Illusionistquest Chapter 20: Weary Mind


Chapter 105

Dragging everyone out of the mines was less of a chore than expected. Sure, Ginelle was unconscious, Clint cried out in pain at any point you touched him, and Alice began moping once she woke up, but Ophelia managed to get a mining construct working and it easily carried everyone out.

You’ve been forced to use both of the [Health potions] that Clarissa found, one on the unconscious Ginelle and the other on Clint. The man scoffs at being offered the whole potion and he forces you to drink some of it when your attempts at hiding your abused ribcage fail. You would have refused, but Saya and Akela’s death stares make you relent and take some sips. Instantly your chest feels a little lighter, but Clint still has some difficulty moving. At least he’s not crippled…

When you exit the mines you return back to a scene of chaos, though with a little more order than before. The soldiers had enough time to reorganize themselves and get the townsfolk to a semblance of order. It is also one of them who notice your rather conspicuous exit from the mines, shouting at his comrades to intercept you.

A group of soldiers move in toward you but stop as some recognize Clint and yourself. He waves tiredly at them but, before anything else can occur, you hear a loud, squawking sound, and something shoots into the air before hurtling toward you faster than a falling star. You barely have time to scream before Clarissa slams down upon you in a flurry of wings and wailing.

“Tobiiiiiiiiaaaaaassssssssssssssss!” she squawks, wrapping her wings around you and crying. “Oh gods, you’re alllliiivvveeee! I thought I’d never- you’re all alive!”

You gently pat her on the head and cough out, “Thanks Clarissa, nice to see you too, but…uh,” you wheeze some flecks of blood, “Can I ask you to let me go?”

She blinks some tears before noticing your condition and pulling back, gasping. “Oh my gosh! I’m so sorry, I didn’t. Ah!” She just now seems to notice the others before flailing her wings about. “Waaaah, you’re all hurt!”

“Well, that’s the price of victory,” you say, rubbing your eyes. Your vision seems to have gone double, because clearly Clarissa only has one wing- wait. Crap, are you hurt more than you thought? Putting that aside, you shake your head before asking, “How are things out here?”

“Huh? Oh,” Clarissa says before waving to the approaching soldiers. “They’ve calmed people down, but there’s still some panic since the townsfolk have no idea what’s happening. They’ve been organizing an evacuation, but…” She looks to you and cocks her head. “But Fiora is…?”

“Dead,” you say, waving off a soldier who tries to help you. The others are picking up the unconscious form of Ginelle and helping to carry Clint, though Ophelia scoffs and says the construct is perfectly functional. They carry her off too.

“Oh, so… we really…?” Clarissa says, a little wide-eyed.

“Yeah, we won,” you say before hearing something behind you. Pausing, you look over your shoulder, but see nothing there. You mutter something about stupid bees and turn about to see Clarissa giving you a strange look. “What?”

“Tobias are you…” Clarissa says before shaking her head. “No, no… we won, it’s fine.” She puffs up her chest and says, “Alright! Let’s get back to the captain and tell him the good news!”

She raises her winghand to the sky and starts walking back to the ruined fort. You smirk as she walks away before shaking your head. You can always count on Clarissa to be a beacon to happiness in this sea of doubt. Still, why shouldn’t you be happy? You managed to win! To avenge your master and do Jackor’s fucking dirty work. Still… those last words of his make your feel uneasy. What did he mean that it wasn’t over yet?

You shake your head and turn to Saya and Akela, nodding at the two before heading after Clarissa. As you walk, you cock your head, feeling like something is missing here. You turn your head to see Alice walking behind you, grumbling to herself, but you don’t happen to see Abigail anywhere.

“Psssst,” you hear from nearby, and you whip your head about, but can’t see anything. You hear a giggle and then a soft touch on your neck that makes you shiver and freeze in place. Alice gives you a strange look, but you chuckle slightly, a small sweat coming from your forehead. The voice says again, “Hey, I’m right here Tobias, just invisible.”

“Yes… invisible,” you say, gulping. “You’re totally just invisible and I’m not insane and you were just a figment of my imagination the entire time.”

“Who knows~?” You hear the giggling again before something ruffles your hair. You begin to sweat even more, wondering how much she’s going to fuck with you. Not the time Abigail…

“Hey dad, why does mom suddenly have fluffy ears, did she- Uh, dad?” Akela says, looking at you as you swat the air around you. “You okay?”

“No dear, Abigail is messing with my mind.”

Akela blinks and looks to Saya, a concerned look on her face. “Uhm… who is Abigail?”

You pause, going utterly rigid. Slowly, you turn to face Akela with an ashen face and ask, “You… you don’t know who… Abigail is?”

Akela and Saya trade scared looks with each other before you notice Akela’s lip twitch. Your brow furrows and you glare at her as she hides her smile with a furred hand. Saya is better at hiding it, but as soon as Akela begins to snicker, she places a hand to her mouth as well. You watch the two snickering at you for a long time before you sigh with exasperation and say, “Come on, that’s not funny.”

“He’s right, it’s not,” Alice says as she walks past you. “There’s still things to do before we can rest, and frankly, you’re not in the right state for this anyway.”

The three of you watch as the Hero walks past, hand gripping her sword tightly. You all turn to each other, and Akela’s ears flatten. “Sorry… I thought it would be… funny.” She drags her paw on the ground and sulks. Saya, her ears also flattened, which is super cute to be honest, goes to pat the girl’s head, but the Anubis stands up straight as her hair is visibly ruffled. Her eyes go wide and she looks over to see nothing before her, and smiles.

“You better show yourself later, Abigail,” she says before the ruffling goes away and a soft chuckle is heard echoing in the air. The three of you look about in confusion before shrugging and following once again after Clarissa.

“So, this Fiora and Chalan used some poor girls to plant explosives under the fort’s contraband store to detonate impounded fuel they knew we’d seize and collapsed it to cause a panic before they activated war constructs to attack Galmathoria and finally spark an all-out war with a mixture of plant spores driving them into a frenzy?”

“That’s about right,” you reply as Captain Tuskalanie sighs and leans back in the chair. He stares up at the ceiling for a long moment and you say nothing, just watching.

Your group had been received quite happily by the people of the town, with the news that everything was taken care of. No one dared question Clint’s word and, with everyone’s injuries, they quite readily saw to medical attention with the few Hospitaliers that survived the collapse of the fort. Though Clint wanted to be present for this talk, they had confined him to a bed next to Ginelle. They tried to get you in a bed also, but somehow you managed to convince them your report was more important.

Now you sit in a building that has been converted into a field command/ hospital due to the size. Saya has your [Port-o-Glass] and is sending a report to her parents while you give yours in person to the captain. You do not look forward to typing this up to Anderson, but he probably already knows what’s happening.

The captain leans forward again and cracks his knuckles. “Well, that’s that then, I suppose.” He shrugs as you look at him with surprise. “Well, you took care of these criminals, the constructs are secured by that men, the cycler has been rendered inoperable and the samples destroyed, and the populace is getting back in order. Even if the Galmathorians wanted to attack, they’d find us still ready to repel them, even without the fort. And if we can get those constructs up and active…”

“Ophelia already told you, she’s taken them offline, permanently.”

He sighs. “Of course. I already tried to talk with Lady Illoma, but she was quite firm that she was taking them back to the Manufactorum in Loveura. If they’re as strong as she says, just having one on hand could…”

“Cause some trouble if anyone subverts it,” you say, shaking your head. “Sir, you have to understand, we really don’t want those things here. Tensions with Galmathoria are still stretched thin I understand? I still doubt they’ll make any sort of attack here, and even if they did, those constructs would probably cause more damage to you on defense than to them.”

He thinks it over before sighing again. “Fine, fine, I understand. You probably should have said you were working for the Crown beforehand instead of hiding in Lord Fullvora’s shadow. Or is that how they operate these days?”

“Helps us get things done,” you chuckle. “Anyway, we do need to return to Loveura, and then to Sanctifrond so we can get this all settled. Are you going to be fine here?”

