Seated on Monica's lap and feeling very weird about it, the feline was hugging you contentedly as she rubbed her cheek against your head. You tried to remain just about as dignified as you could in such a situation while Diane sat next to you, idly grinning as you pretended not to notice and focusing on reading from the dex.
The twitch in Monica's body told you she'd sensed something, you raised your gaze and caught Tessa walking besides Mr Gabriel, the look the man had seeming a bit too hard and stony.
So it seemed he'd decided not to give her up. But had he talked with Howard? You couldn't tell, maybe not.
The old man glanced at Monica with a slightly confused frown. "Hello." He greeted formally before his eyes moved towards Tomas who was currently being cooed over by the succubus.
"Gab." Monica said with a nod.
"Monica?" He looked surprised.
"Gab." She leaned down as her eyes focused on Tessa who instantly moved behind Mr Gabriel. "Food?"
"Not food." You, Diane, and Mr Gabriel spoke at the same time.
Monica sighed in disappointment. "Not food."
"She does look delectable," Rachel spoke raunchily, cooing from Tomas' lap.
"She's the new girl." You commented to Mr Gabriel. "A succubus."
"I didn't need to be told that to know it." The man shook his head. "I just hope this won't come to bite us."
"I'll only bite if you ask nicely, sir."
Everyone ignored that comment.
Kat showed up not far after, though no monstergirls were with her, so it was likely they were in their capture spheres. The instant Tomas noticed her the tension rose, the young man tensed as Kat's eyes had moved from slightly surprised at Monica to then looking at Rachel and looking absolutely startled.
The succubus clearly picked up on what was going on like a hawk. She spoke up from Tomas' lap before anyone else could say anything. "Hello miss, I am Rachel, Master Tomas' monstergirl!" Her tone was cheery and her extended hand a perfect friendly imitation of the gesture you had in turn shown her, but her face was a porcelain mask of bubbly smiles that strayed eerie close to a smirk.
But the impeccably amicable words seemed to have come at exactly the wrong moment, Kat didn't take the hand, glowering. "I'm going to get Liz healed." She practically power-walked her way inside.
"Diane, play nice." You pat the nurse's shoulder, killing the glare and it turning into a look of surprise before nodding, the cogs inside her head moving slowly.
"Yes Master." She said though seeming slightly confused as to why you'd give her such an order.
"I can play quite a lot, if you ask nicely." Rachel quipped, having overheard you, throwing a wink your way.
You ignored that. "I've got to ask the receptionist about Alice, apparently she left somewhen today." You shrugged your shoulders, finally having a good excuse to jump off of Monica's lap and motioning your two girls to follow as you went inside.
"Oh yeah, I hadn't seen her." Tomas nodded oblivious to what was going on, he looked flustered, judging by how the succubus' hips were grinding against him, you could guess why.
Heading inside, you waited until you were well away from the now-closed door before pulling Diane's attention. "I want to keep the friction between the members of the group to a minimum. That does not mean I think nicely of the succubus, it means I put getting along above my personal feelings on the matter."
Hesitation. "But... why?"
"Because if there's friction at the wrong time, we die." You said flatly. "Being nice now doesn't mean I can't choose to be an asshole later."
"Oh." She nodded at your words and you felt she totally missed the point. "I understand, Master."
You put a mental pin on this topic for later, turning to approach the reception desk and focusing on Kat. The young woman was fuming while watching the taming cycle machine with doubts.
"Try to see if you can find out something about Alice's whereabouts while I talk to Kat." You ordered Diane before fully turning to face Kat. "Got problems?" You asked.
"I caught one more boobisaur on my way back." She said, she was tense and you could guess it had less to do with her current dilemma. "I asked around and they kept saying that putting a feral through a level 3 helps a lot to get things started more smoothly. And fuck I don't want a face-full of dust or anything like that."
Monica, still behind you, wrapped her arms around your torso and once more pulled you into her chest. "Kat." She called out the young woman, who merely glanced her way.
"Yeah, hello Monica." She replied looking back at the taming machine and biting her nail.
"Capturing ferals, is it hard?" You asked, trying to give her something to focus on.
"Not very, she wanted to fuck, I had Liz pin her down, she went into the ball at the first try." She replied, a little flustered. "Felt more like a transaction, wham, bam, move on, next." She tensed slightly but forced herself to calm down. "I've been told most aren't this simple."
You regarded the teenager for a very long and silent second. "I put Monica through a level four."
THAT caught her attention. "What? Wait, what?" She wasn't even asking, just... blinking dumbly at you in disbelief before looking at the line in question and then back at you.
"I put her through a level four." You reiterated. "It was horrible, she came out more robot than person, and I used the time to train her into not attacking people and knowing when she had to stop." Carefully, you reached up to touch Monica's shoulder, she purred. "I have absolutely no intentions of putting her through something like that without being absolutely sure she'll need it, but I also can't deny the results."
