[Vol. 5 pt. 17]
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“This way,” GG says, leading Fenrir and the group toward where their battle will take place.

Preparations for both Fenrir’s group and the dragons’ group have been finished. Serra was shown how her weapon will work, Rao was given a spear, and the rest of the draconic players finished their own individual preparations.

Fenrir’s group consists of himself, Serra, Cassiel, Nell, Azalabulia, Rao, Shogun, Rock, and now Eva.

GG’s group consists of himself and roughly twenty other draconic men and women equipped with customized armor for their race and a variety of weapons, and one of them is carrying the folded weapon that Serra has been trained on.

“I’m surprised,” Cassiel whispers to Fenrir after nudging him with her shoulder to grab his attention.

“Why’s that?” Fenrir whispers back.

“Because. They’re… so accepting. It’s weird. Kind of suspicious, don’t you think?”

“Normally, I might be a bit suspicious, but I’ve got a good gut feeling about them.”

“Gut feelings aren’t always right.”

“Mine is.”

“Uh-huh.”

“Has it ever been wrong?”

“How am I supposed to know? It’s not like you tell us about a gut feeling every time you have one, and you could always be hiding them unless you’re sure it’ll be right.”

“That’s true, but what does your gut say?”

“I – I don’t know.”

“Come on, you don’t know what your own gut is telling you?”

“I mean… it’s telling me that… you’re right, I guess. Probably.”

“See? Even your gut knows that my gut is always right. Don’t worry about it.”

“I’m just used to people being more paranoid back in the empire. Unless you went to some random community that was just a bunch of players wanting to live out a fantasy life farming, partying, and eating… everybody had a motive. Even among the angel recruits, there was some pretty vicious competition there. The less recruits, the higher your chance was to get selected.”

“It was a competition? It wasn’t just like, everybody who passed made it?”

“Yeah. There was one girl who just… I’m getting pissed off just thinking about her.”

“Then stop thinking about her.”

“I don’t want to. I want to bitch about her now.”

“Then bitch about her.”

“Fine. I will. She was a huge bitch. She was always smug, always making fun of everybody for everything and looked down on everybody for any reason, she acted like some holy and righteous prick and – alright, get this way. There was one time when we were eating at dinner together, and we were given pasta—”

“Pasta definitely sounds like something some angels in training would be eating.”

“Shush. Anyways, I dropped a noodle and it fell down my shirt and—”

“Got lost between your boobs?”

“I told you to shush, but – yeah. Anyways, then she got all smug when I was trying to get it out and she was saying stupid things like ‘oh, you wouldn’t be having trouble if you didn’t have such a sinful body. Are you sure you should be here instead of on a farm? Or perhaps you’re trying to repent for having such a perverse body?’ God, it pissed me off.”

“So, she was like some sort of smug, condescending angel roleplayer who thought you were sinful for having great boobs?”

“When you put it that way… yeah.”

“Dang. She does sound rough to be around. Though, she wasn’t wrong.”

“And what’s that supposed to mean?”

“Well, your chest is always giving me sinful thoughts.”

“You can’t even see it right now! I wear armor for a reason…”

“You are vastly underestimating me if you think that wearing some armor over your chest is going to stop my mind from having sinful thoughts about it. I still know what’s under there, the armor adds to the mystery, and it has to bulge out a bit to properly fit them which means that you just know there’s more underneath. If anything, one could argue that having such conservative, realistic armor actually makes your chest even more erotic. I get way more excited from you this armor than I would get from you wearing bikini armor.”

“I don’t know if that’s a compliment or an insult, you weirdo.”

“Would I ever say anything other than a compliment to you?”

“I don’t know.”

“Have I ever?”

“I… don’t think so.”

“Yeah, I don’t think I’ve ever said anything negative to you, either. Though, there is one negative about you that I could call out.”

Cassiel crosses her arms and tilts her head to look up at him. “Is that so? And what would that be?”

“It’s that we’re walking side by side right now and not holding hands or holding my arm to press your armored chest against my arm.”

“You’re lucky,” she says, grabbing his hand to hold it. “And it’s because you’re so tall. I always hold your hand in real life when we’re walking, so I don’t want to hear it. Here, I can’t just hang my arm naturally and hold it.”

“True. Being this tall does have its negatives.”

“Why’d you want to be so tall again?”

“Partly because I used to be insecure about my real height, partly because I thought girls would find it hotter if I was tall, and partly because I’ve just always wanted to be this tall.”

“It was mostly that second reason, wasn’t it?”

