Illusionistquest Chapter 3: New Ideas


Chapter 15

Hands in your pockets, you walk behind Ginelle, smirking. The sun is still shining in the sky, warmth radiating down enough to give you a light sweat. You hadn’t realized how warm things are getting, especially compared to the coolness of the Manufactorum’s offices. Not that things didn’t get a different kind of heated…

You look over to see Ginelle staring at an odd flower, then poking it with one of her claws. The petals fold into themselves and she steps back, blinking. Ahhh, she’s a nice girl, a little rough around the edges, but you could have found a worse companion on the side of the road. You walk up to her and nod over to some of the more crowded sections of the Market District.

“Hey, let’s look over there for something to eat, I’m sure there’ll be something with honey.”

Her little badger ears perk up at this and she focuses her attention on you. “H-honey you say?”

“Yes. Honey says me.”

She plants her fists on her hips and nods her head. “Well, what are we waiting for?”

You shrug and start walking, merging back into the press of people. This district is so crowded, but the longer you’re here, the more familiar with it you become. You nudge Ginelle over to the side of the street as a cart trundles through and some eager mongers try to get your attention. One guy seems to be selling what looks like capes and skirts, another with baskets full of apples, though not many seem to be left due to the time of day. You easily ignore them and continue on your path when you stop, grabbing Ginelle’s arm before she can get too far away.

She blinks and turns to you, expression curious. At a stall set up in the alcove of a larger building stands a tall Lizardman with long, blond hair, surrounded by fine clothing. Various dresses and suits of all shapes and sizes, made for humans and Monsters alike adorn the racks on display. She notices your eyes on her merchandise and a wicked smile comes over her face as she draws a sword from somewhere, pointing it toward you.

“You there sir, I see you admiring my wares. Looking for a fine dress for the lady? Or perhaps a suit for yourself? Yes, yes I have the perfect one for you!”

“Uhhhhh,” you say, looking toward Ginelle, who merely shrugs. Coughing into your hand as you approach, you ask, “Can you… put the sword away? I’m not looking for a fight or anything.”

She chuckles and slides the sword back to wherever she pulled it from. “I’m just messing with you, it draws people in.”

“Does it though?”

“No, not really,” she says, deflating. “After I got married though, I don’t get much chance to use it anymore.” She sighs, looking wistful before shaking her head and pointing at you with her finger this time. “ANYWAY, you sir, have excellent taste. How much were you looking on spending hmm?”

“Oh, I was just… browsing,” you say, touching a black suit. Not exactly normal fashion, as this one has fewer buttons than you’re used to seeing, as well as buttoning up closer to the waist. Weird, it comes with a white shirt, though where would you put a cravat? Clearly this Lizardman is confused on how fashion works.

She slaps your wrist and you pull back, shaking your hand. “What was that for?”

“I don’t work with no copperless bums.”

“Hey, I have a silver!”

She sniffs. “That particular suit is one of a kind. It’s made of pure Arachne silk and sewn with needles taken from a Cactiraune. It’s going to be the highest fashion in the world, just you wait.”

“So… what, like, two silvers for it?”

She growls, “No, more like three gold.”

Your eyes bulge a little. T-three gold? Jackor damnit, that’s highway robbery! It’s a very impressive suit to be sure, but that much money? For a street vendor? No, no, this will never do. You feel like you need to do something about this.

“Three gold? For a suit with such shoddy stitching?” you say, pointing at a spot on the suit where you’ve made an illusion of frayed stitch work.

She frowns and looks down before narrowing her eyes at you. “There’s nothing wrong with my handiwork. Are you trying to con me?”

You blink once in surprise before doubling down and getting close to her face. “It’s right there, are you blind?”

“What are you talking about? You trying to play mind games with me? I’m a Lizardman, mind tricks donta work on us, only duels, you idiot.”

Oh, right. You remember back to the Grand Wizard’s journey where the Wanderer said that once. How could you forget something like that? Well, that and Richard’s lessons on various Monsters and their relative resistances to illusions. Not nearly as important.

You grumble and step back, “Sorry, guess I saw something wrong.”

“Sure you did you little shit, get out of here,” she growls, drawing the sword again. You raise your hands and step away, her menacing stare following you the whole time.

“Pfft.”

You turn around to Ginelle, who stands there with an expressionless face. “Did… did you just laugh at me?”

“No.”

“You did, didn’t you?”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

You glare at her a little while longer before sighing and continuing on into the crowd. She follows close to you and says, “If it makes you feel better, I think you would have looked nice in that suit.”

“Thank you very much, Ginelle,” you grumble, nodding over to a food stall where a man is handing out what looks like bowls of something that he pours a generous helping of honey into. Well, people seem happy with whatever it is, so you get in line. Thankfully there’s no trouble, though he goes quiet and hands you your bowls rather forcefully after taking your coppers. The implication is clear, “get out.”

Grumbling, you sit down at a bench outside of the stall before looking down at your food. Surprisingly, it’s a kind of stew, you think, with generous amounts of honey mixed in, giving it a rich and sweet aroma. You realize that he didn’t give you any utensils to eat with, so you prepare to stand up and get some when you notice Ginelle just going to town on the meal, slurping it up by tipping the bowl to her lips. Watching curiously, you shrug and do the same, relishing in the powerful flavor of mutton mixed with vegetables cured with the honey. There’s something to be said for living in a town with an excess of the stuff!

Ginelle finishes her bowl and licks her lips, a look of contentment on her face. “Ahhh, meat and honey, the best of both worlds.”

“It really makes you that happy, huh?”

“I told you it’s almost an addiction for my kind. It just tastes… smells… IS so good.”

“Good enough to get you in trouble here before, huh?”

Her smile wanes and she looks down at her empty bowl, turning it in her paws. She’s quiet for a few moments before whispering, “Yes.”

You feel a pang of guilt for saying that out of the blue, but… you’re curious. Still, seeing her like this is a little painful you suppose, so you hold up a hand and say, “Sorry, I just… was wondering what happened before. I’m a little worried since you always say it’s fine when people treat you that way.” Setting down your bowl, you lean back on the bench. “If you don’t want to talk about it though, we can just forget I said anything, sorry.”

“I…” the Badger Girl begins before shaking her head. “I don’t mind talking about it I guess.” She goes quiet and seems to gather her thoughts before continuing.

“I was last here about three years ago, having earned some money working on some farms. I’d never seen so much honey before, and well, I blew my money fairly quickly.” She smiles. “However, when I was out, I still saw more and would do anything to get it. I ended up finding my way to the main district, and the Hive.”

“You didn’t…!” you gasp.

She sighs, “I did. I tried to become a worker for the Bee Girls so I could get a direct line.”

“Oh, that’s not what I thought…”

“Of course, when they refused, as they would since they hate Badgers, I might have snuck into the hive and taken some…” She frowns. “And I might have gone a little… well, maybe a lot, crazy on the stuff and ended up breaking some things in town, always looking for more. That’s when I was confronted by a pack of Bee Girls who were sick of my shit.”

“Ginelle…” you say, putting your hand on her arm, but she shrugs it off.

“I probably deserved what I got. I broke laws, caused trouble for the town, and ended up making a bad name for Badgers much worse.” She shakes her head again. “And then, when they were done beating me, they threw me into the river. I’m still amazed I survived.”

“That’s… horrible.”

“Yes, but again, I deserved it. When people look at me with scared expressions around honey or make comments like the little Wolf Girl did today, I just have to accept it, because it’s true.”

You’re quiet for a long while before sighing and handing her what’s left of your bowl. She narrows her eyes, “Tobias, please…”

“I’m not that hungry anymore,” you say, pushing the bowl toward her. “You kept looking at it anyway.”

She takes the bowl hesitantly before looking up at you. “Even after I told you that story, you’re still going to treat me nicely? Knowing I could just… snap at any instant and drown in honey again?”

“Ginelle…” you begin, before sighing, “I don’t really know how you were a few years ago, but the Ginelle I see today is someone who cares deeply about not making the same mistakes she did before and who strives to make the most out of what she has. Maybe I’m enabling something, but if you start to get a little wild, then I’ll just have to do something to keep you in check.”

