Staring up at Drake, the imp squirmed as she slowly lowered herself to the ground.
[This really isn’t how giving me a name is supposed to work mister..]
Drake smirked to himself, leaned down and tussled her hair for a moment, before picking her up in his hand.
[And enough with calling me mister. I’m not near old enough for that. Call me Drake, it gets awkward pretty quickly. I don’t feel near old enough for that.]
Looking at Drake wide eyed, Yami shook her hands back and forth emphatically, her face flushing with color.
[No, no, no. I could never do that. You are much stronger than I am.]
Drake looked at Yami, and gave her a quizzical look. Yes, he was certainly stronger than her, but even if she wasn’t used to calling him by his name, he certainly preferred it.
[What does that have to do with anything? Sure, calling me mister is cute and all, but I’d like to be called by my name too.]
Yami initially seemed to fight against the idea, frantically looking around in a panic but finally looked down in defeat, sniffing to herself as she did.
Hey, hey, hey. Don’t give me that look. You’re pouting like I just stole something from you.
Coughing, Drake tried to compose himself in front on the small imp.
[Well, now that we have that established.. What are you planning on doing anyway?]
Hesitating for a moment, Yami started to answer, then stopped.
[Umm.. could I stay with you, for now at least?] Murmuring to herself, she seemed to finish speaking in her own language, her soft voice sending a shiver down Drake’s spine.
Confused by the sudden switch, he asked, [What was that?]
Staring wide-eyed at Drake, she realized she had talked out loud. Quickly burying her face in her hands, Yami quickly flew behind a nearby tree, covering her face all the while.
Utterly perplexed at the strange reaction from the imp, Drake just shrugged it off, strolling back over to his small home before sitting down on a large, blackened tree trump. [Alright then. I’m going to do some training, so you can watch me if you want.]
Forming a small ball of mana, he began to shift it through various forms: a cluster of shards, a large crystalline spear, a single large spike, and transforming the mana ball through various other forms. He sighed and returned the ball to a sphere.
The familiar, bell-like voice chimed in Drake’s head. [Um.. Miste-..Drake.. What are you doing?]
Looking over to the small imp, Drake shook his head, contemplating to himself. He thought back over what had happened to him ever since he transformed. The initial pain, the fear of what had changed, then the sudden acceptance. Then came his sudden understanding of magic and of the existence of magic. The formation of a dangerous, destructive magic that he had complete control over. And his inexplicable weakness when it came to certain fights.
[Up until now, I’ve fought a few battles. While you may not believe me, that giant bear back there seems quite tame compared to others I’ve seen so far. Most of them were just monsters from myth, all of which I was able to take out quite easily, but during my last couple of fights, I really had no effective way to attack.]
Drake brought out a small ball of mana, and focused on it for a moment, crystallizing it in place, leaving the small shard of mana slowly rotating in place. [My mana just absorbs whatever in comes in contact with, and it works really well for that purpose, but that’s all it can do.]
Flying over to Drake, Yami looked close at the shard of mana. After a moment of focus, a layer of glyph-like symbols slowly flowed out of Yami’s hands and began circling Drake’s mana shard. After a few moments, the flow of runic symbols stopped and dissipated, leaving a faint glow in the air for a moment.
[Strangely, your mana seems familiar… Drake.]
It seems she still has trouble saying my name. Oh well, hopefully she’ll get to it soon.
Taking a moment to sit down, Yami continued her explanation.
[Demons have something similar. Particularly, the demons of greed. Although they don’t use it in the way that you do, anything they touch are usually drained dry. Thankfully, they rarely fight. They usually leave the imps under their control to fight.]
Holding his hands out suddenly, Drake gestured for her to stop her explanation. Thinking to himself for a moment, he asked, [Wait, I thought imps couldn’t fight, that’s why they have to serve a higher demon, otherwise it wouldn’t cause you so much trouble. You could just go out and fight like me.]
Yami froze up for a moment, before shrinking down. She curled up in fear, similar to the time when Drake first met her, shaking in place with an inborn fear.
