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MATURE: Dawn of Courage (Chapter 107 Up)

CynthiaLover

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Time for the next chapter of Dawn of Courage. (Warning: contains mild language, sexism)

Sailor Shenanigans


It had been a few days since the destruction of Captain Goregon and the final liberation of the continent from Muu’s grip. The party were on their way to the nearest port town. Their spirits were high, as they felt good about having removed Muu’s influence from this continent. They knew the upcoming battles would be harder, though, but they were determined to win.

Sir Reginald said, “Okay, we should be nearing the port town. We’ll then buy some tickets so we can take a ride on a ship to the next continent.”

Zeeker said, “Yeah, though we should be careful, as I wouldn’t put it past Muu to relocate Captain Boneacuda to try to intercept us. While Boneacuda and his zombie sharkmen are usually stationed outside of the continent that Muu turned into his own territory he knows that he’s losing ground fast, so he’ll definitely try to stop us before we successfully cross the ocean. While we, fortunately, don’t have to worry about Vertebreak out at sea, as the big bone dragon would sink like a rock, Boneacuda is still a strong enemy, especially since his ship is armed with magic cannons and his zombie sharkmen can tear a ship to pieces with just their teeth.”

Nina nodded, “That’s a fair point, Zeeker. Muu would want to nip us in the bud before we cause any more damage to his army so I can very easily see him relocating Boneacuda to try to intercept us. We have to keep that in mind as we cross the ocean. Fortunately, Sir Reginald’s barriers are strong enough to repel an assault like that, especially in his Shaman forms, which boost the power and cut the needed mana to maintain his barriers. So we’re not totally defenseless if Boneacuda is waiting for us out there.”

Sir Reginald nodded, “Yes, that’s true. If my barriers can protect an entire village a ship shouldn’t be too much of an issue, though I’ve never used my barriers out at sea before. It’ll be quite the learning experience for me, as I’ve never cast my barriers around a ship at sea. But like you said my Shaman forms can mitigate any issues I would have.”

Nova then noticed something, “Hey, why is the sand near the ocean green? I guess that’s why this kingdom is called ‘Emerald Coast Kingdom’ but what makes it green?”

Van replied, “It’s because the seafloor around this kingdom is littered with Emerald Shells, a type of seashell that a species of clam produces. When the clam is either eaten by an animal, monster, or person or simply dies the shell breaks apart and crumbles into a fine sand that gives the beaches around this kingdom its name. So that’s why the sand around here is green, as the clam species that produces Emerald Shells are extremely plentiful around here. You can find other areas that have the same species of clam but this kingdom is overflowing with them to the point that it’s encouraged by sailors and fishermen to harvest the clams for food and limit the population.”

“Huh, interesting. Thanks for explaining it to me.”

Nina inhaled the salty air, saying, “This is the first time I’ve ever smelled sea air. Considering my kingdom is surrounded by mountains I’ve never actually seen the ocean before. This is rather exciting for me. Hopefully Angelo will be okay around here.”

Angelo replied, “As long as I don’t get submerged in the salt water I should be fine. Keeping a good amount of fresh water will also help, as salty air does dry out my throat. But as long as I avoid getting wet with salt water I should be fine. Thanks for being concerned for me, Nina, I appreciate it.”

“No problem. That’s what friends and teammates are for.”

Kettu looked out at the ocean, saying, “It feels like it’s been a long time since I’ve seen the sea after going on my mission to rescue Felix’s soul and find a way to defeat Muu’s army. Felix and I would often come to the beaches around here to fish for salmon, crabs, and tunas. Those were good times. Damn that Muu for ruining my family like that. Now I’ll never experience those days with my brother ever again. When we’re done with that cowardly bone boss I’ll mount his head on my wall and throw darts at it.”

Zeeker replied, “We have every intention of turning Muu into just a bad memory, Kettu. And we’ll make sure to save Felix’s soul from him, along with all the other souls he’s captured. I just hope the seven of us will be strong enough to take on his homebase.”

Sir Reginald said, “Don’t take my word for it but King Hendrik mentioned to me he’s got a plan on how to tackle Muu’s continent, but it was in the early stages last I checked. He said it would require the aid of every kingdom, so we need to liberate those lands from Muu in order to get King Hendrik’s plan into motion. He didn’t disclose any details with me, as he said it was too early to get our hopes up. But apparently Belzebuth has been cooking up a plan with the nations to crack open Muu’s defenses, allowing us to storm his castle and take Muu down for good. But, again, I don’t know much about it so don’t hold your breath if the plan has gained ground or is still in the early stages.”

Nova placed his hands behind his head, saying, “Well, at least someone has a plan on how to take down Muu’s defenses. After all, if it was as easy as simply storming the castle then the past champions would’ve gotten rid of that big bone boss by now, so it’s clear that this possible plan will be the key needed to unlock that door. Hopefully with this continent’s kingdoms freed from Muu’s grip they can work more closely together to complete this plan. And hopefully it won’t go up in smoke.”

Kettu nodded, “Yeah, that’s a fair point. At least there may be a possible plan in the works that’ll help us stop Muu, since even the seven of us at full power might not be enough. But, anyway, we should see the port town very shortly.”

The party nodded and continued their trek to the port town, battling monsters along the way. It soon came into view. It was a large town full of various buildings and several docks. There were the usual merchants promoting their goods, mostly seafood, along with various people bustling about, guild workers, and children playing in the square.

Sir Reginald stopped a guild worker, asking, “Excuse me, sir. Can you tell us where we can purchase tickets for a boat ride to the next continent?”

The guild worker nodded, “Yes, that’s easy. Go to the main office building for the guild. Talk to the woman at the counter and she’ll sell you tickets. Though I will give you a fair warning. Our ships are reluctant to leave port due to a threat out at sea. While none of our ships have been sunk they haven’t returned yet either. Only one ship is left in the port right now so if you want tickets you’d better hurry.”

“Threat?” Van asked, quirking an eyebrow. “What kind of threat? Monsters? Or… maybe Muu’s army?”

The guild worker replied, “Don’t know. Only the Guild Master knows but he won’t say in order to avoid causing panic. It’s gotta be something bad, although, like I said before, none of our ships have actually been sunk yet so it might not be something like Muu’s army. But, in any case, if you want tickets you’d better snatch them up fast since we only have one ship in port right now.”

Sir Reginald nodded, “Okay. Thank you for telling us this. We’ll get going.”

The party made their way to the main office for the guild. They entered the building where a young woman was sitting at the desk. She looked up and saw the party.

“Oh, hello,” she said. “What can I help you with?”

“We need tickets for a ship ride to the next continent,” Sir Reginald explained.

“You’re brave ones, I’ll give you that, as I’m certain you’ve heard that our ships have been attacked lately. Granted, none have sunk but it’s still rather unnerving. But, in any case, for seven tickets that’ll be seven gold.”

Sir Reginald paid the young woman seven gold. She responded by giving them seven tickets.

“The ship that we currently have left in port is at the eastern docks. Talk to the crew there to board the ship. Good luck.”

The party left the office building and started to make their way toward the eastern docks, where they could see the last ship from their location. After weaving their way through the docks they eventually came to where the ship was. It was a large steam paddleboat with a crow’s nest on a tall mast, giant paddlewheels for propulsion, a well-kept deck with various rope and other useful items, and a beautiful wheel for a helm. Working on the ship were three very tubby men. Sir Reginald walked up to them, which caused them to redirect their attention to the party.

“How can we help you?” one asked.

Sir Reginald said, “We bought tickets for a ride across the ocean. We would like to board your ship.”

The one in the center, who looked like the leader, said, “Then you couldn’t have picked a better crew. My name’s Zig, and this is Iggy and Ferb. We’re the best sailors in the port. If you want to board show us you—” but then he noticed something, his eyes narrowing. “Wait a minute. That Phoenix girl cannot board the ship.”

A nerve in Nina’s temple twitched as she growled, “What do you mean by that, Zig?”

“Women are not allowed to board my ship. You’ll have to stay here.”

The party went dead silent, all gaining death glares.

“You realize this kingdom isn’t exactly the place for sexist attitudes, right?” Zeeker snarled.

Zig crossed his arms, “My ship, my rules, and my rules say women are not allowed on my ship.”

Nova started to march up to Zig, growling in a calm tone, “You’ve got some nerve, blubber bottom. It’s clear that none of the other ships have this issue, otherwise the woman at the desk wouldn’t have given Nina a ticket. So you’d better comply to your guild’s rules and let her board the ship. Or else.”

Iggy mocked, “Ooh, I’m all a-quiver. Sorry, pink boy, but our ship, our rules. Besides, what can you possibly do to make us bend to your will?”

“You’d be surprised, buoy butt. So I suggest you heed your guild’s rules and let Nina board your ship or things will get… messy.”

Zig bit his thumb, producing blood, saying, “We’ll see how tough you are after you face my familiar! Fangfin! Come forth!”

A summoning circle appeared, followed by a splash of water, and soon a new familiar was standing before them. It was actually five familiars in one, all of them being red-bodied piranhas with yellow jaws, large green pupilless eyes, fins with spikes on them, and sturdy bodies. They started to snap their jaws in an attempt to intimidate the party.

Kettu quirked an eyebrow, “A Bite Piranha familiar? Really?”

Zig laughed, “Let’s see you handle my familiar!”

However, to everyone’s surprised, Nova started to chuckle. First softly then he started to laugh.

“What’s so funny, pink boy!?”

The young archer laughed, “Do you honestly think a familiar like that will intimidate me? I’ve seen more threatening fish at a sushi bar, and I’m allergic to fish! I’ve faced horrors greater than your fanged finned fillet freaks! Such as General Juggerrot and a platoon of 10,000 Undead Soldiers! Do you really think such a wimpy familiar will scare me after something like Juggerrot and 10,000 Undead Soldiers?” He stopped laughing and gained a sinister sneer, “I’ll show you a real familiar. One that’ll cook you and your flimsy flounders extra crispy.” He placed a Summoning Sticker on the back of his right hand, “Elora, come forth!”

The Summoning Sticker glowed, followed by a summoning circle appearing, then a burst of fire and smoke and soon Elora was standing next to Nova. The three fat sailors went wide eyed as they saw the Gorgon Viper, while the five Bite Piranhas looked horrified.

Nova gently stroked Elora under the chin, saying in a calm, confident tone, “Say hello to Elora, my Gorgon Viper. Your puny piranhas don’t looks so intimidating now, huh? Elora, these goons won’t let Nina onboard this ship because she’s a woman. Would you mind showing them what girl power can do?”

Elora’s eyes narrowed as she heard this information. She gave a loud roar that caused the Bite Piranhas to send themselves back to the Spirit Plane. Elora then blasted the three sailors with her hellfire, scorching them badly. She then gave her tail a hefty swing and knocked the three fat sailors into the air, sailing over their ship, and landing in the water a long distance away. Those who were watching this event cheered, making Elora hold her head up proudly. She then lowered her head toward Nova, asking for a pet, which he gladly complied.

“You go, girl. That’s showing those goons what girl power can really do. Maybe after that display they might not be so quick to resorting to sexism.”

A voice then said, “What’s going on here?!”

Everyone turned to see two people approach the area. One was a bespectacled man who looked like a bookworm, dressed in a nice outfit. The second person was a highly attractive young woman wearing a halter top, cutoff jeans, boots, and a bandanna on her head.

“I was informed that there was an incident,” the bespectacled man said. “What happened?” He then noticed the ship, the party, Elora, and quickly groaned, “Not again… Damn that Zig and his crew!”

“Recurring issue, I assume?” Zeeker asked, deadpan.

The man sighed, “Sadly, yes. Where’s Zig and his crew?”

Nova said simply, “Elora here sent him and his blubber buoy bottom bozos out to sea.”

The young, attractive woman sighed, “Then we’d better fish them out before something like a Nautilus or Jelly try to make a meal out of them. Honey, if you’d be so kind?”

The man sighed, taking out a Summoning Sticker, saying, “I got this, dear. Maelstrom, come forth!”

The Summoning Sticker glowed, followed by a summoning circle appearing, then a whirlpool formed and soon a new familiar was standing before them. It looked like a gigantic seahorse with draconic traits, navy blue in color with a white underbelly, yellow pupilless eyes, coral-shaped horns, a mouth that looked like a sniper rifle, a large fin, and a curled tail that looked strong enough to punch a hole in a ship.

“That’s a Tsunami Seahorse familiar!” Nina said.

The man sighed, “Maelstrom, it happened again. Can you please fish Zig and his crew out of the ocean before something tries to eat them?”

Maelstrom gained an annoyed look, clearly not wanting to do it.

“I know how you feel, Maelstrom, believe me. But you can rest assured that this’ll be the last time, as I’ve had it with Zig and his crew’s sexism. This is the final straw. So, please, go fetch him and his idiot crew so I can finally end this nonsense.”

Maelstrom gave a sigh before jumping into the water, submerging itself until only its head was visible above the water and quickly raced off to “rescue” Zig and his crew.

The man turned to the party, “I’m so sorry. This is a recurring issue with Zig and his crew. They always follow their own rules instead of the guild’s rules, which has caused us numerous headaches. We only kept him around because he’s a really good sailor but even that won’t be enough to save him this time, as this has gone on long enough. Oh, by the way, I’m Henri, the Guild Master. This is my childhood friend and wife, Coral, who was the former Guild Master’s daughter. Times like this I’m glad I gave Zig what for back when he was going to become the Guild Master and marry Coral.”

Van looked alarmed, “You were going to marry that brute?!”

Coral sighed, “It was my father’s idea, as he felt Zig would be a good Guild Master. Henri and I, however, knew otherwise. After Zig got too big for his britches Henri challenged him to a duel. Despite Zig’s strength Henri won with a single attack, fully winning my heart and proving to father that Zig wasn’t cut out for the Guild Master role--along with proving that Henri wasn’t the pushover he originally thought. Zig… didn’t take it well, to put it simply. He's always been a sexist prick but when he lost both my hand in marriage and the Guild Master title to Henri he got worse. All he does now is give us grief, no matter how many times we lecture him. But this time will be the last time. Right, Henri?”

Henri nodded, “Yes, as I intend to end this here and now. Although I must say… I’ve never seen a Gorgon Viper familiar before. You said she’s yours, right? She’s a mighty fine one, although I’m surprised at how tame she is.”

Nova gently stroked Elora’s chin, saying, “Elora is something of an exception. I’m aware that Gorgon Vipers tend to be… problematic, to put it simply. But Elora has always been a sweetheart. Except in the heat of battle or if she feels I’m being threatened or violated, then she becomes true to her species nature. Not that I’m complaining, as she’s the perfect familiar for me, especially since I’m the Demon King’s champion, so having a familiar that’s an Undead hunter is extra helpful.”

Coral’s eyes widened, “You’re the Demon King’s champion?! We’ve heard about you. You took down General Juggerrot and a platoon of 10,000 Undead Soldiers with a single attack! Boy, Zig was really punching out of his weight class when he picked a fight with you. Glad you showed him up.”

Nina embraced Nova, purring, “Yes, he most certainly was. My beloved Nova gave that sexist prick what for. As if I haven’t dealt with enough sexism growing up. But seeing him and Elora put those three goons in their place made my heart flutter, as they were doing it on my behalf. I couldn’t have asked for a better boyfriend.”

Nova blushed, saying, “Yes you could, but I’m glad you’ll settle for me.”

She got close to him, purring, “Nova, we really need to work on your self-esteem issues. I’ve said it dozens of times now so I’ll say it again: you’re the best thing to ever happen to me. I never knew what kindness, compassion, and heart a man could have until I met you. You’ve done so much for me, giving me hope and happiness. No other man has ever gone as far as you have to make me happy. You’re willing to sacrifice your own happiness for my sake and are willing to fix your flaws so you can become more worthy of me. Not many men would be willing to do that for a woman like me. You’re truly something special, Nova. That’s but one reason why I love you.”

Elora smiled and coiled herself around Nova and Nina, pushing them closer together. Everyone present smiled as the two lovers gently embraced each other in the embrace of the Gorgon Viper’s coils.

Coral smiled, “You two are quite beautiful together. Although I’m surprised that a Phoenix Clan member would be interested in a man from another race. Then again, Aerrow Sparrow married a human so I guess it’s not that farfetched.”

Nina replied, “My race are, frankly, idiots. All this talk about ‘purity of blood’ and ‘preserving our powers’ is a load of hot air. Aerrow feels the same way as I do about our kind. Hopefully after we rescued them from General Cranidon they’ll change for the better, as all their bad traits will lead to self-destruction. I’m more than happy to marry a man like Nova over another one of my kind, especially after how well Nova’s treated me. I can count on him for anything. If marrying a man from another race means I can have a loyal, loving husband who will treat me well then I’m all for that.”

Elora then noticed something. She looked out to sea and gave a light hiss. Henri looked out to see his familiar swimming back to the docks, towing three bubbles behind it.

“Ah, Maelstrom’s back,” he said. “And he managed to ‘save’ Zig and his crew. Well, when we’re done with them nothing will save them.”

Everyone waited for Maelstrom to return. The Tsunami Seahorse jumped out of the water, floating in the air, and hoisted the three bubbles filled with Zig and his crew onto the dock rather harshly, as it was clear even the familiar was fed up with those three. The bubbles popped, depositing Zig and his crew onto the dock. Zig looked up to see Henri, Coral, and several other disgruntled guild workers glare at them.

“Okay, let’s hear it,” Zig grumbled. “The usual lecture.”

Henri replied coldly, “Oh, there won’t be the usual lecture this time, Zig. It’s clear that it never has any effect on you. But I know something that will have an effect on you. I’ve got two words for you and your crew: you’re fired.”

“Fired!? You can’t do that! We’re the best sailors in the guild!”

“Yeah, well, that’s no longer enough. You’ve been deliberately disobeying my orders and the guild’s rules in favor of your own. We’ve tolerated it long enough. Now it’s time for you to pay the price for your constant disobedience and sexism. You and your crew are fired and I never want to see you in this guild again. You have 24 hours to pack up your stuff and get the hell out of this town. You have caused enough problems for our guild. I don’t care if you’re our best sailors as you’ve taken your sexism and attitude too far. Take up basket weaving because you’re done! Now GET OUT!!!”

Zig stood up, glaring at Henri, snarling, “You’ll regret this, Henri. You keep getting in my way. First Coral’s hand in marriage, then the Guild Master position, and now this!? You go to far, you little runt!”

“You’re a fine one to talk, Zig,” Henri said in a strong voice, clearly unaffected by Zig’s intimidation tactic. “You’ve been a thorn in everyone’s side for years now and have been ignoring the rules in favor of your own. There’s a reason why Sinker realized you weren’t fit for the Guild Master role. It may have taken a fight between you and me but I won fair and square, proving you’re not as tough as you appear. My word is law for this guild now, Zig, and you have repeatedly defied it. Well that ends now. You and your crew are done. I expect you to be out of this town within 24 hours, as we won’t put up with your rampant sexism and attitude anymore, especially in this kingdom, which is a matriarchy. If you don’t leave now I’ll make sure Queen Maria has the final say about your fate, as she doesn’t tolerate sexism in her kingdom. Now pack up your stuff and beat it as we never want to see you and your crew again.”

Zig gained an ugly look as if ready to punch Henri. However, before he could do anything Maelstrom lashed out its tail and started to strangle Zig’s neck, making him choked and gag for air. The Tsunami Seahorse then slammed Zig against the dock a few times to get the point across before letting him go. Now dazed, bruised, and bloody, Zig staggered to his feet. The other guild members were shouting words of contempt at the disgraced sailor, who gave a snarl.

“This is not over, Henri,” he growled. “You will regret this. Mark my words.”

Henri replied coldly, “Oh, yeah? Then mark my words if you pull anything you will pay a very dear price, Zig. Now get out of my port town and never come back.”

Zig gave Henri an ugly look before he and his crew stormed off. The other guild members were booing him and shouting foul language at the disgraced sailor, clearly fed up with his antics. When Zig and his crew were out of sight Henri turned to the party.

“I apologize for all this. We’ll get another set of sailors to take Zig’s place. For now, we will arrange for you to stay at the inn free of charge as compensation for this dilemma and until I get a new set of sailors to take over this ship. Fortunately, I was in the process of interviewing some possible new recruits so if it works out we should have you heading out to the next continent in a few days. Please forgive us for the delay.”

Sir Reginald replied, “It’s not your fault. It’s Zig and his crew that were the problem. Now with Zig gone things should be a bit easier.”

Kettu crossed his arms, “Well, I wouldn’t put it past Zig and his crew to try to sabotage the ship or something. Maybe you should consider guarding the ship to prevent him from trying something?”

Coral nodded, “Yes, that’s a good idea. I can definitely see Zig pulling something like that out of spite. I’ll get some guild workers to guard the ship until everything is ready. Hopefully with Zig and his crew gone we won’t have to worry about any more complaints about his sexism ruffling people’s feathers. Henri, you go take care of getting these folk set up at the inn. I’ll go gather some guild workers to stand guard on the ship until everything is ready.”

Henri nodded, “Indeed, honey.” He turned to the party, “Please follow me so I can get your arrangements set up.” He then turned to his familiar, “Thank you for your help, Maelstrom. To the Spirit Plane.”

Maelstrom vanished in a flurry of sparkles.

Nova nodded, “Yes, thank you.” He turned to Elora, “Thanks for your help today, Elora. You showed those goons what girl power is all about. To the Spirit Plane.”

Elora gained a satisfied expression before vanishing in a flurry of sparkles. The party then followed Henri to the inn. In the back of their minds they knew that Zig wasn’t done causing trouble yet.

Next Chapter: Ship Wrecker

That's all for today. A bit of trivia, this scene is something of a "Take That!" to the scene where Zig and his crew give Nina and Ursula grief over their genders in Breath of Fire 4. (I was also going to include a similar scene that was cut out of the English version of said event in BoF4 in the story, where they wanted to spank the girls, or Nina in this case, but I felt that was going too far so I omitted it from my version.)
 

CynthiaLover

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Time for the next chapter of Dawn of Courage. (Warning: contains mild language, mild violence, female nudity)

Ship Wrecker


It was the following evening after Henri had fired Zig and his crew for their repeated offensive behavior. The sun was slowly setting behind the horizon. The party was at the inn, resting, knowing that soon they’ll be crossing the ocean.

Nova looked out at the sea from his inn room window, thinking, “I just know that Zig and his crew are going to do something to get back at Henri for firing them. They’re not the type of people who will take getting fired lying down. I just worry what they might do in order to get back at Henri.”

Nina cupped up behind him, naked, enveloping him with her wings, wrapping her arms around him.

“You’re worried about Zig, aren’t you, beloved?” she asked.

“Yeah,” he replied. “He’s not the type of person to take something like this lying down even if it’s his own fault. Egotistical jerks like him never acknowledge their own wrongdoings, instead blaming it on others or lashing out. I just know that Zig and his crew will try something to get back at Henri for firing them.”

“I know how you feel, beloved,” the winged woman replied. “Goons like Zig just make my blood boil. If he does try something I’m certain Henri will make good on his promise and get Queen Maria on their case. She’d probably not like having to deal with this dilemma but considering their sexist attitude she’ll put her foot down on them good. But, for now, you should get some rest, Nova, as we’ve had a long day. Soon we’ll be out on the ocean, heading toward the next continent so we can continue our fight with Muu.”

“I know, Nina, not that I’m looking forward to that. I just hope whatever Zig does it’s fixable.”

Nina let go of Nova to return to her bed, slipping under the covers and getting comfortable. Nova took one last look outside before walking over to his bed, blowing out the candle that illuminated the room, and got himself comfortable in the bed. Both eventually fell asleep, knowing that Zig will make a move soon enough.

As darkness covered the land two figures were guarding the entrance to what was formerly Zig’s ship. They were holding lanterns, keeping an eye out for the fat man and his crewmates. Little did they know that three figures were creeping up to the ship from the water. The three shadowy figures stopped just before one of the anchors that was locking the ship in place and began climbing the chain to get on the ship. The trio was revealed to be Zig and his crew. They gently sneaked into the ship and headed toward the engine room. However, the squelching noise of their wet clothes on the deck of the ship did not go unnoticed by the guards. One ran off to get reinforcements while the other crept after Zig’s crew to keep an eye on them.

Zig was standing before a large engine in the hull of the ship. It was fairly sophisticated considering the world they were in. It also had a large Magna Crystal cube inside of it. Zig opened the hatch and removed the Magna Crystal cube before gently putting it down. He and his crew gained sinister sneers as they started to strip the engine apart. They didn’t know they were being watched by the guard from earlier. The guard crept away to avoid being detected while Zig and his crew gathered up the parts they had ripped out of the engine, picked up the Magna Crystal cube, and made their way back to the deck of the ship.

“Heave-ho!” they said in hushed voices.

They threw all the parts and the Magna Crystal cube overboard. However, just as they were about to sneak away large searchlights beamed down upon them, causing them to freeze up. Henri and several other guildmates approached them, eyes glaring.

“We knew you’d try something, Zig,” Henri growled. “Now it’s time for you to pay the price.”

Zig mocked, “What is a scrawny bug like you gonna do?”

Henri gave Zig a solid punch in the face, dazing the fat, obnoxious man. He stumbled before falling flat on the deck, surprising Iggy and Ferb.

“That was just the appetizer,” Henri growled. “You two are in for the main course.”

Within a few seconds Iggy and Ferb were flat on the ground, knocked out alongside their leader, with a satisfied Henri standing above them. Coral walked up and hugged him.

“Nicely done, honey,” she purred. “That’ll show them. After all, Zig forgot that you cleaned his clock in one hit way back when so he should’ve realized that you could do it again. He’s all mouth and no moxie, unlike you.”

Henri smiled, “Yes, looks like I still got it. But we can discuss that later, as we need to check the damage and recover the Magna Crystal so it doesn’t accidentally become a naval mine. We also need to tie up these goons and prepare to ship them out to Queen Maria. Let’s hope the damage is repairable.”

Two guild members went into the engine room to check on the damage to the engine. Henri then summoned Maelstrom to fish out the Magna Crystal cube to avoid it becoming a hazard. After the Tsunami Seahorse recovered the crystal the guild members returned.

“Bad news, Guild Master Henri,” he said. “Zig and his crew did a royal number to the engine. It’ll take days to repair it.”

Henri sighed, “I suspected as much. We’ll start working on it in the morning. I’ll let the Demon King’s champion party know what happened then, too. Hmm… maybe that Nova lad could help? He had some pretty sophisticated equipment with him so maybe he might be able to lend us a hand? I’ll ask him in the morning. In the meantime tie up Zig and his crew and get them ready to be hauled out of here. Queen Maria will not be happy with them.”

The guild mates nodded and tied up Zig and his crew. They then began mapping out what parts and tools they needed to repair the ship’s engine. Henri took the Magna Crystal cube from his familiar and had it gently carted off to be cleaned and to ensure it sustained no damage. The guild was furious with Zig and his crew for what they did, clearly ready to ensure that Queen Maria would punish them.

Morning came soon after and the party was enjoying their breakfast. Henri then appeared and approached them.

“I’m sorry to report this but Zig and his crew snuck onto the ship last night and sabotaged the engine,” he said.

Nova gave a heavy sigh, “Saw that coming a mile away. How long will it take to repair the engine?”

“A few days, but we were hoping that you’d be willing to help us.”

Sir Reginald quirked an eyebrow, “Us? We don’t know anything about machines.”

“Not you, exactly, I mean Nova,” Henri explained. “You have quite a lot of sophisticated equipment with you, like your metal backpack and strange boots. I figured you might have some techno know-how to help us repair the engine faster.”

Nova finished his bite of food before saying, “Well, I’m good with repairs, to say the least. While I didn’t build my Digi-Pack and Hoverboots I did design them. And I know my way around most machines. Very well, I’ll see what I can do. Let me finish breakfast and then I’ll take a look. I hope you’ll provide the tools and parts.”

Henri smiled, “Thank you, that would be a huge help to us. We’re already gathering up the needed parts and tools to fix the engine. When you’re done please head for the ship.”

Kettu’s eyes narrowed, “What about Zig and his crew?”

“I decked them. They’ve been tied up and we’re going to send them to the capital via a Banish spell. Coral is writing a note as we speak to give to Queen Maria so she can sort them out. I’ll meet you at the ship, so please hurry, as we need to get our ship up and running again before anything else happens.”

He gave a polite bow before leaving. The party all exchanged sighs.

“Figured Zig and his crew would pull something,” Zeeker grumbled.

“I’ll say,” Nina huffed. “Some people just don’t know when to let it go. It was their own fault for getting fired so they have no one to blame but themselves. Yet, as predicted, they took it out on the guild and deflected the blame away from them. Bastards. Now we have more work to do before we can leave port.”

Angelo sighed, “Not to mention that Henri hasn’t had the time to complete the interviews with the potential new sailors to take Zig’s place. Hopefully Nova and the guild mates can fix the engine quickly so we can get back on track.”

The party sighed again and resumed eating. After they had finished their meal they made their way to the ship. Coral was talking to what looked like a magician. Zig and his crew were tied up tightly with strong ropes, all three of them with disgruntled expressions. Their expressions became hateful as they saw Nina enter their former ship, to which she responded with a sneer. The party made their way to the engine room where the various guild members were going over the parts and what needed to be done.

Henri turned to them, “Glad you showed up. Nova, I hate to ask but can you see if you can help out in repairing the engine?”

Nova replied, “Let me have a look.”

He took a few minutes to examine the damage, check out all the parts, and go over the notes and tools that the guild workers had provided. After thoroughly going over everything he turned to Henri.

“I can do all the repairs myself. And I can get them done within 24 hours.”

Henri and the guild workers went slack jawed as they heard this statement.

“Really?” Henri asked. “You can handle all the repairs by yourself and get them done within 24 hours? Then please, do so, as it’ll make all of our jobs easier. I promise I’ll compensate you for this.”

“I appreciate that. Now let me get to work. I need everyone to leave me in peace while I work, as I do better when I don’t have prying eyes hovering over my shoulders.”

Everyone complied and left the engine room, although Nina hesitated briefly. She turned back to Nova who was already getting to work before leaving the engine room, feeling a little dejected.

Van said to her, “Don’t worry about it, Nina. I know how much you enjoy being near Nova, especially since you’re so curious about technology. But we’d best do as he says and let him work in peace.”

She sighed, “I know, I know. But like you said I want to learn more about technology, especially since I plan to follow Nova back to Earth so I can marry him. I just hope he won’t overwork himself to get the job done, as I know he once had to overwork himself just to make ends meet back when he was going to college. And even then it wasn’t enough, forcing him to drop out to retain what sanity he had left. So I worry he’ll do the same here, as he knows we need to get going. Hopefully he doesn’t run himself into the ground like he did back then.”

Sir Reginald suggested, “Maybe later you can bring him some food? That’ll give you an excuse to check on him and see how his work is going.”

She nodded, “Good idea. Plus even he needs a lunchbreak. I’ll check out some of the sandwich shops to see what would work best for him, especially since I now know he’s allergic to fish. Hopefully I can find something good. Now I guess we should leave him be until then.”

The party nodded and left the ship to tend to errands, leaving Nova to work in peace. It was clear he was very good at repairs as he was easily putting the stripped apart engine back together. After a few hours he stopped to take a break and examine his handiwork.

“So far so good,” he said to himself. “I think I can get this done in another few hours if I’m lucky.”

Suddenly he saw Nina enter the engine room. She was carrying what looked like a wrapped up sub sandwich along with a bottle of juice. She stopped just before him, smiling.

“Taking a break, love?” she asked.

“Yeah. I think I should be able to finish this before nightfall. I take it that sandwich is for me?”

She smiled, “Yes. Here’s a steak and cheese sandwich with onions and a bottle of watermelon juice. I figured you could use a meal after your hard work.”

Nova wiped his hands on a rag before graciously taking the food, “Yeah, I need a lunchbreak. Thanks Nina. And you picked a good sandwich, as steak and cheese with onions is one of my favorites.”

He eagerly unwrapped the sandwich and began scarfing it down, making Nina giggle. It was clear he was hungry as he dug into the sandwich. Before long the sandwich was gone and the juice was drained, allowing Nova to give a contented sigh.

“That hit the spot,” he said. “Thanks, Nina, I appreciate the delivery service. Now it’s back to work. I shouldn’t be much longer so hang tight, love.”

Nina nodded, gathered up the discarded wrapper and bottle and reluctantly left Nova to resume his work.

A few hours later Nova gave a contented sigh. He looked at his handiwork, smiling lightly.

“There, all done. All that’s left is to put a Magna Crystal cube in it and it’ll be good to go.”

Henri walked into the engine room, saying, “Nova, are you finished?”

“Yeah, I’m finished. The engine is good as new. It just needs the power source and it should be fully operational.”

Henri bowed graciously, “You have my enteral gratitude. And if you’re wondering about Zig and his crew they’ve been sent to the capital for Queen Maria to handle. She won’t be pleased, I know that, but she’ll be even less pleased to learn of Zig’s sexism and the damage he did to one of her ships. But you have my thanks. Go to the inn and get some rest. I’ve also finished interviewing some new sailors and they’ll be taking over this ship so you and your party will soon be heading out over the ocean.”

Nova gave a content smile, “Good, as we need to move before Muu decides to try to reclaim this continent in some shape or form. I’ll leave the tools for your guild mates to take care of, since they would know where they go. I’m gonna go get something to eat and rejoin my party. Hopefully we’ll be out of port very soon.”

Henri nodded, “Don’t worry. Thanks to you we can get back to work more effectively. Now go and get some rest, we’ll take it from here.”

Nova nodded, gathered up his stuff, and left the engine room to rejoin his party. They were elated to know that the repairs were done and went to go and eat. They knew soon they’d be sailing over the ocean to continue their mission.

Next Chapter: Nautical Nonsense

That's all for today. Time to set sail and head to the next continent. Hopefully things will be smooth sailing. Probably not. Until next time.
 

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Time for the next chapter of Dawn of Courage. (Warning: contains mild language, mild violence)

Nautical Nonsense


It was finally the day. The party was finishing up breakfast, knowing that this was the day they would be heading out to sea.

Nina looked giddy, “I’ve never been on a ship before. I’m excited to find out what it’s like. This journey has been quite the experience for me and I’m loving it.”

Nova replied dryly, “Speak for yourself. You know I hate this adventure due to the fact I have to fight my greatest fear over and over and over. This’ll probably mentally scar me for life. Sadly, it’s also done a lot of good for me, like actually giving me a spine, so it’s a give-and-take scenario for me. Hopefully we don’t have too much to worry about when were out at sea. Though I suspect that Boneacuda and his zombie sharkmen are probably out there, waiting for us.”

Sir Reginald chuckled, “Yes, we’re aware of how much you hate this adventure, especially since you’ve been forcefully dragged into it. But like you said it’s done you a world of good. Your family won’t recognize you when you return. Maybe then they’ll start taking you seriously, since it’s clear they completely underestimated your capabilities due to their ridiculous ‘standards’ getting in the way. But despite all that you’ve been doing good, and you’ve given people hope that this war with Muu could finally end. So you should hold your head up high at what you’ve done.”

“Don’t rub salt on the wound… Reggie, as that in itself is opening up a whole other can of worms for me.”

Sir Reginald gained an annoyed look, “My name is not ‘Reggie’! Don’t start doing what Kettu does!”

Kettu grinned, “Hey, Nova’s just learning from the master. That’s all there is to it.”

“Some ‘master’ you are, fox face.”

The party snickered at the banter between the party members.

Van chuckled, “Be as it may, we should finish breakfast and get going, as by now Zig’s replacements should be ready and waiting for us.”

The party nodded and quickly finished their meal. They then ventured out to the docks where Henri and four surprising individuals were standing at the ship.

Henri said, “Good, you’re here. I was just going over the final bits of information with our new crew. They’re quite the assortment but I know they can handle the job. Let me introduce you to Conner, Bullwinkle, Alex, and Mary Ann.”

The party looked the new crew over. Conner was a human male about Sir Reginald’s age, who looked very strong and noble. Bullwinkle was a buffalo-type Beastman who towered over the group, even Van, and was very muscular and tough. Alex looked like a teenage warlock from the Magic Clan as evident by his clothes, hat, and large staff. And Mary Ann was a female Wererabbit who was dressed very similar to Coral, only with a more athletic frame and had a headband containing her blonde hair instead of a bandanna.

“Quite the assortment of new recruits,” Sir Reginald observed. “But they also look like fine crewmembers. We’ll be in good hands with them.”

Henri replied, “Let’s hope, as they have quite the precious cargo to protect: you all. Especially since we fear that Captain Boneacuda is out there, waiting for you. We don’t have positive confirmation yet, as we haven’t heard back from our other ships, but given the fact they haven’t returned they might be too scared to come back until Captain Boneacuda is dealt with. If he’s the threat to begin with, that is. So if you run into Boneacuda, please take him and his sharkmen out so we can free up our waterways.”

Zeeker nodded, “Consider it done. We figured that Muu would relocate Boneacuda to try to intercept us before we cause him any more damage. So if he’s out there, waiting for us, we’ll be sure to sink him and his sharkmen.”

“Music to my ears. Now, I know you have to get going. The ship is fully stocked and ready to go. Captain Conner, I’m leaving the rest to you. Get these noble warriors across the sea so we can soon be rid of Muu for good.”

Captain Conner saluted, “You can count on me and my crew, sir. Let’s get ready to disembark, crew!”

The other crewmates saluted, “Yessir!”

Nova said silently, “They’re a cast of characters, but then again, so are we. Hopefully we can deal with the threat that is waiting for us out there, as it’ll be the final gateway before the fights with Muu’s army get tougher. We may have demoralized the lower ranks of his army with the destruction of Juggerrot, but we know the stronger members of his army are ahead of us, including Vertebreak. I just hope we can do it.”

He followed his party onto the ship and before long, after taking care of the last few steps, the ship was on its was across the ocean. The paddlewheels turned at a steady pace, pushing the ship forward. The various crewmembers were getting into their positions, ready for the journey.

Bullwinkle stepped up to Nova, saying, “You’re name is Nova, right? The Demon King’s champion?”

Nova nodded, “Yes.”

“We have a favor to ask of you. Your party members mention you’re a good cook. Do you think you can help out in the kitchen during the trip? The only other cook we have on-deck is Alex so we could use the extra pair of hands in the kitchen, especially with so many mouths to feed. Will you accept our request?”

“I don’t see why not. If you need the extra set of hands in the kitchen then I’ll do my part to make this process smoother.”

Bullwinkle smiled, “You’re a good kid. We’d appreciate that. We’re also counting on your party to deal with whatever the threat is that’s out there, waiting for us. But considering you dealt with General Juggerrot and a platoon of 10,000 Undead Soldiers we feel safe and confident enough that your crew can handle whatever is out there. Now, I’m going to get back to work. I’ll let Alex know you’re going to help him with the cooking. He’ll let you know when you’re needed. Thanks again.”

The massive Beastman walked away to inform the young Magic Clan warlock about recruiting Nova’s help. Nova gave a heavy sigh before looking out at the sea. He noticed Nina standing at the bow of the ship, her arms spread out, her wings open, and letting the ocean air flow through her feathers. He chuckled lightly and approached her, causing her to turn her head to him.

