Duth Olec Hypnosisnakerotica Character Tournament 2022-23

Table of Contents
Round 1 Match 1 Voting
Round 1 Match 1 Results
Round 1 Match 2 Voting
Round 1 Match 2 Results
Round 1 Match 3 Voting
Round 1 Match 3 Results
Round 1 Match 4 Voting
Round 1 Match 4 Results
Round 1 Match 5 Voting
Round 1 Match 5 Results
Round 1 Match 6 Voting
Round 1 Match 6 Results
Round 1 Match 7 Voting
Round 1 Match 7 Results
Round 1 Match 8 Voting
Round 1 Match 8 Results
Losers Round 1 Match 1 Voting
Losers Round 1 Match 1 Results
Losers Round 1 Match 2 Voting
Losers Round 1 Match 2 Results
Losers Round 1 Match 3 Voting
Losers Round 1 Match 3 Results
Losers Round 1 Match 4 Voting
Losers Round 1 Match 4 Results
Round 2 Match 1 Voting
Round 2 Match 1 Results
Round 2 Match 2 Voting
Round 2 Match 2 Results
Round 2 Match 3 Voting
Round 2 Match 3 Results
Round 2 Match 4 Voting
Round 2 Match 4 Results
Losers Intermission
Losers Round 2 Match 1 Voting
Losers Round 2 Match 1 Results
Losers Round 2 Match 2 Voting
Losers Round 2 Match 2 Results
Losers Round 2 Match 3 Voting
Losers Round 2 Match 3 Results
Losers Round 2 Match 4 Voting
Losers Round 2 Match 4 Results
New Character Intermission
Losers Round 3 Match 1 Voting
Losers Round 3 Match 1 Results
Losers Round 3 Match 2 Voting
Losers Round 3 Match 2 Results
Round 3 Match 1 Voting
Round 3 Match 1 Results
Round 3 Match 2 Voting
Round 3 Match 2 Results
Losers Round 4 Match 1 Voting
Losers Round 4 Match 1 Results
Losers Round 4 Match 2 Voting
Losers Round 4 Match 2 Results
Semifinals Match 1 Voting
Semifinals Match 1 Results
Semifinals Match 2 Voting
Semifinals Match 2 Results
Final Round Interviews
Match of Fates
Match of Fates Results
Final Match
Final Match Results
Tournament Retrospective


Lights! Cameras! Actions! The enclosed stadium erupts in flashing lights as the walls and ceiling, covered in video screens to simulate the night sky, sparkles with a kaleidoscope of swirling colors! The crowd cheers, a display that soon dies down as the lights daze them.

I have no reason for going hard on the hypnotic imagery, but I might as well make the most of my decisions. A clap throughout the stadium wakes the crowd, and they cheer again.

“Welcome to the Duth Olec Hypnosisnakerotica character tournament! I’m your host and narrator, The Cloud!” I sit in a booth at the head of the stadium, just a big ol’ cloud filling the booth. “This Hypnovember, we’re here to ask one question: Who’s the most popular hypnotic character of Duth’s? Sound egocentric? You bet it is! But we’re not here just to ask you to make your voice heard, oh, no. What would be the fun in that?”

The camera pans over the stadium, showing a line up of long tails, among a few other assorted entities.

“They are gonna dance for your amusement! We’re gonna see them work to garner your vote! We’ve got a show of talent, a fight of talent, special interviews with the characters, and nonsense! Speaking of one of those things, let’s go see our reporter for this event, Belle . . .” Uh, I really ought to give my characters last names. Well, let’s do that right now! “Belle Peltonen!”

Belle sits on a tall seat beside a block of a table, her suit a size too off, whether big or small it’s hard to tell. She’s scribbling on a piece of paper, which seems to be a wide array of notes about various demihumans and monsters. Half of it is crossed out.

“Oh!” She nearly falls back as she glances up at the camera. “We’re starting. Hello! I’m Belle Peltonen here at Dutch Ole-sponsored tournament–”

“That’s Duth Olec!” I shout.

“Duth Olec tournament, right! We’re here to find out the most popular character sponsored by this mysterious person. With me is a particularly important member of the staff here–” She turns to an empty chair. “Well. They were here.”

With a puff of smoke a short human drops into the chair. Belle smiles.

“Tried to make a break for it, huh?” Belle says. The short human plants their hands on the table.

“You would too in my position! Do you have any idea what I’m doing here?”

“Yes, I was informed of everything going on here,” Belle says. She looks at the camera. “Oh, this here is the object of play, Wren Huppe.”

Artwork by Fliren

“Object of play,” Wren mutters. “That’s hardly any better than toy, which I know some people have been calling me.”

“Well,” Belle says, “I would ask what you make of the contestants, but . . .”

“Horrified!” Wren says. “I’m stuck here about to be squeezed and gripped and bitten and turned into a puppet! I’d like to give whoever signed me up for this a piece of my mind!”

Sorry, Wren, I’m not a hypnotist myself. You’ll have to give pieces of your mind to all the contestants.

“Be careful what you say,” Belle says, “with this lineup of contestants, you just might give them a piece of your mind.”

“I ALREADY MADE THAT JOKE!” I shout. Belle screams and flops her head onto the table. She turns to the announcer booth.


“Er, never mind. Continue.”

“This is serious,” Wren whines. “I heard one of those snakes actually hates humans. I’m a human! Who knows what it might do to me.”

“Well. I know, I wouldn’t want to be in your shoes,” Belle says. “But that’s why we have the referee, right?” Wren stared at her, face flat.

“The referee is a beach ball,” they say.

“Not just a beach ball, little enby!” A beach ball bounces onto the table. “I’m also the caterer!”

“Pizza?” Top places a pizza box on the table.

“Hey, half this pizza is missing,” Belle says.

“Well, I have to save room just in case I have to swoop in,” Top says. They turn to Wren. “I promise, anyone tries to eat you, I eat first. Them, I mean, not you. Although I was almost a contestant myself, right to the very end, but The Cloud decided it’d be unfair to the others. I’d sweep the whole tournament!” Top’s mouth swings open as I pop out like foggy cotton candy.

“No, Top, I said it wouldn’t be fair because you were a joke inclusion and whoever was up against you would get a freebie.” I drop back into Top’s mouth.

“Same difference.”

“That doesn’t really make me feel better,” Wren says. “She leans closer to Belle. “I’m pretty sure at least one of these contestants is actually evil.”

“Ooh, which one?” Belle asks.

“You’re really enjoying this,” Wren mutters. “Well, I’ve been watching all of them, but I’m pretty sure it’s either the short lamia with the good hair or the vampire lamia.”

“I resent that insinuation, my dear.”

Wren screams and stumbles halfway out of their chair as a bat flies down from the tent rafters onto the table. With a twist of dimensions the bat stretches endlessly until an imposing vampire lamia stands between them. They tip their hat to them.

“Miss. Mxes.”

“Vil Garrido, one of the contestants in this tournament, everyone,” Belle says. “Happy Halloween, Vil!”

“Happy Halloween to you, Ms. Peltonen,” Vil says. Belle sticks a microphone in Vil’s face.

“Tell us, Mx Garrido,” Belle says, “are you evil?” Vil sighs.

“Not anymore, Ms. Peltonen,” Vil says. “I admit, in my youth I did rather unseemly things, but I haven’t done such things in centuries now. I’m content to take care of my birds and help lead a new generation of vampires down a kinder path, away from the vile ways I spent my youth that left me inevitably hollow inside.”

“You’re dead, of course you’re hollow inside,” Wren mutters.

“Now, dear Mx Huppe,” Vil says, sliding their tail up onto the table on the other side of Wren, “of course as a contestant I can’t touch you before the matches begin–”

“Got that right, buddy,” Top says, “I got garlic on that pizza and I’m not afraid to use it.”

“Eugh,” Vil says, leaning away from the pizza box. They clear their throat. “I merely wish to let you know I shan’t hurt you in any way out on the field. I promise to be as gentle as my pupil is sure to be.” They frown. “I know it must be so difficult knowing you’ll be tossed among the different contestants.” They lean closer to Wren, close as they can without touching. “Let me extend an offer to you for tea and a friendly chat after the tournament, if you’d like.”

Wren shrinks against the table, hiding their face. They blush, feeling bad for saying Vil might’ve been the evil one. They still don’t want Vil touching them, though.

“Okay, I’m getting an alert here,” Belle says. “It sounds like the bracket is about to be revealed, so let’s turn back to our host, Duth Olec!”

About time. I’m tired of trying to narrate in present tense but constantly switching back to past. Wait, I didn’t mean to say that.

Now then, before we reveal the bracket layout, let’s go over the


1. There are 16 characters in this tournament. Round 1 consists of 8 matches; the winners move on to round 2, while the losers go to the shoddy loser’s bracket. This gives everyone two chances to win, and me a lot more work to do.

2. If a match in the loser’s bracket happened in the winner’s bracket characters will be rearranged to not repeat matchups.

3. This is a popularity contest! The scenes are to show off the characters—what they can do and their personalities. And just for a bit of fun. Vote for who you want to move on on whatever criteria you choose!

4. Voting will last 24 hours, with the following day a break to give me time to write. Barring unforeseen circumstances, voting will begin on odd-numbered days, which is preceded by an interview conducted by Belle and scenes where contestants show what they can do with the object of play (Wren). Voting concludes on even-numbered days, which is followed by another interview and then a contest between the participants showing how the winner comes out victorious. After this is a day break until the next day and the next match.

5. Artists of the artwork posted will be noted alongside the art!

6. Feel free to ask anything about the characters or tournament or brackets or whatever, preferably on the posts with the bracket and voting (in the case of Twitter).

7. On that note, there will be voting at two separate locations, Twitter and DeviantArt. Please don’t double vote . . . I can’t really stop you . . . or even know if you do . . . so please vote responsibly . . .

ANYWAY that’s probably everything, so let’s actually cut the nonsense and show the character brackets!

“Wow! We’ve got some real tough matches here! If you don’t recognize some of these characters, then don’t worry, we’ll introduce them before each match starts!”

We return to Belle’s interview tent.

“Wow, some of these matchups are unexpected,” Belle says. She turns to Vil, who stares at the table, hair shrouding their face. “What do you make of having to face your own pupil in round one, Mx Garrido?”

“It’s tough,” they mutter. Belle moves the microphone closer. “I don’t mind saying, I don’t want to do it. I’m tempted to drop out. But . . .” They look up and smile. “That wouldn’t help either of us grow. I’m confident in Hilja. She’ll make a strong attempt, as will I. There will be no hard feelings whoever wins, and I will be proud of her regardless of the outcome.”

“Good to hear it!” Belle says. “Before we reach that match, though, we have two real powerhouses.”

“Ah, yes,” Vil says. “I saw much cheering for that girl with the purple tail. She is quite popular. But the other one . . . She claims divinity, does she not? She could set the audience ablaze with her power. I wouldn’t want to place a bet in this match.”

“I would,” Wren mutters. “My bet is I’m going to hate it either way.”

“My bet is I’m going to eat more pizza!” Top says.

The audience makes their cheers and gasps at the reveal of the bracket. Above them, halfway down the stadium, two VIP boxes stand tall. The south one has no door. There is no visible entryway. In fact, there is no visible window.

“So, my pet project is facing Duth’s favorite girl,” says the entity within the box, whom I can’t believe I invited to watch the tournament. “Don’t be like that, Duth, you took my name, by all rights I should be running this tournament. But I’ll watch, oh yes, I’ll just watch. I admit a curiosity in how the chips fall in this.”

Darmenzi takes a sip from a wine glass, holding it in a scaly hand with three curled fingers. They grin, their mouth stretched halfway across their head. They don’t need a disguise in an opaque box. There they can rest on an easy chair in their stolen body, a hole for their tightly-wound tail cut in the back. There they watch the event through opaque walls as if the world is light smoke they can see through, and if they want, pass through.

Perhaps they choose some characters to root for. Perhaps they craft new plans.

Across the stadium stands another VIP box, this one with a big viewing window transparent only from the inside. On the other side of the entry door stands a robot, four arms behind their back and watching the wall. Most of the room is full of snaking white and black scales, with an occasional bit of red.

“She’s facing the strongest contender in the tournament first round,” says Veda Lima.

“Indeed,” the robot responds.

“Yet past polls conducted by this Duth Olec may tell a different story,” Veda says. “People wished to hear tales of Lila. This so-called love goddess came after the hunter, as well.”

“Jb’s popularity may be overestimated,” the robot says.

“Perhaps. She is powerful nevertheless,” Veda says. “But so is Lila. The only thing . . .” The lamia leaned back in her chair. “Does the public know this? I’m not sure. Does Lila know this? I’m also not sure.”

“May I speak freely?” the robot asks.

“You may, Eduards.”

“You’re not sure that you know this, either.”

Veda laughs. “You’re right. It’s only a hunch, yet. A too early hunch, even. We’ll just have to watch and see.”

Wow! What am I even doing!! Did you know I have plans for a lamia who runs a casino and has connections to the mafia? Why isn’t she here taking bets??? Probably because I’ve already just introduced two characters I haven’t yet because I’m a chaotic writer! I’m going to end this here and tomorrow




Round 1 Match 1

“Welcome to the first official day of the Duth Olec Character Tournament! We’re starting out strong with two popular characters, my first lamia, Lila, and a character specifically designed for sex appeal, Jb! We have a kind, gentle lamia facing off against an evil, manipulative, and quite possibly deadly lamia! Will the voters go soft or hard? We turn now to our interviewer, Belle, who is there with Lila right now!”

The cameras return to Belle’s tent. She sits at the table across from Lila, whose tail curls around the table and tent grounds.

“Thank you, I’m Belle Peltonen, and with me is Lila Pachis, one of our contestants today.” She turns to Lila, who twists a bit of her dress in her hands. “How are you today, Lila?”

Artwork by Astron

“I’m good,” she says. “It’s exciting to be here, but I’m nervous, too.”

“You’re a singer, aren’t you?” Belle asks. “Have you ever performed in front of crowds?”

“I am a singer, but I usually sing in private,” Lila says. “I make videos for online. I’ve only ever sang for a few people at most.”

“Are we going to get a song today?” Belle asks. Lila smiles and chuckles.

“Maybe! I’m not sure, yet. I’ve not met Wren yet.”

“It might be tough to get them at ease,” Belle says. “What do you think of your chances today?”

“I mean . . .” Lila taps her hands together. “I know some people like me, but . . .” She looks at the bracket on the big board over the stadium. “Jb literally spends all her time conducting people to submit, doesn’t she?” She shudders. “I can’t imagine it. A life like that.” She frowns then plants her hands on the table, staring directly into the camera. “If I don’t win, that’s fine! I would rather lose than ever have to live a life like she does!”

“It does seem hard to settle down for her,” Belle says.

“I wouldn’t want to hurt anyone that way,” Lila says. “I wouldn’t want to change them forever.” She quietly adds, “I wouldn’t want to kill anyone.”

“All right, now’s not the time to get introspective!” Top jumps onto the table from seemingly nowhere. “Now’s the time to get excited! Now’s the time to get ready! You’re on, purple! Let’s go!”

“R-Right!” Lila says. She stands from her seat. “I don’t hurt anyone, I help them! I’ll show everyone how good I can make someone feel!”

She slithers to the field and enters a transparent dome, carpeting spread out over the dome floor. A couch and a few easy chairs sit in the dome.

“All right, Lila!” I say from the announcer booth, “show us what you’ve got!”

Lila’s Profile

Lila looks around the dome as if something’s missing.

“Wait, where’s Wren?” she asks.

“Hey, where is Wren?” Top asks from atop the dome. They walk around. “Oh Wren! Where are you, Wren!”

Lila slithers to the couch and takes a seat, and she sits up as it shudders.

“Hm?” She reaches her tail under the sofa and someone screams from under it. “Aha!” She slithers further under the sofa and someone shouts and wails until Lila pulls out Wren, her tail wrapped around their shoulders and hips.

“I don’t want to do this!” Wren says, flailing their arms and trying to step away from Lila.

“Aw, don’t worry cutie, you just need to relax,” Lila says. She slides her tail closer around Wren, holding their arms down and curling her tail around their head. “That’s what I’m here for, after all.” She lifts Wren in her growing coils and squeezes their face in her hands.

“Mleh, no,” Wren mutters, but as Lila massages more of their body they struggle less. Lila’s scales rub over Wren as her serpentine muscles flex over them, squeezing and squishing Wren into an even more compact puddle. Wren couldn’t focus on their fear as Lila’s massage sent them spiraling into a drowsy daze.

“Now, that feels so good, doesn’t it?” Lila says. She coils Wren’s legs with two thick loops, enough to completely cover their legs, and she tucks Wren’s arms into her coils, trapping Wren immobile in her grasp.

“Nnnn,” Wren mutters. They glare at Lila, still trying to resist her presence, even as she wraps around Wren’s thick neck and cuddles their face.

“You don’t have to be so nervous,” Lila whispers. She blinks, and her eyes pulsate cool violets and blues, rippling from her eyes into Wren’s. Wren opens their eyes wide as they realize they forgot in the sea of scales to shut their eyes. They clench their face but their eyes stay open, and their face relaxes as the violet rings spread over their eyes and stare agape at Lila.

“Perfect, my little Wren,” Lila says. “You don’t have to fear me. I just want you to be safe.” She slithers around Wren’s coil cocoon, building up more of her thick tail around them as she pulls their gaze in a circle and begins a song.

“I’ll keep you safe, I’ll keep you snug,

“Just sink with me into my hug,

“It’s not so scary to be wrapped,

“Just take a comfy, entranced nap.

“As you sink, your silent mind,

“Gets to rest, so just unwind,

“Let me take you on a trip,

“Now just let go, and let me grip.”

Wren’s head spins with Lila’s colors, focused entirely on her pretty smile and stunning eyes. They sigh, and in that moment release their thoughts as a dazed smile spread over their face.

With her tail piled up in front of the couch, Lila slithers back onto the couch, the end with her tail creaking from her heavy weight, and lies with her back against the armrest. She lifts Wren over the sofa and settles them atop her, an easy task with Wren’s short stature. Lila laughs and hugs Wren’s head in her arms.

“You’re just an adorable little ball of stress, aren’t you?” she says. She pets Wren’s head with her tail and kisses them on the forehead. “Maybe by the end of this tournament we’ll all massage away some of that stress.” She kisses Wren on the nose. “At least, I’m not so bad when you get to know me.” She giggles and holds Wren’s chin to close their mouth. “And I’d love to get to know you better.” She kisses Wren on the lips, holding them in place for a moment, squeezing tighter, holding them closer. She backs off and wavers.

“Well, I should– I shouldn’t get too familiar with you just yet. N-Not until you’re ready.” She sighs but smiles and pets Wren. “I hope you get over your fear. I’d love to hold you of your own volition sometime. This is nice, for now.” She croons to Wren in a lower, quieter voice as she releases slow, colorful rings through her eyes.

“I’ll hold you by the candlelight and we can sink together,

“Snuggle from the snow, the storm, or any other weather.

“The night would grow so long, yet feel timeless when with me,

“The candle goes out, you won’t need a light, my eyes all you need to see.”

Lila hugs Wren and cradles them in her coils for the rest of her allotted time.

“Wow, now that’s a gentle dom for you, everyone!” I say. I hope I didn’t leave any accidental past tense narration . . . Whoops, again, thinking out loud! In text! “Wren would be sleeping like a baby tonight if we weren’t about to give them a rude awakening and possibly a ruder en . . . sleepening? Is that a word? Ensleepening? It is now!”

Lila uncurls from Wren, leaving them on the couch, and Top barks like a dog herding sheep to direct Lila away from the field of play.

“Now, with the push of a button—a cloud button—definitely what I meant—”

A puff of smoke surrounds the couch, and Wren shouts, now sitting upright on the couch.

“Huh? What? What happened?” They groan. “Aw, I was having a dream that I wasn’t at this tournament! I was . . .” They glance at the leaving Lila and blush. “Never mind. Can I go now?”

“Oh, but why would you want to go anywhere?” An imposing pile of scaly red coils slithers into the dome, a pink heart pattern tracing down the long, thick tail.

Art by Orange in a Can!

Jb’s Profile

“What, another one? Without even giving me a rest?” Wren asks. Jb laughs.

You wouldn’t want to miss an opportunity to meet divinity, would you, little one?” she says. “I can give you a perfect rest, with the sweetest, loveliest, most intoxicating dreams to ever grace your silly little mind.” Wren pouts and turns away.

Don’t try that on me,” they say. “I know a little about all of you, and I know you aren’t really a real goddess.”

Oh, I forgot,” I say in the announcer booth. “Sorry to interrupt, but I need to state that in order for Jb to be here at the tournament, everyone must agree that she really is a love goddess so that she be sustained off that belief. Wait, I thought it was worship that sustained her. Can we get a priest out here to sustain her throughout the tournament? We can? Great, okay, resume!”

Wren scoffs. “This whole thing is ridiculous–” They gasp as Jb slips her tail around their shoulders, sliding under their shirt and rubbing her scales against their skin. She grabs Wren’s head in her tail and pushes their gaze up to her; she pulsates hypnotic hearts from her eyes and bends down close to Wren.

Not at all, little one,” Jb says. “I think it’s about time that you see the light.”

The what?” Wren mutters. They stare wide-eyed at Jb. “Wait, no, you’re–” Jb shushes them with a finger to their lips.

Now, dear, silence,” she says. “When divinity speaks, you must be silent.”

Wren groans, their voice fading as their mouth drops open and hearts ripple through their eyes, caught in Jb’s spell.

Yes, that’s right,” Jb says, “when divinity speaks, you must simply be silent and nod.” She nods her head, and Jb follows, locked to Jb’s gaze. “You must only speak when spoken to, do you understand?”

I . . .” Wren’s mind tried to take the opportunity to speak to refuse, but their thoughts stumbled out their mouth until they mumbled, “understand.”

You understand and obey, yes?”

I . . .” Wren tried to refuse again, but their voice faded and thoughts tumbled as Jb nodded, forcing Wren to nod in agreement.

Good,” Jb says, lifting one of her heart pendants. “You already know your place.” She slithers her tail around Wren, so thick as to have the half-coiled with only three loops. She squeezes them down against the couch, her heavy body dragging Wren under her spell.

Now, follow your love goddess,” Jb says, swinging the pendulum and her head together. Wren follows, locked to Jb’s eyes and the pendulum. “Submit to divine love. Submit to my grasp. Submit to your love goddess. You can’t resist your desire to obey your love goddess.”

Wren mumbles. Jb wraps around their shoulders, her heavy tail already squeezing Wren tight down to their feet, and she slithers over their shoulders, massaging their face among her tail. Jb flips the heart pendant up into her hand and leans closer, looming over Wren so they have to stare up.

I am your love goddess,” she says.

You . . .” Wren’s eyelids sway up and down. Jb’s spell snuffs out most of their mind, leaving them struggling to hold on to the remains before she swallows the rest of their mind.

I am your love goddess,” Jb says. “You love to obey.”

You are . . . You . . .”

Jb leans closer, filling Wren’s vision with her immaculate divinity.

I am your love goddess,” she says. “You love to worship.”

You are my . . . love goddess,” Wren says. A smile creeps over their face. “I . . .”

Worship me.”

I love to worship you,” Wren says. Jb wraps her tail around Wren’s neck and squeezes, holding them from head to toe in her soft, snug, divine coils. Wren gulps, a grin stretching over their face. Jb kisses them on the lips.

You love to worship me,” Jb says.

I love to worship you,” Wren croaks out from under Jb’s tail.

You love to worship me.”

I love to worship you.”

You love to worship me.”

I love to worship you. I love to worship you. I love to worship you.”

So Wren repeated as Jb kissed and fondled them all over their body.

And that concludes Jb’s scene! We’ve seen Lila, we’ve seen Jb, now it’s time for you to VOTE! Which character do you like more? If you’re unfamiliar with them, don’t forget you can check their profile pages, posted above alongside their arts, and read more about them and the stories they’re in! Voting will last for one day, after which we’ll see the results of your votes!

Round 1 Match 1 Results

“Welcome back to the Duth Olec Hypnosisnakerotica Character Tournament! It’s time to find out which pretty snake lady will win in the first match! Let’s go to Belle for some analysis.”

“Thank you, Duth,” Belle says. She sits at her table tent as always. “I’m here with the one who had firsthand experience of the contenders today, Wren Huppe. Wren, having gone through the not-completely-metaphorical wringer with these two, who’s your favorite to win?”

“My lllove goddessss . . .”


Whoops! Wren’s sitting slumped against the table with a wobbly smile and hearts in their eyes. I forgot to deprogram them.

With a puff of smoke Wren sits up in their seat.

“What? Huh? What happened?” Wren asks.

“You okay there, Wren?” Belle asks. Wren knocks on their head.

“I think so. I dunno.” They look around. “Wait, no I’m not, I’m still stuck around here!”

“Right, true,” Belle says. “Well, after what you experienced yesterday, who do you think is most likely to win?”

“Not me,” Wren says. “I mean . . .” They slump back in their chair. “That Jb lady can just make people believe she’s a love goddess. That’s terrifying. But if anyone can resist that . . .” They look up at the bracket board. “I don’t know who might win, but I know one thing.” They lean forward. “I want Lila to win.”

“You’re rooting for Lila, then?” Belle asks.

“Yes. If I’m going to be stuck here, then”—They look down—“She at least seems willing to respect boundaries.” They look up as Belle shoves a microphone in their face.

“And what kind of boundaries would you set with Lila?” she asks. Wren blushes.

“I—what—I don’t—I’m not answering that!” they shout.

“All right, all right,” Belle says. “Maybe we’ll find out later in the tournament. Right now I’m getting word that the engagement match is about to begin!”

Out on the field, the dome from yesterday has been replaced with a larger dome over twice the size. The dome is full of two winding snake tails, one purple and one red. Lila and Jb stand watching each other, Jb with a grin and Lila with a frown.

“It’s time for the confrontation match!” I announce. “Lila and Jb will go head to head to see who has the stronger head, mentally speaking. Your votes have been counted, and they will give strength to our contenders! Whoever has the most votes is certain to come out on top!”

Jb laughs as Lila crosses her arms.

“I don’t know why they included a loser’s bracket,” Jb says. “Everyone I win against will just drop out to support me afterwards.”

Lila smiles.

“It’s not going to be that easy, Jewelyn.”

Jb stares at her. “What did you call me?”

“That’s your name, isn’t it?” Lila says. “Jewelyn Blovulena.” Jb glares at her.

“How did you learn that name?” she asks.

“I get my own secrets, too,” Lila says.

“All right, enough mysterious smack talk,” I say. “Let’s go!”

Both lamias whip their tail forward, twirling around and grappling each other. They slither their upper bodies forward as Jb pulls the heart goggles off her head. She lunges for Lila and swings the goggles over her head. Lila slides to the side and circles Jb so her tail is around her.

“I made sure my tail was nice and clean and soft for you, Jewelyn,” Lila says as she grabs Jb with her tail. Jb smiles, undulating to push Lila’s tail away.

“It can’t be as soft and pleasing as my tail,” she says. Jb flings her tail at Lila to grab her, but Lila dodges her attempts as if dancing around Jb’s attempts to grab her.

She stumbles back as Jb tackles her, grasping her in her arms as she pulsates hearts from her eyes into Lila’s. Lila finds the world turning pink and fuzzy and she starts her own hypnotic eyes to counter Jb’s. The two stare at each other, pushing their hypnotic spell into each other’s minds.

Lila sees a few of her violet rings interrupt the hypnotic hearts in Jb’s eyes, but she feels Jb’s hearts flow through her head with increasing frequency. She tries to push them out, mentally sidestep them, but Jb grins and leans forward, pushing Lila back. She’s taking control.

How could Lila expect to beat a love goddess, after all? She’s actual divinity. She’s truly divine. She should let Jb win.

No! That’s Jb’s spell talking. She knows how this sort of thing works. She has to focus on her strengths.

Now, my dear,” Jb says, “you put up a valiant fight, but it’s futile to resist a love goddess. Just let me curl my spell around your pretty little–” Jb shouts, muffled as Lila curls her tail around Jb’s pretty little head. Lila wraps around Jb’s mouth and pulls her away from her and then around Jb’s eyes so she can’t use her hypnotic eyes. Lila smacks her head, shaking Jb’s spell out of her mind.

You can’t stop me this way!” Jb yells. “I have more hypnotic power at my disposal than you can dream of!”

Jb’s tail lunges for Lila, but with Lila’s tail having already been grappling it she avoids it touching her upper body’s skin. She can feel Jb’s velvety scales over her scales, but they scuff each other in the struggle so much it has little hypnotic effect. Jb grabs Lila’s tail around her head and pushes, but Lila holds firm, slithering another loop around Jb’s neck. The pods around Jb’s shoulders glow and the heart pattern pulsates, but Lila looks away and circles Jb.

You think you’re the best, you think you’re divine,

But when you are challenged, it seems like you whine.

You’re confident and powerful, so many you’ve ensnared,

But your curse drives you forward, are you actually scared?

I’m sorry! I know you have to do it to survive,

But that doesn’t mean you can take someone else’s life.

I don’t know how you got here, but as for where you’ll go,

You’re going to the loser’s bracket, this much I know.”

Stop this!” Jb shouts. She grabs Lila’s tail to pull her off, but Lila massages Jb’s neck and strokes her tail over the exposed skin of her collar and midriff. Lila slithered closer, singing quiter.

Settle down now, just relax,

Being a goddess must be such a tax,

You never get a break, you never can rest,

Why not do so for once with the best?”

At this Lila lifts her tail off Jb’s eyes, staring at her with her hypnotic violets pulsating in her eyes. Jb stares. She groans under Jb’s tail and pulls back, but Jb holds her grip firm, massaging Jb closer and deeper. She slithers her tail further around Jb as her violet rings start to mirror in Jb’s eyes. The love goddess starts to release some of her hypnotic hearts, but she’s unable to flow them through her eyes and Lila’s rings spill over them, her spell overwhelming Jb’s. Lila smiles as she gradually pulls Jb to the ground.

It’s nice to be nice with hypnotic bliss,

A gentle and friendly sort of hypnotist.

I won’t change your mind, I won’t go too deep,

I’ll just give you a chance to finally sleep.”

Jb moans as she sinks to the ground, Lila’s tail wrapped from her head to her snake hips. Her eyes droop as she sinks to Lila’s spell. Lila laughs.

You’re actually kind of cute like this,” she says. She pats Jb’s head. “You don’t get to just be cute very often, do you? Do you like being cute?”

Jb moans. Under Lila’s tail comes a muffled, “Cute . . . Sleepy . . .”

The last words she speaks before falling asleep are, “Thank you.”

She did it, everybody!” I shout. “Our gentle gal, the demure dom, Lila has won against the overwhelming love goddess Jb!” The crowd cheers, because I told them to.

In a VIP booth with no exits, Darmenzi chuckles.

It seems in the end my pet is still just a sad, scared, lonely girl.” They burst into laughter for a while before settling into their seat. “Well, then. Perhaps it’s time I start a new project. Perhaps I’ll examine Lila for a while.” They grin, a dark aura glowing around them. “I’m sure I could find some way to ruin her life!”

In a VIP booth with exits, Veda Lima nods.

She did it. She went up against someone given false power of the gods, and she won.”

Do you think this means . . .?” Her robot butler Eduards let the question hang.

She has power in more than just her eyes,” Veda says. “Her tail seems hypnotic of its own. She may be a full blood lamia. She may just be talented.” She smiles. “She may be both. All I’m certain of now, is it’s a worthwhile line to look into.”

I’ll alert our researchers,” Eduards says. “We’ll see what of Lila’s ancestry they can find.”

What am I even doing! I wasn’t supposed to introduce that plot point for 4 or 8 stories! This tournament isn’t even canon to anyone’s storyline, Veda hasn’t even appeared in a real story yet!

Oh well. Lila moves on to round 2, and Jb has one more chance in the loser’s bracket. Tomorrow, the vampire vote!

Round 1 Match 2

“It’s time to prepare for the second match of round one! We got two vampires going head to head today, but first let’s turn to Belle and see who she’s interviewing today!”

Belle sits at her interview table. Across from her sits someone about as short as Wren, though a witch hat full of potions and herbs and junk crammed into pockets and a pink band makes her look taller.

“Hello, I’m Belle Peltonen, and with me today is Erada Lielayn. So, Ms. Lielayn, I understand you’re a witch?”

“I don’t think that’s related to the topic, don’t you think?” Erada laughs. “We’re here to talk about vampires, aren’t we?” Belle huffs.

“Yes, I guess we’re here to talk about vampires,” she says. “Are you a vampire?”

“No, I’m a witch,” Erada says. “Much like you.”

“Wait, I’m not a witch,” Belle says.

“You’re a reporter,” Erada says. “That’s a type of witchcraft in of itself.”

Belle taps her fingers on the table.

“I’m not sure if that’s supposed to be a compliment or not, from you,” she says. Erada laughs.

“True, well, I’m not going to tell you,” Erada says. “So! Vampires.”

“Yes, vampires,” Belle says. “Do you have much experience with them?”

Not a lot, no,” Erada says. “Some frequent my shop, though. I’ve been working on a substitute for blood they could drink, but it’s tricky. Vampire systems are intricate and varied, and nothing has worked universally.”

Common knowledge says that vampires are quite powerful, but have a few specific weaknesses,” Belle says. “What have you observed in them?”

You mean like garlic and counting things? I haven’t seen that,” Erada says. “It seems more like a particular vampire disliked garlic, or had OCD, and people assumed they were all that way.”

Do you know of any particular weaknesses shared by vampires?” Belle asks.

Well, they don’t do great in sunlight,” Erada says. “That’s mostly just sensitive skin. No, their weakness is their lack of control. They can control others tightly, but not their own impulses. Makes them dangerous, but it can be used against them.”

Poor impulse control, got it,” Belle says. She wrote it down. “If I ever get a chance to interview one for work I’m sure to get a promotion!”

No, no, you gotta think like a witch,” Erada says. “If you interview a vampire you’re getting your own show!”

Yeah! My own show!” Belle says.

You gotta be the one to take charge.”

Take charge!”

Erada nods. “Just like a witch.” Belle clears her throat.

So, the contestants this match. Do you know either of them?”

The girl, Hilja, she’s visited my shop a few times,” Erada says. “She actually hoped for a potion to rid her of the vampire state. Told her all I could do was change her from a vampire to a zombie. Not a great swap, though.”

I imagine not,” Belle says. “Zombies are difficult to interview.”

No doubt they have trouble losing their heads.” Erada laughs. “As to Hilja, though, she’s a sweet girl. Hope she triumphs against her mentor.”

Do you think she might have a problem trying to outshine her mentor?” Belle asks.

I hope not!” Erada says. “That’s a worry for a human! We sort, like me and her, ought to be rising above our predecessors!”

A difficult task with Vil Garrido’s height and length,” Belle says. Erada glares at her.

Be careful what you say about height. The shortest can be the strongest.”

Actually, Hilja is rather tall, herself,” Belle says. Erada stands, which doesn’t add much to her height, and plants a potion on the table.

That’s why I’m gonna be winning this tournament!” she says.

Belle nods. “I wish you luck, Ms. Lielayn. I’m getting word that the first exhibition will begin soon, so let’s turn back to our host.”

The smaller dome returns, Vil’s tail snaking throughout. They sit on one of the chairs, reading a book.

Vil’s Profile

Top runs to the dome, opens the door, and spits Wren out despite being less than half their size.

“Wren delivery!” Top says.

“Ah, I was wondering when we’d begin.” Vil closes the book. Wren stands up and backs against the dome wall.

“You stay away!” Wren says. They lift up a pizza box from behind them. “I nabbed this garlic pizza from that beach ball! Stay away or I’ll”—Top jumps over them and eats the box—“use it– Uh, wait.” They stare at their empty hands.

“A worry held is oft to hurt, it pricks you like some sting. A worry forgot is not to know, it soon dissolves to nothing.” Vil stood from the seat and slithered in a meandering path towards Wren. “Now, my dear Mx Huppe, I hold myself to my word that I won’t hurt a hair on your head. In fact, with your revulsion towards the strange and unfamiliar, I promise not to touch you, lest you invite me to do so.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?” Wren asks, giving Vil a sidelong glance.

“You know the old belief that a vampire can only enter when invited?” Vil asks. “Point of fact, not true, we’re generally just too polite to barge in without being announced first. Still, I’ll put a little spin on it.” They coil their tail into a mound just big enough to hold Wren from chin to toe, and they run a gloved hand along it. “I won’t put you inside my cool, velvety, gentle coils unless you invite yourself inside first, hm?”

“Why would I ever do that?” Wren asks. Vil chuckles and looks up.

“They never could quite grasp their mind, ‘twas tricky and full of doubt.” They look at Wren, eyes glowing in fuchsia hues with an occasional ring of black. Wren stares back. “I thought, Perhaps I might help them find a way to straighten it out.”

“What– No– What . . .” Wren’s mouth hangs open as shadows swarm around them. Vil towers over them, and they stare up until they fall back against the dome behind them.

“Now, my dear, you look a little sleepy,” Vil says. “Would you like to take a seat?” Wren mumbles, head tumbling into straight lines.

“No seat . . . Nngh.” Wren tries to turn away, head still facing Vil even as they slump sideways against the dome wall.

“You look so uncomfortable against the wall,” Vil says. They move part of their tail closer to Wren. “You can take a seat on my tail, if you like. Just to rest a moment, it’s soft, and I promise not to move it when you do.”

Wren sighs and a small moan escapes their lips. They lean up against the wall, twirling as they step forward, and they fall back to sit on Vil’s tail, thick as a log bench. Wren sinks against Vil’s tail, the scales softly scraping Wren under their light dress. Their hands fall onto Vil’s scales and slowly brush them.

Part of Wren’s mind feels fear and revulsion, but the dark colors rippling from Vil’s eyes to Wren’s swallow up those negative feelings. The tail feels relaxing under Wren, the softest seat for their legs and butt. They feel drowsy, their eyes drooping as they stare at Vil, first slipping forward off the tail then snapping alert and nearly slipping backwards. A more secure seat would be lovely.

“My offer is, of course, still available,” Vil says, gesturing to their coils. Wren sighs, a smile spreading on their lips as they stand from the tail and step towards Vil’s coils. They stumble, steps wobbly, and Vil extends the end of their tail.

“Would you like me to hold you up?” Vil asks.

Wren replies with an affirmative sigh, and Vil loops their tail under Wren’s arms, slipping the end under their chin. Wren smiles and Vil pulls them forward. At first Wren takes their own steps, but as Vil’s tail wraps further around Wren the vampire lifts Wren into the air. Wren’s legs go limp, and in a moment Vil lowers Wren into their coils, squeezing their heavy, muscular tail against Wren, sliding their cool scales over Wren’s skin as Vil straightens and massages Wren’s back.

“There you go, my dear,” Vil says. “Just sink, body and mind.” Vil ends their hypnotic eyes, and in a moment Wren shuts their eyes into a trance. Vil massages Wren, squeezing their legs, sliding around their torso, and holding their neck and shoulders snug.

“I said to them, Why not stay? An hour or day or more. You need a rest, a rest from the world, and mine is fine to sleep in. To sleep is pleasant, empty mind; to be awake and think’s a chore. I pulled them in and kept them under as my spell’s power deepened.”

Vil chuckles and rests in the chair, returning to their book as they caressed Wren in their tail.

“That’s Vil’s exhibition!” I announce. “Next up, the fresh vampire who Vil took in to mentor, Hilja Kallas!”

Vil leaves the dome. As they do they pass by Hilja, walking to the dom, and they nod to her.

“You can do it, Hilja.”

Hilja doesn’t look at them.

“Ugh, it’s been three of these and my head already hurts,” Wren mutters. They sit on the couch and rub their head. Top offers them a glass of water.

Hilja enters the dome, sits on one of the chairs, and crosses her arms.

Hilja’s Profile

“I’m not going to do it,” Hilja says. Wait, what? She glares at Wren and Top before she sighs and looks down with a weak frown. “I mean, there’s not much of a point, is there? Vil has been doing this for centuries. I can’t beat my own mentor.” She huddles her arms close to her. “I don’t know why I even came out here.”

“Hey, hey, hey!” Top skips over to Hilja. “It’s not about the talent, missy! It’s about the votes! You don’t have to be the best at zonks to win, just look at the last match!”

“But I don’t have anything,” Hilja says. “I barely scrape by.”

“Sure you do,” Top says, “you have a sweater dress and a flower in your hair!”

“I . . . What?” Hilja asks. Top climbs to her shoulder.

“You’ve got style! You’ve got grace! This vampire does not have a funny face!”

Hilja laughs. “Okay, you’re just being silly now.”

“See, I’d win this tournament off silly alone,” Top says. Hilja sighs.

“But I can’t beat Vil. They’ve done so much for me, I can’t try and beat my mentor.”

“Hey, the student has to surpass the master sometime,” Top says.

“Even when they’re an immortal vampire who has all the time in the world to improve?” Hilja asks.

“Especially then,” Top says. “You gotta make your mentor proud! They just want you to have confidence!”

“Stop encouraging her!” Wren shouts. They stand up and glare at Top, hands shaking. “I already had to deal with one bloodsucking freak, I’d like a break if possible!”

“With WHAT?” Hilja shouts. She stands, and Wren shrinks back as Hilja’s glare pierce daggers into them. She jumps, and Wren shouts as Hilja stamps the ground next to them. “Vil is the kindest, gentlest soul I have ever met in this world!” She grabs Wren and lifts them over her. Wren screams. “I will not hear someone insult them that way!”

“Party foul! Party foul!” Top shouts, flailing their appendages. “No physical violence! No physical violence!”

Hilja stared at Top. She blinked.

“Oh no.”

She placed Wren back on their feet, dropped to her knees, and hugged Wren.

“I’m sorry. I’m sorry, sometimes I can’t control myself. Please forgive me.”

“Neh!” Wren pulls away. “No, let go! I don’t want to get bit!” Hilja looks Wren in the eye, even as Wren tries to avoid her gaze.

“I promise you, Wren, I would and will never do that to you.”

“I don’t believe you,” Wren says, “I don’t . . .” They look at Hilja’s eyes. “You’re not doing that hypnosis thing.”

“Of course,” Hilja says. “I would never do it without your permission.”

“Wait, hold up,” I say, “you gotta! That’s the rule of the tournament!” Hilja turns to The Cloud above.

“I refuse! I’ll only hypnotize someone who asks beforehand!”

“Ugghhhh fine,” I say.

With a puff of vapor I appear in the dome.

“I’m asking, now do it,” I say.

Hilja lets go of Wren. I wave Wren away.
“You can go back, Wren, you get your break after all.” I turn back to Hilja. “All right, let’s see what you got.”

It’s not like I haven’t let her hypnotize me in four other microstories.

Hilja shuts her eyes and breathes slowly. She opens her eyes and they glow red, pupil expanding and contracting. I stare intently, the red glow searing into my mind and—

I remember I’m still wearing my glasses, the lens proofed against hypnotic glows, but then I realize Hilja’s hypnotic eyes are passing through. I’m locked to her gaze, her pulsating pupil drawing me in.

“Wait,” I say, lifting my hand to my glasses. I realize they must not have been set up to block a vampire’s hypnosis, but before I can bring my hand up Hilja grabs my arm and holds it, grip stronger than me.

“Oh no,” Hilja says. She smiles. “You told me to hypnotize you, so that’s what we’re going to do.”

“Ah ha,” I say. “Great . . .” I smile, lips parted, letting her eyes take over my focus. I guess I asked for this. I was going to take the glasses off anyway.

“Don’t worry, though.” Hilja pushes me back into one of the chairs. “Take a seat. I’m not going to force you to do something you don’t want to, unlike some people.”

I feel a jolt of anger from her at the end as the world disappears into a red haze of darkness. Maybe she’s angry. Let no one say I never have a pang of conscience.

“I’m sorry, Hilja,” I mutter, before her eyes take over and the warmth of her control spirals me into a trance. My eyes glaze over as my mouth hangs open. Hilja smiles and holds my chin up.

“Good. I’m glad you’re sorry.” She rubs my neck. “I don’t know what your deal is, but I’ll bet your blood is special.” She laughs. “Of course, you didn’t allow me that, so I won’t.”

She stood and left the dome, leaving me dazed in the chair until I could teleport myself back into The Cloud.

Oh, were you wondering how I’m still narrating despite being hypnotized? Time shenanigans. The me down there is actually from earlier.

“Well, that was fun, everyone!” I announce. “We’ve seen our two contestants today, and now it’s time to vote! Which vampire do you want to see advance? Cast your votes now!”

Round 1 Match 2 Results

“Welcome back to the tournament!” Belle says. “Wren is still taking the break they got last time, so I’m here again with Lila Pachis to talk about the current match.”

“Thank you, Belle,” Lila says. She sits at the table, tail curled around under the tent.

“Who do you think is the favorite to win here, Vil or Hilja?”

“Gosh, I’m not sure,” Lila says. She chuckles, pulling her hair. “I mean, people seem to like snakes, don’t they?”

“That seems unfamiliar to you,” Belle says. Lila clears her throat.

“I mean, it’s still unexpected to me,” she says. “I’ve spent my life afraid I’d be shunned by everyone for being part snake, it’s so nice to see all these people who like us.”

“So you think Vil is likely to win?” Belle asks.

“I do think that seems to give them an advantage, yeah,” Lila says. “But Hilja is so cute and nice and shy you just want to hug her—unless that’s just me, haha. I understand Vil has centuries of experience, though, so I would probably guess them.”

“Who would you rather face in your next match?” Belle asks.

“Ah, er, well, I don’t want to play favorites,” Lila says. She taps her fingers together. “Vil is kind of intimidating, though.” Belel smiles.

“And you’d like the chance to hug Hilja, wouldn’t you?” she says. Lila laughs.

“Y-Yeah, I guess.”

“How have–”


Belle and Lila scream at my outburst.

“Oh, sorry, ladies. Cut the interview, we got a problem.”

“I think you’re the problem,” Hilja says. She and Vil stand on the field, looking up at the announcer booth.

“Now, dear Hilja,” Vil says, hands rested on their snake-designed cane, “they simply misunderstand the situation.”

“What’s to misunderstand?” I ask. “You two refuse to go at it!”

“I’m not going to fight Vil!” Hilja says.

“Rather fruitless at that,” Vil says. “A vampire can’t hypnotize another the way they can a non-vampire.”

“Oh, is that all?” I ask. “No problem, how about this?”

A cloudy puff fills the field, and when it fades the vampires see Wren sitting on a chair holding a sandwich.

“What?” Wren asks. “Hey, what about my break!”

“It’s over,” I say. “Okay, whoever hypnotizes Wren first wins!” Hilja crosses her arms.

“I already refused to hypnotize them once,” she says.

“Now, now, let’s consider this,” Vil says. “The host is trying to work with us. Why don’t we use this opportunity to show Wren how nice vampires can be?” Hilja rubs her arm.

“Well . . . Maybe.”

Wren stands up and backs behind the chair.

“No! No way! Go away!” they shout. They yelp as Vil nabs Wren in their tail and twirls them into a few coils.

“Now, my little friend, how could you say no to this beautiful face?” Vil lifts Wren up in front of Hilja.

“Psst,” Vil says, leaning close to Hilja with a smirk, “this is where you hypnotize them, dear.”

Hilja sighs and shuts her eyes. When she opens them she smiles and looks into Wren’s eyes, her eyes glowing red as her pupils expand and contract.

“Now, Wren, please don’t worry about a thing,” she says. “We’re not going to hurt you.” She laughs. “We just want to help you take your mind off things.”

Wren struggles in Vil’s grasp, but as they look into Hilja’s eyes they slow their movements, eyes widening as their mouth hangs open.

“I don’t . . . wanna . . .” Wren mumbles, head dipping bit by bit.

“Don’t worry,” Hilja says. She brushes her fingers along Wren’s chin. “You’re perfectly safe with us.”

“I, no . . . Safe . . .” Wren mutters, gaze fixated on Hilja.

“Now, my dear,” Vil says, “a moment of your time?” They place the snake loop handle of their cane over Wren’s face and pull them to look at Vil, who pulsates their dark red colors from their eyes. Wren stares, the rings mirroring in their eyes, and their body goes limp in Vil’s coils. “Let’s give you a break, shall we? A break from those pestering thoughts dragging down your mind.” They nod, forcing Wren to nod with them.

Hilja remembers this is a competition, after all. She floats up between Wren and Vil, gazing into Wren’s eyes closely.

“Drop down for me, won’t you?” she says. “It’s time to slip off to sleep.”

Wren’s eyelids droop as they stare at Hilja, her reds glowing over Vil’s hypnotic influence, but Hilja yelps as Vil’s long tail loops around her and pulls her away.

“No hard feelings, Hilja,” Vil says, “but you’ll need to be trickier than that to best your teacher.” They slither closer to Wren, standing over them and forcing Wren to stare up. “Now dear Wren, just let your thoughts float away. Float higher, away from your thoughts and concerns.”

Hilja pushes herself out of Vil’s grasp, but they swing their tail at her, keeping her away from Wren. Trickier—she has to be trickier. She shrinks away from Vil’s tail, growing fur as her arms change to wings. As a bat she avoids Vil’s tail and flies to Wren, squeezing herself between the hapless subject and Vil’s coils.

“Bit by bit your mind becomes lighter, so easy to twist and guide. All the while my grip becomes tighter–”

Vil’s poetry ends as Hilja expands back to her human shape, pushing Vil’s coils out to loosen Wren. In the moment Vil is caught off-guard Hilja grabs Wren and flies, lifting them into the sky.

“Let’s try floating this way,” Hilja says. Below, Vil claps and laughs.

“Excellent show, Hilja! I truly did not see that coming!”

As the wind rushes past Wren their thoughts tumble back into place. They blink and look around.

“What, what is–” They scream is they fly into the air above Hilja, before the vampire catches them as they fall. She flies Wren across the stadium.

“Sorry for the scare, but I had to do it,” Hilja says. “I’ll get you down in a moment.”

Wren watches the stadium swing under them as they soar over it.

“I’m . . . I’m flying.” Wren smiles and laughs. “I’m flying! I’m actually flying!”

“What?” Hilja asks.

“I’m flying,” Wren says. “I—I’ve always wanted to fly. Fly free like a bird.”

“Like your namesake,” Hilja says. She smiles. “Then let’s go!” She floats over the stadium, twirling and soaring with Wren. Wren holds their arms out to the wind.

“This is incredible,” Wren says. It’s the first thing to happen at the tournament they’re actually jazzed about.

“Now, let’s make you a bird,” Hilja says. She turns Wren’s face to hers, still soaring through the air, and fills Wren’s eyes with her hypnotic red light. “Just focus back into my eyes, little Wren.”

Wait, no, I . . .” Wren stares, the stadium filling back with the cardinal red haze. “I just . . .”

You’re just as free as a bird, Wren,” Hilja says. “Let those human thoughts fall away. You’re flying like a bird. You are a bird.”

I don’t . . . I’m a bird,” Wren mutters, eyes glazed over with Hilja’s spell.

You’re my little Wren,” Hilja says. She giggles and pets Wren’s head.

Something smacks past Hilja and she yelps and tumbles in the air as she loses hold of Wren.

Now they’re my little Wren, I’m afraid.” Vil flies with their gliding, scaly wings, their snake body wrapped around Wren. They look at Wren with their snake head, having changed into their snake-bat form, their magenta-rose scales from their head to their tail and over their wings. In the light their white markings sparkle rainbow.

Now, my dear,” Vil says, pressing their face against Wren’s as their eyes pulsate in dark red-violet hues, “any good little bird knows it’s only a matter of time until they get caught.”

They squeeze, holding Wren’s arms and legs tight as their upper body massages Wren’s neck. Wren stares at Vil, eyes mirroring the vampire’s hypnotic colors.

That it’s impolite to struggle when their predator catches them.”

Wren mumbles, eyes drooping. Their head dips, but Vil holds Wren’s chin in their tail to help Wren keep their gaze on the snake before them.

The prey found themself face to face with the snake, and never had they met a more polite host. They knew it was polite to give in and not fight; how could they, when the snake had them so engrossed?”

Wren burbles out a few unformed, confused thoughts, before a grin overtakes their face, body stiff in Vil’s grasp. They stare into Vil’s eyes, lost in their hypnotic spell. Vil chuckles and boops Wren’s nose with their pointed snout, fluttering back to the ground.

Hilja stops before Vil and grabs Wren. She looks at their eyes.

Aw, did I not make it in time?”

I’m afraid not, dear,” Vil says, unwinding from around Wren. “You put up an excellent show of prowess, though, and I’m quite proud of your movements.” Hilja smiles and picks up Vil to hug him.

Thanks, Vil. I think I made Wren less afraid of vampires, too, or at least found something we can do with them they can enjoy.”

Glad to hear it,” Vil says. “It’s always nice to make a new friend.”

Aaaand Vil is the winner!” I shout. “They went back and forth a lot, but in the end, Vil managed to take Wren in their tail and move on to round two!”

The camera shifts to Belle’s interview tent, where Lila claps for them.

Congratulations!” she says. “Sorry to see you drop to the other bracket, Hilja, but I hope you do well there!”

In the VIP booth with a window, Veda smiles and sips her tea.

An excellent showing by Vil. It’s been a long time since I saw them in action.”

Their pupil, Hilja, did well, too,” her robot butler says.

Indeed. I wonder if I should find a pupil myself,” Veda says.

Lila?” Eduards asks. Veda shakes her head.

She doesn’t need that from me.” She turns to Eduards. “If you would, Eduards, please extend an invitation to Vil for a drink. I think I would like to catch up and congratulate him.”

Eduards nods. “I’ll prepare an invitation posthaste, my lady.”

And so it goes. Vil moves on to round 2, and Hilja has another chance in the loser’s bracket. We’re starting to see how the next round will shape up! Tomorrow, a spider and a witch.

Round 1 Match 3

“Thank you, Eduards.” Vil takes the glass of wine and sips it. Though they only receive sustenance from blood, they still appreciate the taste of a good wine from time to time. “And thank you, my lady, for your invitation.”

“You’re welcome, Vil,” Veda says.

She and Vil sit in Veda’s VIP booth, the floor so covered in their twisting, snaking tails that Eduards has to hover to reach them.

Veda smiles. “It’s been too long since we caught up,” she says. Vil shakes their head.

“Yes, I’m afraid I became something of a recluse in recent years.” They smile. “Hilja has really given me new purpose, you know.”

“Yes, she seems quite promising,” Veda says.

“Not just promising,” Vil says. “Helping someone get over the fear of being a vampire, learning to adjust, stabilize them both physically and mentally—I wish I had been doing this for years. I’ve considered seeking out new vampires without direction and helping them come to grips with it.”

“A noble pursuit.” Veda nods. “You’re inspiring, in fact. I’m considering doing much the same.” Vil chuckles.

“Of course, you’ve got much going on as it is, don’t you?”

“True,” Veda says. “Businesses to run, operations to oversee. I don’t manage half of what I would like.”

Vil motions to the tournament bracket.

“You’re familiar with Maestra, the lady in the next match, right?”

“Indeed, though I’ve not seen her in an age either.” Veda sips her wine. “It’s difficult when I never know if she’ll have one of her demented offspring around.”

“Not one for kids, are you?” Vil chuckles.

“Not when they want to devour anyone they meet or twist them into a monster like them,” Veda says. “Fortunately none of Maestra’s children were invited to this tournament.”

“A rough family, I gather,” Vil says. “Not that everyone here is entirely above the board.” They sigh as they look at the bracket. “I don’t mind telling you, I almost wanted to lose yesterday so Hilja didn’t have to go against that so-called love goddess.”

“She’s a dangerous one, it’s true,” Veda says. “Still, she lost to Lila. Hilja has a chance.”

Vil smiles. “Yes, she does have a chance. She can hold her own.”

Meanwhile, down in the stadium at Belle’s interview tent.

“Welcome back, we’re getting ready for the third match of round one here!” Belle says. “We’ve got the monster mama Maestra and the potion-notioned witch Erada today. I’m here with someone familiar with both monsters and magic, Amaru, the jinn!”

“Why, thank you, Belle,” Amaru says. She grins, leaning an elbow on the table. “Before we begin, are there any wishes that interest you? Any at all? Say the word, and I’ll grant them.” Belle glares at her.

“Oh, no, you’re not tricking me now,” Belle says. “Just the interview, that’s all.” Amaru crosses her arms and looks away.

“Well, maybe I’ll only answer if you ask in the form of a wish,” she says.

“Okay, interview’s over,” Belle says, straightening her papers. Amaru looks back.

“No, no, I’m just joking.” She smiles. “Can’t you take a joke, come on?” Belle smiles.

“That’s more like it. Now, you’re–”

“Oh, wait, before we start,” Amaru says, fingers up, “one more thing.” She looks at the camera. “My branch of the wish business has just set up telephones! That’s right, you can call direct for a wish and I’ll be there to grant it! Just call”—With each number she points below her, producing the number in the air in front of the camera—“000-000-0000. That number again is zero-zero-zero, zero-zero-zero, zero-zero-zero-zero. You can remember it by remembering it’s blank, just like you’ll be after your wish!” She looks aside, finger to her chin. “I ought to work on that line.” Belle rolls her eyes.

“Can we start now?”

“You got it, babe,” Amaru says. “What’ve you got?”

“Well, you’re a magical creature,” Belle says.

“The magical creature,” Amaru says, “number one, the first one that springs to mind when you hear magic.”

“So what’s your take on the witch in our forthcoming match, Erada?” Belle asks. “How is her magic, do you think? What’s your take on witches in general.”

Amaru shakes her head and waves a hand.

“Not worthwhile.”

“Not worthwhile?” Belle asks.

“Is it really magic?” Amaru asks. “It’s just mixing drinks. I can do that.” Amaru points at the table and an orange umbrella drink with a lemon wedge appears. She passes it to Belle. “Here you go.”

Belle pushes the drink to the side.

“If it’s not drinks, it’s card tricks.” She pulls a deck of cards from her hair and shuffles it. She spreads them out to Belle. “Pick a card, any card.” Before Belle can she pulls the cards back, slips them under her forearm bracelet, and pulls a card from under her tube top and shows it to Belle. “Is this your card?”

“Um.” Belle blinks.

Amaru tosses the card and it disappears.

“No, I do real magic. I make things from nothing but thought. I change the world with but a flick of the wrist. Witches just mix chemistry and psychology and call it a–”

“I’m not taking another word of this slander, you gas body!” Erada runs into the tent and slams her hands on the table. “You call my magic not worthwhile? You’re nothing but a glorified wishing well!”

The two ladies shouted at each other.

“You’re just a short poser–”

“You work solely off human ingenuity–”

“Nothing truly magical about it–”

“A shortcut through nonsense–”

“Big hat, big talk–”

“Lies and deceit when that’s our job–”

“Please shut up, both of you!” Belle says, but they keep at it. Belle pulls out her phone, holds it up, and blasts Metal music at them, silencing them.

This is supposed to be an interview, not a town hall,” Belle says. “Besides, I had another question for you, Amaru, so let’s leave that topic, okay?”

Amaru nods. “Okay.” Erada crosses her arms and glowers.

Okay. Now, according to our sources, Maestra has hundreds of children,” Belle says. “They’re monstrous beings with a hint of human to them, demihumans by some definitions. Though there’s a range of gender some insist on calling them monster girls. There’s a rumor going around, not sure if you’ve heard it, that you actually created monster girls, that you granted a wish that brought them into the world. I wanted your take on that rumor.”

It’s true.” Amaru nods. “Someone wished it, I made it happen. Must’ve been before Maestra was around, of course, and just because I made them with magic won’t mean they can’t procreate, so–”

That’s a lie,” Erada says. She smiles and shakes her head as she sits at the table. “All the records go against that rumor.” Amaru purses her lips and shifts her eyes. “You didn’t create monster girls, the fact you can easily turn into them suggests rather you were born from magic used by some.”

Amaru clears her throat.


She clears her throat again.

Er. Sorry, gotta go!” She disappears in a puff of smoke.

Well, so much for that interview,” Belle says. She leans forward. “Since you’re here, Erada, what do you think about your chances in your upcoming match?”

Let me just say this to the audience,” Erada says. She grabs Belle’s wrist and pulls her microphone to her. “Some of you might be thinking Maestra is a MILF. She is a mother, after all. But keep in mind the full phrase MILF stands for: ‘Mother I’d Like to Fuck.’ Maestra has tendancies of the widow spider. She kills and eats those she mates with to incubate the eggs, so remember that if you vote with MILF on the mind.” She lets go of Belle but grabs her wrist again. “And Jb inevitably kills those she has sex with, and she lost her match, so I’m confident in my chances to win!”

She lets go of Belle and leaves the tent area. Belle watches her before straightening her papers.

This is a weird tournament.”

Out on the field the small dome is replaced with a tall box, the chairs and sofa from the dome inside. Spider webs cover the floor and walls, blocking much of the sparse light from the windows.

The audience can’t see what’s going inside either but that’s okay because they’re fake.

Wren opens the creaky door and steps inside, waving her flashlight around the room’s interior.

Can’t believe I have to do this,” Wren mutters. “Halloween is over, you know.” They peer around the room. “Whoever’s in here, just come out already and let’s get this over with.”

They walk further in, shaking webbing off their shoes. “Blegh.” Every seat is covered in webbing. They peer behind the couch, expecting to find someone hiding.

Hello, dear,” speaks a voice behind Wren. Wren shouts and tries to turn around, but four rigid, segmented arms with silk fishnet gloves grab around Wren.

Maestra’s Profile

Art by Haredaze

Thank you for dropping in to visit me, little birdie,” Maestra says, close behind Wren’s head. She rises in the room on a string of silk to the web-covered ceiling.

I didn’t have much of a choice!” Wren shouts, struggling in her grasp. “Let me go!”

Well, if you insist,” Maestra says.

She shoves Wren out of her arms and into one of the easy chairs. Wren groans at the webbing stuck to them from the chair. They push against the chair to stand off it, but the webbing sticks them to the chair.

Now, dear, just relax, please.” Maestra approaches Wren and turns them in the chair so they sit in it, catching more webbing over them. “Let mama knit you a nice blanket.”

Wren pushes their arms against the webbing but they stick to the chair and their body. They try to shout for Maestra to get them out, but the webbing sticks over their mouth.

Now, now, settle down,” Maestra says. “It’ll only be a moment.”

She spins more silk from her abdomen and wraps it around Wren, sticking them firmly against the seat and firmly clasping their legs tight. All the while Wren wiggles in the silk, trying to free an arm to fall out of the chair so they can scrunch away, but Maestra keeps them firmly in the chair. She soon wraps enough silk around Wren’s arms they can’t even feel the chair anymore, and can’t really feel their own arms with the silk binding them tight. The shoulders follow, sticking Wren firmly against the seat. They groan as Maestra pulls the silk around their torso tight, showing more of a figure on them than they actually have.

There we are, little one, nice and tight,” Maestra says.

She pulls the silk around Wren’s chin, covering their mouth in full. Wren whines, shuffling in the cocoon as much as they can. Maestra frowns.

Oh dear, you seem a little nervous,” she says. She smiles and leans closer. “Don’t worry, I have a way to help with that.” She pulls at the silk above Wren’s shoulder, opening a little hole. Wren breathes faster as Maestra leans close.

All I have to do is—” Maestra bites Wren’s exposed skin. Wren wails under the silk. It hurt a surprisingly small amount, but Wren didn’t want to be bitten either way.

Wren’s wail begins to die down. The dark room swims before Wren as their vision goes blurry. Their struggle weakens, and their head wobbles back and forth. Maestra holds their head still and wraps silk around it, covering Wren’s sight with darkness. She laughs and taps Wren’s nose with a sharp finger.

Don’t worry,” Maestra says, her words low and warped in Wren’s waning consciousness, “I’ll keep a little breathing room for you.”

She wraps up Wren into a full cocoon, head to toe covered in silk save a little spot for their nose to poke out. All Wren can feel is the soft and sticky silk binding their body, along with a few pricks as Maestra runs her sharp fingers over the silk to even it out. Their sight is darkness, flashes of erratic spots popping through their vision as the venom sinks them into a trance.

Satisfied the cocoon is secure, Maestra cuts the silk from the chair and lifts Wren over her as she rises back to the ceiling. She attaches Wren’s back to the webbing on the ceiling and suspends Wren over the room.

There we are,” she says. She taps Wren and lets them sway back and forth. “Just hang around for a while, let your blood flow. The silk can do wonders for your skin, too.” She taps them on the nose again, and Wren drops into darkness.

That’s it for Maestra’s exhibition!” I announce. “Top, can you cut Wren down?”

Yeah, sure!” Top says. “Just one thing.” They flail their arms, stuck in the webbing in the corner of the room. “Send someone to cut me down first!”

Maestra laughs. “Don’t worry, I’ll get you both down.” She steps across the ceiling upside-down and pulls Top out of the web, then cuts Wren from the ceiling and sets them on the floor. She opens the cocoon and leaves Wren on a rug clear of webbing.

All right, all right, get out of here, you big bug.” Erada smirks as she pokes Maestra with a broom.

I’ll see you tomorrow for our challenge,” Maestra says. She lifts a hand to pat Erada on the head but the witch pushes her hand away with the broom.

Gotta clean up around here, first,” Erada says.

She swirls the broom in the air, catching most of the webbing, and she pulls it to the broom as if a vacuum cleaner. In a moment most of the webs are gone, and she tosses the broom out the doorway.

Wren groans and rubs their head. Their vision still swims, the venom still in their system. Erada grabs their hand and pulls them to a sitting position and hands them a potion.

Drink this,” she says.

What is’t,” Wren mutters.

It’ll clear your head of that venom,” Erada says.

Wren drinks it without another thought. They cough afterwards and shake their head. Their vision clears up and they look around.

Blegh. Why did that taste so much like cheese?” Wren asks.

It worked, didn’t it?” Erada says. She sits in one of the chairs and swishes a potion in her hand.

I guess,” Wren says. Their thoughts do come much faster than before. They try to stand but stumble and remain seated.

Careful, it’ll take a moment to get adjusted,” Erada says. “I’d just sit there and wait for the changes to finish.”

Okay,” Wren says. They glance up. “Changes?”

Changes back to normal, of course,” Erada says. “What else might I mean, short stuff?”

Hey,” Wren says, “aren’t you the same height as—”

Wren stares at Erada as she stands. She looks much taller than when they saw her before. They think she’s making herself taller for a second until they realize the chair is growing bigger, too. The walls are taller. Everything is bigger. They try to stand again and fall forward onto their shrinking hands. They feel hair growing.

What did you do to me?” Wren squeaks.

Oh, right,” Erada says. She smirks. “The other changes.”

Wren feels their tailbone pop and stretch as their face stretches forward. Their clothes swallow them as they shrink. They twitch as their nose and ears grow, front teeth stretching out. Fur grows over their body, but their hands almost look normal aside from the claws.

When they stop feeling any sudden changes Wren climbs out of their fallen shirt. Erada places a hand mirror against the floor and Wren screams upon seeing a mouse in their reflection. They shake a tiny fist at Erada far above, squeaking anger at her. She turned them into a mouse! How—Why—What— Wren wants to ask every question but can only squeak.

Erada laughs and gulps down her potion.

I was originally thinking to make it a cat and mouse sort of thing,” Erada says. She starts to shrink as well, but Wren stares, mouth agape, as she seems to grow longer at the same time. “I wondered if that would be enough of a hook for the voters, though.” Wren stumbles back as orange scales form over Erada’s body, her limbs sinking into her body until she’s one long limb. “Then I realized, what’sss the audience for this tournament? What would they like mossst?”

Wren stares as Erada completes her transformation into an orange boa constrictor.

Sssnakesss, of courssse.”

Wren squeaked and ran, but Erada whipped her tail around Wren and blocked them. Wren turned and ran the other way and crashed into Erada’s face.

Now, now, little morsssel,” Erada says, shaking her head, “we need to drag thisss on a little for the fansss, no matter how eager you might be.”

Wren shakes a fist and squeaks at Erada.

Hm? Why am I able to talk but not you?” Erada pulls Wren off with her tail, and she slithers around their legs and traps their arms under the tail. “Because I’m a witch, sssilly.”

Wren squeaks wildly as Erada wraps them up, limbs trapped and chest squeezed in her tail. She lifts Wren closer and opens her mouth, throwing a wave of heat over Wren. Wren stares wide-eyed down Erada’s mouth, saliva dripping down her teeth. They shake and struggle in Erada’s grasp but the witch closes around Wren’s neck, trapping them immobile as heavier coils squeeze their legs.

She pulls Wren closer and closer. Wren clenches their eyes shut, a few drops of saliva falling on their head.

Ahhhhhh.” Erada exhales as she opens her mouth wider, wide enough to swallow Wren in one gulp.

She stops at a sharp poke behind her and a more enunciated, “Aaaaaah.” She turns to see Top, mouth open wide and ready to swallow her.

You swallow that mouse,” Top says without moving their mouth, “and you get swallowed next.”

Erada gulps.

Well, I suppose the point is made,” Erada says with a smile as she drops Wren to the floor. She nods to Wren. “Good show out there, Wren.” Wren glares and squeaks at her. Erada pats Top. “Good work, referee, glad you’re here. The potion will wear off in a few hours, just put them in a cheese wedge or on a pizza until then, I’m going to mingle with the other snakes and squeeze out what secrets from them I can in case I have to face them later. Until next time.”

Erada slithers off, leaving Top and Wren in the room. Top picks Wren up.

Come on, let’s find you some cheese to nibble.”

Wren pouts until they realize they do have a hankering for cheese.

That wraps up Erada’s exhibition!” I announce. “It’s time for the next poll! Will the spider mom win, or the witch with a potion for every season? Cast your vote now!”

Round 1 Match 3 Results

“Welcome back to the tournament!” Belle says. Across from her sits Wren, slumped and sulking. “So what do you make of the contestants for today, Wren?”

“I’m scared of them both,” Wren mutters. “At first I thought Erada wouldn’t be so bad because she’s about my height, but that doesn’t matter when she can literally turn me into a mouse!”