“Probably. I mean, it’s not like I purposely designed Fenrir to attract women. I just wanted to look cooler than I do in real life. But yeah, I guess being attractive to any potential girls was probably a subconscious reason for me doing it. I did try to design him to be like a guy I saw in a game that’s really popular with girls as far as fanart goes.”

“What game?”

“Some Japanese game where a bunch of historical swords are personified as humans, and they fight using the swords that they’re personifications of. I think. I don’t know, it was something like that. Either way, I knew a bunch of girls were in love with the guy who I kind of based my appearance off of.”

“My hero,” Nell says, finally speaking up after listening in on their conversation, “does this mean that there is art online of a character who looks like you?”

“Yeah. A ton of it.”

“I see! And you said that he is from a game popular with women, yes?”

“Yep. Why – wait, are you… you’re not thinking of what I think you’re thinking of, are you?”

“I most certainly am, my hero. For those of us who wish to see you with another man, it would be very easy to imagine you in his place if you already look similar!”

And this is when an unfortunate memory flashes into Fenrir’s mind.

When he first saw this character online, he was interested and wanted to look up more art of him just because he really liked his design. This led him into a deep rabbit hole of male-on-male hentai, and there were easily dozens of different doujins featuring the character paired with other men from the same series. There were even more random pictures of fanart.

Whether the character was on the bottom or the top, being the one getting tied up or the one doing the tying – whether he was the one giving it or taking it… if Fenrir’s girlfriends are capable of finding out the name of the character that he is talking about, they are going to have a near-endless supply of research materials that would take minimal effort for them to superimpose him into.

“What was his name?” Serra asks.

“What is the name of the series that he was from?” Nell asks.

Fenrir suddenly finds that Serra, Nell, Cassiel, and Azalabulia are all leaning much closer than they were before and are all awaiting an answer from him.

“I forgot,” he obviously lies.

“I guess I’ll forget which condoms have holes poked in them,” Serra says.

“It would be such a shame if any of us were to forget that we had a boyfriend,” Nell says.

“That’s just cruel,” Fenrir says. “Cruel, but effective. I’ll tell you later if you remind me.”

“Promise?” Serra asks.

“Yeah, I’ll promise to it. Just… keep your discoveries and fantasies to yourselves. I don’t want to get called to come and look at somebody looking like Fenrir being tied up and used by a group of men.”

“Such a thing exists?” Nell asks with sparkling eyes.

“I mean… no.”

“We’re looking up that one first,” Serra says.

“Why did I say anything?”

“Because you don’t know when to keep your mouth shut,” Cassiel says.

“This is what happens when I honestly answer your questions. I’ll just never answer anything honestly anymore,” he says.

“But then we are back to lying as well, my hero,” Nell says.

“I just won’t answer at all anymore then. I won’t be lying if I just don’t answer at all.”

“Bold move,” Serra says.

“I guess I could just not hold your hand anymore,” Cassiel says, letting go of his hand.

Fenrir looks down at her and looks genuinely hurt at the idea of not getting to hold hands anymore. In fact, it might be the most hurt he has ever looked.

Cassiel can’t help but to return her hand to his. The instant she does, he goes back to looking like his usual, happy self.

“Did you seriously react that much to me joking about that?” she asks.

“I knew it was a joke, but it still made me feel really bad for some reason. I’m surprised myself just how much that actually hurt to hear,” he answers.

“You looked cute,” Serra says. “I want to make you look like that again.”

“That would require emotional abuse, and I’m not into that. Nell is.”

“I prefer physical abuse over emotional abuse, my hero,” Nell says.

“You know, it’s alright to prefer non-abusive things. Like handholding. There’s nothing wrong with handholding.”

“Are you shaming me for my desires, my hero?”

“Yes. I’m kinkshaming you.”

“Wonderful! Please, by all means, continue to shame me even more.”

“I wi—”

“You guys are doing it again,” Rao interjects. “You know that we’ve got a bunch of random people with us, right?”

Serra tucks herself next to Fenrir in a position where the others won’t be able to see her – or rather, where she won’t be able to see them.

They obviously can’t see her if she can’t see them.

Nell, however, smiles even more than she was previously while Cassiel just sighs nudges Fenrir again with her elbow since she doesn’t know how else to react.

Then there is Azalabulia. Despite not really being present in the conversation at all, she still finds it embarrassing upon realizing that everybody else has been quiet so that they could listen in on their conversation.

“We’re… we’re really not used to being with other people,” Fenrir admits.

“Yeah. We should probably work on that,” Cassiel says.

“But how else are we to earn stares of judgement?” Nell asks.

“Not everybody wants to be judged.”

“Are you trying to prevent me from indulging in my desires?”

“Yes.”

