*Authors Note* Well, looks like I was a few days late.. Sorry guys. School has been kicking me in the butt. Gave the story a final polish to make it like I want it, so I hope you all enjoy!
As he approached his small cave, Drake noticed something strange immediately. A large, red mist spanning roughly fifty feet had spread around the entrance of his cave. The mist seemed to have spread over the entire area, changing all the nearby plants, and making the area look almost other-worldly. Looking closer, Drake could see that his mana crystals were likely the cause behind it. When he left, the crystals continue to convert mana, filling the cave and eventually seeping out into the surrounding area. As it spread, it seemed to have had a strange transformative effect on the surrounding area.
The plants on the edge of the mist seemed to almost wither in the presence of it, but those that were inside for a considerable amount of time seemed to have grown. As they grew, they seemed to have acquired random transformations, some becoming black, and briar like. On the other hand, some of the plants seemed to be perfected in its presence, letting out a soft red glow, reminding him of his own crystals.
Shaking his head slowly, he sighed before making his way around the area. “It seems like I can’t just leave without significantly affecting the surrounding area. It seems like my mana is too… intrusive.” Sitting on top of a large, blackened tree, Drake began the process of absorbing all the nearby mana into himself. Opening himself up to the surrounding area, the red mist began to flow into him like a funnel. As he finished, he looked around at the transformed area and scowled.
“This is a problem. If I ever move, or if i’m ever away from this area for too long, I’ll need to re-absorb all the crystals. This mana is too destructive to the local environment, and it makes it too easy to find me.” Laughing to himself, a small ball of red mana briefly appeared in his hands before disappearing. “On the bright side, I already have most of the mana I need to get to the next step. I’ll take some time to finish up, and that’ll be it.” Pausing momentarily, he thought back to the group of humanoids back in the city. Frowning slightly, he murmured, “I’ll need to fix my loss of control eventually as well.”
Sitting down in the center of his small cave, he exhaled deeply, and closed his eyes. He focused on advancing to the next stage. Inadvertently, he entered a trance-like state, completely isolating him from his surroundings. Without his knowledge, the crystals he had made began to slowly feed into him, all the while increasing the power of his mana by several folds. As the days passed, massive changes began to occur.
Two days later, with Drake still fast in his trance, the aliens called the Caracatia made an announcement.
Attention, all of humanity. We are so happy to be speaking with all of you again. As you might have noticed, one week has now passed, and as such, so has your chance for redemption. As you humans may have noticed, your offers are no longer valid, and as such, the beginning of our game has begun. We give our heartfelt thanks to the half of your race has taken an offer of one form or another. Starting now, we will begin to spawn thousands of different types of monsters, most of which will be quite familiar to you.
Unlike before, some of these species will have entire societies, including a few that have been inspired directly by some of the fantastic stories you humans have shown us. Well, we hope you enjoy your new world, “humanity.”
Previously, before the week had passed, large amounts of humans had gathered in the city centers. Frightened and afraid of the message that their world was changing, they huddled together in the cities for safety. They all did this for one reason or another. Either they were afraid of the offer itself, and the potential danger it might bring or they simply denounced the offer as the work of the devil. After all, who else would want to corrupt the rightful form that God had created.
Unfortunately, this line of thinking actually put them in the greatest danger. In an attempt to clear the world for their vision, monsters that were only known in fairy tales spawned in major cities all over the world. Monsters from mythology such as Fenrir, monsters from fantasy such as the phoenix, and monsters that had inspired Drake’s race such as dragons, spawned across the world. They wreaked havoc, killing the millions of humans who moved to the cities for safety, scattering the remains of humanity into the more rural areas and the wilderness.
Curiously, even in the face of certain death, they focused on only humans, and left the transformed humanoids alone, abandoning the cities entirely when most of the population had scattered or had been killed.
And with this, a new era had begun.