“How was that experience, by the way?” Belle asks.

“Horrifying!” Wren says. “I’m short enough as it is.” They rub their head. “I did like the better sense of smell and hearing, but it doesn’t add much when you’re so tiny.”

“What if Erada offered ot make you a bigger creature?” Belle asks.

“No!” Wren says, head in their hands. “No, I don’t want to be any—” They look at Belle. “Actually, do you think she could turn me into a horse?”

“A horse?” Belle asks. “Why do you want to be a horse?” Wren taps their fingers together.

“I mean, I just think it’d be fun to be in one of those horse sports,” they say. “Like, dressage or something. I mean, look at me.” They spread their arms. “I don’t have the physique to sport!”

“Huh, I never pegged you for the sports enthusiast,” Belle says.

“I watch every Olympics,” Wren says.

“All right,” Belle says, “and I’m getting notice that the match is about to be underway, so let’s go to the field.”

Erada walks out onto the stadium field, her hat and pockets stocked with her potions and herbs and notes and knives. When she reaches the staging area, she finds Maestra waiting for her.

Indeed, Maestra set out a little picnic spread. She took a small handkerchief and on it she placed two wine goblets. In the center sits a small leather wine holder and, beside it, some cheese and some apples.

“Welcome,” Maestra says. “Are you ready for our encounter, little one?”

“I’m ready to go, buggy,” Erada says. She smirks. “Are you proposing a drinking contest, or just a picnic before the fight?”

“I thought a friendly meal might be polite, first,” Maestra says. “With your diminutive size, I’m not sure a drinking contest would be fair.” Erada smacks her knee.

“Not when you think about it that way,” she says. “For our sort of drinking contest, just one sip would be enough to declare a winner. Let us begin this contest: pour the wine.”

Maestra fills the two goblets with deep-red liquid. Erada pulls from her hat a small packet and hands it to the spider.

“Open it and inhale, but be careful not to touch.”

Maestra takes the packet and follows instructions.

“I don’t smell anything,” she says. Erada takes the packet again.

“What you don’t smell is a set of herbs,” she says, “ground up into powder. Together they’re odorless, tasteless, and dissolve in any liquid. It also happens to be a powerful hypnotic agent that drops any who ingests it into a deep sleep.”

“Ah, so our sort of drinking contest,” Maestra says.

Erada takes the goblets and turns away. Maestra hums to herself. Erada busies herself a long moment before she turns again with a goblet in each hand and, carefully, places the goblet in her right hand in front of Maestra and places the goblet in her left hand before herself. She drops her empty packet by the cheese.

“Your guess,” Erada says. “Where is the hypnotic agent?”

“Right here.” Maestra removes a vial from her dress. “Do you mind if I double the danger for our contest?” Erada smiles.

“Your venom must be injected, does it not?” she asks. Maestra grins.

“It does, but a few extra ingredients makes it work just as well as a drink. What do you think I put in my tea?”

“Fair enough,” Erada says. “Hoist the question on me.”

Maestra takes the goblets and turns away. Erada laughs as Maestra busies herself, much as the witch had, before she turns again with a goblet in two of her four hands and places the goblet in her front right hand in front of Erada and the golbet in her front left hand before herself. She drops the empty vial by the empty packet.

“Now it’s your guess,” Maestra says.

“There’s no reason to guess,” Erada says. “I’ll determine which has your venom by examining you. Now you know which has your venom, but neither of us know which has my drug.” She grins to Maestra. “We have four possibilities now. My glass has my drug and your venom, and yours is clean; your glass is clean, and yours has my drug and your venom; my glass has my drug and your glass has your venom; my glass has your venom and your glass has my drug. In the latter two, it is an impasse result: we both fall.”

“So which do you choose?” Maestra asks.

“A fool,” Erada says, “would place the venom in her own goblet, because she would know that only another fool would reach first for what is given. I am no fool, so I will not take your wine.” Maestra smiles.

“Does that mean that you put your drug in my wine?” Maestra asks.

“Why should I?” Erada asks. “I know you are no fool, so you wouldn’t fall for such a trick. As would I not fall for it, but, no fool yourself, you would know this, so I have no reason to take my own wine.” Maestra frowns.

“Did you just go in a circle?” she asks.

“Then we circle back to your wine,” Erada says, “because you know I know you are no fool, so you know I know only a fool would drug the wine of one who isn’t a fool. And, knowing that it must be an all or nothing decision, you would only drug the drugged wine to avoid stalemate, and thus, my goblet.”

“An interesting theory,” Maestra says.

“Not just theory, but practice,” Erada says. “Now let’s—” She frowns and points behind Maesetra. “Oh, I think the referee is trying to get our attention.”

Maestra turns around. Top flinches, points to themself, and shakes their head.

“It doesn’t look that way,” Maestra says.

“Oh, well, I could have sworn they made a signal,” Erada says. “No matter, let’s drink.”

She picks up Maestra’s wine goblet. Maestra picks up the one in front of Erada.

They drink.

“You guessed wrong,” Maestra says.

“You only think I guessed wrong,” Erada says. “You see, I switched glasses while your back was turned.”

There was nothing for Maestra to say.

“You’ve been falling into the spiral this entire time,” Erada says. “You fell victim to one of the classic blunders. The most famous is ‘Never get involved in a land war in Asia,’ but only slightly less well known is: ‘Never go in against a witch in psychological warfare.’”

She remains quite cheery until Maestra’s venom takes effect.

Maestra pats Erada’s head as she lays in a daze on the picnic cloth.

“Better luck next time, little one,” Maestra says. Belle approaches them.

“Wow, that was an incredible and incredibly confusing match!” she says. Maestra stands and grins.

“I think she meant it that way,” she says. Belle pushes a microphone to her.

“What was your thought process in putting your venom in Erada’s glass?” she asks. Maestra smiles and shrugs.

“They were both drugged.”


“I put my venom drug in both,” Maestra says. “I’m immune to my own venom.”

“Huh, surprised she didn’t know that,” Belle says. “What if you’d gotten the goblet with her drug in it, though?” Maestra smiles and shrugs.

“They were both drugged.”

“What?” Belle asks. “Are you immune to all drugs?”

“Not necessarily,” Maestra says. She pulls a slip of paper out of Erada’s hat, which fell aside when she fell. “She couldn’t take the risk of me being immune to the drug with my different physiology, so she had an altogether more subtle plan.” She unfolds the paper. “As I figured, that powder was just sugar. Her plan was to convince me I’d taken a drug and hypnotize me through psychological methods.”

“Wow, you’re pretty clever, aren’t you?” Belle says. Maestra grins and wraps an arm around Belle, patting her on the head. Belle pulls away in fear the spider would try something, but Maestra just laughs.

“Thanks, Ms. Peltonen. You have to learn to be tricky when dealing with thousands of sneaky, misbehaving kids.” She sighs. “Ah, but they were so adorable trying to topple that government.”

She lets go of Belle and lifts Erada in two arms.

“I suppose I’ll bring Ms. Lielayn back to her room. She’s in little shape to go herself right now.”

Top hops over.

“Not allowed!” they say. “Contestants are not allowed to be alone with another when one contestant is under mind alteration.”

“All right, then,” Maestra says, “you carry her.” She drops Erada on Top. Despite the witch’s short stature she squashes Top.

Darmenzi watches the events from their enclosed VIP booth.

“So, the mother of monsters has won. A shame Duth couldn’t invite any of her children.” They cackle and twirl a staff, a cosmos-black crystal on top. “Who’s to say I can’t, though?”

Veda nods from within her VIP booth.

“A tricky meeting of wit and sneak,” she says. “Maestra has been around long enough to see through such things.”

“Shall I extend an invite to her to congratulate her?” her robot butler asks. Veda traces a circle on her tail.

“Yes, I suppose,” Veda says. “We get so few opportunities to see each other, I suppose it would be rude to squander it now.”

We’ve come to the end of match 3! The arachnid mother of monsters advances. Did she have an advantage from Erada not having proper art or a profile yet? idk oh well

Next time the short gremlin snake Enna faces off against . . . a Pokemon?

Round 1 Match 4

“How have you been, Maestra?” Veda sips her tea. Maestra sits on a cushion across the table from her.

“I’ve been well, same as usual,” Maestra says. “My children never visit me, and it’s lonely in the old mansion, but I get on.”

“It can grow lonely, a long life,” Veda says. Point in fact she remains concerned Maestra may one day become lonely enough to move to a village or even a city, and then if one of her children visited her, goodbye to that village. “Have you had any visitors lately?”

“Oh, yes,” Maestra says. “A young man passed by my mansion just before the tournament started.”

I do hope you didn’t leave him alone in your mansion when you came here,” Veda says.

No, no, of course not,” Maestra says. “I dropped him off with one of my kids on the way here.”

Veda stares into her cup of tea.

Maestra,” she says, “that is worse.” Maestra chuckles.

No, no, I’m sure Sybella is having a wonderful time,” Maestra says. “She’s been posting about her visitor online.” She pulls a cell phone from her dress and shows it to Veda.

Veda sets her tea down.

An . . . interesting game,” Veda says. “Is that really an electric chair?”

Sybella calls it a cyber chair,” Maestra says. She puts the phone away. “I don’t really understand it, I admit. She’s the one who got me this phone.”

Indeed?” Veda says. She makes a mental note to start tracking Sybella’s online activities. A child of Maestra’s who is online, terminally or not, sounds like a dangerous prospect.

What have you been up to?” Maestra asks. “I didn’t even know you were at this event.”

Yes, I helped organize it,” Veda says. “I like to keep tabs on the community of hypnotists and snakes. I had wanted some others in the tournament to evaluate, but the host insisted on these.”

Ah, well maybe next time, then,” Maestra says. “Did you ask for me, though?” Veda smiles.

Anything for a visit, dear Maestra.”

Meanwhile, Belle sits at the table under her interview tent.

Welcome back to the tournament, we’re coming up on the halfway point of round one now. With me today is Alya Slacen. Am I pronouncing that right?”

More sibilance, but you have the general idea.”

An ocean blue tail is curled about the table, belonging to a lady with long, curly, azure hair. She smiles to Belle, sunglasses over her eyes. Hanging off one shoulder she wears a fluffy lavender sweater.

Now, Ms. Slacen,” Belle says, “most of the snake people in this tournament are called lamias, but according to you’re information you’re specifically a naga. What’s the difference between those?”

Nothing, really,” Alya says. “I think both here and where I’m from it’s just geographical location, and one is more widespread than the other.”

But you are different from the others, right?” Belle asks.

Yeah, I’m from another universe,” Alya says.

How does that sort of thing happen?”

It happens a lot with Dr. Fara.”

Right, your employer. So she works in the field of physics, correct?”

She’d say she works outside it,” Alya says. “She’s a mad scientist, after all, she’s only working in something if she plans to break all the walls. I’m not sure where she’s from, but she pulled me out of my universe into this one with these lamias who could pass for human.”

So your eyes—”

Alya lowers her sunglasses to show her green eyes, her pupils vertical slits. She winks to Belle.

You like them? Wanna stare deeper?”

I hope you remember the contract states you’re not allowed to hypnotize me,” Belle says. Alya laughs.

But did that say anything about hugs?”

It did clearly lay out rules banning coils, squeezes, and bindings,” Belle says.

Alya pouts. She leans back and crosses her arms.

You’re no fun.” She smiles and sticks a forked tongue out at Belle. “You’d look so good in my coils, too. That hot red hair next to my cool blue while I squeeze that suit against your chest and hips and legs.” She leans forward, chin on her wrists. “Or maybe I could strip that suit off you so my scales rubbed your skin loop by loop.”

Belle blushes and holds her papers over her face.

Y-You’ll have someone to mess with when your match comes!” she says. She grunts and shakes her head. “Okay. So. Are your eyes the only difference between you and the other lamias here?”

That and more scales,” Alya says. She turns and pulls down her sweater, showing scales matching those of her tail down her back and near her shoulders, up to the back of her neck.

Interesting,” Belle says. “So you still have the same ability as most of the lamias in the competition?” Alya leans her arms on the table.

Well, everyone seems to have their own special abilities,” she says. “Like that Enna girl in the next match. She has a hypnotic kiss, doesn’t she?”

Actually, that’s her sister, Anne, who can do that,” Belle says. She looks at her notes. “Oh, no, wait, Enna can do that, too.”

But for the basic stuff,” Alya says, “yeah, I got arresting eyes and enough tail to swallow you up.” She leans forward. “And I’d use them if you just let me!” Belle shakes her head.


Alya sulks. “Hmph. Well, at least I have my special power for the tournament.”

What’s that?” Belle asks. Alya squeezes her cheeks.

I’m the cutest and the coolest here!”

Belle clears her throat and shuffles her papers.

Well, that’s for the voters to decide,” she says. Alya pouts. “I did want to ask you something about your employer, Dr. Fara, and one of the contestants for this match—”

You mean the Pokemon, right?” Alya asks. She leans back and rolls her eyes. “You’re wondering if Dr. Fara brought it here?”

More or less,” Belle says. “I mean, it’s a Pokemon—she’s a Pokemon, sort of. I don’t even understand how she’s here.”

I shouldn’t say too much,” Alya says. She leans forward. “Dr. Fara did grab someone who, in this world, is a fictional character before. She hoped to team up with him and cause destruction. Problem is, the copyright owners took quick notice and their lawyers deluged her with takedown notices. Even she wouldn’t risk that, not without a mad lawyer to adviser her, and she doesn’t trust them, so she just let the big guy go. I hear he became president of one of the company’s branches now.”

I’m not sure if anything you just said makes any sense,” Belle says. Alya laughs.

Nothing ever does when talking about Dr. Fara. As for this Dragon Gardevoir gal, no idea where she came from. I don’t think Dr. Fara would try that again.”

And you have no relation to–”

Just because our tails are similar colors doesn’t mean I’m related to her!”

Okay, okay,” Belle says. “That’s about all the time we have, the next match is about to begin, so let’s see this Pokemon in action.”

Dragovoir’s Profile

A flowing white dress flutters in the breeze. Okay, I gotta level with you—that dress might be skin. Let’s not think too hard about that. A long, shiny blue tail hovers above the field as Dragovoir floats to the field of play. She flutters her head wings on occasion.

The dome today is actually a box, inside of which stand trees, a mini forest. Dragovoir enters and slithers around the trees, settling near a pool of water.

In a clearing stands Wren. They wear a hat with a stiff brim and hold a small ball in their hand. They watch Dragovoir as she settles around the pool.

Today is going to be different,” Wren says. “Today is when everything changes. I’m not going to be subjected to this ridicule anymore.” They hold up the Poké Ball. “Today, I will be the one who gets in control!”

Wren loses their grip on the Poké Ball for a second when Dragovoir cackles, hand over her mouth.

Do you actually think you can just catch me with one of those?” she asks. Wren stares.

You can talk?” they shout.

Of course I can talk,” Dragovoir says, flourishing her arm. “I’m from a dream. I don’t have to adhere to your logic.”

Well . . .” Wren stares at Dragovoir, who gives them a small smile. Wren was afraid of the plan not working even for a normal Pokemon. They stand firm and turn their hat backwards.

I’m still going to catch you!”

They throw the Poké Ball at Dragovoir. Halfway through its arc the pool of water erupts into a Twister. Wren screams as the Poké Ball swerves around the Twister and is hurled into a corner, and the tower of swirling wind and water approaches them. Wren runs as the soaking gusts throw them off balance. The Twister sweeps Wren’s hat off, and in a moment Wren loses their footing and falls, only to rise instead as the Twister draws them inside.

Wren screams as they fly through the Twister, flailing their arms and legs for something to grasp on to. They rise higher and higher, they whirl around until they twirl in place, the world a blur spinning around them. Slowly the spin stops, the Twister fades, and Wren comes to a stop, though their head spins for a minute after that. Wren groans.

That sucked. I hope I don’t—” They try to hold their head but realize their arms are stuck under cool, slippery scales. They can only wiggle their legs underneath the tight, heavy coils.

Now you know not to try that,” Dragovoir says. She wraps an arm around Wren’s shoulders and boops them on the nose.

Hey, let me go!” Wren yells. Dragovoir shakes a shapeless hand in front of Wren.

Ah-ah, I don’t think you want me to do that,” she says. She angles Wren down so they can see they’re floating high above the ground. Wren stares and swallows, heart beating faster. They look up.

Would you please float to the ground and then let me go?” they ask. Dragovoir laughs.

You’re a funny little bird, Wren,” she says. She Wraps her tail around Wren higher, squeezing around their shoulders. She boops Wren’s nose with the orbs at the end of her tail. “Obviously I can’t let you go, or I won’t win this tournament. I’m going to Wrap you up tight and give you a big hug.”

Wren stares at the spike on Dragovoir’s chest.

You’re not going to hug me with that spike out in front, are you?” they ask.

Hm? Oh, this thing?” Dragovoir rubs the spike. “No, I won’t hug you that way.” They huff. “This spike gets much too in the way of that.” They Wrap their tail over Wren’s shoulders and snuggle against their neck. Wren tenses up at the strength around their neck. “No, I’m just going to hug you with my nice, big tail. I won’t hurt you, little birdie. You’re much too tense.”

Dragovoir waves the end of her tail in front of Wren, the orbs on her tail glowing blue. Wren stares, the swaying orbs arresting their attention.

Just relax,” Dragovoir says as she begins Hypnosis on Wren. “Don’t worry, just go to sleep.”

Wren moans, stuck staring at the swaying orbs. Their eyes droop as the glowing blue light fills Wren’s sight. It seems to surround them, veiling the reset of the world in Dragovoir’s shimmering color.

Sleeeeep,” Dragovoir whispers into Wren’s ear. Wren sighs as their eyelids drop and briefly shut a few times. Dragovoir laughs and pulls Wren’s gaze to her face as she releases blue spirals through her dark eyes. Wren stares, eyes wide despite the sleepy fog permeating their mind. Their pupils shrink and expand, the day and night sky blue spiral spinning out through their eyes to fill their mind.

Now dream,” Dragovoir says, drawing closer to Wren. “Dream deep, pleasant, sleep.” Wren smiles as they sink under Dragovoir’s Hypnosis and drop into dreams. “And let me partake of them.”

Dragovoir touches her hair to Wren’s forehead and begins Dream Eater, absorbing Wren’s dreams.

Ooh.” Dragovoir laughs and squishes Wren’s cheeks. “All this entrancement you’ve had in this tournament is making your dreams taste as sweet as could be.” She pats Wren on the head. “Sweet dreams are fitting for someone as cute as you, though.”

She floats back to the ground and leaves Wren in their dreamless daze to rest against a tree.

Doesn’t Dream Eater damage whoever it’s used on?” Top asks as Dragovoir leaves the arena. Dragovoir freezes and turns to Top.

Er. Maybe. But it’s fine,” she says. “Taking a rest fully heals a trainer’s party, so Wren will wake up with all their hit points healed. Or something.”

Sounds plausible to me!” Top says. They follow Dragovoir to the contestant dwelling rooms. “Giving her time to rest is fine, I gotta find the next contestant anyway, I’m not sure where she went to.”

So Wren rests in the makeshift forest, while sneaky eyes watch them from the trees.

A branch cracks. A fruit drops from the tree and bonks Wren’s head. Wren groans and rubs their head. They sit up and look around.

I hate this.” They lean on the tree and stand up. As they stretch they look around. They feel a bit sluggish. This tournament has given them too much sleep.

Wren screams upon seeing a pair of eyes in the tree above and they run for the exit. They pant, staring straight ahead. They hear scraping and laughter to the side and stumble in the other way. They don’t remember who’s next but they want to get out of the dark faux forest before they have to find out.

The trees above them rustle and leaves scatter. They turn down another way, whatever’s stalking them growing closer. They have to keep moving, move their stubby legs fast enough to get away.

With a crash something tackles Wren and they roll along the ground, a scaly tail winding over them.

Gotcha!” Enna hugs her arms around Wren and grins. “Good chase, but I’m too quick for ya.”

Enna’s Profile

Art by Ayanobro!

Oh, no!” Wren wails. “Another one!”

They reach their arm out and try to pull away, but Enna holds on tight and coils her tail around Wren. Her upper tail already tangled around Wren’s legs, she slithers around their torso and grabs their arms, holding them down further.

I’d let you go for another chase,” Enna says, “but it’s cold down here. Let’s just get comfy.”

This isn’t comfy!” Wren says. They push against Enna, but she holds her grip and squeezes Wren’s arms down against their body. Enna only wears the lowest layer of her dress, already wrinkled and torn and only wrinkling more as Wren struggles against her.

It’s comfy for me!” Enna says. She coils around Wren’s hips and waist, holding them from legs to chest. She slithers her tail around Wren and wraps around their shoulders. “Ooh, but keep struggling, it makes you nice and warm.” As Enna wraps around Wren’s shoulders she slips her tail into Wren’s shirt, slithering over their warm skin.

Hey, stop!” Wren says.

But you’re so warm!” Enna says.

She pushes her middle coils up under Wren’s shirt around their waist, pushing her tail to feel as much of Wren’s skin as feels tactful. She slips her tail around Wren under their shirt and slides out to snuggle around their neck, rubbing Wren’s chin and cheeks. She grins and squeals.

There we go,” Enna says. “Nice and cozy.” She sighs and hugs Wren’s head.

They sit on the ground together for a minute. Wren pushes against Enna a few times but doesn’t find a weak spot to break free.

They look at Enna, eyes shut with her secure grin.

They blink.

Is that it?” they ask.


Everyone else tried to—well, everyone else, uh, hypnotized me,” Wren says. “N-N-N-N-Not that I want you to!” They shake their head in a wobbly matter to try and prove their conviction. “I’m just surprised is all!”

Well, I know you don’t like it,” Enna says. “So I won’t. Simple as that.”

Oh. Okay,” Wren says. They glance at Enna’s tail against their cheek. “I don’t like this, either.”

Yeah, but I do,” Enna says. “Give a little, take a little.” She squeezes her coils tighter. “I just wanna sit here and hug you and squeeze you and cuddle you and squishy-squishy—” She more or less said “uwu”.

Gack!” Wren croaked as Enna’s tail gripped tighter and tighter.

Oh, sorry!” Enna slackens her tail a little. “Sometimes I get carried away.” Wren gasps for air. “Is that better?”

A little looser,” Wren says.

How’s that?”

A little looser.”

Okay now?”

A little looser.”

Enna grins at Wren.

I think we need to go a little tighter”—She tightens her coils around Wren, who squeaks—“so you don’t try to escape, hmm?” She laughs and loosens her coils a little again. Only a little.

Wren tries to laugh, though it sounds more like a question than laughter.

Now relax and enjoy the hug,” Enna says. “We’re staying right here until that beach ball realizes I snuck in here earlier and comes back.”

Wren whimpers. By the time Top gets back they might not feel their legs anymore.

Well, they’ll probably be in there a while, so we might as well get the voting started! Time for the poll: The Dragonair-Gardevoir, or the short hugging lamia gremlin? Make your choice!

Round 1 Match 4 results

“Welcome back!” Belle sits at the interview table across from Wren, whose tail curls around the table. “The fourth match challenge is about to begin, but before it does I’m here with one of the contestants, Ms. Enna Koizumi.”

“Happy to be here, Belle,” Enna says. She grins. “How’d that article you wrote about us go?”

Belle gives Enna a deadpan stare.

“Ooh, that bad, huh?” Enna’s smile remains. Belle looks at her papers.

“Let’s not talk about that, Ms. Koizumi.”

“You can call me Enna, no need to be formal.”

“Really?” Belle says. She looks at Enna. “I tried to call your sister by her given name and she stared icy daggers at me.” Belle waves her hand.

“Don’t worry about her, she’s probably just upset you didn’t call her Queen Koizumi.” She leans back and shrugs. “Our family is pretty stingy on the names, they say it’s rude to call someone you aren’t close to their given name, but it’s not like I was raised around those straight stuffs.”

“Right, you and your sister are of Japanese descent, but your parents raised you in a jungle out of the country, correct?” Belle asks.

“Mostly Japanese,” Enna says. “But yeah, we didn’t keep much of the tradition from our family. Anne tries to keep it to appear more royal, but then the family always tells her she does it wrong, and then I don’t care a bit about it, and next thing you know none of us are on speaking terms anymore.” She laughs. “Family! Fun!”

“Family bonds can be quite frustrating,” Belle says. “It sounds like your sister tried to be closer to the family, though.”

“Yeah.” Enna shakes her head and frowns. “Honestly”—Enna leans closer to Belle and whispers—“don’t print this, but I sometimes feel sorry for her. She tries to impress everyone and it never works out, except with some humans, but they’re easy for her to impress. She just has to kiss them.”

Enna’s cell phone rings. She pulls it out from her kimono.

“What’s up?”

“Enna,” says Anne on the other line, “you do realize this is a live broadcast, right?”


“And I don’t need your pity!” she says. “I’m doing quite fine impressing everyone I meet, so you don’t need to worry about me.” She hangs up.

“And there’s another not on speaking terms!” Enna laughs.

“Oh, I’m sorry to hear that,” Belle says. Enna waves a hand.

“Nah, I’m kidding, my sister and I are tight. We get on our nerves a lot but we’ll always get back and make up.”

“That’s good to hear,” Belle says. “You two are dissimilar in many ways, it’s nice to hear at the end of the day you usually get along.” Enna grins and leans closer to her.

“That we way can team up and wrap people up!”

Belle gives her another deadpan stare.

“I wanted to ask,” she says, shuffling her papers, “do you have any particular strategy going into this challenge with the Dragovoir?”

“I figure I’ll wing it,” Enna says. “Speaking of, how’s Wren holding up?”

“I’ve heard they’ll be fine,” Belle says. “You really gave them a squeezing, but they’ll get back into shape soon. They’ll just be sore a while.” Enna laughs.

“Let them know that after my match I’ll come down and give them a massage,” she says.

“I’m sure she would really appreciate it if you didn’t go down and do that,” Belle says. Enna doubles back in laughter.

“Anyway,” she says, “the thing about that Dragovoir is”—Enna counts on her fingers—“she’s longer than I am, has stronger hypnosis, has psychic powers, and can create a literal weather disaster. Me, I have a sleepy kiss. And I’m not going to kiss a Pokemon.” She leans back. “So, I figure I’ll just grab whatever I can use and beat her that way.”

“Well, I wish you luck in that approach,” Belle says. “I’m getting word that the challenge match is about to begin, so you’d better head over there.”

“All right!” Enna raises a fist. “Let’s go, abomination!” She slithers from the table to the field.

On the field, the miniature forest from the exhibition matches remains. She enters through a doorway on one side as Dragovoir enters on the other side. Dragovoir crosses her arms and smiles.

“Are you ready for sweet dreams?” she asks. Enna smirks, arms akimbo.

“You’re a dream come true, aren’t you?” she says.

“That’s your smack talk?” Dragovoir says. “That’s more like a compliment.”

“No reason to not exchange compliments before a fight,” says Enna.

“Then here’s my compliment,” says Dragovoir. “You’re going to look cute all wrapped up!” She flies at Enna and whips her tail. Enna leaps into a tree and slithers away from Dragovoir.

“You can’t hide from me.” Dragovoir flies into the tree and searches for Enna, but she finds no trace of her. “I have Psychic powers,” she says. “I can find you wherever you are.”

“Tackle attack!” Enna crashes into Dragovoir from behind, knocking her out of the tree. She whips her tail around Dragovoir and traps her arms down as the two fall towards the ground.

Dragovoir laughs and floats through the air as Enna hangs on. She squeaks as Enna squeezes her tail around her, pressing her arms against her.

“You call that a tail?” Dragovoir says. She floats her tail around Enna’s shoulders and grabs her neck. “My tail is far more elegant than yours.” She sways the orbs at the end of her tail in front of Enna, blue light glowing from within. “Just watch, and I think you’ll agree.”

Enna grabs the tail and giggle sand she baps Dragovoir’s head with her own orbs.

“Ow! Hey! You’re supposed to be hypnotized by it!” Dragovoir yells. She squeaks again as Enna squeezes her tail, pressing the dress part of her anatomy against her tail. She growls and flies to the ground; Enna screams as Dragovoir pulls her down and throws her to the ground.

“Ouch,” Enna groans. “I didn’t think you’d get that rough.”

Dragovoir pushes Enna’s tail away and grabs her shoulders, staring into her eyes.

“I won’t have to be so rough if you’d just stare into my eyes, sweetie,” Dragovoir says. Her eyes spiral with blue light. “Just stare into the pretty spirals, just go to sleep– Ouch!” Enna pokes Dragovoir in the eyes and she floats away, eyes shut.

“Hah, I’m more resistant to that sort of thing than most!” Enna says, slithering away. Dragovoir blinks and growls.

“Are you resistant to this sort of thing?” she shouts. She screams and twirls, forming a Twister that charges at Enna.

“I just might be,” Enna murmurs. She slithers at the Twister, and as she feels the pulling winds leaps aside and lifts from the winds, flying around the Twister at its edge. She leans her weight away and leaps over Dragovoir.

“What?” Dragovoir looks up. Enna pulls out Wren’s Poké Ball from her kimono.

Here we go!” Enna shouts.

She throws the Poké Ball down and hits Dragovoir’s head with it. The fusion shouts as the Poké Ball opens and pulls her inside. Enna lands on the ground behind it and dabs.

She holds the pose as the Poké Ball shakes behind her.

When she hears a click, she ends the dab. She picks up the Poké Ball and holds it above her.

Winner!” she shouts. “This dream fusion is mine!”

Wow!” I announce. “Enna caught her opponent, but not in any way anyone else could be caught! She moves on to round two, and Dragovoir moves to the loser’s bracket—and a new Poké Ball! That’s half of round one, the left side of the bracket is done. Next time we begin the right side, with even more snake content than before! Look for that tomorrow!”

Round 1 Match 5

“Welcome back!” Belle says. “Today we’re with Dr. Emma Fara to discuss today’s contestants.”

Across from Belle sits the doctor, who wears a black lab coat buttoned tight. She’s tall, even when sitting she would be taller than Wren standing, and her pale skin gives the look of someone who blotted out the sun. In contrast her hair is dark, so dark it looks like a hole in space to Belle sometimes. It flows down past her waist, and sometimes appears to change size and shape to grow bigger as if warping. When Belle looks long enough she thinks she sees wavering lights like nebulae. She tries not to look at her hair too long, but her eyes aren’t much better, dark like a void.

“Er, welcome, Doctor,” Belle says.

“Hello, Ms. Peltonen,” says Dr. Fara. “I understand you have some questions for me.”

“Yes,” Belle says, “I’d like to ask you about–” Fara plants her hands on the table and stands up, knocking her chair over.

“You’ll pry my secrets from my cold, dead, intangible hands, you cop!” she screams.

“What? I’m a reporter!” Belle says. Fara tosses a messy packet of scattered papers to her.

“Here is my manifesto!” she says. “Let the world know that I, Dr. Emma Fara, will plunge the world into a new Ice Age if my demands are not met!”

Belle peeks at the packet of papers.

“You want a new Ice Age movie?” she asks.


“I think they’re making one, actually,” Belle says.

“Oh.” Fara sits down. “Good to know.”

“Listen,” Belle says, “I just wanted to ask you about your assistant, Alya.”

“Oh yeah, Alya is a good egg,” Fara says. She grins and pats her hands together. “I’m trying to fix that. Fortunately she’s a natural flirt, which I can push her with. I just have to give her freedom to do what she wants.”

“I gathered that she was flirty,” Belle says, looking away. “Do you think she’ll use that against Wren in her exhibition?”

“She better!” Fara pounds the table. “I’m not going to let an assistant of mine be seen as substandard! She must show the world that Dr. Emma Fara only employs winners!”

“Would you say she’s a good—I mean, a helpful assistant?” Belle asks.

“Oh, yes.” Fara leans back in her—well—wait— “She’s strong and does what I ask, and all she really asks is I find people for her to wrap up and flirt with.”

“Wait a minute,” Belle says. She stands up. “Your chair—you—” She stares as Fara sits on nothing, her chair still fallen to the side.


“How are you doing that?” Belle asks. Fara stands up and pounds the table.

“You’ll pry my secrets from my cold, dead, intangible hands!” she shouts. Belle sits back down and waves her hands down.

“Okay, okay, sorry, I don’t mean to pry,” she says. Fara returns to her nonexistent seat. “So Alya’s main interest seems to be flirting?”

“Oh, I’m sure she has other interests,” Fara says. “But mostly she seems to want to squeeze and make out with people.” She smirks. “She even tried to do so with me when I pulled her into this world.”

“How did that work out?” Belle asks.

“She used to be longer.”

Belle stares, eyes wide.

“I won’t ask further details.”

“Are you sure?” Fara leans forward. “It’s a funny story.”

“I don’t think we need to,” Belle says. “Let’s move on. I’d like to ask about the other contestant—just your opinion, nothing secret.”

“I don’t know the other contestant,” Fara says.

“Revasa,” Belle says, “who has the ability to magically manipulate time. I wanted to know your opinion on that, as a scientist.”

“A load of crock,” Fara says. She places her arms on the table. “Perhaps she has some biological function that alters time, but that’s hardly magic.”

“So you don’t believe magic is a real phenomenon?” Belle asks.

“Absolutely not.” She jabs a finger on the table. “Magic is nothing more than an easy explanation for entirely explainable phenomenon that the general public does not understand.” She places a hand on her chest. “And I should know, most of the nonsense I do is not understood by the general public.”

“Some of the contestants here make claims to use of magic,” Belle says.

“That so-called witch is merely a snake oil chemist,” Fara says. “As for the bottle of puffed-up vapor, she’s clearly altering the world at a subatomic level but hardly magic. She’s just a small, focused particle collider.”

Smoke from nowhere fills the tent, and as it fades Amaru floats before them.

“You’re talking a lot of smack for someone who doesn’t know what she’s talking about,” Amaru says.

“I know everything I’m talking about at all times,” Fara says. “Teleportation is easy.” She removes a ball from her coat, drops it behind her on the chair, and the chair teleports back under her.

“I do much more than teleport,” Amaru says. She waves her hands together, producing stars and galaxies and chickens. “I change the very fabric of reality with but a flick of my wrist!”

“Exactly,” Fara says, standing from her chair, “and that’s easily reproducible by altering atoms in the world.” She reaches across the table, taps one end with a device, and pulls it down to the other end. The table splits in two as if she had pulled a zipper.

“Hey! My table!” Belle says.

“Hah, now that’s just a trick,” Amaru says. “Just a bit of weird technology.” She snaps her fingers and the table is whole again.

“And that’s all you are,” Fara says with a grin. “A bit of weird technology.”

“I am a natural entity of this world,” Amaru says. “I can change and control it at whim.” She plants her hands on the table. “I could alter the past, you would never be born!”

“Good luck finding that event,” Fara says. “Time is just another aspect of space.” She places a circle on the table and reaches inside. “It’s child’s play, really. Magic is just a failure to explain it.” She pulls a sandwich out of the circle.

“Hey!” Belle says. “That’s where my sandwich went!” Fara taps the circle and places the sandwich back inside.

“And it was delicious,” she says. Amaru snaps her fingers and another sandwich appears in front of Belle.

“And now she has it back,” she says. “I don’t need your gadgets for my work.” Fara placed a measuring stick next to the sandwich and stared closely.

“A fake, a facsimile, or a duplicate, or a paradox sandwich!” she says. “Easily explainable if I spent the time to examine it.”

“Can you make something from nothing?” Amaru asks. Fara laughs.

“Only you can,” she says, “because you’re already nothing. I could condense you into a cube if I felt it worth my time.”

“I could trap you in a cube if it weren’t against the rules,” Amaru says.

“I live outside the rules!” Fara says. She swings a sparking whip at Amaru, but Top jumps out from her hair and bites the whip, pulling it away. “You! How did you get out of there?” Top turns and grins at her.


“Hmph.” Fara turns away. “You’re all either ignorant or charlatans. I can’t forgive the former.” She looks at Amaru and smirks. “I can approve of the latter, though.” She reaches a hand to her. “I’m willing to get bygones be until such a time we might face each other in the tournament.”

Amaru smirks and crosses her arms.

“I see that look in your empty eyes,” Amaru says. “I wouldn’t trust you more than I’d trust myself if someone found my pot.” Fara laughs.

“A shrewd bit of puffed-up vapor, I see,” Fara says.

Belle steps away from the table to one of the cameras.

“Okay, I’m getting word that the exhibitions are about to start, so we’ll have to leave these two for now. Let’s get out to the field.”

The forest from the last match remains on the field. Wren leans on one of the trees, shifting their body. They’re still sore from Enna’s exhibition.

“Heeey, cutie!” Alya slithers down from the tree next to Wren.

“Wanna have a good time?” she asks. Wren shouts and runs.

“Not another one!” she yells. Alya grabs her tail around Wren and pulls them back to her.

“Come on, let’s not mess with a cat and mouse game,” Alya says.

Wren tries to pull away, but Alya slips a thicker portion of her tail behind Wren and causes them to stumble into a seat on the tail. Alya lifts Wren up, wrapped around their hips.

“You deserve to be pampered,” Alya says. She hugs her arm around Wren’s shoulders. “All those others doing what they want to you, and not thinking about what you really want.”

“What I really want is to get out of here!” Wren yells. They reach for something to pull themself out of Alya’s tail seat but only grab her tail, which slithers around Wren and holds their arms down.

“Shh, shh, calm down, I’m not gonna hurt you,” Alya says. She turns the struggling Wren around, adding her tail to the coils she builds around them. “I just wanna help you relax, take your mind off your troubles.” She pets Wren’s head. “Curl my fingers through your soft hair, hug your cute little body, squeeze those pudgy hips and nice legs.” Wren leans away as Alya advances nearer, though they’re increasingly unable to move away, and Alya whispers in their ear. “Slip my tail under your shirt and give you a nice massage, slip those pants off and slither between your legs, rub away all those sore spots, just keep rubbing and rubbing and rubbing.” Wren blushes as Alya hisses her forked tongue in their ear and whispers more, deeper, all the soft and gentle and intimate things she wants to share with Wren.

“No!” Wren shouts. They struggle, even as Alya curls up their chest and coils their waist and holds their legs in her growing tail loops. “I don’t want you all over me, I just want to leave–”

“Leave all those worries and hesitant thoughts behind?” Alya asks, pulling Wren to face her directly. Deep marine blues pulsate in her eyes as she stares at Wren, holding their head in place with her slithering tail. “I can help you with that, cutie. Just give me your undivided attention for a bit, all right?”

“No, wait, I . . .” Wren moans as they stare into Alya’s hypnotic eyes. Their pupils shrink as their focus shrinks to Alya, locked to her eyes. Alya laughs and nods, pulling Wren’s head in an agreeing motion.

“That’s right, you just sit there and relax, short stuff.” Alya curls her tail around Wren’s shoulders, looping higher around them as she squeezes their body. “Let your beautiful friend Alya show you a good time.”

Wren gives a moaning sigh as Alya’s coils travel higher up their body. Part of their mind tells them to look away, struggle, resist, but it’s drowned out by Alya’s hypnotic eyes and gentle hisses. Wren’s pupils are swallowed in pulsating aqua colors matching Alya’s eyes, rings rippling through Wren’s eyes and silencing their thoughts.

“Yes,” Alya says, “you’re so relaxed now. My tail feels wonderful, but it’ll feel so much better if you”—Alya pulls up on Wren’s shirt and starts to remove it from them—“feel more of me directly on your skin.”

Wren stares wide-eyed as Alya strips their shirt, squeezing her tail directly against their waist and shoulders. She leans closer, immediately before Wren, and kisses their lips as she reaches below for their pants and nudges them off. As she ends the kiss Wren’s pants drop to the ground below, and Alya adjusts her tail to squeeze between Wren’s legs.

“Now, does that feel just splendid?” Alya says. Wren moans, head empty save for Alya’s pulsating colors.

Alya wraps around Wren’s neck and squeezes tight, pressing against their neck and shoulders, holding their torso firm. Wren gulps from the force, lost in Alya’s control. They sink into her grip, and a grin spreads over their face as Alya takes passionate control.

“You look so good in a suit of my blue coils,” Alya says. She squeezes Wren’s face. “And that smile makes you look so cute, I just have to—” She leans close and kisses Wren, holding them in her embrace as she hisses her forked tongue into Wren’s mouth. Wren’s eyes rise and fall, the sleepy hypnotic power clashing with Alya’s passionate hypnotic influence.

Alya ends the kiss and kisses Wren just about everywhere else she can—their forehead, cheeks, chin, nose, she shifts her loops to open a way for her to kiss Wren’s chest and belly and legs and arms, trailing down before rising back up to Wren’s head and ending with one long kiss on the lips. On this final kiss she slithers her tail forward, wrapping thicker loops of tail around them, dwarfing Wren in her heavy tail. Her scales brush past all of Wren’s skin, massaging every bit of their body until she reaches the base of her tail, squeezing Wren close to her with her upper tail body.

With her upper body around Wren, Alya laughs and curls her human body around Wren’s neck, holding their head in her arms and dropping her head in front of Wren upside-down, her hair falling back under her.

Time for more kisses, cutie.” Alya rains kisses upon Wren’s face again, holding the strong kisses on their mouth longer, deeper, giving Wren the full layout and texture of her soft lips and slithering tongue.

Her face falls when Top strolls up and tells her they need to move on to the next exhibition. Alya holds Wren’s head against her chest.

Aw, just five more minutes, please?” she asks. She rubs Wren’s face against her own. “They’re just so cute I wanna lick them up.”

Sorry, but we’re already going over schedule!” I shout. “Let Wren go so we can have the next exhibition!”

Fiiiine,” Alya mutters. She slithers away from Wren, making sure the full length of her tail slides over them one more time before she has to let them go. She slithers off the field, towards the interview tent. “I wonder if Belle has reconsidered my offer yet . . .”

Once Alya is out of the area, I press a button to wake Wren up. They shout as they snap awake and look around.

What happened–” They scream upon realizing they aren’t wearing shirt or pants. They groan as they pull their pants and throw their shirt on. They try to remember if they ever signed something that caused them to end up in this tournament. They freeze at a hiss in the trees.

Ssso, it ssseems I have to be next.” A blue and white snake lowers her head from the trees, an aloof frown on her face.

Revasa’s Profile

A snake,” Wren says. They take a step back. “Any chance of you just leaving me alone?”

Not a bit,” Revasa says, eyes pulsating with sharp white, blue, and black. Wren stares, caught off guard with the sudden colors compared to most of the contestants who drew it out, and they slump forward, Revasa’s eyes drawing them closer.

Wait,” Wren mutters as their pupils are swallowed one by blue and one by black. Revasa curls around Wren, drawing them into a circle so her body loops around their neck. The colors fill Wren’s eyes and new rings emerge from their pupils.

I’d rather not wait,” Revasa says, curling around Wren to form another loop around Wren’s shoulders, thicker than Wren’s leg. “I’d like to get thisss over with.” She shrugs her body, which is impressive for someone without shoulders. “Ssstill,” she says, drawing closer, “a meal is a meal.”

A meal . . .? Meal!” Wren blinks and ducks under Revasa’s tail. “No! No, no, no, no!” They back away. Revasa stares with a frown, eyes lowered. “The others are one thing, but I’m not going to risk being a meal again, mouse or not!” Revasa strikes, mouth open, but Wren runs with every intention to escape.

After half a dozen steps Wren slows down, though not of their own volition, and soon comes to a stop in mid-air. They run backwards as if rewinding, returning to Revasa and popping their head back in the loops of her body.

She said a meal—but Wren forgets.

They stare back into Revasa’s eyes as the snake loops away from them. It feels to Wren like her hypnotic spell is falling out, but it leaves streaks behind in Wren’s mind. Even when Revasa’s eyes stop rippling Wren feels dazed.

Wren asked if the snake might leave them alone, but they no longer remember. The snake rises back into the tree, and after a hiss Wren forgets the snake is even there. They remove their shirt and pants, and after a moment’s freeze they stand among the trees, confused. Their recent memories feel jumbled, déjà vu coming on whenever they think about them.

They forget the strange feeling and scream upon realizing they aren’t wearing a shirt or pants. They groan as they pull their pants on. What did they do to get into this mess? Wren grabs their shirt but freezes at a hiss in the trees.

Ssso, it ssseems I have to be next. Again.” A blue and white snake lowers her head from the trees, an aloof smile on her face.

A snake,” Wren says. They take a step back. “Any chance of you just leaving me alone?”

Ssstill no,” Revasa says, eyes pulsating with sharp white, blue, and black. Wren stares, caught off guard, completely unexpecting the snake to jump into the hypnotic colors. They slump forward, Revasa’s eyes drawing them closer, deeper.

Wren mutters as their eyes and sight are swallowed one by blue and one by black. So focused on Revasa’s eyes, they can’t speak. They’ve never met this snake, yet the eyes seem so familiar, as if they’d been staring at her all along. Revasa curls around Wren, drawing them into a circle so her body loops around their neck. New rings emerge from Wren’s pupils and ripple through their sight.

I’m only going to grow more impatient every time,” Revasa says. She curls around Wren to form another loop around their shoulders, scales brushing against their bare skin. “It’s bessst to jussst become my meal now.” She curls around Wren again, holding their arms and squeezing their chest.

Meal . . .?” Wren mutters. Something seems wrong, but as the colors ripple through their mind they can’t grasp what. Revasa gives a hissing laugh.

Too far thisss time to recognize the danger, are you?” She draws closer. “Jussst the way I like you foolish humans.”

Danger . . . Danger?” Wren blinks and wiggles in Revasa’s tail. “No, no, no!” They pop out, duck under her, and back away. Revasa stares with a frown, eyes lowered. “The others are one thing, but I’m not going to risk being a meal again, mouse or not!”

Revasa grins and approaches Wren with a glare.

Then run, again, and sssee where that getsss you.”

Wren runs.

And stops after half a dozen steps.

Wren returns backwards to Revasa and pops back into her coils. They forget about the danger she mentioned, staring back into her hypnotic eyes. They forget she spoke of a meal. Revasa curls away again, body retreating back into the tree. Revasa felt so similar, she feels so similar, and even as her hypnotic spell leaves Wren it leaves stains in their mind, and even as her spell ends and she returns up the tree and Wren forgets she’s there or they ever saw her, the colors stick to their mind.

They don’t remember the colors, but they feel dazed as time returns to normal, sleepy, and consider resting against one of the trees.

Wren stares at their shirt and pants on the ground.

Huh?” Why aren’t they wearing their clothes? They look up at a hiss in the trees.

Ssso, it ssseems I have to be next, and for the lassst time, I hope.” A blue and white snake lowers her head from the trees. Her expression is hard to read for Wren, and they try to blink away sudden spots in their eyes. “Though I do enjoy watching you foolish creatures grow more confusssed every time.”

What?” Wren asks. Revasa curls around Wren, drawing them into a circle so her body loops around their neck.

Are you sssleepy, little one?” she asks. Wren clenches their eyes, trying to think.


Open your eyes, pleassse.”

Wren does as told and stares into Revasa’s eyes, which pulsate with sharp white, blue, and black rings. Wren stares and slumps forward, Revasa’s eyes drawing them closer, deeper, lost. Their sight is swallowed by the rippling colors, the rings pulsating through their eyes almost as fast as in Revasa’s. Wren begins to forget everything before they looked into her beautiful, arresting, enchanting eyes.

That’sss a good little human,” Revasa says. She curls around Wren to form another loop around their shoulders, scales brushing against their bare skin. “It’sss time to become my meal.” She curls around Wren again, holding their arms and squeezing their chest.”

Wren doesn’t register anything wrong. They remain lost in Revasa’s eyes, and the snake gives a hissing laugh.

Yesss,” she says, curling another loop around Wren’s torso and pinning their arms down, “a few time loopsss and you’re far too gone to realize jussst how dangerousss a predicament you’re in now.” She draws closer. “Ssso easssy to gobble up, you pathetic humansss.”

The word danger passes Wren’s mind, and they try to repeat it to understand it, but they only sigh as the weight of Revasa’s spell sinks Wren’s mind into hypnotic depths. Revasa curls around Wren more, wrapping up their hips and legs in coils as thick as their body. Revasa lifts Wren with her coils, lifting her head above Wren to force them to stare up.

Revasa laughs and opens her mouth in a wide grin. Her spell coats Wren’s mind in her colors and shatters their thoughts, locking them in her control. Wren grins as they fall to Revasa’s spell and drop into bliss.

Wren groans as Revasa tightens her tail, squeezing Wren like a fruit to release the juice.

That blisss you feel is more than you humansss dessserve,” she says. “Ssso you should thank me for making your final momentsss better than sssome had!”

She opens her mouth wide and lifts Wren to swallow.

She stops when she’s aware of someone standing on her, mouth open with lots of sharp teeth.

We did this before,” Top says without moving their mouth. “Well, not with you, but with another contestant. You don’t eat the employees!” Revasa glares at the intruding beach ball.

Jussst get another, I earned this meal.”

Nope, not allowed.”

I can jussst reverssse time!” Revasa says, though she doesn’t want to.

Nope, not allowed.”

Can I eat leassst crush them?”

Nope, not allowed.”

Revasa throws Wren to the ground and slithers away.

I’d better get sssome reward out of thisss or I ssswear, I’m going to decimate a whole village . . .”

So there’s our two blue snakes!” I announce. “Well, Dragovoir is blue, too, but I guess she’s a dragon, so maybe that doesn’t count? Whatever. Will you vote for the flirty naga Alya, or the time snake Revasa? Make your votes now!”

Round 1 Match 5 Results

Art by Mallous Callous! (NSFW)

“Yes, just Persnakety,” says the snake curled around the chair. His scales are white with big red spots, the top half of his head red.

No surname?” Belle asks across the table.

We snakes don’t typically have surnames,” Persnakety says. “We’re rather solitary, family ties don’t come up much.”

Gotcha.” Belle turns to the camera then back to the snake. “Sorry, this might be sensitive, but I’d like to ask before we start, your parents . . .?”

Oh, parents don’t give us our names,” Persnakety says. He smiles. “That would be a lot of names to decide. We eventually decide our names ourselves.”

And you chose . . .”

Persnakety frowns. “I thought it was quite fitting.”

All right, sorry if I offended,” Belle says. She turns to the camera and frowns. “Wait, have we been rolling the whole—” She shakes a fist. “Warn me next time, would you?” She sighs then smiles.

Welcome back to the tournament! I understand there are some fires happening outside the stadium, but I’ve been informed we will continue as long as we are able. Today I’m here with Persnakety to discuss today’s match.”

I’m glad to be here, Ms. Peltonen,” Persnakety says. He waves his tail to the camera.

Are you familiar with the snake in the next match, Revasa?” Belle asks.

Not closely, no,” Persnakety says. “Rather, I just know stories of her. They’re, ah, not good stories.”

What sort are they?” Belle asks. Persnakety lowers his head.

Well, quite honestly, most of them call her a demon,” he says. “They say she left the jungle years ago with a witch who turned her into a demon, and when she returned she began a reign of terror on any who encountered her. Almost every story says she’s broken the laws of the jungle.”

Do you think any of them are true?” Belle asks. Persnakety lifts his head and shakes it.

Sssome of them,” he says. “I’ve spoken with snakes who knew her long ago. It sounds like she did actually leave the jungle. They say she changed when she suddenly returned, but they haven’t spoken with her much since her return. I don’t know if the horror stories about her are true, but”—he lowers his head again—“I don’t mind saying they frighten me. I almost want to lose my match so I don’t have to face her next round.”

Lose your match,” Belle says. “So you think Revasa will win?”

Oh, yes,” Persnakety says. “I believe gambling is wrong, but I won’t be surprised if she wins. This is, after all, a hypnosis competition first and foremost, and snakes are generally immune to snake-based hypnosis.”

That includes from lamias—or in Alya’s case, nagas?” Belle asks.

Yes,” Persnakety says. “Lamias—or nagas, I suppose—are actually weak to it, due to having a mind more human yet having the hypnotic power already inside.” He shrugs. “Of course, Alya says she’s a naga, and from another universe, doesn’t she? That could change how that works. I don’t expect Revasa to be susceptible to Alya’s hypnosis, either way.”

We’ll have to see what Alya has planned,” Belle says. “The challenge match is about to begin, so let’s go to the field!”

Out in the forest set up on the field, Alya sits on a branch paging through a book. She reads closely, face covered by the book.

Excussse me,” says someone outside the book. Alya lowers the book and looks up.

Yeah, what’s up?”

I jussst wanted to look at you for a moment,” Revasa says, eyes pulsating in cold white, blue, and black.

Oh, sure,” Alya says, striking a pose with her hands to her face. She brushes her curly hair aside and adjusts her sunglasses. “I usually get attention from more humanoid people, but I’m glad you think I’m pretty!”

Yesss,” Revasa says, “ssso pretty, jussst like my eyesss.”

Nah, mine are better,” Alya says. Revasa stares at Alya and grunts. She moves closer to get her hypnosis working.

Look deeply into my eyesss,” she says. “Are you looking deeply? Are you—ah.” It must be the sunglasses. She slithers her tail to take them off. “Let me take a look at your—” Alya grabs Revasa’s tail, wraps it around her upper body, and jumps off the tree, pulling Revasa down with her. When she lands she pulls Revasa, and the rest of the snake’s body drops to the ground in a pile.

You think I don’t know what I’m dealing with here?” Alya says. She grin. “Hah, oh no, I know not to make this a battle of eyes. And that’s all you’ve really got, isn’t it?”

Revasa strikes out of her tail pile at Alya and snaps her jaws to grab her. Alya twirls away and dodges. Revasa strikes repeatedly, Alya dodging each time.

Alya twirls to a tree and picks up a pot next to it. In a fluid motion she opens the pot as Revasa strikes and the snake plunges inside. Alya slithers down Revasa’s body, scooping her up inside even though her body is bigger than the inside of the pot. She shuts the lid on the pot and sits on it.

Let me out of here!” Revasa shouts. She knocks against the pot lid. Though the pot is bigger on the inside, Revasa is still crammed inside in a knotted pile.

Nah,” Alya says.

Revasa growls. She reverses time, making note not to strike when Alya opens the pot.

Why isssn’t thisss working?” she shouts. Much as she tries she seems unable to reverse time. Alya smiles.

When Dr. Fara said I could take one invention, I knew it had to be something to block that time stuff of yours,” Alya says. “Space in there can’t affect space out here, and that includes time.”

Then we’re at an impassse,” Revasa says. “No victor unlesss you let me out.”

I don’t see it that way,” Alya says. “Last match, Enna won by capturing Dragovoir, and I just captured you, so I win.” She looks at Top, who stands a few trees away. “Right?”

Top rubs their mouth. They shrug.

Revasa could still escape,” I say from the announcer booth. “Unless she’s incapacitated, the match continues.” Alya sighs and shrugs her hands.

Oh, all right, if you say so.” She sits off the pot and opens the lid.

Finally!” Revasa pops out. “Now where are you ssso I can finish–”

Alya grabs her arms around Revasa and rubs the back of her head and under her jaw. She hums a tune as she lifts the end of her tail to the snake.

What is thisss?” Revasa says. “What are you doing? Ssstop . . . Ssstop that.” She stares at Alya’s twirling tail as the naga moves her head in motion with it. “Let go of me. Ssstop . . . Let . . .”

Alya slides her hands over Revasa’s head, pushing and pulling in motion with the movements of her tail. Revasa’s gaze locks to Alya’s tail, mind spinning down from her movements.

You don’t want to hurt me,” Alya says.

I w . . .” Revasa’s eyes swirl in her head. “I don’t want to hurt you.”

Good little snake,” Alya says. She places the hypnotized snake on the ground. “Now go back to your dwelling room, you’ll have a loser’s bracket match to rest for.”

I . . . I will go back to my dwelling room.” Revasa slithers away, her wobbly movements robotic.

Wow!” I announce. “I didn’t even know she could do that!” Alya smirks and twists her body to the announcer booth.

Neither does Dr. Fara,” she says. “All the nagas where I’m from learn how to control snakes this way. Never thought I’d use that training out here.”

As she slithers off the field victorious, Persnakety cowers in his coils on his seat.

Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear,” Persnakety says. “Now I have to win, or I’ll have to face her.”

A hole opens on the table and Dr. Fara points a finger against Persnakety’s snout.

Hah! Good luck, ‘Kety!” she says. “I’ll be winning the next match, just you wait and see!”

She drops back down the hole and it closes.

Well, naga has triumphed over snake!” I announce. “Will snake fall again? Tomorrow we start the match between good snake Persnakety, and evil mad scientist Emma Fara! Keep watch for it!”

Round 1 Match 6

“Welcome back to the tournament!” Belle says. “I’m here with the winner of the last match, Alya Slacen.” She turns to Alya, whose tail curls around her chair and Belle’s chair. “Congratulations on your match victory, Ms. Slacen.” Alya waves a hand.

“Aw, come on, Belle, you can call me Alya,” she says. She leans forward and grins, an eyebrow raised. “Especially after what we did the night before.” Belle blushes and hides her face behind her notes.

“L-Lets– We’re not talking about that here,” she says. “Professionalism here.” She sighs and puts down her notes. “I wanted to ask you more about your employer, Dr. Fara. You said you’re not sure where she’s from?”

“She’s a mad scientist in physics,” Alya said. “She pulled me here from another universe, she pulled a dinosaur, she pulls all sorts of things. I don’t think it’s outside the realm of possibility that she’s from another universe and stranded herself here.”

Is that only a conjecture, though?” Belle asks. “Any solid evidence?”

Nope,” Alya says. “Some of the things she says suggests she’s not from around here, and some of the things she does makes me question if she even belongs on this plane of reality.”

What such things are those?” Belle asks. Alya chuckles.

Oh, if I told you that I wouldn’t be in this tournament anymore.”

Why not?” Belle asks.

She’d probably throw me out into inky void of space,” Alya says.

Belle swallows. “Oh.”

Alya shakes her head.

Honestly, I don’t envy Persnakety having to go up against her this match,” she says.

But if Dr. Fara wins you’ll face her in your next match,” Belle says. Alya looks away. She looks back at Belle and smirks.

Then I won’t envy myself in my next match,” she says.

She sounds like a dangerous person,” Belle says.

She would wipe a country off the map if it looked at her funny,” Alya says. “Thing is, she can be scatterbrained. She has a million things going through her mind all the time and is always shoving them into the particle collider of her mind. That’s why she’s a genius, and that’s why she’s mad. That’s another reason she’s dangerous, it’s hard to guess her mood.” She leans back. “It’s even hard for me to guess, sometimes.”

Are you beholden to her, as her assistant,” Belle asks, “or do you stay of your own accord?” Alya smiles.

Oh, I’m not beholden at all,” Alya says. “I mean, I would like for her to send me back home, but I’m cool chilling as her assistant. It’s fun, and she brings me cool people to play with.” She stretches. “The thing about Dr. Fara is she’s dangerous, but if she likes you, she’s more dangerous to other people. I get some awesome perks sometimes, and she’s awesome herself, so I think I got a pretty sweet deal working for her.”

Glad to hear your professional life is working well for you,” Belle says. Alya winks and blows her a kiss.

Not quite as varied as my love life, but almost.”

Uh—” Belle blushes and hides her face. “Let’s move on! The exhibition matches are about to begin!”

Actually, they won’t start for a bit,” I say.

Can you move them sooner?”

I suppose I can!”

Today the field has a dome with chairs, a sofa, a table, and a bookcase. It actually gives a cozy vibe, though Wren sits huddled on a chair, legs tucked up. Each contestant seems to get worse. They aren’t looking forward to what happens next.

Good day!” Persnakety pokes his head up from the floor, showing Wren a big smile. “How are we doing today?”

Persnakety’s Profile

Art by Mallous Callous! (NSFW)

Not another snake!” Wren stumbles out of the chair. Before they can run Persnakety grabs them in his tail and pulls them down to the couch, though they struggle to sit up.

Now, don’t worry about a thing,” Persnakety says. He coils up on a chair next to the sofa. “I’ve seen how rough you’ve had it in this tournament and how frightened you’ve been of everything, and I’m here to help.” He grabs a book from the bookcase and places it on the table. “Today, I’m going to help you get over your fear.”

I don’t want to—” Wren considers the statement. “I don’t trust you! I don’t trust any of you!”

I understand,” Persnakety says. They frown. “It’s so hard to find a psychiatrist who works for you, after all.”

No, none of you in this tournament!” Wren says.

Oh, that too,” Persnakety says. “But don’t worry, we’ll get to the root causes of your trust issues, too. I think right now we should focus on your fear, though, you’ll feel much more at ease here if we deal with that.” He slithers onto Wren and looks into their eyes, soft lavender rings rippling through his. “First, breathe in deep, then exhale. Do that slowly, regularly, and you’ll relax.”

Wren stares into Persnakety’s eyes. They try to look away, but Persnakety holds them as he massages their head. They breathe in, slowly, filling their lungs, and then exhale as the gentle rings ripple through their vision and fill their eyes.

There you go,” Persnakety says. “You’re doing very well, Wren. Just keep breathing, sink onto the couch.” Wren’s eyes droop as they slip down. “Let your mind drift, just drift into a trance. Let a gentle weight settle over your mind.”

Wren sighs as their breathing slows, and they shut their eyes, sinking into trance. All they sense is Persnakety’s voice and touch, the rest drifting in the lavender waters of his eyes. Persnakety’s voice guides their thoughts.

Good. Now, Wren, I want you to go back,” Persnakety says. “Go back into your past. Go back to the first time you met a snake.”

A snake,” Wren mutters.

Where are you, Wren?”

I’m a child,” they say. “I’m in the forest. There’s a snake . . . they’re staring at me with pretty eyes. They want to eat me, but I can’t stop staring.” Persnakety clicked his tongue.

The terrible things some snakes will do,” he says. “And to a child, no less. Wren, I want you to do something for me. I want you to look away from the snake.”

I can’t.”

You can. You can make that choice.”

I . . .” Wren grunts and sighs. “I did it. I looked away.”

You mustn’t stare fear in the face forever,” Persnakety says. “Stare at it too long and it will take you. Laugh at your fear, control it, and then leave it when you no longer need it. Now, Wren, I want you to pretend I’m that snake from long ago. I’m apologizing to you—it was wrong for me to try and hypnotize you without permission. You’re a child now, and you cannot give consent. Instead, I will help you find your way home. Any snake that doesn’t offer that should not be trusted.”

Persnakety shifts his body over Wren.

Now, Wren, I want you to return to the present,” he says. “Imagine you’re home, in bed, a cold winter’s night. A blanket would be nice.” Wren shivers. Persnakety wraps his body around Wren. “When you can trust a snake, their coils are really nothing more than a soft blanket.” Wren sighs and settles into Persnakety’s hold. “Be sure to speak up if they squeeze too tightly, though. Some snakes don’t know their own strength.”

Persnakety slides their coils off and drops a gooey, spindly plastic spider on Wren.

Spiders are your friends, just be careful of their tea.”

Persnakety pours slime on Wren.

Slime may be cold and sticky, but they don’t want to hurt you.”

Persnakety pokes Wren’s neck with a stick.

Vampires are dangerous. Still, some are friendly. Just be sure not to invite any into your mind if you don’t trust them.”

He slithers back in front of Wren’s face.

Now, please open your eyes, Wren,” he says. Wren does so, and Persnakety activates his hypnotic eyes. “You can be a very brave individual, Wren. Acknowledge your fear, but don’t let it control you. Work through your fear, understand it, understand when it’s informative and when it’s unwarranted, and you can be courageous.

Also, whenever your teeth feel grimy or grainy, you will get up and thoroughly brush your teeth. Top, bottom, back, front—give your mouth a thorough cleaning. It’s healthy and important.”

Persnakety ends his hypnosis and slides off Wren. He boops them on the nose and they blink awake.

What?” Wren sits up. “What happened?”

How do you feel, Wren?” Persnakety asks. Wren looks at him.

I feel . . . I feel like—” Persnakety gives them a smile. “I feel relaxed.”

And how do you feel about the rest of the tournament?” Persnakety asks. Wren smiles and stands up.

I feel like I could take it on,” Wren says. “Yeah, I’m thinking about everyone I’ve had to encounter so far, and I think—maybe it’s not so bad? I got out of them all, there’s a referee, I’m not in any danger I can’t handle.” They lift a fist. “Yeah! I can do this! Maybe if I stop shrinking from it, I can even find something I enjoy!”

That’s the spirit!” Persnakety says. “I hope this helped you!”

Whatever it was, maybe it did,” Wren says. They smile. “I don’t feel so afraid. Maybe even some of them . . . Lila . . . I could fly with Hilja again . . . Maybe it’ll be different now.”

I hope so,” Persnakety says. He waves his tail to them. “I hope you can enjoy the rest of the tournament, and remember, the host has guaranteed your safety in this stadium.” Wren nods.

You’re right. Thank you, I hope I’ll see you out here again.”

Me too,” Persnakety says. “Good bye!”

Persnakety leaves the dome, and Wren sits on the couch with a smile on their face. They imagine what they might encounter in the tournament. Some of those lamias have soft coils, maybe they can learn to enjoy it. It’s all like a vacation, really. They get to rest a lot. They try to remember who was next.

Hello, Ms. Huppe.”

Wren turns to the voice.

Dr. Emma Fara walks out of the shadows behind the bookcase.

Are you ready for my exhibition?” Fara asks. Wren stands up.

Yeah, what have you got?” they ask. “Wait, you’re just a human, aren’t you? I mean, I guess that witch was technically a human. What do you have?” As they spoke Fara removed a small ray gun from her lab coat and fired at the ground, creating a hole into darkness. “Are you a scientist? What are you doing with that? What is that?”

Dr. Fara kicks Wren into the hole and they fall into the void.

Wren screams as Fara laughs like a bankrupt pyromaniac before a burning building insured in case of fire, and she hops into the hole after Wren.

As Wren falls and screams Fara catches up and lands her feet on their back, riding them like a snowboard.

Get ready,” she says, “this is going to be a bumpy ride!”

She twists Wren and spins them like a board. The void shimmers, lights flashing, exploding, falling in an impossible distance. Wren hears mumbles, murmurs, unknowable language over their screams. They hear a chorus of screams around them and realize it’s their screams. A speck appears above them growing bigger, and Wren sees themself fall past into the endless pit below.

Where should we send you first?” Fara says. “Ah, that’s always a favorite.” Fara spins Wren under her feet and kicks them to the side, casting them into a coffin that shuts on them.

Wren breaths fast, shifting their body to stand on their feet. They shove against the wall but can’t push it open. Lights blink on inside the coffin like a control panel, screens showing numbers flashing. Wren shouts at a sting on their leg. Another hits their arm and they see a needle from the wall poking them.

A brighter light flashes steady in front of Wren and they stare at a pulsating spiral. It draws them in, stealing their focus, and they only take faint notice of the barrage of stings down their body. Their eyelids droop and they slump in the coffin, woozy, never taking their eyes off the hypnotic spiral.

Steam hisses from the walls and mechanical arms emerge. They grab Wren, hold them up, pull their flesh, insert microchips, install metal. Bit by bit the arms transform Wren. The arms change Wren from flesh to metal.

Finally a mask is placed over Wren’s face, and their transformation into a doll is complete.

A boot as big as Wren shoots out from the wall behind and smashes Wren out through the coffin and back into the screaming void. They resume they plummet, tumbling like a rag doll.

They smack into inky liquid and sink below.

Wren buzzes a muffled scream and rises above the pool of liquid. They breathe quickly until they realize they aren’t breathing. They sink back under the liquid and flail to stay above it, their metal body too heavy to stay up for long.

The inky ooze rises before Wren like a fountain, and it falls away to reveal Dr. Fara, who grins at Wren. Her hair is indistinguishable from the ooze, if not a part of it.

What are you doing?” she says. “Just sink.” She places a hand on Wren’s head and pushes them below.

Wren resumes falling through the inky void, their screams all around them.

A tendril whips around Wren and nabs them. Inky tentacles wrap around and pull them into a world of writing tentacles, which wrap and squeeze and fondle and crush Wren. Their metal body cracks and buckles under the force until it falls away, leaving only their fleshy interior. The tentacles squeeze tighter, sliding under every available surface of Wren’s, crushing them smaller and smaller until—

They are a single point. No bigger than a seed.

Wren opens their eyes. They feel flimsy, fragile. The ground is near. The sky is black. Before them stands an even darker tree.

Dr. Fara’s laugh echoes as the ground erupts in cracking, snaking roots. The tree’s leaves shift, warp, change color into Fara’s face.

What a puny little flower,” the tree says. Wren looks at their body. They are a flower, a flower that could fall to the slightest breeze.

With the slightest thought,” Fara says, “I can pluck you.” A root grabs around Wren and pulls. Fara stretches Wren, yanks them up. For a moment Wren thinks perhaps they can hold on to the ground.

They snap.

They shatter.

Wren floats in the formless void. They do not fall, they hear no scream. They feel nothing.

After what feels like an eternity, Dr. Fara floats before them from below.

She grabs Wren in her arms.

I.” She grips harder. “Want.” She squeezes Wren in her hands, more hands than she has. “To.” Her eyes flare like a star dying. “Hear.” Her grip punctures Wren’s skin and drives into their skin. “You.” She grips Wren’s brain and squeezes it, squeezing out thoughts like squeezing juice from a lemon. “Scream.”

Wren screams, but they cannot hear it. They cannot feel it. They cannot feel themself. Their mind falls into the void.

Wren curls up tight on the couch where they had just learned courage from Persnakety, now breathing fast and mind tumbling through the terror they just fell out of.

That was fun, subject.” Fara pets her hand through Wren’s hair. She chuckles. “Can’t wait to do it again.”

She leaves the dome, leaving Wren to stew in fear.

As Fara passes the interview tent, Belle stands up.

Just what are you?” Belle asks, wide-eyed. She wasn’t sure what she just saw on the screens, and only her journalistic interest prodded her to find out.

Fara laughs.

Maybe you would find out if”—she looks at the announcer booth—“SOMEBODY would finish those stories about me!”

Hey, I’ve been busy. I haven’t written many microstories this year anyway, I’ve focused on the big stories.

