Big Brain Strats

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After that stunning show of expert intimidation, we all got ready for our potentially big upcoming battle. I’m still nervous. These Brood Wolf things are supposed to be a lot stronger than the Slimes and Living Fungi that Zuzu and I have been taking on until now... Boss says it’ll be fine and that we won’t actually have to do much fighting. I trust him, but it’s still hard to fight down my anxiety.

I know he said not to worry about it and that he’s not upset about our performance, but... I still need to try harder.

Before we leave town, he brings us to a certain butcher’s shop for ‘supplies’.

“We need to step in for a moment. You, ah... might want to wait outside. I don’t think it’ll be dangerous, but that’s not to say the owner is going to be very pleasant company for lovely ladies like yourselves.” Boss says as he stands before the entrance.

“Pft. Cut the shit. Where you go, I go!” I beat my chest and give him as confident a smile as I can manage.

‘Indeed. I would rather wait inside the creepy shop together, than outside of it alone.’ Zuzu begins to enter right after the two of us.

According to the crudely made sign the place is called ‘Each and Every Meats’ and as you might expect it looks just as shady as the rest of Dewhurst. It’s rundown, bloody, and for some reason smells a lot more like murder than a butcher’s shop has a right to... which y’know, is saying a LOT.

First thing we notice upon walking in is the dim lighting barely making anything visible, there’s just a few candles here and there and the windows are all boarded shut from the outside. That’s totally fucking normal, right?

Secondly, we can all vaguely see the butcher standing behind the front register. He wears an apron that probably used to be white at one point, stained with blood which you’d certainly expect but... I uh. I dunno if it’s just the lighting in this shady ass place or what, but I don’t think he’s wearing anything else besides the apron.

This man is big. Stocky. Evil looking with deep set, dead fish eyes... So far, this dude looks like the 2nd scariest mother-fucker in Dewhurst from my experience- ranking just slightly less scary than the huge guy with the RAEP tattoo, but that’s not really a fair contest, even for a dude covered in blood and offal. 

Unafraid, Boss leads us closer.

“I need a lot of meat, Bludman, and some bear traps. As many as you have. What sort of meat do you have in stock?” Boss approaches the counter and leans over it politely but in a way that he can appear menacing as soon as things turn south. Almost like a predator hunched over, staring at its prey.

Something strikes me as odd, though. I look at Zuzu and she returns my suspicion. Neither of us seem to think this is normally the kind of place you’d pick up bear traps...

“Pork.” The butcher answers in an emotionless monotone. 

“What KIND of pork?” Boss is very suspicious, and he raises an eyebrow towards the shady man.

This Bludman guy is quiet and his eyes dart around nervously. At last, he sighs and admits. “Long and normal. Your choice.”

“Normal.” Boss says in an icy tone. “I have a proposal, by the by.”

“Ah, I see you’ve finally decided to accept my quest then. Good. That sauntering slut has been shaking his tail on the streets for long enough. It’s time that someone locks him up and gets him a proper home... in the safety of my nice, warm and entirely soundproof basement.”

“Bludman, no. Stop it.” Boss sighs and I remember suddenly where I saw this guy before. He was the one who posted that quest to capture Milly a week ago and then we saw him running after the little catboy later in the day! What a scumbag.

Boss continues, “We’ve received a quest to eliminate a number of Brood Wolves off of a farm up north of town-”

“Spliffert’s place? Shit.” The butcher interrupts and visibly becomes more anxious, sweat crawling down his face like icky slime. “I’ll give you a discount since it’s going towards protecting my dealer.”

I get a sense that Boss is irritated, but he composes himself and sets it aside. “No discount necessary. I was thinking instead, you would give me the meat free of charge and lend me the traps. In return you can keep all of the wolves. I have no use for them and you’ll make far larger of a profit than just charging me for the pork.”

