Fire's caution paid off. Spending almost twenty minutes making sure none of the predators large or small reached anywhere near her allowed her to vacate the betting room in misleading safety. This left only Risa yet to reach her last area, and at this point her overall situation was looking little better than her current position of being staked to the ground and relentlessly tickled by the tribeswomen bots.
The ninja groupie fighting for breath at the moment wasn't the only one with a predicament, and as Fire reached her last region the glacial fields expanding out ahead introduced a new one for her. In spite of her delay, she could still see Keiko, just about, through the faint mists in the distance thanks to this place's chilly atmosphere. Having to travel across this barefoot was undoubtedly slowing her down.
The evening wasn't so young anymore either... the summer sunlight was dimming now, and it was getting ever colder. Fire knew it would be in her interest to find a way through here as quickly as possible. She did have one natural advantage to the other girls she knew must have passed through here without shoes - the sleek fur covering most of her body including its maroon coloration around her legs from the knee down.
Two of the ultimately small number of currently barefoot girls who hadn't needed to endure that freezing trek had loitered into the lounge, along with a few of the other girls in the cafeteria from earlier. As a few more girls had arrived the modest eatery was beginning to get overcrowded, so Elena began ushering most of them out so the increasingly worn-out arrivals could get some overdue nourishment.
Still paired up with Eria, Cecelia had returned to the observatory for long enough to find the betting room was finally empty. They considered viewing more footage to watch some of the stories they'd just heard about, but at the moment that felt like a little too much work. So they decided to rest for a while in the quieter and more peaceful area. Here they found five of the other girls relaxing, including Elena again.
The spacious room was furnished a few recliners and couches, although its entertainment options were limited to a few books, magazines and brochures including some about the hunt they'd all taken part in today. The atmosphere was a bit more like a waiting room than a lounge. One of the flower-haired pair was reading a book and the other seemed to be taking a nap. Eria settled onto a couch although she looked a little bored.
Joining her on the large seat, Cecelia started teasing her about that forest trap. The youthful cyan-haired girl made a playful retort, and after a few replies started to make her points by sneaking in a few tickles. Cecelia grabbed her bare ankle, and soon the light-hearted argument had turned into a sparring session of tickles, neither noticing much that they were slightly disturbing some of the other girls present.
Kleo on the other hand had stayed in the observatory when she found it. She was positive Jessy was involved in this hunt, but the devilish brunette didn't seem to be anywhere on the premises. The possibility that remained would be too entertaining for Kleo to miss out on. Arriving quickly after her meal, she soon had an unhelpful but sufficient explanation about the monitors from Kelsey as she returned here too.
The dark-haired kidnapper spent a while looking but couldn't find the girl she was looking for. Apparently most of the girls were in their last area now, but Jessy wasn't anywhere the cameras could see right now. Or maybe she had finished and was elsewhere in the compound... as she was thinking about that an interesting occurrence began to play on the Rope Railway monitors.
The camera-wielding machine that was pulling an unknown blue-haired girl along slowed and came to a stop, shortly before one of the robot-ridden carts sidled up so they could set her free. After they had done so, she seemed to be left awkwardly with the gag, skates and safety wear still on. Kleo couldn't tell if they were locked on or just needed to be stubbornly removed on their own by their freed wearer.
Either way, once the captors had otherwise departed, she was left in the middle track. Almost immediately two other girls appeared from behind, riding the rails on both sides of her. This meant the fully-dressed girl had to stand and wait while an exhausted-looking blonde and a pink-haired girl that seemed incredibly flustered passed by to each side.
But while they did, another robot cart sped in on the middle track! The blue-haired girl tried to move away as soon as the other captives had passed, but was not fast enough to avoid getting caught by their lasso. Kleo was almost in awe of that girl's astounding bad luck, and felt quite glad she hadn't had a chance to come to this area since it seemed quite dangerous to a girl's freedom.
Even though she'd been caught in her own final area as well... it still gave her chills thinking about that. At the time another girl was sharing the thoughts she'd had a couple hours ago during her own release. The robots in Tenna's section of the tropical gale tunel began sliding their prey back into the structure. The girl they retrieved was looking very different to the girl they had sent into the storm half an hour ago.
For most of her soaking ordeal she had clenched her eyes firmly shut, her piteous moans lost to the rushing wind as the cascading rainfall soaked through even to her confined arms and body. Just like the previous victim, and Allaria before her, the diminutive and by now considerably mistreated participant had lost her ineffective cleave gag to the winds when its knot was literally blown apart.