You’ve focused on silly things, you mean.”

Hey, Lamia Pathsways remains a major draw.

A major mess, or soon to be one, I expect. You’ve had plenty of time to write microstories since you introduced me.”

I’ve had other subjects to write microstories about, like plant girls.

You really have gone green in the head.”

So did you during that exhibition.

If you love plant girls so much, why don’t you marry one?”

Don’t say that! How the hex am I supposed to respond to that?

I expect you to squirm!”

Who are you talking to?” Belle shouts. She stares at Fara like she’s arguing with herself, since neither she nor anyone else but Fara can hear this narration.

I can hear it!” Shut up, Top. “Okay!”

Fara waves a hand at Belle. “I’m afraid you wouldn’t understand. If you’ll excuse me, I’ve just thought of a way to create an infinitely-long hot dog.” She walks off to the dwelling rooms. “I’m sure that will make me popular with some of the voters.”

Is Dr. Fara evil? She would say so. You know who else would say so?

Now that’s a woman after my own heart,” Darmenzi says in their enclosed VIP room. “At least, if I still had a beating one.” They chuckle. “Dr. Emma Fara. If you only knew how far the depths of depravity went. A good start, a good imagination.” They look at the crystal at the end of their staff, dark like a dying galaxy. “But that madness gives you a lack of focus. You’ll never ruin civilization with that attention span.”

They chuckle.

And here I thought this was supposed to be horny.” They laugh. “But what do I know, I gave up such feelings long ago.” They look at their hand, three claw-shaped fingers. “A pity, perhaps. There are so many who might relish the opportunity to”—They squeeze their hand—“feel someone like me crush them below my feet. It could be such a tool to ruin lives with, and they would let me do it willingly.”

I think we should stop talking about evil characters and get to voting. So! Good snake Persnakety, or evil mad scientist Dr. Emma Fara? Make your choice heard!

Round 1 Match 6 Results

“Welcome back!” Belle sits at her interview table. “Today’s match is between a friendly snake who goes by Persnakety, and a mad scientist I wouldn’t want to be in a closed room with, Dr. Emma Fara. Wren is still recuperating after the last exhibition, so with me today is Ms. Anne Koizumi.”

Across from her sits Anne, her tail coiled into a neat pile behind her. She rests her hands on her lap, or what counts for a lap in a lamia.

“Ms. Koizumi—or should it be Queen Koizumi?” Belle asks.

“The proper fitting term should be ‘Your Majesty’,” Anne says. She sighs. “But I suppose ‘Lady Koizumi’ will suffice, for now.” Belle smiles.

“Maybe if you win your match tomorrow I’ll address you as such?” she says. “Good luck on that, by the way.”

“I won’t need luck.”

“Then I’ll go wish your opponent luck later,” Belle says.

“She’ll need it,” Anne says. She places a hand to her mouth and laughs. “Oh, Mira is strong, surely, but up against me, who has a chance?” Belle leans close.

“You do realize this is a vote, right?” she asks. “Don’t wanna look arrogant.”

“Arrogant? Never,” Anne says. “Confidence is what the voters will respond to.”

“Well, I can’t argue with that,” Belle says. “Now, I understand you’re also familiar with one of the contestants today, Persnakety.”

“We see each other sometimes,” Anne says. “He’s a nerd. Kind of high-strung. Weird.” She frowns. “Although, apparently he’s something of an outcast among the snakes, which . . .” She shrugs. “I can kind of understand how that is.”

“Does he have any special abilities beyond regular hypnotic snakes?” Belle asks.

“Not that I know of,” Anne says. “I mostly see him cleaning things or reading books. He does have a bit of an annoying habit of hoarding magic artifacts.” She crosses her arms.” Says they’re too dangerous to let anyone utilize.” She pouts and throws her arms out. “I’m careful! I could use them. I’d use them correctly!”

Belle decides not to comment. “What do you think of Persnakety’s chance in this match?”

“Oh, I saw yesterday’s exhibition match,” Anne says. She smirks and places a hand over her mouth. “I hate to say it, but the poor snake doesn’t have a snowbell’s chance in a hurricane.”

“We’ll see how it goes,” Belle says. “The challenge match is about to begin.”

Dr. Fara strolls into the dome. Persnakety sits on a couch, his tail coiled neat and orderly.

“Are you ready to be pulled apart, pipsqueak?” Fara asks.

“Actually”—Persnakety smiles—“I wasss wondering if you might just be willing to just let me win this match instead?”

Fara bursts out laughing for a solid minute.

“I take that as a no, then,” Persnakety says. Fara grabs his upper body and lifts him.

“I would say that you should just give up yourself and spare yourself the pain,” she says. “But since you’ve insinuated the possibility I might be nice, I’ll have to show you how wrong you are.” She stomps on Persnakety’s tail as he curls it around her leg in an attempt to wrap around her. Persnakety gasps in pain.

“No-no, nothing like that!” Persnakety says. “I jussst thought, maybe you were too busy for all thisss?”

“I’m never too busy to bully someone,” Fara says. She tosses a device on the floor and a void opens up. Persnakety glances at it.

“Well, I sssuppose I’ve no choice but to asssk you”—Persnakety stretches from Fara’s grip closer to her and produces hypnotic rings through his eyes—“to look deep into my eyes for me, won’t you? Just let the colors wash over your sssight and sssink through your mind.”

Fara stares. She smirks.

“Yesss, they’re ssso pretty, you don’t want to look away, and—” Persnakety shouts and clenches his eyes, turning away. “Your eyes! They’re like a void, there’sss nothing in them! It’sss horrifying!”

“Oh, don’t worry,” Fara says, holding Persnakety over the void hole. “You were just looking at your reflection.”

Persnakety looks into the void below. Expectedly, he sees nothing. Unexpectedly, he sees flashes of everything. He looks Fara up and down.

“Don’t worry, I’ll take you out in time for the loser’s bracket,” she says. “Although you may be in no shape to–” Persnakety whips his tail closer and knocks Fara’s feet forward. She slips over the edge and drops into the void. Persnakety gags as she holds her grip and pulls him in, but he grips the floor above and hangs on.

“Very tricky, pipsqueak!” Fara shouts. She grabs Persnakety’s body higher, pulling herself up. “You just dragged yourself inside.” Persnakety looks at her.

“I’m very sssorry to do thisss,” he says, strained through her grip, “but I’m afraid I have little choice at the moment.” He headbutts her. His teeth are too small for a bite to do much, but he throws enough force to knock Fara’s grip off and send her plummeting into the void. Persnakety only watches a moment before he slithers back up to the ground above.

He sighs, relieved that was over. He looks up and gasps at seeing Fara sitting in one of the chairs.

“Did you really think a pocket dimension of my own creation could hold me?” Fara asks. She stands up and walks towards Persnakety, the void hole behind him. “You can’t win.”

“W-Well,” Persnakety says, “then I’ll have to draw my weapon.” He shuffles along the floor, scrabbling the end of his tail at the bookcase. He feels what he’s after and points a feather duster at Fara. “Er, en garde?” Fara bursts out laughing.

“What are you going to do, clean up my act?” she asks. She grabs the feather duster from Persnakety anddddd she never noticed how dusty her head is there’s so much dust in her head she needs to dust it out clean it wash it get rid of the dust get rid of the dust gET RId oF THe dUST.

She smiles. Her head feels clean and spotless while she holds the feather duster. Her mind is all in order now. No more of those dusty thoughts cluttering her head.

Oh! These chairs are terribly dirty. She cleans them off with the feather duster.

Oh dear! Someone left a hole here. She picks up the device that created it and shuts it off.

“Oh, my apologies,” Persnakety says with a smile, “I forgot to mention that feather duster hypnotizes human entities into maids.” He frowns and looks away, glad that it actually did work on Fara.

“Persnakety prevailed!” I announce. “He found a way to stop Dr. Fara and wins the match! He’s moving on to round two, while Dr. Fara drops to the loser’s bracket!”

Darmenzi clicks their tongue in their enclosed VIP room.

“There’s such a thing as being too human, Dr. Fara. You’ve just refused to let that part of you go.” They chuckle. “For as open as your mind may be to the madness, it’s still closed to the full range of possibility.”

In Veda’s VIP room, she smiles and nods.

“Persnakety won,” she says. “I honestly wasn’t sure if he had the ability to. He can be quite strategic when he needs to, even tricky. Though his true strength lies in how much order he can keep.”

“He does keep that cabin in the forest organized quite efficiently,” Eduards says.

“He would make a good butler,” Veda says, “if not for the fact he gets nervous around anyone with more presence than him.”

“Round one is almost done!” I announce. “We’ll have two matches next week, and then break for the weekend before starting Loser’s Round One, or Round L1. Next time two jungle lamias go head to head, one a hunter and orphan, the other presenting herself as a queen. See you next week!”

Round 1 Match 7

“Welcome back to the tournament!” Belle says. “With me today is Ms. Enna Koizumi, sister of Anne Koizumi, one of the contestants in today’s match.”

“Great to be here, Belle,” Enna says. Her tail is curled up around her chair.

“So, Enna,” Belle says, “you and your sister both have a hypnotic kiss, correct?”

“Unfortunately,” Enna says. “Makes it hard to actually kiss someone without them going all blank-minded.”

“Your sister seems to use it quite often,” Belle says. Enna crosses her arms.

“Well, she and I have three hypnotic abilities.” She counts them on her fingers. “There’s the kiss, which just requires a kiss, then there’s the hypnotic eyes. Ours is actually weaker than most lamias, while we can hypnotize someone, especially someone caught unawares, it takes longer and is easier to break free of. Enna usually catches someone off guard with the kiss before she goes for the eyes.”

“The third method involves your tails, right?” Belle asks.

“Yeah, our tails can create a hypnotic pattern when coiled in opposite directions, but that’s the thing—it requires both of us, and whoops!” She smiles and shrugs. “We’re not on a team in this tournament.”

“So that option is not available to her,” Belle says.

“Not unless there’s a tag team part of the tournament later on,” Enna says.

“May I ask how the hypnotic kisses work?” Belle asks. “Is it like venom, or a poison?” Enna shrugs.

“Let’s just call it a toxin and avoid that dichotomy,” Enna says. “It’s partly the saliva, so like, we could probably activate it just by spitting into someone’s mouth, but I think Anne said the drawing in of someone with the lips, attaching them to us that way, is part of the effect. I dunno, maybe she was just trying to boast about her kissability again.” She groans. “Oh no, that’s a pun. Kiss ability. That’s why she chuckles whenever she says that.”

“Are you familiar with the other contestant this match, Mira . . .” Belle consults her notes. “Actually, I don’t have Mira’s surname here.”

“I don’t think she has one,” Enna says. “She’s an orphan and a loner, so I guess she never took one. I’ve heard gossip that she chose her own name.”

“Impressive,” Belle says. “She survived all on her own out in the jungle.”

“Ah, it’s not too hard,” Enna says. “Not to downplay her or anything, she is pretty talented.”

“Do you know her well?” Belle asks.

“Not well,” Enna says, “but I’ve seen her around. She’s great at sports, and we’ve played together a few times when an event brought us both to the village. She’s also an awesome cook, and she showed me some great techniques to catch fish.”

“She sounds quite talented,” Belle says. Enna leans closer.

“She’s also picky,” she says. “I’ve heard she gets all kinds of human suitors but she turns them all down. She must be looking for someone special.”

“Or she knows they just want someone to cook for them,” Belle says. “All right, I’m getting word that the exhibition matches are about to begin, so let’s go to the field!”

Today the field is a forest, inside which Wren sits against a tree staring at the ground. Mira slithers down from the tree above.

Mira’s Profile

“Hello, short one,” Mira says. “Are you ready to give the crowd a show?” She raises a fist. “Let’s get this crowd excited. I want to show this crowd what I can do when I get excited!”

Wren looks up at Mira.


“A chase, a chase!” Mira says. “Run, dodge, resist, put me through my paces. Give me a real test, that’s how I like it!”

Wren leaned their head against the tree.

“Oh, just get it over with.”


“Do whatever you’re going to do,” Wren says, “I don’t care anymore. I’m tired of fighting.”

Mira stares at the short human. She tries to speak but can’t find the words. She turns to the announcer booth.

“I can’t work like this!” she says.

“Give Wren some slack,” I say. “They had a very rough time in the last exhibition.” Mira crosses her arms.

“I can’t work without a prey that actually gives me a challenge. What’s the point otherwise?” she asks. “There must be some way to put a spring in their step, to give them some pep, work up their energy.”

“Ooh, I can do that!” Anne slithers from behind the tree.

“Let me go first,” Anne says, “a few minutes with me and my lips and they’ll be ready for anything!” She slithers to Wren, but Mira blocks her with a hand.

“No, short one,” Mira says, as Anne pouts, “I have a better idea. Your exhibition will come, but I have something to do of my own, first.” She points to Top and motions for them to come over.

“Whatcha need?” Top asks. Mira lifts Top and whispers—

“Where is your ear?” Mira asks.

“Ah, just pick anyplace, I’ll hear ya.”

Mira whispers to Top. Top nods, and after she sets them down Top reaches in their mouth and pulls out bowls and fish and assorted cookery.

“Faster service than I expected,” Mira says. She examines the fish and nods. “This’ll do.”

Mira knocks down branches from the trees and uses them to start a fire. She suspends a pot over it and starts heating it up as she chops onions. She cooks that with spices and other vegetables as she guts the fish, and when the onion masala is done she chops the fish and replaces the pot over the fire with a skewer. After she marinates the fish she cooks it over the flame, as she adds water to the masala and mashes it to a paste. With the fish cooked she adds curry leaves and peppers into the pot and boils it over the flame, mixing in water to make gravy. As it boils she adds the fish and cooks until complete.

She places a bowl of the fish curry before Wren.

“Here you go,” Mira says. “Have some good food before the match.”

Wren pokes it with a spoon.

“Sorry I have no rice or bread,” Mira says, “you work with limited ingredients in the wild.”

Wren lifts the curry in a spoon, peers at it, and takes a bite.

They scream and gasp.

“That’s hot!” They stick their tongue out and set the bowl down. Mira hands them a glass of water and they drink, gasping for air after.

Wren picks up the bowl and takes another bite. Spicy though it is, once it’s not so hot they handle it with plenty of water and let the taste coat their mouth.

“This is really good!” Wren says between bites. “It’s fantastic!”

“Glad you like it,” Mira says. “I have to make do out in the wild.”

“It seems like you make do really well,” Wren says. They finish the bowl and sigh. They lean back against the tree before they stretch and stand up.

“I feel like that filled a hole in me.” Wren hops in place. “Yeah, I feel way better now.”

“Good to hear,” Mira says.

Wren stops at a creaking sound and turns to a bow and arrow pointed at them.

“Now it’s time to run that off,” Mira says. She grins, eyes low. “I see that look of fear in your eyes. Don’t worry, I’m not going to shoot you.” She raises an eyebrow. “This is just a warning that you run until I can’t see you anymore, so I can go catch you. I want a strong, honest effort on your part. Pretend your life depends on it. Got it?”

Wren nods without making any sudden movements.

“Then run.”

Wren runs. They run among the trees, glancing back repeatedly until they can’t see Mira anymore. Not long after they stop to catch their breath. They like watching sports, not being sport.

They yelp as something wraps under their arms and lifts them into a tree. They find Mira above, watching them as she lifts them with her tail.

“You didn’t get far,” Mira says. “Are you sure you’re trying?”

Wren wails and pulls Mira’s tail off them, stumbling down the branch to the end.

“Please don’t shoot me!” they cry.

“That’s up to you,” Mira says. “Will you make me not shoot you?”

Wren glances between Mira and the ground below. Mira slithers to Wren, and the short human leaps off the branch. They grab for the branch of another tree but miss.

They fall.

Mira grabs Wren’s ankle with her tail and Wren swings below. Mira swings Wren in an arc around the branch and up into her waiting arms.

“Careful, you don’t want to fall,” Mira says.

She holds the short human in her arms, Wren’s feet unable to reach the branch. They kick at Mira, but she grips Wren’s ankles in her tail.

“Maybe it’s time you took a break,” Mira says. She pulls Wren’s gaze to her eyes, which pulsate in a kaleidoscope of fiery red, deep ocean blue, and dark jungle green. Wren stares as the colors burn into their vision and wash over their mind.

Wren remembers the bow and arrow and squeaks as they pull their gaze away from Mira’s. They struggle in Mira’s grip, but she holds on tight, her tail coiling up Wren’s legs. She holds Wren’s skirt down and slides up over it around their thighs.

“Aw, you’re a fighter now, aren’t you?” Mira says. She kisses Wren’s head. “You’re cute when you fight.” She whispers into Wren’s ear, “But you’re even cuter when you stare into my eyes.”

She kisses Wren’s cheek, and Wren’s eye twitches open. It opens wide as they look into Mira’s eyes, their pupil pulsing as they fight her hypnotic spell. Wren’s pupil shrinks, and the red, blue, green rings from Mira’s eyes ripple through Wren’s.

“There you are,” Mira says. As she coils around Wren’s hips her tail grows heavier around Wren’s legs. Wren’s struggles begin to slow as they stare, though they still try to pull their gaze away. Mira touches a hand to Wren’s cheek as she wraps her tail around their waist and holds their arms down.

“Turn a little towards me, please,” Mira says. She guides Wren’s head to face her directly and holds their chin in her other hand. “Now, open that other eye for me, would you?”

Mira’s bow and arrow pop back in Wren’s mind, but the thought repeatedly slips away, as do Wren’s other thoughts, as Mira’s spell fills their mind.

Wren opens their other eye. They stare wide-eyed, mouth agape as Mira’s hypnotic colors flood their mind.

“Perfect,” Mira says. “Sink deep, now. It’s time to sleep.” Wren moans and quietly repeats Mira’s words. Mira wraps up Wren’s chest, squeezing their arms as her tail grows heavier and thicker around Wren’s legs. She lifts the short human up and rests them horizontally in her slithering coils.

“Sleep,” Mira says. She wraps up Wren’s shoulders and squeezes their body in a rhythm matching her eyes. “Sleep in a blanket of my coils. Sleep in a blanket of my colors.”

“Sleep,” Wren mutters. Their eyes begin to droop as Mira’s eyes wash away the world around them. Their fear, the feeling of danger, all negative thoughts vanish from their mind as Mira pulls them into her hypnotic world. Mira wraps around Wren’s neck and hugs tight. Wren gulps, and Mira laughs and kisses them on the lips. When she pulls away Wren smiles wide, eyes wide and rippling with color, mind saturated in Mira’s spell. Mira pets Wren’s head.

“A good little challenge,” she says. “I knew you just needed the right motivation.”

She hangs Wren up from a branch like a hammock and sways them from side to side. Wren’s mind floats in the gentle motion, and their eyes drift shut as they slip into a deep, peaceful sleep.

“Aww, such a cute scene.” Anne laughs as she slithers out from behind the tree. Mira crosses her arms and smirks.

“Hello, Anne,” she says. Anne pouts, but she knows from past meetings saying anything about Mira not using her proper title would get her nowhere. “I suppose you’re eager to begin your exhibition?”

“You might say that,” Anne says. She leans against the tree and smiles. “Don’t let me hurry you along, though, all in good time.” Mira nods to Wren.

“I figure they could use a good rest after the last one they went through.”

“I suppose.” Anne’s smile softens. “It did seem rough. And I doubt anything Persnakety did actually helped.”

“He did win his match, though,” Mira says. “Perhaps that will be enough to give Wren confidence.” Anne laughs.

“I think they just need some proper love,” she says. “Before Persnakety they dealt with a snake that tried to eat them.”

“What about the girl before that?” Mira asks.

“She won her match,” Anne says. “It’s time Wren had another.”

“If you say so,” Mira says.

She lets go of the branch above and lowers her coils to the branch. She unwinds her tail from around Wren, telling them to stand up straight as she does so Wren doesn’t fall. With Wren unwrapped, she snaps her fingers and commands Wren to awake.

“She’s all yours,” Mira says. She slithers to the ground. Anne grins at the waking Wren.

Anne’s Profile

Artwork by Azupazu

Wren stretches and blinks awake. They glance around and try to retrace their steps to how they got up in a tree.

“Hello, dear Wren,” Anne says. Wren steps back.

“Oh! Hello, aren’t you, uh . . .” Wren thought she looked familiar. Had they encountered her a few days ago?

“My name is Lady Anne Koizumi,” Anne says. She slithers closer; Wren takes another step back, but she’s within smooch distance. “But you, my little pet, can call me Queen Koizumi.”

She grabs Wren in her arms and kisses them on the lips. Wren backs away but Anne catches them, and in a moment the world spins around Wren. Wren’s eyes droop as Anne’s kiss shudders through their mind, the world falling far away as Anne becomes their sole focus.

As soon as Anne pulls away from the kiss Wren stares into her eyes, blue and violet rippling through Anne’s eyes as vibrant as candy. Wren isn’t immediately arrested by the colors, but dazed as they are from the kiss they stare agape into Anne’s eyes until their pupils shrink, overwhelmed by the colors, and sink into her spell.

“Good pet,” Anne says. “Give all your attention to your queen.”

She holds Wren’s chin and pets their head as she curls her tail up their skirt. She slithers between Wren’s legs and grabs their back, coiling Wren from the waist up.

“You’re so good at being an attentive pet,” Anne says. She pulls Wren’s face closer. “Let me give you a little reward.”

She kisses Wren’s lips again, pulling them closer into her embrace. She slides her tongue along Wren’s and pulls and twists it in her kiss. She wraps around Wren’s midriff, pinning their arms down. Wren’s eyes droop and their world spins, whirling around Queen Koizumi as Wren’s queen slithers thicker portions of her tail up and between their legs. Anne slips her tail under Wren’s shirt and pushes it up as she wraps around Wren’s chest and squeezes their upper arms.

When Anne releases Anne’s lips from the kiss Wren sighs, their lips parted in a dazed smile. Anne laughs and pets them.

You’re such a cute little pet,” she says. She nods her head and Wren follows, eyes locked to Anne’s pulsating hypnotic colors. “You enjoy being a good pet for your queen.”

Good pet for my queen,” Wren sighs. Anne’s hypnotic colors ripple over the world and wash it away, leaving Wren in their queen’s world.

Anne slithers her tail out from the collar of Wren’s shirt and wraps around their neck, kneading Wren’s shoulders and pressing against their face. Wren sighs, eyes drooping down and up, mere millimeters away from shutting as Anne marinates Wren’s mind in her hypnotic influence.

Wren gulps as Anne squeezes their neck, their chest, their arms, and their legs, her wide tail massaging Wren’s legs. Wren’s eyes open wide and they stare at Anne with a wide, blank smiles. Anne pets them.

Perfect, my little pet,” she says. “Let your queen give you some royal treatment now.”

She gives Wren another long, deep smooch as she strokes their face with her hands. Wren’s eyes gradually droop again, smile wide and puckered as Anne kisses them back into a dizzy, dreamy state. When she releases the kiss she squeezes Wren’s body again, and Wren’s eyes pop back open. Anne laughs and kisses Wren again, repeating the kiss-drop-squeeze-pop sequence several times, sinking Wren’s muddled mind deeper into their queen’s love and control every time.

Anne sighs and holds them close, satisfied she gave Wren enough of her queenly presence. She lingers her tail around Wren before gradually slithering off them, smooching their cheeks and forehead and, as her tail retreats, their arms and chest.

Once her tail is off Wren, she slithers off the branch, leaving Wren in a sprawled pile. She waves to Wren.

I’ll see you again in round two, my pet.” She giggles and leaves.

Top walks up to the tree and looks up.

You mean I gotta get them down?” they ask.

While Top gets the subject of play down,” I announce, “let’s get to the voting! We got two lamias, hypnotic and handsy—or should it be tailsy in this case? Just taily? Regardless, they’re two ladies who will swirl their will into your mind and leave no part of your body untouched. The tall hunter, or the short queen? Make your choice!”

Round 1 Match 7 Results

“Welcome back to the tournament!” Belle says. “With me today once again is Ms. Enna Koizumi.”

“You have me up here a lot,” Enna says. She grins and leans closer. “Just can’t stay away from me, huh?”

“Ha ha ha,” Belle says. “I wanted to ask more about your sister and her current match. You said you expect Mira to win against Anne, but are there any advantages Anne might have?”

“Well, if she was anything like me,” Enna says, “she’d be small enough to squirrel away from Mira. She acts so elegant though I doubt she’d even think to crawl away. Since Mira’s bigger she’d win in a tail contest.” Enna leans back. “I suppose—I said that we have weaker hypnosis than most lamias, but on the flip side, we’re not as susceptible to it. So Anne’s and Mira’s hypnosis might cancel each other out, in which case maybe if Anne can get close enough to kiss Mira she could take the advantage, but honestly, I don’t see that happening.”

“So you’re more resistant to hypnosis than other lamias?” Belle asks.

“Yeah, Anne says it’s due to our hypnosis being weaker,” Enna says. “I don’t know much about that. I do know that Anne’s tricks aren’t likely to work on Mira.”

“We’ll find out,” Belle says. “The challenge match is about to begin!”

In the forest sprouted in the stadium, neither lamia seems to be around. Silence and calm settles in the forest.

Anne slithers among the trees, careful not to disturb a single leaf. She knows Mira is sneaking somewhere around there. She needs to find Mira before Mira finds her and get the drop on her.

She spies a bright yellow through the trees and slithers closer. Mira stands in a tree, back to her. Perfect—that silly yellow tunic gives her away. Anne gathers her tail closer, distributes her weight on the branch, and leaps to grab Mira and kiss her.

Anne yelps as something pulls her back. She looks down at a red and blue tail as it wraps a few coils around her. Mira laughs.

“Did you really think you could sneak up on me?” She turns to Anne and carries her out into the open. “I could hear your tail slithering. I could smell you a mile away. When you sneak around, you want your scent to match your surroundings, not be stronger.”

“Let go of me,” Anne says. She struggles in Mira’s tail, but Mira keeps her hold firm. “This should be a fair fight!”

“It will be,” Mira says. “We’ll stare at each other. First to drop loses.”

“We must be closer to each other than this,” Anne says. Mira crosses her arms.

“I’m not going anywhere near your pouty lips,” Mira says.

“Then fine,” Anne says, swirling her bright violet and blue rings through her eyes. “I’ll make you come closer.”

“We’ll see about that, short stuff,” Mira says, releasing her vibrant red, blue, and green through her eyes.

Anne focuses on her colors. She doesn’t need to worry about resisting—she isn’t so easily swayed. As long as she focuses on pumping out her hypnotic rings she can outlast Mira.

“You know, if this was really a fair fight,” Anne says, “my tail would be around you, too.” She whips her tail forward. “So let’s fix that!” She grabs her tail around Mira’s upper body and wraps a pair of loops around her chest. Mira smirks.

“If you think that’ll give you any advantage,” she says.

Anne knows it will. She just has to wait for her rings to start reflecting in Mira’s eyes and she’ll be off-balance enough for Anne to pull closer.

“You must be getting so sleepy, aren’t you?” Anne says.

“Not at all,” Mira says. “How are you doing?”

“I’m fine,” Anne says. “I can already see some of my colors flash through your eyes.”

“Really? I haven’t noticed any,” Mira says.

“That’s how it starts, isn’t it?” Anne says. “You don’t . . . You start . . .” Anne frowns. She tries to pick up her train of thought. She wants to blink for a moment but can’t stop lest she lose the initiative. She still only sees her blue and red, so she’s ahead.

No—she has blue and violet. Maybe one of Mira’s rings passed through her vision, but she’s sure she saw one of her blues pass through Mira’s eyes. She’s on the way to winning.

“I’ll bet you’re growing weary holding your tail up,” Anne says. “Why don’t you drop and let it rest? I promise I won’t come closer.”

“You drop your tail first,” Mira says.

Anne feels her tail shake. Something tells her to drop it. She holds on.

“Oh, no, I feel—I, I’m, I mean . . .” Anne’s thoughts scramble for a moment. She realizes Mira’s green rings also ripple through her vision. She can see a her violet shimmer through Mira’s eyes on occasion, but she needs to start the next step of her plan now.

She yanks Mira closer with her tail to kiss her.

Her tail falls from Mira and flops to the branches below.

“No,” Anne says. “T-Time out.” She stares into Mira’s eyes as the bigger lamia approaches her. “That wasn’t—” Can she see her violet rings anymore? She needs to regain control. Mira’s coming closer, that’s what she wanted. “I mean, yes, come closer, look deeper into my eyes and let me–”

“Do you ever shut up?” Mira asks.

Anne goes quiet and stares. Her mouth hangs open. Mira chuckles.

“You rely too much on your lips,” she says. “Talking and kissing. You rely on acting like royalty, but you aren’t a queen, are you?”

“No,” Anne says. She tries to furrow her eyebrows and glare at Mira, but her eyelids start to droop. “No, I am a queen. You’re just . . . No respect for . . .”

“You’re right there, I don’t have respect for spoiled princesses,” Mira says. “But you just play the part of one, don’t you?”

“The part,” Anne mutters. Mira wraps her tail up around Anne to hold her firm.

“You can fool all the humans you meet,” Mira says, “but you’ve never been able to fool any lamias, have you?”

“I can . . . I can fool any . . .” Anne sighs, her slurred words falling away.

“Any fool can fool a fool,” Mira says. “You’re the jester trying to be a queen.” All Anne can do is groan as Mira’s hypnotic power flows over her. Mira sighs. “And if you weren’t so stuck-up, I’d feel sorry for you.”

Anne’s wide eyes narrow a little. Her glare starts to return.

“Don’t . . . you . . . dare . . .”

She slumps and her eyes snap wide open. A smile spreads over her lips and her ego disappears under Mira’s spell.

“Then I won’t. The only comfort I’ll give you is to let you drop to a deep sleep.”

Anne’s eyes flutter shut and she sleeps. Mira lowers Anne to the floor below and drops after. She lifts Anne in her arms and carries her back to the dwelling rooms, Anne’s tail trailing over Mira’s slithering tail. Outside the stadium forest Enna catches up from the interview tent and chats with Mira, though of what we shan’t tell here.

“Instead, we’ll say congratulations to Mira! She moves on to round two, and Anne drops to the loser’s bracket! I’ll bet she’ll be sore about her sister getting to advance. We only have one match left in round one, so get ready tomorrow for a chemical choice: liquid or gas?”

Round 1 Match 8

“Welcome to the final match of round one!” Belle says. “We’ve seen seven matches so far, and we have one more to learn the full layout of the next two rounds. I’m here today with one of the contestants of the next match, Ageul Vodá.” She turns to the other occupant of the table. “Thank you for being with me today, Ms. Vodá.”

“The pleaaasure is all mine, Belle,” says Ageul, accentuating the word pleasure as if slowly pouring it from a bottle.

Belle looks at the blue slime lamia before her. Her long goopy hair pulls on the table when she moves her head, and Belle can’t even see the chair under her sticking slime anymore. She saw Ageul earlier in the tournament and she hardly seemed slimy, almost more like rubber, and she’s sure that Ageul had fingers before but her hands look more like blobs instead. Her eyes, cold with red pupils, are now a warm yellow, almost glowing.

Belle leans over to look at her tail, over third Belle’s height and trailing away further into the stadium. She looks back to Ageul’s face.

You seem rather stickier than usual,” Belle says. Ageul laughs.

You notiiiced?” she says, accentuating the last word. “I’ve been preparing for my maaatch today.” She stretches on the table, sticking further to it. Belle pulls her papers off the table.

What’s your plan for your exhibition match, if I may ask?” says Belle.

Welllll, you may have noticed that the stadium is flooded.”

Well, yes, Belle did notice that today the field was a deep pool, aside from the area of her interview tent and a single island.

I asked the hooost for that,” Ageul says. “They’re suuuch a nice host, I wish I could hooold them too.”

Sorry, my dear,” I say, “I’m far too busy narrating.” Ageul laughs.

So anyway, I’ve been in the pool since this morning absooorbing the waaater.”

Belle looks from Ageul down her tail and into the pool of water.

How much of the pool is still water and how much is you?” Belle asks. Ageul just laughs. “Well, it certainly seems to make you bubbly, so to speak. When I last spoke with you, you were quite shy.” Ageul laughs more and covers her face.

Still kind of shy to be out here,” she says. “I’m sooo excited, though, heehee.”

Before the match begins,” Belle says, “I did want to ask you a minor question I’m curious about. Your last name is Vodá, am I saying that correctly?


That’s just the Russian word for water, isn’t it?”

Mmhmm. All slimes’ last names are just a term for water, usually in their native language.”

Interesting,” Belle says. “Does that make telling families apart difficult?”

We don’t really organize by family,” Ageul says. “We take the last name of water to give homage to that which we aaall sprang from.”

I see,” Belle says. “Thank you for sharing that with me.”

You’re weeelcooome.”

And good luck in your match, today.”

Thank yooouuu.”

Ageul giggles and slides away backwards, taking the entire desk along with her. Top runs over and snatches the desk leg in their mouth, only to chomp the leg off instead.


Can we get another table over here?” Belle asks.

Ageul slides into the pool of water and disappears below the bulging surface. On the lone island in the pool, Wren sits, arms crossed.

They’re annoyed. Now they’re stuck sitting on a tiny island in the middle of a bulging pool. The one time Wren looked into it they thought they saw something moving and aren’t sure it’s actually water in the pool.

They know it’s just a matter of time before–

The water at the edge splashes up.

Ageul’s Profile

Art by Driplette!

Hellooo, Wren,” Ageul says. She crawls along the island.

Yep, Wren knew it. A slime. They back away.

Wait, listen, before you do anything, can you just promise me something first?” they ask. Ageul crawls forward with a wide grin on her face, staring at Wren all the while. Wren backs up to the island edge and Ageul still crawls forward, and they turn and crawl along the edge.

Yeees?” Ageul asks.

Just promise me that you won’t pull me down in the pool,” Wren says. “If you’re gonna slime me, at least do it where I can breathe, please?”

Aww, don’t worry, Wren,” Ageul says, “you can still breathe through me underwater.”

E-Even so,” Wren says, “I’d really rather you not drag me down there.” Ageul laughs.

All right,” she says, crawling ever close to the retreating Wren, “I promise not to pull you into the water.” Wren sighs.


Wren falls backwards into the water. In a moment they realize they fell less into water and more into a giant pool of a giant wiggling slime tail. Ageul giggles and dives in after them.

You were just playing with me, weren’t you?” she says. She hugs Wren as her tail already swamps around the short human. “You wanted to dive in the whooole tiiime.” Wren flails an arm out as the rest of their body sticks to and sinks under Ageul’s squeezing, squishing, heavy body.

No, Iiii–” Wren’s voice melts as Ageul’s slime covers their skin. Their vision swims as their skin and mind are soaked by Ageul. Wren’s mouth hangs open in a grin, and some of Ageul’s slime splashes into their mouth. They spit out the taste of swamp water and shake their head.

What?” they ask. They snap out of the foggy state from the musty taste, but Ageul squeezes her tail around Wren and they spiral back down into their hazy daze, eyes drooping.

Sorry I don’t taste so well,” Ageul says. She squeezes Wren’s face in her slimy hands. “I hope the feel of my slime more than makes up for it.”

Wren sighs and moans as Ageul’s slime seeps under their sleeves and pants legs and slides over their skin, soaking every part of their body Ageul could reach. She squeezes a heavy loop of her tail around Wren’s neck, nearly engulfing Wren’s head, and she coats the skin under Wren’s shirt, swirling around their arms and squeezing against their chest and back. She slides slime down their legs, seeping in their crevices and soaking under their socks, refreshing and cleaning Wren’s skin like an intensive bath.

Waaarrrm,” Ageul says. She holds Wren closer and tighter and they sink under the surface. Wren floats mindlessly, senses dulled to everything but Ageul, eyes unfocused. They don’t even notice as they sink under the water, but Ageul squeezes her face against Wren’s and kisses them, transferring oxygen trapped in her to Wren.

For a brief moment Wren feels vague awareness of underwater from Ageul’s musty taste, but her overwhelming slime squeezing squeezes out Wren’s thoughts and leaves their mind sinking soft into her sticky embrace. Wren’s world fills with slime as Ageul massages them in her grasp, coating every bit of Wren and every thought of Wren’s in slime.

She holds Wren suspended in her body of slime, giving them air through her body, submerging them deeper and fuller in her body, flooding their mind with cool, refreshing bliss.

Ageul immerses Wren in her gooey presence and sinks them into a vacation in a sea of her.

When Ageul eventually returns the sleeping Wren to the little island, she sweeps her hand over them, pulling back all the slime and water and leaving Wren as every bit dry as before they fell in. She giggles and slides her body over Wren and holds their face in her hands one last time.

I wish I could sink you in me all day, Wren,” she says. “All day and night, and the whole week, maybe a mooonth, maaaybe mooore.” She squeezes them into her hair and against her face and kisses them. Wren coughs and spits at the unpleasant taste, and Ageul giggles. “But I caaan’t. Mx Host and Announcer won’t let me. But I’ll swamp you up again soooon.”

She flops and lazes over Wren one last time before absorbing the slime again and retreating into the pool, leaving Wren dry one last time.

Wren lays on the island with a smile, dreaming of a gentle sea.

Wren shouts and flails awake. They sit up and look around.

Was all that slime just a dream?

Hello there, shorty!” Amaru appears in a dazzling puff of smoke and sparkles, decked in all her flowing red fabric from her head to her hips and below.

Amaru’s Profile

Artwork by Hypno Zombie!

I’m a jinn, if you can’t tell, I’ll help you win, I’ll make you well.” She grabs Wren’s hand and pulls them to their feet. “Make a wish, whatever you like, a tasty dish, a brand-new bike, I’ll make it true, and just for you, I’ll make it free, or two or three!”

No way!” Wren pulls his hand from Amaru’s and turns away. “I absolutely do not trust jinn.” They cough. “And all that smoke makes it hard to breathe.”

Aw, come on, now.” Amaru floats on her back around Wren and tickles their chin with her tail. Wren pushes her away. “There must be something you want to wish for.” Wren huffs and crosses their arms.

The only thing I wanna wish for is to get out of this tournament.”

Wren and Amaru disappear.

Fig! They’re gone!” I shout. “Get a camera going, we gotta track them down! Toss it to me!” I embed the camera into the cloudy exterior. “I can see the magic trail, I’ll find them!”

I disappear from the stadium, leaving Belle and the nonexistent crowd confused. Darmenzi taps the crystal on their staff to watch the situation, while Veda simply waits and sips tea.

Elsewhere, a cluttered apartment becomes more cluttered with two figures. Wren screams and falls onto a stiff, small armchair.

What happened?” they shout. “Where—we’re—this is my apartment!”

Quite right,” Amaru says. “Out of the tournament, where’s the most likely place? Home, of course.” She leans close to Wren’s side and murmurs, “And by the way, you can totally wish for a bigger place if you want, not a problem.”

Wren stares at their fingers.

I don’t—” They glare at Amaru. “I still don’t trust you. Jinn are all about tricking people with the wishes, aren’t they?”

What about the fun copyrighted blue one from that movie?” Amaru asks. Wren crosses their arms and looks away.

That’s a cartoon.”

So’s this, basically.”


Never mind,” Amaru says. “Come on, little Wren.” She cups Wren’s face in her hand and turns their gaze to her. “You can trust me.”

Wren stares, eyes widening as Amaru’s eyes pulsate with soft rings like lemon-lime, each ring fizzing through Wren’s mind. Wren’s mouth drops as they stare, their focus hardening solely to Amaru.

That’s right, just relax and open your mind,” Amaru says. “Let me in, Wren, you can trust me. Let me take a peek at what’s on your mind, let me browse what’s in your mind.”

Wait,” Wren mutters. “I don’t . . .”

But you can trust me,” Amaru says. “Lay out your mind like an open book.”

As Wren stares their eyes fill with Amaru’s rippling colors, and Amaru reaches inside with her magic and examines Wren’s desires.

I’ll keep everything in order, don’t you worry,” she says. “I’m just going to help you figure out what you desire most, all right? Just relax and let me work my magic.”

Wren settles in their seat and stares blankly at Amaru. Part of their mind continues to distrust Amaru, but the gentle touch of her magic spell hardly seems to disturb Wren’s mind. They feel no outside control, only a presence that moves through like a finger running down books in a bookcase.

Ah,” Amaru says. “You really don’t care for demihumans. There’s something more in there you want, though. Something to mitigate more than that.” She laughs. “I see. You don’t want to be little Wren. Then make your wish, and it shall be.”

Wren’s mind struggles between distrust and the desire they held within, the grievance with the state of the world they tried not to flood their thoughts. Finally, desire won out.

They made the wish.

Amaru swirled magic around Wren. With a puff of smoke, she granted the wish.

Wren looked down, further than they ever imagined.

They were tall.

Wow!” Wren sits up, hits their head against the ceiling, and sits back down, rubbing their head. “Ouch.” Okay, first rule of being tall, look out for ceilings. Perhaps they should take Amaru’s suggestion of a bigger apartment.

How do you feel?” Amaru asks, leaning her back against the chair. “Aside from the bump on your head.”

I feel tall!” Wren says. “Is that something someone can feel? Tall? I feel powerful. How tall am I?”

Over two meters,” Amaru says. “About seven feet.”

Gosh,” Wren says. “That’s about a whole meter.” They smile. “I can probably take on the rest of this tournament. No one’s gonna bully me now!”

Amaru gives the softest of laughs.

Ah, yes, on that note,” she says, cupping Wren’s chin, “it’s traditional for jinn to grant three wishes.”

She turns Wren to face her as she floats directly before them, pulling their gaze up as she floats above. Wren stares into her eyes. The green and yellow rings pulsating through her eyes look stronger, more vibrant, drill into Wren’s mind as a red ring joins them, the sharp kaleidoscope of color arresting Wren’s vision and scrambling their thoughts.

So let’s find out what your third wish will be, shall we?” Amaru grins as she nods, forcing Wren’s head to follow. “Just stare back into my eyes, silly Wren. What are you going to wish for?”

Wren stares, mouth agape, Amaru’s hypnotic eyes searing through Wren’s mind and silencing their thoughts. Amaru leans closer, pushing Wren back, reclining the chair behind them as she pushes her body against Wren’s and stares nose-to-nose into their eyes.

Why not ask for me to grant my wish now?”

Ask . . . grant . . . wish . . .” Wren can only repeat what Amaru says as Amaru’s spell disintegrates their thoughts. Amaru leans closer and pins Wren down with her body, her hands against their shoulders, chest and waist against Wren’s. She flickers her smoky tail to Wren’s face and curls it around their chin.

Yes, my dear Wren,” Amaru says, “I have my own desires, and it would be quite lovely if you would wish them for me.” She curls her hazy tail further around Wren’s neck, chest and arms, and she begins to grow solid weight. Claws spring from her hands as thick, scaly legs sprout and pin down Wren’s, bigger claws at her feet. Horns curl from her head, locking Wren’s against her.

You see, Wren, I can be very ardent at times,” she says. “Fervid, even.” Wings sprout from her back and curl around Wren as her scaly dragon tail solidifies around Wren. “And then I want to make a wish.”

Wren’s blank stare continues even as Amaru takes on a draconic form atop them, their mind lost in the haze of Amaru’s control. The jinn laughs and shifts again, wing and horns and claws retracting as her new legs melt into a serpentine form, her dragon tail growing long and coiling fully around Wren.

You’re afraid of demihumans, aren’t you?” Amaru says. She chuckles. “No one ever thinks to wish to not be afraid of something, they go straight to removing that which they fear.” She tightens her tail around Wren. “You don’t need to fear me, though.” She squeezes Wren and lowers her eyelids. “You should love me, instead.” She kisses Wren as she squeezes and massages their body. Through the kiss Amaru’s tail shuffles. Fur sprouts over the tail and it splits into seven kitsune tails, each wrapping Wren’s neck, chest, waist, hips, arms, and one petting their head. Amaru gains legs again, furry and ephemeral like smoke.

Amaru ends the kiss and Wren grins wide-eyed, lost in the magical ecstasy of a hypnotic, amorous jinn. She slowly reverts back to her normal, wispy jinn form.

Now, Wren, you’re going to make a wish for me,” she says, pressing her body further against Wren. She surrounds them with her smoky tail and lifts them off the chair, her tail light as a feather under Wren even as she presses against them above with the weight of a world. She holds them tight in her arms, stroking their face.

Listen very closely to this wish, Wren.”

Mmmmhmmmm,” Wren mutters behind their grin.

You will wish to let me have my way with you,” Amaru whispers.

I wish to let you have your way with me,” Wren sighs.

A wonderful wish to make,” Amaru says. “I’ll grant you pleasure beyond human comprehension.” She chuckles. “And I know you’re recording this, Mx Narrator, so please be kind and leave us to our little tryst, will you?” She tosses the dark red fabric around her hair at me and covers the camera with it, leaving the rest to your imagination.

Get your mind out of the gutter, will you?

That’s where Amaru wants to go.

Anyway, hope everyone’s excited for the rest of this tournament taking place in Wren’s small apartment!

Just kidding, we’ll be back at the stadium for the final challenge match of round one! A touchy-feely slime lamia and an amorous jinn! Will you vote for Ageul or Amaru? Make your choice, and we’ll settle round one tomorrow!

Round 1 Match 8 Results

Belle looks at her notes on the new table replacement. Most of the next rounds are determined, so she’s started planning the next interviews. All that’s missing are the last matches of loser’s bracket round 1 and winner’s bracket round 2. She shuffles her notes. She isn’t even sure who to interview for this match since Wren disappeared. She taps next to Enna’s name. She’s started to become a regular up there.

“Hey, Belle!”

Belle looks up at a tall yet familiar figure.

“Hello,” she says. “Do I know—” She leans forward and stares. “Wren?” she shouts.

“It’s me!” Wren sits in the new chair, though they stumble and grab on to avoid falling off. “I’m tall now!”

“You really are,” Belle says. “That’s right, that jinn made you tall, didn’t she?”

“She sure did,” Wren says. “I’m not afraid of anyone in this tournament now! I hope Amaru wins next.”

“Really?” Belle asks. “You’re in favor of her? Even though she . . .” Belle inhales through her teeth. She wasn’t sure how to put what Amaru did.

“It’s a give and take, I guess,” Wren says. They lift their arms out. “She made me tall, that’s good enough for me!”

I float by in The Cloud and cover Wren in cloudy dust. They shrink back to their normal height. Wren looks down at their body and glowers, arms crossed.

“Never mind. I hope she loses now.” Wren looks up and considers the other contestant. “Actually no, I don’t want a slime to drown me, I want . . .” They flop their head on the table. “I don’t know. I should’ve stayed home.” Belle smiles.

“Well, don’t worry, Wren, it . . .” She looks away. “Actually I just got word of a change next round you might not like, but let’s deal with that in due time. The challenge match is about to begin!”

The field is still a pool with a single island in the center, above which floats Amaru. Ageul splashes out of the pool onto the island.

“Are you reeeady?” Ageul asks.

“I don’t need to be ready,” Amaru says. “I can just snap my fingers”—she does so—“and you’ll be all dried up.” She looks at Ageul, who remains as wet as can be. “What gives?”

I teleport from the announcer booth to Amaru, The Cloud at tiny size.

“That’d be too easy!” I say. “I’ve disabled most of your magic for this match. You can still use your primary powers o-f-c.” I return to the announcer booth. Amaru holds her arms akimbo and grins.

“That so, huh? I don’t need to warp reality that hard to win,” she says. She shifts her body, growing claws and horns as she changes to her half-dragon form.

Ageul slides along the island to hug Amaru, but the dragon-jinn grins her sharp teeth, inhales and rears back, and she blows a stream of fire at Ageul. The slime lamia screams and ducks flat to the ground. She slides away as Amaru scorches the ground she was under.

Ageul shrieks and hurls wave after wave of saturated slime tail out of the pool at Amaru, dumping two and a half million kilograms of slime onto her.

That’s not an exaggeration, by the way, Olympic-sized pools are that size. By the time she piles a mountain of slime onto the dragon-jinn the pool sits at less than a meter of water high.

Ageul screams as flame bursts from the crevices between her tail, drying away the water she absorbed. Smoke and steam fill the stadium, and the crowd slumps into their seats as they breathe the hypnotic fumes. In the corner, Belle and Wren slump in their seats as well.

When the steam disperses, a wet hill of Ageul’s tail remains, bits of Amaru visible underneath. Her face pokes out from between Ageul’s hold, and she spits bits of flame out at the slime lamia, but she sighs as her eyes lose focus and she sinks back under Ageul’s tail.

Ageul looks up from squeezing her head against the floor under her tail. She blinks.

Did I win?”

Ageul has done it!” I announce. “She’s won against the jinn! And everyone’s too asleep to notice. Oh well, that gives us time to prepare for round one of the Loser’s Bracket. Round one is over, and we have the makeup of the next rounds known! Stay tuned next week as we begin eliminating characters from the tournament!”

In the VIP booth, sealed from the hypnotic fumes outside, the aristocratic lamia Veda sips wine.

The slime won against the smoke,” she says. “That young firebrand who fancies herself a queen may have difficulty against a jinn.”

They both seem like confident ones,” her robot butler Eduards says.

It can be good to be taken down a peg,” Veda says. “By and large, the confident ones have failed to secure victory.”

People like the underdogs,” Eduards says.

Of course, Vil was no underdog,” Veda says. She smiles. “But I suspect they would have lost had they been their old self. As confident as Vil was, they chose not to flaunt it. Rather, they rooted for their opponent every bit as themself.”

And the next match, then?”

Jb won’t lose her confidence, she won’t lose her arrogance,” Veda says. “Hilja may have more confidence after meeting Wren, and facing someone other than her mentor, but she still has less power. That may bring people to vote for her. People like a shy fighter.”

The other matches are all contests of confidence,” Eduards says.

I suspect Dragovoir’s arrogance may have dropped,” Veda says. “Who can really say, with a Pokemon. But after losing that contest of wits perhaps Erada will play it safer, too. I don’t see the third match being any less of an ego contest, though.” Eduards gives a single laugh.

A witch’s familiar versus a mad scientist. Revasa is unstable for a familiar, though, and of course a mad scientist is ego sandwiched between madness.”

Round two of the winner’s bracket is harder to parse,” Veda says. “They’ve all been given a confidence boost, but some of them had confidence to start. Will the chips fall to those with new confidence, or will the voters follow those who began with confidence, but also kindness? It shall be interesting to see.”

And that wraps up round one! Loser’s bracket round one will start next week!

Losers Round 1 Match 1

“It’s time for the loser’s bracket round one!” I announce. I sit as The Cloud in the announcer booth, just a big cloud crammed into the booth. “This round we’ve got matches set between characters who are big losers! I’m just kidding, but they did lose their first match. The question is, will they lose their second match? For them, there will be no third match! They’re skating on thin ice now, let’s see who drops and who pops! Let’s go to the interview table!”

“Thanks Duth,” Belle says. She sits at the interview table, notes in hand. “We’re here at the start of round one of the loser’s bracket, where the contestants who didn’t quite wow the voters will have a second chance. I’m here with one of the winners of round one, Vil Garrido.”

“Thank you, Ms. Peltonen,” Vil says. “It’s a pleasure to be back here.”

“It’s a pleasure to have you,” Belle says. “Now, it’s no secret that Jb is known to be powerful. She convinced Wren she was a love goddess, and she seems to make people worship her. How do you think your pupil, Hilja, will do in this match?”

“I think she’ll do fine,” Vil says. “She may not have access to the tools Jb possesses, but she’s still a vampire. She’s strong. The challenge match has changed from a duel to a contest, and Hilja seems to have made friends with Wren, so she has an advantage there.”

“There are few contestants here Wren likes,” Belle says. “Seeing Wren actually responding friendly with one without being forced to may boost their votes. Although, Jb could just hypnotize for votes.”

“Is that not against the rules?” Vil asks.

“I don’t think so,” Belle says. She scans a paper. “I know there’s a rule against buying votes, but I don’t think it said anything about hypnotizing for them. I think I heard an earlier draft of the rules actually encouraged it.” Vil frowns.

“Doesn’t seem very sporting,” they say.

“I guess in a tournament where everyone can hypnotize,” Belle says, “they figured ‘may the best hypnotist win’.”

“Well, of course, all that ‘friendship breaks hypnotic control’ stuff is a bit silly,” Vil says, “but friendships can bolster hypnosis. Hilja may be shy, but she knows what’s at stake, and I have confidence she can outshine the faux love goddess. She may be shy, but she can be a very comforting presence.”

“I hope she can, I’ll be rooting for her,” Belle says.

“Really?” Vil asks. “Are you allowed to be partial as the official reporter?”

“I think so,” Belle says. She frowns. “I guess it’s not very unbiased reporting, is it?”

“Sometimes a perspective is needed more than just the facts,” Vil says.

“Still, I don’t want to look like I’m influencing votes,” Belle says. “Maybe I should have gotten one of Jb’s associates here, too.” Vil’s face darkens.

“If the rumors are true, the only associate she would have is not someone you would want to bring here.” Their face brightens. “Oh, there’s also that small fellow who dotes on her, although I understand he was unable to attend.”

My characters only!

“I suppose Jb will have to make her own case,” Belle says. “We’ll see that now, as the exhibition match is about to begin!”

The field today has a clear dome with chairs, a sofa, and a bed, representing a room interior. Wren sits on the chair, arms crossed. They look up as Jb slithers into the dome.

Art by Orange in a Can!

“Hello again, little one,” Jb says. She grins to Wren. “Are you ready to worship your love goddess again?” Wren stands up from the chair.

“Nope. You’re not getting me this time,” they say. Jb laughs.

“Oh, please, you know how this goes. You’re not getting away,” Jb says. “You might as well lay back and enjoy it.” Wren shakes their head.

“Nope. I’ve renegotiated my contract,” they say. Confidentially, I didn’t even realize Wren knew about the contact. “Now I have a way out.” They place their arms akimbo. “If I avoid being captured for long enough, the match will end and I’ll get to go free. So this round, I’m keeping my will. It’s time to show what I can really do.”

Jb whips her tail at Wren. The short human screams and runs, but Jb grabs her tail around them and spins them into a pile of coils.

“Hey! No fair!” Wren shouts. “I wasn’t ready!”

“But I was,” Jb says. She slithers closer. “Now, don’t struggle, little one. You’re where you belong.” Wren turns their head and shuts their eyes.

“You’re not gonna catch my gaze this time,” they shout. “Nothing you do will make me look at you!”

“Your eyes will open to my divinity soon enough,” Jb says. She holds Wren’s head. “Just hold still for a moment, I have a gift for you.

“No thanks!” Wren struggles, but Jb holds them down long enough to pull a red collar around their neck. “What are you even–ouch!” Wren flinches at a small but sharp pain at their neck.

“Don’t worry,” Jb says, running her hands over Wren’s head, “the pain will only last a moment.”

“What’s going on?” Wren asks, sight blurring. They feel another sharp pinch, but the tiny pressures on their neck stop hurting after. Their head spins as they grow drowsy from the hypnotic serum injected by the collar.

“We just need to make sure you stay still, little one,” Jb says. She holds Wren’s face in her hands and grins as she squeezes her tail around them. “Just let the sedative lull you down to sleep.”

Wren groans, eyelids drooping as they grow woozy, thoughts slow and stuck to Jb. She’s so pretty, she’s so beautiful; Wren tries to ignore those thoughts but can’t find any others.

They gasp at a series of pinches on their neck in one spot, followed by steady pinches around their neck. Their thoughts stall until new ones form. Obedience. Love. Worship. Wren loses all memory of the tournament, new memories filling their head of serving Jb as the microchip inserted in their neck activates.

“Now my slave,” Jb says, eyes pulsating with hearts, “let’s replace that little rebellious mind of yours, shall we?” Wren’s eyes fill with Jb’s hearts as their mind fills with the collar’s serum-produced nanobots. “Repeat after me. You are my servant.”

Wren feels a jolt in their head as a new connection to the microchip is formed.

“I am your servant,” they repeat.

“You love and worship me.”

Wren feels a jolt.

“I love and worship you.”

“You love to be my obedient slave.”

Wren feels a jolt and they smile, eyes wide.

“I love to be your obedient slave.”

Jb chuckles and lens closer. She taps Wren’s lips with her tongue.

“You don’t need that dusty old mind.”

Wren feels a jolt.

“I don’t need that dusty old mind.”

“You’re happy to receive a fresh, new, mechanical mind to serve me with.”

Wren feels a jolt.

“I’m happy to receive a fresh, new, mechanical mind to serve you with.”

“So you’ll let those friendly nanobots eat away at your mind and replace it with enslavement.”

Wren feels a series of jolts as the last of their thoughts and memories are severed.

“I will let these friendly nanobots eat away at my mind and replace it with enslavement, my love goddess.”

Jb chuckles and kisses Wren’s lips, slipping her tongue into their mouth as she massages Wren’s body in her coils. She slips under Wren’s shirt and pants, nudging their clothes off so her hypnotic scales can rub all over their skin. She plunges Wren into empty, automatic worship and subservience for their love goddess.

As Jb completes her exhibition, a tall, pale lady in a sweater dress stands at the exit, arms crossed. She glares at Jb and the love lamia slithers from Wren, leaving them sprawled and still on the couch, and passes the vampire at the door.

“They’re all yours, Wisp,” she says. She laughs as she leaves the field.

Hilja approaches the couch and looks at Wren, a grin on their face and hearts in their eyes.

“Oh, Wren,” Hilja says. She sits Wren on the couch and pulls their clothes back on them.

I float over the dome as The Cloud.

“I might need to decondition them,” I say. “They got a lot of nanobots in them from that collar.”

Hilja removes the collar from Wren and looks up at me.

“How does that work?” she asks.

“It injected hypnotic serum into them,” I say. “Then it put in a microchip that activated the serum to create nanobots.”

Hilja stares at Wren’s neck with sight beyond that which any human could achieve and sees a cluster of tiny punctures at one spot.

Into their blood?” she asks.

Yeah,” I say. “Listen, just let me–”

I’ll do it!” Hilja says and bites Wren’s neck. Blood trickles where she punctured Wren, bleeding out the nanobots in that area. At least, Hilja hoped this would work. She turned Wren to face her and stared into their eyes, producing a pulsating glow from her own eyes.

Stare into my eyes, dear Wren,” Hilja says. “Stare deep into my eyes and let me take control.” Wren’s smile falls as they stare into Hilja’s eyes.

G-Goddess?” they mumble. Hilja holds Wren tight in her hands.

There is no goddess, Wren,” she says. “There’s only me. Let me take control, for your sake.”

The hearts in Wren’s eyes fizzle from the red glow of Hilja’s eyes and fade, replaced with the warm blood color of Hilja’s. Wren’s mind—or at least the mind in control of Wren—spins in a panic. They seek their love goddess, but Hilja’s red glow holds them. Connections fray as the nanobots slow.

Let me have control for a moment, Wren,” Hilja says. “Let me remind you that you are Wren. You are not a slave to a goddess, and your mind does not belong to a collar. You are your own person.”

Wren feels new thoughts bubble in their head. Familiar thoughts bubbling under the new ones. Thoughts intrude and tell them to ignore it, but Hilja’s hypnotic influence fizzles away those thoughts.

You are Wren, and you can fight the influence of that collar,” Hilja says. “You are Wren, and you can fight the influence of that lamia.”

The world fades around Wren and they drop into a dark world with Hilja, veins throbbing around them. The dazzling world of the love goddess fades from their mind, and Wren remembers her tricks. Her control. Thoughts appear in their mind that the vampire is false, but they feel external. A shell tries to block Wren’s thoughts.

Break free, Wren.”

Wren feels a jolt and a twinge through their mind as if they mentally crash through a window pane and they gasp as familiar old connections reestablish, the controlling connections created by the nanobots severing.

What?” Wren mutters. “What’s . . .” Hilja places a finger to their mouth and shushes them.

Not yet, Wren. We’re not done yet.” She stares closer, eyes burning. “Anything left in there from the collar hear my voice. I command you to leave this body. Leave this mind and leave this body!”

Wren feels a shift in their body. The blood continues to trickle out their neck, a warm trickle. Wren’s reawakening thoughts feel the bustle of panic, but Hilja’s warm eyes tell them the trickle is comforting.

Now,” Hilja says, and she ends her hypnotic stare, “wake up, Wren.” She taps them on the forehead. “Wake up to your normal self.”

Wren blinks the red glow from their eyes. They furrow their eyes then look at Hilja.

Hilja? What happened? What did you–”

You’re back!” Hila hugs Wren and flies up with them, soaring out a hole atop the dome into the sky. Wren yelps.

What? What’s going on?” Wren asks. “All I remember is emptiness, and—and—that heart lamia!”

Yes, my opponent this match, Jb,” Hilja says. “She took control of you with a collar.” She smiles and pats Wren’s head. “And I broke you free from that control.”

You did?” Wren asks. “How?” Hilja laughs.

I used my hypnotic power to give you back control,” she says.

You can do that?”

Yes,” Hilja says. “Hypnosis can do more than just control someone. Sometimes it can free someone.”

Wow,” Wren says. “Well, thank you!”

Hilja laughs and twirls with Wren in the sky. Wren laughs with her until they see the blood flicking from their neck and they scream.

What? What is it?” Hilja asks.

I’m bleeding! I’m bleeding!” Wren screams.

Oh! It’s okay, it’s okay,” Hilja says. She floats back to the couch below as Wren hyperventilates. “Please calm down, I just had to do that to remove her influence from you.” She takes a cloth and bandages from a pocket in her sweater. “Here, here, I’ll patch you up, you’ll be fine.”

Wren slows their breathing as Hilja presses the cloth to their wound. They stare at the bandages.

Why do you have a roll of bandages on you?” they ask. Hilja laughs.

Just in case,” Hilja says. “Vampire saliva clots the blood enough to stop the bleeding, but I like to be on the safe side.”

So you bite someone, and when you lick them the wound heals?” Wren asks.

Well enough,” Hilja says. “Those little puncture marks are there but it doesn’t hurt or bleed, and it heals up soon enough.”

Then why don’t you lick mine?” Wren asks. “Ow!” They flinch when Hilja twitches.

L-L—No, I c-couldn’t!” She looks away. “I don’t want to take your—I just did that to wake you—I don’t have permission to—” Wren holds Hilja’s hand.

Then I give you permission,” Wren says. “You’re one of the only contestants in this tournament I actually like.”

Hilja smiles. She leans close to Wren and licks the blood from their wound, nuzzling their hair. She sighs at the taste of blood and holds Wren in her arms.

Wren giggles as Hilja’s tongue tickles them.

That concludes the exhibition matches for the first match of the loser’s bracket!” I say. “But are they really losers? One of them will be. It’s time to find out which one, so get to voting!”

Losers Round 1 Match 1 Results

“Welcome back,” Belle says at the interview tent. “We’ve got the results for the first match of loser’s round one coming soon. The kind vampire Hilja will go against the dominating lamia Jb. I’m here with Dr. Emma Fara to discuss some of the tools Jb has used.”

She glances across the table at the mad scientist, whose hair looks darker than the emptiest corner of space and whose eyes look even darker than that. Fara smiles then snickers as Belle fails to look her in the eye.

Belle clears her throat.

“Dr. Fara,” Belle says, “I know you focus on tampering with the laws of physics–”

“It’s true that I don’t respect them,” Fara says.

“Yes, but how familiar are you with other fields of mad science and mad tech?”

“I did minor in psychology,” Dr. Fara says. She chuckles. “The fabric of the universe is just as easily torn as the fabric of the mind.”

“Jb has a few tools available to her that seem the likes that a mad scientist might make,” Belle says. “Yesterday we saw one of her collars, which seems to have the ability to mechanize the mind of someone who wears it. Her goggles also apparently can throw someone into a hypnotic virtual reality.”

“It does sound mad,” Fara says. “Of course, many mad scientists will create collars or visors or helmets or headbands or suits that control minds. An obedient and mindless troop of underlings is much easier to control.”

“Huh, you know,” Belle says, “I never thought about it, but why do you only have the one assistant and not an army of henchfolk?”

“Don’t need ‘em,” Fara says. “I’m a one-woman operation, aside from Alya, who I just keep around because she’s cute.”

“Actually, you accidentally sent your workforce into the wrong dimension that one time, didn’t you?” Alya slithers up to the interview tent. Fara glares at her and turns away.

“It was a mass layoff,” she says. “The economy and all that.”

“Hi, Belle,” Alya says. “Hope I’m not interrupting, but I wanted to bring something up about your interview yesterday.”

“Go ahead, take a seat,” Belle says. Alya sits. Her tail slithers about the table.

“You and Vil talked a bit about what the voters would respond to,” Alya says. “Jb can hypnotize for votes, but Hilja is kinder. You also talked about if voters root more for those expected to lose, or those who have a friendlier and less arrogant disposition.” Belle frowns.

I don’t remember discussing those aspects,” she says. Dr. Fara crosses her leg over the other.

That was a different scene,” she says. “Just roll with it.”

Belle stares. “Um.”

Anyway,” Alya says, waving a hand, “the point is, you’re missing the most obvious thing swaying the voters.”

What’s that?” Belle asks. Alya lifts her tail in her hands.

Snakes! Snakes win the votes!” she says. “Vil, Persnakety, Ageul—”

Ageul is a slime,” Belle says.

Still kinda snakey,” Alya says. “Point is, all the other matches were evenly snaked. It’s snakes that win, so Jb will win her match, Dragovoir her match, Revasa her match–” Fara plants her hands on the table.

You did not just suggest I’m going to lose, did you, Alya?”

Sorry, Doctor,” Alya says, sticking her tongue out the side of her mouth, “I just call it how I see it.”

I can assure you,” Fara says, leaning back in her chair, “I’ll turn that snake into a pair of boots if I have to.”

How about a bet?” Alya says. She grins and leans forward, elbow on the table. “A week off with pay, or I’ll be working unpaid overtime if I lose.”

Fara smirks. She grips Alya’s hand in hers and pulls her close to her face.

Deal, you oversized worm. The lab needs a thorough cleaning, anyway.”

Well, those results will be interesting,” Belle says. She turns to the camera. “We’ll find that out next week. For now, the challenge for match one is about to begin. Jb versus Hilja, who will win? As per the change in the format, both contestants will go after Wren, and whoever captures them will be the winner. Let’s go to the field!”

Out on the field stands Wren, Jb and Hilja standing equal distances on opposite sides. Jb raises herself higher on her tail and looks at Hilja.

I saw you removed my control of this little pawn,” she says.

You’re not going to take them again!” Hilja says. Jb laughs.

Good luck keeping your wits about you,” she says.

Wren looks between the two. They sidle a foot towards Hilja.

Fight match go begin!” I shout from the announcer booth. Wren runs for Hilja, while Hilja flies to Wren, arms outstretched. Jb slithers after Wren. When Hilja and Wren meet Hilja grabs them in her arms and soars into the sky.

This should count as a capture!” Hilja shouts.

Oh, please,” I say. “Wren could totally wiggle out of that hold. Hypnosis is the name of the game here.” Hilja looks Wren in the eye.

Wren, I’m going to have to hypnotize you before Jb can get to you,” she says. “Do you trust me?” Wren nods.

I trust you.”

Hilja yelps and grips Wren tighter as something hooks her ankle and yanks her back. She looks down at Jb’s tail, whipped around her ankle and slithering up. Hilja pulls away as Jb pulls down, the tug of war even. Jb rises on her tail to the pair; Hilja heaves her leg and hauls Jb’s tail into the air, but before she moves Jb collides into her and the three tumble in a grapple.

When Hilja untangles herself from Jb she sees Wren falling.


She flinches as Wren lands in Jb’s coils. Hilja floats after them as Jb squeezes Wren, but Jb pops up before her, eyes pulsating with hearts.

Ignore them, little vampire,” she says, advancing on Hilja. “It’s you that I really want.”

Hilja glares at Jb and activates her hypnotic eyes, the red glow pushing away Jb’s hearts.

The match is supposed to be for Wren, not each other,” Hilja says.

Oh, but I’d much rather take you, first,” Jb says. “That long, golden hair, your smooth, pale skin.” She chuckles and lifts a hand to stroke Hilja’s face, but Hilja slaps her away.

No way,” Hilja says. The hearts in Jb’s eyes look more red than usual, but Hilja can tell Jb’s hearts are breaking through her red glow. She moves to pass Jb but the lamia blocks her. “Just let me . . . Wren . . .”

And of course, your tall, thin frame is perfect to wrap in my coils,” Jb says. She slithers her tail up Hilja’s legs, sneaking under her sweater dress.

No!” Hilja kicks Jb away, but she holds her grip. She floats away but drops, her gaze stuck to Jb’s. Her eyelids droop shut for a moment, and when she opens her eyes Jb’s hearts pulsate through them, the world around her replaced with swirling, spinning hearts.

Now, my dear,” Jb says, holding Hilja’s chin in her hand, “I am a goddess, after all.” She coils her tail up Hilja’s body. “I can help you.”

Hilja moans as Jb squeezes her tail up her body, coils tight. Her thoughts sink under Jb’s hypnotic power as the love lamia forces her gaze up.

If you worship me like an obedient little girl,” Jb says, “I can cure you of your vampire status.”

You . . . You can?” Hilja asks, eyelids drooping.

Yes,” Jb says. “Just give yourself up to me, let me make you mine, and I will cure you.”

Yes . . .”

Hilja falls under Jb’s hypnotic spell as the hypno-goggles the love lamia snagged over her eyes entrance her. She stares at the virtual scene produced by the goggles as she splays atop her thick tail. All the while Jb stares at Wren’s eyes, hypnotizing the short human as she squeezes them in her arms.

That’s right, little Wren,” Jb says, nodding so Wren nods with her, “I’m the one you want to be with. You want to devote your life to me, don’t you?”

Wren’s mind swims in Jb’s hypnotic spell, love and devotion filling their head with each passing heart through their eyes. They try to resist, try to remember Hilja, try to remember the tournament, but those thoughts and memories are drowned under Jb’s deluge of hypnotic passion.