[I’m sorry mister.. I shouldn’t have told you.. I’m going to be in so much trouble. When they find me… they’ll punish me. Please… don’t say anything.]
Yami was hiding her face, and rocked back and forth repeatedly, alternating between her own language and her telepathy.
Shocked by the sudden change in demeanor, Drake did his best to calm her down, leaning down to try to comfort the small girl.
[Hey Yami, it’s fine. You’re not in any trouble, honest. Besides, who am I going to tell. Hell, you’re the first person that is even willing to talk to me since I changed.]
Visibly tearing up, Yami looked up at Drake slowly, the soft tears streaking down her gray skin.
[But.. but.. Mister..]
Picking her off the ground, he held her against his body for a moment. Feeling her sudden shock, she seemed to resist for a moment before crying softly into his shoulder, the quivering of her small body sending waves through his body. Petting her head, Drake tried to calm Yami down the best he could.
[Didn’t I tell you to stop that? You’re my friend Yami. And you’re not in trouble, there’s no one who can even get you in trouble.]
With another look of fear, Yami looked up at Drake, tears still flowing down her petite face.
[No.. You don’t understand. I wish I could explain but I can’t, it’s all against the rules. It has to do with the contract all imps eventually take.]
Contract? The one that she needs to be able to defend herself? Thinking for a moment, a thought struck Drake.
[Why not choose me?]
Yami stopped shivering, and slowly looked up at Drake, tears still staining her red eyes.
[What do you mean… You can’t mean..]
Smiling to himself, Drake swung his fist hard into his scaly chest, causing a resounding thump as he did.
[Why not choose me for your contract? From how it sounds, taking this contract of yours is really important for your future, right? So you’ll want to choose someone who you get along with. I’d hate to leave you with some random demon, so join me.]
She began to tear up again, and threw herself towards Drake, hugging him as hard as her little body could. Smiling, he held her small frame close to him, allowing her to have her moment of happiness. Feeling her begin to draw away, he let her go, watching her slowly float up to eye level.
[Would you really? I’m not very useful, and I may cause trouble for you in the future.]
Drake took a moment to stare into the eyes of the young imp, and answered in the only way he could.
[How could such a cute girl possibly cause me any trouble? Don’t worry, I’ll protect you the best I can.]
Smiling, Drake wiped the tears off of Yami’s face. As he did, Yami gave him a curious look. Almost as if she didn’t understand what Drake was saying.
She quietly murmured to herself, and said, “Idiot. You have the concept reversed…”
[So, how about it? Although, you’ll have to teach me how this whole thing works in the first place. I know nothing about this whole contract thing.]
Cheerfully smiling through blurry eyes, Yami finally managed to calm down so she could explain the process.
[Umm…] *sniff* [For anyone who can use mana, it’s fairly simple. I can use the magic I used before to plant a glyph onto you. That will designate you as my master, and the process will be finished.]
With a shocked look, Drake immediately rejected the offer.
[Wait, stop. I told you before. You are my friend Yami. I’m not going to have the same relationship I have with you as you would with a normal demon. I could never force someone who’s my friend to become a slave.]
[Um.. ] Looking at Drake with her red eyes, she seemed to confirm something to herself.
[There is one other that I can suggest.] Pausing for a moment, she said, [It’s certainly more risky for you.. Drake.]
She still had the hesitance in saying Drake’s name, but this time she said it with a smile.
[Since we are.. friends now, I will choose another glyph.]
She approached Drake slowly, and the little imp started to faintly glow with an ethereal light. As she grew closer to Drake, the light within her grew. Touching Drake, she seemed to draw something out of him. A dark mass of energy seeped out of Drake’s chest, tethered to Drake from the spot it was drawn from. Holding the mass in her hands, she paused for a moment, before holding it close to herself. The dark mass she drew out of Drake seemed to almost consume the tiny imp, but in the last moment, she was able to absorb it within herself.
