One week later...

Lightning cracked across the sky above the capital of Lescatie, illuminating the lone Dark Heavy Knight standing atop the city walls. Raindrops slid off her thick, black armor as she stood as still as a statue. Whereas other Dark Knights wore light or medium armor designed to showcase their bodies, her armor covered her entire body. While her ample bosom and sensual waist were clearly visible from the front, everything else was hidden from view. Thick black pauldrons hung from her shoulders, and a black chain skirt draped from her waist. Her feathered helmet framed her pale face, accentuating her striking ruby eyes. She held a large, black lance in her right hand, its tip pointed toward the sky, while a black greatshield was strapped across her back.

Her pointed ears twitched as she heard something above the sound of the pouring rain. The sound of wings beating as they approached her. She remained where she was. Standing silently and still over the main entrance gate to the nation's capital. She didn't move, even as her visitor landed a few feet to her right. The succubus leaned forward, holding an umbrella above her head as she stared at the Knight. Her voice was filled with concern as she spoke, "Hey, May. You doin' okay?"

"I am fine," May, the Dark Heavy Knight, responded. Her voice was monotone and quiet, yet it still managed to be heard above the thunder and rain.

The succubus frowned and took a step toward May, "You sure? The rain is really pouring down. Wouldn't you like an umbrella?"

"My armor protects me," May said in the same monotone.

"Oh. Well, have you eaten anything at all? If not, I can go get you something. There's this great parfait at Olly's restaurant and-"

"I am not hungry. Thank you for the offer, Perci."

"N-No problem, May," the now named Perci said, feeling the wind get knocked out of her sails. The two fell silent as May remained motionless. Perci looked around at the top of the wall. Her gaze fell on a spot on the wall exactly twenty feet to the left of May's position. There stood another great lance. Identical in shape and design to May's, this one had its tip embedded into the stones of the wall. Tied to the handle and blowing in the wind was an azure brooch, its light blue barely standing out amidst the darkness of the thunderstorm. Perci pursed her lips as she stared at the vigil, trying to think of who it was for.

"Mai," Perci turned at the sound of May's voice. The Dark Heavy Knight was also staring at the vigil, her expression seeming to darken as she spoke, "Her name was Mai."

"Oh. Did you know her?"

"Partner. Sister. Trained together. Stationed here."

"What happened to her?"

"She was a Dullahan. Made by the Blade Of Salvation."

That revelation made Perci's skin crawl. An involuntary shiver ran up her spine as she looked away from the lance that had been turned into a grave marker. It had only been a week since Salvation's End, but the wounds from the event still felt fresh. Not just to her, but to the entire capital. The Widows, those who had lost their husbands, were looked upon with sympathy among the Mamono. Those who didn't stay at home could be found either joining the newly formed standing army or out searching for a Demon Beast to fight. Perci had met both kinds, and she honestly preferred the aggressive ones. They were angry, yes, but at least they usually directed their fury towards productive ends. Kalista, a Ghoul she had met, for instance, had joined the medical division of the standing army. She figured that if their husbands could be so easily taken from them after they die, then they should be willing to do whatever it takes to keep them alive. Although morbid, Perci could empathize with her.

But the Widows who remained at home? Whose wounds were caused by the loss of their most beloved? They were the ones she couldn't deal with. It wasn't that she couldn't understand their sadness. Nor that she blamed them for how they felt. Who wouldn't feel the way they do? They had found true happiness. Reached a level of contentment that other Mamono could only dream of. They had achieved the ultimate goal of all Mamono: true love and matrimony with the one they loved.

And then, without warning, it was ripped away from them.

She remembered how Henrietta, a Zombie she knew, changed after the incident. The smile she wore whenever her husband was with her, the radiance she exuded every day, and her tendency to hug anyone she ran into, even if they were a stranger. She remembered it all. Then, after the incident, it all disappeared. Her smile never returned to her face, and her head was always hanging low, gazing at the ground. Anyone attempting to hug her was silently stonewalled without any reaction from Henrietta. And this sadness...this hung around her. Like an aura of despair that affected everyone who got close to her. To the point that only happy couples could tolerate being around her for any length of time. As the only times she seemed happy were when she was watching others enjoy what she once had.

She had heard that all the Widows had been visited by the White Lilim. But she couldn't tell whether that had any effect on them. She hoped it did. Seeing them so sad and angry was just too much to bear.

At that moment, a strong gust of wind suddenly hit them. The succubus yelped in surprise, but May didn't even flinch at the cold, wet air. The succubus loosened her grip on her umbrella, and it was torn from her hands by the wind. Almost as soon as it left her grasp, May's arm shot out and caught it in the air. Her movements were practiced and smooth, evidence of how accustomed she was to wearing such heavy armor. She handed the umbrella back to the succubus and said, "Hold it tight, Perci. You lose things when you loosen your grip."

"Th-Thanks, May," Perci said, following May's suggestion and tightening her grip on the umbrella without saying a word. She looked at her feet and nervously tapped her foot against the stone wall. Then she turned her gaze toward the horizon beyond the wall. She twirled her umbrella for a moment before speaking, "What...what do you think?"

"Of what?"

"Of this...this Hunter," the word felt like ashes in Perci's mouth. She had obviously heard the rumors. Hard not to, considering how much the followers of the Gods have been preaching about leaving her alone in the past few days. Banshees, Asparas, and Amazons could be seen in almost every part of the city, discussing the matter. How this "woman" was not a threat. How she simply wished for peace. How she didn't want to fight and was coming here to speak with Druella. To negotiate, not to fight.

But... but...

"I don't want her here," Perci audibly swallowed before continuing, "I don't...I don't think I believe the rumors. But I still don't want her here. Anyone who could do that...who could kill that many Mamono and their husbands without remorse...they couldn't be bringing anything good with them. Only more pain. And we've had our fill of that over the past week."

Perci fell silent and waited for May's response. For a long moment, May didn't say anything. Like a statue, she maintained a silent vigil over the walls that shielded their new home. Then, when another lightning bolt flashed across the sky, the Dark Heavy Knight finally spoke, "I want her to come here."