Me and Zuzu watch the sinister man’s eyes widen in shock and then offer a handshake to the Boss. He smiles a yellow and broken toothed smile and laughs, “Shit, maybe you ain’t as bad as they say ya are you fuckin’ freaky eyed bastard. That’s a good ass deal.”

“Also stop hunting the poor catboy!” I throw in from over Boss’s shoulder. I didn’t really wanna butt in when the Boss is doing business, he’s good at this shit while I’m a reckless bitch and Zuzu’s a tiny mute, but... c’mon. I had to say something.

“Now that’s a harder bargain...” Bludman looks at me for the first time, apparently just noticing I was here at all. He sizes me up, unsurprisingly, like he was appraising a mere hunk of flesh.

Zuzu grabs my hand and shushes me with her finger, and I make a face at her saying ‘well what am I supposed to do’?

Boss slams his fist down on the counter and glares at the bloody butcher, letting his glasses slide a bit off of his nose and revealing about half of his eyes. Bludman takes a step backwards out of fear as a threatening glow starts to emanate out of them. “It’s the only bargain you’re going to get.”

He raises his hand to the butcher and after a few seconds of subtle silence, resigning to his fate, the bloody hand shakes Boss’s in agreement.

“Put all the traps in one big bag for us. My Great Blader here is far stronger than she looks.” He smiles back to me and winks, and with that he closes off another successful deal.

Me and Zuzu aren’t any less impressed the second time around.

I’ve watched Father give counselling, debate with ambassadors from other realms and broker treaties and trade deals but Boss is on a whole different level!

I feel bad for him, though... He could have been successful so much sooner in life if the deck wasn’t so stacked against him. I wonder what he’d have turned out like if his Grandpa didn’t die and he was trained to take over the Guild properly? Eh... I shouldn’t be thinking about crap like this. Thinking ain’t my style.

Bludman turns around, confirming my worst nightmares. The man was indeed totally fucking naked except for his apron of death. Me, Boss and Zuzu are gifted with a full view of his stocky, hairy ass as he saunters agonizingly slowly away, disappearing into the backroom.

“Just so you know, I was going to bring that up.” Boss says.

“... You were gonna bring up his ass?”

“No, Sam. I meant Milly.” He and Zuzu laugh at my mistake.

“Oh. Duh. Sorry, I didn’t mean to blurt it out like that...” I blush just a bit out of embarrassment.

‘You’re a warrior, Sammy, and I’m a Mage. Neither of us are suited for these kinds of talks.’

I roll my eyes, I’ve heard it all before phrased a bit differently but it’s all the same. “Yeah, yeah. Little ‘Princesses’ are meant to be seen, not heard. I know the dri-OW!”

Zuzu bops me with the head of her heart shaped staff and blankly looks up at me. ‘Gender has nothing to do with it. You being who you are is the important bit, silly. Sammy acts first and thinks at a later, undesignated time. Potentially. If you remember.’

Boss chuckles at my suffering. “She’s fine, Zutiria. He didn’t know it yet but he was already in my pocket by the time I poised my offer to him. Nothing else mattered beyond that point.”

I can’t help but snort and lean in to punch him in the shoulder. He winces like usual. “Look at him, Zuzu. Just cause he gets a couple of chances to look cool in front of us suddenly Daddy thinks he’s all hot shit.”

‘I don’t know about shit, but I certainly think he’s hot.’ Zuzu smiles gently and I see Boss’s heart practically skip a beat. Dang, that girl is good at that... and she does it without even talking out loud, too.

He laughs and tries to brush it off but before he can say anything the butcher returns carrying one small, bloody sack and a much larger, slightly less bloody and heavier looking sack. I take both of them from Bludman and scoot away quickly before his eyes can wander too much up my body. Maybe wearing slutty armor to spite my Father wasn’t such a good idea... I love wearing it, don't get me wrong but... ick.

“Should be everything. Just tell me when I can go pick up the wolves, I’m just itching to chop something up...”

“I’m sure we’ll be in touch. And remember, Bludman- No. Catboys.” 

