Adventurers Guild Adventurer's Guild - Announcement Hall

Discussion in 'Roleplaying Games' started by AliceShiki, Jan 28, 2019.

  1. AliceShiki

    AliceShiki 『Ms. Tree』『Ophi-kun's Survival Teacher』

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    *coughs* Sorry for another masspoke so soon since the last time, but figured it was better to make a public announcement for this.

    We just decided to make another slight change to the rulings. From now on the deadline to finish quests is 11:59pm in Alicetime (GMT -3).

    We'll still try to deliver the new quest batches at Tuesday at 8am, but now you'll have a bit of a leeway to finish your old quests in case you didn't clear them by the time the new batch went live~

    I'll update the first post of the appropriate threads to reflect that~

     
    Last edited: Apr 25, 2019
  2. Zone Q11

    Zone Q11 『Monochrome Plebeian』『The Gas Mask』

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    Everyone has a moment in their life when they regret their actions from their past. The same applied for inaction.

    Zoan frowned at the drakeling raised to the sky by his big hands. The small creature bent its head in confusion, appealing for the attention of young children --though there were none nearby. The nomad on the other hand, had bite marks all over his hands. The same pair of hands were burnt some time ago by a goblin mage's fireball, and the blisters caused by that attack had already recovered with an inhuman speed of four days. Looking at them, he saw those hands were covered by scratches and teeth marks.

    "What seems to be the matter, sir?" Herst, the first employee of the nomad, curiously asked.
    Zoan looked at his employee's hands and found similar bite marks to that of his own. The critter had been biting the orc and running around since he had been adopted. While the bites were mainly harmless, it was not something pleasant either.
    'I wonder why it only bites Herst and not Fey?' the nomad asked himself. He then answered his own question with the lame answer of 'because they are both children' and dropped the thought.

    "...it's nothing. I was just thinking of something. Moreover, how are things going on your end?" he responded after giving another stare at the lizard. He then lowered it slowly and let it roam free within Herst's house.
    "I believe we are doing great. Miss Fey has made significant progress with speaking the Common Language after your last visit, and while there were minor disturbances caused by Kurain, I believe there is no major problem in general."
    Kurain was the name that Fey had given to the drakeling. Zoan didn't ask, but he heard from Herst that she named it that because it looked so small. Nobody knew how she got "Kurain" from "small". The farmer presumed that it had something to do with her origin, but the nomad did not care much about it.

    The living situation at the time was one where Fey and Kurain resided at Herst's house, while Mallory lived with Zoan at his underground cave. Given that Herst was tasked to feed two more mouths, Zoan visited his only male employee and doubled his monthly wage to 40 Large Copper Coins. The orc was grateful to his employer as ever and, while he never said anything about it, he found happiness after getting tasked to raise the young black winged-kin. He had a stable income and the countryside was peaceful, making it unnecessary for him to enter combat. The only occasions when he did need to fight were when wild animals and monsters attacked, but such occasions were rather rare.
    The farm was unlikely to return to the state it once was, due to the lack of tools and farmers, but at least he was still capable of raising some Blood Lilies. This was mainly made possible thanks to his employer providing the fertilizer that was rich in blood. The fertilizer consisted of soil that has been drenched by the blood from Zoan and Mallory's hunts. It was a beneficial situation for everyone.

    "What about you? Are you happy?"
    "Yes..." the orc exhaled, "I believe I am quite content with the current situation." The orc then kept smiling at his employer and went to prepare dinner for the two women who left for a walk in Nagrand.
    "...I see," Zoan whispered.

    --- --- ---

    "Do we still have to do this?" asked the witch.
    "It depends. Do you think that you have fully recovered?"
    It had been weeks since Mallory had awakened from her comatose state and, ever since the potion testing incident, the pair of witch and nomad had been using the Blood Lily Salve to cure the her wound. At first, they were unsure whether it would work at all, but after spending days smearing the salve on her throat, the witch had slowly regained her voice.

    "I think it is enough, master. I recommend saving it for now as we might need it when one of us are heavily wounded." Zoan then looked at the rotect jar. Having spent the past two weeks using the salve, the contents of the jar had been reduced to less than half of its original size.
    "Very well," the nomad complied. He paused as he put the rotect jar into his backpack before asking: "How was your day with the little miss?"
    The witch slightly widened her eyes for a brief moment, "It was enjoyable. We had a stroll through the southern district of Nagrand aaand she played a game of tag with some other children." Mallory had grown attached to the young winged-kin as of late as well, but she did not want to tell it directly either.

    "I... see," he slowly muttered. "So everything is doing well..."
    Aware of the unusual behavior of her master, she asked "What's the matter?" just like a family member. The nomad responded with momentary silence.
    "...it has been months since I was separated from my tribe. I thought that I would be fine on my own; that I was finally freed from being a simple goon. Yet now... I miss them. My family, my home... My tribe... My wife."
    Mallory grasped her medallion after Zoan had finished his sentence. She remembered the day she had regained her consciousness, and it was not quite a pleasant one. Looking around, she could see shackles attached to the walls that had once bound her inside the cave.
    '...it s not quite a pleasant memory.'

    She could relate to her master. Just as she was desperate to keep her medallion as a sign of affection towards her deity, Zoan's badge was the only item that physically bound him with his family. His love for his family was as comparable her love for her deity. But, unlike Mallory who could receive divination from her goddess, Zoan could not contact his tribe.

    The witch hugged the nomad from behind, pressing her body against his back. "Master... You know you could always depend on me... on all your employees, right? We... We could become your second family! Fey is the child, Herst has pretty much accepted his role as the caretaker, and--"
    Her cheer was interrupted by a big hand pulling her head down and she felt something soft touching her cheek. "Thanks Mal. I... I am grateful to you."
     
  3. Haxagen

    Haxagen Fallen's|Maid Chan's Spirit Animal

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    Finally done...This took damn longer than it should have, but here's a 16k word side story. Do read through it for some exposition~
    For simplicity sake, the individual sections are categorized accordingly.
    Hm. So, have I died again?

    Mika didn’t spare the energy to look around. It was darkness everywhere, and occasionally she would feel the touch of cold, unseen hands grabbing her. Not that she bothered to move; the writhing of countless limbs didn’t really disturb her, instead, it gave her the quiet to let her mind wander off. Thinking of things, but not really at the same time.

    Time ticked by with her sitting in the inky blackness, silently staring at nothing in particular, listening to the eerie silence, and counting sheep. She’d gotten to maybe a thousand and fifty-seven when a sudden burst of light made her blink. Then the visitor spoke.

    Finally. Aren’t you getting older in there?

    Hm?

    Looking up, Mika found herself staring at a person she didn’t expect to see. The surprise wasn’t really that pleasant.

    Why do you torture yourself, Mi? The things that happened long ago are not your fault. Don’t hold yourself liable for what happened then.

    This again? I thought I had already laid the past to rest. Besides, she is already long gone. You’re nothing more than a shadow of my conscience, taking the form of someone that another me used to know.

    Does it matter if I am, or if I’m not? It doesn’t change the fact that I’m here, now the reason I’m here. Or would you prefer that I’m just a phantom? Would telling you that I’m a fake make you feel better?

    That’s irrelevant. You’re not the old you that I knew, and I’m no longer the old me you used to know. The two of us are no more than clumsy fishes floundering about in the rivers of time; it’s no longer our time, Ru. Let what was buried rest peacefully.

    True, but even you’re in an entirely new flesh body, the soul within is still the same as ever. A proud, yet wounded and lonely soul, belonging to a warrior that wasn’t meant to be. You played your cards really well, you know. Everyone thinks you’re simply an independent lone wolf who enjoys her own company…Except for the girl. Why still push her away? You desire companionship, and she’s more willing to provide that to you. The two of you make a perfect duo.

    So did you and me. And look at what good it did for either of us.

    You’ve gotten much more bitter since I last saw you. What happened to the girl that I’ve known for so long, the one with sardonic humour and questionable fashion sense? I know we weren’t exactly best buddies, but we still did a lot together, remember? How we would always take turns cleaning up each other’s messes, spending time researching together in the Library...

    Completing each other’s sentences.

    See? You can still do it without trying much.

    It’s more of a conditioned reflex at this point. And once again, those are just things of the past. Why bring them up now?

    Because I can no longer stand by and watch idly, Mi. At first, your actions could be explained due to disorientation, but it’s been twenty years, Mi. You can’t keep grieving forever.

    Twenty years are nothing when you consider how long the two of us have lived together, Ru. I’m not human, don’t use their standards to judge me.

    The spirit paused, considering.

    Let me show you something. Maybe it’ll change your mind a bit.

    Then, as she clapped her hands, the scene in the background suddenly changed.

    * * *​

    First she saw herself lying there, pin cushioned with arrows. None of them looked to be vital hits, but all that blood loss would have made a vampire faint, so it can’t be too much of a good thing.

    Then there was Elaine, cutting down the last goblin before running over to her side, dumping the contents of her bag all over the ground. She watched on as Elaine tried pressing pieces of cloth onto her wounds, only to throw them aside, increasingly distressed.

    Guided by some kind of unknown force, the vision shifted, moving further and further from the kneeling girl. Then, something else came into view; a matching group of four goblins, armed with some assortment of weapons. Not that they were very well made beyond being sharpened stones on stick and that kind of thing, but even such roughly made weapons would hurt.

    As if that weren’t bad enough, the image shifted further to create a bird’s eye view of the entire area. The quality dropped a bit, but her sharp eyes saw what she needed to see; and she really wished her eyesight wasn’t so good sometimes. Traversing around the area were goblins moving in groups of twos and threes, and as she watched on, two more groups begun heading towards where Elaine was.

    They moved slowly, with terrible coordination, but even so, she’d give Elaine maybe about five minutes before she got surrounded.

    * * *​

    Then the surroundings returned to that drab darkness earlier, save for the spirit that was still standing before her, carefully examining her.

    Welcome back. Did you see what you needed to see?

    ...Elaine, you dummy. Just leave me behind and run, I’ve already given up, anyway. Even if you saved me by some miraculous means, I won’t be very grateful.

    She can’t hear you, you know. If you want to say that, go back and tell her that to her face, and then come back here.

    ...No, I don’t care that much about her. If she messes up and died while trying to drag a corpse along the floor, then that’s all there is to it.

    Listen to yourself, will you? Those lies aren’t even convincing you, much less me. Not even the younger children will believe you, with such a scary look on your face.

    Then what can I do?! Nothing! If I went back in this state, assuming I can go back in the first place, all I can do is to take the hits! I’m a piece of trash, a burden, absolutely useless!

    It’s not like you to get upset so easily. The last time I swept the rug out from under you, your first response was to catch yourself from falling, and then give me a thrashing in private. But now, you got riled up so easily. How odd.

    That’s because...Geh.

    You know…If I did regret something, it would be that I didn’t try hard enough to convince you back then, Mika, when the two of us were actually something…Now, I’m all but gone, and you’re wrecking yourself bit by bit. I think I told you to watch out for your own health, didn’t I? If I’d known this would happen, I should have placed more effort into convincing you back then…Haah.

    ……

    Be honest with yourself, and come out of the shadows already. It’s almost unheard of even for me, you know. Getting a second chance is a very rare thing, but then getting a third chance? That’s either absurd luck or an absurd curse, but I myself think that you should take it.

    ……Ugh.

    ...Oh, don’t tell me, could it be? The reason you refuse to proceed...Oh, my, my! I didn’t know you could be so cute, Mi.

    The lupine broke eye contact and looked to the side, but the girl simply scooted over to re-establish eye contact, smirking all the way. It went on for quite a bit until there was a huge sigh.

    ...Jeez. Looks like I’ve got no other choice in this matter, do I? I’ll do it already, so don’t speak in that creepy grandmother voice anymore. You’re supposed to be younger than I am, anyways.

    Grumbling, Mika reached out and took the proffered hand. There was a small tug as the other girl put in some force, and pulled her out of the mass of darkness.

    Age doesn’t always equate to maturity, heh. Also, if we’re on this topic, then I’m older than you right now. Henceforth more mature.

    Geh…You’re still the same as always---No, you somehow got worse. I don’t remember you being this talkative, and I certainly don’t remember you ever getting in the last word. Who was the one that made you end up this one?

    The one who speaks often is the one who is guilty. And you still have the cheek to ask me that after all that verbal bullying you put me through?

    I was just lazy and you were capable, and that’s why I handed most of the work to you, of course.

    ...Well, I’m glad to see that your shamelessness has not changed, at the very least. Although, I would have preferred it very much if a more positive trait carried over instead of that...Well, we’ll work with what we have on hand, there’s no sense complaining for imaginary numbers.

    Thinking back, that’s where things started going wrong, didn’t it? If only I had noticed sooner...

    It would have changed nothing. You know it perfectly, why we had a falling out. You were too overprotective, Mi. At some point, you have to let the younglings fly for themselves. You can fly beside them, teach them the tricks of flying...But never, ever try to ban them from doing so. That’s how you earned the little cleric’s resentment. Don’t make this same mistake with the other girl.

    We’re not perfect beings, Ru. Making mistakes is part and parcel of life.

    Fair enough, I suppose. Still, I could say that learning from previous mistakes are also part and parcel of life. This is eerily similar to how one of your first meetings went, you know; don’t slip up and make another mess again. The girl should know what she needs to know.

    ...I have gotten better at some things over a span of five thousand years, Ru. Communication is not one of them. The girl thinks that I’m ‘cool’ and a person of few words; the truth is, I’m never sure what to say when talking to other people, it’s like I’m on an entirely different wavelength. That’s why I rarely open my mouth...I’m not one for optimism, nor do I sugarcoat my words.

    That’s true. You’re reliable in a fight, but fundamentally you’re still a hikki. I wouldn’t expect social ability to be very high-ranked on your list of skills.

    ...That’s the part where you were supposed to disagree with me, you little…

    But humans are a mixed breed, you know. Some like listening to sugary talk and lies. Your Elaine doesn’t. I can tell, based on your interactions alone, that she likes things frank and to the point. She’s also quite courageous, and innately kind, mhm. You’re netted yourself a good catch, so don’t let it slip from your fingers. Talk to her properly. This is something worth fighting for.

    Still, no matter whether I put in the effort or not, there’s always a chance I’ll fail. There’s no such thing as a 100% certainty regardless of what happens.

    Dear me, the old you would have simply smirked, and confidently declared that you would settle any problems as they occurred. Have you been getting softer the last few hundred years or so? Are the Fenrir’s teeth getting duller?

    I’m no longer as young or strong as I once was, Ru. Back then, I had the support of you and the others, even though I never really cherished it. And now, I have only my own pair of hands, and a mountain of mistakes to guide me. And even then, I cannot shed my violent nature. Being a pacifist just doesn’t work for me.

    No one said you had to swear off violence, you know. You said it yourself; we just all clumsily floundering about, trying to find purpose to our lives with any means possible...and when the sun sets, we can smile and say that we lived through another day. It’s something humans do, you’ve just not been human for quite a long time, Mi. I know it takes some getting used to, but you always loved a challenge, didn’t you?

    ...I can’t deny that.

    Well, don’t just stand there. The others would want to see you too.

    Others...Wait, they’re here too?

    If I’m here, why won’t they be? And I thought you were always proud about your rational thinking and high adaptive ability. Your memory is getting worse with age, just like a human’s!

    Tch. And the worser part is that I can’t deny it.

    Look, there they are. The people you’ve met in your second life, the people you’ve shared food, drink, and a roof with, they’re all here to send you off. And they say that only idols get this kind of turnout rate at concerts.

    Ru smirked, but there was sadness in her eyes.

    Well, you still recognize them.

    Of course I do. It’s been so long, but this is something I wouldn’t forget.

    Mika started counting the numbers off her fingers, but paused after a bit, unable to go on.

    Looks like...that was a lie, too.

    *Drip*

    The drop of water landed onto the ground.

    *Drip*

    More drops of water splattered onto the surface.

    I...I don’t deserve this. Not after what I’ve caused. Even now, I still ask, why? Why would so many of you give up your futures and lives for a girl who had none? Why help me out like you did? I didn’t do anything worthy for such things to happen...I was just selfishly living on, trying to ignore the worst of the world...While so many of you fell to defend what should have been my responsibility. Even after all this, I still forgot some of you, even though I swore never to forget!...Why do you still treat me kindly…

    Ru wasn’t exaggerating it. Everyone she had once ate with, drank with, rested with, talked with, all showed up.

    For someone who had been very active for almost few hundred years, even if they didn’t talk much, that sum was still not a small one. The glowing spirits that appeared lit up the space, like small Christmas lights, and every single one of them was staring at her.

    Finally, a small black shadow glided up to her, and placed a hesitant hand onto her shoulder, breaking the silence.

    That’s because we all love you, stubborn as you may be sometimes, Big Sis.

    What she said. Also, it’s true that the ending was a mess, but hey, there were the good things in between, too. You didn’t always do things solely for yourself, and the people here knew it clearly. That’s why so many of us have manifested to say our final farewells.

    It’s you two...I’m so sorry for what happened, I didn’t mean to---

    There’s no need to say it, Mi. They already know.

    Ru was smiling that same, sad smile, as she shook her head.

    Think of it as...a bonus, I guess. We were always so busy, the ones who perished didn’t really get to say their farewells properly before they departed, but, well, this is just as much a chance for them to say their heartfelt farewells as well. We’re running on fumes here; that’s why you shouldn’t waste time saying what everyone already knows. Well, I guess we better start if we want to keep to schedule, not that we’re already way off it. But regardless of how it turned out...

    We wanted to at least find a way to cheer you up. Big sis, you need to accept how things turned out, and move on. We’re all here to give you that one more push.

    The farewells started, each spirit vanishing in a puff of light after they had said their heartfelt words. There were the younger ones, who were more informal.

    It was good seeing you again, Mika-nee.

    Take care, Big Sis.

    Goodbye, wolf missy!

    The older, more formal ones...

    Till we meet again, Lunar Priestess.

    May the whimsical winds ever guide you to victory.

    Look not at the end and despair, but instead rejoice at a potential new beginning.

    And finally, the rather unique ones...

    Hmph! I-it’s not like I’ll miss you or anything, but be sure to stay healthy, okay?! You owe me that much!

    No matter where or when you end up in, I’ll always find a way to follow you, so don’t think you’ll get rid of me this easily, ehehe.

    Here! It’s a rare occasion, so I’ll use this to send you off!

    On closer inspection, one of the figures had produced a horn, and was waving it cheerily over her own head.

    ...Wait a minute.

    Waving a trumpet around?

    What kind of trumpet…?

    No...why does that trumpet look so unnervingly familiar…?

    It was conical in shape, and looked otherwise unassuming besides the fact that the whole thing was forged out of gold. It also had a rather holy aura. The bearer lifted it to her mouth, grinning.

    Ready? We’ll send you off with a loud bang!

    The world will end with the same goddamn bang! If you want to spice things up, use a regular horn and not that one, Gab! Ah, good luck, Mika!

    Someone else tackled the trumpet-blower, and both of them vanished into a shower of sparks.

    The spirits kept vanishing one by one, biding their farewells with huge smiles on their indistinct faces.

    Please wait! I never got to really talk with so many of you, and now, I haven’t even had the chance to say a proper thank you. And to think that I was so proud, thinking that I could do everything alone...

    You know better than I do on this one, Mika. Complete perfection is impossible to attain, but looking at you now, compared to the young girl who crashed through the ceiling on that midsummer’s night so long ago...Well, you’re doing a pretty decent job. So don’t stop, get out there, and make a name for yourself.

    The small circle of light expanded slowly as more spirits added to the light, pushing back the shadows. As it did so, more and more features appeared; an old-fashioned roaring fireplace, handcrafted wooden seats with comfy upholstery, an old table that was riddled with cuts and scratches. And finally, when the darkness was pretty much gone, the final piece came into view; a simple wooden door without any décor. Meanwhile, only three more spirits remained behind; the rest had vanished away.

    Go forth, Mi. Or don’t tell me you want me to say it?

    This line itself has been used so many times, in various tales, that it’s getting stale…

    You don’t mean…

    Yes, THAT line, you imbecile!

    Before Sis Ru blows a gasket, I guess we’ll be the ones to deliver it.

    Two spirits remained.

    So...leave this all to us, Sis Mika, and go do what you have to do!

    Then, only the spirit called Ru was left. The others had vanished; their purpose for coming had been fulfilled and so they had no more reason to stay, since they had already said their farewells.

    Mika placed her hand on the door handle, and an artificial voice recording played in her head.

    Warning: If you open this door and leave this place, you’ll never be able to return, ever again, not even if time freezes over. Are you sure you wish to discard everything?

    That was it; the moment she had been waiting anxiously for. Strangely enough, now that the moment had arrived…

    I’m not really that worried...I wonder why?

