Monster Girl Quest

Author's Notes: This was really the first series of omakes that I ended up focusing on. This was written over the course of about a month, just a part or two every week. If you don't know too much about the game itself, then you most likely life a far healthier lifestyle then I do.

And if you're curiosity has been pricked and you feel the urgent need to find the original game, Monster Girl Quest, then by all means, enjoy! It's actually got a pretty decent plot considering its underlying premise. Naturally, since this wasn't an actual crossover I completely ignored a great deal of relevant storyline, so playing the game should still be interesting even if you finish my parody first.

Now, on with the 'Horahora!'

Part 1

It had been two months since Shirou had mysteriously found himself de-aged to what he could only guess to be around sixteen years old. Two months since he had found himself in the town of Illiasville, home of the temple of Illias. It was located on the continent of Ilias, south of the town of Illiasburg, which was located south in turn of the town Illiasport.

In the two months since he had woken up on the outskirts of Illiasville Shirou had determined two things. The first was that he was definitely not anywhere near Shin Tokyo, or even to the best of his knowledge on Earth at all.

The second was that he was getting really sick of the word 'Illias'. Seriously, Shirou recognized that the supreme goddess of this land went by the name 'Illias' and it was all well and good to try and show respect to your deity.

But did that mean that you had to name every little thing after her? Illiasville, Illiasburg, Illiasport; it was mildly annoying. They even had most of the major spices and dishes named after her as well. Seriously, how was he supposed to take his cooking seriously if the dish he was making was named something preposterous like 'Illiasalad' or 'Illiasburgers'?

There should be a limit to even devotion to one's goddess. It was getting to be so bad that Shirou was even dreaming about Illias! Every night, in his sleep, he kept having the same dream: a woman bathed in divine light, calling out to him, telling him that she had selected him to become the hero that would kill the Monster Lord, and that this really wasn't a dream, and to STOP IGNORING HER DAMNIT, and etc.

Honestly. Shirou was really looking forward to getting somewhere where they showed a little variety in their naming. Maybe then he could start getting back to more relevant dream topics:

Like swords.

Anyway, despite the fact that the constant repetition of 'Illias' was starting to get to him, Shirou had managed to learn a lot about the strange world that he had found himself in. Apparently, it was a world which was inhabited by vicious monsters, and that a number of young men frequently went to the church of Illias in order to receive the blessing of their goddess so they could receive the title of 'Hero' and go on a quest to destroy the Monster Lord and bring peace to the world.

Given Shirou's own particular fascination with becoming a Hero himself, that was at least one aspect of this strange world that he had found himself in that he could at least enjoy!

Even if Shirou wasn't quite certain about his physical age at the moment, he had waited patiently until the next holy holiday where they had the service to ordain heroes so that he could receive a blessing as well and go on a quest.

After all, Shirou wasn't quite certain where he was, how he got here, or how long he would be here for that matter. He might as well find some way to occupy his time while he tried to sort everything out, and becoming a hero definitely sounded like an ideal way to pass his time in his book.

And so it was that on the day when Shirou was to receive his blessing, called a 'baptism', while he was in the middle of cleaning up the house a kind old woman had allowed him to use after he mysteriously appeared on the outskirts of town, when the sound of shouts of fear came to his ears.

"Monster!" one of the town children screamed as they ran back into the village. "There's a monster on the outskirts of town!"

Naturally, Shirou being Shirou, this sounded like the siren call to arms that he never properly learned to resist like other sane people did.

"Wait," the kind old lady named Betty who had taken a shine to Shirou when he first arrived. "What do you think you're doing, Shirou!"

"I'm going to go drive off the monster," he called back, sounding entirely too cheerful for someone who was about to go engage in fierce mortal combat.

"Wait! You're just a boy!" Betty called out, sounding frustrated. "Leave it to the temple guards and the heroes!"

"But if I did that they might actually kill it," Shirou declared, aghast at the very idea. Shirou hadn't been in this strange world long, but he had managed to pick up a little bit of the world's history. It appeared that monsters and humans were once on pretty good terms, even able to live together in certain places. At least, that was until about thirty years ago when apparently all the monsters in a town called Remina had gone berserk and killed all the humans that used to live with them. Or they had been ordered to by the Monster Lord. Or something.

Shirou had picked up a bit of the history, but asking too many questions about things which were supposed to be common knowledge had begun to get him some odd looks, and he decided to keep his questions a little less obvious.

It wasn't like he was missing anything too important, he was sure. The basics seemed pretty simple: monsters and humans tend to fight, but could get along if they tried. For Shirou, this was '1+1=?' equation, where the '?' meant that if he tried hard enough he could get hopefully get everyone to get along.

After all, it was a chance for him to save everyone, and for Shirou, that was enough to know what his plan was going to be.

And so Shirou managed to make it to the edge of town far before anyone else did. The woods were a little dense, but not unmanageable, and he began to search with reinforced eyes, swords ready to be traced for the monster that he could hopefully manage to negotiate with.

He wasn't quite ready for when he found the beast. When Shirou had heard the word 'monster' he had naturally assumed that it would be something a little more unnatural looking. The thing he found however looked almost identical to a woman, albeit a woman if they were composed entirely of some sort of viscous fluid. Light blue in shade, slightly transparent, cute, and kind of stacked at that, this monster, this 'slime girl' was not exactly the terror inducing sight that Shirou had been anticipating.

"Er, excuse me," Shirou began, and decided to make sure that this really was the monster and not some poor bystander that happened to look a little odd. "But are you the monster that just recently showed up?"

"Hahaha," the slime girl laughed, tittering in a way that set her to jiggling. As in literally. When a woman jiggled, it was only in certain parts, but when something composed of slime jiggled it was a much more all-encompassing motion. "What a strange question from such a delicious looking boy! Am I the first monster you've ever seen?"

"Well, actually, yeah," Shirou admitted, rubbing the back of his head awkwardly. "Look," he began, plunging forward bravely, trying not to let his inexperience ruin what could potentially be a fateful encounter which might determine the very safety of the village which had taken him in. "I don't suppose you're here to peacefully talk things over with the villagers, are you?"

"Are you a pacifist?" the slime giggled again, giving him an amused look. "I'm too hungry to just go away at this point."

With that declaration, Shirou's eyes narrowed. "If you're looking to attack the village for food, then I'll have no choice but to stop you," he warned the monster. If anything, the slime just giggled harder.

"Well, I guess I'll just have to settle with eating you all up instead!" she declared, and with that, fearsome battle erupted.

At least, that's what Shirou was expecting anyway.

"Now," the slime girl cheered, charging forward. "Let me eat some of your semen!"

"Huh?" Shirou managed to get out, completely surprised by the nonsequitar.

*The following scene has been censored for graphic contents. However, some audio has been preserved and shall now be repeated in order to illustrate a vague outline of the deleted content*

"Time to eat!"

"Wait, what the hell are you doing?"

"I said I was going to eat, didn't I?"

"I thought that meant my flesh, not my.. oh god, stop touching me there!"

"Hehehe, looks like you're weak to my attacks!"

"That doesn't constitute as an attack by any definition of the word! You're just using your slime to… Eep! Where are you putting that tentacle!"

"Tee hee! How do you like my technique? I'll make you feel even better!"

"Ah! Get off! Bad touch, bad touch! I need an adult!"

"Ah, what a cute little kid…. Hey, wait a second… Where did those swords come from?"

"Back, back I say, you salacious fiend!"

"Eek! Stop stabbing me! Do you have any idea how much that tickles? I'm just going to heal it up anyway. I am a slime after all!"

"The fact that you can close your wounds just means I have to stab you more! Now back! No touchie!"

"Eek! Fine, you big meanie!"

*We now return you to your regular narration. Please enjoy!*

Shirou was breathing hard, desperately brandishing Kanshou and Bakuya as he watched the slime flee in a huff, jiggling all the while as it oozed away. He could feel his left eye twitching, and he wasn't ashamed to admit that his hands were shaking slightly. He deliberately refused to look down at his trousers, not sure he wanted to see the wet marks around his crotch that had been left behind by the partially fluid creature's very inappropriate advances.

"I think," he panted harshly, "that I am missing some potentially very important information about monsters in general."

Part 2

When Shirou met Alice.

"Okay, Shirou," Shirou said to himself, sitting on a log in the thinker position. "Let's think about this logically. "What do you know about monsters?"

"Well," Shirou admitted to himself, "not very much really. I know that they apparently are dangerous, that much was for certain."

"But, how dangerous are we talking?" Shirou countered his own statement. "I mean, yeah, the slime girl was pretty tough, but not that tough. And I know that monsters and humans in the past lived together. Is it possible that monsters really aren't that dangerous towards humans? I mean, it didn't seem like that particular monster was really hungering to devour my flesh or anything."

"Well, not your flesh anyway," Shirou reminded himself, and Shirou flushed slightly at the embarrassing scene that had just ended.

Shirou wasn't certain if he was glad or not that he was alone. On one hand, with no one else here he could sort through his thoughts by himself without anyone giving him strange looks for voicing them out loud. It meant that even if he said something which was incomprehensibly strange to the natives of this land no one would give him odd looks or wonder just how it was he was so ignorant.

On the other hand, talking to himself was a little weird, even by his standards.

"It is a little weird that the monster seemed to go right towards your, you know…" Shirou trailed off, and in response Shirou shrugged uncomfortably.

"Well, yeah, it did seem a bit odd," he admitted. "But it wasn't like she was actually trying to hurt me. She did catch me by surprise and manage to get her fingers… tentacles… whatevers on my, ya know…" Shirou shuddered briefly at the memory of the very, very odd sensation that particular encounter had engendered. "But it wasn't like she was trying to hurt me, or anything."

"Nothing except for your pride anyway," Shirou snorted. "You know what? I think thinking logically about this probably isn't going to work out very well. I don't think logic had much of anything to do with that particular encounter."

"Truer things have never been said, Shirou," Shirou nodded at that.

"Do you find it weird that we're talking to ourselves?" Shirou felt compelled to ask awkwardly.

"A little," Shirou admitted sheepishly. "But I find that in situations like this there's only one thing really you can do about it."

"Blame Zelretch?" Shirou prompted, and Shirou nodded instantly.

"Blame Zelretch."

It was while Shirou was no doubt using this irrational conversation to help distract himself from his narrowly escaped fate of molestation via gelatinous tenticular appendages that an incredibly loud crashing noise distracted him from his minor mental breakdown. Instantly, Shirou perked, his eyes alert and his hands already drifting towards swords that could appear at any moment.

It had come from nearby, and Shirou wasn't quite certain what to make of the sound. He had heard trees fall in the forest before, and while it was similar in nature to that kind of noise this new cacophony was just too loud and too sustained to be something so simple. For a moment, Shirou wondered if maybe the whole encounter he had narrowly escaped from had just been a particularly bad dream, and maybe this was the real monster that he had come out to confront.

And then Shirou realized that the noise might mean that someone was in trouble, and logical thought was put aside as he began racing towards the sound, compelled to check to see if his second conclusion might have any merit.

When he arrived at his destination, it was to discover a rather large swathe of destruction stretching for nearly two dozen yards before it ended in a large dug out crater in the middle of the forest. It was in that crater that Shirou discovered that yes, it certainly did appear that someone was in trouble. A woman lay passed out in the center of the devastation, and instantly Shirou did what he did best: jump in feet first to help.

It didn't even occur to him to wonder if maybe the purple skin, strange hornlike protuberances coming out from her hair all over her skull, the odd runic tattoos covering her, or the vaguely ominous skimpy black leather armor might be a sign that helping could be a bad idea. Nor did the fact that the woman was apparently lacking legs and instead had a nearly fifteen foot long snake tail for a lower body really register until he was already by the fallen woman's side checking for a pulse and looking her over for injuries.

"Huh," Shirou breathed a sigh of relief as to the best of his knowledge the monster he was checking on appeared to be in fair condition. It was only after he determined there were no open wounds or missing limbs that he took in the creature's species. "Is this what they call a 'lamia'?"

As though to answer his question, the monster's eyes snapped open, and for a moment they met Shirou's own. Amber met amber as the two stared at each other for a moment which seemed to stretch for eternity.

Then, quick as a snake, (the author pauses to face palm at the obvious pun, but felt obliged to point it out anyway) the lamia pulled itself into a standing position. Well, Shirou thought it was a standing position. She was balanced upright on her tail, but since the tail was bent, Shirou wondered if maybe that counted as being seated instead of actually standing?

Shirou decided that contemplating monster posture titles could take a second seat when the lamia's tail snaked out and wrapped firmly around his torso, securing his arms to his sides and lifting him off the ground.

"Where am I?" the monster demanded, giving Shirou a cold yet composed expression. Despite the lack of warmth in the tone, Shirou also noted that there was no overt threat there too. Still, better safe than sorry, Shirou aimed his hands so that they would form his swords in a way that would help him free himself when they were traced.

One of them anyway. The other hand was aimed so that he could defend his crotch with it. Shirou felt that taking a few precautions after his last encounter were perfectly justified.

"You're in the woods outside Illiasville," Shirou informed the monster truthfully, before continuing with his own expression. "Are you alright?" he asked with obvious concern in his voice. "It looks like you took a nasty fall. Are you sure you should be moving so soon?"

Ignoring his question, the lamia folded her arms under her breasts, once more calling Shirou's attention that yet again he seemed to have come across a monster which bore a disturbing resemblance to a stacked woman. An identical resemblance, actually, minus the enormous constricting snake tail anyway.

"Damn that woman," the lamia muttered to herself, shaking her head as she did so. "What crazy strength." She opened her eyes partly so she could glare at the still bound Shirou. "And who are you?"

"Ah, my name is Shirou Emiya," he responded truthfully. "I was nearby when I heard the sound of you hitting the earth. I came to see if there is anyone that needed help. Are you okay, Ms. Monster?"

"Am I okay?" the monster repeated, blinking once at the question. For a moment the lamia stared at Shirou, before she took several deep breaths. "Hmmm," she hummed thoughtfully, a small smile starting to form on her lips. "You smell quite delicious. It doesn't seem like you've been baptized."

"Oh yeah!" Shirou blinked the reminder hitting him like a bolt of lightning. "I almost forgot! That's supposed to happen today." It was Shirou's turn to narrow his eyes as he tried to recall the specifics of the ceremony. "Do you know what time it is? I think I'm supposed to be at the temple at noon."

"I see," the snake woman murmured, but Shirou noted she neither answered his question, nor let him go. Instead her coils moved about him, adjusting their position in a way which felt distinctly odd to Shirou. If he wasn't so busy trying to remember if he had enough time to get back to the temple so he could become a hero, he might have found the experience interesting. "It's Illias birthday today, so you're hoping to receive your baptism."

"Yeah," Shirou nodded slowly, wondering just what the monster was getting at, or if she would ever get around to letting him go. He could understand a bit of caution after having just been woken up from what appeared to be a dangerous fall, but it really was kind of weird to have a giant snake body around him, especially since the snake body was actually the lower body of a woman like creature. "So could you hurry up and release me so I can make my way to the temple?"

"Illias baptism," the snake woman snorted, distain obvious in her cold voice. "Becoming a hero. How foolish." She snorted again, her condescension obvious, apparently expecting some kind of reaction from her bound captive.

Oh yeah, did she get one.

"Foolish?" Shirou repeated slowly, his tone slightly angry. The summary dismissal of becoming a hero, one of the esteemed goals that Shirou has held and preserved nearly his entire life wasn't the kind of thing that he could take as calmly as most of the other indignities that life tended to heap up on him.

"Why didn't you try to kill me while I was unconscious?" the monster demanded, and Shirou suddenly realized that whatever this woman was, conversation was definitely not one of her fortes. After all, in conversation the speaking party generally responded to the other speaker, a skill this snake woman appeared not to have developed at any point in her life.

"Kill? Someone who was unconscious and might need help?" The honest confusion in Shirou's voice actually seemed to give the lamia pause for a moment.

"It would be a golden opportunity for someone aiming to be a hero to kill a monster like me," she pointed out, and though her voice was still cold the lamia's question seemed probing. Shirou scowled at her.

"Anyone who would kill a defenseless person when they needed help has no right to call themselves a hero in the first place," he retorted, and the snake woman scowled at him for some reason. She closed her eyes, apparently deep in thought.

"You don't see all monsters an enemy?" the lamia probed carefully and Shirou shrugged briefly.

"I've only ever met two monsters before, and while the first one was…a little difficult," Shirou had to struggle to think of a way to describe the previous encounter which didn't make him very uncomfortable, "I can hardly say that all monsters are enemies at this point, can I?"

"But you say that you want to be a hero?" the lamia retorted, eyes open again. "Someone who doesn't treat all monsters as enemies would become a hero whose goal is to slay the Monster Lord?"

"A hero isn't just about killing monsters," Shirou argued back, staunch in his defense of his life goal. "A hero is someone who helps others and does the right thing. If that means killing the Monster Lord, than I suppose I could get around to doing that. But I don't particularly hate the Monster Lord. I would rather find some way for humans and monsters to live together in peace, like they did thirty years ago."

"What?" the lamia asked blankly, looking at Shirou like he was a particularly stupid example of idiocy. Shirou recognized that look quite plainly. It reminded him of Rin on occasion when she was in full on 'Why are you so stupid Shirou?' modes. It was fortunate that Shirou was so familiar with such looks, because it let him shrug off the snake woman's gaze with ease.

"I don't want to kill monsters, or their lord," Shirou explained. "Rather, I just want to save as many people and monsters as I can."

The monster girl nodded once, and apparently reached a conclusion.

"You're an idiot," she told him bluntly.

"So I've been told," Shirou shrugged again. It wasn't like it was the first time someone had taken one look at his life goals and laughed him off.

Stupid elementary school class. His paper on being a superhero had been grade 'A' work and only he had ever realized it. He had spent hours researching sentai poses just for that paper. So what if he was still too small to do a proper flip when he had presented it to the class….

Stupid teachers too for that matter. 'C-' his ass.

"At least you seem aware of the fact that you are an idiot, you idiot," the snake woman told him again. "A child who doesn't understand the world he lives in. Monsters living hand in hand with humans? When are you going to wake up from your dreaming?"

"Are you done yet?" Shirou asked, and if he wasn't currently suspended three feet up in the air he would have tapped his foot. "If you're trying to convince me that my beliefs are wrong, then you'll have to get in line first."

"It looks like you still have the mind of a child," the snake woman gave him a condescending look, and Shirou huffed at that. Even if he did look sixteen at best, he was still pushing twenty one at this point. And considering the things he had lived through, Shirou didn't think he had qualified as a child for a very, very long time. It made the snake woman's attempt at chiding him marginally less effective than it might have been otherwise.

With a serpentine motion, the tail that had been restraining Shirou released him. Rather than lose his balance, Shirou landed easily, brushing stray bits of dirt of his clothes as he did so. With a shooing motion the lamia indicated that Shirou should leave.

"Just go, little boy," she told him, and Shirou started to leave before pausing.

"Are you sure you're alright?" he decided to double check, and the lamia gave him a blank look. "I mean you really did take quite a fall. Are you sure you don't need any medicine, or bandages or anything?"

"…Idiot," the snake woman huffed, cradling her forehead as she did so. With a shrug, Shirou turned and finally left, never noticing the way the lamia peered out from beneath her fingers, amber eyes following his thin frame as he departed the clearing.

*Scene Break*

In the end, it turned out that Shirou really should have pressed a little harder on getting the time off the snake woman. It was well past noon by the time he made it to the temple, and thus, Shirou missed the baptismal ceremony.

Naturally, Shirou didn't particularly mind. It didn't take a baptism to make a hero. Shirou would become a hero, one way or another. That was one thing he would never give up on, couldn't give up on. It was just too much a part of him to ever be lost from his will.

Instead, Shirou took the opportunity to ask Betty a couple of questions about monsters that he really should have asked a long time ago.

"So…" Shirou trailed off, eyebrow twitching as he did so. "Monsters are all female creatures that desire either the semen or flesh of men?"

"That's right boyo," Betty told him, giving him a concerned look. She had known Shirou was odd, but not even knowing that much?

"And it is specifically against the faith of Illias to have any relation or donate any sperm to a monster, no matter the circumstances?" Shirou asked for clarification, and Betty nodded again, this time slower.

"Don't you even know that much boyo?" she asked, concerned by her impromptu warder's lack of faith.

"I'm Shinto," Shirou told her absently, and Betty blinked, not quite knowing what Shinto was, but assuming that it meant something important. "And if monsters don't get semen, they can't breed at all, and might starve to death on occasion?"

"Aye boyo," Betty nodded once more, and Shirou opened his mouth again before pausing.

"I'm terribly confused by all this," he admitted, rubbing his head as he did so. On one hand, he could definitely sympathize with monsters. If the only way to survive was to go after humans, than it made sense that they would. It wasn't even a bad thing sometimes when they did. Well, yeah, it was kind of weird, and might count as bestiality, but if it didn't actually hurt the humans involved, and it was necessary for the species survival as a whole.

On the other hand, the memory of those cold sticky tentacles made Shirou shiver in repressed horror. Maybe if the monsters were a bit more polite and a whole lot less forceful about their requests Shirou could have had a bit more empathy for them.

Betty watched as her young charge shuddered and started to mutter, "Bad touches, bad touches, bad touches," over and over again.

"That poor dear," she shook her head sadly. "I told him to wait until the guards managed to make it. And now he's been driven mad by it all."

*Scene Break*

"You're late," the snake woman told him, and Shirou paused as he realized that the monster girl had somehow managed to appear in his very house. Deliberately, Shirou shut the door behind him.

"How on earth did you find my house?" Shirou asked, deliberately moving to the windows and shutting the shades as he did so. It was the heart of the faith of a monster hating religion after all, and Shirou really would rather not have any unexpected guests showing up to discover the lamia's presence.

"Your scent," the snake woman told him primly. "I would recognize such an unsophisticated smell anywhere."

"Huh," Shirou didn't quite know how to respond to that, and thus pressed onwards. It had been a long day, and considering the stress of having missed his baptism, right before he set out on his travels, combined with the need to visit a happy place in order to wash away the dirty feeling that the slime had left in him, Shirou decided it was time for some 'him time' in the kitchen.

"And why did you come here?" he prompted, speaking over his shoulder as he put on an apron and prepared to use the rest of his fresh ingredients for one last meal before he would have to resort to camp food cooking to survive.

"In part to see if you managed to make your baptism in time," the lamia answered, and Shirou heard a slithering noise as the monster apparently started to close in on his back. Shirou shrugged, at her question, ignoring the monster girl's actions for the most part. If she was going to do something, she probably would have done it earlier.

"I missed it," he admitted easily. "It happens sometimes."

"And the fact that you missed your once in a lifetime chance to become a hero doesn't bother you at all?" the lamia prompted, and Shirou snorted.

"It was just something to help while I became a hero." Shirou paused, and looked over his shoulder carefully. "So, is there anything you prefer not to eat, or is anything good?"

"You're going to make me food?" the lamia asked with a blank look. "You're not going to ask who I am, what I'm doing here, or anything like that?"

"Well, yeah, but I can ask while I cook," Shirou told her, and the lamia gave him one last blank look before shrugging herself.

"I suppose anything will do as an appetizer," she told him, and Shirou got to work instantly, his godlike skills beginning to shine through as he did one of the three things which he exceled at: cooking.

The other two were kicking ass and collecting women for his harem, by the way.

It was only a matter of minutes for Shirou to use his master kitchenmancy in order to prepare a simple meal, mostly because he only had a few ingredients left. When the snake woman had a plate put before her, she eyed the meager looking meal with a disdainful eye which Shirou ignored with the grace of long practice.

The lamia's haughtiness only lasted until she had taken her first forkful of the meal and put it in her mouth. Then she froze.

At least, Shirou originally thought she froze. A second later, a rapid soft thumping noise began to emit with a speed that vaguely reminded Shriou of the humming of a bumble bee. Initially confused by the noise, Shirou finally managed to determine that the sound was coming from underneath the table. A quick glance revealed that the tip of the snake woman's tail had begun to wag back and forth so that it would thump against the floor so quickly that the noise was an almost continuous drumming sound. It reminded Shirou oddly of the way a puppy's tail might wag when it was happy.

Shirou glanced back up and met the snake woman's eyes. Then, as one, the two of them glanced back down at the lamia's tail as it continued to wag. Then they glanced back up. After a second's consideration, the lamia deliberately shifted until she could put a thicker coil of her snake like appendage down on the wagging part.

It didn't quite stop the wagging, but at least the rapid rise and fall of the section of tail that was trying to conceal her tell wasn't quite as obvious as the thumping noise.

"I suppose this is passable fair," the lamia announced imperiously, and with deliberate grace resumed her meal.

Shirou concealed his grin with his own fork. Yeah. He was just that good.

And he knew it.

*Scene Break*

"So what are you going to do now?" the lamia asked as Shirou finished washing the rest of the dishes.

"Well, even without the baptism I was still planning on traveling," Shirou admitted with a shrug. "There are a few things I want to look into, and I want to do everything I can to be a proper hero."

"Hmmm," the snake woman nodded slowly, her expression once more one of distain. "I was planning on traveling as well," she admitted. "I suppose I could accompany you for a bit. It never hurts to have a little company on the road."

"No, that's fine," Shirou told her with a smile. "While I appreciate the offer, you look like the kind that can take care of themselves just fine. And even if I don't look it, I can handle myself pretty well too. I wouldn't want you to have to go out of your way just to help me."

The lamia paused, and gave Shirou a flat look.

"I have no destination in mind," she insisted. "It wouldn't be any trouble at all if we were to travel together."

"But if it were to get in the way of your own travels, I have no problem…" Shirou began and this time the snake woman didn't even bother to let him finish.

"We're going to travel together, and you're going to cook for me, and you're going to like it," she told him bluntly.

"Oh," Shirou responded blankly, and the lamia nodded as he capitulated. "Well, if we're going to be traveling together, then what's your name?"

"Arisufi-zu Fateburn," the lamia announced with a nod. "But you may call me Alice."

