Chapter 11:

The White Witch

Why Kill? When Witches Can Be Tentacled!

The next morning, the three men of Conundrum showed up as promised. They led Snazzy out of Adelton and due west. Maribell trailed behind them, keeping a fair distance and out of sight. It seemed rather careless for the men to tackle a Witch without an able magician, but she could only chalk it up to their own stupidity.

After about an hour, they reached the edge of the forest, still chattering absentmindedly along the way. However, the chilly atmosphere spoke volumes of difference as the voices suddenly tapered to whispers. A low fog hung between the trees, making it difficult to see very far.

“The last sighting was around here. In the Yawning Forest. Been through here quite a few times chasing that rumor, but we keep getting lost in that fog. Since those rumors of a Witch poked up, can’t see past our own hands in there.”

Snazzy could see why. An unnatural occurrence – normal people would chalk it up to something strange passing by. And what easier thing to do than to pin the cause on a Witch trying to hide? It was no wonder that homing skills would be welcome here. While Snazzy had just fibbed about that to trick the men, it was exactly the thing they were hoping for, so they jumped at the opportunity.

“So… anything yet?” one of the three asked.

“Nope, my Witch senses aren’t tingling. Guess we’ll have to dive further in!” Snazzy replied, holding his tentacles out like dowsing rods. Of course, that was all an act. Now that they showed him where to go, he would ditch them in the fog and head back to Onee-san. While he wanted to give them a good electric kick in the pants too, that was probably risky out here by his lonesome.

Since the fog continued to get thicker and thicker, it was getting hard to see even as the Conundrum men uncomfortably clung behind him. Tired of seeing the endless white, Snazzy puffed out some fire from his mouth. The heat from it cleared up the moisture in the air, making the fog recede.

“Yay, aren’t you glad that I’m a magical jellyfish?!” Now, Snazzy and the gang could see through the trees. If that worked for him, Onee-san would have no trouble keeping up!

After walking forward for around fifteen minutes, an eerie voice echoed in the distance. It instantly caused the four of them to freeze up. Snazzy heard the clink of weapons being drawn. The three members of Conundrum got into position. A spear, an axe, and a two-handed broadsword were held in front of the men’s bodies as they stood back to back in a triangle. Their eyes scanned the surroundings for any movement through the fog.

“Which way, sea creature?!” one of them whispered, putting his hopes on Snazzy, who look around furiously. Since it had all been an act, Snazzy wasn’t sure what to do, now that something actually was nearby. Should he reveal the truth and run away? Or should he continue to lie and pick a random direction?

He didn’t get the chance to choose as the voice echoed around them again, this time more distinct.

“Who treads upon this forest? Leave now, or face the wrath of the White Witch!”

Fear set upon their legs, just like the previous times. With no way of seeing their target, their imaginations ran wild as to guessing how powerful a Witch would be. The strength of a Witch was difficult to gauge, as Witches were always female magicians possessing unique abilities. They had bolted away in fear as soon as the first touch of cold tapped them on the shoulders, regardless if it had been real or not.

But this time, they had more visibility. And a blessed beast that could spew fire. If there was any moment not to run, then it would be this fight.

At the very least, they were facing her four-to-one. They believed that their formation was tight, enough to handle any attack coming their way. But still, the atmosphere made them jumpy and high-strung in response to every crack of branches underfoot, every crinkle of leaves, and every shape that emerged from the whiteness.

In truth, the men were foolish to challenge such an opponent, being only Silver Rank. But they let the prospect of money get to them. The Priesthood always rewarded Witch slayers handsomely if they managed to retrieve the grimoire as evidence of their hunt. Snazzy felt just a bit of pity for them, as he, too, understood the allure of the sexy beastkin. But only just a tad. Enough not to abandon them to their fate and return to Onee-san.

The surroundings felt awfully cool as they continued to whip around in fear of the hidden Witch. But as Snazzy turned to check on the others, he noticed that they were puffing out condensation from their breaths.

Snazzy himself couldn’t feel the temperature difference, as he was rather toasty with the fire stored in his head. But the men were shivering against the gradually chilling surroundings. The fog was quickly crystalizing into flakes that clung to their bodies.

Snazzy quickly turned up the heat by blowing fire in a ring around the men, keeping the cold at bay. They nodded to him in appreciation.

“Yo, let’s get out of here! We ain’t equipped to tackle this!” one of the men, the spear wielder Sidney, suddenly got cold feet.

The man with the axe, Manchin, growled at him, bickering that they were already here. He didn’t think that they would be allowed to simply leave anyway as this was the closest that they had come to meeting her.

The last man, Garold, swung his mighty sword to shake off the icicles. “We’ll be fine with our blessed beast friend keeping us warm. She’ll have no choice but to come to us if we continue to camp here.”

But just as he said that, a splash of magic showered over him. It looked like a pail of water had been dumped upon the man, but then, the liquid froze as it came into contact with his body. It turned white like a heavy snow that continued to crawl across the rest of him, binding his movements.

Garold could barely scream as it had almost instantly covered half his face, with the rest disappearing in the white that was spreading. In less than ten seconds, Garold became a solid white statue, frozen in the cold landscape. His body had been left in a guarded position, his sword held in front of his face like a counterstrike waiting to happen.

