“Hmm ~♪ Hm-hmmm ~♪ Ha-hu-ha-hu-ha-hmmm!~♪”
Keira and Rowana were walking side by side as they made their way home. The catgirl had a spring in her step and was humming a random, lively tune, while the elf was silently watching her from the side. Minic had been released from her bosom and was currently running about in a carefree manner, although it made sure not to stray too far away from its idol.
“Hmm! ~♪ Ha-hmm!~♪ Ha-hum-ha- Huh? What’s the matter, Rowie?”
It would appear the beastkin had finally noticed that a certain someone was staring so hard at her that she looked like she was about to shoot beams out of her eyes.
“Ah! Uhm, nothing, sweetie,” answered the culprit as she hurriedly averted her gaze.
“You sure? Those mean guys didn’t hurt, you did they?!”
“No! Nothing like that!”
“Then what is it? You’ve been awfully quiet ever since they showed up, so don’t try to pretend like you’re fine!”
“Well… It’s just that… You’re amazing, you know that?”
“... Okay?” said Keira with a genuinely puzzled look.
The elf’s current behavior was quite atypical. It was only a given that Rowana would want to praise her girlfriend, and had done so on multiple occasions. This one, however, felt… different. For one thing, she had never shown that kind of thoughtful look on her face when doing so. Nor had she ever used the word ‘amazing’ before. Almost as if this was the first time her compliment was truly genuine.
“I mean it,” she insisted. “I fully expected you to hurt that guy for the horrible things he said. Instead, you defused that entire situation with just a few words.”
“So?” asked the catgirl with a shrug of her shoulders. “It’s not a big deal.”
“Yes, it is! What you did back there was unbelievable! Like, who does that?! I could never do that! I was way too terrified to even think straight! I was sure you were gonna start breaking arms at any moment!”
“Come on, Rowie! You should trust your girlfriend more than that! You know I’d never blatantly harm a civilian!”
“B-but they were saying all those horrible things! From all sides! I mean, didn’t that make you angry? Weren’t you scared?!”
“Of course not. It’s not like they had giant claws, sharp teeth, dangerous-looking weapons or destructive magic, right? If it’s just a bunch of misinformed people mouthing off at us, then that’s not scary at all.”
In the heat of the moment Rowana had forgotten completely about what Keira did for a living. She was an adventurer, and was taking part in the war. Compared to the horrors she confessed to have witnessed in that bloody siege, what happened back there was probably not even a blip on her radar.
“Besides, a bunch of them even apologized to us, didn’t they?”
“I’m still trying to wrap my head around that one.”
“It’s only natural, though. I mean… it’s probably just my silly opinion, but I honestly believe the people in this city are inherently good. Almost everyone I’ve met has been understanding and patient with an outsider like me. I have a life here because of them, and I am not the type of person that would betray their kindness by failing to resolve some silly misunderstanding!”
“Fufufu,” chuckled Rowana. “You really are quite shameless, aren’t you?”
“I’m not sure anyone but you can pull off an embarrassing speech like that.”
“Mwu! I was being serious!” complained Keira with a pout.
“I know, sweetie. That’s exactly why I think you’re amazing. But honestly, you should be at least a little suspicious of others. You remember how we met in the first place, right?”
“... Ack! I completely forgot about that bastard that groped me!”
“Well, it’s not like I disagree with what you said. Even if it’s idealistic, I love the part of you that sees the good in everyone. You even felt sorry for the casualties on the other side of this stupid war, didn’t you?”
“Yeah… I did…” said Keira with a sigh.
Rowana finally felt relief wash over her. She had been secretly worried her girlfriend might have lost herself in the war. And while she did suffer some deep scars, she had obviously managed to bounce back wonderfully with her heart still in the right place. If anything, she may have become a stronger person for it.
“They got off too easy,” she added.
“That Imperial trash deserved to suffer a lot more for what they did to me!” she said with a manic grin. “Died in an instant? Not enough! Next time I catch one of those pieces of shit I’ll be sure to thoroughly put my pain into their soul!”