You smirk. “Besides, I couldn’t stand to see some dirty Bees beat you up again.”

Ginelle just stares into your eyes for a long time before she looks down at the bowls in her hands, blushing deeply. “T-thank you, Tobias.” She lifts your bowl to her lips, drinking deeply before sighing in relief.

“Ohhhh yeah, that’s the good stuff.”

You smirk and stand up, taking the bowls from her and returning them to the man who grunts and sends you on your way. Which you do, go on your way that is, down through the Market District again, traveling north to the Riverside District. On the way you look at various vendors, selling things from Eastern theatre figures, pure Galmathorian glass, and various magical implements that might be useful. Of course, what really catches your eye is a signed copy of [Wizardquest], though you’re fairly certain the signatures are false because they’re different from the signature you have in your book, which is clearly the correct signature from The Ascendant.

“Are we ever getting to the Riverside?” Ginelle asks as you look over a cape that changes colors based on your mood.

“Yeah, yeah…” you say, grumbling. “This stuff is just cool, alright? We don’t have these things in Kasin.”

“I will never understand men and their obsession with shopping,” she says, shaking her head. You find that thought vaguely hilarious, but you keep it to yourself. Putting the cape down, you head back on your way north. It’s not long until you reach the bridge leading over a large canal with the words, “Riverside District” over it.

The Riverside District lives up to its name, as the majority of the place is covered in crisscrossing canals filled with river traffic coming up and down from the massive Yangrove river, where docks hold large, river-faring vessels laden with all sorts of goods. Where the Market District was filled with the bustle of people coming and going for commerce, the Riverside district is filled with men and Monsters engaged in industry, loading and unloading ships and warehouses, preparing vessels for sailing, or just drinking at a Riverside tavern. There are very few of such taverns in the Market District, but you figure that river sailors want a way to spend their coin after a long day without having to travel all the way to the Residential District.

There are constructs out and about also, almost universally the heavy worker units, lifting and transporting cargo about. Beyond that, there isn’t much to be said for the place, as it’s gear-built for one purpose and one purpose only, but you like that simplicity.

You don’t even scratch the surface of the area before you take a break near the river, watching ships get loaded up as sailor types and more water-based Monsters go about their business.

“Hmm, if I were Fiora, where would I be?” you muse, rubbing your chin.

“Didn’t she have a canal ticket, wouldn’t starting there be best?” Ginelle asks, to which you snap your fingers toward her.

“I like the cut of your jib, but that might be too easy. Maybe we should look into one of the taverns?”

“Why don’t you just break down the door to a warehouse?” she suggests, jokingly.

“Hmmm that could work also.”

“I said that jokingly.”

“Yes, I am aware, but it could be a surprise factor…”

Ginelle sighs, “Well, do whatever you want to do, we only have so much time here anyway.”

“You know what?” you ask, looking around and nodding your head.

“I’m fairly certain I don’t,” Ginelle replies back, crossing her arms under her breasts. “But I bet you’re seriously considering breaking into a warehouse.”

You spin upon her and point a finger. “You would be correct!”

She stares at you for a little while before shrugging. “Fine, at least if we get caught, I’ll be beaten alongside someone this time.”

You tap your noggin. “Nah, we’ll think of a clever and fantastic way out of any trouble.”

“If you say so.” She shrugs and looks about. “So, which warehouse?”

You think about it for a moment. “Probably one that seems fairly quiet and secluded, a run-down one would probably be best to hide in, right?”

“Maybe? I have no idea.”

Patting her on the shoulder, you say, “Leave this all to me.” Actually, you’re not as confident as you sound, but come on, when do you get to break into facilities and look for bad guys? This might be the only time you’ll ever get the chance! Besides, you have the canal ticket lead to fall back on, so what’s a little breaking and entering between friends, hmm?

You nod to the side and start walking, Ginelle in tow as you search for illusions, or your master. The farther north you get, the dirtier the canals and the shadier the buildings, which is perfect. Hells, you don’t see the town guard around as often either, which is fantastic for you. Means less people to get you when you enter a warehouse, right? Of course, that also means less people to help if you get into trouble…

After searching outside a few likely warehouses, you stop in the shadow a large building whose white stone has seen better days. A few, scraggly looking plants grow in the cracks where sunlight barely reaches while vines crawl up the side of the walls. You stop and take a look about for entrances, seeing only a few windows high up and a weathered, wooden door.

You rub your chin and look about, seeing no people or Monsters around before you turn your attention to the door. It’s a simple thing made of solid oak, painted white like the rest of the building. A faded sign hangs over it, proclaiming, “Johannes and Daughters,” but clearly this place isn’t in use. Although, as you look to the ground, you see tracks in some of the built-up dirt. So someone has been in here recently…

Perfect! You turn to Ginelle and nod at her, to which she walks up and looks at the sign before frowning.

“What does it say?”

“You can’t read?”

“No, of course not, who would teach me?”

“Oh, right. Feral Monster and all that.”

“I wouldn’t say ‘feral,’ but…”

“Anyway, let’s try in here. I think we should go in from the top…”

Ginelle pushes at the door and it swings open. You just stare at it, then her, then it again before you shake your head. She smirks and says, “You’re welcome.”

“Frickin frackin badger wrackin…” you grumble before slipping into the door, crouching low, Ginelle following behind you.

The building is larger than you expected, but it’s quiet, almost dead quiet. The windows up top filter in a soft stream of light, making the place dim rather than completely dark. In this light, you see that instead of an empty warehouse, the place is filled with crates of all shapes and sizes. You turn about, searching for illusions, though you get nothing.

Ginelle brushes one of the crates and frowns. “Tobias.”

You flip about and put a finger to your lips. She rolls her eyes, obviously not taking this seriously, though she does speak in a softer voice, “Some boxes aren’t covered in dust. Someone is using this place.”

The crate she’s looking at is crammed in between two other boxes which look unused, while this one seems free of dust. “Love em’ Produce,” you read out before trying to pull the top off, to no avail.

Ginelle pushes you aside and grabs the top, straining as she tears it off, making far more noise than you thought she should have. You look about, worried, but you thankfully don’t hear anything, phew. Ginelle frowns and you look into the box over her shoulder. It’s filled with vegetables of all varieties, though you can feel some magical power leaking from the box as the top is removed. It takes you a moment to realize this produce is magically preserved!

“Shit,” you say, worried. “This is the Phantom Thief’s lair, isn’t it?”

“Looks like it,” Ginelle says, seeming nonplussed. “Not who you were looking for then?”

You grit your teeth, thinking. “Not necessarily. All we know is it’s possibly a woman, so it still could be-” you pause, then push Ginelle down as you hear something in the distance. It’s obviously within the warehouse but what…?

“Singing?” Ginelle asks, frowning. “Is someone singing in here?”

Yes, that is obviously a female, singing with a low and melodious voice, though you can’t quite understand the words. Turning to Ginelle, she just shrugs, obviously having not heard the song before either. Well, anyway, someone is in here, and honestly, leaving would be the best option, but… what if it isn’t Fiora? Better yet, what if it is? You have to know so you can tell your master, and maybe you can finish this all tonight.

Taking a deep breath, you silently nod to the side and the two of you start crawling through the rows of boxes, the sound of singing getting closer and closer. You reach a final row of crates, and the song, which is repeated, is the most powerful here. Mentally fortifying yourself, you take a few, deep breaths before preparing to cast illusions on whatever is over there.

“Alright…” you whisper, “Let’s see what we’re looking at.” Gripping the boxes, you slowly pull your head to the side and look around the corner.

A gentle ray of light from one of the windows illuminates a section of the warehouse where desks with multiple weapons scattered atop them lay. You see a variety of swords and axes, shields, and even some more modern items like cannisters of magitek fuel. Yeah, this is certainly shady, but what really catches your eye is the person singing. Well, perhaps person is a little strong, for she’s most certainly a Monster.

