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Ushi Short

Magus_Anon Nov 6th, 2019 1,879 Never
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  1. Stola’s sharp legs slid and skittered down the gravely slope towards her destination. The trip down the mountain was one she rarely made for good reason. The loose earth did not grant her the purchase that the crevices between boulders did around her home. Sliding down the last incline, the ushi surveyed the small valley.
  2.  
  3. A tiny gap between mountains with a river flowing though it, this place was well secluded from the outside world. Humans had never deemed the area worthy of colonization or conquest. The soil was too poor to sustain crops and the valley too small to make a good home. Not to mention the hordes of monsters roaming the surrounding mountains. The only structure was a monastery that sat next to the stream that passed through the valley.
  4.  
  5. With the building in sight, Stola adjusted the pack on her back and charged forwards.
  6.  
  7. ~~~~~~~
  8.  
  9. Vreala hummed to herself as she strolled to the chicken coop to collect eggs for breakfast. Before she could enter the coop, the denizens of the ramshackle wooden structure flew out in panic.
  10.  
  11. Vreala tried to calm them to no avail.
  12.  
  13. “What’s wrong? What is it?” she asked.
  14.  
  15. Then she heard it. A soft rumble in the distance. The ground began to shake as it got louder.
  16.  
  17. “Oh no…”
  18.  
  19. Dropping her basket, Vreala sprinted through the monastery to the front gate. Sure enough, an ushi-oni was barreling towards the compound with a depraved look in her one visible eye.
  20.  
  21. “STOP! THERE ARE NO MEN HERE! THIS IS A SACRED PLACE!” shouted Vreala waving her arms.
  22.  
  23. The ushi stopped just shy of the succubus, skidding to a halt in front of her. Vreala looked up at the ushi.
  24.  
  25. “Umm… t-there aren’t any men here. So please don’t hurt me. We don’t have anything worth stealing.”
  26.  
  27. Taking the strange pack off her back, the ushi presented it to the succubus. Vreala stared at the monster in confusion. The ushi began to cry and sniffle.
  28.  
  29. “Please… My human… There’s something wrong with him.” Pleaded the ushi.
  30.  
  31. Vreala looked down at the parcel in her hands. It was wrapped in ushi silk, and animal hides, with a gap at one end. Peeling away an uncured deer pelt, Vreala gasped as she saw a sickly man buried beneath the coverings. His skin was ashen and slick with sweat. The poor soul hardly breathed at all, and when he did breaths came in short ragged gasps. Vreala placed a hand against his forehead and recoiled at the temperature.
  32.  
  33. The ushi shrieked and swung one of her gigantic fur-covered hands at the succubus. “Don’t touch him!”
  34.  
  35. “He’s sick!”
  36.  
  37. “I know he’s sick! Make him better!” wailed the ushi. She shook the limp body of her husband at the succubus and cried.
  38.  
  39. “I can help him, but I have to touch him!” said Vreala.
  40.  
  41. “What if you hurt him?” said the ushi. She pulled the man back into a bear-hug as if recinding the plea to save him.
  42.  
  43. “I won’t hurt him, but he’s in danger! He needs medicine!” said Vreala.
  44.  
  45. “Will that make him better?” asked the ushi.
  46.  
  47. “Yes!”
  48.  
  49. She cradled the man in her arms. It was hard to tell in the bindings, but Vreala guessed that he was about average size for a human. Still, he was absolutely dwarfed by his wife.
  50.  
  51. “Bring him in.” said Vreala gesturing for the ushi to come inside. “What’s your name sweetie?”
  52.  
  53. “Stola.” Sniffed the ushi. She hurried past Vreala shaking the ground as her legs carved divots into the dirt.
  54.  
  55. “Don’t you worry Stola, he’s going to be just fine. What’s his name?”
  56.  
  57. “Huh?”
  58.  
  59. “His name.” said Vreala pointing at the man. “What’s his name?”
  60.  
  61. Stola gave Vreala a slack-jawed stare. “What do you mean?”
  62.  
  63. Vreala’s eye twitched. “You DO know that man’s name, right?”
  64.  
  65. “No. How do you know what their name is?” asked Stola.
  66.  
  67. Oh no. Oh Eros no. It was going to be one of THOSE monsters.
  68.  
  69. Though Lilith had cast her spell and succubi mana had been infused with the monsters of the world, some monsters were better than others at adapting to human customs and civilization. Others, like ushi-onis, needed special care and attention to ensure that they understood what it meant to be a good spouse and partner. For this reason, chapels, churches, and monasteries were established far and wide to bring the teachings of succubi and Eros to the far-flung reaches or the world. Naturally, some monsters were more adept at adapting to the cultural shift than others. Vreala had taught monsters in the past, and some had been diligent and capable students that quickly learned how to become loving partners.
  70.  
  71. Others…
  72.  
  73. She watched with dread as Stola used one of her clawed hands to lift the unkempt hair out of her husband’s eyes and shake him.
  74. Lilith give me strength.
  75.  
  76. “Stop that!” said Vreala striding over to Stola.
  77.  
  78. “What?”
  79.  
  80. “You can’t shake your husband!”
  81.  
  82. Stola cocked her head. “This is my human.”
  83.  
  84. “That human IS your husband.”
  85.  
  86. Stola scratched her head and frowned. Vreala ignored her and hurried her along into the medical ward. Incidents of monsters neglecting the health of their husbands was not unheard of. Between the time a human was making the transition to an incubus, his body still required food, water, and sleep. Many of the more violent mamono were able to sustain themselves completely off their new husband’s spirit energy, neglecting the health and well-being of their unwilling mates. Vreala had seen cases like this before, but never so severe.
  87.  
  88. Ushering the ushi to the medical ward, she attempted to take the man away from Stola to put him into a bed. The demon obstinately refused, silently pulling Vreala upwards as she tried to take the cocoon away.
  89.  
  90. “You have to give him to me! I can’t help him if you don’t cooperate!” said the succubus as she dangled from the human.
  91.  
  92. “Just fix him here!” protested Stola.
  93.  
  94. “I can’t! Look, he’ll be right in there. You can see everything from the doorway!”
  95.  
  96. “I wanna go in with him.”
  97.  
  98. “You can’t fit through the door!”
  99.  
  100. Stola growled and shook Vreala off of her husband. Using her hind legs, she quickly attached a thread around her husband’s feet and gently placed the man into Vreala’s arms.
  101.  
  102. “Just… make him smile again. Please…”
  103.  
  104. Vreala set the poor man down in the nearest bed and began to strip away the layers of cloth and web surrounding him. The foul odor surrounding the man became worse as she removed more and more of his coverings. Vreala had to fight the urge to gag as she removed the last piece of raw animal skin to reveal his naked body.
  105.  
  106. Never before had the succubus seen a man in such poor condition. His body was coated in infected lesions and bruises. Stola had clearly given little regard for her partner’s comfort during their time together. Vreala could tell that he was well on his way to becoming an incubus, but not so far gone that he could abstain from the basic necessities of life. From the look of it, he was severely malnourished. Vreala frowned. She had hoped that the cause of his fever would be easy to discern. Now she had even more questions to ask. Hurrying over to a jar of ointment, she began to disinfect and bandage her patient’s wounds.
  107.  
  108. “Stola, I need you to answer some questions for me. Can you do that?” asked Vreala.
  109.  
  110. “Yes.”
  111.  
  112. “Can you tell me how long ago he started feeling like this?”
  113.  
  114. “Uhh… A few nights ago.” Said Stola.
  115.  
  116. “Okay… and how long have you had him bound up in that thing?” asked Vreala pointing to the mess of skin and web.
  117.  
  118. “About the same amount of time.”
  119.  
  120. “Why did you wrap him up in there?”
  121.  
  122. “Well, he started acting funny… and then he got all hot. So I dunked him in the stream a few times to cool him off. But then he was really cold. So I kept the cold part of him warm and the warm part of him less warm.” Explained the ushi.
  123.  
  124. “You dunked him in the stream?” asked Vreala
  125.  
  126. “Yeah.”
  127.  
  128. Vreala sighed. “You shouldn’t… Never mind, we’ll work on that later. What have you been feeding him since then?”
  129.  
  130. “Nothing. He won’t eat.”
  131.  
  132. “So he hasn’t had anything in a few days? How much water have you given him?”
  133.  
  134. “Whatever he drinks when I dunk him in the stream. It doesn’t seem like he takes a lot in though.” Said Stola.
  135.  
  136. Vreala paused her treatment to look at the ushi incredulously. “Are you telling me that the ONLY thing that you’ve done for a man with a fever is to DUNK him in a COLD STREAM? You haven’t even given him WATER?”
  137.  
  138. “I just said I gave him water! Whenever I pulled him out of the stream he had water in his nose and stuff. It cooled his head too. If you don’t know how these things work then just give him back and I’ll heal him myself!” said Stola.
  139.  
  140. “No, he needs to stay here, Stola. He’s sick and I don’t think you have the medicine to heal him.” Said Vreala firmly.
  141.  
  142. Stola grumbled and tugged the web connecting her to her beloved to make sure that it was still firmly attached.
  143.  
  144. “So you said he hasn’t eaten anything for the past few days. What did you feed him before that?” asked Vreala.
  145.  
  146. “Meat.”
  147.  
  148. “And?”
  149.  
  150. “… And what?”
  151.  
  152. “You only fed him meat?” said Vreala.
  153.  
  154. “Yeah. Well…” Stola paused and scratched her head. “Sometimes there’d be a chunk of hair or bone in there. But most of it was meat.”
  155. “Okay, and how did you prepare the meat?”
  156.  
  157. “… Are ya talkin about how I hunted it? I usually just grabbed it.” Said Stola brandishing her claws.
  158.  
  159. “No, how did you cook the meat?” asked Vreala slowly.
  160.  
  161. “Cook…” said Stola.
  162.  
  163. Vreala slammed her hands down on the nightstand next to the man. “TELL ME YOU WEREN’T JUST CRAMMING PIECES OF RAW MEAT INTO THIS GUY.”
  164. “Of course not! I just kinda pressed little tidbits into his mouth.”
  165.  
  166. "Ooooooh. Eros GIVE ME STRENGTH." thought the succubi.
  167.  
  168. “Alright, alright. That’s fine. We can work on that later.” Said Vreala taking a deep breath. “Stola, what was sex with this man like?”
  169. Stola’s ears wiggled and she smiled. “It was great! He pumped out lots of spirit energy. Sometimes it was hard cause he kept wiggling around but after a few thrusts he always got real quiet. Then I would just keep moving my hips until he stopped giving me spirit energy.” Said the ushi pelvic thrusting the air for emphasis. Her pedipalps lashed out at the air in front of her on instinct.
  170.  
  171. “And what did you do after that?” asked Vreala.
  172.  
  173. “Huh? I would just cuddle him until I fell asleep.” Said Stola.
  174.  
  175. Vreala nodded. At least she was doing SOMETHING right.
  176.  
  177. “Stola, I assume you live in a cave…” began Vreala.
  178.  
  179. The ushi gasped and her tail wagged behind her. “I DO live in a cave! How did you know?”
  180.  
  181. “Call it an educated guess… Anyways, how often did you let him out of the cave?”
  182.  
  183. “Let him out? Never! He may get hurt or kidnapped so I always made sure to put a boulder in his way when I went out so nothing came in and got him.”
  184.  
  185. “And how long have you two been together?”
  186.  
  187. “Been together?” said Stola.
  188.  
  189. Vreala rolled her eyes and grit her teeth. “How long have you “had” this man?”
  190.  
  191. “About two weeks.”
  192.  
  193. Two weeks! This guy looked like he had been in a dungeon for years!
  194.  
  195. Vreala took a slow breath and let it out. This is what she was here for. This is why she had come all the way out to this monastery. To help mamono like this. Stola clearly loved her husband, even if she wasn’t very good at it. With a little training, she would be ideal wife material in no time! Wrapping the last of his wounds, Vreala gently poured a small dose of medicine down the man’s throat and cleaned her hands off.
  196.  
  197. “Well, I’ve done all I can for him for now. What he needs now is rest.”
  198.  
  199. “Got it. Thank you!” chortled Stola. She tugged her thread and the man rolled to the floor with a dull thud.
  200.  
