Why Kill? When Witches Can Be Tentacled!
In a city as big as Adelton, home to roughly 20,000, the two best places to find information quick were the local branch of the adventurer’s guild or the shadiest taverns that one could find.
An adventurer’s guild was a definite no. Members of the Priesthood often passed close by, making the possibility of Maribell’s grimoire being discovered quite high. Even disregarding their detection capabilities, there was another reason that Maribell avoided it.
She had been part of a three-man team known as Trifecta. They had chosen such a name as each member of their party was crucial to the whole, regardless of who was strongest. And indeed, they had come a long way as adventurers, earning Silver Rank within two years of their formation.
It took newbies roughly six months to comfortably discard their Iron Rank for Bronze. And then another year for Bronze to Copper. And finally, twice that for Silver. Led by a nimble swordsman and two gifted magicians, Trifecta had essentially cut their progression time in half.
But with Maribell turning into a Witch, there was no way for the team to stay together. She wanted to avoid any chances of bumping into her once-friends turned enemies. Even travel companions who strove together to succeed meant nothing when it came to Witches.
“Let’s follow the trails of watering holes,” Maribell said as she walked down the stairs of the inn.
Snazzy trailed behind, yawning from the early morning sun that trickled through the windows high above that let light pour in. He had never been an early riser. Sure, a few days here and there, he could manage. But longer than that, the bags under his beady eyes started to form dark impressions.
What he needed most was coffee. But such a thing didn’t exist in this world!
How the frick can a society survive without coffee?! Sleeping on the grass, cooking by bonfire, taking a dunk in a cold washtub in place of a shower – forget all that! No coffee is truly roughing it!
Seeing Snazzy lag behind as his tendrils dragged on every step, Maribell reached over and picked him up. With a brush of her hand on top of his head, a warm glow radiated from it, making Snazzy feel like a heat pack had just landed there. It was accompanied by the scent of a flowery garden, with hints of Chamomile putting him right back to sleep.
Snazzy’s body toppled over and right on top of Maribell’s chest. Feeling the sudden texture of a fluffy pillow, he couldn’t help but roll his face into it, prompting Maribell to go “Ah!” in surprise at the gesture.
“Keep it in the rooms or get out of here. Those kinds of fetishes stay behind locked doors, ya hear!”
The attendant shot them a stony glare, which made Maribell blush instantly when she figured out what he meant. There was no doubt that her vocals had filtered down here, not long after she had gone up to her room.
“Hmm? What’s going on?” Snazzy interrupted, feeling suddenly more refreshed as he popped up. He had been touched with a soothing healing spell which wiped away his lethargy. Scanning between the grumpy attendant who avoided his gaze and a red-faced Maribell, a snicker erupted from his lips as he floated out the door.
“Y-You could have at least said something! Anything to deny what he was thinking!” Maribell nearly shouted at Snazzy, after she rushed out of the inn to follow after him.
Continuing to float aimlessly forward, Snazzy said, “Would it even matter? He already has the impression of your preferences. And most likely, the rest of the guests as well.”
“Exactly what we should do if you want to keep a low profile, Onee-san. Tell me, how are those people on your left reacting when you look in their direction?”
Maribell turned her head, seeing two guys in dirty, crumpled outfits. As soon as she turned their way, they both cast their gazes aside, with a disgusted expression on their faces. It was like she was some wretched thing that they wouldn’t touch with a three-meter pole! A quick examine of their thoughts proved her fears.
“Yep, the rumors spread quick, it seems. When we passed by this area yesterday, the men were staring at you with devious expressions. Probably wondered if they could take advantage of a random magician waltzing into their territory unchaperoned.” Snazzy sighed. “Of course, they would discount the jellyfish.”
Granted, Snazzy was barely fifteen centimeters wide and not quite as tall. While his tentacles could extend more than a meter out, they normally dangled close to his body. Still, he was no stuffed animal… though he wouldn’t mind being carried across Maribell’s chest like one.
