Fabularis – Chapter 4


((A/N: Aye, siwmae. And good day to you, readers.

It’s been a long time. I have no excuse for this one: I let videogames distract me big time, ahahaha. Primarily Elden Ring. I AM MALENIA, BLADE OF– er, sorry, had a small raptus here.

Anyway, on with the story. In this chapter, Francisca finally wakes up, and Shit Happens(TM). Hopefully it’s worth the wait. Chapter is slightly shorter than usual because one, I have procrastinated enough, and two, I found that stopping where I did was a good place to do so. We’re also introduced to another of the Fallen Maidens, and we see things from the mamono’s perspective for a while.

Also, I had planned for some events taking place in Polove to make it into this chapter, but ultimately cut them because it would have delayed the whole thing even more. They’ll fit into the next one, for sure.

I really do hope that this proves to be worth the long wait, and I’ll do my best to not take as long for the next one. Hopefully the Elden Ring DLC will take a while to come out.

But I’ve kept you long enough. Now, on to the chapter!

Author out.))

==Chapter 4: Awakening==

==Dawn of a new day==

Francisca’s eyes slowly cracked open as she regained consciousness, feeling groggy. She blinked a few times to adjust to the dim light coming from the room’s shuttered window, then glanced to her sides, taking in the sights around her. It took her a few moments, but she eventually recognized her surroundings as her bedroom in the western annex building of Lescatie’s royal castle. She chuckled lightly as she saw the nightstand to her left, recalling how its absence had been her first clue that something strange had happened on her first day in Fabularis.

Letting out a slow sigh, Francisca decided she’d spent enough time reorienting herself, and attempted to get up and off the bed. As she tried to sit upright, however, a lancing pain shot through her, causing her to fall backwards on her pillow with a startled shout, followed by a pained groan as she panted, feeling a dull, throbbing ache in every part of her body.

“Nnngh… I forgot that my real body is still crippled,” she muttered, displeased. She had gotten so used to being able to move freely that the sudden pain from her broken body had come as a shock. Slowly, she got her accelerated breathing under control, her eyes fixated on the ceiling as she did so. Idly, she noted to herself that her room needed a new paint job: the white walls were getting dirty from age and dust, and besides the all-white room was incredibly dull to look at, especially after having lived for a whole year in Rianobed’s gorgeously vibrant environment.

As she relaxed, she felt an extremely brief tingling sensation on her skin, almost too quick to register. Shortly afterwards, she heard noise outside her bedroom, and then there was a familiar, discreet knock at her door. Glancing at the room’s entrance, she spoke up. “Come in, Rowena.”

At her invitation, the door opened, and the blonde maid entered the room, carrying clothes, a hairbrush, skin lotion and other toiletry items. Rowena set the items she was carrying down at the foot of the bed, then closed the door and turned to look at Francisca. A concerned frown flashed across her face as she took in the princess’s pale, slightly disheveled appearance. “Princess, are you…?” she began to ask, before trailing off. Francisca shook her head with a weak smile.

“Don’t worry. I just forgot this body isn’t quite healthy just yet, and carelessly tried to get up on my own,” she explained to the concerned young woman at her side. She then closed her eyes, taking a deep breath, and continued. “If you don’t mind, I’m going to take a look and fix whatever is wrong with me now. In the meanwhile, why don’t you head into Fabularis and get the time synchronization done with?”

“I actually already took care of it, Princess,” Rowena reassured her with a smile, pointing at the supplies she had brought in. Francisca reopened her eyes, puzzled, then chuckled quietly as she recognized the embroidery on the towels, the decorated hairbrush and the pink halter dress she’d grown fond of during her stay in the magical world. Rowena had brought out all her favorite items first thing.

“What would I do without you, dear Rowena? Surely you’re a gift from the Goddess,” she exclaimed, smiling warmly at the maid. The praise caused a deep blush to bloom on Rowena’s face, and she shifted on her feet with a bashful smile.

“T-thank you for your kind words,” she replied, fidgeting. She then took a deep breath, calmed her nerves and looked at her mistress. “Do you wish for me to stay by your side while you… fix… yourself?”

“I’d prefer to be alone, actually. I need absolute focus for this… it is, after all, the very first time I use my powers on my real body,” Francisca answered. She then gave the maid a smile and a nod. “Still, I will be sure to call for you if I am in need of anything, so do not worry. Why don’t you take this time to familiarize yourself with this place again? After one year, you might not remember where everything is supposed to be, after all.”

“That is true. I had some trouble getting my bearings again after waking up. I kept expecting stairs and doors where there were none, and was confused when I couldn’t find the baths,” the blonde woman admitted. She then bit her lip, looking concerned. “Still… will you be fine by yourself?”

“Yes. Go take care of your own duties. I’m pretty sure my voice will reach you if I need any help,” the princess confirmed with a firm nod. Rowena nodded and bowed, then moved the toiletry items and clothing to a table near the window and quietly left the room, closing the door behind herself.

Left alone in the poorly lit room, Francisca sighed, then closed her eyes and reached for the power she could feel deep within her, allowing it to envelop her mind in a warm haze. The familiar sensation of the Ultimate Chimera’s power brought her a measure of comfort and confidence, and after a brief pause, she began to patiently examine her own body’s genes, looking for the source of all her past pains and struggles.

It did not take long at all for her to find the damage in her genetic code. In fact, it was so widespread, Francisca privately wondered how she had survived so long. There was little doubt in her mind that, if left to her own devices, she would likely not have survived past her twenty-fifth birthday at most, probably even less.

Little by little, she pinpointed the damaged genes and patiently replaced them, using the fresh human genes she had coincidentally acquired earlier that very morning from Rowena coming within range of her chimeric absorption. She smiled briefly: in a way, a part of Rowena was now going to be within her, since she was replacing her own damaged genetic strands with those of the blonde maid. Realistically speaking, it was just generic human genome, but she preferred to think of it as something more intimate than that.

She carefully kept taking damaged pieces out and weaving the undamaged replacements in, letting the Ultimate Chimera’s power guide her whenever she felt uncertain about something. The power within seemed to know exactly what she wanted to do, and it guided her through the process. She would even receive warnings in the form of vague sensations of danger whenever she attempted to change something that was best left alone. Francisca idly wondered if she’d be able to do even half of what she was currently doing without the guidance of her chimeric power, then shrugged, deciding that said guidance existed specifically for that purpose.

It was past noon when she finally replaced the last damaged piece and deemed her work done. She gave one last once-over to her handiwork, and felt a sense of satisfaction within her, hinting that her inner power also approved. With a sigh, she let go of the Ultimate Chimera, and reopened her eyes, inhaling and exhaling slowly as she relaxed after the grueling hours-long task.

Just as she began to unwind, there was a knock at the door, and Rowena’s voice came from outside. “Princess? May I come in?” it asked, sounding concerned.

“Perfect timing, Rowena. I just finished here. Do come in,” Francisca answered. The room’s door opened almost immediately, and an anxious-looking Rowena walked in, closing the door behind her. Approaching Francisca’s bed, the maid was surprised to see that there was color on her mistress’s cheeks, and she looked a lot more vital than before. After a brief hesitation, she spoke up.

“Are… are you all right, Princess? You look… better than earlier. Did everything go well?” she asked, her anxiety seeping into her words. Francisca shook her head reassuringly.

“I’ll be fine from now on. Although, I do need you for something. Can you help me get up on my feet?” she asked her with an apologetic smile. Rowena blinked at the unexpected request.

“I don’t mind, of course, but is that all right? You seem to be quite tired…” the maid replied, looking unsure. “Perhaps you should rest a bit more?”

“I plan to, but before that, I need to make sure the changes I made take full effect,” Francisca explained. “To do that, I need to shift out of, and then back into, my human form.”

Rowena blinked, perplexed. “How is changing your form going to help with that?” she asked, confused. Francisca lifted a hand and tapped her own chest with her fingertips.

“My body, as it is now, is still damaged. I corrected the errors in my genes, but that did not automatically fix existing problems,” she explained “It’s kind of like if you built a house while following a faulty construction plan where stone was replaced with chalk. Even if you correct the plan, you need to tear down and rebuild the defective building.” Francisca looked at the palm of her hand. “When I change forms, I basically am dismantling and rebuilding my body from the ground up, and use the information stored in my chimeric power core to do it. And since I just fixed my ‘human’ information…”

“…once you return to your human form, your body will be rebuilt according to the unflawed information. I see, so that’s how it works…” the maid murmured, intrigued. “I wonder if this effect can be used to heal wounds, too?”

“I never actually tried to verify that while I was in Rianobed, come to think of it. It’s certainly something I will need to experiment with in the future,” Francisca admitted, curious herself. She then looked at Rowena again. “At any rate… help me up, please? I hate to admit it, but even sitting upright hurts a fair bit when I try to do it alone.”

“Of course, Princess. Just let me get the window and door first…” the maid nodded as she swiftly moved to lock the room’s entrance and ensured the window shutters were secured. With the task done, she then approached Francisca’s bed. Carefully, she helped the princess sit upright, then on the edge of her bed, and finally, offering her own shoulder as support, she slowly pulled the purple-haired woman to her feet. With the task accomplished, she looked at her mistress for further instructions, and Francisca gave her a firm nod.

“Good. Now, let go of me. Don’t worry, I won’t fall,” she instructed Rowena. The maid briefly hesitated, then slowly let go of the princess and backed away slowly, anxiously keeping an eye on her. As soon as she took two steps back, Francisca’s body rippled like water, and then shifted. Very briefly, there was a faint but distinct crackling sound as her bone structure rearranged itself, and within seconds, she took on the cat-like appearance of her Grimalkyne form.

After the transformation was complete, Francisca gave herself a quick once-over and nodded in satisfaction. As expected, her transformed state did not suffer from the weakness and pain her base form was plagued with: she could stand pain-free and unassisted, and felt as strong and vital as she did back in Fabularis. The noise her bones made as they changed shape had briefly startled her, but there was no pain involved in that, either, although the physical feel that came with the change was somewhat unnerving.

“Um… milady? Are… are you all right? There was a really scary sound just now…” Rowena’s voice interrupted the princess’s thoughts. Looking up, she saw her loyal maid staring at her with barely concealed anxiety, likely intensified by the nasty noise her bones made as she transformed. Francisca smiled back at her, waving a clawed hand in reassurance as her feline tail swished under her nightgown.

“I’m fine, see? Although… I didn’t expect my body would make that noise when I changed,” she admitted with a frown. “I hope I did not alarm you too much…”

“Aaahhh… I think I lost a few years of my life when I heard that cracking,” Rowena muttered as she unwound with a relieved sigh. Looking up, she noticed that her mistress was standing naturally, with no trace of pain or discomfort. “It seems that while in one of your other forms, you are pain-free, right?” she commented as she moved to the princess’s side and reached out to offer support. “I wonder if perhaps– huh…”

The maid’s voice trailed off as her hand made contact with Francisca’s forearm. Rowena blinked, looking curiously distracted, and began to absentmindedly stroke the fur on the princess’s arm. Francisca paused, giving her a puzzled look, before eventually speaking up after a few seconds of being stroked. “Uh… Rowena?” she tentatively called out. When there was no answer, nor any apparent sign Rowena had even heard her at all, she raised her voice a little. “Rowena… what are you doing?”

The maid’s head snapped up as Francisca’s louder voice finally registered with her. She momentarily shook her head, before realizing what she had been doing and yanking her hand away from the princess’s arm as if it was on fire, a luminous crimson blush of embarrassment coloring her cheeks.

“I… uh… I’m sorry! It just… feels different when we are in our real bodies. It’s so much fluffier…” she frantically apologized. “I got distracted by all the fluffiness, and could not resist, and–”

“Rowena. Calm down. Deep breaths. I’m not upset,” Francisca interrupted the panicking maid in a reassuring tone as she gently grasped her hands, taking care not to injure her with her claws. “I was just surprised by your actions, but I do not mind. It was not unpleasant, either.” She kept gently talking to the maid, and eventually, the princess’s soothing words caused Rowena’s panic to subside.

With the unexpected incident resolved, Francisca opted to return to her original form, in case unannounced guests showed up. Reaching within for her newly-modified human form’s information, she allowed the Ultimate Chimera’s power to change her. As she reverted, her inhuman features evaporated into smoke, which appeared to be absorbed into her, and her body lost its fur coating, returning to smooth, pale pink skin.

Almost immediately, however, she felt her strength leave her limbs, and began wobbling unsteadily on her legs, almost falling over before an alarmed Rowena caught her at the last moment. Confused, the princess sat down on her bed again, unsure of what happened.

“Princess…? Is something wrong? I thought you said you fixed your body’s issues…” the blonde maid voiced the concern in both women’s mind. Francisca looked up at her from her sitting position on the bed and frowned.

“I… did. I cannot find anything wrong in my body, and the pain is, in fact, gone,” she confirmed in a perplexed tone. She continued talking as she briefly examined herself. “It’s just… I feel like my body is weak and unresponsive. I wonder– wait, maybe it’s that…”

“Did you figure something out?” Rowena asked, noticing a spark of realization light up the princess’s eyes. Francisca nodded.