“Could use some more construction constructs and some help here I suppose, but the people will be happy for the work and the discovery of such concentrated mana crystals in shaft one may lead to a new mining boom!” He chuckles darkly before shaking his head. “Still, lost a few too many men and citizens to be happy about this.”

Both of you look down before you nod your head. “Aye. You have your duty to your people and I have mine.”

Standing up to go, he does the same before holding out his hand. You look down at it for a moment before smiling and grasping it, shaking firmly. He smiles and pats your shoulder, a little too firmly, and you wince before leaving the room.

Downstairs is the makeshift hospital where people and soldiers walk about, talking in soft voices while sobs and some cries of pain are heard in the background. In the end the order to mobilize outside of the fort saved many, many lives, but it’s hard to say whether they could have stopped it if they stayed. Many soldiers and staff died as well as some citizens nearby the debris or in the tunnels that were caved in. Rescue operations are ongoing, but only so much can be done.

You enter the ward where Ginelle and Clint are to hear a commotion. Feeling a little alarmed, you dash into their room as almost feral cries of rage come from within. Soldiers dash past you and into the room where you find four of them holding down Ginelle with some difficulty, the Monster flailing about and trying to get loose.

Shock plays over your face as you stand in the doorway to see Ginelle’s expression of pure, feral rage. She pulls at the men and almost throws them off with a strength far beyond what normal Monsters should be capable of in this day and age. It seems she barely notices any of her injuries as she kicks and flails about, and it takes Clint shouting, “TOBIAS, GIVE ME A HAND!” for you to snap out of it and run into the room.

“RAAAAAAA!” Ginelle shouts as you run up and help hold her arm. She tries to bite at you but you keep out of her reach and shout, “GINELLE! CALM DOWN, ITS ME!”

“GGRRROOOOO!” she growls and you feel a certain fear within yourself that you quickly shove down with <Battle Focus>. Now calmed, you try to probe into her mind to cast an illusion but find yourself utterly blocked out by such pure, animalistic emotion. The only way to describe it is… fear?

The newly made Mindflayer must have struck her with terror so powerful it broke her down into a ravening beast. The sensation you felt makes you gasp and you pull back, unable to react. Clint shouts something again and a Hospitalier dashes in with a syringe full of some fluid which she jams into the Badger Girl. Ginelle growls before blinking a few times and then sagging down slowly, her thrashings getting less intense until she falls asleep once again.

The soldiers, panting and covered in sweat, stand about in confusion before one of them barks an order and the others dash off to retrieve some chains. Clint, grunting in pain, lowers himself down to Ginelle and places a hand to her forehead, giving a look of anguish as he gently strokes her. “Oh Gods, what did they do to you?” he whispers, tears forming in his eyes.

“She’s afraid,” you say, gritting your teeth. “They filled her with such fear that she’s lost herself.”

“Is there anything you can do?” he asks, looking to you for help. You freeze in place before looking to the side and saying,

“I’m not certain. I’ll have to look into it. I-I’m sorry.”

Clint looks at you for a long time before he swallows and then turns back to Ginelle until he’s dragged to bed by the Hospitalier as the soldiers return with irons to lock Ginelle up. You make to sit down, but the soldiers push you out, Clint staring numbly at the ceiling as you’re escorted. You don’t think he’s upset with you, just… worried. Pausing at the door, you just shake your head and turn around, resolved to head back to the inn where the others are staying.

As you walk out the door to the makeshift hospital you pause, noticing Alice standing with her back to the wall, arms crossed and a frown on her face. She makes no move to speak with you, so you speak first.

“You alright?”

“I was defeated in such a shameful manner,” she says, growling. “I thought I was the best there was, and yet I ended up getting stomped into the ground by an overgrown pile of weeds.”

“You did well against Fiora at the start…” you say, but she shakes her head violently.

“It’s the end result that matters! If I’d been hurt beyond a few bruises, I’d understand, but that was pitiful!” She puts a hand to her head and says, “I see why they sent me out here now, because I wasn’t good enough for the actual Order.”

“Alice, stop…”

“Oh what do you care? You don’t even want me here anyway.” She shakes her head. “We barely know each other and I know you think of me as a nuisance, just like everyone else.”

Alice throws up her hands and sighs, “My one chance and I blew it! Is this some kind of punishment?”

You begin to feel an irrational sort of anger at that and growl, “Alice, stop.”

“No, you see that-”

“Alice. Stop.”

Your words come out like ice and she stops in her tracks, blinking at you. She goes quiet and allows you to take a deep breath before saying, “Alice, you can’t keep beating yourself up. Yes, you got beaten, yes you got hurt, but you’re still alive and we still won the day. Your actions honestly helped save my life and if not for some interference, you’d probably have beaten her.

“You’re powerful, I see that now. Yes, you’re a nymphomaniac who thinks too highly of herself, but don’t be down. If you have any regrets, then focus on making yourself better, by devoting yourself to something.” You sigh and turn to walk away. “Maybe follow in the tracks of the Wanderer or something, just if you’re going to mope then do it somewhere else.”

“The Wanderer… You mean Tabitha Steel-legs?”

She goes quiet as you walk away from her, saying all that you need to say. Though she was merely an ally of convenience and while you hold no ill will for her, she needs to get over this on her own. Before you go fully out of ear shot, you hear, “I will! You’ll see, I’ll be the best damn swordswoman in the world and this will NEVER happen again!”

“Neat,” you whisper yourself, too worn out by the day’s events. Though you’re not exactly in top form, you trudge away from the hospital and back to the inn, where need to get some more work done before being allowed to pass out.

The inn is packed with people, as many had become displaced while the clean-up is being performed. You have to push your way through the people to get upstairs and into your room, but as you open the door you pause as you see something that makes you smile.

Abigail and Akela sit on the bed, both of them playing with a moving pile of black, fluffy tubes that flap about as they try to catch them. Childish, but amusing to watch, you trace them back to their source to see the nine tails coming from Saya’s backside. You blink in surprise as you notice that she now sports furred hands and feet, almost fully taking on the form of a Cat o’Nine Tails.

She finishes with something on the [Port-o-Glass] before sighing and placing the device to the side and then looking up at you with delighted surprise. “Hey there.”

“Hey,” you say, smirking as you watch the simple scene. Akela notices you and jumps off the bed before hopping over and hugging you. You rub her head gently and look up to see both Abigail and Saya smiling softly.

“Looked like you were having some fun in here,” you say, nodding to Saya. “Though I feel something is missing with that form…”

“Oh,” Saya says, looking to her tails which lack the blade-like protrusions at the end. They grow a moment later and she shrugs. “I felt it would be safer for Akela.”

“Mom has been changing herself a ton. It’s weird, but kind of cool. She even made herself look like an Anubis once.” Her smile slips briefly before her happy face comes back. “Well, you said you’d be back and you kept your promise! Does this mean that…?”

You sigh and pat her head again. “Yes, it means that we can have a normal life soon. A few loose ends and we can finally rest.” Your gaze turns to Abigail, who you still haven’t gotten used to seeing so large. Only looking at her now do you realize that her clothing, which used to be that smock, has now changed into a flowing dress that shows off a large amount of skin. For some reason she still wears the cap though, even if it clashes with such a nice outfit.

“Can you color with Akela for a bit? I have some work to do myself.”

“Of course,” she chuckles as you give her a strange look. “Oh, would it help if I called you an asshole? Would that make you feel more at ease?”

“A little, yes.” You hesitate before asking the question that comes to your mind, though you just shake your head instead, not wanting to ask in front of Akela. “Anyway, thanks for helping out.”

“Think nothing of it. I feel pretty happy right now anyway you bastard, so it’s fine.”

“Naughty words, children are about,” Akela says before leading Abigail over to her colors. As you watch them go, you feel something very strong and fluffy wrap around your waist. You give a little cry as you’re dragged in and come face to face with Saya, who smiles at you wickedly before pressing her face to yours in a kiss.