Coming out of his trance, Drake noticed that something about him had changed immediately. Looking around his small home, he noticed that all of the mana crystals he had made to power himself seemed to be drained completely of their mana, leaving strange, empty looking black crystals on the interior of his home. Breathing deeply, he looked within himself. Just at a glance, he could see the blood-red core inside himself had changed immensely. It had grown to twice its previous size, and was now giving off a continuous stream of mana inside of him, similar to the crystals themselves.
With a pensive look on his face, he stood slowly, and walked outside to get a better look at himself. Giving himself a quick glance, he could tell that he had shrunk roughly half a foot, and that the claws on his hands and feet had turned jet-black, giving him a very menacing look.
Smirking to himself, he said, “That probably isn’t all… let’s see..” Fashioning a crystal mirror out of his mana, he could see that his horns that extended from the back of his head had also changed significantly. Instead of his smooth, ivory like horns that he had before, they seemed to have grown in a very peculiar way. They seemed to resemble… goat horns. They were still relatively straight, jutting out near the back of his head, but they looked segmented now. They were layered on top of one another, making him look even sinister than before.
Stretching in various directions, he couldn’t feel any obvious changes in his body.
Chuckling to himself, he said, “Strange, I obviously changed for some reason, but I can’t tell why.”
“Gah, why do these types of things always happen to me…” Looking around, Drake suddenly felt an intense hunger come over him. Unknown to him, he had been asleep for five days straight, leaving him in a state of famine.
Grinning cheerfully, he looked around for the remains of the werewolf creature he dragged back the other day.
“Let’s see, I left it right over… where is it?” Looking around for the leftovers of his recent kill, he couldn’t find it anywhere in sight. Scowling angrily, he said, “You’ve got to be kidding me. I’m go to train and some bastard just comes along and take my food, come on!” More than a little angry at the loss of a free meal, he jumped up in a nearby tree, searching for what might have happened to it.
Looking in the distance, Drake could see a pocket of mana near the ground seemed to glow. Jumping down, Drake quickly ran over, stopping in front of it to see it begin to glow brighter with each second. As he watched with curiosity, he noticed a mass of mana begin to solidify in front of him. Standing off to the side, he watched it patiently.
After fifteen seconds, the mana stopped gathering, and began to form. It was small, pale, and had almost sickly lime green skin, with sharp, claw-like fingernails. What struck Drake as most unique was the jittery way it seemed to move in place as if it had too much energy.
Looking down with disdain, he thought, Pointy ears, smells bad, and it’s wearing a loincloth… definitely a goblin.
Looking around, the goblin stood relatively still, looking around curiously until it saw Drake. As soon as it did, it began screaming in an inhuman tone, and picked up a small stick. Running towards Drake, it used the stick as a club, ruthlessly hitting Drake in the leg in an attempt to break past the hard layer of scales covering his body. As it did, it yelled at Drake in a weird, gibbering language.
Laughing at the small creature for a moment, he could only sigh with pity. I would feel bad about killing this thing if it wasn’t so dumb. Grabbing the goblin by its head, he crushed in one motion, leaving it hanging lifelessly in his hands, with pale red blood running down the body.
Shaking his head in disgust, he could only stare at the small creature. Honestly, do these things have no survival instinct? You’d think it would run at the first sight of me.
Dropping the goblin with a sickening plop, Drake started to make his way back to the cave. He shook his hand in an attempt to get rid of the foul smelling blood. As he did, he noticed another gathering of mana began to form in front of him, inside of the area that had been changed by his mana.
Annoyed, and severely in need of a meal, Drake readied a sharp, shard of mana at the unsuspecting target.
I really don’t have time for this, I mean come on. Just let me go back and find my meal already. I’ll be damned if I’m going to eat a goblin just because I’m hungry. Maybe if I’m lucky, some kind of pig will spawn and I’ll get some pork. His snake-like tongue flicked out, licking his lips hungrily.
As the mana finished gathering, a small child-like figure appeared in front of Drake. Roughly a foot tall, the small creature had small curved horns that came through its black hair. Along with its stereotypical devil wings, it also had ears that pointed out away from its head, with a skin tone similar to gray clay. The small creature only seemed to only have a small, strangely shaped outfit that wrapped around her small frame. As it finished forming, it looked around for a moment before noticing Drake. Unlike the goblin, its first reaction was of sheer terror.
