“Oh, I know this one,” said one of the grinning pirates. “She’s the selkie, the one that guy who runs the Mists sent in. You ever fuck one of them girls? Hear they got cunts soft and sweet as butter, the whole lot of ’em.”
“You heard right,” said one of his two companions. “I went there as someone’s bodyguard once, got to fuck every girl he was bored with.” He leered at their victim. “We’re in for a real treat today, boys. The holes we got right here go for thousands in the Mists, and worth every penny.”
“Thousands?” Snowflake said scornfully. “You think I’m that cheap?” Master Mordred didn’t let any of the customers touch her unless they were willing to pay an absolute fortune; she was his personal fox fucktoy. Not that it was an improvement. Getting gangbanged for hours on end was still preferable to a single session with the vampire.
But somehow he’d gotten the idea a few months ago that she thought being almost exclusively for his own use made her think she was something special. “Being my private toilet still makes you just a toilet” was how he’d put it. And that was how she’d ended up in the Paradisium Game, with this stupid moniker of Snowflake. Master Mordred wanted to remind her of just how little respect he had for her.
She’d survived the first two rounds though, and there weren’t all that many contestants left anymore. She would win this entire thing, and when she did, she would get to throw her victory in his face. He’d punish her for it, sure, but he punished her for anything and everything. Nothing he could do to her would erase the satisfaction of making him look foolish for once. Between this rare chance to deflate his pride, and getting to cum yesterday after centuries of forced denial, she was feeling more like herself than she had in a long time.
Screw going in the water, she’d decided early on today. The others could go play with the fucking hentai monsters if they wanted. She’d stuck to the ships instead, collecting a small but steady supply of points from each one. And now here on the deck of her most recent one, she’d found a bonus: something to kill.
“No need for anyone to get hurt, girl,” said one of them as he approached with a knife. “You just do as you’re told and we’ll all have a bit of fun together, yeah? You spend a little time draining our balls and then you get to leave, nice and easy.”
“How about a counter offer?” Snowflake suggested. “The first one of you to get down on your knees and apologize for wasting my time gets to live.”
None of the men seemed interested as they formed a loose circle around her. “I call dibs on that cunt,” one man said.
“No fair!” said another. “And I call her ass.”
“Fuck you both,” grumbled the third. “I’m gonna throatfuck this selkie whore to death then.”
Snowflake smiled behind her otter mask. Getting to cum and getting to murder some stupid men? If this kept up, she might actually have to thank that soulless bastard for sending her here.
Seo-yun darted through the doorway and shut it behind her as quickly and quietly as she could manage. Seconds later, she heard her five pursuers run down the hall right past her hiding place. The fox continued holding her breath until the sound of their boots had completely faded.
Their game of hide and seek had been going on for nearly an hour now. The pirates had no shortage of manpower, but Seo-yun had already been a hunter for centuries before any of them were born. Even in human form, she was far better at this than they were. Still, they only had to get lucky once, and there had already been several close calls. On the bright side, she’d successfully figured out the “something” she could do to help Samantha escape. At least twenty of the pirates had ceased raping the phoenix to help chase after her. If she could frustrate them just a bit longer, she might convince them to all take part, and from there she’d just have to hope that Sam was capable of capitalizing on the opportunity.
All her running around had yielded an unexpected bonus: she had far more points than she’d come in with. There’d been blue ribbons strewn all over the fortress, and some reds as well. If she could make it back at the end of the day, and she was aware that was a very large if, she should have no trouble advancing to the next round.
“Emmeck has not given any new commentary regarding your location for some time now,” said Celeste. The woman spoke softly, so as not to startle her. “He possibly realized that his directions were a doubled edged blade.” The announcer had sent the pirates straight towards Seo-yun multiple times, leading to all her pursuers trying to converge on her, but that same singlemindedness had given the fox the room to evade them. Knowing where they were all going also meant knowing where they weren’t going, after all. If Emmeck had been determined to help them hunt her down, no evasive tactics would have worked for very long, but the man had other contestants to comment on as well, and only interfered with Seo-yun every few minutes.
“What’s more,” Celeste continued, “he has stopped reporting on Ember’s situation for the same span of time. There is a chance that this is because all of their manpower is now focused on your capture and there is nothing to report. Or he may simply be trying to minimize your access to outside information, to prevent you from continuing to take advantage of it.”
Either way, it sounded to Seo-yun like her current situation was as good as it was going to get. If she was ever going to act, now was the time. Listening carefully for the others, she slipped back into the hallway and down the stairs.
Her destination was the basement. According to Emmeck, they had a “playroom” as he called it down there where they were keeping Sam. He’d gleefully described them beating her with whips and crops as part of their efforts to tame the woman. Unfortunately, as far as she’d been able to tell while she’d been running around, there was only a single way in or out of the basement. If she wasn’t quick, or if Emmeck spoke up at the wrong moment, she’d be handing herself over to them.
It took another few minutes to reach the door to the basement without attracting any attention from the roaming pirates. It was unlocked, but the hinges squeaked softly as it opened, and it sounded as loud as thunder to the fox. She descended the stairs as quickly and quietly as she could manage. The basement was a long hallway made up to look like a makeshift prison with open cells on each side. Like the ships, it was mostly for show, with plenty of fake blood on the walls and plastic skeletons attached to manacles. Whips, knives, and other classic instruments of torture lined the walls, all of them stained with more fake blood. Seo-yun could smell real blood up ahead though, and the scent made her quicken her pace. Depending on how rough they’d been with her, Samantha might not even be in a state to move anymore.
The cell at the far end of the hall was decidedly different that the others. In addition to the usual tools, it had more modern looking ones, like a cattle prod and a taser, as well as items of a more sexual nature, like dildos and gags. Everything looked more functional than decorative, and there were several modified hospital gurneys where someone could be cuffed, complete with carefully placed holes that would allow access to all of a prisoner’s orifices no matter the gurney’s position.
There were also corpses. Genuine ones. The pirates hadn’t heeded Emmeck’s warning about Sam after all. Five men lay dead in the room, all of them cut up and bloody. There was no sign of the weapon responsible, but there was also a noticeable space in the array of tools along the walls. One of the gurneys, presumably the one Sam had been bound to, had the cuffs torn off of it. The room was otherwise empty, with no sign of the phoenix.
A sense of deja vu began to fill Seo-yun. No, she thought, torn between fear and sheer annoyance. Samantha couldn’t have, not again… she had. The fox could already smell the smoke behind her.