“I think so. It’s a discrepancy between what my body can do and what it expects to be able to do. A form of muscle memory, if you will. It’s clashing with both the conditioning I underwent in Fabularis, and my renewed body’s actual capabilities.” She frowned. “I didn’t think this would happen because I based my expectations on my experiences in Rianobed, but I forgot that back then, I had an astral body, rather than a physical one. My astral memory and my physical memory overlap, but don’t match, and the result…”

“I think I understand. Your body still thinks it’s crippled, and won’t respond the way you want it to, right?” Rowena guessed. Francisca nodded.

“Yes. It will go away in time, but until it does, I will only be able to move freely in my transformed state,” she concluded. A sigh escaped her lips as she shook her head in frustration. “This is annoying, but it can’t be helped. Well, it’s not all bad, anyway… it would have drawn too much attention if I abruptly started walking normally without apparent reason.” Francisca smiled at Rowena. “This way, I can claim it to be an unexpected recovery, perhaps thanks to you lovingly taking excellent care of me every day.”

“T-that might be a bit too much, Princess,” Rowena protested, blushing at the compliment. The purple-haired girl shook her head in denial.

“No, no, it is no exaggeration. You have gone far beyond your duty for my sake. And you did bring me the book. It would be no lie to say it’s thanks to you that I am healthy again,” she stated firmly. She then gave the blonde maid an impish smile. “With that said, I will have to impose on you a bit longer. I’d apologize, but the truth is I like it when you spoil me.”

“Well… then I will be sure to spoil you plenty, Princess,” Rowena replied with a cheeky smile of her own. She then sighed and gave her an inquisitive look. “Now then, since the situation is what it is, what do you wish to do in the meantime? I could get the wheelchair and take you shopping in the city proper, if you like.”

“No, I think it may be too early for me to be out on strolls yet. Let’s take things slowly,” Francisca shook her head negatively. “That said, the wheelchair idea has merit. I got too used to basking in the sun and enjoying the breeze… so, why not go relax in the garden? I am not entirely sure, since the shutters are closed, but it seems like today’s weather is fair.”

“Understood. Then, I will go fetch it,” the maid nodded. Straightening up, she bowed, then turned around and quickly left the room. Left alone, Francisca hummed, waiting, but quickly became bored of standing still. Her eyes narrowed in frustration: she didn’t like being unable to move about freely, although the fact she was pain-free was certainly an improvement over her previous state.

Looking up at the door, she made a decision. Focusing, she took a deep breath, and then pushed herself off the bed, struggling to her feet. Leaning on the wall for stability, she took deep breaths until she felt her heart rate slow down, then began to slowly advance towards the door, one step at a time, while using the wall as support.

Eventually, she made it to the door, and opened it with one hand, then advanced into the hallway beyond it. Francisca’s room was situated in one of the annex’s towers, on the first floor, and the hallway ended in stairs on both directions. She moved towards the stairs leading down to the ground floor, slowly but steadily, and eventually reached them.

Stopping at the top of the stairs, she hesitated, then firmly grasped the wall mounted handrails on the right side and began to very slowly descend the stairwell, one step at a time, making sure to rest at each step before taking the next one and taking all the time she needed. In this case, haste would have spelled disaster, so she made sure not to be in a hurry.

Finally, she reached the base of the stairs, and her feet made contact with the ground floor’s surface. Francisca slowly exhaled, before smiling to herself. (I can do it if I focus, after all), she thought triumphantly. She then frowned. (It was much harder than I expected, though. I wonder–)

Her thoughts were interrupted by a gasp and a thump, and she looked up to see an alarmed Rowena, who had just dropped the rudimental foldable wheelchair she was carrying upon seeing her standing at the bottom of the stairs. The maid rushed up to her, concern evident in her face.

“P-Princess?! Why are you here?! If you’d just waited, I’d have helped you descend the stairs…” Rowena protested as she looked Francisca over, scanning for any signs of injury. The purple-haired girl chuckled, then shook her head and put a hand on the other woman’s shoulder in a placating gesture.

“Calm down. I’m fine and uninjured. I just… well, I suppose I wanted to prove to myself I could do it if I tried hard enough, body or not,” she told the maid. She then scratched her head sheepishly, smiling awkwardly. “I guess I was maybe a bit careless, huh?”

“Princess! What if you fell? Aside from how it would be my head on the chopping block if anything bad happened to you while under my supervision, I would feel terrible if you got hurt!” Rowena scolded her in return, her eyes narrowed in anger. She then sighed, her shoulders slumping. She knew very well how stubborn Francisca could be when she got it in her head to do something. Looking up at the princess, the maid gave her a pleading look. “Princess, just… next time you want to do this, at least let me be present, in case something goes wrong. I know that with your new… abilities… you probably don’t need my assistance, but it’s for my peace of mind, if nothing else.”

Francisca winced. She could see that Rowena was genuinely upset by her reckless behavior. She quietly nodded. “Right… sorry. I didn’t mean to cause you anxiety. I’ll be sure to ask for your presence if I ever do something like this again,” she murmured. The maid stared silently at her for a few seconds, then sighed again.

“Thank you. I truly am sorry to impose, but… I still have concerns for your well-being. Please, bear with me,” she told the princess. Turning towards the wheelchair she dropped, she quickly walked over and picked it back up, then swiftly set it up, rolling it over to Francisca, who was still waiting at the base of the stairs. With some aid from Rowena, the princess was soon seated in the contraption, and sighed in relief. Truthfully, descending the stairs took a lot out of her still-adjusting body.

With Francisca securely seated in the wheelchair, Rowena began to carefully push her, headed for the annex’s entrance. As they passed the windows, the purple-haired princess began to hum an upbeat tune. Things hadn’t panned out quite as well as she had hoped, but it was just a temporary setback, and she would be patient.

And, once she was fully recovered, she would be very busy indeed.

=O=O=

Francisca hummed as she sat in her wheelchair with her eyes closed, enjoying the sun’s warmth. It was mid-spring, and the day was pleasant, indeed – not too cold, not too hot, and with a gentle breeze blowing through the castle’s garden. The lack of people in the garden helped her relax, as well – one of the few perks of her isolated living arrangements.

Francisca thought about her situation as she relaxed. The old, weathered building she lived in was considered an annex to the royal castle of Lescatie, but it was separate from the castle proper, requiring visitors to walk through the left side of the royal garden to reach its entrance. Few people ever went there, since the only inhabitants of the old building were Francisca and Rowena; essentially, aside from the gardener which came once every two weeks to care for the plants, it was essentially ignored. An arrangement that suited the royal family just fine, as the frail, sickly princess was deemed an embarrassment to the Lescatie royals by their noble peers. Thus, by keeping her away from others’ eyes, she was also kept out of their minds.

On the flip side, however, these arrangements also meant she was free to do whatever she desired, so long as it attracted no attention. And with her newfound powers taken into account, living in a private building that no one ever visited was, in fact, a fairly ideal setup. Francisca planned to make full use of the isolation, taking advantage of it to experiment with her chimeric powers.

All that, however, could wait. For now, what she wanted to do was enjoy the warm sunlight, the gentle breeze, and her newfound pain-free body.

“Princess, are you enjoying yourself?”

Rowena’s voice caused Francisca to crack one eye open and glance to the side. She chuckled: the maid had brought a trolley with teacups, a teapot, and a small but familiar looking white jar, containing vigor honey from Fabularis. She briefly shook her head, thinking about the irony of using the honey she herself produced as sweetener for her tea. On some level, she was sure it was a disturbing thing to do, but personally, she liked the fragrant aftertaste of this kind of honeyed tea too much to care about such details.

She would have liked to accompany the tea with a slice of the delicious honey cake Rowena made back in Rianobed, but realized that was a bad idea, on account of how she was supposed to not be able to stomach sweets. Changing her living and eating habits overnight would have attracted undue attention, and while she was sure she could pass any examination designed to weed out a mamono, it was still best not to be subjected to that kind of inquiry at all. She was not a mamono, of that she was sure, but to an outside observer, her inhuman forms would not have appeared any different, with unfortunate results should her cover be blown.

Rowena appeared to have guessed what Francisca was thinking about, for she smiled gently as she handed her a cup of piping hot tea, into which she’d already expertly mixed a spoonful of honey. “Don’t worry, Princess. We have to do things little by little at first, but before you know it, you’ll be up, walking, and enjoying all the cake and sweets you want,” she whispered in a conspiratorial tone, which caused Francisca to snicker and struggle to keep from bursting out in laughter.

Pfff-hahaha… The way you say it almost makes it sound like we’re planning some kind of grandiose, nefarious scheme,” the princess commented in an amused tone. “But it’s good that we can joke about it, isn’t it?” She then began to sip on her tea, relaxing and enjoying the taste.

The two young women spent the afternoon chatting and gossiping. Francisca, who had been stuck in her room for a very long time, was eager to know more about the world beyond the castle walls, and Rowena was all too happy to answer her every question. Eventually, the topic veered towards the quality of living in the kingdom, and the mood turned somber: while she spared her mistress the most disturbing details, Rowena made no mystery of the fact that life in Lescatie was less than pleasant for anyone who wasn’t a member of the nobility.

The news caused Francisca to fall silent as she pondered quietly. She had expected that things wouldn’t be good, but the picture Rowena painted with her report was much bleaker than she thought. Commoners regularly had trouble making ends meet, crime was at an all-time high – although the criminal types operated in the shadows, so as to avoid drawing the Order’s attention – and sudden outbreaks of sicknesses were frequent.

There was one such plague some years prior, during which Rowena herself very nearly died. To this day, she was not sure how she had survived, chalking it up to divine intervention of some kind. The thought of the blonde maid dying chilled Francisca to the bone: she was certain that her own life would have been very different, had Rowena never been part of it – and not for the better.

As the afternoon turned to evening, Francisca and Rowena prepared to retire into the annex. That was when Francisca noticed someone walk into the garden – and an encounter took place that would be critically important for the future of the kingdom.

The newcomer was a young, diminutive rosy-skinned girl, looking to be in her early teens. She had pink hair and reddish eyes, and wore a frilly dress whose red and pink pattern matched her hair and eye color. A creamy white hair ribbon and a pair of similarly colored thigh high socks with small twin ribbon red decorations completed her outfit along with a pair of leather shoes. She held what Francisca recognized from her books as a magical scepter, a tool designed to allow magic users to more easily channel their spells. This particular scepter was golden-colored, with a large gleaming ruby set in its head.

What drew Francisca’s attention the most, though, was the downcast expression on the girl’s face. It was a tired, world-weary look – not one that she expected to see worn by a child so young. She felt a pang of sympathy for the unknown girl: she’d seen that same expression before – in the mirror, on her own face.

“Oh… this is unusual. Why is Lady Mimil here?” Rowena’s voice jolted Francisca out of her thoughts. The princess looked up at her maid with a questioning glance, and Rowena elaborated. “Right, you wouldn’t know her, milady. That’s Mimil Miltie, a magician Hero of Lescatie. She’s said to be the strongest magic user in the nation, more talented than even your sisters, and is considered a prodigy and the pride of the Magitech Institute. I hear she was an adept spellcaster as early as five years of age, and both the Order and the kingdom pulled a lot of strings to get her enrolled early into the Institute.” Rowena’s expression became wistful. “It must be nice to be so talented. Life must be much easier and more pleasant…”

“I think she hates it.”

Rowena blinked, then glanced at Francisca. “Uh… what? Who? You mean… Lady Mimil?” she asked, confused. At the princess’s nod, she shook her head. “But… That makes no sense. Why would she hate being hailed as a prodigy? Such an honor is…”

“Just a gilded cage,” Francisca interrupted Rowena as she stared at Mimil, who sat down on a bench and was looking at the ground, hunched over and frowning while restlessly swinging her feet. She sighed, taking in the girl’s body language. It was all too familiar to her.

Taking her gaze off Mimil, Francisca looked up at Rowena. “Being proclaimed things like ‘prodigy’ and ‘genius’ just places expectation upon expectation on those who are called such,” she told her in a low, weary tone. “It’s no happy, worry-free life, like you seem to be thinking. All it does is give you crushing anxiety as you try to live up to your title.” She exhaled slowly and closed her eyes. “I should know: people expected much from me, simply because I was born a Princess of Lescatie, and when I turned out to be a disappointment, I was cast aside and forgotten. The same kind of threat hangs over her head – if she fails to meet the expectations of those who call her prodigy, she won’t be forgiven.”

Francisca’s eyes reopened and she frowned deeply, looking up at the darkening sky before speaking again, her tone being considerably harsher now. “And why is such a young child being made to act as a Hero? Children like her are the ones Heroes, and adults in general, should be protecting. Adults should be the ones working to keep her safe, not the other way around. I don’t care how much magical talent she has, this is just wrong.” She shook her head. “She should be laughing and playing with other children her age, not fighting to protect a bunch of blowhard nobles who can’t live up to their own bragging… what has this nation become?”

