[Vol. 5 pt. 12]
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And so, given what is essentially their first proper quest since starting to play Fantasy Tales Online, Fenrir and the others have embarked on their quest for what is supposedly a tiny, grey insect hiding amongst grey rocks only hardly illuminated by the moon’s light.

Fortunately, he has already managed to find several small, grey insects.

Unfortunately, none of them have been Eva’s target.

What he was somehow hoping would be done within an hour has ended up turning into two hours of searching, bending over and picking up rocks, only to not make any progress at all.

Even Rock and Shogun are helping. Fenrir is hoping that they both have good enough eyesight to maybe potentially find the elusive insect in the dark of night, but he has a feeling that they probably aren’t going to be big helps at all.

That’s why he has Serra helping, too.

But he has more faith in Rock finding the bug than in Serra finding it. At least Rock is actually trying whereas Serra just repeatedly comes over to him, whispers about how she’s bored and would rather be doing lewd things with him, and then pouts when Fenrir says that they have to find the insect first. For now, finding the insect is the most important thing that they have to do.

This has disappointed Serra, naturally. So, to tease him since it’s just a game anyways, she has been making sure to bend over in lewd angles in front of him to distract him. Whether she’s bending over with her ass up as she looks at him over her shoulder or sitting down on a rock with her legs spread and inviting him, her attempts at distracting him work flawlessly.

However, there is one flaw to Serra’s plan that she has forgotten about.

“What are you doing?” Eva asks Serra who’s currently sucking on two of her fingers while Fenrir watches.

Serra, without taking the fingers out of her mouth, turns bright red as she slowly lowers her head and pulls her hat down to cover up her face.

“Taste-testing something? I don’t think there’s anything around here that tastes good,” Eva says, causing Fenrir to cover up his mouth and turn away so that neither of them catch him laughing.

“Yeah,” Serra mumbles around her fingers.

“Oh! There are some really good beetles. They have black and grey spotted shells, three horns, and a short ‘tail.’ If you find them, the juice inside of them tastes seriously good! You can just bite the head and hold it over your tongue.”

“That… sounds gross,” Fenrir says, no longer laughing.

“Well, yeah, of course it sounds gross, but this is just a game, so who cares? It being a game means that we can try out all sorts of things that we’d normally never do! We have the ultimate world to explore and experiment in, so we have to make sure that we use it all!”

“I mean, you’re not wrong, but I don’t know about biting a beetle’s head off and then dripping its insides onto my tongue.”

“Next you’re going to tell me that sleeping naked next to a pool of magma isn’t exciting.”

“That sounds extremely dangerous, not exciting.”

“The danger makes it even more exciting! Not being in any real danger means we can do anything. Besides, I turned my pain setting off after experimenting with it.”

“Do I even want to know how you experimented with it?”

“I chopped my arm off. I discovered that I would never want that to happen to me in real life.”

“You didn’t know in the first place that you wouldn’t want your arm chopped off in reality?”

“Hey, you never know until it happens. It’s like a shark attack. I think it would be awesome to be attacked by a shark just to get to experience it! Who else gets to say that they’ve been attacked by a shark? Besides, unless you experience the pain, you’re not getting the full experience.”

“But you turned your pain off, so won’t you miss out on the full experience?”

“Well, yeah, but I’d rather miss out on the full experience than feel any thing like when I chopped my arm off.”

“At least you’re honest about being contradictory.”

“Science is full of contradictions.”

“I honestly don’t know enough about science to tell you whether that’s right or wrong, but I want to lean towards it being wrong.”

“Science is full of not sweating the small things in pursuit of greater discoveries.”

“Alright. That sounds right.”

“Anyways, find our target yet?”

“Do you think I would be procrastinating by listening to you talk about drinking beetle juices if I did?”

“Maybe you’re just a social scientist. Listening to others to figure out who they are, how they work, what drives them, and so on still counts as science!”

“Then why didn’t you listen to us earlier instead of completely ignore our existence?”

“Because finding this insect is more important than any of you,” she says with a serious expression.

“You’re not going to eat it, are you?”

