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/qst/ - Quests

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Welcome back one and all into a new part of our adventure. Myrtidal ugly secret has been exposed with the ambition of a cold merciless pharaoh coming to light, we might night to rethink our priorities... Like making an unlikely alliance with our nemesis? Is her game finally over? At least you can be glad with the fact you've managed to find a ''good end'' even if you needed the witch help!

Sheet updated with your recent acquisitions, don't forget to look for a fresh reminder.

Previous Threads

Twitter for schedule updates

Perks and spells for our main character

Characters met by Arawn.

People from Muribel.
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The portal returned into its picture carved into the stone wall after your group reemerged into the underground darkness of Myrtidal church minus a pair of new companions. The lights of lamps and your mages bioluminescence briefly stung your eyes as you had to adjust from the clear noon sky into this depressing blackness; fatigue weighed down your bones, your head felt sluggish and slow, reminding you that you've had one hell of a busy day and you had to push off this weakness, ignore the adrenaline filtering out of your veins.

Only the briefest echoes from above hinted that tonight events weren't close to ending but everyone had difficulty digesting the fact that a witch of legend had been speaking with them in the flesh a few minutes ago. One that will soon become locked into a titanic magical duel against the pharaoh while still having enough confidence to promise a meeting later and of course, there was the village itself. The ugly truth of Myrtidal was plain enough: this entire city was a garden of misery meant to slowly and insidiously kill its inhabitants, transform them into deadly pearls of powers...

Of which you have two very unique ones.

''How did she...?'' It was Hildegarde who broke the silence. On top of an old piece of clothing was a neatly folded uniform. The maid unfurled it to reveal a tasteful pair of pants and a long-sleeved shirt of dark silk with decorative white stripes running along its surface in smooth symmetry, such clothing would be hell to wear in this climate, but Hildegarde had demonstrated more than enough that she can endure hot temperature without sweating.

''Can't argue with that fox taste.'' Elina breathed out and promptly sat on the dirty ground. Weary relief, fatigue, and pain constantly radiated out of her and when her wings settled around her flanks to cocoon her, the sight gave you an intense protective urge. Barely a second after this thought, the rosy-red winged angel glanced your way and smirked, satisfied.

''The fighting is probably over now'' Klesiah stated, and despite your heavy heart, seeing her lit a gentle spark of positiveness in your bosom.

She remained gallant and gorgeous despite the pain and fatigue radiating out of her soul. All the bloodstains and her damaged equipment made her look vulnerable -something that you found dangerously alluring- yet she held Shereen in her arms with a strength that belied her weakened appearance. Your little sun made no effort to move away, her fluffy head rested on your knight chest demurely, casting glances at random. There wasn't any fire of anger when she crossed eyes with you, only a sad resignation. Perhaps fatigue had been enough to dim her rage into a short-lived conflagration.

Zhu stood beside her, sulking.

''Klesiah.'' Part of you wanted to apologize to your little sun, but that will happen after she had some time to cool down. ''How's Mina?''
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''She'll be fine for now.'' Your blueberry answered, smiling in an almost motherly fashion. ''Though... She's in a worse state than when you found me today. She'll remain with me until all of us can rejuvenate her, it is the best way to keep her comfortable.'' Her insistence was cute, the link betrayed the fact that Klesiah was imposing this situation on her spiritual guardian.

Elina grunted while using her halberd to help herself upright, looking passively at Hildegarde. ''Looking nice.''

''Hrm, I'm not sure if I like that.'' The icy maid replied, having already put on the clothes. It was fetching in a simple, elegant way, almost unassuming. A serious outfit befits a serious woman.

''Let's get upstairs, better to see what's happening with the cultists now.'' You spoke to animate the party, you could tell that Elina was on the edge of dangerous exhaustion, only pure will fueled her limbs.

''Keep a sharp eye and ears for potential dangers.'' The maid began. ''My battle on the third floor lit the storage room on fire, it might have spread into the church by now. We'll need to move throughout the tunnels in this case.''

Your party carefully rethreaded its path into the ruined mausoleum containing hundreds of urns, the sight of all the paladins brought a grim mood into the girls, motivating everyone to take a moment and move the corpses somewhere that wasn't the middle of the room. Afterward came a brief safety inspection when Hildegarde decided to scout upstairs, quickly returning with the news that your fair-weathered allies had garrisoned the church.


The fighting was over, noises from outside mingled into an animated brouhaha of activity that made it difficult to understand what was happening, but there was enough talking, instead of screaming, to reveal who's been victorious. The church had turned into a makeshift barrack and your group emergence from the church bowels initially scared the nearby Mamonos. Ari'el presence prevented any dangerous misunderstanding.

Some Mamonos were eagerly broking the pharaoh idolatries whilst others were speaking with groups of suitably concerned inhabitants who had started to come out. Food and water were being distributed for combatants and citizens alike as the cultists tried their best to comfort people by saying ''we are neighbors, there's nothing to worry about'' or ''the tyranny is over, you can start grabbing your destiny now.'' Some were savvy enough to motivate folks into helping cleaning up damages to work out their anxieties.

The consuming flames of vengeance hadn't burnt the city into the ground, maybe because the cultists had managed to secure a strong victory... They avoided the trapping of self-destruction. For now.
Ari'el had been overseeing everything, talking to what you assumed to be his circle of lieutenants. The tall, four-armed red-skinned monstergirl promptly left after he told her something, a lamia whose glowing blue veins revealed magical talents slithered upstairs and a lizardwoman exited for the central marketplace which had been repurposed into storage for loots. He turned to welcome your group with a wave and a flap of wings, calmly walking closer.

''Dawn first lights will soon lighten the sky but thankfully everyone came back safe.'' His brilliant gaze detailed your party closer. ''...Almost everyone.''

''The worse has been avoided.'' You answered him and his expression relaxed. ''I'll fulfill my promise, though it's probably not what you'd expect...''

''I've braced myself for the unexpected, it's the fox currency. The last remnants of the duchess forces have capitulated, you can take your time.''

''What will you do with them?'' Shereen asked, the new dispelled her torpor yet she hadn't moved to get out of Klesiah arms.

''For now? Prisoners. I've forced my people to swallow their bloodlust and help the citizens instead, which had a positive effect. We'll take their arms and armors and either leave them with the citizens that didn't fight or send them toward the mountain fortress tomorrow.''

You took the next few minutes to explain what happened in Solemnval (while avoiding mentioning the current situation of Leena parents). This allowed the girls to finally relax, while the fighting was over, your party remained too vigilant of the cultists to relax (Klesiah was especially prudent). Elina could barely stay upright, prompting Zhu to give her a supporting shoulder and Shereen gained a second wind and a motivation to hold onto the lion share of your party bags but otherwise remained silent after the angel answered her.

''I see... The story of the gentle cat was one of choice, she endured so many injustices and not even Ama...'' Ari'el face tightened into a dry, predatory look as he contained his emotions once you finished your retelling of Solemnval. ''...Unity amongst the players avoided the worst outcome, the cat rejected vengeance. I suppose Ama viewed my entire assault on the duchess as a simple backdrop for her players to make their own fortune.'' He scoffed or perhaps laughed. ''Wouldn't expect anything else, thank you for keeping your word.'' The agitation and rage that had consumed him all night had vanished, you could almost believe Ari'el looked at you as a friend... but that was simply wishful thinking. He remained an apostle. ''We've inspected and cleared the duchess manor. I invite you and your party to rest there, it'll be quiet and away from the city.''

''What about that rumor about incoming reinforcement?'' You asked and the angel-man shook his head.
''I've sent scouts when you people were busy down there, my harpy friend took a risk by going quite a distance without seeing anything. I believe the Pharaoh will be the one to send a response. Unless there was some kind of magical warning, a messenger will only reach the capital tonight if they don't stop to rest and the mustering a big enough force should take half a day... By then my people will be gone, I've had them stash plenty of provisions in the surrounding countryside so we'll be able to move away from here.''

''Is that what they truly want?'' The angel didn't answer your question right away, he cast a glance toward a celebrating group of women who finished breaking the last of Zerase statues.

''I believe they don't know what they want anymore, it's my duty to give them another objective. Vengeance against the tyrant has been achieved... somewhat, they want her head but dismantling her entire seat of power and punishing the few ringleaders of her forces has managed to satiate them somewhat. I believe my people will start feeling anxious soon...'' He paused, gesturing at the group and the girls began to clean up the damage they did. ''...A satisfied revenge isn't an ending, I'll make sure they understand that it -is- time to enjoy a new beginning after fighting for their catharsis.''

Your mind was too exhausted to think about any philosophical retort. Ari'el wholeheartedly believes that vengeance was positive and had convinced hundreds of Mamonos to die in this assault... at least he had the wisdom to have a plan afterward.

''This country might not have any future. The pharaoh... you know what she's preparing with those pearls, right?'' You spoke quietly to him, bridging the distance. His halo briefly brightened, betraying an intense emotion he kept hidden.

''Ultimately, that false goddess is indeed the figure who deserve retribution the most, especially with Myrtidal true purpose.'' He answered just as quietly as you. If the information was to get out amongst his people it would undeniably whip them into another frenzy. ''But I have to ensure my people live, knocking on the capital doors or trying to reform the entire country is a suicidal errand. I'm not sure if they feel that Myrtidal remains their home after tonight, I might need to move them into the Allied Kingdoms...''

Convincing the angel to help might be possible after what you've just learned in the cursed village. Ari'el proved his mettle today, his lieutenants had enough competence to keep themselves alive and despite his force being little more than a militia, they still triumphed over a better equipped and trained enemy... even if that only happened because they took Ashtar force by surprise and she was too conservative with deploying her elite forces where they needed to be. Fact remains that Zerase is planning a sacrifice on such an inhuman scale that he'll need to rethink his priorities. But is bringing the cultists a good idea after all?
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They'll be spotted and slaughtered by the pharaoh forces before reaching the capital, bringing some of his lieutenants as additional sword arm will hurt your party cohesion because of Klesiah general history and Ari'el is the central figure uniting them, he can't leave his position.

''Hey, our gals are passing out.'' Zhu walked next to you, casually waving at the angel. ''And shit's awkward as all hell here since people keep giving Klesiah bad vibes, we oughta go, they need some sleep.''

''Everyone does.'' The angel remarked, taking this interruption as a way to end the conversation. ''Go rest, all of you.''

Should you? Can you afford to? Zerase is planning to sacrifice everyone in her country, surely Ari'el can help you stop her! He doesn't want to but he can change his mind! Or... Is that a mistake...? Presuming you live, having a positive relationship with one of Ama apostles could be beneficial in the future.

''Snap out of it.'' Zhu suddenly shook your shoulder. ''Aint nothing to worry about now. Nobody gonna true to backstab us or something, cool off Arawn.''

''Ah...'' Right. Tonight will be fine, even if you have a special appointment. ''...yeah.'' A bathroom break and some food would be nice.

>Retreat into a camping spot outside of the city. You still have plenty of supplies and your group can make something comfortable for Elina. Better to be away from the city, all this business, all this mess.

>Take up the angel offer and go rest in the duchess manor. It should be quiet and maybe you could find something interesting... enjoying a roof is better than the outdoor anyway.

Wow, this is way earlier than usual.

So Mina's worse off than when we first found her (i.e. about to evaporate due to lack of a connection to her creator/power)?

Could we sleep on the whole trying to convince Ari'el thing? Part of me wants to use the cultists as a kind of distraction force. Draw forces out of the capital and thus relieve the pressure on/make things easier for the Zipangu infiltration team. They don't have to fight the enemy, they just have to take em' for a ride.

What are the dangers/benefits of sleeping in the mansion vs. sleeping outside in a camp?
>Could we sleep on the whole trying to convince Ari'el thing?
You won't have a chance to speak to him at length afterward.
>Part of me wants to use the cultists as a kind of distraction force.
Indeed, so is Arawn but Ari'el also understands how dangerous this option truly is and how unlikely it is to work. His numbers of actually trained soldiers is pretty low.

>What are the dangers/benefits of sleeping in the mansion vs. sleeping outside in a camp?
It's mostly a question of intimacy and atmosphere. You might be able to find something in the duchess manor and have a more comfortable time but it'll still be in the city itself. Camping means you'll finally be outside the city and ejoy a more intimate time with your party.
Would camping affect the quality of our rest? We *really* need to get a full recharge on our collective mana batteries so we can recharge Mina in turn. By the way, how is she worse off now than when we first met? I believe she was fully combat ineffective with how she was barely holding onto her existence at that point.

I do like intimate moments but you're saying there's potential loot in the mansion yes? Potential loot that may help us out somehow in what's to come? Y'know, artifacts, her noble sigil that we could use to fake being on official business that may itself be a magical artifact, a new heavy shield to replace our beat up one (we're still keeping it for sentimental value if we can, but pragmatic concerns demand we procure a "full durability" replacement as soon as we can), stuff like that?
>Would camping affect the quality of our rest?
No. Your good relationship with Ari'el means you can replenish your supplies and get additional tents without trouble.

> By the way, how is she worse off now than when we first met? I believe she was fully combat ineffective with how she was barely holding onto her existence at that point.
She's changing from ''weakened'' to ''transient''. Manifesting in the world at all is dangerous for her now, she has roughly a week of lifespan left is she remain inside Klesiah body for the entire duration.

>I do like intimate moments but you're saying there's potential loot in the mansion yes? Potential loot that may help us out somehow in what's to come?
You'll need to go explore for yourself to see if there's anything of worth. Ari'el did say that he hasn't allowed looting but it's impossible to say if his people fully listened after they overcame the walls. Exploring to find items will also means you won't be able to have much needed discussions with the girls...

A new heavy shield can also be given to you by the cultists, something looted from the duchess soldiers.
Ok, but we can fix that problem with Mina with the ritual right? I have a feeling we'll need her at full capacity and the capital is two days travel from here if I remember right so we'll have the chance to fully recharge her and be at full charge ourselves when we hit the city walls and start trying to help Anais get rescued.

Given how we're about to reunite with the other girls and possibly Daiyu herself it'd probably be best if Ari'el didn't come. I'd love to have him on board, he's a combat nightmare and I'd love to unleash him on Zerase and Ensan, but he might get sniped by our own people! How bad was the relationship between Klesiah and his lieutenants though? You said it'll hurt our cohesion, but by how much and could they be trusted to not betray us if Ari'el explicitly ordered them not to?

What do each of the girls wish to do in regards to our sleeping arrangements? Need to know who we're making happy vs. not making as happy.
>Ok, but we can fix that problem with Mina with the ritual right?
Yeah, you've already successfully rejuvenated most of her power today with Shereen and Klesiah help.
>How bad was the relationship between Klesiah and his lieutenants though?
Klesiah kept herself at a distance from the general belief of the cult and its activities despite being part of the ''bandits reinforcement'' and was often seen arguing with Ari'el. Also her previous ''comrades'' spread plenty of rumors and bad blood since she was unpopular. She's disliked by everyone.
>You said it'll hurt our cohesion, but by how much and could they be trusted to not betray us if Ari'el explicitly ordered them not to?
They'll listen to him but that might not extend to you or everyone else in your party. Also depend if Ari'el even agrees to that, too. They'd be severly out of place at best.
Ok, but what about the girls? What do they wanna do in regards to our sleeping arrangements? It seems Zhu wants to take Ari'el up on his offer, but what about the others? Unless we take them out, nobody can sense/detect our pearls can they? Whose got em' right now and what are the risks of our shit getting filched in our sleep if we stay in the mansion?
>Ok, but what about the girls? What do they wanna do in regards to our sleeping arrangements?
Zhu does like the idea of looting the manor but exiting the city sounds equally good to her, she's done with this place. Everyone else wants to get the hell out of Myrtidal, even Shereen would rather have a tent instead of the luxurious bed of the duchess. (Elina is barely conscious so she will follow the group).
>Unless we take them out, nobody can sense/detect our pearls can they?
As far as you know, yes.
>Whose got em' right now and what are the risks of our shit getting filched in our sleep if we stay in the mansion?
Arawn got the pearls. As for getting your stuff stolen... Hm, not something to worry about. You'll be with your party in there.
They hate this place that much eh? Requisition the best supplies Ari'el can spare and a replacement heavy shield for when we get into another fight. Also, any looted armor that'd fit Klesiah or Zhu? A chain shirt for Shereen? Breastplate for Hilde? If our chainmail's damaged can we get a replacement? If such arrangements require us to stay in the mansion we go with the mansion. Our party needs to get re-armored.

