‘Left hook, right hook, left kick, left jab, right jab, left hook…’
It was another blistering summer day, but Aaron had made the admittedly foolish decision to spar with Kiera in spite of the stuffy heat. With his shirt removed and sweat-soaked hair sticking to his forehead, he threw his fists and feet forward in a frenzy.
‘Left kick, right kick… left jab, left kick…’
Aaron inwardly grumbled. He tried mixing up his attacks as much as possible, but no matter how hard he tried or how much variety he threw into his move-set, he failed to land even a single blow. And she didn’t bother to fight back either, opting to simply duck and weave to a safe position each time he threw a hit at her.
They were on the ramparts of the old abandoned fort, the roof above having long crumbled away and left the sun beating down on their heads. The smell of sizzling meat and joyous laughter from below tempted Aaron to go down and join the barbeque with the rest of Otha’s escaped prisoners.
But he couldn’t simply back down from the challenge. It was he who issued it to the griffon in the first place.
There were still dangerous opponents out there he’d need to fight. Blood-thirsty bandit lords who rule over their turf with iron-fists. Paladins hunting his head for both fame from their people and favor from their gods. Monsters far less kind and amicable than the ones he was currently traveling with.
Ones that wouldn’t have many grievances with stealing him away from the world for the purpose of mindless, round-the-clock fucking.
He knew he’d have to overcome that and more. He’d have to push himself beyond his limits, reach heights few humans have dared to ascend.
Lost in his thoughts, Aaron threw a spinning kick with more power than he had intended, and when Kiera sidestepped it, he was sent stumbling forward and falling on his face.
“Oh no! Are you alright, partner?” Kiera gasped, sounding more like a concerned big sister than a stern martial arts instructor.
“Yeah, yeah… just bruised my ego, I think…” Aaron grumbled, rubbing the red mark on his forehead.
The familiar sounds of Nariko’s haughty laughter filled his ears. Parking up at the sound, Aaron looked a few yards behind. After a short search, he spotted the raiju sitting atop a fallen chunk of stone, laughing her ass off. When she, at last, calmed down, she returned to wolfing down a custard pie in her lap.
“I’ve never properly studied martial arts, sweetie, but even I can tell you’re overthinking your moves.” Nariko snorted, shoveling another spoonful of the rich pastry in her mouth.
“She’s right, Aaron. I know you figured the best way to land a blow on me is to catch me off guard by trying something new and unexpected, but you can’t just change up the way you fight on the fly like that. When you do, your moves become slow and predictable.” Kiera added, placing both hands on her shapely hips as her lion-tail whipped back and forth.
“Yeah. I’ll keep that in mind.” Aaron groaned, stumbling back to his feet and wiping the sweat from his forehead. Gratefully accepting a full waterskin from the griffon, the swordsman bit off the cap. He started cooling down by eagerly gulping the first half of the water, then finished by removing the nozzle from his lips and letting the rest pour down his overheated forehead, neck and chest.
“Mmm, mmm~” Nariko hummed with a devious smile, licking away some of the cream around her lips and eagerly swallowing, “Goodness gracious, sweetie. You’re making me blush over here.”
“Ahem.” Kiera caught Nariko’s attention by clearing her throat, “I’d like to think Aaron here would appreciate not being ogled while he’s training.”
Even as she said it, Aaron caught Kiera catching a glimpse of his wet chest out of the corner of her eyes, blushing all the while.
“Nah. I think he doesn’t mind.” the raiju replied, starting to lick the remainder of the custard and crumbs from the pie tin.
Aaron opened his mouth to answer for himself, but Kiera pushed him away with her wings and stepped forward in his stead.
“You know, you’re free to join us. You won’t get stronger if you just sit there and gorge yourself on sweets all day.”
The foreign princess shrugged, tossing the cleaned tin away and removing a cherry lollipop from the confines of her kimono. She always seemed to have a sucker of some sort popped in her mouth ever since Aaron gifted her with more candy, and was constantly slurping on one when she wasn’t savoring another treat.
“…you’ll also get toothaches…!” Kiera began giving Nariko an earful but was swiftly and completely tuned out by the raiju. Aaron tried to open his mouth to interject but figured it would be a moot gesture.
“Well, it was a good workout anyway.” the human sighed, stepping away and putting his tunic back on. Nariko and Kiera seemed far too busy arguing back and forth to notice his leaving.