It would seem that this side of Keira was doing great as well. The catgirl had always hated that nation, and with good reason, but the events of the past month seemed to have only amplified her grudge. And someone like Rowana, who led a comfortable life that was mostly free of worry, had no right to judge her. Nor did she intend to, for even that bloodthirsty grin she caught a glimpse of was, for better or for worse, still Keira.
Which is why rather than get angry, upset or scared, Rowana slowly wrapped her arms around Keira and embraced her tightly.
“Eh? Uhm, R-Rowie?”
“Shh. Just be quiet and stay still for a while.”
“... Well, if you insist,” answered the catgirl while returning the hug with closed eyes.
The two stood in silence as Rowana reconfirmed her feelings for Keira. The way the catgirl had boldly and proudly declared her love in front of the very people that wanted to condemn her for it was still fresh in the elf’s mind. Before she’d even realized it, that reserved, awkward girl had already become such a splendidly gallant person. She was also a scatterbrain, horrifyingly blunt, had difficulty reading the mood and had a number of other issues and faults, but none of that mattered. Even that murderous rage that lay buried within her didn’t phase her anymore. The elf had already accepted all of it into her heart, both the good and the bad.
And she wouldn’t have it any other way.
However, this rather special moment was rudely interrupted by a certain living box that had bumped into her leg.
“Hmm? What’s this, little guy? You want in on this too?” asked Rowana with a gleeful smile.
“Hehe, I think it feels left out.”
“Yip! Yip!” yelped Minic while bouncing about playfully.
“Fufufu, alright then!”
The elf bent over and picked the tiny monster up. She then held it between herself and Keira and the two of them hugged each other around it. The completely stupefied Minic had no idea what was going on, though. It had just been trying to catch a fly that was buzzing about when it was suddenly picked up. Well, not like it was against this particular situation. It wasn’t often that it managed to find itself wedged between two pairs of breasts. After all, where Boxxy would crave shiny and/or tasty things, Minic wanted to be smothered by fluffy and warm things. The fact that the combination of Rowana’s and Keira’s bosoms perfectly fit that description was just a coincidence.
In the end, the two lovebirds somehow or another managed to get back home by sunset. However, Boxxy soon realized that it had messed up, despite how well things were going. Or rather, it had messed up exactly because of that overtly fluffy atmosphere that appeared out of nowhere. As a result, Keira clinging to Rowana over the next 3 days was pretty much set in stone. If that was allowed to happen, then the Mimic would have a lot less freedom to act as it wanted. Especially since it was supposed to ‘rest up’ for the week. Leaving Snack in charge and sneaking off was possible, but risky. As capable as she was, having that succubus stand in for it for prolonged periods of time was not advisable.
And indeed, the entirety of the next day was spent socializing and goofing off. It then slept all night, and woke up the day after that feeling particularly grumpy due to a faint itching sensation in its teeth. It had been almost a week since Boxxy was able to literally sink its fangs into someone, and the current situation made it quite difficult to scratch them. This annoying sensation was only exasperated by the fact it also had to attend Faehorn’s funeral service.
The event itself was a private gathering of about two dozen people in total, all of them dressed in black. Otherwise the number of attendees would easily reach a thousand, as the old elf’s students, graduates and associates would undoubtedly fill the streets. In the end, the only ones that had shown up that morning were his closest friends and family. Much sobbing was had and condolences were passed around, which did not help Boxxy’s mood in the slightest. It really disliked acting like it was grieving someone.
The bereaved were gathered in the underground shrine to Mortimer that also doubled as a mausoleum. Faehorn’s niece gave a eulogy, after which a Priest in service to the God of Death performed the actual ceremony. Long-winded chants were chanted and numerous prayers were prayed while he sanctified the deceased’s ashes. As to why Faehorn’s body was cremated in the first place, it was apparently done according to his wishes, described in the will he wrote shortly before the siege at Fort Yimin started.
A fact that made the already annoyed Boxxy unintentionally grind Keira’s teeth. After all, the least that Ranger could’ve done after losing that expensive bow was to leave his body behind. But, as things stood, he would forever be ‘the one that got away.’ Rowana, who of course was there for the catgirl’s sake, noticed that out-of-place and seemingly unwarranted peeved-off behavior. Thankfully the Mimic was able to play it off with some cheesy line along the likes of ‘I’m angry at myself for not being strong enough’ and ‘I should have been there for him.’
