Monstrous Compendium Ch5 bit – Shadow Walking

“You’re sure you can bring both of us with you?” Klein kept his voice low, even as the start of Agil’s frontal assault on the entrance raised a buzzing, clanging cacophony. Argo’s spell-buff had let all three of them leap onto the concrete-hard side of the nest, touching down on the gray-and-oily-black surface as close to the nest’s captives as possible.

If Argo scryed it right, Klein told himself uneasily. If Kirito can pull this off without killing himself, and move us through the wall without opening the wall, so we don’t set off any alarms….

Though none of that was what really bothered him, was it? Not with those hints of movement under Argo’s hood.

“I could take all of Fuurinkazan through, if I didn’t have to fight afterward.” Kirito’s voice was even lower, taking full advantage of youkai hearing. “Klein. Focus. You have to keep your mind centered, or the psiwasps will take you down. So Argo’s a medusa. That gives her a better chance to back us up in this fight. Odds are if we fight at all it’ll be hand to hand – and anything that gets close to her head is going to get bitten.”

So Argo’s a medusa. Klein shook his head. Easy for you to say.

Except it wasn’t easy. Klein had seen Kirito flinch when the Moonsword got a glimpse of what lurked under Argo’s cloak. And wondered if it was time to run. Kirito didn’t turn his back on people he trusted, Klein had seen that himself-

Sun had glinted off Argo’s obsidian glasses, and he knew why Kirito flinched.

Don’t know if he knows, though. He trusted Lady Stheno. Klein grimaced. Partly because he thought she’d never adopt anyone. Now she has. So what’s Argo got that Kirito doesn’t? Can’t be just being a girl, there’s supposed to be medusa guys, too….

Kirito had one hand on his arm, and one on Argo’s, black eyes squinting in silent concentration. Darkfire sparked under his fingers, rippling outward in a blur that made Klein blink and sneeze, scents suddenly faint and oddly fiery-

Still gripping their wrists, Kirito stepped forward.

Um. Wall?

But he trusted Kirito. The world was all faint-scented shadows anyway. Could he really say what Kirito was walking into was a wall, and not just another shadow?

Here goes everything.


52 thoughts on “Monstrous Compendium Ch5 bit – Shadow Walking

  1. Huh. That’s a point. Hadn’t thought about why Stheno hasn’t adopted Kirito. Besides willingness. As in, Kirito may give serious thought to gnawing off a limb before letting himself be adopted. And Klein is Best Bro.

    So awesome!

    Liked by 3 people

  2. Lesse. Stheno used a scrying spell to determine the only youkai race compatible with Kirito.

    I suspect Argo finally met the requirements for some class that Stheno can teach, that matches well with Medusa. I also think that Argo can make those glasses if Kirito can.

    Does Argo have a fighting class yet, and if so what?

    I suspect boss fight soon.

    Liked by 3 people

      1. Honestly, before this bit I was assuming for straight Rogue. But a Rogue that casts fireball is a bit more unusual. My money’s on either Beguiler or Arcane Trickster.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Ah, I was mostly making a joke.

        Arcane Trickster – since prestige classes were introduced – is usually one of the basic example prestige classes released right away alongside the Duelist and the Heirophant. The prereqs for it are Sneak Attack and Arcane Casting. Since it’s one if the first prestige classes released that generally means from the get-go the easiest way to qualify is Rogue + Sorcerer​ or Wizard.

        Sorry, I was mostly just being a smart-arse.

        Liked by 1 person

      1. I was half expecting Argo to take that path if she could.

        Being Stheno’s fits too well. That or the little known let alone seen Steel Dragon, and odds of that are next to nonexistent.

        Trickery and Knowledge fit the Rat like a glove.

        Liked by 4 people

  3. And now we won’t be able to make the rat or cat jokes about Argo anymore. Oh well, she can be the heroes personal Snake in the Grass.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. But think of the first time Kirito meets up for some bartering before Argo’s scaly makeover has had time to hit the gossip channels! He can bring a treat for her (hair? very attached head pets?) Snakes and just say “A rat for the Rat” whenhe hands it over.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Mostly, Klein, is that Argo was willing to be adopted and Kirito isn’t.

    Starting to think that part of his tangle isn’t just the not human anymore (especially since he doesn’t know yet that MCO isn’t a deathgame and there are consequences to not being human that no one besides the people who set it in motion have any idea about . . .) but rather the adopted part.