"She hasn't strayed off, she asks before acting. She's still Monica, but it's clear she's learnt to hold back."
"I, but..." Kat hesitated.
"Monica killed several people without really understanding it, and I need to prevent that from happening again." You comment calmly. "As much as I like Monica, I have a responsibility to ensure we don't all end up dead because she chose a bad time to go rape something she fancied."
"The... collar..." She stuttered.
Figured it'd been her idea, you shook your head. "Useless if it's a crisis. What am I going to do? Leave her paralyzed because she's ignoring me to tell stay near us and not run off to chase a harmless feral that happens to annoy her while a bigger threat approaches?"
"Riiiick." Monica tightened her hold around your chest, kissing your ear softly. "Monica good?"
"Yes, Monica." You said. "Could you stand there for a moment?" The feline grumbled, but acquiesced, letting go of you and stepping away, looking at you with a pout. "Good kitty."
At your words she brightened slightly, staying where she was a bit less dejectedly than a second ago.
You frowned. "She is a monstergirl." You replied, turning to look at Kat. "She deserves every bit of respect and attention and affection any other person would, and I've little doubt she is also incredibly smart. But she is not a human, she's a monstergirl; assuming you have to treat them like humans will eventually get you killed."
"But they're like..."
"Diane can lift me up as if I'm just a heavy sack of potatoes. Yes, that Diane, that girl who looks like she can barely break chopsticks." You pointed at the nurse as she was chatting with the receptionist. "And Monica can separate my head from my shoulders before I could realize what she'd done." You then gestured at the feline. "If you're thinking they are humans, you're wrong."
"That doesn't mean you should treat them like... animals."
"And that collar you had Gabriel give me was to... emphasize her humanity?" You say, watching her flinch. "I'm not going to tell you how you should handle your girls, it's your choice. More importantly, we both know that this isn't really what's bothering you right now. Tell me what's going on between you and Tomas."
"What? No, nonono." She shook her head abruptly, panicked. "That is none of your business."
"If you have something you want to keep secret I'm all up for that, don't give me any details, I just want to know what was that stunt you pulled out there with him and the succubus."
"Oh, so she's a succubus... of course." She snorted, rolling her eyes before she looked at you more firmly. "Teach, look, he thought we were a thing, and we weren't, there was nothing there, zero, zilch, only some casual sex."
"Doesn't seem so to me." You replied honestly with a shrug.
"Well, it wasn't, I wanted fun and he gave it to me and he got mushy and thought we were a thing." Kat crossed her arms.
"And that's all there was?"
"Yes." She replied tersely.
"I see." You go silent, glancing towards Monica for a second, counting the seconds in your head, waiting.
Ah, there it was. "Yes?" You prompt.
"He judged me, ok? He... I told him something, something personal, and he... he said he felt disgusted."
"And what else did he say?"
"That he... hadn't thought of me being that way, that he wasn't sure... of us."
"I thought there was no 'us'." You pointed out, seeing her slumped shoulders.
That made her flinch again. "No, there wasn't, it's..."
"So let me get this straight." You don't let her form the words. "You told him, honestly, how you felt about something. And he replied honestly how he felt about that, and you're angry about how he is?"
"Yes!" As soon as she said that she flinched. "No... I don't know, ok?"
"That seems like a fair assessment."
"What?" She snapped, indignant.
"The 'I don't know'." You said. "Don't you think that you should've cleared that out with him?"
"Clear what out?"
"What do you mean." It was more a confused phrase than an actual question.
"I mean that maybe there was more to it than just what he said." You shrugged. "Boys tend to have trouble sharing their feelings, and I bet Tomas isn't exactly used to opening up to people."
"You think I should forgive him?"
"Oh no, not at all, I just think you made a rushed decision." Your eyes turned towards the glass doors, and Tomas blushing up a storm as Rachel was clearly molesting him. "And Rachel isn't exactly the best influence on him."
Kat looked stunned, glancing at him and then at you. "What about her?" She seemed defensive of her tone, but clearly angry.
"Well, she's clearly a social predator, and Tomas is more of a shy mouse even though he looks like he could bench-press me." You pointed out. "Not to mention she's a monstergirl."
"Even if she were human I'd kick those oversized tits off had I a chance." Kat snorted.
"But she isn't." You shrugged a bit. "I suggest you read up on the breed, she's definitely strong and a powerful addition to the group, but they're not exactly the best sort of girl to have around when she's not put her in her place or while there's friction she can take advantage of."
Kat opened her mouth and snapped it shut, not saying anything, frowning.
You really hoped this little pep talk helped her get something more solid out of whatever it was she was going to have out of Tomas, that ought to ensure Rachel had less room to pull bullshit. It was as good as you could hope for without actually getting fully involved anyway.
"Just remember this world has had monstergirls around for hundreds of years, the suggestion to use taming cycles on ferals is for a reason." You stated, turning to your alpha. "Diane, you done?"
