Luka's Story 2: Ancestors

BY : Ditmag
Category: +M through R > Monster Girl Quest
Dragon prints: 399
Disclaimer: Monster Girl Quest is the property of Tortorro Resistance. I make no money off this project.

I guess it could have been a lot worse.

Being cleaned by a crab girl isn’t the worst thing in the world. In fact, it’s pretty awesome. I just get… triggered by it. There are a lot of things about my journey one year ago that I’ve gotten over. There are some things that I still have nightmares about. There are still others that used to bother me but no longer do because I’ve had therapy of various types. Some professional, some informal. But I’ve never quite gotten over that time on the beach where I nearly got washed to death. I don’t blame Cindy, the crab girl in question. She was just doing what she was born to do and hadn’t yet learned about consent. At the time it had happened, monsters, even the “good” ones, considered it perfectly fine to rape men. Even though a lot has changed in the last year, the concept of consent hasn’t been completely embraced, even by the Monster Lord. Otherwise known as my wife.

I wasn’t about to have that discussion with her, however. As passive aggressive acts go, it could have been a lot worse. She had invited, even encouraged me, to have sex with the Four Heavenly Knights as a “birthday” present, and after having her little act of revenge by siccing Cindy on me, she seemed quite satisfied and over it. As much as going through a very thorough nonconsensual washing had hurt me, I decided it was best to let it go. The monster world would never be exactly like the human world. The discussion I did have with Alice a few days after illustrated that perfectly.

“I really have to thank you for doing me that little favor a few nights ago,” she said out of nowhere as we lay in bed one morning. Since Alice and I didn’t get to spend much time together, we tried to milk these mornings for all that they were worth. Being the Monster Lord is quite a job, one that Alice had only just started doing in earnest. Prior to her months long journey with me, Tamamo had handled the day to day job. But “Hand of the Monster Lord” was not a thing in the monster world. Tamamo had only done it because she felt Alice needed to get out and see the world. She needed to learn about humans to become an effective Monster Lord.  Now that Alice was back, the Monster Lord was going to do her damn job and Tamamo was going to spend the next 100 years having the time of her life while helping out here and there.  But I digress. Alice was speaking.

“You’re thanking me?” I asked. “I thought it was my birthday present.”

“It was,” Alice replied. “But you didn’t see how those four girls were over the last year. Around you, they acted all normal, but around me there was just this…. Tension hanging in the air, like I was keeping them from something they wanted.”

“The Four Heavenly Knights want me?” I asked in disbelief. “I mean, Granberia and I have been close for a long time, but the other three?”

“It’s not like that,” Alice said. “You still don’t get monsters. Granberia was actually the only one who WASN’T annoying. After all, she gets what she wants from you already. You spend most of your time with her, she gets to spar with you, she goes on missions with you, and because you’re both so trustworthy she even gets to wrestle you and cuddle with you. I approve of your relationship. It’s healthy. In fact, you’ve been amazing for her. She was wound up way too tight before you. Now she’s relaxed, happy, and yet still hasn’t lost her battle edge. She might even be better than she was because she finally has someone decent to practice with.”

“So the other three were bothering you?”

“Ugh, yes,” she said. “Alma Elma was constantly being serious all the time. I thought she was annoying being Alma Elma, but serious Alma Elma is even more irritating.”

“That’s weird,” I observed. “She’s been her usual self around me. Except when she was trying to convince me to pick her.”

“Then there was Erubetie,” Alice moaned. “She was constantly suggesting that all your hard work on behalf of her people deserved a reward. Of course, being a married man she knew that was not ideal, but that didn’t stop her from wishing aloud that she could reward you properly. And Tamamo, she was the most annoying of all! ‘I never got to love him properly, you always got in the way, even though you had no claim on him blah blah blah…”

“Wow,” I said. “So what you had me do was to get that all out of the way?”

“You know how with humans, how if you sleep with someone and then you’re around them afterwards it gets awkward?” she asked. “Not that I know from experience, but that’s what you’ve told me.”

“Yeah, humans are like that a lot.”

“Well, with monsters it’s the opposite,” she explained. “If we DON’T get to sleep with you, things are awkward. You’ve probably noticed how much more relaxed they are.”

“You know, I have noticed. It’s subtle, but I think you’re right.”

“I now know why Monster Lords weren’t supposed to have husbands unless that husband was extraordinary,” she sighed. “It is really complicated, having a husband in my position. And you, doing all those nice things for everyone! There are so many monsters all over the world that want to pay you back the only way they know how. We might have to make this an annual thing. The succubi want you, the harpies want you, the elves want you, the insects and plants want you…. Then there are the monsters that hurt you, they want to ‘apologize’ by doing the same thing again, only gentler.”