“Oh, Nova!” she said cheerfully. “Isn’t this great? The salty air smells so unique and the breeze feels so good. I can’t thank you enough for everything you’ve done for me. I would’ve never experienced any of this if you hadn’t taken my side against my clan and smuggled me out of Phoenixwing Kingdom. I owe you so much, Nova. Thank you for everything.”

He gave a light chuckle, “I owe you as much as you owe me, if not more. It was because of you that I even stood a chance in this war with Muu. You put up with my previous cowardice and were willing to defend me from those who would mistreat or insult me. And you helped me change for the better. Not many women would be willing to put up with me at all, much less to the degree you did. I often wonder what you see in me. You always believe in me despite my flaws, something that no one else has ever done prior. Really, I owe you more than you owe me, Nina, so I should be the one thanking you, not the other way around.”

Nina turned around and placed her hands on his shoulders, getting close to him, pushing her large breasts up to his chest. She smiled warmly as she looked into his eyes.

“Nova, one of these days you’ll see just how amazing you are,” she said gently. “Your family really should be ashamed of themselves, as they failed to see that you’re a perfectly capable member of the family, just with a different skill set. That means you can offer things no one else in the Blitz Family can. You’re truly special. And one way or another I’ll beat some sense into your family so both them and you can see just how wonderful you are. No matter what it takes. But it’s because of you that I’m finally free and able to spread my wings and soar through the sky without fear of my clan trying to reclaim me. I just wish I had realized my feelings for you much sooner. We could’ve avoided all that drama back then. Plus I probably drove you crazy with all the subconscious hints I was giving you. But know this, Nova, I will make sure you and I have a happy life together. And I’ll make sure that you and your family see just how amazing you are. Count on it.”

Nova gently held her by her waist, saying gently, “You realize you’re too good for me, Nina. Yet I cannot help but feel happy that I finally have the woman of my dreams. No, you’re more than that, Nina. I could’ve never dreamt up a woman of your caliber, not in a million years. Yet here we are. I don’t deserve you, Nina, yet I can’t get enough of you. Please, don’t ever leave me.”

She purred, “I won’t if you won’t. We’re in this together. Forever.”

The closed in for a kiss, much to the joy of the party and glee of the ship’s crew.

“Funny, I didn’t think Phoenix Clan members ever expressed an interest in other races,” Mary Ann said.

Zeeker, who was near her, replied, “Normally, no, but Nina is one of those exceptions. After all, she was abused by her people so it’s only natural she’d latch onto the first person who showed her any form of kindness and/or compassion. She hates her own kind because of said abuse so she’d never fall in love with another Phoenix Clan member. Nova was the first person to ever treat her with kindness, respect, and dignity so, naturally, she fell in love with him, although she took her sweet time realizing it. But considering that Aerrow also fell in love, and later married, a human, and had two daughters with said human, proves that the race are compatible with other clans. They just follow really stupid reasons why they shouldn’t crossbreed, although Nina smacking some sense into her clan might change that.”

Nina then noticed something and broke away from Nova, saying, “Uh-oh, we’ve got some trouble. Nautilus off the starboard bow!”

Everyone turned to see the top of a shell surrounded by what looked like a bubble barrier heading their way.

“Oh, great…” Captain Conner grumbled. “Get ready for battle!”

Nina turned to Nova, “Nova, fire a Dragon Strike at that Nautilus. Demon Mode should be strong enough. You’ll see why shortly.”

Nova nodded and primed his bow.

“Demon Mode,” he said.

The Demon King Ring adjusted itself, now set to Demon Mode. He then nocked an arrow and took aim.

“Dragon Strike!”

He fired the electrified dragon attack at the incoming monster. The attack struck the Nautilus, blasting it with powerful energies. When the attack waned the Nautilus was floating on its side, dead.

“That was it?”

Nina nodded, “Yes, and I’ll explain why in a minute. But first we need to reel it in, as Nautilus shells fetch a good price.”

Nova tied a rope to another arrow, took aim, and fired it at the dead Nautilus. The arrow pierced its eye with a squelch, making everyone flinch, before Van took the rope and began pulling the dead monster toward the ship. When the Nautilus’ shell gently bonked the side of the ship Van used his spear to hook the beast and place it on the deck. He began prying the cephalopod out of the shell.

“So, why was it that all it took was one Dragon Strike to take it out?” Nova asked.

Nina replied, “As you saw, the Nautilus has the ability to produce a bubble barrier around itself. That barrier protects it, forcing most people to have to attack it multiple times just to get to the monster itself. Plus the barrier regenerates after a bit. However, while that bubble barrier protects it, it also acts as a double-edged sword for it. Monsters of the Water element are usually weak to Lightning and Wood elements. That bubble barrier makes the Nautilus, who already has a Lightning weakness, become even more weakened by Lightning. In short, what would normally be a double weakness turns into a quadruple weakness to Lightning. That’s why all it took was one Dragon Strike to kill it, as the bubble barrier magnified its weakness to that element further.”

At that time Van had successfully cleaned the shell of the monster within it, tossing the corpse overboard. Nina then took the shell, flew over the water while carrying it, and began washing the shell out with the seawater. After doing this a few times she emptied the shell of water and placed it on the deck again. She then took a moment to examine the shell.

“Looks like this is an adolescent Nautilus. That’s good, as its shell will fetch a better price than an adult one.”

Nova quirked an eyebrow, “Why?”

Kettu explained, “It’s because adult Nautilus shells have suffered wear and tear, thus their luster and sheen is lower quality, which, in turn, lowers the shell’s quality for crafters. Adolescent Nautilus, on the other hand, have very clean and shiny shells, thus they tend to fetch higher prices for crafters. You see, a Nautilus shell is often used to create decorative items like plates, statues, and jewelry. Crafters will pay big coins for a Nautilus shell, especially an adolescent one. Adult shells still fetch decent prices but you’ll get at least double for an adolescent shell over an adult shell. And before you ask, no, breaking the shell apart removes all its quality, as using them for crafting requires special segmenting methods.”

“Huh, I see.”

Nina smiled, “Well, no matter. You know the drill, Nova, time to put it in your Digi-Pack so we can sell it when we get across the ocean.”

Nova nodded and put the Nautilus shell in his Digi-Pack.

“It’s a shame that breaking the shell makes it lose all its quality,” he said. “Would probably make for interesting magical accessories like the ones I have.”

Suddenly, Mary Ann was in front of Nova, startling him. It took everyone a moment to realize she was no longer at the helm, forcing Bullwinkle to take over.

“Hey!” he protested. “Give us a warning when you do that, Mary Ann!”

Mary Ann ignored him and said to Nova, her eyes with stars in them, “You make magical accessories? Would you show, and possibly sell, me some? I’m always on the hunt for more magical accessories, especially more unique ones. Most merchants tend to have the same stuff, but maybe you’ll have something more interesting.”

Nova gained a sheepish expression, “Well, I do have my own custom creations. I suppose I could show you what I’ve got. But it’ll have to wait until after lunch, as I’ll be helping with the cooking.”

“Sounds good to me!” Mary Ann said cheerfully.

Alex stepped up, “Speaking of lunch, we should start getting it ready. Please follow me to the kitchen so we can begin making lunch for everyone.”

Nova nodded and followed Alex into the ship’s kitchen. He took a moment to observe what types of food they had before beginning to assist the young warlock in cooking up the meal for the hungry crew and party members. It wasn’t long before the food was ready. Alex went out and rang a bell, signaling that lunch was ready. Bullwinkle lowered the anchor to steady the ship so everyone could go and enjoy their meal. It was clear that the food quality was good, as everyone eagerly tucked into the plates of food.

“You’re pretty good, kid,” Bullwinkle said to Nova. “I can see why your party seems so well-fed. Having you help Alex will make things easier on him.”

Nova nodded and resumed eating. It wasn’t long before the food was gone, allowing him, Alex, and Nina to wash the dishes. Bullwinkle then raised the anchor and the ship started off again.

Mary Ann stepped up, saying, “Okay, you promised to show me some of your stuff, Nova.”

Nova nodded, took out a moderate-sized chest from his Digi-Pack, and opened it up, revealing dozens of accessories, making Mary Ann’s eyes light up again.

“These are some of my custom creations,” he said. “Since I don’t know what kind of magical accessories most people make, I just craft what I think looks and sounds good and see if anyone wants to try them.”

Mary Ann gently rummaged through the custom accessories, clearly interested. She eventually pulled out a hairclip shaped like a wing with gems.

“What’s this?” she asked.

“That’s a Falcon Wing Hairclip. It will boost your agility by 35% and gives a 10% mana regeneration boost.”

“It boosts agility and gives a mana regeneration boost? That’s the first time I’ve heard of that kind of combo. Considering I’m a Werefolk having something that helps us regenerate mana is very useful, especially with our Werebeast forms. I’ll take it. How much?”

Nova took out a notebook and flipped through the pages before saying, “Five silver.”

“Deal!”

Mary Ann paid five silver for the accessory, which Nova pocketed. She then clipped it in her hair just underneath her left rabbit ear. She took a moment to admire it from the reflection of a pot, smiling.

“Thank you so much. I already feel it working.”

“You’re welcome. Enjoy.”

After putting the chest away he and everyone else resumed their activities. It wasn’t long before something else happened.

Van’s ears twitched as he heard something, saying, “Hold on, gang, I think I hear screaming.”

Kettu, Zeeker, and Mary Ann started to twitch their ears, trying to pinpoint the sound.

“I hear it, too,” Zeeker said. “It sounds awfully familiar.”

Soon everyone else could hear the screaming. They all looked around before they spotted something in the water. To their dismay it was Dominic, and he was clinging to the back of a large Nautilus shell, where the monster in question was trying to get him but couldn’t reach back far enough to grab him. He then noticed the ship and began calling out.

“Help!” he wailed. “Save me from this evil creature!”

He’s the evil creature if you ask me…” Kettu grumbled.

Nova nocked an arrow on his bow, saying, “Yeah, well, he’ll make for good target practice. Ifrit Mode. Dragon Strike!”

The Demon King Ring adjusted itself, now set to Ifrit Mode. He then fired the electrified dragon attack at the Nautilus, who was too busy trying to get Dominic off of it so it could eat him to realize it was now the target of an attack. By the time it realized this the Dragon Strike struck it, blasting it with strong electrical energy, along with zapping Dominic before sending him flying. The Nautilus flopped to its side, dead, allowing Nova to prime another arrow with a rope tied to it and fired it, nailing the monster’s body, followed by Van reeling it in. When Dominic had recovered from the attack he started swimming after the boat.

“Hey! Hey! Hey! What about me!?”

Everyone ignored him, moving the ship forward. Dominic swam as fast as he could until he grabbed the paddlewheel, which resulted in him flopping around as it rotated.

Bullwinkle growled, “Get him off the paddlewheel before he breaks it.”

Alex sighed, “I got this.” He started to channel energy before saying, “Float!”

He cast a spell on Dominic, causing him to float off the paddlewheel. Using his staff Alex managed to move Dominic over the ship and dropped him rather harshly on the deck with a kersplat. Dominic slowly came to his senses only to see all seven party members glaring at him angrily, clearly ready to kill him.

He chuckled nervously, “S-Say… maybe we got off on the wrong foot. Maybe we can let bygones be bygones?”

To his horror everyone primed their weapons, ready to attack him, causing him to duck his head in anticipation for their assault.

“Hold it!” Captain Conner said. “If you attack him now you’ll run the risk of damaging the ship! I know he’s a wanted man for what he did with a warrant for his execution, but, unfortunately, we cannot do that here. We’re gonna have to call a truce for now.”

The party all looked disgusted at the thought while Dominic looked hopeful. Bullwinkle then marched over, grabbed Dominic by the throat, and effortlessly hoisted him off the ground.

Nova turned to the party, “Let’s talk about this in private, team.”

The party nodded and entered the ship’s cabin to discuss what to do about this situation. Dominic tried in vain to pry Bullwinkle’s grip off his throat but the buffalo-type Beastman kept him steady. After a few minutes the party emerged from inside the ship. Sir Reginald marched over to Dominic, his eyes narrowing.

“Okay, here’s the deal, Dominic,” he growled. “We’ll call a truce for now, as there are bigger issues to worry about. But we have conditions for the truce. For starters, whoever draws blood on the other side first will be thrown off the ship. So that means if you cut someone, like Nova, and produce blood, then you’re going overboard. And the same applies to us. Secondly, you are to not bother Nina at all. If you sexually harass her then you’re going overboard. And finally if you’re going to stay you’re going to work. Since we had to buy tickets for this ship ride you have to earn your keep the hard way by helping the crew with chores. Do that and keep things civil and we’ll tolerate you. Got it?”

Dominic nodded eagerly, “Okay, okay! You have a deal! Just put me down!”

Bullwinkle roughly dropped Dominic, causing him to cough as he regained oxygen in his lungs. Alex then summoned a bucket of water and a mop via magic and put them into Dominic’s hands.

“Okay, punk, your first task is to mop the deck,” Bullwinkle growled threateningly. “If you don’t work you don’t get to eat. So get mopping!”

Dominic replied in a tiny voice, “R-Right.”

He began mopping the deck, making Nova chuckle.

“Manual labor is good for you, Domi,” he sneered. “After all, it’s honest work, which is something you should consider doing more often.”

Nina sighed before saying, “I guess I’ll be spending most of my time in the crow’s nest, as even with this truce I don’t trust Dominic.”

She took flight and flew up to the crow’s nest before settling in up there. She then pulled up the rope ladder to prevent Dominic from following her up there before curling into a fetal position, placing her head on her knees, wrapping her wings around herself, and giving a depressed sigh.

“I hate seeing Nina depressed…” Nova said sadly. “She was really looking forward to this boat trip. Now Dominic ruined everything. I’m going to my cabin to work on more magical accessories.” He turned to Alex, “Alex, let me know when it’s time to start dinner.”

Alex nodded, “Yeah, sure, no problem. Maybe later I’ll check out your magical accessories, as the Magic Clan love stuff like that.”

Angelo said, “I’m going to my cabin, too, so I don’t dry out my throat too much from the salty air. Let me know when dinner will be ready.”

Everyone split up to do their own thing, leaving Dominic under the watchful eye of Bullwinkle.

Nina sighed, “Dammit, I was really looking forward to this boat trip, as it’s my first one. Along with wanting to have some romantic time with Nova, as cruises are known for being romantic. Dominic ruined everything, just like always. This is gonna be a long trip.”

Next Chapter: Mermaid Melody

That's all for today. Looks like an uneasy truce has been forged. What does this mean for the trip? Tune in next time to find out.
 

CynthiaLover

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Time for the next chapter of Dawn of Courage. (Warning: contains mild language, sexual suggestions, female nudity)

Mermaid Melody


It had been about two hours since the party had “rescued” Dominic from the sea. The obnoxious traitor was still working under the watchful eye of Bullwinkle, clearly not happy about having to do manual labor. Nina was still nestled in the crow’s nest, watching Dominic from her perch to ensure he didn’t try anything.

“Damn that Dominic…” she muttered. “Just when I was really enjoying this boat ride he had to ruin it. Now I’m too afraid to leave the crow’s nest due to his lecherousness. And I just know he’s going to milk this truce somehow. Especially if it involves Nova. I almost hope he does something that violates the truce so we can kick him off the ship, yet at the same time I don’t want him to do anything to anyone. Especially to Nova and me. I guess I just have to grin and bear it. Hopefully Bullwinkle keeps him in line, as I doubt that moron would be willing to challenge someone who could break him in half if he dared try anything. Ooh, that’s a fun thought, seeing Dominic get snapped in two. But considering all the punishment he’s endured I doubt even that will kill him.”

A voice called up to her, “Hey, Nina, you still up there?”

Nina looked behind her and down to see Kettu looking up at her.

“Oh, hey, Kettu,” she said. “Do you need something?”

He shook his head, “No, but Nova does. I know you don’t want to leave the crow’s nest due to our uninvited guest but Nova needs your expertise on something. Think you’d be willing to come down and help him with whatever he needs you for?”

Nina looked back at Dominic, who was still working under Bullwinkle’s eyes. She took a moment to think before looking down at Kettu.

“Okay, I’ll be down in a moment,” she said. “If it’s Nova asking for me then I really can’t say no. Alright, give me a moment.”

She took another look back at Dominic, ensuring he was busy, before gently floating down from the crow’s nest and onto the deck. She quickly made her way into the ship’s interior and gently knocked on Nova’s cabin door. There was a brief pause before the door opened, revealing Nova’s face.

“Nina, I’m glad you decided to come down from the crow’s nest,” he said warmly. “I know how you feel about having Domi around as I feel the same way. But, in any case, I wanted to talk to you in private. Please, come in.”

Nina nodded and entered the cabin. Nova gently locked the door behind her. She could see he was making more magical accessories using various materials he had.

“Do you need my help with magical accessories?” she asked.

“No, not that. I’m doing pretty well on my own. Got a few new creations done. No, I was wanting to talk to you about something more… important.”

He gained a blush as he said this, cluing the winged woman into what he wanted to talk about. She smiled warmly, gaining a small blush herself.

“You want to talk about our future, don’t you?” she said warmly.

Nova’s blush got brighter before saying, “Yes. Let’s sit on the bed so we can talk.”

The duo walked over to the bed and sat down on it. Both of their blushes were getting brighter but they looked at each other with loving eyes.

Nova took a deep breath before saying, “Nina, as we both know you’ll most likely follow me back to Earth. I do want to warn you that it might be rough for you, as you’ll not only be the only one of your kind on Earth but also technically considered an alien from another world. Are you sure you’d be willing to endure what that could bring? I’m not trying to dissuade you; I’m just giving you a fair warning of what you might encounter.”

Nina smiled and gave him a kiss, saying, “I go where you go, that’s all there is to it. I don’t care what anyone else says about it, be it about my race or the fact we’re dating, I fully intend to start a new life with you on Earth. I can’t go back to Phoenixwing Kingdom for obvious reasons so I might as well start anew with you. Being with you is more important to me than any problems it might spawn. Let people say what they want, as I fully intend to not only prove that I’ll stand by your side to the bitter end but I will take Earth by storm one way or another. I appreciate your concern for my wellbeing, Nova. You’ve always been good about watching out for me and wanting what’s best for me, even if it means you have to sacrifice your own happiness in the process. That’s my resolve: marry you on Earth and start a new life without caring what anyone else says about it.”

Nova’s eyes widened at Nina’s resolve before melting into a warm smile. He gave her a kiss, which she gladly returned before pulling apart.

“I don’t know what I did to deserve your love, Nina, but I thank you for giving me a reason to be happy again,” he said gently. “After everything I’ve been through it’s nice knowing that I’ll always have you in my corner. I just hope you can adjust to what would probably be a more boring lifestyle after this adventure we’ve had.”

She smiled, “Hey, I’m looking forward to settling down when this is all over. Having a nice home to raise our family in and not worry about monsters or Undead would be wonderful. I’m all for it. Hmm?”

She started to look around, having detected something. Nova quirked an eyebrow at the sudden change.

“What is it, Nina?” he asked.

“I hear… singing.” It dawned on her, “Ah, I think I know what that is. Probably some Ningyo Clan members are sunning themselves and singing.”

“Ningyo Clan… those are merfolk, right?”

“Yes. We must be close to one of their preferred sunbathing spots. And don’t worry, they’re not sirens or anything, so they won’t lead us to doom with their singing. Might as well check it out, as I’ve only seen Ningyo Clan members in books.”

Nova nodded, quickly packed up his crafting materials and tools, and followed Nina out onto the deck. Everyone was present, trying to pinpoint the singing.

Zeeker turned to the couple, “So, you heard it, too. The singing, I mean. We must be near one of the Ningyo Clan’s preferred sunbathing spots, as they’re the only ones with such singing voices.”

Nina huffed, “I take pride in my golden voice, too, you know. So they’re not the only good singers around, thank you.”

Nova gained a sheepish expression, “It’s true. It’s how Nina and I first met, as I was lured in by her gorgeous singing while she was bathing, resulting in a… interesting encounter. So, yeah, Nina’s got a solid gold voice herself when it comes to melodious melodies.”

Nina kissed him on the cheek, saying, “Thank you, Nova, for vouching for me. Hmm?” She looked out a bit, narrowing her eyes, before saying, “I see some rock formations just a little off the starboard bow. And I think I see a trio of Ningyo Clan females there.”

Sir Reginald said, “Then we’d better check it out, as they might know about who or what has been terrorizing the ships lately.”

Captain Conner, who was at the helm, nodded, “Yes, good idea, Sir Reginald. The Ningyo Clan knows these oceans like the back of their webbed hands so they’d definitely know what’s been attacking our ships lately. Let’s go in for a closer look and ask if they know anything that might be of use to us.”

He started to steer the ship toward the rock formations. Soon the passengers of the ship saw the three Ningyo Clan females singing and sunbathing. They were attractive young women with flowing hair consisting of different colors, matching mermaid tails, gills on their waists, webbed hands, bright eyes, fair skin, and were, surprisingly, completely naked. Nova blushed and turned away, Van doing the same. Nina smiled as she saw Nova avoid looking at the mermaids. Dominic, on the other hand, was practically drooling over the beautiful bare bodies of the Ningyo Clan females, to everyone else’s disgust. The mermaids stopped singing as the ship got in close.

“Oh, hello,” one with aqua hair and a matching tail said. “Did our singing attract you?”

Sir Reginald said, “You could say that. But we also wanted to ask you three a question.”

Another mermaid, who had pink hair and a matching tail, said, “Oh? What do you want to ask us?”

Zeeker asked, “Well, we’ve heard that some ships have been attacked recently. While none have been sunk it does warrant concern about who or what the attacker is. Can you clue us into who has been attacking the ships around these parts?”

The third mermaid, who had green hair with a matching tail, replied, “Yeah. It’s Captain Boneacuda and his zombie sharkmen. They seem to be looking for someone or something, as once they confirm that their ‘target’ or whatever is not on those ships they just leave them alone. Very unusual considering it’s Muu’s army.”

Nina sighed, “So, it is Boneacuda and his zombie sharkmen. They’re looking for us, as we’re the Demon King’s champion party. Well, not including the moronic meatball monkey who’s drooling over you three.”

The three mermaids redirected their attention to Dominic, who was leaning over the railing to drink in as much as he could of the naked females.

The pink-haired mermaid said, “We don’t mind people gawking at our naked bodies, that’s just par for the course. Though we do mind touching. But I can see your point about him. Although I’m surprised the pink-haired cutie and the Centaur are not eyeing us up.”

Van replied, still looking away, “I’m a married man with a pregnant wife, so I want to remain loyal and true to her.”

Nova said, blushing, “And I’m in a relationship with Nina here, so I want to prove my loyalty to her.”

The aqua-haired mermaid smiled, “Proving your loyalty to the ones you already love? That’s a good quality to have.” An idea dawned upon her, “Wait a second. You said you’re the Demon King’s champion party? Then maybe you can get rid of Boneacuda and his zombie sharkmen. They’ve been harassing our underwater kingdom for far too long. While the barriers that protect our underwater homes have weathered their attacks the sheer frequency of them has left us unnerved. It’s made it very hard for our clan to leave the safety of the barriers to do things as simple as hunt or sunbathe. If you can deal with Boneacuda and his troops then King Shax will reward you.”

Sir Reginald replied, “He’s on our list anyway so we’d be glad to deal with him. At least we now know what to expect so he doesn’t catch us off-guard. Can you give us any more information about him and his crew? Like the size of his platoon or the type of equipment like magic cannons he has?”

The green-haired mermaid replied, “Well, he’s only got about a dozen zombie sharkmen due to their size, as they’re much bigger than standard Undead Soldiers. I’d say about the size of your Centaur friend, though they are pretty tough. As for his ship and its equipment, he’s got six magic cannons, three on each side, a plow in the front of the ship so he can ram other ships, and a catapult that he uses to launch exploding bombs not unlike naval mines. That’s about everything worth noting. Hope that helps.”

Angelo smiled, “It does, thank you very much for the information. We’ll make sure to make good use of it. And we’ll make sure that Boneacuda and his zombie sharkmen end up sleeping with the fishes.”

Just then Dominic fell overboard and into the water, making everyone groan. He surfaced and swam over to the Ningyo Clan females eagerly. To everyone’s disgust he started to molest them lustfully. The Ningyo Clan females responded to this blatant violation with a fury of punches, slaps, and tail slams. After thoroughly beating up Dominic they used their tails to hurl him back onto the ship, battered, bruised, and brutalized.

The pink-haired mermaid huffed, “We said we’re fine with looking, not touching! What a slob and a creep. I’m so glad he’s not part of your party as it would make us question your standards. It’s clear that he’s no friend to you.” She regained her composure, “Anyway, please deal with Boneacuda and his zombie sharkmen for us, as it would bring our clan great relief. Then we can swim and sunbathe freely again. We’ll let King Shax know that you plan to take care of that problem. And make sure to ditch that muscle-bound goon as soon as possible.”

Nina huffed, “Oh, don’t worry, we intend to get rid of him as soon as we can. Especially since he betrayed Edyn in favor of Muu in order to make himself look like a big-shot. Alas, we’re in a temporary truce right now because of various factors so we can’t do much to him in retaliation for all his crimes. But make no mistake, we intend to make sure Dominic suffers for his treasonous crimes.”

The green-haired mermaid replied, “So, he’s the one we’ve been hearing rumors about. He’s the one who sold out Emerald Coast Kingdom’s capital to Muu. Then I take it you’re the ones who vanquished General Juggerrot and that huge platoon of Undead Soldiers.”

Zeeker nodded, “Yes, or rather Nova did. He wiped them all out with a powerful skill.”

The aqua-haired mermaid quirked an eyebrow, “Nova? You mean the pink-haired cutie? Interesting. I didn’t know you were that powerful.”

Nova blushed, still averting his eyes from the nude mermaids, and responded, “Well, I wouldn’t have been able to if it wasn’t for Master Aerrow teaching me the skill Celestial Judgment Arrow. It was just fortunate that I was able to summon it, as I’m still not totally sure how to call upon that skill because it cannot be used via conventional means. I’m just as glad as everyone else that it worked so well on Juggerrot and his platoon of 10,000 Undead Soldiers.”

The pink-haired mermaid giggled, “Sounds like someone is pretty modest. Another good quality for a strong cutie like you to have. That Dominic guy could learn a few things from you. In any case, please take care of Boneacuda and his zombie sharkmen for us. It would be a huge relief to us Ningyo Clan members. You can find him further out at sea by Shipwreck Reef. Be careful.”

Sir Reginald nodded, “We will, thank you for the advice. We’ll be on our way now.” He turned to Captain Conner, “Captain, let us resume our trip, especially since we now know our enemy.”

Captain Conner nodded, “Aye-aye. Hard to port.”

The ship’s paddlewheel started up again, moving the vessel away from the sunbathing mermaids. The trio of mermaids waved the group goodbye, throwing a few kisses their way, much to Nina’s ire. However, Nova was still keeping his eyes away from the naked females, making the winged woman smile. After they had gotten a fair distance away from the mermaids they resumed their previous activities.

“Okay, beloved, you can look now,” Nina purred.

Nova gave a relieved sigh and faced her, resulting in the winged woman grabbing his face and kissing him on the lips.

“Thank you, Nova, for proving your loyalty to me,” she smiled. “You were presented with three pairs of mermaid mammaries, among other parts, yet you refused to look at them in favor of staying loyal to me. You truly are wonderful. And here you used to be a pervert. You’ve grown so much since those days, Nova.”

Nova blushed, “Yeah, well, I resorted to perversion to cope with my loneliness. Now that I have you as my girlfriend I don’t need to resort to it anymore. And as tempting as it was I knew that I had to remain loyal and true to you, no matter what temptation crosses my path. After all, you’re my first girlfriend, so I want to ensure that you can trust me and count on my loyalty.”

She kissed him again, saying, “You certainly proved it today, beloved. Unlike that slimeball Dominic. He got his just desserts for violating those aquatic women. At least I know I can always count on your loyalty no matter what forms of temptation come our way. It proves what a good man you are, Nova. The women who rejected you prior didn’t realize they tossed away a prime man. Not that I’m complaining as it means you’re all mine. But thank you for proving your loyalty to me. It means a lot.”

As the two had their romantic moment Dominic could only watch from his battered and bruised state with burning eyes. The rest of the party noticed this but knew that if he tried anything he’d get thrown overboard, so they were content to let him fume.

Alex then stepped up, saying, “Um, I hate to interrupt this beautiful moment between you two, and believe me I’d rather not, but Nova needs to help me start making dinner.”

Nova gave a small smile, “Sure, Alex, no problem.” He turned to Nina, “Guess we’ll have to wait until later to continue romancing each other, Nina. Especially away from Dominic’s glaring eyes. See you at dinner.”

He broke apart from her and followed Alex into the kitchen to start preparing dinner. Nina looked a bit dejected but she was still satisfied at Nova’s loyalty. She turned to Dominic and glared at him.

“You see that, Domi?” she snarled. “That’s what a real man is like. One that would never betray his lover or ogle other women regardless of body structure or amount of clothing. You could learn a thing or two about how to respect women from Nova. After all, we women are not playthings for men. We deserve respect, too, you know, and don’t like being treated the way you treat us. The thrashing you got from those mermaids was well deserved for such vile behavior. I feel soiled just being around you. At least Nova, and for that matter the rest of this party, treat me with respect and dignity, unlike you. I’m not your sex toy and I won’t tolerate you treating me as such. There’s a reason why I love Nova and not you. No, there are several reasons why I love Nova and not you. At least I can count on Nova’s loyalty and dedication to me. I couldn’t count on your loyalty even if my life depended on it. Face it, Dominic: you’re a slimeball and a traitor with a massive self-entitled complex, all of which are bad traits to have. No self-respecting woman would want anything to do with you. I suggest you clean up your act and learn how to be a real man from someone like Nova or Sir Reginald.”

She sharply turned around and walked into the ship’s interior. The rest of the party gave Dominic a dirty look before following her. Mary Ann walked up to Dominic and gave him a kick in the face with her large rabbit foot.

“She’s right, you know,” she growled. “You’re a disgusting man. No woman would ever let you violate her. To think such a foul cretin like you exists just makes me sick. Nova, Sir Reginald, and the rest of the men on this ship have proven to be far better males than you’ll ever be.”

She walked away, leaving Dominic to fume.

“I’ll prove that I’m a better man than pinkie pie,” he growled silently. “Then you’ll see my greatness for what it’s worth.”

Next Chapter: That Sinking Feeling

That's all for today. Looks like the party knows their next target. Will they survive a battle out at sea? Tune in next time to find out.
 
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CynthiaLover

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Time for the next chapter of Dawn of Courage. (Warning: contains mild language, violence, light blood, male and female nudity)

That Sinking Feeling


It was after dinnertime on the ship. Everyone had enjoyed their meal and were heading to their cabins. However, when Dominic tried to enter a cabin Bullwinkle grabbed his arm.

“Nope, you’re not getting a cabin,” he said.

“Why not?!” Dominic protested. “I deserve the best cabin of them all!”

“Two reasons why that’s not true. First, you didn’t pay for a ticket. Cabins are for paying customers or staff only. And secondly, all the cabins are occupied. So you’re sleeping out on the deck even if I have to tie you to the mast to ensure it. Now… GET OUTSIDE!”

Dominic was about to protest again only for Bullwinkle to grab him by the throat, making him go pale.

“I said outside. NOW!!!”

Bullwinkle dragged the flailing and kicking Dominic to the deck and roughly threw him outside, causing the obnoxious traitor to smack into the mast face-first. The buffalo-type Beastman then slammed the door shut, leaving Dominic outside. Dominic managed to regain his senses and was now furious.

“I’ll show you who deserves to sleep outside,” he snarled. “And it’s that pink-haired bilge rat.”

Inside his cabin Nova was stretching his body, yawing widely.

“Well, time for bed,” he said to himself. “Shame Nina isn’t with me in here, as we usually bunk together. But I’d rather her not get unwanted attention from a certain muscle-bound meatball head. Then again, staying with her would allow me to guard her.” He gave a sigh, “It’s so difficult to relax when Dominic is around. And I know that our fight with Captain Boneacuda will be very soon. Probably even tomorrow for all we know. At least the ship is anchored right now so we won’t accidentally drift into the area where that overgrown fishbone might reside. Well, whatever, it’s time to rest.”

However, just as he was about to kick off his Hoverboots and put his Digi-Pack and archery equipment down the door burst open, revealing a livid Dominic. Before Nova could say or do anything Dominic grabbed the back of his tunic and threw him out of the room, slamming the door behind him.

“Hey!”

Just before Nova could force the door open again Bullwinkle stomped up to him.

“What happened?” he asked.

“What else?” Nova said dryly. “Dominic threw me out of my cabin.”

Bullwinkle’s left eye twitched in anger. He turned around and walked back a distance before returning with a rope and a rag. He forced the door open and partly closed it behind him. Then Dominic’s girly scream could be heard, causing everyone to open their cabin doors, wondering what all the commotion was about. About a minute later Bullwinkle was dragging a hogtied Dominic with a rag stuffed in his mouth out of the cabin.

“There, that should take care of that issue,” the buffalo Beastman said coldly. He effortlessly hoisted Dominic up so he was dangling in front of his face, growling, “I told you you’re sleeping outside, you parasite. You don’t get a room nor are you permitted to try to steal one. If you try that again I’ll hogtie you again and throw you overboard. And you’re not getting breakfast tomorrow for this stunt, either.”

Dominic tried whining from behind the rag but nothing audible could be understood. Bullwinkle merely roughly dragged Dominic, purposely kicking him with his heels, out of the ship’s interior. He got outside, tied the other end of the rope to the mast, and stormed off, leaving Dominic to whine and complain from behind the rag as the door closed and was locked.

Nina approached Nova, asking, “Are you okay, love?”

Nova was collecting his arrows that had been scattered when he was thrown out, replying, “Yeah, just a little sore that Dominic got the jump on me like that. He may be a wuss and a coward but he’s still a lot bigger than me, so he does have a size advantage that enables him to pull something like that. Just like a petty bully: picking on someone smaller than him. Unfortunately he didn’t draw any blood so we can’t kick him overboard and I can’t retaliate by shoving one of my arrows up where the sun doesn’t shine. Dammit, I knew this truce would be more of a hinderance than a help.”

Kettu huffed, “To say the least. And he’ll try finding ways to milk it without violating it. We should just throw the meatball head overboard and be done with it.”

“When it comes to Dominic I gotta agree with you, Kettu,” Sir Reginald said. “Sadly, we have to hold our end of the bargain, even if it is Dominic.”

Van gave a sigh, “The downside of honor, something that we Centaurs hold dear to our way of life. Not much can be done about it. But with Dominic safely detained we can return to our rooms to rest, as we may end up facing Captain Boneacuda tomorrow.”

Everyone nodded and retreated to their cabins, with Nova taking the extra moment to lock his to prevent a repeat event. He put his stuff down, kicked off his Hoverboots, and lay down on the bed. It took him a bit to fall asleep, as he kept listening for Dominic out of paranoia but eventually he dozed off. Dominic, however, continued to whine and moan outside, his voice blocked by the rag, and was unable to go very far while hogtied to the mast. The other residents of the ship completely ignored his plight.

Dawn soon broke over the horizon. Nova and Alex were already working on making breakfast. Alex was curious at the French toast Nova was making, alongside melted butter and maple syrup, clearly having never seen the dish before, while still tending to his eggs and bacon. It wasn’t long before everyone was seated at the tables with large plates of food before them. Everyone except Dominic, who was still tied to the mast outside, clearly moaning about missing out on food.

Mary Ann purred, “I gotta say, this ‘French toast’ of yours is good, Nova. I’ve never had it before. Your party is lucky to be able to try new foods from your world of Earth on a routine basis. I could seriously get used to eating stuff like this.”

Nova merely chuckled, “Glad you like it. It’s pretty simple. Though it’s a shame I can’t make my banana bread French toast, as that’s even better. But at least it’s an easy, filling meal, which is good when you’re on the road like this party.”

Nina purred, “You know it. And Alex got the bacon just perfect. You both are quite good in the kitchen. I wish I could cook at least halfway decently… then we wouldn’t have to force you to do all the cooking, Nova. Maybe when we go to Earth you can give me cooking lessons?”

“Maybe, but we have a long way until then so, for now, let’s just leave things as they are. We can work on stuff like that later on, when we’re in a more relaxed environment.”

Zeeker sneered, “At least we don’t have to give any of this good food to Dominic right now. I bet he’s whining and complaining like a little spoiled child out there. Seeing Bullwinkle do what he did to that meatball head last night was a glorious show. Shame we can’t just toss him overboard and be done with it but, unfortunately, we have to uphold our end of the truce. Let’s hope Dominic is the one to screw up and give us the needed excuse to get rid of him.”

Bullwinkle nodded, “I have to agree with you. He’s more trouble than he’s worth, to put it lightly. Can’t believe someone like him would go as far as he did just to make himself look like a big-shot hero when he’s really a traitorous fiend with a massive ego and self-entitlement complex. I bet his own mother is ashamed of him.”

Kettu finished his bite of eggs before saying, “I can see that happening. He’s the shame of the human race. But enough talk about that goon. Let’s just enjoy our breakfast without him getting in the way. Especially since we may have to deal with Boneacuda today.”

Everyone nodded and resumed eating. It wasn’t long before the food was gone, allowing Nova, Nina, and Alex to wash the dishes. They ventured outside to see Dominic looking at them with hateful eyes. Bullwinkle stepped up to the traitorous man, glaring at him, causing Dominic to become meek.

“I hope you learned your lesson, Dominic,” the buffalo Beastman said. “If not I’ll use you for fishing bait to catch something like a Nautilus or Puffer. Now, I expect you to behave and not try anything. Is that clear?

Dominic nodded, still unable to speak with the rag in his mouth. Bullwinkle untied him and removed the cloth gag, allowing Dominic to stand up. Alex then summoned a brush with his staff and presented it to Dominic.

“Now start sweeping or you won’t get lunch either.”

Dominic reluctantly complied, sweeping the deck while Bullwinkle kept his eyes on him.

“Guess it’s time to retreat to the crow’s nest,” Nina sighed.

She took flight and landed in the crow’s nest. She curled herself into a fetal position, wrapped her wings around herself, and sighed in a depressed tone.

“I always hate seeing Nina like that,” Nova said, looking up at his lover. “Hopefully this whole thing with Dominic will end soon so she can get back to enjoying her first boat ride.”

Dominic heard this and gave Nova a glare, only to be subdued by Bullwinkle’s even more frightening glare, forcing him to get back to work. Mary Ann raised the anchor, allowing Captain Conner to activate the ship and continue onward.

Angelo said, “Well, now that we’re back on track I’m going back into my cabin, as I don’t want my throat to dry out. See you in a bit.”

Nova stretched, “I guess I’ll go back to my cabin, too, as I want to finish the new magical accessories I’ve been working on. Let me know when either it’s time to make lunch or Boneacuda comes into view.”

He retreated into the interior of the ship and back to his room. He took out the various materials and crafting tools and began working on his previous projects. Everyone else did their own thing, leaving Dominic to toil under the watchful, piercing eyes of Bullwinkle.

An hour passed before Nina noticed something. She stood up and looked in a certain direction. Her actions didn’t go unnoticed by everyone.

“Lady Nina!” Sir Reginald called out. “See something?”

Nina narrowed her eyes, saying, “Yeah, I do. Wait a second.” She took out a small telescope from one of the pouches on her belt and looked through it, “I see… a ship. It’s Captain Boneacuda’s ship, as it has Muu’s insignia on it!”

