Tomas stood on the street, shirtless.
You had to take a second to appreciate how well built the young man was, he clearly ate his veggies and did some regular exercise. Not that it'd be clear when he wore his normal baggy clothes. But now he was shirtless, standing with some clear nervousness, shoulders almost shrugged, and you could easily guess why; almost every monstergirl within visual range was looking at him like he was the last piece of bacon.
And yet, your eyes were more focused on the one that stood beside him as tall as she could. "You should be proud, Master. You trained your body well and should show it more."
You guessed she was the elf he'd been talking about, but... ah, she was wearing his shirt. You could only chuckle a little, the poor guy had just forever forfeited that piece of clothing. From your side, Diane glanced at the elf and you could almost see the cogs in her brain turning before she glanced at you, your shirt, and then back at the elf that wore Tomas' shirt, and then at Tomas.
And then back at you.
Her lips narrowed slightly as she looked at the young male. "Mister Tomas." The former nurse bowed in greetings of the young tamer. "It is nice seeing you after the check-up."
"Hello... Dia..." Tomas looked up at the pink-haired rapha, then at you as she leaned slightly against you. Comprehension crossed his expression. "Rick."
"Yes, yes, this is the nurse I was talking about. Her name's Diane." You nodded, trying not to push this into becoming more awkward.
He deflated a bit more visibly now. "This is Freya." He introduced.
"What a weird name for a boy." Diane said with that tone of innocence that you just weren't sure how she could've faked it. But knew for a fact she had.
The elf froze, twitched, and glared. "I am an elf."
"Oh, I'm so sorry, it was just so easy to mistake you for one. I'll make sure to keep it in mind." Diane kept the sweet saccharine tone. "I'm sure you'll grow up to be a strong monstergirl one day."
Tomas appeared a little too focused over Diane at your side to notice the jabs that were being thrown around. You could only sigh inwardly. "Play nice Diane, we're going to be spending quite a while with them." You patted the nurse's shoulder and gave her a look that held a warning in it.
Her shoulders stiffened immediately. "Yes, Master." She nodded.
"I'm Rick." You introduce yourself to the elf. "It's a pleasure to meet you." Extending a hand, she looked at it, taking a second of hesitation before shaking it, seeming marginally confused by the gesture.
“Master?” She asked, glancing at Tomas who just sighed slightly.
“He is my former chemistry teacher, and we’ll be travelling together.” He explained with a little dejection.
Freya caught his mood but didn't seem sure as to why the young man reacted that way. Still, his words surprised her. “Oh.” She turned back towards you, she bowed low. “It is an honour to meet my Master’s Mentor.”
The young man seemed to be dubious as he clearly wanted to correct her, but faltered and just didn’t, clearly not very sure how to do so tactfully. It felt equal parts awkward and amusing.
“So… what’s going on?” You swiftly changed the subject. “Couldn’t help noticing your current shirt predicament.” Your question caught Diane's attention, of course.
“She was naked save the shoes and gloves.” Tomas muttered.
“Don’t worry Master, I know how to make usage of the foliage to make myself some clothes if you wish me to wear any.” Judging by the look in her eyes, she really didn’t want to go around naked. “I’d just need some plants and a day or two for the basics, sturdier things take longer.”
“That’s… convenient.” You nod for a moment. “And can you make clothes for others or does it only work for you?”
“I can definitely make clothes for others if Master wishes me to do so!” She puffed up in pride at the question. “But then I’d definitely need more materials and time the larger the piece.”
“You’d be the easiest to dress, then?” Diane quipped but shrank as you looked at her sharply.
Freya didn’t seem to notice the little thorn in the comment though. “Yes, I have the most practice making clothes for myself when necessary.”
“And how old are you, if you don’t mind my asking?”
“Me? I’m just forty, plus however long I spent hibernating.” Came the nonchalant reply.
You could’ve heard a pin drop a mile away from the following silence had it not been for the background noise throughout the town. Your hand covered Diane’s mouth before she could even think of uttering a single word, instead, you smiled slightly. “That’s… quite surprising.”
