Wizardquest Part 19: The Final Battle Pt. 1


Chapter 180

 

Blake takes in a deep breath as the men shift into another, fairly outrageous pose. They make no immediate movements to attack, but everyone in the room feels the familiar tensions that speak of violence on the edge of breaking out.

“Chad… You’re a Hero, your job is to fight against the Monster Lady, not defend her.” Says Blake, hand still on his sword. The center man, the one with the sword and perfectly maintained short, black hair, flexes his muscles as he chuckles.

“Bro you’ve got it all wrong. See, we used to think that, but when Mistress Tolosh came in, she showed us the way bro!”

“That’s right bro!” Chimes in the spear wielder, a lean and sinuous man with long, red hair that seems to flow even without wind.

“Thanks Todd, got my back.” Says Chad, nodding. “Anyway, so we fought, sure, but we didn’t stand a fucking chance against that power. We thought we were dead, but we were shown some righteous mercy bro. Mistress Tolosh, she showed us a better path bro!”

He smiles broadly, “Bro, we got it all wrong! The Monsters don’t want to destroy us bro, they just want some lovin’! Like, it’s a puss paradise, bro!”

Todd speaks up, “Ever get with a Succubus? Shit’s fucking coinage bro!”

The last man, slim but still muscular, nods his head as one of the pages in his book flips on its own. “Gazer, bro.”

“Niiiiiccceeeee.” Says Chad before looking back to Blake. “Bro, it’s a dream. All we gotta do is just let them in, just gotta stop fighting them. We can live in the heavens man, day and night!”

Blake grits his teeth, “They’re transforming women into Monsters against their will! Tolosh is also changing men into abominations!”

RJ shakes his head. “Those in Galmathoria chose to live this way when we were shown the truth of Dollora. We laid down our arms and we were rewarded, bro.”

Chad extends a hand, “Bro, I know we were told to kill you, but we don’t have to! Join us man, all of you join us! I’m sure the Mistress will let you in too. Be like the good old days bro, come and crush some choice puss with us.”

Hala snarls and takes a step forward, “He already has a ‘puss’ to crush.”

RJ raises a finger and you feel a tingle of magic as a gust of air slams into Hala, sending her flying back into a wall. She coughs, picking herself up as Chad shakes his head.

“Not cool little woof.” He winks at Blake and mouths, “Nice bro.”

Blake looks over to Hala and keeps from drawing his sword, before he grits his teeth. He growls out, “Chad… We used to be like brothers. Back then you and I shared a common goal, a dream where we would unite Monsters and humans together.”

Chad throws up his arms, “And that’s what we’re doing bro!”

Blake looks to you. You shake your head, having performed a [Fast Scan]. They’re like Franz Jakovitch, but not nearly as changed. Their humours mostly human, but still showing the signs of darkness in them. Their minds, however, are fully their own.

You consider sending in Saya, but something makes you hesitate from just sending what is a veritable war-crime of a Monster in against these men. You don’t want her to become familiar doing this sort of thing,and that sorcerer may be able to hurt her! Besides, the thought of her having a man inside her, even to digest them… Your poor heart can’t handle that!

Blake shakes his head, “No. You’re taking the easy way out by giving up your humanity for sex and power. Gods know I’ve erred before too, far more than I can count, but at least I know where my convictions lay. You’ve been made a pawn in a scheme you can’t even comprehend, one which ends in humanity either enslaved to the Monsters or dead. Deleor will be buried under corpses and semen, and it will be because you took the easy way out.”

Chad shakes his head, sighing. “Mistress Tolosh said you wouldn’t get it bro, but I thought that… Well, so be it then bro.”

He twists to a new position, his sword coming to the ready as the other two do the same. Your party draws their weapons, organizing together as you drag Saya farther back. Blake lets out a cry and both he and Harmony dash to Chad while Tabitha, Veronica, and Hala charge Todd, leaving you to face down RJ, the pages of his book flipping in a violent matter as wind begins to pick up around him.

You quickly draw a [Counter Circle] with one hand while dropping Delilah’s head from your belt with the other. Good thing you do, because you can feel RJ’s magic building up within and, with little apparent effort, a violent gust of wind rushes toward you.

Though you move your hands deftly, you’re just not familiar at all with Aeromancy. Even still, you manage to dissipate the wind, but don’t counter it. You grunt and point Chaika at him, throwing a [Fireball]. The blast of fiery light flares in the room, illuminating the scene of Blake locked blade to blade with Chad while Harmomy drives a fist toward his gut, and of Todd blocking Tabitha’s blade and Veronica’s mace with his spear as Hala moves to flank him.

RJ’s book flips back and forth erratically before landing on a page. A bust of air slices your fire into ribbons, scattering the embers before zooming toward you. You try to block the spell, but you’re too late and are forced to dodge to the side as Saya does the same, the violent air slicing inches into the stone of the tunnel, sending a shards of rock and dust exploding outward.

Picking yourself up, you charge up a [Lightning Bolt] through Chaika and discharge the power in a powerful purple arc toward the man. As before, the book flips open despite the man not looking at you, and the electricity fizzles though the air, vanishing.

You grunt and wave to Saya, who nods and retreats backward as the former Hero looks at you inquisitively.

“The mistress was right, Wizards really do exist, huh?”

You snort, “Of course they do, we’re way better than some one-trick sorcerer.”

RJ shrugs, “Perhaps, but when you’re this damn good at what you do, it doesn’t matter if you’ve got another trick.”

Your lip twitches. During this whole exchange you quickly perform another [Fast Scan] to isolate his humours. Yeah, not the same as Jakovitch at all, but similar enough.

{Chaika.} You think, sending out more [Lightning Bolts], keeping the man on his toes. {Can I remove his taint, get to his humours?}

She chuckles, {Hells no, it’s the same situation as last time, unless you feel like blowing your load against small fry when they become fucking abominations. Oh and I’d block this.}

You quickly adjust your [Counter circle], getting the frequency right and stopping the wind, shredding its mana weaves. He frowns at you as his book flips again, more power flooding into him.

{Weeeeeellll, I guess that removes Plagamancy from this equation.} You mentally grunt, showering the man in [Ice], which he just dodges by shifting to the side and posing. Asshole.

{Just stab him.}

{What?}

{Stab him. With me. Do it.} Chaika sends as more power discharges through her.

{How do you suggest I do that? He’s got the fucking wind going for him!} You shout back, narrowly stopping more wind from slicing you into neat chunks. In retaliation, you create a wall of ice in front of his face. Take that, bro.

{Well you’ll need an opening then. Speaking of which, where did your cute little murderer go anyway?}

 

 

Now seems a good time to do a quick appraisal of the battlefield.

Hala had managed to get onto Todd’s back and is busy savaging the man with her claws and teeth while Tabitha goes in for a strike with her sword. In a blinding show of speed, Todd swings his spear around, catching Tabitha in the chest with the butt while simultaneously grabbing Hala and throwing her one handed into the Lizardman, both hitting the ground hard. Veronica manages to dodge the blow, but she’s momentarily distracted as the bodies fly past her and Todd charges, spear leveled.

Chad swings his sword at Harmony, her armor managing to deflect the blow, but it sends her off balance, allowing a savage blow that sends her skidding backward, even as Blake closes in to strike. Though Blake’s skill with the sword is great, it’s apparent that he can’t compare with that of Chad’s. The poor Hero can only do so much to push his former friend back, if just.

Though you can’t find Saya, you’re forced to grit your teeth and quickly weave a [Shield Circle], throwing it up to protect Veronica from the charging Todd, the greatest threat at the moment. His spear hits your shield, and the force of it staggers you as it shatters under his strength. Thankfully it it’s enough to stop his momentum and allow Veronica time to push him backward.

Unfortunately, your lack of attention finds you your suddenly being lifted off the ground as a gust of wind hits you, throwing your bodily backward into a wall. The force of it causes your vision to go red momentarily as you drop to the ground. Groaning in agony at the blow, you vaguely hear RJ sniff with disdain.

“Poor form looking away from our battle. You got some good moves bro, but you don’t have the love of a Goddess. Have a good time in the hells, brah.”

He points his book at you as he runs his hand over his chest and you feel a large rush of magic build up in him. You throw your hands up in desperation to cast something when RJ suddenly spins around as a Saya leaps at him from behind, knife in hand.

A wall of air forms around him, pushing Saya away to land on her feet. She grits her teeth, arachnid eye gleaming as she charges at him again, pushing against the improvised shield.

Panicking, you pick yourself up as his book’s pages shift again, and you quickly grab Chaika before hurling her at the man. The knife-stick soars through the air and, this time with your crash course of training, it flies true. Just before it strikes the man though, he flips to the side, extending his other hand and pushing more air from both sides, forcing both Saya and Chaika away.

As Chaika goes sailing backward, he snaps his gaze to Saya, and a full blast of wind slams her bodily across the room. That done, he whips to you, but stops, eyes growing wide.