    Warning: You will not be able to change your mind once you have made your decision.

    Well, I guess there’s always an equivalent price to be paid. I can’t be asking for both my old life and my new life, that would break too many taboos, after all.

    Then, just as she was about to open the door, Mika turned to look back one last time. Waiting for one more thing, from the one that had stayed all the way until the end..

    ...Hmph. Go and join your new friends, Mika. We’ll always be rooting for you, even if we’re far apart. The entirety of the Library’s denizens will always be watching your back, even if you can’t feel our presence, so…

    Connection to the system has been severed. Now removing the irregularity…

    …Best of luck to you, Lady Fenrir.

    That was it. Normally, it wouldn’t even have been possible for this to happen, a meeting of people between worlds, between different timelines entirely. In fact, for all Mika knew, it might have just been a lucid dream, a false vision brought to life by unknown circumstances...But she was satisfied. It gave her a chance to open up, to confess her stupidity that caused the whole thing, even if it did nothing other than to satisfy her ego. That’s why she also had to one last thing to say, before the system kicked her out entirely.

    Thank you for everything you’ve done, Ru.

    Yes, yes, hurry up and get lost already. Showing me such a beautiful smile at the very end, what kind of intent do you have? Are you trying to make me miss you...more than I already do…? Just...if you really wanted to thank me...then you better live a happy life, you...got it…? And...

    That was about as far as she could get before the overwhelming light from the opened door painted over everything else in her vision, but just before the room vanished completely, Mika could have sworn that she saw the girl raising a hand, and flipping a middle finger. Whether or not it was aimed at her, she wasn’t sure, but it made her glad that the parting, at the very least, ended on better terms.

    The term for saying farewell is flexible, since it can fit into various contexts at once, but...this will be our final meeting, so I won’t say ‘see you again’. Goodbye, everyone. It was certainly my good luck that allowed me to meet all of you…

    So from the bottom of my heart, I thank you all.
    “Ugh…”

    Wake up under an unfamiliar ceiling, check.

    “Sensei, you’re awake. Try not to move around too much, we finally managed to bandage you up without causing further blood loss.”

    A mass of black hair leaned over into her peripheral vision. The hair was speaking.

    “Ah, I’m glad to see that you’re not too badly injured, Elaine. How did you manage to escape that ambush while carrying me---Ah, I understand now. Hello, Zooey.”

    The silver-haired girl nodded curtly after she was addressed, before proceeding to leave the makeshift shelter.

    “This one will go out and make some food.”

    Soon as the tent flaps dropped back down, Elaine handed Mika a piece of small square cloth.

    “What is it?”

    “Sensei, your eyes.”

    “Huh?”

    Mika confusedly dabbed at her eyes.

    “What is it...Oh.”

    The cloth came away damp; as for what caused it to become damp, neither of them needed to say. Elaine looked away, quiet.

    “I think I’ll go help Zooey with the dishes.”

    Mika grabbed her sleeve.

    No words were said, but Elaine’s expression softened. She sat back down beside the makeshift bed, and waited, even though it wasn’t clear what she was waiting for.

    “I think...I’ll try to come clean...about a few things. I don’t know if it’ll make much sense, but I think you owe that much.”

    It was a long journey to reach this point, and she’d be lying if she said that she understood every single thing that happened, but it was worth a shot anyways. Everything had to start off small, at the basics, before they could be developed further. She’d just gotten too used to skipping the steps with the aid of magic, after all.

    “Let me tell you a story that connects more than a few worlds together, one that stretches across the centuries, bringing people of all kinds together. It’s a rather long story too, so please, have a seat.”

    * * *​

    “You see, long ago, in another world far, far more dangerous than our own, there existed a wolf. Not just any run-of-the-mill grey wolf; nay, it was a Fenrir, a creature said to be so terrible that it caused even the gods themselves to fear. It was said to be an offspring of trickery and ice, a child born of chaos and the night.”

    Her words started off slow, unsure of herself, but slowly gained momentum as she continued with the storytelling. With a memory much better than the average person, she could easily remember all kinds of stories that she had read and been told about throughout her entire life, but this one took some getting used to. After all, this was her own version of a story, and the girl who was sitting there quietly, watching on, was the first person to ever listen to all of it.

    “In some legends, the Fenrir was described as the one who starts Ragnarok, the one who preludes the world’s ending. It is destined to devour Odin, the All Father, thereby destroying order and bringing about anarchy. Fenrir is said to be the first sign of all ends, preluding even the coming of the infamous Fimbulwinter.”

    That was also how she had lived her life; usually, her presence alone meant that several new events would unfold, and most of them were influenced by her somehow. Whether it was a side effect of the Fenrir in her, or whether it was her personality that awoke the Fenrir from the start, she could never be sure. But even if she couldn’t say for certain whether this power made her life easier or harder, the truth was that it did add colour to her dull life. Therefore, the least she could do was to tell it’s story properly.

    Of course, her audience had other plans.

    “Hm? You wanted to know if the Fenrir had a family? Well, it was bound in the unbreakable clutches of Gleipnir for most of the eons, so it never really sired much children, but there were at least two noteworthy offspring; Skoll the Sun Eater, and Hatti the Moon Eater. As for their roles...Well, you should be able to guess from the names, right? Hatti ate the sun, and Skoll devoured the moon...Wait, it was the other way around.”

    You’re getting senile, Mi. Tripping up over details is such a human thing to do.

    Shut up, Ru.

    For a moment, Mika imagined how her absent companion would have responded to that, and clicked her tongue in exasperation. She really needed to stop putting on one-man boke-tsukkomi shows.

    “Anyway, as I was saying, the Fenrir was naturally associated with the powers of darkness and evil, but one such bearer of this power was, well, unnaturally passive. She didn't want to delve too deeply into anything, for she was afraid of becoming weak. Friendships, while they were rather fulfilling, also became weaknesses to her, because she couldn’t bear the thought of her friends leaving her.”

    ...Crap. She had meant for the story to be more informative and reliable, by deliberately leaving out the parts where she was directly involved with it, but she spilled the beans without thinking. What was meant to be a children’s bedtime story at first got connected to her on a much more profound level all of a sudden, and it caught her off guard, even though she was the one telling the story to start with.

    What had driven her to include that? She didn’t know very well herself.

    “Nevertheless, as with how most adventuring type stories would go, the girl ended up meeting a lot of different people and made a lot of acquaintances. Some would become her best friends, others her worst enemies…And more often than not, she would get hurt. Sometimes the pain was so bad that she just wanted it to be all over.”

    She could hear fatigue and bitterness in her own voice as she remembered it all. Fighting all the way through the night till dawn because of an unexpected betrayal. The fight atop the seven-story pagoda. Killing her friends with her own hands.

    “But sometimes, the line got really thin. Alliances rose and fell with mere snaps of the fingers, and best friends turned into bitter enemies. And bitter enemies...stayed bitter enemies. There was no happy fairytale-like ending in her story, only enough death and murder to drive a maniac insane. But even so, the girl did not wish for salvation.”

    She understood very early on that the dead would never come back to life the same way they used to be, even if they were reincarnated. That’s why she didn’t pray for forgiveness from those she had slain; even if they forgave her after coming back to life, it wouldn’t change the fact that she was the one who murdered them in the first place.

    “So she slew. People who wronged her, people who tried to harm her and her friends. She slew all the threats against herself and the ones she was protecting. But she failed to realise that in her desire to create a tiny haven, a miniature utopia, she had earned the ire of her friends, who didn’t need her to coddle them.”

    She didn’t realise how much of a control freak she was becoming until Claire had slapped her in the face, and called her a hypocrite.

    “And then, she realised that there was no point in having friends. They only made her more conflicted, and unsure of herself. They were weaknesses that she could not afford to have. And so...the girl got rid of her friends. Every last one of them.”

    And then the cheers had been silenced. Even the small, sweet innocent children...She murdered them with her own two hands.

    “But then, after a long time had passed, she realised what friends were really there for. Not to be coddled like some kind of baby, but to be relied upon for comfort in trying times. Weakness wasn’t a sin; it was what made a human human. But it was already too late, and the girl, who had physically matured but was still the same mentally, died a lonely death with a lot of regrets.”

    That was when Elaine handed her another towel, but even without it, she could feel the tears spilling.

    “I’m sorry. Please give me a moment.”

    Covering her face with one hand, she dabbed at her eyes with the other, taking deep breaths until she felt ready to carry on. And then she forgot what part of the story she had stopped at. So continuing the tale was out of the question.

    Well, whatever. Plan B...she didn’t really have one.

    She’s a good catch. Talk to her directly.

    “What I’m trying to say is...ehm, well…Will you...will you be my, uhm, weakness?”

    And just like that, she issued her first friend request in over a millennium.

    “......”

    ...Just say something. Please. Even if it’s a denial, don’t let this awkward silence drag on for any longer.

    “Say, Sensei. Are you possibly…”

    “Y-Yes…?”

    “So you are human after all, Sensei! And here I thought you never had any emotion except for irritation, mockery, anger, fury---Owww! I was wrong! Don’t pull on my ears!”

    “You little brat!”

    “Ouch, ouch, Sensei! It hurts, so please let me go!”

    “Jeez! You got me worked up all over nothing, Elaine. Which reminds me…Since we’re, uhm, friends now, it’s only right for you to know my name.”

    “Before that, I have a question, Sensei.”

    “Yes?”

    “You’re the girl in the story, aren’t you?”

    Mika would later admit that, despite her experience, the question completely threw her off. She remained speechless for a few seconds, and by the time she opened her mouth to respond otherwise, Elaine’s eyes had already gotten more sparkly than a bar of pure gold. It was kind of too late.

    “...I guess you could say that I used to be, but not anymore.”

    “That’s so cool!”

    “Cool...Again, Elaine, I feel like I have to make this perfectly clear. The reason I speak little is because I’m not exactly a socialist, not because of some kind of elegance. There’s nothing...cool...about that.”

    “That’s not important! No matter what happens, Sensei is always cool! Like that time when you scared off that wild tiger simply by glaring at it! Or the time you fell off a tree to rescue a stray cat!”

    “No, those are just things I naturally end up doing---Wait, you were WATCHING me climb up that tree?!”

    “Yep, and I saw it all! The way you scrabbled and panicked as you fell, looking for anything at all to break your fall with. It was so cu---MUGU?!”

    “And you watched the whole thing without trying to help me? You little---!”

    “I’m sorry, sensei! Please don’t knead your knuckles against my head, it hurts!”

    Some time later…

    “Ahem. Now that we’ve finally gotten back on track...Mika. That’s my name. But when we’re around others, please call me Binah like how you always have. Also, I’m neither experienced enough nor qualified enough to be your teacher, so please don’t call me sensei.”

    “Ehhh? But Sensei, if you’ve seen so much, then how old are you? I mean, you don’t look much older than me.”

    “Well, it’s a new body, so I’m physically only twenty this year. If you throw in my first and second lives’ worth of years in, it’ll be around ten thousand, give or take a few hundred.”

    “......”

    “I was joking with you, Elaine. At best, I’m in my five thousands this year---”

    “Mika-obaasan!”

    “Guh?!”

    “Obaasan! Are you okay?”

    “What’s with the obaasan?! I’m not that old---Okay, I am much older, but that doesn’t make me an obaasan! My body is still that of a young lady! No, wait, I’m truly just twenty this year! Don’t call me obaasan!”

    “Mhmm…Got it, Mika-senpai!”

    It’s senpai now?!

    “Ne, senpai, how old are your children?”

    “How old are my what? Where did you get the idea that I had kids---No, how did you reach the conclusion that I’m married?”

    “But, what about Hatti and Skoll?”

    THAT’S what you were driving at? Elaine, I told you the actual Fenrir was a myth! I might have used to be one, but that doesn’t mean I had children either! To start with, it’s incredibly rare for immortals to sire children, and when they do it’s usually between deities. Having children with mortals...Only fools do that.”

    She really wanted to be a fool, at least once. Having to put on a perfect façade every single time was just as tiring as it sounded like.

    “Elaine. Do you still have that Record Dial that I gave you?”

    “Oh, the shell? I’ve been keeping it all this while, waiting to return it to you. Here you go!”

    “No, keep it. I’ve a feeling that the original owner of that dial would be quite satisfied too, if it’s you taking care of it.”

    “Oh, Senpai, you told me that this shell was a present from an old friend of yours, wasn’t it? Then, when you said that you had a long dream…”

    “Yes. I finally managed to get the chance to say a proper farewell. It’s been overdue for at least a thousand years. I must say, it gets a bit lonely sometimes, thinking back at all the time I’ve spent by myself, sitting around in the infinite hallways...Eh?”

    Suddenly hugged in the midst of talking, the surprised girl stiffened.

    “It’s okay, senpai. I’ll do my best to ensure that you never feel solitude again, even though I’m just one person, so I can’t really match up to your wonderful old friends...But no matter what, if you need someone to lend an ear, a hand to help you get up, or even a shoulder to cry on, I’ll always be here for you!”

    “Elaine…”

    Slowly, she reciprocated the hug. Lifted her arms and wrapped them around the smaller girl who was clinging to her midsection, and then...

    *Smooch*

    A simple, light peck on the cheek, which set her heart beating faster.

    You know, up until now, I’ve never believed in fate, nor have I been grateful towards it. But now, that has changed. If fate was really the one that allowed us to meet, then it has my gratitude.

    Thinking somewhat absentmindedly, Mika smiled.

    My new life, the stories I’ve never told anyone, my fragile heart. You’ve taken so many of my firsts, you naughty girl. I won’t allow anything to take you from me anymore, not even death, if I can help it. I’ll play my cards as they come, so that when things inevitably go wrong…

    “...No regrets.”

    “Mhm? Is something wrong, Senpai?”

    Mika smiled again.

    “Nothing. Just completing someone else’s sentence.”
    Since Mika was still recuperating from the injury in her abdomen, the party ended up setting up shop in the area for a week as the wolfkin recovered slowly. During that time, Elaine spent some time with Zooey, and learnt how to make a treehouse. An actual house atop a sturdy tree, and that was by the end of the first day.

    As one could probably imagine, between Mika who favoured functionality, and Zooey who favoured simplicity, the treehouse evolved and became a log cabin, still in the tree. Then Elaine took it further and expanded the house, building an additional room on the tree right next to it.

    By the time Elaine got back from reporting her quest three days later, the house had spanned several trees and was already in the process of being fortified, while Mika, who had gotten well enough to be out and about, was carving various furniture out of wood. Meanwhile, the treehouse itself consisted of:

    • A living room with a solid round table.

    • A patio with an actual balcony with actual chairs.

    • Bedrooms.

    • A study.

    • A kitchen.

    • A small armoury.
    As if that wasn’t enough, Zooey was marking out spaces to set up fences, and Mika was inscribing runes into the walls and the trees. As Elaine stood there with her mouth agape, the wolfkin turned, spotted her, and gave her a cheery wave.

    “I’m reinforcing the wood here with runes to give it some minor fireproofing abilities, so the whole place doesn’t immediately go up in flames if a Phantasmal decides to fool around.”

    “What’s a Phantasmal, senpai?”

    “Wha--Oh. Now that I think about it, I haven’t really told you much about Phantasmals. Then, come up and sit here with me. This could be a long talk.”

    Elaine took the proffered hand, and was lifted up onto the branch. Mika spoke while she worked on the wooden portions.

    “Monsters that have lived long enough to gain intelligence and speak in the common tongue. I don’t know what people refer them as nowadays, but in my younger days they’re called Phantasmals, ranging from something as small as puppies to something as huge as dragons. The name caught a lot of flak because, as you can probably guess, they didn’t get along well with the humans.”

    “Didn’t get along well?”

    “Yeah, the don’t-let-me-see-you-or-you’ll-be-food kind of didn’t get along well. Phantasmals didn’t exist in modern society naturally, you see. Their origins were from the Age of Gods, not the Age of Men. Naturally, when the deities of various cultures begun fading, these stayed behind, and caused no end of troubles. I remember my past self having to fight a Hydra at some point in time.”

    “The nine-headed snake?! Was it true that every time you chopped off a head, two more would grow back?”

    “That was only half-true. Only one head would grow back, but on the other hand, the story about the fire was false, too. Burning the stumps doesn’t prevent regeneration, it just delays it for a few seconds more, which can be a handy thing to know. Thankfully, I never put my complete trust in old tales, else I would have gotten snapped up like some half-price kipper in a cat alley.”

    Enraptured, Elaine nodded, before her attention was nabbed by something else.

    “What’s Zooey up to? She’s been walking back and forth to the same areas since we started talking."

    “Oh, Zooey? She’s making walls to keep out the local fauna. Of course, there’s better ways to do that, but I rather not have to resort to intimidation. It would be for the best if we could just fit in. I prefer that compared to having something like say, a decapitated animal head on a spike, see?”

    “Zooey doesn’t seem very enthusiastic about the task, though. In fact, I think she hates me slightly…”

    “Not to worry, Zooey does that with everyone she’s just met for the first time. She’ll get warmer over time. Hopefully.”

    “Then, Senpai, you never told me what you meant when you said Noble Phantasm.”

    “Ah, I didn’t really explain what a Noble Phantasm is, right? My bad.”

    A finger on her lip, Mika pondered on the simplest way to get her message across.

    “...Say, what’s the first thing that comes to your mind when you hear the word Hero?”

    “Uhm...Gourd?”

    “Pffft...Haha. That was such an Elaine thing to say, I couldn’t help laughing. My bad. Anyways, you’re not wrong. Heroes do fight for good, justice, and all sorts of righteous causes. Heroes across the ages may differ in stature, skill, and belief, but all of them share the same kind of conviction, the drive to succeed at their own goals. You with me so far?”

    “So it’s like Mr Gourd’s desire to protect children?”

    “Correct. Mortals have sired champions long, long before the word itself was created. In every age, so long as problems existed, people would be there to solve them; these are what people call heroes.”

    “So they’re like Santa Claus!”

    “Errr, I’m actually not sure if Santa Claus counts as a hero, actually, even though his ability to travel all over the world in one night should definitely count as a Noble Phantasm...Anyway, despite it all, not many heroes have good endings. I have more than known this fact already, from the tales I’ve read in my first life, as well as the firsthand experience I’ve gained from my second. Power comes at a price, you see, and that price isn’t always responsibility. Sometimes, becoming a hero means that you end up forfeiting your chance to live a quiet life. You get swept into more and more complicated situations, and eventually the sheer numbness shuts off your ability to feel. You don’t even feel alive anymore; every day is nothing but work, work, work, and work…”

    Elaine listened quietly as Mika prattled on.

    “How should I say it? I remember every bit of it clearly, as if I was there watching it all happen, yet I do not have that familiar feeling, what some would call deja vu. It was as if I was living in a dream; everything is exactly how I remembered it, yet I feel estranged from it. And these visions don’t cease; they occur frequently, without warning, and tell me things which I recognise but do not remember. That’s why I behave the way I do sometimes, because it feels like I’m living in a lie, an ephemeral dream that’s waiting to disappear once the dreamer wakes.”

    “Senpai…”

    “No, I’m fine. Let’s just say that I had a long dream, one that brought me the closure I needed. I have made peace with my past; now I must do my best for the future too, not just for the sake of the people I left behind, but for my own too. It’s about time I stopped living in the shadows and face things head on.”

    Pomf. The young girl was patted on the head.

    “I sure did end up derailing the topic, didn’t I? Still, the gist of it is this: I’m uncertain how it came to be, but somehow, at some point in my second life, someone, for some reason or another, labelled me as a Hero. And because of that, I ended up with my own Noble Phantasm as well.”

    “So Senpai has a powerful trump card? I’d love to see it!”

    “You’ve already seen it from that time when we were up against that elemental. My Stormweave is my Noble Phantasm, or rather, it used to be.”

    “Oh, that was Senpai’s trump card? As expected, it was powerful! You managed to overpower that massive elemental and drive it back!”

    “No, as I’ve said, what you’ve seen was merely an imitation, a far lesser copy than the real thing. A genuine Noble Phantasm, as long as the conditions are met, can be reused over and over again as many times as possible. However, every time my Stormweave is spent, I have to carefully put together a new one from scratch; it consumes enough mana to put me out of a spell fight for a whole day, and even then, it’s quality and might are subpar at best. You could call it a Mirror Phantasm, I guess. And on some days, I can’t even weave at all.”

    “No matter what others say, Senpai is the strongest!”

    “Very strong, was it? That’s because you haven’t seen many lightning users. The Stormweave is in actuality just a large lightning bolt created by weaving together countless regular lightning bolts, hence its name. It only seems powerful because of its magnitude, but honestly it’s just a one-trick pony; a little bit like me, I guess. And now that I’ve lost my rights to wield a Noble Phantasm, it’s gotten even weaker. A mere forgery of a trick.”