If they can get re-armored without staying in the mansion we can camp. I really, really want our un-armored allies to get some armor. It's an order of magnitude advantage to have.
Finding actual replacement chainmails for yourself and Klesiah could be a bit difficult since the enemy soldiers overwhelmingly wore plate armors, going into the mansion will make it easier for stuff to be delivered.

Hildegarde prefers to avoid wearing armor since her body is already one, finding stuff for everyone else in the group could be possible later after the cultists finish looting and inventoring what they find.

So, mansion it will be. Giving this about 15 minutes of wait time before writing.
Can Klesiah wear plate without hurting her combat potential too much? Also, some plate armors are is solid metal plates overlaying a chainmail base. Knock the plates off and there ya go. I'd keep the breastplate portion however. Doesn't impede motion or add all *that* much weight but increased protection of vital organs is never a bad thing.

Oh, we did tell Ari'el about the ritual right? He also doesn't know the particular details about said ritual right? Because that thing's gonna engulf the whole damn country if it goes off. Unless he's got a way to get all his people out of this nation's borders with some nice and comfy buffer territory within a few days (as the blast may be a bit to way bigger than just the borders of this country) , well, food for thought on his end I'd say.

In no way, shape or form is he to find out that Shereen's a critical component in said ritual. Period. He'll kill her dead if he finds that out.
>Can Klesiah wear plate without hurting her combat potential too much?
Yeah. You'll have to give the people some time to finish inventorying things before your party can get something.

>Oh, we did tell Ari'el about the ritual right?
Yeah but for now he's worried about the immediate future to keep his faction from crumbling on itself. You've kept the details for yourself, for now, because Arawn suspects he might be smart enough to connect the dots concerning Shereen.
Yeah, we keep it that way then. Again, if he connects those dots on the exact details of the ritual the calculation on his end is a simple one. Kill Shereen and thus stop the ritual from ever happening.

He'd do it too, in cold blood. Shereen deserves to live and the chance to confront her family for their grave sins. We're going to ensure she gets it.
''I'm sure we'll find replacement armors.'' Ari'el spoke while one of his soldiers handed you a new shield. ''You've earned your rest, I've told my people that you are all comrades of mine, the mansion is secured as it'll be our new headquarter for the time being.''

''I suppose new armor will work...'' Shereen grumbled as you tested the weight of this new shield.

It wasn't like your old one, unfortunately, but still made of solid iron and crafted in a regular triangular shape to make a simple heather shield that was nicely portable but still lacking in coverage compared to your older, damaged one. It seems this particular piece was rare in Muribel as a whole because it was equipment from the palace itself, you're unlikely to find a replacement.

''Guess we'll see you tomorrow one last time.'' That was it for goodbyes. With all threat of imminent dangers rendered null, sluggishness and fatigue invaded your limbs and everyone but Hildegarde and Zhu looked noticeably tired, with Elina barely able to walk (even if she stubbornly refused anyone help).

It was easy to see the city was a total mess. With columns of fumes floating up into the sky and an increasing number of people removing obstacles (corpses) from the roads, scars of wars could not only be seen or smelled but felt deep into your bones. The frenzy was over but death still lingered and it weighed on people souls. As you walked through the marketplace, your party felt like one funeral procession amongst many.

''Fucking shit.'' Zhu suddenly whispered next to you.

''What is it?''

''Saw a color similar to one of the girls who killed Leena. Dunno if it was one of em, better to avoid finding out.'' She grumbled and a hot rush of anger nearly made you peruse the nearby crowd.

''Yeah.'' You answered without strength in your voice. Her life, amongst many others, has been completely upheaved tonight, and Leena was alive. You'll see her again. ''I think justice can sleep tonight.''

You did your best to ignore the nagging memory of an armored lizardwoman. In all the brouhaha, your mind somehow kept whispering ''No, stop!'', every metallic clang tensed your body as you remembered damn well what you did next.


The manor of duchess Ashtar was surprisingly tasteful if one were to discard the heavy walls surrounding the premise, transforming it into an inner fortress. The main building itself wasn't unreasonably large, built from simple stones instead of something more prodigious. The cultists had somehow managed to burst through the gate and signs of people had scarred the courtyard heavily with numerous holes, bloodstains, and debris. The walls had also seen some fighting, all the corpses were being lined up throughout the main courtyard by a contingent of cultists who, thankfully, didn't mind your approach.

''You can take the main chamber.'' The woman who was overseeing them told your party. ''We've already moved a few beds in there, should be comfortable.''
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Aside from a few scowls toward your blueberry, the cultists kept their aggressions, likely too drained by the atmosphere and the fight to have any energy for complaining.

''Guess she didn't spare any expenses.'' Hildegarde stated after entering the manor, holding onto Elina. The angel passed out without warning midway through the walk here, nearly flopping on the ground like a discarded puppet. Her body bore no marks of her fights against that damnable godly shard but she had used every ounce of strengths she could have mustered to slow it down let alone kill the damnable thing.

Finding the main room needed the simple task of following what wasn't broken. A kitchen with an alchemical appliance made you briefly curious, similar apparatus for lights revealed the hidden wealth of duchess Ashtar. This place had done away with most archaic technology though couldn't be compared to Throne Town glorious tower of supreme technology. Nevertheless, lights needed simple energy oil to lit up and the bathrooms would warm, clean water with the simple use of energy cubes that, you quickly found, had been stored in a sizeable amount inside the duchess main chamber.

''Meh!? I smell a witch!?'' Elina suddenly jolted awake when Hildegarde gently put her on the bed, nearly smashing her forehead against the maid.

''Do witches smell of blood and sweat, my holy lady?'' Hildegarde answered with deadpan seriousness.

''Ah... Shit.'' Elina promptly got up, embarrassment radiating through the link, manifesting with flaps of rosy-red wings. ''Don't mind me.''

Hildegarde nodded. ''I believe it would do us all good to wash off today stink. I'm familiar with alchemical appliances, I can activate the bathroom for our needs, perhaps we can find some replacement clothes...''

''Yeah sure, you guys go.'' Zhu walked to open the bathroom door directly adjacent to the bedroom. ''I'll stick around for a bit. Open up our bags, make sure mister here doesn't get any funny ideas.''

''You're going to plant the funny idea into him, I've been onto you for years, crow.'' Klesiah retorted, Zhu playfully scoffed. ''But you are right, it'll do us a world of good. Right, princess?''

Shereen had been thoroughly lost in her little world and could only answer. ''Eh?'' She allowed Klesiah to gently push her and Elina walked next to her, hand tugging her blond hair.

''Oh yeah, there's plenty of things to wash off.''

And so the girls went inside with a little too much insistence with Shereen accompanying them and when the door closed...

''So, feeling like taking a peek?'' Zhu immediately said.

''I'm still here,'' Hildegarde warned, deadpan. The maid was inspecting one of Ashtar wardrobes and was discarding every piece of clothing on a nearby couch. Everything was tailored for a lamia and from what you could see, there was plenty of red, risky short that... was that see-through silk?
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''You didn't mind too much last time.'' Zhu retorted, earning a return glare that made the swordswoman wiggle her eyebrows teasingly.

It felt surreal... A few hours ago, everyone was fighting for their lives against and now the girls have gone for a communal bath, Zhu teasing you like she always liked to do while a genocidal pharaoh was on the cusp of finishing some grand ritual...

''Don't try anything stupid, the princess is already wound up more than enough.'' Hildegarde stated, abandoning her activity to walk toward the bathroom.

Zhu only spoke when the maid disappeared inside.

''Methink the sun ain't the only one wound up.''

''Say, Zhu.'' You had to ask her. ''Aren't you mad at me?''

''Yeah, I am.'' The answer was so direct and friendly that it left you dumbstruck. ''Aint the first time, you should have grabbed your balls and let Shereen speak with her mom because she really does need to. I don't give a fuck if running was the wiser, pragmatic option but hey, I'm used to it. That little trait didn't leave you despite your amnesia, so I'm happy to be mad.'' Then she stepped closer, her sword hand left the handle of her sword to gently grab you chin. ''I'm going to shove your pragmatism up your ass if you keep pulling this shit, y'hear? That angel dude had one thing right. People do need some catharsis.''

Her grip changed into a gentle caress of your cheek. ''So, whatcha wanna do now? Look around the place? Wait and relax?''

As you began to hear the noise of flowing water, you finally realize that being alone with this woman miiiight be a little bit dangerous...

>Scout the place out with Zhu, inspect the alchemical appliances. It'll be a good way to distract yourself.

>Wait here and continue talking with your -friend- (Any peculiar subject? Or would you rather she control the flow of the conversation?)

Damn, so if we had taken the boots we'd have picked up max ammo for them here. Oh well, we couldn't have known that and thus the belt was still the right play.

Why isn't Hilde taking a bath? She not need/desire one? Has she caught on to just how lustful Zhu is and is clam jamming her for us? How in danger are we of getting raped if we do somehow find ourselves alone in a room with a lockable door with her? We have no mana and she still has body reinforcement. That means she can easily pin us down and have her way with us if she's determined!

Also, wasn't it a dog girl whose head we splorch'd with our shield? Or was that a memory of the fight we just had with the paladins giving us another tick towards the "PTSD" derangement?
>Why isn't Hilde taking a bath? She not need/desire one?
She's gone to take one right now. You are in no danger of rape because Arawn WILL consent.

>Also, wasn't it a dog girl whose head we splorch'd with our shield? Or was that a memory of the fight we just had with the paladins giving us another tick towards the "PTSD" derangement?
Arawn didn't really make a distinction at that time. Killing people get to him, ever so slightly.
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Oh... oh my... we are in danger. Err, what does each option entail and how far away do they take us from the girls?

No. We will not consent. We want our first time to be lovey dovey vanilla! Not femdom rape and whatever other kinky tag would end up attached to that doujin!
Exploring will have Arawn satisfy his scientific curiosity by inspecting the various apparatus, which could lead you away... Having a discussion will have you stay in the room.

Hard vanilla is still vanilla.
Are these alchemical appliances and doodads behind doors with locks on them or far enough away so as to get us out of earshot of the girls should we scream rape? Again, 4 girls who may have feelings for us will feel it when we turn in our V-card. That plays havoc with a girls fragile heart and could get them killed in battle!

No, it'll be femdom, rape, and possibly a bunch of other tags because she's gonna pin us down and have her way with us! Once she gets going she won't take no for an answer especially after we bitched out with Shereen!
>Are these alchemical appliances and doodads behind doors with locks on them or far enough away so as to get us out of earshot of the girls should we scream rape?
>Again, 4 girls who may have feelings for us will feel it when we turn in our V-card. That plays havoc with a girls fragile heart and could get them killed in battle!
Now now, the girls are made of stern stuff. It'll take more than that to shake them!
I'd like to have more than one vote on this, not because this choice is particularly important, but I feel it always matter. So I'll wait until tomorrow if we need to.
It'll be fine. She know how to hold back, after all she gro-... She had plenty of fun with Arawn in the past.
We got Ara-Ara'd good and hard didn't we. Our innocence slowly stripped away to be a good little toy to satisfy Zhu's frighteningly potent libido. A process she relished I'd imagine.

I'll sleep on my choice then but I'm leaning towards curiosity. I think the others aren't here because it's the middle of the week and a few anticipated games got dropped and already popular ones got major updates. So everyone's gaming.
That's fine, honestly, I don't need reasons to explain our friend's presence or absences. There are only good and off days!
Too bad Arawn isn't shorter than her anymore.
Now now, just because we're taller than her now doesn't mean we can't get Ara-Ara'd. Like she said, we regained our innocence. Thus, we can be corrupted all over again. I think Ama did an Ara-Ara when she plunged our head into her cleavage if I remember right and I think her and Zhu are about equal in height. Though Ama can change hers at will because shapeshifting.
Oh, did Zhu ever tell us how she first met us? I think she did but I cannot remember. As we're alone, this might also be the best time to ask her how we died.

That may be something we want the party around to hear about though. We have absolutely no reason to hide who/what we are from Hilde and Shereen already knows. Hell, they could be discussing this as we speak.

Also, we don't want to peep, but perhaps listen in? Are our elven ears good enough to eavesdrop on the girls? Zhu wants us to peep, so perhaps this would be a compromise for her? Why isn't she taking a bath with the other girls? Is she planning on taking one with us so we'll be alone and naked with her? I have a feeling that she's intent on claiming our virginity before we can die again like we almost did not too long ago.
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>Oh, did Zhu ever tell us how she first met us?
Not in details, she alluded that you apparently followed her and made a promise to her (same one she's holding over your head now).
>Also, we don't want to peep, but perhaps listen in? Are our elven ears good enough to eavesdrop on the girls?
Should be doable yeah, the door isn't a thick one.
>Why isn't she taking a bath with the other girls
I wonder...
Gonna start writing after an hour, maybe a bit more depending on how much time I need to finish a little something I need to do.
Alright, I'll start with the first vote I'll get.
How long would it take her to tell us how we first met? Can we listen in while, before, or after she tells us? I wanna do both but I feel like those options are kinda binary. We can either hear the tale or listen in for juicy dialogue.
Both choices are mutually exclusive, can't really juggle your attention like that.
Ok then, what's Zhu think of a little eavesdropping? If she likes the idea we do it. Gotta make her happy after pissing her off, but no peeping!

Also, if there's a way to shield our intents and actions through the link we do it. It does us no good if they *know* we're listening in.
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She's more than okay with a little fun. I'll start working with that.

And yeah, putting o na consious shield on your intent does work, though it can be seen as suspicious if the girls are being particularly careful about inspecting your feelings.
Can we tell if they're paying close attention to the link? Elina I'd think would be the most on guard in regards to peeping. She seems a bit of a prude...
>Can we tell if they're paying close attention to the link?
Damn, seems we can't know the right choice then. If all they get is our emotions and not intentions we can safely leave no guard. If they get intent we have no choice but to raise shields.
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Zhu was pushier than usual but you find yourself unable to reject her proximity and that hand on your cheek. Today has been a crazy day indeed... You did your best to regain some of your good senses and step away if at least to spare Elina and Klesiah your tumultuous feelings. Both of them were feeling similar agitations you could only register as general anxiety but the soft noise of flowing water and the sheer happiness that followed made you genuinely jealous.

A bath would be so damn nice now.

''I-I feel like trying to know what they're saying to our little sun.'' You whispered, ending by clearing your throat. Thankfully Zhu didn't follow when you stepped back.

''Ho-ho, so you -are- a man after all.''

''Oi, don't get the wrong idea.'' Arguing against her praise felt bad, as if you were denying your virility. ''Eavesdropping, not spying. Get me?''

''Yeah, one step at a time.'' She gave your back a gentle thump. ''I can see the girls colors despite the glass so I'll keep a lookout. I'm suspecting the maid will suspect the wind rattling the door to be us, so be careful my dear manly prince.'' The door of the bathroom was a simple stained glass that hid everything, you could only catch glimpses of the pale rocks inside, no signs at all of the women silhouettes.

You did your best to keep your mood cool and composed, though it was entirely impossible to remove the excitement and sheer gladness in your heart that today's nightmare was well and truly over. Your heart constantly leaped between these emotions, making it difficult to focus on the girls feeling.

''I don't like it...'' You don't know how elven hearing worked but you managed to pick up a muffled conversation when you put your head on the door. ''...I'm angry, angry at all of you, angry at me...him and that scare me.''

It was impossible to discern who spoke as the door and the echoing nature of the bathroom modified the voice.

''That place was bad. Not... ...fluff can't be trusted, she already failed with Leena. I know we... ...I think. You might have a better chance, you'll be meeting... in Marleon.''