An Alraune sits in the middle of all of this, singing with a hand to her breast as the light plays upon her. She has the upper torso of a beautiful woman with alabaster skin, her curves lithe and beautiful, flesh crisscrossed with tiny vines. Just past her pelvis, her legs form together into the mouth of a giant, white flower with massive petals and long, flowing green stalks. Vines play gently about her while her roots dig deep into the ground.

As you watch her, she turns about in her flower, and her heavenly face looks onto yours, her eyelids slowly opening to reveal glowing red eyes that are a stark contrast to her snow-white hair. Your heart begins to hammer in your chest as you realize she’s smiling.

“Oh… guests. I have been told that I am to deal handle guests with great courtesy.” She raises a hand and you feel Ginelle pull you backward as a vine flies past you, narrowly missing your head. The Alraune laughs and you turn to run towards the door but see the wall where it is become encased in vines, trapping you.

“Please, stay awhile if you would. I have not had guests besides my lady in some time. Please, let me entertain you until she returns!”

 

Chapter 16

Okay, okay, let’s review the facts. You’re trapped in a warehouse with stolen goods being attacked by an albino Alraune who sings cryptic songs and talks about her lady while the only weapons in your possession are your knife and your military-grade Badger Girl.

When put that way, it doesn’t seem so bad, right up until one of the vines smashes a box near where you were standing just moments before, sending pieces of wood and foodstuffs scattering all over the floor.

“Well,” Ginelle hisses at you while the two of you back away from the questing vines, “You got a way out of this?”

“Ugh.” You tap your head, thinking about how the Grand Wizard would have solved this problem. The first thing that pops into your mind is using fire, but you have no lighting sticks or flint or anything. Besides, you’d need one Hells of a fire to do anything to this Monster.

“What if we just talk to her?” you ask, hopeful. A moment later, you hear a crate shifting and you turn about to see multiple vines lifting the one behind you up, revealing you to the leering face of the Alraune.

“Oh,” Ginelle says, grabbing your arm. “We should run.”

“Yes, indeed,” you say as Ginelle drags you backward right before the crate smashes onto the floor where you were, scattering tomatoes everywhere. Chances are good if the crate had hit you, it would likely be a similar appearance to the red stains on the floor.

The two of you round a corner and slam your backs behind another set of crates, hearts thundering in your chests. “I don’t think talking is going to work,” Ginelle says, looking around the corner.

“Can you tear apart those vines on the door?” you ask, once again not learning your lesson and being hopeful.

“Maybe, but she’d catch me before I could finish the job,” She growls. “Might have to just punch her in the face or something.”

“Damnit, if only I had some fire, could burn her out.”

She waves a clawed hand, “Can’t you just… illusion up some fire or something?”

You blink a few times. Oh right, you’re an Illusionist, you create illusions.

Riiiiiggggggggghhhhht. You slap your forehead, thinking it over. Yes, you could pretend to be a simple Pyromancer and scare her into letting you go, but if she reports this to someone, especially Fiora, then it’ll make things very difficult going forward. Which means you need to incorporate a disguise into all of this, but what?

“Where have you gone, my guests?” The Alraune says in that melodious voice. “You make it hard to entertain you if you hide all the time…”

Another vine slaps against a crate next to your face and you shudder as it slithers on by. Right, better make this quick before she picks up any more crates. You take a deep breath and concentrate on the first image in your mind before grabbing Ginelle’s arm and helping her up.

“Just play along,” you whisper to her before weaving your way through the vines and turning the corner toward where the Alraune sits. As you do so, your illusion plays into her mind and she blinks a few times, confused.

“You’re not who I saw…”

“Bitch, you don’t know what you saw!” you say, crossing your arms and standing tall with a snide expression on your face. “Shit, you throwin vines around everywhere, who do you think you’re fucking with here?”

“I… what?” the Alraune says, her former confidence replaced by confusion.

“Bitch, I say, who do you think you’re fucking with here?”

“I do not know.”

“You do not-?!” you turn around once, throwing your arms into the air. “Bitch, get over here.”

“I’m rooted in place.”

“Not you bitch,” you say, snapping your fingers toward Ginelle. “This bitch, this bitch!”

Ginelle, who’s hiding behind a crate gives you a stare that says, “I will rip your spleen out and beat you with it.” She does walk over toward you however, grumbling something to the same effect before crossing her arms.

You grunt, “Bitch, you best not be grumbling at me, you know who I am.”

She grumbles again and you roll your eyes before putting an arm around her waist and dragging her close to you. She blinks a few times and then blushes as you turn back to the Alraune. “Bitch, you should know the only man to ever tame a Hellhound.”

“I am not aware that this has ever occurred,” the Alraune says, eyeing Ginelle, the “Hellhound” warily. Good, she really doesn’t like fire, does she?

“Shit, don’t you see the fucking evidence right here? Do I have to fucking spell it out for you?” You snap your fingers and a small jet of illusory fire appears, causing the Alraune to flinch.

“Bitch, I’m Franz muthafucking Jakovitch.”

You think about it for a moment before adding, “The second. Esquire.”

The room goes silent as you let those words sink in. Oh yes, your amazing dark-skinned complexion, accented with red, finely woven robes and slick, darkened spectacles make the illusion one that no one could deny. Having a fine ass Hellhound on your hip is the icing on the cake, though you’re fairly certain that Ginelle will beat you later for it. You can worry about that if you live through this.

The Alraune shifts a little uncomfortably before asking, “Who?”

You stare at her, amazed. Has no one read the book? Come on people, it’s out there everywhere! Ugh, these Monsters, not knowing their history! You shake your head a few times before growling, “Oh Hells no, I did not just hear that. I DID NOT JUST HEAR THAT!”

The Alraune shrugs, “I suppose it doesn’t matter who you are, I’ll capture you all the same.” Her vines snake toward you again and you lift your free hand, conjuring up fire, which prompts her to pull back again.

“Oh? Oh? What’s that? You afraid of the heat? Bitch get out the kitchen then!” you say, juggling the illusory fireball in one hand. Honestly, you should tone this all down, because it’s getting tiring and not great for your mental health but… you can’t say you’re not having fun.

“Yeah, I thought so. Anyway, you sittin in here with all this shit, you know who’s shit this is?” You don’t let her speak before you continue, “That’s right, it’s my shit, and I’m wanting it back.”

“I’m afraid this all belongs to the Lady now.”

“The Lady? Who the fuck is this high-class bitch you be calling the Lady?”

“A servant of the true Goddess.”

“The fuck that means? I need a bitch’s name.”

“She does not go by any name, for all who are true know of her and her purpose.”

You rub at your forehead. Jackor damnit, this is frustrating. “Bitch, I don’t need any of your mind-games, you best tell me where your bitch-ass Lady is right now.”

“She is out.”

You tip your fake spectacles down. “You don’t fucking say.” You turn to Ginelle and say, “Bitch, this bitch says her bitch is out, you believe that?”

“Uhm,” Ginelle says, confused. “Yes?”

You roll your eyes. Seriously, she needs a lot of work on her acting skills. The Alraune shifts again and you raise the fire up, flaring it. “Oh you best not be trying to sneak attack me, cause you’re going to up in fucking flames if you do.”

The Alraune narrows her eyes but seems to settle down. You’ve bought a little time with this stunt, but the strain of the illusion and the need to watch her vines at all times is wearing on you. If she isn’t going to give you any relevant information, you best get out of here.

“Shit, you best open up the door and let us go, isn’t that right bitch?”

“What?”

“Not you bitch, I mean this bitch.”

Ginelle growls out, “Yes… daddy.”

You blink at her a few times, startled by her choice of words. It’s in character but it still sounds so weird! “Uh… daddy?… Ah, I mean, yeah, that’s right bitch!”

She drives a fist into your side as you look back to the Alraune and say through gritted teeth, “You heard her, open the door.”

The Alraune considers this gravely before shaking her head. “Though it may not be wise to do so, I cannot let you leave. The Lady’s orders are quite strict, and disobeying her word is to disobey the word of the Goddess.” Her vines raise up and, for a third time, your hope is quashed. You should really remember that it is the first step on the road to disappointment next time.

Vines race out toward you and Ginelle pushes you downward, just in time to avoid them. Another set shoots in from the side, and you instinctively throw the illusionary fire at it, causing the Alraune to scream and the vines to recoil, flailing as if actually on fire.