“So, you decided to make me a pervert?!” Maribell hissed as she caught up to Snazzy again.
“Hey, being a pervert is useful sometimes. People leave you alone! When used on the right audience, it can clear a room!” Snazzy confidently exclaimed with two tentacles crossed against the front of him.
“That is NOT what I meant by keeping a low profile.” A noticeably pissed off Maribell snatched Snazzy up and tucked him under her arm, stomping toward the nearest tavern.
“Wait, unhand me! I don’t have a thing for armpits!”
While hardly anyone came to the taverns for drinking so early in the day, there was still a purpose in visiting them right away. Even if the normal adventurers and information brokers usually visited in the evenings, there were still the workers, who were every bit as nosy as the rest of them.
Particularly since the work was light in the mornings as the place was getting prepared, the workers had a bit more time to spare for chitchatting, especially if you slipped them a coin or two.
Before the morning ended, the pair had passed by four large taverns, each of them pointing to one particular place if they wanted the most up-to-date information possible.
Given that hardly anyone wanted to be involved with Witches, good sources of information about them were scarce. The workers had all mentioned The Scratched Glass, a pub that was situated on the edge of the Adelton Commons, where they were presently at. But Maribell flinched each time she was told so, causing her to go to four places before giving up.
After the fourth one, Snazzy felt that something was up. Tapping Maribell on the shoulder, he asked, “What gives? Shouldn’t we just head there already?”
“The thing is…,” Maribell bit her lip, “that’s a bar meant for the beastkin. Hardly any human goes there… unless they are asking for trouble.”
“So what? We need info, right?”
“You make it sound easy. Don’t you think it will be strange for a lone human to just waltz into a beastkin bar and ask for information? That’s just painting a big target asking them to abduct me!”
Apparently, the beastkin that lived in the Kingdom of Rhylimer weren’t looked upon too kindly. Most of them were merchants and hired guards who carried about the riskier trade deals between countries. However, there were enough of them in Adelton that a small cluster on the city’s edge was home to a tight-knit community. But that meant that making an enemy of one would make enemies of them all.
But Snazzy shrugged at the explanation. “So what, I’m a jellyfish. Ain’t that beast enough?”
Maribell froze at that question. She had gotten so used to Snazzy that he felt too human at times. But that could have been the fact that no jellyfish could ever act like him. Her perception of reality felt like it was slowly chipping away with all the strange things going on.
The blank expression on Maribell’s face made it obvious that she had forgotten that point. Snazzy let out a hearty laugh.
“I guess it’s up to me to saunter in and warm up the crowd for your eventual entrance. Fine, I’ll put them in such a good mood that they won’t care one bit that a human wants a tiny favor.”
They waited until it was nearing evening to make their way to The Scratched Glass. As they passed into beastkin territory, the presence of many eyes suddenly homed in on them. Snazzy continued to trot merrily, not a care in the world. But Maribell shivered from the sudden attention, hearing voices in the distance that questioned their approach. She kept her guard up in case she needed to run or use magic.
Snazzy stopped just before the pub, sticking out his tentacles and giving a motion to hand something over.
“Bar tab funds, please.”
Maribell handed him a small pouch of coins. Snazzy peered inside and then extended it back to her.
“Bribery funds, please.”
“I’m half joking, but it probably wouldn’t hurt to have a little extra, for the little unexpected things.” Snazzy cutely bopped his head with a tentacle and stuck out his tongue. Hesitantly, Maribell dropped in a few silver coins. Since they had stopped by the market and sold the rabbit horns before coming here, she had a good supply of them.
She watched as Snazzy disappeared through the front door of the pub. Now left alone, the eerie emptiness and the hushed whispers made her tap her foot in anxiety.
But not even a minute had passed when the door swung open with a bang, and a pepped up, glowing Snazzy charged out of it!