    “But senpai, your magic is good, so can’t you just replicate the effects with ordinary spells?”

    “If it were that easy, any decent mage would have a Noble Phantasm. No two Noble Phantasms are the same, you know, so having relinquished control over the only one I had completely of my own free will...it’s upsetting, to say the least. But enough of all that! I meant for this to be a light-hearted talk, and now I’ve gone and turned it into a moody complaint session instead. Forgive me.”

    “Mhm, it’s okay! I didn’t really understand all of it, but even if you can’t use your old moves, I believe senpai will be able to come up with newer and even cooler moves! Because you’re my senpai!”

    “Haha...Elaine, you really do know how to cheer a person up. Telling me that I’ll be able to wield a new Noble Phantasm without any basis to back it up...And for some reason, when I hear you say it, I can strangely believe it to be true…and I guess I’ll have my work cut out for me, again.”

    Building a Noble Phantasm from scratch. Sounds easy, until people realise that they can’t just buy the separate parts online and cobble them together. A Noble Phantasm reflected a person’s own soul, and things like that were incredibly difficult to be conceptualized under any one kind of existence. A Noble Phantasm could be an item, a building, a concept, or a phenomenon…but not matter what form they took, the impact they had on nature depended entirely on various different factors.

    Still, there were some other interesting things that she had seen.

    “I said I didn’t know much about Stigmata, but that was a lie. Yours was the first I’ve actually seen, but the concept behind it isn’t too alien to me. Your garden friend’s Brands as well as my own Runes follow similar concepts, just with different systems to their use, and different rules, as well.”

    “Then, Senpai, does that mean you can understand this writing, too? The meaning just somehow popped into my head, but I don’t know what language it’s in.”

    “Oho, interesting. Elizabeth of Tudor, is it? It has certainly been a while since I’ve seen writing in Old Elizabethan English. You say you got this after appraising an old crystal you found?”

    “Yes, it used to be a piece from a necklace until I found it during an adventure...Which reminds me, I still have two pieces of crystals here. I wonder if they are the same kind, too?”

    “Oh? Give them to me, I’ll take a look.”

    Mika scooped the two crystals out of the proffered hand, casting a crucial eye on the first piece.

    “Nope, this one...is just a common chunk of crystal without any enchantment. You could sell it for maybe 30 Large Coppers, but no more.”

    And then, moving on to the second...

    “Now the other one...Hoooh? This one might actually have something good in it. May I?”

    Elaine didn’t understand what the request for until she saw Mika extend a single claw, and understood.

    “Please go ahead, senpai!”

    “Mhm.”

    With some precise strength, Mika managed to chip off a small piece from the outer section of the crystal, exposing the inner layers.

    “Yes, I see something to work with here. The faint smell of tranquil waters...with a tinge of the holy. For a water body big enough not to be stagnant yet small enough not to be rushing along...the only logical answer is a lake. Now, add in the holy aspect, and there aren’t really too many possibilities.”

    Still, I didn’t think she’ll somehow find the piece pertaining to that lake in particular. Was this also a work of fate?

    “It’s only my opinion, but I think this piece suits you perfectly, Elaine. Take a look.”


    Grinning, Mika gently pressed the crystal against Elaine’s abdomen, causing her to gasp a little. As the crystal disappeared in a flash of light, a small, new tattoo could be seen forming on her skin, along with the usual words that appeared around it.

    “Lady of the Lake, Vivian…?”

    “I didn’t expect something from the Arthurian legend to show up. Nevertheless, while I can identify where the Stigmata origin traces from, I cannot accurately gauge the raw power contained within. For that, you’ll have to ask an Artificer.”

    “Eh, I can ask Natalia about it, then. Although, she only comes to visit every so often, and never stays for longer than a day.”

    “Natalia? That name rings a bell. What does she look like?”

    Elaine described a few things before going quiet.

    “It might interest you to know that I am somewhat acquainted with the person whom you look for to identify your Stigmatas. If you want to, I could just ask her to help you find a full set that you want---Oh.”

    Looking down at her lap, Elaine’s head was resting on it, and the young girl was already busy snoring away.

    “Falling asleep while someone else is talking, what a free-spirited thing to do...But I’ll forgive you. As I always have.”
    “It’s been a while, hasn’t it?”

    “So it has. How have you been?”

    “This one has been travelling, as usual, so this one cannot say for sure if it’s a good or a bad thing. Nevertheless, this one has definitely not been stabbed by a spear, so this one supposes it’s a good thing.”

    Zooey was staring at the night sky, a mysterious expression on her face. The glitter of the moon and countless stars could be seen reflected in her eyes, bathing her face in silvery light.

    “So, any plans to settle down? Maybe marry and have a few kids? You’re quite the looker, you know. You might even be able to catch a noble’s eye, with those features.”

    “This one has thought nothing about starting a family. Also, this one dislikes nobles.”

    “Is that so? The girl that you saved this morning might have been a noble, you know. Which reminds me, I never really got around to thanking you. I’m grateful that you lent a hand to Elaine while I was out of action.”

    “Nhn. Thanks are unnecessary, this one did it out of this one’s own volition. It’s difficult to survive alone in these times, one must always render help to others as best as they can. We survive and learn together.”

    “Together...Huh. What an unfamiliar word.”

    Mika tapped on the railing a few times. Her gaze was drifting off elsewhere, looking at something, but her eyes were thoughtful.

    “So many times I had thought mortals incapable of working together, when I was still in possession of Divinity. So many wars, so much loss of life by human hands, wrought over the desire to possess some material treasures only served to strengthen that conviction. And yet the current me proved my past self wrong so many times, the most prominent example being this house. Neither myself nor Elaine would have been alive to build it had you not whisked us out of that dangerous situation.”

    “Lady Mika…”

    “At some point in time, I begun asking myself if I had gotten softer. I used to be pitiless in the old days, you see. To me, it was a dog-eat-dog world beyond the boundaries of home, and if you didn't want to be killed, you had to be willing to kill. These hands, in another timeline, weren’t simply stained in blood. They were coated in the stuff. And not all of it belonged to murderers. So I’ll still hold that one unanswered question in my heart: Why did you help us? You weren’t obliged to.”

    The silver-haired knight didn’t make a sound.

    “Well, I won’t press you for answers if you’re not ready to tell me about it. I always believed that the best secrets are the ones told willingly, see, and Elaine shares my opinion. So if someday you’re finally comfortable, I’ll love to hear it.”

    “This one would like to know when you’ll let the Lady Elaine know, Lady Mika.”

    The knight spoke frostily.

    “So you’re in work mode already...Well, no matter. Regarding your question, I think it won’t be anytime soon, at least not until I can learn the meaning of being human from her. Huh. Now that I think about that, I guess that would have been my wish upon the Grail, which means I’m not void of desires either. My younger self was a fool to the very end.”

    Zooey didn’t make any further comments.

    “Well, enough of that for now.”

    The mood changed. What had been a pleasant, simple chat up till then became a serious conversation.

    “Tell me, Zooey. What did Alina send you here for? I know for a fact that you’re one of hers, and I can’t imagine someone as cautious as her letting one of her best agents wander around the world. What kind of mission have you been given?”

    “None at all. This one has came to find you for other matters entirely.”

    A few seconds passed with the two staring each other down. Zooey’s expression didn’t change at all.

    “...I give up. Trying to detect lies is still manageable, but trying to read expressions is beyond me right now, especially since I lost the means centuries ago. So, do tell. I imagine it’s not exactly a small matter for the Arbitrator herself to come look for me.”

    “As you wish. The message is as follows: The Necropolis has opened again.”

    What followed was a brief, stunned silence.

    “...That’s impossible.”

    “Regretfully, it’s as this one surmises. Lady Alina has started reaching out to the others, so this one sought you out of her own accord. This one imagined that you would have the most information about it, Lady Mika.”

    “The most information…”

    Mika’s lupine tail swept agitatedly across the floor, creating gentle swishing noises.

    “That’s not exactly true. I do know a lot, but there’s even more that have slipped away into the crannies of my mind. Must as I hate to admit it, that fool who lives in her non-existent Spire knows even more than I do. Where others collect riches or wealth, she lusts after information. This is no exaggeration; I’ve heard of her less-than-desirable exploits in pursuit of knowledge, and succubi would become saints in comparison to her depravity. No, if you want to know something, she’s the best and yet also the worst person to ask.”

    “But, this one…”

    “That’s right, you can’t enter the Spire, huh. And Alina also hates dealing with that girl...Can’t be helped. I’ll ask her if I drop by the Spire in the future, but for now, I’ll tell you what I can remember.”

    Tapping the railing meaningfully, Mika begun her mini lecture.

    “The Necropolis is located in the far north, way, way up north, past the Land of Beastmen. In fact, it’s located in the lands that’s right next to Svellvollr...So if this matter persists, they’ll be the first ones to feel the impact. I have no doubt that Alina has already noticed this issue?”

    “Indeed. Lady Alina has already planned to send a message via horse up north, in order to warn them of the danger.”

    “Tell her to forget about it. One of the Sefirot is currently in Svellvollr, the Eighth if I’m not wrong, and it’ll be faster to contact them via the Spire. Instead, go back and tell Alina to get all the information she can muster, then come back to me. I’m still in disbelief over this issue, but it’s better to prepare for the possible storm.”

    “Understood, Lady Mika. Still, there is another thing I wish to confirm with you. I’ve heard that the Necropolis was once a site for mass burial of dead bodies…”

    “You’re right, which is why it should be impossible for it to open. The Necropolis is very similar to the Spire; only the current Sefirot have access to the Spire. On the other hand, the Necropolis only allows access to the spirits of the departed; any living creature---even those with false life like zombies---will have their very souls ripped out of their bodies if they try to enter, and then consigned to the flood of wailing spirits below. It’s a fate worse than death. Not only that, the main gate is sealed from the inside with an enchantment that only allows the living to lift it. In other words...”

    “You have to be dead to get in, but alive to leave?”

    “Precisely. Only someone alive could open the gates. At the same time, anyone who isn’t dead trying to enter will be instantly killed, and then enslaved as well. It’s truly a dreary place, so it’s no surprise that people avoid it like the plague.”

    Hmm...Something tugged at the corners of her mind. She had forgotten a single piece of information, but what was it? Mika had a feeling that it was an important piece of information, crucial, even, but try as she might, she could not recall on what exactly it was about. It was most annoying.

    “...Who notified Alina of this issue?”

    “This one is unclear about that, Lady Mika. It seems that a letter with no sender information was mailed to Lady Alina.”

    “Well, that’s just perfect. We’ve got a potential undead breach, and a mysterious informant. The existence of the Sefirot organization is supposed to be a closely kept secret, known only by the current Sephirah and proxies like you, but someone managed to figure out the identity of a Sephirah and send a letter. Or one of the proxies decided to play a little prank. I really hope that it’s the latter situation, and this is just a joke made in poor taste, but experience tells me otherwise.”

    “So I should inform Lady Alina to look for potential traitors within the organization?”

    “That would certainly be a good course of action. Of course, don’t take simply my words for the complete truth. I have lost track of a lot of things, and the Necropolis is one of them. There is definitely something I’ve missed, I just don’t know which.”

    Zooey reached out, catching a falling leaf, holding it up closer to her eyes in order to view it more carefully.

    “What about the era in which it was built, Lady Mika? For example, which culture came up with such a name, things like that.”

    “The origin behind the word Necropolis? Interesting take, although I doubt it’ll yield you any good leads. The word itself comes from combining the word necro, which means corpse or death, with the word polis, which roughly translates to city. A city of the dead, as it were, written in the Greek language. Hm, interesting...”

    “Did you figure something out, Lady Mika?”

    “Well, it is somewhat interesting, but I doubt it will help us much. I just found it intriguing to note that the states of Svellvollr share quite a few similarities to the Scandinavians, while the Necropolis is Greek in nature...hmm…”

    Then she fixed Zooey with a mild glare.

    “There’s something you haven’t told me yet.”

    “As expected, nothing gets past Lady Mika.”

    “Skip the flattery, I don’t care much for those. So? What else has Alina discovered? I usually wouldn’t be informed of such matters unless she has found out more; it’s useless to just come to me with speculations and no evidence, and she knows that. What’s the defining factor here?”

    “After some investigation of the paper upon which the message was written, we found out that it had some traces of white powder smudged onto the envelope itself, and when we took samples of those, we found out…”

    “---that the letter was sent from Agral, and had been written quite a long time ago. Correct?”

    “It’s as you have surmised, Lady Mika.”

    “Well, this makes it even lovelier. Agral is far down south, while the Necropolis is damn far up North. And somehow, someone is Agral managed to get a letter to one of the Sephirah, and a letter that’s been prepared not so recently soon. I won’t be making any more headway into this case today, so if there’s no other matters...”

    “That said, this one would also like to convey another message from the Lady Haruna. She says that if it’s not too major of a matter, you should tell the girl that---”

    *Slam*

    “Tell her that it’s none of her fucking business! If she wants Elaine to know so badly, she’d better get off her virgin ass and come here personally!”

    Just as quickly as they had appeared, the outstretched claws retracted, and the bloody red streaks vanished. Her vibrant orange hair became duller. Mika took a few deep breaths, trying to rein in her temper.

    “Hah...hah...hah...I’m sorry for that outburst, Zooey. As you can probably tell, I really despise others trying to tell me how to do my job, especially when they don’t have the foggiest idea on how my job works...I didn’t wake Elaine, did I?”

    “Nope, she’s still sleeping soundly.”

    “Thank the gods. Now for the problem at hand. Haruna…”

    Mika spoke the name carefully, as if it would explode if she handled it improperly.

    “She and I never get along for some reason. I’m unable to understand why, but all I know is that speaking of her irritates the hell out of me. When we talk face to face, there will always end up being a fight. How is she doing?”

    “Lady Haruna seems to have taken in someone under her care. As to who that is, I couldn’t tell. She was heavily bandaged.”

    * * *​

    “You haven’t recovered yet. Sit down.”

    “But---”

    “Sit down. Now.”

    Obediently, the girl sat back onto the couch.

    “Now, you are still able to speak coherently, so I suppose that’s a good thing. Still...”

    Haruna perched on the couch armrest, her head cupped on her hand; she stared at the stranger that was bandaged all over, before shaking her head.

    “Nevermind that. Get some rest first, you’re still weak from blood loss. I’ll send for a friend to bring you some food, so just sit tight.”

    “My...God Arc...Where…?”

    “God Arc? What’s a God Arc?”

    “...Don’t know what a God Arc is…?”

    “Nope. Is it some kind of code word for something else?”

    “My...Variant Scythe…”

    “Oh, that thing? Give me a minute, I’ll bring it over...But it’s not in a pretty condition, just so you know.”

    “...!”

    “Oi, watch it. In case you haven’t noticed yet, your left arm is gone. You’re not in the condition to be holding that, not to mention trying to swing it. I lifted this thing experimentally just now, and even though it’s shaped like a scythe, the thing must have weighed a ton. If it’s yours, I don’t know how the hell you would have fought using that.”

    “...”

    “I’ll go procure some food. In the meantime, you take a rest here. Don’t even think about trying to walk around until you’re better, got it?”

    Getting a silent nod from the girl, Haruna exited the bedroom and entered the living room, thinking about it.

    “...Can’t be helped. I’ll have to go ask Mika for a favour regarding the mind...but what should I prepare as payment? She makes her own equipment, so she’ll never need anything I forge...Ah, how troublesome. I’ll give it some more consideration after dinner...Gah, so troublesome. That aspect she governs makes it incredibly difficult to get her any kind of gift.”

    * * *​

    “Will you not tell her yet?”

    “No. It might just be my own selfish wish, but I want Elaine to enjoy her simple life for as long as possible. Getting mixed up with the Sefirot tends to kill off one’s personal life, so even if it’s not possible to prevent it from happening, I would like to delay it for now, at least until she’s ready. The tenth branch may seem to have the lightest duties, but in reality, it’s almost as difficult as mine.”

    “Lady Mika, when you say difficult, you don’t mean…”

    Mika grinned wryly, sighing.

    “You’ve seen it too, haven’t you? How I briefly lost control earlier? Sefirot powers aren’t good by nature. The only reason they are so beneficial is because the individual Sephirah use them for doing good; by the same argument, it means that an ill-intentioned Sephirah can cause a lot of problems. And sometimes, when something tips a Sephirah over the edge, they end up like that. It’s called a Qliphoth Outbreak.”

    “The reason you are telling this one about it is because…?”

    “Different Sephirah have different triggers that cause their Qliphoth Outbreaks. Elaine is mine, so if she flips there’s a high chance I’ll turn too, and you’ll have two outbreaks to deal with. Also, Sephirah tend to hold back when fighting to limit casualties, but Qliphah don’t. You get what I’m driving at?”

    “This one understands.”

    “Glad to hear that. Anyway, when you get back, tell Alina to stop worrying over every report that she receives. She gets stressed very easily, and I don’t want to hear anything about a Qliphoth Outbreak originating from her, you got me?”

    “As you wish, Lady Mika. Although, this one feels the need to remind you not to get too attached...”

    *Crack*

    “That’s none of your business, Zooey. If Alina wants to comment more after your report, tell her that I don’t mind swapping jobs with her at any time, assuming that she wants to do more than 5 times of her current workload each month. After that, tell her that if she’s got the spare time to try and micromanage other people, she should be investigating from whom that letter came from.”

    “Understood, Lady Mika.”
    “No, Senpai, don’t go...Stay…”

    “Fufu, silly girl. Don’t talk in in your sleep.”

    Looking at your sleeping face, it’s somehow easier for me to say what I really want. I wonder why? I’ll hang around by your side forever, even if the day comes that you no longer need me to protect you, I’ll still follow you.

    It’s not because of love, or anything pure as that, Elaine. I’ve finally realised one thing, why I vehemently refused to remain human in my second life; I hated the way they acted out of benefits, the way they could smoothly lie and then backstab each other for more profit. Humans, in my eyes, were no better than the mindless beasts that stumbled about, waging wars with their own kind over territory.

    Mika smiled softly, running her fingers through the sleeping girl’s hair. It wasn’t maintained very well compared to the daughters of aristocrats, but it was clean and smelled wonderful. If spring had a scent, that would have been it.

    But I’d forgotten something; before I was beast, I was pure human. I don’t recall it as clearly as I should have, seeing how it happened five thousand years ago, but I’m sure of one thing; that I was satisfied with what life had to offer. The only thing I was indignant about was my early death, but after that stint as a Fenrir, I finally got it.

    Life is really precious when you have a timer ticking down to the end. Otherwise, one could never find the motivation to do anything; that’s why, in spite of all my misgivings, I usually sided with mortals. Watching mortals paint their short, imperfect lives with all manners of colour did brighten my life up a bit, and that’s why I’m here now, as one of you, living with a limited lifespan and willing to do anything for entertainment, even if they are malicious or illegal.

    But Elaine, you’re not. You aren’t perfect by a long shot, but you’re still blind to the innate evil of humans. You live each day without regrets, doing all that you can to bring smiles to people’s faces, but it’s of no use. I’ll say it now; humanity here as a whole is a rotting cesspool, and you’re one of the rare few flowers, blooming proudly in the darkness.

    Did you know? Humans are great creators, but they are even greater destroyers. Burning down, causing collapses, raising massacres...There’s no race better than your own at destroying each other’s work. Like a beautiful, unstained white rose...People will admire its magnificence, but there will always be that urge to stain it, to tear the petals apart, for no good reason beyond the fact that it’s human nature.

    Why am I saying this…? Well, I did say that I’m no longer a Fenrir, a Phantasmal. Instead, I’m half human now---a product of man and beast. And through it all, I have my memories intact. I act out of self benefit and pride, definitely not something pure as love. I’m really not ‘cool’ like you’ve said, but if that makes you happy, I’ll try my best to behave like such...

    ...Whew, I’ve sure ended up beating around the bush, didn’t I? If someone told me I could be this long-winded a few hundred years ago, I would have laughed it off as a bad joke. But now, I’m human again, and I’ll accept it, acting with that in mind. I have my own desires too, things that I won’t give up no matter what happens, and you’re one of those.

    That’s why, don’t worry about the details, do what you always love to do and leave the fallout all to me---

    I’ll protect you with my black love, even if it kills me.

    And if that still doesn’t work, even with my best efforts…

    I’ll destroy you gently.

    * * *​

    “And so I told Ru, if she wasn’t going to give up on cooking duty, then I wouldn’t give up on …”

    “I didn’t expect her to drop a pot on the fire and then..."

    The two were exchanging stories up in the study, bringing each other up to speed. Meanwhile, the white-haired Zooey was downstairs in the garden, tending to the flowers.

    “Wait, go back a bit. You did what?”