The other two men screamed, now willing to run away. But the noise they made attracted the Witch’s attention, and soon, two more flashes of white blanketed over them. Snazzy held his breath as Sidney and Manchin also become ice statues, frozen mid-run as they tried to escape.

You know, the loudest ones tend to get popped first in horror movies…

Given that, Snazzy decided to stay quiet, hoping that Onee-san would catch up soon. Even if he was frozen, he still had his fire. There was no turning into a jellyfish-cicle for him! Hopefully, this Witch would see eye-to-eye with Maribell, but maybe, she would need some convincing.

Time to pull out the ol’ Snazzy charm! Maybe she’ll think I’m cute and let me squish against her also.

That was wishful thinking, but Snazzy was rarely anything but positive. But then again, he had the ability to absorb magic, so he was a bit more prepared to face this Witch than these bozos were.

Drifting in place around the frozen bodies, he waited for the moment that she would come check on them. Sure enough, a figure in a white cloak slowly parted through the fog. Though Snazzy couldn’t see her face under the hood, she no doubt saw him as her steps paused for a split second. Enough to tell him that he had caught her attention.

Snazzy put on his best smile and waved. “I’m not a bad jellyfish! E-heh~!”

But his smile grew a bit stiff as the White Witch brought up her arm, and a swirl of white liquid flowed from her upturned palm like a mini whirlwind.

“A blessed beast, all the way out here? Hunting Witches along with these humans, I presume?”

The voice under the cloak sounded young, like a girl of similar age as Maribell. But he couldn’t be too sure of that. After all, voice actresses in anime sounded ageless.

“Haha, you see. I was just using these guys to get in touch with you. I mean, your voice sounds pretty dy-no-mite! I’m sure that you’ve got a bombshell of a body underneath all that!”

When in doubt, compliment like Hell! Grovel! Put the other person on a pedestal!

That was the philosophy of Japanese culture when it came to currying favor for someone. Snazzy prayed that it would hold in this world, too!

“And? Why would you do that?”

Snazzy could detect a hint of curiosity in her voice. If he had a heart, he was sure that it would be pounding with the words, “Go-G-Go-G-Go-Go-GO!”, right about now to proceed with his instincts.

“Because I have decided to be a protector of the lovely Witches of this world! That is the mission that I have sworn to uphold!” Snazzy crossed a tentacle over his body, like he was swearing upon his imaginary heart, while saluting with another. Hopefully, his actions displayed a sense of sincerity toward his objectives. It would be nice if fellow Witches got along. Then, he could pretend to be in a harem with them.

“I see… then, I’ll have to kill you!”

That was not what I expected! A tremor of fear struck Snazzy.

The White Witch raised her arm before tossing the swirling white mass toward him. He wondered if he would really just absorb whatever magic this was, or if it had been too late to come up with a Plan B.

He didn’t get the chance to find out as someone dashed right in front of him, holding her arm out and creating a shield of fire around them. The bright glare caused Snazzy to look away in pain since he didn’t have any eyelids. But as he turned back, the familiar back of Maribell was there. She had cast the fire to cancel out the icy magic that was thrown.

With a sweep of her hand, flames erupted at her feet, before spreading radially outward for quite some distance. The ring of fire evaporated any residual moisture as the circle grew larger and larger, not stopping until the fog had parted a good distance around them.

Snazzy could clearly see for tens of meters around him now. Unfortunately, the three men from before were still frozen statues. Locked in a stance, as if ready to duel, each Witch’s magic of choice danced upon extended palms aimed at each other.

“Drop the act, Cassandra. I know that it’s you under that cloak. I had a feeling that it was you as soon as I stepped foot into this forest.” Maribell called out to the White Witch.

Snazzy stared in surprise at his Onee-san, who had just called out to the other Witch with a sense of familiarity. But from her tone, it didn’t seem like a friendly connection. A rival? A complicated relationship? Surely, he hoped that one of the Witches wasn’t like a sworn enemy or something.

“Hey, Onee-san. You know this Witch lady?” Snazzy drifted closer to them and asked.

Maribell shook her head. “She is no Witch. This was all a trap! Created by those who have been out to get me!”

The White Witch that was not really a Witch pulled back her hood, revealing light blue hair, tied in a ponytail. A similar shade of eyes stared at Maribell with a look of disgust and hatred. Unclipping the front of the hood, she let the garment fall to the ground. In a similar style as Maribell, she wore a pink blouse and a short, purple skirt.

However, the most noticeable thing to Snazzy was how the blouse seemed to be baggy in the front, a sign of an underdeveloped chest. The vivid colors gave off a certain cuteness that hid the slim figure she possessed. However, that cuteness didn’t extend to her face, which currently scowled at Maribell.

The somewhat matching styles of the garments bothered Snazzy. It seemed a little too coincidental, like they had gone shopping together once upon a time. But in the next moment, Maribell told him exactly why that was the case.

“Nice to see you too,” she said sarcastically. “It’s been six months since I’ve left Trifecta. Ever since the two of you tried to kill me after acquiring the grimoire. I take it that you and Clive are here to finish off the job?”

There was no White Witch in reality. That had been a plan hatched by her former companions to lure her back and end her life with their own hands.
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