Rowena remained silent. She’d rarely seen her mistress this upset, and regardless, had no good answer for her question. She quietly waited by Francisca’s side as the princess fumed in anger. Eventually, the purple-haired woman calmed down, and after giving one last look to the lonely young girl on the other side of the garden, she expressed the desire to return to her room. Nodding, Rowena began to push her wheelchair along, and soon enough the pair disappeared inside the annex.

Had they turned around before that point, however, they would have noticed Mimil staring at Francisca with a strange look on her face. A mix of confusion and curiosity…

=O=O=

Several days passed uneventfully after that. Francisca went out in the garden more and more often, as part of her ploy to make it look like she was ‘feeling better’. Her presence, however, gathered no attention outside of that of the gardener who dropped by to prune the numerous rose bushes one afternoon – and, curiously, that of Mimil Miltie, who began to show up regularly in the garden.

The gardener, a middle-aged man with sunburnt skin and a graying beard by the name of Bartholo, was not a very chatty sort, answering in single words to every question and seemingly unhappy about his job. He quickly left as soon as his working hours were up, and Francisca got the impression that he was likely underpaid and unappreciated for his work, which from what she could see, was top-notch: the man may not have been friendly, but he knew his plants, and carefully tended to the garden despite his obvious dissatisfaction. (He probably really loves plants), Francisca thought as she watched him leave.

Mimil’s presence, however, gave Francisca mixed feelings: on one hand, the young girl seemed to have shed her depression in her subsequent appearances. On the other hand, the princess caught the magician stealthily glancing at her on multiple occasions, and this odd behavior puzzled her. Rowena confirmed that the magical girl’s actions were unusual: Mimil had never before visited the royal garden so regularly, and her previous visits had been sporadic at best.

It felt like the magical girl was coming to the garden solely to peek at her.

This odd situation continued for about a week, during which Francisca didn’t do much besides getting acclimated with her newly healed body, studying the state of Lescatie and considering several courses of action for the future. Then, one evening…

=O=O=

“Princess, I brought you your chamomile infusion,” Rowena announced as she entered Francisca’s room with a tray in hand. On it lay a teapot, a cup and a jar of honey, along with a few biscuits. The latter were something new Rowena had taken to making for her mistress, and like most other sweet things Francisca was fond of, they were made with vigor honey.

Francisca, who was clad in her nightwear and sitting on her bed surrounded by paper sheets and notebooks, raised her head from the document she was reading and smiled gratefully at the maid. “Thank you. I was looking forward to it,” she answered, carefully setting the pile of papers she was working on aside and swinging her legs off the bed’s edge, adjusting herself in a sitting position. Rowena set the tray she was carrying down on a small cart and pushed it closer to the bed, then expertly poured the infusion within the teapot in the cup and added two spoonfuls of vigor honey, as she had learned Francisca liked it. She then held the filled cup out for Francisca to take. The princess smiled and accepted the offered cup, then began to quietly sip the warm beverage, sighing as she felt the fatigue from an evening of intense studying drain out of her.

It had become almost habitual for Francisca to sweeten whatever infusion she was drinking with some of the vigor honey from Rianobed. It both relaxed her and relieved the fatigue of a day spent going over the numerous notes she’d written down with Rowena’s help. She’d even tried to make honey from Lescatie’s local flowers, although the result was nowhere near as good as what she could make from the nectar of Fabularis’s vitalilies: it had a much lower fatigue relief effect, and weaker healing properties as well. Still, it was a serviceable energy booster, and knowing she could make decent enough honey from any flowers in a pinch was also good.

Rowena watched intently as Francisca sipped on her chamomile tea. The princess had been intensely studying the situation in Lescatie, trying to figure out what she could do to help with her newfound power, but thus far nothing quite came to mind. She did, however, conclude that there had to be a rather disturbing amount of corruption and deceit in the government itself, particularly the high nobles – “a cesspool of hatred and lies”, as Francisca described it in frustrated disgust in one occasion.

The biggest obstacle to any plans was that Francisca had no way to get accurate information to act upon: she could realistically trust no one outside of Rowena, and while the Royal Family did have a spymaster in its service, she couldn’t be sure he wasn’t also compromised.

Finishing her herbal infusion, Francisca sighed as she set the cup back down on the tray. She then picked up a stack of papers and began to rifle through it again, a despondent look on her face. “This is going nowhere… I really need my own information network,” she muttered, her brow furrowed in irritation. “But I wouldn’t know where to begin to create one…”

Watching her mistress, Rowena bit her lip. She actually did have an idea that could get Francisca the information she needed… but it would have meant revealing a part of her past she did not care for the princess to know. It caused her to hesitate time and again in the past few days, agonizing over whether to mention it or not. Ultimately, however, her loyalty to her mistress won out over her reluctance to reveal that part of her past. Clearing her throat, Rowena got Francisca’s attention.

“If I may, Princess… I might know of a way to get reliable information, and I can vouch for the sources being trustworthy,” she spoke up. She paused briefly, hesitating, then continued. “It’s just… well, they’re peculiar individuals. Not the sort that a royal would usually involve herself with. If that’s still fine with you…”

Francisca set down the papers she was reading through and focused her attention on the blonde maid, interested. “If it’s someone who has your trust, then I have no objections whatsoever. Who would these people be?” she replied, curiosity evident in her voice.

“Ah… it would be best if you directly met them,” Rowena told her after another pause. “Just… please, keep an open mind.”

“I don’t quite understand, but I’ll keep that in mind,” Francisca nodded. “So, when are we going to meet them?”

The maid rubbed her chin thoughtfully. “Hmm… I will go talk to them tomorrow. Hopefully they will be available as soon as possible. They run a business, you see,” she answered. She then gave the princess an apologetic look. “I truly am sorry if this sounds rude, but it’s a bit out of nowhere, and–”

“I understand, they may have their own obligations. Don’t worry,” Francisca reassured her. The purple haired girl then glanced at the papers on her bed and sighed, before collecting them and setting them down on the night stand. Having cleared her bed, she laid down on the sheets and tiredly stared at the ceiling. “Well, I have had enough of getting annoyed while reading those useless reports,” she commented. “I think I will take a break for today, and…”

Francisca’s voice trailed off and her eyes narrowed slightly as she stared upwards. Rowena gave her a puzzled look and followed the direction her gaze was pointing at. In doing so, she noticed a large crack in the paint job on the princess’s ceiling and frowned. “Ah, I see the room needs repainting. I will contact someone as soon as possible… do you have any color preferences, Princess?”

The maid waited for an answer, then blinked as none came. Looking over at Francisca, she saw her still staring at the ceiling with an unreadable expression. “Um… Princess?” she called out again. This time, Francisca seemed to hear her, and turned to give her a questioning look.

“Yes? What is it? Forgive me, I was lost in thought for a moment…” she told the maid. Rowena nodded, though there was still puzzlement in her eyes.

“I said, what color paint would you like for your room?” she repeated. Francisca looked downward, rubbing her chin as she briefly thought about it, then looked up at Rowena again.

“Hmm… something relaxing. Green, perhaps, or sky blue. Beige is also an option,” she replied. “Keep some of the white, though. I do not dislike it.”

Rowena nodded. “Those are good choices. I will contact a painter as soon as possible,” she said. She then gave her mistress a sharp glance. “If I may, Princess, you look tired. Perhaps it would be best if you turned in early today?”

“You’re right. I think I will do that,” Francisca agreed. She then motioned at the maid. “You should sleep early, too. You will be busy tomorrow, after all. Don’t worry, I have no need of your services for this evening.”

“Then, by your leave…” Rowena bowed deeply.

“Yes, you may go. Thank you for your hard work,” Francisca smiled. Rowena smiled back.

“You’re very welcome, milady,” she replied. She bowed again, then collected the tray and teacups and left the room, closing the door behind her.

Now alone in the bedroom, Francisca resumed staring at the ceiling. After a little while, her eyes narrowed once more.

“It seems we have rats in the attic,” she muttered as she got up. As she walked towards the door, she discarded her nightgown, and the soft sound of her footsteps gradually gave way to a muffled grinding sound of claws on wood. Opening the door, now fully transformed in her Tobi-Kadachi hybrid form, she hissed quietly.

“It’s time for some pest control.”

=O=O=

Deruella, Fourthborn Daughter of the Mamono Lord, walked through the hidden encampment she established in Lescatie’s Forest of Dark Spirits, humming to herself as she smiled in satisfaction. The Lilim, garbed in her usual revealing black attire which seemed more made of a fluid than an actual material, had just returned from a meeting with some of her allies in the Royal Makai’s territories, and while it had been nice to be back home once in a while, she elected to return to her advanced camp post-haste, concerned about the possibility of her forces being discovered and attacked by the Order’s Heroes.

The sounds of ecstasy and unrestrained copulation filled the evening air in the camp, and it pleased the white-winged Lilim to see her followers freely enjoying themselves with no reservations. The beautiful Lilim would often relax after a long day by taking walks through her camp and enjoying the wanton lust and sweet indulgence that her followers engaged in on a daily basis.

As she passed one of the tents, her red eyes were drawn to movement inside and she paused to observe the occupants, a voluptuous Orc with red hair and tanned skin and a black-haired male with a thin build and a faint purple hue to his skin, signifying a recent incubization, vigorously mating on a pile of furs. The Orc was on top of her partner, riding him for all she was worth, and their gasps of pleasure and the sound of their hips colliding could be heard all the way to where the Lilim was standing.

Deruella’s smile deepened at the sight, and she happily walked away, leaving the couple to their activities. (This is how it should be. Couples able to love each other anytime, anywhere, without limits), she thought, brushing her long white hair aside with one hand as she headed for her quarters, inside an old fort she had claimed and built her camp around. (Once the humans of the Order are made to see the light, Mother’s utopia will finally be complete.)

Her smile faltered a bit as she climbed the stairs to her room, absentmindedly nodding at a guard who saluted her at the entrance to the fort. (Lescatie, though, can’t wait. It keeps producing Heroes and teaching them to hate and kill mamono and their husbands alike, and corruption lies everywhere. If things are allowed to continue like this, nothing but suffering will come from that place. I’ll have to change things by force…) she mused. Her good mood returned as she thought about the unfortunate girls she’d found in the kingdom during her preparations. (Ah, but on the flip side, I will be able to personally bring the joy of pleasure to those poor souls who have shut themselves off to happiness,) she thought, her mind wandering over to the faces and names of a number of Lescatian maidens she had taken an interest in.

There was Wilmarina, the daughter of House Noscrim, currently stationed in the fortress city Salvarision as leader of the Order of the Ice Flower, and the strongest Hero in the Theocracy. She had closed her heart off to feelings and thrown herself into her duties as Hero after an incident involving a childhood friend, a boy she had clearly been in love with. A sad state of affairs, as Deruella was sure that if only she would indulge her desires and cast aside her silly notions of heroism, she would be so much happier than she is now. Deruella planned to fully show her how much she had been losing out on by rejecting pleasure for duty. And perhaps, she could track down that boy she’d been enamored with and gift him to her, as well…

Another who had been drawing her attention was the captain of Lescatie’s guard, Mersè Dascaros. Also a Hero, though not as renowned or accomplished as Wilmarina. Due to her mother’s heinous actions towards both her and her father, Mersè had grown up with a strong distaste for the concept of “womanhood”, thinking of her mother’s example as the only one, and thus despising the very idea of ‘being womanly’. Such a terrible waste, in Deruella’s eyes: to her, Mersè was a lovely young woman with a body that was perfect for sex, and her staunch rejection of intimacy and femininity of any sort made all her gifts meaningless. With that said, Deruella was certain that once the pleasures of the flesh were carved into Mersè’s body, she would come around to her point of view and finally pursue her own happiness as a woman, and hopefully even as a mother.

Deruella’s mind then turned to the third and final object of her interest, and her smile faltered again.

Francisca Mistel Lescatie. The fourth princess of the Theocracy was one of the most miserable and pitiable beings she’d ever seen, and she couldn’t help but feel bad about her lot in life. Born with a fragile, broken body, no talent in magic, and most damning of all in Deruella’s eyes, the inability to have children, she spent her days secluded in the royal castle’s annex, away from prying eyes – in no small part to keep her from being cause of shame to her family. This treatment of their own daughter by the royals of Lescatie infuriated the White Lilim, who adored her own parents and was blessed by their unconditional love, and it was one of the reasons why she felt a certain empathy for the unfortunate princess. The fact they were both “fourthborn” further made her think she’d found her for a reason, and it was fated to be.

Francisca was one individual Deruella had been sorely tempted to spirit away entirely from the very start, and the only reason she declined to do so was because the sudden disappearance of a Princess of the kingdom might have jeopardized her planned takeover of Lescatie, resulting in unnecessary conflicts and pointless losses of life. She did, however, assign a Kunoichi to Lescatie to keep track of all her persons of interest, with special instructions to warn her should Francisca’s condition ever take a turn for the worse. Should that event come to pass, Deruella was willing to jeopardize her plan in order to take the girl away and save her from her lonely, doomed existence.