Now she was back inside, the amount of water dripping on and around her bare feet almost sounded like a shower. Tenna's shivering calmed down without the wind flowing around her mostly exposed skin anymore. The ropes that were used to keep her shoulders tied to the poles had shriveled up a little from their moisture, so the little she could wriggle had shrunk to almost nothing. It was a big relief when they were untied.
Even as they were freeing her though, her straitjacket felt heavier. Looking down her front, Tenna was very glad the white garment was neither shrinking like the rope or see-through like more comfortable clothing might have been. The hunters left in the direction she came from, their patrol pointless as she would be the last girl through here. This place hadn't been as well visited as the other finishing locations, but such is chance.
Awkwardly they also left the protective goggles on their released captive's head. Normally it wouldn't be a difficult task for the newly-freed girl to remove them herself, but with her arms trapped as they were Tenna didn't have that liberty, and found herself needing to keep wearing them as she resumed her progress.
Still watching the monitors, Tessa was in no small amount of frustration after watching for herself what places like the forest and sole cleansing facility did to their captives. As she wasn't in contention to be among those finishing last she couldn't even persuade Elena or Violet to send her there tomorrow.
While wondering if there may be some other way to arrange for a session there before leaving, the redhead felt a small flare of tickling intent not that far away to her right. Was this a new opportunity at last? Darting out of the hut, the rat-girl followed the spark of interest she had the ability to sense. This led her toward... no... just past the cafeteria.
Finding and entering the lounge, she immediately found it to be the two girls who'd given an exciting report of the forest. Now she'd seen the video Tessa felt they'd really downplayed things in their story, to say the least she would have loved to get trapped by those vines for a few hours herself...
Currently the green and light blue haired girls were awkwardly sneaking moments of tickling the other, particularly their feet that were still exposed and somewhat obviously made available for that. It was strange for her to watch both of them making small talk and finding excuses to keep the playful activity going that wouldn't reveal their similar interests.
But that also made it too awkward a situation for her to just join in... not knowing either girl, they would probably rush to deny their shared motive and probably refuse to discuss or entertain any ideas on that subject afterwards. Feeling a little bitter about how much fun they'd had today, Tessa considered spoiling it now anyway.
But maybe a chance would happen if she waited, as difficult as it would be to wait nearby as they enjoyed themselves. Perching herself on one of the recliners nearby, she had it lean back and stretched her own bare legs out in front of her. Pretending to be trying to relax, she covertly watched their teasing chat to see if anything would develop.
Elsewhere in the camp, Adélise was the first to investigate the sleeping quarters. These were comprised of eight identical structures, each with a single floor and partitioned into four very small but otherwise quite hospitable rooms. It wasn’t much but they were more substantial than how they woke up this morning, in what was essentially a large tent inside that pen.
The aspiring witch compared a few of the rooms, finding they all had a simple blanketed bed next to a small cabinet as well as a dim light and a small heater. It didn’t seem like much but it was summer so they probably wouldn’t need any more. Although the furnishings matched, each of the rooms had its own color scheme, a soft tint used for its walls and the blanket.
Checking a few more until she found one with a soft blue theme, the shopkeeper noticed that the door to each room had a blank sign. So apparently they were meant to claim the room they wanted to use… after writing her name on the sign, Adélise opened the cabinet to see if it had any existing contents or was simply there for girls to place anything they’d received during the day.
Inside she found a solution to the clothing problem some of the other girls had been complaining about. The drawer’s only contents were a simple pair of pajamas matching the room’s theme. That would certainly be convenient for later, but the bra-wearing girl felt it was a little too early to change into them now. It was still quite light outside, after all.
But she expected Alex and Anni would like to know so they could decide for themselves. Leaving the nightwear in its drawer for now, the troubled mage idly remembered one of her spells that had unexpected results while setting out to find the others who were probably still searching the area.
Back in the hunt, the natives had finally let Risa go. By now the sweeping black-haired girl was covered with matching body paint, much more so than any of the jungle’s previous captives. Not that she’d been caught here early enough to compare but the feminine robots had really made the most having more of her exposed skin to draw on.
Getting up and almost staggering out of their little camp, she consciously tried to balance getting away from their gathering and regaining her breath from the frankly excessive amount of desperate laughing she’d been doing this evening. The cooling air felt a little weird on her body now, as it was blocked in unusual patterns by the dried-up black paint.
Her conservative approach turned out to be quite useful, as she had soon discovered the gravel path leading out of the jungle and onto her last challenge. Risa didn’t know she was at the back of the pack now, but she figured since she hadn’t seen anyone for a while even though the paths were converging that she wasn’t in a good position.