"What?!" Perci said, completely floored by the response. She shook her head in confusion and said, " could...why would you-"

May silently pointed towards Mai's lance. The sight of it made Perci go quiet as she quickly grasped May's unspoken meaning. The Dark Heavy Knight said only four words, "Someone has to answer."

Perci remained silent. She couldn't think of anything to say. The only sound between them was the roaring wind, the pelting rain, and the crackling thunder in the clouds above.

However, they soon became aware of a new sound. One that they only noticed as it slowly got closer and closer to their position.

The sound of sizzling.

And it was coming from beyond the wall. Looking up, the two of them saw a plume of steam rising from the northeastern part of the forest. It rose above the treeline, its white outline visible despite the intense rain. The source approached the city, gradually breaking through the treeline. Then the source of the steam was revealed.

The sight gave both the succubus and the elven Dark Heavy Knight pause. They had both encountered Demon Beasts before, but neither had seen one that resembled a literal flaming skeleton.

And its three riders only added to the confusion.

Koga pulled on Nobu's reins, directing him toward Lescatie's closed gate. Rain fell onto his horse and quickly turned to steam, the flames across its body burning away any water that landed on it. Koga's clothing remained unharmed by the flames, but this also meant that he was unprotected from the rain. Though his unique anatomy meant that it wasn't a problem for him. He glanced at the wall out of the corner of his eye and asked, "Is that it? Is that the capital of Lescatie?"

"Yes," Matilda answered from behind Selina. She sat side-saddle with her legs hanging off Nobu's left side. She wore a brown tricorn hat that was too large for her head. She had to grasp the edges with both hands to prevent it from slipping off whenever she moved her head. Although annoying, it did prevent her head from getting wet. So she was willing to bear with it until the rain stopped. She looked up at the top of the gate, her singular eye squinting to see through the rain. She pursed her lips before speaking, "I think I can see two people on the wall. They should have noticed us thanks to the steam Nobu is giving off."

"Good, then we won't need to get their attention," Selina said as she pulled down on her own hat. While more elaborate than the standard uniform, Lady Maria's attire was crafted from the same material as a typical Hunter's Garb. Despite the rain hitting her, it didn't seep into her clothing no matter how much fell upon her. She lifted her hat with a finger and asked Koga, "Will the weapon on your back be okay, Koga?"

Koga reached back and touched the large, wrapped-up weapon on his back. The brown wraps were getting soaked in the rain, but the weapon underneath them was likely unharmed. He tapped the hilt of the weapon with a finger and said, "Do not worry, Good Hunter. It would take more than this rain to cause any damage to this new blade."

Selina nodded and said, "As you say. Matilda?"

"One of them flew behind the wall. The other just entered the gatehouse. It'll be open in a few moments," as if on cue, the iron gate groaned as the portcullis was slowly drawn up into the wall. The sound of chains groaning echoed through the stone walls. Koga pushed Nobu through the archway and past the raised portcullis. As soon as they entered, the gate started to close behind them. Koga stopped Nobu to give them a break from the rain.

He dismounted from his horse and began to shake out his arms and legs. He looked ahead and saw an open archway in front of them. Beyond it lay the rest of Lescatie's capital, with its buildings shrouded in the darkness of the storm. He grimaced as he squeezed the water out of his coat, "And thus, we have arrived. Once we pass through that archway, we will be within the belly of the beast."

Matilda squeezed the water out of her hat, shook it out, and brushed off any excess water. Then she put it back on her head before hopping to the floor and saying, "I imagine that we're expected. Druella has to have been spying on us for a while now."

"If that is the case, it will make it much easier to accomplish our objective," Selina said as she jumped off Nobu's back. Her clothes were already halfway dry, with drops of water quickly falling to the ground below. She adjusted her hat and gloves before stepping in front of Nobu and Koga, "The sooner we meet with Druella, the sooner we can convince her to stand down."

"You did well, Nobu. I'll take you for a peaceful ride later," Koga whispered to Nobu as he rubbed the horse's bony neck. The horse shook its fiery mane and whinnied in response. Koga nodded and gently took the reins in his hands to lead Nobu forward. He stopped a few steps away from the Huntress and said, "Do not let your guard down, Good Hunter. I suspect that the Mamono won't complicate matters. Recall what Matilda said about how they handle visitors?"

"That they will provide us with 'escorts' during our stay here. I remember well," the Huntress adjusted her hat and then looked between Koga and Matilda, "And we'll likely see those escorts as soon as we enter the city proper. Are you two prepared?"

"Yes. "Let's go," Koga said, tightly holding Nobu's reins in his right hand.

Matilda put her now dry hat back on her head and walked to stand on Selina's left. She reached up and took the Huntress' hand, smiling up at Selina, "Lead the way, Good Hunter."

With that confirmation, Selina began to walk forward. As she did so, she reached into her coat and withdrew a weapon she hadn't used in a long time. Which she supposed was as strange, as it had been the first weapon she had ever wielded as a Hunter. A tool that stood out among the three choices offered to her by the Messengers during her first visit to The Dream.

The Threaded Cane.

She tapped the sword cane on the ground, her fingers curling around the familiar head of the weapon. With Koga on her right and Matilda on her left, she entered Lescatie. As they passed underneath the archway, the three of them were once again pelted by the rain and soon gazed upon the city of Lescatie. And if there was one thing the Huntress could give it over Yharnam, that would be that it was far cleaner.

The buildings were constructed of stone that appeared to radiate light even when enveloped by the darkness of the storm. The cobblestone streets were completely free of any debris or waste. The buildings were all made of beautiful cut stone, so even the rain couldn't completely obscure the silhouettes of the structures. The stones used to construct the buildings did not have a uniform color or structure. While some were a striking marble, others were deep purple or light pink in color. Meanwhile, some buildings resembled the houses she saw in Pran, while others evoked the architecture of Central Yharnam. Some were spire-like, reaching up into the sky and catching stray lightning bolts without igniting. Some were smaller and more rectangular, but they usually had some kind of "twist" to them. Like a bright sign over the door or brass bells hanging from the windows. They didn't have the same aesthetic that evoked the image of a people who had grown accustomed to hardship and had built their society around The Blood. The design of this place felt more like it was being guided by emotional interest. It's as if the people had constructed buildings and homes based on their emotions rather than practicality. It exuded the atmosphere of a world that should not exist, yet was standing right in front of them.

