“What… what happened here?” Fenrir asks upon stepping off of The Shoebill.
The first sight that he is met with is the sight of Rao’s body buried halfway underground. All that can be seen of his upper half is his hands sticking out of the dirt. As for his lower half, it is sticking up from the ground. His legs are somehow straight, sticking into the air like a flagpole.
And nearby is Tabitha looking smug with her hammer.
“He was thinkin’ somethin’ weird,” Tabitha explains.
Fenrir hears mumbling come from where Rao has been half buried.
That mumbling is Rao asking for Fenrir’s help.
“Oh. Anyways, the meeting with King Cat went well. We got a bit sidetracked with a quest he wanted us to go on, but now we’ve got this to make up for it,” Fenrir says, pulling Serra up next to him before presenting them both to Tabitha.
Rao’s mumbled calls for help go unanswered.
“Ya look great!” Tabitha tells Serra. “Nice and powerful lookin’. Men will be scared of comin’ by ya.”
Serra nods and gives a thumbs-up.
Then Tabitha looks up at Fenrir, keeps her eyes there for all of two seconds, and looks away.
“He-hey, what’s that supposed to mean?” Fenrir asks.
“Ya look edgy,” Tabitha answers.
“But I match with Serra.”
“But ya don’t pull it off. You’re a dog boy dressed like a goth Roman. Maybe if ya had a scarier personality, but ya don’t.”
“I can be scary when I want to be.”
“Uh-huh. Who’s a good boy?”
Fenrir’s tail wags.
“That’s – that’s cheating,” he says, not sounding scary nor intimidating in the slightest.
“Fen is a fluffy puppy who wants to be a wolf,” Serra says.
“I’m not a puppy.”
“Who’s a good boy?”
Fenrir’s tail wags even more.
“It’s not my fault!” he claims despite being the one to choose this sort of body for himself. There is also the fact that his virtual tail is only wagging because he believes that is how it should be behaving.
As much as he might claim that it is not his fault, everybody around him knows that it is, in fact, his fault.
“Nell, I know how to be scary, right?” he asks, going to the one girl who loves that sort of thing and would never deny it.
“Of course, my hero! You are scary in the same way that it is frightening when a puppy trips and falls down the stairs. There is a moment of panic and horror before you know that the puppy is alright!” Nell answers.
Fenrir’s ears fall flat against his head.
He has been betrayed.
Nobody around is willing to support him and his claim that he knows how to be scary.
The man who once led a group that inspired fear among all of its victims – the one whose sadistic side has made some people ragequit games forever, is now nothing more than a puppy simply thinking that he knows how to act tough.
But then somebody else comes around.
If he can get to her before she realizes what’s going on then she won’t know to play along.
He can salvage his pride.
He can be scary.
Cassiel turns to look their way.
“You’re finally ba—”
Her words are cut off when she finds Fenrir standing in front of her, holding her by one shoulder to push her back up against a wall as his other hand firmly places itself against the wall on her other side.
He has her boxed in between his arms.
The wolf in black has captured the angel in white – well, the would-be angel.
“Fe-Fen? Wha-what are you—”
As cheesy as it might look to the others, when he bares his sharp and elongated canines are her, Cassiel cannot help but to shiver and blush.
Her eyes find it impossible to look away from his exposed fangs.
Though, those eyes do close when he brings his mouth closer and closer to her.
But as scared as she might look, she is not closing her eyes because she is scared.
She has closed them because she is excited.
Full of anticipation.
“See?! I scared her,” Fenrir says, standing away from Cassiel to point at her to the others.
What he is pointing at is not a scared victim.
Who he is pointing at is his now-aroused-and-needy girlfriend.
Though, she is no longer aroused nor needy as soon as she notices that she is being pointed out to Tabitha, Serra, Nell, Eva, and the still-half-buried Rao.
“Fen,” Cassiel says.
Fenrir might have believed that he just proved how scary he can be.
But not anymore.
Now, he is the one being scared by the tone of Cassiel’s voice.
That cold, sharp, serious tone spoken in a low voice that demands attention – that demands submission.