When she finally releases you, you blink a few times and shake your head before asking, “What was that for?”

“For being so amazing,” she says, wrapping her arms around you. “Now that it’s all over, it’s coming back to me and I’m remembering bits and pieces of what happened. Summoning Xanthia was… scary, but you came back and freed me from her.”

“Hey, who wouldn’t?”

“Most anyone. I’m sure she won’t be too happy with me next time I see her, and frankly I’m a little terrified of when we do but… well, maybe we can delay that for a bit.” She shakes her head before waggling her ears. “On the plus side, it seems she finally managed to get her lessons on shape-shifting to stick!”

“That’s great Saya!” you say, kissing her gently again. “What about your… you know?”

She holds up her hands which turns black and oozing before gently placing it on your [Port-o-Glass], though nothing happens. She chuckles as your eyes go wide and says, “Well, I seem to have total control of it now. Normally I had to keep my concentration up so I didn’t lose my grip but… I don’t know.” She sniffs and smiles. “I feel so much more in control of myself. I feel like I could keep a form indefinitely now.”

“You don’t think that…” you start, but she gives wan smile.

“I don’t dare to hope. But at least we can… if you’d like to…”

You sigh and look to the [Port-o-Glass]. “Not yet, I have some things to report and… well, Ginelle is not in a good place.” Saya frowns and you say, “She’s locked in fear from that Mindflayer and she’s gone almost totally feral. I don’t know what to do yet, but Clint is with her.”

“Gods, I hope she gets better…” Saya whispers before shaking her head. “Is Clint fine?”

“He’s been better, but he’ll be fine.” You frown and look about. “Where is Clarissa and Ophelia?”

“Ophelia is still working on those constructs. It’s insane to see how in command she is in her element, I’d never have thought it. Clarissa is sleeping off her worry in the other room. Poor girl almost croaked from the fear for us.” She smiles wanly again. “She’s done really well for someone with such a gentle soul. I’m glad you’re friends with her.”

“Aye, me too,” you say, nodding your head before sighing. “Alright, I need to do my report to Anderson. Mind if I sit here?”

She nods her head and stands, stretching her strange, feline limbs. She catches you watching and smirks, leaning down to whisper, “Oh, you’ll get quite the eyeful later, big guy.”

You feel yourself getting hard and you cough into your hand before turning to the device as she chuckles and kisses your cheek, leaving to play with Akela. Feeling a little warm, you open your ley-mail to see an immediate message from Anderson. You sigh and begin to write your report, making certain you keep all the details in place. It takes some time, but once you finish, you look through your other ley-mail, noticing another correspondence from Patricia.

 

“Tobias.

 

“I hope this reaches you well. I’m told by Anderson that you’ve reached the end point now, so if you’re reading this then you’ve survived, and hopefully so has Saya. If anything happened to her, then I… Well, anyway, you both better be safe.

“Contact me as soon as you come back alive.

 

-Patricia.”

 

An abbreviated report of your actions goes to her as well, including what you gleaned from the altar before you destroyed it. It was the last thing you did before leaving, although you found little there really. No notes, no information, no anything. All you know is that the altar was hastily constructed. Any secrets that it held probably died with Fior…a….

You turn about slowly to watch Saya playing with Akela and your mind begins to turn the gears. Wait a moment, if Saya could get the memories of those she ate then she could possibly… no, but that would be too much to…

She turns to you and where her face is, you see that of Fiora’s, a wicked smile on her lips. You start, shaking your head to find her normal face giving you a quizzical expression. Staring a little too long, you uncomfortably turn back to the [Port-o-Glass] as you hear the sound of a message arriving. Shocker: It’s from Anderson.

 

“Tobias.

 

“Excellent work. Reports I’m able to get from the town have been scattered and the loss of the fort is regrettable, but not the worst that could have happened. The constructs are deactivated and under the care of Lady Illoma, ready for transport back to Loveura. We have reports that the support we sent will be there by tomorrow and we can start rebuilding while maintaining a powerful front if Galmathoria gets any ideas.

“With the death of Chalan and Fiora, the threat of Illusionists has been alleviated, which will make us and Ms. Boudreaux much more relaxed now. I wish I could say that everything is in hand though, as we’ve seen all communication cut off with The Cradle as of yesterday. Sorcerers nearby report spikes of magic being drawn, and we are unable to determine what is happening.

“What this means going forward, I do not know. I would like someone to go there and investigate, but I have asked much and more of you as it is. You do not have any duty left to the Crown and you’ve fulfilled much and more that can be asked of you. Money has been deposited to your account and you should be well off. Should you choose to continue your mentor’s profession with other trouble makers, we can have that arranged as well.

“Most people will not know what you have done, they cannot know what you have done. You are not The Grand Wizard, you are not the champion who saved the world. But to those of us who know what you did, we are thankful. The King himself knows of your deeds and, despite your family’s past, he personally wishes to offer you his thanks, a great reward in its own right. Be proud of what you’ve done and know that your sacrifices have been worth it.

“If you require more, I will always be in contact. We may not always have seen eye to eye and I have been overbearing at times, but Tobias, I hope there is no ill-will. We both work for the best interests of this Kingdom and thus we are comrades under the Crown. May you have a wonderful life with your new family.

“By the graces of the Crown


-Agent Anderson.”

 

You have to read it over a few times before it really sinks in how much emotion the man just used there. It makes you feel a little warm and cozy at that thought and you feel a smile come to your lips. Well, Anderson, you’re alright after all.

With that accomplished, you creakily get up, walk over to the bed where your family is, and promptly pass out.

 

Chapter 106

You dream that evening, unfortunately, though when you awaken all you can remember is the sound of laughter in your head. While you can’t quite place the voice, something about it is eerily familiar. Putting it out of your mind, you roll over to see the sun’s first rays making their way into the canyon and you blink in surprise at how long you’ve been out. You don’t feel all that rested however, and your chest still burns and feels like there’s a weight upon it.

Blinking away the morning fatigue, you realize that the weight you feel is Saya sleeping curled up next to you, her arm draped over your chest. At your movements her face, which she had changed back to fully human, stirs and she blinks a few times before looking at you sleepily and mumbling, “Hey there…”

“Hey,” you whisper back, reaching over to stroke her hair. “Sorry to wake you.”

“It’s fine,” she says, yawning. “First night sleeping without melting any. You never really saw it, but it was a little messy at times.” She makes to get up and you find that she’s not wearing a top. You blink a few times and she looks down before smirking and leaning over to kiss you on the lips.

“It’s fine, Akela is still asleep, and I wanted you to wake up to something nice.”

“I always wake up to something nice when you’re around.”

She flicks your nose before rising and going over to put on her clothing. You look over to see Akela sleeping in the next bed over with Abigail sleeping beside her. A smile comes to your face at the cute scene, though you wonder how long Abigail can stay. With her new responsibilities, how long will it be until Jackor decides to reign her back in?

While Saya and Akela get ready, Abigail not needing to due to some Titania bullshit magic, you look over your ley-mail for messages from Anderson again. Of course, you spot one immediately and scan for the relevant part.

 

“My support teams will be there later today. We’ll make certain you’re fine before debriefing and sending you on your way. We will notify the Grand Wizard as well as the Lord Commander in preparation for what is to come. Good luck.”

 

You pause at that last part, wondering what he means by, “Good Luck.” Shaking your head, you turn off the device and go down to get some breakfast for your family. (And Abigail, who talks overly about waffles and how she’s excited to eat with her new, larger mouth.)

Thus finished, you decide to head back to the hospital to see Ginelle. You leave Akela with Clarissa and Ophelia, the latter of which having appeared late last night to pass out in bed, covered in lubricating oils and a goofy grin on her face. It seems the tinkering was therapeutic for her, because she seems more hale than she has in days since the explosion. Still, you don’t want Akela to see Ginelle the way she is at the moment, and you leave her with them.