As he pushed Saya back, you had charged him, grabbing the repelled knife-stick from the air and whirling it around before stabbing the man with a simple, but brutal thrust.

 

Chapter 181

 

He looks down at the spear, then to you, before snarling and smacking you in the face with the book. You’re hit with such force that you’re thrown backward, staggering with one hell of a sore jaw.

You look up, seeing stars as he rips the knife-stick from his abdomen before tossing it aside and gritting his teeth. As his book begins to flip pages again, it suddenly stops as his hand begins to shake. He looks down, disbelieving as his arm begins to twitch. Grunting, he drops to one knee and begins to pant.

From the wound flows dark blood, but you can clearly see a line of black creeping across his abdomen and up his chest. He begins to pant even faster, dropping his book as the line travels erratically, as if through his very veins. He scratches at his throat, coughing, as it races past to his face. His left eye goes wider as it turns black as night before he spasms out of control, the other eye slowly turning a similar shade.

He drops to all fours, retching before he looks up at you, face half blackened, the skin boiling and rotting from where the line had taken hold.

“M-mistress Chakrandas! T-Tell me your bidding!” He cries, tears black as pitch draining from his eyes.

Your eyes go wide as the man twitches and convulses, blood trickling from the corner of his mouth. Looking down to Chaika, you quickly crawl over to pick her up. When you do, you feel an eerie sort of calm permeating through her.

{Goood…} she coos softly, as if speaking from far away. {Take up your weapon, smite your friends.}

RJ frantically nods and scoops up his book, the pages flipping wildly as he sends an incredibly violent blast of wind straight at Todd.

The spear-wielder knocks aside Veronica again before turning and slamming the butt of his spear into Hala’s gut, dropping her to the ground. He laughs at his fallen foes right up until his arms are separated from his body by the razor wind, which slices massive furrows into his chest as well. He blinks, looking down before cocking his head, then slumping over onto the ground, dead.

Everyone stops in their tracks as silence permeates the room, the only sounds the groans of the wounded and the mad giggling of RJ as he raises his book again.

{Down boy.} Whispers Chaika in your mind. He drops his arms, still twitching as the blackness spreads over his body, rotting his flesh away.

Chad licks his lips and eyes his sword as the others pick themselves up, forming around him. He looks at RJ, then Todd, before gazing into Blake’s eyes.

“Man, why did you have to get all righteous on me bro?” He steps backward before shaking his head. “Nah bro, this isn’t how this is going to play out. Peace.”

Faster than anyone can react, he does a backflip, sailing through the air to land the opposite end of the room before dashing through a tunnel, quickly vanishing from sight.

Hala makes to chase him but Blake holds up a hand. “No, no stop. They already knew we’re here apparently, no reason to catch him.”

He sighs and rubs at his forehead, removing the sweat before sliding his blade back into its sheath. Closing his eyes, he takes a deep breath, then looks over to you and RJ.

You’re helping pick up Saya, who is fine, just a little dazed, when Blake calls out, “Wizard, what did you do?”

You look down at the knife-stick, which hums with a soft, dark power, seemingly focused on the possessed man. Looking back up to Blake, you gulp. “I’m not certain.”

{Hrm…} Chaika says, annoyed. {He’s falling apart I’m afraid. Darn, and I was having such fun.}

{H-how did you? What did you do?} You send back, still confused.

{You’re the one who made me like this you know.} She grunts {Damn, out of time.}

You step backward as RJ spasms again before coughing up a glob of blood and collapsing, going still. His necrotic corpse lays before you, book covered in his blood next to him.

Blake bites his lips before looking away, his expression pained, although you can’t tell if it’s because of the means or the end. “It was necessary.” He says, taking in a deep breath. “Come on, we’re only just getting started.”

The other nod their heads solemnly. You pick up the annoyed looking Delilah as Veronica walks over to the two and gives last rites, apparently believing that even they are worth redemption down in the realm of Nerg.

Rubbing at your head, you ready yourself to go, striding forward when a wave of sensation rushes over you. You stagger, blinking in confusion before you realize that it’s a pulse of magical power coming from ahead. It feels familiar somehow, like something you’ve always known, but you can’t place what it is. You frown in consternation as you put it together.

Wait a second, this is similar to your own power! You can feel it resonate in the core of your being.

It can’t be…

Can it?

You snap your head up in the direction of the pulse. It’s so strong now that it rattles your very core. Though you can’t be certain, you have a damn good guess what it is.

The Ultimate Elixir.

 

Chapter 182

 

Without even thinking you start walking forward when you hear a deep hissing in your mind from Chaika.

{What the fuck do you think you’re doing?}

Blinking in surprise, you look down at the knife stick. {You felt it right? It’s the elixir, it has to be!}

{Are you a fucking idiot? Why would a magical artifact of such power just fucking advertise itself like that?}

You pause, thinking about it for a moment. {B-because I’m the chosen one?}

{Oh, okay if you put it that way.}

{See? It makes sen-}

{No it fucking doesn’t!} She interrupts, growling. {I know you want this stupid thing, but come on, think a little. I don’t want to see you killed because you’re an idiot.}

You pause, a quirk coming to your mouth. {You don’t want to see me killed?}

She mentally fidgets as she replies. {Hora… A-anyway just take it easy alright. We just got here anyway.}

{And you’ve already taken over someone’s mind and turned them into a horrifying corpse.}

{S-stop! You’re embarrassing me!} She almost squeals out like some kind of schoolgirl, exuding happiness. Either you’ve hit some bizarro dimension or gruesome murder is her weak spot. What kind of disturbing fetishes was she into when she was alive?

{Well, if we get the chance, I’ll stab Tolosh too.} You send back.

{R-really?}

{Yes, really.}

She pauses before mentally whispering, {You know what Wizard… You’re alright.}

Smirking, you look to the others. Veronica had finished her last rites, but Blake is standing over the corpses with his head bowed while Harmony looks over Tabitha and Hala for wounds. Thankfully she doesn’t seem to find anything more than a few bruises and scrapes here and there. Beside them, Saya pops her bones back into place, grumbling about ear bones being annoying or something.

You shake your head and kneel down to pick up the book that RJ dropped. It’s half covered in blood, however you’re able to remove most of it from the cover with a little Hydromancy. The title is “Aerological Atherium,” and it looks to be a book on Aeromantic theory. The pages are stained, but you’re able to get the gist of it despite all the mathematical diagrams and formulae on the pages. The page that is most splattered is the last one he was on. It describes a spell known as [Razor Wind.]

This is obviously the spell he has used to destroy Todd and, despite only being able to read patches of it, you pick up what you think you need to replicate the spell, mixed with having seen it. With some concentration, you point toward a wall and try to cast the spell. A rushing sense of exhilaration flows in your mind as you channel Aeromancy for the first time and, with a small howl, a flurry of air streaks out from before you, cutting furrows into the stone. They aren’t as deep as when RJ cast the spell, but it’s still a rather impressive attack.

Smiling, you turn around to see the others staring at you. Your smile drops as you realize this may have been in bad form.

“Sorry, I forgot and…” You take a deep breath looking at the corpse of Todd. “I’m sorry things had to turn out this way.”

Veronica crosses her arms and stares at Todd. She then looks at you for a moment before sighing.

“It’s fine Wizard. They may have been our friends before, but they made their choices and we made ours. I was fully prepared to crush his head, so I can’t be mad.”

She clenches a fist as Blake puts a hand on her shoulder. “It still hurts though.” He says quietly.

She nods and Blake looks back to you. “Are you injured, Wizard?”

You shrug, though your back hurts miserably from hitting that wall. “I’ll live. And you? Will you be alright?”

The two look at each other and then nod. “We’ll be fine. Come on, we’ve got a trek ahead of us, and the more time we spend here, the more time they have to prepare for us.”

“Right…” You say starting on after them when you feel the magical pulse again. It causes you stagger as it hits you. Saya frowns and puts a hand on your shoulder.

“Are you alright daddy?” She asks, concerned.

You rub at your head. “Yeah, yeah I’m fine, don’t worry about me, honey.”

This just makes her seem more worried. “Are you sure? Is there anything I can do?”

You smile at her. “No, no it-“ You pause, thinking. “Actually, Saya… I hate to ask this, but in Victoria’s memories do you… remember anything in here?”

She frowns in concentration. You watch as one eye becomes distinctly arachnid and she speaks slowly, as if piecing things together.

“She… was in the tunnels a fair amount… But she never explored all of it… She… She was angry because someone… With many tails kept blocking her from entering a section. She didn’t fight because she was afraid but… She was very angry about it, very, very angry.”

You’re silent as the two of you start to walk behind the others down the tunnel Chad took. Eventually, you take deep breath and look back to Saya. “Do you know which section it is?”

She frowns again before closing her eyes. When she opens them, she points in the same direction you felt the pulse. “Over that way I think.”

You nod your head, lost in thought. “Thanks, dear.”

