
He reached out to grab her tenderly firm buttocks, but she slapped his hand away when he tried.
“Reve-“ she gasped, “please allow me to do this on my own.” She managed to tell him, turning her head to the side to look at him. “Allow your queen to show you what she is capable of.”
Reve really wanted to hold her round behind between his fingers, but listened to his queen.
She continued her assault, grinding her hips against his after every few descents, causing them both to let out a groan of pleasure.
As time went on, she increased her speed, slapping her skin against his, the wet sounds filling the air as they were beginning to reach their climax. Reve was clenching at the covers of the bed as Penelope moaned and yelped with each push. With one final drop, she climaxed along with Reve, tightening her walls as she receive his seed, filling her inside.
She panted, turning around and crawling onto Reve to snuggle up beside him. He too was panting, but with her beside him, he couldn’t help but kiss her once more.
“Tomorrow, when I make you my king… I will make sure it is a night to remember…” she told him, holding him within her arms.
He held her close to him, leaning in to whisper in her ear.
“And I will make sure to win. For our home, our country, our people, and especially for you.”
They stayed like this in each other’s embrace until falling into a blissful sleep.
Reve woke up in the middle of the night, looking around the room to see he was in the living room of a log cabin. He was back in the hotel.
Odd… he had such a realistic dream… but he had something else on his mind. He got up, going to the bathroom and relieving himself.
Upon returning to his rug bedding, he had to stop halfway to look down onto something he could have sworn wasn’t there before. Laying on the rug beside where he was previously was a woman he could not recognize. Her nightgown was open, revealing her large pale breasts out for him to see. Her head resting just inches away from where his was, showing her short chin-length hair that had a tinge of purple that was visible even in this level of darkness. But possibly the most surprising to him was that the entire lower half of her body was that of a horse.
He had not seen many centaurs here in the hotel, but he would’ve remembered one with a coat as dark as hers. He kneeled down beside her, trying to get a better view of her face. Brushing the short hair out of her eyes, he could not recall who she was, but there was something vaguely familiar about her.
When his hand was at the side of her face, she smiled, reaching up and lightly holding onto his. Reve almost jumped back when she did so.
“My Champion… my King… Reve…” she whispered, still fast asleep.
With those words it was then that Reve suddenly realized who she was.
Was it really her? The woman he had been dreaming about?
He had been struggling with the feeling that he had been forgetting something each morning when he woke up, but upon seeing who she was, all the dreams began to return to him.
The dreams varied in styles and roles, but in each one there was always something that stayed consistent. He would somehow win the affections of a beautiful woman named Penelope, and each dream ended with them after a passionate night of lovemaking.
In one dream, he was farm boy and she was the daughter of the mayor who didn’t approve of him. In another, she was princess that was being held hostage, while he was her knight in shining armor. Every dream had its obstacles that he would somehow overcome, and in each one she was there, waiting for him.
He leaned in to get a better look at her face, his hand still within her hold. Her face was rounder than it was in the dreams, but it didn’t diminish her beauty, it only made her seem cuter in his eyes. The hair color was the same, its length varied between each dream, but the rest of her features had remained mostly unchanged.
He decided to try something.
“Penelope?” he asked, lightly brushing her cheek with his thumb.
She furrowed her brows slightly, obviously not wanting to wake up, but her eyes slowly began to crack open. Her tired eyes looked up at Reve, a small smile forming on her face when she saw him, but quickly widened as her mind began to realize where she was.
She jumped, getting onto her feet with the loud sound of her hooves stomping the ground, causing Reve to fall backwards. She ran into the open door to the bedroom and quickly slammed the door shut behind her.
“Wait!” Reve shouted, jumping to the door in order to open it. “Penelope!”
The door was shut tight, he couldn’t even budge it, but he could hear her whimpering on the other side, putting her weight on the door to make sure he couldn’t open it.
“Penelope! Please! I just want to talk to you!”
She didn’t respond.
Reve wasn’t sure what to do. He slumped down on the wall beside the door and sighed once again.
He knocked on the door lightly, just so that she would know that he was still there.