“Ye-yeah?” Fenrir asks, slowly turning around to face her.
“Since you’re such a dog, maybe we should build a doghouse for you to sleep in,” Cassiel says.
“Are – are we talking about in-game or—”
“Real life. Maybe the neighbors will throw a ball for you whenever they walk by and see you leashed in the yard.”
“I love you?”
“If you loved me then you wouldn’t try to take advantage of my feelings.”
Fenrir wants to tell her that wasn’t what he was trying to do – that he was just playing around and didn’t mean to actually embarrass her.
But the more he thinks about it, the more he realizes that he really should have thought more about it beforehand. Especially considering that he has used that exact same technique on her before that always led into more.
“Sorry,” Fenrir says. “You’re right. I shouldn’t have tried doing that to prove a point.”
While he apologizes to Cassiel, Serra and Nell whisper to each other about how cute he looks from behind with his ears drooping and tail hanging low.
“Hmph,” Cassiel hmphs. “You’re lucky I love you. Now, close your eyes.”
Fenrir closes his eyes.
The next moment, he gets pulled down by the top of his new cuirass and feels soft, warm lips press against his own.
“Jerk,” Cassiel whispers.
“Beautiful,” Fenrir whispers back.
“You owe me that for real later now.”
“The against-the-wall thing?”
“Yeah. And you better do it a hundred times better than this time.”
“That’s a tall order.”
“It’s the cost of forgiving you for embarrassing me.”
“That’s a good deal.”
“I thought so. Dumbie.”
“You can call me the other word if you want to. I deserve it this time.”
“No. I said I wouldn’t call you that anymore.”
“You’re not even tempted to?”
“Not at all.”
“I love you, Cass Cass. You’re the best.”
“I know. Nobody else would forgive and kiss you right after you embarrass them.”
“I thought you didn’t forgive me yet?”
“Shut up. You know I did.”
“This is why you’re the best.”
“I won’t forgive you so easily next time.”
“Then I’ll just have to make sure that there never is a next time. Deal?”
They kiss again.
But, this time, she bites onto his lower lip just enough to make him bleed before pulling away.
“Now you’re forgiven,” she says.
“First I wasn’t, then I was, then I wasn’t again apparently, and now I am again? What about the deal for later?” he asks.
“That’s to make sure that you’re triple forgiven.”
“I see. Triple forgiven sounds pretty nice.”
“Yeah, but it’s almost impossible to get, so you better try hard to earn it.”
“I’ll try as hard as it takes. Is there a quadruple forgiven?”
“Yeah but that’s even harder to get.”
“How do I get it?”
Cassiel looks behind him where all of the others are still standing, pulls him down again, and whispers into his ear, “Babies.”
“I’ll… I’ll eventually get that quadruple forgiveness,” Fenrir says, stepping back.
The need for children has been increasing among his girlfriends more and more lately. Each time, it gets responded to with some variation of “eventually.”
There is just far too much to do before he can seriously think about it.
They still need to meet up with Azalabulia at some point, but at least that is planned for the upcoming weeks. Then there is probably moving again to an even larger place given how many children his girlfriends want.
Then there is the fact that, as much as he wants kids himself… the thought of it scares him more than anything else has ever scared him.
But he has yet to let any of his girlfriends know about just how scared he is of the thought of being a father.
He probably wouldn’t be a good dad if he is so scared and worried about being one, or so he thinks.
And that is one fear that he has not been able to bring himself to share yet.
That fear is also responsible for why he and his girlfriends still haven’t had any real penetrative sex. When in-game sex is just as realistic as the real thing but without any of the risk of pregnancy, why risk it?
But with every time the topic of children is brought up to him, he finds the urge to tell them about his concerns growing stronger and stronger.
He knows that they will be accepting of the fear and give him all sorts of assurances that he will be a great dad, but he just can’t find that same confidence in himself.
“Anyways,” he changes the subject, “what do you think? I look pretty good in this, right?”
Cassiel looks him over now that she’s no longer being flustered or embarrassed.
“You look good,” she answers.
