High above the city of Azurvale, in the jungle-like environment that made up Ambrosia’s canopy directly beneath the star-filled night sky, there was a single shapeshifter. The monster, currently disguised as a middle-aged elven woman wrapped in thick furs, sat cross legged on top of the tallest and flattest branch around. The biting wind whistled and howled as it tossed both ice and snow around, but failed to actually reach the heavily clothed figure due to the thick, layered dome of stalker webbing around it.
Boxxy had a hunch this was the same place where it once performed the Ritual of Unholy Wealth, but it couldn’t be certain. All of the scorch marks from that time were healed up and the area was bathed in snow. Not only did it look the same as everywhere else, but it was also completely different from the last time it was up here. Yet it still felt somewhat confident this was the place, as there weren’t all that many good spots to perform demonic rituals.
Which, incidentally, was exactly what the monster was there to do, though a bare branch was ill-suited to its needs. That was why Boxxy had, with permission from Ambrosia, constructed a square two meter wide wooden platform out of a bunch of planks and nails. It had then drawn a six-pointed star on the flat surface using troll blood, with each point being punctuated by a demonic sigil. The Mimic itself sat in the middle of this macabre formation and was currently busy whispering mystic gibberish-sounding words.
As it approached the end of the chant, the demonic rune directly in front of it facing began to heat up, the blood evaporating off the wooden planks in a puff of rust-colored smoke. Boxxy produced a curved iron dagger from its cloak, which instantly soaked up the gaseous substance and took on a corroded and aged appearance despite it being brand new. The monster then held out its other hand and cut open its forearm with the empowered knife as it continued mumbling under its nose.
Copious amounts of dark red blood flowed freely from its open wound as the borderline black fluid was being forcibly pulled out by the supernatural forces the shapeshifter had summoned. It rose up and floated through the air until it splashed against the iron dagger and wrapped around it like a crimson sheath. Boxxy winced a bit at the un-tasty sensations involved, but did not fail to utter the last words necessary to complete the ritual.
“Dolor sit amet.”
At that moment, the blade in its hand let out a crumpling noise as blood and steel joined together to create a bright green lump of crystal that seemed to glow with a tiny spark within.
A special action has been performed. AGI -50.
You have created a Greater Quintessence of Agility.
Boxxy breathed heavily from the ordeal, the air from its lungs turning white the instant it made contact with the freezing air. This wasn’t the first time it had performed the Rite of Jul-Keshir, but it was impossible to get used used to having its strength and speed literally sucked out like that. It was just as tiring and unpleasant as it sounded, but it was necessary if it was to fight off the power creep symptoms without having to get rid of any of its Jobs or Skills. Those were far more valuable to its combat abilities than Attributes. This method would allow it to keep targeting monsters in an attempt to seize their abilities, so it was highly likely it would have to repeat it at a later date. It wasn’t a perfect solution though, as the Rite of Jul-Keshir could only be used on the six base Attributes - STR, AGI, DEX, END, INT and WIS.
Having recovered a bit from the ritual, the monster grasped the newly formed green crystal and carefully snapped it off the dagger’s handle. It had to be wary of unintentionally damaging them, as these Quintessences were quite a bit more brittle than one would expect from such a highly valuable and versatile crafting material. They could be ground into dust and distilled into a potion, fashioned into a gemstone and used to create magic items or be used as offerings in certain other rituals. They could also be eaten raw for a permanent Attribute boost, but that would only bestow a tenth of the amount that was used to create it. Hardly the best use of the item, to say the least.
As for Boxxy, it didn’t really have a use for this right now, so it casually placed it in its Storage before starting its climb down the Hylt tree. It left the ritual site intact mostly because it was a bother to tear it down and put it back together, and realistically speaking it was nigh-impossible for someone to randomly stumble upon it. This canopy was its own monster-infested ecosystem and its altitude amplified the frigid winter conditions to the point where even the Palace of the Crystal Maiden felt warm by comparison. In other words, it wasn’t the sort of place one went for leisurely walks.