“Elves have longevity, we age very slowly.” The factoid seemed of little importance to her. “It’s a shame that my previous tamer died in the wilds, but that’s how things work sometimes.”
Tomas then decided to lose a shade or two of colour, apparently, he had not heard this tidbit about her.
“I’m sorry to hear that.” You mutter.
“No need, sir, I like my current Master much more.” Freya brightened up, clinging on to said young man’s arm. The gesture gave him back some of the lost shades of red. And then a couple more.
"Th-thanks..." He mumbled.
Movement on the corner of your eye made you turn, seeing Mr Gabriel approach. “Ah, you came early I see.” Tessa was by his side, Kat and Liz at the other.
Freya looked at Mr Gabriel for a long moment before she appeared to notice the dex on Kat's hip, her eyes narrowed slightly and her gaze returned to Tomas. “More companions, Master?”
“Yes.” The young man nodded, and you picked on the fact he abruptly straightened his back and made an effort not to look in Kat's direction. “Mr Gabriel and his girl Tessa, Katherine and her girl Liz.” He pointed at them in turn.
“A pleasure to meet you.” Mr Gabriel spoke with a cordial tone, but you could see in his eyes that he was silently trying to peer through the elf.
“You’re cute.” Kat pipped up.
“Thank you.” Freya nodded curtly, smiling.
“So this is the healer you were talking about?” Mr Gabriel immediately switched the subject, his charm went up quite sharply as he took Diane’s hand and kissed the back of it. “Again, thank you for your wonderful work in these old bones.”
“It was nothing, sir, I was just doing my job.” She blushed slightly.
Tomas and Kat had to look at one another and then at you, you could only shrug your shoulders before Kat appeared to remember something. “Oh, Dia, yeah, you’re the groppy nurse for the tamer license.” She snickered.
“It is Diane now, miss Katherine.” The nurse corrected cordially. “And it was you who wanted to get overly handsy, I was just conducting a physical test.” You felt Diane glance at you in doubt, but not comment on anything else. Had she wanted to say something? You put the thought aside.
“It’s good to know we’ll have a capable healer in our team.” Mr Gabriel added, then turned towards you, his voice tightening a hint. “What about Monica?”
“I have her back, but I’m going to have to work on her training before we can properly rely on her.” You answered, keeping the details vague, quite certain they wouldn’t exactly be too happy about the idea of the taming cycles being used. Well, maybe not, frankly speaking, everyone seemed to be adapting to this world differently.
But right now didn’t seem the time or place to broach the subject.
“Definitely wouldn’t want her out and about in public.” Mr Gabriel agreed.
"Erm, we... made the list and the costs thing." Kat pipped up as soon as it seemed that things were going to go quiet for too long. "Here.” She brought out her dex and showed you. “All in all, we’re left with 7.900 credits total. Which isn't much at all; especially since that food we bought should be rationed for emergencies.” She spoke with slight distaste. “I can’t imagine how much of a nightmare it’d have been had we tried to get all of this while on our own at the beginning.”
One item stood out to you. "Paralysis collar?"
“It's for you.” Mr Gabriel reached into his pocket and brought out a circular piece of leather and tossed it at you.
Your brows knitted together as you looked at the item, a black leather collar with a box on the side and a singular metal prong underneath the box. The buckle had a keyhole, it was clearly meant to not be removable by the person who put it on. That... made your eyes narrow, your gaze moved to meet Mr Gabriel's long and hard.
“I've seen those before, Master.” Diane explained in a low tone, clearly noticing the not-nice look you were throwing at the elderly man. “It lets you inject the wearer remotely, or it will trigger on its own if they get too far from the remote… though the second feature can be turned off.”
Your grip on the item tightened, various answers crossing your head before your jaw tightened. "I will keep it just in case." You put the device into your pocket, taking a long look at Mr Gabriel, you felt like punching him for this, even if you understood his angle. "But I'm sure I won't need it."
The old man's brows knitted.
You moved the conversation on before the situation turned into a head-butting contest. Your hand snatched the dex from a surprised Kat, showing it to your monstergirl. "Diane, take a look at the list, do you figure we're going to be missing anything medicine-wise with you coming along?"
