Why Kill? When Witches Can Be Tentacled!
Deep in the forest, brush and leaves rustled as heavy footsteps sounded across the area. Intermittent cries, both human and beast, echoed from there. But then, a bright plume of fire zoomed past the trees. Moments later, an agonizing howl erupted before slowly dying down.
With a heavy exhale in relief, Maribell walked over to the monster, a giant horned rabbit. It laid sprawled on the ground, still on fire and lightly twitching. The pelt of one such monster could be quite useful for trade, as the furs of various beasts were commonly used for clothing. However, that fire spell that Maribell used had charred it beyond recovery.
While it was a shame to pass on the extra coins she would pick up for it, the real prize couldn’t be melted with a flame of that level. Her eyes turned toward the horn upon its head. Made of a hardy material that emitted lightning, these horned rabbits could shock its hunter if one was not careful. Since the magic was contained within that horn, she simply had to cut it out and store it in a pouch with insulated lining.
With a few swipes of her hunting knife, another one was tossed into the bag she was carrying.
“Good. That makes twenty. I should be able to fetch a good price for these. Enough for a good week or two’s journey.”
She left the smoldering carcass and headed back to the campsite, where her travel companion awaited. As she approached a small campfire, the sight of a jellyfish clothed in an apron shuffled around while holding onto skewers of meat.
Seeing a jellyfish casually conduct a roast with flames coming from his mouth was already a bizarre experience. But as he noticed Maribell and turned around, the front of the apron spelled out, “I Jell with Onee-san!”
Apparently, Snazzy had taken the liberty of using some of her linen to craft an apron for himself, complete with that embroidery. How a jellyfish was able to do that was certainly the question.
“Mwahaha! Don’t underestimate the capabilities of a cosplay hobbyist! Slapping together a funny costume to spice up my livestreams was a normal routine. A simple apron is a piece of cake!”
That aside, Snazzy nearly crossed the line when he handed her a matching apron that read, “The Hots for Snazzy!” He had even added a cartoonish fire symbol to it. Maribell, of course, grabbed it and shoved it back into her pile of linens, much to his disappointment.
“I see… Burnt down… Poof!” He comically motioned an explosion with his feelers to express his rejection.
While Maribell was completing her task of hunting for monster materials to sell, Snazzy was hard at work making lunch. As weird as he insisted on being, the little troublemaker was quite handy.
Those tendrils each independently carved off the meat, diced it into pieces, and then, served it up on skewers. It was like watching a mesmerizing sequence of tasks handed off to each tendril in perfect rhythm. A line of workers, each with a dedicated task. How on earth could Snazzy process all that at the same time?
Probably, he would come up with some kind of excuse that it had been necessary for that streaming business that he often talked about or whatnot. The more he dropped tidbits about it, the more surreal Maribell’s understanding of it became.
Regardless, that was not the point. Snazzy could be quite useful when he put his mind to something… if you could handle the unnecessary extras.
“Lunch is served! Rabbit, gently roasted via fire breath. And grilled veggies, charred at a 45 degree angle for your viewing pleasure.”
As Maribell dug into the food, she couldn’t help but wonder about the pointlessness of Snazzy’s efforts sometimes. What meaning could that possibly add to simply roasted stalks of carrots and chards? It was almost a waste of mental power to attempt to understand him at times.
Nevertheless, Snazzy was a bundle of head-scratching statements and peculiar tastes. Maribell was starting to get used to letting it go over her head. Otherwise, there would be no end to the questions.
They had been traveling for several days now. And as Snazzy had promised, he behaved himself when it came to the normal routine. Aside from the little hobbies that he dabbled in to keep him amused, he was a suitable familiar as a companion. But as expected, blessed beasts normally were.
Along the way, he couldn’t help but continue to play with fire. It seemed like he had permanently gained that ability after absorbing so much magic from Maribell. That was quite useful if they encountered several monsters. Finally, there was some use for Snazzy running his mouth other than simple chatter. His magic was surprisingly about the same as her own. But that was all he could do with it. He couldn’t call upon the more complex spellcraft. No columns of inferno nor seas of flames. Just simple, plain fireballs that exploded after some distance.
There was also that magic boost that he bestowed onto her when he got excited. While the first time was due to Snazzy getting physically stimulated, he had apparently done so with a heated argument also. Perhaps, it just took any kind of strong emotion to bring that forth.
“Hey, Onee-san. What’s up?” Snazzy called out to her.
Maribell shook her head. She had been lost in her thoughts, a skewer dangling for some time in front of her mouth.
“Nothing. Just thinking of what a strange creature you are.”
“Being called strange is a badge of honor where I come from. We plow forward in all of our glorious strangeness. Take that, you normies!” Snazzy brought up two skewers in a fighting position, before relaxing with a hearty laugh.
“Truly, you take such pride in being different. It almost makes me jealous that I can’t hold that same attitude.” Maribell gave him a smile. There was yet to be a boring moment since he had arrived, as sad as it was to admit.
“You’ll get there. I’ll pave the way!... Speaking of different, I had a thought.” Snazzy changed tones suddenly. “Got any other magic that you could fling my way? I get the feeling that if I absorb something else, then I’ll be even more capable in a fight.”
Maribell pondered for a moment, ignoring how he could change his voice on the fly. The only other magic that she had learned besides fire was healing spells. But that would hardly be much use for Snazzy. The jellyfish’s pepped-up aura was already pretty special, healing most of the wounds that she incurred in Grosling. That made it rather pointless to absorb healing spells will such an ability.