The scary man makes a somber expression before nodding his head in resignation. I think he means it, but it’s definitely hard to be sure... He doesn't scream ‘trustworthy’ to say the very, very least.

After what feels like fucking eternity the three of us book the hell outta Each and Every Meats with a brisk pace. I don’t think Boss is scared of the butcher but he sure isn’t itching for more of his company- and for that matter neither am I.

We all get to the northern outskirts of Dewhurst in record time. It’s different from where we leave off to kill Slimes, but it’s still a nice escape from the doom and gloom gray of the shitty city.  We’re all excited to get things going, since there’s a really big payday waiting for us at the end. Assuming we don’t all get savagely mauled to death, obviously.

More than anything else I want to make sure Boss can get those Catgirl maids we were talking about as soon as possible because it really does sound like they’re the first thing we need before we can actually start making some real progress on the Guild.

All three of us are in agreement that we absolutely in no way shape and form wanna clean that sty ourselves. We’ve made a sacred pact of laziness.

So if I have to kill a couple of scary monster wolves then lets get this shit going already, I’m hyped as heck! Nervous still too, yeah, but come on I’m trying to psyche myself up here.

This is what I left home for, after all. I need to make a difference in the realm and become stronger in order to do what my Father won’t.

Boss laid out an extra layer on top of my goals, but I’m confident that if we keep advancing his Guild and recruiting more powerful adventurers, then I have a chance of pulling it off after all... I just worry about it a lot. Evil doesn’t politely wait for the good guys to get stronger and beef up their forces after all. 

I have to support Boss as hard as I can... not just for him, but for the people of Karnalle and the people of ALL the realms.

As we continue down the road we finally start to see a shitty little farm off in the distance. Even though we’re out of Dewhurst proper, it still matches the rest of the village’s aesthetic. I’m kinda bad at describing things. I’m just a tomboy Princess and I’m running out of ways to call a building rundown, ok? I’m trying to say that this farm looks like the ass of an ass that has been smashed up by a group of asses.

It’s small, dingy, boarded up, and I can smell the steezweed field all the way from here. Boss and Zuzu were laughing behind my back cause I didn’t recognize the stuff last week, but they’ve since filled me in that the junk we were collecting was most definitely gonna be used to create illicit potions.

Man, not that I ever intend on ascending to the throne, but like... what a wild fucking concept. I wonder if the realm would even care if their Princess had a record of supplying ingredients to cheap ass street alchemists? Life has been super weird ever since moving in with Boss, but every day is a new adventure in Dewhurst, doubly so if you’ve lived a somewhat sheltered life I guess.

Boss stops in his tracks and orders us to do the same. “We need to run over the plan. I take it it’s fairly self explanatory, yes?”

Zuzu and him both stare directly at me. At first I’m not sure why but then I picked up that the Boss was specifically referencing me. Come on, I’m not THAT stupid! “We put the meat in the traps and kill the wolves! It doesn’t take a damn Archmage to figure this shit out, y’know!” I blush and set down the bigass sack of bear traps.

I’m still wondering about a few things though, so I ask. “Aren’t wolves like super smart though, or something? If we toss out a bunch of traps and all these evil doggos see their friends get trapped wouldn’t the rest of em avoid the remaining ones?”

Zuzu nods her head and looks at me in agreement. ‘I was wondering about that as well. I haven’t studied monster behaviour very extensively, my knowledge regarding our foes typically only extends to what parts of them have alchemical uses.’

“Well you’re in luck that around these parts, the local Guild Master actually cares about doing his job.” The boss smirks and crosses his arms, trying to make himself look cool. Damn it- he’s lame and all but he’s still pulling it off somehow!

‘What do you mean by that, Sir?’

“You saw that book I was using to narrow down our addled client’s description, yes? Before Adventurer’s Guilds became expansive and vastly commercialized thanks to the Association of Adventurers, there were a lot less adventurers to go around.” There’s a hint of sadness in his voice as he says this.