“Ah, how wonderful it is to be denied of my own pleasure. That makes the inevitable release even more amazing!”

“Seriously?” Rao asks. “You guys already slipped back into it? It’s only been like thirty seconds.”

Nell looks up at Rao with a pout before sticking her tongue out at him.

“Hey, you’ve never stuck your tongue out at me before,” Fenrir says.

“Are you jealous of such a silly act, my hero?” Nell asks.

“I just think it’s cute. I don’t care who you stick your tongue out at as long as I get to see.”

And so, she sticks her tongue out at him.

“Is this better?” she asks.

“Yep. Definitely cute.”

He wants to comment on how her sticking her tongue out is made even better by the fact that she’s basically royalty, therefore he would never normally expect a royal princess to stick her tongue out at anybody, but he knows that it would probably be better to keep that bit of information to himself while they’re around others who don’t know them.

If anything, he really has to be careful with Nell’s real-life information. There is no telling what sort of information might escape the game into reality and get back to her and her family. Even if her family is no longer legally royalty, they are still descendants of royal blood.

Seeing as how tabloids still exist, there is always that risk.

As for those around them, there are mixed reactions.

Some of the draconic men and women look bitter at how happy their relationship looks to be. Others find it sweet that they get along so well and can freely play around with each other in front of others. A couple of the men are checking out Fenrir and a couple of women are checking out the ladies.

“This reminds me of my wife and I,” GG says, finally breaking the silence among the dragons. “We used to banter like this all the time. I miss her.”

Of course, he just has to bring up something that sounds bittersweet and dampens the mood.

“Sorry,” Fenrir says.

“For what?” GG asks, making things even more awkward.

“Uhh, I – it sounds like something happened.”

“Ah, that. Yes, there was… an accident. And it was my fault. I could have prevented it, but…”

Fenrir and the others might not be saying anything, but they are listening.

“…but… I discovered this game and have been spending way too much time in it. Too bad she won’t play it, too. She would complain less about me playing if she’d just play it with me. I miss her every time I spend time in here.”

GG high-fives one of the men next to him after seeing the reactions of Fenrir and his group. They all look shocked to have been successfully trolled – well, they all look shocked except for Eva who has already fallen for one of GG’s jokes. She already knows better by this point.

“I’m shocked,” Fenrir says.

“Hi, Shocked. I’m GG.”

Fenrir’s surprised eyes only grow even wider as he has now been successfully trolled and dad joked.

“By the way,” GG says, “did you hear about the cheese factory explosion? They think the Swiss did i—”

“Aza, teach us something,” Fenrir says, putting all the pressure to save them from listening to GG’s jokes onto her.

“Ah – umm, did… did you know that promising methods to clean up the space debris are being developed and that it is actually expected to be clear within the next three decades given our current technological advancements?” Azalabulia asks and loses most of them before she’s even done talking.

Eva says, “Oh. Yeah, I was just reading something about that. Didn’t they also find out that we’ve basically hit the worst of the worst when it comes to the climate changing? Like, all we have to deal with now are the societal issues popping up everywhere, but other than that, the planet’s situation can’t get any shittier without really trying on purpose to make it worse?”

“They did! There are still some skeptical of course, and there should be skeptics, but their findings have been reviewed and agreed on. I personally believe that the only people still pushing that the world is going to end if we don’t continue changing are trying to inspire change still instead of letting us get stagnant again. They’re happy that our situation isn’t as bad as it was feared, but they don’t want people to get lazy because of that. I agree with them in a way. If it means continuing to improve our current technology, then I would be happy to fearmonger for a bit longer. Of course, I still made sure to share the news with my students. I believe that I’m teaching them to be responsible and hardworking even if they have nothing to fear, so I have faith in them to not become complacent.”

“Teacher?” GG asks.

“You don’t plan on joking about it, do you?” Eva asks him.

“Serious question.”

“Yes, I teach children,” Azalabulia answers.

“I see. I teach some older brats – high school math. Love the job, but there’s a reason why I like to relax in this game. It is a stressful job no matter how much you love it,” GG explains.

“Yeah, you’re not wrong about that.”

“Hey, this is it, right?” Eva asks.

The combined group comes to a halt at the top of a large ravine that seems to extend into the deepest depths of the world. The bottom is not even visible from the top.

Of course, that’s mainly because the sun isn’t hanging over it to shine down into it.

“There is a tunnel halfway down this ravine that will lead to the pit we fish at,” GG explains.

“How are we going to get down there again?” Fenrir asks.

“By flying, unless you have a better option.”

A woman steps up behind each member of the group except for Eva and Fenrir.