She looks genuinely disappointed and sighs. “No. I’m not,” she answers with a pout as she kicks a stone down the cliff. “Not the part I want to try, anyways.”

“Do you want to eat it?”

“Of course I want to! I have no idea what it tastes like, but it’s more valuable turned into a potion that can change how old somebody looks, and I guess that those potions sell for a lot of money in Trismy’s trade deals. Not sure why, though. Maybe being the size of a kid makes it easier to get into small places when searching for materials? It’s either that, or—”

Fenrir doesn’t want to ruin her innocence.

“—something sexual.”

He coughs.

“It’s probably something sexual,” she confirms. “People in this game are weird. Even though the virtual assistants won’t actually let anything sexual happen if an avatar involved looks too young, people still try to make it work.”

“Right. ‘People in this game are weird,’ says the girl obsessed with finding a bug, wants to be attacked by a shark, has slept naked next to magma, and who likes the taste of a beetle’s insides,” Fenrir says.

“I never said I wasn’t weird, too. I’m just not sure I understand the appeal of – hm, what it is that they call them? One of my old partners loved them. She was this nice, older lady, but whenever a guy used the potion around her to shrink down to a smaller body, it was like something flipped inside of her head. She always took breaks when it happened and made them lie down on her thighs, and there were a few times she disappeared into closets with them. I think she called herself a – it starts with the letter S. Sho… shocon? Hm. No, that doesn’t sound right. Oh well! Find the insect yet?”

“I haven’t even gone back to looking yet,” Fenrir says, making a conscious decision not to give Eva the answer to what she was just trying to figure out.

Of course he knows what she was trying to remember. Anybody who has seen enough hentai could put two and two together.

Though, he can’t deny being curious about why it’s always older women into that particular branch of hentai. What is with older women and younger, smaller boys? Well, at least he knows that everybody in this game is eighteen years or older in reality, and he knows that the game’s virtual assistants and overseer wouldn’t allow anything illegal to happen. The moment a virtual character looks too young, it gets locked out of the game’s more sexual side of features.

Another thought pops into his mind.

What if he somehow got his hands on a potion like that?

If he could shrink down to a smaller version of himself… how would his girlfriends react? He knows that the still-blushing Serra would probably tease him and get as physical as possible no matter how he looks. Nell would probably want to see him get corrupted by somebody else. Azalabulia might feel her protective instincts come out upon seeing him and treat him like one of her students. Then there is Cassiel, and he has no idea how she would react. She would probably just roll her eyes and be unamused, and then she would tell him to hurry up and go back to normal because he’s being weird.

There is one other person whose reaction he would like to know of.

“I would bully you, onii-wan,” Saya answers before he even has a chance to ask her.

“A younger-but-bigger sister bullying me? I mean, that doesn’t exactly sound bad, Pupaya.”

“Hmph! How am I supposed to get my revenge on you if you’re just going to enjoy it when I bully you!”

“You could try to be less cute about it.”

“Ba-baka onii-wan…”

“Wait, couldn’t you make me small whenever you want whenever I’m immersing or waking?”

“I – I could.”

“You should do it next time. Playing around for a bit like that with you would be fun.”

“Wh-what do you mean playing?!”

“I don’t know. Wrestling or something.”

“Y-you actually don’t know?”

“Yeah. Honestly, no idea. Isn’t the whole point of you bullying me supposed to be that you’re in charge? So, just do whatever I would do to you if I was your little sister and you ended up being my even-littler-brother temporarily.”

“Wh-what would you do?”

“You already know the answer to that. Anyways… if the positions were reversed, I would—”

“Don’t even finish that line of thought. You’re horrible, onii-wan.”

“I really am.”

“Go back to looking for bugs.”

“It’s an insect.”

Saya filled his mind with a loud, annoyed sigh before letting him get back to what he was doing. Apparently, that means pretending to have any idea what Eva has been talking about, because she sounds like she’s in the middle of a rant about something.

“Seriously, that perverted old man. Of all the things to do in this game and that’s what he spends his time on trying to create,” Eva says and groans.

“What was it he wanted to do again?” Fenrir asks, trying not to make it too obvious that he wasn’t listening to anything she was just saying.