  201. “AARGH! WHAT ARE YOU DOING?!” screamed Vreala lifting the man back into his bed.
  202.  
  203. “You said he was all better!” said Stola. She pouted and tried to tug the thread again. Vreala managed to keep his torso on the bed this time.
  204.  
  205. “Are you crazy?! I said he needed to rest!”
  206.  
  207. “He can do that in the cave!” insisted Stola.
  208.  
  209. “He needs to rest here!” shouted Vreala.
  210.  
  211. “Why?!”
  212.  
  213. “Because YOU made him like this!”
  214.  
  215. Stola stopped tugging and frowned. “Huh?”
  216.  
  217. “You have no idea how to take care of your husband! Until you learn how to properly care for a human, you aren’t allowed to leave!” said Vreala.
  218.  
  219. “You think you can stop me?” said Stola. She tore a chunk of stonework out of the door frame as she tried to enter the room.
  220.  
  221. “What the hell?!”
  222.  
  223. Stola turned towards the new voice in the hall. Vreala recognized it immediately.
  224.  
  225. “Lucoan! Please don’t interfere! This doesn’t concern you!” said Vreala.
  226.  
  227. A werewolf poked her head into the doorframe past Stola. “It DOES concern me if you’re going to wake me up. I was up late last night and I don’t take kindly to being disturbed this early in the morning unless I’m getting breakfast. Where the hell did this thing come from?” she asked prodding the ushi’s tummy.
  228.  
  229. “She’s a new member of the monastery.” Said Vreala.
  230.  
  231. “Doesn’t look like this place will last long with her in it.” Said Lucoan kicking a chunk of stone out of the way. “Have you told Hayka yet?”
  232.  
  233. “No, but I’m sure she’ll be by shortly…” said Vreala.
  234.  
  235. “Whatever. Where’s the food?” asked the werewolf.
  236.  
  237. “I haven’t had a chance to make it yet, just be patient!”
  238.  
  239. Lucoan scoffed and trotted away.
  240.  
  241. Stola watched her go. Vreala took advantage of the distraction to heave Stola’s husband back onto the bed. He let out a soft moan as he hit the straw mattress.
  242.  
  243. “You have food here?” asked Stola.
  244.  
  245. “Yes. There are other monsters who are also learning how to be good wives. We provide them meals and lessons during their stay here.” Said Vreala.
  246.  
  247. “Can I have some food?” asked Stola excitedly. Her fluffy ears wiggled in anticipation.
  248.  
  249. “Well, since I’m inducting you and your husband into our program, yes.”
  250.  
  251. The ushi stamped her legs in appreciation, shaking a fine mist of dust from the stonework around her. She began to hurry off the way Lucoan had come, but quickly returned to the doorway.
  252.  
  253. “I forgot to take him.” She said.
  254.  
  255. “He’ll be right here. He needs to sleep. That means you can’t touch him. No touching, no sex, no talking. Understand?” said Vreala.
  256. Stola wilted. “But… I want him…”
  257.  
  258. “Do you want him to get better?”
  259.  
  260. Stola flinched. She pouted, but nodded her head without looking at Vreala.
  261.  
  262. “Good. Making sure that your husband is healthy and safe is the most important thing you can do for him.” Said Vreala.
  263.  
  264. Stola didn’t seem to care much for Vreala’s reassurance. She looked past her at the frail form on the mattress and sighed.
  265.  
  266. “Come on, let’s go get breakfast. I’ll introduce you to the other girls.”
  267.  
  268. Squeezing past the massive demon, Vreala guided her to the kitchen.
  269.  
  270. ~~~~
  271.  
  272. “Here we are, the kitchen!” said Vreala.
  273.  
  274. The monastery’s kitchen was an expansive room with multiple cooking stations facing one main cooking station at the far end of the room. It was intended to give mamono learning to cook for their husbands a space to practice under the supervision of a trained cook, but Vreala and the other staff had had little success in teaching the more feral species to cook. Most would be happy with stale bread if it had enough semen on it.
  275.  
  276. “Oooh…” said Stola. Trotting over to a basket of produce, she ate an entire onion in one bite.
  277.  
  278. “No! Put that down! Stop!” said Vreala trying to pry the basket out of Stola’s hands.
  279.  
  280. The ushi raised the basket higher and bit into an unwashed root. “It’s mine.”
  281.  
  282. “So this is the new pupil…”
  283.  
  284. Vreala turned to see Hayka the cupid watching the scene unfold.
  285.  
  286. “Hayka! Thank Lilith. Yes, this is Stola. She’s just getting used to- ermph! – used to the RULES we have here.” Said Vreala hanging from one of Stola’s arms.
  287.  
  288. “Hello Stola.” Said Hayka.
  289.  
  290. Stola grunted a response through a mouthful of food.
  291.  
  292. “Hayka! We’re hungry! What’s going o-“
  293.  
  294. Lucoan, a manticore, and a minotaur entered the kitchen area from the adjacent dining room.
  295.  
  296. “Woahoho! She’s big!” said the manticore.
  297.  
  298. “I don’t give a fuck HOW big she is. If she’s making me wait for breakfast, she’s a dead woman.” Growled the minotaur.
  299.  
  300. “Yeah right, Altau. If you picked a fight with her, you’d BE breakfast.” Said Lucoan.
  301.  
  302. Stola did not appreciate the attention. Letting Vreala wrestle the now empty basket from her arms, she tapped her claws together in front of her chest with a nervous expression.
  303.  
  304. “W-who are they?” asked Stola quietly. She shifted to one side, to put Vreala between her and the other monsters.
  305.  
  306. “They are the other monsters I was telling you about. They’re here to learn how to care for their husbands and be loving partners.” Said Vreala.
  307.  
  308. “You want to be a good wife, don’t you Stola?” asked Hayka.
  309.  
  310. Stola nodded, but didn’t take her eyes off the others.
  311.  
  312.  “That’s wonderful. There is truly no greater pleasure in this world than to love and be loved.” Said Hayka warmly.
  313.  
  314. “See Hayka, this is how we know you haven’t gotten laid yet.” Said the manticore. Lucoan and Altau snickered beside her.
  315.  
  316. “If you are diligent in your lessons, you will come to learn Eros’ truth.” Said the cupid.
  317.  
  318. “I’m not going to learn anything if I starve to death…” said Altau.
  319.  
  320. “Well then, how about we practice making a dish? We can all show Stola how to make scrambled eggs.” Said Vreala.
  321.  
  322. “Pass.” Said Lucoan leaving the room. Altau snorted and followed her.
  323.  
  324. “Can’t I just make a meal of my husband?” asked the manticore licking her chops.
  325.  
  326. “No, Azandi. You’re only allowed to see your husband during lessons or if he wants to see you.” Said Hayka.
  327.  
  328. “Then get on with it! I’d like to have lessons before nightfall…” Grumbled Azandi.
  329.  
  330. Vreala sighed. “I don’t suppose you would want to learn how to make scrambled eggs…” she said looking at Stola.
  331.  
  332. “What’s that?” asked Stola.
  333.  
  334. “Scrambled eggs are a simple type of food usually prepared for breakfast.” Said Hayka. The cupid pulled out a pan and lit the stove.
  335. Stola sniffed the air and stood next to the stove Hayka was working at. The cupid began to scramble the eggs while pouring in a bit of milk.
  336.  
  337. “Why are you doing that?” asked Stola.
  338.  
  339. “Beating the eggs? It breaks up the yolk. When the eggs combine with the milk in the pan, it gives the eggs the unique texture.” Said Hayka.
  340.  
  341. Stola watched intently as Hayka poured the eggs into the pan. After a minute, she plated the eggs and showed them to Stola.
  342.  
  343. “Would you like t-“
  344.  
  345. The ushi preemptively accepted her offer by taking the plate and tipping the contents into her mouth.
  346.  
  347. “Oooh!” cooed Stola. Her ears and tail wiggled with glee as she chewed the eggs.
  348.  
  349. “I’m glad you like them…” said Hayka.
  350.  
  351. “Would you like to try making some?” asked Vreala.
  352.  
  353. Stola looked at her and swallowed the eggs. “So I just have to mix the eggs and the milk?”
  354.  
  355. “Yes, just pour them together into the pan and stir them a little.”
  356.  
  357. “… Okay.”
  358.  
  359. Hayka and Vreala looked at each other.
  360.  
  361. “Really?” asked Vreala.
  362.  
  363. “Yeah.”
  364.  
  365. “Oh. Oh! Well, it’s good that you want to learn. Here, I’ll get you a pan.” Said Vreala. She dipped under one of the counters to retrieve a dusty cooking pan and spatula.
  366.  
  367. “Vreala, I heard that her husband is sick. Is that true?” asked Hayka preparing more eggs.
  368.  
  369. “Yes, he’s in the clinic now. I patched him up but I’ll have to go check on him soon.” Said Vreala handing Stola her cooking implements.
  370.  
  371. “Stola, I’m sure that your husband would be very happy to wake up to a meal you cooked for him.” Said Hayka.
  372.  
  373. “Cooked? Is this “cooking”?” asked Stola.
  374.  
  375. “It is! How about it? You can make some eggs and then give them to your husband.” Said Vreala.
  376.  
  377. “Yeah! Cooking is easy! I could have done this back at my cave.”
  378.  
  379. Vreala used her magic to heat up the stove as Stola began to mix her ingredients in a bowl. Stola gasped as she poured too much milk into the mix, drowning the egg yolks.
  380.  
  381. “Uh… uh… did I ruin it?” she asked quietly. Her lip quivered as she gave Vreala a pleading look.
  382.  
  383. “No! No, no, no. It’s fine. See? We’ll just add a few more eggs. They may be a bit runny when they’re done, but they’ll still taste great.” Said the succubus. “Let’s just try to pour a bit slower next time, okay?”
  384.  
  385. Stola nodded. Her brow furrowed with concentration as she poured the bowl of egg and milk into the pan.
  386.  
  387. “You can go a liiittle bit faster than that…” said Vreala.
  388.  
  389. Eventually, Stola drained the bowl. Taking her spatula, she almost slid the entire pan off the cooktop.
  390.  
  391. “Gently! Gently. Stola, you’re a big girl. Most people, and things, aren’t as strong as you. You have to be gentle.” Said Vreala showing her how to use the spatula.
  392.  
  393. “Gentle…” muttered Stola.
  394.  
  395. After a few minutes, she dumped the eggs onto a plate. The pile was runny in some places and burnt in others. Vreala was impressed at the ushi’s ability to seemingly defy the laws of physics with her culinary ineptitude.
  396.  
  397. “That’s cooking, right? This is all he needs to get better, right?” asked Stola.
  398.  
  399. “No, not quite. This is a step in the right direction, but your husband has a long way to go before he’s healthy. And this is only one dish. There’s many more you can cook.” Said Vreala.
  400.  
  401. “Mmm. Hmm. So I gotta cook everything before he’s healed.” Said Stola staring into space.
  402.  
  403. “No. I mean there are other things that you could cook for him. We’ll talk about that later. For now, let’s go check on him.” Said Vreala.
  404.  
  405. Stola nodded emphatically and followed Vreala back to the clinic.
  406.  
  407. ~~~~~~
  408.  
  409. Vreala entered the room while Stola stood hunched in the doorway carrying her plate of eggs. Walking over to the bed, the succubus checked on the man’s temperature. His fever seemed to be getting better. He let out a soft groan at Vreala’s touch and shifted in his sleep.
  410.  
  411. “Is he hurt?” asked Stola.
  412.  
  413. “No, he’s fine. His condition is stabilizing.” Said Vreala.
  414.  
  415. “Wha…”
  416.  
  417. Vreala looked down at the man, who was now looking back at her with glassy eyes.
  418.  
  419. “Help me…” he whispered.
  420.  
  421. “You’re safe. You’re alright. My name is Vreala. You’re in good care. There’s no need to worry.”
  422.  
  423. “No… You don’t… There’s a monster!” Said the man.
  424.  
  425. “Calm down. You’re safe. Can you tell me your name?”
  426.  
  427. “Name? My name is… Hazen. You have to listen… there’s a mon-“ he stopped mid sentence as he noticed the horns protruding from Vreala’s head.
  428.  