When the monster returned to its pet dungeon, it immediately relocated itself to the hidden treasury. It took a long, prideful look at its ever-growing hoard of gold and jewels before going over to a mostly vacant spot. It reached down and put a hand on an enchanted steel treasure chest, albeit one so small it would be more accurate to call it a deposit box. Having recognized its owner by the unique signature of their mana, the safe-like container unlocked itself with a loud clicking noise and Boxxy opened the lid to reveal it was currently empty.
That wouldn’t last for long though, as the Mimic pulled four unrefined crystals from its Storage - a green, a yellow, a blue and a white one. These were the freshly made Greater Quintessences of Agility, Dexterity, Strength and Intelligence, respectively. It carefully placed them inside the lockbox and then sealed it back up, though this was not to deter thieves. The only way to access this space at all was through the dungeon core’s Nexus Access function, as entry through either physical or magical means had been blocked off. Therefore, the only threat to those precious items was, in a fit of mild irony, the one that made them.
The Mimic felt it was perhaps being a bit paranoid by going this far, but it really couldn’t risk them getting smashed up on accident. Not after it had poured a total of two hundred Attributes into them. It was by no means a minor investment, and the process was quite tiring. It was also a pain in the ass since the Rite of Jul-Keshir failed to activate within the dungeon’s confines, probably due to the ambient mana causing some sort of interference. So, having gone through all that trouble, it had decided locking them up in a strongbox was probably for the best, even if it only served to ease its peace of mind.
Perhaps this was what people meant when they said it was better to be ‘safe’ than sorry?
Unfortunately there was no way of telling if a sacrifice of ‘just’ two hundred Attributes was going to be enough to eliminate the power creep symptoms until some more time passed. It certainly didn’t seem like it was helping at this point in time, as the shapeshifter felt much worse right now than it did before starting the procedure. This was probably because of the literally physically draining nature of the ritual, so it felt confident it would recover with some rest. With that in mind it decided to retire to the Vessel of Dreams for the night and let Snack handle Keira’s night and morning duties.
That night Boxxy overslept once again as it failed to wake up until it was already around noon. When it actually got up, however, it immediately noticed the fatigue and lethargy it had been plagued with over the past week or so was no longer there. If anything, its body felt significantly lighter and positively bursting with energy, despite the fact that it was technically weaker than the day before. It wasn’t feeling quite at a hundred percent yet, but it decided to give its body a bit more time to recover before doing any more rituals. Not only because it didn’t wish to part with its Attributes unless absolutely necessary, but because it needed to remain as alert as possible during that evening’s proceedings.
For today was the date when one of the most significant events in the calendar of every civilized society took place - the new year’s celebration officially known as Aurora Eve. Even though every nation and culture had its own holidays to look forward to, this was the one day when the people of the world celebrated as one since time immemorial. The origins of the holiday were naturally shrouded in mystery, but legends said it marked the day when the enlightened first appeared on Terrania.
Unfortunately there was no solid evidence to suggest this was indeed the case. Just the contrary, actually. The year that was about to pass was 4,523 SE - short for ‘Since Enlightenment’ - yet the existence of primitive buildings, tools and weapons that were much older than that could not be denied. Whether they actually belonged to a civilization of people or were signs of an old, forgotten society of monsters was a topic that was both debatable and ultimately pointless. Even if it turned out that the holiday merely commemorated when some random ancestor started counting the passage of time on a whim, it wouldn’t matter in the slightest to the common folk. The date was so ingrained in people’s lives that the thought of changing it over a bunch of sharpened rocks and cave paintings was ridiculous to say the least.
The preparations for Aurora Eve therefore continued unhindered, as per usual. Even bandits and thieves were wary of doing anything during this season despite there being plenty of prime targets around. This was because there was an extremely widespread belief that anyone who dared harm their fellow enlightened on this sacred day would be met with a year of terrible misfortune. It seemed like a silly, baseless superstition at first, but it was such a commonly shared one that it was impossible to disregard it off-handedly.