“You bastard!” she shouts, face contorting in pure rage. “I will crush you!” To emphasize this, she grabs another crate with her vines and throws it toward you.

You and Ginelle both dodge out of the way as the crate, this one empty, smashes to the floor, sending splinters everywhere. Rolling to your feet, you throw another fireball toward her, but she intercepts with another vine. She screams again in agony but otherwise she’s perfectly fine enough to strike at you, this time the vine wrapping around your leg and tripping you before pulling you in.

“Sh-shit!” you cry, panicking, the lapse in concentration causing your illusion to begin to slip.  The Alraune looks at you curiously as she drags you in toward her.

“What is this…?” she asks, confused. “You can’t be…”

Before she can finish, Ginelle leaps forward and tears the vine with her claws, freeing your legs and forcing the vine to flail back, spraying out sticky fluid as the Alraune cries, “Ahhhhh! Damn you!”

Ginelle growls and stands before you as you solidify your illusion again, keeping the Franz Jakovitch and Hellhound façade active. You snarl as in both of your hands you charge up fireballs. “BITCH. YOU GUNNA BURN FOR THAT.”

“Ginelle!” you shout, to which she instinctively covers you, batting aside vines as you prepare to toss the illusionary fire. One wraps around her wrist and she tears it off as two more grab her waist. She tears and swats at the assault, but gradually becomes overwhelmed, buying you precious time.

The orbs of fire swell in your hands as you desperately make the act look as convincing as possible. The Alraune grows more and more desperate as she tries to get past Ginelle, who struggles against the vines, her powerful body doing everything she can to hold from tearing apart. When the Badger Girl lets out a cry of true pain, you let out a surge of power and throw the illusory fire at the Plant Monster.

The Alraune recoils backward, managing to deflect one ball of fire, but the other hits her straight in the flower petals and you make damn sure the illusion ignites her. She screams as she goes up in flames.

“Noooooo!” she shouts, slapping at herself to put out the fire. “This can’t be happening! T-this is just another illusion!” She flails about, wailing, “Lady please, don’t play these games on me, I’m being good… I’m serving our Goddess, please don’t… ah… ahhhhh!” Unable to take the strain any longer, her eyes roll up into the back of her head and she slumps over, drool running down her chin. Her vines fall to the floor as she goes unconscious. At least… you think she’s unconscious.

Panting from the exertion, you let the illusion drop while a wave of exhaustion comes over you. Your whole body aches though your arms tingle, as if near a fire. That… doesn’t bode well.

Ginelle throws the slack vines off her and studies the unconscious Monster before turning to you and growling, “Bitch, huh?”

“It’s part of the act,” you sigh out, shaking your head as you approach the desks the Alraune was standing guard over. On the tables are weapons you saw before, but on one sits some papers along with ink, a pen, and a wax seal as well as a few stacks of coins. You make to investigate this table when from the back of the warehouse you hear the door creak open.

Looks like someone else is here, but are they friend, or foe?

 

Chapter 17

You and Ginelle both look at each other before quickly running behind the unconscious Alraune. Doing your best to stay quiet, you watch as a slender figure stalks in from around the crates. With a shock, you realize it’s the damn woman from the inn again! Okay, this is starting to get really, really, weird. She takes stock of her surroundings before muttering a quiet curse and moving to the Alraune, prompting you to slink down further and prepare an illusion, just in case.

“Shit,” the woman says in a soft, yet firm voice. “This is going to make things more difficult…” You hear the sound of metal sliding out of a sheath, followed by a slicing noise. The Alraune before you spasms slightly before soon going limp.

Footsteps echo as she walks away and you chance to look over from your hiding place to see the Alraune’s throat has been cut, green blood draining from her body. You grit your teeth, seeing that the woman is looking over the papers on the table before picking up the seal. “Damnit, how did they get this?”

She pockets it and the letters, then turns to go, ignoring the coins. You sigh out in relief and she whirls about, staring at where you sit. Immediately you cast your illusion to keep you hidden but… fuck, what the Hells is this? It feels like you’re pushing against liquid or something as you struggle to make this illusion work. She stalks toward you, knife held expertly in her hand as she stares right at you with her brown eyes.

The Alraune’s body twitches again, sending out a pulse of blood that spurts out at the woman’s feet. She pauses, then slowly slides her knife back into its sheathe before turning about and exiting the warehouse.

You wait until you hear the door close before you breathe a sigh of relief and leave the corpse of the Monster. While you shouldn’t feel pity for her, this is certainly not what you had hoped would happen. You wanted to call in the guards, maybe get some answers from her, or lure out whoever her boss was, but now… well, that was that. It seems your mysterious guest is a proficient killer, and obviously tied in with whatever is going on here.

“Dollora…” Ginelle says, shaking her head. “She didn’t deserve this.”

“No, probably not,” you say as you look at the lifeless corpse. It was your first time seeing a dead body like this, yet you don’t really feel anything. Is it shock? Hard to say, maybe you’re just a little numb because she tried to attack you, or because she isn’t human, but… Well, there’s nothing for it anymore.

You walk over to the table, grunting as you take stock. “She took all the papers, didn’t even get to see what the seal was.”

“Is that important?” Ginelle asks, looking over a mace on another table.

“Could be. If she has a seal from someone important, she can send fake letters with some serious credibility.”

“You think that woman is…?”

You shake your head. “No, I didn’t detect any illusions, but she… was resisting me somehow, without even being conscious of it I think.”

“Weird. Well, we probably shouldn’t stay here for long.”

“Yeah,” you agree, scooping the money into your pocket. There’s about four gold coins and a handful of other coins, which is at least something for all the trouble that happened here. Better you have it than them, right? The rest of these supplies aren’t worth looting. Looking about, you don’t find any other helpful clues, so you merely shake your head and leave with Ginelle.

The sky outside is beginning to darken and the two of you agree to head back to the inn. You consider telling the town guard about all of this, but with the Alraune now dead, there’s going to be too many questions. Best to let Richard know about everything beforehand and figure out where to go from there. On the way back you pass by a few rough looking customers, but with Ginelle in tow, no one bothers you as you reach the inn.

“Well hey there!” Hannah says as you return while washing out a mug, like a true innkeeper. She raises an eyebrow at the tears in Ginelle’s clothing from the vines. “Fun day you two?”

“You could… call it that,” you say, sounding like you must look, and you don’t mean handsome. “Is Richard back yet?”

“Afraid not,” she says, shrugging. “Man likes to be back before dark though, so he should be here any time now.”

“Right…” you say, heading towards the stairs before pausing and turning to ask, “Have you seen a woman in here who’s about average height with short black hair, wears dark clothing?”

Hanna taps her chin. “Well, yes, but I haven’t seen her today.” She gives you a sidelong glance, “Should I tell her you’re looking for her?”

You wave a hand in dismissal. “No thank you.”

Hannah chuckles, “Well you two sit down, I’ll have food ready in a jiffy… and maybe a sewing needle.”

Though washing up after today and maybe falling asleep sounds enticing, the thought of food sounds positively heavenly. The rumble of Ginelle’s belly is all the confirmation you need to change course to the common room. You put your feet up at a table and lean back, relaxing. Ginelle watches you do this, shrugs, and does the same, though her city girl clothing makes it a little difficult.

Before you can fully relax though, the door to the inn bursts open, almost causing you to fall backward in your chair before you right yourself, looking over as Richard storms into the room, slapping a note down on the table and causing the room to go silent.

“What did you DO?” he snarls before pointing at the paper.

You look at it with a little trepidation and read, “Oh Richie, I’m so glad you’ve come for me. I’m waiting for you with open arms. Love, Fiora.”

Hands shaking, you lick your lips and are acutely aware of everyone’s eyes on you. Slowly, you look up, locking eyes with your master, expression impassive against his steely glare. On the inside though, your heart is hammering hard enough to break glass.

“Master, why don’t we take this somewhere more private.”

