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/qst/ - Quests

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Welcome back one and all into a new part of our adventure. We've had quite an emotional adventure, didn't we? So many things happened in the capital... and we left like fugitives, leaving behind so many questions, unable to accomplish our duties as we adapted to a sudden threatening escalation from the crown princess of Muribel. Now we are on the road toward Mirtydal with a different group than anticipated, to reunite with our companion and likely head into the witch clutches.

Previous Threads

Twitter for schedule updates

Perks and spells for our main character

Characters met by Arawn.

People from Muribel.
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To be outside the busy city of Marleon and the oppressive atmosphere of the palace was an experience you quietly relished, a way to find some kind of harmony with your miserably tense situation. The outlying farms you remember seeing on your first outing with Fortune gang were much busier at this time of the day -barely an hour past noon- and travelers wandered the various roads leading into the capital with a few caravans coming and going. This traffic was concentrated on the eastern roads with only a fair few people walking the length of cobblestones used by your group, catching the occasional odd stares from Mamonos farmers and travelers because of Zhu holding onto Shereen.

This situation, at least, should make it difficult for Ensan to know your location. Harpies patrolled the sky but none tried flying close and you used a cloth to cover your shield, hopefully making it look like additional baggage as everyone shared the same mindset of getting away from Marleon quickly but also needing to keep a calm enough pace to be mistaken as general travelers.

After all the tensions that had been boiling since Ensan arrival and today's battles -your life was put in genuine jeopardy less than an hour ago!- enjoying a peaceful stroll was almost a whiplash of emotions and you had to constantly remind yourself that anyone you shared the road with wasn't automatically an enemy. You forced yourself to go adrift in thoughts instead of keeping your mind extremely focused: all the nearby wheat farms and the wild vegetations growing alongside the wide western river that continued into the plains beyond Muribel palace made for a soothing sight... This damnable heat could go to hell, however.

It took several hours of travels, more than enough for the sun to leave its zenith and proceed into its eternal downward climb and for the surrounding vegetations to steadily change into arid shrublands with the increasing distance of the main river, for dialogue to open within your group.

''Are we going the right way?'' The concealed maid broke the long silence.

''Yup.'' You answered right away. On your waist was a map neatly folded into a protective leather case but you didn't need to take it out, your soul link with Klesiah told you all you needed to know; she was somewhere south and that was your traveled direction.

''Getting hungry?'' Zhu said behind you, leaning toward Shereen who shook her head, only to be betrayed by a growling stomach. The fluffy princess was now a closed book; after getting a hold of her emotions following Banu...choice (calling it a betrayal was too harsh even if it was close) she walked in complete silence while radiating hostility so intense that it stifled any potential discussions. Thankfully her emotions had begun to lessen after a few long hours of hard walking under a hot sun.

You weren't feeling too tired and that was rather surprising, your year-long coma hasn't taken any obvious toll.
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''Aint no harm with a little break, we've skipped diner anyway.'' Zhu continued, imposing your group to stop and gently slinging her bag on the ground. From it, she took out a piece of pemmican to be shared by everyone alongside gourds. ''Mind your water intake, this isn't a desert but this heat is probably close.''

The scenery was, plainly put, boring. Without any nearby rivers, vegetations were reduced to shrubs and cactus, the terrain was majorly hilly with two particularly large one a kilometer (you'd assume) to the east. The road was built on flattened grounds and only swerved in other directions twice at calculated intersections so far, each one having posts for villages that weren't in your direction. The only soul you came across since leaving Marleon was a sunbathing lizard (genuine thing, not a Mamonos) on a rock not too far from the road.

With dirt everywhere but the road, finding shades was futile because all the trees were small, pitiful things.

Thankfully, a nice long sip of freshwater (still a little cold thanks to an alchemical container for the gourds) refreshed your mood.

''You're handling heat pretty well.'' You remarked toward Hildegarde, hoping to break the lingering awkwardness. Having roped her into accompanying you into some faraway town away from her sworn duty, you were beginning to feel some guilt now that urgency wasn't choking out your feelings.

Unlike you and Zhu, she wasn't sweating at all (Shereen was handling things fairly well on that front) despite bearing the biggest amount of clothes. Long sleeves covered her arms and legs and she kept a shawl around her pale hair despite the complete lack of travelers.

''The place you've extracted me from was cold enough to kill; this heat is nothing.'' The stoic maid only took a few small sips and pieces of food, too. ''Handling harsh environment is but one of many difficulties to handle as her majesty bodyguard.''' Before you could ask another question, Hildegarde segued into one of her own by boldly stepping close to the sulky princess.

''Forgive my impertinence but during the crisis, you mentioned something about milady Anais; could I inquire about this, young lady? It's... I can't do anything about milady now that we are so far, but I would like to know how she is doing.'' Shereen munched away on her small piece of pemmican for a moment, gaze lingering on the taller woman listlessly.

''Call me Shereen.'' She answered, stopping to clear her throat and wash down the food. Her lethargy tugged at your heart but there wasn't anything to be done about it, not until you make camp tonight. You oughta be able to find some way to give her a little cheer then.

''I've never been allowed to go deeper inside the inner compounds of my family before but thankfully we managed to find my sister quarter, which is where Anais was located.'' Shereen began without energy.
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''Those scorpions tried to muscles us away but that didn't work out.'' Zhu commented with a cheeky grin, palming the long handle of her sword and Shereen ears perked up for the first time in hours. ''Shereen showed them some fire and they were forced to back down.''

''T-that's well... useless details.'' Shereen looked caught between feeling embarrassed and grumpy, a nice difference compared to that sulkiness. ''We found Anais in my sister's room she... looked healthy.''

''Please do not spare any details.'' Hildegarde said when Shereen hesitated.

''She's... a Moon, a slave you could say or a prisoner maybe I... I didn't I'm, Ensan...''

''Bitch is keeping that lass naked with a collar attached to a wall.'' Zhu put it crudely and Hildegarde sharp intake of breath could only hint at her anger.

''She wasn't wounded! And I think some servants had been bathing her because she wasn't dirty, unlike yesterday...'' Shereen quickly added, shaking one furred hand in frustration. ''She's... surprisingly cheerful. When I told her who I was and introduced my Moons she talked with the ease of someone at a market, it's like... no, I don't think she held any resentment about her situation. Or at least, she wasn't accusing anyone; she didn't mind her situation and wanted to know if she could become my Moon instead of being Ensan property...''

Goodness, Shereen was speaking quickly enough to almost stumble on her words. A smile, forced and polite but a smile nonetheless, came to rest on the pale maid features. ''That does sound like milady.''

''She didn't know where she was, so I told her about the palace a little bit and the city of Marleon. I tried to... I wanted to help her a little bit with handling her circumstances so I told her that my mother wouldn't allow Ensan to do anything rash but Anais didn't seem scared, she was very worried about you Hildegarde.''

''Me?'' The maid asked incredulously, Shereen nodded for emphasis.

''My sister used a pearl to imprison you somewhere on her ship, at least that's what she told me. She asked us to help you if we could, somehow...''

''...That's when I left to try and deliver that new.'' Zhu added. ''Was trying to sneak into the boat but then both of you came out. We sorta agreed with your little one to rescue you, Hild.''

''I see...'' Hildegarde remark was a barely audible whisper.

''I want to believe that all that ruckus today gave her some kind of hope...'' Shereen nervously played with a strand of hair. ''...She seems like a cheerful girl.''

''Is that everything that happened?'' You inserted yourself in the conversation now, something didn't add up. ''When we left, Banu said that your mother...'' The way Shereen looked at you made you remember that she hadn't heard this particular remark from her old caretaker. Better to dodge that for now. ''...Did anything happen inside Ensan room?''
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''Banu wanted us to leave shortly after Zhu departed.'' Shereen answered, looking unsure. ''We... I insisted on talking though, Anais was worried about a particular rumor of Muribel, she wanted to know if we practiced blood magic openly.''

''Is that true?'' Hildegarde asked, a surge of worry animating her body.

''Not... well it's true in some way but calling it open isn't. Blood magic isn't allowed for people that aren't nobles and even then, all rituals are supervised by experts loyal to the Blood when it happens outside the palace.'' Shereen paused, eyebrows knitting together in a mixture of worry and frustration. ''That girl, she told me that she... had some kind of special blood? That she could become a danger to other people somehow. We didn't have much time to speak because of Banu insistence on our leaving shortly after learning this. It's like my Moon grew into a panic, she forced me to go back into my room and prepare baggage as if we... well, we did run away.''

''You didn't come face to face with Ensan or your mother?'' Your little sun shook her head at your question.

Nothing about this explains why Banu would suddenly claim the Pharaoh favoring her eldest daughter. She was very adamant about this, yet they didn't come across any of Shereen family? No wonder your little sun wasn't wanting to leave. Why did...? Had Banu lied? Surely not, her contract with Lady White made it impossible for her to leave Marleon and in the weeks you've spent by Shereen side, you can tell with absolute certainty that Banu motherly love for Shereen is true. Did she say that to get you out as soon as possible? She spent many long years being Shereen guardian, perhaps she realized something after this chat with Anais? How could Anais unusual blood make Banu suddenly jump to such a conclusion?


''We should continue, thanks for humoring me.'' Hildegarde said while looking up into the wide blue sky. ''There's a harpy flying up there, it's probably a bad sign.''

High up above in the cloudless sky of Muribel was the vague form of a flying bird-woman. A good motivator to get moving; your body moved automatically as your mind retreated in reflection

You don't know much about Anais blood but you understand that she possesses a... unique type that seems to resonate deeply with creatures from the Red World, enough to bait them into living souls and thus die. How many similar cases could there be in the world?

Shereen is a natural blood mage. While you don't know how truly rare of a magical nature it could be, there's no doubting its effectiveness because she's the one who healed not only you and the girls you were tied with but also the Embodiment of Love because of the simple osmosis effect of her ritual... Very strong magic indeed.

Then, there's also the strange prophecy that motivated Fortune entire endeavor. A dream that some kind of fog would emerge out of the palace to smother all life of Muribel in a peaceful, unending sleep.
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Could it be that... All the pieces for such a ritual had been gathered?

In the end, you can't make any true affirmation. Banu told you not long after the death of the swine prince that she was all out of secrets and that hadn't exactly been the truth, your only choice might be to trust her judgment concerning the Pharaoh.

Damn it why is this bothering you so much? Maybe you're just trying to distract yourself from the fact you're walking into danger and, more importantly, see Klesiah again.

As the group began to walk the long, lonely road again the previously awkward wall of silence had thankfully disappeared, Shereen was slowly but surely pulling herself together.

You have a long road ahead, what should you talk about?

>Ask Hildegarde about her country, Kreszenz. It's culture, the queen, perhaps a little bit about Anais. How do they manage to handle living so close that cursed swamp? Why is queen Valda called the merchant queen?

>Get to know the new capabilities of your new party member. Her body looks unusual, it's probably rude to ask but knowing what she can do exactly will surely help in the trials to come.

>Quizz Shereen about Muribel general culture outside the capital. Now is a good time to know the lay of the land a little more.

>Speak with Zhu about your time together in the past, when you traveled as a group with Klesiah and Hecate. This situation might feel nostalgic if you had more memories of that time...

>Ask Shereen about her magic in greater detail. You haven't spent any time getting to know what she can do, now is a good opportunity.

>Get to know the new capabilities of your new party member. Her body looks unusual, it's probably rude to ask but knowing what she can do exactly will surely help in the trials to come.

Knowing what everybody can do should help lay the groundwork for whatever plan we decide to use once we gel closer to Klesiah.
At the moment I'm leaning towards solo sneaking in and out while using the red world as cover wherever possible.
Interesting stuff. Banu panicking is bad, perhaps Shereen herself was a key component of the ritual so her absence will delay it? Fortune said this whole country (not just the capital) would get it if that fog appears correct? If so we can be sure Banu's gonna try to disrupt that ritual by any means necessary as Shereen will still be within the Blast Radius if it goes off.

How long do we have before we gotta make camp and sleep? I'd like to know if we'll get a chance to ask more questions or even possibly train.
>Fortune said this whole country (not just the capital) would get it if that fog appears correct?

She was a bit vague because she described a dreamy prophecy but yeah, she said that fog would affect the entire country.

>How long do we have before we gotta make camp and sleep? I'd like to know if we'll get a chance to ask more questions or even possibly train.

It's impossible to gain 100% certainty but the road is calm. You'll have time to speak about 2 subjects (depending on how long that discussion goes) before night starts settling in.
>Get to know the new capabilities of your new party member. Her body looks unusual, it's probably rude to ask but knowing what she can do exactly will surely help in the trials to come.
Teamwork makes the dream work, after all.
We probably should keep an eye out for a chance to disguise Shereen a little. Where we're going, royals and nobility are not exactly well liked and the little anubis' current outfit marks her as nobility quite obviously.

oh, by the way. Has Zhu recovered completely from her wound yet?

Likely my only vote for tonight, I've already stayed up a bit too late.
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>We probably should keep an eye out for a chance to disguise Shereen a little. Where we're going, royals and nobility are not exactly well liked and the little anubis' current outfit marks her as nobility quite obviously.
That's not a problem actually, she's changed into traveling clothing keeping her well disguised.
>oh, by the way. Has Zhu recovered completely from her wound yet?

Time to speak with the maido. Always glad to have you anon. Got my entire week open due to quarantine so I'll try to run a little earlier if I can, just for you.
>Speak with Zhu about your time together in the past, when you traveled as a group with Klesiah and Hecate. This situation might feel nostalgic if you had more memories of that time...
I need to catch up! I haven't had the time to participate in these quests for a while, but I've missed it.

I recall you mentioned on twitter that your computer had broken? Sorry to hear about that, I hope you were able ot recover everything important!
I've managed to repair it somewhat but it tend to close down without warning. Thankfully, i'Ve got my stuff saved so our quest is safe!

Always glad to have you, good anon.
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''Hildegarde, I might sound rude in asking but I would like to ask you about your... capabilities.''

As you and the girls walked side by side, the maid pulled down her sleeve to reveal her forearm. Without the imminent threat of shadowy monstrosities and big scorpions, it was easy enough to see now that Hildegarde skin was unusual. Pearly white and looking solid like a carefully crafted piece of ceramic, her wrist looked odd because it was rotund -looking genuinely artificial- if not reinforced.

''You mean my body?'' She answered you nonchalantly, Shereen looked midway between fascinated and scared.

''Something's up with you? You've got pretty silvery color.'' Zhu commented.

''How you fight, not so much about your body itself if that makes you feel uncomfortable. Were heading into danger, so knowing what each of us can do will be vital.''

''I agree.'' Hildegarde pulled back her sleeve. ''I'd like to know what you can do too, Leper-man.'' Impossible not to wince at that ''I've got a good idea about sword-girl. Zhu, right?''

''Leper?'' Shereen asked and you waved a quick excuse to explain later, now wasn't the time for getting off track.

''My body has been heavily modified in an alchemical experiment, making it artificial... or at least, almost. I still breathe, eat, sleep, drink like regular folks but I need much less sustenance and general maintenance to keep myself at peak capacity.'' The fact she survived so long inside that plane of ghosts without a shred of clothing was more than enough proof of her constitution. ''Such traits made me... adequate to become milady bodyguard.''

Hildegarde paused, looking forward at the empty road. Her voice wasn't emotionless despite the artificiality of her body; you'd say she sounded steadfast. But then again, that could simply be wishful thinking on your part. You've grown a trained eye to notice emotions in stoic ladies and she's not bereft of them.

''You could call me something of a hunter of horrors because Anais blood attracts all kinds of swamp abominations. I was trained to handle them without relying on weapons because of how complicated it is to handle these entities.'' Hildegarde clapped her hands together, creating a sharp, compact noise. ''I am no magicians but my body can still produce a very dangerous amount of heat and that is my weapon against these horrors. For regular people, my limbs hardness is often more than enough, all I need are my hands and feets and what I find on the ground to throw.''
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''Nice!'' Zhu exclaimed excitedly. ''Another martial artist huh? I've been wanting to get better with my fists, you'd be up for a little punch-out tonight?''

''No.'' Hildegarde couldn't have been more direct. Those red eyes projected a will of steel.

''Aaah? Come on why not?''

''Now is not the time to waste our supply of potions since none of us can use holy. I cannot alter my limbs so that makes practice dangerous for everyone I spar with. In better circumstance...'' Hildegarde bowed her head gently. ''...I'd accept your offer but now we have to be conservative.''

''Beeeh, I aint scared of a little bump.'' Now it was Zhu time to pout.

''I am.'' You replied to your companion. ''You've just recovered from your guts rearrangement, don't start adding fractures now.'' You dodged Zhu hand as she tried -and failed- to rub your head while chuckling. ''Do, you'd call yourself a... warrior, for simplicity sake?''

''If you want to imagine me as a board piece, yeah. I've been created... trained to be as self-sufficient as possible in life and battle.''

So... her skillset is similar to Banu in broad term, but she's undeniable deadlier. You haven't had a good chance to see her in action during the confusion on the docks, but you clearly remember her skipping and the wooden ground starting to sizzle under her feet.

Taking some time to explain your and Zhu capabilities, the subject ended after a while as your group continued its lonely travel, the scenery almost blurring together as you concentrated on something actually pleasant. Shereen didn't say a single word but listened intensely nonetheless.

Choices remain valid.
So we told Hilde about our and Zhu's capabilities? Did we mention our trump card fusion ability/the fact that we're technically the Embodiment of Protection? We whispered that if we did right?
>So we told Hilde about our and Zhu's capabilities? Did we mention our trump card fusion ability/the fact that we're technically the Embodiment of Protection?
No, you haven't breached that subject yet. That'd be a free choice. Not even Zhu really know about your Ironman stuff, Shereen is the only one so far.
>Ask Shereen about her magic in greater detail. You haven't spent any time getting to know what she can do, now is a good opportunity.
If she doesn't have many directly offensive spells it may be a good idea to let her borrow the gauntlet since we are still somewhat effective since we can still rely on our mace, shield, soul arms, and reinforcement.
I'll give these two the usual 20 minutes wait.
I'd rather we keep the gauntlet to be honest. We can use alternate fuel for variety of spells and we're trained with it and have combat experience.

Poor Shereen's greener than grass in regards to combat and all things killy. She'll panic, pour in too much magic, and possibly explode her own arm off in a fight. I would say try to train her, but we don't got the time and big balls of fire, ice pillars, and lightning kinda give away your position to harpies and they already know about 2 out of those 3 so they are looking for it!

Will we have a chance to talk with someone after dark? It would be smart to set up a sleep rotation so at least one person is on guard duty while everyone else sleeps. We got a tent right?
>Speak with Zhu about your time together in the past, when you traveled as a group with Klesiah and Hecate. This situation might feel nostalgic if you had more memories of that time...

votibg for this one again~
Rolled 2 (1d2)

>Will we have a chance to talk with someone after dark? It would be smart to set up a sleep rotation so at least one person is on guard duty while everyone else sleeps. We got a tent right?

Such details will be taken care of, Zhu and Hildegarde are experienced travelers and you've gotten supplies from Fortune. And yeah, if things are quiet, you'll have time to do things.

Rolling to break tie. Any anons can break my vote.
What did the dice say?
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Speaking with Zhu.
Would we be speaking with her privately or let everyone listen in? What benefit would that give us?
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>Would we be speaking with her privately or let everyone listen in?
In the open of course, it's some travel talk.
>What benefit would that give us?
What a cold thing to ask. A little emotion, talking about the past... Bonding is never a bad thing!

Exactly! Bonding time go~
True, I guess I can go along with it then. We can try to land some personal time with Shereen after we make camp then. Best to get some bonding done before Hilde finds out that our doggo princess is a natural born Blood mage. I'd imagine she doesn't trust or like those very much.
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Time was only measurable with the movement of the sun, you didn't know how long you and the girls spent talking but the afternoon was showing signs of evening as the sky grew brighter with the descending sun. The noises of your group footsteps were the only constant noises around, in this part of the world and its heat, birds, and insects didn't thrive. Shereen was starting to show weakening signs; she was far too proud to accept any help of course, but her legs were starting to hurt and she'd sneak a few rubs during the walk.

Somehow, this made you think back toward the fuzzy dream you've had; its memory wasn't as clear now that you have had so many things happening all at once but such travels weren't entirely unknown to you.

''Hey, Zhu.'' Your friend looked lost in thoughts and hearing you sharpened her attention. ''Would I be wrong in thinking that we've had similar travels in the past?''

Your question took her briefly aback as her single eye peeled open but a smile came to rest on her features as she processed your question. ''Nah, I've been kinda thinking about the gals cause what's happening really remind me of the past. Specially with our numbers.'' Shereen ears perked upright, betraying her attentiveness.

''The roads in the Allied Kingdoms were busier, though we didn't travel the breadth and length of the whole places. We'd hitch rides on caravans, stumble on villages or some kind of resting inns and stop by, more often than not begging for a place to stay and well, success was mitigated but hey, it was fun. It did happen here and there that we'd walk a day or two without finding a village but we made do back then too.'' Zhu paused, rubbing her sweaty forehead.

''You miss it?'' It sounded nice, you and the girls walking from place to place, enjoying one another company, seeing the life of the Allied Kingdoms...

''Hrm, I'm a bit mitigated on that.'' Zhu answered surprised you. ''Our situation back then wasn't too different from now, we traveled with a purpose cause our situation forced it instead of being a party of adventurers. We had people nipping at our hells, Knights of the Storms.''

''That's a bad lot.'' Hildegarde commented. ''All those guys respect is Eliaures queen authority. They've had many incidents where they trampled all over the people of other realms''

''The fights were fun not gonna lie.'' There came that feline, predatory smile as Zhu fingers danced on the pommel of her sword. ''But that life was taking a toll on you all, I didn't give much of a damn back then and now that I'm thinking back, I wish I could beat the fuck out of old me.'' She laughed and winked at you despite her closed eyes. ''Though not for all of my indulgence.''

''A happy and sad time all at once?'' You continued, doing your best to ignore your companion dangerous mood.
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''Yeah, it was living alright. You, Klesiah and Hecate were such balls of nerves...''

Hecate tall form held onto me, her soft purplish-white fuzz stained with fresh blood, tears crawling down her tenebrous eyes of darkened red warped in agony. ''Hey, I don't mind. I'm not dead.'' I said, bringing a hand to her deformed face. She felt warm, always was no matter the time of night. ''It's getting difficult to find people who deserve to be removed, this little bit should tide you over.''

''...Hell, now that I think about it I had to show you how to gut and skin a boar.''

You masked your distress by wiping the sweat off your face. Perhaps you'll be able to recover your past organically if such memories just... show up out of the blue.

''How is Hecate?'' This mothgirl was the last vestige of your past and it seems she held great importance indeed, for her memories to be clawing into your conscious mind...