“Make big women. Like, really big women. Because the character creator doesn’t actually let you get away with any crazy proportions, he wants to find a way to make it so that women can, as he put it, ‘have gigantic fun sacks.’ Eugh, even just that name for them, ‘fun sacks,’ is gross.”

“So, he’s into like… hyper-sized stuff?”

“Yeah, basically. It’s impossible to get proportions that are just crazy unrealistic, though, so that’s why he started doing the other thing.”

“The other thing?”

Eva narrows her eyes at Fenrir. “You weren’t listening, were you?”

“A-aha… sorry, I got distracted by my virtual assistant.”

“Hmm. Anyways, he figured out that if he can’t make just a female avatar’s breasts bigger, then he would try making the whole avatar bigger. The taller and wider an avatar is, the bigger the rest of their body is allowed to grow to match the increase in size, so everything becomes big. He just hasn’t found out how to properly turn a woman into a giantess yet. He figured out how to make half-giants, but not a complete giantess. And, of course, a half-giant isn’t giant enough for him even though those things on his girlfriend are already like bigger than I am! Seriously, that perverted old man… he’s lucky that he’s so smart. Can you believe that the leader of the so secret and mysterious Hermetic Scholars is just some old guy obsessed with finding out how to make breasts bigger? These things aren’t even that great in the first place!” she says, illustrating her point by grabbing her own modest breasts and giving them a shake as if to try and figure out their appeal.

She continues. “I bet he wouldn’t be so attracted to giant breasts if he knew how much backpain would be involved with them. His girlfriend is all for it, though, so it’s not like I can stop him. His love for ‘gigantic fun sacks,’” she shivers, “has no limit. They could probably get bigger than the moon and he’d still say they’re not big enough. And it’s not like he’s trying to make himself bigger to match them or anything. He’s just… ugh, why does our leader have to only be playing this game for his fetishes.”

“Well, at least he’s figuring out a bunch of other things during the process, right? I mean, from what I know, you scholars know all sorts of things that nobody else knows. You all even figured out those cards and how to measure stats… and now that I’m remembering that, I don’t think any of us have seen our cards since we used them to register for that fishing tournament,” Fenrir says.

“That’s alright. It’s not like anybody actually uses the cards or bothers to keep them updated anyways. Unless you’re trying to join a guild with strict membership requirements or are participating in lots of events in cities, there’s not really any point in having them.”

“They seemed like a huge deal.”

“Well, yeah. You said you had to get one to register for a tournament?”

“Yeah.”

“Our branch offices usually have agreements with cities to require cards for any important events, and the city gets some of the revenue from the cost of getting the cards. So, they make them sound really important and push them really hard. You know, it’s like when you go to a store to buy something and then the cashier is trying to convince you to add something else onto your purchase! Same thing, but with cards that are even more useless.”

“So… basically, I fell for a scam between a business and the government?”

“You could look at it that way.”

“Thelmes…”

A mental image of Thelmes, the cat-goblin-thing, pops upto Fenrir’s mind and features the short, green man counting coins with his feet kicked up onto a table as he laughs at all of those who actually go through all of the trouble of testing for and buying those cards.

Then, Fenrir remembers the fishy experiments that he had to go through for the greedy cat-goblin-thing.

“I think it’s time to revert to my old ways,” Fenrir says.

“What do you mean?” Eva asks.

“Nothing. Anyways, your leader sounds like a pretty interesting guy.”

“I guess. He’s still insanely smart and I’m pretty sure that he can even outsmart the overseer. Like, he actually got a gun to work, but then it broke as soon as they realized what he was doing.”

“Well, we have cannons, so that’s not really sur—"

“I mean like a machine gun – like, an assault rifle. Not some giant cannon.”

“Seriously? How the heck did he pull that off? I thought that the virtual assistants and overseer don’t allow players to create anything that would be too fantasy-breaking?”