''Your hair is so soft and smooth, milady. I think... why men like fluffed ladies.''

''S-stop saying empty praises, you strange paladin!'' That elevated tone, that cough, and clearing throat... Yup, no mistaking who was speaking. ''...I don't want to but I feel like I can't help it, okay? You know, back in the days, there was a duke in the Allied Kingdoms who didn't help his liege-lord... ...Ended up losing influence that forever crippled his house. Another time, the Red Banquet that heralded the beginning of the Great Crusade was all because the noble scion of a house was spurned by his ally...'' Shereen continued to speak, listing a few more historical instances -all from the Allied Kingdom- where a man's bitter grudge led to their own ruins.
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''I don't like that anger... at him, yeah. I really... but we can't afford any mistakes, that poisonous frustration can, like, make me sabotage us or something. I really, really don't like...''

It is really easy for Shereen to open up, isn't it? Perhaps it's today circumstances or her life in seclusion. She only met Elina and Klesiah today and Hildegarde wasn't even a weak old comrade yet she was already trusting them with some of her insecurity... She was already trying to close the wound you've inflicted on her. Elina and Shereen were too distracted by your little sun, their feelings being rare shared empathy.

''So, anything juicy?'' Zhu asked when you leaned back.

''They're having a serious discussion.'' You answered your companion while moving away from the door. ''It's not something I should hear, I think. Not until Shereen feel ready to speak.''

''Methink you oughta be giving her a little sorry once she feels better, though maybe it'll just anger her even more.'' Zhu made it impossible to tell if she was disappointed by this outcome, her face settled into her usual closed-eyed sarcastic smirk as she walked closer. ''Friends and outsiders involving themselves in family stuff always make such a fucking shitshow, too bad that little sunshine can't settle things on her own.''

You sat on the bed, fiddling with your magitek gauntlet, taking twice as long to remove it. You couldn't find any regrets in your heart over denying Shereen speaking with her mom and that clear feeling only managed to make you feel guilty. Sure, meeting the pharaoh in Solemnval was too dangerous, remaining in the palace to confront Ensan after freeing Hildegarde was suicidal, but those reasons would soon start to feel like excuses for Shereen.

''Aah. What a mess. I remember Banu saying that Shereen was the only good thing Zerase ever did, I feel like that truth is slamming my guts like a hammer.'' Either that or you really needed some food.

Zhu sat next to you, you heard the distinctive click of her sword as she let the empty blade rest on the large bed. ''Kinda amazing how she snuck into our heart huh? She was annoyingly pompous when I first met her but man, I'm kinda missing that. That empty arrogance deflated and came back like a frog throat, shit's hilarious.''

An audible snort exited out of you. What kind of imagery is that?

''Hey, prince.'' Zhu touched your hand. ''Lookie here.''

When you did, your companion lunged at you without warning. ''Wha!?'' Your guard has been non-existent, Zhu weight and momentum easily carried you both on the bed. As you took a breath, you felt something soft and warm on your lips, an agreeable smell of sweat excited the primal parts of your brain, and a tongue-!

You didn't have the strength to push her off but you did manage to wiggle your head away. ''Why are you reinforced?'' You measured your voice, your heart had begun to beat fast again, your entire body throbbed in excitement from her touch.
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''Almost always am darling. Non-mages have at least that advantage when you train enough.'' She answered smugly and leaned into your neck, taking a deep breath. ''I've never been in a war, we've had our share of skirmishes but nothing like this. Today was so fucking busy even I am tired. The good kind, my body is tingling all over, I'm just glad to be alive for once.'' Something moist and warm tickled your neck, bloody hell Zhu was licking you.

And you liked it. Damn it.

''Zhu, come on, stop.'' Your voice didn't break thankfully and wiggling translated your message well enough. ''I... I told you, didn't I? I need... I want to do these things with someone I love, I...'' You didn't know what you really wanted. The concept of romance always lingered in the back of your mind.

And it terrified you.

''There's already plenty of love in our little group. Aint nothing to worry about, nothing.'' Zhu chuckled, her hips wiggled and she grabbed your hands to put them on her back, you found it impossible to resist the temptation of rubbing her gently. Her smell, her warmth, her presence, this kind of rough touching was battering the gates of implacable pragmatism better than any rages or fear you've felt.

''Z-Zhu... I'm sure there's a good man ou-''

She interrupted you with a wolfish growl and planted both of her arms beside your face, leaning over you with her single chromatic eye open, as if peering into your soul, long hair dropping around her face to fall on your cheeks in two lines of grayish-white. ''I'd rather shove my sword into my cunt than fuck some random men.''

''That's not what I'm saying.'' Goodness, how can you reply to that? Direct is too weak a word! ''I'm too indecisive and cowardly for my own good, I'm sure you can find a better man than me who can actually love you.''

''Nah.'' It wasn't a frustrated reply. ''I've spent a long time on the road, Arawn. Before we met, while we met and after...'' Didn't need to precise about how that ended. ''One lone woman on the road is a piece of meat, Mamonos lands at least give me enough peace of mind because males here have some rarity so playing a game of dice with a dude usually aint some vain attempt at spiking your drink and get into your pants. Sure, there are some good men out there, those are the ones with homes or some kind of objective that doesn't align with what I want.'' Zhu leaned closer, dangerously so yet for the very first time since you've encountered her, you felt a tiny, ephemeral spark of vulnerability. ''How many other Arawn Loukanos are there? When we first met, you needed me and that's true now. Fuck man, we've even gotten Klesiah back...!''
Her body tensed as she produced a choked noise. Was it a sob? a snort? Impossible to tell, her single gem for an eye could not produce tears and her face, while frustrated, remained self-assured. ''You nearly croaked on me for the second time.'' She turned her gaze away to observe the closed bathroom door. ''I'm never settling for the next best option again.''

Then she maneuvered away from you and jumped on her feet, passing two fingers on her lips, licking them audibly.

''What do you mean by that...?'' You asked, lifting your body to sit on the bed again.

''I've got to catch up with blueberry sis.'' She answered as the bathroom door opened, revealing your paladin.

Her new clothes was a dangerous attack on your senses. It seemed that Hildegarde had found adequate changes, she wore a long red silky shirt that clung to her body curvature and a long purple skirt finished a little past her knees. It almost made her look docile.

This is far too much excitement for your tired mind!

''I would love to.'' Klesiah smile was marvelously bright, her invisible worry vanished. You spotted Elina behind her, who also wore one of the duchess spare shirts but stubbornly kept wearing her pants and Shereen wore a long bathrobe that trailed on the ground, thick enough to look like wool.

''Get your grimes washed off you stinky prince.'' Zhu gestured at you. ''I'll go after, we really deserve all the luxury we can get.'' She gestured toward the corridor, blocked by the room closed door. ''Think we can whip up breakfast before bed, Hild?''

''I'll see what I can do.'' Responded the maid, a hint of a smile coming to her lips. ''I'll also do what I can to wash all of your clothes after you guys settle to sleep. Don't even think about telling me to get shut eyes.'' She quickly shut down Elina and Klesiah attempts to argue. ''I have absolutely no trust in our host and the witch is enough of a worry to keep me awake. I'll find sleep on the road to Marleon.''

''I'm starting to see why you're Anais bodyguard.'' Elina idly commented and the girl's conversation was muffled to incomprehensible gibberish when you closed the bathroom door.

What a day. What a damn day... and it wasn't over, Ama was confident you'd be meeting again very soon. The girls also aren't in the mood for sleep quite yet, understandable after everything that happened. This sense of relaxation and normalcy was paper-thin, nothing more than a mirage, one you willingly embraced. As you washed, your mind thought about the girls... and you hoped to Mother Earth gentle name that Sieglinde and Hao were alright.

You should have enough time for one last discussion...
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>With Klesiah and Zhu present, it might be the best time to speak about your past, your time together. It ended bitterly, but perhaps knowing alone will be beneficial.

>Speak with Hildegarde about the land of Kreszenz, the swamp, its danger and princess Anais. A completely new subject like this should help everyone relax.

>Confront the elephant in the room and speak with Shereen, either alone or together as a group depending on her wish. What can you even say? (Add anything?)

Damn, Zhu really is a champion of Khorne. She craved the slaughter, the challenge of a real war and got it. Looks like we're living up to our promise to give her "the fight of her life" so far.

So Zhu *almost* made us board the rape train. Stopped from going all the way for some reason. Probably the incoming girls, rather hard to get it on in front of a crown as I doubt she's an exhibitionist.

Still, this little confession of hers moves her up in the waifu ranking department. It seems she actually deeply loves us in her own way and that she wants to be *needed* both as a warrior and as a woman. A thing, it would seem, only we've every fully supplied for her both before our death and after meeting again with our Resurrection. If your intent was to make me more comfortable with her simply taking our virginity or marrying us you've succeeded.

Seems Shereen also knows that her blossoming hatred towards us is bad and wants to find a way to get rid of it before it becomes a problem. Like, say, she's embraced her blood focus and, as we've seen, it has a nasty side effect of boosting extreme emotions. That could end badly. Could these feelings impact the ritual to restore Mina? A spiteful thing it would be to snuff her out, but she might do it under the influence of her gift.
>If your intent was to make me more comfortable with her simply taking our virginity or marrying us you've succeeded.
You might not be able to make the choice you want at this rate. One girl isn't settling for second best at least.

>Could these feelings impact the ritual to restore Mina?
Yes. Maybe Shereen can control herself.
>That pic
Is... is that our blueberry in a bunny suit? Because hot damn! That frustrated look would fit as well. I don't think she'd be thrilled about wearing such an outfit. We must conspire to get her into one somehow!

Would it be better to wait a day or until we're out of Marleon to try and make up with Shereen or should we just rip that bandage off here and now? We are scheduled to meet Ama with her in the tea room later right? Does that room affect emotions or allow Ama to accurately perceive them?
>Is... is that our blueberry in a bunny suit?
Normal, boring, vanilla human need something exotic to compete.
>Would it be better to wait a day or until we're out of Marleon to try and make up with Shereen or should we just rip that bandage off here and now?
Gotta follow your instinct there.
>We are scheduled to meet Ama with her in the tea room later right?
Once, once you get to sleep.
>Does that room affect emotions or allow Ama to accurately perceive them?
You have no idea. Ama has always been sharp in that place but it could be because she has ahold of a piece of your soul.

I'd still like two votes at least so if I don't get em soon, I'll proceed tomorrow.
Hmmm, I just thought of something. Can soul links enable active knowledge transfers? Like, say a girl we're linked to knows X and wishes girl Y to know what she knows via using us as a conduit straight to the brain?

If I remember correctly, Sieg knows much about blood magic despite not being an active user like her little sis Deru is. That might matter once we link up with her in Marleon. Give us something to offer her that doesn't rely upon Ama.

I'm currently leaning towards trying to solve the issue because if we don't the girl might sell her soul to Ama for a direct and massive power boost so she's no longer "useless" or unable to "do anything" in her own eyes at the cost of her very soul/eternal servitude to Ama's whims. We also don't want to mention why, but we *do* have leverage over Sieg.

She did something terrible to us/Gardy even if it wasn't exactly her intent/will. She wants to start making it up to us? Our party and especially Shereen are on the rescue mission, period. Don't care if they know Shereen's mission critical to the other side and that'd be like handing her to them on a silver platter. We're going, she's going, and that's fucking final. She gets to confront her family with the strength of numbers and powerful allies that'd make them actually hear her out. She deserves/needs this, and she's going to get it.
>Hmmm, I just thought of something. Can soul links enable active knowledge transfers? Like, say a girl we're linked to knows X and wishes girl Y to know what she knows via using us as a conduit straight to the brain?
Something like that is possible yes, though it is a fairly elaborate process. It's been known to happen during a crisis, Arawn doesn't know how to accomplish that of course.
>I'm currently leaning towards trying to solve the issue
Duly noted. One vote for the elephant in the room it is.
>She did something terrible to us/Gardy even if it wasn't exactly her intent/will.
Oh goodness holding that over her head is just fantastic! Hurt her more! Emotional blackmail is tanoshi!
>Emotional blackmail is tanoshi!
No it's not! It's just us being pragmatic and essentially robbing Peter to pay Paul to the benefit of both!

In this case, Peter fucked us and Paul did us a solid so ultimate it actually benefited Peter as a result (i.e. Shereen's ritual revived her and her buddies *and a friggin' Embodiment* as well as revived us).

I don't want to hold that over her head ultimately, but she's basically the female version of us in this department with actual and actionable royalty to back it up. You need transcendent levels of leverage to make people like that agree to a course of action they see as absolutely insane/suicidal. If you have that though, well, they WILL relent.

Shereen didn't have that in regards to us fleeing Ensan with Hilde in tow. Everyone saw what she did to Rupert knowing/intuiting what he meant to Shereen. Hilde? In regards to Anais? We saw that nightmarish vision good and hard as we ran. Hilde getting Death Pearled like that cat, only the person with the mace was not us, but Anais. Oh yeah, you bet our mind went there and said NOPE and bolted despite her potential objections.

Hilde is at least unto Anais what Rupert was to Shereen. Probably more so. We could not in any way risk that outcome. So we forced her to run despite her objections. Hell, she even got it on a subconscious level. She got that what we did maximized Hilde's chances of survival and thus forgave us. At least, I think you said she forgave us for that one.
>Hilde is at least unto Anais what Rupert was to Shereen. Probably more so.
Humans stand above animals. Rupert untimely demise did sting your little sun quite a bit.
>At least, I think you said she forgave us for that one.
The situation went out of control (for her) so damn quick that she could barely register what was happening, Banu reveal was much, much harder on her. Still, she managed to calm down during the trip; if she actually -did- forgive Arawn remain to be seen since she hasn't said it outright yet. This latest stunt didn't help.
My potential answers to her queries will need time to formulate but let's just say that once we saw what Ensan did to Rupert kinda colored our expectations in regards to anyone else going forward.

Humans stand above animals yes, but I don't think Ensan was of the same opinion as, to her and Zerase, we are all but mere animals save, and I'm being hella optimistic here, Shereen.

Even then, Ensan only begrudgingly acknowledges that fact. She only wanted her to attain a *single* new moon because she fully intended for it to "replace" Banu after she essentially forced her to commit suicide to spare her liege from outright possession by the unholy fusion of a Great Unclean One and a Keeper of Secrets!

Thus limiting the potential variables. A sun with a single moon (that likely has no idea how Muribel society actually works on most levels) is way easier to manipulate/control than one who does. If that elder, knowledgeable moon got the chance to mentor others? Oh no, can't let that happen no matter what!
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Isn't it amazing that you somehow woke up in the perfect timeframe to become Anais ally and help her out of a completely desperate situation?

I wonder what motivated Banu to reach out for the witch... Ah, hopefully you'll get an answer. Praise the fluff!
Like you said, emotions. Ama wants emotions. Of what kind ,caliber, and cadence in relation to each other is only known to her, but there is a pattern to be discerned if only we possessed all the relevant pieces...

I bet that letter we failed to read gave a major hint didn't it.
Oh, also, on the road back to Marleon, can we scan Shereen for any geis she might have on her soul? That may be playing a role in her feelings here and it is a worst case scenario we ought to try to nip in the bud.

Anyone in our party knowledgeable about such things? I hate to contemplate it but is Ama and would she teach us how to detect them if we cut a deal with her?
Oh shit, I just remembered. Ari'el knows who Shereen is and doesn't care, but the cultists don't and they cultists have a raging murderboner for the royal family!

We can't discuss the elephant here because it necessarily involves blurting out that she's royalty in a place where the walls have ears. I change my vote to letting Hilde regail us with tales of her home. It's a 2 day trek back to the capital, we'll have time to settle our differences on the road.
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Such a long absence of my players is a bit unusual, I might have to rethink a few things.