  429. “Y-you! You’re one of them…!” rasped Hazen. He tried to push Vreala away from him but she clasped his hands together.
  430.  
  431. “Listen to me. You are safe. No harm will come to you. I promise.” She said.
  432.  
  433. “But… She’s out there… she…”
  434.  
  435. His eyes grew wide as he saw Stola’s hulking form in the doorway.
  436.  
  437. “… I made cooking!” She said softly. Her tail slowly waggled behind her as she smiled confidently.
  438.  
  439. “Get her away! No! She’s… she’ll kill me! Please, don’t let her near me!” said Hazen trying to position Vreala between himself and Stola.
  440.  
  441. Stola’s jaw dropped. “But… I… cooking…” she said waving the plate at him.
  442.  
  443. “Calm down, Hazen. She made you some breakfast. That’s all! Nothing to be afraid of. You need to eat.” Said Vreala.
  444.  
  445. “You don’t understand! She’ll torture me again! All the torment…”
  446.  
  447. Hazen groaned and collapsed back onto the bed.
  448.  
  449. “Hazen, I know you may have had some bad experiences with her, but please try to keep an open mind!” said Vreala.
  450.  
  451. Hazen coughed and glared at her. “Damn you. You’re just a fucking demon. You’re with her. Here to make me suffer before you kill me…”
  452.  
  453. “No! Please, this is all just a huge misunderstanding! Stola loves you so much that she just has a hard time expressing it, right Stola?” asked Vreala looking at the ushi.
  454.  
  455. Stola was trembling in the doorway. Tears were pouring down her face at an alarming rate, soaking her dirty fur. She snapped out of her trance long enough to give a small nod.
  456.  
  457. “T-there! See? She cares about you. She just… made some mistakes. Please just eat the food.” Said Vreala.
  458.  
  459. “I don’t care if she loves me! I hate her! I hope I never see that demon again! I hope I never see you again! Gods, just end it! P-“
  460. Vreala quickly used her magic to mellow Hazen. His words slurred and he sank into discontented incoherence before falling back asleep. There was a loud crash behind her, and the succubus already knew that Stola had dropped the plate. Covering Hazen with a blanket, she gulped and turned around.
  461.  
  462. “Well, uh… Ha ha, looks like we have some work to do… Umm…”
  463.  
  464. Stola was a mess. Her legs splayed out around her as she collapsed to the floor. With an ear-splitting wail she began to bawl into her furry claws.
  465.  
  466. “HE HATES ME! I broke him and now he hates me!” she sobbed.
  467.  
  468. “No, no, no! No, Stola, calm down! Please, he doesn’t hate you. He just doesn’t know what’s going on. It’s okay.” Said Vreala.
  469. She hurried over to the ushi and put a hand on her human shoulder. Stola screamed even louder and pulled Vreala into a bearhug.
  470. “OW! Ow, ow, ow, ow! Stola, let go!” wheezed Vreala. It felt like her ribs were going to cave in.
  471.  
  472. Stola dropped her and laid on the ground. Curling up into a ball, she covered her face as she continued to whimper.
  473.  
  474. “Now you hate me too…” she whined.
  475.  
  476. “No, Stola, sweetie… You just need some instruction.” Said Vreala. “I promise you that if you stay here and work hard, Hazen will love you forever.”
  477.  
  478. Stola looked at Vreala in confusion and began to cry again.
  479.  
  480. “I don’t want a Hasten, I want HIM!” she shouted, pointing to Hazen. Vreala watched in fascination as the ushi flailed her legs and pounded the ground. Bits of egg and ceramic were now permanently lodged in the rat’s nest of thick black fur.
  481.  
  482. “That IS Hazen! That’s his name.” said Vreala exasperatedly.
  483.  
  484. Stola’s tantrum stopped and Vreala watched as the poor girl processed the information. Stola’s eyes glazed over before sparkling with hope.
  485.  
  486. “So he’s Hazen? Isn’t that who you said would love me if I live here from now on?” asked Stola.
  487.  
  488. Dear sweet Eros above this girl gave wurms a run for their money.
  489.  
  490. “You won’t live here forever. You’ll learn what it takes to be a good wife, and then you’ll be allowed to return to your home. And don’t forget, you have to do what the other nuns say. Otherwise, nothing will change.” Said Vreala.
  491.  
  492. Stola stood up and wiped her face clean with her wrists. Hygiene should probably be lesson one…
  493.  
  494. “Then I’ll work really hard and make him love me lots.” Said Stola.
  495.  
  496. “Good! Now, let’s get you a bath…”
  497.  
  498. ~~~~~~
  499.  
  500. “Vreala, you look… terrible.” Said Hayka.
  501.  
  502. Vreala sat down at the dining table and put her face in her hands.
  503.  
  504. “You look like you were crying.” Said Hayka. “That new one didn’t hurt you, did she?”
  505.  
  506. “No…”
  507.  
  508. “Then what happened?”
  509.  
  510. Vreala took a deep breath and lowered her hands.
  511.  
  512. “I gave her a bath.” Said Vreala.
  513.  
  514. “Oh… Did she struggle or something?”
  515.  
  516. “No, the opposite.”
  517.  
  518. Hayka raised an eyebrow. Vreala looked at her and waved her hands.
  519.  
  520. “The opposite! She wouldn’t get out! Apparently she’s never had hot water before. She loved splashing around in there…” Vreala got a wistful look on her face before grimacing. “But it took most of the shampoo we had to clean her fur out. I don’t think she’s ever combed it. At least she didn’t struggle. Seems like she couldn’t even feel it when I yanked out a knot of hair.”
  521.  
  522. Vreala put her face down on the table and showed Hayka her raw palms. Even now there were tiny coarse black hairs stuck to her wrists and under her nails.
  523.  
  524. “Wheee!”
  525.  
  526. Stola skittered into the room and over to Hayka.
  527.  
  528. “Hey! Feel this! It’s so soft!” said Stola rubbing her fur.
  529.  
  530. “Wow… Yeah, very soft.” Said Hayka rubbing her fur. The cupid was more focused on Stola’s head.
  531.  
  532. “Oh yeah, and her hair is also fucking beautiful. Kinda envious…” pouted Vreala.
  533.  
  534. Hayka nodded in agreement. Now that Stola’s hair was out of the perennial knot she kept it in, her long black hair hung down past her shoulders. It was lustrous and silky, with the perfect amount of wave.
  535.  
  536. “My hair? I don’t really like it like this… It makes it hard to hunt when it goes in front of my eyes.” Said Stola scratching her scalp.
  537.  
  538. “We can cut it tomorrow.” Said Hayka.
  539.  
  540. “Yeah, okay. I’m hungry.” Said Stola, ignoring Hayka.
  541.  
  542. “Well, I was just about to start dinner. Would you like to learn how to cook a roast?” asked Hayka.
  543.  
  544. Stola pouted and folded her arms across her ample chest. “Hmph. No. You both lied when you said that he would like me if I did that, so I know it’s a trick now. It just makes him angry.”
  545.  
  546. Vreala motioned for Hayka to just drop the subject and start making dinner.
  547.  
  548. “Vreala, have we given her a room yet?” asked Hayka as she put on an apron.
  549.  
  550. “No, I’ll get her set up in one.” Said Vreala. “Follow me Stola.”
  551.  
  552. Stola followed Vreala as she slowly walked out of the dining room towards the bedchambers. Hayka muttered a quick prayer for her comrade, and began to prepare dinner.
  553.  
  554. ~~~~~
  555.  
  556. “Oooh…”
  557.  
  558. Vreala watched Stola poke around her new room. Thankfully, the monastery had been designed to accommodate more monstrous mamono. Stola’s room had two barn doors instead of a normal entrance, and re-enforced furniture. The bed was a simple weresheep wool mattress that rested on the floor. No way she could crush it with her weight.
  559.  
  560. “Comfy!” said Stola flopping down onto the mattress.
  561.  
  562. “Glad you like it.” Said Vreala.
  563.  
  564. Stola nestled into the bedding and frowned. “But I can’t stay here. I gotta be with Hasten.”
  565.  
  566. “It’s Hazen. And you aren’t allowed to sleep with him until we say so.” Said Vreala.
  567.  
  568. “What?”
  569.  
  570. The hairs on Vreala’s neck stood up. Stola’s tone had shifted from chipper to threatening with one word.
  571.  
  572. “Hazen is still too sick to leave the medical ward. This is part of your training; you aren’t allowed to have sex with him unless he CONSENTS. Understand?”
  573.  
  574. “He will. He always does.” Said Stola.
  575.  
  576. “That’s not what he said.”
  577.  
  578. Stola huffed. “You mean that stuff he said before? I remembered that he’s shy. So all those things he said weren’t true; he was just embarrassed ‘cause he had to talk to you and he didn’t know you.”
  579.  
  580. “I see. Well, he still needs to spend the night in the medical ward. How about we test how shy he is tomorrow? You can see what the lessons are like. If Hazen really does consent, you’ll be free to take him and leave.
  581.  
  582. Stola wiggled her tail. “Ha! You’ll see. He can’t keep his hands off me.” She said proudly.
  583.  
  584. “I hope so…” said Vreala. “Well, I’ll see you in the morning then. Goodnight.”
  585.  
  586. Stola nodded and curled up with one of the pillows tucked between her pedipalps.
  587.  
  588. ~~~~~~~
  589.  
  590. “So, new girl, I hear you got a husband already.” Said Altau.
  591.  
  592. “Yesh.” Said Stola through a mouthful of food.
  593.  
  594. “How big is he? I bet he makes some interesting noises when you take him~” Said Azandi licking her lips.
  595.  
  596. Stola ignored her and reached across the table for the plate of bread. Hayka tried to hand it to her, but Stola lurched forwards to grab it and yank the plate away before the cupid could pass it to her.
  597.  
  598. “Hmph. You don’t talk much, do you? What’s up with that?” said Azandi, poking the ushi with her tail. Stola squirmed and took a bite out of a bread loaf.
  599.  
  600. “Stola, when you would like more of something, you should ask someone to pass it to you.” Said Hayka.
  601.  
  602. “Forget it, Hayka. I don’t know where Vreala found this one, but she’s too stupid to even feel pain. It’s a miracle that she didn’t kill her husband by sitting on him.” Said Lucoan.
  603.  
  604. Stola’s ears drooped.
  605.  
  606. “Lucoan! That’s completely inappropriate. Stola traveled very far to save her husband. She cares about him very much.” Scolded Vreala.
  607. “Yeah, but why’d she have to save him?” asked the werewolf.
  608.  
  609. “Stola is here to learn, just like the rest of you. You’ve ALL made mistakes. That’s why we’re here. And honestly, she’s put in more effort than all three of you COMBINED in just one day.” Said Vreala.
  610.  
  611. The three grumbled and avoided Vreala’s accusiotry gaze.
  612.  
  613. “Whatever. Things were fine before. I wouldn’t even BE here if that fucking smell-harpy hadn’t dropped my husband off here…” said Altau.
  614.  
  615. “A servant of Eros would not have separated you from your husband and guided you here if you did not need instruction.” Said Hayka.
  616. “Can we just get on with lessons? I need my daily dose.” Said Lucoan.
  617.  
  618. “Yes, it’s about that time of day. Let’s all meet out in the courtyard in a few minutes. I’ll get your husbands from their rooms.” Said Vreala.
  619.  
  620. ~~~~~
  621.  
  622. “Alright, so today we’ll be working on-“
  623.  
  624. “I wanna see Hazen.” Interrupted Stola.
  625.  
  626. Vreala paused and looked at her. “Ah, yes. Right. We did have an agreement. Hayka will instruct the rest of you in trust exercises. Stola, you can come over here.” Said Vreala.
  627.  
  628. She guided the ushi to one end of the courtyard.
  629.  
  630. “You wait here, and I’ll bring Hazen out. To prove to me that he loves you, you need to STAY HERE, and get him to come to you WITHOUT violence or threats. Do you understand?”
  631.  
  632. Stola nodded. Her legs were undulating with anticipation, creating little holes wherever they fell. Vreala made a mental note to have her aerate the garden later.
  633.  
  634. “Okay, I’m going to bring Hazen out. Just STAY THERE.”
  635.  