After the Priest was done doing his thing, he led the others into a round of silent praying while Faehorn’s niece entered one of the many tunnels while carrying the fancy ceramic jar that held her uncle’s ashes. She enshrined them in a pride of place in her family’s crypt and returned to others.
That more or less marked the end of the service, and the attendees made their way back above ground. Most of them headed off towards the nearest pub to raise a final toast in honor of the late Milo Faehorn. Some, like Keira and Rowana, chose to avoid getting blackout drunk in the middle of the day and instead opted to simply go home.
“Excuse me, Keira? Could I trouble you for a short while?”
However, as they were about to depart, Faehorn’s niece - a lady by the name of Ariebelle - called out to them. The two had been briefly introduced when the catgirl offered her condolences earlier.
“Yes? Something you need help with?” answered the catgirl.
“In a manner of speaking. I just have something I need to discuss with you. In private.”
“I can’t bring Rowie?”
“Hm? Oh no, don’t mind me,” said the elf in question. “I have to head home and prepare lunch anyway, so take all the time you need.”
The two of them said their goodbyes, after which Ariebelle led Keira to the horse-drawn carriage that was waiting for her. They climbed in and sat opposite each other while the driver set off in a seemingly random direction.
“Now then,” said Ariebelle after straightening herself out. “I know this is sudden, but it’s my duty to see to uncle Milo’s last wishes.”
She reached into the small bag she had been carrying, pulled out a palm-sized wooden box covered in delicate carvings of flowers and handed it to Keira.
“What’s this?” asked the catgirl, not even trying to fake the confusion on her face.
“This is something my uncle bequeathed to you. It’s one of many a weird things he collected during his adventuring career.”
“Well… it is a pretty box, I suppose…”
Boxxy genuinely had no idea why it was given this thing. While it somewhat appreciated being given a miniature treasure chest, the fact that it was empty was more than a little odd.
“Kukukuku, you really are like that, aren’t you?” said Ariebelle with a light giggle.
“Kuku, you see, uncle spoke of you when I, um… last visited him. He complained fervently about one of his students. Apparently he had been assigned to dealing with this handful of a beastkin who was always messing up and taking things way too literally. She was always short of breath, regularly tardy and even managed to get herself lost on a straight road! Kukukuku!”
She giggled lightly at Keira’s expense while the catgirl went red like a beet.
“But you know,” she continued after a while, “even if he grumbled endlessly, it was still the happiest I had seen him in years.”
“Is that… so?”
“Indeed. Which is why I have no qualms about parting with the treasure in that box. Please, accept it with me and my late uncle’ sincerest gratitude.”
Congratulations, you are now a Level 25 Doppelganger! All Attributes +2.
Yes! Level Up - GET! shouted Boxxy inwardly. Freaking finally! Those last few Levels took forever! You’d think that- Wait, what did she say?!
Keira somewhat hesitantly opened the box in her hands, revealing a pink, square-cut gemstone. It was quite large at about 5 centimeters in height and width and roughly 1 centimeter thick.
“Quite dazzling, isn’t it?” said Ariebelle while gazing at it with a soft expression.
However, the catgirl didn’t respond. She was too busy staring at the sparkling gem with eyes wide open and mouth slightly agape, almost as if she were hypnotized by it.
“Uhm, miss Keira?”
“Hello? Are you okay?”
The elf leaned in and waved her hand in front of the stupefied Keira’s face.
“... Oh! S-sorry! It’s just… this is the first time I’m seeing something like this! It’s amazing!”
“I know. I’m quite fond of it myself.”
“Then you should-”
“Please, take it. I insist.”
No, I wasn’t going to give it back, you idiotic cow! I just wanted to know what this thing was made out of!
“Th-then I suppose I’ll gratefully accept it. Though, I wonder how come mister Faehorn left this for me. Is there something special about it?”
“To be frank, I don’t know either. Uncle never told me where or how he got it, and none of the Wizards, Scribes or Enchanters that examined it could tell me anything about it other than how remarkably un-magical it was. As far as I know it’s just a pretty rock uncle picked up somewhere.”