"Well, Alice," Shirou shrugged, a little uncomfortable at the blunt imposition into his party, while simultaneously contemplating the appropriateness of a monster named 'Alice'. It was hardly an intimidating or monstrous name at all. "I guess I'll be in your care for a bit."

"Indeed, you will," the newly named Alice nodded.

For some reason, Shirou couldn't quite tell if this development would be considered a good thing or a bad thing.

Part 3

When Shirou met Granberia.

"At last," Shirou sighed in relief as he crested the final hill that concealed the town of Illiasburg from sight. It wasn't a particularly large town, nor particularly grand. However, it had one thing that Shirou was beginning to think made up for it all:

It didn't have any monsters in it.

"Hmph," Alice grunted, arms folded under her chest as she gave a flat look at the human habitations. "It's not that impressive at all."

"At last," Shirou repeated, nearly weeping with joy. "No more monsters. I'll be able to wash my clothes, and wipe away all the strange fluids. I'll be able to take a bath, and wash away the shame. No strange, naked creatures attempting to molest me. Oh, why did I never appreciate that kind of thing before?"

"… Idiot," Alice told him, giving him a blank look as he continued to expound on the wonders of the shabby looking village in front of the two of them.

"It's not like you did much," Shirou reminded the lamia, a bitter frown on his face. "All you did was runaway whenever my chastity was in danger, and then keep me up late at night trying to train me in strange sword techniques."

Alice waited for a moment as though expecting another item on the list of ways that she hadn't contributed. "… I also ate just about everything you cooked," she reminded him after a moment. "Barely leaving anything for you afterwards, even though you did all the work."

"So?" Shirou blinked at the lamia, not quite sure what she was getting at with that. "I like it when people like my cooking."

"…Idiot," Alice told him, though she didn't seem too upset with the revelation that Shirou wasn't going to hold her gluttony against her.

"Now," Shirou turned back to the town, rubbing his hands together as he did so. "First we need to find the market so we can get some supplies. Then, we need to find a kitchen. I need to cook in the worst of ways right now."

Shirou glanced back to see if Alice had anything to add to the list, and discovered that the lamia was already rushing ahead. "Foreward," Alice declared impatiently. "There's no time to waste. I haven't eaten in a whole two hours!"

"Wait," Shirou called after her, though he too hastened to follow. Kitchens were good. There were no bad touches in kitchens. "Shouldn't you do something to conceal that you're a monster? I heard that they don't like monsters…."

Shirou trailed off as Alice's snake tail disappeared and then reformed into two legs as he skin became a pale peach instead of purple. The sudden change in her method of mobility did nothing to stop her forward rush. "There," she declared. "Now hurry. First we need to get you to a kitchen. Then we need to go to the Sutherland Inn so I can try those Ama-ama dango."

"Alice," Shirou tried to get the eager monster's attention, "that travel guide you were using was like five hundred years old. There's no guarantee that it even still exists anymore…"

"Silence," Alice ordered him imperiously, reaching back to snag Shirou's hand and drag him faster. "I will hear none of your lies. Now hurry up. If we time it right, I should be just about finished with the dango by the time you're done cooking."

Shirou sighed as once more it appeared he was in the company of someone whom was impervious to logic. Still, the idea of trying new recipes out was appealing to the sword wielding chef, and thus he picked up the pace himself.

That only lasted so long as it took the two to get into the city. There they were greeted with a sight which set Shirou's eyes to twitching.

"Even here," he muttered, staring at the monster that was standing in the middle of the city, facing off against the legion of soldiers and heroes that had appeared to stop her. "This city was supposed to be free of monsters. Is there no where safe? Is there nowhere sacred?"

"This could be bad," Alice muttered, her eyes narrowing as she did so. Shirou gave the disguised monster a blank look.

"Wait, are you actually taking interest in the lives and wellbeing of others?" Shirou asked, proving that although he had only known the lamia for a few days he seemed to have a pretty decent grasp of her character down already.

"…Idiot," Alice said after a moment's pause, followed by a quick slap upside Shirou's head as her eyes narrowed at her companion's impudence. She turned back to the monster, pursing her lips as she did so. "That's Granberia, one of the Four Heavenly Knights."

"Who of the what now?" Shirou grumbled, rubbing the back of his head as he did so. When Alice didn't respond he turned to realize she was giving him a flat look.

"Granberia, the Queen of Dragons, the Heavenly Knight of Fire, one of the four strongest servants of the Monster Lord?" Alice prompted, and Shirou realized that this was one of those moments where he was once more showing the kind of ignorance that might get him in trouble.

"Um," Shirou began, and then started to rub the back of his head harder. "Ow! You hit me so hard I think I might have amnesia! Who are you, and what am I doing here?" he demanded, giving Alice a suspicious glare.

Alice stared at him for a moment longer, and then sighed again. "…Idiot," she finally declared, and smacked him again.

"Well now I'm definitely not going to remember who that is," Shirou told her primly, staunchly refusing to abandon his ruse, however much it appeared to be failing him.

"Still, this could be bad," Alice muttered, glaring at the monster, a scaled creature with at tail and sporting a set of fetish armor that consisted of a breast plate and a loincloth and not much else with an enormous sword, as the now identified Granberia continued to knock out every attacker with apparent ease.

Shirou couldn't help but notice the creature's obvious feminine shape, seeing as the breast plate was one of those literal breast plates that only actually covered the breasts and not much else. Not much of the breasts either, given how much cleavage Granberia was sporting. Which, Shirou also noted clinically really wasn't much cleavage at all. Granberia was probably the first monster he had come across that wasn't sporting ginormous boobies.

"I'll say it's bad," Shirou agreed with Alice's assessment with a frown. "If this keeps up someone might get hurt!" Granberia seemed to be avoiding killing all of her attackers with great skill, but there was always the chance that one of the injuries could end up being fatal if left alone too long.

"Who cares about that?" Alice countered, shaking her head. "I meant if this keeps up then I might not get any dango."

"I can't help but notice that your set of priorities might be a little askew," Shirou muttered, and Alice gave him another patented blank look.

"I was about to say the same to you," she shot back.

Still, while the reason behind their conclusions might be different, the conclusion remained the same between the two. They would just have to agree to disagree about the other parts for now.

"Is that it?" Granberia finally bellowed, standing literally atop a pile of unconscious and groaning soldiers. "Having your city taken over by a monster… Are there no complaints?"

"We'll have to settle this argument later," Shirou finally told Alice, knowing a dramatic moment when he heard one shouting at him. "I just have to take care of this real fast."

"Shirou," Alice began, and Shirou paused, turning to give Alice a surprised look at her apparent concern. "Watch your fingers," she warned him seriously. "If they get hurt, it might affect my meal."

With a sigh, Shirou decided that was probably the best he was going to get and departed to once more face potential molestation.

*Scene Break*

"Well," Granberia declared, her sword lowered so she could cross her arms imperiously. "Now that I've taken control of this city…"

"Hold it," Shirou, shouted, interrupting the monster's plans as he arrived on the scene. Granberia took one look at the young man, and snorted, arms still crossed.

"What was that, boy?" she demanded, giving Shirou a condescending look. Once more, Shirou wondered just why it was everyone seemed to call him 'boy'. Sure, he was young looking, and before he got his growth spurt he was a bit of a runt, but there was no need to be so blunt about it.

"Hi," Shirou began, deciding to put aside his grumbling for later. "I couldn't help but notice that you seemed to have invaded this city."

"….So?" Granberia didn't quite seem to see what the foolishly brave child was getting at.

"So I was kind of hoping you could stop and go away," Shirou explained, hopefully. "Those guards will probably need some medical attention soon, and it will be hard to treat them with everyone locked in their houses, too scared to come out." Shirou paused, and decided that even though it probably shouldn't need to be said he might as well say it. "And with you standing on them and all."

"Well aren't you a brave one," Granberia snorted, though she was actually being a little honest with her assessment. A young boy willingly confronting one of the Four Heavenly Knights while grown men cowered before her? Yeah, that was pretty ballsy, even in her book. "But what are you going to do about it? You aren't even carrying a sword."

"Oh yeah," Shirou nodded, actually having forgotten about that for a moment. "Trace on." When Kanshou and Bakuya appeared in his hands, Granberia blinked in surprise. "There," Shirou nodded. "Now, could you please leave?"

"…" Granberia studied the two swords carefully, feeling a bit confused. "Where did those come from?" she finally asked, wondering just what trick was behind the blades sudden presence.

"They were always there," Shirou told her, and Granberia blinked, not having expected that answer.

"No they weren't," she insisted, pretty sure that the swords hadn't been there a second ago.

"Yes they were," Shirou assured her, and Granberia finally decided she would just get the answers out of him after he had been beaten.

"Well," she began again, still standing casually. "If you have swords then I suppose you have no problem with me treating you like a warrior and not a boy?" Even as she asked she pulled her own blade free, ready to give the boy a quick lesson before she got back around to conquering the town single handedly.

"Of course not," Shirou snorted, indignant at the question. Granberia grinned at the boy's foolish gumption.

"I understand," the Dragon Queen declared, assuming a ready position. "Well then, the fire swordswoman Granberia will be your opponent!"

Even as she got ready to attack the boy, she noted that Shirou seemed surprised by something.

"Wait a second," Shirou hastily called out, holding both his swords up in the universally accepted 'T' position for a time out. Granberia scowled.

"Backing down already?" she snorted, disgusted by the cowardice.

"No," Shirou hastily shook his head, a strange look on his face. "It's just, well, are you really going to use your sword?" Granberia didn't quite understand the question and paused herself. Realizing his opponent's confusion, Shirou continued quickly. "I mean, you're actually going to attack with your sword, and not with strange tentacles or weird fluids? As in you want to cut me up instead of groping me or trying to get me to have surprise sex in mid combat?"

For a moment Shirou's question actually sparked Granberia's anger. How dare this presumptuous whelp attempt to insinuate that she was anything other than a perfectly fair warrior!

And then she remembered what the rest of her species was like and she sighed the sigh of the damned and acknowledged that the question was probably a good one.

"No," Granberia assured Shirou, damning the rest of her species for being so promiscuous. "No, I won't."

"…Are you sure?" Shirou asked dubiously, and Granberia sighed again.

"Yes," she told Shirou. "I'm sure."

"Oh bless the Root," Shirou gasped out, one hand coming to his chest in relief. "At last," he exalted, overjoyed at the generous nature of his opponent. "A real fight!"

"You know, boy," Granberia began, a grin starting to form on her face as well. "I think I'm starting to like you."

*Scene Break*

Safely hidden away in their house a family whose names were coincidently 'Man A', 'Woman A', and 'Child A', all shuddered as the noises which started to penetrate the safety of their walls.

"You're open!"

"So you think!"

"What! How did you dodge… whoa!"

"Ugh! Damn you, Granberia!"

"Ah! How is a boy like you fighting so well? Try dodging this!"

"Don't think it'll be that easy!"

"Yes! You blocked it again!"

"Why don't you worry about yourself?"

"Oof! How did you… You managed to scratch my armor? Yes!"

"I'll do more than- ow!- scratch it next time!"

"Yes! You did it again! Yes! Yes! Yesssssss!"

"Mama," Child A whispered to the woman holding them close against her strangely silhouetted body. "Why does the mean dragon lady sound like that?"

"Sound like what, Child A?" Man A asked, feeling a bit uneasy at the question.

"Every time she says 'yes' she starts to sound more and more like Mama does when the two of you think I'm asleep and lock your door at night," the child pointed out innocently. Man A and Woman A gave each other embarrassed glances.

"We'll tell you when you're older, Child A," Woman A finally answered their offspring, whose gender was strangely indistinguishable due to blurry outline as well.

*Scene Break*

The battle was long and fierce, and both warriors were panting with exhaustion. Both were littered with small wounds, scratches which only their fierce skills kept from being lethal blows, their clothing bearing the marks of even more such attacks which had been evaded more successfully. The ring of steel on steel had long since become commonplace in the plaza where the two had fought. Both warriors were gasping for breath, exhaustion seeping into their very bones.

Both warriors were red faced as well, though in this case the origin of the coloration was actually a little different between the two.

"That technique right now," Granberia demanded, trying not to focus on something besides just what she was planning on doing to the boy, no, the warrior, who had stood against her after she won and could claim him as the prize of the victor. It had been so long since her dragon blood had gotten so hot, and for dragons like her hot blood translated to other hot parts as well. "Where did you learn it?"

"As if I would tell you," Shirou panted back, trying to catch his breath. In a desperate gambit to overcome his opponents inhuman skill he had resorted to using the Demonic Sword technique that Alice had been trying to train him in. The surprise the technique he had given Granberia had almost been enough for him to land the decapitating blow, but he hadn't been quite quick enough.

Shirou didn't want to reveal Alice's presence to another monster. Whenever one had shown up, the lamia had always made certain to be out of sight, so Shirou assumed that his monstrous traveling companion must have a reason for concealing her presence.

"I'll just have to get the name of your master out of you after I rape you," Granberia muttered, and Shirou paused, not quite having caught that last bit.

"After you what?" he asked, hoping that he had misheard that last word. Granberia seemed to realize what she had inadvertently let slip and hastily corrected herself.

"After I beat you," she said firmly, and despite the fact that she was a scaled creature and scales didn't technically have capillaries in them she started to blush a little harder.

Shirou sighed in relief at having been told he had heard the monster wrong the first time, his innocent and trusting nature enforced by willing disbelief allowing him to ignore Granberia's slip.

"I'm pretty sure I already know who it was," Granberia continued, raising her sword in the air as she prepared herself. "And I wouldn't mind having a match with her too sometime. However, first I have to beat you!"

'And then take you back to my castle, lock you in my room, and have my way with you until I'm too sore to move' she added in her head. Oddly enough, for Granberia, 'having her way with him' meant that she would also be having lots of rematches with the young warrior. In between the marathon rounds of kinky sex, anyway.

"Come on then, Queen of Dragons," Shirou told her, sinking into his customary fighting stance. He had been having a lot of fun fighting with the Fire Knight, so much so that he had refrained from using any of his other Noble Phantasms so far. It was just so refreshing to not have to worry about being toyed with in inappropriate ways in the middle of battle that he couldn't quite stop himself from extending the fight a bit.

If only Shirou had known what the results of his leisurely battle had been, he would have never let it go on for so long. Unfortunately, Shirou's third skill would not be denied, no matter how much he might wish it would be.

The harem must be fed.

"Since you're strong, I'll be sure to use my best attack against you," Granberia grinned, and fire began to coalesce around her sword as she prepared to use her 'Demon Skull Beheading Blaze' technique. She was almost positive that it wouldn't kill the warrior in front of her, but it would leave him weak enough for her to ravage him…

Defeat him, she corrected herself. Defeat…

And then ravage him.

"Enough," a voice interrupted the battle, and both Granberia and Shirou turned, surprised when they realized that Alice had approached the fight and was standing at the side lines and tapping her foot impatiently as she did so.

"Alice," Shirou began, giving her a disapproving glance. "Is it really appropriate to be standing on top of one of the wounded guards?"

"It makes me taller," the lamia told him primly, glaring at him for interrupting her. "Besides," she added, giving Shirou a blank glare. "You're doing it too."

"Ah," Shirou coughed in embarrassment, looking down on the guard he too was perched atop of. "Well, it does make you taller," he admitted. "And in a fight height affects reach, so…"

"Those who control the land can conquer the heavens," Granberia nodded as well from where she also had tried to get the high ground by using unconscious soldiers.

"Enough of this nonsense," Alice stated, deciding to get back to the reason she had interrupted the fight. "How long are you going to keep being an idiot?" she demanded, stomping on the guard as she did so.

Strangely enough, the guard really seemed to enjoy the action. Well, it wasn't too strange when the general environment of the world was taken into account, but for Shirou it was a bit strange.

It was also strange when Shirou realized that it wasn't him that Alice was calling an idiot.

"You," Granberia whispered, freezing when she seemed to recognize Alice in her human form. Slowly, Granberia sank to one knee, an act which her guardstool also seemed to like a little too much.

"What do you think you're doing, Granberia?" Alice demanded, arms folded as she glared. "Who ordered you to do such a thing?"

"I decided by myself," Granberia admitted. "To get rid of all those annoying heroes."

"You're an annoyance," Alice told the dragon Knight. "Go away."

"But if I leave now, then even more heroes will come," Granberia protested, looking up at the still standing Alice in confusion.

"I told you to go away," Alice repeated herself, still glaring. "If you go berserk like this you'll get in the way of my meal and my dango."

"If it's a meal you want, then just let me finish off this warrior and then when I control the city I can get those for you," Granberia protested, giving Shirou a quick glance as she tried to get permission to finish the battle.

"If you beat him, then who is going to cook for me?" Alice told Granberia flatly, and the dragon blinked, not understanding the connection between the warrior and food that Alice was implying. "Besides, I won't be able to sightsee with such unsightly things occurring. Making me say something three times? Is this how you show your loyalty? Go away."

"At once," Granberia sighed, and rose to depart. When she sheathed her sword, Shirou realized that the fight was most likely over, and with a sigh of disappointment of his own he let his own blades disappear.

A moment later he realized that might not have been the smartest thing to do. Since Shirou had assumed that Granberia wouldn't fight anymore he was completely surprised when the Dragon Queen walked calmly up to him, and then picked him up with one hand, tucking him under her arm easily.

"Hey!" Shirou protested, not quite sure what was going on but feeling obliged to point it out as wrong anyway.

"…What do you think you're doing?" Alice asked slowly, and Granberia paused, confused herself.

"I was just going to take this one with me so I could finish my fight," she explained to Alice, not understanding what the problem was.

"Didn't I already say I needed him to prepare my food?" Alice pointed out, and Granberia frowned unhappily.

"But…" she looked down at the squirming Shirou and blushed even brighter. Slowly, she began to push her two pointer fingers together as her cheeks reddened. "But I saw him first!"

"…No you didn't," Alice informed her.

"Yes I did!"

"No you didn't."

"…No I didn't," Granberia sighed one last time and put Shirou back down.

Shirou wasn't sure what quite happened there, but his finally honed instincts in all matters female informed him that something had definitely occurred.

Well, they weren't that finally honed, but they were there, so it counted. Just a little.

With one last look at Shirou, her fingers still twiddling together in a vaguely shy gesture, Granberia departed in an instant through some strange monster magic.

Shirou scratched his head awkwardly for a moment. "Why do I get the impression that something important just happened?" he finally asked the world in general.

"…Idiot," Alice told him, and for once Shirou got the impression that he actually deserved the title, though for the life of him he couldn't quite figure out why.

*Scene Break*

It was much later that Alice and Shirou both found themselves in the best room of the Sutherland Inn, both eating the famous 'ama-ama dango' which had made the hotel a popular tourist attraction five hundred years ago.

"It's good," Alice hummed happily, even as she her tail began to wag happily behind her. Shirou wondered briefly what the people in the room beneath them would make of the odd noise that accompanied Alice whenever she moved in her monster form, but decided that as long as the door was shut and no waiters came in then everything would be fine.

"It is," Shirou nodded, though his expression was fundamentally different from Alice's while he ate. While the lamia was smiling, an expression that looked a little out of place on the usually stern monster's face, Shirou had his brow knit tightly in concentration as he assumed an unusually serious expression.

"It's sweet!" Alice chirped happily, and again Shirou nodded.

"Now, where does the sweetness come from?" he mumbled to himself, and Alice opened her eyes to give her companion a slightly confused look. Paying no mind, Shirou continued ranting to himself. "Is it from the sauce? No, I can tell. The sauce is definitely well made, but the true attraction is the aftertaste which only comes while chewing, after the sauce has already been diluted. Some ingredient in the pounding phase of the mochi? Yes, that must be it. But how do they get past…"

"What are you doing?" Alice asked her companion, a little freaked out by Shirou's sudden intensity but hiding it well.

"If I can analyze the flavor properly, then I can reproduce it," Shirou told her bluntly, not even noticing his unusually harsh tone. Alice blinked once in surprise as he continued. "And if I can reproduce it, then I can improve it."

"You mean you could make this already godly dango even better?" Alice felt the need to clarify exactly what she was hearing, and when Shirou nodded she instantly came to a conclusion. "Then carry on," she told him, and went back to her dango. When she finished the last one, she sighed happily before changing back to a human shape and ringing a bell. Instantly, the matron of the hotel herself arrived.

Considering that Shirou just publicly got into an awesome fight of epicness with one of the five most powerful monsters in the world, they were obviously getting the VIP treatment.

"They don't have easy access to sugar in these parts, so it must be some form of molasses or syrup," Shirou continued to muse as Alice ordered another set of dango from the amused matron. "The most likely type is honey…"

The matron suddenly wasn't amused anymore.

"How did you know the secret ingredient of our dango?" the owner of the hotel hissed, looking aghast at Shirou's invasion into her secret recipe. Alice perked instantly as she realized that her willing cooking companion had apparently stumbled upon something important.

"But what kind of honey?" Shirou continued to mutter, wondering if maybe he should use his 'Structural Analysis' on the dangos.

When it came to recipe theft, Shirou was a true magus at heart and would suffer no such trivial things as 'morals' or 'common decency'.

If Rin had ever figured out just how to properly motivate Shirou into becoming a true Magus then she would have spent a lot more time taking him out to expensive restaurants.

"He even knows about the 'Happiness Honey' form the Happy Village," the matron gasped, and wondered if she could get away with killing the hero of her town in order to preserve her secret recipe. "But you won't be able to steal our recipe so easily!" she declared, pointing at the still distracted Shirou. "Happiness village has been out of contact, so its honey has become extremely rare! We managed to buy it all up, and have a complete monopoly."

"Hmmm," Alice murmured, scratching her chin while deep in thought. Without another word, she stood in front of the matron and looked her dead in the eye. Briefly Alice's eyes shown, and the matron seized up as Alice used some strange and entirely too convenient monster ability to hypnotize the frantic matron. "You won't remember anything that happened here," Alice told the matron primly, smiling deviously. After a second's thought, she continued. "And you will make sure to bring me a large quantity of 'Happiness Honey' before we leave."

"Yes, Mistress," the matron droned and walked out. As she shut the door, Shirou blinked, finally realizing that someone else had been in the room.

"Oh," Shirou began, looking confused. "Did something happen?"

"Nothing important," Alice informed him, once more with a stern expression on her face. It was spoiled with the way she was rubbing her hands together greedily. She closed her eyes and composed herself, letting her transformation slip as she returned to her monster form. "More importantly, I'm hungry again," she told him.

"Oh," Shirou perked, standing as he did so. "Right. I suppose now might be a good time for me to see if I can use their kitchen." It was Shirou's turn to not notice the way he started rubbing his hands together in an evil way. Alice on the other hand did catch sight of it, and the smile she gave was a little bit disturbing.

"Oh," Alice dismissed easily, returning to her implacable look. "You won't need it. I already know what I want you to prepare, and you won't need a kitchen for it."

"That's fine then," Shirou nodded happily. He assumed that Alice was in the mood for some sushi, or maybe a salad of some kind. "So what do you want me to make for you, Alice? I'll be happy to get right on it."

"It's one of my favorite foods," Alice nodded slowly, and the grin that started to form on her face was positively wicked. "And it shouldn't be that hard for you to make. Why don't you just lie down and close your eyes for a second, and then I can start helping you to prepare it."

"Okay," Shirou agreed, thinking that lying down for a second might be a good way to relax so he could concentrate on cooking later.

Unfortunately, it wasn't until it was too late for him to escape that Shirou remembered just what the primary staple of a monster's diet tended to be…

*Scene Break*

In the room directly beneath Shirou and Alice's, the 'A' family had decided to stay the night at the hotel in order to not be too close to where the battle had happened earlier. While normally so expensive only the super-rich could stay there, Man A had once been a hero in his youth, before he took an arrow to the knee. Because of that he could use the discounted prices in the inn.

Unfortunately, the room above them turned out being a little loud.

"Okay Alice, I'm lying down with my eyes closed, so now… my pants!"

"Now, now, just lie still for a moment…"

"No! This is completely… hey! Let go! Where do you think you're putting that tail?"

"This is just training. You seem to be really weak to pleasure attacks, so I decided to help."

"Pleasure attacks is an oxymoron and you know it! There's no way I will… Eeek!"

"Oh? What a pleasant sound you make! Hora. Hora hora!"

"You stop that right now! No, wait, don't do that!"

"You keep saying no, and yet you turned out like this. Don't worry. I'll be sure to get rid of it all for you."

"You're just hungry so don't try and make this into… Eep!"

"Hohohohoho. Giving in so soon? Why don't I make this a little more interesting? Hora. Horahora!"

"Great blessed Root of the world! What the hell just happened to your fingers!"

"Don't worry about it. Just lay back and savor it! Hora. Horahora. Horahorahora!"

"Stop saying that word…. Eeep!"

Down below, Child A looked up at Woman A, a confused expression on its face.

"Mama," the child began, and Woman A just sighed, palming her forehead.

"When you're older," she told her child again. "Much, much older."

*Scene Break*

Part 4

In which Shirou makes two unfortunate acquaintances

"It shouldn't be physically possible," Shirou muttered as he and Alice came down the steps from the Sutherland hotel. In contradiction of someone who had finally had a full nights rest under a roof and on a soft bed, Shirou had lifeless appearance to his features and dark rings under his eyes.

Alice on the other hand was bearing a rather smug smile.

"What twisted laws of physics give rise to something like that?" Shirou muttered to himself, his eyes twitching as he did so. "No possible Darwinian principle of evolution could ever lead to something like that occurring naturally. It's just not possible."

"Well," the matron of the inn began, giving the two a knowing look. "Looks like someone had fun last night."

While normally Shirou would feel some embarrassment at the implications, or feel some regret that they had apparently been so loud that other customers' rests might have been disturbed, at the moment he was just too shell shocked to properly respond to the lewd implications.

"It's illogical," Shirou muttered to himself. "It just shouldn't be possible."

"Oh, quit whining," Alice told him bluntly. "It wasn't that big a deal."