“She’s a pyromaniac,” Seo-yun muttered, as she poked her head out the room to confirm that flames were emerging from several of the cells. “I’m trying to rescue a pyromaniac.”
She’d have bet every point she had that the women had closed and barred the exit too. She turned and re entered the playroom, scanning the walls. Her only hope was that one of the tools here could- “Behind you!” Celeste shouted.
The fox instinctively dove forward, and felt a burst of pain as the tip of one of her trailing tails was sliced off. She rolled as she hit the ground, and spun to see what had attacked her. “Ladies and gentlemen, it looks like we’re about to see an early elimination,” boomed Emmeck in her ear. “It’s taken all day, but the fox and the phoenix have finally crossed paths, and our champion is out for blood! It’s not looking good for sweet little Ginger!”
The phoenix’s body was covered in welts and cum ran down her legs, but she stood tall, a bloody scimitar in hand and her hair writhing with flames. “The mistake I made last time,” Ember said, “was not sticking around to finish the job. This ends here, Yip Yip.”
Then she charged at Seo-yun.
This wasn’t so bad, Delphyne told herself. It wasn’t so bad. Yes, she was surrounded by far too much water. Yes, she felt as though she would choke to death at any moment. Yes, there were many, many tentacles that all wanted inside her. But she was managing.
She’d been grabbed by a leviathan almost immediately after submerging, and it had been a terrifying experience. She hadn’t even seen the beast coming until it grabbed hold of her wings and yanked her closer with all the ease of a child playing with a bath toy. One tentacle jammed itself into her mouth and started working its way down into her stomach, while more tentacles had pulled her arms and legs behind her, knotting them all together in a hogtie. Then, as if determined to impress on her just how completely powerless she was against it, it had wrapped another tentacle around her head, covering her eyes. She’d been unable to do or see anything as the monster had begun stroking her spread thighs with its limbs.
Delphyne had slept with Ellie many times, but that had been her only sexual relationship, and nothing larger than the woman’s tongue and fingers had ever penetrated her. Father hadn’t spoken since she’d entered the waters, but she knew he must still be watching, and wondered if he realized that in some ways she was about to give her virginity – multiple virginities – to this nameless sea creature. It wasn’t the way she had expected to lose them, but she’d known going in that they wouldn’t survive the Paradisium Game.
She was just a little proud of herself for not screaming when the wiggling tip of the first tentacle had squirmed inside of her, not even pausing as it ruptured her hymen. She was less proud of the way she’d panicked, making the water around her churn as she struggled in vain. It had hurt far more than she’d expected; she’d been dry, and the slime coating the monster’s appendages had been no substitute for actual lubrication. The way its rubbery hide had scraped against the walls of her most intimate place as it progressed deeper into her had been, by far, the greatest pain of her life.
Unfortunately, the experience had only held that record for a few seconds before a different tentacle chose her asshole to be its fleshlight. Where the other one had wriggled and squirmed, this one drilled, its hard tip driving relentlessly into the dragon’s bowels like it meant to gut her. Then she had screamed, the sound so thoroughly blocked by the fat tentacle down her throat that she could not hear her own cry, only feel its vibration.
And then the monster had begun to rape her, and Delphyne had been forced to reevaluate all of her preconceived notions about pain.
Both tentacles had pounded her roughly. The one in her vagina slammed into her cervix on every thrust, thumping against it with enough force to send vibrations through her entire body. The one in her asshole was seemingly determined to fit as much of itself as possible into her. Each frenzied, jackhammer like thrust drove it a little deeper into her intestines and widened her anal ring a little more in the process, until she was convinced that her draconic resilience was the one and only reason she hadn’t ripped in half.
It felt like they used her for hours, and when they finally began to cum, Delphyne was given no time for even the slightest stirring of relief. Their sperm was the lubrication the creature was waiting for to really begin raping her, and as soon as the tentacles began expelling the white slime, more tentacles had eagerly rushed in to join them. When the original two popped out of her, she already had two more tentacles in her vagina and asshole each, all four as thick and as excited as the ones that had first breached her. And all around her she’d felt more tentacles stroking her body, all impatiently waiting their own turns to be inside of her.
The creature only seemed to grow more depraved as time went on. With every new squirt of semen inside her that signaled one tentacle finishing, two more would immediately take its place, like some sort of twisted hydra. By the time Delphyne wore herself out and found herself laying still, there were five tentacles inside each of her lower holes. The monster had seemed unsatisfied by her lack of movement, and had begun using its hold on her wings to manhandle her, pushing her body back in forth in rhythm with the tentacles using her. It had told her without needing words that she didn’t even rise to the level of prey in its eyes. She was just a warm thing that it could use to pleasure itself.
For a time, she’d thought that the beast might literally fuck her to death. Wouldn’t that be quite an ending for Astaria, daughter of the great and power Karakostas, she’d thought, the idea strangely comical down there in the darkness. Raped to death deep underwater, in an artificial sea just below her own father’s palace, by a monster that was technically employed by him. But then, miraculously, it had begun to calm down. It hadn’t stopped raping her, that appeared to be too burdensome a request, but its ferocity had ceased and it was now more like… like a dog humping her leg, except it had a thousand penises and was humping her everywhere. It had stopped trying to restrain and blind her, and she’d soon worked out how to make it move. So yes. A great deal of water, a great deal of tentacles, and not nearly enough air. But she was doing okay.
And Delphyne couldn’t deny its usefulness, at least. She now had thirty more points worth of ribbons than when she’d woken up that morning, and there was still time left. She just had to make the most of it.
The dragon tensed when she saw another leviathan approaching on an intercept course, and her agitation resulted in several more tentacles pushing into her holes, but to her relief, it wasn’t another looking to join in. Crikey raised a hand in greeting as her beast brought her closer, and Delphyne did the same. The koala woman appeared to be remarkably adept at controlling the animal, deftly maneuvering it until the two of them were traveling in parallel beside one another.
Crikey raised a fist and alternated between a thumbs up and a thumbs down gesture. Delphyne answered the query with a thumbs up of her own, trying her best to smile around the thick tentacle providing her with oxygen. The koala nodded, then reached out and took hold of Delphyne’s clenched fist.
A jolt ran through the dragon, and suddenly her entire body itched.
It was like a fire beneath her skin, and even as the rational part of her brain told herself that she had to hold still, the rest of her began squirming and flailing, trying to scratch everywhere at once. The leviathan reacted immediately, grabbing hold of her limbs again and violently pounding her. Delphyne screamed at herself to calm down, but her body wouldn’t listen, jerking and twitching as the maddening itch raged inside of her, and every movement incited the leviathan to treat her rougher and rougher.
