Chapter 3:

Like Herding Cats

The Society for the Study of Otherworldly Visual Culture

"So, we all agree that we should postpone the acquisition of the Minor Herbs and the Mandrake root and focus on the hard-to-get items first?" asked Kiiro.

No one in the room disagreed.

"Fine," said Kiiro. "That leaves the other three ingredients. We could try our luck on the market, but it is not very likely that those things are in stock, and even if they are, our budget is a bit tight at the moment."

"I think we should get the King Toadstool first," I said. "That should only be a glorified fetch quest in the local marshes. Even Midoriya and I should be able to pull our weight there and contribute to the success of the mission."

"Sounds good to me," said Kiiro. "Any objections?"

"Yes, I don't like the marshes," said Murasakino. "I pretty much only use water-based spells, and most of the things there are resistant to it. Let's go after the Vampire Bats first."

"Fine," said Kiiro. "Let's vote on it."

Kiiro, Aoi, Aka, Midoriya, and I voted to get the King Toadstool first.

Orenji and Murasakino were against it but got outvoted.


A day later, all six regular members of 'The Society for the Study of Otherworldly Visual Culture' and I made our way through the Skyward Marshes in search of a King Toadstool.

There was only one thing our merry group of fools had not taken into account: The King Toad mating season was in full swing.


We had split into two groups, one to the left and one to the right.

I walked through the sticky mud, dragging my feet with every heavy step while trying to fend off the King Toads that had attacked our group.

Aoi, Aka, Kiiro, and I held our own so far.

The other group was not as resilient.

"Ah! It's dark! And slimy! Get me out!" the damp screams of a half-swallowed Orenji emanated from the mouth of a cyan-colored King Toad.

"'I refuse,'" said Midoriya, who was grouped up with Orenji and Murasakino to guard the left side, running for his dear life from another red King Toad.

"'My Bro is dead. He's gone. But he's right there on my back and here in my heart. He lives on as a part of me!' And his sacrifice shall not be in vain!" swore a crying Murasakino.

"Traitors! Imbeciles! I am not dead just yet! Get me out of here!" screamed Orenji, whom the cyan-colored King Toad had swallowed up to his feet by now.

Meanwhile, to the right, Aoi, Kiiro, and I were holding off three King Toads while Aka was busy chanting an intricate incantation:

"I am the fiber of my strings. Hemp is my body, and wax is my blood. I have created over a thousand knots, Unknown to shame, Nor known to virtue. Have withstood pain to create many bindings. Yet those hands will never squeeze anything. So, as I prey - Unlimited Rope Works."

A myriad of small portals appeared all over the swamp, with ropes appearing from every single one, zeroing in on the various King Toads, even those not yet involved in our skirmish, binding them tight, stopping any form of movement.

"I call it: Frogtied. How do you like it?" asked a proud Aka, gleaming with self-satisfaction.

"You know, 'thanks to you, I changed a little.' But not in a good way," sighed Kiiro.

"I am win. Deal with it," proclaimed Aka.

Orenji, freed from the King Toad's mouth but still covered in toad drool, walked toward Murasakino and Midoriya. "Why the hell didn't you help me? Aka pretty much saved our collective asses on her own."

"Skill issue," said Aka. "But this wouldn't have worked out without good crowd control. The incantation is way too long for a regular battle."

"I told everyone that my water spells are pretty much ineffective against those toads," said Murasakino, "and Midoriya is a freshman and not used to real combat yet. So relax a bit, will you?"

"Oh, shut up, you weren't the one almost digested," complained Orenji.

"Everybody, calm down," said Kiiro. "Maybe we should rearrange the teams for the next hunt. But for now, let's split up. One group continues looking for a King Toadstool, while the other collects the legs of the King Toads that Aka defeated."

"They should fetch a good price in town," Kiiro continued. "Maybe enough to buy the other ingredients from the money we can make selling them. That way, we won't have to deal with the Vampire Bats nor the Lesser Dragon."

"Murasakino, Midoriya, and I will search for and collect the King Toadstool," said Orenji. "I've had enough of those toads for the rest of my life. Seriously, why didn't you help me earlier?"

"'Blame it on the misfortune of your birth,'" said Murasakino.

"I blame it on the misfortune of your birth!" retorted Orenji.


After collecting the King Toadstool, as well as the legs and some other parts of the King Toads, our group was back in Skyward Reach, the city surrounding Skyward Academy.

Selling the materials gained from the King Toads brought in a good chunk of coins, far more than necessary to get the Minor Herbs and the Root of a Mandrake, and even enough to get a Vial of Vampire Bat's Blood or maybe even the Horn of a Lesser Dragon, with enough haggling.

Unfortunately, none of the vendors had either of the latter two in stock nor expected a delivery in the near future, leaving us no choice but to acquire the ingredients on our own.


We gathered back at the clubroom in the evening after finishing our respective market excursions.

"Well, to be honest, this was to be expected," said Kiiro. "So, what's our next target? A Vampire Bat, or a Lesser Dragon?"

"I vote for the Vampire Bats," said Aka. "They are very social creatures, dwelling deep within caves during the day, but if we are careful, we might be able to catch one alone, and we only need a bit of its blood."

"I am for the Vampire Bats too," I said. "I am not really ready to face a Dragon, and I don't think Aoi and Midoriya are either."

"Anyone against tackling the Vampire Bats first?" asked Kiiro.


"Great. But this time we should make sure to first talk about possible strategies and prepare a plan of action based on our spells and the environment we are about to face," said Kiiro.

Steward McOy
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