Making a right turn, she at least spared herself the unpleasant bare-skinned trek across solid ice by entering the plains where a set of three pairs of rails ran parallel, curving in from the left of where the track disappeared and leading far into the horizon in a straight line. Whatever awaited her in this place, she really wanted to get through without being caught this one time.
At far end of the circuit, Relle was suffering yet another tense pull against her crotch-cable from the ground beneath her dipping slightly but significantly. After all this time she still hadn't got used to the forceful discomfort of that part of her restraint, and it was unpleasant enough even when it wasn't pulled harder as it was now.
Groaning quietly from the sensation, she was a little behind the pink-haired girl that had been accompanying her as they were rolled along the track nonstop. Her fellow captive had done a worse job of avoiding the threat of the temporary valleys, although the usually thoughtful girl hadn't really considered that Mira Sky might have been aiming for them from time to time.
Finally the rails smoothly sloped back up to ground level, although with her eyes partly closed from the torment Relle mostly detected that from the subtle feeling of her hips lowering and her back arching just a little less. Shifting her underwear-clad body to try and lessen her discomfort, she noticed the other girl was getting further away from her.
Then she realised it was actually her slowing down... at last, they were going to release her from this diabolical restraint. Sure enough, once she'd stopped her captors reappeared to relieve her of most of her bonds. As they removed her tethering cable, another robot cart passed by. Fortunately those ones paid her no mind, probably since their colleagues were already with her.
After they’d gone, her own liberators had unfairly repositioned the malicious cable snugly between her legs a few more times. Then they left without removing anything else, which she wasn't too surprised about since she’d passed Sheilla not that long ago and while she was free she was definitely still wearing the equipment and gag of a captive here.
Just as she was thinking that, a familiar rolling sound emerged from behind. Unsure of whether it was caused by friend or foe, the blonde turned back to find the same person she’d been thinking about. Disturbed by the discovery that the blue-haired girl must have been caught again, she could only move aside and watch as she was pulled helplessly away.
After making sure the area was clear now, Relle began moving on her own for the first time in too long. As she did, she inspected the belt still strapped around her otherwise bare waist, and glanced at the skates fastened around her ankles. It didn’t take long for her to conclude they were actually locked in place… and not just them, even the safety pads were too.
Putting that out of her mind she pressed on. She hadn't seen the track branching off to the exit for some time now... surely that meant it wasn't too far ahead. Remembering how close she was to it when she was captured, she hoped the predators here released girls they caught in the places they caught them. She continued uneasily along the track for a few minutes.
To the blonde's great relief, this hope was confirmed by finding it up ahead. Moving past where the track split off and stopped at a buffer, she became the first girl to be caught in the Rope Railway to be freed from the rails and to then make it out of the area without being captured again.
This left 11 girls who were now all in their final area. As none of them were particularly close to finishing now, any of them could conceivably be the last to finish escaping the day's hunt if they were to get caught. The half-dozen girls who were free at the moment had that constant risk to worry about.
In spite of their hindered ability to progress, Moriko and Tenna were making the best progress. The former was still gagged, stumbling across the ice fields with her bare soles feeling like they were frozen, and with her body strapped in a tight harness. The latter was having a rough time concealing herself from each wave of the wind tunnel's patrol bots in her restrictive and now soggy straitjacket.
Mira Sky was alone again, now that the blonde who had appeared on an adjacent track during her capture had tailed off and disappeared behind her. That probably meant she was going to be let go. It had been a long time now, she thought, even though it passed by more quickly for the content submissive who had been having a little fun here.
As Relle had been on the verge of suspecting, the cat-eared girl had indeed been aiming for the pits in the ground from time to time. Although it didn’t quite bring the feeling of being caused by someone else, the delicate tugging that appeared when the track formed a valley was still out of her control every time she entered one.
Her attempts had sometimes been thwarted by remembering the sequence of pits as she’d been forcefully travelling the endless loop of rails, and sometimes because the other girl riding nearby had been in the way to prevent her switching. In turn, although she hadn’t realised it, Mira had been a little inconsiderate in allowing the academic to avoid those dips.
Now she had the freedom of choice though and was happy to put it to use. After the helpful landmark of the area’s exit path, it was easy to remember where the next three danger zones were. Currently riding the last of these with her hips pulled tightly in the air, the pink-haired captive was moaning unashamedly into her gag from the nice tension between her legs.