  636. Vreala disappeared and returned with Hazen. Already, he was looking remarkably better. The magical drugs and a full night of sleep had restored enough of his stamina to allow him to stand and walk on his own. He was still far from healthy, but a few more days of care would fix that.
  637.  
  638. Stola shrieked at the sight of him. Her ears and tail blurred into a black smear as they waggled ecstatically.
  639.  
  640. ~~~~~~
  641.  
  642. “So, that’s her man.” Said Azandi.
  643.  
  644. The other three monsters and their husbands had all stopped what they were doing to watch the spectacle across the courtyard. Even Hayka stood next to them to get a better view.
  645.  
  646. “By Lilith’s fat thighs… look at the size difference between the two…” muttered Altau.
  647.  
  648. “No wonder the poor sap was almost dead. I don’t think she ever really took a break from fucking him to feed him. From the sound of it, her “care” was more like torture.” Said Lucoan.
  649.  
  650. Stola’s shriek caused the husbands of the other girls to blench. Azandi purred as her man pressed himself against her, and dragged him in closer.
  651.  
  652. “This is going to be great inspiration for later.” She said stroking his cheek. He moaned and she wrapped her tail around his neck, mashing the opening of her tail against his chin.
  653.  
  654. Vreala was shouting something but the din of Stola’s legs drowned out the poor succubus’ impotent cries.
  655.  
  656. “I don’t think she’s listening…” said Lucoan.
  657.  
  658. “Ya think Vreala’s gonna get hurt? She may be a slave driver, but I don’t hate her for what she’s trying to do.” Said Altau.
  659.  
  660. “Depends. If she tries to stop her? We’ll probably have to pick her out of the wall with tweezers.” Said Lucoan.
  661.  
  662. Hazen was shouting something to Vreala, who was trying desperately to keep him from leaving and Stola in place.
  663.  
  664. “He wants to leave, but Vreala isn’t letting him. This is gonna be good.” Said Azandi.
  665.  
  666. “Shit, if he’s that traumatized, just let him rest and try again tomorrow.” Said Altau.
  667.  
  668. “Nope. He’s fucked. Literally. As soon as he runs, big-girl’s predator instincts are gonna take over.” Said Azandi.
  669.  
  670. Sure enough, Hazen broke his wrist free of Vreala’s grasp and shoved her away. The second he turned his back to run, Stola surged forwards.
  671.  
  672. “Holy fuck!” said Lucoan.
  673.  
  674. “Nothing that big should move that fast…” said Altau.
  675.  
  676. Stola shifted her body sideways for a moment to tag Hazen with a strand of webbing. Her stature beguiled the dexterous nature of her limbs, which worked in concert to drag Hazen under her at incredible speed. Using one of her claws, Stola tore off his pants and slammed herself down onto his hips in one quick thrust. Her back legs fully extended to give her even more leverage to press against Hazen.
  677.  
  678. The other three mamono looked on in perplexing mix of horror, admiration, arousal, and despair. Hazen screamed and flailed underneath his wife. Her massive hands wrapped around his wrists to hold him in place as she pressed her human torso against his. Her massive breasts forced his head back as they came to rest under his chin.
  679.  
  680. Altau pulled her shaking husband closer. He buried his face into her muscular stomach as she wrapped her arms around him. “It’s okay… It’s… Gods…” she said stroking his head.
  681.  
  682. “Eugh... When Vreala said she loved the guy I was expecting a more lovey-dovey relationship.” Said Lucoan.
  683.  
  684. “Ooh YES. This is getting me really turned on~” moaned Azandi. Her husband whimpered. She giggled and pressed her cheek against his. “Look at her go! That’s what I’M striving for.”
  685.  
  686. “Hayka, you gotta do something!” said Altau. She looked to her right, but Hayka was nowhere to be found.
  687.  
  688. “Hayka?”
  689.  
  690. The minotaur heard the soft whoosh of wings overhead and Hayka shot past her with an arrow already in her bow. Without hesitation, she out a lead arrow through Stola’s chest.
  691.  
  692. Stola gasped and collapsed onto Hazen. Vreala quickly rushed to his aid, pulling him out from underneath her. Stola began to cry as the arrow took effect. She weakly reached out a hand towards Hazen as Vreala hauled him away.
  693.  
  694. “No, wait! Please… I’m sorry! I didn’t mean to hurt him! So please, don’t take him from me!”
  695.  
  696. Hazen didn’t respond. Hayka landed in front of Stola. The ushi began to wail as Hayka tried to comfort her.
  697.  
  698. “Yeesh. That had to hurt.” Said Lucoan.
  699.  
  700. Altau stared at the sobbing spider-cow, and the rape divot she had made. Unconsciously, she squeezed her husband a bit tighter. The man shuddered. She looked down at him. He stared back in fear.
  701.  
  702. “W-why are you looking at me like that?” said Altau.
  703.  
  704. Her husband hid his face.
  705.  
  706. “Hey! You’re not afraid of me are you? I don’t treat you like that!” said Altau. She grabbed his arm and he tried to pull away. “You love me… right?”
  707.  
  708. He nodded, but he didn’t look at her as he did.
  709.  
  710. “Shit, you think this will push lunchtime back?” asked Lucoan. “Ah well. If those two are busy wrangling rape-spider and fuckmeat, I guess I’ll just have to have a little snack~”
  711.  
  712. Lucoan chuckled as she grabbed her man by the wrist and started leading him away. He shouted and pulled against her, but the werewolf was too strong. Pushing him to the ground, she tried to wrap him up in a bear hug.
  713.  
  714. “Stop struggling damnit! We gotta make this quick. That Eros worshiping spinster won’t be occupied for long. So why don’t you behave, and I’ll take it easy on you?”
  715.  
  716. The man kicked at her, and she grabbed his leg and began to drag him away. “Fine, if that’s the way you like it~”
  717.  
  718. Lucoan only made it a few feet before a lead arrow shaved a few hairs off the top of her head, embedding itself in the wall with a loud thunk.
  719.  
  720. “Where do you think you’re going.”
  721.  
  722. Lucoan dropped her husband’s leg and held her hands up.
  723.  
  724. “Well, I figured that I’d make things easy on you and make lunch for myself today.” Said Lucoan.
  725.  
  726. “You know the rules. Now where’s Azandi?” said Hayka, nocking another arrow.
  727.  
  728. “Huh? She’s…” Lucoan looked around the courtyard. “…Not here? Huh. She was here a moment ago…”
  729.  
  730. From one of the bedrooms nearby there was a loud scream and followed by a shrill laugh.
  731.  
  732. Hayka sighed and pulled out a realm silver knife. Altau and Lucoan watched as she kicked in the door. Hayka shouted something, and hell broke loose. Azandi’s husband crawled out of the room covered in bite marks, before the manticore’s tail wrapped around his ankle and dragged him back in. A moment later, a volley of spines flew out the door and landed in the grass. Lucoan cautiously crept over and stuffed a few into her pocket.
  733.  
  734. At last, there was a loud shriek and Hayka dragged an unconscious Azandi into the courtyard. Even asleep, she had a smug grin on her face.
  735.  
  736. “Everyone is to return to their rooms until dinner.” Said Hayka flatly.
  737.  
  738. The cupid left to go help Stola, while the other mamono returned to their rooms.
  739.  
  740. ~~~~~~
  741.  
  742. “Now do you understand?” asked Vreala.
  743.  
  744. Stola sniffed loudly and wiped her nose on her wrist. “I didn’t mean to hurt him.”
  745.  
  746. “I know you didn’t. All you need is practice. If you can learn to show your affection in a constructive way, then I’m sure that Hazen will warm up to you. But you need to understand: you’ve hurt him. He doesn’t know that you’re not doing it intentionally. To him, every time he sees you he ends up bruised, drained, and tired. His trust has to be won back in little pieces.”
  747.  
  748. “How long will that take?” asked Stola.
  749.  
  750. “I don’t know. But it will go faster if you can control yourself. I’m going to look through some tomes later, and see if I can’t enchant that seal with something that will help you restrain yourself.” Said Vreala.
  751.  
  752. Stola pushed some of the food around on her plate. Vreala couldn’t tell if she was pouting, or if she was still getting the hang of using utensils.
  753.  
  754. “Hey horns, why the long face?” asked Lucoan.
  755.  
  756. Altau looked at the werewolf. “Hmm?”
  757.  
  758. “You haven’t said a word since Stola raped her husband. What gives?” asked Lucoan.
  759.  
  760. “Nothing. Just tired.” Said Altau.
  761.  
  762. Lucoan shrugged and went back to eating.
  763.  
  764. “I’m going to bed.” Said Stola.
  765.  
  766. “Me too.” Said Altau.
  767.  
  768. Azandi let out a snore from under the table, still unconscious from Hayka’s attack. Vreala excused herself to go study some spells in the library and Hayka began to clear the table.
  769.  
  770. “Hmph. Why do I have to be the only normal one here?” asked Lucoan to the empty room.
  771.  
  772. ~~~~~~
  773.  
  774. “Good morning Stola. You’re up early.” Said Hayka.
  775.  
  776. “Vreala said I should try cooking again.” Said Stola.
  777.  
  778. Hayka smiled. “I’m glad. You’ll find that perseverance is important. Hazen may struggle to accept you at first, but if you continue to show your love in a healthy way, Eros will surely bless you.”
  779.  
  780. Stola nodded. Hayka began to tell her the basics of cooking bacon as she put the ushi’s hair into a ponytail. Vreala had never gotten around to cutting it yesterday after the incident.
  781.  
  782. “Oh, Altau. Breakfast isn’t ready yet.” Said Hayka.
  783.  
  784. Altau nervously stepped into the room. “I…I wanted to try making something.”
  785.  
  786. Hayka’s eyes gleamed. “Truly?”
  787.  
  788. Altau nodded. Hayka pulled out another set of cooking utensils and pans.
  789.  
  790. “Why do you want to start now? If you don’t mind me asking.” Said Hayka.
  791.  
  792. Altau looked at Stola. “Well, when Stola was… “with” her man, my husband jumped on me. I thought it was pretty cute, cause he’s tiny. But then he looked at me, and…”
  793.  
  794. Altau frowned and took a deep breath. “He was afraid. I used to love that look. It was just me putting him in his place, you know? And I always thought that I meant as much to him as he did to me. But the way he looked at me was different. Like he thought that I was going to do the same thing to him.”
  795.  
  796. Hayka nodded solemnly. “Now you see what Vreala and I have been talking about. Sex is important, but you must remember that it is proof of the covenant you share with your beloved. You mustn’t betray his trust or love to sate your lust.”
  797.  
  798. Altau gulped and nodded.
  799.  
  800. “Fear not, Altau. If your words are sincere and your heart true, Eros will not forsake you.” Said Hayka putting a hand on the minotaur’s shoulder. She had to stand on her tiptoes to reach, so Altau crouched down a bit to help her.
  801.  
  802. “Thank you. So, do I just put the meat in the pan?” asked Altau.
  803.  
  804. “Yes. Use the spatula to flip the meat when it’s ready.” Said Hayka.
  805.  
  806. “Like that?” asked Altau, pointing at Stola’s pan.
  807.  
  808. Hayka looked at her other student.
  809.  
  810. “Oh! Very good, Stola.”
  811.  
  812. Stola had managed to cook and plate the bacon on her own. To Hayka’s surprise, none of the pieces looked burnt or undercooked.
  813.  
  814. “Why don’t you and Vreala go give that to Hazen? I’ll stay here and get the rest of breakfast ready.” Said Hayka.
  815.  
  816. Stola nodded and hurried off to go find her other mentor.
  817.  
  818. ~~~~~~
  819.  
  820. “Hazen? You have someone here to see you.” Said Vreala. She gently knocked on the door.
  821.  
  822. “Is it that spider thing?” asked Hazen.
  823.  
  824. “I already told you, her name is Stola. It’s very rude to call her anything but that. And yes, it’s her.” Said Vreala.
  825.  
  826. “Tell her to go away.”
  827.  
  828. “Hazen, the only way you’re leaving this monastery is with her.”
  829.  
  830. “Then I’ll die here!” shouted Hazen.
  831.  
  832. Stola gripped the plate of bacon tighter. Vreala rubbed her arm and gave her a nod to reassure her.
  833.  
  834. “She agreed not to come into your room. You can just talk to her from the doorway.” Said the succubus.