“I’d been told that my job would involve a lot of diplomacy, and it has, but I didn’t realize THAT might be part of the diplomacy,” I said.

“Oh my goodness, the last time you were at Harpy Village!” she said. “When they heard I was sending you to do a ribbon cutting at the new electrical generation plant, the queen wanted to know what sexual acts were allowed and what were ‘just for you and your hubby’! I told them that if it was okay with you they could thank you properly next year.”

“Um, thanks? I think.”

“Oh, don’t worry!” she assured me. “You don’t have to do anything you don’t want to do. Besides, now that I’m the full time Monster Lord I’m starting to get more mature about the whole thing. I know that your heart belongs to me. When we were traveling I wanted you all to myself and I got insanely jealous. Now that you’re the Monster Lord’s husband, there are other considerations.”

“It seems you have another consideration as well,” I noted.

“Oh?” Alice asked. “Like what?”

“Like my failure to give you an heir,” I said.

Alice went silent for a moment. Since the failure to conceive on our three day wedding binge, the kitsunes had done a lot of research and found some things out. One of the things they learned was that although the offspring of people from my world and monsters were exceptionally strong, they were also rare. So rare in fact, that Yamatai Village’s population had decreased over the years despite relative prosperity. A village of elves, eager to have access to such strong males, had made a marriage pact with them three hundred years ago. This pact had produced a disappointing number of children, as well as a much larger percentage of males than the elves would have preferred. You see, if the offspring of a human and a monster is male, the male is human. If female, the child will almost always be a monster. So the elven village’s population was also decreasing. That didn’t reduce their commitment to the marriage pact, however, because they liked how strong their blood was. Just as the humans of Yamatai were stronger than all the other humans in this world, the Yamatai elves were stronger than all the other elves. In fact, not even Ilias or Black Alice had been willing to mess around with the elven village near Yamatai until they’d dealt with the rest of the world first.

But that still left Alice and I with the problem of an heir. Given enough time, most human/monster couplings where the human was from my world produced offspring, but about a third never did. Another third produced only one, and half of those in turn were males. So the odds of us producing an heir to the Monster Lord’s throne was something like 50-50.

After a while, she spoke. “It’s only been a year. We’ll keep trying. Tamamo isn’t worried yet.”

“I’m not either, but maybe we should start talking about alternatives,” I said.

“We can’t adopt,” she noted. “Well, we can, but that won’t be an heir. She won’t be strong enough. In order to have a chance, the child will have to have my genes.”

“Then you’ll just have to do it the way previous Monster Lords did it,” I said. “As you said, being Monster Lord is complicated. We’d like to be only each other’s, but there are other considerations for someone in your position. If you need to find a man from this world to give you a child, then do it.”

“You’re okay with that?”

“How could I not be?” I said. “You have responsibilities.”

Unspoken was the fact that she may have set me up using a plan every bit as multi-layered as anything Ilias or Promestein had ever tried. I couldn’t very well whine to her about being with another man in order to have a child after she’d not only let me bed the Knights, but was also probably sending me to Harpy Village for a …. Vacation. She was definitely killing a lot of birds with that one stone.

“Thank you, Luka!” she said, holding me tight. “You’re so wonderful!”

“There need to be conditions, though!” I said.

“Uh oh. What conditions?”

“First, and I’m sure this should go without saying, he has to be willing and you can’t eat him like other Monster Lords did.”

“That’s a given,” Alice noted. “Even the Monster Lord isn’t above the law.We made it against the law to rape or eat humans.”

“Second,” I said. “as the father of the child, he has to have a role in her life if he wants that.”

“Oh. I don’t know about that. It’s never been done before.”

“You’re married to a human now,” I noted. “There are human considerations here. Besides, if you want her to have a good view of humans, she should be exposed to the better examples of humanity. Pick a good man and she’ll have two nice humans in her life.”

“Sheesh,” she breathed. “I’d better pick a good man, then. I’ll have to keep on seeing him. You just made the job a lot harder. Now I have to find someone not just strong, but also not annoying. Someone I won’t mind having around the castle a lot.”

“Maybe it won’t be a problem,” I noted. “Maybe we’ll produce an heir for you.”

“Maybe,” she said listlessly.

