All According to Plan

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“Cuh... Carriem...!” Zuzu lifts up her cutesy magic staff into the sky after an adorable twirl, her cheeks blushing red with strained effort. She barely manages to squeak the incantation out but hey, it still works! The staff glows a little brightly with a generic, twinkly magic light and a couple of the baited bear traps rise into the air, lifted by her magic energies.

“Good job, Zutiria. Send them off over to the field, now.” Boss is overseeing the operation diligently, making sure every bit of his plan goes off without a hitch.

For now I just gotta wait as Zuzu finishes transporting the traps into the steezweed field. It sure is taking her a while, though. We ended up with a whopping sixteen whole traps from the evil-looking butcher but because of Zuzu’s shaky control over her magic she can only lift two or three of them at once. Then she has to fly them all the way over to the drug field, which takes a fair bit longer than I was expecting.

The good part though is that amazingly, right after she sets down the first few into the soft green of the distant field we almost immediately hear the loud, pained cries of several desperate demonic wolves being snapped up by powerful metal jaws.

It worked! It totally fucking worked right off the bat!

‘I must admit, Sir. When you said you had a plan I did not assume it would be as elaborate or effective as this.’ My cute little friend smiles and begins magically lifting the next batch and sending them up, up and away.

“I’m impressed, too! This is a lot more involved just telling us what to do against a certain enemy type, Boss. I mean, damn. More Guild Masters should work their asses off like you do.” I smile and try to do my best to praise him, but my heart sinks when I watch the expression on his face sour fast.

“That just ties into some more of the commercialization aspect of it. Under the current system...” He looks at me and realizes he might be, uh, drowning me in info. He kinda is but I don’t have the heart to tell him.

He sighs, shakes his head and tries to dumb it down a little bit for me. “Ok, so... If we were a lot more involved like the old days then I would think the Guild would deserve a larger cut for oversight and planning, meaning adventurers would take a slightly smaller reward.”

“That... makes sense.” I tilt my head to one side and think about the logistics. I ain’t suited for this kinda thinking but I mean it DOES sound right, I think. I was never too good at some of the money crap the royal tutors tried to teach me about. Economy flew in one ear and out the other. Gods, I don’t ever wanna be Queen of this realm...

Right after Zuzu sets down the new batch and we hear even more pained yelping, she turns to us and says, ‘If I had to guess that would lead to two distinct problems. The adventurers don’t want less pay, and the Guild Masters don’t see the value in spending the extra time when many view adventurers as... expendable. Even if one side is willing to compromise it’s likely the other won’t care enough to.’

Anger rises up from behind Boss’s sunglasses, not at Zuzu, but from the topic at hand. He clenches his fist, grits his teeth and all that kinda manly shit before sighing. “You’re correct.”

Everyone’s quiet as Zuzu floats the remaining traps over into the field a little bit at a time. Sure enough, Boss was right just like always. Each time one lands a wolf shortly cries out in pain, with almost no delay. Problem is even as the last trap clattered to the ground, a few seconds later another furious and pained wolf cry reached our ears, meaning there might be more than sixteen.

“I was afraid of this. I can’t believe that despicable, potion junky of a farmer. He tried to send us in here saying there was only one, but he was well fucking aware...” Boss’s grumpiness continues to rise and he kicks some dirt off the road in frustration.

“Boss, how come you were able to tell that he was lying so quickly?” I tilt my head and point my finger into my chin, puzzled. He does seem to have a pretty good bullshit detector, after all...

“Have I not mentioned?” He takes off his glasses for a split second. “I’m good at reading most people’s body language for signs that they’re lying. It doesn’t work on everyone, but for ‘simpler’ folk like our friend Spliffert, well. Needless to say he wasn’t exactly going to be pulling a fast one on me anytime soon.”

Wait, really?! Wait, hold up Sam. He said simpler people. He means idiots like the drug farmer. I mean if he could tell I was lying he would have said something about me actually being a princess by now, right? Hah. And to think I was scared for a sec.

“Well that’s impressive, but it’s not helping us get out of this mess we’re stuck in.” I say.

‘Indeed. What’s the plan now, Sir? I don’t think our traps got them all. I’m trusting that you accounted for this in that thorough brain of yours.’ Zuzu looks eagerly to the next part of the plan with great interest.