“If you don’t want to come out here and talk… can we at least talk like this?”
There was no immediate response from the other side, but he could hear her shift around in her spot, possibly trying to get comfortable and listen to him.
“So… is it really you Penelope? The same one I’ve been seeing all these nights?”
Why was she like this? She was always so strong in the dreams, even in the face of danger she would not waiver. But now? He had barely said anything and she was cowering behind a door. Is this what she was truly like?
“Hmm…” he pondered, “but why did you do all that? The dreams, I mean.”
She shifted from her spot behind the door, the sound of hooves lightly stepping around the room for a moment before returning to her spot. It was soon to be followed by the sound of her trying to slip something under the door, but whatever it was could not fit in the space between it and the floor. She struggled a few more times before finally giving up in trying to do so. Instead, to Reve’s great surprise, she actually opened her door. It was just a crack, and only for a second, but she managed to slide the book through and shut the door immediately afterwards.
Reve took ahold of the plain looking hardcover book, but could not read the title that was clearly written on the front and spine of the book. Rather than trying to figure out what the title was, he opened the book and began to flip through the pages until stopping on one with a picture on it. It was a sketch of a small town surrounded by fields of farmland at the foot of a hill. He continued through the book, turning through the pages again until finding yet another image drawn onto the page.
“Wait… is that…”
On the page was a rather plump man pointing his finger at a younger farm boy while yelling something at him.
The man drawn onto the paper was none other than Penelope’s father, the mayor, in his dream when he was a farm boy. In this particular image, the mayor was warning Reve to stay away from his daughter, saying that he was barely good enough for the town, let alone his daughter.
Reve hurriedly skimmed through the book, stopping at every page that held a drawing on it. On one page it was the farm boy handing a daisy to the mayor’s daughter, on another he was holding hands with her, and in the last one he was dancing with her at the harvest festival. Although Penelope didn’t look anything like the daughter from the book, the clothing she wore in the dream matched the one drawn in the book.
When Reve turned to face the door and ask Penelope about the book, he was surprised to see that there were others piled up by it. It seemed that she had put them there while he was engrossed with the one he had in hand. He quickly set his down and grabbed another one immediately, flipping through the pages to see if there was anything drawn inside. Just like the first, each drawing was a scene that he had seen in his dreams. In one book he was climbing the winding steps of a tower to face the dangers that waited at the top, and in another he was singing his heart out in hopes of grabbing her attention. The last book, he didn’t even get past the first few pages. At the very beginning of the book was a place he was all too familiar with. It was the capital of the kingdom of Runberia.
Reve closed the book, placing it on the top of the pile he had formed beside himself. This is what he had been dreaming just a few hours ago, and the other books were what he had dreamt the nights before.
“The dreams… they’re all from these books. But why?”
He could here Penelope shuffle around behind the door, but not moving from her spot.
“I-it’s…” she squeaked, only managing to mumble the rest of what she was going to say.
“My friend! It’s f-from her. She’s a phan-phantom. She wr-wrote these. And she w-wanted me to proof-re-read them.”
Her powerful voice that he had grown accustomed to was nowhere to be found, it was as if it were an entirely different person talking to him. He knew that it was indeed the same voice, but the strength behind her words had faded, the one that demanded obedience had shriveled away and replaced. Even so, he could not help but feel his heart skip a beat when he finally heard her shaky voice power through her statement.
“The m-more I read the more I got s-sucked into the story… and the more I wa-wanted to be p-part of it.”
“Oh…” Reve finally understood.
That was when he came along and gave her a chance to live out her fantasies… sort of. There were so many things he wanted to ask her, but would she answer them? Would she even face him? Reve wasn’t sure what to do… but something came to mind.
“I can’t read this… can you show me how the story ends?”
There was a small yelp from the other side of the door, followed by her moving in place. She was squirming again, thinking of what she would do.
“Y-yes… but only if you go to sleep!”
Reve smiled, it was something.
“Alright, I’m going to sleep.”
