With the sunlight obstructed by both the unseen city walls and the thickly forested area, it was rapidly getting darker soon after all four girls crossed the river.
Beatrice wasn’t a fan of walking in the dark through an area where murderers and assassins disposed of evidence of their wrongdoings, but after she thought about it, she found a new perspective.
Not to mention her feet hurt quite a bit as she was the only one not wearing any shoes or boots to speak of. Beatrice checked her stats and saw that she did not suffer any actual damage, so at this point it was more of an annoyance than anything else.
Realistically, who would be sent to do such dirty work? Only lackeys, Beatrice concluded. Even if a murder took place right here, nobody of note would want to stoop to carrying or dragging a dead body around. At least I wouldn’t—I would end up ruining my image as a leader!
And a skilled assassin would not be caught dead with a body anyway. They’d just take proof of their deed and leave the rest to deal with the mess. Which means, running into some lowlifes might actually be a very useful—
As if right on cue, Beatrice and the others noticed four figures crossing their just some forty yards ahead. Just as the girls stopped in their tracks when they saw a possible threat, so did the four men.
One of them was a long, slender man. He had long, straight black hair, tightly-fitting leather armor, and two katanas strapped crossed on his back. It was not at first obvious it was even a man, especially in the decreasing light. He had both feminine and masculine features. But with a visible bulge in his pants, but no sign of breasts, Beatrice concluded it to be a man, perhaps an androgynous man, but a man nonetheless, and not a futanari like herself.
The shortest of the four was, simply put, a furry with orange fur. Armed like a rogue, he bore more resemblance to a bipedal fox than a human. Beatrice was well aware of the fascination with beings such as this in certain communities in her past life, though she herself never found much kinship with those people, despite their detailed descriptions of why they felt how they felt.
Beatrice would’ve wondered if this fox boy was indeed a boy or a man, if not for the writing in white letters on his armor that read: “yes, I’m 18. no, I’m not interested in some fun.”
The third man was rather unremarkable in everything but his age. He was probably no less than fifty, though, as Beatrice often noted, a grey beard always made a man look older than he really was. Scrawny build, a single short sword at his side with a bloody blade. Completely unimpressive.
The fourth man was a rather bulky one, to say the least. He wore red, heavy, spiky armor. In shoulder width, he was probably as wide as the other three men combined, which made him seem much shorter than he actually was. He had rough, unkempt hair, and lost an eye in combat that was now replaced by a black eyepatch. At his back, he had a morning star. The ball was as large as the man’s round head, and much like the old man’s sword, it was also painted with blood.
In short, four ruffians had crossed Beatrice’s path. Perfect!
Alright, let’s see... Stamina Points...
Good. That gives me enough for... Yeah, should be enough. Just barely.
Beatrice turned to Tabitha and told her quietly, but firmly, “If you intend to stay at my side then expect to be used in any way I see fit and be thrown into the jaws of death at a moment's notice. If not—run away now, and never show up before me again.”
“I would rather impale myself on the nearest branch than run away from you!” Tabitha said with steel commitment.
“Good,” Beatrice said, turned back to face the new company, and took a step forward to be in front of the group.
The men did not take action at first. They seemed to be judging what to do with the sudden encounter, just like the girls did.
“What... The hell... Is that?” the bulky eyepatch guy spoke slowly while looking at Beatrice with bewilderment. And no surprise—she was almost naked, with wings on her back (that the men would not have seen had she not turned to Tabitha), and a tail wrapped around her waist.
“Huh—What!? Is that a demon or something?” The greybeard asked, taking a step back from the group of four shadowy silhouettes.
“No idea, John,” the fox boy said with a surprisingly gravelly voice and reached for a dagger.
The long-haired man also reached for his katana and said, “We should—”
“Wait, don’t tell anyone you saw us!!” Beatrice shouted and stepped forward.
“Huh?” the greybeard seemed stunned by the sudden plea.
“What are you doing?” Ember whispered.
“I’m a succubus, aren’t I? I can deal with this,” Beatrice whispered to her bodyguard and continued walking slowly toward the group of the four ruffians.