“Why not leave Abigail?” Saya asks as you walk out in the warm morning. The late summer heat is starting to dissipate and soon enough autumn will settle in, but with the way the wind moves through the canyon, it’s still a little chilly.

“I think Abigail may be useful in helping me with whatever is happening with Ginelle.” You say, watching as some soldiers cart away some debris. “I’d like all the cheer and happy magic or whatever bullshit she can produce.”

Fuck youuuuuuu,” Abigail says next to you, invisible though she is. She’s really taken a shining to this new power of hers and, while you think it’s a form of illusion, you don’t have the drive to dispel it for yourself. Besides, the little pink creature with the head of that mantis from Loveura dancing in the corner of your eye is more distracting. Gods you hope it will go away soon, it’s really annoying.

“Abigail, please stop pretending to be a Ghost.”

“But I’m spoooookkkyyyyy.”

“Oh my Gods, Abigail, you are now a Queen of your people, entrusted with power by a God, and you use it to pretend you’re a Ghost?”

“Our God is a jackass who derives power from playing pranks and games. Also, you’re one to talk.”

You pause for a moment before grumbling and continuing to walk forward. Abigail makes spooky, smug Ghost noises near you the whole time you walk, though Saya just chuckles. You glare at her at one point, but that makes her smile wider and also make spooky Ghost noises. Needless to say, you’re quite grumbly by the time you reach the facility.

The hospital seems a little more subdued today, as most of the critical cases went one way or another last evening. Walking through the facility, you reach Clint and Ginelle’s room to find two guards posted outside the curtained off section. They nod to you as you enter and you open the curtain to find Ginelle passed out on her bed while Clint sleeps next to her, head resting on her chest.

As you enter, Clint stirs and looks up. He blinks a few times before stretching and saying, “Oh, morning.”

“How’s she been?” Saya asks.

Clint shakes his head. “Not good. They had to sedate her again and she didn’t seem to notice me.” He shakes his head, “She started crying a little during it, and her eyes… Gods, this is almost worse than her being dead.”

“Shush you, don’t wish that on her,” Abigail says, appearing from thin air. Clint starts, pulling back and reaching for his rifle, which is across the room. When he realizes it’s out of reach, he thinks it over for a moment before sighing and lowering his hand.

A guard pokes his head into the room and blinks, only seeing the four of you there. He blinks a few more times before slowly pulling away. Abigail appears again, giggling before turning back to Clint. “Anyway, I think Tobias has an idea how to help.”

Clint turns to you, weary hope in his eyes. You nod to him sharply and lift a finger. “I have some thoughts, going to see if they stick.”

“She’s… going to be alright, right?”

“No, probably not,” you say, looking grim. “But she’ll need someone near her to help comfort her through it.” Clint gives you a worried look, but you smile wanly and say, “She’s a strong girl, she’ll just turn it into an advantage somehow.”

Clint closes his eyes and takes a deep breath before nodding his head. “Yeah, you’re right.”

You nod back at him before turning to Abigail. “I’m going to need her awake, think you can dampen the sound in here?”

“Why would you think I can do that?”

“I dunno, isn’t that something Fairy Queens can do?”

Abigail narrows her eyes before sighing. “Yes, it is.” She raises her hands and a gentle warmth trickles through the room, but beyond that you don’t feel much different. She nods to you before pausing. “Waaaaaait, you were just fucking guessing, weren’t you?”

“No, I had every confidence in you…” you mutter as you study Ginelle. Poor girl managed to tear up her clothes in her struggles and they barely cling to her. Given how raw her wrists are from the manacles there, you suspect they didn’t try to clothe her again. Closing your eyes, you place a hand on Ginelle’s forehead.

Everyone takes a shallow breath as her eyes flicker slowly open. She blinks once, twice, and then her eyes go wide and she starts screaming. Her limbs pull at the chains, but no one comes into the room. You hurriedly hold down your fingers to her temples, put your face over hers, and stare into those wild eyes.

You activate [Eye of Fear].

Ginelle’s cries cut off abruptly as she slumps back, eyes staring directly into yours. Your heartbeat grows rapid, your eyes growing wider until, with a gasp, you pull back from her, placing your hands over your face as tears stream down your cheeks.

Clint and Saya pull you away from her as you continue to shake and it takes you a few moments to get your bearings before you stop and blink your eyes in confusion. Taking a few, steadying breaths, you calm yourself enough for them to let you go and look back to her. When you do, you see Ginelle laying on the bed, eyes open, tears streaming down her face, but no longer raging.

Clint hurries over to her and kneels down next to her asking, “Ginelle? Are you there?”

She blinks once before turning slowly to him. Her haunted eyes stare at him, as if unable to recognize the man for a second before closing her eyes and nodding, though she still weeps. Clint closes his eyes and shudders before grabbing a key from the nearby table and hurriedly undoing the locks on her bindings, releasing her wrists and legs. Once free, she pulls herself into a fetal position and shivers, though once Clint sees this he immediately wraps his arms around her and whispers protectively to her.

She puts her hand on his arm and weeps softly before nodding her head and burying it into his chest. Saya sighs in relief and you realize then that she’s gripping your arm tightly. Not certain what to do, you turn to Abigail, who smiles wanly and waves her hand, a thin layer of powder covering the two and helping them drift back off to sleep.

After arranging both of them on the bed, you exit the room and tell the guards it will be fine and to bring another Hospitalier. They give you a confused look, but do as you request. They’ll be able to take care of them for now.

“What did you do?” Saya asks as you exit the hospital, heading towards the station.

“I… showed her that she’s not alone in her fears,” you say, looking at your now trembling hands. You hid it very well in the room, but now that you’re out it’s starting to get to you again. Warm wetness begins to build at the corner of yours eyes as you recount your deepest fears in such a short timeframe. Atop it sits Fiora’s fear and now Ginelle’s. Anyone would tear up a little at that, or worse. Gods, you just want to curl up like Ginelle and-

Something soft and warm touches your cheek and you look up to see nothing at all, yet you know Abigail is in front of you, smiling. She says, voice gentle, “I think you two care about much the same things and would be devastated to see them lost. She’ll be alright, and so will you.”

The gentle touch turns into a light slap on your cheek. “Besides, the two of you are as hard-headed as mules, no wonder you started this journey together. I doubt she could live with the shame of not seeing it through to the end.”

You blink in surprise before smirking and noticing Saya giving you a smile as well. She takes your arm in hers and snuggles her cheek against you as you continue your trek to the station. Yeah… she’s the strongest person you’ve ever met, she’ll be just fine.

As for yourself, the fact that the little pink mantis-thing is barking now, you feel maybe, maybe you’re not exactly as alright as you could be.

The station was designed to withstand the rigors of battle and, due to its location, it was almost untouched from the explosion. People busily move about the area, loading and unloading various wares and preparing transportation for aid and support through the Kingdom. The Trolls guarding the station keep a close eye on everything that goes about along with a contingent of soldiers, half staring at their bodies every now and again, the other half standing as far away as possible to get away from the stench.

You don’t have to wait long after you arrive in the early afternoon until a sleek leyway rolls in and a group of Heroes clad in various sorts of armor pile out, speaking with the soldiers about where they can best to be put to use. Behind them come two men in black suits and shaded spectacles who survey the area quietly. The moment they see you, they make a beeline, the forward one extending his hand, which you take.

“Agent Kay, this is my partner, agent Jay.” The other man nods to you curtly before surveying the area again. Kay lets go of your hand and says, “We’ve been instructed to check on you while assessing the area for damages. I trust you’re recovering well?”

“As well as can be expected,” you say, shrugging. “Have some friends recovering in the hospital in town, should be fine, if a little shaken and…” you trail off as you notice Agent Jay staring at something behind you. You cock your head and hear Abigail whisper,

“I think he sees me.”

The man taps his spectacles. “Magesight.”

“Ah,” you say before shrugging. “She’s with us, don’t worry about it.”

“We’re not, or else we’d have taken action,” Kay says not even a little concerned. “I understand you’re going to Loveura now, is that right?”