I understood her despondence. You see, having sex with Alice wasn’t like having sex with an ordinary woman, or even an ordinary monster. Alice had the ability to sift through the sperm and pick the best ones to fertilize her eggs. The problem was, every time she picked one it still didn’t happen. Which must have been causing her to fear that it might never happen.  If I’m being honest, it didn’t bother me as much as it bothered her. Even if she hadn’t let me frolic with the Knights a few days before, I would have been fine with her stepping out to get pregnant. This may sound weird, but I can’t stress enough just how awkward it is to be the only human and the only male in a huge castle. Having another guy around frequently would be a good thing. Even if it was a guy who had slept with my wife. I consoled myself that it would only be one time. Humans in this world aren’t as strong as humans from our world, but they can reproduce readily with each other and monsters. Add that to Alice’s ability to select sperm, and it shouldn’t take more than one time.

“Hey, cheer up!” I said. “Whatever happens, we’ll always get through it together. We invaded the heavens! There’s nothing we can’t do if we do it together.”

“You always know just what to say,” she said, smiling. “It’s time to get to work, though. You too.”

“Anything special for me today?” I asked.

“That’s another thing I wanted to talk to you about,” Alice said cautiously. “With Granberia gone for a few months, we need to keep you in battle ready shape. Did you have plans for staying in good condition?”

“Not really,” I admitted. “I actually wanted to take a long vacation from all that. I figure when Granberia gets back we’ll get right back into it. If anything, she’ll have lost some of her edge as well. She’s not likely to encounter any opponents she can’t handle out there. Her toughest opponent is in this bed with you right now.”

“A ‘tough’ opponent who loses nine times out of ten,” Alice pointed out. “You’re digressing. Granberia thinks it’s because you only fight well when you have something to fight for. That sounds about right to me. So I was thinking that maybe it’s time to resume your formal training. Your amazing will and bravery got you pretty far, and my training certainly helped, but I didn’t teach you as much as you think.”

“Okay, so sword lessons? I guess with Granberia gone it would be a good way to occupy some time,” I mused.

“Magic lessons too,” she added. “We barely scratched the surface, what with you figuring out how to use your power so late on our journey. You’ve done literally nothing with your magic since then.”

“Oh, I’ve done a little bit with it,” I said, kissing her.

“Heehee,” she laughed. “I never thought I’d be lucky enough to have a human lover who could make love like a monster. Covers up for the fact that you’re still clumsy in bed. Maybe I need to have Alma Elma tutor you as well. Sex lessons couldn’t hurt.”

“Um….. I don’t think she could behave herself. I mean, you won’t even let me wrestle her. Or cuddle her. For good reason.”

“I’m thinking of just letting that stuff go,” Alice replied. “As long as it doesn’t get out of control. With Granberia gone, you need a friend. Alma Elma is a better person around you. Just like Granberia is a better person around you. Just like I’m a better person around you. And…. I also need to tell you something else.”

“Uh oh,” I said. “What?”

“You’re going to train with Cindy. As you know, I made her an honorary Fifth Heavenly Knight. She wants to try to be one for real. It’s probably not something she can achieve, but she’s gifted. I think she’s capable of achieving queen status, and the kraken queen is getting older. Even if she doesn’t get that far, Cindy’s got a little of Granberia in her. She loves battle. Almost as much as she likes cleaning.”

“Ooookay.”

“I know I might have gone too far letting her clean you that night. I’m sorry. I promise never to get revenge on you for that again. It was really wrong of me. I’m over it now, I promise. As the Monster Lord’s husband, you’re going to have to get… friendly with some monsters once in awhile. Don’t make it too much of a habit! But if your training and playing leads to…. Things happening, it’s okay. I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about why I got mad about you willingly having sex with other women but not being mad when they raped you. I enjoyed hearing your screams from the bathroom when Cindy made you ejaculate. I’m sorry, darling, I’m trying to change.”

“I forgive you, Alice,” I said. I was afraid to have this talk with her and was glad she was bringing it up so that I didn’t have to. I never liked fighting with Alice, mainly because she still always beat me in every argument even though I was sure I was right. I learned fast, however. I’d taken to obeying her like I was one of her subjects.

“Soooo…” she continued. “ I don’t know what would make you feel more comfortable with her, but if you spar and she gets excited, you can play around with her. Maybe if you just let her do it and enjoy it, it won’t bother you anymore.”

Alice had no idea how any of this worked, but she wasn’t completely wrong in my case.  I’d stopped being uncomfortable around Alma Elma, maybe that same kind of “therapy” would work with Cindy. Although I suspected the best therapy would be actually defeating her. That was a mental hump I needed to get over. I had developed a serious case of the yips around her. It was as if I forgot everything I knew about fighting. Or perhaps she was just that gifted. Looking back at our two battles, I couldn’t think of anything I’d done that was a serious error. She’d simply outwitted me, seemingly with little effort. Perhaps sparring with her would give me some answers.