“Guild Masters worked very, very closely with the heroes of old and studied Monsterology to an almost encyclopedic level so as to provide the best advice, offer up plans of attack and so on.”

Huh. I didn’t know that. I guess that’s not too surprising since I don’t know a lot of things, but I’m clueless as to how Guilds work. Far as I know they’ve always just been places where adventurers go to find work. “And what about things now?” I ask.

“Now it’s just... There's a big ass quest board. There are so many adventurers in the big Guild cities that most Guilds don’t take the time to provide this support role anymore. If an adventurer fails a quest then hopefully they return alive, and if not, there’s more than enough hired swords to take their place. Most advice given in this day and age is cursory and generic. ‘Oh, make sure to bring antidotes.’ or ‘Be sure to have a mage with fire spells in your party’. Nothing more than common sense...” He sighs a defeated, weary sigh.

I’ll admit, this does sound pretty bad but I can’t exactly verify what he’s saying since I’ve only ever been to one Guild before Dewhurst and I did NOT stay long. Thinking about that slimy creep of a Guild Master back in Perlshaw sends a shiver down my spine...

But... Boss is talking about this so passionately- It’s kinda weird. I can probably guess why he feels so strongly about all this, though... His grandpa must have put a lot of stock in the ‘old ways’ and I’d bet good gold on it being how the old man ran the place back in his day. 

It’s funny how Boss spent his entire life trying to live up to his paternal figure. I might’ve a little talked sense into him and gotten him to admit he needs to do things his own way from now on, but the old man’s influence won’t ever go away on some level. I wonder what it’s like to look up to someone that much? I’ve never felt that way about anyone. I love Boss- I got that whole Daddy thing going on, yeah, but I don’t know what it’s like to idolize someone so hard that you want to be them...

I’ve never had anyone like that. I’ve only ever wanted to be me.

Zuzu walks towards Boss and pats her hand on his side a couple of times, looking almost like a little girl trying to cheer up her dad. ‘The evils of commercialization are many, Sir. There, there.’

“That’s nice and all, but you still haven’t answered my question. Are these mean doggies gonna fall for the trap or what?” I snap myself out of sentimental thinking and ask.

“My apologies, yes. I was getting to that.” Boss briefly pats Zuzu’s shoulder in thanks for her assurance. “Being frank these things are dumb as shit- they breed a lot and are always hungry. Brood Wolves will see the food and forget anything else. I’d imagine they’re occupying the steezweed field because it likely makes them docile and the food tastes better while under its effects.”

“And you’re sure the wolves won’t pose any danger?” I squint my eyes out of suspicion. It’s better to be safe than sorry.

“Oh, they’re very dangerous. We don’t know if we have enough traps to cover them all, for one. I’ll need you both to be very careful. But if I had to guess, I don’t think this wolf situation is THAT dire... if you’ll forgive the pun.”

Zuzu chuckles but I just tilt my head. I don’t get it?

Boss sees my visible confusion and launches into teacher mode with practiced ease. The joke is a lot less funny when explained so seriously...

Anyway, he continues on.

“These Brood Wolves are likely in their adolescent stage. If they were cubs, they’d still be with their mother and believe you me we would DEFINITELY know if an adult Brood Wolf was in the area.” He lets out a soft laugh and the thought is... kinda chilling actually, when he puts it like that.

“By that same logic we can safely assume that the wolves aren’t adults themselves. If they were, then simply put Spliffert would not have survived to stink up my Guild with his musky odors.”

Boss does it again with that logic shit. Knocks it out of the park hard enough that I can follow along, no sweat! There’s just one last little thing on my mind.

“So how are we gonna go and place these traps close enough without all them evil demon puppers noticing us?”

With a smug grin, Boss adjusts his dark glasses and looks down towards Zuzu. “How indeed?”

Zuzu smiles expectantly.

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Rise of the Guild Master