Kettu’s eyes narrowed, “Then it’s time for battle. I’ll get Nova and Angelo, as we all need to be on-deck for battle.”

Sir Reginald nodded, “Right, good idea, Kettu.”

The Werefox quickly dashed into the interior of the ship. About a minute later he, Nova, and Angelo has arrived. Nina floated down to the deck to join her party.

“Let’s begin our battle strategy meeting while we still have the time,” the knight said.

Everyone quickly started to map out a battleplan on how to deal with Boneacuda and his platoon. The crew listened in, knowing they’d have a role to play, too. It wasn’t long before they had settled on a strategy.

“Okay, I think we’ve got ourselves a good plan. Now it’s time to put it into motion.”

Alex, who was using a telescope to keep an eye on Boneacuda’s ship, stated, “Boneacuda’s ship is turning in our direction! It’s now or never!”

Sir Reginald tapped his Shaman Magic Bracelet, saying, “Then I’ll take the first step. Earth, Dark! Elemental Energy Fusion activate!”

He was engulfed in swirling energy and before long he was the Terra Dark Knight, much to the surprise of the ship’s crew and Dominic’s jealousy. He stepped up to the bow of the ship and took a deep breath.

“Time to being this operation. Barrier!”

He erected a barrier around the ship that even went underwater to ensure that the ship was fully protected.

Angelo tapped his Shaman Magic Bracelet, saying, “Time for me to get into form. Water, Light! Elemental Energy Fusion activate!”

He was engulfed in swirling energy and before long he was the Tsunami Knight.

“At least in this form I don’t have to worry about my weakness to salt water, allowing me to fight at full force.”

Nina tapped her Shaman Magic Bracelet, saying, “Time for me to make a new combo. One that’ll be appropriate for this battlefield. Water, Light! Elemental Energy Fusion activate!”

She was engulfed in swirling energy and before long a new form emerged. Nina’s body had completely transformed. She looked like a mermaid with fair skin, a seashell bra, a skirt around her hips, long pink hair with matching eyes, finned ears, and wings on her back that looked like fish fins. Her body seemed to be composed of a bluish gel-like substance, most notably her arms and from her hips down, ending in a puddle where her feet would be. This substance seemed to be highly flexible and capable of being molded into various shapes and forms. Nina looked herself over, surprised at the change.

“Well, I admit I wasn’t expecting something like this,” she said. “A mermaid-like form, yeah, maybe, but not one made of gel or solidified water. But let’s see how those goons fare against my new Sea Witch Siren form.”

“We’ll find out shortly as Captain Boneacuda’s ship is within range of us!” Mary Ann stated.

Everyone turned to see Boneacuda’s ship come charging at them. Sir Reginald steeled his nerves and made sure the barrier he was producing was ready for battle. Boneacuda’s ship rammed the barrier, making Sir Reginald flinch, but the barrier remained unharmed, although the impact did bump the ship back a bit. Captain Boneacuda appeared, looking like a decaying anthropomorphic eel wearing pirate clothes. His zombie sharkmen were bulky, decaying anthropomorphic Mako sharks with clawed hands, fins for feet, and a shark tail.

“So, we finally meet,” Captain Boneacuda said. “Master Muu is very unhappy with you seven. He’s also quite furious about General Juggerrot’s destruction, as that has demoralized the lower ranks of his army. I was relocated here to deal with you before you could get to the next continent. Master Muu is willing to risk leaving the oceans near his territory vulnerable if it means getting rid of you lot as soon as possible. Your barrier may have withstood that attack, but can you keep it up? Zombie sharkmen, prepare for battle!”

The zombie sharkmen roared in agreement. Some went below deck as Captain Boneacuda adjusted the ship so that both were side-to-side. Three hatches opened, revealing magical cannons, which were soon fired, hammering away at Sir Reginald’s barrier. The transformed knight flinched at each hit but managed to keep the barrier standing strong.

Angelo drew his halberd, stating, “Time to sink or swim! Waterspout Tempest!”

He gave it a swing, causing a waterspout to form and swallow up the enemy ship. It wasn’t able to lift the ship out of the water but it did cause the ship to spin like a top, sending the zombie sharkmen on the deck flying into the water before the ship settled down again, now sporting damage.

Captain Boneacuda snarled, “Those Shaman powers are becoming a real thorn in Master Muu’s side. I’ll make sure you don’t cause him any more problems! Attack!”

The zombie sharkmen got back on the ship and started to load up the catapult with what looked like a naval mine.

Nina stepped up, “Not on your life! Ice Coffin!”

She fired a beam of cold energy at the catapult, which encased it in a coffin-shaped block of ice. Suddenly ice swords appeared and impaled the coffin-shaped ice, destroying the catapult from within. It also had the added effect of detonating the naval mine, which caused the ice block to explode and take a chunk out of the enemy ship in the process. Dominic then used the rope that previous tied him up, turned it into a lasso, and threw it, latching it onto part of the main mast of Boneacuda’s ship.

He drew his sword, saying, “I will smite these villains once and for all!”

He swung like a jungle man on the rope only to ram into the side of the ship in a cartoonish way, making everyone else groan.

“Someone clearly doesn’t know the laws of physics,” Nova said dryly.

Nina sneered, “No, but he probably never studied law.”

Everyone else groaned except Nova, who exchanged a fistbump with Nina.

“You’ve learned well, grasshopper,” he grinned.

“I studied from the master,” Nina smirked.

Dominic peeled himself off the side of the ship and fell into the water. Since he was outside of the barrier the zombie sharkmen eagerly dove in the water after him. Everyone could see violent bubbles form where Dominic and the zombie sharkmen were.

“Hopefully that kills him,” Kettu said.

Soon Dominic shot out of the water, thoroughly chewed, mauled, and bloody. The zombie sharkmen jumped after him, only to just miss him as he fell back into the water. He started swimming for his life, the zombie sharkmen hot on his heels. He made a sharp turn and headed straight for the barrier.

He cried frantically, “Let me in! Let me in! Let me in!”

Sir Reginald gave a resigned sigh and moved his left pinky slightly, opening up a small hole in the barrier. Dominic quickly swam through it, allowing Sir Reginald to close it up before the zombie sharkmen could follow. Van rolled his eyes and used his spear to latch onto the back of Dominic’s belt and roughly deposit him on the deck. Dominic quickly ducked for cover behind some crates, making everyone groan.

“Heart of a lion,” Alex remarked dryly. He then said, “Time to show these goons what a member of the Magic Clan can do!” He started to channel energy before saying, “Eat this! Big Bang!”

He launched an attack that caused a massive explosion outside of the barrier, blasting Boneacuda’s ship and sending the zombie sharkmen flying.

Nina said, “Time for me to get another lick in. Siren’s Song!”

She then started singing. Her melodious voice reverberated all over the battlefield. The party and their allies were bathed in healing light, completely restoring and refreshing them, while Captain Boneacuda, his zombie sharkmen, and Dominic all fell asleep. She soon stopped singing; her task complete.

“There, that should keep them at bay for a short time. But we have to act fast while they’re asleep.”

Sir Reginald, who looked completely restored, replied, “Then it’s time for me to get an attack in. Stone Barrage!”

The orbiting stones around his body became erect and were fired at the zombie sharkmen. The stones ripped their bodies apart, shredding them with a vengeance.

Nova nocked an arrow, saying, “I’ll clean the rest of the zombie sharkmen up. Ifrit Mode.”

The Demon King Ring adjusted itself, now set to Ifrit Mode.

“Dragon Strike!”

He fired the electric dragon at the still asleep zombie sharkmen. The attack slammed into them, blasting them with powerful electricity and ripping them to shreds, eliminating them. Soon afterward, however, Captain Boneacuda regained his senses, only for his eyes to widen in horror as he saw his ‘crew’ utterly destroyed. He started to try to turn his ship away.

Nina snarled, “Not on your life!”

She lashed out her arms, which had become gel-like tentacles, and snagged the ship. With surprising strength she was able to keep Boneacuda’s ship from escaping.

Van reared up on his hind legs, saying, “Time to go spear fishing! Meteor Throw!”

He hurled his spear at Boneacuda, which was now coated in flaming energy. Boneacuda could only look on in horror as the attack crashed into him, blasting him with intense Fire energy, making him scream in pain. Van’s spear returned to him after the attack waned.

Alex readied his staff again, saying, “I’ll finish him off! Big Bang!”

He launched another energy blast that formed in front of Boneacuda. It erupted in a massive explosion, tearing the Undead Captain to atoms and destroying the helm of his ship, ending the fight.

Sir Reginald lowered his barrier, saying, “That takes care of Captain Boneacuda and his zombie sharkmen. Now, what do we do with his ship?”

“Let’s check it out, first,” Nina suggested. “That way we can see if it has anything of value on it or if there is anything that might help us figure out Muu’s next plan.”

“Yes, good idea. You and Angelo go check it out. Be safe, as there might still be some enemies onboard.”

Angelo and Nina nodded. Angelo jumped of the ship and skated over the water to the enemy ship while Nina launched herself over to the deck. Both entered the interior of Boneacuda’s ship, with everyone waiting patiently for their return. Nina soon emerged and turned to the party.

“There’s quite a bit of useful stuff down below,” she said. “Nova, we need your help getting all of it.”

Nova nodded, “Okay, sure. Umm… how am I going to get over there?”

Nina smiled, “Like this, beloved.”

She lashed out one of her gel-like arms, turning it into a tentacle, grabbed Nova, and gently hoisted him over to the enemy ship, putting him down next to her. He gave a crooked smile before following his lover below deck. After a few minutes the trio returned. Angelo jumped off the ship and skated back to theirs while Nina launched herself back onto their ship, followed by using her gel-like arm to grab Nova again and bring him to safety.

“What did you find?” Zeeker asked.

“A lot of interesting stuff,” Nova replied. “Nautilus shells, two crates of Magna Crystal cubes, a chest or two of various materials, some sacks of money, a Goddess’ Tear, some Goddess Moon Statues, and two Serenity Pots. We took all of it. Now it’s time to destroy the ship. Angelo, would you be so kind?”

Angelo smiled, “Be my pleasure. Let’s back our ship up a bit so I have some room to launch my attack.”

Captain Conner nodded and slowly backed the ship up a bit. After getting a fair distance Angelo stepped up.

“That’ll do. Now it’s time for me to shine. Maelstrom!”

A massive maelstrom formed underneath Boneacuda’s ship. It spun it around repeatedly before dragging it underwater, followed by an explosion that sent debris everywhere, destroying the ship entirely. Everyone breathed a sigh of relief as they saw the remains of Boneacuda’s ship.

Sir Reginald smiled, “And that takes care of Captain Boneacuda and his zombie sharkmen. We’ve destroyed Muu’s only naval force, meaning he no longer has any means of defending his territory from aquatic attacks. That’ll make storming his continent easier. There’s still the regular defenses surrounding his castle but hopefully we’ll have a solution for that soon. In the meantime we should transform back and resume our trek.”

Suddenly, they all heard cheering. They looked around then over the starboard side of the ship to see several dozen Ningyo Clan members, including the royal family, swimming next to the ship, all of whom appeared to be naked. Nova and Van averted their eyes, trying to avoid looking at the nude female members of the clan. Nina smiled as she saw Nova do this, placing her hands over her heart.

King Shax swam up to the ship, “Thank you, fine warriors, for destroying Captain Boneacuda and his zombie sharkmen. You have our eternal gratitude. Although you look… different from what some of my subjects mentioned.”

Sir Reginald explained, “Some of us are using Shaman magic to take a new form that would be better equipped for the fight. We were just going to change back when you and your clan showed up. So don’t mind the form changes.”

“I see. Having the ability to use Shaman magic is a rare trait. You are most fortunate to possess that ability. And I see that the Demon King’s champion is averting his eyes from our female members, like what my subjects told me, because he wants to prove his loyalty to his lover. That is a fine trait to have, young champion.”

Nova blushed, still keeping his eyes away from the merfolk, replying, “Thank you for the kind words. I’m not trying to be disrespectful; I just don’t want to seem disloyal to Nina here, especially considering how beautiful your female members of you clan are.”

King Shax smiled, “You’re a good man to be willing to prove your loyalty to your beloved any way you can. But I need you to look at me for a moment, as I want to reward you for ridding the seas of Boneacuda and his zombie sharkmen.”

Nova reluctantly turned to face King Shax. The Ningyo Clan leader summoned a small pillar of water with what looked like an oval stone that seemed to be made of rippling water on top, presenting it to him.

“Please, take this Ocean Stone as a token of our appreciation, noble Demon King champion.”

Nova reached out to grab the Ocean Stone. At that moment Dominic awoke from his magical slumber, saw the Ocean Stone, and lunged for it.

“It’s mine, mine, mine, mine!” he yelled.

Van launched a rear kick at Dominic, nailing him in the crotch, causing him to crumple to the ground, clutching his loins. Nova quickly grabbed the Ocean Stone and put it in his Digi-Pack for safekeeping.

“Thank you very much, Your Majesty,” the pink-haired man said. “Though forgive my ignorance, but what is an Ocean Stone?”

King Shax replied, “An Ocean Stone is one of my clan’s greatest treasures. They contain the power of the sea inside them. They can also be used as a combat item to summon a tsunami or whirlpool, even on land. But in general they are very valuable and our clan’s pride and joy. Please, take good care of it.”

Nova nodded, “I will, thank you for the kind gift, Your Majesty.”

“You’re welcome. Now, it is time for my people to be on our way. Thank you again for freeing our ocean from Muu’s forces. Now my people can swim freely without fear of Muu’s goons threatening us. Farewell.”

The various merfolk dove into the water, leaving the ship and its passengers alone. Dominic managed to recover from the attack to his crotch and glared at Nova.

“That Ocean Stone is mine!” he growled. “Hand it over or else, runt!”

“Or else what?” Nova replied calmly. “You didn’t do anything of worth, except prove to be no better than fish food for the zombie sharkmen. My party and this ship’s crew deserve the credit for vanquishing Captain Boneacuda and his zombie sharkmen. You either got mauled by them or were sound asleep. Therefore a loser like you doesn’t deserve any credit nor the prize for the victory. Face it, Dominic: you’re nothing more than a useless waste of space. Even your own mother must be ashamed of what you’ve become.”

Dominic grabbed his broken sword and slashed Nova’s face, roaring, “I’LL SHOW YOU WHO’S A USELESS WASTE OF SPACE!”

However, after Dominic completed the deed, he noticed that Nova’s left cheek was bleeding. He then saw the looks on the rest of the party’s faces, making him go pale and dropping the broken sword. Nova’s eyes gleamed despite the injury, making Dominic slowly back up.

“N-N-Now, now…” the obnoxious man sputtered. “L-Let’s not do anything hasty… I-I’m sure we can let that one go, r-right?”

Nova grinned darkly, “Sorry, Domi, but you violated the truce. You drew blood from me, therefore it’s time for your punishment: getting ejected from the ship. You’re on your own now, Dominic, leaving your fate to the whims of the ocean. Time for you to pay for violating the truce.”

Dominic started to back up until his rear was at the port side railing. Before he could try to run Van grabbed him, effortlessly hoisted him up, and turned to Nina. Nina nodded and fused her lower arms and hands together, creating a large cannon. Van then shoved Dominic into the cannon rear-first. Nina stumbled a bit, trying to keep her balance while supporting Dominic’s weight. Nova cupped behind her and grabbed her arms, giving her extra support, making her smile.

“Thanks, beloved,” she said happily. She looked at Dominic, who was sweating bullets, with hate-filled eyes, “Time to say your prayers, Dominic, and hope you’re in the favor of the Goddess.” She adjusted her cannon and pointed it out toward the sea, “Goodbye and good riddance! Aqua Cannon!”

She started to build up water and pressure in the cannon. Dominic was pleading pathetically for mercy but no one on the ship remotely listened. After a few minutes of building up energy Nina fired Dominic out of her cannon via a pressurized geyser that sent him flying. He screamed as the pressurized water launched him into the sky, sending him far, far away until he was no longer in sight, ending Nina’s attack. She transformed her arms and hands back to normal, gaining a smile.

“That takes care of that piece of trash,” she huffed. She then turned to Nova, who was still bleeding, saying gently, “Let me clean that wound, Nova.”

She pointed her pointer finger at Nova and gently released a squirt of water that washed the blood away and cleaned the wound. Van then quickly treated it with magic, making Nova smile.

“Thanks,” he said. “Hopefully it doesn’t become a scar, as I’m still dealing with that scar Dominic gave me when he cut my hand off. Plus I have enough of those already.”

Van replied, “It should be fine, as there is no mark where it once was, so I doubt it’ll become a scar. But at least we finally got rid of Dominic. Hopefully something eats him, although I worry he might give whatever food poisoning.”

Zeeker chuckled, “Yeah, that’s true. But either way we no longer have to play by the truce’s rules, allowing us freedom. And Nina no longer need to hide out in the crow’s nest.”

She nodded, “Indeed. Now we should transform back to normal since both the battle and Dominic are finished.”

“Cancel Fusion!” she, Sir Reginald, and Angelo said in unison.

They were engulfed in swirling energy and before long had returned to normal.

Sir Reginald turned to Captain Conner, saying, “Okay, Captain, it’s time to head on out.”

Captain Conner saluted, “Aye-aye! Next stop: Port Rango!”

He took the helm of the ship and started onward, moving the ship toward their next destination. Nina positioned herself at the bow of the ship, spreading her arms and wings out, allowing the salty breeze to flow through her hair and feathers. Nova gently cupped her from behind, grabbing her waist, making her smile.

“Now with Dominic gone I can finally enjoy the ride again,” she said happily.

“Same here,” Nova said gently. “And I can finally relax knowing that he’ll soon be sleeping with the fishes. Though, at the same time, he’s survived a ridiculous amount of punishment, so I’m not sure if we’re done with him yet.”

“Yeah, that’s true. But hopefully we’ve seen the last of him for a while.”

The ship continued onward, heading toward its next destination.

At the time Dominic was swimming in the direction of the ship, although he couldn’t see it.

“You can’t leave me, the most important person in the world, out here!” he called. “Get back here, I demand it!” Suddenly, he felt something tap his shoulder, making him happily exclaim, “Ah! A lovely mermaid has come to save me and let me have my way with her! How fortu—” however when he turned around his eyes widened in fear and his pupils shrank.

Standing before him was a large jellyfish monster, mostly blue and white in color, with long tentacles and glowing gems for eyes. It rubbed its tentacles eagerly as it eyed Dominic, who became pale as a ghost. He screamed and started to swim away. However, the jellyfish monster lashed out its tentacles, ensnaring him, before injecting a neurotoxin into his body, causing Dominic to freeze up. Satisfied, the jellyfish monster reeled the now-paralyzed Dominic toward it. It gave a gurgling noise before it started to sink below the surface, taking Dominic with it.

“Mommy…” he whimpered.

Soon he was fully submerged underwater, with only a few air bubbles indicating where he was before those stopped. The sea returned to normal, leaving no trace of what had happened.

Next Chapter: Arena of Lost Souls

That's all for today. Will that Jelly at the end of the chapter finish Dominic off? Probably not. Tune in next time to see what our heroes face.
 

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Time for the next chapter of Dawn of Courage. (Warning: contains mild language, mild violence)

Arena of Lost Souls


It had been two days since the party defeated Captain Boneacuda and his zombie sharkmen. Their ship had finally arrived at port on the other continent. As Alex and Mary Ann secured the ship to the dock the party turned to the crew.

“Thank you very much for getting us across the ocean,” Sir Reginald said.

“Thank you right back for dealing with Boneacuda and his zombie sharkmen,” Captain Conner replied. “Now our waterways are clear. I’ll inform the other captains that it’s safe to travel back and forth between the two continents now. That way shipments and passengers can freely cross to and from the ports.”

Alex nodded, “Indeed. And thanks for the magical accessories and crate of Magna Crystal cubes. They’ll all come in handy.”

Nova replied, “You’re welcome. And better you have the Magna Crystal cubes than Muu. At least they’ll be used for good purposes instead of evil ones.”

Nina smiled, “Thanks again. Come on, boys, let’s explore and see what information we can gather. After all, this continent is in dire need of help, so we’d best gather information about what Muu has done lately so we can liberate the various territories from him.”

Zeeker nodded, “Yeah, and we can market some of the Nautilus shells we collected during the trip for extra spending cash. And like you said we need to know where the Undead Bases are so we can remove them from the equation. Let’s get going.”

The party waved the ship’s crew goodbye and began exploring the port town. They bartered for items and haggled for good prices on the Nautilus shells, gathering information as they went. After a while they regrouped back at the inn to share what information and goods they had gotten. As they sat at one of the inn’s dining room tables, they discussed what they learned.

“Okay, so we learned that a stronger-than-normal Undead Captain is terrorizing the area,” Sir Reginald said. “Most assuredly it’s one powered by a fallen soul. Which means we need to destroy it to save the soul. He’s also got a fair-sized platoon of Undead Soldiers, so we have a decent amount of work to do right off the bat.”

Van nodded, “Indeed, Sir Reginald. However, we did get some very interesting information on this Undead Captain: he actually has a defined element to him. This is a first as past Undead Captains powered by fallen souls lacked any form of element. From what we gathered this Undead Captain is of the Lightning element, therefor Earth and Wood techniques are most favorable against such a foe.”

Kettu added, “On top of that we now know that he only attacks when it’s either rainy or overcast, possibly to strengthen his Lightning moves. And he can eat Lightning element attacks to enhance himself, similar to our Shaman forms absorbing attacks of their elements and strengthening us. With this information we should have a fairly easy time of overcoming this enemy. I’m not saying it will be easy but given the fact we actually have an elemental weakness to exploit will tip the scales more in our favor than normal.”

Sir Reginald nodded, “Indeed, Kettu. It still won’t be a walk in the roses but having an actual means of exploiting a weakness is an advantage we cannot afford to pass up. This means you, Van, and Zeeker will be our best fighters, as you all know plenty of attacks of the Wood element. I also possess Earth element attacks. Angelo also has Seed Machinegun and Nova can replicate any spell with the Demon King Ring. On top of that Van’s Guardian of Edyn and Nina’s Nymph Wing are Wood element forms, while both of my Shaman forms have the Earth element, thus giving us more options. So we actually have a fair bit of available strategies to use in this fight.”

Nina sulked, “I’d rather not use my Nymph Wing form… although I also know that we need to exploit this weakness on our enemy as much as possible in order to start liberating this continent from Muu’s evil. Guess I’ll have to use it, since it is for a good cause, as much as I don’t like it.”

Nova gently gripped her hand, saying, “We all know how you feel about that Shaman form, but like I said a while back we need all the power and options we can get if we’re to win. So we’re gonna have to rely on you using that form to give us an edge. I know you don’t like that form but this is for the good of Edyn. And possibly other worlds, too, as what’s to say Muu will only settle for conquering just Edyn. You’re a strong woman, Nina, so don’t let something like a disliked form dissuade you from doing what’s right.”

She looked at him, sighing, “I know, I know. You’re right, Nova. It’s for the people of Edyn. No one ever said that being a hero is an easy job, and we have to make sacrifices for the greater good. I’m not going to like it but it has to be done.”

Angelo smiled, “That’s the spirit, Nina. We need all the advantages we can get if we’re to uproot Muu and his evil for good.”

Sir Reginald nodded, “Well put, Angelo. Now, let’s start mapping out a plan before dinner arrives.”

The party started discussing possible strategies on how to defeat their new foe. It wasn’t long after that the waitress brought their food, forcing them to stop planning and eat the delicious meal. After the plates were clear they resumed their strategizing until they had finally settled on a plan.

“Okay, I think we’ve got ourselves a good plan. Since we need the weather to play along with us, as our enemy will only strike during rain or overcast, it’ll give us a bit more time to iron out some of the kinks in our strategy. Then, when everything aligns just right, we’ll face our foe and take him out, rescue the trapped soul, and gain our first foothold on this continent against Muu.”

Everyone nodded in agreement before heading to their rooms to rest. Nova gently locked the door to his and Nina’s room before turning to his lover, who was looking out the window. He walked up to her and gently grabbed her waist, pulling her close.

“I hope you’re not still sore about needing to use Nymph Wing, Nina,” he said.

She shook her head, “No, it’s not that. Well, yeah, I’m still not happy about it, but that’s not what concerns me right now. I’m wondering how Muu was able to create an Undead Captain with an element? I mean, he’s never done it before, and none of his past Captains or Generals had an actually defined element. Sure, some had elemental weaknesses, but that’s par for the course with Undead. But one with an actual defined element? That’s a new one. I wonder how he did it, especially since past soul-powered Undead Captains lacked any form of weakness. So, how and why? What does he hope to gain by giving his special Undead Captains elements? Terrain advantage? Maybe to limit what options the enemy can use against him? I don’t know.”

Nova pondered for a moment before saying, “Maybe… it’s to counter our Shaman forms? I mean, all our forms possess two to three elements, so maybe he’s hoping to play the elemental Rock-Paper-Scissors against us. After all, the Shaman forms all have elemental weaknesses unless they’re only a combo of Light and Dark. Maybe that’s why he’s using elements in his special troops: to counter our Shaman elements.”

She looked at him, “You know, that’s a very logical conclusion. Maybe it is his attempt to counter our Shaman forms. Since if our forms are hit with an attack that they’re weak against we’ll not only take extra damage but run the risk of the form canceling. And since the Shaman Magic Bracelets need time to recharge it would prevent us from just transforming again but in a different form to prevent the elemental exploit. Good theory, Nova.”

“Well, either way, we know that Muu is using elements to further his army’s power. Which means we need to use the very same elemental Rock-Paper-Scissors to our advantage. At least we may have a theory on why Muu shifted gears with this tactic: to counter our Shaman forms. It would be a logical strategy since even Shaman magic is susceptible to elemental advantages. Well, for now, let’s rest and wait until we can begin our fight with our new enemy.”

Nina nodded, nuzzling up to Nova gently, who responded by cradling her body. They broke apart and began preparations for bed, with Nina stripping down as usual before climbing into the sheets. Nova kicked off his Hoverboots, put his equipment at the foot of the bed, and blew out the candle in the room, allowing darkness to start creeping in. Both flashed each other a smile before slowly drifting off to sleep.

The next day dawned. The sky was cloudy, though not quite totally overcast, but it caused the port town to be very tense. The party picked up on this, figuring that their enemy may soon descend on the town.

“Okay, the weather seems to be shifting to overcast, or at least it will be soon,” Sir Reginald observed. “That means our ‘friend’ and his army could very well attack soon. We need to be prepared for that fight. We also need to limit how much damage this enemy can cause, since the outer area of the port town has suffered damage.”

Zeeker said, “I’m surprised we can’t just track this enemy down and take them out at their base or cave or whatever.”

Van replied, “It’s because this enemy isn’t stationed near here. According to the locals this Undead Captain and his army use Teleport to get here. So any possible information on where they’re hiding when not attacking is rendered moot due to the fact the enemy can just simply teleport away.”

“Ah, I see. That makes sense.”

Kettu gave his daggers a spin, “Either way we’ll be sure to deal with this goon and ensure that he can’t cause any more problems. Plus the trapped soul might be someone like Felix or Queen Maria’s sister or someone else important. So we have to free that soul so it can move on peacefully and stay out of Muu’s grip.”

“Here, here!” Angelo said with a smile.

Suddenly, they all heard a bell being run from a watchtower, with someone shouting, “The Undead Army is approaching from the west!”

“Well, looks like that’s our cue,” Nova said simply.

Nodding in agreement the party made their way to the west side of the port town. There they could see an army approaching the town from over the hill. They got into position to block the Undead Army from entering the town. The Undead Captain and his army stopped a good 40 meters from the party. He resembled an electrified skeleton crossed with a faun, with sturdy armor that crackled with electrical energy, hoof feet, and was wielding what almost looked like a tuning fork made of bones.

He growled, “So, you made it here after all. Looks like Captain Boneacuda failed. Master Muu won’t be happy about that. But I’ll make sure you fall today. I, Captain Flashbone, will kill you and give Master Muu some peace of mind. Minions… attack!”

The Undead Soldiers started their charge toward the party.

Van turned to Nina, “It’s now or never, Nina!”

“Right!” she replied, although her tone did reveal her true feelings.

“Elemental Energy Fusion activate!” both said in unison.

They were engulfed in swirling energy, causing the Undead Soldiers to stop briefly to observe. Soon standing before them was the Guardian of Edyn and Nymph Wing.

“Hmph, Master Muu is very unhappy you can do that,” Captain Flashbone huffed. “That’s one reason why he created me and other Undead Captains like me: to fight fire with fire against you and those stupid Shaman powers. But no matter, I’ll eliminate you for good regardless of any form you take. Undead Soldiers, get them!”

The Undead Soldiers charged in; weapons held high.

Sir Reginald stated, “Let’s do it, team!”

The party began their retaliation. Van and Nina charged through the Undead Soldiers, sending them flying like bowling pins, before reaching Flashbone.

“So you two want to die first?” Flashbone growled. “Fine with me. Let’s see if you’re as tough as General Vertebreak says.”

Van reared up on his hind legs, stating strongly, “Gladly! Poison Ivy!”

Thick ivy vines emerged from the ground, ensnaring the Undead Captain and forcing a poison into his body.

Nina hovered higher off the ground, stating, “Time for me to get a lick in. Flower Cannon!”

She put her hands together, causing the flower petals around her wrist to form a full flower, before firing a condensed energy attack at the Undead Captain. The attack struck hard, making the Undead Captain roar in pain. He managed to use his bone constructed tuning fork to tear the ivy away, allowing him to fight back.

“Not bad, but let’s see you handle this!” he stated. “Thunder Pulse!”

He released electric pulses from his tuning fork at the duo. The attack struck the two Shamanized warriors but to his surprise they remained largely unaffected except for minor damage.

“B-But how?! My attack should’ve paralyzed you!”

Van replied, “Simple. In these forms we possess the power known as Status Guard, which prevents us from being afflicted with a status ailment like poison or paralysis. So, in short, we cannot be harmed by such tactics. Now that your attack has failed, time for us to show you what we can do! Thorn Spears!”

He fired spear-like thorns from his twin lances, repeatedly striking the Undead Captain with powerful blows.

Nina stated, “Time for a move so nice I’ll use it twice! Flower Cannon!”

She fired another condensed energy ball from her hands, striking the Undead Captain, ravaging his body with Wood energies. Captain Flashbone fell to his knees, looking ready to keel over.

“Once more, Nina!” Van said. “Thorn Spears!”

“Flower Cannon!” she stated.

Both attacks combined and struck the Undead Captain, causing his body to blow up in a flurry of electrical energy, leaving only the fallen soul behind. At the time the rest of the party had finished dealing with the Undead Soldiers and quickly joined Nina and Van to see who the captured soul belonged to. The glowing orb suddenly split into two and took shape, revealing two different individuals. One was a male jackal-type Beastman and the other was a human woman. Zeeker’s eyes widened as he saw the Beastman.

“No way!” he sputtered. “Lenny? Is that you?”

The jackal Beastman replied, “Hello, Captain Zeeker. It’s good to see you again after that fateful day.”

Kettu looked surprised, “Wait a minute. This Undead Captain had TWO souls powering him?! Why two?”

The human woman shrugged, “We don’t know, but we do know Muu is desperate to regain lost territory. He also knows about these forms you take so he’s created Undead Captains like Flashbone to counter them. Well, that’s one reason, anyway. It appears you’ve done so much damage to Muu’s army that he’s really working overtime trying to figure out ways of stopping you. While he’s confident that General Vertebreak can stop you the fact is you defeated General Juggerrot, which has seriously demoralized his troops and rattled Muu himself to a degree.”

Lenny nodded, “Indeed, and he’s got more Undead Captains with elements, and possibly two souls in them, ready to be deployed. He’s very desperate to regain all the ground and troops he’s lost to you. I’m glad to see you’re still in the fight, Captain Zeeker, even after Vertebreak knocked us off our high-horse.”

Zeeker replied sadly, “Yeah, well… I didn’t rejoin the fight right away. My survivor’s guilt got the better of me and I couldn’t relight my fire. It was this party, especially Nova, who got me back in the game. Now I intend to rectify my mistake and see this war to the end. But I’m sorry for my failure.”

Lenny smiled, “It’s okay, Captain Zeeker. We all made that same mistake. The fact that you managed to find your way back into the fight proves your resolve. I’m just grateful you were able to save me after that fateful day. Being in Muu’s clutches is a horrible feeling.”

The human woman nodded, “Indeed. You freed us from that torment. We are very grateful. Now we can move on peacefully and leave the rest to you all. Please, don’t give up. You may be our best chance at finally ending this war. Please, keep fighting and don’t let Muu win. Farewell.”

“Yeah. Good luck. And Captain Zeeker, it was an honor to serve alongside you. Farewell.”

Both souls became orbs and started to float up to the sky. Everyone saluted as the souls flew into the clouds and vanished. Zeeker gave a depressed sigh as he lowered his hand.

“I know I shouldn’t still be kicking myself for that day,” he said. “But it still haunts my memories. I won’t be able to fully move on from it until Muu is destroyed and all the souls he’s captured are freed.”

Nova nodded, “We understand, Zeeker. And we intend to do just that. But, in any case, now we know one reason why Muu is creating Undead Captains with elements: to counter our Shaman forms. Looks like my theory I cooked up last night proved true. Obviously there are other reasons, but it’s clear Muu is trying to fight fire with fire when it comes to the Shaman powers, albeit using his own method. And we know he’s really losing it now that we’ve done so much damage to his army. He may even become completely demoralized, or even go insane, if we liberate this continent from him. But, again, ‘the cornered rat will bite the cat’. Muu is getting desperate so he’ll resort to desperate measures to regain what he’s lost. We cannot let our guard down.”

Sir Reginald nodded, “Well said, Nova. But we’ve secured our first foothold against Muu on this continent. Now we need to find the first Undead Base and take it out. But job well done, everyone. We’ve scored our first major victory on this new land. Let’s hope this is a sign of good things ahead. But we cannot let our victories go to our heads, otherwise it’ll give Muu exactly the opening he needs to knock us down a peg or two.”

Angelo smiled, “Yes, that’s very true. And Vertebreak proved to be that very thing that knocked us down before, so it’s very possible he’ll send him out again. Hopefully Nova can just blast him with Celestial Judgment Arrow and be done with him.”

Nova gained a crooked smile, “Don’t bet on it, Angelo. I’m still trying to figure out how I pulled it off twice so far. Although I’m beginning to wonder if it’s more of a ‘don’t think, feel’ type of situation, seeing how when I used Celestial Judgment Arrow twice I did it without really thinking about it. Guess we’ll see. But, for now, let us return to the port town and get some well-deserved rest after our battle. Especially Nina and Van.”

Van nodded, “Indeed, Nova. Now it’s time to end our fusion forms and return to normal.”

“Cancel Fusion!” both he and Nina said in unison.

Both were engulfed in swirling energy and before long they had returned to normal. The party returned to the port town where the grateful civilians were praising them and thanking them for stopping Captain Flashbone and his Undead Army platoon. The party knew they had scored their first victory on this new continent, but they knew the worst was yet to come.

Next Chapter: Mystical Touch of the Amorous Warrior

That's all for today. The first foothold in this new land has been secured. Tune in next time to see what our heroes face.
 

CynthiaLover

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Time for the next chapter of Dawn of Courage. (Warning: contains mild language, male nudity, sexual suggestions)

Mystical Touch of the Amorous Warrior


It had been a few days since the defeat of Captain Flashbone. The party was on the road, heading to their next destination. Sir Reginald was in the lead, as usual, holding a new map along with his usual compass.

“Okay, we should be seeing the next village soon,” he said. “When we get there we’ll ask about any Undead Bases since we’re largely flying blind right now.”

Zeeker put his hands behind his head, saying, “A shame the people at the port town couldn’t clue us in to where any of the Undead Bases are. I guess people are too scared to do any searching, preferring to keep their heads down and avoid any problems with Muu. Especially since his army’s presence on this continent is pretty high.”

Nina nodded, “Yeah, that sounds like the case. Can’t say I blame the various people for wanting to maintain a low profile around Muu, as one false move and that person is history. It’s bad enough that his army attacks settlements and kills indiscriminately to collect souls for him so it’s no surprise folk would want to avoid that fate by staying out of the Undead Army’s way. But that’s why we’re here: to remove that problem from the equation and stop Muu.”

Angelo smiled, “Indeed, Nina. That is our goal and we will achieve it.”

Nova said, “Still, we need to be careful ourselves. Especially now that we know Muu is creating special breeds of Undead Captains to counter our Shaman magic form. While it also means we can play the elemental Rock-Paper-Scissors to our advantage we still need to not get too confident about our victories, as that’s exactly how the Beastman Resistance fell apart.”

Zeeker nodded, “Yeah, that’s true, Nova. We did let our victories go to our heads which gave Muu the perfect opportunity to knock us down several pegs. So while we should be happy for our successes we cannot let that go to our heads. Especially since, like you said, Muu is creating special breeds of Undead Captains now as a means of countering our Shaman powers.”

Nina looked ahead, narrowing her eyes, saying, “I see the next village up ahead. Let’s get to it so we can rest, restock, and gather intel.”

The party nodded and made their way to the village. It was a peaceful, quaint village, much to the party’s relief. The villagers were bustling about, doing their thing, while the children played. They spent some time restocking their supplies and asking around for any information about Muu’s forces. After a bit they took a break
near a fountain in the center of the village.

“Okay, while we didn’t get much information we did get at least where the nearest Undead Base is,” Sir Reginald said. “It’s in the Shadowood Forest, which is a half a day’s hike from here. Sadly, we couldn’t get any info on the Undead Captain or General running it so we’ll have to do it the old fashioned way: using stealth and infiltration.”

Kettu grinned, “Then that’ll be Phantom’s and my job. Sounds good to me.”

Nina nodded, “Yes, indeed. Hopefully we can get what we need from our two stealth experts so we can formulate an effective counter.”

“We also need to be concerned about supplies, as this town was short on them,” Nova said. “Fortunately we were able to get most of what we wanted, like arrows and food, but a lot of other items are out of stock. Makes me wonder if Muu is disrupting shipments of goods to and from towns and villages.”

“That’s a safe bet,” Van nodded. “So we should liberate as much of Muu’s influence as we can so people can get back to their livelihoods.”

Nina stood up, smiling, “Yeah, but that’s what we’re here for, after all. So let’s get going, boys and finish up our errands.”

However, just as the rest of the group got up someone swooped in, grabbed Nina, and held her in a very intimate position. It was a young man about Nova’s age, with neatly groomed brown hair, chocolate brown eyes, slightly tanned skin, average height, a fairly muscular body, and a handsome face. He was clearly a warrior, as he was wielding a spear and was wearing light but durable armor. He held Nina in an intimate pose, who had been stunned at how quickly he had swept her off her feet. Nova’s eyes narrowed as he saw this young man hold Nina in such a manner.

“My, what a lovely woman you are,” the man purred. “It’s not everyday a Phoenix Clan member appears on this continent. Come, my lovely maiden, let us head to the inn so we can have our love nest ready.”

Annoyed, Nova grabbed the man by the ear, making him howl in pain and nearly drop Nina. Nina managed to recover and force herself out of his hands and quickly retreated behind Nova. The young man glared at Nova.

“How dare you get in between me and my maiden!” he spat.