Descending back into the fort, Aaron still found himself marveled at what he saw. The shoggoths had almost completely renovated the old fortress in the short few days they stayed there, merrily sliding around and sucking up any dust and debris in their path. From chasing out the pests to patching up holes in the walls in the ceiling, they worked wonders with the short amount of time and limited resources.
Aaron had to wonder why the pack of purple monsters would even bother with the cleaning job in the first place. It was on that very afternoon, a mere three days after they had taken refuge in the old fort, they were set to leave.
But he supposed that tidying things up is what made them happy. Seeing one merrily slide along and suck up dust into her body, the swordsman couldn’t help but chuckle.
“Babe, babe! Check it out!”
Aaron leaped to attention. He had only known Valerie for a little over two months, but the cheery hellhound’s joyous cries had thoroughly etched themselves into his mind. An omen for a rib-crushing hug.
His legs were still worn out from his training with Kiera, but he mustered enough strength to duck down in that moment’s notice. Hearing the thumping of paws against brick just a second after, Aaron saw a shadow dance across the floor and felt a soft heat rush over his head.
“Ha! You’ll have to try harder than that Val-”
Aaron bit his own tongue as the hellhound landed on her pawed hands, pushing off the ground from her handstand and launching herself into him rump-first.
“Ow.” the swordsman wheezed. The stars clouding his dazed vision faded just enough for him to see the merry dog girl atop his chest, holding a red cloth she pulled from behind her back.
“Hehehe~ can’t dodge me!” she giggled, settling her behind into his midsection and pressing her heated body down on him.
“I… guess not…” Aaron figured, feeling her wagging tail smack against the inside of his knees, “So… what’s with the bag…?”
The grinning hellhound’s eyes burst with flame. Tearing the bag open, she dumped its contents onto Aaron’s chest. Looking down, Aaron saw an assortment of junk. It included a small wooden fetish of a fish, an ugly pink polka dot ribbon, and a corkscrew that had somehow been bent into the likeness of an elephant.
“I found them when I was looking around in the basement! Neat, huh?” Valerie laughed, picking up a toy soldier that was missing an eye and left arm.
“Uhh… well, neat’s one way to put it.”
Out of the corner of his eye, Aaron spotted a shoggoth sliding towards them. Valerie, too busy giggling and admiring her loot to notice the purple maid, was left speechless as she slipped over Aaron.
“Let me pick that up for you, sir.”
A toothy mouth appeared at the base of the shoggoth’s snail-like foot. Next, a pointed pink tongue slipped out, slurping up all the junk and banishing it into the maid’s body. Smiling at a job well done, the eldritch creature merrily slid away.
“I… what?” Valerie stuttered, too stunned to even go after the purple monster.
“Oh, my. Are you two having some fun without me?”
The soft flames flickering at each of Valerie’s eyes flared up, the dancing embers going wild and jagged as they increased in size. Spinning around atop of Aaron, Valerie shot a glare that could pierce steel at the raiju sauntering towards her.
“Whats with that sour look, Valerie?” Nariko mewled, running her tongue along her sucker.
“Beat it, sparky.” the hellhound huffed, turning back to Aaron and snuggling defensively into his chest, “Just mind your own business.”
While most of noble blood would have taken offense at such an attitude from a peon like Valerie, the hellhound’s attitude only served to further elevate the raiju’s blissful mood.
“Is that really how you want to talk to a princess?” Nariko playfully chuckled, crushing the remainder of her candy and chewing up the leftover bits.
“Oh, that’s funny. I don’t remember her ever swearing fealty to you.”
Kiera was next to join the conversation, waltzing up to the three like a cat on the prowl. Flexing out her wings and folding her arms under her chest, she shot Nariko a look that a hungry eagle would give to a scampering rabbit.
Nariko raised a single brow. Cocking her hips to the side and tossing away the paper stick that previously held her sucker, Nariko flicked her pointer finger at Kiera’s forehead.
“She didn’t… but could you possibly be interested, oh great White Lion? Aaron’s told me all about you. You’d make an excellent vassal.”
The corner’s of Kiera’s mouth twitched, wanting to instinctively curl into a grin at the praise. But the griffon forced the urge down and only deepened her grimace.
“The Roaming Ravens serve no master but the wind’s ebb and flow. I’ve already left my tribe, but I haven’t lost my values quite yet. Besides, I have no attention of bowing to someone who forced themselves upon my partner.”