He laid down on top of the rugs once more, getting himself comfortable so that he could fall asleep again. Behind him, he could hear the door crack open slightly, but it made no other sounds. It seemed that she was going to wait for him before coming out of the room again.
“I’m not asleep yet.” He told her, causing her to shut the door, only for it to be opened a few seconds later as she peaked through the opening once again.
Reve sighed, she was like a child when meeting someone new, incredibly shy but equally curious. Maybe he would get to know her more after the story… the real her. He yawned a few times as he thought what it was he would manage to do… maybe convince her to talk to him face to face… but before he knew it, he was fast asleep.
Several days later
“And you’re certain he’s in here?”
“That’s right!” Replied the crow tengu.
Entering the lobby of the hotel was a group of tired looking men, all briefly forgetting the long trek they endured in order to arrive upon seeing the spectacle that was the hotel. At the very front leading the group was a crow tengu and a man that could be recognized as the captain of these seafaring men.
This sudden influx of men caused many mamono to turn their heads, while those with a more sensitive sense of smell made a sour face at being reminded of the state the lobby was in not so long ago. The succubi seated near the counter all looked at each other after seeing the men walk in, something about them felt eerily familiar.
Leading the group to the end of the lobby and towards the counter was a man close to the captain’s age behind it. But that wasn’t what had caught the eyes of the group, rather it was the one he was talking to that had captured their attention.
“REVE!” shouted one of the crew members, before several others did the same.
They all went up to him, making sure it was him, shaking his hand and hugging him when they realized that it was indeed the friend they thought they had lost. It wasn’t until afterwards that they noticed the towering figure behind him that inched her way as closely as she could behind him and rested her hands on his shoulders. The nightmare was looking to the side, away from the crowd as she nervously fidgeted behind Reve, not enjoying the sudden attention from the crowd and pulling the hood from her robe over her head to cover her face. Feeling the squirming nightmare behind him, Reve placed his hand onto hers, calming her down enough to keep her from moving in place.
He introduced her to the group, to which she said a quick and quiet hello before turning away in embarrassment. Unfortunately, none of them understood what she said, and she too could not understand what they were saying either.
As Reve told his crewmates what had happened to him, the captain was speaking to the man behind the counter.
“That’s right, the first night here is free. And, although we usually don’t do this, we’ll even take you guys back home… or at least as close as we can get you.”
The captain widened his eyes in astonishment. They were quite the distance away from their home, and they were trying to figure out if they were ever going to be able to get back or start a new life in Zipangu when the crow tengu appeared.
“Well, it sounds a bit too good to be true. First I find out one of my most trusted men is actually alive and then I’m being offered a free night for me and my men at a luxury establishment along with a free trip back home. If I didn’t see him with my own eyes, I’d think this was trick.” The captain laughed.
A few days ago, this bird woman had appeared at the port city of Sakabe searching for a group of men that had recently lost their ship. How she managed to find them so quickly was a question the captain thought would be better left unanswered. Regardless, she came to them claiming to have found their dead crew member Reve. Her statement fell mostly on deaf ears since none of them could understand her, except for their captain.
After a long discussion with the crow tengu, she came to realize the situation that they were in. They were stuck with no way home. She was originally sent just to check up on these men and see if they were alive, if they were then Reve could choose whether to rejoin them or to stay. But considering that they were basically stranded in a foreign land and it seemed that only the captain could communicate with the locals, it didn’t seem all that favorable for them.
The woman mulled it over for a moment before an idea struck her.
She refused to tell him what it was, but told him that she would return in four days and that everyone should be prepared for a journey upon her return.
When she returned, she announced that she would take them to Reve as well as help them with their current dilemma. A few of the men were skeptical about this, but the captain seemed to see no ill intention in the crow tengu’s words. With him placing his trust in this black bird woman, the crew followed her into the mountains for their trek.
It took them three days to get here.
The captain was glad to see that his trust wasn’t misplaced.
“We’ll gladly accept your hospitality.”
Gramps smiled, taking out a small box filled with clear cards and handing one to the captain.
“Great. And by the way, welcome to the Covet Corner Hotel.”
END OF CHAPTER