    Because Kirito has an entire library issues about that word. He is a living example of why you are supposed to tell adopted kids that they are adopted (and loved – not being the biological child doesn’t make you less loved) from the time they are tiny. Yes, the prevailing wisdom used to be the opposite. And yes, the reason for it was this very aggravating notion that it was somehow shameful to be an adopted child. And yes, some people still react as if it is something shameful or that your family isn’t really your family because you aren’t blood-related but why should one live their lives by the standards of jerks?

    From what I’m understanding, the biggest reason it upsets the apple cart not to tell the child from the time they are little, especially if they find out about it from someone other than you . . . is that it destroys trust. Because you lied to them. You lied to them about something very big. So you could have lied about something as big as loving them. How do they know you are telling the truth about anything when you lied about being their biological parent?

    Liked by 3 people

    1. That’s it exactly. Put that together with a little sister who apparently had some issues herself… I really prefer to blot out that part of canon, first cousins, geh, plus anthropologists have shown that kids raised under the same roof generally do not have romantic interest in each other, even if they aren’t at all related….

      But yes. Kirito associates “adopted” with “totally destroyed everything I could trust in my life”. He’s not getting over that any time soon.

      Liked by 3 people

      1. I really prefer to blot out that part of canon, first cousins, geh

        Why do people do that in fiction . . . yes, I know that people have married their first cousins. Especially in the past. Or in places where they don’t know why that would be a bad idea. Heck most people I know find the idea of marrying and having children with their second and third cousins to be gross (understandably).

        plus anthropologists have shown that kids raised under the same roof generally do not have romantic interest in each other, even if they aren’t at all related….

        Anime Land apparently has never heard of the Westermarck Effect.

        Maybe I’m wrong but I’ve always had the feeling that people who write about brother-sister incest fetish more often than not don’t have siblings. Because I have brothers. We’ve been around each other our whole lives. And the idea of doing anything with either of them is not only no but hell no. From me and them.

        Liked by 4 people

      2. Yeah, same here… I’m the oldest of five kids (both brothers and sisters) and we’re all really close in age. And we’ve got cousins who are all adopted. So I’ve seen a very wide rage of familial relationships. Enough anyway that that’s how I see most fictional relationships unless the relationship is actually romantic in canon. So wading though a lot of the fandom-preferred parings is like wading though a bunch of emotional incest. ’cause by fandom standards the amount of UST in our family should be though the roof…

        Liked by 3 people

      3. I really prefer to blot out that part of canon

        Was there ever any compelling evidence for that in the light novels?

        Maybe I’m wrong but I’ve always had the feeling that people who write about brother-sister incest fetish more often than not don’t have siblings.

        I can think of at least three alternative or additional explanations.

        Some people write porn simply because there is a market for it. A story has to be plausible given a reader’s willing suspension of disbelief, not realistic in the eyes of the author. In Japanese culture, it still transgresses mores, it is a way around social barriers between males and females, and it does both cheaply. The choice may simply be a cost effective way of evoking a response from a portion of the market, even at the cost of repulsing other portions.

        Secondly, there really are reasons a sister might value a brother’s attention. To sane, informed eyes, these are clearly not at all sexual. To eyes calibrated off of an over sexualized media that denies nonsexual human relationships, at least three problems can arise. a. Misinterpretation of first hand observation. b. Viewers and readers imagining stuff that isn’t there. c. Misinterpreting what it looks like from the inside. I think a really good observer may note the possibility that a younger sister raised on media, especially a late blooming one, might not realize for a while that there is a difference between love for a brother and lover for a husband. My preferred interpretation of a lot of such stories is that the sister is mistaken in this way, will grow out of it, and nothing bad will happen.

        Thirdly, how much creator direct observation of reality versus consumption of media. People these days can have some very unrealistic expectations. (Not that the rumors that filled in stuff outside of one’s own personal experience were better.) How many realize that infantry doesn’t bunch up that way? How many that mass can matter in brawls? Et very much cetera. The economics of Japanese media creation may exclude a fair amount of human experience. Those with siblings may be counting up their own experiences and everything they’ve seen in media, and weighting the media too heavily. (You probably need to watch anime to make good anime, read manga to learn how good manga is put together. etc.) If you watch how some anime covers military affairs, it is clear that nobody involved has done any professional soldiering, and that there are serious gaps in their research. (Gate was written by an actual JSDF military otaku, and there are bits that don’t work very well for me. And I’ve only done enough research to be slightly better than the worst grade of American self-proclaimed military expert.) Plus plain old fad and fashion. Remember the fairly recent spurt of Maoh anime, manga, and light novels? Some Maoh properties must have done well, and inspired a lot of imitators.