"Not that big a deal?" Shirou repeated, staring blankly at Alice as she brushed off the encounter without appearing the least bit phased by the incident. "Your fingers spontaneously mutated into stretching, vibrating tentacles! How is that not a big deal?" he demanded, leaving exactly what the tentacles had been doing unsaid.

It turned out that he didn't need to. Perhaps it was just a quality of the strange world he had found himself in, but rather than being disturbed by the revelation of Alice's apparent prowess at indecent acts, the matron instead looked impressed.

Of course, she was assuming that Shirou was being figurative. If she realized that he was being literal, monster-phobia might kick in.

Alice just took a moment to look smugger, apparently completely unfazed by Shirou's shock at her unusual ability. Then again, whereas most human's might feel some embarrassment at having their bedroom skills aired in the open in front of the public, Alice WAS a monster, and thus she just took it as a complement.

"Well," the matron began, giving the two a measuring look. "I hope that you two come again soon."

"Unnatural," Shirou just muttered to himself, brushing forward, a haunted look on his face as he did so. "Just unnatural."

"Don't mind him, dearie," the matron reassured the lingering Alice. "I'm sure he'll come to appreciate you soon…"

That was as far as she got before Alice's eyes flashed again, and convenient monster hypnotism was once more made use of.

"Forget everything you heard here," Alice ordered the matron, and instantly the human nodded.

"Yes, Mistress," the older lady acknowledged the order in a monotone. Alice nodded, and prepared to leave before she paused, remembering something.

"And you have the honey, right?" Alice demanded, and again the matron nodded, producing two large pots of the sweetener.

"Yes Mistress," she said again. Alice nodded, and if she had been in her lamia form then her tail would no doubt have started wagging happily.

Alice was really looking forward to seeing if Shirou could back up his boast on improving the ama-ama dango, after all.

*Scene Break*

"Well, it looks like we have everything important," Shirou muttered to himself as Alice and he prepared to leave Illiasburg. He had eventually recovered from his shock over his first encounter with a monster that hadn't ended with him stabbing something, no doubt a sign of either his inherent ability to rebound from psychologically traumatizing incidents or a show of his abilities when it came to ignoring reality.

"Are you sure?" Alice asked him dubiously, staring at the pack that Shirou had prepared. "All you ended up doing was buying more cooking ingredients. Shouldn't you go to the weapon shop as well?"

"Nonsense," Shirou shook his head, dismissing her concerns as irrelevant. "Like I said, we already have everything important."

Alice paused for a moment, and then realized that she was apparently disagreeing through implication that cooking was the most important skill Shirou practiced.

"You're right," she nodded imperiously. "Let's be off then."

Right as the two strangely well matched travelers were about to depart, a new voice interrupted them.

"I found you, my hero!"

Turning, Shirou and Alice prepared to face their confronter. Once they did, Shirou once more found his potential faith in a benevolent higher being taking a critical hit as he bore witness to something he couldn't possibly be expected to deal with.

"Alice," he began, eye twitching as he looked at the monstrosity before him. "What the hell is that?"

"Hmm," Alice hummed, looking at the monster. "A Reverse Lamia. How unusual."

"Ah," Shirou nodded slowly. Then his eyes twitched again. "Alice, why is it standing like that? Or wearing that for that matter?"

"Hmmm," Alice hummed again, and when she found she had no logical answer for either question she shrugged. "Because it's retarded?"

The monster which was confronting them was just as Alice had said, a 'Reverse Lamia'. It essentially had the legs of a human and the upper body of a snake. It had appeared for some reason standing on its head, both legs bent until they could touch the ground, displaying the disturbing underwear that it was wearing.

Shirou found the sight immensely wrong for some reason.

"How rude!" the Reverse Lamia said, huffing as she did so. "After you heroically stole my maiden heart, how could you say such rude things!" Then, without waiting for a response the reverse lamia continued. "My name is Amira, and the reason I'm standing like this is that this is my only CG! It also helps me keep my eye on the 'skip' button."

Shirou twitched, and felt his sanity lower just a little more at the answer to his two questions. He felt that they shouldn't make sense, but found that if he tried to think too hard about them it just made even less sense.

"Ah, you filled my heart with such love at your fierce display," Amira continued, gushing romantically. "I just knew that we were fated to be together!"

Shirou had put up with a lot over the last few days, but even he had his limits. He turned to Alice, a serious look on his face.

"Alice," he began slowly, "Would it make me a bad person if I were to kill it?"

"Hmmm," Alice hummed once more, before shrugging. "It would get in the way of you making a perfect world where monsters and humans can coexist," she reminded him, though it didn't appear that she was actually going to stop him if he tried.

"How rude!" Amira snorted, not seeming to pay any attention to Shirou's apparent murderous intent. "How could you speak like that to the secret heroine of the game!"

"You lie!" It was Alice's turn to snap at the creature, folding her arms in a huff. "You aren't the heroine!"

"Just think," Amira continued, speaking to Shirou as she ignored the fuming Alice. "If you just dump that tsundere, then we could be together!"

"I am not a tsundere!" Alice declared, stomping her foot angrily as she did so. Even Shirou had to turn to her to give her an incredulous look at the declaration. Alice bore the disbelieving stare with good grace, turning her head up to the side in a prideful motion. "I am a tsun-tsun," she announced solemnly. "One hundred percent 'tsun', zero percent 'dere'."

Shirou nodded slowly, realizing that he could buy that.

*Scene Break*

After the two of them finally managed to get rid of Amira, who served her purpose as a convenient plot device to dispense side quests, Shirou and Alice made their way out of town. Once they were far enough away, Alice immediately returned to her lamia form, wiggling her tail happily as she stretched.

"Are you really going to go fight the vampire and the dragon?" Alice asked curiously, referring to the side quest Amira had given.

(Since the author had been too lazy to properly transcribe the entire conversation, seeing as it really wasn't relevant to the plot of this parody, the reader will just have to assume they know what is going on, and move from there.)

"Of course," Shirou nodded instantly. "As a hero it's my job to help the general populace, no matter how dangerous it might be."

"A fake hero," Alice snorted, and didn't bring up the side quest anymore. If Shirou had been less skilled than he displayed against Granberia, and named 'Luca' for some strange reason, then Alice might have made a bigger deal of the imminent painful death that awaited her traveling companion. "You never had a baptism," she reminded Shirou of his shortcomings when it came to this worlds definition of 'hero'.

"Hmm," Shirou shrugged concomitantly. "I can deal with being a faker."

Alice had a feeling that Shirou had just referenced something which went right over her head, and felt a little disturbed at the experience, regardless of the fact that she had been doing exactly the same thing to him over and over again for a while now. However, since Alice was a monster and a tsuntsun, it was perfectly within her character to both make those references, and get angry when the table was turned on her.

"By the way," Alice began, changing the subject despite her displeasure. "I've noticed earlier. Given how skilled you were against Granberia, you should have been able to kill any of the other monsters we've come across by now. Are you by chance holding back to avoid killing them?"

"Yeah," Shirou nodded his affirmative to Alice's inquiry. "I know that they would probably have no problem doing terrible things to me, but if I can just drive them away then eventually when I help bring about a world with coexistence then they can be saved along with everyone else."

"Hmph," Alice snorted at the optimistic answer, glaring at Shirou. "What a whitewashed answer. Is your head full of nothing but puppy dogs and sunshine to be thinking things like that?"

"Er, not really," Shirou scratched the back of his head awkwardly, not sure if now would be a good time to bring up that his head was actually filled with nothing but swords and desolate graveyards where the swords waited. "Something a little different actually, I suppose," he hedged instead.

"Oh well," Alice shrugged, and her innate lack of concern over the general welfare of others cost her the chance to learn a valuable insight into her traveling companion once more. "I'll lend you this sword then," she instead declared.

"Wait," Shirou began, giving her a strange look. "Where on earth would you hide a sword?"

"It was always here," she told him dismissively, stealing one of his lines from earlier as she produced the weapon.

"Oh," Shirou nodded at her reasoning, being the only person in the world who would probably accept that kind of reasoning. "In that case… OH DEAR GOD! WHAT IS THAT WRETCHED THING!"

"It's called Angel Halo," Alice told him, ignoring the sudden change in volume completely. "It's the only sword of its kind in the world. It's very valuable."

"Valuable?" Shirou shrieked, feeling the urge to claw his eyes out as he stared at the abomination which looked like something out of one of H.R. Giger's nightmares. "It's an unending monument to pain and suffering! It's a thing straight from the deepest reaches of hell!"

"It's not from hell," Alice told him promptly, giving him a blank look. "See, look. It's made out of the melted bodies and souls of six hundred and sixty six angels. It's clearly from heaven."

"I can see their agony! It's as though a thousand knives are being driven into my eyes! Their shrieks of pain and their longing for the release of death will haunt every dream I ever have from this moment onward," Shirou wept, his ability to comprehend the true nature of a weapon granted to him by Unlimited Blade Works showing him the secret nature of Angel Halo, and he knew from that moment onward it would forever be the definition of 'wrong' in his book.

"Whatever," Alice shrugged off Shirou's dramatics easily. "Just take it. Because the angels' grudges are held in the sword, it bears their curse. It eats the magic of anything it's used on, and it makes it hard for anything it cuts to hold its true form."

"The more you tell me about the sword the more I want to destroy it and then cut out my eyes so I will never see something more atrocious," Shirou told the lamia, backing away slowly.

"You idiot," Alice sighed. "It means that if you beat a monster with this sword, it will just seal them into a harmless shape rather than kill them. It should work on humans pretty well too."

Shirou froze. Slowly, as though he couldn't stop himself, he returned his gaze to Angel Halo. He swallowed hard.

"Are you saying that if I use that sword, not only will I be able to stop enemies, but I'd be able to avoid hurting them permanently as well?" he asked slowly.

"Exactly," Alice nodded proudly, happy at having been able to give her companion such a powerful tool.

For Shirou, his feelings were a great deal more complex. On one hand, a weapon which would never kill his enemies was something he had never dreamed possible of having. With it in hand, he would be able to fight freely, and even if he gave a mortal wound to an enemy they would be alright. It was quite possibly the most useful tool he would ever acquire on his quest to save everyone.

On the other hand, it was a weapon of such pure evil and malevolence that it was about to make his eyes bleed.

"It's… it's not like using it would make me a bad person," Shirou told himself, unable to stop his hand from slowly reaching out to Angel Halo's hilt. "Sometimes in order to do something good, you have to do something bad first. And I would be able to save so many…."

And thus, Shirou lied to himself as he had never lied before in order to justify using the evil sword. He had almost managed to convince himself that he wouldn't go to hell for touching it when he finally grasped the hilt.

And then the sword moaned at him. "Hrooougghhh!"

Shirou twitched, and though his hand was frozen on the hilt of Angel Halo, a shiver went down his body from the top of his head to the tips of his toes.

"Alice," he began, desperately seeking confirmation that what he suspected wasn't true. "Did that sword just moan at me? As in, the sword is alive in some way?"

Alice gave him a blank look, then looked at the sword, then looked back up at Shirou.

Then she turned around conspicuously and began to stare at the hill behind her.

"Look," she pointed out blankly. "Those flowers over there are supposed to be both edible and delicious. We should get some of them for tonight's meal."

Shirou was not reassured by her change in conversation topic.

*Scene Break*

Part 5

Shirou meets Tamamo

"Hmmm," Alice hummed, giving the port town of Illiasport a disdainful gaze. "I expected something more from a port town."

"It's not so bad," Shirou encouraged her cheerfully. Alice couldn't help but notice that he looked unusually cheerful for someone who was usually so depressed after fending off a hoard of monsters.

"…Idiot," she muttered, and despite the fact that there had been no warning whatsoever over the insult Shirou didn't even bat an eye at the derogatory name. "Why are you so happy?"

"Didn't you see it?" Shirou gushed, nearly spinning in his joy. "That last monster, the roper thingy? Didn't you see what happened?"

"…You are an idiot," Alice sighed, putting her head in her hand as she glared at her companion. "What on earth made you so happy to see that thing?"

"It actually tried to kill me!" Shirou exalted, raising Angel Halo overhead in a victory pose. "Even though it had tentacles and slime, it didn't try to molest me at all! It only tried to eat me instead!"

It said something about Shirou's waning endurance for the common place trials of day to day life that attempted murder was enough to bring him to a state of euphoria.

Alice gave her companion a blank look, before sighing again.

"…Idiot," she repeated. Still, the sight of Shirou being so happy was actually somewhat disturbing to the lamia. She paused for a moment, and then an evil grin spread on her lips. "Did you know that monsters that eat humans have the special ability to make the act pleasurable to their prey?"

Shirou froze. Slowly, his head turned inch by inch until he could give Alice an incredulous look.

"What?" he repeated, needing to know for certain what Alice was implying, but already resigning himself to the fact that he wouldn't like it.

"In order to keep their prey from struggling, most predators have developed ways to immobilize their victims through pleasure," Alice felt a strange sense of satisfaction at watching Shirou's face fall. "Sometimes it's through a special organ which attacks the male's penis, and other time it's through enzymes or drugs to make the act pleasurable. Either way, most of the time when a man is being eaten they are wrapped in the height of ecstasy the entire time."

"No," Shirou whispered, the bitter truth a blow to his good mood. "So even when being eaten, the dignity of a clean death is denied?"

"Mmmhmmm," Alice hummed, and when tears began to gather in Shirou's eyes at having his illusions once more shattered she felt a strange surge of joy go through her.

Alice was a monster after all, and enjoying the sight of someone's hopes being crushed was pretty much hardwired into her species.

"I hate this world so much," Shirou muttered, as he slumped, and Alice perked up a bit as the two continued to travel deeper into Illiasport. "At least we'll be off this continent soon," he muttered to himself. "Maybe when I'm away from all these 'Illias' names I'll stop having those weird dreams like I did last night. I'm so sick of hearing about how I have to kill the Monster Lord."

If Alice had been paying a bit more attention to Shirou rather than basking in the joy of having destroyed his dreams, she might have been a bit disturbed by that particular information.

*Scene Break*

"Damn those monsters!" Alice swore vehemently, one hand coming up to make a fist of righteous judgment. "They've gone too far now!"

"Yeah," Shirou added, though his voice was still listless after having learned the truth about death via monster digestion. Even that wasn't quite enough to block out his messiah complex. "How dare they ruin the livelihood of hundreds."

"For ruining my chance to enjoy foreign delicacies, I shall see them all pay," Alice vowed, conveniently forgetting that she too was a member of the species she was swearing vengeance on.

Shirou contemplated pointing out the inconsistencies of his companion, but instead just sighed again. He would get over his funk soon enough, but for now he was going to enjoy it.

"Hurry, Shirou," Alice demanded, pointing furiously towards the town. "Prove yourself a hero and find a way to get me food!"

The two had managed to make it to the docks of Illiasport as they tried to find a boat which would be willing to take them to the continent of Sentora. However, once they had arrived they discovered that for the last year or so a powerful monster had taken up residence in the straights between the two continents. Whenever anyone tried to cross between them the monster would raise a fierce storm that would prevent any travel.

"Aren't I just a fake hero?" Shirou reminded Alice, pointing out Alice's new favorite nickname for her traveling companion.

"Heroisim is more than just a baptism," Alice told him seriously. "Heroisim lies in a person's ability to rise above the oppression and conflict of others, and to be able to blaze a path through their obstacles in order to lead others to a brighter future."

Despite himself, Shirou found himself being comforted by Alice's words. It was so unusual to hear her say something so motivational, so praiseworthy. Despite his funk he found himself cheering up, the urge to go out and continue his quest once more rising within him.

"So go, Shirou," Alice continued, her tone once more imperious. "Find some way for me to enjoy the delicacies of this decrepit collection of hovels that calls itself a town. Look to your heart, and to my belly, and become a true hero."

Shirou sighed, and decided that he would ignore the last part of her speech in order to focus on the part that didn't make it seem that the only reason for his existence was to feed Alice.

*Scene Break*

"You know," a particularly blurry face in the crowd who bore the distinct misfortune of having been named 'Youth A' when he was born, "I saw a little fox earlier. I was kind of surprised. I didn't think that they would come so close to town."

This particular incident occurred while Shirou and Alice were participating in the time honored tradition of searching for rumors in order to advance their quest. While they talked to many people, some of which actually had important advice that was relevant to their continued journey, this particular meeting was funnier, and thus gets full representation.

"…Let's go find that fox and eat it," Alice decided, and Shirou gave her an odd look, once more having returned to his more upbeat personality.

"Do you not like foxes?" Shirou asked, wondering at Alice's requested side quest.

"…Not particularly," Alice admitted, for once glancing away from her companion so that she wouldn't meet his eyes. It was an unusual move for the usually so direct Alice, so Shirou took note of it.

"Well," Shirou began, trying to decide if appeasing his companions gluttony and her grudge would be a worthwhile endeavor or just get in the way of him helping the townsfolk. "I have heard that foxes are delicious," he admitted as the author shamelessly plugged a line from a completely different work of his.

"…That is….good," Alice nodded, before pausing, wondering why she had felt the need to put the space in the middle of her sentence.

The two gave each other an odd look, and then decided to move on with the rest of their investigation.

*Scene Break*

"So this is the cave," Shirou muttered to himself as he stared at the hole in the rocks that he and Alice stood in front of. Through the intervention of the reverse lamia Amira, they had discovered the existence of a secret treasure from a long dead pirate which would allow them to pass through the storm and reach Sentora.

(Originally the author had written an extra dozen pages explaining the encounter in great detail despite the fact that the conversation wasn't really very funny or interesting, and had thought about posting it, but he decided that doing that would just make him a troll and wisely got rid of the excess.

Now if only the writers of The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya anime, season two, had been kind enough to do the same. 'Endless Eight' indeed. I want four hours of my life back after having dealt with that bull.)

"It smells like foxes," Alice sniffed, a disgusted look on her face.

"Well, if we come across any, then I guess I can try a recipe or two," Shirou reassured her, and though Alice gave him a disdainful look her tail began to wag slightly.

The two began to make their way into the long and winding cave.

"Since this was a pirate cave, there should probably be a lot of traps," Alice noted almost casually, not sounding at all disturbed by the possibility of death from above.

"But if there are, shouldn't there be more corpses?" Shirou noted, also displaying a lack of concern which would spell certain doom if he wasn't the protagonist or if this was a horror movie. He gave the cave a measuring look. "It is kind of gloomy in here," he noted. "It feels like the kind of place ghosts would come out."

"G-g-g-ghosts!" Alice yelped, and Shirou paused, turning slowly to look at his slithering companion. Realizing that he was staring, Alice gave him a blank look.

"What?" she demanded, an annoyed expression on her face.

"Nothing," Shirou reassured her, deciding to let the conversation drop. He began to move deeper into the cave before pausing. "Alice," he began, trying to keep his voice even. "Why are you standing so close to me?"

"Y-you're the one who's too close to me," she informed him from her position separated from him by less than an inch, and Shirou raised an eyebrow at her stutter. "Why on earth would you think I would be scared or something?" she continued, and though her expression was still deadpanned, Shirou got the impression that this was probably something of a rare sight: Alice flustered. "Besides, ghosts are so unscientific. Just the product of ignorant humans and their wild imaginations."

Shirou gave her a blank look of his own for a bit, and decided to try out a hypothesis that had been forming.

"Actually," he began seriously. "There are two kinds of ghosts that I know of. The first are wraiths, when a soul has a grudge enough to linger on after death. They typically haunt people or things that are connected to their grudges, but can only manifest if they manage to possess a human or an object." Though Alice's face remained unchanged, a shudder that started where her snake parts began and ran all the way to the tip of her tail occurred. "The other type is apparitions, the lingering leftover thoughts or degraded copies of a person's existence which remain behind. They also try to possess people, but can only take over those without strong egos."

Alice remained absolutely still, though Shirou was vaguely disturbed to note that her eyes had rolled all the way back into her head.

"Completely unscientific," she repeated, her tone hollow.

Strangely enough, this made Shirou feel a lot better after the way she had shattered his hopes of finding monsters which didn't seem obsessed with all things erotic.

Still, he was beginning to feel that maybe he had gone a bit too far, so he relented.

"Would you like to hold my hand?" Shirou offered, giving Alice a comforting smile. Alice's eyes reappeared, and she used them to give him a small glare.

"As if I would ever do something like that," she huffed, folding her arms and glaring to the side.

Shirou was prepared to let it go when a moment later he felt something on his wrist and glanced down to find the very tip of Alice's tail wrapped around his wrist, shivering slightly as it did so. He glanced at the tail, then back at where Alice was steadfastly looking away, and then back at the tail, then back at Alice.

"Well then," he began, deciding not to comment on the tail's behavior. "Let's move on, shall we?"

'Zero percent 'dere' my butt,' he added internally, but wisely did not say it out loud.

They continued in this way for a bit, with Alice's tail firmly secured to his wrist and her slithering entirely too close to him to be comfortable, before Shirou paused, eyes narrowing.

"What's that!" he snapped, noting the way a shadow flickered in the cave.

"Hiiii!" Alice yelped, leaping into the air to wrap her tail completely around Shirou's waist as she cowered behind his shoulders.

"Oof," Shirou grunted, but quickly adjusted his stance so he could hold Angel Halo more firmly.

"That's not a ghost," Alice added a moment later, peeking out from behind Shirou's back. Shirou could make out the way her eyes were narrowed, and took it as a sign that whatever was coming was some kind of monster.

"Well," he began, preparing himself for combat. "I better take care of this then." He waited for a moment for the monster to come, and then realized something peculiar.

"Umm," he began, looking back at where Alice had unwound herself and resumed a dignified stance a bit back behind him. "Aren't you going to leave like you always do?"

"Not yet," she said firmly, arms folded as she waited. "I still have to try your recipe for fox."

"Wait," Shirou began, blinking as he began to realize something. "You mean…"

"Wawa! A human," the new monster cried, revealing itself to be a disturbingly cute loli wearing a kunoichi outfit. Shirou noted that the little ninja girl had two fox ears sticking out of her head as well as a pair of fox tails poking from behind her.

"What should I do," the fox girl squeaked, looking adorable and harmless. "I got separated from Tamamo-sama, and then a human showed up!"

As the fox girl continued to squeak, Shirou looked from it, to Alice, then back to the fox, and then back to Alice. He noted with some concern that Alice was giving him an expectant look.

"Alice," he began slowly, wanting to be absolutely sure he understood the situation. "Do you really expect me to kill that monster and then cook it for you?"

Shirou didn't think that it really needed to be said, seeing how it was unethical and wrong and would probably count as cannibalism for the lamia, but prior experience with Alice's gluttony compelled him to seek clarification.

Alice gave him a flat look, and then glanced to the side. "No, I really don't expect you too," she admitted, and Shirou was disturbed to note how insincere she sounded.

As the fox girl continued to waffle as she tried to decide what to do, Shirou knew his course of action was clear.

"Run!" he shouted at the fox girl, and the loli 'eeped' in surprise as Shirou made sure to put his body between her and Alice, arm's wide to shield the unsuspecting monster. "I'll hold her back, just get out of here," he shouted at the fox, and the ninja girl 'eeped' again at the sudden change in the situation before breaking and running away from the crazy human.

"…Idiot," Alice huffed, arms folded under her breast again as she glared at Shirou.

*Scene Break*

It was a bit later that they came across the fox girl again.

"Wawa!" the fox cried piteously as it struggled in the web of what Shirou assumed was some kind of spider woman, given the eight legs and spinnerets and all. "I'm gonna get eaten!"

"…Yes, you are," Alice noted, still eying the fox carefully before giving Shirou an expectant look.

"Alice," Shirou began before he sighed and went to go rescue the fox girl before the spider could get to her. "No. Just, no."

"…" Alice said nothing, just disappearing like she normally did now that she knew that she wasn't going to be getting to try any fox recipes. As she did so, she made sure to stay nearby enough to be able to hear the fight between Shirou and the spider girl.

*Scene Break*

"So, before we begin…"

"Mmmm, what is it, tasty little morsel?"

"When you say you're going to eat me, do you mean that literally?"

"Fufu. Indeed. I'm going to inject my poison into you and suck out everything!"

"…. And it's going to hurt, right?"

"Why no! My poison will make you feel so good that you'll beg me to melt you away!"

"…There goes my last hope."

"Indeed, just give up little boy, and I'll make your last moments…EEEK!"

*Scene Break*

Alice gave a small smile of pride, knowing that the sound the spider had made before it was sealed was the noise which finally completed her earlier destruction of Shirou's naïve hopes.

That would teach him to start talking about ghosts, she decided to herself. The fact that she had begun her teasing long before he had returned the favor was summarily ignored.

*Scene Break*

Shirou panted as he stood above the sealed form of the seven tailed fox beast, the Nanabi, that had been guarding the final door of the dungeon.

"That is not an acceptable use of tails," he muttered to himself as he wiped the sweat from his forehead, shuddering at the way the fox had used its extra appendages in a way which was distinctly not appropriate. It had been a long an arduous battle, and for some reason he had the feeling that if wasn't for him being so familiar with combat then it would require some sort of convenient plot device for him to have won it any other way.

"Now," he continued talking to himself as Alice was still off doing whatever it was she did when she was avoiding other monsters. "Let's hurry up and get this 'Poseidon's Bell' so we can get on with this trip."

"Too late," Alice told him as she appeared from nowhere, looking at the door expectantly. As though her words were a cue, it opened to reveal the mysterious 'Tamamo' which the foxes Shirou had come across kept talking about. And then Shirou's eyes twitched.

"Alice," he began slowly. "The number of tails a fox has says how much power they have, right?"

"Indeed," the lamia nodded, a cool look on her face.

"And since she has nine tails, it means she's incredibly powerful, right?"

"Yes," Alice nodded again.

"And since she's powerful, that means she's probably been around for a bit."

"Yes," Alice repeated once more before deciding that she was starting to sound like a broken record and elaborated. "Tamamo is rumored to be one of the oldest monsters still alive."

"Then why does she look like a nine year old girl?" Shirou asked, eye still twitching as he was exposed to the law of direct relation between loli appearance and age/experience.