All things said, she felt she’d got her fill from the ride, especially as a complement to the suspension she’d had earlier in the day. So when her cart slowed and it was her time to be released, Mira Sky felt ready to get back to completing the hunt. As the arriving robots set about freeing her, she knew the fastest route to the way out would be to turn back now.
She felt a little mirthful when they re-tied the cable to remain snugly between her legs, and left her with the wiffle ball and skates attached. What cute parting gifts! But the latter made her resumed travels a bit more tricky. Sheilla rolled by in the other direction, letting her know both that the girl she’d passed earlier had been caught again and that the one she’d been riding with was free too.
While that was all the action and interaction taking place in the Rope Railway, further to the north quite a lot was happening. Miss Joker’s highly attentive captors had let her go a while ago, although the girl with extensive experience on both sides of kidnappings swore she could still feel the large chunks of ice they’d rubber over her body while it was pinned down.
The lime-haired mercenary had returned to making handicapped progress, and to her credit she’d worked out an efficient method of hopping across the fields that kept a good pace while keeping the contact between their surface and her white feet to a minimum. The robots that had found her seemed to have long disappeared now.
In fact they’d rushed back towards the area’s entrance to intercept a girl who had already been struggling to shake the pursuits of another pair of skating predators. Running almost literally into the new arrivals who spared no time getting an irresistible hold on the red of her arms, Fire cursed her poor fortunes that she had been outnumbered yet again.
It was just like this in that auditorium too… and alongside two others Fire had joined the still-persevering Risa in having been caught in four of her areas of this hunt. But for now her bigger concern was the flow of coldness permeating her fur as her assailants kept her held uncompromisingly against the ground, that grew worse when they added more ice.
With a large shard pressed against the exposed small of her back just above her tail, it wouldn’t have calmed the agitated fox girl any to know that another girl had been caught much further ahead. If anything Moriko had more reason to be annoyed, because she could see the way out so close ahead that she would have surely been safe in one more minute.
This was the place where Elena and Violet had quarrelled, past where Mizuki had forcefully deactivated one of the mechanical residents, and where Tessa had avoided a very similar capture by being those few seconds faster. That’s how close she was to finishing, but now she was squealing helplessly from the unpreventable ice rubbing.
It didn’t help the constantly fidgeting brunette much to understand that between her outfit she’d managed to keep through the hunt and the harness that was now very uncomfortable, that she was better protected against the cold. Nor did it motivate her that as soon as they let her go she’d definitely be out of this place and the game as a whole.
Another girl who could think the same was Tenna, in the remaining final area. But her situation was looking a lot more positive now. Unless her eyes were playing tricks, the region beyond the patrollers who’d just passed her hiding form was clear, and with what looked like the way out far into the distance. It felt like it was about time, too.
The anxious girl had been very careful about her movements in the last hour. She’d had more than enough experience of getting caught repeatedly in the same building, and one time getting drenched and barraged by the strong winds was definitely enough this time. Thanks to both, she was still trapped in a restrictive and now irritatingly damp straitjacket.
The skies outside in this area were always darker than elsewhere, but she’d felt they’d been particularly threatening-looking since she’d been released. She wasn’t sure how much of that was the day approaching its last few hours and how much was her concerns about the unhappy prospect of getting sent out there again should the robots have spotted her.
So it was a very welcome change to the small girl when they began to lighten along with the weather starting to calm down towards a more peaceful atmosphere. Jogging with growing enthusiasm, she was grateful to see the path ahead with growing clarity was surely the way out. Just a few minutes more and she could hopefully be untied and get some rest.
Although the former was still unsure - some of the girls who had finished were still trying to find a way to change the outfits they’d ended up wearing - relaxation was certainly an option. Or at least it was, Elena mentally griped, until those exuberant girls had shown up and started their giggling ruckus… didn’t they have any sense of respect for the peace and quiet of others?
Looking around she knew some of the other girls here were perturbed by their noise as well, along with one whose attention was harder to read. But they weren’t saying anything to get them to quieten down, and after evicting the crowd in the cafeteria earlier the stoic adventurer didn’t want to intervene again and be thought of as a bossy character.
So, she left. She wasn’t sure where she wanted to go instead, but she wasn’t getting any tranquility here. Not interested in investigating the sleeping cabins just yet, and without any reason to return to the canteen, she made a brief stop at the entrance and its record-keeper to find out how many girls were still being hunted and yet to finish their journey.
Seeing that it wasn’t that many anymore, she decided to return to the observatory for the rest of the evening to follow the remaining events and see how the rest of the day would play out.