Richard, fuming, looks about the room before taking a deep, shuddering breath. He stands up straight and takes the note from the table before nodding toward the stairs. You nod back to him and help Ginelle out of her chair. She grips your arm, but you say nothing, merely following Richard up to your room. As you pass by Hannah, she shakes her head toward the man, jaw clenched. It seems like this isn’t her first time seeing him like this.

Richard opens the door, ushering the two of you in before he slowly closes it and breathes out, trying to control his apparent anger. He swallows before clenching his hands into fists and asking in a low voice,

“What did you do?”

You sit down on one of the beds and rub at your face. “Where did you get that?”

Richard growls, “I asked you a question first, now answer me!”

You and Ginelle look at each other, feeling nervous. Richard has a look in his eye, one that you’re afraid isn’t entirely sane. Generally speaking he’s a nice guy, and though he gets angry, being like this is… a little too much. You raise a hand slowly and gesture for him to sit. He narrows his eyes at you but does so.

“Alright,” you say, speaking slowly. “I’m going to tell you about our day, please wait until I finish the story.”

He grits his teeth but does so, allowing you to tell about your adventures in the Manufactorum and the warehouse. You leave out the little bit about the leyway station, because why would that matter?

“So, in the end, that woman we saw before swiped some papers and a seal after killing the Alraune and fleeing.”

Richard looks at the letter in his hand before sighing and running his hands through his hair, “Jackor damnit kid, this is bigger than I thought.”

You look down, thinking about what you’ve learned so far. Richard is right, this is bigger than you thought, but there’s so much you don’t know. And yet… you’re sure he does.

Once again you look up at your Master and ask, “Where did you get that note?”

He looks down at it, toying at the paper with his fingers. “Someone in a cloak handed it to me as I passed through into the Market District from the Riverside. Before I could realize what had happened, they were gone.”

“An illusion?”

“No, I couldn’t detect any.”

“I… see.” You shake your head and say, “She has to know you’re staying here though, is it safe?”

Richard shrugs. “I don’t know if anything is safe, although with that warehouse compromised, she’s probably got to move somewhere else, though she’ll be on the lookout…”

Ginelle raises a hand and both of you turn to look at her. “I know I wasn’t supposed to be part of all this but… what did this Fiora do? Why are you chasing her?”

The room goes quiet as the question you were wondering was spoken aloud. Richard looks down, grinding his teeth before sighing and rubbing his forehead. “Damnit… there’s really no hope for you to be uninvolved now, is there?” He chuckles and shakes his head, “Jackor, you fucking piece of shit.”

“Answer the question,” you say, folding your arms. Richard looks at you, studying your eyes.

“You know why.”

“No, apparently I don’t,” you say, voice hard as all the confusion, fear, exhaustion, all of it coalesces into this one moment. Staring straight into your master’s eyes, you say, “For someone who is apparently insane, she has put together quite the pieces. Is that the work of an insane person? Has this all been some kind of lie? Do Illusionists really go mad from using their powers?!”

Richard pales and whispers, “Tobias… please.”

You slam your fist on the table. “Answer the question, damnit!” You feel your face heating up. “I swear to Jackor, if you’ve been lying to me all this time, I will leave right now. I’ll leave everything you’ve taught and go my own way. I don’t need a master who lies to me.”

Ginelle puts a hand on your arm and murmurs, “Tobias…”

You push her arm away, but Richard holds up a hand and says, “Alright… alright. Just… let me gather my thoughts.” He pauses for a long moment before beginning, “First thing’s first. As much as I wish it wasn’t true, we do eventually go insane.”

Ginelle sucks in a deep breath at this, looking at you with scared eyes, but yours are locked onto your master’s, watching his words for any hints of lies. You don’t see any, and merely nod your head before he continues. “Secondly, Fiora has most assuredly succumbed to her madness.”

“Bulls-” you begin, but Richard cuts you off.

“Third and possibly most important… I do not believe she is human any longer.”

“I… what?” you say slowly, not fully understanding. “Is that a metaphor or something? She’s become so twisted, she’s no longer human inside?”

“No, I mean that, as far as my sources can tell, she is no longer physically human. She has become a Monster.”

“How?” you ask, putting a hand to your head. “Monsterization is a serious crime outside of Galmathoria, and even still, how could she use illusions? There’s no such thing as a Monster Witch who can use true illusions!”

Richard nods his head. “Yes, I know. That’s why this is so concerning, even more so because of what you discovered today.”

You close your eyes, trying to process all of this. “So… she’s insane, yet she’s not insane, and she’s a Monster.” Frustration mounting, you throw your hands up into the air and ask, “What does that even mean?”

Richard puts a hand on your shoulder and shakes his head. “That’s what I’m trying to figure out myself.”

“We should get the Crown involved in this,” you say, standing up. “Let them handle everything, they’ll figure it out.”

“I’m afraid that option isn’t available.”

“Why?”

“From what I was able to gather today, much of this stems from the mayor. I’m afraid Fiora somehow has him in her pocket. If we make open moves like that, we’ll easily de-stabilize this city, and could cause serious harm to the Kingdom as a whole. If we do that, then Galmathoria might take it as a sign of weakness and…”

You grit your teeth and hiss, “Finally launch a full invasion.”

“My thoughts exactly,” Richard says, nodding his head.

“So what do you do?” Ginelle asks, sitting behind both of you while trying not to be intrusive.

You and Richard exchange glances. He shrugs and says, “I think our plan is still the same. We have to take her out ourselves before we can fix what damage she’s already caused.”

“But what if she tries to attack us here?”

“I… doubt that. She hasn’t covered her tracks at all, and she even had an operative with a great chance at killing me today, but instead she left a note. She has to know why I’m here, so either she doesn’t think I can stop her or…”

“She wants you to find her,” you complete, shaking your head. “I don’t like that at all.”

“Fiora always did like playing games.”

“This is one Hells of a game!” you grumble while leaning back in the chair.

“What about that other woman?” Ginelle asks, “How does she fit into all of this?”

“I don’t know,” Richard says, shrugging. “She’s staying in this inn and it doesn’t sound like she knows about us. I got an odd vibe from her before though. If she’s a part of all of this, it might be good to speak with her.”

“What if she’s part of Fiora’s little gang?”

Richard thinks it over before shrugging. “I guess that would be good to know also.”

You stand up and move to the door. “Well, let’s ask Hannah to tell us whenever she gets back, alright?”

Richard nods his head and yawns, “Good idea. See if she can’t bring some food up to the room too. I think I’m a little too tired to go out there tonight. She’ll make me try to drink.”

You roll your eyes. “You good up here Ginelle?” She waves a hand at you in confirmation and you shake your head before heading downstairs. The common room got chatty again, which is much nicer than the silence. You make your way over to the main counter where Hannah sighs.

“How’s he doing?”

“Calmed down some.”

“Thank goodness. He can be so serious sometimes. Let me guess, he wants food in the room.”

You smile at her. “You really do know him well.”

“Repeat customers make their way into my head. Was there anything else you needed?”

“Yeah actually,” you say, rubbing the back of your head. “Hey, if that woman I was talking about happens to come back, could you let me know? There’s something I need to ah… talk to her about.”

Hannah raises an eyebrow. “Really now? Even though you have that nice Badger…”

“We’re not together,” you say as a reflex.

She chuckles and sniffs the air before saying, “Well, lucky you, someone just got here.”

You furrow your brow and turn around to see the door closing and the woman lowering her cowl as she enters the building. She looks up and locks onto your eyes. The two of you just stand there, looking at each other for a long moment before you take a step toward her and ask, “Hey, could you…?”

She flings open the door before you can finish and runs out of the inn. You just stare after her as it all processes for you. Hanna laughs behind you though,

“Hahaha! Better go after her kid! You’ll never get anywhere if you just stand there!”

 

Chapter 18

Shit, shit, shit. Without thinking, you make to chase after her, but as you reach the door, your intelligence finally kicks in and you realize that this is not the best of ideas. Going out alone, chasing someone who clearly has the resources and the will to kill someone is probably going to end poorly for you. Adding in the fact that she seems to be somewhat resistant to illusions, the equation is not in your favor.