  835.  
  836. “She’s too fat to fit through the door anyways.”
  837.  
  838. Vreala sighed. Motioning to Stola, she stepped aside and let the ushi in front of the door.
  839.  
  840. “Umm, Hazen? My name is Stola. I’m really sorry I hurt you. I didn’t mean to.” Said Stola. She started to cry again. “I… I just love you a lot. More than anything. Even meat. So I just want you not to hate me ‘cause I don’t know what I’d do without you. Vreala is going to show me how to not hurt you. And I’m gonna work REALLY hard to learn how to be a good wife, even if I don’t know exactly what that means. Hayka’s also helping me, and she said cooking was important. So I made bacon for you, and I only ate one piece. I’m sorry if you wanted it, but I got hungry on the way over here.”
  841.  
  842. Vreala signaled to the ushi to wrap it up and stop her rambling.
  843.  
  844. “So I’ll just leave this plate here. I just hope that someday I can show you how much you mean to me.” Said Stola.
  845.  
  846.  She set the plate down in front of the door and walked away with Vreala.
  847.  
  848. “I think that went well.” Said Vreala.
  849.  
  850. “Even though he didn’t open the door?” asked Stola.
  851.  
  852. “It’s a start. That’s what matters.”
  853.  
  854. ~~~~~~
  855.  
  856. “Today, we’ll be practicing how to ask something of our husbands. Though it’s important to care for your man, it’s not your sole responsibility to do everything. This is also good practice for instigating consensual sex.” Said Vreala.
  857.  
  858. Azandi scoffed and rolled her eyes.
  859.  
  860. “So, the four of you will stand here, and ask your husband to come over to you.” Said Vreala.
  861.  
  862. “And if they don’t?” asked Lucoan.
  863.  
  864. “Then you keep trying until they do.”
  865.  
  866. “Or I could just go over there and grab him.” Said Azandi. Her husband shuffled nervously.
  867.  
  868. “In light of recent events, Hayka had decided to have her bow on hand at all times. Please consider this before doing anything rash.” Said Vreala.
  869.  
  870. Hayka stared at the manticore.
  871.  
  872. “Hmph. Whatever…” said Azandi.
  873.  
  874. “Who wants to go first?” asked Vreala.
  875.  
  876. Stola thrust her hand up and waved it frantically at her.
  877.  
  878. “Okay Stola. Just remember: you are asking. Not telling.” Said Vreala.
  879.  
  880. “Yeah!” Stola cleared her throat and looked at Hazen. “Hazen, come here.”
  881.  
  882. “That was a little to firm. You should change your tone. And remember to say please.” Said Vreala.
  883.  
  884. “This is insane!” said Hazen.
  885.  
  886. Stola frowned and asked again. “Hazen, come here. Please.”
  887.  
  888. The emphasis on the last word gave the sentence a sinister vibe. Hazen stood firmly at the other side of the courtyard. Stola looked at Vreala with concern.
  889.  
  890. “It’s okay. He might not accept you right away.” Said Vreala. “Why don’t you try practicing for a bit? While you work on that, how about you go Lucoan?”
  891.  
  892. “Fine. Oi, husband. Come here.” Said the werewolf.
  893.  
  894. “Fuck you.” Said the man.
  895.  
  896. Lucoan growled and Azandi snickered. “Why you little-“
  897.  
  898. Hayka drew her bow and Lucoan relaxed.
  899.  
  900. “Right. Alright, that’s fine. Povon, would you PLEASE come over here?” asked Lucoan.
  901.  
  902. “So you can rape me again?”
  903.  
  904. Lucoan clenched her fists and sighed. “Whatever. I tried. Can I go sleep now?”
  905.  
  906. “No.” said Hayka. “Try talking to him. Altau, you’re next.”
  907.  
  908. Lucoan and her husband started arguing with each other from across the courtyard.
  909.  
  910. “Uhh… Hey Waikar, could you please come over here?” asked Altau.
  911.  
  912. “Woah. What the hell was that?” asked Azandi.
  913.  
  914. “What?” asked the minotaur.
  915.  
  916. “I don’t think I’ve ever heard your voice get that high. Or your spine go that limp.” Said Azandi.
  917.  
  918. Waikar seemed just as surprised as the others about her suddenly dainty disposition.
  919.  
  920. “W-well you know. I just want him to come over here.” Said Altau with a blush.
  921.  
  922. “Eww! Are you blushing? Gross. I don’t know if you’re sick or something but stay away from me until you’re back to normal.” Said Azandi.
  923.  
  924. Altau looked back at her husband. He remained at the other end of the courtyard.
  925.  
  926. “It’s okay! I won’t hurt you. I know that I may not have been a very good wife before, but… I’d really like a second chance.” Said Altau.
  927.  
  928. Waikar frowned.
  929.  
  930. “Even if I don’t deserve it…” murmured Altau.
  931.  
  932. “Yo, steaks, are you crying?!” asked Lucoan.
  933.  
  934. “No…” said Altau with a loud sniff.
  935.  
  936. “Oh Lilith, what the hell is happening to this place?” said Azandi.
  937.  
  938. Altau sank to the ground and put her head on her knees. Hayka rubbed her back.
  939.  
  940. “Ufufu… Fear not, Altau. Eros hears what the heart speaks.” Said the cupid.
  941.  
  942. “What do you mean?” asked Altau looking up at her.
  943.  
  944. Hayka pointed to Waikar. The man had taken a few teetering steps towards Altau when she had sat on the ground. Altau gasped and looked between him and Hayka.
  945.  
  946. Altau stood up and clapped her hands together in front of her chest. Her tail was wagging with joy and anticipation. Waikar took a step back as Altau stood, but did not retreat all the way across the courtyard.
  947.  
  948. “It’s fine if you want to stay there!” Blurted Altau. “I mean, I would like it better if you came all the way, but I don’t want to make you uncomfortable. So if that’s all you can do today that’s fine!”
  949.  
  950. “I can’t watch this…” said Lucoan.
  951.  
  952. “I wish you would. You could learn a thing or two.” Shouted Povon.
  953.  
  954. “Shut up!” shouted Lucoan.
  955.  
  956. Waikar gulped. “If I come over there, what are you going to do to me?” he asked.
  957.  
  958. “Nothing! I mean, I’d like to do things with you, but I just want you to love me most of all.” Said Altau.
  959.  
  960. Waikar looked at Hayka. She hefted her bow and looked back at him.
  961.  
  962. Slowly, he crept closer to Altau. She squealed and wagged her tail harder. Waikar faltered and she quickly got her emotions under control. Her tail however, continued to speed up as he approached.
  963.  
  964. When he was almost in arms reach, he stopped.
  965.  
  966. Altau sniffed and wiped her eyes. “I’m sorry.”
  967.  
  968. Waikar looked away from her. He had never expected the monster that had kidnapped, raped, and almost smothered him to apologize.
  969. “Yeah, I can see…” he said.
  970.  
  971. “Are you afraid of me?” asked Altau.
  972.  
  973. “Yes, but less than before.” Said Waikar.
  974.  
  975. Altau sighed. “I guess that’s more than I deserve.”
  976.  
  977. Waikar gulped. “Well, if you’re serious about treating me better, I don’t mind helping you.”
  978.  
  979. Altau’s face brightened. “Really?!”
  980.  
  981. Waikar nodded.
  982.  
  983. Fresh tears rolled down Altau’s face and into her cleavage. “I promise I’ll be the best wife ever!”
  984.  
  985. Waikar grinned. “I’ll hold you to that.”
  986.  
  987. Altau stared at him for a few seconds and looked away from him.
  988.  
  989. “What was that about?” asked Waikar.
  990.  
  991. “Umm… Hayka always says that marriage is about “reciprocity”. I was going to ask you for a hug, but we can do that some other time.” Said Altau.
  992.  
  993. Waikar’s face reddened. “I- I suppose I could give you a hug. As long as you don’t try anything funny!”
  994.  
  995. Altau nodded vigorously and bend down to accommodate him. Almost drooling, she held her arms out for him. Waikar stepped closer, and she gently wrapped her arms around her. Unlike her other embraces, he could tell that she was taking great care not to hurt him. In fact, she was hardly touching him at all. Her muscular stomach rippled as she let out a happy hum and squeezed him a bit tighter.
  996.  
  997. “That’s what makes this job worthwhile.” said Hayka.
  998.  
  999. “Fuck this. I’m out.” Said Lucoan storming off.
  1000.  
  1001. “I want that! Altau, you gotta tell me how you do that!” shouted Stola.
  1002.  
  1003. “Oh fuck, it actually worked…” whispered Vreala.
  1004.  
  1005. Azandi used the distraction to try to get closer to her husband. Hayka glared at her. With a tut, she returned to her place.
  1006.  
  1007. “He has to come to YOU of his own volition.” Said Hayka.
  1008.  
  1009. “Fine. Oh Larn sweetie? Could you come over here?” said Azandi, batting her eyelashes at the small man across from her.
  1010.  
  1011. He shook his head and looked at his feet.
  1012.  
  1013. “Aww. I know you’re afraid, but if you don’t get that cute lil’ butt over here this instant, I’ll have to fill you with spines for misbehaving.” Said Azandi with an exaggerated pout.
  1014.  
  1015. Larn gulped but didn’t move.
  1016.  
  1017. “Oh, Larn. You’re making me so sad! Now I’ll just have to use you to make me feel all better.”
  1018.  
  1019. “That’s enough Azandi.” Said Hayka.
  1020.  
  1021. “Really? Because I think I’m being VERY cordial. And I’m not forcing him to come to me. I’m giving him the option of being a good boy and getting over here this INSTANT, or making me angry.” Said Azandi.
  1022.  
  1023. Larn stared at his wife with fear. Azandi sighed. “Oh well, I guess I’ll just have to find some creative way to vent my frustration.”
  1024. Stola was now frantically waving at Hazen and pointing to Altau and Waikar. “That! I wanna do that! So come here!”
  1025.  
  1026. Hazen looked at Vreala.
  1027.  
  1028. “Well? It’s up to you. No harm will come to you if you go over there. But you have to be the one to make that choice.” Said Vreala.
  1029.  
  1030. “Forget it. I’ve been crushed by those claws too many times.” Grumbled Hazen.
  1031.  
  1032. Stola’s arms lowered and her lower lip began to quiver. “Hazen…”
  1033.  
  1034. “No. I’m done. I’m going back to my room.” Said Hazen.
  1035.  
  1036. “Hazen, please…” said Vreala.
  1037.  
  1038. He ignored her and left.
  1039.  
  1040. “Does that mean I can leave too?” asked Povon.
  1041.  
  1042. “I suppose.” Said Vreala.
  1043.  
  1044. “Altau, I think it’s about time you let go of him.” Said Hayka.
  1045.  
  1046. Altau frowned, but released Waikar.
  1047.  
  1048. “Don’t worry. If he wants, he can eat with you during mealtime from now on.” Said Hayka.
  1049.  
  1050. Altau nodded. “Uhh…” she leaned down to the cupid. “Can you teach me how to cook something simple for tonight then?” she whispered.
  1051.  
  1052. “Of course.”
  1053.  
  1054. Altau smiled and stretched. “Good. I’ll see you later then.” She said to Waikar.
  1055.  
  1056. “Yeah, see you later.” Said Waikar.
  1057.  
  1058. “Azandi, stop that. I swear, Stola’s done more in a day than you have in a month.” Said Vreala.
  1059.  
  1060. The manticore stopped staring at her husband and shrugged. “What can I say? I know what I want.”
  1061.  
  1062. “All we ask is that you consider what he wants sometimes. Now go. Dinner will be ready in an hour or so.” Said Vreala.
  1063.  
  1064. “I’m gonna cook!” said Stola.
  1065.  
  1066. “Then I’ll see you in the kitchen.” Said Hayka.
  1067.  
  1068. Altau and Stola followed the cupid off to the kitchen while Larn and Waikar returned to their rooms. Azandi flashed her husband the inside of her tail as he left, licking her lips.
  1069.  
  1070. ~~~~~~~
  1071.  
  1072. “Hazen? I made you some meat and vegetables. I grilled them myself.” Said Stola.
  1073.  
  1074. “And I brought you some books from the library.” Said Vreala.
