Chapter 23:

A Witch’s Soft Spot

Why Kill? When Witches Can Be Tentacled!

The hidden village of Salutis was created from nothing after Seraphina first escaped from persecution. Having destroyed the place that was once her home, she wandered aimlessly through the woods until she came upon the giant tree called Yggdrasil. Aside from being a bountiful well of mana, she could find a certain warmth within the tree limbs that was lost when her family and friends were killed.

After several days, alone and fending off hunger with nearby edible plants, Seraphina had no choice but to explore around to find supplies. She acted discreetly at first, casting a forbidden spell upon people to distract themselves as she raided their belongings.

Having read the Grimoire of Lust cover to cover, Seraphina wouldn’t hesitate to employ any trick that would keep her safe. She merely ignored the adults acting upon their desires as she walked by, waking up later with little recollection of what had happened.

Through these raids, Seraphina soon gathered a collection of personal belongings, enough to build her own shelter, maintain a supply of sustenance, and live out her days away from the horrors of humankind.

But on a certain raid two years later, her eyes happened upon another girl being dragged into the streets, separated from parents who were then killed on the spot. The image of her bawling over the corpses overlapped with her own memories.

Something inside of Seraphina snapped. Right away, she flung a sharp blade of wind, beheading the ones closest to the girl, nearly the same age as when it happened to her. Launching several more at the surprised soldiers and magicians, Seraphina was using the ambush to her advantage.

Quickly scooping up the distraught girl in her arms, Seraphina tossed her over the shoulder and glided away with a wind-propelled leap. After they made a certain distance from the town and the adrenaline in her subsided, Seraphina realized.

If she hadn’t been there, who knew what atrocities would happen to the girl?

Seraphina herself had only been saved by her Grimoire of Lust, but a Witch wasn’t born every time. There was no one to come to the aid of girls like the one she had just saved.

Gently, Seraphina set her on the ground. “Little girl, what is your name?”

Among the sniffles and hiccuping, she could just barely make out, “Pinoa.” Giving Pinoa a hug, Seraphina vowed that she would take care of those who were prosecuted as potential Witches. Even if the kingdom took everything else away, they wouldn’t enslave children like her. She would make sure of it.

Years passed by. Dozens of raids were done upon carriages and forts where they kept girls hostage who could use magic. And each time, Seraphina would slay them all with a grin on her face, just to save the ones imprisoned. Her cries of delight were a herald of salvation. Her softened gaze at first glance became the new family they needed.

In Seraphina’s mind, a deep bitterness grew. How could it be humanly possible to treat their own kind with such loathing?

And then she began to question. Who were the true demons? Surely not the little girls who were being blamed with no fault of their own. And perhaps, not even the Witches that attacked the Kingdom of Roswalia many years ago. Who knew what lies the kingdom resorted to, simply to cover up their actions? That was certainly the case when it came to families that were scrubbed from existence and people threatened to turn a blind eye.

Maybe the Witches were in the right all along!

But there was nothing she could do about it until others rallied around her. She took every girl that she could find that displayed powers into her home, waiting to see if any of them turned into a Witch. She cared for and loved them, all in hopes that bonds would be formed strong enough to overcome the outside world.

Seraphina stared at the village, where her children gathered. They flooded the branching roots as they spilled out of their homes, eager to greet their savior. There were times that she wondered whether taking them elsewhere wouldn’t have been wiser, but surely, a large group would attract the entire kingdom’s army. They were safe while they hid in this forest that was bountiful with mana. All the while, they could grow into allies to confront this dreaded world.

“Big sis, Sera! Welcome home!” they all cried as they waved. The sight of them all nearly brought tears to her eyes each time. This was the only place she could relax and somewhat return to a life prior to all the hatred and death she faced.