Of course she'd noticed the tension, but now that you'd given her the task, she focused on it entirely, focusing on the items that had been bought. "Most of everything, really. P-Meds are good to keep me from expending energy that could be used on more important or serious injuries, but you'll definitely want something like antidotes and other cleansers."
"Monstergirls have powers that can paralyse or put others to sleep, or push them into a lust frenzy..." There was a meaningful look in the way she said this, looking at you with a question that went unspoken. "Cleansers is the broad term given to the medicines we use to help a monstergirl return to a normal state of mind and body."
"Then we'll want some of those, yes." You agree, then glance at the others, returning the dex to Kat. "Information-wise, did any of you learn anything worth sharing?" As you ask this, you proceed to explain the new information you'd learnt, but more specifically the status of the other survivors.
"That's good to hear." Katherine said. "I... guess on our side of things we learned that the one that gave Monica a dose of lust-dust was probably a boobisaur." She brought out her dex to show you the entry, a plant-type monstergirl that specialized in vines and dust techniques. "Apparently they're the most frequently found feral around here, and any tamer looking for anything different or rarer would have to go further out into the wilds."
"We also learned that though Bark town is a low key stop for everyone coming and going to the other side of the border, barely any trade is really done here." Mr Gabriel added.
"Not much from me." Tomas shook his head. "I've been looking into alternate routes to Ebony since walking there for over a month seems a bit too much. Unfortunately, all the 'shortcuts' we could take are through rough terrain that's well known for having more dangerous ferals."
"I'd definitely rather not go through that risk." Mr Gabriel spoke firmly.
"Agreed." Tomas and Kat nodded.
A pause, everyone looked at one another. "So what are our plans now?" You asked before any of the others could speak the question everyone was thinking.
"Freya, clothes." Tomas spoke immediately.
"Ferals, maybe?" Kat seemed uncertain.
"Unless any of you got anything worthwhile, then I'd rather take a nap." Mr Gabriel said openly.
"I'd recommend not going for ferals alone." You told Kat. "On my end, I’m going to be training Monica for the next day or two.” You spoke firmly, your tone and words catching the others off guard, you knew Mr Gabriel wanted to speak about this issue what with the collar, but you'd rather snip this here and now for good. “What happened when we were trying to survive was because we didn’t know what monstergirls even were, and since she’s going to be our strongest combatant, I really shouldn’t neglect to teach her that she can’t just do whatever she wants.”
“That’s… commendable.” Mr Gabriel nodded, he seemed hesitant to trust you could do what you'd said.
There was something about the way Freya looked at you that caught you slightly by surprise, but she hit the expression before you could properly decipher it. Curiosity? Shock? Her eyes drifted to Tomas meaningfully.
No matter. “We’re also going to need to come up with a schedule to keep. As far as I can tell we have a quota we have to fulfil regarding ferals and the whole rank battles, and I’d rather not know what happens if we don’t meet it.” You added, then turned towards the shirtless ex-student. “Tomas, we’re going to need Freya’s help too, you did well in picking her, I’m sure she has experience and knowledge about how to handle the wilds.”
“Uh…” The monstergirl seemed suddenly very uncertain as she was put on the spot. “Master, I, um…”
“I’ll have something talked out by the time she’s done making her clothes and weapon.” Tomas promised, looking quite proud all of a sudden.
“That’s good.” You nod, then turn to Kat and Mr Gabriel, time to put some pressure. “That leaves you two, got anything besides feral catching in mind?”
“Not really.” Kat shrugged. “I was going to use it to get a feel of how it works and see how good Liz is at it before we hit the road.”
“Tessa isn’t for combat.” Mr Gabriel shook his head. “She’s got a good pair of ears and eyes, but she doesn't even know English yet.”
You felt a tug on your shirt as Diane looked up at you. “Master, if I may?” She waited for your approval before speaking up. “There’s something called an English Trainer device, it will instantly teach any monstergirl you use it on to understand and speak English.” A grimace followed. “But it’s expensive, 100 thousand credits to purchase one due to it being reusable. And it’s not easy to find, even those places that sell it don't have it available often.”