    To her credit, the wolfkin had been attentive enough to catch a certain detail, even though they had been talking for quite a damn long while already.

    “I imagined how you and Shiori would activate your skills respectively, and I made a new skill on the spot to deal with the opponent.”

    Mika’s next words were chosen very carefully.

    “It’s good that you managed to win, but...you ended up having to manipulate lightning?”

    “Only a little bit, but I di---Senpai?!”

    *Bonk*

    “Senpai?!”

    “Ah! No, I’m sorry, I just got flustered for a second there…”

    “Do you usually pin people to the ground when you get flustered, Senpai?”

    “No! Well, I usually have to immobilize people in order to get answers out of them, but that’s not it! If you manipulated lightning, I need to conduct a full body check immediately. It’s imperative that you aren’t suffering from any side-effects from utilizing lightning. You’ll have to strip.”

    “I have to...Huh?!”

    “I realise that this can be a rather awkward request to make, but please strip. I can only make an accurate inspection by staring at your skin directly.”

    “No, wait! I’m not---I don’t---No!”

    Both of them were on the floor, and Mika had enveloped Elaine in a hug, which would have been a pretty heart-warming sight if the former wasn’t trying to take the latter’s clothes off. Elaine did her best to protect her modesty, and as such no progress was made after a few minutes of rolling and tossing.

    “Let me strip you, Elaine!”

    “Even if you’re the one saying that, it’s too early in the game for this kind of thing…!”

    “Wait, so you’re saying that you would be perfectly okay with it if it’s in the future…? But nevermind that for now! Taking your clothes off takes priority!”

    “Aren’t you getting your priorities mixed up?!”

    “Looks like I’ve no choice then...Zooey!”

    The silver-haired girl poked her head into the study curiously, having heard the commotion a while ago.

    “Come over here and help me hold Elaine down while I strip her.”

    The curiosity quickly faded, and was replaced by emotionlessness. Anyone observing Zooey’s eyes carefully would have noticed the difference occurring.

    “This one is not interested in acts of debauchery, Lady Mika. In addition, this one also feels the responsibility to inform you that this one is, by all means, still under the legal age. Please do not show such unsightly behaviour to minors. Also, this one feels the need to point out that should this one aid you in such degenerate endeavours, there’s a high probability that this one will be slaughtered by Lady Alina after she finds out.”

    “No, both of you are misunderstanding it! I’m not doing this for lewd purposes, it’s truly for Elaine’s sake!”

    Zooey’s gaze changed slightly. It went from ‘I’m looking at a pervert‘ to ‘I’m looking at a piece of un-recyclable trash’.

    “Fine, I’ll explain it in simple terms so you two can understand! Just like how fire mages concentrates heat in their bodies to unleash fire magic, lightning mages concentrate powerful currents to unleash their powerful lightning magic. However, first time users tend to be unfamiliar in regards to controlling their input and output, so it’s not uncommon for excessive charge to build up. And that’s more than capable of messing up a human’s body systems, so I have to inspect her veins and arteries to ensure that no permanent damage is done! Now, please stop staring at me with those judgemental eyes!”

    “...Understood. This one will convey this message to Lady Alina afterwards.”

    “Can’t you just leave it out of the report entirely?!”

    “Denied. Assuming that this one left it out of the report, and Lady Alina was to find out about it afterwards, this one would be...greatly inconvenienced.”

    * * *​

    Mika placed her hand onto Elaine’s chest, before slowly tracing it down towards her abdomen. Elaine shivered from her touch.

    “Phew, it’s not as bad as I had thought...Thank god. I’ll just need to draw the excess current out of you carefully, so please try not to wriggle.”

    “Senpai, it tickles...!”

    “Oi, I told you not to move! Just bear with it for thirty seconds, no, a minute!”

    “Why is the time getting longer?!”

    “The initial estimate was too optimistic, and I want to feel your skin as well, so there’s that!”

    “Wait, say that again? You just said something preposterous like wanting to feel my skin---”

    “Nevermind that!”

    *Pop*

    “My buttons! And I just bought this shirt too! Mou, Senpai, you dummy!”

    “I told you not to mooooooove!”

    * * *​

    “Now, this one presumes that the task requested of her has been completed, so this one will take her leave first. Should you feel the need to engage in animal-like behaviour, please kindly wait until this one has gone out of earshot.”

    Zooey disengaged and preemptively left the minefield, handing all the fallout to Mika to deal with.

    “Senpai...You’re a bad person…”
    As compensation for the earlier upset, Mika was now giving the young girl a lesson in magic. Or rather, she was extorted into teaching Elaine on the tips of handling lightning.

    “This can be a powerful gift, I admit that. But it can just as easily become a powerful curse. Unlike the four basic elements; wind, water, earth and fire, lightning is an advanced element. It’s also one of the more dangerous elements, faster than the wind, yet fiercer than fire.”

    “So it’s like a combination of the two? Nice! Teach me how to use it, please, Mika-senpai!”

    “No, listen to me, Elaine. In many ways, a person’s character shapes their acquisition of magic...but the reverse is also true. Lightning is an unpredictable, chaotic power by itself; if you specialize too much in it, it will disrupt the way mana flows in your body.”

    “...I don’t understand.”

    “...How should I go about explaining this? Hmm, alright, I know. As of now, you don’t know any magic yet despite possessing the aptitude of a good mage. You are akin to an empty vessel; elemental magic is the water that’ll fill your vessel. But with lightning magic…that’s like a drop of blood. It’ll taint all your other experiences in magic. So with it, you’ll either want to specialize or not learn it at all…”

    “Mika-senpai, I fight with a rapier and my armour’s dummy thin, so an offensive oriented magic would suit me better than a defensive one. Plus, you were the one who said that offence was the best defence, after all.”

    “That’s true... but once you get involved with lightning magic, nothing short of a wish on a Grail will completely separate you from it. Not that I like to brag about it, but one of my old nicknames used to be the King of Storms. Undoing a storm spell of my making will be very difficult, even if they have somewhat degraded thanks to a lot neglect.”

    “It’s fineeee!

    “Alright then. Let’s take this outside; I’d rather not have to deal with an electrical fire, especially not when we’ve just gotten this place up and running.”

    * * *​

    “This is the Spark Rune. It would usually take a whole hour to draw for beginning elementalists, but I, well, have my secrets. It functions as a converter; just charge it with mana to fire off a lightning bolt from your fingers. It doesn’t require any prior knowledge about Lightning and can be completely erased by magic, so if you gave it a try and want nothing more to do with lightning ever again after that, I understand.”

    “Then, teach me how to use it right now, Mika-senpai!”

    “Eh? Right now?”

    “Yes! This way, I can get more pointers from you regarding the usage later!”

    “You really have no fear of the unknown, do you…? Well, alright then. Let’s see...Aim at that tree.”

    Elaine raised her hands, and pointed the rune towards the tree in question.

    “No, Elaine, the rune doesn’t exactly have to be facing the target, so long as you yourself can see it. But doing something like curving the bolt can be surprisingly difficult for now, so let’s practice shooting straight first. I’ll give you a demonstration.”

    Mika raised her index finger, focusing slightly. The crackle of electricity would be heard as she pointed it as a nearby rock, before snapping off a bolt that broke the small rock into two.

    “That...wasn’t so overwhelming, Mika-senpai. Like, I was expecting something on the level of a thunderstorm, you know…”

    “Now, now, don’t get too zealous, Elaine. This spell, Spark, is only the first spell of the lightning magic tree, but it’s already much more damaging that Ember, the first spell of the fire magic tree. And Fire magic is already the most dangerous of the four basic elements. Now, you try.”

    Elaine stared at her hand, trying to will the rune to glow.

    “No, that’s not how you do it, Elaine. In the case of mana, you have to picture it moving. Imagine it flowing like water, gathering from all over your body, then into your fingers.”

    The rune glowed briefly.

    “You’re getting the gist of it! Try again this time, but no need to rush. Take your time. Slowly does it.”

    The rune flickered a few times, then a few times more, blinking, before it lit up and stayed lit, glowing a light shade of blue.

    “So, I just aim for the tree, and let go of it, Mika-senpai?”

    “Yes, go ahead.”

    The bolt tore out a good chunk of the tree, which groaned as it struggled to keep itself standing. The bark was creaking dangerously.

    “Not bad for a first try! We can chop up this tree into lumber for other things later. You okay? Let’s take a rest.”

    “Wait, let me practice one more thing while I still have the hang of it, Mika-senpai! I think I figured out what you meant by bending the bolt!”

    “Wait, how much mana did you charge the previous bolt wi---”

    Worried, Mika tried to stop her over excited junior, but it was a but too late. The zealous girl had already charged everything she had left into the next shot.

    “Slither, Thunder Viper!”

    The bolt flew out, curved twice while in midair, and took out what little support the tree had left. Once that was gone, the outcome was easy to guess.

    *CRASH!*

    “Oi, you alright? Elaine! I told you not to drain your mana tank, you idiot! Jeez!”

    “Hehe...Did I...do good? Mika-senpai…”

    “Why are you talking like you’re dying while grinning?! You little mischievous imp!”

    Mika proceeded to poke her again in the belly button, before mumbling a certain spell.

    “Mana Transfer.”

    The little wisp of blue sparks flowed into Elaine, before winking out of existence. The girl sat up suddenly.

    “Eh? My mana gauge is full again? Mika-senpai, how much mana do you have---Owww!”

    A fist bonked a certain girl on the head.

    “No more full-charged shots, you hear me? I was so worried! If you keep abusing your mana gauge, it will eventually lead to the crippling of your magic, and in the serious cases, death, understood? Swear that you won’t ever do this again, else I won’t teach you any more magic!”

    “I promise I won’t do it anymore, so long as you’re here to supervise me, senpai!”

    “Doesn’t that mean that I’ll have to supervise you all the time from now on?! Oh, nevermind! If that’s what it takes, then I’ll do whatever it takes! But before we go any further, I’ll explain some basics to you. Magic allows you to replicate natural phenomenon, but only so long as you have access to a supply of mana, and know how to convert that mana into the element you want. Converting is easy to learn; what can be tricky for many people is how to get the most out of your mana.”

    “Getting the most out of my mana...As in, try to tone down the effects?”

    “Yes and no. Here, I’ll ask you another question. Which do you think is generally better, single-target spells or area-of-effect spells?”

    “Uhm...Area of effect?”

    “Wrong. Here’s why. When you have an area-of-effect spell, you’ll want to cover as extensive an area as possible, which means you’ll want to stretch out the spell’s range as far as you can afford to. But remember, replicating natural phenomenon require mana, and say, you want to create a huge circle of fire. To manifest all of those flames, you’ll need one hell of a mana supply, and that’s something most mortals don’t have. So what do you do? You either give up entirely, or lower the output so that the mana drain decreases.”

    To emphasize her point, Mika conjured a small fire at the tip of her index finger, before having it expand to envelop the entirety of her hand. By that point, the tiny flame had disappeared completely, leaving a weak orange glow flickering around said hand.

    “And by the time you’ve taken out enough quality to balance out the increase in quantity, you’re left with puny flames that don’t even hurt unless someone is stupid enough to touch them with exposed skin. So why bother going to the trouble in the first place? Just load up your single-target spells, and snap away. Not to mention, AOE spells drain mana every second that they are active, so you’ll end up empty before you know it if you’re not careful. And you already experienced how running out of mana feels like.”

    As Mika stopped temporarily to fix her with a deadpan stare, Elaine could not help but to laugh awkwardly.

    “Ahahahaha…”

    “But what to do if you’re surrounded, you say? Then, I suppose, if you really had no other choice...use an AOE spell to clear a path, then swap back to single target spells immediately. Otherwise, as long as you play your cards right and keep track of your surroundings at all times, you shouldn’t get surrounded.”

    Elaine nodded furiously. With such honest eyes, Mika would probably only find out months later that she hadn’t understood a single word.

    “Next, we’re going to be addressing the issue of the medium.”

    “Medium? The type that speaks to ghosts?”

    “Somewhat related, but not that kind of medium exactly, Elaine.”

    “Then, is it about the size, senpai?”

    “No, your guesses are getting colder and colder...Ahem. A medium would be the kind of material that you use to draw the transmutation rune. Without the rune, you’ll have to manually convert your mana into electricity, and that’s horribly boring, not to mention time wasting. That’s why the material you use to make transmutation runes are so important.”

    “Now, with regards to the material…”
    “Which reminds me, I still owe you a dance, don’t I? We kind of got interrupted halfway through the last one, and as a result I never really ended up delivering on my promise. I’m really sorry about what I did; could you forgive me?”

    Elaine pursed her lips, looking stern for a good two whole seconds, before her cheery countenance resurfaced, and she simply said:

    “I’ll forgive you now if we could dance again like last time! And two whole songs instead of one!”

    “Now? But I didn’t bring along the fancy clothing…”

    “It’s okay! The clothes aren’t that important, the best part was that I got to dance with senpai~”

    “U-uhm, if that’s the case, I don’t mind accompanying you for as many songs you want tonight.”

    ...

    “Saw, Elaine, I know I agreed to dance with you for as long as you liked, but could I pick the next song that we’re waltzing to? It’s rather important for me.”

    “Of course, senpai! Which song is it?”

    Mika casually withdrew another shell from her pocket, and smacked it a bit.

    “This one.”

    As they danced, Mika couldn’t help thinking, in hopes that somehow, her thoughts would be able to reach her friends on the other side. If a sincere plea made from the bottom of the heart could be considered a wish, then that was truly the first wish made by Mika since...goodness knows how long ago.

    Are you watching this, everyone?

    I’ve finally found my own place in this world. It was a long and difficult journey, and I nearly gave up several times, but with all of your support, I’ve finally reached the finish point...and I’m truly happy.

    There’s no need to worry about me any longer. This is my way of saying farewell, my way of telling you that I’ve found the things that matter to me. From here on out, it’s a new path, a new day for me.

    In the whole, wide world, perhaps it was only Mika who knew about this, but that worked out nicely for her. After twenty years of hesitation, it was finally time to begin again.

    So...It’s time for all of you to move on as well. And if fate wills it to be so…

    Let’s all meet again, under the canopy of infinite stars stretching into the ever distant horizon.

    “What is it, Senpai? You’re staring quite closely. Is there something on my face?”

    “It’s nothing, Elaine. I was just thinking about how, even during times when I despaired silently, there would always be people who were willing to stretch out a helping hand, even if they didn’t stand to gain anything by doing so. I used to think that my actions were solely guided by whim, but now I find out that it wasn’t always the case. And all of sudden…”

    Mika smiled; a beautiful, genuine smile like a flower blooming fully in spring.

    “I don’t find being alive such a chore anymore. Say, Elaine?”

    “Mhm, senpai?”

    “As you can see, we built a really big house. It also belongs to Zooey, since she helped to build it, but as you probably know, Zooey doesn’t really stay around in a single place for long. Therefore, for the most of the time, I’ll be living here, but again, it’s a really large house.”

    “Mhm.”

    “And if I lived here by myself, it could get rather lonely sometimes.”

    “Uh-huh.”

    “Elaine...are you really going to make me say it?”

    “Hehe, make you say what?”

    “You little monkey...I’ll say it anyway: Will you come live with me? The bedroom’s big enough for two people, after all. I can make a couple of trips and move my belongings here slowly over time, so...”

    “I don’t have a fixed home address yet, so I’d love to!”

    “Hehe. I’ll ask Shiori for some plants that we can grow out in the yard too, so we’ll be able to start our own little garden. After that, I’ll figure out how to catch a certain mount that’ll make travelling easier. Horses are okay, but when it really comes to it, I want something more exotic. Like a serpent, maybe.”

    “What about a griffin? Flying in the air sounds like a lot of fun!”

    “A griffin? Whoa, that’s a Phantasmal that hasn’t crossed my mind for quite a while. They’re quite strong and loyal companions, true, but they are a tad hard to tame even for me, and they also are damn rare these days. I would suggest starting with a hippogriff first, if you want to work towards that end.”

    “Mhm? If Senpai can transform into a wolf, then wouldn’t I be able to experience wolf-riding as a form of transport?”

    “Then what you’re saying is---you want to ride me? My, my, Elaine, that’s such a naughty thing to say.”

    “What do you mean---”

    Steam came out of her ears.

    “---That’s not what I meant, Senpai! That’s such a lewd thing to think about!”

    “Haha, that’s your fault for being so cute. Such a helpless little sheep, you might get eaten by a big bad wolf like myself if you’re not careful enough, you know?”

    “Senpai! Stop tickling me! Hahahaha!”

    Then Zooey poked her head out of one of the bedroom windows.

    “Lady Mika. Missus Elaine.”

    “Uh---Yes?”

    “This one is about to sleep, so this one would appreciate it if you two could keep it down. This one doesn’t know if you two are doing the waltz, the ballet, the foxtrot or the spread-eagle, but should you two need to make noise, please try to lower your volume. The walls of the house aren’t that thick.”

    “Putting the first part aside, Zooey, we’re not going to be making children here…”

    “Whether you decide to do so or not is completely up to your own discretion, Lady Mika, but this one wishes to remind you that it’s physically impossible for two females to produce children by natural means. Otherwise, have a pleasant night. Oyasumi.”

    The wooden window pane was drawn shut with a small click.

    “...Why does it sometimes feel like she’s the one who’s five thousand years old? And here I thought she would be the type to get surprised when I admit to things such as being over fifty centuries old. Apparently not, as it were.”

    Mika laid down on the grass, spreading her arms out wide like she was trying to make a snow angel. There was no snow, of course, but the idea was there. Elaine settled down beside her.

    “I found these yesterday, wrapped in a cloth package and left where my old weapons should be kept. And...I want you to have one.”

    Mika unwrapped the package, lifting aside the cloth cover to reveal two small daggers, both kept snugly in custom-made sheaths.

    “These are ceremonial daggers, forged from meteoric iron ingots. The craftsmanship isn’t shoddy at all, from what I’ve seen, but it’s still a largely ornamental blade, not really forged for the purpose of combat. It’s more of a symbol, I’ll say.”

    One was entirely white, and the other was entirely black, blade, hilt, sheath and all. The white one had a clear white crystal of some kind attached to the hilt, while the black one..had a black crystal, obviously. Why would it be in another colour?

    “Ohhhhhh! So cool! Do they have their own names?”

    Mika was about to say no, until she realised that Elaine’s colleague, a certain Gourd, named his weapons things such as...‘Mr Stabby’ and the like. If Elaine had the same kind of naming sense...Well, she really didn’t want to be using a knife called ‘Miss Slashy’. So the mitochondria got to work immediately.

    “Izanagi and Izanami. Those are the names I’ve given them.”

    "Ooooooh! So cool!"

    Safe.

    “Here, I’ll need a drop of your blood to bind Izanagi to you, and to do that, I’ll have to prick your index finger with Izanami’s blade. And as you can probably guess, I’ll have to prick myself with Izanagi’s blade to bind Izanami to me. Quite the extensive arrangement, which already gives me a good idea about who did this.”

    Mika lightly poked Elaine’s finger, allowing the single drop of blood to fall onto the white blade, before she popped the finger into her mouth and licked up the blood, grinning slightly.

    “W-Wha---You did it so smoothly that---”

    “Now, time to sleep. Goodnight. Elaine.”

    “Didn’t the subject change too quickly?! But---Goodnight, Senpai.”

    Mika pouted somewhat cutely.

    “Ah! Uhm, goodnight...Mika.”

    “There we go. Oh, I forgot to tell you this earlier, but you’ve done well.”

    “For...what?”

    “All along, I’ve been keeping it mostly to myself. Twenty years are a mere drop of the hat compared to the five thousand in my past, but now that I’m mortal, like you are, I’m finally able to appreciate just how long it is. All these years, I always had to resort to drinking in order not to lose control of myself near people, but now, I don’t have to do that any longer. It’s wonderful.”

    Mika could hear a consistent rhythm of soft breaths, which told her that Elaine was already asleep, but nevertheless she carried on, whispering quietly.

    “You see, before I parted with Ru for the last time, she told me to come out of my shell, and see all the beauty that the world has to offer. And now, I can safely say that I’ve seen some truly beautiful things, wrongs that can be righted without resorting to violence. So, congratulations, Elaine. You have conquered the Beast of the Full Moon...without needing to spill a single drop of blood.”

    “...”

    Softly, Mika reached out, drawing the younger girl into her embrace. The night was young and the winds were blowing gently, satisfied with letting the two sleep peacefully. Elaine shifted a few times but didn’t wake, instead snuggling even closer to the pleasant source of warmth.

    “You were always there for me, Elaine. I nearly gave up so many times, but you supported me through each and every single one of them, even if you had no way of knowing what was happening during each time. I still have much more things to tell you...but we can continue this discussion at another time. So for now…rest up. My darling of Avalon.”