  1075.  
  1076. “Just leave them by the door.” Said Hazen.
  1077.  
  1078. Stola and Vreala waited for a minute before setting down the food and literature in front of his door.
  1079.  
  1080. “I’ll see you tomorrow. And I’ll do even better!” said Stola.
  1081.  
  1082. The two headed back to the dining hall.
  1083.  
  1084. “What does he do with the books anyways?” asked Stola.
  1085.  
  1086. “What do you mean?” asked Vreala.
  1087.  
  1088. “He had one of those things on him when I caught him. It was really good kindling, but I think I was using it wrong. Are you just supposed to use one piece at a time? He got mad when I used the whole thing at once.”
  1089.  
  1090. Vreala flinched. “Stola, can you read?”
  1091.  
  1092. Stola blinked. “No.”
  1093.  
  1094. Vreala sighed. “We can work on that later then.”
  1095.  
  1096. “Will it make him love me?” asked Stola.
  1097.  
  1098. “It will certainly help.”
  1099.  
  1100. “Yeah! I’m gonna read!”
  1101.  
  1102. “She’s illiterate? Who would have guessed.” Said Lucoan.
  1103.  
  1104. Stola and Vreala entered the dining room.
  1105.  
  1106. “Enough Lucoan.” Said Hayka.
  1107.  
  1108. “Enough Lucoan.” Parroted the werewolf in an exaggerated pitch.
  1109.  
  1110. “Are you still upset because she couldn’t get her husband to behave?” snickered Azandi.
  1111.  
  1112. “Can it, freak. You couldn’t either.” Growled Lucoan.
  1113.  
  1114. “Larn knows his place. He would have come crawling over if Hayka hadn’t stopped me.”
  1115.  
  1116. They began to argue as Vreala and Stola sat next to Altau and Waikar. Vreala made sure to spare the man from having to sit next to the ushi.
  1117.  
  1118. “Look at you two! I’m so proud of you.” Said Vreala.
  1119.  
  1120. “Altau, how did you make him come over? Was it food?” asked Stola.
  1121.  
  1122. “I don’t know. I guess I just did my best to show him that I cared about him.” Said Altau.
  1123.  
  1124. “But I already tried that.” Whined Stola. “Why is this so complicated.”
  1125.  
  1126. “Just keep building trust one day at a time. You’ll get there someday, I promise.” Said Vreala.
  1127.  
  1128. “Yeah… Hey, human. Why did you go over to her?” Said Stola leaning over the table towards Waikar.
  1129.  
  1130. “Uhh… I guess I just felt like she wasn’t going to hurt me. She was always a bit gruff and aggressive, but I didn’t consider she actually cared about me as more than a food source until today.”
  1131.  
  1132. “Hmm…” Stola closed her eyes and furrowed her brow in concentration as she through about what they had said.
  1133.  
  1134. “Well, if things are going well for you two, I think it’s alright if you share a room from now on.” Said Vreala.
  1135.  
  1136. “WHAT?!” shouted Lucoan.
  1137.  
  1138. “You know the rules. If a man agrees, he can start sleeping with his wife.” Said Hayka.
  1139.  
  1140. “But not with his wolf.” Giggled Azandi.
  1141.  
  1142. “That’s not fair! Why does SHE get special privileges?” asked Lucoan pointing at Altau.
  1143.  
  1144. “Because she’s established a loving relationship of mutual trust with her husband. The entire reason you’re all in the first place.” Said Vreala.
  1145.  
  1146. “Povon and I DO love each other!” shouted Lucoan.
  1147.  
  1148. “I can tell you two are just head-over-heels for one another.” Said Azandi.
  1149.  
  1150. “Fuck you. None of you understand!” said Lucoan. She pushed her plate away and stormed off.
  1151.  
  1152. Vreala sighed. “Azandi, you can’t just provoke people like that.”
  1153.  
  1154. “Sorry V, but I just can’t help myself. She’s too cute when she get’s mad.” Said Azandi.
  1155.  
  1156. “Don’t call me “V”. And maybe if you were a bit more sincere YOUR husband would listen to you.” Said Vreala.
  1157.  
  1158. “He DOES listen to me. I know what he wants. And what he wants is to please me. Who am I to keep him from happiness?”
  1159.  
  1160. Vreala sighed. “I just wish you were more open to learning about love. At least Stola hasn’t learned anything from you.”
  1161.  
  1162. “But I’ve learned things from HER. Gods, what I wouldn’t give to be able to move my hips like that…” mused Azandi.
  1163.  
  1164. Altau finished her food and looked at Waikar. “Did you like it?”
  1165.  
  1166. “Yes. Much better than the mystery stew you served me when we first met.” Said Waikar.
  1167.  
  1168. Altau blushed and wagged her tail. “Good! Good. So… if you want, you could stay in my room tonight. If you want to!”
  1169.  
  1170. Waikar looked at the last morsel of food on his plate. “I’ll give it a try.”
  1171.  
  1172. Altau beamed. “Great! I’ll help you get your things!” she said.
  1173.  
  1174. The couple left, chatting about how to adjust the furniture to accommodate another person.
  1175.  
  1176. “What a cute pair. I’m going to head to bed too. Gotta have enough energy to make that little bastard pay for defying me today.” Said Azandi.
  1177.  
  1178. Hayka watched her leave, knowing that she would be on guard duty all night.
  1179.  
  1180. “Is she asleep?” she asked pointing to Stoal.
  1181.  
  1182. The ushi was still sitting at the table with a look of concentration.
  1183.  
  1184. “I don’t think so. Stola? Do you still want to learn how to read?” asked Vreala.
  1185.  
  1186. Stola opened her eyes. “Hmm?”
  1187.  
  1188. “Reading?”
  1189.  
  1190. “Yeah!” exclaimed Stola.
  1191.  
  1192. “Okay. Come on, let’s go to the library.”
  1193.  
  1194. Stola followed Vreala down the corridor as Hayka cleared the table and prepared to stakeout Azandi’s room.
  1195.  
  1196. ~~~~~~~
  1197.  
  1198. “Stola, can you bend down please?” asked Vreala.
  1199.  
  1200. “Why?” asked Stola.
  1201.  
  1202. “I want you to try wearing this today.” Said Vreala.
  1203.  
  1204. She tried to affix something to her seal, but Stola pulled away.
  1205.  
  1206. “Don’t touch that!” said Stola.
  1207.  
  1208. “It’s okay. I enchanted this swatch of cloth with a blessing of Eros. It should help you contain your lust.” Said Vreala.
  1209. “I’m not supposed to let people touch my seal…” said Stola.
  1210.  
  1211. “Don’t worry. This won’t interfere with the existing magic.”
  1212.  
  1213. Stola mulled over the proposition, and bent down to allow Vreala to stitch the patch onto her seal.
  1214.  
  1215. “How does it feel?” asked Vreala.
  1216.  
  1217. “Funny…” said Stola.
  1218.  
  1219. “You’ll get used to it. Let’s go see how the others are doing.”
  1220.  
  1221. Out in the courtyard, Lucoan and Povon were arguing while Azandi combed Larn’s hair with her claws under the watchful eye of Hayka. Larn sat paralyzed as she gently massaged his scalp with paws that were almost as big as his head. Altau and Waikar were sitting on a bench, chatting and enjoying the day.
  1222.  
  1223. “Just come here! Look, even Azandi can do it, and she’s way worse than me!” said Lucoan.
  1224.  
  1225. “No! That’s what you always say. And then you start biting and scratching me.” Said Povon.
  1226.  
  1227. “Don’t be a baby! Look, that spineless wimp is cuddling with her, so-“
  1228.  
  1229. Lucoan jumped as several spines impaled the ground near her feet.
  1230.  
  1231. “Please don’t talk about my sweet little husband like that, okay?” said Azandi. Her smile was juxtaposed by the smoldering rage in her eyes.
  1232.  
  1233. “A-anyways…” said Lucoan clearing her throat. “I’m telling you that I won’t hurt you, so you need to trust me and get over here.”
  1234.  
  1235. “Why the hell should I trust you? Every time you get close to me it always ends the same way.” Said Povon.
  1236.  
  1237. “Cause I’m trying really hard to change here!” shouted Lucoan.
  1238.  
  1239. “You haven’t changed at all!” retorted Povon.
  1240.  
  1241. “Hey, Povon was it? Has she ever told you that she loves you?” asked Azandi.
  1242.  
  1243. “No.” said Povon.
  1244.  
  1245. “Wha-! I-I have!” said Lucoan.
  1246.  
  1247. “Name one.” Said Azandi.
  1248.  
  1249. “When I captured him.”
  1250.  
  1251. “No, you didn’t. You dragged me onto a pile of leaves and told me to be quiet. Every time I screamed you bit me.”
  1252.  
  1253. “But I said that I loved you afterwards.” Said Lucoan.
  1254.  
  1255. “No, you passed out on top of me. And when you woke up, you picked up where you left off.”
  1256.  
  1257. “There were other times.” Muttered Lucoan. She looked at the ground.
  1258.  
  1259. “And yet you can’t name one? Hayka, isn’t “I love you” something you should say every day?” asked Azandi with glee.
  1260.  
  1261. “Yes.” Said Hayka.
  1262.  
  1263. “So you should be able to remember lots of times.” Said the manticore.
  1264.  
  1265. Lucoan swallowed and tucked her tail between her legs.
  1266.  
  1267. “Oh ho? So the big bad wolf has had some trouble telling her man how she feels, hmm? If you’ve forgotten all this time, how about you start now?” said Azandi.
  1268.  
  1269. Lucoan blushed. “What are you talking about, you fucking cat-bat?”
  1270.  
  1271. “Just tell him how you feel. It’s easy. Watch.”
  1272.  
  1273. Azandi flipped Larn around so that he was facing her. She kissed his forehead and pressed hers against his. “I love you.” She said staring into his eyes. Larn looked away and Azandi giggled.
  1274.  
  1275. “So shy! You don’t have to say it back. I know how you feel~” said the manticore, giving Larn a hug from behind. “So how about it? I’m sure Povon would LOVE to hear alllll about how much you care about him.”
  1276.  
  1277. “He knows. He doesn’t care.” Said Lucoan.
  1278.  
  1279. “No, actually I do.”
  1280.  
  1281. Lucoan’s eyes opened in panic. “What?”
  1282.  
  1283. “Tell you what, if you can tell me that you actually love me and that I’m not a glorified chew toy, I’ll come snuggle you.”
  1284.  
  1285. “I don’t care if we snuggle or not. It makes no difference to me.” Said Lucoan defiantly.
  1286.  
  1287. “Then why did your tail wag so much when he made the offer?” asked Azandi.
  1288.  
  1289. Lucoan grabbed her tail to prevent it from moving. “I don’t care about it! I mean it!”
  1290.  
  1291. “I see. So that’s how you feel about me. Guess I may as well stay in my room from now on.” Said Povon. He started to walk away.
  1292.  
  1293. “Wait!”
  1294.  
  1295. Povon stopped and looked back at Lucoan.
  1296.  
  1297. “You can’t just leave! You- you haven’t been dismissed yet!”
  1298.  
  1299. “Hayka, can I leave?” asked Povon.
  1300.  
  1301. “Yep.” Said Hayka.
  1302.  
  1303. “What?! No! Hey!” Lucoan took a step towards him.
  1304.  
  1305. “Guess it really is too much for you after all.” Sighed Azandi. She wrapped her arms around Larn and kissed him on his neck. “I’m so glad WE understand each other.” She said looking at Lucoan.
  1306.  
  1307. Lucoan grit her teeth and swore. “Stop right there!”
  1308.  
  1309. Povon paused and looked back. “Why should I?”
  1310.  
  1311. Lucoan was beet red. “I- I’ll say it!”
  1312.  
  1313. Povon looked at her. She couldn’t meet his gaze. Her tail bushed out and stood straight up.
  1314.  
  1315. “I- I luff yurg.” Mumbled Lucoan.
  1316.  
  1317. Azandi laughed. “Come on, that’s one part down. Maybe tomorrow you can get “love you” too.”
  1318.  
  1319. “Shut up!” shouted Lucoan. She looked at Povon. “I love-“
  1320.  
  1321. Povon stared at her and she faltered.
  1322.  
  1323. “I love you.”