“Only good?” he asks.
“What do you expect? Do you want me to call you hot? Because you are. Plus the old armor you had was all banged up and didn’t fit you right. It was too big.”
“That’s what she said.”
“And how about Serra?” Fenrir asks, walking back over to the others with Cassiel.
“I’m Dread Pirate Queen Serra,” Serra says.
Cassiel was going to call Serra cute… but the cuteness has been upgraded to utter adorableness with Serra’s new title.
All Cassiel can bring herself to reply with is a hug.
Serra has a smug, satisfied smile as Cassiel hugs her.
That is, until Serra decides to join Fenrir in being bad.
She licks Cassiel’s neck.
The sudden lick gets a Cassiel-tier squeak out of Cassiel, causing her to jump up and blush.
“I just got done being mad about being embarrassed and now you do that,” Cassiel says to Serra.
“You should leave the public humiliation for me,” Nell says. “I assure you that I will enjoy it much more than our dear Cassiel!”
“But you don’t squeak,” Serra tells Nell.
“I could always work on a squeak!”
“Hey, don’t change the subject,” Cassiel says.
“Sorry,” Serra says.
“Thank you. At least you weren’t a jerk and try to show off while embarrassing me.”
Both Fenrir and Serra might have embarrassed Cassiel, but she does have a point in that only one of them actually tried to make a show of it.
“Does it even count as embarrassment if ya like it?” Tabitha asks Nell.
“Consensual embarrassment is still embarrassing!” Nell explains.
Tabitha shrugs and returns to what she was doing before, leaving the degenerates to their public displays of affection and other things.
But before any more public displays of affection can take place, something else happens.
Or rather, a different public display of affection happens.
A powerful force slams into Fenrir’s back and knocks him over, banging his head against the ground. Said force then rolls him over onto his back to properly attack him.
“I think you almost broke my neck,” Fenrir says between attempts at turning his head to avoid the hard tongue lapping at his face. “To think some more food would make you this big…”
All of the mining done at the mountain for construction materials has resulted in plenty of rocks and other minerals lying around. Now, while a bunch of rocks lying around would not normally be anything worth protecting, those who have been assisting Fenrir’s group in gathering and constructing have discovered that there is somebody worth protecting the rocks from.
And her name is Rock.
Rock the rock-eating dog. Though, at this point, it would be much more appropriate to call her a wolf.
Or perhaps a dire wolf.
Her new diet has done the opposite of slim her down. Instead, she has experienced a larger growth spurt than what anybody could have expected.
She is half as tall as Fenrir now. When standing on her back legs alone, she is taller than him.
Her “fur” has grown out as well. Though, her “fur” looks more like rocky scales sticking out all over her. Aside from that, more greyish colors have been blended into her rather than only brown due to the types of rocks that she has been eating, and her ears are standing up much higher than they were before.
Then there is Shogun who has come to try and dig Rao out from the ground.
Has not changed at all.
His rocky dire wolf of a girlfriend might have become twice if not thrice the size that she was just a few weeks ago, but he has not grown even slightly larger.
The result is that it is not utterly impossible for him to fly around with her on his back and that he looks comically undersized when next to her.
The two of them cuddling looks more like a mother sleeping with her adopted child.
And Rock is the younger of the two.
“I’m pretty sure you’re strong enough now to knock down castle walls all on your own. You could just charge straight into them and headbutt them,” Fenrir says, failing at pushing Rock off of him.
“Does this count?” Serra asks Cassiel.
“No. She got bigger than you bet she would… but not in the way you bet,” Cassiel answers.
“What are you two talking about?” Fenrir asks.
“I bet that Rock would turn into a dog girl,” Serra answers.
“Why would you bet that?”
“Because you’re you.”
“That’s not a bad reason, but no.”
“Either way,” Cassiel says, “I don’t think we ever expected her to get this big.”
Rock lifts her head up to look at Serra.
Both Fenrir and Serra were gone.
Now that Fenrir has been coated in saliva that somehow could still form in a mouth made out of rock, Rock has turned her attention to the other one in need of a saliva coating.