Jb chuckles and slithers around Wren, sliding her snake butt around them as she wraps them in her thick, heavy tail. Wren sighs with each squeeze as Jb presses against them in a tight massage. With Wren’s secured in her cuddling, scaly body, Jb squishes Wren’s face in her hands.

You’re just an adorable little nerd, aren’t you?” she says. She draws close, their foreheads touching. “You’re so cute, I just want to shower you in kisses.” Jb smooches Wren’s lips, flooding them with warm enchanting passion. A desire to lean into the kiss, to submit to Jb’s advances, swamps Wren’s mind. Their mind sinks, drops, slides into Jb’s control, and they smile, a mindless grin as hypnotic pleasure fills their mind.

And Jb wins the match!” I announce. “She’s dropped Wren back under her spell and moves on to the next round of the loser’s bracket! Hilja . . .” She remains splayed on Jb’s tail, still. “Well, she’s the first out of the tournament, but I don’t think she’ll be able to know until later. Sorry, darling, but now she can put her full support behind Vil.

See you next time for a Pokemon battle or something!”

Losers Round 1 Match 2

Belle reviews her notes. She expects Erada to drink another transformation potion to give her an edge over Dragovoir, but she’s not sure what that might be. Dragovoir being a Pokemon fusion makes her a unique contestant in the tournament. Based on her Psychic and Dragon typing, a ghost would be strong against her. She remembers a rumor that a ghost had been considered for inclusion in the tournament.

“Hey, Belle!”

Belle looks up to see Enna slithering to the table.

“Oh, hi, Enna,” Belle says. “Have you seen Dragovoir? I wanted to interview her before today’s match.” Enna giggles.

“Oh, I know exactly where she is,” she says. She reaches into her dark autumn dress and lifts up a Poké Ball. “Because now I’m a Pokemon Trainer, too!”

Oh, right,” Belle says. “You caught Dragovoir in your match. I figured you’d have to release her.”

Now why would I do that?” Enna spins the Poké Ball on her finger. “I caught her fair and square, after all.”

Belle looks at the Poké Ball. She wonders how it works, exactly—does it tame the Pokemon it catches, is Dragovoir subservient to Enna now, does it change her personality?

I can’t imagine what Dragovoir thinks about that,” Belle says.

You can ask her,” Enna says. She presses the button and the Poké Ball opens, releasing Dragovoir into a seat at the table.

Hmm?” Dragovoir looks at Belle and smiles. “Ah, the interview lady. Do you wish to interview me?”

Yes,” Belle says. “How do you feel about being caught by Enna?”

Dragovoir looks at Enna. Belle notes a nasty look from the Pokemon for only a second. She gives Belle a sullen smile.

Well, I can’t say it’s something I’m pleased with,” she says. She smiles and leans back, waving a hand. “Still, it is what it is. I can make the best of a bad situation.” She leans forward and gives a furrowed grin. “I suppose there may be something she can teach me, after all.” Enna takes a seat next to her.

Just because I don’t drain folks with a kiss doesn’t mean I can’t teach others to,” she says.

Yes, Draining Kiss would be an enjoyable move to learn,” Dragovoir says. “A partnership with her just might be worth it.”

Does that mean you’ll be using Draining Kiss in your upcoming match?” Belle asks.

Well,” Dragovoir says, “I’m still practicing. I also need to decide which move to replace.”

I keep telling her she won’t need Dream Eater anymore,” Enna says. Dragovoir plants her hands on the table.

Dreams are delicious!” she says. “I will never give up eating them. Twister seems far less useful to me.”

Twister has a lot of uses,” Enna says. “It’s good for a quick getaway.”

Until somebody uses it to sneak attack me,” Dragovoir says with a glare at Enna. Belle leans forward.

Let’s move on,” she quickly says. “I wanted to ask if you expect any difficulty against Erada in your match.”

Not at all,” Dragovoir says. She raises the end of her tail over the table. “She doesn’t have a tail. She doesn’t even have natural hypnosis powers. It’ll be easy for me.” Enna places a hand on her shoulder.

Now, remember what we talked about?” she says. Dragovoir sighs and crosses her arms.

Okay, so maybe her potions could be an issue,” she says. “Erada is sort of a wild card with those things.” She lowers an arm and rubs it. “Yeah, I guess she’s tricky either way. She could come out with a surprise I’m not expecting.”

Psychic powers versus magic,” Belle says. “I wonder if we’ll see any new tricks from her.” Dragovoir looks down.

I guess I haven’t really learned any new tricks yet.” She twists the spike in her chest and groans. “I don’t want to replace Dream Eater!” Enna pats her on the back.

It’s ultimately up to you,” she says. “As much as I think Twister is worth keeping, you gotta follow your dreams, or others’ dreams if your dreams involve eating them.”

Belle turns to the camera.

While they’re working out their strategy, Erada’s exhibition match is coming up, so let’s go to the field!”

Today’s field layout is the bedroom dome. Wren sits on one of the chairs alone in the dome, arms crossed. They don’t look forward to today’s matches.

Wren sniffs. A warm aroma fills the dome, spicy, almost burning in scent. Wren’s mouth waters, and they remember the match with Mira when she made them food. They turn to look for the source of the scent and their head whiffs past a steaming bowl.


Wren shouts and flinches from Erada, who stands next to the chair holding the bowl. They didn’t hear her approach at all.

Wren stares at the bowl of soup, which pops and cracks like boiling fireworks. Erada hands it to Wren, who takes it without thinking.

I gave you a hard time last match,” she says, “so I figured I’d do something nice for you this time.”

Wren stares at the bowl. They look at Erada.

What’s this going to turn me into?” they ask. Erada laughs.

Astute,” she says.

What’s a stute?” Wren asks. Erada laughs harder.

No, I mean, you figured that out quick.” She holds up a hand. “I promise not to shrink you again. This soup will not transform you into a creature like last time.”

Well . . .” Wren looks at the soup. They sigh. “It does smell delicious.” They lift a spoonful into their mouth. They shout and pant at the hot spice scalding their tongue. Erada hands them a glass of water and they down it. She smiles.

Feel all right?”

I think so,” Wren gasps. “What is with people here and burning hot food?”

Some like it hot,” Erada says. “Some like it really hot.” Wren takes another taste of the soup, and the hot spice feels tamer.

I think it cooled off,” Wren says. They eat more. “Yeah, it feels fine, now. I could probably drink it down if I wanted. That’s weird.”

You get used to it quickly,” Erada says. She backs up as Wren eats more soup. Halfway through they drop the spoon out of their clacking fingers.

Oh, whoops. Actually, let me try—” They lift the bowl and pour the soup into their open mouth in one gulp. They sigh and place the bowl down. “Wow, I must’ve been hungry. Thanks for the soup—” They scream as fire erupts from their mouth and throws them back, knocking the chair backwards. They fall to the floor and feel muscles expand over their body as their skin hardens into scales, tearing their clothes. Their face stretches forward as their back stretches behind, and their hands burst into claws.

They stare at their clawed hands, trying to process that it’s their hands. Their mouth rumbles and sharp teeth grow in a mouth big enough to bite the bowl of soup in one gulp. Wren feels their new snout, spiky back, scaly body with their new clawed limbs. A long tail swishes behind them. They roar in confusion. What happened?

Congratulations!” Erada says. She holds up a mirror to Wren.

Wren stares at the dragon in the mirror standing twice Erada’s height. Wren roars and stumbles back upon realizing the dragon is them. What did Erada do to them?

I turned you into a dragon, what does it look like?” Erada says.

Wren growls—she’d said she wouldn’t do that this time! Erada waves her hand.

Not true. I only said I wouldn’t turn you into a creature like last time, and this is not like last time. I didn’t shrink you this time.”

Wren groans. They turn their head to look at their back and grunt. Dragons are supposed to have wings, aren’t they?

Not all dragons have wings,” Erada says. “I don’t want you flying away.”

Wren grunts—they want wings. Erada crosses her arms.

You can’t have wings.”

Wren looks down at Erada. They look at their claws and feel the fire in their belly.

They glare at Erada and lean over her. They’re big, again. They don’t have to take anything from anyone.

Erada scratches behind Wren’s head and they quiver. Something about that sensation makes Wren just want to melt before Erada. The witch rubs the palm of Wren’s scaly paw and they lift their limb, leaning aside with Erada until Wren falls to their back. Erada climbs atop and rubs Wren’s belly, and they sigh.

You get a lot more than a dragon’s body from this, my dear,” Erada says. “You get lots of idiosyncrasies of dragons with it, including their tender spots.” She rubs Wren’s neck. They almost purr, if a dragon’s vocals can be called a purr.

If you’re not careful,” she says, dropping a shiny gold coin from a string in her hand, “you can slip into their impulses, too.” She swings the coin before her and Wren stares, following the shine back and forth, as Erada continues to stroke Wren’s neck. “Dragons love gold. They love shiny things. They love to stare at and follow shiny things. You love to follow and stare at shiny things, don’t you?”

Wren grunts. They stare at the coin, the sparkle filling their head. They feel a strong desire to possess the coin, to reach out and bite it from the string, but as Erada rubs their neck they can’t lean their head forward. Instead they stare at the coin, lost in its dazzle, unable to possess it, unable to stop it possessing them.

The sparkle remains in their head even as Erada pulls the coin away. Wren feels ropes around their head, their body turning and moving, but is unaware of what it means until a cold splash on their back shocks them awake. They growl and grunt in confusion.

Oh, did that wake you?” Erada asks. Wren stands, Erada on their back. They try to open their mouth but a harness holds it closed. “I’ve just been riding you a little. No, not like that, I mean like a horse.”

Wren grunts. Is Erada using them like a showhorse?

Pretty much,” Erada says. “You’re a natural, you managed pretty good for someone who just turned into a dragon, though that empty head might’ve helped.”

Wren snorts.

Oh, don’t be like that. Besides, I gave you a little upgrade.” Erada pulls and twists the reins, cracks them, and Wren leaps with a flap of their wings. Wren snorts in surprise.

Yeah, I decided it’d be cooler if you had wings,” Erada says, “so I slapped on some ointment to grow you some. Come on, do a flip!”

Wren soars through the air and flips in a circle, Erada somehow hanging on to her seat on Wren’s back. Wren twirls and spins and darts as they fly, flapping their huge wings. They snort laughter at the air rushing past and ground spinning below, flying for real, not being carried by someone but actually flying of their own volition.

Ooh, you like that, don’t you?” Erada says. “All right, show everyone what you can do!”

Wren flies and soars, enjoying the freedom of the sky until Erada cracks the reins. Their time’s almost up, she says—the transformation soup doesn’t last forever. She directs Wren for a landing on the bed, their stomach already gurgling. In a moment Wren feels their body shift and twist and squeeze and soften back into their short human body.

They flop onto the bed on all fours, the bed sheet twisted around them. Erada sits atop them and pats their head.

You make a good dragon, Wren.” She stands up off Wren and hands them a new dress. Once Wren pulls it on Erada grabs their hand to pull them off the bed.

Um. Thank you, I think?” Wren says. Erada pulls Wren to their feet then pulls them close.

And perhaps,” she whispers into Wren’s ear, “next time, I’ll ride you in a different way, where we both transform?”

Wren blushes and pulls away. “I don’t think—” Erada places a finger to Wren’s lips and shushes them.

Don’t you think it’s easier to enjoy this tournament,” she says with a giggle, “when you don’t think?” She laughs and shakes Wren’s hand. “Don’t worry about it so much, sweetie.” She pulls them close again and whispers, “Are you going to end up in a polycule of doms by the end of this tournament?” She laughs and spins Wren around. “Have fun with the psychic dragon!”

Wren shakes their head and rubs it.

The what?” they ask. “Oh, wait, the Pokemon? Wait a minute.” They blush and glare at the leaving Erada. “What are you implying?” they shout. “I am not going to be in anything with that–”

A cool tail grabs Wren’s hand and turns them to face the grinning Dragovoir.

Hello again, little birdie,” she says.

Ooh, but you got to experience the majesty of being a dragon, didn’t you?” she says. She holds Wren’s hands in hers. “We’re practically kin, now.” Wren pulls away.

I don’t think that’s how that works,” they say.

Ah well.” Dragovoir leans closer, eyes rippling with the blue light of Hypnosis. “We can still have some fun together.” Wren stares for a moment as a buzz starts in their head, but they yelp and look away, eyes shut.

No, not again!” they say. “I’m not letting you!” Dragovoir chuckles and slithers around Wren. The short human tries to step out of her grasp, but her thick, cool tail Wraps around and holds their legs down, twisting their dress around them.

Aw, come on, little dragon,” Dragovoir says. “You know it’s so fun to sleep under my power.”

Wren grunts and struggles in Dragovoir’s hold, flailing their arms to scramble out of their tail. Dragovoir grabs the end of her tail around Wren’s hands, holding their arms down.

You’ve got too much energy after your flight earlier,” Dragovoir says. She slides close against Wren, slipping her arms over them, though she angles her body away so the spike doesn’t poke them. She whispers, “Why don’t you let me take some of that energy from you, hmm?”

Dragovoir holds Wren’s face and directs them to her, and she plants her lips (do Gardevoir have lips? I guess they need them to kiss) on Wren’s for a Draining Kiss, drawing their energy out through their lips. Wren whines and struggles in Dragovoir’s grasp; a kiss from a Pokemon is the last thing they expected, or even wanted. Their whine drops into a low moan as they slump in Dragovoir’s growing coils, their legs and hips and belly squeezed in the dragon’s coils. As Dragovoir draws away Wren’s energy they grow dizzy, dizzier still as Dragovoir lifts them into the air and they float, revolving and twirling in the air like a snowflake.

When Dragovoir ends the Draining Kiss Wren is dizzy, and they open their heavy eyes, only to stare into Dragovoir’s eyes full of bright Hypnosis. As heavy as their eyelids felt Wren stared wide-eyed, too weak to think to look away, and their eyes darken as Dragovoir’s Hypnosis mirrors in their eyes. Dragovoir chuckles and holds Wren’s chin.

You humans are so cute when you’re sleepy,” she says. She pats Wren’s head and leans closer, pressing her forehead against Wren’s. “Good thing you’re all always so eager to sleep.”

She nods her head, and Wren nods with her, locked to her eyes. Despite her Hypnosis holding Wren’s gaze to her, Wren’s eyelids begin to droop shut, too heavy to keep open. Dragovoir Wraps her tail around Wren’s chest, squeezing thicker coils around their hips, and she giggles as with one full body squeeze Wren sinks to sleep, body slumped in the coils, their eyes drifting shut as a soft smile spreads on their lips. Dragovoir presses closer and holds Wren’s head in her hands, pulling them against her own head as she begins Dream Eater.

Mm, these are nice dreams, Wren,” she says. “All that flying really left a soaring impression on you.” As Dragovoir tastes Wren’s dreams she floats through the air with them, fluttering like a leaf in the breeze. “Your dreams are gaining such a bold flavor.” She sighs and giggles. “At this point even your nightmares have the taste of dreamy candy, like biting into a chocolate heart. I’ll bet I know whose influence that comes from.”

She continues to taste of Wren’s dream buffet, the smoky and spicy, the meltingly moist, each hypnosis-drizzled dream with its own unique taste. When she finishes, she releases Wren onto the bed to rest and pats their head.

Good thing you had a meal to give you energy, Wren,” she says. “It gave you a lot of stamina for me to take a lot of energy. Just rest now, and you’ll be ready in time for the challenge match.” She giggles. “See you then.”

She leaves Wren and floats away back to the dwelling rooms.

So in the end,” Belle says, across the interview table from Enna, “she chose to forget Twister?”

She says that she doesn’t need to make a getaway,” Enna says. “Anyone she meets she wants to draw closer.” She leans back in her chair. “That works for a sentiment, but in practice, I hope it doesn’t come back to hurt her.”

Perhaps we’ll find out soon,” Belle says. “That said, I can’t imagine kissing hurting her in the votes. On that note, voting will begin now, won’t it?”

That’s right, Belle!” I announce. “It’s time to vote! Will you choose the witch with transformation potions, or the psychic wyvern Pokemon? The choices is yours, so get to voting!”

Losers Round 1 Match 2 Results

“How was it, flying up there as a dragon?” Belle asks. Across from her sits Wren.

“It was amazing,” Wren says. “I felt so free, so powerful, even as Erada was riding on my back. It all didn’t matter as long as I could soar through the air.”

“Does that mean you’ll be supporting Erada in the match?” Belle asks. Wren looks away and purses their lips.

“I mean, first round she tried to eat me. This round she turned me into a dragon.” Wren throws their hands up. “I don’t know what she might do moving forward. She’s more unpredictable than the Dragovoir.” Wren slumps against the table. “Although it feels less humiliating to be hypnotized by her than a Pokemon.”

“Some people would really want to be hypnotized by a Pokemon,” Belle says. Wren sits up.

“Well not me! I don’t want to be hypnotized by anyone, let alone a Pokemon.”

“We’ll find out who’ll hypnotize you again soon,” Belle says. “I’m getting a notice the challenge match will start soon.” Wren crosses their arms.

“What if I refuse to go and just sit here?” they ask. A puff of cloud surrounds them. When it clears they see the field, Erada and Dragovoir standing equally distant from them. “Oh.”

On one side, Dragovoir hovers, tail swishing on the ground. She looks ready to charge forward when the match starts. On the other side, Erada swipes a hand before her.

“Stand aside, Wren,” she says. “Let’s give you a break. We’ll make this match between the hypnotists!”

“Oh, come on!” I appear above them as The Cloud. “I told everyone the challenge match would start being to capture Wren instead of hypnotizing the opponent, and then not only does Jb hypnotize Hilja anyway, but now you want to remove Wren form it entirely! Well fine, whatever! The challenge match is whatever’s convenient for it to be!”

Wren looks between Erada and The Cloud. “Er.”

“Go ahead,” Erada says, waving Wren to the side. “I want to focus on my opponent.” Dragovoir smiles.

“Just what are you planning, little witch?” she asks.

“A picnic.” Erada grabs a bowl from under her hat and opens the lid. Inside sits a slice of cake.

“A snack?” Dragovoir asks. “Did you bring some for me?”

“Sorry, this little slice is for me only,” Erada says. Dragovoir crosses her arms.

“Then I’ll just have to snack on your dreams, instead,” she says. Erada removes a jar of green-yellow-pink sludge from her hat.

“You won’t be able to,” she says. She pours the jar’s contents over the cake. At a glance it looks like goopy ice cream. Dragovoir narrows an eye.

“What is that stuff?” she asks.

She flinches back as Erada smushes the bowl contents into her face. It seems an unseemly way to eat until Dragovoir sees the witch spread the sludge over her body like gunky mud lotion. Erada even throws it over her hat until Dragovoir can’t even see her anymore. She realizes a lot more sludgy cake covers Erada than the bowl contained, and when Erada tosses the bowl aside she grins at Dragovoir with a sickeningly sweet and giant mouth, stripes of green, blue, yellow, and pink sliding around her body. She looks more goop than person, her hat and hair covered in fluffy whipped cream. As Dragovoir peers closer she realizes they’re not covered in it—they are sludgy whipped cream. Two red, strawberry-like eyes open above the wide mouth and Erada laughs.

In her gloppy laugh, Dragovoir hears a word she can only assume is: Alcremuk.

“Did you really just turn yourself into a mess of a Pokemon?” Dragovoir asks. “An Alcremie and a Muk?” Erada says something in her gloppy voice, unable to speak human language in her form. “An Alolan Muk, why?” Erada speaks again. Dragovoir shouts. “I can’t understand you in that terrible accent!” She flies forward. “I’m just going to hypnotize you so you stop trying to talk.”

Erada charges froward like a tidal wave of creamy sludge. Dragovoir flies up and hovers back upon realizing the result of a collision course is her sticking into her sweet, slimy opponent. Sweet, indeed—Dragovoir catches a whiff of her scent, and despite the Muk half Erada smells like the sweetest bakery in the midst of fresh cakes and pies and donuts.

With Dragovoir stalled by that Sweet Scent, Erada comes upon her and grabs her tail, spreading sludge and frosting over her. Dragovoir shouts and shoos her away.

“Get off! Get off! Bleah!”

She groans as Erada leaps to her upper body and surrounds her, knocking her down to her tail on the ground. Erada swarms Dragovoir, trapping her arms and body in sticky, swamping frosting. Dragovoir shouts.

“I never should have gotten rid of Twister!” she wails.

“That doesn’t matter!”

Dragovoir glances to the edge of the field, where Enna pumps her fists and shouts.

“Erada made herself part Fairy-type! She’d hold on like that Twister wasn’t there!” she shouts. “I expect that Muk’s Dark-typing means Dream Eater won’t work either! Alcremie has Sweet Veil, too, so Hypnosis might not work!”

“What else can I do?” Dragovoir shouts. “Wrap her up?” She Wraps what part of her tail is free around Erada and pulls her away, but she stays stuck and spreads over the rest of Dragovoir’s tail. Dragovoir moans as a heavy feeling falls over her head from the thick air of Erada’s sweet swamping aroma.

“You gotta use your new move!” Enna shouts.

Dragovoir looks at the moist pastry sludge monster with the wide mouth pressed against her.

“Gross. Do I have to?”

She inhales, shuts her eyes, and presses forward with a Draining Kiss on Erada, shoving her face into the sludgy witch. She tries not to think about the slimy cake sludge sliding over her head and focus on draining Erada, drawing her into the embrace, taking control of the embrace.

Erada wraps two arms around her and leans into the kiss. She’s using Draining Kiss, too. So it’s a kiss fight. Dragovoir presses forward, pressing her lips against Erada. She can’t tell if she’s even kissing the surface of Erada or pressed inside her sludge and began to kiss her on the inside, but she presses on.

Dragovoir feels her energy wane, only to regain it a moment later. The speed of energy transfer between them feels dizzying, but she kisses longer, stronger, and she feels Erada’s sticky grip begin to loosen. Her grip strengthens for a moment as the balance shifts to her, only to loosen more than before.

Dragovoir feels Erada’s grasp around her fall, and the Alcremuk witch flops to the ground in a moaning daze. Dragovoir squeezes her Wrapped tail against Erada, and though her grip is tenuous, Erada remains still.

“I think I won!” Dragovoir pumps her fists into the air. “I won, and I feel like the floor of a grocery store bakery!” She looks up at The Cloud. “Can I go shower?”

“No,” I say, “you still have to hypnotize Wren.” Dragovoir throws a handful of sludge at me. “Okay, okay, fine, I guess we won’t see anything we haven’t just seen in the last exhibition match.”

Dragovoir leaves for the showers, leaving Erada on the ground and eliminated from the tournament.

Losers Round 1 Match 3

“Welcome back!” Belle says. “Today’s match is between two sinister characters, the time-manipulating snake Revasa and the mad scientist in physics Dr. Emma Fara. To discuss them today I have with me Ms. Alya Slacen and Persnakety.”

Across from Belle sits a blue-tailed and blue-haired naga and a red snake, tails curled around the chairs, but the two keep their distance from each other. Persnakety glances at Alya as if afraid she might grab him; when Alya meets his eyes she smirks at him.

“Have you two met yet?” Belle asks.

“Not yet,” Alya says. She looks at Persnakety. “But you’ve met my employer.”

“Yes, right, the scientist,” Persnakety mutters. “I do hope, er, there are no hard feelings from her?”

“She’ll probably try to turn you and Revasa into boots once she’s eliminated from the tournament,” Alya says. Persnakety flops his head on the table.

“Wonderful,” he says. “I wonder if she might just be banned from the stadium after.” Belle looks at Alya.

“So you still believe Revasa will win?”

“I put a week on the line,” Alya says. “I’m getting that vacation.” Belle looks at Persnakety.

“What’s your take?” she asks. “Do you think Revasa has the odds in her favor?” Persnakety lifts his head.

“They’re both scary,” he says. “Humans can be quite resistant to—” He shakes his head. “But she’s hardly human, isn’t she? I looked into her eyes and I saw nothing, nothing to hypnotize.”

“Yeah, but the match goal changed to catch Wren first, not to hypnotize the opponent,” Alya says.

“You don’t think they both have enough hubris to focus on their opponent?” Persnakety asks.

“Dr. Fara does,” Alya says. “But Revasa already faced me and lost.” She twists in a sensual pose. “Of course, I’m cool and graceful. I could win on that alone. But she knows Dr. Fara made that time hole pot, so she might avoid a direct confrontation.”

“Very possible,” Persnakety says. “Dr. Fara still has a lot of tools at her disposal, doesn’t she? She could capture Wren so Revasa can’t reach them.”

“Ah, but you’re forgetting one thing,” Alya says. She leans forward and grins. “It’s all about the votes, and we snakes are riding high.”

“Well, one snake lost to you,” Persnakety says, “and Dr. Fara lost to me. Revasa is a different beast, and voters might respond to such a beast less than a kinder, gentler, friendlier snake.” He taps the end of his tail on the table. “As Dr. Fara seems able to open holes into other universes, what if she summoned an alternate version of herself who was a lamia, or naga?”

Alya stares at Persnakety. She crosses her arms and looks away as she slumps into the chair.

“Gaddfern it. Hadn’t thought of that.” She plants her hands on the table. “No way, she’s got way too big an ego to let another version of her take the reins!” Persnakety shrugs.

“I mean, you know her better than I do.”

“Snakes seem to hold the odds favorite,” Belle says, “but how that pans out for this match is yet to be seen.” She looks at her guests. “Thanks for coming, I wish you both luck in preparing for your match against each other next round.” Alya laughs and rubs her hands together.

“Oh yeah, I’m ready,” she says. Persnakety hangs his head.

“I hope I will be.”

“You’ve still got time,” Belle says. “For now, the next exhibition match is about to begin.”

Today the field is a thick forest, the trees so dense it looks like night inside. Top, the referee and general guide and assistant, leads Wren to one end of the forest.

“I don’t wanna go in there,” Wren says. They peer into the forest. “It looks like one of those looping forests from video games.”

“Don’t worry, there’s only one or two paths that do that,” Top says. They jump onto Wren’s shoulder and wave an arm. “I’ve been instructed to tell you that you have an out today!”

“An out?” Wren says. They smile. “A way out of doing this?”

“A way out of the forest!” Top says. They grin. Wren frowns.

“Is that all?”

“Well, and a way out of being the object of play,” Top says. “In short, if you make it to the other end of the forest without being caught by the contestants, you won’t be put through the wringer by them!”

“So all I have to do is avoid them?” Wren says. They look into the forest and grin. They step a foot back, ready to run. “Then it looks like it’s time to make a mad dash through there!”

Wren runs into the forest. Top hops off as they enter.

“G’luck!” Top says. They wave. “Have fun!”

Wren runs through the forest, scanning around the trees for any sign of movement. They’re not sure what Revasa or Dr. Fara might try to pull, so they try to stay on alert for anything.

They run into a tree.

“Owww.” Wren’s front body throbs. They pant, worn from the run. They suppose they should have paced themself. They lean against the tree and rub their sore spots before resuming their escape from the forest.

They look around and realize they’ve lost the direction of said escape. They groan and bend close to the ground to search for any clue of which direction they came from. The ground is hard and clean, clearly less emulating an actual forest floor and more the stadium grounds with trees sprouted up. No footprints or disturbed ground indicates which direction they traveled.

Wren shouts as something grabs around their pants and hips and lifts them into the tree. The light filters better through the trees up there but with no less a sinister gloom, worsened by the blue and white snake watching Wren with lowered, grinning eyes.

Wren screams and reaches for a branch to pull away. With none in reach they grab Revasa’s tail and pull it off from around them.

“No! No way!” they shout. They flail their legs to reach a large branch below. “I’m not dealing with you, I’m getting out of here.” Revasa’s face falls.

“Oh dear, I truly did make a poor firssst impression, didn’t I?” She turns away. “I sssuppose I dessserve that.”

“A poor first impression?” Wren says. They glare at Revasa and point a finger against her snout. “I know what you did! You tried to eat me!” They realize they’re looking at Revasa’s eyes and swivel away. “Not much could be a worse first impression than that.”

“I know, and I am terribly sssorry,” Revasa says. “I’ve never had the bessst of manners around humansss, and I hope you can forgive me for that little ssslip up.”

Wren wrestles Revasa’s tail off from around them and stands on the branch below.

“Sorry, but I don’t.” They walk away, but Revasa slips the white end of her tail around Wren’s shoulders and pulls them closer.

“I certainly don’t blame you,” she says. “It’sss not like I don’t have an ulterior motive in thisss, after all.” Wren shuts and covers their arm over their eyes as Revasa presses her head closer to Wren’s. “I’m sure you’ve heard the predictions about who advancesss in the tournment. The winners are the kinder, friendlier facesss.” She laughs. “Ssso I thought I would show that I can be compassionate as well.”

“You’re a predator,” Wren says, pulling from Revasa’s firm grip. They push Revasa’s head away, and the snake growls. “I don’t see any room for compassion there.” Revasa scowls.

“As if you humansss aren’t.” She clears her throat and curls around Wren’s arm to pull their hand off her face. “But, my friend, thisss is all a preamble to sssay I merely wish to help you find your way out of this foressst.”

Wren pauses.


“Of courssse,” Revasa says. “You looked a little lossst down there, ssso I thought I might point you in the right direction.”

Wren peers at Revasa from behind their arm. No hypnotic eyes.

“How do I know you won’t just lead me in the wrong direction?” they ask.

“What would I have to gain from that?” Revasa asks.

“Maybe you’d lead me to the other contestant,” Wren says. Revasa shakes her head.

“No, no, thisss is a competition, after all. I should want to lead you away from that sssinister mad woman.”

Wren looks at Revasa, eyebrows cocked. The snake smiles.

“Which direction do you think I should go?” Wren asks. Whether they’ll actually go in that direction or not is something they’ll decide later.

Revasa directs Wren’s gaze in the direction she points to with her tail.

“The exit you need to reach is that way,” she says. “It’sss easssy to lose your sssense of direction down there, though, ssso you need a landmark. Sssee that ssspot of blue in the dissstance?”

Wren sticks their head forward. It takes them a moment to see it through all the branches and trees.

“I think so?”

“Keep your eye on it,” Revasa says. “Give it your full attention, memorize it. Once you reach that pond you continue in the direction closssessst to the bend in the shore.”

Wren sighs. “I don’t know about this.” They can’t imagine why Revasa would lead them away to a trap when she could do so right there, but she’s still a sneaky snake regardless.

Revasa chuckles.

“Oh, my dear friend,” she says. “You really mussst learn to be more trusssting.”

Wren’s eyes widen upon realizing Revasa has swayed into view, eyes pulsating with sharp, cold white, blue, and black rings. So focused on the spot she had pointed out, Wren didn’t realize she had moved until they had stared into her eyes and everything else blurred.

“You can trussst me, little one.” Revasa nods and pulls Wren’s head into a following nod. “Jussst look into my eyesss, you can sssee how trussstworthy they are.”

“No, wait,” Wren mutters, “not your . . . eyesss . . .”

Revasa shushes Wren with her tail’s tip to their mouth. Wren moans as the colors of Revasa’s eyes mirror in their own, each ring constricting their pupils smaller. Revasa chuckles.

“Yesss, my eyesss,” she says.

Revasa sways her head in a circle to pull Wren’s around, lifting their chin as she begins to curl her tail around their neck and shoulders, coiling her tail over their shoulders and squeezing their arms and chest.

“Now, now, my sssilly little human,” she says with a widening grin, “jussst relax. Relax your ssstandards of trussst for me. My eyesss are ssso trussstworthy, ssso much more trussstworthy than your own judgment.”

Wren sighs as they lose themself in Revasa’s eyes. They wiggle their arms to push her away, but she squeezes heavier loops over their arms. They try to back away, but she lifts them above the branch and suspends them in her growing coils, a thick loop squeezing around their hips. With no outside sensation available but Revasa, Wren’s mind falls into her power, thoughts slow and bubbly.

“Sssuch a sssilly little human, aren’t you?” Revasa nods to make Wren nod in agreement. “Not one bit of that sssussspicion was shrewdnesss. It was all fear.”

She tightens her coils, and Wren gulps as she squeezes their neck. She wraps their legs, holding Wren neck to foot in her coils. Wren’s sense of self fades under Revasa’s hypnotic grip, no thoughts but the colors, and their mind fades. Revasa laughs, and Wren smiles.

“You’re right to fear me,” she says. “Winners basssed on kindnesss or compassion? Hah. An entirely wrong reading of circumssstance. A coincidence at bessst.”

She squeezes Wren, the short human’s smile wide despite the heavily crushing coils.

“You humansss thrive in fear, not kindnesss. That’sss what you truly ressspond to.” She flicks her head in a shrug. “Not that I care one way or another. What does thisss tournament matter to me? I would much rather make a meal of one of you apesss.”

“Maybe it should matter, Revasa.”

The snake blinks. She stares at a dark-skinned, orange-clad sprite sitting atop Wren’s head, the pointed orange hat and bands and beads and dress and glare all too familiar to Revasa.

“Oh, not you again.” She shakes her head. “Mussst you pessster me even now, sssprite? You tarnish Chaurina’sss memory by taking her appearance.”

The sprite, in the guise of the witch and friend Revasa was once the familiar to, shakes her head.

“If I’d known you were so dense I never would’ve taken you as my familiar.”

Revasa snaps her jaws over the sprite, but it scatters into an orange mist that reforms atop Revasa’s head.

“Now listen to me, Revasa,” the sprite says. She taps the snake’s head with the bottom of the fennel branch staff she holds. “You shouldn’t eat that human, and you shouldn’t want to eat that human.”

“I will, I do, and I am,” Revasa says. She opens her mouth wide but the sprite taps Revasa’s nose.

“You want to win this tournament, don’t you?”

“I couldn’t care lesss about thisss tournament.”

“That’s where you’re not thinking ahead again,” the sprite says. “You never did think ahead, you only thought backwards. Must be why you only ever think to reverse time.”

“Do not talk to me like you know me, you disssressspectful copy.” She shakes her head, but the sprite remains seated.

“If you win this tournament, your star will rise,” the sprite says. “You’ll become popular. People will come looking for your autograph.”

Revasa grins.

“People I can eat.”

“People you can help, you one-thought snake,” the sprite says. “That’s what I always hoped you’d do when I was gone. That’s the whole reason I’ve stuck around.”

“Oh, shut up,” Revasa says. “I’m not lissstening to sssomeone who disssressspectsss the dead like you.”

“You’re the one who lost respect,” the sprite says. Revasa opens her mouth, lifting Wren to her. “Still, you won’t be able to eat them, that beach ball will stop you.”

“Hah, that pipsssqueak is nowhere near here,” Revasa says.

“Actually, I’ve been leading them here the whole time.”


“Hey!” Top shouts up from the base of the tree. “There better not be any hanky-panky going on up there!” They look down. “Wait, that’s an issue with a different character.” They look back up. “There better not be any dommy-nommy going on up there!”

Revasa groans. She holds out her coils and drops straight Wren out of the tree.

Top leaps and catches the falling Wren—in their mouth—somehow swallowing them whole.

Revasa stares.

“Oh, ssso they’re allowed to eat them, but I’m not?” she shouts.

Top nods and runs off in the direction of the pond. Revasa sighs and lays her head on her coils.

“Now I better win this match,” she mutters, “because next time I am going to eat that little human.”

Once Top reaches the pond they spit Wren out and jump in the water. They emerge a moment later and hurl a torrent of water from their mouth on Wren until they flail and scream about drowning.

“What?” Wren sits up. “What happened?”

“The first exhibition match has ended,” Top says. Wren covers their face in their palm as they remember meeting Revasa.

“Well, at least that’s over, I guess,” Wren says.

They look at the pond and remember Revasa’s instruction on heading in the direction closest to the bend in the pond. They wonder if they can trust—they shiver at the word—what she said. They look at Top.

“Do you know if this is the way out?” Wren asks, pointing in the direction closest to the bend.

Top shrugs.

“Do—Do you even know the way out?” Wren asks.

Top shrugs.

“How are you going to get out?” Wren asks. Top grins.

“I’m gonna dig my way out!” Top bites into the ground and starts eating a hole.

Wren looks at the forest. They try to squeeze down Top’s hole but it’s too narrow. They sigh and head in the direction Revasa indicated. At least the darkest shadows of the forest seem to be behind them.

Wren steps through the clear but dark forest, focused on the direction ahead. They don’t want to veer in a wrong direction. They wish they had a compass, but they didn’t expect to go hiking through a forest there. That was a mistake, half the time these matches are in forests.

Wren hears whispers and turns around. They see no one but the darkness of the forest, which seems to be growing darker. They turn back around—the forest doesn’t look so clear anymore. The ground is clear, but a haze fills the air. Wren tries to remember the other contestant in this match.

The mad scientist.

Wren breaks into a run. They do not want to meet with her again.

A break in the gloom ahead, and Wren smiles. They see more light. They can see the edge of the forest. They’re almost out!

Their face falls as the light shimmers and the way ahead grows dark. They skid to a halt and look around—shadows stream from around Wren to the path ahead like rivers, and the way ahead disappears into a wall of empty shadow.

Not a wall, Wren realizes with tense eyes—a tidal wave. The shadows thicken into a sludge void of light and drops over Wren. The short human screams and runs the other way, but the shadows splash over them and lock them in an inky-black ooze. Wren flails in the thick shadows but the pressure grows as oozy tendrils wrap around their arms and legs, shoving them against the ground.

Wren stares as a grinning face appears in the void. It takes them a moment to see her hair and lab coat, so dark as to blend with the oozy void.

“Hello again, you little dork,” Dr. Fara says. Her upper body hovers over Wren, her hands planted on either side of them, but past her waist she seems to melt into the shifting void around them.

“I should’ve—” Wren should’ve known it was her, but they’re unable to articulate it as a tendril wraps around their mouth. Dr. Fara shushes them.

“No talking,” she says. “You’re not important enough to talk.” She laughs as the tendrils tighten and grow around Wren. Wren’s eyes shift around in a panic over what Fara’s about to do.

“Everyone seems so sure about the staying power of snakes,” Fara says. She holds one of the tendrils in her hand, which either passes through her hair or emerges from her hair. “They all seem to forget about the potential of tentacles.” She grins and leans closer over Wren, who breathes faster as the tendrils curl and slink under Wren’s clothes and into their crevices. They groan, immobile from head to toe but still struggling to break free. “Hundreds of writhing, wrapping, squeezing, gripping tentacles overwhelming your little body.”

Fara cackles as Wren’s eyes grow unfocused from the deluge of sensation over their body.

“Speaking of overwhelming,” Fara says, “it quickly becomes just too much for your little head.” She slips a ring over her finger and places the hand on Wren’s forehead. “So why don’t we just shut that off, shall we?”

The ring glows in a way that seems to remove light, and Fara’s hand shifts and phases as if made of shadow, and she reaches inside Wren’s head. Wren groans louder as panic cuts through all the other sensations over Fara sticking her hand in their brain, but the groan drops and quiets down as if their groan were the hum of a machine shutting down. Indeed Wren’s struggles slow and cease, the light in their pupils fading as Fara tickles her fingers through Wren’s brain, twirling the electrical signals and shutting off Wren’s thoughts one by one.

“There we go,” Fara says. She strokes Wren’s face and pushes their mouth up into a smile, which sticks. “You don’t need any of these silly old thoughts.” She flicks her shadow hand as if tossing them out. “These memories are just taking up space. You’d rather have a head as empty as the void, wouldn’t you?”

She chuckles as Wren’s pupils go dark, their body and mind taken by void.

“I could turn you into a little drone like this,” she says. “My drones usually last just as long as it takes for me to send one into a fun universe to explore it and something gets them in there, but you know what?” She laughs and the tendrils tighten around Wren. “Not one of them have ever complained.”

She grins and squeezes her hand in Wren’s head. Wren inhales sharply, smile leveling symmetrically as if positioned by someone else in perfect order.

Of course, the rules of the tournament say they have to take you back,” Fara says, “but I’ve never cared for the rules. Besides”—She presses closer until nose-to-nose against Wren—“the rules don’t say I have to give you back.”

Fara cackles as the fluid void around them quivers and she and Wren sink under. The void swirls and disperses, shadows trailing away back to their proper position until no sign remains that either of them were ever there.

Top pops out of the ground.

I’m here!” They look around. “Huh, I could’ve sworn they were around here.”

Well, I’ll go get Wren later. For right now . . .

It’s time to vote! Will you back the sneaky snake who can warp time and hates humans, or the mad scientist who wields the void like a whip and likes humans (as playthings, anyway)? Make your pick!

Losers Round 1 Match 3 Results

“Welcome back, we’re here today with Ms. Alya Slacen to discuss today’s match.”

Belle sits at the interview table across from Alya, whose long blue tail curls around her chair, the table, and Belle’s chair. Alya leans forward and smirks to Belle.

“You just can’t stay away from me, can you?” she asks.

“Er—” Belle clears her throat. “I just thought analysis related to your employer would be good. You do have a bet with her, after all.” Alya laughs.

“I do, that’s true, and I’m gonna win it.”

“So what did you think of the exhibition matches yesterday?” Belle asks.

“Revasa nailed it,” Alya says. She waves a hand. “She played that old trust routine perfectly, didn’t even have to use any time powers.” She circles a finger near her head. “She might be a little loopy though, is it just me or did she start talking to herself near the end?”

“From what I understand,” Belle says, “the spirit of the witch she was a familiar for haunts her.”

“Ooh, no wonder she’s loopy.” Alya laughs. “If Dr. Fara haunted me I’d go nuts, too.”

“Speaking of,” Belle says, “what did you think of Dr. Fara’s exhibition yesterday?” Alya inhales and taps her fingers on the table.

“Okay, so I didn’t know Emma could do most of that,” she says. She slaps a hand on the table. “I’m not worried, though! Snakes are gonna pull through for the day, I know it.” She gestures to the audience. “These folks came for snakes.” She slaps the table again and grins. “Pun not intended! But sure, there are plenty of folks for tentacles, but no one was expecting that. The tentacle audience hasn’t been drawn as much, so I still have confidence Revasa will do it.”

“I’m sure she appreciates your support,” Belle says. “Well, I’m not sure of that at all, but maybe there’ll be no hard feelings between you after your previous match.” Alya shrugs.

“There probably is, but I’m not here to make her feel good.” She grins and leans forward. “I’m here to make all the guests at my party when I get a week off from work feel good!”

“Knowing you, I’m sure it’ll be a blast,” Belle says. She turns to the camera. “The challenge match is about to begin, so let’s go to the field.”

Some of the forest has been cleared from yesterday, opening enough space for sunlight and granting enough visibility to see each end of the field. Wren stands in the middle. On one side stands Dr. Fara, and on the other Revasa hangs from a tree. Fara points to The Cloud in the announcer booth.

Let’s hear that match start!” she says. “I’d like to get Alya’s overtime started as soon as we’re done.”

Actually, now that I think about it, did she take time off to be here?” I ask.

She’s here as a representative of my lab, so I agreed to continue paying her,” Fara says. “But once that overtime starts I’m getting her back in the lab to clean the place.”

Can we ssstop with the talk and ssstart the match?” Revasa asks. Wren pretends to look at a watch they don’t wear.

Oh, look at the time, it’s already over, no one won so I can leave.”

Wrong!” I say. “Match start!”

Fara whips out a ray gun and creates a portal next to hear. She reaches in and grabs Wren from afar. Wren screams as she pulls them over next to her before Revasa even reaches the next tree.

Sorry, snake,” Fara says as she twirls the gun in her hand, “I think I’ll make this a private challenge.” She fires the gun down, opening another portal in the ground to a void. Wren pulls away as Fara jumps inside, dragging Wren into the portal.

Wren yelps as something whips around their waist and pulls them back up. Revasa holds on to Wren and pulls them into the tree. For Wren’s part they try to pull away back into Fara’s void hole.

What the hex?” Fara climbs up Wren and hops off to the ground. “You were in that tree over there!”

Ssso I went back in time,” Revasa says, “and moved to thisss one before the match ssstarted.”

Okay, we can’t have that.” Fara pulls out a small devices and mashes the button. A wave pulsates throughout the stadium. “This’ll stop those time abilities of yours.” She grins and pulls out another handheld machine, which creates a dark glowing chainsaw blade when she pulls the string. “And this’ll stop you pulling my quarry away!” She slices through the tree as if it were air and it topples to the ground in a shower of leaves and branches.

Fara brushes aside the foliage, looking for Revasa or Wren, flattened or not.

Come out, where’d you go?” Fara shouts as Revasa’s tail coils around her chest and lifts her into the air. Revasa holds her arms down as Fara kicks and screams colorful and nonsensical profanities at the snake. She bites her tail.

Revasa inhales in the tree next to the fallen one. Did that mad woman really just bite her? She sighs and ignores her—Wren is trying to sneak away. She slithers around the short human.

Now, now,” she says, “no need to go.” She curls around Wren until she can catch their eyes with her hypnotic stare, her cold white, blue, and black rings pulsating from her eyes into Wren’s. “With that lady below preoccupied, I can bessstow you with all my attention.”

Much as Wren tries to keep Revasa out of their sight, she eventually nabs Wren’s face with her body and holds them in place. She catches Wren’s eyes and they stare, the hypnotic colors burrowing into their mind, and their eyes fill with Revasa’s colors.

Yesss,” she says, “and you sssimply mussst give me all of your attention, all of your focusss.”

Wren tries to think of anything but Revasa, but the colors capture their thoughts. They can’t struggle away, caught in Revasa’s coiling body.

Below, Fara screams. She reaches into the pocket of her lab coat for a small device no bigger than a coin. She taps it and spins the edge, and the device increases her weight and density with to immovable levels.

Concentrate,” Revasa says to Wren. “Focusss until you’re sssimply too sssleepy to–” She screams as Fara’s amplified weight drags her back, whipping Wren in a twirl as she zips away from them, through the tree’s branches, and down into a pile around Fara, who already dropped to the ground.

Fara stands and stomps a heavy shoe on Revasa’s head. The snake strikes her tail at Fara but the mad scientist grabs it and holds it down.

You’re not going to get rid of me that easily,” Fara says. She aims a gun at Wren.

In the tree Wren sways, dizzy from the twirl and head still bubbly from Revasa’s spell. A beam of light hits them and they fall through the beam and pop out the back of the gun before Fara. They sit up.

What? What just happened?” they ask.

I just happened,” Fara says. She slips a ring on. “Now give me your brain.” She reaches her shadowy ringed hand for Wren’s head, but Revasa slips her tail under her and topples her to the ground. The snake rises before Wren.

Look back into my eyesss, Wren,” she says. She pulls them back under her spell. “Let me get a good, long look at you.” She yelps as Fara shoves her away, snapping Wren’s gaze aside.

Fara reaches for Wren but Revasa pulls her away and tangles her tail around the mad scientist. She holds Wren’s gaze with her eyes again and curls around Wren so they face away from Fara.

Hold me in your armsss, pleassse,” Revasa says. Wren lifts their arms and Revasa settles her upper body in their hold. “Now walk forward, away from thisss mad woman.”

Wren walks forward, staring into Revasa’s eyes, while Fara struggles in Revasa’s sliding, twisting body. The mad scientist growls and pulls out a round device in the palm of her hand.

I’m taking you down, snake!” She spikes the device into the ground and a portal opens into her void dimension. She drops in with most of Revasa’s body.

Good, little Wren,” Revasa says, keeping their drooping eyes focused on hers, “it’sss time to drop to sssleep–” She screams as her body is pulled away. With Wren holding on they’re pulled to the ground and slide towards the hole with her. Revasa glances back for a second before returning to Wren. “Ssstay focusssed, Wren. Concentrate sssolely on me, and hold on to me with all your might.”

Hold on,” Wren mumbles.

Yesss,” Revasa says as the two of them slide closer and closer to the hole. “Give in to my ssspell and ssslip deep into a trance. A focusssed trance, focusssed on me, my eyes, holding your grip on me.”

Wren’s eyelids waver up and down as Revasa’s hypnosis sinks into their mind. More of Revasa falls into the hole, only a meter left, half a meter, only her head.

Wren feels a sharp, ringing splash through their head and they smile in a trance the moment before Revasa slips from their grasp and into the hole. Wren lays on the ground motionless as the hole closes.

Hey, look at that!” I announce. “Revasa did it, she hypnotized Wren in the final seconds!”

A portal opens above the ground and Fara and Revasa fall out of it, Revasa tangled around Fara as the mad scientist holds the snake’s gaping maw at bay. She shoves Revasa away and stabs at her with a twisted stardust knife, and the snake dodges.

Hey, you can stop fighting,” I say. “Revasa won. She hypnotized Wren.”

Not if I kill her first!” Fara shouts, stabbing at Revasa.

I’ll kill you first!” Revasa says. She snaps her jaw at Fara but the mad scientist phases away to dodge it.

I sigh.

Top, can you get in there?”

Yahoo!” Top screams. They fly towards the fray like a pinball, bouncing off trees until they collide with the fighting pair, knocking Fara out of Revasa’s tail and to the ground. They point at Fara. “You’re out of the tournament!” They point at Revasa. “You’re in the tournament, unless you kill someone!” They point at Wren. “You’re blank right now!” They point at Fara. “You get a consolation prize!”

And what might that be, pray tell?” Fara asks.

Well, most of the consolation prizes are just a pizza,” I say.

I even promised to eat no more than a quarter of it,” Top says.

In your case, though, I probably will actually get to writing more of the dating series about you after I finish the Jb story,” I say.

Fine.” Fara stands up and dusts herself off. “I’m still going to destroy this tournament, though.”

Oh, fine, that’s fine,” I say. “Just know that might delay more of your dating series.”

But you will write it, yes?” Fara asks.


Good.” She raises her hands and screams, “I will destroy you all!” before running off and laughing like a ticklish maniac.

During that conversation Revasa wrapped a few loops of her tail around Wren. She pulls them to her wide-open mouth. Top jumps on Revasa’s head.

No! I said no killing anyone!”

I’m not killing them,” Revasa says, “I’m merely going to eat them.”

That too. Go, go, get out of here. I’ll cook you a reward meal.”

I don’t want sssomething cooked, I want a live meal.”

Then I’ll get you a live meal,” Top says. “How does a panther sound?”

Revasa drops Wren.

I’ll take that, certainly.”

I’ll be in after I take care of our friend here.”

She slithers back to her dwelling room while Top carries the still Wren to detox.

“What a fight!” Belle leans back in her chair. “Those two were really at it. I thought she really was gonna skin Revasa for a moment there.”

Alya leans over the table, sliding her whole body above the tail over it.

“I was right,” she says. “Snakes beat tentacles here. Looks like I’m getting that week off.”

“Looks like it,” Belle says. “You said you were gonna host a party?” Alya leans closer.

“Absolutely, and you’re invited.” She grabs Belle’s lapels and pulls her close. She raises her eyebrows and grins. “In fact, you’re invited to my room after this if you like.” Belle blushes and looks away as she clears her throat.

“I-I-I—I gotta prepare for the interviews and analysis for the next match!” she says. Alya strokes her chin.

“After the round is over, then. You can take a break then.”

Belle feigns a cough, which becomes a real cough, and she drags her wheeled chair away.

“I-I want to ask you something before we go, actually,” she says, turned away. “Do you think Dr. Fara will actually try to destroy the tournament?”

“Yeah,” Alya says. “Oh yeah, she definitely will.” She turns over and lays her back on the table. “I just hope she waits until after the semifinals.”

“Why’s that?” Belle asks.

“Oh, I’m a shoo-in to reach that far,” Alya says. “She wouldn’t want to risk her assistant’s chance at success, would she?”

“Would she?”

“Okay, so no, but it’d be nice anyway.”

So Revasa has won, and Dr. Fara is eliminated from the tournament! Will she make good on her promise and cause trouble later on? For now we have one more match in this round. Next time, the faux queen and the spicy jinn!

Losers Round 1 Match 4

“Welcome back!” Belle says. “It’s time for the final match of loser’s round one, the lamia Anne Koizumi versus the jinn Amaru. With me today is Anne’s sister, Ms. Enna Koizumi, because she hasn’t been up here enough apparently.” Enna laughs. She sits in a seat opposite Belle, though she inches it closer every so often.

“Maybe you should just make me a permanent member of the interview team,” Enna says.

“Not as long as you’re still in the tournament,” Belle says. “Speaking of, what’s your assessment of your sister’s chances at staying in this tournament?” Enna shakes her head.

“Look, my sister’s a lamia, same as me. Folks like lamias, we get it. But Amaru is a powerful jinn with even stronger hypnotic powers than Anne.” She leans forward. “And she can turn into a lamia anyway.” She leans forward more. “And she’s bigger! In like, several ways!”

“So you don’t think your sister will win?” Belle asks.

“I mean, I love my sister, I think she’s definitely got style, she’s definitely got grace, and, like me, she’s even got a pretty face,” Enna says. “She’s just so bad at convincing a crowd of people of anything. She can convince one person, and she does it by kissing them. Maybe if enough people really want her to kiss them she can make it, but she is up against literal magic. I mean, if they ran against each other for president, at least you can bet Amaru will grant the peoples’ wishes.” She smiles and throws her hands up. “Of course, she also might imprison them all in a giant orgy, but I dunno! I don’t know her well.”

Belle laughs. “She does seem to have that sort of passion.”

“All that said,” Enna says, “I am rooting for Anne. I hope she wins. As much as we annoy each other at times, I do like seeing her happy, and she’d probably be real happy to win.” Having moved he chair close to Belle she leans over and whispers, “Also, I think I’d be able to win against Anne way easier than Amaru if I have to.”

“Think so, huh?” Belle asks. “I think that’ll only happen anytime soon with a specific set of results, though.”

“Maybe,” Enna says. “We’ll see!”

“The exhibition matches are about to begin,” Belle says, “so let’s go to the field.”

The forest is back today, light and clear this match. Wren sits at the edge of a pond, watching the water.

“Hello again, my pet.”

Wren sees Anne’s reflection in the water and turns around to her.

Artwork by Azupazu

“You again,” Wren says. “I’m not letting you kiss me again.”

Anne shakes her head and chuckles. She taps her chin.

“Oh, dear, my Wren. You mustn’t speak against your queen so.” She smirks. “We must put you on a tighter leash.”

Wren’s eyes widen as they feel a twist in their head. Their vision blurs and hazes over with sparkling violets and blues. Their thoughts muffle slow until their head is blank.

Let’s put you in your leash,” Anne says. She wraps the end of her tail around Wren’s neck. Wren smiles at the sensation of their queen’s touch, and their thoughts fall into subservient deference to Queen Anne Koizumi.

Dang, I guess I missed those triggers when I was removing hypnotic aftereffects from Wren. Ah well.

There, isn’t that better, my pet?” Anne asks.

Much better,” Wren sighs. Anne giggles and holds Wren’s face in her hands.

I know what you’ve been missing for this entire round,” she says. She pulls Wren close and flashes a few glistening violet and blue rings through her eyes. It takes but a moment for Wren’s to fill with color. “You’ve been craving your queen’s kiss.” She smooches Wren on the lips, squeezing their face as she slips her tongue over Wren’s. As she fills Wren’s lips full of passion she curls her tail around them and wraps their shoulders, working her way down Wren’s body.

Anne giggles as she releases the kiss from Wren’s smiling lips, and she pets their soft hair.

It’s been heart-rending to be away from your queen,” Anne says. She laughs. “It rends Wren to be away from me.” She squeezes their chin. “Let’s make sure I win so Wren won’t be rent from being away from me.”

Anne curls her tail around Wren and wraps tight around their chest, squeezing their arms down. She curls a lower part of her tail up to lift Wren’s skirt, and as she kisses their lips again she presses her tail between their thighs. Wren’s eyes twitch and quiver from Anne’s hypnotizing passion as she rubs her scales against their body, as she wraps around their legs and squeezes them against her tail between them.

That’s so nice, isn’t it?” Anne says.

Nice,” Wren sighs.

You love your Queen Koizumi, don’t you?” Anne says, pressing her face against Wren’s.

Love my Queen Koizumi,” Wren sighs. Anne presses closer, her lips grazing Wren’s.

You crave to feel your queen’s lips on yours.”

Crave my queen’s lips,” Wren sighs. Anne kisses Wren again, squeezing her tongue around Wren’s as she squeezes her body around Wren’s, their thick and scaly leash wrapped from neck to feet.

Anne tips Wren back and slips them to the ground. She rests atop them and her coils and smirks as she watches their cute, entranced smile. She leans down close and kisses them.

You’re such”—kiss—“a good”—kiss—“pet”—kiss—“for your queen.”

Wren tries to repeat Queen Koizumi’s words but with their lips in the midst of another deep kiss they can only mumble, which fades into a moan. Their eyelids droop low but twitch up from the bubbling passion Anne’s hypnotic embrace brings forth.

Anne holds Wren in her power, squeezing and smooching them, until she’s satisfied and lets them go. She pets Wren’s head as she leaves them laying on the grassy ground beside the pond.

See you tomorrow when you win me the challenge match, my pet,” Anne says.


Anne looks up at the sharp laugh. She narrows her eyes and looks around, but no one is visible. She scoffs and slithers her way off the field.

Okay, time to clear Wren’s head. I appear above them in a cloudy puff and wipe out any lingering hypnotic effects. Don’t want to give Anne an unfair advantage in the challenge match, after all.

The pulsating colors disappear from Wren’s eyes and they sit up with a gasp.

What happened?”

Anne happened,” I say. I disappear.

Wren looks around, but Anne is gone. They rub their face and groan. They never know what’s actually going on in the tournament.

They look back into the pond and see a pot floating in the water, molded in the shape of a smoky dragon.

What’s that?” Wren doesn’t remember seeing anything like that in the pond before. They reach for it and pull it out of the water. They peer down the small hole on top.

Hi, Wren!”

Smoke plumes out of the pot like dragon fire and Wren shouts as they drop the pot and stumble back into the pond. Like a fireworks display, Amaru emerges from the pot in a dazzling twirl.

Artwork by Hypno Zombie!

Hello, my friend Wren!” Amaru says. “I hope you—Oh!” She sees Wren fallen in the pond. “Sorry about that, let me dry you off.”

Amaru pulls Wren from the pond to the ground and twirls her flowing fabric around them—the smoky red garment over her hair, the red garment over her shoulders, and fabrics that flow over her hips. After each one she tosses it away until only her waistband and smoky tail remains. Wren shakes their head, dizzy from the fabric twirling, but dry.

Thank you, I’m fine, I think,” Wren says. “How have you been?” Amaru frowns and shrugs.

Well, I suppose I’ve been better,” she says. “I did lose my last match, after all.” She grins and wraps an arm over Wren’s shoulders as she presses against them. “So how about you help me show those voters why I deserve to stay in this tournament?”

Sure,” Wren says. “Wait, hang on—” They frown. “I want to know why I’m not tall anymore. Was that only temporary?” Amaru sighs.

Oh, The Cloud in charge didn’t want any permanent changes to you between matches,” she says. “I thought they just meant hypnotic enchantments, but apparently that includes physical changes as well. Can’t be helped, I’m afraid.” Wren rubs their chin.

What about after?” they ask. “If you win the last match, would you be able to make me tall and it stay?” Amaru laughs.

I like the way you think, Wren! Let’s make me win and I’ll make you tall!” She shakes Wren’s hand.

Great.” Wren smiles. “Oh, but in the meantime, do you think it would work if I wished to always know what’s actually going on in the tournament? It’s not a physical change, and I’m tired of feeling like I’m blindly dragged around.”

Amaru chuckles.

Oh, I could do that,” she says. She holds Wren’s chin and leans closer. “I’d have to warn you of something, though.”

What’s that? Wren asks. They gasp at a rush of vivid, pulsating red, yellow, green in Amaru’s eyes like dawn over a dark forest.

If you want to know what’s going on,” Amaru says, “you’ll have to know I’m going to overwhelm you with duplicates today.”

Wren feels Amaru press against them from behind despite floating in front of them, eyes pulsating in colors that fill Wren’s eyes. The Amaru behind them feels coarser, harder, yet smooth, and the scent of flowers fills Wren’s senses. Their arms squeeze against their body as vines wrap around them.

Just relax,” says the plant Amaru behind Wren. “Just sink into my overwhelming presence. There’s so much of me, so many of me, it’s so easy to become a drop in a bucket of my flooding presence.”

The Amaru in front of Wren chuckles and strokes Wren’s chin. She sways her head in a circle and pulls Wren’s head with her.

I had considered playing nicer,” she says. “Just granting your wishes this time around. But it seems the consensus is that voters are more favorable to snakes than to being nice?”

Wren’s legs squeeze together as a long, scaly tail wraps around them and coils its way up.

Ssso I decided to do the opposssite of my plan,” says a lamia Amaru, who slithers to Wren under the jinn Amaru and holds Wren’s hands. She massages Wren’s legs as she wraps up under their skirt.

And if all goes well, little Wren,” jinn Amaru says, pressing her body closer against them, “my wish to move forward in the tournament will be granted.”

She kisses Wren, breaking eye contact as she does, but a fourth Amaru pokes her head down from above Wren and hypnotizes them further with her eyes. This fourth Amaru wraps her smoky tail around Wren’s shoulders before she condenses. A slick, wet slime slides over Wren’s body as the fourth Amaru transforms into a goo form, wrapping her slime around Wren’s shoulders.

Jinn Amaru releases the kiss and resumes her hypnotic stare. Wren grins from the hypnotic pressure of Amaru’s overwhelming presence, the jinn Amaru deluging their eyes with hypnotic color; the plant Amaru tying them in vines and pressing her body against their back as she fills their senses with a soothing flowery scent; the slime Amaru sliding down their shirt and coating their skin in squeezing, sticking, trapping goo; and the lamia Amaru wrapping their legs tight, coiling up under their skirt their bare skin and thighs, squeezing their hips and massaging their skin with her scales.

Wren’s grin twitches wider as the four Amaru press closer against them, flooding their senses with her magic, leaving no open space between her and Wren. Plant Amaru rises, holding Wren’s head in her leafy arms, and jinn Amaru lowers, pulling Wren’s grinning gaze down even with lamia Amaru’s, who also barrage’s Wren’s sight with hypnotic rings, sweeping away their mind with mind-blowing hypnotic control. Slowly she rises up Wren’s body, always pressing her bodies against them, squeezing the slime Amaru closer against their skin.

Jinn Amaru trails her smoke around them, surrounding Wren in a dazzling display of warping colors, containing Wren entirely within a smoky world of her, only her, only Amaru, the wish-granter, the wish-maker, the wisher.

Outside the colorful cloud another jinn Amaru appears. She gestures to the Amaru gathering.

That’s what I have to offer, everybody, and I think you’ll agree, it’s quite the offering, magic, hypnosis, transformation, anything your heart desires, all you have to do is make your wish, and you don’t even have to make a wish, after all”—She winks to the camera—“I already know what you wish for, I know you want me, don’t try to hide it, I know you want to vote for me.” She releases a few hypnotic rings from her eyes to the camera. “You definitely want to vote for me, don’t you?”

Hey, hey, hey!” I appear in my cloudy form to block her from the camera. “No hypnotizing the viewers! This tournament is played square: any hypnotic effect on the viewers must only come from a secondhand hypnosis buzz from what you do to Wren.”

Amaru crosses her arms and scoffs.

You’re no fun, you know that?”

I can be fun,” I mutter. “Anyway! I think we’re probably done here, so let’s get to voting! The short lamia queen, Anne Koizumi, or the flashy, hypnotic jinn, Amaru? Make your pick for the final match in loser’s round one!”

Losers Round 1 Match 4 Results

Hello, welcome back to the tournament!” Belle says. “It’s time for the final match of the loser’s bracket round one. Before we get to it, first we have . . .” She gestures across the table. “Some robot who wanted to interview. Sorry, I never caught your name?”

I am Eduards,” the robot says in a tinny voice. He stands tall, tall as the tallest contestant. Though he looks human at first glance, the smooth and shiny blue skin and bright eyes without pupils show his robotic form. His extra pair of arms give away something more as well, all four held behind his back. His dark suit is so pressed and neat it’s hard to tell if it’s part of his chassis. His thin frame stands still, either reminiscent of a robot or of a butler, though his arms and upper body have some extra breadth, and sensors and devices around his head gives the impression of a balding hairstyle.

I wished to ask you some questions, Lady Peltonen.”

Oh,” Belle says. “Oh! You wanted to ask me something, not the other way around.”

Correct. My apologies for the confusion,” Eduards says. “I’m seeking the location of Doctor Emma Fara.”

Why are you looking for her?” Belle asks.

You know of her threat against the tournament the other day,” Eduards says. “My mistress wishes to make certain the doctor does not make good on her threat.”

Wait,” Belle says, “you don’t work for that mysterious benefactor up in the VIP box, do you?”

I certainly would be unable to say,” Eduards says. Belle leans forward.

If you do, it’d be awesome to interview them for their take on the tournament.”

I’m afraid we’re much too—Ah?” His eyes flicker. “I see. Lady Peltonen, my mistress says she would be happy to take an interview with you through me.”

Excellent,” Belle says. “So our match today is between Anne, a lamia who fancies herself queen, and Amaru, a jinn who fancies herself a saleswoman. Who do you put the odds with?”

My mistress says that many of the voters are those who like to take direction,” Eduards says. “Whether they like the idea of a monarchy, in private bedroom matters a queen lording over them is appealing. Lady Koizumi has an advantage in this aspect: she always wishes to give the orders. Lady Amaru’s expertise is in taking orders, regardless of how much she may twist or even ignore those orders. With this audience, then, Lady Koizumi has the clear advantage.”

Interesting analysis,” Belle says. “How far do you think Ms. Koizumi can make it?”

Her next match will be tricky should she win,” Eduards says. “My mistress believes she’ll have to face Ageul, who is a unique contender. She does believe, however, that Anne can make it all the way to the semifinals.”

What’s her take on the profiles of the contestants in this match?” Belle asks.

My mistress says they are both dangerous,” Eduards says.


For entirely different reasons, in fact. Lady Koizumi, despite her presence, has very little power. She has little power in the lamia community, no power at the moment in the human community, and even when faced with individuals she must make her actions carefully lest they escape her initially weak grasp.”

Hold on, you said no power at the moment?” Belle asks.

My mistress says she is dangerous,” Eduards says. “She has no power at the moment, but she may try to change that. She is aspirational, and with little power that only makes her hungrier for power. She could turn the little power she has now into something much bigger, with a high risk not only to others but herself.”

Wow, your lady seems to know a lot about this,” Belle says.

She is an exceptional lady,” Eduards says. “In regards to Lady Amaru, my mistress says her existing great power is what makes her dangerous. Her relaxed attitude and disposition to use this power locally instead of a grand scale keeps the danger in check.”

I guess anyone with that much power could be dangerous,” Belle says. “Thank you for taking these questions, I hope I didn’t take up too much of your time.”

My mistress says she was quite happy to answer.” Eduards smiles despite the metal face. “I hope you enjoy the rest of the tournament, Lady Peltonen.”

Thanks, I hope you do, too, and I hope you find Dr. Fara.”

Indeed.” Eduards nods and walks with a distinctive clanking footstep.

All right, the challenge match is about to start,” Belle says, “so let’s go to the field!”

On the field stands Wren, Anne standing on one side and Amaru floating on the other, each about ten meters away. Both have their arms crossed and smirk. Confidence buzzes between them, while Wren stands at the center looking blankly between them.

All right,” I say, “when I say start, start the match. Start!”

Amaru snaps her fingers. A second after the match starts Wren stands next to her. They shout and stumble at the teleportation.

How are you going to win if you can’t even get Wren next to you?” Amaru asks. Anne chuckles.

Oh, you naive, ghastly gas,” she says. “I’m afraid you’re a joke here. A smoke joke.” Amaru narrows her eyes.

What are you talking about?”

Wren would much rather stand with me, don’t you, Wren?” Anne says.

Wren smiles and their eyes go blank.

I would much rather stand with you, my queen,” they say.

What?” Amaru looks between Wren and Anne. “What? What did you—You just—What?”

Anne smiles.

I win.”

Fig, fig, fig, I missed another trigger!” I say. “Uhhhh. Uhhhhh. Well. That was a short match.

Anne wins!”

What?” Amaru shouts. “Why you little punk!” She inhales deeply and guffaws. “You know what, I like it!” She claps. “That was such a sneaky move and it was right under their nose after you already did that once!” She teleports next to Anne and shakes her hand. “Congratulations, Queen, I can’t say I’m happy about losing but if I had to lose I’m glad, I’m glad it was to someone so clever.” Anne chuckles.

Thank you quite dearly, Amaru,” she says. “I’m glad you’re being so courteous.”

Absolutely, and tell you what,” Amaru says, “I’ll give you a reward, I’ll grant you a wish, just say it and I’ll make it.” Anne smiles.

I wish to be queen, of course.”

Amaru shakes her head.

Nah, nah, you’re already queen,” she says, gesturing to Wren, “they just called you queen, so hey”—She dusts off her hands—“wish already granted, thanks and you’re welcome!”

No, wait—” Anne frowns as Amaru teleports away. She sighs and shrugs. “Oh well, I got my win at least.

Above the field, Eduards enters the VIP room and shuts the door with a swift single motion.

“So we still do not know Dr. Fara’s whereabouts,” Veda says. She watches the action—or at least the falling action—below.

“She was not in her dwelling room,” Eduards says. “Mx Top had not seen her. Lady Slacen had not seen her, although she believes Dr. Fara won’t attempt something as long as she is still in the tournament.”

“We can’t count on that,” Veda says. “In fact, if we fail to find Dr. Fara, the best move is to keep watch on Ms. Slacen. I could see her having Alya do something to disrupt the tournament. Her next match will be one to keep an eye on.”

“Are any of the other matches potential areas for her to disrupt?” Eduards asks.

“The next match is a toss-up,” Veda says. “Vil is powerful, so she may hold off. Lila is popular, though, so she may try when a favorite is up. I don’t see much for her to try and use between Maestra and Enna—they’re both rather laid back. Perhaps she would try to lead one of Maestra’s children here, but I see no reason she would know any to bring here, nor do I believe that would particularly disrupt the match. Between Mira and Ageul, perhaps she would try to infect Ageul somehow and flood the stadium, but using the contestants in that way wouldn’t further her plan very well. At most that would just boost the votes of that contestant.”