“Don’t ask me. He’ll explain it for you if you ever get a chance to ask him, but you would have to go through hours of listening to him explain intention, meditation, clearing your mind, and tons of other things. He makes it sound like it’s more spiritual than scientific. Anyways, the overseer broke the gun as soon as she realized what it was. Then he made another one. And another. Then they threatened to ban him if he did it again, so he called their bluff and did it again but stopped after that one since he got bored.”

“He might have his fetishes, but he sounds awesome.”

“Yeah, and you get used to the fetish stuff when you realize that almost all of the scholars are like that. It’s all money and sex for most of them. I guess that’s what happens when you have such a realistic looking game and then make it so that people can have unrealistic sex in it. One of Trismy’s assistants actually made a tentacle hot tub that fills up with… use your imagination to finish that.”

“How… how much sex happens behind the scenes with scholars?”

“All of it.”

“All of it?”

All of it.”

“Then, those goblin hybrids back at Port Tugator…”

“There’s a reason why branch offices have rooms that nobody else is ever allowed in.”

Another mental image of Thelmes pops into Fenrir’s mind. If the cat-goblin-thing was able to turn himself into a cat-goblin-thing, then… what if there were even more parts of his body belonging to different parts that were hidden by clothes?

Fenrir slaps his cheeks before the mysterious beams of light covering Thelmes’ waist in his mind disappears.

“Smart decision,” Eva says, knowing exactly what was threatening to enter Fenrir’s mind.

“Thanks,” Fenrir says. “Anyways, care to share anything about the dragons that you’re going to help me meet after we find this insect?”

“Hmm. Well, they’re—”

“Found it,” Serra says. “I think.”

Eva and Fenrir turn their attention to where Serra is.

She’s crouching down and pointing at a small, grey insect that almost perfectly blends in with the rock undearneath it.

There’s only one problem.

“I think it’s dead,” Serra says.

The insect is only visible because of its lighter underside facing upward. Its legs – what are left of its legs, are curled upward and there is some yellow liquid coming out of a small hole in its side. It looks as if a tiny piece of rock might have crashed into it.

“Ah… I wonder if we did that,” Fenrir says.

I wonder,” Eva says. “It’s almost as if it might have gotten caught in the crossfire when a giant explosion sent rocks everywhere.”

“N-nah… maybe it just… I don’t know… maybe its side spontaneously imploded.”

“And the broken and missing legs?”

“Spontaneous breaking and disappearing.”

“You’re lucky that it doesn’t matter whether it’s alive or dead.”

“Wait, seriously?”

“Mhm. All they’ll really need are its wings. So, you better hope that they’re fine. If they’re even slightly damaged, then we’re going to have to keep on looking until we find another one.”

 “Please be okay,” he says, looking down at the dead insect and holding his hands up together in front of his face to offer it a prayer.

Eva crouches down, picks it up, and flips it over.

“Well?” Fenrir asks.

“Hmm. This is definitely a different one from the one I found earlier since its wings are so much smaller… but, they’re safe. This will be good enough,” Eva explains before delicately pulling the wings off from the insect’s back.

Then she pops the rest of the dead insect into her mouth.

“Hey! I thought you said that these things were super rare? Weren’t you upset about not getting to eat it?” Fenrir asks.

“I did. I also said that all we need are their wings and that I wouldn’t get to eat the part I really want to eat. The rest of their body isn’t really useful at all, so I thought I’d find out how they taste,” Eva explains and closes her mouth.

Serra goes even more pale than she already is as soon as she hears the pop come from within Eva’s mouth.

While Serra would normally think of adding a new girl to their relationship, especially one as unique and as attractive as Eva, the thought of kissing Eva and then getting insect legs in her mouth from the kiss is enough to make Serra—for once—not want to lewd another woman.

“You have a bit of uh,” Fenrir says, pausing and pointing at her chin where some of fluids from inside of the insect have gotten to somehow.

Eva sticks out her long, thick tongue—one that looks almost as long as Nell’s but thicker—and licks at her chin before holding up one finger.

The next second, her cheeks puff out and glow as if there is a raging fire inside of her mouth. Then, when she parts her lips, smoke flows out from between them.

“One of the best parts about being able to breathe fire is that I can use it to clean my mouth. Never have to make sure that I have any food stuck to my teeth thanks to it!” Eva explains as Fenrir and Serra look at each other.