“Rock, no, you’ll break her,” Fenrir says. “I can barely handle being tossed around by you. You will literally break her.”
Rock, ignoring what he had to say, gets up and charges at Serra!
And then stops right before reaching her.
Instead of tackling her like she did with Fenrir, Rock simply stands in front of Serra and licks her face with no effort spent in reaching it.
“Good girl, but why do I have to be the only one who gets hurt?” Fenrir asks.
Rock finishes up licking Serra’s face, turns her attention back to Fenrir who is still on the ground, and lies down on top of him before rolling around all over.
“I – I feel like a road roller is trying to flatten me,” Fenrir groans out.
“Road roller-da!” Eva shouts, breaking her usually serious demeanor with a wide smile.
Cassiel, Nell, and Serra are all confused and shocked that Eva could so excitedly shout something.
And why the “-da” added onto the end of it?
None of them understand.
But there is somebody who understands.
Fenrir asks, “Was that a—”
“JoJo reference?” Rao finishes.
“Wait, you know JoJo?”
“Yeah, bro.” Rao spits some of the dirt out from his mouth before brushing more of it off of his clothes. “It’s the best cartoon ever.”
“I’ll… forgive you for calling it a cartoon since you at least love it. Anyways, you know it too, Eva?”
“Yeah. I own the physical editions for every format of every part. And I’ve got figurines, posters, clothes – if there’s merch for it then I’ve probably got it,” Eva explains.
“I had no idea you’d be into that sort of stuff.”
“What are you talking about?” Cassiel asks.
“And manga,” Eva adds on.
“Don’t forget the memes,” Rao says.
Fenrir, Eva, and Rao all look at one another.
They have found something new to bond over.
Something powerful, legendary, and borderline religious that they all love.
Getting out from underneath Rock, Fenrir stands next to Eva and Rao.
The three look and nod at each other.
They do not even have to exchange words to know exactly what they are thinking about.
Serra, Cassiel, and Nell take a step back since they have no idea what is going to happen.
But they can tell that something is going to happen.
“Onii-wan, just know that this is going to be a cringe memory that you remember when you try to sleep at night for the rest of your life,” Saya warns.
“Worth it,” Fenrir replies.
At the exact same time, Fenrir, Rao, and Eva face the girls and strike a pose.
The poses that they are now standing in are not normal poses in the slightest. They have their bodies turned in odd ways, Eva has one hand with its fingers spread out in front of her face, Rao has his body turned to the side while lifting one leg up as if trying to go up multiple steps at once, and Fenrir is also standing with his body turned to the side but he has his head confidently tilted while pointing toward the girls with an extended arm.
Nell claps for them, having no idea what is going on but being happy that they are enjoying themselves, while Serra snerks and Cassiel blankly stares.
And now Tabitha has come running back.
“What’s goin’ on?!” Tabitha shouts. “Oi! You’re doin’ JoJo poses without me! I walk away for a minute and this happens!”
“Do you understand?” Fenrir asks his girlfriends. “This is the power of JoJo posing. These poses are so powerful that Tabs could sense them from a distance.”
The three girlfriends look over to Tabitha.
“What?” Tabitha asks. “He’s right for once.”
“I see! That is very impressive, my hero. Perhaps it is the courage required to strike such a pose that is so powerful?” Nell asks.
“That’s a nice way of putting it,” Cassiel says.
“I wanna try,” Serra says.
“By the way, bro. Why do you look like a goth Roman now?” Rao asks Fenrir.
“It’s not goth,” Fenrir answers.
“At least you didn’t say it’s just a phase.”
“Gosh, mom, it’s like you don’t know me at all.”
“Bro, at least call me dad. I get the joke but being called mom is weird.”
Rao holds back non-existant vomit, ending the posing session.
“I’ve always wanted to do that,” Eva says.
“You? The girl who tries everything that she wants to do never did something that she has always wanted to do?” Fenrir asks.
“I’ve done solo poses but I’ve always wanted to do a group pose. I could never find anybody else who wanted to.”
“That’s alright. I’ll JoJo pose with you whenever you want.”
