45: Murder Zone
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“Finally!” Beatrice rushed to the exit when she saw the faint glimpses of natural sunlight breaking through an opening up ahead. It may not have been smart, but the succubus wanted to finally breathe fresh air. The final few steps of the tunnel made sudden, sharp twists and turns. Beatrice had to stop suddenly to not drop several feet down from the side of a rough and uneven mountainside. Beatrice leaned against the sharp rocks that obscured the entrance to the tunnel and took a long, deep breath.

“Aahhhh,” Beatrice exhaled with a smile on her face. A gentle breeze brushed her cheeks. The air was fresh, something that a city-rat like her in the past life was not used to. Most of the view was obstructed by a wall of pines, but that only added to the pleasant change of scenery. Beatrice might have even gotten a glimpse of the sunset as the sky above her was nearly perfectly clear, save a few small white clouds, smeared across the sky as if with a brush.

Even in the evening, it was still pleasantly warm, Beatrice could tell that her [Succubus's Thermoregulation] passive did not have to do much work in these conditions. She looked around and realized that she stood nearly at the very base of a steep cliff. Some six feet below her flowed a narrow river, no more than thirty feet wide.

“Are you sure we’re actually in a city?” Beatrice asked, finding it hard to believe she was not in some forested mountain valley.

“A very large one, yes,” Ember answered. “This area provides a great cover for this emergency exit from the palace.”

Beatrice looked up. Indeed, high above her head, she saw blue flags, blowing in the wind, mounted at the tower peaks that were firmly rooted into the rocky terrain.

“Olivia?” Ember called out the ninja girl that was a couple of steps behind.

“Yes?” Olivia answered with an audible sigh.

“What are you waiting for?” Ember asked with a smile. “You know this area too, right? Lead the way!”

Without objections, but also without much enthusiasm, Olivia took the lead and lead the girls down to the edge of the river and the crossing that consisted of nothing more than a couple of rocks, sticking out of the water. They were too narrow to balance on without risk of falling into the water and too far apart to reach the next one without going into the water anyway.

Of course, Olivia jumped onto the nearest rock, landing with but the tips of her toes, before hopping onto the next one, and with one more effortless jump the ninja girl was on the other side.

For a moment, Beatrice wondered if Olivia would try to escape, but saw a small flame in the palm of Ember’s, turned away from Oliva, but clearly ready for a deadly strike.

Calm with the thought that Ember had things under control, Beatrice decided to concentrate on how to get over this river herself. She was pretty sure she could not pull off the same acrobatics that the ninja girl did, and she certainly wasn’t about to embarrass herself in front of everyone by trying.

Investing her one remaining Skill Point into her [Succubus's Wings] passive seemed absurd because when she skimmed over her available skills and upgrades before, it was clear that wings would take a lot of investment before they became useful. And while flying would indeed prove an incredible advantage against melee opponents, her Eros Craft proved that it takes major investment into any craft to unlock the more powerful versions of skills.

But the water did not seem to be literally filled with shit and piss, despite what Beatrice would’ve expected of flowing water in a major medieval city, so perhaps just getting across the old fashioned way would be fine?

“How deep is this?” Beatrice asked Ember.

“Roughly to the knee, if you don’t slip from the path,” Ember said. “This part is deceptively shallow.”

“Oh, that makes this—WUAH!!” Beatrice couldn’t help but scream when she noticed a naked body of a muscular man in the river, flowing face down and approaching the crossing in the mild stream.

“Ah, the main reason the tunnel to the palace is so well hidden here,” Ember smiled as she looked at the body. “Years ago, a certain royalty made sure to turn this forested area into an all-but-legal zone for murder and body disposal. You’re in trouble if you’re caught by guards of course, but for you to be caught there have to be guards assigned to patrol this area.”

As the body flowed past them, Beatrice saw the deep cut in the man’s neck that nearly severed the head completely. No blood flowed out of the gaping wound any longer.

“The river flows through a culvert under the outer walls some three hundred yards ahead,” Ember pointed ahead, though the view was completely obstructed by the trees. “The bodies are neatly washed away without the need of having them rot in the city or contaminating the entire river had they been dumped upstream. Of course, any attempts to contaminate the river elsewhere are punished severely.”

“Why not instead concentrate efforts to stop the actual murderers instead of providing ways for them to dump bodies?” Beatrice asked.

“Did you forget that we just murdered three people an hour ago?” Ember asked. “Don’t think we’re the only ones who think to be ‘justified’.”

Thank you so much to Nicky and Roger Burgess for pledging!!!

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