“Excuse me, your maiden?” Nova growled. “You just met her. She’s not ‘yours’. Who do you think you are? Pépé le Pew? You can’t go treating a woman like that, you lech. And besides, she and I are already dating, so we’d appreciate it if you’d butt out.”

The man looked Nova over, saying in an unimpressed tone, “You honestly think you’re good enough for her? She deserves a real man, not a pansy like you. So I suggest you back off and let me have her.”

Nina snapped, “Not on your life, you Casanova wannabe! I’m quite happy with Nova so I don’t need another guy swooping in to try to claim me. I already have Dominic and Eoleo chasing after me. I don’t need a third smarmy self-important goon chasing after me. I’m very happy with my beloved Nova. He’s the Demon King’s champion, after all, so you should be more respectful to the one who will save Edyn. So I suggest you butt out and leave me alone.”

The man quirked an eyebrow, “Him? The Demon King’s champion? You’ve gotta be kidding me. There’s no way this loser is the Demon King’s champion.”

Nova presented his right hand, saying, “If you don’t believe me then look at my hand. It contains the Demon King Ring. As much as I hate this job I’m still the Demon King’s champion and have personally uprooted several Undead Captains, Generals, and Undead Bases, including General Juggerrot and a platoon of 10,000 Undead Soldiers.”

The man looked at the Demon King Ring, fiddling with it to confirm its authenticity. He looked at Nova with a disapproving frown.

“Really? You’re the Demon King’s champion? Belzebuth must really be getting desperate for new champions. And do you expect me to believe that you really vanquished opponents like Juggerrot and a platoon of 10,000 Undead Soldiers?”

A traveling merchant stepped up, saying, “He’s telling the truth, you know. I was at Emerald Coast Kingdom’s capital when the attack happened, having saw everything. He took out General Juggerrot and 10,000 Undead Soldiers with a single attack. It was glorious. General Juggerrot didn’t know what hit him until it was too late. So, yeah, he is the Demon King’s champion, and a powerful one at that. I can personally vouch for him, having witnessed the battle that day.”

The man’s jaw dropped, clearly shocked that the information he was hearing was true. Nova gained a confident smirk as he saw his new “rival’s” disbelief.

“See, punk?” he sneered. “If a traveling merchant is willing to vouch for me then you can’t argue with it. Especially since he witnessed the battle. I managed to wipe out one of Muu’s top Generals and a platoon of 10,000 Undead Soldiers with a single attack. I bet you haven’t even defeated one Undead Soldier. So you really can’t boast superiority to me when you clearly haven’t done squat against Muu’s army while I’ve been going around the entire world uprooting his evil, as much as I hate doing it. So I highly suggest you back off before you get hurt.”

The man turned to Nova, eyes flaring, “Don’t tell me what to do, pinky. I’ll prove my strength against Muu and prove to that Phoenix woman that you’re not worthy of her! I demand you let me join this party so I can fight Muu!”

Nina slapped him across the face, growling, “Not on your life! We know exactly why you want to join and we’re not buying your lies! I suggest you back off and leave me alone, as I’m quite happy dating Nova and would rather not have any more interferences in our relationship. So just go away!”

Sir Reginald sighed, “This is getting us nowhere. Let’s go, team, as we still have some errands to run. Then we’ll head for the inn. Let’s leave this guy and continue on with what we need to do.”

The party nodded and walked away, leaving the warrior alone. He started to fume before gaining an idea. He dashed off, heading somewhere, clearly up to something.

After an hour the party had finished their errands. They started to make their way toward the inn, wanting to rest and eat. When they opened the door to the inn the woman at the counter looked up and smiled.

“Oh, hello,” she said. “You must be the party I was informed about.”

“What?” Kettu asked, quirking an eyebrow.

“Someone told me that a strangely assembled party with a Phoenix Clan woman would be coming here so he paid for rooms for you. Your rooms are 16 and 17. And dinner will be served in a little bit so please get settled.”

“It’s gotta be the work of that warrior we ran into earlier,” Zeeker growled.

“Indeed, and clearly he’s trying to woo Nina in some form,” Van sighed.

Nina gained a look of dread, “I’m dreading what we’ll find in those rooms. Nova, please stay with me to ensure that nothing happens.”

Nova nodded, “Of course, Nina. We’d best be prepared to get another room if that goon tries anything. After all, he wanted to make this inn his ‘love nest’ so we’d better be prepared for the worst.”

The party nodded and went to the designated rooms. Nina gulped in nervousness as she and Nova opened the door to Room 17. Their eyes widened in horror when they looked into the room.

The man was laying on one of the beds in a saucy pose. His lower body was covered but it was clear he was naked, with what looked like rose petals scattered around the floor and bed.

“Hello, my pre—” but stopped when he saw Nova. “What are you doing here, pink boy? This is my love nest, so get lost!”

Nina gave a cry in fright, covered her eyes, and buried her face into Nova’s chest and neck. Nova gave the warrior a dirty look.

“We knew to expect the worst when we opened this door,” he growled. “But you just had to go this far? You’re disgusting. Hasn’t Nina made it clear that she wants nothing to do with you? If not I suggest you back off and leave her alone. And it’s clear she doesn’t want to see you naked so I suggest you put some clothes on before I have the innkeeper throw you out in just your birthday suit.”

“I don’t take orders from you, pinky,” the man growled. “Now YOU butt out and leave her with me!”

Nina snapped, still keeping her eyes covered, “Not on your life! Get some damn clothes on, you pervert! I only want to see one man naked and that man isn’t you! Nova, let’s get out of here!”

Nova nodded and escorted Nina out of the room, slamming the door shut, much to the fury of the other warrior. They went back down to the desk and paid for another room while also letting the innkeeper know what happened, much to her shock. The duo then went to a different room and made sure to lock the door behind them while the innkeeper and her rather burly husband confronted the other warrior.

Nina shivered, “Brr! I didn’t need to see that. What is with that punk? Why can’t he take a hint? I don’t need another meatball-headed warrior trying to win me over. I’ve got enough of those already. I’m quite happy being with you, beloved. And you’re the only man I ever want to see naked. Besides, I doubt that goon is as ‘impressive’ as you are.”

Nova sighed, “There always seems to be at least one person trying to make moves on you. Though at least Dominic and Eoleo never stripped in an attempt to impress you.”

Nina shivered again, “Perish the thought, Nova! I never want to see either of them naked. That’ll give me nightmares for weeks. Thanks for shutting that guy down by siccing the innkeeper and her husband after him. I hope they kick him out, or at least forbid him from coming near me. He’s the last thing I need right now as we have more important things to worry about.”

Suddenly there was a knock at the door. Nova reluctantly opened it up, revealing the innkeeper, to the duo’s relief.

“I’m terribly sorry for that incident,” she said. “I didn’t know he was trying to seduce you when he purchased those rooms. I’ve informed your comrades about what happened and my husband has since kicked that guy out, though he’s still cleaning up those rose petals. But please accept my humblest apologies for what happened.”

Nova replied, “It’s not your fault. You didn’t know what he might do so you’re not to blame. At least you rectified the incident and made sure that guy can’t cause any more problems. So we can forgive you, as you didn’t know what he was going to do when he bought those rooms.”

The innkeeper smiled, “Thank you for your kind words. I appreciate you not holding it against me. Oh, and dinner will be starting soon, so please make your way to the dining room.”

Nina nodded, “Thank you on multiple fronts. Let’s go and rejoin the party, Nova, so we can have a nice meal and discuss what our plan will be when dealing with that Undead Base.

Nova nodded in agreement. Both gathered up their stuff and rejoined the party in the dining room. Meanwhile, outside, the warrior was fuming at getting thrown out.

“I’ll prove my worth,” he growled. “I’ll prove I’m superior to that pink-haired punk even if I have to defeat that Undead Base myself. I’ll win this fight or my name isn’t Cain Champ, a man destined to be king of the world!”

Next Chapter: Riveting Rivalry

That's all for today. Another day, another love rival for Nova. Makes you wonder if this is the universe's doing. Tune in next time to find out.
 

CynthiaLover

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Time for the next chapter of Dawn of Courage. (Warning: contains mild language, mild violence)

Riveting Rivalry


It was the following day. The party was on their way to the next Undead Base in Shadowood Forest. Sir Reginald was in the lead, as usual, guiding the party toward their destination. Little did they know that a certain someone was following them.

“Okay, we should be nearing the Shadowood Forest soon,” Sir Reginald said. “According to the locals the Undead Base is located near the center. There is plenty of cover so we can scout things out first from the safety of underbrush before mapping out our plan.”

“Hopefully this Undead Captain isn’t one that Muu specially created to deal with our Shaman forms,” Zeeker said. “While we’ve proven capable of dealing with such enemies it would be better if this is a standard Undead Captain or General so we can secure another foothold against Muu here.”

Kettu nodded, “Indeed. Plus it’ll give us an idea of how tough the Undead Captains and Generals are here on this continent, as we know that Muu is probably saving his best for this land.”

Nina replied, “Yes, that’s true, as Muu did send out his lower ranked Undead Captains to the other continent to establish footholds. But now with those footholds gone he’s forced to go all-out here in an attempt to stop us. Hopefully this Undead Captain or General will give us the basic idea of how strong our foes are here.”

Van pointed forward, “I see Shadowood Forest. Which means our battle will be soon.”

The party looked ahead to see a dense forest. Steeling their nerves they entered the thick woods. It was full of tall trees that blocked out most of the sunlight, making it rather dark and creepy.

“Big surprise that one of Muu’s forces would make a base here in this creepy forest,” Nova said dryly.

Nina narrowed her eyes before saying, “Gang, I see the base from here. We should duck for cover and start mapping out our plan.”

Sir Reginald nodded, “Yes, good idea. That way we can get the drop on the enemy. Lady Nina, prepare to summon Phantom so we can get a bird’s eye view of our foes.”

Nina nodded, bit her thumb, producing blood, before saying strongly, “Phantom, come forth!”

A summoning circle appeared, followed by a gust of wind, and soon Phantom was perched on Nina’s arm.

“Okay, Phantom, you know the drill by now. Scope out that Undead Base just up ahead and report back your findings.”

Phantom nodded, giving a screech, before turning invisible and flying toward the Undead Base. He flew around it first, scanning the area, seeing what looked like four Gaia monsters stationed in the front. He then perched on a flagpole and began recording what he was seeing. After a few minutes of checking out the Undead Base and its occupants he took off and returned to Nina, becoming visible and landing on her arm.

“What’s the scoop, Phantom?” Nina asked.

Phantom started projecting what he saw from his eyes, allowing the party to get a good look at their foes.

“Hmm… so we’ve got Iron Gaias this time acting as sentries and guards to the front of the base,” Sir Reginald observed. “They’ll be a bit tougher to defeat due to being stronger than Stone Gaias. But if something like Kettu’s Will-O-Wisp is still effective against them then we can use that to get rid of them. We also appear to be dealing with an average amount of Undead Soldiers. And the Undead Captain appears to be pretty strong, as evident by the star rank on his armor. He doesn’t appear to have an element, though, so he's probably a standard Undead Captain. Okay, I think we’ve got the general gist of the situation. Now we can begin mapping out our plan.”

Nina said, “Okay, Phantom, that’s enough for now.”

Phantom stopped projecting the recording from his eyes. Nina gently stroked his breast, making him coo.

“Thanks for your help, Phantom. To the Spirit Plane.”

Phantom raised his head up proudly before vanishing in a flurry of sparkles.

“Okay, time to get to work,” Angelo said.

Sir Reginald nodded, “Indeed. Let’s begin our strategy meeting.”

As the party discussed their possible tactics a pair of unwanted ears was listening in on them. The mysterious figure smirked and slinked away while the party continued their plans. After about 20 minutes they had decided on their strategy.

“Okay, I think we’ve got our plan down,” Sir Reginald said. “Kettu and Van will use their Fox Fyre and Galactic Pegasus Shaman forms to deal with the Iron Gaias. If the previous tactics that we used against their stone cousins is still effective then we can deal with those Iron Gaias relatively easily. Nina and Zeeker will use their Goddess of Phoenixes and Burning Beast Shaman forms to deal with the basic Undead Soldiers, as their AOE attacks can burn them to ash. Nova, Angelo, and I will deal with the Undead Captain. If we’re all set we can—”

However, they soon heard what sounded like explosions at the Undead Base, along with feeling the ground shake. They realized what it meant.

“Oh no!” Van stated. “Some fool is attacking the Undead Base! We have to hurry!”

Nova growled, “I bet I know who it is. Nina, Zeeker, Kettu, Van, activate your Shaman forms now so we can be ready to jump in immediately.”

The four warriors nodded, tapping their Shaman Magic Bracelets, “Right! Elemental Energy Fusion activate!”

They were engulfed in swirling energy and before long they were in their respective Shaman forms. The party quickly made their way to the Undead Base. There they saw Cain attacking the Iron Gaias, who were effortlessly repelling his assaults before retaliating with their exploding shockwaves.

“I knew it,” Nova growled. “That goon from yesterday is trying to impress Nina. What a dolt. We need to hurry before those Iron Gaias turn him into a pancake.”

Kettu stated, “I’m on it! Will-O-Wisp!”

He fired some of the will-o-wisps surrounding his body at the Iron Gaias. The ghostly flames infected the monsters, causing them to stop, the will-o-wisp forming over their heads. Cain turned around to see the party.

“Back off!” he stated. “This is my fight!”

Sir Reginald huffed, “Yeah, right, kid. Step aside, as dealing with Muu is our job. Nova, please get the Undead Army’s attention, as I doubt they’ll bother with this goon.”

Nova nodded, “On it. Ifrit Mode.”

The Demon King Ring adjusted itself, now set to Ifrit Mode. He then nocked an arrow and pointed it at the base.

“Dragon Strike!”

He fired the electrified dragon at the base. The attack blasted the doors open, revealing the Undead Army and their leader. The Undead Captain looked like an armored skeleton priest wielding a staff. He slammed his staff down angrily.

“I was wondering who was causing all the commotion,” he snarled. “Time to deal with you, Demon King puppet and friends. Undead Soldiers, attack!”

The Undead Soldiers charged in. Before the party could retaliate Cain ran toward the Undead Soldiers, his spear in hand, ready to fight.

“Eat this!” he stated. “Meteor Throw!”

He threw the flaming spear at one of the Undead Soldiers, creating an explosion, followed by his spear returning to him. However, to his shock, the Undead Soldier he attacked was only sporting moderate damage but was still fully functional. The Undead Soldier then attacked Cain, who used his spear to defend himself, only to get knocked back by the attack. The Undead Soldier prepared to kill the young man, who flinched in fear.

“Petrify Shot!” Nova shouted.

He fired an arrow that struck the Undead Soldier. It instantly turned to stone, saving Cain. Cain angrily turned to Nova.

“I didn’t need your help!” he spat. “I could’ve handled it just fine!”

“You’re welcome,” Nova replied dryly.

Zeeker huffed, “You could be more grateful, punk, as Nova saved your life. Bah, whatever, you’re not worth our time.” He turned to Nina, “Nina, shall we use our combo to roast these boneheads?”

Nina smirked, “Indeed, my fine friend. Flames of Judgment!”

“Firestorm Wrath!”

The two attacks combined into a massive maelstrom of fire and wind. It effortlessly swallowed up the Undead Soldiers.

“Combo skill: Judgment Inferno!” both stated in unison.

At the time the Iron Gaias suddenly crumbled to dust, leaving only their hammers and helmets, the will-o-wisps having finished their tasks. Nova, Sir Reginald, and Angelo were confronting the Undead Captain.

“You will pay for this!” the Undead Captain roared. “Or my name’s not Captain Bloodmore! Take this! Death!”

He fired a spell at Sir Reginald. Nova quickly got in front of the attack to block it, taking the hit in the process. The Demon King Ring glowed, causing a burst of energy around Nova.

“Nova!” Nina cried out in fear.

To everyone’s relief, once the burst of light subsided, Nova was unharmed. Nova took a moment to look himself over before sighing in relief.

“Whew…” he said, wiping his brow. “At least I didn’t turn into a toad this time like when Dominic used that Belladonna Bomb way back when.”

“You’d probably look better as a toad!” Cain spat.

This remark earned him a smack from Van, making the obnoxious man cry out in pain, followed by a kick to the crotch, making him crumple to the ground.

Sir Reginald raised his sword, stating, “Take this! Miracle Slash!”

He slashed Captain Bloodmore with a blade coated in holy energies. The attack was extremely effective, making Bloodmore howl in pain, followed by healing energies restoring Sir Reginald.

Angelo jumped in, “Time for me to get a lick in! Ice Sword!”

He slashed the Undead Captain with a blade covered in ice, dealing more damage and causing ice to form on the Undead Captain. At the time the combo skill ended, revealing that none of the Undead Soldiers survived.

Van stated, “I’ll handle the rest. Star Spear Strike!”

He slammed his spear into Bloodmore’s chest before pumping energy into it. The energy ravaged Bloodmore’s body, causing him to scream before he exploded, ending the battle. The party took a moment to catch their breath.

Nina quickly floated over to Nova, embracing him, crying, “Nova! I’m so glad you’re not hurt! When you took that Death attack I became frightened. While we know the Demon King Ring will protect you I was worried you’d get stuck in another cursed form again. Oh, beloved, please don’t do something like that again. I don’t want anything bad happening to you, as you’ve already suffered enough.”

Nova gently returned the hug, saying, “I’m sorry I worried you, Nina. It’s nice knowing I’ll always have you in my corner. At least I knew that I could tank the Death spell due to the Demon King Ring protecting me, unlike Sir Reginald. So while I’ll try not
to do that again I can’t promise because it might come up again, as Muu’s forces are desperate to stop us.”

Nina nuzzled him, “I know, but please be careful. I don’t want you getting stuck in a cursed form again.”

After hugging him for a bit Nina let go, turning around, and floated over to Cain, who had recovered from the kick to the crotch. She then slapped him across the face with enough force to knock him over. She glared down at him with hate-filled eyes.

“You idiot!” she spat. “You could’ve gotten yourself killed out of stupidity! Or jeopardized our plans! Either way you caused a major problem that could’ve been costly! There’s a reason why I can’t stand men like you, and you proved it today! We’re in charge of dealing with Muu’s forces and you got in our way and could’ve been killed trying to prove yourself to us! Well guess what? You proved something, but not what you wanted. You proved to be a liability on the battlefield! You cannot handle Muu’s forces. If you couldn’t destroy a basic Undead Soldier then you are no use to us. So stop trying to flaunt your ego and get some common sense installed into your brain! You’re not the man you think you are. Nor are you the man I need. Nova has proven time and time again just how far he’s willing to go to make me happy. That’s but one reason why I love him. I could never love you, so I suggest you back off and beat it, as you’re nowhere near Nova’s level. Stop competing with someone who is clearly out of your league and just give it up!”

Cain stood up, stating, “Why would you support a pansy, feminine man like him? I’m much more manly and macho than he is. He’s not worthy of you.”

Nina slapped him again hard, knocking him down again, saying, “You fail to realize I don’t like macho men. I like men who are soft, gentle, and kind, yet can be strong when needed. Someone who I can snuggle with on a cold, rainy day. I don’t mind if Nova’s in touch with his feminine side as I find that appealing. I don’t need a manly, macho man, I need a man who will treat me well and give me the support and kindness I seek. You are not that man. Nova’s the man I need, as he has proven time and time again just how much he cares about me and what lengths he’ll go to ensure I’m happy, even if it means sacrificing his own happiness in the process. You only want to bed me and I don’t like men like that. As Nova would say: make like a heart and beat it. You’ve proven to be a terrible man while Nova has repeatedly proven just how wonderful he is. You could never fill his shoes, be it in battle or for my affections. So scram, beat it, vamoose! I don’t want to see you again!”

Cain stood up and glared at Nova, growling, “You’re not worthy of a woman like her, pinky. Don’t think this is over. I’ll get stronger and prove my superiority over you. Just you wait and see.”

He turned around and stormed off, leaving the party alone.

“Good riddance,” Kettu huffed. “Talk about a waste of space. He proved something, alright, but not what he wanted. Come on, let’s check out the base and see what we can salvage before we destroy it.”

The party nodded and entered the base, making sure that there were no more enemies present. They found a crate tucked in the corner. Zeeker ripped it open, revealing more materials.

“Well, as always let’s take these materials with us,” Sir Reginald said. “Better we make use of them than Muu. Then we’ll destroy the base.”

Nova scanned and stored all the materials into his Digi-Pack. The party then walked out of the Undead Base, collecting the Iron Gaias’ hammers and helmets, got a fair distance away, and faced it.

“Barrier!”

A barrier formed around the party, protecting them.

Van said, “I’ll handle this part. Asteroid Annihilation!”

There was a brief pause before an asteroid rocketed down from the sky. It crashed onto the Undead Base, effortlessly destroying it. When the dust settled the base was no more. Sir Reginald then lowered the barrier before turning to the party.

“Okay, team, that’s another solid foothold against Muu on this continent,” he said. “We’re making good progress. Now let’s get out of this forest and head to the nearest magical campsite so we can continue on our journey.”

Angelo smiled, “Indeed, my friend. And I think Nina and the others should revert back to normal now that the threat has passed.”

“Cancel Fusion!” Nina, Kettu, Van, and Zeeker said in unison.

They were engulfed in swirling energy and before long had returned to normal. The party then started to make their way out of the forest and back to the main road, continuing their journey. They were pleased to have gained another foothold against Muu on this new land, but they knew tougher battles lay ahead of them.

Next Chapter: Boxed In

That's all for today. Cain certainly proved something, though not what he intended. But we haven't seen the last of him. Tune in next time to find out.
 

CynthiaLover

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Time for the next chapter of Dawn of Courage. (Warning: contains mild language)

Boxed In


It had been a couple of days since the party defeated Captain Bloodmore and his Undead Army platoon. They were heading to the next village, wondering if and when Muu would make his next move.

Sir Reginald said, “Okay, the next village is about four miles up ahead, just beyond those grasslands. We’ll see what we can stock up on, as there has been a supply shortage lately. If that’s Muu’s doing then hopefully us freeing up the areas he’s sunk his bony claws into will make things easier for everyone.”

Nova nodded, “I hear ya. At least with two Undead Captains taken down that should spur hope in the people that Muu’s influence will be removed. Everyone needs their livelihoods restored after all the damage Muu has done. While I doubt it’ll pick up right away once an area is liberated from Muu it will eventually return to some form of normality.”

Angelo smiled, “Indeed, my friend. And that’s why we’re here. We’ll make sure that Muu’s evil and the damage he’s caused Edyn will be erased forever. We’ve done good so far, and while it is a distinct uphill battle we’ve managed to overcome almost every obstacle we’ve faced. General Vertebreak being the only roadblock we’ve run into, but even then we managed to get past him through improvising and good old-fashioned luck.”

Kettu replied, “Luck indeed. If Nova hadn’t taken that gamble when we were on the ropes we would’ve been finished. It was most fortunate that the gamble paid off in a big way but I doubt we’ll be able to replicate that success a second time. No, the next time we face Vertebreak we’ll have to find a way to defeat him for good, as we’ve only stalled for time to get stronger for the next fight with him. Hopefully we can use Celestial Judgment Arrow on him since it took down Juggerrot and those 10,000 Undead Soldiers back at Emerald Coast Kingdom’s capital.”

Nova turned to him, “Don’t bet on it, as I’m still not totally sure how I’ve been pulling it off. But at least we know his core is a weak point so we can use that. Plus your Will-O-Wisp was able to bench him for quite some time. But like you said we’ve only managed to stall for time when it comes to facing Vertebreak. We can’t stall forever, as we’ll have to eventually take him down. Or he takes us down, whichever happens first. But at least we bought a fair bit of leeway to figure out ways of strengthening ourselves. But time is against us so we’ll have to eventually figure out a method to fight Vertebreak head-on and come out on top.”

Van said, “We’re not completely clueless on possible strategies. We didn’t try combo attacks the last time we fought him, and thanks to everyone getting another Shaman form since then we’ve got more options to work with. Hmm?”

He turned around, his ears twitching. The party stopped and turned to see what Van was looking at. They all saw a fast-moving whirlwind coming from the distance.

“You have GOT to be kidding me!?” Nina exclaimed. “How the hell did HE follow us here!? There is, or was, and entire ocean between us! How’d that damn Werecat catch up to us on another continent?!”

“I’ll give him an ‘A’ for stubbornness, as even an ocean wasn’t enough of a deterrent to stop him,” Nova sighed. “And this time we can’t use a clever tactic to make a monkey out of him; we’ve exhausted all our—” Then an idea popped into his head, making him grin, “Actually, I may just have the answer. Time to test a little trick I picked up during the boat ride to this land.”

The party wondered what Nova meant as they observed the whirlwind getting closer. Soon Eoleo was in visual range, with Ian and Hunter lagging behind as always. Eoleo then spotted Nina and increased speed, making a beeline for her.

“I hope this idea works, Nova,” she whispered. “Especially since I have no clue what this ‘strategy’ is.”

Eoleo raced toward Nina, making the winged woman uncomfortable. Suddenly, to everyone’s surprise, the Werecat ran smack into an invisible object, splattering to whatever he had hit like a cartoon character. Ian and Hunter finally caught up to witness this strange situation.

“What the?” Ian sputtered.

“What the hell is Eoleo splattered up to?!” Hunter choked.

It took a moment for Eoleo to peel himself off whatever he had hit, stumbling a bit as he regained his balance and focus. He then noticed Nova smirking and stormed up to him, only to run into another invisible object.

“Okay, what the hell is going on here?!” Kettu exclaimed.

Zeeker stepped up out of curiosity and gently touched the space between them and Eoleo. His eyes widened in surprise when he discovered something.

“H-Hey gang!” he choked. “There’s an invisible wall between us and Eoleo!”

“What?!!” everyone except Nova exclaimed.

“Where’d an invisible wall come from?!” Van sputtered, gently tapping it.

Eoleo glared at Nova, “Hey, freak, what did you do?!”

Nova snickered, “I created a new branch of magic. Mime magic, to be exact.”

“What?” Sir Reginald asked, perplexed. “What the hell is mime magic? What’s a mime? And how did you create it?”

“During the boat ride here I was fiddling with the Demon King Ring, trying to learn more about it. I was wondering if it could create other types of magic, as being filled with Demon magic meant it was different than other standard magic. So I decided to test an idea I thought of by combining pantomiming with the Demon King Ring’s magic and I ended up creating mime magic completely by accident. As for what’s a mime, it’s a type of actor who doesn’t use words but instead uses hand and body motions to create the illusion of something existing when there is nothing there. One famous example is ‘creating’ an invisible wall out of thin air and pretending to be stuck behind it. Now if you’re wondering how I know about that, not only are mimes pretty well known on Earth, but I did a bit of pantomiming as one of the activities during summer camp. …Boy, I hated summer camp. And taking a page from both Mr. Mime of Pokémon and Le Mime from Xiaolin Showdown I learned to manipulate the Demon King Ring’s magic to create real, invisible objects out of thin air. So, I created a new type of magic just by messing around with the Demon King Ring in an attempt to learn more about it.”

Ian looked stunned, “So you just causally created a whole new type of magic on a whim? Wow, just wow.”

Eoleo huffed, crossing his arms, “You expect me to believe that this pink-haired loser created a whole new type of magic? Yeah, right. This is just more stupid human trickery.”

Nova gave a casual smirk, “Wanna bet, Werecat. Watch this.”

He got into a position that looked like he was playing golf. The party wisely took a few steps back, clearly unsure what was going to happen. Eoleo, however, merely glared.

“Go ahead, human,” he huffed. “Show me this ‘mime magic’, if you can.”

Nova smirked, “I’ve got one word for you, Eoleo… FORE!”

He swung the invisible golf club which caused an invisible ball to slam into Eoleo’s crotch, making his eyes bulge, clutching his loins, and giving a gasp of pain. He fell to his knees, still covering his crotch, while Nova walked up to him, still carrying the invisible golf club. He then swung the invisible golf club again, this time directly at Eoleo’s face, causing the Werecat to get knocked to his side, howling in pain. Everyone had gone bug-eyed as they saw this display.

“Um… how is he doing that?” Hunter asked, clearly baffled.

Nina gained a smirk, “I dunno, but this mime magic is making a monkey out of Eoleo. And I’m loving it. Leave it to my beloved to come up with something new and interesting.”

Eoleo managed to stand up, still clearly in pain, but his eyes showed hatred.

“I don’t know what human trickery you’re pulling, pinkie pie, but I won’t let you make a monkey out of me with it!” he spat.

He reared back his fist, ready to punch Nova. Nova casually made gestures that looked like he was behind an invisible wall. Eoleo paid no mind to this and threw his punch, only for his fist to hit something invisible and hard, making him cry out in pain, shaking his hand. Nova then started to make more gestures like it, this time around Eoleo, as if trapping him in an invisible box.

“Knock it off, human!” the Werecat roared.

He tried to kick Nova only for his foot to come into contact with another invisible wall, making him hop up and down in agony. However, this motion resulted in him smacking face first into another wall.

“What the hell?!”

He started feeling the area around and above himself, revealing he was trapped in an invisible box. He went wide eyed in shock before glaring at Nova, who was causally leaning on something invisible outside of the box. Eoleo screamed and started bashing away at the invisible box, however no one could hear him as he screamed in frustration.

“H-How’d you do that?!” Ian sputtered, feeling the invisible box trapping Eoleo.

“And he won’t suffocate, will he?” Hunter asked.

Nova smirked, “No, he’s got plenty of air, as the invisible box still lets air in and out of it. But we can’t hear him because of said invisible box. So he can scream until he’s blue in the face and we won’t hear a single thing. Although he can hear us. If he wants out he’s gotta figure it out. In other words, he needs to use his brain. Oh, wait, that’s right: Eoleo doesn’t HAVE a brain. So I guess he’s stuck in there until he eventually figures something out. If he can. After all, brute force won’t help him here. He’s gotta think outside the box.”

Everyone else groaned at Nova’s joke except Nina, who giggled. Eoleo started bashing away at the invisible box, clearly trying to break it with force, but to no avail. Nina gained a devilish grin and sexily walked up to Nova. She placed both her hands on his shoulders, which he responded by holding her by her waist. She then started to make out with him, making Eoleo go bug eyed in shock before screaming in an inaudible rage and trying to get at Nova with no success. Everyone knew what she was doing and simply allowed it. After the couple had finished their make-out session Nina gave her wings a flutter out of pleasure.

“I don’t know how you did it, beloved, but this has been a glorious display,” she purred. “Now with that stupid Werecat trapped we can move on without delay, as we need to reach the next village. But I gotta say, what you did, both causally creating a new type of magic and humiliating Eoleo was brilliant. Your family grossly underestimated you. You’ve got a grab bag of skills but all of them have proven useful. Come on, let’s get going.” She then turned to Eoleo and sneered, “Good luck figuring out how to get out of that box, Eoleo. Something like this requires using brains, not brawn. But since you lack brains I guess you’re stuck in there until you either die of starvation and/or thirst or figure something out. Ta-ta.”

The party chuckled as they continued onward, leaving the three Werecats behind. Eoleo continued to shout inaudible words at the party but no one could hear him, before continuing his attempt to break out of the invisible box.

“Strange, I thought cats loved boxes,” Nova chuckled.

Kettu snickered, “Apparently not Werecats. Hopefully Eoleo isn’t claustrophobic, though he might be after this. IF he gets out somehow.”

The party continued onward, heading to the next village. Eoleo continued to scream his head off, though no one could hear him.

Ian turned to the invisible box, “Well, those guys certainly keep things interesting.”

Hunter nodded, “And they certainly find new, creative ways to humiliate Eoleo. This one takes the cake. Now… how do we get him out?”

The other two Werecats fumbled around the invisible box, trying and failing to figure out how to free Eoleo. Eoleo was still pounding away at the box, trying everything he could to break it down with force to no avail.

He screamed inside the box, “I’LL GET YOU FOR THIS, HUMAN!!! I DIDN’T CROSS AN ENTIRE OCEAN JUST TO BE HUMILIATED AGAIN BY YOU!!! WHEN I GET MY HANDS ON YOU I’LL STRANGLE YOUR THROAT!!! I’LL RIP OUT YOUR SPINE AND USE IT FOR A JUMP ROPE!!! I’LL TEAR OUT YOUR LUNGS AND USE THEM FOR PUNCHING BAGS!!! I’LL MAKE YOU SUFFER FOR THIS HUMILIATION!!! I SWEAR IT!!!”

Next Chapter: Tears of a Phoenix

That's all for today. A bit filler-ish but what's introduced here plays a role here and there later on. Tune in next time to see what our heroes face.
 

CynthiaLover

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Time for the next chapter of Dawn of Courage. (Warning: contains mild language, light sexual suggestions)

Tears of a Phoenix


It had been a few hours since the party ran into Eoleo and his two Werecat lackies. They had since made it to the village and were enjoying lunch at a restaurant. They were discussing various topics as they ate.

Nina purred, “I still can’t get over what you did today, Nova. You putting that damn Werecat in his place with your newly minted mime magic was glorious. I still don’t quite understand it but it was still quite the show and I loved every second of it.”

Nova chuckled, “I’m not surprised you enjoyed it, Nina. Especially since it involved making a monkey out of Eoleo. That should keep him at bay for a bit, as he needs to think his way out of that box. Hopefully I can use this new magic to my advantage against our enemies, as I have yet to test it on something like a monster or Undead.”

“I’ve got a feeling it’ll be useful against most enemies,” Sir Reginald said. “Muu’s army might be a gamble but I suspect that most common enemies like monsters will be unable to fight back against it.”

Van was looking a bit depressed, something that didn’t go unnoticed by the party.

“Van?” Angelo asked gently. “Is something the matter?”

Van replied, “I’m just a bit discouraged that I haven’t found certain items at the shops. There seems to be a supply shortage lately, as I’ve checked out every shop for these items since the town we met Henri and his wife, but they’ve all been out of stock with no indication of when they’ll get them back in stock. The items I’m looking for are very useful thus would aid our quest really well. Two items in particular are high on my list.”

“What are they?” Zeeker asked.

“Nuts Oil and Glacier Mana Water.”

Nova quirked an eyebrow, “Nuts Oil and Glacier Mana Water? The Nuts Oil sounds like something straight out of Monster Rancher 2. What are those items?”

Nina explained, “They’re both medicinal items. Nuts Oil is made from various oils squeezed from nuts native to Edyn. It relieves stress and fatigue. Just taking one to two teaspoons, depending on how stressed and/or tired you are, will melt off a sizable chunk of these ailments away. It also tastes really good, like peanuts, almonds, butter, and honey combined. It’s very popular as a result. As for Glacier Mana Water, it’s glacier water that has crushed Mana Stones in it, among other minerals. It’s great for restoring mana energy, along with curing various stomach ailments such as viruses, indigestion, food poisoning, and more. It also revitalizes the body more than regular water due to said minerals in it, making you feel more refreshed and keeping you healthy. I can see why Van is discouraged about not finding any of either Nuts Oil or Glacier Mana Water, as both are extremely useful medicinal items to have on-hand.”

“I see. That stuff does sound pretty good and important to have on a trip like ours. Especially the Nuts Oil, as if it can relieve a chunk of stress and/or fatigue just by consuming a teaspoon or two then I can seriously get behind something like that. Especially since I lack my usual means of relieving stress right now: playing video games, so that Nuts Oil would be great to have. Plus it sounds quite delicious.”

Van nodded, “Yes, exactly. Which is why I’ve been searching for it, as they would serve our mission well. But every shop I’ve been to has been sold out with no clue when the next shipment will arrive. This is frustrating me as I know those items will come in handy for our journey.”

“Well, I can understand the Nuts Oil, as that stuff is pretty popular,” Kettu said. “But the Glacier Mana Water is a strange one. I am surprised that both have been out of stock in several locations. I’m guessing Muu is disrupting shipments which may explain why both items have been sold out with no indication of when they’ll be restocked. Hopefully we’ll be able to restore these shipment issues by uprooting Muu’s army from this continent and restore the livelihoods of countless people.”

“Hopefully we can find those items soon, as they would serve our mission well,” Sir Reginald said. “So we should all keep an eye out for anyone who may sell those items, be it shops or traveling merchants.”

The party nodded in agreement before continuing with their lunch. After finishing their meal and paying the bill they went outside. Suddenly, a nun ran up them in a panic.

“Please, help us!” she cried. “A lich has entered the local church and forced us out! I fear what it might be doing in there! You’re the Demon King’s champion party, right? Please, help us!”

Sir Reginald nodded, “You can rely on us, miss. We’ll deal with this lich for you. Team, let’s take care of business.”

The party made their way to the church in the village. They could sense a barrier was blocking the way into the church.

“So, how do we break the barrier?” Zeeker asked.

Nova stepped up, saying, “The Demon King Ring can do it. Watch.”

He held his right hand out and touched the barrier. The gem on the ring glowed before shattering the barrier. Nova quirked an eyebrow as it did.

“That’s strange. This barrier is comprised of Holy energy. Not something that a lich would possess. Come on, we need to get to the bottom of this.”

Nodding, the party entered the church. They could see there had been bit of a struggle, as some of the contents of the church were scattered about. But the lich was nowhere to be found.

“So where’s our ‘friend’?” Angelo asked.

Van’s ears twitched, “Hold on, gang, I hear something.” He took a moment to listen before saying, “I think our ‘friend’ is in the basement. Let’s hurry and trap it before it can get away or cause any more damage.”

The party ventured deeper into the church before eventually finding the stairs to the basement. They slowly crept down the stairs, where the noise was getting louder. They soon saw their target. It was a skeleton dressed in tattered monk’s clothes and carrying a staff. It seemed to be trying to force its way into a cabinet. The party primed their weapons, ready to make a preemptive strike, when the lich noticed them and turned around.

“Wait!” it sputtered. “Don’t attack me! I’m not a threat to you!”

Sir Reginald quirked an eyebrow, “Wait, what? You can talk?”

“Yes. Please, just hear me out. I’m not trying to cause trouble; I’m just seeking help. Please, you have to believe me!”

Nova lowered his bow, saying, “Let’s hear what he has to say. He doesn’t seem like a threat so let’s retract our weapons and listen to his story.”

The party slowly lowered and put away their weapons, making the lich sigh in relief.

“Thank you,” he said. “My name is Luke, and I’m a traveling monk from a monastery in the mountains. I’ve been traveling the world, giving aid to those who need it during these trying times with Muu. However, I ran into an Undead Captain named Captain Flashbone not too long ago. We fought a fierce battle. He was a lot stronger than I thought. He hit me with a curse that would’ve killed me. However, the curse and my Holy properties clashed violently and forcibly transformed me into a half-Undead. Meaning I’m stuck in sort of a limbo between being alive and being Undead. I came to this church looking for Holy Water in hopes of purifying myself. But, obviously, in my current state I can’t just walk up to the priest and ask for some, so I had to sneak in. But I was caught and I was forced to use a holy barrier to force everyone out so I could get some Holy Water. I don’t mean any harm but my current situation prevented me from just asking for help. Please, can you get me the Holy Water out of this cabinet so I can be rid of this state?”

Van said, “But the Holy Water could also destroy you. It’s a 50/50 chance of it either purifying you or destroying you. Do you really want to risk that?”

“I don’t care what outcome I get. It’s better than this tortured existence I’m currently stuck in. Be it purified or destroyed if it means I can be rid of my pain and anguish then so be it.”