Neither of them knows how to feel about what Eva just did. Sure, she cleaned the inside of her mouth via fire, but she still just ate a dead insect in front of them – a dead insect that popped and that she dribbled a bit of onto her chin.

At least they can both be confident that the other is not currently thinking about adding her to their relationship. After turning most girls on their own who they have met into their girlfriends, they have finally found one who grosses them out just enough to keep their thoughts completely loyal to their current girlfriends.

Even if it’s just a game, it’s an extremely realistic game which means that eating a bug is every bit as realistic as it would be in real life. The only difference there might be, since what Eva ate was a fantasy bug, is that it might have had a different texture and could have tasted better than a real bug.

Neither of them has any plans to find out.

“Alright. So, you have your insect. Can you tell us how to get to the dragons now?” Fenrir asks Eva.

“Oh, sure,” Eva replies. “Uhh, they’re… kind of really far into the mountains. There’s no way that your wagon is going to be able to make it.”

“We don’t plan on taking the wagon. We figured that we’ll just climb and walk our way there.”

“I don’t think you understand. I mean like, they’re really far into the mountains. It would probably take you a couple of weeks of in-game time to get there, and that’s if you survive. The areas you would have to climb through are extremely dangerous. Even if you’re a pro at mountain climbing, there would still be monsters trying to attack you while you’re climbing. They’ll be happy as long as they can make you fall and go splat!” she explains, dramatically splaying her fingers out to illustrate her point.

“I see. Well, there are two in our group who can fly, so we could always just take turns going over.”

“Hmm. Good luck. The shredder eagles would probably, you know,  tear you to shreds. Even an armored mount would probably get shredded to strips, and I wouldn’t feel safe without a group of at least five ranged fighters on mounts who could defend themselves.”

“We have… a serpent girl and a flying fox.”

Eva looks away and covers up her mouth.

“You’re totally thinking that we’d get wrecked, aren’t you?” Fenrir asks.

“Are you sure you should be looking for dragons?” Eva asks back, still covering up her curled lips from his sight.

“Well, I mean, it’s probably our best bet right now. We need dragon allies.”

“It’s not that easy. You can’t just hope that you’ll get to befriend dragons by meeting them.”

“It’s a game and trying is better than not. Besides, they like flying down to the ocean for some fishing, right?”

Eva raises her eyebrows and asks, “Just what is it that you want to befriend dragons for? Why do you need dragon allies?”

“Because it would be awesome. There’s also the fact that we’re going to need as much help as we can for—”

Eva slips up and smiles, reminding Fenrir to shut his mouth.

“Nice try,” he says, “but if you want to know anything more than that, then you’re going to have to help us get to the dragons.”

“Hm?” Eva pauses and looks right into his eyes, her smile subtle. “You’re smarter than you look. Alright, I know a safe path that can take you from near here to the dragons, but you’re going to have to tell me about what you want their help for.”

“The original deal was that that you would us get to them if we helped you find the insect.”

“The deal was that I would point you toward them after helping me find the insect that you scared off in the first place.”

“I see. Well, it’s fine. I doubt that you’re that interested in what our friendly giant serpent found in depths far deeper than where you and any of your scholars can get to. We’ll just have to try our luck with our flying fox and our friend chosen by the Western Serpent since she can fly with the wings she got when she was blessed. Worst case scenario, I have to use Rod’s full power,” he says, patting the top of Rod.

“Wa-wait… friendly – friendly giant serpent and… that girl down there is the girl chosen by the Western Serpent?”

Eva’s attitude has completely shifted, giving Fenrir the upper hand as he crossed his arms and leans back a bit more.

“Did I say that? Huh. Anyways, you should get back to your scholar friends. Don’t worry about us; we’ll figure something out on our own. That insect of yours is more important right now.”

“Ha-hang on a minute here…”

“It’s fine, I promise. We’ve always managed to somehow do things on our own in the end. I mean, just like how we managed to combine a branch from Yggdrasil with steel oak for our boat.”

“They were – they were combined?”