        That said, maybe I’m fooling myself. I might be deep in denial. I still hope that the non-incest explanation is where Mahouka ends up. I want Miyuki to be confused, and the whole thing to end up being a commentary on overusing such things. For this to be so, I must not be wrong about the second and third alternatives.

        Liked by 2 people

      4. Also, depending on how the anime creator estimates the market, or through plain old misinterpretation, that sort of stuff might be added during the process of adaptation.

        Liked by 1 person

      5. I can see it being a misinterpretation by either the media consumer or the character as you say, not realizing that there is a difference between love for a brother and love for a spouse / lover. It would easy to do considering how odd the media can be about relationships that don’t involve the people in them having sex.

        And I like good sibling relationships . . . and I’ve seen stuff where I don’t know where the audience is getting the incest vibe from as those siblings just read as close to . . . if I’m worried about them, it’s because I think the relationship is co-dependent rather than incestuous.

        I strongly dislike how our society views and treats relationships in many ways, Not everything has to involve sex to be important. People can love each other without having or wanting to have sex with each other.

        Through I do understand why some “close friends” are shipped as lovers in segments of their fandoms. Way too much media only gives you subtext at best for anything other than cisgender heterosexual couples. Often because they claim they would lose money and/or will not be allowed to air this in X country (which loses them money) if they point-blank said this character is gay or asexual or trans or something.

        Liked by 1 person

      6. *Snrk* You and me both prefer to ignore that bit of canon; but then again, in my world I like to pretend SAO doesn’t qualify as a harem series.

        Adding my two cents to the whole discussion, I know for Suguha and Kazuto that… well… Japan is apparently still one of those places where marriage between first cousins is seen as acceptable.

        I do not have confirmation that this is true.

        I have not gone looking for more – or frankly any – information on this.

        I kinda don’t wanna. It feels like there’s way to much potential to stumble across squick in that research, and so unless I need to I fully intend to put it off.

        As for the Sibling-complex fad in anime and manga… Original source of trend is unknown; but speaking of series that in my world don’t have the ‘harem’ tag (it’s not one I’m fond of okay. Typical use and representation tends to be all sorts of problematic. SAO has some cringe worthy moments and characterization due to those problematic genre conventions. Though – mostly unrelated – Gamlain did a fantastic job in Battle Phantasia on of rescuing Ayeka and Ryuuko of Tenchi! fame from the harem-scrappy heap) Bakemonogatari actually has the main character – an eldest child whose two sisters are roughly three years younger than him – deliver a brief monologue on this very trope and how it’s purely an invention of people without siblings when another character jokingly makes an accusation to just such an effect.

        Honestly, I’ve only seen Bakemonogatari season one, and that shit is… ‘trippy as all hell’ fails to describe the aesthetic of the series… But I really enjoyed it, nevertheless, and would probably recommend it if you haven’t seen it… And are at least 16 years of age.

        Liked by 2 people

      7. The degrees of acceptable cousinship in marriage is apparently partly cultural.

        The terms are endogamy and exogamy. America is apparently extremely exogamic in marriage preferences. With a lot of places that prefer, say, marriage within the village or tribe.

        Which makes sense. Some cultures are familial amoralist, do not and cannot trust outside of family, so you only want to bind yourself in some sort of business relationship with extended family.

        America is a high trust society, and was probably shaped by integrating dozens to hundreds of wildly different societies and cultures. If you only marry your own, you aren’t building that bridge across those boundaries. That said, things may be changing. (We can’t survive splitting into as many really deep factions as French, German, Italian, Irish, Scottish, Welsh, Scotch-Irish, etc. (Which are actually effectively collections of such factions.) Two may be and arguably has been survivable.)

        Liked by 3 people

      8. Don’t get me started on high-trust and how it’s recently been wrecked in culture… there are many reasons I went to CreateSpace, one of them being NY publishing houses having fainting spells over characters that actually believe in their faith….