“Eh? You got cold feet or something?” Hannah asks behind you. “Or maybe you already did something? My, what a heartbreaker you must be.” She chuckles heartily, but you merely shake your head and walk away from her.

“Hey!” she says, pushing her way out from behind the counter. She runs up to you and locks you in place with a large, furred hand on your shoulder. “Don’t get all bent out of shape, it’s just a joke.”

You shake your head. “It really isn’t.”

“What, you really did something to her?”

“No, I didn’t do any… gah. Look, it’s a little more complicated than that.”

“It always is,” Hannah says before letting you go and sighing. “I take it this has to do with Richard’s, ah, ‘business?'”

You nod your head in the affirmative and she sighs again. “Great… well at least she pays up in full every morning, in case she has to leave quickly I assume. Looks like it’s no skin off my back if she’s gone, but what are you going to do?”

“Not certain. Probably go speak with Richie or something about all of this, see what his opinion is.”

“So… you’re not going to go after her?”

You throw your hands up in the air. “And do what? She’s wearing dark clothing, it’s nighttime, and there’s tons of people around. She’s probably loooong gone by now.”

Hannah rolls her eyes. “You have a badger.”

“I’m sorry, what now?” you say, frowning.

“I said, you have a badger.”

“I was being facetious.”

Hannah puts her hands on her hips. “Well I wasn’t. Look, Badger Girls have a great sense of smell, almost as good as us Wolves.”

“It’s not like I have anything with her scent…” you pause as Hannah pulls out a handkerchief from her pocket. “Uh, why do you have-”

“Dropped it earlier, thought I’d return it to her.”

“But why would you give it to me? What do you get from this?”

Hannah chuckles and presses the handkerchief into your hands. “Look, I don’t think you’re going to hurt the girl, and clearly it’s important to you, so it must be important to Richard.” Her voice grows cold despite her smiling face. “If you do have ill-intentions though, I’ll rip both your arms off and beat you with them.”

You have a strong mental image of this occurring and can only shudder. Best to just bow your head in thanks and head up the stairs to your room. When you put your hand on the door handle however, you stop as you hear Richard’s voice from behind the door.

“Sometimes I just wonder if that kid is really thinking straight.”

“What makes you say that?” Ginelle replies, voice slightly muted by the door.

“He’s smart, don’t get me wrong, but sometimes he just plays into these childish fantasies of his too much. I’m just afraid for the day when he’s forced to really grow up, it might be too much of a shock for him.”

“I think he’s stronger than you think.”

Richard chuckles, “Looks like you’ve taken a shining to him.”

“In a way…” Ginelle says, almost too quiet for you to hear.

“I think someone like you is good for him to have around. You keep him out of trouble, you hear?”

“I’ll do my best.”

“Good girl,” Richard says before stomping his foot down. “Boy is taking his damn time though.”

Guess that’s your cue. You open the door, pretending you hadn’t heard anything, and the two look at you with perplexed expressions. Richard lounges back in his chair, sighing out, “Ol’ Hannah bringing us some food?”

“Yes and no,” you say, shaking your head. “Things may have gotten a little complicated.”

Richard leans forward and narrows his eyes. “Complicated how?”

“Complicated as in, as I was asking after our mystery woman, she entered the inn, then bolted as soon as I tried speaking with her.”

Richard groans, putting a hand to his forehead. “Damnit, there goes a damn good lead. We might never find her in this city now.”

“Not so fast…” you say, pulling out the handkerchief.

Ginelle cocks her head. “You need to blow your nose?”

“Yes, it… wait, what? No, no, this handkerchief belongs to our quarry!”

It’s Richard’s turn to cock his head. “And how exactly did you obtain this?”

“From a wolf.”

“Hannah…” Richard grumbles. “Well, no sense in looking a gift horse in the mouth. Maybe we can get a friendly Dog Girl to help us search for her.”

You shake your head this time and point to Ginelle. “Who needs a Dog Girl when you have a badger?”

The two of you look toward the Badger Girl, who blinks, pointing at herself. You both nod in unison and she sighs audibly before standing and grabbing the handkerchief from your hand.

“You owe me for this.”

“Ginelle.”

“Yes Tobias?”

“Are you lost?”

“No Tobias, I am not lost.”

“Are you certain? Because you seem pretty lost.”

Ginelle turns about, placing her hands on her hips as she glares at you. “I am not lost! I know exactly where I’m going!”

You raise your hands defensively. “Just making sure, alright? This area seems… unlikely she’d be here.” The three of you are still in the Residential District, though it’s an area that isn’t nearly as well traveled as the others, populated mainly by older gentlemen and scantily clad women as they traverse through the light of red tinted lanterns.

“Look, this is where her scent leads to, it’s not my fault if she chose this place.” She narrows her eyes as a duo of Wolf Girls walk by, waving their tails in a flirtatious manner toward Richard and yourself. She growls and the two jump away, growling back, before sauntering down the path. You may or may not have stolen a glance before snapping your attention back to Ginelle.

“Well then,” Richard says, coughing into his hand. “This would actually be quite the ideal place to hide out I suppose. Let’s look around a little and, ah, I mean.” He takes a deep breath before waving his hand toward Ginelle. “Lead on.”

She shakes her head before leading the two of you further down the red lantern area, sniffing every few feet. The farther you walk, the more uncomfortable you and Richard feel as the hungry eyes of ladies, and Monsters, of the evening watch you like predators. One rather stacked Harpy even brushes you with her wing as you pass by, revealing a very alluring body beneath. You gulp and return your eyes to following Ginelle, getting your head back in the game. To be fair, your other head is trying to get into the game also, but damn if you’re not doing your best to keep him on the bench.

You walk past maybe five more brothels before Ginelle stops and furrows her brow. “This can’t be right,” she mumbles, sniffing the handkerchief again before looking at a group of Cat Girls lounging languidly in front of an inn. She cocks her head then turns back to you and Richard. “The scent ends at these Monsters here.”

“She’s clearly a human though,” you say, rubbing at your chin, and clearly not admiring the shapes and curves of the scantily clad Monsters.

“Well, that’s where this trail ends,” Ginelle says, adamant.

“Maybe she managed to wash off her scent trail?” Richard says, trying to be helpful.

“No, it doesn’t… I don’t know,” Ginelle says, shrugging before pointing at a Cat Girl at the edge of the crowd with black fur and auburn colored hair. Her clothing is a little less revealing than the other two’s, especially the small skirt she has on, going to about mid-thigh. She pays you no particular mind, merely chatting with the other Monsters around her, laughing amiably.

A glance to Richard just returns a shrug. Some help he is. You merely roll your eyes before sighing and walking over to her. As soon as you approach, the two other Cat Girls look up at you, their tails wagging back and forth in sensual motions. You ignore them as you stand before the other girl and cross your arms. Eventually she looks up at you and raises an eyebrow.

“Can I help you?”

“Yes, I’m looking for a woman about this high.” You hold your hand out in front of you at the height of the woman. “With dark hair and darker clothing. Have you seen anyone like that?”

She shrugs, looking disinterested. “Lots of people come by here, can’t really remember all of them.”

This isn’t going to go anywhere. You sigh and make to turn around when Richard walks up and puts a hand on your shoulder, stopping you. He smiles down at the Cat Girl and says, “I’m sorry for my son’s rudeness, you see, he’s a little nervous around such pretty women.”

The other two Cat Girls titter between themselves, but the one before you merely frowns. “What of it?”

“Well, you see, what he really wanted to ask was, ‘how much for a night with you.'”

Both you and the Cat Girl look at Richard, mouths agape. He just smiles at the Monster amiably as her face starts heating up. You blink a few times, your own face heating up from embarrassment. “H-hey, I didn’t mean to!”

Richard crouches down to eye-level with the Cat Girl, whose tail is trashing nervously back and forth. His smile grows even wider as he reaches out and grabs her wrist, locking her in place.

“Got you.”

Her free hand instantly goes under her skirt and a flash of metal heralds a knife which she slashes at Richard, who pulls away in time to avoid it, but allows her to escape. She dashes down the street to a chorus of screaming Cat Girls. Richard curses, yelling for the two of you to chase her. Both you and Ginelle barely hesitate before doing so, running furiously to keep sight of her as Richard does his best to try and keep pace.