She looks at you with concern but doesn’t say anything other than taking your free hand and continuing to walk forward. The gesture is appreciated, but your mind is busy racing over what you had heard.

Someone with multiple tails that Victoria was afraid of could only be Selene, but why was she guarding a part of the tunnels? Is she there now? Your heart pounds in your chest at the possibility of seeing her again, but Chaika’s words echo in your mind. It’s too convenient.

You ponder this as you continue to trek through the tunnels. Eventually you start to see side tunnels appear and Blake cross references his diagram, turning down specific paths. The pulse of power comes again, growing more and more powerful as you walk until you reach another passageway splitting off toward the source of this energy.

Blake and the others just walk by, the man looking at his map. You stop however, staring down the hallway. You narrow your eyes as you see something ahead move in the fey light of your staff. Gasping, you prepare yourself to fight when your eyes go wide in shock as you see long, sinuous black shapes slip into the darkness. Were those tails? Could… could that mean?

“Wizard? What’s wrong?” Blake asks when he realizes you’ve stopped.

You grip your staff tight before looking to Blake. “I have to go.”

Veronica frowns. “Go where, the path is clearly-“

Blake puts a hand on her shoulder. He looks into your eyes, searching them before he sighs and nods. “We’ll see you at the top then.”

You’re stunned by the utter certainty in his voice. He has zero doubts that you’ll return to the others. You feel somehow guilty because you don’t share his conviction. Unable to look him in the eye, you sigh before smiling at him. “Yeah. Of course.”

Harmony steps away from the others over to you. “If you’re going, so am I.”

“Me too!” Says Saya, clutching at your arm.

{And my whiskers!} Sends Bubs from your pocket. He chuckles, {No but seriously, I got your back big guy.}

{Let’s get on with it.} Mumbles Chaika, also wanting to be part of the gang.

“I’m tied to your belt.” Delilah sighs.

You look between your little group and bow your head, touched by their support before looking back up at Blake with a little more confidence. “Don’t have too much fun without me, alright?”

He snorts and then nods at the other girls before heading down the tunnels, leaving you with your assembled group. Despite having so many people with you, you can’t help but feel alone now that Blake is gone. How strange.

Shaking your head, you take a deep breath and nod to them. “Come on, let’s hurry.”

 

Chapter 183

 

You take off at a light jog, projecting light form Chaika as you move through the tunnels. Another pulse of energy comes from a tunnel ahead and you once again see the black shapes slip through a side corridor. Gritting your teeth, you push ahead, picking up speed and leaving Saya and Harmony behind.

Turning down the hallway you saw the shapes go down, you’re unable to keep yourself from shouting, “Selene! Wait!”

Not seconds after shouting this though, a tight pressure wraps around your chest and arms, knocking away Chaika as you feel yourself dragged forward by something. The sheer rapidity of it leaves you unable to comprehend what is happening until you find yourself looking up into the brown eyes of none other than Tolosh.

She gives a wicked smile, her hair coiling around you like a living creature, restricting your movements and keeping you from breaking free. The feel of her hair, while admittedly silky smooth and very soft, is strange and disturbing as it slithers and wriggles.

“Oh ho ho, it seems you were expecting someone else… But it was me, Tolosh!

She chuckles as you struggle against her while more and more of her hair forms a cocoon around you. As she does so, Harmony and Saya enter the room, taking up battle positions.

“Let Daddy go you big mop!” Shouts Saya, knife at the ready.

Tolosh raises a finger and makes a tsking noise as she squeezes you, eliciting a cry of pain. “Oh now that will never do. Here I invite you all this way and you go and threaten me.”

She gives you a sidelong glance. “You honestly should have raised her better than this if you truly are her ‘father.’ Have you not talked to her about her Goddess?”

You grunt out, “What… do you want?”

“Ara? Want? Whatever do you mean?”

“You either would have killed or raped me by now if you didn’t want something, so be quick with it.”

Her eyes twinkle. “Ahh, so you are perceptive. Well, look around you.”

The hair leaves you no choice as you feel your head being turned to look about the hallway.

This section of hall is a long, coffin shaped space filled with multiple pillars all carved in runes. Staring at them for a moment, you realize these runes are the same used on the Communion Matrix. True, they’re a much, much older script and some of it doesn’t make much sense, but they’re still familiar enough for you to get the gist that something of power is here, but… What is it?

Neck being forced forward, you see at the end of the hallway sits a small set of stairs leading up into an intricate doorway with a panel before it. There seems to be multiple signs of forced entry on the doorway, but it appears it was never breached.

“I… Don’t get it?” You say. She increases the pressure on you in response.

“Maybe I was wrong, maybe you are foolish after all.” She sighs and walks you over to the door, Saya and Harmony keeping pace, but not getting closer for fear of her hurting you. Tolosh waves her hand over the panel and sighs.

“There is something beyond here, something that Selene wants to keep secret, but as far as I can tell, she hasn’t been able to get in.” She shrugs, “Nor have I, of course, but when she was gone I did a little searching and discovered that all the runes around here are used mainly by Wizards, especially those from ages past. That made me believe that perhaps she needed one to open the door…”

She chuckles, “So I decided to beat her to the punch and take her glory from her. Who knew that you’d walk right in and be lured by something so nebulous as little pulses of power and my hair! Did you think it was another Wizard or something? A shame the rest of your group didn’t come so I could spare my lady the trouble, but that abomination Third should deal with them nicely anyway.”

She leans down toward you and smiles, “Or did you really want to see that cat so badly? I wonder why…?”

“That’s… none of your business.” You grunt.

She smirks and then forcefully grabs your head before slamming it into the panel, leaving your ears ringing as you feel a deep rumble through the room. Head aching, you look up as the door before you begins to shiver, shake, and then slowly rise upward, dust and gravel spilling onto the floor.

Tolosh watches the door rising with keen interest, not seeming concerned about you as her hair still coils tight. A quick glance over to Saya and Harmony shows them about ready to murder this bitch, but they stay their hand, making you grit your teeth. You have to do something, and quick, or she’ll kill you once she gets whatever she… and apparently Selene, wants.

Well, you’ve been in this situation before. Trapped by an impossibly strong force, unable to get out or cast spells effectively. Sure, it wasn’t the High Priestess of Dollora herself or anything in the past but the situations are similar, right? Right? Yeah, of course they are. Reflecting back on it, this seems to happen a lot, huh? You blame Jackor for it. Well, at least you know how to get out of these sticky situations.

You quickly take in a deep breath, weave your will into a quick [Amplify] and let loose the [Irate Frog Song].

The sound of your voice literally shakes the room as you sing, your voice gaining power in mere moments. Amplified by your spell, the stones rattle and a coating of dust and gravel falls from the ceiling. The hair around you writhes and twitches in response. Alright good, almost time to break out and-

Your singing stops as a coil of hair forces its way into your gaping mouth.

Ever had a piece of hair in your mouth? The terrible feeling of it against your tongue as you try to get that one little piece out of your teeth? Well, this was like that except there are hundreds of strands, they’re in your throat, and they’re MOVING.

You barely keep from vomiting as Tolosh sighs and looks back at you, her face perturbed. A strand of hair pushes itself out of her face as she huffs,

“That’s better. Honestly, didn’t anyone ever tell you about inside voices?”

“Mrrrmph fug frmomph.” You try to say, but with your throat being raped by hair, you find it difficult to enunciate.

“Rude.” Tolosh says before patting your cheek. “You should be grateful, normally I’d just strangle you, but you did such a favor for me that I’ve decided to give you a little reward.” Her hair pulls you in close and you can see her cheeks are flushed. “My hair is… sensitive you see. Count yourself blessed that you may partake of such a divine gift.”

A wave of revulsion passes through you at those words and the twisting of her hair in your mouth. Once again, you barely manage to keep from vomiting as you try to channel your magic for…something. But as you do, the hair around your chest constricts, distracting you.

“Mmph, just a little more and we can be finished with this.” She licks her lips and shivers. “Oh and you two, don’t try it. And yes, I see you over there child.”

Harmony growls as she lowers her arm again, electricity coursing over it. Saya, on the other hand, seems to melt out of the shadows, glaring daggers at Tolosh.

“Bitch.” She growls.

“Heretic.” Tolosh retorts. She looks over at the door which had finished rising and sighs. “Well that’s enough of that then. It’s been quite wonderful, and you have quite a store of power within you, but I’m afraid you’re not my type. By Dollora’s grace, let us end this.”

 

Chapter 184

 

You feel the pressure upon you increase as the hair in your mouth starts to twist violently. Distantly, you hear Saya and Harmony scream, though you’re a little busy dying to make it out. Wracking your brain for a way out, you try to find something you can do, anything that-

{This really fucking hurts big guy!} Shouts Bubs in your mind. Odd, it only now occurs to you that he was trying to get your attention this whole time, but you were ignoring him. Poor guy, he’s still in your pocket and-

Wait. Pocket?