Zhu and Hild can keep a very effective lookout against any potential spies. I'll take your vote into account, for now, I'll wait one last 30 minutes before proceeding.
I missed the notification, also my computer restarted for an update which annoys me. give me a minute to catch up.
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I'll extend the deadline for an hour.
So they can remove the risk for us? That does make it more appealing, but we do know she had already discussed it with the girls. This would also mean Hilde and Zhu won't be part of the discussion and that could be necessary to truly resolve this issue.
No, they'll be here. Ultimately there's no way to be 100% sure of anything, but they can keep a very effective lookout for eavesdrooper since Zhu has a very efficient eyesight and Hildegarde was trained to to handle all kind of swamp horrors and some of them are damnably sneaky.
Meaning she might have a good idea you've eavesdropper earlier.

Ultimately, you're still in cult territory but hey, all of them know their leader respect your part abd they have to respect that no matter how butthurt that make them since Klesiah is included here.
Sorry for all the typos, just woke up
Alright, I'll start with having Hildegarde talk about Kreszenz in around 10 minutes.
''You want to learn about Kreszenz?'' Hildegarde hadn't expected this resolution when you came out of the duchess needlessly big bathroom. Alas, no change of clothes for you.

''I barely know anything about your homeland.'' You replied, feeling perhaps a little too at peace for your own good. The girls had cooked a meal during your watery indulgence. ''And given our situation and what's happening in the Allied Kingdoms right now, I'm honestly curious about Kreszenz, Anais, queen Valda...'' It was a bit too blatant an attempt at changing the subject from the pharaoh.

Zhu promptly disappeared inside the bathroom during your talk.

''Hm...'' Hildegarde hesitated, rolling a strand of silvery hair around a finger. ''...I'm not used to speaking at length. I'll try my best, though I'll sound boring.''

''I've read about the queendom, but I'm excited to hear from someone who lives there.'' Shereen spoke excitedly, holding the maid hand to make her sit beside her. The girl had no appetite, so her meal has been small and quick.

''Well, huh...'' Hildegarde looked briefly undecisive. ''I'm not sure how to start. Kreszenz is... An enduring land, I guess that's the best way to start.''

''How do people deal with the fact they live right next to the Swamp?'' Seems like the stoic maid needs a little help with getting a flowing conversation.

''By being armed.'' Just like that, all signs of hesitation disappeared. ''Kreszenz -especially the queen domain- is unique in the Allied Kingdoms by not only allowing people to keep and bear arms but actively encouraging them to do so, her majesty employs many military instructors to visit her towns and villages so they can be drilled into effective militias that can hold out on their own against all known threats. Of course, she has formed response forces against anything that could sneak past the Rangers of the Watch but the fact remains that distance is a killer when it comes to handling a crisis. Thus, her majesty policy is to encourage people to hold out on their own until reinforcement come, breed an organic sense of community in her communities so people watch out for one another against the abominable threat of the Swamp.''

''Villagers are encouraged to own weapons, every villages and hamlets are trained to produce its militias?'' Klesiah didn't need to force her surprise. ''That... sound like a dangerous thing for a ruler.'' And hell for bandits.

''Indeed, all the dukes and kings of the Allied Kingdoms would never allow this policy in fear of rebellion but that is because they are soft-bellied cowards who don't understand what it means to live next to an existential threat.'' Hildegarde paused, realizing she was getting a little worked up. ''My apology for this outburst. Her majesty Valda rule with wisdom and pride, her people do love her. This policy was eventually accepted by her vassals, so the land of Kreszenz as a whole is guarded against all threats.''

Especially rebellions.
This also means that the majority of the queendom population could be mustered for war and trained into an effective fighting force dangerously quickly. All by using the Cursed Swamp as a perfect excuse to channel people's motivation and frustration.

You can see why the Allied Kingdoms had been reluctant to start a sudden invasion of Kreszenz when Daiyu showed up.

''How are Mamonos treated up there? I've heard that it's a pretty good situation, maybe the best in all the kingdoms.'' Elina asked between two yawns. Poor girl was barely able to keep herself awake but she tried.

''Not as good as you'd hope, unfortunately. Her majesty treats them as actual people and they can own property if -and only if- a member of their family served in the crown army for a minimum of ten years. Otherwise, they are still treated as citizens but their concerns are below the wider human populations. They are still fully protected by the Queen Law and can be employed to earn a fair wage but they are, in the end, not as important as humans. Fortunately, her majesty did outlaw labor camps... but only in her demesne.'' Hildegarde gazed at the small fluffy sun. ''Valda, unfortunately, failed to impose these rules on her vassals so labor camps and the general second-class citizenry situation in the wider Allied Kingdoms extend into her dukes and barons lands. In the end, her majesty army enjoys quite alot of volunteer Mamonos, swelling it into a dangerous force that, at least, keep her powerful dukes docile.''

You don't remember seeing many monsters when you helped with the refugees.

''I'm willing to believe that second-class citizenry is still better than how Mamonos are treated here in Muribel.'' You couldn't help a wince. This statement, coming out of Muribel youngest princess, stung bitterly. Harsh truth hurt and hearing Shereen optimism drying was almost heartbreaking.

It was at this moment that Zhu came out of the bath, whistling innocently with only a towel wrapped around her curvaceous frame. Her wet ponytail and bangs clung to her body, her long white, scarred, naked legs projected a silent, seductive invitation, and with a sashay to her steps, she walked for the table to eat a now lukewarm meal. Soon enough her angle would-

''Put on some clothes your horny hag!'' Klesiah bolted to her feet.

''Hag!?'' Zhu nearly choked on a piece of meat. ''Hag! Unbelievable! Look at this and find a wrinkle, you fat-arsed board!'' Zhu promptly let the blanket wrapped on her body fall on the ground... and one of Elina's wing moved in front of your face to block temptation while Shereen looked on in slack-jawed confusion.

Ominous noise of struggling followed, Klesiah and Zhu giggles was a balm on the soul. ''Let a lady show off! Didn't you know the ancients competed naked? I'm honoring tradition here!'' You heard the one-eyed swordswoman complain before being shoved inside the bathroom by your blueberry.

''Compete for what?'' She said at the closed door.
>Steer the conversation into a more personal subject. What kind of person is the queen of Kreszenz? How about Anais and her father?

>Ask Hildegarde about her personal history. How did she become Anais bodyguard? Had there been attempts on the princess life before this kidnapping?

>Ask about the general state of Kreszenz. It seems that Valda has some trouble with her vassals. Who are they? How is the general political situation in Kreszenz?

>Try some levity. Ask about Hildegarde hobbies, passions, and what Anais like to do, perhaps the general family situation for the rulers. (Add anything?)

That'll be the last little conversation you'll get before an important witchery meeting
>Ask Hildegarde about her personal history. How did she become Anais bodyguard? Had there been attempts on the princess life before this kidnapping?
In the eventuality we end up needing to go dimension hopping during the rescue, there is no guarantee that Hildegarde will be able to come with us, so having some way to get Anais to trust us somewhat might be helpful, and also might be a way to help get her to focus if we need her to.
I'll lock votes in twenty minutes
I can get behind this. We can ask about the personal stuff like her hobbies on the road. We have a shell to get this maid out of and that has to be done slowly.
''Would you be okay if I asked a few personal questions, Hildegarde?'' The maid deeply red eyes blinked at you neutrally.

''Sure, I do have a few things I'll keep to myself, but I can try satisfying your curiosity. My lady Anais always complain that I'm a boring closed book... Now's a good moment to try and prove her wrong.'' Hildegarde went into a brief silence when Zhu emerged out of the bathroom a second time, this time in proper clothing. ''What do you want to know?''

''I've kinda been afraid to ask cause it's rude, but it's about your body.'' Elina tentatively started. ''When you jumped in to help me and Mina against that horned bastard you were extremely effective, did you know it'd happen?''

''No.'' Hildegarde shook her head. ''It was honestly luck, you'll understand when I explain the logic behind my body.'' She gently knocked two fingers together, producing a metallic click, and held out her arm, which Shereen gently grabbed.

''Kreszenz has the only expansion of the alchemical college in its capital, think of it as an outpost. They are tasked with creating weapons to deal with otherwordly threats and my body is one successful result amongst a few others. Creatures from the swamps come from many alternate realities that aren't branches of our World Tree, but genuinely lost dimensions that are far too often nightmarish, hence why the Swamp is such a danger, a wound in our reality.'' She opened and closed her hand in a few fists, displaying the agility of her solid, ceramic-like material that made the skin of her arms. ''Researchers believe that, in order to kill alternate lifeforms, there has to be some kind of primordial force that affects life itself. Predators emerging out of the Swamp function on a fundamentally different level than humans and Mamonos do... but there -should- be forces that affect them and that's how my body was modified.''

''Heat is a primordial force...'' Shereen said.

''Yes, it's that simple.'' Hildegarde nodded. ''Heat creates fire, heat melt steel, human bodies are naturally warm, nearly all known life dies without heat and so, to kill the many unknown threats attracted by princess Anais, the warmth of my body is my weapon.''

''Alongside some really mean fists and legs.'' Zhu added, indulging herself by eating the majority of the prepared food.

''It's a deterrent against mundane menaces.'' Replied with a slight upward curl in the corners of her mouth.

Your knowledge in alchemy shouldn't be considered expertise by any means but Magitek overlapped in many areas with general alchemical practice and the way she's describing her body... Such a modification was...

''I don't want to speak ills of people helping to keep your country safe.'' Everyone knew a ''but'' was coming so you skipped it. ''Such thorough modification to your body sound incredibly dangerous, was it ethical at least?''
Silence lingered and that produced an awkward mood. Hildegarde's red gaze floated toward Shereen and that made the princess fluffy ears flatten.

''It wasn't.'' Hildegarde admitted, succumbing to the temptation of caressing Shereen ears. ''The previous director was a little too zealous in his job and had a cabal of similarly minded researcher willing to do human experimentations. I remember the queen before Valda -her older aunt- put serious pressure on them to produce results. I was one of many kidnapped orphans, it just so happened that I got lucky with surviving because they got better with their experiment.''

Like her limbs, Hildegarde's expression became a smooth mask of neutral ceramic.

''Chopped off my limbs, put my body in a tank of ''pure vitality'', injected reinforced serums tested on other subjects, reattached what was missing as they made it stronger and viable for combat...'' She rubbed her forehead, rare hints of discomfort appearing. ''...it worked.''

''Well fuck.'' Zhu stomped the awkward mood to nothingness. ''I thought I had it bad when some motherfucker plucked out my eyes for the privilege of bearing the Emperor Eye. You were just a kid during all of that?''

''Indeed, I wouldn't have lived to adulthood because the experiment didn't account with puberty so I'd have ended up a limbless wreck, thankfully, prince Waltier found out what was happening and put a stop to it all.'' She looked a little more comfortable now. ''He made sure the surviving researchers would ensure I'd be able to grow up, planned to put me and the other surviving kids into a reputable institution. When I offered to serve him, he took a long moment to think and accepted. He began training me and in that time, his wife gave birth to Anais and after a few years, I was good enough to impress her majesty.''

''The entire debacle was kept quiet.'' Hildegarde continued, slowly but surely looking at ease. ''Otherwise, the entire institution would have been disbanded so, to take some words from our direct friend here, Waltier opted to squeeze the new leader balls with what happened and make sure they wouldn't stray again.''

Here's a trauma that'd make anyone stoic.

''Anais dad, Waltier?'' Shereen began gently. ''He saved you? Is he strong?''

''Yes. He was the finalist of the most contested Iron Test in recorded history and became Valda husband with nothing more than his will and talent. He's a foreigner and so, incredibly unpopular at her majesty court but that doesn't matter for her. The policy that I described earlier was his idea, he's the marshal of the realm and knows how to handle threats of subterfuge that come from Mamonos and rivals whilst her majesty the queen has an unrivaled economic mind.''

Meaning that Kreszenz current weaknesses are in diplomacy and prestige but with two amazing strengths, it is little wonder why the small realm is a contestant for being one of the strongest kingdoms of the small near-empire that was the Allied Kingdoms
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''Are you implying that he could be showing up to free his daughter?'' Klesiah asked, she had an arm wrapped around Elina neck, the poor angel head lulled left and right as she fought a losing battle against exhaustion. She really wanted to keep on listening.

''I wouldn't be surprised.'' Hildegarde answered with a genuine smile. ''It'd be wise to keep a lookout in Marleon, he's brazen enough to come here on his own.''

Well now, good to know there's a potential badass dad acting as a wildcard. Ensan pissed off the wrong people.

''Before this kidnapping, had there been any attempts on Anais life?''

''There has been one serious attempt outside creatures from the Swamp.'' Hildegarde spoke gravely. ''It was during Zipangu crusade. A strange being kidnapped milady and escaped into an enclosed dimension as I followed close behind. It was a labyrinthine catacomb that would have had me hopelessly lost were I not trained to navigate such places. Thankfully I got lucky because I encountered an exploring party from Zipangu-''

''Y-you!?'' Sudden alarm flooded the link, Elina wings flapped audibly. Her mood settled down just as quickly. ''Ah... nothing.''

''Nothing?'' Klesiah asked in worry. ''Elina... you don't look okay.''

''I'm just tired.'' Her answer lacked strength, no doubt about that. Your poor angel was utterly exhausted.

''I was amongst the ones who plucked you out of the Sabbath, Elina. They wanted milady blood for some nefarious ritual... that's how our fates aligned temporarily.'' Hildegarde spoke with such surety that it was impossible to skirt around the topic.

''I kinda filled the dots when you spoke about your past.'' Elina halo brightened slightly. ''Shit, guess I've got a debt of gratitude.''

''All I want is to ask for your help to save my liege, I don't want anything like a debt hovering above your head.'' A long silence followed, this sudden revelation had caught everyone completely off-guard.

That event in Zipangu sounded incredibly interesting... but it was a wound for your angelic companion and prodding into it would be far too cruel. You need to wait until she's ready.

Better change the subject.
''It's a different topic but there's something nagging at me, are you okay with answering another question about your body?''

''There's no need to be so formal, Arawn.'' The maid answered. Her and everyone else attention was directed at Elina when she suddenly flopped on the bed, suddenly passed out in exhaustion.

Resisting the temptation of giving her a few head pats was difficult.

''After the kidnapping, Ensan put you inside that alternate dimension of shades... how long did you survive in there?''

''Hm...'' She took a moment to think. ''...It happened the day before anchor, she wanted to break milady spirit. Time can flow weirdly in enclosed dimensions so I can't be confident in my estimation, but I'd say I've stayed a day in there.''

''Trampled by soul-sucking ghosts, inside a realm so cold that it hurt my skin, enduring for that long?'' She nodded silently at your words. ''Impressive. No wonder Anais was so confident in your survival. Can you survive in the Red World?''

''Yes. My body can adapt to alternate realities. Here, in Mother Earth realm, I need to eat, sleep, and breathe because I am alive but inside that accursed red realm? The artificiality of my body allows me to endure, my humanity is diminished into a flicking ember... Which allows me to fight even more.''

So, you aren't -that- special of an existence. Like you, it seems that Hildegarde is even stronger outside Mother Earth realm.

Goodness, you could speak all the way until you set out on the road but that would be a terrible idea. This maid is an interesting woman.

>A witchery meeting will be happening next update.
Just caught up, been listening to Unus Annus' ending livestream while reading.
I love this.
Ok, so I assume we're done for the day yes? Next update happens tomorrow and that involves us and Shereen cutting a deal with the fluffy devil in exchange for her aid in saving Anais and preventing Zerase from becoming a new god.

I kinda dig the whole situation in Kreszenz. Valda went whole hog with a literal "Service Guarantees Citizenship" poster for her armies in relation to mamonos. Can't exactly tell all the nobles to shove it and treat them as good as she does, but you can work in a little loophole because of that that ensures her army will always outnumber and outpower anything the nobles could hope to muster given how their short sighted and ignorant prejudices hamstringing their efforts. R. Lee Ermie said it best in his breakout role. Here you are all *equally* worthless! If someone (like, say, your supposed duke) sees you as less than worthless, well, I know which camp I'm moving into.

Valda and Waltier get this shit on the level that Sun Tzu and several saints did. Good thing for them given how their nation borders something literally straight out of Lovecraft if he happened to be a particular petty and malicious deity.