She gives Eduards a narrow, grim smile.

“But we are dealing with a mad scientist. They don’t make sensible plans. They hardly ever make plans to begin with. So it remains best to find her and keep tabs on her as soon as possible.”

Eduards nods.

“Understood. I will head out and continue searching.”

As Eduards leaves, a different meeting takes place in the other VIP box. Despite there being no doors, no windows, no openings, no cracks for anyone to pass through, someone did.

“How exactly did you get in here?” Darmenzi asks. They have a bemused smile on their reptilian face. They tap the wall with their crystal staff. “These walls are sealed with magic. Part of the agreement for Duth to even let me be here.”

“It’s simple,” Dr. Fara said. She took a seat on air. “I just turned around the molecules and entered through the space between them.

Darmenzi nods.

“Makes sense. And you say you wish for me to destroy this tournament?”

“Yes!” Fara stands up, fists raised. “Destroy these fools who dare not give me victory!”

“Rain hellfire upon them?”


“Drown them in flooding acid?”


“Twist them inside-out until they no longer know which way is out?”


Darmenzi shakes their head.

“My dear doctor, I’m afraid I’m only here to watch. Why, watching bugs scramble for others’ entertainment is one of my favorite pastimes. Besides”—They grin sharp teeth and lean towards Fara, arm leaning on the armrest and one leg crossing the other—“you don’t need my assistance to cause mayhem and destruction.” They stare at her, eyes burning. “I’ve seen your work. You’re phenomenal at causing chaos and ruining lives. Why don’t you show me that you’re worthy of taking the winner’s spot?”

Fara stomps a step forward.

“Are you going to help me or not?”

Darmenzi cackles. They whip their arm forward and it stretches into a tentacle that curls around Fara and pulls her close.

“My dear doctor, if you cause enough mayhem to please me, I’ll take over this tournament for you and crown you victor!”

Fara laughs and shakes their hand, the three fingers curled like claws.

“You’ve got yourself a deal, you devil!”

“Oh, you’re too kind,” Darmenzi says. They pull their arm out from Fara’s hair as if it were an empty vacuum of goo and push her to the wall. “Now get out of here and turn this place upside-down!”

After Fara leaves and is out of earshot—or thoughtshot?—of the narration, I resume narration tell Darmenzi they really should’ve said no. Darmenzi chuckles and waves a hand.

Pah, what do you care? More content to make, right?”

I was already going overboard with this project to begin with, now you’re threatening to make it longer? I still have that Jb story to edit! I’ve barely got started editing the first chapter on that.

Best get to typing then, keyboard monkey.”

I hate you, you know that?

Of course, the feeling is mutual.”

Well. That might complicate things in later rounds. Hex, this match was like, one percent hypnosis content as it is. Maybe Fara will at least try to cause her chaos through mind manipulation and not blowing stuff up.

Regardless, round one of the loser’s bracket is done and we have our first four eliminations! Next time we’ll begin round two, and get to see Lila again! Will her long history stand against Vil’s vampire powers? They’re both lamias, they’re both purple, so we’ll just have to see!

Round 2 Match 1

Hello, and welcome to winner’s round two of the Duth Olec’s tournament!” Belle says. “We’ve got four matches this round between contenders who won their first round, so these should be some strong match ups. The first match is between a classic face, the shy and friendly lamia Lila Pachis, and the wise old vampire lamia, Vil Garrido! I’m here today with Ms. Hilja Kallas, another vampire and a pupil of Mx Garrido’s.” Hilja sits across from her at the interview table and nods.

Thank you for having me, Ms. Peltonen, you can call me Hilja.”

And you can call me Belle. Are you holding up all right after your elimination from the tournament?”

I am,” Hilja says, “I can’t say I’m not disappointed, but that’s how the paint dropped. Of course, I’m more than happy to see Vil win, but I’m a bit sad I couldn’t beat Jb.”

She is a strong opponent,” Belle says. “You put on a good show, but the snakes took victory.”

I think I’m mostly sad for Wren,” Hilja says. “I’d like them to have more friends still in the tournament.”

Well, this next match is with two friendly faces,” Belle says. “Hopefully Wren won’t be so stressed this time around. On that note, who do you think has the odds of winning?”

Well, Vil is very powerful,” Hilja says. “They’re also quite a warm, comforting presence. I think they have a strong chance at victory, but from what I understand, Lila has a lot of fans, and she’s been known longer, Vil is often reserved so they aren’t as well known.”

That’s true,” Belle says, “Lila could win from recognition and popularity alone. Vil has a lot of abilities to show off, so the winner could surprise some people.”

Truth be told,” Hilja says, “I really hope Vil wins.” She rubs her arm. “I’m not sure I like the idea of Vil having to go against Jb.” She pounds a fist on the table. “But if anyone can take her down, I believe it’s Vil!”

Vil or Lila, I suppose,” Belle says, “since Lila won against Jb previously.”

Who would face Jb if Lila loses?” Hilja asks. “I know they’re trying to avoid repeat matches, right?”

Yes,” Belle says, “if Lila moves to the loser’s bracket, Jb would face either the loser of match two or match three, depending on the results. Lila would then face Dragovoir or Revasa.”

I haven’t had the chance to properly meet Lila yet,” Hilja says, “though I hear she’s nice. And yet”—she looks at the camera and grins—“I’m rooting for you, Vil! You can do it!” She shuts her mouth quickly after.

What do you think their biggest strength is in this match?” Belle asks.

Probably the confidence,” Hilja sas. “They never don’t have confidence. Even when they’re unsure about something you never know it. I’ve heard that Lila is like me in some ways, shy and nervous.”

I think you two would get along, actually,” Belle says. “Maybe you two and Vil should get together after the match. It sounds like no matter who wins there won’t be hard feelings.”

I hope not,” Hilja says. “I’m sure whoever wins deserves it, and I hope they both win their next match.”

Good words to hear,” Belle says. “We’re about to start the match, so let’s go to the field.”

Today the field has the dome with the chairs and bed in it. Wren sits in an upholstered armchair that dwarfs them, arms crossed. They glare ahead with a sullen frown.

They don’t even know what happened last match, but they don’t like it.

Hi, Wren!” Lila slithers up behind the chair. She rests her arms on the armrest and leans close to Wren.

Artwork by Astron

“Oh! Lila!” Wren looks at her smiling face. They hadn’t seen her since the beginning of the tournament. At least, not much of her.

Lila giggles and holds Wren’s chin.

“You look like you need someone to turn that frown upside-down,” she says. Wren stares.


Wren pulls their head away from Lila’s hold. “No, no thank you! Not this time, I’m tired of having my head messed with without anyone asking first.”

“Asking is the hardest part,” Lila says. “Sometimes you simply can’t bring yourself to ask for something you really want.”

“I don’t want it,” Wren says.

“And sometimes you don’t realize something you really want,” Lila says. Wren turns away.

“Nope, not me!”

“Oh, you’re so tense, Wren.” Lila places her hands on their shoulders. “Won’t you let me at least give you a massage?”

“Well . . .” Wren peers over to her and smiles. “All right, just a massage. It would be nice to just relax normally for once.”

“Perfect,” Lila says. “I give such great massages, everyone who feels them always says they love it.” The top of the chair shifts and rustles. “Just let me get into position here.”

Wren feels scales slide over their shoulders, and they gasp.

“No, wait,” they say, “I didn’t think you’d use your–” The last word, tail, comes out in a long sigh as Lila kneads Wren’s shoulders with her heavy, scaly body. Lila giggles.

“That feels wonderful, doesn’t it?”


Wren has always been creeped out by snake tails slithering around them. Most of the tails in this tournament make them uneasy when they think of them. Yet Lila’s tail—just one touch and Wren feels their head cloud up as if they gently glided in the sky. They smile and their eyelids droop as they settled into the chair.

“Just relax,” Lila says. She curls her snake body under Wren’s leg and wraps around their ankles. “Put your feet up.” She lifts Wren’s leg with her tail and piles a footrest underneath. She slinks into the chair over Wren’s lap, hovering over them. “Just sink against the chair and let me give you a deeper, full body massage.” She rests a finger on Wren’s chin and moves their head to look up at her. “Would you like that, dear Wren?”

Wren inhales. A moment ago they would have said no, but a moment ago they hadn’t realized just how soft and soothing Lila’s tail actually felt. Despite the overwhelming mass of hefty tail she had available her gentle touch felt uplifting. Wren gave her a wobbly smile and sighed.

“Yyyeees,” they say. Lila giggles.

“Then just let me adjust you for maximum comfort, inch by inch and loop by loop.” She curls her tail further around Wren’s legs and wraps up to their thighs, twisting their dress around them as she does. Wren sighs as Lila kneads their legs, pressing and stretching the muscles.

“Now, dear Wren, would you prefer to have your seat against the chair or against my massaging coils?”

“Yyyes?” Wren isn’t sure what they want, it sounds wrong but more of Lila’s tail sounds nice and the more they sink against her tail the more violet haze fills their head and— “Whatever you think comfortable,” they sigh.

“Wonderful,” Lila says, squeezing her hands together. “But just remember no matter how deep you sink into my coils you’re still”—she taps Wren’s forehead—“in control of your mind.” She smiles as she slides her tail under Wren’s butt and holds them in a seat of coils. “Just ask me if you want me to do less.” She squeezes Wren’s hips and leans closer as Wren inhales. “Just ask me if you want me to do more.”

Wren sighs as Lila rubs their back with her rising tail, fewer loops as she massages higher up Wren’s body and only coils around Wren to slither higher. The loops around Wren’s legs grow heavy and thick, yet with Lila’s tail scrunched below Wren hardly feels the weight. Lila lifts their arms up away from the coils.

“It’s good to keep your arms out to stretch,” she says. She holds Wren’s hands in hers and pulls them forward, close. Wren’s eyes only focus when Lila speaks, focusing on her, otherwise gazing into sleepy space, soft violets and blues swirling in their pupils.

“Now Wren,” Lila says, “I want you to remember you still have total control of your mind. I don’t want to pressure you”—she has to stop herself from adding “too much.” “I want you to remember this when I ask if you would like a little kiss.”

Wren looks at Lila. Their head swirls with soft, relaxed feelings, but they feel their own thoughts come through, as melty as they feel. They find their thoughts swirling around Lila.

“Kiss . . . sounds nice,” Wren says. Lila giggles and kisses them on the cheek. Wren sighs and grins as she presses close, her flowery scent wrapped around them as much as her tail. Their face tingles from their constant grin, the lingering sensation of her lips on their cheek, and the end of her tail that gently strokes their chin.

“Would you like more, dear Wren?” Lila asks.

“More . . . More kisses, please,” Wren sighs. Lila slides her arms under Wren’s in a hug and kisses their lips. She gives Wren’s lips a massage as much as the rest of their body as she settles against them in the yielding chair underneath.

When Lila’s exhibition time is over she slithers off Wren, letting the whole length of her tail slip against Wren until she slides the very end off. Wren settles in the chair with a smile on their face.

“That felt nice,” they sigh. Lila giggles and pats Wren’s head.

“I’m glad. I’ll see you later in the tournament, all right?”

“Yeah,” Wren says. “I look forward to it.”

They lay in the chair as they watch Lila leave, her slithering tail curling like liquid. They’re not sure why they said that, but it doesn’t feel wrong. Even as the violet haze in their eyes fade they lay content, thinking of Lila’s soft, supple tail, her gentle scraping scales. No other contestant felt like that—even though Jb’s tail felt like a dream it was a locked down, controlling dream. Lila’s tail just felt like ambrosia for their skin.

“You seem quite content, little Wren.”

Wren looks up and sees Vil slither from behind the chair.

Art by Yahkus

“It’s nice to see you smiling without need for hypnosis, my dear.” They grab another upholstered armchair in their tail and drag it in front of Wren’s.

“Oh yeah,” Wren says. “You.” They sigh out the relaxation from Lila’s session, and they cross their arms and look away. “I think you’re the reason I’m stuck appearing in every match now instead of just the exhibition or whatever.”

“Now, now, were it up to me we would bring in a substitute for you in some matches, but I understand none were able to be found on short notice.” Vil settles in the chair across from Wren. “I suppose all you can do is make the most of the fun you can have.”

“Fun?” Wren glares at Vil and leans forward. “You think having my mind warped and body crushed is fun?” Vil smiles, hands steepled together.

“You seemed quite content in that match with Lila,” they say. Wren blushes.

“Well I—that’s not—it—she actually respects my boundaries!” they say. Vil frowns and nods.

“Yes, boundaries are important to respect,” they say. They drop their head. “Something I’m afraid I cannot say I always have done.” They look at Wren. “Still, I can say I held my promise not to touch you unless you agreed to it.” Wren glares.

“You hypnotized me last time.”

“Guilty.” Vil smiles and shrugs. “Well, I promise this time I won’t hypnotize you unless you agree to it.” Wren pouts and looks away.

“No way I’m going to agree to that.”

Vil chuckles. They slither their tail up Wren’s chair and stroke their chin. Wren’s mouth curls into a smile.

“I dare say at the very least we may have you a fan of our scaly tails by the end of the tournament,” Vil says. Wren sits up with a start and pulls away from Vil’s tail.

“No! I don’t—they aren’t—neh!” They don’t like snake tails, right? They’ve always been afraid of them. Lila’s a different case, they don’t want the others to wrap around and squeeze them, heavy loops weighing them down, stroking their face, hugging their hips, massaging their shoulders, sinking into a cuddly, cozy embrace with a scaly blanket—Wren shakes their head and slaps their face. Why are they blushing?

Vil chuckles.

“They knew not what they wanted once, afraid of the unknown. Experience brought them new feelings they had never sought. Now they know, and yet the fear means they still haven’t flown. Denial means their journey of desire remains fraught.”

Wren stares at them.

“How do you come up with those lines on the fly, anyway?”

“Oh, I don’t,” Vil says. “It’s from an old poetical book I wrote many years ago. It’s about a little bird”—Vil slides his tail over Wren’s shoulders—“who becomes best friends with a big snake.” They tap Wren’s chin with the tip of their tail. Wren inhales but doesn’t pull away.

“Does it have a happy ending?” they ask. Vil taps their fingers together.

“Are you familiar with the story of The Scorpion and the Frog?”

“Yeah, of course,” Wren says. “The scorpion tells the frog it won’t sting it but then it does, even at its own loss, because that’s its nature.”

“The snake does harm the bird in the story,” Vil says. “Distraught, believing it had killed its friend, the snake fled into hiding. The bird survived, though, and sought the snake to assure its friend it was okay.”

“Did the snake harm the bird again?” Wren asks. Vil smiles.

“I left that part ambiguous. It doesn’t matter.”

Wren stands out of the chair. “But the bird is in danger!” They gesture to the stadium. “I’m in danger!”

“But the bird was happy,” Vil says.

Wren sits back in the chair.

“Happiness and joy are the two most powerful feelings in the world,” Vil says. “Life is short, but it is these that keep it going.” Wren crosses their arms.

“That’s easy for you to say. You’re a vampire, you live forever, or at least something that looks like it.”

“Yes, it is easy for me to say.” Vil frowns and rubs Wren’s back with their tail. “I’ve been around so long, and so many I have met have not. I admit it’s easy to see the short lives of humans as insignificant, but such a view only added to the insignificance of my existence.” They smile. “If I can be a force of joy for those lives, perhaps my continued existence has a purpose.”

Wren stares at Vil. The vampire lamia slithers their tail from Wren’s back to curl around their face.

“It can be difficult to do so freely, though,” Vil says. “I cannot bring joy by taking free will. It’s only truly joy if the thought of feeling the joy also brings joy. True joy must come from them asking for it, first.” They shrug. “Of course, I’m rarely able to directly ask someone if they wish to experience that joy.” They chuckle. “I can’t go around asking people if they’d like to be hypnotized.”

“True.” Wren looks down. Do they want to be hypnotized? Most of the contenders in the tournament would do so to break their brain, and they don’t want that. But just to relax and feel nice? And Hilja trusts this vampire, after all. Wren looks up at Vil.

“What sort of form would that joy take?”

“A relaxing nap,” Vil says. “Free from concerns, from worries, a moment where you feel free and experience a soothing dream.” They shake a hand. “And not where you’re dragged kicking and clawing down, oh no, rather one where you let someone guide you down into peace, where the hypnotist works with you, not against you.”

“And no biting?” Wren asks. Vil smiles and shakes their head.

“I wouldn’t dream of it.”

“Okay.” Wren breathes. Perhaps a match where they don’t spend the whole time feeling panicked would be nice. “I want to try it. I want to try this joy you have.” They glare at Vil. “Just be gentle, okay!”

“Of course,” Vil says. They curl their tail around Wren’s chin to guide their gaze up. “Just relax and let your mind wander.” Shimmering crimson fuchsia ripples through Vil’s eyes, interspersed by a ring of black. Wren stares, eyes immediately widening at the sight, and the colors flow over their vision and over their eyes.

“Wow . . .” Wren mutters.

“Just let the colors massage your mind, little Wren,” Vil says. “You feel so warm staring into my eyes, don’t you? It’s like a cozy hot tub for your mind.” They lean forward and slide their tail off Wren’s chin so Vil can hold their chin in their gloved hand.

“Warm,” Wren mutters. “Surprising.” Vil chuckles.

“Many people do expect a cold feeling,” Vil says. “But when you let the hypnosis work with your mind it simply adds to the comfort.”

Wren is surprised both by how warm their mind feels and how clear their thoughts still come. Most of the hypnosis suppressed their thoughts, but Vil’s hypnotic power felt more like a passenger for their thoughts, holding their metaphorical hand and offering directions. Wren felt no need to follow those directions, but they felt no inhibition or reluctance about following those that they normally would.

For example, Vil’s suggestion that Wren stand up. Normally they would have a knee-jerk reaction to not go along with anything, but they feel a strange clarity that even following an order would be perfectly fine if they wanted to do it.

So Wren stands up from the chair.

Perfect,” Vil says, hand still on Wren’s chin. Wren doesn’t really stand any taller than Vil sits. “Now, would you like to hold that pose and I wrap my tail around you? I won’t wrap tight, just a gentle, full-body hug.”

Once again Wren would ordinarily freak out at the prospect, but memories of all the nicer tail hugs they’d experienced in the tournament bubble up. A thick hug can feel nice, and Wren knows they don’t have anything to fear from them, as imposing as Vil is.

Yeah,” Wren sighs. They give a half-smile. “That sounds nice.”

Just keep your eyes focused on me,” Vil says. They drop their tail from Wren’s shoulders and coil around their legs, holding their grip loose enough for Wren to sway and keep their balance. “As open as your mind may be right now, do remember you can always ask to stop. If I”—they chuckle—“get a little too fresh with my tail, please let me know.”

Wren stares as Vil wraps up their legs. Their head feels like crimson nectar is poured into their mind, and their eyes remain wide open, locked to Vil’s eyes. They sigh as Vil slides up their hips and grips their torso. Their hold remains loose but firm, even as the coils around Wren’s legs grow thick and heavy.

Still feeling all right?” Vil asks. “Not feeling stiff or woozy?”

I’m fine,” Wren says. “I’m good.” They sigh. “Feels nice.” Their body slumps.

Ah-ah,” Vil says, “please continue to stand straight, little Wren.” Wren stands straight and their smile widens. They feel a strange sense of pleasure at following an order. Normally they’d want to argue, but doing something asked of them without further thought gives them a fresh feeling of accomplishment. They’re being good, for good reason, and they want to.

As they stand straight and poised Vil wraps around their chest, holding their arms against their body. The vampire lamia slithers slowly around Wren’s hips to avoid twisting their dress, but their coils soon wrap up to Wren’s shoulders. Vil massages Wren’s shoulders as they hug the rest of their body, and they pull the coils higher to rest the top loop around their shoulders. Vil pats Wren’s head with the hand not holding their chin.

All right, little one,” Vil says, “you can relax your body now.”

Wren slumps in Vil’s coils, settling against their shuffling scales and soft muscle. Vil holds them upright in the coils as Wren ceases to hold themself up.

Now, just sink to sleep, little Wren,” Vil says, whispering into their ear. Wren smiles and their eyes drift shut. “Sink into a deep dream. Sink, then fly out, little wren, fly in your dream.”

Wren flits through the marsh, dreaming of being a wren bird flying through the air. They hop over small branches before landing on the slithering tail of a bright fuchsia snake.

Most snakes are dangerous, but Wren knows this snake as their friend. They trust that the snake won’t harm them.

After a long life of mistakes, the snake knows how to not harm their friend.

That wraps up—no pun intended—the exhibitions for this match!” I announce. Two friendly lamias, who do you choose: Lila or Vil?

Round 2 Match 1 Results

Still no sign of her, Eduards?”

I’m afraid not, my lady.”

Veda watches the field below, pacing in the coil-congested room of her VIP box. Dr. Fara could be anywhere at any time with her propensity to warp space.

Keep looking,” Veda says. “Keep asking if anyone has seen her. Check into the security cameras—she could appear someplace and disappear a moment later.”

Very good,” Eduards says remotely as they pace down the dwelling room hall. “I’ll check with the participants this round for anything suspicious or out of place.”

Good man,” Veda says. “If she tries anything soon it will be with them.”

Veda looks ahead at the walled-off VIP box across from hers. Fara could be anywhere at any time, regardless of obstacle. She wouldn’t go there, would she?

And perhaps I will set up a meeting with our host to discuss the situation with Dr. Fara.”

Very good, I will set that up for you,” Eduards says.

No,” Veda says. “This is a meeting I’ll have to set up myself.”

Very well. I will adjust your schedule when you have a meeting time set.”

Thank you, Eduards.”

Veda looks down to the field. Dr. Fara hadn’t made any move this match yet, but the challenge match would be the place to do so. Veda knows this match has a favorite of the host. Fara could try to disrupt it for that reason, but then the host might take stopping her into their own hands. The match also has a powerful contender, which could be trouble for Dr. Fara.

Lila and Vil . . .

Veda has known Vil for centuries, though not long enough to know them before they turned over a new leaf. She knows they’re powerful. They can be imposing and persuasive, but usually remain friendly regardless.

She smiles. Many vampires are thought of as seductive, but she found it hard to think of Vil as such. She’s sure they could be, but they’re more likely to just be so friendly someone would go along with what they say—rather how their exhibition match went.

Would that be enough to overshadow Lila’s popularity? She even limited herself in the match by only using her tail and not her eyes. Yet if the theories of snakes being the deciding factor is true, that would matter little.

Veda sits in her chair and rests her chin on her hand. She knows Vil is powerful, but she doesn’t yet know how powerful Lila is. They could be evenly matched. Instead, what of their dispositions? Vil is confident. Lila is shy, but she has a secret confidence. One she can’t always control.

This will be an interesting match to see indeed.

Under the interview tent, Belle sits across from Wren.

So who is your favorite to win?” Belle asks. Wren shrugs.

Should you be asking me? Wouldn’t that cause a bias in the results?”

Well, the votes are already cast,” Belle says. “You won’t influence them.”

In that case, Lila,” Wren says. “She’s gentle, respects my boundaries, and—” They lean close to Belle and whispers, “I still don’t really trust Vil.”

Even though you willingly let them hypnotize you?” Belle asks. Wren throws their hands up.

I don’t know why I did that! They’re a smooth talker, they’ll get you to do whatever they want. That must’ve been it.”

But did you enjoy it?” Belle asks. Wren blushes and pouts.

Yes. Fine. I did.” They look at Belle. “Believing I was a bird flying around in their story felt so real, felt so freeing—even though I wasn’t free at all.”

You were free of something,” Belle says. Wren crosses their arms.

Maybe I’m becoming free of my sanity.”

Belle smiles. “As long as your Stockholm syndrome doesn’t get you cozy with the actually dangerous contestants.”

I don’t think you can ever quite tell,” Wren says.

I think you’ll be fine today,” Belle says. “I’m getting notice that the challenge match is about to start, so you’d better head out there.”

Why? The Cloud will just teleport me over anyway.”

Good point.”

Out on the field, Lila and Vil slither to each other and shake hands, Vil at quite a taller stance.

I’m honored to meet you, Ms. Pachis,” Vil says. “Your name has become quite the star among some circles.”

Really?” Lila asks. “Why—Oh, because of the songs I produce online?” Vil nods.

You do have quite a way with your talents.”

Why, thank you.” Lila laughs. “I’m very glad to meet you too, Mx Garrido.”

Wren appears nearby in a sitting position. They shout and drop to the ground.

You could have warned me first!”

You could have walked over first,” I say.

Ah, and here’s our little friend,” Vil says with a gesture to Wren. “How are you feeling today, Mx Huppe?”

I’ll feel better after this is over,” Wren says. They stand and rub their back.

Aw, don’t say that, Wren,” Lila says. She smiles and slithers closer. “We want you to feel good now. After all . . .”

Wren squeaks as all the lights in the stadium shut off. Vil gives an inquisitive hum.

A spotlight shines on Lila, who now holds a microphone, and she croons a slow tune.

When you let us tickle your fancy with our tails,

When you let us massage your mind with our eye,

You’ll find we’ll put the wind in your sails,

And then you can soar, oh yes, you can fly.”

Ah, so we’re having a song match,” Vil says. A spotlight shines on them, holding a microphone in their tail. They click their fingers together and play a pair of castanets, their singing voice even lower than Lila’s contralto.

It’s that special moment when you let yourself go,

That very special moment, when all that you know,

All you have to do is follow,

We’ll fill up your head so you never feel hollow.”

A spotlight shines on Wren. Lila and Vil slide up against them, and Wren blushes.

Lila: “We just want to give you a hug.”

Vil: “We just want you to feel snug.”

Lila: “Just relax, we’ll hold you tight.”

Vil: “Everything will be all right.”

The two slither their tails around Wren and wrap around them from the legs up, alternating their tails. Wren feels worry and concern and panic and pleasure overwhelm them and tries to stumble away, but the two lamias block them. Lila slides close before Wren and presses close, eyes pulsating with calming violets into Wren’s eyes.

Lila: “Now please don’t run away from your desire,

Just sink and swirl so gently down the spiral.”

Vil holds Wren’s chin in their gloved hand and pulls them to stare into their eyes, which pulsate in their dark crimson fuchsia.

Vil: “You know what you want, the hard part is to admit,

But once you do it’s so very easy to submit.”

Lila slides her arm over Wren’s shoulders and pulls them back close to her. Already Wren’s eyes droop and the world spins around them as the two hypnotic powers clash in their mind.

Lila: “A nice, relaxing, overwhelming spin in our coils feels good.

A sleep so deep you want to sink, and yes, you know you should.”

Vil grins and runs a hand over Wren’s neck, coaxing them to look up and behind where Vil stares down into their eyes.

Vil: “The deeper you fall into our hold,

The more your mind feels free.

Little Wren, so easy to mold,

And that’s how you like to be.”

A dazed smile forms over Wren’s face as they fall under the combined hypnosis, their arms wrapped tight in the lamias’ rising coils. Their eyes alternate between Lila’s colors and Vil’s colors, pulsating back and forth. Lila pulls them closer and she and Vil each hold one of Wren’s shoulders.

Lila: “Just give in,”

Vil: “Give us a grin,”

Lila: “My beautiful eyes what you seek.”

Vil: “Listen close,”

Lila: “Let our spell engross,”

Vil: “My powerful voice makes you weak.”

Lila: “My scales at your back,”

Vil: “My comforting charm,”

Lila: “My velvety hug,”

Vil: “My powerful grip,”

Lila: “My melodious voice,”

Vil: “My words are right,”

Lila: “Makes you warm and snug.”

Vil: “You just want to slip.”

Both: “‘Round and ‘round our tails coil up,

“‘Til we reach your chin which we will cup.”

Wren sighs as their tails reach their neck. Lila and Vil both squeeze softly over Wren’s body and settle against their shoulders. The final loop, with dark indigo and blue, slides up Wren’s chin and strokes their face. With a jolt Wren smiles wide, and Lila’s soft violet hues pulsate in their eyes.

I won!” Lila grins and squeezes her face. “I won, I won! I got Wren!” She laughs and kisses Wren on the cheek. The short human sighs at the affection.

Vil chuckles. “Congratulations, Ms. Pachis. That was quite enjoyable.”

Thank you, yeah, that was a lot of fun!” Lila shakes Vil’s hand. “You have a great singing voice, I’d love to collaborate with you on another song sometime, maybe make a video.”

That would be simply marvelous, my dear,” Vil says. “We must plan to do so sometime.”

That concludes the first match of round two, and Lila has clinched it! She actually had over 90% of the vote in both polls, one was 100% for the entire voting period. Will she have as much success in future rounds? We’ll find out her next challenge in the next match, Maestra versus Enna!

Round 2 Match 2

Welcome back!” Belle sits across from a short lamia elegantly draped in a kimono and a short witch with a swirly, curled witch hat as stuffed with odds and ends as a junk drawer. “It’s time for the second match of round two, the spider monster lady Maestra versus the energetic lamia Enna Koizumi. With me today is the sister of Enna, Lady Anne Koizumi, and the opponent who lost to Maestra in the first round, Ms. Erada Lielayn. Thank you both for coming.”

Hey now,” Erada says, “none of that talk of losing.” She crosses her arms. “First round opponent is plenty of introduction.”

Ah, but you did lose,” Anne says. She smiles. “Twice, in fact.” Erada glares at her.

Don’t make me turn you even shorter, princess.”

All right, all right,” Belle says, waving her hands forward, “let’s get started. Anne—Lady Koizumi, I mean.” Anne frowns at the familiarity but smiles at the correction. “So, my notes show that your sister, Enna, is familiar with her opponent, Maestra, and visits her on occasion.”

Yes, I understand my sister sources some of her fabrics from the big spider,” Anne says. “Well, I suppose I shouldn’t be so derisive.” She lifts her arms to let the kimono sleeves drop. “After all, this fabric is quite elegant and comfortable.”

Have you ever met Maestra yourself?” Belle asks.

Only once, when Enna wished to introduce me,” Anne says. “She’s nice enough, but a little overbearing. I’m afraid a producer of monsters like she isn’t quite the type for a noblewoman such as myself to associate too often with.”

In other words,” Erada says, “you’re snootier than the real snoots.”

Ms Lielayn!” Belle says. “Lets get you talking about someone other than Lady Koizumi. You faced Maestra, what do you think of her?”

She’s a tricky customer all right,” Erada says. “I’d heard she let her little ones do what they want, so I thought she wouldn’t be so clever, but she proved me wrong. She could be a witch if she had reason to.”

She does seem to be more astute than she lets on at times,” Belle says.

Which is trouble for Enna,” Anne says. “She’s much more blunt.”

Does that mean you think Maestra will win?” Belle asks. Anne smiles.

Not at all. Enna is still a lamia, after all, and we’re riding high. She lucked out, facing first a Pokemon then a spider. She hasn’t had to face another of our kind.”

I wouldn’t count so much on that,” Erada says. “Folks like the scary stuff, and that includes spiders. Web bondage, big mommy dommy energy—I’d say she has a chance. We short doms can have it rough.”

Anne looked to be about to make a snide remark but instead nodded.

Yes, I suppose we do. Sadly, most lamias can count on overwhelming size, which my sister and I are unfortunately lacking in. There, Ms. Lielayn, I must say you have a point.”

Thanks, Lady Koizumi,” Erada says. “And that’s not to discount the snake power—though I can’t say that helped me. Enna’s down-to-earth attitude might give her an edge, too.” Anne tilts her head and smiles.

Well, stranger things have happened, Ms. Lielayn.”

All right, as long as we’re all friendly,” Belle says, “this seems like a good point to end and head for the exhibition match. A spooky manor room has been set up on the field, so let’s go to it!”

Out on the field is a tall, dark room with a couch, chairs, and table, as well as a choking amount of spider webs. Wren opens the door and peers inside with a flashlight.

Can’t believe I have to do this again,” Wren mutters. They look outside at The Cloud in the announcer booth, the entire reason they’re stuck in the tournament. “You know, fine, lamias and snake tails are one thing, but a giant spider? Why does it have to be a giant spider?”

They grumble and shine the flashlight through the room, looking for—

Hello, deary.”

Maestra sits at the table, a tea spread placed before her.

Art by Haredaze

Wren squeals and fumbles with the flashlight.

“Let’s bring some light in here.” Maestra pulls on a cord to turn on lights above and switches on a lamp on the table. A teapot sits on the table surrounded by cookies and teacups.

“What’s this?” Wren asks. They shut off the flashlight. Maestra beckons them closer.

“Come in, come in, I’m just about to sit for some tea, come join me.”

Wren steps into the room, watching the floor on every step. It dawns on them the reason catering never shows up until after the matches. They glance at all the spider webs, but thankfully the table hasn’t been webbed. They slide into a seat across from Maestra.

“I do hope I didn’t frighten you too much on our first meeting,” Maestra says as she pours tea into the cup before Wren. “I get so excited when I first meet someone new to pamper.”

“Pamper,” Wren says, the word sliding out their mouth like sludge. If that’s what she wants to call it. They sniff the tea—at least it smells sweet and flavorful. They look at the smiling Maestra. “This stuff isn’t going to turn me into a bug or something, is it?”

“Oh, no,” Maestra says, “there’s no transformational properties here.” She holds out the plate of cookies to Wren. “Here, take an alfajor, they’re delicious.” Wren takes one and waves it to Maestra.

“And this won’t turn me into a bug too, right?”

“Not at all.”

Wren sniffs it. They don’t know why, they don’t know if smell would indicate if something would transform them. They take a bite of the cookie and smile.

“Oh, that is tasty!” Light and crumbly, with a caramel center.

“I’m glad you like it,” Maestra says. She sips her tea, and Wren does after. “How have you been enjoying the tournament, dear?”

Wren stares at their tea.

“Well, the food has been nice.” They sip their tea. That’s about the best they can say, the actual point of the tournament has been—confusing, at best. “It’s kind of dizzying.”

“I imagine being such a center of attention can be,” Maestra says. “Let me refill your cup for you.”

“Huh?” Wren looks at their empty teacup, soon filled. “I guess I was thirstier than I thought.” They sip the tea.

“That’s quite all right, there’s plenty more,” Maestra says.

“Thank you,” Wren says. They take a sip and giggle. “So warm.”

“Yes, a nice cup of tea can make you feel warm and cozy, doesn’t it?” Maestra says. Wren nods and takes a sip; they giggle and spill the tea on their shirt.

“Oh, shoot,” they mumble, though Wren feels like it happened to someone else. Maestra wipes Wren’s face and shirt with a napkin.

“Not to worry, let Mama clean you up.”

“Okay,” Wren says. They look up at Maestra. “What?”

“No worries,” Maestra says. She lifts the cup in Wren’s hand to their mouth. “Just take a nice long sip of your warm, relaxing tea.”

“Mmm.” Wren drinks the tea, even as the world spins and wobbles around them. They lean back in the chair, eyes drooping. “Sleepy . . .”

“Yes, warm tea can make you quite sleepy,” Maestra says. She places Wren’s cup on the table and lifts their chin up with her sharp fingers under fishnet gloves. “That’s why I always say a nice, long nap is good after tea.”

“Nap,” Wren mumbles. The world swirls and melts around them. Maestra giggles.

“Let Mama take care of you.” She lifts Wren in her arms and carries them up the wall by the spider webs. She spins silk around Wren’s feet and shoulders, wrapping the silk around them with her sharp, dexterous fingers across four hands, and hangs them from the ceiling as if in a silk hammock. She spins Wren and pulls the sticky web around them. At one end she squeezes Wren’s legs together with the cocoon, and at the other she pulls the webbing around Wren’s head, shrouding their vision into darkness. She leaves Wren’s nose and mouth exposed but covers the rest of their head in the silk. In a moment she webs up Wren’s legs and pulls the silk tight around their hips, all while she binds Wren’s arms and chest, pulling them into a tight, snug, silk blanket cocoon.

Wren’s eyes drift shut as the venom-drugged tea swirls through their system, dragging them into a deep, dizzy, bubbly sleep. Maestra finishes the cocoon at Wren’s center and pulls the silk tight, wrapping more silk around thin spots to give the whole cocoon a thick, even blanketing over Wren. She pats Wren’s head, and the short human falls to sleep.

“There you go, my deary,” Maestra says. “Have a wonderful sleep.”

Wren stirs at a tearing sound immediately next to them. They clench their eyes at a surge of light from the side. They hear muffled voices:

“Thanks for doing this even though we’re opponents in this match.”

“Of course, dear. I love to help friends, and this is a friendly competition, after all.”

“Hah, a lot of ‘em don’t see it that way. Glad we don’t take it so hardcore.”


Light explodes around Wren and pressure releases from them as Maestra pulls them out of the cocoon, leaving the cocoon intact aside from a tear down one side.

“Aw, wait, they’re still wearing shoes. All their clothes might throw the measurements off, too. Ah, well, I can adjust it anyway, it’s just a second reference for extra accuracy.”

“Some spots around here have extra webbing for comfort,” Maestra says. “Keep that in mind for the measurement.”

“Thanks, I might take measurements of the inside to be sure.”

“Be careful of the sticky parts,” Maestra says. “Will I see you after the match for tea?”

“Hah, yeah right. Although maybe I’ll swing by for some of those sweet alfonsos or whatever cookies.”

Alfajor,” Maestra says. “I’ll keep some stocked. See you soon, dear.”

Wren sits up and sees Maestra walk away. They turn and see Enna pulling out a tape measure.

Art by Ayanobro!

Enna looks at Wren.

“Great, you’re awake.” She pulls Wren to their feet and pushes them behind an encircling curtain. They have only a moment to see they’re in a lighter dome than before with a few seats and closets. “Get undressed, I’ll be in to measure you in a moment.”


“You heard me!” Enna starts measuring the cocoon.

Wren stares at the curtain until Enna slithers in. Enna laughs.

“Hey, I said undress so I can measure you.” She pulls Wren’s pants down. Wren shouts and stumbles back.

“Hey, what are you doing?” they yell. Before they can reach down to their pants Enna wraps her tail around Wren’s chest and pulls their shirt up and off them.

“I’m stripping you so I can measure you,” Enna says. “How else will I know your sizes for the clothes I’ll design you?”

Wren stops midway towards grabbing their pants and looks at Enna.

“For what?”

“I’m gonna design you some clothes today, Wrenny!” Enna says. Wren taps their fingers together.

“Well, I guess that would be okay,” they say. “I’ve never had someone design me clothes before.” They shout as Enna slithers her tail over them.

“Cool, now hold still while I measure you.”

“With your tail?” Wren asks.

“Of course,” Enna says as she wraps over Wren’s shoulders, her scales brushing along their bare skin. “Nothing more accurate, I know exact measurements from my striped pattern.” She writes down a number for Wren’s shoulders and lifts their arms up to coil around them.

“Well, if you’re sure,” Wren mumbles.

“Yep.” Enna gets Wren’s arm circumference and measures their length before she wraps around their chest. Wren blushes—even as Enna holds her tail still her scales softly scape over their bare skin. “There’s bust size, let’s check height—” Enna pulls her tail taut alongside Wren to measure their height, then she wraps around Wren’s hips.

“D-Don’t get too frisky, now,” Wren says.

“Don’t worry, I’m ace, wouldn’t think of it.” Enna leans close to Wren’s face and grins, and Wren blushes. “You’re a lot thicker than you let on, aren’t you?” Wren mumbles a stuttering response. “I can see why you were chosen for everyone to play with, it always feels nice to squeeze the thick humans.” She squeezes Wren’s legs and they squeak.

“H-Hey, I-I said don’t get to frisky!” Wren says. Enna laughs.

“Just gotta measure your curves here!” She wraps around Wren’s legs and jots down numbers, and she pulls her tail away from Wren.

“Are you done, then?” Wren asks.

“Just about,” Enna says. She directs Wren back. “Just take a seat here.” She pushes Wren onto a chair, and Wren squeals as they sit on Enna’s tail. “Gotta measure you while sitting, it’ll only take a moment!”

Wren moans and twitches as Enna’s tail slithers between and around their legs and hips and slides over their butt until she’s tangled around Wren, her scales sweeping over their bare skin. She finally stops moving, jots down numbers, and pulls her tail back. Wren gasps and breathes heavily in the chair.

“Y’okay?” Enna asks. Enna swallows and nods.

“I think so. Was all that–”

“Definitely,” Enna says. “Sit there and rest while I grab stuff close to your measurements to start trying them on!” She darts out of the curtain.

Wren shakes their body. They peer out of the curtain and gape at the long rack full of a rainbow of clothes stretching out from one of the closets. Enna slithers back and pushes Wren inside.

“All right, here we go, put this on, let’s go, don’t worry about the wrinkles it won’t be a perfect fit anyway.” She shoves and swings and pulls clothes on Wren and pushes them out to a mirror. Wren gasps.

An off-white undershirt and butterscotch blazer with dark pants. Wren never wore anything so formal, they never looked good in such things, but somehow Enna made it work.

“What do you think, bigger shoulders?” Enna lifts Wren’s arms. “More imposing, or keep it small?”

“I—I don’t know,” Wren says. “I like how it looks, though. I actually look good?”

“Great, awesome, what do you think about ties?” Enna starts placing ties one-by-one in front of Wren.

“I don’t know, I’ve never worn ties,” Wren says. Enna tosses the ties to the rack.

“We’ll forget the ties, then. How about bow ties?”

Wren looks at themself with the bow ties Enna places against them and laughs.

“I look like a dork,” they say. Enna taps them on the nose.

“I’m not hearing a no. This dark red one adds a nice splash of color without being too garish.”

Wren smiles. “Yeah, it does.”

“Great, I’ll make that note,” Enna says. “This is a good start, but we’ve got a lot of ground to cover.” She shoves Wren back to the dressing curtain. “Take them off and we’ll get the next outfit out.”

“Uh—” Wren stumbles behind the curtain and takes the clothes off. As soon as they do Enna slithers in and pulls baggy clothes over them. She pushes Wren back out to the mirror.

“Comfy yet stylish!” Enna says. Wren stares at baggy caramel pants under a sweater halfway tucked under the pants and draped past their hips where it’s not, striped in white and brown. “You can wear it around the house but not be embarrassed when you have unexpected company.”

“Do you even have a house?” Wren asks. Enna laughs and throws her arms up.

“Yes, of course I have a house. Do you? Yes, we saw it at the end of round one.”

“These look a lot like the pants I had on,” Wren says.

“Not as tight, though,” Enna says. She pulls on them. “Well, we’ll need to fit them better, but you should get the gist. It’d make things here at the tournament easier.”

“Huh? What do you mean?” Wren asks. Enna grins and curls her tail up the sweater to lift it up.

“Lets tails slither up and slide your clothes off easier,” she says, “it’ll save you time they’ll spend otherwise stretching your clothes off.” Wren shouts and pushes the sweater back down.

“Stop that!”

“Sorry, not one for functionality?” Enna says. She laughs. “No problem, head back in and pull them off yourself and I’ll show you the next one.” She pushes Wren back behind the curtain. Once Wren removes the clothes she jumps back in and dresses Wren again.

Wren gasps upon seeing themself in the mirror.

A white blouse, a loose umber jacket, and a sunset-blue skirt.

They smile.

“I’m cute.”

“You’re always cute, Wren,” Enna says as she rubs their head. “What do you think about hair bows?” She places some against Wren’s head.

“Oh, I like that one!” Wren says. A cute tan and white checker-patterned bow looks cute, they think.

“Fantastic, now you’re getting into it,” Enna says. “I’ll get things put together with your measurements to get you something that fits perfectly. I got one more outfit for you to try, so back in you go.”

Wren takes the clothes off and places them on a chair. When Enna slithers back in she seems to wrap fabric around Wren for a long time before pulling them back to the mirror.

“Oh, wow.” Wren stares at a Wren far more elegant than they’d ever seen, even despite the wrinkles from the occasional off fit and Enna’s rush and dragging them around.

A kimono, the outer layer dark and covered in white spots like stars in space. Around their midriff is a dark blue sash, a wave of fabric along the center a caramel color.

“I actually look nice,” Wren says. They smile as they turn to admire the outfit. Enna places a bird hair clip in their hair.

“Glad you like it,” Enna says. “It can be hard to get together, but it’s worth it.” She grins at Wren. “You know what the best part of a kimono is?”

“What?” Wren asks.

Enna whips her tail and wraps around Wren in a smooth motion. She pulls the kimono off layer by layer.

“Having someone take it off you.”

She hugs Wren in her arms as she slides the kimono off. Wren groans and stumbles backwards onto a couch. Enna coils around Wren until the kimono is replaced entirely with her slithering, squeezing snake body.

“I know we tried a lot of outfits on today, Wren,” Enna says, hovering above them, “but I still think you look best in scaly pink and blue stripes, with black and white between them.” She hugs Wren close and holds them in her coils on the couch.

Wren looks around as best they can from under Enna’s grip. They look at Enna, who shuts her eyes as she snuggles them. Wren sighs and shuts their eyes.

Might as well try to enjoy the hug somehow. They’re not going anywhere soon. At least Enna is harmless.

Wren groans as Enna’s tail tightens around them. Well—mostly harmless.

“That brings the exhibitions this match to an end!” I announce. “It’s time to vote—Maestra the monster mommy spider, or Enna the fashion gremlin lamia? Make your pick!”

Round 2 Match 2 Results

Welcome back!” Belle says. Across from her sits Wren, who stretches their arms. “We’re about to get the results for the second match of round two.” She turns to Wren. “Between Maestra and Enna, which are you rooting for?”

Enna,” Wren says. “Even if my body is stiff and sore after her match, at least my mind isn’t. If I never see another spider again it’ll be too soon.”

Actually, you’ll have to see a spider again today for the challenge match,” Belle says.

Don’t remind me.”

And then regardless of who wins Maestra will have at least one more match.”

Stop reminding me.”

At least you got a nice snack yesterday,” Belle says.

I couldn’t really notice,” Wren says, “because”—they slam their hands on the table—“I was busy being drugged.”

Well,” Belle says. “All right, I suppose that’s true.”

That’s why I don’t know who’ll win,” Wren says. “I know some of those voters like to be mindless for some reason.”

I guess they just like a break from thinking,” Belle says. “By the way, you do know Maestra and Enna are friends, right?”

Right, true,” Wren says. “Maestra even helped Enna a little yesterday. Maybe they’ll just let me make the decision then and Enna will win.”

Well, you could head straight for Enna to tip the odds in her favor,” Belle says. “But the votes will decide it in the end. The match is about to begin, so you better head out there.” Wren stands up.

Yeah, or I’ll get dropped to the ground again.” They glare at The Cloud in the announcer booth and head to the field.

On the field, Maestra and Enna approach and shake hands.

Are you ready?” Enna asks.

I put everything together last night,” Maestra says.

Excellent, this is gonna be great!”

Wren walks up to them and they both grin at Wren.

Why are you both looking at me like that?” Wren asks.

C’mere, we got something for ya!” Enna says. She and Maestra grab Wren and pull their shirt and skirt off. Wren shouts and flails.

Calm down, deary, you’ll tear something,” Maestra says.

Yeah, come on, Wren, hey, hey.” Enna directs Wren’s gaze to her as she releases a few light red and fuchsia rings through her eyes to calm them down. Wren stares and settles in Maestra’s hold.

There you go.” Maestra pats Wren’s head. “Let’s get you dressed.”

When Wren blinks Enna’s colors away and snaps back awake they’re staring at a mirror, their outfit replaced with a white blouse, loose umber jacket, and sunset-blue skirt. Enna pulls up stockings striped white and apricot under orange loafers, while Maestra ties white bows into Wren’s hair.

There we go,” Enna says. “What do you think?”

Oh!” Wren says. “Oh, it’s cute!”

You’re cute,” Maestra says.

Wren giggles. “I love it!”

You’re just like a little doll,” Maestra says. She pats Wren’s cheek. “You’re so cute I could eat you up.”

Wren looks at Maestra. They yelp and stumble into Enna’s arms.

Careful.” Enna laughs and adjusts Wren’s jacket. “Don’t worry, she’s not actually gonna eat you.” Wren chuckles and tries to stop breathing so fast.

Well, if you say so.” Wren looks at the new clothes. “This isn’t the same outfit as yesterday, is it?”

That was just a pre-made show outfit,” Enna says. “Maestra and I whipped this up custom-made last night.”

Wait, both of you?” Wren asks.

Four arms makes knitting and stitching twice as fast,” Maestra says.

Oh,” Wren says. “Well, thank you both.”

You’re welcome!” Enna says.

Hey, excuse me.” I float over the field in The Cloud. “Look I know you’re having fun playing dress up but I am running a tournament here and someone has to catch Wren.”

Yes, that is true,” Maestra says. She looks at Enna. “Why don’t we just go at the same time, you kiss, I bite, and we see who wins Wren first?”

Enna smirks and shrugs. “Works for me!”

Wait, what?” Wren asks. They shout and jump away as Maestra lowers to bite them. They stumble into Enna and the two topple over, lips together. Enna twists her tail under them as a buffer so they don’t crash to the ground.

Aw, Wren, I didn’t know you’d be so eager,” Enna says.

Huh?” Wren asks, even the brief kiss dropping them in a daze.

Of course, that makes sense, you seem to prefer it gentle to rough,” Enna says.

She holds Wren in her arms and kisses them. Wren moans as the world spins around them. Enna lifts them to a swaying stand and curls her tail around them to prop them up.

I don’t want to scuff up your new clothes, of course,” Enna says, “so I won’t wrap you up tight—I’ll save that for next time.” She squeezes Wren’s face in her hands. “I don’t get to kiss folks too often, you know.”

Wren laughs with a dazed smile, confused as to what happened.

Okay, I guess that means Enna wins,” I say. “Well, that’s how the votes went anyway, so yeah: Enna wins! Maestra drops to the loser’s bracket, and Enna will move on to round three!”

Maestra pats Enna’s head.

Congratulations, Enna. Good luck in your next match.”

Thanks,” Enna says, “good luck to you, too. Ooh, but if you go up against the Dragovoir, I might be training your next challenger.” Maestra chuckles.

I look forward to seeing her next round, then.”

Round 2 Match 3

Thank you for meeting with me,” Veda says. She slithers into the dark room, a single light shining on The Cloud, which fills half the room.

Of course!” I say. “I’ve always got time for the patron VIP.”

I would appreciate it if you emerged from The Cloud to speak with me face-to-face,” Veda says.

Nah. I’m feeling pretty cloudy today.”

It would facilitate the conversation if I could see your expressions.”

I don’t emote much anyway,” I say. “Okay, how about we compromise?” I formed a hologram in front of The Cloud.

Very well,” Veda says. “Why are you dressed as Dr. Eggman?”

I thought it’d be fun.”

I see.”

Veda considers the fact I’m dressed as a mad scientist when she’s here to discuss a rogue mad scientist. She’s not hopeful for the result of the conversation.

I’m here to speak with you about Dr. Emma Fara.”

Oh yeah, the void mad scienetist,” I say. My hologram leans back against nothing. “Have you found her yet?”

We have not,” Veda says. “I considered the possibility that she may have made her way into the enclosed VIP booth across from mine.”

Ah, can’t help you there,” I say. “Private booth, no information gets in or out. I haven’t had a look inside.”

Veda sighs.

Unfortunately, I know I cannot win a staring contest with a hologram.”

Especially not a hologram with cool shades,” I say. “Listen, don’t worry about it, she’s not gonna do anything this match, her girl Alya is up!”

And the match after that?” Veda says. “Where a slime lamia with potential destructive power should she absorb a large enough quantity of liquid is up?”

Ah,” I say. “Well. Okay, I’ll see if I can keep a camera on her. For the record, I lied, but I can tell you Dr. Fara is not in that VIP booth right now.”

Right now.”

Right now!”

Veda nods and turns to slither away.

I suppose that’s the best I will get at the moment. Thank you for meeting with me.”

Hey, no probs,” I say. “Relax, I care about my characters—friends—acquaintances—love interests—SPONSORED MONSTERS.”

Veda turns and stares at me. I smile and shut off the hologram.

Smooth. She definitely doesn’t suspect everyone but me is fictional.

Meanwhile, out on the stadium field, Belle sits at her interview table.

Welcome back! It’s time for the third match of round two, Alya Slacen versus Persnakety. Now, I did try to reach out to Dr. Emma Fara to interview her for this match and discuss her assistant Alya, but no one was able to locate her. I do, however, have Ms. Mira with us to discuss Persnakety.”

Just Mira is fine.”

All right, feel free to call me Belle.”

Mira lounges in her chair, her tail curled around it. Her body curls around the whole table—rather close to Belle’s seat in fact, piled higher than her seat. At first Belle was concerned she might try to make a move, but she started to get the vibe from Mira’s smile and how she curls the end of her tail on the table it’s instead a show of power.

So, you know Persnakety, right?” Belle asks.

Here and there,” Mira says. “I see him in the jungle from time to time and we chat. He’s a good snake, if on the nervous side.”

Have you ever had any trouble with him?” Belle asks.

No trouble,” Mira says. She shrugs. “Oh, sure, he’ll lecture me that I shouldn’t hypnotize people without permission, but that’s no trouble. A minor annoyance at most.” She grins. “After all, what’s the fun hypnotizing someone if they just let you?”

There’s still a power dynamic in that, though.”

Too much of a power dynamic,” Mira says. “Too much of a hollow one.” She shakes her head. “If they just let me, am I any more than a glorified masseur to them? They should be paying me in that case, but I have no use for money.” She chuckles. “Oh, maybe if it’s someone I already know intimately. But what better way to get to know someone than to engage in a challenge? Strength, wit, craft—that’s how someone really shines.”

So you’d say Persnakety’s lecturing just doesn’t understand your methods?” Belle asks.

I suppose,” Mira says. “He has his ways, and I have mine. His ways can be friendly and helpful, I’ll admit, and he is good at making sure people don’t use him.”

How so?” Belle asks. Mira chuckles.

By being overenthusiastic. They try to use him and he’ll go overboard until they don’t want to anymore. I hear he’s even been trying to deconstruct the law of the jungle, for whatever reason.”

Do you have any thoughts on that endeavor?” Belle asks. Mira shakes her head.

I have no consideration for the law of the jungle. I follow no law, only what I see as right.” She twirls an arrow in her hand. “I have two tools to argue for my side. I’ll let others argue how they will.”

What do you think of Persnakety’s chances in this match?”

I don’t make predictions,” Mira says. “I make calculations, but I can’t calculate for others.” She leans forward. “Persnakety is good at calculating, but poor at following through. I suspect his opponent, Alya, is also quite good at calculating, and good at following through.”

What do you think of Ms. Slacen, Alya?” Belle asks. “There’s a distinct possibility you’ll face her in round three, after all.”

I don’t trust her,” Mira says. She laughs. “Of course, I wouldn’t trust myself, either, so that’s all right. She seems like me.” She sighs. “Perhaps I would have been much the same had I grown up around others of my kind rather than alone.”

We can’t always choose our paths,” Belle says.

That is true,” Mira says. “And I do not regret my past.”

What do you think about Alya’s snake charming skill?” Belle asks. “Did you ever learn anything similar?”

I haven’t,” Mira says. “I’m not aware of any lamia village with that skill taught. Though, she did say she was actually a naga?”

From another universe, yeah,” Belle says.

I wouldn’t know about that,” Mira says. “Just that the tales of nagas from my region speaks of them as controlling demigods. I imagine they were more just controlling who made others believe them to be demigods, but perhaps they had the skill to control snakes and knowledge of this talent was lost.” She twirls the arrow again. “I typically have all I need right here to keep snakes away from me. I could see this being a problem for Persnakety’s match, though.” She smirks. “I wish the little guy luck, though.”

Glad to hear, I’m sure he appreciates it.”

I think he’s afraid of me,” Mira says, “which is good. But I like him. I wouldn’t want to hurt him.”

I’m sure he appreciates that even more,” Belle says. She turns to the camera. “The exhibition match is about to begin, so let’s go to the field.”

The field today is a jungle: trees and foliage abound. Wren pokes their head out from the bushes. No sweater, no skirt, no dress: today they wear a camouflage shirt and pants, courtesy of Enna and Maestra. They thanked them over and over: if they can blend in to the environment today, perhaps they could get through the match without being caught.

Wren feels a tap on their shoulder and turns to see Alya smiling.

Hi, Wren!”

Oh, hi, Alya.” Wren turns back around.

Their eyes go wide.

Alya?” they shout, before the naga tackles them and tumbles through the foliage. She curls her tail around Wren as they tumble through the dense jungle growth, and she yanks Wren’s pants off before they settle among the foliage. She didn’t get Wren’s shirt off, but she did wrap her tail around their limbs to hold them down. Wren clenches their eyes shut.

I win that little wrestle,” Alya says. “Now, were you hiding from me, Wren?” She giggles and pats Wren’s head. “You don’t have to hide from your feelings, Wren, I know what you want. Ooh, or were you hiding from that”—she leans close and hisses in Wren’s ear—“ssspoilsssport, Persssnakety? Don’t worry, he won’t find us before I’m through with you.” She taps Wren’s nose and forehead. “Now, if you would just open your eyes, please.”

No!” Wren says.

Yes,” Alya says.

No, I really don’t think I want to.”

Now, Wren, the problem is that you’re thinking too much,” Alya says. “Not thinking is the goal, remember?”


Yesss,” Alya says, leaning close enough to hiss in Wren’s eyes, “you mussst.”

Wren twitches from Alya’s tongue and one eye opens. They see Alya’s eyes pulsating with deep aquamarine blues, and their eye opens wide as the colors spill over their sight.

There you go, that feels so good,” Alya says. “It feels so good you want to open your other eye, too.”

N-No,” Wren mumbles, but their burgeoning smile and twitching eyelid tells a different story.

Yes you do,” Alya says. She squeezes Wren’s face. “You want to open both eyes, and you will open both eyes, and you must open both eyes.”

Wren opens their other eye and stares into Alya’s hypnotic eyes. Her colors wash over Wren’s eyes and they sink under her spell, a smile spreading over their lips.

The colors stop and Wren blinks as their shirt rises over their head. Their eyelids flutter as their groggy thoughts reassert control, and they shake Alya’s spell out of their head.

Huh?” Wren shouts when they snap awake and realize they’re wrapped in Alya’s squeezing, slithering tail, pants and shirt gone replaced with her coils. They gulp as she reaches their neck and hugs them from the neck, down their body and bound arms, tight around their hips, and thick against their legs. Alya laughs.

Now, isn’t that comfy?” she says.

Wren squirms and struggles in Alya’s coils, but the blue naga wraps her arms around Alya’s head and locks their lips in a deep kiss. Wren groans and pulls away, but Alya holds them tight. When she releases the kiss Wren sees deep, pulsating aquamarine rings in Alya’s eyes. They gasp, but trapped in Alya’s gasp, Wren can only stare straight ahead into her hypnotic eyes. The world dissolves in Alya’s rippling colors, and Wren’s thoughts dissolve under Alya’s spell.

See, you do like it,” Alya says. She laughs and curls her tail around Wren’s head, slithering a heavier portion of her tail up her coils around Wren. “You’re not even putting up a fight, are you?” She presses closer until their foreheads touch, her shimmering eyes all Wren can see. “You don’t want to resist, do you?”

She places a hand on Wren’s chin and moves their mouth to push them to speak.

I don’t want to resist,” Wren intones. Alya grins and squeezes Wren’s face into a smile as she slips her tail down a loose spot between Wren and her coiled body.

You want to sleep in your lovely friend Alya’s coils.”

I wanna sleep,” Wren repeats, words squished as Alya squeezes their face, “in lovely friend Alya’s coils.”

Alya slips the end of her tail down through Wren’s sensitive spots before she squeezes the rest of her coils tighter.

You can’t resist your desires,” Alya says.

Can’t resist desires,” Wren sighs. The last of their thoughts bubble and pop away, and Alya giggles and kisses Wren, pressing her squeezing tail against Wren and massaging her scales against their bare skin. Wren moans as Alya overwhelms them with her passion, overloading their mind and overstimulating their body so Wren is senseless to everything but Alya’s presence.

When her time with Wren is finally up, she pulls her coils away loop by loop, grazing her scales all along Wren’s warm body, pressing against their soft skin until the last loop. She pets Wren’s head.

See you again soon, cutie.” She kisses Wren’s lips one last time and props the dazed, smiling human against a tree. She slithers away to let them sleep her spell off.

A minute passes. Branches creak above as scales scrape over them.

Oh dear, she didn’t even reclothe poor Wren. Everyone always just leaves them to be cleaned up.”

Persnakety lowers from the branches above to Wren’s level.

Art by Mallous Callous! (NSFW)

“I can’t clothe them myself,” Persnakety says. He would have preferred Wren not have to suffer the indignity of waking in underwear, but there was little he could do about that. He taps Wren on the nose. “Awaken, Wren, and break free of your trance.”

“Huh?” Wren snaps awake from the awaken trigger Persnakety gave them in round one. They stretch. “Oof, I’m stiff, what was I—” They shout upon seeing their body. “I’m naked! What—What—” They groan as memories surface. “Alya. Of course.”

“Indeed,” Persnakety says. “I have your clothes from Ms. Koizumi here if you’d like to dress.” He lowers his body from the branches above, from which hangs the blouse and skirt Enna designed for Wren in the previous match.

“Oh! Thank you!” Wren stands and puts the clothes on. They sigh. “That’s better.”

“You’re welcome,” Persnakety says. “You look very cute in that outfit, too.”

Wren laughs. “Thanks. I feel cute in it.”

“Now, ah,” Persnakety says, “I was asked by our host to clear out some of the triggers that seem to have gotten past them.” He taps his chin with the tip of his tail. “I suppose it may have been a good thing they missed some, so that mine to wake you up still worked.” Wren looks up at him.

“Wait, what? How do you do that?”

“Well,” Persnakety says, “I do have to hypnotize you first, just enough that you’re impressionable enough to remove the impressions others impressed on you.”

“Oh, okay,” Wren says. They look at Persnakety’s eyes. “I’m ready.”

“Wait, really?” Persnakety says. “Aren’t you usually afraid of this sort of thing?”

“Well, I actually trust you,” Wren says. “I can count the number of people here I trust on one hand. But you actually try to be helpful.” Persnakety smiles.

“Thank you, that means a lot to me.” He lowers his head closer to Wren’s. “All right, just relax and look into my eyes.”

Wren stares as soft, light violet rings pulsate from Persnakety’s eyes. Their eyes widen, and they slump as their mouth hangs open. The colors ripple through their own eyes.

“Oh! Careful!” Persnakety slips his tail under Wren’s arms as they teeter over. “Let me hold you up.” He moves to one side to balance Wren, but they teeter to the other side and Persnakety moves back over. “Wait, hold on, let me distribute the weight more—” He slides his tail further around Wren to hold them stable. One side feels less secure than the other, so he wraps around them more. That shifts the balance again, and before long Persnakety wraps his tail down to Wren’s hips.

“Oh dear, this just isn’t working.” Persnakety stops the hypnosis to look down at his coils. He shifts and pulls his tail to properly balance the coils. Wren’s arms flop over too much, though, so he wraps around them to hold them down properly.

Wren blinks the hypnosis out of their eyes and shakes their head.

“Huh?” They look down at Persnakety and the growing coils. “Hey! What are you doing?”

“Oh dear!” Persnakety flinches back. “Sssorry, my apologies! I’m afraid I got wrapped up—erm, too involved, I mean—in ssstabilizing your balance.” Wren sighs and pushes against Persnakety’s loose coils.

“Maybe I should just sit down?” Wren says. Persnakety nods.

“Yes, sssit down, yes, that’s a cogent idea.” He drops his tail from around Wren, and Wren steps to the tree Persnakety found them against and sits back against it.

“Let’s try this again?” Wren says.

“Yes, let’s.” Persnakety lowers his head further to Wren’s level again and looks back into their eyes with hypnotic rings. “Yes, it’s a much better idea to have a seat, you’ll be able to sleep much easier this way.”

“Yeah, that’s what . . .” Wren stares into Persnakety’s eyes, and the hypnotic rings fill their eyes again. “What I thought . . .”

“Just relax,” Persnakety says. “Drift off to sleep and I’ll help you clean up your mind.”

“Sleep,” Wren sighs. They smile and slip into a trance, mind quiet under Persnakety’s power.

“Perfect,” Persnakety says, “now follow my words and I’ll sort through your mind.”

One by one Persnakety pulls out triggers other contestants had given Wren and removes problematic ones. As expected, Anne had quite a few more she’d hidden in Wren’s subconscious, as had Alya. Vil left some helpful ones for Wren to stay healthy, which seem to work in tandem with ones Persnakety left before, so he leaves those.

He shivers at the triggers left by Dr. Fara and meticulously removes those. He’s been worried about what she might try to do in the tournament, but fortunately she shouldn’t have access to Wren going forward.

Persnakety chuckles. He coaxed Wren to reveal a trigger Lila left and they started singing. She left a trigger in Wren to start singing with her when she hypnotizes them. Persnakety notes it—it’s a harmless trigger, and he’s not sure if the tournament host wants it removed.

(I don’t, that sounds like it’ll be fun in round three.)

One thing concerns Persnakety—no matter how he words commands, no matter how he has Wren sift through their subconscious, they find no trigger left behind by Jb. That’s surprising—he expected her to have left something. Either he’s unable to find them or she really did leave no triggers. He hopes for the latter.

Everyone else he asks Wren about results in no triggers emerging. Satisfied he’s done all he can, Persnakety taps Wren’s nose and tells them to wake up. Wren stirs and stretches.

“That was a nice nap,” Wren says. They rub their jaw. “My mouth is sore, though.”

“I needed you to talk quite a lot,” Persnakety says. “Just rest your jaw and you’ll be fine.”

“So you cleared out those triggers or whatever?” Wren asks.

“Oh, uh.” Persnakety looks away and rubs his neck with the end of his tail. Well, he removed the problematic ones, but can he really say he cleared them all out when he left some helpful ones, and some that are only harmless? “The dangerous ones, yesss. I left sssome helpful onesss, sssuch as”—he looks at Wren and smiles—“yesss, the one to wake you up quickly from a trance. No need to worry about those, n-nothing you wouldn’t want in there, indeed!”

“That’s good to know,” Wren says. They flop their head forward and sigh. “I’m going to end up with a bunch more from the rest of this tournament though, aren’t I?”

“Oh, don’t worry,” Persnakety says. “We’ll be sure to keep your head clean.”

“Well, thanks,” Wren says. “It’s nice to know this hypnosis stuff can be done to help someone, and not just the hypnotist.”

“Of course,” Persnakety says. “It’s a tool, and it can be used for good or bad. I much prefer to use it for good.”

“I’m glad some snakes aren’t such . . .” Wren clears their throat—they can’t say some snakes are such snakes, right? “Treacherous. People. Treacherous people.”

“Quite. I’ll see you tomorrow at the challenge match.”

“Good luck in the voting!” Wren says.

All right, we’ve got two different contenders this match! The feisty, frisky, flirty naga Alya, versus the gentle, nervous snake Persnakety. One wants to help people, the other helps herself to people. Whom will you choose? Make your votes now!

Round 2 Match 3 Results

Welcome back!” Belle says. “I’m here with Wren to discuss today’s match.” She looks at Wren, who sits across from her. “I’m guessing there’s a contender this match you’re rooting for.”

Persnakety,” Wren says. “He’s nice, he tries to help me, he doesn’t try to make me do things I don’t want to. It would be nice if everyone else was like him.”

You know,” Belle says, “Alya can be quite nice if you give her a chance.”

Wren stares at her. Belle coughs and shifts her eyes around. She becomes uncomfortably aware of her breathing. Wren narrows their eyes.

Did you and Alya–”

Okay, that’s all the time we have!” Belle stands and gives Wren a rigid smile. She pulls Wren to their feet. “The challenge match is about to begin, so you should get out there!”

Wren sighs and marches to the field. They look back and glare at Belle every few feet, at least until they trip over Top.

I haven’t appeared at all this round!” Top says. “I wanna get paid!”

Out on the field, Persnakety slithers through the jungle theme to Alya, not that he wants to. He reaches his tail out to shake and Alya grabs it in her hand.

Don’t worry, Persnek’, I’ll play a fair fight,” Alya says.

Well I should hope ssso,” Persnakety says. He knows she has a way to hypnotize snakes. The best thing to do is to avoid her and hypnotize Wren quickly. If only—

Alya leans close near Persnakety and grins.

Because I hear you went and removed the triggers I put in, didn’tcha?”

Er, well.” Persnakety whimpers. “You know that sssort of thing is sssupposssed to be againssst the rules.” Alya lets go and stands tall.

Then why am I still in the tournament?”

Persnakety slithers away and grumbles.

Hey, Persnek’!” Alya says. “Maybe you should use some of the triggers you left!” Persnakety glares back.

I would never do any sssuch thing,” he says. “The rules state triggers are not to be used for personal advantage.” Alya laughs.

Can’t wait to see where that gets you!” She slithers to her starting position as Wren walks to the center. She waves to Wren. “Hey, Wren! Are you ready to get rocked?”

Wren looks between her and Persnakety.

No,” they say. Alya guffaws.

Great comeback!”

Once everyone is in position, I fly overhead in The Cloud and declare the match start, and Wren runs for Persnakety.

Oh! What?” Persnakety says. “Oh, that—Right! Yesss, thisss way!” He slithers to Wren to help close the gap as Alya slithers after them.

Wren skids to a stop as Persnakety rises to meet them, and they trip over Persnakety. Persnakety squawks and coughs as Wren falls on him.

That was not a proper part of the play,” he groans. Wren grabs his head.

You gotta hypnotize me, right?” Wren says. “Then hurry!”

Oh, right!” Persnakety looks into Wren’s eyes and spreads hypnotic rings through his eyes. “Okay, Wren, yes, go to sssleep, go to sssleep.”

Wren stares, eyes wide, and the rings mirror in their eyes as their sight clouds around Persnakety.


Am I hypnotized yet?” Wren mumbles.

Don’t try too hard,” Persnakety says. He sways before Wren to pull their head in a loop. “You have to let go, let yourssself be guided.”