Zhu winced. Her singular chromatic optic came into full view as she perused the group with its strange effect. ''Alive at least.'' Zhu paused and after looking at Shereen, closed her eye and continued without hesitation. ''After you died and we put you into the ground, Klesiah left us cause the knights kept coming. They wanted her after all and since you were gone, the grief was slowly killing the gals and I couldn't do a damn thing about it.''

''That...what!? Arawn died? What do you mean?'' Shereen suddenly exclaimed, stopping her walk and since nobody else did, ran to stay with the group.

''He's here now lass, that's what matters.'' You expected to see disbelief on Hildegarde's face but the woman remained composed despite Zhu words.

''She wanted to visit the elven forest since that's where you came from.'' Zhu continued, not letting Shereen impose herself. ''She... was losing her mind bits by bits, I think. I stuck by her but I realized that I couldn't do a damn thing, still, we got lucky cause we happened upon a hermit or rather, I'd say he found us. Guy was a druid and, to make a long story short, I left Hecate in his care after spending two months with em, making sure he was a straight old fart and all. Hecate was surprisingly receptive to his craft so... I reckon she had what it take to become his successor.''

Zhu had mentioned something about a druid before but having more details was... comforting at least.

''Once this is all over.'' Zhu continued, grinning. ''I'm taking you and Klesiah back to Hecate. I don't give a damn about obligations, we'll walk through earthquakes and hurricanes if we have to.'' A surprised yelp emerged out of Shereen when Zhu patted her head. ''And you're invited, little sun.''
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''I didn't want to interrupt, but there's something on the road.'' So engrossed were you in the discussion that you completely missed the faraway sight of what looked to be a set of close establishments near the road with visible farms stretching on both sides, both looking healthy and full of grains.

Too small to be a village, some kind of estate...?

''Ah! I remember something about this!'' Shereen suddenly exclaimed, waving at the buildings, making a little distance with the group. ''It's a farming estate that also acts as an inn. We should stop, they should have baths and everything, it's not like we're lacking for money.''

''After sweating like a pig all day I wouldn't mind a little soak.'' Zhu commented, bringing her hand on your shoulder.

A quick perusal of the plain revealed a total lack of cover, if you were to make camp anywhere nearby it'd be downright impossible to stay hidden from these folks unless you were to forego lights and completely embrace a fugitive life.

''...Shereen doesn't deserve the mistakes we did back then.'' Zhu whispered low enough to avoid being overheard by the fluffy princess.

''I could use a little cleaning.'' Said the maid bodyguard, having obviously overheard.

It's not like one or two hard nights will break Shereen, she's strong enough to endure but... you do admit to worrying over her emotional state, especially after the last few days; ever since that crossbow wounds, things have piled and piled incessantly. It might be for the best to take an easy night... Father above, do you all deserve it.

>Enjoy a night at the inn. You still have another day of travel before reaching Myrtidal, take it easy while you can.

>It is too dangerous. If you can't find a good place to camp nearby, then it'd be better to walk through this estate. You can't afford to let anyone know where you are...


Probably end here tonight, I'd like a few votes
Hmmm... so Hecate had to consume the blood and/or flesh of humans or mamonos from time to time it would seem. Did we feed her our blood in that memory or did she just help herself due to critical thirst levels? Hope that druid helped her to find a way around that. Would hate to find her a hollow mindless beast that we have to put down after all.

What's Zhu mean by "mistakes" we made back then? Did any harpies fly over us heading in this general direction? How big is this estate and who exactly runs it? Is it a noble? Can we try the aspect to check for resonance?
>It is too dangerous. If you can't find a good place to camp nearby, then it'd be better to walk through this estate. You can't afford to let anyone know where you are...

If we do things properly we can always stop here on the way back.
>It is too dangerous. If you can't find a good place to camp nearby, then it'd be better to walk through this estate. You can't afford to let anyone know where you are...
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>What's Zhu mean by "mistakes" we made back then?
Being too afraid of consequence to take a moment to rest.
>Did any harpies fly over us heading in this general direction?
None since that one that flew overhead about 4 hours ago.
>How big is this estate and who exactly runs it?
You'll need to go in there to find out the details because Shereen doesn't remember that. As for how big, it seems to be about 4 farms close together with their own houses, two bigger buildings on either side of the road make up this estate so it's not that big a place. There's place for caravans and horses, you're too far to see anything else in better details.
>Can we try the aspect to check for resonance?
Yes, you don't feel anything.
Hm, two refusals. I'll give this 15 more minutes, this won't need a big update.
Then we can try to mitigate the risks. Can we dye Hilde's hair somehow? Could Zhu go in alone and check it out? She's the only one without a unique distinguishing features (so long as that eye stays closed) unless Anubis type monstergirls are somewhat common in these parts. How well hidden are our ears? We'd be fine too so long as it isn't obvious we're hiding a feature like that.

We would also stand guard while the ladies bathed to ensure nobody got a peak at them. Both because of chivalry and because "Wanted: White Haired Human Female" with a fat bounty attached may have made it out here by now. Sleep rotation still goes into effect and we all share a room. Because it makes sense and Sieg has rubbed off on us.

Also, a factor people are probably forgetting is that the estate probably has security. We camp out near here (and we'll have to unless we want to march all through the night) and we get discovered they will assume fugitives/bandits and try to kill us or otherwise cause a ruckus that might get the attention of nearby harpies. That'd be very, very bad for us. Thus, better to risk it with the innkeeper and passing as legit travelers.
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>Can we dye Hilde's hair somehow?
Nope. She's pure white and you can't change that.
>Could Zhu go in alone and check it out?
Definitely possible.
>unless Anubis type monstergirls are somewhat common in these parts.
Shereen can easily be mistaken as a dog-type monster.
>How well hidden are our ears?
Arawn hasn't taken care of his wild hair and you've got a shawl, so they're totally hidden.

A little compromise is always possible instead of a hard refusal. I'll update tomorrow, I'd like to lock our vote tonight so I'll give this one a longer leeway.
Then yeah, a compromise is my vote. We and Zhu go in and check the place out and make sure nobody royal or noble looking is in there who might identify Shereen. Could also grab some news from the innkeeper. It'd be nice to know how far and fast word travels about shit going down in the capital.

Quick question, is there any profession or cultural hang up that could easily justify Hilde keeping her head covered? Gotta cover all the angles.
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One vote for scouting the place it is.

>Quick question, is there any profession or cultural hang up that could easily justify Hilde keeping her head covered?

Nah, shawls and hats are widely used to take some cover from the sun (unless you are in a city where you can just hide near a building). Keeping something like that indoor won't cause any trouble.

It might be too late to get more votes, so I'll extend things until tomorrow.
Compromise should work.
Supporting >>4179978 on a compromise.

Were Shereen used to travel and camping we could ignore the estate. Alas, she is not and we still have quite a ways to walk. Better not risk completely exhausting her physically or mentally.

>We would also stand guard while the ladies bathed to ensure nobody got a peak at them
Someone peek at Zhu and Hildegarde?
I'm sorry Anon, but I need to ask; do you want to protect the ladies from lecherous eyes or do you want to protect whatever poor bastard that tries it from the two?
I ike the sound of the compromise as well. Add my vote to that! :3
Alright. Just woke up, I'll try to update soon.
Right, forgot how lethal they are vs. the average fucker. It'd be the later then. We really don't want to start making corpses out of anyone who is not a bandit or rebel. It leaves a trail our pursuers could follow.

Plus, y'know, my original concern. "White Haired Woman" with a hefty bounty attached. She may be a feast for the eyes and stunning enough in the buff to excite even the most chaste of men, but a couple of zeroes behind a number of gold pieces could easily conquer that instinct with another basic lust shared by most everyone alive. Not that it ends well for the poor bastard, but that creates the above mentioned corpse problem again.

Wait, that's a potential cultural hang up. Errr, are the men supposed to guard the chastity of the girls they're with or is it the other way around here? Y'know, monstergirls, rare men, the dynamics can get a bit wonky with the factors in play within their territories.
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>Errr, are the men supposed to guard the chastity of the girls they're with or is it the other way around here?
Well, usually nobody guards anyone when they take a bath (unless nobles or royalty is involved) but you'd be free to do what you want, assume you do stay.
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Your first instinct was to completely reject any ideas of staying. Taking chances that your location could trickle back to Ensan is simply not something you should try but, thankfully, you managed to hold back your tongue when you took a second to observe your little sun who, unlike Hildegarde and Zhu, would undeniably lack the endurance to handle a hard camping night if you wanted to completely hide your presences to these folks.

''Hey, Zhu. Let's inspect the place and if we get a bad vibe, then we won't stay, deal?'' You could tell that your companion easily deduced your previous opinion.

''Sounds good to me.'' She answered, pointing at her single eye with her thumb. ''Can't let bad colors stain our daughter.''

''W-what?'' Shereen ears perked upright at the remark, she was thoroughly unable to avoid biting any baits. ''I'm your Sun and you'd better refer to me as such! If I say we stay at that place then we will and that's that!'' Shereen crossed her arms trying to appear majestic and only came off as pouty. ''We supposed it isn't unreasonable to ensure safety so we will remain with the stalwart bodyguard as you two accomplish a little investigation, though, it'd be a real shame not to enjoy a respite...''

The place was still easily an hour, if not two, away. The little spring in Shereen step was worth indulging her.


Getting closer revealed an interesting thing about this estate. One last farm was built a little further than the others and all of them had their little manor to shelter families and the angle of the estates also hid a genuine oasis enshrined by a stone fence, it was likely the place people took their water from or maybe just an occasional attraction; it was empty of souls as you got closer. Mamonos worked in the fields, all of them races you'd see in Marleon and loud barking from shepherd dogs easily announced your presence as your group stopped next to the single large inn. The other establishment was a stable and a warehouse, undeniably built to houses caravans away from the road and take care of horses, the total lack of both made the sight a little sad.

''This shouldn't take long.'' You said, turning to Shereen and Hildegarde. Zhu remained silent and fiddled with her sword.

''I'll trust your judgment... but it'd be really nice to stay.'' Shereen said, failing at sounding neutral.

You simply smiled at her and opened the door. Inside was a large hall that worked as a dining room, leisure area and administrative center for visitors. With a single counter next to a far wall with boxes holding keys for many rooms, you realized that this wasn't a poor establishment because everything looked neat and tidy without a soul in sight but that barely lasted a minute. A pair of closed doors behind the counter opened, revealing the brief sight of a courtyard and a centaur lady trotted inside.
Tall and majestic the horsewoman sported semi-long dark hair that fell around her face, wearing a shirt a few sizes too small to handle the heat. Creamy skin marked her as potentially foreign to this land but perhaps she was simply someone who didn't tan easily. ''Welcome, welcome sorry for the wait!'' The lady audibly walked to stand behind the counter, a little too tall to handle affair there comfortably but it wasn't going to stop her. Yellow eyes regarded you with invasive energy.

You and Zhu had come with a simple system: if she found suspicious ''colors'' then she'd give you a pinch.

''Welcome! Sorry for the wait!'' The lady announced.

''Good afternoon.'' You responded, glad that people outside the capital also spoke the common tongue. ''Me and my companions are travelers a little unused to Muribel, could I inquire about this inn and the estates?''

''Oh yes, of course.'' The lady clapped her hands, one equine foot tapping the ground. ''As you've seen this place is a farming estate, several families live together as a community and export their produce in Marleon or a few of the other farther cities, our inn was built to provide respite to travelers over the years as people came and went, though you could call it more a hobby than anything else. You'll find that we are no slouch to anything you'd find in the capital I'll guarantee you! We've got comfortable underground baths, a library and a stash of tobaccos amongst a few other things!'' The woman pumped her fist for emphasis. ''My name is Mirza of the Parvaiz family, we handle the farm next to the road.''

''Are there any other guests present?'' You asked and the centaur nodded.

''Just one, a traveler like you guys. He's up in the library, you'd be free to mingle if you so wish.''

Hm, well... things didn't look suspicious at a first glance.

>Ask some questions? (Precise what.)
>Stay, it'd be better for everyone to have at least one night to relax.
>Leave, if there's a traveler here, he might bring news of who you are to Marleon
>Stay, it'd be better for everyone to have at least one night to relax.

Would it be possible to take a different route back into Marleon once we're heading back.
>Would it be possible to take a different route back into Marleon once we're heading back.
Of course. It'll all depend on how things go in Myrtidal but plotting a new course isn't unreasonable.
So the traveler is in the library. Ok, from where we are, where are the library, rooms, and the baths? Does the path to the library cross with where the rooms are? We don't ask that question out loud of course as that'd be suspicious so try to infer the answer.

Not gonna lie, kinda want to find out who or what this traveler is. If they're an adventurer or merc we could hire em' out. Meatshields are very nice to have. Then again, it could also be one of Ama's toadies so caution regardless. If they are one of Ama's that might not be completely bad though. From what we saw in Throne Town her Apostles aren't exactly united in cause or motivations. In fact they seemed to somewhat dislike one another. I'd be all for aiding one in stabbing the others in the back.
>where are the library
It is its own room on the corner of the second floor, relatively away from everything. There are a few rooms next to it, the entire second floor is pretty much a corridor for all of the chambers.
>the baths
Basement, there's a main spiral staircase that allows you to access all the floors.
>Stay, it'd be better for everyone to have at least one night to relax.
I have questions, bu I can't seem to phrase them in a way that won't make us seem suspicious.

Oh, how many floors does the inn have? I figure that a quick exit from a second floor window is still doable, but higher up would be tricky.
Only two (discounting basement), the place is built large, not tall.
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Gonna start the update if you have miscellaneous questions feel free to ask.
>Stay, it'd be better for everyone to have at least one night to relax.
>That pic
I am either very worried or very intrigued depending on who it potentially represents.
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Siegfried fluffs are still kicking my good anon.
I don't know how that one could travel given her "problem" upon losing consciousness but if it was somehow solved than her aid would be of invaluable help. We need more super strong combatants and she sure as fuck qualifies. Wait, doesn't she inherently ping the aspect because of, well, y'know?

Can we try another scan? The estate was a distance away and the aspect's range is limited more than usual in this land if I remember right. Thus, she might have been out of range.
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Let's just say that seeing Ame will be difficult, to my greatest chagrin. Been years since I wrote the fluffy pair...
>Can we try another scan?
Already taken care off in my writing, nothing pinged.
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The temptations of asking about Myrtidal almost made you slip a question but you decided to remain silent about your purpose... if only to prevent trouble for these folks. Who knows how far Ensan would go te recover one of her vital pieces? But, it's not unreasonable to enjoy a service if you can either and Zhu calm demeanor (and a lack of reactions from embracing Ama aspect) made you believe things looked safe at a first glance.

''Would it be possible to gather four people inside a single room?'' Zhu stifled a laugh and covered her mouth at your remark.

''Ah...'' The centaur-lady twitching fluffy ears made it obvious she hadn't expected that. ''...we do have a royal suite, It'll be possible to move a bed or two in there to accommodate you.''

''Then please do.'' Might as well enjoy a little luxury, you're not hurting for money.

''Okay!'' Mirza smiled sheepishly. ''Please leave your bags in the hall, for now, I'll have a few girls clean the room thoroughly. Feel free to explore or ask for a guide, that won't take long...''

The price of admission was, admittedly, steep but not entirely unreasonable for enjoying a ''royal suite.'' As you paid the centaur, Zhu walked off to fetch Hildegarde and Shereen and the beastwoman went outside, promising you the key to your room once it was prepared.

''Now, staying isn't entirely unreasonable right?'' Shereen huffed at you after entering, Hildegarde ominous gaze scanned the area for threats.

''Her little majesty can enjoy herself freely.'' You responded, cause an irritated twitch of ears and tail frisk. ''There's also a traveler staying here, so don't be surprised if we see someone else. We'll also be staying in the same room.''

''Pardon?'' Hildegarde asking, blinking.

''Arawn has a fe-'' Zhu voice devolved into a mirthful quack when you stomped on her feet. ''He enjoys feeling secure and hey, taking the royal suite is a way to save some gold. Probably would have cost more to take separate rooms.''

Hildegarde judgemental glare was genuinely painful, you could feel goosebump of shame all over. Come on, it's not that bad... right? Thankfully an interruption ended this subject when the doors behind the counter opened again and a trio came inside, two youthful lamias with a Holstaurus -a Mamonos with cow-like disposition- each of them giving your group polite greetings as they went upstairs.

''This shouldn't take long.'' Mirza trotted behind the counter. ''Would you guys like an early supper?''

It was getting late, the sun was starting its descend behind the horizon, drenching the world in gorgeous orange lights of dusk.

''Got anyone who enjoys a fight?'' Zhu asked, taking the poor centaur aback.

''Oh come on, not now.'' You grumbled at your companion. ''You've had your fill today, please ignore her.'' The centaur could only give another sheepish smile.
Things are completely open now and you can do as you wish. Meeting with the traveler is possible, enjoying a particular discussion with the girls over supper work, getting to know the exotic Mamonos of the farming estate etc. For now, each action will gradually drain time depending on what it is you want to do. Take a breather, you've earned it.

If you guys feel stumped for choice then I'll offer greentexts as always.
We still need to explain to Shereen how we met Klesiah, the second time around.
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Indeed. Giving this 15 minutes and we'll proceed with a little talk.
Sure, let's have a chat with Shereen.

Afterwards, we definitely need to have a bath.

If we have time I'd like to experiment with our magic for a bit - specifically forming a weapon. Emphasis on *if*, that would undoubtedly take a good chunk of time. But having a dagger or some other short blade to fall back on is always a plus.
Maybe taking baths.
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Stuff like baths can be enjoyed at a later time don't worry.

I support doing this.
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''You guys feel like eating now?'' You asked the group and all of them answered with unanimous affirmative (even Hildegarde). After that, the centaur prepared a table and promised everyone supper within the next thirty minutes.

''Phew.'' Shereen sighed upon sitting, trying her best not to look too obvious with rubbing her legs. ''Today was... something. I'm a little tired.'' You wondered if she'd outright crash once evening settle.

''One to remember, hell, the week was crazy.'' Zhu responded, keeping a hand on her sword. ''Girls here have pretty colors, fancy a try Arawn?''

''Is that a new ploy to tease me? Don't start.'' You huffed in response, the genuine disappointment on Zhu face made you wonder if she genuinely wanted to see you flirt with other women. ''Actually, I just remember something.'' A kindle of remembrance lit your mind when you crossed eyes with Hildegarde. ''Since we're going to find one of my companions, I'd like to share how I've met with her again last year.''

This brought all the girl's attention, one of them was a genuine witness of the event and the other two were undeniably interested.

''It was a total fluke, you see one day during my stay in Throne Town...'' Minding your tone, you spoke in a whisper as noises of activity traveled from upstairs when the Mamonos began to move furniture around. You spoke of Daiyu, Sieglinde, Elina, Hao, and Teruko; your meeting with concealed Gwendolyn and Martha, how you came upon the large camp of the queen and the rival baroness Gremory...

''By the way, how have the refugees been doing now?'' You asked Hildegarde, your curiosity demanded you to deviate from the subject slightly.

''Adaptation was difficult since barely any of them understood Commons. Kreszenz unusual situation also increased adversity but, thankfully, my queen hired a peculiar mercenary band in Fallerin to work as translators because a few amongst their numbers spoke the languages of these Mamonos somehow, things have settled nicely afterward, especially since we have many shrines dedicated to Mamonos ancestors... Last I heard quite a few of them volunteered to bolster her majesty army with all the recent troubles and many adopted Mother Earth side of the religion, calling them refugees would be a lie now.''

Good. That'll make Teruko happy. ''Thanks. Now, back then the refugee camps were in a bad shape because the conflict of interest between the two rulers made it difficult to distribute needed supplies so Kreszenz healers were stretched incredibly thin but...'' And so you continued to detail that adventure, speaking of Anais, the poisonous infiltrator, how you and Hao created a clumsy intelligence network with the refugees. Goodness, relating all of that became surprisingly fun as you lost yourself in memories, sharing your tale with an audience that was genuinely interested in what you had to say helped.
''You went into a Moot while pretending yourself a leper?'' Zhu guffawed, shaking her head. ''Man, you know how to milk your advantage huh?'' She made a vague gesture to her ear to avoid speaking your ancestry out loud.''

By now a tasty supper of well-cooked chicken, peas, bread, potatoes, and sauces had arrived and everyone beside Hildegarde was tearing into it with gusto.

''It worked out in the end, honestly, I was desperate because Gremory had me on the back foot. Calling on the honor of her guards was...''

''...Like a fairytale.'' Shereen interrupted, you felt a sudden rise of heat rush into your face. ''I understand why you're so adamant in finding her now.''

''I-I mean... She's.. well me and Zhu have a history with her too and she's in trouble, then we also know something's up so...''

''Yeah, you came back to her after a painful separation... it's a fairytale.'' A sad expression came to grace her face and Zhu trait had hardened into uncharacteristic seriousness.

You heard the wooden stairs on the far side of the room crack and a curious glance revealed a different person than the Mamonos that had come and gone, a young man walked downstair, undeniably the unnamed traveler mentioned by the centaur who was still behind the counter. His quiet arrival still gathered a collection of curious glances since there weren't any other patrons.

''Oh? Evening to you all, it is good to see that precious Mirza lauded cuisine deserve all her lavished praises, I'll be ready for my indulgence now, dear.'' Holding a book, the young man flashy look had undeniably been the reason why he's gathered everyone's attention.

Wild white hair colored exactly like Hildegarde added with genuinely purple eyes and youthful traits to make him look something like a fairy, were they males. Calling him handsome was one hell of an understatement. A thin long-sleeved coat turned grayish-brown by travel adorned his frame and he held onto a book carefully as he waved in greeting to your group.
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Embracing Ama aspect revealed nothing, he wasn't under her direct influence.

''Of course, sir Armin, take whatever seat you'd like!'' The centaur smiled with rising redness coloring her features and started clopping away.

''Do feel free to invite whoever would like to hear about Muribel past, it's about time for me to fulfill my promise. I've had an enjoyable time in your library.'' The man retorted, winking at the beastwoman.

''Muribel past?'' Shereen asked with ears perked upright despite the shawl on her head. ''Are you a storyteller?''

''Nay, I seek them out.'' He made a low bow, fist on his heart. ''I travel while following old legends and seeking ruins of old, Muribel is a country with quite a history, seeing for myself if the lands still held marks of old times has been quite enjoyable despite recent troubles.'' The man took a seat at a polite distance from your group and opened his book. ''Call me Armin, a simple wanderer.''

''Hrm, guy got weird colors.'' Zhu whispered, single half-open chromatic eye carefully scanning the man. ''Black and white, maybe he's got some corruption in him and he's a holy user? Not getting a bad vibe though.''

Well, at least you can put a face on this traveler. Everyone has their passion and, undeniably, the man must have some capabilities to be traveling alone.