Delphyne looked at Crikey, hoping that she was misunderstanding something, but the koala was already deftly untying the woman’s ribbons from her flailing limbs. As soon as she had all of them, she raised her hands in a mocking heart gesture and led her leviathan away. A tentacle wrapped around her head again, and Delphyne was once more blind and helpless beneath the waves as she was reduced to a monster’s plaything.
“Wait!” Seo-yun shouted, almost falling over backwards in her attempt to get away from Ember. “Please, I don’t want to fight!”
“Neither do I,” said the phoenix as she gave chase. “I just want to kill you.” She attacked Seo-yun with a wide slash from her scimitar, and the fox only barely dodged out of the way, receiving a shallow cut across her stomach instead of being disemboweled. “So hold still and we can both get this over with.”
“Damn it, Samantha, I just want to talk!” said Seo-yun. Her back was to the hallway now and she slowly edged out of the playroom, ready to move if and when the phoenix attacked her again. “Why can’t you ever just listen?!” She could feel thoooooooe heat of the flames all around her. The woman wouldn’t have to land a single blow to kill her. All she had to do was keep Seo-yun occupied for a few more minutes, and the fire and smoke would do the job for her.
“Do you think I’m stupid, Yip Yip?” Ember asked, keeping slow pace with the fox. “You expect me to believe you hunted me all the way here just so we could, what, have a little chat?”
“Hunted you?” said Seo-yun. The idea was so ridiculous she could almost laugh. “Are you blind? I’m covered head to toe in injuries, I can barely stand, and you think I decided that this was the day to challenge the champion to a fight?”
Ember paused. “What injuries?”
“What do you-” Seo-yun glanced down at herself and saw that the woman was right. All of her injuries, every last mark that Snowflake had given her last night, was completely gone. Even the cut on her stomach had already vanished. She’d been so focused that she hadn’t even realized it. And now that she thought about it, she’d been running and swimming and doing other physical activities all day today, and yet she wasn’t tired at all. She felt better than she had in months, actually.
“I take it you have just noticed your condition?” Celeste said. “Please excuse my impropriety in not bringing it to your attention. After reviewing yesterday’s events, I believed there was a distinct possibility that, should you become aware that your regenerative capabilities had returned, they might disappear again.”
Something wasn’t right here, Seo-yun realized. Snowflake had said her powers might come back intermittently as the human soul within her killed her, but this didn’t seem like that, and she didn’t feel like someone who was dying. The nogitsune had seemed like she was telling the truth, but she could have been wrong somehow?
The fox was so distracted that she nearly lost her head when Ember came in for another attack, and rolled to the side only at the last minute. The mistake cost her dearly however; she ended up in one of the smaller prison cells, with the phoenix blocking the doorway. There was no more room to run anymore. Her eyes darted around the room for something to defend herself with, but most of the torture equipment was either too bulky or unwieldy to use, or bolted to the wall as decoration.
Feeling desperate, Seo-yun went for the only thing she had at hand, pulling one of the three glass bottles of water out of her pack and gripping it by the neck as though it were a club. A club that at best would last a handful of hits before it shattered and left her defenseless again. Odds were she wouldn’t even survive long enough to reach that point. She’d never done any kind of armed combat, while Ember held the deadly scimitar like she’d been born with it. But this was her only option if she wanted to defend herself, and she wasn’t going to lay down and die. “It’s not true,” she pleaded as she slowly backed away. “I swear, I never had any intention of hurting you! I wanted to help you!”
“Do you think it even matters?” Ember asked softly as she closed the distance. “I don’t really care why you came here, Yip Yip. You’re my competition, and that means you’re in my way. I’m not looking for help, I’m looking to win.”
Metal crunched into glass as Seo-yun just barely managed to intercept the woman’s strike with the bottle. She’d blocked at an angle to avoid a direct impact, but even that sent glass shards flying and created a spiderweb of cracks. Undaunted, Ember struck again, and Seo-yun again was able to block just in time. The bottle lasted only two more strikes before it exploded. The fox flinched, her hand dripping blood where glass splinters had dug in.
The phoenix advanced, trying to capitalize on her advantage, but Seo-yun had already wrapped one of her tails around a second bottle, and she yanked it out quickly enough to parry the strike. Ember cursed as she rained more blows down, all of them aimed to kill, and Seo-yun continued to deflect each of them, surviving only by the skin of her teeth. She didn’t even know how she was doing it; Ember’s blade was flashing almost too quickly for the fox’s eyes to even follow, and she expected to feel it bite into her flesh at any moment, but instead there was only the ugly sound of metal meeting glass, again and again. The second bottle broke after less than a minute, and now she was already down to her last one.
As she defended herself, Seo-yun’s mind raced to figure out what was going on. Her survival was more than just blind luck. Fighting like this, on two legs with a weapon in hand, felt somehow familiar, almost as familiar as hunting on all fours. But that was impossible, she’d never- Seo-yun staggered back, bleeding heavily from a wound she’d only partially blocked. The third and final bottle fell from her numb fingers to shatter on the floor, and she collapsed. The cut continued to bleed, showing no sign of healing. She struggled to rise back to her feet, but all of her strength had left her, and she sank back down, so exhausted that she was barely even conscious now.
The underground prison suddenly seemed so very cold, and her skin felt flushed and feverish. Had Snowflake been right after all? Had what was happening just now been only the last flickers of life in her? But it had felt so right. She felt like she’d been whole, in a way she had never felt even as a gumiho. And then it had vanished. What had given her that power, and what had taken it away? Was it simply a matter of whether or not she was thinking about it? No, that couldn’t be it. She knew there was something more, that she was on the verge of understanding, but she was tired and cold and there was no time left. “Please, Samantha,” she mumbled, trying one last time to reach the woman. “Don’t do this…”
The phoenix approached warily, kicking what was left of the bottle away with the sweep of a foot. “My name,” she growled as she went in for the kill, “is Ember!”
Time seemed to slow down as the fox watched the blade descend. It was almost funny in its own way: she was in the middle of dying all on her own, but the phoenix was going to beat her to it. She wished again that she could have simply given her body over to Morris, who would have no doubt used it much better. I’m sorry Morris, she whispered silently. I know how much you wanted to save Samantha. I did too… after all the people she’d killed and he’d hurt, a single life saved wouldn’t mean much, but it would have been a good start for the both of them.