And oh, there were so many things she wanted to teach her once she became her kin… for all that she had been born fragile, the princess had a lovely, luscious figure, and the Lilim planned to show her how to fully enjoy herself once she had a new, pain-free body. The thought brought back Deruella’s smile and good mood, and she quickly climbed the last few steps to the top floor of the keep, where her private chambers were located.

As she reached the top of the stairs, she noticed one of her Kunoichi followers waiting in front of her room’s door. The mamono, a busty beauty with pale skin, long brown hair and striking green eyes, was dressed in a red-and-purple standard Kunoichi’s garb, which emphasized her generous curves. She was slightly shorter than Deruella, but rivaled the Lilim in terms of sensuality, and there was a defined tone to her body that betrayed the rigorous training, both martial and otherwise, that she put herself through.

A katana hung from her side, the peculiar hue of the metal revealing it was made of Demon Realm silver, and a pouch containing several throwing knives, made of the same metal, was fastened to her left thigh. The sight was fairly unusual in the camp, as normally only the guards on duty were fully armed, but Deruella knew that being armed and ready at all times was a habit of this particular Kunoichi, one that she was reluctant to let go of. Unlike other Kunoichi present in the base, this one also did not wear a mask, and her full, tempting red lips were in plain display.

Upon seeing the Lilim, the Zipangese warrior immediately bowed respectfully, her head lowered. “Welcome back, Mistress. Ageha called earlier – she is ready to deliver her weekly report.”

Deruella nodded. “Thank you, Yoru. Both you and Ageha are as reliable as ever,” she replied. She then glanced at her. “Should you be here, though? If I’m not mistaken, your husband came here to visit you. Shouldn’t you be spending time with him?”

“I intend to, but my duties take precedence, so I came to relay Ageha’s message first,” the Kunoichi replied. She then bit her lip. “With that said, I do long for his touch, so if I may be excused…”

“Of course, go and enjoy each other,” Deruella replied. “And, Yoru? I appreciate your dedication, but there’s nothing wrong with prioritizing love over work. Others can take over for you.”

“Thank you, Mistress. Then, I will be excusing myself,” Yoru nodded. She bowed deeply once more, then hastily ran off, unable to conceal the lewd smile on her face. Deruella sighed, then chuckled quietly.

“Really, she should just have tasked someone else with this…” she commented, before entering her room.

The Lilim’s room was surprisingly modest, in spite of her status as a princess of the Demon Realm. While the furniture was of high quality, there were few amenities. The décor that was present, though, was all extremely sexual – as expected from a Lilim. Nude paintings depicting explicit sex acts and sculptures of naked bodies with exaggerated attributes were sparsely distributed around the room, and a distinct lewd scent lingered in the air, potent enough that a lesser mamono – or a human – would have been quickly incapacitated with arousal from breathing it in.

Closing the door behind her, Deruella headed for the table in the center of her room. A beautiful purple multifaceted gem lay on it, hovering slightly from the surface in the middle of a traced runic circle. The White Lilim used magic gems like these, called Whispering Stones, to stay in contact with her operatives gathering information within Lescatie, and while the communication was sound-only, it was still one of her most precious tools in planning her takeover of the Theocracy.

Sitting down at the table, the Lilim reached for the gem and placed her hand on it. Immediately, the magic stone began to glow, signifying that a connection had been made. Deruella took a deep breath, then spoke, letting the gem carry her words to their destination.

“Ageha. Your report, if you would,” she stated in a low tone. There was a moment of silence, then a sultry voice responded.

“Yes, Lady Deruella. As always, this Ageha has kept a close eye on all your major people of interest in Lescatie,” the unseen owner of the voice said. “There is nothing new to report concerning Mersè Dascaros. She has been training the capital’s town guards in the mornings as always, and patrolling the streets during the afternoons.” There was a brief pause, then Ageha continued. “She appears to have hit a wall in her growth as a warrior, and it’s been frustrating her.”

“Ahhh… if only she’d focus on nurturing that beautifully lewd body of hers, instead of her martial skills, I’m sure she’d be far less frustrated,” Deruella sighed, shaking her head. “Well, there’ll be all the time in the world for that once she’s one of us. What about Wilmarina Noscrim?”

“Salvarision is more tightly guarded than usual lately, but I was nonetheless able to sneak in undetected,” Ageha’s voice answered. “Wilmarina Noscrim has also been continuing her usual routine – training herself and her Ice Flower Knights, patrolling the city’s exterior to look for signs of mamono, and praying at the church in the evenings.”

“I see. Do you have any idea why security was tightened?” Deruella asked, curious.

“Yes. There was a shipment of experimental anti-mamono weaponry for testing purposes to Salvarision, and security was increased to prevent their existence from being leaked,” Ageha replied. A note of amusement crept into her voice. “That said, the guards were not doing a good job of keeping the secret. A bit of wine and some sweet words were enough to loosen their lips. And it appears the weapons are a failure: they cannot withstand a Hero’s power, breaking almost immediately on use, and common soldiers cannot properly wield them.”

“I wish the Order would stop trying to invent new ways to kill us. All we want to do is share love and pleasure with them… it would be all so much easier if they just let it happen,” Deruella murmured, eyes closed as she slowly shook her head. She then looked at the crystal again. “No matter. Well done on gathering this information. Lastly, what of Princess Francisca?”

This time, the pause lasted much longer than it had before. The Lilim felt a rush of anxiety at that: Ageha had never taken this long to answer her. She opened her mouth to ask further questions, but before she could speak up, Ageha’s reply came.

“Princess Francisca… has been up and about lately,” the Kunoichi replied slowly. Deruella blinked at those words.

“Up and about…? I thought she was bedridden due to her damaged body…” she murmured, confused.

“I thought so as well, but recently she has been going to the garden every day, and I have even seen her eat a greater variety of food and beverages,” Ageha’s voice spoke. “She seems to still need her wheelchair, but seeing her outside at all is… new.” There was another brief pause, then she continued. “Also… I was not alone in observing the Princess’s outings. A magician was also there. I believe it was Mimil Miltie… that girl who drew the Sabbath’s interest. She has been insistently staring at the Princess from afar. Did Lady Kuroferuru perhaps do something to her ahead of time?”

“What…? I haven’t heard anything about it. This is unexpected,” the White Lilim muttered, thinking. She mulled over the Kunoichi’s words for a while, then nodded to herself and glanced at the magic gem again. “This is worth looking into. Keep an eye on Francisca, and prioritize investigating what brought about this change. I’ll talk to Kuroferuru, and see if I can figure out what is happening.”

“Understood, Lady Deruella. Then, I’ll make sure to– hm?” Ageha began to respond before her voice trailed off. Immediately afterwards, an alarmed shout and a sinister sound of stone breaking came from the gem, then all was silent.

A startled Deruella jumped up from her seat and grasped at the magic stone, worry evident on her face. “Ageha?! Ageha! Are you there? Answer me!” she called out. When no answer came from the gem, she hissed in frustration, set the gem back down on the table and stormed out of her room.

Within moments, she was at the ground floor of the fort, and blazed past the guard at the entrance, frightening her. As soon as she was out in the open, she raised her voice. “Yoru! Come here at once! It’s an emergency!” she cried out.

It didn’t take long for the veteran Kunoichi to show up. She appeared flushed and disheveled, and a strong smell of sex came from her, making it clear what she had been doing before being summoned, but despite the situation, she remained impeccably professional, rushing over to the Lilim and kneeling before her.

“I am here, Mistress. What can this Yoru do for you?” she asked in a neutral tone. Deruella gazed at her, frowning.

“I’m truly sorry to disturb you while you were spending quality time with your husband, but the situation might be serious,” she apologized. Taking a deep breath, she then continued.

“I think Ageha may have been attacked by the Order.”

=O=O=

It took some time for the rescue team to be assembled and the mission to be planned. Due to the unknown nature of the attack on Ageha, preparing for what lay ahead was impossible, so a group of different mamono with varied skills in addition to excellent infiltration capabilities was put together. Among the assembled mamono, one could recognize Werewolves, more Kunoichi and even a Demon. Yoru, as a senior Kunoichi with numerous such missions completed under her belt, as well as being Ageha’s teacher, volunteered to lead the operation.

It was past midnight when the team was ready to depart. Deruella, who had come to watch the rescue team depart, was standing near the edge of the camp, a worried expression on her face.

The plan was theoretically simple: the idea was to use the cover of night to sneak into Lescatie, locate Ageha – hopefully alive – and get her out of the city. What concerned Deruella was the chance of unforeseen circumstances occurring, which was very high since Ageha had been discovered already, and presumably the whole capital was on high alert.

And there was, of course, the possibility of the younger Kunoichi having already been slain, but no one wished to think about that eventuality. There was evident anxiety among the rescue attempt’s participants, both for their companion’s fate and for the total lack of information they were forced to operate with: tails lashed out nervously, eyes darted around, more than a few mamono were shuffling on their feet.

As the group moved towards the camp’s exit, a low buzzing sound was heard, and one of Yoru’s pockets began to glow. The older Kunoichi blinked, then held a hand up, motioning for her team to stop, and hastily reached in the pocket, fishing out a jeweled disc whose embedded gemstones were very similar to the large magical gem used by Deruella to talk with Ageha earlier.

This tool, called a Whispering Medallion, was used to communicate with the Whispering Stones used by mamono leaders worldwide, and while they could only be used to contact the gemstone that their adornments were made from, as well as a single other medallion specifically attuned to them, they were still invaluable tools for mamono long-distance communications.

The elder Kunoichi swiftly pressed her index finger to the center of the artifact. After a few moments, the embedded gems glowed a faint purple and a familiar voice came from the instrument.

“Hello? Yoru? Can you hear me? Is anyone listening?” Ageha’s voice echoed in the night air. Yoru froze, then let out an audible sigh of relief, overjoyed to hear her apprentice’s voice.

“Ageha! I’m glad to hear you. What happened? Are you injured? A rescue team is on its way to help you. If you’re being held prisoner–” the elder Kunoichi began, speaking almost too quickly out of happiness.

“There’s no need for a rescue,” Ageha interrupted the stream of words from her teacher. “I have left Lescatie already, and am en route to the base camp. I can already see the forest, in fact.”

“You managed to get away? Well done! I’ll send a few warriors to the edge of the forest, in case you’ve been followed,” Yoru replied, glad to hear that her pupil wasn’t a captive of the Order after all.

A brief silence followed, then Ageha spoke up again, more hesitant. “I… I didn’t quite get away. It’s more that I was let go,” she admitted. “It’s… a bit complicated. I will explain what transpired when I return.”

“Eh? Well, that’s fine. There’ll be time to hear your report after you’re safe and sound among friendly faces,” Yoru replied, slightly puzzled by the younger mamono’s words. “Be careful, now. Information can always be gathered later, but a life can’t be replaced.”

“Understood. I will see you soon,” Ageha replied. Before ending communications, she added: “Yoru… thank you for worrying about me.”

Yoru scoffed at that. “You’re my cute little apprentice, of course I will worry about you,” she gently chided her. “Come back safe and sound. I’ll have a good meal and a warm bath ready for you.”

After the talk ended, she turned around, glancing at the rescue team gathered behind her. “Well, you all heard her,” she shrugged. She then looked at Deruella, who had approached upon hearing Ageha’s voice. “Milady, what are your orders in light of what Ageha just told us?”

“It’s good to know that she is unharmed, is it not? I would say this is cause for celebrating,” the White Lilim replied with a smile. She then looked at the rest of the rescue team. “All of you, thank you for being willing to undertake this mission. I will be sure to reward you for your selflessness. For now, feel free to return to your quarters.”

The assembled mamono bowed their heads at the Lilim, then dispersed, heading back to their respective lodgings. Deruella watched them leave, then sighed and turned to Yoru.

“Right, then. Yoru, take a few Kunoichi and go meet Ageha,” she commanded, frowning. “Make sure she wasn’t followed. She was ambushed, after all, which means whoever did it has a modicum of skill, and it wouldn’t be strange if they tracked her without her noticing by taking advantage of her altered state of mind.”

“As you wish,” Yoru nodded before bowing. Turning around, she ran off towards a small group of Kunoichi gathered nearby, and after briefly speaking with them, selected five of the mamono and hurriedly left the camp. Within moments, the elder Kunoichi and her team vanished beyond the tree line.

Deruella gazed at the forest for a little while longer, then sighed again before returning to her room in the old keep. She was glad that Ageha was unharmed, but something about the current situation bothered her. While she lacked Yoru’s experience, Ageha was by no means sloppy in her job; it was the reason why the Lilim entrusted her with keeping track of her persons of interest in Lescatie.

So – just what kind of opponent had she run into that could catch her off guard?

And more importantly: where did the Order find such a person?

If the human Order found a way to produce stealth operatives on par with a Kunoichi of Ageha’s skill, that was cause for great concern. It could force Deruella to change her plans for Lescatie.