{B-Bubs!} you send, twisting in agony. {Bubs I need you to transform!}

{What? But I’m in your pocket and-}

{We don’t have a choice Bubs! let’s do it!}

Bubs instantly focuses and the two of you sync your need and desperation together. Power flows not through your usual conduits, but through your [Familiar Link], which runs far deeper.

The magic flows through Bubs, far stronger than it had before and, with a snap of power, you feel another pressure rapidly expand against your chest from your pocket. Despite the agony of it, you watch in fascination as the hair is pushed back from you and then split asunder like an insect emerging from some horrific cocoon.

With a mighty roar, the head of a massive rodent tears forth from the weave and sets about with savage fury, ripping and tearing at the prison of hair, destroying the bonds as if they were nothing more than paper.

Or, well, hair.

The pressure holding you vanishes and you stagger backward, free from your bondage. Well, almost all of it anyway. You stare in horror at the strand that is still tightly coiled around your tongue in the most disturbing kiss imaginable. It holds onto you, pulling you back in and eliciting an unworldly amount of pain.

And then it’s gone as a pair of rat teeth sheer it in half like massive scissors. You stagger back from the sudden loss of opposing force, coughing and digging at your mouth as the severed hair thrashes like the tail of a lizard.

You hear Tolosh scream in pain and fury at the sudden violation, which is only further compounded by the sound of Harmony’s adamantine feet hitting the floor at a dead run to sock the Kejourou in the face.

The sound of impact is akin to that of a hammer hitting an anvil. Tolosh flies backward several feet from the blow before rolling on the ground, her hair becoming tangled up around her to resemble a spool of yarn.

Harmony gears up to follow through with her assault, energy discharging along her fist while a massive, horse sized rat stands before you, snarling as electricity dances along its orange, hulking form. For some reason his cheeks are red, but you don’t have the time to think on that further as Tolosh finishes her roll. Instead of standing up, she’s pushed into the air by her hair, flipping around and floating before you, her hair supporting her weight as she glares daggers at you.

Her beautiful face is contorted with rage and you could see a red spot where Harmony’s fist had made contact. You figure she should have taken more damage, but as you look you see a section of hair which is frayed and burnt. Seems she blocked most of the blow with her hair. Geez, what kind of conditioner does she use?

Saya steps up next to you, her arachnid eye glaring at Tolosh. You never saw her grab your staff, but she hands you Chaika, whom you take with a grateful nod.

{Mental defenses you idiot!} Chaika shouts the moment you take her.

You snap your eyes up to Tolosh, whose arms are waving in an odd pattern while her hair ungulates in a wave, pure darkness gathering in the folds. You can feel a pressure wave of magic growing around her before being fired off toward you, totally unprepared for the assault.

The dark magic shoots toward you and you feel a pull upon your very soul as it begins to worm its way into you. You stagger to the side, desperately trying to summon your [Inner Guardian], but know it’s too late.

A flash of light appears at your hip and from your staff and the darkness is repelled backward. Dazed, you try to stand straight as you look down at your side.

“Wizard, you’re a slow-witted fool and you would have been dead without me.” Says Delilah, staring at your eyes from her perch on your belt.

Her hair is in a state of utter disarray and her pale face seems hurt by the pressure of being crushed. She growls as her eyes glow faintly, magic pulsing about her.

“Oh, Delilah! You were here?”

“Always. Now hurry and get your defenses up!”

Oh right. You quickly summon your [Inner Guardian] and then [Manifest] it. The glowing shape of an armored man radiating the power of the sun appears before you, arms crossed as it stares out at Tolosh.

You feel the pulse of darkness return toward you and brace yourself for the pain. The guardian merely takes a step forward, draws a sword of light, and slashes the darkness from the air.

You watch in stunned silence as Tolosh’s mouth works without sound, her magic being destroyed before you. Despite the effort of maintaining your manifestation, it’s not enough drain to stop you at the moment, so you quickly draw your circles and project a [Shield Circle] around Harmony while you set forth a [Counter Circle] to hopefully give you some extra protection against her magic while you figure out what the fuck to do.

“Harmony!” You shout, getting her attention. The construct nods, understanding your intention before dashing forward again.

{Okay Chaika, what the fuck do I do?} You ask, alarmed.

{How the fuck should I know?}

{You knew Tolosh! You were a priestess apparently!} You send in exasperation, watching as Harmony gets closer, the leading stands of Tolosh’s hair coiling up like snakes to strike her.

{Uh, yes, and she kicked my scaly ass, which is why I’m here and not over there.}

{Damnit, just give me something!}

{Ugh… Look, Tolosh is strong because of her faith. It’s so righteous that spells are basically useless against her, she barely needs to try to block them, because Dollora does it for her. Her magic is powerful because it channels Dollora’s power, and her hair is… Well it’s just what her species does, it’s basically its own creature at this point.}

{None of this helps me Chaika!} You shout as Harmony reaches Tolosh only to have her arm caught by a rope of hair before her legs and other arm are trapped as well. A sickening popping noise is heard and your eyes grow wide. Oh hells, she’s trying to pull Harmony apart!

{Uh, uh, look, you win either by undermining her faith or doing something really unexpected.} Chaika sends, sensing your desperation.

{What, like tying Delilah to Bubs have having him dash at her?}

{That’s fucking retard- you know what, fuck it just do it quick.} She says, apparently dumbfounded by your question.

“What are you doing Wizard?” Delilah asks as you finish tying her to Bubs. “This looks like a really bad idea.”

“Exactly, now be a good head and kill a priestess for me.”

“I should have gone with the Hero.” She grumbles.

You shout to Bubs, who roars in defiance and literally bounds across the room onto a rope of hair holding Harmony, severing it with his massive teeth, and sending out a wave of electricity.

“You vermin!” Shouts Tolosh as her hair regroups, weaving into spears of black that jab toward the head and the rat. Bubs manages to avoid some while Delilah pushes others back with her dark magic.

Harmony, with the help of Bubs, is able to free herself from her bonds for the moment. She tries to press in close, firing off bursts of electricity that are quickly countered by the hair.

Gritting her teeth, Tolosh begins to weave magic as the death trap that is her hair tries to skewer your friends, but you throw in many well-timed shields to deflect blows they couldn’t see or react to. When she tries to cast a spell to drag Bubs down into some strange, dark portal, you quickly counter it with the help of Chaika.

Despite your many successes in blocking her, you’re making no headway on attacking her, and the defensive magic is extremely draining. You also have no idea how long Bubs can maintain that form without exploding. Maybe two more minutes?

Tolosh herself looks barely perturbed by all of this, her facial expression gone from angry to merely aggravated. She raises a hand and a jet of darkness swarms at you just as her hair pulls back and attacks one central point at Harmony’s chest.

Your eyes widen in shock. There’s no way you can block all of that! The strain would knock you senseless! You desperately try to triage the situation, bringing up your counter circle, but you realize that doing so would sacrificed Harmony.

Dread wells up in you as you realize it’s too late to stop this course of action. Though you block the magic, you’re forced watch as the spears of hair drills toward Harmony, ready to pierce her chest. Before they reach however, a figure leaps into the path of the hair.

Saya’s determined face contorts in pain as she’s impaled.

 

Chapter 185

 

You watch in horror as Saya is speared in four directions by strands of hair that pierce through her body. She twitches and writhes, spasming as the hair drives into her. You raise your hand, running toward her, and try to cry out when a series strange of events plays out before you.

Everything seems to slow down as Tolosh regards Saya coolly, turning her expression to Bubs as her hair slides out from Saya’s body. She points a finger toward the rat, magic gathering, but she pauses and turns back sharply when she realizes that Saya has grabbed her hair with her body, skin melting and oozing over the hair, devouring it.

Tolosh snarls in rage, trying to fling Saya off her. This allows Bubs and Delilah to dash inward and ram into her stomach, performing the nearly impossible double headbutt. Though she manages to block much of the damage with her hair, it leaves her quite open.

Because of this, she doesn’t notice when Harmony moves up and wraps an arm around her waist, swinging about to get behind her and restrict her movements. Normally, this would be suicidal, except Harmony isn’t exactly alive, and Tolosh’s hair is sort of busy.

You look down at Chaika and then nod fiercely before screaming at the top of your lungs and charging at Tolosh. The High Priestess screams at you in abject rage as you close the distance and ram Chaika right into her gut.

Her eyes go very wide and her lip curls up as you step back, leaving the knife-stick inside of her. She starts breathing heavily and you can feel Chaika furiously trying to push herself inside the High Priestess.

Tolosh glares at you, sweating as she roars in pain. Power floods through her and she forcibly pushes everyone away from her, causing Saya to drop into a heap from the hair she was digesting and Bubs to skitter back. Reaching one arm around, she grabs Harmony and throws her like a doll toward Bubs who narrowly avoids getting splat like a rat in a trap.

Tolosh steps back, shakily putting her hands on the knife-stick, twisting along the shaft as she takes in ragged breaths.