Alya crashes into them and they all tumble in a ball of wiggling snake body. When they settle Alya pins Wren down, her tail entwined with Persnakety and holding him back from reaching Wren.

Aw, you’re so cute when dazed,” Alya says. She looks into Wren’s eyes with her own hypnotic aquamarine rings. “Persnakety buttered you up for me, so this’ll be easy.” Her rings mirror in Wren’s eyes.

No, wait,” Wren mutters.

No time like the present,” Alya says. She grins and leans down closer. “Take a spin with someone who can pleasure you, Wren.” Wren moans.

Oh dear, oh dear.” Persnakety groans as he pulls against Alya’s tail. He has to do something, but he’s caught in Alya’s hold. “Wait! Wren, oh, I got it—Wren! Shift posssition!”

Before Alya has a chance to wonder what Persnakety is babbling about Wren flips to their side, throwing her off.

Good, now wake free!” Persnakety says. Wren blinks the rings out of their eyes.

Huh?” They sit up and see Persnakety. “Oh, no!” Wren jumps up and untangles Persnakety from Alya’s tail.

Hah, tricky maneuver, Persnakety,” Alya says. She stands up. “Looks like you used triggers to your advantage after all.”

Only to your disssadvantage,” Persnakety says. He shakes his head. “I-I didn’t ussse them to help myssself at all.”

Yeah, you tell yourself that,” Alya says. “Whoop!” She whips her tail around Wren and binds them in a few loops. She slides her tail over Wren’s eyes.

Let go!” Wren shouts. They struggle in her coils.

Persnakety pulls himself free from the tangle of Alya’s tail, only for her to caress his chin with the tip of her tail. Persnakety shrinks back and whimpers.

You know,” Alya says, “maybe I ought to make certain you’re out of the way first.”

No!” Wren shouts. “I won’t let you hurt him!” They break their arms out of Alya’s grasp and grabs her from behind, pulling her away.

Hey! Hey!” Alya looks at Wren as they pull her back. She pulls Wren off her and places them on the ground. “I’m not going to hurt him. I’m not that kind of gal, Wren.” She crosses her arms. “I want folks to feel pleasure, not pain.”

I don’t want anything from you,” Wren yells. Alya chuckles.

Oh, you humans, you never know what you really want.” She slides her arms over Wren’s shoulders and presses her face close. “That’s why I’m here to expose your desires to you.”

Before Alya can kiss Wren Persnakety pops up between them, eyes pulsating in their light violets.

P-Perhapsss you would like to feel p-pleasure?” Persnakety says. “Are you sure you know what you want? You really jussst desssire a little sssleep, don’t you?”

Oh shoot,” Alya says. Caught off-guard, her pupils shrink and Persnakety’s rings mirror in her eyes. “It’ll take more than that, ya nerd.” Even as Persnakety hypnotizes her she grabs him and rubs his jaw and back of his head. She’s caught in Persnakety’s gaze, but she pushes and pulls his head in a swaying rhythm, and he feels his head swirl.

With Alya’s tail over their eyes, Wren remains blind. When they hear a thump of someone falling they push against Alya’s tail so they can see. They hear Alya and Persnakety whisper commands at each other to give in until their words trail away.

Did they both lose? Maybe Wren just wins the match. Wren shoves Alya’s tail off from around their head.

They stare into Alya’s pulsating aquamarine eyes, and their thoughts buzz away from her spell.

That’s it,” Alya says, sliding her arms over Wren’s shoulders. “Finally time for you to go to sleep.”

Wren groans, but their protest fizzles away as they lose themself in Alya’s spell.

Just let go of your worries,” Alya says. “Let go of your fear, your inhibitions, your thoughts.” She presses close to Wren until their foreheads touch. “Let go of everything in your head but hypnotic pleasure.” She kisses Wren in a long, deep smooch, and when she lets go Wren smiles wide. Alya chuckles and pats their head. “Perfect.”

Alya slithers to Persnakety, who lays on the ground in a daze. She yanks Persnakety’s head up.

Wake up, Persnakety!”

Oh! What?” Persnakety blinks and shakes his head. “What’s going on? I—” He looks at Alya and looks at Wren. “Oh. Oh dear. I lost, didn’t I?” Alya grins.

You sure did.” She holds Persnakety in her arm and gives him a noogie on his head. “Don’t feel bad, you made a real good effort! You just can’t beat a sexy naga.”

Persnakety groans.

I’d hoped the voters would take a more wholesome route.”

I can be wholesome,” Alya says. “What’s more wholesome than making someone feel good?”

Not doing so against their will,” Persnakety says. Alya scoffs.

Wills are for the dying. The living are to fill with pleasure!”

Can you let go of me?”

Alya drops Persnakety.

Look, morals are for other people,” Alya says. “I just do what feels right.” She puts an arm around the hypnotized Wren. “This? This feels right.” She taps Wren’s forehead. “You agree, right, Wren, this feels right?” Wren nods. “See? Wren agrees.”

That’s not Wren nodding,” Persnakety says. “That’s Wren’s body after an automated response has been elicited by a hypnotic factor tied to your voice originating from your spell.”

And that’s good enough for me!” Alya says. “We’re all a bunch of chemicals anyway!”

A good set of morals separates us from the chemicals,” Persnakety says.

I agree,” Alya says, “and I think my morals are great. As long as I don’t hurt anybody.”

Physically or mentally?” Persnakety asks.

Alya looks at him.

I’m careful.”

Compared to who?” Persnakety asks. “Your mad scientist friend?”

Alya stares at him.


Persnakety stares back.

I just won the match!” Alya says. “Why am I losing this argument?”

Just try asking next time,” Persnakety says. “Wren has been bounced about by a lot of hypnotists in this tournament. They’re warming up to it, but not if they aren’t given a choice. Why, Wren even accepted the offer in the match with Mx Garrido earlier.”

Yeah, and they lost,” Alya muttered. She slithers away. “I gotta start looking towards my next match.”

Yes,” Persnakety says, “I suppose I—” He gasps and cowers on the ground. “Oh, no! Am I going to have to face the ssserpent demon of time next match?” Alya turns back.

Revasa?” She lifts Persnakety’s head up. “Hey, don’t worry! I won against her before, I’ll give you some tips to face her!”

Sssomehow,” Persnakety says, “I don’t think your advice will help.”

Alya has won her second match and moves on to round three! I’m proud of her, I was expecting having no art but my little doodle would be a huge handicap, but naga power won against snakes twice! (I guess, the more I look at that art the more I like it, anyway.) Persnakety drops to the loser’s bracket. Will he have to face Revasa? We’ll find out after the next and final match of round two, where two longstanding characters face off: the fierce hunter lamia Mira versus the shy slime lamia Ageul!

Round 2 Match 4

Welcome back to the tournament!” Belle says. “Today is the final match of round two, between the archer and hunter lamia Mira and the slime lamia Ageul. I’m here with the jinn Ms. Amaru to discuss the match.”

Thank you for having me again, Belle!” Amaru says. “Even if I may not result in”—she glare at the camera, and by extension you, the reader—“as much engagement as other contenders here.”

So who do you put the odds on winning?” Belle asks.

Ageul, of course,” Amaru says. “I would be a fool to say I’d lose to more than two contenders.” She chuckles. “But really, all that overwhelming mass she’s got gives her a real advantage. People like a flooding of the senses, and what she lacks in pizzazz she makes up for in—” She waves her arms and produces the image of a tidal wave above her.

Belle looks behind the interview tent at the field.

I’m not sure she’ll have quite so much overwhelming mass today,” she says.

What?” Amaru peers behind the tent and sees the field is a jungle today. “Why didn’t she get it a big pool like last time?”

From what I understand,” Belle says, “each contestant can request a theme, and it’s either combined or the stadium is cut in half. I assume there’s a big pond in there for Ageul.”

So what you’re saying is,” Amaru says, “since I didn’t request a desert I gave Ageul a stadium-sized advantage.”

Sounds like it,” Belle says. Amaru pouts and crosses her arms.

This information would have been lovely before.” She shrugs. “Ah well, even without filling the stadium up with her body Ageul has a good shot. Seems like both she and Mira are reserved, but Mira’s got a stoic attitude and Ageul is more shy. If there’s not a boisterous attitude to draw folks in, they’ll go for the shy and cute gal. Ageul is also easily overwhelmed with feelings, which makes her quite amorous—despite the fact she’s officially asexual, isn’t she?”

Yes,” Belle says. “I believe that has different connotations for a slime, though. So you think Ageul will win, but does Mira have any advantages in your view?”

I hear she makes a mean dish,” Amaru says. “Out of this world cooking, despite living in the wild. Hex, maybe because she lives out there. Trial and error. I suppose if Ageul is feeling more shy Mira’s forceful presence might give her an edge, but her last match showed Ageul can be forceful. I’m keeping my chip on her. After all, there’s the old saying—where there’s slime, there’s fire.”

I’ve never heard of that.”

Okay, so the phrase is ‘where there’s smoke, there’s fire’,” Amaru says. She jabs a thumb to herself. “But I personify that phrase, so I can change it!”

All right,” Belle says. “The first exhibition match is about to begin, so let’s head to the field.”

Out in the jungle field, Wren creeps through the foliage, watching out for any sign of Mira in the trees, in the bushes, ahead or behind or around trees or anywhere she might be. They want to get through the match today without her shooting at them.

Wren screams as an arrow splits the ground in front of them. They stumble back and flail in the bushes.

Why are you moving so slow?” Mira lowers herself from a tree above, arms akimbo and bow at her hip.

Please don’t shoot at me this time!” Wren says. Mira sighs and puts her bow away.

All right, I won’t have the bow out this time. I swear, though, I’ve been waiting an hour.”

I’m trying to be stealthy,” Wren says. They scramble out of the bush. “I wanted to get past you.”

Mira laughs.

You’re trying to be stealthy? By crawling through every noisy plant on the field? I’ve been listening to you approach since you walked onto the field.”

I wanted to make sure no one could see me,” Wren says.

Listen,” Mira says, lowering herself to the ground, though she still stood well more than a head over Wren, “I’m going to hear you approaching before I see you even if you crept on a soft path wearing socks. If this was a real jungle, maybe enough noise would drown you out that–”

Wait, wait, sorry,” Wren says, forgetting themself and waving at Mira, “if that’s the case, why can you hear me over the audience?”

What audience?” Mira asks.

Wren stares in silence. It dawns on them they can’t hear any audience.

Shouldn’t I hear an audience?”

I make Wren forget about this line of thought. It’s not like the audience isn’t just a bunch of cardboard cutouts or anything.

The point is,” Mira says, pressing a hand atop Wren’s head, “you can’t just worry about one sense out in the jungle. You have to be aware of all of them. Your visibility, yes, but also sounds, smells, vibrations such as the ones behind you.”

What’s behind me?” Wren asks. As they turn Mira’s tail strikes from the foliage and wraps around their torso, binding their arms down. Wren screams. “Hey! No!”

See?” Mira says. “I snaked through those plants but you never heard a sound.” She lifts Wren in her tail so their faces are level. Wren kicks their legs until Mira wraps a loop to hold them still. Mira smiles. “So I’m going to help you, Wren. I’m going to teach you how to be stealthy in the jungle.”

I don’t–” The rest of Wren’s protest is blocked as Mira wraps a loop over their mouth. The lamia leans close to Wren’s face and smirks.

And I won’t take no for an answer.”

She curls her tail in the branches above and lifts herself and Wren into the canopy. Wren whimpers as they rise, and Mira sits them on a sturdy branch.

Now then,” Mira says, “the first lesson is noise.” She leans an arm on Wren’s head and smiles. “If you want to be stealthy, you need to stop that whimpering. You need to be still—you move your body too much.” She curls her tail further around Wren to hold them still more. “This is all wrapped up in the most important part”—she looks into Wren’s eyes as rings of burning read, chilling blue, and a deep jungle green pulsate through her eyes—“you’re simply thinking too loud, Wren.”

Wren whimpers more as they stare into Mira’s eyes and the colors flood their vision. Mira’s tail holds Wren’s head in place and they can only stare straight ahead, vision blurring as their pupils shrink until mirroring colors ripple through their eyes.

To be properly stealthy in the jungle,” Mira says, “you have to go without thought. Rely on instinct. Let your head go blank and”—she sways in a circle to drag Wren’s gaze around—“follow the guidance of the jungle.”

Mira shushes Wren. Their whimper peters out as they stare blankly, caught to Mira’s gaze as if hooked.

That’s it, little Wren,” Mira whispers. “Perfect silence. Don’t make a sound. Don’t make a thought. Drift along in the jungle’s hold, as if you’re settling down to a deep, quiet sleep.”

Wren’s eyelids flutter at the mention of sleep. Mira taps their forehead.

Keep your eyes open, little Wren. I have another lesson to teach you. After all, you are right that reducing visibility is a useful tool.” Mira slithers her tail around Wren and wraps more of her body around them, raising her coils up Wren to close the gaps she had. “You just need to make certain you aren’t seen. If you can’t blend in to the background, cover your body completely.”

Mira coils around Wren’s neck, massaging her tail against their shoulders as she binds their arms in a few thick coils. She squeezes Wren’s hips and chuckles.

Above all,” Mira says, “you must be relaxed. Panic is for prey that runs. If you want to be hidden in the jungle, you must relaaax.”

She rubs Wren’s head as she massages their body, thick coils wrapped tight around their legs. Wren’s eyelids droop as their mind sinks under Mira’s spell, the jungle covered in brighter, stronger rings of her pulsating colors.

Wren’s mind is told to be silent, and they go quiet and still, not making a sound.

Wren’s mind is told to hide, and they let Mira hide them in her growing, smothering coils.

Wren’s mind is told to relax, and they let go of their thoughts and drift to Mira’s sway.

Mira squeezes her coils tight over Wren’s body, and Wren smiles as their senses fall under Mira’s control. With a twist of her tail she can increase Wren’s pleasure, with a tap of her finger she can make Wren speak. Whatever she wills, Wren will follow.

Mira scoffs as she ends her hypnosis. She rubs her tail against Wren to stretch her muscles, using them as a warm exercise ball.

I should’ve given you lessons on how not to be such easy prey.” She crosses her arms. “You’re too easy. You’re boring.” She sighs. “Oh, well. I might as well deliver you to the pond for Ageul’s exhibition. Shut your eyes until you wake up, Wren.”

Wren’s eyes shut, and they drift into the darkness of sleep.

Wren blinks awake. They shake their head and stretch, only to freeze upon seeing the jungle overhead. They shout upon realizing, once again, their clothes are gone. With a groan Wren looks around for them. They never get used to waking up in a strange circumstance at a strange place.

They’re sitting in a long folding chair next to a big pond, a few tables around with bowls and towels set upon them. Wren sees their clothes folded on a nearby table and sits up to grab them.

Oh, you’re awake.” The pond splashes, and Ageul emerges, her slimy body dripping.

Art by Driplette!

“Oh no!” Wren shouts. “Not you again!” They clamber out of the seat. Ageul gasps and frowns. she slides over and holds Wren’s shoulders.

“Wait, wait Wren, hold on, I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I went so overboard last time, I’m so sorry.” Wren falls out of the seat and grabs a table. “I wanted to make it up to you by giving you a spa massage.”

“A spa massage?” Wren shouts. That sounds like the last thing they want.

“Yes, I’m a fully licensed and practiced slime masseur after all,” Ageul says. “You’ve spent so much time running around and getting in, aha, tight squeezes, I thought a cool, relaxing bath and massage might soothe you.”

“I don’t wanna be dragged into water again!” Wren yells.

“No, no, I promise I won’t do that this time,” Ageul says. “I have control of myself now, I’ll just lay you back on that seat and massage my slime over you, I won’t even wrap you up unless you ask.”

“Somehow I don’t trust you,” Wren says. They reach another hand atop the table to pull themself up and smack one of the bowls. It topples over and falls on Wren’s head, dropping slime over them.

“Oh!” Ageul chuckles. “Oh, I’m sorry, are you okay?” She pulls the bowl off Wren’s head.

“Do I look,” Wren says. “I look, uh . . .”

“That was for the mud mask,” Ageul says. She runs a hand through Wren’s hair to absorb it back into her. “Don’t worry, I can make more.” She lifts Wren and lays them on the folding chair. “Just lean back, Wren, I promise you’ll love it or your money back.”

“Money?” Wren mumbles. Why do they feel so dazed? That bowl didn’t hit them that hard, it didn’t even hurt.

“Well, I guess this is a free one,” Ageul says. She pulls the head of the chair back so Wren lays flat. “Now, take a deep breath and hold it in for a moment.”

Wren breathes in, afraid of what might happen otherwise. Ageul squeezes her hair above them, dropping slime over their face, and Wren feels a wave of drowsy pleasure flow their their head. It intensifies as Ageul rubs her hands over their face and spreads the slime mask over them. Wren shuts their eyes and feels their mind drop, almost physically, like dropping into a bowl of soft, soapy water.

“Now breathe out,” Ageul says, “and breathe normally.” Wren sighs and settles against the chair. They feel weight settle over their body like strong gravity, intensified as Ageul slides her heavy slime tail over them. Cool slime spreads over their skin like a bath of lotion, and Wren’s heavy body feels like melting as Ageul massages the slime over their skin, rubbing their sore arms and legs and pressing the slime into their pores over their skin.

“How is that so far, Wren?” Ageul asks. “Is that all right?”

“Niiiice,” Wren sighs before any other thought forms.

“Good,” Ageul says. “Let me wash over your body, and I’ll make you feel fresh and clean.” She rubs her slime over Wren’s neck and shoulders, and she washes Wren’s deep spots, behind their ears, under their arms, between their legs. Each rub of Ageul’s slimy hand sends a watery pulse of pleasure through Wren, and their mind spins as if relaxing in a slow whirlpool.

“There we go,” Ageul says as she finishes rubbing her slime over Wren’s feet. “Now, you have full capability to say no, but would you like to bathe fully in me by letting me wrap my tail around you?”

Later, Wren recalls a feeling of fear deep inside shouting no, but at the moment that fear has no control of them. Wren feels soft, relaxing peace, and the part of their mind open to that peace and in control says, “That sounds nice.”

Ageul laughs and clasps her sticky hands together.

“That’s wonderful! Just hold still for a moment.” She pushes Wren’s arms and legs together as she lifts the end of her tail out of the pond and slides over to Wren. She lifts their legs in her hands and coils her tail around them, dropping their legs halfway up and sliding up to their hips. Her slime drips down and slips between Wren’s legs, coating their skin in her heavy, sticky, slippery slime.

“Breathe deeply, Wren,” Ageul says. She absorbs shampoo into her hands and massage them into Wren’s hair. “I won’t wrap tight until I know your limit.”

With Wren’s hips wrapped in her tail Ageul slides over their back. Her slime isn’t sticky enough to pull on Wren as she coils around them, but their undergarments shift under Ageul’s tail, and her slime seeps under the clothing against Wren’s skin. She wraps up Wren’s torso, and her slime slides down around their arms, the slick and smooth slime sliding their arms against their skin.

As Wren breathes in deep Ageul constricts her slime tail, testing the limits Wren’s body expands to. She gradually moves her slime in rhythm with Wren’s breathing as she wraps around their chest. The slime tail around Wren’s legs grows thick and heavy until the shape of Wren’s legs is no longer visible, slime dripping and slipping between their legs like a stream.

With Wren’s hair clean Ageul runs her hands through their hair to absorb the slime and soap back, leaving their hair dry but with a shine. Her tail reaches Wren’s shoulders and wraps up to and around their neck. She leaves the few coils around their neck loose but squeezes and massages their shoulders. With Wren’s body encased in her coils she slides and massages them, rubbing their back and rolling them back and forth like waves.

“Perfect,” Ageul says. She slides her thick tail at the bottom over Wren’s feet and rubs the back of their exposed head with her hands. “A complete massaging slime wash.”

She let Wren rest in her slime for a while before retracting her coils, absorbing back every bit of stray slime as she did, as well as dirt and dead skin from Wren’s pores, leaving their body dry and fresh and clean. She smushed her hands into Wren’s face to absorb the mud mask, and left Wren free of slime and debris.

“I’ll be back when you wake up,” Ageul says. She slithers back into the pond and sinks below to hydrate.

A quarter of an hour passes, and Wren blinks awake. They stretch and sit up, and they rub their skin. They’ve never felt so clean.

“Ah, you’re awake.” Ageul rises from the pond again and slithers to Wren. “How do you feel?”

“How do I feel?” Wren asks. They sigh and smile. “Pretty good, actually.”

“I’m glad,” Ageul says. She rubs her face. “I’m sorry again about going overboard last time. I hydrated a bit too much, perhaps.

“Well.” Wren crosses their arms. “I’ll forgive you if it doesn’t happen again.”

Ageul laughs.

“We’ll have to see if you forgive me, then,” she says. “With this tournament, I’m afraid we can never be sure.” She gestures to a table. “Your clothes are over there when you’d like to get dressed. I’ll try to make my next match just another spa treatment for you.”

Wren looks at Ageul’s tail and blushes. They squish their face, because they know otherwise they would start smiling like a doofus.

“I hope so,” they say. “Because, and I promise I don’t just mean this in comparison to you dragging me underwater like a horror sea monster, that felt nice.”

“I aim to make my massages pleasing,” Ageul says.

There’s our exhibitions for this match! It’s time to vote in the final match of round two. The powerful hunter lamia Mira, or the spa masseur slime lamia Ageul? Make your choice!

Round 2 Match 4 Results

Welcome back,” Belle says, “we’re on the final match of the winner’s round two, between the hunter lamia Mira and the masseur slime lamia Ageul. I’m here with Wren to discuss the contenders.”

Wren sits and pouts across the table from Belle.

Do you have a favorite to win this match?” Belle asks.

I don’t know!” Wren says. “You always ask me and every time I’m like, I’d like it if neither won, I’d like it if everyone just got a consolation prize and we all went home.”

Well, let’s look at it methodically,” Belle says, scratching her face. She tries to give Wren a smile—she’s not sure if she can cheer Wren or even get them to go along with her idea, but she charges ahead anyway. “What negatives do you find in Mira?”

She’s terrifying!” Wren says. “She pointed a bow and arrow at me. She could find me from a mile away in a busy crowd! If she wanted to hunt me down I’d be dead!”

But you aren’t,” Belle says. “She has hunted you, but she hasn’t hurt you.”

That’s just because it’s against the rules of the tournament,” Wren says.

I’m not so sure,” Belle says. “But anyway, what negatives do you find in Ageul?”

She’s terrifying!” Wren says.

That sounds familiar.”

She’s a lake spirit that could drag me into the watery depths! All she has to do is touch me and I’m drowned!”

You’re not drowned,” Belle says. “You’re breathing just fine.”

I’m hyperventilating just thinking about it!”

Belle tilts her head.

Okay, I’ll give you that one. Let’s just look at the positives, then—what do you like about Mira?” Belle holds up a finger as Wren begins to shout. “No, not ‘nothing’. I’m sure there’s something about her you like.” Wren sighs and rubs their face.

Well, I guess she made good food.” Wren smiles. “Yeah, I guess next time I should just walk up to her directly and ask her to make me another meal.”

That’s good,” Belle says. “I’d like to try it myself, actually. What about Ageul, what’s positive you can say about Ageul?” Wren’s smile widens.

Gosh, okay, that massage was wonderful.” Wren laughs. “I felt like I was drifting down a calm river, no worries.” They snap their eyes open. “But I don’t want her to drag me into a lake!”

Try to focus on the positives,” Belle says. “You get a good free meal and a massage. It kind of balances out. Maybe you should ask the contenders for something in each match and try to work with them.”

Yeah, right,” Wren says. “What could I get from Jb?”

Okay, she’s an extreme example,” Belle says.

Anyway”—Wren rubs their face—“I guess if Ageul is kept from becoming a slime monster again, I’d rather see her continue. I just don’t want to feel like I’m being hunted.”

That’s understandable,” Belle says. “Although,” she mutters to Wren, “I think there’s quite a few voters who do want to feel that way, so I think the result is up in the air.”

Thanks,” Wren grumbles. “Would that they could take my place.”

Now, the challenge match is about to begin,” Belle says to the camera, “so let’s go to the field!”

The jungle field from yesterday remains in play. Ageul slithers out of the pond as Mira slithers to her, but Mira keeps her hands down as Ageul reaches one out to shake.

Hope you don’t take offense,” Mira says, “but I’d rather not shake the hand of someone whose body can dampen the senses.” Ageul laughs.

Oh, okay, yeah, that’s understandable, no offense taken,” she says. “Um, good luck, though I’m sure you have enough talent to not need it.” Mira smiles.

Good luck to you, too. I’m sure you’ll put your slime to good use and give me a good challenge.”

Wren trudges out onto the field, and Mira and Ageul takes their positions at equal distances away. I float out above them in The Cloud.

Get ready,” I say. Mira pulls her bow out and aims an arrow towards Wren. Wren screams and runs towards Ageul. “Hey. Hey! Wren! I didn’t say go yet!” Mira fires the arrow, a rope attached to the end.

Wren!” Ageul sloshes out of the pond and slides to Wren.

The arrow sails over Wren and embeds it in the ground ahead, dropping a loop of rope in Wren’s path. As they run over it Mira pulls the rope and nabs their ankle. They scream as they fall to the ground and Mira pulls them back.

I feel like I’m being hunted again!” Wren whines.

Oh no,” Ageul says. She watches Wren. If she doesn’t do something Mira will catch them before she can. She grabs her hair and squeezes out slime, and she throws it at Wren. If she can slap enough on Wren they might fall to sleep before Mira gets them.

This is not fun!” Wren shouts.

Shoot,” Mira says. She can’t let Ageul hit Wren before she gets them. She jerks the rope in her hand and whips Wren aside to avoid the slime.

Wren screams as they’re dragged back side to side over the grassy ground. Ageul tries a big pile of slime, but Mira whips the rope up and pulls Wren into the air. She holds her arms out and Wren crashes into her arms, after which she twirls around to wrap them up in her body.

Now, hold still, Wren,” Mira says. She holds Wren’s face and stares into their eyes as she pulsates red, blue, and green rings from her eyes. Wren stares before they have a thought to look away, and their pupils shrink before their eyes mirror Mira’s and the colors ripple through their vision.

That’s it.” Mira smiles and brushes Wren’s hair. “Just let your thoughts sink into the colors and wash over you.”

Bad choice of words—at that moment Ageul splashes into them. All three fall to the ground, and Ageul slides her slime over them. Mira tightens around Wren to keep Ageul from seeping between her coils, but she already feels the drowsy effect of Ageul’s soporific slime. She reaches into her quiver and pulls out an arrow while she can still move.

Just relax, now,” Ageul says. “Let my slime swamp you and drown your thoughts.”

Mira stabs the arrow directly into Ageul’s head. Ageul screams.

You just stabbed me! Right in the head!” She grabs the arrow and pulls it out. “Do you have any idea how horrifying that must look? It doesn’t even . . .” Ageul’s eyes spin. Her head droops. An olive liquid trickles through her head and disappears under her slime. “What?” she mutters. “What is that?”

Venom courtesy of a big spider,” Mira mumbles. “Now look into my eyes, you big slime.” She forces her eyes open and spins her hypnotic colors, though her head grows dizzier as she does.

That doesn’t work,” Ageul mutters, but she finds she can’t look away from Mira’s eyes.

I think—I think you’ll find it works quite well,” Mira says.

Not before my slime washes away those thoughts,” Ageul sighs.

I can . . . resist your touch,” Mira sighs.

Both lamias’ heads waver back and forth. Mira slumps against the ground as Ageul’s slime spills away. Almost in tandem their eyes shut, and Mira falls under the slime as Ageul dribbles into a shapeless pile.

The stadium falls silent.


The stadium remains silent.

Neither of them are getting up!” I announce. “Could it be they fell at the same time? Could it be we’re dealing with a tie? Could this match end in stalemate?”

The stadium is silent, still. Both characters appear down.

Then, movement. Ageul’s slime shifts and rises.

Could it be Ageul?” I announce. “Could she have resisted the venom?”

The slime breaks, and Ageul’s body is shoved aside as Wren’s head emerges.

Oh, it’s only Wren.”

Wren rises, their body wrapped in Mira’s tail. Mira stumbles up after.

No, it’s Mira! She did it! She resisted Ageul’s slime and is the last one standing!”

Mira sighs, her slithering wobbly, but she pulls away from Ageul’s slime and rubs her head. She smirks and nods to the announcer booth.

Mira is the winner of the final match of round two! She moves on to round three, and Ageul drops to the loser’s bracket! The competition is really heating up. Round two of the loser’s bracket will be coming soon!”

In her VIP booth, Veda watches as Mira leans against a tree and release the sleeping Wren from her coils. She sips her tea.

She’s quite strong, to resist a full slime grasp like that. I have wondered about her as often as I have Lila.”

You also suspect she may be of full lamia ancestry?” Eduards remotely asks.

Indeed. Of course, her situation is much more classic,” Veda says. “Orphaned, few memories of caretakers, fended for herself in the jungle. It couldn’t fit the trope of powerful, fated ancestry better if someone wrote it.”

Do you think she may be of royal blood?” Eduards asks. Veda laughs.

I don’t think there’s any such thing. Oh, I think it’s likely that any lamia with no human ancestry is a direct descendant of a ruling lamia, especially with how near she lives to the old naga tyrants, but that doesn’t say much.” Veda sips her tea.

What I think,” she says, after considering the old tales, “boils down to what I think what sort of person is spinning the yarn of this world. Some might say a competent writer would avoid those tropes. Tropes are as such for a reason, though, and don’t have to be played straight, either.”

You speak with quite certainty as to events being written as a story,” Eduards says.

Gods are little more than writers who want to write reality,” Veda says. She glances to the announcer booth. “And may have the power to steer things how they want to write it. Sadly, my grasp on what we may be dealing with on that front is low.”

A rare situation, my lady,” says Eduards. Veda smiles.

I do like to stay abreast of the situation. In the case of Ms. Mira, I haven’t had enough of an opportunity to examine her. She is rather out of the way out in the jungle.”

You sound as though you’re considering a trip,” Eduards says.

One thing at a time, though, dear Eduards,” Veda says. “For now, the tournament. On that note, still no sign of the elusive Dr. Fara?”

I’m afraid I’ve yet to find a hint of her. No luck from our mysterious host?”

Only clues as to where she is not,” Veda says. “I have to believe at this point she must be hiding in her pocket dimension. All we can do is prepare for when she may choose to make herself known again.”

I’ll be sure to keep security on alert,” Eduards says.

Thank you. See that you do.”

She takes a sip of her tea.

What security would that be, exactly?”

As far as I’m aware,” Eduards says, “that consists of the beach ball, Top.”

Yes. Indeed.” Veda sighs. “I suspect, in this matter, we are left to the whims of the gods.” She looks at the announcer booth. “Or the writer, as the case may be. The host of the matter.”

i’m not a god i’ve just got the sensibilities of one

Losers Intermission

Hello, and welcome back!” Belle sits at her interview table, four more seats around it. “Preparations for round two are still under way, so I thought we’d take a moment to chat with the contestants who have been eliminated so far.” She gestures to her left.

We’ve got Ms. Hilja Kallas, a vampire.”

Hello.” Hilja gives a little wave to the camera, arms otherwise close so she takes up as little room as possible, a difficult prospect with her tall frame. Belle gestures to Hilja’s left.

Over here we have Ms. Erada Lielayn, a witch.”

Yo, hope everyone’s well today!” Erada waves her hand high. She leans in her chair and table so she takes up as much room as possible with her short frame. Belle turns to her right.

Here we have Ms. Amaru, the jinn.”

Greetings and salutations,” Amaru says. She floats in a sitting position at the table and winks at the camera.

The fourth contestant,” Belle says, gesturing to an empty chair between Erada and Amaru, “hasn’t been able to be located, so–”

Why, whatever do you mean?”

Belle and Hilja lean back upon realizing Dr. Fara occupies the last chair.

Oh! I didn’t even—I didn’t think you would show up,” Belle says. She gestures to her. “Dr. Emma Fara, the mad scientist. So, uh, are you still planning to destroy the tournament?” Fara smiles and waves a hand.

Oh, no, I set that aside. I just poked a hole into a new pocket dimension full of nothing but train tracks twisting every which way. I’ve been following the trains in there to see where they go.”

Oh, that’s interesting,” Belle says. “So you won’t take your revenge for not winning?”

Looks like I won’t,” Fara says. “That’s definitely how things are going to play out!”

Sounds like a cop out to me,” Erada says.

Believe me, I am no cop,” Fara says. Erada laughs and leans forward.

Sounds like you just couldn’t find a way to do it,” she says.

Please don’t encourage her,” Belle says. She looks around the table. “So! How is everyone else feeling after their loss?”

I’m all right,” Hilja says. “I was afraid of getting stage fright if I kept going anyway.”

I remain vexed!” Erada and Amaru say. They shoot a glance at each other.

I really looked forward to drumming up business by staying in,” Amaru says.

Much as I hate to,” Erada says, “I concur. Just imagine the business if everyone had the chance to see more of my stock. I never even had the chance to use some of my specialty potions.”

What you used before wasn’t specialty?” Belle asks. Erada chuckles.

Transformation potions are just the start of what I can do.”

Still, I can say I went against two very strong contenders,” Amaru says. “Ageul really held her own against Mira, I think she could have squeezed through a victory if she was a little more forceful.”

You should know my thoughts,” Fara says. She crosses her arms. “I may not destroy the tournament, but I’m still walking out of here with two snakeskin boots.”

Won’t they be mismatched?” Amaru asks.

Two pairs of snakeskin boots!” Fara says.

On the subject of your previous matches,” Belle says, looking away from Fara to everyone else, “who do you place odds on winning in the next round? Each of your previous opponents face each other in the next round.”

Wait, really?” Amaru asks. “So everyone we faced in round one lost in round two?”

Well that’s depressing.” Erada crosses her arms. “Could’ve at least let us feel like we’d have won at least one match in a different bracket.”

I guess the chips fell in a streamlined way,” Belle says. She turns to Hilja. “So Hilja, the next match is between your mentor, Vil, and the self-proclaimed love goddess Jb. How do you think the match will go?”

I hope Vil wins,” Hilja says. “I really do hope they win. I think they have a chance, too. They’re charming, pleasant, and”—she laughs—“they have more style than I ever have. This all gives them an edge over Jb.” She sighs. “But I’m not blind. I know a lot of people have fallen for the love image Jb portrays. She has more of a presence, having been in the public view for longer with more art and stories. Vil can show they’re better than Jb in the next match, but there are some who have already made up their mind.”

I hope you two can work out a good strategy for the match,” Belle says. “Since you’ve faced her, you might be able to give them an idea of what she might bring to the match.”

That’s true,” Hilja says. “I’ll be doing everything I can to support them.”

Amaru laughs.

Sorry, but you’re a little blind,” she says. “It’s not just a lot of people, it’s the entire audience. The audience swings a certain way, after all.”

Your way, I presume you’re saying?” Erada says. “You lost your matches to a slime and a lady in a kimono. Your showy, slinky style isn’t as universal as you think.” Amaru crosses her arms.

You’re outfit doesn’t leave much to the imagination as you might think, you know.”

Erada stands and plants her hands on the table. “Listen, you gas bag–”

Ladies, ladies, please!” Dr. Fara stands and waves her hands. “You’re both fabulously slutty, and I’m the only sensible one here. Settled?”

You know, she has a point,” Amaru says.

She has a point?” Erada shouts. Amaru laughs.

If we can move on,” Belle says. “Erada, the second match is between Maestra and Dragovoir. After facing both, who do you put odds on winning?”

Maestra,” Erada says. “I know some of you might be expecting Dragovoir, after all she’s almost like a lamia. She is, however, still a Pokemon, and a slipshod, haphazard one at that. Her only advantage is that Enna Koizumi is training her now, and I’m not sure that will actually give her any of the discipline she needs. Maestra is cunning yet friendly, and spiders aren’t without their fans.”

Ooh, that’s true,” Fara says. “I love spiders.”

Ms. Maestra does seem quite kind,” Hilja says. “Dragovoir seemed to have an ego.”

Oh, who of us at this tournament doesn’t have an ego?” Amaru laughs. She nods to Hilja. “All right, present company excluded. You’ve actually got a good head on your shoulders, Hilja.”

Oh, thank you,” Hilja says. She looks down. “Sometimes I worry that’s the only reason I’m not a corrupt vampire, though.”

Nah, you got Vil,” Amaru says. “Hey, listen, just because I don’t think they have a chance doesn’t mean I don’t think they’re a great person.” She shrugs. “Hex, with this audience, the worst of us will probably go the furthest.”

Except for Lila,” Erada says.

Dr. Fara bursts in a fit of giggles.

It turns into hard, loud cackles.

Everyone stares. She stops within a moment.

Sorry, I just thought of something funny,” Fara says.

Okay.” Belle clears her throat. “Speaking of—I mean, regarding that—which is—Dr. Fara!” She inhales. “You faced two snakes, snakes you hope become boots. Before that, who do you think will win the third match next round?”

I don’t know,” Fara says.

Everyone looks at her.

That’s it?” Belle asks. “No insight from your previous matches?”

Hex, those aren’t the next match,” Fara says. “They’re both snakes. I don’t know anything about snakes. Ask Alya if you want to know about snakes. Here, I’ll get her.”

No,” Belle says, waving her hands, “that really isn’t”—Fara places a pole on the table, a hole in space opens above it, and Alya falls out, smashing the table to the floor under her long-tailed snake weight—“necessary.”

Ouch. I think I sprained a scale.” Alya pushes her tail off her. “Need something, doctor?” She looks up at Belle. “Oh, hey, Belle!”

You just had to bring her in,” Belle says, covering her face with her notes. Erada and Amaru laugh.

You’ve really gotten tangled up with her as of late, haven’t you?” Amaru says.

You didn’t think you would,” Erada says.

You didn’t think you’d want to,” Amaru says.

Belle wanted some insight for the upcoming match between the snakes,” Fara says.

Oh, sure!” Alya says. She stands and curls her tail behind her. “Let me just curl a chair for myself here, I’d sit on you, Belle, but you’re busy with your job right now.”

Belle shoves her notes closer against her face.

All right.” Alya sits on a chair of her coils. “Revasa and Persnakety are really a tricky match up to gauge. Snakes are immune to snake hypnosis, so they won’t be able to pull that trick. They’ll both be in full control. Revasa’s time manipulation will be key for her, but Persnakety’s clever—he might find a way to avoid its effects. Ultimately I have to give it to Revasa, though. For the votes, people tend to like their snakes with vore. Persnakety is against that, so he won’t get the vore vote. His friendly demeanor could be a help, especially since Revasa hates humans, but I just don’t see the voters caring about her hatred of humans enough to effect the vote.”

Belle sighs and pulls her notes down, expression neutral.

Thank you, Alya, that was very insightful.”

You’re welcome.” Alya smiles to Belle, who clears her throat and turns to Amaru.

Now, Amaru,” she says, “the last match of next round is between Ageul and Anne. One overwhelmed you with power, the other used a trick before you could make a second move. Who do you predict to win?”

It’s gotta be Ageul,” Amaru says. “Their matches against Mira show Ageul as a clear stronger contender. She’s also got two modes to work with, the needy and overpowering side from my match and the tender masseur side from her match with Mira. Ms. Koizumi may have lots of tricks up her sleeve, but I don’t think she’ll be able to match the slime.”

I agree,” Hilja says, “she can be kind and overwhelming. She’s got options.” Erada laughs.

It seems we all think the self-proclaimed queen won’t be ruling her match. Ageul knows what her clients want. Anne tries to change people to want her. She’ll have a rougher time.”

I think Ageul flubs it,” Alya says. “Anne changes people to want her, and that’s what wins the tournament.”

Water can’t control its own flow,” Fara says. “It can change the landscape, but it moves along the landscape. Ms. Vodá will only be able to react from her own feelings at the time, while Ms. Koizumi can adapt to the situation and the audience.”

It sounds like Ageul has more predictions,” Belle says, “but there are good points to Anne’s victory.” She looks at the camera. “What do you think? Who will move forward in the tournament, and who will be knocked out with these? Loser’s round two will begin very soon!” She looks back to her guests. “Thank you all for coming, I know it must be rough to be out.” Amaru waves a hand.

Hey, it’s not like we’re doing anything else now, right?”

Speak for yourself,” Erada says. “I think after this I’ll be returning to my shop. If anything my appearance, whether I won or not, might boost my sales.” Dr. Fara stands.

I’ve got to get back to planning my revenge. I mean watching trains.” She turns around and shouts to the corner of the stadium, “You hear that, you robot? I’m just watching trains! Definitely not planning anything! So stop looking for me and go change your oil or something!”

She scrapes her black shoe along the ground and a portal opens below her she steps down into.

Alya slithers to Belle.

So, Belle, how about–”

Say, Hilja!” Belle holds her hand. “I think I’d like to interview Vil before their match, shall we walk together to see them so I can ask?”

Oh, sure,” Hilja says. She glances to Alya and back. “Yeah, we can go right now.”

As they walk away Amaru cackles and holds an arm over Alya’s shoulders.


Nah, she’s just busy and shy,” Alya says. She grins. “Like you said—didn’t think she’d want to. Still thinks she doesn’t want to.” She slides her tail over Amaru’s shoulders. “Say, you know, there’s something I’ve always wished to try out.” Amaru laughs.

Sounds like you’ve got a request, shall we head to your room?”

Sounds like a date!”

Losers Round 2 Match 1

Are all the spatial distortion sensors active?”

Yes, my lady. If Dr. Fara returns from her pocket dimension anywhere in the stadium, or otherwise alters space outside ordinary activity, we will find it.”

Veda Lima nods. She watches the field below from her VIP box. She’d watched the loser’s interview when Dr. Fara emerged. Eduards had already headed that way.

Good. As long as she holes up in her pocket dimension, perhaps nothing will happen. But I anticipate she will try something.”

Unfortunately,” Eduards says, Veda’s robot butler standing at the door, “we cannot rely on the sensors during match three. Revasa’s time manipulation can set them off.”

As intricately linked as time and space are,” Veda says. “Worse, this is the match this round she is most likely to act.”

The snakes she lost to,” Eduards says. Veda nods.

If she wants to kill them both, it would be her best opportunity. I’d like you to make the referee aware of this and remain on standby with them in case you need to interfere.”

You believe the beach ball can be relied upon?”

I believe Top’s lack of reliability can be an asset,” Veda says. “They are even more unpredictable than Dr. Fara will be. If she makes a move, Top could make twenty. One of them may work.”

Very good,” Eduards says. “Any other business before I depart?”

I will likely invite Vil for a visit after their match, regardless of the outcome,” Veda says.

Very good, I will note this in the schedule. Let me know when you are ready and I will extend the invite.”

Thank you. You may go.”

Eduards leaves the room, leaving Veda alone with her tail winding throughout. She taps her knuckles to her chin.

You’re facing one of the most powerful contenders next, Vil. She’s loaded up with tricks and gadgets. Every move she makes can be a new one. Will you win it, or will it slip from your grasp? You’ve said you were once as wicked as her. Will the new leaf you turned over win over the audience, or do they prefer the bad end?

At Belle’s interview tent, Amaru appears in a puff of smoke.

Greetings, Belle,” the jinn says. “It seems despite my loss I’m still doing quite a few interviews.” Belle smiles.

Hey, maybe you can still get some business from it,” Belle says. “Since you’re out of the tournament, you have more time to join me here.”

That I do,” Amaru says. She purses her lips. “I thought you’d wanted to interview Vil, though. You’d left with Hilja after the last interview to see them, did you not?”

Oh, uh”—Belle laughs—“I just said that to get away from Alya.”

Aww.” Amaru leans over the table and rests her head on her hands. “Trouble in lover’s paradise, Belle?” Belle blushes.

No! I just—” She sighs. “I like Alya fine, I enjoy my time with her, but I don’t want to do it too much,” she hisses through her teeth. “I have a job to do, I’m supposed to be unbiased, and besides that”—she whispers—“that sort of thing is addictive, isn’t it?”

Amaru chuckles and leans closer.

What sort of thing, dear Belle?”

You know what I’m talking about.” Belle glares at her. “The sort of thing Wren’s been getting subjected to this whole time.”

Amaru laughs.

You mean after they still want to avoid it and do what they can to get out of it?”

Belle looks at her notes.

Okay, that’s a good point.” She looks at Amaru. “Is hypnosis addictive? At least, the sort from lamias and, well, you have it much the same, don’t you?”

Mm-hmm.” Amaru nods. “But, you must understand, under normal circumstances it is no more addictive than a good massage. You might start to feel like you don’t want to do anything but be massaged, but it’s easy to get up and walk away when you’re not in the middle of it.”

Normal circumstances?” Belle asks.

Alya’s circumstances,” Amaru says. She grins and teleports close beside to Belle to murmur, “I wondered myself, since she’s from another universe, but I’ve tested her powers. They’re standard as the lamias in this world.” She returns to her previous spot. “Not everyone in this tournament has normal circumstances, however.”

Jb,” Belle says.

Oh, I imagine so,” Amaru says. She grins and leans close. “I was more thinking that if I wanted to I could make mine quite addictive.”

Don’t try it,” Belle says, waving her out of her face. Amaru laughs and examines her fingernails.

I’m not in the tournament anymore, right? Those rules about not hypnotizing you don’t apply to me now.”

Don’t try it, or I won’t interview you again and you won’t be able to advertise your wish business!” Belle says.

Amaru nods.

Touché.” She pulls back and settles on the other side of the table as if on an invisible chair. “I fully expect Jb’s hypnosis has addictive properties. There’s clearly some magic in it, heart eyes don’t just happen. I have suspicions about her in general, but I won’t speculate. Coincidentally, I’ve heard vampire hypnosis can have a mild addictive effect, but I’m not that familiar with them.”

Oh yeah,” Belle says, “you’ve said you created monster girls from a wish. Does that mean your magic created vampires, too?”

No, different thing.” Amaru shakes her head. “Ironic, considering vampires are called monsters and feature in monster films. That’s why monster girl is a rough term. With a few exceptions they’re usually not based on monsters, but rather animals. There could be a part bat-part human, but that wouldn’t make them a vampire.”

But Vil is a lamia and a vampire,” Belle says.

Who says someone can’t be part animal and a vampire?” Amaru says. “There could be a part bat-part human who is also a vampire. Maybe a centaur. I imagine the more herbivorous ones would have a rather difficult time.”

Belle drums her fingers.

You just said you’re not that familiar with vampires. Are you yanking my chain?”

No, this is true,” Amaru says. “All of it, I swear!” Belle narrows her eyes.

Well, I’ll take your word for it.” She scans her notes. “I actually wanted to ask you about Jb. In previous matches we’ve seen her regular hypnosis, her hypno-goggles, and the use of a computerized collar.” She looks at Amaru. “From what I’ve been told, she has two sets of collars, though, and the other one is a magic collar.”

Ah yes, now that is a dangerous tool,” Amaru says. “It can bind one to her, not just normal humans, but even magic jinn like myself.”

Wait, really?” Belle asks. “Jb could control you with that collar?”

Indeed,” Amaru says. She rubs her neck. “It’s magic, and it could bind my magic to it. Jinn can be bound to magical artifacts like that.”

Like your pot?” Belle asks.

That’s different,” Amaru says. “I’m not bound to that pot. It’s merely my home and office, but I could leave it if I wished.”

Could someone use that pot to bind you, though?”

Not as long as I control the pot myself. Jb’s collar could bind a jinn to her because the collar is connected to her, she controls it. Of course,” Amaru says, lowering her voice, “she didn’t make those things herself, I believe, and whoever did could supersede her control. I’ll bet they could even pull her control of the collars entirely.”

Who do you think made them?” Belle asks. Amaru shrugs.

Haven’t a clue. I just know that I don’t think Jb is at all natural, and someone enhanced her power. Someone gave her those tools, and she’s working for them.”

Hard to imagine she’s working for someone else,” Belle says.

Well, she enjoys the work, clearly,” Amaru says. She grins. “It’s always great to see someone land work they enjoy.”

Well, whoever she might be working for, I would hate to meet them,” Belle says. She turns to the camera. “The first exhibition is about to begin, so we’ll go to the field to see Jb.” She looks at Amaru. “Thank you for being here today.”

It’s my pleasure, my dear,” Amaru says. “My pleasure indeed.”

Out on the field, chairs and a bed are set up under a clear dome in a facsimile of a bedroom. Inside Jb waves to the audience, blows them kisses, and twists her body in provocative poses, thrusting out her breasts and rear base of her snake body. Her tail winds throughout the room like a labyrinth covering most of the ground.

Art by Orange in a Can!

With a puff of smoke, Wren appears sitting on the bed.

What?” Wren sees Jb and flinches back.

Hello again, little Wren,” Jb says, sliding forward onto the bed. “Lovely to see you again.”

Oh no, not you again!” Wren rolls away, but Jb grabs their wrist and pulls them back close. She chuckles.

Now, now, don’t make me chain you to the bed.”

Wren slides away, but Jb grabs them in her tail and pushes them back onto the bed. She pins them down squirming and wraps around them.

I would much rather,” she says, holding up a pink collar, “chain you to me.”

Wren twists left and right to avoid Jb, but she grabs their head in her tail and pulls the collar on.

No!” Wren shouts.

They gasp.

The room is gone. The stadium is gone. The bed is replaced with pink fluff. The sky fades between soft crimson and pink, fluffy hearts swirling through the air.

What—where am I?” Wren asks. Jb holds them against her body.

You see, little Wren, this collar is designed to show you the truth. The true world. My world, of love and bliss.” She holds Wren’s face in her hands and leans close nose-to-nose. She grins. “A world I’m inviting you to stay in.”

It’s a trick!” Wren pulls away and grabs the collar. They try to yank it off, but the collar wraps around their arms. It transforms into Jb’s tail and coils around them.

Now, Wren, didn’t you want to leave that silly tournament?” Jb says. She hugs her arms around their head. “Follow me into my world and you won’t be passed around like a discarded toy anymore.” She squeezes them tight and stares into their eyes. “You’ll just be mine to play with as much as I want.”

A—A t-trick,” Wren mumbles. Their eyes glow pink. Jb grins.

A toy for a love goddess to play with all day,” she says.

T-Toy,” Wren mumbles. Their eyelids droop, much as they try to keep their eyes open. Their pupils glow red.

Look into your love goddess’ eyes, my little toy,” Jb says. Hearts pulsate through her eyes.

Look,” Wren says. They stare, and Jb’s pink and red hearts flow through their eyes. With each heart to pass through their eyes their pupils warp until they gaze through heart pupils, seeing only what Jb wishes them to.

Just float through my dimension of love, little Wren,” Jb says. She lifts Wren in her coils and they float through the air. Jb pulls Wren close against her chest, the beating of her heart matching the rhythm of the hearts pulsating through Wren’s eyes. “You’re all mine now, not a thought left in that little head of yours.”

Wren’s mind sinks under the control of the collar, their thoughts pulled from their head and dissolved in the collar. They sigh and smile as new thoughts from the collar fill their head, thoughts of love, bliss, obedience, worship.

Yes,” Jb hisses, “you belong to me now.”

She slithers her tail between Wren’s legs, around their arms, and squeezes their body, twirling them like a toy. She pulls Wren tight against her and kisses them lips, squeezing their face into a wide grin. She surrounds Wren, duplicated, and she squeezes and kneads and caresses and kisses Wren all over their body, her laughs and whispers surrounding Wren in a whirlwind of divine love.

It’s time,” she whispers, one Jb in each of Wren’s ears, “to worship me.”

Wren loses themself in Jb’s power, loses themself to the collar. Their mind dissolves under the aura of the collar, and only Jb’s thoughts flow through their mind.

Wren screams. They move their arms and legs and feel their face. They’re real. They’re still Wren.

Are you all right, my dear?”

Wren sits up on the bed. In a padded chair next to it sits Vil, who sips a cup of steaming dark liquid.

Art by Yahkus

I don’t know,” Wren mutters. They rub their face.

Our host deprogrammed you, so to speak, although I understand they have missed some before.” Vil hands Wren another mug. “I made some hot cocoa if you’d like.”

Hot cocoa?” Wren asks. They smell the warm, sweet aroma, and sip the hot drink. Prepared for a scald, Wren instead finds the drink cooled enough to be easy to drink. “Oh, that’s nice.” They sip more.

You had quite a rough hit to your system, from what I understand,” Vil says. “A magical draining of your mind and will. Your brain was essentially made a receptacle to accept Jb’s thoughts, so she could control you.” Wren chokes on the cocoa.

Did they fix me? The—The host, I guess?” They rub the top of their head. “Did they put my mind back?”

Yes, your mind is placed back as it should be,” Vil says. Wren finishes their cocoa, and Vil takes the mug. “Point of fact, though, the host did want a system check, so to speak.” They slither their tail under Wren’s chin and pull their gaze to them. “So while I would ordinarily ask you first with my usual polite charm,” Vil says, eyes pulsating with dark crimson rings, “today I’m afraid I must catch you off your guard.”

What?” Wren stares into Vil’s eyes, and their vision darkens and narrows to Vil. Their thoughts jumble into a pile as if their train of thought ground to a halt.

Just stare into my eyes, my dear,” Vil says, slithering their tail around Wren’s shoulders, “and I’ll make sure that everything is all right.”

Wren yelps and looks away, pulling their shoulders out from Vil’s scaly grasp. They tumble to the other side of the bed.

No way! I’m not going to let you do that this time!” Wren shouts. Vil laughs.

Well, it’s nice to see your spurning of hypnosis is still intact.”

Wren feels a hard hook around their head. They flinch at the sight of a smiling snake carving against their face as if it affectionately leans close, and Vil pulls Wren back to them with their cane. They stare back into Wren’s eyes with their hypnotic colors.

Now, let’s do this for real, shall we, Wren?”

N-No,” Wren mutters. They pull their head away, but Vil holds them in place with their cane. “I don’t wanna.” Wren’s eyes widen as their pupils shrink. Vil slithers their tail around Wren’s shoulders and massages their back.

Just relax, my dear.” Vil leans close and rests their gloved hand under Wren’s chin. “I’m doing this for your own good, after all.” Wren’s eyes fill with Vil’s hypnotic colors.

N-No, you . . .” Wren moans as Vil slithers around them and squeezes a few loops along their body. Their vision shimmers with Vil’s hypnotic colors, focus narrowing as a fog of rippling colors fills their mind. Wren forgets to even try to look away, thoughts stalled and muffled under Vil’s gaze.

Vil removes their cane from around Wren and replaces it with a strong arm on their shoulder, their other hand holding Wren’s chin.

Just relax my dear and let me in your little head,

I promise not to hurt you, so erase those thoughts of dread.

You’re such a good little bird to let me hold you tight,

Just sink into my grasp and I’ll make sure that you’re all right.”

Wren sighs as their mind sinks as if into a fluffy bed of soft pillows. A smile spreads over their lips and their eyes droop, Vil’s spell swirling Wren to sleep. They tip forward as they cease to hold their own head up, but Vil’s hand and coils hold them up.

Let’s get you comfortable, shall we?”

Vil wraps their tail further around Wren into a thick blanket, and they lift Wren above the bed and rock them back and forth until they sink into a deep slumber.

There you are,” Vil says. They pat Wren on the head and look deeper into their eyes, rings pulsating faster. “Now let me reach into your mind, dear Wren, and explore what we find. Let there be no magical residue, no lasting triggers, no harm done to that pretty little head by Jb. Let’s see to it that you have a clean mental state, and I can protect you from her in tomorrow’s challenge match.”

Vil chuckles as they get to work examining Wren’s mind for anything out of place.

While Vil does their work, what do you say we get to voting? Two powerful characters today, one who flaunts it and one who stays reserved. Who will move on, and who will be eliminated? Vote now!

Losers Round 2 Match 1 Results

Welcome back to the tournament!” Belle says. “We’re back with Amaru to discuss today’s match.”

Great to be here again, Belle.” Amaru floats on the other side of the table. She winks to Belle. “Just can’t stay away from me, can you?”

I-I guess not,” Belle says. She smiles. “Definitely didn’t throw a dart at the board to decide who to interview today.” Amaru raises her eyebrows.

You didn’t think to just interview Hilja?”

She’s busy cheering Vil on,” Belle says. “I didn’t want to distract her.”

In that case,” Amaru says, “perhaps I ought to cheer on my fellow curvy lady.”

On that note,” Belle says, “I wanted to ask—now that we’ve seen the exhibitions, who do you think will win the match?”

Vil is a clever one, I’ll give them that,” Amaru says. “Clever with class and style, taking Jb’s previous exhibition as an excuse to show more of what they can do, while portraying themself as an antithesis to Jb. In another world, they could win.” She laughs. “But like I said, I know the audience, and they’re all-in on Jb’s style. Enough of them want to enter that so-called love dimension that they’ll vote for her, for that enthrallment.”

Is there any weak point of Jb’s you think might cost her votes?” Belle asks.

She is all or nothing,” Amaru says. “In reality most wouldn’t want the finality of her actions to actually happen to her.” She shrugs. “But they aren’t voting for something to happen to them, they’re voting for a fantasy. That’s what will win.”

There’s still the vampire fantasy,” Belle says.

Oh, maybe,” Amaru says. She waves a hand. “But Vil’s never done much vampire stuff in this tournament. Hilja did, following Jb, but that didn’t get her anywhere. Vil’s advantage over her is their tail, and it’s an advantage Jb has, too.”

We’ll find out,” Belle says, “I’m getting word the challenge match is about to start. Let’s go to the field!”

Out on the field, Jb and Vil slither to each other. They smile and shake hands, each squeezing the other’s tight enough to pop an orange.

May the best lamia win,” Vil says. Jb smirks.

I’m sure she will.”

Ah, the classic retort,” Vil says. “At least you didn’t say, ‘I’m sure I will.’ Nevertheless, I’m afraid you have my pronoun wrong.” They pull Jb closer and whisper, “Because I know that when I say lamia, it doesn’t strictly completely apply to you, does it, Ms. Blovulena?”

Jb glares at Vil and pulls her hand from theirs. They slither away, and Wren shuffles on to the field. They look between them.

Can we just not, this time?” they ask.

Not to worry, Wren,” Vil says, “we’ll see that it goes by quick.” They remove their gloves and overcoat and place it on a nearby table. Wren watches then looks at Jb, who is poised like a viper ready to strike.

Ready?” I announce. “Then go already!”

Jb darts forward on her tail. Vil leaps into the air and twists, trailing out of their undershirt as wings sprout from their back and they narrow into a slithering tube. Wren yelps at seeing them transform into a snake-bat.

Vil’s going for the faster approach!” I announce. “Wait, since when do I do play-by-play on these?”

Vil flies and slithers for Wren, their wings and sleeker volume giving them an edge in speed over Jb. Wren throws their hands up.

Fig this!” They run away from both contenders.

The snakes turn to follow Wren, and Vil catches to them first. They twirl to wrap around Wren and pin their arms and legs down before they fly into the sky with Wren, leaving Jb on the ground.

No! Put me down!” Wren shouts as they squirm in Vil’s grasp. Vil flips his head to look into Wren’s eyes as they flow hypnotic crimson rings through their eyes.

Now, Wren, I thought you enjoyed flying,” Vil says.

I don’t–do–done—” Wren stares into Vil’s eyes, and their pupils shrink until Vil’s colors mirror in their eyes. “S-Scared . . .”

You’re not scared, my dear,” Vil says. “You’re perfectly safe with me. I have a tight grip on you.” Vil grunts as something snags their tail down below.

Jb whipped the end of her tail at Vil and grabbed on. She pulls Vil down and slithers up around Vil’s tail. Vil, still staring into Wren’s eyes, pulls Jb’s tail, yanking her up. Jb grunts at the tug of war—Vil is stronger than she expected, even in a snake form. She doesn’t expect her hypnotic scales to work, either.

Indeed, Vil can feel the hypnotic waves from the touch of Jb’s tail, but they ignore it and continue with Wren. Vil has been around long enough to separate their mind from an outside influence.

Vil shouts as a heavy mass grabs their body and weighs them to the ground, too heavy for even their vampire strength to lift as Jb piles her massive body up over Vil. The force straightens their coils and Wren slides out of their grip and plummets to the ground.

Oh no! Wren!”

Vil dives after Wren, their tail too trapped under Jb’s bulk to grab them, but Wren hits the ground first—in Jb’s coils, as she curls a cocoon for Wren to land in, squeezes them tight with her tail and arms, and kisses them on the lips with enough force to suck a lemon dry.

Vil flaps their wings to stall their dive, and they curl around Wren and Jb. When Jb ends the kiss, Wren smiles wide, hearts pulsating through their eyes.

Too late, Garrido,” Jb says. She whips a finger at Vil. “I win.”

So you do.” Vil nods. “I’m merely glad you caught Wren in time. We play a dangerous game with them around here.” Jb grins.

I’m always playing a dangerous game.” She brushes her hair aside. “I much prefer their demise to come at my hands, of course, to stall my own demise.”

Indeed, I imagine you do.” Vil slithers off them and back to their discarded clothes, which Hilja is gathering in her arms.

A sordid affair. I can’t judge you, following my past actions, and how your survival necessitates them.” Jb frowns watches them slither away. Vil looks back and nod. “Neither of us had a chance to ever know what we were getting into.” Jb narrows her eyes.

What are you getting at?”

Maybe you don’t feel remorse yet,” Vil says. “If you ever reach that point, Ms. Blovulena, you can speak with me about it.”

Jb glares at Vil and her tail tightens around Wren, who just groans and smiles wider.

My name is Jb.”

Of course, my apologies, Ms. Jb,” Vil says. They flap up to slither around Hilja’s shoulders. Hilja looks at Jb.

Believe me, it can help,” Hilja says. “Vil has been through a lot. They’ll understand. It can help to open up about your past.”

Jb scoffs and turns to Wren. She squeezes their face in her hands.

I’m going to play with my prize.”

Vil chuckles.

You do that, Ms. Jb. Just don’t stress them too much—don’t treat them as a stress ball.”

Hilja and Vil leave the field, leaving Jb with Wren.

So anyway ummm, oh yeah! The match is over, and Jb moves on! The second vampire has been eliminated from the tournament. How far will Jb make it? Next time we find out who she’ll face next: a spider, or a Pokemon.

Losers Round 2 Match 2

I do hope you’re doing all right after your loss, Vil.”

Oh, I’m quite all right. It was fun to participate, but I’m not much for public appearances these days.”

Veda sits in her VIP booth sipping tea with Vil and Hilja. Veda and Vil’s tails sprawl over the floor, leaving Hilja with the smallest impression in the room.

My only disappointment,” Hilja says, “is that we both lost to Jb. I’d like to see someone take her down.”

“‘The heart wants what the heart wants, or else it does not care.’ Emily Dickinson wrote that,” Vil says. “She was a fine woman, but her end was quite sad.”

Most ends are,” Veda says. “The ones that aren’t often overlook the death. Yet if anything can be said for Jb, the ends she produces are done in ecstasy.”

That’s horrible,” Hilja says.

Yes”—Veda gives a small smile—“but sometimes the ghosts may argue with you.”

Jb wants what she wants,” Vil says, “or else she would not care. She doesn’t merely want another to lose—I believe she wants to win. And she’s one heart who has the power to make other hearts want what she wants.”

Hilja looks from the field below to Veda.

So you’ve been up here throughout the tournament watching?” Hilja asks.

Indeed, invited personally by the host to watch over the event,” Veda says.

Why is the booth across from this one sealed up?” Hilja asks.

I believe it is so no one can enter it,” Veda says. “I believe the host considers the entity in there to be dangerous, and they have other ways of entering.”

There’s a lot I’d rather be done different around here,” Hilja says. She sighs. “Like Wren. I don’t think they should have to put up with all this.”

I considered offering my accountant,” Veda says. She smiles. “She enjoys a good squeeze, as it turns out. She’s much too busy, I’m afraid.”

Sometimes doing something you don’t want can be good for you,” Vil says. “Wren has the opportunity to meet some nice people, like Lila.”

I don’t think Wren sees it that way,” Hilja says.

Perhaps they will by the end.”

I’d at least rather see someone who wants to be hypnotized deal with the likes of Jb and Ms. Koizumi. The selfish twin, the one who calls herself a queen.”

That wouldn’t be equal,” Vil says. “Each contender should have a chance with the same person so there isn’t potential for bias in the exhibitions.”

I guess that’s true.”

It would be nice for the challenge matches to have someone else, though,” Vil says. “Someone who would enjoy being fought over by two hypnotists.” Veda chuckles.

I’ve met many in my time who would enjoy that. Sadly, I believe the host had limited options.”

So how do you think Maestra will fare in her upcoming match?” Vil asks.

I think she has a chance,” Veda says. She sips her tea. “Still, the Dragovoir has the market on coils, eyes, and Gardevoir. It’s a tough match.”

I still can’t believe it—she’s a real thing in this tournament,” Hilja says. “I grew up playing a video game with her—sort of in it.”

It is a little disconcerting at times,” Veda says. “Now, there is one matter I wished to discuss with you two. Now that you’re both out of the tournament, extra eyes to keep watch on Dr. Emma Fara’s activities would be helpful.”

She’s kind of hard to find,” Hilja says. “She was part of that interview I was in earlier, but she disappeared after.”

Tell me,” Veda says, “what was your judgment of her then? Did she seem likely to plan an attack on the tournament?”

I thought she was over it at first,” Hilja says. “But she seemed serious about attacking Persnakety and Revasa. And her laughter—” Hilja shakes her head. “I think she’s still planning something.”

We’re prepared to follow her when she next emerges from her pocket universe,” Veda says. “It will be harder to track her during Revasa’s match, however, the very one we believe she may make a move.”

We’ll do what we can to keep an eye out for her,” Vil says. “As more eliminations take place, perhaps you’ll have more people to keep an eye out.”

That depends on who is eliminated,” Veda says. “I can’t say I trust more than half the contenders.”

I can’t say I blame you,” Hilja says.

Now, now.” Vil beams. “Trust is an important part of a smooth tournament.”

I’m not sure I’d call this smooth,” Hilja says.

Out on the field, Enna slithers to Belle’s interview tent.

Hey, Belle!” Enna says.

Hi, Enna.” Belle waves to her. “Thanks for coming over.”

No problem, Dragovoir can take care of herself until her exhibition.” Enna sits on a chair across from Belle.

How has training been going for her?” Belle asks.

It’s going well, we don’t have any new tricks so she’s just been practicing the last new one.”

Draining Kiss, right?”

That’s right.” Enna nods. “She can probably use all her tools in this match, but I’m strongly suggesting she try and remember her Twister attack if she has to go up against Jb. She might want to keep her distance there.” Belle rubs her chin.

Huh, I wonder if all of Jb’s tricks work on her,” she says. “She’s a Pokemon, after all.” Enna shrugs.

Who knows! Better safe than sorry.”

For this match,” Belle says, “are you rooting for either contender in particular? You’re training Dragovoir, but I know you’re friends with Maestra, too.” Enna exhales.

Hoo, tough call,” Enna says. “I’d like to see Maestra advance, I think she deserves it, but Dragovoir has been working hard.” She grins. “I think I have to go with Dragovoir, if only because if she loses it’ll reflect poorly on me.”

Taught her everything she knows, sort of thing?” Belle says. Enna shakes a hand.

Nah, just one thing. If she wins it’ll be on her own merits.”

Do you think she’ll win?” Belle asks.

She’ll win,” Enna says. She lifts her fists. “With my training and her prowess she can make it all the way to the finals! She’s gonna be a contender!”

She already is,” Belle says. Enna spreads out her palms.

See, it’s like I said!”

Well, I wish her luck in her exhibition today,” Belle says. She turns to the camera. “Maestra’s exhibition is coming up now, so let’s go to the field.”

Out on the field, Wren creeps through a dark forest, peering around every tree for a waiting snake. If at all possible they would much prefer to at least see their assailant before the assailing begins.

They scream and hide back behind the tree when they see an unattended tea set spread out on a flat stone. They look back at it and groan. The spider again.

I am not going to drink that tea again!” Wren shouts. “You hear me, wherever you are? Nothing you say will make me—”

Wren feels strands of silk fall over them. They look up, and the silk pulls together, trapping them in a net. Wren shouts as the net lifts up the tree, and Maestra lowers herself on a string of silk from her abdomen.

Maestra offers you some tea. Art by Haredaze

Why, hello, little Wren,” Maestra says. “Were you going to join me for tea?”

I was not going to join you for tea,” Wren hisses. “I am very specifically not going to drink any of your tea.”

Aw, that’s too bad, deary,” Maestra says. “It’s a wonderful blend today.” She holds Wren’s chin in a sharp hand. Wren struggles away, but they tangle further into the net until their limbs get stuck. “Makes you feel nice and cozy, soft and relaxed, help take some of that stress off you.”

I’m not stressed!” Wren shouts, flailing and spinning in the net until they tangle themself up into a cocoon.

No dear, of course not,” Maestra says. She pats Wren’s head. “It’s still a good idea to take a rest every now and then, so let Mommy tuck you in.”

She smooths the cocoon with two hands and covers any holes, pulling Wren’s limbs tight against their body. Wren struggles until their arms feel like useless weights. With her other hands Maestra pets Wren on the chin and head, combing her sharp fingers through Wren’s hair. Wren wiggles their head, but Maestra keeps her hands on them.

Now dear, if you don’t settle down I’ll have to wrap up your pretty little head, too.”

Wren grumbles at her.

There we go, a cozy little bed.” Maestra kisses Wren on the forehead. Wren leans away, but Maestra holds them in her arms. “Now little Wren, how would you like Mommy to give you your nighty-night medicine? You can either take a little drink, or I can just give you a harmless little injection.”

No!” Wren shouts. They turn their head halfway away, as much as they can in the cocoon. “Let me go!” Maestra hugs them tight against her body.

Aw, you’re so cranky,” she says. “A little dosage will help with that, deary.” She lowers herself to whisper in Wren’s ear, “You’ll just drift off to a soft, peaceful slumber.” She bites Wren on the neck.