You could always try to discuss with him. What sort of things does he know about the past of legends of Muribel? But... maybe you should enjoy your time with the girls instead. Talking about Klesiah inevitably made you think about the girls you've tied your soul with, a little longing for the past tugged at your heart.

You still have plenty of time, should you do anything special or head into some well-deserved cleaning?

Hmmm... what was that blue bastard's name again? Harkon? I can't remember and I'm still paranoid about dudes holding books thanks to that asshole.

So he looks like Fate's Merlin eh? Dude might know a thing or two about astral magic or the pearls of power. Say we wanted to discuss one of those with him, how long would it take?
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Harkon yeah.
>Say we wanted to discuss one of those with him, how long would it take?
About enough time for nightfall.
I say we head to the baths.

Gonna hit the hay myself, thanks for running Insert!
Always happy to have you. Gonna give this one it's usual 20 minutes wait.
Will he still be available after nightfall/a bath? People don't tend to go to sleep right after it gets dark after all. Also, are the baths mixed or is there a male and female section?
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>Will he still be available after nightfall/a bath?
Yeah, you don't need to worry too much about time.
>Also, are the baths mixed or is there a male and female section?
You'll find out soon enough
Then baths it is. May the lord have mercy on any poor soul dumb enough to try and peep on the girls!
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Rolled 2 (1d2)

Let's see what the dice choose.
Well now, it seem like it was preordained.
I know that by this point it doeen't make a difference, but I'd vote for Bath also!
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Leaving the traveler to enjoy his meal and with the end of your little story no longer distracting the girls, the idea of taking a bath became unanimous and with the help of a newly roped lamia employee, your group was guided in the large basement of the inn that was undeniably made to exclusively house a bathing area. A few small windows allowed tasteful sight of the crouching sun and the basement was separated in two rooms; one to shed clothing and, as the lamia eagerly showed, a large commune pool that had been freshly changed with three other smaller enclosure for personal cleaning: this was a thermae, a commune bath that immediately gave you a fluster.

''S-so it's a commune bath.'' You stated the obvious as the lamia nodded.

''Of course, feel free to enjoy yourselves. We'll deliver freshers clothes in a few minutes, would you like us to handle yours and wash them?''

''No, it'll be fine.'' Hildegarde tugged on her shawl and the lamia left without further comment, apparently not giving the slightest amount of care about a gentleman remaining with three other women.

'''T-this is well... Of course, there would be commune baths, it's normal, it makes sense and it's large, spacious, undeniably comfortable, better than my own...'' Shereen babbled on after the lady snake closed the door.

''Place seems fairly enclosed, no chance for anyone to peek.'' You said, managing to keep your voice from wavering. Come on Arawn, this isn't bad, there's nothing wrong happening.

''I saw a few small windows, likely to keep regulating the temperature. One would need to be brazen indeed to try and look here.'' Hildegarde idly said, removing her shawl and placing it on one of many tables. ''I've spent far too long inside a cage, I'll take one of the secluded baths; you three should enjoy yourselves.''
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''It is not a gentleman way to be nude with women...''
''N-no way!''
''Oh yeah, a little fun won't hurt.''

All three of you spoke together. Shereen brown features grew an adorable shade of red and you made a point to avoid looking at Zhu.

''Arawn, don't take it harshly, but you sounded lame as hell.'' Your companion stated bluntly. Oof.
''You'd rather I was a pervert relishing the chance of seeing naked women?'' You retorted in frustration, forgetting who it was you were speaking with.
''Yes.'' So blatantly confident and at ease with her desires, you had to give Zhu a little credit there. This woman knows not a hint of shame.

''T-this is not proper! Not yet, I mean... You're my Moons you two so huh... maybe it is?'' The more Hildegarde casually shed her clothing, the more Shereen was losing her grip on reality. ''Just leave! Wait until we get in the water!'' The princess shooed you away and you promptly obeyed before Zhu could protest.

Phew... There was just a single door separating the changing room with the corridor leading into the stairs and you were glad that nobody witnessed this shameful event. You could hear Zhu openly laughing while protesting but, soon enough, the girls finished their business as you waited and got into the bath properly...

Women in baths take a while, this might be a good time for mediation. Away, temptation!

>Wait here like the good boy you totally are until the girls finish washing. Guard that door, Arawn.
>Screw it. Give them enough time to get changed and get in the water then go in yourself. It's efficient, nobody will ambush you and... a little Shereen bullying will be fun.
>Wait here like the good boy you totally are until the girls finish washing. Guard that door, Arawn.
It's more for everyone else's safety than for the girls.
>Wait here like the good boy you totally are until the girls finish washing. Guard that door, Arawn.
Can we train our magic while we wait? Because if not I say we bully a doggo!
Good boy.
Well, a little pass time... for now, wait and see.
>Screw it. Give them enough time to get changed and get in the water then go in yourself. It's efficient, nobody will ambush you and... a little Shereen bullying will be fun.

So can we or can't we train our magic if we wait outside like a good little elf? Could we train it inside the bath?
''Phew.'' You decided to give your tired legs a little rest and sat on the ground. Being alone was becoming a genuinely rare occurrence and for a moment you enjoy hearing the faraway splashes of water and morsels of echoing voice that traveled out of the baths alongside the occasionally sharp noise of wind filtering through small windows.

Zhu rowdiness was a little difficult to handle but... saying you didn't enjoy her brazen spirit would be a total lie. There are still a few things you aren't willing to try in the name of fun however and honestly, keeping your modesty isn't that bad... This should give you a moment to train a little magic!

embracing Focus, you're tried to find the mental emptiness needed to examine your flow but the occasional splash of water coming from the bats and the girls voices managed to somehow -always- occur at the perfect time to distract you. You were too far to hear proper words but there were some talks going on and your curiosity was such a horribly difficult thing to resist.

But you need to. This, in of itself, could be a surprisingly efficient way to train your magic;dominate your desires, your wants, and concentrate on your magical flow, think about a spell, imagine your veins becoming a singular river carrying your life essence...

Then the door suddenly opened, obliterating your concentration.
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Zhu stood there, in the open, completely naked and as always, utterly shameless her body-look away! It hasn't even been five minutes, woman!
''Not even trying to peek.'' She stated, not at all as a question.
''Y-you, what are... go back to cleaning damn it!'' Shit, this is even worse than that time she snuck into your bed, full-frontal...! My, this floor is clean.
''Get your ass in here, there's a good vibe going. Hild won't give a shit and Shereen will adapt, there's enough space for all of us and keep the no-no bits covered.'' Zhu stepped closer, her wet feet audibly ringing.
''I'm trying to practice magic!'' Not even the ground was safe from nakedness.
''I'll practice your d-'' Zhu made an odd noise, an actual genuine plaint of vulnerable embarrassment as she realized what she was about to say. Next moment she grabbed your collar causing a jiggle in-look away! ''I ain't asking!'' She was actually a little red in the face. ''I'll break that shell!'' A nice smell came from her, her wet body heated by warm water was undeniably pleasant even if you weren't touching, something deep and primal inside you simply agreed with this assessement.
''I'm keeping myself pure for the woman I'll love!'' You retorted failing to flee from her grasp.

''We might die in Myrtidal.'' No other statement would have doused your emotions so mercilessly. Zhu single chromatic eye was open, gazing at you almost sadly. ''I wanna enjoy Shereen embarrassed colors some more, so come on. Ain't nothing wrong going on and you're overthinking things. I'll drag ya at this rate.''

That... Well, this... There's no rebuttal here. You're heading headlong into inevitable mortal perils and it seems she's surprisingly adamant about this group bath, huh?

>''Alright...'' It's not that big of a deal right?
>''I'd rather not, thank.'' She's trying to drag you into her pace, this woman is far too wild for your taste!
>''Alright...'' It's not that big of a deal right?
I guess this is happening.
Ok, so the girls will distract us because we *are* a healthy dude with desires like everyone else. Damnit I wish Gardy was here. His reaction to all this would be absolutely hilarious.

Welp, since training is impossible in this situation we might as well relent and give in. We're still going to try and be a gentleman however and we're still saving ourselves for the woman we will love in the future! Zhu's got a point but snu snu before the big battle is a death flag for the dude (i.e. us) damnit!

Plus the other girls. They'll feel that and that'll fuck with their emotional state before a big battle. That could get em' killed.

Out of curiosity, what did Zhu stop herself from blurting out? I know what part of it was but just how lewd was her mouth going to sound before her brain caught up with it and slammed on the brakes?
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This choice isn't that important in the grand scheme of things but your relationships with the girls always matter right?

Getting a little too late for me to update, so we'll end here tonight.

>Out of curiosity, what did Zhu stop herself from blurting out?
Oh, anon... do you really need to ask? You know what she was about to say.
I know half of it, she might have gone further had she continued. I love it when girls talk dirty but it is nice to know Zhu has limits in regards to how lewd she's comfortable with getting. Makes her more endearing. You don't have to spell it out, just say if she would have gone further than that and a 1-10 on the lewd scale of how bad/good it was going to be if she was.
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Chaotic Neutral is dangerous but at least she know how to hold back... a little.
>"I'd rather not, but alright."
God DAMNIT Zhu. Good job, keep up the good work.
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Oh... oh my. She was going to get a wee bit graphic it would seem then. I wonder if the Demon Lord would have been proud of that.

Y'know, if we weren't at the top of a short list of potential suitors she'd consider worthy of her daughters. Hard to find those, can't have some random hussy poaching them off!
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>I wonder if the Demon Lord would have been proud of that.
Are you insinuating that Daiyu is anything but pure?
>Y'know, if we weren't at the top of a short list of potential suitors she'd consider worthy of her daughters.
Do you think there's a list?
Sieglinde is the only one who had a ''publicly known'' boyfriend then also had a husband. Both winded up dead, killed by the Demon Lord.

Dating the Jawahirs is a very big risk.
Pure of heart perhaps, but we already know she likes to be lewd. If only because of the reactions it gets out of people who aren't used to it. She did tease Klesiah and us about our battery spell if I remember right and she was a master of the double entendre in that exchange.

And dating the Jawahirs is only a risk if you've got motives other than making those girls the happiest women on the planet. I don't see why anyone would not have that goal, they're all wonderful in their own ways. But hey, nobles are dumb and put politics and intrigue above matters of the heart. Hence why Daiyu had to take out the "trash" as it were. We will not be following their idiotic example! If we go for one we will love and cherish them forever!
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>She did tease Klesiah and us about our battery spell if I remember right and she was a master of the double entendre in that exchange.

She was charmed by Klesiah overwhelming vulnerability, nobody can resist the blueberry!
>I don't see why anyone would not have that goal, they're all wonderful in their own ways.
Let's just say it take a man without memories to get that opinion... at least, for now. One does not simply date demon princess.
No, not a lack of memories, just a man with a healthy appreciation for good women of great beauty and charm. That and a functioning self-preservation instinct and an IQ higher than a brutally clubbed lemming.

Sadly, nobility tends to have none of those qualities. We're kind of an exception to that rule. Sieg is still best girl for me so once this is all settled we need to take her on a date! And cure her, I don't want any "tragic" romance with a girl soon to be dead or in need of killing.
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There can be more than one best girl.
Sieglinde seems healthy enough for now. But it's rude to be talking about other women when Zhu is standing naked next to you!

And we'll only talk about other girls if it comes up. You are correct after all, it's rude to speak of other women when beautiful ones are naked before you.

Still worried about her though. Gardy essentially sacrificed himself to save her and all the other girls and it still didn't fully cure her of that affliction. I doubt we can do it a second time without him and we still aren't sure he's even still around somehow!
Sieglinde was terrified to even talk about what happened. But hey... that's a worry for later.
>''Alright...'' It's not that big of a deal right?

I just hope he isn't gone for good and us the mere echo/ghost he left behind. Sadly, my money's on the later probability. He was technically never truly "alive" as an artificial being so it wouldn't be resurrection so much as "reconstruction" so maybe he can be brought back, but that'd take literal divine intervention. Or our own ascension to godhood so that we could just do that ourselves. That possibility was sort of hinted at, that we may be able to attain divinity somehow.
We'll likely only have one or two updates today, I had all kind of trouble sleeping so I'm a functioned on the slow side.
That's cool, we're more than willing to wait for some quality honest to goodness fanservice. It has been so very, very long...
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''Okay, okay you win.'' Zhu was more than brazen enough to put her threat into action and... was it wishful thinking on your part or was there some hint of heartache when you kept refusing to indulge her?

Zhu released your collar and you continued to try very hard to look away, the hints of peachy skin you saw was a fantastically tantalizing sight.
''Always a sucker for a sad face huh?'' She said with this damnably teasing tone.

''You...!?'' She didn't wait to hear you complain, instead, her mischievous laugh interrupted you and she turned around to walk into the changing room while pulling on your arm, forcing you to keep your gaze on the ground. Each heartbeat released pulses of temptations throughout your body that trampled over any frustration you had at being played so easily by this damnably impish swordswoman.

''Come on, come on get to changing!'' Zhu released you and you had no choice but to obey now. You gave her a little ground and she went for a mile and now here you are, putting down your shield and mace, removing your gauntlet and the leathery travel clothes that had been sticking to your skin because of all your sweat... Good thing everyone brought their luggage here, there was some change of clothes in there. You made sure to grab a towel and wrap it around your waist even before you got out of your underwear.

''Hmm... you know, if there's one thing I hate about my sight it's that I can't see details all that well.'' Gods, you were so damn worked up about your situation that you didn't hear Zhu getting closer, you felt her arm touch the area previously covered by your gauntlet that hid the new ugly mark left by your duel against the salamander to recover your good. ''Something new here?''

''Ah... yeah.'' You concentrated on looking at her face, her sharp features and the almond shape of her eyes always reminded you that she came from a faraway land.

''Do you think my body has gotten uglier?'' She asked you, holding onto her sword for some reason, taking a step back to show herself to you in a way that was genuinely impossible to resist now. Not after the hint of vulnerability you heard in her tone, no way that could be calculated. No way at all.

Standing naked before you, Zhu was a tempting sight and undeniably beautiful, oozing a wild captivating charm. Curvaceous, peachy skin healthy body... she had everything to make any women jealous. P-Perky in the way all men would love, Zhu undeniably enjoyed basking in your sight and she twirled to caused organic consequences, continuously breaking bits and bits of your conscious stubborn mind in trying to keep some semblance of politeness. Her legs were, somehow, what you found the most tempting but after a few seconds to reframe your mind you noticed the scars all over her body.
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There were far too many to count. Slashing mark, puncture from wild beasts or arrows, odd burnt marks that were vestiges of lightning bolts marked her back like claws, marks upon marks continued down her naked legs but, worst of all was her belly. The fight against Horkus had left a brutal, ugly mark on her belly that had seemingly removed her belly button, the potions having worked their magic to create a big scab that, in turn, became a warped piece of flesh that might just... make it impossible for any chances at bearing a child. The healing might have had some complications, ones she kept entirely to herself.

''No, not to me.'' Somehow all these marks made her so, so very tantalizing, so very Zhu ''You should try taking a break.'' You added, concern genuinely washing over lust... albeit temporarily.

''Thank.'' Zhu twirled, sounding a little dispirited. ''Don't show those sad colors, now's the time for you to enjoy yourself.'' Whistling, she walked toward the single door leading into the baths and opened it, causing a healthy waft of steam to pour out.

A sudden noise followed, something being audibly swallowed by water. ''Here, feel free to look.'' Zhu continued casually, flashing you a smile, walking toward the nearest single bath occupied by Hildegarde and handing her sword over.

''Thank...'' The maid said carefully, red eyes looking at you in silent accusation. She was almost completely submerged in the clear water so-

''I'm not looking!'' You cleared your throat and walked forward, minding your steps to avoid slipping like a moron.

''Okay.'' The maid responded bluntly, not losing a degree of guard. ''There's nothing for you to be afraid of.'' She said not at all sounding honest. Danger!
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Shereen was in the thermae, its clear, warm water looked inviting. Her body was completely submerged and she took a genuine swim on the other side of the circle and only reemerged up to her chin, fluffy ears angrily twitching, hugging herself with arms and legs to hide her body as much as possible which, with the distance, was effective although... her tanned skin looked wonderful in the clear water. ''I told you not to bring him!'' She case accusatory glares to you and Zhu, who by the way, had also gotten in the water.

''I've been a bad girl and didn't listen to my sun.'' Zhu responded playfully, already moving toward Shereen. ''Now I'm going to wash your ears and tail as you promised, it's not easy to give all that fluffiness a good rub.''

''T-that was only if he wasn't there- don't get closer!'' Alas, Shereen only choice as to look at her predator arrival uselessly. ''Don't go touching me damn it! I should have kept a rod I swear!'' Loud splashes followed as she tried to fruitlessly push away Zhu.

You couldn't resist letting out a long, satisfied sigh when you finally got into the water and felt it for yourself (while keeping your towel, of course.). After everything that happened in the previous days you had genuinely forgotten to wash yourself and this bath, this atmosphere felt... nice. Shereen panicky noises at being bullying were soothing for the soul.

>Keep things calm, enjoy the sights and give yourself a well-earned pause.
>See if you can start a discussion with Hildegarde. (Precise what)
>It might not be so bad to let some of Zhu influence wash over you. Indulge in some mischievousness at Shereen expense... Nothing bad will happen.
>Keep things calm, enjoy the sights and give yourself a well-earned pause.

Focus on getting clean and remembering to wash behind our ears.
Always trying to be a gentlemen. I'm a tad under the weather tonight so I'll leave this choice open.
>Keep things calm, enjoy the sights and give yourself a well-earned pause.
Would it be possible to bully Shereen in a gentlemanly manner? I want to bully her but I also don't want to lend credence to her somewhat frequent charges of us being a "lusty" moon. We may lust for exotic monstergirl bits, but other than that we're pure!

Also, didn't Fortune assure Zhu that, thanks to Francine's aid, she'd still be able to have kids? She might have to be extra careful during the pregnancy but she should still be able to have them right? It'd be really sad if she couldn't thanks to vengeful dice gods.
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>Would it be possible to bully Shereen in a gentlemanly manner?
No. Or maybe yes, I suppose it depend on how one sees being ''gentlemanly''

>Also, didn't Fortune assure Zhu that, thanks to Francine's aid, she'd still be able to have kids?
Yeah but it doesn't change Arawn impression. That scar on her stomach is really ugly and looks plainly dangerous..
We would keep it nice and pure, nothing lewd or risque. Commenting on her beauty here in the baths, how cute she is when she gets all pouty, how we like her better when she's like this, etc.

Could also go for a headpat, nothing lewd about those. A chance to feel those fluffy ears as we do it is just an side benefit to how good it seems to make her feel. I wonder if that's a relic of her canine nature.
Oh, we could also try to start a bit of a water fight if we were to get just a little bit rowdy. Using soul arms wouldn't set off any alarms would it? Also, are our ears still hidden by our hair or the steam of the baths? If someone is peeping our ears are now the most "exotic" feature thanks to that traveler also having white hair somewhat normalizing Hilde.
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>We would keep it nice and pure, nothing lewd or risque. Commenting on her beauty here in the baths, how cute she is when she gets all pouty, how we like her better when she's like this, etc.

It doesn't quite go in like with keeping things calm as the other two anon above so I'll call this choice...

>Wholesome teasing

Rejecting Zhu lewd influence!
>Also, are our ears still hidden by our hair or the steam of the baths?
Arawn ears will show once he get his hair wet.
>Keep things calm, enjoy the sights and give yourself a well-earned pause.
Sigh contentedly.
Got totally engrossed reading something fascinating, our update should come soon.
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''Hya! I can do wash myself you... you lusty Moon! Drink some bathwater to cool your heat!'' You heard a splash of water as Shereen continued to complain, your decision to close your eyes and avoid temptation had been a wise one indeed.

''I can feel all kinds of nooks and cranny that'd be missed by my royal sun.'' You couldn't decide between Zhu sounding playful or seductive. Probably both.

''Is that how you justify molestation!? Why are you so all touchy anyway!? It's because Arawn is here?'' Yet more splashes followed. Empty your mind, lust is fleeting but honor is forever... yeah.

''Of course, having him here make it all the more fun. After all, he loves touching fluffing things and right now he's not even allowing himself to enjoy his little sun lovely wet furs...''

''Hrm.'' Okay, you'll give Zhu some credit: this is a damnably good bait. Movement from the ladies bodies made more splashes, the noise sounded smother now and there was also some... audible rubbing. Scratch, scratch

''I-is that so?'' Shereen said, sounding midway between scared and fascinated. ''Well, I do not indulge my royal privilege as much as I should huh? I think making my Moons take care of my fluff wouldn't be unreasonable... But it -is- beyond reason to be touching me so frivolously!''

''I don't think listening to Zhu is a go-'' A loud noise of splashing water alongside the sensation of waves on your body made you stop talking well before hearing your little sun.

''A man shouldn't speak in the baths around women! Keep those eyes closed!'' Shereen all but trampled any attempt for you to speak in her panic.

Aaah... This is really soothing water, so warm, so comforting, almost melting away. Zhu audible giggle and constant insistence as she maneuvered herself into cleaning Shereen fluffs became something of a background droning noise as you stopped caring and before you realize it you had begun to stare at Hildegarde.

The maid bodyguard was almost submerged into her lone bath, your current angle only allowing you to see her profile halfway out of the water. Her hair previously tied in a bun clung to her shiny white shoulders and disappeared in the water, looking almost irresistibly inviting. Lights shone unnaturally against her limbs like freshly polished steel, she observed Zhu sword with rapt attention, enough for her instinct to completely miss your adventurous eyes and soon enough guilt caught up to you and made you look away.

Anais bodyguard truly was quite the looker, as far as you were concerned, the artificiality surrounding her gave her an exotic aura similar to Mamonos.

''You're looking.'' Shereen accused you when your eyes trailed toward her.
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She was sitting at the far end of the thermae with Zhu beside her, legs up to her chest and one arm wrapped around them as she presented her other to her Moon. Her completely black hair was wet and clung to her similarly to Hildegarde, falling around her shoulders, clinging to her chest then reaching the water and floating around, almost like a protective semi-sphere. Despite her shortness, Shereen didn't lack in curves and the mounds of flesh on her chest that she kept squished definitely showed that your little sun was a healthy lady indeed.

Zhu had also gone underwater, her wilder hair clinging to her body; two sideway gray strange rested on her shoulders and her long ponytail snaked down her back and into the water... Goodness. The way she spread soap on Shereen furry arm was almost servile.

''Sorry.'' You looked away, you had to because, at this moment, you understood something of inevitable importance. A primal truth about yourself had been kindled to life.

You've awakened to a new fetish. And you'll have to be the last one out of the baths. Damn you, Zhu. Damn you. You decided to go underwater to at least freshen up your mind.