“Of course I did. Given the poor lack of description from our client, I had to consider every possibility... Can you carry yourself with that same spell, Zutiria?” Boss holds his chin up in deep thought.

‘Hm. No.’ Zuzu cutely shakes her head side to side. ‘Carriem is a spell for small objects. I could use a levitation spell on myself but... not for very long. It’s not the type of magic you want to use without an incantation, and if I tried it wouldn’t last.’

Boss smiles. “It won’t take you long to get where I want you to go. I need you up on top of the farm house over there providing long distance support. The field is too tall for you to see the oncoming wolves, so I just want you to shoot small attack spells from up there.”

‘Non fire spells, I’m assuming?’ She laughs softly to herself in a cute, dainty manner.

“Yes. Stick to any other element or even just arcane attacks. I don’t want that field going up in smoke, obviously...” Shit. It would definitely be kinda hard to fight if we all got high from the smoke fumes, now that I think about it...

I cut into the discussion with my hands on my hips. “And what about me, Boss?” Is Zuzu just gonna have all the fun or what?”

“You’re going in there, Sam.” He focuses his attention solely on me, adjusting his dark glasses cooly. “Finish off all the wolves with a bash on the skull using the flat side of your great blade. I’m sure Bludman would prefer we leave them in a state where he... can make the most enjoyment out of his time with them.” Boss sighs, imagining whatever the fuck that creepy butcher is planning on doing with these soon to be dead devil dogs.

“Oh, I get it! So Zuzu will cover me from up high and shoot the ones I can’t see?” I think I got it, and it’s confirmed as soon as he smiles and pats me on the head.

“Pretty simple, right? I’ll be standing back here so you’ll have to be extra cautious.” He smiles and scratches his neatly trimmed beard, playing it off casually.

What? I assumed Boss was gonna join Zuzu up on the vantage point and he’d shout instructions from up there. Not sure how I feel about this on my own. When I left home I was ready to tear a path ahead and kick ass, but Boss taught me very sternly that on my own I don’t kick very much ass at all... “Are you not going to be helping out on this one? Couldn’t you join Zuzu up at the vantage point and shout instructions to me from there?”

“I’ve been telling you that you’ll need to do quests without my supervision sooner than later. Sam, it’ll be alright. Just remember everything I’ve taught you, Princess, and you should be fine. If anything unexpected happens I’ll run in and use these to adjust the plan on the spot.” Boss clasps my shoulder with one hand and with the other he tilts down his shades, revealing a comforting glance of his glowing eyes. I’ll never understand how so many people are afraid of them.

I take a deep breath. He’s right. This isn’t like me, I need to be confident and full of myself like usual! There’s nothing in my way, and I’m ready for this! “Alright, Boss! We can handle it. Right, Zuzu?”

My best friend smiles back in that cute as hell, restrained way of hers, giving the two of us an enthusiastic thumbs up in response. It just reassures me even more and makes my blood burn all the hotter, I can’t lose with these two by my side!

‘I’ll get into position.’ Zuzu smiles and walks away, before lifting herself silently off the ground and up into the air with a wordless spell. Even as she rises I notice that the magic doesn’t look very stable... she’s shaky and it almost feels like she’s gonna fall back to earth a few times. Despite the few scares, Zuzu thankfully ends up landing safely on top of Spliffert’s house just like we planned.

I give Boss a teasing salute and a fanged grin before I run off into the field of danger myself, hopping up over the rickety wooden fence in a single bound.

I lift my hefty great blade out of the sling on my back as I land dramatically in the green, pungent field of steezweed.

Even though I’ve been collecting this junk for almost a week now as part of our daily fetch quest routine, I still can’t handle the earthy stank of it. Being in a full on field of the stuff was not something I would’ve ever wanted to do with my time, but the prospect of a huge payday is very convincing.

Both of my strong, gloved hands grip the hilt of my bigass sword, taking a defensive position just like Boss taught me to do. Even though I can’t see well in this field I definitely know where to go. The whining wolves are making full on death rattles as they bark and scream from the pain that the traps are continuously inflicting on them as they try to escape.