“Okay, so I’m training starting today?” I asked.

“Yeah, after work,” Alice replied. “Just magic lessons. On days where you do both sword and magic lessons  you’ll work a half day. You already don’t have enough to do at your ‘job’ to fill your day. It’s just an excuse for you to sit around and chat with those infernal kitsunes in the break room.”

“As you wish, your Highness,” I replied.

“I love it when you obey,” she said, smiling and kissing me.

 

So at least today, my schedule was the usual. My usual was overseeing the technological advancement of this world in a controlled but brisk fashion. For reasons still unclear to me, the world I’d been transported to had a wide variety of technology, ranging from medieval to early 20th century, spread very unevenly. I’d brought the castle up to speed within a few months. We had all the modern conveniences. Getting the benefits of technology out to the rest of the world was my primary role as the Monster Lord’s husband.  The first step had been electrification, a project which was moving with incredible speed, especially since many places were already using electricity to some extent. At this rate, the human cities of the world would have high speed internet within a decade or two.

One of the nice things about that job was working closely with the fox girls. The fox girls were probably the best combination of intelligence and sweetness in the monster world.  Especially Nanabi, who I worked more closely with than any kitsune.  Tamamo would drop in once or twice a week to keep up on things. As the most powerful fox in the world, she didn’t want to be ignorant about the latest tech.  I loved Tamamo dearly, but when her and Nanabi were in the same room with me, things could get a little… flirtatious. Nanabi alone with me was all business, but something about Tamamo being around made her playful. Probably because Tamamo liked to instigate. Although that might have changed since Tamamo finally got to have her way with me. I’d have to make a point of paying attention. It seemed so weird that the Knights would be more easygoing around me after having slept with me. But that’s monsters for you.

On this particular day, Tamamo was present, already waiting for me along with Nanabi. We’d set up a data center in a rarely used part of the castle. At first we’d used Promestein’s lab, but knowing that she had the place under surveillance made us relocate as much equipment as we safely could. Even so, I wasn’t completely confident that we hadn’t brought the surveillance with us. I’d found no obvious cameras or recording devices, nor had I found anything on the systems themselves. Which meant that she might be using magic. Alice and Tamamo had assured me that nothing we brought had traces of magic on it that they could detect, and there was very little that they couldn’t detect. Still, I always worried about it a little. If anyone could design technical surveillance that I couldn’t find, or magical surveillance Alice or Tamamo couldn’t find, it would be Promestein. And she was still out there.

The day went pretty routinely. Tamamo was indeed less flirtatious than usual, which meant Nanabi was on her best behavior as well. Perhaps it really was out of her system. Which of course got me thinking about Nanabi, who also may have had unfinished business with me. I’d assumed her to be over it, but now I wondered.

Tamamo, towards the end of the day, seemed to be wondering the same thing. “So now that Granberia’s away for awhile, who are you going to spar with?” Tamamo asked.

“Alice said I have to have formal training, in swordplay and magic,” I replied. “I guess I’ll be sparring with Cindy and whoever my trainer is.”

“Oh my!” Tamamo yelped. “Cindy?! Seriously?! That gives me an idea. Nanabi’s been getting a little soft as well. I might have her join you two.”

“I’d love to spar with you, Luka!” Nanabi said.

“That sounds fine to me,” I said, somewhat reluctantly. “but we have to establish the rules. Granberia doesn’t use pleasure attacks on me. Alice wouldn’t take kindly to that sort of sparring.”

Well, that wasn’t entirely true. Alice had said pretty directly that she didn’t mind me playing around a little, but I didn’t know if that applied to kitsunes doing pleasure attacks on me. She was already not very fond of fox girls. I’d have to ask her what the ground rules were with Nanabi.

“Oh darn!” Nanabi pouted. “That leaves out my best attack!”

“That’s all magic anyway, “ Tamamo pointed out. “Remembering how to cast spells was never a problem for you, even if you haven’t used a spell in awhile. It’s your combat reflexes which are probably slipping. Managing seven tails at one time is quite difficult. You can lose that skill if you don’t keep it up. So it’s settled! You’ll join Luka for his classes! So who is your teacher?”

“I don’t know,” I admitted.

“I’m pretty sure I know who your combat trainer will be,” Tamamo mused. “But magic, I’m surprised she didn’t ask me. Although my magical ability in this sealed form is a bit limited, I know more magic than anyone in this castle. I can’t think of anyone who would be better to teach you.”