“Unfortunately, fire magic is all I have that can be used for attacking.” But as Maribell said that, she recalled the rabbit horns in her pouch. It wouldn’t hurt to try it.
“Ah, wait. How about these?” She opened her pouch and was careful to hold it by the base, where the material had a natural coating that kept her from getting shocked.
But Snazzy reached over with his feelers and yanked it from her hand before she could explain.
“Y-Y-Y-Y-Yahh-he-hi-hooooo!!!” he yodeled like a man in the Alps.
As expected, lightning coursed through Snazzy’s body, lighting him up like a magic streetlamp. His bulb-like head made for quite the dazzling fit for one. After several moments, the horn fell from his grip. It would likely take a while for the horn to accumulate enough mana from the environment; this auto generation made it useful as a material. Snazzy fell to the ground and deflated.
But then, his tendrils rose, lifting the body with it. Lightning crackled between his tentacles as Snazzy cackled in delight.
“I. Am. ALIVE!” he shouted.
“Of course, you’re alive. The lightning from a horn is hardly enough to kill a person. It just immobilizes them,” Maribell said flatly.
“You know, that’s not the point. I was just-, never mind. Let’s test this out.” Snazzy jabbed a tentacle at Maribell, causing a sharp sting to her arm. The shock caused her arm to pop back in reflex, but it didn’t cause any injury.
“Ow! Warn me before you do that!” She complained.
“Warn me before I do something stupid.” He shot back.
Snazzy went around poking at various things with his electrified tentacles. Sadly, there was not much response. The largest reaction he got was when he stuck them into a nearby pond, which scared all the fish away. He had hoped that it would make fishing easier, but even that was denied.
And even when he painfully gritted through being electrocuted by several more horns, it didn’t seem like his lightning touch got any stronger. But at the very least, he could turn it on and off at will, so it had been enough to acquire an annoying zap that he could use to annoy people. Like building up static to scare a hapless victim.
“That’s sad. Almost as sad as when I found out that jellyfish didn’t emit electricity. My parents tricked me!” Snazzy had been misled his entire elementary school days on that point. And turning into a jellyfish had doubly confirmed that fact. But now, he could safely say that he now living that lie!
“Looks like I’ll need a stronger lighting source! 10,000 volts! 100,000 volts! Hit me with that Thunder!” Snazzy did a rain dance to call upon the forces of nature, before chuckling as he twiddled the tips of his tentacles. However, the blank expression and upturned smile on his face looked far from the devilish thoughts that were on his mind.
Maribell could hear them quite clearly though, which made her shiver. It would be a while before she felt comfortable with him behind her.
After eating, they packed up and got ready to leave. It was only another hour or so until they reached the City of Adelton. Perhaps, the locals would have some gossip to tell. But regardless, Maribell had to turn in those horns in her possession. They wouldn’t sell themselves, so she had no choice but to take them to a market.
With Snazzy on her shoulder, they exited the forest and found a path leading to civilization.
Soon enough, the walls that protected their next destination was in sight. Maribell had passed through here many times before, but it was a beautiful hub where many cultures mixed. Her steps slowed as they approached though, enough so that Snazzy turned to her and patted her head with a tendril. He was nice enough not to zap her just yet.
“No, it’s nothing. Just some regrets left behind.”
“Well, I’m all… jellyfish don’t have ears, do they? Just tentacles.”
“You can hear me just fine, can you not?” Maribell smirked. But then, she told Snazzy what was on her mind.
Before she possessed the Grimoire of Lies, she had been part of a guild party that traveled together and performed jobs. That party made their home in Adelton. Since she was returning here after months, there was a good chance that she could run into them. The slight tremble in her voice made it obvious that she was not looking forward to seeing them again.
“Just to make sure, I’d like to stay in the quiet areas where few people wander. I doubt that they’d have any business in those places. You’ll keep me safe, won’t you, Snazzy?”
“Aye aye, Onee-san! Protecting lovely ladies is my code of chivalry!”
“Oh, is it now? Keep an eye peeled though. I doubt even you can talk down some of the thugs that roam around there.” She petted Snazzy on the head.
With that out of the way, they approached the checkpoint leading into the city. Adelton was surrounded by a moat in which only two entrances could be used to enter. Each required passage over a long bridge leading up to a guarding station.
Two guards there checked their bags, questioned them on their business, and jotted down the details. Maribell wasn’t sure how long they would stay. Likely, they would leave once they ran out of any leads on possible Witches. Of course, Snazzy butted in to chat away on some points, claiming that they were here to sample all sorts of cuisines. That was to distract the guards away from Maribell, using his natural charisma to take control of the conversation.
“That’s right. You’ll find delicacies from the Kingdom of Oerburt, and all the way from the Dominion of the Beastkin… And lemme tell ya, there’s some tasty morsels if you know where to find them.” One guard bent forward and whispered that last sentence to him.
Maribell thought Snazzy’s tendrils perked up for a moment, but it could have been her imagination. As she sighed in relief that the inspection had been cleared with some verbal interjection by Snazzy, the two passed on through the checkpoint. However, before she could take several steps forward, a grunt of surprise, laced with amusement, sounded out about twenty paces ahead.
Maribell immediately froze as her eyes caught the sight of another guard, who had been loitering there. His gaze looked different than those she normally encountered.
“Wait, that earring. I sense the power of darkness from it. You, you’re a Witch. Disguising yourself as a proud magician. How shameful!”
The clank of swords unsheathing rang an ominous tune. They had been found out.