“A-ah, I think I will fly on my own for once,” Nell says.

Meanwhile, Fenrir has another man behind him instead of a woman like the rest. Even Rao has got a woman ready to hold him under his arms.

As for Rock, she has already helped herself up onto Shogun’s back with her legs hanging off of his sides. Nobody bothers questioning how his back doesn’t somehow break underneath her heavy weight.

“Is everybody ready?” GG asks the groups.

His own dragons seem eager to get to it, but those who are going to be getting carried are far less enthusiastic about what is going to happen.

Right as Fenrir opens his mouth to confirm that they’re ready, the dragons leap off the ground into the ravine with him and his group.

It is fortunate for him that the other girls made enough surprised noises to drown out the noise that he made when he was suddenly dropping into the ravine. Even better is that the draconic men and women are easily capable of soaring through the ravine with the extra baggage without even the slightest of difficulties.

Well, there is one challenge that distracts them.

There is the challenge of not getting distracted by watching Shogun glide with Rock on his back. It is a challenge that many of them fail.

Halfway down the ravine, GG—who is taking the lead—turns so that he can fly into a tunnel in the side of the ravine’s wall. They lose practically all visibility at this point, but the tunnel is large enough that multiple can fly through it at each other’s side without bumping into each other or the surrounding rocks.

“Why hasn’t anybody put up any torches or anything?! Wouldn’t it be safer for all of you?!” Fenrir shouts to GG.

“We used to have some but we thought that the monsters might be stuck here longer trying to get out if we removed them!” GG shouts back.

“But they’re fish! How are they going to get out if this tunnel only takes us to the top of a pit?!”

“They might be smart fish! You never know and we didn’t want to take any chances with showing these monsters how to get out and spread into the mountains!”

Fenrir can’t argue with that logic as much as he might want to. Though, the only reason he wants to argue with it is because he’s currently having to place all of his faith in some random player while he’s flown through an almost-pitch-black tunnel.

“Are you troubled, my hero?” Nell asks, but he can’t see where she is.

“You could have carried me,” Fenrir replies.

“I could have, yes, but for the same reason that I am not carrying any of the others, I would be much too worried about accidentally dropping any of you while flying through a new space! Let us not forget that I do not much have experience with flying in the first place. Though… it would be tragic if I were to accidentally drop a loved one onto those sharp, spiky rocks underneath us.”

“Wait, you can tell that they’re spiky? I can’t even see them.”

“Yes. They are very rough and spiky. I imagine that falling onto them would be incredibly painful if not lethal at these speeds. At least, given how sharp they are, you should get stuck instead of bounce along them.”

“You’re not helping. You’re really not helping right now.”

“My goodness, my hero! I have never heard you so frightened before.”

“I don’t like not being in control. You know, it’s like how some people complain about cars now. Some people are terrified of autocars because they’re not in complete control of them at all times. Even if they’re proven safer and accidents are pretty much non-existent now, people are still afraid of not being on control!”

“Don’t worry,” the male carrying Fenrir says. “I won’t drop you.”

“Sorry, and I don’t mean any offense, but that doesn’t make me feel any better about this.”

Immediately after saying that, Fenrir finds himself drooping a little bit lower in the man’s grasp.

“That – that was on purpose, right?” Fenrir asks.

“Was what on purpose?” the man asks.

“Please don’t drop me.”

The man lifts Fenrir back up some more. “Don’t worry. I won’t.”

Eventually, they make it through the long, descending tunnel without any incidents. The room that they have flown into is one giant pit that reaches even farther down into the world.

Though, as much as it might seem as if they should be deep underneath the world’s surface level at this point given how far they have been travelling underground while descending almost the entire time, they are not even at sea level yet. It’s just that none of Fenrir’s group realize how high into the mountains they actually went.

More importantly, they can see the monsters already.

“You two, go distract them,” GG orders.

Two draconic men fly down and are immediately shot at by monsters at the bottom of the pit. What is being shot at them are globs of glowing, green liquid that burns whatever it splashes onto. It is also a very slow-moving liquid. This means the two men are easily able to bait the monsters into firing at them before strafing to the side to dodge the attacks, keeping them away from the rest of the group in the process.

“A few of them can shoot that liquid. Trust me when I tell you that you do not want it to touch you,” GG explains, pointing at the wall that Fenrir has been looking at already.

The rock itself is melting underneath the green liquid.

“If it does get onto anything, immediately disregard whatever it is. I even recommend cutting off your own arm if any gets onto it,” GG continues.

“It’s that bad?” Fenrir asks.

“Yes. It spreads and takes over organic matter, you see.”