  1324.  
  1325. It was little more than a whisper, but Lucoan finally managed get out the full sentence. She was on the verge of tears.
  1326.  
  1327. Povon sighed and walked over to her. She glared at him, her face still flushed with embarrassment.
  1328.  
  1329. “Well, that’s a start.” He said. He wrapped his arms around her and Lucoan instantly jumped up and pulled him in.
  1330.  
  1331. “Aww, look at her tail go!” said Azandi.
  1332.  
  1333. “S-shut up!” said Lucoan. Her tail was making her hips swing back and forth with the force of each wag. She buried her head in Povon’s chest.
  1334.  
  1335. Stola was taking notes. Though she hadn’t mastered writing, she was quick on the uptake. Forgoing conventional writing, she used symbols and pictures to record events and information. Vreala was impressed with her skills.
  1336.  
  1337. “Stola, where’s Hazen?” asked Vreala.
  1338.  
  1339. “Huh?”
  1340.  
  1341. “Did he say anything to you when you gave him breakfast?”
  1342.  
  1343. “No.”
  1344.  
  1345. Stola sniffed the air and frowned. “Actually, it seems like his scent is fading…”
  1346.  
  1347. The ushi quickly scampered over to Hazen’s room and knocked on the door.
  1348.  
  1349. “Hazen? Are you in there? Are you okay?” asked Stola.
  1350.  
  1351. Vreala waited next to her.
  1352.  
  1353. “Hazen?” she asked.
  1354.  
  1355. Pushing open the door, they looked into the room.
  1356.  
  1357. “He’s gone!” gasped Stola.
  1358.  
  1359. “He must have run off.” Said Vreala.
  1360.  
  1361. Stola began to hyperventilate. “I-I have to find him!”
  1362.  
  1363. She tried to run but Vreala caught her arm.
  1364.  
  1365. “Stola, just be gentle, alright? I can’t be by your side for this.”
  1366.  
  1367. Stola nodded. Her powerful legs carried her through the halls towards the front gate.
  1368.  
  1369. “Where the hell is she going in such a hurry?” asked Azandi.
  1370.  
  1371. “Hazen is gone. She’s going to look for him.” Said Vreala.
  1372.  
  1373. The ground shook as they watched Stola tear up the mountain side. A trail of dust and falling rocks followed her as she disappeared through a pass in a matter of minutes.
  1374.  
  1375. “I still don’t understand how she can move that quickly…” said Altau.
  1376.  
  1377. ~~~~~~
  1378.  
  1379. “Hazen!” called Stola.
  1380.  
  1381. Thankfully, Hazen couldn’t hope to outpace an ushi on her own turf. Stola had traveled for less than an hour, but his scent was already strong.
  1382.  
  1383. Coming over a rise, she saw Hazen shouting at two harpies.
  1384.  
  1385. “Aww, he’s taken sis. He won’t taste good.”
  1386.  
  1387. “Mmm… you’re right. There’s gotta be something we can do with him. It’s not every day a man just wanders this deep into the mountains.”
  1388.  
  1389. Hazen cursed and tried to get away. One of the harpies swooped down and yanked on the back of his robe to pull him back to the ground.
  1390.  
  1391. “Just stay there, cutie. I’m sure we can find a good use for you.”
  1392.  
  1393. Stola bounded down the slope, rocks cascading down around her. The harpies squawked in panic and flew away.
  1394.  
  1395. “Hazen!” said Stola coming to a stop near him.
  1396.  
  1397. “Get the hell away from me!” he said.
  1398.  
  1399. Stola gasped. Now that she got a good look at him, he was coated in bruises and scrapes.
  1400.  
  1401. “You’re hurt!” said Stola.
  1402.  
  1403. “I don’t care!” said Hazen trying to continue further down the mountain.
  1404.  
  1405. “I can help!”
  1406.  
  1407. Stola walked next to him as he struggled over a rock.
  1408.  
  1409. “I don’t want your help! I want you to leave me alone! You kidnapped me, beat me, raped me, starved me, and almost KILLED me. Why don’t you understand any of that?”
  1410.  
  1411. “I was lonely…”
  1412.  
  1413. Hazen gawked at her.
  1414.  
  1415. “I’m sorry I hurt you. But meeting you was the best thing that ever happened to me. I loved having you in my cave, even if you didn’t do anything other than cry and sleep. I know that I’m not very smart, or “perceptive”, but Vreala says I’m getting better.”
  1416.  
  1417. Hazen slipped on some loose earth, and Stola caught him. Dusting him off, she set him back down again.
  1418.  
  1419. “And she also says that I gotta be persistent. She says I’m really good at that. I don’t know what you want from me, or what it will take to make you like me. But I’m going to figure it out, and work really hard every day until your smile comes back. Even if I have to cook three meals a day and read a hundred books.” Said Stola.
  1420.  
  1421. Hazen looked up at her. “You’re never going to leave me alone are you?” he panted.
  1422.  
  1423. Stola shook her head. “Not until you love me as much as I love you.”
  1424.  
  1425. Hazen sighed and wiped the sweat from his brow. Finding a suitable rock, he eased down onto it. His arms trembled from fatigue and hunger as he set himself down.
  1426.  
  1427. “I guess there’s no escape, huh?” he said.
  1428.  
  1429. “Escape?”
  1430.  
  1431. “From fate.”
  1432.  
  1433. “I’m Stola.” Said the ushi.
  1434.  
  1435. He watched her cock her head to the side. Her hair shifted around her horns as she looked at him with curiosity. Hazen chuckled at her misunderstanding.
  1436.  
  1437. “You smiled!” said Stola. Her tail waggled behind her.
  1438.  
  1439. Hazen quickly relaxed his face and turned away. “I guess I did.”
  1440. “So are you happy?”
  1441.  
  1442. Hazen glanced back at Stola. She had crouched down so that her human torso was below eyelevel for him. A single amber eye stared back expectantly.
  1443.  
  1444. “I don’t know about happy, but I’m happier.”
  1445.  
  1446. Stola cheered and spun in place. “It is working!”
  1447.  
  1448. Hazen shifted and one of his ribs protested.
  1449.  
  1450. “Hey, Stola, can we go back?” asked Hazen.
  1451.  
  1452. “Together?” asked the ushi with wonderment.
  1453.  
  1454. “Of course together! You weren’t going to have me walk all the way back there, were you?”
  1455.  
  1456. “I was, but only because you don’t like it when I touch you.” Said Stola.
  1457.  
  1458. Hazen’s stomach growled loudly.
  1459.  
  1460. “I guess I can permit it, given the circumstances…” he mumbled. The shame of having to ask Stola for help was not lost on him, but it certainly was on her.
  1461.  
  1462. Stola quickly spooled out a length of webbing and used it to bandage the worst of Hazen’s cuts.
  1463.  
  1464. “Vreala showed me how to do this.” Said Stola. Her tongue stuck out as she carefully wrapped the webbing around his wrist.
  1465.  
  1466. “Wow…”
  1467.  
  1468. “What? Did that hurt?” asked Stola.
  1469.  
  1470. “No, you’re just a bit more… gentle than you were before.” Said Hazen inspecting the bandage.
  1471.  
  1472. Stola smiled and clasped her hands together in front of her chest. “So… can I carry you?” she asked sheepishly.
  1473.  
  1474. “Yeah. Just… don’t do anything I don’t say you can do.”
  1475.  
  1476. With a squeal, Stola scooped Hazen up and cradled him.
  1477.  
  1478. “Hey!”
  1479.  
  1480. Stola looked down at him, mortified. “Did I do something wrong?”
  1481.  
  1482. “No, but…” Hazen shifted in her arms. “This is really humiliating…”
  1483.  
  1484. Stola grinned and placed him on her back. His arms wrapped around her waist and she positioned his legs over her pedipalps.
  1485. “Is that better?”
  1486.  
  1487. “Yeah.”
  1488.  
  1489. “Then we’re off!”
  1490.  
  1491. Hazen squeezed her tightly as she set off back towards the monastery. The muscles in her torso shifted and squirmed as she moved, and Hazen reminded himself what they were capable of. Funny, they didn’t seem so menacing when she restrained herself. A lock of her long silky hair caressed his face. Maybe this wasn’t such a bad fate after all.
  1492.  
  1493. Resting his head against Stola’s back, he savored the warmth emanating from her as he listened to her lungs expand and contract. She hummed with pleasure at the sensation of his hair on her back, and hurried back to the others.
  1494.  
  1495. ~~~~~~~
  1496.  
  1497. “You found him! Good. I was worried that you would be out there all night.” Said Vreala.
  1498.  
  1499. Stola pulled Hazen off of her back and set him down.
  1500.  
  1501. “We’re hungry.” Said Stola.
  1502.  
  1503. “Not to worry, we saved you some food from dinner. Come in, come in. You must be cold.” Said Vreala.
  1504.  
  1505. They followed Vreala into the dining room and sat down. Hayka peered out of the kitchen.
  1506.  
  1507. “Oh. They’re back. How are you two?” asked Hayka.
  1508.  
  1509. “Good!” said Stola.
  1510.  
  1511. Hazen mumbled something and sat down across from her. Hayka brought out two plates of food for them, and Stola began to shovel food into her mouth. Though she had learned to uses utensils, she was still working on her manners.
  1512.  
  1513. “Well I hope you learned your lesson, Hazen. You’re lucky you didn’t fall off a cliff. Most men would be happy to have a wife who tries so hard to please them.” Said Hayka.
  1514.  
  1515. Hazen grunted and started to eat.
  1516.  
  1517. “So, does this mean that you’re going to cooperate with Stola from now on?” asked Vreala.
  1518.  
  1519. “I don’t mind giving her a chance, but if she rapes me again I’m leaving.” Said Hazen.
  1520.  
  1521. “And I’ll come find you again.” Said Stola cheerfully.
  1522.  
  1523. “It’s not like you can live here forever. Stola has only been here a few days and she’s made remarkable progress. I’ll allow her to leave with you soon, so if you want to make sure she’s trained, it would be best if you told her what you expect of her.” Said Vreala.
  1524. “I get it. Just let me eat.” Said Hazen.
  1525.  
  1526. Vreala smiled and watched Stola mimic her husband as he used a napkin to wipe his mouth. They were going to be fine.
  1527.  
  1528. “Hayka, where are the others?” asked Vreala.
  1529.  
  1530. “In their rooms.” Said Hayka.
  1531.  
  1532. “All of them?”
  1533.  
  1534. “Yes. They’ve been doing well recently, and Altau and Lucoan helped prepare dinner. I have no problem with them spending time with their husbands.” Said Hayka.
  1535.  
  1536. “What about Azandi?”
  1537.  
  1538. “Well…”
  1539.  
  1540. “You didn’t leave her unsupervised, did you?” asked Vreala.
  1541.  
  1542. “I did. She’s probably in Larn’s room right now.” Said Hayka flatly.
  1543.  
  1544. “WHAT?! Why?!” said Vreala, standing up.
  1545. “I think she and Larn love and care for each other enough. I sense it within them. When I prayed to Eros for guidance, I received no command to intercede in their affairs.” Said Hayka.
  1546.  
  1547. “No! If you just let her have her way, she’ll regress! We can’t let all the training we’ve put into her go to waste!” said Vreala.
  1548. She hurried out of the dining room towards Larn’s room.
  1549.  
  1550. The three watched her go.
  1551.  
  1552. “Hazen, I wanna snuggle.” Announced Stola.
  1553.  
  1554. “What? I just spent an hour attached to your back. Wasn’t that enough?” protested Hazen.
  1555.  
  1556. “No! I want to be able to see you and hug you back.” Said Stola.
  1557.  
  1558. “Fine. But nothing else, got it?”
  1559.  
  1560. Stola reached across the table to lift Hazen up by his arms. Pulling him into a hug, his muffled cries of distress were drowned out by her cavernous cleavage as she scurried out of the dining room.
  1561.  
  1562. Hayka surveyed the pile of dishes and sighed.
  1563.  
  1564. “It’s alright. Eros will reward you. Someday…”
  1565.  
  1566. ~~~~~~
  1567.  
  1568. “Azandi!” shouted Vreala as she threw open the door to Larn’s room. “I’ve come to-“
  1569.  