After all, this world was home to a deity whose entire existence revolved around manipulating seemingly random events, meaning there was a non-zero chance that the ‘Aurora Hex’ was a very real thing.
When it came to the celebration itself, every household honored the passing year in their own way in accordance to their own traditions and customs. However, there were three things that no Aurora Eve could do without - good food, strong drink, and a generous amount of merriment. The prestigious Slyth family of Azurvale was no different, other than the fact that they threw rather exuberant amounts of gold at their parties. Well-known chefs, imported dwarven liquors and all sorts of games and performances were lined up to make the evening a truly momentous one.
However, such luxuries were not acquired simply for the benefit of one household, nor did they hold such extravagant parties every single year. The Slyths were but one of a number of affluent families in Azurvales, the unofficial nobles of the Republic. Each of these well-off bloodlines took turns hosting the big Aurora Eve party that all of them would attend every year. Which was why Rowana and Keira found themselves in a luxurious carriage while on their way to a strange place neither of them had been to before.
“Ugh, I wish I could spend today with just the two of us,” grumbled the catgirl with a pout as she stared out of the window.
“You and me both,” agreed the elf with a sigh. “Normally I’d be able to talk my parents out of dragging me into these pompous gatherings since I’m not all that important, but this year was a no-go.”
“What? Why not?”
“… I’ll give you three guesses,” said the elf with a rather accusatory glare.
“Right, stupid question.”
There was no way a socialite like Doris Slyth would pass up on taking advantage of Keira’s popularity, so she probably strong-armed her daughter into bringing both of them along. Which was something of a problem for Boxxy, as it had no idea how it was supposed to act in such a formal setting. Granted, neither did a teenage adventurer like Keira, but it wanted to avoid making a fool of itself if at all possible.
“Well, it’s not all bad,” said Rowana reassuringly. “You’ll at least get to finally meet my big brother.”
“Your brother? Oh yeah, he was studying alchemy and business out of town, wasn’t he? Is he back for the holiday?”
“Hah! ‘Holiday.’ Today’s just another day on the job for him. He’ll be too busy socializing with the big shots and making connections of his own to truly enjoy himself.”
“Money doesn’t rest, huh?”
“Yeah, something like that.”
“Speaking of which, I have a question about these dresses you picked out for us.”
“What’s with that dissatisfied tone? Didn’t you say it looked good on me?”
“No, it does, but that’s not the issue here.”
Rowana was wearing a pure white gown with a rather daring neckline. It covered the shoulders and arms in intricate floral-patterned lace, and a matching pair of leggings could be seen poking out from beneath the calf-length skirt. It was a fancy piece of clothing to be sure, but one made positively shiny by the countless flakes of Fool’s Diamond sewn into it. The synthetic gemstones made the garment flicker and sparkle with every movement, which Boxxy wasn’t about to complain about. Nevertheless, it had one very legitimate concern about it.
“It wasn’t me and you that paid for them, right?”
Keira had brought home a rather substantial sum of money from her latest adventure. It was something Boxxy had already written off as a necessary expense, but that wasn’t to say it wanted to see it wasted on such frivolous things. Even if the clothes were shiny, they were far too impractical to warrant the hefty price tag that most likely accompanied them.
“Of course not, don’t be silly. It’s not like we can afford something like this on my pharmacist’s salary and your adventuring income. Just think of them as gifts from my mother and father.”
“Really? Then how come mine is… like this?”
Keira’s dress was a bright red one, though it wasn’t made to sparkle like Rowana’s since the fabric was a bit too thin to let that happen. Not being shiny wasn’t the issue though. It was the fact that the outfit itself was, to put things mildly, rather scandalous. It covered up her stomach and breasts, but her sides, shoulders, arms and collar were left completely bare. The slightly tight skirt of it was so short that it didn’t even reach her knees, yet the genius that designed it still added a slit on the right side.