“C-Chakrandas… You bitch. Even now y-you try to defy me.”

She closes her eyes and shudders before she screams and, with an act of defiance, rips the knife-stick out of her abdomen and sends it clattering to the floor as her hair, broken and abused as it is, swarms to cover her wound.

You take a step up and grab Chaika as the High Priestess writhes in pain. “Give up Tolosh, it’s over. Your Goddess can’t save you now.”

She begins to shake, but you quickly realize that it’s not from pain, but from laughter. She twitches as her lips curl up into a sick smile

“Hehehe, you truly doubt the power of Dollora?” A line of black begins to show between her cleavage. As it crests her breasts it suddenly stops, twitches, and then retreats.

Your eyes go wide as Tolosh shouts a string of litanies and prayers and then exudes power such as you never seen before. An inky darkness washes over you as Chaika’s influence as she is forcefully expelled from the Kejorou’s body. When it’s finished, she stands there, panting heavily, but still alive and dangerous.

{BIG GUY? IM STARTING TO FEEL A LITTLE ODD HERE.} Bubs sends, taking your attention from the Temple Guardian to Bubs.

Oh shit, the timer!

You quickly undo the spell and the massive rat with a head tied to it shrinks to a head with a rat tied to it as Delilah hits the ground, hard. She grunts but says nothing, only staring at you as if in accusation.

You turn back to see Tolosh rise again on her hair. Although she seems a little unstable compared to before, she still exudes power. Selene apparently wasn’t kidding about her strength at least.

She raises her chin, looking at you imperiously when she pauses, cocking her head before frowning. She looks over her shoulder into the room beyond and then curses before glaring back at you.

“The damn cat is coming… Very well then, she can clean this up. I’ll collect my spoils later.”

She looks one last time at you and Chaika before shaking her head. Coiling her hair, she literally springs over your head, vanishing out of the hallway in a blur of hair.

You watch as she goes with tired expressions before you sink to your knees, feeling drained. Bubs flops down next to you, his eyes fluttering closed. Untying Delilah from him, you scoop him up and place him in your non-ripped pocket as he drifts off to sleep.

Looking over to Saya, you find she’s only partially formed, in the process of pulling herself together. You crawl over to her and take her hand, which thankfully isn’t eating through your skin, causing her to smile as she takes semblance of a human again.

“Did we win?” She asks, her face looking tired.

“No pumpkin, not yet. But you did good out there, just… Never scare me like that again.”

She chuckles, which is more of a gurgle. “I’ll try. At least she didn’t break anything but a few ribs. That would have been bad.”

Harmony walks over and attachs Delilah to your belt again, the Dullahan sighing out. “How very touching, but this cat she speaks of, she doesn’t mean-?”

An overwhelming magical presence bursts into the hallway, nearly exploding through the doorway as the shapely form of Selene lands on the stones, tails pointed about, her eyes searching warily before they settle on you.

Selene blinks, then takes in a deep breath, standing up straight as she gazes into your eyes. “Wizard… it is you.”

You can’t help but remember the implications in Tolosh’s words as you let go of Saya’s hand and stand slowly with the help your staff. You stretch and then walks towards Selene, eyes locked onto her emerald green orbs as they watch your every movement. Stopping just before her, you close your eyes as so many emotions play through you. Taking a breath, you open your eyes again before saying,

“Fancy meeting you here.”

Smooth.

 

Chapter 186

 

A silence permeates the room. Neither you nor Selene say a word, merely searching each other’s eyes, both of you wandering the endless expanse therein.

You see hesitation, worry, and perhaps something else within her expression and you wonder what she sees in yours as she begins to breathe faster. You find yourself gulping and tightening your grip on your staff. Thankfully Chaika has the presence of mind not to speak, because you’re afraid that any noise would break you out of this moment.

It’s Selene, right here in front of you. Perhaps it hasn’t been so long since you last met, but it feels like an eternity once you had admitted to your feelings.

How could one stand to be apart from the one they loved?

But again the words of Tolosh, like poison, coil through your mind. Why would Selene have guarded this place unless she knew what was here? And if she did, then perhaps she had known this entire time that the elixir lay within. She wouldn’t have just… used you, right? No, no, if she just needed a Wizard, she could have easily just stolen you or any other Wizard and brought you here. It’s foolish to think otherwise… right?

You admonish yourself. No, of course she didn’t use you. No one could fake such honest proclamations of love, nor teach you such powerful magic, nor save you from mortal peril if they weren’t honest about it. No, no matter the lingering questions, you resolve to trust her.

It would break you to do anything else.

You take a deep breath and exhale loudly, the shock of even such minor sound echoing through the chamber. Straightening your spine, you take a step toward Selene, then another, and another, until you come up to her and wrap your arms around her in a tight hug.

She stiffens for a moment before melting into your embrace, wrapping her arms around you firmly, but delicately, pulling you into her warm, soft body.

You close your eyes and taking in her scent, reveling in the joy of seeing her again. Her soft breath comes in and out as the two of you embrace, letting the cares of the world flow past you. Here, you can almost forget the pains of your journey, the perils of your quest, and the power that lays before you.

A soft, fluffy tail strokes across your hand, and you pull back, looking into her eyes from point blank. You can feel her chest rising up and down as she takes shallow breaths and you realize that you too are beginning to breathe a little heavy. Her eyes flash down briefly before looking back into yours and you can’t help but notice her perfectly formed lips, glistening in the wan light of the room as she breathes.

You can’t help it, this is just as cheesy as those romance weaves you read as a joke on the Communion Matrix. It never occurred to you that something like this could be real, that it could be so compelling. A part of you screams not to do this, that you’re setting foot down a dark path, but you can’t help it.

You want to kiss Selene. Everything be damned, you want to kiss the woman you love.

Selene’s breathing increases as you move your head forward slowly, her eyes becoming half lidded. Closing your eyes as feels right, you feel your lips contact something terribly soft and fluffy.

Blinking your eyes open, you see that Selene had moved a tail in between your faces, blocking your kiss. You pull back, confused by the situation and she sighs out softly.

“Ara ara… but not here Wizard… Not now.”

You furrow your brow, not knowing what to do now. The mood had changed so suddenly that you’re caught off guard as Selene continues to whisper.

“I’m sorry, just… trust me, please?”

You look down and then back to her before nodding slowly. “Alright, I… alright.”

The two of you continue to embrace however and she buries her head against your chest as she speaks, “Third heard you were coming and I knew you’d be here soon, but it wasn’t until I heard your screeching that it really hit me that you were here. That you had made it all this way.”

“It’s called the [Irate Frog Song].” You say, chuckling.

She smiles, pulling back from you. “You are such a Wizard.”

You smile back before taking a deep breath and looking around the room. Your companions are all staring at you with wide eyes, well except for Harmony because she doesn’t have eyes that can change expressions, but you can almost feel their shock at seeing you express, well, love like that. It just isn’t Wizardly!

You cough into your hand and then wave out toward the others. “Oh, well Selene, I’d like to introduce you to some of my companions. Harmony, the spirit who once lived in my staff, Delilah, a Dullahan, and Saya, my uh…” You blush, rubbing at the back of your head. “Uhm, my daughter.”

Selene appears genuinely surprised as she looks between you and Saya, who is almost finished pulling herself back together. You feel a tension within yourself as Selene glides past you to Saya, before kneeling down and coming eye to eye with the slime-like Monster. Saya looks at Selene with wide eyes and the two Monsters silently judge each other before Saya opens her mouth and asks in an innocent voice,

“Are you going to be my mommy?”

Selene’s eyes go wide. She takes in a sharp breath, going incredibly still as Saya’s words seems to bore into her. You feel your heart skip a beat as the two most important ladies in your life stare each other down. You have a moment of panic then, imagining what would happen if Selene took this the wrong way, or didn’t like Saya.

Thankfully, your fears are unfounded as Selene slowly smiles and pulls in close to Saya, whispering in her ear before pulling back, leaving Saya beaming like a madwoman. You furrow your brow at the two of them as they look back at you with conspiratorial grins. It feels like you’re meat about to be shared by two wolves. You gulp accordingly.

Selene rubs Saya’s head, eliciting a laugh from the younger Monster before standing and calling to you.

“I’m sure you have questions. Let us enter the chamber ahead and I’ll answer all of them.”

“All of them?” You ask, raising an eyebrow.

She nods her head. “All of them.”

You nod back and start walking after her, Harmony following in your wake. Selene turns around and shakes her head. “Alone, please.”

Frowning, you look to Harmony who shares a glance with you before shaking her head. She takes Delilah off your belt and goes to sit next to Saya, trying to help the girl put herself together.

You nod back to Selene, but she just continues to shake her head. “Alone.”

You blink, confused, before looking at Chaika and then to Selene. She raises an eyebrow and you sigh. {Sorry Chaika.}

{Oh no please, don’t mind me, go ahead with your little love kitty, just drop me over in a corner or something.} She sends, seeming flippant.