Hilde was correct. That existential threat, a threat her nation thanklessly protects the others from, changes a great deal. They've done it for so long, sadly, that her nation's vigil has been taken for granted in the political calculus of the other allied kingdoms...
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Thank you anon, always glad to have you.

>Ok, so I assume we're done for the day yes?
Yeah, all the girls are exhausted. I'll post witchery fun tomorrow. Might update late depending on how much I need to write.
Gonna resume tomorrow. Witchery meeting are important so I gotta think about that one
Tik. Tok. Tik. Tok. Tik. Tok.

Slowly, gently, the noise pulled at the edge of consciousness.

Tik. Tok. Tik. Tok. Tik. Tok.

Sensations filled your limbs, an inviting smell of warm sweet chased off the initial alarm carried by this familiar noise, and, most blissful of all, your body and mind weren't weighted down by the exhausting fatigue of what had been the most tiring day of your life. You knew, almost instinctively, what this noise represented. Impossible to mistake as a nightmare despite being so close to be one.

A room of velvet lit up by soft lights you couldn't identify welcomed your gaze. A tall, seductive foxy woman sat on one side of a large, furnished table, nine tails swishing to and fro as she ate pastries quietly. A black shape looked out of place on another side of the table.

''Huh?'' This new guest stirred, canine ears twitching with rekindled consciousness. ''Where...? Huh?''

How can the witch accomplish this so flawlessly? Your contract binding you to her explain why she can drag you into her ''tea party'' whenever she wishes yet, somehow, Shereen had been pulled in here flawlessly.

''Do not worry, please.'' Were Ama first words. ''I am only a host with no influence, I would never dare disturb the rightful rest of your bodies by rudely imposing myself upon your minds. You may leave whenever you wish, simply walk out of the doors behind you.''

That was true. There wasn't the usual pressure keeping you on your seat, those large doors could be inviting... if you didn't know they could lead somewhere that wasn't your mindscape.

''So this is where the two of you meet?'' Shereen stated spoke unsure, moving her hands slowly, looking at them. ''I feel awake, not even tired.''

''Mmhm, your conscious mind is awake whilst your body sleep, think of it as lucid dreaming, one that won't turn into a nightmare.'' You glared at the vixen.

Her kimono had changed from the low-cut seductive one she wore in Solemnval into a luxurious black piece with golden embroideries representing dancing foxes, it flowed into the ground like a royal robe. Her tails were all there, so were her limbs, she didn't look sweaty or tired... Did she truly commit to a magical duel?

''...That is if you'll allow it.'' Finished the witch, giving you a playful glance.

''How did you...? Was there really a fight? Is my mom...?'' A distinctive foreign intention -so small you'd have merely attributed it to a passing bout of discomfort- poked the edge of your mind. Your soul links had trained you to feel these little prickles; your and Shereen souls influenced one another very gently. Shereen had been a picture of ambivalence when it came to sleeping close to you for this ritual purpose, but things had worked out exactly as Ama wanted.
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''Not unscathed but alive, yes.'' The witch responded, taking a quiet sip of an intensely red tea. ''For someone born outside the Pretenders era, her use of magical Pearls is dangerously impressive... You have a resourceful mother, darling. I can only wonder how she managed to acquire her competence with scrapes of knowledge that survived time ruthless advance.''

''I don't know, I've never been allowed to walk around the palace at length...'' A yawn interrupted your little sun and she scooted close to the table, looking around the small room excitedly. When her gaze settled on you, her lips tightened.

''I had to collapse the foundation of Myrtidal portal, there won't be any sudden reinforcement belching out of the church for it seems that creating portals is something that eludes your mother, we have time my darlings.'' Ama put her tea on the table and pinched a pastry. ''Time for us to embrace the power of friendship!''

''I didn't mention any friendship.'' You growled, Shereen ears briefly flattened whilst the witch pales one flickered excitedly. ''Given the fact that Zerase is strong enough to fight against you, joining forces is wiser. I doubt you want her to wreck what's left of your playground.''

''Alas, my board is already broken but there always opportunity in chaos: that's what makes losing so fun.'' The fluffy witch chuckled. ''There's no need to hash out a boring contract when we can simply agree to help one another like the good adults we are.''

''So... you fought my mom...'' Shereen whispered and, to calm her nervousness, she reached for candy and plopped it in her mouth. There was no feeding here, only indulgence of tastes ''I suspect there's been plenty of deaths in the capital already and there will be more when we go and rescue princess Anais...Yet the body counts if we do nothing to stop my mother will be nightmarish. I want your help, lady witch, that's why I asked to meet.'' Ama was nearly preening, happy that her title wasn't accompanied by poisoned words.

''So does our grumpy man.'' The witch added in a singsong tone. You glared at the food, stubbornly refusing the temptation. After fighting to keep Leena alive, sugary indulgence was difficult to resist.

''Don't put words into my mouth. How can you even help us? Will you be brazen enough to just... show up in the flesh?''

''Hm... That'd be wonderful but alas a little too dangerous. Accompanying you at length could cause... complications but I -do- offer my presence and competence, especially once we reach Marleon. It take two days of comfortable travel to reach and during that time, we can make a few exercises to ensure you can make my help more tangible than fleeting encouragements.''

''Is that so?'' Your suspicion was impossible to hide. ''You're describing yourself as if you don't have any actual presence in the world, yet we -did- see you in the flesh inside Solemnval.''
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''Witches are fleeting, my dear. Solemnval isn't Mother Earth realm... Our World Tree reality might be flexible and malleable, it remains implacable.'' A crimson tint spread on the tip of her bushy, foxy tails and they began to ooze this color like nine underwater brushes. ''I'll be imposing myself on your party hospitality during the nights, although there is one little door that has been opened. The ejection of a disgustingly rude pig offers us a new opportunity.''

''How?'' Shereen asked, the pieces of the puzzle suddenly clicked together in your head.

''Why, by making me your shard, darling.'' Ama pipe suddenly materialized, wafting out a quiet trail of purple smoke. ''Welcome mine presence into your soul. Your natural magic combine with Arawn so well, one can almost think of it like bloodstream and veins, and together, you two can help me... help you if, or when the time comes.'' Speaking with magnetic assurance, Ama almost made you want to believe she was genuine. ''Alternatively, doing all of your important businesses at night will ensure I can be of help, too but that`s something to see for ourselves later. Details to learn at a proper time...'' A constant edge of excitement lingered in her voice.

''We've ejected one influencing intruder out of her soul, witch.'' You growled. ''Replacing it with another -magnitudes more dangerous- isn't what I'd call a good deal.''

''That's not your decision, Moon.'' The anger in Shereen voice stopped you, there wasn't any trace of that usual softness in her tone and a quiet, molten rage touched the edge of your shared sense. Was that all directed at you?

''I've been thinking a whole lot tonight.'' Shereen tail nervously flapped on her tighs as she wiggled in her seat, continuing. ''I've come to believe that princess Anais is worth all risks, her... importance as a princess is far worthier than mine, so I'm willing to employ unorthodox methods to increase our chances.''

''Shereen... You're a born blood mage and Anais has incredibly unusual blood, if you want to look at things objectively, both of your existences are the kind of things that happen once a generation at best. A single voice isn't enough to judge people's worth. And this witch won't let you go once she holds the tiniest morsel of authority over your soul!''

''Correction.'' The vixen interrupted you, wiggling a finger. ''I won't let -you- go, Arawn. We have to play more in the future if you survive this climax. I have no intention of trampling your darling of a sun with this kind of leverage, my villainous reputation is blown dangerously out of proportion you know?'' She had the gal to pout on her chair when you glared at her!

''If treachery happens, then it happens, at least something good will come of it.'' Shereen mindset had grown dangerously self-destructive, that rage she was so afraid of... ''...But I've had time to think and, good witch, I will need you to listen to me now.''
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Shereen cleared her throat and slowly drank a long gulp of tea while Ama looked at her with a strangely warm pride.

''I am the second princess of Muribel, for however long that'll last. As of this moment, my existence -is- one piece of a very small ruling class... and from what I've seen of you today, Witch of Contracts, your fabled competence is wanting. My mother plot had already infected the city for a long time, turning it into a plague of misery so injecting your ''game'' here was little more than adding a tumor to an already dying body. It is your follower who did, well... everything. All you did is plant a seed in Ashtar, guide two players here...''

''...Indeed.'' Ama agreed quietly.

''...You've failed to protect your Black Cat, I'm not confident that your guarantee of help will be worth much.'' Shereen let out a labored breath, looking somehow pained despite embarking on this speech. ''So, as a princess of Muribel, I demand restitution for your failing. I need... I want you to work with me, to make sure that casualties on my side -those who will stop my mother madness- are kept at a minimum. I'll... welcome you into my soul, have you as my spiritual guardian I suppose but, above all.''

Her fluffy hand slammed on the table, disturbing all the careful arrangements without sending anything on the ground. ''You will release Banu from her geas or whatever hold you have on her!''

''My, you bounce back with strength don't you, little darling?'' Ama audibly inhaled from her pipe, little giggles causing puffs of purple smoke to escape her lips. ''Coercions need to be done from a place of strength, royals need the backing of authoritative violence to give powerful people an illusion of placation. Otherwise, you can only rely on a dangerously dim sense of honor... You'd do well to remember that in the future, you've no power to make me bend, good sun.''

Harsh, naked truth thrown right into your face.

''That's... My mother is planning to kill everyone in Muribel, why does it matter if I'm weak? I can... we all have to do something! Are you aiming for some kind of negotiation? That you'd only help us by, say, gaining deeper authority the soul of my Moon?'' Shereen lept to her feet and slammed her hands on the table. ''Not happening. He's mine.''

In this dreamscape, time was difficult to measure. This oppressive silence was a long one.

''My, I'm so glad to see that I wasn't wrong about your potential, darling.'' Ama giggled and rose to her feet, all of her predatory demeanor melted into an out of place relaxed happiness. ''I had no intention of harming your grandma, only limit her potential so consider the geas gone. As for your demand...'' She paused for nothing more than theatrics, damn fox. ''...I submit myself to your authority.'' Then her red eyes floated toward you. ''Shall I imprint this sentence upon a contract? With the end of my game, my previous one is now void.''
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What!? Her self-imposed limitations are gone!?

''I'd rather we simply agree on this.'' Shereen plopped on her seat. ''Contracts are just a motivation to cheat, I'd rather rely on your sense of honor, witch.''

For the Wound-of-the-World to submit herself to Myrtidal weak, invisible princess... Was the kind of upsetting irony that Ama loved, wasn't it?

Can you even say anything? Will Shereen listen to you at all? She's made her descision but maybe... This situation is good enough...?
I don't think there is much we can do, other than ask that this be delayed until Shereen can talk to Banu again Who might be able to talk some sort of sense into her though it might be a bit late for any sort of fighting. that won't make the situation worse, we kind of blew all of our goodwill, for the moment at least on avoiding the big confrontation early. At least someone was here to witness this happen And we are totally about to let Banu down aren't we.
>I don't think there is much we can do, other than ask that this be delayed until Shereen can talk to Banu again
Unfortunately, that's a request that cannot be agreed on. Ama has to work her little magic and become Shereen shard, it'll need some time to ''settle in''. Time you can spare because you gotta walk back to Marleon.

Now now, Shereen is imposing herself here. Finally showing some much-needed proactiveness, Banu will be glad for that!
I'm not really sure that this would make her all too happy since one of the last things she said was that

" If you can't do anything about the Apostles... just live, Sherren. That's all I ever wanted. Be safe. "

Thread #38 post >>4135099

And while this lives up to the wording of her statement, getting Shereen more involved in combat, especially as a big target if our opponents figure it out probably isn't going to help much with allaying Banu's very, very valid concerns.
At least she won't be useless.

I'll wait for more voices. I don't want to make this look like you can't do anything, I'll always encourage my players to try and do something. Whether it works or not remains to be seen of course.

This is a fairly important development...
Ok, let's see if I'm catching all this. Ama can't really manifest physically in or much affect realspace directly unless she has an anchor. Us slaughtering the perverse Great Unclean One has "freed up" that slot within Shereen's soul and thus it's possible for Shereen to become Ama's anchor. An offer she has accepted despite our protests and fears. Thus, Shereen will become for Ama what Klesiah is for Mina and essentially share the same type of bond.

For what it's worth, she has said that she will relinquish whatever dominion this gives her over Shereen's soul upon the conclusion of this game. Furthermore, she's essentially sworn to follow Shereen's orders despite the fact that she's actually the one in a severely advantageous position. That is, if she chooses to tell Shereen to get bent and do whatever it is she wants Shereen can't do jack to stop her.

We need to know if she can interfere with or kill Mina if we attempt to rejuvenate her. Ama saw her manifest (and aim her bow at her) in Solemnval and thus that cat's officially out of the bag. Also, any negative side effects to this. There is a great power differential here, can Shereen's soul even handle the strain without permanent damage?
>We need to know if she can interfere with or kill Mina if we attempt to rejuvenate her. Ama saw her manifest (and aim her bow at her) in Solemnval and thus that cat's officially out of the bag. Also, any negative side effects to this. There is a great power differential here, can Shereen's soul even handle the strain without permanent damage?

Interesting questions. I'll make a small update with them, give me some time.
Cool, but did I more or less get the gist of all this? Ama needs anchors to act directly in realspace. Shereen's gonna become that anchor and Ama has, verbally, submitted herself to Shereen's authority.

Also, her self-imposed limitations. Like, the one forbidding her from directly interfering. That's gone now? She can now act directly to change situations to be more in line with how she wants them to turn out? Is Shereen cutting a deal like in "Der Freischütz"?

The tale is a marksman made a deal with the devil for a set of magic bullets. 5 or so (the exact number is irrelevant) of them *will* hit whatever he wants them to hit. Period. The last one though, that one *will* hit whatever the Devil wants it to hit and the poor marksman's will be damned. You can guess how the tale ends and it's not good!
>Cool, but did I more or less get the gist of all this? Ama needs anchors to act directly in realspace. Shereen's gonna become that anchor and Ama has, verbally, submitted herself to Shereen's authority.
Yes, she'll function similarly to Mina. As you've seen with Grâz, Shards can function differently but they all need one (or more) anchor. Nothing but the witch agreement and her good sense limit her influence.

>Also, her self-imposed limitations. Like, the one forbidding her from directly interfering. That's gone now?
Yes. Her game is over, outside influences broke it. Who knows if that's what she wanted. This allows her to take a proactive role, the contract is void; whatever audience was watching got kicked out.

>Is Shereen cutting a deal like in "Der Freischütz"?
Is Ama a sinister devil? What could she possibly want from this? Zerase is about to become an enormous menace, maybe her intention isn't bad...
That's another thing to ask her about. What's she gain from this? She agreed to help for seemingly peanuts. Worrying.
''I need to know something witch.'' Your little sun and the evil witch looked to you, one curious the other hesitant. ''If you do get inside the soul of my sun, is there any guarantee that you will not harm Mina? Me and Shereen will rejuvenate her and that require the establishment of... a soul related ritual. You'll be able to influence Shereen, which means you could harm Mina.''

''Ah...'' Shereen eyes widened in realization.

'' It's amazing how your knight kept Mother Earth messenger hidden for so long...'' Ama tail traced a few red lines in the ether of the world. ''...Your suspicions are correct, I could harm the good spirit but I have no intention of doing so. I will be a good girl and stay in my room during the ritual because I would love for Mina to share her memories with her mother goddess.'' A sinister ''ehehehe'' flowed out of the witch, briefly interrupting her. ''Not only will Solemnval cease to be a problem for further generations but I hope my good intentions and help will open a path of tolerance, I'm no enemy of the world.''

Yeah, fat chance.

''Besides, harming Mina makes it that much more unlikely that your own life doesn't end, Arawn. I can't have my favorite toy break a second time.''

This logic shouldn't be so convincing. Damn it.

''Will Shereen soul be able to handle your presence?'' You continue, opting to keep the conversation flowing, otherwise, your little sun might regain her momentum and close things. ''There's a great difference in power here, can anyone hold you as a shard in their souls, Ama?''