Fenrir shrugs and lets out a loud yawn. “You should really get back with those wings, shouldn’t you? It’s not like,” he goes in for the killing blow, “listening to the secrets of the former Divine Briga—I mean, oh, hey, the moon looks pretty. Don’t you think, Serra?”

“Yeah,” Serra says, nodding and looking up at it without realizing what Fenrir is trying to do.

Meanwhile, Eva’s thick tail has coiled around her calves and she’s biting one of her nails as she looks around trying to figure out what bartering information she might have to offer other than the path to the dragons.

“You know,” she says, “if you’re into furries, going by your tail and ears, I know how you could get completely cov—”

“No thanks. Kemonomini isn’t the same as furries.”

“Th-then how about how to get your Rod there to talk and—”

“It’s fine. A fishing rod that could actually talk to me would probably sass me whenever I fail to reel in a fish, so it’s fine if he doesn’t learn how to.”

“Then… oh! Did you know that there is a forest of steel oaks down on the coast? They’re hard to distinguish from regular trees, so unless you know where to go, you probably won’t find the—”

“Oh, Rock there managed to find them and we already cut a bunch of them down. It was a lot of hard work, and now there’s a patch in the forest that is just a bunch of stumps, but we already know about that.”

Eva slumps her shoulders as her tail falls to the ground.

“Fine,” she says. “I promise to take you to the dragons if you answer all of the questions I have now, and I mean actually take you to them with the safe passage and everything.”

“You don’t have to actually take us there as long as you show us where the passage is and tell us anything else we need to know to get there.”

“I have too many questions now. I might as well stick around so that I can get proper answers to all of them.”

“Alright. That sounds like a good deal to—”

“Found another,” Serra says.

Fenrir and Eva look over to her and see that one of the elusive insects hass landed directly on the back of her hand. It is alive, healthy, and twice the size of the first one they found. Not only that, but it has a tiny, golden horn sticking out from its head.

Eva’s jaw practically drops to the ground when she sees it.

“A – a female?! Are – are you serious?” she asks out of disbelief.

“The females have horns?” Fenrir asks.

“Ye-yeah, and those horns can be used for the permanent ability to change how old you look whenever you want. The wings might be able to change how you look for a short time, but… that horn can make it so that you gain the ability to change at will for as long as you’re playing.”

“How did people even discover that that’s what these things can be used for? Seriously.”

“I – I don’t know, but… the females are extremely rare – beyond rare! They basically give you a brand new ability that can be abused for sexual things and fighting! Imagine being able to freely change how big you are whenever you want in the middle of combat.”

“I see.”

Fenrir walks up to Serra and picks the small insect up by pinching its horn.

“I wonder how much our group could sell this for to the other towns.”

“Don’t – don’t be ridiculous! The most elite and wealthy players in the game would pay ridiculous amount sof money for a potion made from its own.”

“Maybe I should just let it go. I mean, insects deserve to live their own lives without getting turned into potions and all of that.”

“That’s even more ridiculous!”

“Oh, I know. I can use it as bait next time I go fishing.”

Fenrir takes the end of Rod’s line and, rather than hook the insect, he wraps the thin line around its horn and body so that it won’t be able to escape.

“Or – or you could give it to me and let me turn that in to the others! You know, it would be great for you to have a friend high up in the Hermetic Scholars ranks!”

“I’ll let you make your point while you lead us to the dragons.”

“Deal!”

Fenrir, smiling with his arms crossed over his chest like some sort of arrogant villain, has won. Now that the deal has been officially made in exchange for the insect, he can hold onto all the answers to her many questions to use those as a bargaining chip again later on should he need to.

Nobody else appreciates his victory, though. Rock and Shogun aren’t paying any attention to anything being said, and Serra has decided to just stare up at the pretty moon and stars since she lost track of what was happening in the conversation a while ago.

Then there is Rod who has been rapidly pulsating his gem ever since Fenrir implied that him being able to talk would be annoying.

Rod is tempted to just loosen the line around the insect to let it fly away.

Fenrir is lucky that his sentient fishing rod is more loyal than he knows.

6