{Chaika don’t be-}

{Oh, it’s fine Wizard.} She sighs back. {I’m just being combative. Go ahead, you deserve it.}

You bow your head. {Thanks, Chaika.}

{Yeah yeah.}

You lay down the staff and remove Bubs from your pocket, placing the sleeping rat down next to Chaika. He twitches a little rat paw before rolling over and curling back into a ball.

Smiling at him, you then rise and walk over to Selene. She nods, and the two of you walk side by side up the small stairs and into the chamber. As you enter a soft, green light seems to appear from nowhere.

It’s a circular chamber with only one entrance, lined by multiple pillars that run along the sides of the room before converging to the ceiling where they meet a large circular slab of stone. In the middle of the room is a circular well, over which sits an unadorned dais of stone.

And on this dais is a crystal bottle of green, sparkling liquid.

 

Chapter 187

 

You take a step forward, your eyes almost unable to comprehend what you’re seeing here. This… this had to be the Ultimate Elixir! It’s right in front of you, but you can’t believe that it’s real! Yet here it sits, almost calling to you.

“Ah, I thought so.” Says Selene, walking forward. “It would make sense that they’d have kept it here of all places, considering.”

You take a step forward as she gently leaps up onto the dais and picks up the bottle, examining the liquid. She whistles softly as the liquid glistens in her furred hands.

“H-hey, what are you doing?” You ask, heart starting to pound. You take a few steps toward her when she holds up a hand, stopping you in your tracks.

“There’s some things you need to know Wizard.” She says, looking at you with her feline eyes, pupils wide as she looks down at you.

You fumble about, confused. This… This isn’t-! “Selene, I don’t understand, what is going on?”

She sighs, pacing around the dais, swirling around the elixir. “You’ve been through a lot Wizard, you’ve met so many people, done so many things…” She smiles sadly, looking to the side. “Saya’s a really cute kid you know. Her eyes have that same spirit as yours- I suspect she wants to be like her father.”

“Selene…” You say softly.

She shakes her head. “But that’s neither here nor there.” Sighing, she looks at the bottle again. “Do you know what magic is?”

You frown, confused at the question. “It… It’s a force in this world, something that uses mana and creates the phenomenon we see and feel.”

Selene nods. “But where does mana come from?”

You think about it. “Mainly mana crystals harvested from the earth in aetherically rich areas. What does this have to do with anything?”

“It has everything to do with everything.” She shakes her head. “Now, what you said is true for sorcerers and most other magic users, but what about Monsters?” She stares you right in the eyes. “What about Wizards?”

“I…” You begin, trying to recall what you know. “Wizards harness our will, powered by our rejection of women and sex. Monsters use semen for its… Uhh.”

Selene smirks. “Ara…. No one ever talks about it, do they?” Shaking her head, she leans over the dias, her smooth stomach resting on the stone as she presents her lovely cleavage to you.

“I never thought of it much either, but after I met Victor I began to wonder. And when he… he died, I decided to take up his search.”

She waves her hand about. “And I found it, all alone up in the Keep of the Forgotten. So old that not even I know why it was built. But I’m sure you can guess who built it.”

“Wizards…” You say softly.

She nods her head. “It seems fairly obvious at this point.” Her brow furrows “Even growing up, Wizards were a rarity, showing themselves only to defend against invasions before vanishing back into their holds. When this community machine was developed, they vanished utterly.”

“Communion Matrix.”

“Sure, okay. So how should anyone know what this place was built for, and when? The mountains became Monster territory years before anyone’s recollection and no written knowledge seems to exist about it.”

You cock your head. “Maybe they built it to protect the elixir? This room seems fairly well hidden and protected.”

She shakes her head. “No, this…” She holds up the bottle. “This is powerful, I’m sure, but it’s a mask for something else.”

“Something… else?”

She points down with one of her tails, the blade at the end perpendicular to the ground. “It’s what’s under the dais.”

A frown comes to your face before you look down and activate your [Mage Sight]. You shut it off almost instantly as you are nigh physically assaulted with magical power, like staring into the sun. Staggering backward, you barely keep yourself from vomiting at the sudden sensory overload.

Selene’s expression grows downcast as she sighs, “Yes, it is what you think. It’s the nexus for the Groodle Tether.”

You pant heavily, taking in deep breaths as you try to calm yourself down. When you’re able to speak again, you cough out, “T-the nexus? H-how?”

“Wizards built it, of course. Tapping into a source of magic so powerful, they created a network of leylines, originating here.” She shrugs, “I suspect all of the leylines are, in truth, connections from this original nexus.”

You put a hand against a wall, thinking all of this through. The leylines are sources of great power in the world, crisscrossing between and saturating the various countries and nations, reaching out to just about everywhere. No one really knew where they came from, and most assumed that they were actually just natural features. That’s what you assumed anyway. But to think that these were constructed…

“How…” You ask, looking up. “How did they do it?”

Selene looks off into the distance before answering. “It comes back to what I asked beforehand.”

“What magic is.”

She smiles, “Yes… The source of magic. It’s not some nebulous power gifted to those randomly, not in essence. From what I gather, magic didn’t exist in this world when it was created. In fact, not until we Monsters became the way we are did magic suffuse this world.”

You frown. “But that’s… That doesn’t make sense, the only way you could reason that is-“

“Yes, magic is the power of the Gods themselves.” She lets that hang in the air for a moment before continuing.

“Monsters who came through here never read the script on the walls, never had a care for the runes here. Oh sure, Tolosh was interested when she arrived, but she didn’t spend the years here I did, studying, using the devices of the Wizards to better understand them.”

She smirks, raising a furred finger. “Oh I’ll have you know that I really enjoyed your cyan text story. You’ll have to tell me more about your little escapade in the Thunderbird caves.”

You gulp. O-oh, she read that, huh? That is kind of hot though.

“But back to the topic at hand. Yes, I read through the runes here. It tells of the gift of magic brought to this world, first by the hand of Dollora when she performed the Great Transformation. The power of such a feat saturated the world with mana, giving rise to such things as crystals, humming with the power of a Goddess. She then took this blessing and harnessed it to empower her children.”

She sighs, her voice becoming saddened.

“When Solos saw this, he knew that he had to give a fighting chance to men and thus gifted them with the ability to wield magic as well, to fight against their destruction using his very power.”

You frown. “Yes, the stories of holy and dark magic, used by priests and priestesses of the Gods.”

She nods her head. “Yes, that is true, and it is one way to be granted a more… intimate connection to a God and one aspect of their power.” She leans further across the dais. “But think about it. If you were to give magic to men, why would you only give them one aspect of power?”

Your eyes grow wide as you straighten. She couldn’t be suggesting that…

“Ara… I see you’ve guessed it as well. Yes, the first magic users, the original chosen of Solos, those who may wield all aspects of magic with only their will… were Wizards.”

 

Chapter 188

 

You put a hand to your head. This information is just so much to handle. This… this went against everything you knew, everything that the world knew! If this got out on the Communion Matrix… actually, you’re fairly certain most Wizards wouldn’t care and take it as a joke, but there may be some who would try to use this information for personal gain.

You look back up to Selene, taking a step forward. “Wait, wait, but if that’s the case, why do Wizards have to deny women until they are thirty? If we are so chosen by Solos, then for what reason does such a restriction exist?”

She thinks about it, taping a finger on the top of the bottle. “I think the answer to that lies in semen.”

“Uh. What?”

She continues to piece it out, “Semen, the seed from which a man may create new life with a woman, be she human or Monster. A fluid of such power that both races crave it.”

“That’s… a little creepy.” You say, frowning.

Selene shrugs, “You just don’t have the taste for it. To a Monster it’s delicious, it invigorates us, is the source of our mana for our magic.”

“Okay…. Fine, I get that, but… wait, that would mean that mana is in semen, wouldn’t it?”

Selene smiles and rolls a hand for you to continue. You think about it carefully. “If mana is in semen, then it must have been put there when the Great Transformation occurred…” You look up to see Selene frowning. Guess you got it wrong. You furiously rack your brain and then come to another conclusion, the pieces snapping together.

“It always had mana! The ability to create new life, it’s a spark of the divine!”

She nods her head, beaming. “Ara Ara, I knew you were a smart one. Yes, that is precisely why.”

“But then why are Monsters obsessed with human semen? Why not just go milk a dog or something?”

Selene chuckles, “Some young Monsters try that, but they quickly find that it’s not the same. There are occasionally debates about the true nature of semen to Monsters, but at the end of the day I’ll grudgingly agree with Tolosh.” She sighs, “It’s because of Dollora and the fact that she still yearns to be loved by Solos, and thus her children wish for the seed of his to the point where they go mad for it.”

You cock your head. “But still, what does that have to do with Wizards?”