''A fascinating sword, Zhu.'' Hildegarde thankfully brought your existential crisis to an end as her voice reverberated gently after you emerged. ''Correct me if I'm wrong but... activating it needs a certain emotion, doesn't it?''

'Hm, that's far too good to be a guess.'' Your companion responded. ''It'd be a little sinister to go into details but yes, that blade needs a certain mindset.''

''And it is weaponized Holy.'' The maid continued, giving you a rise of goosebumps. That is -far- too right to be a simple guess.

''Hope you don't mind a little heresy.'' Zhu continued, sounding as carefree as ever. ''Now for your ears.'' She said to Shereen.

''Grr...'' The princess protested but ultimately obeyed.

''I'm glad that you can wield it. Sorry for sounding cryptic or accusatory, I don't want to sound hostile.'' Hildegarde said, splashing a little water as she began to clean herself.

You had to admit to having felt some vague tenseness between the women but that might have been you overthinking.

''What I do know is that this was the weapon of The Embodiment of Justice.'' The maid statement caused a reactive splash from Shereen.

''Seriously!? Amazing! How do you know that lady Hild?'' The princess had almost escaped Zhu grasp but the swordswoman wasn't about to let go of her indulgence of fluffiness.
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''I know an angel. That's how he described the weapon to me, an empty sword, nothing more than a handle that can somehow conjure a blade of glittering gold... When I saw you wielding it on the docks, that's what I immediately thought and since I can't activate it, it -must- need a certain emotion.'' You heard a faint click as Hildegarde must have put the blade on the ground next to her bath. ''Sorry if... I'm being rude.''

''How'd you even get it Zhu?'' Shereen continued, all traces of sadness and stress from today finally gone, her curiosity and fascination at wanting to know her Moons overshadowing her guilt. Shereen did have a fascination for history and that extended to her friend's lives.

''Hm...'' Zhu hesitated, you wondered how Shereen princess colors were now. ''...It's a little difficult to remember. At least, I can't recall the details but I do believe I was a teenager when I got my hands on it.''

''If you'd rather I leave-'' Hildegarde was already coming out of the bath but Zhu interrupted her.

''Shush, I don't have any secrets. You just speak a little about yourself tomorrow to satisfy our little majesty boundless curiosity.'' That seemingly convinced the maid, you heard her sink back into the water silently.

You decided to give your companion an adventurous stare and saw that she was looking at you, her single eye open as she took care of Shereen long hair.

>Stay and hear what Zhu has to say.
>The atmosphere has changed, perhaps you should try to keep things playful instead... Now's not the time to be speaking about important things, right? In a bath?
How loud was the discussion we had just now? Any chance somebody could have overheard that Zhu's lugging around an epic-tier artifact of a weapon? It's not been placed near a window, door, or any place a skilled thief could pilfer it right?

And what new "fetish" did we just awaken to? We already had one for exotic bits but what's the new one? Could we start to wholesomely tease Shereen and the girls now?
>How loud was the discussion we had just now?
Not enough to be heard outside the bath, someone peeping by one of the windows could maybe get some glimpses but it doesn't seem like anyone is there, at least from what you can see here.
> It's not been placed near a window, door, or any place a skilled thief could pilfer it right?
Hild put the blade right next to her. Someone would need to literally run next to her to steal it.
>And what new "fetish" did we just awaken to? We already had one for exotic bits but what's the new one?
What do you think? Make a few guesses!
>Could we start to wholesomely tease Shereen and the girls now?
Yes, how do you want to do it?
>Stay and hear what Zhu has to say.
Someone has to listen to Zhu, so when she inevitably uses the memory to power her sword they can tell her about what she missed
Giving this 15 minutes then starting with the votes I have.
>Stay and hear what Zhu has to say.
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Guess it's time to listen to our crow.
I think we've developed a newfound appreciation for soaking wet naked girls with long hair clinging to their bodies in all the right places that keeps them somewhat decent yet teases so effectively.

Can't really think of anything that won't come off as lame or awkward now that this bomb has dropped. Try to keep whatever Zhu's going to discuss down to a minimum volume. We don't know how sneaky of a git that traveler is and I'd bet he'd be all about getting his hands on that artifact or getting caught and blabbing about it to people we'd rather not find out about it.

Hilde knowing a male angel is also somewhat troubling. One likely wouldn't think their kind would be a servant of Bad Fluffy's and yet we know for sure one is. Could be the same fucker. Hope that pisses Hilde off if it is.
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Your guess is spot on.
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''You might be clean but I'm not letting go of that tail.'' Zhu commented after a moment of silence. You heard some splashes as she moved and a yelping growl from Shereen revealed how little she could do against Zhu invasiveness.

You trailed your gaze at the windows, there were three of them near the roof, small cubic opening toward the now darkened sky that, undeniably, was made for ventilation instead of giving opportunities for peeping-toms but the possibility did remain... but you weren't seeing anything suspicious.

''That blade was an heirloom of Zen emperor.'' Zhu spoke, sitting behind Shereen whilst cradling her long wet tail. The statement caused said limb to strengthen with Shereen upright ears. ''Now, I really have no idea at all how the weapon of the Embodiment of Justice of all people ended up there. I stole it cause I needed it, that's all honestly.'' Zhu giggled teasingly.

The emperor of Zen? What kind of life did you have, Zhu?

''That's... surely there's more to your story!'' You really didn't need to prod the swordswoman, Shereen had enough curiosity to fill an entire audience.

''Well... Getting into the Allied Kingdoms took a long while for sure. Three years of wandering I'd say and then I happened upon our big elven bear here, rest is history.'' Zhu let go of the princess's tail and began to play with her long hair... Given how at ease Shereen looked with that, she must be used to it.

Wait, stop looking Arawn! Now you've seen... Shereen does look good in the water.

''You had a difficult time in Zen? Okay, I'm... Don't speak if it's painful Zhu.'' Shereen yelped when you heard Zhu move, once more splashing a healthy amount of water everything.

''Aren't you the most adorable thing? Okay, I'll stop teasing.'' They were definitely hugging.

''I don't remember much about my time in Zen, I know I was born there but my childhood and most of my teenage years are a blur, it's hard to define when I'm trying to think back on it. I can't put many details in the timeline of my life, though, I do know that blade is one of the anchors that help me follow a flow of memories into a beginning.''

''I... I see. It sounds like... that blade is important to you huh?'' Shereen truly was an attentive listener.

''It gave me the chance to carve a future for myself.'' Now, Zhu's voice was serious, her near eternal carefree tone changed into a surprisingly warm, calm voice. ''I don't know how my life began, who my parents were... Apparently, I had brown hair before people decided to push this stone in my head.'' Zhu pointed at her now open rainbow eye with her thumb, looking at you and Shereen with this comfortable, happy grin. ''That's the Emperor Eye and yep, another heirloom of his incompetent majesty. Can't remove that one so I stole two treasure when I left. Now you've got someone bearing two artifacts fighting for you, ain't that something?''
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''I... huh...'' Shereen was at a loss for word and constantly shook her head to shake off Zhu hands, a fruitless endeavor. ''...I-I'm huh...''

''All the emperors of that land had serious obsessions with immortality.'' Zhu continued, finally liberating your little sun who took this opportunity to swim away. ''That Eye was a part of some kind of experiment and I just happened to survive because of a lucky break, whoever tried it on me must have been competent.''

''Is it having negative effects on you?'' You asked, looking at her seriously. Zhu didn't mind her nudity at least her now opened chromatic eye was something for you to concentrate on.

''Yeah, I've been managing pretty good. Though lately, I've been off my game a little, that won't happen in Myrtidal believe me.'' She gave herself a chest thump, the noise becoming an enticing tap because of the water. ''I've struggled plenty and sure I could mention all the suffering and sadness but that's not the time, right? I'm here right now with a purpose, helping out a small adorable harmless little thing is such a joy''

''Y-you!? What is THAT supposed to mean!? I'm caring about you when you speak about yourself and you go and call me harmless!?'' Shereen cannot dodge any baits.

Zhu giggled openly, answering with a simple ''yep'' that roused Shereen anger. You had to wonder if... Zhu might have just deflected the subject of that eye and of course her sword needing a specific ''emotion''. In fact, she's glossed over very important topics quickly. Was she truly at ease with herself now? You've seen her daily for two weeks now and she always had a smile on her face: be it when slaughtering people, following you around when infiltrating the church, showing up in your bed, having a fight to the death... The only time she looked genuinely angry when something happened was after Rupert untimely demise.

She hasn't been slowed down by any of the scars covering her body too.

She's strong. it doesn't seem like she suffers from any self-doubts.

Giving Hildegarde a curious glance, you could see that she was in deep thought, her gaze looking at Zhu with the characteristic absent-mindedness of someone in deep introspection.

>Night has fallen in Muribel. You remain free to do whatever you wish. You've been in the bath long enough to feel clean, feel free to suggest anything you'd like to do in the inn. Things like training and magic in a quiet place is possible now with your room being ready.
Get a proper sleep in, so we are ready and rested for things to come tomorrow.
It's still early night, though Arawn trying to get a snooze is indeed possible.
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Man, this entire bath segment... pic related.
Thank you kindly, Insert.

>Shit, this is even worse than that time she snuck into your bed, full-frontal...! My, this floor is clean.
>>My, this floor is clean
Hah, that amused me far more than it had any right to.
Might Arawn be a bit of a leg man? Wouldn't blame him.

I'll cast my vote for magic training.

My only vote for tonight, so I'll further vote for either experimenting with our Body Reinforcement or coming up with a new spell.
Duly noted. Thanks for being here. Trying to experiment with Shereen blood magic is also possible.
Gonna give this a longer wait since it's an opportunity for you guys to use this stretch of time as you want.
How long would magic training take? Would sleeping early give us any benefit? I'd think taking the bath and relaxing fully fulfilled us giving into our vice after all. That traveler still up and about?
>How long would magic training take?
Depends on what but it won't harm your rest.
>Would sleeping early give us any benefit?
No, enjoying bed with the girls is a reward in of itself.
>That traveler still up and about?
Yup, he's in the hall telling a few stories.
So if we train magic the girls will be free to do as they please right? We're pretty safe here are we not? Would it be possible to go train our magic while the girls listen to the traveler and perhaps ask him a few pertinent questions regarding things like astral magic or the general state of the countryside?
>So if we train magic the girls will be free to do as they please right?
>We're pretty safe here are we not?
So far so good!
>Would it be possible to go train our magic while the girls listen to the traveler and perhaps ask him a few pertinent questions regarding things like astral magic or the general state of the countryside?
I suppose you can try to have a messenger do that but you might not get as good an answer as if you were asking yourself.
Rolled 1 (1d2)

Let's see, rolling between an early sleep or a bit of magical training.
Final questions, would sleeping early enable an early rise and thus give us time to train magic then before hitting the road? Would an early departure actually help us stay ahead of our pursuers?
>Would sleeping early enable an early rise and thus give us time to train magic then before hitting the road?
No. you might be able to talk with people before setting out.
>Would an early departure actually help us stay ahead of our pursuers?
That depend entirely on your own judgement.
Well then I forgot to ask one more thing. Will we have a chance to train on the road before we hit our destination? I am torn between maxing out our collective psychological state with the early sleep and getting powered up as much as possible before we hit the meat grinder of Ama's toadies and their army of disgruntled fanatical cultists.
>Will we have a chance to train on the road before we hit our destination?
Yeah, Myrtidal is still a full day away on foot (approximately) so you'll need to camp, at least, at the pace you were today.
Alright, unless I get some quick votes in the next ten minutes I'll go with the choice of an early night. You guys sure are sweet to be taking care of our elf...

I'll post later tonight so you guys can vote tomorrow.
If the traveler will still be around in the morning I can get behind the early sleep. I want to ask him where he's heading and how the countryside is but if that can wait till daybreak that's fine.

Kinda hope he's going in our direction. If he's an illusionist like who he looks like he'd be quite a big help and it ain't like we can't pay him handsomely in more ways than one for his help. Ama might be testing our paranoia here such that being paranoid will fuck us... or not. Damnit, you can never tell with that bitch!
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Oi, oi now. Ama is a good girl, don't be saying those things.
Ama is a bad girl. A very bad girl. She is a Bad Fluffy!
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You just love to hate her, that's why she's not a villain!
I actually like her... as a villain. She serves her role well, but that doesn't mean I don't see her as pure evil and wish dearly for her most timely demise.
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Zhu... she's from the same land as Teruko and Hao huh? Somehow close enough to meddle with some kind of imperial project and steal an artifact. It was a preposterous statement but the fact that Hildegarde was the one to recognize that sword gave your companion some credence... and she's your friend, there's no reason you shouldn't trust her words.

As you craned your neck toward the girls again you felt a comfortable crack and it heralded a sudden wave of lethargy that outright invaded every fiber of your beings, exiting out of you in a long contented sigh while Zhu apologized to Shereen, the princess had taken a bit of an insult to be called weak. Almost every hour after Ensan arrival had been a nightmare where you barely managed to catch any sleep and then today... well, no need to dwell on what happened. Ever since Shereen suffered her crossbow wounds, you barely felt like you had any rest.

''I think I'll be sleeping early.''

You announced, allowing this feeling of lethargy to replace your previous excitement. For a moment you felt a tinge of regret when you caught a glimpse of Zhu skin when she moved in the warm water.

''Are you sure?'' She said teasingly.

''Yeah.'' Your voice broke and you got out of the bath without... causing any strong reaction. Good thing the atmosphere had turned a little serious earlier.

''Hmph, if any of you can think of a prank let's-''

You stopped giving Zhu an ear and got into the changing room, yawning loudly enough to hurt your jaw. Changing into new clothes, you reattached your gauntlet (can't be too sure) and equipped your weapons again, grabbed your bag and... Happened to see old and change of clothes.

''How's that for a prank?'' You muttered to yourself, putting them in your bags.

Juvenile? Of course. Worth it? Absolutely.

The atmosphere upstairs was cozy. A few candles had been lit to keep tasteful light in the corridors and the hall was alight by a few candlesticks, a small group of Mamonos (the centaurs and lamia amongst them) had gathered around the traveler.

''...perhaps the Eternal most important place was a sea of glass, a desert that shone with the zenith sun so bright it would turn unfortunate souls blind. In there, great jewels of fiery powers would be found, fueling his magical industry...''

Better leave the man to his story, his audience seemed to like it or, more accurately, they liked him.

The royal suite was on the very edge of the establishment second floor and was worthy of its name. Plenty of space with furniture, a nice big windows offering a direct view of two nearby fields, a fireplace, and the beds... well, the main one was a luxurious queen-sized one and it seems the Mamonos had only pushed an additional one -on top of wooden planks to be at the same height- making a big enough space for five or even six people. Your feet were muffled by the carpet covering most of the wooden ground as you moved to close the window, Muribel nights being always on the cold side.
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Then you heard footsteps in the hallway and turned right as Zhu entered the room. The towel wrapped around her body looked far too small, her naked, scarred legs extended marvelously with droplets of water giving her skin a natural shine with the nearby lights. Her grayish-white hair, still moist from the bath, clung to her skin in this amazingly inviting way that you realized to recently to be far too inviting then it had any right to be.

''You're sending me signals here.'' She growled playfully, almost stepping closer but the footsteps of Shereen and Hildegarde stopped her.

''Just call it a little bullying.'' You replied, feeling pretty good about yourself. You let your bag thump on the ground as you walked to exit the room... but Zhu put her hand on your shoulder.

''When we have the chance we are going to fuck and I'm not taking no for an answer.'' She sounds serious. Deadly so. Huh oh...

''Jeez Arawn, that was childish.'' Shereen said, standing in the doorway with Hildegarde behind her.

Both girls looked incredibly gorgeous as they were so recently out of the bath. Shereen had attached her hair into a rare ponytail and long sideway strands clung to her pajamas (a royal necessity) and Hildegarde continued to project this tantalizing look of a doll.

Before your thoughts could be led astray, Zhu opened the door with nothing more than a shirt and a pair of panties.

''This isn't proper!'' Shereen immediately rebuked.
''Proper for me.'' Replied the swordswoman. ''Get in here.''

Unlike you, the girls weren't feeling like sleeping early but even their distraction wasn't enough to win over all the exhaustion and stress you've built up. They gathered near the fireplace and began to talk, your instincts whispered about a serious topic they were beginning to speak about but you simply... passed out before you could overhear anything.

Perhaps it was better that way, giving them some privacy.

Sleeping early and indulging Arawn laziness allowed you to recover all of your mana..

The next morning, you awoke at dawn, not exactly the first in your group because Hildegarde observed you silently as you maneuvered away from Shereen and Zhu grasp sleeping beside you. Both of you exchanged a silent nod and you left the maid with the sleeping beauties as you equipped your gauntlet and went downstairs.

The hall was almost empty of soul, the centaur innkeeper was nowhere in sight but the traveler was occupying a table by himself, still looking slightly surreal with all the pale colors he organically sported.

''Morning.'' He greeted you casually, looking away from his book.
''Morning.'' You greeted back. Hm... you might have to wait a little while for the innkeeper.

>Have a chat with this traveler, there's nobody else to speak to. (Any peculiar subject?)
>You should prepare to get moving as soon as possible. You've spent long enough here, there's a long road ahead, Myrtidal isn't getting any closer.
>You should prepare to get moving as soon as possible. You've spent long enough here, there's a long road ahead, Myrtidal isn't getting any closer.

Departing earlier meas that we can either cover more ground in a day, or take a rest during the day and cover the same distance, as if we had left later on.
I'm gonna sleep on it but for now I say we have a chat with the traveler. Not a long one of course, just some small talk. Y'know, how he thinks the countryside is doing, whereabouts he might be heading next, etc. If that leads anywhere interesting we can decide if it's worth it to talk for longer.

How early is it anyway?
Roughly 6 am. Arawn slept a whooping 10 hours, so he's primed and ready.
Ah, then we definitely have time for a chat. We did leave the city through a secret route so they have no real clue which direction we went. If they did, well, they have harpies and conveyances. They'd have already caught up to us, surrounded the inn, and raided the joint in the middle of the night. They didn't so we must have got out without them knowing.

Good think we killed Porky as well. Bet he could have acted as a homing beacon and that's if Ensan was being nice (she's never nice).
Supporting >>4186657
If he wonders why we're asking about the coutryside we can bullshit something about having only recently arrived in the country.
>When we have the chance we are going to fuck and I'm not taking no for an answer.

Just woke up and caught that. Err, Zhu, can it wait until after everything's resolved? Like, after Anais and Klesiah are saved and Ensan's six feet under? We're linked to 4 other girls who may well be in combat when your opportunity arises. That might distract them at a critical moment in battle and get them killed!

Plus, y'know, like I said before, snu snu right before big battle is a huge death flag for men. We've already raised enough!
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Giving myself a little break today. We'll continue tomorrow; I'll likely give one update later tonight but I feel like resting my brain a little, we'll be continuing for a long while yet so taking a breather is alright.
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Righty-ho, bossman. Get plenty of rest, comfy is the name of the game.

Man, Zhu's thirst is starting to reach levels that shouldn't even be possible. Like goddamn, she might not even be able to wait until we get back to Marleon. We might even have to give her a... helping hand, if you catch my drift.
*Just* a hand though, and only after we've made it out of Myrtidal at the earliest. Going all the way to the Bone Zone risks distracting the girls in the capital, and we have no idea how long they'll be in a combat situation.
I sure hope Zhu is willing to compromise!

I'm sure you're willing to compromise more than anyone anon. But will she? Just a little hand huh? You're so close with the girls, how will you even find the opportunity I wonder... and if it does present itself will Zhu be able to show restrain?

Also, nothing bad should happen with the girls if you embrace some well-deserved joy! You worry over nothing!
>But will she? Just a little hand huh?
What, one hand not good enough? *tsk tsk* So greedy!
Fine, how about two hands? How about *four*? We do, after all, have literal magic hands available to us!
>and if it does present itself will Zhu be able to show restrain?
...Here's hoping? Time will tell I suppose.

>Also, nothing bad should happen with the girls if you embrace some well-deserved joy! You worry over nothing!
I worry over perfectly valid things and you know it!
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Maybe you should worry over the fact Hao stole your first kiss.

Or not. I'm sure the girls understand, they always will... right?
>Maybe you should worry over the fact Hao stole your first kiss.
Oh believe me, I've not forgotten and I still intend to get payback for that stunt.
...Though I'm not yet certain how.

>Or not. I'm sure the girls understand, they always will... right?
Hm. Eh, we'll cross that particular bridge when we get to it.
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I dread the moment we get to finally handle Arawn potential romantic life.

Should make a good show for the witch though so it's not all bad,
Hao stole it, we didn't hint at any desire for it, make the first move, or anything like that at all. Thus, we're completely innocent and the girls know it!

I am not worried about Zhu forcibly claiming our virginity at the present time however. I'm sure she has *just* enough shame to not mount us in front of Shereen's innocent/Hilde's judgmental eyes and only a fool would split from the party in this situation to get the privacy necessary for snu snu. Once we're all back in Throne Town though...

Besides, even if the stars align and she somehow gets her opportunity to rape us before then she'll roll a 1 again and we'll thus easily escape with our V-card intact.
Your absolutely sure that that's not going to result in a powdered pelvis instead
Why the dread? I'd think you'd be relishing it. So many hearts to potentially break through no real fault of our own. So much suffering theoretically on offer, should be right up your alley.
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I am not in the market of sad, broken-hearted girls!
Who said you'd even have a choice when it comes to romance? Soul Links make things so very complicated...
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Well, we of course get a choice as to who we actually go for romantically. More options exist than just the 4 we're linked to and they were still good options. Vilma's a very close second on my waifu list and she's not linked. We may still opt to make a shy lich a very happy girl.

Then there's the other members of the Demonic Royal Family. Sieg may be best girl for me but we didn't get much time to get closer to Deru, Martha, or Belph. And then there's the potential "secret" route of Daiyu herself.

Finally, there are waifu's we have yet to potentially meet or have officially enter the running. What of Gwen and Tui? What of the girls in Fortune's retinue? Isn't Klesiah fused with someone else now as well? Anais seemed open to the idea after that moot and maybe perhaps we could even manage to get through to Hilde if we so chose.

The only real complicating factor in all of this is, sadly, politics. We *are* the last living heir to an Elven kingdom. Thus that might end up making decisions for us. Oh well, bridges to be crossed when we arrive at them and all that.
>Aiming for the mother of an heroine.
Risky, but also based.
You've listed quite a few options there anon, quite amazing really. There's no shame in being greedy. This hunter CAN catch two rabbits if he works hard enough! Or maybe not?
Those bridges will be very interesting...
>Have a chat with this traveler, there's nobody else to speak to.
I'm back from RL and happy to see more! let's talk about countryside safety and such like discussed above..
''Have you been traveling in Muribel for long?'' You asked the man after a moment of silence, taking one of the empty tables next to him.