And then she realized the truth, and it was so simple that she felt foolish for not figuring it out sooner. She didn’t know how to fight like this, just like she didn’t know Samantha, and didn’t know how to swim well, and had no idea what stereotypical eighteenth century European pirate ships looked like.
But Morris did.
Seo-yun caught Ember’s arm as it descended, stopping the blade inches from her flesh. Sam tried to tug herself free, but the fox held on easily. “No,” she said with confidence, “your name is Samantha. Your father named you after your grandfather, to get back at the man for always pestering him about wanting a grandson.”
She let go of Sam’s arm and instead of pressing the attack again, the woman stumbled backwards, her eyes wide behind the mask. “How… how do you know that?” she asked, sounding truly flustered for the first time.
Seo-yun picked herself up off the ground. The cut Samantha had given her was gone, and she felt good, like she could go run in a triathlon right now. Just one more thing that a gumiho living in isolation in South Korea had never heard of. “I know it because Jack Morris knows it,” she told the woman calmly, and put a hand over her heart. “Because maybe the two souls inside me don’t have to fight and destroy each other, not if they share a common goal. I think you’re the one who woke him up, you know. Right after the interview, when you came out. Even with that mask on, he recognized you the moment he saw you.” Seo-yun remembered how she’d begun to feel different after that. Begun to resent the rules she was bound to, begun to remember that she was more than some rich couple’s warm condom. “And then he woke me up too.”
Sam came at her again. “I don’t know where you met Jack,” she hissed, “and I don’t care. He either died or never cared a damn about me.” Seo-yun smoothly sidestepped away from it, then smacked the flat of the blade with her foot to throw the woman off balance before she could follow it up with another attack. She didn’t worry about how she knew how to do that, and more importantly, she didn’t try to tell herself that she couldn’t. She just accepted it as a part of herself.
“I’m sorry, Samantha,” the fox said. “He thought you were dead. If he had known, he would never have given up searching for you.” She silently apologized to Morris as well, for being scared of Samantha that first night. It was that internal conflict that had sparked the loss of her regeneration. It had returned when the two of them were focused on the same goal, like rescuing Snowflake or helping Samantha, and then vanished again when she let herself be distracted from the truth. Though to be fair, she whispered to herself, your ex is kind of a piece of work, almost as much as I am. Do you have a thing for women with lots of baggage?
“Shut up!” the phoenix screamed. “Shut up, shut up, shut up!”. Her attacks were wild and unfocused now, and Seo-yun easily avoided them by slapping away her wrist or simply stepping out of the way. “Samantha did die! She was a stupid, worthless cunt, and nobody came to save her, and she died!”
Seo-yun was uncomfortably aware of the flames still spreading all around them. No matter how good she might be feeling, she wasn’t fireproof. This fight was a waste of time. “I can’t change the past, Sam,” she said. “I can’t take away the pain, and I can’t wash away the scars. But I can do something about your future. That’s why I’m here. Because I want to save you. We want to save you.” She let her arms drop to her sides, offering herself up to Sam. “You’re not alone anymore.”
Samantha’s blade struck the fox. And shattered against her skin.
The phoenix stared at the broken hilt she was holding, and didn’t resist when Seo-yun plucked it from her shaking fingers. “I know how hard it is to trust others,” the redhead told her gently. “Believe me, I know all too well. I’ve stood where you stand and told myself that the only way to stay safe was to never allow anyone to get close enough to hurt me.” The heat of the flames was almost overpowering, and Seo-yun could feel the sweat pouring off her skin. “But if you think you can get rid of us just by trying to kill us, I have some bad news. We won’t leave you alone that easi…” Her vision blurred, and Seo-yun’s limbs suddenly weren’t working right. She collapsed to the ground like a marionette.
Everything was hot. A burning inferno in her head that went far beyond the flames drawing closer. Was it another conflict between her and Morris? No, she could feel that wasn’t the case, sense the link between them now that she knew what to look for. They’d pushed themselves too hard, she realized. Even working in tandem, they were still two souls in one body, and that body wasn’t used to the strain yet. Seo-yun looked up at Samantha as her consciousness began to fade, trying without success to read her expression through her mask “Well…” she whispered. “Guess this is your chance after all… sorry… know it’s not an easy choice to make…”
We tried our best, Morris, she told herself as the darkness closed in. Even if this was the end, she was glad they’d died trying.
“Please,” the last pirate begged. His clothes were tattered and stained with blood, only some of it his. He knelt, forehead pressed to the ground. “Please, have mercy, mistress! I-I’m just an employee here! They, they told us to come down in these costumes and, and attack the contestants. I was just doing my job, honest!’
“Hmmm,” Snowflake said skeptically. She licked some of the blood off her fingertips. It was appealingly sweet; fresh blood always was. “Let’s see if you really deserve mercy. Are you sorry for being so rude?”
“Yes, mistress!” he swore, banging his forehead on the ground in obeisance. “I humbly apologize!”
“And will you ever show me such disrespect again?”
“No, mistress! Not on my life!”
“Good, good,” Snowflake said. She let one of her invisible tails glide over the man, enjoying the way he trembled and shivered at its touch. Some of his friends’ blood was still caked on it. “Last question: are you so stupid that you actually thought I was ever going to spare any of you?”
He froze, but the tail was already tight around his neck. He twisted and rolled across the deck, flopping like a beached fish as his fingers scrabbled at the tail that was choking the life out of him. The last thing he heard before he went limp and silent forever was Snowflake laughing at how ridiculous he looked.
Ember had only been rowing for a few minutes when the fox groaned and started to rise from where she laid on the bottom of the boat. “Careful,” the phoenix said sharply. “You fall in, and I’m not going to bother fishing you out.”
The fox carefully rose and sat on the stern of the boat, facing Ember. Her fingers were trembling and her face was red, but her condition appeared to be improving. “You saved me,” she said softly, half statement and half question.
“Don’t go making mountains out of molehills, Yip Yip,” Ember grumbled. “I decided not to let you burn to death. Yet. It doesn’t mean we’re friends.”
The fox nodded, but she wore a small smile behind her mask. “Can I help? With the rowing?”