The White Lilim pondered the situation and the possible ramifications of the event as she walked back to her private quarters. She prided herself in being able to subvert human realms without any loss of life, but this unexpected development could potentially endanger the entire operation to liberate Lescatie that she had carefully planned up until now. Acting without knowing the exact situation could be disastrous in the long run.

Deruella frowned as she opened the door to her room. She needed information before committing herself to any course of action. And hopefully, Ageha would be able to give her just what she needed.

=O=O=

It took a little under one hour for Yoru’s group to return, as the older Kunoichi erred on the side of caution and carefully made sure no one was trailing them. To her surprise, however, there was no trace of pursuit. That confused the Kunoichi: what was the purpose in ambushing an opponent, yet not even bothering giving chase once they fled?

Yoru’s attempts to get some answers from Ageha were met with failure, as well: the younger Kunoichi was very tight-lipped, insisting she wished to give a full report to Deruella rather than talk about it now. Noticing that her pupil seemed shaken, Yoru elected to drop the subject and wait to hear her report.

As the group approached the base camp, a flying shape suddenly landed in front of them. The figure’s white wings made her identity abundantly clear, and the assembled Kunoichi bowed in unison to Deruella as she walked up to them.

The White Lilim nodded at Yoru, who bowed again and then moved to dismiss her team. Meanwhile, Deruella took Ageha aside and gave her a warm smile.

“Welcome back, Ageha,” she greeted the young Kunoichi. She then led her away from the camp’s entrance as she kept talking. “First and foremost, take a shower. You must be exhausted. After that, eat something. The report can wait until you’ve properly rested.”

“But I… very well, as you wish, milady,” Ageha relented. It was obvious from Deruella’s demeanor that she would allow no objection to her demands, and although she felt her report warranted urgency, she was exhausted from her ordeal in Lescatie.

Ageha wasted little time in the shower – just enough to rinse off the surprising amounts of sweat and dust that accumulated on her body without her noticing. She could always take time off later to properly bathe. Afterwards, she joined Deruella in her room, where a small feast was waiting for her. She blinked at the sheer amount of food on the table, then glanced at the Lilim with an uncertain look in her eyes. Deruella merely nodded with a smile.

“Don’t concern yourself with my presence. Eat to your heart’s content,” she told the Kunoichi. “After that, we can take our time to go over what happened.”

After a moment of hesitation, Ageha nodded. She did feel rather hungry, after all. Sitting at the table, she surveyed her choices. Most of the dishes were Demon Realm recipes, but quite a few human dishes were present as well. She sampled various foods for a short while, before settling on simple combinations of meat and vegetables. Deruella, who sat directly across from the Kunoichi, mostly just watched her eat, although she occasionally plucked a piece of food or two from the table.

A little while later, Ageha set the tableware down on an empty plate and discreetly motioned to her host that she was full, and Deruella nodded before clapping her hands once. The clap prompted a pair of mamono – probably succubi, judging from their wings and tails – to enter the room and begin to remove the plates and leftover food from the table, rolling it out on food carts.

As the mamono left, Yoru appeared outside the room, knocking on the open door before walking in. The older Kunoichi bowed to Deruella, then turned to Ageha with a smile. “You look much better,” she told her apprentice. Ageha nodded.

“Yes. I needed a shower and a hot meal more than I realized at first,” she admitted before glancing at Deruella and slightly bowing her head. “Thank you for the feast and hospitality, milady,” she added.

“Think nothing of it, sweetheart,” Deruella replied, still smiling. She then became serious. “Now… I hope it’s not too soon after this late-night dinner, but… could you go over what happened in Lescatie?” she asked the Kunoichi. “I’m a little concerned about what the Order has been up to, for them to be able to train their Heroes enough to successfully ambush someone of your skill…”

Ageha didn’t answer immediately, instead looking down at the table while biting her lower lip. She then looked up at Deruella, sighed, and began to speak.

“Very well. First off, milady, I need to clear up a misconception…” she started. She paused again, frowning, then continued. “You’re assuming I was ambushed by an Order warrior. That’s… not the case. Not unless the Order recently changed its policies without me knowing.”

Deruella and Yoru both gave her a puzzled look upon hearing her words. The White Lilim frowned. “It wasn’t the Order? Then, who…?” she murmured, confused by the sudden revelation.

“Well… I think it’s simpler if I relay to you everything that happened between the moment our communication was interrupted and the moment I contacted Yoru before she left to rescue me…” Ageha replied. She waited for the Lilim and the older Kunoichi to nod, then took a deep breath and began her story. “Very well, then. This is how it went…”

=O=O=

==Lescatie, several hours earlier==

“Keep an eye on Francisca, and prioritize investigating what brought about this change,” Deruella’s voice came from the Whispering Medallion in Ageha’s hand. “I’ll talk to Kuroferuru, and see if I can figure out what is happening.”

Ageha nodded in acknowledgement, brushing a strand of black hair out of her eyes. The Kunoichi was a diminutive beauty – probably not a hair above 150 centimeters of height – but with a beautifully curvy and seductive body, pleasantly full in spite of the harsh training she underwent. She had pale skin – a common trait among Zipangu’s women, human and mamono alike – and deep black eyes that one could easily lose oneself into. Her hair was tied into a ponytail at the moment, but it was obvious that she would have looked even more attractive if she let them down.

She wore a standard ninja garb, although hers was a combination of dark blue and deep crimson instead of the more common red and purple, and as such a face mask partly covered her visage, concealing her full red lips from view. A pair of tanto – Zipangu-forged shortswords that were commonly used by the region’s shadow warriors, regardless of species – were strapped to her sides, and the gleam of the Demon Realm’s unique magical silver could be seen on their exposed metallic parts. A pair of pouches, presumably containing tools of the trade for a Kunoichi, were securely tied to her thighs, completing her outfit.

Ageha was currently hiding within the attic of the Royal Castle’s annex building – with Francisca’s room almost directly under her, in fact. She’d decided to leave the princess last in her list of people to check up on, which led to her late-night visit in the building.

“Understood, Lady Deruella,” she replied, committing the instructions to memory. “Then, I’ll make sure to–” Suddenly, she heard a scratching sound from behind her. The noise caused her to pause. “Hm?”

The sound, and the sudden wave of aggression that made her danger sense flare up, were all the warning she got, and she reflexively rolled away from the stone pillar she had been leaning on. Almost immediately afterwards she shouted as the section of pillar directly above where her head had been exploded in a shower of dust and rubble, a tremendous grinding noise of shattered stone filling the attic.

Ageha mentally cursed herself for her complacency as she darted to her side, aiming to put some distance between herself and her unknown assailant. Her hands reached for the twin realmsilver tanto blades at her side. (How did an Order soldier sneak up on me like this? They shouldn’t have this much… skill…) she thought, before her mind ground to a halt as she took her first look at her attacker.

She had expected some kind of heavily armed human warrior, probably a large man if she had to judge solely based on the amount of damage the pillar she’d been hiding behind had sustained. That, however, was not what she got. Far from being a man, the individual standing before her wasn’t even human.

Her attacker was a completely unfamiliar-looking mamono. She appeared to be a reptile-like species, somewhat resembling a Lizardman, but there were a number of oddities about her that set her apart from any other reptile mamono she’d ever seen or heard of.

For one, she appeared to have fur on her body – a thick patch of white fur that ran down her spine and covered the sides and top of her unusually flat and wide tail. (Fur… maybe a Ryu?) the young Kunoichi briefly wondered, before dismissing the notion. Every Ryu she ever met had a snake-like lower body, and while this strange mamono certainly had serpentine qualities, she had legs and the flat shape of her tail wasn’t very snake-like at all.

The aforementioned tail was also covered in spiked protrusions on its sides, just barely visible under the patches of fur. The mamono’s hair matched her fur’s color and thickness: it was a wild mass of white hair with some occasional light purple highlights, imposing enough that it could almost be described as a mane. It looked unkempt and shaggy, and floated behind the mamono’s back with every little movement she made.

Even her scales were odd: Ageha didn’t recall reading about Lizardmen with such a peculiar pale blue, slightly metallic look to their bodies. Nor did she recall reading about Lizardman subspecies with scales that looked thick enough to almost rival a Wyvern’s.

What stood out the most, however, was how… unforgivingly dangerous… she looked. All the mamono Ageha met in her life had pleasant, sensual bodies, changed by the Mamono Lord’s influence to be more apt for lovemaking than fighting. While they still gave a feeling of power, it was overshadowed by the inherent lewdness instilled by the mamono mana that reshaped them.

There was no such lewdness in the body of the mamono standing before her. The only concession to sensuality she could see in it was that her breasts were bare, pleasantly round and large, and soft-looking to boot. But everything else was heavily armored, and her whole body was more slender than curvy, giving her a predatory appearance that made the hair on the back of Ageha’s neck stand on end. The mamono’s height – a full head taller than the much smaller Kunoichi – and her intense red eyes did nothing to improve the impression Ageha had of her, either: the reptilian woman’s baleful stare held no trace of friendliness within as she glared down at the smaller girl.

Ageha had some close calls during her missions before, when something had gone unexpectedly wrong and she found herself having to face Order soldiers bent on ending her life. But as dangerous as those situations had been, the Kunoichi was always able to face them calmly, remaining focused on her goals.

But this mamono?

She scared her.

The Zipangese warrior began to slowly move to her side, her twin tanto held up in a defensive stance and her eyes following every move the mysterious white haired mamono made. She felt a chill as her opponent slowly drifted sideways, as well: the way she moved, smooth and quiet, was just as predatory as her appearance. She looked relaxed, but Ageha could tell the mamono was highly alert, observing her as closely as the Kunoichi watched her.

“You are not supposed to be here.”

Ageha blinked as the unknown mamono suddenly spoke up. She pronounced the letter ‘s’ in a very slightly drawn out way, giving her voice a hissing quality more befitting a Lamia than a Lizardman.

The fact the mamono chose to speak instead of further attacking her made Ageha hopeful for a peaceful resolution to the incident. Slowly, she somewhat lowered her guard to make herself look less threatening, and decided to try talking things out with her opponent.

“Why did you attack me?” she inquired, giving the mysterious reptilian mamono a questioning look. The mamono’s eyes narrowed at the inquiry.

“You aren’t supposed to be here,” she repeated. “Your presence is a danger to those who live within this building. I want that danger gone.”

“Danger?! I don’t mean to harm anyone!” Ageha protested. The mamono shook her head.

“Your presence here is a danger in and of itself,” she stated. Ageha groaned at those words. (This isn’t going the way I hoped,) she thought. (Perhaps I should appeal to authority?)

The Kunoichi took a deep breath, then directed a harsh glare at the other mamono. “I am here on orders of Lady Deruella, Fourthborn Daughter of the Mamono Lord,” she stated in a fierce tone. “If you keep hindering me, it will be tantamount to committing treason against the Royal Makai’s fourth princess. Cease this at once!”

The mamono didn’t react for several seconds, and Ageha wondered if perhaps she had finally gotten through to her. Then, she slowly shook her head, her mane of white hair swaying as she did so.

“That is all the more reason for you to not be here,” she stated flatly. Ageha got the impression that her statement made her unknown opponent more hostile to her than before. “I cannot allow you to continue your activities.”

“Are you serious…?!” Ageha replied, incredulous. “Are you with the Order even though you are a mamono? Why would you do that?!”

The strange mamono shook her head again, a little more vigorously.

“I am neither on the Order’s side, nor yours,” she stated matter-of-factly. “I just want you gone.”

With those words, she suddenly took an aggressive stance. Ageha raised her guard again, and quickly jumped backwards when the mamono came at her with a swipe of her claws. The swing was large and predictable, and the Kunoichi had no trouble avoiding it. Figuring she had the speed and agility advantage, she moved in to strike at the enemy with her blades, aiming to disable her by overloading her with pleasure from the accumulated mamono mana infused by the realmsilver weaponry.

Moments later, she blinked as her blades cut through nothing but air. As soon as she’d begun her attack, the mysterious mamono dodged out of the way so fast the Kunoichi temporarily lost track of her. Ageha cursed under her breath, then was forced to dodge backwards again as another slow, large swipe came at her.

(What in blazes– I thought I was faster than her,) the Zipangese woman thought, shocked by the sheer speed at which her opponent moved. All she was able to see was a white glint: one moment, the mystery mamono was standing before her, and the next she was simply gone.

Putting some distance between herself and the white-haired mamono, Ageha noted that her opponent moved very quickly on her feet. She frowned. (Strange… the speed of her movements does not match that of her attacks at all,) she thought, cautiously stepping to the side while keeping her foe within her field of vision. Immediately afterwards, the Kunoichi was forced to leap backwards once more as the white mamono came at her again with another large, circular swipe. Recovering quickly, she moved behind another of the attic’s support pillars, hoping to use it as a cover.

An instant later, she let out another muffled curse and rolled to her side as her foe unceremoniously plowed through the thick stone pillar with a crashing sound, reducing it to rubble. She felt a chill go down her spine as she saw the frightening ease with which the other mamono tore apart solid stone with naught but her claws. (If she’d hit me with that sneak attack earlier, I would’ve died for sure,) she thought. Then, she paused and blinked, realizing that something was off.