A foreign world that would be difficult for anyone to imagine existing.

And that feeling was only intensified when all the Mamono in front of them stopped to stare at her party.

Despite the stormy weather, Selina noticed a large number of Mamono out and about. Most either had umbrellas to protect them from the rain or were enjoying the sensation of the water hitting their skin. Most were walking arm in arm with men of different appearances. But all of them had a dark, unnaturally purple or pink skin color. Some of them had horns or tails protruding from their heads or waists. There were too many Mamono to count, and Selina couldn't recognize or place most of them. She could easily recognize the Werewolves, Werecats, Dark Elves, Lizardwomen, Centaurs, Demons, Harpies, Succubi, and incubi. But there were plenty she couldn't remember. Women whose torsos were human, but they had a snake's lower half. Dog-like women in maid outfits with openings for their tails in their skirts. Other creatures that flew around and could fit in the palm of her hand, which she actually recognized as Fairies.

And even more Mamono that she didn't recall.

And all of them were staring at her party.

The Mamono's walking ceased as if they had suddenly forgotten what they were doing. Some dropped the things they were carrying, barely managing to prevent their belongings from splashing into the water on the ground. Some had their mouths gaping open, and their eyes widened to the size of dinner plates. All of them stood motionless as they watched the Huntress, Koga, and Matilda.

The Huntress could sense that they were waiting for her to do something. That her next action would dissipate the tension in the air, allowing everyone to return to their normal lives. So, she reached her hand up, grabbed the edge of her hat, and tilted it down while nodding her head, "Good 'morrow all. Matilda, Koga. Let us be off."

And then she began walking further into the city. She held her head high as she walked toward the sidewalk on her right. The Mamono there gave her a wide berth as she approached, allowing her party a clear path forward. Matilda waved at the diverse Mamono around her, wearing a bright smile the entire time. Koga's eyes kept shifting from place to place, searching for any potential threat to the Huntress. Every now and then, a Mamono would stop to stare at him, her face flushing and her body starting to shake. He would meet her gaze, bare his teeth at her, and then move on.

Every now and then, a carriage or wagon would trundle down the center of the road. Surprisingly, none of them splashed any water onto the sidewalks. They rumbled by silently, pulled by large Demon Beast Horses. Nobu whinnied whenever such creatures passed by, but he didn't try to get away from Koga. As their group continued down the street, Selina could feel the eyes on them. Not just from the people out here on the street, but also from those in their homes and businesses. They watched as they walked, their eyes filled with surprise, shock, and a hint of fear. The entire time...

"I feel that we are unwanted," Koga expressed Selina's feelings. He scowled at a Succubus/Incubus couple that scurried away from his angry gaze, "These creatures clearly do not want us here."

"People, Koga. Even if they are Mamono, they are still people," Selina corrected, while watching a Mamono with cow ears and unusually large breasts, hide behind a wall as they passed by. She turned away and continued, "And at least they are not crying out about how I'm a monster. All thanks to your help, Matilda."

"Do not be modest, Good Hunter. You were the one who managed to learn how to hide the nature of your soul in the first place," Matilda said while shaking her head, "Though it did take you four days before you made any progress."

Selina frowned and said, "That is because you were asking me to do something that I had no familiarity with. Your instructions were to, and I quote, 'Focus on creating a veil around my soul. A veil that is thick enough to hide it from prying eyes, but thin enough to allow you to draw upon its power when you need it'. Such advice is rather vague."

"That was the best way I could explain it. I, too, was working with limited information and theorizing. Though, since it worked, I guess it's not theory anymore, is it?" Matilda shrugged and then looked to their right. She briefly spotted two Kobold children walking hand in hand with their Inucbi father. Her eyes widened, and she quickly pulled the Huntress along to prevent her from seeing the two. She spoke up once they were away from the family, "As for their current focus on us? That would be because you two smell like blood."

Selina raised an eyebrow and asked, "How? Castor, I could understand as we had just returned from killing that Dullahan. But how can any of these Mamono smell anything in this rain?"

Matilda returned to her original position on Selina's left before saying, "It's part of their nature. Lilith made it so that all Mamono can instinctively recognize the scent of Mamono blood. If anyone kills a Mamono, they will forever be marked by that scent. And it lets other Mamono know that the person they are about to meet has killed Mamono and will do so again."

"And what's the reason for that?" Selina asked, raising an eyebrow.

"First, so other Mamono can find them and 'help them see the light'. The Blade of Salvation was an example of this," Matilda held up a finger as she explained. She paused before continuing, "And the second reason is to warn Mamono to stay away from them. If someone has the blood of Mamono on their hands, then other Mamono will probably avoid them. They don't want to risk dying until they either find a husband or can get their husband to safety."

"That explains our reception," Koga stated as they rounded a corner, "Though I don't suppose it will stop them from interfering with our purpose here?"

"Unlikely. Not if Druella has anything to say about it," Matilda scowled as she looked up at the castle in the distance. Selina and Koga followed her gaze, all three moving toward their ultimate destination.

"Here she comes," Sasha Fullmoon said to her companions. The Dark Priestess of the Fallen God licked her lips as she peered around the corner of a tailor's building. Her vivid ruby eyes effortlessly pierced through the darkness of the storm to fixate on her target. The tall, imposing figure of the Hunter walking through the rain. Though it was difficult to ignore such a marvelous woman. Especially with the skeletal Demon Beast being led by her male Ochimusha servant. The horse was constantly surrounded by steam from the rain hitting its fiery body, acting as an impromptu beacon for anyone looking for the newcomer to Lescatie.

Sasha heard rustling below her and felt two hands grab hold of her exposed thighs. Another set of hands tugged at the short skirt of her black priestly robes, threatening to expose her bare lower body to anyone who could see her. She smiled and looked down to see her two "assistants" peeking around the corner to see what she saw.

The brown-haired Lisia tilted her head with a mischievous smile and asked, "So that's our new aunt? She looks tense and uptight. Hmm, I wonder what her reaction will be when big brother releases his delicious Spirit Energy into her cunny.~"

The girl giggled as her hands moved down below her waist. The other girl, a blonde named Emiyu, remained silent as her hands groped at her flat chest and then fell beneath the loincloth that covered her privates. She looked up at Sasha and said, "Is it time, big sister? Do we do it now?"