She dashes through people on the street like a living liquid, weaving in and out of the lightly populated area with grace denied you and Ginelle as you barrel through those she merely sidestepped. You try throwing out illusions to get her off guard, like a barrel here, or a person walking out of an alley there, but despite the effort in making them stick, she avoids your fake people as easily as real ones, and even does a somersault over the barrel, making your mouth drop open in surprise. Yeah, there’s no way in the Hells you’ll ever catch her on your own, holy shit.

As you leave the red lantern area, she dodges into a side-alleyway, the two of you barging into it moments later, your knife drawn and Ginelle’s claws at the ready. You look back and forth, yet see no signs of her though, almost as if she had vanished! The two of you step down the alleyway, looking around in confusion, as the only way out would be from where you entered thanks to a dead end. Richard comes in a moment later, panting furiously as he looks around the alleyway.

“W-where…hah…haha… where is she?”

A dark shape drops down from behind Richard, and the gleam of a knife appears at his throat. He tenses up and both you and Ginelle’s eyes go wide. A palpable tension forms in the air as the Cat Girl says in a slow, yet firm, voice,

“Tell me why you’ve been following me all day.”

“Follow you? I thought you were following me!” you say, mind racing. This woman is obviously the same one from before, but how could Richard tell, and what exactly is she? You can only think of one Monster you’ve ever heard of who can change her shape but… nah, there’s no way that would be right. Why would she even be here?

The Cat Girl inches the knife closer to his throat. “Tch, of course you’d say something like that. Now then, what are you and your Lady doing in this city? Tell me truthfully and I’ll just turn you into the town guard with minimal bruises.” She presses the knife enough to draw a trickle of blood from Richard. “Don’t tell me, and I’ll be forced to get violent.”

You lick your lips, deciding to go for the gambit, to roll the dice. “Calm down there. There’s no need for this to get violent, Saya.”

Her eyes go flat as she looks directly at you.

“How do you know my name?

 

Chapter 19

Don’t freak out. Seriously, don’t do it. It would be really, really, bad if you freaked out right now.

Though you tell yourself these things, you can’t help but start breathing a little hard. Saya looks at you oddly as you try to martial your thoughts, but the grip on her knife never wavers. She grits her teeth and asks again, “Who are you, and how do you know my name?”

You take a shuddering breath, trying to stay in the moment. Your master has a knife to his throat, one which could be used at any time to end his life. And the person holding the knife is a shape shifting Monster with great reflexes and is the daughter of the Grand Wizard and she’s some kind of horror-blob thing and-

“Why are you making that face?” she says, brow furrowed. “Seriously, answer the damn question!”

You shake yourself, realizing that you started drifting off again. Okay, okay, shit, gotta get back into the scene. You slowly raise your hands, showing her that, even though you held your knife, you didn’t mean to hurt her. “Take it easy, we don’t mean you any harm. As to how I know your name, well…”

You shrug. “I can’t think of any other Monster who can change her forms so masterfully.”

She stares at you for a long time before sighing out, “Oh Gods, you’ve read the stupid book, haven’t you?”

“Hey now! Your father did some great things and wrote an amazing book, and your adventures together are really cool and legendary and everything and-”

“Apprentice,” Richard says in a stern voice. “Be quiet.”

“But… but come on! She’s like a freaking celebrity!”

“Yes, a celebrity with a knife to my throat that you’re doing nothing about.”

“But… but come oooooon.”

Saya growls, getting both of your attentions. “Look, just because my dad is famous doesn’t mean you should forget that I have a knife to this guy’s throat.”

Richard rolls his eyes. “What knife?”

“What are you talking about?” Saya asks, looking down and then gasping as Richard holds up a hand. To your eyes, he’s not holding anything, but Saya leaps back, looking at her hand and dropping the real knife, apparently thinking that Richard stole it somehow.

“H-how did you do that?”

“I think we’re the ones in the position to ask questions now,” your Master says, tossing the illusionary knife in the air. “Begging my idiot apprentice’s lack of manners, but it seems we might have some miscommunication here.”

“Is that so?” Saya says as she crouches downward, drawing another knife from under her skirt.

“Is it really necessary to do that?” you say, scratching your head. “Can’t you like, just dissolve us or something? I mean, the only thing you can’t dissolve was the magical sword that the Great Hero used, but it’s not like we have something like that.”

Richard groans, “Damnit kid…”

Saya blushes, “Look, I’m not a fan of doing that much anymore and-”

“Oh, oh, do you still have to change bones to change your form? I think it’s inconvenient, but I bet you stored bones all over the city as contingency plans, huh?”

“Well, yes, I do still have do that, but I’m always improving with-“ She stops and hisses, “Stop trying to distract me!”

“Aww come on, we both know you’re not going to try to hurt anyone here.”

She growls and dashes past your Master with blurring speed and you step back, taken totally by surprise. You flail about to try and make an illusion appear, but due to your lack of focus, you’re unable to get a good grip upon her mind, and she gets within five feet of you… before she suddenly trips over nothing.

The Monster is taken utterly by surprise and falls into a roll on the ground, springing up with her knife drawn, staring at you in disbelief. She looks quickly to Ginelle, who is not where she should have been to trip her. “What the Hells are you people? How did she move that fast?”

Richard shrugs and walks up next to you, putting a hand on your shoulder. His expression betrays nothing, but obviously he made the illusion to trip Saya, he just had to have. “We are the people who now have you in a corner. Just calm down and we can talk this out.”

Saya looks behind her out of the corner of her eyes and curses before sliding the knife back into her thigh holster. She crosses her arms and glares. “I could just melt the three of you.”

“See, I told you she could do that,” you say smugly.

“Not now Tobias,” Ginelle says quietly, and Richard nods his head in agreement.

“Alright, fine,” Saya says, waving a hand. “Besides one of you being one of those rabid fans of that adventure who apparently knows everything about me…”

“You were made of Matango spores, Swamp Horror essence, Arachne venom, a dash of Monster plague, and Victoria’s head…” you mutter.

“What was that?”

“Nothing! Just, you know, saying how I totally get you! Thinking that I’m some kind of crazy fanatic about [Wizardquest], pshaw.” Everyone gives you an expression that says they aren’t buying your shit. You just cough into your hand and stand straight, speaking in a more respectable tone,

“Right then, so we know that you were in the Johannes and Daughter’s warehouse today.”

Saya grumbles, “Damn, I knew there was someone watching me.”

“Indeed. We saw you kill that Alraune and take some papers along with a wax seal. What did they say?”

Saya narrows her eyes. “You still haven’t given me a reason to trust you.”

“Well, we haven’t actually tried to attack you or anything. If we were with the Phantom Thief or Fiora, would we really be talking? Wouldn’t we go right to the stabbing, as ineffectual as that would be as evidenced by Fort Carls… ah…” you cut off, coughing.

“Fiora? So that actually is her name,” Saya says, seeming to relax a little. “So those documents are related to all of this.”

“All of what exactly?” Richard says. “I have a feeling we’re here for two different goals, though they converge upon the same person.”

“Seems that way,” she says, shaking her head, feline ears twitching this way and that. She studies Richard for a long moment before nodding her head. “The name is Saya, and yours?”

“Richard Dennerman.”

Saya nods her head and looks to Ginelle who gives her a nod back. Finally she looks to you and you really, really wish you had your copy of [Wizardquest] on you. Oh, maybe you can get her to sign it back at the inn? If only it wasn’t such a large book, you’d carry it around with you, but alas, it is.

“Tobias Shady,” you say, smiling at her. She gives you that odd look again and you have to think if you’re making a goofy face or not. No, no you don’t think so, although Ginelle is looking at you out of the corner of her eye curiously.

Saya nods her head before looking about, making sure no one is watching behind you before speaking. “I was sent here on suspicion of corruption and insurrection against the Kingdom, and it looks like the information is good. Apparently this, ‘Fiora,’ is the one behind all of this? I cannot yet discern if she is human or Monster though.”