(Simply put, the law stated that the younger a girl looked in an eroge, the older they generally were. This law also translates over into most harem genres, as exhibited by Evangeline in Negima.

Strangely enough, the converse of this law was that if a woman looked like a sexbomb, in most eroge that was a sign that they were a virgin.

Truly, eroge logic is a troublesome thing.)

"Hehe," Tamamo giggled, coyly covering her mouth with one sleeve of her elegant looking kimono. "Thou says the nicest things, little human."

"Is it alright for someone your size to call someone my size 'little'?" Shirou pointed out, once more cursing his strangely deaged body. Still, he was certainly taller than the loli-fox, that much was certain.

"Haven't you recognized her yet?" Alice asked her companion, deciding to ignore the banter between the two as she waited for Shirou to show some sign of recognition.

"I'm pretty sure that we never met before," Shirou pointed out, searching his memory for any recollection of the loli who was still giggling at him.

"That's Tamamo, of the Four Heavenly Knights," Alice pointed out, still waiting for a sign of recognition.

"Of course," Shirou nodded, before glancing to the side. "However, just in case the sealing has somehow managed to damage Nanabi's memory, why don't you go ahead and say who exactly that is?" he suggested. "Just in case."

"…Idiot," Alice sighed again. "Tamamo, the Queen of Foxes, the Heavenly Knight of the Earth," she told her companion, and Shirou nodded seriously, pretending that he had already known that.

"Of course," he said with faked self-assurance. Tamamo giggled again, before padding forward to invade Shirou's personal space without any sign of hesitation. "Um," Shirou began as the nine-tailed loli began to sniff him without reservation. "Can I help you?"

"So cute!" Tamamo finally squealed, a happy grin on her face. "Thou would make a good mate."

Shirou twitched, not quite sure how to respond to that kind of statement.

"T'would be so much fun to play around on a bed with thee. Thou art a good guy!" the fox continued, and Shirou twitched again.

"Uhhh," he began, not quite sure how to respond to that assertion. On one hand, it was the same typical forwardness that most monsters seemed to have when it came to sex. On the other hand, Tamamo had so far not shown any sign of trying to take advantage of him by force.

Shirou decided to take what he could get, and bowed politely.

"Thank you very much," he told the little fox, and Tamamo giggled again. He noticed the old looking bell that she was clutching in the hand she was using to cover her mouth s she giggled. "Is that the…" he began before trailing off expectantly.

"The Poseidon Bell?" Tamamo finished for him, playing with the bell casually. "Indeed. With this, t'would be simple to cross over to Sentora." Seeing Shirou's interest, she started to toy with the bell casually. "Is this what thou came for? So now that I have it, what shall thou do?"

Shirou scratched his head, not quite sure how to respond to her teasing prompting. He considered just asking for it politely, and also entertained thoughts of attacking her for it.

However, now that he had seen it, it wasn't like he needed the original anymore. He could just trace it whenever he felt like it.

He just wasn't quite sure how to say that to the surrounding monsters that had no idea about his unique skill set.

"I don't suppose you'd just give it to me?" he tried casually, and Tamamo giggled again.

"What a surprising answer! So this is the human that caught thine eye, Monster Lord?"

Shirou caught the title that Tamamo had used, and glanced to the side. Alice whom had stood quietly at the edge of the room simply looked at him, a composed expression on her face.

"Monster Lord?" Shirou repeated slowly, and Alice glanced to the side, still wordlessly. "Alice… you…" Shirou began slowly, and Alice seemed to tense slightly as she waited for his reaction to the revelation Tamamo had just given him.

Suddenly, Shirou leaned forward, hand coming up to cup his mouth as he began to whisper at his lamia companion.

"Alice, you must look exactly like the Monster Lord," he declared excitedly, and Alice twitched, falling over in surprise. Tamamo blinked as well as she used her monster hearing to pick up on the supposedly private discussion. "Quick," Shirou continued urgently. "Before she figures out that you're just a fake, order her to give us the bell!"

As Alice lay on the ground, a strange shudder went through her. Finally, she sprang up, tail waving angrily as she glared at Shirou.

"You idiot!" she hissed, throwing her usual cool mannerisms to the side. "How dumb do you have to be! I don't look like the Monster Lord, I AM the Monster Lord!"

"Well duh," Shirou said, grinning slightly as he did so and Alice paused, blinking at him. "I figured that out long ago. Granberia backed down from you in an instant, you're insanely powerful, you refuse to fight or let other monsters see you," he continued to tick off all the giveaways that Alice had off his fingers. "Not to mention how you know everything about every monster we've ever come across, and know and can train me in dozens of monster secret fighting techniques."

Shirou shrugged as Alice continued to twitch. "It doesn't take a genius to figure it out," he concluded.

"And you never felt the need to mention that you already knew?" Alice growled, one hand coming up shakily as she clenched it into a fist. Shirou shrugged again, scratching his neck idly with Angel Halo.

"Well, you seemed to want to keep it a secret," he admitted. "I figured you had to have a reason for that."

"And when someone finally says it outright, the first thing you can do is try to mock me?" Alice growled slowly, and dark power began to flood through her fists as her innate tsuntsun rage over having been made fun of began to display with murderous strength.

"You do it to me all the time," Shirou reminded her, a smug grin on his face at having one upped Alice for once.

For all that Shirou can be a little dense no one ever said he was actually idiot. He had managed to figure out who Archer was before anyone beside Rin had ever been able to. And while he might be good natured for the most part, he wasn't above a little innocent revenge itself, as Rin could probably attest to after he had teased her before they had made a deal with Lancer.

"Give me one good reason not to kill you right now," Alice ordered Shirou, and he gave her a slightly out of character smug grin.

"Because I've been working in secret with the ama-ama dango recipe and have produced results which are guaranteed to be between thirty and sixty percent tastier," he told her, producing a small plate full of dango which he had cleverly concealed on his person. He had been planning on letting them marinate in the sauce a little longer so they could further absorb the flavor, but he figured now was as good a time as any to show them off to Alice.

"There is no way that is enough to…" Alice began, evil power still growing before she paused mid-sentence. "Thirty to sixty percent you say?" she asked, her tone serious.

Shirou nodded, holding the plate in front of him temptingly. Slowly, with the hand not accumulating death in it, Alice reached out and took one of the dango, putting it in her mouth and chewing slowly.

A moment later the power dissipated in an instant, and though Alice continued to look murderous, her tail began to wag slowly from side to side.

"You may live," she informed him. "For now." Then she finished the dango in one bite.

"Make sure you take careful note of the flavor," Shirou told her, as she began to eat her second dango. "I've been experimenting, and I need to know what you think of each individual dango so I can correct any potential lapses in the recipe."

Alice nodded, looking unusually solemn as she did so. "I can tell already," she noted seriously. "Though the first one was improved by forty percent, the second and third were only thirty and thirty five percent respectively." Then Alice took her fourth dango, and her tail began to pick up speed. "Fifty percent!" she announced, unable to keep the happy tone out of her voice as she did so.

Shirou grinned proudly.

Oh yeah. Just that good.

"Verily," Tamamo began, looking vaguely disturbed by the scene she had just witnessed. "Is thine cooking truly so exceptional?" When neither Alice or Shirou responded to her, the loli-fox began to get curious. "Doest thou think I might…"

She got no further before a lance of dark power shot from Alice's outstretched finger, arching past the gathered foxes, streaking through the door into the treasury room, and exploding with horrific force. Tamamo glanced at the destruction behind her and then back at Alice's narrowed eyes.

"I…" Tamamo began, rightfully assuming that was a 'no'. "I'll just be going then."

As the Queen of Foxes began to leave, the little kunoichi fox from earlier tugged quickly at her sleeve. Tamamo leaned down to let the kunoichi whisper in her ear before straightening, turning to look at Shirou.

"…I see," Tamamo began, turning to regard Shirou. Shirou pulled his attention away from watching where Alice was gorging herself on his creations, giving the tiny fox an attentive look. "So thou saved her life, Shirou?" Tamamo once more paced until she was uncomfortably close to Shirou. "As the leader of foxes, I must thank you."

"Ah, you're welcome," Shirou nodded graciously to Tamamo, and the loli once more grinned happily up at the swordsman.

"How do you want me to thank you?" she prompted, grinning happily. "Would you like some delicious thin fried tofu? Or do you want to touch my fluffy tails?"

"Hmmm," Shirou hummed to himself. He got the impression that Tamamo was asking this to test him. After all, she already knew that he was after the bell, but hadn't even mentioned it as a potential reward. On one hand, he felt that it was his duty as a hero to finish his quest and receive the legendary item.

On the other hand, the tails that Tamamo were waving around really were pretty fluffy looking. Not to mention her offer of tofu…

"Just a second," he told the loli, before looking at his hands. Shirou narrowed his eyes in concentration and whispered his aria. "Trace on."

"Great goodness!" Tamamo yelped, hopping backwards in surprise as an exact duplicate of the Poseidon's Bell appeared in Shirou's open hand. "Where did that come from!"

"It was over there somewhere," Shirou told her, waving his hand at a corner of the room.

"Over where?" Tamamo repeated, looking around as she tried to figure out where the item had come from. It was a legendary artifact for pete's sake. Those don't just lie 'over there somewhere'!

"Hrmph," Alice began trying to speak before she paused and slurped down the last of the particular dango she had been gnawing on. "Does that have the same power as the other bell?" she asked her companion, tail still waving happily as she paid only cursory attention to the bizarre occurrence of the duplicating bell.

"Hmm," Shirou hummed, judging his recreation. Finally, he nodded slowly. "It isn't a perfect copy," he admitted, "but it should be enough to get through the storm."

"Hmph," Alice muttered again before turning back to the still half full plate of dango. It didn't matter to her one bit whether or not the item would work. She was the Monster Lord after all. If Shirou seemed to think that the other bell would be fine, then she would just let him risk his own neck on it.

"In that case," Shirou began, turning to give the still confused Tamamo a serious look. "I'll take the tofu."

"Art thou certain?" Tamamo hedged, looking between the bell in her hand and the one Shirou was holding. This was not what she had been expecting at all.

"I've already got a Poseidon's bell," Shirou told her, eye still serious. "But I haven't had a chance to try your tofu yet. I've yet to determine whether or not I can improve on the flavor."

Alice froze mid bite.

For foxes, thin fried tofu was a sacred thing. There was no food more beloved by the species as a whole for some reason. Because of that, foxes had spent centuries developing their recipes, and their thin fried tofu was one of the greatest treasures of the culinary world.

Alice's eyes slowly made their way back to the fresh dango in her hand. With deliberate care she took a bite, and a shudder went down her tail once more. That one had been at least sixty percent!

"Shirou," Alice said sternly. "It is a moral imperative that you get that tofu!"

"Hold thine selves for a moment," Tamamo began, starting to be very nervous. Improve? The foxes thin fried tofu recipe? Preposterous! The very act was impossible. The foxes' recipe was unparalleled! More than that, improving would mean that this cute little boy would in some way be able to figure out the original, a secret which foxes guarded jealously. "Art thou certain thou doesn't want the bell, or perhaps my tails?" Tamamo waved her tails enticingly, wondering if using a bit of fox magic to get Shirou to choose the later would be unethical.

Well, unethical wouldn't stop her normally, but with the way the Monster Lord was glaring at her Tamamo didn't think she would be able to get away with it in this situation.

"Surely the Queen of Foxes wouldn't go back on her word," Shirou scolded her, and Tamamo flinched, looking down at her feet as she began to sheepishly rub her foot against her calf like a scolded child. "Even after she promised a reward to the one who saved one of her own people?"

Once more, the prospect of a new recipe pushed Shirou to heights most Magi would applaud for their ruthlessness.

"But," Tamamo began, and had the distinct impression that she was being bullied. "But…"

"Hurry up and give it to him," Alice ordered, an unholy light shining in the Monster Lord's eyes.

"Wawa…" Tamamo stuttered, sounding exactly like the kunoichi had earlier when she had been confused, and the fox queen began to sniffle as she was forced into surrendering the tofu. "Shirou is a big meanie!" she wept childishly.

'That', Alice thought to herself as she watched the sniffling Tamamo waffle back and forth as she watched the intense Shirou begin to dissect the secret tofu recipe, 'was even better then eating one of those annoying foxes!'

No one noticed as she began to rub her hands together evilly. Thirty to Sixty percent!

Part Six

In which Shirou meets Alma Elma, and scores some monster tail.

"I've been meaning to ask this," Alice begins, arms folded as she studied Shirou carefully in her monster form, "but there never seems to have been a proper time."

"Of course," Shirou nodded at Alice, expression serious. "The secret you see is in the preparation," he began immediately, pointing out the way he was cutting the fish for sashimi. "While most people might brush off meat handling as unimportant, if done wrong the cut and preparation can actually drain the juices from the meat or fat and thus diminish the overall…"

"That wasn't what I was going to ask about," Alice cut him off reluctantly. While the topic that Shirou had brought up was one she actually found interesting, especially considering the way that he had somehow managed to make raw, unprepared fish seem even tastier than it usually was without any apparent effort, Alice wasn't really that interested in the secret behind his cooking techniques.

After all, why would she need to cook for herself when she can just keep her chef-slave… er… traveling companion around to do it for her?

"Oh?" Shirou allowed himself to be interrupted, though inside he felt a little sad that he wouldn't be able to expound on his third favorite subject, falling right beneath 'saving people' and 'swords' on the list. "Then what is it?"

The two had plenty of free time to talk. After having returned from the bullying of Tamamo, that is the quest for the Poseidon's Bell, the two had immediately sought a boat. While initially no one had been willing to take the two out and risk the storm, Alice had once more proved herself a convenient narrative device due to her monster powered eyes.

Now, with the entire crew hypnotized into taking the two across and catching as many different varieties of sea fish as possible in order to keep Alice satiated and Shirou busy, Alice was taking the time to lounge about in her lamia form.

"How did you get so good at fighting?" Alice asked bluntly, eying Shirou dubiously. "You look far too young to be as skilled as you are, and yet your technique and strength are so great that I had originally thought you were perhaps part monster yourself."

"Part monster?" Shirou blinked, and wondered if this was another one of those things that everyone else already knew about but he didn't.

"It's rare, but sometimes a monster will give birth to a male," Alice elaborated, and Shirou suppressed a sigh of relief that this was something he was excused for not knowing. "It is even rarer, but sometimes those males will retain some of their mother's monster powers. It's so rare that I've only ever heard of five or six cases ever occurring, but it would explain a great deal."

When Alice paused and gave Shirou a patient look, he realized that he would have to give up some sort of answer to the curious Monster Lord.

Somehow, Shirou didn't think that 'magi from another dimension with an ability only found in gods, elementals, and undying vampire creatures' would cut it.

"Well," Shirou began, rubbing the back of his head. "I suppose I could be part monster," he allowed. "Both my parents died in a fire a long time ago, and I can't really remember either of them."

"I'm sorry to make you remember something so painful," Alice noted, maintaining her composure in the face of a revelation that would have most normal people back tracking quickly while simultaneously revealing her to be a character with a little more depth than just 'tsuntsun glutton'.

"It was a long time ago," Shirou admitted, dismissing the dramatic revelation easily. "As for why I'm so skilled, I am older then I look," he added. Alice's eyes narrowed slightly as she took in that particular tidbit.

"How much older?" Alice asked, giving her companion a careful look. "Sixteen? Maybe seventeen?"

Shirou sighed, and really wished he could find the one responsible for his small body and then stab them repeatedly. The author promptly wiped his forehead in relief that Shirou was just a fictional character, and went back to trying to juggle rubber chickens, an essential in his quest to become a circus clown.

"I'm twenty one," he told Alice, and Alice blinked, showing no other reaction to the revelation. Then a slow smile began to form.

"I'm still older," she stated superiorly. Sure, only by a year, but there was no way she was going to admit that. Shirou just blinked, and wondered just what that had to do with anything. It seemed that he was still unaware that having superior position in all things was essential for monster mentality.

Still, there was something which Shirou was finding vaguely uncomfortable about this conversation.

"Isn't it really unusual for us to be able to talk so seriously like this without something coming up which destroys the mood?" he pointed out, and right as he did the infamous storm that had made travel impossible chose that moment to appear.

"Like that," he nodded, noting that even as the storm continued to rage, the magical bell kept the boat from rocking too much.

"That was rather conspicuous," Alice noted briefly, before shrugging and turning back to the heaping pile of fish that was still waiting her attention. A moment later she paused, her expression turning dark.

Just as suddenly as it had started, the storm disappeared and appearing from nowhere a monster appeared on the bow of the ship. Shirou noted that as was the general trend the monster appeared female, but unlike other's he had come across this one was in fact mostly human in shape except for the wings, blocky horns, and large spade tail. Admittedly, a woman built like a supermodel wearing racy lingerie, but still a woman.

"So you're the human that caught Alice's eye," the new monster proclaimed, eying Shirou with a languid grin. "You look delicious." She licked her lips slowly as she came to her conclusion.

Shirou found that the fact that he couldn't tell if she was being figurative or literal no longer disturbed him, and felt as though a small part of his soul had died.

"Lord Alice," the new monster began, turning to the lamia still slowly working her way through the pile of fish. "According to your order I'll exterminate all heroes who are attacking monsters. May I execute your order of defense?" It sounded like the monster was being a little more formal in regards to Alice then any of the other monsters that Shirou had seen interact with the lamia.

"…I don't give exceptions," Alice acknowledged, reminding Shirou that as the Monster Lord she had decided she wouldn't assist him in doing battle with any of her 'cute underlings' as she put it. "I'm just observing this boy. I'm not protecting him, nor giving special treatment."

"Haha," the new monster laughed happily, giving Shirou a look which made him feel like a piece of meat. When Shirou discovered he couldn't tell if he meant that figuratively or literally as well, he decided to just ignore the sensation this time. "I didn't think you'd say that," the monster added, still studying Shirou carefully. "It's like that, Shirou-chan," the monster concluded, sauntering towards the still would-be-hero. "I won't be letting you through this area."

Left unsaid was the 'So what are you going to do about it?'

With narrowed eyes, Shirou prepared himself for combat, even as he readied his own response to the monster's provocations.

"Ummm," Shirou began slowly, even as he leveled Angel Halo at the new monster. "Who are you again?"

"Eh?" the monster froze, staring at him, and Shirou heard Alice sigh in resignation behind him. "Eh!"

"Shirou," Alice began, talking slowly as though to a stupid child. "Are you saying you don't recognize Alma Elma?"

"Damnit," Shirou muttered. "And I was doing so well at faking it earlier!" Louder, Shirou hurriedly explained himself. "Of course I do!" Shirou said with absolute surety. "It's just…"

He paused, and finally pointed at a nearby sailor, which just happened to stray too close.

"It's just this guy was talking earlier about how he didn't know who Alma Elma is, and I wanted to give him a chance to find out!" Shirou declared.

The nearby sailor gave a blank look at Shirou before speaking in a monotone. "No, I never said that. I've never spoken with you either…"

That was as far as he got before Shirou summarily stabbed him. When Angel Halo entered the human's flesh the sailor was instantly transformed into a scarecrow.

"Oops," Shirou said flatly. "I slipped." For all its inherent evilness, Shirou noted that having a sword which wouldn't actually kill anyone it stabbed was useful in ways that he was only now becoming able to appreciate. "Anyway, for this guy, why don't you just go ahead and explain just who she is again?"

"Wait a second," Alma Elma began, looking back and forth between the sailor and Shirou. "You didn't slip at all! You just stabbed him out of nowhere."

"That's right," Alice nodded, giving Shirou a blank glare. "If this is how you go about on your quest to bring peace between monsters and humans, then…"

"I know how to remove salt from seawater and use it as a natural seasoning," Shirou interrupted the Monster Lord and Alice paused as she took in that little bit of trivia before she turned to still confused newcomer.

"Alma Elma," Alice began, drawing herself up with a glare. "You should be more careful with your storms! If you were to cause another poor innocent human to slip like that and hurt another, it would be in direct contradiction to my 'self-defense only' policy when dealing with humans!"

"Poor innocent human?" Alma began, blinking at the sudden change in the previously disinterested Monster Lord. Hadn't Alice just sat back and gave her the go ahead for attacking her companion only moments ago? "But weren't you…"

"Silence! Show more caution in the future!" Alice ordered, still glaring at the new monster. Then she turned back to Shirou and in a perfectly normal, for her, tone of voice continued. "Now, I'll be expecting you to stockpile quite a bit of the sea salt. I want to have enough to be able to compare it to other salts in both flavor and quality."

"Of course," Shirou nodded seriously. Now that she mentioned it, it did sound like a good idea. How would sea salt affect the flavor of fresh water fish? This bore investigating. "Now, for the poor confused sailor's sake…?"

"Alma Elma, the Heavenly Knight of Wind, the Queen of Succubi," Alice told him before turning back to her fish, expecting that to be all.

"Queen of the…" Shirou trailed off, and the newly identified Alma Elma straightened, preparing to get on with the fight.

"That's right, Shirou-chan," Alma began, once more adopting a sultry pose as she did so. "Now, why don't I… Hey! Where are you going?"

"Shirou," Alice began, a disdainful look in her face as she looked over her shoulder to where Shirou had dove, hiding as much of himself behind her snake like coils as possible. "What are you doing?"

"Shhh," he snapped frantically at the Monster Lord he was hiding behind. "She'll find me if you keep this up!"

"I didn't expect this sort of cowardice from you," Alice frowned, wondering if she had maybe overestimated the potential of her traveling companion. Why would he hide from Alma Elma when he had already faced Granberia head on, and even gone as far as to attempt to steal the sacred tofu recipe directly from Tamamo?

"But Alice," Shirou wailed, unable to keep his voice down as he shivered in fear. "It's a SUCCUBUS!"

Alice blinked, not quite sure what that had to do with anything, and Alma cocked her head to the side, also a bit confused why her species would evoke such terror from a warrior she had heard so much about from Granberia. Alma was used to evoking entirely different reactions from men, after all.

"Even normal monsters are obsessed with sex," Shirou continued, still quivering. "I mean, slug girls and slime girls are just monsters that go about doing their own thing and they keep trying to molest me. What would it be like to be attacked by a monster which is SPECIFICALLY meant to screw me over?"

Alice gave Shirou a blank glance before snorting. "Pitiful," she scoffed, conveniently forgetting that she had done the exact same thing when confronted with a potential encounter with a ghost. "Most men would be looking forward to this kind of thing."

"Most men would have been eaten by now," Shirou snapped back, and then attempted to pull Alice's tail further over his head in order to cover more of himself. Alice debated whether or not she would allow this indignity to continue for a moment, before deciding that if worst came to worst she could always just use the leverage Shirou was providing to wrap him up and throw him overboard.

"Fufu," Alma began to giggle as she watched the fearsome warrior that Granberia had been ranting about earlier cower before her. She also made note of the fact that this swordsman was apparently very weak to sexual attacks. "Now, now, Shirou-chan," Alma began in a cajoling tone that would be more appropriate for addressing a scared puppy than a warrior. "I tell you what," she began deviously. "I'll promise to only use my tail if it will make you feel better."

"…Do you mean that?" Shirou asked, peeking out from between coils as he did so.

"I promise," Alma told him, hoping the evil grin wouldn't get in the way of her false sincerity. "I won't use my magic, or my hands, or my feet, or my mouth, or my breasts, or my ass, or my pus…"

"I get it! I get it!" Shirou hurriedly cut off the list of potential avenues of attack before they could get any lewder. Warily he eyed the devil spade tail waving innocently behind Alma Elma. It didn't look too indecent. It looked just like a normal tail, well, as normal as a tail sticking out of the behind of an otherwise almost completely human looking monster. Slowly, he began to emerge from behind Alice, still looking cautious. "Just the tail then?"

"Oh just hurry up," Alice muttered, and Shirou yelped as he was propelled forward until he stumbled, falling on his face in front of Alma Elma. Frantically he looked up, and came face to face with the sight of Alma as she deliberately stroked her tail, evil grin firmly in place.

"Just the tail," Alma reassured him.

*This scene has been deleted for explicit material as well, though honestly, you shouldn't be wanting to see this anyway. What are you, some kind of sick pervert? I mean, you are reading a story based around an eroge, but really. Shouldn't you be a little ashamed of yourselves right now?*

"Well, if it's just a tail…"

"That's the spirit! Well, here we go!"

"Alright. I can do this. I just have to… Wait, what is your tail doing?"

"Haven't you ever seen a succubus' tail before, Shirou-chan?"

"No, I haven't… Oh god. Is that a mouth?"

"May-be! Teehee!"

"Oh god, it's a mouth, and it's full of tentacles!"

"Now, are you ready for this?"

"Agghhh! It's a mouth, it's full of tentacles, and it spits mucus!"

"Tehehehe! Let me show you just what a succubus can do!"

"No! No! This is not the appropriate way to fight! It's unnatural! Get away! Back, back!"

"Hehehe! You're surprisingly fun to tease, Shirou-chan! I'm going to cherish you!"

"No!"

"Just lay still and… wait, where did all those swords come from?"

"Stay back, I'm warning you!"

"You know if you use all those, you'll end up breaking the boat, don't you?"

"And I shall welcome a watery grave! It will be respite from the madness of life! Trace Bullet On!"

*Scene Break*

"Well," Alma Elma began, a small bead of sweat drop forming as she stared at the tall spouts of water that were erupting from the holes that Shirou's swords had put into the hull of the ship. "I guess you won."

"Does that mean you're going to go away?" Shirou asked, once more hiding behind Alice with one hand extended past her to wave Angel Halo frantically in the Succubi Queen's direction. Behind him, hovering in the air and ready to be launched a dozen more swords were waiting, all aimed at Alma incase that tail got near him again.

"You made me use my magic, so I guess I have to," Alma explained, giving the cowering Shirou one more sultry look as she did so. "But even if I'm going now, next time I'm going to be a serious opponent, Shirou-chan!" She eyed the swords still hanging in the air above him cautiously, finding herself curious about them but deciding not to mention them for the moment. "Though I think I'm beginning to see why Granberia seems to like you so much. You both get so flustered by things like this!"