[Please, don’t kill me..]
What was… Looking at the small creature, Drake’s head cocked to the side for a moment. Hearing the small, bell like voice out of nowhere left him puzzled. Crouching down, Drake asked, “Hey, was that you that talked just now?”
The small creature looked at Drake with its big eyes visibly tearing, and shook its head slowly.
Sitting back, the shard of mana Drake was controlling slowly dissolved and was drawn back into his hand. Leaning forward, much to the small creature’s terror, he asked, “So you can actually understand me? How do you speak my language? From what I understand, I sound pretty terrifying whenever I meet up with other races.”
Trembling in place, she could only shake her head slowly, the same bell like voice seeming to whimper in Drake’s mind.
[I don’t understand your language mister. I just understand the thoughts that go along with them.]
Looking up at Drake, the small creature continued to shrink back in fear, holding its arms and legs close to itself as it crouched on the ground.
Cocking his head to the side, he thought, So all I have to do is think for her to understand me? Or… do I have to think at her?
Closing his eyes, he pondered for a moment. In this kind of situation, it’d make sense to try to think at her… right? Sighing to himself, he opened his eyes and tried to direct his thoughts at her.
[So… does this help?]
Looking up at him, the small creature visibly relaxed. She slightly uncurled from her small ball before continuing the conversation.
[Yes, it helps greatly.]
Smiling, he asked, [So what are you anyway, how can you talk with me?]
Looking around again, the small creature looked at Drake curiously before continuing.
[I’m an imp. Telepathy is one of our inborn abilities. Typically, we appear around those of the upper levels of our race to serve them. I’m not sure why I appeared in front of you mister.]
An imp huh? I always expected them to look like little gremlins, but she’s surprisingly adorable.
[What was that about appearing in front of the upper levels of your race? What does that mean?]
Looking unnerved, the small imp froze up again.
[Umm.. I can’t say anything to other races. Sorry mister.]
Sighing, Drake walked past the little imp and started walking back towards his cave.
[Well if you can’t say anything, fine. I’ll see you around I guess. Try not to get killed.]
Finally drawing out of the ball she was crouched into, the imp flew up, before following Drake at a distance.
As Drake reached his cave, he looked around for signs of his meal again. Not seeing any, he sighed deeply.
Don’t tell me I’m going to have to find something else.. I had barely eaten any of it.
Turning back around, Drake caught the little imp watching him out of the corner of his eye. Seeming to notice his gaze, she hurriedly hid behind the tree where she was watching him from.
Cute little thing. I wonder why she is following me. Drake smirked as he continued walking through the forest.
The better question is, did a week already pass? A goblin and an imp spawned right in front of me, and they certainly weren’t human. How long was I out for anyway?
Continuing to search through the forest, Drake heard a strange screeching noise reverberate through the air. It repeated several times before stopping, leaving Drake a little curious just what it came from.
What the.. As Drake began to go towards the source of the sound, Drake felt a small figure hit his back. Looking behind him, he could see the small imp was currently latched onto him, as if trying her hardest to keep him from moving.
[Um.. Little imp, are you alright?]
Seeing that he had stopped, she let go and flew in front of him, keeping just out of reach.
[What are you doing? Don’t you know what you are going towards? It’s dangerous.]
A little perturbed, Drake gave the imp a strange look.
[That’s what I’m going to figure out. Besides, I’m hungry, it feels like I haven’t eaten in forever.]
As he began walking forward again, the little imp pushed against him intensely, speaking in an unintelligible language, before she managed to get her thoughts across.
[It’s dangerous, mister! You need to turn around!]
Drake’s eyes began to narrow into slits for a moment, before returning to normal instantly, seemingly without Drake noticing.
[Well if it’s so dangerous, why don’t you join me? I could always use some company.]