“If you’ve got someone in your ear who isn’t a flaming piece of shit, the best thing you can do is help me steer clear of the tentacles. All I’ve been doing is going straight on.” Their fight had left Master Sindak at a loss for words for once, but not for long. She was grateful that the receivers couldn’t carry sound back; if he knew that the fox knew her from her past life – sorta, kinda – he would do his best to destroy the woman just to make his slave suffer. As it was, he was chortling over her apparent softness in sparing someone’s life. He’d find ways to torment her about it after the Game was over, of that she was more than certain.
The fox made a few pointing motions, paused for a short time, and then nodded again. “Celeste says this route should be good, as long as we don’t stray southward. She’ll let us know if that changes.”
Us. When was the last time she’d been part of an ‘us’? Ember shook the thought away. “So Jack’s dead, huh?” she asked. For years she’d wondered if he’d survived the day Master Sindak took her. She’d known it was unlikely, and she’d accepted long ago that he must have died, but it still hurt to have it confirmed.
“Yes,” said the fox. “…Mostly. There’s still a piece of him inside me. I, um, ate him. It wasn’t by choice, he was trying to help me, but… it’s a long story.”
Ember snorted. “I doubt it’s all that long,” she said. “He always did have a thing for red heads.”
To her surprise, the fox blushed at her statement, the tips of her ears glowing brightly above her mask. “It’s not like that! I, I only knew Morris a very short time. We only ever even talked once. But he was a good man, and it was my fault he died. If I’d trusted him sooner, then maybe… maybe he’d…” She closed her eyes, her body wavering a little.
“I don’t really understand your… everything,” Ember admitted, “but it looks like he doesn’t agree with you about that. Jack was a big man, and whatever risks he took, I’m sure he knew what they were going in.”
The fox took a deep breath. “You’re right,” she said slowly. “Both of you. Life is just a lot simpler when I can blame everything on myself.” She already looked more stable.
For a little while there was just the sound of the oar hitting the water. “So, if he’s inside you,” Ember asked eventually, “does that mean the two of us are technically married?”
The fox’s eyes widened. “You… you’re married?!”
Ember looked at her skeptically. “You know a story I told him all of once about my Dad and Grandpa Sam, but not that my full name is Samantha Morris?” Your name was Samantha Morris said a voice in her head, but now it’s just ‘meat’. She tried to ignore it.
“It… I… I only get bits and pieces, ” the fox said, still flustered. “I knew you were important to him, but not…” She swallowed. “He told me about you, shortly before he passed, but he didn’t mention it then either.”
“I’m not surprised,” said the phoenix dryly. “Bastard probably hid his wedding ring too.”
“He…” the fox’s gaze became distant for a moment. “He found it difficult to think about. Calling you his wife just reminded him how you had your lives all planned out. Saving up for a house, talking about what you would name our children… it was easier to try and forget about the future that I -he- had lost.”
“You really are in there, aren’t you, Jack?” Ember said. She gave a low laugh. “Don’t we make a pair? A ghost and a… whatever the fuck I am now.” Meat. You’re just meat. “But for whatever it’s worth, it’s good to see you again.”
“We’re not just going to see you,” the fox said fiercely. “We’re going to help you.”
“Yeah? Then pass over those ribbons.” Ember raised her arm to indicate all her new red and pinks. “There were a bunch in the pirate dungeon, but I can always use more. “
“I’m not talking about the game. I’m talking about real help. Help escaping.”
“I’d rather have the ribbons,” Ember said flatly. “I’m leaning towards not killing you, Yip Yip, but don’t push me. There is no escape, and trying just gives them an excuse to really hurt you.” There had been a time when she’d spent every waking moment dreaming about escape. Master Sindak had thoroughly burned that out of her. After her first escape attempt, he’d gotten her to beg for death for a solid week before he was satisfied that she’d learned her lesson. And all of that torture paled in comparison to what he’d done to her for the second attempt.
After her harsh rebuke, neither of them were feeling particularly talkative. The fake stars shone down as their boat quietly glided across the water.
It was Ember who finally broke the silence again. “I didn’t need your help,” she told the fox. “I would have gotten out of that dungeon with or without you distracting them. It just made things a little convenient for me.”
The fox nodded without speaking.
“But… I believe that you really are stupid enough to come try and help me, even though I’m your biggest threat,” she said begrudgingly. “I mean… what I’m trying to say is…….. thanks. For the help.”
The fox smiled, and to Ember’s surprise, tears started to drip down from beneath her mask. “You’re welcome,” she said hoarsely.
“Five minutes, ladies!” Emmeck cried. “It’s been a day full of astounding upsets, but it’s a day that’s almost over!”
Delphyne groaned, still struggling in a sea of angry tentacles. If she was going to escape this underwater hell, it was now or never. Her wings were being pinned by countless appendages, but if she could free them, if she could get out of the water and into the air, the beast wouldn’t be able to follow her. It was a ludicrous plan, but it was the only one she had, and she threw everything she had into it, straining against her captor. And as she fought it, her wings began to move. The movement was slow, too slow, but the unexpected success gave her hope and renewed strength. Her wings beat once, twice, and she felt herself rising slightly before the weight of the leviathan stopped her like an anchor.
She cursed the beast that was using her so savagely. She was more than a toy, more than a squirming vessel for its cum! She was Astaria, and for her own sake, and for Ellie, and for everyone else suffering thanks to the Paradisium, she had to keep going! She kept beating her wings, not caring if what she was trying was impossible. This wasn’t about what she could do, it was about what she had to do. She silently screamed as she pushed herself to the breaking point and past it. She would overpower this monster or rip her own wings off trying.
She rose, just a little. And then a little more, and a little more, until she was racing through the water. She felt cold air on her body as she broke the surface and soared upwards, and it was the sweetest feeling she’d ever known. The leviathan’s tentacles fell away from her as she ascended, the beast giving up the fight. Delphyne rejoiced in her in her success, in her freedom, in the wonderful breaths of air. Now if she could only-
“And that’s the end of round three!” announced Emmeck. “With zero points, Delphyne, the emerald dragon, has been eliminated!”
Delphyne’s wings froze, and the dragon plummeted. No, she screamed internally, her vocal cords as unresponsive as the rest of her. No, no, no! She had to win! She had to! Everyone was counting on her!
The dragon hit the water like a stone, sinking down into the depths, where the waiting leviathan caught her easily. Delphyne stared up at the surface as it receded, until there was only darkness and a thousand angry tentacles, eager to punish their toy for trying to escape.
Qarinah heaved a mental sigh when she heard Emmeck announce the end of the round. All good things must come to an end, she reminded herself, and directed her lover back towards the elevator. He began to escort her there, still softly pumping away inside of her, gifting her with a new load of sperm every few seconds.