To further illustrate his point, GG points down at some of the monsters at the bottom of the pit. Thankfully, Fenrir and the others can actually see the bottom of the pit since there are still various light sources left there from the dragons and more of that glowing, green liquid.

As for what GG is pointing at… they are monsters clearly draconic like GG and the others in origin, but parts of their bodies have been taken over by that corruptive, green liquid. Whatever hasn’t been burned off from their flesh has been covered in glowing barnacles. In some cases, instead of being covered in barnacles, there are tentacles sprouting forth from the wounds.

“It’s like that one fungus. Cordyceps. Except… more eldritch,” Fenrir says.

“And it will be you if you are not careful. It will spread and take your body over if it gets onto you, so I am not exaggerating when I tell you to cut your arm off before it forcibly turns you into another enemy,” GG explains.

“You heard him,” Fenrir tells his group. “If any of you are having second thoughts, you can be put down here.”

“That’s not going to matter. Unless somebody is willing to fly us back, if you all lose then we’d be stuck here unless we jump off,” Cassiel says. “I’ll cut my own arm off if I have to.”

“I’ve already dismembered myself in previous lives, so it’s no big deal,” Eva says.

“I… may need assistance if it comes to that,” Nell says.

“Yeah,” Serra agrees.

As for Azalabulia…

“A corruptive power that takes over the host’s body against their will to force them into fighting for their foolish god?”

Her switch has been flipped.

“Nonsense!” she declares, taking her staff off of her back while still being held in the air. She then proceeds to dramatically point it at some of the glowing, green liquid on the wall. “Let me show you what true power is! I, Azalabulia, shall—”

“Bro, if my arm gets infected or whatever, just cut it off for me,” Rao says.

Azalabulia’s spell goes off, sending a blast of dark fire at the wall which quite literally devours the green liquid.

Not a trace of the liquid is left once Azalabulia’s flames are done with it.

“Should the need arise, I will coat my body in mine own flames! I refuse to let such a petty threat hold any sway over me!”

“Well, I guess that’s one other way to deal with it then. I just don’t know what’s worse. Cutting our own arms off or letting you burn them,” Fenrir says.

“Did that truly work?” GG asks. “None of our previous attempts at destroying the liquid have succeeded. If anything, our magics only made it stronger.”

“Of course it worked! Just who do you think you are in the presence of?” Azalabulia asks.

“You would sound way cooler if you weren’t being dangled in the air right now,” Cassiel says.

GG turns to face his group with his arms out. “Fellow warriors, we have found a new way to fight against the foul, demonic blight that threatens us!” he announces, once more playing along with Azalabulia. “You saw it with your own eyes! Should any of you get infected by the blight that wishes to turn our bodies against us, all you must do is purify your body in the flames of Azalabulia!”

The only other time that Fenrir has ever seen Azalabulia this smug and giggly to herself was after she defeated that boss monster that they encountered in the underground labyrinth.

“That clearing down there looks like a good spot to set up Serra. It’s got some ground to move around on to defend her while giving her some space,” Fenrir says. “But… it’s swarming with monsters right now. We’re going to have to clear it out fast enough that they can’t get the ground back and then immediately set Serra up. How long does that thing take to work anyways?”

“It’s fast,” Serra says.

“Fast enough that you can set up and then immediately start firing and not stop firing until we’re done?”

She answers with a thumbs-up.

“Then all we need to do is clear out that swarm in one go. Since using big and flashy magic is going to be risky once we’re actually down there… how are you feeling, Azawaza?”

“Fe-Fen! Not right now! I am Azalabulia!” she whines.

“Sorry. How are you feeling, dark and awesome Azalabulia?”

Azalabulia clears her throat and announces, “I am feeling incredible! While I would much rather have a worthy foe to test my insatiable power on, I am willing to settle for the mass extermination of pests to remind this world of my rule! And for those of you unfortunate enough to be afflicted by that blight, I shall cleanse you with my flames and you shall be reborn far stronger than before!”

“Or dead,” Fenrir thinks to himself.

“I think she means dead,” Cassiel says, being bold enough to say out loud that which Fenrir wasn’t.

“Wonderful!” GG shouts. “Now! Is everybody ready? The powerful Azalabulia will make an opening for us, and then we are to clear the landing to set up our defenses! The battle will proceed as planned from there, and we shall end this glorious day of conflict with the reclamation of our fishing spot!”

All it takes Fenrir to get hyped up about this again is being reminded that this is all being done for fishing.

“Come on, Aza. Show them what you’ve got,” Fenrir says.

“They won’t even get to see what I’ve got before my flames take from them their everything!”

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