“If it’s reusable we may be in luck if we find a tamer willing to share theirs.” You pointed out instantly, you glanced at Mr Gabriel. "Since you don't have much else to do, you could help to look around for one."
That clearly surprised the older man, his jaw straightening as he looked at you with that firm expression. "You're right." He conceded.
“Diane, any idea who may own one of those already?” You asked the nurse and moving the conversation along.
“The professor might.” She replied without missing a beat. “One of the professors has his lab at the outskirts, since he’s usually the one handling the starters for tamers, he may have something.”
"Well, let's go!" Kat pumped her fist, turning to leave.
Mr Gabriel had been just about to turn as well, when you met his eyes firmly, your hand reached for your capture devices and recalled Diane without missing a beat as soon as the two younger ones were gone. The gesture was met with a slight nod from the older man as he recalled his own monstergirl.
"I can take advice and suggestions on how to handle my girls, not so much being given a cripple-collar without being asked." You stated.
"Fine by me, so long as you make sure they don't fuck any of us to death." He replied just as dryly.
With a shared nod, he turned to leave.
You released Diane.
"Master?" She glanced at the back of Mr Gabriel.
"Don't worry over it." You replied, shaking your head. "It's been cleared out, that at least makes one less point of drama for the group... can't say the same for Kat and Tomas."
"Of course, Master." She nodded.
“Let’s go see if we can get that training room early.” You commented. "The sooner we handle Monica the better."
That cheered her up more. “Yes, Master.” Diane followed dutifully, albeit seeming to be mulling something over.
You reached the medical centre, and asked about an available training room. “Sorry, they’re booked until nine.” The receptionist shrugged nonchalantly. This one was the black-haired one, and now her face was so impassive you were sure she was gleefully holding back a glare as her eyes wandered to Diane and then back at you.
What was her deal? You just rolled your eyes and went back outside, wanting to enjoy some cool air while you had the chance. Diane leaned into you as you did, she appeared to hesitate. “Master.” Spoke softly. “I… may know something regarding miss Katherine and mister Tomas' situation…”
"And you're holding back on sharing it... why?”
"Doctor-patient confidentiality, sir." She replied. "Technically I'm not a nurse anymore, but..." A moment of hesitation. "I wouldn't share it unless ordered."
“Oh.” You said the single word, scratching your chin in consideration, a secret the two might hold? Hm... you were certainly curious, was it worth giving the order? "I'm ordering you to tell me only if you think it might be of consequential weight."
“Yes Master.” Katherine nodded, taking a moment to consider things before continuing. “During her check-up for the tamer license, miss Katherine was feeling down, so I tried to get her to share her thoughts.” A slight fidget. “Miss Katherine had said that the male she was interested in wasn’t interested in her because… and I quote: ‘He felt disgusted I told him I fantasized about a threesome with this older man we know’.”
“Welp.” You scratched your head. “Yeah, definitely don’t tell anyone you told me that.”
“Yes Master.” She nodded.
You looked at her for a second. "Why did you share this tidbit?"
"At first I hadn't thought about it deeply." Diane began to explain. "But then I remembered what Master had said about 'getting used' to things, and how things worked in the world you came from, and it felt more important." A second of hesitation, she looked at you. "What now, Master?”
"You did well, thanks for being upfront about it." You caressed her shoulder, making her relax. “I want to train Monica still, though it seems we’ll have to improvise the first part at least.” You scratched your chin, moving thoughts from that awkward situation that’s on the horizon and yet to come to the present situation that was definitely to be tackled right now. “Got any suggestions?”
“I… don’t have experience training monstergirls, Master. That said, from what I’ve read, while the monstergirl is dazed they will have higher retention in regards to what things their suppressed mind learns.” She spoke with slight uncertainty. “Teaching Monica in a multitude of circumstances would undoubtedly be more useful than if it’s just within the same environment every time.”
Were you really considering this? You grumbled, you'd pushed the button, yes you were doing this.