    Then she fell asleep too.

    * * *​

    An unfamiliar red crest, hidden on the back of her left shoulder. When Mika wore casual clothes, the top peeked out slightly, but was otherwise hidden. To most people, assuming they had caught a glimpse of it, it would be some kind of birthmark, or maybe a tattoo. It glowed occasionally, but otherwise remained quiet and unassuming.

    But a few people would have recognized it. And out of them, only two people, including herself, would be able to understand the unfamiliar runic lettering that were scattered around the crest, forming an complete circle.

    Assuming that one could translate the runes, they would find that it was a title of sorts. It was short and crisp, and got to the point. It meant---

    ⟪Fenrir⟫

    But the title itself wasn't worth paying much attention to. The first thing that a few people would recognise was that, unlike most Stigmata bearers, the crest in the shape of a prowling wolf was complete. Mika had all three pieces from the same set.

    And the second thing was that, if one was closely observing, they would notice the cascade of chains binding the thrashing wolf, as it’s lips curved in a pained snarl that grew progressively softer, until they vanished into gentle snoring. Then, finally…

    The crest of the sleeping wolf glowed for the last time and disappeared, leaving no trace that it ever existed to begin with, and Mika’s dull hair shimmered, changing tones to that of a vibrant, mikan orange. But to the wolf girl who was still gently snoring away, this would be something she would only find out when she woke up again, on the dawn of a new day, as a whole new person. The Beast of the Full Moon could finally take the rest that it very much needed, but as to what manner of new being would fill in that gap…

    ...Well, who knows what the future holds?
     
    Last edited: Apr 21, 2019
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  4. Evil Lee

    Evil Lee Well-Known Member

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    Jon walked around listening into conversations as he walked by, hundreds of sounds flooded his ear but he started picking out words that may seem like what he knew, It was quite hard because a man pointing at his sword may be describing it, or simply just telling a story about it.

    He walked for a few hours, at least finding out the words 'poop' 'money' 'clothes' 'fruit' 'meat' 'guards' and 'adventurers'.He rubbed his temples. It seemed like he'll have to act like a mute for a few months, maybe even longer. or perhaps, just a man of few words.

    Jon knew he would need food other than the food he has on him, so he walked out of town after memorizing the roads, he started searching for any tracks or trails, not that he could tell what the tracks may be made by, but there certainly was a charm to finding out he thought. He sniffed and saw his foot about to land in a small pile of poo, so he re-focused, and started following the tracks from that poo.

    He as silently as he could followed the trail for a dozen minutes before he heard a rustling ahead, he looked into the clearing and saw a large horned rabbit munching on grass ahead of him. He snuck forward but the bunny saw him first and attacked him, it seemed like an aggressive bunny.

    He dodged out of the way and struck the sword into the horned rabbit's backside and was able to finish it off 'wildlife here certainly is more aggressive than back home' he mused. He created a campfire with some nearby sticks, harvested the rabbit, and roasted the meat on the fire.

    'Whats that noise?"
    A wild boar ran towards the roasting meat, causing jon to jump up in surprise since it came up to about his belly button. He quickly doged out of the way causing his armor to be covered in dirt before he struck out against the boar only managing to get a glancing blow on it's side.

    the boar ran away after deciding that the meat was not such an easy target, but snorted as he did run away.

    As he came back into town after finishing the rabbit meat and burying everything else away he saw a young man take something from a stall without the owner realizing it, seeing a theft Jon chased after the young man. The young man pushed others out of the way as he ran but was eventually out-maneuvered by Jon and taken down with a bodyslam, after that he handcuff'd the thief and realized that he did not know what to do, so he left for the adventurer guild to talk to aria.
     
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  5. AliceShiki

    AliceShiki 『Ms. Tree』『Ophi-kun's Survival Teacher』

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    Alright, new batch is finally live, sorry for the absurdly long delay everyone~

    In case anyone is wondering when April's newspaper will go live... Well, we're at the end of April anyways, so I guess we'll just make an issue in May instead, easier than trying to make 2 in 1 week... >.>

    Ah and... Rank Up Quests aren't quite done yet, but we'll work on delivering them still this month! >.<

    What else... Oh, as usual, if you want to be removed from the tag list, just poke me and I'll remove you right away~

     
    Last edited: Apr 29, 2019
  6. Zone Q11

    Zone Q11 『Monochrome Plebeian』『The Gas Mask』

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    It was a normal day at the tavern in Nagrand, and Zoan went to visit the tavern along with his comrades. A few weeks ago he told the others to have a nice meal once every week, and so far it was going well.

    There was surprisingly no incidents during that time. No flying cats attacking in broad daylight, no children robbing Zoan's dummy pockets filled with rocks, no predictable thugs who were asking to get beaten to pulp. ...okay, the child robbing dummy pockets part was still an occurring event every three days or so, but the town felt peaceful.

    Zoan ordered the usual set of meals: two steaks and carrot soups, a bowl of potato salad and an omelette with rice. Fortunately Zoan did not have to pay more money for Kurain's meal, because his diet still consists of raw meat, which Zoan literally hunts on a daily basis.

    Herst had been choosing various cheap meals for himself as to avoid eating one type of food. He said that it was unhealthy and Zoan actually listens to him as his body felt more... "stable" once he eats other meal. This is the reason he and Mallory ordered the soups as well. The additional seven small copper coins were worth the price.

    However, it seems that something is different today. An exhausted human entered the tavern. Like any other customers, he wore leather armor befitting of an adventurer. His dark brown hair reached his shoulders, and they were also unkempt as if he had traveled all the way from Randgriz without a break.
    His eyes looked around inside the tavern until they saw Zoan's clothing. He then approached the nomad step by step as if he was a zombie. Considering

    "Hey... Are you by chance a member of the Dalton Tribe?"
    "...!" Zoan stood up upon hearing the stranger's words.
    'I have never said anything about my tribe's name in the past. For the stranger to know about it... he must personally know about the tribe!'

    The nomad turned around and looked at the exhausted adventurer, but he doesn't appear to be familiar to the nomad at all.
    "Yes I am. Is there something bothering you?"

    The stranger was fazed by Zoan's response. As if he had found his goal, light started to return into his eyes. Yet at the same time, the clear expression of sadness emerged from the stranger's face.

    "Actually..."

    It was at that moment that he also saw Mallory and Herst, who were looking at him brimming with curiosity, and Fey who was playing with Kurain. Even though it was for just a split second, despite Herst and Fey clearly not being of the same race, the stranger saw them as a family.

    "I... actually, could you please come outside for a moment? I have an important matter to talk about." Without any moment of hesitation, Zoan agreed and went outside. Mallory and the others were told that they could eat first if their meal have arrived.

    Fifteen minutes later, Zoan entered the tavern once more.
    His expression was blank.

    Putting down the knife and fork, Mallory went to ask Zoan what the man had told him, but the nomad answered: "It's... It's nothing important. I'll talk about it later." He then took his own knife and fork and began to eat the steak.

    "Mm~ Yep. It's more delicious when roasted after all!" the nomad said and smiled. While this distraction worked on Fey and Herst, Mallory looked worried about Zoan. However, she said nothing about it and proceeded eating while talking about their week.

    --- --- ---

    "It was a bad news, wasn't it?" Mallory asked back at the cave.
    "Yep. Apparently the storm had not only separated me from my tribe physically, but also spiritually; they are dead."
    "O-Oh... I see..."

    It was odd seeing Zoan talk so nonchalantly about such a disheartening matter. With no emotion in his eyes, or on his face, his countenance came off as cold and unperturbed. This disturbed Mallory, who had grown quite close to him over the months they had spent together.

    "Don't worry about me. I know I said that I missed my family, but... it all feels empty now. guess I just can't process it yet." The nomad took a deep breath in and out. "There's no sadness inside me, no anger towards the storm and mother nature, in fact I could even say that--"

    Mallory stopped Zoan from talking any further by covering his whole mouth with her lips. Zoan was stunned, but instinctively closed his eyes while he kissed her back.

    After a couple of seconds, the two separated and he saw the her expression. It was that of pity, and something within Zoan reacted to it. It was his pride. "I don't need to be pitied. I just... need to sleep over my grief," the nomad said before closing his eyes.

    --- --- ---

    A week after that day, Herst and Fey have registered as adventurers. Herst seemed less happy about it, but it was a necessity as they had to earn money somehow.

    As to what happened to the nomad and the witch, they disappeared from Nagrand. The adventurer's guild did not hear anything from them anymore, and the new adventurers claim to not know their locations either.
     
  7. AliceShiki

    AliceShiki 『Ms. Tree』『Ophi-kun's Survival Teacher』

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    Sorry for the delay everyone, new quest batch is live~

    We're pretty much done with the backlog of rank up quests too btw, expect them to come shortly.

    ... And well, we don't keep track of how many points each person has at all, so if you reached rank up requirements, please poke us about it, alright?

    I guess I should start working on the next issue of the newspaper by now... That poor SS will keep getting delayed it seems... Oh well, Vhera-chan can wait~

    Oh, and as usual, if you want to be removed from the tag list, just poke me and I'll take you off on the spot~


    PS: Remember that you can still clear your quests from previous week, you have until Wednesday Night to do so!
     
    Last edited: May 1, 2019
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  8. Zero300

    Zero300 『Mask Maker』『Kamen Rider Khaos』『Demon Immortal』

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    why put up new ones when it's not even a week yet since the last batch....
     
  9. michael.kx5

    michael.kx5 [Sloth Incarnate][Lewd Overlord][The mediator]

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    The following SS is an 11k words long, broken into several uneven parts.
    Black text is Rei, or general pov.
    This text is Ayumi's pov.
    This text is Jack's PoV.
    After my first absolutely amazingly great idea in which I managed to add something to my personality, I now have one concern and one more idea which is just as great as the other!

    My concern is that the new part of my personality is still so small that it doesn't actually do anything yet. And the fact that my soul itself is weaker than that of the typical person.

    Which is why I had this awesome idea of how to fix that! My soul is made up of memories and emotions after all, and I heard about this thing called novels. I think that, by reading them, I can solve my concern!

    Although the problem here is that I can't read properly. So, for now, I'll try to find Rei so that she can help me read stuff!

    After searching for a while, I manage to spot Rei. She seems to be a bit distracted with something, but that doesn't matter right now. "Hey, Rei!" I shout. "Wanna go to the library with me?"


    I was taking a walk around town to help clear my head from thoughts because of what happened with Jack.
    I tried to train my body and mind in the inn but that only made them worse.

    When I was wondering what should I do in this kind of situation, I heard the voice of Ayumi-chan calling out my name.
    When I turned around to face her she asked me if I wanted to go to the library with her.
    Seeing as she was originally from another world and was an incomplete existence....yup, she wanted me to help her read, or teach her how to.
    While was happy Ayumi-chan would rely on me, I also felt pangs of guilt for liking her boyfriend, as well as a bit of relief to see her a bit more energetic than I last saw her.

    I smiled with joy towards Ayumi while burying the rest of my thoughts in the back of my mind.
    "Hey there, Ayaya. Sure, I have nothing better to do and it would help get my mind off certain things"
    During my long Journey, I saw people mix half-truth into their lies to make them more believable.
    I never thought I would use this one day too.

    "Thanks, Rei," comes my answer, whilst I am relieved to see that she's smiling now, as opposed to that weird face a bit ago. "I honestly am not too good at reading, and after misunderstanding a quest, I'd rather have someone help me than make a mistake like that again."


    I nod as I say
    "I see. No problem, I can also teach you how to read I'd you want."

    "That would be great, thanks!" After getting this offer, I immediately start dragging Rei towards the library.

    After being dragged into the Library by Ayumi-chan, we start by picking up a simple children's book and a random fairy tale book.
    I started teaching Ayumi by letting her read and pointing out any mistakes or explaining words she doesn't understand.
    Her learning capabilities were great, I guess that not being a "full bowl" helped.

    Once we have finished the fairy tale, we chose a random book from the novel shelve and started to read it together.

    The novel seems to be some sort of legend about an amazingly skilled archer making a bet with a dragon, traveling over the world to fulfill the bet. On the way, he does things like hitting an enemy behind a mountain, shooting an arrow through a labyrinth, or protecting his allies from a volley of arrows by shooting all of the projectiles down alone.

    Ayumi is an instant fan. "This is awesome! I wanna be as good as him!"


    "hahaha, I am sure you will"
    The book was obviously fiction but why ruin her the experience?
    Rei pulled another novel with a title she didn't recognize, it had pink bindings and a drawing of a vial on the cover.
    'The engagement of lady Marie'.
    What kinda title is that?
    I couldn't suppress my curiosity as I placed the book between us.
    "Hey Ayaya, let's read this next!"
    ...
    ......
    .........
    "Wha- wha- wha- WHAT KIND OF BOOK IS THIS?!"

    "I'm gonna be the greatest archer!" Ayumi confidently nods to herself.

    Upon seeing the new book, Ayumi is eager to read but doesn't really understand a lot of the stuff written within. Pointing at a line of text, she asks: "Hey, Rei, what does this mean?"


    Still very shocked by the book I randomly picked up, I accidentally read out the line pointed out by Ayumi.
    "*** ******* ********* ********** ****"
    with each word I could feel my cheeks getting warmer and warmer.
    Is this what they call an adult romance novel?

    As Rei reads the paragraph out loud, Ayumi first blushes, shocked silent for a few seconds. Then, she quietly exclaims: "I-Improper!"


    When I heard Ayumi's exclamation, I hurriedly closed the book.
    "Sorry! Didn't expect it to be something like that!"
    I placed the book aside on the table and reached out for another novel from the shelf.
    "Let's see.......oh?"
    This time I pulled out a book titled [Rucia].
    It seemed a bit tame compared to that extreme one from earlier.
    As I start reading it together with Ayumi we both got engrossed in the story.
    'At least there are no raunchy scenes this time, this book seems to have a wholesome romance......I stand corrected'
    A couple of chapters later the newlywed Duke (Male lead) and the female protagonist had their first night.

    At the beginning of the book, Ayumi nods - satisfied to have found a proper book again. But then, as the first improper scene starts, she first stares at it in confusion for a bit, before comprehending what it was about. So she takes a sideways glance at Rei and pokes her with her finger. "What does it say?"

    "Uhm, ehm, well, it's a newlywed's.....first night, you know, THAT. Lewd acts!"
    As I turned over the page, a certain picture was painted to fit the depicted scene jumped out at us.
    At first, I covered up my eyes with my hands but soon afterward my curiosity got the best of me and I peeked between the gaps of my fingers.

    Shocked silence from Ayumi, followed by a shout: "Improper!" as she slams the book shut, her face flushed.

    I looked at Ayumi a bit surprised and said
    "But they are married"

    "Yes, but... their relationship is proper, while the book isn't." Ayumi resolutely nods to herself.

    "I see"
    Rei puts the book aside and picks another one.
    This time she carefully checks the images and skims through to make sure no more surprises await them.
    Luckily this book was a completely wholesome romance novel, about an eccentric girl, who lost her memories each time she used magic.

    "Is that a proper book?" Questions Ayumi.

    "Yes, I think so. Should we read it?"

    "Sure! Does it have archers?"


    "Uhm, no, I don't think so......You want to read one with both romance and archery? I think I remember seeing a title like that among Shishou's books"

    "Yep, archery is amazing."

    "Alright, then I shall go find it"

    After looking through the index and asking the librarian, Rei finally found the old title on a shelf not far from where they were sitting.

    "Here it is, [Madan no Ou to Senki], or in the common language, [The king of magic arrows and the war maiden]."
    Rei gave the book to Ayumi while helping her understand words and terms she couldn't read so that she could slowly get used to reading on her own.

    As the book progresses, Ayumi gets more and more invested into the novel, until she barely notices Rei besides her.

    Surprised and happy at Ayumi's fast progress, and as Ayumi started reading on her own Rei secretly started reading the two 'improper' books from earlier.
    It's not like she liked those kinds of books, but she needed to get over her obliviousness and lack of resistance to sexual matters.
    Also, the content of the books tickled her curious and challenging spirit.

    With each and every line of the novel, Ayumi starts to feel what the characters feel, see what the characters see, and experience their lives alongside them.

    While Ayumi was immersed in her book, Rei put down the first novel she finished.....and went to look for something to wipe and block her nosebleed with.

    The descriptions were a tad too graphic for her inexperienced mind.
    "I didn't even know people do THAT kind stuff! I knew about the act in general but I didn't know there were so many various.....actions, one could do"

    When She was back to her seat with some ice and a handkerchief she got from the staff, she found Ayumi almost finished with her novel.
    She seems very satisfied with it.

    "She looks so cute when she reads so seriously"

    As Ayumi finishes the last line of the novel and turns over the last page, her hand moves through the air as it searches for the next page, but doesn't find any. With a dazed look, she slowly looks around before finding Rei.

    "Where's the next one?"


    "haha, you liked it that much huh? Let me get you the sequel."
    Rei walked back towards the shelf where she found the novel and picked up ALL the sequels.
    She had a feeling she will need to borrow these for Ayumi for later reading.
    It was getting quite late after all.

    Seeing Ayumi impatiently waiting for her books, Rei felt she should probably talk about THAT with her NOW.
    "Hey Ayumi-chan, I will borrow all these books for you in my name so you can read them at home, so can you listen to me for a bit? I have something important to talk about"
    Rei's expression at that time was sad and almost painful.

    "Oh?" Ayumi turns to Rei, pleasantly surprised by her offer, but upon seeing how sad she looks, this quickly fades.

    "Okay," she nods, "I'm listening."


    "Ayumi-chan, no, Ayumi.......I am very sorry!
    I- I- I actually love Jack.
    I think I was in denial before but, now I am not.
    I am very clear about my feelings.
    Yet, I don't know what to do with them!
    What's worse is they seem to be growing rapidly!
    I was convinced of that when we went on a quest together recently and he, uhm, kissed me.
    Also when we were reading 'those' books before, the first thing that came to my mind was Jack.
    Ah! I know He belongs to you, and I don't intend to steal him away from you.
    I just felt like I had to tell you about it.
    I didn't even feel jealousy when I saw the two of you together (as weird as that is).
    Hey, Ayumi........ Do you hate me now?"

    Rather surprised at this revelation, Ayumi stares at Rei in silence for a few seconds. Then she starts to think back on the talk she had with Jack not too long ago. She did indeed promise Jack that she would agree to his traditions instead of hers. And she also considers Rei nice.

    Having reached this point, Ayumi grasps for a pillow, but after a second thought, leaves the pillow alone. Instead, she stands up, calmly walks over to Rei, and hugs her. "I don't hate you," Ayumi answers quietly, and tightens her hug.

    "First talk to Jack about it, okay?"


    "Ayumi-chan? What do you mean?"
    Rei was confused by the unexpected reaction and advise.

    "What do you mean what do I mean?" Asks Ayumi, somehow not understanding that Rei doesn't know about her talk with Jack.

    Slightly chuckling at Ayumi's obvious air-headedness, Rei then seriously answers.
    "What did you mean by talking to Jack about? What am I supposed to tell him? Just that I love him?"

    "Yes?" States Ayumi the (to her) obvious. "And if he agrees, I'm first, and you're second."

    Rei blinked as she tried to understand the implications of what Ayumi just said.
    "First? Second? You....are you saying we are going to share Jack? Are you really okay with that?"

    Ayumi thinks about it again, then adds: "But I get the right to hit you with a pillow if I want to."

    Rei burst in laughter as she nodded.
    "Hahahaha, wait let me breathe, phew, yeah alright no problems. You are already comprising so much, I can't exactly be so shameless as to refuse"

    After nodding in agreement, Ayumi shushes Rei: "Shh, we're in a library."

    Realizing Ayumi is right, Rei nodded and lowered the volume of her leftover giggles.
    "Alright, what do you say we get you these books and then go to Jack's place?"

    "Yes!" Nods Ayumi, grasping Rei by her hand, and pulling her towards where she thinks the sequels are.

    "Ayumi, they are not on that shelf, but this one."
    Rei pointed to the right direction, opposite of where Ayumi was going.

    "Oh." Pretending as if nothing had happened, Ayumi changes directions and walls towards the direction Rei indicated, before asking the question: "How do we borrow a book anyway?"

    "Easy, you just show them your Identification badge or papers to the librarian, he writes down your name, what books you borrowed, and for how long in the registration book, and you pay a 5 large copper deposit.
    You also get fined if you go over the agreed upon time limit, and if you don't come back to the library twice over the time limit, you will be charged with theft."
    Rei explained the process and details while peeking the sequel novels from the shelf and heading towards the entrance, where an Orc librarian was manning the counter.

    "Oh~" Ayumi exclaims in wonder, not understanding anything Rei says. "Why is it that complicated?"