“As soon as we’re healed up and the outbound leyways are operational, yes.”

“I see. You’re taking those constructs with you?”

“They’re property of the Manufactorum, so yes.” You frown at that and say with some ice, “Anderson told you this, right?”

“Of course he did, we’re just confirming. Those units could do some great things for the country. We’ll have to speak about appropriate reparations for the Manufactorum.”

“You mean, purchasing them?”

“We prefer our term.”

You frown as he pulls out some papers and consults them before shoving them back into his suit pocket. He doesn’t say anything else and seems to utterly ignore you, so you have to cough into your hand and ask, “Is… that all?”

“Hmm?” Kay asks, turning to look at you. “Yes, until more is known about the situation in the Cradle, you have been paid for your duty and a leyway will be available for you when you’re prepared to leave.” He nods to you and says, “If you’ll excuse me then, we have business to attend to here.”

He walks off quick as you do, and you’re left watching them go. You throw your hands up in the air and say, “Well that was thoroughly unhelpful.”

“The Cradle, huh?” Says mutters. “I can’t help but feel this is all just the prelude to something worse.”

“And when the time comes, it’ll be faced. There will always be a hero to take the reins.” You say, waving for her to come close. She does so and settles into your arm as you sigh. “For us, the story is over. All we have to do is collect our reward from that asshole Jackor.”

“You mean… Richard?” She pauses and then asks, “And what about after that?”

“We live our lives. Who can say what the future holds, but as long as it’s with you, I’m fine.”

She chuckles, “Sounds almost like a proposal.”

“I’d never propose to you somewhere as dinky as a leyway station surrounded by soldiers and smelly Trolls. No, when I propose to you, it will be much grander.”

She freezes, hand tightening on your jacket. “W-wait, you can’t be-”

You cut off her objection by kissing her.

It isn’t until the next day that everyone is well enough to ride the leyway. Ginelle, having regained some of her wits, is able to comprehend what you tell her, only shivering every so often while holding onto Clint’s hand with hers. Ophelia was able to get the Blitzers ready for transport, though the agents kept bugging her incessantly the whole time.

Clint wishes to head straight to Sanctifrond as soon as he can. Despite his initial misgivings of his home, he believes it’s the best place for Ginelle to heal. He relents, however, when Ginelle asks him softly to stay in Loveura, at least until she’s seen this the whole way through, something you’re silently grateful to her for.

Ophelia, already heading that way, agrees that she’ll part ways there and return to the Manufactorum while Clarissa says she’ll stick with you until you reach Sanctifrond yourselves. Despite the adventure, she sounds keen to return to her job after some downtime to think everything over. As for Alice, well, you didn’t see her after your talk outside the hospital, but some Heroes noticed her muttering about “The Wanderer” and taking a leyway back east.

The trip is uneventful, which you are extremely thankful for. Once boarded, Clint and Ginelle take a room to themselves and surprisingly don’t touch any booze. Ophelia spends most of her time lording over the constructs, while Clarissa watches, the two apparently having grown to be friends over the journey, though you have no idea when that happened. Maybe they feel like 5th and 6th wheels?

Abigail orders food to your room at random times during the trip, despite the leyway policy, the server seeming quite confused when he brings it each time, but you let her be. She deserves it. For your part, you spend the time constructing messages about your adventures to the Grand Wizard and Selene, preparing them for what could be occurring in the future. You don’t receive any replies before you arrive, however.

Saya, for her part, makes sure you find constructive ways to spend your time off the [Port-o-Glass]. She does this mainly by setting up traps and dragging you into unoccupied rooms to do unspeakably naughty things with you like holding hands while she rests on your shoulder or gently talking about the future. Occasionally she even presses you for something mundane, like sex, which you give her without any protest.

Though you had some reservations, she doesn’t hurt you, and once you come to this realization, her inhibitions seem to vanish as she is now able to relieve all her pent-up sexual frustrations. Not that you’re complaining, though you do have to make sure to wash yourselves off before seeing Akela again.

All in all, it’s a relaxing trip to Loveura, beyond a few incidents where your mind gets the better of you. You don’t include that one time the fish talked to you about how cold the world was, because that clearly is a rational thing to comment on if you’re a fish about to be eaten. Delicious he was.

The leyway, moving on an express route, courtesy of Anderson, rolls into Loveura a week after you leave and, as you take a step out onto the platform, a wave of nostalgia hits you like a physical force. Everything appears as it did before, the accentuated architecture of the white buildings, the verdant plant life, and the flowing canals. The happy people and even the gruff Trolls, it all brings back memories of your time here.

You feel yourself choke up a little as you view it, and Saya rubs your arm before gently leading you and Akela out onto the platform. Ginelle and Clint follow after, the mood of the Badger Girl having improved much during the trip, though she still clings to Clint. At the sight of the city and the Bee Girls that instinctively know she’s here, she shivers some, but doesn’t cause much of a fuss. Clarissa comes along as well, though Ophelia says she’ll meet with all of you that evening after delivering the constructs back home.

With plans to meet that evening in the Main District near Ulala’s tree, you go your separate ways to rest up before your reunion with Richard, and Jackor.

As you approach “The Dancing Wolf,” little Jeanie, still working out front cleaning, immediately homes in on your presence. Her little tail waggles through the air back and forth as she stands on her tip toes and waves. “Ohh, ohhh! It’s Tobias! And Saya! And Ginelle! And uh… other people!”

“Hey there Jeanie,” you say, patting the little Wolf Girl’s head. “Is your mom inside?” Her tail wags even more at this she nods her head.

“Yep! I bet she’s probably smelled you by now already too.” She cocks her head then and looks to Akela before pointing at her. “Oh woah! You’re new too! Hi, my name is Jeanie!”

Akela looks between you and Jeanie, an unhappy look on her face. You nod at her and she sighs before stepping forward and saying, “Hi… woah!” She starts as Jeanie takes her hand in hers and shakes it.

“Woah, you’re kind of foreign, huh? Haven’t seen a wolf like you before!”

“That’s because I’m an Anubis and my name is Akela…”

“Woaaaah, Anubis? What’s that like?”

Akela looks to you for help, but you chuckle and pat her shoulder. “Hey, go play with Jeanie, although as long as she does her chores…” You raise an eyebrow at the little Wolf Girl who whistles and twirls her broom. Akela sighs before putting her paws on her hips and stands to attention.

“Alright, if we’re going to play, then this is how we’re doing it.”

You leave the two girls be as you enter the inn, almost getting barreled over by Hannah the moment you do. She bear hugs you so tightly, you feel like you’re going to pass out as she cries, “Oh my Gods, Tobias! You’re back! I thought you might never show up, but here you are!”

“Ha-Hannah…” you wheeze, trying to force her off. She blinks a few times before chuckling and pulling away.

“Goodness me, there’s more of you this time. And I smell someone else out with Jeanie…?”

“Our daughter,” you say, looking to Saya. Hannah’s eyebrows raise and she chuckles.

“I knew that would happen, but Gods, you two work fast. Grown in the blink of an eye…”

“We’ll tell you the rest of the story later. Can we get some rooms and some of your fine cuisine?”

“Bah, no time for fun!” she says with good humor. “Alright, alright, well you kids get all settled.” She pauses and asks in a hesitant voice, “Is… Richard…?”

“Not yet,” you say, shaking your head. “But soon.”

She cracks a wide grin. “Well then! I suppose we better prepare for the celebration then!” As she goes about getting things ready for you, you have a strange sensation in the pit of your stomach.

You really, really hope that is the case.

 

Chapter 107

Nightfall comes painfully slow, but once the last rays of the sun begin to dissipate from the horizon, you gather up your party and head for the Main District.

There, in the middle of the square, stands Ulala’s twisted tree, swaying gently in warm breeze of the night. All of you gather round, even Abigail, who makes her presence known, trusting in the night to keep her hidden from unwanted viewers. If anything, they’d think her some kind of Bee Girl, as long as she doesn’t start glowing. As you step up, the tree shivers and from the bark appears Ulala’s face, a look of joy on her expression.