Richard nods. “We are on a mission to put down Fiora before she can cause more trouble than she’s already started.”

“Who sent you?” Saya asks, curiosity in her expression.

“The Crown.”

She frowns deeply. “Mother never said the Crown was moving against this, she would have known if they were. Unless it’s that damned secret division…”

“Mother?” you ask, unable to contain yourself. “Like, Selene, the Cat o’Nine Tails? The current Monster Lady?”

Saya gives you a blank expression again before rolling her eyes. “Yes, oh devoted fanboy, my mother is the Monster Lady.”

“That is so cool.”

“Tobias…” Richard growls and you hold up your hands in a placating gesture.

“Alright, alright, I get it, I get it.” You shake your head. “Who sent you out here though? Surely your father is too busy to keep up with such things.”

“Yes, dad is busy, but can you hop off his dick for a moment? Anyway, I’m here in the capacity of the Monster Lady.”

Richard sucks in a sharp breath. “So this does concern Galmathoria.”

She nods her head in the affirmative. “Possibly. We received reports of war constructs being made in the Crown’s name through channels of ours and that their destination is Helsmcrag.” She shrugs. “Problem is, as soon as anyone tried to look into it through official channels, the mayor of Loveura stepped in and threatened reprisal actions.”

“So she sent you…” Richard muses.

“And the Crown found out and sent you,” Saya says, nodding her head.

You furrow your brow. “So wait, you actually do get paid by the Crown to basically be a hitman?”

Richard nods his head, “Yes, a job I think you’ll have to take some day.”

“I see…” you say, frowning before looking back up to Richard, then Saya. “I just wonder though, how do you know about Fiora’s ah… condition while she does not?”

Saya cocks her head, clearly interested in what you meant by this. Richard just says, “When I said she was seen in town, I wasn’t lying, though she was seen as human by my informant.”

He pauses for a moment before taking a deep breath and saying, “My theories on her undergoing Monsterization are based on the behaviors described. These are not the works of an insane human.”

Saya’s eyes go wide. “Monsterization? What kind of Monster?”

Richard holds a hand up. “I don’t know. Yes, this is something your mother would likely want to know about, but I don’t know what to tell her. It’s a guess at this point, but I’ve dealt with many who lose control of their minds and they don’t make plans to start a war.” He thinks about it for a moment. “This intelligently anyway.”

Saya puts a hand to her head, shaking it. “Wait, wait, wait, insanity? What are you talking about? Who are you people anyway, some kind of sorcerers?”

You and Richard look between each other before nodding and turning back to Saya. In unison, you both say, “Illusionists.”

Saya just stares at the two of you for a long moment before groaning, “Oh Gods, dad warned me about Illusionists.”

“He did?” you ask, surprised. “What did he tell you?”

“That you’re all impulsive, cocky, slightly insane pranksters.” She studies you for a moment. “I think he was right.”

“Hey now, that’s not fair!” you say, preparing to defend yourself when you hear sounds of men laughing from the street behind you. You turn about as two men in town guard uniforms, the brilliant white stained with various food and drinks, walk past the mouth of the alleyway and stop, staring at the four of you.

“Hey!” one of the guards asks, his voice sounding a little tipsy. Obviously he takes his duties QUITE seriously. “What’s going on down there?”

You prepare to say something when Saya slips up next to you, wrapping her arm around your waist. Your cheeks start to heat up as she rubs her hand over you, her scantily clad chest pressing against yours. Before you can really process this, you realize that Ginelle is pressing herself against your other side, though she doesn’t have the same, sensual face as Saya.

Saya coos out, her face pressed against your shoulder, feline ears tickling your cheek. “Oh, I’m sorry sirs, we were merely… discussing a deal.” She draws a finger across your chest. “These gentlemen are a little shy you see…”

The guard’s mouth opens in a knowing smile. “Oh aye, first time out in the red lantern side, eh lads? Well, I know that what’s about, but you ladies know the rules. Take it inside.”

“Oh of course sirs, of course…” The guards tip their helmets to the four of your before continuing on their way. You look down at the two women clinging to you and can’t help but put on a goofy smile, basking in it for a moment. Come on, a legend is touching you! Wait that didn’t come out right…

They both look at each other before rolling their eyes and elbowing you in the abdomen, driving the wind out of you and causing you to stagger to one knee. They nod toward each other in an understanding only women have and walk away. Richard merely watches you writhe in pain. “I think it would be best if we continue this back at the inn.”

“Agreed,” Saya says, picking up her fallen knife. “I do have something I’d like to gather up before we return however…”

“Hahaha! You did it kid!” Hannah says as the four of you enter. She has a smug expression on her face as she nods to Saya, who is back in human form, though she does keep her distance from you. “Guess I don’t have to rip your arms off then, do I?” Saya gives you an odd expression and you just wave a hand, not really wanting to talk about it.

Jeanie pokes her head from around her mother’s skirts, a wolfish smile on her face as her tail waves furiously. “Ohhhhh, so Mr. Apprentice has a new lady hmmm? You cad you.”

Hanna swats her on the head, sending the little girl tittering away. The older Wolf Girl rolls her eyes. “I have no idea where she gets it from.”

“You, I’d assume,” Ginelle says offhandedly.

Hannah chuckles and waves a hand. “Yes, yes. This is the third time I’m offering food, if you don’t take it now, I’m going to cut you off for good.”

Richard smiles and laughs, “Thank you Hannah, I promise this time we won’t skip out on your hospitality.”

She sniffs, though her tail starts wagging. “Bah, can’t ever say no to that smile. You best not be telling my husband, you hear?”

“I’m telling Daaaaaaad!” Jeanie says, dancing around her mother’s legs before squealing and running after Hanna picks up a broom.

“Bah! I’ll be with you in a moment,” she says, before shouting, “I’m coming for you, you little pup!”

You watch as the two run away, before turning back to the others to see Saya smiling. She notices your gaze and her expression becomes stoic again. “Just… reminds me of my little sisters is all.”

You’d heard that the Monster Lady had two twin daughters, but [Wizardquest] ends shortly after the return to Sanctifrond. As soon as you think of this, you remember that your book is upstairs! You take Saya’s hand without thinking and drag her up the stairs, the surprised Monster protesting the whole way.

“What the Hells are you doing?!”

“I need you to sign my book!”

“Gaaaaaaaah!”

You nearly break down the door to your room and let go of Saya’s arm before grabbing your copy of [Wizardquest] and presenting it to her, you panting the whole time. She gives you look of utter revulsion before taking the book from your hand and studying it, flipping over the first few pages. She stops at the signature from The Ascendant before looking at it critically and saying, matter of fact,

“It’s fake.”

You blink a few times, certain that you had temporary memory loss. “I’m sorry, what did you say?”

“It’s fake, the signature.” She looks over the book again. “Truthfully, I like Veronica’s copy the best, as my dad’s footnotes are almost unintelligible, but yeah, this isn’t her signature.”

You stagger backward until you reach one of the beds and collapse down onto it, staring at the floor. Somewhere, you knew the signature was fake, but it’s your prized possession and- You feel something tap your head and you look up to see Saya holding your book before you. Staring at it, you numbly take the book from her hands and just set it on your lap.

Saya coughs into her hand and says, “Flip the page.” You do so, and your eyes go wide as you see a fresh new signature written in ink, saying, “Saya.”

You look up at her and she shrugs, though you think you see some color in her cheeks. “No one’s ever asked for my autograph before, alright? It’s still a little creepy you’re so obsessed, but I could at least do something.” You jump to your feet and go to hug her, but she elbows you in the chest again and you fall onto your side, wheezing as Richard and Ginelle come up the stairs with trays of food.

Richard merely shakes his head.

“Idiot.”

 

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4 thoughts on “Illusionistquest Chapter 3: New Ideas

  1. I still can’t tell how you manage to put so much reference in a story, by the way, is this also base off a CYOA like Wizardquest or is it original content?

    1. I think there’s a part with Sheev posting and baneposting in the same fight.

      But yeah, it’s in the same world, just 20 years later. The story is meant to be a bridge between the next Wizardquest and the first, but it ended up being much longer than expected.

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