"You know Granberia?" Shirou asked, freezing at the name of the Dragon Queen.

"We are both Heavenly Knights, you know," Alma pouted, folding her arms under her considerable bust at the way Shirou seemed to have not made that connection.

"Can you pass a message on to her for me?" Shirou requested, still frozen stiff from the trauma of the situation. Alma blinked in surprise, and even Alice seemed to react as the two monsters wondered just what a human would have to say to one of the strongest of monsters that was so important he would ask another of the strongest monsters to be a messenger for.

"I suppose," Alma admitted slowly. "You did win, after all, so I guess I owe you a favor."

"Tell her that I miss her dearly," Shirou said seriously, and Alice scowled at the confession. "Tell her I'm counting the days until we next meet," Alma's eyes lit up as she realized she was hearing what seemed to be some kind of love letter from the cute little warrior, "And tell her that the next time we meet our battle will rend the very earth asunder, the echo of steel on steel will be like thunder, and that if she doesn't try her level best to cut me into pieces then I will leave her impaled to a wall to live in shame and defeat."

Both Alice and Alma blinked, and neither would ever admit that they found the conclusion of Shirou's message to be vaguely disturbing, even to their monster sensibilities. Shirou didn't even care at that point. All he knew was that after this latest debacle, he needed a little 'proper fight time' almost as badly as he needed a little 'proper kitchen time'.

"I…" Alma began, and decided to just go ahead and pass the message on without thinking about it too much. "I'll just do that," she finished, before leaving in a flurry of monster magic, too distracted to even get one last proper tease in on the flustered warrior.

With Alma Elma gone, Alice slowly turned to glare at Shirou. He didn't even notice, too busy clutching his chest and thanking whatever god or devil that was responsible for him having escaped from this particular encounter relatively untouched.

"Shirou," Alice began, voice stern, and when he turned to look at her, finally remembering that the wall he had been using to protect himself from the succubae was actually a living sentient creature. "Go fix the boat."

Slowly, Shirou glanced at the devastation that his traced swords had wrought on the ship in general. By his best estimate, if nothing was done the ship would sink in a matter of an hour or two. Realizing that if he didn't start repairing the damage he would most likely die in the watery grave he had announced preferable, he came to a certain conclusion.

"Totally worth it."

*Scene Break*

It was later the next day after they had limped into Port Natalia that Shirou and Alice managed to find an inn. This occurred after several very dramatic and relevant events, but nobody really cares about that kind of thing, so they got left out.

"I can't believe anyone would be so evil as to attack a school!" Shirou ranted, still in a rage after having seen the bombing of the mermaid school. Even if it was a school for monsters and even monster kids are so tough that they were all able to shrug off the explosion, it was still an intolerable act in his eyes. It had taken a lot of effort not to immediately start searching for the suspicious character that he had tagged as responsible for the atrocity.

Behind him, Alice was uncharacteristically quiet. If Shirou had been more aware of the moods of females, he would have been able to interpret this silence as 'upset at something he had done previously'. Since he wasn't, he decided that it was probably 'outraged over the atrocity that they had born witness to'.

"Shirou," Alice interrupted the swordsman the moment the door to their room had shut behind them. "We need to have a talk."

"About what?" Shirou blinked, only finally beginning to realize that Alice had been unusually silent for the last day or so. In his defense, he had assumed it was because Alice had been too busy eating to talk. He had gone out of his way to deliver on the promise of sea salt after all, and her tail had been wagging while she was eating so he could rightly assumed that she was satisfied with the new flavor.

"That disgraceful display during the battle with Alma Elma," Alice told him, voice flat as she did so. Shirou shuddered, the repressed memories already coming back to haunt him.

"Why did it have mucus?" he whispered, the horror returning. "I could understand the mouth, even the tentacles. But why mucus? Why could a tail possibly need to produce mucus?"

"Not only that, but immediately afterwards you even go so far as to request a favor of an enemy?" Alice continued her scolding, reverting back to her lamia form. It was about at this point that Shirou began to realize that he might not be in the best of situations at the moment.

"Um," he began, slowly starting to back away. "Alice, are you upset about something?"

"Not at all," Alice told him, and Shirou got the impression that she was lying right there. He frantically searched his memory for what he might have possibly done to have earned Alice's wrath, and prior experience finally managed to present him with an answer.

"If this is about the message to Granberia about a rematch," he began in a hopefully soothing voice, "then in my defense the two of us have never had a fight, so I couldn't challenge you to a rematch without it being awkward?"

"It's not about Granberia," Alice told him, though whether or not she was telling the truth was a question that could go either way. A slow smile began to spread on the evil looking lamia's face. "However, during your fight with Alma, I realized that we haven't been training nearly hard enough yet."

"But we train every night," Shirou pointed out, wondering where this was going. He started to get a bad feeling when Alice brought the tip of her tail up into her hands so she could stroke it much like Alma Elma had earlier.

"We need to deal with your lack of resistance to pleasure attacks," Alice informed him and Shirou gulped as he began to put one plus one together. "And it's been a while since I've had my favorite food."

*Scene omitted once more. This time in promotion of the original eroge. If you really want to see what's happening here, go play the game and get the CG for it.*

"Alice, I think we should stop and talk about this for a…Eeek! My pants!"

"You won't be needing those for a while."

"You're not going to use your finger tentacles again, are you?"

"Why no. Since you seem to have such a problem with tails, we're going to train with those for the moment."

"You mean you're going to use your…Eek! Whoa!"

"There we go. Hora. Hora hora."

"Eep! How the hell do you do that!"

"I've trained how to use my tail extensively. Hora!"

"You mean you literally trained how to use your tail to… Eeep!"

"Indeed. I'm quite proud of my tail job skills."

"Seriously? Tail job ski-Eep!"

"Hora! Hora Hora!"

"Stop saying that word, damnit!"

"Well, since someone is getting uppity…"

"Oh god! Yours has a mouth too? That's just not right… Eek!"

"Horahorahora!"

*Meanwhile, at the super-secret Heavenly Knight wet bar back at the Monster Lord's palace*

"I'm back!" Alma Elma sang out cheerfully. "Flushed with the shame of having been beaten by Shirou-chan I've returned!"

"So he's beaten even you, has he," Granberria muttered coolly from her position leaning against the wall of the wet bar. The Dragon Knight was a frequent visitor of the wet bar herself, usually so she could drink away her sorrows of not having found a worthy opponent in a while, while sipping away at screwdrivers. Lately however all of the Knights had noticed that her usual comfort drink was no longer in service.

Instead, Granberia had taken to dousing herself up with Mai Tais and then drunkenly gushing about that one kid she had fought a while back.

Naturally, interest had been piqued all around.

"Ah, so you've met Shirou?" Tamamo chirped up, looking up from her own drink: a grasshopper. It didn't taste as good as an actual grasshopper did, but she thought the name was cute. "Doesn't he have some amazing potential? I've seen his strength with my own eyes already."

"Did you see him do that thing where he starts throwing swords all over the place?" Alma asked, curious as to whether the other Knights had caught that little trick.

"Not yet," Tamamo admitted, before pausing and giving Alma a slow look. "Tell me," she began slowly, trying not to give away anything personal. "Has he mentioned anything unusual when you were fighting?"

Tamamo didn't really believe that Shirou would be able to figure out the secret fox recipe for fried tofu, after all. Not one bit. It would be absolutely impossible.

"Well," Alma began, secretly thinking that just about everything Shirou had done was unusual, but deciding for the sake of argument to not admit that out loud. "He did say something about 'sea salt'," she offered.

Tamamo froze. "No!" she whispered, hands coming up to cover her mouth in horror. "He's discovered the secret salt! He's found out that much already!" Tamamo began to wiggle back and forth on her chair in worry. "Wawawa!" she moaned in terror.

"'Wawawa'?" Alma Elma repeated, giving the eldest Knight a disbelieving look. She knew that Tamamo was somewhere in the vicinity of four hundred years old, after all, and four hundred year olds did not just spontaneously start going 'wawawawa'.

"Hmph," Granberia scorned the silliness of her fellow Knights. Granberia was a firm believer in maintaining proper decorum after all, and was not a big fan of Alma Elma's antics on the best of days. Thinking about the whimsical succubus going after HER Shirou was ruining the taste of her Mai Tais.

"You know," Alma continued, giving the Dragon Queen a sly glance. "He had a message he wanted me to pass on to you, Granberia."

Granberia froze. She started to speak before she realized that her mouth was still full of fruit cocktail. Slowly swallowing, she made herself speak in a dignified pace.

"And that might be?" the Dragon Queen prompted with enforced casualness.

"That he misses you dearly," Alma began, and the Dragon Queen frowned at the words. "That he's counting the days until he sees you again." Granberia sighed, beginning to lose some of her interest in the message as it turned out to be kind of boring. "And that the next time you two meet your battle will tear the earth asunder, the ring of steel on steel like thunder, and that if you don't do your best to kill him he's going to defeat you and let you live in shame."

Granberia froze, not realizing she had begun to pour her Mai Tai into her lap as she took in the words. Slowly, a fierce grin began to stretch across the Queen of Dragon's face.

"That's kind of romantic," Tamamo noted, managing to come out of her concern for the sanctity of the tofu recipe to point out the typical monster reaction to that kind of thing.

"Well then," the Knight of Fire began, standing and beginning a dignified exit from the room, ignoring her lap of Ma Tai. "As if I would let such a provocation go by unanswered!"

"This is getting kind of fun!" Alma Elma declared girlishly as she and Tamamo giggled. Still, the Succubus Queen paused, looking around in concern. "Does anyone know where Erubetie is?"

"She went back to visit her birth place in Undine's spring," Tamamo pointed out, and Alma Elma nodded in understanding. That did explain why things had been so silly lately.

Erubetie wasn't the type to indulge in silliness, after all.

*Meanwhile-meanwhile, up at Granberia's room*

"Oh!" Granberia had removed her armor and was pacing back and forth in front of her closet in just her pair of 'Hello Nekomata' underwear as she pulled at her hair. "What should I do! I never had a letter of challenge like this before! I've got so much to do! I need to get my sword sharpened! What would Shirou think if I showed up with a dull blade?"

Granberia turned to her closet, rubbing her scaly chin as she looked at her wardrobe. "And my armor! Should I wear the ones that Shirou has already seen? Or go with a new set? I want to look my best for when I kill him, but wouldn't it be better to have the one's he cut up so he knows I've been thinking about him and longing for a rematch?"

And thus Granberia continued to prepare herself for her upcoming fight with Shirou, all the while twiddling her pointer fingers together and blushing like a schoolgirl without ever realizing it.

*Scene Break*

Part Seven

In which Shirou receives comfort…. Of a sort.

Both Alice and Shirou stood, heads cocked to the side as they looked at the motifs of the carvings.

"I don't get it," Shirou finally admitted, narrowing his eyebrows as he tried to understand the scene in front of him.

"…Idiot," Alice told him scornfully. "The true meaning behind it is obvious."

"And that is?" Shirou asked, honestly curious as to how a monster might understand the sacred carvings which adorned the capital palace of San Iria, the capital of the Natalia region of Sentora.

"…" Alice was silent for a moment, before apparently dismissing Shirou's concern's out of hand. "Enough. Why are we bothering to languish here anyway? This entire building reeks of stupidity."

"You have no idea either," Shirou noted, narrowing his eyes as he tried to figure out what the carvings meant. Alice scowled and crossed her arms under her breasts as she glared at her traveling companion.

"Shouldn't you already know?" she pointed out, falling back on antagonism in the face of bitter truth. "You are a hero after all, even if you are a fake one. As a follower of Illias, don't you know each of these stories by heart?"

"I'm not an Illiatian," Shirou corrected absentmindedly as he tried to understand whether the humans in the carving were worshiping or being tortured. The drawing wasn't too detailed so it was hard to tell. "I'm a Shinto."

Alice blinked at the confession, before shrugging it off. "If you're not in the grips of religious ecstasy," she asked, tapping her disguised human foot with annoyance. "Then why are we here?"

"Because this is the biggest library on the continent," Shirou admitted shamelessly. "And there's something I'm trying to find in it. And since the only way to get at the library is to sign the paperwork, meet the king, and then wait for a week while the request goes through, we have a lot of spare time on our hands."

"Tch," Alice tsked, giving the surroundings a disdainful glare. "…My palace has a much bigger library," she muttered, reminding Shirou that for all her attitude and strange mannerisms, she was technically the lord of all monsters and a ruler in her own right. "And to spend a week here," she continued, narrowing her eyes. "I might just die of boredom." She turned to glare at Shirou more fully. "That's your plan, isn't it? Knowing you couldn't match me in a real fight, you decided to try and bore me to death in such a cowardly fashion?"

Shirou sighed, and noticed that Alice was starting to draw attention from the rest of the gathered heroes who were waiting to meet the king of Natalia, a theocratic leader and one of the pinnacles of the Illiatian faith.

"Well," he pointed out. "There might be restrictions on getting into the library, but the kitchen is still open to the public. And with an entire week, that will be plenty of time for me to get some cooking done. That is, as long as we don't get kicked out for making a scene…"

"Really," Alice continued, having instantly turned back to the carvings and giving them a thoughtful look as she studied them dutifully, "the chisel work on these images are a bit sloppy, but the passion of the artist manages to be conveyed quite clearly."

She paused, and a shudder went through her body as she tried her hardest to pretend to be interested in the religion dedicated to the extinction of her species.

Shirou sighed, and gently patted Alice's shoulder. "It's okay," he soothed her. "You don't have to try so hard. Why don't we call it quits for the day and get some rest?"

Alice gave him a blank look, before brushing his hand of her. Still, she made no comment on the contact. "I will be requiring extra dango tonight in order to compensate for the trauma you have inflicted on me," she instead informed him as the two turned to leave the palace.

"With your feedback I might be able to break the sixty percent mark," Shirou nodded slowly, already turning his mind to more important things. "But I don't want to spend all night on just those. I still need to infiltrate the local restaurants in order to acquire their secrets."

"…You're not even trying to pretend that you aren't a thief," Alice noted, though she sounded pleased by the observation. She took it as a sign that she had proven to be a good influence on her traveling companion.

"It's for the greater good," Shirou told her piously. "It's not my fault that they allow their recipes to languish unfinished."

Alice nodded thoughtfully, finding his reasoning to be without flaw. Considering the reverent manner in which he spoke of cooking, she also came to the conclusion that this 'Shinto' thing that he spoke of must be a faith which revered cooking, and resolved to help him spread the word to all the world.

It was such a better religion than Illias worship, anyway.

Unfortunately for Alice's stomach, which translated to misfortune for everyone else around her, it was at that moment that a guard jogged up to the two.

"Excuse me," the guard began, wondering if he should introduce himself. A name as distinguished as 'Guard Captain A' was obviously the kind of name that should be graced to as many others as possible, after all. "But would there happen to be a 'Mr. Shirou' around here? The Shirou that applied for the meeting with the king?"

"Oh, that's me," Shirou obediently raised his hand, wondering just what was going on here.

"Hmm. So it's you?" Guard Captain A asked, giving Shirou a once over. He thought the young looking boy didn't look like much, but well, he was just a guard captain. Who cares what he thought? He didn't even rate a proper CG in the end. "Well, the King will see you now."

"Well, that will speed things up," Shirou said in relief. He glanced at Alice, expecting her to be equally happy at the reduction of their wait time only to find her glaring at the newcomer.

"So we won't have a week for Shirou to cook before getting to the boring stuff?" she demanded, and when the guard captain gave her a nod her eyes narrowed. "It's only the fact that killing and eating you would no doubt interfere with any potential future meals that allows you to remain breathing," she told him spitefully.

"Huh?" Guard Captain A blinked, not quite understanding the threat, but deciding to dismiss it. The strange looking woman couldn't possibly be serious after all, right?

"Alice," Shirou began slowly, knowing that yes, the Monster Lord really was being serious. Alice pouted briefly, before deciding that she could always wait until the guard captain was alone, and Shirou was busy, before following through with her plans.

"Just wash your neck and wait," she muttered, arms still folded and a sour expression on her face as she followed Guard Captain A to the audience hall. "I hate it when my food is dirty."

*Scene Break*

The king turned out to be a wise looking old man, but beyond that not particularly noticeable. Alice continued to look grumpy, though Shirou did his best to put on an appropriately awed look.

This would help him get into the library after all. The largest library in Sentora, which just might have information about things which might help him deal with being in another universe. And maybe recipes. Those would be a nice way to help deal with the stress of constant potential molestation.

"Hero called Shirou," the king began. "I wish to ask you a question. You… are not baptized, is that correct?"

"Well, no," Shirou admitted, wondering if that was going to interfere in his quest for knowledge. "I was delayed from making it to the temple due to, er, complicated reasons."

Said 'complicated reason' was still standing beside him, looking around the audience hall with a haughty gaze.

"Well, they might have red carpets," Alice muttered to herself. "But if I wanted red carpets I could totally have them in MY audience hall. It's just, well, they stain so easily and monsters are rather messy as vassals…"

No, Alice was most certainly not suffering from 'regency envy'. What a ridiculous thought.

The king on the other hand responded more to Shirou's response then to his obvious nervousness.

"So it's true," the king gasped, wide eyed in wonder. "It's just as Illias revealed to me in a dream! She appeared to me last night in a dream, with her beautiful hair, and pure face, and ginormous boobies…"

Shirou coughed slightly, and the king seemed to realize that he was starting to venture into undignified topics and hastily corrected himself.

"Anyway," the king cleared his throat briefly. "Illias revealed to me that an unbaptized person by the name of Shirou would come before me, and that this unbaptized hero would be the one to defeat the Monster Lord!"

"Ah," Shirou nodded his condolences. "I understand. I get those dreams sometimes too. I've found it helps if you just get away from places where you constantly hear the word 'Illias'. Have you considered taking a vacation? In Port Natalia they hardly ever say her name."

"Wait, what?" Alice broke in, interrupting her own muttering about how much better her chandeliers looked then these ones did. Even the king seemed a little confused by Shirou's response.

"The Illias dreams," Shirou explained. "They go away if you ignore them long enough. Trust me, I know."

When the silence continued to drag on, Shirou realized that he had apparently said something wrong.

"I mean," he began, scratching his head as he tried to find a way to cover up his faux passé. "Go Illias?" he tried, raising one hand weakly into the air in a false show of enthusiasm.

"…Yes…" the king finally concluded, wondering just what was going on but deciding that it would take too much effort to truly get it and thus let it pass. Alice on the other hand was giving Shirou a measuring look as she finally realized that there was something very peculiar about her companion.

Besides the strange swords that showed up. Or his deceptive age. Or his odd fear of succubi. Or his complete lack of common knowledge. Or his unnatural cooking skills…

Well, those made up for a lot of the other inconsistencies, so Alice decided to just let it pass as well.

"Now," the King began again, getting back on track. "I shall indicate the path you should take. There are three wise men on this continent. You must demonstrate your power to all three, and then receive their blessing. I shall bestow this on the one who receives the acknowledgment of all three!"

The king pulled aside a cloth covering an odd shape beside him, and instantly Shirou's eyes began to tear up as he gazed with adulation at what had been revealed.

"It's beautiful," Shirou whispered, joy in his voice.

The King looked confident now that the conversation had started to stray towards areas he was more familiar with. "This is the Goddess Sword," he continued, explaining the heavenly blade beside his throne. "If you wield this it is said that all monsters, even the Monster Lord, will bow down before you!"

"Its light soothes away all the pain," Shirou whispered to himself as once more Unlimited Blade Work told him WAY more about the sword than some stupid king could ever say. "It's very presence is peace. The sight of it is like a thousand angels gently massaging my eyeballs as they sing heavenly halleluiahs and the most gentle of lullabies."

Beside him, Alice huffed, folding her arms as she did so. She definitely didn't like the way Shirou seemed to be entranced by the sword. After all, hadn't she already given him a perfectly good weapon?

"Now begin your quest," the King continued grandly, "and I will bestow this sword to you!"

"It doesn't scream at all," Shirou continued in a trance. "I thought I would never escape the screaming. But even now, it is blissfully silent."

Alice huffed again, and this time the sound was echoed from Shirou's waist as Angel Halo also released a strangely annoyed grumble. If Shirou had been paying more attention to the two, then he would have noticed the annoyed expression on Alice's face, which was most definitely not a pout as Monster Lords just didn't pout, and might have been able to stop what happened next.

"What a stupid quest," Alice finally interrupted both the King and Shirou's reverence as she stalked with offended dignity towards the sword.

"Alice," Shirou began, suddenly nervous at his companions actions. "What are you doing?"

"Feh!" Alice snorted, grabbed the sword and raised it above her head.

"Noo!" Shirou cried out, hand stretched out in vain as the Goddess Sword shattered.

"How can this be!" the King gasped, staring with horror at the ruined weapon as Shirou dropped to his knees, hands still out.

"The peace," he wept at the swords destruction. "My respite from the horrors of the world. My happy place. Gone…"

"With crap like this you wouldn't even have been able to scratch the Monster Lord," Alice continued to scold the broken hero. "Three wise men? Proof of power? What a load of crap from this old man!"

The King started to foam at the mouth as the poor guy suffered a seizure at the unexpected events. Deep in his heart, Shirou envied him the escape into madness that he knew he could never have.

"I'll show you the hero's way," Alice continued, glaring at Shirou. "Go to the four spirits, and ask for their blessings."

"Four spirits?" Shirou echoed brokenly, still mourning the swords destruction. Yeah, he could just trace it now, but it would be reduced by a full rank. Just that level of euphoria would never be enough for him to hide from the horrors of his life anymore. It would have taken an S ranked ability to give him the peace that was now cruelly lost to him.

"Salamander, Sylph, Undine, and Gnome," Alice listed each of the spirits. "They should be somewhere on this continent. Locate them and ask for their blessing, and they will grant you the power worthy of a hero."

"Why?" Shirou asked listlessly, still broken deep inside.

Alice misunderstood the nature of Shirou's question, assuming he meant 'why would she help him defeat the Monster Lord when she was the Monster Lord herself' rather than 'why have you taken all hope from me'.

Honestly, Alice just didn't understand what all the fuss was about. After all, her quest was so much better than that smelly old man's quest. Her quest had FOUR objectives, while his only had THREE, which automatically made it more heroic. Besides, the sword she had given was WAY more powerful than that stupid broken one.

"Be grateful," she told her human companion, and nodded with satisfaction as she interpreted the way Shirou sagged as 'Acknowledging her contribution to his quest' rather than 'Having abandoned all hope of relief'.

When Angel Halo groaned again and Shirou shuddered once more, Alice nodded again.

"Alice," Shirou began, "did my sword just try to comfort me?"

"You should be grateful for that too," she pointed out. "After all, you had been eying another sword just a moment ago."

"It was jealous?" Shirou repeated, twitching as he did so. "As in not only is it alive, but it also has emotions?"

Alice began to answer him, and then paused, some strange monster instinct that warned the species when they were about to break their toys, an instinct which usually only came up during mating and was very important to ensure that they continue to breed, kicked in and told her to just let it be.

When Alice didn't answer, Shirou just shuddered again. Alice nodded.

There. Now Shirou could never say that she hadn't helped him in the quest. Alice figured she deserved an extra big meal after having gone so far out of her way to help the human. She'd make sure to point that out to him later.

*Scene Break*

"Alice," Shirou began after he had recovered enough to walk once more. "What are you doing?"

"What do you mean?" Alice asked him blankly.

"Even if we did get away with blaming the sword's destruction on an attack from the Monster Lord attacking," Shirou began, suppressing a shudder at the loss of the blades presence. "Which is technically true, we still have to look innocent or people will want to question us. We were the only other ones present when you broke the sword."

"…Then if we are trying to look innocent," Alice began, narrowing her eyes, "why are you mentioning who was responsible?"

"They won't even look at me," Shirou dismissed her concern out of hand. "It's you that has to be careful."

"And why is that?" Alice asked, wondering just where this conversation was going.

"You're not whistling," Shirou told her, and Alice gave him a flat look as he continued to walk calmly through the confusion that had settled in on the castle with his hands behind his head, whistling innocently.

"And why is whistling in any way relevant?" Alice demanded, giving him a sneer as she did so.

"Because it's proof of innocence," Shirou told her firmly. "When someone has done something that they feel guilty of, they're way too distracted to be able to whistle. Because of that, whenever there's a crime that has been committed anyone whistling is automatically free of suspicion."

"….Idiot," Alice shook her head, not quite willing to believe that Shirou was really that dumb.

"What happened!" one of the guards in the background shouted, apparently not knowing what the fuss was about.

"The Monster Lord appeared and destroyed the Goddess sword," another guard responded.

"The Monster Lord?" the first guard, Guard H as he was called, "But isn't it too quiet for an attack by the Monster Lord?"

"Hey," the second guard, who was called Guard F, paused, realizing Guard H's point. "You're right! Quick, find anyone suspicious!"

"Hmmm," Guard H hummed, eyes narrowed as he searched the audience. "There! That woman isn't whistling!"

"….Idiots," Alice muttered unable to actually believe that she had been singled out so quickly for a reason so stupid.

"Just start whistling and they'll back off," Shirou whispered to her urgently. When Alice turned her head deliberately away, Shirou realized a flaw in his otherwise perfect plan. "You can't whistle, can you?"

Alice stayed silent for a variety of reasons. The first was because she refused to acknowledge that Shirou might in any way have been right about something so ridiculous. The second was because as the Monster Lord, she had no reason to worry about a few insignificant humans trying to arrest her, regardless of the annoyance it might bring her way.

And the third was definitely not because she couldn't whistle. She had been busy training to be an all-powerful Monster Lord all her life. It wasn't like she had time to learn something so trivial!

"Well," Shirou began, glancing around nervously as more guard started to hone in on their position. "I guess the only thing we can do now is wait for the distraction while we get out of here."

Alice was prepared to snort in derision over such an inelegant plan when at that moment a huge explosion rocked the palace to its very foundation. Her eyes narrowed as she glared at Shirou, daring him to be right again. All it would take was one more time, and then her monster pride would demand that she put him in his place through the use of kinky sex acts.