Nina took a moment to think before saying, “Hold on, Luke. I have a better idea. The risk of killing you is too great to use Holy Water, especially since you were just trying to help people. I, however, know something that could purify you without running the risk of harming you: phoenix tears.”

Nova turned to her, “Phoenix tears? Are you telling me that the tears of a phoenix have some kind of healing powers?”

She nodded, “Yes. They have strong purification powers. While they cannot revive someone or heal them the same way my Magic Fire Feathers can, they are able to purify even the strongest of curses, poisons, and other such negative effects. And since I can turn into a phoenix I can produce those very tears that’ll restore this monk back to the way he should be.”

Luke looked elated, “You can do that, miss? Then please, I beg of you, purify me with your phoenix tears! If it’ll ensure that I won’t die then I’ll gladly take that over Holy Water. While I would’ve been fine with dying if it meant being freed of this tortured existence if you’re offering a safer alternative then I’ll take it.”

“We’ll have to do it outside, as my phoenix form is too big for this room. Don’t worry, we’ll explain the situation to the priest and his staff so they won’t attack you. Now, follow us back outside so we can start the purification process.”

Luke eagerly followed the party back outside. The villagers and priest were stunned to see the lich with the party. Sir Reginald quickly explained the situation to the villagers and priest, allowing them to realize it was a big misunderstanding.

Nina took a deep breath, saying, “Okay, give me a bit of room, as my phoenix form is rather large.” The party and the villagers backed up to give her enough space, “That’ll do. Here we go.”

She enveloped herself in her wings before becoming a fireball. The fireball grew and grew and before long it burst, revealing Nina’s phoenix form.

“Okay, Step One is complete,” she said via telepathy. “Now, give me a few minutes to think of something that would make me cry so I can produce genuine tears to purify you.”

She closed her eyes and tried to envision something that would make her cry. After a couple of minutes her eyes started to gain water. She lowered her head and tilted it to the side slightly so her tears would drip directly onto Luke. As each tear struck the lich his body started to glow and transform. After about seven tears the glowing stopped and Luke had been returned to normal. He was quite handsome, with neatly groomed black hair, green eyes, slightly tan skin, and his clothes now repaired. He looked himself over before jumping for joy.

“Thank you!” he exclaimed. “Thank you so much! I am forever in your debt!”

Nina replied, “You’re welcome. Now, let me transform back to normal.”

She enveloped herself in her wings and soon became a large fireball. The fireball shrank and when it burst she had returned to normal. Luke gently grabbed one of Nina’s hands, got down on one knee, and held it in a rather romantic position.

“Lovely Phoenix maiden, you saved me from a terrible, horrible existence,” he said. “I am eternally grateful for you offering me a better alternative to Holy Water. Please, allow me to repay you. Will you kindly consider bearing my children.”

Nina’s eyes went wide in shock. Nova, now very annoyed, took out a large soup ladle from his Digi-Pack and smacked Luke on the head with it, stunning the party at his aggressiveness.

“Who do you think you are asking something like that?” the pink-haired man growled. “Don’t start sounding like Miroku from Inuyasha. I don’t need anyone else trying to steal Nina from me. She and I are currently dating and I’d greatly respect it if you’d back off and not give me a reason to hurt you.”

Luke instantly backed off, saying, “My apologies! I didn’t know she was already taken. I guess I got a bit carried away. I admit I can get a bit ahead of myself whenever I see a good-looking woman. But it’s clear you two are an item so I will not get in the way.”

Nina gained a crooked smile, “Yes, please do so. Nova and I are quite happy together and I’d rather not have another man hit on me. That would be the third time this week alone. I know I’m a babe and whatnot but I wish people would not try to get in between Nova and me. I appreciate your gratitude but the only person I’ll be bearing children for is Nova. Otherwise this body is off-limits to anyone else.”

Luke gained a sheepish expression, “My apologies. I got a bit carried away there.” He then walked up to the priest and bowed, “I apologize for what I did before, sir. I knew I couldn’t just walk up and ask for help, as my appearance clearly didn’t allow that. I’m just grateful you allowed these fine warriors the chance to explain my situation to you. Please, accept my humblest apologies. And I’d like to make it up to you by assisting your church and helping protect this village. Will that be okay with you, sir?”

The priest smiled, “But of course. I’m just glad we could resolve this issue without condemning an innocent soul by accident. I fully accept your apology, as it was clear you were desperate for help and no threat to us. My church and I will gladly welcome you into our fold. We could use a holy man of your level in this village. Especially if you’re strong enough to fight one of Muu’s minions and have a shot at winning. That’s talent we could use around here. Though do try to limit the flirting, as I don’t want you to look bad after hearing you’ve done so much good.”

Luke bowed, “Thank you, kind sir. I promise I’ll do everything I can to help make your church prosperous and help protect the village from Muu’s evil. Thank you for giving me a chance and allowing me to explain myself.”

Nova and Nina were talking amongst themselves while the rest of the party watched.

Zeeker whispered to the rest of the party, “Nova was unusually… bold when Luke started flirting with Nina. He never attacks anyone when they’re hitting on her, or at least never resorts to violence right away. But he went straight in on the attack when Luke asked Nina to bear his children. That’s… a bit aggressive of him.”

Kettu nodded, “Yes, it was rather out-of-character for him. I wonder if something is bothering him?”

Angelo replied, “I think I know. His stress levels are getting too high and it’s starting to take a toll on him. No surprise, given the fact he’s been forced into this war with Muu and forced to fight the very thing he’s afraid of constantly. He needs to get his stress down before he crosses his threshold and causes himself health-related problems.”

Van’s eyes narrowed, “Then I have more reasons to find Nuts Oil. And fast, before Nova crosses his stress threshold. Even just one bottle would suffice. Hopefully we can get some before Nova breaks down from too much stress building up.”

Next Chapter: Knight and Day

That's all for today. A bit filler-ish but it does establish two facts for later. Tune in next time to see what our heroes face.
 

CynthiaLover

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Time for the next chapter of Dawn of Courage. (Warning: contains mild language, mild violence)

Knight and Day


It had been two days since the party resolved the incident with the monk Luke. They were back on the road, heading to their next destination. Sir Reginald was in the lead, as usual, guiding the party with a map and compass.

“Okay, first we need to cross Yellowstone River in order to get to the next village,” he said. “And from there we’ll encounter our next Undead Base just north of it if Luke’s information is correct. Be careful when we cross Yellowstone River, as the river is a very fast-moving one. Fortunately, there is a bridge but don’t fall off it unless you want to end up miles away by the time the river starts slowing down.”

“So, Yellowstone River has a strong current, huh?” Nova asked. “And why is it called ‘Yellowstone River’?”

Nina replied, “It’s because the riverbed is made of yellowish stones, similar to sandstones, which also has the added effect of turning the river yellowish. But yes, Yellowstone River has quite the rapid current. You really don’t want to get swept up in it or you’ll get pretty far downstream pretty quickly. Hmm?” She looked ahead, narrowing her eyes, “Uh, gang, there seems to be an issue up ahead.”

Everyone looked ahead to see what looked like a good dozen merchant carts stopped in a cluster. The party exchanged concerned looks and raced up to see what the problem was. They wove their way through the various merchant carts, most of which were being drawn by firokokos, until they found the issue. There was a barricade set up on both sides of the bridge that crossed the yellowish river. There was a warrior or knight who was guarding the barricade, seemingly blocking the merchants from getting across, much to their frustration.

Zeeker asked a merchant, “Hey, what’s going on here?”

The merchant replied, “This punk set up a toll on this bridge. He won’t let anyone cross unless they pay 100 gold to go just one way. Both sides of the bridge have been closed off because of him. We refuse to pay the toll as he just set up shop at this spot because it’s the only bridge across Yellowstone River for days so he can squeeze some easy money out of travers and merchants. This bridge never had a toll from the get-go but this punk decided to make quick cash off of unsuspecting people and put up the barricade to ensure we pay or we cannot cross.”

Sir Reginald’s eyes narrowed, “The nerve of the guy. This is a free bridge, as it belongs to King Rand, thus it’s not supposed to have a toll. Leave this goon to me.”

“This should be good,” Kettu smirked.

Sir Reginald walked up to the warrior who was blocking the bridge. The warrior pointed his sword at Sir Reginald, eyes narrowing.

“Halt!” he stated. “No one can cross this bridge without paying a toll of 100 gold.”

Sir Reginald replied calmly, “This bridge is not yours. It belongs to King Rand. Therefore you’re not allowed to set up a ridiculous toll on this bridge. I suggest you shove off before you get shoved into the river.”

“Ooh, I’m soooooo scared!” the warrior mocked. “You can’t intimidate me, punk. Go ahead, try it!”

Sir Reginald gently tapped the hilt of his sword, sighing, “Always the hard way. Fine. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.”

A few minutes later the punk warrior was huddled next to a small campfire by the riverbed. He had been stripped of all his armor, weapons, and clothes, leaving him in just his underwear, clearly humiliated. The barricades had been destroyed, their remains rapidly flowing down the river, allowing the grateful merchants on both ends to cross the bridge. Sir Reginald was overseeing everything to ensure that the merchants got across without any further incident. After the last merchant had crossed they all turned to talk to the party.

“Thank you so much for dealing with that goon,” one said.

Sir Reginald nodded, “My pleasure. It’s a knight’s job to resolve any issues that plague the people. Hopefully after this that guy learned to not try to make easy money off of travelers again. Especially since I confiscated his money to further drive the point home.”

Angelo looked at the disgraced warrior, saying, “I wonder if he’s the reason shipments have been having issues getting to their destinations? I mean, this is the only bridge over Yellowstone River that’s on the main road, as every other bridge is days out of the way. Do you think his toll is the reason the shops have been out-of-stock of various items?”

Van replied, “He might be one reason, but I still think Muu is the main reason. He just dogpiled onto the current issue with his stupid toll idea. Hopefully after Sir Reginald humiliated him he won’t pull that again otherwise he’ll lose what he’s got left. Especially since he was such a weakling.”

Nova said, “The term that would be most accurate for him would be ‘paper tiger’. It means something that looks fierce and intimidating but in reality is very weak and pitiful. And it’s not feasible someone like him would’ve stood a chance against Sir Reginald anyway, as Sir Reginald is a top-tier knight. Merchants and regular travelers would be easier to pick on but he was really punching out of his weight class when Sir Reginald stepped up to the plate.”

Nina giggled, “I gotta say, though, that was almost savage what you did to him, Sir Reginald. Now all he’s got left are his undies as everything else, including his dignity, has been washed downstream. Harsh but an appropriate punishment for him. Hopefully he’ll stop with his get-rich-quick scheme, especially if he doesn’t want to end up washed downstream.”

Sir Reginald looked proud, “Yes, well, like I said, it is a knight’s job to ensure the wellbeing of the people and to stomp out any problems that may arise.”

One of the merchants said, “We thank you from the bottom of our hearts. As a small token of appreciation we want you to take one item from our carts for free.”

Kettu grinned, “Hey, I’m all for free stuff. Let’s see what you’ve got.”

The party examined the various merchant carts, trying to decide what they wanted to take as their reward. They eventually settled on certain items, packing them away before moving on, the merchants and their carts waving them off before resuming their own treks.

“Well, the good news is that we finally found some of that Glacier Mana Water,” Angelo said cheerfully.

Van sighed, “Yeah, but the bad news is that we still have yet to find Nuts Oil. Considering the nuts that make up Nuts Oil are very common I wonder why it’s so rare all of a sudden? Is it just that popular to the point it’s become rather scarce. Or is something else keeping it out-of-stock?”

Nina placed her hands behind her head, replying, “Yeah, that’s true. Getting the Glacier Mana Water was a step in the right direction but we do need to find Nuts Oil, as it could help us out greatly on this mission. At least we got a few other nice things from those merchants, too, like a Viper Grappling Hook, a couple of Elemental Coins, some Honey Elixirs, and a Goddess Fire Statue. Overall, a lot of nice stuff to add to our collections. While I do agree that the lack of Nuts Oil is strange, given how common the nuts used to make it are, we should be grateful that we did get at least some of the items we’ve been looking for. The Glacier Mana Water and Honey Elixirs are very potent and useful items to have, so that’s something of worth for our mission.”

Nova turned to Nina, “What does all those items do, Nina? I already know about the Glacier Mana Water and I can guess the Viper Grappling Hook’s ability, but what about everything else like the Elemental Coins and the Goddess Statues, as we also have some Goddess Moon Statues tucked away from when we raided Boneacuda’s ship.”

“I’ll tell you later, Nova, as we’ve got company,”

Everyone turned to see a small pack of monsters standing in front of them. They looked like Komodo Archers crossed with T. Rexes, having more dinosaur-like heads, thicker tails, bulky bodies, and were wielding strong bows and a lot of arrows. The party got into a defensive position.

“Rex Archers!” Zeeker growled. “They’re the toughest members of the Komodo Archer family.”

Nova got an idea, “Time to whip out a little mime magic.”

He started making gestures like there was an invisible wall in between the party and the Rex Archers. The monsters exchanged looks before drawing their arrows and firing, only for the arrows to bounce off an invisible object, much to their confusion.

Nina smirked, channeling energy, “I’ve got the next bit covered. Icicles!”

A barrage of icicles rained down upon the Rex Archers, making them howl in pain, clearly doing a lot of damage.

Angelo raised his rapier, stating, “Time for these lizards to get cold feet. Ice Sword!”

He fired his icy attack as a projectile. It sliced one of the Rex Archers in two, making the rest of the monsters worried.

Sir Reginald said, “Time for me to get a lick in! Ice Sword!”

He fired his own icy attack at the Rex Archers, although his was quite a bit larger than Angelo’s. The attack beheaded two Rex Archers at the same time, much to the monsters’ shock.

Nina started to channel energy again, “I’ll handle the cleanup. Icicles!”

More icicles rained down upon the remaining Rex Archers, impaling them and killing them, ending the battle. The party got into a more relaxed position before approaching the downed monsters.

“Okay, let’s collect the good stuff from them,” Sir Reginald said. “That would be their tails, bows, and quivers. And it’s safe to assume that you’ll take their arrows, Nova. Am I right?”

Nova grinned, “Hey, I’m all for getting free arrows. Cuts a few costs for us, and every coin counts when on the road.”

The party collected the desirable items from the Rex Archers, with Nova adding their arrows to his own quiver. After gathering up what they wanted the party moved on. They soon arrived at the next village, where some of the merchants they had helped earlier were either delivering supplies or selling their products to the civilians.

“Okay, the first order of business is to sell the Rex Archer parts we got,” Sir Reginald said. “Van, you and Angelo should check out the local shops to see if you can find any Nuts Oil or anything else of worth. Zeeker and Kettu will go sell the Rex Archer tails at the butcher since you two are good at haggling for better prices; Nova, Nina, and I will head for the weapon shop to sell the bows and quivers. We’ll meet back up at the center of the village.”

The party nodded and split up to do their assigned tasks. After a bit of time and haggling the party regrouped at the center of the village.

“So how’d it go?” Zeeker asked.

Nina replied, “We got some decent prices on those Rex Archer bows and quivers, about 50 silver for each bow and 20 silver for each quiver. And you?”

Kettu smirked, “Got a good 15 gold for each of those Rex Archer tails at the butcher. And what about you, Van?”

Van gave a sigh, “Still no Nuts Oil, which is making me quite concerned. We did get a few things, though, such as a bag of Fairy Almonds, a couple more Honey Elixirs, a few more bottles of Glacier Mana Water, some Stardust Herbs, and two Potok Oils. The Potok Oils will be very useful. While they’re not Nuts Oil they do have a useful effect. In this case they can heal pretty much any aliment, be it illness or something like poison, with just one teaspoon of the stuff. Sadly, they don’t cure stress and/or fatigue, which is something that the Nuts Oil does, but having an all-round cure-all is still very useful.”

Nova sighed, “I see. Shame we can’t find that Nuts Oil stuff, as it seems to be the best stress relief method on this world. Though what do Fairy Almonds do? Something tells me I can’t just snack on them.”

Nina smiled, “There are other methods of stress relief on this world, Nova. Therapy Pillows have relaxing scents and effects in them, Aromatherapy Blankets are pretty much the same except they’re blankets, and Insomnia Masks are used to help people with sleep issues like insomnia relax more easily. So we have other options, though Nuts Oil is considered the best out of all of them. As for Fairy Almonds they restore a chunk of mana energy, about 15% of one’s natural mana energies per nut. So, no, you can’t treat them as snacks, as they’re pretty useful for restoring mana. While Glacier Mana Water is better at that task Fairy Almonds are more common thus are easier to get. Plus you can buy them in bulk more readily.”

Sir Reginald replied, “Indeed, Lady Nina. Still, even if we couldn’t get what we’re really looking for we still got some useful items and got good prices on the Rex Archer parts we sold. Plus we stopped that goon from using the bridge as a get-rich-quick scheme. So I’d call this a good day.”

A woman then walked up to the party, asking in a coy tone, “Umm… excuse me. But are you warriors?”

Zeeker replied, “We are, yes. Wait, don’t tell me. You need our help with something, right?”

The woman nodded, “Yes.”

Angelo asked, “Is it something involving Muu?”

She shook her head, “No, it’s not that. While we know that one of Muu’s bases is not far from here that’s not what I want to ask your help for. What I, or rather the village, need your help with is dealing with a pack of monsters that have been attacking our fields and warehouses. We’ve got a major Bolt Ogre issue but we’re not strong enough to deal with them, and other warriors we’ve asked to help us have returned cooked well-done. You look like a much stronger batch of warriors, so do you think you can help us deal with these pests?”

Sir Reginald nodded, “That we can. We’ll gladly deal with your Bolt Ogre problem, miss. Do you know where they are or when they attack?”

“While we don’t know where they reside they do tend to attack around the middle of the afternoon. I wonder if they’re stealing food to give to some stronger monster or they’re just doing it for themselves.”

Nina replied, “I wouldn’t rule out the possibility of them stealing food to appease a stronger monster, since some monster breeds will do just that if a similar but stronger monster directs them. And considering it’s nearly the middle of the afternoon right now they should be showing up really soon.”

Just then a villager cried out, “The Bolt Ogres are coming from the south!”

Nova rolled his eyes, “Right on cue. Why does that always happen?”

Sir Reginald replied, “Doesn’t matter. We’ve got monsters to slay. Team, let’s move out!”

The party headed toward the southern part of the village. There they could see a pack of monsters approaching the village. They were copper-colored ugly oni heads with blood red eyes that floated off the ground with long, thin horns that were as long as the rest of their bodies. They stopped as they saw the party standing before them, narrowing their eyes. One, which had a scar on its left eye, gave a roar, as if commanding the other Bolt Ogres to attack. The other monsters charged in, channeling Lightning energy in between their horns.

Sir Reginald started channeling energy, “Let’s see them handle this! Quake!”

A vicious earthquake erupted underneath the Bolt Ogres, striking them with Earth energy and knocking them over for a moment.

Angelo said, “My turn! Seed Machinegun!”

He started firing a barrage of hard-shelled seeds from his hand, pummeling the Bolt Ogres, making them recoil and pushing them back.

Zeeker started channeling energy, “Have a taste of this! Petal Storm!”

Sharp rose petals appeared and slashed the Bolt Ogres, killing some of them. The monsters realized they were in trouble and quickly started to retreat. Nova gained an idea. He nocked an arrow onto his bow and fired it at the “boss” Bolt Ogre’s back, piercing its body and causing blood to start dripping as it fled.

Sir Reginald smiled, “Excellent thinking, Nova. Your arrow is creating a trail of blood for us to follow so we can find out where these Bolt Ogres are coming from and why they’re attacking. Let’s let them get a head start before following them, as if they realize we’re trailing them they may try to lose us.”

“Let’s collect the horns of the Bolt Ogres we’ve killed first,” Nina suggested. “Not only is that the most valuable part of them, but it’ll give the remaining monsters a bit of extra time to put some distance between us and them. That way we can follow the blood trail back to their hideout without being detected.”

The party nodded and broke off the horns from the dead Bolt Ogres. They waited a couple of minutes before pursuing the surviving ones, following the trail of blood. They soon came across a cave nestled in a rocky alcove, where more blood could be seen. The party slowly crept their way through the cave, keeping an eye out for any other Bolt Ogres, following the blood droplets that was left behind. They soon came to an opening but ducked for cover when they saw what was in there. The remaining Bolt Ogres were seemingly bowing timidly to a larger monster. It looked like a Wood Anaconda only its body was electric yellow and silver, with green pupilless eyes, and seemed to be crackling with electricity.

“That’s a Storm Anaconda,” Kettu observed. “So it’s the true boss of these Bolt Ogres.”

Nina’s eyes narrowed before saying, “Hang on a second, gang, I think I see something on that Storm Anaconda’s head. It… looks like a Starfire Ruby.”

“Not again…” Nova sighed. “Another ‘gift’ from the cosmos that ended up in a monster’s clutches. Should’ve seen this coming.”

Van said, “Looks like it. Now we have to deal with the Storm Anaconda and take the Starfire Ruby. Otherwise it’ll just keep causing problems.”

Nina’s eyes narrowed more before saying, “I also see a nest of eggs tucked in the back. I hope those eggs aren’t close to hatching. But, then again, we’re only in the first part of summer, and Element Anaconda’s eggs don’t hatch until winter, so they must still be fairly fresh. We’d best take those, too, to prevent a swarm of baby monsters from causing problems later on.”

Sir Reginald nodded, “Yes, good idea. Now, let’s start mapping out a plan. Quickly, before they detect us.”

The party huddled and quickly discussed a plan. After settling on their strategy they slowly but surely snuck into the cavern. Sir Reginald used his Earth magic to seal off the only exit before continuing onward. As they got closer they could hear the Storm Anaconda hiss angrily.

“You blundering buffoons!” it hissed. “You mean to tell me that a pack of warriors were able to chase you off?! You’ve always been able to roast any wannabe warriors that opposed you with ease! What was so different about this group?! I have half a mind to eat you for this failure!”

The Bolt Ogres became fearful and timid, clearly terrified of the stronger, smarter monster. Suddenly, the Storm Anaconda looked up and narrowed its eyes.

“You morons! You lead those warriors right to us! Get them or I’ll devour you like candy!”

The Bolt Ogres quickly turned around and charged at the party.

Sir Reginald tapped his Shaman Magic Bracelet, saying, “Leave the big one to me! You handle the small-fries! Earth, Light! Elemental Energy Fusion activate!”

He was engulfed in swirling energy, much to the monsters’ surprise, and soon the Gaia Knight was standing before them. Sir Reginald jumped over the Bolt Ogres and started to make a beeline for the Storm Anaconda while the rest of the party attacked the minions while they were momentarily distracted, getting some preemptive hits on them.

The Storm Anaconda spat, “Bah! Imbeciles! Guess I’ll have to handle this myself. Starting with you, sparkle armor boy! Thunderbolt!”

A massive thunderbolt came down from above, ready to strike Sir Reginald. However, Sir Reginald raised his shield up and effortlessly blocked the attack, much to the Storm Anaconda’s surprise.

The knight smirked, “That won’t save you here, you snake-in-the-grass! Time for you to pay for what you’ve done! Stone Storm!”

A massive tornado laced with gravel and rocks formed and swept up the Storm Anaconda, bashing and striking it from all directions, making it hiss in pain. The attack waned, causing the enhanced monster to crash to the ground, dazed. It shook the mental cobwebs out of its head before focusing on Sir Reginald.

“Not bad, sparkle armor boy, but not good enough! Holy Grenade!”

It fired a blast of Holy energy at Sir Reginald. However, to the monster’s horror the attack fused with Sir Reginald’s body, causing his light luminous glow to become more prominent.

“Not happing, scale belly!” the knight grinned. “In this form I can absorb Light element attacks to make myself stronger. In short, you just made me a bigger threat! Now try this on for size! Gaia Force!”

He slammed his sword into the ground, followed by a brief pause, then the Storm Anaconda was hit with a massive Earth energy eruption that ravaged its body. The snake monster tried to keep its head up but it was clear it was losing.

Sir Reginald primed his sword, stating, “Time for the finishing blow! Judgment Slash!”

He charged in and slashed the Storm Anaconda’s head off with his shining blade, killing the monster. At the time the party had finished dealing with the Bolt Ogres, exchanging high-fives and fist bumps. Sir Reginald sheathed his sword and plucked the Starfire Ruby off the decapitated Storm Anaconda’s head before tossing it to Nova.

“Here, Nova, you hold onto it, as it’ll be safest in your Digi-Pack. Now, let’s collect the most valuable parts of these monsters, gather up those eggs, and return to the village to inform them that their monster problem has been taken care of. Cancel Fusion!”

He was engulfed in swirling energy before returning to normal. The party gathered up the Bolt Ogre’s horns, the Storm Anaconda’s fangs and spikes, and finally the eggs, stashing them away for later. They retraced their steps out of the cavern and made their way back to the village. The villagers were waiting for them as the sun was starting to set.

The villager elder stepped up, “Brave warriors, were you able to take care of those Bolt Ogres?”

Sir Reginald nodded, “Indeed. They were being commanded by a Storm Anaconda that had come into contact with a Starfire Ruby, making it smarter and stronger. We’ve since slain all the Bolt Ogres and the Storm Anaconda, so you don’t have to worry about them attacking your crops or warehouses anymore.”

The village elder sighed in relief, “Thank you, my wonderful yet strangely assembled friends. You have our eternal gratitude. Now we can return to our livelihoods. At least that’s what we’d like to say, but with one of Muu’s Undead Bases off to the north we cannot rest easy.”

Nina replied, “Don’t worry, that’s also on our list. We’re the Demon King’s champion party, after all, so dealing with Muu’s forces is our primary job. Leave those boneheads to us, we’ll tackle them tomorrow after getting some rest and food.”

The villagers looked hopeful at these words.

“So you’re the Demon King’s champion party?” a young man asked. “Well then it’s no wonder you were able to handle those monsters, as they’re probably small-fries compared to Muu’s minions in your eyes. If you can take out that Undead Base we’d be very grateful.”

Sir Reginald nodded, “Leave it to us. But first we need rest so we can tackle Muu’s army at full strength.”

The villagers graciously let the party into the village, praising them and granting them a free night at the inn. They all knew that tomorrow was another big battle so they wanted to be ready for it.

Next Chapter: Werecat-astrophe

That's all for today. Next time is a fight with Muu's army. And a certain someone getting in the mix again. Tune in to find out.
 

CynthiaLover

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Time for the next chapter of Dawn of Courage. (Warning: contains mild language, mild violence)

Werecat-astrophe


It was the following day after the party had defeated the Storm Anaconda and its Bolt Ogre minions. They were making their way to where the Undead Base was located. As they traversed the fairly rocky terrain they were discussing what their possible strategies would be.

“We should be seeing the Undead Base soon,” Sir Reginald said. “According to the villagers it’s stationed in a small canyon just beyond this area. They also said that there seems to be some Saw Scorpions guarding it.”

Nina shivered, “Great. I hate scorpions. They’re one of two things that will make me quake in my boots. Although, like Nova, I know I have to fight them, and I’m willing to do so even though I don’t want to.”

“What’s the second thing that scares you?” Angelo asked, curious.

“Nova’s anger. After that display during when General Juggerrot attacked Emerald Coast Kingdom I’ve become quite frightened if Nova ever gets that angry again. The fact he can become so cold and deadly yet be so calm while not even raising his voice at the one he’s angry at makes it even more frightening. After seeing that I worry that whoever sets him off to that degree again is in favor of the Goddess, as they may not live to see their next birthday if they push him too far.”

Nova gained a crooked smile, “I’m not that terrifying when angry. But I will admit I tend to embody the tranquil fury side of anger when sufficiently provoked. I’m always calm when angry and never raise my voice, both of which surprise even me. But I didn’t think I could be that scary when angry.”

Sir Reginald replied, “Believe us, Nova, you can be downright terrifying when you’re that angry. Even I know not to set you off and I rarely show fear due to years of knight training. But after that display that completely annihilated Juggerrot and 10,000 Undead Soldiers, well, let’s just say that seeing you so calm when you’re clearly furious is a rather unnerving sight, to put it lightly. So, yeah, you can be pretty frightening when you’re that calm even when your rage has hit a boiling point.”

Nova gained a small blush, clearly a bit sheepish at hearing this information. The party continued onward into the nearby canyon.

Kettu’s eyes narrowed, “Hang on, gang, I think I see part of the base from here.”

Nina focused her vision on the same direction, replying, “Yeah, I can see part of the towers of the base. I suggest we get some cover and send Phantom to scope things out so we can start formulating our plan. Shall I go ahead and summon him?”

Sir Reginald nodded, “Yes, do so, Lady Nina.”

Nina bit her thumb, producing blood, before saying, “Phantom, come forth!”

A summoning circle appeared, followed by a gust of wind, and soon Phantom was perched on Nina’s arm.

“Okay, Phantom, you know the drill. Check out that Undead Base up ahead and report your findings back to us.”

Phantom nodded, became invisible, and took off toward the Undead Base. He scanned around the perimeter of the base, noticing the monsters scurrying around the front, before landing on a flagpole. His eyes gleamed as he began recording what he was seeing inside the base. After a few minutes he took off and returned to Nina, becoming visible again and landing on her arm.

“Let’s see what you’ve got, Phantom,” Zeeker said.

Phantom nodded and started projecting the recording from his eyes, allowing the party to see what they were up against.

“Hmm… so we do have four Saw Scorpions in the front of the base acting as guards,” Sir Reginald observed. “As for the Undead Soldiers we’ve got a fair sized platoon in this base. And the Undead Captain seems pretty strong, as evident by his star rank on his armor. He’s also got some crates in the base. Hmm?”

“What is it?” Angelo asked.

“Those crates… they’re not from Muu. They’re stolen goods, as they have various merchant emblems on them. That may explain some of the item shortages as Muu’s goons stole them. Though I do see two crates that have Muu’s emblem on them nestled near the back corner, so those must be items for his army. Possibly Magna Crystal cubes or materials needed to craft equipment for his soldiers. Okay, I think we’ve got the general gist of what to expect. Now we can begin planning our attack. Good work, Phantom, that’ll do for now.”

Phantom stopped projecting the recording from his eyes. Nina gently stroked him on the back, making the Stealth Falcon close his eyes and coo.

“You did good, Phantom,” she said. “Though I’d expect nothing less from such a fine familiar like you. We’ll take it from here. To the Spirit Plane.”

Phantom gained a proud expression before vanishing in a flurry of sparkles. The party then started to discuss their battleplan. However, midway through it Van’s ears started to twitch, alerting him to something.

“Hang on, gang,” he said. “I hear something coming. Something fast. …Oh no… not him…”

Nina gained a look of dread, “Please don’t tell me you hear Eoleo…”

They all turned to see a whirlwind rapidly approaching them, making them all groan.

“Damn him!” Kettu spat. “He just had to show up now of all times!”

Nova sighed, “He’s gonna throw a proverbial wrench in our plans. And I wouldn’t mind throwing a real wrench into his face.”

Soon Eoleo came into view with Ian and Hunter lagging behind as always. He saw the party and sped up. However, to their surprise, he started making a beeline for Nova instead of Nina, looking like he was ready to strangle the young archer. He then lunged for Nova, who ducked at the last second, causing Eoleo to sail over him and crash on the opposite side of the boulder the party was behind. A few seconds later Ian and Hunter managed to catch up, panting heavily, clearly exhausted. Eoleo then walked around the boulder to face the party, clearly livid.

“You have some nerve trapping me in that stupid invisible box, human!” he snarled. “Do you know how long it took me to get out?!”

“Obviously, not long enough,” Nova replied dryly. He turned to Ian and Hunter, “So, how did Eoleo escape the invisible box? Did he actually use intelligence? Did you two figure it out? Or did he simply dig his way out?”

Ian panted, “The third option. He managed to dig his way out. But it took him quite some time to even think of that.”

“I’m surprised he’s capable of thinking at all,” Zeeker said snidely.

“You wanna say that again to my face, scavenger boy?” Eoleo snarled.

Zeeker replied in a bored tone, “Just because regular hyenas are scavengers doesn’t mean I’m a scavenger. Considering that cats always land on their feet means you should be able to as well. But you have a tendency to land on your head instead. So there is a difference between a beast and a Beastman, you mangy alley cat.”

Hunter said, “He’s got a point there, Eoleo. Especially the part about you landing on your head.”

Eoleo smacked Hunter on the head, “Shut up! Don’t agree with them! You should always support and agree with me as I’m the pack leader.”

Nova snorted, “You couldn’t lead a parade. Besides, what kind of leader abandons his pack to pursue a lost cause? I will give you props for one thing: when you pick a lost cause you really commit. Now make like a fat man’s pants and split, as we have important work to do.”

Eoleo growled, “Watch your mouth, human, as I have every intention of proving what a waste of Nina’s time you are. Besides, what could be more important than settling this?”

Ian looked ahead before saying, “Umm… maybe because they’re planning to attack one of Muu’s Undead Bases just up ahead? That might be more important than your childish cockfight. Especially since it’s Nova’s job to deal with Muu and his army.”

Eoleo looked around before spotting the towers that made up the front of the Undead Base. His eyes gleamed and his mouth twisted into a sneer, causing everyone to gain looks of dread.

“No…” Hunter begged. “Please, no, Eoleo. You proved last time you were no match for Muu’s army. What makes you think you’ll fare any better this time? Please don’t, Eoleo, as you’re gonna ruin everything by charging into battle like a fool.”

Eoleo grinned, “That was then, this is now. I’ve been training, remember? And I also picked up something nice while following Nina. Let’s see how Muu handles my new King Cobra Claws!”

Angelo quirked an eyebrow, “Where’d you get King Cobra Claws? You don’t carry money and you’d never buy anything from merchants.”

Kettu sighed, “He probably stole them. Like you said he doesn’t carry money and he’d never buy anything from humans so it’s pretty obvious he stole them. Even a thief like me finds that pretty deplorable.”

Ian nodded sadly, “Yeah, he picked them off from a traveling merchant’s carriage while said merchant and his firokoko were resting at a magical campsite. He’s since been using them instead of his fists to fight. And to cut food. And to cut firewood. And to hunt. And got himself poisoned in the process when he cut an apple with them and ate it.”

Nina gave Eoleo a cold look, “Eoleo, not only did you steal from an innocent person but even you should know that weapons are not toys. And the name of those claws should’ve given you a clue about their secondary effect. What is a King Cobra? A poisonous snake. And that’s how the King Cobra Claws got their name, as they have a chance to poison whatever they cut. Really, a child could’ve told you that weapons aren’t toys, much less using one that can poison what it cuts. You really don’t have any intelligence. And I highly recommend you stay out of our fight, Eoleo. If you go running into battle without any plan you’re gonna ruin all our hard work. And I’d rather not have to save your ungrateful hide again. So I suggest you go back to your pack and stay there instead of ‘helping’ us fight Muu.”

Eoleo equipped himself with his King Cobra Claws, grinning, “Watch this, babe. I’ll show you who’s a real champion and who’s a fake loser.”

He charged in, ready for battle. Everyone else groaned in dismay.

“He never learns…” Van sighed.

Sir Reginald placed his face in his palm, saying, “And we hadn’t quite finished our plan of attack. Looks like we’re gonna have to wing it a bit. Especially since we’re gonna have to save Eoleo from his own stupidity. Again.”

Nova gave a heavy sigh, standing up, “Well, no time like the present. Let’s go save Eoleo before Muu’s army skins him, as they have more than one way to skin a cat.”

The party gave resigned sighs before charging after Eoleo, Ian and Hunter tailing after them. They could soon see Eoleo fighting the Saw Scorpions out front. The Saw Scorpions were immense desert gold scorpions with large pincers, spikes lining their bodies, glowing eyes, and a spiral saw blade at the end of their stinger tail. Nina shivered a bit as she saw them but she steeled her nerves and prepared for battle.

Nova nocked an arrow, saying, “I’ll get their attention. Ifrit Mode.”

The Demon King Ring adjusted itself, now set to Ifrit Mode.

“Dragon Strike!”

He fired the lightning dragon at the base’s door. It exploded on contact, blasting the doors open and sending Eoleo and the Saw Scorpions flying. The Undead Army glared at the party while the Saw Scorpions struggled to flip themselves back up. The Undead Captain stood up. He looked like a four-armed red zombie with four glowing yellow eyes, a bulky but decaying body, and seemed to have four swords attached to the back of his impressive armor.

“I was wondering when you’d show up,” he growled. “I’ll make sure to end you on Master Muu’s behalf. I, Captain Goremand, will kill you and bring your souls to Master Muu! Undead Soldiers… attack!”

The Undead Soldiers charged in, ready for battle. The party got into a defensive position in preparation for the battle.

“Let’s do this!” Sir Reginald stated.

At the time Eoleo had managed to get to his feet, smoldering a bit from the Dragon Strike’s explosion. He glared at Nova before charging in at Goremand. He started hacking and slashing away at the Undead Captain with his King Cobra Claws. Captain Goremand, however, looked unimpressed. He swung his two right arms and punched Eoleo into a wall.

“You call that an attack, Werecat?” he huffed. “I’ve had mosquitoes do more damage to me than you did just now. And if you think you can poison me with those King Cobra Claws you’ve got rocks in your head as I’m immune to poison.”

A voice then said, “Immune to poison, yes. But what about… petrification? Double Petrify Shot!”

Before Captain Goremand could react his upper arms were shot by two arrows. The arrows glowed and petrified his upper arms. His four eyes widened as he turned to see Nova smirking at him, bow raised.

“As I thought, you’re just as vulnerable to petrification as your Undead Soldiers are,” Nova said confidently. “Looks like it’s time to turn you into a lawn ornament. And ugly one at that.”

Goremand narrowed his eyes, “You little worm. You’re the Demon King’s puppet. I’ll take great delight in turning you into paste!”

However, just as he was about to charge Eoleo came out of nowhere and started attacking him again. Goremand was still unimpressed with the Werecat’s efforts. He merely grabbed Eoleo by the tail with his second left arm and started to repeatedly smash him on the ground.

“I’ll have to thank Eoleo for providing a distraction… if he’s still alive after that,” Nova smirked. He loaded up another arrow before saying, “Adios, zombie boy. Petrify Shot!”

He fired another arrow at Goremand, who was still too busy smashing Eoleo against the ground to notice the attack. By the time he did realize it was coming it was too late, as the arrow struck him in the chest. It glowed and began petrifying his entire body, causing him to let go of Eoleo.

“Master Muu will avenge me!” he screamed. “Just you wait, Demon King pawn! He’ll crush you like a bug under a boulder! I swear it!”

Soon his entire body turned to stone. At the time the rest of the party had finished off the Undead Soldiers and Saw Scorpions. Nova placed his bow back on his Digi-Pack, smiling, moments before Nina tackled him in a hug.

“You did it, beloved!” she said happily. “You took down Captain Goremand!”

Nova chuckled, “Yeah. What a stiff he turned out to be.”

Everyone else groaned except Nina, who giggled.

Sir Reginald turned to Van, “Van, would you do the honors of… decommissioning Captain Goremand?”

Van smirked, “Gladly, Sir Reginald.”

The Centaur causally trotted over to the petrified Undead Captain. He turned around and launched a double rear kick. He effortlessly shattered Goremand to pieces, further cementing their victory.