After some more “work” and some conversation, I got up for one of my many trips to the break room. Not to say I never work hard. Just not in this office. When I’m out in the field doing installations, I work long and hard to get it done and get it done right. But in the office, it’s mainly just about maintaining the castle’s systems or providing tech support to the world. Because the kitsunes used magic to supplement the technology, however, things were much more reliable than on my home world. An error handling spell is much more effective than even the best code. So despite the fact that Nanabi and I were basically handling tech support for the entire world, we didn’t get too many calls. Which meant that office days were usually easy days. And most of my days were office days.

Tamamo followed me into the break room. “So I hear Alice is going a little easier on you now when it comes to playing around with us,” she said brightly.

“How do you know that?” I asked in surprise. “She only brought it up this morning.”

“Your wife consults me for advice on a lot of subjects,” Tamamo replied. “She’s been working out her issues for a long time. To be honest, I never thought she’d get married. I made it hard for Monster Lords to get married precisely because marriage is so complicated for a Monster Lord. You can’t just have a human running around the world doing wonderful things for people and not expect those people to be grateful.”

“More than Monster Lords get married,” I countered. “Why isn’t it complicated for other monsters?”

“High ranking monsters don’t usually get married,” Tamamo explained. “When I say ‘high ranking’ I don’t just mean powerful, I mean queens, Monster Lords, that kind of thing. I was married once.”

“Oh wow, really?” I’d heard that Tamamo had had quite a few long term lovers, but had never heard that she had married.

“Yes, a long, long time ago,” she replied wistfully. “But I had no responsibilities then. He just lived to serve me. He wasn’t running around the world doing things for others. Normally we monsters make our men live only for our touch. But a monster with responsibilities like Alice, she’s utilizing you to make her a better Monster Lord. That causes complications. Monsters have a lot of trouble accepting that a man who is out there doing nice things shouldn’t be rewarded. It causes a lot of unnecessary tensions.”

“I had no idea it was like that.”

“Oh, they’d behave, because the Monster Lord’s wrath is something to be feared. All this last year, no one dared touch you. But while you’ve been doing all those good deeds all over the world, it’s like an itch they can’t scratch. We Four Knights finally got to scratch that itch a few nights ago. But that line is a lot longer than just us four.”

“Yikes. That does complicate things.”

“Right,” Tamamo confirmed. “So let me give you the REAL ground rules, since Alice was probably vague. Listen closely to this advice, because that girl will hurt you if you don’t take it.”

“Okay, I’m listening,” I said.

“NEVER initiate sex with another woman,” she admonished. “Never! Also, no humans, although Sara is a gray area. Humans are used to the idea that you don’t have to have sex with everyone who does nice things for you. There’s no excuse to give yourself to a human. Plus humans can carry nasty diseases!”

“I was wondering about that. Are monsters immune to STDs?”

“ST what?” Tamamo asked, confused.

“Sexually transmitted diseases,” I explained. “Sorry, this is the first time the subject came up.”

“Yes and no,” Tamamo explained. “We have extremely high resistance to all disease, and we’ve evolved to be immune to all known diseases of the sexually transmitted kind, for obvious reasons. But it’s not out of the realm of possibility that we could have an outbreak someday. But the real reason you need to stay away from humans is that you can definitely get infected and we don’t know how to treat those diseases.”

“Okay, no humans,” I agreed. “That one’s easy. It’s not like I throw myself at women, and human women never throw themselves at me.”

“Right,” she agreed. “It’ll take you awhile to figure out when it’s okay and when it’s not. The short version is that if you’re sparring, it might end in sex. That’s fine. If you do something nice for a monster, she’s possibly going to want to reward you. That’s fine. Now what should you say if a monster is just hungry and wants to feed?”

“Um…. I say no?”

“Good. That’s the right answer. If a monster is just hungry there are plenty of other willing males to feed on. She doesn’t need the Monster Lord’s husband. My advice is to say no a lot. Save those encounters for when you think it does some good. For example, don’t replace a broken keyboard for a slime girl and then let her rub her slime all over you.”

That was indeed good advice. Slimes damaged equipment constantly.

“But if you wire an entire bee hive with high speed internet,” she went on. “Well, that’s a pretty big deal and the queen might want to give you something in return. She’ll be uncomfortable if you don’t take it.”

Being the Monster Lord’s husband was complicated.

 

 

What wasn’t complicated was Granberia and Sara’s first few days on the road. It was boring, in fact. Luka’s journey had been day after day of monster attacks, and every village and town seemed to have a crisis that needed handling. Those experiences had forged Luka, at least physically, into forged steel.  Granberia reflected on how despite that hard exterior, Luka had never lost who he was. He was truly a remarkable and rare person.  Granberia herself felt she had a lot in common with Luka. She was as tough as dragonsteel herself, but she had never forgotten who she was or compromised her principles. That’s why she felt comfortable being her true self around Luka. She felt that he understood her and didn’t judge her. If only she had been the one to travel with him….