Poor Delphyne. If she knew where the woman was, she’d try to rescue her, haul her back into the rest area, but this artificial sea was huge and there was no way to even know what direction she was in. She had to think of the others as well; this had likely been a hard day for many of them, and they would need her support. Qarinah hadn’t missed the way Delphyne had tried to bring them all together and encourage them to work together instead of falling into infighting. Now that she was gone, the best thing Qarinah could do for her was try and pick up the slack.
All too soon she was nearing her destination. It was time to go. She gently pulled the tentacles out of her, and her partner offered no resistance, though he continued caressing her with more of them. Finally, she drew the last tentacle out of her throat, already missing its comfortable thickness inside of her. She was only a few feet underwater now, and a couple strokes brought her up to the surface, the dock right in front of her.
The succubus reached a hand out to the dock to pull herself out of the water, but paused. It had only taken her a couple minutes to get here, which meant she did still have some time… she glanced beneath her, where she could just barely make out the shadow of her partner still below. Should she really risk it?
The safe thing to do was climb back onto the dock and just hope that tomorrow’s round would be just as pleasant, but she found herself hesitating anyway. What if tomorrow was like yesterday, she wondered, a fruitless search for joy. Was it really that bad to get just an extra couple minutes?
Soon she was back in her lover’s embrace. He’d clearly missed her too, and made love to her with newfound eagerness. Qarinah relaxed as the pair of them began cumming over and over. Just one more minute, she promised herself. Just one more…
“Heya Vee!” called Crikey as she strolled into the rest area. “We the only ones back so far?” Nadia nodded, not looking up from the kitchen table where she sat deep in thought. “Cor, that’s a stroke of luck then, yeah? Been meaning to catch up!”
“I heard about Delphyne,” Nadia said softly. “Was that you?”
Crikey beamed. “Course it was me! Delphy is a really nice girl, way less snobby than I thought she’d be, but I couldn’t just let her win.” She sat down across from Nadia. “Now Qarinah, that one took some real doing! Ran myself ragged yesterday keeping her from running into any of the gobbos.”
“Then we’re down to six,” the raven said grimly.
Crikey waved a hand dismissively. “Sure, sure, but you don’t have to worry about most of them. The two foxes will take care of themselves, and the ‘catgirl’ won’t give us any trouble, promise.”
“And the phoenix?”
“Oh, don’t worry about her yet. I’ll deal with the little fire bird in round five. You planning to stick it out that long, make it look more believable, or just drop out round four?”
Nadia swallowed hard, and slowly lifted her head to meet the other woman’s eyes. “Actually, I…”
Crikey reached across the table and slapped her. The mask absorbed some of the blow, but it still made her head rock to the side. “Why are you here, Nadia?” she asked cheerfully.
Nadia looked around, but they were still alone. “To… to help you win, Mistress,” she said quietly.
“That’s right!” Crikey said, her tone and expression as bright and ever, and slapped her a second time. “And now that we’re down to the last two days, it’s time to get serious. No more screwing around, pretending you’re a real contestant. You’re even lower than the rest of those pathetic sluts scrambling around out there, remember? You’re just a stupid, lazy, fucktoy that’s here to make me look good. Say it.”
“I’m just a stupid-” Crikey slapped her a third time – “lazy” – a fourth – “fucktoy that’s” – a fifth – “here to make you look good.” Nadia’s face felt puffy by now, and she could feel a little blood trickling down her chin.
Crikey shook her hand out. “Dang, that kinda stings. Much easier with a good old riding crop or whip. But we gotta make do, right? Who knows what a brainless idiot like you would get up if you didn’t have me around to set you straight.”
“Yes Mistress,” Nadia said, and bowed her head. “Thank you for reminding me.”
The koala woman’s hand extended again and the raven flinched, but it only playfully tousled her hair. “Aww, don’t mention it,” Tanya said happily. “What are sisters for?”
Seo-yun’s spirits sank when the elevator doors closed, killing any chance of Qarinah returning. Emmeck’s announcement of Delphyne’s elimination had already hit her hard. Both women had been so kind to her, even when they’d had no obligation to be. To have them both suddenly gone left a hole in her heart.
Crikey and Betty prepared dinner again, but the koala was the only one who seemed to be in a good mood. Betty seemed even more affected by the loss of Qarinah than Seo-yun, Vorona and Samantha were still keeping to themselves, and Snowflake… was Snowflake.
The nogitsune pushed Seo-yun’s plate of food away as soon as it was set down. “I don’t recall giving you permission to eat,” she said smugly.
“We made that food for everyone, meow,” Betty said quietly. “Ginger has as much right to it as anyone else, meow.”
Snowflake gave the girl a wicked smile. “I didn’t say she can’t eat,” she informed her. “Only that she hasn’t earned my permission yet. How about one bite per orgasm? Doesn’t that sound generous, freak?”
Seo-yun was still exhausted, and starving. Working together with Morris hadn’t done anything to alleviate either condition. If anything, the expenditure of energy had drained her already dwindling reserve of stamina. She needed food if she was going to keep going, and she wanted to stay in the game now more than ever. This opportunity to meet Samantha had been an incredible stroke of luck, and she knew she would never get a chance like this again.
She briefly wondered if she might be stronger than the nogitsune when she and Morris worked together, but dismissed the idea. Even if it was true, and she had no reason to believe it, she didn’t have the strength to do anything right now. And if she stood against the woman, she’d be putting everyone else’s lives at risk. So Seo-yun nodded her head. “That sounds very fair, Mistress.”
“See?” Snowflake asked Betty. “No problems here. If you quit your whining, maybe I’ll let you have a turn with her after I’m done. Now that those two self righteous moralizing hypocrites are gone, we can finally enjoy ourselves a little. So get licking, freak. Don’t want your dinner to get cold.”
Seo-yun got out of her chair and moved to crawl under the table, but paused when Samantha called out from the sleeping quarters. “Knock it off and let the fox eat.”
Snowflake rested a foot on Seo-yun’s head, gripping her hair with her toes, and tugged her closer. “Stay out of this,” she called back. “You had the right idea this morning: the freak’s made her choice. She’s chosen to be my personal subby carpet muncher.”
Samantha appeared in the doorway. Time had made her bruises even more prominent, and she looked like a wreck, but she still radiated strength as she stalked towards them. “Everyone just shut up and eat their fucking food.”
“Oh yeah?” Snowflake asked, rolling her foot around on Seo-yun’s head. “Or what?”
