Book 2 chapter 32
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Amethyst sat on the edge of the market square; having finished her duties at the All-faiths guild early she decided to spend the day walking around town, a pastime she used to take for granted but now one she took great comfort in as she watched people bustling about. 

Her mind wandered as she scanned the ever-moving crowd, thoughts of her own guild cluttering her mind as she rubbed her nose, a tick she unknowingly picked up from her mother. In truth she didn’t so much as “finish” her work, more escaped it after dealing with two particularly… enthusiastic priests who had both booked the main hall of the guild for upcoming services. After coming to an agreement, Amethyst, taking a page from her sister, promptly dropped a Babylon terminal into Father Joshua’s hands and ran off into town.

It should be fine; Joshua is a capable man… and Asher is there too. She thought of the large Oni man who, despite his appearance, had turned out to be an exceedingly kind, diligent man. It did help that his appearance intimidated the other priest into behaving anytime he was around, quickly gaining him the position as Amethyst's pseudo secretary. I mean seriously, those two bicker like children, how old are they anyway? She thought of the elven priestess and the dwarven priest who had spent the better half of the morning insulting each other in her office. If not for Asher she would likely still be listening to the two.

I hear the cat woman. Hecatolite’s voice slammed into her mind, the sudden intrusion stopping any stray thoughts.

Amethyst grumbled as she pinched her nose. She has a name, Hecatolite.

Don’t care, her sister answered bluntly. She is sneaking up behind you.

Hecatolite had an unhealthy distrust of, as she called her the “sneaky cat woman,” Fiori. Only recently getting past it with Hecatolite giving Fiori a pair of enchanted boots. The boots in question, “amazingly silent boots of quietness,” had enough noise canceling enchantments on them that Fiori could probably walk up to a sleeping dragon and steal its teeth if she wanted. Surprisingly, no one questioned the little decorative bells on the boots that never made any sound, that was if you were not Hecatolite. Hecatolite’s soul bound “bells of sound making,” make it so that whenever Fiori is within fifty feet of them she would hear her.

“Good afternoon, Fiori.” Amethyst said aloud at her sister's warning, a disappointed sigh behind her told her Hecatolite had been correct. 

“Man, Amethyst,” Fiori plopped down beside her, two guards that had been standing watch jumping in surprise as she appeared from seemingly thin air. “How do you always do that?”

Much to her sister's dismay the two of them became fast friends once Amethyst joined their party. Fiori, not surprisingly being the first of the group to accept her as their member, Ethan and Mira taking more time but coming around. It might have been that Fiori was the youngest just now being twenty-one herself, but more likely it was the woman's laid-back attitude. Fiori being a simple woman who was chasing what she called “the easy life,” hoping to become famous enough to retire with a mountain of gold and a lover or two to take care of everything else so she could spend her days lounging in the sun.

Ethan became more accepting of them once he and Hecatolite were able to talk without her… snacking on the local wildlife. He admitted that even for some time after, Hecatolite made him uncomfortable if he looked at her too long only to find out, thanks to Babylon, it was a reaction to her numerous “negative” traits causing his own trait, “idealist” to react to her presence. Since then, the reaction has been dampened significantly, Babylon says it’s because Ethan can now rationalize her in his mind causing his trait to no longer recognize her as a “monster”. It was all honestly well over Amethyst's head, though Alexa had commandeered Ethan for nearly 2 days, much to Mira’s displeasure, to study the reaction.

Mira took the longest. Not out of fear or anything, no, the reason it took Mira so long to be comfortable with Amethyst was simply that, in her mind, Amethyst outranked her. Being not only a noble but a saint, Mira was uncomfortable around her for almost 3 months, until the group had taken a request that caused them to need to camp out for a few days. Apparently, it's hard to put someone on a pedestal when you have to watch over them while… well, let’s just say once you watch someone use a leaf for that you really have no reason to not look them in the eyes when you talk.

“It's a secret.” Amethyst couldn’t help but laugh as she glanced to her side to see Fiori’s bare back as she stretched her arms over her head.

Several things happened very quickly inside Amethyst's mind at this moment. Her first thought being, why isn’t she wearing a top? The confusion was only temporary as her eyes ran down Fiori’s surprisingly toned back, her seemingly thin frame rippled as her muscles flexed at her movement. Her thoughts went blank as her eyes traced her muscular shoulders, down her spine to a small stubby tail; her thoughts suddenly on how soft Fiori’s fur looked as her tail stood straight up, the movement drawing attention to her toned butt.

Amethyst unconsciously swallowed causing Fiori’s ears to twitch, the motion cuter than Amethyst would ever admit as she watched Fiori’s short unkempt hair shift at the motion.