Of course, she knew that would never have happened. If by some chance it had been Granberia who had fallen out of the sky, she knew that she would have had a similar conversation with the boy in the forest, and then gone on her way. She lacked Alice’s natural curiosity. Whereas Alice had followed Luka back to his village to further interrogate him and determine if she wanted to travel with him, Granberia knew that she would have just seen a weak boy with silly dreams about coexistence and would have had no further interest.

That was part of the reason why she was out here with Sara. Sara was a promising young princess, the only child of the king of Sabasa. Granberia hoped that traveling with a human and learning more about the world could change her in positive ways the way that it did the Monster Lord. She had other reasons as well. Sara was the only other person in the world with a Dragon Seal, making her the only human who could marry a dragonkin. Something which Sara very much thought she wanted to do. She was infatuated with Granberia.

Although Granberia refused to admit it, not being able to claim Luka hurt. Knowing that he too had the Dragon Seal made it hurt even worse. As real as she was around Luka, that was something she could never tell him. Even a year later, it still hurt. If only she had beaten him when it had really counted, in the castle. Or claimed him earlier when she had the opportunity! And yet, she knew this would not have worked. If she’d claimed him earlier he would not have become the warrior he became and she would have just ended up treating him as a plaything.

So in essence, she was rebounding. Sara presented the possibility of someone who could be worthy of her. She had promise as a warrior, and more importantly, she had the Dragon Seal. Granberia wasn’t certain that the Dragon Seal mattered anymore. With the Sphinx leaving that “business”, there would be no more Dragon Seals issued. If Granberia was being honest with herself, she probably wouldn’t have cared, anyway. She wasn’t the type to just follow rules blindly because they were the rules. If she truly loved a man, or a woman, she would marry that person, and if anyone tried to stop her they could enjoy a Vaporizing Rebellion Sword.

Still, as the only person with a Seal who wasn’t married, Sara seemed like a good prospect. Granberia did not share her feelings. But she didn’t lack compassion, despite never showing it to anyone but Luka. Sara had earned the opportunity to prove herself to Granberia, so Granberia was going to see that she got that chance. What better way than to go on a journey, as Luke had with Alice?

The problem was that this was boring. Soooo boring. Luka had not singlehandedly made the world a better place. But the ideas, the moral concepts, the activism, the relentless power of hope, all came from him. Granberia had willingly lent her sword to his cause, so she felt comfortable, no, proud, to share the credit with him. She’d bled for his dream, nearly been killed twice. There were no such threats here, however. Luka Village had no problems. The people there had welcomed the two visitors and showered gifts and food on them. Unlike Luka and Alice, Granberia and Sara were not big eaters or even food lovers. The generosity had mostly been wasted on them.

Outside the village, things weren’t any different. Travelers now felt safe traveling alone. Monsters would still accost men like panhandlers, but most obeyed the law. Since most men didn’t say no, there was no shortage of food. Granberia, to her disgust, had even been offered opportunities to feed by random men. Not that she didn’t need to feed. She was a monster and had the same needs as any other monster. But she had just fed on Luka last week. She could hold out a lot longer rather than settle for the low quality men that offered her sustenance. Perhaps in Edenburg… hmmmm…. Some fine warriors there. Not even close to her class, but maybe someone there might strike her fancy and end up in her bed. At least there was something to look forward to.

Training was all there really was for the time being. She trained Sara hard and mercilessly. To Sara’s credit, she never complained. She even seemed to enjoy how hard she was pushed. She really wanted to get better. If they did run into trouble, Granberia wasn’t about to just let her get eaten or raped. Granberia hated it when the strong bullied the weak. She never could understand why Alice would have allowed Luka to be killed while she watched, although she wasn’t entirely certain that Alice would actually have done so. She’d heard that many times Alice had intervened just when Luka was about to lose. Still, how could Luka love her when she’d been so cruel to him? She shook her head, trying to put the thoughts out of her mind. She honestly loved that Luka and Alice were married. She hadn’t lied about that. She never lied in fact. Just… omitted her true feelings from time to time.