The phoenix ran her hands through her hair. It was a casual motion, but her hands came away covered in fire. “Or you and I have a problem.”
“Please don’t,” Seo-yun begged. Tough or not, the woman wouldn’t stand a chance.
Snowflake sighed, and pushed her chair away from the table to stand. “Do you know the worst part of this stupid game? It’s having to hear all about how wonderful and amazing and perfect Ember is.” She sneered at the phoenix. “You might be the big fish of this pathetic little pond, but don’t let that trick you into thinking that you’re anything but a-“
Samantha buried a fist in Snowflake’s stomach, and followed it immediately with a punch to the face that made the nogitsune’s head rock. She stumbled backwards and the phoenix closed in to match her, still dishing out blow after blow, hammering her ribs, head, and stomach.
Snowflake growled, and then screamed as Samantha’s left hand closed around what looked like empty air. “You really thought I didn’t notice your tails?” spat Ember. Fire began to run down the invisible limb while the phoenix’s right hand continued pummeling her, using her grip on the tail to prevent escape. “Were you really that stupid, fox?”
The entire fight took less than a minute, and left Snowflake lying on the ground and the scent of scorched fur strong in the air. “Now leave Yip Yip the hell alone. There’s enough bullshit around here without you joining in.”
Seo-yun was trembling, expecting Snowflake to react violently, but the woman just spat out some blood and staggered back to her feet. “Whatever,” she grumbled. “She’s a lousy cunt licker anyway.” She shot Seo-yun a dirty look, then grabbed her own dinner and stalked into one of the bathrooms, locking the door behind her.
“Well, can’t say I’m sad to see the backside of that one,” Crikey said. The woman had been casually polishing off her own plate the entire time. “Guess she was all bark and no bite, eh?”
Seo-yun was still shaking from adrenaline as she ate her dinner. Samantha didn’t seem interested in talking to anyone, but for the first time, she sat at the table and ate with them. “Thank you,” the fox told her.
“I didn’t do it for you,” Samantha said stubbornly, refusing to meet Seo-yun’s eyes. “It was just noisy.”
“Oh no, meow,” Betty said softly. She was standing by the table, staring at the television in the other room.
Seo-yun twisted to look at the screen. “-in a lifetime opportunity,” Emmeck was saying. “The Paradisium Game is always full of surprises, and they don’t stop just because our contestants are taking a break! Round three came with a special secret that no one but myself and Mr Karakostas knew about: the chance to have one of these girls for yourselves!”
A still picture of two women’s faces appeared on screen, one with dusky skin and black hair, the other with a lighter complexion and emerald green hair. It took Seo-yun a moment to realize that she was seeing Qarinah and Delphyne without their masks for the first time. Both were lovely, but while Qarinah just looked mildly annoyed, Delphyne’s expression was full of anguish. “That’s right,” Emmeck said in a voice-over, “in a few minutes both of these lovely ladies who were eliminated today are going to be the stars of a special auction! Who will they end up with? It might just be you!”
“But… but they can’t do that to Qarinah, right?” Seo-yun asked uncertainly. “She’s not a slave, so they can’t sell her to someone, right…?”
Samantha gave her a hard look. “What do you think?”
10 thoughts on “Lone Fox 2 – Ch 9 – Ashes”
Having lots of fun reading LF2 so far and this chapter is no exception. Crikey being someone evil has passed my thoughts and I’m glad I wasn’t mistaken. Snowflake has done some good work there getting rid of these cretins but either way I want to see her hurt sooner or later due to how annoying she is.
Looks interesting, wondering where it goes from there, I kind of thought that Delphyne getting “eliminated” means she’ll be fucked until she goes down the grave but perhaps slavery can be more entertaining.
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Glad you’re enjoying it! We’ll go into detail on Delphyne’s fate next week. Suffice to say that SHE won’t find it very entertaining, but she doesn’t get a vote 😉
Crikey has been and remains a bit of a mystery, but we got some interesting pieces of it today. Tanya Petrov has been one of my favorite villains to write, and I look forward to everyone hating her as much as I do 😉
As for Snowflake, well, like Sam said, every round gets worse and worse. If round 3 was a nonstop tentacle gangbang, what could 4 and 5 be? 🙂
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Awww, Snowflake is just, ah, deeply damaged with deviant proclivities, there’s a nice person in there….somewhere…I hope 😉
If it helps, there definitely was a nice person deep inside Yuki last night. Well, a nice person’s tongue and tail, that is 😛
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I actually laughed out loud
Tell me about it. Yuki’s a Bitch. I like Modred though, as bad as he is. 😛
In one of the previous chapters he was counting something right, maybe her orgasms? I hope he REALLY puts her in her place again.
Yuuuuuup. That’s what he was counting, alright.
I don’t think you’ll be disappointed with her punishment 🙂
I failed to do my first Descent review last night, meaning I have two of those to get to in order to stay on track, but the Lone Fox review must go up every Friday, so let’s do that first! As always, things you might be expecting me to comment on, but that aren’t here are very likely to show up in the DR post.
Ok, first off, this’ll be more jokey on the DR, but Snowflake is at the heart of two of my favorite moments in this chapter. I’ll talk about the first one here, which is something I absolutely love. I compared Seo-yun to one of my favorite anime characters back in LF1 C7…and I also made a comparison between said character and John’s LitV villain, which the more I think about it, the more I regret, but I’m also comparing her to Snowflake here, because this woman is bitter and lashing out at everyone in reach and causing a lot of her own pain (IBD’s character comparisons: Six Degrees of Lucy :P).
And as is the case with my favorite telekinetic redhead, I do so love it when some asshole ends up on the wrong end of her attitude. 😈 Snowflake and the pirates is so damn satisfying, considering how the ones holding Samantha acted. I mean, they were enjoying the thought of raping some magical creatures, and apparently they just never thought about all those old stories where people get killed by magical creatures. So yeah, that was fun to read.
Snowflake is also at the center of one of my other favorite moments of the chapter, but I’m saving that one for the DR.
Next, oh my God the entire scene where Seo-yun finally gets through to Samantha is all of the wonderful feelings. 🙂 John described it as the “Seo-yun Samantha fistpump”, and that is totally accurate, as I was sooo psyched to see the moment these two stopped fighting and Samantha got to recover, just a little. Morris helping Seo-yun to get through to her was genuinely sweet too.