She hasn’t changed at all since you last visited and the familiar smile on her face fills you with hope. Ulala looks over your group before waving and saying, “Hello! Oh wow, there’s a lot of new people, huh?”

“Yeah, I guess there is,” you say, looking over the assembled group. From those whom you met at the beginning of this journey to those you befriended later on, you’d formed deep bonds with all of them. You nod to Ulala and ask, “How is he?”

“The same,” she says, sighing. “His voice has been very… distracting, and I’ve done my best to keep him calm and placated, but it’s difficult.” She looks at you with hope. “Have you come with something…?”

“I should hope so.” You reach into your pocket to pull out the tiny bear figurine. “Alright Jackor, we’ve come back. Now then, show yourself.”

“See, I don’t know why you’re talking to a bear, that’s just crazy,” a man’s voice says from above you.

Both you and Abigail snap your attentions to Ulala’s branches to see Jackor sitting there, munching on an apple. He waves at you before dropping down and taking another bite, chewing for long moments before swallowing and throwing the core away. It vanishes into nothing, an illusion then. He wipes his hands on his pants and says, “Fancy seeing you here.”

You look to the others, who are giving you strange looks, before turning back to Jackor, who shakes his head and says, “They can’t see me. They must think you’re insaaaaane.”

“Look, I did what you asked, Fiora is dead. Now it’s time to hold up your end of the bargain.”

Jackor utterly ignores you and turns to Abigail before clapping his hands together. “Ah, my dear, sweet Abigail. I must say, you are quite beautiful as a Titania.”

“T-thank you, my Lord.”

“Oh, think nothing of it, it suits you. You did well leading him to put down my lost children. I didn’t think he would, to be honest, but because you helped him, you got your own reward, did you not?”

She looks down and nods her head. “Yes… thank you, my Lord.”

“Oh come now, don’t sound so glum. You’re going to be a Queen! Now there’s been some disputes in the forests to the north, so I’d like you to go mediate those and-“

“Jackor,” you say flatly, interrupting the God. He turns to you and raises and eyebrow.

“Hmm? You need something?”

“We had a deal, Jackor! I kill Fiora, you restore my sanity and Richard’s!”

He cocks his head and taps his chin. “Hmmm. No, I don’t recall that being one of your ‘demands,’ such as they were.” He looks you straight in the eyes and says, “You asked me to fix your mind in exchange for hunting down Fiora. I already did that earlier. Now then as for you other demands, you asked, and I quote: ‘You wished for me explain to you why I couldn’t fix Richard, and you expected me not to bullshit you or dance around the answer. Third, you wanted me to tell you why Richard lasted as long as he did, and fourth…’

He leans in close, his expression intense. “You wanted my power.”

Jackor stands up straight and shrugs, a shit-eating grin on his face. “We already filled all the parts of the bargain, Tobias! You did a wonderful job, and you’ve met some great people and gained some exciting memories along the way! They say the journey is more important than the destination, right? Well, you certainly have come a long way, haha!”

“Now then,” he says, turning back to Abigail. “To discuss your new responsibilities…”

You stare at Jackor as he speaks again to Abigail, unable to comprehend what just happened. After everything you went through, after all the heartache, after everything you did to your own sanity… to have this be the end result. Your mind goes utterly blank as you can do nothing but stare at Jackor. In the end you’d been outfoxed again, unable to say anything against him, for his words are true. As you watch him speak, one thought bubbles to the surface.

“You can’t have her,” you say, voice almost a whisper.

Jackor doesn’t seem to notice you, merely speaking more to Abigail about conflict disputes. You watch as the Titania nods her head placidly, her expression downcast. She meekly accepts what he says, and why shouldn’t she? He is a GOD after all.

You grit your teeth and clench your fists so hard that you knuckles pop. Maybe it’s the little pink creature whispering in your ear to eat his face, or maybe it’s the fact that he fucking cheated you, but you’re mad. After everything you did, everything you suffered through, to be given this insult at the end? Well, two can play at that game.

You stand up straight and shout out, loud enough for everyone in the vicinity to hear:

“Good God, we had a deal! That cocksleeve and her sparkly Fairy ass is mine!”

Everyone in your party goes quiet as they all turn to stare at you in shock and surprise. Saya’s mouth hangs open while Abigail’s face goes scarlet. Clint cocks his head while Ginelle looks utterly confused and both Clarissa and Ophelia look to each other, stupefied. Yet your main focus is on the God no one else can see. While everyone else is busy looking at you agape, Jackor slowly turns his gaze to you and, within those blue eyes, you see such annoyance that it makes you skin crawl.

Actually your skin is literally crawling, but you tell it to stop and it does. You’re not THAT crazy after all!

Jackor licks his lips and sighs. “Tobias, please. This is pathetic.”

“Is it?” you say, looking down your nose at him. “You seem to forget, contracts have meaning Jackor.”

He frowns. “What are you getting at?”

You tap your forehead and say, “I get it Jackor, you’re right. You never said you’d clear my insanity twice, you never said you’d cure Richard, I understand that, however…” You walk over to Abigail and slide your arm around her waist, pulling her in close to you. She yelps in surprise as you hold her against your body, but your eyes are focused on Jackor.

“But you did give me so many great gifts, and for that, I am thankful. In fact, I find that I like my first gift the best out of them all.” At that, you slide your hand over to Abigail’s rather… firm… sparkly ass, and squeeze it.

“Oh what the fuck,” Saya says, growling and stepping forward. You hold your other hand up behind you, making her aware that you understand her concerns. Though you can’t see her, you hear Clint whisper something into her ear behind you and she stops. Taking a mental sigh, you continue your focus on Jackor.

His eye twitches once, but he keeps his composure. ”Please do not do that with my property.”

“Oh, no, no,” you say, rubbing her ass. You are not enjoying this in any way, shape, or form. Abigail, on the other hand, goes a form of scarlet you weren’t aware was possible on the face of a living being. “You see, she is MY property. First of my gifts, yes? You wouldn’t take back a gift, would you?”

Jackor narrows his eyes. “Gift? I never said-“

“Y-you did,” Abigail says, squirming. Her wings smatter some Fairy dust on your face, or well, you think that’s what it is. “It was w-what you told me to tell him.”

You nod your head to Jackor and smile. “Well, there we have it. Part of the contract, right? Well, I am sad that I cannot have my master back, but I’ll have to dry my tears in my precious Fairy Queen’s chest.” You kind of want to do just that, but you’re afraid Saya will rend your soul, and frankly you’ve already seen that happen once to Heather. You know it’s possible.

“That will be enough of that, you impudent child,” Jackor says, taking a step toward you. You can feel him swelling with power and anger, something you didn’t feel from him at your last encounter. You can use this.

“Oh? What’s wrong? Don’t like someone touching what is yours? Well, that’s a shame because she isn’t yours, is she? You’ll never have this wonderfully lewd Fairy again~”

Jackor vanishes and appears before you quicker than you can blink, grabbing your throat. His eyes blaze with power and he growls, “No. You will NOT continue to mock your GOD like this.”

Everyone in your party gasps in panic and searches about for whatever is choking you. They must think it’s magic, rather than a GOD in front of you. You briefly wonder if he’ll actually kill you, when you growl down at him, “You can’t kill me, Solos would have your head.”

“No one will know. They think you’re crazy and you’ve made a lot of enemies.”

“Let my dad go!” Akela shouts, running up to Jackor and throwing her fists at him. They pass through him with no resistance, but Jackor drops you the moment she does. He steps back and grits his teeth as Akela attaches her arms to your leg while you catch your breath.

“This is how you repay your friends, huh? You wanted me dead no matter how this ended, didn’t you?”

“No,” Jackor says, looking down at Akela with annoyance. “I should have remembered the gift of the Anubis. It seems you once again called my bluff.”