Sasha reached down and rubbed both of the girls' heads, the two swaying their hips each time she touched their ears, "Almost. We just need to wait for Elt to arrive. He should be here in a few...ah!"

Sasha's tail perked up as the man in question approached her from behind, giving him a clear view of her naked butt. Elt, the young technincal prince of Lescatie, stopped in shock at the display. Part of the red-haired boy's mind reminded him that this had become a regular occurrence for him. Not just with Sasha, but with his five other wives as well. Nevertheless, he still found himself feeling embarrassed whenever they flaunted their bodies in front of him. Cheeks turning a darker shade of purple, the Incubus coughed into his hand to get Sasha's attention and asked, "How are you doing, Sasha? Lisia, Emiyu. Is everything alright?"

Sasha's heart fluttered as she turned around to meet her husband's gaze. Moving on autopilot, she pulled Elt into her arms and lifted him off the ground. The two spun around in the rain as she pressed her lips against his. He reciprocated her kiss without hesitation, initiating an impromptu make-out session on the side of the building. Lisia and Emiyu stared longingly at the exchange, intertwining their fingers as they waited for Sasha to stop. When the two of them finally separated, Sasha kept her arms around Elt as they moved to the corner. She leans as close to him as possible, squishing his arm between her breasts. Her thighs rubbed together as she spoke, "Ooooh, thank you for coming, my dear Elt. I hope I didn't interrupt anything important. Like comforting Mary or spending time with little Mimil?"

Elt shook his head as he reached out to squeeze one of Sasha's breasts. He smiles at her and says, "No, no, nothing like that. It's just that everyone else is at the castle with Druella. Apparently, the rumored guest is expected to arrive soon, and Druella wanted all of us in the throne room for her arrival. I figured something must have come up for you not to be there, too."

"Don't worry. I will answer Lady Lilim's call soon enough. But first, I must complete a task assigned to me by God. And to do so, I'll need your help," Sasha said as she tapped her finger against Elt's nose and then giggled.

"Really? What do you need me to do?" one of Elt's eyebrows rose in confusion.

"Nothing much. Just...this!"

With that, Sasha pushed Elt into the street just as the Huntress was passing by. Elt stumbled forward, heading straight for Selina's path. His efforts to regain balance were unsuccessful as his shoes slid across the wet cobblestones below.

In her domain, the Fallen God was on the edge of her seat as she witnessed the unfolding events. Her lips split into a wide, anticipatory grin as she imagined what would happen next. Elt would crash into the vile Hunter, likely sending them both to the ground, with his hand or leg in an inappropriate place. The Huntress would get embarrassed and push him away, but his kindness would break through her cold exterior. She'd become fond of Elt and want to learn more about him. And in the process, she would fall in love with him.

"And then you'll be all ours," she chuckled, as Elt drew closer to the Huntress.

"Go, Elt! Go!" Mimil cheered from within the throne room as she, Wilmarina, Francisca, Primera, Merse, Eva, and Druella watched the events unfold through a scrying mirror. He barely avoided tripping over Matilda and was on a collision course with Selina. Druella watched with a smug grin on her face, matching the expressions of the other Maidens. Everyone expected something lewd to happen that would lead the Huntress right into their hands.

Elt fell toward the Huntress...

...and the Huntress reacted in the blink of an eye.

With practiced skill, she twirled around Elt while catching his leg with the blunt side of her Threaded Cane. He cried out as he nearly tripped, but Selina quickly grabbed him by the back of his shirt collar with her other hand. She pulled him to his feet and then placed him back down beside her. Then she patted his shoulder and said, "You should be more careful, young man. Especially in this weather."

"Uh...uh...y-yes. Th-Thank you," Elt stammered out, not really sure what had just happened.

"Eh?" Sasha, Lisia, and Emiyu said simultaneously.

"Eh?" Druella, Merse, Primera, Mimil, Eva, and Wlimarina all said simultaneously.

"EEEEHHHHH?!" the Fallen God shouted, loud enough to echo throughout the entirety of Pandemonium.

When Matilda's hand was back in hers, Selina nodded to Elt as she continued on her way to the castle. Koga shot a glare at the Incubus, but Elt didn't pay any attention to the Ochimusha. His eyes were fixed firmly on the Huntress' back as she walked away. After a few moments, he called out, "Um, excuse me? Could I get your name, please?"

Selina kept walking but called back to him, "Cynthia. Cynthia Albion."

"O-Okay. I'm Elt! Maybe we'll...see each other again," he called to her, but the Huntress was already too far away. He stood in the middle of the street, his eyes never once leaving the back of the woman dressed in dark clothing.

Sasha stepped out into the street, with Lisia and Emiyu following closely behind. Lisia spoke first, "That...that wasn't supposed to happen. Right, big sister Sasha?"

Sasha shook her head and said, "No, no. That wasn't supposed to happen. Elt, are you all right? Elt?"

Sasha tilted her head when her husband did not answer her call. In fact, it took at least five seconds before he noticed her. His eyes blinked as if he had been deep in thought before his usual, kind expression returned, "Yeah, I'm fine, Sasha. But what was all that about? "Why did you try to push me into that woman?"

"Because that was the Hunter."

Elt blinked. Then he started chuckling, "Good one, Sasha. That's a funny joke."

"I'm not joking."

"You've gotta be. I've heard the rumors. The Hunter is supposed to be a ten-foot-tall giant, wielding a pale scythe that glows in the moonlight. She's hunched over and loves to reap the souls of Mamono, imprisoning them in a special device that she takes back to her lair," Elt held both of his arms up as he described the Hunter from the rumors.

Sasha frowned and asked, "Where did you hear that from?"

"It's what all the new recruits were saying. But...are you honestly telling me that...that woman was the Hunter?"

Sasha nodded, "Yes, it was. I was hoping that something would happen between the two of you when I pushed you, but...I honestly don't know what happened. She just seemed to...avoid it."

Elt, Sasha, Emiyu, and Lisia all gazed down the road after the Huntress. Selina's was just a speck in the distance, but they could still see the plume of steam rising from Nobu. They kept their eyes on the drifting white plume, silent and focused on their own thoughts.