You keep looking like that and she’s going to notice, Hecatolite quickly snapped her out of the trance causing her to quickly look away. 

Just what are you doing?

Me? Nothing, that’s all on you Amethyst, I’m not to blame for every time we get a little slippery, you know? Hecatolite laughed, poor little apple snack doesn't stand a chance, cat girls got… 

Enough, Amethyst quickly hushed her sister as she took a deep breath. She was no stranger to having to quickly calm herself down thanks to her sister's constant teasing, this was… different. She looked back to Fiori who was now eyeing her with a puzzled look, her large gray eyes locking with Amethyst's briefly causing her to tense as she quickly scanned her features, looking for anything to focus on other than her eyes.

Her disheveled hair that seemed to constantly sway as her ears moved… no.

Her long narrow nose leading down to her thin, slightly parted lips…

Damn it Hecatolite stop! Amethyst yelled in her mind.

I’m not doing anything! Hecatolite whined.

“You are feeling, ok?” Fiori leaned closer as she tilted her head, “you look a little red.”

“Yea.” Amethyst squeaked as her heart skipped, “just… you know… hot out today.” 

“Yea it is! Good thing I found this top,” Fiori exclaimed, hooking her thumb into the side of the backless dull gray shirt she was wearing, Amethyst finally noticing the fabric that blended with Fiori’s fur. Though she couldn’t help but notice just how “loose” the top was as Amethyst was treated to much more of a show than Fiori probably meant to give her as Amethyst learned an interesting thing about Feline beast-kin anatomy.

As it turns out their fur on their chest and stomach was considerably shorter than the rest of their body, Amethyst had known this having traveled with Fiori, she had seen the woman’s stomach before. The fur on her abdomen being much lighter than rest had led to Amethyst asking about it before. What she didn’t know was that females though having fur on their breast, it did nothing to cover the surprisingly very pink quarter sized nipples that peeked out atop of Fiori’s perky breast.

Amethyst nearly choked as she looked at Fiori who gave her a sly grin, “Hecatolite messing with you again?” She asked, winking as she let her top fall back into place.

Why is it always my fault! Hecatolite huffed in her mind, fine I’ll go to the void so you can drool over her without me here, that’ll show you.

With that Amethyst could feel her sister's presence vanish, a considerable amount of the strange feelings leaving with her. 

Amethyst took a deep breath as she closed her eyes, unable to keep herself from grinning. She couldn’t help but feel smug knowing she had caught her sister playing with her hormones again. This was far from the first time she had caught Hecatolite doing this, Amethyst was actually starting to gain a reputation for… exotic interest. Returning every weekend with blood smeared across her face as well as “lecherous” eyes, though no one would tell the saintess that to her face. Of course, she was, she thought nodding to herself, I mean I’m not like that, I have a boy… 

She opened her eyes to see Fiori inspecting her… closer than would be considered normal as Amethyst could feel her warm breath against her lips. Her mind screeched to a halt as she looked into Fiori’s large nearly glowing eyes, her slightly wet lips only inches from hers. 

Amethyst felt… something…. a tingling in her abdomen… 

She toppled backwards off her seat, slamming hard onto the stone ground behind her as Fiori laughed. 

“What do you want, Fiori.” She growled, the heat before quickly replaced by annoyance as she quickly sprang to her feet. 

It wasn’t all that strange to see her party members out in town, especially since her father had taken to training them alongside the guard meaning several times a week, they would meet on the training grounds. At first, they had complained, but after a few months the results spoke for themselves. The party now truly resembled their rank, even being able to take on A-rank mana beast now with… only minor difficulty. 

Not to mention they took requests together over the weekends. What was strange was for Fiori coming to get Amethyst on a Wednesday afternoon, the day she would normally be working at the All-faiths guild.

Fiori’s laughter abruptly stopped, her face quickly changing to a grim expression as she slowly balled her hands into fist. “There’s a request… if you’re ready that is.”

Amethyst tensed as Fiori spoke, the implications causing her mind to kick into overdrive as she looked back to her companion. She quickly filed everything that just happened as “issues for later” as she looked up into the clear spring sky.

It's been a half a year since she joined the adventurer’s guild, six months of training, preparing for this moment. The final hurdle before they would be ready to depart… “I’m ready, when do we leave?” Truth be told, she had prepared herself to do this last fall, but given the world isn’t exactly over run with bandits along with others hoping to advance their ranks meant, by the time Amethyst’s turn to take the “test” it was the dead of winter, making it nearly impossible to venture out in search of bandits for the iconic subjugation request. 