Monster pride was weird like that.

"There," Shirou nodded his head as the guards turned their attention away from Alice to scurry around like ants once more. "Now we can get out of here." The two began to pick up their pace, well Shirou did anyway though Alice refused to move at a less dignified speed when the shouts of the guards reached their ears.

"There! It's the Monster Lord," a new guard, Guard A declared as he raced around in circles.

"No!" the guard known as Guard E, though he sometimes used the silly nickname 'Cervantes Ceaser the Fourth', "It's worse! It's one of the Four Heavenly Knights! It's Granberia!"

Shirou froze. Beside him, Alice frowned slightly, wondering if maybe she should pull her usual disappearing act whenever a monster showed up, before deciding to do just that.

After all, in the confusion she might be able to track down that jerk, Guard Captain A, and unleash her vengeance against him. After all, as a Monster Lord it wouldn't do to let just anyone get away with interfering in her business.

Especially when that interference disrupted a potential meal.

*Scene Break*

Though Granberia didn't show it, seeing as it would be improper for a swordswoman, er, swordsmonster, like her to display emotions in battle, inside her heart was all aflutter as she homed in on her target's location.

Was her sword sharp enough? She had stayed up all night trying to get it to gleam just right so that it would look its best when it was covered in his blood. How about her armor? She had been so nervous that she had almost ended up honing out the nicks when she had been polishing it, and she had thought about maybe deepening the scratches Shirou had given it so that he'd be able to tell she had been thinking about him.

Though she appeared calm when she finally confronted Shirou, inside she was crouched in a corner pulling at her hair and fussing in front of an imaginary mirror. Did he even remember her? Yeah, the fight might have made a good impression, but she was pretty sure he had healed up by now. His wounds had seemed to close a little quick when they were fighting the first time.

Well, yeah, he had sent her that message, but what if he had found someone else to fight in the meantime? Granberia's maiden heart just wasn't as developed as her warrior heart, and thus she continued to be beset upon by doubt as she studied Shirou carefully.

"Granberia," Shirou said, his voice full of emotion as the two met again. Inside, the Dragon Queen squealed giddily. He remembered her name! "I'm glad you're here."

"Oh," Granberia smirked back at him confidently, betraying none of the butterflies in her three stomachs. "I got your message."

'Was that too forward?' she wondered. 'Maybe she should have started with something a little more formal. Something like, "Today is the day you die!" or "I will spill your blood across the earth until it can drink no more!"?'

"I've missed you so much," Shirou smiled back genuinely.

Oh! He had been thinking about her!

"I've been looking forward to this," Granberia told him in return. "Ever since our first meeting, I've been waiting until we could be reunited."

"And I you," Shirou said, and meant it. "I've longed to see you again for so long and now you're here."

"We should be able to pick back up where we left off," Granberia told him, suppressing a fidget. Would it be inappropriate to just attack him now, or should she wait until they had properly bantered enough? "I've been thinking about it for so long, that I'm a little giddy."

"You know," one of the nameless guards in the background began, sounding a little confused. "I think they know each other."

"Yeah," another guard concluded, frowning as he did so. He hesitated before continuing. "Does anyone else think that this conversation is a little odd?"

"Yeah," the first nameless guard admitted, also frowning. "You don't think the two are friends or something? It kind of sounds like the two are on a date…"

That was as far as he got before Granberia appeared behind him and knocked him unconscious with the flat of her sword. She scowled down at the unmoving body. Honestly! How could he say something so embarrassing! It wasn't a date, it was a death match!

"Are you ready, Granberia?" Shirou asked, and the swordsmonster had no more time for the audience. "I'm going to give it to you fast and hard now."

"I'm looking forward to it! Just don't expect me to take it lying down!" she grinned savagely, brandishing her blade in his direction.

"Yeah, definitely like the two are on a date…" the other nameless guard joined the first one on the ground as this time Shirou backhanded him to shut him up.

With no other warning, the two launched themselves at each other.

*Scene Break*

"Just what is going on here?" Guard Captain A demanded as he came across a strange scene. He had raced towards the horrible explosions and endless ring of steel on steel as fast as he could, willing to lay down his life for the glory of Illias but when he arrived at the hallway which led to the grand hall where the sounds of combat were coming from it was to discover that all the other guards, and a good number of heroes, were all gathered around the final door to the battle with confused expressions on their faces.

"We," Guard H began slowly. "We're not actually sure," he finally admitted.

"Not sure? Holy battle against a monster invader is occurring in the room next to you, and you're all just standing around?" Guard Captain A demanded, furious at the lack of initiative his guards were showing. If this kept up they might lose their mook licenses, and Guard Captain A had worked too hard for the title of 'Chief Mook' to just let that go by.

"We're not actually sure it counts as combat," Guard F explained, still listening in at the door.

"'Counts as combat'?" Guard Captain A repeated incredulously. "Just listen to that!" The shouts of the hero he had met earlier were met with equal bellows from the Heavenly Knight that had invaded their city, and Guard Captain A was eager to get in on the action and support the small looking kid who had shown up earlier.

There was no way someone that small could handle a fight like this on his own!

"Yeah," Guard H nodded. "Listen."

Not quite sure what his fellow mooks were getting at, Guard Captain A began to pay a bit more attention to what was being said by the combatants.

"Yes! Yes! Just try and stick it in me! Deeper! Deeeper!" That was definitely Granberia.

"Ha! Just you wait! I'm not going to stop until it's all the way in!" That was the hero kid.

"Don't think I'm that easy! As soon as I get you on the floor, I'm going to get on top of you and you'll never escape me then!" Granberia again.

"That's what you think! The moment you let your guard down I'll be behind you, ready to let you have it!" The kid again.

"Huh?" Guard Captain A blinked, not quite sure how to interpret that kind of dialogue.

"Yeah," Guard H nodded, still with a befuddled look on his blank face. "That's what we thought."

Guard Captain A screwed up his face, and listened in again, wondering if he had been mistaken the first time.

"Again! Faster, faster!" that hero kid urged, shouting in excitement.

"Yes! Do you think you can keep up? Come on! Show me how much you can take! Yessss!" Granberia again.

"That doesn't sound like combat at all," Guard Captain A scowled, wondering if maybe he was being deceived. "It sounds more like someone is just making a lot of noise while breaking the commandment about giving semen to monsters!" Angry at the deception, Guard Captain A marched towards the door the rest of the heroes and soldiers were gathered around, determined to interrupt the sacrilegious act of a human and a monster boinking.

"No!" Guard F yelped, trying to stop Guard Captain A as the rest of the gathered people instead started to back away from the door. "Don't!"

"Now see here…" Guard Captain A began as he yanked open the door only to 'eep' in surprise before dodging to the right as a sword flew right past where his head had been only moments ago. Then he 'eeped' again and this time dodged left as another sword went through right where his heart had been only a second ago. Then his eyes widened and he gave a final 'eep' as he slammed the door right before an enormous ball of flame made it to where he was standing.

The door nearly buckled as the fireball slammed into it, and Guard Captain A was disturbed to note that the door was now noticeably smoking.

"Well," he began shakily. "It certainly LOOKS like combat anyway…"

"Yeah," Guard H nodded. "That's what we thought too."

"Are you ready? I can keep this up all night!" The hero kid.

"Yes! I'll hold you to that! You won't be getting any rest until dawn! Yessss!" Granberia.

"That's just so weird," Guard Captain A finally decided.

"So should we get involved?" Guard F asked, still trying to figure out just what the proper course of action was.

Guard Captain A took one more look at the smoldering door, and listened as an enormous cracking noise most likely signaled that one of the stone pillars in the great hall was shattered with apparent ease.

"You know," Guard Captain A finally decided. "I think for now we should hold back in case he needs help later on." The rest of the guards and heroes nodded, wincing as yet another explosion rocked the palace foundation before they continued listening in on the weird dialogue.

Guard Captain A was about to join in when he noticed the woman that had been with the hero kid standing right behind him, staring at him intently.

"Can I help you?" he asked, wondering why it was that her gaze filled him with such terror and dread.

"…Too many witnesses," Alice finally decided, before glancing at the door that Shirou and Granberia were fighting behind.

"Again from behind! Do you really think that will be enough to satisfy me?" Granberia.

"Ha! You might complain, but I can tell you like it!" Shirou.

"Yes! Come on! Don't hold back on me! Give it to me! Give it all to me! Yes!" Granberia once more.

Alice sighed, rubbing her forehead briefly as she did so.

"…Idiots."

*Scene Break*

At some point in the fight, all the pillars had been broken. The red carpet and expensive furniture had all been ravaged. Enormous gouges had been scarred into the floor deep enough to reach even the basement.

Still, it wasn't until the roof caved in that both Shirou and Granberia decided to take a brief break, both of them supporting themselves with their swords as the two frantically gasped for breath.

"Where… are you getting… those swords from?" Granberia wondered as she panted, curious about just where the strange projectiles kept appearing from.

"They… were always… there," Shirou told her, also desperately sucking down air as he attempted to force a second wind into himself.

The two were once more covered in the wounds of battle, blood leaking down from their every limb, armor and clothing bearing marks of violence dealt to each other during the fight.

Both of them were grinning from ear to ear as they savored the delicious feeling of battle.

"You've gotten better," Granberia noted, eyes tracing up and down her opponent's deceptively thin frame as she took in his improvement with monster sword techniques. Though externally she was managing to maintain a somewhat dignified exterior, internally she was cursing her lack of foresight.

Her dragon blood was getting hot again, and she was once more feeling the side effects of her heated temper. She was beginning to wish she had brought a change of panties with her, because an unfortunate reaction of her biology was starting to make her worry that not just her blood was dripping.

Stupid monster biology. If unfortunate reproductive urges were to interfere with her sacred battle with the warrior in front of her, then she would never be able to forgive herself.

"And you're holding back less," Shirou shot back at his opponent. The euphoria he was feeling was almost enough to compare to the peace the Goddess Blade had given him. There were no strange assaults on his groin, no unusual or smelly fluids, and all the attempts to kill him hadn't been accompanied by pleasure.

This was now officially Shirou's happy place.

Granberia's grin was savage as she finally righted herself, Shirou doing the same opposite her. "And I'll hold back even less now," she told him, her spirit singing with joy at the warrior before her. "Now, are you ready to be dominated?"

Shirou blinked.

"Excuse me?" he asked, brow furrowing as he focused on the last word that Granberia had used. In turn, the Dragon Queen blinked, and then flushed slightly.

"I mean 'defeated'," she corrected herself. "Are you ready to be defeated?" What the heck had just happened there?

Shirou relaxed at the correction his smile returning. "Oh? Do you really think it'll be so easy?" he taunted back now that he was once more on comfortable ground.

"Ha!" Granberia snorted. "You'll see after I violate you."

This time, when Shirou blinked Granberia did as well.

"'After I'm VICTORIOUS'," she repeated, stressing the word she had originally meant to say. What was going on?

"Victorious," Shirou repeated, this time sounding dubious. He might be able to willfully ignore one slip, but two was enough for even his oblivious nature to take note of.

"Enough talking! Let's get back to the fuckin-… FIGHTING!" Granberia managed to catch herself before she finished that little slip, but she felt a bright flush starting to form on her face at her continuing misspeaks.

"Granberia," Shirou began, and he felt concern starting to grow as the dragon girl started to get more and more flustered. "Are you alright?"

Alas, it was poor timing for Granberia, but for all her devotion to the sword she was still a monster. Her poor body wasn't able to properly distinguish between 'bloodlust' and 'ordinary lust', and the more excited she became the harder it had become for her to hold back the part of her that just wanted to skip the swords and get right down to humping like bunnies.

"Be quiet!" she snapped at Shirou, her embarrassment shining through as she attempted to cover it up with anger. "I don't' need your coc- CONCERN!" She gulped as she once more managed to catch herself in time.

Why? Why was this happening now? Shirou was going to think she was some sort of weird woman if this kept up! She didn't want to give him the wrong impression after all. She was here to kill him, not take him back to her castle, pin him to her bed, and then…

Granberia flushed even brighter as her heated imagination started to display CG scenes that typically only came up whenever the hero lost in the original game. Yes, even the vore ones.

"Well this is enough for today!" she squeaked out, sounding distinctly unlike her normal cool and composed self. "I'll be back when you improved some more, but for now I'll get you off… Let you off! For now I'll LET you off!"

And thus, Granberia the Heavenly Knight of Fire fled, blushing all the while as she tried to compose herself.

Alone, standing in the ruins of the palace of San Iria, with sword in hand, the wounds of battle still fresh on his body, Shirou could only stare woodenly after her.

"What the heck just happened?" he wondered to himself aloud.

Part Eight

In which Shirou isn't the one getting teased, and then Shirou makes actual progress on his quest.

"Hmmm," Shirou muttered, scratching his chin as he studied the building before him. "Well, let's see," he began slowly. "Broken down decrepit old mansion in the middle of nowhere? Check."

He glanced to the side of the house. "Filthy and ancient graveyard, covered in broken tombstones and inhabited by a murder of evil looking crows? Check."

As though to punctuate his statement one of the crows that had been perched above a tombstone with a shattered angel on it cawed ominously.

He glanced to the other side of the house. "And an empty field which was once a battlefield where hundreds were killed that still bears the marks of the war which corrupted it? Check."

With a nod, Shirou came to the only logical conclusion he could reach.

"Well, this is the place," he summed up. "According to the people of San Iria, there's been some unusual things going on here." He nodded thoughtfully. "It's a good thing we showed up in the middle of the night during a new moon when it's cloudy out," he continued, still rubbing his chin. "That way there will be absolutely no light at all, and it almost guarantees that if there's anyone trying to make trouble here then they'll be at it for sure."

"Shirou," Alice began, glaring at her companion. "Stop talking. I'd already seen everything you mentioned, but did I say anything about it? No! I didn't think it was necessary to point out something so obvious! You don't understand a woman's heart at all!"

"Oh look, Alice!" Shirou interrupted the snake woman's rant. "Up in the window you can make out the shadowy form of a creepy little girl!"

"Hiii!" Alice sqeeked pitifully and ducked to hide behind Shirou's small back. Shirou was grateful that she had done so, because if she hadn't then she would have certainly seen the satisfied smile on his face.

No, he hadn't forgotten at all that Alice seemed to be scared of ghosts.

Nor had he forgotten the way she had gleefully pointed out how even being eaten would be pleasurable. Nor the way she had destroyed the Goddess Sword.

"Alice," he chided the cowering lamia cheerfully. "Surely you aren't scared?"

"Of course not!" Alice declared, though Shirou noted she was STILL hiding behind him. "The only thing I'm scared of is hunger!"

"Well that's good," Shirou began, before whipping his hand out to point at the cemetery. "Look! That crow's eyes are glowing!"

"Hiiii!" Alice yelped again, and this time slithered until she could hide in front of Shirou instead. "Where? Where?"

"Oh, my never mind," Shirou shrugged casually. "It was just a trick of the light."

"A trick of the light?" Alice's eyes narrowed, and despite the way her tail was quivering in terror she at least managed to keep her human portion still. "It's completely dark out, as you pointed out earlier," she hissed at him. "Where did the light come from?"

Alice was beginning to suspect that her usually complacent cook slave might be taking advantage of the situation.

"From the glowing and misty figure which appeared mysteriously in the doorway to the mansion," he chirped.

"Shirou," Alice began narrowing her eyes at the beatific smile on the swordsman's face. "There absolutely isn't any chance of their being something as unscientific as…. HIIIIIII!"

This time she squeaked twice as loudly as mid-sentence she had glanced behind her to verify that Shirou was just making fun of her only to catch sight of a mysterious glowing and slightly transparent woman in an elegant dress watching her sadly from one of the top windows.

"Huh," Shirou grunted, eyes narrowing. "There really was a glowing, misty, transparent figure after all."

If Alice was feeling a little more composed, she would have seen to exercising some righteous feminine wrath on Shirou as he admitted to having lied earlier. Instead, she was making sure to keep him between her and any unnaturalness.

It would be easier to lob him at any g-g-g-ghosts so she could run away if he was in arms distance, after all.

*Scene Break*

Shortly after the two of them had entered the mansion, Alice reluctantly after Shirou cajoled her into it, they had been separated briefly as Shirou had to deal with a few monsters. Afterwards, when Alice hadn't shown up like she normally did, Shirou had begun to get worried and tracked the lamia down to see if she was alright.

He certainly hadn't been expecting the sight that had greeted him when he found her.

Shirou would never admit it, but a small part of him actually found the scene he had come across a little funny.

It was a small part, one which had started to develop ever since he met Alice, and one that he had noted had been growing the longer he stayed in this world, but it was definitely a part which he couldn't quite deny.

After all, watching the Monster Lord cower in the corner, hugging her snake tail as though it was a teddy bear, sucking on her thumb, and shivering in terror was just such a ridiculous sight that Shirou couldn't help but find it amusing.

"Alice," Shirou finally spoke up to the cowering lamia, the much larger part of him which instinctively responded with innate protectiveness and a desire to help all around him winning out over his growing sadistic side. "Are you alright?"

When Alice just continued to suck her thumb, Shirou wondered if he had accidently broke the monster by bringing her to a haunted mansion.

"Would it help if you held my hand?" he offered, holding his non sword arm out to the lamia as he gave her a comforting smile.

Alice still didn't respond, but the very tip of the tail which she was still clinging too slowly inched out to the extended limb, wrapping around his wrist firmly.

Shirou smiled soothingly at her, and started to try and make progress to returning her to a semi-functional state through the use of soft words, warm comfort, and carefully squirreled away snacks that he had taken to storing on his body at all times in case the lamia suddenly got hungry around him, when a loud groaning noise from hallway outside the room became audible.

"Hyaaa!" Alice screamed girlishly, before taking off at a sprint, er slither. Shirou, unfortunately still attached to the lamia at the wrist by her tail was dragged along.

"Whoa!" he yelped as Alice began to slither in circles, waving him behind her like a ragdoll, only for Alice to hit her tail against a nearby table and somehow trip. Shirou wasn't quite certain how she tripped, seeing as she didn't even have legs at this point, but the end result was her falling to the ground and rolling.

Shirou, still attached at the tail, promptly found himself completely enclosed by Alice's coils once more as she desperately clung to him, squashing his face into an inappropriate and scantily clad area.

"Take him!" he managed to hear her crying. "He's delicious! I'm too bony and sour!"

That small part of Shirou which had developed sadistic tendencies noted that the part he was pressing against was most definitely not boney in the least.

"Oh," Alice spoke again, and Shirou noted that she no longer sounded like an eight year old girl in a slasher movie. "It's just a zombie girl." He felt her jiggle slightly and he got the impression that she was looking down at his head, still buried in her chest. "Shirou, take two steps forward."

At this point, Shirou was starting to have trouble breathing, and wished sincerely that she would hurry up and uncoil herself. Still, the quickest way to get air seemed to be to do what she said, so he took the required two steps. A thumping noise greeted his ears, and he felt Alice finally start to uncoil herself.

"Hmph," Alice grunted, and once more she appeared to be in control of herself. Shirou didn't make any mention of her earlier episode, and instead decided to focus on breathing again. "Don't startle me like that."

"So you're starting to feel better then?" Shirou asked her, hoping that the earlier scene wouldn't be repeated. Well, actually, it was kind funny, and moderately adorable, but it would have been much funnier and much more adorable if it hadn't given him whiplash.

"Feel better?" Alice glared at him. "Are you trying to imply that I, the Monster Lord, might in any way be inconvenienced by anything your feeble mind might be able to come up with?"

"Feeble mind?" Shirou frowned, and while he knew that it was just Alice trying to blow off some steam, he was still mildly offended by that particular statement. "Then why are you still holding my hand?" he challenged.

Alice glanced involuntarily at where her tail was still latched to Shirou's wrist, small tremors going through it at odd intervals, and then with great dignity uncoiled herself.

"I have no idea what… you're… talking…" she trailed off from her usual denial as the floor beneath her started to creak. Slowly she glanced down.

And then the floor gave out beneath her weight.

"Kya!" she had time to yelp. "Shirou! Avenge my death!" And then she was gone.

"You're the Monster Lord," Shirou sighed, rubbing his forehead as he addressed empty air. "I doubt a fall is going to kill you." Still, he was beginning to feel genuinely bad that he had brought her along with him to this place which seemed designed specifically to represent a personal hell for Alice, and so decided to hurry up and follow her when something at the door caught his eyes.

"Wow. So that's what Alice meant when she said 'zombie girl'," Shirou noted, a sliver of unease already going down his spine at the sight of the three shambling corpses which were beginning to slowly make their way to them. "This is like something straight out of the movies.

"Well," he continued, still studying the three damaged female bodies as they shambled to him in various states of undress. "Not quite like the movies." Shirou was once more talking to himself to help relieve a strange nameless anxiety that had settled in him at the sight of the walking dead. He wasn't quite sure what the anxiety meant, but it was definitely there. "If this was like the movies they'd be saying, 'Braaaaains,' or something."

"Semen," one of the zombie girls promptly spoke up. Shirou twitched.

"Nah," he told himself, shaking his head firmly. "I'm just imagining things."

"Semen," another of the zombie girls repeated, arms outstretched towards the living human.

"Seeeemen," the third moaned.

"I guess it is kinda like the movies," Shirou shakily got out, and then he realized something important, the source of his anxiety, a fact his conscious mind hadn't been able to bear and thus had suppressed.

The zombie girls were monsters. Monsters ate male semen.

The zombie girls were corpses: cold, grey, and rotting.

Those corpses were about to try and…

"Oh screw that!" Shirou yelped, wondering if abandoning all dignity and fleeing to leave Alice to whatever fate awaited her was justifiable when compared to the fact that he was about to be molested by the walking dead.

*Scene Deleted, but for all you really sick ones who are kinda curious, here's a brief hint*

"Oh God! Is it trying to eat me, or is it… No! That is disgusting! Stop! Stop right now! Oh god, I'm gonna be sick!"

*Yeah, it was kinda like that*

"I will never be clean again," Shirou muttered as he stood over the pile of now still monsters that had reverted back to just being corpses once they had been sealed.

"Hey!" a newcomer shouted, glaring at the adventure as he stood frozen in horror. "Who are you and what did you do to my zombies!"

"I will have to burn these clothes," Shirou continued, still speaking in a monotone as he stared at something only he could see, a thousand yards off.

"Hey," the newcomer, a young looking girl wearing black and purple striped clothes and carrying a bizarre pseudo medical kit with her stomped her foot angrily. "Are you ignoring me! Stop it!"

"I wonder if I should remove the skin as well?" Shirou mused to himself. "I'm sure it will grow back, and after what has been done to me I'm not sure I could handle keeping my current set."

"Stop ignoring me!" the little girl continued, before pausing as she took in what Shirou had said. "Actually," she began, rubbing her chin in contemplation. "If you're serious about that, I might be able to help."

Shirou finally took in the sight of the new monster. "Didn't you say that those were your zombies earlier?" he asked slowly, and the girl monster blinked.

"Yeah," she nodded, still contemplating at just how would be the best procedure to remove the intruder's skin. "Why?"

"I just wanted to make sure I knew who to kill," he told her seriously, and that was about the point where the girl realized that she may, just may that is, be in trouble.

*Another scene which is just more amusing when left to your imaginations rather than being typed out*

"You think you can hurt me? Ha! Frederika! Go rape…Eeek! Frederika! How did you make her explode like that? That was my best zombie and now I have pieces of it all in my hair!"

"Don't worry. You're next."

"I'm next for what…. Oh. Oh shit."

*Yeah. Its better you not ask*

"Come out, come out, wherever you are," Shirou sang as he stalked through the catacomb beneath the haunted mansion. It was a huge room lined with hundreds of caskets. Somewhere in here, the one responsible for the most disgusting molestation he had received yet was hiding.

For a moment, Shirou wondered if maybe he was overreacting. He was supposed to be a hero, after all. He was supposed to save everyone. Surely he should be willing to look into himself and forgive and forget, right?

Then he remembered that the one who he was searching for had been casually desecrating the dead and denying their souls their proper rest.

And also caused him to receive the equivalent of a zombie blow job.

Yeah. This was a perfectly justifiable response, he decided.

He thought he had managed to locate the little monster, and was preparing to stab away, when he realized it was only Alice. The Monster Lord was once more cowering in a corner, tail in hand and thumb in mouth.

"Hey, Alice," he greeted her blankly, and the Monster Lord jumped in response.

"I'M SO SORRY! I'M SO SORRY!" Alice cried like a little girl. "An evil god, the first Monster Lord! Anyone, I don't care! Just please help me!"

Shirou paused, and the sight of his cowering companion was enough to resurface his more protective instincts. He began to reach out to comfort the terrified Alice when she continued.

"I won't do bad things anymore!" Alice continued. "I won't bully the foxes, or step on their tails, or pull on their ears, or steal their tofu!"

Shirou paused, and wondered once more just why Alice seemed to have such a grudge against foxes. The pause was enough for Alice to continue.

"And I won't do my best to crush Shirou's soul either!" Shirou twitched at that particular bit. "I won't tell him about all the ways monsters rape their victims, or how they make being eaten feel good! I won't purposefully lead him into monster traps just so that I can hear him cry afterwards! I won't use strange monster techniques on him and call it training just so I can watch him squirm!"

Shirou twitched again, and then he sighed. He had known it. Damnit, but he had always known it. There was no way using a tail like THAT could ever possibly count as training.

"Alice," he spoke up, interrupting the nearly catatonic lamia. "You're not the bad one. The bad one is the little girl that just ran through here. Did you see where she went?"

"She's the bad one?" Alice perked up instantly, rising to her full height in a heartbeat. Shirou noted with some concern that her eyes had apparently rolled all the way back into her head, giving her a somewhat unnerving look. "Are you sure?"

"Yes," Shirou told her seriously. "I'm sure. She's the bad one, and bad ones need to be punished."