“Some people are born gifted in a particular field of magic, they are known generally as sorcerers, hedge mages, etc. Their gifts are almost innate, and they can master a field, but never truly go much further. I believe this is a leak of residual power that has tainted them, even allowing women to use magic, as opposed to Wizards which are all men.”

She rubs at her chin, “I believe that Wizards must deny the temptations of women because they are chosen to be the shields of humanity, warriors who fight against the hordes of sex-crazed Monsters. If they were so easily lulled into sex, their powers could be misused, or tainted. The age requirement is likely because you had to prove your devotion. Of course, overtime when others began to wield magic and displace the Wizards, they faded to obscurity.”

You rub at your head, “I guess… That fits. But why do Monsters seem attracted to Wizards then?”

Selene smiles wickedly, “Because of all the mana you have stored within you, suffusing your very core through Solos. The more you deny Monsters, the more they crave you.” She licks her lips slowly and you blush, looking away as you consider.

You fold your arms across your chest, pacing as you consider all of this. It… Well it makes sense. But why… why tell you all of this? What was the point? Blake and the others must be charging up the keep by now. Unless she wants to delay you, what’s the purpose?

You voice the question to Selene and she uses her tails to lift herself up to sit on the dais, one foot on the stone while the other dangles free. She points up and you follow her gaze to the stone slab in the ceiling.

“It’s about the Lady, little miss Valintha. True, I had known of this place for years but I never spoke of it. Out of the blue, however, she decided to make this her base of operations for her Invasion, yet she only brought in her Guardians and not her horde. Tolosh was only able to bring those three buffoons of hers because she held that much sway after taking Galmathoria.”

She frowns, “It doesn’t make sense unless you consider that she knew about the nexus.”

“But,” You say, concerned. “She can’t tap into it, right? Only Wizards can manipulate something like that, right?”

Selene shrugs, “So I had assumed, but she’s grown agitated, and has been locking herself away, doing something. She makes no effort to guide the Invasion other than asking about the progress of monsterization occurring, which is happening rather rapidly to be frank.”

You shudder. “What could she be planning then?”

“I don’t know. But I do know that she needs to be stopped. She’s messing with forces she can’t comprehend.”

You smile, stepping up to the dais. “So you’ll help me fight her?”

Selene’s expression grows downcast. “I… I told you before. I can’t. I know what she’s doing is terrible, that she might do something horrifying, but… but I’m still bound by my oaths.” She looks at you, “Please understand.”

You sigh and walk up to her, standing before the Cat o’ Nine Tails and looking once more into her eyes. They’re full of anxiety, and… fear. You look down at the bottle and then back to her.

“Selene, what does the elixir do.”

It wasn’t a question, and she knows that, taking in a sharp breath. She pauses for a moment before closing her eyes.

“I… I’m not certain, but from what I could gather it… it’s a concentrated form of a Wizard’s power. In a vessel who is unable to contain it, one who is not a Wizard, it would tear them apart, leaving nothing behind.”

“That sound about what I’ve heard, yes.” You look into her eyes but she averts her gaze. “What’s the catch?”

Selene sighs, “It… Look, I’m not certain, but I believe that so much power like this, born of the denial of women, of sex, of- of love, when suffused into a Wizard… The only way to properly contain all of that power is to become unable to feel such emotions.”

You look at the bottle again, and whisper, “Selene… Why didn’t you kiss me?”

A tear travels down her cheek as she replies shakily, “Because it would be too hard if I did.”

You take her hand and look into her eyes. She flinches at first, but then slumps her shoulders, looking up at you. In that expression is fear and the agony of a life of loss. Yet here she is, holding a bottle that would, in essence, cause her to lose again if you were to drink it.

You close your eyes and take a deep breath before asking. “Selene… do you love me?”

Her mouth quirks as more tears appear in her eyes. She swallows and nods her head jerkily, her cheeks growing wet as rivulets of tears stream down. You squeeze her hand and she returns the gesture, as if desperate.

“You… You have to take it. You need the power to defeat Valinthia and Third. P-please.”

She presses the bottle against your chest, and you slowly take it, never letting go of her hand or her gaze. She continues to cry, shaking as you summon the courage to say it.

“Selene…” You tighten your grip on the Ultimate Elixir, the power within coursing in your hand, as if demanding you drink it.

“Please don’t…” She whispers, her eyes terrified as you speak again.

“I love you.”

 

Chapter 189

 

Selene looks down, tears streaming from her face as her hand goes limp, letting go of yours. Her body shakes as she cries, her tears spilling down onto the dais.

You step back and look down at the bottle in your hand. In the wan light of the room, the crystal shines and danced in beautiful ways as it reflected the light through it. Gritting your teeth, you tighten your grip on the bottle, once more feeling a hum of power calling to you.

This is what you had searched for, the ultimate power of a Wizard. You could be free of any disgracing feelings of lust… Or love. You would have ultimate power and could likely go toe to toe with the Monster Lady, perhaps even the odds.

But at what cost?

You look to Selene, still crying as she curls into a ball, her tails forming up around her legs in a protective barrier of fluff and blades. Her tears cut into your heart with every drop and you close your eyes, wincing as you feel it. She loves you, and yet she gave you the very thing that would take you away from her, knowing it was for the best.

“For the best huh?” You whisper, staring at the ground, to the nexus of energy underneath you. The greatest font of power ever channeled by ancient Wizards, harnessing the very power of the Gods…

You look up at the ceiling, looking for divine guidance. “Solos…” You begin before you take a deep breath and kneeling down, setting the elixir aside. Placing one hand to your forehead and the other to your heart as the priests of Solos were wont to do, you begin to pray.

“Solos…” You begin again, quietly. “I know I’ve never been a religious man, and in truth, you honestly owe me nothing. I’m just a Wizard, and these days worship isn’t really our way, but I need your help.”

You start to speak louder as you become more invested in the prayer. “A year ago, I would have chugged this stuff in a heartbeat. Love, lust, women? That’s all pointless normie shi- Well, anyway, that’s what I thought. Now that I’ve tasted love, I can’t bear the thought of losing it.”

You hear a rustling noise near you, but you continue intoning the prayer.

“The current Monster Lady seeks to destroy the balance of the world, I’m sure you’ve seen it. Valinthia is mighty, and I do know if I can defeat her as I am. Her servant Tolosh was even able to shrug off my magic.”

You squeeze your eyes shut, need flowing into your words. “To defeat her… To fulfill my promise as a Wizard, I need more power. I know you gave us the tools to fight for ourselves, but I can’t do it. I can’t drink the elixir, or I will lose that spark that makes me human. I would lose the beautiful thing I had kept buried within me for all these years, and I can’t… I just can’t.”

You feel, rather than hear, Selene kneel before you and take your hands in hers, her warm fur a stark contrast to the cold you feel within you. Through her touch, you feel her giving strength to you, praying alongside you to a God who was not even her own.

“Please, give me the strength to contain this power without losing my humanity. I know I ask much, and I know how hypocritical this must seem as it is against everything Wizards stand for, but this is the first and last thing I will ever ask of you.”

Selene whispers, “Amen.”

You both sit there like that, silence filling the room around you as you wait for… well, anything. Any sign that Solos heard your prayer.

But nothing happens. No divine revelation, no cosmic force that gives you the power of a demigod.

Nothing.

You sigh and open your eyes, looking into Selene’s tear-filled expression, expecting to see her miserable. Instead you see a wan smile. You blink in confusion as she takes a finger and stokes your cheek.

“Wizard… You are a fool.” She chokes back a laugh, “A fool I love very dearly.”

You lower your head, smiling. “I’m sorry Selene, I can’t do it. I can’t drink the elixir.”

She smirks, “I know.”

The two of you look into each other’s eyes and you make a resolution then and there. Slowly letting go of her hand, you pick up the elixir. Standing up, you take a shuddering breath before looking straight at Selene.

“Selene, if we survive this… I’m going to make you happy. I don’t care what that does to me, but damnit, it’s what I want.”

She smiles and stands up as well, putting a hand on her hip. “Wizard, you already make me happy.” Her eyes drift to the bottle in your hand. “What will you do with that?”

Shrugging, you open your bag without looking. “I don’t know. Maybe I’ll find something to do with it in the future, but for now I’ll just leave it in here.” Dropping the bottle in, you go to tie the bag up when you hear a small, cracking sound.

Slowly, you look down at your bag and your eyes grow wide as you realize that you accidentally dropped the ultimate elixir into your [Pocket Dimension].

You quickly dig into the bag and see the bottle, but as you grab it, the bottom shatters from where it hit a particularly thick heated bread pouch, drenching the contents in elixir.

“Oh fuck m-” You begin when light pours forth from your bag.

————————————————————————————–

You suddenly see yourself standing on a platform as light pours down onto you. It feels so pure, so wonderful, that you weep softly. The cares of the world mean little against this light. Surely you must be basking in the glory of Solos himself, for how could anything be so right? You briefly remember something important to you, but it doesn’t matter, not here.