  1570. Vreala blushed as Azandi stared back at her. Her hands were forcing Larn’s face into her crotch as she rode his face. Her tail had wrapped around his neck, and was now pumping his shaft at a furious pace. From the puddle underneath him and all the spines sticking out of him, he had been at her mercy for some time. The only place Vreala could see that wasn’t coated in bitemarks or scratches was the fragment of face that protruded from behind Azandi’s neatly trimmed tuft.
  1571.  
  1572. “Oh! Hey, V. Sorry I missed spider-cow’s return. I was just busy sharing a quality moment with my husband here.” She said patting Larn’s cheek. “Keep licking sweetie, I didn’t say you could stop.”
  1573.  
  1574. “Azandi… You can’t do this. This isn’t what love is about.” Said Vreala weakly.
  1575.  
  1576. “Why not? I’ve told you and Hayka time and time again that Larn and I love each other. I know what he likes, and what he likes…” Azandi flicked her tail to stab Larn with another spine. “…Is this.”
  1577.  
  1578. “How can you say that? Look at him! Mauling and drugging someone like that isn’t right!” said Vreala.
  1579.  
  1580. “Why not? I haven’t been to many places in this wide world, but I know that there are plenty of mamono who do things like this. Besides, I’d never hurt him. Not too bad anyways.” She said with a wink.  
  1581.  
  1582. Vreala stared at her and the man she had pinned under her. Azandi sighed and pushed herself off of him. His drug addled eyes glazed with disappointment for a moment before Azandi snuggled up to him from the side. He smiled as she kissed his cheek and slowly dragged her claws across his chest. Her tail continued to pleasure him as she looked over at Vreala.
  1583.  
  1584. “When you get your own husband, you’ll understand. Love is more than just doing nice things for your spouse you know~” said Azandi.
  1585. “I know that!” said Vreala with a blush.
  1586.  
  1587. “You should take a vacation. Get off this mountain and go rape a man.” Said Azandi.
  1588.  
  1589. “I’d never!”
  1590.  
  1591. Azandi frowned. “What a shame. I bet you’d be really good at it. But the point I’m trying to make is that helping these mamono may be easier if you had experience yourself. Otherwise, you may misdiagnose. Like me and my husband here.”
  1592.  
  1593. Vreala hung her head in embarrassment. She was right. It was ironic that two virgins were lecturing all these monsters on the intricacies of relationships.
  1594.  
  1595. “Aww, don’t worry dear. I thought you did a great job. There are plenty of mamono who really do need you. Like that new one. I’m sure your god will reward you for all your hard work, if she’s as good as Hayka purports her to be.
  1596.  
  1597. Vreala sighed. “I can only hope so.” She looked at Larn again and grimaced. “Please just promise me that you won’t hurt him too bad.”
  1598. “I won’t.”
  1599.  
  1600. “And make sure you cook sometimes. He shouldn’t feed you every meal.”
  1601.  
  1602. “I got it, don’t worry.”
  1603.  
  1604. “Oh, and make sure you tell him you love him.”
  1605.  
  1606. “I get it! Now could you please leave?” asked Azandi.
  1607.  
  1608. “Alright. But make sure you cuddle him too!” said Vreala.
  1609.  
  1610. Azandi blushed. “I… I already do.” She said lowering her voice.
  1611.  
  1612. Vreala grinned.
  1613.  
  1614. “Get out of here!” shouted Azandi.
  1615.  
  1616. Vreala closed the door and allowed Azandi to resume her meal.
  1617.  
  1618. ~~~~~~~
  1619.  
  1620. “I have to say, you’ve all done very well for yourselves.” Said Vreala.
  1621.  
  1622. The succubi’s heart swelled with pride as she looked over the happy couples.
  1623.  
  1624. “We really appreciate all you did for us.” Said Altau.
  1625.  
  1626. “You’re welcome. But don’t forget, it was you who made the change in the end. Eros surely smiles upon you.”
  1627.  
  1628. “So can we go?” asked Lucoan.
  1629.  
  1630. “That’s up to you. If you would like to return to your lives, you are more than welcome to do so. If you of your husband think that you have more to learn together, you are welcome to stay here as long as you like.” Said Hayka.
  1631.  
  1632. “Finally. Come on, let’s go.” Said Lucoan. She grabbed Povon’s hand and tried to drag him away.
  1633.  
  1634. “Hold it.” Said Povon. “We talked about this last night.”
  1635.  
  1636. Lucoan pouted. “Thank you for everything.” She said to Hayka and Vreala. She turned to the other couples. “And thank you all for being my friends.”
  1637.  
  1638. “Oh, you don’t have to say it like that. Povon tells me that you live near the mountain I live in. We’ll come visit.” Said Azandi.
  1639.  
  1640. “Or you could come see us.” Said Larn.
  1641.  
  1642. “Or me!” said Stola.
  1643.  
  1644. “No, I think you’ll have to visit us… We can’t climb mountains as fast as you.” Said Altau.
  1645.  
  1646. “No one can.” Said Stola puffing out her chest.
  1647.  
  1648. Vreala smiled. “I wish you all the best in your future endeavors. May the love of Eros always guide your hearts. And feel free to visit! It’s a wonderful learning experience for new mamono to see a healthy relationship in action.”
  1649.  
  1650. One by one, the couples left and went their separate ways. Stola and Hazen were the last to go.
  1651.  
  1652. “Are you staying here Stola?” asked Hayka.
  1653.  
  1654. Stola shuffled her legs. “Well, I want to go back to my cave…”
  1655.  
  1656. “You can go. Or do you and Hazen still need to work on something?” asked Vreala.
  1657.  
  1658. “No. I’m just worried about you two.”
  1659.  
  1660. “Worried?” asked Vreala.
  1661.  
  1662. “Yeah. Won’t you be lonely all by yourselves?” asked Stola.
  1663.  
  1664. “She’s got a point.” Said Hazen from Stola’s back. “It’s going to seem pretty empty here now that everyone’s gone.”
  1665.  
  1666. “Don’t you worry yourselves about us. We’ve had dry spells before. There will be plenty of new recruits in no time.” Said Vreala.
  1667. Stola gave her a skeptical look, but nodded nonetheless. “Okay. But we’ll be back soon! If you can’t get new monsters in, then we’ll just be new monsters.”
  1668.  
  1669. “Thank you, Stola. We’ll look forwards to your visit.” Said Hayka.
  1670.  
  1671. Stola smiled, and began to tear up. She wiped a trickle of moisture away from under her modified seal. “Goodbye, I’ll come visit lots!”
  1672. Hazen waved goodbye as Stola trudged back through the valley towards her cave. Vreala and Hayka watched them go.
  1673.  
  1674. “I’m going to go get some lunch.” Said Vreala.
  1675.  
  1676. Hayka followed her into the kitchen. She could tell something was wrong with Vreala by the tone of her voice.
  1677.  
  1678. “Vreala… Are you okay?” asked the cupid.
  1679.  
  1680. “Me? I’m fine.”
  1681.  
  1682. “…Are you sad that they all left?”
  1683.  
  1684. “No. We did out jobs, and I’m proud of all they accomplished.”
  1685.  
  1686. Vreala walked past Hayka into the dining room with a sandwich. Hayka sat across from her.
  1687.  
  1688. “Why are you looking at me like that?” asked Vreala.
  1689.  
  1690. “I’ve been around you long enough to know when something’s bothering you.”
  1691.  
  1692. “I’m fine. I…”
  1693.  
  1694. Vreala’s eyes watered and she burst into tears. Hayka stared wide-eyed at the succubus as she pushed her food aside and began to throw a tantrum.
  1695.  
  1696. “I DON’T UNDERSTAAAAAAND! Why do all these SAVAGES get cute loving husbands and I’M still alone?! Where’s the justice in that?! I come all the way to this gods forsaken mountain in the MIDDLE OF NOWHERE to teach these ANIMALS how to have sex without killing their man and for what? NOTHING! Another batch shows up and I have to BREAK MY BACK to get them to say I love you one time! Day after day, week after week, I serve Eros and nothing comes of it! Can’t she throw me a damn bone for all of this?! How am I even supposed to GET a man out here?! I’M SO LONELYYYYY!”
  1697.  
  1698. Hayka stared at her.
  1699.  
  1700. “I too, feel lonely and neglected.”
  1701.  
  1702. Vreala sniffed and clasped Hayka’s hand.
  1703.  
  1704. “Haykaaaaa! You’re the best friend I could have asked for. At least you understand.”
  1705.  
  1706. “Eros has not forsaken you.”
  1707.  
  1708. Hayka and Vreala nearly jumped out of their seats as a small woman standing next to them suddenly spoke.
  1709.  
  1710. “A houri!” exclaimed Vreala.
  1711.  
  1712. “Yes, Vreala. Eros has been watching over your progress. She has seen your struggles, and your triumphs. They have not been in vain. Many monsters now walk in Her grace with love in their hearts.” Said the houri.
  1713.  
  1714. “Thank you.” Said Vreala.
  1715.  
  1716. The houri’s smile grew. “Much was asked of you when you two were instructed to come to this location. In doing so, you forfeited your chance at finding a husband of your own, so that others may find husbands in the men they captured. Neither the irony nor the sacrifice is lost on our Lady.”
  1717.  
  1718. “It is an honor to serve.” Said Vreala with a bow.
  1719.  
  1720. “Raise your head, Vreala. You do not offend Eros by doubting Her, or bemoaning your plight. She has seen to it that you be rewarded for your efforts.”
  1721.  
  1722. “Rewarded?” asked Hayka.
  1723.  
  1724. The houri nodded. “And you as well, Hayka. Come with me.”
  1725.  
  1726. She led them out to the courtyard. Two gandharvas stood beside two men, dressed in robes similar to the ones Vreala and Hayka wore.
  1727. Vreala gasped and shook Hayka.
  1728.  
  1729. “Hayka! Look!”
  1730.  
  1731. “Indeed. These two are monks of Eros, personally picked by houri to walk with you along the path of life and love.”
  1732. The monks smiled at the cupid and succubus.
  1733.  
  1734. Vreala and Hayka stared back at them, still clutching each other.
  1735.  
  1736. “Rejoice, and love one another. May your heart always be full, and your soul ablaze with passion.” Said the houri.
  1737.  
  1738. One of the gandharvas picked up the tiny woman in her talons and flew away. The other dropped packs with the men’s supplies and followed the other.
  1739.  
  1740. “We have been told of your deeds. It is humbling to be in the presence of those who have so fervently served our Lady.” Said one of the monks.
  1741.  
  1742. “N-no problem…” stuttered Vreala.
  1743.  
  1744. “I want the big one.” Whispered Hayka.
  1745.  
  1746. Vreala blushed and looked at the other monk. He was much younger, and had a less rugged face. In fact, he seemed to be shorter than she was. Vreala unconsciously licked her lips.
  1747.  
  1748. “Okay.” Vreala whispered back.
  1749.  
  1750. Hayka took the first steps towards the man, who took her by the hand. Picking up his pack, he began to ask her some questions about the monastery and where their room was. At the mention of “their” room, Hayka’s wings fluttered and she had to steady herself.
  1751.  
  1752. The other monk gulped and shuffled his feet. “So, where is our room Vreala?”
  1753.  
  1754. Vreala felt a twang in her heart. Suddenly all the things Azandi had said made much more sense.
  1755.  
  1756. “This way.” Grunted Vreala. She grabbed the boy’s hand and dragged him away before he had time to pick up his bag.
  1757.  
  1758. Throwing open the door, she tossed him onto the bed and nearly tore off her own uniform before setting upon him.
  1759.  
  1760. ~~~~~~
  1761.  
  1762. Hours later, the boy was soundly sleeping tucked under Vreala’s chin. She stroked his short hair as she savored the sensation of sharing a bed with someone who loved her.
  1763.  
  1764. As she traced the bones and muscles in his body, she thought about all the events that had lead to this point. All the mamono she had helped, all the husbands she had saved, and all the happy couples she had seen leave. Soon there would be more. There would always be more.
  1765.  
  1766. “Then we’ll just have to work extra hard for them.” Whispered Vreala.
  1767.  
  1768. She kissed the top of the boy’s head and pulled the sheets over them. Her breathing soon matched his, and she quickly drifted to sleep.
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