Wren shouts and twitches from the sharp sting. By the time Maestra kisses the spot the pain dulls, and by the time she kisses their forehead much of their head dulls. Wren moans as bubbles pop in their vision and the world spins.

There, that wasn’t so bad,” Maestra says. “Let’s make sure you’re cozy and tucked in tight.”

She spins more webbing and wraps it around Wren’s chin, webbing them past their mouth just below their nose. All the while a warm fuzz melts through Wren’s body. Their thoughts slow down and float aimlessly as their body relaxes. Their mind sinks into goo. Maestra chuckles and pets Wren’s head.

We don’t want the bright light to disturb your rest, do we?” She shakes her head. Wren’s unfocused eyes follow her for a moment. Their darkened gaze fills with twisting shapes and warping colors, their senses scrambled as Maestra’s venom numbs their thoughts.

Maestra spins more silk and twists it around Wren’s face, covering their eyes in a band of silk to block the light and plunge their thoughts deeper into sleeping darkness. She wraps the web further up, covering Wren to the top of their head, and she pulls it behind Wren down to stick the webbing against the lower side of the cocoon, covering Wren in sticky webbing everywhere except their nose to breathe.

That’s a perfect little bed to nap in, isn’t it, Wren?” Maestra says. She kisses Wren on the nose. “Have a good, deep sleep, my dear, and I’ll see you again soon.”

Wren gasps as the covering over their mouth is torn away. They clench their eyes as the covering over the face is torn away.

I think if we pull on this part it should unravel.”

Wren shouts as the webbing tightens.

No, okay, maybe if we push it.”

Wren shouts as the webbing tightens.

Gaddfern it, I don’t know.”

Try hugging them.”


You got that big spike on your chest, right? Say, isn’t that like another Pokemon–”

Okay, I’ll try that.”

Wren feels a poke at their back and a tingle down their body as the cocoon opens up behind them. They fall out and onto a thick, blue, cool tail.

Hello, little birdie,” Dragovoir says.

Wren rolls their eyes.

Oh, great. I don’t know, I guess dealing with a giant spider makes you not seem so bad.”

That’s the spirit, Wren,” Enna says. “All right, I’ll leave you two crazy kids alone.”

Wren glares at Enna.

Oh, little birdie, we’re going to have lots of fun!” Dragovoir says. She twirls her tail around Wren and Wraps them in a few loops, binding their arms down. Wren looks down.

Can we not and say we did?”

Dragovoir giggles. She holds Wren’s face in her hands and stares into their eyes as blue rings pulsate through her own. Wren stares back, gaze caught by Dragovoir’s eyes.

I think by the time we’re done you won’t remember what we did anyway,” Dragovoir says.

Wren clenches their eyes shut and turns away.

No way! I’m not going to let you hypnotize me this time.”

Oh, little birdie,” Dragovoir says. Wren groans as Dragovoir Wraps her tail further up Wren’s body and squeezes their shoulders. “You say that like you have a choice.”

She leans close and kisses Wren’s lips. Wren groans as they feel a dizzying loss of energy, Dragovoir’s Draining Kiss absorbing their will. Wren pulls their head away, but Dragovoir stays locked to their lips until Wren’s head lolls. When she breaks contact Wren gasps, vision woozy. Their vision refocuses only in time for them to stare back into Dragovoir’s hypnotic eyes.

That must have sapped a lot of energy from you,” Dragovoir says. “You need to sleep to restore that energy.”

Sleep,” Wren mutters. Dragovoir’s rings mirror through their eyes, each ring filling their eye more with darkness until their eyes mirror Dragovoir’s Hypnosis.

Yesss,” Dragovoir says as she presses her forehead against Wren’s, “go to sleep, little Birdie.” She Wraps her tail tighter around Wren and coils around their legs, and she Wraps around Wren’s neck to hold their head in place. “Drift into a deep slumber and have sweet, hypnotic dreams.”

Dreams,” Wren mumbles. Dragovoir slides the end of her tail in front of Wren and spins the crystal orbs on the end. She catches Wren’s gaze with them and twirls Wren’s head in a circle as she slips behind Wren.

Just let all those worries drift away,” Dragovoir says. “No thoughts, no concerns, just blissful slumber and sweet, tasty dreams.”

Wren’s eyelids droop as they follow the sway of Dragovoir’s tail. Back and forth, round and round, Wren’s head and eyes growing heavier with each rotation.

Dragovoir taps Wren’s forehead with her tail as she whispers into their ear, “Sleeeeep.”

Wren sighs and a smile spreads over their face as their eyes settle shut. They sink into Dragovoir’s coils and fall into a deep slumber, dreaming of hypnotic cuddles.

Ooh, these dreams are delicious,” Dragovoir says as she uses Dream Eater. “Even sweeter than last time. Dreams of Vil have such a dark flavor, and dreams of Anne have a rich flavor.” She laughs. “Oh, you act like you don’t like it while awake, Wren, but even you can’t deny these dreams haven’t a hint of bitterness to them.” She pets Wren’s head. “They’re as sweet as you are. Ooh, I can taste that spicy curry from the Mira dream. Balance it out with something sweet, dream about Hilja. Ooh, this is fluffy, light and sweet in the sky . . .”

Okay, well, while Dragovoir enjoys her dream buffet—not the Kirby game—let’s get to voting! It’s the mommy spider Maestra vs. the Dream World Dragovoir. Who will you vote for?

Losers Round 2 Match 2 Results

Welcome back,” Belle says, “I’m here today with Enna and Wren to talk about today’s match.” She turns to Enna, who sits near and leans toward Wren. “Enna, yesterday you said you’ve been practicing Dragovoir’s newest move, Draining Kiss, is that right?”

Yep,” Enna says. “I think she’s got it down pretty good, although I’m not sure how useful it’ll be today.”

I wanted to ask—who has Dragovoir been practicing on?” Belle asks. Enna laughs.

Oh, some traveler we picked up between matches.” She shrugs. “No idea who they are, but they were just hanging around the stadium as if they came here for a purpose. Tall, of two minds about everything, got a bunch of farming tools with them.”

Huh, I hadn’t seen them,” Belle says. Enna grins.

That’s because we’ve been busy with them.”

What’s their name?”

They’ve used two names,” Enna says, “Duval and Debora. Not sure why.”

Interesting,” Belle says. She makes a note and turns to Wren, who crosses her arms and leans away from Enna. “So Wren, do you have a pick for who you’d rather win? Which one you’d rather deal with again next round?” Wren groans.

One is terrifying, and the other is embarrassing.”

And it’s impossible to say which is which!” Enna says with a big grin. Wren scowls at her.

A big spider is worse than a big snake,” Wren says. “But Dragovoir is a Pokemon. I’m supposed to catch them, not the other way around!”

Aw, come on, Maestra’s real nice,” Enna says. “She won’t hurt you.” Wren looks away.

Doesn’t mean she isn’t terrifying.” They sigh. “That stuff she had for me to snack on in the previous round was tasty, though.”

Anyone who offers you food doesn’t seem so bad, huh?” Belle says.

At least they offer me something,” Wren says.

Speaking of,” Enna says, “you look super cute today in the outfit I designed for you.” Wren blushes.

Thanks,” they mumble.

Maestra and Dragovoir will be careful, they won’t tear it,” Enna says.

Well, we’ll find out soon,” Belle says. “I’m getting word that the match is about to start. You better get out there, Wren.”

Guess I’ll get this over with,” Wren says. They stand up and trudge to the field. Enna looks at Belle.

It’s been several rounds and they’re still grumpy about it all, huh?”

I guess they feel like an object in all this,” Belle says.

They’re in a place of honor,” Enna says. “I get that, though. They’re just here to fill a role anyone could.” She lifts a finger to the announcer booth. “Hey, maybe the tournament could have a twist ending where disaster strikes and Wren is the one to save us all!”

That sounds contrived,” Belle says.


As Wren walks out to the field, Maestra and Dragovoir approach each other and shake hands.

I’ve seen my share of spiders where I’m from,” Dragovoir says, “though none of them were as polite as I’ve seen you be.” Maestra laughs.

I believe I have a daughter rather like you. I’d be honored to have you over for tea after the match.”

Ooh, that’d be nice,” Dragovoir says. “I accept!”

Wren approaches the ladies and looks at them.

Well, let’s get this started, I guess,” they say. Maestra smiles.

That sounds fine to me.”

She shoves Dragovoir into a tree and sprays webbing from her abdomen over her before she can move, sticking her to the tree.

Hey! What?” Dragovoir shouts. “What about tea?”

That’s later,” Maestra says. She spins more silk around Dragovoir to trap her against the tree. “Before that, I’m afraid we’re opponents.”

Dragovoir slithers her tail at Maestra, but Maestra steps aside and wraps more silk around it. She shoves Dragovoir’s tail next to her and binds her body and tail against the tree.

Wren clears their throat.

I’m just—gonna run, okay?”

That’s fine, dear,” Maestra says. Wren runs as she binds Dragovoir in the webbing. Dragovoir struggles in the silk but remains trapped.

This isn’t fair!” Dragovoir yells.

I don’t see why, many of our fellow contenders have used their tricks against each other,” Maestra says. Dragovoir glares at her as she smiles pats her on the head. “Just hang tight, and I’ll be back to release you after I take Wren and we can take that tea.”

Dragovoir growls as Maestra leaves. She shakes in the tight webbing, unable to break a strand. She sighs. She shouldn’t have forgotten her move Twister after all.

The spike on her chest breaks through the webbing. She stares at it and smiles.

Further down the field Wren runs through the forest, focused on escaping. They’re not exactly sure how they would escape, or what would happen if they succeeded, but they’d figure that out later.

They scream as Maestra swings down on a silk string from her abdomen from a tree above and grabs Wren in her arms. She swings to a branch above and sprays more webbing to grip the tree with her feet better.

Oh, wow,” Wren says. They look from Maestra to the tree to the ground below. “You’re really agile for someone so big.” Maestra laughs.

I always had to keep up with my kids,” she says. “I don’t let age slow me down.” She pulls Wren closer. “Now, sorry, deary, but I must bite you now.”

Oh, right.” Wren forgot they should be afraid. They scream and push away as Maestra pulls them close to bite them. Wren frowns and shrugs. “Oh well, it’s not like I haven’t been bitten before, and probably will be again.”

Wren falls away from Maestra as Dragovoir collides into them. Wren and Maestra gasp, and Maestra stumbles back. Before she can react Dragovoir Wraps her tail around Maestra and pins her arms and legs down, and she catches Wren in her arms. Maestra smiles.

Turning the tables on me, I see.”

Wait, fig,” Wren says. They don’t want Dragovoir anymore than they want Maestra.

They try to push out of Dragovoir’s arms, but she hits Wren’s lips with a Draining Kiss. Wren’s eyes spin as they feel their energy drain, and they fall limp in Dragovoir’s arms as she stares into their eyes with rippling blue rings from Hypnosis.

Go to sleep, Wren,” Dragovoir says. “Drift away to sleep.”

No, I–” Dragovoir shushes Wren and places a hand on their lips.

Sleep,” she whispers.

Sleep,” Wren mumbles. Darkness swirls around their vision as their eyelids droop. The world spins, and Wren spins, spins down under Dragovoir’s spell.

Dragovoir laughs and pets Wren’s head as their eyes shut and they drift to sleep, a smile forming on their lips.

Dragovoir wins!” I announce.

Dragovoir hugs Wren.

You much rather being hypnotized by a pretty dragon like me than a big, scary spider, don’t you, Wren?”

Congratulations,” Maestra says.

Thank you.” Dragovoir releases her from her tail and Wraps around Wren.

Are you still for tea?” Maestra asks.

Nah,” Dragovoir says. She touches her head to Wren’s for a Dream Eater. “I’ve got all the tea I need right here.” She looks at Maestra. “Ooh, they’re dreaming about you. It’s a surprisingly sweet, warm one.”

I’m surprisingly sweet and warm,” Maestra says. She sticks silk to a branch above and lowers herself to the ground. “Good luck in your next match, Dragovoir. I expect it will be a tough one.”

Oh. Yeah.” Dragovoir frowns. “Thanks.”

She continues to taste Wren’s dreams. Their dreams of Jb have a strong spice, with an overflowing sweetness that pulled one in. Yet beyond those flavors they had an intoxicating feel, as if dreams of Jb were as hypnotic as the real thing.

Dragovoir did worry about her next match.

Losers Round 2 Match 3

“Welcome back to the tournament!” Belle says. “We’re halfway through losers round two, and today’s match is between the snakes Revasa and Persnakety. I’m joined by Ms. Mira and Ms. Alya Slacen, who will be competing against each other later on in winners round three. Thank you for joining me today.”

“Sure thing, Belle!” Alya winks at her. Belle gives a chuckle and clears her throat.

“And you too, Mira.”

“Of course.” Mira nods to her. Both tails are sprawled throughout the interview area, although Mira’s makes neater loops. The ends of both their tails sit on the table, and Belle had to tell them to stop before their weight crushed the table.

“You two haven’t met yet, have you?” Belle asks. Alya grins to Mira.

“No, but I’ve heard much about you. The stoic, crafty hunter who shoves her arrow in Wren’s face!” Alya laughs. “I look forward to meeting you on the battlefield, so to speak.”

“And I, you,” Mira says. Her expression remains flat. “Though I hope you don’t expect to gain an edge using any of your friend’s inventions.” Alya shrugs.

“Nah, I don’t think Dr. Fara will let me.”

“On that note,” Belle says, “do you think she’ll follow up on her promise and try to attack the snakes she lost her matches to?” Alya smiles.

“I think she’d filet me if I tried to guess at her plans and tell people.”

“Okay, I’ll consider that a non-answer,” Belle says. She turns to Mira. “You’ve said before Persnakety is nice, but annoying, yes?”

That’s the gist of it,” Mira says. “Annoying may be too harsh. He just lacks chill, and has a specific idea of how the world should work. It never does, even if he insists on it.”

What about Revasa?” Belle asks. “Persnakety said there were stories of her, of how she’s a demon now. Have you met her? Do you know those stories?”

I’ve heard them here and there,” Mira says. “I think some of them are older myths that got attached to her after she returned to the jungle. I’m sure she’s got a lot of power, but like any snake, she’s not intentionally malicious.”

What about her past?” Belle asks. “She supposedly hates humans for something from her past.” Mira shrugs.

Well, hating humans doesn’t make one intentionally malicious. No offense to your species.”

No, that’s fair,” Belle says. “It might not be malice, but it sounds like she is dangerous.”

Nah, she’s a big softy,” Alya says.

Well, you hypnotized her in your match,” Belle says.

That is a technique I would like to learn,” Mira says.

Ooh, I could teach you,” Alya says. “If you win, I teach you my snake charming skills, and if I win, you teach me how to cook.”

That sounds like a deal,” Mira says.

You said before you don’t make predictions, Mira,” Belle says. “I’d still like to ask, just in case, if you have one for this match.”

I do not.”

Revasa’s gonna win.” Alya grins. “She’s gonna try to eat up cute little Wren.”

Yes, you did give that opinion at the Losers Intermission interview,” Belle says. “You said Persnakety’s only advantage is being nice, right?”

Yeah, some people respond to that,” Alya says. “I think Revasa’s dominant personality will win out, though.”

How do you think they’ll each approach the challenge match?” Belle asks. “How do two snakes fight it out?”

I figure Revasa will try to just intimidate Persnakety away,” Alya says.

I would hope Persnakety wouldn’t give up so easily,” Mira says.

I don’t think he will,” Alya says. “Hex, he fought Dr. Fara.” She squeezes her face. “I’m too cute to be intimidating, but Dr. Fara could intimidate anybody.”

Except,” Belle says, “as we saw, Revasa.”

Oh yeah,” Alya says. “She was a beast then. I’m surprised Top was able to break that fight up.

Top pops up from under the table.

“I haven’t appeared in several matches! I wanna eat something!”

Top, that’s the same exact joke we made last time you showed up.

“Go stir a beehive so I can eat it!”

“Anyway,” Belle says, shooing Top away, “I’m getting word that the first exhibition is about to begin, so let’s go to the field! It’s a jungle today!”

“I wonder if Wren took any of my advice to heart,” Mira says. Alya crosses her arms.

“The host keeps having other contenders erase all the advice I imprint on Wren.”

Today the field is covered in dense foliage and tall trees. Wren steps around the plants, glancing to the trees above. Snakes today.

Why does it always have to be snakes?

Wren stops. They tried to put Mira’s advice to use and avoid making too much noise, but snakes hear through vibration. If Revasa is around, she can hear every step Wren makes. They look into the trees. Maybe they should travel higher. Swing across vines, like how Maestra swung with her silk last match? What if they grabbed a vine and it was Revasa’s tail instead!

No, best to stay on the ground. They just need to move faster. Forget the sneaking—just run.

Wren leaps to start running, but their legs snag on something and they crash into the foliage below.

“Ow . . .” Wren kicks their legs to push whatever snagged them off but finds their legs stuck as something wraps around them. Wren looks up and sees Revasa.

“Hello again, little morsssel,” Revasa says. Wren stares at her eyes, which pulsate in her cold white, blue, and black rings. Wren stares, mouth open, as Revasa sways before them and pulls their gaze closer. “Jussst ssstare into my eyesss, and it will all be over quickly.”

“No,” Wren mumbles. “No!” Before their vision grows too blurry Wren shoves Revasa away. They shake their head and shove against Revasa’s coils around their legs. The snake’s grip is too tight to budge, but Wren shoves again and pops their legs out of Revasa’s grip. When they realize this also popped their legs out of their pants Wren squeaks. They clamber onto their feet and run away squealing.

Their steps slow down until they stop frozen. Their steps move backwards, and they drop back down to their stomach. Revasa’s coils, along with Wren’s pants, slip back over them, and Wren turns back to stare at Revasa’s eyes. They feel a buzz that drains away, but leaves a residue over their thoughts, until they look away from Revasa, rise back to a standing position, and look at the jungle around them.

Wren stops. They tried to put Mira’s advice to use and avoid making too much noise, but snakes hear through vibration. If Revasa is around, she can hear every step Wren makes. They look into the trees. Maybe they should travel higher. Swing across vines, like how Maestra swung with her silk last match? What if they grabbed a vine and it was Revasa’s tail instead!

Wren glances to the ground. A feeling springs from somewhere that the ground is dangerous. They run to the trees, but their legs snag on something and they crash into the foliage below.

“Ow . . .” Wren kicks their legs to push whatever snagged them off but finds their legs stuck as something wraps around them. They look up at a slithering body before them and squeal as something wraps around their chest and pins their arms down.

“Hello again, little morsssel,” Revasa says. She drops in front of Wren from above, her eyes filled with cold white, blue, and black ripples. Wren stares, mouth open, and their vision grows blurry, sight focused on Revasa. “Jussst ssstare into my eyesss, and it will all be over quickly.”

“Nuh,” Wren mumbles. Their voice falters as Revasa’s hypnotic colors swarm their sight, obscuring the world around them.

“Now up, little morsssel.” Revasa raises her head, bringing her eyes right next to Wren’s, and pulls Wren’s gaze up, dragging their head up. Wren cranes their neck as high as they can to stare at Revasa, mouth gaping wide, eyes full of Revasa’s spinning colors.

Lost in the sea of Revasa’s hypnotic spell, Wren’s mind grows quiet and dark. The world fades from view as Wren’s mind is submerged in Revasa’s hypnotic power. Revasa hisses a laugh and lifts Wren higher with her body around them, her tail end wrapped around their legs and her upper body around their chest.

“Ssstand in place, little morsssel,” Revasa says. She places Wren on their feet and squeezes tight, Wren’s slumping body held up by her coils. She presses her head against Wren’s, filling their vision with her eyes, as she slithers a thick portion of her tail into a loop around Wren’s neck.

“Now go to sssleep,” Revasa says. “Sssleep, and the ressst will be ssso easy.” She squeezes Wren’s neck in her thick body and they gulp as she slithers her coils in a tighter, encompassing grip. “Sssleep, and I’ll have myssself a little sssnack.” She smiles wide as she squeezes Wren’s neck and the rest of their body, forcing Wren into another gulp as she squeezes their eyes open. Wren sighs as a grin as wide as Revasa’s spreads over their face, mind lost in her control.

As Revasa ceases her hypnotic eyes Wren’s eyes drift shut, their sleepy, peaceful smile belying the danger wrapped around their body.

“Now to finally ssswallow you pathetic little human,” Revasa says, “and I can leave thisss ssstupid tournament happy.”

She opens her mouth wide over Wren, saliva dripping to the unaware human. With a fluid strike she drops her mouth over Wren and hits something wider and altogether too rubbery. She shakes her head and grunts, muffled from the object stuck in her mouth. She spits it out to the ground.

“Hah!” Top says. “Thought you could get away with it this time, didn’t you?”

“You again?” Revasa shouts. “I am going to eat this human, even if I have to go through you firssst!” She strikes at Top with intent to pop the ball in her mouth. Top bounces around her, leading her away from Wren.

As Revasa’s tail slides off Wren, they wobble in their standing position, but a red tail lowers from above and wraps under Wren’s arms. With a firm grip the snake shakes Revasa’s tail off Wren and lifts them into a tree. Persnakety looks at Revasa’s tail pile below.

Art by Mallous Callous! (NSFW)

“I really hope she doesn’t notice us up here,” Persnakety says. He looks at Wren and sighs. “Nothing for that, I sssuppose. I’ll just try to wake you up, Wren.”

He holds Wren up with his tail and holds Wren’s smile-locked face with the end of his tail to look at him.

“Just look into my eyes, Wren,” Persnakety says. He releases soft violet rings through his eyes. “Give me your full attention, please.”

Wren’s mind swirled in an inky sea of cold color that stuck to their mind and numbed their thoughts. With their mind blank, the hypnotic colors brushed their senses with relaxing, numbing pleasure, forcing their face into a wide grin.

A light shines above the hypnotic sea, a warm, lavender light, drawing the attention of Wren’s mind. The light dissolves the sea away and lifts Wren’s mind closer. As the sea of Revasa’s hypnotic power recedes the hypnotic ripples that fill Wren’s vision break, the cold white, blue, black shattered by new light. For a moment Wren sees the jungle again, but it blurs away as Persnakety’s warm colors fill Wren’s vision, and they stare into Persnakety’s eyes.

“Shake off the previous spell, Wren,” Persnakety says. “Let my eyes fill your vision, fill your mind; let me hold your mind in my grasp.”

As Persnakety’s colors fill Wren’s eyes their mouth falls open as bliss is replaced by focus, their smile dropping to a dazed gaze. No other thought but to stare into Persnakety’s eyes enters their mind, and they slump in Persnakety’s hold, no thought to stand straight and proper.

At least until Persnakety said so.

“Oh, now, Wren, you really should stand straight,” the snake says. Wren stands up straight. “And don’t leave your mouth hanging out, do you know how many bugs could fly in there?” Wren shuts their mouth.

Persnakety’s words pass into Wren’s mind and enter as if their own thoughts, no thoughts of their own to fill the void, and they follow Persnakety’s commands.

“Now then, Wren,” Persnakety says, “it’s time for you to wake up.” He taps them on the forehead with his tail as he ceases his hypnotic power. “Shake off the hypnosis and take back control of your mind.”

Wren blinks as Persnakety ends his hypnosis. They groan and rub their head as their thoughts rush back into their head as if filling a vacuum.

“What happened?” Wren asks. They stretch their neck, stiff from staring up. They flinch upon noticing the snake. “Oh, Persnakety, it’s you.”

“Are you feeling all right, Wren?” Persnakety asks.

“I dunno,” Wren says. “Did you do something?”

“I woke you up,” Persnakety says. “You’d fallen under Revasa’s spell.

Wren’s body chills upon realizing Revasa’d had them again. They shiver.

“I know,” Persnakety says, “it’s scary stuff.”

“She’s tried to eat me!” Wren says. “I don’t wanna be eaten!”

“I know, I know,” Persnakety says. “It’s so rude, isn’t it?”

“What’sss rude isss to cut and run on dinner!”

Wren turns and screams as Revasa slithers up the tree after them.

“Oh dear!” Persnakety shouts. He slithers away as Revasa strikes her jaws and her tail at both him and Wren. Top jumps in Revasa’s way and blocks her.

“No fighting today!” Top shouts. “You can fight him in the challenge match tomorrow!”

Revasa glares at everyone.

“Fine.” She looks at Wren. “Tomorrow I’ll eat that little twerp.” She looks at Persnakety. “And I’ll put you in your place, you pathetic little shrimp.” She slithers away. “Talk about rude to eat sssomeone, it’sss rude to sssteal sssomeone’sss lunch . . .”

Persnakety scrunches their body over their head.

“Oh dear. I really didn’t want to face her. I don’t know if I can do it. What if she ages me passst death? What if she turnsss me inssside-out? Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear.”

“I don’t want to do it either!” Wren says. “I’m the one she wants to swallow.”

Persnakety gulps.

“You’re right. I can’t let you face her alone.” He looks at Top. “I’ll be there. Will you be around in cassse thingsss go sssouth?” Top salutes with their stubby arm.

“I got a special request tomorrow! I’ll be nearby for the whole match in case of disaster!”

Persnakety sighs in relief.

“That doesn’t really make me feel better,” Wren says.

“Don’t worry.” Top grins. “It’s not to make you feel better.” They hop out of the tree. Wren and Persnakety look at each other.

“Well, regardless,” Persnakety says, “I’ll guard you, as bessst I can. Remember, the match ends when someone hypnotizes you, ssso I’ll try to do it quickly. Even if that didn’t work against Msss. Ssslacen last time, although she had tricksss Revasssa won’t.”

Wren gives Persnakety a shaky smile.

“I guess I don’t have much of a choice. I’m not sure how long that beach ball can hold her off.”

This match is a heated one! Will Persnakety hold off Revasa, or will she get her meal? Who would you want to meet in the jungle? Will you vote Revasa or Persnakety to advance to the next round, and which will be eliminated? Time to vote!

Losers Round 2 Match 3 Results

“Welcome back to the tournament!” Belle says. “With me today is one of the contenders, Persnakety, as well as Mira.” Across the table Persnakety sits curled on a chair, while Mira’s tail streams over the floor.

“Thank you for having me,” Persnakety says. He looks down.

“You don’t sound too excited,” Belle says.

“It’sss hard to be excited after filling out your lassst will and tessstament,” Persnakety says.

“Your what?”

“I don’t expect to make it out of thisss match”—Persnakety gulps—“alive.”

“Surely Revasa won’t be that dangerous,” Belle says.

Mira plants her hands on the table.

“Listen, Persnakety,” she says, “you’ve got to raise your confidence.” She raises a fist. “Hold your head high and say, ‘I can do this!’”

Persnakety raises his snout, but his head lolls backwards.

“Can I do this?” he says.

“Wrong order,” Mira says. “Lift your head higher! You’re always talking about others’ posture, straighten your own!” Persnakety glances at Mira.

“This technically isn’t proper snake posture.” His eyes widen at Mira’s glare and he raises his head high. “I can do this, I can do this!”

“That’s better,” Mira says. “Give me a hiss.”


“A real hiss!” Mira says. She hisses loudly. Persnakety follows suit. “Louder!” Persnakety opens his mouth wide and hisses. “There you go! You’re a snake, just as Revasa. You study psychology and all that stuff, you’re smart enough to figure out a victory plan!”

“You know what?” Persnakety says. He nods. “You’re right. I can do this! I can save Wren from Revasa and save myself!” He straightens his body up high. “I can do this! I can—whoa!” He topples to the side from rising too high. Mira catches him as he falls.

“Careful. You’re supposed to be smart, so don’t do anything stupid.”

“Yes, right,” Persnakety says. He clears his throat. “Of course. Th-Thank you.” Mira smiles.

“No problem. Get out there and show Revasa you’re not afraid.”

“Oh, no, I’m terribly afraid,” Persnakety says. “I just won’t let it dictate my actions.”

“That, too,” Mira says.

Persnakety slithers away out onto the jungle field. Belle looks at Mira.

“Do you think he has a chance?”

I’ve told you I don’t make predictions,” Mira says. Belle stares her deadpan. Mira crosses her arms and looks away. “Fine, he has no chance, I know. But he’ll regret it if he doesn’t try at his best. He needed a confidence boost anyway.”

Well, I hope he finds a chance out there anyway,” Belle says.

Persnakety slithers to a clearing in the jungle field. He looks around—it’s where the match is to start, but he can’t see Revasa around.

I’m going to twissst you around, do you hear me?”

Persnakety shouts and cowers to the ground. He looks up at Revasa hanging from a tree.

Ssso no tailshake and ‘May the bessst sssnake win’?” Persnakety said. Revasa scoffed and slithered to the other side of the clearing.

The snakes stare each other down. Persnakety breaks the stare to look for Wren, but they’re nowhere around.

Ssso where are they?” Revasa asks.

Wren appears in a puff of cloud and falls to the ground between them.

Gaddfern it.” Wren stands up. “I really hoped I could’ve just hid this whole time.” They take a deep breath. “Okay. Fine. Let’s do this.”

Let the match begin!” I announce.

Wren runs for Persnakety. Revasa chases after them, and Persnakety wails.

Oh dear, oh dear.” He glanced about for an idea. A tree—that was his best bet. Get Wren into a tree and hypnotize them before Revasa can catch up. “Wren! Keep running!” He slithers up the tree to situate himself among the branches.

I’m running as fast as I can!” Wren shouts. They look behind them and scream. Revasa is on their heels. “How are you so fast?”

I manipulate time, little morsssel,” Revasa says. “I have more time to crosss dissstances than you!”

Wren cuts to the left hoping to throw Revasa off, but she lunges left at the same time and curls around Wren, pulling them to the ground. Wren flails their arms and pushes against Revasa, but the snake pins Wren’s arms down and wraps around their body.

No! Wren! Resist her!” Persnakety shouts.

What’sss to resissst?” Revasa says. She squeezes around Wren and they scream. “We can do thisss the hard way”—she stares into Wren’s open eyes, her own pulsating with her cold white, blue, black rings—“or the sssoft way.”

Wren stares into Revasa’s eyes, and their struggling slows down. They try to turn away, but Revasa holds their head with her tail, and the world fills with shimmering colors.

I much prefer my mealsss intact,” Revasa says. “I think you’ll enjoy it that way more, too.”

Oh dear,” Persnakety says. He racks his brain for a way to stop Revasa.

It comes to him: triggers.

Wren! Count with me!” Persnakety shouts. He counts from one to five, and Wren counts with him.

What are you doing?” Revasa asks.

When Persnakety reaches five he says, “Wake up!” and Wren blinks out of Revasa’s spell. Wren shouts and struggles in Revasa’s coils with renewed vigor.

Clever, but it won’t help you,” Revasa says. Persnakety lowers his tail from the branches to grab Wren and pulls them away. “I sssuppose we’ll just have to do it the hard way, then!” She grabs Persnakety’s tail in her jaws and pulls. Persnakety screams as she yanks him out of the tree and he crashes to the ground in a pile.

Ouch. Oh dear. Wren!” Persnakety slithers to Wren, but Revasa blocks him.

If I have to take you out to have my dinner,” Revasa says, “then I will!”

She lunges at Persnakety. The red snake dodges to the side, but Revasa curls that way and wraps around Persnakety to pin him to the ground. Persnakety groans as he tries to knock Revasa off him, but she blocks his body.

I can manipulate time, you fool,” she says. “I know exactly what will happen in every circumssstance and can counter it. Nothing is unexpected to me!”

Persnakety whimpers as his attempts to pull Revasa off him are countered. He glances to the ground and stares at a growing, bubbling shadow around them.

Um.” He stops trying to pull her off and points to the ground with his tail. “Does that mean you’re expecting thisss?”

Shadows erupt around them as a cackle fills the stadium. The two snakes are thrown into the air then shoved to the ground by a shadowy hand as tall as a human.

I said I would be here for your skins!” Dr. Emma Fara rises out of the shadows.

“This is not good!” Persnakety shouts. He and Revasa squirm in the shadowy hand but remain pinned.

“You got that right,” Fara says, “it’s downright evil!”

“I’ll swallow you whole if you don’t let me go!” Revasa shouts.

“You won’t swallow anything but my feet,” Fara says. “As boots once I skin you both alive!” A beach ball knocks her back and she skids along the ground. She flips to her feet and glares at Top.

“No! killing! allowed!” Top yells.

“I’m not in this lame tournament anymore,” Fara says. She points a gun at Top. “I can do what I want!” Before she fires the gun four metallic arms grab around and pin her.

“Not here you can’t,” Eduards says. “In this stadium you play by the rules, still in the tournament or not.”

“I didn’t play by the rules even when I was in the tournament!” Fara twists her hands, and the shadowy hand over Persnakety and Revasa disappears. Top bounces up and jumps on Fara’s head.

“Meanie! Meanie! Meanie!” Top shouts. The shadowy hand erupts around them, knocking Top off and shoving Eduards away.

“Oh dear.” Persnakety lifts his head and looks at the fight. “Thisss isss not good. We mussst do sssomething, we mussst—” He notices Revasa is gone. He turns and sees her slithering around Wren, staring back into their eyes. Persnakety glares. “Really! Going after a meal while others are risssking themssselves to save us. You should be ashamed, Revasa!”

Fara stomps the ground and a hole opens under Eduards. Fara sidles away as Eduards falls and fires the gun at Top as they run at her. A shock wave hurls Top high into the air.

“Now to skin those snakes,” Fara says. She pulls out a black knife and swipes the air. Persnakety screams as the space next to them is sliced, and he ducks and weaves in hopes Fara’s space slices don’t hit him.

Top lands on Fara’s head and pummels her with their stubby limbs. She throws Top off her and into Persnakety, who falls back to the ground.

“Ouch. This is somehow worse than I imagined,” Persnakety mumbles. He looks at Fara and gasps as she lines up her knife with Revasa. He whips his tail out to grab her leg and yanks her off her feet. She glares at Persnakety, her inky hair covering her face.

“So you want to be first, do you?” Fara fires her gun at Persnakety and blasts them away.

Meanwhile, Wren has forgotten all about the tournament. They stare into Revasa’s eyes, lost in the rippling colors. Their mind is numb to anything but Revasa, her eyes, her voice, her tight coils like a squeezing blanket.

“It will be ssso much easier,” Revasa says. “You won’t have to worry about that sssilly tournament anymore. Jussst give in to my control, little morsssel.”

With a long sigh drawing out their breath, Wren drops, the world fading, the colors washing pleasure over their mind, and Wren smiles wide.

“Revasa wins!” I announce.

Persnakety crashes into Revasa and knocks her away from Wren.

“I would like to get off this ride,” Persnakety mumbles.

“You jussst did,” Revasa says. She glares at and slithers around Persnakety. “You mussst have a death wish, you worm.”

“Is that any way to thank sssomeone who jussst sssaved your life?” Persnakety asks.


“Excuse me, but I’m still here.” Fara appears next to the snakes and grabs their necks. “I am not going to walk away without my revenge.”

Top slams into Fara’s head. She drops the snakes as she stumbles away. Top bounces off a tree and hits her repeatedly until she warps the space around her to twirl Top away.

“Maybe I’ll make some rubber gloves from you, too!” Fara shouts.

She yells as tentacles wrap around her. Eduards steps up behind her and grasps her in meteallic tentacles from his back. She writhes and creates a boundary of reverse gravity around her that pushes the tentacles off her. Eduards darts several tentacles through the field and jabs Fara. She screams and stumbles away before she falls to the ground, her scream trailing away.

“What did you do to her?” Persnakety asks.

“A sedative,” Eduards says. He picks her up in his arms and scans her body. “She will be out for a little while. I will see to it she is locked away for the remainder of the tournament.”

Persnakety sighs. He looks at Revasa, but she’s already slithered back to Wren.

“Hey!” Persnakety looks from her to Eduards. “We can’t just let her—”

Revasa opens her mouth and lifts Wren in her coils, but Top jumps between them.

“I said no eating the Wren!”

“Then maybe I’ll eat you!” Revasa says.

“I’m rubber, you’re glue, something something Kalamazoo!” Top says.

Revasa glares at them. She turns to steps and slithering behind her to see Persnakety and Eduards. She growls and releases Wren from her coils.

“Fine. I have another chance. I’ll jussst have to make sure none of you get in my way.”

She slithers away, scowling despite her win. Eduards looks at Persnakety.

“Sorry about your loss,” he says. Persnakety shakes his head.

“Oh, it’s all right. As long as Wren is okay. And as long as I’m okay.”

“And as long as we get paid!” Top says.

“Top,” Eduards says, “please accompany me to the prison cells.”

“You mean Wren’s living quarters?” Top asks.


Eduards and Top leave, and Persnakety slithers back to the tournament participant living quarters.

In the walled-off VIP booth, Darmenzi taps their curled fingers on a table.

Dr. Fara finally made a move, and she blew it. Short-sighted. She let her anger guide her actions. She could have brought the tournament down in chaos, but instead she focused on revenge against two snakes.

No matter. Darmenzi grins at the current bracket. They have bigger fish to serve. If their estimation on the rest of the tournament is accurate, they’ll have quite the opportunity for fun at the final round.

They laugh. Curse, blessing—it’s all the same. Take it, you get infected. There’s no fighting it.

There’s only a deal to be made.

Losers Round 2 Match 4

“Status of our friend Dr. Fara?” Veda asks as Eduards enters her VIP booth.

“She remains sedated,” Eduards says. “I’ve scanned her. Despite her connection to void matter her body generally seems human. The sedation should keep her down for the rest of the tournament, and we’ve set up a scanner that will alert us if she warps space to escape.”

“Of course, there is little we can do if she does awake and warps space to escape,” Veda says, “but knowing if she is loose will be useful to know.” She looks out to the field. “If we’re lucky, perhaps we can focus back on the tournament instead of disaster.”

“Welcome back to the tournament!” Belle says. “Today’s match is between Ms. Ageul Vodá and Lady Anne Koizumi. I’m joined by Ms. Mira, who has faced both competitors in this match, and Ms. Enna Koizumi, sister to Lady Koizumi.”

Great to be here, Belle!” Enna says. She sits curled around her seat, while Mira next to her has her tail sprawled throughout the interview area. “What’s up, Mira!”

Hello, Enna,” Mira says. “You’ve been doing quite well in this tournament.”

I have, I met a new friend,” Enna says. “She’s even managed to stay in the tournament after I beat her, too.”

Are you nervous about your next match?” Mira asks. “You’ll be facing one of the favorites to win.” Enna shrugs.

Eh, I figure, when I lose, I lose. No big deal. You’re doing great too, although your last match you won by”—she lifts and scrunches the end of her tail to signify a tiny amount—“just this much.”

Ageul is a strong participant,” Mira says. She nods to Belle. “And I imagine you would like to discuss her and Anne.”

Exactly so,” Belle says. “You’ve said you don’t make predictions, Mira, but having faced both competitors, what strengths and weaknesses would you say they have?”

Ageul’s strength is her weakness,” Mira says. “She flows like the tides. In one match she used her overwhelming presence to submerge those around her. In the next, she played a much calmer, peaceful role as a masseur. She has options to go powerful or peaceful.” She shakes her head. “She doesn’t have much control over when she does, though. If she’s saturated, she can’t choose. And when she’s overwhelming, she can’t control herself.”

She’s like a tidal wave,” Belle says. “The ocean can’t control itself. It goes where it flows.”

Be careful,” Enna says. “That’s almost a pun. That’s Anne’s job.”

Still, regardless of that she has a big strength.” Mira smiles. “All she has to do is collide with someone and she’s halfway to dropping them. I know that firsthand. I’m not sure Anne has the willpower to resist if Ageul gets around her.” Enna leans back.

She might be able to win before Ageul can even get close.”

That’s true,” Mira says. “She’s sneaky. That’s her best strength. She’s small and her hypnosis is weak, but she’s clever enough that she could be a great hunter. Could be. Her weakness isn’t her size or weak hypnosis, but her arrogance.” She glances at Enna, who nods. “I said before she’s like a jester. She fools people, but she fools herself just as much. I won’t be surprised if she thinks she can touch Ageul and resist.”

Wren isn’t supposed to have any triggers left over, right?” Enna says. “So what Anne did in her match against Amaru shouldn’t happen this time. She won’t be able to use a trigger to insta-win.” She smiles. “But much as my sister is full of herself, she’s still clever, and I think she’ll be able to make it past Ageul and win the match. I think she can make it to the semifinals, if not the final round even.”

And you’re not just saying that to show your sister support?” Mira asks. Enna bursts out laughing.

Like I’d do that!” She catches her breath. “No, no, I’m serious, I’m honest about Anne. I knew she couldn’t beat you, but I think she can beat Ageul. Although, given how close your match with Ageul was, she’s facing a tough challenge. Hex, she was what, one vote away from facing Persnakety this round while Revasa faced you?” She laughs again. “Persnakety’s great, but that’s one match I think even you’d agree Anne would win.”

Well, I don’t make predictions,” Mira says.

All bets are off,” Enna says.

It’s time to find out how they’ll approach today’s match,” Belle says. “The exhibitions are starting, so let’s go to the field.”

Today the field is a jungle. In its center sits a big pond full of sparkling waves of water.

The Cloud flies by and drops Wren, who screams as they fall to the pond of water. Moments before impact they stop in the air, turn to their back, and plop into the pond.

Wren shakes their fist at the sky.

I could have done without the life-threatening terror!” They sigh and rub their face. Nothing seems so bad to worry about after worrying about being eaten last match, but they’re sure they’ll have to worry about something.

Wren hears a splash in the pond. They open their eyes and see Ageul floating forward on the water next to them with a smile.

Art by Driplette!

Hi, Wren.”

Drowning!” Wren screams. They scramble through the water to the shore. That’s what they had to worry about in this match—drowning! The pond waves surge and lift Wren up.

No, wait, Wren,” Ageul says, “stop, you’re gonna—I promise I won’t—”

Wren clambers over the wave but sinks into the slimy water. They feel a tingle swell through their body, like eating rich ice cream on a hot day but rolling over their skin and into their head. Wren sinks against the wave a moment after they realize the waving water must be Ageul’s tail. They try to swim away, but their limbs flop in the water, and the jungle spins around them. They try to tell themself if they don’t swim they’ll drown, but as they grow sleepy they forget that danger.

Swim later.

Sleep now.

Wren drifts away.

They twitch and open their eyes. The ground under them is wet, but it is ground under them. They turn and sit up at the shore of the pond, and they shout and stumble away upon seeing Ageul next to them. She lays on the ground propping her slimy head up with her gooey hands and smiling to Wren.

Helloooo,” Ageul says.

What are you doing?” Wren asks. They shuffle away.

Waiting for you to wake back up, silly.” Ageul stretches, her slithering body curled at the edge of the pond, the rest of her tail swirling in the water. “I wanted to ask you a question.”

Wren stares at her, trying to figure out her game.

What question?”

May I wrap you in my tail?”

What? No,” Wren says. “I mean, didn’t you already?”

No, I just lifted you out of the pond to the shore,” Ageul says. “I mean”—she squeezes her thick goo body-tail in her arms and presses it against her face—“I really, really, really want to wrap my tail around you, but I don’t want to do it without your permission. You get pulled around so much without permission I thought I should actually ask, although it’s really hard to not just—” She presses her tail against her face.

Oh,” Wren says. They stand up. “Well.” They scratch their head. “Thank you for asking first.”

So can I wrap you up?” Ageul asks.

I said no.”






It’s not permission if you just ask over and over again until they say yes!” Wren says.

Okay. Sorry.” Ageul frowns and taps her gooey hands together.

Wren sighs and watches Ageul’s face. If water can be said, this is it. They look into the splashing pond and shudder, but they look at Ageul’s tail on the ground and hum. Despite themself, they smile.


Although?” Ageul looks up and smiles.

I guess I wouldn’t mind another massage,” Wren says. “Okay. You can slide your tail around me as long as—”

Ageul squeals and slides around Wren, hugging them with her arms and tail.

Ooh, yes, I can massage you again, Wren, I can squeeze and knead you and it’ll feel so, so, good, and—”

Wren thoughts flutter as soon as Ageul’s slime touches their skin. They stumble and sink against Ageul’s cushioned slime tail. In a moment they’ll forget their request. They rally their thoughts.

Table,” they mumble. Their head spins and lolls, mind dizzier and fluffier when Ageul holds their head still. “Table,” they sigh as if in a drunken stupor.

What?” Ageul asks. “Oh, you want to lay on a table for this?”

Wren nods and their head falls forward. It hangs by the goo from Ageul’s hand.

Okay, let me see—aha!” She spies a long slab of rock past some trees. She releases Wren from her tail and holds their hand. “I see something that will work, follow me.”

She slithers to the rock with Wren, who stumbles along. Ageul pulls Wren closer, squeezing them against her face, and Wren’s mind swirls in a whirlpool as Ageul’s sticky hair coats them. Their legs give out and they drop to the ground.

Oh! Sorry,” Ageul says. She squeezes Wren’s face in her hands. “Why don’t I just carry you there, hmm?”

Wren sighs. They might’ve said, “Okay,” in the sigh, but their mind drifted too much for even them to be sure. They space out as Ageul wraps her tail around Wren and carries them to the rock.

After Ageul lays Wren on the rock they drift in and out of a slimy haze as Ageul squeezes her tail around them, pinning their legs together in heavy slime as she hugs Wren’s hips. Wren sighs as Ageul slithers her tail around their skin, coating them in soporific slime. Ageul weighs down Wren’s chest with her coils, and she squeezes her body under Wren and makes a slime cushion pillow for Wren’s head to sink against.

Aw, you’re so cute Wren,” Ageul says, her voice squishing in excitement as much as her tail. She squeezes their face in her hands as she sinks her tail against Wren’s shoulders and massages them. She curls her tail around to rub Wren’s neck with her slime and squishes their face.

With Wren wrapped up in her squeezing slime body Ageul slides on top of Wren and presses close to kiss them on the lips. Wren gurgles and coughs at the taste of musty, grimy water, but the memory of that taste fades as Ageul squeezes them tighter and massages their head with her gooey hands. She pushes Wren’s eyes shut and slides her hair over their face to brush a mud mask of slime over them.

Now isn’t that just wonderful?” At the last word she squeezes Wren in her tail, and she squeezes her arms around Wren’s head. “Ah, I wish you would let me pull you underwater. I didn’t get your permission beforehand, though. Unless—maybe you’re still awake enough to answer. I could give you a bath, would you like that, Wren? Just a little bath.” She leans close to Wren’s ear and whispers, “You’d like to have a slime bath, wouldn’t you? Just a little?” She squeezes Wren. “No, I shouldn’t. Oh, but I want to. I didn’t get permission. But what’s the harm? No. Yes. No, yes, no.” She squeals and frowns.

Okay, Wren! I’ve made a decision!” Ageul nods. “I won’t pull you into the pond.”

She stares at Wren.

For more than a minute.” She grins and pulls Wren off the rock and into the pond. With a splash they sink into the water and Ageul piles more slime around Wren, soaking the slimy water around her and Wren.

That feels nice, doesn’t it, Wren? You’re so glad you agreed to this.” Ageul sighs and sinks with Wren. After a minute passes Ageul lifts her head. “All right. One more minute! Just one more minute, that’s all!” She swirls in the pond with Wren, soaking up more water. After a minute she says, “Okay, that minute didn’t count, this is the last minute we get, okay? Unless you want more, do you want more, Wren?”

Ageul continues this indecision for several minutes.

But one more minute won’t hurt,” Ageul says.

Hey! You down there!”

Ageul screams and clutches Wren tighter.

What? Who’s there?”

Up here!”

Ageul looks up and sees Anne sitting in the branches below.

Artwork by Azupazu

“I have to do my exhibition sometime today,” Anne says. “Let the little Wren go!”

Ageul whines.

“Okay. I guess I need to let you go, Wren.”

Ageul slides her pile of slime coils off Wren and lifts them to the bank of the pond. She runs her hands over Wren to absorb the slime and water and dry them off.

“There you go,” Ageul says. “I’ll, uh, see you tomorrow for the challenge match, Lady Koizumi.”

“That’s Queen Koizumi,” Anne says. “But yes, I’ll see you then.”

She lowers herself down the tree by her tail, scoops Wren in her arms, and lifts them back into the tree. She places Wren on the branch and nudges them.

“Dear Wren, it’s time to wake up.”

Wren stirs. They sigh and stretch, and they sit up into waiting arms. They blink their eyes open.

“That was a nice nap—” They see Anne and shout. “Not you!”

“Yes me, dear Wren,” Anne says, arms around Wren as she sits on their lap. Wren tries to pull away but Anne presses close and kisses them on the lips.

Wren whines under the pressure of Anne’s kiss, which melts into a moan as their head spins. Their vision grows spotty as Anne wraps her arms around their head to pull them closer for a deeper kiss. Wren settles into Anne’s grasp as her kiss sends woozy waves of pleasure through their mind, and their body flushes, warming as Anne slithers around and slides her tail up under their shirt.

When Anne pulls away from the kiss Wren stares into her rippling eyes, striking sky blue and bright violet rings pulsating through her eyes. Sleepy from the kiss, Wren has no thought to look away, and as they gaze at Anne increasingly have no thought but to stare.

“That’s it, my dear Wren,” Anne says, “it’s so easy to drop for your Queen Koizumi, isn’t it?”

“Drop?” Wren mumbles. The colors of Anne’s eyes ripple out through Wren’s vision as their eyes mirror Anne’s, and their pupils shrink until swallowed up by the colors flowing through their eyes.

“Yes, you silly thing,” Anne says, brushing her hands over Wren’s cheeks, “it feels so good to drop for your queen. To let my presence overwhelm you.” She binds Wren’s arms in her rising coils. Her tail pushes Wren’s shirt halfway up their body and she squeezes their torso. She brushes her lips over Wren’s. “To feel nothing but devotion towards your queen.”

“Dev . . . vo . . .” Wren moans as Anne kisses them, her taste and scent swirling through their senses. She presses her body closer to Wren, presses her scaly hips against Wren’s legs, and she curls her upper body under Wren to wrap around and squeeze and rub their legs. Another loop she wraps around Wren’s hips to slither and stroke around them.

“Just say the words, my dear,” Anne says. Her coils grip tighter. “Say you obey your queen.”

“I . . .” Resistant thoughts bubble in Wren’s head. They don’t want to obey anyone, do they? “No . . .”

“Yes,” Anne says, pressing further until she and Wren are nose-to-nose. She grins as she wraps her tail up around Wren’s chest and over their shoulders. “Say that you obey your queen.”

“I . . .” The word, obey, bubbles over Wren’s resistant thoughts. It’s only a word. It’s okay to say it. They don’t have to mean it. What if they could mean it? It would feel so good to speak it.

Anne chuckles and curls the end of her tail along Wren’s face. She pushes their mouth to a smile.

“Give your queen a loving smile,” she says, “and tell me you wish to serve me.” She squeezes tighter, eyes wider. “Tell me you obey me.”

“IIII . . .”

Wren gulps as Anne squeezes around their neck. She tightens her coils’ grip and kisses Wren’s lips, tightening her grip on Wren’s mind. When she ends the kiss Wren grins wide and settles into her coils.

“I obey my queen,” Wren sighs. Their tongue hangs out, mind lost in the ecstasy of Anne’s hypnotic control.

“And a good servant you are, my dear,” Anne says. She holds Wren in her coils and arms and showers them in kisses, each kiss dropping them deeper into subservient bliss.

And that wraps up the last set of exhibitions this round! It’s time to vote: the needy slime lamia masseur Ageul, or the queenly controlling kissing Anne? Place your votes now!

Losers Round 2 Match 4 Results

“Welcome back to the tournament!” Belle says. “Today we’ll learn the results of the match between Ms. Ageul Vodá and Lady Anne Koizumi. I was going to ask Wren to interview, but they said they were tired of being asked who they want to win when the answer was always ‘nobody, I don’t know’ so instead I’ve invited Ms. Mira back.” She nods to Mira, who sits across from her. “Thank you for coming back up, I know you must be planning your strategy for your next match.”

“You’re welcome,” Mira says. “I planned my strategy as soon as I won my last match, it’s no trouble.”

“Now that we’ve seen the exhibition matches, how do you think the competitors did yesterday?” Belle asks.

“Anne did very well,” Mira says. “She went in for the kill and never let up. She avoided distractions and she fired straight and true through her entire exhibition.”

“That’s quite some praise,” Belle says.

“She gets it when she deserves it,” Mira says. “Ageul had a strong showing as well, but she was distracted. She let a lot get in her way, which resulted in a choppy exhibition.”

“So you think Anne has the advantage in the exhibitions?” Belle asks.

“Yes,” Mira says. She taps the table. “However. While Ageul clearly was distracted and indecisive—she could not decide how to end her exhibition—I suspect this may have been intentional.”

“For what purpose?” Belle asks.

“To look cute, of course,” Mira says. “Anne has all her confidence going for her. Where can Ageul garner the most support? From the crowd that enjoys the confused klutzes, those who are so jittery and fluctuating as to be adorable.” Belle smiles.

“The disaster lesbians.”

“It may be a disaster for Ageul, yes,” Mira says. She rubs her chin. “The voters like the controlling choice. Ageul can hardly control herself at times. It’s a risky play, I think. We’ll see if it pans out.”

“We will indeed, as the challenge match is about to begin,” Belle says. “Let’s go to the field!”

Out on the jungle field, Ageul emerges from the pond and she and Anne slither to one another.

“I wish us each a good match, Ms. Vodá,” Anne says. She extends a gloved hand to Ageul, who takes it.

“I didn’t know you wear gloves,” Ageul says.

“Not often,” Anne says as they shake, “but I thought it safe in this circumstance. No offense.” Ageul laughs.

“Ah, none taken.”

“And don’t take it too hard when I win,” Anne says. “People just love my confidence.”

Ageul laughs again.

Wren walks out onto the field and looks between Anne and Ageul. They sigh and rub their face.

“Can you two just fight each other this time and let me sit it out?” Wren asks.

“You don’t want to be fought over by two lovely ladies?” Anne asks. Wren blushes.

“No! No, I don’t!”

“Oh, you know you love it, Wren,” Anne says.

“Well, maybe we can make it quick,” Ageul says. Anne laughs.

“Perhaps we can.”

The lamias take positions on opposite sides of Wren.

“No trickery this time!” I shout. “Now, ready? Start the match!”

Anne shakes her head.

Ah, of course no trickery.” Anne grins. On the other side, Ageul picks up a pile of slime from her tail. “But all the same, dear Wren, you would much rather have a clean brain washing from your queen, wouldn’t you?”

As she speaks Ageul throws her slime at Wren and smacks them in the head with it. Wren shouts and stumbles, shakily wobbling back and forth.

“What? What’s going on?” They grab the slime dripping over their head to pull it off, but it sticks to their head. “I can’t hear anything!”

Anne frowns.


Ageul hums and slides her way to Wren.

“Oh, I see.” Anne chuckles and slithers to Wren as if ready to intercept them. “Clog their ears and they can’t hear a trigger. Fortunately, I have backup plans.”

She reaches Wren and curls around them until she wraps up half their body. Wren yelps and sways in Anne’s grasp.

“Oh no, I can’t, I uh,” Wren mumbles in a dizzy stupor. Anne shushes them and wipes the slime off their face with her sleeve.

I know how to make you feel better, dear Wren,” Anne says. Her eyes pulsate before Wren in vivid violet and blue, and Wren’s eyes mirror hers, their dazed mind swirling deeper into a daze. “A little kiss will make it all better.”

Anne leans close to kiss Wren and her lips meet slime. She pulls back and sputters, ceasing her hypnotic colors. Ageul giggles.

Aw, how sweet, thank you for the kiss. Let me give you a hug in exchange!”

What? No,” Anne says. “No, not at all!” She pulls Wren down to slither away from Ageul with them, but Ageul’s body splashes down over them and swamps them in her soporific slime.

Anne groans as Ageul’s slime seeps around her, but she hangs on to Wren and looks into their eyes.

Now—Now, dear Wren,” she says, her voice drifting, “look into my eyes, please. F-Focus solely on me.” She whines as Ageul wraps her arms over her eyes.

Relax, you’re a princess,” Ageul says. “You deserve to be pampered, let me give you a massage.”

I—I am a queen,” Anne says. She pulls Wren close but loses her grip and falls back. “I must hold my subject. I must hypnotize my subject, I must . . .”

Ageul shushes her and holds her in her slime.

Just relax, little princess. Take a nice soothing bath in my slime.”

Anne moans, and she sinks beneath the slime, Wren following.

Ageul wins!” I announce. “No more triggers from Anne ending the match as soon as it begins, Ageul slimed her way to victory and moves on to losers round three! Anne is eliminated from the tournament—while her sister remains, no less.

That concludes losers round two! Next week is losers round three, where the goddess of hypnotic love Jb will face the dream Pokemon Dragovoir, and then the time manipulating snake Revasa will face the shy but splashy slime lamia Ageul! I hope you’ll be here to vote!”

Above the field in her VIP booth, Veda watches the match conclude. She nods.

Lady Koizumi underestimated her opponent,” Veda says. “I suspect, in the one match she did win, it was her opponent who underestimated her. Always a sure way to give yourself a disadvantage.

“So, Jb shall face the Dragovoir, and then Revasa against Ageul. Ageul, you may yet make a surprise splash in this tournament.”

Veda motions to Eduards.

“Eduards, dear, it’s that time again.” She pauses with a sigh only a robot butler could detect. “I need to feed again.”

“I shall prepare the feeding room for you,” Eduards says. He walks to a keypad and inputs a number. “Any particular request this week?”

“I feel like a strawberry glaze,” Veda says. “Do have the chef mix up the glazes, though. It helps break up the monotony.”

“Of course,” Eduards says. The floor shakes and descends into the depths of the stadium. “Any particular dessert request?”

“Queijos de Figo sounds good,” Veda says. “Something to share; perhaps I will invite Lady Koizumi here to share my condolences at her elimination from the tournament.”

“Very good, I will inform the chef,” Eduards says.

New Character Intermission

“Hello! Belle here. Preparations for the next round are still under way, but in the meantime, we have a visitor I managed to catch before they left the stadium. With me today is”—she looks at the person sitting across from her—“Duval and Debora, correct?”

“That’s correct, and thank you so much for having us.”

Across from Belle sits a single person. They lean forward on their left and rest their left hand on the table, while they lean back on their right, their right arm slung along the back of their chair with their long hair trailing over it.

“Now, you may need to put this in your own words for me,” Belle says, “but you are two separate people inhabiting one body, correct?”

“That’s about the long and short of it,” Duval says, voice smooth and rich, warm as a friendly fireplace. The right side of their mouth curls in a smile, even as the left half remains flat. Their right arm nudges their left. “Come on, Debora, say hello.”

“Hello,” Debora says. Belle flinches as their voice changes to a harsh and cold growl, like the remains of a long-gone fireplace. “I am not good at this sort of thing.”

“She’s better at chopping than chatting,” Duval says. Debora rolls her eye—which is to say, their left eye rolls as their right remains watching Belle.

“Now, let me know if I overstep with the questions,” Belle says, “but how does it work? It appears you each have control of half the body.”

“That’s about right,” Duval says. “We coordinate the legs but usually keep our halves otherwise.”

“We swapped when younger,” Debora says. “It didn’t go well. It’s easier to take sides.”

“We grew rather naturally into this arrangement,” Duval says.

“So you’ve always been like this? I mean, both of you in the same body,” Belle says.

“As long as we remember,” Duval says. He chuckles and thrusts a thumb to Debora’s side. “I don’t remember a time I haven’t been with Ms. Distant.”

“Duval has always gotten us into trouble,” Debora says.

“And you so graciously get us out,” Duval says.

Their head nods, the only time Belle has seen the entire head make one motion aside from speaking, though even in speaking their mouth often looks lopsided.

“Duval gets us into situations, bad or good,” Debora says. “I get us out.”

“Bad or good.” Duval chuckles. “No, the friends we meet come to accept you, Debora, bark and bite.”

“Yes,” Debora says. For the first time Belle sees their full mouth smile. “I admit I would be lacking in friends without Duval. He’s just lucky I’m here to discern who can be trusted as a friend.”

“So where do you hail from?” Belle asks. “I understand you’re a—you’re travelers.”

Duval and Debora look down. They knit their brow before they look back at Belle.

“For our sake, we believe it best not to divulge our home,” Duval says. “There is some bad events we’d prefer not to rise again.”

“Oh, that’s fine,” Belle says. “If you don’t mind me asking, what happened?”

“We once tried to separate,” Debora says.

“We were young and irrational, I’m afraid,” Duval says. “We wished to be apart.”

“A young fool’s desire,” Debora says. Duval chuckles.

“We’re stuck together through thick and thin, methinks.”

“We made a grave error, and it cost our home dearly,” Debora says. They nod.

“We could never go back,” Duval says. “Our—” He chokes. Debora clears their throat.

“The last we saw, the farm that was our home was burning,” Debora says. She sighs. “We were a curse on our home.”

“No, no,” Duval says with a sigh, “not a curse. We simply made a mistake.”

“A costly mistake.”

“We fled, and for safety we joined the army in the nearest big city,” Duval says. He smiles. “Our past a secret, we made many friends during our days there.” Debora scoffs—or, Belle wonders, was it a laugh?

“Well, Duval made friends,” Debora says.

“Come now, Debora, they loved you as much as they did me.”

“Anyway, we eventually wanted more freedom,” Debora says.

“We traveled a little in the army,” Duval says, “but we wanted to get out and see more of the world. We put in for discharge at the end of our term, said our goodbyes, and have been traveling ever since.”

“What do you enjoy most about travel?” Belle asks.

“Every town is different,” Duval says. “I love to see the local culture. The music, the arts—every town has its own flavor of music. I always wanted to play an instrument.”

“Are you going to talk about the harmonica again?” Debora asks.

“Well, you know, if you’d been a little cooperative there we could be playing one right now,” Duval says.

“It’s annoying.”

“What about you, Debora?” Belle asks. “What do you find interesting about your travels?”

Debora is silent.

“Don’t worry, she’s preparing an answer,” Duval whispers.

“The history,” Debora says. “History is what shapes towns. I look to learn more about the past. A town’s history shapes its religious practices more than a religion’s origin, but taken together you can gain an understanding for its origins.”

“Oh, are you religious?” Belle asks.

“I worship no god,” Debora says. “I merely have an academic interest in it.”

“I see.” Belle nods. “We actually have a self-proclaimed goddess in this tournament.”

“I’ve seen,” Debora says. “She is no deity, no matter how many worship her.”

“That’s the vibe I get,” Belle says. “So are you planning to stay for the rest of the tournament?”

“No, though it would be fun to stay,” Duval says. “We merely stopped by at the request of one of the tournament’s managers, but it was a bit off our path, so we’re planning to resume our travel after this.”

“All right, well thank you so much for taking the time for this interview,” Belle says. Duval nods.

“You’re very welcome, Ms. Peltonen. Perhaps we’ll meet again someday.”

They stand to shake hands, and Duval and Debora leave for the stadium exit.

Above, the floor of Veda’s VIP booth returns to the top level. Veda’s tail is a little more bulgy, a little more listless. She munches on a Queijo de Figo as the floor settles back into place.

“Ah, back in time, I see,” Veda says. “Thank you, Eduards, now let us prepare for—” She stares at Duval and Debora as they leave the field, one half of their hair twitching in the wind while the other flows in long curls. Their muscles press against their tunic as they walk, face set and strong, skin glowing in the sun.

“Eduards. Who is that near Ms. Peltonen’s interview area? I do not recognize them.”

“Duval and Debora,” Eduards says. “Two minds residing in one body. Ms. Peltonen has been interviewing them. It seems our friend Duth Olec invited them to visit for some reason.”

For a second Veda licks her lips.

“Please play me a copy of that interview, dear Eduards,” she says. “And extend an invitation to these two.” She chuckles. “I should very much like to meet them.”

Losers Round 3 Match 1

“Fascinating. You’ve truly traveled a long ways to get here.” Veda sips her wine as she sits across from the single body of Duval and Debora. Debora’s arm is crossed, while Duval’s relaxes on his lap.

“Not that this is where we were headed,” Debora says.

“It is lovely to visit, though,” Duval says. “The stadium is impressive, and it’s an honor to meet one with such noble bearing as yourself.”

“Thank you, and it is a treat to meet such a well-traveled pair,” Veda says. “I’m glad our host requested you visit.”

“What do you know about that Duth person, anyway?” Debora asks. “All they said was to stop here, but they never told us why or anything. I’m surprised it wasn’t a trap at this point.”

“Duth is on the level,” Veda says. “They like being mysterious, but they mean no harm.” She glances to their glass of wine. “Do you not drink wine? You haven’t touched a drop.”

“I’m afraid we prefer to be at full capacity for our journey out,” Duval says.

“Very wise,” Veda says. “Feel free to partake of one of these delicious Queijos de Figo, though.”

“I would love to,” Duval says, “but Debora—”

“This entirely tournament is about warping the senses,” Debora says. “I don’t trust anything here. We already got waylaid by a sort of wyvern for a while.” Duval chuckles.

“She was truly passionate about those kisses.”

“I understand,” Veda says. “This tournament can be an assault on the senses.”

Debora sits up as the room around them rustles. She glances down to see Veda’s swirling black and white tail surround their chair. The end of her tail she slithers over Duval’s shoulder, and he takes it in his hand.

“A beautiful assault, indeed,” Duval says, “but nevertheless a dangerous beauty.”

“Oh, not always,” Veda says. She leans closer and grins.

Duval and Debora stare as Veda’s red eyes darken into splashes of pulsating dark indigos.

“After all, it’s all in good fun, my handsome dears.”

Down in Belle’s interview— Wait, we’re just going to shift scenes as soon as the hypnosis up there stars? Yes! Yes we are! I’ve got a tournament to write, I can’t be getting distracted!

So! Today Belle is interviewing the twins, Anne and Enna.

“Welcome back to the tournament!” Belle says. “With me today are the sisters Koizumi, Anne and Enna.” She nods to Anne. “Lady Koizumi, my condolences for your loss last match.”

“Thank you, Ms. Peltonen. As disappointed as I am, I choose to face this loss with grace.” Anne grinns pulls her sister’s arm in hers. “Besides, we still have one member of the Koizumi family poised to win.”

“Oh yeah, sure, totally,” Enna says. “But let’s talk about my protege first!”

“Oh, yes, you did make a new friend here,” Anne says. “Of course, training a pet can be a fine pursuit for those of our noble bearing.” Enna laughs.

“Don’t let her hear you call her that.”

“So what strategies have you and Dragovoir worked out against Jb?” Belle asks. Enna supports her chin with her finger and thumb.

“Jb is obviously a tough opponent,” Enna says. “She’s got as many tools as Dragovoir, if not more, and Dragovoir’s tools are countered.” She lifts her hand to count on her fingers. “Draining Kiss is a no go. Jb has a hypnotic kiss, and Draining Kiss isn’t even hypnotic, it just weakens whoever it’s used on. Wrap is dangerous—Jb has hypnotic scales, so in a Wrap contest, Dragovoir loses. Hypnosis is her last tool, but eye-to-eye Jb’s may be more powerful. Her best bet is the orbs on her tail, but catching Jb with them is the trick.”

“If only I had half of Ms. Jb’s power,” Anne says.

“Yeah, right.” Enna laughs and pokes her sister, prompting Anne to draw her chair away. “Even you know not to make a deal with whatever devil she did.”

“Of course not,” Anne says. She smiles. “The last time I was offered a deal—well, it’s the hand we were dealt, dear sister, and it made us come up short.”

“Anyway,” Enna says, “this is all assuming a fact that may actually go in Dragovoir’s favor: We don’t know what of Jb’s powers actually affects her. She isn’t human, after all.”

“Does your hypnotic kiss work on Dragovoir?” Belle asks. Enna shrugs.

“What, do you think I’m going around kissing her?” Enna asks. Belle tilts her head.

“Well, no, I just thought you might have tested it.”

“Nah, I wasn’t gonna have her practice Draining Kiss on me,” Enna says. “Speaking of, that interview you did with that Duval and Debora fella was neat, I didn’t realize half the stuff about them.”

“A shame they didn’t stick around,” Anne says. She looks up and frowns. “Someone strapping like that to cuddle would be nice now that I seem to have found myself with some free time.” Enna grins and raises an eyebrow.

“They’re probably glad they got out of here when they did.”

“You know,” Belle says, “I was thinking Dragovoir might find trouble with Jb’s collars, seeing as how Pokemon are often captured with such training implements, but with that orb on her neck Jb may not even be able to get it on.”

“Totally,” Enna says, “and those goggles won’t fit her, either. I told Dragovoir for the match, her best bet is just going to be to get Wren away from Jb. Focus on that first, because Jb’s best strategy may end up being to focus on Wren, too, even if she likes to catch her opponent along with them.”

“I’m sure the match will be interesting,” Belle says. “I have word the first exhibition match is about to begin, so let’s go to the field!”

Today the field is full of fluffy clouds. Wren trips as they walk out onto the field and falls into the fluff. They cough as they stand up. At least the stuff doesn’t hurt to fall in, they just need to avoid breathing it in.

Wren looks around. With the field full of just fluff, they can see across the entire stadium. No one should be able to hide and sneak up on them. They’ll see anyone long before they reach them.

Wren yelps as a long tail grabs around their shoulders and pulls them into the fluff. They struggle to pull away and stand, but the tail wraps around them and binds their arms and legs down. Wren shouts for them to let go until the pink and red heart-patterend tail is coiled all around them.

“So good to see you again, little Wren!” Jb emerges from the fluffy field.

Art by Orange in a Can!

“No! Not you again!” Wren shuts their eyes and turns their head as far away as they can. “I am not going to let you catch me this time!” Jb smiles.

“I think I’ve already caught you, little Wren.” Wren whines as Jb holds their chin in her hand. “Catching you is the easy part.” She laughs as Wren shakes their head away from her hold. They squirm as Jb slithers her tail further around Wren, snaking thicker coils around them and up their head. “The trick is to convince you that you want to be caught.”

She grabs Wren’s head in her tail and pushes them forward into her body, squishing Wren’s face against her breasts. Wren whines and struggles to rise from her grip as she hugs her arms around them.