"Yes Master!" She called out, joining your side as you walked up to Monica.
"Good kitty." You congratulated the feline, kissing her, the girl returning the gesture eagerly, noting Kat deep in thought and leaving her to it as you focused on your nurse. "So what did you learn?"
"Miss Alice left with someone, a tamer." Diane said. "It was a blonde one, female and around her twenties."
"That's it?" You blinked.
"The tamer hadn't healed her girls so she didn't show up on the records, sorry Master." She apologized.
"Don't worry, you did well too." A kiss on her forehead was all she needed to un-gloom right away. You stepped back out, you raised your voice to address the others. "Well, it seems Alice left with someone, but no clue as to who only that they're a female blonde tamer."
"Hope we can find her at least, say goodbye." Tomas pointed out, managing to speak while blushing furiously. "And... now that I think of it, May just up and vanished didn't she?"
"Her contact information says..." You muttered as you checked the dex. "Last point of contact being New Bark and... three hours ago. Must mean she walked out of town not that long ago."
"Seems she took to being on her own like a fish to water." Mr Gabriel commented with amusement. "I wish her the best." His eyes looked at you. "So what now? We've gathered, and by the looks of it, we're low on funds. Got any ideas to share?"
"Between Monica, Freya, and Rachel, I figure we'll be able to catch a lot of ferals. Tessa could help in locating them too." You pointed out.
"But I don't want to hunt ferals~." Rachel pouted, snuggling against Tomas.
You ignored her. "There's also the issue about salvage, but I've got some ideas to potentially avoid that. We'll talk more about it in detail later." Your words instantly make Tomas and Mr Gabriel perk up.
"What did I miss?" Kat spoke as she stepped outside, her eyes had focused on Tomas first but switched towards you.
"We're going feral hunting it seems."
"Again?" She sighed, quickly distracted from whatever thoughts she'd been mulling over. "I just put Liz through a healing, next one's not going to be free."
"It's free if you can show you've caught at least two ferals since the last session." Diane pointed out.
"Where should we seek them, Master?" Freya asked, glancing at Tomas. "Near the city there won't be many ferals, certainly not rarer expensive ones. Should we seek out what areas may be well known amongst the locals?"
"Isn't there some sort of notice board for tamers?" You wondered.
"Check your dex, Master, while in the city you should have access to it." Diane pointed out, you did just that, following her instructions to finally reaching the official New Bark board.
"Let's see..." You flick through the catalogue of 'quests' as well as the information provided, mentally making a list of the options that looked most interesting before sharing them with the others.
-Buzzers detected north of town. Hunt them down before they form a hive. 5,000 SLC per feral buzzer. 12,000 SLC if there's a queen and she's confirmed caught or killed.
-Pack of Dog-girls seen near south end of town 2 nights ago. 1,000 SLC per dog-girl.
-Two weeks ago, tamer was attacked by a feral Purrsian and killed in Road 28 (East of New Bark Town), one of his monstergirls was a witch and wasn't found with the body. It is likely she went feral by now. Police department offers 3,000 SLC for her capture or kill before she accidentally starts a fire.
-Dave (a farmer) has complained his crops have been (throughout the past week) being attacked by a pack of feral kitsunes. He offers 2,000 SLC per captured feral.
A thoughtful hum followed as you chewed through the options.
"The witch." Tomas said. "I think... we owe that much since..." His eyes flickered to Monica. "And I don't want to find out we die to a forest fire when we leave New Bark either."
"I don't like it..." Kat grimaced as she looked around.
"Me neither, I'd rather not enter a forest that might be lit on fire." Mr Gabriel said flatly. "This is not our responsibility to handle, Monica's action when she was feral are none of our business.."
"I agree with Mr Gabriel." You nodded. "Only Monica would be able to do something like drag someone away from danger fast enough, no forest fires."
The opinions clearly bother Tomas as he grimaced.
"She's the purrsian everyone in town has been talking about?" Rachel purred, smirking very broadly as she quite suddenly focused on you. There was a dangerous glint in those eyes that made your spine tingle a moment. "That... is interesting."
Diane tensed as she had been just about to say something but stopped herself. "I am sure it is." She finally proclaimed. "My Master tamed a feral purrsian on his own, and just last night he caused her to shift." Now she stood tall and proud, her arm latching on to yours.
Rachel didn't answer, her lips merely curled slightly further up.
You felt like it was meaningless to say anything, focusing on the quests and how none of the monstergirls had made any comments about them, clearly aware the situation was not one for them to add anything themselves. It felt like a cultural thing currently happening, you wanted to sigh and ask them directly what they thought might work best, but held back.
Maybe another time.
"What about the other ones?"
"Buzzer sounds like something I wouldn't want to get close to. I don't like bugs." Kat declared.
"The one mentioning kitsunes reminds me of when I worked on a farm." Mr Gabriel commented thoughtfully. "Buncha animals knew how to avoid being caught. It'd probably become more frustrating than anything else."