“Pfft. Whatever helps you sleep at night.” Nariko grumbled, digging out another sucker and popping it between her lips, “You ‘raped’ him too, didn’t you?”
“T-that was medically necessary rape!” the griffon squeaked in defense of herself. But after realizing what she had said, her tanned skin flushed red and she slapped both her eagle claws over her mouth, “I-I mean… gods, I didn’t mean… it wasn’t… oh dear…”
Nariko nearly choked on her sucker as she keeled over in laughter, only making Kiera’s blush deepen. Even the previously scowling Valerie began to giggle.
Aaron, on the other hand, looked just as mortified as Kiera. Thankfully, the frog girl who had helped him all the way back in Otha’s cellar came to the rescue.
Hopping around the corner at the end of the hallway and letting out countless little ribbits of joy, she used her suctioned toes to stop her momentum and grinned at Aaron and company.
The mucus shaking off her quivering body with each rapid breath, she barely managed to croak out her next words.
“The convoy… the convoy is here!”
The trading convoy had an upwards of around thirty wagons, easily able to fit the party of Otha’s escaped slaves and former employees. If all went according to plan, they would be smuggled across the empire’s northwest, over to a port with a shipowner still loyal to Reese.
Wherever his allegiances laid.
Even as Aaron walked right behind Reese up the convoy, he wasn’t sure, nor did he want to pry. So he opted to silently tag along behind the incubus, the two walking along the monster-filled wagons up the stagecoach leading them.
The other men helping escort the monsters and handle the wagons all appeared to be completely unremarkable blue-collars in every conceivable way. They didn’t spare Reese so much as passing glance as they boosted the smaller monster under the protective canopies and checked the reigns on their horses.
But the man leading the coach put on just as much of an air of mystery as the incubus himself.
He wore clothing of tanned leathers and white cloth, and his hunter’s hat and scarf ensured only his sharp brown eyes were visible.
“Master.” the mystery man greeted, jumping from his spot at the head of the carriage and gracefully landing in a respectful bow, eyes to the ground and sword arm to his heart.
“Thanks again for coming so soon, Mason. It’s good to see you again!”
“It was my pleasure, sir.” Mason replied in a smooth tone. Looking up from the ground, his gaze shifted from his master over to the iron-haired vagabond hanging behind the incubus.
“What? Got somethin’ between my teeth?” Aaron asked, feeling Mason’s gaze linger.
“And you must be Mr. Axenus. I’ve heard quite a bit about you. Thank you for aiding my master.”
“Ah, well, y’know. The bastard wasn’t my number one priority, but I thought I might as well help him out on my way.”
Mason’s sharp eyes narrowed in on Aaron. A flash of silver sprung from his sleeve, and before Aaron could react, Mason had his blade up against his belly.
“I don’t care about what you’ve done or what you plan to do. Refer to my master like that again and I’ll gut you like one of your catches, you dirty fishmonger!”
Aaron was too stunned to even reply, and it took him a few moments to even process the sharp point of the knife up against his stomach. Of course, it took the three monsters hanging further behind Aaron to even less time to surround Mason.
“Babe! You get away from him, you asshole!”
“One twitch. One more reason to make me think you’ll hurt my partner, and I’ll shatter every bone in your body, human.”
“If you hurt my sweetie, I’ll make sure you regret ever being born…”
Mason remained as still as a statue, but his pupils quickly darted back and forth to catch a glimpse of each girl. Aaron, having been restricted with limited options, grit his teeth and held both hands in the air.
The tense silence hanging between the five was shattered when Reese rushed into the scene, slapping the back of his servant’s head so hard it left his hunter’s hand titled.
“Mason! I’m not some kid anymore, and neither are you. You can’t go doing shit like that!”
Mason, sent stumbling away from Aaron, quickly dropped back into a bow, tucked away his knife, and straightened his hat, “My… my apologies…”
After breathing out with relief, Aaron glanced down at the groveling Mason. Half of him wanted to ram his knee into the man’s nose, but he figured that would only further escalate matters.
“Just don’t do that again, you crazy fuck.” the swordsman demanded, rubbing the sore spot on his belly that had been irritated by the knife’s point.
“My deepest apologies… truly, I’m sorry…”
“…anyway. Sorry, Aaron. I can’t offer you much in the way of money. My coffers were already drying up, and getting all these girls out of Legion turf will cost me pretty much every coin I have left.”