Pushing past the small imp again, she seemed to throw a small tantrum mid-air, before following behind Drake again.
As Drake approached the location of the sound, he noticed large claw marking were spread out on the trees occasionally, and he began to hear the faintest sounds of a deep, heavy breathing coming from behind a large cluster of thick bush. Approaching slowly, Drake began to make out the shape of the enemy.
It appeared to be a bear of some kind, but it was much too large to be normal. Roughly fifteen feet long, it was currently eating its way through a large, red salamander it had pinned to the ground. That was what likely made the initial screeching noise.
Peeking out from behind Drake’s shoulder, the imp stifled a scream.
[Mister, that’s a Dire Bear. They’re incredibly difficult to kill. We need to run.]
Smirking to himself, Drake began to draw in mana slowly, so as to not alert the bear. Looking around her, the imp noticed the influx of mana almost immediately, and flew off of Drake’s shoulder before continuing.
[Mister, what are you doing? It’s too large!]
Smiling with a bloodthirsty grin, he said, [Little imp, you’ve never seen me fight before, so I think you should just enjoy the show.]
Dashing towards the bear in an instant, Drake jumped on top of the bear while it was still distracted with eating. Firing several large mana shards straight into the back of the bear, Drake leaped off right before he heard a piercing roar. In a rage filled state, the bear reared back, planning to attack whatever dared to intrude upon its meal. Spotting Drake out of the corner of its eye, it turned towards him, seething with anger.
Feeling himself freeze up, the bear charged Drake, hitting him square across his chest. The bear viciously slammed him through a nearby tree, causing him to cough up a mouthful of blood. Drake was shocked by the sheer amount of strength the bear had and why he wasn’t able to dodge.
I couldn’t move. What the hell was that? What happened…?
[Mister, stay out of its sight! This species has the Doom Eyes ability. It petrifies opponents for a moment while the bear prepares to attack!]
Seriously? What kind of ability is that?!
Looking up to see the bear towering over him, Drake quickly rolled out of the way to see the bear tear into the spot he just lying in. As Drake quickly made his way onto his feet, he glanced at the bear. The crystals on its back were still slowly growing, but the bear still seemed unaffected by the way it moved.
Dammit.. I’m still not strong enough. I need more…
In a wave of aura, Drake’s eyes narrowed into thin slits, and he gained an ever so slight feral grin. Watching the strange beast continue to challenge him and potentially steal his meal, the bear’s rage heightened. Charging at Drake once again, the large Dire bear seemed to bristle with energy for a moment, growing larger and stronger, before wincing in pain and returning to its normal state. Leaping to the side of the large bear, Drake’s aura hit its pinnacle.
“I’m not going to let some damn bear get the better of me!” With a rush of blood-red mana surrounding Drake, he quickly focused the mana into two large, icicle-like spears while the bear turned to charge at him again.
“Take this!” Piercing through the air, the spears hit the bear on both sides of its head, embedding themselves deep in its shoulders.
With a roar of pain, the bear collapsed mid charge, and slid another four feet before stopping in front of Drake. Still alive, the bear looked up at Drake, eyes still full of anger.
Looking closely, Drake could now see that the shards of mana had almost completely atrophied the muscles of the bear where the shards had embedded, and they had grown almost twice as large as the fight went on. It was likely that near the end of the fight, it was barely able to move at all, and the spears were the final blow.
“Looks like I was the winner after all.” Smiling victoriously, Drake took one last look at the bear. “Survival of the fittest, ya know?” Firing one last mana shard into the bear’s head, the creature’s body quickly went limp.
Slowly flying towards Drake, the small imp hovered above him in disbelief.
[Mister.. you actually killed it.]
Looking up at the small imp, Drake smirked at her, flashing a toothy grin.
[What, is it that surprising? I’m pretty strong, you know. Not to mention I was a lot quicker than this guy.] Kicking the remains of the bear, Drake tried to prove his point.
[Maybe, but I still didn’t expect..] Stopping suddenly, the imp seemed to ponder something to itself for a bit.