        Liked by 3 people

  5. Though speaking of Argo and PoV, she must have has one devil of a time adjusting to her new species.

    You see, Klein and the others may have had to deal with altered/strengthened senses along with fangs, claws, feline ears, tails etc but for the most part they were still similar enough to humans that the adjustment would be fairly straightforward.

    For Medusa however, it’s noted that they can see/hear/smell via their snakes, which is why blinding a medusa’s ‘main eyes’ won’t stop the fight.

    And based on a D&D medusa pic (I know Vathara’s tweeked them to be more ‘cute monster girl’ but might as well start there) Argo could have anything up to 18 mobile snake heads all providing sensory data.

    Sure she might focus on her original eyes, ears etc but that is still going to be a lot of new sensory input to deal with.

    Liked by 4 people

      1. Bet she’s doubly glad that hood is part of her standard costume…

        Wait, personal affection for Medusae aside, is that why you made Argo one? She’s already a ‘hooded snake’?

        Liked by 3 people

    1. >And yes, at least a dozen little sneeks. D’aww. 🙂>
      That reminds me a potential pitfall your hair+snakes medusae would run into.

      Combing, washing and/or drying your hair gets a lot more complicated when you have to factor in the snakes.

      And depending on how much conscious control the medusa has over the snakes….
      “Argo, you really need to stop biting yourself.”

      “Shut up, that confusion spell hit me and my snakes.”

      Liked by 4 people

      1. >Yes to both of those. No one said it’d be easy. 😉>
        Not to mention how various soaps, shampoos etc could interact with the snake’s scales. Ouch.

        That and the pure unadulterated hell for the medusa when the snakes need to shed their old skin. If you’ve seen videos of real snakes molting it’s a long and involved process often requiring rocks and similar objects to help pull the skin off like the worlds longest sock. The snakes attached to the medusa’s head do not have that option here.

        Liked by 3 people

      2. As far as medusa haircare, I think keeping hair from tangling when the snakes move might be hardest. I doubt medusae would be comfortable in braids, buns, or ponytails unless the snakes were only near the edges of the scalp and so could be easily left out of a hairstyle.

        If they’re distributed throughout the hair, perhaps braids small enough to fit between the snakes would work, but not all hair does well with that. Maybe medusae have naturally silky, tangle-resistant hair? Or maybe they just use lots of hair oil?

        In comparison, washing hair strikes me as easier to manage, as long as the snakes are controllable or will reflexively not get soap, water, or oil anywhere it might be unpleasant. I imagine air drying hair wouldn’t be too cumbersome, as the snakes should help to separate clumps and keep air moving through the hair. A hair dryer, on the other hand, might be tricky.

        And of course, much of this might not be a problem in a virtual world.

        Liked by 3 people

      3. “I meant that. I totally meant that. That is exactly how I wanted that to go / look.”

        I can see that happening a lot. Not just with Argo as a medusa. I’m pretty sure the other youkai adoptees have also do that. I know Klein has to have to because that is the cat attitude whenever something doesn’t go entirely to plan. Cats will miss a jump, land awkward, stand up, straighten their fur and continue on as that didn’t just happen. And you give you the dirtiest look if you laugh or point out that they fell – because their attitude is “I didn’t fall. That was a planned maneuver.”

        Liked by 3 people

  6. I’m assuming you are using the “default” of transparent magic/psionics? For those that don’t know psionics was a ‘tacked’ on magic system for 3.5 to give players an alterative system of “magic”. By default magic and psionics are considered equivalent enough that they can interact with each other. I.E. You can use Dispel Psionics on magical effects and the reverse with Dispel Magic. There is an alternative, however, where this is not true, and something that is resistant to magic might not be resistant to psionics, and vis versa.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. It probably doesn’t fit into the story, but Kitaro would probably love the Patnfinder “Words of Power” alternative system. This system gives up the power of the standard system for increased flexibility. Sorcerers and magi love it because it increases their flexibility. Pretty much every other caster class goes “nah, we’ll keep our more rigid and powerful spells.”

      Liked by 3 people

      1. Eeeh. Pathfinder alternatives get brought up now and again (frequently by this arsehole talking to you) for these characters. Since Kirito’s a 3.5 Warlock, he’d probably be a Kineticist. I’m not sure Kineticists can use ‘Words of Power’.

        Argo’d probably love ’em though.

        Liked by 2 people

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