“Good work, Van,” the knight said. “Now, let’s check out those crates to see if they’re stolen goods or not.”

The party entered the base and started opening the various crates that were stacked up. Most of them had various items that merchants and shopkeepers would sell.

“Looks like these are all stolen goods, like we figured. I’m not sure who we have to go to in order to return these items but, for now, let’s stash the entire crates into Nova’s Digi-Pack until we can find out who or where these belong.”

Nina sighed, “A shame we can’t help ourselves to a few of these items but that would make us no better than Muu. Or Eoleo.” She shot a glare at the still thoroughly beaten Werecat before continuing, “Well, let’s pack these crates up and have Nova store them in his Digi-Pack until we find the rightful owners.”

Nova nodded, sealed up the crates again, and put them in his Digi-Pack.

“It’s a good thing I gave this Digi-Pack such a huge memory bank,” he said. “Otherwise we’d have trouble transporting all the stuff we get.”

Zeeker chuckled, “Believe us, Nova, we’re glad for that. Makes our job so much easier. Now, let’s check out the crates that have Muu’s emblem on them.”

The party nodded and opened up the last two crates. Inside the first crate were various crafting materials while in the second crate were strange items that looked like different animal or monster claws.

“Well, we’ve got crafting materials but what are those claw things?” Nova asked.

Nina replied, “Those are special magical items called Beast Claws. They are items that can produce a variety of effects, depending on the claw in question. Be it infusing your attacks with certain elements for a short time, producing support effects like summoning a floating shield for defense, or casting an offensive ability that isn’t part of the normal list of spells. Whatever it may be they can do it. Sadly, such items are one-time use so most people tend to hold onto them until emergencies, as they can really make or break a battle. Since these items are from Muu we’re free to take them for ourselves. Maybe we can make use of them in when in a pinch or even just sell them for some quick cash. Either way, better we take them than allow Muu’s army to have them or destroy them. Especially since they’re rather rare. Nova, if you’d be so kind?”

Nova nodded and put all the crafting materials and Beast Claws into his Digi-Pack. At the time Ian and Hunter had managed to revive Eoleo and were supporting him. Nina turned around, marched over to Eoleo, and slapped him across the face.

“You idiot! You could’ve ruined all our hard work by charging in like a lunatic! You once again proved to be no match for Muu’s army! I’m getting really sick of you stalking me and getting in our way! Take a hint, you fleabag! I! Hate! You! So stop chasing me and just go home, as you continue to make our lives more difficult! We’ve got enough issues dealing with things like Muu’s army, enhanced monsters, bandits, and other issues that crop up! We don’t need you dogpiling on top of it! Ian, Hunter, get your fearless leader out of here before I grab one of the Undead Soldier’s swords and ram it through this idiotic Werecat!”

Ian and Hunter nodded, saying in unison, “Right! We’re outta here!”

They started to walk away, half-dragging Eoleo with them. The leader Werecat was trying to resist so he could go back to Nina but he was too badly beaten to move on his own. As the Werecats left the area Nina gave a sigh of relief.

Sir Reginald said, “He certainly gave us trouble. But we succeeded in our mission regardless of his interference, although it could’ve gotten dicey if Nova hadn’t shut down Goremand with Petrify Shot. Though it did help that Eoleo ended up distracting the Undead Captain so Nova could get a clean shot off. So I guess he was useful for something after all. Now, let’s gather up the Saw Scorpion parts and blow up this base so we can return to the village with our heads held high.”

The party nodded, collected the valuable parts from the Saw Scorpions, stepped away from the base until they were at a safe distance, and turned to face it.

“Barrier!”

Sir Reginald erected a barrier around the party. Nova then nocked an arrow onto his bow and took aim.

“Dragon Strike!” he said.

He fired the arrow at the cliff that overlooked the Undead Base. The lightning dragon exploded upon impact, causing the ledge and cliff to come crashing down, smashing the Undead Base to bits and burying it under rocks and rubble. When the dust had settled Sir Reginald lowered the barrier, allowing everyone to breathe a sigh of relief.

“Another day, another Undead Base destroyed, another Undead Captain slayed,” Angelo said cheerfully. “And another foothold secured. So far so good. But, as we have said before, let’s not get too confident or Muu will try to knock us down a peg or two. Now, let us return to the village to rest and enjoy our victory.”

Zeeker nodded, “Yeah, and we can sell these Saw Scorpion parts for extra spending cash. Hey, Sir Reginald, why don’t you use Warp to get us back to the village to save time. And so we don’t have to cross paths with Eoleo on the way back.”

Sir Reginald nodded, “That’s actually a good idea, Zeeker. If everyone is ready I’ll get us back to the village.”

The party nodded in agreement.

“Warp!”

The party vanished from the canyon. They soon returned to the village where the villagers eagerly awaited the good news. The villagers were elated to hear of the party’s success and warmly welcomed them into the village, granting them a free night and food at the inn. The party knew that they had made another significant step in the right direction in stopping Muu.

Next Chapter: Assembling Amazing Accessories

That's all for today. Eoleo proving to be useless once again. Does he ever learn? Tune in next time to find out.
 

CynthiaLover

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Time for the next chapter of Dawn of Courage.

Assembling Amazing Accessories


It was the following morning after the party had defeated Captain Goremand and his Undead Army. It was pouring rain so everyone was trapped inside for the day. The party had just finished their breakfast and were discussing what they should do.

“Well, looks like we’re not going anywhere today,” Zeeker said.

“Guess we’ll have to do something to pass the time, at least until the rain stops,” Sir Reginald replied.

Kettu turned to Nova, “Hey, Nova, still got that deck of cards?”

Nova nodded, “Yes, I still have it.” He took them out of the Digi-Pack, “Here you go.”

“Thanks!” Angelo said with a smile.

A waitress walked over, saying, “We also keep other games around in case of rainy days so you have other options, too. Stuff like chess, checkers, and dice games. Just FYI.”

Sir Reginald nodded, “Thank you for informing us. We’ll take you up on that. Give us some other things to do. What about you, Nova? You gonna play?”

Nova shook his head, “No, not this time. I was going to make some more magical accessories. We got ahold of some nice things like the Beast Claws and various crafting materials so I wanted to see if I could make use of those. I’ve already got a pretty solid selection of magical accessories but I want to see what else I can create now that I have some new stuff. Nina, do you want to help me or would you like to play some games?”

Nina smiled, “I’ll help you, Nova. Especially since I can explain all the properties of the items we’ve gotten to you. That way you’ll know what item does what so you can craft the right accessory.” She turned to the party, “We’ll see you at lunch. Have fun. Come on, Nova, let’s get crafting.”

Nova and Nina left the party and returned to their room while the rest of the party started playing some games to pass the time. Nova sat down at the desk in the inn room while Nina sat on a nearby bed. Nova started taking out his crafting tools and various materials. He looked at one of the Elemental Coins they had gotten earlier. It was fire red with a flame symbol on it and about the size of a boot buckle.

“So, Nina, what does this Elemental Coin do?” he asked. “I can see it’s a Fire element but what does it do?”

Nina replied, “That’s a Torch Coin, a Fire Elemental Coin. It can cast one of three Fire spells: Flame Burst, Lava Wave, or Inferno. Sadly, it’s a one-time use item and the spell in question is at random, so one Torch Coin could have Lava Wave while another could have Inferno. And you don’t know what the spell is until you actually use it. They’re fairly rare though not as rare as Beast Claws. And I do know of a place where you can buy Elemental Coins in bulk: the Night Market at this kingdom’s capital. There are probably other places but that’s the most famous location due to it often having a huge selection of rare or hard-to-find items. But that’s the general gist of the Elemental Coins.”

Nova looked the Torch Coin over, saying, “I see. I had a feeling these were one-time use items like the Beast Claws we got yesterday so I was thinking of trying to figure out a way to turn a one-time use item into a multi-use item. Like craft something that could allow the wearer to use this Torch Coin as often as they’d like without any fear of the coin breaking or vanishing.”

Nina smiled, “That’s an excellent idea, Nova. If you could craft something that could turn a one-use item into a multi-use item I know they’d be very popular. Got any ideas on how to do it?”

“Sort of. For this Torch Coin I was thinking of something like a bracelet, glove, or ring that would allow the user to constantly draw upon its power whenever needed. Let’s see… what would be good material to use alongside it?”

Nina pondered for a moment before saying, “Well, Zulu ore would go really well. Especially because it’s lightweight and has useful properties. Another good ore to use would be Crimzor, especially since it has a strong association with Fire and Lightning, which would match up really well with the Torch Coin. And probably Mythril Silver is another good choice, especially since the ore has well-rounded effects. Really, it depends on what you want to make. If you’re going for a bracelet then Mythril Silver and/or Crimzor would be better, while a ring would work best with Zulu.”

Nova examined some of the ore he had before saying, “I think I’ll go for a bracelet, and I might combine the Mythril Silver with Crimzor to give it a double effect. After all, I made your bracelet out of Mythril Silver and Stardust, so I know how to combine materials together. Now, let’s get to work on this one and see from there.”

Nina nodded and the duo started working on crafting something out of the various items they had collected. They worked hard, trying to come up with some creative and interesting ideas for magical accessories that would make use of the Beast Claws and Element Coins they had. After a few hours they stopped to take a break.

Nina wiped her brow, “Whew, I’m a bit bushed. However, we’ve got some good ideas mapped out and have nearly finished two accessories. Turning the Beast Claws into gauntlets was a great idea, as it would allow the user easy access to the accessories without needing to pull them out of their bags or packs to use. And we may have figured out how to turn out multi-use items, which will make these huge sellers due to the fact that they’re reusable. Anyway, lunch should be starting soon so we’d best pack up for now and rejoin the party to eat.”

Just as she said that a knock was heard at the door, followed by a female voice saying, “Lunch will be served soon. Please come down to the dining room to eat.”

Nova chuckled, “Thanks, we’ll be there. Right on cue. Okay, let’s pack up our equipment for now and go eat. Then we’ll get back to work. And thanks for your help, Nina. Since I don’t know much about the various types of magical accessories having you give me advice and information on them helps make the creation process much smoother. Now, let’s get going.”

The duo packed up their tools, items, and other equipment and rejoined the party in the dining room. They soon ordered some food and waited for it to arrive, tucking into it when it did. After the food was cleared Nova and Nina returned to their room to resume their work while the party continued playing games to pass the time.

Nova took out the two accessories they were working on, saying, “Okay, back to work. The bracelet with the Torch Coin is nearly finished; we should work on that first. Then we’ll resume working on the Eagle Claw gauntlet, as that one requires more fine-tuning.”

Nina nodded and the duo resumed their work. It wasn’t long before the bracelet containing the Torch Coin was finished. It was a round bracelet made from red and silver materials, with yellow streaks on it and a bubble-shaped dome on top with the Torch Coin in it. Nina took the bracelet and looked it over carefully, smiling as she did.

“I gotta hand it to you, Nova,” she smiled. “Your craftsmanship is getting better by the day. This is one of your best accessories to date. And we got it done much faster than normal. Shame we can’t test it right now, as we don’t want to burn the inn down. We’ll give it a field test on a monster tomorrow… assuming it’s not still raining then. But I know we’ll be able to test the Eagle Claw gauntlet here. It creates a shield-shaped barrier to block attacks for a short time, so that doesn’t run the risk of damaging anything. What should we call this new accessory?”

Nova replied, “I’m guessing something like the Torch Bracelet, Fire Armband, or Flame Bangle. Something along those lines would fit. What do you think?”

The winged woman pondered for a moment before saying, “How does the Torch Armlet sound? I rather like the sound of it. How about it?”

“Works for me. Torch Armlet it is. Now, let’s move onto the Eagle Claw gauntlet, since we should finish it before it gets too late.”

Nina nodded and resumed helping Nova craft the next magical accessory. After about an hour they had finished the second accessory. This one looked like half of a bridal gauntlet made from bluish and silver materials, with feather-shaped structures, two rings to attach it to the arm, and a capsule-like section where the Eagle Claw, which looked like a four-toed scaly talon with a thicker middle piece made of a metal-like coating ending in a fat feathered end, was contained, connected by glowing crystals to each end. Nina looked it over before smiling again.

“Looks pretty good, Nova,” she said. “Now, let’s test it, since this shouldn’t cause any damage. Should I or do you want to test it?”

Nova replied, “You test it, since you understand how the Eagle Claw works better than I do.”

Nina nodded, equipped the accessory to her arm, and took a strong pose.

“As you would say: Here goes something. Eagle Shield!”

She took a dynamic stance while holding out her arm with the accessory on it. The capsule glowed, causing the Eagle Claw to glow, and suddenly a large transparent blue shield with an eagle emblem formed in front of her. Nina gently tapped the shield with her other hand, testing to see if it was solid, which confirmed that it was indeed solid. She gently pushed up against it to further test the strength of the shield. It did not bend to her strength. She then gave it a powerful kick as a final test, but the shield held strong. She then looked at the gauntlet on her arm and saw that the Eagle Claw was still intact.

“Looks like it works, Nova,” she smiled. “The Eagle Claw is still inside the capsule, completely intact, and the shield it produces is sturdy as can be. Now, for the final test. Eagle Shield disengage!”

The floating transparent shield vanished, causing the capsule to stop glowing. Nina took another look at the Eagle Claw inside the capsule and saw that the item was still present, completely fine. She smiled and removed the item from her arm before presenting it to Nova.

“Success, beloved. The Eagle Claw is completely fine and the Eagle Shield is as hard as normal. Looks like your idea really paid off, as now an item like the Eagle Claw can be used multiple times instead of being a one-time wonder. When we get a chance we’ll test the Torch Armlet to further confirm if it works as well. For now, let’s see if we can get another accessory done before dinner. Let’s do another accessory using a Beast Claw since we can safely test some of them without fear of causing damage. How about we use a Merbeast Claw, as that grants the user Water elemental properties for a short time.”

Nova nodded, took out a Merbeast Claw, which looked like a webbed claw with a scaly middle section ending in fin-like structure, and the duo began working on it. After a few hours they had completed it. The magical accessory looked the same as the previous one, only it was made with sea green and silver materials, with blue seaweed-like structures framing it, and the capsule looked more like an air bubble. Nina took the item and looked it over, smiling.

“You did it again, Nova. It looks great. Now to test it. I guess I’ll do the testing.”

“If you’d please,” Nova replied.

She nodded and strapped it to her arm. She took a deep breath then took a dynamic pose.

“Merbeast Claw activate!” she stated.

The capsule glowed, causing an aura of water energy to start flowing around Nina. She took a moment to look it over, then looked at the Merbeast Claw inside the gauntlet, revealing it was completely intact.

“Looks good. Water Energy deactivate!”

The watery energy vanished, causing the capsule to stop glowing, showing that the Merbeast Claw was still inside it. She took it off and gave it to Nova.

“Success, beloved,” she smile. “Now that we know how to make these types of accessories we can finish them faster. Hopefully we can test the Torch Armlet soon to see if it works just as well. Now, we need a name for both of these items. Got any ideas?”

Nova pondered before saying, “I was thinking that for the Eagle Claw accessory we could call it the Air Shield Gauntlet. While the Merbeast Claw one we should call the Aqua Force Gauntlet. But if you have a suggestion I’m open to it.”

Nina replied, “I like Air Shield Gauntlet. That has a nice ring to it. However, I think we should call the other one the Aqua Energy Gauntlet, since it does imbue the user with Water energy. Is that okay with you?”

Nova nodded, “Fine with me. Air Shield Gauntlet and Aqua Energy Gauntlet sound good. Now, let’s pack it up for the day, as we’ve done a lot. And it’s almost time for dinner.”

Just as he said that a knock was heard at their door, followed by a female voice, “Dinner will be served soon. Please come down when you’re ready.”

“Thanks.” He then chuckled, “Right on cue again. The people of this world don’t seem to miss a cue. But we did good for our first foray into making magical accessories of this nature. Once we test the Torch Armlet we’ll know for sure if that idea is a success or needs fine-tuning. Come, let’s clean up and rejoin the party.”

Nina nodded and helped clean up the various tools and materials, placing them in Nova’s Digi-Pack. They went downstairs to rejoin the party for dinner, who were curious to know about their progress with the duo’s creations. They soon had dinner, enjoying the food, before retiring for the night. Tomorrow was another day.

Next Chapter: Fires of the Past

That's all for today. A bit filler-ish but the accessories play a role here and there later on. And like Celtic before him Nova's gonna profit big time on these.
 

CynthiaLover

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Time for the next chapter of Dawn of Courage. (Warning: contains mild language)

Fires of the Past


It had been a few days since the party left the village. The sun was out and the birds were singing as the brave group of seven walked toward their next destination. Sir Reginald was in the lead, as usual, guiding the party with a map and compass.

“Okay, we should be seeing the next village soon,” he said.

Zeeker looked around, saying in a rather sullen tone, “Don’t count on it, Sir Reginald.”

Van turned to him, “What do you mean, Zeeker?”

“…I know this area. There is no village here. At least not anymore. There was one but it’s long gone now. So we won’t be getting any supplies or anything up ahead.”

Nina looked concerned, “I take it this village was destroyed by Muu, Zeeker?”

The Beastman nodded, “Yes, and any survivors fled. You’ll soon see that the area up ahead is suffering the consequences of what happened that day. I know full well how it was destroyed, and it was not pretty.”

Nova pieced it together, saying, “I think I know what happened. The village was part of the Beastman Resistance, right?”

“Ding-ding-ding. You’re pretty sharp, Nova. Yeah, the village, or what’s left of it, was one of our bases. Vertebreak stomped it out of existence, leaving only ruins and cursed earth. You’ll soon see that Vertebreak somehow caused the land itself around the village to decay, as no plant life is growing there.”

Nina looked ahead and narrowed her eyes, saying, “Yeah… I can see it. The grass stops at a certain point up ahead.”

The party looked ahead and saw that not far from where they were the grass suddenly stopped, leaving barren, decaying land. The party made their way into the area where no grass was growing and soon saw the remains of a village in the center of the rotting land. There were very few bits of the village intact, with only crumbling ruins remaining of any buildings and walls. The party cautiously entered the remains of the village. Zeeker placed a hand on one of the few buildings that wasn’t completely torn down, looking at it with a sad expression.

Angelo gave a sad sigh, “So, this was one of your bases, huh, Zeeker? Such a tragic affair to see one of the Beastman Resistance’s bases torn to rubble because of Vertebreak. Your resistance did so much good only for Vertebreak to rip it apart.”

Zeeker nodded sadly, “Yes, we had managed to do some significant damage to Muu’s army. Unfortunately, as you’re well aware, we let out victories go to our heads, allowing Vertebreak to knock us off our high-horse and cause any survivors to flee. I don’t know how many of my fellow resistance fighters survived but I know it was less than half of our total forces. That day was very bloody and I know that any survivors had to play cat-and-mouse to avoid getting caught and killed by other members of Muu’s army, myself included. Seeing these ruins brings back a lot of memories of my fellow Beastmen and how we would plan our strategies in this building. Now, those memories, along with this village, are in ruins. It’s hard to believe it’s only been about six months since Vertebreak tore our resistance asunder. Time flies. While I’ve taken up the fight again thanks to you lot I cannot help but tremble at the memory of what happened here. I wonder if things could’ve gone better if we hadn’t let our victories go to our heads…”

Nova placed a hand on Zeeker’s shoulder, saying, “It’s like I said before, Zeeker. Sometimes that’s the price you pay to get stronger. You cannot dwell on what you could’ve done. Some things are just simply out of your control. Yes, maybe if you hadn’t let your victories go to your head you wouldn’t have suffered such a devastating loss, but at the same time it probably wouldn’t have changed anything. Muu would’ve sent Vertebreak after you anyway whether you played it smart or not, so the end result would’ve been the same. The fact is you learned from that mistake and the souls of your fallen comrades don’t hold it against you. It may have taken you some time to rejoin the fight because of your survivor’s guilt but you’re atoning for your failure by helping us. So don’t dwell on it, Zeeker, as it’ll only make the loss feel heavier. Use it as motivation to prevent other tragedies like this from happening again.”

The Beastman broke into a small smile, “Thank you, Nova. You certainly know what to say when needed. Yeah, I know I can’t dwell on it. It hurts but I know that my fellow Beastmen wouldn’t want me to wallow in despair and misery because of our failure. And I did learn from it as I’m much more cautious about our victories than before. I don’t let them go to our heads like what happened back with the Beastman Resistance. But I appreciate the pep talk, as it does help.”

Sir Reginald looked around, saying, “We should get going, as we cannot achieve anything here. At least we can ensure that something horrible like this cannot happen again by fighting Muu. Hopefully we can prevent tragedies like this from happening by working hard in stopping that evil coward Muu. Come, let’s move on.”

Suddenly, Van’s ears twitched, saying, “Hold on, gang. I hear something.”

The party got into a defensive position, weapons drawn, trying to figure out who or what was nearby. Suddenly, they all heard a piece of rubble crumble, alerting them to one of the ruined buildings. Zeeker slowly approached the building, his King Cobra Claws ready to strike. He pulled back a cloth and prepared to attack when he saw something--only to stop dead in his tracks.

“N-No way!” he sputtered. “Stu? Is that you?”

Another Beastman replied cautiously, “Captain Zeeker? You’re a sight for sore eyes.”

The Beastman emerged, revealing himself to be a mole-type Beastman. He was fairly short, really only reaching Zeeker’s chest, with brown eyes, matching fur, large claws, and was wearing a suit of leather armor with toeless boots and a turban. Everyone lowered their weapons, realizing this individual was no threat to them.

Stu smiled, “Captain Zeeker! You have no idea how happy I am to see you. I’m so glad you survived that horrible day.”

Zeeker replied, “Just barely. Although I’m ashamed to admit it but I bowed out of the fight for a while due to my survivor’s guilt. This interesting batch of people managed to relight the fire in me. It helps that they’re the Demon King’s champion party. But what are you doing here, Stu?”

The mole Beastman replied, “I was asked by Captain Ron to see if I could salvage anything from this base. The Beastman Resistance isn’t dead. We’re still willing to fight. We learned from our mistake and have been rebuilding our resistance in secret to avoid Muu’s detection. Vertebreak thinks he got us but we’ve been slowly but surely rebuilding our operation from scratch. But seeing that you survived will bring our force some great relief, as you were one of our best captains.”

Nina looked surprised, “You mean to tell us that the Beastman Resistance has been revived? That’s amazing.”

“We’re still in the process of rebuilding our forces and funds. But yes, the Beastman Resistance is still alive. It has suffered a heavy hit, no doubt about that. But we’re still willing to fight Muu and topple his army. We haven’t made any moves out in the open to avoid getting stomped out before we’re ready but we’re slowly rebuilding our army and money so we can strike Muu again.”

Kettu smiled, “That’s pretty good of you. Despite such a devastating loss you managed to pick up the pieces and are in the process of rebuilding your army. That takes guts. I must admit I’m impressed.”

Sir Reginald nodded, “Indeed. That is most commendable of you Beastmen. This means we have another set of allies on our side in this fight against Muu. That is most fortunate, as the more allies the better.”

Zeeker turned to Stu, “Stu, where are you located? Maybe our little band can help rebuild the resistance. Like Sir Reginald said, the more allies we have, the better.”

Stu smiled, “Having you back would boost morale big time, Captain Zeeker. We’re stationed in Silver Moon Forest. The Holy energies that emit from that forest prevents Muu’s army from entering it, so it’s the perfect location for us to set up shop and rebuild our army. It’s also not far from the capital of this kingdom so we also have His Majesty’s support, though he’s had to keep his support rather incognito to avoid detection from Muu’s forces, as they have quite the presence here.”

Van replied, “You can leave dealing with Muu’s Undead Bases to us, which should alleviate some of the pressure on King Rand and your resistance. That’s our primary job. Can you give us any information on where some of Muu’s bases are located?”

“I only know of one of them, which is nestled in Glass Mountain just to the northeast of here. It’s led by Captain Boneshield. However, I don’t know any others. But I know Captain Ron does. If you come to our new base he can fill you in on any locations where Muu has placed his army. Anyway, I’d best not stick around, as I managed to salvage what I could from the ruins of this base. But I’ll inform Captain Ron that you’re still alive, Captain Zeeker, and that you’re coming to help us. That’ll boost morale in our forces by quite a bit. Now, I’m out of here before a monster or Muu’s army detects me, as there are some of his Undead Soldiers lurking around. Hopefully you all will reach our base in Silver Moon Forest so we can start mapping out a joint attack. Farewell for now, Captain Zeeker. And good luck.”

He then started to rapidly burrow into the ground like a drill before vanishing underground. Zeeker gained a relieved expression as he saw his mole friend disappear.

“I can’t believe the Beastman Resistance managed to survive that horrible ordeal and is in the process of rebuilding,” the hyena Beastman said with a smile. “Now I feel more ashamed of my cowardice and reluctance to rejoin the fight after that loss, as it’s clear the other survivors managed to pick up the pieces and start rebuilding themselves.”

Nina smiled, “Still, Zeeker, it proves that they want to stop Muu as much as we do. And despite your cowardice and survivor’s guilt you still did pick up the fight again, it just took you a little bit longer. But it’s great news to learn that your resistance buddies are still willing to fight. It was a heavy loss, yes, but they still felt the need to keep the resistance alive somehow. Now we know where to go: Glass Mountain and Silver Moon Forest. We’ll destroy Captain Boneshield’s army in Glass Mountain and rendezvous with the Beastman Resistance in Silver Moon Forest. So it looks like we actually got something out of this trip to the ruins of one of the Beastman Resistance’s previous bases. You should be proud of your fellow Beastmen, Zeeker, as they are willing to rebuild their forces even after such a devastating loss. Clearly want Muu gone as much as we do.”

Sir Reginald nodded, “She’s right, Zeeker. And it’s obvious that your fellow resistance fighters look at you very highly. If just knowing you’re alive and still fighting is enough to boost morale, that is a real testament of how much they look up to you. You clearly were one of their best members before this horrific incident. Small wonder you were one of their captains. Now, let us move on to the next magical campsite, as we cannot use this location to rest. Then we’ll make our way to Glass Mountain to confront Captain Boneshield and his Undead Army platoon. But at least we know we have more allies to fight alongside us in this war with Muu. That alone is worth its weight in gold.”

The party nodded and started to make their way toward the next magical campsite. Zeeker took one last look at the ruins of the village before continuing onward.

“I can’t believe the Beastman Resistance still lives,” he said silently. “I thought for sure that it had been crushed after Vertebreak smashed it to pieces. And yet, somehow, it managed to survive and start rebuilding itself. I must admit I’m quite surprised. But I know Muu will be even more surprised when he learns that the Beastman Resistance is still standing despite that devastating loss. Everyone is doing their part to stop Muu. So I need to keep fighting to ensure that all our work is not in vain.”

Next Chapter: Breaking Boneshield

That's all for today. Looks like things might start going the party's way more now. How will it affect the future? Tune in next time to find out.
 

CynthiaLover

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Time for the next chapter of Dawn of Courage. (Warning: contains mild language, mild violence)

Breaking Boneshield


It was the following evening after the party ran into Stu and learned about the Beastman Resistance’s revival. They were just finishing up dinner at a magical campsite. It was clear the quality of the food was good, as the party was eagerly devouring their meal. Soon the last of the food was gone, allowing the party to rest.

“Good stuff, as always,” Angelo said with a smile. “Those chicken tenders with fried rice really hit the spot.”

Nova smiled, “Glad you liked it.”

Nina turned to Zeeker, who seemed to be lost in thought, “Zeeker? You okay?”

Zeeker nodded, “Yeah, I’m okay. I’m just surprised that the Beastman Resistance has managed to revive itself even after that bloodbath of a battle with Vertebreak. I thought for sure that it would’ve been snuffed out after what happened that day. But to hear it’s still active even after such a crushing loss really surprised me. Hopefully we’ll be able to help them, as they are allies to us in this fight against Muu. I just wonder who else survived that day? Stu alone was a surprise but the fact that it seems more members of the resistance survived than I thought is rather stunning. And yet it inspires hope that other resistances could soon crop up in an attempt to stop Muu’s army.”

Van replied, “That does inspire confidence. If the Beastman Resistance managed to survive that devastating battle then it might cause other groups of resistance fighters in other areas to stand up to Muu’s army. It does bode well for us to have another set of allies on our side, as there’s only so much the seven of us can do. Not downplaying our successes, as we’ve managed to uproot all of Muu’s influence on the other continent but having more allies on our side to tackle the big bone daddy himself will certainly make things easier.”

Sir Reginald nodded, “Indeed, Van. The more resistance fighters we can get the better it’ll be for us to topple Muu’s reign of terror. But first we need to remove Captain Boneshield from Glass Mountain to further secure footholds against Muu’s army and alleviate pressure on King Rand. Hopefully this Captain Ron will be able to give us more information on where Muu’s army are stationed so we can tackle those threats as well.”

Nova pondered, “I wonder what Boneshield will be like? Will he be some sort of defensive tank befitting of the ‘shield’ part of his name? Or is his name just a nod to being a barrier against any resistance force? Hopefully we can find out before we fight him so we can start mapping out a plan, as Glass Mountain is not far from here.”

Nina replied, “That’s easy enough, as we’ve got Phantom and Kettu to scope things out, depending on the situation. I wouldn’t be surprised if Boneshield had some sort of defenses surrounding his base to prevent attacks. We’ll just have to find out when we get there. For now, let’s wash the dishes and get ready for bed, as we’ve got a big battle tomorrow.”

Nova nodded and the duo washed the dishes before putting them away. The party climbed into the tent, curled up in their sleeping bags, and quickly drifted off for the night. They knew they had work to do tomorrow, so they needed the rest.

The next day the party was back on the road, heading to the nearby mountain. The terrain was rather craggy, making getting a solid footing rather difficult. They kept their eyes and ears open, trying to detect any possible threat before it could do the same to them.

Nina then said, “Hang on, gang. I think I see the towers of the Undead Base. They’re just beyond that ridge. And… I think I see a barrier surrounding it, so we can’t use Phantom to scope things out.”

Kettu nodded, “Then I guess it’s my turn to shine. I’ll check things out with my fox form. You all wait here until I get the dirt on our foes. Hopefully I can sneak in via a drain pipe or other such opening. Be back shortly.”

He transformed into his black fox form and scurried off to check out the Undead Base while the party waited for his return. About 20 minutes later Kettu returned, scampering over to them before transforming back to normal.

“What’s the scoop, Kettu?” Van asked.

The Werefox replied, “I managed to find a hole in the base’s wall that allowed me to sneak in. This Stealth Earring Nova gave me certainly proved useful. Anyway, here’s the dirt on our enemies. Boneshield’s got two shields, one on each arm, that seem to be able to connect to create a larger one, giving him great defensive abilities. However, he’s got a large gem in his back which I assume is his weak point. Striking that should take him out, or at least severely weaken him. He’s got the standard amount of Undead Soldiers under his command, which isn’t anything we can’t handle. I also noticed more stolen crates, as they had various merchant guild symbols on them, so we need to take those back as well. I didn’t see any monsters in his ranks so we don’t have to worry about that. There’s also a barrier generator being powered by a Magna Crystal cube which prevents attacks from most directions. I do have a suggestion on how to get the drop on these guys. Let’s use the hole that I used to sneak in to place a Magna Crystal cube in it so Nova can detonate it, tearing a large hole in the wall so we can launch a surprise attack.”

Sir Reginald nodded, “That’s an excellent idea, Kettu. Now, with this information let us begin our strategy meeting.”

The party nodded and huddled together, discussing their plan of attack. After about 20 minutes they had settled on their strategy. Nova took out another Magna Crystal cube and gave it to Kettu, who had transformed back into his black fox form. He snuck up to the hole in the base’s wall and gently pushed the Magna Crystal cube into place before scampering back to the party. After taking a moment to judge the situation Nova nocked an arrow onto his bow.

“Ifrit Mode,” he said.

The Demon King Ring adjusted itself, now set to Ifrit Mode.

“Fire Shot.”

He launched the flaming arrow at the partly exposed Magna Crystal cube, striking it. The crystal started to hum before exploding, ripping a massive hole in the side of the base, startling the Undead Soldiers and Captain Boneshield. Captain Boneshield looked like a heavily armored skeleton with two large shields equipped to his arms in place of other weapons. The party immediately went on the offensive while the enemy was stunned.

Captain Boneshield recovered, stating, “Don’t just stand there! Attack them! Bring me their heads!”

The Undead Soldiers charged; weapons held high, ready to strike down the opposing party. The heroic party took their positions and began their retaliation. Sir Reginald managed to get past the Undead Soldiers in order to face Boneshield.

He primed his sword, stating, “Let’s see you stop this, Boneshield! Miracle Slash!”

He raised his sword, now channeling Holy energy, before slashing it downward. Boneshield, however, raised up both his arms, connecting the two shields on them into one. When Sir Reginald’s attack struck the shield it caused a backlash that knocked the knight back a bit, surprising him.

“Reggie!” Kettu stated.

The Werefox quickly charged in and launched some powerful dagger slashes. However, Boneshield raised up both shields and connected them, causing Kettu’s attack to be deflected and knock him back, though he landed more gracefully than Sir Reginald did.

Boneshield smirked, “Did that take you by surprise, vermin? Whenever I have both my shields connected I can reflect my opponent’s attacks back at them. Be it magic, physical, or skill, I can reflect your own attacks and not take any damage. Let’s see you try to get past this defense!”

Nova said silently, “Defense… That’s it!” He quickly took out the Air Shield Gauntlet from his Digi-Pack and equipped it to his right arm, smirking, “You’re not the only one with a useful defense, bone bozo! Observe! Eagle Shield!”

The accessory glowed, causing multiple Eagle Shields to appear. Nova then used the magical accessory to manipulate the Eagle Shields to box Captain Boneshield in them. The Undead Captain looked around, trying to figure out a way to get out of the barricade that he was now trapped in. Nina gained an idea, flew over Boneshield and faced his back, where a large gem was position.

“You may be durable from the front but what about the back?” she purred darkly. “Mana Daggers!”

She summoned several magical daggers and hurled them at the gem on Boneshield’s back. The daggers impaled the gem, making the Undead Captain howl in pain. The daggers then blew up, shattering the gem, which, in turn, caused Boneshield to scream as his body exploded into pieces. At the same time the rest of the party had finished off the Undead Soldiers. Van quickly galloped over to Sir Reginald and Kettu, who were nursing their injuries from their reflected attacks.

“Here, let me handle that,” the Centaur said. He started to channel energy before saying, “Rejuvenate!”

Sir Reginald and Kettu were bathed in healing energies, causing their wounds to close. When the damage was gone, both smiled at Van.

“Thank you, Van, that feels much better,” Sir Reginald said. “I admit I wasn’t expecting Boneshield to have an attack-reflecting ability. That certainly took me by surprise. But thankfully that gem on his back was, in fact, his weak point, as Lady Nina proved. And Nova, it appears your newly crafted magical accessory works perfectly, as those Eagle Shields were very useful in boxing in Boneshield, allowing us to strike his weak point.”

Nina hovered back down to the ground, smiling, “Looks like Nova’s and my hard work paid off. Not only is this a more successful field test for the Air Shield Gauntlet, but we proved it can summon multiple shields in one shot, something that the Eagle Claw can’t do on its own. After all, the Eagle Claw can only summon one Eagle Shield for a short time per claw. So the fact that the Air Shield Gauntlet can summon multiple only makes it more useful. That item will be very popular with traveling warriors, especially mages, magicians, and members of the Magic Clan, as it’ll shield them from attacks while they gather up the needed mana to fire off their powerful spells and skills.”

Nova gained a crooked smile, “Yeah, well, I hadn’t intended to summon multiple Eagle Shields in a single shot. I thought I’d have to summon them one at a time, so that was an unexpected bonus. Now, with the Undead Soldiers defeated and Boneshield shattered let’s check out those crates to see what they contain.”

He deactivated the Air Shield Gauntlet, causing the Eagle Shields to vanish, before unequipping it and putting it back in his Digi-Pack. The party entered the Undead Base and Van pried open the crates, revealing various items that merchants would carry.

“Yep, these are definitely stolen goods,” Zeeker observed. “I even see Nuts Oil in here. Sadly, we can’t take any of it for ourselves, as that would make us no better than Muu’s army. So we’ll just have to seal these crates up and store them in Nova’s Digi-Pack until we run into someone from the capital who we can give all the crates of stolen goods to.”

Van sighed, “Yeah, it’s a shame we can’t take even just one bottle of Nuts Oil for ourselves, since we’ve been looking for it. But like you said that would make us thieves like Muu’s army. Hopefully we’ll be able to get some soon, especially since we’ve recovered some of the stolen goods. Let’s just pack these up and destroy the base.”

The party resealed the crates, allowing Nova to store them in his Digi-Pack. Nova then took the Magna Crystal cube that was powering the base and its shield, causing both to shut down, before putting it in his Digi-Pack with the other Magna Crystal cubes. The party then walked out of the base and prepared to destroy it.

Nova said, “I have an idea. I want to test something so I’ll use the Undead Base as a test site.” He then took out the Torch Armlet from his Digi-Pack and equipped it to his left wrist before saying, “Okay, here goes something. Torch Coin activate!”

The Torch Coin inside the bracelet started to spin and glow. Suddenly, a massive wave of lava formed in front of Nova that washed over the Undead Base, melting it until it was just a pool of molten metal. After the attack waned Nova looked at the Torch Armlet and noticed that the Torch Coin inside it was still intact.

Nina smiled, “Well, looks like you gave the Torch Armlet a successful field test. Now we know that this method of turning the one-time use Torch Coin, and any other Elemental Coins, into a multi-use item is solid. Which will make creating more magical accessories of this nature easier. Great work, Nova, as your idea to turn a one-time wonder item into a reusable one paid off.”

Kettu grabbed Nova’s wrist to look at the Torch Armlet, saying, “To say the least. Turning something like an Elemental Coin into a more durable and reusable item was brilliant. The same goes for that Air Shield Gauntlet. You’re really putting what you learned on how to make magical accessories to good use. People would pay a fortune for something like this, as Elemental Coins and Beast Claws are very valuable but hard to obtain, much less the fact that they break after their effects end. So turning a single-use item into a reusable one is brilliant. You certainly have some good ideas when it comes to magical accessories, Nova, as I doubt anyone else would’ve considered doing something like this.”

Nova blushed, “Well, I tend to have a practical mindset. I like things that are practical and easy to use over more complex and cumbersome things. So making a one-time wonder item into something that can be used more practically is right up my alley. And we now know that this particular Torch Coin casts Lava Wave. Now, with another Undead Base destroyed we should get going.”

The party nodded and started to make their way back to the magical campsite, proud of another victory over Muu.

Next Chapter: Song of the Sea Witch Siren

That's it for today. Another day, another Undead Base destroyed, another foothold against Muu. Tune in next time to see what our heroes face.
 

CynthiaLover

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Time for the next chapter of Dawn of Courage. (Warning: contains mild language, male nudity, female nudity)

Song of the Sea Witch Siren


It had been a few days since the party had defeated Captain Boneshield and his platoon of Undead Soldiers. They were nearing the next village, which was near a massive, deep lake. The party was eager to get to the village to rest and restock on supplies.