While Valerie and Nariko continued to glare down the nervous Mason, Kiera stepped forward and stood at Aaron’s side.
“That’s fine, Reese. We understand. Just make sure you find a good home for all of them.” said the griffon, “You’ll have to smuggle them around, pay off the border guards… I can’t imagine how much money that’ll take.”
“Too freakin’ much, that’s for sure.” Reese grumbled, grabbing Mason by the collar and dragging him back into the driver’s box. After his servant had taken the reigns back into his hands, Reese hopped into the stagecoach.
“Mother says money is the root of all evils…” Kiera asserted, “But it seems to be the grease that slicks the wheels of man’s empires. And without all the treasure I’ve collected, the Roaming Ravens would’ve died out long ago. I suppose coins are funny little things, aren’t they?”
“Yeah. Don’t get all philosophical on us, big girl.” Val sighed, patting the griffon between the wings, “I pretty much value everything based on how neat it is, but money can get some pretty sweet stuff too…”
“Hehehe~ of course, two dirty tribals wouldn’t value money.” Nariko snickered, rolling around the sucker on her tongue.
Aaron was left stunned and helpless as his companions quickly engaged in a three-way verbal brawl.
“I’m sure it’d only get worse if I tried to break it up…” Aaron groaned, already picturing the three girls attempting to rope him to their side of the argument.
Instead, he backed away, only stopping to rest his shoulders against the stagecoach. Looking to his left, he found Reese smirking up at him.
“I suppose this is where we split paths, junior.”
“Guess it is… and would ya stop calling me a kid? Ya can’t be any older than three or five years than me!”
“Nah… I just look so much younger because I turned into an incubus. I’m actually forty-five.”
“After all the crazy shit I’ve seen, that doesn’t shock me too much…” Aaron mumbled, “By the way… here, take this back. Sorry I took it without permission, but I figured you’d understand.”
Digging into his back pocket, Aaron brought out the healing elixir he had nicked in the acquisition room. But when he offered it back to the incubus, Reese pushed it back with a gentle slide of his hand.
“Keep it. You’ll need it more than me.”
Watching the slick incubus’ fangs flash in the summer sunlight, Aaron stepped away and lifted up a hand for a wave goodbye.
“Thanks again, Reese. For everything.”
And with that, the two parted ways. Reese shut the door the stagecoach, closing the blinds to the window to prevent prying eyes.
“Hyah!” Mason cried, whipping the reigns of the horses of his cart. Spurred onwards, the train of wagons went steadily rolling through the twisting hills, leaving a cloud of dirt floating into the humid air. Watching that orange dust rise further into the blue of the sky, Aaron watched a few of the monsters he had helped save peek out from there wagons, waving goodbye to him.
Tucking away his potion, he let a small smile grace his lips.
Turning his back to the path, Aaron faced Valerie, Kiera, and Nariko. The monsters had finished their little spat and were crowded around a boarded-up shack, each one beaming down at him.
“Ready to get going, babe?” Valerie cheered, bouncing off the rickety porch and right to his side.
Kiera, sitting atop the shack’s roof, spread her wings and jumped from her spot, landing gracefully behind him, “Let’s hit the road, partner.”
Leaned against the side of the shack, Nariko let the three of them pass before she skipped to Aaron’s left, letting her feelings known with only a snicker, “Hehehe~”
Immediately feeling Val’s jealousy in the form of a sudden spike in heat, Aaron gasped as the hellhound claimed his right arm, wrapping it between her arms and tucking it between her ash-black breasts.
“Back off, sparky!”
“Why don’t you make me, mutt?”
It wasn’t much later that the grimacing Aaron felt Kiera’s mounds press into his back as she leaned into him, wrapping her arms around his neck.
“Honestly… can’t you two fools give him a break?”
Aaron’s pace was all but halted as the three monsters attempted to tug him over to their side. Feeling his aching bones creak, the swordsman rolled his head back and unleashed a long, tired groan. Reflecting on how exactly he had inadvertently rounded up three monsters that vied for his attention, he could only thank his wildly fluctuating fortune.
“Lady Luck… she’s a fickle bitch, ain’t she?”
Aaron and company had been stomping the trail for a little over three hours. The swordsman himself spearheaded the group, his pack and claymore patting him on the back with each of his steps. He had forgone conversation, presumably reflecting on past events and predicting what would come next.
Kiera, figuring they were far enough away from civilization, took to the air. She was miles ahead of them by that point, scoping out the immediate area for any threats.