Maribell noticed the dramatic change in Seraphina’s personality as the Witch of Orphans ran up to several of the young girls and scooped them up for a hug. Many of them weren’t even ten years of age. And as Maribell looked around, girls in their teens stood there with a smile. She was surprised as the numbers kept growing, until nearly a hundred popped in front of them.

Truly, Seraphina’s nickname was not to be taken lightly.

“OH MY GOD! This is moe paradise!” Snazzy whizzed by, tugging along the wagon. The three girls riding it squealed in glee of their new playmate.

Maribell got a sudden chill from that statement. Surely, Snazzy didn’t have devious intentions towards such innocent children, did he? All she could tell from his thoughts were the strange phrases, “Save the lolis!” and “Moe Moe Kyun!”

Maribell felt like she needed an otherworld translator to interpret what crazed thoughts were in his mind. Whatever they meant, it irked her somehow. But at the same time, a certain level of trust for him was there, just muted occasionally.

“See, do you not feel sympathy for the darlings? Each one, stripped away from the lives that they once knew. Do you not feel the urge to protect them from the vile people of this kingdom?!” Somehow, Seraphina was on the same wavelength as Snazzy.

Their arms came together like they were shaking hands to a deal of mutual benefit. At this rate, it seemed like the two would be working together, regardless of what Maribell wanted!

“Hold it, you two! I have things that I want to ask about Witches and all! Let’s not forget about that!” Maribell tugged Snazzy away from Seraphina, handing him over to some kids, who were reaching out like they were accepting a stuffed animal. “You go play nicely with them, alright?” Maribell gave him the evil eye just to make sure he got what she implied by that.

“If you feel that worried about our strong little Demon Lord,” Seraphina clapped her hands above her head, “then I shall have my dear Pinoa look after him.”

A cute girl with short, bobbed green hair walked up to Seraphina with a smile. This girl named Pinoa appeared to be the oldest out of the children.

“Yes, Miss Sera.” She leaned over and gave Seraphina a peck on the cheek before leading the children away with Snazzy.

That left Seraphina with a mildly disturbed Maribell, who had experienced her advances firsthand.

“What? She’s the first one I saved, so we grew attached.” Seraphina covered a giggle with her hand. “But don’t worry, she’s still pure. An innocent child fawning over her savior.”

Maribell felt unconvinced by that. “Do you expect me to believe that after what you did to me?”

“Oh, but you’re an adult like me. Sullied, deceitful, blood on your hands. You have a scent unlike their pure innocence. And a girl like me with plenty of troubles gets a little pent up out here. What’s a little more mud when you’re already in a pit of depravity?”

Maribell didn’t like the seductive tone in Seraphina’s voice. Regardless, she tried to ignore it. “Anyways! I want to talk! Only that! There is much I don’t understand about being a Witch. I had hoped for some guidance.”

“Ah, in that case. Let’s go someplace more… relaxing. I’m sure you could use a break after all that fighting.” As Seraphina walked gracefully away, Maribell could detect a hint of playfulness in her voice. It didn’t seem like she had given up just yet.

Sure enough, Maribell was led to an open bath. Tucked under an alcove where water collected, the water was warmed up with magic and made into a bathing spot for the entire village.

Since it didn’t seem like Seraphina would unseal her lips unless she joined in, Maribell quickly stripped and sank into the waist-high water until it went up to her neck. Finding someplace a good distance away from her admirer, she sat in silence for a few moments waiting for an answer. The water was undoubtedly soothing to her body, so she didn’t mind this brief calm before getting down to business.

“So, what questions do you have for me? And don’t go about asking if you can somehow separate yourself from your grimoire, because that isn’t going to happen,” Seraphina said, finally ready to talk.

Maribell’s hopes were dashed. She had tried everything she could think of to leave the thing behind – tossing it in lake, roasting the book itself, slipping it into the hands of another – but it always re-attached itself to her. The weight of the earring only lifted when the Grimoire of Lies was awakened in her hands. And if she tried to part with it, a tug of her ear would happen almost immediately after.