And that wasn’t even the most eye catching part. The dress was backless to the extreme, revealing the entirety of Keira’s back all the way down to the base of her tail, just above her rump. Any lower than that and the catgirl probably ran the risk of being arrested for indecent exposure. Especially since a single glance would put the presence of undergarments into serious doubt.
In short, it was the sort of thing one would expect to see on a succubus rather than a law-abiding citizen.
“I’m pretty sure neither of your parents would buy me something like this,” she added.
“They may have paid for it, but I was the one that picked it out for you,” stated Rowana calmly.
“And you’re sure there were no… I don’t know, more decent ones?”
“There were some, but they were not nearly fashionable enough for this sort of party. That’s what happens if you wait until the last moment to pick out an Aurora Eve dress - you end up with clothes only insa- extremely bold people would wear.”
“Uh-huh. So you just so happen to find one that fits me perfectly at the last minute?”
“Don’t be silly, of course it fits. It’s a magic item, after all. How else do you think it stays on even when there are no straps to keep it in place?”
“No, I’ve seen how the Well Fitted enchantment works, and this definitely isn’t the same. This dress fits me so well that I can’t help but feel it was made for me specifically. With my measurements. Even though I’ve only ever gone to a tailor twice, and you were with me both times.”
“Ahah. Is, uh, is that so?”
The elf tried to act dumb, but crumbled quite quickly under Keira’s accusatory stare.
“… Oh, alright! Truth be told I had this made months ago, but then you suddenly got that you-know-what on your back so I couldn’t bear to bring it up! But then I saw that the thing was completely healed so I sort of… went for it.”
Technically speaking there was still a bit of the soulstone left, but it had diminished so much that Boxxy was able to conceal it by covering it with a layer of skin without making it look weird.
“You ‘sort of went for it?’ You do realize people will think I’m a slut if I go out in public in such clothing.”
Panic dawned on the elf’s face and beads of cold sweat started running down her forehead. It didn’t take a genius to figure out she was looking forward to seeing her girlfriend in that amazing dress so much that she neglected to take third parties into account. She had originally intended to have Keira wear it in a far more intimate setting, but it was far too late to do anything about it now.
“Then again, there are already a bunch of dangerous rumors floating around about me so being called a loose woman might actually be an improvement…”
“Ah. Ahah. Hah…”
A strangely awkward silence descended upon the cabin as Keira returned to staring absentmindedly out of the window. Rowana wasn’t sure if it was her place to speak up since her own selfishness might have caused some trouble for her girlfriend, but the more she stared at her, the less guilty she felt. After all, Keira looked incredibly stunning tonight. It wasn’t just the extravagant mini-dress. The fact that she had agreed to have her previously untamed hair styled into a straight bob cut made her look like a completely different person. She exuded such a refined sense of beauty that it boggled the mind to think she was the same person that choked on and subsequently spit out a lump of meat because she was talking too much while eating her lunch.
“Rowie. You’re drooling.”
“Ack! Crap, sorry,” said the elf as she wiped her saliva off her chin. “You just look so terrifyingly beautiful that I couldn’t help but stare.”
“Well, at least try to keep from getting wet until we get back home.”
“I fear it may be a bit too late for that,” she confessed with a slight blush.
“… Your dress, Rowie. I meant your dress.”
Another, round of awkward silence overcame the carriage. Thankfully it didn’t last long, as the vehicle reached its destination less than a minute later. The driver opened the door and helped both ladies off while shielding them from the cold winds with a Climate Baton, a magic item that was essentially an umbrella on steroids. The two ladies linked arms and proceeded down the stone path while the driver escorted them in order to maintain the bubble of warm air around them.
“Since when did you get so good at walking in high heels?” asked the elf.
“Since your mother made me practice while we stayed at her place for a few weeks,” explained Keira.