Her opponent had abundantly demonstrated that she could move faster than Ageha could react when she dodged out of the way of her strike. Moreover, aside from the noise made by her destroying the second pillar, she had moved in almost complete silence during their entire confrontation, barely making any sound as she charged at her on her clawed feet. (I don’t get it. If she can be this quiet and quick, why did she miss me when–) Ageha wondered, before realization struck her.

The mamono’s initial fumble, when she alerted her to her attack with the noise she made and aimed higher than her position, had not been a fumble at all. She had missed on purpose.

Ageha quickly connected the dots, even as she kept an eye on the lizard-like mamono. She intentionally made enough noise and aimed high enough that she wouldn’t strike Ageha during her initial ambush; she could move faster than the Kunoichi could track her, yet attacked in a slow, predictable manner; and while she definitely was hostile, she never once expressed the intent to kill her when they talked before the fighting began – rather, she insisted that Ageha was not meant to be in the attic, and repeatedly stated she wanted her gone from the building.

All that added up to only one explanation: the mamono was covertly giving her a chance to get away with her life. For what purpose, she did not know, but she had a sneaking suspicion that if she insisted on not leaving the premise, the unspoken offer would soon be off the table.

The choice was a very simple one, and Ageha did the only reasonable thing she could think of in the situation: she sheated one of her realmsilver blades and swiftly reached in one of her pouches, withdrawing a smoke bomb from it and quickly throwing it on the ground between herself and her mysterious foe.

The sudden action seemingly caught her opponent off guard, prompting her to leap backwards with that inhuman speed of hers. Ageha, however, did not waste time watching her reaction: turning around as soon as the smoke bomb exploded, she made a beeline for the open window she’d come into the attic from, and leapt outside as fast as her body allowed her to move, praying that there were no soldiers patrolling the nearby walls that could spot her.

As luck would have it, the wall perimeters’ patrol had passed already, and the coast was clear. Ageha was thus unseen when she jumped out of the window, in part thanks to the sun having already set, and gracefully landed in the garden below without a sound. As soon as her feet touched the ground, she sprinted towards the nearest tree and hid behind it, then cautiously glanced out from behind it to see if the mamono was pursuing her.

She saw her almost immediately: her reptilian figure, barely visible in the poor evening light, stood unmoving at the window the Kunoichi had jumped out of, looking directly at her with her dimly glowing red eyes. Clearly, she knew the Zipangese mamono was hiding behind the tree; however, she made no move to pursue, appearing satisfied with having expelled the intruder from the building she was guarding.

After a few more moments of tense confrontation, the white mamono finally turned around and disappeared back in the attic. Ageha, who had been holding her breath without noticing, exhaled loudly, a sudden sense of relief washing over her. She then looked up at the now-empty window frame, grimacing.

(I never want to face that one again,) she thought, panting harshly as she still felt a cold sweat trickle down her forehead from the sheer fear the unknown mamono instilled into her. (Who is she and what is she doing here, anyway? She said that she wasn’t with the Order, but she clearly is no friend of Lady Deruella, either. If anything, I think she became more hostile when I revealed my allegiance…)

The Kunoichi spent a few moments getting her breathing and heart rate under control, making sure to remain out of view by hiding behind the nearby bushes, then recalled the map of Lescatie that she had committed to memory and quickly planned the safest and fastest way to leave the capital. She had a feeling that Deruella would want to know all the details of this unexpected encounter, which meant evading detection and safely returning to base was now her priority.

As she left her shelter and began the trek back home, she glanced back at the annex one last time. While the unknown mamono scared her, she would be lying if she said she wasn’t curious about her. She wondered what her story was, and what motive did she have to protect the annex so fiercely. Could she have ties with Princess Francisca and the Lescatie royals? Was she being forced or was she doing this of her own free will? Was anyone else aware of her presence or was she acting in secret as well?

Ageha had no answer for any of these questions. But she found herself hoping that one day, she’d know more about this fearsome foe she’d confronted. And perhaps, she would meet her on more amicable terms…

Sighing, the Zipangese mamono put her thoughts aside for the time being, and focused on the way back home. She swiftly darted away from her cover, and within moments, the night swallowed her.

=O=O=

“…and after that, I made it out of Lescatie and returned here as soon as possible,” Ageha concluded her recollection of the story. “At first, I was constantly watching my back, thinking maybe that strange mamono was following me, trying to use me to discover our camp, but I soon realized there was no ongoing pursuit at all.” The young Kunoichi shook her head, then looked up at Deruella and Yoru, who had been silently listening to her story. “I honestly don’t know what to make of her. I’m sure she let me go on purpose, but still cannot figure out why.”

“You’ve done more than enough, Ageha,” Yoru spoke up in a reassuring tone. “Leave the rest to us. I have no doubt that Lady Deruella will find out who that mamono is and what she’s doing in Lescatie.” The older Kunoichi glanced at the White Lilim for confirmation, but paused, noticing her mistress was lost in thought with a serious expression. “…Lady Deruella?” she tentatively called out at her.

“…hm?” Deruella hummed, snapping out of her reverie. Blinking, she glanced at Yoru and Ageha, then gave a sheepish smile as she scratched her head. “Ah, my apologies. I was thinking.” Her expression then became somber, and she looked Ageha in the eyes. “I really don’t like asking you this, dear Ageha, but… would you be willing to let a Mindflayer extract your memories so we can visualize them?”

“L-Lady Deruella?!” Yoru immediately protested at the Lilim’s words. “You’re joking, right? With all due respect, a Mindflayer is–”

“I’ll do it.”

Yoru’s head whipped around towards Ageha so fast she grimaced in pain from the brief whiplash. She stared at her apprentice incredulously. “Ageha, you can’t be serious! You know how invasive a Mindflayer can be!”

“I’m aware of that, Yoru. But I can also see why Lady Deruella is asking me this favor,” she replied with a firm gaze. “I’ll admit to being anxious about it, but what happened is irregular enough that I can understand the need for such a drastic measure.”

“Even so…” Yoru tried to protest again, only to be cut off by a shake of the other Kunoichi’s head.

“I appreciate your concern, but I honestly think you have to see what I saw to understand,” Ageha reassured her mentor. “In fact… it may be a good idea to allow everyone in camp to see. Perhaps someone else knows something about this mamono I met.”

“You’re right. I will go ask Demia to get ready for a memory projection,” Deruella nodded in agreement. The Lilim then gave Ageha an apologetic look. “I’m truly sorry to ask something like this of you, but–”

“No need to apologize, milady. I understand perfectly,” the Kunoichi reassured her with a smile. “I will admit that I don’t relish the idea of having my mind intruded upon, but in this case, I feel it’s warranted.”

“Thank you for your understanding,” Deruella replied, smiling back at her. She gave Yoru a nod, then hastily left her room to track down the resident Mindflayer. Left alone, the two Kunoichi remained silent for a few moments, before Yoru glanced at her apprentice again.

“Ageha… are you sure about this? A Mindflayer’s mind reading is a bit…” she asked one more time. Ageha nodded.

“I know that, but trust me when I say it’s necessary,” the younger mamono replied with a determined look in her eyes. “You’ll understand once you see.”

Yoru sighed in defeat. “Very well. If you are this determined, I won’t stop you,” she nodded. She then frowned. “But if you feel weird after it’s all over, come see me. I’ll try to help you out.”

“Thank you, Yoru,” Ageha replied sincerely, smiling at her mentor. The two Kunoichi exchanged a brief nod, then walked out of Deruella’s private quarters, closing the doors behind them, and headed downstairs to wait for their mistress’s return.

=O=O=

It took a short while for everything to be set up. A large tent with a number of seats was reserved for the process, and while many of the mamono in the camp were asleep or… otherwise occupied that late at night, a number of them were drawn in by the unusual announcement of a public broadcast of a memory.

“What do you think this is all about, Sierra?” A tall demon with deep blue, almost purple hair, blue skin, dark red eyes and extremely dark blue, almost black wings asked the mamono walking next to her. Her outfit, if one could call it that, left very little to imagination: It was essentially skintight high boots and long-sleeved gloves, plus what essentially amounted to leather strips just barely covering her voluptuous body’s most intimate parts, and looking like they would fall off if she inhaled just a little bit too deeply. Her “clothing” had a rather unusual red, blue and silver motif to it, rather than the more common red, purple and gold that demons preferred to use for their wardrobe.

“I have no idea, Veltarna,” her companion replied. She was a blonde Succubus, with delicate features and a slender, yet still curvy physique. She had mid-length green hair and unusual red wings and tail, and her eyes were more leaning towards a deep orange than the typical red of her species. While Sierra wasn’t as tall as her Demon friend, she was still taller than most, and her horns, also red, were particularly long. She wore a fairly typical red-and-purple leather outfit which barely restrained her generous form.

Veltarna smiled in a rather lewd way. “Well… those Kunoichi did mention there will be a Mindflayer involved in whatever is being planned. Hmhmhm, perhaps it’s some new, fun night activity Lady Deruella came up with?” she guessed with a low, suggestive laugh. The shaking from her mirth caused very interesting things to happen to her bountiful chest, and for a brief instant it really looked like the leather outfit would snap and leave her naked as the day she was born. Somehow, the clothes endured, and eventually the Demon’s mirth died down. Her Succubus companion gave her a doubtful look.

“I don’t know… those girls didn’t seem to be in a very festive mood,” she pointed out, recalling the serious look in the Zipangese mamono’s eyes. “And I hear this is going to involve Ageha… you know, that Kunoichi who got in some kind of trouble over in Lescatie earlier today.”

“Huh… really? That might be why Lady Deruella called for Demia, then,” Veltarna murmured, curious. “Now I want to see what they’re planning. Could it be we’re about to finally put our Lady’s plan in motion? I’d certainly love to finally find myself a cute young human man to play with… hmhmhm…” she added with yet another sensual giggle.

“Yes, that would be nice,” Sierra agreed with a nod of her head, smiling at her companion’s enthusiasm. Inwardly, however, the Succubus was not so sure. There was a strange atmosphere in the camp, and she had a feeling that the upcoming event held far more significance than a simple late-night spectacle, or even an announcement of the enactment of the plan to take over Lescatie and make it a Demon Realm.

As the two friends reached the tent, they noticed a surprising amount of mamono hanging around the area in spite of the late hour – or, in some cases, because of it. Sierra and Veltarna looked around as they moved towards a pair of vacant seats, and spotted, among others, a Vampire, at least two Hellhounds, a Lizardman, a High Orc and even a Wurm, whose towering presence dwarfed those around her.

Seating themselves, the two mamono waited, listening to the gossip around them. The other assembled mamono were just as curious and confused as them, and a number of guesses were being made as to the reason for the meeting, ranging from the beginning of the takeover, to a surprise party, to news of an Order operation being discovered.

The chattering abruptly ceased as Deruella made her entrance, followed by Ageha, Yoru and a third mamono. The newcomer was a busty tentacled mamono with light purple skin, deep purple hair and glowing orange eyes, somewhat resembling a squid but with some decidedly more alien details, such as having fluorescent green eye-like spots scattered across the darker parts of her body, particularly her tentacles. The lower part of her body seemed to be a singular multi-tipped, polyp-like base, not unlike a sea anemone’s, and was a very deep crimson in color instead of dark purple.

She was also easily the lewdest mamono among all those presents: she was essentially naked, save for a few of her tentacles just barely concealing her most private bits, and sometimes failing to even do that, causing those around her to sneak a peek at her nipples underneath. Moreover, her body was slick with fluid constantly dripping from her tentacles – whether sweat or something else, no one could tell – and her skin glistened in the light of the nearby lanterns.

A number of assembled mamono shifted nervously. Mindflayers were creatures that made even their monster brethren uncomfortable, due to being technically aligned with the Chaos Gods beneath the waves, rather than the Mamono Lord. While they occasionally lent their aid to more mundane mamono – such as in this case – their goals were largely unknown even to the Mamono Lord, and their behavior was even more drastic and radical than that of the mamono in the so-called Extremist faction led by Deruella. Truthfully, even the White Lilim had hesitated in enlisting the Chaos mamono’s aid, but ultimately she concluded that having a Mindflayer among her cohorts was beneficial in the long run.

After reaching the round table set up at the far end of the tent, Derulla invited Ageha to sit in the chair there, then clapped once to gain the attention of the assembled mamono. It was not really necessary, as all eyes were on her already, but it was something she did out of habit before addressing her followers. Looking around the packed tent, she cleared her throat and started speaking.

“Ahem. Thank you all for being present,” she began, smiling slightly. “I appreciate your willingness to answer my invitation at such a late hour. Particularly those among you who renounced more fun activities to do so.” She took a deep breath, then exhaled and her expression became serious. “I assume most, if not all of you know that earlier today, our sister-in-arms Ageha was involved in some unpleasant roughness while doing reconnaissance in Lescatie on my behalf.” She sighed, shaking her head. “That brings me to the reason why I gathered you all here. During that event, Ageha met a… peculiar foe. One she was profoundly unfamiliar with, by her own admission.” She pointed to the Mindflayer at the Kunoichi’s side. “For the sake of avoiding any unforeseen incidents once we are ready to enact our plan, Ageha agreed to have Demia make her memories of the encounter public, in an attempt to identify her mystery attacker. If any of you are familiar with what you will see, please do speak up.”