Eva looks up at Fenrir whom is once more being assaulted by Rock. Though, this time, she has lifted her front legs up and onto Fenrir’s shoulders to support her as she stands on her back legs.
But to Eva… an attractive man who loves dogs and is being licked by one has said that he will do JoJo poses with her whenever she wants.
She doesn’t even notice the hand resting on her chest where her heart is.
“Yep. I knew this would happen,” Cassiel says.
“Who won?” Nell asks.
“Azawaza bet it would take the longest. She wins,” Serra answers.
“Yeah. Even if it’s not official yet… it’s not like any of us can win when Aza is still going to be the closest to how long it took.”
“I will make a smarter bet next time!” Nell says.
“What are you talking about with a next time?”
“You know there’s going to be a next time,” Serra explains.
“Just… just how big do you think our relationship is going to get?” Cassiel asks.
“We’re going to need a bigger boat.”
“Don’t you mean house?”
“More like a private yacht… or a private cruise liner.”
“That can be arranged!” Nell says.
“It’s scary how much money you have access to.”
“Does this mean that I am scarier than my hero?”
“Yeah,” Serra says.
Fenrir wants to say something about that… but he’s too busy being licked by Rock. Any attempt at opening his mouth will risk rock tongue getting inside.
He will simply have to settle for Nell being scarier than him.
But going by the fantasies that she has shared – going by everything that she wants to happen to her… if any of his girlfriends are going to be scarier than him, he is fine with that honor belonging to Nell.
“Fen, you’re back!” another voice shouts out, this one belonging to a certain woman who lives for everything dark and edgy. The fact that she lives for everything dark and edgy is why, as soon as she realized what she just shouted out in what voice she used, she clears her throat and says, “I see that my servant-general has returned.”
“We were only gone for a few hours,” Serra says to Nell and Cassiel.
“Deal with it. It’s weird when any of us are separated,” Cassiel explains.
Back to Azalabulia, the edgy fangirlness is slowly building up as she looks over Fenrir’s new look.
He really does look the part of general now with his Roman military-esque gear.
“I see that you have finally chosen to embrace the darkness within you!” Azalabulia says. “Good! Let go and allow it to overwhelm you! Become one with your darkest shadow!”
Azalabulia’s excitement over his new look really isn’t doing any favor for him denying that he looks goth.
And then she sees Serra.
Azalabulia can’t even say anything when she sees the brand-new style for Serra. All she can do is tap her feet on the ground like an excited dog about to be taken on a walk while making adorable noises that are somewhat comparable to those of a dolphin.
“I’m Dread Pirate Queen Serra now,” Serra says.
Those words make Azalabulia even more hyped up.
“Perfect!” she shouts, finally able to speak again. “I mean, I see! Dread Pirate Queen Serra, I see that we are both powerful beings wishing to spread dread and misery across the world! We both clad ourselves in the color of the universe’s ultimate destructor to annihilate all in our path! Tell me, Dread Pirate Queen Serra! I shall conquer all land from the deepest valleys to the tallest mountains, and you shall conquer the seas with your fleet of dreadful abominations! What say you, Dread Pirate Queen Serra? Will you form an alliance with me in order to take over all of existence itself?!”
“Yeah,” Serra says with a smile and thumbs-up.
“Wonderful! Diabolically wonderful! And I will even share my servant-general with you eighty-twenty! When he is not assisting me with all land operations, he will assist you in sinking the vessels of our enemies!”
“Fuck yeah,” Serra says in her monotone voice.
Cassiel has to fight the urge to put her hand over Serra’s mouth after hearing her swear. She also has to fight the urge to tell Serra that she is going to wash her mouth out with soap.
None of them are used to hearing swears come out of Serra’s mouth.
Anything sexual makes sense, but swearing?
Swearing is just bizarre coming from Serra.
But Azalabulia is too excited at the moment to care.
“We need to find you a weapon! I know that you love mighty contraptions such as cannons, but we need to find a weapon worthy of your title!” Azalabulia declares.