Seraphina had also wondered about that as well, since her grimoire took the form of an ornament that bunched up the tips of her long hair. Trimming her locks to see what would happen, the grimoire simply warped to where her hair ended instead.

“Sadly, the only way to give it up is to perish. But then, you’d just be sending it off to another lucky girl. By why would you ever want to do that?” Seraphina chuckled evilly.

Compared to Maribell, who didn’t feel right using the dark magic, Seraphina fully embraced it. She had to. It was a matter of survival for her.

“It’s forbidden magic-“

“Forbidden? Forbidden by who?” Seraphina interrupted. “The rulers of this kingdom? The heroes of olden times who built up the world after the supposed Demon Lord wrecked it? Please, they are just infidels who are afraid of its power.”

“But, but it does terrible things, I-I’ve done terrible things.” Maribell explained what had happened between her and the other members of Trifecta. If she hadn’t used that forbidden magic, perhaps their relationship wouldn’t have fractured.

“Listen, cutie pie. That’s just human nature. They are toxic. We are toxic. So what if a little spell tipped the balance? We are stuck with this label of being a Witch. Live with it. Use your powers. Otherwise, what meaning does it have for us to have them?” Seraphina rose from her place in the water and walked over to Maribell, not bothering to cover up.

“And now, there’s someone here with us, as told in our tomes, that is in a position to lead the way. I want to believe in Snazzy. I want to grab onto that string of hope that he is something special that will lead us to a better future. I have nothing else – not this world and its petty grudges – but this grimoire that has kept me safe. That much I can believe in, for our sake and for the children playing outside.”

Seraphina held the awakened grimoire in her hand and showed her the page again that talked of the Demon Lord before continuing.

“What about you? You’ve been with him longer. Even if you have to offer up your body and soul to him, hasn’t he done quite the number of favors? I can tell. There’s some connection between the two of you. I don’t need Witch powers to know that you feel something special. So, what is it?”

“I would answer you if weren’t copping a feel on me!” Maribell swatted away the hand that was stealthy brushing against her thigh before covering herself with her arms. She turned away in annoyance, but Seraphina’s question still weighed upon her mind.

Certainly, it was not long ago when she offered herself up to Snazzy, just to see what he would do. The circumstances were different then, but what about now? Would offering herself to him make him stronger, and in turn, allow for him to spread his power to the others?

“I, for one, will offer it to him. My magic, my body, and my loyalty. I wonder… what kind of connection will he make with me?” A finger traced the tip of Seraphina’s tongue. The feeling of being empowered was like a drug to her. She couldn’t wait to taste what it felt like to gain the Demon Lord’s Veil, the name that she came up with for Snazzy’s magic boost.

Seeing Seraphina gaze off with a dreamy expression, Maribell felt the urge not to be left behind. She stood up from the waters suddenly.

“That’s-, I too am-”

Maribell never got to finish her sentence, as suddenly, a loud rumble echoed from outside. She stood up and readied her magic in preparation for what was approaching.

But then, Seraphina remembered. “Ah, it’s bathtime.”

A flood of children swarmed into the bathing area, casting their clothing aside before jumping into the warm waters. Maribell stared blankly at the crowd, until she caught sight of a blue blob that was hanging on one girl’s head.

Snazzy was clinging on for dear life, only finding out the group’s destination as they entered the area. With a splash, he was bucked off and fell into the water around the giggling children.

As he floated back to the surface face up, the sounds of a terribly made-up chant of purity bellowed from him. His eyes were shut in an attempt to make good on his gentlemanly ways.

“Om~! Mind flows like the river! Om~! Like water, it is clear! Om~!”

Maribell sighed and fished him out of the water. Holding him against her chest, she slipped out of the water and grabbed her clothes to exit.

“Om~! Body is soft like the clouds! Om~! The feeling of marshmel- Ack! Om! Om! Om~!”

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