“WHOAAAAA!!! WHOAAAAA!!!” Snazzy dashed in circles, his tendrils acting like long legs carrying him across the ground.
“Snazzy! What’s wrong?! What happened in there?!” Maribell yelled out with worry. Now was not the time to act discreet. Not that she could with him shouting.
“ONEE-SAN!!! There are bunny girls! And cat girls! And all sorts of animal girls! What is this place?! Is it not HEAVEN?!”
By now, Snazzy was making such a commotion that there wasn’t a single beastkin resident that didn’t pop their heads out in wonder. All this was happening as Maribell’s jaw simply dropped.
“ANGELS! Angels, I say! That gradation between fur and skin, those characteristically large ears, the twitch of a tail independent of a butt shake! The real thing surpasses the shoddy imitations donned by cosplayers!”
Maribell was hearing words, but none of them connected to anything intelligible for her. However, a slight bitterness hung in the pit of her stomach. His actions were clearly because he had encountered some beastkin floozy that had riled him up!
Jealous? I’m not jealous! I simply want to chuck something at his ridiculousness!
She grabbed the first thing she had on hand and flung it at Snazzy. By some chance, it landed right in his path, sticking into the bulb-like head and lodging itself there. It had been her hunting knife.
With a shrill cry, Snazzy crashed to the ground. Weakly lifting a tentacle up toward the pub, Snazzy croaked out, “Animal Onee-sans, Banzai~” before plopping flat on the ground.
Maribell covered her face with her palm, wondering what would even happen next.
Luckily for Snazzy, the knife had simply torn through a skin-like patch on his head. It had missed his vitals. But then again, what were even considered vitals for a jellyfish in the first place?
Snazzy had been set on fire, electrocuted, slashed and punched so far. But each time, whatever damage simply regenerated. Though it did drain his stamina, some food and rest seemed to do the trick.
“Another round, ladies!” Snazzy lifted up his glass as he clinked it with a few others. He sank back on the soft couch, in between two bunny girl beastkin twins in skimpy outfits. Their rose-tinted hair fell upon his head as they snuggled up to him. Aside from the ears and tail, there was little else to distinguish them from a human.
“Beastkin girls, BANZAI!” Snazzy cheered as he slammed back another glass of beer, letting out a satisfied burp.
“Haven’t you already recovered enough?” a stony voice in front of him interrupted. Maribell sat there, looking exhausted. Her eyes darted all across the place, which looked more like a room where nobility entertained guests. The furnishings and atmosphere were lavish and sensual. Quite different from any bar Maribell had in mind. But then again, a place such as this sprung up for the sake of wealthy merchants. Money universally equated to power.
Apparently, Snazzy’s blatant display of beastkin appreciation had amused the girls in the pub greatly. Now, they were happily doting upon the blessed beast, at the expense of Maribell’s funds.
“Nope! I don’t understand you humans! Being afraid of such lovely creatures.” Snazzy was obviously teasing Maribell, and all of this world’s humankind for treating such people with disdain. In his mind, thiccness wasn’t bound solely to the all-human form. He had a healthy appreciation for nearly anything that had the right curves.
He wrapped his tentacles around the figures of the twin bunny girls, bringing them closer. Their chests pressed on either side of his face, which was frozen in a wide grin.
After enjoying himself for ten minutes, the two bunny girls’ ears perked up, and they separated from Snazzy.
“Madame Jacoux is ready to attend to you,” they said, getting up and walking toward the backroom. Standing on either side of the entryway, they gestured for Maribell and Snazzy to enter.
Popping up from his place on the couch, Snazzy noticed the freshly consumed liquid sloshing in his head. He probably had a bit too much to drink.
Come to think of it, how do I metabolize alcohol without a liver?
Not that he understood how strange his body was compared to a normal jellyfish, but the liquid seemed to settle rather poorly. Seeing that he had difficulty floating, Maribell sighed and tucked him under her arm again.“Gah! Armpits!”