Sasha, Emiyu, and Lisia were trying to understand what had just happened. Trying to figure out how the Huntress completely shut down their foolproof plan. How she was able to deny and avoid a 'Fated Meeting' like that.

But Elt...Elt was preoccupied with something else.

Namely, when he would get to see Cynthia again.

"So that was Elt, then?"

Matilda nodded in response to Selina's inquiry and said, "Yes, it was."

"Hmm. I'll be sure to remember his face. I feel we will be seeing each other quite a bit."

"That's an understatement," Koga said with a roll of his eyes, "If we plan to face Druella, that boy will be one of our biggest obstacles. Well, the women who call themselves his wives will be."

"While it is true that Elt is nowhere near as powerful as the Maidens, do not forget that he is an Incubus. They share their power with their spouses. And the Love Resonance he can achieve when working with his wives can rival Druella. He is not be underestimated," Matilda corrected as they rounded a corner heading toward the castle. Any more words were interrupted as Matilda spoke again, "However, we'll have to cut our conversations short. Our escorts have arrived."

As if on cue, three figures jumped down from the rooftops and landed directly in front of their group. Nobu whinnied, but a gentle hand from Koga kept him calm. Selina's party came to a halt as the three newcomers stepped into view. They stood side by side and moved in unison, smoothly covering each other's blind spots without any problems. When the three came into view, the first thing Selina noticed was their identical hats. All three of them wore black, wide-brimmed hats that drooped as water collected on their brims. Selina initially thought that this somewhat defeated the purpose of the hats...until she noticed the attire of the three individuals.

Or, more precisely, the lack thereof.

The woman on the left reminded Selina of Teresa Scarlet. The rapier on her hip was extremely similar to the one the Dhampir wielded against her. However, that's where the similarities ended. This rapier was a dark red and had a thicker blade than the one she had taken from Teresa. In addition, although Teresa's outfit was also revealing, at least she wore something that resembled clothing. This blonde woman was practically wearing nothing except for her black coat and black panties. The rest of her body was completely exposed to the world, with only her nipples covered by extremely tight black leather straps. The edges of her underwear were covered by some sort of bronze garment, but Selina couldn't place what it was called. Her black gloves complemented the woman's black boots, while her reddish eyes shone as she stared at Selina. Her lips curved into a welcoming smile as she casually brushed her hair away from her face with the back of her hand.

The woman to the right was actually covered by a thin white sheet that became see-through in the rain, barely concealing her breasts. Her unnaturally large mammaries bounced with every movement she made, and water droplets fell from her nipples. Her hair was a dull brown, with prominent flat ears and horns protruding from the sides and top of her head, respectively. Her pale blue eyes appeared unfocused. As if her mind was elsewhere, while her body moved on autopilot. Three thick vials dangled from a leather belt around her waist, positioned on the right side of her orange shorts. But the main thing that caught Selina's eye was the weapon she held in her right hand.

A pistol.

A large, thick-barreled, dark red pistol that was undoubtedly made here in Lescatie.

Selina frowned and shook her head. That essentially confirmed what Matilda had told her during their week of training: Lescatie had the capability to produce gunpowder weapons. And if Matilda was correct, eventually mass-produce them, thanks to the "Gremlins". Whatever those creatures were.

The third and final woman stood in the center of the formation. Selina could tell that she was a Demon. Her dark blue skin, unusual tattoos, and overall demeanor all resembled Cerci from Vinvers. Save for the fact that her breasts were somehow even larger and more prominent. Mainly thanks to her bra, which did everything it could to push her two boobs up as much as possible. She was the only one frowning, her deep red eyes fixed solely on Selina. Her thick, spade-shaped tail was wrapped around her left thigh, while her wings flapped behind her every now and then.

Selina squeezed Matilda's hand before releasing it and stepping forward. She stopped and bowed her head to the three Mamono, saying, "Hello. I am Cynthia Albion. You may call me Hunter. These are my companions, Koga and Matilda. We have come to seek an audience with the White Lilim, Druella. May I assume that the three of you are here to escort us?"

"You would be correct," the Demon said, her voice calm and focused. She stepped forward and grabbed the brim of her hat. The other two women followed their apparent leader's movements perfectly, and all three of them took off their hats and bowed at the waist simultaneously. Then they stood up as the Demon spoke again, "Greetings, Hunter Albion. My name is Olvie Amaltia. These two are my companions. Paula Tronmail-"

"Hey there!" the pistol wielding woman said, her boobs bouncing as she waved.

"-and Alameria Crescentria."

"Pleased to meet you," the Dhampir tipped her hat to Selina.

"Together, we are the Three Musketeers of Lescatie."

"Pfft-" Selina's hand flew to her mouth to stifle a laugh. All eyes were on her as she managed to gather some of her faculties. She cleared her throat, but her voice still trembled as she said, "I-I'm sorry. C-Can you repeat that, please?"

Olvie raised an eyebrow and said, "We are the Three Musketeers of Lescatie. The premier fighting force of the Dark Ice Flower. Why? Is something wrong?"

"N-No. It''s nothing," Selina turned her head away to hide the tears gathering at the corners of her eyes, while her hand concealed the trembling smile on her face.

She had read "The Three Musketeers." The novel had made its way to her in her youth. The story of that legendary team of three had been one of her favorite tales as a child.

And these three...were supposed to be...this world's version of that?! To the point where even their naming scheme matched?! It absurd that she could barely hold back her laughter.

"Is she alright?" Paula asked, watching as the Huntress nearly doubled over from trying to stifle her laughter.

"She'll be fine," Matilda stepped forward and cleared her throat, "Just give her a few moments. Then we'll follow you to Lady Druella's abode."

The Three Musketeers exchanged confused looks. Then they turned back to watch as the person they were meant to escort continued to have a laughing fit for a reason they couldn't place.

It took them an hour to reach the castle. During that time, the Huntress had to spend minutes at a time getting herself under control. Whenever someone asked what she was laughing about, she would shake her head and stifle more laughter. Eventually, the Three Musketeers stopped inquiring. Instead, Paula tried to start a conversation with Koga. But...

"That's your horse, isn't it?"