Sir Reginald said, “Okay, we’re almost at the village. This village is famous for the fact that the lake nearby actually contains one of the few freshwater Ningyo Clans. The Ningyo Clan and this village work together in harmony, helping each other and supporting the other’s livelihoods. So it’s very important to not cause trouble for either, as it could cause conflict between them and us. And since we need all the allies we can get in this fight against Muu we cannot afford to create unnecessary friction between potential allies.”

“Considering the fact we’ve recently gained the Beastman Resistance as allies we do want to increase the number of supporting allies that we can get,” Nova said. “And hopefully I can find a way to hand off these crates of stolen goods out of my Digi-Pack to someone who can return them to their rightful places.”

“Running into a soldier or two from the capital would grant that,” Van said. “Though it’s a shame we can’t pinch an item or two from the crates, as some of them are things we need. But since we want more allies and not more enemies we can’t do that. Anyway, we should be seeing the village very shortly.”

The party made their way over a small hill and saw the large village next to the massive freshwater lake. They started to approach the village only to see some soldiers talking to the townsfolk.

“Uh-oh…” Nina said. “Something tells me something bad happened. We’d better check it out.”

The party dashed over to where the soldiers were talking to the townsfolk, all of whom had rather worried expressions.

Sir Reginald stepped up, “Excuse me, but is something the matter?”

One soldier turned to him, “Sir Reginald? That means you’re the Demon King’s champion party. Yes, something has happened here. The queen of the Ningyo Clan in the nearby lake is in trouble and if nothing is done she’ll die. However, no one knows how to help her, as her ‘ailment’ is rather peculiar.”

“What is this ‘ailment’?” Angelo asked.

A villager replied, “She’s been struck down by a curse that is slowly crystalizing her. It was one of Muu’s goons that did this to her. According to the Ningyo Clan they say only someone with a singing voice equal or superior to Queen Marnie can break the curse. However, not only is it impossible for anyone other than the Ningyo Clan to sing underwater, but Queen Marnie’s singing voice is so good no one has any hope of matching it.”

Sir Reginald nodded, “I understand. We might be able to help somehow. Lady Nina has an excellent singing voice, good as gold if not better, so she might be able to cure Queen Maria. We’ll look into the matter. But first, we need to ask if you soldiers could do us a favor.”

The second soldier quirked an eyebrow, “What kind of favor?”

Van replied, “We’ve managed to recover several crates of stolen goods from Muu’s army. They contain items that have been in very short supply lately. We’re hoping you can take them with you so they can be returned to where they belong.”

The third soldier replied, “We’ve been looking for those stolen goods. So it was Muu’s army that ambushed the shipments and stole them. How many crates do you have?”

Nova replied, “Nine to ten of them, give or take. Can we entrust you to handle them as I’ve been lugging them around in my special backpack for a while now.”

The first soldier nodded, “Yes, we can take them off your hands. Hopefully you can return the favor and save Queen Marnie. Let’s see them.”

Nova nodded and ejected all the crates of stolen goods from his Digi-Pack to the surprise of the villagers and soldiers. The soldiers opened up a few crates to examine the contents.

“Yes, these are a sizable chunk of the stolen goods. Freddy, you take them back to the capital so King Rand can start sorting out who and where they belong. We’ll remain here to see if this party can cure Queen Marnie.”

Freddy, one of the soldiers, nodded, “Yessir. I’ll be back as soon as I can.” He turned to the party, “Thank you for recovering these items. There are still a few remaining crates of stolen goods out there but these are a majority of them. King Rand will make sure the items are returned to their rightful owners and/or locations. See you in a bit. Teleport!”

He and the crates vanished in a burst of light.

Sir Reginald turned to the party, “Come on, team, let’s go to the lake and see if we can help the Ningyo Clan that resides there. If Lady Nina’s singing voice can cure Queen Marnie then we’ll have done our allies a good service. Let’s find out what we can do.”

The party left the village and started to head toward the large lake. They soon found a handful of Ningyo Clan members swimming around a beach, clearly worried. They were slightly different than the merfolk in the ocean, as their skin had a light bluish tint to them. But they were also naked, forcing Nova to avert his eyes from the females, making Nina smile. The merfolk noticed the party and swam up to the edge of the beach.

“Are you here to help Queen Marnie?” a male Ningyo Clan member asked.

Sir Reginald nodded, “Yes. We’re the Demon King’s champion party. We’ve been informed about your plight. We believe that Lady Nina’s singing voice can cure the queen.”

One of the females turned to Nina, quirking an eyebrow, “The Phoenix girl? I hope you’re right as no one in the land can match Queen Marnie’s voice. But if you are somehow capable of at least proving to be her equal in singing then we’d be very grateful if you can cure her.”

Zeeker scratched his chin, “The only question is… how is Nina going to sing underwater?”

Kettu suggested, “She could use Nova’s O2 Mask, since that allows the user to talk and breathe underwater, according to him.”

Nina shook her head, “No, that won’t do. While, yes, it will allow me to breathe underwater, it also garbles my voice a bit. And if we’re to have any hope of saving Queen Marnie I need my voice to be a full force. I do have an idea on how to solve this issue. I can use my Sea Witch Siren Shaman form to go underwater and complete the task set before us.”

Another male Ningyo Clan member looked surprised, “You can use Shaman magic? That’s a rare trait. And you already have an aquatic form that you can use? That’s even better. Then that should do the trick. We’d best hurry, as I don’t know how much longer Queen Marnie can hold out.”

Angelo stepped up, “I’ll come along with Nina as well, as my giant frog form can swim in these waters with ease. That way in case something happens I can help Nina and prevent her from drowning. After all, her Shaman form has a time limit and we don’t want it expiring before she returns to the surface.”

Nova nodded, “That’s a good idea, Angelo.” He turned to the Ningyo Clan members, still trying to not look at the naked females, “Is that okay with you?”

“If it saves Queen Marnie then we’re fine with it,” another female member said. “And it’s not like it could hurt. In any case, let us hurry and save Queen Marnie.”

Nina nodded, “Okay, let’s get this mission going.” She tapped two gems on her Shaman Magic Bracelet, “Water, Light. Elemental Energy Fusion activate!”

She was engulfed in swirling energy and when it dispersed the Sea Witch Siren was standing before them. She then dove into the water before poking her head out. Angelo then waded into the water and transformed into his giant frog form.

“We’ll be back as soon as we can,” Nina said. “Hold down the fort until we return.”

The various merfolk, Nina, and Angelo dove underwater, vanishing from view.

“Good luck,” Nova sighed sadly, clearly worried.

Meanwhile, the Ningyo Clan members were leading Nina and Angelo to their underwater kingdom. Nina’s gel-like lower body had transformed into a mermaid tail, allowing her to easily swim in the water, while her fin-like wings acted like rudders to stabilize and further support her. Angelo swam alongside her, proving to be quite fast when in his own element. They soon saw the underwater city where the other Ningyo Clan members were flitting about, clearly worried about their queen. Two guards swam up to the incoming group.

“Halt!” one said. “Who are you people?”

One of the male Ningyo Clan members replied, “These are two members of the Demon King’s champion party. They’re here to help save Queen Marnie.”

The guards looked at each other before moving aside.

“Then please hurry. Her Majesty can’t hold out much longer.”

The merfolk guided Nina and Angelo to the beautiful underwater palace. After a quick explanation to the other guards they led Nina deeper into the palace, Angelo staying behind due to being too big to progress further. They soon arrived in the royal bedchambers where the king was fretting over his wife. Queen Marnie was nearly completely crystalized and it was clear she was dying. The king turned to see his fellow merfolk and Nina approach.

“Please tell me this young woman is here to help!?” he said frantically.

One of the females nodded, “Yes, King Submari. She’s a member of the Demon King’s champion party. There’s a Hopper Clan member outside but he’s too big to follow us into the palace. Her party claims she’s got a golden singing voice so we hope she can save Queen Marnie.”

King Submari turned to Nina, “If you can save my wife I will be forever grateful. While I’m a tad skeptical that your singing voice is as good as Marnie’s I’m willing to take that gamble if it saves her. What is your name?”

Nina replied, “I’m Nina Firewing, a member of the Phoenix Clan and a former member of the Royal Family. Please don’t ask about my appearance as I’m using Shaman magic to transform myself to better suit the situation. Now, enough talk. Let me get to work, as I’m on a timer, and so is your queen.”

She gently swam over to Queen Marnie, who was looking very weak.

“As Nova would say: Here goes something.”

She cleared her throat, took a few deep breaths, and then started singing. The Ningyo Clan members were almost mesmerized at Nina’s golden voice. Nina sang to the best of her ability. As she did chunks of crystal that had formed all around Queen Marnie’s body started to break off and disintegrate, much to the excitement of the merfolk. Nina kept singing, doing everything she can to save the mermaid queen. Chunk after chunk of crystal broke off and vanished, slowly but surely freeing the queen from its suffocating clutches. After singing for a good 20 minutes the last chunk of crystal had broken off, freeing Queen Marnie from its grip to the delight of the merfolk. Queen Marnie slowly opened her eyes and looked at Nina.

“Never have I heard such a beautiful singing voice,” she said weakly. “Young lady, you’ve got a voice that makes even me jealous, and I take pride in my singing voice. And you saved me from a terrible fate. I thank you from the bottom of my aquatic heart. But… who are you? And… what are you? You don’t look like any type of clan member I’ve heard of before.”

Nina replied, “I’m Nina Firewing, a member of the Phoenix Clan and former member of the Royal Family. And I’m a proud member of the Demon King’s champion party. This form I’ve taken is through the power of Shaman magic, which I happen to be compatible with. That’s why I don’t look like any other type of clan member out there, as this is a specialized form created by Shaman magic.”

“I see… so you can use Shaman magic? That’s a rare gift. I thank you for what you’ve done for me. I am forever in your debt, young maiden of the sky. I’m still too weak to do anything right now but please take one of our prized Coral Flutes as thanks for what you’ve done for us. One of you please fetch it for her.”

One of the female Ningyo Clan members quickly swam off to fetch the Coral Flute. She soon retuned and handed it over to Nina. It was a beautiful flute made from a red coral branch. Nina smiled as she took it.

“Thank you for the kind gift, Your Majesty,” she replied. “I’ll take good care of it. Now, I must go, as I’m on a time limit down here; I can only sustain my Shaman form for a certain amount of time. Please excuse me.”

She quickly swam out of the royal bedchambers and back to Angelo who was waiting for her.

“How’d it go?” he asked.

“Success. And I got a Coral Flute as thanks. But we’ll discuss this later, as I’m starting to feel the Shaman form’s time limit expiring. Let’s go before I transform back and potentially drown.”

Angelo nodded and the duo quickly swam toward the surface, the Ningyo Clan members waving them off in gratitude. The duo were moving as fast as they could to reach the surface but the lake’s depth was providing a problem. Suddenly Nina stopped, her form began flickering, indicating her time was up.

“I’ll save you!” Angelo said.

To Nina’s shock he opened his mouth and stuffed her into it, closing it tightly to seal her in and keep the water out. He then started swimming as fast as he could to the surface. Nina had since transformed back into her normal self as she curled up uncomfortably inside Angelo’s large mouth.

“Not exactly how I wanted to return to the surface but beggars can’t be choosers,” she grumbled silently. “And I’m now covered in saliva. Blegh! This’ll take a lot to wash off. I just hope my feathers don’t tickle Angelo’s throat or I’ll be in even deeper trouble.”

Soon Angelo returned to the surface where the rest of the party was waiting. Nova gained a worried expression when he didn’t see Nina.

“Where’s Nina?” he asked, clearly surprised and worried.

Angelo opened his mouth, revealing a disgruntled Nina, who stumbled out of the inner cavity and fell into the water. She managed to return to the surface, showing she could at least tread water, before swimming back to shore. She waded back onto the beach, wet and annoyed, but it was clear she was grateful that she didn’t drown. Nova quickly ran over to her and helped her onto the shore.

“You okay, Nina?” he asked, clearly frantic.

She replied bitterly, “I’ve been better. But I’m also grateful that Angelo did come with me despite how he returned me to the surface, as my Shaman form’s time limit expired before I was even close enough to the surface. But I completed the mission. Queen Marnie has been saved and I got a Coral Flute as a reward. Turns out she considers my singing voice superior to hers, which I admit is very flattering. Now, let me dry off, especially now that I washed off all the saliva.”

She enveloped herself in her wings and started producing heat from them. After a few minutes she opened her wings, revealing she was now dry. Angelo hopped onto the beach and transformed back, looking quite sheepish.

“I’m sorry I had to do that, Nina,” he said in a nervous tone. “But it was the only way.”

Nina turned to him, “I’m not mad at you, Angelo, as desperate times call for desperate measures. I wasn’t happy about feeling like I was on the wrong end of a fork but I’m not going to blame you for it, as you did keep me from drowning. So I’m willing to give you a pass because you saved me.”

Sir Reginald said, “I must admit I’m surprised you can swim, Lady Nina. I thought Phoenix Clan members couldn’t swim due to their wings getting too heavy when wet.”

“My Magic Fire Feathers create a glossy cover over my wings. It helps repel water and keeps them from getting too heavy when wet. Plus the fact they’re emitting Fire energy means they can dry off very quickly. So, as a result, I can swim because it’s harder for my wings to get wet. Plus I have very strong legs which further aid my swimming ability. I can’t swim perfectly but I’m at least able to do the breaststroke, front crawl, float, and tread water, so I’m not helpless in the water like the rest of my clan are. Chalk up one more win for me against my people.”

Suddenly, they all heard something. They looked out at the water to see King Submari and several Ningyo Clan members cheering them. Nova averted his eyes from the females, with Van doing the same.

King Submari smiled, “Thank you, Demon King’s champion party. We owe you a great debt of gratitude.”

Sir Reginald asked, “How’s Queen Marnie?”

“Recovering. She’s still very weak but she’ll be back to swimming form soon enough. I thank you from the bottom of my heart for saving her. You’re quite fortunate to have Miss Nina in your ranks, as she’s got a singing voice that even my wife is jealous of. And it’s clear you all are very strong. Which brings me to the reason why I’m here. We need you to deal with the one who cursed my wife. It’s one of Muu’s baddies and we’re hoping you can slay him before he returns and repeats the process.”

“Who cursed her?” Angelo asked.

“Some Undead Captain named Captain Aquamarrow. We’ve never heard of him but he’s an aquatic Undead Captain. We thought only Boneacuda was an aquatic Undead Captain but apparently Muu has another one.”

Nova pondered before saying, “He might be a new creation of Muu’s. To explain briefly, every now and then Muu creates new Undead Captains by fusing a fallen soul he’s captured with an Undead Soldier. These Undead Captains are stronger, tend to have various special abilities, and, as of recently, possess elemental abilities. This Aquamarrow may be one of those types of Undead Captains. He’s also probably one of Muu’s attempts to counter our Shaman forms, which is the main reason why he’s been creating these types of Undead Captains with elemental affinities.”

King Submari pondered for a moment before saying, “So Muu can create special Undead Captains by using captured fallen souls and fusing them with Undead Soldiers? And he’s recently been experimenting with ones having elemental affinities? This is not good, as it could mean he could replace Undead Captains he’s lost and simply take back liberated areas.”

Kettu replied, “Yes, that’s pretty much the point of them. Plus they’re also stronger than your garden variety Undead Captains, requiring more powerful skills and abilities to take down, sometimes needing combos. But destroying the body will free the trapped soul and allow it to safely ascend, so it’s a priority to destroy such Undead Captains both to limit Muu’s options and save the trapped soul. If you can point us in the direction where this Aquamarrow is we’ll deal with him to prevent any other problems you might face.”

“We’d be very grateful if you could do that for us. Especially since you seem to have experience dealing with Undead Captains like that. He and his Undead Army platoon will probably come back here in hopes of harvesting my wife’s soul very soon, so I suggest you go to the village nearby and wait for him there. If you can take him out it would bring great relief to us.”

Sir Reginald nodded, “You can rely on us. We’ll take care of Aquamarrow and free this area from him.”

King Submari bowed, “You have our thanks. Good luck. Let us return to our underwater kingdom, my subjects, and await the good news from our new allies.”

The various merfolk nodded and waved goodbye to the party before diving back into the water. The party returned to the village to report what had happened and request help in keeping an eye out for Aquamarrow and his platoon, which the village agreed. They then started to gather up supplies, as they knew a big battle was on the horizon.

Next Chapter: Washed Out

That's all for today. Nina's golden voice certainly saved the day, as did Angelo's frog form. Tomorrow will be another battle for the heroes. Will they be able to defeat Aquamarrow? Tune in to find out.
 

CynthiaLover

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Time for the next chapter of Dawn of Courage. (Warning: contains mild violence, sexual suggestions, male nudity, female nudity)

Washed Out


It was the following day after Nina and Angelo had saved Queen Marnie from her curse. The party was tense, as they knew that Captain Aquamarrow could potentially show up soon. They knew they had to stop him before he cursed someone else or tried to harvest souls for Muu.

Sir Reginald looked out a window in the inn, saying grimly, “Captain Aquamarrow should be arriving very soon. We need to get the drop on him before he can cause the Ningyo Clan here anymore problems.”

Kettu was polishing his daggers, replying, “Yes, and since we don’t know much about this foe we can’t map out an effective plan. Guess we’ll have to wing it this time.”

Nova stated, “Not entirely true, Kettu. We know that Aquamarrow is of the Water element, so we can counter that with the Wood and Lightning elements. Which means certain Shaman forms, like Nymph Wing, Guardian of Edyn, and Shadow Fox would be very effective against him. We can’t use Fire or Earth forms against him lest we run the risk of him knocking them out of commission, but we do still have options to work with.”

Van nodded, “Yes, that is true, Nova. We do have some options available to us and we do know at least some basic information on Aquamarrow. So it looks like we’ll have to use those forms against him so he can’t cause anymore problems to the surrounding area.”

Nina sighed, “Great. I gotta use Nymph Wing again. Not looking forward to that. But it has to be done if we’re to take down a more powerful foe and potentially free the captured soul inside of him.”

Just then a villager ran up to the party, saying, “Captain Aquamarrow has been spotted! He’s heading toward the lake from the western side! Please, take him out before he can cause more problems for both us and the Ningyo Clan living here!”

Sir Reginald stood up, “Right, we’re on it. Team, let’s move out. We’ve got boneheads to bust.”

The party nodded and quickly started to make their way outside and toward the lake. They could see some Ningyo Clan members watching from the water, as they knew Aquamarrow was nearby. The merfolk became more relaxed as they saw the party run up to the west side of the lake to intercept Muu’s army. When the party was in position the various merfolk quickly dove underwater to avoid getting in the crossfire. It wasn’t long before the party spotted their target. A moderately large force of Undead Soldiers was approaching them. And in the lead was a rather formidable-looking foe.

“The one in front must be Aquamarrow,” Zeeker growled.

Captain Aquamarrow was a skeletal knight whose body seemed to be made of water, donning strong armor, a swordfish skeleton-shaped head with flickering green eyes, and was wielding a harpoon. The party could see a glowing sphere inside his armor, indicating it was a captured soul. He and his Undead Army platoon stopped about 30 meters away from the party.

“So, you’re the annoyances that ruined my plan to harvest Queen Marnie’s soul,” he growled. “Her soul would’ve made for a powerful Undead Captain. Looks like Master Muu was right about you seven being a major thorn in his side. And you even managed to kill Boneacuda to boot. No matter. I, Captain Aquamarrow, will harpoon you like a whale and present your souls to Master Muu. You won’t be interfering with my master’s plans anymore. Undead Soldiers… attack!”

The Undead Soldiers charged in; weapons held high, ready for battle.

Nina, Van, and Kettu tapped their respective Shaman Magic Bracelets, stating, “Elemental Energy Fusion activate!”

The were engulfed in swirling energy, causing the Undead Soldiers to stop briefly. When the energy dispersed standing before them were the Nymph Wing, Guardian of Edyn, and Shadow Fox.

“Those Shaman powers are getting to be quite a problem,” Aquamarrow growled. “That’s why I was created. Stop gawking and attack them!”

The Undead Soldiers regained their focus and charged. Van barreled through them, Kettu wove between them, and Nina flew over them, all three confronting Aquamarrow. The rest of the party stood their ground to face the Undead Soldiers.

“Fine, I’ll kill you three first. Geyser!”

The ground started to shake, prompting the trio to dodge as a geyser erupted underneath where they were standing
previously. Nina hovered above Aquamarrow.

“Night-night, fishbone,” she said. “Sleep Spores!”

She started to spin, causing sleep spores to float off her body and rain down upon Aquamarrow. The spores had an immediate effect, as Aquamarrow quickly became drowsy before falling asleep.

“My spores won’t last forever so start attacking while you have the chance!”

Van reared up on his hind legs, stating, “My turn! Thorn Spears!”

He fired several large thorns from his spears at Aquamarrow, pummeling him with a barrage of power. It was clear he was feeling the attack but the Sleep Spores kept him asleep.

Kettu growled, “I’m up at bat! Strike Razing Claw!”

His claws glowed before charging in and giving the Undead Captain a powerful slash, tearing open his armor and revealing the soul within it.

“Hurricane Winds!” Nina shouted.

She fired whips of wind from her fingertips that lashed and bashed at Aquamarrow. However, this ended up being the needed damage to awaken him. His eyes glowed menacingly as he came to his senses.

“You little worms will pay for that!” he snapped. “Mud Wave!”

He summoned a massive tidal wave of mud that raced toward the trio.

Van stated, “I got this! Poison Ivy!”

He summoned a wall of ivy that shielded the party, blocking the mud and preventing it from hurting the trio, much to Aquamarrow’s surprise.

“Let’s see you handle this!” Kettu sneered. “Carnivines Chaos!”

There was a brief pause followed by giant carnivorous vines erupting from underground and surrounding Aquamarrow. They then lunged at the Undead Captain and began biting and ripping his body apart, making the Undead Captain scream in pain.

Nina hovered up above, stating, “Time for some flower power. Flower Cannon!”

She fired the condensed energy shot at Aquamarrow, who was too busy trying to fight off the carnivorous vines to notice the incoming attack. By the time he did notice it the energy blast struck him, ravaging his body with powerful energies, stunning him. This gave the carnivorous vines an opening and managed to rip both his arms off.

“I’ll handle the cleanup, boys. Forbidden Temptation!”

She struck a pose and blew a kiss at Captain Aquamarrow. This kiss transformed into multiple rose petals that fluttered around the Undead Captain, causing his eyes to become hearts. However, the rose petals then suddenly exploded in surprisingly large blasts that tore his body apart, leaving only the trapped soul behind. At that time the rest of the party had finished off the Undead Soldiers and gathered around to see who this soul was. The soul started to take shape, revealing itself to be a rather regal female.

Sir Reginald asked, “You wouldn’t happen to be Queen Maria’s sister, would you?”

The woman nodded, “Yes, I am her older twin sister, Maylu. I thank you for freeing me from that terrible form. Being used as a power source for one of Muu’s minions is a horrible feeling on its own, much less the actual experience of feeling like your very essence is being syphoned away. I feel great relief knowing that I’m finally free from that Undead Captain’s body. Thank you from the bottom of my heart. Now I can see my sister one last time and bring her some peace of mind knowing that I’ve been freed from my prison. But there are many more souls within Muu’s clutches, and several of them have been used to create Undead Captains like I was. Please, I implore you to save them like you saved me.”

Angelo smiled, “Do not worry, Your Majesty, we have every intention of doing so. We intend to take this fight to Muu’s throne room doors so you can rest easy knowing that we will free all those souls he’s captured.”

Maylu smiled, “Music to my ears. Before I ascend I will let my sister know you saved me, as it’ll bring her great relief. She and I bickered like Devil Cats and Wood Dogs but we’re still sisters. At least now she can rest easy knowing that I’m no longer in Muu’s clutches. Please, keep fighting, brave warriors. You may be our best chance to stopping Muu once and for all. Don’t give up and bring peace and prosperity to Edyn once again. Farewell and thank you again.”

She transformed into a glowing sphere and zipped off toward the direction of Emerald Coast Kingdom. The party gained relaxed expressions.

“Good work, team,” Sir Reginald said. “We successfully defeated another powerful Undead Captain, freed the trapped soul, and completed Queen Maria’s request in rescuing her sister’s soul. That’s a job well done.”

Suddenly they all heard cheering. The party turned to see the Ningyo Clan cheering and applauding them from the lake. They approached the lake as King Submari swam over to the shore.

“Thank you, brave warriors,” he said with a smile. “You saved this area from a terrible threat. Now both the nearby village and our underwater kingdom can rest easy knowing that our enemy is vanquished. You have our thanks.”

Zeeker nodded, “You’re welcome. How’s Queen Marnie doing?”

“Still recovering but she’s doing better regardless. It’ll be a while before she’s back to swimming form but she’s getting there. At least now we don’t have to worry about Aquamarrow giving us more grief ever again. She sends her thanks for what you’ve done for us.”

Van bowed, “We were glad to assist, Your Majesty. We’ll make sure Muu pays for his evil ways.”

“Music to my ears. Time for us to return to our underwater homes. Thank you once again and keep fighting, as our futures depend on you.”

“No pressure,” Nova said dryly.

The various merfolk chuckled at Nova’s statement before diving underwater, King Submari doing the same.

“Well, that’s that,” Kettu said. “Another Undead Captain defeated and we can continue onward.”

Sir Reginald nodded, “Indeed, Kettu. I suggest you, Van, and Lady Nina revert to normal, as the battle has ended and the threat has passed.”

“Cancel Fusion!” Nina, Van, and Kettu said in unison.

They were engulfed in swirling energy. Before long they had returned to normal. Nova gently grabbed Nina by the waist, lifting her up, making her smile.

“Nina, you did good today in your Nymph Wing form,” he said warmly. “I know you don’t like it but you clearly did your best. You should be especially proud, as you’ve been a key player in these recent events. After all, no one else could’ve cured Queen Marnie before the curse killed her, and you dealt the killing blow to Aquamarrow. You should feel pretty proud of yourself.”

She purred, “Thank you, Nova, for saying something like that. While I really don’t like my Nymph Wing form I can’t deny that my Shaman forms were crucial in these recent events. But I didn’t do it alone, after all. Everyone played their part, including you. Now, enough talk, let’s go back to the inn to rest and start mapping out our next destination.”

The party nodded, with Nova gently putting his lover down on the ground. They returned to the village, where they were greeted by the grateful villagers. They had secured another foothold against Muu but they also knew that stronger enemies lay before them.

Next Chapter: Cain’s Chaotic Comeback

That's all for today. Looks like Aquamarrow is all washed up. Tune in next time to see what our heroes face.
 

CynthiaLover

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Time for the next chapter of Dawn of Courage. (Warning: contains mild language)

Cain’s Chaotic Comeback


It had been a few days since the party vanquished Captain Aquamarrow and his Undead Army platoon. They were heading toward the next town. Sir Reginald was in the lead, as usual, guiding the party with his map and trusty compass.

“Okay, our next stop is a pretty major trading town,” he said. “It will be a good place to do some business, especially because some of our weapons are getting a bit worn out.”

Nina looked at her Starlight Topaz Rings, which were getting pretty dull, replied, “I’ll say. We’ve been doing a lot of fighting lately; be it monsters or Muu’s army. Getting some upgrades to our equipment would be ideal, as the fights will only get tougher. So we should check out any weapon shops or merchants to see what we can get.”

Zeeker looked at his King Cobra Claws, which were getting worn, nodded, “Yeah, we’re due for some weapon upgrades. Might not hurt to see what we can find while we’re getting supplies and such. And maybe Nova could market some of his magical accessories for extra spending cash. I’m certain other traveling warriors would love the stuff he’s made recently.”

Nova nodded, “I was thinking the same thing. And if this town is large enough maybe we could market some of the larger monster parts we have, like Gargathox horns and Basilisk tusks. That’ll earn us some good money.”

Van looked ahead, saying, “I see the town from here. Let’s get going.”

The party made their way toward the town. It was a large one filled with people of all shapes and sizes. Merchants had parked their carts and opened up their stock to show off their goods, children and pets played in the streets, and women were gossiping in clusters. The party looked around, trying to get a feel for the town.

“Let’s take care of business,” Sir Reginald said. “Let’s sell some of our monster parts to get spending cash so we can purchase the needed supplies. Hopefully we can find things like Nuts Oil here since we managed to recover some of the stolen shipments. After that Nova can set up some of his magical accessories and see if anyone wants to buy a few. Let’s go.”

The party nodded and started to take care of what needed to be done. After selling some of the monster parts they had, including more valuable ones, they roamed the shops and merchants to purchase supplies and new weapons. After collecting a satisfactory amount of items, Nova laid out a large blanket and put out his collection of handmade magical accessories. It wasn’t long before some traveling warriors took an interest in his stock.

“You’re selling magical accessories?” a scruffy-looking swordsman asked.

Nova nodded, “Yes. And these are my custom creations. You won’t find magical accessories like these elsewhere. Feel free to browse. If you have any questions just ask.”

Nina, who was sitting next to him, smiled, “He’s right. You won’t find any other merchant selling these rare and custom creations. We’ve got things that you thought weren’t possible. So take a moment to check out my beloved’s stock, as this may be your only chance to get some.”

Curious, the group of warriors examined the various magical accessories that Nova had placed out. They were indeed interested in these unique items.

One man, who looked like a teenage warlock from the Magic Clan, held up an item, asking, “What’s this? It looks like it has a Molebear Claw in it.”

Nova replied, “That’s the Earth Aura Gauntlet. Like the name states it produces an Earth elemental aura around the user and their allies to protect them from most attacks, sans Wind and Ice, which will break the auras. In short, it grants the same ability that a Molebear Claw grants normally, but not only does it affect the whole party but it’s also reusable. In other words, it’s a magical accessory that allows you to use a Molebear Claw’s effect an unlimited number of times.”

The four warriors that were examining the goods went wide eyed as they heard this.

“Y-You’re kidding,” the scruffy swordsman sputtered. “You mean to tell us that you figured out how to turn a one-use item into a multi-use item?”

Nina giggled, “That he did. It was quite genius, I admit. We’ve tested all these items ourselves so we know they work. If you want you’re free to give it a test run. Just equip it to your arm and state ‘Earth Aura activate’, and boom! But don’t just take my word for it. Give it a whirl. Oh, and to deactivate it you just need to say ‘Earth Aura deactivate’ and it’ll stop.”

The teenage warlock strapped the Earth Aura Gauntlet to his arm, took a deep breath, and said, “Earth Aura activate!”

The Molebear Claw glowed inside the capsule and four brownish auras formed around the warriors. They looked the auras over, testing them a bit, and looked in the capsule where the Molebear Claw was. To their surprise it was still intact.

“Earth Aura deactivate!”

The capsule glowed and the auras vanished, with the Molebear Claw still intact. They exchanged surprised looks before looking at Nova with eyes as wide as saucers.

“How much?” the teenage warlock asked, clearly impressed.

Nova opened up a notebook and flipped through the pages before saying, “The Earth Aura Gauntlet will come to 45 silver.”

“Deal!”

The warlock quickly took out 45 silver coins and paid Nova, who pocketed the money. The warlock took a moment to admire his new accessory, clearly impressed. The resulting display caused several other traveling warriors to gain an immediate interest in Nova’s stock.

Zeeker smirked, “Brace yourself, Nova, as your ‘shop’ is about to become very popular.”

Several warriors rushed over to check out Nova’s special magical accessories, clearly eager to try some. For about an hour Nova did business with the various warriors who wanted some of his items. After the last mage walked away with a new item in tow Nova closed up his ‘shop’.

“Wow, you really made out like a bandit today, Nova,” Kettu chuckled.

“I think I did pretty good,” Nova replied simply as he packed up his stuff.

Nina embraced him, smiling and giving him a kiss, “You did more than ‘pretty good’, beloved. Now we have plenty of money to work with, as like you said, every coin counts when on the road. Guess we’re gonna have to make more since those warriors and mages took a sizable bite out of your inventory. But kudos on a job well done, as you’ve really become quite talented in crafting high-quality magical accessories. And the whole reason you started this endeavor was to make me a gift so you could court me.”

Nova blushed as Nina nuzzled her head against his, fluttering her wings a bit, clearly showing her affection to her lover.

Sir Reginald chuckled, “In any case, let’s head for the inn, as we’ve done enough for one day. Let’s rest on our laurels and get something to eat, as we worked hard today.”

Van sighed, “It’s a shame I still can’t find any Nuts Oil. Part of me is yelling at myself for not swiping one bottle from the stolen shipments and writing it off as Muu’s doing. But as a warrior of honor I cannot allow myself to stoop to such levels. Hopefully the capital will have some since that’ll be our next major stop. But, for now, let’s go to the inn and rest.”

Nodding the party made their way to the inn. They paid for their rooms and sat down in the dining room, as it was nearly time to eat. It wasn’t long before they had their dinner, eagerly tucking into the food. After the plates were clear they retired for the night.

Late that night a figure stopped just short of the town. He was concealed in darkness but he seemed very familiar. He looked at the inn and his eyes gleamed.

“I finally found you, my winged maiden,” he said in a smooth voice. “And this time I’ll prove to you that you’re better off with me than that pink-haired loser.”

The next morning came and the party was enjoying their breakfast. They engaged in casual conversation while eating the delicious meal. Nova, however, was rather quiet, seemingly a bit tense. This change in demeanor didn’t go unnoticed by Nina.

“Beloved?” she asked gently. “Is everything okay? You seem a bit tense. Did you sleep okay?”

Nova replied, “I gotta bad feeling that something is waiting for us outside. Something none of us want to deal with.”

The party went dead silent, clearly dreading what Nova meant.

“Oh, for the love of the Goddess, please don’t tell me it’s Dominic…” Kettu groaned.

Nova shook his head, “No, it doesn’t feel like Dominic. Feels just as annoying, but not the same feeling that Dominic gives me. No, this one feels… different. Fairly new yet still familiar.”

Angelo’s eyes widened, “I think I know who you mean. That warrior we met a while back. The one that tried to turn the inn we were at into a ‘love nest’ for him and Nina. While we didn’t get his name last time we met him I’m willing to bet it’s him.”

Zeeker growled, “That Casanova warrior wannabe with the spear that’s probably compensating for his own ‘spear’, right? I was afraid we hadn’t seen the last of him. Think that’s him you’re sensing, Nova?”

Nova nodded, “Yeah, seems about right. I think it’s him. I’ve been sensing him since last night. …I must be getting really paranoid if someone like him is enough to ruffle my feathers, since he’s a pretty good example of a paper tiger. I mean, Nina’s never gonna leave me, so why do I get so worried over another man getting in between us?”

Van replied, “True, but you also almost lost Nina to Prince… I mean King Falkner. And you were willing to step aside for her sake before that whole dilemma blew up thank to former King Fredric making a mountain out of a molehill. So you do have reasons to be concerned about another man trying to start a cockfight with you since that’s what happened back with King Falkner, albeit he was just as unwilling to go through with that duel as much as you were. And it tends to happen fairly frequently, mainly thanks to Eoleo and his racism toward humans, though other guys do get in the mix.”

Nina sighed, “Yeah, that’s true. Though Nova’s had a few incidents where a good-looking woman has tried to take him away from me. Joy certainly comes to mind, at least before she shifted tracks to Angelo. At least I can always count on Nova’s loyalty regardless of how many babes he sees naked. I just wish guys like Dominic and Eoleo would take a hint and realize I’m not interested in them. I’m quite happy with Nova and don’t want anyone else getting in our way. Great, now I’m almost paranoid to go outside. But we have to so we might as well face this goon and get it over with. Maybe Nova can cast Banish on him to send him far, far away.”

Zeeker grinned, “That’s a thought. I suggest you file that away for later, Nova, since it might at least delay his return to harassing you and Nina.”

“Tempting… very, very tempting,” Nova said. “I’ll keep that in mind, as it would help keep him off our backs for at least a little while. For now let’s finish breakfast and go outside to face the music. But I’ll keep the idea of using Banish on him on the backburners in case he gets too rambunctious.”

The party nodded, seemingly agreeing on the “plan” before resuming eating. After the plates were cleared they gathered up their stuff, took a deep breath, and left the inn, knowing their “target” was waiting for them outside. Sure enough, no more than ten steps out of the inn the young spearman emerged from behind a tree, making everyone groan.

“Yep, it’s him again,” Kettu sighed. “Nova, either your paranoia is becoming extremely accurate on what ‘threat’ is waiting for us or you’re a fortune teller that can predict the future.”

“I’m leaning more toward the former than the latter, Kettu,” Nova replied. He then faced the spearman, “Whattya want now, pointy stick boy? Hasn’t Nina made it clear enough that she wants nothing to do with you? Especially after your royal blunder back with that Undead Base and its occupants.”

The man replied, “That was then and this is now. And by the way, the name’s Cain Champ, a man destined to be king of the world. And I want the maiden Nina to be my queen.”

Nina huffed, “Over your dead body. I want nothing to do with a self-important, self-entitled, smarmy, sleezy scumbag like you. I’m quite happy with my beloved Nova, who has more talent in his little finger than you do in your whole body. Just buzz off and leave me alone. I’ve got enough slimeball men chasing after me, thus I don’t need another one added to that list.”

Cain shivered in pleasure, “Feisty. I like my women like that. That only makes you more perfect to be my queen. Ditch that pink-haired loser and come join the winning team.”

“Considering I’m already on the winning team I don’t have to do anything of the sort. You couldn’t scratch Muu’s forces while Nova was capable of taking out an entire platoon by himself on his first day of being summoned to Edyn. Really, that spear on your back is clearly compensating for your own ‘spear’, as you can’t hack it compared to Nova’s impressive body count of Muu’s forces. Now go away before we make you go away.”

“Like I said, babe, that was then and this is now. I realized I needed to improve myself in order to prove my worth. And I’ve done just that. Now I’m leagues ahead of pink bow boy, although that’s not difficult. But I’ll show you how tough I am. I even have a powerful familiar now, one that’ll crush anything Muu tries to pull.”

Van quirked an eyebrow, “Then how does that make YOU any better? Granted, familiars do grant their masters special bonuses but I sincerely doubt you gaining a familiar would make you stronger than Nova.”

Cain narrowed his eyes at Van, stating, “I’ll just have to prove it to you, pony boy.” He bit his thumb, producing blood, before stating strongly, “Quickstrike, come forth!”

A summoning circle appeared, followed by a burst of black smoke, and soon a Demon Weasel familiar was standing next to Cain.

Zeeker looked unimpressed, “A Demon Weasel? Really? That’s your great and powerful familiar. News flash: Demon Weasels are only Level 3 Familiars, meaning they’re not super strong. Especially compared to Nova’s familiar your weasel is a weakling.”

The Demon Weasel hissed angrily though Zeeker was still unimpressed.

Cain spat, “Oh? Is that so? Then show me your ‘mighty’ familiar, pink boy!”

Nova gave a resigned sigh, taking out a Summoning Sticker, “Fine. If it’ll shut you up then so be it. I really hate summoning my familiar for such trivial reasons but if it stomps you into place then fine.” He placed the Summoning Sticker on the back of his right hand before stating strongly, “Elora, come forth!”

The Summoning Sticker glowed, followed by a summoning circle appearing, then a burst of fire and smoke and soon Elora was standing next to Nova. Kain and his Demon Weasel jumped in alarm, along with surprising anyone else who happened to be nearby and observing the situation.

“A G-Gorgon Viper?!” the obnoxious punk sputtered. “Since when do you have a freaking Gorgon Viper?!”