Akela lifts her teeth at him in a snarl, as if she was a guard dog. You blink at her for a moment before cocking your head in confusion. Jackor stares at you before groaning. “You didn’t even know about their gift, did you? Right, you thought it was some kind of immunity from illusions. No, it’s more that they have magical resistance. Befitting creatures who once served as spirit guardians for the ancient rulers of the sands.”

“Oh, that’s right,” Akela says, though her eyes never leave Jackor. “I do remember my mother saying that.”

“Well, isn’t that something,” you say, rubbing Akela’s head. Steeling yourself again, you return your gaze to Jackor. “Now that I have a witness, maybe we can talk about this rationally.”

“You’re trying to take what’s mine. I am a God whose very power you channel to fuck with the minds of others,” he says, tapping his head. “You are not exactly being very rational here.”

“Yes, because I’m fairly insane again,” you say, feeling your hand start to itch. “So once again, you gifted her to me. Do you intend to go and renege on our contract?”

“No, of course not,” Jackor says, frowning. “You know I am bound by such things.” He narrows his eyes then and says, “But you still will not get me to grant you anything else.”

“I don’t see why you’d have to,” you say, scratching more at your hand. Fucking Hells that’s really, really, itchy. Your skin is starting to peel some from the scratching. “But I wonder though, have you fulfilled all the parts of our bargain?”

“What is he talking about?” Ophelia says, cocking her head. “Who is he talking to?”

“Insane clown God,” Akela says, looking to Ophelia. “This is very important.”

The Rabbit Girl stares at her for a moment before stepping back and shaking her head while Saya has her hands buried in her hands. You feel that she’s repeating the words, “That put his dick in me, that put his dick in me…” Or well, maybe something less lewd. You can dream.

Jackor goes quiet and just stares at you. You can tell that he’s thinking things over, and part of you wonders if it’s fine to go this far making a God angry. Would a sane person dare to do this? No, but you’re not quite entirely sane anymore, are you?

“You see, I seem to recall when making my demands, that I asked for YOUR power.”

“You did,” Jackor says, nodding slowly. “And I said I’d grant you some ability, a boon, though it would be random.”

“Ah, but you did agree, did you not? To give me YOUR power?”

“No. You made the stipulation that I could take it from someone else.” He shakes his head. “A swing and a miss, Mr. Shady.”

“Damn.” You thought you had him here. “Very well then, you called my bluff also. Seems we’re at an impasse.”

“How so?”

“I have something you want, you have something I want.”

“You say this as if I am able to grant you the power you seek.” He sighs. “If I could, then perhaps I would.”

“Mmm, I wonder that. You did it once before.”

“Because it was a misuse of my power channeled into you. I merely took it back. Do not mistake me Tobias Shady, you cannot game this system forever. I will not gamble with you, I will not play these games. There is a time and a place for such things and, while I am a trickster, I am not in the mood.”

He steps forward and says, “You merely put a wrench In the works of something that’s been in motion for longer than you can imagine. Time is growing short and I do not have enough to waste it on someone like you.”

You stare into his eyes for a long while before saying, “There will always be a hero ready to stand up for something. They may not look it at first, but when there is a need, someone will rise.”

“Not this time,” Jackor says, shaking his head. “I cannot help this time.”

“Then I will have to take my service to another God. I seem to have some gifts from them, don’t I?”

It’s almost imperceptible, but in the faint light of the moon, your <Starlight Wisdom> makes out a twitch, a break so impossibly small in Jackor’s poker face that no one else could see it. Your eyes go wide and you say, “The other Gods don’t know about the power you granted me.”

Jackor frowns. “What are you talking about?”

“You took the powers from them, stole it. They don’t know that I’m using some of their power. They don’t know…” You begin to smile. “What would happen if I went to an Altar of War and called Sveth? If I spoke with a Dullahan about these gifts I use from Nerg? You know, Delilah said she might call in sick one of these days…”

Your smile touches your lips now. “I wonder then. How would they react knowing that good ol’ Jackor, the trickster who goes everywhere, the child of Solos who travels all boundaries, has been taking from them and having a mortal foil their plots?”

Jackor’s cool is gone now. He slowly reaches up to the lapel on his suit and grips it tightly. To know that you’ve made a God flustered is amazing, yet terrifying. Still, what can you do? You have to do this, there’s no other choice.

“Jackor, there is a way to make this all go away though.” He glares at you and you shrug. “Merely give me what we defined in the contract. You give me your power and the others just… go away. The other Gods will never find out, because what mortal could be using their power?”

He frowns. “You want my power? Why?”

“Well, you said you can’t fix me, so the next best thing is to have your power.” You smile. “Who knows. I already do have your power, so what happens when I have more?”

“You’ll probably go fully insane,” he says, shrugging. Akela’s grip on your leg increases, but you continue to look forward, itching your hand and… aww Hells that’s blood.

“So, what do you lose?”

He looks to you and then to Abigail before pointing at her. “Give her back to me.”

“No,” you say, shaking your head. He’s about to make an objection, but you forestall him by raising a hand. “Don’t mistake me, I don’t mean to take her into insanity with me. Instead, I mean to give her the choice.”

You look at Abigail and see her blinking in surprise. “Tobias… what?”

“She has the right to choose. Does she continue to work for you, or does she stay with me?”

Jackor frowns. “Should she choose to go free, she’ll lose her power and status as a Titania. I know my children, and I know that she has the greatness within her to guide the Fairies well.” He turns to her and eyes the tall Fairy.

“Isn’t that right?”

You look at Abigail as well and she looks down, fidgeting. She slowly nods her head and says, “He’s right… I never asked for this, but… the power he’s granted me… the serenity, it’s nice.” She blushes some, “And being this size, to interact with people like you…”

Saya growls some under her breath, but you merely shake your head. “You’d be a slave to him though. You’d have control, but is it really yours? Do you remember how you wanted so badly to return to your carefree life? Abigail, you can stay with me.”

“I… I know, but, but this form.” She bites her lip. “Tobias, I-“

“Abigail,” you say, cutting her off. “Do you trust me?”

“I… what?” she asks, blinking in surprise. “What do you mean?”

“I mean it true, do you trust me?” She nods her head slowly in response, and you close your eyes. “Then please.”

She looks between the two of you and bites her lip before shuddering and saying, “Alright Tobias. If you’ll go against a God, so will I.”

You smile widely and nod your head. “Thank you.” Thus completed, you turn back to Jackor and say, “Now then, I think it’s time for the meat of this.” You hold your hand out to Jackor.

“Do we have a deal?”

He looks down at your hand and sighs before taking it. The moment he does, you feel something within yourself shift. It’s as if part of you is physically ripped out of your soul, replaced by something else, something familiar and yet… warm. Despite this, you stagger to the side, your head swimming.

>You lose all gifts of the Gods.
>You gain <Trickster’s Eye>
>A raw portion of Jackor’s power, luck often goes in your favor, you do well in games, and you have an uncanny knack at seeing through illusions and knowing which ones to play for maximum effect.

You touch your forehead a moment later, blinking away the disorientation. As you come back to your senses, you notice the little pink thing with that Mantis head staring you in the eyes and whispering, “You’re not perfect.” So… you’re still insane.

Akela and Saya help you rise, and you nod in turn to each of them. Saya puts a hand on your shoulder, looking worried, but you merely shake your head and smile before turning back to Jack and Abi-

You look about for Abigail, unable to find the Fairy. You hear a coughing sound before Abigail says, “Up here, idiot.” Looking up, you stare once again in surprise at the tiny Fairy in her smock, fluttering in the air before you.

“I told you this would happen,” Jackor sighs. “I don’t know what you were expecting, but the contract is fully sealed now. You have my power, for what good it will do you. You’ll still go insane, if you’re lucky.”

You shrug. “Hey Jackor, you took away my insanity before by taking the inappropriate use of your power out of me, right?”

“Yes, but I will not do this for you now. Only one with my power can take it from someone else, yet humans cannot withstand that. You cannot take the power from Richard yourself.”