"Cool. What's his name?"


"That's a nice name. What kind of Demon Beast is he?"

"A skeletal, flaming horse."

"R-right. I don't think I've heard of that one."

"I'm not surprised."

...She wasn't making any progress. Not for lack of trying, but she only received short and cold answers from the undead. Though no matter how cold Koga was to her, she never realized that he didn't want to talk to her. It took Olvie putting a hand on her shoulder and pulling her away to get her to stop. Meanwhile, Alameria spoke with Matilda with her arms behind her back. She smiled down at the Living Doll as she spoke, "So, did you find your creator, Matilda?"

Matilda shook her head and said, "No, I have not."

Alameria gasped and brought a hand to her mouth, "What? But...your soul. It shines with the kind of light that only those who have experienced true love can. How did you acquire that without finding a husband?"

"Well, I met someone. Not a man, but someone...else. Someone who helped me. And gave me this new strength," Matilda said, placing a hand over her heart for emphasis. Then she looked up at Alameria and smiled, "Perhaps, after Cynthia meets with Druella, I can tell you more. In return, could you introduce me to Eva?"

"Of course, but why Eva?" one of Alameria's eyebrows rose in confusion.

Matilda maintained an innocent smile as she said, "I have something important to discuss with her. That's all."

With that, Matilda turned away from the Dhampir, who was left confused but intrigued by Matilda's words. After that, the conversations died down as the group of six arrived at their destination. The Castle of Lescatie. The large building had five spires of varying heights reaching up into the sky. At one point, the walls of the building may have been a stark, marble-white. One was expected to see the flags of various noble houses hanging from the parapets, along with stained glass windows that would shine in the morning sun.

Instead, what they found was a large, dark, imposing monolith dedicated to the Mamono. It had the same structure as a medieval castle, but it exuded a completely different ambiance. The walls were a deep purple, with red satin sheets draping from the spires. A flag flew from the tallest spire, adorned with the emblem of the Demon Lord's army. The front doors were wide open, with only two Dullahans standing guard on either side. Every now and then, pink sigils would flash across parts of the wall, followed by the sounds of women and men in the throes of passion.

Selina, her laughter subsiding, frowned up at the castle. She remained silent as the Three Musketeers led them up the stairs to the front gate. The two Dullahans glanced at their party but otherwise remained motionless. Olvie offered to take Nobu to the stables, but Koga waved her off. Instead, he walked over to Nobu and instructed him to wait outside for him. The horse whickered before walking toward a large patch of grass. Afterward, the six entered the castle.

The interior of the castle resembled the exterior. Red satin rugs were laid out across the hallways, while magical stones were set in sconces, giving off an eerie light. While half of the walls were clear of any debris, the other half were covered in off-white semen stains. The scent of rain was quickly replaced by the musky aroma of sex and arousal. Selina, who was used to far worse odors, saw it as a minor inconvenience. Koga quickly pulled a bandana from one of his pockets and tied it around his mouth and nose. Matilda grimaced before forcing herself to ignore the cloying musk. The Three Musketeers didn't seem bothered by the smell at all. In fact, they appeared to be much more at peace in such a location. The only sounds accompanying their footsteps were the moans and cries of men and women engaging in sexual activity. As they ascended the flights of stairs, Selina noticed an increasing number of people engaging in the activity openly, some even outside their rooms. So enthralled with each other were they that none took notice of their party as they made their way up five flights of stairs.

Selina frowned at the open displays but didn't say anything. The only sign of her displeasure was the way she tapped her Threaded Cane against the floor with growing aggression. To the point that she left holes in parts of the stone floor.

When they reached the top of the last flight of stairs, they were confronted by two large, open double doors. They were tall enough to tower over Selina, with two Dullahans standing guard on both sides. Peering through the opening, Selina spotted her target.

Druella. The White Lilim. Sat upon the middle throne, surrounded by various Mamono. But these all looked unique compared to the ones she had seen. And they all gathered around a solitary Incubus in the room. A familiar looking one.

"That is Elt," Selina whispered to Matilda and Koga, "Which means that the Mamono with him are..."

"The Fallen Maidens. Wilmarina, Merse, Primeria, Sasha, Mimil, and Francisca," Matilda replied, nodding her head.

"And what about the one next to that object?" Koga asked, pointing towards a woman with dark lavender hair, standing next to a beautiful mirror, its front facing the door to the throne room.

"That is Eva Mystiv. And she's next to...the Shield of Depravity?" Matilda raised an eyebrow, clearly surprised, "Why would they bring that out?"

"What is it?"

"A magical mirror that is meant to reflect one's 'True Self'. Which, usually just means depicting what they would be like as a Mamono. Anyone who gazes upon it will gradually be transformed by the Shield into their Mamono form. Hmm, why would they have that out unless...Good Hunter, could I please go into the room first?"

Selina nodded as the Three Musketeers entered the throne room. They passed through the doors without any problems and reached the foot of the thrones. They bowed deeply to Druella before turning to await the Huntress' party. Selina, Koga, and Matilda all approached and stood just before the opened doors. Matilda then approached and stopped right at the threshold. With a hum, she reached her hand forward and paused just before her arm entered the throne room. Then, ever so slightly, she infused a small amount of her magical power into her palm.

The effect was immediate. A wall of shimmering purple magic appeared for a brief moment. Matilda pulled her hand away as the corrupted Spirit Energy tried to grab at her. She backed away until she was standing behind the Huntress. Only then did the corrupted mana tendrils retreat back into the wall. Then the shimmering vanished from view.

"Ah, I see," Matilda said as she rubbed her right hand and then held it up to Selina, "So that's what they've done."

"Are you alright, Matilda?" Selina asked as she placed her cane under her arm and removed one of her gloves. She reached down and took Matilda's hand, draining the residual corrupted mana from the Living Doll. Once Matilda had returned to normal, she promptly put her glove back on.

Matilda nods as her lips curl into a frown, "Yes, I'm fine. But my suspicions were confirmed. They have set up a Demonic Barrier between her and the throne room. If Koga or I were to walk through it, we would be corrupted instantly."

"So they have prepared for us. But how did you know?" Selina asked, cutting her eyes at Druella. She swore she could see a smug grin on the Lilim's face even from where she was standing.