"Yes," Alice repeated in a monotone. "Bad girls need to be punished!" Once more, Alice's eyes flashed with mysterious monster power, and a nearby coffin exploded, revealing the necromancer who Shirou had been hunting. The tiny monster only had a chance to let loose one strangled 'Kya!' before Alice was on her.

"Who are-!" was as far as the necromancer got before Alice slapped her with her tail. "What are-!" the necromancer tried again only to get another slap.

"Bad girls get punished," Alice told the tiny necromancer as she continued to give the weirdest pimp slaps in the history of pimp slaps to the necromancer.

For a moment, Shirou almost felt sorry for the blubbering necromancer as Alice continued to tail slap the crap out of her.

Then he remembered the zombies, and decided to just go with it.

*Scene Break*

"Hmph," Alice grunted as she finally set the necromancer go. Shirou noted that Alice appeared to have recovered for the most part from her earlier catatonia. "So that was the one responsible for all this crap. The townsfolk must have seen the zombies and thought they were ghosts. How ridiculous! There's no such thing as ghosts!"

"In that case," Shirou began slowly, reaching out to put both hands on Alice's shoulders. Alice gave the hands a brief glare, and contemplated brushing them off before Shirou continued. "Could you do me a favor? Could you close your eyes for a bit, put your hands over your ears, and hum until I tell you to stop?"

"Now why on earth would I do something so ridi...cu…lous…" Alice trailed off as she started to ignore Shirou and turn around only to freeze.

Shirou shrugged. "Because I thought you had been through enough and wanted to spare you the sight behind you?" he offered as Alice came face to face with the legion of ghosts now freed from their corpse containers that the necromancer had locked them in.

Alice decided she had enough, and promptly fainted. Shirou sighed, and even as he responded to the ghosts' thanks, he wondered at just how hard it would be to carry a limp lamia without dragging her tail all over the floor.

*Scene Break*

"So it's agreed," Alice said, her voice stiff. "We never discuss what happened at that place again?"

"Agreed," Shirou repeated for the forty eighth time in the last four days as the two of them finally made it to the secret location where the first spirit, Sylph, resided.

"And we're never going back to San Iria again, either," Alice added, a twitch in her eye being echoed in her tail as she continued to slither beside Shirou.

"Agreed," Shirou nodded, though secretly he wouldn't mind it himself. Ever since all the ghosts had gone to San Iria, he thought the city had really started to liven up a bit.

"Hmph," Alice grunted, but turned her attention to the forest instead. "This is the Forest of Spirits," she continued, eying the thick woods ahead of her cautiously. "It has a lot of elves and fairies in here, but both of those are usually pretty peaceful monsters."

"Alright," Shirou nodded, relieved at the revelation. "So there shouldn't be any fighting once I get in there, right?"

*Scene Break*

"Oh, hello little fairy."

"Ah! A human! I haven't seen one of those in such a loooooooong time!"

"Well, it's nice to meet you. I was wondering if maybe…."

"I'm gonna play a prank on you!"

"A prank? What do you…. Eeep!"

"Hehehe!"

"That does not qualify as a prank at all!"

*Scene Break Again*

"You! How dare you attack an innocent fairy like that!"

"Innocent my left buttocks! Did you see what it tried to do?"

"….Ahem. Anyway, as guardian of the forest, I shall see you punished! Taste my arrow!"

"Ow! Wait, what's this? I can't move?"

"Elves don't like violence, so I'll only paralyze you for a bit. Now! Taste my attack!"

"And I'm so used to you monsters calling something like that an attack that I don't even mind anymore. No. Really. I don't. Now, Hyah!"

"Ha! You might have fought me off for now, but hit and run is the bases of combat with a bow!"

"Oh, don't I know it."

"Now, taste my next arrow… wait, where did you get that bow?"

"It was always there."

"It's, it's so big! And your arrows? How can you handle a weapon that large? It's huge! It would split me right in half!"

"…Does everything in this world have to come back to something dirty? Never mind. Dodge this, if you can!"

"Ow! You shot me in the ankle? Why the ankle of all places?"

"I was thinking about aiming for the knee, but felt it was just overdone for some reason. Now if you'd just wait a sec-"

"Surprise Sex!"

"Eeek! How the hell did you do that? One second you were all the way over there and we were both fully dressed and now you're on top of me and we're both pantsless!"

"Didn't expect that, did you? No one expects Surprise Sex! Its chief weapon is surprise, surprise and fear! Surprise Sex's two chief weapons are…"

"Goddamnit!"

*Scene Break. And yeah, if you got the elf's last line, you are a connoisseur of the classics*

At last Shirou stood in front of the spirit of wind, Sylph. The first of the Four Spirits that Shirou met came in the shape of a tiny fairy in lively green clothing.

"Are you okay?" the spirit asked him, giving him a concerned look as she did so. Sylph had already asked the wind about the human that had showed up in her glade, and she knew the basics of his quest. It's just, well, she hadn't expected the human to look so…disheveled.

"I hate this world," Shirou muttered, covered in mud and pollen as well as a variety of fluids that contained such oddities as nectar, sweat, a bit of blood, weird flower excretions, and other monster related liquids that Shirou didn't want to think about too closely.

"There, there," Sylph told him awkwardly, floating up to pat his head comfortingly.

"I don't suppose you'd just lend me your power peacefully?" Shirou asked the little fairy, letting himself be comforted despite himself. It was just so odd to find a sympathetic creature in this world that he found himself taking it where he could get it.

After all, the most supportive thing he'd met so far was Alice.

"Well, I know you won't do anything bad with it," Sylph admitted, twirling about happily. "But I can't lend it to a weak person! I tell you what. If you can land one blow on me in combat, then I'll be glad to help you!"

"….And if I can't?" Shirou attributed his growing cynicism to prolonged exposure to Monster Lords.

"Then you'll become my toy!" Sylph told him happily. "And I'll play with you forever, and ever, and ever!"

Shirou thought about commenting on how something roughly the size of his hand could toy with him, then remembered the faeries he had come across and their definitions of the word 'prank' and decided he'd probably be happier not knowing.

"Alright," Shirou nodded, pulling Angel Halo out and getting into a ready stance.

"Then let's gooooo!" Sylph cheered happily. This was gonna be so much fun!"

*Scene Break, the final*

Deep within Shirou's very soul, Sylph felt herself materialize as she possessed his body in order to lend him her power.

However, once she arrived, she discovered that she was completely unprepared for just what Shirou's soul looked like.

"Wow….." Sylph stared around her at the endless field, the distant dawn that never would be, the clouded sky…

And the swords.

Endless swords, buried into the earth as though stones in a cemetery that had consumed all of creation.

When Sylph found herself amidst such a desolate and yet grandly majestic scene, the first of the Four Spirits that Shirou had swayed to his side only had one thought in her ancient head.

"It's so shiny!" Sylph squealed, wiggling in the air happily as she did so.

Outside of his Reality Marble, Shirou heard Sylph's war cry, and though it shouldn't be possible he felt it in his very soul when the tiny wind fairy began to play with the blades which constituted his very being.

"Now stop that! No, no juggling the swords! You're gonna hurt yourself! You stop that right now young lady!"

Alice gave Shirou an odd look as he began to converse with the spirit now inhabiting him. She wasn't quite sure what was going on, but somehow felt she already knew the most appropriate response.

"…Idiot."

Part Nine

In which Shirou becomes an unintentional prophet, then the author proves he can't even write a parody without taking his stories just a little too dramatically, and then things get silly again.

"Are you done yet?" Alice demanded, tapping her tail impatiently against the sand as Shirou stood panting, Angel Halo in hand as he stared into the distance.

"Seriously?" Shirou muttered staring at where the last monster had been sealed. "It looked like a scorpion, and it even had a stinger. But then the stinger changed into a mouth too. Do all tails have mouths in this world? Will I never be able to look at those appendages again without feeling fear?"

Alice rolled her eyes at Shirou's growing paranoia, her vow to never again tease him already long forgotten by this point. Instead, she continued her own grumbling.

"There's nothing to do on my nature strolls anymore," she continued, scowling at the desert around them. "Well," she added a moment later, holding up a cage she had produced from seemingly nowhere. "At least I managed to catch some bugs."

"That is a lot of scorpions," Shirou noted, staring at the sheer number of the tiny poisonous arachnids the lamia had managed to gather. Then his eyes narrowed, and he glared at the bugs furiously. "I'm watching you," he told them, warning in his voice. "You and your little tails. Try anything, even once, and I'll be waiting to squash you."

"They're not monsters," Alice pointed out, looking a little put out that Shirou's first response to her achievement had been suspicion. She had been rather proud of just how many she had managed to catch in the short time that Shirou needed to finish off the local monsters. "They're just normal bugs."

"Sure, Alice," Shirou agreed aloud, still glaring at the arachnids. However, the moment Alice looked away he mouthed the words 'watching', pointing between his eyes and the captured bugs a few times. Maybe it was just an overactive imagination, but Shirou was certain that at least one of the scorpions shifted guiltily.

However, when Alice turned back to him he made sure that he was whistling innocently.

"So just what do you plan on doing with them now that you captured them?" Shirou asked as the secret whistling method didn't seem to work properly in driving his companion's suspicions away from him. Maybe it was because he had already explained the method to her before, but Alice seemed immune to guilt denial through high pitched vocalizations.

"I was curious what they taste like," she admitted shamelessly, one arm folded under her chest as she held the other up to him. Shirou stared at her for a moment, before deciding he really should have seen that one coming.

Still, she raised a good point.

"So," Shirou began, his own curiosity beginning to get ahold of him. "What do they taste like?"

"How on earth should I know?" Alice sighed in exasperation. "You still haven't cooked them yet."

"Good point," Shirou admitted, though secretly he suspected that her resolve to wait before tasting this strange new sustenance wouldn't last all the way until the night.

*Scene Break*

"Was it really necessary for you to stab that genie monster so often?" Alice wondered later on that night, stretched out on a dune that was still warm from the fierce sun of the desert. Shirou wondered if she was doing that because it was comfortable, or if it in some way helped her with her digestion.

She was part snake, after all.

"It offered to grant me a wish," Shirou told her with great dignity as he continued to stir fry the scorpions. He had made sure to remove their tails before starting to prepare them, partly because that was the part that traditionally carried their venom, and partly because of his growing distrust for the appendages. "Nothing good ever comes from wish granting things. Trust me."

"I'm surprised at how easy you managed to shake off the genie's temptation," Alice admitted, frowning slightly as she did so. For a moment Shirou thought she was displaying concern for his safety, and then she continued talking. "Now, how much longer until dinner is ready?"

Ah, Shirou nodded at that. She was just hungry. For a second he had been worried that she wasn't feeling well.

"Now, I've never tried scorpions before," Shirou admitted as he pulled the first pan of the arachnids from the fire. "So I'm not sure if I have a proper recipe for them…"

"It's fine," Alice dismissed his concern, and unusually soft smile on her lips. "Everything you make turns out good."

Shirou nearly dropped his frying pan at her confession. "Alice," he began, giving her a worried look. "Are you feeling alright?"

"Why do you ask?" the lamia returned, her eyes narrowing as she glared at the frying pan impatiently.

"Because that sounded suspiciously like a compliment," Shirou told her bluntly, and Alice shifted her glare to her cook.

"Stop being an idiot and give me my food," she ordered him. "Before I just decide to have you instead."

"Phew," Shirou sighed in relief as he felt the natural order of the world being returned to its proper place. "That had me worried for a second."

Alice would have continued glaring at him, but by then she had managed to take her first bite of the sautéed scorpion.

"If you were a monster, I would have already made you a baron by now," she told him bluntly, her tail happily thumping as she tried yet another of Shirou's amazing kitchenmancy creations.

"That sounds like a lot of work," Shirou told her dryly. "That might have gotten in the way of me being a hero."

"Bah," Alice told him in a serious tone. "You're just a fake hero. I think you should have a more appropriate title."

"Like what?" Shirou asked, somewhat curious at the strange gravity that Alice was treating this silly conversation with.

"Personal Chef to the Monster Lord," she told him with great dignity. Shirou stifled a small laugh.

"Well, if that's what it takes to help promote peace between the two species, then I suppose I could deal with that," he admitted, playing along.

"Excellent," Alice nodded gravely. "We can see about getting you a uniform later then."

"Good one, Alice," Shirou laughed, before realizing he was laughing alone. He blinked, and realized that Alice was still looking entirely too formal. "That's a joke, right Alice?" he asked, concern starting to seep into his voice.

"Make sure you introduce yourself properly from now on," she told him, nodding to herself as she did so. "It's a much more important title than any of that hero nonsense anyway."

*Scene Break*

It was later, after the two of them had made it to Sabasa Castle, the capital of the Safina region, and were talking to the Sabasa king that Shirou began to realize that he might have made an error in underestimating just how serious Alice could be at times.

"Alice," he whispered furiously to his side as he tried to weather the disguised monster's glare. "I can't very well introduce myself as the 'Personal Chef to the Monster Lord' to the king."

"Why not?" Alice demanded in a normal speaking tone. "It is a proud and noble title, one which bespeaks of dignity and power."

"Because," Shirou began, deciding to try and ignore the implication that being a chef was in any way more dignified and powerful then being a hero.

Then again, if the chef was serving the most powerful of monsters and fearsome of monsters known for being able to destroy entire human settlements singlehandedly it did kind of stand to reason that the chef had to be pretty strong in one way or another.

Especially considering what some monsters ate…

Shirou quickly shook his head at where his thoughts had wandered to and got back to the argument.

"Because no one knows that you're the Monster Lord, and if I introduce myself like that then you won't be able to travel incognito."

"…" Alice was silent for a moment, and then nodded. "Then you can just introduce yourself as my personal chef instead," she decided. "Just leave off the bit about the Monster Lord."

Shirou considered trying to argue about how that was even less impressive all around, when the coughing of the king who was patiently waiting made him decide to wait until later to bring up his counter point.

"Anyway, your Majesty," Shirou spoke up loud enough for the patiently waiting king, a man that had to be at least seven feet tall and was built like he could wrestle bears for fun, "I'll be happy to do all I can to rescue your kidnapped daughter. It's my duty as a hero…" was as far as Shirou got before Alice suddenly drove one of her elbows into his side, glaring at him for ignoring his more important title for a lesser one. "…to help wherever I can," Shirou concluded with a gasp, trying to get his breath back.

Alice's elbows were a lot sharper then they looked!

"Excellent!" the king crowed looking well pleased by Shirou's willingness to participate in overused clichés. "And when you return from saving my daughter we can have the wedding!"

"Eh?" was Shirou's only response to that declaration. Sure, he was agreeing to rescue the king's daughter from a monster infested catacomb, but marriage? Shirou could appreciate certain traditions, but something like that would seriously get in the way of potential hero-ing in the future. "Ah, that won't be necessary, your Majesty," he assured the king. "Rather it's my duty as a hero-"

Shirou was cut off again as Alice elbowed him once more, this time looking to the side and covering her mouth as she surreptitiously coughed, "chef," into her hand to correct him.

"-to help where I can," Shirou finished off, glaring at Alice as he rubbed his side again. Was she using her monster strength when she did that?

"Indeed," Alice cut in as Shirou tried to refill his lungs. "A reward like that won't be necessary. As a chef, all he will require is the chance to prepare some fish." Alice began to smile in greedy anticipation of getting her slave, er, cook back in the kitchen. They hadn't been able to afford any of the Sabasa Fish dish they had seen earlier. It was famous for its hot-hot vegetables and Piriri spices!

Not to mention it was a fish dish from a city in the middle of the desert. The mystery of where they got the fish only made the potential meal that much more delicious in Alice's eyes.

"That's all he needs for a reward?" the king demanded, looking consternated at the idea of a hero like the young man before him wanting something so mundane.

"Really, Alice," Shirou began, giving his companion an aggrieved look. "It's impolite for a hero-ouch!

"Chef," Alice corrected again, ignoring Shirou's glare with dignified grace. "And this is a prime opportunity for you to advance in your calling. If you were to prepare the Sabasa fish without having tasted it first, then I will be able to try both of them at the same time. Without knowledge of which is the original, you will have the opportunity to have surpassed even the current experts through pure cooking skill alone."

"That is the most ridiculous…!" Shirou began before he cut himself off, eyes narrowing. "Well, I have already seen it in the marketplace," he muttered to himself, hand coming up to rub his chin as he did so. "I think I've already identified eight of the original twelve secret spices, and if those were the vegetables that I think they are, then if I just replace them with…"

As Shirou began to trail off, thinking furiously to himself about how to prove his superior cooking skills, Alice nodded benevolently. It was the duty of the ruler to help their subjects achieve all they could, and thus it fell to her to help her chef reach the pinnacles of cooking.

The fact that she would be the only one allowed to eat his masterpieces did not factor in at all in her master plan. No matter how much she wanted to throw back her head in evil laughter while rubbing her hands together maniacally, that was just some unrelated monster thing. Seriously.

The king glanced back and forth between the two, a little disturbed by their interaction. It was just a little too informal for his tastes, and if the two were already an item it might interfere with his plans for hooking up the hero with his tomboyish daughter.

"And just who are you again, woman?" he demanded, turning his full attention to the young man's companion. If she had enough potential, he was sure he could look the other way to the young hero having a concubine or two, just as long as Sara, his daughter, was the wife.

The King of Sabasa's bloodline was famous for having monster blood in it, something the kingdom as a whole took pride in. In the current king this monster bloodline manifested by his ability to judge a person's potential with just one look, and that was all it had taken for the King to know that this Shirou, despite looking so young and wimpy, was just the kind of certified badass he wanted for his daughter to marry and to someday take over as the next king.

And it was because of that bloodline that the moment he turned his full attention to the hero's woman that he froze completely and a trickle of sweat began to form at his forehead.

"You," he whispered, and Alice seemed to realize that something had happened as she turned a cool gaze at the other ruler. "Are you even human?"

"Oh?" Alice's smile was cocky as she realized that the King had managed to discern something. "It seems that my estimation of you as a ruler keeps rising."

The king swallowed, looking at the woman, if that's what something so powerful could truly be, as she studied him with a regal air of her own. Finally, Alice gave another smile, this one more secretive and less intense.

"I am just a wandering gourmand, traveling with her chef," she finally concluded. The king nodded slowly, and decided to let that obvious lie slide.

Still, the King turned back to the hero boy, staring at the young man even as he continued to mumble something about whether baking, cooking, or frying would be the best way to enhance the fish's flavor.

"A chef?" the King had to ask, trying to understand just how someone who seemed just as powerful and skilled as the so called 'wandering gourmand' could have such a common title.

"Shirou is a Shinto," Alice explained, closing her eyes and nodding with boundless self-assurance. "It is a sect of warrior monks who seek to worship their gods by achieving the pinnacle of cooking ability through brutal and perilous combat."

It was the most logical conclusion she had come to, and she was positive that was what 'Shinto' meant. Thus, she had decided to aid her traveling companion by helping him spread the good word to all the populace they came through. If she could convert the king for Shirou, then it meant that soon all of Safina could also dedicate themselves to both cooking and combat.

Oh, what wondrous recipes might arise from such a glorious conversion!

"Cooking through combat?" the King of Sabasa repeated, stroking his chin thoughtfully. He had been quite the warrior in his youth, after all. Even now with his retirement to ruling he was still one of the best warriors in the land. If someone like the boy could believe in something like this, then maybe there was something to this 'Shinto' thing.

The King wondered if the chefs in his castle would mind if he started taking lessons…

If Shirou hadn't been too busy trying to decide between an open flame and a Dutch oven, then he would have groaned and planted his head firmly in his hands at where this was promising to lead.

*Scene Break*

"Shirou," Alice began as the two retired after a day of hard talking to the fanciest room in the fanciest hotel in town. It turns out promising to help the king came with the perk of a fancy pad to sleep in. "Can you hear me out?"

"Hmm?" Shirou grunted, pulling his thoughts away from what the final secret spice might be for the fish. "Sure, Alice, what is it?"

"You wanted to make a world where humans and monsters could live together," Alice began, sounding unusually serious for the usually disinterested lamia. "At first I thought you were just being a naïve idiot. But my first impression was wrong," Alice admitted frankly, and Shirou blinked as the Monster Lord closed her eyes in contemplation.

"You are just too strong, too worldly to be thought of as sheltered," Alice continued. "You are more aware of the absurdity of the world then I had thought. It feels as though you aren't like the others who want to be just thought of as heroes. For some reason, it feels more like you are trying to be a martyr."

Shirou was silent, realizing that for once, when Alice said she wanted to be serious she wasn't just about to request another meal.

"You throw yourself into combat, even though you don't have to. You rail against monsters that use pleasure attacks, and instead seek out those who try to kill you or maim you. You go out of your way to help others, even though it only exposes you to danger and gets in the way of your quest. It's as though you are constantly seeking out a place to die at, or an enemy to kill you." Alice shook her head, and though it wasn't exactly dripping with empathy or worry, her voice was touched with honest curiosity, and perhaps a bit of concern.

"Just what was it that caused you to be like this?"

For a moment Shirou was silent, his gaze distant as he contemplated Alice's words. Finally, he began to slowly speak.

"It's not that I'm trying to get myself killed or anything," he explained hesitantly. It was difficult for him to describe an aspect of himself that had long gone unvoiced. "It's more that I don't fear death at all.

"When I was young and my parents died in the fire, it wasn't just them. The fire was so big that my whole village was destroyed," Shirou went on. "I managed to escape my house, but with the rest of the town on fire, there was no place to go. The only thing I could do was try my hardest to escape the flames. In the end, in order to keep walking, it was as though I had to get rid of pieces of myself in order to just keep moving."

Alice narrowed her eyes as Shirou continued to unconsciously emit 'broken bird' radiation. Normally, it was the type of vibe a person gave out which unconsciously made the members of the opposite gender around them, and on occasions the same gender (not that there's anything wrong with that!), do their best to love and comfort the poor wounded dear which had really just been through too much already.

"Eventually," Shirou went on, his inherent obliviousness to his own innate appeal to all maternal and protective instincts which inherently led to situations which weren't very maternal at all (hopefully anyway), "it reached the point where there wasn't much left of me. It was as though I was already dead, only my body hadn't realized it yet. It was then, when I had given up all hope, that my adopted father found me. I remember that he looked so happy to have found me, the one survivor. I remembered wondering if I would ever be able to be that happy too."

The 'broken bird' radiation unconsciously upped at least a dozen rads at the heart rending confession. It would be at this point that most women that were exposed to this much radiation would spontaneously lose their panties.

Unfortunately for Shirou, Alice was not a woman, nor did she actually wear panties. They would just look silly on a snake body.

She was a monster. When confronted with such sappiness instead of providing comfort they just got hungry.

"So after having gone through something like that, why do you go out of your way to put your life at risk?" Alice prompted, unconsciously licking her lips as she tried her best to focus on the conversation. She was trying to be serious here after all. It wouldn't do to just change the subject too abruptly.

"The risk doesn't matter," Shirou declared heroically. "Just so long as I can help people, no matter if they're humans or monsters, then I have to do the best I can to help them, no matter what."

"Whatever the reason that compels you," Alice interrupted, "making a world where monsters and humans can coexist can only happen if you live to help build it. Otherwise, your way of life is just too sad." Alice closed her eyes again, arms still folded. "I don't want you to die in such a stupid manner."

"Alice," Shirou said softly, surprised by the sentiment being expressed by the lamia. "It's a bit strange to hear you encourage me like this," he admitted, looking at her with gentle eyes.

"I have my reasons," Alice told him, avoiding saying anything which might compel him to ask just what those reasons were. Then she paused, and her eyes opened so she could narrow them appropriately. "What are you doing, Shirou?" she asked slowly, wanting to be absolutely sure of what was happening before she reacted further.

"Checking you for a temperature," Shirou told her, hand against her forehead as he frowned in concern. "If you're sick I want to catch it early so we can make sure you get enough rest." He frowned as he tried to figure out just what kind of disease could make Alice act so weird. "I hope it's not food poisoning," he muttered. "I'm not sure what you could possibly eat that might upset your stomach, but if there is something like that I'll need to know so I can try and avoid it."

"…You take idiocy to new levels," Alice sighed, before her tail shot out, wrapping around Shirou once more. "Never mind for now. I suppose it's time for some more training."

"Training?" Shirou muttered, eye twitching as he saw where this was going. "Meaning you're just hungry again? Well, at least I know it isn't food poisoning then."

*Mysterious Scene Break. Well, that's what I'd like to say, but honestly, you should know what comes next by now*

"Staring at my breasts again? For shame."

"It's not like I can help it! They're huge, and what you're wearing barely covers anything!"

"Oh? Admitting it so freely? What a helpless guy. Here. Let me show you what I can do with them."

"…Okay, I'm ready."

"Ready? Giving into your lust already? How shameless."

"Not that. I'm ready. Come on. When are they going to suddenly grow mouths, or appendages, or start shooting inappropriate liquids?"

"….What on earth are you talking about?"

"It's what you monsters do! All your body parts do weird things!"

"They're breasts. Honestly. What were you expecting, boob tentacles or something?"

"…So they're just like a normal humans then?"

"Well, if a normal human could use them like this!"

"Wait, what are you- eep!"

"Hora! Horahora!"

"Wait, are you sure that's what a normal human's can- eep! Eep! Eep!"

"Go on. Let it out again. Horahorahorahora!"

"No way a human can do tha-EEP!

Part Ten

In which the King of Sabasa learns the perils of poaching, more pointless drama from the original game gets interrupted by ever growing silliness, and then the spirit of the earth makes Shirou very uncomfortable.

The King of Sabasa smiled, content that his sneaky plan had managed to pull through. It had been harder then he thought, setting everything up, but he wasn't the type to let little things like common sense or proper courtesy set him back.

He was a King after all.

Still, it looked like he had really struck gold with this particular scheme. He had known the moment he had laid eyes on Shirou that the little hero was just the guy he needed to rescue his daughter. Sure enough, the very next day his guards had reported that the hero and his companion, or whatever that strange woman he traveled with was, had gone out in the direction of the Pyramid where Sara had been kidnapped to. The King was content that he would soon be hearing back from the young man after a week or so. It was about two days travel each way to get to the pyramid, and though it may take a few days for the hero to rescue Sara, he was sure that Shirou would be successful.