''Around... a month, days have blurred together dangerously so I can only guess.'' The man answers calmly, smiling while placing a feather on his page and closing his book to give you his attention.

''Me and my friends haven't been on the road for long. How is the countryside doing?'' You've heard plenty of worrying things from Klesiah yesterday, thankfully, it didn't seem that her group hasn't reached this estate perhaps because of its closeness to Marleon?

''My travels had me walk around the coastal cities and a few of the more remote areas of northeastern Muribel, I haven't been in these parts for long but...'' He makes a careful pause to inspect the stairs as he levels his voice. ''...There have been troubling developments with bandits as of late, especially in the nearby town of Myrtidal. Thankfully the peak of troubles happened around two weeks ago I'd say when a noble band managed to inflict a defeat on a bandit gang in the next county, the road is probably safer now... but one cannot be too prudent, especially with nefarious folks operating so close to the capital.'' He paused to clear his throat. ''I've stayed here for a few days and there haven't been any other guests. I welcome your company.'' He paused, smiling gently. A dashing man to be sure, no wonder the Mamonos have been all around him yesterday night.

This estate is midway between Marleon and Myrtidal, this lack of activity made it obvious that something fairly troubling must be going on where you're going.

''Thanks. Where are you headed, if you'd permit my asking?''

''The capital, it is about time for me to leave this fascinating country now that I've had my fill of its mysteries.''

''I think it would be better to find a boat elsewhere, friend.'' You remarked, eliciting curious eyebrows out of him. ''There have been some troubles in Marleon, notably from the gangs and the return of the crown princess has... probably made it difficult to do normal business because she's likely handling the problem of embolden criminals.'' Neither lie nor complete truths, you couldn't in good conscience send anyone in the capital. Businesses might still be the same but that won't last for long, not with Banu helping out Fortune and Zipangu boat arrival tomorrow.

''Hm...'' Armin leaned back, cupping his chin. ''...Thank you for the new, diverting my travels won't be complicated.''

A brief silence lingered, not altogether uncomfortable.

''Tell me.'' The man spoke up after a few minutes, giving you a slight guilt about keeping your name to yourself. ''Do you know any of Muribel legends?''

That's a novel question. ''No, I haven't spent as much time as I should have to learn Muribel folklore.''
The way he smiled and leaned into his chair made it obvious this was exactly the kind of subject he was not only comfortable with but happy to discuss. ''Mamonos living in this land have inherited a country with an old, sad past that makes me almost believe that whatever civilization live her is doomed to struggle; the last five years have been difficult for the lands outside Marleon and it's true from what I've seen even now. I'm glad to see that Mamonos here have remained cheerful.''

''Is it... safe to be speaking about Muribel past before the Pharaoh arrival?'' This was something you've always wondered. After all, Zerase pretends herself a god, preventing knowledge of the past sound like the first step in making that a reality.

''Probably not.'' Armin smiled knowingly. ''Mamonos are fascinated by the past, why not indulge them if I can? Crowds are best to avoid of course and usually, knowing about old sites of powers and ruins has been ambiguous enough to avoid rousing anger but... It'd be wise to avoid speaking of the old Pretender God or the sultanate that first inhabited this land before its current exotic population.''

Good to know, not that you had any ideas about Muribel history. ''Sites of powers?'' You had a hunch about this, might as well confirm it.

This made Armin inspect the door and stairs with a prudent glance before leaning closer. ''I speak of those extinguished areas that once fueled the Wars of Pretenders; great sites of anomalous, magical nature that spawned dangerous elemental pearls.''

Your fingers absentmindedly rubbed the astral pearl in your pocket. ''You're dealing in dangerous knowledge, friend.''

''Maybe so.'' Armin leaned back, placing his hands behind his neck. ''I believe that natives are entitled to knowing the history of their country, I've seen for myself that most of these places aren't active anymore, this knowledge itself is what's precious; the past of any lands deserves to be remembered beyond old records found inside stubborn elven libraries.''

Had you been drinking you might have choked on something. Thankfully your hair was still hiding your ears, that felt too close to be a coincidence. The man didn't strike you as an elf: his hair was just as long and wild as yours and worked to camouflage his ears. Though, one can never be too sure.

Since this man fancies himself a storyteller, perhaps you can ask him about a few things.

>Ask him about Muribel origins during the Wars of Pretenders.
>He mentioned a sultanate earlier, what exactly was it?
>Talk about the sites of powers. Not all of them have been extinguished, perhaps this knowledge could help.
>Ask him about something practical, like the state of the counties he traveled into, the general mood of the people... (Precision here will help)
>You should prepare to head out, talking could always be dangerous somehow.
>Talk about the sites of powers. Not all of them have been extinguished, perhaps this knowledge could help.
Let's scratch that scholarly itch some more.
>Talk about the sites of powers. Not all of them have been extinguished, perhaps this knowledge could help.
>Talk about the sites of power.
If we could somehow nab another pearl of power on the way to our destination that'd be huge. By the way, when is Elina supposed to meet up with us and is Elf blood uniquely useful in regards to blood magic/rituals?

Also, for this dude's sake he looks like a dude from long distances right? Does Hilde have long hair? I'd hate for this dude to get swept up by harpies and delivered unto Ensan's most horrific ministrations because of a case of mistaken identity.
>By the way, when is Elina supposed to meet up with us
I checked the thread with the Soul Link communion that was helped by Shereen - Elina unfortunately didn't give a time estimate on how long it'll take for her to reach us. She only stated that she'd *race* to us once her and the rest of Sieglinde's group make landfall.

Personally I would expect her to arrive while we're still in Myrtidal or shortly after we've started on the trip back. I'm allowing myself to be hopeful here, Elina can probably make the trip to Myrtidal in some hours by flying assuming there are no complications.
''I'll admit, I have a small fascination about those sites of powers, these powerful pearls of the past, how they came to be...'' You paused, trying not to sound too desperate in this manipulation. You've only recently learned about these things and they've become an immediate problem.

''Many would call this dangerous knowledge but I don't think it's so bad since all the sites that I know off have been extinguished; I've visited them myself.'' Armin grin broadened slightly, showing hints of white teeth. ''I'm glad to help satisfy your curiosity, friend.''

''Four sites have been recorded in yonders day, first amongst them was the Desert of Glass.'' Armin began, speaking in a smooth, warm fashion, not minding his singular audience. ''It was a wide span of dead land where life couldn't thrive, where each speck of dirt and grains of sands was replaced by bits of glass, making it shine brightly enough to be seen for miles at noons. It was reported to be hot enough inside to kill a normal man in hours and in there, pearls of fiery magic dwelled, collected by the Eternal slaves... anyone who made it out would grow blind, forever marked by the sun power.''

That sounded like the story you overheard before going to bed.

''Today, that place has been extinguished by Mother Earth and became the only desert in Muribel.'' A boring, fitting end for such a miserable area.

''There was once a strange oasis traveling the lands, appearing like a mirage to travelers and soldiers alike as they traveled the Eternal harsh lands. Pinpointing it was impossible for anyone but a few of its henchmen. They'd lead unfortunate souls inside and returned with a handful of fiery gems, nobody knew what happened to those poor sacrifices...'' Armin paused, tweaking with his pale hair. ''In my months here I've yet to happen upon any such manifestation, I believe that Mother Earth also extinguished that one.''

A soft crack of wood heralded the arrival of the centaur girl who, upon seeing you both, gave you a quiet greeting and disappeared outside, promising breakfast.

''Third is one I haven't been able to confirm yet.'' Armin made a calculated pause, pale purple eyes regarding you gently. ''It is the Pyramid of Blood crafted by the titan Eternal, Pretender God of bygone Muribel.''

It took an effort of will to avoid wincing. A hundred people had gathered, giving their blood for Shereen ritual...

''This is a nefarious one indeed since it was made for blood sacrifices and evil rituals. There is no mystical origin, unfortunately; it was built as a purely practical tool of war, an entire city was made around it as fuel... Many believe it could be in Marleon, but I found that difficult to believe because Mother Earth's wrath was thorough and if there's one thing the goddess hate, it is Blood Magic.''

True: all the sites he mentioned had been deactivated, the goddess wouldn't have spared such an evil artifact... Still, you couldn't help but worry.
''The last one has some controversy because there have only been two mentions of its existence: once during the wars of antiquity and another time shortly before the Great Crusade, both coming from a single elven source.'' Armin let out a chuckle at seeing your briefly surprised expression. That was a departure from his storytelling. ''You strike me as a man who appreciates facts, so I figured you'd like this precision.'' Without waiting for any remark, Armin segued into his last monologue.

''The dead village of Solemnval somehow escaped all of Muribel upheavals and was never found... at least, nobody managed to relate it's location yet. It was described as a place stuck in time, with everything one step away from death. Wooden houses looked old and decrepit, fields of grasses turned yellow, wildflowers permanently wilted, yet not quite dead, trees shed their leaves, unable to grow fruits... People were the only livings things known to pass on but it didn't happen often. Everyone, from child, parents, and grandparents, was struck by constant unhealthy lethargy that, like a disease, would make them slowly waste away. A sad existence to be sure...'' Armin pause, peeking at you with a single eye. ''...Yet in there, our nameless traveler recorded finding purple pearls near the corpses of the newly dead. Muribel has never been known to use death magic in the great war, the presence of such a site is odd indeed.''

A long silence followed as you had to force yourself in keeping a straight, neutral face. Now this could help explain quite a few things... but what about astral pearls?

''Finding it has been my main motivation here, though I wasn't successful.'' Armin chuckled to himself, scratching the back of his head. ''Muribel truly is a fascinating land.''

You heard movements from upstairs. Hildegarde and Shereen were coming down, the sun had begun to rise over the horizon, casting a healthy glow in the otherwise somber hall.

>Ask Armin more things? (Precise.)
>You've lingered long enough. You should take your breakfast and head out, there's a long road ahead: say your farewells.
>but I don't think it's so bad since all the sites that I know off
Meant to write most of the sites he knows.
Shit, I knew it sounded familiar. Fortune mentioned Solemnval and worried that Jamene, her opposed gang leader aligned with Ensan, may have a connection to it. Sounds like that's the source of the Death Pearls. Getting a few of them would help us as we do intend to kill Ama's toadies dead after all.

He may have been unable to locate it, but does he know an approximate location or if there are signs that one is close to it? Betting that letter we foolishly burned by accident had a map to it.

How soon will the girls be down here? We could enjoy a further chat with them present over a quick breakfast. We do have to get going but daylight isn't close to burnin' yet.

Most eh? So that means he knows of some that *are* still active. Might want to ask about that, but then he'll likely ask questions in turn. He's a loremaster so if we tell him our name he'd probably recognize it. Then we'd likely have to lie. Does lying involve dice for Arawn?
>You've lingered long enough. You should take your breakfast and head out, there's a long road ahead: say your farewells.
>Remember to thank Armin for slaking your curiosity and wish him safe travels
What a swell lad, from what I can tell at least.
Though I won't I won't lie; he does give off a vibe like he's more significant than he initially appears. I fully expect to run into him again in the future.
>He may have been unable to locate it, but does he know an approximate location or if there are signs that one is close to it?

That'd need a small update on my part to answer since it count as asking him more things.

>How soon will the girls be down here?
Hild and Shereen are here, Zhu function at her own pace.

Got one vote so far, Giving this the usual 20 minutes.
Got this from the archives, Fortune's Prophecy:
>The palace is a nest of death.'' You put a hand on Shereen's shoulder as she shuddered and nearly got up once more in rebellion. ''Marleon is a disease, a cancer on the country absorbing its vitality. There's a village hidden in the hills and arid plains made of death, people go there and die, cultivated like plants. Misery, oh misery surrounds this country, death comes in a cloud of somnolence, lulling gentle children to sleep, never to wake up... Our country dies in a whimper from a fog that comes from her godly majesty palace...

Sounds like a big hint to Solemnval's location and given this info pretty much assures that whatever ritual causes the death fog to wipe out this country to appear will occur within the Pyramid of Blood within the inner sanctum of the palace.

Tell him we have heard of Solemnval in our travels and ask how interested he is in information pertaining to its location. We may well want to spill all the beans on this one, but lets not get too trusting right off the bat. If it's not far or on the way we may even get him to accompany us there. He may be useful after all.
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Rolled 1 (1d2)

Making the usual tiebreaker.
What did the dice say?
Leaving, since I tiebreak in order of message, not what I quote. I've waited for a little more to see if anyone would potentially vote because of this interesting new developpement, but I'd say it's safe to proceed how things landed now.
Damnit, this shit about Solmenval sounds absolutely vital. C'mon anons, someone back me up here!
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Hm... the last thing I want is to displease my players and since you're pretty excited about this, I think I'll try to be fair instead of relying on dices. If another anon votes for leaving, or back you up, then I'll proceed that way.
I guess i'll support the anon that wants to ask questions.
Alright. Let's see where this lead.
I would have too, but honestly I'm so all over the place right now I've been on a random tangent in my head for the last... I don't even know.
For a moment you hesitated. Remembering Fortune prophecy and her mention of Solemnval cause all kinds of goosebumps to erupt all over your body.

''Is it okay to be sitting here?'' Shereen brought you out of your reverie as she and Hild stood next to you.

''Of course, travelers sharing a table and a meal is one of the road few joys. We'll be unlikely to see one another again, let's make the best of it.'' Armin answered before you could, winking at the girls.

Your mind was racing, so deep in thought that you forgot about any kind of social decorum.

''Say, Armin, do you know Solemnval approximate location?'' You were too interested -worried- to fill Shereen in on the discussion but the mention of that village made her gasp knowingly.

''Not at all, it wouldn't be such a mystery otherwise.'' Sharing potentially dangerous knowledge with a loremaster could be... The last thing you want is to bring harm to him.

''I've heard about the village, I'm not sure how pertinent the information is or how credible it even is, but your mention made me remember.''

''Interesting...'' Armin leaned closed, joining his hand together, regarding you with a serious gaze for a moment and softened his expression as he regarded your companions. ''...Do not share anything that'd bring discord in your group, for the road is often as merciless as the sea.''

''O-oh no it's fine I was just surprised is all...'' Shereen answered, at first loudly, growing into a whispery quiet by the end of her sentence. ''...That village has some bad rumorsis all.''

''You called yourself Armin, right?'' Hildegarde suddenly said, prompting him to nod. ''That name sounds a little familiar somehow...''

''Are you from the Allied Kingdoms?'' Armin asked in a whisper, Hildegarde nodded. ''Then perhaps you might have heard my name in passing, for I've been an occasional guest to people, from kings to paupers; stories belong to everyone.'' As he spoke, Armin put a finger on his lips and lifted a side of his wild white hair, displacing the flowery ornament near his neck, to reveal a single-pointed ear that made Shereen gasp. ''Keep it a secret okay?'' He added with a playful wink.
Of course, him being an elf explain quite a few things now.

''I'm afraid the only thing I can ask is for your goodwill mysir, I would love to know more about Solemnval... and I can't offer anything in return for dangers is something I flee from and riches are allergic to my passion.'' Armin continued, evidently deducing your trail of thoughts. ''I've been away for the elven enclave for a long time, I'd like to return my findings and discuss with my mentor again... though finding that evil place and studying it would be a joy to be sure, I need to return in the Allied Kingdoms.''

''Arawn you... you're not?'' Shereen asked you and you shook your head.

''It's not what you think.'' Maybe it was, Armin was savvy enough to understand what you implied and trying to strongarm something out of a loremaster was... Pretty awful. Yeah.

>Share Fortune prophecy to him, in full.
>Only share the parts of Fortune prophecy pertinent to Solemnval.
>Only share the parts of Fortune prophecy pertinent to Solemnval.
Let's not get him caught up in our troubles if we can help it, like he said he's on his way home.

He knows his history right? how likely is it that he has already figured out who we are, especially now that Shereen has spoken our name.
He's got an impressive poker face because he hasn't reacted. Dear little Shereen, what an opsie...
Would it be possible to quickly inquire who his mentor is? How long has this little exchange taken and how long will breakfast take to get served and either eat or take out?

Welp, at least we didn't tell him where we're going. He seems to be good at running away at least so the Capital's goons ought not be able to capture him easily. Hopefully.
>Would it be possible to quickly inquire who his mentor is?
>How long has this little exchange taken and how long will breakfast take to get served and either eat or take out?
Not too long, you'll still be fairly early in the morning after you set out.
Wops, I'm so scatterbrained. Asking about the mentor isn't any trouble at all yeah.
Then ask about that first. Who it is will determine how much info he gets.
It'll segway into this >>4190047 choice. I'd like to give him or not the full info now.
Damn, will we be able to dump the full info if the mentor happens to be someone we know and would very much like to hear about this? There are many possibilities here as to who he is or who he knows.
Oh, nah the mentor isn't anyone Arawn knows.
''Could you tell us about your mentor?'' You asked, more as a hope to change Shereen mind (and your own from her little gaffe. Girl need to be careful damn it!).

A spark of excitement settled in Armin pale eyes at the question. ''He's a grumpy old elf who's been forced out of his hermitage. I doubt his name is known at all but the man is such a scholar... spent his entire existence in books and philosophy. He's called Giada Akakallis.''

That didn't ring any bells. It was wishful thinking to believe he could maybe share a connection with anybody you knew. ''Thanks. I'll tell you what I know about Solemnval. Sorry for my hesitation, I doubt my information is that pertinent anyway.''

Of course, he replied with a simple ''anything help.''

''It's a dream from a friend of mine, something that, I think, must have stayed with her for a long time and I don't think it ever stopped. I'm not sure how pertinent that is, but that's what I've got.''

''Hm...'' Armin pinched his chin thoughtfully, running a finger on his lips. ''Long-lasting dreams are difficult to define, especially if it were to be something that doesn't concern one's everyday life. I'm sure that village isn't part of your friend's daily activities?''

''No, she's a pragmatic sort.'' As a gang leader, Fortune had to be, no matter the costume and mystical interest. ''She described it like this...''

A village is hidden in the hills and arid plains made of death, where people go and die, cultivated like plants.

It was that last sentence that caused Armin eyebrow to knit together, convincing him of your words. It was a little too precise to be anything but Solemnval, after all, he put it in a prettier way, but the people of that village were being cultivated.

''The arid plains and hills of Muribel...'' Armin whispered to himself. ''...Hm. In the north are the ocean of dreams and the arable contested plains that lead into the Allied Kingdoms. The east of Muribel is mostly ruined, places that still haven't recovered from the ravage of the Great Crusade and the recent rebellion with one single mountain not too far from the borders. The west is the country breadbasket if one discount the capital farms and the small desert... There are many hills in the southern parts of Muribel and this is where heat tends to hit its hardest. Fitting that it'd be the place I haven't explored, for that is also where recent bandits have been running amok until recently.''

''So, you believe her dream to have a morsel of truth?'' He nodded at your question, fingers tapping his table in frustration.
''Ah, if only I could have snuck a peak in this last part of fascinating Muribel...'' His bad mood vanished as he put both of his hands behind his head, Zhu began to descend downstairs holding onto everyone bags and even your equipment, at the same time the centaur innkeeper was back with fresh breakfast.

''If you happen upon the place then goodness, catalog what you can but above all, be careful. A site that is still activated is... There's no telling how it could resonate with the way magic has changed since antiquity, it could be dangerous for mages and non-mages alike.''

Part of you wanted to try convincing him to tag along. A loremaster that knows Muribel in a better way than Shereen or even Banu would be... it'd certainly throw Lady White on a loop. He didn't open to the idea, even after giving him this piece of knowledge; you'll have to make do with what you've been told so far.

Hold on, if Lady White followers have been active in the south as bandits, could she know...?

Bah, she would. Thankfully, the arrival of a healthy, delicious breakfast and the newfound company of Armin with Zhu being forced to be on her best behavior alleviated this peculiar frustration.

There'll be plenty of discussion on the road about this, you could tell Shereen wanted to know every detail.

Asking more things of Armin will mean leaving on a late morning.

If there's nothing else you wish to know of the wandering loremaster, you can set out and make headway to Myrtidal.

The manners in which you left Marleon and the death of a certain hidden pig man make it particularly difficult for your potential pursuers to find you so, you can try having a few more chats with the girls before making camp. If there's anything you want to speak about, then decide and ask, otherwise, we can have them asking Arawn plenty of things instead.


Continuing tomorrow.
So we can essentially be *somewhat* relaxed is how I take that last part. We totally spoofed/went full ghost on that bitch of an elder sister?

What would happen if we related the rest of the prophecy to him? So Myrtidal is in the direction of Solemnval, some distance beyond it I take it? He's not open to the idea but disrupting Solemnval somehow may disrupt the ritual and save this nation and/or spare our companions a significant headache during the assault (i.e. if they have not death pearls to spare/a way to replenish their stock, they won't be so eager to use them against our friends).

Say we offered to accompany him there after we dealt with some business in our destination? We of course would protect him as our guide and all and wouldn't expect him to fight if bandits did happen upon us.
> We totally spoofed/went full ghost on that bitch of an elder sister?

So far so good.

>What would happen if we related the rest of the prophecy to him?

That will need a hard choice for you to see.
>So Myrtidal is in the direction of Solemnval, some distance beyond it I take it?

Impossible to say for sure but the hills are some distance away from the town, yeah.

>Say we offered to accompany him there after we dealt with some business in our destination?
As in ask him to accompany you to Myrtidal then offer to go into Solemval? That'd be another hard choice.
The faster we get there, the faster we get back to dealing with Ensan, and then on to rescuing Anais like we planned to, extending our expedition is probably not a good idea unless when Elina shows up she tells us that they have already taken control of the palace, and locked down the pyramid.

We are likely to be adding at least 2 or 3 members to our party before we manage to return to Marleon.
Wait, so we have confirmation that the people there are being "cultivated". Betting that's where the royals send the dissidents and other criminals. We've already confirmed that the concept of "sanctity of life" is only truly grasped by Shereen so yeah, that. Hell, they might even go a step further if they're like plaguebearers (i.e. the longer you last against the "rot" the more potent the pearl produced). Thus, they might be sending off innocents that are uniquely resistant for that extra boost to power.

Furthermore, Klesiah's fused with... well, I have my suspicions. *That* will have a definite desire to shut that place down with extreme prejudice. Finally, willing to bet there's a portal user there to expedite the shipments of fresh Death Pearls to the capital and that's also about the only way you'd keep it hidden (assuming portals don't somehow ping magic radars for miles around) and safe from the likes of Ama's goons or bandits who I'm sure would very much like to nab a few for themselves (Big Blue Bastard definitely would love a few in his collection).