Edenberg  was their next destination. It was only a day’s walk from Luka Village, but since the most likely opportunities to have real combat were out in the wilderness, they’d taken a rather circuitous route. So far, nothing. The monsters were disgustingly polite. Probably because nearly everyone knew who Granberia was. Hmmm, she thought. Perhaps I should disappear like Alice did whenever a monster approaches. But Sara, being female, wasn’t all that likely to be a target anyway. Some monsters enjoyed playing with females, especially the carnivorous ones. But there were no carnivorous monsters on Eden continent. There hadn’t been many when it was called Ilias Continent. Perhaps further north there would be ropers. Yes, ropers would be a good workout for Sara. Dangerous enough to keep her focused, yet weak enough that she should be able to defeat them. The best part was that since Alice had loaned Sara the enchanted sword, Angel Halo, none of her opponents had to die. Granberia wasn’t interested in killing her fellow monsters. Teaching them a lesson would suffice.

“You know, this is going to be a boring journey if you never talk to me,” Sara said, breaking Granberia at last from her reverie. “I know you’re not the talkative type, but it’s just us out here and nothing’s going on.”

“Sigh,” Granberia sighed. Was it too late to just teleport back to the castle and go back to her routine? “What would you like to talk about?”

“I dunno,” Sara replied. “I just want to know more about you.”

“I do not like to talk about myself,” Granberia replied gruffly.

“Even with Luka?” Sara prodded.

“Even with Luka,” she confirmed. “Luka enjoys talking about himself. It’s one of his less admirable character traits. But it means that I don’t have to. Although he can be like you at times. He’s a nosy one.”

“Well, maybe we could talk about Luka, then,” Sara suggested.

“For the entire journey?” Granberia asked. “As fascinating a subject as he is, that doesn’t sound like much fun.”

“More fun than walking thousands of miles in silence,” Sara mumbled. “So how did you and Luka meet?”

“In Iliasburg,” Granberia replied. “That’s what it was called then, as you know. I was there to take over the city. Although in truth I was there to battle for the sake of battle. The heroes there were rather disappointing. Luka showed up and challenged me.”

“Who won?” Sara asked, fascinated.

“He did,” Granberia said wistfully. “Although not at swordplay. I defeated him, but the ultimate victory was his because after I destroyed his cheap, brittle sword, I fought him unarmed. That proved to be my undoing. He forced me to submit.”

“You don’t seem upset by that,” Sara noted. “You almost seem happy.”

“There is no shame in defeat as long as you gave your best,” Granberia said, now in instructor mode. “I made no mistakes in that fight. I gave all of my effort. I did hold back on using certain techniques and abilities. If the fight had been to the death I would not have hesitated, But it was a contest, so I waged the contest fairly.”

“So you were glad he beat you?”

“Overjoyed, and yet enraged at the same time,” Granberia chuckled. “I knew I was the greatest swordswoman in the world. Nothing I’ve seen since then, even Luka, has changed that view. No, at swordplay, no one can defeat me. I had thought I was one of the greatest at hand to hand combat as well. That proved to be an error. So I strove to get better so that I could avenge my defeat at Luka’s hands.”

“Did you?” Sara asked.

“I did,” Granberia said, smiling with satisfaction. “Now when we wrestle I win about half the time. His skills are remarkable. And he has taught me much. I anticipate that very soon I will beat him regularly as I do at swordplay.”

“Did you know you were in love with him at that point?” Sara said.

Granberia rounded on Sara. “You watch your tongue!”

“I… I’m sorry,” Sara stammered. “I should have realized that’s a sore spot with you.”

Granberia sighed. “It is, but as in any battle I lost fairly to a more skilled opponent. I am happy for the victor. I am only saddened that it was the kind of battle for which there can be no rematch. I guess if we are to travel together and get to know one another better I should not be so.. closed off. I apologize for snapping at you.”

“I apologize too,” Sara said. “I was really jealous about how you felt about Luka. I guess I still am, even though I know he’s not really competition anymore.”

“If you must know, I fell in love with Luka after our third battle,” she said.

“Third?!” Sara exclaimed. “What were you doing, following him around and challenging him all the time?”

“I was quite the stalker, yes,” Granberia chuckled. “Until… I went too far. I used a killing move on him. I knew it wouldn’t kill him, my sword’s enchantment prevents any fatality I don’t intend. And yet the pain… the number of times I cut him…. His face… I still see it in my nightmares. I had thought I just enjoyed the challenge. I wanted to possess him long before then. But seeing his prone form, racked in pain, I felt regret. I felt concern. I felt… love. I resolved then to not harass him further until he came to the castle, at which point I would have to face him. I would have to be willing to inflict that pain on him again, one more time.”

“Did you?”

“No,” Granberia replied. “He used that ridiculous power of his to knock me back when I tried to set the move up. That forced me to alter my strategy. I became aggressive, seeking to overwhelm him quickly. But I left myself open to counterattacks, and his skills had improved substantially by that point. In the end, he was victorious.”