The assembled mamono began to murmur at that unexpected declaration. In the back, Veltarna blinked in surprise, then looked at Sierra. “A memory broadcast? Of a fight, at that? I didn’t expect such a thing,” she muttered. The blonde Succubus shook her head in response.

“I had a feeling that something was strange with this situation. I see my guess was correct,” she commented. “Even I didn’t expect this, though. What manner of foe did Ageha meet to prompt a measure as drastic as a Mindflayer’s memory extraction? It’s a procedure that can have aftereffects, even permanent ones…”

“Well, we’re about to find out,” the Demon pointed out as she nodded towards the table. Sierra turned around and saw that two Lesser Succubi had brought a large circle with a mirror surface and laid it at the center of the table Ageha was seated at. The Succubus and the Demon set their conversation aside and began to pay attention to what was going on before them.

The Mindflayer, Demia, moved behind the Kunoichi, and delicately placed the tips of her fingers on the young mamono’s temples. Two thin tentacles snaked down the length of her arms and gently slipped inside Ageha’s ears, causing her to stiffen and shiver involuntarily at the slimy appendages’ touch. A second pair of tentacles slithered on the table and rested their tips over two identical gemstones at the sides of the surface mirror.

Demia had an unusually serious expression on her face for a Mindflayer: normally, an activity like the one she was currently engaged in would prompt a lewd smile as she took her time violating her prey’s mind, but in this case, she was asked to do a very specific job: retrieve a particular set of memories and visualize them through the magical mirror set on the table, without otherwise affecting the mind she was intruding upon. It was a much harder thing to do than the defilement her species usually engaged in, and required her full attention and a considerable dose of restraint.

In spite of Demia’s efforts, some of her mamono mana slipped out of her tentacles and entered Ageha, causing the young Kunoichi to let out a small moan as her body flushed in arousal. The Mindflayer cast a sheepish glance at Deruella. “Beg your pardon… this is quite different from what I am used to,” she apologized.

The White Lilim gave her an annoyed look. “Don’t mess up. I won’t be happy,” she warned the Chaos mamono in a low voice. Demia nodded slightly, then returned to her task, a look of concentration in her eyes.

Soon, the magic mirror on the table activated with a low hum and an eerie light purple glow, then there was a brief flash and an image sprang into existence: a small enclosed space with several pillars scattered about – the attic in Lescatie Castle’s annex that Ageha hid in, seen from her point of view. A few distorted sounds were heard, then they stabilized into intelligible speech, and the audience was treated to the tail end of Ageha’s initial report to Deruella.

The scene abruptly shook and turned as Ageha rolled forward to avoid the initial ambush by her unknown attacker, and the shower of dust and shattered stone that followed her shout in the memory startled several of the mamono watching. The image then stabilized as she turned around and her tanto entered her field of view… and so did her enemy.

It was at that point that the room fell completely silent – a silence followed by excited chattering at the sight of the reptilian mamono with blue scales and white hair that attacked the Kunoichi.

“What… is that?” A Succubus with green hair and a purple skintight bodysuit murmured as she stared at the unknown mamono.

“A Lizardman, maybe? Looks like it…” A Hellhound chimed in with a growl, her incandescent eye plumes framing her curious eyes.

“Don’t be ridiculous! Do I look anything like her?” The indignant protest of a Lizardman with short blue hair and pale green scales was heard in response. The mamono pointed at the image of Ageha’s memory. “Look at her! Those are practically a Wurm’s scales!”

“She has legs. Wurms don’t have legs. She’s not one of us,” the one Wurm present in the tent disagreed, her brow furrowed as her massive green tail lashed around in annoyance.

“Well, yes, but Riza has a point. Those scales look too thick to be a Lizardman’s,” another Succubus intervened, pointing at the mystery mamono’s heavily armored body.

Far in the back, Veltarna and Sierra stared in awe at the unknown mamono in the conjured image of the Kunoichi’s remembrance. The Demon rubbed her chin, perplexed. “She has fur. Maybe some kind of Ryu offshoot?”

“I don’t know… Ryu are also legless, like Wurms,” Sierra replied. “But those thick scales… maybe some kind of wingless Wyvern or Dragon?”

“Shh, they’re advancing the memory again,” Veltarna urged her friend to silence. Back at the table, the still image of the mystery mamono resumed moving, and the short conversation between her and Ageha ensued. That just raised even more questions among the assembled mamono, as well as more than one indignant protest at the dismissive way in which she had brushed aside Ageha’s allegiance to Deruella.

The commotion was quickly brought to silence as the brief fight between the Kunoichi and her reptilian foe took place. The speed at which the white-haired mamono dodged Ageha’s attempted attack left even the more battle-hardened members of the audience stunned, and there was a frightened cry when she broke through a solid stone pillar with no apparent effort. The Wurm whistled appreciatively, impressed by the display of raw power, and the Lizardman looked more than a little concerned by the fact that this potential opponent of her mistress could so easily crush stone with her bare hands. The confrontation’s end, with Ageha fleeing following the distraction of a smokebomb, was met with both relief and wariness at the tense staredown between the Kunoichi and the unknown mamono at the window.

Then, the vision ended, and Demia slowly withdrew her tentacles from both the magic mirror and Ageha’s ears. The Kunoichi slumped, panting harshly as she sweated profusely, barely able to avoid falling out of her seat and in an obvious state of extreme arousal. Deruella gave her a concerned look, then motioned to Yoru. The older Kunoichi nodded and quickly rushed to her apprentice’s side, helping her up and off the chair, then transported her out of the tent and back to her own private quarters.

Deruella watched the two Kunoichi leave, then sighed and nodded at Demia. “Thank you for your assistance. You may rest as well, if you want,” she told the Mindflayer. The Chaos mamono briefly considered the offer, then shook her head.

“No… if it’s all the same with you, milady, I would rather stay and weigh in on this,” she replied, a curious light in her orange eyes. Deruella gave her a surprised glance, then shrugged and nodded in acknowledgement.

“Do as you like,” she said, before turning towards the audience. “Now then, you all have seen Ageha’s memories. Does this unknown mamono look the least bit familiar to any of you? I would at least like to know what species she is, exactly, because to be honest, I have never seen anything like her before.”

There was a moment of silence during which everyone was still, before a Lesser Succubus with pink hair and crimson eyes timidly raised her hand. Deruella waved at her, encouraging her to speak up, and the young mamono stood up from her seat. “Um… are we sure she is even a mamono?” she asked hesitantly.

Deruella blinked at the question. “What do you mean?” she asked, perplexed. The young Succubus motioned at the now-inert magic mirror.

“I mean… you’ve all seen her. Now look at yourselves,” she explained. “By the will of the Mamono Lord, we’ve been gifted with bodies meant to pleasure and satisfy our husbands. Sure, some of us,” she added, glancing at the Wurm, “still possess formidable natural weapons, but generally, we all have soft, pleasant bodies made for loving, not warring.” She frowned, looking at the mirror again. “But that one… there’s almost nothing sensual about her body. It’s like it was made to kill. She’s more like… how we used to be. That’s why I’m not sure she’s even a mamono… she looks harsh and deadly, not loving and seductive.”

“…she has a point,” Sierra suddenly spoke up from the back, causing all eyes to shift to her. “It’s something that’s been bothering me, too. Aside from her breasts, which I will freely admit are truly lovely and would undoubtedly make any man happy, that mamono’s entire body is covered in cold, hard scales. How is she supposed to pleasure her husband that way?”

“But Sierra, there are no more old times monsters in the world. You know that, right?” Veltarna chimed in, raising an eyebrow at her friend. Sierra frowned at that remark.

“I know that! But… how else do you explain something like her existing in this day and age?” she replied with a sigh. The Succubus’s eyes turned towards Deruella. “Milady, with all due respect, I don’t think anyone here knows what that mamono is, if she even is one. Perhaps it would be a better idea to ask Runya-Runya about it, and see what she has to say.”

“Good thinking,” the Lizardman named Riza nodded. “If anyone knows what’s up with her, it would be the Sleepy Magical Archive.”

“Asking Queen Deonora might be a good idea, as well,” Demia chimed in casually, sounding as if she had an afterthought. Deruella raised an eyebrow at that, and glanced at the Mindflayer with a questioning look.

“And why would I disturb Deonora over this?” she asked, curious. Demia gestured towards Riza with one of her tentacles.

“As dear Riza mentioned, those scales are too thick to be a Lizardman’s. They’re more like a Wurm’s… or a Dragon’s,” she explained. “I wonder if perhaps she’s not a wingless Dragon of sorts. I believe there were such creatures in the past?”

“I think so,” Deruella nodded. “But they went extinct long ago.”

Demia shrugged, smiling amiably. “Then perhaps they’re not as extinct as we were led to believe?” she suggested.

“Good point. I’ll ask the Red Queen if she knows something, as well,” Deruella nodded. “Now then, if there isn’t anything else…”

Another hand went up. It was Riza again. “Is that mamono really not with the Order?” she asked. “She claimed not to be when talking with Ageha, but became visibly more hostile when she mentioned working for you.” Riza frowned, concern evident on her face. “I’m just worried, because if the Order have such a strong mamono on their side, and she is this hostile to you, our planned takeover of Lescatie may become very bloody. I hate to admit it, but I would probably be killed in under a minute if I fought her seriously.”

“I don’t think anyone in this camp outside of me and Lady Deruella could take her on in single combat and come out of it alive,” the Wurm bluntly stated, her voice rumbling slightly.

“What concerns me more is, is it just her?” Riza added. “Whether or not she’s with the Order is secondary. What matters is that she clearly does not like us. If it’s only her, we might still be able to handle her without needless bloodshed…” The Lizardman’s expression turned grim. “But if there’s more than just her…”

“It could end very badly, yes,” Deruella finished for her. “That’s why I am putting our plans on hold, at least until I get word back from Runya-Runya and Deonora.” The White Lilim’s lips thinned to a line. “I’m also sending Yoru to Lescatie as soon as she is done caring for Ageha. I need her to try and see if anyone in town knows anything about that mamono’s existence. She appeared too suddenly… something does not add up.”

“Isn’t that going to endanger Yoru?” Sierra spoke up, disapproval evident in her voice. “She’s been looking forward to spending time with her husband. It seems unkind to me to assign such a dangerous mission to her now.”

“I’m giving her strict orders to keep away from that white-haired mamono, and disengage immediately if contact is established,” Deruella replied with a nod. “I’m just as unwilling to lose her as you. But I need information badly, and she’s the most experienced information gathering specialist I have on hand.” She bit her lip. “I’ll send Sora with her, just to be sure. They work well together, being sisters, and can watch each other’s back if they’re together.”

“I see… I suppose in this situation, we can’t help but take some risks. My apologies for the interruption,” Sierra sighed, dropping the subject. Deruella shook her head with a smile.

“No need to apologize. I’m glad to see you all are concerned about each other’s wellbeing,” she reassured the blonde Succubus. The Lilim then sighed, her shoulders slumping. “It’s really unfortunate that this happened now. We were just about ready to act… I will have to call Eristia back, as well.”

“So her conversion was successful?” Veltarna asked, interested. Deruella smiled and nodded.

“Yes, she was very receptive of our suggestion. Now she’s discarded all those silly Order ideals that filled her head, and is happily allowing her true desires to shine brightly with that cute young squire of hers,” the Lilim answered, sounding very pleased with the outcome of her plot. She then frowned. “I intended to have her sneak in under disguise and open the gates of Lescatie for us so we could come in without pointless fighting, but now I’d rather keep her away from this mysterious mamono of ours. At least, until I know what exactly she is, and what her plans are.”

“That makes sense,” Veltarna agreed. The Demon then sighed and stretched lazily. “Umm… this has been more tiring than expected. Permission to return to my quarters, Lady Deruella?”

“Granted. In fact, you’re all dismissed,” the White Lilim nodded. “Thank you for your presence and your help. Now go get some well deserved rest.”

The assembled mamono bowed at those words, then began to shuffle out of the tent, while Deruella and Demia busied themselves with ensuring the memory mirror was safely stored away. Outside, small groups of mamono formed, animatedly discussing the events that transpired in the gathering. Sierra and Veltarna watched the chattering groups as they slowly walked towards their own sleeping quarters.

“This was not at all what we expected, was it, Vel?” Sierra told her friend with furrowed brows, mulling over what she’d seen and heard. The Demon nodded.

“Yeah… A hostile mamono being the subject of the day was a rather surprising development,” she nodded in agreement, before glancing at the Succubus. “So, what do you make of all this? That mamono, just what do you think she’s up to? And why does it look like she has it in for our Lady?”