''Oh, I will need to be a limited existence, a little split between body and consciousness to ensure your darling sun stay comfortable and, more important, herself'' The vixen happy smile looked wholly sinister to you, keeping a neutral mind was impossible. Gods, is she playing with your intention and being genuine? ''But it is possible there could be some complications, after all, we barely have any time to exercise and get accustomed to one another, darling.'' A few tails pointed to Shereen. ''So your soul -will- be strained no matter what, but our agreement will not last long. You've lived with Horkus nefarious influence for years, mine will last a few days at most and you have a watchful guardian.''

''I'm... I'm strong enough to handle you.'' Shereen responded with admirable bravado. ''Your help will only be as good as I let it yeah? And having better help from the witch means a stronger influence on my soul, a bigger strain.''

''Indeed but do believe me when I say this.'' Ama cleared her throat, her pipe disappeared in a shower of pretty silvery sparkles. ''Your mind is yours. So are your choices.''
The two-way path that tied you to Ama revealed that sentence was one of truth and conviction. It was impossible to affirm the same for this entire conversation but this, at the very least, was one part of her conviction.

''What do you gain from this, Ama? Is Zerase such a menace that you have to involve yourself?'' You really couldn't figure her out.

''I labor for emotions.'' A simple, firm answer full of certainty, one that she did not elaborate on.

''I... I don't understand.'' Shereen admitted and the white foxwoman let out a good-natured chuckle.

''I will ask for your forgiveness with this irritatingly cryptic answer, but that is answer enough my dears. Would you prefer a long and boring monologue about how the emergence of a new Pretender God would cause the Allied Kingdoms, the Commonwealth, the Demon Lord and nearly all Supreme Monsters -including myself- to ally against such a threat? It would make a compelling story... but I've no interest in such a future.''

''Then, we can proceed with finishing this deal.'' Shereen quickly said. ''Let's do it before I have second thoughts.''

This seems like a good deal indeed and it's what Shereen wants...
This also may not be something that can be hidden from the rest of the party, even if we wanted to since Zhu might be able to pick up on it especially if there is any sort of active exercises needed to properly attune to one another.
This be worth considering if it is a good idea to bring Shereen along on another Soul bridging before Ama's expulsion, since it may let her in, and that would be bad.
>This also may not be something that can be hidden from the rest of the party, even if we wanted to since Zhu might be able to pick up on it especially if there is any sort of active exercises needed to properly attune to one another.
Shereen has no intention of keeping this hidden. Everyone already knew there was going to be a meeting with the witch.
I'm not sure that they knew the details of what is happening though, it could have been something more in line with one of her binding contracts.
Indeed, knowing the details could influence a few relationships... Or not, your party does have strong bonds.

I think I'll let this encounter last until tomorrow unless I get some good votes tonight. Convincing Shereen to not accept this deal -is- possible but I'm a bit hesitant to give a hint, you guys can try to convince her... But then this could be a good deal, Ama might have your best interest in mind, after all Zerase is becoming a biiig problem.
I think the deal is worth it, solely as a last ditch we're running out of time kind of thing, it's just that until it elapses there is an absolutely definite risk of foxy shenanigans and / or or her overstepping her bounds without much in the way to get her to stop.
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Alas! Without binding contracts all you have are words!
Can we ensure she won't try to fuck with our soul when we join with Shereen? That's a major concern.
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A contract would work, though she might want something in return, after all, such an agreement is a give and take...
Well, it can't hurt to ask her if she'd do that. We can decide on the necessity of a contract after that.
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That won't require an update then.

Ama says she won't touch your soul either, unless necessary of course, one never know what kind of magic Zerase has uncovered or invented... Just don't do anything rash when you'll inevitably feel her existence during soul exercises.
Like what, try to harm/kill her? I don't think we're dumb enough to try without bestest buddy backing us up.
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That and backing out of whatever you decide to do in the future just because you feel her watching. She'll give you space during those wonderful soul exercises... but it's impossible not to sense her presence, so don't go getting cold feet.
Oh, just thought of this, Ama's pretty much the Grand Arch Master of Blood Magic yes? Could she simply "gift" Shereen with that knowledge if she goes through with this (i.e. straight up unlock her entire potential spell list)?

A fully empowered, leveled up innate blood mage would be a potent asset both in and out of combat. It should also be on the lower tiers of her "assistance" and thus shouldn't put too much strain on Shereen.

I am concerned about her pledge to impose on our party's hospitality at night. Why's she also suggesting that we do anything important at night if we want to get the best of her help? Is she going to physically manifest at night so as to enjoy the banquet of emotions that'll cause in the girls? They're going to feel quite strongly about that shit if that's her plan!
>Ama's pretty much the Grand Arch Master of Blood Magic yes? Could she simply "gift" Shereen with that knowledge if she goes through with this (i.e. straight up unlock her entire potential spell list)?
No. She can help Shereen get better but what you suggest is just waaaay out of proportion, imprinting is possible, but it's dangerous and is better done little by little. As for Ama knowledge of blood magic... well, her reputation class her as a grand master. Nothing more! She never admitted it herself!

>They're going to feel quite strongly about that shit if that's her plan!
She's already always watching. Just because we become more aware/cognizant of that fact won't change much.

I'ma call BS on her being a mere grand master. Still, I'm sure she can unlock the relevant spells we need Shereen to unlock. Red World Portal and Realspace portal.

As of now only we and Hao can phase between realspace and the Red World. If we could open a portal both to and from there for our entire party/potential expanded party once we link up with Sieg, Waltier, or whoever else Zerase and Ensan pissed off with this stunt than saving Anais gets a hell of a lot easier. Get near the palace, enter the Red World, bypass all the guards, port back into realspace, nab Anais, do that again only get her well outside the city via the Red World, port back into realspace, and boom. Only one complicating factor though. Is it safe for Anais to enter the red world? I'd imagine Hilde knows the answer so we'd best ask her before we go with that little plan of mine. If it ain't than hopefully my plan B works.

It goes the same up until we acquire Anais. At that point, hopefully, the Palace is under assault and we'll be flanking those guards we bypassed from the rear. Oh that's still a good plan. Surprise backstab from out of nowhere or de facto getting caught in the mother of all pincer movements. Bad times for our foes I will say that.

There is another potential spell that'd help us out. Red World Blight. Porky the not-Great Unclean One birthed from Slaanesh used that one. Creating places that were basically the red world in realspace. In such places, we can go full fusion without repercussions and, I'd assume, Ama could manifest. I take it that we could have "shot" out of them and our "bullets" would register if we hit the enemy with them. For instance, if Ama was in a blight and launched a spell out of it, that spell (if it was offensive and immediately effective like a blood spike or a necrotic rot that rots a limb off in literal seconds) would work just fine on a foe outside of it.

If being in a blight means you can act upon realspace within it as if everyone was in the Red World... Oh, oh honey, that means Shereen gets a whombo Combo. Cast Blight, manifest Ama, watch her rape everything within her blast radius. The only problem is this likely strains Shereen's soul to the limit and assumes that Ama won't decide to rape our allies as well because, if I'm right about that, she utterly can.

>That spoiler
Why? Why do you make me confident that I'm right about that? I imagine we'll be assaulted by her fluffy tails! A thing we'd normally look forward to. Like using Elina's wings as the comfiest of blankets or pillows. Only it's *her* fluffy tails, the fluff of our eternal tormentor. Accursed, vile, evil, disgusting things! She'd violate us with her malignant fluff every night. Even if this is the right call it won't ever feel like it!
Keep up the good work everyone, I'm gonna go be sad in that general direction.
Oh, one last concern. Mina wanted Graz's shard dead because she feared he would "taint" him if he managed to return to him.

Ama only said she wouldn't "harm" Mina. A subtle corruption, however, that'd be bad yet also not *technically* harming her. Doubtless Mina'd be on the lookout for that though. She's already hostile towards Ama. Still, a danger we need to address before finalizing this deal and spreading our infection to Shereen.

Also, I just thought of this, but how the hell'd she give birth to Ame if she's got no form in realspace? Ame can manifest there just fine. Has been there for decades at least. Suffers an unfortunate curse due to her lineage but she's still in realspace and could presumably spawn more kids (though I doubt she wants to because they'll be cursed like her).

Is that why Ama is insistent on only being activated at night? Like, she suffers the same Kumiho inclinations but only during the day and it's at night where she's lucid and not starving for livers the way zombies starve for brains?
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>Ama only said she wouldn't "harm" Mina. A subtle corruption, however, that'd be bad yet also not *technically* harming her.
You could ask her straight up but that's something Ama, of course, affirms she won't do. Grâz corruption mainly came from a change in belief, so maybe the good witch might not be able to influence a vigilant Mina....

>Also, I just thought of this, but how the hell'd she give birth to Ame if she's got no form in realspace?
Go ask the queen of Zipangu.

>Is that why Ama is insistent on only being activated at night? Like, she suffers the same Kumiho inclinations but only during the day and it's at night where she's lucid and not starving for livers the way zombies starve for brains?
That, my dear, is a mystery kept close to the witch chest. Maybe you'll have a chance to ask her.

From the look of things, it seems that accepting the good witch deal is going to happen. Giving this 30 more minutes, then I'll start writing. We'll proceed to the next day.
Shereen's set on this course of action and I can't think of anything that'd convince her to not go through with it. We blew all our good will when we fled from her mommy. She borderline hates us right now.

It would also give us another "Oh Shit" button. Granted, an oh shit button that we're almost certainly going to regret pressing if we do but if it's "submit to Ama's whims" or "die horribly" well, dice I don't wanna roll but roll them I will because living beats dying.

She will teach us how to use the awakened pearls now yes? We do need that knowledge if we hope to counter whatever Zerase's gonna throw at us.

Also, I don't think that we, in character, know about Kumihos and the like. Though her insistence on only being out and about at night is suspicious enough to warrant us asking why. However, given what happened in Solemnval, we surely connected the dots and now know for a fact that Ame is Ama's daughter in character.
>She will teach us how to use the awakened pearls now yes?
You can make good use of your travel time.
>we surely connected the dots and now know for a fact that Ame is Ama's daughter in character.
Not really, Arawn hasn't had any chance to really give Zipangu people many thoughts so Ama broader history is still a bit difficult to figure out. Might change soon.

Locking things and writing.
Welp, Shereen is now Ama's anchor then. At the least, tell her to scan for any Geis Shereen might have on her soul. I'd imagine she can dismantle it now that we've spread the disease that is Ama!

I just know we're going to regret this somehow, but Shereen want's to roll the dice and we can't really stop her. Hope Banu won't be mad.
''I don't like it, I've no trust in you, witch, but it seems there's no other option...'' Your gaze trailed toward your little sun. She didn't look particularly happy about your backing down which did gladden your heart somewhat. Nobody should be satisfied with giving Ama what she wants. ''...Don't fall for her temptations, Shereen. I'm sure there will be''

''I know.'' She answered you gently. ''All I want is to make sure everyone around us lives, Arawn. I can't do anything myself so... having the witch as an ally is good, at least we'll know what she's up to.''

''Muh.'' Ama huffed in childish displeasure. ''I'll prove myself trustworthy, you'll see! Since we don't have any contracts to distract us, let's put an early end to this calm meeting and get you both to sleep.'' The ninetailed foxy witch rose from her seat and with a slow, deliberately seductive gait, walked next to Shereen to put one hand atop a fluffy counterpart.

''I will plant a seed within your soul, darling, all you need to do is allow it. After a little while, I'll be able to help properly, for now...'' There were no signs, no movement, not even an embrace of Focus. Witch and princess looked to one another in a moment of silence, Shereen changing expressions were the only things hinting at some kind of event. ''...this will do.'' Ama finished, stepping back.

''That's huh... I kinda expected something a little more grandiose.'' The deadliest of things are far too often boring to look at. ''But, hm... I can feel that you exist, it's weird to describe... Kinda like when I and Arawn join flows?''

''He understand what you feel.'' Ama flashed you a grin. ''Now both of you need your rest. We'll have more chances to speak, ufufufu.'' The noise of the single big clock began to resound with the witch laugh as a backdrop. Fatigue and lethargy invaded your consciousness like water rising in a bath, the colors of this artificial world melded together and became comfortable blackness.

''Up.'' A gentle shake, a firm voice. ''I know it's only been 6 hours, but it'll be better to start early.''

There wasn't any lingering grogginess, the maid awoke you gently and it lit a flame of energy that had you nearly jump out of bed.

''...I see that you've slept well.'' The maid continued, sounding almost amused. ''Are you well, milady?'' She asked Shereen who, unlike you, moved with the kind of laziness that clearly showed she could have used a few more hours of sleep.

''Uuuurk.'' A growling plaint came from the far side of the duchess large bed. ''This suck, I wanna be lazy.'' Elina wasn't a morning person.

Klesiah was up, she was already out of bed and combing her beautiful hair while eating a breakfast dutifully prepared by the maid.

Zhu had also woken up without a sound and her singular chromatic eye was staring at Shereen silently, her sharp expression betraying a heavy mood she tried to keep hidden.

No hiding it.

Shereen dutifully reported your meeting with the evil witch during breakfast and put a particular emphasis on the fact that accepting Ama deal had been her decision. The fact that she was now Ama anchor went predictably

''Giving the witch any kind of inch is stupid.'' Elina stated outright. ''I said it yesterday, she's the one responsible for what happened in Throne Town and now she's got her claws into you just like Arawn...''

''...It's alright.'' Shereen smiled weakly. ''Your friends are the ones taking all the risk against my mother, my family has hurt too many people so the best thing I can do as someone who shares their blood is to ensure casualties are kept low. That's where the witch will help.''

''Anyone who picks up the sword will find a cause to die for.'' Elina replied after a few angry mouthfuls of breakfast. ''I know my priority when I came here was to save Arawn and Klesiah, but that doesn't mean I'm fine you damning yourself. You've been with him since the very beginning of this mess, you're the one who helped him reach us with soul magic.''

''Only because he decided to trust me, I wasn't helping myself at all.'' This was becoming a serious discussion...

''Enough.'' Zhu was the one to impose herself. ''Fairly sure the fluffed bitch would have forced herself in anyway, so having some kind of agreement is better than getting fucked by some ancient awakened evil. Besides, we've removed one tumor outta ya, we can do it again.'' She traced her fingers along the length of her sword handle. ''What's bothering me is if the witch will be able to hear our talks, what's with this anchor business.''

''She will.'' Klesiah answered firmly. Her stoic face rivaled Hildegarde in neutrality but there was no hiding from the soul link. Calm, calculated anger gently flowed out of her like a freezing, windless winter night. ''There's no hiding the sharing of senses with spiritual guardians... even if they try to give you space.''

''It'll be fine.'' Shereen imposed herself, her smile didn't look forced. ''I'll understand if you guys don't want me to listen to something, but I'm confident the witch is here to help us.''

''Let's prepare to travel.'' Hildegarde spoke when the room fell into silence. ''With luck, we could reach the inn by nightfall, it's why I decided to wake you all earlier.''

Hopefully... What happened with Ama won't hang above the girls heads, Shereen had forged precious friendships with Hildegarde and Zhu, it'd be nice if she'd made friends with Elina and Klesiah as well.

You shouldn't let the friendly, almost family-like atmosphere of your party degrade because of one bad fox.


Many changes had come to Myrtidal during your party rest. All the wildfire had been extinguished and crowds of inhabitants were out, overseen by members of Ari'el cult. The angel had kept his word when it came to sharing equipment and delivered armors and weapons looted (and thankfully washed) from dead guardswomen.
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Rolled 13 (1d20)

Ari'el was too busy handling the new day to give your party personal goodbye, his wishes were delivered in a short letter hoping for a future friendship... and being profoundly regretful of the fact he couldn't help against the pharaoh.

Nobody gave your group troubles as you navigated the city, people kept speaking about what happened with such fervor that there wasn't any time for rumors to start.

All the surviving soldiers had been rounded up and sent on a forced march toward the mountain fortress roughly a week away, a group of inhabitants had been allowed to leave and go wherever they wanted, the rank of the cult was beginning to swell after a speech from the angel early in the morning where he welcomed everyone that felt had no ''home'' and would like to ''make their own fate now that catharsis has been reached.'' This word -catharsis- was becoming popular with all the conversations you overheard.