“Huh. That’s unexpected. I mean, you were pretty vocal about how uncomfortable they were last time.”
“That hasn’t changed. I still think they’re terrible footwear. I’m actually of half a mind to take them off and go barefoot.”
“Please don’t do that. They look so cute on you.”
“… Alright, I won’t. Only because you asked nicely, though.”
The extravagant mansion the pair were headed towards this evening was the house of Bryric, an influential family of rich elves. They weren’t merchants or alchemists like the Slyths, but a line of landlords that started out as adventurers. Their aptitude for real estate was made obvious by the fact that they had a house this damn big on ground level rather than on a street-sized Hylt branch. Acquiring so much land on actual soil was harder than one might think when it came to a place like Azurvale.
Once the pair had reached the front gates, they were greeted by a sharply dressed butler who guided them to the main hall where the event was taking place. When they stood before the grand double doors, however, the two were asked to wait a moment while the staff prepared for the introduction.
“… Introduction?” whispered Keira nervously.
“Just smile and wave, sweetie,” she replied. “Just smile and wave.”
The massive doors then flew open to reveal exactly what one might expect from such a high-profile gathering. The decor was needlessly fancy, what with the art lining the walls and the chandeliers heavy with magical lights. About a hundred or so important-looking men and women in expensive clothes were having polite conversation over cocktails while a dozen servants darted up and down the place carrying trays and plates. There was even a stage with a band performing a soft, calming tune that just barely overpowered the general murmur.
Yet all of that buzzing about seemed to come to a screeching halt when those two entered the ballroom.
“Now announcing,” shouted the porter loudly and clearly, “the Hero of Chaos, Keira Morgana, and her partner, miss Rowana Slyth.”
The elf, who was still linked at the elbow with the catgirl, gave her lover a light tug to make her walk under the accompaniment of total silence. Even the band had stopped to stare at the two. Boxxy was, just as it had expected, quite unsure of what to do. It had studied up on formal elven etiquette somewhat, but it wasn’t sure what the proper response to this sort of situation was. Not having many other options, it ended up following Rowana’s advice and had Keira wave lightly at the crowd while putting on her best smile.
The guests immediately stopped gawking when they saw that and, as if on cue, went back to whatever it was they were doing as though nothing had happened. There were a few who lightly applauded the catgirl’s entrance, but other than that her introduction to high society was more or less over. Rowana flashed her girlfriend a small, cheerful nod to reassure her and the two were then escorted over to their table, where the Mr and Mrs Slyth were waiting for them. Both were wearing clothes the color of fresh snow just like the eldest daughter, which was probably a tradition of sorts.
“Well!” exclaimed Samulus, the current head of the family. “I must say I’ve never seen an entrance quite like that.”
“What?” asked Keira as she took her seat next to his wife. “Did I do something wrong?”
“It’s not something you did,” answered Doris with a chuckle, “it’s what you’re wearing.”
“… It’s too much, isn’t it?”
“If anything I’d say it’s too little,” said Samulus while taking a sip from the champagne in his glass. “Not even Doris would be bold enough to show up in something like that, and she once fought off a wyvern in nothing but her-”
“What my husband is trying to say,” interjected the wife with a strict tone, “is that it caught us by surprise. Well, I suppose that’s only to be expected of the Hero of Chaos, but frankly speaking I already knew my daughter had ordered a rather… creative garment. I just didn’t expect you to actually wear it.”
“I didn’t have much of a choice,” replied Keira as nodded sideways towards Rowana. “A certain someone insisted this was the only fancy dress left in town.”
“She probably wasn’t wrong, demand really gets ridiculous every time Aurora Eve rolls around,” noted the husband. “The Ularics and their ‘special line of winter outfits’ made a killing by waiting until the last moment to sell their stuff. They do that every damn time.”
“That’s because their products are low quality,” came a voice from behind Keira and Rowana. “The only way they’d make any real money off of those shabby clothes is by waiting until the last moment when the prices are at their highest. It’s borderline fraud, if you ask me.”