I thought wild animals were supposed to like, bite off their leg or something in order to survive? Boss musta been right, these things are kinda dumb. That’s fine though since it just makes me and Zuzu’s job all the easier!

First Brood Wolf I come across is just about the size of a regular wolf, if not a teeny bit bigger. It’s no big deal or anything but yeesh does it look absolutely fucked. The illustration in Boss’s monster encyclopedia thingy didn’t do it justice.

This thing looks like it crawled out of the ass crack of some evil... uh... okay let me try this again, it looks like a wolf fucked a ball of barely contained, concentrated hatred and then this spiky pupper crawled out of the afterglow of said unholy, godless union.

It has the red eyes with shining yellow pupils that helped Boss identify it, and the pup itself is black furred with a mane of bloody red running down its back and its tail. All four paws were red, and each topped off with just the sharpest damn claws I’ve ever seen. Speaking of sharp, the jaws on this thing, hell. This wolf’s mouth looked like a super thirsty armory, glistening with drool!

These things are scary, but also almost... beautiful in a weird, demonic hellspawn kinda way. Absolutely dripping with power, built for nonstop devouring, yep... Nature sure is fascinating, alright.

I bonk it on the noggin and it dies.

Kinda anticlimactic, but that’s to be expected when you bash a wolf’s skull in with all the power of the Lundreame Blessing and a big ol’ sword. I wanna shout out that I got one to let Boss know, but hey, even I’m not that stupid! I start making my way to the next one by following the dying wails once more.

Before I can reach it, however, the field rustles to my right and a snarling wolf leaps over the crops and bears down on me from above. I barely react in time, narrowly holding out my sword horizontally in front of my face to catch it’s oncoming bite. Then, just as I was about to kick the monster off of my blade, a tiny arrow of magical energy wooshes through the air pierces straight through the evil hound’s skull.

The demon dog slides off my sword and I look up on top of the farmhouse to see Zuzu waving down at me in triumph. ‘I got you, Sammy. Keep going.’ Despite saying this, though, she looks a little worse for wear.

Zuzu used that Carriem spell like six or seven times earlier WITH the incantation, so I know she’s already spent a lot of energy. We don’t have any potions for her to recover with so I really do need to be quick on my feet just in case Zuzu’s eye in the sky style support runs dry before things are finished up.

I rustle quickly through the crops, making my way to each trap one by one and giving each doggo head a good, clean, killing bonk. As I move between traps, a few more scattered magical bursts fire off from above, dispatching hidden foes before I’m even aware of them. On the way to the tenth trap I catch a wolf with my sword before it manages to ambush and bite me.

With a great swing of incredible effort, I smash my hulking great blade through the damn thing in a single, struggle-filled blow.

The brood wolf’s fur was matted to hell and back and tough as old iron. For a split second I became terrified for my life thinking that my massive weapon wouldn’t even slice through the hideous beast’s hide. The only thing I could do in this situation was put even more of my sheer force of will and my raw power into my attack until the damn devil was torn clean in half, blood and guts flying splattering violently through the arc of my sword.

Sorry Boss, but Butcher Bludman will have to make do with whatever’s left of that one. Maybe all I did was save him a chop of his own?

As I run to the rest of the wolves, I feel down all of a sudden. Not for the wolves, fuck those guys, but about myself. I don’t think I’d have been able to cut through that bitey bastard if it weren’t for Boss’s jizz powering me up. No- this isn’t the time to think about this. I grit my teeth and run through the field even harder.

I’ll work on power. I have to do it. I’ll get stronger for him... for myself... and for Karnalle. I can’t always rely on Boss’s powerup, and I need to become strong enough on my own that wimpy, punk ass monsters like these are nothing to me!

I dodge, I leap, I bonk.

After weaving in and out of danger, avoiding, slashing and letting Zuzu do her work, at long last the sixteenth trapped wolf is finally subdued by the power of my sword and it lies dead on the ground, watering the crops with its vivid red blood. I’m not sure if we’re done, but I’m keeping a damn tight grip on my sword just in case. Just then, another few shots whizz overhead and I hear a few more wolves whimper and fall to Zuzu’s spells.