“Sure, sure,” you say, tapping your chin. “Abigail gained her gifts because of your power, right?”

“Yes, she had a touch of my power, using you as an intermediary. It allowed her to become a Titania, a vessel of my will upon this world.”

“Interesting,” you say, nodding your head and ushering Abigail down to you. She flutters down to your hand and looks at you with saddened eyes. You take in a deep breath and then ask,

“What would happen if a Titania drew forth madness from an Illusionist?”

Jackor pauses then, blinking in confusion. He cocks his head, thinking it over. “I do not know. I would never allow a Titania to do such a thing, they’re too precious.”

“Ah, but you see, there’s a Titania right here who has a choice.”

Jackor frowns before his eyes go wide. “You little piece of shit. You can’t seriously be thinking about… you’re taking a damned gamble here!”

“Do you trust me?” you ask Abigail again.

“Do you feel lucky?” she says, smiling broadly.

“Well, I think it’s time to roll the dice.” You place your other hand over Abigail, cupping her in your palms and then shaking once.

>You lose <Trickster’s Eye>

Light bursts from between your hands and you open them up, releasing a beacon of brilliance in the area, causing you to go blind for a moment. The rest of your party reacts with shocked gasps as well, and it takes you some time to clear your eyes and see the sight before you. It’s worth it though, as Abigail is so beautiful.

Once more a Titania, she hovers in the air, smiling down at you. She closes her eyes and chuckles. “You’re an idiot, you know that?”

“Yeah, but I’m a lucky idiot,” you say, smiling wide.

“Haha… we’ll see.” She reaches a finger out and touches your forehead. You feel a cold shock run through your system and suddenly the pink thing is gone, the itching fades, and everything comes into focus. Abigail gasps and pulls away, her hand shaking and shuddering, but she takes in a deep breath before nodding her head and saying, “I’m alright… I’m… alright.”

“I can still feel some of it,” you say, shaking your head. “But the world is much clearer…” You smile at Abigail and say, “Looks like I really was lucky.”

“Or you were just insane.” She shakes her head. “Or both.” She fidgets for a moment before diving at you and hugging you with all her might. “Ohhhh Tobias! Thank you, thank you, thank you!”

“Hey now, hey now. I don’t think Saya would like this.”

“I don’t,” Saya sighs. “But I’ll let you have this one time.”

“Are you sure that we can’t-“ you ask, eyes twinkling.

“No,” Saya says, face scarier than your worst nightmares.

“Yes dear…” you say, shaking your head before turning back to where Jackor is, or was anyway. Right, your insanity is gone, you can’t see him again. Well, perhaps it’s for the best. You close your eyes and say, “Looks like I win again, fucker.”

“Don’t rub it in you little asswipe.”

You jump a little, Abigail pulling away as you both look to Jackor, who stands a few feet away from where he was standing before. You blink in surprise and then look about to see everyone else staring at him too. It slowly dawns upon you and you gasp, pointing at him.

“Good God! You’re a mortal now!”

“No, I’m just making myself visible to mortals. And yes, I did keep the others in the square from seeing Abigail’s light show.”

Jackor rubs his temples, a human habit since he clearly doesn’t get headaches… you think. He takes a deep breath before looking at you and… smiling.

“You know what, I want to be mad at you. I want to rage and cause a casino fire or something. To maybe change the luck around you, but you managed to not only blackmail me, but then play the game of Gods to your advantage.” He holds his hands out and laughs.

“I’m actually quite proud of you, my child. You did far and above anything I could ask of you, and once again you leave me speechless. You’re the luckiest, trickiest, son of a bitch I’ve ever known.”

“My mother is a fine person,” you say, sniffing.

“No, she isn’t, and you know it,” he says, shaking his head firmly. “But you did agree to hunt down other Illusionists to take on Richard’s job. I will hold this to you.”

“And I will perform the job,” you say, nodding. “Though before that, I have something left to do.”

Everyone turns to Ulala, who looks about in confusion before blushing, which is odd on a tree, and then waving her arms about in surprise. “Woah, wah, wah! Ahhh this is embarrassing!”

Jackor chuckles and shakes his head. “Well, I guess you’re choosing to let it ride. I won’t stay to watch the results, but I’ll know.” He holds out his hand to you and says, “From one gambler to another. Well played.”

You look down at the hand of a God and take it, feeling his firm grip. The two of you lock eyes and you both find an implicit understanding.

You smirk and say, “Fuck you.”

“Fuck you too,” he says before vanishing into thin air.

You watch the area for a while before looking down to Akela, who shakes her head. All you can do is chuckle before you look up at Ulala and say, “Alright. I think we’re all ready here.”

“You sure?” she says, looking a little worried. “He’s not in a good place, things could… Uhm.”

“I know,” you say. “But we’re ready. After everything, we’re ready.”

Saya leans her head against your shoulder while you rest your hand on Akela’s head. You look to the side as you see your other friends, Ginelle, Clint, Ophelia, and Clarissa, step up beside you. They all share looks of encouragement with you while Abigail flutters above. You don’t care if anyone else in the square is watching, in fact, let them.

“Alright,” you say, nodding your head. “Richard, we’re ready for you.”

Ulala’s tree twists and unfurls, the bark cracking as the core opens and Richard, looking the same as he did all those weeks ago, slides out, slipping down to the ground in a heap, shuddering as he catches his breath. He staggers for a moment and then looks up at you, blinking with confusion in his eyes. He mouths out some words before whispering, “Tobias?”

“Yeah, it’s me. It’s all of us. We did it, Fiora is put to rest.” You hold out a hand to him and say, “Come back to us Richard.”

Tears begin to slowly trickle down his face and he hangs his head. Abigail flutters down and touches her hand to his forehead, shuddering once before fluttering back as Richard takes in a deep breath. He shakes his head slowly and places a hand to his forehead before chuckling. It continues on before becoming full out laughter, and he pulls back, voice echoing through the square.

“Richard…” you say, a pit of despair forming in your belly. Closing your eyes, you step forward, pulling out your knife. You open your eyes again and place the knife down to his throat, feeling a knot in your own.

You lick your lips and whisper, “I guess sometimes the house wins.”

Richard’s hand flies up and grabs your wrist, shocking you as he pushes your hand away and looks into your eyes. You blink in surprise as you see the calm, clear eyes of lucidity. Despite yourself, you begin to tear up as your mentor, the man who might as well have been your father, gives you one of his rare smiles.

“I call a mulligan.”

“Granted,” you whisper, and drop the knife to hug the man. Somewhere, you feel the others moving in to hug him as well, hearing their voices speak words of encouragement and joy. Your focus is entirely on Richard though. Distantly, Jackor’s words of something coming, something deep and terrible echo in your mind, but what does it matter at the moment?

Richard chuckles, pulling away from all of you as he shakes his head. “Gods, I haven’t felt this good in years. There most certainly is a story for all of this, isn’t there?”

“You wouldn’t believe me if I told you,” you say, chuckling yourself.

“Well,” your mentor says, looking over your group. “Looks like your party has grown. Maybe I’ll believe their words.”

“Rude,” you say, rolling your eyes. “How about we go back to Hannah’s place and talk this over some more stew?”

“Sure, and you can tell me about how you and Saya got together and adopted an Anubis.” You look at him with shock, but he merely chuckles. “Tobias, Tobias, Tobias. You may have defeated Fiora somehow but you can’t keep anything hidden from me.” You look a little abashed at that, and he smiles, patting your shoulder. “Come on, let’s go back.”

“Hey, what about me?” Ulala says, pouting.

“Oh, don’t you worry,” Richard says, walking over to cup Ulala’s face. “Even if I wasn’t fully aware of it, you took good care of me, don’t think I’ll forget it.” Ulala blushes furiously and you even see a little twinkle in Richard’s eye. The fuck happened in there?

“Well, it’s getting late,” Saya says, nodding to Akela. “Are we ready?”

You and Richard both look to each other before nodding and speaking in unison.

“We were born ready.”

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