[Heh, well for me at least, I’m going to get something to eat. I’m starving.]
Sitting down next to the remains of the bear, he tore a large chunk out of the bear with his claws and gorged himself on the leftovers of the bear before stopping to rest. Out of the corner of his eye, he could see the little imp poorly trying to look away, while still staring at him with unusual ferocity.
Directing his thoughts towards her, he asked, [You know, if you wanted something to eat, you could have asked. It gets pretty lonely out here by myself, and it’d be nice to have someone to talk to.]
Excitedly, the imp hurried down to the ground before joining him. Handing her a small chunk of meat, she started to eat it piece by piece.
[I wasn’t sure if I was allowed or not. Imps aren’t allowed to eat with a higher class of demon, and we usually get scraps if we get food, not fresh from the beast itself. Thank you mister.]
With a look of pleasure, she continued to eat, slowly picking off pieces from the small chunk of she had in her hands.
[Hey imp, what’s your name anyway? It’s going to get annoying just calling you by race.]
Continuing to eat happily, she answered, [I don’t have one mister. We aren’t given names until we have done something important for the master we serve.]
Taking another bite of meat, she squealed in excitement.
Master.. so they’re probably just used as tools for the more powerful demons.
[Is there any reason why you have to serve another demon in the first place?] Drake didn’t like the idea of such a cute creature being made to work itself too hard.
[Oh yes, by ourselves we’re quite weak. Without serving a higher class of demon, we can barely get any food for ourselves at all. We’d soon die without finding a suitable master. Honestly speaking mister, I was expecting to be eaten by you as soon as I was born. Your kind normally snuffs us out for merely existing in their presence.]
With a look of confusion, Drake looked towards the imp.
[What do you mean my kind? You were just born, how do you know anything about other races, heck, even about your own race.]
Looking up at him, she popped the last of her meal into her mouth. She sat across from Drake, beginning her explanation.
[The Creators of course. They gave all of us the information we needed to know as we were born. Well, the intelligent ones among us at least. They told us about all of the races nearby where we are born, so I know about quite a bit about those evil humanoids as well.]
As she gave her explanation, she puffed out her tiny chest with pride.
Pfft. She looks so adorable when she does that. Trying to contain his laughter, a thought crossed Drake’s mind.
[So little imp, what am I?]
With a curious look, the imp answered instantly.
[A draconian of course. Although I don’t have any knowledge of them being able to use that strange magic of yours. And they are usually quite mean to imps when they see us.] She pondered to herself for a moment, before giving Drake a quick look over. [Yep. Definitely draconian.]
Laughing to himself again, Drake posed a question to the imp.
[What if I told you I used to be one of the humanoids? A human actually.]
With a look of shock, the imp flew up out of Drake’s reach.
[That can’t be right.. The Creators told us that any humans would turn into beasts if they chose a form like yours.]
Leaning back on the ground, Drake confirmed something for himself. So that’s how it is huh. Can’t say I’m surprised. That Minotaur mowed down the others as soon as she transformed from what I understand. Damn aliens. It was a trap all along.
Shaking off the feeling of being tricked, he gestured the small imp towards him. [You can come back down ya know. I’m not going to hurt you, don’t worry. Like I said, there’s no point in hurting such an adorable creature.]
With an embarrassed look, she looked at Drake.
[You never said that!]
Oops. Guess I left that to inner monologue.
Putting on a stern look, Drake looked back at the imp.
[Well anyway, it’s nice to have some company. Do you really not have a name?]
With a downcast look, she muttered something to herself before answering Drake.
[Until I find my master, imps can’t have names.]
[Well that isn’t right. Hm.. how about Yami? Seems cute enough for you.]
Stammering to herself in a language Drake couldn’t understand, the little imp finally got her thoughts across.
[Y-you can’t just decide that on your own! There’s a whole contract, and.. and.. you can’t just give me a name!]
Snickering to himself, Drake looked up at the small imp, and smiled.
[Nice to meet you, Yami.]