Thus, if it's actually a day or less from Myrtidal we could shave a whole day off the return by hijacking a portal back to Marleon. We'd have Elina by then so an aerial search would quickly turn it up. It'd also plop us back inside the palace if I'm right. Hopefully right in the middle of that assault Sieg's planning. Just throwing things at the wall before I sleep. I need to sleep on all this.
Oh, just hit me. Seems this guy knows a bit about the geography of this place. How far does he think Solemnval sounds to be from Myrtidal? Like, say you started from there on foot. A day? Two? Important detail that.
>How far does he think Solemnval sounds to be from Myrtidal? Like, say you started from there on foot. A day? Two? Important detail that..

He's not knowledgeable enough to answer with confidence, only that he know the general ''hilly'' geography start to appear rougly a day from Myrtidal and continues for a while, where Solemnval could be is impossible to say.

Gonna start writing in 30 minutes with the choice I've got.
Shit. I want to take him along but he won't come unless we swear to guide him to Solemnval and he doesn't sound like any form of combatant. Wait, does he usually travel alone? If he does than he's definitely channeling the dude he looks like.

Can we ask him if a fog that condemns people to an eternal sleep sounds familiar? That's the last thing that's really bugging me in regards to our total ignorance. Last part of that prophecy and all.
>Wait, does he usually travel alone?
>Can we ask him if a fog that condemns people to an eternal sleep sounds familiar?
That'd be a hard choice, so you might as well ask a few more things if you'd like.
I don't want to take much more time unless that question pings on him. If he says it sounds familiar I (and doubtlessly Shereen) would of course want the details and it'd probably convince me to swear that we'll guide him in as oh yes, oh yes indeed we will most definitively want to shut Solemnval down ASAP if it's as bad as I fear he'll confirm and he might just know how to do it. Especially if Klesiah's fused with who I think she did.
So I guess my vote is to ask him about that fog and see what happens. Further decisions come afterward.
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Rolled 2 (1d2)

Gonna roll for a tiebreaker and wait another ten minutes for another anon to break the result as usual.
Ok, if it landed on my vote we're locked into leaving a little later than usual/can ask a further question or two right?

Like I said, what I want to do will depend greatly upon his reaction. A single question that fails to ping won't take too much time right?
>Ok, if it landed on my vote we're locked into leaving a little later than usual/can ask a further question or two right?

Been writing the update with yours, I don't mind adding one or two more things.

>A single question that fails to ping won't take too much time right?

I suppose I can cut things then.
Don't cut things if they're interesting. Talk doesn't take much time unless the girls start asking stuff on their own and we still have to eat a meal. We got time to chat a bit, but I do want to roll out before too long.

Our pursuers might not have an idea where we are, but given enough time they will find us.
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Chatting with Armin became largely inconsequential as breakfast progressed with Shereen inserting herself and asking him a few miscellaneous questions that he happily answered, almost quizzing him on the geography of Muribel, he quickly revealed himself to have even more knowledge in that area than your shut-in little sun; Solemnval was, in the end, nothing more than a legend, a rumor of a bygone age, exploring the hilly countryside of southern Muribel would take days and it was baffling in of itself that it still wasn't found in all the years of its supposed existence.

A simple but strong argument; if Fortune's dream was a prophecy of truth, there was an undeniable trick to finding that place that wasn't simply walking around.

As the girls prepared to leave after feeding themselves for the hard day ahead, you decided to remain for a little while longer: a loremaster isn't so easily found after all and, perhaps you've been a little overly cautious with information.

''Armin, I haven't been entirely truthful about my friend's dream, there's more to it, I'm sorry for keeping that for myself.'' His pale gaze lit regarded you with a mixture of gentle interest.

''Don't be now, I have no use for secrets about myself but I know very well that's not the case for everyone else. A little distance is natural, what I hope is that you don't cause discord with your friends by sharing things you shouldn't.'' He looked to Zhu who had remained beside you (Shereen was talking with the centaur, asking about the estate history whilst Hildegarde remained protectively beside her).

''I'd like it if he gave me a reason to get mad actually, so go ahead.'' She wrapped her arm around your shoulders, second hand holding her sword to avoid making it prod on your flank.

''I don't need your permission.'' You growled in response, somehow making Armin and Zhu smirk in shared amusement. ''It's about my friend's dream, I'd like to relate it in full, not everything is about Solemnval.''

Armin nodded and leaned closer as you shook off Zhu's arm to lean on the table. You recounted Fortune full dream in a whisper, word for word, easily remembering everything thanks to having refreshed your memory of the event. Armin didn't give any strong reactions, his ale, purplish eyebrows knitted together once more in alarming thoughts and that was it.

''Is such a fog sounding familiar?''
''Yes, it is a terrifying thought.'' This time, Zhu also leaned closer. ''In the time of antiquity, the country of The Eternal died for reasons unknown when a fog of death swept through his land, leaving only the southern parts of his realm to survive as people there gathered under magicians casting protective glyphs against this phenomenon; how this catastrophe happened is still hotly debated but it did and removed the most dangerous rival to humanity back then...'' Armin shook his head, reframing his thoughts. ''...I also remember reading a few odd things during the advent of the Cursed Swamp catastrophe. Apparently, before the land changed into what it is now, a fog also swept through the country and was thankfully stopped by the church efforts in the Old World and the Allied Kingdoms. With a little help from our people, of course.'' He winked to you cheerfully.

''There's no telling how many of these manifestations happened throughout the world, nor do I know with any certainty how it could have affected people; for your friend to have such a persistent, prophetic dream is... worrying, but also odd.'' Arming continued, crossing his arms on his chest. ''Assuming some type of entity can see the future or -what I believe- is predicting someone evil intention, then such a dream would be better spread to more than a single person. But that's what we have now, I don't know exactly if it could be another catastrophe...''

''You mean that, in the worse case, we could have another Cursed Swamp here, in Muribel?''

''It is far too soon to say.'' Armin responded firmly. ''My knowledge of that cursed place is cursory at best, do not take my words as any form of finality for Father Sky know I have no confidence in this topic. We'd be better to ask my mentor.'' This was perhaps the first time you've seen this traveler looking genuinely serious. ''This fog could also be some kind of... grand scale harvest of life instead of another extradimensional tragedy. I'm afraid your friend's dream is a little too vague.'' Armin cast a sidelong glance toward Shereen who was now coming back.

''Are you guys ready?'' She asked you, giving Armin a light bow. ''It's still fairly early, I suppose we can talk more.'' Her arrival brought an unfortunate end to this topic, leaving you to mull over your thoughts.

That was certainly... grim.

>Ask more? (Precise what)
>Leave, you've lingered here long enough, daylight is increasing, it'll make it easier to travel now.
Wait, did he just hint that he knows we're an elf? Shereen's slip would tip off a loremaster after all and our face is showing. It wouldn't be outlandish of him to know of our general description. We have a mole don't we? That plus matching hair and eye color with the name would just about do it.

So he thinks that the prophetic dream ought to have been shared by more people? How long would an additional question take and what time is it now? Anything pinging on our soul links?
>So he thinks that the prophetic dream ought to have been shared by more people?
That's his opinion.
>How long would an additional question take and what time is it now?
Soon to be 8 am.
>Anything pinging on our soul links?
Arawn isn't feeling anything.
Well, it is a holiday despite the quarantine so I'd like to wait for another anon to make a vote.

Still, Solemnval is well hidden and requires a trick to find does it? That's not good. Damnit, if only we had bothered to open that letter before fighting Porky the Great Unclean One...
I'd like to make a little progress today too so if there's no vote in around... 2 hours I'd say, then I'll proceed with writing the travel and saying a little farewell to Armin.

And yeah he did deduce your ancestry, hiding it is a little more difficult than you'd think but Arawn also wasn't that careful while speaking to another fellow of his race. This attitude will of course change in Myrtidal.
>Leave, you've lingered here long enough, daylight is increasing, it'll make it easier to travel now.
We're an Elf with a plan, time to get to it I say.
Personally I'd rather not drag Armin into the mess Myrtidal is undoubtedly going to be.
>>Leave, you've lingered here long enough, daylight is increasing, it'll make it easier to travel now.
It's time to go.
Oh, would it hurt us to warn him that the capital is looking for people with white hair and/or ask him to remember that we were never here?
You can say this warning happened in the background. He's already gottne the idea to avoid Marleon.

Might take me a little while to write up the next update, I'll try to be quick.
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''No, it's fine I'm ready.'' You responded to your little sun, gently brushing Zhu off as you got up, prompting the loremaster to follow. ''I got a little carried away with talking.'' He's given you a great many things to ponder and his stories about the sites were fascinating.

''One of the greatest joy of traveling comes with making all kinds of encounters.'' Armin said with a broad grin and, noticing your extended (unprotected) hand, gave it a firm shake.

''Be safe, I hope we'll meet again.''

''If you ever find yourself in the elven enclave, then it shouldn't be difficult.'' He winked, releasing your hand. ''Good luck in your travels, friends.''

Those words were mirrored by the centaur and her workers, your group exited into the fresh and increasingly hot morning of Muribel without further delay and began the long walk of the southern road, leaving you to ponder the loremaster legends...

''What did you talk about?'' Shereen broke your trail of thoughts as you pondered the meaning of that fog in fortune dream. Armin had given a few hypotheses and none of them were good.

''Ah, well...'' For a moment your eyes trailed to Zhu who'd also heard this part and, apparently sharp enough to notice your stare despite her close eyes, gave you a supporting nod. ''...You won't like it Shereen.''

The fog of death coming from out of the palace hinted at only one possibility, one that Shereen was quick to reject, saying that Armin himself wasn't confident in his theory and she was right to believe so. The seed of doubt had still been planted, unfortunately, and soon enough traveling occurred in silence for most of the day as everyone kept their guards up for potential pursuers, be they skywards or on the road.


Thankfully, the long walk of the southern road proved eventless with the only thing of note being coming across a deserted post housing long liberated birds, your group used the place for a brief diner that managed to lift some of Shereen spirit.

''Do you think that girl, Klesiah, will be happy?'' She asked you.

''I hope so.'' She caught you off guard there, your mind drifted toward the lovely blueberry, causing a myriad of butterflies to suddenly erupt in your stomach and somehow dry up your mouth. ''I know it's selfish of me to have pushed you guys in that direction since... well, helping her again really is-''

''Don't.'' Your little sun interrupted you as everyone prepared to walk the road again. ''That witch followers are also doing something and she's trapped with them, I wouldn't call helping her selfish, jsut a bonus. I'm sure were helping Anais too, by being away from Marleon.''

Shereen had undeniably came to the same conclusion you did yesterday about that. Her presence as a natural blood mage, coupled with the Pyramid of Blood and her family ambitions -whatever they were-, made her proximity to Kreszenz princess incredibly hazardous for the unlucky blond.
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As the day progress with your travel, there was a slight change in Muribel scenery, shrubs and grass increased in numbers whilst trees all but disappeared. The heat remained an ungodly annoyance making you wonder if you'd taken any baths at all and, the terrain saw the few odd mounds here and there that thankfully didn't complicate travels.

The total lack of travelers was as much of a boon as it was a worry. This road connected to Marleon, the beating heart of Muribel, and outside the few odd farms (you happened upon a few abandoned ones far from the road) it was like traveling an empty land. No caravans, no itinerant merchants, no pilgrims... Perhaps such a sight would be common on the western side of Muribel or the coastal roads but after traveling an entire day you didn't come across a soul.


''Might be time to camp.''

The sun had yielded for another day, having almost completely disappeared beyond the eastern horizon. The beautiful sight of Muribel dusk sky had come and gone, leaving increasingly intense shades that would soon proceed into a completely dark sky and make it near impossible to see beyond a few meters.

The wide empty plain made it all but impossible to find a hidden spot to camp. There were a few small hills away from the road -nothing bigger than ten steps to climb- but at least large enough to somewhat mask your group presence although the inevitable campfire would kill any chance at stealth.

Still no sign of Myrtidal on the horizon... you'll get there tomorrow. Which is also when the girls are expected to make landfall...

''Don't mind me I can still continue.'' Shereen grumbled. She was resting on Hildegarde back, the maid had become an impromptu mount that also bore the princess bag effortlessly.

She was used to this, no doubt about that.

''It'd be better to find something with what daylight we have left.'' The maid nodded to Zhu. ''Our lamps are still well stoked, we have provisions so an adequate place to rest is what we should do.''

Shereen grimaced but said nothing, dark thoughts undeniably swimming through her head, you decided to walk to her and give her fluffy head a pet.

She shook off your hand with a growl.

The next hour was spent finding a suitable spot to camp, putting the tents together, counting provisions, finding some amount of fuel for the fire in addition with the firewoods you were transporting and of course, cooking a healthy soup for supper, a specialty of Hildegarde that proved surprisingly enjoyable even as she seemed to throw all kind of hazardous material in there.

''I can take the guard for the entire night.'' She offered after everyone had their fill. The light of the campfire became the only source of luminosity throughout the land now, not even the shiny stars ahead could illuminate anything from the ground and the moon was a faraway, sad crescent. All this darkness made you feel all alone in the world with the girls.
''I don't think that's a good idea.'' You responded quickly. ''Tomorrow is-''

''I know and that's exactly why I should watch everyone sleep, I won't be needing it and I'll only need to eat a little more to make up that loss of energy. It isn't so simple for anyone else.'' Stoic, cold, firm and stubborn, there was no shaking this maid.

You'll need to debate with her a little about that if you'd like to force Hildegarde to sleep because she didn't look ready to accept any other options.

''Can I sleep with your fluff?''


You couldn't help a chuckle on hearing this exchange between Shereen and Zhu. It's a little too soon to be thinking about sleeping now... could tonight be the last peaceful one you'll have for a while?

Better not dwell on that.

>You have time for one major activity before having everyone sleep.
>Exercise some of your personal magic. (As always, precise if you want to work on a spell or try to invent something defensive, offensive or supportive)
>Exercise with Shereen Blood Magic and your own, see if you can try to do... something as your flow join together.
>Try to reach the girls you are linked to. It worked once, it should happen again.
>>Exercise some of your personal magic. (As always, precise if you want to work on a spell or try to invent something defensive, offensive or supportive)
see if we can refine our soul hand, aiming to, extend it's range, make it stronger or provide some sort of armor penetration

The aim is to provide some sort of stand off / harassment for people outside our melee weapons without having to relying on the gauntlet.
Potential character customizations is another one of those fairly important things, so I'd say waiting for more opinions here is the best way to be fair.
Did we relate the prophecy to the girls the last time we communicated with them?
Yeah. They couldn't make sense of it, but they know.
Ok, they had that exile with them so she (and thus they) probably know what's up.

Err, one little concern, should we leave that fire burning? That angel might be taking a flight up to check on the surroundings as I bet he suspects our arrival. With no other travelers on the road any point of light in the distance will be suspect and it could result in him suddenly trying to kill everyone in their sleep.

Would it be possible to work on our measurement and max that out? What are our chances of achieving it?
>Err, one little concern, should we leave that fire burning?
It's pretty cold in the night, so ahving it helps out in keeping everyone warm.

>Would it be possible to work on our measurement and max that out?
>What are our chances of achieving it?
guaranteed to work, Arawn is close to upgrading the perk on his own. Spending the night on it will give you the final perk, allowing you to put a number on your reserve. (It'll work by simple percentage)
So we'd get a number and never risk wasting mana on any spell? Would it apply to fusions?
>So we'd get a number and never risk wasting mana on any spell?
Yup. You'd be able to easily make weak, medium or strong spells too.
>Would it apply to fusions?
Only halfway. You'd still be able to put a number on your reserve during fusion but you won't be able to control the mana cost for doing it.
>Exercise some of your personal magic. (As always, precise if you want to work on a spell or try to invent something defensive, offensive or supportive)
I vote for experimenting with our Body reinforcement.

As for Hildegarde, well... she know her limits better than anyone else currently present, I should think. If she says she can handle the entire night then let her. Hell, it most likely isn't even the first time she's pulled an all-nighter like this.

Gonna have to head to sleep now, my hold on my sleep schedule is getting lax. Thanks for running Insert!
Ok then, how close exactly are we to attaining that perk on our own? One more combat? Two?
>Ok then, how close exactly are we to attaining that perk on our own?
Hm... a bit difficult to say. It could be one more battle, but that heavily depends on how it goes, so two would be a good stopping point.

Always happy to have you, your vote is counted.
I'll go along with experimenting with our reinforcement spell then. Err, what would that give us a choice of?
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I'll need to think about it. It's your most basic spells, I need to really think what it can and cannot do alongside Arawn nature and how to potentially tie it to your subclass.

Honestly didn't expect this choice.

I'm going to post later tonight with further choices, you guy can consider tonight thread over with; you'll be able to vote tomorrow.
Our nature includes the fact that we're technically Gardy right? Even if we're but the mere ghost of his formerly glorious existence that still counts for *something* right?
''Hey girls, I'll be practicing a little magic on my own tonight.'' You pointed at one of the many lonely spots of the camp near the audible fire. ''Let's trust Hildegarde judgment, I won't be speaking much so do whatever it is you want.''

''Can I watch?'' Shereen almost immediately answered, ears upright and that tail swinging energetically, which seemed to hypnotize Zhu as she stared at the movement with her singular eye wide open.

''Sure.'' You couldn't resist a smile when Shereen began to scoot closer, inadvertently dodging Zhu hand. ''It'll be boring though, I'm going to concentrate on my body and experiment with reinforcement while investigating my nature, this idea popped into my head randomly so... why not try?''

''Hm... okay. Want me to warn you if your body change?''

''That...'' Actually could be useful. ''Tell me only after I end my exercise.''

''Okay!'' Shereen happily answered and as you crossed your legs together and took a deep breath to help you concentrate and embrace Focus, you saw Zhu walk next to Hildegarde, asking the maid about her training and how she learned her martial which seemed to surprise her and, after a moment of hesitation, the pale doll talked a little about herself.

Alas, you wouldn't be able to give her words any attention.

Embracing Focus, you imagined the flows of magic traveling your veins in an eternal current and the biorhythm of your life almost sounded like a rushing river as the soft noises around you muddled to nothingness, replaced by your breathing. You reopened your eyes to gaze at your body, illuminated by the soft orange glow of the campfire. You opened and closed your hand slowly, acknowledging the effort, feeling the sensation of tightening skin, the constriction of your muscle, the uncomfortable sensation of your bones...

Strong bodily reinforcement cast.

The discomfort of keeping a tightly woven fist lessened.

And that was the extent of the spell, really. You'd be able to run faster, take a mean punch, indent an armor with your fist.

This body of yours belonged to Gardy. He gave it to you when your soul was plunged into the dark maelstrom of the Demonic Throne, your mere existence enough to give him new purpose. Part of you wondered if the pain you feel when you get punched was real, the blood in your veins was red, your skin was peachy, now starting to noticeably tan under Muribel harsh sun yet in two occasions did you manage to embrace a... change, but was it a true change or a return to nature?

Your body naturally reverted into Gardy's steel disposition when you stepped into the Red World and your battle against Horkus only reinforced that fact thanks to your fusion. This body... does it truly belong to you?

For a moment you imagine your arm as it truly were underneath. Cold, hard copper, gold and obsidian melded together into Gardy stalwart being... Only to realize you were staring at your blue metal gauntlet.
Stupid Arawn. Now that you were concentrating, you could feel your flow of magic traveling in your body much more keenly and how it settled inside the gauntlet itself, tiny morsels vanishing inside to be used as fuel, disappearing inside the singular topaz that, in turn, made the quartz pulse in a quiet electrical life. Back during your battle with Horkus, this weapon had become a part of your... Gardy arsenal too, hadn't it? Absorbed inside his body, the heat became a valuable tool against meat.

Could such a thing be replicate inside your flesh and blood? Hildegarde odd limbs produce heat on their own as a weapon against horrors so it might not be impossible... Well, this is beyond Magitek and the science certainly doesn't support it, after all, you've gotten zapped by the previous version of your weapon before, after investigating the refugee's situation.

Putting your uncovered hand on your solar plexus, you felt your regulated breath and gazed at your skin, glowing a dull steel color from your magical nature. Perhaps you could try imagining something else, delve a little deeper into your magic, edge on the esoterism. ''Soul'' is hard to define in the best of terms, many see it as the summations of memories but you're living proof that it goes beyond since you've been alive without a single one. Without relying on tools, operating completely and totally with what you can make with your magic, guiding your flow into an objective that... align with your nature, your personality, your emotions; magic is never clear and there are often many paths to the same outcome.

Or perhaps you can try investigating your soul links? Ah, so many potential discoveries...

>Try an exercise with your gauntlet and your body.
>Rely on your magical nature and aim for something esoteric. Experiment with ''Soul'' within your own body to create a manifestation of your will by using offense or defense to guide your instinct.
>Try exploring the depth of your dormant links by your lonesome, perhaps feed them some of your magic.

No free choice.
>Try exploring the depth of your dormant links by your lonesome, perhaps feed them some of your magic.
Is it finally time to ride the lightning?
>Rely on your magical nature and aim for something esoteric. Experiment with ''Soul'' within your own body to create a manifestation of your will by using offense or defense to guide your instinct.

>That filename
But that's not Guild Girl
I kid, Goblin Slayer has several fantastic ladies in it.
He should just get them all.
Forgot to precise that the second option needs a precision on your part between offense or defense
Ah, in that case i suppose I'll vote for defense.
W'eve got the gauntlet for heavy firepower, after all.

I'll honestly be surprised one of the girls manages to snag Goblin Slayer. His autismo be stronk!
Duly noted.
It has to be a group effort, none of the girls can heal him alone!
I gotta sleep now but before I do I gotta ask. What's the difference between offensive and defensive options? What could we potentially be able to pull off?

I'd guess for offensive we'd be able to partially access Gardy's combat subroutines without a fusion or something. Defensive? Well, could we ape angelic levels of toughness and not die immediately after getting our heart gouged out like they can?
>What's the difference between offensive and defensive options? What could we potentially be able to pull off?

It's about directing your intentions into a potential new spell based on your body. Can't really give examples without making you commit.
Rolled 2 (1d2)

Gonna start writing in an hour or two with the result.
So dice say we going for defense eh? I can support that. Fits given who we are really.
>Rely on your magical nature and aim for something esoteric. Experiment with ''Soul'' within your own body to create a manifestation of your will by using defense to guide your instinct.
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You had many ideas but little time to implement them: a constant frustration. Trying to create something wholly from your magical nature, without relying on your links or the gauntlet wrapped on your arm, sounded the best course of action given how troublesome the next few days are going to be. Feeling Shereen eyes on your person, you barely opened your eyes to glance at her and couldn't help but feel a little bashful at how... dutiful she seemed to be, looking at you without pause, back straight, tail swishing to and fro.

She seemed to be expecting a show at any moment, you're not here to give her one damn it.

''Concentrate on your breathing and your flow...'' You told yourself, rekindling the picture of your eternal river and its rushing water. Simple imagery for your now shiny blood rushing throughout the bulging glowing veins caused by Focus but it worked. Then you recalled your exercise with Teruko, how you practiced with Vilma, how you and Shereen managed to so organically intertwine your magics; Soul magic is so incredibly hard to define but you've learned that it is malleable, that other people can use it if you so will it.