“And so you couldn’t claim him,” Sara said.

“I could not,” Granberia said. “I hear that our time with Luka before we left was not your first time with him either.”

“He saved my life, so I rewarded him,” Sara said. “Well, I hadn’t intended to, but my father locked us in my bedroom together. So I figured, while we’re stuck there….”

Granberia chuckled. “You were acting like a monster even before you knew,” she said.

“I guess so. The funny thing is, we got to talking afterwards and I basically asked him to marry me.”

“What?!” Granberia exclaimed, turning on Sara again. “But you don’t even like men!”

“I don’t, but my father doesn’t really know that and he wants me to marry so that Sabasa can have a proper king.”

“The king must be a man?!” Granberia asked, not liking how that sounded one bit.

“Oh, I’d be in charge,” Sara assured her. “But at least in title, there must be a king. Luka seemed like a nice guy, and given what an amazing job he’s doing as the Monster Lord’s husband, he would have been a fine king  of Sabasa. With me making all the important decisions of course. The boy isn’t all that bright.”

“Luka is far smarter than people give him credit for,” Granberia said. “But yes, a lot of things do escape him.”

Granberia heard a scream in the distance. The scream was male, although shamefully high pitched in her opinion. “Come! This way!” Granberia yelled, running off into the forest towards the scream.

“What?” Sara said, trying to keep up. “What are we doing?”

“You didn’t hear that? Oh, your ears are quite human. I heard a man scream. He might be in trouble!”

“Yes!” Sara exulted. “Finally some hero stuff!”

Sure enough, there was a man, and he was in big trouble. A roper had him wrapped up and was already starting to slowly digest him. If Granberia acted quickly, he could still be saved. He’d only just been caught. With impossible skill, she slashed the roper’s tentacles with her sword, cutting them cleanly but not even touching the man the roper held. He fell to the ground in a heap.

“Run!” Granberia yelled to him. “Get out of here! We will deal with this monster!” He didn't need to be told twice.

The roper, one of the more animalistic monsters in this part of the world, was not one that could be reasoned with. They could barely speak and there was no hope of ever teaching them consent or to feed off their prey without killing them. This had been a thorny issue in this new world. The Monster Lord had reluctantly decided that ropers would just have to be treated as any carnivorous animal. Let it roam free, but if it threatened human settlements it would have to be driven off our destroyed. Since this area was far from human settlements, that was unnecessary in this case. She would have to have a talk with humans about roaming in these distant areas alone and unprotected. While the intelligent monsters obeyed the law, the entire concept of law was beyond the understanding of creatures like ropers.

“Sara, please take care of this creature,” Granberia ordered. “Don’t let it catch you in those tentacles! You are probably not strong enough to break their hold!’

Sara nervously faced off against the creature. The roper was reluctant to engage. She’d already lost some tentacles. Predators hated injury above all else. Facing a woman with a sword was not her idea of easy prey. Nevertheless, she was hungry. Unlike most monster species, she received nourishment from the entire human body, not just semen. Sara would do just fine as a meal. But she feared that sword.

The two combatants stared at each other for quite some time before the roper made her decision and lashed out with several tentacles. Sara slashed at one of them, paralyzing it, but the others grabbed her and she was instantly pulled into the roper’s embrace. She struggled mightily but could not break free.

Granberia put her face in her palm. Had it been this difficult with Luka? No, it couldn’t have been. Otherwise Luka would be dead. This early in their journey Alice had not felt anything for Luka. If a roper had eaten him, well, that would have just been too bad. Luka must have been too strong for a roper to hold. Sara, on the other hand, while stronger than most human women due to her monster blood, was still pretty weak. Granberia would have to work on that.

But, first things first. With one mighty cleave of her great sword, Granberia severed more tentacles, allowing Sara to get free. Sara’s recovery was at least reasonably good. She hit the ground and immediately slashed at the roper’s body, connecting and making a nice cut across the roper’s chest that began leaking energy. Angel Halo was not a lethal sword. Like Granberia’s sword, it didn’t kill, in Angel Halo’s case, not even if the wielder desired it. It simply sealed opponents. The roper, however was not sealed, nor was she interested in the battle anymore. She ran away as quickly as she could to escape the two women who had denied her her prey.

“I didn’t do so good, did I?” Sara asked glumly.

“You need to better understand the nature of the sword you wield,” Granberia instructed. “You were correct to attack her tentacles, or would have been had you a normal sword, but that sword doesn’t cleave through. You should have focused on her body. Ropers are weak. A good thrust would have sealed her, or one more slash. Tonight I will teach you a better way to thrust.”

 



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