Free food was also mighty popular.

''There's something I've been wondering.'' As your group stood near a broken road shrine dedicated to Zerase, Shereen began to speak. ''I feel like revealing myself to the people and saying I'd take authority over what happened would be the most responsible things to do.''

''It might have worked yesterday before the assault started or maybe during it.'' Klesiah responded, standing next to your little sun with her glaive planted on the ground one could mistake her as the princess royal guard. ''With the cult victorious message being implanted in the people now, it'll make you a target.''

''Yeah.'' All the moving people you could see now made Myrtidal look alive. Maybe, for one day, Zerase spell was being repressed. ''I think I was too harsh, maybe... I hope those two are doing well in Zipangu.''

As your party began to walk, seeing nobody else walking the road for the capital made you slightly nervous. Myrtidal had been attacked yesterday, surely people would flee in drove... yet the busiest road was the one leading north, toward another town.

>Mundane upgrade to your party equipment will be decided upon in detail later, choices are fairly free. Things like armor, throwing weapons, new swords etc is all possible. Miscellaneous things like supplies and change of clothes have all been replenished.

>Rolling for potential road encounter. There's been an assault on a big city, thing's aren't exactly calm. Lower will be better here.
Alright, going to proceed with a continuation. You guys can decide on what kind of equipment that fit your party in the meantime.

Possible that a fight might happen so I might expedite decision time.
>That roll
Aww fuck, that means bandits. Bandits who are hopefully smart enough to not take on an angel and a big party like we got, but still, bandits. Please tell me we and our party recovered some mana. At least it wasn't a 19 or 20. That'd mean running into the duchess and the lamia elites.

Ok as for gear, what's available for who, how will each option impact their survivability/combat effectiveness, and how much can we get before we move out?
>Please tell me we and our party recovered some mana.
Yeah, everyone is rejuvenated. Mina ritual can happen later.

>Ok as for gear, what's available for who, how will each option impact their survivability/combat effectiveness, and how much can we get before we move out?
You've got enough chainmail and plates for everyone but Shereen (she's too short for anything heavy). Hildegarde and Elina don't need any protections, Zhu will reject heavy armor because it's too damn hot out there and Klesiah only need a breastplate since the metal covering her limbs hasn't been touched. Arawn is the one with ruined armor, Jab ambush really tore you up.

For weapons there are plenty of throwing knives, six francisca (throwing axes), five javelins. Six swords, a few shortswords, daggers, spare medium metal shields. Keep in mind that Marleon is a no weapon/armor zone (unless you accompany important people) so looking mean can be detriment once you get there, might have to ditch a few things.

Hildegarde can carry all 12 knives or throwing axes without trouble though the javelins might need to be dropped in a melee. Zhu would rather grab a pair of swords and protect herself with light armor (chainmail, arm covering and shin guards.) Shereen won't grab anything.
So... we're all back to 100 percent mana reserves? If so that I am a very happy player. Praise the Sun!

>Shereen won't grab anything
Really? Not even a spare Medium Shield and/or a dagger? I mean, one of those literally saved her life down in that mausoleum. I'd think she'd at least want one of those. I'd think she'd want a dagger as well for if she needs to work some blood magic and thus needs to bleed a bit.

Also, we didn't get anything? We're stuck with our chainmail with a big whole where our guts are?
Shereen already has a general utility knife but since she's firmly believing herself to be useless, the shield hasn't given her much impression.... Also, she's not looking forward to holding one for hours of walking. Being a coddled princess bring bad habits!

>Also, we didn't get anything? We're stuck with our chainmail with a big whole where our guts are?
No? You can go full heavy armor if you want or replace your chainmail to keep things subtle with your clothes. Weapon wise you've got a new heavy shield and your mace hasn't been damaged, so no need to rearm.
I'd go with the chainmail then. Full plate would make us slower and be pretty damn obvious (and it'd cause problems in Marleon). If it's possible to get some half-plate that only has plates for the torso and belly (and thus could still be kept reasonably subtle) we do that. Our nearly getting impaled and then deep fried has us worrying about upgrading the protection of our midsection if possible.

We're still lugging around our old, beat up shield right? We've got plans for that thing once we're back in Throne Town. We intend to do magitek to it! Also, couldn't another party member carry one for her and just hand it to her if and when shit hits the fan? That's a thing a lazy royal would do. It's why you have moons!
>If it's possible to get some half-plate that only has plates for the torso and belly (and thus could still be kept reasonably subtle) we do that
Breastplates for everyone but Shereen are possible. It's what Klesiah will opt for. Zhu would rather get chainmail, it's more comfortable with padding.

>We're still lugging around our old, beat up shield right?
Of course!
>Also, couldn't another party member carry one for her and just hand it to her if and when shit hits the fan?
Hildegarde will. She's also going to default with bringing all the throwing axes along. She's not good with knives, axes have enough weight in them to make her feel confident. I'll make proper notes of the newly acquired equipement later.
She's not good with knives? How? I thought she had throwing mastery. She at least took a few just in case right?
Oh, and we keep the chainmail for our legs and arms yes?
Her limbs make it difficult to throw knives accurately because of weakened sensations and their inherant altered strengths. Axes are strong and weighty enough to feel ''just right'' in her hands.
Muribel arid scenery was, plainly put, boring to observe. Outside many hills dotting the plain landscape, brush, rocks, and the occasional sunbathing lizard was all the excitement you could expect outside potential bandits (a danger that motivated your party to rejuvenate Mina later today). It only took two hours of travel for this intense bore to whittle away the awkward, almost angry atmosphere of the party, and conversations began.

You went back over your journey in Muribel to bring Elina and Klesiah up to speed, how Banu diligently trained you, your completely random meeting with Zhu, sneaking inside the capital church... Your first month in this hot country had been particularly dull because you had to slowly but surely earn your ''captors'' trust. Your second one had been utterly exhausting, stepping inside the capital was akin to changing your destiny!

Your good mood soon spread to your precious links-. The angel was the first to open up and she began to speak about Zipangu.


''Creating a body to house a soul isn't as farfetched as it sounds.'' The angel handed her waterskin to Hildegarde. ''That girl, Ithel? She's been creating golems all over the island. I'm pretty sure she managed to make a sentient one but I didn't pay that much attention to all of that. There was a genuinely sentient golem-girl on the boat and she seems able to synch with other golems, which made the bulk of our fighters in the boat. All packed and squeezed nice and easy, so honestly, I'm not too worried about a new body for Leena... It's the leadership that'll likely be a problem. Hopefully, Ama sent them in the central queendom instead of the north or south ones.''

''It's impressive how you guys came here so quickly... How did you even acquire this, um, war boat?'' Shereen was fully immersed in this conversation.

''Zipangu central kingdom is by far the strongest, it's where we woke up. Their spymaster owes Sieglinde a big debt, the queen went to bring her voice in the Swamp debacle so that leave the queen-mother as the biggest authority but she is, unfortunately, suffering from the Immortal Syndrome. That guy, Siegfried sorta became third in line for authority, we convinced him to haul ass and get here quickly once we dropped Arawn full name.'' Elina talked too fast and became breathless when she finished.

''W-wow. They sound like interesting people...''

''Hm. Let's be careful.'' Hildegarde grunted, glaring at the road. You reached the first significant turn of your journey, the road curved around a particularly big rocky hill, and afterward, you'd be able to catch your first glimpses of the main river flowing toward the capital.

Carefully rounding this curve inevitably revealed what had put Hildegarde on edge.
A pair of Mamonos stood there, one a green-scaled lizard and the other a lamia, promptly stood straight upon seeing your group. Both of them were covered in fitting plates and armed with familiar weapons that made their affiliation easy to deduce. They were deserters from Myrtidal, one of them promptly whistled

Upon the hill, movement betrayed the bandit's preparations. A group of monsters nearly charged down but thankfully stopped before initiating any kind of melee, a few more hanged back, aiming crossbows at your party. All in all, the entire enemy force numbered at roughly... fifteen people, four of them with crossbows.


''That's a fucking angel!'' The serpentine companion of the forward bandit yelled when Elina halberd and heavy armor materialized.

''Huh...'' The lizard cast a glance at her companions, all the warriors hooted and yelled in responses, psyching themselves up. ''...Sure is. Look, ain't no need for stupid shit right? You lot came from the city and well, there's been plenty of bullshit there. This here road got a recent toll to help unfortunate folks regain some footing in their destroyed lives, yeah? Us Muribel folks gotta help one another.''

You can at least credit the lack of immediate insults. All of your arms only furthered the sheer intimidation of your party.

''How many people had to ''help'' you?'' Shereen spat, causing the lizard girl to frown as she just realized your little sun existed.

Your travel on this road has been a lonely one, had these guys contributed to that?

''Hey, only those who could help us did, y'know?'' The lizardwoman cleared her throat, her eyes completely focused on Elina. The angel golden bioluminescence was a pretty, almost majestic sight and they knew damnably well what a winged person could do after yesterday. ''Just a hundred pieces our Eternal golden blessing to keep us fed for a while, there's a whole lot of mouths here after all.''

Hundred huh? That's not spare change, but it won't make a big dent in Banu funds. Of course, that won't remove the problem of these newfound bandits if other people decide to walk the capital dilapidated road.

''Only one hundred?'' One woman from the enemy line shouted. ''Fuck you thinking?''

''Shut the FUCK up!'' The lizard barked in return. She held her shield close to her chest. ''One hundred.'' She reaffirmed at your party. ''You'll be helping yourselves, really. Keeping them roads clean.''

>Try intimidation. You're a well-armed group, survivors of the assault on Myrtidal, you're not against cleaning up trash on the road if you have to.

>Negotiate a lesser payment. You escaped a damn siege, how can they expect you to have any money?

>Pay without fuss. It's not worth a fight.

>Unleash pre-emptive violence. No mercy for bandits.

>Pay without fuss. It's not worth a fight.
We should probably conserve our strength, and if things play out we may end up with access to the Treasury, we may also feel like coming back this way at some point if we have the time to do so.
Will give this vote 30 minutes. I think I can do one more answers tonight, either that or I'll write most of it to post tomorrow.
These look like general line troops and not elites right?

How much do we got? Can we ensure that they won't just follow us and repeatedly "toll" us after every time we make camp? If we do pay without a fuss will they just let us pass? Make sure none of them get close, I don't want our precious pearls to get pickpocketed!
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>These look like general line troops and not elites right?
>How much do we got?
I forgot off the top of my head, but you had around 1500 in riches, actual gold pieces is roughly 300.

>Can we ensure that they won't just follow us and repeatedly "toll" us after every time we make camp?
No. Though it'd be pretty obvious because there's no reall cover anywhere to follow you.
>If we do pay without a fuss will they just let us pass?
Maybe. If they elt you go, we'll proceed to the ritual to rejuvenate Mina
I hope the party's smart enough to not drop their guard. We go 4 snipers with a bead on our party. One of them might lose their nerve and try to headshot one of us because of the PTSD Ari'el might have given em'.

Out of curiosity, how much gold does one need a year to live a "comfortable" or "luxurious" lifestyle? From the sounds of things, Banu was confident she saved back enough cash for Shereen to live "comfortably" in Throne Town or wherever else she planned on running Shereen to for a good long time.
>Out of curiosity, how much gold does one need a year to live a "comfortable" or "luxurious" lifestyle?
Depend on the place, you also didn't have time to bring all of Banu hidden stash so that did hurt your wealth pretty significantly.

A luxurious lifestyle in Thone Town would be something like 2k a year (employing servants, getting good food, renting a big place etc.) A more moderate one would be roughly 300 a year, with 500 being an equivalent of upper-middle-class. I'll need to inspect the previous threads to not put my foot in my mouth, but I think that Banu saved up a total of 3k and you only got a portion of that money/riches because of your quick exit of the palace. (Banu knew the jig was up and stuffed plenty in one bag but Shereen stopped her from getting everything).

Bandits are asking for plenty of cash here as you can see, but that's also because Muribel economy is pretty fucked.

Paying the gal it is, got caught by some fatigue so I'll update tomorrow. Gonna wrote most of the update tonight, slowly but surely. Comfy time.
Make sure they get the impression that they're taking almost all our money and we're only paying because we're in a bit of a hurry to get someplace far away from here and killing them is more trouble and time than it's worth.

If they delay or cross us, they're all dead. Hopefully they know that and will let us pass.
Oh, also, just thought of this, we did take at least 1 or 2 Javelins didn't we? Our Soul Arm spell at max setting (i.e. the setting we've always cast it at) is basically a Gravity Gun. Having a ready made spike or two in combat would be quite advantageous as our "training exercise" with Daiyu and our time in Throne Town in general demonstrated.

Is Hilde good with those as well? They too have a bit of heft to them and we'd gladly carry a few for her if she said she was.

I do wonder as well, how long until Shereen starts to hear Ama's dark whispers? Will Ama's infection of Shereen eventually enable her to be like Gig and talk through her? Y'know, her voice comes from the location of Shereen but it ain't Shereen talking. Or maybe it is, but it's Ama's voice and not Shereen's emanating from her mouth. That latter one has already happened with us when he spotted that Magritew attatched to Vilma.

Our first test of Shereen's faith in our tormentor is about to occur though. Ama wants to be considered trustworthy. If she just lets us fully restore Mina to max power that's an act of good faith. I'd minimize the drain upon Shereen in that though. Both because her mana may be tainted somehow, and because Ama will draw from her reserves to do things to realspace. Thus, we want Shereen's reserves to be as high as possible at all times so that she/we can safely press that Oh Shit button.

I kind of fear Shereen will go all out if and when Ensan and Zerase are confirmed to be as evil as we and she fear. I can totally see her, tears in her eyes after the worst result of her confrontation we're going to all we can to ensure she gets, admit that Banu and everyone else was right and then essentially recite what amounts to a servant summoning incantation as she cries tears of scarlet and hate as our collective party attempts to prevent them from killing her:

Appear before me now and heed my command! I offer their blood and souls to you, Great Witch of Contracts! Kill these false pretenders that *dare* call themselves my kin! Wound them as you have this world and save my friends from destruction! Ama-no-Uzume!!!
>Oh, also, just thought of this, we did take at least 1 or 2 Javelins didn't we?
Since there won't be any fights, I'll finalize the question of equipment tomorrow. You can carry three javelins comfortably, cultists weren't able to find another harness.

>Is Hilde good with those as well?
She can't throw while moving with them though, so need a turn of commitment.
Said throw is hyper-accurate though yes?

If Hilde can pre-fire/lane an enemy if she has that commitment than oh hell yeah. I'm more than willing to distract a major target for a turn in exchange for them eating a guaranteed headshot.

Only potential problem is that she'd essentially be firing into melee in the worst case. Can we string a target along for a bit? Y'know, get them to run nice and straight like we all wish all enemies would do if we favor the FPS genre.
>Said throw is hyper-accurate though yes?
Not hyper, she would have her usual modifiers instead of a malus. Javelins are means things that hurt real bad.
>Can we string a target along for a bit?
If you can figure out how to do it in a situation, I suppose you can.
Not feeling too hot today, so there will be only one update. Coming soon.
Carrying one of your party treasure bags allowed you some initiative. You stepped forward under a collection of very tense gazes and kept your shield close to your chest, fetching a common purse full of coins to satisfy the demanded hundred.

Not a common sight for anyone that wasn't a noble or a successful merchant.

You grabbed the lizardwoman hand, taking the opportunity to give her a firm handshake.

''I've got one free advice for you.'' You spoke whilst keeping a grip on her hand. From this angle you could see the dull metallic crossbows far behind, your shield was your only comfort against piercing death.

''There is going to be a pandemonium soon. I don't know if it'll come from the capital or out of Myrtidal but you and your girls are stuck right in the middle. You'd be wise to finish your cleaning quickly and keep your heads down.''

''Those frenzied freaks won?'' The lizard whispered in disbelief and you shrugged, gesturing for your party.

''Let's go!''