Nova gently stroked Elora under the chin, saying calmly, “I’ve had her for quite some time. She was actually a wild familiar that I nursed back to health, earning me her loyalty. She will not hesitate to defend me from anything she or I perceive as a threat. And since her species are Undead hunters that makes her the perfect familiar for someone who’s tasked to deal with Muu’s army. Face it: your Demon Weasel is a wuss compared to Elora, who has roasted many Undead Soldiers and other enemies like they were gnats. She’s more than I could’ve ever asked for in a familiar and I’m quite proud of her for many reasons. So I think it’s safe to say my familiar is more impressive and powerful compared to yours.”

Elora nuzzled against Nova, clearly happy at the praise. She then locked her eyes on Cain and his Demon Weasel, both of which looking rather nervous. She narrowed her eyes and gave a loud roar that caused Quickstrike to return himself to the Spirit Plane in fright, leaving Cain alone.

Nina smirked, “Heart of a lion your Demon Weasel has. Face it, Cain, you never stood a chance. I’ve been in love with Nova since the very beginning and nothing will change that. You can harass me and challenge Nova to all the cockfights you want it won’t change anything. I could never love someone like you, as you’re exactly the type of man I can’t stand. So just back off and leave me alone. I’m very happy with Nova and nothing will get in our way. Be it you, an annoying stalker Werecat, or even Muu. I highly suggest you back off before you get hurt or killed. And no, I’m not saying that because I’m concerned for you. I’m saying that because it’s for your own good. So beat it you deadbeat and leave battle to the real warriors, punk. Gang, let’s get going, as we’ve got boneheads to bash in. And I don’t just mean Cain here.”

Elora gave another roar before spewing hellfire on Kain, burning him with a vengeance. When she stopped her attack Cain was badly burned and charred, causing him to fall onto his back. Nova gently stroked Elora under the chin, making her purr.

“Good girl,” he said. “That’ll show this punk who’s top dog. Or familiar, in your case. Sorry I had to bother you for something so trivial but if gets him to back off then your help is appreciated. Thanks again, Elora. To the Spirit Plane.”

Elora gave a happy hiss as she vanished in a flurry of sparkles. The party looked at the scorched Cain with disgust before moving on, leaving the village and heading to their next destination. Cain gingerly sat up and glared at the party.

“Don’t count me out just yet,” he growled. “I’ll show you. I’ll show all of you that I’m superior to that so-called ‘champion’. Just you wait, or my name isn’t Cain Champ. But first… a trip to the village medic…”

Next Chapter: Interference and Improvising

That's all for today. I told you we hadn't seen the last of Cain. Tune in next time to see what our heroes face.
 

CynthiaLover

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Time for the next chapter of Dawn of Courage. (Warning: contains mild language, mild violence)

Interference and Improvising


The party was making their way down the main road toward their next destination. Sir Reginald was in the lead, as usual, guiding the party. He took a look at his map, looked at the compass he was holding, and did a quick calculation.

“Okay, team, here’s the deal,” he said. “We won’t be able to reach the capital before nightfall. We’ll have to stop at a magical campsite along the way. But after that it’ll be a straight shot to the capital. There we’ll talk with King Rand to get the scoop on what’s been going on. Not to mention we’ll see if we can get some information on the revived Beastman Resistance.”

Zeeker looked up into the sky, saying, “I still can’t believe the Beastman Resistance lives. I was certain that after such a crushing defeat the survivors, if any, would’ve thrown in the towel. Shows what I know, as they clearly didn’t give up, unlike me. Makes me feel a bit ashamed for running with my tail in between my legs.”

Nina replied, “Don’t worry too much about it, Zeeker. I doubt they rebounded right away, as it was a pretty harsh loss. But you did still take up the fight again so you shouldn’t feel ashamed. You just needed a little extra push, that’s all. Nothing wrong with that. The fact that you’re aiding us in this mission proves that once motivated you’re willing to go the distance, which is a good trait to have. So don’t worry about it, Zeeker, as I’m certain your old allies will be happy to just see you, much less have you assist them like old times.”

Zeeker gave a small smile, “Thanks, Nina, that means a lot. I guess I should just be grateful that there were more survivors than I originally thought. Enough survivors to be able to start rebuilding the resistance. Hopefully we can help them in some shape or form.”

Van looked ahead, saying, “Hang on, gang, I see something up ahead. It looks like a merchant cart or two.”

Nina narrowed her eyes as she focused on that direction, “Yeah, you’re right, Van. I see two merchant carts. I hope nothing bad has happened.”

Sir Reginald replied, “Let’s check it out.”

The party quickly dashed over to where the two merchant carts were. The merchants seemed to be hesitant to enter a forest. The party walked up to them, redirecting their attention to the party.

“Oh, warriors!” one said excitedly. “Maybe you can help us?”

“What seems to be the problem?” Angelo asked.

“We need to deliver these goods to the capital but we’re hesitant to go through Crescent Moon Woods. That’s because there has been an increase in monster attacks in there lately. Sadly, if we go around the forest it would take an extra few days; going through it is faster. But we’re not warriors so we cannot fight off the monsters in the forest. Do you think you can escort us? We’ll pay you for your help, of course. But would you be willing to escort us through the forest?”

Sir Reginald replied, “I don’t see why not. We have to go through Crescent Moon Woods ourselves so it would be in everyone’s best interest. Maybe if we deal with the monsters in there it’ll make it easier for travelers and merchants to go through the woods. Do you have any idea of what types of monsters tend to lurk in these woods?”

The second merchant replied, “Things like Iron Shellers, Honey Bombers, and various Nut monsters. So if you could help us get past them we’d be very grateful.”

Sir Reginald nodded, “Fine, we accept. Let’s get going while there’s still light in the day.”

The party nodded and began escorting the merchants through the woods. Little did they know a familiar face was following them from afar.

The woods were deep and dark, but the main road could easily be seen from within it. The party kept their eyes and ears open for any threats.

Nova asked, “So, what are Iron Shellers, Honey Bombers, and these Nut monsters?”

Nina replied, “Iron Shellers are large armadillo-like monsters. They can curl themselves into iron armored balls to ram their enemies. Very little can survive their charges. Honey Bombers are large bees or wasps that have a honeycomb lower body. They release from said honeycombs drones that explode upon contact with the target. They’re an interesting case: while the monsters themselves are of the Wood element their drone attack is of the Fire element. They can also slash the target with their claws. And finally there are three breeds of Nut monsters: Nut Knight, Nut Bowman, and Nut Caster. They tend to work together like their own version of a party. They’re all of the Wood element so Fire attacks are especially useful on them. They’re also quite weak, as even a simple Fireball can take them out with ease, especially AOE spells. But they tend to gang up on prey, using numbers to bolster their low power, which can increase their threat level. That’s the basic rundown on those monsters.”

“Thank you. Now I know what to expect.”

Van’s ears started to twitch, prompting him to hold his arm out, stopping the group.

“Hold on, gang, I think I hear something,” he said.

Everyone went silent, trying to detect the sound Van was hearing. Zeeker and Kettu twitched their ears, trying to pinpoint the mysterious sound.

Kettu growled, “Yeah, I hear it to. Sounds like the clinking of an Iron Sheller’s shell. We’d best get ready, as I hear a few of them.”

Nodding the party drew their weapons, ready for their unknown enemy. Suddenly, several somethings dashed out from the underbrush and charged at the party.

“Barrier!” Sir Reginald stated.

He erected a barrier around the party and merchants. The unknown creatures rammed into the barrier, making Sir Reginald flinch, but the barrier held strong, causing the attackers to bounce off it, revealing them to be iron balls. The iron balls uncurled themselves, revealing their true forms.

“Yep, those are Iron Shellers,” Angelo said.

The Iron Shellers looked like heavily armored mammals similar to armadillos, only they had larger, rather angry eyes, sharp fangs that seemed to be too big to fit in their mouths, shovel-like claws, and a tail ending in a spike. They were dazed from ramming Sir Reginald’s barrier but quickly regained their senses. They started to move their legs, indicating they were going to charge again, eyes narrowing, ready to strike again.

A voice then said, “Leave these beasties to me!”

The party groaned as Cain appeared, brandishing his spear heroically.

“Friend of yours?” one of the merchants asked.

“Hardly,” Nina replied bitterly. “Unless you consider a stalker a ‘friend’.”

Cain readied his spear, stating, “I will smite these monsters on your behalf, my lady! Meteor Throw!”

He threw his spear, which was now coated in fire energy, at one of the Iron Shellers. It merely tucked itself into its iron ball form before the spear struck it, creating a small explosion. Cain’s spear returned to him after the attack finished, only to see, to his horror, that the Iron Sheller was unharmed, as it merely uncurled itself. The five monsters glared at Cain, curled up into their iron ball form, and began rolling in his direction. Cain screamed and started running but the Iron Shellers were too fast and quickly ran him over, flattening him into the dirt, leaving a Cain-shaped hole in the ground. The Iron Shellers turned while still in their iron ball form and rammed Sir Reginald’s barrier again, but they were unable to pierce it, stunning themselves again.

Nova nocked an arrow onto his bow, saying, “Let’s take them out before they recover! Demon Mode! Snipe!”

The Demon King Ring adjusted itself, now set to Demon Mode. The arrowhead then gained what looked like a ghostly skull before Nova fired it. The arrow struck one of the Iron Shellers, causing the ghostly skull to “swallow” the monster before dispersing. The Iron Sheller went wide eyed before flopping onto its side, dead.

Kettu raced out of the barrier toward another Iron Sheller, saying, “My turn! Cutthroat!”

His daggers glowed before slashing at one of the still-stunned Iron Shellers. Like the Snipe skill this caused a ghostly skull to “swallow” the monster, causing it to fall flat, now dead. Kettu quickly retreated back to the safety of the barrier as the remaining monsters had regained their senses. The Iron Shellers charged again, this time targeting the same spot. They rammed the barrier, making Sir Reginald flinch, but the barrier remained unharmed, merely bouncing them back. At the time Cain was slowly coming to his senses. He managed to peel his head out of the Cain-shaped hole only for one of the Iron Shellers to land on his head, further flattening him into the hole and knocking him out again.

Nina sighed, “That goon is worthless. Anyway, time for me to get a lick in.” She started to channel energy before saying, “Hail!”

A massive ice storm was whipped up. It blasted the Iron Shellers with powerful Ice energy, causing their bodies to freeze up in blocks of ice as the attack waned. Shortly afterward the ice shattered, causing the remaining monsters to flop down on the ground, finally dead. Sir Reginald lowered his barrier now that the threat was over.

“Nice work, everyone,” he said. “Now, let’s collect the iron plates that make up the Iron Sheller’s shell, as those can be sold to blacksmiths for good prices. Quickly before Cain regains consciousness.”

The party nodded and quickly harvested the iron plates that made up the Iron Sheller’s shells, stashing them away before moving on.

One merchant asked, “Is it really okay to leave that idiot back there?”

“He’ll live,” Zeeker replied. “He’s about as durable as a Roach despite being so weak offensively. He’ll be fine, as I doubt we’ve seen the last of him today. Now, we should be alert for our next batch of monsters. They could either be the Honey Bombers or the Nut monsters, so stay frosty, everyone.”

The party nodded and continued onward, knowing their next set of enemies could be near. It wasn’t long before they’d find their next batch of enemies.

Van’s ears twitched again, saying, “I hear buzzing. We must be near a colony of Honey Bombers.”

Angelo looked up at the sun, saying, “Judging by the time of day it appears to be early afternoon. Which mean the Honey Bombers may be taking their afternoon nap. While simply walking past them while they’re snoozing would save our energy and mana, we cannot let them keep terrorizing travelers. Van, can you pinpoint where they are?”

Van looked around, his ears twitching, before saying, “Yes, I can hear them in that large tree just up ahead.”

Nina narrowed her eyes and focused on that direction, replying, “Yeah, and I can see them. They are indeed napping. As much as we’d like to just zip past them their sensitive hearing makes that not possible. So we’d best be ready for battle when we get closer.”

The party drew their weapons again as they cautiously approached the large tree. They could see the monsters sleeping in its branches. Their upper bodies were that of a large black wasp or bee, with two pairs of clear wings, sharp mandibles, a pair of arms that had two sharp nails on them, red compound eyes, and their lower bodies were large honeycombs.

“Those are actually Black Honey Bombers,” Kettu observed. “They’re even nastier than their normal counterparts. Not only are they even more aggressive than regular Honey Bombers, but their drone attack is far stronger. That said, their honeycomb lower bodies produce Black Honey, which can be used to create Black Honey Elixirs, which have stronger healing properties than regular Honey Elixirs, along with some extra bonuses. That’s something we cannot pass up on, as Black Honey fetches a nice price at medicine shops. Plus their wings also net decent profits. We’d best snipe them before they have a chance to attack us. Nova, this might be a good time to use Missile Strike, seeing it could take them all out in one blast.”

Nova nodded and prepared an arrow on his bow. However, before he could begin his attack a familiar voice barked.

“No! They’re mine!”

Everyone groaned again as Cain appeared, battered but still very much alive. He brandished his spear, preparing for his assault.

“I will smite these bugs like the bugs they are!” he said in a loud voice.

“Shh!” Zeeker hissed. “You’re gonna—”

However, before he could finish his sentence the Black Honey Bombers awoke and were now buzzing angrily.

“Oh, no you don’t!” Cain stated. “Meteor Throw!”

He threw his flaming spear at the tree. However, the Black Honey Bombers flew out of the tree moments before the attack could strike. The attack caused the tree to burst into flames but the Black Honey Bombers were unharmed, now hovering above the party, clearly angry.

Sir Reginald sighed, “Barrier…”

He erected a barrier around the party and merchants, shielding them from the Black Honey Bombers. The insect monsters redirected their attention to Cain, as they knew they couldn’t pierce the barrier. They then released black mini wasps from their honeycombs at Cain, who screamed and started running, trying to avoid the attack. However, the drones continued to chase him out like heat-seeking missiles. Cain then tripped over a tree root, allowing the drones to catch up to him and attack, creating multiple mini explosions that engulfed the obnoxious punk. When the explosions waned Cain was flat on his face, severely charred.

“…Ow…” he barely grunted in pain before blacking out.

Nova took the opportunity to ready his attack while the Black Honey Bombers were still focused on Cain.

“Fire Shot!” he stated.

He launched his flaming arrow at the Black Honey Bombers. He then quickly loaded up another arrow.

“Wind Cutter Shot!”

He fired the second arrow which combined with the first, creating a missile-like attack that rocketed toward the Black Honey Bombers. Before they could react it struck one of them, creating a large explosion that engulfed the entire swam, much to the merchants’ surprise.

“Combo skill: Missile Strike!”

When the explosion ended the Black Honey Bombers fell to the ground. They buzzed briefly before they stopped moving, indicating they were dead.

Sir Reginald instructed, “Lady Nina, Angelo, use a Water spell on that burning tree so it doesn’t burn the whole forest down!”

Nina and Angelo nodded as they started challenging energy.

“Water Bomb!” both said in unison.

They fired their double Water attack at the burning tree. The attacks slammed into it, instantly dousing the flames, leaving the tree thoroughly burnt but intact. Sir Reginald then lowered his barrier.

Zeeker walked over to the Black Honey bombers, giving one a poke, saying, “Yeah, they’re dead. Let’s collect their wings and honeycombs before Cain gets back on his feet.”

The party quickly collected the valuable parts from the Black Honey Bombers and stashed them away. Nova looked back at Cain, gave a resigned sigh, and walked over to him. He took out a jar of Honey Elixir and placed it in front of his “rival’s” head so it would be seen when Cain regained consciousness. He then rejoined his party so they could move on.

Angelo smiled, “That was good of you, Nova. He may be a rival to you but you still had the heart to give him something that would treat his injuries. That is a very good trait to have.”

Kettu chuckled, “It could also be Nova’s way of rubbing salt on Cain’s wounds, as he gave him a Honey Elixir which is made from honey from a Honey Bomber. Either way he still was kind enough to give that goon something to heal himself with—but it may also be an effective taunt or insult toward Cain. How Cain reacts to it depends on if he considers it a gesture of good will or mockery.”

Nova chuckled, “A little of Column A and a little of Column B. Depends on how he looks at it will effectively determine what the gesture means. But even though I can’t stand him I don’t want him dead. Only Dominic and my boss Stavros back on Earth deserves that feeling. Cain is more of a nuisance than a threat but even at my worst I wouldn’t want him dead. I want him to back off, yes, but not because he was killed. Even a loser like him doesn’t deserve that. But let’s move on, as we should be approaching where these Nut monsters tend to reside. If we can get rid of them then it’ll lighten the attacks that happen on this road, allowing for safer passage.”

The party nodded and moved onward, still escorting the merchants through Crescent Moon Woods. It wasn’t long before they saw their next targets. As they came to a certain point they spotted a large pack of small monsters. They looked like anthropomorphic acorn people about the size of a human toddler, sporting different weapons and equipment. Some were wearing blue armor and had a sword and shield, others were wearing green armor with a bow and quiver of arrows, and the last batch were wearing red robes with wooden staves. The monsters quickly noticed the party and got ready for battle.

“Yep, here’s the Nut monsters,” Nina said. “All three variants, too. These guys should be easy enough. Leave them to me.” She started to channel energy before stating, “Typhoon!”

A vicious windstorm whipped up, causing slashes of wind to hack and cut the Nut monsters. Within seconds the monsters fell to the ground, dead.

“That… was ridiculously easy…” Nova said, amazed.

“Well, I told you they are pretty weak. They have to use numbers to overwhelm their prey, but simple AOE attacks, especially magical ones, will take them out nigh-instantly, as their durability is pitifully low. Like Gummi level low. You really need to use magic on them, however, as weapon strikes tend not to be effective due to how fast and evasive these little buggers are. But time for that later, let’s collect the valuable parts. For the Nut Knights their swords, shields, and caps are the marketable parts. The bows, arrows, quivers, and caps of the Nut Bowmen are what we want. And the caps and staves of the Nut Casters are the most valuable parts. Their weapons make for good early equipment for child warriors, and yes, some children do become warriors at such ages.”

The party quickly gathered up the valuable parts of the monsters, stashing them away before continuing onward. Soon they reached the other side of the forest, much to the merchants’ relief.

“Thank you for escorting us through Crescent Moon Woods,” one of the merchants said. “We wouldn’t have gotten through the woods without taking at least some damage. Thank you once again. Now, let us repay you for your help.”

Both merchants entered their carts and began rummaging around. Soon they emerged with one moderate-sized sack each. They presented them to the party.

“Here, this is a small collection of various Elemental Coins,” one said.

“And this is a pouch of Fairy Almonds,” the other said.

The party graciously took the pouches of items.

“Thank you very much,” Sir Reginald said. “We’ll make good use of these items. Have a safe trip.”

“Right back at you.”

The merchants snapped the reins of their firokokos, causing the bird creatures to start moving ahead at a faster clip. Before long the party was alone again.

Nova looked in the pouch of Elemental Coins, saying, “I know what I’ll be doing with these: creating more magical accessories. Especially since, if what Nina said is true, the Night Market in the capital city will allow us to buy more of these. Hopefully they’re not too expensive.”

Van replied, “Elemental Coins tend to be around the 100 copper range, give or take depending on the seller, so they’re not too expensive. Beast Claws, however, tend to be around the 25 to 30 silver range, so those can be a bit pricier. But overall they’re not too expensive, especially if you know where to look. Some merchants like to market them for higher prices in an attempt to squeeze every coin out of a potential customer. The Night Market in the capital sells both Elemental Coins and Beast Claws for reasonable prices, which is why it’s so popular. I’ve heard of other marketplaces that sell them as well, though the Night Market is by far the most well-known. Anyway, let’s get going and see if we can reach the next magical campsite.”

The party nodded and continued onward, heading in the direction of the next magical campsite.

Meanwhile, Cain and come to his senses and was eating the Honey Elixir, which was healing his wounds. It was clear he knew who gave him the Honey Elixir, making him mutter bitterly under his breath, but he ate it regardless.

“I’ll show that pink-haired punk who’s boss,” he grumbled in between swallows. “And I’ll prove my superiority that’ll make the lovely Nina abandon him in favor of me. Just you wait.”

Next Chapter: The Dark Lust of Lilith Wing

That's all for today. Is this the end of Cain? Probably not. Tune in next time to see what our heroes face.
 

CynthiaLover

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Time for the next chapter of Dawn of Courage. (Warning: contains mild language, mild violence, sexual suggestions)

The Dark Lust of Lilith Wing


It was the following day after the party helped the merchants cross through Crescent Moon Woods. They were nearing the capital of this kingdom, knowing that they would soon get answers and information. Sir Reginald was in the lead, as usual, guiding the party to their destination.

“Okay, we only have a few miles before we reach the gates of Gordak Kingdom’s capital,” he said. “Then we can talk to King Rand and get some much-needed information on our enemies. And maybe also learn more about the Beastman Resistance while we’re at it.”

Angelo turned to Zeeker, “Hey, Zeeker, are you going to go back to your Beastman Resistance friends when we meet up with them?”

Zeeker shook his head, “No, I’m sticking with you guys. Don’t get me wrong, I’m happy to hear that the Beastman Resistance survived Vertebreak, or at least a sizable chunk of it. But I joined you for this mission and I intend to see it through to the end. No, when you guys relit that fire in me I knew I had to stick by you. I know my fellow resistance fighters would prefer me staying with them but they’ll have to understand that I’m working with you lot now, thus I’m committed to this band. While having the Beastman Resistance on our side will be a great help I’m gonna see this mission through to the end with this gang. That’s my resolve.”

Nina smiled, “You’re a good man, Zeeker. We appreciate what you’re saying. I know your fellow Beastmen might be a bit upset for you not rejoining their ranks but they’ll have to understand that you’re now part of the best chance we have at stopping Muu. While having them in our corner is definitely a huge asset we cannot dismiss we need you on our team more than they do. All seven of us are the Team Supreme and we’ll take Muu and his baddies down once and for all.”

“Here, here!” Van stated.

Nova chuckled silently, “This party certainly is a cast of characters, that’s for sure. But they’re the best the world can offer in this life-and-death struggle with Muu. While I know I’ll continue being the weakest link I can at least do my part. I hate this mission with a passion but I know that if something isn’t done it’ll lead to not just Edyn falling but other worlds, too. So even though I’d rather not be here I know what I have to do, as this is bigger than me. And as much as I hate to admit it this journey has done me a lot of good. I’ll probably be mentally scarred for life after having to deal with hordes upon hordes of Undead but it has made me a stronger, better person overall. And I’ve got some choice words for my family when I get back to Earth. They won’t recognize me after all this, nor will they know what hit them when I finally call them out for the years of suffering and neglect I’ve had to endure at their hands.”

Kettu said, “I can see the capital’s gates. We’re nearly there.”

“Let’s hope King Rand can give us the information we need,” Angelo said. “Especially since it may alleviate pressure on him, since Stu said that he’s a bit tense from Muu’s army breathing down his neck.”

“Who wouldn’t be tense if Muu was breathing his rotten breath down someone’s neck?” Zeeker snorted.

“You can say that again, Zeeker,” Nina replied.

Sir Reginald stated, “Either way that’s what we’re here for. Once we deal with Muu’s army in this area it should make things easier for King Rand to provide support to his and our allies. Let’s just hope we’re not too late.”

The party nodded and moved ahead. Soon they were at the city’s gates, which were closed and guarded by two knights. The pair stopped the party as they approached.

“Halt!” one said. “State your business, as we’re under high-alert.”

Sir Reginald stepped up, “I’m Sir Reginald Ganner, General of the Galvatar Royal Knights, and this is the Demon King’s champion party. We wish to speak with King Rand and see how we can offer our assistance in removing Muu’s presence from this area.”

The knights gave relieved sighs as they heard this statement.

“You have no idea how happy His Majesty will be to know you’re here at last,” one knight said. “We’ve been under heavy fire from Muu’s army lately. Fortunately, our magical barrier has protected our city from Muu’s assaults but it cannot hold out forever. Please, go inside and report to King Rand immediately.”

He unlocked the gate, allowing the party to enter the city, before closing the gate rather sharply, nearly catching Van’s tail. The party could see that the city was tense, as it was clear they were worried about another attack coming. They quickly made their way to the castle where two guards were standing before the front doors. They stopped the party as they approached.

“Halt!” one said. “State your business.”

Sir Reginald stepped up again, saying, “We’re the Demon King’s champion party. We were instructed to meet with King Rand immediately. Please let us pass.”

The guards gave relieved sighs.

“Thank the Goddess you finally showed up,” one said. “We could really use your help right about now.” He unlocked the door, “Please, go on in. His Majesty will be most grateful for your assistance in our current problem.”

The party nodded and entered the castle. It was a very luxurious castle with all the trimmings associated with royalty. After explaining who they were to a butler he quickly escorted them to the throne room. There at the throne was a Werewolf king with his human queen and two sons. The party bowed as they approached the thrones.

King Rand smiled, “You have no idea how grateful we are to see you here at last, Demon King’s champion party. We’ve been under some heavy fire lately and we could really use your help. To put it simply, one of Muu’s Undead Generals: General Galvinspine, has been terrorizing our people. Our magic barrier has managed to repel his assaults but every attack weakens it further. While we have plenty of Magna Crystal cubes to fuel our barrier we know that Galvinspine will crush us the second he tears open the barrier, as my men are not strong enough to face him. If you can deal with him and destroy his army we’d be forever grateful.”

Sir Reginald bowed, “You can rely on us, Your Majesty. Can you give us some information on Galvinspine?”

“Yes, I can. He’s a powerful Undead General, around Zombiestein’s level, if not greater. However, he strangely has a weakness to the Dark element, which is very unusual for an Undead entity. However, very few of my troops know any Dark element spells and the Night Market has closed up shop due to the fear of Galvinspine tearing down our defenses. Thus we cannot stock up on Shadow Coins or Moonbeast Claws to give us some Dark element abilities. So we’re hoping you can fill in that blank. I’m aware that you possess Shaman magic which is most fortunate as it’ll give you the needed edge against our foes. Please, I implore you: defend our city from General Galvinspine and free us from his suffocating presence.”

Sir Reginald nodded, “Leave it to us, Your Majesty. We’ve got just the ticket to counter Galvinspine and exploit his weakness to Darkness. When does he tend to attack?”

The queen replied, “At dusk. I don’t know why since he’s weak to Dark but I’m guessing it’s because regular Undead Soldiers are stronger at night so it seems he’s willing to brave the darkness to make his troops stronger. At least that’s our theory.”

King Rand nodded, “Indeed. Please stay here in the castle until sunset so you can be rested and ready to deal with Galvinspine and his Undead Army. Hopefully you can rid us of our problem before he successfully tears our city asunder. Please escort these people to one of the guest rooms so they can rest and begin planning their strategy. We will summon them when the time comes to fight Galvinspine.”

The same butler from before gestured the party to follow him. He guided them down a few halls and into one of the largest guest rooms, leaving as soon as they entered the room.

Sir Reginald stated, “Okay, let’s get down to business. We need to start mapping out a battleplan so we can take down Galvinspine and his Undead Army platoon. Let’s begin.”

The party gathered around a large table and began discussing their options and strategies. They continued for a good hour, coming up with various ideas and tactics that could work well against their newest foe. After a while they had settled on their plan.

“Okay, I think we’ve got pretty much all our bases covered. Van, Kettu, and I will use our respective Dark element Shaman forms to give us the extra edge we need against Galvinspine. And since Van and I can perform a combo skill using those Shaman forms it’ll put them to good use. Everyone else will be in charge of dealing with the bread and butter Undead Soldiers. And don’t hesitate to help someone else if they need it. The barrier should protect the city from attacks; we don’t have to worry too much about civilians and knights getting caught in the crossfire but be alert just in case.”

The party nodded. Suddenly, there was a knock at their door. Nova walked over to open it, revealing a maid.

“Pardon me, but His Majesty wishes for you to join the Royal Family for dinner,” she said.

“Thank you very much, we will. Please give us a moment to gather up our stuff so we can be ready to join him and the Royal Family for dinner.”

The maid nodded and waited for the party to finish collecting their items and bags before escorting them to the dining hall. There the Royal Family was already seated. They gestured the party to sit down at the dining room table, which they did. Soon large trays of food were placed out, much to the party’s eagerness.

King Rand asked, “I don’t mean to poke my nose where it doesn’t belong but have you come up with a plan on how to deal with General Galvinspine and his Undead Army platoon?”

Van nodded, “Yes, we have, Your Majesty. We’ve mapped out a solid plan but we’ve granted some wiggle room in case something goes awry. If there’s one thing we’re good at it is improvising on the fly so we know we’ll be fine. We intend to rid this capital of its Undead Army problem by tonight.”

“Music to my ears. I hope you can vanquish our enemies, as they’ve been putting a lot of pressure on us lately. It’s made it hard to support the rebuilding of the Beastman Resistance not far from here, at least out in the open. But if you can remove General Galvinspine from the equation then it’ll allow my people to better assist our allies. Once you take down Galvinspine I will have my intelligence network gather up the locations of all the remaining Undead Bases in this kingdom. Then I will help point you in the direction of the Beastman Resistance, as I’ve learned that they’ve requested your help in rebuilding their forces and funds. Now, please, enjoy the food. I know you’ll be needing the energy if you’re to face such a foe like Galvinspine.”

The party nodded and dug into the food, knowing that the upcoming battle would be difficult. They were pleased with the food’s quality as they eagerly ate their meal. Soon the food was gone, allowing the party to return to their room to iron out any last ideas or problems in their battleplan.

A few hours later the sun was starting to set. A knock was heard at the party’s door.

“It’s time…” Nova said.

Sir Reginald opened up the door, revealing a knight.

“I beg your pardon but it’s time,” the knight said. “General Galvinspine should be arriving shortly. Please, head to the city gates so we can prepare for battle.”

Sir Reginald nodded, “Yes, we’re ready. Team, let’s get going; we’ve got an Undead General to destroy.”

The party nodded and gathered up their stuff, knowing a big battle was rapidly approaching. The knight escorted the party out of the castle and down to the city gates. The party left the safety of the city walls and stepped outside. The city then produced a barrier that shielded the entire area, protecting the people and buildings inside. The knights were on standby in case anything went wrong, though they were very tense. The sun was starting to creep down behind the horizon. Suddenly, a black portal opened up, prompting the party to draw their weapons and get ready for battle. Out emerged a large amount of Undead Soldiers and one massive being.

“That must be Galvinspine,” Kettu growled.

General Galvinspine looked like a zombified Godzilla crossed with a tank, with large, bony claws covered in decaying flesh, a large reptilian head with glowing eyes and a mouth filled with jagged teeth, a bulky upper body, and a lower body resembling a large tank with twin turrets and treads made of bones. His unholy eyes flickered as he saw the party.

“So, you finally showed up,” he growled menacingly. “Master Muu is getting very angry with you seven. You’ve been causing him so many problems. Well, that ends today. I, General Galvinspine, will wipe you off the face of Edyn forever! Undead Soldiers, bring me their heads!”

The Undead Soldiers charged in: weapons held high, ready to take down the party.

Sir Reginald stated, “It’s now or never, team!”

He, Van, and Kettu said in unison, “Elemental Energy Fusion activate!”

They were engulfed in swirling energy and soon the Terra Dark Knight, Galactic Pegasus, and Fox Fyre were standing before the Undead Army.

“Let’s do it!” the transformed knight stated strongly.

He, Van, and Kettu charged in, barreling through the Undead Soldiers and sending them flying like bowling pins, much to Galvinspine’s annoyance. The rest of the party braced themselves for battle with the Undead Soldiers.

Nina said silently, “There’s gotta be something more I can do than just magical coverfire.” She looked at her Shaman Magic Bracelet before nodding, “Yeah, I have an idea.” She tapped two gems, “Dark, Wind. Elemental Energy Fusion activate!”

She was engulfed in swirling energy, which surprised everyone. Soon a new form was standing before them.

Nina now resembled a cross between a demonic priestess and a feudal Japanese courtesan, wearing long, violet robes over a black latex catsuit that left her shoulders and upper breasts bare, with a bat-shaped breastplate that showed off a large amount of her chest, along with her breasts seemingly becoming larger. She was wearing platform sandals that exposed her toes, which were now sporting long nails. Her hair had become a bluish-black in a bob cut with a golden headdress similar to a crown, and three pairs of demonic bat-like wings protruding from her back. Her eyes had become violet and her skin was rather pale, similar to a vampire, with more pronounced fangs poking out slightly from her lips. She was wearing an inscribed golden gauntlet on both arms that seemed to radiate power. The ribbons off of her dress seemed razor-sharp to the point they could cut flesh. She was wearing cobalt blue eye shadow, lipstick and nail polish as makeup. She looked herself over before gaining a confident smirk.

“Darkness certainly has its perks,” she purred darkly. “Let’s see if you can handle my newest form: Lilith Wing!”

She gently floated up off the ground, seemingly not needing her wings to fly, did a little spin, and gained a devious smirk.

“Your new Shaman form doesn’t scare me, winged witch,” General Galvinspine growled.

“No? Well it will in a moment. Observe. Ominously Whispering Winds!”

A powerful gust of purplish-black winds bellowed through the area. The Undead Soldiers cried out in pain as they suddenly crumbled to dust, much to everyone’s surprise.

“S-She took out all of them in one attack!?” a nearby knight sputtered.

Nina purred darkly, “Well, boys, I think it’s time we take down this big bone boss. Show him that any boners he’ll be getting from looking at my dark beauty will prove to be… fatal.”

Sir Reginald, Kettu, and Van regained their senses before directing their attention back to General Galvinspine.

“Will-O-Wisp!” Kettu stated.

He fired one of the will-o-wisps surrounding his body and infused it into Galvinspine, making him roar in pain as the will-o-wisp formed over his head.

Sir Reginald turned to Van, “Let’s do our combo skill!”

Van nodded, “I’m with you!”

“Dark Meteor Crash!”

“Asteroid Annihilation!”

There was a brief pause before two massive space rocks came flying out of the sky. They combined into one gigantic attack, much to Galvinspine’s surprise.

“Combo skill: Cosmic Collision!” both said in unison.

The massive space rock came crashing down upon Galvinspine, crushing him underneath it and creating a large explosion. When the dust settled Galvinspine was badly hurt but still alive.

Nina floated up, “I’ll handle the rest, sexy ones. Leave the cleanup to me. Oh, and Nova…” she turned to face her stunned lover, “…you’d better be ready for what I’ve got for you when the battle is over, beloved.”

She blew him a seductive kiss, making Nova blush, clearly stunned at this turn of events. Nina floated up higher until she was level with Galvinspine.

“Death’s Kiss!” she said in a seductive tone.

She blew another kiss this time at Galvinspine, creating a black heart with devil wings and horns that floated over to the Undead General. It fused with him, making him roar in pain, seemingly enhancing the Will-O-Wisp’s power in the process while also causing his body to start decaying rapidly.

Nova looked unnerved as he saw this, saying, “She’d better not go black widow spider on me with that deadly smooch. And I’m actively dreading what she’s got ‘planned’ for me.”

Nina purred in a lustful way, “Did my kiss meet your standards, Galvinspine? Well, if not, I’ve got one last ‘gift’ for you. Darkness Love!”

She used both hands to create a magical circle in the air. She then used her clawed gauntlet on her right hand to inscribe a strange symbol in the center of it. She then blew another kiss, creating the same black heart with devil wings and horns, that entered the magical circle. The heart transformed into a powerful energy beam that blasted Galvinspine, making him roar in pain as his body crumbled away to dust from the deadly lust. The beam continued to fire until Galvinspine had been reduced to atoms, leaving no trace of him behind, much to everyone’s shock.

“Looks like Galvinspine lacked a spine!” Nina cackled in an almost supervillain way. “He couldn’t handle a little dark love! But I know someone who can…”

She turned to face Nova, who went wide eyed in horror as he saw her seductive smirk form. In an instant she was suddenly in front of him, stunning him at how fast she moved. She quickly embraced him with both her arms, legs, and her wings, her seductive grin growing larger.

“Well, with the battle over now, why don’t we celebrate, beloved?” she purred. “I’m all for a little fun right about now, so why don’t we strip and show off our love?”

Nova sputtered, “N-Nina! W-What’s gotten into you!? We can’t do that here! Nina, please, calm your lust down before you do something we’ll both regret!”

The transformed woman replied in a seductive tone, “Why would I regret making love with you, Nova? I’ve been dying for some action with you in the sheets. You’re an impressive man, after all, in more ways than one. A real prime piece of beefsteak, that’s for sure. So why don’t we just cut to the chase and feel our love flow freely. I know you’re not against a little public display of affection so let’s get busy, beloved.”

Nina began stripping her clothes, much to the shock of everyone around the duo. Nova quickly grabbed Nina’s left arm where the Shaman Magic Bracelet would be with his right hand. The Demon King Ring glowed and forcefully canceled her Shaman form, returning her to normal, resetting the Shaman Magic Bracelet in the process. Nina blinked a few times as if trying to process what just happened before looking at Nova. Her entire face went bright red as the realization of what she had been doing sunk in.

“N-Nova…” she said sheepishly. “I’m sorry. I-I couldn’t control myself in that form. It’s like all my lust and sex appeal went through the roof, especially my feelings for you. I-I couldn’t stop myself. I was all set to have sex with you right here and now. Thank you for forcefully canceling the form. While I probably wouldn’t regret having sex with you, as what I said in that form is true that I crave it from you, I know this is neither the time nor place for it. Please forgive me for nearly taking you right here and now.”

Nova gained a relieved expression, saying, “I’m just glad you’re back to normal. That Lilith Wing form certainly acts the opposite of your Nymph Wing form. You become a full-blown succubus in that state. It’s fortunate that I know how to forcefully cancel a Shaman form thanks to the Demon King Ring otherwise we’d be on the ground right now, buck naked, and giving everyone quite the show. We’ll have to limit how often you use Lilith Wing so you don’t suddenly try to have sex with me in the middle of a battlefield.”

Nina blushed, “Y-Yes, that’s true. I wonder why I’m so affected by my forms? Nymph Wing makes me coy and Lilith Wing makes me a full-blown seductress. What’s the deal? A-Anyway, we should tell King Rand that the threat is over with. And let’s not tell him what happened afterward, okay?”

“Agreed.”

“You two should really get a room when Nina goes full-blown seductress on you, Nova,” Zeeker teased.

“Still, that Lilith Wing is quite powerful,” Angelo observed. “I’d say its power is equal to that of the Goddess of Phoenixes. And it probably gets stronger during the nighttime. I mean, it was able to single-handedly wipe out all the Undead Soldiers with one attack before totally stomping out Galvinspine. That’s quite a show of power.”

Sir Reginald chuckled, “Indeed. For now, let us return to normal and report back to King Rand. And Lady Nina… try not to give us such a show. Not saying we didn’t enjoy it, mind, but you might want to reserve that lust for the sheets.”

“Cancel Fusion!” he, Kettu, and Van said in unison.

They were engulfed in swirling energy before returning to normal. The party chuckled a bit at the duo’s embarrassment. The relieved knights lowered the barrier to allow the party back inside the city. They made their way to the castle to report their success. All the while Nova and Nina were sporting matching blushes, clearly flustered at what transpired.

Next Chapter: The Night Market

That's all for today. Another day, another Shaman form. Though Nina needs to be careful in it, as it could cause some... interesting situations. Tune in next time to see what our heroes face.
 
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