“Just relax and breathe deeply, little Wren,” Jb says. Wren wheezes as a pink mist puffs out from Jb’s shoulders, and a sweet warm sweat scent swirls through Wren’s senses, like a hot bakery hard at work making sweets.

As Wren breathes in Jb’s scent their thoughts muffle, and they press closer against her. Jb chuckles and lifts Wren’s chin in her hands to look at her.

“Breathe in your love goddess’ scent, please.”

Wren moans as their thoughts turn stuffy, so hard to think. The more of Jb they breathe in, the less they can think about anything but her. With every inhale Jb fills their mind, the thought of sinking against the love goddess and submitting becoming more natural with every passing moment. Their eyes glaze over then fill with hearts as Jb stares at them with her hypnotic heart eyes.

“Please, breathe me in,” Jb croons. She pulls Wren closer, sliding them up against her chest to her face. “Please me, Wren.” She pulls Wren to her lips and kisses them deeply. Wren’s mind crumbles against Jb’s embrace, her swirling scent, her squeezing tail, her soft lips and tongue slithering into Wren’s. She slithers her tail around Wren’s head, rubbing her hypnotic scales over their skin, as she wraps thicker loops around their body. She curls her wide and heavy upper snake body around Wren and squeezes them until they squeak and mewl.

After she slithers her tongue over Wren’s Jb ends the kiss and presses them back against her chest, releasing another spray of her misty pink love scent over them. Wren inhales Jb’s aroma deep into their nose, deep into their mind, and they sigh with a dizzy smile on their face, eyelids drooping as hearts ripple through their eyes and mind. Jb pets Wren’s head.

“That’s a goooooood little pet,” she says. Wren’s smile widens and their thoughts sink sounder into subservience as she stretches good.

Jb squeezes her double coils around Wren tight. Wren squeaks and their eyes pop open before settling back into a sleepy, dazed expression. They sink under Jb’s rising coils as she wraps around Wren’s face and swallows them in scaly squeezing. She tilts Wren’s head up as they sink under her coils, and she pokes her head in the top after them.

“Now, time to sink into your love goddess’ dimension of love, little Wren.” Jb kisses Wren in her coils. “Just shut your eyes and drift away.”

Wren’s eyes sink shut, and they drop into loving darkness, mind hooked to their love goddess as she surrounds them in the thick scent of her slithering tail. Wren submits to their love goddess’ control and obeys her loving words.

Through their love goddess’ dreamy love dimension Wren floats, dreaming of serving, submitting to, worshiping their love goddess. Thoughts of her coils constrict their mind, her lips brushing over their body, her eyes warping and overwriting their soul.

Wren bumps into a long, thick tail, and they grunt in confusion as the blue tail wraps around them.

“Hi, Wren!” Dragovoir floats to Wren and puts her arms around them as she Wraps them up.

“Huh? Who are you?” Wren asks, voice low and far away.

“I’m your dreamy friend Dragovoir, remember?”

“What?” Wren shakes their head and struggles as Dragovoir binds their arms, the squeezing tail around their legs wider than their own body. “Where is my love goddess?”

“Oh, forget about that scarlet woman,” Dragovoir says. She stares into Wren’s heart-filled eyes with her hypnotic blue rings. “Your good friend Dragovoir is here to help free you.”

Wren stares into Dragovoir’s rippling eyes. Her Hypnosis cuts into Jb’s hold on Wren. They moan and pull their head away but can’t break Dragovoir’s gaze as the blue rings ripple through the dreamy love dimension. Wren struggles in Dragovoir’s rising coils, even as she squeezes around their shoulders.

“No,” Wren mumbles, “but my love goddess . . .”

Wren feels arms rest over their head, and a second Dragovoir peeks into Wren’s eyes from above them with a friendly smile and deep, dark, hypnotic eyes. She shushes Wren.

“She isn’t a love goddess, Wren. You’re only dreaming. Why not dream about someone much nicer?”

“But,” Wren mumbles, even as Jb’s love dimension fades into darkness, as Dragovoir’s eyes fill Wren’s vision and sparkling blue light fills their darkening world, their eyelids drooping as a wave of sleep drifts over them, “my love goddess—” Wren gulps as Dragovoir squeezes the top of her coils around Wren’s neck. Their sleepy eyes pop open, staring deeply into the glowing orbs on Dragovoir’s swaying tail.

“You don’t need to worship anyone,” Dragovoir says, drawing close even as her orbs remain all Wren can see. “You just need to have good dreams.”

She kisses Wren’s lips, using Draining Kiss to weaken Wren so her Hypnosis can take deeper control. She fills Wren’s dreams with hypnotic charm, her cool scales, her Draining Kiss, and wipes away Jb’s control. She draws Wren away from Jb’s pink and red love dimension to a dream of swirling, sparkling blue.

“You know, Wren,” Dragovoir says, even as her Draining Kiss continues—occupying multiple states through the power of dreams—“at one point I considered learning Disarming Voice.” She chuckles and sings, her Disarming Voice sinking Wren deeper into a soft, dreamy sleep.

“You can do anything in a dream,

“Relax and flow down a bubbling stream,

“Blissful and calm, yes, nothing can measure,

“Give me your mind and I’ll craft you deep pleasure.”

She ends the Draining Kiss, and Wren grins as they fall under her hypnotic control, eyes wide and mirroring Dragovoir’s, dark and full of ripples of blue. Dragovoir pets Wren.

“That’s a much nicer dream, isn’t it, Wren?”

Outside Wren’s dream in the real world, Dragovoir wraps an arm around Wren’s head as she rests her head against theirs, her tail Wrapped around them neck to foot. She smiles as Wren beams and their eyes fill with her hypnotic light, all traces of Jb’s hearts gone.

“So what,” Enna says, “you like, entered their dream?” Dragovoir nods.

“As one who comes from dreams, it’s easy for me to enter them again.”

“Too bad we couldn’t see what was happening in that dream,” Enna says. She looks up at the crowd. “The whole time we just watched you hold Wren and lean against them. Not a great show for the crowd.”

“A great show for Wren, though,” Dragovoir says. She squeezes them close.

“Is that something you could use against Jb in the challenge match?” Enna asks. “Or would she be able to catch you in a dream just like the real world?”

I have total control over dreams,” Dragovoir says. “If I could pull her into one, I would have the home field advantage.”

Okay, now we just need to figure out how to use that,” Enna says. “It doesn’t help much if you have to hypnotize her first to begin with.”

Dragovoir swirls a hand through some of the cloudy fluff on the field.

Perhaps we could request the match take place in a dream,” she says. Enna smiles.

I like that. Dream sequence! Let’s go!”

Thus is the first of two matches this round under way! Will you vote for the love goddess Jb, or the dreamy Dragovoir? Make your choice heard!

Losers Round 3 Match 1 Results

“Travel is nice, indeed, but sometimes you really must stop and smell the roses, I’m sure you agree.”

Duval and Debora glower at Veda. Well, mostly Debora does, Duval has more of a strained smile. They sit on a love seat sofa next to Veda, squeezed close to her as her coils squeeze over their body and bind them. She hadn’t taken total control over them with her hypnotic eyes, only numbing their thoughts enough that she could wrap them up and hold them as an extended guest.

Veda chuckles, an arm resting on her tail wrapped around Duval and Debora’s shoulders.

“Smell a rose like that rogue Jb?” Debora asks. Veda frowns and looks to the stadium.

“I know I said it’s all in good fun here, but that is sadly not always true.” She shakes her head. “There are a few competitors here who are not in good fun. In the case of Jb, that is most assuredly bad fun.”

“We’ll be sure to keep that in mind if we ever encounter her in our travels,” Duval says.

“I believe she often travels a lot, so you just might,” Veda says. “Practically every part of her is hypnotic. She was given a form and powers specifically to catch people. Even I would be wary of facing her.”

“Do you think that Dragovoir has a chance?” Duval asks. “She did have powerful kisses.” Veda smiles.

“I’m not sure, but I suspect Jb’s kisses are more powerful. Even if she loses, though, I think she’s learned something from this, which is perhaps even more of a win than victory in this tournament. Jb lost her first match, and I wonder if she learned something from that, or will by the tournament’s end.”

“I’m not sure she should learn anything else,” Debora says.

“There is that, too,” Veda says. “She may have learned all she can, and perhaps it can’t help her. It’s impossible to truly know her, now.”

She looks at Duval and Debora and smiles.

“Now, are you hungry? I could have my butler bring up a little more substantial meal for you than one of these Queijos de Figo.”

Today Belle has in her interview tent Wren and Enna. Every time Enna grins scoots a little closer to Wren they scoot away.

All right, Wren,” Belle says, “I know you get annoyed by this question, but do you have a favorite to win this match?”

Dragovoir,” Wren says. Belle blinks.

You said that pretty quick.”

I may not like being caught by a Pokemon,” Wren says, “but I trust her a lot more than I do Jb.”

Fortunately,” Enna says, wrapping an arm around Wren, “Dragovoir has been doing some good training for this moment! She’ll take Jb out of the tournament!” Wren pulls away from Enna’s grasp.

Are you sure?” they ask.

Nope!” Enna grins and shrugs. “Hey, there’s a lot we don’t know. All Dragovoir can do is try her best.”

Do you have any particular strategy going in?” Belle asks. “Is she going to try and confront Jb in a dream?”

Well, we couldn’t come up with a way for Dragovoir to pull Jb into a dream herself,” Enna says, “so we sent a special request to the host.” She grins to Wren. “You’re gonna love this, Wren, you won’t have to scramble around like usual.”

I don’t like the sound of this,” Wren says.

Come on,” Enna says with a bow and sweep of her arm, “let me escort you to the field, m’lady—I mean, m’lord—I mean, uh, m’friend?”

Wren sighs and gives Enna a weak smile.

Let’s go with that one, Enna.”

You know, you really do look tired,” Enna says as they head to the field.

Maybe you’re surprised because I sleep a lot in this tournament,” Wren says, “but I’m being forced to sleep, and I’m always trying not to.”

Yeah, resisting it is probably rough,” Enna says.

They arrive to the middle of the field, which today is just a flat turf with a single plush armchair. Wren looks around.

What’s with the single chair? No other theme, just a flat field and a chair?”

A puff of smoke appears before them and Amaru emerges. Wren flinches.

Huh? What are you doing here?”

Just fulfilling a job,” Amaru says, resting her head on her hand, “I’m considered neutral in this race and I can do it quick so I was asked to fulfill this part so let’s go, just gotta do a little—” Amaru taps Wren on the head. Wren feels a wave through their mind, the world spins, and they fall into Enna’s arms, entranced but eyes open. Amaru disappears.

Jb and Dragovoir slither to Wren as Enna props them in the chair. The competitors look at each other and shake hands. Dragovoir smiles.

Honestly, win or lose, I’m glad to make it this far and face a powerful opponent.”

Good,” Jb says. “Don’t think fighting on your home turf will give you enough of an advantage.” She smirks. “You’re strong, though. That trick in your exhibition to release my control was good. But I’m better.”

Hah, I eat dreams for breakfast,” Dragovoir says.

The two slither to Wren, lean on either side of the chair, and look into Wren’s eyes as theirs pulsate with their hypnotic colors.

Into Wren’s dream they go.

In Wren’s dream, they’re at the office. In a lab coat, they peer into a microscope at a sample of scaly skin brought in for testing.

Oh, Wren!” Two of their co-workers sidle up to Wren and grin. Wren sighs.

It’s never good when you talk in that voice.”

We just got a subject in, some kind of wyvern or something,” their co-worker says. “It can talk, so why don’t you go and give it a little interview before we start the full study?” Wren glowers at them.

Is it at least properly contained?”

Of course,” the co-worker says. “It won’t escape unless you let it out for some mysterious reason.”

Mysterious, I’m sure,” Wren mutters. They trudge to the holding room. Half the stuff they bring in has weird mind powers.

Wren passes through the isolation locks and arrives in a lab with the Dragovoir in a glass cage. Dragovoir waves to them.

Hi, Wren!”

Wren stares.

Did they tell you my name ahead of time?”

Oh, sorry, you must not know me in this dream,” Dragovoir says.

What do you mean dream?” Wren shakes their head and lifts their palms. “No, you know what? No. I’m asking the questions here.”

But that was a question,” Dragovoir says.

No! I’m asking the questions,” Wren says. “So who are you, and what are you doing here?”

I’m Dragovoir, a fusion between Dragonair and Gardevoir,” Dragovoir says. “I come from dreams, and I’m here to whip ass and take brains!”

Wren turns to look at Dragovoir.


You heard me,” Dragovoir says, hands propping up her head as she stares at Wren with her hypnotic eyes. “I can give you a demonstration, little Wren.”

Wha . . .” Wren stares, losing thoughts to Dragovoir’s eyes, and they sway where they stand until they turn away. “Wait, no! I’ve dealt with enough things to know how that works.”

Then let’s see how the subject responds to dream mist,” Dragovoir says.

What?” Wren opens their eyes and plants their hands on glass. They look around to see they’re inside the glass container, while Dragovoir stands at a computer, wearing a lab coat. Wren pounds the glass and shouts. “What happened? How did you do that?”

Don’t worry, Wren,” Dragovoir says as she presses a button, “just breathe the dreamy mist in deeply.”

Wren shouts as pink mist fills the container. Their shout trails off as their thoughts grow hazy, and they slump against the wall. Dragovoir laughs.

This is too easy. Jb hasn’t even found Wren yet—” She looks at the machine dispensing the mist. A screen shows a pulsating heart. She looks at the pink mist filling Wren’s container. “Fig! No, no, no!”

Dragovoir hits the buttons at random. Somehow Jb turned that into her own mist. Dragovoir twirls in the room and unleashes a Twister, smashing the room and scattering it away, drawing Wren into her tail as she Wraps them up and pulls them to a dark corner of the dream world.

That’s better,” Dragovoir says.

She holds Wren tight in her tail as they float through a dark blue dream sea. Wren stares into her eyes, thoughts draining, mind sinking as she hypnotizes them with her rippling eyes.

A quiet place for just the two of us,” Dragovoir says. “Just relax, and everything will all right.”

Dragovoir flinches as the dream void rumbles, and a red glow swarms the blue world as pink hearts infiltrate. Dragovoir and Wren spin as they float, and Dragovoir screams as a building-sized red tail curls above them. Jb rises from the dream void as big as a kaiju, and she grins at the tiny Dragovoir. She lifts her whale of a tail and smothers Dragovoir and Wren in it as she laughs. The dream void fills with pulsating hearts.

I’m afraid you’re a small challenge, you Dragovoir,” Jb says. “I’m larger than life, and Wren is mine.”

A tail shoves Jb forward. She turns as she floats to see Dragovoir, just as giant.

I can go kaiju mode too!” Dragovoir shouts in a Godzilla imitation and charges at Jb. Jb slides away to dodge her, and she swings one of her heart pendants.

Why not relax?” Jb says. “We’re in a dream, after all.”

Hah, I’m not that simple,” Dragovoir says. “You can’t catch me with something so . . .” Dragovoir finds herself following the heart pendulum back and forth. “Can’t catch me with—with something . . . with . . .” She shuts her eyes and shakes her head. “No way!”

But it feels so nice to look,” Jb says.

Uh—” Dragovoir opens her eyes and follows the heart pendulum as Jb’s eyes pulsate with sparkling red and pink hearts. Her head spins and she forgets what she was doing as she stares at Jb’s hypnotic eyes.

Yes, you’re so very small, aren’t you?” Jb says. She grows as Dragovoir shrinks, and soon Jb lifts the limp Dragovoir between two fingers. She laughs, and she grazes her long tongue along Dragovoir. “You’re just a little piece of sushi to me.” She wraps her tongue around Dragovoir. “What you never realized is, you lost as soon as we began.”

Dragovoir falls over in the real world, off the side of the chair. Jb catches her before she hits the ground, her tail slithering around and squeezing Dragovoir ever since they started. With Dragovoir lost in the control of her hypnotic scales, Jb directs all her attention to Wren and fills them with her hypnotic hearts until the little human is mindless and obedient with a wide, loving smile.

I dunno, grabbing her outside the dream doesn’t seem in the spirit of this match,” Enna says. She lays atop the back of the chair.

All’s fair in love and war,” Jb says. She curls her long tongue at Enna and winks. “And they’re the same, in my case.”

Your streak won’t last much longer,” Enna says. “Next round or semifinals, you’re going down!” She winks. “But hey, face me or face Lila again, good luck anyway.” Jb laughs.

And good luck against Lila in your next match.” Her smile drops. “She’s a strong opponent, I know.”

Enna pats Dragovoir’s head.

Sorry gal, guess our training wasn’t enough. Maybe you’ll do better in the Gardevoir Internationals.”

And so Jb has secured victory once again! Three victories in the losers bracket, but will she make it to the semifinals? We’ll find her next opponent next round, but for now, next match Revasa and Ageul will face off! Will it be the time snake, or slime lamia?

Losers Round 3 Match 2

“Welcome back to the tournament!” Belle says. “For the match between Revasa and Ageul today I’m speaking with the witch Ms. Erada Lielayn, although as she has returned to her shop since we last spoke we’re speaking remotely.” A screen above her shows Erada in her shop watching someone off-screen. She sits forward on a stool, one hand on her hip and another on a counter.

“You only asked for slime, honey, you didn’t ask for a way to reverse it,” she says. “If you’d wanted that, it would have cost double.”

“Erada?” Belle asks.

“What?” Erada glances at the screen. “Hang on a moment, I’m dealing with an irate customer.”

“Irate? You turned me into a slime!”

“You turned yourself into it, I only gave you the slime potion, not the reverse potion, if you’d wanted both you should have asked to begin with, now are you going to buy the potion to reverse it or not, because I got things to do, so if you’re not going to buy it get going or I’m grabbing the hose.”

“Oh, fine.” A slimy hand places slimy money on the counter. Erada smiles and hands a bottle over.

“Here you go, sir, just pour it over your body and that whole slimy complexion thing will clear right up, and have a nice day.”

The customer’s grumbles fade. Erada looks at the screen.

“All right, let’s go quick, Belle, since my term in the tournament my business has picked up, it may be the lull time now but it won’t last long.”

“Good to see you’re doing well,” Belle says. “On the topic of slimes, the next match is between Revasa and Ageul.”

“Oh, so that sweet slime gal beat that snooty princess, that’s great, a shame to hear about Persnakety, but I guess he was too much a wimp for the voters.” Belle forces a short laugh.

“I wondered if you had any thoughts over Revasa’s time abilities,” Belle says. “Rumor has it she was once a witch’s familiar.”

Erada looks at the screen. She cranes her neck to see if any customers might enter soon before she huddles close to the screen.

“All right, Belle, let me tell you quick, I’ve heard more than that rumor, it’s said in Italy there was this witch, you see, with a beautiful blue snake as a familiar, and this witch, she was eventually burned at the stake because people are nasty little things, and that snake disappeared, but there are conflicting reports about her familiar trying to stop that burning before disappearing entirely.” She leans back. “Now, this is hearsay, mind you, but if that snake and Revasa are connected in any way—Well, let’s just say it would be a very faulty story for Revasa to be haunted by a witch and the similarity to just be a coincidence.”

“She’s haunted by a witch?” Belle asks.

“Oh, yes,” Erada says. “I’m sure you noticed her talking to herself a couple times. That’s the witch that’s haunting her.”

“Maybe she is, or was, a witch’s familiar, then,” Belle says. “That must give her an edge, and might explain the time powers.”

“The conflicting reports,” Erada says, “could be due to folks remembering events that Revasa would have changed by reversing time.”

“How do you think the match will turn out?” Belle asks.

“Ageul wins,” Erada says. “People like slime, even if they don’t like it permanently. She seems good at business too, with that spa treatment and all. Oh, speaking of which, got another customer coming. Talk later!” She turns off the screen.

“All right, there you have it,” Belle says. “Will snake or slime advance in the tournament? Let’s go to the field!”

“Excuse me, Belle.”

Belle turns her seat around to see Mira slithering from behind the tent.

“Oh, hey, Mira. What’s up?”

“Have you seen Top around? They and I were going to compare some cooking experience,” Mira says. Belle shakes her head.

“Cooking experience? With that beach ball?”

“Apparently they’re a good cook,” Mira says. “Though mostly with pizza, which I have no experience in.”

“Huh. Anyway, no, I haven’t seen them, sorry.”

“They’re usually out and about. Well, I’m sure they’ll turn up somewhere. Thank you anyway.” Mira turns to leave.

“Oh, hang on, Mira,” Belle says, “before you go, I’d like to ask, who do you think is likely to win this match, Revasa or Ageul?”

Mira drops her eyelids and shakes her head.

“You know I don’t make predictions on others’ results.”

“Oh, right,” Belle says. “All right, sorry! Good luck finding Top. Oh, the field is a jungle again today, so maybe they’re just hiding out. You might have better luck after the exhibitions.”

Mira nods and leaves.

Out in the jungle field Wren walks through the clearest path they can find. No attempt to hide, no attempt to sneak, they just walk through and keep a constant eye out for Revasa. If they get across the field without meeting her, they don’t have to. That was the deal. As soon as they do see her, they’re running as fast as they can. They don’t want to deal with her. She’s out to eat them. Anyone else Wren will face, but not her. Not again.

Wren hears a crack above and spins to look for the source. Their heart skips a beat at the sight of blue, but before they run Wren realizes it’s flowers. They remain jittery, ready to run at a moment’s notice of scales, but they don’t see Revasa anywhere yet.

Wren sighs, takes a step, and trips to the ground.

A scaly tail wraps around Wren’s legs and pulls them upside-down into the air. Wren shouts and flails as the tail wraps up their legs and twists their skirt around them. They reach to push the tail off, but Wren can’t reach far enough until the tail wraps up to their hips, at which point Revasa drops her head to Wren’s and stares into their eyes.

“Thisss time, little morsssel, I will have my dinner,” Revasa says. Her eyes pulsate in a pattern of cold white, blue, black. Wren stares, and each ring numbs their thoughts blanker.

Wren yelps and covers their eyes before their vision is swallowed up.

The next thing Wren remembers, Revasa wraps up to their hips, at which point she drops her head to Wren’s and stares into their eyes.

“I’ve tricked that meddlesssome ball and locked them up, ssso they won’t interfere,” Revasa says. Her eyes pulsate with hypnotic colors, and Wren stares, thoughts already fuzzy. The jungle around Wren blurs, their vision focusing on Revasa’s glowing eyes.

Wren yelps and covers their eyes before their vision is swallowed up.

The next thing Wren remembers—although they feel dizzy, a side effect of hanging upside down—Revasa wraps up to their hips, at which point she drops her head to Wren’s and stares into their eyes.

“Now be a good morsssel and let me numb those interfering thoughtsss,” Revasa says. Wren stares into her pulsating eyes and the jungle goes blurry, only Revasa in focus. Her eyes look beautiful, enchanting; the rippling colors are hard to follow but Wren feels a desire to, to follow each color and let it sink into their mind.

Wren yelps as they remember what Revasa is after, and they cover their eyes before their vision is swallowed up.

The next thing Wren remembers is hazy as Revasa wraps up to their hips. Their vision is blurry, and when Revasa drops her head to Wren’s and stares into their eyes all they think to stare at is her inviting eyes.

“Cover your eyesss as often as you like,” Revasa says, “it jussst makesss your inevitable drop all the more sssatisssfying.” Wren stares into her pulsating eyes, what little thought they can muster to look away warped into a desire to stare. The edge of their vision grows hazy as Wren’s eyes fill with blue, mind directed to focus on staring at Revasa.

Wren yelps as they remember what Revasa is after, and they cover their eyes before their vision is swallowed up.

The next thing Wren remembers is staring back into Revasa’s eyes, arms hanging down over their head as she wraps around their hips.

“You mussst ssstop covering your eyes, little morsssel,” Revasa says. “How can you sssee my pretty eyes if you cover your eyes?”

“Okay,” Wren mumbles, eyes wide and staring into Revasa’s. Their blue-tinted eyes explode in ripples mirroring Revasa’s eyes, rings of cold white, blue, black swarming Wren’s vision and swallowing their vision and their thoughts. Revasa chuckles as she wraps around Wren’s torso and squeezes.

“It’sss rude of you to try and resissst me, little morsssel.”

“Sorry,” Wren sighs. They stop thinking on their own, so focused on Revasa’s eyes that they merely accept her words as their thoughts instead.

Revasa hisses and flicks her tongue into Wren’s face, taking a taste after she retracts her tongue. She curls her upper body around Wren’s chest, holding their gaze to her eyes until she grips them firmly.

Now hold ssstill, little morsssel,” Revasa says.

Okay,” Wren mumbles.

Revasa drops under Wren and slithers her body out so her thicker midsection is around their chest, and she straightens her body below Wren to swallow them easier. With her body ready, she opens her mouth wide under Wren and drops them head-first into her grinning mouth.

Wren’s shoulders and hanging arms bump into Revasa’s jaw and she realizes a slight error in positioning.

Okay, let’sss try that again,” she says after lifting Wren’s moist head out of her mouth. She curls her tail around Wren’s arms and lifts them up so they can slide in with the rest of Wren’s body, and lowers them once again.

Swamp water splashes into Revasa’s mouth and she sputters and spits it out. She shakes her head, wondering where that came from until slime seeps between her coils and pulls Wren out.

Art by Driplette!

Sorry, Ms. Revasa,” Ageul says, holding Wren in her arms, “but I’m afraid I can’t let you eat my friend until after my exhibition.”

What? No!” Revasa glares at her. “I finally got rid of that beach ball, I’m not letting my dinner get away now!”

She lunges for Wren, but Ageul splashes her tail into Revasa’s mouth. She spits out the slime and shivers.

You’re awfully cold. Is that why you look ssso ridiculousss?”

I happen to like this style,” Ageul says. “If you want to eat Wren, you’ll have to beat me tomorrow.”

I promissse to ssspit them back up,” Revasa whines.

Nope,” Ageul says as she rubs a hand over Wren to clean off Revasa’s saliva, “it’s my turn to make them wet. I mean—!” She covers her face. “That’s not what I meant! That is not what I meant!”

Revasa tilts her head.


N-Never mind,” Ageul says. “Just take your chance tomorrow, okay? Okay.”

She leaves with Wren, leaving Revasa to sulk in her coils.

When Wren wakes up they’re slumped in a padded chair. They shift and stretch, head dizzy. They take a moment to clear their head, and when they open their eyes they stare at a bowl of ice cream.

Ice cream?” Wren asks. They glance to the side to see a pond of ice cream and shout, “Ice cream?”

Hi Wren,” Ageul says with a lilt. She sidles next to Wren and holds their chin in a hand. “I stopped you becoming dinner so you could have some dessert.”

Wren stares at Ageul’s hair, white with layers of oozing chocolate swirls. The ends of her hair are blotted in red, like cherries.

Neat hair,” Wren says. They glance down and see Ageul’s tail is also white with chocolate stripes. Ageul giggles.

Thank you, I thought it would be nice to have a different look for this exhibition.” Ageul brushes her hand over Wren’s cheek and they shiver. “A different taste.”

She lifts half her hair in a hand and presses it against Wren’s face. A wave of calm pleasure flows through their head, and Wren’s eyes droop.

Tell me Wren,” Ageul says as she pulls her hair around Wren’s face like a scarf, “have you ever felt the sensation of ice cream melt over your face?”

No,” Wren says, half a sleepy gurgle from Ageul’s hair over their face. Their head sways, drifting towards falling forward a few times.

It’s delicious,” Ageul says as she lifts the other half of her hair and slides it into Wren’s mouth. Wren sucks on the cold vanilla-chocolate swirl hair with a punch of cherry, until the musty swamp water taste comes in and they spit it out.

Bleh,” Wren mumbles. “Musty. Swampy.” Ageul pouts.

Always with the swampy taste,” she grumbles. “I need to find a way to clear that out.” She sighs and shrugs. “Oh well, I have an even more fun way.” She cranks the side of the padded chair and reclines it back so Wren lays horizontal, and she slides her tail up onto the chair, slipping her thick tail under Wren.

Wren sighs as Ageul wraps her cold, creamy tail around Wren, squeezing her ice cream tail around them.

It makes you nice and cool out here in the hot jungle, doesn’t it, Wren?” Ageul asks. Wren nods, so caught up by her they never even had a thought to resist. Ageul wraps her tail around Wren’s shoulders and massages them, her creamy slime seeping under Wren’s shirt and skirt and coating their skin.

Now,” Ageul says, lifting herself onto Wren’s chair, “let’s cool off your cute little face, Wren.”

She shifts her upper tail over Wren, sinking heavier slime over them, and over Wren’s face she sinks the base of her tail, which for lack of a better term is essentially her butt. She grins and sighs as she presses her slime body against Wren’s warm skin, and she can feel Wren’s mouth below curl into a dazed smile.

That feels nice, Wren,” Ageul says. She shuffles atop Wren and giggles. “Yeah, so nice. F-For you, I mean. Ahaha.” She sighs and sinks her body sliding down. She straightens herself up and slides off Wren so she can curl up and look at them closely. “Now, I now you’re always afraid about me pulling you into the water, but guess what? We have ice cream today, not water. So there’s no problem!”

Ageul lifts Wren in her slime and pulls them to the mound of soft ice cream. She hugs Wren tight and dives in, absorbing the melting ice cream as she goes to forge a path for her and Wren. They pop out at top, Wren’s face a mess of vanilla and chocolate and dazed grin.

It feels so good to sink into the sweet,” Ageul says, squeezing her face against Wren’s. She scoops a handful of ice cream and slides some into Wren’s mouth. “No swampy taste now, you can have the real deal. Don’t worry, it’s fresh.” She hugs Wren atop the ice cream mound and the two sink into the melting ice cream.

Above the field in her VIP booth, Veda watches the exhibition end with Duval and Debora.

Weird,” Debora says.

Ageul is very touchy-feely,” Veda says. “The more she absorbs, the stronger her urge. I imagine ice cream is one of the sweeter substances she’s absorbed. I understand she once helped mitigate an oil disaster, but I don’t imagine it’s a good idea to be hugged by her after she absorbs oil.”

She certainly seems friendly,” Duval says.

She’s mostly harmless, really,” Veda says. “She has ways to prevent people from drowning.”

Does she use them?” Debora asks.

That is the question, yes,” Veda says. “I can imagine her being so caught up in the moment of embrace she may forget. She means no harm, though. Revasa, on the other hand.”

Also not in good fun,” Debora says.

Yes. She is here to eat someone. She only wants victory for more chances to eat.” Veda frowns. “What records I’ve had researched show that rumor is correct, she was a witch’s familiar in Italy, the witch was burned at the stake, and Revasa failed to save her. She hates humans now.” She looks at Duval and Debora. “I’m sure you can imagine wild snakes like her can be dangerous, but she can be even more dangerous. Most will only be after a meal, and if that reward isn’t worth the fight, will give up. She has malice towards humans, and will keep trying regardless of the trouble to reward ratio. With her time powers, she can keep trying.”

You seem to know a lot about her,” Debora says. Duval nods.

You’re very studied.”

Veda stares out into the field.

I’ve sent out teams to try and capture her,” Veda says. “It’s dangerous to leave a witch’s familiar back in the wild. At the very least I’d hoped to resolve her anger, help her find peace. My teams have never caught her, though.” She looks down. “She always caught them.”

You have regrets,” Duval says. Veda looks at them out the corner of her eye.

Who doesn’t?” She looks up. “All we can do is learn and change direction. I’ve stopped trying to have her captured.”

Wouldn’t this be a perfect opportunity at the tournament?” Duval asks.

It would disrupt the tournament. We will only do so if she tries to disrupt the tournament.” She smiles and looks at Duval and Debora. “Like Dr. Fara. You’re lucky, you arrived after she was already captured.”

Actually, we heard a bit about a fracas last round,” Duval says. “Someone tried to kill the competitors.”

Ah, yes. That was her,” Veda says. “Fortunately we’ve locked her up for the rest of the tournament.”

Her cell phone on the table next to her beeps. She picks it up.


Dr. Fara has disappeared,” Eduards says.

Veda sighs and puts the phone down. She looks at Duval and Debora.

You might end up seeing Dr. Fara after all.”

Well, let’s leave that conversation at a cliffhanger. We got voting to do, remember? Will you vote for the time snake, Revasa, or the slime lamia, Ageul? One will eat you, the other will feed you, apparently! Make you vote!

Losers Round 3 Match 2 Results

“I swear! It wasn’t my fault! It was my evil clone, Toop!”

Eduards holds Top down in a hand as they communicate with Veda on the Dr. Fara situation.

“So Top says they followed a trail of food to the cells, where they found more food in Dr. Fara’s cell, at which point they opened the door and Dr. Fara leapt up and escaped, trapping them inside?”

“Essentially,” Eduards says. He left out the part where Top appeared to have been too busy eating to notice Dr. Fara escaped. “Someone at the tournament is working with her. Someone who knew where she was locked up.”

“The obvious culprit is Alya,” Veda says, “yet that cannot be the full story. Revasa noted she had locked up Top during her exhibition. She could have followed you after her last match to see where Dr. Fara was being kept.”

“Why would she work with Dr. Fara?” Eduards asks. “They appear to hate each other. Dr. Fara attempted to kill her in her last match.”

“We don’t have time to ponder this at the moment,” Veda says. “Revasa’s challenge match will begin soon. If she did not help Dr. Fara, I expect the doctor may try another attempt on Revasa’s life. If she did help Fara, and they are no longer antagonistic to each other, we can worry about this after the match. For now, keep watch over the field for any sign of Dr. Fara.”

“Understood, my lady.” Eduards picks up Top. “Come with me. You can redeem yourself by assisting me in watching the field for any sign of another attack by the mad scientist.”

“Check!” Top says. They head out to the field.

“Welcome back to the tournament!” Belle says. “With me today is Lady Anne Koizumi.”

“Lovely to be here, Ms. Peltonen,” Anne says. Her tail curls around the table, with the end settled atop it.

“So Lady Koizumi, what do you know of Revasa? Have you heard tales of her powers before?”

“I have,” Anne says. “It’s a rather common spooky story around a fire. And yes, I have sought her once. Sadly she wasn’t interested.”

“Interested in what?” Belle asks.

“My offer,” Anne says. “Oh, it, I didn’t have any serious plan in mind with her, I merely thought to integrate her further into jungle society, yes.”

“You didn’t want to use her power for your own gain?” Belle asks. Anne laughs.

“Perish the thought, Ms. Peltonen.”

“Having faced Ageul,” Belle says, “and what you know of Revasa, who do you think is likely to win this match?”

“I do think Ms. Revasa is focused and poised to take a win,” Anne says. “She certainly knows what she wants. However, Ms. Vodá did prevail against me. I have to assume anyone who can do that can win against a silly snake.”

“So you’re predicting Ageul?”

“She may be a little more scattered in her methods than Revasa,” Anne says, “but she does have overwhelming passion and can suck in anyone she touches.” She smiles. “I wish I had such a touch as her. While I would be less sure if she hadn’t won against me, having faced her I think she will win. Revasa may have her time powers, but no matter how many times she makes an attempt, can she win against the unending tide?”

“That may be the case,” Belle says. “Let’s find out—it’s time for the challenge match!”

Ageul, back to her regular blue color, lays in the pond and swirls through the water. She looks out at small footsteps.

“Hi, Wren!”

“Hello, Ageul,” Wren says. “I’m not entirely sure what happened, but I understand you saved me from a snake, so, thank you.”

“Of course!” Ageul smiles and squeezes her face. “I don’t want you to be hurt, Wren. My slime is much better than a snake’s saliva, anyway.”

“We’ll sssee about that.” Revasa drops her head from a tree above. “Let’sss get ssstarted, I’m hungry.”

I fly overhead in The Cloud. “Start match!”

Wren shouts. Things are moving faster than they expected. They run for Ageul’s pool.

“Yeah, hurry, come on!” Ageul says.

Wren leaps for the pool, but Revasa slows time and swings around them to wrap a loop. To Wren’s senses a tube warps around them at light speed, and before they realize it Revasa grasps and lifts them into the tree.

“I am not messsing around thisss time.” She squeezes around Wren as they scream and struggle. “I don’t care what the ssstated goal is, I’m having sssupper firssst.” She opens her mouth wide.

“Oh no, Wren!” Ageul flings her tail after Revasa and snags her sticky tail to her. As she slithers around to grip Revasa’s coils she pulls Wren away. Revasa pulls back, and she darts at Wren to nab her mouth around them. Ageul shouts and twists, yanking Wren aside so Revasa misses.

“You can’t keep them out of my mouth forever!”

Revasa darts at Wren as Ageul yanks them away. All the while Ageul slithers her tail around Revasa’s coils. Revasa darts at Wren and bumps her head into her coils, and she sways.

“What is going on here?” she groans. The world twirls around her as a wave of drowsiness falls over her. “I shouldn’t be the one growing sssleepy.” She darts at Wren and misses, and her coils loosen and drop Wren. “No!”

“I’ve got you!” Ageul catches Wren and curls around them. “You can relax now, Wren, I’ve got you, you can just sleep.” She rubs her gooey head against Wren’s. “Don’t worry, I won’t pull you underwater today.”

“I don’t mind,” Wren sighs as they smile. “I know you don’t want to hurt me . . .” Ageul nods.

“Yes, that’s right. I’ll never try to hurt you.” She kisses Wren on the cheek.

Revasa plops into the pool.

“Why is thisss happening?” she grumbles. Ageul smiles.

“It looks like my sleepy slime affects you just the same.” She presses Revasa’s face into her tail, and the snake sputters. “You can taste some of my slime if you like.”

“No! No, I’m done!” Revasa flops to shore and pulls her wobbling, sticky-drenched tail out of the pool bit by bit. “Thisss entire charade is a wassste of my time, and far more trouble than it’sss worth.” She groans. “That pipsssqueak is hardly a full meal, anyway. I’m going back to hunting big explorers ssstomping through the jungle.” She pulls the last of her tail out, and she slithers crookedly off the field and back to the dwelling rooms, leaving behind a trail of slime.

“Ageul wins the match!” I announce. “She pulls Wren out of her grasp and sank them back into her own. Revasa is eliminated, and Ageul moves on to the next round! Congratulations, slimy!”

By the time Revasa reaches the hall with her dwelling most of the slime has trailed off her.

“Went out with the tide, did you, Revasa?”

Revasa glares at Jb, who grins as she leans against the door frame of her room across the hall from Revasa’s.

“Ssstuff a branch in it, you hyperactive sssex maniac.” She slithers through the hole in the wall into her jungle-styled dwelling.

“I see you went out with the tide, Revasa.”

“You?” Revasa stares at Dr. Fara, who sits in the air as if on an invisible chair. Dr. Fara looks from the television showing the tournament results to Revasa and tilts her head.

“You sound surprised. You’re the one who told me to wait here.”

Revasa shakes her head. That slime must have muddled her head more than she thought. Yet she can’t imagine why she would have told that insane scientist to—

“I thought they locked you up,” Revasa says.

Dr. Fara stares at her before erupting in cackles.

“Oh, this must be a time thing!” In a rolling voice she says, “Yes, we must make sure the time loops are stable. Hah!”

She grabs Revasa’s neck and pulls her through the hole into the room as she twirls, piling Revasa’s tail around her.

“You, my dear friend snake whom I promised not to skin alive, came to me for a truce and alliance.” She pulls Revasa’s face close. “You see to it that I’m freed, you said, I see to it I don’t take my revenge on you, and instead proceed with my revenge on the tournament, as long as you get your juicy little human meals.” She grins. “All of them.” She tosses Revasa aside and steps away. “Well, you just said a meal, but I think you’ve become a little obsessed over that Wren, they’re really just a light snack for you after all.”

Revasa glares at Dr. Fara. She strikes, mouth open, but Fara turns and flicks her fingers out, forming a rod in Revasa’s mouth that holds it open.

“May I finish? This will be on the test later.” She claps Revasa’s mouth shut and the rod dissipates. “I said I can see to it you have them all. You can have that reporter, Belle.” She taps Revasa’s snout. “Apparently Erada went home, and really, I don’t imagine vampires tasting all that pleasant, but I asked if you ever ate a lamia. That’s a meal that could last you a long time.”

Revasa continues to glare as she silently slithers her tail to encircle Dr. Fara.

“So you tricked that silly beach ball into my cell, I escaped, and per your suggestion hid myself in your room until your match was over. And so here we are.”

Revasa grips her tail around Fara, but she disappears and teleports a few meters away.

“So if you can stop being antagonistic towards me, we can start making our plan!” Fara yells.

“I didn’t do any of those thingsss!” Revasa says.

“Then go do them,” Fara says. “Go back and do them.”

Revasa blinks.

“Ah. Go back in time and do that, inssstead of trapping the beach ball in a cupboard.”

“Exactly,” Fara says. Revasa scoffs and turns away.

“I don’t sssee why I should ally with a pot of insssanity like yourssself.”

“Oh, I don’t mind if you don’t care about a stable time loop,” Fara says. She flips a knife up from her pocket. “But if you don’t go back, we never made a deal, so we’re not allies.” She embeds the knife into a tree a scale’s width away from Revasa. “So I have no reason to not skin you alive right here and right now.”

Revasa glances between the knife and Fara.

“Wren and Belle and Alya?”

Fara inhales through her teeth.

“Ooh, Alya, I’m kind of close to her. I’ll have to think about that one.” She slices an X in the tree. “Sure, you can have her.”

Revasa grins.

“Then I will return in no time from the passst,” Revasa says, “after I’ve opened your cell and closed that time loop.”

“Ooh, but we’ll have to wait to see how Alya does in her matches,” Fara says. “She better win this tournament for me or I’m feeding her to a snake.” She smiles. “And if she does win, you get to eat a champion.”

“Very well,” Revasa says. “I lossst my chance to eat that Wren in my final match, ssso now it’sss time for a new ssstrategy.”

Oh no! Evil plots! I didn’t even realize this happened until the end of the exhibitions, I didn’t realize Fara escaped until the moment Veda was informed of it. If I got this timeline straight, Revasa tricked Top into a cupboard so she could eat Wren uninterrupted, but after failing that she returned to the past to trick Top out of the cupboard and into Fara’s cell, which allowed her to escape and hide in Revasa’s room.

Now that they’re both out of the tournament, how might they disrupt it? At the very least it looks like they’ll hold off until we know how Alya does, so next round should be normal as we enter Winners Round 3, and discover who will face off in the semifinals! Look for that next week!

Round 3 Match 1

“Welcome back to the tournament!” Belle says. “Today’s match is between Ms. Lila Pachis and Ms. Enna Koizumi. With me today is Enna’s sister, Lady Anne Koizumi, along with Lila’s opponent in her last match, Mx Vil Garrido. Thank you for joining me today.”

Vil’s large tail is curled throughout the interview tent, while Anne, clothed in her slinky green dress and wide-brimmed hat, curls her shorter tail around her chair, but the end of her tail slithers over the table.

“You’re quite welcome, Ms. Peltonen,” Anne says.

“Happy to be here again, Belle,” Vil says.

“And I’m quite happy to meet a fellow lamia of such noble bearing,” Anne says with a nod to Vil. She takes Vil’s hand in hers.

“Likewise with you, Lady Koizumi.”

“So how do you feel about your sister’s chances this match?” Belle asks.

“She certainly needs to apply herself,” Anne says. “Ms. Pachis is popular. I believe my sister can do it, but I’ve told her she has to be aggressive. She has done very little actual hypnosis in this tournament. That needs to change.”

“While I don’t normally recommend one go against their typical spirit,” Vil says, “Lila does take the full package in, so to speak. She has brought her long tail and hypnotic eyes to the table in her previous matches, and she has a beautiful singing voice. Enna has designed beautiful outfits, but that is difficult to show off in this sort of exhibition.” He turns to Anne. “What other hobbies does she enjoy?”

“She found an old camera a while ago and got into photography,” Anne says. “She likes to take pictures of me modeling her outfits.”

“Perhaps she can find a way to incorporate that into her exhibition,” Vil says. “The important thing is to stay true to yourself. That will draw voters more than trying to fake it.”

“Who do you think will win this match, Vil?” Belle asks. Vil gives a low smile, one eyebrow raised.

“Not to bring present company down,” they say, “but I believe Lila has the stronger chance. As I said, she takes in the full package. Enna seems quite fun, but Lila radiates joy.”

“No worries,” Anne says. She nods. “I do expect my sister will flub the match in the end.”

“She does bring a lot of energy to the table,” Vil says. “Does she dance at all? That would make a good counterpart to Lila’s singing.”

“She plays sports,” Anne says. “She is definitely energetic, but grace—well, I’m afraid I got all the grace in the family.”

“Still, if she focuses on that boisterous energy, she could set her apart from Lila,” Vil says. “Lila is rather nervous before she gets started.”

“It’s time to find out how the competitors will handle their exhibitions,” Belle says. “Thank you both for being here today.”

“It’s my pleasure,” Vil says.

“Mine as well,” Anne says. “I’m always available to chat, here in your tent, or”—she leans closer and lowers her eyes at Belle—“somewhere private, if you’d like it to be your pleasure too, Belle.”

“Ahaha.” Belle clears her throat. “Thank you, Lady Koizumi, but I’m trying to avoid, let’s say, private encounters with the contenders anymore.”

Anne smiles and leans closer.

“I’m out of the tournament, my dear. I’m no longer a contender.”

“Yes, well,” Belle says, eyes shifting. “Anyway, let’s just go to the field!”

Wren steps through the jungle field. Jungle, jungle, jungle. It seems like every match takes place in a jungle field now. Wren can’t even remember the last one that wasn’t a steamy, slimy, scary jungle. They don’t even want to know who they’re going to run into today.

“Wren! Hey, Wren, up here!”

Wren looks up and sees Lila sitting in a tree above.

Artwork by Astron

“Oh! Lila!” Wren smiles. She isn’t so bad. She’s soft, she treats Wren gently. They feel like they can trust her.

They watch as Lila lowers her tail down, the end curled up.

“Take a seat,” she says, “I’ll lift you up here!”

Wren looks between Lila’s tail and the tree high above. They poke her tail.

“Is that safe? It’s pretty high up.”

“It’s totally safe,” Lila says. “I’ll hold on firm, don’t worry about a thing.”

Wren looks between the tail and tree again. They inhale heavily, and they sit on Lila’s tail seat. She slithers around Wren, and they inhale even more as she grips their hips over their pants. She slides another loop under Wren’s arms like a safety strap, and she lifts them into the tree. Wren shuts their eyes, but halfway up they peek out and watch trees lower around them. They smile.

“Oh, wow.” As Lila lifts them to the branch she’s on Wren says, “That was really neat.”

“I’m glad,” Lila says. She clasps her hands to her face. “I love bringing someone up into a tree I’m in, it’s so romantic.”

“Romantic?” Wren blushes with a frozen smile.

“Roma—aah!” Lila blushes and covers her face. “I mean, I mean in a general sense, it’s just, I mean it’s romantic but, I mean it’s just for the tournament, right?” She glances at Wren with a smile before covering her face again. “Just for the tournament?”

Wren looks away, blush growing.

“Yeah, yeah, just for the tournament, I understand, that’s right.”

Lila coughs and inhales.

“Right, sorry, Wren,” she says, “I didn’t mean to embarrass you.”

“No, no, no, it’s fine,” Wren says, “I didn’t mean to embarrass you, I mean, it’s your exhibition, right, you need to, you’ve got to show your best, right?”

“Right! My best!” Lila says. “For the tournament.”

Wren stares at her. Lila stares back.

“For—For the tournament,” Wren says.

Lila nods.

Wren looks at the surrounding branches as they hear rustling around them. They only now notice Lila’s tail is sprawled throughout the tree, lounged throughout like a series of hammocks, her bulk in some places hanging low between bowed branches. She slithers her tail among the tree, and she curls closer around Wren. The diminutive human gulps.

“Of course, as it is my exhibition,” Lila says with a smile as she draws closer to Wren, “I should show everybody just how romantic such a setting can be.”

Wren shuffles as Lila wraps up their hips, slithering heavier coils around their legs. She slides her tail over Wren’s arms to coax them to their sides before she binds them down and squeezes their abdomen as she rubs their back.

“A little private area of a tree, cloaked by the leaves away from interruptions.” Lila strokes Wren’s cheek with a hand. Wren inhales, and Lila giggles at how warm Wren’s flushed face is under her hand.

“I, I’m—” Wren stammers, nervous both from Lila’s proximity and her growing coils. They breathe quickly and mutter, “Coils still make me anxious.”

“Oh, I’m sorry, Wren,” Lila says. She loosens her coils. “I have a great way for you to relax, though.”

“What’s that?” Wren asks. “Wait, no–” Lila shushes them as her eyes fill with flowery violets, lavender, lilac, morning glory, rippling through her eyes. Wren stares, so flushed already with emotion their thoughts swirl under Lila’s dazzle.

“Don’t you worry about a thing, Wren,” Lila says. She leans closer to fill Wren’s vision. “I’m just going to help you relax.”

“I . . . Okay . . .” Wren’s thoughts turn up blank, fizzling out as they try to form them. They sigh as the tension in their body releases and they relax in Lila’s hold. The tension increases around them as Lila squeezes her coils again, but Wren just inhales and sighs, lost in Lila’s bright, rippling eyes.

“Yes,” Lila says, “just relax, just focus on me, Wren. It’s just you and me in a private little tree cradle, no one to bother us, no worries, just joy and delight. Relax.”

Wren whimpers as Lila wraps around their chest, each loop squeezing and kneading Wren’s arms. She massages Wren’s back as she presses closer around them, and her coils around Wren’s legs grow heavier, dragging Wren down, thick enough to be an enfolding cushioned armchair, her squeezing looping muscled tail softer than the most padded of chairs.

Wren stares deeper into Lila’s eyes, the jungle and the tournament sliding to the back of their mind, covered by Lila’s massaging spell and out of thought as Wren’s mind orbits Lila. Wren sighs as Lila slithers over and massages their shoulders, and they smile, eyelids drooping as Lila’s suggestions of relaxation drift Wren into slumbering pleasure.

“Just a private look nook for us,” Lila says. “Just you and me. No other thoughts now, Wren, just sleepy delight. Just let me draw you into scaly bliss.”

Wren moans as Lila’s coils press closer, wrapped around them from the neck down. Lila loops her tail around Wren’s neck and settles tight around them, loose enough that Wren can breathe easy but tight enough to feel a constant controlling hold, a soft, affectionately prepossessing reminder that she has Wren in her hold.

Lila slithers her tail around Wren’s head to squeeze their face, growing the loops around their neck thicker. Every swallow presses their neck against Lila’s scaly hug. She rests her hands atop Wren’s head to pet them.

“Would you be all right with a little kiss, Wren?” Lila asks. “A kiss in our private leafy retreat, an intimate sanctum for scaly soothing squeezes.” She giggles. “A romantic tryst in a private tree, just you and me.”

“Yes,” Wren mumbles, smile growing wider. Lila grins, and she holds Wren close as she kisses them on the lips. Wren’s eyes drift shut, and they slip into a dreamy Lila slumber.

After Wren’s scaly blanket slithers off them, they hear faded, faraway voices, only Lila’s clear enough to understand: “Oh, sure, I’ll help.” “They’re kind of floppy.” “Yeah, I think making them stiff would be easier.” “Okay, here, let me wake them up.”

Wren feels a tap on their forehead as Lila whispers to them to wake up. The hypnotic veil over Wren’s mind lifts, and their eyes blink open to see Enna smiling to them.

Art by Ayanobro!

“Hi, Wren!” Enna says. She flips her arms under Wren’s and lifts them to their feet.

“Okay, have fun, Enna.” Lila waves to her. She winks to Wren. “I’ll see you later, Wren.”

Wren blushes, but as they watch Lila leave Enna turns their head to face her.

“All right, Wren, here’s the deal: how would you like to be a model?”

“A model?” Wren asks. Enna turns their face to see a clearing in the jungle where a rack of clothing stands.

“I got clothes, I got a camera, how would you like to model them while I take pictures?”

“I don’t know,” Wren says, “I’d be too nervous to stand still.”

“Ah, but that’s the beautiful part.” Enna taps them on the nose. “If you’ll allow me, I can hypnotize you to stay perfectly still.” She leans close and murmurs, “Especially because dressing you while you were limp and relaxed didn’t work out.” She gestures to Wren, and Wren looks at the wrinkled new dress shuffled over their body.

“I mean—” Wren looks at Enna then looks away. “I wouldn’t make a good model.”

“Sure you would!” Enna says. “You’re a cute little bundle who’d look adorable in all these clothes! What do you got to lose?”

Wren laughs and tilts their head.

“Well, I guess I trust you to hypnotize me without ulterior motives,” Wren says. “It’s not like you’ve really tried to before.”

“Exactly,” Enna says. She spins Wren to a plush armchair. “Now, here’s how it’ll go down. I’m going to look into your eyes and show you my hypnotic colors to tighten your focus to me. However, my hypnosis isn’t as strong as most lamias, so it can take a while, so to further the process I’ll tingle you with my tail, which should make you shiver into a stiff pose even quicker.” She grins. “That all right with you, Wren?”

“Um, I guess—” Wren looks from Enna to her tail. “Just not too tight, please?”

“Of course,” Enna says. “I’ll give it a light touch.” She leans close, and Wren stares as candy-red and violet rings flow through Enna’s eyes. “Just give me your total focus, now.”

Wren feels a draw to gaze into Enna’s eyes, but it’s nowhere as strong as the draw into Lila’s eyes was. Even as the draw grows stronger with every ring, Wren feels as though they could look away at any time, even as Enna holds their head in her hands. She sidles up and slides the base of her tail onto Wren’s lap so she sits on them.

“What are you doing?” Wren asks. They speak slow as they pick each word individually. Enna places a finger on their mouth and shushes them.

“Now isn’t the time to speak, Wren,” she says. Wren shivers and inhales as Enna slithers her tail up their back and strokes their chin. “Now is the time to stare silently and give me all your focus.”

As Wren stares their vision grows blurry, pupils shrinking as their focus shrinks to Enna. Wren feels their body twitch rigidly as Enna slithers around them, and their vision turns hazy as the perimeter ripples with Enna’s hypnotic colors. Their mouth hangs open as their thoughts are directed only towards staring at Enna.

You’re doing very well, Wren,” Enna says. “Keep your focus tight on me.” She slithers her tail around Wren’s arms and legs and pulls them into frozen poses. “Focus until your mind is too narrow to do anything else.”

Wren realizes with a start their gaze is fixated to Enna, unable to look away if they tried. After a moment they forget, as their thoughts all turn to Enna and focus on her words, focus on remaining still and compliant. Their vision fills with Enna’s colors, the jungle around them fading under Enna’s spell. As their focus tightens their muscles tighten, body rigid as Enna squeezes her tail along their body.

Enna laughs and hugs Wren in their arms, leaning close to their ear.

Drop,” Enna whispers. Wren’s eyelids droop as their head falls to Enna’s shoulder. “Rise,” she whispers.

Wren’s eyes open wide and they sit up straight, Enna’s colors flowing through their eyes and filling their vision. Wren smiles at attention.

Perfect!” Enna says. She slithers off Wren and leaves only the end of her tail around Wren’s shoulders. “Now stand and follow me, Wren.”

Wren stands from the chair in a quick but rigid motion, and they follow Enna to the rack of clothing.

Arms up, Wren, let’s get that wrinkled outfit off,” Enna says.

Wren lifts their arms and Enna removes the garment, replacing it with another dress. She positions Wren in front of a group of handsome trees and slithers back with her camera.

All right, jungle tour, it’s like you’re taking a tour, give me fascinated, like you’ve never seen such magnificence!” Enna snaps photos as if she needs to fill a pool with them. “Perfect, perfect, now let’s go with contemplative. More pouty lips, in fact, forget the contemplative, just give me pouty lips, that’s it, just like that. Now smile, big smile, pretend your prancing carefree in the splendor of nature, awesome, now shiver, not cold but fear, pretend a big dangerous snake is stalking you, it’s a great pose, the lamias love it, awesome, awesome! Now let’s try something flirty, gimme a kissy face, twist that dress around, let’s make some magic happen, let’s—let’s—”

Enna blushes as she watches Wren’s hips. She swallows, and she sets the camera aside.

Wren, I got a crazy idea, but I think it’ll work.” She grabs Wren in her tail and pulls her back to the clothes rack. “Arms back up, Wren, off with the dress, here’s a shirt, suck in that gut because it’ll be tight, down we go, okay, stretch your arms, rotate, let’s make sure that’ll actually fit, perfect, looks good, now take a seat!”

Enna drags Wren to a seat and lifts their legs.

Now let’s get these pants on, you just sit tight because this might take some work, don’t worry about the holes because that’s intentional, huge fashion among lamias’ partners lately, tasteful but plenty of skin for those scales to touch, all right, here we go.”

Enna pulls the pants up and yanks against Wren’s hips.

Okay, okay, a little more, I think I got it, here we go—” Enna wraps her tail around the tight pants and pulls with her tail and both arms. “All right! They’re on! Let’s make sure they won’t split in half now, stand up, Wren, let’s see if you can walk on them, all right, so far so g-g—”

Enna blushes as she stares at Wren’s thighs bulging in the tight pants. She chuckles.

Wren, when I’m done, every lamia who sees this is gonna want to wrap up those legs, and look, I entirely understand that’s the last thing you want, but when I’ve turned you into a famous model you’ll have guards to keep people off you so you won’t get ambushed with coils so much, now let’s go!” She pulls Wren back to the previous pose spot.

Now get those legs up, let’s show you walk, run, show off those hips, now kneel on the ground, yeah, yeah, perfect, lovin’ it Wren, smile for the camera, babe, twist that body, twist that chubby little squeezable body!”

Enna grins until her teeth hurt, and she slithers her tail to Wren and wraps around their legs.

Now hold still, let’s get some shots of just how squishable you are, look surprised, you’ve just been snagged by a cute lamia, give a little struggle, you try but those legs, they were made for being squeezed, Wren, all wrapped up and going nowhere, perfect, perfect, more body, let’s get you covered in coils, I won’t squeeze tight but we really gotta sell it, this is peril, baby, fantastic, and one tight squeeze and—”

Wren gulps as Enna squeezes around them and takes one final photo. She pants, face flushed.

Well,” she says, placing the camera on the table, “I think that’s good.” She slithers closer to Wren, curled in a cocoon of Enna’s tail. “I’ll pass all the photos by you before showing anyone else.” She laughs. “And now that I think about it, you’ll probably want them all destroyed, but . . .” She hugs Wren and squeezes tight. “I don’t care! That was fun! I hope we get to do it again!”

Above the stadium, Veda watches with Duval and Debora as Enna concludes her exhibition.

Lila and Enna,” Veda says. “Of all the competitors in this tournament, they’re among the most gentle.” Veda squeezes her coils a little. “Well, Ms. Koizumi isn’t gentle, exactly, but she’s friendly. She isn’t dangerous. She’s someone you would want to meet out in the jungle, unlike her sister, Anne.”

Not one to capture strangers, is she?” Duval asks.

Oh, she’ll capture strangers,” Veda says. “But just to snuggle, often for the night. She’ll let you go in the morning.”

She doesn’t sound like someone we’d want to meet in the jungle,” Debora says.

Well, there is safety in numbers,” Duval says. “Alone in the jungle, even if I’m alone with you, Debora, is less safe than with someone else, and Enna sounds peaceful, if a big hugger. It’s a night of safety away from those who may have less than honorable intentions.”

I suppose,” Debora says.

Lila,” Veda says, but she stops as she considers what to say of her theories.

Yes?” Duval asks.

Lila is a gentle soul,” Veda says. “Enna might wrap you up without permission, but Lila will ask permission first. She’ll ask permission for everything. It’s once she has permission that, sadly, she may allow herself to get carried away. But she is perhaps the kindest competitor here, if somewhat frisky at times.”

Duval nods.

There’s more to her than that, though, isn’t there?” Debora says.

Veda looks at her. They stare ahead to the field. Veda smiles.

Perhaps. But I must keep some things to myself. Not everything is safe, and not everything may be true.”

You have theories about her, then,” Debora says. “Expectations.”

Veda laughs.

You might say that. You might even say I have great expectations of her. We have yet to see.”

So ends Lila’s and Enna’s exhibitions, one a lounging lullaby of relaxing love, and the other a hyperactive coil enthusiast. Who will you vote for, Lila or Enna? The winner will move on to the semifinals, the loser drops to the losers bracket!

Round 3 Match 1 Results

“Welcome back to the tournament!” Belle says. “Today I’m with Wren and Mira. Mira, you know Enna from the jungle, and I understand your room in the guest suite is next to Lila’s?”

“That’s correct,” Mira says. “I can hear her singing often in her room. She really does have a melodious voice.”

“So Wren,” Belle says, “who do you want to see win?”

“Lila,” Wren says. They sigh. “Enna scares me. Those photos were horrific. I really hope she follows her promise to destroy them.”

“Horrific? Really?” Belle asks. “She’s that bad of a photographer?”

“Horrific for me!” Wren says. They cover their face. “I don’t want anyone to see them.”

“We kind of did,” Belle says, “at least we saw the moments she took them.”

“Well,” Wren says. “Well, I don’t want a permanent record of all this happening.”

Belle glances at the cameras.

“So Mira,” she says, “what route to victory do you see for Lila and Enna?”

“Lila’s voice is a powerful tool for her,” Mira says. “I don’t believe it’s inherently hypnotic, but I’m sure she can still draw someone in with it. Of course, if Wren here prefers Lila to win, they might head straight for her, so that advantage is less needed.”

“So the question is how might Enna win?” Belle asks.

“Enna is fast,” Mira says. “She can outpace me on a good day. If she catches Wren first, it could be over.” She smiles and leans to Wren. “So you better run, short stuff.” Wren slumps.

“I-I’ll keep that in mind.”

“The match is about to begin, so you better head out there, Wren,” Belle says. “Good luck with your match tomorrow, Mira.”

“Thank you,” Mira says.

Wren sighs and stretches before they head to the field. Mira nods.

“Good. A stretch is always good before you go on a run.”

Wren heads out to the field, where Lila and Enna slither to each other and shake hands.

“Good luck today,” Lila says.

“You too,” says Enna. “It’s gonna be fun!”

Wren approaches the two ladies, who smile at them.

“Ready, Wren?” Enna asks.

“Ready for what?” Wren asks. Lila takes Wren’s hand, and Enna takes the other.

“Spin!” Enna says. The ladies twirl Wren and they stumble in a circle until they regain their footing, at which point they face Lila.

“Looks like I’m up first,” she says. She pulls Wren into her arms and twirls them close as she brings their faces near to sing.

“Now don’t you worry,

“Do not have concern,

“Despite our flurry,

“Of that which you yearn.

“We’ll treat you gently,

“Just need to relax,

“We’ll stroke you mentally,

“As your mind goes lax.”

Lila spins Wren away and Enna catches them, dancing a livelier jig around them as she sings.

“We twirl you, we swirl you, we whirl you real quick,

“We’ll wrap you in dancing and coils so thick,

“But hey, don’t worry! Don’t be blue,

“We just wanna have fun with you!”

Enna twirls Wren to Lila, who catches them in her tail. She swirls around the field in a dance as she holds Wren.

“We want you to feel good,

“We want you to feel loved,

“Just let me wrap you up so tight,

“It fits you like you’re gloved.

“Our coils make a detailed dance,

“But if you give it all a chance,

“Just relax, go with the flow,

“And we can show you what we know.”

She sends Wren back to Enna.

“How does she do it, I know you ask,

“Dance without legs? It’s a simple task,

“Just wiggle your hips and swirl your tail,

“Around your dance partner, let ‘em feel those scales.”

Enna spins Wren and coils around to hug them close as she sings a quick song.

“To dance with a lamia, it’s simple to do,

“Wiggle those hips and follow through,

“The lamia will lead, just follow their way,

“Hold ‘em real close and give in to their sway!”

Enna squeezes Wren and kisses them on the lips, sending a dizzying wave through their head amplified when she spins them back to Lila.

“Hey, you’re pretty good at singing, Enna,” Lila says.

“Thanks! I have no idea what I’m doing!” says Enna.

Lila hums as she pulls Wren into her coils, and she holds their face as hypnotic violet rings pulse through her eyes into Wren’s. She sings a slower, gentler tune than Enna’s.

“Now stare at me and follow ‘long,

“And just relax,

“It feels good,

“To stare, sink into my song,

“My coils hold you as we dance,

“A hug so tight,

“You are safe,

Into my eyes you take a deep glance,

Sink into trance.”

With Wren’s eyes full of violets Lila hands them off to Enna, who looks at Wren with her own red and violet hypnotic stare.

Deeper you go down with every spin,

Back and forth until one of us wins,

The big girl, the small girl, you hardly know,

Which of us has you with our light show!”

She passes Wren to Lila, their eyes a rippling mixture of their hypnotic colors.

Swirling down into a trance so deep,

Gently as we sing you into sleep,

We ramp the music down and up and up and down,

We spin you back and forth like so and all around!”

To Enna.

Who cares who wins? We put on a show,

We have some fun as the music flows,

Two pretty gals to draw you into bliss,

One with endless coils and the other with a—” Enna kisses Wren on the lips again. She sends them back to Lila, who coils around them again.

Deep you go, down so low

Our trading melody all you know,

The rhythm wraps you up so tight,

Our beautiful eyes like a musical sight,

Our songs stick deeply in your mind,

And you’ll sink into a melody bind!”

Wren’s face erupts in a grin, Lila’s hypnotic colors pulsing through their eyes.

And that’s it!” Lila says. She hugs Wren and presses their face against hers. “Aw, Wren, I knew we could do it.”

That was awesome!” Enna says. “I wanna do that again sometime.”

That was a lot of fun,” Lila says. “I never did a shared dance like that before. You really do have a talent for singing, too.”

Who knew?” Enna says. She shakes Lila’s hand and wraps her other arm behind Lila’s shoulders. “Congrats on reaching the semifinals! Good luck in that match!”

Good luck in—” Lila frowns. “Oh dear. You have to go up against Jb next.” Enna shrugs.

Not necessarily, remember? If Mira goes to the losers bracket we’ll swap placement.”

Oh, right,” Lila says.

But hey! You beat her,” Enna says. “If I face her, I’m sure I can appeal to the part of the voters who aren’t horny for hypnotic enslavement.” She winks.

Are you sure?” Lila asks. Enna laughs and clasps Lila’s hand in both of hers.

I’ll be fine, win or lose. This has been a lot of fun, and I’m sure I’ll have fun facing Jb.” She grins. “Who knows, maybe her weakness is little gremlins like me!”

In the walled-off VIP booth, Darmenzi claps their hook-fingered hands.

Well done, dear Lila, though it has hardly been a competition for you. Why, only my pet project gave you any trouble. And should you meet her again on the field, well . . .” Darmenzi grins. “That’s where it gets interesting.” They tap the floor with their staff. “Let’s not get ahead of ourselves, though. You have another match to face first.” They smack the crystal end of their staff against a screen on the wall showing the current status of the bracket.

Alya versus Mira. The mad scientist’s assistant against the wayward orphan hunter. Either one of you would be a fascinating conclusion to face Jb.” They scrape the crystal down to the losers bracket. “If you do not face that little gremlin next, dear Jb, you have a crack at the hunter. She may be a challenge, but surely you won’t disappoint me. I may leave you out in the cold if you do.” They scrape the crystal to the other side of the bracket. “Then perhaps I may give that deal to someone’s sister, instead. Would she take it, knowing her sister remains in the competition? I think, Princess, you couldn’t resist the potential power.” They scrape the crystal higher in the losers bracket. “And when might your machinations bear fruit, Dr. Fara? Will you follow through on your deal with Revasa?” They scrape the crystal back to the next match. “The results of our next match just may shape how you play your plans, you mad ladies. Will Alya make you proud, or will you use her as a stooge just before the semifinals?”

Darmenzi cackles.

I can’t wait to watch the chaos unfold.”

Okay yadda yadda Darmenzi.

I heard that.”

I know. So! Lila has moved on to the semifinals! Enna drops to the losers round, where she will face either Jb or Ageul. (I may have forgotten about that uncertainty—as you may recall, we avoid repeat matches, so if Alya wins next match, Mira drops to the losers bracket, but because she already faced Ageul, that means she’s moved to the left side to face Jb, while Enna faces Ageul instead—so I may have written some wrong dialogue in there. This is all hard to remember, okay! I’m making this all up as I go with very little preparation! Aaaa!)

Next match, the flirty Alya faces the serious Mira. Who will face Lila in the semifinals? We’ll find out soon!

Round 3 Match 2

“Welcome back to the tournament!” Belle says. “Today’s match is between Alya Slacen and Mira. I’m joined today with Ms. Lila Pachis and Mr. Persnakety. Lila, congratulations on winning your last match.”

“Thank you,” Lila says, “I’m really excited to have made it this far.”

“Are you nervous about reaching the semifinals?” Belle asks.

“A little,” Lila says. “I don’t get another chance now, right? There’s no losers bracket for losing the semifinals.”

“But you’ve done spectacularly,” Persnakety says. “Your last two matches were splendid to watch. No matter what happens, be proud of how you’ve done.”

“Thank you,” Lila says. “I am proud.”

“Now you were assigned a room in the competitor suite across from Alya’s, correct?” Belle asks. “And you’re right next door to Mira. What do you think of them from what you’ve seen?”

“Mira is so serious,” Lila says. She chuckles. “A little intimidating, in fact.” Persnakety nods.

“Yes, indeed, that’s very true.”

“She’s actually pretty nice, though,” Lila says. She even offered me a bit of food she cooked in her room, it was wonderful. I feel kind of bad I couldn’t give her something in return, if my next match is against her I should find something to share with her.”

“What do you think of Alya?” Belle asks. Lila laughs—she laughs until she fakes it while she blushes.

“She’s flirty. Very flirty.” Lila leans forward. “In fact, she actually propositioned me to stay the night over, I told her I was busy preparing for my matches and politely declined, though eventually I just had to tell her I wasn’t interested.” Belle gives her a flat look.

“I know what you mean.”

“Actually,” Lila says, “didn