The one who had spoken just now was an male elf, who by the look of things was Rowana’s older brother. He had the same platinum blonde hair and green eyes as her, and he looked to be around her age. His face was quite handsome and well groomed, and his relatively short hair was pulled back in a short ponytail. He was also wearing a pure white suit similar to his father’s.
“Elias Slyth,” he introduced himself with a polite bow. “A pleasure to finally meet you, miss Morgana.”
“Ah, yes. Likewise. You can call me Keira, by the way!”
“I will take you up on that offer, then.”
Elias then took his seat at the table and the four family members began chatting mostly amongst themselves. They made small talk about inconsequential stuff relating to Rowana’s day job, Doris’s hobbies or Samulus and Elias going on about the family business. As for Keira, she didn’t get much of a chance to speak up, though she did make an effort to get more familiar with the heir to the family business. He seemed to be quite the serious and hard-working type, an attitude which he supposedly inherited from his father. Just like his sister had guessed, his mind had been too preoccupied making connections to truly enjoying the party.
Actually, Boxxy wanted in on that action as well as it was important to get to know influential people besides the Slyths. However, they’d probably try to use Keira’s popularity as much as Rowana’s mother did, so it was better to start off small, as it were. To that end the catgirl asked that Elias introduce her to any other affluent adventurers that were in attendance. Unfortunately it seemed like the most of the big shots had gone to a different party - the same one as Imiryl, Hilda and Lichter were currently at - so she was the only adventurer around. It made sense, in a way, as people in Keira’s line of work were typically ill-suited to this sort of posh gathering. There were a few rich kids who went on ‘adventures,’ though they were mostly just playing around rather than treating it as a way of life.
“Still, you made quite the impact earlier,” said Elias with a grin. “I think this is the first time I saw Mr and Mrs Bryric stare slack jawed at someone. It was quite amusing.”
“Yeah, well, they’re not the only ones. Rowie here hasn’t stopped leering at me ever since we left the house.”
“I do not leer!” protested the woman in question.
“Then explain the drool on your chin.”
Elias let out a light-hearted laugh while his sister awkwardly wiped her face with a napkin.
“Dear oh me, Samulus,” stated Doris in mock surprise. “I do believe our son is actually having fun. Next thing you know the sun will rise from the north!”
“Well, they say miracles happen on Aurora Eve, after all,” said the husband with a light chuckle.
“Say, Elias, I’ve been wondering about something.”
“Ahah! Ahem! Sorry about that. What is it Keira?”
“You seem a lot more accepting of my relationship with Rowie than her dad was.”
“Oh, that? I was pretty sure guys weren’t her type since way back, so I wasn’t too bothered when I heard the news.”
“Wait, what? Really?” asked Rowana, wide-eyed.
“Of course. I like to think I knew you best when we were growing up, so there’s no way I wouldn’t notice something was… off. I think it was those constant sleepovers at the Stocktons’ place that were the biggest giveaway.”
“… Come to think of it, the Stockton girl was quite attractive, wasn’t she?” asked Samulus while rubbing his chin. “I mean, I didn’t think much of it back then, but I didn’t know-”
“Dad!” protested the daughter. “Please don’t read too much into this!”
“The Stocktons are old friends of me and your mother so I feel like we deserve to know if… you know. You fancied her.”
“Being homosexual doesn’t exclude me from having female friends, dad. Just because Viessa was pretty didn’t mean I thought of her that way.”
Keira, who had been momentarily distracted by a passing gentleman with a mouth full of solid gold teeth, suddenly turned her head around when she heard that name.
“Viessa? Isn’t that the ‘Vi’ girl that took Rowie’s virginity?”
The table went deathly quiet at the catgirl’s utterance of the v-word. It made everyone present more than a little uncomfortable. Especially the family’s only daughter, who was currently hiding her beet-red face in her palms out of shame.
“Rowana,” called out Samulus in a stern voice.