No, she was definitely mistaken. Well, not about that last bit, because this gem was so dazzling that Boxxy felt like it could almost taste the shininess. However, what managed to turn the creature momentarily speechless was something else entirely. While Keira’s eyes and fingers told the Mimic that this thing in its hands definitely existed, it was completely invisible to its MLG. Even trying to focus that magical perception on a single spot proved worthless. If Boxxy closed its eyes, then all it would see would be a square-shaped hole of nothingness where the jewel should be. It was the same surreal feeling it had whenever Edward was around. Were the two connected somehow? Or did they simply exhibit a similar effect?
Either way, Boxxy wasn’t going to find any of that out by obsessing over it here and now. It would probably play around with it later, but right now it had a much more pressing matter to consider.
Shiny - GET!
Even if it was irritating and annoying at first, this whole funeral business had turned out to be unexpectedly tasty. Surely this was proof that good things came to those who waited.
“Well, it still makes me happy,” concluded Keira. “I’ve always wanted something fancy like this! Thank you ever so much!”
“I’m glad you like it. I’m sure putting a smile on that face was exactly what uncle wanted to achieve with this little stunt. Now then, I should make amends for whisking you away from your companion so suddenly, no? Do you perchance need a lift?”
“Uhm, if it’s no trouble, then could you drop me off by the Central Consortium?”
Since Boxxy had an excuse to be away from Rowana right now, it decided to see if Reggie had sent word regarding his ‘little something-something.’
“Very well. Driver!”
The carriage they were riding on swiftly delivered Keira to the building that housed her guild. She and Ariebelle exchanged some parting words before the elf rode off into the city. The catgirl casually entered the CC building, climbed up to the second floor, headed towards the north wing and went into her guild’s headquarters through the security checkpoint.
Well, it may have been called a ‘security checkpoint,’ but it really didn’t look like one. It was just like any other guild’s foyer - a few counters staffed by pretty receptionists, several couches to seat visitors and some colorful flower pots and paintings to liven the place up a little. Of course, there were also the large double doors in the far corner of the room that had a pair of guards lined up on either side of them. Their posts were mostly decorative though. Only a lunatic would dare openly invade a building with 8 whole guilds in it. As such, those guards were mostly around to keep unauthorized personnel from wandering into places they shouldn’t be and keep visitors from stepping out of line, both figuratively and literally. This place was usually quite busy, so it wasn’t unthinkable for altercations to happen when people had to wait in line for almost an hour only to be turned away at the last moment due to a technicality or oversight.
At least, that’s what it was like before the war broke out. Pretty much all adventurers above Level 20 had been drafted for the war, so the only ones that remained were either trainees or special exceptions like Keira. The influx of Quests was also on a sharp decline since the various guilds were all short-handed. As such, the normally bustling entrance hall was eerily quiet. With nothing better to do, the two guards were currently seated around a coffee table and playing some game of dice. They greeted the newly arrived Keira with a nod of their heads, which she returned with a smile. The sole receptionist on duty - a young human girl with brown, braided hair wearing a standard issue Hidden Arrow uniform - noticed the catgirl’s appearance a few seconds later.
“Good day, Keira!” she said excitedly while waving at her. “I wasn’t expecting to see you back so soon!”
“Hey, Clara! How are things?”
“Mmmm, well… Bored out of my skull. Same as always.”
“Well, it’s nothing compared to what the others are going through out there… Anyway, is there something I can help you with?”
“Kind of. I was just dropping by to check a few reference books out of the library.”
Her words weren’t just an excuse to drop by nonchalantly to check if she got any messages from Reggie. Well, that was one of the reasons it came here, but Boxxy legitimately wanted to check on something. It realized yesterday that it knew next to nothing of the region it was being deployed to in 5 days’ time, other than it was a dense pine forest. The Mimic was quite curious as to what sort of monsters or animals could be found there, so it came here to gather information. After all, this was a good chance to obtain some tasty cross-species Skills, especially since it was in no danger of being saddled with yet another useless Job since it had no open slots for it.
“Oh, I see. Ever the studious one, aren’t you?” replied Clara.
“Of course! It’s only natural to be prepared when braving the wilderness! Uhm, speaking of which, do you happen to have any simple Quests you can give me?”