“A giant cannon,” Serra says. “One as big as a ship. A ship built around a cannon.”
“That will happen, but we need to find you a personal weapon! Like a sword! A rapier – no, a falchion! A falchion and a flintlock pistol made from the bones of a demonic dragon!”
“Pirate flags have bones on them.”
“They do! You need a flag that strikes fear into the hearts – no, the very souls of our enemies!”
“A bone flag that strikes into their bodies.”
While Azalabulia is imagining a typical flag with crossed bones… Serra smirks at Fenrir since he knows exactly what kind of bone she is thinking about and what kind of striking into bodies that she wants it to be doing.
Fenrir shakes his head without saying a word.
Serra pouts and looks up at Cassiel and Nell.
Nell nods but Cassiel joins Fenrir in rejecting her idea for a flag.
They all know what she really means.
Only Azalabulia’s innocence is left in the dark as she takes the roleplay far more seriously.
“How’d you even afford new stuff?” Cassiel asks.
“We went on a quest,” Fenrir answers.
“What kind of quest?”
“King Cat wanted us to go get some fish for him. In exchange, he used a favor to get us some new gear. We got to pick whatever we wanted.”
“Of course it involved fishing.”
“Fishing brings men together. Men may have differences, and there may be different types of fish and fish techniques, but there is only one ocean. We are all brought together by the ocean and its bounties.”
“You’re trying too hard to justify men liking to play with sticks while catching food.”
“Hey, you like fishing, too.”
“I do, but I’m not trying to make it sound like some deep thing.”
“Of course it’s deep. Don’t you know how deep ocean is?”
Cassiel sighs, giving up.
“My hero, have I told you about the private lake that my family has access to?” Nell asks.
“Nope,” Fenrir answers. “What about it?”
“It is stock full of fish!”
“Not surprising. The only places full of fish anymore are owned by the rich and are private.”
“Consider it another perk of my love for you! Now, the reason why I bring this up is simple. I am sure that my father would love to take you fishing there sometime!”
“Wait, seriously?” Fenrir asks, lighting up. “Real life fishing?”
“Seriously? I could actually go fishing in real life? On a private lake?”
“With my father, but yes!”
Nell can’t help but to grin when she sees just how happy Fenrir is.
Rock doesn’t understand what he’s so happy about, but she knows that he is happy, so she wags her tail just as fast as his is wagging.
“Can we all go together?” Fenrir asks.
“Of course! You do not think that my father would only want to fish with you alone, do you? He would love to meet all of you!” Nell answers.
“Could… could we go while Aza at our place?”
“That would be rather short notice, but I am sure that he would be excited to host you all! Azalabulia included!”
Eva takes a step back and looks away.
They are all talking about their real lives and hanging out there, so it isn’t like she has any place to fit into the conversa—
“Eva, too! While we are at it, how about we have a gathering for our entire group? Rao, Tabitha, Oleander, Corwin – they can all come!” Nell proposes.
“That’s… a lot of guests at once,” Fenrir says.
“My hero, my father often hosts events with anywhere from twenty to two hundred guests in attendance. I assure you that there is more than enough space, food, and staff available for everybody!”
“Then… what do you all think?” Fenrir asks, looking around.
“Meeting in real life would be kind of weird… but I’ve got vacation time to use,” Rao says.
“I guess I could go,” Tabitha says. “It’s not like I’ve got anythin’ better to be doin’.”
“I’ll… have to check first,” Eva says, taking a step closer to the group again. “But are you sure? I’m still new and haven’t really been around for long. Isn’t this the kind of thing that usually happens between people who have known each other for a while?”
“Let us not worry about something so trivial. All that matters is that you are a friend of ours!” Nell says.
Serra, Azalabulia, and Cassiel have no objections to the plan.
“Then we just need to check with Olly and Corwin,” Fenrir says.
“Hopefully the grand battle happens before then! We could treat the getaway as a victory celebration!” Nell says.
“Then we’re going to have to make sure we win or else it won’t be a victory celebration. Come on, let’s finish up what needs done for the day. We’ve got even more reason now to make sure we win.”