Trailing a few yards behind him, as he had requested more space, Val and Nariko walked at each other’s sides.
“Argh… he’s so hot…” Valerie panted. She stared at his ass like a skinny fox would at a plump chicken, and silently cursed the wide sheath of his claymore for partially blocking her view.
Nariko, working on her ninth sucker of the day, peered over to the hellhound, “What was that?”
“Er… nothing, nothing! I was just saying how hot it was… it must be bothering Aaron.”
“Sure you did~!”
“Y-yes, that’s all! Anyway, drop that, I’ve got a question I forgot to ask you… how exactly did you get here from Zipangu, Nariko?” the hellhound fired back, attempting to change the subject.
“Oh yes. I haven’t told you yet, have I?” the raiju hummed, forgetting all about how the fellow monster was encroaching on her sweetie, “Want the full story or the abridged version?”
“The bridge version? What’s that mean? Does it include trolls or something?”
“It means the short and sweet of things, honey…” the eastern princess sighed, “And no, not trolls… well, now I think about it, some might count my aunt as one.”
“Your aunt, huh? All my mom’s sisters died when I was still a baby, so I wouldn’t know what it’d be like to have one.”
“Feh. I wouldn’t be able to tell you, either. Unless everyone’s aunt sells them off like some kind of stinking animal, my relationship with her wasn’t common.”
Valerie’s wagging tail folded between her legs, “N-Nariko, I’m sorry… I didn’t mean to-”
“What, dreg up bad memories? Don’t worry about it, puppy.” Nariko spat, letting the naked stick of her sucker fall from her lips. Bringing out a strawberry flavored one from her kimono, she quickly unwrapped it and began furiously licking, “I gave that scum what she deserved before Otha dragged me to this shithole of an empire. Dwelling on the past won’t do anyone any good.”
While Nariko didn’t see it, Aaron’s static expression sunk into a frown. He had barely heard her words from the distance between them, but they rang in his ears like a cannon fire all the same.
“That burning hatred for the man who slaughtered your kin… that black fire that drove you from death’s icy fingers… those girls have dulled it.” he heard the haunting presence of the Dark Knight chime in, “They’ve made you go all soft.”
Aaron absent-mindlessly stared ahead, across all the rolling hills and patches of towering trees dotting the landscape around there trail. His plan to defeat Lucero was a wild gambit, and even after making it so far, the distance to even attempt that risk still seemed nigh impossible to overcome.
“Maybe… maybe I should just give it all up…”
As if to shake him from his thoughts, the leaves of a thick brush rustled nearby. Before he could even ponder if it was an animal or human, a polite woman’s voice came singing out from the leaves.
“Excuse me! Can you wait for just a moment?”
Aaron hopped in place, stunned to stupidity. Spinning around with all fingers around his sword’s hilt, Aaron peered into the dark thicket, challenging the newcomer to a brawl.
“Peace, friend. It’s just me.”
To Aaron’s bewilderment, it was a kikimora who emerged from the thicket. A very familiar one, at that. The very same monster Otha had taken prisoner.
“Y-you? I thought you left with all the other monsters!”
“I’m afraid not.” the maid said. She stepped towards Aaron, moving with such grace that her heel-like talons didn’t so much as disturb the grass.
“Babe! Who’s this?”
Aaron was nearly bowled over as Val and Nariko rushed to his side. While the hellhound bared her fangs at the kikimora, the raiju cocked a single brow and leaned a bit closer, as if to check if she wasn’t seeing things.
“Oh, it’s you…” Nariko began but soon trailed off. Trying to remember the scant few times she had heard the maid’s name, the raiju furiously licked at the sucker in her mouth, “Urhm… it was Giolla, wasn’t it?”
“That’s correct.” the kikimora confirmed, “I knew you were on some sort of quest, but I wasn’t expecting you to head this way. I was heading a bit more westward than you, but I caught your scents in the breeze, and well…”
“You want to come with us?” Nariko finished for her.
“You see, I’m not much of a fighter. That was how I was caught in the first place.” Giolla explained with a dejected sigh, “It was the eve of my daughter’s fifth birthday. I had gone out to collect the ingredients for her favorite soup, but the market was out of rosemary. I thought to go pick some in the forest, but I was accosted by a group of hunters.”
“Why didn’t they kill you?” Valerie asked.