Looking up, you see within the light something floating down toward you, something small, rectangular, and warm. Your fingers gently grasp it as it floats before you, and you find that it has a buttery, flaky crust. With gentle motions, you bring it to your mouth and take a bite.

You taste creation itself.

Your tongue weeps tears that you didn’t know it could weep as up becomes green and smell becomes orange. Everything, everything is changed by this pouch, by inherent flavor. It speaks to you, whispers of dreams of magic, yet is tempered by the flames of taste. The two are in synch as they war in your mouth and you feel yourself being broken apart as you melt into the abyss of bliss.

————————————————————————————–

Your eyes snap open and you stagger backward, panting. Selene puts a hand on your shoulder, stabilizing you as she yells at you with concern. You… you’re back in reality. You know this because you hurt like hell, you have a mild headache… And you’re still in love with Selene.

“Wizard, are you alright? What happened?” Selene asks, looking at you.

You shake your head, trying to figure it out. “I… I think I’m alright. I just… I don’t really know what happened. The elixir spilled on into the bag and it must have mixed with the… Flavor… Dimension…”

You look back into your [Pocket Dimension] again to see that the hole you had torn into the flavor dimension is now a massive rent. You felt a spike of fear at the possibility that you may have just unleashed the destruction of reality, when you remember that you’re still here. So… guess you’re okay?

Then you notice the heated bread pouches. There they sit, as always, warm and delicious, but now they appear to glow with a soft and inner light. You gingerly take one out and examine it in your hands.

“A pastry?” Selene asks, confused.

You narrow your eyes and go to take a bite. As soon as you do, your eyes open wide and you feel power flood into you. It’s… Hard to describe it exactly. The feeling is akin to that of eating a good, spicy sausage and cheese bread pouch, but you feel invigorated somehow, like your magic is more powerful.

Selene’s eyes widen. “What did you do? You feel… more powerful somehow.”

You finish the heated bread pouch with relish to feel yourself suffused with magic, raw mana coursing in your veins. The biggest smile comes to your mouth, eyes flaring to life with energy.

“Solos… He heard your prayer.” Whispers Selene, incredulous. Certainly this boost of power didn’t make you as strong as she was, but you feel that it’s more than you possessed before. Maybe with some luck, and a little teamwork… you can defeat Valinthia!

You whip about to Selene, beaming. “I don’t know if this was the providence of the Gods or the bumbling of a Wizard, but what I do know is that I’m going to kick the ass of a Dragon!”

Selene chuckles, wiping a tear from her eye. “She’s still my Lady, you know.”

You walk up to Selene and put a hand around her waist, pulling her in close. She gasps as you give her no time to react, and you kiss her with all the passion of a pent-up virgin.

She melts into your kiss, wrapping her arms around you as your lips press against hers, the delicate softness washing over you like a wave. Your breath grows ragged as you move your lips in time with hers, dancing hand in hand in a method you scarcely believe you could manage.

When you can feel yourself losing the ability to breathe, you hesitantly pull back, panting. Selene does the same, holding you close still, her tails waving about excitedly as she licks her lips.

“Oh how I’ve been waiting for that…” She coos.

You chuckle as she slowly lets go. Of course, you promptly stumble to one knee as a wave of dizziness flows through you. What the hells just- aww fuck.

“Ooookay, so Solos is still a dick about this.” You say, rubbing at your head as you feel the sudden loss of power.

Selene huffs and puts her hands on her hips. “Wizard! You knew this would happen!”

You pick yourself up and slowly draw out another heated bread pouch, waving it about, “Yeah, I suspected, but come on, I had to do it, it fit the mood. Besides, I have these and-“

Stopping your sentence mid-way, you look down at the pouch in your hand as it begins to glow with more and more intensity. Eyes growing wide, you quickly toss it across the room where it detonates into a spray of magical power and cheese.

Both you Selene trade astonished glances before you gingerly draw another one, stare at it and then take a delicate bite. This one, thankfully, does not explode with anything but flavor.

Selene sighs and puts a hand to her head, her tails waving about behind her. “You are SUCH a Wizard!”

The both of you look at each other and laugh heartily.

 

Chapter 190

 

Leaving the chamber together, you come out to see the others standing around, staring at the two of you. Frowning, you give them odd glances before you realize that you’re holding hands with Selene, the two of you smiling.

“You look like you just did something naughty…” Says Delilah, eyebrow raised. “Or perhaps not, as you still seem to have magical power. Hmm.”

Saya walks up and hands you Chaika. You pat her on the head and she beams before looking up to Selene who smiles back at her. What a warm feeling.

“Wizard…” Harmony begins, stepping forward. “You were in there an awfully long time, if we wish to help the Hero…”

You nod to them. “We will. I’m sorry it took so long, believe me. But we will stop the Lady.”

The others nod to you, steeling their resolve. You look down as you feel a familiar skittering on your pant leg and watch as Bubs crawls back into your pocket.

{Glad to see you’re in the game here boss.} He looks up to Selene and then cowers a little before looking down and then sniffing toward her. She smiles and offers her hand before Bubs gently rubs his head on her fur, causing her to laugh softly.

{Alright, fine, you can be with her.} He says, with an air of authority.

{Oh? Thank you Bubs, I’ve been waiting for your judgement for so long. This is a great relief.} You send in a joking tone.

{I’m sure it is!} He says, and you can feel the smile in the words. {Now let’s go slay a Dragon!}

{You got it! You ready there Chaika?}

The knife-stick doesn’t really have much emotion as she yawns out, {Yeah, yeah let’s get this over with.}

You quirk an eyebrow but don’t say anything before nodding to the others. “Alright let’s get going then. Oh, and Delilah… When this is over I want to talk to you about something.”

The head stares into your eyes before smirking. “Oh this should be good.”

With that settled, you begin to walk forward when you feel something wrap around your chest. Panicking after being attacked so recently by Tolosh, you look to see that Selene has caught your party in her tails.

“Uhm. What are you- doiiinnnnnnng!” You shout as Selene dashes forward, pulling all of you behind her down the tunnels.

The air in the tunnels whisks by you as Selene dashes through the corridors, somehow even carrying Harmony’s weight as if it were nothing, and yet managing not to hit any of you against the walls. There are a few close calls here and there, but you survive. Somehow.

She races you through the tunnels before quickly entering a series of corridors which lead to a large, properly made stone area that looks like it’s part of the main keep. That too is soon left behind as she dashes up a long staircase. You furrow your brow when you see a corpse laying across the stairs, blood pooled about him from a chest wound. You can’t be certain, but you’re fairly confident it’s Chad. Poor bastard.

Selene’s ears twitch as you move to a smaller set of stairs where cold wind blows from the spiral staircase. Letting you go, she tilts her head up, listening before she frowns.

“Up ahead is the observation flat. It sounds like your friends are doing battle there.” She takes a deep breath. “This is where I have to leave you.”

You nod, but Saya walks up and puts a hand on Selene’s, looking up into her eyes, “Leave? You’re not going to help us?”

Selene closes her eyes and sighs out. “I cannot. Please understand little one.”

Saya bites her lip and steps back as you tie Delilah to your belt again. You put a hand on her shoulder and nod. “It’ll be fine. We’ll see her again, right?”

Selene nods before slowly backing away. She pauses midway though and then runs back up to hug you.

“Be safe.” She whispers.

“You know me.” You say back.

She raises an eyebrow at that but merely gives a sad chuckle and leaves, her tails swaying behind her.

Heart hurting at seeing her leave again, you steel yourself before taking in a deep breath and looking at your companions.

“Alright we go in fast and hit them hard. Support Blake’s group as best you can and kill Tolosh if you see her. She’s weakened, she has to be, so if we eliminate her, we stand a better chance.”

The others nod, understanding. Taking a deep breath, you grip Chaika tight and charge up the stairs, bursting out into the observation flat, staff blazing.

A cold wind hits you and you realize that the observation flat is partially open to the outside elements. You prepare a spell of [Fire], readying to throw it when you see a zip of motion and hear a cry of pure pain.

Scarlet blood dances across the snowy air. Your eyes grow wide as you watch Veronica gasp in pain as she is lifted from her feet by Third, one of her large claws piercing straight through her armored abdomen and out the other side of her body.

The Aspirant coughs up blood onto the Chimera before lolling her head, her body going limp. The Chimera, with a slight smile on her face, casually flicks the body off and onto the snow-covered stones where a panting Blake kneels, hand on Lionsedge as Hala and Tabitha stand beside him, their expressions shocked.

Third slowly turns to you and you hear a sound of someone clapping as a soft, clicking noise echoes off the stone. You look to a covered section of the deck to see Tolosh, hair an utter mess, emerge next to taller woman with fair skin, long, sandy blond hair and…

The red scales of a Dragon.

The Dragon looks over to Veronica, then you, before shrugging and saying in a bored tone,

“Oh, Selene didn’t deal with you after all. A pity, but it won’t matter soon anyway. You’re all far too weak to live.”

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