With Shereen protected in your group center, the leading bandits cleared the way to give your people space and soon enough you left them all behind, the mood of the disturbed lizardwoman already spread to her snake companion.

''We could have taken them.'' Elina spoke once your party walked a few minutes undisturbed. ''Bandits scums hiding out in the hills don't deserve anything.'' Annoyance, even a small sensation of humiliation, boiled inside your angel.

''I'd like to go one day without having to kill someone.'' The combination of your answer and honest feeling stymied the angel's bloodlust, leaving behind an adorable pang of guilt. ''Sorry, Shereen, it's your money.''

''That's fine.'' She answered with a smile, the first one of the day. ''I'd like to avoid deaths today too and I think they'll need the coins more than we do anyway. This road is eerily deserted...''

It was logical to think some people have fled this way during the onset of Myrtidal crisis but bandits aside, the lack of signs from travelers was honestly ominous. Perhaps you'll see some refugees in the farming community not too far from here or did people opt to travel toward the closer town north of Myrtidal?

''Let's make distances and leave these people as the bad memory they are.'' Klesiah said, putting action to words by being the first one to truly begin walking the road again.


The next stop happened at noon under a terribly harsh sun. Without any other interruption, the boring arid rocky landscape of occasional hills soon enough recreated your group friendly atmosphere, discussions bounced from different kind of friendly topics until it was time for the ritual.

''I would love to have your help Elina, but... two souls is the best I can handle.'' Klesiah answered the angel.

''Oh, that's how it works? I thought this soul business wouldn't be too complicated since Arawn is linked to us, making an artificial one with Shereen looked simple.'' The angel pinched her nose, feeling slightly embarrassed.
''Human souls don't have much capacity, unfortunately.'' Your paladin responded, gentle tone reflecting her smile. ''We'll rely on you if anything bad happens later.''

''Heh.'' Elina rose to her feet, stepping back from the sitting circle you've made with Shereen and Klesiah. ''I wouldn't be the only one looking forward to that.'' She glanced at Zhu.

''Slashing up some magical assassins is my idea of a good evening.'' The swordswoman commented while munching on a piece of salted jerky. I gotta ask tho, you gonna be okay Shereen? I thought I'd be able to see that witch but it ain't happening.''

''Don't worry.'' Your little sun answered confidently. ''I do feel her presence now but we haven't been talking, my mind is my own and always will be.'' After a second of hesitation, she reached for your hand and embraced Focus. The bulging glow that followed made her look ominous as bright red clashed with her naturally brown skin.

''I like your confidence, please allow me one moment..'' Klesiah scooted closer to Shereen and earned the collective confusion of your party when she reached for the anubis face, gently settling her palms on her cheek, like a mother cradling her child. ''...I know you're listening witch.'' The paladin embraced Focus, bright blues streaks lit themselves throughout her body, showing her magical pathways.

''I've been stuck around your people for one miserable year, I've never seen you take such direct action before but you -do- know when I speak the truth, don't you?'' Cold, controlled anger flowed out of her, tempered by buried empathy. Shereen's eyes widened in understandable surprise, growing demure under the paladin's intense attention. ''If you try anything now you know that I will immolate my soul for the slightest chance to spite you, don't you? So don't you dare try anything. I'll cleanse any infection you try to spread.''

Mother Mercy, Klesiah sounded dangerously intense despite being cool and collected. The silence that followed was a long one.

''I...I think she got the message.'' Shereen fluffy hand squeezed your, claws slightly digging into your skin.

''Good. Shall we begin?'' Klesiah settled down, an almost motherly smile graced her feature. The protectiveness she felt toward Shereen was a little off-putting but... You have to remember that soul links are two-way streets. She must have been influenced by your feelings for your little sun, perhaps confusing them as her own? Or adopting them outright?

Is your paladin becoming one of those ladies whose anger translates into terrifying smiles? Surely not. She's just trying to make Shereen feel better.

Your paladin took the lead, grabbing your and Shereen's hands.

''Let's do that.'' You squeezed the girls back and embraced Focus. ''Let's build another bridge, my sun.''

Shereen beamed with pride and silently began the exercise...
...Without complication. The melding of flows occurred normally and the hypnosis happened normally, the girl's conscious minds traveled into your mindscape at first and that's where you felt an ominous hint.

There wasn't any change into the lonely, dark, peaceful nightly emptiness of what was the cognizant barrier of your mind. Klesiah walked out of a somber stony bridge with beautiful flowers sprouting our of damaged tiles, vines rolled around the geometry, both colorful additions showing Mina influence. Shereen had been accompanying you during this ''descent'' and... You heard a faint click that sounded far too familiar to a clock you've grown to dislike.

''I'm not sensing the witch... Perhaps her seed hasn't grown yet.'' Or, as she said, she's giving you space. Absolutely nothing showed some kind of sneakiness from the white fox, Shereen body was the same.

''I can feel her existence here.'' Your little sun commented, putting a fluffed paw above her heart. ''It's murky, I don't think her influence has taken proper hold inside me yet.''

''Then perhaps we can be optimists and hope that she truly cannot do anything.'' Your paladin gestured for her bridge. ''Shall we?''

Together, your trip ventured into Klesiah bridge and soon happened upon a pair of closed bronze doors that your paladin quickly opened, leading into her beautiful canvas of a soulscape. Her garden was as colorful and vibrant as the first time you stepped here, a beautiful, peaceful landscape to rival -nay honor- Mother Earth servant.

Mina rose from her seat, her appearance looking beautifully human. That of a woman with long, flowing gradient hair of golden purple, a beauty to eclipse any elves or angel packaged in such a comforting motherly allure that it was tempting to simply stay here and forget your worries.

''You don't adopt your true body often.'' Klesiah skipped greeting to speak with her guardian casually.

''Your insistence in fully restoring me border on the annoying.'' Without the pressure of Mother Earth reality, Mina voice was a mirror of the goddess. Soothing, gentle, peaceful... ''There isnaught to fear from her, not here.''

Mina extended her hands, welcoming you and Shereen to stand beside her as she walked toward the high grass.

This... is nice. You've started this ritual early enough to avoid the witch growing influence or, she's making good on her word. Additionally, when your magical flow melded with Klesiah properly, you finally understood how terribly, terribly weak Mina had become. your paladin precautions had been entirely justified.

Whilst there are no signs of the witch, it isn't far-fetched to believe she could pollute Shereen's magic... but rejuvenating Mina will be difficult without her
>Mina stands at 10% energy and she needs 220% to be at maximum power.

In this ritual, there is no discrepancy in energy. Everyone transfers 1=1 toward Mina. This -is- disadvantageous because Arawn natural reserves are bigger than the girls, he can cast roughly 60% more spells than Klesiah for example.
Klesiah reserve: 100%
Arawn reserve: 100%
Shereen reserve: 100%

Additionally, you'll be able to choose one particular topic of discussion after the ritual..

>Klesiah should speak about her time as Ama prisoner. This will likely become a difficult topic... but perhaps it could help you gain some insight on Ama mindset, or that of her other followers.
>With nearly all of your old friends reunited, why not take this time on the road to reminiscence about old time? It'll be a nice way to share your past with your entire company whilst learning who you were in deeper details.
>Elina and Hildegarde actually met during the crusade of Zipangu 13 years ago... If they're alright with it, you'd love to learn more about this.
>It might be difficult, but you'd like to hear about Shereen past. Her childhood, how she learned blood magic... Perhaps it could help you put some perspective on why she feel so strongly about her family.
>If Mina will be healthy enough to speak after her rejuvenation, ask her about the goddess, the general states of shards. How does Mother Earth web function? This is so interesting!
>Do your best to keep a good mood in the party. Ask about the girls hobby, perhaps how the yfeel about religions, the situation of the dwarves and elves... It'd be better to avoid heavy topics.
Continuing tomorrow. Feeling so-so tonight.
So it's 1-1 for everyone here including us? We will have a chance to sleep between now and arriving in Marleon and thus restore our mana reserves correct?

220 percent... We have 300 total so we can do it but it'll leave us close to bone dry again. What are the capabilities of a fully empowered Mina? On par with if not greater than the BS Graz was pulling off?
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>So it's 1-1 for everyone here including us?
>We will have a chance to sleep between now and arriving in Marleon and thus restore our mana reserves correct?
If everything goes according to plan.
>What are the capabilities of a fully empowered Mina?
A little bit difficult to explain, Mina affirm that she'd be able to emulate her mother goddess much more effectively and could, potentially, tap into Mother Earth and Father Sky divine magic despite the total lack of web. The capabilities she already showed (excellent archery, brawling and flying skills) will be even stronger and she'd also be able to separate from Klesiah more effectively to fight on her own and go into the Red World by consuming fair amount of her reserves.

>On par with if not greater than the BS Graz was pulling off?
Definitely greater. She was at 70% when fighting him.
So... 70 out of 100 or 70 out of 220? Ama has her own reserves and won't draw from Shereen correct?

If that's the case, I don't like doing this but I'm gonna risk it with Ama. 90 out of Klesiah, 90 out of Shereen, and 30 out of us. If she's already at 10 then she only needs 210 percent to be fully restored. If Ama needs Shereen's reserves to act than I'll have to recalculate those numbers.
>So... 70 out of 100 or 70 out of 220?
70 out of 220
>Ama has her own reserves and won't draw from Shereen correct?
Yes. Klesiah and Mina are separate existence with their own magical reserves, this logic extend to Shereen and the fluff situation.
Ok then, full empowering it is. Hopefully Divine Magecraft can cancel out Death Pearl BS. I assume Ama's going to be coming in at whatever her max is with the caveat that the bigger the move she makes/spell she casts the greater the strain upon the soul of her anchor.

Topic to speak of though... Damn, they're all juicy to me. I might have to sleep on that one.
So your vote in term of magical transfer will mean...
Klesiah = 10% magic left.
Shereen = 10% magic left
Arawn = 70% magic left.

Will completely rejuvenate Klesiah.
I meant Mina will be rejuvenated.
Yep, rolling the dice and praying to God we get a chance to sleep before the big battle. You're probably not going to let us, but hey, hopes and dreams.

I could drain 5 more from each of them and leave us at 80, but I'd like a bit of a buffer in the event we get into another fight. If someone else wants to go that route I can support it though.

When it comes to mana transfers, Elina trades at an advantage towards humans and we humans transfer at a disadvantaged rate towards her right? I think 3 of ours was one of hers so one of hers ought to be 3 of ours right? Also, is she a good night guard? Hilde will need to sleep as she didn't back in the mansion and Elina's back to 100 percent reserves. I know it's being a bit of a douche but I'm gaming against worst case scenarios here. One of them being we won't be fully safe wherever we end up trying to sleep. It's been a few days, we could have an APB/Bounty on our ass.
>When it comes to mana transfers, Elina trades at an advantage towards humans and we humans transfer at a disadvantaged rate towards her right? I think 3 of ours was one of hers so one of hers ought to be 3 of ours right
Yeah but that was directed toward pure magical transfer. Mina function a little differently.
>Also, is she a good night guard?
Do you mean Mina? Definitely. She does need to sleep but for her, it's more of a trance-like experience that only need 2-3 hours to properly refresh her mind.
I think that the split described in >>4539179 works well, and if we need to post sentries overnight, two people should do so at any given time, since we are getting closer to a guaranteed fight, Elina as one if she needs to sleep, it would probably be best to swap out with ourselves / and and split shift of Zhu and Hildegard for the second sentry, overnight. Since their enhanced sensory capabilities should prove useful.
If we do get woken we should probably avoid being paired with Zhu, since shenanigans are almost guaranteed if we are left the only ones awake.
And for the topic to discuss
Let's see what Elina can tell us of our non present friends actions, while we have been separated. If we need to narrow it down focus on the boat ride over.
Since you're backing me up in rejuvenating Mina, she can pull an all-nighter. She only needs 3 hours of rest a day as per the good GM's info.

The real question is who is less affected by a lack of sleep. Hilde already pulled one in the mansion so she *needs* to sleep. We also want everyone to have full mana reserves going into the shitshow that's about to commence in Marleon so we, Klesiah, and Shereen will also need to rest.

That leaves Elina and Zhu. Either one pulls an all-nighter or they swap shifts while Mina becomes our Guardian Goddess for the whole night.
Hildegard does have the background of being a bodyguard, so may be more used to a intermittent and irregular sleeping pattern, so if she is going to take part she should take one of the earlier shifts, to allow for a more continuous period of rest.
And unless we are forced to, posting a single sentry seems like a poor idea, since they would be much more vulnerable to sneak attacks. Can Mina, do so without using the energy we just gave her though, since we want her in the best condition she can be in going into the upcoming fight.
I agree with posting two sentries if we have to post any. I was assuming Mina pulling an all nighter. The question then becomes who's her partner and for how long?
I'll remind you that mages need 6 hours of uninterrupted sleep to fully recover their magic. They can still regain a majority of their reserve despite spotty sleep though
But if they have full reserves already they don't lose any if they pull an all-nighter right?

Also, there is one more potential sentry we could use, but I don't think *anyone* would get any sleep if she's the sentry or left alone with Mina. I think that seed's gonna sprout quite explosively tonight, so Ama might be able to manifest like Mina. Hell, I'm certain she will. After all, she did pledge to impose on our hospitality. I wonder if she likes jerky...
>But if they have full reserves already they don't lose any if they pull an all-nighter right?
>I wonder if she likes jerky
What do you mean by this? Tell me tell me!
Y'know, beef/pork/whatever jerky. Common traveling food back in the days before preservatives and refrigeration. Pemmican was made with it as well, another common traveling food.

I wonder if Ama's a fan. I mean, she does have a reputation as a cannibal after all. I just wonder if she likes meat that didn't come from sentient beings or isn't liver related. Though in this setting I think most "meat" is alchemically transmuted because of effeciency and a true lack of difference in taste...
I thought you were alluding to something lewd...
>Though in this setting I think most "meat" is alchemically transmuted because of effeciency and a true lack of difference in taste...
Not exactly, people still raise animals and eat them, it's just that alchemy streamline food efficiently and allow vegetables to be transmuted into tasteless meat. Lowtech kingdoms still function on a purely 12 century type economy, while place like the Allied Kingdoms and Throne Town have sorta made meat farms into a luxury. There are still plenty of farmers raising animals exclusively, especially in the newly-founded villages since people are willing to pay good money for pure meat.

Muribel is kind of a shithole so the farms just do bulk farms of grains
I think I've been clear about my position on Ama. Nothing lewd ever. Not even fluffing her tails will be an enjoyable experience. We'll still fluff them if it secures us hints or her aid, but we won't like it.

A rather shocking thing, for if it was pretty much *any* other monstergirl we'd enjoy it fully. Come to think of it, this also extends to Shereen's family. Lamias give the best hugs, but we'd rather die than be embraced in a way only lamias can give if it's coming from them! Not that we have to worry about that.
Late anon also agrees with this split.
Thought about it, I want to learn more about the goddess. Her web, how her domain differs from the others we've experienced. Perhaps why going full fusion has such a bad result for us if we do it for more than 10 measly seconds (and, by extension, how we might be able to circumvent that BS), etc.

This will also tell Ama how she might be able to manifest without an anchor but hey, fair trade. Full powered up Gardy (with modern magitek enhancements to boot) vs. Ama with only a few pearls sounds like a fair fight...
Starting to reach my mental threshold with how much I can write, so I think I'll make the discussion on the road the end of the thread instead of writing it and skipping for the inn. I'll have a little something to ask once we finish the thread, but for now I'll concentrate on updating and likely need more inputs while were at it.

I'll update tomorrow with
>If Mina will be healthy enough to speak after her rejuvenation, ask her about the goddess, the general states of shards. How does Mother Earth web function? This is so interesting!

Whilst going with >>4539179
I'll keep vote hoping until 6 pm and begin writing.
I might have to end our thread here, health isn't doing so well. I'll do my best to post in a day or two.
Alright, I've decided that I'll make our new thread with this new update. The night at the tavern will be important since it'll be the last one before arriving into Marleon. I'll do what I can do make it next week, maybe re-use this thread while I'm at it since they last a while on /qst/

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