"Eva Mystiv. She is more than just an Alp. She is the premier Dark Strategist of the Dark Ice Flower. A prodigious tactician as a human, her strategic prowess as a Mamono is matched only by her immense magical ability. If she is there, then it makes sense for her to have arranged something like this in advance."

Selina hummed, "I see. And is there any way to get through the Barrier?"

"A Demonic Barrier only protects against magical attacks. It offers no defense against physical attacks. A good slash would be enough to break it."

"Then allow me," Koga said as he reached for the hilt of his sword. He stepped forward, but Matilda held up a hand to stop him.

She shook her head and said, "That would be unwise. While the Barrier can be easily destroyed by physical attacks, it derives its power from the space behind it. The mana of the Demon Realm coalesces around the edges of the Barrier, seeping through and empowering the Barrier. If it's destroyed, all the corrupted mana would explode outward. And whoever is caught in the blast would be corrupted instantly."

Growling, Koga withdrew his hand from his weapon. Selina raised her eyebrow and asked, "It gets its power from a Demon Realm? But aren't we already in one? Wouldn't it be drawing power from its surroundings?"

"Multiple smaller Demon Realms can exist within a larger one. One of the key magical powers that Dark Strategists employ is the ability to create Demon Realms on the fly during battle. Being in a Demon Realm significantly enhances a Mamono's powers, while inflaming the lust of both them and any humans they encounter. Doing such a thing would be easy for someone like Eva Mystiv. But...something tells me there might be more to it than that. There's no way this is the only defense she has created. But I don't know what else she could have done."

"So, in other words, Druella is already testing us. Seeing how we get past this trial," Selina stated while walking toward the doors, her cane tapping against the floor.

"Or, it is just another attempt to corrupt us. We have seen that these creatures understand nothing except that," Koga glared through the Barrier at Druella, rage shimmering just beneath his eyes.

"Whatever the case, we have to find a way to get through that Barrier. If we can't, then we might as well turn around now. Thus...I think you should do it, Good Hunter," Matilda's words made Koga tense up. He stepped to the side to position himself in front of Matilda, and the Living Doll moved to stand behind his right leg.

The Huntress kept her focus on the Barrier while speaking to Matilda, "Are you certain? Showing off what I can do at this early stage may be an unwise decision."

"Perhaps. But Druella has thrown down the gauntlet with this. And if we want to make progress, we need to respond. Either you walk through that Barrier and speak with her on her terms, or you make her speak with you on your terms," was Matilda's answer.

Selina didn't respond. Instead, she sighed and then nodded her head. She crouched down and placed the Thread Cane on the floor. Then, standing up, she began to remove the glove from her right hand. Slowly, she removed the white garment, finger by finger, with a calm expression on her face. Beyond the Barrier, Druella and her entourage leaned forward to get a better look at what Selina was doing. Once her glove was off, Selina looked up at the Demonic Barrier and slowly placed her hand against it. With her palm flat against the Barrier, she closed her eyes and thought back to the training they had done.

She recalled the words Matilda had spoken to her a week ago, when they had paused to practice her ability. The ability to drain mana from the things she touched. Matilda had said that, while such a power was potent, its weakness was that it was passive. Any mana that entered her body through touch or any other means would be absorbed and destroyed by her soul. However, while she could openly grab someone with her hands to drain them, there was little else she could do with it. It was a completely passive power that was focused internally. That alone made her an extremely effective combatant against the Mamono, but it wouldn't be sufficient.

She would be going up against a Lilim. A daughter of the Demon Lord. While the likelihood of Druella finding a way to corrupt her was zero, it didn't mean she couldn't find ways to disable or overcome her. Magical restraints that could keep her in place. An attack aimed to harm her, but not corrupt her, targeting her heart. Or, as mentioned earlier, pursuing Koga and Matilda. Two people who couldn't nullify corruption as she could. And those were just the things that Matilda thought of at the moment. She didn't even consider what could happen if the Fallen Maidens got involved.

Thus, Matilda insisted that Selina train with this ability. Train to be able to use it properly. Not simply as something passive, but as something she could wield as a weapon.

The result?

"Focus inward," Selina whispered to herself. She searched within herself, delving into her soul. Exploring the infinite hole that had been consuming a significant amount of mana since their arrival. She had been immersed in Demon Realm mana since they crossed the border into the nation, and her soul never wavered. Even now, it continued to absorb and destroy the mana that attempted to corrupt her from the inside out. She grasped a piece of that vast emptiness and started coaxing it outwards. Her inner core writhed before a tendril as thick as her arm emerged from it and into her hand.

"...then push outward," Selina opened her eyes and pulled her hand back. A silvery sheen had appeared over her right hand as her soul's power filled the appendage. Then, with a deep breath, she pushed her palm into the Barrier.

The Barrier shattered like glass.

And then the howling began.

An otherworldly scream pierced the air as the center of the Huntress' palm opened up to reveal a gaping silver portal. As soon as it appeared, a powerful suction exploded from the hole in Selina's flesh. The rug in the room was lifted into the air, held in place only by the bolts securing it. The curtains were almost ripped from their mounts, letting in the faint light from outside into the room. The throne room was thrown into chaos as the various Mamono grabbed onto whatever they could for dear life. Elt's wives threw themselves around him, protecting him as the vortex attempted to pull them in. Druella clung to her throne while Eva sought refuge behind the Shield of Depravity. The Three Musketeers had thrust their blades into the floor, barely managing to halt themsleves from being pulled into the vortex. All those present in the throne room could barely look at the gaping black hole that had opened up from the Huntress' hand. Everyone thought that she was trying to absorb them, as the rumors suggested.

However, Eva noticed what was really happening.

She gasped and cried out, her voice somehow carrying over the sound of the wind, "My-My Demon Realm and Demon Boxes! She's destroying them!"

That statement caused everyone's jaws to drop. And it only got worse when they realized that she was right. Demon Boxes were essentially miniature versions of Demon Realms. They were filled with even more concentrated Demonic Mana than regular Demon Realms, while also being extremely malleable. Many Dark Strategists stretched them out into thin lines that could work as traps for unsuspecting intruders. Anyone who walked through a Demon Box would immediately be hit with a wave of Demonic Mana. Men would be unable to control their lust, while women would be instantly demonized.