What about the extreme opposite?

There are two fundamental truths to magic. First is that Mother Earth reality is malleable, it bends to a mage will, allowing their spells to manifest but, in time, it always reclaim the status-quo. A wildfire created by a fire mage will burn itself out quickly despite widely available fuel, a water mage cannot fuel a farm by himself. Second is that a person body is the source of inviolable ego (even though there's already ways to circumvent that) creating spells within another person's body is impossible without consent for but a few odd, unique outliers and perhaps Blood Magic and Corruption. Souls... A nature of soul... you might never know it's true depth...

Opening your eyes, you gazed at Shereen for a moment, the soft noises of Hildegarde and Zhu conversation mingling with the wind and crackling of the campfire, your shield shone beside your little sun who started to become bashful under your stare. Stubbornly keeping herself quiet, she squirmed under your gaze for a few moments and, finding her courage, returned stare for stare with courageous zeal.

Your imagination conjured a murderous fireball striking her in the back. A sudden claw of thunder reaching out of a foe hand to strike her in the back, arrows of ice ejected out of a mage like crossbow bolts with murderous intents. you've sworn to yourself that this foreign princess is worthy of your protection and you've got a nice, solid shield but how much will that help against magic? You've already failed once during that crossbows ambush.
Rolled 100 (1d100)

Your magic surged throughout your body, the nexus of your existence within Mother Earth world. Your anger caused a raging tempest within your flow, you will coalesce into a single image: a shield. Defending those close to you means to become an impregnable fortress, a mountain that will take blows after blow. Gardy body is a weapon, he's the destructing side of protection, the one who removes threats and that's not something you can imitate...

No, you don't want to be like that. Gardy is Gardy; Arawn is Arawn, you share the same body but your wills can mold it differently. He might not be here now, but that doesn't mean you can supplant his place. When you do find him again, he can return where he belongs and your two existence will exist harmoniously once more. For this to happen, you have to defend, you have to safeguard those close to you and so your body itself needs to supersede threats!

You felt a spark of creation.

''Whu?'' You heard Shereen voice. ''Arawn there's an... aura around you?'' She said as you reopened your eyes.

Your magic was draining, enough for a medium spell... and that process was continuing by the seconds to keep this new spell in existence. Enough magic for another medium spell will be drained within the next six seconds, and that process will continue for as long as you'll keep it in existence.

''There's nothing to worry about.'' You answered and, casting a glance to your arm, notice that your gauntlet had deactivated. ''I just had to get a little worked up emotionally.''

Instinctive knowledge soon bloomed into your rational mind to explain this odd, precious discovery.

You have discovered the [Magical Dampener][1/2] spell.
As the name implies, this spell reduces the effect of foreign magic with the potential to conceal them outright if you pour enough of your reserve into it. The spell does not extend beyond Arawn body.

Functioning like an aura, this spell needs constant fuel to remain active, needing the equivalent of a medium or strong spell every 6 seconds (1 round). It is impossible to use your Magitek gauntlet and fuel anybody's magic while it is active. Soul Arms can be enchanted with this phenomenon to a lesser degree than Arawn body. (Medium is Weak, Strong is Medium)

>I intend to end our thread before we reach Myrtidal so I'll leave a free choice here for you guys to do anything that isn't training. If you'd like to have a little discussion with the girls or try playing some kind of game like truth or dare or dices then you'll be free to do so. Otherwise, we can proceed with one last little thing I have in mind before ending our thread.
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Huh, okay. That roll... Hm, we'll see what happen later.
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A 100! Ok, high is "good" so please tell me that was for one of ours. Please.
You'll find out soon enough, for now, this is a free timeslot to do mostly anything you want beside training.

We can proceed with getting everyone to be dthough.
Yes, let me stew in worry over the uncertainty of whether or not we are about to be on the business end of a cataclysmic and one-sided... Oh shit, was that for Zhu's coming attempt on our virginity?

Welp, might as well chat with the girls then. Also, since we're pretty close to our destination can we feel anything from Klesiah? Is she on the move? What kind of game could we play with them if we decided on that?
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Well, I'm a little stumped. Perhaps a game of riddles? I don't trust Zhu with something like Truth or Dare.
Emphasis on not trusting her with *Dare*.

>Magical Dampener
Very nice. Costly to use, perhaps not entirely efficient as it is... not exactly suitable against a constant stream of magic, in my opinion.
Does this Dampener need a round to activate? I am also curious on how the Dampener can stand against something like magical ice or other magics that have a more physical component to them. Testing required.

Sudden GM rolls out of nowhere unnerve me.

>Pic related if turns out to be true
I'd say Buckle Up, but I am not optimistic about the survival chances of Arawn's belt buckle.
>Also, since we're pretty close to our destination can we feel anything from Klesiah?
Yes, she feels alive, Arawn is much more aware of her existence now and some weakened emotions can reach him if he concentrate on the link. She's not moving.

>What kind of game could we play with them if we decided on that?
Something simple like truths and lies (can't give anyone dares in this place) or a simple round of dice, Zhu got a single one so waging favors can work. Otherwise, having a simple conversation work too.
>Does this Dampener need a round to activate?
Yup, it's not a core spell.
Don't be scared.
I suppose we can proceed with the last little harmless scene of this update too.
The other anon suggested a game of riddles. I could get behind that.

>the last little harmless scene of this update too.
Welp, we're fucked.
I can get behind that, let's see what the girls think of it.
''Don't worry, I'm fine.'' You deactivated the spell and, after observing the reactivation of the gauntlet, let go of Focus, killing the soft yellow light of the quartz attuned to the lightning topaz. ''Thanks for being here.'' You reached out absentmindedly to rub Shereen fluffy ears and she allowed it, shaking leaning into your palm and shaking her head in the characteristic canine way so fitting for her race.

''Hey girls.'' You said as you stood closer to the fire, Hildegarde and Zhu were practicing punches and stances side by side now, your interruption made them both look to you. ''How about a little game of riddles before turning in for the night?''

''Riddles?'' Shereen asked immediately. ''I don't... I don't think I have any... Huh...''
''Sounds a bit one-sided.'' Zhu added. ''What's the victor supposed to gain?''
''Pride? A little favor?'' You shrugged, sitting near the fire. ''It's alright if you have trouble appreciating intellectual games Zhu.''
''No, I ain't gonna bite.'' She growled while laughing. ''If that's the best insult ya can do then whatever little puzzler you'll throw my way won't amount to much.''
''I'm expecting you to make one, too.'' Zhu winced and shook her head.

''Hm...'' Hildegarde was the next one to sit at the fire, red gaze deeply lost in its healthy brilliance. ''...I'll admit this isn't my area of expertise. I can't remember ever trying such a game before.''

An eager mood had settled in camp, the girls were actually up to the challenge... though part of you wondered just how effective it's going to be.

>Since Arawn made the idea, you guys can throw a few riddles and I'll pick which one will be deduced by the girls. Then the girls will have a turn.
>TFW I don't actually know/get riddles myself
Thank goodness for the internet.

>Riddle 1: I follow you all the time and copy your every move, but you can’t touch me or catch me. What am I?
>Riddle 2: I’m light as a feather, yet the strongest person can’t hold me for five minutes. What am I?

I can get more but let's see if other anons have riddles to contribute

I'm trying not to read too deeply into the fact that Shereen actually let Arawn rub her ears.
What occurs once in every minute, twice in every moment, yet never in a thousand years?

The letter m.
1: Shadow?
2: Time?
Remember what happened when you grabbed Sieglinde horn?

Pretty good.

I'll throw a dice for which riddle is said actually. Sound fairer, so I'll give this 10 more minutes and let chance decide what stick. Putting the answer also help since, as the qm, I gotta know if the girls guess right or not. This isn't the time to befuddle me!
Oh right, actually putting the answers into my post woulda helped. Sorry about that
You got the first one right, the second one is your breath.

...I don't remember, actually. Perhaps I should binge the archives for a bit tomorrow.
Do we get to say more than one riddle?
Uh, wait. Wasn't grabbing the horn a gesture of domination? Like, declaring we "owned" her or something? Did we just inadvertently declare Shereen to be our pet doggo?
Only one for now. The girls will throw one your way too, so if yo uwant to give them a last riddle as a last word sort of deal we can do that.

Yeah I realized what it was after thinking about it. Smart.

It was a simple pet, no need to look too deeply into it now...
Rolled 2 (1d3)


Rolling for the puzzle.
Oh hey, a sudden thought occurred to me about our new Magic Dampener spell.
Can it effect Holy barriers?
Something to try, right?

Dice landed on riddle number 2, let's see what the girls make of it.
Magic Dampener? Dispel Magic when?
Dispel Magic could be very dangerous.
I don't see how. Well, unless we started to throw it around in places we shouldn't (e.g. inside the throne complex). In combat it'd be quite powerful, especially if it deactivates enchantments on equipment or shuts down necromancy or blood magic. We'd have to get it first though, for now all we got is a dampener with no time to upgrade it sadly.

Say we touched someone with the Dampener active. Would it knock them out of focus or disrupt their necromancy/blood magic BS?
You'lll have to try my dear player!
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''Since the game is my idea, I'll be the first one to start.'' Everyone sat in a nice circle around the campfire. Zhu threw you defiant looks, Hildegarde sat dutifully and Shereen looked apprehensive and excited. In the silence of Muribel arid wide plains, the woods in the campfire crackled audibly.

''I’m light as a feather, yet the strongest person can’t hold me for five minutes. What am I?''

''Huh... what?'' You didn't even have the time to take a breath when Zhu commented.

''You guys are only allowed a single guess.'' You added quickly. ''It's not a hard one.''

''Bleh.'' Zhu leaned back and, upon feeling the dirt in her hand, gave her limb a quizzical look. ''Sand? Light as a feather and I doubt you can hold a grain for more than five minutes.''


''Bullshit!'' Zhu flumped on the ground.

''Hm... My first instinct was to say wind of time.'' Hildegarde commented, looking into her hand then holding it toward the shiny stars above. ''But your words imply that whatever you allude to can be held, and neither of my answers can be truly grasped for any length of time. I'll pass.''

That was technically two answers in one and you could tell from the little smirk she bore that was exactly what she aimed for as she looked at Shereen.

''Huh...'' Poor girl was stumped and, falling into her old habit, grew silent and withdrawn, even stopping her breath.

Which, after a few seconds, gave her the answer. Her green eyes sparkled excitedly.

''Breath!'' She announced breathlessly, taking a gulp of air to refill her lungs. ''Air has no weight and you can hold it for a while!''

''Indeed.'' You gave her a little clap and she grinned a smug, proud smile, putting her furred hands on her hips. ''We'll think of a reward later.''

''Man, that was obvious.'' Zhu had pulled herself back into a sitting position. ''Okay so, I got one. What is a manifestation of souls?''

''Colors.'' The answer came in a single, uniform voice by everyone else, causing the poor one-eyed swordswoman a shameful grimace. ''Doesn't count, you lass better not stab me in the back he's the guy to beat!'' She spoke dramatically, pointing at you with her finger and rubbed her forehead with her second hand.

''What is... What is an organic vessel... An organic vessel filled with two liquids!'' A triumphant grin came to rest on her features. ''What's an organic vessel filled with two different liquid things!''

''Do you even know the answer?'' Zhu hand went to caress the handle of her sword. Oh, you might have hit a nerve.

''Guess and find out.'' She responded with a worrisome snarl.

Hm... an organic vessel filled with two different liquid material...

>Only one guess per post, I'll end it in about 20 or 30 minutes and proceed on the next one.
Ok, this is Zhu so it's probably vulgar. Or perhaps not. A living "human" body? Blood and water (in one form or another). A mamono? Blood and corruption. A man? Blood/water and... sticky white stuff.
A few too many guesses, so I can't say if you're hot or cold. I'll have to say that you are wrong.
So I gotta pick one? Or are all of them wrong?
Oooh, I regret suggesting riddles.
Gotta admit, Zhu came up wit ha tough one.

Best guess I got: A mouth, filled with blood and spit.
Picking a single one is the way to go.
Very cold too. Look like our swordswoman got a good one!
In that case, as we are talking Zhu, I'll go with a man. The other possibility is a womb right after sex, but I don't think she'd be *that* dirty what with Shereen's innocent little ears present.
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Look like being a pervert is not helping Zhu. It's a bit of a stretch of course, but Zhu is all about ''stretching'' so yeah, it's the answer.
I'm running completely out of creative fuel, I think we'll end our thread shortly after the game. My d100 was for Hildegarde and, well, she succeeded so extremely well I don't think I can make another scene, so you guys should just enjoy your time with the girls some more.
A few ideas popped into your mind. An organic vessel filled with two different liquids was... well, it could be a good number of things but it was important to put it through the lens of this happy pervert and as she smirked and chuckled in assured victory, you decided to take the plunge.

''A man.'' You pronounced with a little too much pride.
''Oh gods, I hoped this wouldn't...'' Hildegarde facepalmed and Shereen looked genuinely puzzled until her face warped in horror because of sudden realization.
''Tch.'' Zhu flopped on the ground again. ''Lucky guess.''
''I don't think this needs any elaborations...'' You cleared your throat, feeling pretty hot in the face. Damn it, Zhu!

''I first thought you could be alluding to an egg.'' Hildegarde started, prompting Zhu to raise herself once more. ''The white is liquid and the yolk... is debatable but it'll fit enough for a riddle, especially since it's produced by chicken and thus, an organic vessel.''

''Shit.'' The one-eyed woman rubbed her chin, regarding the maid with genuine appreciation. ''Should have gone with that, it fits.''

''Fufu.'' An actual, genuine chuckle came out of the stoic maid. ''I'll have to skip my turn. Answering riddle is proving enjoyable but authoring my own, unfortunately, leaves me completely stumped. Perhaps I'll come with something... eventually, would you do the honor, Shereen?'' Skipping her turn went against the fun of the game but Hildegarde was so polite that it was impossible to feel negative.

''Hum... Okay, I still have a win under my belt.'' A competitive smirk came to rest on her features as she looked to you with those healthy eyes. It was truly nice to see the absence of yellow that had been plaguing her for a while: her corruption was stable.

''Um...'' Without explanation, her face grew a pretty shade of red as she looked into the fire. ''What is mine but only can... No wait, wait that's not it! Ignore that!''

She flailed around, causing enough wind with her arms and tail to bend the flames.

''It's okay, don't take this game too seriously.''
''Y-yes of course.'' Shereen answered quickly, pausing to fake a cough. ''I think I read a few in books but maybe I can... compose one? It'll probably be bad but I can try, I guess.'' Gazing into the fire, she thought for a minute and spoke softly afterward.

''It comes in too many shapes to describe; evil and good, in equal measures.
Sometimes broken, sometimes whole, everyone once had it even if you don't have it today, even if it lasted a second.
Often around when you don't know it; choking you with sins you had no hands in.
Can be broken and restored; can be created anew.
What....am I?''

Shereen grew bashful as she finished, giving you a worried stare. ''I... I don't think that one should count.'' She said, looking regretful. ''I wasn't really... thinking.''

''Riddles from the heart, is it young lady?'' Hildegarde commented, offering her a gentle smile. ''I think it's a fair one.''
Double post power!
I had to fix what I could...
Nope. Pretty cold.
I'm probably too pooped to write the closure tonight
Mmrgh. I'll have to sleep on this, not that I believe sleep will necessarily help me with riddles.
Thanks for running Insert!
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Take your time. I think the riddle is a little unfair but it's very much ''Shereen'' in a way. I'll avoid giving more hint scause I don't trust myself
Hmmm... it's either "family" or "friends/friendship". That's what I'm coming up with.
Better make a choice then, only after you commit can I confirm anything.
I think you have to pick one as your answer. But nice.
The two are very closely related, but I'll go with family then.
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And that's it. I'll answer tomorrow and probably close the thread.

Arawn is pretty good at this.
Hmm. Should we rub soot from the campfire on our shield and mace, to keep light from reflecting off of the metal? Assuming we opt to sneak into Myrtidal, we need to make sure we have all the possible advantages since Arawn isn't trained for sneaking.

or we grab a charred piece of wood after the fire's been put out, carry it with us and then rub that on our equipment once we're closer to Myrtidal.
Hm, a nice detail.
You guys can remind me you did that when next thread happen in case I forget.
Oh, if we have any spare cloth we could wrap that around our gauntlet too. Rip it up into strips if need be.

I don't suppose anyone in our party has a binocular or a handheld telescope on them?
>I don't suppose anyone in our party has a binocular or a handheld telescope on them?
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Silence lingered as you tried to make sense of this surprisingly difficult puzzler, the soothing noise of the fire soon becoming the only source of noises as the eerily silent plains seemed focused on what was happening between all of you; only the faraway noise of crickets gave signs of life and that was a mercy.

''I-Is um...'' As ever, the more time flowed, the more it piled embarrassment on Shereen small shoulders.

''Hmm, I think I have an idea... This riddle is to be taken as a whole more than investigating each sentence.'' For her sake, you couldn't linger.
''Wonder what'll happen if Shereen one up you twice,'' Zhu said, cupping her chin in the same way Hildegarde was doing. ''I got no clue about this, I don't think I like riddles.''

''I think the answer will be fairly obvious once you concentrate on the riddle sentiment.'' You answered your companion and turned back to your little sun. ''Though, feel free to bully me if I get it wrong.''

This remark earned you a smile.

''Is it family?'' Your question was met by an embarrassed nod from the princess.

''Ah!'' Zhu exclaimed. ''It's obvious! Damn it, I was looking too much into the sentences. Too many shapes to describe, broken or whole, can be remade and all that... I was thinking it could be faith or something but that felt a little too obtuse of an answer.''
''So it was easy after all?'' Shereen asked and Hildegarde answered by first shaking her heard.
''I believe it'd be a good one for anybody that doesn't know you, Shereen. My instinct hovered between faith and family... mostly because of how I've started to know you these past two days, especially after yesterday night.'' A soft, gentle and teasing smile rested on her lips.

''Mmmu.'' An irritated flick of tail accompanied the princess plaint. ''I wanted to thoroughly dominate Arawn, not get this... half victory, it's like we canceled each other out!''
''Maybe you should have gone with your first one then.'' You answered, laughing when her body straightened in sheer horror. ''How did it go again? What is mine but only you...?''

''Stooop! Stop at once!'' Shereen lunged ar you, knee colliding (not so painfully, she's not a big girl) on your chest, furred arms wrapping around your head and squeezing it on her belly. ''Get that out of your head! It was a failed attempt cause I never gave any thoughts to riddles so don't try to see anything in it! Stupid elf! Stupid Moon!''
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''Okay! Okay! I forgot already!'' Shereen evidently questioned your sincerity because your sentence was interrupted by a few laughs. It took a little while of cajolement and a promise that you did, indeed, forget that ''failed riddle'' for her to release you.

She was all red in the face by the end which, because of the soft light of the fire and her naturally brown skin, gave her an almost alluringly charming aura. Like the princess she was, Shereen confronted anyone that looked at her funny, which of course ended with small one-sided arguments with Zhu and Hildegarde (somehow), marking an unofficial end to your little game.

It was... nice. Another peaceful night, you've likely gotten lucky without any kinds of pursuers from Ensan and you can only imagine how things are going in Marleon now, but such thoughts would be a worry for later. As you watched Shereen trying to extract the same promise she imposed upon you on Hildegarde, the thought of arriving at Myrtidal felt... peaceful. Somehow, someway, these last two days removed all traces of fears you had with this undeniable looming conflict and you decided to chase off the idea of an investigative introspection to find out why: this was more than good enough.

The only fear you had was a potential ambush during the night and to be pulled away from slumber by Lady White, fears that were proved, thankfully, unfounded.

>A Tale of Monsters - The Witch Game - end


I do hope this update didn't come across as padding. It's my personal belief that moment of peace before conflicts are to be treasured and... a little dynamic had to be established with Hildegarde sudden inclusion. Who could ever resist Shereen charms, right?

I'd like to make the next thread this weekend as I properly plan out Myrtidal but we all know that keeping my schedule is my worst flaw, so I won't make any promises. Feel free to stick around and ask things.
was Shereen's first riddle going to be about the heart? That's adorable. Maybe a little sappy, depending on the composition of the riddle itself.

>I'd like to make the next thread this weekend as I properly plan out Myrtidal but we all know that keeping my schedule is my worst flaw, so I won't make any promises
You take all the time you need, Myrtidal is no doubt gonna take quite a bit of time so prepping it properly is good!
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I'm starting to believe Arawn might be harem protagonist tier of dense... or he'd rather avoid the subject.
>You take all the time you need, Myrtidal is no doubt gonna take quite a bit of time so prepping it properly is good!
Thank! I need to trim some fat really, and place details.
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>I'm starting to believe Arawn might be harem protagonist tier of dense... or he'd rather avoid the subject.
Both entirely possible! Though, recovering his memories has been Arawn's main concern if my memory serves me correctly, so the latter option may be the more prevalent one.
Maybe avoiding the subject marks our elf as a coward for some, but Arawn has his priotities and the girls will just have to respect that!

Or so I would like to say, but Zhu's going to take a metaphorical battering ram to Arawn's emotional walls the instant she has the opportunity, consequences be damned. The woman intimidates me at times, I admit.
For someone so intent on recovering his memory, you guys have avoided any risky solutions and decided to let things happen organically which is a surprising choice.
>The girls will just have to respect that!
What after the truth is revealed?
>The woman intimidates me at times, I admit.
Really? Come on now, she won't do anything bad at all. Girl has had her fill of actions so far, she hasn't complained once during the trip!
What was Hilde's roll for?
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Noticing and intimidating something prowling near the camp. She was so bloody successful at it that it didn't even wake Arawn.
>For someone so intent on recovering his memory, you guys have avoided any risky solutions and decided to let things happen organically which is a surprising choice.
The only risky solution to Arawn's amnesia that I can remember was digging them out of the Demonic Throne, and back then Arawn was straight up not prepared for that.
Ad trust me, I woulda jumped on the opportunity to go through the Zipangu Ritual had Arawn had the time. Unfortunately, circumstances and a certain fox have a been a constant, dogged obstruction for that solution.
...Now you're just purposefully playing me, trying to make me worry! Whatever could this truth be??

Zhu being intimidating is not about her doing something bad, but rather the fact that she is, from what I can tell, quite strong willed and prone to dancing to the beat of her own drum.
Now, perhaps "intimidating" was not quite the right word to use but I am quite tired. I should be heading off.

Night everyone, stay safe remember to wash your dang hands!
>Ad trust me, I woulda jumped on the opportunity to go through the Zipangu Ritual had Arawn had the time. Unfortunately, circumstances and a certain fox have a been a constant, dogged obstruction for that solution.