And when Shirou and his companion had returned after only four days with his daughter in tow the King had been ecstatic. That had barely covered travel time, so it meant Shirou hadn't even taken a day to finish the rescue!

Naturally, the only logical response to this was to 'accidently' lock his daughter and hero together in her room and then leave them alone long enough for nature to take its course. The hardest part had actually been getting Shirou to Sara's room in the first place.

It had been surprising enough that the hero had actually been serious in his request to get into the kitchen, but that was positively tame considering the shocking levels Shirou would go to in order to ensure that he wasn't interrupted once he was there.

The King didn't even know that the kitchen had a portcullis in the first place, much less one which seemed to be composed of sharp and pointy death. It was almost as though someone had taken a hundred swords, twisted them together, and then wedged them where the kitchen door had once been.

The King had no way of knowing, but this had proven to be the only method Shirou had discovered so far which could actually keep Alice from trying to steal his ingredients for some pre-meal snacking.

The king was positively humming as he made his way back to the feast where Shirou's companion was waiting. He logically assumed that there was one more obstacle to his amazing 'Lock Shirou And Sara In A Room Until They Made Grandbabies And Shirou Was Forced To Take Responsibility Through Marriage', and that would be the strange woman that he traveled with.

Considering the general feeling the King got from Alice, he got the impression that she wasn't the type to just let her man wander. He also got the feeling that she was probably capable of leveling his castle and laying waste to his kingdom singlehandedly if she was so inclined.

That was not a feeling he was used to getting, and thus he decided that the best course of action would be to act innocent and hope she didn't crush him.

The King was expecting some sort of reaction when he walked into the ballroom where the feast had been set up, but despite his conspicuous entrance alone right after he had just as conspicuously left with Shirou only a few minutes earlier, Alice didn't seem to notice anything in particular.

Good, the King thought to himself, nodding firmly. It looks like the whistling is working!

Still, even as the king continued to whistle, he note that while Alice did indeed seem to have two sets of the special Sabasa Fish dish in front of her. He also noted with mild interest that while one of the fish seemed to have only been picked at, the other was steadily disappearing at a rate which was downright impressive to watch.

A little curious, the king decided to let his innocent act drop so that could actually talk with the strange woman.

"So, it seems that you are enjoying our specialty," he noted, and Alice nodded happily, a smile on her face as she finished chewing her last bite.

"It's so spicy!" she chirped happily, already reaching down to rip a new piece off with her bare hands. "The combination of hot-hot and Piriri has a strong and yet complex flavor!"

The king laughed good naturedly as he watched the woman continue to stuff her face. "Still," he added, glancing at the barely touched fish dish. "You shouldn't just focus on our cook's meal. Wouldn't it be rude to your companion if you didn't try his efforts?"

The king had naturally assumed that the fish being eaten was the one prepared by his castle staff. After all, a hero as tough as Shirou had proven to be couldn't possibly have had time to train his cooking that well, even if he was some weird warrior monk or something. After all, weren't monks famous for just eating lotus leaves and bugs and other weird stuff?

Thus the king was a little surprised when Alice paused mid bite to send a positively arctic glare at the other ruler. "This one is Shirou's," she said coolly, not willing to stand by and hear her personal chef be so besmirched in her presence.

The king blinked, looking between the two dishes with surprise. They looked almost identical, and he had made sure that the two would be brought out at the same time so that no one would be able to tell which one had been prepared by whom.

"Are you sure?" he asked, curiosity starting to take over. "How can you tell?"

"This one is better," Alice nodded firmly, and went back to stuffing her face.

"Really?" the king asked dubiously, rubbing his beard as he did so. Reaching over he tried the mostly untouched fish. It tasted more or less like Sabasa Fish was supposed to. The King had never really been much for overanalyzing flavor, so he guessed that this was a well prepared dish. But was it really his own staffs' and not the wandering hero's?

Seeking to compare, he reached towards the fish that Alice was still eating, prepared to try and sample it when…..

"Hissss!" SCHING!

"Great Scott!" the King yelped, pulling his hand back away from where it had narrowly been impaled to the table by a fork. "Did you just hiss at me?" he demanded, staring at Alice in surprise.

"….No." Alice told him, looking away with great dignity as she did so.

"You did!" the king accused, still staring. "Just now! It sounded just like a snake!"

"…No it didn't," Alice told him bluntly, and the King definitely got the impression that there was some sort of inside joke here that he wasn't quite aware of.

"So if I were to try and reach for that dish again, there wouldn't be a repeat of that sound?" the king challenged, drawing himself up to his full height as his own natural warrior blood started to get a bit heated.

Then he remembered that the woman in front of him actually scared him a little bit, and he adjusted so that his 'drawing himself up to his full height' was a little less aggressive and a bit more regal.

"…No, it won't," Alice finally capitulated, and then narrowed her eyes at the king, not looking at all impressed by his bulk. "But only one bite," she ordered him, not even caring that the one she was trying to boss around was a ruler of an entire kingdom.

"Hmph," the King nodded, though he didn't press any further. It was good that Alice was being reasonable, but it wasn't like he should be too aggressive himself. After all, she was a little scary, and her companion had done a lot for his kingdom. It wasn't like it was that important a matter anyway. It was just one bite…

That thought was cut off as he got his first sample of Shirou's cooking.

"My god," he whispered as the explosion of flavor went off in his mouth. "It's full of stars!"

"Mmmhmmm," Alice moaned, a happy smile on her face as she went back to devouring the fish.

"It's like each individual ingredient is singing, and their chorus somehow describes the secret workings of the universe," the King of Sabasa continued, awe in his voice. "It feels as though planets are flying through space, orbiting vast conglomerates of hydrogen and oxygen undergoing massive fusion. It's as though the very heavens are being recreated on my tongue."

The king paused, and blinked in surprise. "And I don't even know what oxygen or hydrogen is!"

"Mmhmmm!" Alice moaned again, nodding as she did so. The king looked at her, and then down at the fish she was rapidly finishing off. Finally, he couldn't stop himself.

"Do you mind if I have another-"

"HISSSSS" SCHIWNG! SNICKT! KERCHUNK!

"Or not," the king hastily retracted his request, eye twitching as he stared at the new fork, the spoon, and the entire serving platter which had been embedded right where his hand had been only moments ago.

"Hmph," Alice grunted, and this time the king decided that he wouldn't bring up the hissing noise again.

Still, the king shook his head in wonder. That had been something he had not expected at all. Such talent, if even someone like him who didn't really pay attention to food had to stand up and take notice. There was only one thing he could think after that.

"Are you sure you should be letting your cook going around doing that dangerous hero-ing stuff?" he asked, concerned that such talent might someday be cut short by some marauding monster or such.

"He's stubborn," Alice shook her head, in response. "I would try to convince him to follow his true calling, but he gets such joy out of his hobby that I can't really bring myself to stop him. Plus I don't want to interfere with his religion."

"Ah," the King nodded, understanding that sometimes you had to let the really good help have their quirks. He had a cobbler that always insisted on speaking with a fake French accent, and even if it was irritating it was hard to find shoes his size normally so he put up with the cobbler's shenanigans.

Such amazing talent was worth putting up with odd hobbies.

"I don't suppose he's looking for work?" the King mumbled to himself, adding another item on the 'List of Reasons Shirou Should Stay In Sabasa'.

A second later the King realized that mentioning a plan to try and steal the cook away from his gourmand might not be the smartest idea to do in the gourmand's presence. Hastily, the King flinched backwards, expecting a 'hiss' and another assault with cutlery.

Instead he found Alice staring at him with cold eyes.

"Try to take what is mine and I shall ensure that your suffering will be the stuff of legends," she told him bluntly. "They will whisper tales of the agony I shall put you through, and both angels and devils alike will weep in horror at the fate which you befell."

The King swallowed slowly, trying very hard not to think about where Shirou was right now. Maybe he had been a bit hasty in trying to steal away the cook for his daughter. In fact, it might be a good idea if he went upstairs and made sure that things hadn't gotten too far yet…

It was at that point that the entire castle shook, a horrendous explosion rattling it to its very foundation. The King noted with growing wariness that the sound seemed to have originated from Sara's room.

It was also at that point that a crack appeared in the ballroom's ceiling as the stones resettled themselves. The King noted nervously that the crack seemed to function as a direct line to his daughter's room, letting everyone in the ballroom hear an unexpected conversation.

"Was it really necessary to destroy the entire wing just to unjam the door?" The king noted that was his daughter, and rather than seemed shocked or scared by the cacophony she instead seemed rather amused.

"YES! Now please, give me back my pants!" And that was Shirou, and if this had only happened earlier than the King would have thrown his hands up in victory over how well things had seemed to have gone.

"Hmmm," the King noted that Sara seemed very amused by something. "I had originally only did it to try and thank you, but I have to admit, this is kind of fun!"

"It's not fun at all! It's undignified, and you should really stop now…EEP!" The King noted that Shirou sounded rather nervous, and rather embarrassed too for that matter.

"Why should I do that?" Now Sara sounded a little too flirtatious for any father to feel comfortable coming from their daughters. "It's so much fun to tease you!"

The king took that as a sign that the monster blood was apparently thick in his daughter. It gave him a bit of hope that she would grow up to be a strong ruler.

Then he heard the sound of someone clearing their throat behind him, and he decided that self-preservation might be a better thing to focus on.

The King swallowed, and slowly turned back to where Alice was still standing patiently. He noted that the usually cool woman had narrowed her eyes, and was glaring at him rather venomously.

"Ummmm," the King of Sabasa began. "I wonder what those two are up to?" he tried to play innocent.

"I'm sure that this is most certainly not what your father was hoping for!" Shirou's voice drifted down through the crack.

"Well, I'm pretty sure it is," Sara responded, sounding entirely too happy about something. "Now. Let me try something I read in a book. How did it go again? Oh yeah! Hora. Horahora!" The King winced. Yeah. Monster blood was apparently very thick in his daughter.

"Oh no! Not that word! Not from you! Back! Back I say!" Shirou apparently had reached the end of his own patience, and another thunderous crash echoed through the castle, the crack conveniently resealing due to more shifting in the foundation.

Leaving the King more or less alone with Alice once more.

The King swallowed, remembering Alice's earlier declaration and having trouble doubting her sincerity in her threat due to the look she was giving him. Desperately, he tried to think of a way to change the subject.

"So tell me more about this 'Shinto' thing," he tried, smiling weakly as he did so. "I was thinking about converting?"

Well, it wasn't like things couldn't be worse. Heck, his daughter could always have had a crush on one of the Four Heavenly Knights or something! Like that would ever happen…

*Scene Break*

"It looks like you got quite close to that princess," Alice noted in her usual imperturbable fashion, as the two traveled through the desert outside of Sabasa Castle Town.

"Even the humans," Shirou muttered to himself, shaking his head sadly. "Not just the monsters, but even the humans. I had such hopes. She was dedicating herself to her swordsmanship. When she was fighting the monsters in the Pyramid, she did pretty good. I thought I had finally found someone who wasn't obsessed with sex…."

"Well she was part monster," Alice pointed out, not showing any particular reaction to the attempted seduction that Shirou had once more been subjected to nor to his dejected response.

"I miss Granberia," Shirou sighed to himself piteously, and again Alice showed no reaction to his confession on her face. Despite her lack of change to her facial features, Shirou winced anyway. "Alice," he began, eying his traveling companion carefully again. "Are you feeling alright?"

"What do you mean?" the lamia questioned him, raising one eyebrow in an expression which might indicate curiosity on anyone else.

"Well, you haven't put me down since we left Sabasa," Shirou noted, looking down to where Alice's snake tail was firmly wrapped around him, holding him up in the air and immobile as she slithered along through the sand. "And just now I could have sworn I felt you tighten up for a second…"

"…Idiot," Alice sighed, before without warning her coils loosened and Shirou dropped to his feet easily. "Let's keep traveling."

"Mhm," Shirou nodded, humming to himself as he did so. "I was thinking of heading south to that village we heard about earlier. The one they called 'Witch Hunt Village'. I've heard some rumors about the place that I wanted to look into."

"More of you thrusting your face into where it doesn't belong?" Alice noted, a brief scowl on her face as the trip to find the next of the Four Spirits, Gnome, was once more put on hold so that Shirou could indulge in his heroic urges.

"Now, now," Shirou reassured Alice, giving her a confident smile. "I'm sure it's not as bad as the rumors make it out to be. I'm sure we'll be in and out with no problem!"

*Scene Break*

"Well," Shirou admitted as he and Alice walked away from the newly liberated 'Witch Hunt Village'. "I guess maybe it was worse than I had anticipated, but I was still in and out with relatively no problem."

Behind them they could still hear the celebration of the villagers who had been reunited with the loved ones they thought had been lost, and the lamentation of those who weren't so fortunate. A thick plume of smoke rose from the center of the village where the house of the one responsible for the atrocities being committed there had been completely leveled, and the yard was filled with scarecrows that had once been the guards to the manor before Shirou had run each and every one of them through with Angel Halo.

"You just cut your way through every guard in the village, stormed the lords manner, individually sealed every one of the villagers she had experimented on, then sealed her and handed her over to the bloodthirsty vengeance of the people she had oppressed, and you call that 'relatively no problem'?" Alice asked, her tone arch as she did so.

"They spent entirely too much time making false accusations and oppressing the people through fear," Shirou pointed out, his tone rather mild for such a hideous observation. "It was pretty easy to cut them all down, truth be told. Besides," he added, his voice satisfied. "I asked the people to show mercy to Lily. She'll still be punished, but there's a chance that she might reform after all this."

"Are you really okay with this?" Alice asked, studying her cook closely. "There's the chance that the villagers will seek vengeance on their oppressors, maybe even killing them."

It was times like these that she wasn't quite certain what to make of her companion. He had just been exposed to a horrific crime against humanity. Hundreds had been killed by the lord of the village, the Meister Lilly, and hundreds more had been assaulted and maimed. There was the possibility that many of them would never fully recover.

And yet here was Shirou, the young looking warrior who regularly proclaimed that he wanted to save everyone, standing as though he was completely unaffected by the atrocities that he had born witness to.

"If that happens, then it happens," Shirou nodded at Alice's point. "The people of this village have suffered for years under this. If they chose to solve their problem with their own hands like that, then it will be up to them."

"And if the only compensation that the villagers will settle for is Lily's death?" Alice prompted Shirou, watching him closely as she waited for his response.

"Not even death would truly be enough to compensate for what she has done," Shirou admitted freely, his eyes drifting to the road before him briefly.

"I would have thought that you would argue against that," Alice pointed out, still studying Shirou as she did so. "Aren't you the one who wants to save everyone? Isn't that the duty of a hero, or some nonsense like that?"

For a moment Shirou was silent, his eyes focused as he stared at something only he could see.

"A hero, eh?" he repeated, nostalgia in his tone as he did so. "You know, Alice, I've wanted to be a hero ever since I can remember?" For a moment Shirou wondered why it was he had admitted that. It was such a private memory, not the usual thing he shared with others.

But for some reason, he felt like he wanted Alice to know this about him. He wasn't quite sure why, but he felt as though it was right to share this with the lamia.

"Because you were raised with legends of defeating the Monster Lord?" Alice asked, thinking she already knew this particular story. "Were you raised on your par-" Alice cut herself off then, remembering in an instant just what fate had befallen Shirou's actual parents. For all her monster instincts, there were some things that Alice refused to trample on, and parents were one such subject for her. "Were you raised on your adopted father's knee on those kinds of stories?"

"Not really," Shirou gave a small smile at the memory of Kiritsugu. "If anything, my father didn't want me to be a hero. He didn't want me to ever face any danger at all. He tried his hardest to get me to live a peaceful life."

"…Then what happened?" Alice asked, her full attention on Shirou as she did so.

"No matter how peaceful a life he wanted for me, I couldn't help but want to save others," Shirou told her. "Wanting to help others, wanting to do good things. Those feelings were too important for me to ever leave behind."

"But by helping others, you keep exposing yourself to danger," Alice pointed out, pondering this revelation about her cook.

"Yes. Eventually, my father sat me down and explained some things to me," Shirou nodded. "When he was younger, he had wanted to help others too. He had tried so hard, but in the end he had couldn't get around the truth.

"In order to help one person, you have to hurt another."

Alice was silent, watching Shirou as he continued to explain his ideal.

"If two people are fighting and have knives to each other's throats, then the only way to save one is to kill the other. Sometimes to save ten, one must die," Shirou was unusually solemn, and Alice wasn't certain what to make of this revelation. "However, even if it's impossible, I want to save everyone. So I'll keep trying, even if I fail again and again. Even if I can only help the people around me, even if it's not enough and I'm not quick enough or strong enough to save everyone, I won't ever give up."

For a moment Alice was quiet, her own eyes distant as she was lost in thought. Finally she closed her eyes.

"Even though you seem so straight forward, you're actually a rather twisted person," Alice noted.

"Not twisted," Shirou corrected her, a crooked smile on his face. "Distorted. And even if I am, it doesn't change a thing. Because in the end, it is never wrong to want to help someone."

"…Even if you are distorted like you say, that doesn't mean that you have to live like that," Alice argued back. "Even just since we started traveling together, I've seen you do a lot for many people, more than most would ever dream of. Even if you continue to use your sword to help the weak, it's no reason for you not to take better care of yourself."

She paused before nodding briefly. "At least that's what I think," Alice concluded.

Shirou was oddly touched by the roundabout way that Alice was showing concern for him. For a moment he thought about checking her forehead for fever again, but finally he decided against it.

He'd been doing that a lot lately, and the more he did the more he was starting to realize that even Alice, self-centered glutton and uncaring observer of the malice of the world, could maybe have a soft side in her. Maybe even the so called 'tsun-tsun' wasn't entirely devoid of compassion.

Instead, he just smiled at her. "Thank you, Alice," he instead just said.

Alice turned away, staring patiently at some of the nearby unremarkable scenery.

"Hmph," she grunted. "Haven't we had a situation like this before?" she mused, and Shirou blinked before nodding slowly.

"I think so," he admitted. "Though usually something shows up which destroys the tension…"

"Ah," a new voice interrupted their conversation. Shirou glanced over to see one of the villagers, a young girl who he had seen briefly in the laboratory beneath the manor before he had destroyed the place and saved the poor lab experiments. "Mr. Chef," the village girl began, addressing Shirou hesitantly.

Shirou's eye twitched.

"Mr. Chef?" he repeated, before turning slowly to glare at Alice.

"I made sure that everyone in the town was aware of your proper title while you were running about," Alice reassured him, nodding proudly at having saved Shirou the effort having to introduce himself. Shirou's eye twitched again.

"The village just wanted to thank you, Mr. Chef," the village girl continued, smiling shyly at Shirou as she did so. "Though many are still weak, we all wanted to thank you for taking time away from your kitchen in order to help us. Thank you very much, Mr. Chef! We shall never forget your kindness! We hope that your next recipe will be delicious!"

"Really, Alice?" Shirou muttered, forcing a smile for the village girl.

"No need to thank me," Alice assured Shirou, arms still crossed as she stood proud. "And don't worry," she told the village girl. "As a disciple of the Shinto, fierce battle only makes his cooking stronger."

"Many in the village were awed by his prowess," the village girl continued, nodding excitedly. "They were wondering if maybe we could set up a chapel for this 'Shinto' thing. They wanted to know just how big they should make the kitchens, and whether they should have alters next each of the stoves or if one central one will be enough."

"Huh?" Shirou grunted, eye still twitching as he tried to figure out what the two were now talking about, but knowing deep in his heart that if he ever did know it would just be one more thing which would haunt him to his early grave.

"One central one," Alice nodded decisively. "That way all the cooking can be assembled together, and after the combat training the feast can be appreciated by all."

"Oh, thank you, High Priestess!" the village girl gushed at Alice, and Shirou twitched again, wondering where this particular title had come from. "We'll be sure to gather many delicious recipes for when you come next!"

At this point, some unknown threshold apparently was crossed in the young girl, and quite suddenly her entire arm ripped itself to pieces, sprouting into long wormlike appendages.

"Oh," the girl squeaked, glancing at her arm awkwardly. "It seems as though even if we've regained our sanity, our bodies are still a little strange."

"Ah," Shirou nodded stiffly. "Let me see if I can help with that."

Without another word Shirou stabbed the girl with Angel Halo. He knew it was wrong, deep down inside. But honestly, the swords inability to kill just seemed too perfect for situations like this, and if by stabbing her repeatedly he could both help her recover her body and himself recover his sanity, then by all means it was stabbing time.

"Oh!" the village girl squeaked as her arm returned instantly to human form. "It worked!" She squeezed her eyes for a moment, and then her arm turned back into worms. "But it doesn't seem permanent," she noted sadly.

"Just let me try a few more times," Shirou assured her, before Alice sighed, and latched onto his arm, dragging him away with her.

"Let's just hurry up and go find Gnome," she told her chef.

*Scene Break*

"Ugh," Shirou groaned, swiping away a large thick glob of spit off his face as he did so. "That was the most disgusting monster yet."

"It didn't seem too bad," Alice noted, watching as Shirou shook more of the spittle from his body.

"It was a giant worm type lamia thing," Shirou grit out. "It was at least a hundred feet long, and its tongue was bigger than my entire body! It put me in its mouth, and tried to suck me like I was candy!" His eyes squeezed shut as he tried to deal with the sheer bizarreness of this world's monster inhabitants. "I think I accidently swallowed some of its spit!"

"….How did it taste?" Alice asked, her professional curiosity as a glutton poking through briefly.

Shirou opened his mouth to launch a blistering retort when he paused, scratching the back of his head as he did so. "Actually," he began slowly, a note of bewilderment in his tone, "kinda like cinnamon."

Alice cocked her head to the side, also a little distracted by this revelation. "So could it be used as a spice or something?" she asked, her curiosity rising.

"Using the secretions of a giant sand worm as a spice?" Shirou gave Alice a disbelieving glare, before he paused again. "Actually…" he began, his professionalism as a cook beginning to take interest before he cut that thought off, shaking his head wildly. "No. I refuse. There are limits, even for me."

"A pity," Alice shrugged. "I guess the spice won't flow," she concluded, referring to the way a liquid spice would be able to drip, not some other obscure and totally unrelated cameo from an entirely different genre.

*Scene Break*

"So you're Gnome then?" Shirou asked, looking at the little girl clutching a doll made of mud in her hands as she stared at him with blank eyes.

"Yay! It's Gnomy!" Shirou blinked as Sylph appeared from nowhere in front of him, happily cheering at the new Spirit. "Gnomy! Gnomy, Gnomy, Gnomy! You got to get in here! You'll love it here! There are so many shiny things to play with!"

"And how many times do I have to tell you, stop juggling the swords!" Shirou ordered the immature wind spirit, giving her a stern glare. "And no matter how much fun it might be, using them like a construction set is just too dangerous!"

"Hmm," Sylph nodded, still twirling around. "I guess you're right." Shirou felt a moment of hope that maybe his admonitions had actually made an impression on the childish spirit before Sylph continued. "You just met him after all!"

Shirou realized that not only was Sylph talking to Gnome, but apparently Gnome was talking back and he hadn't even realized it.

"Well," Sylph continued, spinning around Shirou's head before settling in his hair and tossing her hands up in a 'V' sign. "She wants to lend you her power, but she wants to test your ability first. So you just need to beat her in a fight. This should be over pretty quick!"

Gnome narrowed her eyes at the way Sylph was apparently considering that the Earth Spirit would be losing pretty quickly. She'd just have to make sure to fight extra hard.

*Scene Break*

Gnome blinked. Alright, she hadn't been expecting that. Yeah, she had gone in under the assumption that the human who had approached her was strong, and had been prepared for a tough battle, but really?

One hit? That was all it took to beat her?

For a moment, Gnome wondered just what had happened, and then she finally took in her surroundings. She had entered the human, as she had promised, but what she found inside him was a far cry different from what she had found in the only other human she had ever worked with.

The steel…

Steel, a mineral of the earth, taken and refined, made stronger and different, but still a mineral of the earth. As the Spirit of the Earth, Gnome felt her element strongly, and even if it had been affected by human hands, steel was still her element.

And here she was, surrounded by vast stretches of cracked, dry, and yet rich earth, the scene even further enhanced by the endless and peerless steel which surrounded her.

Idly, Gnome noted the way Sylph was darting about, talking up a storm about something to do with friendship or something. Without really looking, Gnome gave the fairy spirit a backhand, not even noticing the way the tiny sprite started to bounce around through the buried blades like some sort of demented pinball.

Gnome had other more important things to think about for now.

So much rich steel and earth around her… It was starting to make her feel… funny…

*Scene Break*

Back outside in the real world, Shirou twitched, causing Alice to look at him in curiosity.

"What is it, Shirou?" Alice asked, watching her companion as he twitched again. "You've gotten the power of the earth now. Is something wrong?"

Shirou twitched, and was thankful that Alice couldn't hear the inner dialogue of the spirits.

"Wow, Gnomy really seems to like it here!"

"…"

"See, she likes it so much that she's starting to wiggle! I wiggle sometimes! I have to or I'll explode!"

"…"

"Ah? Is it naked time now Gnomy? I love naked time! Wahoo!"

"…."

"Oh! You should be careful with those swords! They're sharp! Even if it is fun to hug them, make sure you don't cut yourself, Gnomy!"

"…"

"Wow, you really like hugging those swords, don't you Gnomy! Sniff, Sniff… Hey, Shirou, it's starting to smell funny in here! When was the last time you cleaned this place?"

Shirou twitched, and wondered if it was really worth having both a loud mouthed innocent airhead and a quiet kuudere who really, REALLY, seemed to like his swords in a way which was entirely too inappropriate in his Reality Marble.

"It's nothing, Alice," he told the lamia, trying desperately not to think of the way Gnome was apparently declaring it 'Private Time' with parts of his soul.

If he did, he might start crying, and he wasn't certain he would ever be able to stop.