Gasping for breath, she smiled weakly, drawing a small ball of light out of herself, she quickly inserted it within Drake’s chest. As she did, she collapsed on the floor, and a circle of glyphs appeared on each of their bodies. On Yami, it appeared on the center of her petite chest, and on Drake, it appeared on his draconic forehead.
Looking at Yami, Drake could only see one word that the glyph spelled out. Kindred.
[Yami. Yami! Are you alright, what did you even do!]
The little imp had gone completely limp, and wasn’t moving at all. Drake quickly began to panic, thinking that his only friend had done something incredibly stupid. After a few seconds, Yami began to get up very slowly, and smiled at Drake.
[You idiot! What was that? What did you do?]
Shaking her head weakly, she looked into Drake’s eyes with a new determination.
[You said you wanted to protect me right? If we are friends, then I want to do the same.]
Looking at Yami, Drake noticed that a strange light seemed to circle in her eyes for a moment before disappearing.
[With the contract finished, I can finally explaining what I wanted to before.]
She flew up shakily, slowly making her way up before landing on Drake’s shoulder. Weakly cuddling up to him the best she could with her small body, she took a moment to steady her breathing, and began her explanation to Drake, a small smile visible on her face.
[Typically, a demonic contract works one way. Master and slave. The slave inherits a small amount of power through the master, and as a result, the master gains almost complete control over the actions of the slave. With a demon of greed, the imp gains the ability to absorb life-force, very similar to how your mana works.]
With a flash of light on Yami’s chest, a familiar dark-red ball of mana appeared in Yami’s hands. It solidified into a small shard of mana, before liquefying and returning to Yami’s hand like it was never there.
[In return, the imps are able to swarm enemies in mass, before quickly draining enemies of all of their life force. The master can then drain the life force as wanted from the imps through the contract. It’s a horrifying process for the imps involved. If we don’t absorb as much as we can through the victims, we can easily be killed through the master’s appetite.]
With a teary-eyed look, Yami look at Drake. As she did, Drake felt a deep sadness sweep through him, filling him with dread.
[I.. I was so scared. Each type of demon is almost as bad as the other, but imps need the power. Without it, we can’t even defend ourselves properly from other monsters. We’re seen as little more than an appetizer for a majority of monsters.]
Fighting off the feelings of despair, Drake said, [Do you really need to make a contract with demons? Whatever you did, Kindred, can’t that be done with other species?]
Shaking her head, Yami continued.
[It’s not that simple. With non-intelligent species, it’s a death sentence. They’ll likely eat us as soon as they see us. And… for the humanoid species..]
Looking at Drake, she hugged his neck tightly. The sad feeling faded slightly, and a feeling of happiness mixed in.
[They aren’t all like you Drake. So far, most kill us on sight for working for the higher level demons. The Creator’s gave the humanoids an ability as well. Although we don’t know what the ability is, all of them know what we imps can do. Even if they don’t kill us, the imps who are taken alive, they don’t fare any better.]
A knot formed in Drake’s throat as he began to catch on.
[What do you mean..]
Pointing at the glyph, Yami just looked sadly at Drake.
[The contract. Like I said, it can be done with anyone that has mana. With enough.. persuasion, imps can be made to take back a contract, with severe backlash to themselves. After that, we can form another contract with anyone. Normally, another demon would never accept an imp like that. They lose small portions of their power when we forcibly remove the contract. It’s too risky for them to just accept an imp that could potentially cost them energy. We lose the power as well, so normally, there’s no reason for us to do so. But for the humanoids, that doesn’t matter.]
As Drake watched Yami, he noticed her small body begin to quiver on his shoulder. Drake felt a sick feeling well up within himself as Yami continued.
[Then, the contract you form with the transformed humans..]
Shaking her head, Yami teared up.
[All slave contracts. The few who have discovered this use us as bait to draw in monsters, while others just use us for toys. When I was born, the Creator’s showed us what happened to the first imps who suffered that fate. As a warning, maybe. Initially, they were born in front of their normal masters. They formed the typical demonic contract, and were sent out. Then, when the first imps were captured…]
With Yami shaking heavily, Drake wiped her tears away, before picking her up, and setting her on the ground. Looking up at Drake curiously, Drake sat down in front of her, petting her small head and consoling her the best he could.