Sierra didn’t answer immediately, pondering the question and what little they knew of the mystery mamono carefully. Then, she sighed.

“Well… as unlikely as it sounds, there is one reason for her hostility that does come to my mind,” she admitted. She paused for a brief moment, then continued. “She may be a human woman that was forcibly made into a mamono, and still resents it.”

“What…? Why would she resent it?” Veltarna asked in confusion. “Aren’t human women supposed to realize what they had been missing when they become mamono, and let go of their silly human hang-ups and prejuduces?”

“That’s what is supposed to happen, yes,” Sierra nodded. “But… every rule has its exceptions, does it not? She might be the exception to this rule. In which case…”

“…Persuading her is probably off the table, eh?” Veltarna finished for her friend. It was a grim prospect, indeed: it would mean necessarily having to kill or imprison her indefinitely if she could not embrace her existence as a mamono.

“Do you really think the White Glint is a monsterized human?”

The sudden intruding voice startled both Veltarna and Sierra, and they turned around as one, finding themselves face to face with Riza, the Lizardman warrior. She wore an unconvinced expression, and was shaking her head slowly.

Veltarna blinked. “White Glint?” she asked, curious. Riza nodded.

“It’s what the others are starting to call this mamono. We can’t just call her ‘the mystery mamono’ forever, can we?” she explained. “The name popped up when some of the others remembered how there was just a brief glimpse of white from her hair when she dodged Ageha’s attack, and she otherwise disappeared from sight. We like the sound of it, and so ‘White Glint’ is kind of sticking.”

“Huh. It’s not a bad name. Actually, it sounds awesome,” Sierra admitted, smiling slightly. Her attention then returned to the Lizardman. “But tell me, why do you seem to disagree with the idea she’s a monsterized human?”

“Because of how she looks,” she replied. “Her body, as you noted yourself, has next to nothing sensual about it. If she’d been monsterized, she’d look sweeter and softer, so as to be more attractive to human men and more easily find a husband, don’t you think?” She paused, then frowned. “Actually, I do agree that she might be a former human. But, her current state was not caused by us.”

“Huh? Hold on… but if it wasn’t us, then who did it?” Veltarna asked, her curiosity giving way to shocked realization. Riza’s answer was a wry smile.

“Indeed. If not us, then who?”

=O=O=

==Lescatie, several hours earlier==

Francisca looked down at the Kunoichi attempting to hide behind one of the trees in her garden from the window of her annex’s attic. She made no move to pursue: for one, she knew that guard patrols regularly passed on top of the wall near the annex, and didn’t want to be spotted. And besides that, all she wanted from the start was drive off the mamono that invaded her home.

She had realized early on in the confrontation that her physical abilities were drastically higher than those of the Zipangese girl she’d ambushed. If she really wanted to, she could have killed her at any time. This was especially true in light of how Francisca had taken the opportunity presented by the Kunoichi’s continued close proximity to her to attempt using the secondary effect of the Ultimate Chimera – partial copying of a subject’s surface memory.

The attempt was successful, and Francisca suddenly found several new bits of information ingrained into her mind. It was an odd mix of Far East unarmed combat and seduction skills, and it was only bare-bones, basic info – something that all Kunoichi learned early on, she presumed. But it was enough to let her walk into the face-off with the intruder with a feeling of confidence in her victory.

And yet, facing the young mamono in person, Francisca didn’t feel like she was an enemy who needed to be slain. Driven away, for sure, but killed? No. She found herself hesitating as some vague feelings floated to the surface of her own mind. Somehow, she knew that this girl did not really mean anyone any harm, in spite of her job as a supposed assassin. The Zipangese mamono’s memories echoed within her, and told her that she had a dream, and it was a simple one: to find love. Francisca found it very hard to regard someone with such feelings as an enemy to be destroyed, although she had become wary and somewhat hostile after the Kunoichi mentioned the infamous White Lilim Deruella’s name.

Ultimately, she decided to purposely and blatantly hold back, and let the mamono go if she got the hint and chose to retreat. Fortunately, she did: the alternative left a bad taste in Francisca’s mouth, and she was glad she wasn’t driven to use lethal force.

The Lescatian princess gave one last glance at the hiding mamono, then turned around and walked away from the window and out of her adversary’s view. She was certain that the Kunoichi would not attempt to sneak back in again anytime soon: she’d received the princess’s message, loud and clear, and had to know that she wouldn’t be forgiven for her intrusion next time.

(She will probably report my existence to Deruella. Well, the existence of ‘an unknown mamono’ who isn’t on their side, anyway,) Francisca thought. (No matter. I can work with that. It’s more important that I finally confirmed the rumors are true… the White Lilim is targeting Lescatie. That means I can’t waste any more time. I need to start getting things done.)

The idea of her existence being exposed to Deruella was not too concerning to Francisca, all things considered. It would have happened eventually, and actually worked in her favor right now: the princess was a complete enigma at the moment, and if the stories of the White Lilim’s cautious, strategic approach to her past conquests were true, she was reasonably sure that her sudden inclusion in the picture would cause Deruella to put her plans on hold in an attempt to gather information about her before committing to the strategy she had planned out.

That was really all she needed: time. If she could only manage to get rid of the corruption in Lescatie and establish a solid powerbase of her own, she felt that she would stand a decent chance of repelling an attempt by the Lilim to take over. It would not be easy, of course: Deruella’s past successes spoke volumes of the Lilim’s skills, and Francisca knew that she was comparatively inexperienced. But she chose to believe in the power she had been bestowed with, and her people’s determination and strength.

And, admittedly, a fair bit of help from the numerous powerful artifacts stored in Rianobed. The right people with the right items could make a huge difference, of that she was sure.

(If anything, this situation confirms that what I need the most is an information network,) Francisca thought as she walked back to the attic’s door and reached for the handle. (As much as I see her as an enemy, Deruella is a good example to follow right now: she has skilled followers keeping an eye in all places she has interest in. Although…) she wondered, frowning as she left the attic and closed the door behind her. (Why was she keeping tabs on this place specifically? Was that Kunoichi just using it as a hideout to rest in after spying on the palace, or… is the White Lilim interested in me personally?)

Francisca did not like the idea of Deruella having an interest in her personally. She had no fear for her own wellbeing – she was fully confident that her newfound power would protect her from the Lilim’s corruption attempts.

What concerned her was Rowena getting caught in the crossfire. The maid had no such protection, and the mere idea of losing her to Deruella’s machinations was enough to make Francisca anxious and prone to consider very violent solutions to the problem.

(I need to find a way to ensure Rowena’s safety,) Francisca thought as she slowly descended the stairs that led to the attic from the top floor of the annex. (Today, it all went well, but the fact a mamono snuck in so easily is–)

Her thoughts trailed off as she saw a familiar figure waiting at the bottom of the stairs. Hearing the noise of clawed feet on the steps, Rowena looked up at the princess, and the worried expression on her face melted into one of relief as she climbed up the staircase to meet her halfway.

“Princess… are you all right?” she asked her quietly, concern evident in her voice. Francisca nodded.

“I’m fine,” she replied. “But what are you doing here, awake at this hour of the night? I thought you had gone to bed…”

Rowena bit her lip. “I… thought you were acting strange earlier, and came to check up on you,” she admitted. “Then I found your room empty, and heard a sound of something breaking upstairs. I almost rushed up to see what was going on, but then realized if you were in a dangerous situation, I might have made it worse by forcing you to protect me, as well, so I decided to stay here and wait for your return.” She sighed again, clearly relieved. “I… I’m glad you’re back. I’m not sure what I’d have done if you hadn’t come down again…”

“It’s fine now. I reckon there won’t be any more problems for a while,” Francisca reassured the maid, pulling her into a gentle hug and making sure her claws weren’t scraping her. Rowena returned the hug, briefly clinging to her with surprising strength, before letting go and smiling at the princess with a nod.

“That’s good to hear, Princess,” she said. Her expression then became one of cautious curiosity. “If I may ask… exactly what happened up there?”

Francisca hesitated for a moment, then decided there was no reason to hide the truth from Rowena. “I caught a Kunoichi hiding in the attic,” she replied. “Apparently, she was working for Deruella.”

“T-the White Lilim? One of her mamono was here?” the maid paled, speaking in a fearful tone. “Then… the rumors are true? She really is targeting Lescatie?”

“So it seems. I can’t think of any other reason why her followers would be poking around town, especially here,” Francisca nodded, her wild mane of white hair swaying as she did so. “That said, I dealt with the intruder.”

“I-I see. So, then, that mamono, is she…?” Rowena asked, hesitant. The princess shook her head.

“I just scared her off,” she reassured the maid, guessing what was going on in her mind. “I’m not a murderer, and besides, I got a strange feeling while fighting her… like she wasn’t really malicious. Just… misguided.” She paused, looking thoughtful. “I wonder if perhaps mamono aren’t as malevolent as we believe. Maybe they’re more like us than we want to admit. Granted, there are many whose behavior is… well, you know. But, this Kunoichi didn’t feel like an enemy who needed to be destroyed to me.”

“That’s… good,” Rowena murmured, her expression brightening. “I must admit, I do not relish the idea of you killing anyone or anything. So, I’m glad that you were able to solve this situation without senseless deaths.” She then paused, pondering Francisca’s words. “So, um… what you said just now… are you suggesting that maybe Deruella is just misunderstood?”

“Oh, no, definitely not,” Francisca shook her head. “Deruella’s actions are plain for all to see. Every single nation she conquered became a Demon Realm, drowning in depravity. She knows what she’s doing and it’s very intentional.” She frowned as she thought about the White Lilim’s infamous accomplishments. “I don’t think she and I will ever see eye to eye. She’s not a mamono I would give the benefit of doubt to.”

“Right, I was thinking the same thing,” Rowena agreed. She then gave Francisca a disapproving look. “But enough about that. Princess, you’re naked, and you really shouldn’t be wandering around the annex looking like a mamono, even if no one ever comes here. Let’s not take unnecessary risks…”

The Lescatian princess sheepishly scratched her head, looking guilty. “Ah… you’re right. I thought it would be best to discard my night robe so I could move more swiftly, but now that I think about it… I am walking around naked late at night, am I not?” she admitted with an awkward smile. The maid shook her head in exasperation.

“Whatever am I going to do with you?” she lamented, eyes rolling upwards. She then took Francisca’s hand in her own and pulled slightly. “Come along, Princess. It’s getting late, and I think we’ve both had enough excitement for today. Let’s get some rest… I have a feeling starting tomorrow, we will be very, very busy.”

Francisca didn’t answer, but obediently followed, letting Rowena lead her back to her room. The maid was right: she was suddenly feeling drained from the stress of her earlier encounter, and she could use some rest.

And she would definitely be very, very busy from the next day onward.

==Chapter 4: Awakening (End)==

((A/N: And that wraps it up. Next chapter, Francisca starts to make her move to establish her own faction, and we also get a glimpse at some interesting goings on in Polove. I had intended for it to be part of this chapter, as I mentioned, but decided it was best saved for the next one.

No new hybrid forms in this chapter, but Francisca does technically gain her first mamono form when she copies Ageha, and we also see what exactly the secondary ability of the Ultimate Chimera does. It’s nothing drastic, but the little things it can acquire that way pile up after a while. Although it can somewhat backfire, as seen with the emotional baggage it also saddled Francisca with.

About the names I used in this chapter, they’re almost all references to my favorite videogames, anime and/or game mods. Bartholo the gardener is a reference to the VIGILANT mod by Vicn for Skyrim. Sierra and Veltarna are names of two characters from Dragon Force, an old Sega Saturn game. Demia is the name of a witch of questionable morality from the anime Interspecies Reviewers.

Riza is, contrary to what you may think, not a reference to Atelier Ryza, but to Riza from Rudra no Hihou, a very old and never localized SNES game that only got a fan translation. Sora and Yoru are references to the recent RPG Monark (Sora Jingu and Yoru), and their names also complement each other, since taken together they can mean “night sky”.

Finally, Ageha is a name taken from Onimusha Tactics, although ‘Ageha’ is also the name given in Japan to the swallowtail butterfly, and a pretty common name in manga and anime for kunoichi.

Lastly, you may have noticed I spell Deruella’s name with an extra E. That is because her Japanese name transcribes as “Deruera”. “Druella” is the more commonly accepted transliteration to English, but personally I think “Deruella” sounds better.

I also really don’t like her as a character, but am trying to be fair and impartial here, so I’m giving her some good points rather than just stereotyping her as a mustache-twirling villain. But as you may have noticed, Francisca doesn’t like her much, based on reputation alone, and also because she feels Deruella is an active threat to Rowena.

That’s about it for this chapter. Hopefully I’ll see you all soon. Author out.))

1 vote, average: 5.00 out of 51 vote, average: 5.00 out of 51 vote, average: 5.00 out of 51 vote, average: 5.00 out of 51 vote, average: 5.00 out of 5 (1 votes, average: 5.00 out of 5)
You need to be a registered member to rate this post.
Loading...
942 Views

One thought on “Fabularis – Chapter 4

Leave a Reply