    "So that people won't steal books, they are very precious."
    Rei explained to Ayumi as she takes out her bronze badge and shows it to the librarian.
    The official takes a look at the name behind and nods as he writes down her name and the books they dropped on his table.
    When he reaches the final column he doesn't raise his face from the registry as he asks.
    "How long are you gonna borrow these for? The deposit fee changes accordingly.
    It's 5 small copper for a day, 2 large copper for a week, 5 large copper for a month"

    Rei looks at Ayumi and asks "how fast do you think can you finish these?"

    "Uh..." Ayumi starts thinking. "If I spend all day reading them... A week or two? Just borrow them for two weeks, I'll make sure to finish them by then."

    Rei turned towards the librarian and hands over 5 large copper.
    "For a month then, you need time for quests as well.
    Alright, let's go find Jack."
    The two began their search in the nearby Guild hall, where they were lucky to spot the Gourd looking for his next quest.
    "Hey, Jack"

    "Oh, you two!" The gourd jovially waved. "Haven't seen you for a while! That's a lot of books."

    "Oh, yeah.
    I borrowed those for Ayumi-chan since she liked the series.
    Hey Jack, can we go somewhere private? We have something important to talk about"

    "Oh? Sure!"

    Of course, they took the same room in the tavern as last time. Properly locking the door this time.


    After putting away the books on the table,
    Just as Rei was about to open her mouth she found herself falling silent from fear.
    She couldn't understand what she was so afraid of, this was the first time she felt like this.
    'Come on, where is your challenging spirit? Girls gotta be courageous, right?'
    But she continued to stay silent, opening her mouth and closing it like a fish, while fidgeting in her place.

    At first, Ayumi quietly follows Rei and Jack, nodding when Rei mentions the important talk. But then, as Rei starts hesitating, she quickly grows impatient.

    Whilst shouting: "Aaargh!" Ayumi hits Rei with all of her power (which isn't too much, but still notable). "Come on! Are you gonna tell him or not!?"


    Being hit by Ayumi, Rei finally woke up from her panic state and stared at Ayumi and Jack alternatively.
    After taking a phew deep breaths she straightened her back and whispered a "thank you" by Ayumi's ear, before facing Jack.

    "Jack, what would you do if I told you that I l-love you?"

    "Took you long enough!" The gourd pulled on Rei so she sits right next to him. "I was wondering why you're so indecisive about it."

    Finally hearing Rei confess, Ayumi nods with satisfaction. Then, as Jack pulls her to sit next to him, Ayumi stops, but only waits for now.


    Surprised by Jack's words, Rei lets him pull her to a sitting position.
    "You knew?!
    I myself only just realized it a little while ago!
    Well? What is your answer?"

    "I'll take you too, why not? I don't see what's the big deal." He said lightly, gesturing Ayumi to sit on his other side.

    Humming happily, Ayumi plops down next to Jack, (not so) secretly giving Rei a thumbs up before leaning onto Jack. "And me?"

    "Especially you." The gourd lifted his helmet and kissed Ayumi lightly.


    Receiving Jack's kiss, Ayumi blushes and gently returns it, only remembering Rei after a few seconds - and then blushes even more.

    Rei blushed at the lovers scene in front of her as she remembers how he kissed her yesterday.
    She lightly tugged at Gourd's cloak while leaning towards him and stared at his lips with an expectant gaze.

    The gourd complied, fully devouring Rei's lips this time, stealing her breath as they unite far more passionately. Far longer, not separating up until the very limit of their lungs.

    "Satisfied yet?" He whispered, lightly biting her ears.


    Getting more than she was expecting, Rei nodded frantically to Gourd's question as she felt all her strength leaving her body.
    The stimulus from the deep kiss was more than her romantically inexperienced body and mind could take at present.
    But first thing first....
    She almost forgot an important step in Oni mating culture.
    Rei took Jack's hand and guides it up to her horns.
    "Here too please"

    "Of course."

    He caressed the horns slowly, taking his time planting a kiss on one... and then the other.


    Ayumi, enviously staring from the side, rather impolitely butts in: "Me too."

    She leans in, stretching out her right hand to touch one of Rei's horns, hugging Jack from behind in the progress.


    When both their hands touched Rei's horns for over a minute, suddenly a short flash of light shined and small cracking sound could be heard.
    Rei felt the area near her horns heating up, and a short sharp burst of pain went through them.
    She grasped her head as she endured the pain, and when.it stopped she sighed in relief and looked upwards to see both Jack and Ayaya staring at her horns.
    Ayaya was wearing a surprised expression that soon turned into worry, while Jack looked surprised and in deep thought.
    "What? Did something happen to my horns?"

    "It has some... pattern on it." The gourd was trembling at what he saw.

    A line of infinity symbol ran horizontally through the center. There was a miniature smudge that, upon closer look, was depicting a pair of trees.

    Growing above the line was a lush tree with a crown full of leaves, and vines running down from its branches.

    Growing in reverse below the line right under the first, was a mirror of the same tree but it was clearly dead without any of the leaves.

    "...impossible."


    "hmmm? A pattern? What kind of pattern? Is it on both of them? Wait, why is there a pattern on my horns.........oh right NOW I remember! Okaa-sama also had some small pattern on horns! And so did all the married women in our clan!........I thought they inscribed those themselves, but.......
    Btw what did you mean by "Impossible"?"

    "Yes!" Confirms Ayumi, worriedly looking at Rei and her horns. Upon closer inspection, the horn she looks at, as opposed to the one the Gourd is looking at, has quite a different appearance.

    Instead of infinity, this horn has a circle of bones, which inexplicably give the viewer the feeling that they are damaged, scratched, or worn.

    But while this alone might be a very bleak picture, there seems to be a blazing fire burning on, or rather, encasing these bones, like a beacon of endurance, hope, and life.

    However, Ayumi currently cares little for this. Instead, she questions Rei: "Are you alright?" Her voice trembling slightly as she considers the possibility of this being her fault. "What do you mean, all married women had patterns?"


    "Yes, I am alright now.
    It just felt very hot and painful for a minute, but now it's okay.
    Well, I don't know the details of why and how exactly, but all women who had a spouse in our clan usually had a small inscription around the base of their horns, each person had a different pattern matching on both horns."

    "There's a chain of infinity circling near the middle. Then a tiny pattern of a very... nostalgic tree. I haven't seen one of those for a long time." The gourd was trembling a bit. He didn't tell what's the significance of the dead tree, there's no point making them worry. But how did it appear here?

    He looked down on both his hands.


    I've escaped that accursed place, but seems that the fragment I left behind wouldn't disappear so easily...

    "This sign over here has some wearied bones, and a fire like a soul. Feels like myself, I guess?"

    Then Ayumi starts thinking about what's just happened. After what might be the smartest conclusion she came to in her rather short life, she wonders: "Does that mean that we are married now?"

    Feeling Gourd tremble, Ayumi hugs him tightly.


    "Two different patterns?......and they both seem familiar to you two? So each horn represent one of you? Interesting. Maybe I should make a visit home sometime soon and ask Shishou or Okaa-sama.
    Well, by Oni standards we probably are married or engaged.
    ......
    Hmmm? Hey, Jack are you alright? You seem pale"
    Rei reached out her hands and clasped both his trembling hands in her own.

    "I'm... alright. Just remembered home." He half-lied. "So... we're married eh?"

    He grinned, pulling Rei closer. Was the change of topic smooth enough? Would Rei even care to pursue the line of thoughts?


    Noting that Jack has stopped trembling, Ayumi purrs as she enjoys the body contact, but this purr ends up cut somewhat short as she notes Jack's body - pretty much bone-thin. Resting her head on his shoulder, she wonders to herself: Is he eating enough?

    Getting pulled into very close quarters, Rei flustered and blushed a bit as she replied to Gourd.
    "Y-yeah, I guess. Only by Oni traditional standard though, and it's only a mild guess at best. I might be remembering wrong."

    At the same time, Rei Also noted Jack's hands stopped trembling.
    Maybe the positive body contact helped?
    Gathering up her courage, Rei imitated Ayumi by going even closer to Gourd and hugging him with her entire body........which wasn't much to be honest.
    As she hugged him from the front Rei could feel that the parts of his body that weren't covered by the armor were very....thin. un-naturally so.
    Deciding to give Gourd a chance to explain himself, and to leave it alone if he doesn't want t answer, Rei asks a simple question.
    "Jack, is there anything you would like to tell us? For example why you are so skinny?"

    "I'm having a small curse problem. Several injuries aren't healing due to that." He plainly stated. "Doesn't affect my mobility much, although most of my reserve energy is locked to keep it stable."

    Not really understanding what Jack means, Ayumi nods in understanding. "If we can help you, just tell us, okay? We're married now after all." Whilst saying this, she snuggles herself closer to Jack, giving a displeased glance at his cuirass as she fails to find a comfortable position.


    He chuckled.

    "I doubt you can help with it, right now. But I'm working to get it fixed, alright? Well, see for yourself."

    He unscrewed the cuirass, letting it drop heavily. His body was padded thickly with clothing, it was difficult to tell with the cuirass but now it's plain how thin he actually was.


    Taking off most of the clothing padding Jack's body, Rei felt his body up and was surprised to find out he was even thinner than she thought.
    "I am surprised you managed to withstand our duel or fight at all with such body...... How strong were you before you were cursed?" Rei stated and asked as she continued to feel up Jack's muscles.

    With the cuirass and most of his clothes out of the way, Ayumi happily hugs Jack again, purring as she starts to feel his body's warmth.

    There was barely any muscle to be felt. Mostly bones underneath the thin, sickly-pale skin. His chest was uneven from some broken ribs, left forearm propped straight with wooden splints, the same on his right leg.

    There were zombies shambling around looking healthier than him.


    Ayumi suddenly opens her eyes widely. Scanning Jack's whole mangled body, Ayumi thinks about getting a pillow, but with the state his body currently is at, she is afraid that even that might hurt him. So she turns to Gourd: "This isn't a small problem, you should be cured as soon as possible!"

    Looking at the injuries again, a deep frown visible on her face, she sighs with worry, all previous thoughts banished.


    Rei stared at Jack's body silently before glaring at Jack with a frown.
    "A SMALL problem?! You look like you should be getting a tombstone order made for you anytime now! You suicidal pumpkin, you are going to lay down bed and rest even if I have to force you to do it!"

    "It's not as bad as it looks." He tried downplaying the severity again. "I'm healthy enough to fight a drake or two! Maybe even Soren!"

    In doubt, Ayumi lightly pokes one of the broken ribs. "Does this hurt?"

    "It does." He replied with a flat face.

    There was a moment of silence.

    "...I got used to it!"


    Ayumi frowns and proclaims her diagnosis: "Severe case of undernourishment and injury. You," she harshly states while pointing at Jack, "need to eat more. At least one whole hog per day."

    "Okay now I know you are bluffing, Soren would flatten both of us"
    When he mentioned Soren Rei shakes her head, relieved he at least has enough leeway to joke around.
    Then Ayaya had the brilliant idea (not really) to poke Jack's broken riba.
    ......
    "Well, I saw you in action so I know what you are capable of, even in this state, but PLEASE try not to worry us okay?"

    Rei felt her mouth twitch when Ayumi mentioned a whole hog a day.
    "Ayumi-chan? I don't think he (or even I for that matter) can eat that much"

    "...can we scale down the hog? Maybe a whole rabbit? I can do a rabbit." He's sweating at the thought of Ayumi forcing down an entire hog into his throat.

    "And Rei, I'm fine. You've tested it personally before, didn't you?" He patted the oni. "And once I recover I'll totally kick Soren's ass."


    "hehe that I can't wait to see, shall we have a rematch then? I will also regain at least a part of my former strength"

    "A hog is normal!" Protests Ayumi, absolutely certain that such a diet would directly improve Jack's health.

    "Also..." she wonders, "what rematch? Did you two fight before?"


    "It'll take a really long time though." He mused at the thought. Recovery... so far away.

    "Ayumi, a small hog can feed a family for three days." But then again, most family doesn't have Ayumi. "It was just a spar!"


    "Looking forward to it!
    But yeah, it was just a light spar where he almost killed me by sending me flying, I landed on Helmet, sat on his crotch, and he carried me princess style because my hips gave in from the landing. So yeah, pretty normal light sparring"

    "A hog can't even last me a single day..." grumbles Ayumi.

    "Almost killed? Landed... sat on- carried-? Hips gave in!?" This time without hesitation, Ayumi swiftly grabs two pillows, throwing them into the faces of both Jack and Rei with pinpoint accuracy.


    "What's this? Does Ayumi want some 'light sparring' too?"

    He was rather unfazed, and flirted back instead.

    "Rei could watch from the side, we can't let her hips give in again after all!"


    "Wha- what..." Ayumi's face instantly flushes as she understands what Gourd implies. She looks away shyly but nods in confirmation.

    "Omph"
    Rei grunts as she takes the pillow to the face.
    She notes that Ayumi's throwing skills improved from before.

    "Eh? Wha-? You gonna do it here? In front of me? Wait, don't leave me out! I am sorry for trying to tease you, so please let me in too!"
    Rei yelled out blushing.

    "Very well, since you asked so nicely..." he smiled smugly at Rei. "I promised Ayumi that she'll be first, but you're next in line. So... undress, and have a good look of your fate."
    Here goes a redacted scene, please enjoy this time a beautiful scene of a bee collecting nectar from a flower.
    (For any who are interested in the redacted scene, please tell us and we will invite you to the PM)

    Putting away all the random thoughts to the back of her mind, Rei pulled Ayumi towards Jack, each of them took a spot under his arms, snuggling close to his body, basking in the afterglow and his smell.
    "I love you, my dear mates"


    "Okay, that's about enough for one session."

    He stretched, taking turn kissing his lovers. They all need bath, the room's air completely warped with sex not to mention all the bodily fluids covering them, but the skinship wasn't bad. It'll just take more scrubbing later to get clean.

    "Bath later?"



    With a big smile on her face, Ayumi nods in agreement with Rei's statement: "I love you two as well."

    After a few - in comparison to those before - much gentler kisses, Jack brings up the reasonable topic of a bath. Looking around the room, Ayumi wonders: "Will this ever become as clean as before?"



    After she fully enjoyed the cuddling and kisses, Rei agreed with Jack.
    "Yes, we all need one. Badly.
    You should go first.
    I know from experience men take less time in the bath than women.
    Take it from someone who lived as both."

    As she heard Ayumi's question, Rei looks around as well and feel quite a bit of pity towards the employee who has to clean this mess up.
    Frankly, it looked like they had more than only 3 participants in their carnal festival.
    "I don't know, but I sure don't want to be the one who has to explain this to the staff"


    "Yes, you've got a point."

    He conceded, slipping out of their grasp way too easily to have been possible. He undid the splint on his forearm and calf, dropping it by the side of the tub before hopping in.



    Whilst waiting for Jack to finish the bath, Ayumi slowly but surely notices a few things. First and foremost, she is hungry. Second, almost every part of her body seems to be sore. Third, she most definitely enjoyed what just happened. Turning to Rei, she asks the important question: "Are you hungry?"


    Rei turned towards Ayumi as she chuckled.
    Ayumi-chan was being Ayumi-chan, a helpless glutton.
    "No, I think I swallowed more than my fair share of nutrients just now. I wouldn't refuse a light snack and a strong drink to cleanse my palate though."
    A random thought went through her mind about a "pumpkin seed diet" involving drinking from the "faucet" and she broke into a fit of giggling


    "Whew! That was refreshing."

    If the two girls returned from their momentary distraction, they'd be just in time to see the gourd clicking over his head. Fully clothed, cuirass and all. It was barely a minute.

    "Mm, it's getting late. I really should mind my garden. Need anything sent up here? Food? I'll tell the keeper."



    Hm..." Ayumi thinks, and she thinks deeply about the matter of her being hungry whilst others are not. "Well, I'm always hungry, but I don't know why."

    "What! So fast!?" Exclaims Ayumi as she sees Jack already fully clothed. "Did you even use the bath?"



    After calming down from her laughing fit, Rei faced Ayumi and said "If you are constantly hungry it might be indication you are constantly using your energy for something.
    Regular humans have to consume food in order to just keep their body functional, but you probably need energy even just for constantly maintaining your existence. And a lot of it too. Well don't worry about things you can't help or change, we will find a way to fix you somehow one day. I promise"
    She patted Ayumi's head with a motherly smile.

    When shortly afterwards Jack came towards them, all suited up already, she glanced at him and said calmly.
    "As expected of the Gourd god, he ever mastered the miracle of quick change.
    Hmm, yes a feast for Ayumi is defenitely in order.
    Just a heavy drink, and a snack to go with it for me though."


    "Two hogs, a barrel of ale, and some peanuts. Got it. They'll be up in... thirty minutes? Should be enough for a bath."

    He whistled as he walked out, seemingly in an upbeat mood.



    Hearing Rei's opinion on the subject, Ayumi tries to feel her very existence. There's her soul, at this point surprisingly healthy compared to the first time she witnessed it, but still not at what she'd estimate the common person is at. And then, as she focuses more on the connection between her soul and body, there seems to be something like a strange luster. Assuming that to be her 'energy level', she immediately notices a constant drain on it.

    After heaving a sad sigh at the revelation that what Rei said seems to be the truth, she turns towards her: "Yeah, please fix me. I'd still wanna be able to eat a lot though."

    She nods in satisfaction at the size of the meal Jack orders but pauses at the 30 minutes remark. Looking down at her dirty body, it did seem like a lot of work to clean it up. After exchanging a glance with Rei, she dashes (or more like wobbles) towards the bathroom. "We better hurry up, I don't want to be seen in public like this!"



    "Agreed, the tub is big enough for the both of us so it would prudent for us to take a bath together."
    Fortunately for them, Jack has already drained the dirty water, and set the pump to fill the empty tub.

    Using the soap bar, they each took turns washing each other's in places that were hard to reach on their own.
    Then they both dipped into the full bathtub, the smaller Rei sat between Ayumi's legs and rested her head on the soft body behind her.
    Ayumi's arms came down and hugged Rei from behind.
    "Hey Ayumi-chan, do you want to come live in my room? I sleep in an inn called "The dancing hammer"........ It's a much nicer place than the name suggests and the food is tasty"


    After finally in the bathtub and, with the help of Rei, somewhat clean again, Ayumi relaxes as Rei leans onto her body. As Ayumi gently hugs Rei's small and soft body, giving her a light squeeze, Rei offers her to live with her in Rei's room.

    Thinking about it for a few seconds, Ayumi doesn't find a reason to disagree, and living together with Rei would have a few neat perks, like having a soft bed. So she asks the final, important question: "Do they also have a lot of food?"



    Rei chuckled as she nodded the question.
    "Yes, and if not then I will go hunt something for you".
    Then a knock rang on the door.

    "Hello, food delivery!"

    When she heard the door being knocked and the waitress's voice, she realised they were getting too relaxed and forgot to mind the time.
    She scrambled out of the bath and quickly ran to the door while wrapping around herself a clean towel to cover herself.
    Luckily the towel was big enough to cover he entire body, like a fluffy dress.
    She opened the door a bit, peeking outside.
    When saw that there were only three waitressses, each pushing a cart with their food and drinks, she quickly rushed them inside.
    Obviously the three young girls were dumbfounded at the situation the room was in.
    Looking Rei's current appearance, the vague form of a girl in the tub, the smell in the room, and the fact that the food was ordered by a male C rank adventurer, the three young ladies connected the dots.

    The three newcomers found multitude of reasons to quickly vacate the premise, although most were conveyed in flustered mumbles. The three carts were making the room feels small, but that's quite secondary compared to what it got in store.

    The first had a pair of roasted hogs, still hot and dripping with grease.

    The second contained side dishes like pickles and bite-size fried meat, several different kinds of them. The centerpiece, however, was a large circular egg the size of a head. It was boiled with spices and whatnot and still remained in its pot, the shell seeming leathery instead of brittle. Didn't the gourd brought a drake egg a while back..?

    The third had a medium barrel of ale. It was a decent brew too.

    Who knows how much all that cost. And in their hurry, the waitress didn't really thought to ask who will eat it all.

    "Ayumi, let's dry ourselves and dress up.
    Food is here........is that a drake egg?!
    And he really ordered two hogs and a full barrel if ale! High quality stuff too!"
    Mid sentence Rei's suprise and excitement made her forget all her fatigue and sparkles showed up in her eyes as she looked at the luxury feast. Especially with the second and the third carts.
    Even if she wasn't hungry, the delicious smell tickled her appetite.


    As someone knocks on the door, Rei gets up before Ayumi can, rushing off to take care of this business. Irresponsible as Ayumi is, she just allows herself to sink back into the bath, relaxing as the food gets rolled into the room.