[You don’t need to say anymore. I understand. Yami, this contract, we are connected now, aren’t we?]
She looked up at Drake with a look of fear briefly, and nodded.
[Yes.. I was afraid you wouldn’t agree if I told you.]
Smirking, Drake picked Yami up and set her on his shoulders and began slowly tearing his way into the bear.
[Um.. Drake, what are you doing?]
[Just give me a moment, so far, there’s always been something important inside of these guys… here!]
After a moment, he found a large gem inside of the chest of the Dire Bear, and began to dig around the gem, severing it from the muscles that connected to it. Within seconds, he managed to pry the gem free from the bear.
[Here, are you able to eat this Yami?]
Giving Drake a panicked look, she shook her head furiously.
[No, no, no. A monster core is entirely too dangerous. Only the upper class demons are able to handle it without being severely injured from the backlash.]
He stared at Yami for a moment, giving her a curious look, and popped the core into his mouth. With a look of pure shock, she raced over to Drake, trying to pry his mouth open the best she could.
[You idiot! It will kill you! Hurry, open up, open up..]
Seeing that Drake wasn’t budging, she began to tear up instantly, and began to bawl on the ground.
[Hey, hey, Yami, calm down. I wanted to show you that I’m fine. I’ve been doing this for a while now. I had a little trouble the first time, but my mana has been dissolving it fine ever since.]
Trying his best to calm Yami down, he picked her up and nestled her in between his horns. His inner mana quickly surrounded the core, liquifying it. Drake swallowed, and after a moment, smiled to Yami, showing he was perfectly fine.
[See, I’m fine. So there’s no need to worry. Sorry for worrying you.]
Realizing what had just happened, she tried her hardest to hit Drake, resulting in a series of soft plops that Drake continuously heard for solid thirty seconds. Drake put up with the abuse with a smile, and sliced up the bear to transport some of the pieces to eat for later.
*sniff* [That was mean Drake. You tricked me.]
Snickering to himself, he said, [I know, sorry again Yami. Won’t happen again.]
She began to try to calm herself, wiping away the tears, and looked down at what Drake was doing quizzically.
[What are you doing anyway?]
[I’m getting something to eat of course, this is the sort of thing you need to celebrate right?]
[Celebrate? Celebrate what?]
Smiling mischievously, Drake finished harvesting what he could from the Dire Bear, and began walking back to his small cave, carrying the large chunks of meat the best he could as Yami continued to nestle herself in between his horns.
[The contract, of course. I imagine it’s a little important to you, don’t you think?]
As she looked down at Drake, she seemed to try to speak for a moment, before stopping and blushed silently on his head. After a minute of silence, she finally spoke.
[Then, you aren’t angry with me..?]
Silly little imp. You should be able to read my emotions but you still ask me.
[Yami, do I feel angry?]
She looked down shyly, and answered in a small voice.
[Then there really isn’t anything to worry about is there? So, are you going to help me out, or are you just going to enjoy the ride?]
Scrambling up, Yami quickly flew up from Drake’s shoulder and chanted to herself for a moment.
[Uh, Yami, what are you doing up there?]
Angrily fidgeting in the air, Yami answered.
[Mouuu, why do you ask so many questions? Let something be a surprise, it’ll make me happy.]
So the little imp has gotten more forward huh? Can’t say I dislike it.
As Yami chanted a spell to herself, Drake could see the same glyph magic that she used before with their contract. It built around her, slowly circling her several times over until it began to overlap. At a certain point, the glyphs seem to lock in place, and flashed before disappearing. Smiling, Yami flew back down towards Drake, before sitting back in what seemed to be her new favorite spot.
[After you’re back at your home, I have something to show you! You’ll find something fun.] Yami smiled mischievously at Drake as she told him, which gave Drake the strangest sense of excitement.
Wait, why am I excited?
As Drake began to run towards where Yami pointed, he began to look forward to whatever surprise the mischievous little imp had planned.