Don't accuse Ama for your hesitation!

>Now, perhaps "intimidating" was not quite the right word to use but I am quite tired. I should be heading off.
It's alright. Maybe she'll pull the girls in her own pace, who knows...
We would have done the soul link solution, but shit did happen. Oh well, provided we survive we can do it immediately upon our return to Throne Town.
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Yeah, it's about time to fetch a blueberry
Would it matter if we tried to recover our memories before/if we re-fuse with Gardy? Would we end up dredging up some of his?
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A good question. It could pose a few problems but the fact that you've got such a strong bond with him will help immensely.

Circumstances around this potential event are what matter most though.
How bad was that nasty we lucked out on in regards to avoiding a fight with it?

A strong bond eh? Fusion notwithstanding, have the actions we've taken in his absence been one's he'd largely approve of?

As for your above quips about our Elf being Harem Protag dense... I don't think he is. He'd simply rather recover his memories first before answering the feelings any girls might be developing for him (or himself for them in turn).

Then there's that damnable fox. It's hard to have a healthy largely stress-free love life with that fluffy sword of Damocles hanging over it all. You just know she won't be able to leave our future lover and children well enough alone. Too much "fun" for her to pass up. Hell, she might try to force a harem route on us with herself as the mistress! Bad End! Very Bad End!
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>How bad was that nasty we lucked out on in regards to avoiding a fight with it?
Oh it wouldn't have been something to worry about too much.

>A strong bond eh? Fusion notwithstanding, have the actions we've taken in his absence been one's he'd largely approve of?
You'll have to use your own judgement here.
>That spoiler
What a wonderful idea. My oh my... It's so fitting too...
>that spoiler
Please god no. Please. It's not fitting at all.

Besides, we could never trust her cooking to not have human/mamono meat/blood/etc. in it. And god help us if we end up spawning children with her. Ame turned out OK but those are dice I'd rather not roll. Plus it all entails snu snu with Ama! NOPE!
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Snu snu with Ama! Do it! Hope for it! Try for it!
Never! I don't care how alluring she is or how fluffy her tails are! I'd rather be ruthlessly dominated/raped by Zhu or any/all of the other girls for a million years! Literally *any* girl but her!

Well, almost any. Gremory or any other evil woman ain't gettin' any from us either.
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Nobody will know...
Can you think of anything thoughtful when you find Klesiah again?
Yeah they will. Bestest buddy most especially. Besides, the shame we'd be emanating would be palpable and I do believe we've established that we can't lie for shit. One way or another, they'd know.

Like, to say to her or something? I guess it'd depend on the circumstances and the state we find her in. Absent any of that context I got nothing.

Also, is that fluffy in the pic offering herself as a present to her lover?
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Good old Arawn, honest to a fault. And yeah I was just asking an unfair question with Klesiah.
Is that fluff Ame or Ama? Both would offer themselves anyway so it's not that big of a deal...right?
Isn't Ame married? Stunts like that ought be reserved for loving and worthy husbands. And I don't care how much Ama tries to be seductive and alluring she's still fluffy Satan! Never! Not even once!
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I wonder if Arawn is lucky or not to not have a multi-tailed close fluffy friend.
Well, there's always Tui. Too bad bad fluffy's minions had to fuck everything up before we got a chance to befriend/fall in love with her.
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Anon... Tuilelaith is old. Very, very old. Going for Daiyu is one thing, but Tui... well, grandma tier.
You think that matters? She was cute, fluffy, and seemed like a very nice person. So what if she's a millennia or two older than us?

Besides, whole demonic royal family out-ages us by quite a bit. So does Elina. We really don't care too much about a little thing like our prospective lovers being way older than us. Hell, we already got down with an older lover in the past. Human, but still counts.
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I'd enjoy writing Arawn proposing to Tui.
I would like to lovingly stroke and groom her fluff as well. We need to survive and make it back so the other girls can have a chance at getting us to fall for them.

Sadly, I'm not liking our odds. No Gardy, no meatshields, our angel still a day out and even when she gets here our enemy has one that evenly matched her last time we fought them (i.e. the healer will be occupied when we'll need them most just like she was with Sieg). We are, by what I can gather, outnumbered and outgunned by a wide margin and still effectively without a healer for the final conflict. We're gonna need a miracle to live through this one ourselves, to say nothing of our friends and potential waifus.
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Believe in the girls with your heart... and the witch fairness.
I may not trust the fairness of Bad Fluffy, but like I said before, even *if* she, *she*, was 100 percent trustworthy her apostles are most certainly not. Not at all.

She sees all this as a game she's playing for fun. They see this as serious business and/or a game they're playing to win (as evidenced in Throne Town). I'd say what that entails in this situation, but I'm not going to risk giving you ideas you haven't gotten already.

I would hope she'd actively fuck them over somehow to make it "interesting" like Tzeentch sometimes does his minions, but I ain't counting on it without us cutting a deal with her raw enough to expose our bones to the open air so it ain't gonna happen.
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All this unwarranted hatred of Best Fluff when she took such good care of our blueberry...
Took good care? Having her pledge fealty to her in exchange for a thing she was going to do anyway? Making her betray her oaths/moral code by aiding and abetting bandits because of that? And that's only the stuff we know for absolute certain. Who knows what tortures were visited upon her during that year we were out. Trapped in her lair at the heart of the Cursed Swamp...
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Will you commit to healing her?
I'm not sure if the fight during Throne Town's invasion is a fair measurement between Elina and Ama's pet featherface. Elina would have been more preoccupied with getting to Sieglinde than putting up a proper fight, the way I see it.
Of course we will. Though I will say that the entity that fused with her really should have been trying to do that themselves during that time as well. Especially if it's who I think it is. That is, unless they're an even bigger failure than I thought.

The same dynamic will occur once one of us inevitably gets heavily wounded during the big battle. Besides, I'm betting that bastard's prepared for this eventuality and has a nasty surprise in store for us/our Angel.
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Bold assumptions and bolder words.
Logical assumptions and factual words you mean. The entity makes Aqua look good/competent given their track record so far.
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You don't have any ideas about said track record, it's not a good idea to make sweeping assumptions.
>That pic
Oh my. Fanservice of the blueberry. I'm not sure she'd be comfortable with it herself but I do approve personally. She is quite lovely.

We have our own direct experiences with it, and those have all been epic failures on their part. Zhu at least has the excuse of the ire of the dice gods, it doesn't.
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You should think about making her do fanservice, I'm sure your knight will secretcly like it accept.

I'll just say that you're fairly wrong here; the idea that Klesiah is housing an entity in the first place is debatable!
Hey, I'm all for sticking her (and all the girls really) in a maid outfit, kimono, various forms of swimsuit, and anything else we can think of that isn't *too* risque if we somehow get through this alive. She will kind of owe us after all and if she'll enjoy it all the better.

She was confirmed to have fused with something when we made a soul link with her. That thing closely resembled the description of what I'm suspecting it is (i.e. a useless/impotent goddess, or at least an aspect of her). So while the "what" may be up for some debate the fact that she is fused with something isn't.
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Doing something like that would greatly please Zhu too, you're well on your way to Harmony!

It almost sounds like you are holding a grudge for the entity, yet Klesiah is still alive after a year in the witch custody... Unfair!
We did miss a birthday after all. I think fanservice of all the girls would be an adequate belated present. It costs them next to nothing and who knows, they might come to enjoy what amounts to cosplay. Everyone wins!

A little bit. It *could* have saved us a lot of grief had it been remotely competent. Then there's a historical aspect with bestest buddy if it is the goddess. She did try to murder his first charge after all. Don't know if she finished the job, but hey, reason enough for a grudge.
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Now you're thinking. Your knight deserves a good bullying.
You're speaking as if Arawn deserves special scrutiny, how greedy! It's a good thing he doesn't hold illogical grudges!
So your saying that he does have a reason to be mad at Ama?
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Absolutely not!
The grudge will get quite logical if she fails once more here. We'll curse her incompetence and status as a useless failure of a goddess with our dying breath!

We have every right to not only hate bad fluffy, but to endeavor to remove her completely and utterly from the very fabric of reality itself. The most final and ultimate death we can manage to inflict upon her. Nothing less will satisfy us!
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I don't think your knight would appreciate that.

Be kind to the fluff and she'll be kind in turn
So? In the worst case we'll be the last to die so she won't be around to hear us blaspheme her now dead god. No loss, save for the death of our linked girls and the whole world being plunged into darkness by Ama over the course of the next few centuries.

When has she ever truly been kind? It's all purely for her own amusement. Anything "nice" she does is because we either gave her something she wanted (and wants to encourage/incentivize us to keep doing that) or because it results in more "fun" from her own perspective.

True kindness and compassion are utterly alien concepts to her. Unless she gets "something" out of it, it would never occur to her to take that course of action. This, perhaps thankfully, likely also applies to things like cruelty (though I doubt it as being cruel and whatnot really seems to make her happy).
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Now now, don't be so dramatic

Ama is just a little naughty and a bit sadistic and admittedly selfish, not evil at all.
Wish I didn't have to be. Stakes are pretty high here all things considered.

You keep saying that, but her actions speak for themselves. She's fluffy Satan! She's pure friggin' evil! A most heinously bad bad fluffy!
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List her bad actions, if they're so evil!
Where to begin? Firstly, she didn't acquire all her nicknames without her actions warranting them. For instance "Fox of Poisoned Knowledge". This would imply that she offers information, knowledge, and power to those who ask it of her. It is "poisoned" however, implying that most everyone who contracts with her gets a very, very raw deal. People know this, yet some still sign the dotted line (e.g. Banu). These people are thus almost guaranteed to be utterly desperate. Thus, she essentially preys upon those people.

She's a confirmed cannibal as well. Consuming the flesh of humans and mamonos because it's fun/tasty isn't a "good" act no matter how you slice it. Those admonishments towards children to be good or else Lady White will come to get them may imply she's got a taste for "young" meat as it were. Compounding the evil of that act further.

Ignoring all that stuff though, there's the shit we've directly or indirectly experienced. Her deception of us to worm her way into our soul. Her known torment she visited upon us in the past (though we cannot remember it as of yet). The fact she didn't lift a finger to stop the slaughter of innocents she knew her disciples were going to inflict upon Throne Town. Her taking advantage of Klesiah to rope her into a contract for a thing she was guaranteed to do anyway (i.e. heal our soul). The torments visited upon her that we don't know about. The many evil things she's directly or indirectly involved with as we speak that she's just letting happen because it's all just so gosh darn amusing to her.

The list goes on for quite a while.
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Yet nothing about that has been proven evil aside from allowing her followers to do as they wanted in Throne Town and even then, you could only call her incompetent for not overseeing the people under her! Coercing people isn't evil in of itself, it's only selfish! Ama is not evil! You only believe that to make yourself feel better!

She is not evil!
Yes she is. Besides, kind of in the job description. She's the main antagonist after all, the BBEG. Bad Fluffy is bad, that's all there is to it.
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Time will tell.
Since you guys are still lurking, do you have any particular activity or something you'd like to do in our quest? Provided, of course, that a good end happen.

Or would you rather not think of such peaceful things before we know how Ama game ended?
>"She's not evil, she's just selfish!"
Committing acts that fulfil the criteria of being one of the 7 deadly sins is widely considered evil. By definition, causing others or the self harm for selfish reasons is a sin, and thus evil.
I can't think of any Lust, Envy, or Gluttony.
If she's not been stopping her people it's be cause she's [Slothful], as she could easily have told them not to.
[Wrath] in the form of the violent acts she and her people have committed.
[Pride] in her fluffy tails, power, and knowledge.
[Greed] as taking advantage of people for personal gain.
So, yes. She is in fact evil to an unknown degree.
I want to touch all the exotic bits.
Just more peaceful stuff. Slice of life, some romance, maybe some pranks, etc. Y'know, the things we would have done were it not for Bad Fluffy and her agents constantly getting in the way and preventing us from enjoying days of peace and happiness!

I guess she finds those things boring and thus can't really abide us enjoying them. Damn her to hell!
Oh, and touch all the exotic bits. *All* the exotic bits. Not one wing, tail, horn, paw, hoof, or anything else that qualifies shall go without our most careful, loving analysis.

For those without exotic bits, headpats, all the headpats.
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Just make Ama your girlfriend and redeem her!
How do you plan to make sure Klesiah does not feels bad for having no exotic bits?

Now now, she'll enjoy the mess that is your love life I'm sure. Anything special you'd like to do? A special trip somewhere?
Like I said. Headpats. That and cosplay in fanservice outfits.
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Hm, an outfit that'd give her a fake tail sound good...
We do lack a catgirl. No group of monstergirls is complete without a catgirl! Hell, just need a slight tweak on her headband to give her cat ears. She can be our Nyaaight!
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Also, there is only one redemption possible for Ama. The cleansing flames of sanctified promethium! We're gonna need a ton of flamers for her heresy.
>Since you guys are still lurking, do you have any particular activity or something you'd like to do in our quest? Provided, of course, that a good end happen.
what this >>4197563 anon said in their spoiler. That is good.
"Arawn, what is best in life?"
"To touch monster bits, see them quiver before you and hear the moans of their owners!"

Personally I'm still waiting for a pool party.

Oh, now that I think about it. I believe Arawn's year-long coma caused him to miss a festival of sorts in Throne Town? Now that's classic date scene material assuming circumstances do not stop us from going or otherwise miss the festival.
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Pool party, festival date... A girl on each arms... What a joyful existence.
>A girl on each arms...
N-now hold your horses a little! While that does sound *very* tempting, I feel like that would inviting disaster stretching Arawn's luck a bit too much.
What makes you think he'd be the one initiating said holding?

...But wait, we don't have enough arms compared to how many of the girls would *potentially* like to hold hands! The girls will have to agree on a compromise or a rotation...
I am suddenly very concerned for Arawn's physical well being in this entirely hypothetical scenario.
You got Soul Arms, they'll provide plenty of motivation for you to learn how to create spontaneous divisions

Looks like we better get to work on improving our capacity for soul arms, then. Even then I'm not sure that we're going to have enough arms
How many girls do you want to hold beside your links?
Better question. How many want to hold ours?
Some things need more than one hand.
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You'll need a matchmaker at this rate.
I like this implication
Well let's see here, according to the Spell/Perk list for Arawn the max amount of Soul Arm divisions is 5. Adding our fleshy arms to that, the maximum amount of girls we could hold is 7.
We're linked to 4 girls, so we can hold 3 more on top of our links.

...I feel like this would read like a basic math question with a bit of rewording.
Having a big date in a festival would really be wonderful!

My, I'm actually getting ideas... but now's not the time to get carried away. Earn that happy ending.

In another note... What about Shereen?
>Implying we're not a fast track to Adopted Daughter Route with Shereen

I'm joking, of course.
Hmm, Shereen would no doubt appreciate traveling after spending so much time secluded in the palace. She'd *especially* appreciate visiting the Elven Enclave like the Elf Culture Otaku she is.
Traveling could be dangerous given her nature as a Blood Mage, however.
Adopted daugtheru huh... You'll do all you can to protect her?
Too bad she was still a bit depressed and on guard with Armin, knowing he's an elven loremaster would really make her interested.
>Adopted daugtheru huh... You'll do all you can to protect her?
I'm just saying, Shereen deserves an actual, loving family after Zerase and Ensan.
>That spoiler
Zhu seems to be the only aggressive one in the whole bunch. Though I could see Vilma going for it if someone encouraged her to do so. Hao would too, but for more innocent reasons.

I wonder if Deru likes to play that role. I could see her trying to push us into a harem route. Good men are hard to find after all, even if they're cursed by fluffy Satan and I'm sure she'd enjoy "corrupting" us a little bit. I wonder how Gardy would react to that.

Depends on what she goes for. Someone would have to nudge her in the direction of romance but if someone did and gave her a few pointers in the arts of seduction with her exotic bits, well, she could pull it off.

Stiff competition though. She'd have to really work at it to get us to both look at her like that and beat out the other girls. I'm still going for a monogamy route.
Hugs? I'm going with hugs. Hugs need at least two arms/hands.
How adorable.

>I wonder if Deru likes to play that role.
Gotta help her big sister somehow.
Gardy would just tell you to have fun and do his best not to make the equivalent of stepping into your room when something naughty is happening..

Yeah, Shereen has a difficult road... Though it's not like she's feeling romantic feelings right? I'm not refusing anything about any kind of ''route'' but don't expect the girls to leave you with the initiative once there's time for romance. How Mamonos date is another subject we haven't seen yet.
Truly, bestest buddy is a bro among bros.

I dunno about Shereen. If we end up doing well in combat and looking all gallant and whatnot she might catch some feelings.

So they're going to get proactive and start taking *us* on dates eh? How "aggressive" do they tend to get? Proactive dating dragging us along for a romantic afternoon on the town? Accidentally locking us in a room alone with themselves? Full on Zhu mode where they "make" us their husband one way or another? Deliberate alliance where they agree to share us with one or two other girls? Like, say, Sieg and Vilma agreeing to share us if we keep the other girls out of it? Not that I'd agree outright as I still want to go for monogamy but if the girl I want absolutely insists on sharing us with their bestest buddy and the buddy's cool with it...
Well, Shereen is fairly important to Arawn now... One never know huh?

Mamonos tend to function in what I call ''family units'' if/when there's a.... gravitation toward a single objective. The relationship between the girls matters just as much -if not even more so- than what happen with the man. Basically, the girls will have lengthy talks amongst themselves and that's as much hints as you're getting.
Aww shit, that means they're gonna be pulling for a harem route with us as they all really like each other as friends. Oh well, I'm still gonna *try* for monogamy but if they all insist on the Tenchi Muyo ending I won't really have any grounds to refuse save perhaps for political BS and even then it ain't like the kings/nobles of old didn't have tons of mistresses.
Your position and noble blood could make this a point of contention to be sure, but even having a single monstrous wife would, also, cause a whole lot of problem. The most ''politically correct'' heroines for Arawn to have a relationship with that won't cause controversies are Klesiah and Elina and even then, that won't stop critics.

Be wild, be greedy, Be yourself!
>That pic
Dear lord Serenity I get it I'll marry you already geez! Related topic, would Hao ever get into an outfit like that?

The critics can shove it. Uncultured mamono hating swine have no appreciation for exotic bits! For instance, they think Gwen's eye stalks are scary/disgusting. Can you imagine? Being afraid of or finding disgusting such wonderfully expressive and alluring things? Inconceivable to the likes of us I say.

I won't be greedy though. That doesn't seem to fit our elf. The girls will have to push us in that direction. They can succeed, especially if Zhu starts giving them pointers. I bet she knows what buttons to push when... well, it comes time for "that."
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She'd need to be told/shown that she can actually sport something so irresistible first, but you can bet she'd do it. I'm surprised myself at how close she look to Serenity too, give that assassin a lizard tail, dark horns, darker hair, odd scales and you've got your tomboy maid.
>The critics can shove it. Uncultured mamono hating swine have no appreciation for exotic bits!
Good thing Twitter doesn't exist so you need not suffer the opinions of plebs!
>Can you imagine? Being afraid of or finding disgusting such wonderfully expressive and alluring things? Inconceivable to the likes of us I say.
They're almost like pets, right?
>I bet she knows what buttons to push when... well, it comes time for "that."
She's starting to get what's making our elf tick. He's still quite a bit different from his past self... and she also changed too.
If she put that outfit on even Gardy might start to feel something strange well up in his gears.

>They're almost like pets, right?
Kind of. The real joy would be seeing the disparity between the facade she'd be trying to put up on a date/relationship vs. the eye stalks revealing her true feelings. So much moe/comedic/romantic potential there y'know?

I wonder if fluffy tails (or tails in general) are similar. We should get to know Tui better to find out. The other ready and open source of knowledge we have on that front is unacceptable. Nope, no way, not even going to consider it. Unless touching them gets us a hint out of that evil witch. Even then, we won't enjoy it. They are the only exotic bits we despise.
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Nobody will ever be purer than Gardy, though he's not innocent.

Finding how Gwendolyn reacts to things will be fun to see.

Don't lie. Arawn enjoyed getting Ara Ara'd and so you will enjoy the witch fluff.
Once can still be pure and find someone attractive, fall in love, and whatnot. He deserves a waifu too.

That it will. Might actually have to wed her for political reasons as well. That forest she's ruling over is technically ours after all.

No we didn't. We may like getting Ara Ara'd and touching fluffy tails, but never by/from her. Nothing from her is ever enjoyable. The only thing she can give us that we'll enjoy is her life! Death to Bad Fluffy! Burn the Witch! Cleanse and Purge!
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Ah politics... Something tell me you wouldn't mind marrying an eldrict abomination like Gwendolyn.

How can Gardy ever have a girlfriend? He's an eternal dad.
Abomination!? You take that back. She is no such thing. She's an Eldritch Beauty! Much like Francine. God people are so uncultured. Are we the only ones on this entire rock who can appreciate the wondrous forms of such girls?

Dad's have wives. He deserves one too. The trick will be finding him one while we technically share the same body. That's the complicating factor. Gonna have to learn how to safely swap who's in the "driver's seat" from time to time at least.
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Horrors are horrors and you cannot convince anyone otherwise!
No they're not! They are wonderful girls who deserve to be loved! People just don't give them a chance for some stupid reason or another. The *real* horrors reside beyond the veil and in that accursed swamp. Gazer and Shoggoth mamonos aren't those terrible things! They're pretty high up on my list of favorites. They can be so interesting in many ways. Prime waifu material.
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You would have liked more time to know Francine huh?
Yes, and if everything goes well on her end we'll have that chance. She just has to live through whatever's about to go down in the Capital after all. Like I said earlier, Fortune's retinue are all potential waifus!
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You really are a greedy man.
Not greedy, just a man who likes to have options. I'm still going for a monogamy ending, but you cannot rush declarations of the one true and ultimate best girl. Gotta get to know em' all first! Sieg's the best for now in my book, but that doesn't mean others can't beat her yet!
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Remove any preconceived notions of Best Girl and realize this might be a shared title
Perhaps, but that would take time and knowledge to figure out for certain. Time and knowledge we've been largely denied by the machinations of Bad Fluffy and her minions by the way.
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Hm... Now now, the witch is giving you the perfect opportunity to prove yourself to the girls.
An opportunity dependent upon the ever fickle dice gods. We are not Goblin Slayer slaying Goblins, we cannot avoid rolling the dice here.

What kinds of actions will not require us to roll dice now that I think about it?
Will honesty depend on what you do and how you handle things, can't say for now.
Or how bad Bad Fluffy decides to fuck us over in the interest of her own entertainment...
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Just trust her.
Never! Can't trust her for shit save for if we cut a deal that, like I said before, is so raw and utterly unfair that our very bones/gears are exposed to the most corrosive/toxic of atmospheres!

She's fluffy Satan and we're not dumb enough to forget that fact!

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