    That is, relaxing until she smells the food. Even as Rei starts to tell her to dress up, Ayumi is already out of the bathtub, drying her body and putting on her clothes at astounding speed. It feels as if only seconds after Rei talks about what food is there, Ayumi is standing behind her, her chest heaving up and down as she is out of breath from her hurried effort to arrive at the food as soon as possible.

    Whilst looking at the food, she stakes her claim on it: "I'll take one and a half hog!"



    Rei followed Ayumi's lead and talked while dressing up. She fast dried her body with the heat from her flame arts.
    "Well, that was fast. Don't worry, nobody will steal your food and it won't run away.
    Take your time."
    As she was changing, Rei noticed that Gourd left several marks on her body, proof of his ownership.
    "When did he even.......that sly pumpkin."
    While her tone was harsh, she couldn't hide the small smile forming on her lips.
    However, as expected going into public with those in clear sight was too emberessing so she covered them with bandages.

    All dressed and suited up, Rei joined Ayumi at the table And began to nibble on the various bite size meat slices while taking large gulps from the mug she filled with Ale from the barrel.
    After enjoying the different kinds of salty snacks, Rei took a pair of cutlery and started on the drake egg.
    First using the fork she made a few holes in its shell, and then she peeled it away to expose the soft egg white.
    She stabbed the knife into the egg and cut it apart into several slices, so they both could enjoy the rare delicacy, and took one of the slices into her mouth.
    The white had a soft fluffy texture like a cloud and tasted like a high quality steak and fire-wine yet it wasn't heavy on the tongue, the yolk was half liquid, tasting like sweet potatoes, making it the perfect snack to go with alcohol.
    Before Ayumi noticed, the barrel was already empty, disappearing into Rei's stomach together with half of the egg.
    The culprit was laying down and taking a short nap on her knees.


    While Rei decimates the snacks, Ayumi turns her focus on the hog - one and a half. It's been rather long since she last ate that much, but with how hungry she is feeling right now, she thinks to herself, this should be what's needed to sate her hunger for food.

    So she gracefully picks up her cutlery and, with almost pure violence fueled by hunger, starts to viciously chomp into the hog, ironically enough barely using her cutlery. With Ayumi being as frenzied as she is, she only manages to notice her surroundings when she finished both hogs, one half more than planned. Patting her stomach, Ayumi wonders about how she can fit two whole hogs now, whilst one single hog used to be a challenge to her before.

    Suddenly becoming aware of a weight on her knees, she looks down and notices Rei - an empty barrel lying on the ground next to her - with her head resting on Ayumi's knees. After carefully eating the rest of the drake egg (while Ayumi does admit that it tasted good, she fails to understand the appeal of food that is less cost effective in regards to nutrients), Ayumi gently caresses Rei's head, stroking her hair while staring at her face.

    She looks content, Ayumi muses to herself before finally failing to hold herself back from poking that adorable, soft cheek.



    Even as her head gets patted and her cheek was poked, Rei still didn't wake up from her nap.
    Around half an hour later, just as Ayumi's legs were starting to hurt a bit, Rei woke up on her own.
    Her eyes stared at those of Ayumi who was overlooking her from above with a smile.
    Feeling a bit sorry for Ayumi who had endure her body weight on her knees, she quickly got up and and noticed that the two hogs were completely gone together with the other half of the drake egg.
    "Whoa, you really ate it all", Rei said as she stared at the empty dishes which now hold only the remains of hog bones.

    She stretched her slightly sore body, fully aware the true pain would come only tomarrow morning..... it might even last several days.
    And her time of the month was getting close too.......Rei decided that she will probably have to avoid doing any hard quests for the time being.
    Maybe she could use the time to bond with her new roommate and her new pet.
    Raijun was smart so he quickly learned not to soil the inn floor and furnitures, though that might be attributed to how scary the innkeeper lady was when she found out.
    She also hoped Raijun would get along with Ayumi and Jack.

    "Alright, we are full, I had a good nap, and we are clean. I say we are done here so let's go home, don't you think so Ayumi-chan?"
    Rei said while packing away Ayumi's books.


    After having fun poking Rei's cheek for some time, Ayumi is slightly disappointed when Rei finally wakes up. But there's going to be another chance in the future,Ayumi bemusedly thinks to herself.

    Upon hearing Rei's comment on the now missing hogs, Ayumi protests, already having an excuse for her large appetite prepared: "Of course I ate it all! After all, wasting food is bad."

    "Yeah, let's go home!" Comes Ayumi's high-spirited answer, before she grasps Rei's hand and drags her out of the room and in. However! This time! She actually asks Rei where the inn is located at, and follows her guidance.



    Once the two of them arrive at the inn while earning quite a few weird looks from passing beastmen, they saw the Innkeeper' son cleaning up the storefront.
    As he noticed the approaching Teohe raised his hand to greet them but stopped halfway, the look on his face turning into one of shock and then a mix of anger, despair, sadness, and frustration.
    He threw away the street broom on the ground and ran into the inn with tears in his eyes.

    Suprised by the unexpected reaction, Rei tilts her head to the side as she asks "What was that?"
    Right then the door opened again and the innkeeper lady stepped outside, she threw a look in their direction and a look of understanding and some pity crossed her face.

    "No wonder my boy was crying, I thought at first he was being bullied, but it was just youth"

    Again Rei tilts her head and asks "What do you mean by that?"
    The innkeeper shakes her head and comes closer to the small looking Oni, whispering in her ear a question.
    "You lost your maidenhood didn't you?"

    Rei's face was.full of shock as she stared at the innkeeper and whispered back.
    "Well yes but.....how In the world could you know that?!"
    The innkeeper lady chuckled as she said
    "Rei, you know beastmen have a superior sense of smell than other races right? You have a faint smell of blood, the scent of being marked by a male, and a poweful one at that.
    By the way who is your little friend here? She smells the same as you, blood and the scent of the same man"

    Rei paled as she realised the implications of what was just said.
    "Then that means all the beastmen we met on route were staring at us because of....."
    She shakes her head and stopped thinking about how probably the entire town is going to know about this by tomorrow evening.


    Whilst Rei is confused at the weird looks they are receiving, Ayumi simply doesn't notice them, happily humming "Sign of the Cross" as she finally arrives at the inn with Rei. Much to her surprise a boy which, if you're only talking about looks, would seem to be of the same age of Rei raises his hand as if to greet them. But, after a sudden torrent of emotions flowing over his face, seemingly directed at Rei, he runs away crying.

    As the Oni in question tilts her head in confusion, Ayumi does so as well. The innkeeper lady's comment gives her a faint feeling of just what's wrong with the boy. After politely waiting while Rei and the innkeeper lady whisper to one another, Ayumi pats Rei's head. "I didn't think you'd be so popular."

    When the innkeeper lady mentions 'Rei's little friend', with her voice notably louder than before, Ayumi notices that her moment has come. Coughing once, she takes a deep breath before introducing herself, not hesitating in the slightest to talk about her new relationship with Jack and Rei: "I'm Ayumi, the awesome! The most outstanding thing about me is my appetite, and I'm married to Rei and Jack now."



    The innkeeper had an astounded look for a moment before sending Rei a questioning gaze.
    Feeling cold sweat dripping down her back Rei frantically defends Ayumi.
    "She is my friend, and she is a bit...unique.
    Please ignore what she said, while it's true we are mates we aren't officially married by Ternus laws.
    Is it alright if She lives in my room because of certain circumstances?"

    The innkeeper lady sighs and smiles at Rei and Ayumi.
    "Sure, I already put up with that pup you brought one day from a quest.
    Just make sure to introduce me to to the stud who charmed two such lovely girls."
    (I am not gonna let my "little blue star" get snatched by some guy without taking a look to ascertain him first, plus our sales rose by 20 % ever since she started living here).
    What Rei didn't know was that ever since she came to the dancing hammer inn, the regulars and frequent customers took a liking to the small bit fiesty looking adventurer who watched over her like their daughter or grandaughter, and that she became the unofficial mascot of the shop.

    After entering the inn the first thing Rei and Ayumi did was to go to her room to get a change of clothes for both of them.
    Luckily, Rei's clothes were somewhat adjustable just enough to fit on Ayumi.
    That is, untill they found out she needed to tighten the belt to keep Rei's pants from slipping.
    An awkward silence filled the room.
    Rei compared her own waist with that of Ayumi.
    Although the difference wasn't visible at first, her own lower assets were certainly bigger than Ayumi's.
    Rei fell to her knees and places her hands on the floor as she hanged her head down.
    ((OTL))

    As she was being depressed over the possibility she might be losing her proud fitness, Rei felt her cheek being licked by a flat tongue and a hand patting her Inthe back.
    When she raised her head she saw Raijun and Ayumi trying to console her.
    Feeling a bit embarrassed about losing her cool like that, Rei pulled herself together and after choosing an outfit for later, took the three of them to the washing area of the inn.
    'By the way, when did she manage to make her tail and ears disappear?'
    Though Rei as she notices that Ayumi no longer had extra cat features.

    It needs not be said that the two girls tried to wash their body as much as they could to try and get rid of the supposed smell.
    Jun was having fun swimming in a basin Rei filled with water for him after washing and brushing his fur.
    "By the way, what did you mean by that back at the entrance, Ayaya? Something about being popular?"


    "Unique indeed, there's no one else like me." Chatters Ayumi, somehow even more hyperactive than usual.

    Upon being complimented as lovely, Ayumi blushes lightly. "You'll find him charming indeed. But, ah!" She suddenly exclaims: "He's already taken, okay?"

    After this small conversation, Ayumi follows Rei up to her room for a change of clothes - only to surprisingly discover that Rei is quite well grown in at least one regard. As Rei falls to the floor in sadness (though Ayumi has no idea why exactly), Ayumi stares at her for a few seconds before patting her back encouragingly.

    After a bit of scrubbing to get rid of the scent (though Ayumi doesn't see an actual reason to get rid of it), Ayumi simply relaxes within the tub. Whilst she is staring at the adorable puppy swimming around, Ayumi gets questioned by Rei about her comment back at the inn's entrance.

    "Well, yes. Didn't the boy like you?"



    "HUH?!".
    The suprising revelation made Rei drop the armguards she was cleaning, making a loud clanging noise as they fell together on the wood.
    "Are you serious? No, it's Ayumi-chan so there is no chance you are lying...... suddenly a lot of things started to make sense."
    Rei sighed to herself, disappointed in how dense she was, both in Jack's case and this one.
    'Is this what Raikou meant back then? Probably'


    "You didn't know?" Comes Ayumi's surprised question as she stands still, her mouth gaping open from surprise. Feeling pity for Rei, she pats her head. "Don't worry, we have Jack now, don't we?"


    "Yes, you are right. I have you two and that's all that matters"
    After she made a rapid recovery, Rei finished cleaning and maintenance of her equipment, and they all left the bath after drying themselves with the towels.
    On the way back to the room they met the innkeeper and let her know they didn't need any dinner, and that the were going straight to sleep because they were tired.
    The innkeeper had a smirk on her face when heard that, and said "I will prepare a rich breakfast tomorrow then. Believe me, you will need it"

    In their bedroom Rei, Ayumi, and Jun, were sleeping on the only bed in the room.
    Since they were all on the small side, they were all able to fit entirely, especially when snuggling together.
    Ayumi was hugging Rei from the front, who in turn was hugging Jun between their bellies.
    The sound of calm and long breathes filled the otherwise silent room.
    The first to wake up was Jun, who after escaping her hug, proceeded to lick her face and release cute barks.
    Being forcefully awaken by the sensation of a tongue on her face and the sound of puppy barks, Rei cought Jun in her hands and slowly lowered him down to the floor.
    There, Jun ran in circles as he waited for Rei to unlock the door so they could go eat breakfast.

    As she tried to move her body, Rei noticed she was extremely sore.
    Especially her waist.
    She could still somehow manage to stand, but her legs were shaky and she took slow steps towards the door.
    After letting Jun out, who happily ran off towards the kitchen to receive leftovers from the cook, Rei turned around and fell on the bed near Ayumi and waking her up in the process.
    "Good morning Ayaya, you seem to be suprisingly well. Mind helping me change? We can go eat breakfast right afterwards"


    Having slept through the night like a stone, Ayumi only wakes up when something falls onto the bed next to her. She groggily opens her eyes in confusion and notices Rei, who immediately greets her.

    With a large yawn, Ayumi answers: "I ate and slept a lot, so I'm pretty much fine already." After stretching a bit, Ayumi then jumps off the bed, only to grimace as she, just like Rei, is rather sore - though far from as much as Rei.

    "Come on," she addresses Rei, "let me help you."

    Ayumi starts to help Rei change clothes rather tenderly - perhaps because of how sore Rei is, but perhaps there is another reason. Once they are finished, Ayumi loudly proclaims her hunger and half-drags half-carries Rei to the dining room.



    Once they are seated at the table Rei always used, a large meal makes its way to their table.
    The confused pair exchange glances and asked at the same, ""Was it you? I didn't order this"" , and the waitress replied.
    "This one is on the house, from the innkeeper and her husband.
    As thanks for being a regular customer and a tasty bait-...oops forget I said that.
    Anyway enjoy your meal, as far as I heard you need it."

    While Rei had a sweatdrop on her head from the energetic waitress, Ayumi had already started on decimating the grain foods and the salad.
    Realising that at this rate she might be left without anything to eat, Rei hurried and put some vegetables and bread on her plate, and started eating her own bowl of potato soup.
    As always, the food was very delicious.
    Meanwhile, Jun was busy eating leftovers from a bowl with his name near Rei's chair.

    When they finished their breakfast, and were drinking some green tea - a commidety from Eastern countries that commoners enjoyed more than nobles - Rei brought up the subject of their plans today.
    "I want to visit Lyra today, to buy a morning-after potion.
    But first, we need to find Jack.
    Do you know where he lives?"

    Right as she finished talking, suddenly a hand landed on her shoulder and Jack's voice resounded in her ear.
    "Caught ya!"



    Rei punched him the moment he greeted, rocking through his cuirass. Rasping a pained laugh, he rubbed her shoulder as he saw her shocked gaze.

    "Excited to see me, eh?"



    Having just received the wonderful gift of free food from the innkeepers, Ayumi laughs happily before stuffing herself with as much food as she can. It seems like going here was the right choice!

    After the meal, there is some sort of weird drink, which Rei calls green tea. Taking another look at the color, Ayumi finds it closer to a brown or orange. Raising an eyebrow at Rei, she takes another sip, glancing at the tea again. "Green tea? Not brown?"

    Upon hearing Rei bring up the topic of a morning-after potion, Ayumi tilts her head in confusion. "Why would I want one? Oh, and I have no idea where Jack lives." She takes another sip of tea. This drink is really starting to grow on her. Sip.

    Suddenly, she notices Jack standing right behind Rei, putting a hand on her shoulder - which earns him a punch from Rei. And Ayumi, startled by this whole situation, accidentally spits out the tea she had in her mouth.



    After the initial suprise in which she reflexively punched him - albeit with a lower power than normal due to her sore muscles -, and Ayumi covered her with green tea, Rei turned around and glared at Jack.
    "How long were you here? You used that shadow skill of yours again didn't you?"

    She then turned around helped Ayumi wipe the mess she made.
    Whispering to her the answer to her earlier question.
    "I know how you feel, but I think that now isn't the best of times to have kids. The risks are many.
    We aren't at our full strength yet.
    Our ranks and income are too low.
    Being pregnant means no dangerous quests. Especially for me.
    And there is also the need to either take the baby with us on quests or leave it with someone trustworthy.
    ....well in the end, if you still feel like it, we could always rely on my parents for help.
    The village is hidden so it's a good base of operations, and Okaa-sama did always say she wants to see her grandkids some day."


    "I was over there from the beginning!" The gourd pointed at a particularly shaded corner where the dawn sunlight fails to reach. "I brought you here before, remember?"

    He winked inside the helmet.

    "Although, that bear guy up front was glaring rather violently today."



    Ayumi chuckles embarrassedly as Rei helps her clean up the mess she made but then starts thinking rather deeply about the issue Rei brings up with having children. But, to Ayumi, taking a potion like that just didn't feel right.

    So she starts thinking, taking another sip of tea as she ponders. Unconsciously, her thoughts wander off from 'it doesn't feel right' to, 'I wonder what I should have for dinner today'.

    As she hears Jack's comment, Ayumi makes a wild guess: "Maybe he was charmed by you?"



    "Hmmm? Oh you mean after the duel.
    Right, I forgot about that.
    Well, you can ignore him.
    He will get over it."

    Suddenly a loud voice is heard half way across the dining room.
    "Yes yes, he will.
    Or more like he better will.
    It was a good lesson for him about putting off things that are better done as soon as possible.
    Had he actually confessed to Rei-chan in time the result might have been different.
    And even if it didn't, at least he wouldn't have any regrets."
    The innkeeper lady said all that while walking towards their table, and once arrived she took a long look at Jack.
    "So I take it you are their partner? Weren't you the one who brought Rei-chan in one time while carrying her in a princess carry?"


    "How could you forgot?! Is it that trivial to you?!"

    The gourd mellodramatically gasped, the mood which was completely dissonant with how he smoothly swivelled into the nearest chair and lean back comfortably on it.

    "Yup, that was me!"



    Ayumi curiously looks at Rei and Jack as they start talking about the duel, still sipping on her (already empty) cup of tea.

    Then, as the innkeeper lady arrives, she chimes in alongside with Jack: "Yep, that's him!"



    "On the contrary!
    I was shaken by the emberresment of being Princess carried across town! I blanked out the rest of the evening that day so I barely remember any of it!"

    When the two people by her side answered the innkeeper, Rei also added.
    "Yes, it is him.
    Let me introduce him.
    Jack, Also know as Gourd. C rank adventurer. And our mate. The man who brutally turned my body onto this sore mess so he is going to take responsibility and help me walk today to Lyra's shop.
    Right, Jack?"
    The last bit was said with quite force behind it, and while she smiled, her eyes were saying Otherwise.


    "Ooh, gladly! Heck, I'll carry you the whole way since I'm a generous man!"

    Either he fail to notice the eyes, or he intentionally ignored it. Probably the latter. He had some fair experience being glared by a particularly terrifying being.



    The innkeeper burst into a hearty laugh and smacked Jack on the shoulder several times.
    "Not bad laddy, my boy could - or rather should - learn a lesson from you in how to handle women.
    Rei-chan and Ayumi-chan have a good eye for men it seems"

    In reaction Rei had an expression of pride mixed with a blush.
    In the flow the moment, she stood up and sat on Jack's lap.
    Even then, with her height she was still over a head shorter than him.
    She whispered her reply to his earlier statement.
    "Sure, just as long as it's not princess carry......or under your arm like luggage"


    "Of course we have a good eye for men!" Grins Ayumi confidently at the innkeeper lady.

    Upon seeing Rei sit on Jack's lap, she exclaims in surprise. "How bold!" Then, almost as if ordering him, she shouts: "Jack, carry me as well!" Immediately following up with the best puppy eyes she can muster, reinforced by the cat ears that suddenly appear on her head: "Please~?"



    "Alright, sure!" The gourd start patting Rei like an oversized cat.

    "And I'll carry you too of course!" He grinned at Ayumi.



    At first she closed her eyes from joy, and enjoyed the heatpats.
    Then she caught Jack's hand, forcing him to take off his glove, and returned his hand back atop her head.
    The pleasent feeling of his hand made her forget the pain, and invoked a feeling of comfort.
    Rei leaned on Jack, resting her head on his armor.

    When she opened her eyes a few moments later she noticed that the whole dining room was staring at them.
    Rei realized that she forgot where they are, and just flirted with Jack in public.

    "Time to go, NOW!"
    She said, trying to hide her blushing face in Jack's cloak.


    Seeing Rei hog all the headpats for herself, Ayumi grows slightly jealous. So she stands up, slinks around the table - blatantly ignoring all stares - and leans onto Jack's shoulder, hugging his free arm.

    "Why is it time to go now?" She wonders, oblivious to Rei's problem with the situation.



    "Alright!"

    First he grabbed Rei and lifted her up, depositing her to sit on his shoulders. Then the gourd scooped Ayumi off the ground and carried her like a little princess. Like that, oni sitting above and Catyumi in his grasp, he walked confidently out of the inn.

    "Where to?"



    Caught a little off guard by the way he carried her, Rei repositioned herself a bit more comfortably and whistled to Jun.
    The Warg cub - who was taking a nap under the table all this time - sprang to his feet, sprinted towards Gourd and climbed all the way to Rei's arms atop the helmet.
    "Alright, now let's head to Lyra's shop. It isn't far down the market district."


    As Jack picks Ayumi up into a princess carry, she jokingly shouts: "Kyaa~" before snuggling into his arms with a purr. She looks up at Rei and Jack with a smile, before nodding in agreement to Rei. "Yep, let's go to wherever her shop is."