I look back up to check on her and notice right away that she’s red faced and sweaty as hell, then she tiredly plops down on the roof of the farmhouse. I grow worried for a sec but then her familiar blue text appears in front of my eyes in an easily readable place.

‘I don’t see any more, Sammy. There’s no more rustling. All in all, there were twenty-eight. Forgive me while I rest a moment, call in Sir for us. Lack of mana isn’t a problem for me, but I can’t take this much spellcasting when I’ve not done it to this degree since my childhood...’

I give her a thumbs up from far away and watch as she wearily returns the gesture. Time to go back and get Boss to check out the scene. Ugh, I look like shit. Y’know, when I first stole this armor set I thought it’d look bitchin’ on me- and it does, for sure... but I wasn’t thinking long term. I should have asked myself ‘Samantha, will it be worth it when your tits are covered in wolf blood?’.

The answer is still yes. I do in fact look bitchin even with bloody titties. But whatever... I doubt Boss or Zuzu are gonna wanna share a bath tonight, heh.

I pop out of the stinky steezweed crops and lean over the creaky railing. Boss is out there exactly where we left him, a safe distance away. He smiles at me and my red boobs, pulling out a handkerchief for me as he starts walking towards the field as soon as I give him the all clear sign.

I gotta protect that man... he’s not like us girls, after all! He’s no fighter.

I get some chicks want a big strong man who will keep ‘em safe, but... I’m just sitting over here firmly in ‘fuck that’ land. I don’t care if I could bench press him. He’s suave, hot, and y’know what? He DOES make me feel safe.

It’s not his skill with a sword, or a bow, or even a rippling muscle body that does this for me. It’s his damn brain. Boss has a plan for everything, and if he somehow doesn’t, he’s able to come up with one faster than anyone could ever dream of.

I’ve never met anyone like him, and if I have my way I’ll keep him out of harm's way his entire life.

He’s... ugh. I can’t help but sigh. I’ve never felt like this before. Like a... a maiden, I guess? Look, I know it’s been two weeks since we met. I’m dumb but I ain’t crazy. Zuzu has explained a bit about his weird magnetic attraction thing going on and I get that, I don’t wanna say the L word yet, but...

Every day I spend with him makes me forget that stuffy old castle. I forget who I used to be. The dresses, the lessons, the line of succession, the marriage interviews, the necklaces, the rings, Father, the pressure, the pressure, the fucking PRESSURE, I-... I... just... fucking... everything. Poof.

All because of some old down on his luck loser I met in Dewhurst.

I wanna reiterate I’m not stupid- I know I’m gonna have to deal with that all again one day. You can take the Princess from Imperalis, but you can’t take the Princess from the Girl.

Zuzu could stay with Boss forever, she’s got no responsibilities after all, but I’m a different story. This whole thing might’ve started like one of those fairy tales Zuzu used to read to little Sammy, but I’m terrified that the ending will be anything but happily ever after.

Father might not care about what I do with my life, but Mother does. The rest of the sweaty old men who run the kingdom do. It could all come crumbling down so easily if they just came to get me, and I couldn’t do anything about it...

Y’know, fuck being a Princess, maybe me and Boss’ll just run away. We’ll hop on a Void Ship at the coast, cross the Black and get married or some shit in some other realm far, far away from Karnalle. I don’t care, whatever the case I just need to stop thinking about this!

I just need to remind myself that I’ve lived my whole life trying to live up to my everyone’s expectations of me. Do this, curtsie, do that, curtsie, smile, curtsie, wear the dress, curtsie, put your make up on, curtsie- ALWAYS with the fucking curtsies...! Ugh.

Gotta stop dwelling on this. Maybe one day I’ll learn how to stop caring about what people expect from me. My own expectations should be the only ones I need to live up to, but... here we are. 

Unfortunately as soon as I snap out of whatever the hell that depressive episode mighta been, I see Boss has already started walking towards me and there’s a giant fucking Brood Wolf stalking up from behind him in the distance- its colossal jaws primed and ready to snatch and violently devour the man that I plan on telling one day soonish that I probably, maybe, most likely love him- I think.

Shit.

Shit.

SHIT!



A portrait of Sam's former life.

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Reading Rise of the Guild Master

Rise of the Guild Master