“They planned on it. They tied me up and brought me to Var’s High Inquisitorial Officer. I was awaiting my execution but a traitor among the guards took me from my cell and auctioned me off to Otha’s men. I’d been trapped serving under her for four months… my husband and poor little daughter must be worried ill over me…”
Aaron’s felt his heartstrings pang at the story, especially picturing a child kikimora bawling uncontrollably into her father’s chest. But something didn’t click with him.
“Hold up one fuckin’ second.”
“Sir! Watch your language.”
“Err… okay, hold on a friggin’ second. You said you went to a market! Var has the biggest ports along the eastern coast, so it’s crawling with legionaries. Are you honestly tryin’ to tell us that you were just browsing a market without getting caught?”
Giolla nodded, completely understanding his suspicions, “I live in a special villa, safe from any Legion patrols. It’s privately owned by several noble families, and we’ve managed to keep our monster population safe and hidden away for generations.”
“Hey!” Valerie barked, her eyes flaring up, “If it’s so safe, why didn’t you bring the rest of the monsters there?”
“I’m sorry, but the villa’s monster population is large enough already. Not only that, but the Legion’s inquisition already suspects us. Bringing an entire wagon convoy in out of the blue would raise suspicions and give a just reason for more thorough investigations.”
“Ha! That’s rich. Is it any riskier than carrying them halfway across the empire in some flimsy wagons? Through all those border checks?” Nariko interjected, aggressively breaking her sucker between her sharp canines.
“Maybe not. But the people of my villa are innocent, and that includes my family. It may be selfish on my part, but I refused to take that risk.”
Rolling her eyes, Nariko whipped out a lemon lollipop and began gingerly licking it, “Bah. Can’t be helped now, I suppose. What do you think, Aaron? Should we let her come with us?”
Aaron pretended to weigh the pros and cons of taking her for a moment, already planning on bringing her with them. He had no intention of leaving a monster to travel on her own within the Legion’s borders, and the fact the poor woman had been separated from her husband and daughter more or less sealed the deal.
“Where is this villa, anyhow?” he asked Giolla, “Because we’re headed down to Paxton.”
Giolla seemed to perk up, “Fantastic! It’s only a three days walk to the west of that city. We can split up from there… I know the area well enough. I’ll take extra precaution to avoid any hunters this time.”
“…alright. You can stick with us until then.”
The kikimora, nervously gripping at the lap of her dress, uncurled her fingers and jumped for joy.
“Oh, thank you so much! I’ll be sure to repay you. I may be of no use on the battlefield, but I’ll make sure to take care of all your laundry and cooking on the way there.”
The bright sparkle in the maid’s amber eyes disappeared as a shadow zipped over them. The heavy beating of wings sounded overhead, and all four of them looked up to see Kiera make a graceful landing between the human and kikimora.
The cat and bird hybrid studied the dog and bird hybrid for a long moment, the latter buckling under the former’s sharp glance.
“I’ve seen you around the fort.” Kiera noted sternly, unintentionally intimidating the maid, “Did you follow us out here? What do you want?”
Snickering at the scene, Nariko waltzed past Aaron, running an electrified hand over the griffon’s shoulder. As she hopped in surprise from the sudden jolt, the raiju continued down the path.
“Sorry, old lady. Looks like she’s taking your spot as team mom.”
“W-what?” Kiera muttered, “J-just because I’m the oldest and don’t fool around like you and Valerie doesn’t make me some wrinkled hag! You take that back, you stupid weasel!”
In spite of her usual level-head, the furious griffon took the mischievous raiju’s bait and chased after her, “Get back here and face me like a true warrior!”
“Motherfucker…” Aaron swore, taking off after the raiju and pursuing griffon, “Don’t do anything stupid!”
As the dust settled, only Valerie and Giolla were left facing off against each other.
“…you’re not going to try anything weird with Aaron, are you?” Val interrogated the opposing canine, “Cuz competing with those two is going to be hard enough as it is.”
“Of course not! I’ve told you, I’m happily married.”
Reading the honesty in Giolla’s eyes, Valerie patted a paw on the kikimora’s shoulder and skipped after the rest of her companions.
“Good! You better cook us some good eats~” Valerie called, dropping to all fours and taking off.
Watching the four crest a hill and vanish in the glare of the afternoon sun, Giolla wondered just what she had gotten herself into. Puffing out her cheeks, she lifted her dress higher and joined the pointless chase.