    The gourd hummed a jovial tone as he lightly strolled to the shop's direction, ignoring the weird gazes being sent his way. He knocked and entered the alchemist shop that Rei pointed, entering carefully so that Ayumi doesn't bump her head.


    On the way to the shop, Rei enjoyed the nostalgic look of overlooking everyone from above.
    'Maybe I should ask Jack to do this more often...'

    As Jack entered the shop Rei Lowered her head as not to hit it against the door, and took a deep breath and called out with a loud voice in the empty-looking store.
    "LYRA! ARE YOU HERE?"

    Several seconds later, a loud noise indicating something falling and rushed footsteps were heard coming from above.
    A sleepy looking Lyra came out of the back, glaring at the source of the noise.
    "What is it Rei? Did you really have to yell that loud?"

    Overlooking her from above Rei deadpanly said "Well your apprentice isn't here"

    Lyra scratched her head behind the as she said,
    "Oh right, I forgot it was his day off. Probably went out to have fun or something. Oh well what can I do for you three?"

    "We need one morning-after safety potion, and two salves for sore muscles"

    Lyra stared at Rei, Jack, and Ayumi in turn, and a look of understanding spread across her face.
    She showed a snickering grin as she teased Rei.
    "Had a little fun last night havn't you?
    I guess you didn't need that aphrodisiac potion to get a man after all....... wait! I am just kidding, stop glaring at me like that! It's damn scary!"

    Lyra wiped the cold sweat off her forehead and took out 1 bottle from the pink shelf with "Brothel items" written on it, and two small containers from behind the counter.

    "That would be a 30 large copper for the potion, and 10 for each of salves.
    That comes to a total of 50 large copper coins."


    Ayumi just starts to relax, slightly dozing off within Jack's arms, until Rei suddenly shouts for Lyra - in answer to which Ayumi shouts in shock, covering her cat ears and glaring up at Rei from below.

    When Lyra enters the room, Ayumi waves at her before yawning loudly and adjusts her position within Jack's arms to be more comfortable.



    The gourd adjusted Ayumi in his grasp before reaching into his pouch, placing five stacks of coins on the counter.

    "Need anything else?"

    He inquired his two lovers.



    "Wait, I only wanted for you to pay half of it! Not pay for all!"
    Rei retorted from above the helmet.


    Upon hearing the 'anything else', Ayumi's ears perk up. "A kiss?"


    "It's fine, my treat this once!" He patted Rei's knee.

    Then, looking down smilingly to Ayumi, he lifted her up into a passionate kiss. Lyra probably got full view but he didn't really care at the moment.



    While not fully convinced, Rei decided to accept Gourd's generosity.
    Or maybe she just enjoyed having her thigh patted so she didn't notice Lyra putting away the coins before it was too late.

    "No, nothing I can think of....... although, I AM interested in where you live"
    Rei tried to ignore the kissing scene while answering the question, albait with a small blush on her cheeks.



    With a full smile on her face, Ayumi returns the kiss just as passionately whilst actually feeling proud of their relationship. In a way, she wants to show others.

    After pulling back from the kiss, Ayumi gazes at the slightly flushed Rei, and adds a mental note to, later on, give her a kiss as well.

    Then she remembers what Rei said, and exclaims: "Oh, I also wanna know where you live!"



    "I dont particularly have any permanent address, although I do have a garden." The gourd mentioned it plainly. "Well, I spent my time there the most aside from the guild. Shall we take a look?"


    The two girls exchanged looks and both nodded at the same time.
    ""Yes!""

    ((To be continued in the next SS))
    @A5G_Reaper
    @Blackwater
     
    Last edited: May 1, 2019
  10. AliceShiki

    AliceShiki 『Ms. Tree』『Ophi-kun's Survival Teacher』

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    Small, but important announcement... Everyone, please don't try accessing the wiki until further notice.

    Referata (as in, the server that hosts our wiki) was hacked and all Referata pages are redirected to a fishy page that reads "Hacked by Delicious" (some details about it can be found here: https://www.mediawiki.org/wiki/User_talk:Yaron_Koren#Referata_Crashed/Possible_hackings ).

    Since the hacking was directly on Referata's end and not on our wiki's end, I can't really do anything about it, so we just gotta wait until Referata's adms fix it.

    I'll be checking things with some regularity, but for your own safety, it's better if you don't access the wiki until things are all solved... That said, I don't think anything will happen if you do check the wiki in the meantime, but better safe than sorry I guess? Figured it was important to keep everyone updated on that.

    I'll make another mass poke when the wiki is back up, and then I'll work on getting some backups available in case something like this happens again.

     
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  11. Xalysian

    Xalysian Well-Known Member

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    At the sleeping tree, Veri can be seen covering the injuries on her user, Valuren.

    “Ahh, that should do it.”


    He looked at both of his wrapped hands, before looking back to his inner soul, Veri. He was aware of his earlier actions, one of that was doing a tailor’s job while he doesn’t even know how to sew clothings, will led to small injuries like he had now.

    He had stabbed his fingers a couple of times during the sewings, but thankful that none of the blood managed to hit the article of clothing.


    His fingers are still shaking from the needles and the wrappings did not helped calming down his vibrating fingers. He could feel the needle still in his grip despite not holding one right now.

    “It… hurts.”. he really wanted to curse, he wanted to swear… but it does not feel, right. He wanted to be his own self, and not following the footsteps of his dear father. His father had always curses every day. Every single day, it was likely for Valuren to become like his hot-headed father. But no, his dear father had also consciously, or subconsciously stopped his swearings when his children were around, either Valuren or his first child, Lunasa, from his first ‘marriage’.


    “Our father sure is a weird guy, he’s quiet and hot-headed but chill at the same time. What intrigues me was that, his age factor. Is he really in his 50’s?”


    A light bulb hits him in the head, he began to take notice of her words before asking himself a similar question, ‘Veri’s right. How in the hell are my dear father still young? There were photos of him and my mother, that was when he had shorter haircut. He had not aged since then, or did he really age?’

    There were more questions that he needed to ask his father when the fate told him to return back home.


    He instinctively taken out a single blue flower out of his jacket, calming himself with the pleasant scent of the flower named Weiss Managor. It was withering, and he was aware of it ever since the day he turned in the other one to the receptionist construct.


    He let out a quiet sigh, muttering next, “Still cannot find that miss’ eyes though.”


    “Yeah, yeah.”, she continued right after she jumps back on the sleeping tree, laying herself on the sturdy branches while looking down at him, “You got a crush on that thing, right?”


    “W-Whatever are you talking about…?”, he tried to lie to his inner soul, but it was obvious from his extremely red ears and embarrassed expression. The redness from his ears spread to his cheeks after he remembered that Veri could literally see through it all in an instant. Mind-reading is an evil ability…


    “Hmph, it’s fine if you confessed to your crush, in before she rejected you~.”, she’s playing with the leaves as she casually gives her thoughts about his useless communication skills in Edhellen.


    Not only that crushed Valuren’s confidency, it also crushed his heart heavily. He is still afraid to communicate, he only started to remember how to properly talk and possibly holding a conversation after literally seven years, nevertheless, talking still hurt his throat from just, trying to verbally say a word out loud.


    He will find a way to continue talking, and possibly find a way to cure his injured throat.

    'How did I injured my throat?'


    “Who knows, maybe that’s got to do with your humming hobby?~”

    Truth be told, as much as Valuren loved to humming, it could be the very reason how he had injured his throat in the first place. Yet, he begin to hum a song, greatly capturing the first half of Broken Moon.


    He stopped just to ask his inner soul a question, 'Anyway, Veri. Thanks again for the card game lesson, you are a really huge help in my life.'


    “Hm-mhm-hm~, of course I am!~”, she continued after switching her position to a much more comfortable one, “He really didn’t suspect a single thing on what happened on the game at all, with you sighing all the time, that priest was really… special.”

    'At least you did not mocked his intellect, Veri.'


    “But you did, just now.”

    'Ah, fine.', he lifted his head in time to catch her lifting her hands on the air, waiting for the dead leaves to drop on top of it.


    In short, they had cheated the game. Veri had been dealing deck cards in poker for the hangouts his dear father usually do with his old friends. Another thought ran into Valuren’s mind, his father’s friends are ‘ageless’ as well, yet, there was a commercial about faking one’s age with some sort of cream. It could be the explanation for both his dear father’s aging factor, along with several of his friends.


    Unavoidable but still, that was how Veri able to switch the cards on the deck a second Valuren laid his fingers to draw a card or two from the deck. He began to think about the trick.

    “It’s a card magician’s trick!~”


    “A trick that could be abused greatly by dirty gamblers.”, he subconsciously mumbled his next thoughts out loud.

    “Hey, it’s not cheating if you don’t get caught~.”


    'And that’s a quote from somewhere I don’t recognize.'

    He lifted himself from the ground, and walked to a spot where the sun usually hits the ground and watched the shadow of himself on the grass floor.

    'Guessing time is really a fun thing, judging the shadows.'


    He calculated the time to be around 5 o’clock in the evening.

    It was time for a Bath. Luckily, there is a river nearby. He only hoped that there is no one around for that matter.


    “Make sure there aren’t any tom peeping on ya~!”


    'You’re the only one here who could be labelled as a peeping tom, Veri. '


    *******


    He was eating some blueberry breads while enjoying the night starry skies as a daily basis, he had nothing else to do other than practicing Kendo with a charred wooden sword. After the meal, he again, takes out the blue flower from his jacket and smells it one last time.


    “I know, time’s up.”

    ‘I have to control it myself, I can’t rely on you always. right?’


    Valuren watches as the flower disintegrates into existence, he switched his attention toward the night skies with a calmed smile, before going;

    “Goodbye, Weiss Managor.”

    ((Finally finished with this one, one down, more to go~.))
     
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  12. AliceShiki

    AliceShiki 『Ms. Tree』『Ophi-kun's Survival Teacher』

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  13. Arexio

    Arexio Blob Fanatic | AG Player

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  14. Kysil

    Kysil [Just Kill Me Please][Sloth Demon]

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  15. Daisydacrazy

    Daisydacrazy 「depressed」「loner」「gloomy」

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    @AliceShiki I don't know if it's me, but I can't access the wiki
     
  16. Siostar

    Siostar Well-Known Member

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    ^
     
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  17. AliceShiki

    AliceShiki 『Ms. Tree』『Ophi-kun's Survival Teacher』

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    *cough cough* Testing Testing... Eto... Is this working? Uhn... Oh, right, we're in a fantasy world, I'm not supposed to have a Microphone... Let's say it's a Magical Microphone then~

    *ahem* So uhn, just wanted to announce we got a new sacrifice slave staff member on the team to help us out on the team, please, give @Magnatia a round of applause~ *press buttons to make clap clap clap noises*

    Yes yes, thank you very much, I love all of you~

    And uhn... Sorry for anyone that thought this poke was for the new quest batch, it's still on the works, but we'll try releasing it soon~

    Take care, everyone~! ^^)/

     
  18. Magnatia

    Magnatia Well-Known Member

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    "Greetings. I am your new local staff. Please treat me well."
    *Bows*


    [[As this is quite sudden, I haven't prepared anything of her. Please be patient until I settle everything. Until then feel free to ask me anything in the OOC thread]]
     
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  19. AliceShiki

    AliceShiki 『Ms. Tree』『Ophi-kun's Survival Teacher』

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    New quest batch is live, everyone~

    As a reminder, you all still have roughly 36h to finish the quests you took for this last batch~

    Also, since we ended up having too many untaken quests last batch, we reduced the total amount of quests from 20 to 15, alright? We'll increase it again if needed, but it's just easier on our end to think of only 15... >.>

    And uhn... As usual, if you wish to be removed from the tag list, just poke me and I'll take you out ASAP~

    Have fun~

     
    Last edited: May 13, 2019
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  20. Haxagen

    Haxagen Fallen's|Maid Chan's Spirit Animal

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    Two hands were raised in the air in a victory posture.

    “As expected, I destroyed every last one!”

    A massive chamber with targets left lying around at random intervals, and the woman was standing in the middle of it, grinning smugly. True to her word, all of the visible targets had been destroyed with overwhelming force, even the ones located on the very tall ceiling.

    “I’m the best magician there is! Hahaha!”

    The woman rejoiced, not realising, perhaps, that for every hole on the target, there was about ten holes from missed shots scattered around said target. While the firepower of the spells definitely were not to be scoffed at…

    ...Her accuracy definitely needed a lot of improvement.

    * * * * *​

    “A silent one, huh? You won’t be so silent when we’re done with you!”

    The bandit waved his dagger threateningly, but drew no response beyond a blank stare. Unsure, he looked back at his fellows, who gave him a shrug.

    “Well then, you’re coming with us, lady! I don’t know why you would be walking by yourself out here in the middle of nowhere, but you should fetch a nice price in the slave market! Now, get moving---Eh?”

    The hooded woman had not bulged, even though he had a firm grip of her arm, and was trying to drag her along. Mystified, he placed more force in his grip, straining, but the result remained unchanged.

    “Don’t make me have to use forc---Gah!”

    The sound of his body hitting the floor wasn’t that different from a stone’s.

    “What are you---UGH?!”

    “S-Stop! Don’t come closer---GEH!”

    “ARRRRRRRRGH!”

    The hooded woman regarded the fallen bodies without so much as a speck of emotion, before turning to leave.

    * * * * *​

    Fifteen yards away, an armoured mannequin toppled, the steel plates still smothering.

    “Not good enough. I need more output.”

    Mika removed her glasses, and squinted delicately at the charred wooden foundation.

    “My eyesight’s starting to go, huh. Guess I’m going to have to put in a little more effort if I want to see as far at night as I used to...How troublesome.”

    Packing up, Mika slung the small pack over her shoulder, ready to leave. But there was still one finishing touch; her hand not holding the pack went up, two fingers out, pointing towards the fallen dummy.

    “...”

    With a snap of her fingers---

    *BOOM!*

    ---The thunderbolt tore through the clear sky, blasting the unlucky mannequin to ashes along with it’s armour.

    And thus, Mika left the practice grounds with a satisfied grin.

    * * * * *​

    The room was in a huge mess, with all the dust and whatnot, and amidst all the overturned chairs and tables, a woman was in deep sleep. What meagre sunlight that filtered through the obstructed windows only managed to shed light on the fact that her hair was a light blonde, almost golden.

    Clutched protectively to her chest was a strange gadget that looked like a metallic tube stuck to several cubes. It didn’t look like it was much, but the owner’s body language spoke of how much she valued it.

    As for what purpose it served, that question might only be answered another day.

    * * * * *​

    “HAAAAAAAAH!”

    *WHAM*

    Haruna shouldered her weapon, and examined the steel chestplate she had just attacked. It was almost cleaved in half, but what little that remained still held its shape. She’d placed her full strength behind that blow, so the fact that the armour still remained wearable was definitely because the blacksmith was good at her craft.

    Nevertheless.

    “If someone was wearing the plate, they would still have died from the shock of the blow. As expected, I can only dampen shocks so much on metal armour. Although the weapon is probably cheating.”

    Slung over her shoulder was a strange looking weapon that she had designed herself. The large end was shaped like a typical warhammer, but the ends were replaced with thick and heavy axe blades. The sheer bluntness meant that it probably won’t be able to dice vegetables, but that didn’t stop the sheer weight from crushing through armour.

    “Well, let’s fire up the forge again!”

    * * * * *​

    The glint of steel flashed, and the tree was cleaved in half, but the blade didn’t pause or slow down. The wielder obviously knew their stuff, judging by how the scythe was continuously swung in a circulatory motion effortlessly.

    “...”

    And yet, the wielder was feeling down. Drooping her head gloomily, she frowned as the scythe continued spinning in her hands, creating gentle gusts that buffeted the grass. Compared to the tree-chopping scene from earlier, this was almost peaceful.

    And so the silence continued, the girl staring blankly into the distance at some unknown thing, until…

    “Ah! I wasn’t sleeping!”

    The scythe dropped out of the flustered girl’s hands.

    * * * * *​

    The frantic deer burst out of the undergrowth, sprinting desperately through the forest. It was unclear what it was being chased by, but every so often a blurred shadow could be seen in pursuit, hopping from tree to tree.

    The young fawn opened its mouth to cry, but the desperate shout for help was lost in the dense vegetation.

    It ran. And ran and ran. It escaped with all the strength it could muster, pumped it’s little legs furiously, just for survival. And for a moment, it seemed that the fawn would be able to escape…

    But alas, all it had accomplished in it’s haste was to blunder right into the trap. As it’s cloven hooves caught on and broke a delicate string of webbing...

    *Snap* *Snap* *Snap*

    Netting fell from practically every direction, snagging the fawn in various layers of thread. The movement ceased almost entirely, save a small struggle every now and then.

    If it could talk, it would probably be screaming a line that people hear all too often.

    Help me!

    “But...nobody came. Oh, what a pity.”

    The pursuer finally caught up. Or rather, the pursuer had finally decided to stop playing around. From the very beginning, once the fawn had drawn attention to itself, it was dead beyond all doubt. The only variable here whether it were the feral beasts that would be the ones bring to it down, or the deadly plants.

    ...Or a young-looking girl called Shiori, smiling innocently as she spun a pair of sickles in both hands, as she approached ever so slowly.

    “Sorry, but Shiori’s hungry children are still waiting to be fed at home. For that reason, Shiori will not let you escape. Nevertheless, Shiori will put you out of your misery quickly.”

    *CRUNCH*

    The diminutive girl burped, rubbing her stomach, which didn’t appear any different from usual. As she lazily licked her lips, taking a moment to spit out a whole leg bone, Shiori smiled.

    “Oops, looks like Shiori accidentally got too hungry. Guess Shiori better go catch one more, then.”

    * * * * *​

    The woman knelt before a row of lit candles, clad in a simple kimono. Judging by her movements, she was praying.

    “...Hmm?”

    As if she was listening to a conversation, she tilted her head quizzically.

    “Oh, I see. So that’s what’s going on right now in the North, is it?”

    Hm, hm. The lady nodded, scooping the two katanas on her left as she stood up. Raising an arm to her hair, she unclasped the hairband, allowing her long purple hair to scatter about messily.

    “Talk to you later. Bye.”

    Waving one of her katanas lazily above the candles, she turned, exited from the front door, and left the room. After that...

    Twenty candles simultaneously stopped burning, as twenty wicks dropped onto the stone floor. If anyone was bored enough to take a ruler and use it to measure the wicks, they would realise that each cut wick was exactly the same length.

    * * * * *​

    “Close ranks!”

    The tower shields came together with great precision, forming a shield wall that protected the people behind them.

    “Spears up! Thrust forward!”

    The bristling spear tips poked out from the small gaps between each shield, stabbing forward.

    *Clap clap clap*

    “Okay, practice is over for today! We’ll meet at this place again tomorrow, at the same time! Be sure to stay hydrated and eat up as always, got it?”

    “Yes, Madam!”

    Watching the other soldiers filter out of the courtyard, laughing and roughhousing with each other slightly, the fully armoured knight smiled slightly, as she traded the spear and tower shield for a great sword, before once again stepping back into the practice area, beginning on her swings.

    * * * * *​

    “My fighting style is a bit…all over the place.”

    Elaine lounged about in a chair stuffed with wool, thinking about her offensive powers.

    “First, I have that weird thing that happens when I whisper.”

    Just about everything in her immediate vicinity would freeze up for a bit, and stay that way until either the effect had gone away, or she had dealt a strike to it.

    “There’s that flaming lion, my weird tattoo, and then Senpai’s rune. Fire, water and lightning. Not to be that person, but isn’t three elements really too much for any human being?”

    At the very least, she had to find a way to decrease that number to two.

    “Then, the sword.”

    The mysterious blade was far sharper than anything else she had, but it could only manifest for a limited time. Not good for spontaneous battles, and she couldn’t use it to its full potential either; a rapier and a longsword were both swords, but that was about as good as saying that a spear and a halberd were both polearms.

    “I could try learning various weapons, but Senpai said trying to learn everything isn’t very efficient, and she’s right about that.”

    She briefly considered learning how to properly wield other swords, such as estocs or short swords, but gave up that idea just as quickly. It felt boring, and was nothing like the exhilarating feeling of having a rapier in her hand.

    “Hmmm…Ah!”

    The solution was so obvious, it’s a mystery why she hadn’t thought of it earlier. It was very simple; if fighting with a single rapier wasn’t good enough, then just fight with two. Elaine was already out of the door before she even finished thinking through.

    “Dual-wielding rapiers. Mhm, as expected, I’m a genius. I’ll go ask Senpai for some tips now.”

    And so the cheery girl locked up and left, forgetting the fact that her arsenal was still largely in a mess.
     
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