Eva had created ten of them and stretched them across the entire throne room.

And all of them were being swallowed by the vortex.

Dust, loose bits of paper, and more were all sucked up with the Demon Boxes as the vortex continued to rage. Outside the throne room, the vortex's backlash had pushed the Dullahans into their respective walls behind the Huntress. Both tried to stand up, but they couldn't resist the air pressure. Even Koga and Matilda were not safe. Koga had to stab his blade into the floor to prevent himself from being flung away, while Matilda was floating in the air, desperately holding onto Koga's coat.

The only person still standing was Selina.

And even she was starting to breathe heavily from her efforts. With each passing second, she could feel her body growing weaker. Her legs and arms began to shake, her eyes grew heavy, and her knees weakened. But she persevered. She had to ensure that every potential trap was eliminated. She had to keep...


She couldn't normally see beyond the vortex, as the massive black swirling mass covered her vision. However, every now and then, it would move in such a way as to allow her to see what was going on in front of her. By pure chance, she caught a glimpse of what was happening in the throne room.

What she saw made her heart sink.

One of the Mamono, a young girl with pink hair, was grabbing her throat. Her eyes were starting to bulge out of their sockets, and her face began to take on a blue tint.

Selina didn't hesitate after that. She grabbed her right arm with her left hand and attempted to close her hand. She tried to mentally cut off the flow of energy from her soul to her body, swiftly pushing the energy she had drawn out back to its source. The vortex in her palm gradually shrank as the suction began to fade. Her fingers curled inward with each passing second as the hole got smaller and smaller. With a grunt, she closed her hand and quickly pulled it back to her chest.

And just like that, it was over.

The carpet fell back onto the ground.

The curtains returned to their normal position.

Mimil could breathe normally again.

Everyone, still tense, sensed that the danger had passed.

And as for the Demonic Barrier, Demon Realm, and Demon Boxes?

"Gone," Eva gasped as she stood up on unsteady legs. Wide-eyed, she scanned the entire room, searching for any trace of her preparations. But no matter how hard she searched, she couldn't find any remains, "They're all gone."

Outside the throne room, Selina had knelt with her right hand in her left. She took deep breaths while trying to calm her racing heart. She counted backwards from ten and waited for her strength to return. Only when her legs stopped shaking did she dare to put her glove back on. One finger at a time, she once again covered her right hand. Koga and Matilda stepped up to her right and left sides, respectively. They both placed their hands on Selina's shoulders to silently inquire if she was alright. Selina responded with a nod. Without a word, she picked up her Threaded Cane from the floor and stood to her full height. Koga and Matilda removed their hands from her and followed as she stepped into the throne room. Their footsteps echoed off the walls as no one else dared to make a sound. All eyes were on them.

More specifically, the Huntress.

She saw it in their eyes. Terror at what she could do, shock at her new ability, and confusion over how she could do something like that. All of those things were reflected in the eyes of the Mamono.

Well, most of them.

The only exception was the White Lilim, Druella.

She was sitting back in her throne, with one hand on her armrest and the other over her heart. Her expression was the only thing that confused Selina. While the others had reasonable reactions to what she had done, Druella appeared neither scared nor worried. At least not for herself.

The way she looked at the her made Selina swear that she was pitying her.

And she couldn't understand why.

But she figured she would find out soon enough. She walked until she was a respectable distance from Druella and her entourage. This put her directly in the line of sight of the Shield of Depravity. And as her reflection appeared in the mirror, it shattered.

With a single, loud, cracking sound, the Shield of Depravity shattered upon encountering the Huntress.

And the shock of the Mamono in attendance only grew greater.

Selina, Matilda, and Koga paid no heed to their reactions. Instead, each one prepared their own form of greeting. Matilda put one foot behind the other, pinched the edges of the dress between her thumbs and forefingers, then bowed her head as she crouched in a "Curtsy". Koga put his right shoulder forward and bent at the waist while moving his right arm across his chest, giving Druella the standard "Hunter's Salutation." Finally, Selina got down on one knee, placing her right arm over her chest and extending her left arm out to her side. She bowed her head in a gesture of "Deep Respect" to Druella.

"Salutations, White Lilim Druella, Fourth Born of the Demon Lord, Conqueror of Lescatie, and Queen of the Lescatie Demon Realm. My name is Cynthia Albion. The only title I have is 'Hunter.' I have come to parley over the fate of the Frontier Town of Pran," Selina said, lifting her head and staring Druella down without a hint of fear.

Druella stood up from her throne, placing her right hand against her cheek and resting her left arm under her breasts. Her voice conveyed the pity she felt for the Huntress as she responded, "Nice to meet you, Cynthia Albion. I have heard so much about you. It is a pleasure to finally make your acquaintance. I look forward to having a lengthy conversation with you about many, many things. And, if I may be so bold, I promise you here and now that you will receive all the help you need."

Thus, Selina, the Good Hunter from another world, and Druella, the Fourth Born of the Demon Lord, finally met. As the storm outside finally broke, everyone present would swear that the first rays of sunlight fell upon the two of them.

Some would argue that such an event indicated that both of them had a great destiny ahead of them.

But others...others would say it was indicative of something else. Of how the world knew that these two were destined to come into conflict.

And how one of them would fall.

Fun fact: I did look it up. The Three Musketeers book came out around the 1830s which was essentially when the Victorian Era was. If Wikipedia is to be believed. So, yes, it is entirely possibly for Selina to have at least read the book.

Also, through doing a bit of research, I discovered that the Dark Ice Flower Musketeers are full on references to the original group. Not just in names, but even in some story beats. Go figure.

Review Replies:

As a bit of a blanket reply, what happened last time was my WordViceAI Proofreading Software fucked up when I copy/pasted the chapter. So, parts of it were just...wrong. When I noticed I took the chapter down so I could fix it. Thankfully, that didn't happen this time.

TykkiMikk: Akuri as of now is back at Pran. What she's doing there will be revealed in a later Chapter.

Rez: I believe I have fixed that.

Galiono: I'm glad you enjoy the story! And same to everyone else who has stuck with me this far. Thanks for everything, and I hope you all enjoy this chapter!