“Oh hey that’s a good song I’m gonna dance and we can talk about this never!”
She let out a quick barrage of words that sounded like the world’s flimsiest excuse and essentially ran away by dragging her girlfriend along by the shoulder.
“What was that about?!” she complained in a shout-whisper once the two were out of earshot. “I told you to keep that a secret!”
“You also told me I had no other choice but to wear this dress,” replied the catgirl in a serious tone.
“You what?! You said that to get back at me?!”
“I get mad sometimes too, you know.”
Rowana’s willingness to protest Keira’s actions suddenly disappeared. She was usually the one getting angry at the catgirl, so this reversal was a rather sour pill to swallow.
“I’m sorry, sweetie. I guess I earned that.”
“It’s fine so long as you understand.”
“However, that means the dress is now paid for in full, right?”
The elf raised her hands and started waving her fingers around in a slightly unbecoming manner.
“I can enjoy leering at you to my heart’s content, right?!”
“Rowie, your eyes are a bit scary,” mumbled Keira as she pulled back slightly.
“Anyway, jokes aside,” stated Rowana as she put her hands down, “that dress is definitely staying on when we get home later tonight.”
“W-well, if you insist. I just hope it’s stain resistant…”
“Anyway! Shall we go have that dance now?”
The pair didn’t actually made it to the dance floor, though, as they managed to bump into a familiar face on the way there.
“Good evening Keira, miss Slyth. Both of you look stunning tonight.”
“Oh hey Nao! Didn’t expect to see you here!” replied the catgirl.
“A pleasure to see you again, mister Shoki,” responded the elf.
The Hero of Magic was wearing royal blue robe embroidered with gold and a solid black shirt underneath. It was definitely fancier than his regular outfit, but wasn’t anywhere near as extravagant as one would expect from such a high profile place.
“Where’s your bodyguard?” asked Keira while looking around. “Oh wait, nevermind. I see him.”
It was rather impossible not to see Kuro and his off-white military uniform loitering around the buffet table now that the redhead was actively looking for him. In fact, it was rather surprising she didn’t spot him earlier considering he stood out like a sore thumb that was on fire. He wasn’t exactly shirking his responsibilities though, as his eyes were darting all over the place as he sized up each and every guest as if they were potential threats.
“I know this might sound rude, but may I borrow Keira for a few minutes?” asked Nao while trying really hard not to stare at the catgirl. “I have some Hero stuff I need to speak to her about. Away from prying eyes and ears.”
The elf looked like she wasn’t completely okay with it since she very much wanted to dance. In the end she decided not to protest since her girlfriend had an obvious look of ‘I should go’ about her, but didn’t want to let her off without a little parting gift.
“Yeah, okay, you can go,” she agreed. “However-”
The elf delivered an open-palmed slap to Keira’s butt, causing a high-pitched yelp of surprise to escape the younger woman’s lips.
“-don’t keep me waiting,” she whispered while lightly groping her sensitive behind.
The elf then slinked off to hide from the rest of her family while the pair of red-faced beastkin went off towards one of the ballroom’s side entrances. Having noticed the two of them were on the move, Kuro began making his way over as if it were the most natural thing in the world.
“What’s going on, Nao?” asked the younger not-really-a-beastkin as they moved through the crowd. “Bad news?”
“No, no, everything’s fine,” he replied quickly. “Better than fine, actually.”
“Then why not just tell me?”
“It’s not something I can explain in a few words.”
“Sure it is. You’re a clever guy, so you can definitely give me something to work with.”
Nao stopped in his tracks and looked around while nervously scratching the base of his canine ear. Once he seemed satisfied nobody seemed close enough to overhear them, he leaned in began whispering.
“It’s about that mithril dagger you loaned me. Something rather unexpected happened to it while I was working on it.”
The Hero of Magic took another few glances at his surroundings before resuming with a smile so goofy it made him seem like a little kid.
“It became an Artifact!”