In less pleasant news, I won’t go into it until the DR post, but…hello, Tanya. She hasn’t lapped her dad yet, but I will say she’s pulling even pretty damn fast, due to…things. 😥
Also, knowing she planned “Qarinah”‘s elimination, and that she personally invited her to the games…I have a terrible feeling about this. I won’t even articulate what it is; we’ll just see if it comes true.
Speaking of that elimination, as with much concerning Camiel, this isn’t played as upsetting as I’d expect. i mean, the chapter’s other elimination is incredibly upsetting, but this was like when the alarm goes off at 6:00 AM and I hit the snooze button. Speaking of time, where was Muhtadi on this? Isn’t it kind of his job to go “Honey, you’re down to one minute.”? I suppose she might just not have listened to him.
Of course, just because that wasn’t as upsetting as it could have been doesn’t mean it isn’t going to get that way. Now that she and Astaria are up for auction, we all know Ilya’s buying her; that was foreshadowed more than sufficiently.
The good news is that I have a bunch of Descent reviews and likely another Point of No Return review to do in the coming week, so I probably won’t actually read Chapter 10 until next Friday. Downside is that means my reaction here may be a little…raw.
Yeaaaah, you are sufficiently picking up what we’re putting down.
For Muhtadi, he probably did warn her, and either she didn’t listen or didn’t care. After all, she’s here to get fucked… spending the next three days with the Leviathans sounds pretty fun probably. Of course… this auction was never in the plans… and given what you know about Astaria being here, it’s pretty clear Camiel is just collateral damage here… she wasn’t the target of the machination, but she’s certainly going to run afoul of it.
And yes. Tanya planned them both.
As for Astaria, we wanted her elimination to be as hard fought as possible, with her fighting to the very last second and proving significantly stronger and tougher than even she knew… but it wasn’t enough.
And now we, in the audience, are the recipients of some MAJOR dramatic irony. Tanya’s elimination of SHE WHO WILL NOT BE NAMED could at least conceivably have been self-defense minded considering the dogs were threatening her at the time. These ones… not so much. We know absolutely know she’s up to no good…
But the other competitors don’t. And Seo-Yun specifically seems to consider here more or less a friend.
Potentially a problem.
And yeah, I knew the casual betrayal of Astaria and what I suspect your theory is would start Tanya catching up reaaaal quick… especially combined with how much he’ll it’s implied she’s made the life of Nadia, another of your low-key favorites.
Lastly… yes. Nogitsune are one of the legends that make other supernatural monsters check under their beds at night… and these idiots just considered her a plaything. It was very satisfying to see some people reminded of WHY people are afraid of what is lurking in the dark.
First, regarding Qarinah’s exit, if you go back to the end of round 1, Celeste told Seo-yun that they were being made to leave in between the round ending and the “curfew” so to speak. Muhtadi warned Qarinah before he left, but he also assumed that she’d snap out of it before she completely ran out of time, and that just wasn’t the case. Remember too, Qarinah was never out to win the game, and she was having a VERY good day, personally. So while she wanted rationally to keep going and continue through the game, and didn’t deliberately choose to linger to long, she wasn’t exactly terrified at the idea of being eliminated here and spending the next two days with her new best friend.
Tanya… is Tanya. Crikey has been kind of a wildcard up until now – eliminating contestants here, helping cheer people up there – but now she’s finally starting to reveal her true colors. To the reader anyway – most of the people around her are still in the dark. We’ll all know more about her soon enough, for better and for worse.
I also really enjoyed Snowflake’s scenes here. The pirates were almost like a present to myself, the chance to hurt some people who deserved it for once, but her second was what really shined for me. I try to be conscious of telling vs showing, because it seems like there’s always a lot of exposition that needs to come out and if I don’t keep a careful eye on myself, I’ll just tell the reader everything instead of showing them. The end of the chapter was a great opportunity to demonstrate that Seo-yun’s view of nogitsune doesn’t quite line up with the reality of Snowflake. I also was grateful to have another chance to show how “ordinary human” Samantha has made it to victory for four years running, especially since her duel with Seo-yun might mislead some people into thinking that she’s not that tough after all. She might not have supernatural abilities, but she is NOT someone to be underestimated.
The duel itself is my second favorite moment of the chapter (the favorite being Seo-yun and Sam finally having something approaching an actual conversation on the boat afterward, and the two getting to do some bonding). It’s one of the pivotal moments of the entire series, and was one of the few bits about the story that I knew early on absolutely had to happen, though the context took longer to figure out. It’s also maybe the perfect example of why my perception of the story is inherently divorced from everyone else’s. If you trace things back, there were so many things that absolutely needed to happen for Seo-yun to end up where she is, with the power to potentially change her destiny:
If she didn’t push herself to escape in LF1 Chapter 6, even severing her own tail for the opportunity, she wouldn’t have been forced to face her past, she and Morris wouldn’t have had their encounter, and right now she’d probably be getting used by the dogs.
If she didn’t selflessly give up her marble just for the chance to save Morris in LF1, she and Morris wouldn’t have joined together like this and she would have broken without his silent support.
If she hadn’t chosen to take back her name in round 1, she’d be dead now and not even have any idea why.
If she hadn’t saved Snowflake in round 2, she never would have had the necessary info to figure out what was happening to her, and she’d be dead now.
If she hadn’t chosen to try and reach out to Sam, she’d be dead now.
Hell, if she didn’t get captured by Levinson in the first place, she’s still sitting around in her forest waiting to die a failure, and Sam is probably getting herself killed in this year’s game or the next.
With many of these events, their true value wasn’t apparent at the time. Her failed escape attempt seemed pointless. Slowly dying because of what happened to Morris, on top of everything else in her life, seemed like a cruel joke. Her rescue of Snowflake seemed to accomplish little beyond making her a target for the nogitsune’s anger. What I’m trying to say, and using far too many words to do it, is that while the situation in both books often seems helpless, and like the characters keep ending up miserable again and again, that’s not at all the case. It’s only that we haven’t seen the true impact yet. Everything happens for a reason.
Some bad things are going to happen soon. You can already see them approaching, and that button is about to get hammered. But if it helps, try to remember that these characters aren’t going to end up in good places at the end DESPITE the ordeals they’ve faced, they end up there in part BECAUSE of them. That’s the gold standard I try to adhere to, and one that Seo-yun has already reached: if you made her an offer right now to undo everything that’s happened since the prologue and go back to wallowing in the forest, never knowing that people like Morris or Samantha or Astaria or Camiel even existed, she’d refuse.