She had taken the extra time preparing mentally to complete the “bandit test,” talking to anyone who she believed would be able to shed insight on what she needed to do. Her mother told her, “Given who we are it is inevitable that eventually you will be put in a situation where you'll be forced to end a life. Although we tried to protect you girls as much as we could, the simple fact is the world is not a kind place. Never hesitate to do what needs to be done to survive.” The truth was Taaffeite didn’t know what to say to the young woman when she came to ask for advice. Taaffeite had never expected Amethyst to take up a sword when she was younger, and now she had grown up so fast Taaffeite was at a loss momentarily before, giving her daughter the same advice her own father had given her when giving her a sword for the first time.

Her sisters however took two very different approaches to taking life that even Amethyst hadn’t expected. Alexa had lectured her on the importance of life, “Never take life lightly, know that with each life you are forced to take is in fact another “life.” a parent, a lover, a friend or child, you may never know them as they lived, but you will be the only person to know them at their most intimate moments… their final breath… it's not something that should ever be taken without thought.” Amethyst didn’t understand Alexa’s cryptic words, but she committed them to memory in hopes that she would understand when the time came.

Hecatolite however simply looked at her as if not understanding the problem. It took almost an hour before she finally spoke, “it's pointless to kill things you're not going to eat unless they are a threat. If these “bandits” are a threat then kill them. That's how the world works, the strong hunt and eat the weak, if we kill them then we are stronger… we’re the strongest… why do they hunt us…” Hecatolite paused, a single black tear staining her pure white face, her toothy smile looking so… lonely. She shook her head violently before blinking her eyes ever so slightly out of unison. “What were we talking about? killing people? Pff, people are squishy, it’s super easy just one good” she slammed her teeth shut, her souls interlocking teeth grinding together as they locked into place, “and all done. See, do it with me, and chomp!” Amethyst spent a few minutes practicing “chomping” with her sister, the practice turning into an impromptu wrestling match as Hecatolite showed her the best place to bite people much like a wild dog teaching a pup how to hunt.

Her companions all seemed to think it was too early for her, Fiori having acted as her mentor from the start had been concerned about Amethyst apparently “overly kind” nature. Fiori had told her to remember that though they are your enemy, never forget they are people. Ethan told her to strike quickly, think about it later. Mira… Suggested using a bow or magic from a safe distance. 

Amethyst even asked Hans what he thought, Hans simply telling her “Aim for their weak points and be faster.” 

That had led to her father spending the next two weeks teaching her every weak point in any armor he could find, and several he couldn't, his final lesson sticking with her the most as he sat her down and shared what he said to be a simple truth. 

“My dear Amethyst, you must always remember, there is no honor in a battle. There are no rules, no right or wrong, there is simply who is left when the smoke settles.” Her father’s expression as he placed his massive hand on her head will always be burned into her mind as he spoke, “do whatever you have to, to be sure you’re the one that’s left standing.” The distant look in his eyes caused her to nearly reconsider taking the exam as it sent shivers through her.

Much to her surprise, the most helpful advice came from an unlikely source. She had called Siofra, hoping the goddess of knowledge could help her with what everyone around her assured would be a challenging task. Quickly learning, Siofra was not the goddess to ask as the easily excitable goddess began eagerly regaling her in war stories much the same way she had seen old veterans do. 

Soter, however, who happened to be having tea with his sister… again; Amethyst didn’t comment that he spent a lot of time having tea with his sister as she didn’t wish to offend the god. But Soter, the god of protection, was the one who had calmed her the most. His words were still fresh in her mind as she awaited Fiori’s answer. “We do that which we would never ask another to do simply so they never have to. That is what it means to protect someone.” 

“We depart tomorrow morning.” Fiori slowly stood as she spoke. “It's a week walk to their hideout, I will let the guild master know we are going to take the request… Amethyst…” their eyes met, and for a brief moment Fiori could see it. The determination that burned in her eyes, it wasn’t the playfulness of her sister, Hecatolite, nor the refined saintess she had become known as around town. No, Amethyst's eyes burned a ferocity Fiori had only seen once before, a sight that caused her hands to quake as she looked into the deep purple eyes of her young friend. “Forget it,” Fiori's ears drooped as she placed a hand on Amethyst's shoulder, “I'll see you bright and early at the northern gate, got it?” her voice shaking slightly as she spoke in barely a whisper. 

Amethyst didn’t answer, simply nodding as Fiori left. Fiori knew telling Amethyst of the dangers of fighting another human or warning how becoming a killer could change her would be pointless. Just as it had been all those years ago when her brothers left to battle the armies of Alamgir. The memory causing Fiori's chest to tighten as she silently prayed Amethyst avoids the fate that befell them when they gave her the same look, burning with determination to do whatever they had to do.