“... You’re supposed to be resting.”
“I am! It’s just that it’s been awhile since I got a chance to move around! And, uh, I’m worried I might grow rusty!”
“You’re bored too, aren’t you?”
“... Little bit.”
“Hahahahahaaa, told you so!” called out one of the guards from the side. “There’s no way someone as lively as the Merry Popper would sit still for a whole week! Wahahahaha!”
“Geh! That nickname already made it to the capital?!”
“Of course it did, girly,” said the other guard with a grin. “You shouldn’t underestimate the power of rumors! They spread faster than a Sonic Sparrow hopped up on mocha juice!”
“Well I think it’s kind of cute,” declared Clara, clearly ignorant of that monicker’s origins. “Though I’ll refrain from using it since Keira doesn’t like it. Since I’m not an asshole like you, Jahnes!”
“... Thanks for that,” muttered the pouting catgirl. “So, um… any Quests?”
“Hmmm, we’re only giving out mostly menial ones like deliveries, harvesting-”
“Hey Clara!” chimed in one of the guards. “Don’t forget about that personal request that arrived this morning!”
Keira’s ears perked up and she started hopping excitedly in one place at those words.
“Personal request?! I’ve never gotten one of those before!”
“Jahnes! I told you to keep quiet about that!” shouted Clara.
“Withholding stuff like that is a crime, you know! So is reading it, by the way. And don’t think I didn’t see you doing that earlier!”
“That’s exactly why I didn’t want her to see it!”
“Don’t care, I’m still going to report you. Unlike you, an ‘asshole’ like me doesn’t get to shirk his duties!’
“But surely you could’ve at least TRIED to keep quiet about it! I’m sure it will upset poor little Keira!”
“Uhm, I’m right here, you know.”
Boxxy’s irritation from this morning was rapidly returning. A Level was gained and a shiny was obtained, but the way this idiotic woman thought she could make that sort of call on Keira’s behalf really grinded the Mimic’s gears. It made a mental appointment to eat her pet dog at some point so she’d stop poking her damnable nose into other people’s business. And yes, Keira wasn’t technically a person, but that was besides the point.
“I know!” replied Clara in a huff. “I know- I’m sorry. It’s just that… Are you absolutely sure you want to read it? There’s no way this is a legitimate request in the first place!”
Of course she’d think that, the meddlesome moron simply didn’t know any better. It was highly likely that Reggie would have used some sort of code to obfuscate names, places or dates so that nosy busybodies wouldn’t catch wind of his scheme.
“Does it have my name on it?” asked Keira.
“Then I want to read it.”
“Now! … Please.”
Clara let out a deep sigh, rolled her eyes and walked off into the back room. She came back a minute later, holding an envelope she was apparently trying to hide. The seal was broken and the words ‘Keira Morgana - Hidden Arrow’ were clearly visible on one side of it. She pulled the Central Consortium’s official Quest Submission form out of it and handed it to Keira.
“Don’t say I didn’t warn you.”
The catgirl snatched the folded paper out of her hands and began reading it.
Submitter: Hugh Mungus
Address: At the other end of my giant cock
Quest Name: Becoming a cumdump
Description: Your virgin pussy needs to learn what it means to love and obey my dick
Approximate Difficulty: 8=====D~
Estimated Completion Time: 3 days straight
Due Date: 9 months
Reward: A minimum of 50 creampies, with a bonus of 25 more if you get pregnant.
Keira ripped the piece of paper in two, crumpled them into a ball and set it ablaze with her magical lighter. She waited a few seconds for the fire to completely envelop it, then threw it against the floor, stomped on it 5 or 6 times and even spit on it for good measure. She finished it off by kicking the smoldering pile of trash with all her might, scattering ash all over the place and leaving a very noticeable burn mark on the carpet.
The other three people in the room watched the whole thing transpire with their mouths agape. The only sound that could be heard was Keira’s ragged, furious breathing. Even Clara was unable to utter so much as an ‘I told you so.’ Once the enraged beastkin calmed down a bit, she turned to face the others with an angelic smile that seemed like the condensed form of all of the world’s innocence.
“Whoops, my hand slipped!”